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She paints you as the mentor from the beginning. 

Teach me, she whispers, tugging at the waistband of your boxers. She means all of this: dating a girl, dating period, sex. It's all new to her, and she's relying on your experience. Guidance. Wisdom.

Neither of you realize how much teaching she'll do herself.

The first few fights are your fault, born of your failure to communicate. You've always thought yourself good at communication; it's not until her that you realize you don't know how to do it at all. Listening, you can do. Providing her the support she needs is your strong suit. It turns out that what you're good at is shouldering other people's burdens, not expressing your own. She knows you well, better than anyone else at this point, but not even she can read your mind.

After the Valentine's Day debacle, she realizes you've been hiding from her. Realizes that for all your warmth and encouragement, she knows next to nothing about you. She has your fun facts memorized--favorite color, how you take your breakfast, full repertoire of songs you sing in the shower--but the truths of your life are locked to her. You grew up in Blue Springs, got kicked out, moved in with your aunt, became a cop. That's all she knows.

She asks sometimes about your life. About how things were before with your parents, your relationship with your aunt, any meaningful friendships or pets or hobbies. You feed her snippets; the parts that don't stick in your throat and threaten to choke you. She knows you're holding back but thankfully, she doesn't press. 

You want to trust her. You know she knows she trusts you far more than you do her; she's enamored of you. She has you on a pedestal. You're the one who changed her life, her first love, the missing puzzle piece that gave context to so much of her life. She thinks you hung the stars.

But you've been here too many times before, let yourself get wrapped up in the giddiness and safety and made the grievous error of counting on permanency. You used to trust until given reason not to; now it must be pried from your shaking hands piece by piece. It isn't her fault you're like this, but you don't know how to tell her so.

She terrifies you. You know she'd be devastated to know this. 

You're terrified that the day will arrive that she grows tired of you, and that fear is paralyzing. How can you let her see you, invest yourself in this fully, when it seems inevitable that this will end? 

How do you explain to her that you love her, you do, you're here and committed to this, committed to her--and that's why you hide so much of yourself?

You communicate the best way you know how: with sex.

There are only two arenas in which you feel truly confident in your abilities: sex, and your job. You've been with your fair share of women--girlfriends, casual hookups, one-night stands--and that's an intimacy you have no trouble with. Body and mind, those are two different animals.

You work with what you have. When she comes home frustrated after a stressful day at work, you help her calm down and then take her to bed. When she's in tears (a fight with Kara, a run-in with her father) you hold her until they subside, soothe her with your words, and later that night you make love to her. 

Eventually she catches on, and it catches you off guard.

You know, I can't remember a time I was upset that we didn't have sex after. Is that on purpose?

She's lying beside you, naked, one arm draped across your waist. You don't have an answer for her. Intentional, yes: but not conscious.

Maggie? Are you okay?

You have an answer. You do. But it isn't one you like.

You tell her for the first time about some of the others before her. About sex being an expectation, a right to be elicited at any time. Your words were too much: preachy. Unsupportive. Not good enough. Your tongue was better suited for other purposes.

She props herself up on an elbow while you talk, and you can't stand how she looks at you. You've always believed what they told you to be the truth; it's you who's unlovable, the sociopath, overly sensitive, too jealous. Hating yourself for it is easier than the alternative.

It has to be your fault. It has to be.

It has to.

Maggie...hey, look at me.

You can't. She has to pull you to her chest instead.

No more. That's behind you now, okay? No more. Never again.

She means it. The next time she comes home distressed, once she's calmer and your lips move to her neck, she gently pulls away.

Hey, Mags, it's okay. How's pizza night sound to you?

It's the first time you cry in front of her. She loves you too well, too genuinely; you don't know what to do with it all. She sees something in you that no one--yourself included--ever has before. Something worthy of this.

You tell her you don't deserve her. That she could do so much better than you, with your shameful history and ironclad walls. You don't deserve her patience, her consideration, how gentle she is with you.

Why not?

The best answer you have for her is I'm not enough. I've never been enough.

You are. Of course you are.

She vows to prove it to you. Swears on her life. You believe she means it now, but can't suffocate the whisper in the back of your head, the one that insists it's only a matter of time before you're not worth the trouble. You'll ruin this too, just like you always have.

Fixing other people and ruining yourself. What else have you ever been good for? 

What else have you ever known?

But, like so many others, you underestimate Alex Danvers.

Slowly, without you realizing it's happening, she coaxes out those hidden parts of you. You find yourself referencing your past--something you've never been in the habit of doing. She learns to read you, to tell when there's something on your mind you're trying to hide from her.

She won't let you hide anymore.

That vulnerability is new. So is the fact that she cares enough, is so determined to know what's going on in your head. It's different with her. It's not a power play or manipulation, but a genuine desire to see you

You don't know if anyone ever has before. 

When she asks you to marry her, you think at first she must be joking. You stare at her, dumbfounded, waiting for the inevitable sneer, the crude laugh, the big reveal where she admits this was all a big joke and you were stupid enough to fall for it. 

But it doesn't come. She's all but vibrating with nervous energy as she says again, Seriously. Marry me. Please?

Of course you want to. More than you've ever been sure of anything, you know you want to spend the rest of your life with her. But she's always been prone to spontaneity, impulsivity, and you can't be sure this isn't something she won't regret tomorrow or a week or three months from now. It could be the intensity of the day, Kara's emotions rubbing off on her, the fear of almost losing you: any number of things.

But she loves you. At the very beginning you doubted her, doubted whether it was about wanting someone or wanting you.

You doubted her once. She’s proven to you that you should know better than to do it again.

You really want--

I do, Maggie. I want you--to be with you. For the rest of my life. Marry me?

You've never been much of a crier, but she has a way of drawing the tears out of you. Yes, you whisper, over and over, yes, of course I will, yes, yes, god, of course, until she's crying too and whispering in your ear about rings and moving in together and the rest of our lives.

You don't know what you ever did to deserve this kind of love, to deserve her, and though you've never believed in a god you believe Alex must have been created in Her image.

It's not a long engagement; less than a year until your voice breaks on I do and she slips the ring onto your finger and for the first time since you can remember, you aren't afraid. For the first time since you were thirteen, you believe in this. You believe what she's spent years trying to convince you: that you deserve this.

That you deserve her.

You deserve a long, full, happy life, you'd told her once, a lifetime ago. Your wedding night, as you crawl into bed as Mrs. and Mrs. Danvers, she repeats those words back to you.

Thank you, you whisper. For helping me find it.