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the day before you came

Chapter Text

I WILL ANNOY YOUR FAMILY FOR MONEY
hi my name is sara and i will come be your date for any holiday
i'm a 28 year old felon with no high school degree and work as a bartender, with a van so battered you won't believe its still running.
i will annoy your family by pretending to be in a super serious relationship with you.
things i can do:
- start discussions abt politics / religion
- pretend to be super drunk
- get really inappropriate with PDA
- propose loudly
- start a fist fight
offer is open to men and women
payment in food and board for a few days
Do Not contact with unsolicited requests

She read the ad. And read it again.

ava: you cannot be serious

gary: it solves your problem right? your family wont invite you back if this sara annoys them enough, and your mom will finally have to accept that you're gay
gary: its also hilarious and would make for a great story

ava: no. never.

gary: suit yourself,, she's pretty hot though
[Attached: Image]

Ava opened it, against her better judgement. The picture was of a blonde woman, smiling up at the camera, eyes bright and incredibly blue, and her cheeks were covered in more freckles than Ava thought possible. She appeared to be on a beach somewhere. She was stunning, and Ava's type in every possible way.

She couldn't believe she was considering this.

gary: you're totally considering it now ;)

ava: shut up
ava: maybe
ava: what are her details

gary: yess!!
[Attached: Link]

///

Ava couldn't believe she was actually doing this. She was on her porch in the freezing morning air, a small suitcase resting at her feet. Before she could rethink anything or wonder if she was making a monumentally stupid decision that would result in her parents getting robbed, a battered old van pulled up outside. The ad hadn't lied, the way it jolted when it stopped made Ava question if it was actually road safe, and the paint, which may have once been white, was now a greyish-brown and covered in lines of spray paint and half peeled stickers.

The woman opened the door and hopped out. She looked just like the picture, bright and blonde, dressed in an old hoodie and some ripped skinny jeans. She gave Ava a smile. "So you're Ava Sharpe?"

Ava nodded. "Sara Lance?"

"Expecting anyone else?"

"No." Ava said, standing up to pull the suitcase down the steps, but was met by Sara, who took it from her. "That's chivalrous."

Her confusion was met by a laugh from Sara. "Only the best for my not-girlfriend."

She chucked the case in the back before opening the passenger door. The inside was a little less grimy than the outside and Sara picked up the few empty cans and crisp packets in the foot-well and chucked them in the back before Ava sat down. Hanging from the mirror was a small figure, a girl in Hawaiian dress. Sara got in the driver’s seat just as Ava reached out her hand to touch it.

"That came with the van." Sara said, adjusting the mirror slightly. "Bought it off some stoner surfer guy in Hawaii, called himself Rip Hunter." She snorted. "He called it the Waverider. The name stuck."

Ava opened her mouth to reply but stopped. There was a lot to unpack there. Sara turned the key and the engine sputtered into life, and the rolled away down the street.

"You were in Hawaii?" She asked.

Sara nodded. "Yep, spent a summer down there after I dropped out of college, then went back last summer. You ever been?"

"No," Ava said, absentmindedly, watching the houses outside. "I'm not really one for holidays."

"What?" Sara snorted. "You live here - in that big apartment, and you don't take holidays?"

"I never had the time." She said quietly.

"Too busy with work?"

"Something like that. I'm an associate professor of Law at Star City University."

Sara whistled, and Ava blushed. They sat in silence for a little bit as they turned onto the highway, and Ava tried to not let her eyes drift to where Sara's hand was casually resting on the steering wheel. She was wearing at least four rings, thin and silver.

"Wait - why would you need me then? Surely your family are proud of you? That's a good job."

Ava felt her heart jump, just a little. "No." She said, quietly. "They don't care. They think unless I get married and have children I'm wasting my life."

Sara snorted. "Good thing I'm here. You'll look like a saint compared to me."

"That's not - that's not why I - hired you." Ava said, the words leaving a bitter taste in her mouth.

"Why then?" Sara was looking straight ahead, and Ava sighed, just a little.

"I'm gay. They don't ... accept me being a lesbian, and I've never brought anyone home or really been in a serious relationship before, so my Mom just thinks it's a phase. Or I'm lying to anger her. Or maybe some really late teenage rebellion." Her laugh was a little hollow. "I was hoping this might finally convince her. And maybe stop her guilt tripping me into coming home next Christmas."

"So, the brief is ..." She tapped her fingers on the wheel. "Make your Mom believe you're really gay and give you some peace and quiet next year."

Ava nodded, and Sara grinned.

"Right, I can do that." She said, more to herself than anything.

///

They stopped in a diner for lunch, and Sara ordered the biggest stack of pancakes on the menu, with a side of hash browns and another of bacon, and Ava just stuck to a black coffee. She pulled out her phone, bringing up a photograph.

"I've got two sisters - Teagan's older, Skye's younger." The photo was from Teagan's wedding 9 years ago, all of them beaming, Teagan in a beautiful white dress and her and Skye in purple satin bridesmaid dresses. The resemblance was obvious - all three were blonde, with deep blue eyes. She swiped again.

"Teagan's got three kids, a fourth on the way." At that, Sara whistled, and Ava nodded in agreement. She pointed to the picture - taken in a studio, the family sat around happily. "Milo, Jackson and Cody. That's her husband, Paul. He's the most boring person alive - the only thing he talks about is his job as an accountant. She's a stay-at-home Mom."

"Figures." Sara said, swallowing her mouthful.

"Skye's only 24. My parents say she was planned but ... " Sara laughed at that. "She's just finished her degree - she did Biomedical Sciences at Michigan. She's coming with her boyfriend, Connor, who I haven't met but I'm very sure he peaked in high school."

Sara laughed again. "You have a really low opinion of men, don't you?"

Ava shrugged and blushed a little, before finding the next photo. "This is my dad, Randall, but everyone calls him Randy. He worked for the state department for nearly 40 years but retired last year. He won't say anything that goes against my Mom, and he won't confirm it, but Skye's definitely his favourite."

Sara nodded, her mouth mostly filled with bacon.

"My Mom is Pamela. She'll ask you to call her Pam, and only my dad calls her Pammy. She used to be a headteacher, and she retired last year too. She hates everything about my life, my career, even my cat -"

"You have a cat?" Sara asked, cocking her head a little.

"Yeah. His name's Merlin; he's staying with my assistant Gary over the holiday." She said, absent-mindedly. "My Mom hates all of it, but she always wants the perfect Christmas, so she probably won't say anything, at least not to my face."

It was hard not to sound like a petulant child when talking about her Mom. She took a deep breath.

"She's not the worst. My grandma Louisa - my Mom's mom - is homophobic and racist, and her sister - my Great Aunt Cathy - she's just homophobic. Both are gonna make comments though, so be prepared."

Sara nodded, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Then there's my Uncle Robert, my dad's brother, and his wife Cindy. He speaks way too loudly, she doesn't speak at all. It's a perfect match. Lastly, my Mom's invited the son of someone who used to work with my dad in the hopes I'll fall madly in love with him. His name is Michael Smunk, and he's a lawyer."

"Smunk? You're kidding right - your Mom's okay with you potentially becoming a Smunk?" Sara said, eyebrows raised.

Ava shrugged. "She's invited every eligible bachelor she knows over the years. He did go to Harvard, which overrides any ... Smunk."

"I don't want to talk about him." Sara said, waving her hands slightly. "Tell me about you."

Ava stopped, mug halfway to her mouth. "Me?"

"Yeah, you. I can't be your girlfriend if I only know your name." She said with a smirk.

"Right. Okay." Ava muttered, fiddling with the sleeves of her jacket. She hadn't prepared for this. "I graduated from Yale. I'm an associate professor in -"

"I know that." Sara said, finishing the last of her breakfast in one huge mouthful. "I wanna know about you."

That really threw Ava. What was she going to say? She only spent time at work or at home? She had one friend, who was her assistant and was essentially paid to hang out with her? Her idea of a fun Friday night was drinking wine and watching house hunters with her cat on her lap?

"I bake." She said quietly. "I like snicker-doodles."

Sara grinned, and it felt like a start.

///

"We need a cover story." Sara said as they rolled along the highway. "Y'know, like how we met and stuff."

"Any ideas?"

"What about - I got arrested, you were my lawyer and we fell in love in a whirlwind romance?"

Ava snorted. "No. I don't practice criminal law anymore. Besides, it would violate so many ethics codes I don't know where to begin."

"Buzzkill." Sara said with a grin, and Ava couldn't help but notice the dimples on her cheeks. "Tinder?"

Ava scrunched her face in disgust. "No way. Tea tried to set me up for online dating a few years ago and I flatly refused."

"Okay - I'm a bartender. We could say we met there."

"That works." Ava said.

There was silence, the only sounds the rumble of the engine and Sara quietly humming along to the radio.

"I'm surprised you haven't asked about the felony yet."

"What?"

"You're a lawyer, I've got a felony conviction, yet you haven't asked about it. I could be a murderer for all you know."

Ava blushed slightly. "No - uh - I trust you. I'm sure it's fine."

"That's not very -" Sara said with a snort before her eyes suddenly widened and she looked over. "You already know, don't you? Did you do a background check on me?"

Ava was blushing furiously now, she could feel the heat reaching the tips of her ears.
"I just ran your name through a few databases, just in case - I mean you only said felony, that can mean a lot of things!"

She cut herself off from rambling and looked over to see Sara's barely contained laughter.

"That's cute. You're cute."

Ava tried to resist the urge to cover her pink face with her hands, instead settling for straightening her shirt.

"I didn't see much - juvenile records are expunged from the databases. Just that it was a non-violent attempted burglary."

"Do you want to know more?" Sara asked, voice playful, but Ava just shook her head.

"Probably best I don't."

"Fair enough." Sara said with a shrug.

The car settled into silence again.

"Is there anything else you wanna know about me?" Sara's voice jolted Ava a little - she hadn't realised she was nearly asleep. The shuddering movements of the Waverider were actually rather soothing.

She paused for a minute to think.

"I guess - I mean my Mom will ask this anyway, so I might as well know too - why aren't you spending Christmas with your own family?"

She could see Sara's hand on the wheel stiffen, and when she looked up, her expression was cold.

"You don't have to answer - sorry, I just thought -" Ava's ramble was cut off when Sara shook her head.

"No, it's okay. It's a normal question. It's just -" She let out a breath, staring straight ahead. Ava waited for her to continue, and she did after a minute, voice a little more choked and sad. "My sister died, four years ago. It was a car accident."

Ava let out a soft 'oh.' She hadn't been expecting that.

"I kinda - I didn't take it well. I stopped speaking to my parents; I lost my job. Slept on friend's couches for like, eight months. That's why I started doing this, actually- it let me earn some money, get food and a place to stay for a few days." She looked over and gave Ava a half-hearted smile. "Still don't speak to my Dad, so I normally spend the holidays with my friends."

"I'm so sorry, Sara." Ava said gently. "And please don't feel you have to tell that to my parents - they don't need to know-"

"Thanks, Ava." Sara said quietly.

"We're nearly there." Ava said, desperate to change the subject. She looked out the window - she could see the mountains in the distance. "It's the next turn off."

Sara just nodded.

Chapter Text

When Sara pulled up outside, she whistled. She figured Ava was middle class - no one had a family like that without being middle class - but her house - it was practically a mansion. Huge, wide and white, with leaves climbing the walls and a porch, with actual columns, with stairs leading up to the bright red door. The roof was grey slate and had two chimneys. The front garden was immaculate, lined with empty flowerbeds, and there were two shiny black cars in the driveway that Sara was currently parked across.

"Christ, Ava, you didn't say you were loaded. This is practically a castle."

Ava blushed, just a little. She pulled her case and Sara's from the back of the van - she could see the curtains fluttering - her Mom, no doubt, wanting to see who this new mystery woman was. As they knocked on the door, Ava was a little surprised when Sara wordlessly reached over to hold her hand.

The door opened, and there stood her parents, looking a little nervous. Sara grinned.

"Randy! Pammy! I can't believe I finally get to meet you!" She said, loud and over enthusiastic. Sara let go of her hand for only a moment to step forward and hug them both. "Ava's told me so much about you both!"

"Sara, I presume?" Randy said, a little taken a back.

"The one and only." She said with a wink.

"Well ... come on in." Pam said in the worst fake cheery voice Ava had ever heard, and Sara nodded, picked up the cases, and marched inside.

"Hey Mom, hey Dad." She said, still a little taken aback by Sara's performance, before hugging them rather awkwardly.

She stood by the stairs where Sara was taking her shoes off and hung up her coat.

The entry way was large, with dark wooden floor that led to a wide dark staircase. The walls were a deep red, punctuated with framed paintings and a few photographs. Ava pointed out the door on the left which lead to the kitchen and laundry room, then to the one on the right that was the living room. Just beyond the stairs, another door lead into the dining room and conservatory. "The bathrooms are upstairs." She said quietly, and Sara just whistled again.

"This is a castle, Aves."

Ava was a little surprised at the nickname, but just nodded and lead Sara through to the door.

Her living room was just as she remembered it - blue and white florals, two couches and a fireplace, with a TV propped up in one corner, just in front of the wide window. On the nearest couch sat her Grandma and Great - Aunt.

"This is my girlfriend, Sara." She said, as confidently as she could as she introduced them both and took no small amount of satisfaction in seeing how horrified the both looked. She was about to do the same again when her Uncle and Aunt came in.

"Oh, Sara, this is -"

"Robert? Judge Robert? Oh my god!" Sara said loudly, seeming genuinely surprised, and Ava wondered where she was going with this - Robert just looked confused. "You sent me down for robbing that Blockbuster back in 2006!"

Ava was pretty sure she saw the colour drain from everyone's faces at the same time. Her Mom, who'd just walked in the room, looked as if she was about to vomit.

"I - I don't remember -" Robert stammered, but Sara just waved her hands.

"Nah, you do. I was 16, so I got juvie, but the two guys I did it with - Leo Snart and Mick Rory - they got 5 years, 'cause they set all that porn on fire and it lit up the building!" Robert's eyes widened, and Ava realised she was telling the truth. "I mean, I recognised the surname, but -" She gestured between Ava and her Uncle. "What a coincidence!"

There was silence, so painfully awkward it set Ava's teeth on edge.

Then, the door opened, and Randy held up a bottle. "Anyone for wine?

As everyone gratefully busied themselves with saying what they wanted, Ava pulled Sara aside, eyebrows raised.

"Is that really true?"

Sara nodded, gleeful. "Yeah. What are the chances, right? We're off to a good start."

Before Ava could reply, she heard the sound of the front door bell, and got up to answer it. She was almost knocked over when three small boys bowled into the hallway.

"Ava!" Her sister appeared in the doorway, dropping the suitcase on the porch and enveloping her in a hug. Ava squirmed, just a little. She was not a touchy-feely person, but Teagan always insisted on giving her extremely long and vaguely uncomfortable hugs - even more uncomfortable now that she was over 8 months pregnant and her stomach was huge and weirdly taut. "It's been too long! You haven't come home in months!"

"I'm here now, Tea." Ava said with a slightly forced smile. Teagan lent back, looking her over, as her husband, Paul, pulled another suitcase up the steps.

"Nothing's changed." She said with a smile, and Ava couldn't help but blush.

"Uh - something's changed -"

She was interrupted by a pair of arms snaking round her waist from behind, some blonde hair falling over her shoulder. "Hey, babe." Sara mumbled.

"This is my girlfriend, Sara." She said, a little breathless from lying to her sister. It had nothing to do with the way that Sara was pressed up against her back.

Teagan's mouth was a perfect circle, and she had yet to move from the doorway. Sara untangled herself, after pressing a quick kiss to Ava's neck that sent shivers down her spine, and held out her hand.

"Teagan? Hi!"

Her sister shook the outstretched hand, almost on autopilot. She still hadn't moved, and Paul was still outside, shivering slightly. Ava could feel herself blushing. It really drove home how long she'd been single when her sister reacted like that.

Tea finally stepped inside, and Paul followed, skipping past the pleasantries to try and find his three boys and stop them destroying the extremely put together Sharpe household.

"Sara? Oh, I had no idea Ava was finally dating again! You must be special to pull her away from that job of hers." Teagan said, eyes bright and curious.

"I'd like to think so." Sara said, smiling and taking Ava's hand. Ava could only nod. She was blushing so hard she was pretty sure her ears matched the walls - it wasn't like she was out to impress Sara, but this was above and beyond. She didn't even notice Teagan had moved from the doorway until Sara turned to face her.

"You okay, Ava? You look ... pink."

"I just forgot how much I hated coming home." She said quietly, ducking her head.

"Well ... you're not alone this time." Sara said, and moved to tuck a piece of her behind her ear. Ava blinked. The touch was fleeting, but she felt her heart rate decrease, just a little. "Your Mom was in the doorway." She whispered with a mischievous grin.

"Oh - okay."

"You ready to go back in?"

Ava nodded, and Sara pulled them back into the living room.

Everyone was sat around, with the three small boys having a very competitive game involving toy cars and a Beebo bear in the corner. Ava sat down, and Sara sat next to her, so close she was practically on top of her, never letting go of her hand.

Randy came in, handed off a few drinks and raised his eyebrow at Ava.

"Do you want a drink, duck?"

Ava shook her head, asking for a water instead. She was pretty sure if she started drinking now she wouldn't be sober until New Years.

"And - Sara?"

"Whiskey, if you have it." She said with a beaming smile, and Randy just nodded.

"Why'd he call you duck?" Sara asked, a little conspiratorially, and Ava sighed.

"Apparently it was my first word, and the nickname kinda ... stayed."

"That's so cute." She said, teasingly, and reached up to gratefully accept the glass from Randy. He turned to leave, but Sara's voice stopped him. "Randy - you don't happen to have any baby photos of Ava?"

He turned, mouth quirked up in a smile. "Of course! A whole album - I'll go get it -"

Ava could feel her face growing hot. "You're meant to be annoying them, not embarrassing me." She hissed into Sara's ear, who just smirked back at her. None of her relatives seemed to notice the interaction, too busy cooing over the three small boys and talking about how much they'd grown.

"All in good time, Aves, all in good time."

///

Twenty minutes later, Ava really hoped Sara did have a plan, because this was torture. She was sat there with the album spread out on her knees, her dad telling stories from each picture, Sara making adorable cooing noises on her other side. She turned the page, and there was her first day at school - she was dressed in a navy pinafore and white shirt with puffed sleeves, with two long plaits over her shoulders. Perched on her nose were the biggest, roundest glasses, which made her look like an insect, only with a lot more puppy fat.

"Those glasses! And those chubby cheeks!" Sara's voice was more of a squeal, and her dad launched into the story about how on her first day she'd corrected the teacher's spelling of 'dessert'. Ava was almost grateful when her Mom called her up to speak to the man who'd appeared in the doorway.

"Ava, dear - this is Michael. His father used to work with your father."

Michael was plain, dark hair flecked a little with grey, his eyes down-turned but a pleasant greyish-blue colour. He reached out to shake her hand.

"It's nice to meet you." She said, a little meekly, fully aware that her mother's penetrating gaze was fixed on them both.

"The pleasure's all mine." He said with a smile, and Ava sighed, just a little. It was the same every time: she would make awkward small talk with whatever appropriate bachelor her Mom had found for her, ending always with disappointment for the man when she refused him, and when he left, her Mom would hiss at her that she wasn't 'open-minded enough' and she'd 'ruined another holiday.'

She jolted when Sara suddenly appeared beside her, looping their arms together. "Hey, Aves, who's this?"

"Oh, this is Michael. He -"

"Our dads knew each-other from work." Michael interrupted with a smile and reached out to shake Sara's hand. "I just got back into town actually, I've been visiting an old friend from Harvard."

Ava wanted to roll her eyes. She went to Yale, but she wasn't shoehorning it into every sentence. Sara just smiled sweetly.

"Where's that?"

"Harvard? It's in Boston." He said, a little surprised.

"Oh! My friend Zari just finished her degree at the community college in Boston, do you know it?"

He shook his head. "No - uh -"

"Shame." Sara said with a shrug. "I'll text her to ask if she knows about Harvard - maybe you only know if you're from around there -"

"It's quite a prestigious law school." Michael spluttered, and Ava had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing. Sara was playing him like a fiddle and he had no idea.

"Oh? Is it as good as Yale? That's where Avey went - she's so smart." Sara stood on her tip-toes and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

Michael was wide-eyed, opening and shutting his mouth, and Ava was sure her Mom had a sixth sense as she suddenly appeared behind them both.

"Dinner's ready!" She said, her voice strained.

Ava was pulled through into the dining room and sat down - Michael on one side, her uncle on the other, but Sara managed to sit opposite her, between her Grandma and Great-Aunt.

///

What followed was certainly an event. Ava ended up ignoring most of the polite small talk Michael was trying to make in favour of watching Sara skilfully riling up the two old women, talking about Obama, Trump, immigration, tax, anything she could think of. Not only that, she kept running her foot up Ava's leg, once hitting the underside of her knee in such a way that her leg jerked up and hit the table with a shake. She flushed pink and the table went silent for a ten, very awkward seconds.

When Sara did it again, she excused herself and went to the bathroom. She shut the door behind her and sighed deeply.

Maybe Sara was more than just her type on paper. Maybe her palms were sweaty and heart racing because -

It was too big to think about. Ava just focused on breathing and willing herself to calm down. This was fake, it was a business transaction.

There was a knock on the door.

"Ava? Are you okay?" Sara's soft voice filtered through, and Ava was suddenly even less okay, but she opened the door and Sara slipped in. "You left, I thought maybe I'd gone too far -"

Ava just shook her head, finally finding her words. "No, it's okay. It was just - unexpected."

Sara's smirk that she'd worn all through dinner was softer now, a little more unsure. "Okay. We probably should've ... established boundaries or something." She said quietly, and Ava just nodded, ignoring the part of her brain that wanted nothing to change.

"Thank you. I don't think I've seen my Grandma this annoyed since they made gay marriage legal. Or made raisin bran $1 more expensive. "

The smirk was back, and Sara looked very pleased with herself. "It's what I'm here for." She said, then stepped forward into Ava's space. "We've been gone for long enough - c'mere."

Ava felt her heart stutter when Sara reached up to run her hands through her hair, clenching her fists then dropping one hand down to run it over Ava's bottom lip, smearing her lipstick slightly. Then she did the same thing to her own hair and lips.

"Now they think we've been making out." She said with a grin. "Can we go back now? Your Mom said something about apple pie-"

"Of course. I do still need to use the bathroom though." Ava said quietly.

"Oh, right, yeah - sorry -" Sara ducked out, and Ava felt like she could maybe breathe again.

When she returned to the table, her Mom looked like she was about to burst a blood vessel, and Ava tried to hide her smile.

///

The pie had nearly all been eaten when the doorbell rang again, and her Dad went to answer it. Skye and Connor appeared in the doorway, and Ava was struck by how much older her sister looked. She hadn't been able to make her graduation - her classes had started back up and she was knee deep in paperwork. Come to think of it, she hadn't seen Skye in person since her 23rd birthday, nearly two years ago.

They hugged, a little awkwardly, and Ava scowled when Connor hugged Sara for a little too long.

Everyone eventually moved back into the living room, but with all the extra people, there wasn't a lot of room. Her Dad moved to pull a chair from the kitchen, but Sara waved him away, moving instead to settle herself on Ava's lap.

The warmth was more than welcome, and Ava couldn't help but make the tiniest happy sound, which she tried to cover up with a cough. She didn't even realise Robert was setting up Monopoly on the coffee table. She sighed. Her family were incredibly competitive, and Ava could not help but rise to it. Teagan excused herself to put her children to bed, and Ava couldn't blame her.

Luckily, Sara was possibly even more competitive than she was, constantly leaning up to whisper in her ear about how they could trade for Aunt Cindy's utilities or possibly stage a hostile takeover of Paul's hotels. They were on the same team, with the little top hat token, buying up as many properties as they could get their hands on. Sara still refused to move from her lap, so they kept their money on her stomach and made Connor move their piece around the board.

By 11, almost everyone had dropped away, after realising Sara and Ava couldn't be beaten. Only Connor, Skye and Randy kept going, until Randy declared the obvious winners and instructed they all go to bed. Ava didn't miss the way Connor threw down the cards and almost stormed off, even when she was distracted by Sara pressing a victory kiss to the underside of her jaw.

///

They climbed the stairs and Ava pointed out who's room was who's, before silently pushing the door open to her own.

"Sooo... this is your childhood bedroom?"

Ava could hear the confusion in her voice, which wasn't entirely unfounded. The room was empty, the walls a nondescript beige, with a bookshelf, wardrobe and bed all with the same pale pine finish. Nothing indicated a child had ever lived in it, apart from the trophies and medals that were prominently displayed on a shelf above her chest of drawers. Even the bed covers were a sensible pale blue. Their cases had been set neatly at one end, along with two sets of towels.

"It looks like a hotel." Sara muttered.

"Yeah. My Mom found out about my first girlfriend, and when I got home from my first semester at college, all my stuff was in the front garden. I haven't lived here since."

"Oh Aves - that’s shit."

"It's okay. It's in the past."

"It's still shit."

She looked up, meeting Sara's eyes. She rarely told anyone what happened, and she'd always given that stock response. It was shit, it was awful, she'd been 18 and trying to sleep in her car in a Walmart parking lot, shaking from the cold and sobbing. Her jaw clenched.

"Yeah, it was." She said quietly. She turned and got undressed and into her pyjamas, and Sara did the same.

"I don't actually own pyjamas." Sara said, slightly sheepishly, and when Ava turned around, she saw Sara was dressed in a band t-shirt and her underwear, her toned legs on display.

"That's fine." She said, slightly hoarsely.

There was an awkward silence.

"I can sleep on the floor." Ava said quietly, and Sara shrugged.

"We might as well share. If your parents see you on the floor, they're not gonna believe our story, or think we've been fighting or something."

It seemed a bit of a strong response, but Ava wasn't about to argue. Sara got in the bed, the side nearest the wall, and Ava slipped in afterwards, posture stiff.

She'd nearly relaxed just enough to sleep when she felt a hand patting her shoulder.

"Ava - Aves, I've got an idea." Sara whispered. "Does the bed squeak?"

"A little."

"Good. Sit up, hold on."

Ava did as she was told, and Sara crawled to the end of the bed. Then, she started jumping up and down, making it squeak, the she moaned loudly, before turning and grinning. Ava suddenly understood.

Sara kept going, the moans getting louder, and Ava had to hide her giggles as she started bouncing up and down too, occasionally hitting the wall. She started to moan too, and it became a weird game of chicken, both maintaining eye contact as the moans got louder.

"Oh, Ava!" Sara took it up a level, moaning her name, and Ava had to cover her mouth to stop herself from laughing. She copied her, moaning Sara's name and crying out, and jumped again, accidentally launching herself off the bed and onto the floor, where she landed with a thunk. Sara jumped down and landed next to her, and both dissolved into giggles.

"That was a good idea." Ava whispered, and she turned a little to see Sara on the floor, illuminated by a sliver of moonlight that peeked through the curtain. It quite took her breath away. Sara nodded in agreement, beaming back at her.

Within five minutes, they were settled back in bed. Sara hummed a little, burying slightly into Ava's side, and both were asleep within minutes.

Chapter Text

Ava woke up, strangely warm and happy. It took her a minute before she realised this was because Sara had shifted in her sleep, and was now resting her head on Ava's chest, with her arm around her waist and legs tangled in her own. Ava had her arm around her back, holding her in place.

She lay perfectly still.

It was no secret her love life was abysmal - people who had healthy relationships didn't have to hire women from the internet to pretend to be their dates - but it had been embarrassingly long since she'd woken up with someone next to her. Ava didn't know what to do - did she wake her up? would it be weird if she did? or if she didn't?

There was a knock at the door, and Ava quickly slammed her eyes shut. The door opened, slowly and carefully, and there was a cough. Ava blinked her eyes open. Her dad was stood in the doorway, holding two mugs carefully.

"Morning, duck. Breakfast's downstairs." He said quietly, eyes widening when he saw their sleeping arrangement.

"Yeah - sure, gimme five minutes." She muttered, voice dropping to a whisper when Sara shifted, face scrunching up a little.

Randy just nodded, setting the cups on the side table, and looked over at the pair. He smiled quietly.

Ava didn't know what it meant, she didn't know what any of it meant. Sara shifted again and buried her nose in her shoulder.

At 9, with coffee drunk and clothes on - Sara insisting she borrow one of Ava's button downs to wear, only having to roll up the sleeves a little - they both descended the stairs for breakfast, Sara slipping her hand into Ava's before they entered the kitchen.

Pam waved at them. "Oh, you're finally up! What would you like for breakfast? We have fruit, oatmeal, bacon, eggs -"

"Have you got pancakes?" Sara asked brightly, and Pam blinked in surprise.

"Not - ready-made, I'm sure Randall could whip up a batch -" She was interrupted by Sara waving her hand.

"No need, Pammy, I can do it - where's the flour?"

From behind her, three little faces appeared. "Are we having pamcakes?" Jackson said, the excitement evident in her voice and Sara's grin widened.

"Yeah we are! C'mon, you boys can help me -"

They bundled in, and before Ava could take charge, she was whisked away by her Mom to help clean up the table before serving breakfast.

///

It was only 15 minutes later when she returned, and when she looked through the doorway, she could only gasp. The immaculate kitchen - white cabinets and marble countertops - was coated in flour: it covered every surface, the floor, even the ceiling, and definitely the three small boys who were running around. At the centre of the carnage was Sara, equally covered in batter and grinning. She was clutching a frying pan in both hands, which had a pancake on that was somehow beige and black simultaneously. Another pan was on the hob, slightly smoking, with a flame flickering rather violently underneath it.

"Right - boy 2 - your turn." Jackson stopped and stood ramrod straight in front of her. Sara handed the pan off to him. "You've gotta kinda - flick it forward."

Instead, he threw his arms up so violently the pancake slid out and smacked onto the tiled floor with a squelch. Sara held her hands up for a high five, which he jumped up to give.

"Hell yeah! Best one yet!" She looked up and beamed when she saw her. "Oh! Aves! I haven't made anything edible but we're getting there -"

Ava over to see Milo pressing his hands into a bag of flour and then onto the cabinet doors, Jackson swinging the pan through the air and Cody using his little fists to stuff the semi cooked pancake from the floor into his mouth.

"You've made a mess, my love." She stepped forward, reaching up to swipe away some batter from her cheek. Sara just lent into the touch.

Pam turned into the room and gasped, then tried to cover it up with a cough.

"I just came to check on the breakfast, how's it going?" She said with forced cheerfulness.

"Oh, we're getting there, aren't we boys?" Sara said loudly and all three made strange whooping sounds.

"I can help finish up." Ava said, moving quickly to turn off the hob, as the batter in the pan was spluttering, spraying little pieces onto the tiled walls.

"Yes, Ava, good idea." Pam said with a deep sigh. "I'll just - Cody - let's get you cleaned up." She moved to pick the small boy up under the arms, but before she could move him onto her hip, he made a noise, then forcefully vomited all down her undoubtedly obscenely expensive blouse.

There was silence. Ava could feel Sara shaking with barely suppressed laughter next to her, and she could only stare, eyes wide. Teagan came in and stopped when she saw the carnage.

"Oh, Mom -" She reached out and took Cody from her, and Pamela turned tail and left, muttering slightly under her breath.

"Mommy I flippted the pamcake!" Jackson yelled with a grin, and Teagan gave a tired smile.

"You did! Shall we go get cleaned up? Let Aunty Ava make us some breakfast?"

The boys dutifully followed her and Cody from the room, Jackson slamming the pan down and Milo tracking flour behind him.

"Can you actually make pancakes?" Ava asked quietly, and Sara looked at her, eyebrows pulled together.

"I mean - the mixture has lemon juice in it right? And I used like - all 12 eggs -"

"You're hopeless." Ava said with a grin as she pulled another bag of flour from the cupboard. Sara moved, wrapped her arms around her waist and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

"Only around you, Aves." She said softly.

When Ava looked over, there was no one in the doorway.

///

After an awkward breakfast - no one made eye contact with either of them and Ava couldn't help but feel satisfied that their efforts to make them think they'd had loud sex had worked - they got bundled up and went out for a walk, with Pam and Cindy staying behind to clean the still thoroughly trashed kitchen. Teagan also stayed behind, complaining that she needed to lie down because of her back pain.

The area round her parent's house was mostly wooded, tall pines sat at the foot of the mountains. Trails had been cut and paved over so the boys flew off on their bikes, Paul and Robert gamely running after them to stop them careering into any ditches. Skye and Connor walked a little way behind and Ava didn't mind, especially because he kept complaining loudly that they didn't get any 4G around here.

"We're blocked by a mountain, what did he expect?" She grumbled to Sara, who just slipped her arm into the crook of her elbow and patted her shoulder gently.

"He hasn't changed your mind on men, huh?"

Ava just shook her head. They were far enough from her relatives that they could talk genuinely, and Sara started to open up a little more about her herself. She talked about her roommates, Zari and Charlie, who were apparently deeply in love with each-other but neither had noticed yet.

"I've got $20 riding on that they get together over these four days." She said, kicking the frosted leaves, and Ava just hummed.

"You're cold." Ava could feel Sara was shivering slightly - she was only wearing the grey hoodie she'd been wearing their first day together. Sara just shrugged, but Ava stopped them both, pulled the scarf from around her neck, and draped it over Sara's shoulders, twisting it so it was secure.

"Thank you." Sara said with a grin, then her voice dropped to a whisper. "Everyone's looking - do you want to kiss? I think they're expecting us to kiss."

Ava looked over out of the corner of her eye - most of her relatives were indeed looking over at them, most not even trying to be subtle. She swallowed. They hadn't talked about this - she hadn't prepared, she probably wasn't even wearing chapstick -

"You don't have to if you don't want to." Sara's voice brought her back to earth, and Ava shook her head, just a little.

"No, you're right. We should."

"Okay - I'm gonna kiss you now, alright?"

Ava nodded again, and Sara was up on her tiptoes and pressing their lips together. Her cheeks and nose were cold, but her lips were so warm, and Ava couldn't help but part hers a little to deepen the kiss. She was soft and warm and wonderful, and Ava reached down to hold her closer whilst Sara's hand moved from her cheek to tangle in her hair.

Sara broke the kiss first, stepping back a little with a grin. "You think they bought it?" She whispered, and Ava nodded, a little speechless.

She jumped when her Dad suddenly appeared behind her, slapping her on the shoulder. "Ava! I hope Sara's ready for Christmas jumper lunch when we get back!" He looked like he was going to say more, but Cody's trike wheels connected with his ankles and he turned to chase his grandson back down the path.

"What's Christmas jumper lunch?" Sara asked with a smile, slipping her hand back into Ava's and they started walking again.

"Something Dad does every year." Ava muttered. "Christmas Eve, we all wear Christmas jumpers and eat a ham that my Dad has spent like 4 hours slaving over. It's a really good ham, but you have to endure him talking about it constantly."

Sara just hummed and tucked herself closer into Ava. It was a minute before she replied.

"My dad used to cook Turkey - the year Mom left that was all he could cook, so we had turkey and pizza on Christmas Day." She said quietly. "I miss it."

"I'm sorry, I must sound so ungrateful -" Ava started but Sara cut her off with a squeeze on her arm.

"Hey, no - I didn't mean it like that. I can see why you don't like coming home." She said softly. "My dad always supported me, especially when I came out."

Ava's eyebrows shot up and Sara coked her head. "I'm bi. I told him like - six? seven years ago? He didn't understand at first, but Laurel helped."

"Oh. That's nice" Ava hummed. Teagan had already moved out when she was kicked out, and Skye was only ten, so she had to face it alone. "You must miss her."

"More and more every day." Sara whispered sadly, and Ava could only squeeze her hand and hope it helped.

///

When they got home, Ava retrieved the two jumpers from her case - a cream one with a picture of a dog in a Santa costume on for Sara, and an extremely garish one which actually lit up for herself.

At Sara's laughter, she scowled. "Gary bought it for me." was all she could mutter.

"I think it's sweet." Sara grinned and wrapped her arms around her. Ava tried to keep her breathing steady - was she about to be kissed again? But then Sara retracted her hands and the jumper was twinkling gently. "There. Beautiful."

Ava nodded. "I'm sorry your one is so big. I didn't think you'd be that short."

Sara made an indignant noise. "I'm not that short, Aves! I'm average. All of your family are just - freakishly tall."

She wanted to defend herself, but Ava stopped when she heard a shout from downstairs. Sara took her hand and they went into the dining room. Everyone was dressed in some combination of red and green, except Michael, who was wearing a dark blue jumper with 'happy Hanukkah' emblazoned across the chest. The boys all dashed over, eager to touch Ava's glittering lights, and Paul followed to try and pull them away.

"Sorry about them." He said with an awkward smile, before launching into questioning Ava about how she was going to file her taxes for the upcoming year. Sara just sat opposite her at the table, ignoring her wordless pleas for help, focused instead on teaching Jackson and Milo the rude versions of Christmas songs.

After all the ham had been eaten (and the long explanation about how the ham had been glazed was heard), everyone dispersed. Paul had quickly offered to go to Target, even though no one needed anything, he left anyway. Ava couldn't blame him. She tried to escape too - Sara was talking about baking snickerdoodles together and she wanted to do that more than anything, but her Mom had cornered her and asked her to go find her sister.

Chapter Text

"Skye? Mom wants us to play Articulate with Grandma -"

She pushed open the door but stopped when she saw her sister, sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing her face with her sleeve.

"Sure, gimme five minutes." She muttered, but Ava stepped in and shut the door.

"Is everything okay?"

Skye just shrugged, and Ava went to sit on the bed, patting the space next to her. The room was so different from her own - the walls were pink, with posters and photos on the wall, a chest of drawers overflowing with clothes and a bookcase stacked with textbooks.

Her sister sat back down and dropped her head to her shoulder.

"It's Connor." She whispered. "He's cheating on me."

Ava felt her heart stop.

"Oh, Skye - I'm so sorry." She said and felt her sister start to cry again, the tears soaking into her shirt, and Ava just tried to rub her back in a comforting way, ignoring the anger that was bubbling up inside her.

"He's done it before - it's my fault really, I was too focused on school - but I saw his phone and he's doing it again -"

"Hey - no - listen to me. This was never your fault." Skye sat up and rubbed her eyes, and Ava turned to face her. "You're brilliant. If he can't see that, he's a - he's a fucking idiot."

Skye smiled a little before it dropped away. "That's not what Mom said."

"What?" Ava felt her blood run cold.

"I told Mom, like two weeks ago. She said I had to suck it up." She said with a sniff.

Ava swore under her breath and moved forward to wrap her little sister in a hug.

"Mom's not always right, Skye."

"I know. I didn't want to come back alone though - I can't disappoint them. I'm not like you."

Ava snorted. "Thanks."

Skye just blushed. "No - Aves, that's not what I meant. You brought Sara home, even though I've never seen Mom so mad - it's amazing. You don't care what they think."

"I - thank you." She said quietly. "And you're right. I don't care about disappointing them. No one cheats on my baby sister and gets away with it. Where is he?"

"In the garden, I think - playing catch with the boys. What are you -"

Ava didn't stay to hear the rest, just took the stairs, two at a time, opening her door and zeroing in on her target.

She pulled back her stinging fist, shaking it slightly, a little surprised at what she'd just done. Connor was bent over, hands clutched to his face, and when he straightened up, Ava could see that blood was pouring from his face.

"You broke my nose!" He yelled. "You - bitch, you broke my nose!"

"Ava! What on earth do you think you're doing?" Her mother's shrill voice cut through Connor's shouting, and Ava didn't know if it was the adrenaline from the punch, the feeling of being finally free or the way Sara was grinning at her from the porch that made her do it, but she did.

"Oh, shut up. He was cheating on her, and you're too busy trying to play happy families to care!" She yelled, and there was silence.

Then, everything erupted, everyone yelling and shouting, and Ava stood in the middle, still a little stunned.

"Will everyone shut the fuck up!" A voice came from the doorway, and everyone turned to see Teagan bent over, clutching her stomach. "My water just broke."

Ava raised her eyebrows - she was sure Teagan had said her due date was early January - then the ever-practical part of her brain kicked in, and she looked over. The two cars in the driveway were still being blocked in by the Waverider.

"Everyone who needs the hospital, jump in the van!" Sara yelled, pulling the keys from her pocket and running down the path, followed by a still bleeding Connor, then Teagan, partially supported by Skye. Ava went over to help and they both loaded her into the back of the van. Pam followed shortly after and Ava pulled the doors shut behind them. The Waverider rumbled into life, and Sara took off, screaming down the road towards the highway.

She turned to the right to see a little boy sat in the passenger seat, wild eyed and beaming.

"Which one are you?"

"Milo." He said, kicking his legs. "Can we go faster?"

"Buckle up, kid." Sara muttered, yanking the gear stick into the next gear. "Let's see what this baby can do."

Milo's excited shout, Teagan's pained yelling and Connor's muttering were all drowned out by the grating of the engine as they almost flew in the direction of what Sara really, really hoped was the hospital.

///

They parked up, and Ava threw open the doors.

"Thank god, it really hurts." Connor whined, and she rounded on him.

"Complain one more time and I'm gonna break another bone."

Pam just shook her head. "Skye, take Connor -"

"If you think I'm going anywhere with that dick -" Skye started but was interrupted by a shout from Teagan. "We've got to get inside, now." She said, helping her sister down, and both gasped in surprise when Milo appeared in the doorway.

"That was so much fun Mommy!" He yelled, jumping a little.

"How are you so incompetent - " Pam spat at Sara, who just rolled her eyes.

"Right - Pammy, take Connor in so he stops bleeding over my nice van. You two take Teagan - Skye, keep an eye on Milo. I'll get the parking ticket. Everyone happy?"

They all nodded, and Sara patted her pockets.

"Wait, Pammy - you got any change?"

///

Ava ducked back into the room, where Teagan was lying in the bed, now dressed in a hospital gown, eyes squeezed shut and breathing heavily.

"Paul says he'll be here as soon as he can - turns out he had to go to the out of town Target, so he might be a while -"

Teagan interrupted her by swearing loudly, and Ava took a tiny step backwards.

"No - come here. I need something to squeeze." She said through gritted teeth. Ava moved to the side of the bed and dutifully offered her hand. Her sister just continued to mutter obscenities, crushing her fingers in her grip.

"It'll be okay, Tea - you've done this before."

"That doesn't make it easier."

"Doesn't it?" Ava knew it was the wrong thing to say when Teagan shot her a glare that could possibly melt her on the spot.

"If you ever have children, I'm going to find you and remind you of that."

Ava just hummed in response.

"Are you thinking - about children - with Sara?" Teagan said through gritted teeth as another contraction hit, but afterwards she turned to smirk at Ava.

"Is this really the time to be thinking about that?"

"When is the time, Ava? We never - talk." The end of the sentence came out in a hiss.

"Tea -"

"You never come home either." Teagan said, a little sadly, loosening her grip.

"You know why I don't." Her voice was blunt, a little too cold. When Teagan looked up she had tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, then, when they kicked you out. I wasn't around - I should've said something -" She cut herself off when the next contraction came, breathing heavily.

"You'd just finished college, Tea, you had your own stuff to worry about." Ava said quietly. It felt strange saying those words out loud, like she didn't quite believe them until she heard them.

"I'm so sorry, Aves. It wasn't fair." Teagan ran a hand through her hair.

"Teagan -"

"You're my little sister. I wasn't there when you needed me." Her voice broke at the end and she squeezed her eyes tight shut, just as the monitor indicated there was another contraction.

"It's okay - I wasn't there, afterwards. For you, or the boys. So we're even." Ava stood up, threading her fingers more securely through Teagan's own. She lent down slightly to push her hair out of her face. "But we're here now. It's okay."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, Tea. Besides, you definitely have other things to worry about right now." The monitor went haywire and Teagan started swearing louder. "Uh - do you want me to get Mom?"

Her sister looked up at her with one eyebrow raised. "No! She'll probably tell me I'm giving birth wrong - you're staying."

Ava swallowed. She loved her sister, but Paul couldn't come soon enough.

///

In the waiting room, Sara sat, drumming her hand on her knees. Connor had been stitched up and was in the corner, occasionally pinching the bridge of his nose. Pam was sat in the other corner, frowning. She'd tried to go into the room, but Teagan had sworn her out. Skye was sat in the middle row, letting Milo play on her phone next to her.

They all sat up when Paul arrived, his sweaty face and pallid skin complexion only slightly alarming. "I came as soon as I could." He said awkwardly.

"She's down the corridor, room 3B." Skye said, gesturing with the hand that wasn't holding a shitty cup of vending machine coffee. As if on cue, a scream rattled down the corridor, and Paul grew even paler.

"Oh, I don't think - " He stopped when Sara stood up, walked over and grasped his shoulders.

"Paul. I have known you for two days. You are ... so boring, the most boring person I've ever met. But - you're a good father, and an okay husband, and right now your wife is in that room, in the worst pain of her life, and you're just gonna wuss out?"

Paul shook his head.

"No, you're damn right. You're gonna go in there and you're gonna be the man she needs you to be, okay? You got this."

"I've got this." Paul muttered, nodding slightly. "Yeah, yeah, I've got this." He said again, slightly more confidently, before waving to his son and marching off down the corridor.

Sara sat down and noticed Skye was grinning at her.

///

The rest of the family arrived within the hour, Randy leading in the two boys, followed by the two old women, then Robert and Cindy.

Sara raised her eyebrows. "Why the fuck did you come?" She said, gesturing to Michael. "You're not even family."

Michael looked a little sheepish. "Didn't want to feel left out." He muttered, and Sara just laughed.

It was a strange group, all sat in the waiting room, and most were half asleep when, at midnight, Ava came through, looking tired, but smiling.

"The baby's here." She said quietly. "A little girl."

Everyone clapped and cheered a little, and Skye leapt up to hug her sister. Sara stood up too, unsure about everything, but Ava was there, and she was in her arms in an instant.

"Well done, Aves." She whispered, stepping back a little to brush the happy tears from Ava's cheek. "You did so well. I'm so proud."

Ava just smiled and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

///

Everyone had their turns meeting the baby - the boys going first, cooing over their new baby sister before being taken home by Randy so they could finally get some sleep, followed by the rest of the family. Michael had peeked through the door before Ava told him, not unkindly, to fuck off.

Sara stood in the doorway as Ava held her little niece, smiling down at her sister in the bed.

"Come in." Teagan said gently.

"Oh, I don't think -"

"Come on. You saved the day by driving us here, and you're practically family. Come meet her."

Sara stepped forward, into the dimly lit room, and walked over to see the bundle in Ava's arms. She was so tiny and pink, her little eyes wide open, as blue as her mother's. She held out her hand almost without thinking, and the child wrapped her tiny hand around Sara's index finger.

"What's her name?" She asked, almost breathless.

"Clara. Clara Belle Rose." Teagan said with a smile. "My Christmas miracle."

Sara looked at the clock - of course. It was Christmas Day.

"It's not such a bad birthday." She said quietly. "You ever had cake after your Christmas dinner? It's the best."

Ava looked up, a little confused. "Christmas Day is my birthday too." Sara said with a smile.

"Oh!" Teagan said. "Oh, that's wonderful. Happy Birthday!"

Sara didn't look at her, just at Ava, who looked slightly stunned.

"I'll be at the Waverider." She muttered and turned to leave.

///

The cold had stuck up the locks, and Sara kicked the door in frustration.

She turned when she heard a cough.

"I didn't know it was your birthday today - I'm sorry. I didn't get you anything." Ava said, stuffing her hands in her pockets. She seemed genuinely upset, and it made Sara's heart break a little.

"No, it's okay." Sara said quietly. "I didn't want you to know. I wasn't gonna celebrate anyway." She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. This - this has gone too far."

"What - what do you mean?"

"I'm being paid to be here, I'm being paid to be your girlfriend, and I'm one of the first people to meet your sister's baby. I'm intruding, this isn't fair."

"No, Sara - you're not intruding. Tea's right, you saved the day by driving here." She smiled, and Sara couldn't help but smile back, dipping her head a little. "This holiday has been - crazy, and probably the most fun I've had in years. I don't regret any of it."

"But it's not real." Sara whispered.

"No, I know, but -" Ava took a deep breath. "Don't go. Please? For me?"

Sara bit her lip, then sighed, the puff of air becoming a whispered cloud in the night air.

"Okay. I'll stay."

Ava beamed and leant forward to kiss her cheek. "Thank you, so much. Can we go home?"

Sara just nodded, and it wasn't five minutes into their journey when she noticed her passenger was fast asleep, head lolling back and snoring slightly. She was left alone, with the endless road and a mess of feelings churning in her stomach.

Chapter Text

The next day was a little strange. Everyone woke up slowly, and Robert set up a skype call, so the boys could open their presents in front of their parents. Ava turned almost beetroot when she opened her gift from Sara - a very lacy red underwear set.

Pam had then roped them into helping in the kitchen, and Sara tried to tell the most outrageous and outlandish stories as they peeled potatoes, both giggling every time they spotted a shocked look from one of the old women also pottering about.

Lunch was at three, and the table was laden down with food, and Sara just sat there, helping pass dishes down and serving herself healthy portions of everything. The table erupted in cheers when Teagan came in, Paul trailing behind her and Clara bundled up in her arms. Weirdly, Connor was still there, his bruised face smiling as he spooned mash potato onto his plate, and so was Michael, busy regaling Great Aunt Cathy with tales from Harvard. Sara turned when she felt a hand on her thigh.

"You okay?" Ava said quietly.

Sara nodded. "Yeah. Thank you." She leant over to press a kiss on her cheek, and she didn't miss the way Ava blushed or the way Pam curled her lip in barely disguised displeasure.

When they were all finished, everyone drifted off - the boys to show their presents to their new baby sister, Connor to the office to call his parents and Cathy to have a little lie down - Sara ended up in Ava's room, with a promise from Ava that she'd be along in a few minutes, after she'd finished helping to clear away the table.

Sara looked up from her phone when she saw the door opening, smile fading when she saw it wasn't Ava. Pam shut the door behind her, careful not to make any noise, then stood, arms crossed, looking down at her.

"I know what this is. I know why you're here." She said, lips pressed into a thin line, and Sara's blood ran cold.

"This - what are you talking about?" She said, trying to remain as nonchalant as possible.

"Why you're with my daughter. It's money you want, isn't it? We have money - you can have whatever you want if you leave her alone."

"I'm not with Ava for her money. I love her." Sara said, standing up. The words left a bitter taste in her mouth, but she didn't let it show on her face. Pam's expression twisted into a sneer.

"As if I believe that. Ava doesn't love easily, so whatever you've done to convince her -"

Sara bristled. "Ava can do what she wants. She's a grown woman."

"She doesn't know what she wants." Pam almost spat. "And whatever she wants certainly isn't some low life screw up -"

The door opened. "Sara, are you -" Ava stepped in, but stopped, looking between the two women. "Mom? What's going on?"

There was silence, and Sara rubbed her hands on her jeans.

"Mom?" She asked again, voice unsure.

"Just having a word." Pam said stiffly.

"With my girlfriend?"

"Aves - it's okay -"

"If you've said anything -" Ava's voice was hard now, and Sara hated it.

"There's nothing to say." Pam said with a hiss. "You'll never listen to me anyway - just continue wasting your life on people like her -"

"Mom - " Ava looked close to tears, but before either of them could say anything, her Dad appeared in the doorway.

"Pammy - why are we all in here?" He said, cheery voice fading a little as he saw Ava.

"You know what? I should just stop coming back - you're never going to change your minds -" Ava's voice was choked and she pulled Sara towards the doorway, but Randy stopped her, a hand on her shoulder.

"Ava?"

"It's who I am, Dad. It's who I've always been." Ava whispered, openly crying now, and all Sara wanted to do was go to her, but she also felt a bit like she was intruding. Randy's hand still hadn't left his daughter's shoulder.

"I know." He said, with a small smile. "You've always done what you've wanted, and you've always been an independent young woman. I'm so proud."

Sara definitely felt like she was intruding now, but the mixture of confusion and hope on Ava's tear stained face compelled her to stay.

Randy continued, looking over at Pam. "And I know we didn't support you at first, we didn't understand - but if you've found someone to share your life with - someone who makes you happy, then I'm happy. Whoever they may be."

He smiled at Sara, true and genuine, and she felt her heart clench. She couldn't move, couldn't do anything but look at them both.

"Thanks, Dad." Ava said, hiccupping slightly, and he pulled her in for a hug. Pam made a strange noise and walked quickly from the room.

"I'll talk to your mother, duck." He said, pulling back and patting her shoulder, turning to give Sara a funny sort of nod before following Pam out the room, shutting the door behind him.

There was silence.

Ava sat on the bed and just broke, silently sobbing, running a hand through her hair and trying to compose herself, but only more tears came.

"Aves." Sara said quietly, standing awkwardly. "I'm - I'm sorry."

Ava made a noise that could have been laughter, but she was still crying too hard for it to be real. "You're sorry? I brought you into this - you're having to deal with this, a fucked-up life that isn't your own."

Sara moved to sit next to her on the bed, not too close. "You're not fucked up, Aves."

"Then why - why do I care so much?" Ava said, scrubbing her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'm a grown woman. I should've - gotten over this."

"Hey - it's okay. C'mere." Sara shuffled forwards and started running her hands through Ava's hair, as she dropped her head onto her shoulder. The tears were soaking into Sara's shirt, but she didn't care. They sat like that until Ava's sobs had subsided into little hiccupy noises, then into silence.

"Thanks." She muttered, not making eye contact. "I'm gonna - pack. We can leave tomorrow morning."

Sara nodded. She wasn't sure if there was anything left to say.

///

The rest of the day was spent in a lazy silence - they all sat around and watched the Sound of Music, at Cindy's request. Sara fell asleep on her lap not five minutes in, and it made Ava feel felt warm and safe and she couldn't pay attention to the movie, so she just settled for rubbing little circles on Sara's hipbone. She hadn't cried like that in years and she still felt a little wobbly, but the weight on her lap was helping.

When she woke, she caught Ava staring at her softly.

"Is it still going?" She whispered, and Ava had to stifle her laughter. In the corner of the room, Cindy glared at them.

"There's an hour left, I think. Go back to sleep, love."

Her fingers came up to play with the end of her hair, and Sara shut her eyes.

They had a strange dinner - turkey sandwiches and sausage rolls, and Sara found and ate most of a pavlova, only sharing with Cody when he asked politely. The ended up in bed at 10, Sara falling asleep almost immediately, despite napping most of the day, and Ava just tucked herself into her chest and tried not to think about how much she would miss this.

They packed up and left early the next day, Ava hugging her sisters close. Connor and Michael had ducked out earlier, but not before Ava had pulled Connor to the side and threatened that if he ever even thought about talking to Skye again, she would break his arms. He left rather quickly after that.

Even her nephews hugged her, but they spent longer hugging Sara, so she settled with just pressing a kiss to the top of Clara's head. She said goodbye to the rest of her relatives and soon they were off, rolling down the highway.

Sara sang loudly along with the Christmas songs on the radio, and Ava just listened and laughed and joined in when she felt brave enough.

///

It was getting dark by the time they finally pulled up outside Ava's apartment, the Waverider trundling to a stop before the engine cut, and there was silence. Both got out wordlessly, and Ava pulled her case from the back whilst Sara lent casually against the door, hands stuffed in her pockets.

There was an awkward silence, as Ava set her case down and pulled her purse from her bag, pulling out a wad of bills. "Here - like $200 I promised, and some extra because ... I mean, this week's been a lot." She said, watching as Sara leafed through the bills. Her eyes widened.

"Aves, there's like $300 here. I can't take this -"

"Take it, please." Ava caught Sara's outstretched hand in her own and closed her fingers around the bills. "It's the least I can do."

"Thanks." Sara muttered, before launching forward to wrap Ava up in a hug. It took Ava a second to process what was happening, but soon she had her arms around the smaller woman, pulling her closer against her chest.

Sara let go and stepped back, not making eye contact. "I better go. I don't want to be late."

Ava just nodded. There was so much she wanted to say, but the words were stuck in her throat - she froze when Sara stepped forward and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

"Bye, Aves."

She couldn't speak, only watch as Sara opened the door, hopped in and started the engine. She gave her one final smile and a little salute before she kicked the car into gear and the Waverider rolled off, down the street, where it turned the corner and disappeared, and Ava was left alone.

///

Ava didn't want to go out that night. She'd spent every-day since Christmas moping in her apartment, culminating in what was certainly a high point - sobbing on her couch on New Year’s, texting Gary that she would never find love and the world was conspiring against her, whilst Merlin looked on hesitantly.

Sara hadn't called.

It had been a business transaction, Ava knew that, but she felt those crazy four days had at least made them friends, and if all Sara wanted to be was friends she'd take it with open arms, but Sara hadn't called or even texted, and she missed her.

Ava's bed was cold, and the loneliness she thought she'd gotten used to had settled back into her bones with a renewed ache.

Gary had noticed the change when she returned to work and had been trying to get her to come out for drinks with the rest of the faculty, just to try and cheer her up.

It was one icy cold evening at the end of January when she'd finally agreed, mainly because her Netflix queue was empty, and she was worried if she isolated herself any longer she would end up having a heart attack and only be found four months later, partially devoured by her cat.

She'd come out, but she certainly wasn't in the mood to be around the others, who were loudly doing shots in a booth in the corner - lawyers really knew how to party. She'd gone to the bar instead, where she sat, head in her hands, nursing a glass of whiskey.

She downed the last of it and raised her hand for another.

"You're might wanna slow down, Aves. Someone's gonna need to be sober to put that lot in a taxi."

Ava's head shot up.

Sara was there, right in front of her, in a skimpy black top and a little apron, placing another glass in front of her. Her smile dropped a little.

"You - you didn't know I worked here, did you?"

"You never actually told me." Ava said, voice suddenly hoarse.

"So this is -"

"The worlds weirdest coincidence." Ava finished, fighting the urge to gulp down her second glass.

"Right - sorry - this is weird now. You probably didn't want to see me -" Sara ducked her head, moving to clean the bar with a rag, but Ava's hand shot out and stopped her.

"I didn't say that." She said quietly, quickly retracting her hand.

There was silence.

"So, who's that lot over there?" Sara gestured to the booth, where Gary and the other lawyers were now arm in arm, singing loudly.

"Oh. They're from work. Gary forced me to come out - he said I was ... moping."

"Moping, huh?" The way Sara was smiling at her caused Ava's heart to skip a beat, and she tried to focus instead on the glass in front of her. She just nodded, and Sara looked like she was going to reply, but some asshole at the other end of the bar was clicking to demand her attention. She shot Ava's an apologetic look and went to serve him instead.

"Avaaa!" Gary's voice was suddenly far too close to her ear and she jumped. "This is our soong! Come dance." She was pulled from the stool and towards the dance-floor by her surprisingly strong assistant.

"Wait - Gary -"

It was fruitless. The rest of the night was just as frustrating - every time Ava broke away from Gary and the others, Sara was busy at the bar, and any time she looked free, Gary would insist on dancing or doing shots. By 2 am, the bar was closing, and they were turfed out onto the sidewalk.

After half an hour, Ava had started to pace. There wasn't enough room for her in the first taxi, so she'd called a second one, but it hadn't shown up, and she was freezing.

"You waiting for me, Aves?" Came a familiar voice from behind her.

"I wasn't -" Ava turned to face Sara - she was standing with her arms crossed, slightly dwarfed by her coat, and she could see from her expression that she was teasing her. "I'm sorry. This isn't how I wanted this to go."

"How you wanted what to go?"

"I wanted to see you again." Ava said, tone as miserable as she felt. She'd had too much to drink, she was freezing cold and now Sara was standing in front of her, eyebrow raised.

"You did?"

"Yes, of course - I know it wasn't real, and that's what I've been telling myself, but - I want it to be, and it could be, if you wanted. I know this isn't the most conventional start, but we're not exactly conventional people -"

Sara cut off her rambling by bringing their lips together. She was cold, but her lips were warm and soft, and Ava lent into the kiss, pulling Sara flush against her. Sara pulled back, just a little, and nodded.

"Okay."

Ava blinked. "Okay?"

"Okay." Sara repeated, smiling as Ava did, leaning forward to kiss her again, because snow had started to fall and it all felt a little like fate. "I missed you too, Aves." Sara whispered, reaching up to run her thumb along her cheekbone. "Do you want me to drive you home? The Waverider's parked out the back. "

Ava nodded, her little puff of laughter crystallising in the air between them. "Sounds perfect."

Chapter Text

[One Year Later]

"What's that?" Sara asked sleepily, putting a mug of coffee in front of Ava on the kitchen table.

"A letter from my Mom. She likes to update everyone on what's happening with the Sharpe's at Christmas." Ava muttered, tilting her face so Sara could press a kiss to her cheek before going back to cooking their pancakes. She started to read aloud.

"Dear Friends and Family,
This year has involved some changes for the Sharpe family."

Ava snorted. Understatement.

"We welcomed our fourth grandchild, Clara, last Christmas. Her brothers dote on her, and she's growing up into a very active and curious toddler."

Ava snorted again. Sara had convinced Teagan to get snapchat and now they received regular video updates about Clara, mainly that she was obsessed with jam, peas, computer keyboards and the colour purple, and her favourite game was when her brothers collected together a huge pile of cuddly toys and threw her into them.

She resumed reading. "Teagan has started a successful new career in marketing, and Paul has also undergone a career adjustment."

"Why not say stay-at-home dad?" Sara said, expertly flipping the first pancake onto the plate. "It's not an insult."

Ava sighed. It turned out Paul was a terrible accountant and was much happier and more relaxed staying at home and looking after his children, whilst Teagan was thrilled to be doing something other than changing diapers and was now the marketing director of a local publishing firm.

"It's an insult for my Mom." Ava muttered, before scanning down to begin reading again.

"Our second oldest, Ava, is an associate Professor at Law at Star City University and has just been awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by her faculty."

"Hell yeah you did!" Sara came over, set a stack of pancakes in front of her and lent down to press kisses all over Ava's cheeks. "I'm so proud."

Ava couldn't help but blush, just a little. "Thank you, my love."

Sara pressed a final kiss to her cheek, before stepping back to get her own breakfast and bring the syrup and butter from the kitchen.

"- and has moved in with her girlfriend, Sara." Ava stopped, a little taken aback. "She called you my girlfriend." She whispered, looking up.

Sara reached over to hold her hand. "She thinks we've been together for nearly two years, babe. It's about time."

"Yeah - I'm still surprised. Dad probably put her up to it." Ava said with a grin, before she started reading again.

"Our youngest, Skye, is back from her six-month adventure back-packing across Asia and has now started her master’s in pharmacology at Central City University."

Ava noticed how she hadn't mentioned that Skye had also come out as bisexual and started dating Jemma, a computer sciences student at the same University. That had certainly been a time, with her Mom not leaving the house for a week and calling Ava to leave her an extremely long voicemail about how she'd been a 'bad influence' on her little sister and had stopped just short of disowning them both. Ava suspected she had her father and Teagan to thank for still being part of her own family.

"No Jemma?" Sara said, around a mouthful of pancake.

"Nope. She's not ready for that yet." Ava said, with a small smile. "Then it's just lots of talk about how she's the president of the Homeowners association, how my Dad's golf game is going, their holiday to Paris, and how they're spending Christmas at the summer house."

Ava bit her lip.

"Aves? You good?"

"I just - I know I shouldn't, but I feel guilty. It's their first Christmas without any of us."

"It's okay." Sara reached forward and squeezed her hand. "You're all grown-up, and we went for Thanksgiving. They probably need a quiet Christmas after last year anyway." Ava snorted. It had been a wild ride. "Besides - my Dad's so excited to meet you." Sara said, with a quiet smile.

Ava's stomach flipped. Sara had reached out to her Dad and they'd started talking again, which had culminated in them agreeing to go down to his to spend Christmas. Ava was beyond nervous.

Sara must've seen it on her face and squeezed her hand again. "It's gonna go great, baby. It literally cannot go any worse than when I met your parents."

"I was paying you to annoy them." Ava said, whining slightly. "This is different. If this goes wrong - "

"Ava." Sara said calmly. "This is gonna go great. My Dad already loves you."

They finished eating in silence, and as Ava moved to take Sara's plate, she pulled her down for a very syrupy kiss.

"What if he doesn't like me." Ava whispered, suddenly vulnerable, and Sara reached up to push an errant strand of hair behind her ear.

"He will. I know he will. You make me happy and he's just pleased I'm happy." Sara pushed forward, and they kissed again. "I love you, Aves. So much. You've got this."

"Yeah. Yeah, I've got this. I love you too."

Sara grinned, and it took Ava's breath away. Her girlfriend, sat in their apartment, in her robe and a little smeared with syrup, lit by the clear glow of a winter morning - Ava didn't think she'd seen anything more beautiful.

The moment was broken when Merlin launched himself onto the table and started lapping furiously at the leftover butter on their plates. Sara laughed, and Ava just turned and swallowed the sound by kissing her again.