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Running away and nowhere to go

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Sara Lance leaned against the thick brick pillar containing the wrought iron fence wrapping around the building in front of her. It was a cold fall morning, the neat green lawn of the school, quiet and empty given the late hour.


The school itself looked at least a hundred years old, probably more, with elaborate brick work, which in many other circumstances one would consider beautiful. Sara watched her breath puff out in little clouds and rubbed her finger-less gloved hands together before stuffing them back in the pockets of her hoody.


Beauford West High School, home of the wolves and her new school.


Sara sighed, straightening up and clenching her fists around the straps of her light, ratty backpack. She wished she didn't have to trudge up those steps, join the hustle and bustle of students, excited to see their friends after fall break, but she dreaded being anywhere else even more.


So, she sucked in a breath of cold air, which nothing short, of warmed her insides, then made her way across the yard.
The hall ways were vast and empty, echoing around her, classes had started over two hours ago. Head tilted to the high ceilings as she walked, Sara managed to find the guidance counsellors office and knocked quietly on the door.


"Come in".


The door creaked hesitantly and Sara slunk in, head down and seated herself.


"Hi, you must be Sara? I'm Gideon."


Sara looked up to a woman with an inviting smile, hand outstretched.


When Sara just leaned back and said nothing, she retracted her hand, and undeterred, continued.


"Welcome to Beaumont West High School Sara, how about we get your classes set up?"


Sara just shrugged "I guess that's why I'm here."


Twenty minutes later, with minimal input from Sara, Gideon had completed her schedule, based mostly off Sara's school record from previous years rather than relying on Sara's practically non-existent input.


Sara glanced down at it, normally she would be excited to read her schedule, compare teachers, classes with her friends, point out the classes which she could bludge and frown at the more difficult ones.


Sara looked at her new schedule and didn't feel anything.


P1 8.00 - 8.30: Homeroom
P2 8.30-9.15: Algebra Honours
P3 9.15 - 10.00: English Honours
P4 10.00 - 10.45: Chemistry
P5 10.45 - 11.30: Spanish II
11.30 - 12.30: Lunch
P6 12.30 - 1.15: Gym
P7 1.15 - 2.00: Free
P8 2.00 - 2.45: American History
P9 2.45 - 3.30: Biology Honours


"I think you should pick up an extra curricular too, Sara."


Sara just stared blankly at her schedule, the way the pattern of fall sun struggling through the slatted blinds wobbled across it.
"Sara?" Gideon repeated, patiently.


"Better than going 'home'." Sara mumbled.


She could feel Gideon's eyes soften and felt herself harden in response under them. The last thing she wanted was other peoples pity, their understanding.


"I noticed you played varsity soccer at your old school, even though you were only a sophomore. Your coach thought you had the potential to go to an Ivy League school on a full scholarship. I think that's a good option to have, even if you don't want to go."


Sara couldn't care less about soccer anymore, but she did feel a burning desire to prove to everyone at this stupid school that she was better than them. She wanted to outrun them, out play them, beat them down and anyone else who dared oppose her on the field.


So she plastered on a fake smile and looked up, "Ok then."


Then she got up and turned to leave, hand already reaching to grasp the cold door knob.


"Sara" Gideon said.


She paused but didn't turn.


"Soccer practice is 4.00pm-6.00pm every night, for varsity. They start in two weeks."


Sara just shrugged and swiftly exited as the school bell for fifth period echoed down the halls.


She attended her classes, early to get a seat in the back where the teacher wouldn't notice her doodling instead of doing her classwork. She skipped gym, having not brought a change of clothes with her, and didn't eat lunch on account of not currently having a cent to her name.


She could feel eyes on her all day, the mysterious new kid as she was. She could tell her lack of interest in everyone only made them more curious about her.


She wasn't unaccustomed to the eyes that followed her down the hall or glanced at her during class, having always had somewhat of a commanding presence.
Though the nature of it had shifted somewhat from outgoing, bubbly enthusiasm and fun who everyone wanted to be around to brooding and mysterious.


It wasn't until Biology, last period, that anyone attempted to interact with her beyond visually. The bell had rung, Sara already slinging her backpack over her shoulder, now somewhat weighted down with text books which she'd yet to dump in her locker. A pretty girl with kind brown eyes stepped in front of her and Sara looked up, arching an eyebrow as if it were a challenge.


The girl just smiled and stuck out her hand "Hi, I'm Amaya." She gestured behind her, "this is Ava."


The girl behind her, who Sara identified as a teacher's pet at the beginning of the class, smiled tensely at her.


"Okay." Sara replied then pushed past them toward the door.


She saw confusion flicker across Amaya's face and smirked inwardly when she saw annoyance on the girl Amaya had deemed 'Ava'.


"Coach Hunter told us you were joining the soccer team, said you were a star from Starling City." Amaya continued, undeterred by her rudeness.


Sara couldn't help but think she might end up liking Amaya. But for now, she was just an annoying girl in her biology class. She turned around regardless.


"Well, he's wrong. I'm not a star, I'm not anything."


"He was bummed he didn't get to meet you in gym." Ava chipped in, then added, "which you skipped."


"Really?" Sara said sarcastically. "Well, luckily, unlike you, I don't really enjoy pleasing my teachers."


Ava clenched her jaw at the innuendo and then opened her mouth to retort before Amaya cut in gracefully.


"Well anyway, we'll see you around then ....?" she left an opening for Sara to fill in her name.


Sara ignored it, "Guess so."


Then she turned and marched right out the door and didn't stop until her boot clad feet hit the pavement and she was traipsing down the dirty sidewalk of western Manhattan.
Sara got back to the group home late. 10.59pm to be exact. One minute before she had to.


"Where have you been?" Zari asked, legs crossed underneath her as she tapped away on her old laptop, not looking up as the door slammed and Sara let herself fall onto the old springy mattress.


Zari had been her best friend since she'd moved to New York almost a month ago. Sara had fully intended on hating everyone, but when you share a 15ft x 10ft space with someone who's actually sort of awesome, it's relatively difficult to do. Zari had been in the system for nearly four years, living in the group home for the last three months. It wasn't the worst place Sara had ever been, and Zari told her it was heaven compared to where she could have ended up.


"Didn't think heaven had devil's like you." Sara had told her.


"That's because, I'm an angel in disguise. I use wit and dry humour to hide my radiance. Don't tell anyone."


Sara laughed and knew they'd be friends.


"Just going to ignore me then?" Zari glanced over, bringing Sara out of her memory.


"Pick-pocketed some douche on Wall Street, took me a while to get over there. But it was totally worth it. He had like $300 in his wallet and he was practically married to his phone, I could have thrown myself on the ground in front of him and faked a seizure and he probably would have stepped right over me."


Zari narrowed her eyes, "Are you joking?"


Sara just raised her eyebrow and Zari shook her head.


"Of course you're not. At least you didn't get into a fight."


Sara smirked and lifted up her shirt, showing off a long purple bruise across her ribs.


"What the ..." Zari started, "You know what, I'm not even remotely surprised."


"You should have seen the other guy." Sara smirked. "Besides, if I didn't go to the fight gym, just imagine all the pent up anger I would have."


Zari rolled her eyes "You've mastered more martial arts than I even knew existed, I'm pretty sure you still have plenty of pent up anger."


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara pulled her long jacket closer around her, the cold biting through the oversized hoody she wore underneath as the sun struggled to warm the earth into a weak excuse for fall.
She ignored the hustle and bustle of spritely students, still energised from the break, as she fought her way to her locker. As she slammed her locker shut and turned to trudge to her homeroom, she slammed right into someone.


"Watch where you're going" she snapped.


She stepped back and looked up to see a bulky guy with a frown on his face accompanied by a slim boy with piercing blue eyes and a buzz cut.


"Fiesty" the slim one said.


The other boy just grunted in seeming agreeance.


"You're new aren't you?" he drawled, looking her up and down, "I'm Leo, and this is Mick."


He gestured to the bulky guy beside him.


"Cool." Sara said started walking away.


Leo marched right up beside her, "So, what's your deal then?"


Sara rolled her eyes, "I don't have a deal."


Leo narrowed his eyes, "Oh sure you do" he drawled, "Me and my buddy Mick here, we're thieves, you see, kids know to stay away from us."


Sara snapped her head up and smirked "I could get around that."


Leo just put his arm over her shoulder and said "I thought so, I could sniff a thief from a mile away. Stick with us kiddo."


Mick just grunted, the whispers of a smile vanishing into scowl before it could be voiced.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara was late to Algebra, after getting lost in the labrinth of hallways New York considered a school. She tried to skulk into class unnoticed, but the teacher looked up and said,


"Ah, you must be Sara, I trust this will be the last time you're late?"


Sara nothing short of rolled her eyes and slunk over to the only seat left available, at the front of the room to her disgust. She ignored the eyes trailing after her and kept her head down until the teacher gave her a worksheet and moved on.Sara only glanced up when the girl next to her stuck up her hand to answer a difficult question everyone else avoided, and almost laughed in annoyance. The girl deemed as 'Ava', of course she would be at the front of the classroom, typical teachers pet that Sara had pegged her as.

Sara just shook her head and turned back to the doodles on her page, ignoring the work which she used to feel obliged to do. At least now, there were no expectations, no one to disappoint if she chose not to engage in class, if her grades slipped and her behaviour worsened.


"Could you stop that?" Ava hissed at her.


Sara looked over, only realising then that she'd been tapping her pen absent mindedly against her desk.


"If you're not going to do your work," Ava looked disapprovingly at the doodles in her notebook, "you could at least be quiet."


Sara shrugged, "Well I don't see you doing either of those things."


Ava narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw, "Only because you're stopping me."


"No, I'm just minding my own business, you're choosing not to do your work and now, you're distracting me."


Ava huffed in annoyance and Sara noticed her fists ball up. Sara smiled a little at that.


"From what?" Ava hissed. "You'd have to actually be doing something for me to be distracting you."


"Ladies," the teacher said from the front of the room, "Is there an issue?"


Ava ducked her head in embarrassment, "No Sir, sorry."


"Miss Lance?" the teacher asked.


Sara smiled, "Of course not, Ava and I were just discussing the best method of determining the derivative."


The teacher just rolled his eyes, "As highly likely as I find that, I'd prefer it if you saved the discussion of your work for group work and outside of class."
Sara just smiled sweetly and returned to her notebook.


OOOOOOOOOO


Sara was pleasantly surprised to find that she and Ava also shared Chemistry class, she sat at the back of the room and focused all of her attention on annoying Ava. She'd decided already that it was a good distraction, and ever amusing.


Sara made sure to stick her hand up and ask stupid questions that she easily knew the answer to, just to make the teacher go through every tiny detail of even the simplest concepts. She could see Ava getting annoyed at the front of the room, glancing back to glare at her every time she asked a particularly annoying question, which held up the class. Sara smirked at her, just to make sure she was getting on her nerves.


Annoying Ava, kept Sara's mind on something other than the nightmares which raked her brain through sleepless nights and lonely days. The memories, flashes of that night, the following weeks.


She made it to lunch and pulled out a hundred dollar bill to buy herself a slice of pizza, making the lunch lady's jaw drop in surprise.


She took her food and glanced around at the bustling cafeteria. She looked for a good place to sit alone, put in her headphones and not talk to anyone. But as she glanced around, she realised all the tables were just about filled, or friend groups spread across them, saving seats for exclusive members.


In Starling City, Sara had a big group of friends, she'd race to the cafeteria so she could spend all lunch laughing, bantering and being happy with the people she'd known and loved all her life. Now, she could hardly think about them without a sinking feeling in her stomach and a cold iron fist grasping at her heart.


As she stood there, she felt the facade she'd been wearing falter. She felt a panic rise up in her chest. She'd always sat with Laurel at lunch. She'd always been there, on Sara's first day of high-school, inviting her into her group of friends, telling her which food was best and what boys to stay away from.


She felt sick in her stomach, like she was going to throw up, her face paling. She could feel a cold sweat break out on her skin, even under the layers of clothing. Her throat tightening, muscles frozen.


"Hey, you alright kiddo?" a newly familiar voice approached her and she felt someone standing beside her.


"You look like you're about to pass out. Come sit with us."


Sara forced herself back from the verge of a full on panic attack and smiled weakly, nodding at Leo.


"Ok." she said quietly.


They chose a small table by the window, looking out into the mossy cobble court yard outside. The group of freshman who'd been occupying it quickly vacated at the sight of Mick and Leo.


She looked down at her pizza, she'd barely eaten the past few days and any hunger she'd had was now gone.


She barely listened as Leo talked to her about the school, telling her how he and Mick played hockey, Mick being the goalie and himself as a centre.
"I might not be as big and scary as Mick here, but I'm faster than anyone else on the rink." he drawled.


Mick looked at her pizza, "You gonna eat that?"


Sara shook her head and pushed it toward him. He grabbed it, munching it down, despite the large amount of food he'd already consumed.


"So, where are you from then?" Leo asked carefully.


"Starling City." Sara said, looking at her hands.


Leo seemed to sense the discomfort and didn't poke any further. After a moment of thought he said.


"Seems like you need a little fun, Mick and I were going to go steal some stuff after school, want to come?" he asked.
Sara looked up and smirked a little. "Sure."


OOOOOOOOOOO


After lunch Sara grabbed her gym clothes and headed to the gym with Mick, who happened to be in the same class. Changing into sweat pants, she couldn't help but notice Ava exiting the girls locker room. At least she could focus on annoying Ava instead of any other unwanted thoughts she'd been trying to keep at bay.


She pulled her top off, trying not to look at the messy criss-cross of scars that started at her shoulder and thinned out until they were just a lick across the back of her hand.
She quickly pulled on a tank top and hoody. She didn't know how she was going to hide them when the weather warmed up.


When she entered the gym, heading over to where Mick was leaning against the bleachers and frowning at nothing in particular, she heard someone call her name.
She turned to see a fit looking, younger man, presumably the coach jogging across the court in her direction.


"Sara Lance, nice to finally meet you. I'm Coach Rip Hunter but you can just call me Rip, I hear you're also joining the soccer team. And from what I've been told you're quite the star."


Sara just shrugged, "Gideon made me."

Rip raised an eyebrow slightly but said nothing else, he just gestured to someone over her shoulder.


Sara turned to see Amaya and a reluctant Ava making their way over.


"Girls, this is Sara, our new student." Rip said, "Sara, this is Ava, captain of the varsity soccer team, and Amaya, co-captain."


"As such, and as seniors, I've asked them to keep an eye out, make sure you're settling in alright and help you with anything you might need."


"We've met." Sara said curtly, "And thanks, but I don't need babysitting."


Sara turned around and continued on her way toward Mick who looked slightly amused.


"Well she's delightful" she heard Rip say uncertainly as she walked away. She just rolled her eyes and tried not to feel guilty for being rude. It wasn't that difficult.


OOOOOOOOOOOO


~ ONE WEEK LATER ~


Sara found herself becoming fast friends with Leonard and Mick, revelling in their 'fuck the world' attitude and misbehaviour.
It was in biology, her last class of the day which she shared with Leo, that she'd finally pulled the last straw and earned herself a detention. Leo had dared her to try and pick pocket the girl in front of her.


That wasn't to say she hadn't been successful, Sara's fingers were slim and valuable objects practically gravitated toward them like magnets.
She'd been caught scrolling through the phone she'd pinched and the teacher had harshly informed her 'she was lucky it was only detention for a week and not suspension'.
She'd noticed Ava, who'd she'd been infuriating just a little more each day, looking smug at the front of the room and flashed her a happy smirk, wink attached. Just to let her know, detention wasn't even a mild inconvenience. If anything it was a welcome distraction.


That wiped the smug look off Ava's face, eye brows drawn together and mouth down turned slightly.


When the bell rang and all the students filtered out, Leo stood up with an unapologetic smile and said "Catch you later kid, try not to get into anymore trouble."


Sara poked her tongue out at him, feigning annoyance "Shouldn't be too hard without you here."


Leo snorted "I'm sure you'll do just fine on your own."


Sara noticed a few students hanging around at the front of the room, Ava and Amaya included and shot them an amused grin, eye brow raised when she realised what they were doing.


"Can't get enough of it, can you Sharpe?" Sara called from the back of the room and got a dirty look from Ava and the biology teacher.


Sara knew it was a warning, but she had nothing to lose, she might as well have some fun and get a rise out of not only Ava, but her teacher while she was at it.
She got out of her seat and sauntered up to the front of the room.


"Study group?" she leaned against one of the front row desks, arms crossed, mischief in her eye. "Yes puh-lease." She said sarcastically.


The small group of students, going over a few of the more difficult areas they'd covered today all looked over at her, varying degree's of annoyance and amusement ranging of their faces.

 

"I'm surprised the word 'study' is even in your vocabulary Lance" Ava said venomously.


"I think you will find, Sharpe, that my vocabulary is quite elaborate."


"You two, enough. Need I remind you, Miss Lance, that you are in detention? I think you've spent quite enough time disrupting your peers. Go sit down and be quiet, if you feel a burning desire to do something, I'd suggest your class work would be a good start. I imagine it's quite lacking considering you'd prefer to spend your time stealing things off of other students."


Sara stood up and raised her hands in mock defeat before quietly making her way back to her seat, making sure to sneak Ava one last smirk.


Ava and the rest of the students left a few minutes later and a couple of other kids from other biology classes filtered in for detention.


Sara doodled through some of her class work before she had to change it up, sketching in the back of her notebook just to keep her mind from wandering to dark places.
Sara was the first one out the door at 5.00pm, ignoring the teachers warning that she wanted all of her classwork done by tomorrow.


Reminding her that "it was supposed to be done in class already".


Needless to say, Sara did none of her class work that night and opted to spend it in the fight gym , convincing Mick to go with her while Leonard had to babysit his little sister.
By the time they'd finished, her muscles ached and burned, she was exhausted but still made herself jog three miles home before flopping down on her bed next to Zari's and promptly falling asleep. She figured the burn in her lungs and legs was far more bearable than the emptiness in her heart and the dark thoughts in her head.


OOOOOOOOOO


'Have you done any of your biology classwork Sara?" Leo drawled.


Sara shot him a look that said 'really?', eyebrow raised.


Leo just shrugged and handed his packet to the teacher as she came past to collect it.


"Sara, can I see that classwork I asked you to finish?" The teacher asked, an expectant look on her face.


"I don't know, can you see it?" Sara asked, gesturing openly to blank paper in front of her.


The teacher just gave her a disapproving look and turned to the class.


"Looks like we'll have to wait for Sara to finish her classwork before we can move on, you can all work on your homework or assignments for the next 15 minutes."
Everyone looked pretty pleased to be given free time, time they wouldn't have to spend on it at home.


Except Ava. Her jaw clenched and after a slight hesitation she stuck her hand up.


"Miss it's not fair that we are wasting our class time completing homework, when we should be learning while we have access to valuable resources like a teacher."


Sara just scoffed and rolled her eyes "Yes Ava, we all know how you value our teacher" voice dripping with sarcasm, "Maybe you can stay after class and get some one on one time if you ask her really nicely."


A few students snickered and she saw Ava flush, mostly with anger but a little embarrassment.


"Maybe you should focus on finishing your work Miss Lance, instead of antagonising the other students?" the teacher suggested, tapping the blank worksheets on Sara's desk.


Sara looked up at her with a smirk, followed by a sweet smile "Well, you see Miss, I don't really think fifteen minutes is long enough since I have about six hours worth of classwork to catch up on."


Her teacher, Miss Cliff-something, stared at her, partly in frustration and partly surprise.


"What have you been doing this entire past week?" she asked incredulously.


Sara just shrugged and smirked a little, unable to stop herself from glancing at Ava, who seemed equally unimpressed.


Her teacher sighed, slightly exasperated.


"Sara, you've only been here a week, I've seen your record from your previous school and I know you're very capable. If this behaviour keeps up, I will have to contact your parents and arrange a meeting."


That wiped the smile off Sara's face as if someone had just kicked a baby.


She felt the world fall away and everything she'd pushed away, too painful to think about, came rushing back. Her mind whipping back to that night.


They were coming back from their favourite diner. Her Dad, driving, singing along to an old song on the radio in the background as Laurel, in the passenger seat behind him laughed at something Sara couldn't even remember.


Sara smiling fondly at her sister from the backseat, meeting her father's eyes, glinting with happiness as he glanced back at her in the rear view mirror.


Laurel turned back to face the front "We should do this more often," she bumped their father's shoulder lightly, "you should work less."


And, out of nowhere, it hit them.


Sara felt her head smack against the window and she cried out for Laurel. She came too a few seconds later, eyes blurry, pain searing along her right shoulder, shards of glass from the broken window lacerating her arm.

 

She could see the black SUV that had slammed into the left side of their car.


Laurel, bleeding and unconscious in the front seat. Her father yelling for her to wake up.


A man approaching the drivers door. Sara screaming as her father was dragged out.


He got a solid punch into the man's rib, but he was huge and barely wavered, pulling out a gun.


Sara felt her body go numb and she fought the door, kicking it open to stumble out onto the road as she heard the loud crack of a gunshot echo through the night. Saw her Dad fall to his knees, bleeding in his left thigh where the man had shot him.


Immobilised as the man slowly pulled the safety off, Sara's feet were moving but she was too slow after the impact of the crash.


Another gun shot. Her father fell to the ground and she screamed, running at the man with everything she had. He barely noticed her until she jumped at him, leg swinging low into the side of his knee cap followed by a hefty punch to the ribs.


He grunted and annoyance flickered across his face.


That was all Sara saw before he crunched his elbow into the side of her head and she fell to the cold bitchuman with a sickening thud.


She was never going to see them again. He wouldn't be there for a parent teacher meeting. Her family wouldn't be there for her first soccer match, or her last, or her championship game. They wouldn't be there for her last day of school or prom, or her first day of college. Her graduation.


Her eyes snapped open, Leonard was gripping her arm and her teacher looking down at her in concern.


The blood had drained from her face and she was cold, her hands trembling, her throat tight and mouth dry.


She got up and ran out of the room before anyone could say anything, and just kept running until she found the bathrooms and burst inside, nausea rising in her stomach.
She barely made it to the sink before she threw up. Clinging to the white basin, her head spinning, water running freely from the tap.


She woke up, bright white lights blinding her. She slowly looked around the room. She was at the hospital. A bright alarm clock on the table beside her told her it was 10.08am.


The room was empty and cold. So, so cold.


She could feel the dull ache, stitches in her right arm and a splitting pain in her head.


But none of that compared to the fear she felt, gripping her like a vice.


"Laurel?" Her voice barely a shaky whisper.


"Dad?"


"Where's Laurel? Where's my Dad?" She said, her voice rising with panic.


There was no one here. Where were they?


She pulled tubes and nodes off her skin, something started beeping. Her feet hit the cold lino and her knees almost gave way. She made it just out the door, freezing in her wispy hospital gown, she almost fell but there was a nurse, catching her.


"Where are you going? You need to rest!" the nurse seemed worried.


"Where's my Dad? Where's my sister?" she asked, her eyes searching maniacally across the nurses face for any tell.


She saw it. The nurses eyes fell a little, mouth tightened into a line. Pity.


Panic rose like a tidal wave flushing over her, she started shaking "Where are they?" she asked again.


"Where's my family?" the tears had started falling now and she was nothing short of yelling.


"I'm so sorry sweetheart." The nurse said.


Sara just about collapsed and the nurse practically dragged her back to her bed.


Almost two hours later, the nurse came back to change the dressing on her wounds.


Sara hadn't said a word. Just stared blankly at the wall, wishing she'd died that night with them.


"What happened?" she asked so quietly she wasn't sure the nurse heard.


"Tell me how they died."


The nurse paused but seemed to decide against avoiding the question.


"You're father, he was shot, Sara. The bullet went through his heart."


Sara's lip trembled and her body shook but she didn't cry, just bit her lip and said


"What about Laurel?"


The nurse sighed and looked up at her, taking her hand gently.


"She died on the way to hospital Sara, I'm so sorry. Where she was seated, that was where your car was hit. She would have been unconscious immediately."


It was a small consolation. Sara wished for about the millionth time that day, that she'd been the one in the passenger seat.


She opened her eyes slowly. Tried to breath, focusing on the feeling of the ceramic sink she was clinging to, her knuckles white.


She couldn't handle it. She needed to escape. The sound of someone clearing their throat behind her snapped her back to reality.


"Are you okay?" a suprisingly deep and genuine voice asked her.


Sara looked in the mirror to see a lean, dark haired boy in a polo shirt, with big, kind brown eyes, watching her.


She took a few deep breaths before she trusted herself to respond.


"I'm fine."

The boy nodded slowly then took a step forward.


"I mean, people generally don't throw up in the sink if they're fine, but if you say so."


Sara turned to glare at him.


"They also don't generally follow girls into the bathroom."


The boy frowned and then said, "Uh, this is the mens room."


Sara would have been embarrassed, but she felt nothing, she just laughed a little too harshly.


"Of course it is."


The boy looked at her with genuine concern and then said "Are you sure you're okay?"


Sara just glared at him and waited for him to leave.


He didn't.


"You know," he said, leaning back against the plastic wall of the toilet stall, "When I was in middle school, I used to sneak into the girls bathroom at lunch so I could do my science homework."


Sara did a double take, a confused frown drawing her eyebrows together. The surprise of a stranger admitting that to her out of nowhere rendering her speechless of every sarcastic and witty remark she could have thrown at him.


He quickly continued, "It was the only place the bullies couldn't fin me. Plus, they have a lot more stalls in there, and don't worry, I always covered my eyes until I got to the door. The other kids used to steal my worksheets and notebooks, toss them around, even got locked in a few lockers."


"Why are you telling me this?"


He just shrugged, "You're in the boys bathroom. It seemed somewhat relevant."


Sara just laughed a little.


"I'm Ray." He stuck out his hand "Ray Palmer."


Sara rolled her eyes and bit back a small smile, then for the first time since she'd moved to the school, she took his hand and shook it.


"Hi Ray Palmer, I'm Sara. Sara Lance."

"So, why'd you even want to do your science homework? Let alone at lunch." She asked.


He looked confused for a second then seemed to remember what he'd been talking about.


"Oh, because it's fascinating, I liked working out the hard problems that no one else could do, finding answers and living through the explorations and discoveries that helped us to understand the world around us."


Sara frowned, "Alright then you big weirdo. Guess you want to get back to class then?"


Ray shrugged and then shook his head, sliding down to sit against the wall "I'm already way ahead anyway. Besides, I like helping people."


Sara arched her eyebrow, she didn't like feeling weak, she didn't like needing help. But Ray didn't make her feel like that, he just made her feel better. So she crossed the room and slid down next to him.


Needless to say, Sara skipped detention. She was going to suffer a world of hurt for that. She almost laughed ironically at the thought, but she didn't care.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ ONE WEEK LATER (MONDAY) ~


Her biology teacher had been less than impressed after she skipped detention, earning herself another two weeks worth of before school and lunchtime detentions, given she had soccer practice after school.


Sara hardly cared, she'd discovered a new hobby to keep herself occupied during detention.


John Constantine.


He was almost as frustrating as she was, and just as damaged. He was in detention after her got caught smoking in the hallways, but given his lack of attention to his school work, Sara knew she'd be seeing him often.


They were fast friends and on a few occasions had snuck out of detention when Miss Cliffalton went out to get lunch.


John was the first person Sara hooked up with since she moved to New York. She liked him because she knew they were both on the same page about it and neither of them expected anything from each other.


Monday came and Sara wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, but she was slightly nervous when the bell rang at the end of biology.


Having neglected soccer entirely for the past few months since her family was killed, she knew she was out of practice and dreaded any flashbacks playing the sport may bring.
She knew she could do it, it was only pre-season training. She was still fitter than probably everyone on the team, given it was only high-school level and most of them probably did nothing over the off season.

But that didn't stop the slight shaking of her hands or the paleness of her face as she stepped into the change rooms before practice.


She headed for her locker, the same one she used in gym. Everyone around her was pulling on soccer shorts and boots, most of them had Beauford West Training shirts, no lack of school pride, considering their team was one of the better ones in New York.


She turned and saw Ava making her way over to her, holding a stack of clothes.


She dumped them unceremoniously into Sara's arms.


"Coach told me to give these to you, he'll give you your jersey later, we just use the same shorts in practice and game day so there's a few pairs, same with socks and training shirts."


"Thanks, Coach knows he can always trust you with an errand hey?" Sara smirked.


"Just get changed like everyone else" Ava turned to leave and added "And don't be late."


Sara rolled her eyes. Then she realised everyone else was leaving in t-shirt and shorts. Her mind flickered to the scars on her arms. Too many questions. She couldn't talk about that now.


"Do we get a hoody or something? It's freezing." Sara called after Ava.


Ava turned to look at her briefly "If you're cold, run faster."


Then she walked away.


Sara let out a nervous breath, then dug through her gym clothes until she found a long sleeve shirt and pulled her training top over it.
No questions. Not today and preferably, not ever.


OOOOOOOOOO


Sara made sure to make Ava's life hell as she tried to help Rip run training.


When they ran a few warm up laps, it ended up being her and Ava, racing out in front, Sara trying to beat her just to annoy her and Ava, taking the bait.
Sara smirked when she finished mere seconds before Ava, both of them breathing heavily.


She quickly discovered Ava was the goalie, it made sense really, she was tall, fast and analysed everything. She was able to give instructions from the goal where she could see all the way down the field.


Sara, as a striker, was delighted when they were placed on opposite teams for a short practice game at the end of the training.


"Don't let the ball hit you on the way in Sharpe!" Sara called over her shoulder as they made their way to their positions.


"Don't worry Lance, it won't be going in."


Sara just smirked, and the first opportunity she got, she drove forward, dribbling the ball expertly out of the way of the out-of-practice defenders and driving it hard toward the goal. It was a solid shot, almost any other goalie would have let it go.


But Sara could see the hard determination set on Ava's face and she dove for it. Landing heavily, ball between her hands.


Ava looked happy with herself, but Sara could see the dive had hurt and smirked knowingly.


Sara was able to shoot three more times during the twenty minute practice match, two she got in, sure to smirk at Ava. Ava managed to stop another one, but again had to launch herself across the goal to knock the ball out and landing heavily on the ground.


By the time training was finished, Rip seemed to have sensed the tension. He spoke briefly with Ava who looked to be getting more and more annoyed then at the end of the conversation, relented, but stood off to the side, clearly frustrated.


Rip made a bee-line for Sara and she felt sure she was in for a talking to. But Rip's plan was far more ingenious.


"Sara, Ava and I have discussed it, and we've decided you'll be helping her with her goalie training. You're the best striker on the team from what I've heard and seen, and as long as that continues, you will be the best to train her."


Sara grinned, "More time that I get to kick a ball at Ava? Sounds good to me."


Rip rolled his eyes "You're not just going to be kicking a ball at her Sara, you're going to be aiming for the goal - I hope. And there are other drills, you'll have to give her feedback and work together to improve both of your games. I think it will really help push you both to the next level, and maybe nullify this little rivalry I've been picking up on."
Sara just smirked "You had me at kicking balls at her. So when's this extra training?"


Rip looked cautiously at her, "It's just an extra forty-five minutes after everyone else finishes training, three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday sound good?"


"Sure." Sara shrugged.


"Alright, well, you might as well start tonight. Listen to what Ava says, she knows the drills and what she needs to work on. She's also your captain, it'll just be you two as I have other engagements after training but I am confident you can handle it."

Chapter Text

"Let's just start with a warm up, nice easy shots to get me started." Ava, still sporting a frown, said professionally.

"I always knew easy was your style." Sara smiled.

"It's a warm-up Lance. Just hurry up so we can both go home."

"I don't know, I'd rather stay here with you" Sara said sarcastically, even though she mostly meant it.

Ava just rolled her eyes, and Sara kicked the ball toward the bottom right corner of the goal, Ava stretched, got a foot to it and kicked it away.

After a short warm-up Ava said "Alright now, I want you to work on my top right corner, you can try and get them in now if you want."

"I can try? I don't know Sharpe, I think it's more of a case of, you can try and stop me." Sara made sure to kick the ball with just a little extra force and drove the first one into the back of the net before Ava had a chance to do anything about it.

Ava huffed in annoyance but didn't say anything, Sara could see her jaw clenched from the way the stadium lights half illuminated her face in the darkness.

Ava dove and knocked the next one away, managing to land somewhat gracefully and looked fairly pleased with herself.

"Really showing off your moves huh? I bet Rip likes them." Sara smirked, then kicked another ball, sailing straight into the back of the net as Ava fumed

. "You're just annoyed because you didn't get it in." Ava said.

Sara frowned, feigning confusion "Pretty sure I just got that in."

Ava's jaw twitched, "You know what I meant" she snapped.

Sara just shrugged and smiled a little.

They continued like that for the rest of the training session, at the forty-five minute mark, Ava cut the session off and they headed for the locker rooms.

While Sara took her sweet time, Ava just grabbed her gear and left without saying a word.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

~ AVA'S POV ~

The next day after soccer practice, during which Sara had purposely tripped her over in a dribbling drill, Ava headed home with Lily and Amaya on her heels.

She threw herself into the wheely office chair in front of her desk, which spun around with the force of her annoyance. Lily jumped onto her bed and Amaya gently shut the door to Ava's bedroom.

"I don't know why you let her bother you so much." Lily stated, "she's only been here for two weeks and you guys are like arch enemies."

Ava rolled her eyes and glanced over at Lily, "I don't know what her problem is, I think she just genuinely enjoys frustrating me."

Amaya nodded, sitting down next to Lily. "She definitely does, I think she just does it because you get so angry, it only makes her want more."

Ava huffed and crossed her arms, "It's not fair, school was going fine before Sara Lance showed up in literally half my classes and of course she's on the soccer team."

"Well, if it makes you feel any better, she's rude to pretty much everyone." Amaya tried.

Ava bit her lip, "She's rude to everyone else by basically ignoring them, she does the opposite with me. In fact, I'm pretty sure she's happy about the whole goalie training thing just because she gets to spend more time getting under my skin."

Lily nodded and smiled cheekily, "Definitely, but it's probably because you're pretty fun to annoy, even though you don't usually get so fed up - she really gets under your skin."

Ava shot her a glare. "She doesn't do any classwork ever, in chemistry, she's the worst. She asks the dumbest questions, which some of them, she clearly knows the answer to, just to make Miss Micheal go over everything again - she's fed up with Sara's shit too. It makes class so boring when we have to go over the same thing four times." Ava complained. "To be honest, I'm surprised they even keep her in those harder classes. I mean she's in honours biology for gods sake and she's done next to nothing of the class work."

Amaya nodded thoughtfully, "Yeah, do you remember the other day, when she was being extra sassy to Miss Cliffalton in biology and then she told her she'd arrange a meeting with her parents?"

"Oh yeah, that was weird" Ava agreed.

"What was weird?" Lily raised an eyebrow.

"Sara was practically bragging about how far behind she was on her classwork to Miss Cliffalton, probably just to annoy her, then Miss Cliffalton threatened to set up a meeting with her parents. Sara just zoned out, looked like she was going to vomit then got up and ran out of the class. She didn't come back until the next day and she was her smug self again." Ava chewed her lip thoughtfully as she recalled the memory.

"Damn, girl must have one scary-ass Dad or something." Lily whistled.

Amaya shook her head, "That doesn't make any sense though, if she was afraid of her parents, wouldn't she do the work to make sure that Miss Cliffalton didn't arrange a meeting?"

Ava just shrugged, "Who knows? She's stubborn as hell. Anyway, Sara's distracted me from enough schoolwork, let's get this history assignment started."

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

~ SARA'S POV ~

Sara stopped by the gym before jogging back to the group home late. She slept a lot better when her muscles had a vigorous burn, and the thought of beating Ava, being stronger and faster than even her Captain, made it all that much sweeter.

Zari was asleep so she snuck in, slipped into bed silently and tossed and turned before falling into a restless and nightmare ridden sleep. She got to school early, having woken up a few hours after she'd finally gotten to sleep, and though she was tired, couldn't bring herself to return to her sub-conscience, where she lacked control of her thoughts.

She sat on the steps in front of the school, in the cool fall air and watched the vibrant coloured leaves falling gently to ground every now and then when the breeze picked up.

She wasn't surprised when Ava Sharpe arrived, Sara caught her eye and smirked as she walked up the steps, pointedly trying to avoid her by staying as far away as possible.

"Hey Sharpe, early bird catches the worm huh?"

Ava stopped with a scowl.

"I'm just here so I can go to the library and get some extra study in while it's quiet. I'd suggest you try it sometime as my guess is you probably need it more, but I think you'd ruin it for me." Ava replied, her voice clipped.

Sara just shrugged from where she was sitting, "I kind of quit school half way through last year, so I'm not really fussed."

"You didn't quit, you're still here, annoying everyone else who actually wants to learn."

"No, I'm just annoying you, and you're probably one of the only ones who wants to learn," Sara smiled sweetly and stood up to face Ava.

Ava huffed and turned to walk away, but Sara was sick of sitting alone with her thoughts, tumbling around in her head, like clothes in a dryer. So she followed her, falling into step beside her.

"So, what are you studying?" Sara asked, feigning interest which Ava saw right through.

Ava's jaw clenched, "Calculus, if you even know what it is."

"Oh sure," Sara drawled, "Like numbers and stuff right?" she teased.

She could see Ava getting more frustrated by the second, she stopped briefly and turned to Sara.

"It's a lot more than 'numbers and stuff', I'd explain it to you but I don't think you'd get it." Ava took off again, turning to head into the library.

Sara followed her in and plopped herself in the seat next to Ava's.

"Are you just going to follow me around and distract me? Because honestly, it's verging on harassment." Ava said, there was a hint of genuine desperation and Sara realised she was getting pretty upset.

"Of course not, I'm going to help you," she said with a smug smile.

Despite being fairly upset, Ava let out a harsh bark of a laugh "Oh sure, you're going to help me?"

Sara shrugged, "If you get stuck."

Ava stared at her for a moment, trying to work out if she was kidding or not.

"If I be quiet will you let me stay?" Sara sighed, a little teasingly, but genuinely enough that Ava just scoffed and pulled out her worksheets.

"This is a public space Lance, I can't technically make you leave if you aren't distracting me."

Sara smiled widely and glanced over at the work Ava was doing, which was already mostly finished save for a few harder problems at the bottom.

"Looks like you're stuck," Sara smiley smugly, "Here, let me help you."

She gestured for Ava to hand her the paper and her pencil. Ava looked doubtful but seemingly decided the worst Sara could do was embarrass herself and passed her the pencil. Sara worked away for a minute, drawing out all her lines of working so that Ava could see how to solve the problem.

"There." Sara pushed the paper back to her with a grin.

"What the -" Ava started as she stared at Sara's answer and then checked the answers provided by the teacher, her eyes widening when she realised she was right.

"See, told you I could help."

"How'd you even know how to do that?" annoyance hinted in her surprised tone.

"A magician never reveals his secrets." Sara stood, waggling a taunting finger at Ava. "Anyway, that's enough work to last me the week, so I guess I'll see you in class."

Sara turned to leave.

"Wait," Ava said, "I don't get it, why do you always act like you don't care about school, when clearly, if you actually tried, you could get into an Ivy League School on a full ride?"

"That seems like a very specific pitch." Sara raised an eyebrow.

"Well, isn't that the whole point of school? Do your best so you can go to college and make a life for yourself?" Ava asked her.

Sara's face turned bitter, "Look Sharpe, not all of us live perfect cliche lives with our perfect family, perfect grades, graduate as valedictorian and ship off to some Ivy League school in a mini-cooper while our parents cry about losing their little girl."

Ava looked a little confused, "That's not really what I meant."

Sara just shook her head, "Just some other version of," then turned and strode out of the library, any comfort she'd found in annoying Ava was gone, replaced with a bitter emptiness.

OOOOOOOOOOO

~ AVA'S POV ~

Sara stayed quiet most of the day, Ava knew she should have felt a little responsible for her withdrawn mood, but she could only feel relieved.

When she got to practice, ten minutes early as usual, Sara was already there, running laps around the field, practice jersey pulled over a hoody, despite the rare sunny day.

By the time soccer practice started, Sara was at least ten laps ahead of the rest of the team, but she still outran everyone except Ava with ease.

Ava set up cones and ladders for dribbling and footwork drills while Rip explained the circuit. Ava noticed Sara, still hardly paying attention, and couldn't help but look forward to her almost inevitable failure of the complicated drill. But Sara rocketed through it like her boots were on fire, with precision and speed that could only leave Ava feeling mildly impressed.

She scowled at the thought and pushed herself harder to match Sara. When training was finished, Sara didn't leave, she just asked Rip if she could borrow a ball, took it over to the penalty box, lined up her shot, scored a perfect goal and ran to retrieve the ball.

"She's determined that one." Rip said quietly to Ava, as they packed up the gear after everyone had left, save Sara who just kept kicking the ball, running to retrieve it and repeating.

Ava scoffed, "To be determined you have to have a goal in mind. I don't think Sara really cares about being better at soccer."

Rip raised an eyebrow at her, "Oh?"

Ava shrugged, "I mean, I was talking to her this morning and you know, despite the fact that she's failing nearly every class because she hasn't submitted a single worksheet, she's actually really smart."

Now Rip scoffed, "I'm not surprised, but why would that mean she doesn't want to be better at soccer? She seems plenty willing to put the work in to it."

"Well I mean, don't kids play soccer with the goal of taking them to college? Maybe going pro if they're good enough?" Ava asked.

Rip looked at her, "Or because they like it."

Ava stacked the cones into a neat pile, "Does she look like she likes it? I mean she literally told you she was only playing because 'Gideon made her.'"

Rip glanced over at Sara and frowned as she booted the ball hard into the corner of the net and sprinted after it, doing a quick turn around as she grabbed it and sprinting back.

"She looks like she's trying to work herself to death, honestly."

Ava nodded, "Yeah. I don't know, something's up with her."

Rip just picked up the ball bag, "Oh well, I guess that's up to her. But if she doesn't pick up her grades soon, I'm going to have to suspend her from playing, even though she's clearly very good, the school won't stand for it."

"Maybe she deserves it." Ava replied flatly as she grabbed the remaining equipment and followed Rip off the field.

OOOOOOOOOOO

~ SARA'S POV ~

The next day, Sara was back to herself. She walked into school with Leo and Mick and a renewed sense of vigour to annoy Ava.

She noticed Ava by her locker with some nerdy looking boy and just smirked as she walked by, boots clomping purposefully on the lino. She grinned a little triumphantly when Ava noticed her and frowned, rolling her eyes.

She found John around the side of the cobblestone wall in the courtyard smoking a cigarette and sat down, swinging her legs happily as she chatted away to him.

She knew they were supposed to be in homeroom, but frankly, didn't care. "So what do you think of Ava?" she asked John casually.

He looked up from his light, "She's a stick in the mud for sure."

Sara laughed, "I knew you'd say that."

John shrugged, "Because it's true."

"She always been like that?"

"Sharpie has been like that since the day she exited her mother's womb. That girl was born an overachiever and will probably continue the streak until the day she dies."

"Unless someone corrupts her," Sara pointed out, waggling her eyebrows with a suggestive smirk.

John raised an eyebrow, "Be careful with that one Sara."

Sara just shrugged and hopped off the wall,

"Come on, let's go before we're late to class."

John just shook his head with a smile, but took one last drag of his cigarette and followed her anyway.

OOOOOOOOOOO

Sara was purposely late to Algebra, when she arrived there were only a few seats left, unsurprisingly, one in the front row right next to Ava. She slid into it with a smirk, as Ava watched, glaring at her.

"You better not distract me Lance," she hissed.

"I wouldn't dare," Sara smiled sweetly, Ava just rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the teacher.

"I'm just here so I can copy your work." Sara added, also turning her attention innocently to the front of the room.

Ava snapped her head over viciously and to Sara's delight moved her paper to the opposite side of her desk, only making her grin. Ava narrowed her eyes at her and clenched her jaw, obviously making a concerted effort not to say anything.

About ten minutes later, Sara leaned over. "What's the answer to 1a?" she asked.

Ava shot her a glare, "That's literally the first question," Sara feigned confusion "Obviously?"

"What have you even been doing the last ten minutes?" Ava hissed, "I'm not giving you the answers, but you should seriously consider working them out yourself or else you're going to be suspended from the soccer team."

Sara looked over eyebrow raised, "What now?"

"They won't let you play if your grades get too low obviously; not that I'm opposed to that" Ava added, with a stern and disapproving look.

Sara chewed her lip, not that she'd expected any differently. "Don't get too used to the idea Sharpe, I'm not going anywhere."

"Ladies," Mr. Norris interrupted, "Need I remind you, you are supposed to be working silently on your worksheets?"

Sara just rolled her eyes and gave a nonchalant shrug.

"Miss Lance?" the teacher turned his focus to her, "Do I need to move you like you're in grade school?"

Sara and Ava answered simultaneously.

"Yes."

"No," Sara frowned.

Mr. Norris looked between them, eyebrow raised, "Just be quiet and do your work then."

Sara huffed an annoyed sigh, even though she didn't really care, then turned back to her worksheet.

She figured she'd have to do some work eventually, being kicked out of the team because of her grades would just be embarrassing.

Besides, it would make Ava smug and that was even worse.

She turned her attention to the worksheet, and given she hadn't attended school the past six months or payed attention to a single class since, it was actually relatively difficult.

OOOOOOOOOOOO

~ TWO WEEKS LATER ~

Sara focused in class just enough to get her grades up to acceptable D's and not get suspended from school sports. She made sure she still had plenty of time to frustrate Ava, and challenged her in soccer. She was going to the fight gym every night after soccer practice, which she often stayed later, trying to keep her mind off other things.

She strolled into Biology almost five minutes late, Miss Cliffalton was kind enough to point it out and told her to 'try and not distract the class today.'

"As I was saying, we will be taking a field trip on Thursday to the aquarium. We will leave just after lunch, you're other teachers will be notified and we'll return shortly after 3.30pm." She paused, as if expecting someone to protest, before continuing.

"This excursion is not just for your enjoyment, you will be learning about micro-organisms and how they impact the biological marine environment, so take plenty of notes." Sara rolled her eyes, smiling a little at the thought of Ava hanging on every word of their guide and furiously scribbling notes. She made a mental note to tease her about it.

OOOOOOOOOOOOO

~ THURSDAY ~

Sara squeezed onto the yellow school bus with the rest of her biology class, swinging into a seat near the back, next to Leo.

"Bring your notebook?" she taunted.

He held up a palm sized pad of paper, "Did you?"

Sara pouted, "I thought she was joking."

Leo rolled his eyes, "I think you just don't care."

Sara shrugged and shook her head a little, as if to say 'well what can you do.'

Sara stared out the window, ignoring the chatter of excited kids, just watching her breath fog up the cold window pane. They arrived at the aquarium after about half an hour's drive, most of which was spent in traffic and Sara was sure she could have jogged there in half the time.

They got off the bus and were met by a bored looking tour guide who ushered them all into the lobby and gave them visitor ID's and began a monotone speech on 'staying with the group at all times' and other rules which Sara didn't care about.

"Alright everyone, we'll be making our way through the exhibits room by room, try to take as many notes as you can, but we only have limited time so be quick!" Miss Cliffalton called over the chatter of the students, who lost interest as soon as they realised their guide didn't even care about what he was saying.

Sara followed the class through a hallway, into a spacious dark,  room with big tanks lining the walls. She tried to listen to what the guide was saying, but couldn't bring herself to care.

She hung back as the guide and the rest of the group moved through a dark hallway to the next exhibit. She looked around at the people milling through the aquarium, her eye's settling on a little girl, face pressed up against the glass staring in at some colourful fish.

"Come on, let's keep going," said a man standing next to the little girl.

"No, I want to look at the fish Daddy."

"I know sweet pea, but there's a lot more fish."

Sara felt a pang in her heart and nausea rise in her stomach along with all the feelings she'd been trying to suppress the past year.

She tried to push it down, but found herself reeling back as an unwanted flashback surfaced.

"Come on Laurel, I want to see the sharks!" Sara yelled, pulling her father down the glass hallway, fish and sting rays swimming all around them, Laurel lagging behind, watching a sea turtle mosey lazily over her head.

"Slow down Sara, wait for Laurel," her father turned her to face him, "There's no hurry sweetheart, now come here and I'll give you a piggy back if you promise not to run off."

Sara's face split into a grin, "Okay."

Her father held out his pinkie up, face serious, "Pinkie promise?"

Sara chewed her lip, "Pinkie promise."

She felt something cold against her back, her knees weak and eye's screwed shut. She couldn't breathe, her hands trembling and a cold sweat breaking out over her arms and face, even under her hoody and coat.

Then she was back there again.

Sticky blood covering her arm and face, panic flaring in her chest. The stark contrast of dark red blood, seeping through Laurel's light blue t-shirt. Her sister's head lolled back, the side of her body crushed against the passenger door, glass shattered all around her. Sara, momentarily immobilised in fear and shock. Her father turning to face Laurel, horror written across his face, both of them powerless to do anything.

She felt herself being pulled back to reality, a firm hand on her shoulder, a vaguely familiar voice calling her name. "Lance." "Lance." She tried to breathe, managing a few short, shallow breaths.

She opened her eyes slowly, everything blurry at first. Slowly her eye's focused on a pair of steel blue eyes, staring into hers. She focused on those eyes until she could take a deep breath, sickness swelling in her stomach.

"Lance." Ava said again. "Are you okay?"

Sara just stared into her eyes, reading the concern in them, a dash of confusion diluting them. "Lance?" Sara pulled herself together.

Ava had her hands on both shoulders, and Sara was leaning heavily against a glass tank behind her, the rest of the class was nowhere to be seen.

"I'm fine," she pushed Ava off her and moved to walk away but Ava caught her arm.

"You're not fine, you were having a panic attack." Ava stated.

Sara found her eyes again steely blue and as firm as her voice. "I said, I'm fine."

"And I said you're not." Ava paused, seeming to consider her and then said "Sit down at least."

Sara bit her lip, that girl was stubborn, maybe even more than herself.

"Fine." Sara moved to the middle of the room, where a little bench had been placed in front of a big tank of jellyfish.

She sat down but didn't say anything. Ava just followed her and sat down next to her. Neither of them said anything. Sara watched the jellyfish, blobbing around the tank, fighting the little currents of the filter to go nowhere in particular.

After a few minutes Ava broke the silence. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Sara didn't look at her, "No."

She saw Ava nod out of the corner of her eye.

After a moment she said "You're really stubborn you know?"

Sara barked out a harsh laugh, "So are you."

"What? I am not." Ava said defensively.

Sara glanced at her, shooting her a sarcastic look, eyebrows raised that said "Oh really?"

Ava's lips tightened into a line, "Ok, fine, maybe a little bit. But look, Lance, at least I can accept help when I need it. I know that I don't really know you, but a blind person can see that you're hurting." Ava paused, "I'm not suggesting I be the one to help you - I know you don't like me," she added, "But please, let someone help you."

Sara looked at her distastefully, "I don't need anyone to help me."

"You must be really fucked up." Ava stated, as if it was nothing.

Sara looked at her incredulously "Excuse me?"

"You just push everyone away, hell you even push yourself away by purposely doing terribly at school, while something's just eating away at the inside of you."

Sara almost laughed. She was so used to people trying to be gentle and consolidate her, it was refreshing to have someone just say what they actually think. And it wasn't like Ava owed her any sort of pleasantry given the way Sara taunted her.

"I'm not pushing people away. I have friends, just not you." Sara said.

"So you talk about your feelings with Mick Rory, Leonard Snart and John Constantine?" Ava shot her a disapproving look.

Sara looked like someone just served her a plate full of boiled brussel sprouts. "Obviously not, that's why we're friends."

"I've never been one to share my feelings either Lance, so take it from me when I say, sometimes it really helps." Ava said seriously, as she stood up.

Sara just sat there not quite knowing what to say.

"We better catch up with the rest of the class," Ava said, walking away without waiting for a response.

"Hey, Sharpe, wait." Sara stood up and Ava turned to face her, eyebrow raised.

"Why were you even hanging back here when I had that panic attack anyway?" Sara raised an eyebrow.

Ava narrowed her eyes, "I was reading the information plaques and taking notes."

Sara smirked, "I thought so."

Chapter Text

Sara skipped soccer practice, she knew she'd get a beating from Rip and Ava tomorrow, but having to go through that entire aquarium took a toll on her. Besides which, she was so far in front of the rest of the team in terms of strength, fitness and general skill because of the extra hours she'd already put in, she figured Rip would let it slide.


She strolled in Algebra as if nothing had happened and took her usual seat at the back, in preference of Ava berating her for ditching.


She doodled through most of class, paying just enough attention to do at least half the assignment they were given.


Sara almost choked when her Algebra teacher announced they would be doing a paired homework assignment. She was okay with failing on her own, but she hardly wanted to embarrass herself by failing miserably in pair assignment, she's always hated those kids.


She quickly recovered when Ava Sharpe stuck her hand up.


"How could we possibly be required to work in a pair for mathematics?" Ava asked incredulously, clearly dreading a pair assignment as much as Sara.


"I'm so glad you asked Ava," Mr. Jhonston smiled widely, "As in any subject, your learning can be enhanced by feeding off others knowledge. In this assignment, you will be placed into pairs, which will be posted on the door at the end of class. You will be required to formulate a variety of questions based off real life problems which you can use Alegbra to solve. The task will not only help you to understand the uses and applications of algebra in the world, but also by having to formulate and answer the questions yourselves, assist you in grasping the underlying concepts."


Sara could tell Ava was frowning, even from the back of the room, but even she had to admit that no one could argue with that.


When the bell rang, everyone rushed forward to see who their partners would be. Followed by excited chatter and a few groans. Sara couldn't have cared less and so she hung back, slowly packing her things into her backpack.


There were only a few people left in the room when she finally made her way to the front. She scanned down the list and found her name, just as she heard a desperate groan over her shoulder.


Ava Sharpe. Of course.


"Is there a problem, Ava?" Mr Jhonston asked innocently.


Ava turned on him eyes narrowing, "Why did you have to pair me with her out of all people."


Sara frowned, turning to face Ava, "I'm right here you know."


Ava shot her a sarcastic look but didn't say anything.


Mr. Jhonston gave them a 'do you really have to ask?' look, but said "I think it will be good for the two of you to learn to collaborate, it will be a long year otherwise."


Sara just smirked at Ava, "Guess it's going to be a long year."


Then she turned to walk off for her next class.


She barely made it into the hallway before Ava was falling into step beside her.


"Couldn't get enough of me?" Sara queried, not looking at her.


Ava scoffed, "Look Lance, I really wish I was partnered with literally anyone else, but I guess we'll both just have to live with it. I am not losing my perfect GPA just because of you."


"Bummer, because I really don't want to lose my perfect track record either."


Ava narrowed her eyes in an incredulous look, "What?"


"My perfect track record of D's?" Sara said, shaking her head. "Which would have been F's, if you hadn't threatened to kick me out of the soccer team," she pointed out.


"Pfft. I wasn't going to kick you out, the school was going to suspend you, it's the rules. Anyway, this assignment is due in two weeks so we should probably get started this weekend."


Sara glanced at Ava to see if she was joking. Evidently, she wasn't, but she couldn't help noticing the way Ava chewed her lip gently, obviously mulling over something.


"This weekend's kind of tough for me," Sara said non-noncommittally.

She didn't have any outstanding plans at this point, but she could tell putting it off would annoy Ava.


"I am not going to be doing all the work on this, so you better find some time and at least brainstorm ideas."


Sara rolled her eyes, "Yes ma'am," she added a mock salute and Ava just walked away, leaving Sara grinning to herself in the middle of a mostly empty hallway.


OOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara's weekend turned out to be uncharacteristically busy. Mick and Leo took her out to a club, so they could pinch drunk people's things.


It was a great idea really. Besides the fact that alcohol considerably lowed people's inhibitions, the club scene was really easy to pick-pocket. Everyone was already bumping into each other, even off the dance floor, wallets were loaded to pay for expensive drinks, fancy jewellery on to impress potential partners and when all was said and done, people lost their valuable when they were drunk all the time, so no one really suspected anything.


They got away with more than a haul, Sara taking almost $2000 in her share.


"Why don't we do this more often?" Sara asked.


"What, you mean have you flash the bouncer and then pull us in through the toilet windows because we're five years under the legal limit?" Leo drawled sarcastically.


Sara smirked, "What would you do without me?"


Leo looked at Mick, who just took a sip of beer and shrugged. Sara turned back to the loot spread across Leonart's living room coffee table.


"But as fun as that was, I actually meant going out on the weekend in general" Sara clarified.


"When the mood strikes," Leo shrugged.


They sat up for hours, playing video games, laughing and talking, enjoying the mood their hefty haul had inspired. For once, Sara could just feel normal.


OOOOOOOOOOOOO


Between the heist with Mick and Leo on Saturday and spending Sunday making trouble with Zari, it was hardly surprising that Sara was empty handed when Ava cornered her after Algebra Monday morning.


"What could you have possibly been doing that you didn't have twenty minutes to jot down some ideas?" Ava interrogated her, annoyance edging her voice like a knife.


Sara shrugged, "Having fun?" she suggested.


She ducked away from Ava, "You should try it some time."


Ava scowled at her, "I have plenty of fun. The difference is, I still do my homework."


"Maybe you should try it sometime," Ava added.


The corner of Sara's mouth tugged upward, "Witty, I like that in a woman."


Ava looked momentarily confused before her face straightened out again.


"Whatever, just give me your phone number so we can arrange a time to meet after school and actually get some work done."


"Wow, one compliment and you want my number? Ava Sharpe." Sara tutted teasingly with a glimmer in her eye and a seductive smile playing at her lips.


Ava rolled her eyes, "I still don't like you. And even if you didn't manage to get any homework done this weekend, you seemed to have managed to become more infuriating."


Sara smiled, pulling out her phone and handing it to Ava, "I try my best."


Ava looked down at her phone and scowled, "What did you do to your phone? Jump on it?"

Sara glanced at the screen she'd smashed during a street fight and shrugged, "Some guy tried to jump me, knocked my phone out of my hand."


Ava glanced up, here grey-blue eyes looking into Sara's with momentary doubt and a touch of concern.


"You're joking."


Sara just took her phone back after Ava put her number in and tucked it into the pocket of her leather jacket.


"Call me," she smirked one last time at Ava before heading off to her next class.


OOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ AVA'S POV ~


Ava opted to corner Sara in the change rooms after soccer practice on Tuesday night in favour of having to call or text her.


"We should work on that Algebra assignment." Ava stated, standing pointedly between the door and Sara who was still in a hoody with her practice shirt pulled over, like she always wore it.


"We should." Sara agreed. "But not now, I have plans."


Sara moved to push past Ava, but Ava stood her ground, moving to block her way.


"What could you possibly have to do every single minute of every day that stops you from getting any school work done?" Ava glared disapprovingly, but couldn't help the way Sara's strawberry shampoo caught her attention with their close proximity.


"Literally anything else?" Sara suggested, smiling lazily up at Ava, eyebrows slightly raised.


"Sara, we're nearly a quarter of the way into the deadline, and though I've begun, I can't actually do this assignment without you." Ava frowned, "Trust me, I asked Mr. Jhonston and he said if we don't do it together, we'll fail together."


"Wow, you went behind my back to try and get out of our partnership?" Sara feigned offence, but she wasn't really surprised nor did she really blame Ava.


Ava huffed, feeling annoyance well up inside her. Whilst she may be somewhat bossy and particular, Ava wasn't easily frustrated. She got annoyed at little things, but nothing deeply infuriated her. Nothing like Sara Lance.


"I don't care about your stupid games Lance. We're starting this assignment tonight, I know you're just being like this to frustrate me - so congratulations because it's working." she could hear the desperation in her own voice, but she wasn't about to forfeit her perfect GPA for the likes of Sara.


Sara glanced up at her, but instead of smirking as Ava had come to expect, she just shrugged.


"Okay, fine, where do you want to do it?"


Ava's mouth hung open for a second, she'd been totally unprepared for any level of co-operation she hadn't thought that far ahead.


"Well," she started, "The library's closed, so yours?"


She saw a flicker of something across Sara's carefully guarded face before it disappeared and she looked down at her shoes.


"No, mine's no good. What about yours?" she mumbled.


Ava narrowed her eyes a little suspiciously and hesitated a second. She hadn't really wanted to invite Sara to her house, one of the few spaces she felt entirely comfortable, but seeing no other option, she just nodded.


"Okay, just let me get changed out of this gear and we'll go," Sara bit her lip.


Ava nodded again and headed out of the change room, satisfied.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ SARA'S POV ~


Sara strolled around the living room of the spacious apartment Ava's parents owned but rarely frequented due to their busy work lives.


She picked up a photo frame, and smirked at how proper Ava looked, even as a child.


"Cute," she commented, putting the photo back down.


"Would you stop looking at those and sit down?" Ava asked, from the kitchen table.


Sara rolled her eyes and made her way reluctantly to where Ava was sitting at the head of the table, setting out her work.


"Where are your parents?" Sara asked, sliding into the seat on Ava's left.


"My Mom's probably still at the office, she usually gets home around nine or ten. Dad's on a business trip in Peru." She stated, as if nothing was out of the ordinary.


Sara raised an eyebrow curiously but said nothing.


She settled back in the chair as Ava began explaining the idea's she'd come up with. Sara nodded along but had trouble listening, distracted by the normality of Ava's apartment.


Picture frames, fridge magnets, bills and newspapers sprawled across the bench.


Sara blew a lock of hair out of her face and went to pull her sleeves up due to the excessive heating Ava's home indulged in. She even noticed the kitchen tiles were warm, floor heating she figured.


She stopped herself, but not before Ava noticed the movement - that and her apparent lack of attention.


"Did you listen to anything I just said?" Ava asked.


"Sorry, I got distracted by your fridge magnets." Sara gestured toward the kitchen behind Ava.


Ava glanced over her shoulder then back at Sara with an incredulous look.


"Are you trying to insult me or something?" Ava asked, defensiveness mixing with confusion in her voice.


Sara couldn't help but smirk a little, "No."


Ava hesitated then turned back to her work, "Whatever, just try and pay attention. I know it's hard for you."


Sara shot her a sarcastic smile, "I actually have a few idea's of my own, thank you."


Sara reached over and took the pen from Ava's hand. She jotted a few idea's to the list.


Ava glanced over the idea's.


"Surprisingly not that bad," she admitted. "Alright then, we have our everyday applications, let's knock out some questions."


Sara scoffed, "Geez, sure that's not enough for one day?"


Ava rolled her eyes, "Working hard on that D aren't you?"


Sara laughed lightly and Ava looked up at her with surprise.


"Just give me a bit of paper, I'll have my question done in no time." Sara continued.


"Question? Try questions. We each have to formulate ten sophisticated questions which each require three or more algebraic rules to solve." Ava informed her.


Sara almost smiled at the expression on Ava's face, as she stated this. She looked so serious, almost passionate, her eyes clear and twinkling as they held Sara's steadily.
Sara snatched the pen out of Ava's hand.

 

"Easy."


"Don't you have your own pen?"


Sara glanced up from the question she'd begun writing and gave Ava an incredulous look.


"No. I just steal other people's. Although, usually they don't know, so consider yourself lucky."


Ava scoffed and then moved to snatch the pen back out of Sara's hand, grabbing Sara's wrist before she realised what was happening.


Sara looked surprised for a millisecond then dropped the pen, a smile playing at her lips. But Ava's focus had shifted from the pen to Sara's wrist. Sara noticed Ava's hand, softer than she'd thought, still grasping her wrist, eye's fixed.


Sara looked down and realised her jacket sleeve had ridden back, exposing the light tangle of scars which had made their way down to her hand, snaking up under the sleeve.


"What happened?" Ava asked, slowly raising her stormy grey eye's to meet Sara's.


Sara took that moment to pull her wrist back.


"It's nothing," she mumbled, attempting to turn back to their homework.


"Sara..." Ava started, trailing off after she obviously realised she didn't know what to say.


Sara chewed her lip gently at hearing Ava say her name, but didn't look up.


Her phone ringing loudly from her pocket brought them both jumping back to reality.


Sara pulled the beat-up phone from her pocket. Zari.


"Sorry, I've got to answer it." Sara said, slipping out of her seat and moving toward the living room.


"Hey, what's up?" Sara asked casually.


"You should get back here," Zari stated, "Like right now."


Sara didn't miss the slightly distressed undertone of Zari's voice, even over the calm facade.


"What's wrong?" Sara felt a nervous energy building up in the tingling of her fingers.


"It's probably better if you just come and see for yourself. But you should know, I'm being moved."


"What?" Sara felt her mouth go dry, her voice scratchy and nausea rising in her stomach at the thought of losing one of the few people she actually had to care about.


"Don't worry Sara, you can come and visit me anytime. I got accepted into a youth hostel. It's super low rent and I get a whole room to myself, it's only a few blocks away from your school."


Sara felt the relief flood through her and she let out a breath, "Okay."


"But there's.... something else. You should really get back here." Zari hesitated, "How far away are you?"


"Ten minutes at a fast jog." Sara responded.


"Okay. See you then."


Sara shoved her phone back in her pocket and turned back to Ava who'd undoubtedly heard everything she said - not that she cared.


"Sorry Sharpe but as much as I was loving this little study group of ours, I've got to run. It's kind of a.... family emergency."


Sara grabbed her backpack and started heading toward the door.


"Is everything okay?" Ava asked, though it sounded more out of obligation than genuine concern.


"Can't get any worse." Sara said saltily, "See you at school tomorrow."


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara couldn't have been more wrong.


What little balance she'd found in her life in the past few weeks had been picked up and strewn across the floor like pieces of a jenga tower.


She got back to the group home in under ten minutes, Zari was waiting out the front, a concerned look on her face as she chewed her lip.


"What's wrong?" Sara said jogging up to her.


"Look Sara, I don't know that much about... your past," Zari started, "But, they were packing all your things when I got back. I asked what the hell was going on.... Sara, your Mom reached out, she wants full custody of you."


Zari was never one to sugar coat things. Sara felt a wave of dizziness crash over her, the world faded out and Zari became blurry. This couldn't be happening.


The woman left them. When her father and sister had been killed, Sara hadn't stuck around to be palmed off to her Mom like some unwanted stray, and she sure as hell didn't leave her home and everything she had to be sold out now.


"No," was all she managed.


She felt Zari's arms on her shoulders, holding her up.


She was vaguely aware of Zari telling her she'd be okay, she was too strong.


Then she saw her. Walking down the steps of the home, Sara's duffel slung over her shoulder. Her vision disappeared and she was somewhere else entirely.


The summer breeze tussled her hair as she stood on the edge of the rooftop. This was a poorer part of town, shabby weatherboard house's with overgrown lawns and peeling paint slouching into the street.


"She left us for this." Sara said, to the woman beside her.


"You don't have to stay here Sara." Nyssa told her.


Sara felt the cold steel of the knife, holstered against her thigh as she shifted to meet her eyes.


"Then let me come with you."


Nyssa just shook her head for the millionth time, an old kind of sadness in her eyes.


"You're too young. I've told you, you still have a chance Sara, just try first. Finish high school at least. If you still want to join the league when you're done, I won't stop you."
Sara turned back to the pitiful life below her.


"Where will I go?"


"I know a place that will take you, a group home for girls, not lavish but not the worst place you've been." Nyssa smiled wistfully.


Sara spoke slowly, "Okay. I'll do it. But I don't want to see her, and when I'm finished, I won't have changed my mind."


Nyssa nodded, "Then, when you are finished, and only then, you can come with me and join the league. But remember Sara, as much as I've taught you, you are still yourself. When you join the league, you will be giving up your future, as much as your past."


Sara took one last look at the street and turned to Nyssa, "There's nothing left for me here."


Then she brushed past the older girl toward the rusty fire escape.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara had barely said a word since her Mom embraced her, gushed apologies in her ear. About how she'd been so worried since the police rang her almost a year ago and there was no sign of Sara.


Sara sat in the kitchen of the stained and stuffy house, looking at the dull, broken face of her mother, sitting next to a dirty alcoholic she called 'her boyfriend'.
John was his name. Not that Sara cared. She could see immediately by his dominant personality that he was verging on abusive and not particularly impressed to have Sara taking up the tiny space they called 'the guest room'.


It was barely big enough for a wardrobe, single bed and desk.


Sara decided to spend a majority of her time in there regardless.


Her mother had sat them down for a 'get to know each other' family dinner. Sara didn't understand how she missed the irony in it, but she'd cooked steaks and set out beer 'just the way John likes it', to try and get Sara to feel at home.


Sara barely ate. She spent a lot of time studying John. She understood, by the end of dinner, why her mother was with him. She was weak. He told her what to do and she did it. By being with someone so controlling, she'd have no choices to make because she always made the wrong one.


In some way she figured, her mother thought she deserved to be with a man like him, a way of avoiding the guilt of leaving her loving family.
Besides, he put food on the table and a roof over their heads, she'd told Sara, so what if he was a little rough around the edges?


Sara had never felt like more of a stranger in her life as she slunk off to bed that night, too tired to bother contemplating running away.


Now that her mother 'wanted' her, no foster system in the country would take her, Nyssa had left her and her family was dead.


Sara pushed her duffel under the bed, crawled in between the scratchy sheets and stared into the darkness, focusing on the only thing that could stop the pain.


Nyssa had taught her how. How to focus her brain so that she couldn't feel pain. She forced herself into a meditative state, where the toxic thoughts and emotions eating her from the inside out like a vicious acid, felt like nothing more than ripples off a puddle, lapping gently away at her.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara lay in bed late that morning, no thoughts of school even crossing her mind. She'd heard John leave early, but she knew her mother was waiting outside that door with some sort of guilt fuelled breakfast for her. She couldn't face that.


Eventually, she managed to un-jam the tiny window quietly enough for her to sneak out.


She pulled on her jacket, boots, gloves, stuffed her phone in her pocket and threw her ratty backpack out the window ahead of her. She slipped nimbly through then headed out onto the dirty footpath toward the subway.


It was a twenty minute subway ride to the new address Zari had given her, followed by a short walk.


The building was rundown, graffiti-ed bricks, some windows boarded over, but there was an energy created by the hipster youngster's hanging around it that made all of that irrelevant.


Sara made her way to Zari's room, knocking gently on the thick door.


Zari flung the door open, "Oh good, it's you."


Sara smiled, "Expecting someone else?"


Zari moved aside with an eye-roll, "My new neighbour keeps trying to make friends with me because he's into coding as well."


"How dare he." Sara stated, looking around the room.


There was a double bed against the right side of the wall, a tiny but neat retro kitchen in the corner by the door, opposite an even squeezier bathroom.


"Nice place." Sara commented.


"It's pretty neat, rough side of town but kids seem to stick together here." Zari shrugged, sitting down at the round wooden table by the wall, gesturing for Sara to sit in the other chair.


"How are you going?" Zari asked her.


"Care about me now?" Sara smirked.


"No." Zari frowned, "Stop avoiding the question."


Sara shook her head, "My Mom's been living in this shitty weatherboard house, down on the south-side, you know how it is. She's got this boyfriend 'John', he seems like an arsehole."


Zari snorted, "Not surprising. You're okay though?"


Sara shrugged, "I don't know. But we don't really talk about our feelings do we, Zari? Can we just go do something? Something stupid, something that'll get my mind off it?"


Zari stood up, "Thank God, let's go."


OOOOOOOOOOOOOO


"So you're going to hack their security system, get the alarm offline, just long enough for me to sneak in, but not so long that they notice. I'll be in and out before you know it."


Zari rolled her eyes, "This is a terrible idea, but you know I can't resist a hack challenge. How do you plan on getting in, anyway?"


Sara tilted her head toward the second story window which was slightly open.


Zari glanced at her, "You're joking right?"


Sara just raised her eyebrows.


"Of course you're not. Remind me, why are we doing this again?"


"For a distraction, for fun?" Sara suggested. "And also because I came here once, with one of my... friends, different reason, but these people are loaded and they have this awesome pair of samurai swords, so I'm stealing them. They'll be sort of like friendship bracelets, except way better."


"Right." Zari said, "Okay, I'm nearly in, you need a leg up to that window?"


"It's nice that you offered, but I'll do fine on my own thanks." Sara smiled.


She ran, to the window, Zari watching in awe as she scaled the wall easily, grabbing onto the ledge and pulling herself, with unwarranted grace, through window.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Less than two minutes later, Sara was swinging the sword lazily by her side as Zari unsheathed hers, admiring the shiny steel. They walked slowly down the neat street, picket fences, big stone houses and neatly trimmed lawns.


"So what did you used to again?" Zari asked.


Sara rolled her eyes, "I'm seventeen, I didn't used to do anything."


Zari looked sceptical but respected her privacy and changed the subject. "So, I enrolled at your school."


Sara turned to her, unable to stop the grin spreading over her face, "Really?"


Zari shrugged, "Yeah, I mean I figured now that we don't live together I won't get to see you as much, plus it's really close to my new place."


Sara wouldn't have admitted it to Zari, but she was really glad.


"Besides, it's not like I really went to my other school very often." She added.


"Yeah well, not everyone can just hack their attendance record."


Zari smirked, "Yeah well, looks like you're skipping too, sure you don't want in on it?"


Sara looked at her, a twinkle in her eye, "I own my bad behaviour thanks, I don't need to hide."


"Rebellious teen." Zari shook her head.


"Ava Sharpe will probably kill me for skipping soccer practice tonight, I should probably go by, before it's over, so she doesn't try to replace me for goalie training tonight."


"You should probably drop that sword off at your house first." Zari pointed out.


Sara smiled sarcastically at her, "Thanks."


OOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara's Mom wasn't home, she had a night shift at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. John was sitting in front of the television empty beer cans surrounding him.


Sara tried to sneak in but the door squeaked and she cringed.


John looked over, his eye's settling on her.


"Where have you been?" he asked drunkenly.


"Out." Sara said, turning for her room.


"Don't walk away from me when I'm talking to you. You won't be doing that shit in my house!" John raised his voice, slurring as he stood, a little wobbly from the excessive alcohol.


Sara turned to him, suppressing an eye roll.


"Your mother told me you snuck out this morning. Not very nice for the people taking in your unwanted, disrespectful arse is it?"


Sara felt anger welling inside her, but managed to appear calm.


"Sorry, I had school."


John grunted, "Until..." he squinted at the watch on his wrist "5.45pm? It's been dark for nearly an hour."


Sara shrugged, "I was studying."


She made a move for her room again.


"What's that?" John asked, seeming to have noticed the sword she was holding on the other side of her body.


"Nothing." Sara narrowed her eyes.


John moved toward her.


"Show it to me."


Sara put it behind her, "No."


Anger flashed across John's drunken face and he towered over her, grabbing her wrists roughly, forcing her to let go of the sword.


He looked at it confused for a second, which was then replaced by anger.


"You stole this?" he yelled, spittal flying from his mouth.


Sara didn't flinch, just shrugged.


"You're a trouble maker aren't you? So you weren't studying then? You lied to me?"


Sara struggled, trying to wriggle out of the iron grip he had on her wrists, undoubtedly bruising. She could easily take down a drunken oaf like John, but she didn't exactly have a lot of options, even though this was the last place she wanted to be.


It wasn't that she felt any obligation to her mother, but she suspected her mother would suffer somehow if she did hit John.
When Sara didn't respond, John only seemed to get angry.


"Never lie to me! I'm not an idiot and I'm not just some servant dolling out food and money to house your disrespectful arse, so you will start to treat me with respect."


"I didn't ask you to do any of those things." Sara met his eyes which were a mess of anger and insecurities.


"Your mother did. And don't get me wrong, it's not because she loves you, she just feels guilty." He spat angrily.


Sara knew it was a mistake. But the anger and pain welled up inside her and spilled over. She spat at him.


At first he was confused, then he registered it, his arm pulling back.


Sweet pain flared across the left side of Sara's face. Closed fist. It didn't surprise her. She just laughed and John pushed her away from him.


"Get out of here."


"With pleasure."


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara dabbed the blood off her cheek as she headed toward the school. She'd gotten plenty of sympathetic looks on the subway, she supposed she looked like some cliche runaway. The dark bruise colouring her left cheekbone and her duffel with her soccer kit probably only added to the look.


She smiled bitterly at anyone who attempted conversation, then got of the subway and jogged most of the way to the school in an attempt to get there before everyone left.


She got there about five minutes after practice finished. Most of the girls had headed to the change rooms, Amaya and Ava were packing up cones and chatting to Rip.


Rip looked over as she approached, annoyance registering on his face at her casual demeanour. As she turned her head to look at Ava and Amaya, the stadium lights illuminated the left side of her face and she saw his annoyance fall away.


"Sara, what happened?" he asked, a caring but commanding tone to his voice.


Ava and Amaya both looked over to her, though unable to see her face, assumed he was referring to her skipping practice and continued packing up.


Sara shrugged, "I ran into a pole, I was looking at my phone."


She saw doubt cloud Rip's face, but it was better than pity and he didn't question it.


"Why didn't you come to practice?" he asked, "Or school for that matter."


"I wasn't feeling well. I feel better now, thought I shouldn't leave Ava on her own for goalie practice." She smirked a little, making her face ache slightly. Not that it bothered her.


Ava looked over, "Amaya already offered to take your place."


Sara shrugged, "Well I'm here now."


Ava gave her a sour look but said nothing as she headed toward Rip and Sara with a ball.


"Yes, you two should continue training together, Amaya can stay or go, it's up to her." Rip stated, "I'll see you both tomorrow."


Then he turned, shooting Sara a concerned look which she resented, before heading of the field.


"Well seeing that Sara's here, I might head off, get a start on the big geography project I've got to do." Amaya said.


Ava sighed, "Okay, see you later."


Amaya gave them both a little wave then left as well.


Sara turned to Ava.
"So, what have you got in mind for tonight, Sharpe?"


"Firstly, where the hell were you? You just ran out last night and then you didn't show up to school."


"Aw, were you worried about me?"


"No." Ava snapped


Sara rolled her eyes, "It's like I said... family emergency"


Sara almost chuckled at the irony in hindsight.


"Fine, if you don't want to tell me, that's your business, but you could at least show up to practice."


"I'm here now, how about you stop worrying and let's start practising."


Sara went to brush by Ava, headed for the goal. But she'd turned giving Ava full view of the bruise on her cheek which she'd half forgotten about.


Ava grabbed her arm.


"What happened to your face?"


"Huh? Oh, I walked into a pole." Sara shrugged, sticking with the lame excuse she'd given Rip.


She tried to pull her arm free and head to the goal again, but Ava's grip just tightened.


"Sara don't lie to me." Ava said quietly.


"What happened to 'if you don't want to tell me, that's your business'?"


"Have you spoken to anyone else?" Ava countered, still holding Sara's hoody clad left arm with strong slender fingers.


"Why does it matter?"


"Have you?" Ava said, a pressure in her voice.


"No." Sara admitted quietly.


"Did someone hit you?" Ava asked.


Sara felt anger, maybe embarrassed about Ava so accurately calling her out.


She pulled her arm roughly away, "Wouldn't be the first time."


She jogged toward the penalty box, "Now, how about I spend some more time hitting this ball at you instead?"


She heard Ava sigh, obviously relenting - for now at least - then jog toward the goal.

Chapter Text

~ AVA'S POV ~

The next day after soccer practice, Ava was sitting at her desk trying to study ahead for her AP classes. To say Ava was surprised when she received a call from Sara, asking if she could come over and work on the Algebra assignment, would be an understatement.


She was equally surprised when Sara showed up at her door, twenty minutes later, books in hand. She couldn't help but feel a pang of concern at seeing the purple bruise across Sara's cheek, even though the girl infuriated her.


"Hey," she said casually when she opened the door.


"Hey."


"I'm surprised you called," Ava began awkwardly.


Sara just shrugged and moved in, toward the kitchen table where they'd set up last time.


"You want to get this thing done, right?"


Ava shut the door with a gentle click and followed her. She couldn't help but notice how good Sara looked in the oversized ice hockey hoody - probably Mick's, tight jeans and boots. She looked like trouble and she hated the slight tingle that made her feel.


She realised Sara was looking at her expectantly and she cleared her throat.


"Oh um, yes, I guess so."


Sara gave her a strange look, then slid into the same chair she'd sat last time.


"So, I've done about half the equations, you can look over them because I know you're very particular and probably have a lot of criticism to throw at me." Sara began mockingly, as she opened her notebook.


Ava felt a slight blush creep up her cheeks, she didn't really like being thought of that way.


"I'm not going to criticise you." Ava rolled her eyes, sitting down next to Sara.


Sara just shot her a look.


"Ok, fine. I'm a little bit critical, but I just want to make sure it's right."


Sara shrugged, "Probably for the best, if you want to maintain your perfect GPA. After all, I've barely listened to a single word Mr. Jhonston's said this entire time."


Ava just leaned over to read through Sara's equations. They were surprisingly accurate, a little simplistic, but overall, she felt with a few minor modifications, they would do.


"Not that bad," Ava admitted, looking up to meet Sara's eyes. She'd barely realised how close they were sitting.


She was a little surprised to find Sara already looking at her, watching her as she'd studied her work.


"What?" she asked self consciously.


"You bite your lip when you're concentrating," the corner of Sara's mouth tugged upward and her eye's twinkled with mischief. "It's cute," she added.


Ava shifted uncomfortably in the wooden dining chair, feeling certain Sara was mocking her.


"Whatever, I was just thinking, if you added a fractional variable to your first equation and changed the seven to a decimal in your third one, then you'd probably make it a little more complex."


Sara smiled a little, "Okay."


Ava narrowed her eyes, unsure as to why Sara was being so co-operative today.


They continued working on their equations, and Ava had already begun her analysis of applications to everyday life.


She couldn't help but notice the way Sara's knee would brush against hers every time she leaned forward. She tried to ignore how she tucked her hair behind her ear before she wrote something down.


Sara caught her watching, after about half an hour, when her focus began to drift.


She smirked but said nothing.


Ava tried to ignore the embarrassment that Sara's smug looked caused her, and made a conscious effort to focus entirely on her work after that.


However, after a while, she felt her mind wandering to the bruise on Sara's face. She remembered the comment Lily had made after Sara ran out of biology.


"Girl must have one scary-ass Dad"


Ava found herself tossing the thought around in her head, having knocked out a lot of the assignment, in the almost two hours they'd been working.


It would make sense to an extent, and would definitely explain Sara's rebellious and at times, downright self-destructive behaviour. Ava wanted to be able to hold Sara accountable for her actions. She knew the rules and she broke them anyway, regardless of what else was happening in her life.


But another part of her wanted to try, Sara obviously had some serious internal turmoil. Ava didn't usually accept excuses, but in this case, she decided to leave an open mind.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ SARA'S POV ~


Sara had caught Ava staring at her. It was fairly obvious to her, Ava's eyes were so hard she could practically feel them. Although usually she was glaring and it was because she hated her.


Sara couldn't help the mischievous thoughts that crept into her mind. Did Ava find her attractive? She didn't know if Ava was straight or not, she wouldn't be surprised to find she wasn't, even though she was extremely straight-backed.


Her mind wandered from the work in front of her. She looked up and smirked at Ava, just so that Ava knew, she knew she was watching her. When a light blush spread across Ava's cheeks, Sara felt a warmth in her chest like she hadn't felt in months.


She wanted to push Ava up against the kitchen bench and kiss her. Bite her lip gently and run her hands down her sides. She wanted to press her up against the counter until she gave in to her, then just turn and walk out the door, leaving her breathless and confused.


Maybe then, she'd feel a little more control. A little less pain.


Sara pushed the thought away when she looked up again to see Ava biting her lip as she glared down at the writing on her page.


After almost two hours, Sara's brain was hurting.


"Want to take a break?" Sara asked, reaching out to touch Ava's arm lightly.


She felt Ava tense with surprise under her touch and then relax again.


"Oh, sure I guess."


Sara got up and headed over to the couch, plopping herself comfortably in the middle.


"Want something to eat?" Ava asked her, heading for the kitchen.


Sara shrugged, "Sure, I could eat."


She watched Ava inspect the fridge.


"Uh, maybe we should order a pizza or something." She said after a while.


Sara's mouth quirked up in amusement, "I didn't know you ate junk food."


Ava shrugged, "Well, I was never very good at cooking and my Mum's been working really late these past few days. It's that or starve."


"Well I'm definitely okay with pizza." Sara shrugged.


Ava nodded, picked up the phone and ordered a margarita pizza, before heading over to the couch.


"So why the sudden change of heart?" Ava asked, carefully, as she arranged herself on the other end of the couch to Sara.


"What do you mean? I've always liked pizza." Sara asked, eyebrow raised.


Ava shot her a look, "No, I mean, about the assignment. I thought I was going to have to drag you every step of the way."


Sara looked away, fiddling with the sleeve of Mick's hoody she'd stolen. She didn't want to tell the truth, she hated it when people pitied her. But for some reason, she felt that, other than Zari, she didn't have to be afraid of that with Ava.


On the other hand though, Zari was had been through shit, like her, she got it. Ava was some overachieving lawyer's daughter with a big house and a good life.


"I just had to get away for a bit." Sara stated casually, as if it explained everything.


She noticed Ava's eye's flicker to the bruise on her cheek, she could practically see the wheels turning in her brain.


Sara narrowed her eyes, making it clear she didn't want Ava to speculate.


Ava opened her mouth to say something but hesitated and seemed to change her mind.


"Right, so school work is an escape for you now?" Ava asked instead.


Sara scoffed, "More like a distraction, you know, like those really annoying kids in class?"


Ava snorted, trying not to laugh at the irony, "So school work is annoying to you, in the same way that you're annoying to me."


"Exactly," Sara agreed smugly.


Ava just shook her head, and they sat in a comfortable quiet for a moment.


"Sara... can I ask you something?" Ava started carefully.


Sara didn't like the way this was going, but, she was starving and she knew she wasn't going to leave until after the pizza got here. It wasn't like John would've cooked dinner while her Mom was at work.


So she bit her lip, "I guess."


Ava paused and shuffled to face Sara.


"Are you okay?"


Sara just opened her mouth slightly too shocked to say anything. She definitely been expecting something more prying, something she could snap at and shove away. She tried to say something but her throat tightened and the words wouldn't come out.


She could feel her mind starting to slip away from her.


Oliver held her shoulders tightly, looking into her eyes, concern written all over his face. She knew she was pale, skinny, she'd been in hospital for days, she couldn't eat, couldn't sleep.


Now, Oliver was here, she could see the sadness in his eyes, the hurt. And all she could think about was Laurel. How, while Oliver held her, hugged her close and promised she'd be okay, she'd never see her again.


And when she looked into his eyes, all she could see was the three of them, running around the Queen's garden, when they were kids. Throwing water balloons at each other while their parent's drank wine.


She could hear her father's voice, "Don't you dare hit me with one of those things Sara!"


She could hear Laurel laughing as the balloon hit the back of Sara's head, drenching her from head to toe with a horrified squeal.


"Sara" Sara could vaguely hear a voice, pulling her back to reality.


"Sara, where'd you go?" Ava's voice.


Sara's eye's settled on Ava's. Clear, demanding, centring her.


She was vaguely aware that she hadn't said a word. She closed her mouth and then opened it again, to try and say she was fine. But the words wouldn't come out.


Suddenly, Ava was next to her, pulling her toward her. Her arm's sliding around her shoulders as Sara felt tears begin to slide silently down her cheeks.


She was barely aware of herself clutching Ava's shirt in her fists, as waves of grief and guilt washed over her.


OOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara hated to cry. She hated feeling weak. But the past few days had seen every carefully constructed aspect of the life she'd built be overturned. She hated her Mom. For leaving. For coming back. For John.


She hated the man her killed her family. She hated Nyssa for taking her in, giving her a purpose, something that kept her going, then tearing it all away from her.


She wanted to hate Ava too. Ever since she'd met her. For having her life together, being organised and driven. For succeeding at school and having normal friends and a normal family.


She hadn't really hated her though. She'd settled for tormenting her instead. She knew it was unfair. But so was life, that Ava could be these things, be given every opportunity to live her life. When all Sara's had brought her was pain, and every time she felt a glimmer of hope, it was torn away from her.


After a few moments, Sara managed to pull herself together, she was vaguely aware of the wet patch her tears had left on Ava's shirt. She rubbed her already red eyes, angrily.


"Sara, I know you don't want to talk about it...." Ava started softly, "But would you tell me who hit you?"


Sara wasn't surprised that Ava was so persistent.


"Why does it matter? I get into fights all the time." Sara shrugged, still trying to pull herself together.


"Did you get into a fight?"


Sara bit her lip, "Yeah, I guess. But for once, I didn't start it."


Ava nodded slowly, then hesitated before she spoke.


"Was it.... was it your Dad?"


Sara's eyes shot up from where'd they'd lingered on the carpet, to meet Ava's concerned gaze.


Sara felt her jaw clench and anger rise up in her.


"You'd just assume that?" she asked, trying to control the edge in her voice.


"No, no, it's just, I don't know - that was stupid. I'm sorry." Ava backtracked.


Sara wanted to laugh bitterly, she hadn't realised Ava could be so apologetic.


She sighed, "You know we're not friends, right?"


She saw a flicker of hurt over Ava's face, "Obviously," her face twisted toward anger now, "You don't have to take your shit out on everyone else though. Your life is hard I get it, but that's what life is Sara."


Sara stood up now, her face turning hard.


"No Ava. If you think life is hard then you're as naive as you look. Life is a cruel son of a bitch who knocks you down, then kicks you square in the back when you try to stand up. Squashes your face into the ground until you feel like your head is going to explode, your eyes are full or dirt and you're suffocating. So don't tell me that life is hard."


Ava just stared at her blankly, her mouth slightly open. The anger replaced with mild surprise at Sara's outburst.


"You don't get it." Sara huffed, then she turned, and headed for the door.


"Where are you going??" Ava stood up after her.


"To Zari's" Sara said, without a thought that Ava didn't know who she was, her anger clouding that part of her brain.


"You're not going home?" Ava asked, a little pushy.


More proof that Ava didn't get it. Sara didn't have a home, it was taken from her. Besides which, the current residence society would have classified as her home was occupied by John who'd set her a 10pm curfew she'd already missed. Even though he was probably passed out on the couch, she had no reason to go back.


"Not while John's there." She muttered angrily, more to herself.


She registered Ava's confused look and was out the door before she could form another question.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Zari hadn't asked any questions, just let her in and set her up on her bed.


They walked to school together in the morning, Sara was glad Zari was with her. Not that she'd have admitted to anyone that she needed her.


She was surprised to find Mick and Leonart standing out the front of the school when they arrived, considering it was relatively early.


"What are you two doing here so early?" Sara raised her eyebrow.


"Weights." Mick informed her.


"Pre-season hockey training, bright and early with the sun," Leo elaborated.


"Cool. This is Zari by the way, she's transferred here," Sara gestured to Zari, who just smirked at them.


"I'm Leo and this is Mick," Leonart extended one hand and gestured to Mick with the other. Mick grunted in acknowledgement.


Sara already knew they would get along just fine.


"Well, I've got to go see the counsellor about my schedule, so I'll catch up with you guys later," Zari hopped up the steps toward the huge stone archway housing the front doors.


"She seems nice." Leo commented after Zari had disappeared.


Sara rolled her eyes, "I don't think any of us are 'nice'."


Leo just shrugged with a lazy smile.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


Sara was early to Algebra, taking her usual seat at the back. She half-expected Ava to glare at her after she'd ditched her last night.


What she didn't expect however, was the chorus of 'Happy Birthday's' from various class members when Ava walked in and took her seat.
A small smile played at Ava's lips as she took a seat, almost shyly at the attention.


Sara smirked, as much as Ava liked being right, she didn't really like to be the centre of attention outside of her academic excellence.


She made note to take advantage of that later.


Sara made sure to be extra-frustrating to Ava. She wanted her to know that nothing had changed between them.


Every time Mr. Jhonston asked the class a question, Sara quickly stuck her hand up, trying to bet Ava's.


She game a random and very wrong answer with a smirk. Mr. Jhonston glared at her and then started to ignore her after a few questions. Now sticking her hand up just got her a few snickers when Ava's also went up.


When class was finished, she strolled out casually, surprised when a hand grabbed her just outside the door.


"Here are your books," Ava said shortly, and was shoving them into her arms before she had time to react. Then she turned and walked away, without giving Sara a chance for a snide comment.


Ava was clearly upset. Sara wondered breifly if she'd over done it this time. She figured it wouldn't have been the first time.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ AVA'S POV ~


Ava sat with Lily in the library during her free period.


"I thought we were getting somewhere," Ava was exasperated after telling her about what had happened with Sara last night and this morning in class.


"She's clearly got issues Ava. You'd probably be better off just steering clear of it all, don't get wrapped up in her drama. She obviously doesn't want help anyway." Lily advised her.


"But she's always there, and I can't help it. I'm just supposed to stand by when she's falling apart?" Ava asked.


"No, but you don't have to try to help her either. It's not like she does anything to help you." Lily pointed out.


"It's just, I feel like part of her targeting me is... a cry for help or something. I mean, she can actually be pretty nice when she wants to be."


"Well doesn't that tell you something more about her? She doesn't want to be nice Ava, you'd probably be better off avoiding her." Lily suggested.


Ava mulled it over. "I don't think I can."


Lily rolled her eyes, "You were always the worst at letting things go. You know what they say, 'curiosity killed the cat'. She's an enigma to you and you can't resist that."


"That is not true." Ava said.


"Oh, so it's because she's like super hot and she's got this whole 'rebellious bad girl' demeanour?" Lily joked.


Ava felt her cheeks flush, "No!" she snapped.


Lily did a double take. "Oh my god. I was just making fun of you, but you actually find her attractive, don't you?"


Ava avoided eye contact with her friend.


"I'm not blind," she mumbled.


Lily grinned, "Do you have a crush on her?"


Ava's head snapped up.


"God no! Just because I might find her attractive, she's still a huge pain in my arse and extremely rude. I know that all the shit she's obviously got going on doesn't excuse that, but I'm also not going to actively avoid being there for her if she needs me."


"But you'll agree to avoid her when she's just being a bitch to you?" Lily smiled.


Ava rolled her eyes, "Yes, definitely," she replied with a sheepish smile.


"Okay, well, I think I can live with that." Lily stated, turning back to her textbook.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ SARA'S POV ~


Sara was sitting at lunch the next day with Mick, Zari and Leo.


"So, are you invited to Ava's birthday party?" Leonart drawled, raising an eyebrow at Sara.


Sara scoffed, "You're joking? Ava Sharpe's having a birthday party?"


Leo shook his head, "No, I'm serious. Ava has a huge birthday party every year, she's kind of renown for it now."


Sara just stared at him in disbelief.


"Only because her mommy and daddy were worried she'd have no friends." Mick informed her, not looking up from his hamburger.


"That's true. I don't think they worry about it now. But it started because Ava's parents felt guilty about being work-a-holics, that combined with Ava's relatively anti-social personality. One year in middle school, they threw her a big birthday party and now it just happens every year." Leo explained.


"She does not strike me as the party type," Sara smirked.


Leo shook his head, "She's always the most uncomfortable there, even though it's her house," he chuckled.


"I could get around that. Up for a party Sara?" Zari asked, bumping her shoulder.


"If it's Ava's? Definitely. What about you boys? Want to crash a party tonight?" Sara asked with a mischievous smile.


Mick almost grinned and Leo just gave her a knowing smile.


This was going to be fun.

Chapter Text

Sara looked around Ava's crowded living room. She spotted Ava, leaning awkwardly against the kitchen counter, talking to Amaya.


She seemed to catch sight of Sara and sigh, Sara just smirked at her and sauntered over to the beer pong table to join in.


Needless to say, Sara and Mick were an unstoppable force at beer pong, so Sara soon found herself bored. Her gaze drifted and her eyes settled on Ava, laughing with Amaya and the nerdy looking guy she'd come know as Gary.


She shoved her beer, already several beers and shots into her night, into Zari's hands.


"Can you please hold this, I'll be right back."


Zari looked between Sara and the subject of her fixated gaze, Ava.


"Okay" she said slowly, suspicion peeking out from behind her eyes.


Sara just rolled her eyes and proceeded to stroll over to Ava.


"Hey Ava, nice party you're having."


Ava looked up, a little surprised to find Sara in front of her.


"Oh, thanks," Ava looked at the ground.


"It's great that you came Sara, most of the other girls from the team are here too." Amaya said, trying and failing to break the ice.


"And John Constantine" Gary piped up.


Sara groaned, "Oh great."


Ava glanced at her, "I thought you two were friends." She stated.


Sara raised her eyebrows and looked at Ava, "with benefits."


She saw a flicker of genuine surprise and something else on Ava's face.


She recovered quickly, a sour expression, Sara had become accustomed to, on her face.


"Not surprising" she stated.


Amaya raised an eyebrow, "Hey Gary, want to go get another drink?"


Gary smiled, "No I'm go-"


Amaya punched him and glared, nodding in the direction of the kitchen.


"Oh uh, OK." Gary gave Ava an apologetic look and followed after Amaya.


"So, happy birthday." Sara started.


"Thanks. I see you just invited yourself in." Ava said sharply.


Sara smirked, "What, you didn't want me to come?"


Ava just glared at her, "I don't know what to think of you anymore."


Sara shrugged, "I take that as a compliment."


"It wasn't"


"I'm still going to take it as one."


"You're infuriating."


Sara grinned and then winked at her.


Ava just met her eyes evenly, "Look, I know you have your own shit going on and all that, but it doesn't mean that you're the only person in the world. But you seem to think that it does, and I don't really want any part in it."


Sara looked at her slightly confused with the alcohol, "You're saying we can't be friends?"


"Until you stop being a bitch and start dealing with everything you've got going on, yeah."


Sara just stared at her for a second, then relaxed and shrugged, taking a sip of beer.


"Okay."


"Okay?"


"Yeah, okay." Sara shrugged again, then turned and walked away, onto what had been declared 'the dance floor' or formally known as The Living Room.


She strolled back over to Leo and Zari who were dancing and drinking, while Mick was drinking, leaning against the wall, frown on his face.


"How'd it go?" Zari asked, spotting her.


"Not so great," Sara sighed.


Zari stopped dancing, "She's mad we crashed her party?"


Sara raised her eyebrows thoughtfully, "Yeah, among other things."


"You know what'd fix that?" Zari asked, "Scotch."


She pulled a small bottle out of her pocket.


Sara smiled, "You know just how to cheer me up," as she followed Zari back into the dancing crowd.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~AVA'S POV~


Ava found Gary and Amaya in the kitchen.


"I can't believe you did that." Ava hissed angrily at them.


"She made me," Gary pointed at Amaya.


Amaya sighed and glared at him, "Did you work anything out?"


Ava relented, "Yeah, sort of. I told her to stay away from me and get her shit together before we could even try to be friends."


"Wow." Gary said, popping a canape into his mouth.


"Yeah, but she just said "okay", like does she not care at all? I mean, she could at least be a little offended right?"


Amaya rolled her eyes, "You're such an idiot. Sara cares, she's just to stubborn to admit it, so she hides it."

Ava shook her head, "You can try and believe that Amaya, but the truth is she doesn't care about anyone but herself."

"Don't worry about it, you're better off without her anyway, now let's go see which guy's throat Lily has her tongue down."


OOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~SARA'S POV~


A while and a half a bottle of Scotch later, Sara found herself back in the kitchen. She was surprised to come across a tall pretty girl, with short red hair, pouring herself a shot of vodka and quickly downing it. Her name was Alex.


"Wow, someone who drinks like that must be trying to make something go away." Sara observed with smile playing on her lips.


The girl turned to her. "Oh, hey. Yeah, I guess you're right."


The girl poured another shot, and raised her brow as she poured a second for Sara.


Sara picked up the shot, "So what are we forgetting?" she asked.


"My ex-girlfriend." Alex rolled her eyes, and then sighed before downing the shot.


Sara smirked at her admission, and followed suit, "Amen to that."


Now it was Alex's turn to raise an eyebrow.


Sara felt the drunkenness creep up inside her. Fuck Ava, she wanted to forget about her altogether. And this girl, seemed like a good distraction.


When she looked up, Alex glanced away a little flushed. Sara smirked.


She took a step toward Alex, and when she didn't step away, she closed the distance between them. She found herself pulling Alex closer, arms sliding around her waist, leaning up to press her lips against Alex's soft mouth.


Alex leaned into the kiss and Sara ran her hands up her spine, making her shiver.


A moment later Sara pushed her up against the fridge, kissing her feverishly.


Alex just softened into her and kissed her back, her lips supple as she allowed Sara to take control.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~AVA'S POV~


Ava was always on high alert during her birthday parties, she didn't want anyone to get too out of control and break anything.


So it was hardly a surprise when she glanced toward the kitchen and saw Sara Lance pushing a pretty redhead up against her fridge. Kissing her.


Ava felt anger and something else rising in her stomach. She must have stiffened, because Amaya placed a gentle hand on her arm.


"You okay Ava? You look like you're going to be sick or something. I know this party stresses you out." Amaya asked her.


Ava looked at her. "What? No, I'm fine."


Amaya looked dubious but shrugged. "Okay."


"I'm just going to check something in the kitchen, I'll be right back." Ava, stood abruptly and sauntered over to the kitchen.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~SARA'S POV~


Alex was a nice girl. She was pretty and a decent kisser. But Sara found herself quickly bored of the kiss. Her mind began to wander. She found herself wondering what it would be like to kiss Ava.


She quickly pulled away from Alex.


"Everything okay?" Alex asked.


"Yeah fine." Sara bit her lip. "Just, uh, this isn't really helping me forget."


Alex smiled gently, "It's okay Sara, I get it." Then she slid away from Sara and headed out to the dance floor.


Sara opened the fridge and grabbed a beer out. She leaned against the counter, still looking at the floor.


"You're still here?"


Sara looked over to the doorway.


She rolled her eyes, feeling a little bit defeated. "You really want me to leave?"


"Have you sorted out your life yet?" Ava asked sarcastically.


Sara just glared in response. She wanted to just walk out. To just to show Ava that she didn't care. But the truth was, she did. And she was too tired and depressed to be bothered.


"Alright," she said instead, "I'll just finish my beer then I'll go get my friends and I'll leave."


Ava held her eye contact for a moment, unsure. Seemingly deciding Sara was being serious, she nodded.


"Thank you." Ava turned quickly on her heel to leave.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~AVA'S POV~


"Wait."


Ava turned around again, "Yes?"


"Did you really mean what you said?" Sara asked, glancing up from her beer.


"Yes, that's why I said it, Sara." Ava looked at her evenly.


Sara bit her lip and nodded slowly, "I'm sorry."


Ava's arms dropped to her side, "What?"


Sara stood up, "I'm sorry for treating you the way I did. I know it was a shitty thing to do, and I'll stop."


Ava felt doubtful, "Sara, don't think that one apology can fix this. You need to sort out whatever you've got going on, because I don't want to be the person you take it out on."


Sara just looked at her, Ava could see the sadness deep in her blue eyes. She shook away the feeling of guilt, and Sara brushed past her toward the door, not bothering to tell her friends she was leaving.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ SARA'S POV ~


Sara didn't know where to go. She couldn't go home, she had missed curfew again and not been home in nearly two days. John would be furious and she couldn't deal with the stupid oaf right now.


She couldn't go to Zari's because she was still at the party. So, she went the only place she knew she'd be alone.


She closed the door loudly behind her and headed for the roof. During her time with Nyssa, she'd spent a lot of nights on roof tops. She liked the way the city sparkled beneath her like a starry mat, you could see everything.


Sara took her leather jacket off, laying it down on the gravel and sitting on it. Head tilted skyward, toward the glowing moon. She shivered against the cold.


She looked at the scars lacing her right arm, the way they shone with a strange white glow in the moonlight. Like pattern's on her skin.


She rarely looked at them. They reminded her of that night. But now, she felt nothing, she was simply mesmerised by the strange and powerful beauty of them.


She was deep in thought, still absent minded, tracing the scars on her arm, when she heard light footsteps on the gravel behind her.


She jumped up, spinning around to face whoever was behind her.


"Ava?" Sara asked, relaxing slightly. "What are you doing up here? Aren't you supposed to be having a party or something?"


Ava just looked at her, obviously equally surprised to find her here.


"I just had to get away for a minute."


"You have a balcony in your apartment."

"Yeah, but it's quiet here. I thought I told you to leave."


Sara shrugged, "I rarely do what I'm told." She shivered.


Ava noticed, "Why'd you take your jacket off, you're freez-" Ava had moved closer and her eyes settled on Sara's arm.


Sara noticed Ava's abrupt stop and realised Ava was staring at the scars tangling up her arm.


Sara reached for her jacket, but Ava grabbed her wrist.


"Look, Sara, I know I said you had to get your life together before we could be friends, but honestly, I'll still be here if you need me." Ava said.


Sara almost lost her cool right there. She felt a wave of warmth, making tears prick her eyes but she shoved it down.


Sara tried to pull her arm away from Ava, but her iron grip didn't loosen and Ava just ended up a step closer to Sara.


"I don't need anyone." Sara said quietly.


Ava just shook her head, then pulled Sara's arm closer. She ran her eyes over the scar's that laced Sara's arm. Sara just watched her blank expression, drinking in the quietness of the moment.


"What happened?" Ava asked softly.


Sara squeezed her eyes shut. Trying to slow her breathing. She felt Ava's other hand link through hers and squeeze.


"Car crash." Sara spoke.


"Oh."


"Yeah. My Dad and my sister were killed."


She felt Ava squeeze her arm gently, her grey eyes looked up from Sara's arm to meet hers.


"Wow. I don't know what to say Sara. I'm so sorry, I can't even begin to imagine-"


"You don't want to." Sara interjected.


Ava nodded, biting her lip. "How long?"


"Nearly a year now."


Ava nodded again.


They stood like that for a moment, Ava's hands firm, steadying Sara.


"Do you want to talk about it?" Ava asked quietly.


Sara bit her lip hesitantly, "No," she shook her head.


Ava just nodded.


"Why didn't you go home?" Ava continued slowly.


Sara looked up at Ava now, she smiled a sad wistful smile.


"It's quiet up here," she repeated Ava's words.


Ava seemed to accept it, but then she asked, "Really?"


"I just wanted to be alone. Besides, I couldn't go home."


Ava raised an eyebrow.


Sara shrugged in response, "Curfew."


"The rebellious Sara Lance has a curfew?" Ava said with a hint of amusement.


Sara just rolled her eyes, finally pulling free from Ava and turning to pick up her jacket.


"Well, I haven't been home in two days so John's probably going to be mad either way. Might as well face the music and have somewhere to sleep tonight right?" Sara sighed as she pulled the jacket on.


Ava just stared at her.


"You're just one mystery after another." Ava shook her head slowly, "I have so many questions now, but I get the feeling you don't really want to talk."


Sara shrugged, "Fire away I guess."


They started walking slowly toward the door.


"Okay, firstly, who is John?"


Sara rolled her eyes, "My Mom's douche-bag boyfriend."


"Right. And if you haven't been home in two days where have you been?"


"I told you the other night, I was at Zari's."


Ava nodded, "Okay, so why don't you stay at Zari's again?"


"She's still at your party, she was having fun. I didn't want to ruin it for her because I was a bitch to the birthday girl and got kicked out." Sara shot Ava a half-hearted smile.


"I didn't realise you were so considerate," Ava said with a joking tone, but Sara knew she meant it.


Sara stopped and turned to face Ava.


"I really am sorry for how I treated you Ava. You were right, I can't take out my problems on you, and I'm sorry that I did. You didn't deserve it."


Ava nodded, "Thanks."


They turned to the door and began their decent down the steps.


"Can I ask you why?" Ava asked.


"What?"


"Why? Why did you take it on me, on everyone really, but you know, specifically me."


Sara sighed, she felt tired.


"I don't know. The day I met you, there was just something about you. You seemed to hate me straight away, so I thought what the hell, might as well have fun with it. And then, well, it was fun. And, it helped to take my mind off everything else, when I felt like I was drowning, like the thoughts spiralling in my head were going to sweep me up, I'd see you. And you just, centred me. Something to focus on. Something that made me feel better."


Ava met Sara's eyes, her expression unreadable, then she looked down. She nodded slowly but didn't say anything.


"Look Ava," Sara touched her arm lightly, "It really isn't any excuse, I know there's no reason I should have treated you like that. And you're right, it's not fair. I have to work this out on my own."


When Ava still didn't respond, Sara just sighed.


"I'm really sorry." she said quietly, then turned to make her way swiftly down the stairs.


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


~ AVA'S POV~


Part of Ava wanted to stop Sara. To tell her she didn't have to do it alone. But she was frozen on the spot. Why should she feel for this girl who took every opportunity to infuriate her?


Before Ava could make a decision, Sara was gone and Ava was left standing dumbfounded at the top of the stairs.


The door opening behind her pulled her out of her thoughts.


"Ava, there you are" Amaya's familiar voice said, "What are you doing out here?"


Ava turned to her friend, "Just getting some air, I'm good now though." She forced a smile, "Let's go party, hey?"


Amaya gave her a strange look but then shrugged and grinned, "Come on then."


OOOOOOOOOOOOO


The house was quiet when Sara got home, John passed out on the couch and her Mom working the late shift again.


Sara made it to her bed before she felt tears sting her eyes. For once, it wasn't about her family, or Nyssa. She pushed the tears away angrily. She'd screwed everything up with Ava.


She didn't know why she cared so much, they weren't even really friends. Ava was more of a coping mechanism than anything, a way to keep her mind from dark thoughts. A distraction.


But she thought of Ava standing at the top of the stairs, unable to respond to her apology, unable to forgive her. She thought of Ava telling her that she there for her.
With the one thing that had been keeping her sane, gone, Sara felt the darkness creeping in. Thoughts of her past seeping like poison into her mind. She felt the thoughts, barely concocted in her mind, swirling, gaining momentum like a tornado, uprooting everything in their path.


Hours later she fell asleep, nightmares of blood, pain, chains and blades racked her mind, as she tossed and turned in a restless sleep.


All it took to turn her was one simple emotion, one triggered by Ava. Guilt.

Chapter Text

Sara's  nightmares  woke her early, tiredness tugging at her heavy eyelids. She could hardly face Ava, or anyone else.   

Without the distraction of annoying Ava, Sara wasn't sure she could survive school either.   

   

She needed to get away.  

   

She threw a few of her things into a bag and before she knew where she was going, found herself at the airport, buying a  one-way  ticket to China.  

   

She stared at the scrap of paper with an address, written in a cryptic code, only those in the League knew. Sara didn't know much of it, but Nyssa had taught her a little so she could find her. She knew she wasn't supposed to go until she'd graduated school. She knew Nyssa would be angry with her.    

   

But she couldn't take it anymore. The pain, the darkness. The guilt. She wanted to get rid of it all, and she didn't really care how. There was nothing for her here, like she'd told Nyssa, she had no future here anyway. She was ready to go back to something she was good at. Ready to belong somewhere.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

The door  creaked;  a small bell jingled as Sara slowly entered the quaint store. She'd started learning Mandarin from Nyssa before they'd parted ways, and it helped  

her enormously not to get lost. The store was tucked away in a back alley, in one of the rougher parts of Beijing.   

   

It seemed to be some sort of pawn shop, selling various old, dusty objects. Sara glanced over everything as she made her way to the wooden counter at the back.   

   

"Hello?" she called.  

   

A moment later, an elderly woman with a smile, bustled out from behind the curtains at the back of the shop.  

   

"Hi, I'm Sara." Sara started.   

   

The woman just smiled at her but said nothing.   

   

She repeated herself in Mandarin but the woman just continued smiling and remained silent.  

   

Sara blew the hair out of her face. Then remembered the parchment Nyssa had given her. She scrounged through her backpack until she found it.  

   

She slid it across the counter to the old woman. She picked it up, her face now expressionless. After a moment of studying the parchment she nodded.   

   

"Follow me."  

   

The woman led her around the back of the counter, through the curtains, into a small backroom. There was a round table in the centre, with a teapot and a couple  

of chairs.  

   

"Sit." The woman instructed.   

   

Sara sat down and watched the woman, who opened a chest in the corner, the only other object in the room and pulled out a small package.  

   

"Wait here."  

 The old woman said, then she turned and walked out of the room.   

 A moment later, Sara heard the bell on the front door jingle.  

 "Did she just leave?" Sara asked herself. She frowned, and got up, peaking through the curtains to find the store completely empty.   

   

She huffed and sat down at the table. Sara wasn't good at doing what she was told - especially waiting. But she'd broken enough rules in coming here, she didn't want to increase the chances of Nyssa forcing her to go back.  

 So, for once, she sat down and waited.   

 Several hours later, having had no-one at all enter the store, the woman returned. She no longer had the small package, but instead had a scrap of paper in her hands.   

 "Go here. She will meet you there tonight." The old woman placed the paper in Sara's hands.   

 It was an address, written in the same code as the one Nyssa had given her.   

 "Nyssa?" Sara asked.   

 The woman nodded.   

 Sara thanked the woman, and headed out into the evening air.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

It took Sara almost two hours to find the place. It appeared to be a small  restaurant , a fair way across the city from the old woman's store. It didn't help that  

Sara's mandarin wasn't the best and she'd taken a few wrong turns.   

 There were a few people dining in the restaurant, but Nyssa wasn't there. Sara wasn't surprised. She was careful. She wouldn't meet her in a restaurant.   

 Sara looked at the scrap of paper again. She stepped out onto the dirty street again, the exotic smells of the city filling her nose.   

She spied a dumpster in the side alley. She smiled. Of course.   

Sara got a running start, jumping nimbly onto the dumpster, then catapulting herself toward the roof. Her fingers hooked onto the ledge and she pulled herself easily onto the roof.  

 After a moment, her eyes adjusting to the shadows, she spotted a figure. Nyssa.  

 She stepped out of the shadows; their eyes met. Sara didn't know how Nyssa would react to her being here and so she waited for her to make the first move.  

 "I've missed you." Nyssa said, before stepping toward Sara.  

 She noticed the bruise on Sara's cheek and frowned. "I see you've been staying out of trouble."  

 Sara smiled sadly; she'd missed her too. Nyssa was the first woman Sara had ever loved, and she couldn't forget that. Even after she'd left her in New York,   

she knew she was only trying to give her a better life.   

 "I missed you too."  

 Nyssa smiled, and took a step toward her. She brushed Sara's hair behind her ear tenderly. Before Sara could stop herself, she was leaning in and pressing her lips against Nyssa's. She felt Nyssa kiss her back gently, savouring the taste of her lips after so long. Sara wrapped her arms around her waist, pulling the older girl to her.  

 After a moment, Sara pulled away again.  

 "You left me." She said sadly, looking up into Nyssa's dark eyes, reading the slight concern in them.  

 "I know. I wanted you to have a better life. A better life than me Sara. You are a good person, you deserve it."  

 Sara shook her head. "Maybe I was, but I'm not anymore. I've done bad things, you of all people should know that. I can't live in that city anymore. I can't be the person that I was."  

 Sara paused, biting her lip, "It's too painful Nyssa. I tried, but there's nothing left for me there."  

 Nyssa shook her head. "Sara, it's only been a few months."  

 "I know. But it's only gotten worse, my Mom found me. She's making me live with her and her stupid boyfriend. I don't belong there Nyssa. I don't belong anywhere.  

All I've done is hurt people and make a mess of things. I want to join the League. I want to belong. I want to do something that I'm good at."  

 Nyssa looked down at her, "And I want you to do something that makes you feel good. This life, it isn't easy Sara."  

 Sara was quiet for a moment.   

 "Do you remember when we first met?" Sara asked.  

 "Of course, like it was yesterday," Nyssa met her eyes.   

   

~  

   

ONE YEAR EARLIER 

  

Sara sat on the cold concrete of a dirty alley. She had nowhere to go, no one to turn to who could take away the hurt. 

 Gentle rain pooled in puddles around her, and her hoody soaked through. She rested her head on the damp backpack containing her few belongings.  

 The street light's seemed to dim and she looked up to see two large men towering over her. She jumped to her feet.  

 "What do you want?" she asked, trying to sound threatening. 

 "Well, what's a pretty young girl like yourself doing out here all alone?" the man closest to her asked. 

 "Just leave me alone." Sara had tried, she already felt defeated. She was lost, broken. 

 "Why don't you come with us and we'll give you a nice place to sleep?" the second man, with a bald head suggested. 

 Sara felt panic welling in her chest but pushed it down. She'd trained in more martial arts through her youth than she could count on two hands. 

She could take these guys. Or at least one of them. She tried to push the doubt away. 

 One of the men reached for her. She ducked out of the way, using the maneuverer to get closer to him, hitting him square in the chest and pushing him back a few feet. 

 The man seemed to swell with anger, whilst his bald companion let out a throaty laugh "This one's feisty." 

 "Just grab her!" the other man hissed. 

 Sara, still cornered, ducked away from another attempted grab. She managed to catch the man's jaw with an uppercut and he stumbled back.  

 She saw her opening, grabbing her backpack she sprinted for the open street. 

 She almost made it onto the street before the bald man caught her arm, wrenching her to the ground. She fell hard, pain searing through her barely healed right arm. 

The man stood over her. 

 "Well, looks like you didn't put up much of a fight after all." 

 Sara felt anger rise in her. In one swift motion she was back on her feet, a sweeping kick taking the bald man's feet from under him. He hit the ground with a grunt, but his companion was already there. He wrapped her arms in a bear hug, immobilising her. She was too small to fight them.  

 "Put me down!" She yelled.  

 "Stop her yelling!" the bald man said, pulling himself to his feet. 

 "Get off me!" Sara yelled again, struggling to free herself from the man's grip. 

 The man holding her, struggled to keep his grip as he pulled a gag from his back pocket. 

 Just before the man could stuff it into her mouth, a figure dropped from the rooftop.  

 "Let her go." It was a woman.  

 She stepped out of the shadows. She was wearing a hood. She had a bow and arrow across her back, but remained empty handed.  

 "What are you going to do about it, bitch?" the bald man spat. 

 "Let her go." The woman repeated.  

 The bald man seemed unsure now. "I suggest you get out of here and pretend you never saw any of this," he tried. 

 Sara barely saw her move. The man fell to the ground, and Sara saw the arrow poking out of his eye. He was dead. 

 That was all the encouragement the other man needed. He released Sara and turned to run. Sara heard him hit the ground and she knew he was dead too. 

 "Who are you?" Sara asked, carefully guarding her voice. 

 "It doesn't matter. Come with me, it's not safe here." 

 Sara turned to look at the two men, lying dead on the ground. "We can't just leave them there; someone will find them." 

 The woman remained unconcerned. "Follow me." 

 Sara, seeing no better option, followed the woman into the shadows. 

  

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 

  

 They were on the rooftop of a tall building. One of the tallest in Starling City. Sara stood next to the mysterious woman and admired the glow of the city beneath them. 

 After a moment the woman turned to her, "Why were you out there all alone?" she asked.  

 Sara hesitated. "I have nowhere to go." 

 The woman just nodded.  

 "I'm Nyssa."  

 Sara turned to face her. Her hood pulled back now she could see Nyssa's face. She was a pretty girl, not as old as Sara had initially thought. She was Asian with dark features and deep brown eyes which lured her in. 

 "I'm Sara." 

 "So, Sara, where'd you learn to fight?" Nyssa asked.  

 "I took a lot of martial arts classes growing up." Sara shrugged. "Not that it did me much good. Those men were too big, too strong. I couldn't fight them." 

 Nyssa studied her face for a moment. "No. But it's not because they're too big or too strong. Being small and light, quick and nimble is a far greater advantage than strength. Strength can easily be used against a man." 

 Nyssa paused. "You say you have nowhere to go?" 

 Sara shook her head, eyes on her feet. 

 Nyssa took her chin, forcing her to meet her eyes. "Then you will come with me, and I will teach you." 

  

~  

   

PRESENT DAY  

   

"You taught me everything I know Nyssa. You saved me. The League, saved me." Sara looked across the shadowy rooftop.   

 Nyssa shook her head, "We may have been working for the League Sara, but you don't understand yet. I am not the League. The League is harsh and cruel.   

The League did not save you; it was the purpose that saved you. But a purpose fuelled by anger is not a fulfilling purpose. I know you can do better Sara. That's why I left you in New York, Sara. That's why you have to go back."  

 Sara shook her head. "I can't Nyssa. I can't live a normal life. I can't pretend that everything is the same as it was before. Nothing feels important there."  

 Nyssa met her  eyes;  Sara had always been stubborn and Nyssa could see the defiance in her eyes now.  

 "Come with me then." Nyssa spoke softly.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 They hopped from the rooftop to rooftop, it felt just like they used to. Sara had never felt more alive, more free.  

 After nearly half an hour, they came to a stop across from a small apartment block. Perched on the rooftop opposite the building, they had a good view in the windows.   

Nyssa pointed to one of the windows, where a dim light shone from.   

 "There, lives a young girl, 4 years old, and her mother. She had a sister once, two years older, and a father, who loved her. But her father, and her sister,   

they saw something they shouldn't have. Two years ago, I killed them." Nyssa's face was hard.   

 "See those flowers on the window sill?"  

 Sara nodded.  

 "She sits outside every day and waters them, talks to them, as if her sister and father were still there. Something to remember them by.   

Many nights, her mother will sit out on the balcony and cry. The girl watches her from inside. This is the League, Sara. This, is what we leave behind in our mission."  

 Sara looked at her hands. "I know."  

 "Then you know why you have to go back."  

 Sara shook her head. "I can't."  

 Nyssa took Sara's hand gently in hers, then turned her face so their  eyes  were level.   

 "Sara, there is a difference between killing bad men, and killing innocent people. The League's mission is indifferent to innocence."  

 When Sara still didn't say anything, Nyssa continued.   

 "My offer still stands, when you are older, if you still feel the League is where you belong, it will be here."  

 "But what if I can't, Nyssa?" Sara asked quietly.   

 "What if you can't what?"  

 "What if I can't stop hurting people. Everyone around me gets hurt, they're innocent too, Nyssa."  

 Nyssa stood up.   

 "It's not your fault, Sara."  

 When Sara remained, crouched on the ground, Nyssa pulled her to her feet.   

 "Sara, I chose you, because I saw something in you. A fire which made you an unstoppable fighter, even before I trained you. I knew you could make it in the League. You were strong then, and you are stronger now. But I never wanted that life for you. Please, just try."  

 Finally, Sara pulled herself up, rose to meet Nyssa's eyes.   

 "Ok. I'll go back, and I'll try. But you have to promise me that when I'm done, you will accept my decision, whatever it may be."  

 Nyssa hesitated, but nodded. "I will keep my word."  

 Before Sara could turn to leave their perch on the edge of the building, something smacked her in the side of the head and the world went dark.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 When Sara came to, her hands and legs were bound tightly to a chair. The light was dim, but she could see Nyssa next to her, still unconscious.   

 Sara calmed her breathing and took in her surroundings. They appeared to be in some small, warehouse backroom. The room was empty aside from themselves, a heavy steel door guarding the only exit. There was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, flickering and panting to stay alight.  

 "Nyssa" Sara whispered.  

 She didn't stir. Sara swore internally. Not this shit again.  

 She tried to move her arms but they were bound to tightly to find any leverage. After struggling with the ties for a few moments, the steel door groaned and a silhouette appeared in the light. The figure stepped in and the door closed behind them.  

 Sara heard Nyssa begin to stir next to her.  

 "Who are you?" Sara asked.   

 "Don't you think I should be asking the questions given the circumstances?" a man's voice replied, with a Chinese accent.  

 "I think you should know the answers, and I probably have a lot more questions, given the circumstances." Sara responded bitterly.  

 The man stepped into the light, he had sharp facial features and a ponytail, the glimmer of a smile on his lips at her witty remark.  

 "Well, you are quite young to be getting yourself into this sort of trouble, aren't you?" the man continued.  

 Nyssa, finally opened her eyes and saw the man standing in front of Sara.  

 "Li Jun" Nyssa recognised the man.  

 "Well, you seem to know who I am, it seems unfair that I do not know who you are." Li Jun stepped toward Nyssa now.  

 Nyssa said nothing.   

 "You have been following me for some time. Very  evasive . This one however," he gestured to Sara, "she's new. However, I must thank her for providing just the distraction we needed to capture you two."  

 Sara clenched her jaw. Nyssa had to have known there was danger in coming to see her, but she'd done it anyway. She always hurt the people around her.  

Nyssa seemed to know what she was thinking.  

 "It's not your fault." she said.  

 Li Jun smiled, "She's just being nice. It is definitely your fault. Irregardless, you don't have to be hurt because of it. Just tell me who you are and why you're following me and we can avoid any more painful methods of  extracting  that information."  

 Sara smiled at him, "If you're going to torture us, I'd like to make a request."  

 Li Jun raised an eyebrow.  

 "Do your worst." Sara spat at him.   

 Li Jun's face soured. "I have offered you kindness, and you have insulted me. You will regret your words, girl."  

 With that, he turned and exited the room.  

 "That was stupid." Nyssa said, once the door had closed.   

 "It's fine, I can take it." Sara said.  

 "Why did you come to meet me when you knew it would make you vulnerable?" Sara continued after a moment, "I know you knew the risk."  

 Nyssa nodded slowly, "I miscalculated the risk. I didn't think they would take you."  

 Sara shook her head. "That doesn't matter, you were going to risk your life."  

 "No. No one's life is at risk but theirs." Nyssa's face was set with determination.  

 After a few moments of anticipation, the door creaked open again. This time, there was a large, bald Chinese man  with a  scar across the right side of his face.  

 He was wheeling a trolley.   

 He stopped just as he entered the pool of light. The dim light glinting of the shiny instruments on the trolley.   

 He considered both girls evenly. After a moment, he headed for Sara. He carefully released her from the chair, making sure to keep her hands and feet bound tightly together.   

He took her toward an upright strut in the middle of the room, pushing her roughly against it before quickly securing her to it. No chance to move. No chance to escape.  

 Sara couldn't see anything, but she heard him pick something up off the trolley. She could feel Nyssa's eyes boring into the man, even with her back turned.  

 "Who are you?" the man asked in Mandarin.  

 He was met with stony silence. Sara closed her eyes. She focused her energy, just the way Nyssa taught her, until she felt her body entering a dissociative state.  

 "Who are you?" he repeated.  

 Once again, silence.  

 This time, Sara felt pressure on her left arm and the slight warmth of blood trickling. She made no sound.  

 "Who are you?" the man repeated, for the third time.   

 Sara, now with her hands in front of her, the ropes tied hastily rather than securely, found a route of escape. She smiled.   

 With all her strength she pulled back, using the strut to hold the rope, as her hands slid free. The rope burned her wrists, and she felt her left wrist dislocate with the force, but come free. She swung her right hand around, catching the large man off guard with a powerful punch to the side, which she followed up with a high kick to the face, knocking him unconscious.   

 She felt pain come flooding in, unable to maintain her dissociative state. She grabbed the knife off the man's unconscious body and moved to free Nyssa.  

 "They'll be guarding the door. We don't have much time." Nyssa said, quickly making her way to the trolley, stashing several different weapons in her clothes.  

Sara took a couple of knives and they headed for the door.   

 Sara grabbed the cold steel handle, looking to Nyssa for confirmation. Nyssa nodded, Sara pulled the door open and Nyssa jumped out first. By the time Sara had stepped out two fully grown men where lying dead in the hallway.   

 "Come on, let’s go." Nyssa ran down the hallway, Sara hot on her heels.  

They made it to a stairwell, Nyssa, leading the way. There were two men at the top, obviously surprised to see them they shouted and grabbed for their weapons.  

They were too slow, Sara kicked one man’s gun out of his hand, following it up with a punch to the side. He gasped, winded and threw a sloppy punch which Sara easily dodged,  

even in her battered state. She followed up with an elbow to his temple, sending him toppling down the stairs, unconscious and nearly dead.   

 The other man lay unconscious, Nyssa over him.   

 Nyssa grabbed Sara's arm and pulled her toward the nearest door. They took out three more men before they found the exit, bursting onto a wide, empty street, somewhere in the dirty, industrial district of Beijing. They ran for a few minutes, taking cover in an alley way.   

 Nyssa pulled a wrap from her cloak, and quickly tied it around Sara's bleeding arm, where the scarred man had cut her.  

 "Get out of here Sara, go straight to the airport and take the next flight home. I will see you again." Nyssa stood to move in the direction they had come.   

 "Wait, you can't go back there, they'll kill you!" Sara grabbed Nyssa's arm.  

 "Li Jun is my target. He will scatter like the wind after this event. I have to take him out. I will be fine Sara. I promise. Calculated risks, remember?"   

 Sara took a deep breath and then nodded, "Okay."  

 And just like that, Nyssa was gone.   

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

It took Sara almost two days to make it back to the airport, with no money and no means of transport. The warehouse had been further out of the city than she'd realised.   

It must have taken them half a day to drive there. She was exhausted, and followed Nyssa's instructions,  pickpocketing  several people until she had enough money to book the next flight to New York, and after a five-hour nap in the boarding lounge, was on her way.  

 After arriving back in New York late Wednesday night, Sara headed straight to Zari's.  

 She knocked twice before the door opened. Zari was hugging her tightly before she even had a chance to say anything.  

 "Where the hell have you been Sara?" Zari released her from the uncharacteristic hug.  

Sara shrugged, "I couldn't take it. I had to get away for a while. But I'm back. I'm sorry I didn't tell you."  

 Zari pulled her inside and shut the door. "I was worried Sara, you just disappear at Ava's party and then you don't call or text, or show up to school for five days?  

What the hell!"  

 "I just went to visit... an old friend. I lost my phone. I'm really sorry, but I promise, I'm fine." Sara said.  

 Zari looked sceptical but accepted the answer. "Alright, well I was just going to make a snack, want some waffles?"  

 "Zari, it's nearly ten o'clock, why would anyone eat waffles now? Waffles are for breakfast."  

 Zari just shook her head, "Waffles are for any time, I'll show you."  

 So, Sara sat while Zari cooked them waffles and they sat and talked for a while. Sara was careful to keep her bruised and rope-burnt wrists hidden beneath her jacket sleeves along with the nasty cut across her arm. She would have to stitch that up when she got back to her Mom's later.  

 After a long chat, Zari and Sara finished their waffles and said goodnight. Sara trekked back to her mother's house and snuck quietly into her bedroom.   

She fished out her sewing kit and quietly fixed her wound. With her shirt off, looking in the mirror she looked at the maze of scars across her abdomen.  

There were more on her back. By now, she was quite proficient at stitching cuts, though Nyssa had done the majority on her back.   

 Sara laid back on her bed. This wasn't about making a better life. This was about survival. Surviving external damage was easy for her, it was one of the most effective methods of avoiding her internal damage. Sara no longer felt guilty. All she wanted, was to survive.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO   

  The  next day, Sara met Mick, Leo and Zari out the front of the school.  

 "Good to have you back Sara." Was all Leo said.  

 Mick grunted in agreeance.  

 Sara just smiled, "Good to be back."  

 The smooth sailing didn't last long however, Sara felt Ava's eyes on her the second she walked into Algebra. Her face was expressionless as Sara walked past her to take her seat at the back, steely blue eyes following her.   

 Sara, though almost always calm and collected, felt slightly nervous under the intensity of Ava's gaze.   

 At the end of class, Ava approached Sara.  

 "Where the hell have you been Lance? I tried calling you, you do realise our assignment is due tomorrow?" she asked.   

 Sara had completely forgotten about the stupid assignment. She almost smiled at the thought of Ava stressing about it all week in Sara's absence.  

 "It's fine Ava, we can finish it tonight." Sara replied casually.  

 Ava rolled her eyes, "It doesn't surprise me that you leave everything to the last minute - I thought you were done trying to infuriate me."  

 "Ava I -" Sara started, but Ava interrupted her.  

 "Just meet me at my place straight after soccer practice and we'll get this done." Ava turned on her heel and sauntered out of the room before Sara had a chance to respond.  

 Sara blew out a breath. "Guess it's back to square one with Ava" she murmured to herself.  

 OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 "Sara, where have you been? Were you sick or something? You haven't been at practice all week." Rip interrogated her as soon as she made her way out onto the field.   

 "Uh yeah, I was sick. I'm sorry, I thought you knew." Sara went along with his suggestion.  

 Rip nodded, "Okay, well it's a good thing you put in extra time anyway, I doubt you've lost much time over it."  

 Sara grinned, "Of course not, I can still outplay anyone in this city."   

 Rip rolled his eyes, "At least your confidence hasn't faltered."  

 Sara couldn't help but notice Ava's eyes on her. Ava was probably suspicious; especially given how they'd left things after the party on Friday night.  

Sara just smirked when she caught Ava's glance. She knew Ava couldn't even begin to imagine the real reason for her sudden absence.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

AVA'S POV  

   

Ava hadn't been too worried when Sara skipped school on Monday, however by Wednesday, with no sign of her, she started to worry. Especially considering the  bruise on  her face from the previous week and what Sara had mentioned on Friday night about not being able to go home. What if something had happened?  

 However, all of that melted away when she saw Sara stroll into Algebra on Thursday. Despite having ignored all her calls and texts about the assignment, Sara seemed completely casual, as if nothing had happened.   

 Of course. Sara Lance back to her usual self when Ava couldn't immediately accept her apology. Ava was done trying to make allowances for this girl. She'd done all she could, given her more excuses than she'd deserved. Now she just wanted to finish this assignment and forget about Sara Lance.   

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

Ava heard Sara's conversation with Rip at training. He didn't even care that she'd skipped three days of practice, he just believed she was sick?  

Ava felt annoyance rising in her chest. Well, maybe Rip would let her slackness slide, but she was not so forgiving,  especially  considering how cocky the girl was.  

   

She watched Sara carefully during their practice game, trying to pick up on any weakness she could exploit. But Sara was strong and fit and fast. Honestly, it took all of Ava's concentration to keep the ball out of her net, let alone trying to make Sara's soccer skills look inadequate.   

 "Hey Rip, do you think I could have a run on the field today? I'd like to work more on my defensive skills." Ava asked her coach during half time.   

 Rip glanced around the team, "Of course Ava, Maddy, why don't you practice some goal keeping then?"  

 Now she could take on Sara Lance, head on. Ava readied herself when their striker lost the ball and it came back down the field toward her. Sara received a nice kick and headed straight for the goal. She manoeuvred the ball around the other two defenders with ease before she came face to face with Ava.   

 Sara just smirked and Ava felt a hard determination set in her jaw. She sprinted toward Sara, lining up her angle then came crashing in with an almost clean slide tackle.   

Her leg flicked up just a little  too  much as she kicked the ball away from Sara's feet and the shorter blonde came crashing down on top of her with a hiss of pain as she broke the fall with her hands.  

 Sara was back on her feet in a second. "What the hell Sharpe? You tripped me!" she said angrily to Ava.  

 "I didn't that was a clean tackle, you're just clumsy." Ava responded as she picked herself up off the ground.  

 "Clumsy?!" Sara exclaimed, "You just wanted to see me fall, didn't you? Is that why you asked to go in defence?"  

 Ava rolled her eyes, even though it was slightly true she shrugged it off. "Not everything is about you, Lance. I just wanted to practice."  

 Ava looked into Sara's electric blue eyes, burning with anger.   

 "Well maybe you should apologise anyway." Sara challenged; arms crossed over her chest.  

 "Apologise? Take a hike." Ava replied bitterly, turning to walk away.  

 "You're the Captain, and you're just going to go around and trip your team mates, nothing to say about it?"   

 "I'm the Captain, like you said, so maybe you should settle down. I did nothing wrong."  

 By now a few other girls had gathered around, but so far none dared to interrupt them.   

 "Well if that's what you think, maybe you shouldn't be the Captain" Sara narrowed her eyes at Ava.   

 Ava was confident enough that she was usually able to shrug off comments like that. But coming from a player as developed - and infuriating - as Sara Lance, it felt a little too much like a threat.  

Before Ava knew  what  she was doing, she turned around and shoved Sara square in the chest, forcing her back a few steps. Sara looked up, surprised, after she regained her balance. She saw anger, then amusement flicker through Sara's face. Sara came at her with surprising force for a small person. She shoved Ava right back, with twice the force, and Ava lost her balance, falling to the ground.   

 Ava felt  embarrassment  and rage flare up in her chest like fireworks exploding and she launched herself at Sara.  

 Before she could touch her, Amaya jumped in and grabbed her. "Settle down you two!" Amaya raised her voice, keeping the two of them apart.   

 Rip, who had made his way over glanced at his wrist watch. "Alright, I think that's enough for today, you guys can have an early mark."  

 The rest of the girls hesitated a moment, then headed off the field.   

 "You two," Rip said looking between Sara and Ava, "Need to learn how to co-exist. You don't have to be friends, but I can't have any more of this behaviour."  

 Sara didn't look one bit guilty, she just shrugged and headed off after the other girls.   

 Ava felt guilt wash over her like a tidal wave, head hanging down. "I'm sorry Rip. That was all my fault. I let her get under my skin and I shouldn't have. It won't happen again."  

Chapter Text

SARA'S POV  

   

Sara kept her word despite the fight between her and Ava at practice. She found herself at Ava's door just before 8pm. Sara clenched her jaw and let out a shaky breath, trying to calm the butterflies in her stomach. She tried to convince herself there was no reason to be nervous, it's not like things were exactly smooth between them before their little spat anyway. They just had to finish this stupid assignment and that would be that.  

One more night, Sara told herself.   

 Sara knocked gently on the door and held her breath while she waited.  

 She was surprised when an older lady, resembling Ava, in a pant suit opened the door.  

 "Hello, can I help you?" the woman asked with a small smile.  

 "Oh uh, hi. I'm Sara, I'm just here to finish a school assignment with Ava." Sara replied, after regaining her composure. She'd almost forgotten Ava even had parents.  

 "Oh, of course, Ava mentioned that. I forgot all about it. Please, come in. Ava's in her room, you head right up," Ava's Mom moved aside to let her in.  

 Sara looked unsure as she slid through the doorway. She realised she'd never even been to Ava's room. They always worked at the dining table. Perhaps by Ava's design.  

 Seeing Sara's hesitation Ava's Mom said, with another small smile, "Just down the hall and to the left."  

 Sara chewed her lip nervously but returned the smile and headed toward Ava's room.   

 Sara knocked gently on the door. She heard movement and a moment later the door creaked open.   

Ava's blue eyes peered through the crack, before opening it fully when she realised it was Sara, evidently a little surprised.  

 "Oh, Sara..." she started, "Come in I guess."  

 Ava moved aside and Sara stepped cautiously in. She took a moment to glance around the room. It was immaculately clean and tidy - not that she would have expected anything less from Ava Sharpe. There were a few photos around the room, a big bookshelf taking up an entire wall and several binders stacked on Ava's desk.  

 Sara stood, uncertainly in the middle of the room, tugging the sleeves of her jacket subconsciously over her hands.  

   

AVA'S POV  

   

 Ava closed the door and replaced herself in her desk chair. She momentarily mused at how out of place and uncomfortable Sara looked in her neatly organised room.  

 "I didn't think you were going to come." Ava said, "After practice that is."  

 "Wouldn't want to ruin your perfect GPA" Sara joked. Ava clenched her jaw and Sara nodded slowly, "Yeah, I'm sorry I pushed you over."  

 Ava looked up, unable to meet Sara's downcast eyes, "I'm sorry for the way I acted too Sara. We need to put our personal feelings aside now though and get on with our work."  

 Sara nodded and perched on the edge of Ava's bed, pulling her backpack into her lap. She retrieved a note book and handed it to Ava.  

 "I've finished all my equations, we just need to compare notes and then put it all together."  

 Ava took the book and flicked through Sara's work. She was surprised to find it completed, and quite well. She made a few minor adjustments, added some comments and then handed it back to Sara. Ava couldn't help but notice how cold Sara's hands felt as she brushed them with her finger tips.  

 "That's pretty good, I think we're ready to format it all now."  

 Sara just nodded.   

 As they worked, time getting later, Ava couldn't help but feel the stress and anxiety building up in her. This was THE NIGHT BEFORE. Ava Sharpe never finished assignments the night before. The night before was for last minute revisions, making sure it was absolutely perfect, not just finishing it off in the nick of time.  

 Sara had obviously had the work done for some time, given she couldn't remember the details of most of her own work.  

 "I don't even remember what I was thinking when I wrote that note," Sara frowned at the last equation in her notebook.  

 Ava couldn't help the slight flutter in her chest at the way Sara's eyebrows dipped in a mixture of concentration and frustration. That feeling only made everything worse.  

And Ava snapped.  

 "Are you joking Lance? How long have you had this done for? You just wanted to leave it right until the last minute to piss me off?" Ava asked angrily.  

 Sara looked up from where she was laying on Ava's bed, revising her notes. "No Ava, I didn't do it on purpose," Sara frowned at her now.  

 "Oh really? If you were 'sick' like you told Rip, then why couldn't you have answered one of my calls or texts about the assignment?" Ava continued.  

 "I lost my phone, okay?" Sara sat up now.  

 Ava felt frustration swell up in her stomach like a sickness, "That just sounds like a lame excuse. Just admit it, you wanted to get me all riled up so you could laugh about it to yourself. Why else would you wait until the very last day to just show up like nothing happened?"  

   

"Does it even matter Ava? We're going to finish it now and you'll have your perfect GPA, because that's all you care about, right?" Sara clenched her jaw now, her eyes bright as if they were penetrating Ava's skin.  

 Ava felt her skin getting hot.   

 "That's not all I care about Lance. Anyway, I think I've got everything I need. I'll finish up the details and hand the assignment in tomorrow for the both of us, seeing as I can't even trust you to show up. You're free to go, I know how much you hate school work."  

 Sara opened her mouth as if to say something, but thought the better of it. Sara set her jaw, gathered her things and headed for the door without saying a word.  

 Her items gathered messily in her arms, caused Sara's jacket to ride slightly up her arm as she opened the door and Ava almost gasped as she caught sight of the raw, red wound around Sara's right wrist.   

 She almost said something, but the door closed firmly, Sara gone, before she could think of anything.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

SARA'S POV  

   

 Sara knew that what Ava had said wasn't unreasonable. Given how Sara had acted toward her in the past, it was no surprise Ava was suspicious and frustrated about the way Sara had disappeared right before their stupid assignment was due.   

 Sara huffed out a cold breath, as she made her way through the bustling city. She had gotten out of there as quickly as possible; she couldn't deal with Ava. Not when all she could think about was how she deserved it. And Nyssa.   

 She couldn't stop worrying about Nyssa.   

 Sara headed home. She had no idea what she'd tell her Mom, or even worse, John.  

 Surprisingly, John was nowhere to be seen when she made her way through the peeling front door, wincing as it squeaked loudly.  

 "John? Is that you?" her mother's voice came from the kitchen.  

 "No Mom, it's me," Sara called back, heading for her shoebox sized room.  

 "Oh, hi honey!" Her Mom stuck her head out from the kitchen doorway, smiling. "I haven't seen you in a while, where have you been the last few days?"  

 "I just got home late the last few days, and I stayed at my friend Zari's house on the weekend. I'm sorry I forgot to tell you, a bit out of practice and all." Sara responded bitterly.  

 Her Mom took it and continued, "Okay, well I'm making some  omelettes  before I go to work if you want anything to eat?"   

 Sara barely paused, "No thanks." She didn't even feel guilty about the slight look of disappointment on her mother's face.  

 "Okay, well, have a good night then, I guess I'll see you tomorrow." Her Mom called after her as Sara disappeared into her room, followed by a firm bang of the door shutting.  

 A moment later, a soft knock on the door brought Sara to her feet. She opened the door to her Mom.  

 "Here, I forgot to tell you, this came in the mail today." She pressed a small parcel into Sara's hands.  

 "Thanks," Sara replied slowly, then closed the door so she could investigate the item in privacy.  

 Sara sat it on her bed and ripped the brown paper apart. It was a small wooden box. There was a note taped to the underside. It was in code. Nyssa.  

 'When you are ready, this will guide your way.'  

 Sara lifted the fragile lid off the box. Inside was a ring. It was made up of several thin strands of metal, interwining like a serpent. There was an inscription on the inside.  

Chinese, but the letters were so small Sara couldn't make them out. Nyssa was okay. Sara let out a breath she hadn't realised she was holding, a small smile making her lips curve upward.  

She had loved Nyssa once, and she still cared about her deeply. She was glad to know she'd made it out.  

 Sara hid the box carefully under her bed and for once, drifted off to sleep with relative ease.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

AVA'S POV  

   

Ava couldn't help but let her mind wander, worry eating away at it. What if Sara had been in trouble?   

What if she hadn't skipped school just because she could. To frustrate Ava after she hadn't been able to accept her apology.   

Ava lay awake well into the night, different possibilities and anxieties pushing sleep out of reach. Why should she even care? It was obvious Sara didn't care about her, she reasoned. She wanted to forget about it. It was Sara's problem, none of her business. But she couldn't just forget.  

 Amaya and Lily were right. Ava sucked at letting things go.  

 Ava resolved to ask Sara about it the following day and was eventually able to fall asleep.  

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

The next day, Ava waited until they'd finished goalie practice, the other girls were gone and it was just her and Sara heading to the locker rooms to grab their gear. Ava had felt her heart thumping in her chest on her way to school that day.  

She'd just assumed Sara was skipping school or something because she didn't care. What if she'd been in trouble and she hadn't even cared enough to ask? She'd just assumed.  

 Ava reasoned with herself, that they were hardly friends, despite the intensity of some of their encounters. Ava wished she could let it go, but not only was that against her personality, she felt drawn to Sara in a way she couldn't explain.  

She didn't want to care, but she did.   

 She blew out a deep breath as she entered the locker room, after a tense training session. Sara shoved things in her  locker unceremoniously . Ava approached Sara and paused, just behind her, unsure of how to begin.   

 Sara seemed to sense her standing there and whirled around to face her.   

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 SARA'S POV  

 

 Sara felt someone standing behind her, as she threw her gear into her locker. She turned around to see Ava hovering there.  

 "What do you want Sharpe?" Sara sighed.  

 "I -" Ava started, trailing off.   

 Sara noticed Ava's eyes dip to her wrist. She narrowed her eyes at Ava.  

 Before Sara could stop her, Ava had reached out and grabbed Sara's right wrist, pulling the sleeve back to expose the raw wound of her rope burn.  

 "What happened Sara?" Ava asked her, for not the first time.  

 Sara quickly snatched her wrist back. "It's nothing, alright Ava?"  

 Ava shook her head, "How can you say that Sara? I can clearly see that it’s not nothing."  

 "I don't know what you think you see Ava, but it's not for you to worry about." Sara continued shoving her soccer gear into a sport's bag.  

 "What I think I see is  a rope  burn." Ava stated.  

 Sara paused what she was doing and turned back to meet Ava's steady, almost challenging eyes. She could see the thoughts, deep in Ava's mind.  

 "Just leave me alone, alright Ava? We're not friends, so you don't have to worry."  

 "I'm your captain, Sara. If you're on my team, I'm going to look out for you." Ava's voice was firm.  

 Sara rolled her eyes, zipping her bag up and slinging it over her shoulder. She could see Ava contemplating something.  

She wasn't keen for further  interrogation  and moved to brush past Ava. Before she could, Ava's hand darted out and caught her wrist again.  

This time her left wrist, in a firm grip.   

 Sara, surprised by the movement, hissed in pain.   

 Ava immediately loosened her grip, but didn't let go. Sara wasn't sure why, but she let Ava pull her sleeve back and examine her swollen wrist.  

Having had to dislocate it to escape, her left wrist was far worse  off  than her right.  

 "Did you... sprain your wrist?" Ava asked slowly. Sara picked up a slightly distressed expression crossed Ava's face.  

 "This wasn't from me tripping you yesterday, was it?" Ava's eyes widened and looked up to meet Sara's.  

Sara took the momentary distraction to pull her wrist free, again.  

 She laughed lightly with a hard expression. "No, Ava. It wasn't from you tripping me, though that certainly didn't help. And I dislocated it actually."  

 Ava just stared at her.  

 "How?" she said after a second.  

 Sara sighed, surely Ava knew she wasn't going to answer that.  

 "Just, don't worry about me anymore okay Sharpe? I can take care of myself."  

 And then Sara pushed past Ava and out of the locker room before she could stop her.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

Sara knocked on the heavy wooden door to Zari's apartment. A moment later it opened and Zari popped her head out.  

 "Oh, hey Sara," Zari opened the door wider so that Sara could come in.   

 Sara realised there were two people sitting at Zari's table.   

 "This is Ray and Nate; we're working on a history assignment together. You're welcome to stay for a while though, we're just about to call it a night anyway."  

 Ray looked over, "Oh, hey Sara!" he smiled at her, "It's good to see you again."  

 "You guys know each other?" Zari asked.  

 Sara smiled tensely, hoping he wouldn't elaborate on the details of their last meeting.  

 "Yeah, Sara and I met at  school,  a few weeks ago." Ray smiled, clearly not going to say anything further.  

 Sara felt relieved, and she smiled back, genuinely this time.   

 "So, what are you guys working on?" Sara asked casually, sitting down next to Ray.  

 "We're doing a cool assignment on communist theory using case studies like Cuba and Russia," the goofy haired guy called Nate chirped up enthusiastically.  

 "It's actually really interesting" Ray added.  

 Sara saw Zari roll her eyes in her peripheral vision. She smiled to herself.  

 " Of course  you do, I remember you're big nerd Ray Palmer." Sara chuckled.  

 Ray grinned, "Yep. But Nate here is even worse than me when it comes to history."  

 "He gets so excited about it, it's nauseating." Zari piped in.  

 Sara and Zari's phones buzzed simultaneously, interrupting the conversation. Sara glanced down at the message.  

 'Going to grab some burgers if you guys want to join’ from Leo.  

 Sara looked up at Zari, then to the two guys.  

 "Hungry?" Zari asked.  

 Nate nodded enthusiastically, "I'm starving."  

 "Leo and Mick invited us for some dinner, you guys should come" Zari looked at Ray now.  

 "Well I'm definitely in" Nate grinned.  

 Ray stood up, "I'd love to but I've actually got to head home. Some other time definitely though."  

 "Your loss," Nate shrugged.  

 Sara stood as well, "Yeah, I should head home too. Which way are you going?" she asked Ray.  

 "I was going to catch the subway," he said, gathering his books.  

 "Me too, walk with me?" Sara asked.  

 Ray smiled, "Of course."  

 OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

" So,  Sara, how have you been since our last meeting?" Ray asked genuinely, as they stepped into the fresh night air.  

 "I'm okay, how about you?" Sara asked.  

 "I've been great, school's great, I made a new friend - Zari is awesome." he paused, "But honestly, how are you?"  

 If it was anyone else, she would have been annoyed. But she knew Ray had the purest intentions and she couldn't help but feel compelled to open up to him.  

 "Well, I haven't had any panic attacks recently. I've been keeping busy, distracted, it helps a lot."   

 Ray nodded, "I get it."  

 "But in saying that, it's only a matter of time before something goes wrong. Before something triggers me and next thing, I can't breathe, can't move or speak."  

 "Panic attacks are scary," he admitted, "I had one once, back when I used to get bullied. It was terrifying, so I get it. Sara, I know you don't like to share your  feelings and  that we've really only just met. But I want you to know I'm always here if you want to talk."  

 Sara met Ray's earnest brown eyes and smiled. "I know. Thanks Ray. You really are the most genuine and kind person I think I've ever met."  

 Ray grinned, "Thanks. I think you and Nate will get along great then too, he's one of the nicest people I've ever met."  

 Sara bumped Ray's shoulder, "You guys should hang out with us more. You'd be good for Mick and Leo."  

 "We're not exactly from the same groups. Nate and I are definitely considered nerds. Those guys are jocks."  

 "So what?" Sara asked, "You're equally as cool," she informed him.  

 They arrived at the subway; Sara turned to face Ray.   

 "I'll show you. You guys will get along great, give me your phone number and we'll hang out some time. Or at least at school."  

 Ray looked unsure but pulled out his phone, "Okay, if you say so. I'm willing to give anyone a fair shot a friendship."  

 Sara grinned, entering her number on his phone, "I know you are, Ray."  

Chapter Text

"So, are you excited for the big first game tonight Sara?" Nate asked, at lunch on Thursday.  

 Nate and Ray had become the newest editions to their group since last Friday.  

 Sara looked up from her pizza, "Yeah, I think it'll be an easy win. More like a warm-up." she smirked.  

 Leo tutted, "Over-confidence can be dangerous."  

 Zari rolled her eyes, "It's Sara, have you met her? Besides, if anyone deserves to be cocky it's her."  

 "Yeah, I've seen her at training, she's the best by far!" Ray added.  

 Mick just grunted.   

 "So, you guys are going to watch the game then?" Sara asked.  

 "Of course! We wouldn't miss it for the world." Nate said, his mouth full of food.   

 A chorus of agreeance followed from the members of the group.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

Sara played exceptionally well, they beat the opposition 5-0, Sara scoring 3 of their goals.  

She was faster and more agile than any of the other players on the field. Easily dribbling the ball around the opposing school's defenders.  

The crowd was  ecstatic , given it was the first game of the season there was a good turn out too.  

 At the end of the game, they stood in a group in the centre of the field, the whole team buzzing from the victory.  

 "You were great Sara," Rip smiled at her as he approached, before addressing the whole team about how well they had played.  

 "Keep it going like that all season and we'll be in the Championship game for sure!" he told them.  

 Sara noticed a small smile on Ava's face, she'd congratulated everyone as well, but for the most part stay quiet.  

 Sara couldn't help but watch Ava. She couldn't help the slight fluttering in her stomach at the relaxed, happy smile Ava wore.  

The way the lights of the soccer field twinkled in her eyes, and highlighted her high cheek bones. Sara cleared her throat and looked away.   

 Once the team had finished celebrating, and began to disperse, Sara spotted her friends making their way out onto the field.  

 Zari ran at her and jumped on her. "Lance, you killed them!" she yelled excitedly.  

 Sara almost flinched at her choice of words, but swallowed it down and tried to focus on her friends.  

 They congratulated her, even Mick smiled and told her she was better than any of the players on the other team by a mile.  

 "Thanks guys. I'm really glad you all came." Sara smiled shyly.  

 Ray picked her up in a big bear hug, as he emerged from the back of the group.   

 "Sara, you're amazing. We'll be at all of your games." He told her, placing her back on the ground.  

 Sara couldn't help but grin, "Thanks Ray."  

 "So, what do you all say we head out for some pizza to celebrate?" Leo drawled.  

 "Hell yes." Nate and Zari said simultaneously, before looking at each other.  

 "Definitely, we have to celebrate Sara's big win!" Ray beamed.  

 "Oh, uh, yeah, sounds good. You guys go ahead, I better go get changed first, I'm too sweaty to walk into a pizza place like this."  

 Zari looked at her, "Definitely, we'll order for you. Don't be too long though."  

 OOOOOOOOOOO  

   

AVA'S POV  

   

Ava wasn't surprised that Sara Lance dominated the field. The opposition's goalie was fighting for her life, but even Ava could barely stop Sara so she had no chance. The game went exceptionally well, and as captain, Ava was extremely proud of her team.  

 When the game was over, she congratulated everyone, but was so pleased with their effort, she didn't have much else to say.  

 She noticed Sara standing in a big group of friends, all congratulating her. She saw Ray Palmer pick her up in a hug. She pushed down the sudden flash of heat through her body, and saw Lily running toward her and Amaya.  

 "Captain Sharpe, what a fine team you've got yourself! That was some nice goalie work too." Lily grinned and turned to Amaya,  

"Great work Amaya. You guys deserve that win. I expect to be seeing you at the finals!"  

 Amaya laughed, "To be fair, Sara Lance really led the charge. But yeah, Ava's a great Captain, she's really got the team in ship shape."  

 Ava pulled herself out of her thoughts, trying not to stare at Sara, the way her body seemed to shine with sweat under the lights.  

 "WE got the team in ship shape" Ava corrected, "You're a captain too."  

 Amaya smiled and pushed her shoulder, "Come on, let’s go get changed, we'll meet you at the normal pizza place Lily?"  

 "Sure, I'll get us some good seats, but don't be too long, I don't want to me a loner!" Lily warned them.  

 Ava laughed, "Right."  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 Amaya got changed quickly, as Ava did the rounds, trying to talk to all of her teammates about the game.   

 "Come on Ava, Lily is going to kill us!" Amaya tried.  

 "You go ahead then, I'll catch up. I won't be long." Ava suggested.  

 Amaya nodded, "Okay then, I'll see you soon."  

 Ava chatted with all of her teammates, but as she finished with the last few girls in the locker room, she realised Sara Lance was nowhere to be found.  

 She frowned. She shouldn't be  surprised;  disappearing was sort of Sara's specialty. She shrugged it off and headed out of the locker room, toward the carpark behind the field.  

 Almost everyone was gone and the parking lot was lowly lit, but empty.  

 Then she noticed three figures standing behind the bleachers. Two large men looming over a smaller figure. She squinted to try and make out who they were. Then she saw Sara's blonde hair. Ava made a beeline for her.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

SARA'S POV  

   

 Sara got changed quickly before anyone came into the locker room. Still conscious of the scars criss-crossing her arms, littering her back and stomach. Not to mention the newest addition, the cut on her left arm and the rope burn.   

 She was out of there before anyone came in. She was headed across the carpark, behind the bleachers toward the pizza place when two figures stepped out of the shadows.  

 She recognised the larger man immediately. He was big, Chinese and had a scar across his face.  

 "Oh shit" she swore under her breath.  

 The second man, also Chinese, with an angular - rat like face, grabbed her arm tightly. Sara clenched her jaw, looking around. People were emptying out of the carpark, she didn't want to make a scene.   

 "Hello, Sara Lance." The scarred man said.  

 "I thought I saw the last of you when I left you unconscious on the floor." Sara spat at him, "What do you want from me? And how do you know my name?"  

 The man shook his head. "Your friend caused us quite a lot of trouble after you left."  

 "It's a shame she didn't kill you." Sara narrowed her eyes.  

 The man chuckled, "No, not me. But she did kill my boss - as I'm sure you knew already. The thing is, he was working for some powerful people and they are not at all pleased.  

Now, if you tell me who your friend is and where we can find her, we won't have a problem here."  

 "Big words coming for the man who couldn't even take me when I was tied up."  

 The man shrugged, "I will not underestimate you again, don't worry. Now, are you going to tell me what I want to know, or should we take this somewhere.... more private?"  

 The parking lot was mostly empty now. The rat faced man had a strong grip of her arm.   

 "I'm not telling you anything. Now, are you going to let me go? Or are things going to get messy?" Sara suggested, her voice cold and firm.  

 A voice cut off the man's next words. "Sara? What are you doing?"  

 Fuck.  

 Sara turned around to see Ava walking towards them. "Goddamn, not right now Ava." Sara muttered under her breath.  

 The big man raised his eyebrows.  

 "Get out of here Ava." Sara hissed at her.  

 Ava stopped, her face clouded with doubt, but she made no move to leave.  

 "What's going on Sara?"  

 The big man cut in now, "Ava, huh?" he looked her up and down, like he was sizing her up.  

 "Well, this does make things more interesting." he smiled, "Now, I know, Ms. Lance, that you won't talk. But with her? We might have a chance." He grinned.  

 The rat-faced man was by Ava's side in a second, grabbing her arms and wrenching them behind her back to hold her.   

 "What the hell? Sara, what's going on?" Ava's voice betrayed her fear. Sara felt a pang in her chest, followed by a steady burning anger rising up.  

 The scared man looked at Sara evenly, not bothering to hold her.  

First mistake.  

 "Now, would you like to reconsider your decision?" he asked in his thick Chinese accent, a smirk on his face.  

 "Actually, I would." Sara said.   

 Sara moved fast, a kick to his knee first, received with a loud crunch. The man's face flared with rage as he stumbled back.  

 "Wrong answer." he growled, then he swung his big fist toward her.  

 He was faster than Sara had expected, but she dodged under it - just.  

 She broke through his weak defence and littered his ribs with punches and elbows, before he managed to catch her cheek with a clumsy fist.  

 She stumbled back slightly and he followed through with a kick to the chest, sending Sara sprawling across the ground. But Sara rolled and was back on her feet in a split second.  

 She waited for the man to advance, so she could use his weight against him. Patience and timing were everything. He charged at her, thinking her weaker now.  

 She waited until the last moment, side stepped the fist and swept his feet out from under him with a sweeping kick. He came crashing heavily to the ground, his head smacking into the pavement.  

 Sara followed through, crunching her boot down on his elbow, breaking his arm. He cried out in pain and tried in vain to pull himself off the ground.  

 The rat-faced man had let go of Ava now, pushing her to the ground as he ran at Sara.  

 Sara kicked the scarred man in the head with her boot clad feet, and he went down. He wouldn't be getting back up.  

 The finish took her precious time though. The other man came crashing into her, sending them both to the ground. Sara felt the skin on her elbows tear against the road.  

 She blocked it out and used her knee to get the man off her slightly, before sending an elbow across his face. It connected with his nose and he cried out. Broken.  

 Before he could use his position on top of her to knock her out, she mustered all her strength and pushed him off. Throwing another elbow at his head as she did.  

 It connected with his temple and his eyes rolled back in his head. Unconscious. Probably.  

 Sara stood up, regaining her bearings as quickly as she could. Ava was just standing there gaping at her. Sara almost laughed. That must have been quite the shock for her.  

 She stepped over the man's unconscious form toward Ava.  

 "Come on," she said, taking her hand gently. "We can't stay here."  

 Sara's body, fizzing with adrenaline only amplified everything. But all she could feel was Ava's hand in hers, sending tingles across her skin and radiating warmth through her chest.  

That was a new feeling. But something for later.  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 Sara pulled Ava after her for a few blocks before pulling her into a quiet alley way to catch their breath.  

 Sara pulled out her new phone, which was now smashed, and sent her friends an apology message, that she wouldn't be able to make it for pizza.  

 "Sara..." Ava started, trailing off.   

 She looked shocked, eyes wide and face slightly pale.  

 "Ava,  sh , it's okay, alright. I will handle this. You can't go home tonight though. They'll be watching you house, and I need a little more time. Is there somewhere else you could stay?"  

 Ava just looked at her. "What the hell Sara?" she seemed to find her voice and regained her bite, ignoring her question.  

 "What the hell was that about? What is going on?" Ava asked, her voice terse and rushed.  

 "Look, it's complicated alright? I know that this is all extremely confusing to you, but next time, when I tell you to leave - please listen to me."  

 Ava glared at her. Sara felt a sharp sting across her face and she gaped. Ava slapped her!  

 "What the hell Sharpe?" Sara put her hand to her face.  

 "I'm not a baby Sara, stop treating me like one. You tell me I can't go home; I can't know why or what the hell just happened? I know I didn't handle that very well, but I was just surprised alright? I'm not a kid, I want an explanation. I want to know why Chinese men are trying to fucking kidnap you or worse."  

 Sara sighed and shook her head.  

 "Ava, I don't know what to tell you."  

 "For fucks sake Sara, how about the truth?" Ava's eyes were hard, trying to force Sara's to meet her.   

Sara kept her eyes downcast, unable to meet Ava's. She didn't want to drag her into this. She didn't want people to know about her. But some part of her wanted to tell Ava.   

And despite everything, all Sara could think about was how close Ava was standing. How she could almost feel the heat radiating off her body. How if she reached out, she could intertwine their fingers, pull her close - Sara swore under her breath and pushed the thoughts down.  

 Sara looked up to meet Ava's eyes. She could see the thoughts there. Always thinking.   

 "Ava stop thinking, alright?" Sara sighed again.  

 Ava met her eyes suddenly; Sara couldn't help but widen her eyes at the intensity of Ava's gaze.  

 "That's why you weren't at school? Wasn't it? The rope burns on your wrists, it all makes sense now."   

 Sara blew out a breath. "Yes." she said quietly.   

 "Why didn't you tell anyone?" Ava asked.  

 Sara just laughed, "Like you? Tell you 'oh sorry Ava, I couldn't make it to school all this week or answer my phone because I got kidnapped and held hostage?"  

 Ava said nothing for a second.  

 "What do they want with you?" she asked after a moment.  

 Sara looked up, meeting her eyes. "Come with me, you can stay at my house and we'll talk there. It's not safe here."  

 Ava looked unsure but nodded slowly.   

 "Won't they know where you live if they know where I live?" Ava asked, as she followed Sara toward the subway.  

 Sara shook her head. "They're good at hacking, but my current address is still the group home, my Mom's is safe."  

 She felt Ava do a double take beside her.  

 "Wait what?"  

 Sara glanced at her, but kept walking at a fast pace.  

 "Oh right. I didn't tell you any of that either." Sara shook her head. She had an overwhelming urge to reach out and grab Ava's hand.  

 She resisted.   

 "Look, I'll explain when we get to my house, okay?"  

 Sara glanced at her phone; it was almost 10 o'clock.  

 "Come on, we're going to have to run, the curfew is at 10."  

 OOOOOOOOOOOOO  

 Sara felt nerves welling up in her as she approached the front door of the shabby house. She could hear the television in the front room which probably meant John was home.  

 She tried to ignore Ava's curious glances, looking down the dirty street, at the sagging, unkept houses of the south side.  

 To her credit though, she didn't comment. She could tell Ava had been surprised when they got off here.  

 She just hoped John was asleep. She opened the door quietly; it was just after 10.  

 She gestured for Ava to come in, closing the door gently and leading her quietly through the dark house. John was passed out on the couch. It smelled like cigarettes and alcohol, even from the front door.   

 She saw Ava notice the man passed out on the couch, her eyebrows raised questioningly, slight concern written across her face but Sara just grabbed her hand, secretly enjoying the contact, and her led her toward her room.  

 She led Ava into her room, and shut the door switching the light on to reveal Sara's tiny hideout.  

 "Ok, we should be fine now. I doubt that John will wake up now." Sara said, moving to sit on her single bed.  

 Ava stood awkwardly by the door, in the tiny amount of floor space Sara's room offered.  

 "That's John?" Ava asked slowly, as if she was trying to piece together a puzzle. Sara supposed she was a bit of a puzzle to Ava.  

 "Yeah. My Mom's boyfriend. What a loser." Sara said, she patted the bed next to her, for Ava to sit down.  

 Ava nodded, "He's an alcoholic," she observed.  

 "What clued you in?" Sara joked.   

 Ava ignored it and continued, "So, group home?"  

 Sara sighed, and leaned back against the headboard, Ava sitting slightly uncomfortably toward the end of the bed.  

 "Yeah. It's kind of complicated, but I was living in a group home. I kind of hated my Mom, so when my Dad and Laurel died-" Sara squeezed her eyes shut and tried to push the emotions down, "I ran away, I managed to get into a group home, I thought my Mom wouldn't come looking for me anyway. But a few weeks ago, she found me. I got kicked out of the group home and now I have to live here, with her. That's why I stay at Zari's a lot."  

 Ava remained quiet, but kept her eyes on Sara, firm and steady. Sara wouldn't have admitted it to her, but she thought Ava's eyes were beautiful, they centred her. She felt a tingle in her chest at the thought and shook her head.   

 "Anyway, you can have the bed, I'll uh, sleep on the floor." Sara looked dubiously at the square metre of space on the floor.  

 Ava, obviously still processing everything, just raised an eyebrow at her. "Sara, there's literally no space. How do you even live here?"  

 Sara shrugged, "I've lived in worse."  

 She could see pity in Ava's eyes now, and the warmth in her chest evaporated. And she felt lungs constrict. The nurse, in the hospital. She'd had the same look in her eyes.  

 "Don't look at me like that," she snapped angrily.  

 Ava looked taken back, "Like what?"  

 "With pity."   

 "Sara, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-" Ava tried.  

 Sara tried to push the faint feeling, the ghost of a memory, of despair, away. She  sighed;  it wasn't fair to be angry at Ava. She must be scared after what Sara had just put her through.  

 "It's okay Ava. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap. And, I'm sorry about tonight too. I didn't mean to drag you into any of that."  

 Ava shook her head, "It's okay Sara. And it's not your fault. But, can you please explain what the hell is going on?"  

 Sara clenched her jaw. She felt something rising in her that she'd managed to file away the past week. Something that had made her snap. Guilt.  

 But this time, with Ava sitting there, on the end of bed, looking so unsure, so defeated, all she wanted to do was pull her close and tell her that it was going to be okay.  

 Sara had already sent an encrypted text to a number Nyssa had long ago made her memorise. Just now, her phone buzzed. "It will be handled."  

 Sara let out a breath. "Okay. I guess you deserve that."  

 Sara moved to sit next to Ava now, not quiet touching, but she could feel the warmth radiating off her from their proximity.  

 "Last week, I went to China -" Sara started,  

 "Wait what?" Ava's head snapped up to look at her, "You just went to China? On a whim?"  

 "God, do you want an explanation or do you just want to attack me with questions?"   

 "Sorry," Ava smiled sheepishly.  

 "I went to China because... I was going to run away." Sara said honestly.  

 Ava looked at her, their eyes meeting, conveying everything Ava wanted to say with no words. She looked pained.  

 Sara's breath caught in her throat. Did Ava....care?  

 Sara shook her head and continued, "I went to see... an old friend. Everything was going smoothly, she told me that I had to go back, and I was going to.  

Then next thing I know, I'm waking up tied to a chair, hence the rope burn. The rest isn't important, but we escaped - obviously, which is how I dislocated my wrist.  

My friend, she had business to take care of, she told me to go back to New York and she would be fine. She handled it, but we didn't think they knew who I was. I thought they wouldn't bother chasing me - but obviously I was wrong. Anyway, now that I know, I've handled it. By tomorrow, everything will be back to normal okay?"  

 Ava chewed her lip, "That was extremely vague."  

 "It was the truth," Sara said earnestly, trying to catch Ava's eyes.  

 Ava nodded slowly, "But why did they kidnap you in the first place?"  

 Sara bit her lip, "Because my friend was tracking them. I can't tell you more Ava, but they came here because they wanted me to tell them where she was."  

 Ava nodded, "Okay, I guess."  

 Sara stood up, "Here, let me get you something to sleep in."  

 Sara trifled through the small number of belongings in her closet, which she had accumulated since moving to New York.  

 She pulled out an oversized t-shirt, which used to belong to Laurel. She looked at it fondly.   

 "You and Laurel would have gotten along great," Sara smiled sadly at the shirt. It barely even smelt like her anymore. She tossed it to Ava.  

 "Sorry I don't have any sweat pants, my closets a little limited at the moment."  

 Ava shrugged, "It's fine." Ava paused, but clearly wanted to ask something else.   

 "Laurel, your sister, right? What was she like?" Ava asked carefully.  

 Sara smiled sadly, "She was my best friend in the whole world. She was the kindest, smartest person I ever met. She wanted to be a lawyer. She always looked out for me, always berated me for being rebellious. She kept me in line." Sara paused and looked at Ava, sitting there on her bed holding Laurels old shirt, which probably smelled more like Sara now, given how many times she'd worn it. "You remind me of her."  

   

"She sounds  great,  Sara." Ava smiled softly, "I'm sorry."  

 Sara shook her head and pulled out a shirt for herself.   

 "Don't be. The man who killed her was sorrier." Sara could feel her mind racing a million miles an hour, the words tumbled out.  

 "I thought you said she died in a car crash" Ava asked slowly, her voice suspicious.   

 "She did." Sara said. "Everything is always more complicated than it seems, Ava."  

 Sara was struggling to keep her emotions down. She could feel slight nausea in her stomach. Trying not to be pulled in by her mind. She never wanted to go back there.  

To the car. The blood-stained car seat and the dripping shards of glass surrounding her. Sara squeezed her eyes shut and then forced them open, to see Ava looking up at her concern written across her face.  

 Sara forced herself to speak, "You can just get changed here, I won't look. The bathroom is across the living room, and I don't want John to wake up. I doubt he'd let me have friends over."  

 Ava looked unsure now, "Sara, if it's too much trouble I can go."  

 Sara was surprised to feel a rush of  disappointment , maybe even a touch of fear. She felt lightheaded at the thought of being alone. At the thought of not knowing if Ava was safe before the situation was handled.  

 Sara shook her head "No." she said a little more forcefully than she'd intended.  

 "Please stay." she added, softly, almost self-consciously.  

 Ava's expression softened and she nodded, "Okay."  

   

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  

   

AVA'S POV  

 Ava slipped the over-sized t-shirt over-head, neatly folding her clothes and putting them at the foot of the bed. She tried not to think about how much it smelled like Sara.  

She tried not to think about how  intoxicating  it was.   

 Sara turned around, "I guess we'll have to share the bed."  

 Ava shrugged, "That's okay," she said, but she felt a little more unsure about it than she sounded.  

 Sara nodded, retrieved a t-shirt and a small pair of bed shorts from under her pillow, then turned back around to change. Ava tried not to stare, but couldn't help thinking about how good Sara's toned legs looked as she quickly changed into the bed shorts.  

 Sara pulled her hoody over her head, Ava could see the marks on her wrists, the scars laving up her right arm, she almost winced. She frowned noticing a new edition on Sara's left arm. She was about to ask her about it when Sara took her shirt off, back still facing her.  

 Ava almost gasped. Scars littered Sara's back from top to bottom. Sara, now wearing just a sports bra, turned around at the gasp. She seemed slightly embarrassed, seeming only to remember now, the scars over her body.  

 "Oh, yeah. Sorry, I know they're not very pretty to look at" she looked almost ashamed, eyes on the ground.  

 There were scars across her ribs, torso and shoulders. There was a long deep scar on Sara's right shoulder, which had a match partner on her back, Ava noticed.  

Before Ava realised  what  she was doing, she reached out and gently ran her fingers over the scar, more in thought. When Sara physically recoiled at the touch, Ava realised how hot her fingers felt where she'd touched Sara.  

 Sara took a few steps back, her eyes suddenly wide, almost scared.   

 Ava quickly snatched her hand back "Sorry Sara, I don't know why I did that."  

 Sara barely seemed to hear her, her eyes seemed to glaze over and her face turned pale.   

 "Sara?" Ava asked, "Are you okay?"  

 Sara just grasped for something behind her, as she stumbled back and tried to regain her balance, finding nothing to grab. Ava's hand shot out, grabbing her arm, before she fell back against the wall.  

 "Sara" Ava said, worry edging her voice. Sara wasn't even looking at her. She was somewhere else entirely.  

 Ava did the only thing she could think of, she pulled Sara to her and wrapped her arms around her, almost protectively.   

 "Sara, it's okay. I'm sorry. I'm here." Ava whispered softly in her ear, over and over.  

 Slowly Sara seemed to pull herself back from reality. Her arms moved around Ava's waist now, hugging her tight, clinging to her.  

 They stood like this for a while. Until Ava felt Sara's breathing even out. She pulled back to look at Sara's face.  

 "Are you okay?" she asked.  

 Sara just nodded slowly, and picked up the t-shirt she had dropped, pulling it over her head.  

 Ava felt a wave of guilt, why would she just reach out and touch her like that? It was like she couldn't think around Sara.  

 She wanted to ask Sara what had happened to her. How could someone so young have been through so much hurt and  pain? But  she knew it wasn't the right time.  

 "I'm sorry Sara, I didn't mean to hurt you." Ava said, eyes downcast.  

 "It's okay, Ava. It's just a lot for me right now, you know? Today, explaining, it brings back a lot. That's why I put it off for so long, even though I should have told you."  

 "No, Sara, it's okay. I was pushy, I should have waited until you were ready."  

 Sara looked up now, her bright blue eyes making Ava's breath catch in her throat. She involuntarily glanced down at Sara's lips when she bit her bottom one. She quickly looked up, a hot flush creeping up her neck and face.  

 "Which side do you want?" Sara asked, a small sparkle returning to her eye. She didn't seem to have noticed though.  

 Ava cleared her throat, caught off by the question. She turned to look down at the bed. She really hadn't thought this through. The bed was small, they'd be very close.  

 "Uh, I don't mind."  

 Sara shrugged and pulled the covers back, climbing in between the sheets to the wall side of the bed. She gestured for Ava to get in.  

 "I am sorry about all this Ava," Sara said quietly into the dark after Ava turned the light off.   

Ava tried not to think about how close Sara was, both laying on their backs, barely touching, but barely fitting onto the small bed. Their hands were almost touching under the covers. If she moved her hand just a little to the right, she could lace her fingers through Sara's. Feel how perfect her small hand felt in hers, like she hadn't been able to stop thinking about earlier, when Sara had been dragging her through the streets, hand in hand, despite everything.  

 "But I promise everything will go back to normal tomorrow."   

 Ava felt a pang in her chest, and before she knew what she was saying she whispered "What if I don't want things to go back to normal?"  

 Sara didn't say anything, but Ava was sure she heard her breath catch in her throat. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. Then she felt Sara's hand slide into hers. She could feel her heart racing faster in her chest. The heat of Sara's hand in hers, felt so right. After a moment, Sara laced her fingers through Ava's.  

Ava's heart practically skipped a beat and she squeezed her eyes shut. Don't overthink it, Sharpe, she told herself.  

Chapter Text

SARA'S POV

Sara woke with a start in the early morning, eyes flying wide open. Then, Ava was there, hand on her chest.

"It's okay Sara, you had a nightmare. I'm here."

Sara turned to face her, her eyes searching for those pale blues in the early morning light. Their eyes found each other and Sara let out a breath. Ava had a calming effect on her, but her heart felt light and fast as well. Sara ignored that thought and squeezed her eyes shut again.

"I'm sorry I woke you," she said.

"It's alright, we should probably drop by my place and then head to school after anyway. That is, if you think it's safe."

Sara rolled over, checking her phone. One message - it's done.

Sara put her phone down, "Yeah, we can drop by your place."

Sara sighed, she'd never admit it, but waking up so close to Ava was much nicer than she'd expected. She felt safe.
Reluctantly however, she pulled herself out of the bed and stood up, slowly getting dressed.

"Let's stop by a coffee place and grab some breakfast too, hey?" Sara suggested, as Ava sat up, watching her.

She didn't feel self-conscious about the scars across her torso now. Ava didn't look like they bothered her at all. Sara's chest felt warm at the sight of Ava sitting in her bed, hair messy in the morning. She smiled involuntarily.

"Yeah, okay."

When they were both dressed Sara opened the window and gestured to Ava.

"After you."

Ava looked sceptical, "I understand why I have to go out the window, but are you sure you shouldn't tell your Mom you're leaving?"

"Yep." Sara replied simply.

Ava held her gaze a moment longer then turned to face the window. She clambered somewhat awkwardly out.

"First time?" Sara smirked.

Ava rolled her eyes, "I'm guessing you use the window more than the door."

Sara frowned, she was definitely right. She threw her backpack out the window after Ava and climbed gracefully out.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Sara and Ava had a surprisingly pleasant morning together, making civil conversation. Sara was surprised to find that Ava made her genuinely laugh. 

When they arrived at school, Mick and Leo were out the front, having just finished weights training.

Mick raised an eyebrow with a grin, "Where were you two last night?" he asked suggestively.

Sara rolled her eyes, "We decided to skip after-game celebrations, we got tied up here with Rip. We headed over to Ava's to some study and I ended up staying there."

Mick shrugged, still smiling as if that wouldn't interfere with his imagination one bit.

She felt Ava tense beside her. She wished that Ava didn't care so much.

"So how was pizza then?" Sara asked.

"Great," Zari's voice came up from behind them, "After you two ditched, Amaya and Lily decided to join us. Those guys are fun."

Leo snorted, "Especially Amaya hey?"

Zari rolled her eyes, "There's nothing wrong with making friends, boys. In fact, now that Nate and Ray have joined the crew, I think it's only fair to level the playing field."

Mick shrugged, "No objection here."

"You guys want to sit with us at lunch then?" Sara suggested to Ava.

Ava seemed a little surprised at the suggestion but she shrugged and gave Sara a small smile, "Sure, I guess we could."

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

After that, Amaya, Lily and Ava joined their little crew, which was becoming more of a gang.

Zari and Amaya were fast friends and Lily and Mick got along surprisingly well. Mick enjoyed her crude humour and the fact that she had zero filter.

Sara and Ava were on good terms, finally and Sara couldn't help but look forward to lunch, where she could sit right next to Ava, feel her leg brush against her own.
Every time she saw her friends, her heart felt warm and then Ava would turn around and smile at her she felt like she'd melt.
It sounded ridiculous and some part of wished she could just shove all those feelings down. But she struggled, when she met Ava's eyes, she couldn't control the way she felt anymore.

For once, things were good and she wanted to keep it that way. She didn't want to screw things up with Ava again.
The more time she spent with Ava, the more she never wanted her to leave.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

It had been over a week now since the two Chinese gang members had come looking for Sara. She was just beginning to relax again, confident the League and Nyssa had handled it. 

That was until she was walking home from Zari's on Sunday night and a group of men stepped out from the shadows, surrounding her.Sara froze where she was. Shit. She should have been paying more attention. There were five, she counted, all Chinese.

Sara looked around at the men surrounding her. She didn't recognise any of them, but she knew why they were here. They were apart of the same Chinese gang who'd captured her and Nyssa in Beijing. There were five of them. She stood her ground, ready to fight. 

"You seem to be going to an awful lot of trouble to find me." Sara stated, more calmly than she felt.

The blonde man with a tattoo across his face, who seemed to be the leader, laughed.

"Yes, well Ms. Lance, you and your little friend have been causing us quite a lot of trouble. 
You've killed several of our men, and what kind of a leader would I be if I did not avenge my men?"

"They kidnapped us first, and as for the second lot, they were just idiots."

The man shook his head, a creepy smile spread across his face.

"Well, regardless, a leader must set an example. So tell me, where is your friend, and I will kill you both quickly."

Sara almost frowned, but managed to keep her face even. "I don't know where she is."

The man shrugged, "Surely she has come to visit you. She's been hunting my men through New York for the past week. Perhaps she doesn't care for you as much as I thought."

This was news to Sara. If Nyssa was hunting these men though, she couldn't be far off. Sara was quite sure she couldn't take all five men by herself, but with Nyssa she stood a chance.

"So, are you going to talk? Or would you prefer to be bait? Because that would be so much more fun for me, but unfortunately, I am on a tight schedule."

Sara rolled her eyes, feigning confidence. "She will kill you all."

The man just chuckled softly again, but before he could open his mouth, a figure dropped straight into the centre of the group, right in front of Sara.

Nyssa.

"Well, perfect timing." The man smiled widely, "I am so glad you could join us, Nyssa Al Ghul."

Sara bit her lip. That wasn't good. How did he know who Nyssa was?

Before Sara could dwell on it further, she noticed the man incline his head slightly. Nyssa moved faster, throwing Sara an extendable baton.

The two men behind Sara lunged at her. Sara swung round, ducking under the first mans fist and catching his back with a solid strike.

The second man swung a sword at her, it nicked her arm and she bit her lip, determination set in her eyes.

She blocked blows from both sides, using her size as a tool ducking and dodging, as their tried to use their size and strength against her.Her agility allowed her to take out the first man, he swung  a heavy arm toward her, she dodged under it, smacking her baton into his knee. He stumbled and she kicked him square in the back, sending him to the ground before hitting hit hard in the temple with the end of the stick. 

He didn't get up again. With the distraction, the second man approached from behind, Sara felt a searing pain in her right leg. 
She looked down to see the other man's sword sticking clearly through her thigh. She cried out, falling to her knees, the man instantly put his blade to her neck, drawing just a trickle of blood.

Nyssa looked up in horror, from where she was fighting the other two men still standing. The blonde man was skilled and Nyssa was clearly tiring from holding him at bay.

"Not another move, or your pet dies." The blond man spat.

Nyssa froze.

"Drop your swords."

Sara gave Nyssa a pleading look, "Don't do it." She croaked.

Nyssa shot her an apologetic look and the steel clattered to the ground. Nyssa stood there, arms hanging limply at her sides, just looking at Sara, defeated.

Sara waited for the blond man to say something, but after a moment of silence, he just gave a slight inclination of his head to the man standing closest to Nyssa.

Sara's eyes widened in horror, she opened her mouth to shout in warning to Nyssa. But before she even made a sound, the heavy Chinese man, plunged his sword straight through Nyssa's back.

Sara saw Nyssa's eyes widen, a thin line of blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.

Sara's body froze. Not again. Not Nyssa. 

Nyssa fell to the ground. Something in Sara snapped. The pain in her leg disappeared. Rage like she'd never felt before spread like wildfire through her body.
In one swift motion, she stood pulling the sword from her leg and driving it through the chest of the man behind her. Even with his blade to her throat, he had no time to react.
Sara pulled her sword out, the heavy man who'd pulled his sword from Nyssa's back, still slick with blood charged at her. 

Sara felt like she was in a trance. No longer in control of her body. She had only one aim. To  kill them all.

She easily side stepped his overconfident attack, running her blade across his leg. He grunted and the blond man seemed to decide to join the fight, three of his men already on the ground around them.

He moved more gracefully, he understood sword fighting was an art form, a dance. Sara managed to block his first blow, swinging gracefully around, slitting the throat of the heavy man, who, thinking her back was to him, left his guard down when he lunged for her.

He fell to his knees, clutching his throat as blood spurted from his neck like a fountain.

The blond man's face contorted in rage now. But it was nothing compared to the silent stillness of Sara's rage.

He swung one of his swords low for her legs and the other high toward her neck. Sara skipped back, the sword missing her neck by a hair.

She blocked a stab to her torso and another swing at her head. Then she lunged, managing to nick his shoulder. It slowed him only slightly and he came at her again.

She blocked, dodged, spun. 

Returned blow after blow. She could no longer feel the pain in her leg, only the faintness in her head, as blood seeped through her clothes. She was lucky he'd missed the major arteries, or she'd be dead.

Then, the blond man made his last mistake. He misplaced one foot, Sara saw it. A sweeping kick sent his legs out from under him and he was on his back.

He didn't even have time to widen his eyes before Sara plunged the sword through his chest. She looked down at him, eyes hard, as she watched the life drain from his eyes, blood sputtering from his mouth.

Then she turned, and walked toward Nyssa's limp body. She sunk, defeated to the ground beside her. Pulled her head into her lap and brushed the hair out of her face.

Her blank eyes stared up at her and Sara broke. Her shoulders shook and tears fell as she clutched the other girl so close. 
It was her fault. Nyssa died because of her. 

She had no idea how long she'd been sitting there, surrounded by bodies, holding Nyssa in her lap, salty tears dried on her cheeks.

She'd sent a message to the encrypted number Nyssa had given her long ago. A man stepped out of the shadows now. She couldn't see his face.
He approached her slowly. When he was stood above her, Sara looked up. His eyes were full of sadness. 

After a moment, he spoke.

"Sara. I am Ra's Al Ghul."

Nyssa's father. A fresh wave over tears over took her body and her body trembled. 

"It's all my fault. She died because of me."

The man looked around, taking in the five dead Chinese man. 

"Do you know who that man is?" he asked her, his voice quiet but even, gesturing in the direction of the blond man with the tattoo on his face.

Sara shook her head, still looking down at Nyssa's cold body.

"His name is Feng Yon. He is one of the leader of one of the most powerful gangs in China. We have been hunting him for many years. 
He was a master swords man, but above that, a master of business and manipulation. His criminal empire can account for almost twenty percent of China's criminal activity."

Sara met his eyes. None of that mattered. She'd killed Nyssa. Everyone she cared about ended up dead. And the common factor, was her.

"It's my fault," was all she managed.

Ra's shook his head. "My daughter, gave her life for you." There was sadness in his eyes. "You are worthy, Sara Lance."

Sara just kept her eyes down, unable to look at the man.

"She thought I did not know about you, but I know all. She cared deeply about you and I can see why. You are strong, stronger than you will ever know." 

Sara looked up now. She could see the honesty in his eyes, and the deep sadness.

"One day, when you are older, there will be a place for you at Nanda Parbat. Today you have served the league with a favour we cannot repay."

Sara shook her head. "I've done you no favour. I've brought only pain and death."

Sara finally, set Nyssa's body down. She stood slowly, her leg aching. She'd ripped a piece of her shirt off and tied it around the wound to stop the bleeding.

She looked Ra's in the eyes now, but said nothing. After a moment, she just turned and walked away.

OOOOOOOOOO

Sara knew she couldn't go to the hospital. Her leg was bad. 

She'd probably need a blood transfer, she'd lost a lot of blood in the fight.

Her shirt was soaked in the blood of the men she'd killed, she was glad it was dark, or she wouldn't have gotten very far.

She managed to make it home, ditching her shirt in the trash can. The league would dispose of the bodies, no one would come looking.

She clambered in through the window, exhausted, almost collapsing on the ground. She winced, pain setting back in as she untied the makeshift bandage.

She changed her clothes first, then stumbled into the dark quiet house to grab a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard, and searched around before finding some antiseptic. 
For the first time in her life, she was thankful to her Mom for something, being a nurse did make her slightly more prepared.

She returned to her room, closing the door gently before falling onto the floor. She couldn't put herself in a transitive state to stitch the wound. 
She needed to be completely clear headed and after tonight, her mind was a swirling mess.

She took a long swig of whiskey, barely feeling the burn in her throat as it warmed her stomach. 
When she felt the alcohol begin to affect her leg, she pulled the sewing kit from her bedside table and peeled off her pants.

She clenched her jaw and tipped a good amount of the antiseptic on both sides of the wound. 
She felt hot blood trickle down her lip as she bit down hard as not to cry out in pain.

She took a few deep breaths, cleaning the wound gently with an antiseptic wipe, before tipping a little more solution in it.

Then, she began slowly stitching it, one thread at a time, swigging steadily at the bottle of whiskey. 

OOOOOOOOOOOOO

The next morning Sara awoke on the ground, sewing needle in one hand and a half empty bottle of whiskey in her other.
A small part of was surprised she'd woken up at all.

The first thing she was aware of was the slight throbbing in her head - hang over. Her mouth was bone dry.

She tried to move her leg and hot searing pain shot up her entire right side. 

"Slowly," she told herself.

She guessed it was about 8am and John and her mother were at work. The house was eerily quiet. Eventually, she managed to prop herself up.
Her leg was entirely stiff, she could barely move it all. 

She made it to kitchen, clinging wall to wall, being able to move her leg slightly. She opened the fridge, spotting a big carton of orange juice, she swigged down half of it in one go.

She barely made it to the sink before it all came back up. She wiped her mouth. She felt vile.

She took a small sip this time. She knew she needed the vitamin C. If she couldn't keep this down, she'd have to go to the hospital, and frankly, that wasn't an option.

She sat at the kitchen table in the cool morning air. The heater must be broken. She wasn't surprised.

She managed to finish the orange juice slowly, keeping it down this time. She ate a banana, and kept that down too.

It was Monday. She was late to school. She knew it was ridiculous to go to school. She looked terrible and she could barely walk.

But as she looked around the empty house, the silence weighing on her like a brick in a river, her lungs burning for air, she made a decision.
She couldn't stay here. She couldn't face what had happened. She needed a distraction.

Now that she'd managed to eat and drink something, she felt a lot better. She scrounged through the medicine cabinet and took three advils.
Ten minutes and a glass of water later, her headache was gone and the pain in her leg reduced from a searing heat, to a consistent throb.

She moved her leg as she sat at the table, slowly up and down until some of the stiffness was worked out.

She massaged it and after a while, she was able to stand. She walked slowly around the kitchen, until she could bend her leg, able to walk with just a limp now.

She sighed heavily. There were too many thoughts to sort through in her mind, so she did what she did best. She shoved them down and locked them away to deal with some other time.

She took another Advil and couple of sips of whiskey to dull the pain, found her school bag and was on her way by 9.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

AVA'S POV

Ava truly believed that her and Sara were on their way to a strong friendship. After what happened that night, she began to understand Sara. She told her the truth. Or at least some of it. She couldn't help but be mildly concerned when Sara wasn't in Algebra on Monday morning. She knew it was always possible Sara had gotten herself in trouble.

She tried to push down the fear in her stomach, consoling herself with the fact that Sara could handle herself.
Every piece of that came rushing back in a wave of nausea when Sara walked into class, half an hour late, looking like death.

She had black rings under her eyes, her face was hollow and pale. It was only after Sara handed Mr. Johnston a note and headed for her seat that she noticed the other girl was limping.
Ava felt her heart clench. She tried to catch Sara's eyes, questions filling her mind. But Sara only averted her gaze and headed quietly to the back of the room, instead of sitting by Ava as she had come to expect.
Ava smelt the alcohol on her as she walked right by her desk. Mr. Johnston looked worried as well she noticed, but he continued teaching. 

At the end of class, Mr. Johnston asked Sara to stay behind. Ava shot her a worried look but Sara just looked withdrawn and didn't meet her eyes.

Ava packed her things slowly and resolved to wait for Sara outside the classroom. After a few minutes, Sara emerged, she just looked immensely tired.
She turned the opposite way and began limping down the hall. 

Ava reached out catching her arm. "Sara."

Sara stopped and turned to face her slowly.

"Sara, what happened?" Ava asked in a low voice, stepping closer. She could see now that Sara's normally bright eyes were dull.

Sara looked at her feet. "It's nothing Ava, okay? I'll be fine."

Ava shook her head in frustration. She thought they were past this.

"Did those Chinese gang guys come after you again?" she whispered.

She saw a flash of anger across Sara's face. "Just leave it alone Ava."

Ava could smell whiskey on Sara's breath.

"Have you been drinking?" she asked, her voice coming out more disapproving than she intended.

Sara pulled her arm free of Ava's touch now, "Who are you, my Mom?" she asked angrily.

"Sara, I just want to make sure you're okay. What happened to you leg?"

Sara met her eyes now, her gaze was hard and Ava almost regretted asking.

"I got stabbed okay? Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Ava couldn't stop herself gaping. "What? When? Why are you even here? You should be resting."

Sara rolled her eyes now, "That's why I didn't want to tell you. I can't deal with this right now okay?"

Ava felt a pang of disappointment in her chest. Sara was shutting her out. Again.

"What did Mr. Johnston want?" she asked instead.

Sara shrugged, "Same as you. Wanted to make sure I was okay."

"What did you tell him?"

"I just told him that I injured my leg in a skateboarding accident, and that it was keeping me up so I couldn't sleep.
He seemed to buy it and didn't ask me anything else after that."

Ava nodded, she wanted to help Sara somehow, but she wasn't sure that Sara would let her.

"Look, Ava, I know things have been okay between us lately, but, I don't think I can be friends with you right now."

Ava looked up sharply, she felt like someone just punched her in the chest, the air going out of her lungs.

Sara at least looked a little upset, but her voice was even, "I have a lot to deal with, and it's just better that way okay? I wasn't made for this life, and you deserve better than me anyway."

Ava opened her mouth to protest, to tell Sara she was being ridiculous. She wanted to scold Sara for being so stupid and always pushing everyone away when she needed them the most.

In the end, Sara just gave her a sad look and slowly headed off down the hall, leaving Ava just standing there, hardly knowing what to do with herself.