The hot water of the shower raining on her body masked the tears that were streaming down her face. She couldn't believe her day had turned out that way. One minute Sara was calling her her girlfriend, Ava had been over the moon with joy, the next she was being sent away. She had gained and lost a girlfriend in the span of one day. She wanted to be angry with Sara. For ending things like that, for dismissing her after Ava had just saved her life, for not being willing to talk this out like an adult. Being angry with Sara would be so easy but, truthfully, Ava was just angry with herself. She knew why Sara did what she did. She was scared. Scared of hurting Ava, of doing something so horrible that Ava would leave her for good, that she would never look at her the same again. Ava had played right into those fears. She could have stayed. She could have shown Sara that she just wanted to be with her, that she trusted her. And Ava did, she trusted her with her life. But still she left. Instead of pulling Sara close when they both needed it, she had allowed Sara to push her away.
Despite its temperature the water started to feel cold now as the realization that she had made the mistake of her lifetime settled in.
Ava Sharpe never made mistakes. But she couldn't just go back now, could she? She had made a choice. A choice she hadn't spent a second thinking about. A choice she made when her mind was clouded by the hurt she felt because Sara, the woman she was not so slowly falling in love with, didn't want her. However, now that she had thought about it she knew that wasn't true. Sara wouldn't have called her her girlfriend this morning if she didn't want her. Sara wouldn't have been so terrified of hurting her if she didn't want her. Ava needed Sara to know that she wanted her too, even with her darkness.
She turned off the tap and stepped out of the shower. Quickly toweling herself off, she threw on some sweatpants and a T-Shirt, grabbed her Time Courier from the bathroom shelf and typed in the Waverider's coordinates. Ava Sharpe didn't make mistakes and she would do her damnedest to rectify this one.
The portal opened to the bridge. Her first instinct had been to portal to Sara's room but knowing Sara, she was probably in the parlour, drinking herself into a stupor. To Ava's surprise both the parlour and the bridge were empty. Sara seemed to be in her room after all. It did make sense. What happened today would drain anybody of their energy. The thought of Sara fast asleep made Ava wonder if she should turn back after all. What if she woke up from a nightmare and kicked Ava out on sight? Hesitating for a second, Ava took a tentative step forward. She was wrong to leave in the first place, she would not let Sara send her away again.
Sara's room was shrouded in darkness. Ava had to scoff at the irony. Of course Sara would surround herself with what she thought her soul was made of.
“Sara?” she whispered. No response. She must have been right in her assumption that the captain had fallen asleep. When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, however, she noticed that the bed was empty. After today's events she would be too ashamed to spend time with her crew but where could she have gone? Star City to be with her father? Unlikely, not in the state she was in when Ava had left her. Back in time? It would make sense for her to seek company with her sister. Ava hoped that wasn't the case. Aside from the fact that this sort of time travel was against any and all Bureau-issued rules and regulations, it was also dangerous. One carelessly chosen word, uttered in an emotional state, could cause extensive damage to the timeline. A cold shiver ran down Ava's back as a dreadful idea entered her mind. What if Sara had traveled back in time to change everything? Make it so she had never boarded the Queen's Gambit to erase all her regrets from existence. Not only might that destroy the fabric of time completely, after all Sara had been integral in saving the world twice, it would also mean Ava would never meet Sara. Everything they had, everything that had ever caused her true happiness in life, for however short a time, would be gone. She couldn't let that happen. She needed to know where Sara was.
“Gideon,” she could hear the panic in her own voice, struggling to keep her breathing even. “Where is Sara?”
She was met with silence.
Another beat, then, “I am afraid Captain Lance does not want anyone to be aware of her current whereabouts, Director Sharpe.”
“I need to know where she is, it's important. Please.”
“I fear I am not authorized to aid you.”
She was two seconds away from stomping her foot on the floor like a petulant child. Instead she rested her fists on her hips and assumed her most savage glare, the one that made Time Bureau cadets and agents alike cower on the spot. “As the director of the Time Bureau I am capable and authorized to override your programming so if you don't want me to shut you down, Gideon, you will tell me where Sara is right now!”
For a moment she thought she heard the AI actually sigh but soon enough she got her answer, “Captain Lance is currently aboard the jump ship.”
She had been right. Sara was going back in time. Ava closed her eyes and breathed in through her nose, desperately trying to quench the rising panic. No luck.
She spun on her heels and raced out of the room, dashed past the living quarters, not caring if she startled the rest of the crew, sped past the cargo bay until she reached the hangar for the jump ship. In her distress it never occurred to her to use her Time Courier to portal herself onto the jump ship. Out of breath she punched the control panel to open the doors. As soon as they opened she burst through, pressured to stop Sara from doing something fatal, “Sara, don't do this!”
“Do what?” the voice didn't sound like her girlfriend. Ex-Girlfriend? Sara. The was no confidence, no spark; she sounded frail, exhausted. Only then did Ava recognize the scene before her eyes. Sara was sat in the pilot's seat, a newspaper in her lap, pen in her hand, a mug on the console. She was doing a crossword puzzle?
“I- I'm sorry,” Ava stammered out. “Gideon said you were on the jump ship and I thought-”
“Gideon?!” Sara frowned at the ceiling.
“I am sorry, Captain. Director Sharpe can be very...persuasive.”
“Oh, I know,” Sara muttered, quiet enough that Ava almost overheard it. Despite the situation, it brought a smile to her lips.
Directing her attention to Ava, Sara's gaze darkened, accentuating the bags under her eyes, “You thought I was going to do something stupid, didn't you?”
Ava felt like a deer caught in the headlights. “I'm sorry. When Gideon said jump ship, I immediately assumed the worst. I shouldn't have. I'm sorry.”
Sara chuckled. It had a bitter sound to it. “I don't blame you. I mess up everything, why wouldn't you think I'd mess up time again?”
Ava's eyes began to sting. Rather than trusting Sara she had jumped to the worst possible conclusion. Sara seemed to have such a low opinion of her self that, instead of being angry or disappointed with Ava, she simply agreed. It made Ava's heart clench in the most painful of ways.
“Well,” Sara said. “As you can see I'm not trying to change the past, just drinking a cup of coffee and doing a crossword. You can go home.”
Sara put the pencil in her lap and rubbed her forehead, “Ava-”
“No, I'm not going anywhere. You're not dismissing me like that. I'm your girlfriend, in case you forgot.”
“I told you, I can't do this.”
Ava crossed her arms. “You can't just decide that on your own. A relationship concerns two people.”
Letting out a frustrated huff, Sara got up, pencil and newspaper clattering on the floor, “You don't understand, Ava, I'm dangerous. I have this instinct to kill and I fight it every day and today I lost. I attacked my friends.” Ava could see her fighting back the tears, “I could have killed them.”
Rationally she knew she should keep her distance, knew that getting too close to Sara might spook her but she couldn't stand seeing her like this; so small, so broken, so clearly in pain. One careful step. A hand hovering over Sara's forearm but not quite touching. “But you didn't,” it was said so softly, gently as if trying to tame a wild horse. “You didn't, Sara. You came back. I begged you to come home and you came back. You fought the darkness.”
When she finally allowed her hand to rest on Sara's arm, the captain jerked away as if burned by a scalding flame. She wrapped her arms around herself, looking more vulnerable than Ava ever could have imagined seeing her. “For how long? What's going to happen if Mallus takes over again? Don't you get it? I can't protect you from myself. If I keep you close to me, I could hurt you.” Now she was crying. And so was Ava.
“I think you're the one who doesn't get it, Sara,” she didn't come closer, not this time. She stayed rooted to the spot, needing Sara to hear her. “You're so worried about protecting me from this evil side you think you have that you don't see that you're doing exactly what you're so obsessed with protecting me from.” She took a deep breath, debating whether she should say what she was about to say next. She had to. Sara needed to hear this if they ever were to move forward with whatever this was.
“You're hurting me right now,” she said it as gently as she could. “Waking up at night because I hear you crying from a nightmare and not being able to help you because you won't let me; that hurts. You not trusting me with the vulnerable parts of you; that hurts. It hurts that you don't see how happy you make me, how complete I am with you. But most of all it hurts me that you refuse to see how amazing you are. It hurts to see a woman who is so fierce and funny and charming and beautiful think that she is a monster who doesn't deserve to be loved.” By now Ava had walked closer, hands still by her side, twitching, aching to touch, to feel grounded. Sara's arms remained crossed, eyes downcast, but she didn't move away.
“I'm scared Aves,” Sara sniffled. “Every time I see Damien Darhk, I'm two seconds away from slaughtering him with my bare hands. When we rescued Zari from Argus I was ready to crash my ship into yours just to prove a point. Most times when I fight I use staffs instead of knives because I'm afraid the rush I feel when I'm fighting is going to make me kill someone who doesn't deserve to be killed,” she looked up now and it broke Ava's heart to see her so terrified by herself. “It's like I'm barely holding on to a rope that's dangling over a pit of darkness and evil and if I lose my grasp for even a second, I will fall and it will consume me.”
Finally, finally Ava's hands moved up to grasp at Sara's shoulders firmly. She tilted her head downwards so she could look into Sara's eyes. “Then let me be your rope, Sara. I won't let you fall.”
Sara shook her head, but not pulling away, “You can't promise that.”
Ava chuckled, thumb moving up to brush lightly against Sara's jawline, “Can't I? I've pulled you out of a demon realm twice now and I will do it again and again and again if I need to.”
She moved her other hand down and pressed it against Sara's chest, right above her heart, much like she had done when Sara had woken from that terrible nightmare and again when she had begged her to come back to her. “I will ground you whenever you feel like you're losing yourself. You're so strong, Sara. You're the strongest person I have ever met and I admire that about you. But you don't have to be strong all the time. Not with me. You can let go and I won't let you fall. I won't.”
“No. You're not pushing me away.”
“I can't. I want you, but I can't. You mean too much to me,” Sara was sobbing now, finally losing the last grasp of control she had on her tears. To Ava this was a good sign, an opening. She closed the gap that was separating their bodies and wrapped herself around Sara, pulling her into herself as tight as she could.
“Do you feel that?” she whispered into her hair. “Do you feel me surrounding you? You can't fall into the darkness. If you slip, you will only fall into me and I will hold you up. You won't drag me down with you, I will hold you up.”
She felt Sara's hands claw at her back, grabbing at her frantically, “I- Ava, I shouldnt- but, don't- don't let go, please, don't ever let go.”
Even though it seemed impossible, Ava tightened her grip, “I won't. I'll never let you go, Sara.”
“I love you,” it was said so quietly, so brokenly, mumbled into Ava's chest. She hadn't fully admitted it yet, not even to herself, but, “I love you too, Sara, so much.”
Sara pulled away just a fraction, just enough to lock her red rimmed eyes with Ava's, “You do?”
Ava pressed their foreheads together, “Of course I do. Why do you think I'm here? I love you too much to lose you.”
Finally, for the first time since Ava had arrived on the Waverider, Sara truly smiled. It was a small smile, a weak smile, but it was real.
“Ok,” Sara said.
Ava's lips ghosted against her temple as she took a moment to just inhale Sara's scent, to bask in her presenece. Finally, she stepped back, using her Time Courier to open a portal to Sara's bedroom. She assumed the captain wasn't so keen on running into her team members in the halls and having them see her with disheveled hair, bloodshot eyes and tear stained cheeks.
“Come on,” she pulled at Sara's hand. “Let's get you to bed. You've had a really long day.”
“Will you stay?” Sara asked, timidly, almost as if she still believed she didn't deserve this.
“If you want me to.”
“Well, there is a spot in my bed that's reserved for my girlfriend,” her smirk was more tentative than usual but it was there nonetheless and it made Ava's heart beat that much faster.