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Her eyes open to the morning. Awakening to a low light, the soft hum of the waverider and a comfortable humidity between the sheets, Sara’s first assessment is that she’s slept through the night – or what was left with it after she and Ava…

Warmth and acceptance pushes down Sara’s surprise and she closes her eyes again, giving in to the feeling of her back pressed into the mattress, the weight of the duvet now bunched at the end of the bed, the way her loose hair splays out onto the pillow.

Sara doesn’t need to turn to know Ava’s already awake, allowing a small smile to spread across her face as she senses Ava move.

She feels the dip in the mattress as Ava reaches across the small space between them, curling her fingers around Sara’s forearm, before trailing her fingertips along the inside of her wrist. It’s a trust and familiarity in her own space that Sara would never have been used to. Especially not in her own room. Especially not in the morning…

But this is Ava. And that very thought sends a delicious warmth blossoming out through Sara’s chest.

“Good morning..” Ava murmurs, a low sound on the edge of gravelly that slides delicately into the space between Sara’s ribs, and her smile grows.

She doesn’t respond. She doesn’t need to, because in the silence Ava slots their fingers together, squeezing once, before releasing, sliding the pad of her middle finger up, over her palm then along the lengths of her fingers.

Sara represses a shiver and sinks into the gentle touch. She’s well beyond rebelling against these moments, and it fills her with a contentment she was once unused to, and now welcomes. Her lips part and breath hitches as Ava circles her callouses, one at a time, and Sara finds herself swallowing against the surge of feeling...

“From the League?” Comes the question, but the way Ava asks pours honey into Sara’s veins rather than doubt, so she answers.

“Sword hand.” She whispers.

Ava kisses Sara’s temple, deftly chasing away Sara’s reflex to flinch at any specific memory related to that time. Behind her eyelids and among softer places a vision materialises like tendrils of smoke from a smouldering fire; her, with the sword… the beauty of form… the feeling of freedom training with such a blade.

A soft memory, drawn from an inferno.

As if Ava can command Sara's own fears to kneel.

Sara leans into the press of Ava’s lips and feels the curve of her smile.

“Badass.”

Sara scoffs gently, but chases Ava’s hand to bring it into her own again, wondering when chasing contact with Ava in the morning became so close to instinct.

“Gave me an edge on our second mission.” She says. “At the bank.”

It’s the first time she’s spoken of her early missions with Ava, having established she already had the detail tucked away in a file somewhere. But there’s a colour to the way Sara saw those times, and she is struck by the realisation she wants – needs – Ava to see on the same spectrum.

“You knew they'd made you.”

Sara feels the way Ava’s lower lip drags over her skin as she speaks and it sinks into her being like an anchor. Sara nods, finding words once trapped now flowing freely, carrying so little heaviness it unlocks her.

“I almost killed everyone that day. Rip... he-“ she pauses, feeling Ava’s head shift, breath gliding over her forehead. “-he said it was like watching an animal.”

Sara is prepared for the ripple of tension that moves through Ava’s body, and the protective nature of it suffuses Sara's entire being with affection. She squeezes Ava's hand beneath the sheets.

“It’s alright, Aves." She whispers. "He meant it well, and besides I had worse names for myself back then.”

It takes several moments, but then Ava hums, a low sound so deliciously close to the shell of Sara’s ear she can’t decide whether she’s comfortable or aroused. Then Ava’s hand sneaks under the hem of Sara’s top, trailing over her stomach and raising goosebumps on her skin.

She arches a little in response because... her body can’t help but-

“Do you still?” There is a gentle edge to Ava’s question.

Sara releases a breath, long and slow through her nose. Her eyes are still closed, and she takes a moment to ponder it; immerses her answer into as much past as she dares to draw on, which is more than what she would ever have imagined she could, and still feel… sane.

“Sometimes.” She says after a long silence, but then smiles and knows from the patterns Ava’s fingertips print on her skin she can see it. “But even when I do I feel-“ She pauses, licks her lips, imagines Ava’s eyes zeroing in on the action as she always does. It sends a different type of tingle through her body. “-it feels different.”

Sara feels Ava press her nose into the delicate space behind Sara’s ear, warm and loving.

“How?”

It’s so close to the tone Ava uses after they’ve had sex, when the lust has dissipated and re-emerged as something bolder… Something that makes Sara’s entire being quake with infinite possibility. Sara moves her left hand underneath the covers, to where Ava’s rests against her abdomen, and covers it above her shirt.

“Like… the voices aren’t so loud. Like it’s easier to brush them away.”

Sara shivers when Ava’s lips land hot and wet on her skin, and the fingertips under her shirt dig softly into her muscles.

“I love you.” Ava whispers, and eyes still closed Sara turns her head, her own hand lifting her top high enough she can entangle their fingers again.

“I know.”

The silence that follows slips easily between them, and within seconds their breathing pattern has shifted only slightly enough that Sara feels Ava’s exhale in her own lungs.

“I went back.” Sara murmurs. “When I was stuck in 1958 I left Ray and Kendra and I went back. I spent two years.” She hesitates, a moment “I found peace. I almost didn’t leave.”

Ava shifts ever so slightly, so her nose slides against Sara’s, the ghost of a breath chasing her movement.

“But you did.” She says.

This time Ava’s voice has a longing in it Sara can’t quite place, and finally, she rolls completely onto her side, eyes finally opening again to the low light, instantly finding home in the mist of Ava’s eyes and soft tilt of her lips.

Sara’s learned, after all this time, not to be afraid of the way Ava can reach into all the spaces Sara herself can't see; illuminating every dark corner of herself in a gentle glow.

“Mmmhm.” She says, reaches up, her palm slipping across Ava’s cheek and into her hair. She’s rewarded with a kiss, the barest pressure of Ava’s tongue on her bottom lip drawing out a hum of approval.

“You came back.”

“I did.”

“I love you.”

“I know.” She takes another deep breath, long and slow through her nose, and closes her eyes again. Her free hand tangles in Ava’s tank top and pulls, and Ava responds in kind, shifting her body closer and resting their foreheads together on the same pillow. “God, I know.”

Sara kisses Ava then, soft and careful and filled with a future she never imagined could be hers, and the only thing Sara can think of to say halts in her throat.

Because Ava’s eyes are open and her smile is bright and Sara has the opportunity to -

Sara smiles, shakes her head in disbelief, and whispers the words she never thought would be hers to say.

“Happy Anniversary, love.”