A song pours through the loudspeakers as she enters. The cargo bay is dark, but it’s still easy enough to make out the figure crouched next to one of the boxes, eyes closed, humming softly, her hands playing with a small knife.
Gideon turns on the lights, just barely, and Charlie shoots a grateful look up at the ceiling. She makes sure to set her steps heavily as she walks.
“Come closer, Charlie, it’s fine,” Sara says. “I can hear you.”
Charlie settles against one of the metal boxes, close enough to Sara that she could reach out and touch her. She’s been in a lot of forms, has rotated through many types of vision, but she’d never not been able to see with her eyes, so the protocol is unclear to her.
“Hey, Cap.” The music pouring out of the speakers is not normally her genre, but the quietness, the tranquility of it is soothing. “How’d you know it was me?”
“Who else goes to the cargo bay at three am?” Sara smiles, turning towards Charlie with her eyes open. The grayness seems wrong set in her face, but Charlie doesn’t get attached to the physical forms of friends easily, so it barely registers.
“Besides, you know my training. I’d recognize any of your footsteps.” The knife glints in the light. Sara turns the blade in her fingers. “I hated blindfold training when they first put one on me. You get used to it quickly enough, but my teachers could still see, and it unsettled me, I guess. You couldn’t trust anyone in the League.”
She sighs, and Charlie draws her knees to her chest. She buries her nails into the space between her knuckles, puts pressure on the fragile bones with her fingertips. She hadn’t been able to sleep, not with the deep ache running through her, both physical and emotional, after her failure. This is good. She’s always liked to take care of people when she’s felt like this, and she has a feeling Sara needs company, even if she won’t admit it.
“My girlfriend back then, Nyssa, told me they’d let me take it off when I could beat them in a fight with it on. She wasn’t allowed to see me until I’d finished that part of my training, so it was a good incentive.”
“You never talk about your past,” Charlie says, kneading the fabric of her sweatpants. Sometimes she thinks she’ll rip it apart if she touches it, but then she remembers she doesn’t have that kind of strength in this form, and so it remains metaphorical.
She makes light of it—they all do, it’s their way of coping, their way of caring, their way of saying sorry—but she’s terrified every second of every day. She misses Behrad. He’d already been here when she’d met all of them, and the halls feel empty without his laughter, without his lopsided smile and his tacky shirts and his earnestness. She misses him, and when she looks into Zari’s eyes she sees the way she, too, is falling apart on the inside, and it makes her ache because it’s her fault.
She thought she was done with blame, but then, of course she’s not. It’s a habit older than most modern civilizations, and a bad one at that.
Sara raises a brow. “You’re one to talk.” She throws her knife in the air and catches it, but it’s angled the wrong way and draws blood as it comes down. “We didn’t know anything about you for a year until it became necessary.” She holds up her hand, the trickle of blood making its way down her palm, as if to tell Charlie not to protest. It’s a Captain superpower, probably, to know what they’re about to say by the look in their eyes or the way their lips twitch or, now, their silence.
“I’m not saying I don’t get it. I do. But your past obviously weighs on you, and you could’ve told us.” For a moment, she’s still. “Admittedly we locked you up when we first met, but it’s sort of what we do.”
Charlie laughs, a jarring sound against the slow trickle of the music, and Sara grins along with her.
“Holding out hope for Astra, then.”
Sara shrugs. “I guess. Who the fuck knows with those kids. I mean, Nora started out the same way, and look where we are now.” She clears her throat, her eyes fluttering, searching the room, looking, maybe, for a reprieve from the dark. “ What I’m trying to say is that you know we accept you, right? No matter where you come from or what choices you’ve made. You’re part of our family now, and you can talk to us.”
“Gettin’ sentimental, Cap?” Charlie says quietly, and she hopes Sara can read between the lines again, hear the sting of warmth at her words. She’d spent so many years, centuries, running and hiding, part of different groups and clubs and bands and relationships, but never in all that time had she found anyone like the Legends.
They’re family, and it’s only spoken out loud before battle and in the quiet folds of temporal zone three am, but it runs through everything they do, through every gesture, bickering, mission, every speech and failure and fight.
“Even when you told us about your sisters,” Sara says, “you didn’t tell us how horrible they were.”
Charlie nods, and remembers that that’s not enough now. “I’m sorry I put the team in the line of fire, I wasn’t—”
“You have got to know that’s not what I mean.” Sara breathes in deeply and wipes her hands on her sweatpants, a red smear against the gray. She reaches out, a little off, flailing, and Charlie takes her hand. Sara squeezes her fingers in an oddly comforting gesture, and goes on. “I saw you with her. Atropos. You were scared.” Charlie’s breath hitches, and she looks away, can’t even face Sara when she can’t see her.
“I don’t know her, but I know you, and I know they hurt you, in whatever way that was. You don’t have to talk about it ever again, but I—” she smiles sadly. “I need you to know you could, if you wanted to. I don’t have millennia under my belt, only a couple of very short lifetimes, but I’m here, anyway.”
Panic flares up in Charlie's ribcage, as always at the mention of her sisters, but Sara’s hand in hers grounds her. It almost makes her wonder why she buries her past so deeply in her lungs she sometimes feels like she can barely breathe through it. Almost because she’s not ready, because even thinking about them makes her feel smaller, makes her not want to be around herself. But almost is more than she’s felt in such a long time.
“We need to do this more often,” is all she manages to say, glad for one selfish moment that Sara can’t see the tears brimming at the corners of her eyes.
Fear is exhausting, and yet she gets no sleep, and the combination makes her restless. It makes her want to try to work the loom until she’s too weak to stand, but the quietness and Sara’s words make her hands still their kneading and tapping and scraping for a moment. Charlie usually goes for noise, for movement and energy, but at the moment, the silence soothes her.
“Yeah. We do.” Sara’s eyes close, and she leans her head back against the sharp edge of the storage box. “Do you think the others are asleep?”
“Well, Nate’s not in the library, and John isn’t in the kitchen drinking, so I’d say they’re asleep alright,” Charlie says. “Tired themselves out, for once. Why aren’t you?”
Sara tilts her head and opens her eyes again, waving her fingers in front of them. “Pretty sure you don’t have to ask.”
“You know you’re allowed to feel something about this,” Charlie says, nudging Sara with her knee. “We’re not going to demote you because you’re depressed about losing your sight.”
“I’m not,” Sara mumbles, too quickly to be even a half-convincing lie. “Do I wonder how I’m going to lead my team like this? Sure. But I’m fine. I’ve had worse than a run-in with a god, no offense.”
“The only offense is that you’re not even trying to sell this to me,” Charlie sighs. “I’m sure Ava isn’t buying this.”
“Ava can’t know.” Sara’s whole face darkens, and Charlie curses herself for her carelessness, for thinking she’d know the right words when she barely knows Sara like this, snarky remarks and bravado fallen away to reveal a fear, an exhaustion she feels herself relating to.
“She worries, she worries so much, and I need her to believe that we’ll be okay. If she doesn’t, I won’t be able to function, and I need to if we’re gonna—” Sara pulls in a sharp breath. “If we’re going to bring back Behrad. Him and you and Zari, you’re my priorities right now. The team needs him back, I…”
Sara withdraws, curls fingers into fists and draws her knees up to her chest. “I need him back, and his family. I’m Captain. He was my responsibility, and I failed him, and I can’t be the one to deliver the news to them. Zari, she… she’s so new here. You’ve seen her, she—she’s radiant, and I need to get her brother back. I need to get him back so she never has to face that pain.”
“Like you did with your sister.”
Sara exhales. “Yes.”
“You know, you don’t have to be the Captain, all the time, to everybody. Sometimes you can just be our friend.”
Charlie finds herself smiling, because it feels so childish, the question, and so obvious, but in a way, very right. “Yeah. Of course.”
Sara laughs, as if she just now heard herself, and she looks very young and very burdened in the low light. Charlie imagines she’s much the same.
“We’re way fucked up.”
“Never doubted it.”
“Yeah.” Sara smiles, and begins humming along to the music again. She reaches out to Charlie and feels for her, and when she knows the distance, scoots closer.
She leans her head on Charlie’s shoulders, and Charlie pulls an arm around her, and relaxes into the position.
And somehow, for the night, they’re okay.