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those ancient years were black and white (I’ve had that dream a thousand times)

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The first thing she feels when she comes to it, is the headache. There's no hand holding hers and nobody helps her up. Sara tells herself she's thankful this is the way things are. Grateful. It's better this way.

“Did it work, ma'am?” Ray asks in a way that lets her surely know immediately this is her own Dr Palmer.

“If you mean if I'm me again, yes I am.”

She's abrasive again, cold. And, Ava notices immediately, her eyes lack the light the other Sara made seem so effortless. The livelihood in them is gone. She clears her throat and nods, averting her eyes so she doesn't have to look into the Captain's anymore.

“Good. Let's go back to base, then. I'm piloting. Captain Lance, get checked out in the med bay and then you can co-pilot if you so wish.”

She doesn't wait around for Sara to answer, mostly because there is no answer to a direct order Sara would ever give her aside from “yes ma'am” but also, partly, because she can't stand the way Sara is looking at her. Like she doesn't simply just dislike her now. Like she pities her. Like she despises the knowledge Ava – the other Ava – loved that Sara she was forced to be and couldn't now look at this Ava without being unpleased by the thought.

Sharpe doesn't coddle her like the other Ava did. Her crew doesn't check up on her, they don't say they're glad she's back.

Sara is grateful she's back here, where things are right. Because this has to be right.

She's grateful. She is.

Micheal complains and whines because apparently nobody told him what was happening until they were done with it. Sara can't be bothered by the guilt, she has no room for it. Not for any guilt concerning him, anyway.

They have been together for weeks, and Rip has never asked for anything Sara couldn't give willingly. He has never asked Sara to love him back, he knows she can't. Sara has been blunt about it on a few occasions. But now, Sara finds, as the lecture goes on, right now she has a hard time liking him, tolerating him even.

She sees the way he looks at her, controlling, condescending. He might love her, but it's not how love is supposed to be like. It's a twisted version of it, light years from what she has seen in Ava's eyes, whole eons from it.

Don't look at me like that.”

Like what?”

Like you're in love with me.”

I don't know how else to look at you, because I am. I'll always be. I probably am in your reality, too. I can't imagine a me that doesn't fall in love with you eventually.”

Rip doesn't look at her the same, no. Sara fears probably no one else would ever look at her like that. Actually, Sara likes that probably no one else would ever look at her like that. It makes it special. Treasurable. She doesn't have to love Ava Sharpe back, either, but she can like the way Sharpe feels about her. She can face it, at least, she can accept it. She's not sure she can accept how Micheal feels about her anymore.

She leaves him with an apology and explains that this isn't fair to either of them. She hurts him in a way she doesn't really understand, because it's not like Sara was ever going to change, to give him what he said he didn't wish for. But the truth is he yearned for Sara's love and was hurt by the knowledge Sara had truly never contemplated it.

She feels sorry, but knows it's for the best.

She visits Laurel's grave and asks for help from someone she knows cannot hear her plea, and then cries like she hasn't in years and everything is pouring out, out, out.

There's still nothing going in and she isn't honestly sure she's ever going to be like that other Sara she knows about, that she's ever going to be able to feel something akin to love again. Not the unconditional, visceral kind of love she had for her sister, for her father.

She feels the grief and pain roll out of her in waves, out, out, out. But she feels nothing going in and fears maybe those feelings aren't allowed to her anymore.

Sara dutifully avoids Ava Sharpe.

When she can't avoid Ava Sharpe, Sara avoids Ava Sharpe's eyes. She doesn't know what would trouble her more, looking into them and seeing the same love she saw in that other Earth's Ava's or not seeing anything there at all.

So she tries not to look and Sharpe tries her best to hide any sort of feelings she might have whenever Sara's around her.

She wonders if Sharpe knows, for a while. Then, one day, Gary mentions how the other Sara threw herself into Ava's arms first thing upon seeing her and how everyone now thinks she was possessed for a brief time. Which, it makes no sense. Why would she be possessed for two days by a hug-giving being who only targeted one specific person? But Sara prefers it to the truth so she convinces Gary that is exactly what happened.

So she knows Sharpe knows.

She keeps avoiding her, telling herself she simply does not have any reason to see her. She doesn't listen to that small, traitorous part of her that yearns for the confrontation, for the bickering, for the arguing, for Sharpe to scold her and then let her get away with whatever she's done.

It's silly, ludicrous even. She shouldn't want those things, so she tells herself she doesn't and lets the days go on.

She's been back for two weeks and she's sure this has blown over, that she can get away with the other Sara making an appearance, albeit brief, in her life. But then, Zari corners her.

“So that other Sara Lance,” she tells her, almost casually, almost like that's a normal thing people can talk about, their doppelganger from another universe. “She was happy. Really in love with her partner. She told me to tell you that love, Sara, is what keeps people like you away from the darkness and that love is always worth the risk. Take your own advice, because that happiness she had, you deserve some of that yourself.”

Sara scolds her and reprimands her about how she should call her “ma'am” or “Captain Lance” and any other stupid thing she can think about to change the topic, but Zari just keeps looking at her until she's done and adds:

“And that stupid endless foolish love, you definitely deserve some of it yourself. Just because you don't think you can love properly, doesn't mean there aren't people who love you. Doesn't mean there aren't people you've shown love to. We haven't been a team in a long, long time, Captain Lance,” Zari mocks the title. “We're a family. And you damn well know it in your heart. You're going to have to accept we love you, someday. You can pretend you don't see it, but it won't make it not true. I'll still love you. Ray'll still love you. Nate'll still love you. Ava'll still-”

Two weeks since Sara's been back.

Zari, Nate, even Ray – Ray! – now call Agent Sharpe by her first name and don't seem too afraid of her anymore. It's unsettling. But Sharpe doesn't comment on it and lets them call her that, she even smiles a little when she greets them in passing like they're her friends. Like Nora Darhk isn't the only person in the world Sharpe has spent more than three minutes with, without wanting to strangle them.

Sara doesn't like it. Doesn't like change. Doesn't like this change especially.

“Palmer, why aren't you terrified of Sharpe anymore? You've been ever since you met her.”

“Oh, it's hard to be, after I've seen the way she smiles when you kiss her on the cheek,” he tells her in that goofy tone Sara pretends to hate. “Ava's cool and she's- I mean-” he realizes his mistake and clears his throat, going back to the professional tone Sara has repeatedly asked him to use. “Agent Sharpe is a valued colleague.”

He flees before Sara can ask more questions and the image Ray has presented to her gets stuck in her mind on a loop: Agent Sharpe, smiling, after Sara has kissed her cheek.

It's a disturbing, unsettling thought. Sara doesn't like it. She doesn't like it one bit. And she wishes she could just stop constantly thinking about what that smile would look like. She hasn't been able to, quite yet.

More and more of her cases are handled by Sharpe. Sara doesn't think it can be a coincidence, but she doesn't care to investigate whose fault that is, if Ava asked to be assigned to them, or if her team is conspiring for this hopeless wish they have, but she knows it isn't random.

Sharpe is focused, and precise, and it's hard to like her. She's a hard woman and likes giving orders and bossing people around a little too much since it's not even her team, it's Sara's team, but Sharpe outranks her so Sara endures. Sharpe is meticulous and professional and blunt to a fault. She doesn't tip toe around her like everyone's been doing since her maddening adventure into another reality, she treats Sara exactly like before. And if her voice is softer, if her eyes are barely ever looking into Sara's own, that isn't a problem for the mission so Sara isn't concerned by it.

Ava is driven, and strong, and patient when she needs to be. She's fierce, and witty, and really smart. She's sarcastic in all the ways Sara can appreciate, and she's thoughtful and detail oriented. Sara isn't sure when Ava has gone from Sharpe to Ava in her mind, but she has. Sara isn't sure she likes it, but as with the woman herself, she likes parts of it.

She could never love Ava Sharpe.

Not flaws and all. Not the way that other Ava seemed to be in love with her. Sara thinks she'll always hate her a little bit.

It becomes a problem.

Because they work together more and Ava looks at her more and Sara sees it, sometimes, hill concealed as it is when Ava's distracted, and something in her eyes shines in a way that makes Sara frown.

Rip must see it too, because he goes to Sara and kindly informs her of the truth about Ava, of what she is, of how the government experimented with clones, of how she was never supposed to be able to feel. Not excitement, not doubt, definitely not love. She's a factory defect in his eyes. He thinks this will change things, and maybe it does, but not in the way he had wanted it to.

Ava Sharpe, much like herself, wasn't built to feel. But she did anyway. The impossible woman that she is, she just had to go and waste all the money the government poured into making her and just... be. How bold of Ava Sharpe, to be free. To be herself. To belong to herself.

Sara admires it, like she admires a lot of other things Ava is – driven, patient, strong, witty, smart, sarcastic, but also blunt and hard and professional. Sara doesn't mind her flaws like she minded Rip's. Like she minds everyone else's. She just knows she cannot love them, or love her. But it's also a little endearing that Ava did what Sara couldn't, that she shed her inability to feel.

“Hunter told me what he did to you, even though I already knew bits of it from that other Ava I met. He thought it would make me hate you. He's a jerk and I sent him to hell and I wanted to say I'm sorry you had to go through this. Being a clone, I mean,” Sara tells her one day, in a hallway, like this is the kind of thing people can say in an hallway, like it isn't the most personal conversation they've ever had. “And I'm sorry you've had to do it alone, but you have our team to back you up now.”

Ava gapes a little, she looks fearful for a moment, but then nods.

Sara nods too and leaves because there's nothing else to say.

She thinks about Ava Sharpe a lot, about how she looks when Sara's around her. Like she's better when she's by Sara's side, like instead of taking something from Ava, she's given her something. Sara doesn't understand it: if Sharpe loves her and Sara doesn't love her back, why is Ava happy to be around her?

“You look at me sometimes the way she did. The Ava Sharpe I met in that other universe I was sent to.”

Ava looks scared again, just for a moment, then she looks away for a second, centers herself and nods. Sara isn't sure she's ever met someone as brave, but there is no way she's going to unpack that thought.

“I know. I'm sorry.”

“I'm not telling you so you can be sorry.”

Ava nods again. “Sara- the other Sara, she told me something about her and her own Ava. She said I wasn't supposed to love, no, but maybe like I forced love back into her, she did the same for me. It was unavoidable for them.”

“I can't.” Sara frowns. “I can't love you back.”

The last word is a whisper but it echoes so loudly in the silence that follows. She doesn't say she's sorry: she isn't. It's just how things are.

Ava shakes her head. “I don't want you to love me back.”

Sara's frown deepens and she feels like everyday she understands this woman less and less. It's all anyone has ever wanted from her. Oliver, Rip, they said they didn't but they did. Why waste your time on someone who's never going to feel the same?

“I want you to be happy.”

Ah. Sara sees it then. That same look. Zari called it stupid endless foolish love. Sara called it unconditional. It is the same kind, the kind Rip had never loved her with, the kind Sara knows she is never allowed to feel again.

Ava Sharpe loves her, Ava Sharpe wants her to be happy.

And Sara realizes, with a grimace and an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of her stomach, that, may God have mercy on her just this once, she wants Ava Sharpe to be happy as well.

Sara doesn't tell Ava that, of course. And she doesn't ask her what makes her happy because that would be dumb.

She just knocks on Ava's apartment door one night and brings her whiskey. Ava lets her in, pours them drinks, looks amazing in informal wear. She's wearing grey sweatpants and an old light blue t-shirt, her hair are messy and out of the usual bun, and after two drinks she sits all wonky and slumped; it's the single best thing Sara has ever seen. So, as soon as she finds the nerve to, Sara kisses her, knowing there's no point in pretending she's there just to check up on Ava; it's come to the point where they see each other daily at work, so that would be pointless and an utter bad lie that Ava hadn't seem to believe from the start.

Sara kisses her, and Ava lets her.

They fall into each other slowly, not in the rushed and barely restrained way Sara had pictured in her mind. She'd imagined it would be like trying to capture the ocean into a glass and seeing it spill over ever so powerfully. But it's not like that, at least not just that... uncontainable. It's also tender, attentive, sweet. Ava's sweet. She tries not to be. Sara feels it in the insistency of her lips on her own, on her skin, she feels it in Ava's teeth leaving marks, but it's a striking contrast with the way her hands caress along Sara's skin like she's tracing the outline of a masterpiece. Ava's sweet in a way Sara finds herself liking, even though she shouldn't.

Ava cares for her. And Sara lets her.

Maybe that's why her plan backfires: when she's lying in the dark after Ava's fallen asleep, she realizes the flow has stopped and there's no sorrow radiating off of her, no grief pouring out of her chest. She's happy with this, with looking at Ava as she sleeps and knowing she's safe and content. What if this isn't what makes Ava happy, but what makes her happy?

She's still hell bent on not asking how she can achieve that goal. So, instead, Sara notices.

Ava's happier when Sara's by her side, so she starts requesting Sharpe as their handler. She notices Ava is less of a pain to be around after she's had some coffee, so she starts bringing her some of the good stuff from the shop around the corner instead of letting her drink that awful thing they have at the Bureau. Ava likes cookies and office plants and color coded binders and Sara occasionally has one thing or the other waiting on her desk for her in the morning.

Sara tells herself she does this in lieu of loving her back.

Ava doesn't question it, any of it.

Sara knocks on her apartment door one night and invites herself in and Ava tells herself maybe Sara's feeling sad or misses Rip, or something else that has nothing to do with her. As it turns out, it has everything to do with her, because the next day Sara brings her coffee and then the presents start and she's around more, she's looking better rested and more serene by the day and so Ava never asks why, or why now.

She doesn't know if this is temporary, if this is a thing that it's supposed to run its course and end at some predetermined point that Ava isn't privy to. She doesn't really care, because Sara's there and everyday she does something that makes Ava feel like everything's suddenly completely different and it can never go back to how it was before.

Simply put, Sara takes care of her, makes sure Ava's okay and content and happy and Ava doesn't have to even realize it before she starts doing the same.

Sara laughs at Zari's jokes and she doesn't scold Ray for being perky and hugs Nate back when he hugs them one by one; she lets them call her Sara on the job and gets over the “ma'am” and “Captain Lance” and finds it stupid after she shed the titles, because the distance wasn't helping. It was getting in the way. The team works together better, once Sara starts caring again.

Ava is around more and everyone calls her Ava now, everyone smiles at her, everyone seems glad she's part of their team. It makes Sara happy and she can't quite understand how or why, but it starts to become a little bit frustrating that everything she tries to do to make Ava happier ends up making herself happier instead.

Sara smiles more and is often in a good mood and she sends off her team with witty lines and one day, she just made a corny joke about Ava's shirt and white collar crimes as a send off, she sees Ava smiling at her in a way she usually tries to hide, affectionate and open and impossibly fond. Her team walks off and Sara raises an eyebrow, Ava shrugs it off and says “you just have a gorgeous smile” as she passes her by on the way out and Sara's stomach does somersaults.

Her heart beats a little bit louder when she gets home that night. Home, is no longer the FBI's quarters. Home, after seven months of this, is Ava's place. There's a u-haul joke in there, somewhere, but they think it's just convenient. Sara doesn't have a place in D.C. and this way they have all the privacy they want. They can watch TV holding hands and she can laugh loudly when Ava's telling a stupid story about Gary. Of course Sara hasn't moved in officially, but Ava isn't surprised to see her already making dinner when she gets in or to see her walk through the front door while she's in the middle of cooking. And Sara thinks of it as home, some days. Well, most days.

She stops three feet from the couch and Ava puts down her glass of wine and smiles up at her, but when Sara stands there shifting her weight, she knows something's wrong.

“I can't love you back.”

Ava's quick to hide the little pang of pain. Sara hasn't said it in a while, but she's always known. So she gets up, nods and smiles. “I know.”

“I hate it. I do. But it's just how it is.”

“I know,” Ava says again and takes Sara's hand. “You've never wanted to talk about it before. What changed?”

Sara shrugs. “You said you wanted me to be happy. I hated you a little bit but I wanted you to be happy, too. And I thought this...” she gestures between them, then grimaces. “Honestly, I thought I could make you happy and it could be good for me, at least better than anything else I've had, for sure.”

“Hasn't it been?” Ava's a little hopeful, a little eager. “Hasn't it been kind of good?”

“It's been perfect, Ava. And I've been happier than I ever remember being. And it's not fair.”

“Why is it not fair?” Ava asks as she steps closer, circling Sara's waist with her arms.

“Because... I really did hate you a little bit, because you could feel this way, even though neither of us should. And now... I hate it when you're not by my side. You make me happy and you make me feel...” the word is hard but Sara says it anyway, knows it to be true, “...loved. And I can't do the same for you and it's not fair.”

Ava smiles at her and leans in slightly like she's about to tell her some secret. “Who says you can't? You make me really happy, Sara. It's the little things, you know? I only drink good coffee now and there's three plants currently alive in my office, which is a record and only possible thanks to you learning which ones I'm able to not kill with my awful gardening skills. You know how I like to organize stuff and I know you've been sorting my files in color coded folds so I could find them when someone else leaves them laying around. I've never been so stress free. Not to mention, you're quite the sight for sore eyes,” she jokes and kisses Sara's cheek and Sara hates that it makes her smile stupidly. She hates that her stomach bottoms out again.

“So, you're happy?”

“Very much.”

“And you won't turn around and ask me to love you back someday?”

“Never. As long as we're happy, this is what I want.”

Sara frowns because this woman... this woman is so different. Ava's patient, strong, smart, sweet, caring, gentle in a way nobody else has ever been with her. Ava is so kind. A kindness like that, it sneaks in if you're not careful, warms your heart, makes you happy. Ava is loving. Ava loves her so much, it slithers in. In, in, in. It's such a refreshing, welcomed feeling, it's such a good thing, Sara doesn't even notice it immediately. She's not used to look for good things, and that's exactly how it sneaks past her.

“I want this, too. Us. I want to be with you,” Sara nods, and it's final. She slips out of Ava's grasp, takes off her coat and starts making dinner in an apartment that's not even her own and Ava just keeps smiling to herself as Sara fills the silence by talking about her day.

They behave completely professionally, Ava wouldn’t have it any other way. Word gets around anyway, there aren’t any complaints but there are some rumors. They don’t mind, they don’t like it but it’s fine, it’s just what work is like sometimes.

It doesn’t matter. Until it does. Until Rip grabs her elbow in an empty hallway as she’s passing him by, while she's on her way to Ava’s office to ask Ava if she wants to take a break.

“I don’t get it. I love you. And you might not want to admit it but you loved me. And she... she’s not even real, Sara. Don’t I matter more than some clone?”

Sara tears her elbow from his grasp and sees red. She’s pondering if she wants to go off on him or walk away when he adds:

“Or is that why you're doing this? Being with a clone, you don’t have to worry about just using her. It’s what you do to people, after all, and she was literally built for it.”

Sara isn’t really sure why it hits home so hard, she just knows the sinking feeling in her stomach to be unbearable and she wants to say so many things, to explain how wrong he is or to laugh in his face, but her feelings all pile up and suddenly the only way she knows to let them out is a perfectly aimed punch to his nose. Her arm moves back again but before she can decide how far to take it there are arms around her. Sara pushes back and swats downwards, but Nate manages to drag her back anyway.

Sara breaths in, three times, before she’s somewhat in control again.

“You say something like that again and I’ll land more than just a punch,” she seethes.

Nate lets her go and Sara turns and everything stops because Ava is standing right there. Sara should feel sorry, but she doesn’t.

“Nate, could you escort Agent Hunter to the med bay? Agent Lance, my office, to discuss consequences.”

Ava turns on her heels and Sara has to sprint a little to catch up, after she gives Rip one last angry look.

She just stands there awkwardly as Ava looks through her cabinet, walking to her a moment later. She takes Sara’s right hand and lays instant ice gently on her knuckles even though she's barely even hurt at all. Despite that, Sara lets her.

“What happened?”

“Nothing. He was just being a dick.”

The ice looks so interesting, Sara decides she’s just going to stare at it.

“What did he say?”

“Nothing,” curt, stubborn, irritated. “Just... just write me up or suspend me or fire me. I’m not apologizing to him.”

“I’m not asking you to. And I’m not asking as your superior,” gentle fingers move her hair away and, when Sara finally turns to her, she sees worry and a little confusion. But she’s not mad. And it makes Sara feel worse, somehow.

She leans forward and steps into Ava’s arms and there’s a moment, a terrifying moment, when Ava stands still. Because the truth is, at this point Sara wants Ava to love her. She wants Ava to love her unconditionally and stupidly and endlessly. Ava drops the ice and hugs her close to herself, kissing her forehead gently.

It’s almost too much, but somehow it’s just perfect.

“Don’t mind him, Sara. He’s just a jerk. And I’m not saying that because he’s your ex. Well, I’m not saying that only because he’s your ex.”

That makes her smile a little, but it’s gone soon after.

“He is. And you’re... I know I shouldn't do comparisons but really, there's not even a comparison to be made because you’re so much better than him, you’re kind and brave and smart and... stubborn, hard, bossy, and you can be so confrontational sometimes.”

“Well... some of those are compliments,” Ava chuckles.

“I like that you’re stubborn, and bossy, or when you antagonize me for no reason. I like everything that makes you... you.”

Sara remembers thinking she just could never like Ava’s flaws. It seems so stupid now, because Ava has the best flaws. Sara wouldn’t change anything about her.

She keeps holding onto Ava for a long time. Ava lets her. And the same wave she’s been feeling for a while pours in, in, in, and it fills her heart to its brim.

Things are different from then on. Sara waits for Ava to be done with work and they walk home together, because what’s even the point in pretending they’re not going the same way? They get to work holding hands most days and there’s that one morning Sara distractedly kisses her goodbye in front of her team and Nate makes fun of her. Ava holds her breath for ten seconds, waiting for the scolding, the dismissing, but it never comes. Sara chuckles instead, and corrects Nate’s “Mrs Captain” with “Show some manners, it’s Agent Mrs Captain to you.”

And Ava knows right then, Sara’s going to be the love of her life.

Sara smiles and jokes and despite still knowing Sara could kill them with no effort, people now aren’t scared she actually might. Other Agents comment on how happy she seems and that they’re glad she’s doing well. Sara is not a fan of meddling and she always makes a point of shrugging it off, but she knows a huge part of it is because of Ava.

Ava, who burns seventy percent of the meals she cooks, who sings out of tune when vacuuming, who keeps killing the plants Sara gets her, up until they just decide it’s time to buy a fake one for the office and be done with it. Ava, who looks at her so lovingly it sometimes hurts.

Ava, who puts her hand on Sara’s chest after her nightmares and tells her everything’s going to be okay. Sara believes her and something seems to radiate off of her fingertips and into Sara’s chest, until her heart sings, maybe somewhat out of tune, just like Ava does when she vacuums.

It’s not a sudden realization. Sara’s been feeling it for a while, but she tries not to think about it, because she knows, it could ruin it all.

Things are good, perfect even, and she doesn’t try to push herself, she doesn’t try to be someone she’s not. She simply, for the first time in a very long time, is.

Until the day she goes to pick up Ava after work and Gary tells her she took half the day off, she wasn’t feeling well, and he thinks it’s better if Ava’s the one who tells her why.

Sara rushes home to find Ava spaced out on the couch, eyes red and cheeks stained, and when Sara comes into view something heartbreaking happens: Ava smiles, gets up, and pretends like she hasn’t been crying her heart out for hours.

“Hey, I hadn’t realized it was so late. I’m gonna make us some dinner,” she goes to walk past her but Sara touches her wrist and then places a hand on her hip so she’ll stay close, close enough they couldn’t pretend even if they wanted to.

“Baby, what happened?” There’s worry in her voice, confusion, hurt from seeing Ava this hurt.

“Nothing, I-” her voice trembles and she shakes her head before trying again. “Nothing.”

“It’s okay if you don’t wanna talk about it, but I’m not here to judge or anything, I just want to help.”

Sara caresses her cheek and kisses it so tenderly Ava has to smile, shy and happy despite everything, and Sara gets why Ray isn’t afraid of her anymore, she understands right then and there. If he saw Ava reacting this cutely to being kissed on the cheek by that other Sara, the woman she loves, the woman who loves her more than anything in the multiverse... by the woman who loves her, Sara admits to herself. By the woman who’s in love with her.

“It was just... Rip asked Bennet to demote me, when he wouldn’t, he told the board having a clone in command was counterproductive and then he acted like he didn’t realize he was outing me to all my bosses. So, now everyone knows. That I’m a clone. That I’m not real.”

There’s guilt and pain and rage all at once, but then Ava’s eyes raise into hers and all Sara can feel is...

“You are, Ava. You’re so real. You’re as real as I feel about you.”

Ava’s eyes are so hopeful and soft. She kisses Sara gently, cautiously, and when they lean back and Sara looks up, she knows she can say it and Ava won’t hold it against her. She knows it won’t change anything and it’ll change everything.

“I love you, Ava.”

“You do?”

“So much,” Sara can’t help but smile. “You’re so smart and kind and brave and you’re so goddamn stubborn, baby, and you’re the bossiest person I know. And I love all of it. I’m so in love with you. I’ve been for a while.”

Ava doesn’t ask her why she hasn’t said anything before, she doesn’t ask when she knew or why is she telling her now. Ava knows her, and the space and time she’s been giving Sara have been deliberate, and it’s another thing Sara loves about her.

“And you are so real, you have hopes and fears and friends who love you, you have a life that has nothing to do with the Bureau and they can never take it away from you. You are so special, Ava.”

“Don’t you care that I’m a clone?”

Sara smiles again. “Of course I care. I love you more because of it. You told me once, that other me and you from that other reality... they were unavoidable. I didn’t get it, then, but I do now. This wasn’t allowed to us,” Sara frames her face with her hands and feels tears in her eyes she refuses to shed, “we weren’t allowed to fall in love. But we did anyway. We’re unavoidable.”

“Sara,” Ava chokes out, like she can’t say anything else, like nothing else makes sense but the name that’s been on her lips the whole time.

And Sara smiles and kisses her and lets herself feel all of it, every part of it, she feels Ava smile against her lips and suddenly they’re giggling and then laughing and Sara swears she’s never felt as happy and free, she’s never felt as much in her life.

They walk to Ava's office hand in hand the next day, unashamed, unyielding, unafraid. Bennet and Hunter are already waiting for her there, arguing loudly and attracting attention and Ava almost lets go of Sara's hand. But Sara's grip gets firmer and she asks: “Do you want me to beat him up?”

Ava chuckles, says, “That way we'll both be out of a job.”

Someone touches Ava's shoulder, and when she turns, Nora’s there with Sara’s team behind her and she quietly says they’ve heard what happened and they’re ready to support her whatever that means.

Ava smiles and thanks them but begs them not to do anything drastic. However, when Bennett walks to them with Rip by his side, the first thing out Nora’s mouth is “You fire her and we all quit,” and Ava wants to smack her on the head.

“I’m not firing my best Agent. However, I’ve been talking to the board, and some of them had some really good questions about why Hunter didn’t tell us right away and about why, if you’re literally meant to be in charge, and since you’ve been such an asset to us, you are still not in charge of your own division. You can thank Hunter, he ended up getting you a promotion,” he pats the back of a very sore-looking Hunter before turning back to her. “And, Deputy-Director Sharpe, congratulations,” he nods to the hand Sara’s still holding.

Ava has the impulse to let go again, but Sara holds on, smiles, thanks him.

Rip leaves without saying anything and they can only imagine how much trouble he is in with Bennett, but their friends hug Ava and nobody asks stupid questions or mentions her being a clone. Sara is actually kinda proud of them.

Five months later, on an average day, Sara realizes she could've missed it all. If some other version of herself hadn't touched some weird artifact more than a eighteen months before, she would've never believed Sharpe could love her. She's better with Ava by her side, freer, happier, sillier. Ava's happy, too, and that's really what Sara had wanted all along. Ava's happy. And Sara is so in love with her it seems crazy now, thinking she would never love her back.

Five months later, on an average day, Sara realizes the other version of her from another reality had been right all along. Their love was unavoidable. Ava Sharpe was always meant to be the love of her life.