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Just Breathe

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The first thing he's aware of is pain.

Like every nerve ending is screaming. Air hits his lungs, and he remembers breathing. Sort of.

Then, light.

It hits his … eyes? … like a million daggers to his brain, and then he's aware of noise, too. An odd sort of keen.

And ...

"Leonard?"

The sound means nothing at first. He sees colors now, then images. A face, blue eyes, golden hair. Someone …

She grabs his arm. A gargled sort of scream emerges from …

Oh. It's him.

The sound of running footsteps, another voice. "Sara? What's going …"

And then nothing, once more.

But it's a different sort of nothing.


The next time he's aware, things are a bit more coherent. A bit.

There's still pain, and for a moment he just stares at the ceiling and breathes. It's not quite as bad as before, though, and he thinks distantly that he must be hopped up on some pretty good painkillers.

His mind still shies away from whyand he lets it, which just brings other things into slightly greater focus.

It takes a Herculean effort, but he manages to turn his head, just a little, to the right. She's sitting there, Sara, her head lowered onto her clasped hands and her eyes closed. He's contemplating whether or not he can manage to clear his throat when her eyes slowly open and meet his.

It seems to take a moment for her to register what she's seeing, but her lips slowly part as she stares at him.

He seems to think he should have a snappy comment to make here, but he doesn't seem to be capable of it. He just stares back, realizing belatedly that he's not sure he can move his head again. How mortifying.

Finally, she sits up, closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath. He waits.

"You bastard."

Well.

"Not … what I was … hoping for." His voice is a rasp, but he's pleased he manages the words at all.

"We thought you were dead." Her eyes are narrowed, now, and there's real anger in them. "We mourned.You. Were. Dead."

"To be fair ... I thought the same thing ..." She waits, but he has to pause a minute, concentrate on breathing. He sees her expression soften a little, and she turns to inspect the monitors in the medbay for a few moments before finally turning back to him.

The anger, he realizes, was not for him.

"I'm sorry," she whispers. "It hasn't been the greatest a few weeks. What …"

"Weeks?"

"Weeks. What's the last thing you remember?

"'Boom.' Then, 'ow.'"

She smiles, just a little, but there's something a bit distant in her eyes. "How do we know you're really what you seem?"

How can he go into this when he can barely manage to string a few words together? He closes his eyes, then opens them, meets hers. "Helluva … kiss. Helluva thief?"

A faint blush of color stains her cheekbones. "OK. So you have the memories. I suppose that's a good sign."

"Of what?" He's ridiculously proud when he manages to tilt his head, starts to contemplate whether he can prop himself up.

"You being you."

"Who else?"

"I don't know." Something flickers in her eyes again. "You sort of blew yourself to atoms, then appeared 15 days later in my room before passing out. Gideon figures … something … sort of stitched you back together from those component atoms. You're genetically and physiologically identical to before, but we didn't know who … what … was in your head."

"Me. I think. … Ow." OK, so notable to prop himself up...

"Knock it off, idiot, you need to rest." She frowns at the monitors. "You might not seem to be damaged, but Gideon said your pain levels were off the charts and you're very weak. She thinks time and rest will take care of that."

"Thinks?"

"This isn't exactly an everyday occurrence."

He scowls in her general direction, but it's not really directed at her. His mind is spinning.

"Gideon say how long?"

"To get back to normal? Again, not an everyday occurrence. Just be grateful you're here."

Again, something indefinable in her voice. He tries to meet her eyes, but she won't let him.

"We chased Mick out a while ago," she says. "He's threatening to 'beat you senseless;' you two really have to work on the 'violence as acceptable form of affection' thing."

"Eh. He'll get over it."

"Hmmm. Stein keeps saying your reappearance is 'astonishing.' I think Ray might have a time or two as well. And he's declared you a hero." She does smile at his noise of disgust. "Yeah, figured that's what you'd say. He's not the only one, so get used to it."

The smile runs off her face then, though. "You should know, it made a difference. We actually managed to deal Savage a pretty good blow because he didn't realize his Time Master buddies weren't helping him anymore. That's the good news. He's not dead, though, and we're not sure where he is now. We got Kendra back. Not Carter...

"And you blew the timeline to hell, so even though we're free and we were able to return our younger selves to their lives, no one's quite sure what to do next. Rip thinks his family might be OK, but that going to check would create some sort of paradox … so he can't even do that. He's ... not doing so well with the uncertainty. Everyone was actually going a little bit nuts when you appeared out of nowhere and distracted us. So, thank you."

"Glad to help." His mind has circled back to something she said earlier. "Wait … in your room? "

"Mmhmm. What do you remember? I mean … about before that, too?"

"I … told off one of the Time Bastards," he says slowly, thinking about it. "Got in a few last words. And … I guess I was thinking of you when it blew."

Her face reveals nothing.

"… me and you. Actually. Maybe that's why I … got dropped where I did, I guess. No idea."

A long pause.

"Well." Her lips twitch a little. "I don't want to know what else you were thinking of, because you were stark naked."

"What?!" He actually does manage to get an elbow underneath himself … ow, ow, OW… before she puts a hand to his chest and firmly pushes him back down.

"Don't worry. Got a blanket around you before the others made to the room. Apparently whatever put you back together didn't do clothing."

"I liked that jacket."

"So did I. Hey, 'room that makes clothes,' remember? We'll get you another one."

They're both deflecting; he knows the tactic well enough. "Sara … I ..."

"Mr. Snart! Back with us? In more ways than one?"

And suddenly, the room is full of people, theorizing (Stein and Ray), threatening (Mick), trading medical jargon (Gideon and Rip), and otherwise talking at him (Jax and Kendra), and it's all actually a bit overwhelming.

He's startled, and touched, to realize the sheer amount of relief and general pleasure at his presence, his survival. He's gone from prepared-to-sacrifice to alive-after-all, and despite what Sara had said, it felt like mere moments to him.

These people have mourned him. It's … startling.

But when he gets a chance to look for her again, Sara is gone.


Gideon eventually lets him out of the medbay after some – he'll admit it – pleading on his part, judging that "a more normal environment," for certain values of the word "normal," might do him good.

As every moment passes, his pain level continues to fall, even though he's still dealing with the post- … whatever … weakness, and he insists on doing away with the painkillers, even if that slows things down somewhat.

He does get stuck with a babysitting detail, though, because despite his rapid progress, mobility is still an issue. Mick, with a forbidding look on his face, claims the first shift, and no one is willing to gainsay him.

Mick ... is not happy about getting hit again. And less happy about this "playing-the-hero, sacrifice shit," as he says. Irritated, Leonard fires back about his friend's willingness to do so in the first place.

To his great surprise, instead of more bluster, that leads to a rather honest conversation about the team and how certain things have changed over the course of the past few months. How they've changed. Motivations. Goals. By the time Stein shows up a few hours later, they part as friends again. No one even got damaged this time.

Sara, he thinks, will be pleased. He'll never admit it to the others, though.

Stein wants to converse earnestly about temporal theory and what might have happened to him. Bemused, he manages it for a while before nodding off in the middle of speculation on the nature of the wellspring.

After waking, he actually passes a rather enjoyable few hours playing video games ("Good therapy, Snart; Gideon actually suggested it.") with Jax before telling the kid to go get something to eat, that his stomach growling is keeping the invalid awake.

Fact is, he does need to rest again, which irritates the hell out of him.

Ray is supposed to be the next one on the "babysit Snart" list, so when a noise makes him look up from where he's sprawled on the bed, he's surprised, if pleased, to see Sara standing diffidently in the doorway.

"Hey."

"Hey." He thinks about sitting up, discards the notion. He doesn't feel the need to prevaricate in front of her; what's the point? "What's up?"

"Just thought I'd check in." She meanders into the room, noting with a smile the fact that the cold gun and his goggles are propped against the desk again, checking the medical information Gideon still insists on putting on one of the wall displays, before ending up standing next to the him and the bed.

She hesitates a moment before asking, "Can I come up there?"

"Sure."

She toes off her boots, then hops up – he refrains from making a height comment - and, to his surprise, stretches out next to him, head pillowed on her bent left regards him a moment before asking, "How are you feeling?"

"Better, actually. Look, I can string together more than six words without stopping to remember how to breathe." Smirk. "I can even sit up on my own without passing out. If I'm lucky, next I'll be able to manage to make it to the bathroom on my own."

"Impressive." She smiles, then returns to studying him. He lets her, in silence. The ball is in her court here, really.

"I'm sorry I ran off earlier," she says finally. "Too many people. You talk to Mick?"

"Yeah. We're good."

"Does that mean 'we didn't talk about it, we just called each other names and threatened each other before agreeing not to kill each other ordie for each other any time soon?' "

"Yep." Then he concedes. "Maybe we talked about it. A bit. Really. We're good. Look, I don' t even have a black eye."

"Men." But she smiles a little. "Good. He was pretty broken up, you know. No matter how he chooses to express it now."

"He said you were, too."

She studies him a moment.

"At first I couldn't believe it," she says, finally. "Then I was angry that you'd … say what you said … about us … and thengo blow yourself to hell. And then … I just missed you. I'm glad you're back."

It's on the tip of his tongue to ask, "Howglad?"

And then, not being completelyan idiot, he notices that she's closer than she was a moment ago.

Their faces are lying just a few inches from each other. He's looking right into her eyes; he can feel her breath on his face. It would take very little effort, really, to lean over and kiss her - and he's pretty sure, from the look in her eyes, that she'd let him.

So he does.

It's a soft kiss, just a brief press of lips and a flicker of tongues.

But it's ripe with possibility, and right now, back from what he'd thought had been certain death, 'possibility' seems like the best word in the world.

When he opens his eyes again, she's just opening hers, too, and there's a little half-smile on her lips.

"Nice."

"Hm. Not quite what I would have liked for our second kiss."

"Better than the first one. Unless you're planning to run out and …"

"Nope."

"Good." She leans forward and kisses him on the forehead, laughing a little at his noise of disappointment. "Get some rest. I'll be here."

"Promise?"

"Yeah. I'm not going to inflict Ray on you now, Leonard. I'm not sure it'd be crueler to you or Ray; you're still capable of eviscerating him."

But she pauses after the flippant words, gives him a slow smile that seems to have nothing to do with the possibility of bloodshed. (Though he supposes one never knows, with her. It's one of the things he likes.)

" And Len? OK."

"OK?" He's pretty sure he's missed something.

"I don't know what the future holds. None of us really do, not now. But if you still want to see where 'me and you' takes us … well … I'm willing to give it a try."

They look into each other's eyes for a long moment.

"Does that mean I get another kiss?"

"Go to sleep, hero."