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there will be a day when you can say you're okay and mean it

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Ava shouldn't be as used to running away from people with Sara Lance by her side as she is.

This was never supposed to be part of her job. The Legends weren't supposed to be a problem. They were only ever supposed to be a bunch of fuckups that Ava studied so she could learn what not to do.

She hadn't expected them to get under her skin in the way that they had. More specifically, she hadn't expected Sara to get under her skin like she had.

That hadn't been part of the plan. It wasn't even close to being part of the plan. It was so far away from the plan that it was actively ruining Ava’s actual plans.

Like her plans to get promoted within the year. Every time she disobeyed orders to run off with the Legends was another strike on her file. Rip would never fire her, she was too good. But it didn't look like he'd be giving her a raise any time soon. And she was too okay with that.

That was Sara's fault. She made everything too fun. When Ava joined the Legends to fix an Anachronism, it was a game. How fast could they find the problem, how fast could they fix it? How much could they mess up time before Ava gave in and called the Bureau for backup?

Everything felt like a carefully choreographed tug of war between them.

But it was exhilarating, being out of the office, away from paperwork and boring coworkers, and being out in the world. The Bureau likes bureaucracy. The more time Ava spends with Sara, the less she likes bureaucracy.

There is no time to think about filling out forms when you’re running through the streets of Los Angeles in 2055, a bunch of henchmen potentially on your heels.

Sara is fast, but Ava can keep up. They're always in sync. That much is painfully obvious. They fit together so easily that it's almost a crime.

Ava works better when Sara is around. That was harder to admit to herself, but it's true. When she is working with the Bureau, she finds herself in the field, turning and expecting to see Sara beside her. It's ridiculous, and yet she can't stop herself from doing it.

They round a corner, and Sara slows to a halt, breathing heavily, leaning on her knees.

“You think we lost them?”

Ava leans up against the wall behind her. “Are we even sure they're chasing us? Or that they know what we look like?”

Sara's extraction plan had been going well until she tripped an alarm that they hadn't known about. There shouldn't have been any problems with pursuers. They should've been out of the apartment before anyone knew they had been there, but then, the Legends’ plans rarely went off without a hitch.

Which was how they found themselves where they were now.

Sara shrugs. “No idea. But I think we’ve got to assume they're still looking for us.”

“How far away is the ship?” Ava asks, just wanting to be out of there. She wishes she had her Time Courier, but the metal detectors they'd had to evade had meant that had been out of the question.

Sara stands up straight, her breathing slowing. She points down the street. “The parking lot in that mall.”

“Let's go, then.”

Sara holds up a finger. “One second. I think I pulled a muscle back there.”

Ava looks at her, exasperated.

“Oh, stop looking like that. It's fine. I'm pretty sure we lost them,” Sara says. “Anyway, we’re super close to the ship.”

Ava sighs, and then, just to check, glances round the corner they had just turned.

A group of three angry looking men in black are at the end of the block, hardly more than 100 metres away.

She turns back to Sara, her eyes wide, grabbing hold of Sara’s arm and pulling her along the street.

Sara looks at her, affronted. “What was that for?”

Ava jerks her head in the direction they had come. “We didn't lose them.”

Sara swears, picking the pace up. She winces slightly as she walks. Ava feels bad, but now isn't the time to worry about minor injuries. Gideon can fix it when they get back. They just have to actually get back first.

They reach the doors at the front of the mall just as their pursuers turn the corner.

Ava catches a glimpse of their faces. They seem to register her, their movements speeding up.

The mall is crowded - it should be the perfect place to lose a tail.

“Which way?” Ava asks, praying that Sara had planned this out in advance.

Sara looks around, then points down an escalator.

“There's a shortcut out to the parking lot that way.”

“You sure?” Ava asks. They don't have much time, and Ava doesn't want to be backed into a corner.

Sara nods. Ava takes her word. As soon as they are down the escalator, it's clear that this was a bad decision. They're in a food court. It's busy enough for them to blend in, but that's where the good points end.

It's clearly a dead end. A quick scan of the area shows Ava what Sara seems to be realising at the same time: that the only way out is through staff exits blocked by the fast food counters.

If Sara wasn't injured, they could've maybe made a run for it, scared a couple of fast food employees, but the strain on Sara’s face was obvious, and in any case it would create too much of a scene.

The only other exit is back up the escalator. Ava can't bring herself to look, but she's almost certain that their chasers must be almost there by now.

All of a sudden, Sara backs up against a wall, and pulls Ava close. “Don't look now, but I think our friends are coming down the escalators.”

It is Ava's turn to swear. She can't think, not this close to Sara, at least.

Sara is silent for a second, then she speaks. “Take off your jacket.”

“What?” Ava doesn't know how that is going to help.

“Just do it,” Sara says, her mouth firm. “You’ve gotta look different if this is going to work.”

“If what's going to work?” Ava asks, but Sara doesn't say anything, simply reaches round the back of Sara’s head, and unceremoniously pulls the bun out of Ava’s hair. Her hair falls down her back.

“What the hell are you doing?” Ava hisses, indignant, her hand reaching up automatically to her head.

Sara’s eyes flick over Ava’s shoulder, presumably locating the men. Her voice is apologetic when she says, “Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable.”

Ava realises what's about to happen a split second before it does.

Sara’s hands find the back of Ava’s neck, pulling her face down. Her touch is not gentle, but instead rough, purposeful.

Ava's hair falls over both of their faces, and then they're kissing. Ava's eyes close.

This wasn't how she imagined it, not like this, not here, pressed against a wall in a food court that needs a lick of paint, seconds from potentially being apprehended.

Sara's lips move on hers, searing hot and urgent. The act (because that's what this is, right?) is convincing. Sara is a good kisser, so good Ava feels like her knees are going to give way.

Her mouth falls open, and Sara takes advantage of this, deepening the kiss. Her hands move from Ava’s neck to find her waist, pulling her closer, if that were even possible.

The last time someone kissed Ava like this, their clothes hadn't stayed on for very long afterwards. Ava wonders if this is how Sara kisses everyone - like she's drowning and Ava is the only one with air.

And then Sara pulls away. Just like that, it's over. “They're gone. It worked,” Sara says, a small smile on her face. Her face is still too close.

Ava turns away, trying to slow her breathing, trying not to look like she wants more, because, God, it's all she wants. She turns back, and Sara's face is casual as ever.

She doesn't look bothered, so Ava’s not going to let on that she is.

“Let's get a move on, then,” Ava says, more forcefully than she had meant to. She picks her jacket up from where it's already gathering dirt on the ground under their feet. She fishes a hair tie out of the pocket. There's no time to put it up properly, but scraping her hair off her face feels good. Her shirt is crumpled, but there's nothing that can be done about it right now.

Sara nods, her gaze locked on Ava. It's too much, after what just happened, and Ava turns away, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

When they get back to the Waverider, Ava goes straight for her Time Courier. She's ready to leave when Sara stops her.

“Wait. Do you have it?”

“Have what?”

“The totem.”

Ava almost laughs. The totem. The reason they'd been being chased in the first place, the whole reason any of that had happened. She'd completely forgotten, her brain muddled with thoughts of Sara’s lips on hers, Sara’s fingers on her skin. She pulls a pouch out of her pocket, dropping it in Sara’s waiting hand.

Sara looks at her, her eyes betraying something that looks like worry. “It didn't mean anything. It was just for the mission, yeah?”

She doesn't have to say what ‘it’ is. Ava nods curtly, before hitting the button on the Courier.

Back in her office, she collapses on her chair, shell-shocked.

It was just for the mission, and she'd do well to remember that. They were backed into a corner, and Sara had made a split second decision. It didn't mean anything.

Of course, that counted for almost nothing. Ava could tell herself that over and over again, tell herself that Sara was ruthless and clever and that the only reason she had kissed her was because it was the best option in a bad situation, but that wouldn't change the fact that, right now, all she wanted was to open a portal straight back, and kiss her again.

She doesn't. She's got a job to do, a job that she'd been neglecting when she was running around Los Angeles with Sara, and paperwork is piling up on her desk.

So she starts working, but she can't concentrate, can't seem to read the words on the page in front of her. She's restless, so she decides to give up on the files for now, and take a break in the gym.

It's quiet there. The Time Bureau agents are expected to maintain a minimum level of fitness, but every comment Sara makes about their lacking skills in the field is true - her colleagues aren't exactly exercise fiends.

She isn't usually, either, but she’s still amped up, nervous energy coursing through her veins, and she needs some sort of release.

Her mind wanders, thinks about what Sara would say if she was here, thinks about the jokes she might crack, and then she shakes the thought out of her head. Whatever jokes, teases, boundary pushes that Sara makes are obviously just that - jokes.

It's fine, really. It's not like the Captain if the Waverider, leader of the Legends had time for anything more than meaningless flirtation. Ava knows that, knows that she should have accepted that long ago, instead of taking every glance, every lingering look to heart the way she has.

This wasn't who she was usually. She didn't get distracted like this, didn't get fixated like this. If Sara didn't have time, Ava certainly didn't. Her job kept her busy enough.

At least, that is what she tells herself as she turns up the speed on the treadmill, sprinting until her sides feel like they’re on fire, and her legs feel like they’re going to give way.

The gym is still empty. She sits down on the floor next to the treadmill, chest heaving, drinking a bottle of water in one. Her hair falls in her face, messy and damp from sweat. She swipes it anyway, pulling her hair down and re-doing it, her fingers trembling. She stills them, gritting her teeth. The burn in her muscles isn't enough, isn't enough to eclipse everything she's feeling, so she keeps going, getting back up on unsteady legs.

An hour or so later, the door to the gym opens. She starts at the noise, almost dropping the weights she was holding. That would've been a good end to the day - broken bones to match a broken-

She stops herself before she thinks it.

It's Gary. His face is apologetic, as it almost always is. “I'm, uh, going home now, Agent Sharpe. But if you still want me to submit those papers you asked me to do, I can stay longer, if you were going to finish them.”

Ava had forgotten about this. She waves him away. “It's fine. I'm staying late. I'll file them. Go home.”

Gary doesn't argue. He looks at her warily, as if she might suddenly change her mind, and then is gone.

She sighs, going back to the weights in her arms.

When every muscle in her body feels like jelly, and all she can think about is the aches that she's going to feel tomorrow, she knows she's done.

She steps into the shower, hot water rushing over her skin. Of course, alone with her thoughts, it's almost like the gym session never happened. Memories rush back. As she washes her hair, it's like she can feel where Sara’s fingers were on the back of her neck, as if her fingertips had left bruises.

She tries to shake the thought out of her head, but it refuses to budge.

When she is back at her desk, paperwork that should've taken her half an hour takes her three, and it's ridiculous. Ridiculous the effect that one kiss should be having on her.

One kiss that didn't mean anything.

When she eventually makes it back to her apartment, she's exhausted, and wants nothing more than to sleep and escape all of this.

Her subconscious has other ideas. Sara floats through her dreams, always smiling, always teasing, but never getting too close. She wakes up before her alarm the next morning, and doesn't go back to sleep, instead taking a longer run than usual.

Ava blasts music through her headphones, harsh pop songs with their beats loud and their lyrics louder, and that just about works to drown out any thoughts she might have, any thoughts that aren't about what turning she's going to take next.

She downs a large coffee, and it does something to stave away the tiredness. At work, she ignores the notifications that she’s set up to tell her when the Legends are intervening in something.

She had begun to actively seek them out, look for situations that she could join, places that she would be able to help, but all that is out of the window.

Ava wouldn't be a help to the Legends right now.

So she ignores calls from the Waverider, ignores calls that she knows have to come from Sara, because who else on that ship would be calling?

The more time passes, the easier it is to ignore the calls.

The more times passes, the less frequent the calls get.

Ava doesn't feel good about the decision, not yet, but it's something.

She finds blondes in bars, and their kisses always feel wrong, so she stops, simply returning to her apartment after work, no longer making detours.

Things get easier. Not easy, but easier. And then she's assigned to a case that the Legends are working. She should've realised this would happen eventually. After Ava had stopped voluntarily taking up their missions, the buck had been cycled around the office, and now it was her turn.

She couldn't say no, not without giving a reason. ‘I think I'm in love with their Captain and I'm trying to forget about a her’ didn't feel like an excuse that would go down well.

So she goes. The Legends have messed something up, as they always do, and it's her job to fix it. It is easy to revert back to how she was when she first met them all, be the bitch who gets things done, if it means she won't have to talk to anyone (won't have to talk to Sara.)

It's an easy mess to fix, and for that she's thankful. Half an hour, a memory wipe or two, and a pair of handcuffs later, everything is sorted out.

She didn't look at Sara the entire time, despite feeling Sara's on her in everything they did.

That wasn't easy. She wanted to look, wanted to see what was behind her eyes. But that would make everything even harder, ruin all the progress that she'd made.

If she was lucky, then by the time she got assigned the Legends again, it wouldn't hurt quite as much.

As Ava goes to leave, Sara finally manages to get her attention by directly blocking her path.

She sighs, meeting Sara’s eyes for the first time in weeks. “Yes?”

Sara shuffles, her arms crossing. “Where did you go?”

“I've been busy,” Ava says shortly.

“That's not really an answer.”

“It's all you're getting, Miss Lance,” Ava says. The formality takes Sara by surprise, and she is momentarily silent, shock registering on her face.

The silence gives Ava enough time to open and portal and step through.

When she reaches her office, the portal closes behind her. She turns around, and Sara is standing behind her, her arms crossed.

“You're trespassing,” she says, her teeth gritted.

She doesn't want Sara here, another place with memories of her.

Sara looks around, moving closer. “Nice office.”

“Complimenting my furniture doesn't stop you from being a trespasser,” Ava says, watching Sara’s slow movements warily.

“What if I compliment you?” Sara's voice drops, laced with charm, switching tone in the way only she can pull off.

It's enough to undo weeks of work in seconds. Ava's heart rate speeds up.

She backs away, finding her desk, and leaning on the edge of it, tries to steady herself.

“Stop that.”

“Stop what?” Sara asks, her tone almost sing song.

“You know what,” Ava says, her hands bunching into fists. “All this.”

Sara is too close, closer than they've been since they kissed, and it's overwhelming. She tilts her head to one side. “Why?”

“Because I don't want to mean nothing.” Ava spits the words out, setting her jaw. “I guess it was fun for a while, but now…” she trails off, not sure how to say what she wants to.

“That's what this is about?”

Sara doesn't need to say what ‘this’ is, not when tension hangs, practically palpable, in the air between them.

What little air is left.

Ava shrugs. Sara considers this. Ava can almost see the wheels spinning her mind, fitting together the pieces. Ava's not sure she's breathing. The moment seems to last forever, frozen.

Sara restarts time when she closes the gap between them, her mouth soft. It's slower this time. There's no imminent danger, no show that has to be put on.

So maybe it's real.

Sara's hands are on the sides of Ava’s face. Ava's are still stuck in place, fists by her legs that slowly relax as time passes.

Sara's moves back, space between their lips for a split second, and breath catches in Ava’s throat.

Everything is different this time. Every touch is soft. Sara moves slowly. There is need, but not the desperation that Ava felt last time.

When she pulls away, there is nowhere for Ava turn, nowhere to escape to this time. Sara stands in front of her, blocking her in, her hands still on Ava, hands that have moved downwards to loop around her neck.

She looks up briefly at Sara. She's not used to this angle, but with Ava still leaning on her desk, Sara's got an edge on her in terms of height. Ava drops her eyes again.

“I said that it didn't mean anything because you looked so mad, Aves.”

Ava can't say anything, can hardly even bring herself to look at Sara.

“I thought maybe you had a secret girlfriend. Or that I'd just been reading literally everything wrong.”

Ava still doesn't say anything. She doesn't know what to say.

“I wouldn't have kissed you there if I didn't think that maybe there was a chance you wanted me to. And I would've told you that if you hadn't just run out of there.”

Ava finally speaks. “I'm sorry,” she says, meeting Sara’s eyes at long last.

“Don't be,” Sara says. She smiles a weak smile. “I shouldn't have let you run away. That's on me. I'm not very good at… all this.”

Ava looks at her, her eyes roaming over Sara’s face. She smiles. “That’s okay. You're good at other things.”

“Oh yeah?” Sara asks, a familiar smirk rising to her lips.

“Yeah,” Ava says, pulling Sara back in, mouths colliding. It's hot and hard and more like their first kiss than their second, lips and teeth everywhere.

Sara presses in closer, their bodies flush.

If she closes her eyes, she is almost back in the food court, and, all of a sudden, it's not a bad memory anymore.

Sara moves under her hands and against her skin, and it's overwhelming in the best kind of way.