“So Tracer’s a lesbian, but go off!”
There’s an unspoken rule that you don’t talk to people on the train.
A rule that Ava had followed for the entirety of her life. A rule her mother once whispered to her as a child, clutching tightly to her hand as though not to lose her on the crowded evening trains.
Now, years later, out on her own with an apartment and job and a whole well organized life, she had done her best to follow that rule. She took the same train, at the same time, every weekday. She read a book, kept her earphones in with her music at a respectable level, and prepared for the inevitable train and two buses home.
Until Gary - dumb and oblivious but still loyal Gary - had managed to roll his chair over her earphones. Somehow. Ava still wasn’t entirely certain how he had managed that. It hadn’t really mattered, not when she was without earphones until her Prime subscription rewarded her for her twelve dollar a month bribe to the shipping gods and presented her with a new pair in two days time.
Which meant now she was stuck here, unable to read, listening instead to another woman standing right next to her get harrassed on the train.
Or harassing people on the train.
It wasn’t entirely clear.
“I get that fuckboys like you aren’t able to read,” the woman says, louder now, “I mean, I’m sure you’ve read issue eight fucking thousand of whatever circle jerk Captain America bullshit you’re into, but fucking forbid a comic tells you something that doesn’t fit your wet dream fantasies-”
“Now listen here, you bitch!”
At first she had assumed that the two of them were friends (neither of them were in professional clothing despite it being rush hour on the train, instead both in a similar manner of dress - that being references to the sort of pop culture things that Ava usually avoided) but it had became clear quickly enough that that was not the case.
She has no clue what they’re talking about.
But whatever it is, it’s crossing into a area that Ava does her best to avoid at all costs. The one that was a bit too personal and close to home.
“You can just admit that you hate gay people,” the woman says, louder now.
Ava doesn’t mean to be watching.
Not really, but the second the man grabs the woman’s arm in a manner that’s a clear indicator that they are the exact opposite of friends - as if everything else hadn’t pointed to as much, Ava can’t help the protective feeling that wells up inside of her.
The need to do something.
To say something .
“Hey,” Ava says, turning part way around, ignoring the annoyed noise of the person on the other side of her, as her laptop bag bumps into them. Instead focusing on the woman next to her. There’s something in her eyes, confusion mostly, a little annoyance, but also a look that Ava recognized from nights out at bars she didn’t want to be at.
The need to be rescued from this conversation.
“Hey,” Ava says again, softer, less of a snap this time, less aggressive.
She still feels an anger inside of her that she couldn’t explain, one that came out of nowhere at the sight of some man touching a woman that was literally a stranger to her. But she calms it down for a moment. Outbursts on a public train isn’t like her.
She takes a deep breath and plasters on her customer service smile, the one she uses during long work days, and says, “It’s our stop next.”
The woman - the stranger - seems to recognize her words for what they are, “Thanks for reminding me, babe,” she says, with a smile just for Ava and when she moves to pull away from the man’s grasp, he does not fight her on it.
When she slips their hands together, threading their fingers together, Ava tries not to jolt at the strangeness.
Instead, she tugs them forward the second the train slows to a stop, moving through the crowded train with an apology on her lips until they’re both out of train and on solid ground.
They stay like that for a moment, a few steps off of the train still on the platform, as if they were going to transfer to another train. Their fingers still laced together until the train they were on leaves the platform, leaving them behind in its wake.
The second the train disappears, Ava speaks, “I’m sorry, I-”
Only to be stopped as she replies, with a sort of teasing tone, “My hero.”
“I wanted to punch him,” Ava admits, which it seems silly, but once she says the words they seem right. Because that is exactly what she had felt.
And this woman smiles back at her, as if that was exactly the right “I mean, same. Guess neither of us got the satisfaction.”
“I’m sorry,” Ava says again.
“Don’t apologize,” she insists. “Or I mean, do but only because this definitely isn’t my stop, and the next train isn’t for eight more minutes.”
Ava looks up at the sign on the platform.
She hadn’t even really checked it before getting off.
Had just acted on impulse.
“If it makes you feel any better it’s not mine either.”
She laughs. A sort of wild unchecked thing. The type of laugh that would have put Ava off from people before, but for some reason only seems to draw her more in. Only makes her want to stick around and learn more about this woman - this stranger .
“Can I buy you dinner,” Ava offers, “As an apology for making you get off at the wrong stop?”
It’s an excuse.
A thin one.
Because she wants to spend more time with her.
With the woman that is still holding her hand.
“Well,” she drawls, over dramatic, “That’d be a start.”
(Only later, much later, do they discover that the stop they had both meant to actually get off was the same, but when Sara kisses her on the sidewalk where their paths finally diverge hours later as thanks, Ava figures it was well worth the loss of her earphones.)
Her name is Sara Lance, and she is exactly the sort of person that Ava had spent much of her life avoiding.
Ava had a good life, a life that functioned and was in order. She had a nice job in an office downtown, an apartment up on the northside, near enough to the train that there was no point in getting a car, and a cat named after her fictional heroine to keep her company.
She was good.
She was happy.
She was settled.
She went to bed at 8:30 every night and woke up on 6:00 every morning, she splurged on bath bombs and old books.
She didn't do anything to disturb that cycle.
Sara disrupts all of that in an instant.
“So it's called a barcade, but it’s not like the Barcade cause that’s in New York or whatever and it sucks by default of not being in the midbest ,” Sara says, sometime after their third train transfer. “But basically there’s like beer and pinball machines and more beer. You do drink right?”
“Not usually on a Tuesday,” Ava points out.
Because it is Tuesday.
“Well game night is always on Tuesdays,” Sara says, “So you better get used to it if you’re going to be my…” Sara pauses, shifting on her heel so that she’s now walking backwards facing Ava. It doesn’t seem safe, and Ava wants to reach out to stop her.
Only barely resists the urge.
Tucking her hands into the pockets of her jacket to resist the urge.
“What exactly are we calling this?”
Because she genuinely wasn’t sure.
Because after the train incident Sara had somehow managed to find Ava on every social media ever, even her LinkedIn which had really been the shocker, and spent much of her absurd amount of free time texting Ava things that she only half understood.
She’d shown up at Ava’s place with pizza two nights ago, which had ended with Sara critiquing her taste in pizza toppings to the point that Sara had insisted that she felt bad and needed to apologize by eating Ava out.
Something that Ava certainly hadn’t complained about but…
But it was complicated.
She didn’t know what this was.
Didn’t know how to deal with it.
And so when Sara had invited her to game night with her friends, Ava had accepted because her only other plan had been watching Netflix with her cat. There was something about Sara that had fostered a newfound need for spontaneity and Ava still wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
But Sara is smiling at her, and Sara is beautiful under the city lights and Ava figures she’s ready to try.
“Your hero,” Ava suggests, with that same sort of teasing tone.
Sara stops at that, so sudden that Ava nearly crashes into her, almost sending them both tumbling into the street.
Something she would mind a whole lot more, if Sara wasn’t pressing up on her toes a moment later, and pulling Ava into a kiss. It’s a little breathless and wild, like Sara’s kisses always are.
Ava’s still not really used to being kissed like this.
Not sure she’ll ever be properly used to it.
One of the many wonders of Sara Lance.
(Later when they finally make it to the barcade, and Ava meets all of Sara’s friends which feels like one of the biggest and best mistakes of her life. She’ll have to bite down the urge to smile as Sara proudly introduces Ava to all of them as her hero .)
It’s not that Ava knows nothing about video games it’s just that… Ava knows nothing about video games.
There hadn’t been much of an interest in them as a child, nobody to encourage her or push her down that path. There had been books to read, and violin lessons to take, and martial arts practice and it just hadn’t… There had never been an interest or inclination to ask her parents for a video game system.
And now as an adult, she was certain that she had missed her opportunity for that long ago.
Though if Sara had anything to say about it -
“It’s basically just button mashing,” Sara insists, handing the… Remote? Controler? Whatever she was supposed to be using to play the game? To Ava.
She’d watched Sara play the game for the past hour. Sitting on an air mattress on Sara’s living room floor, because apparently she didn’t have a couch (nor did she had an intention of getting a couch) since Kendra had moved out recently to live with her two boyfriends.
Something which Ava was still having a problem wrapping her head around.
Much like this video game.
“Is there a tutorial mode,” Ava asks, because no matter how many times she watched Sara play it, the game wasn’t seeming to get any easier to understand. She got the general idea - she had a team, they ran around shooting their enemies, tried to protect something called a payload or maybe they were getting the payload . It still wasn’t very clear.
“Tutorials are for little bitches,” Sara announces, “Just pick a character the team’s waiting for you.”
The team .
Because that was the worst part of all this.
Ava wasn’t just playing the game, she was going to playing with Sara’s friends, the ones she had met a small handful of times and who still continued to concern her on too many levels to entirely explain.
“Which one is the easiest?”
“I usually play as Soldier because I have good taste,” Sara says, pointing out the characters, with a shrug. “I mean, I think they have backstories. They’re in like books or comics or something, I don’t know, I can’t read.”
“You can read,” Ava informs her, “I’ve seen you read.”
Sara does that thing where she pursed her lips together in contemplation - it’s a look Ava has found herself growing more and more fond of - before she eventually shakes her head. “Sounds like fake news, Aves.”
“Why do I put up with you?”
“Because you’re my hero and you have to,” Sara tells her, before leaning forward to press a kiss to Ava’s nose.
Which should not be so charming.
Ava wrinkles up her nose in distaste.
“Oh you should play Tracer, she’s the gay one,” Sara says, after a moment, taking the controller from Ava and selecting the character.
Not the one Ava would have expected.
Certainly not the one she would have picked on her own.
But she remembers that day on the train and how loud and passionate Sara had sounded, and how that started all of this so she takes the controller from Sara without hesitance. Let’s Sara slip the headset over her ears, and is immediately greeted by the sounds of Sara’s gaggle of friends in her ears.
Surely, this can’t be that hard right.
(It is that hard. She causes the team to lose that round and the next one and the one after that, and Sara’s laughter from where she’s sprawled out on the air mattress beside Ava does nothing to help her. The only time she manages to do somewhat decent is when she finally plays as the gorilla character, but that somehow only makes Sara laugh more, before Ava gives up on video games all together to do something much more interesting. Like kiss her girl until she stops laughing.)
“I’m still saying-”
“We’re not going to have sex on the train,” Ava cuts her off. Because it’s the same thing Sara has been saying for the past three blocks. As if suggesting it more and more often would make Ava magically inclined to get down and dirty on public transit.
She was not.
Not in the slightest.
“Even if I was interested, which I’m not,” Ava clarifies, “There are other people on the train.”
“We could wait until it’s less crowded.”
Ava just shoots Sara a disbelieving look. If the red line was ever not crowded it would be a miracle or a sign of the impending apocalypse.
There was no other alternative
“There’s hardly anyone on the train by time they get to our stop,” Sara insists, seeing her look. “And everyone gets distracted by the Target that’s right there so-”
“I don’t even know where to begin explaining how wrong all of this is,” Ava says cutting her off.
Sara groans, knocking her shoulder into Ava’s so that they stumbled along the walkway together.
“You’re supposed to my hero, not kinkshame me,” Sara says dramatically and loud enough so that other people waiting for the same light to change that they are shoot them annoyed looks.
The thing about dating Sara was that Ava had somehow managed to get used to random stranger shooting her - or well, them - disapproving looks. As always Ava is the one left shooting off a quick apology to the person walking the opposite direction as them with a burly dog that takes up too much of the sidewalk and two little kids, while Sara just laces their fingers together and sticks her tongue out at one of the kids.
“Hey, Aves, what does that sign say?”
She knows this trick, it's the same one Sara always pulls when they walk past this street corner on their way home.
Still, Ava pretends to be purposely obtuse, reading the wrong sign - “Participate in clinical egg study today, compensation-”
“Not that sign,” Sara tutts, turning Ava away from the street that they’re finally able to cross, and instead points at a sign on the other side of the street.
The sign that Ava knew was there. That's always there.
Ava follows Sara’s gaze across the street at the white sign on the side of an long since closed school building. The words that stare back at her in large black font.
“You are beautiful,” Ava reads.
Sara makes a small soft noise, leaning against her side, “Aww, babe that’s so sweet of you to say,” as if she didn’t just have Ava read the words off of the sign to her. As if she didn't do this every few days. “You’re not too bad yourself.”
“Why are you this way?”
(Sara makes it up to her ten minutes later, barely letting them get through the door to Ava’s apartment, before Sara is kissing her, hungry and hot with need, lips moving against her own calling her beautiful too.)
“I need you to help my new roommate move in because you’re big and strong and Ray is busy apparently,” Sara says, forming quotation marks in the air around the words busy, as if they had somehow personally offended her.
As if Sara didn’t already have people to help her.
Then again, that help was Carter and Mick, who while strong enough to carry things up the two flights of stairs to Sara’s apartment, didn’t have the logical coordination between the two of them to bring things up in the right order.
Especially considering one of the things in the moving van was a couch .
A small part of Ava thinks finally , but she’s smart enough not to say it out loud when Sara is standing next to her gesturing at the moving van in confusion. Ava already feels bad for whatever girl Sara had found on Craigslist and conned into moving in with her.
That poor thing.
“You’re lucky I love you,” Ava tells her.
Sara grins triumphant. “I know.”
Before she disappears off to who knows where, probably back in the apartment to wherever her new roommate is, leaving Ava with the boys and the couch .
It’s not an easy process.
Because couches are big.
And Mick might be drunk.
And Carter completely lacks the ability to walk backwards.
And the stairwell in Sara’s building was already narrow to begin with.
And in the end they have to actually remove her front door from its hinges to get the couch in, but by some miracle they do it. The air mattress that had been a makeshift couch pushed up against the living room windows, while the newest piece of furniture in the apartment is placed right in front of Sara’s absurdly large television set.
Sara, of course, promptly falls back onto the couch the second it’s put into position. “I could get used to this.”
“It’s not too late to back out,” Ava says, turning to the one person in the room that she does not know.
The apparent new roommate, who is sitting sitting cross legged on the floor in a pair of paint stained overalls, grimaces at her comment. Despite Ava’s words, looks like she’d fit right in with this group. Once she got over Sara’s unfortunate case of being well… Sara Lance.
“I think it might be,” the new roommate says, her tone mostly teasing.
Which causes Sara to jolt up from her position on the couch, looking between the two of this, “Introductions! Aves, baby, this is my new roommate Zari.”
Zari waves a small wave back at her.
While Ava automatically corrects her name, as she’s been known to have to when Sara is introducing her to people.
“So you two are like,” Zari says looking between them. “She’s your…”
“She’s my hero,” Sara says, “Even, if she sucks at literally every video game in the world.”
“I’m good at Space Invaders,” Ava insists.
Already knowing that Sara’s only reply would be that little half wink she does, and an innuendo laced, “I’ll invade your space.”
(It takes them a week to christen the couch. Which really for them - and by them , she means Sara - it’s a miracle that they even managed to wait that long.)
There’s a knock at her door.
Loud and pounding.
Enough of a shock that it startles Ava, where she’s wrapped up on the couch with a pile of blankets and only her cat Jane to keep her company. She’d planned to spend the night like that. Hoping that at some point the cold medicine she had taken would kick in to put her out of her misery.
Though with the loud knocking at the door she had a feeling she wasn’t going to be getting sleep any time soon.
Ava rubs at her eyes where they’re watering, at this rate she was going to have to switch to her glasses which was something Ava did not want to do, but being sick enough to cry and having contacts in was not a winning combination.
Ava unlatches and pulls the door open with only slight difficulty.
An insult to whoever had thought knocking endlessly would get her to come to the door, on the edge of her lips, only to be stopped by the sight of the person on the other side.
She should have known.
What with the way she had been knocking.
Ava just hadn’t expected...
“Sara, what are you doing here” she says, confusion and surprise in her voice, because it was a Tuesday and Sara had game night with her friends on Tuesdays, and even if it wasn’t Ava had insisted hours before that she didn’t need anything. That she’d tough the night out and maybe call a sick day if it got worse when the morning came.
But here she was.
Standing outside Ava’s door.
“It’s the closest thing I could find to soup,” Sara says, holding up the plastic take out bag in her hand from the Thai place down the street.
It's a gesture. Soft and kind and if Ava was being honest a little unlike Sara, unexpected in all the best way.
She feels it, that sort of butterfly feeling in her stomach that Sara always manage to evoke in her. The one that tells Ava that meeting Sara on the train that day, was quite possibly the best thing to ever have happened to her.
This time it’s Ava who smiles and says, “My hero.”