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Sara stormed through the halls of the Time Bureau, agents in their crisp, blue suits parting to move out of her way. Sometimes she hated how she’d been used as an example of what not to do, but now, she thrived on the fear instilled in them; the reluctant respect.

She hated the Time Bureau, the sterile walls and the lack of personality. The Wave Rider had looked a lot like this once upon a time, but her team was filled with people who bled themselves into everything and everyone around them. Nobody was left unchanged when they crossed paths with a Legend.

She’d begun to like certain aspects of the Bureau, months before when her and Ava were just figuring things out. The sharpness of everything reminded her of Ava. But now, all it was was the thing that had kept her from seeing the one person she’d been trying to talk to for over two months.

Ava had walked away from Sara when she told her she loved her. That hadn’t hurt as much as the knowledge that Ava didn’t think she was real. She could see it; the absolute and overwhelming devastation in Ava’s eyes that had replaced all passion there.

Sara hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to her since. They’d overcome Mallus after a harrowing battle in which Zari, Nate, and Mick had been severely injured, and Sara had almost died. Again.

Ava hadn’t visited once, though Gary had continuously brought get-well baskets that Sara had rolled her eyes at. But the man was a gem, and he was as much part of their family now as Ava had become.

Sara had waited for two whole weeks before trying to contact Ava. She’d hoped that Ava would recognize her attempt to respect her space. Then she realized that she was Sara Lance, and she was better at apologizing after the fact.

So she’d tried call through to Ava’s office. A lot. The first few times, somebody had answered and told her that Ava was busy or gone on a mission. Sara found it strange that it was only ever audio. She had asked them to have Ava call her back. She never did.

After that, Sara had Zari circumvent Ava’s assistant and run straight for her office. There was still no visual, but that wasn’t the only thing that hadn’t gone as expected.

”Ava… hey.”

“How did you get through, Miss Lance?”

The empty hole in Sara’s chest since her break-up with Ava widened at the tone and title. She tried for funny.

“Back to Miss Lance again, I see?”

Ava didn’t respond for several moments, and Sara hoped maybe she was going to come around. Instead…

“I’ll patch you through to the agent assigned to the Legends.”

“Ava, come on-“

The phone began ringing again, and Sara shouted for Gideon to hang up the call. Sara didn’t do hurt well. There was too much of it in her life for her to handle it with anything but fists.

Sara had continued to try. She’d attempted to portal into Ava’s office after that, but some kind of defense protocol “recently activated” prevented that.

That led to Sara portalling into a different Bureau office and stalking toward Ava’s. But three guards had blocked her path and told her that the Legends were restricted to the lower floors of the building. It had taken everything in Sara not to break their stupid faces in.

She’d stewed in anger for over two weeks, attempting at random times to open a portal or call Ava. She knew they wouldn’t work, but she hadn’t see Ava’s face in so long. It was killing her.

Missions were still happening, but attempting to correct, worsening, and eventually correcting time wasn’t anywhere near as rewarding when she didn’t have Ava to scold her while trying not to smile.

The longer Sara mused over why Ava was doing what she was, the more worried she became. It was hard not to see Ava and touch Ava and hold Ava, but that ache slowly took a back seat to fear. Because Ava was sitting in an office every day, going through the motions and thinking she didn’t matter; that she was replaceable.

Sara woke up many nights in a panic, breathless and terrified because she’d watched Ava sacrifice herself for one reason or another, thinking different clone her would be capable of filling her spot.

It was after such a nightmare that Sara decided that she’d had enough. She’d yanked Ray from his room while the rest of the Legends slept.

“We’re going back to 2231.”

Ray’s eyes widened as she dragged him in his pajamas toward the deck.

“Sara, what are you doing?”

“I’m finding proof that Ava isn’t some mindless clone. That she’s real. She won’t just believe my word. She’s too “by the book” for that.”

Sara made a face when she said “by the book,” but Ava’s diligence and focus was always something she admired. Ray gripped the hand that was pulling him along, and he brought Sara to a stop.

“Sara… do you think it’ll make things better for her to know you’re invading her world like that? We’re not supposed to go back there.”

Sara had been dead-set on this the moment she woke up, but stupid Ray was making her brain slow down enough to think rationally. She shook her head. Fuck rational.

“I don’t care if she hates me after this, Ray. I’m not going to let the woman I’m in love with think she’s any less unique, beautiful, and extraordinary than she is.”

Ray’s expressions softened and a grim determination replaced his doubt.

“Alright. Let’s go piss off the director of the Time Bureau.”

And they’d done it. They’d gone and Sara had threatened to jab knives into the the Ava’s creator’s kneecaps until he’d let her access the science. She’d asked him question after question until she was sure that her evidence would convince Ava of what everyone else already knew.

The only factor left was how to get to the stubborn woman. Sara had thought about trying to get Zari to hack her in, but she wanted to do this herself. She had a plan and she was going to follow through.

She decided to take the most “Sara Lance” approach possible, and she portalled onto the highest floor of the Bureau that she had access to. She wasn’t approached until she reached the stairwell entry.

“Ma’am, you’re not-“

She glared at him and interrupted.

“I’m going up to Director Sharpe’s office with or without breaking your arms. You know I can, and you know I will. So what’s it going to be?”

Despite being a hindrance for her, Sara was pleased when they dropped into defensive stances despite their obvious fear. They respected Ava as their director. She decided to spare their bones for that reason.

She put the building on high alert the moment the commotion started, and for the most part, on the office floors, she evaded agents by jumping and flipping over desks. The stairwells were the worst, and it was getting harder to progress, but Sara didn’t ever intend on actually reaching Ava’s office.

“Repeat! Sara Lance is aiming for Director Sharpe. Non-lethal countermeasures to be taken. I repeat-“

Sara grinned as she slid under an agent’s legs and knocked him down. She knew she didn’t have much longer, but holding off the Time Bureau agents until a certain somebody’s arrival was proving to be difficult.

They made ascent impossible three floors from her target, hordes of agents surrounding her and edging her back toward a set of tall windows. One man made the mistake of stepping forward, and Sara quickly spun him around and yanked him to her, pretending she had a weapon on his back with the edge of her baton that she’d kept holstered.

“Ah, ah, ah, let’s not be hasty, guys.”

A senior agent stepped forward, hand out.

“Miss Lance, I don’t know what your business here is-“

Sara smiled a saccharine smile.

“Let’s not play games. I’m looking to speak with director sharpe.”

The same agent frowned. Sara thought she might have worked with the woman before. Before another word could be spoken, Sara heard the voice she’d been wanting to hear for months.

“I think a call would’ve sufficed, don’t you?”

The agents in front of Ava began to part, and the woman herself stalked into Sara’s line of sight. She looked every bit as beautiful as Sara remembered. She also looked like she hadn’t slept or eaten enough since Sara had seen her.

It was a punch to the gut, and Sara took a few moments to regroup.

“It would have if you would answer it.”

Ava’s eyes were thunderous, dangerous. She looked angrier than when they’d fought to collapse on the Waverider, and Sara had a feeling she was in for one hell of a battle. Ava took a step forward.

“Release my agent, this is pathetic.”

Sara smirked.

“What’s pathetic is your agents’ training. I made it up four flights of stairs. Also, do you not brief them on me?” Sara shoved the agent against her forward, revealing her only weapon to be a baton. “They really thought I’d hurt him.”

A few agents began to move in, but Ava held up a hand.

“My agents weren’t trained in the League of Assassins. Abusive methods aren’t used in our academy. And my people have been told that you are dangerous and unpredictable. They were right to be wary. Besides, you hurt several agents on this foolish tantrum.”

Sara kept the smile from dropping off her face, not wanting Ava to know that the coldness in her eyes and the sharpness in her tone were getting to her. Ava knew about her past, but Sara hadn’t expected it to be used against her. She waved a hand lazily.

“No more hurt than they get training with each other, I’m sure.” Sara tilted her head at Ava. “So are you going to talk to me?”

Ava’s expression didn’t change, and Sara prepared herself for the rest of the plan. She’d expected this. Stubborn asshole. Ava placed both hands behind her back.

“You’ve greatly misjudged the outcome of this attempt, Miss Lance. You’ll be taken into custody-“

Sara didn’t let her finish, launching herself at Ava and opening a portal behind them just like she’d done to save her. They collided and Sara made a note to apologize for how hard Ava hit the Waverider’s gym floor when they were on better terms. Sara rolled off of Ava and leapt to her feet.

“Gideon, lock the doors, shut down the room. No portals. Nobody enters or leaves until I say so.”

Ava was up a split-second after, her eyes lit like a furnace and her lips pulled into a snarl.

“You’ll regret this, Miss Lance.”

Sara wanted to smack the facade right off of Ava’s face. She was tired and she honestly just wanted to pull the woman to her chest and hold her. Ava looked like she wanted to pummel Sara.

The way Ava lunges at her made that assessment rather accurate, and she quickly dodged under Ava’s swing and danced away.

“Ava, come-“

Sara blocked the next three strikes but made no attempt to fight back.

“I just want to talk.”

Ava’s reach was dangerous by itself; couple that with strung out rage and a misguided instinct to hide from conflict, and Sara had a serious fight on her hands.

She parried and dodged, avoiding the worst of the blows and taking a few stinging strikes to her stomach and sides. All she had to do was wear Ava out to the point that she couldn’t fight anymore, just like before.

But it was proving to be incredibly difficult to keep up when she was always on defense, and Ava didn’t seem like she had any intention of slowing down, her kicks and strikes coming hot with aggression and precision.

Sara jerked backward and rolled to the left as a particularly brutal series of attacks flew at her. She was impatient and frustrated with Ava’s apparent lack of care toward whether she hurt her or not, and with a sharp intake, Sara made a decision.

As Ava threw a powerful right hook toward Sara’s face, Sara dropped her guard. Ava’s knuckles cracked across her jaw, snapping Sara’s head to the side and making her stumble. Ava seemed startled, and Sara was relieved to see, if blurry, an expression on Ava that wasn’t empty.

“What are you doing?”

Ava’s voice shook, her body tensed in preparation. Sara walked toward Ava even as the woman backed away.

“I just want to talk.”

Ava hesitated, her hands twitching.

“Stop.”

Sara didn’t listen, her eyes trained on Ava’s and her hands down at her sides.

“Just talk to me.”

Ava’s expression grew more agitated and unsure as she retreated.

“Miss Lance…”

Sara heard it, the waver, the first break in Ava’s stupid mask. Ava’s back hit the wall.

“Ava.”

Ava’s eyes closed and her head fell back against the wall.

“Sara, please don’t.”

Sara’s heart lurched in her chest as Ava pulled out her last-ditch attempt to dissuade her. It would never work. Instead of listening, Sara stepped into Ava’s space and slowly, gently, pulled her into a hug.

Sara knew the fight was over the moment Ava’s body collapsed into hers. Strong arms clung to her and Sara clung right back, pressing her lips against Ava’s throat with a reassuring pressure.

“I can’t do this, Sara.”

Ava sounded so broken, so exhausted. Sara just wanted to hold her forever.

“You don’t have to do anything but listen.” Sara didn’t let go, but she pulled back just enough so that she could see Ava’s face. “Gideon, play the recording.”

Ava frowned in confusion as Gideon answered.

“Yes, Captain Lance. Playing audio from your recent visit to 2231.”

Ava froze in her arms, then attempt to pull away, but Sara captured her face in her hands and made her look at her.

“Trust me, Ava. Just listen.”

Ava didn’t relax and she looked away from Sara, but she stopped trying to escape even as the recording played. Sara’s voice filled the room.

”Dr. Benton, you’re the creator of the program to make human clones?”

A terrified voice sounded.

“That is correct.”

“Wonderful, please explain, in extreme detail, the process. Hold nothing back. I doubt you want me to break your knees.”

“Ye- yes, of course. We began the program as a way to give the people something perfect. A perfect leader, a perfect police force, a perfect nanny. The clones fulfill the duties they’re bought for.”

Sara could feel Ava tremble. She knew this part would be difficult.

“So what does that make them? Slaves? And let me be very clear: lying will lead to you dying.”

The dead silence on the other end was answer enough, then,

”When the program first began, we were quite upset to learn that the clones were not uniform. They developed their own psyche, their own beliefs. They had a will of their own that was in no way complacent or neutral as we had expected. As you may guess, that was a relatively large hitch in the plan.”

“So what did you do? Brainwash them?”

“We attempted that, yes. But it turns out that our perfect clones were very adept at fighting it. Because of this, we began implanting neurological devices in them to dampen their will.”

Sara heard herself growl out,

”That seems rather unethical, does it not?”

“A lot of donors put exorbitant amounts of money into the project. We couldn’t afford to shut it down.”

“When you’re fucking with human life, you can. Tell me why I shouldn’t destroy you right now.”

“Please, wait. We started with the chips, but after several instances of the Ava overcoming them and causing mayhem, we changed tactics.”

“Explain.”

“Well, we allowed them to make the choice for themselves. Five years of service with the chips, then we would send them to any time and place in the world to live a comfortable life. Or whatever life they chose.”

“That seems too generous for such a heartless business. You expect me to believe that?”

“I swear. Dr. Yan joined us a few years after. She is the one that enforces it and keeps tabs on everything. And we make so much that the turn out is no pressure on our bank account. The documents are all here.”

“I want them.”

“Fine. Yes.”

Ava had begun to soften against her, and Sara was running her hands soothingly along her lower back. At Sara’s next words in the recording, Ava lost all progress, her muscles flinching and her body going rigid.

”What about Rip Hunter? What were your dealings with him.”

“Customer privacy is-“

“You tell me or you lose this leg.”

“Aw, yes, Rip Hunter. He’s taken twelve Avas.”

Sara pulled back and saw the shame and pain in Ava’s eyes.

”Were they chipped?”

Ava’s fists tightened in Sara’s shirt, and she looked down.

”The first eleven all had decreasing strength chips, but their inability to creatively think and act on their own with the damper led to serious injuries. Those Ava’s were able to retire before the five years.”

“And the most recent?”

“Rip asked for an Ava without a chip.”

“She’s completely and fully unique?”

“Everyone of them are.”

The audio stopped playing, and Sara brushed at the tears that began falling down Ava’s cheeks.

“You are real, Ava Sharpe. Everything about you is wonderful. I love you so much. Please stop pushing me away.”

Ava’s chin trembled as she sucked in a breath and Sara smiled. She leaned up and pressed a gentle kiss to Ava’s jaw, then the corner of her mouth. Ava let out a wet chuckle and rested her forehead on Sara’s.

“You were strictly forbidden from returning to 2331. And you assaulted several agents from the Time Bureau. And-“

Sara kissed her softly, then pulled back and grinned.

“Tell them you punished me. Spankings and all.”

Ava flushed red and she buried her face in Sara’s shoulder.

“I missed you. A lot.”

Sara scratched gently along the back of Ava’s neck.

“I know, baby. But you’re a stubborn jackass.”

Ava laughed and pulled back to kiss Sara properly, the press and slide something both had been desperately missing. Sara felt like the gears in her chest were clicking back into place. She leaned back.

“I’ll remind you every day if I have to, Aves. You are as real as it gets.”

Ava rubbed at her wet eyes with one hand, the other still clinging to Sara. She smiled and touched carefully on Sara’s swelling cheekbone.

“I’m sorry I punched you in the face.”

Sara laughed, her relief evident.

“Don’t be. I’m sure I did something to deserve it.” Ava opened her mouth as if to list said things off, and Sara pressed a finger to her lips. “How about you just tell me you love me?”

Ava softened and nodded, her hands settling on either side of Sara’s neck.

”I’ve loved you for a while, jerk.”