Actions

Work Header

Made Of Iron

Chapter Text

This first chapter is not so much a chapter but a glossary. Here you will find terms that are not commonly heard by those outside of the first responder world. If you have any questions throughout the story please don’t hesitate to ask. I've had this story idea for a very long time. 

 

Made of Iron

The meaning behind the title. In fire fighting there is a tool we call, ‘Set of Irons’. This tool is comprised of two tools. A striking tool, usually an ax and a prying tool, a halligan. When put together or 'married', they’re referred to as a set of irons. These tools are paired together on most fire apparatus. Cops also use the halligan to pry open doors. Alone these tools are strong but together they can break through most any obstacle.


Cover
- One unit covering a another means that they are providing back up.

Cruiser - Police car

District - Large  cities are broken down in smaller areas often referred to as districts or sectors. For this story the last number in the unit’s designator is their district. Example, Sierra nine six. 

Dispatch Center or Communications Center - This is the base of operations for the dispatchers. It is here that the calls come in for 911 and non emergency lines and are then sent out to the responders.  

Dispatcher - Dispatcher is the person taking the calls and sending them out, checking on the responders and getting the information needed.

Foot pursuit / Vehicle pursuit - when a suspect runs either on foot or by vehicle and the officer pursues them.

Medical Clearance - Any time any kind of altercation is had with either the Police Department or other parties the offender is checked before being taken into custody for processing.

Show Up - When officers have a possible suspect in custody another officer will drive by with the victim in the car to confirm the person in custody is the correct one.

Units designators - The ‘S (Sierra)’ because they’re in Star City

Chapter Text

“Sierra nine six, I have one running, northbound, Commerce and 8th, my cruiser is not secured.” Officer Sara Lance, a five year veteran with the Star City Police Department called out over the radio as she chased after a burglary suspect. “Tall, stalky, white male, blue shirt, dark pants.” She listened to the dispatcher as she repeated the description she’d just given to the officers she was sure were responding to her location. Most officers tuned out the radio once they gave information but she’d learned a long time ago not to do that, if there wasn’t a good dispatcher behind the console they could repeat the wrong information. She wasn’t worried today though, because today she had Gideon. Gideon was one of the best dispatchers they had but still, she tried to stay in the habit of listening no matter who was on the radio.

The suspect Officer Lance was chasing had broken into an older couple’s home. Thankfully the couple had an alarm system installed along with two very small, very fluffy pomeranians that had charged at him and barked alerting the homeowners. The owner had confronted the intruder with a shotgun in hand and the suspect had fled the residence before the units had come on scene. Officer Lance had seen him walking and had made an attempt to talk to him when he’d decided to run. If she hadn’t thought he was a suspect before then he was definitely one after he’d decided to take off. The suspect was making one poor decision after another. Committing a crime was never a good idea, committing it in broad daylight was even worse, his second poor decision had been made when he’d decided to run. He didn’t know who he was trying to get away from. Officer Lance was very proud of her perfect record when it came to foot chases, so there was no way she was going to let him get away. She ran faster pushing herself harder, closing the gap between herself and the suspect.

“Sierra nine six your status.” Gideon, the police dispatcher checked on her. She’d gone twenty seconds without an update.

Sara berated herself. She knew better. Anytime there were long periods of silence during a situation like this both the officers and dispatchers got worried. Every second felt like a lifetime in high intensity situations such as pursuits, fights, shootings, and foot chases. “Still northbound on Commerce,” she responded, her breathing labored. “Now west on Third.” She updated, picking up her speed to follow after him. “Stop,” she yelled, her mic still keyed up. It was times like this she appreciated all the time she spent at the gym.

“Sierra eight six, I’m eastbound Third from Gardner.” Officer Leonard Snart gave his location, letting her know he’d be intercepting them as long as they continued in their current direction.

Sara was relieved to hear her district partner was close. She and Leonard Snart had been district partners for four years. He’d transferred from Central City Police Department to be closer with his sister after she’d taken a job at the local hospital as a nurse. She’d caught Leonard checking out her ass one night after briefing and that had begun their “married couple” banter that the other officers now joked about. It wasn’t long before she started referring to him as her work husband. A short time later he became one of the people she trusted the most, she spent more time with him than she did her family at times.

“Sierra eight six, nine six has one detained. Slow all responding units down and start medical non-emergent for a medical clearance.” He smiled, his partner was the feistiest and most fit officer on the shift. The man struggled in vain as she tackled him to the ground and put a knee in his back.

“Stop it,” she yelled at the suspect. “Put your hands on the back of your head.” She instructed. Once on the ground, the suspect complied without a fight. She didn’t have to look up to know that Leonard had his taser pointed at their suspect and it seemed the suspect knew it too, the sound a taser made was unmistakable. Once she had him cuffed she helped him roll to his side.

Leonard secured the taser in it’s holster and moved to the man’s other side to help bring him to his feet.

“Sierra eight six we are ready for a show up.” Leonard’s traffic was to dispatch but it was directed at the officers, the ones at the scene of the house. A show up involved an officer getting one of the victims and driving them by the suspect so they could positively identify that the party in custody was in fact the one that had committed the crime before the officers officially charged him.

“Sierra eight five, I’ll be transporting the victim for the show up.” Officer Carter Hall loaded the victim into his vehicle and drove him to the scene where the suspect was. “Sierra eight five, positive ID.” He made sure to air this information so that it’d be recorded and Sara and Leonard could proceed with the arrest. After positively identifying the the suspect he went to return the victim back to the residence. He’d get the rest of the information Sara would need for her report while she completed her arrest.

“Eight five stay there for a minute. I’m bringing Lance’s cruiser.” Officer Barry Allen, sierra eight four, requested.

“Copy.” Carter acknowledged that he’ heard the request. He waited in the area but out of the view of the suspect for Barry to drop off Sara’s police car.

Sara made a mental note to thank Barry later. She hadn’t felt comfortable leaving her cruiser unsecured and unattended but there hadn’t been much time when their suspect had ran.

After patting him down for any weapons or drugs, Sara and Leonard loaded their arrestee into Leonard’s cruiser and waited for the fire crew to show up. It wouldn’t take long for them to arrive, one of the perks since the city had gone with both paid and volunteer crews. The stations were always manned so the response time was normally under ten minutes.

“Hey Mick.” Leonard greeted his best friend. He and Mick had been friends since they were fourteen. They both came from broken and abusive homes. They’d almost been sentenced to Juvi when a judge had seen potential in them and had decided on giving them community service with the fire and police department instead. They’d each been assigned a mentor that they reported to daily and at the end of the six months both had been changed. They finally had something positive to look forward to after school was finished. Leonard remembered the day he’d told Mick he wanted to turn his life around, that he’d wanted to be better than his father. He’d been worried he’d lose his best friend for not wanting to live a life of crime but he’d been pleasantly surprised when Mick had laughed and told him he wanted to do the same.

“Hey Lenny.” He smiled and nodded towards his friend. “What did you do blondie.” He turned his attention to Sara.

“Why do you assume I did this Mick,” Sara asked, pretending to be offended. Contrary to popular belief not all cops and firefighters hated each other. Mick was like family to her.

He looked to Leonard who just shrugged. “That’s what I thought, nice try blondie.” Sara was one of the faster cops on the street. If someone ran, she was likely to catch them. Though he wasn’t surprised with the amount of time she spent training.

“He ran, what was I supposed to do.” She defended herself, she hated it when they got away. “I just wanted to talk. He wasn’t even a suspect until he started running.”

“Right,” he pretended to agree that she had no other option. He knew there was little she could do if a suspect ran, she either chased and got the man or let him go and lose any chance of getting him identified and in worse case, he went after and hurt someone else. “Anyways blondie, Len, meet Ava Sharpe, she’s my partner.” He introduced the two officers to his partner.

Leonard shook her hand and Sara rolled her eyes, Mick was the only person that got away with calling her blondie, anyone else would’ve gotten throat punched. “Or just Sara.” She extended her hand out to Ava.

“Nice to meet you both.” Ava took the extended hand, shaking it. Mick had bet money while they were on their way to the scene that the officer would be Sara. He described her as the most badass officer the department had. From what she could see of the suspect currently in the backseat of the cruiser, he appeared to be twice, if not three times her size, it was difficult to tell, but she had to agree with him. It was impressive that the cop had managed to take down the man that was now in handcuffs and had not sustained any injuries herself. She glanced down briefly at Sara’s name tag before making eye contact again. “Are you hurt Officer Lance,” she asked withdrawing her hand.

“Nope, I’m all good, thank you, I don’t think he is either but just to be safe.” Sara smiled. She’d been lucky to avoid getting hurt during the take down, one slight twist and she could’ve done serious damage to her shoulder.

Ava nodded. “Very well, I’m going to check on our patient.” She patted Mick’s shoulder and moved past them to get to the arrestee a few feet north of them.

Leonard shared a brief look with Mick and Sara before following after the tall blonde firefighter.

“What’s her deal, is she always a stick in the mud,” Sara asked Mick. She’d never gotten such a cold brush off, at least not from another first responder. The public was a different story. A lot of people didn’t like cops, she’d come to accept that a long time ago, unfortunately not all cops were good and they’d given the profession as a whole a bad reputation. She worked hard every day to fight against the stigma. She wanted to earn the trust of the citizen of Star City and rebuild their faith in the department.

Mick slung an arm over Sara’s shoulders. “Give her a chance. She’s not been out of the Army long, she’s actually one of the best medics and firefighters I’ve worked with in years. You should see her on the fire grounds.” Ava was tougher than most of the men he worked with. “She’ll warm up to you, everyone does.”

“If you say so.” Sara didn’t like that this woman didn’t like her. She didn’t even know her. “How are things with Laurel,” she asked, changing the subject. She already knew the answer because her sister told her everything but she liked hearing it from Mick, she liked the blissful look he got on his face anytime he talked about her. When Mick and Laurel had first started dating, she and her father had given Laurel a hard time once they’d learned Mick was a firefighter, but at the end of the day they’d given her their blessing. They’d teased Mick relentlessly and in turn he’d teased them right back for being cops. He fit right in and was adopted into the family in no time. The man had been good to her sister, he’d been exactly what she’d needed to remain clean after her battle with drinking and addiction to prescription pills. If her sister had to be with a firefighter, she was glad it was Mick.

“Good, really good actually.” He smiled, thinking about his wife.

“Just remember it’s my sister we’re talking about.” She slapped his stomach with the back of her hand.

“You’re the one who took it that way, perv. I just meant things are going great.” His smile grew. “I still can’t believe she agreed to marry my ugly mug, we’re coming up on one year you know.” He’d known she was the one when she hadn’t bat an eye at his scars. She was the first woman he’d dated that hadn’t run away at the sight of his burned skin. Most women had this picture in their heads of what firefighters looked like, they saw rugged men with perfectly chiseled muscles and flawless skin. They weren’t always prepared for the ones whose skin had been marred by the fire.

Sara found it adorable anytime Mick spoke about her sister. Guys, especially first responders, liked to act tough and macho, but not Mick, he’d been doing this long enough that he didn’t care who teased him. Most of the guys knew better than to harass him anyways. He was happy and he didn’t care if people called him soft. Outside of his large stature and the grunting he usually used as a response to questions, he was a big teddy bear. Sara leaned into him. “I’m glad, Laurel is the happiest I’ve seen her in a long time.” Her sister Laurel had been through a lot of loss. Her last boyfriend, Ricardo, had done a number on her. She was glad to finally see her happy with someone that built her up and pushed her to better herself. “Guess he’s good to go.” She watched Leonard load the prisoner into the back of his cruiser. She pulled away from Mick as Ava approached.

Mick gave her shoulder a squeeze. “Stay safe.”

“You too,” she gave him a side hug. She stopped and turned around after a few steps. “Don’t forget dinner tomorrow, it’s the only day this week we’re all off together and I made sure not to pick up overtime.”

“We’ll be there.” He assured her as Ava met up with him.

***

“What was that about,” Leonard asked once he and Sara took the prisoner from the back of his cruiser and loaded him in the back of hers.

She shrugged. “Not sure, but, it’s safe to say, Mick’s new partner does not like me.”

“Well there’s a first time for everything I guess. I didn’t know any woman could resist your charm.” He teased. Something about Sara made most women, and men, swoon. She had this air about her, people couldn’t help but like her.

“There was no charm to resist.”

Leonard laughed. “Yeah, because she didn’t even give you a chance.”

“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes, giving him a gentle shove, she wasn’t going to lose sleep over a firefighter not liking her, it wasn’t the first time and she was sure it wouldn’t be the last. “I’m gonna finish processing him and get the report done before end of watch, I don’t feel like hearing it from Sarge.” Today was her squad’s friday and the sergeant expected all reports to be completed before the officers went home. She spared one final glance towards the ambulance before getting into her own vehicle. “Sierra nine six, I’ll be transporting one adult male to the PD, starting mileage 2138.” Officers aired the mileage information before and after arriving in case the prisoners ever made accusations that the officer had detoured or did anything to them along the lines of assault or even sexual assault.

***

“Dinner,” Ava asked, she’d known Mick and Sara were friends but she hadn’t thought they were that close. She figured it was a friendship born out of working calls together for so many years.

“Yeah, the Lances try and have a family dinner every other week, and seeing that I’m married to Sara’s sister.” He paused giving her time to fully register his words. He laughed at the face she made. “Give her a chance,” he told her. “Despite what you think, she’s one of the best cops in the city.”

Ava had been prepared to make a comment about the city needing to hire better cops but she stopped herself, she didn’t know Sara well enough to make a statement like that. Her dislike of her wasn’t personal, from the stories Mick had told her on their way to this call, she’d learned that the woman was reckless and she didn’t care for reckless. Reckless got people killed. “I’ll take your word for it Mick. I just can’t believe Laurel and Sara are related.” She’d met Laurel a few times and had instantly liked her. She was sweet, kind and had a good head on her shoulders.

Mick hadn’t mentioned Sara to Ava before because he hadn’t wanted her to have any expectations when they’d meet, he also didn’t want to be accused of trying to set her up, he was now wishing he had. He’d been looking forward to Sara and Ava meeting, he was sure the two would hit it off, he couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. They were each other’s types, he’d known both long enough to know that. The minute Laurel had met Ava she’d come to the same conclusion. He was sure she’d be upset when he told her how their initial meeting had gone. They cleared from the medical clearance for the PD and were dispatched to another medical call several blocks over when Mick decided to bring up the topic of Ava’s dislike for Sara. “So why do you dislike blondie so much, you just met her,” he asked. He wasn’t one to push but he was curious, most people took an immediate liking to Sara, Ava had been the first to brush her off.

“I don’t dislike her.” She said immediately and technically it wasn’t a lie, while she didn’t dislike Sara, she wanted nothing to do with her.

“You don’t,” he asked not believing her. Mick had never been a talker, he preferred not to meddle in other people’s business but marriage had changed him. Laurel had changed him, he liked to think for the better.

“I don’t.” She confirmed but said nothing else. She watched the road as she drove using that as an excuse not to go further into it.

“So what is it,” he asked. “I would’ve thought you two would have gotten along really well, if you’d said more than two words to her that is. You have a lot in common.” He wanted to get to the bottom of it, he knew Ava could multitask so he wasn’t going to let her off the hook just because she was driving. The two could help each other, he was sure of it. They’d both had a dark past, they could understand and relate to what the other was going through better than anyone. While their experiences were different they’d each suffered in their own way.

“It’s nothing Mick, can we please drop it,” she asked. “Besides, I’m not looking to date anyone, I’m not in a place where I can worry about someone else when I have me to deal with.” She’d been out of the military almost a year now but the service and the deployments that came with it had taken their toll on her. She didn’t want to start a new relationship. She was happy running medical and fire calls and worrying about her wellbeing and no one else’s. Well, no one but the wellbeing of her two pets.

“Fair enough, but for the record I wasn’t trying to set you up, I just thought you’d hit it off. Like I said, you have a lot in common.” Mick didn’t feel it was his place to tell her what those commonalities were.

“Noted,” she said with a smile. Mick was not at all what she’d expected when she’d first met him. He’d surprised her by his knowledge. She’d first thought him to be all brawn, he’d soon proved to her that he was as equally brain as he was brawn. She’d not met anyone in the fire service that knew more than he did. He didn’t just know the basics, he knew the ins and outs, the science behind the fire.

Mick dropped the subject, he wouldn’t push, he was sure over time the two would connect and if needed, he’d get his wife involved, no one could say no to her. He didn’t bother saying no to her anymore, the pout alone would have him changing his mind instantly. He’d learned how to give his opinion, ultimately leaving the decision up to his wife and he liked it that way. As long as she was happy he was happy.

Chapter Text

Laurel looked up from the book she’d been reading at the sound of Mick’s keys unlocking the front door. She’d been awake for hours and wasn’t able to go back to sleep so she’d decided to wait up for Mick and if needed take a nap with him when he got home. “Good morning love.” She tilted her head back to accept the kiss he gave her. She loved being there when he got home from work. His schedule wasn’t consistent so their days off didn’t fall on the same days as often as she liked. After two days apart she really missed him.

Mick smiled, he loved the sight of his wife first thing after two straight days of work. “Morning.” Mick moved around the couch setting his work bag beside it. He lifted her feet off the couch and sat down, placing them in his lap.

She set the book she’s been reading down. “How was your shift.” She relaxed against the arm of the couch and closed her eyes as he started rubbing her sock covered feet. “That feels amazing,” she hummed.

He smiled, his wife loved foot rubs, they were the simplest things so he gave them to her any time they sat as they were now. He looked at her for a moment appreciating how beautiful she looked in her messy bun, his SCPD sweater, plaid pajama bottoms, and fuzzy socks. Just when he thinks he couldn’t love her anymore than he already does, he’s proven wrong.

“Mick.” She opened her eyes to check on him. He’d stopped rubbing her feet and had gone completely silent. She was worried he’d fallen asleep, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

“Sorry.” He chuckled. “I got distracted.” He resumed his foot rub. “Shift was good. Had the usual, chest pains, breathing difficulty, drunk people, ran a call with PD yesterday afternoon.” He waited for the words to register, he smiled when they did. Laurel had been looking forward to Sara and Ava meeting, he didn’t have to say who they ran the call with for her to make the connection.

She opened one eye, sat up and opened the other. “Aaaaand, how did it go, and why are you just now telling me about it when it happened yesterday,” she asked. She hated when he did this to her. He knew she’d been waiting for her sister and his partner to meet and it was finally happening. She couldn’t believe in the months Ava and Mick had been working together this was the first time they worked a call with Sara. She’d wanted to set something up but he’d talked her out of it, saying something about letting things happen on their own time. “Wait, why are you making that face, what happened.” Her stomach dropped, she was hoping for great news, like how she’d been right in the two instantly hitting it off and becoming friends.

“It wasn’t all bad.” He continued to rub her feet, doing his best to keep her relaxed. “Remember what the doctor said, you have to remember to relax, stress is not good on your body.” Keeping Laurel relaxed was harder than putting out a fire without water.

“Mick I prosecute criminals for a living, this is me, relaxed. Now, start from the beginning, and don’t leave out any details.” She leaned back against the arm of the couch doing her best to relax, for Mick’s sake. She loved how much he worried about her, even if he was overprotective at times.

“We responded on a medical clearance with Len and Sara. They’re both fine.” He added quickly at the worried look she gave him. “I bet her money that it would be Sara we were responding for, I even talked her up, told her what a badass she was and how no one ever got away from her.” He was still confused as to what went wrong, he was sure Ava had been impressed. He’d seen her do a double take when she’d seen Sara and then the size of the criminal she’d taken down.

“So then what happened.” It was taking everything in her not to call her sister and see what she’d done to annoy Ava at their first meeting. She’d met Ava a handful of times and she really liked the tall blonde. She was sweet, caring and someone she thought her sister would’ve really liked. “What did Sara do,” she asked. It couldn’t be Ava, she was way too friendly to be the one to have made a bad first impression.

“Nothing, not that I saw. She was being her normal charismatic self. Ava asked if she was hurt and when Sara said no, she brushed her off and checked on the prisoner, she even called her Officer Lance.” He cringed at the memory.

“What the hell.” She sat up again. “I’m half tempted to call Ava and see what’s up with her.” She had no reason to be rude to her sister.

“You will do no such thing.” He pushed on her shoulder guiding her to lay back down. “You’re supposed to be relaxing.” He gave her feet a squeeze.

“I am relaxed.” She argued. “Okay, okay. I’ll try harder.” She added when he gave her that look that said, ‘really’. “I just don’t get it.” She relaxed against the couch, enjoying the foot rub once again.

“I don’t either, let’s just give them time. Ava said she’s not looking to date.” He moved his hands from her feet to her calves, massaging them.

“It’s not like I want them to get married or anything.” Laurel responded defensively. “You and I both know those two are like two peas in a pod. They could be the best of friends.” Ava hadn’t shared much about her past but Laurel knew that haunted look better than anyone, she’d seen it on her sister many times.

“You don’t have to tell me, I’m on your side doll.” He reminded his wife. He could understand her disappointment. She wanted her sister to be happy, as did he. Sara had been through more than any one person should in her short life. She had many friends but she never really attached herself to any one of them.

Laurel smiled, Mick reminded her daily why she loved him so much. No matter what happened he was always on her side and would defend her even when he didn’t agree with her. He’d wait until they were behind closed doors before telling her so. “Have I told you lately how much I love you.” She tilted her head to the side smiling at him.

“You have, but I never get tired of hearing you say it.” He smiled leaning into the hand she extended towards him. He moved past her hand and rested his head against her chest, his hands abandoning her calves as one snuck underneath her back and the other lay across her abdomen while she played with the little bit of hair he had. He couldn’t believe this was his life now. He’d gone from an abusive home where he was shown very little affection, to almost being thrown in jail, to numerous failed relationships, to being with Laurel, happy, content and loved. Sure they fought, but their fights never lasted more than a few hours. One of them always broke down and apologized even when they thought they were right. He hummed as her hand rubbed his neck sliding down the back of his shirt, unfazed by the raised skin under her fingertips.

“I really enjoy lazy mornings like this.” She kissed the top of his head.

“Me too.” He tightened his hold on her briefly before relaxing it once again.

She looked down at him a few seconds later and chuckled, he was already asleep and beginning to snore lightly. It amazed her how quickly he was able to fall asleep, one minute they’d be talking and the next he was passed out. She grabbed the blanket from the back of the couch and covered them. She closed her eyes, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to go back to sleep but she’d enjoy this peaceful moment with her husband for as long as she could. Her mind drifted to a time when Mick wasn’t in her life. A time when she thought she didn’t matter, a time she thought she’d never find the kind of happiness her parents had. As if sensing her dark thoughts, Mick adjusting against her, more of his body lay across hers. She smiled and let her mind drift to all the good things she had now, to include the man that made her the center of his world.

Chapter Text

Mick couldn’t believe their luck, he and Ava had gone months without running a call with Sara, but now that they’d met it seemed they ran at least one call a shift together. He was sad to say, none of the calls had not gone well. After their first interaction Sara had thought it a fluke and so she’d attempted to interact with Ava and again Ava had said very little to her before walking off. Mick and Sara would share a look before shrugging it off and moving onto the next call. With each call Ava always found a way to have as little interaction with Sara as possible.

Mick didn’t want to give up on his sister in law and his partner not because he wanted the pair to get along, no, he was passed that. He just hated going home and breaking the news to his wife after every shift and seeing the disappointed look on her face. She continue to remind him that they just needed time to get to know each other, she was sure of it. So when they were dispatched to assist the police department, he was happy for yet another opportunity for the two to connect.

While Officers Nate Heywood and Barry Allen spoke with the offender in the domestic violence case, inside, Sara and Ray stood outside waiting on the medics to arrive and transport the victim to the hospital. The victim’s drug addicted and alcoholic boyfriend had done a number on her. The poor woman Ray was consoling sat in the front yard, badly bruised and bleeding from the face. Her 8 year old daughter, that had called 911, stood beside her.

Medical arrived on scene just as Sara had just shut the trunk to Ray’s cruiser after pulling out a stuffed animal. She braced herself for whatever it was that Ava was going to shoot her way, and the annoyed look on the firefighter’s face told her something was definitely coming.

“You’re parked in the way.” She looked at the cruiser Sara was standing beside.

Sara rolled her eyes, of all the things, she didn’t know why she was even a little bit surprised. She took control of her temper, not wanting to make a scene in front of the mother and child. “I’ll be sure to let Ray know.” She looked back at Ray, who was busy trying to make the little girl laugh. Cops parking in the way of the fire department was a long standing issue but the cops didn’t always worry about it, they were normally more concerned about getting to the victims of violent crimes. “Scene is safe for you to go in.” She shoved the stuffed toy against Ava’s chest. “That’s for the kid.Victim’s Advocate is on the way.” She released the toy and looked past the firefighter to Mick. “Hey Mick.” She greeted her brother in law and turned to walk back to her own cruiser. “Sierra nine six I’m clear, send the next.” She requested the next call in holding, she hadn’t wanted to spend another minute in Ava’s presence.

“What just happened,” Mick asked Ava, it wasn’t like Sara not to stick around when they ran calls together. So much for a better outcome, he was starting to lose the little bit of hope he had that the two would ever become friends. It seemed Ava wasn’t going to give Sara a chance and whenever he brought it up with her, she claimed she didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Nothing.” Ava walked towards the mother and child annoyed that once again Sara Lance had gotten under her skin without even trying.

 

***One Week Later***

 

Mick normally looked forward to running calls with Sara but he was not looking forward to this one. The knowing look that Ava had shot towards him when they’d been dispatched on an injured officer call had filled him with dread. Responding to any injured officer call was awful but knowing it could be Sara made it so much worse. He was relieved when they got on scene and learned that the injured officer was not Sara. He did a quick sweep looking for her but could not spot her. He and Ava approached Leonard Snart and Nate Heywood.

“I don’t think this is what Amaya meant when she said to use your head.” He motioned to the cut on Nate’s forehead. “What happened Nate,” he asked.
Officer Nathaniel Heywood was a fairly young officer, he’d come to know him through holiday gatherings that the Lance family put together. It was last Thanksgiving that Sara had introduced him to her veterinarian, Amaya. The pair had immediately connected. Nate did not waste any time in getting to know her. He asked her out that night and proposed six months later. He swore she was the one and did not want to hear otherwise from anyone.

“He wasn’t thinking, that’s what happened.” Leonard spoke, not happy with the way Nate had rushed in without backup.

“I told you, it’s not that bad.” Nate didn’t mind the pain, he’d done what he’d thought was right. The family was celebrating a birthday when the uncle had a bit too much to drink and began to physically fight the family members. When the family had tried to stop him his most recent girlfriend decided to defend him by jumping into the fight. He’d been worried about the children that were reported to be on scene.

Leonard shook his head. “You’re lucky Sara’s not here, she’d be setting you straight for going in without backup.”

Mick wanted to laugh at the way Nate tensed at the mention of Sara’s name. “Where’s Sara anyway, seems like every south district car is here.” There were a lot of officers on scene, she wasn’t one to miss a big call unless she was tied up on a priority call of her own.

“Sick, started early this morning. It’s been going around.” Leonard supplied. “I spoke to her earlier, reminded her to call Laurel, I’m guessing she hasn’t.” He shared a worried look with Mick.

Mick shook his head making a mental note to call his wife once they cleared. “When did you talk to her last,” he asked.

Leonard looked at his watch doing the math. “About 2 hours ago. She sounded like shit.”

“You’re set Officer Heywood.” Ava finished bandaging the cut above his eye. She’d been listening to Mick and Leonard but hadn’t paid too much attention to their conversation, only catching bits and pieces. She’d been more relieved than anything not to have to run another call that involved Sara Lance being reckless. She had to give her credit though, at least she knew to stay home when she was sick.

“Stay safe Lenny.” Mick had his phone out and was dialing his wife before he made it to the front of the ambulance. “You too Nate.”

“Everything okay,” Ava asked. Mick seemed truly concerned.

He nodded and got behind the wheel, he didn’t like riding shotgun all the time so he and Ava alternated driving. “Hey doll,” he greeted his wife. “Sara is sick. Leonard said it started earlier and she sounded bad.” Sara didn’t get sick often so when she did, it was concerning. He listened as his wife talked. “Okay, I’ll check in later, let me know if you two need anything.” He paused listening once again. “I love you too.” He put his phone away.

“Everything okay,” Ava asked once he was off the phone. Sara was an adult, she found it odd the level of concern she’d just witnessed.

He smiled, times like this he wished Ava didn’t dislike Sara so much, he’d be able to tell her more. “It will be. Let’s grab lunch while we can.”

Ava felt like he was leaving something out but didn’t push.

It was hours later, while returning to the station from a call when Mick decided to check on his wife and sister in law. Laurel answered after the sixth ring. “Everything okay,” he asked. His wife’s whispered greeting told him Sara was probably sleeping. He drove as he listened to his wife retell him about the last few hours. “That’s rough.” He was glad Sara was finally sleeping. He pulled the phone from his ear, the loud scream that penetrated through it caused him to jump making the ambulance swerve. He straightened the ambulance back out on the road before putting the phone back to his ear. “Call me back.” He hung up not waiting for a response, his wife had a lot to deal with as it was.

“What just happened.” Ava had faintly heard the scream.

“Nothing.”

“That wasn’t nothing Mick.” The ambulance swerving on top of the faint scream had scared her.

“It’s nothing.” He repeated, letting her know to drop it. He wasn’t about to share Sara’s personal business. His wife knew better than anyone how to handle Sara when she was sick, he’d wait for her to call him when things calmed down.

“Okay.” She wasn’t going to get anything out of him so she dropped it. If it was something she needed to know then he’d tell her, at least she hoped he would. She hadn’t been very nice to Officer Lance and he’d pointed it out after their last incident with the parked cruiser.

 

***Two Weeks Later***

 

“...ne..six...combatives,” Sara yelled, her radio traffic and call sign incomplete and broken, it had taken her several attempts just to get to her radio and get the transmission out. “Knife.” Her voice was raised and breathless. She was not able to give further information as she struggled against her attacker. She was relieved to hear the alert tones, that meant help would be on its way.

It was rare for the victims to become the offender, but it wasn’t unheard of. There were times that the victims, worried about the consequence of calling the police would turn on the cops in order to protect the original offender. She and Leonard were dispatched to a family disturbance involving twins who’d had a bit too much to drink and had started fighting over a girl. Leonard struggled with one brother, the original offender and she with the other, the victim of the assault, while the family stood by watching and yelling for the twins to stop, too afraid to get involved.

She could faintly hear officers on the radio and dispatch mentioning rescue but she couldn’t be sure of what was being said. She let out a cry when the knife cut across her forearm and then her shoulder just under her vest. When the offender pulled the knife back far enough to take another swing at her, she saw an opportunity to take him down without having him accidentally stab himself in the process. She was sprawled on top of her attacker, her hands pinning his knife hand to the ground. She tried to pin his other arm down with her knee but the action proved difficult in the way he was kneeing her legs and sides. She was beyond relieved that her gun sat at her hip on the opposite side of his free hand. Instead he used his free arm to try and push her away choking her in the process. She let out a sigh of relief when the cavalry arrived.

Ray and Carter ran to Sara removing the knife out of the suspect’s hand and handcuffed him while Barry and Nate helped Leonard cuff his suspect.

Sara sat up on her knees gasping for air as she reached for her radio. “Sierra nine six, two in custody, minor injuries, start a sergeant.” Her words came out between labored breaths but she didn’t care, she knew Gideon was probably on the edge of her seat anxiously waiting to hear from them. She could hear the relief in Gideon’s voice when she told her Sgt Diggle was already on the way. She sat back on her heels and tried to regulate her breathing.

Mick had been scanning the police channel while they responded to the scene of the standby. His heart skipped a beat hearing Sara air that the suspects were in custody. He’d never heard her sound so shaken on the radio. “That woman is going to give me a heart attack someday.” He dreaded responding to injured officer calls involving Sara, he didn’t want to imagine what would happen to his wife if anything else happened to her sister.

“Surprised she hasn’t caused one yet.” Ava commented. Again, she was not surprised she was responding to an officer requested medical where Sara Lance was involved.

“Ava,” Mick warned. “She’s never sounded this worked up, she’s hurting.” It really worried him how out of breath and pained her radio traffic had been.

“I’ll play nice.” She promised, for Mick, she’d try harder to put aside her dislike of the officer.

“Thank you. Listen, I know you don’t want to but I need you to check on her, for everyone’s sake, I should check on Leonard.” Sara would hate him for sending Ava her way knowing the pair didn’t care for each other but Leonard would prefer him over any of the other firefighters.

“Ugh,” she groaned. “Fine, but you owe me, cops make terrible patients and I’m sure Officer Lance is no exception.” She and Mick parted ways, each heading in the direction of their patient.

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” Sara mumbled just loud enough for Ava to hear. It had been three weeks since her last incident with Ava and Ray’s parked vehicle. While three weeks were great, she was hoping to go a while longer before seeing the firefighter again.

Ava smirked, she was glad Sara was just as bothered about this as she was. The cop had a way of getting under her skin, she acted as if nothing in the world bothered her and that just annoyed Ava more. “Fraid you’re stuck with me Officer Lance. Wanna do this here or the back of the ambulance,” she asked smiling down at the officer.

Sara hated the thought of being alone with Ava in the back of an ambulance but she didn’t want to take her uniform top off out on the street. “Ambulance is fine.” She made her way to the ambulance slowly. She groaned as she stepped up and into the back of the ambulance, her muscles already beginning to tighten and bruise.

“You good,” Ava asked, truly concerned. Just because she didn’t care for the officer didn’t mean she wanted anything bad to happen to her. She watched Sara carefully, trying to figure out the full extent of her injuries without having to actually ask.

“Fine.” Sara took a seat on the bench, resting her head against the ambulance wall, closing her eyes, willing the pain away for a brief second.

Seeing the red marks on Sara’s neck Ava reached out to take Sara’s chin in her hand to get a better look. She gasped when Sara’s hand wrapped around her wrist, her eyes snapping open.

She’d been caught off guard. She hadn’t expected the firefighter to touch her face. There was nothing wrong with her face, it didn’t need to be checked out. “It’s not a good idea to startle me.” She released Ava’s hand. “I didn’t mean to.” She motioned towards the hand she’d just released. “Sorry.” Sara had gotten used to apologizing for accidentally grabbing people that made unexpected movements towards her. Unless she was at home surrounded with family, it was difficult for her to turn down her reflexes.

“My mistake.” Ava apologized. Sara’s reflexes were extremely sharp, even while in pain, that surprised her. “Your neck is red, I was just trying to get a better look.” She explained. “May I,” she asked.

“I guess I forgot went for my neck. He was trying to push me away and free his knife hand.” She lifted her head up for Ava to get a better look. She tried not to tense when Ava’s fingers ran across the red area at the base of her throat. Her muscles only tensed for a second before relaxing, Ava’s touch was surprisingly gentle.

“You’ll have some bruising but I don’t think he did any real damage.” She stepped back from Sara. This close she could smell her body wash and that was messing with her senses. This was Sara Lance, she reminded herself, the reckless officer that chased after and tackled bad guys without regard for her safety. “Let’s see those cuts.”

Sara nodded, her throat didn’t feel too bad. She didn’t make eye contact with Ava as she began working on removing her uniform shirt. “Let’s get this over with.” She needed to get back out on the road, she was going to throw every charge she could at the twins for the pain she was feeling at that moment.

Ava set a few bandages out and some disinfectant. Patiently, she waited for Sara to finish getting her shirt off, she was moving slowly which only confirmed how much she was hurting. “Let me.” She moved in hesitantly to release the velcro holding Sara’s vest together. She made sure not to reach out and do it herself without permission. She did not want a broken wrist, her forearm was still slightly throbbing from where Sara had grabbed her.

Sara nodded and moved her hand out of the way, she didn’t like relying on Ava but she was hurting and the quicker she got patched up, the sooner she could be back on the road. Not to mention reaching across her body was a lot more work and it wasn’t worth the pain it inflicted. She’d suck it up and accept Ava’s help. “Thanks,” she said softly.

Ava was caught off guard with how soft Sara’s voice was, she’d never thought the cop could be capable of such softness, sure she used it with the public but certainly never with her. She figured she had herself to blame for that. She cleared her throat and said a quick ‘no problem’ before setting the vest aside leaving Sara in a tank top. As Ava examined both of the cuts, she couldn’t help but notice Sara’s toned arms. Her eyes snapped to Sara’s when she flexed her muscles. She couldn’t believe she’d been caught staring.

“My eyes are up here.” Sara attempted at a joke but of course, Ava didn’t react to it.

“Sorry.” Ava cleared her throat. “Got distracted for a second.” She pretended like nothing had happened. “This could’ve been really dangerous.” She cleaned the shoulder wound first. The vest should’ve protected her against it, she’d had to have been really close to the attacker for him to get under the vest.

“When your victim turns on you with a knife there is little time to get out of the way, I wasn’t going to let him go after Leonard, he was already struggling with the other brother.” She explained as if she’d read Ava’s mind. Getting into a fight with someone armed with a knife was extremely dangerous but she’d had little choice at that moment. He’d already been within arms reach of her and his intention had been to go after Leonard to free his brother.

Ava didn’t respond to that, she understood where Sara was coming from, she’d do anything for her team but it didn’t make liking her any easier. “They’re not too bad,” she said, referring to the wounds. She wasn’t going to get into it with the officer about the dangers of close combat with an armed opponent, she was sure she already knew that.

“They’re not.” Sara confirmed. “I need to get back out there. I want to help Len process them.” She wanted to tell Ava to hurry up but she didn’t want the tall blonde to purposely move slowly just to annoy her.

“Not that you’ll listen to me, but I recommend you take the rest of the shift off. Whether you like to admit or not, you’re hurting.”

“Thanks for the concern but I’ve had a lot worse. I’m fine.” She waited for Ava to finish bandaging up her forearm before reaching for her vest. She winced when she lifted the vest over her head.

“I’m sure you have.” Ava cringed the second the words left her mouth, she was supposed to try harder. She sighed, this was going to be a lot harder than she expected. “You are so stubborn.” She swatted Sara’s arm out of the way and velcroed the side of Sara’s vest as she struggled to reach for the straps. Sara didn’t fight her. “Here.” Ava handed her ibuprofen. “You’ll need these.”

“Thanks,” she said gratefully, she hoped that this would be a start to a better relationship between the two of them but somehow she doubted it. She put on her work shirt without assistance, put her utility belt back on and stepped out of the ambulance ignoring the firefighter that was burning a hole in the back of head. “You good,” she asked Leonard.

He nodded. “A few bruises. You,” he asked.

“Same, some bruising and two cuts, they’re superficial.” She shrugged as if they were no big deal despite the pain.

“Glad to see you and Ava didn’t kill each other in there.” Mick chuckled.

Sara punch his arm. “I hate you, stop sticking her with me, the woman hates me.”

Mick smiled. “You do remember the last time someone tried to check Lenny out right,” he asked.

She laughed which only made Leonard scowl. “I do.”

“Hey, not my fault the fire department breeds sensitive cry babies.” He still felt bad for making the medic assigned to him cry. It really hadn’t been his intention.

“You’re good though.” Mick wanted to make sure.

She nodded. “I’m good, some bruising that’s going to hurt tomorrow, but I’m okay.”

“Good thing you have a few days off. Stay out of trouble you two.” He returned to the ambulance.

“She refuses to take the day off.” Ava tells Mick as he settles in the passenger seat of the ambulance.

Mick nodded. “I’m not surprised.” Mick cleared them from the call making them available. “Thank you.” He paused, making sure he had her attention. “For taking care of her, I know it’s not easy for you.” It had been close to two months and he still couldn’t figure out what it was about Sara that Ava didn’t like.

She shrugged and looked out the passenger window. “It wasn’t so bad.” She was shocked at the realization that she actually meant it.

Chapter Text

The next time Sara was on duty with the same group of dispatchers that had been working when she and Leonard had their altercation with the twins she stopped by to see them with a peace offering of two large boxes of pizza. It had felt like a lifetime to her for help to arrive so she couldn’t imagine how anxious the dispatchers had been waiting to find out if everyone was okay.

“Oh, my dear Officer Lance, you shouldn’t have.” Gideon, the dispatcher that had been on the police radio that day commented.

Ava had come to see how the dispatch center operated. She’d done it once when she’d first started with the city’s fire department but she hadn’t known much about the city then and the information had been overwhelming so she’d requested another sit along. Chief Stein had approved the request without a second thought, he constantly pushed for a good working relationship between the departments. What she hadn’t expected on her sit-along, was seeing Officer Sara Lance. She sat up at the mention of the officer’s name, she just couldn’t get away from her. She’d had numerous calls with her since their first meeting, a few of them were not bad but Officer Lance time and again proved that she had complete disregard for her own safety. Despite Mick’s reassurances that it wasn’t what she thought, she wanted nothing to do with the woman. She began dreading all calls that involved the police department, she didn’t mind the calls so much, what she didn’t care for were Mick’s disappointed looks every time she moved past the cop. She was sure that’s why he’d sent her to check on her while he checked on Leonard after their altercation with the twins.

“You must’ve heard my stomach. Any donuts,” Zari asked, looking behind Sara’s back trying to see if she was hiding anything.

Sara pulled a bag from behind her back and gave it to Zari. “Just for you Z, I’m pretty sure I saw a kid taking a picture of me. I’ll give you one guess on what the caption will read.”

“Cop at a donut shop, what else is new,” Zari asked before stuffing an entire donut in her mouth.

“My tax dollars hard at work.” Cisco added with a laugh.

“Watch it you.” She narrowed her eyes at Cisco playfully. “What are you doing here Sharpe,” she asked, her tone turning a bit more serious. She hadn’t noticed the blonde firefighter until now.

“Oh, have you two met,” Cisco asked. Ava was currently listening to the fire radio channel with him. He’d been explaining how their computer worked to recommend the closest fire units using the GPS on the vehicles to the addresses and the policy of sending the police department on some medical calls.

“Officer Lance,” Ava said in way of greeting. She wasn’t going to tell Sara this but she thought it was sweet that she’d brought the dispatchers food, no doubt for having worried them. That also didn’t change how she felt about the woman. “We’ve ran a few calls together.” She answered Cisco’s question.

Sara nodded. “She’s had to check out a few of our perps.” She was about to make a joke about Ava having to check her out too but she didn’t want to push it. Ava didn’t like her already and she still couldn’t figure out what Ava’s deal with her was. She was pretty sure she hadn’t done anything to her, it was obvious by Ava’s cold tone and hard stare that she was bothered just being talked to.

Cisco looked between Sara, Gideon, and Zari. He was surprised by Ava’s tone. She’d been nothing but nice the few hours she’d been there, he actually liked her.

“Anyways, I came in to say sorry I left you hanging on the radio last week, I know you worry Gideon. I always know I’m in good hands when you’re on the channel.” She turned away from Ava and apologized to Gideon, giving her the pizzas.

“You better be sorry Sara Lance, you had me very worried, you know I hate dead air.” She set the pizza aside and got up to hug Sara. “You’re forgiven.” She tightened her hold on her before pulling away and holding her at arm’s length. “My money was on you kid.”

“Thanks Gideon.” She smiled, glad to be forgiven, Gideon was one person she never wanted to upset or disappoint. She valued Gideon’s opinion above everyone else’s in the center. “Their rap sheet was not pretty, that’s for sure.” It turned out both brothers had an extensive criminal history of disorderly conduct, assault, weapons charges and obstruction of peace officers.

“Try not to give me another scare for while, okay.”

“I will do my best.” She promised. “Outside of apologizing for worrying you guys, I wanted to give patrol a heads up.” She turned to face Zari, since she was working the police channel. “Len and I are going to follow up on a couple of leads and attempt to contact a few deadbeats who have outstanding warrants for child support. We figured we’d get them on a Friday and they can stay in a cell to think about their life decisions till court on Monday.” She liked to give the dispatchers a heads up anytime they were going to attempt to contact numerous people with warrants so they were prepared. Gideon and Zari were two of her favorite dispatchers, they went out of their way to give the officers the information they needed on the street so she did her best to make their jobs easier.

“Do you have.” Before Gideon could finish, Sara produced two sheets of paper.

“The list,” Sara asked with a knowing smile. She handed one copy to Gideon and the second to Zari.

“You’re the greatest and not just because you bring me donuts on the regular. Thank you Sara.” Zari immediately turned to her computer searching the addresses and the history behind each.

“She’s not wrong Sara, you my dear are a gem, maybe you can teach the others a thing or two.” Gideon wished more officers were like Sara, it would make her job a lot easier.

“I’ve been trying Gideon but there is only so much I can teach them without beating the information into them.” She laughed. “And for the record we both know you’re the best Gideon. I wouldn’t trust anyone else to have my six.” She winked at Zari before turning to Cisco. “No offense Cisco, you’re a close second.”

“You break my heart Sara Lance, but I’ll let it go since you’ve known Gideon longer.” Cisco smiled, not really bothered. Sara made sure to remind them how much she appreciated each one of them anytime they worked with her.

“Don’t forget I knew her while she was still awkward and had braces.” Gideon laughed. She’d been dispatching for a long time, Sara had done numerous sit alongs with her as a teen. She’d been there as she’d gone through high school, graduate the police academy and then the hardest part of her life. She’d watch her struggle, watched her grow and overcome everything that life threw at her.

“Oh my god, you just had to bring that up,” Sara whined. “I’m leaving before Gideon decides to go down memory lane and starts sharing embarrassing stories, bye.” She waved with her back already to them as she hurried out of the room.

“Stay safe and be careful out there,” Gideon told her with a laugh, she got a lot of enjoyment from teasing Sara.

“Always am.” She called out over her shoulder.

“So Ava, why don’t you like Sara,” Cisco asked Ava once Sara was out of the room.

Ava really needed to work on her facial expressions, she was getting tired of being asked that question. It was obvious that Sara was a favorite of everyone she’d come in contact with. She couldn’t understand what the big deal was. So what if she didn’t care for the star of the department. “I don’t know her well enough to dislike her.” It wasn’t a complete lie, she just didn’t care for the blonde cop.

“It’s not because she’s a cop is it,” Cisco asked. “Because as far as cops go, she’s pretty awesome, she’s not your typical cop.”

“I don’t doubt that she is.” She decided to play along lest she want to hear a speech about why Sara Lance was so great. It was very clear that Cisco was a fan of hers.

“She really doesn’t care for you, does she? She was kind of a bitch to you.” Gideon messaged Sara shortly after she left.

Sara looked at the text message from Gideon. She didn’t need a name to know who Gideon was referring to. “Yeah, just a bit. I don’t know what I did to piss her off.” Sara had thought she’d imagined Ava’s hostility towards her but Gideon messaging her proved otherwise.

“I’m afraid after Cisco is done singing your praises she’ll either really like you or dislike you even more. He’s not holding back.”

Sara groaned, she didn’t need the firefighter to hate her anymore than she already did. “Please stop him before he makes things worse. I’m doing a fine job on my own.” Sara didn’t need Cisco’s help making things worse, she’d clearly done a bang up job on her own unknowingly. She wasn’t going to waste any more time thinking about the firefighter, there were criminals out there that needed to be brought in. She and Leonard went about their business going from house to house trying to contact people with warrants and responding to calls for service in between. They’d just finished booking in their third person with a warrant when an officer yelled over the radio.

“Sierra nine four, combative.” Officer Nate Heywood called out.

Leonard and Sara immediately ran out to their cruisers and added themselves to the call. They didn’t bother airing their traffic on the radio, they didn’t want to tie up the channel in case the officers on scene needed to call out emergency traffic.

“Sierra eight six, and nine six arriving on scene.” Leonard marked them on scene minutes later. They ran inside to assist Officers Heywood and Allen. The combative man they’d been sent to check on due to some suicidal threats he’d made to family and friends was easily overpowering the pair.

“Sierra nine six, start another car and have medical stand by.” Sara called out into the radio doing her best to keep her voice calm but it still came out elevated as she, along with the others tried to subdue the combative man. She’d stressed Gideon enough for one week, she didn’t want a repeat of the week before.

Cisco had turned up Zari’s channel so that he and Ava could listen while Zari worked the event. He immediately sent the fire department, having them stage down the street until the scene was safe. “Sara doesn’t like to take chances,” he explained to Ava. “She usually calls for us to have medical on standby during calls like this. She doesn’t like to take risks with officer and civilian safety,” he explained. “Better safe than sorry.” It was something Sara had said to him several times when he’d first started dispatching for the city.

Ava nodded, Cisco’s comment had given her a better insight of the officer, she didn’t seem as reckless when the dispatchers talked about her and they’d done a lot of talking. Even with the new information the nagging feeling that Sara was a bit reckless would not leave her. Sara seemed to care about the people responding with her, that was one thing she was sure of. She was pulled from her thoughts by the radio transmission.

“Nine five, on scene.” Officer Ray Palmer arrived minutes later and between the five of them, they were able to subdue the combative man.

“Eight four, we have one in custody, have medical move up, adult male, conscious, breathing, excited delirium.” Officer Allen was winded as he gave information to be passed onto the medics. The only times they’d have someone fight for so long and against so many people was when they were on drugs. Their body couldn’t feel the pain and they had the strength of multiple men.

***...***

Ava got home hours later, she'd learned a lot from her sit-along but it wasn't about dispatch itself, it was more about Sara Lance, their favorite officer. She wasn't even exaggerating the favorite bit, she'd heard them all say it several times, she thought she heard it every time Sara Lance got on the radio. She'd been distracted once the officer had left, and Gideon's mood had also changed. She wondered what it was that she'd been through or done to affect the senior dispatcher so much.

"Hi buddy,” she greeted the canine. “Who’s my handsome boy." She bent down to pet her Labrador. "Have you been keeping an eye on things here," she asked him looking for her other pet. As if being summoned, her tabby moved from her perch on the back of the couch and rubbed herself against Ava's leg. "Hey trouble." She scratched the cat behind her ears.

The cat had been a gift from a friend after she'd graduated from the fire academy. It had taken her a week to come up with a name that fit her. Her hungry wails first thing in the morning reminded her of the federal, a siren that all the fire trucks were equipped with and so she’d named her Siren. “My day was good too.” She settled on the ground with the pair for a few minutes before taking the dog out, and settling in for the night. Tomorrow would begin her 48 hour rotation and she wanted to be well rested.

***...***

“How was your sit along yesterday,” Mick asked as they went over everything on the ambulance making sure they had everything on the check off list.

“It was good, they were very nice. Cisco was very informative. It’s different being on that side. I definitely got a lot more out of it this time around.” She wasn’t as overwhelmed with information as she had been the first time.

Mick nodded. He’d done a few sit alongs himself. It wasn’t unusual for cops, firefighters and dispatchers to do sit alongs or ride alongs with each other. It helped build better understanding and relationships between the departments. “Sara worked yesterday.” He stopped what he was doing to look for a reaction from Ava. He was disappointed when she didn’t even look up from her checklist. He’d talked to Laurel about the pair’s encounters since the initial meeting and she’d encouraged him to get to the bottom of it.

“Yeah, she stopped by dispatch while I was there. She brought in pizza to apologize for worrying them with the twins.” She didn’t need to look up to know Mick’s eyes were on her. “They said she does that a lot, bring them food, check in on them.” She added.

Mick nodded. “She does. She was never a dispatcher but she spent a lot of time with them when she was younger and her dad was a street cop. She appreciates them more than the average first responder.”

Having finished checking the med bag she set aside the clipboard and looked up at him. “What’s up with her and Gideon. They seem, close.” The nagging feeling that there was something there would not leave her. Gideon had been extremely cold to her once Sara had left.

Mick sighed, not sure how much he should share since it wasn’t his story to tell. “Gideon’s known Sara since before she was a teenager, she’s like a godmother to her.” Gideon had helped Sara a lot when she’d graduated the police academy and completed her field training and with everything she’d been through after.

Ava looked at him for a second, his answer hadn’t given her the insight she was looking for. She knew she wasn’t going to get any more information from her partner. “Well, I’m pretty sure she hates me.”

“What,” he asked, he couldn’t have heard correctly. “Gideon loves everyone, what did you do,” he asked.

“I didn’t do anything.” She defended herself.

He raised both eyebrows and waited.

“I didn’t,” she repeated. “Ugh, okay fine. I wasn’t exactly friendly towards Sara. But I didn’t say more than two words to her. Which was clearly a mistake because they all worship the ground she walks on. I seriously don’t get it.” She knew Mick and Sara were close but she trusted him and knew he wouldn’t mind her venting.

Mick chuckled. “Well that might be why she doesn’t like you. Gideon is very perceptive, Sara is the closest thing to a daughter to her. Of all the people to piss off you went for the most senior dispatcher.” He shook his head. “I’m blaming you for every shit call Gideon sends us on today.”

“She wouldn’t. Would she,” she asked worriedly.

“She definitely would.” He learned early on not to piss off Gideon. He’d listen to Sara and her father talk about the shit calls she’d send the officers that gave her and her dispatchers attitude.

“Great, so Gideon is on fire and you’re abandoning me to fend for myself later.” She pouted.

“You’ll be fine, my wife’s appointment trumps you wanting me around because you’re scared of Gideon.” He laughed.

“Ugh,” she protested. “I’m not scared of Gideon. I’m not.” She repeated when he gave her the ‘I don’t believe you look.’ “I just hate working with a new person. That’s all. Fire calls are different, there are other people to pick up the slack, it’s not the same on the med unit.”

“You’ll have Gary.” He knew that’s the new person she was referring to. Not all new people were bad, after all he’d lucked out with her, but Gary was his own kind of special.

She groaned. “Exactly, I’ll have Gary and therein lay the problem. Gary can’t lift a ten pound weight without complaining it’s too heavy.” Gary was a medic who had not been with the station long.

“You’ll be fine.” He patted her knee reassuringly.

“Mhm, famous last words.” She moved to the driver seat, they were being dispatched to a difficulty breathing. It was amazing how many of those they ran in one shift. Sometimes she felt more like a taxi driver than a medic.

They waited at the door to be let in by a family member. According to the original dispatch, the caller had not felt comfortable unlocking the door, and said he’d wait until they got there. After ringing the doorbell several times with no answer, they had Gideon call the reporting party back to get the door.

The door swung open and a male in his late 20’s, cigarette between his lips stood in front of them with an irritated look on his face. “About time you got here, I called thirty minutes ago. Come on, she’s in the kitchen.”

Ava shared a sideways glance with Mick. This guy was going to be a joy to deal with. She was pretty sure they’d gotten there in less than five minutes but she wasn’t about to argue that fact with him, the radio had there time recorded if he decided to dispute their response time. She and Mick followed him to the kitchen and froze in the doorway.

“Stop,” Mick yelled at him. “Back away from her before you kill us all.”

“What the hell, she needs help, so get over here, put my tax dollars to good use and treat her.” He couldn’t believe the medics were refusing to help his ill mother.

“Sir, you need to put the cigarette out,” Ava told him nicely, she knew if that didn’t work then she’d let Mick have his way with him.

“What, no, you don’t worry about that, you just help my mom.” He took a drag of his cigarette to make a point.

“Listen pal, we are not taking another step into the room until you either leave the room with that cigarette or you put it out.” Mick was losing his patience.

“What’s the big deal,” he asked, determined to keep his cigarette lit.

“The big deal, you idiot, is that she’s on oxygen, and you have a lit cigarette two feet from her, the big deal is that you can set this place, along with your mother on fire. Oxygen is like fuel to fire. You get the big deal. The big deal is that she’s having a hard time breathing and here you are, blowing smoke in her face.” Mick wasn’t about to chance them getting closer, while they would be safe he wanted to stress to the patient’s son the dangers of smoking near an oxygen tank. When a patient is on oxygen, it can build up in the home, their clothes and body. The oxygen can be ignited by a heat source, such as the cigarette in the caller’s mouth. “What’s it gonna be pal,” he asked impatiently.

“Fine, fine.” He walked to the sink and put his cigarette under water.

Mick was sure this was going to result in a complaint, but he didn’t care. It wasn’t the first time they’d responded to a call where someone was having a hard time breathing with a family member close by with a lit cigarette. They checked out their patient, loaded her in the back of the ambulance and took her to the hospital without further incident.

“I can’t believe you called him an idiot.” Ava laughed as they left the hospital. “You know that’s gonna be a complaint right,” she asked. She knew Mick didn’t care, she’d have his back regardless.

“Medic 5 landline please.” Dispatch asked them to call in over the radio.

“There it is.” She snickered.

Mick rolled his eyes. “Why don’t you call and talk to Gideon.” He smiled when her face went serious. Ava would never admit it out loud but he knew Gideon scared her. “That’s what I thought.” He chuckled as he called to talk to the fire dispatcher putting the phone on speaker.

“Did you really call him an idiot.” Were the first words out of her mouth.

“I did, because he is an idiot.” He grunted.

“Mick, we’ve been over this, you can’t talk to people like that, even if they deserve it. Do I need to stick Sara on you.”

“Oh please Gideon, we both know Sara’s mouth gets her into as much trouble as mine does. You’d just be adding fuel to the fire.” He and Sara together were a perfect and at times a disastrous combination. “So how bad is it,” he asked regarding the complaint.

“I talked him out of it, by the end of it he was apologizing for risking everyone’s lives.” She laughed into the phone. “I may have exaggerated the danger he’d put everyone in.”

“You’re the greatest Gideon.” He smiled, he’d need to take something in as a thank you.

“Don’t you forget it, gotta go, you’re about to get another call.” She said quickly before hanging up.

“And that is why you want Gideon on your side.” He told Ava.

Ava wasn’t surprised that Gideon had talked the man out of filing a formal complaint. They responded to the next couple calls without incident. She was dreading the thought of Mick leaving and being stuck with Gary for a few hours. “Good luck,” she told him as he got ready to leave.

“You too.” He winked. “Take care of our girl Gary.” He didn’t have to see Ava’s face to know she was shooting daggers at him.

Gary drove while Ava sat in the passenger seat doing her best not to throw up. Gary was a nervous person and it seemed being around Ava made him even more so. “Do you want me to drive Gary,” she asked after the tenth time he’d slammed on the breaks jerking them forward.

“No ma’am, I’m okay, sorry, just getting use to the sensitivity of the pedals.” He explained.

Ava tried not to roll her eyes, she was trying hard to be nice, Gary was a good guy, he was just young and inexperienced. “Gary you don’t have to call me ma’am, Ava is just fine.”

He smiled. “Sorry, force of habit.”

She turned her attention to the radio.

“Medic 5 on a fall.”

She turned on the lights and sirens as soon as they had an address. “Gary try and get us there in one piece please.” She flinched as they avoided yet another car. She was definitely going to drive back, she wasn’t sure how much more of Gary’s driving she could handle. They arrived on scene without too many more scares. They’d been told that the victim had fallen down the stairs and was currently waiting in the basement with a possible broken arm and leg. “Fire department,” she called out as they opened the door. “Gary grab the stair chair, we’re probably gonna need it.” She considered calling for an engine to help them lift. She was pretty sure she and Gary would not be able to go up the stair with the chair by themselves.

“Down here,” a man yelled out.

They followed the man’s voice to the basement door and made their way down the steps. They found their victim sitting in a chair beside the stairs. “Ma’am, my name is Ava, this is Gary, can you tell me your name,” she asked. Something didn’t feel right about this call. The husband who had called, stood on the other side of the room with his back against the wall. Everything in her was telling her something was off about the whole scenario. She eyed Gary to see if he was getting the same feeling but he just smiled and looked at their patient.

The woman shook her head. “I’m fine, really. I’ll drive myself to the hospital later.” She waved the medics off. “I told him not to call. Really, I’m fine. You can leave.” The woman was trying her best to assure the medics. Her gaze kept moving between the medics and her husband behind them.

Ava looked the woman over trying to assess the extent of her injuries. That nagging feeling that something wasn’t right intensified the closer she looked at the woman’s injuries. She could see patches of yellow skin around her arm and face. She turned around and glared at the man. “What happened here, how did she fall down the stairs,” she asked. She had an idea of exactly what had happened and it was definitely not an accident.

“Look, I just tripped coming down the steps, nothing happened.” The women answered before the man could open his mouth.

Ava glared at the man one final time before focusing on the woman in the chair. She knelt down in front of her lowering her voice so that only she could hear her. “Whatever it is, we can get you help. You don’t have to stay here.” She assured her. It wasn’t the first time they’d responded to a call where abuse was involved and the victim pretended they’d sustained the injuries by means other than those inflicted on them by another.

“I’m fine, please, leave.” She insisted her voice pleading.

“We promise to leave, just let us make sure nothing is broken.” As soon as she was sure there were no breaks she’d go outside and start PD. They could at least question the husband and dig a bit deeper.

“Just let them check you out Gail,” her husband said from across the room.

Ava saw it all happening in slow motion. She instinctively stood up placing herself between Gary and the woman who up until seconds ago, had been their patient.

Chapter Text

“Just let them check you out Gail,” her husband said from across the room.

Ava saw it all happening in slow motion. She instinctively stood up placing herself between Gary and the woman who up until seconds ago, had been their patient.

Gail’s eyes shot up at him and any kindness and pain that was shown earlier disappeared. Her husband once again telling her what to do was the final straw. “Shut up, just shut up Vandal, I am so tired of your shit. I told you not to call them. This is all your doing,” she yelled looking past the medics. She pulled the gun she’d hid under her thigh when the medics had arrived and pointed it first at the medics then her husband.

Ava’s hand slowly snuck to her radio. She pressed the button to key up her radio as though she was getting ready to talk and released it. She did this several times. She hoped that dispatch would catch on. She turned her radio down in case Gideon tried calling out to her, she didn’t want Gail to hear her and pull the trigger out of fear or anger. “Gail,” she said softly. She put her hands out in front of her to show her that she meant no harm. “Gail, how about you put the gun down, let’s talk about this.”

Gail shook her head. “No, no, you should have left, I told you to leave. I didn’t want to hurt you,” Gail cried. “Get against the wall.” She motioned to the wall her husband was backed up against.

Ava nodded to Gary. He moved without question. “Gail, listen to me, it’s not too late, we can still get you help, and get him charged for everything he’s done.” She reached for her radio once again pressing and releasing the button several times without drawing attention to herself.

“No, no,” Gail yelled. “Now get against the wall, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Okay Gail, okay.” She needed to make Gail feel like she was in control, she couldn’t risk her feeling more helpless than she already felt and shoot them out of fear. She walked backwards slowly being careful not to trip. She hoped that Gideon had realized that they were in trouble and help was on the way. She continued to press her radio as Gail yelled at her husband Vandal, hoping some of the traffic would go across.

“This is all your fault,” Gail screamed, tears running down her face. “All your fault.”

Ava looked to the top of the stairs, waiting for movement. She never thought she’d be happy or relieved to see Officer Sara Lance as she was at that moment. She made eye contact with the cop shaking her head. “Gail, you don’t have to put away the gun but how about you point it down, you don’t want to accidentally hurt someone.” She was talking to Gail but her words were directed at Sara. She needed her to know there was a gun involved and the name of the person holding the gun.

Sara nodded at her from the top of the stairs, she grabbed her radio, taking a few steps back. She returned less than a minute later and motioned for her own radio and pointed to Ava’s.

Ava nodded slowly reaching for her radio turning the volume up. Seconds later Sara’s voice came across.

“Gail, my name is Officer Lance, I’d like to talk to you.”

“No,” Gail shouted. “I’m done talking, your kind has never listened,” she cried.

“I’m sorry you weren’t listened to in the past Gail, but I’m here, listening now.” Sara kept her voice calm and reassuring.

Gail looked around, trying to find the officer she was talking to. “Where are you,” she yelled.

“I’m at the top of the stairs.” She answered.

“I want you to leave. Now.” She screamed.

“I can’t do that Gail, I don’t want anyone to get hurt, I want to help you.” Sara knew that if she really wanted to get through to the woman she’d have to get closer, let her see for herself that she was there for her.

“I want you to leave, I’m not going to ask again.” She yelled in the direction of the stairs.

“Gail, I’m coming down to talk to you, it’s just me, okay,” she asked.

Ava couldn’t believe what she’d just heard, she’d initially been impressed that Officer Lance hadn’t rushed in. She’d begun to think that maybe, just maybe she’d been quick to label her as reckless but she was once again thinking she’d been right in her initial assessment.

“No. Don’t,” Gail cried. “You can’t help me.”

“Gail, I just want to talk.” This time Sara’s voice didn’t come across the radio but from the steps.

“Stop, don’t come any closer.” She pointed the gun at Sara.

“Okay, okay Gail. I won’t come further, let’s talk about this.” She crouched down on the steps so that Gail could see her.

“There is nothing to talk about, he’s spent years beating and abusing me. No one believed me, no one listened. I’m done. I’m not going to be his or anyone else’s punching bag anymore,” she screamed. “I’m done.” She repeated while looking at Vandal.

The desperation in her voice worried Sara more than anything. Gail was more likely to turn the gun on herself than she was on the others. She was defeated and didn’t think she had other options. “It’s not too late Gail. He can still be charged for the abuse but, you have to put the gun down.”

“No, cops lie, you’re no different. He’ll be out before the night is over.” Gail was becoming more frantic.

“You have no reason to trust me Gail but I’m asking you to give me a chance just like I’m giving you a chance right now.” Sara knew she was starting to lose her, the longer they talked the more irritable Gail was becoming.

“No, no, you don’t understand.” Gail sobbed, angrily wiping the tears from her face. “You don’t know what it’s like.”

Sara took one step down discreetly. “Help me understand Gail, I can’t understand if you don’t talk to me.”

Gail shook her head. “No, you’ll never understand what it’s like, to live in a nightmare. Too afraid to breath for fear of getting beat, afraid of the daily torture.” She sobbed, the gun in her hand shaking. “I’ve been living in fear for so long.” She continued to cry. “No more, no more.”

Sara took another two steps down being careful not to startle her. “I do understand Gail, better than most, I know what it’s like to live in fear. I know what it’s like to spend every second not knowing if you’ll live long enough to make it through the day. I know what it’s like to hope and pray that someone will hear you, that someone will help you. I especially know what it’s like to be in the same room with a monster and feel like there is no hope. I haven’t been through what you’re going through Gail but I understand, and you know what,” she asked, thankful to still have Gail’s attention. “Help did come, I survived and so can you.” She stepped down a few more steps getting closer to the bottom.

The gun in Gail’s hand shook as she continued to cry, still unable to accept that the cop was there to help her.

“Gail, I promise I will do everything I can for you, but you have to work with me. I need you to put the gun down. It can get better Gail, but not unless you take the first step. Let me help you.” She made sure to let Gail feel as though this was her decision, she couldn’t pressure or order her to put the gun away. She needed to gain back what she’d lost being in a long term abusive relationship and that was, control.

“You’re lying.” Gail shook her head. “You’re trying to trick me, just like he did.” She pointed the gun at her husband once again. So many times he’d told her he loved her, that he didn’t mean to hurt her, that he’d do better, that he’d be better and she’d believed him. She’d been a fool to believe him because he only got worse. In the end he stopped begging for her forgiveness and blamed her for angering him. She’d had enough, she would no longer be a fool, she would not let him lay another finger on her.

Sara took the last few steps down and stood between Gail and her husband. “Look at me Gail, look at me.” She repeated until the woman’s gaze turned to her. “Gail please give me the gun, let me help you. I promise you, I will help you, but you need to let me help. I can’t do anything for you if you kill him.” She extended her hand out silently asking for the gun.

Gail looked at her with tears running down her face. “I can’t.” She cried.

“Yes, you can. You are so much stronger than you know Gail. You’ve survived for so long. You’ve fought so hard. I want you to keep fighting, to keep surviving, but this time you don’t have to do it alone. This time you have help.”

“You promise,” she asked, her voice broken. She wanted so badly for all of it to end.

Sara nodded. “You have my word.” Sara promised. She was relieved when Gail finally nodded putting the gun in her hand. “You did the right thing.” Sara smiled reassuringly. “Sierra nine six, scene stable.” She called into the radio. Leonard and Carter came down the stairs seconds later. “Take him into custody for domestic violence and assault, we’ll get a full statement at the station.” She motioned to the husband. The men nodded and moved to him. Once they had him in custody they took him up the stairs to talk to him. “Will you let Ava check you out,” she asked.

Gail nodded as she sobbed. “I am so sorry, I’m just so tired.” She was tired, tired of fighting her battles on her own, tired of protecting him by covering up her bruises, tired of lying to her friends and family.

Sara took a knee in front of her and put a reassuring hand on her knee. “All that matters is that no one got hurt, there will be consequences but I’ll do everything I can for you. I’m going to have detectives and a victims advocate meet us at the hospital, they’re going to want to take pictures of your injuries. It’s going to be hard but I need you to talk to them, tell them everything. We need to build a case against him.”

She nodded. “Thank you Officer Lance.” She took hold of Sara’s hand, squeezing it. She knew there would be consequences, after all she’d held three people at gunpoint. “I’m sorry,” she apologized to Ava. “I know you were only trying to help.”

Ava smiled. “Don’t worry about it, like Officer Lance said, no one got hurt. Let’s make sure you’re alright though. Can you tell me what hurts,” she asked.

Sara stood back and let the medics work.

Gail nodded and told Ava the extent of her injuries, she and Gary were able to help her up the stairs and into the back of the ambulance without further incident.

Sara called dispatch asking them to start a detective and a victim’s advocate to meet them at the hospital. She would do her best to keep Gail from being arrested, she was more than likely going to be charged but she’d try and have her admitted to the hospital for the night and released on a summons. “I’ll follow you to the hospital,” Sara told Ava once she’d shut the doors to the back of the ambulance.

Ava nodded. “Sounds good Officer Lance.” She moved to go to the driver’s seat, she was not going to subject this patient to Gary’s driving, she’d already been through a lot.

Sara sighed, she hoped that maybe after her last call with Ava and the twins, Ava would ease up a bit. She’d been gentle in treating her wounds and had even given her pills to ease the pain she was in. “You really don’t like me,” Sara said to her before she’d had the chance to open the driver’s side door of the ambulance. She’d wanted to say this to her the last couple times they’d had a call together but she’d never found the right time. She knew now was not the time either but she didn’t care. She was getting tired of Ava’s attitude, it would be fine if she’d done something to deserve it but as far as she knew, she’d done nothing.

Ava narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think this is the best time to have this conversation.” She opened the driver’s door, she sighed when she noticed that the officer had not moved, she was waiting for an answer. “I don’t dislike you Officer Lance, but I think you’re reckless and I don’t care for reckless.” She got into the driver’s seat shutting the door behind her, ending the conversation.

Sara’s jaw dropped, and to think her day had started out so well. Breakfast with her sister had been amazing. She’d managed to make it through the day with only one report. She’d talked Gail out of shooting her husband and now she stood flabbergasted. She could not believe that Ava had called her reckless, what she couldn’t believe even more was that Ava had ended the conversation without so as much as a second glance. She’d been trying to be nice, for Mick’s sake, but she didn’t care anymore. She got into her cruiser and followed the ambulance to the hospital doing her best to calm herself down, she needed to focus on the job. Gail needed her to be calm, she needed her to be on her A-Game. Ava and Gary had unloaded Gail into one of the hospital beds by the time Sara parked and checked in with her Sergeant. She was glad when he supported her request not to have Gail arrested and told her he’d back her and talk to the on duty captain, Captain Drake to make sure there were no issues.

“Officer Lance,” Ava called out to her before she went into Gail’s room. “Look, I didn’t mean to come off so,” she wasn’t sure of the word she was looking for.

“Tactless, rude, a jerk,” Sara listed her options, there was a long list of words she could have used but she reminded herself that they were surrounded by hospital staff.

“I deserved that.” Ava commented not knowing what else to say.

“You don’t know anything about me and you’ve labeled me as reckless which is fine, I don’t need you to like me, I won't lose sleep over it. I was trying because Mick is your partner and for reasons unknown to me, he thinks we’d get along. I’m done trying though.” It was taking everything in Sara to keep her voice low so not to alert the staff and patients to how angry she was. “My teammates know I have their backs and not only that, I’ll continue to have yours.” Sara didn’t let her say anything more, she walked away leaving Ava in the hallway.

Ava watched the doorway Sara had entered through for a few seconds before deciding to leave it alone. She knew she’d pissed the cop off and there was no undoing that, she’d really done it this time. If Mick wasn’t disappointed before he would be after talking to Sara. She sighed and went to find Gary.

Chapter Text

Mick returned from the doctors appointment hours later ready to save his partner from any further torture that Gary's driving was no doubt inflicting. "Hey Army, how did it go with Gary," he asked doing his best to ignore Ava's death glare.

Ava groaned. "I'm still nauseous from his driving, have you ever ridden with him," she laughed. "I guess I should've told you not to let him drive." Gary was a terrible driver, it was worse than getting on a roller coaster after a three course meal. "He's the absolute worst." He laughed."A bit late now big guy." She playfully punched his shoulder."By the way, Sara mentioned the call in Harmony Falls, you two okay," he asked, all humor forgotten. He hated that he hadn't been there. Sara hadn't gone into much detail and with the mood she'd been in, he hadn't pressed for more information. He figured he'd just ask his partner when he got back to got nervous for a few second, she was sure that Officer Lance had told him about their talk, or lack thereof. "Yeah we're fine, our patient has been living with an abusive husband for years. I understand why she finally snapped, the situation wasn't ideal, but I'm glad she'll be getting the help she needs. Officer Lance seems determined to make sure she's taken care of." Despite what she thought of the officer, it was evident she cared about the citizens and went above and beyond to take care of them.

Sara had been on edge when he'd talked to her, he was finally starting to understand why. In the time he'd known her he'd learned it was better to let her talk in her own time. "Explains Sara's mood, she doesn't like for women to suffer at the hands of men." He quoted a phrase he'd heard her say numerous times. "Your victim has the best person fighting for her. I feel for the husband though, Sara's going to make sure the book is thrown at him. She was calling Laurel to make sure everything she had on him so far would stick in court." From what Sara had told him, they'd talk to the judge and hope for leniency for Gail's actions. Her lawyer was going to plead her actions as a cause of emotional distress. Seeing as the city would not be filing gun charges against her, it would be anything the victim's husband and his lawyer would bring up in order to discredit her that they had to watch out for.

Ava relaxed, it seemed Officer Lance hadn't told him about their conversation which surprised her. She really needed to start giving the cop more credit. She was continuously surprising her. "Good, you should've seen the fear in her eyes. He deserves whatever he gets." She shook her head sadly. "Ugh, how was the doctor's appointment," she asked, changing the subject to something less heavy.

"It went well." He didn't share further. "If we're not busy later, Laurel wants us to meet her for dinner."

"Yeah sure, that sounds good. Besides, it's Gary's turn to cook and frankly, after putting up with his driving, I don't want to eat anything he makes. Just thinking about it is making me sick to my stomach." She groaned.

"I'll let her know." He squeezed her shoulder and walked away to call his wife.

"Ava." Laurel hugged her. She liked Mick's partner a lot. She could hold her own and she trusted her to have Mick's back on tough calls.

"Hey Laurel." Ava returned the hug.

The trio sat down and ordered their food, making sure to order something that wouldn't take long and would reheat nicely. They were used to meal times always getting interrupted.

"Thanks for agreeing to meet for dinner, I hate that he works forty-eights, though the four days off are nice." Mick still had another thirty six hours left in his shift so she appreciated any time she got to spend with him.

"Of course. It's nice getting out of the station for something other than a call. And, I really don't want to eat whatever Gary is making." She cringed remembering her time spent with the young firefighter.

Laurel knew all about Gary, she'd almost felt bad for leaving Ava with him while Mick had accompanied her to her appointment. Almost. "I'm glad you survived his driving."

"Really Mick." Ava gave him a disbelieving look. "Even Laurel knows about how terrible of a driver Gary is." She was still mad at him for not giving her the heads up.

Mick let out a 'whoops' and wiggled his eyebrows, taking a sip of his drink.

Laurel took the conversation over not wanting her husband to get himself into more trouble with his partner. "Speaking of Gary, Sara said a victim of a domestic pulled a gun on you guys earlier, you and Gary okay." She'd been concerned for Mick's partner. She was glad her husband had not been there but she'd also been disappointed because he'd have taken care of Ava much better than Gary could had the situation been more dire. She didn't dislike Gary, from everything Mick had told her, he was just young and inexperienced.

Ava tensed for a second. Sure Sara hadn't told Mick, but she was sure she would've told Laurel, they were sisters after all.

"Wait what happened," she asked. "I thought you said everyone was okay." She directed her second statement at Mick, smacking his arm.

"Ow, what did I do." He moved his chair away from her.

"That look, what's that look for," she asked Ava. "What is Sara not telling us." Her sister had a tendency of leaving out the really scary stuff. She didn't like worrying her even though most of her cases came through her office and also, people talked.

"Nothing, nothing happened with the call, we are all okay, honestly." Ava reassured her.

"So then what is it and don't you dare say nothing Ava Sharpe, I know you well enough by now." Laurel warned with her index finger pointed at Ava.

"She seriously didn't tell you," Ava asked. When both Laurel and Mick shook their heads Ava shrunk in the booth. She discarded her napkin on the table losing her appetite. "If she didn't hate me before, she definitely hates me now."

"Why is that," Laurel asked. She wished Ava would just spit it out.

"Well, instead of thanking her for saving my ass, I may have called her reckless." She whispered the last bit and cringed waiting for the sister's reaction.

Laurel groaned. "Oh boy." She let out a long breath.

That was not a good sign. "I fucked up, I know." She'd seen the brief look of hurt in her eyes before turning away but at the time she hadn't cared. She'd just wanted to put distance between herself and the cop. She should've said thank you and left it alone, things weren't great but they were bearable. She was sure she'd made things a hundred times more difficult than they needed to be.

"You have no idea." Laurel was not very encouraging. Her sister had sounded off earlier and had refused to say why. Now she knew exactly why.

"Babe." Mick nudged her. She was not helping.

"Sorry," Laurel apologized. "It's not as bad as you think. Sara is one of the most forgiving people you'll ever meet but you have to know she is far from reckless. She calculates all her options before making decisions. It's why she's such a good cop, why all the officers trust her, why they like working with her."

Mick nodded in agreeance with his wife. "Wait, is that what your issue with her is," Mick asked, he was annoyed at himself for only now figuring it out. "You thought she was reckless." At Ava's nod Mick continued. "Why do you think we have so many medical standbys for her calls."

"Because she has a tendency of chasing after criminals and tackling them." She reminded him of the first description of the officer he'd given her.

"I guess I should've gone into more details on why she chases and tackles." Mick sighed, turns out Ava hadn't taken his talking Sara up as he'd intended, he should've done a better job in describing her. "I told you Sara had a one hundred percent catch rate when people ran, but that is only when she chases. She's had so many people run that she didn't follow. She only chases when the threat to property and life of the citizens outweighs the risk of her own safety."

The dread in the pit of her stomach worsened. She'd really misjudged the blonde. She closed her eyes and let out a big sigh. "So I royally fucked up then." Ava wanted to kick herself. She wasn't sure she could ever look the blonde in the eye again.

"Nothing that can't be fixed." Mick assured her. He wished he'd known this sooner, so much could've been avoided.

"Yeah right." She was sure any chance she had of salvaging her relationship with the cop was out the window after the domestic.

"Mick is right, why don't you come over for Christmas dinner. What better day to make things right." Laurel really liked Ava and she wanted her to get along with her sister. From everything Mick had told her about his partner, and the time she'd spent with her, she'd agreed, she and Sara would be great for each other. Even if it was only as friends.

Ava shook her head. There was no way Officer Lance would want her around, not after the way she'd behaved towards her. "Not that I blame her, your sister won't want me there. Besides, I don't want to intrude on your family time."

"Nonsense, you're not intruding, we have a few cops, firefighters and dispatchers that join us every year and as far as Sara is concerned, you let me deal with her. I'll let her know you're coming." Laurel was not going to take no for an answer. Now that they knew what the problem was, they could work on repairing the damage.

Ava was about to argue but Laurel wouldn't have it. "You're coming, that's final."

Ava sighed. "If she says no, you let it go. It won't hurt my feelings, I've been kind of an asshole to her."

"She won't say no." Laurel assured her.

Ava sighed. "If she does."

"She won't." Laurel would make sure of that

"Okay fine, god you're bossy."

Mick laughed, he was glad Ava had finally seen it for herself. He'd tried to tell Ava but she hadn't believed him, she'd said Laurel was too sweet to be the bossy person he was describing.

"What are you laughing at." Laurel narrowed her eyes at her husband.

"Nothing dollface." He kissed the top of her head while winking at Ava. Both their pagers went off a few seconds later. "Saved by the bell," he joked. "Sorry honey." He gave her a quick kiss, leaving money on the table. "I'll call you tonight, love you."

Laurel nodded. She was accustomed to Mick leaving in the middle of a meal. "I love you too Micky, stay safe and you." She looked at Ava. "I'll see you Christmas day." She didn't leave room for argument.

"Yes Ma'am." She gave her a mock salute. She would do better, she promised herself. She'd give Sara a chance, that is if Sara wanted anything to do with her after everything.

Chapter Text

Ava wasn’t one to speed, she was a rule follower after all. Speed limits were there for a reason. They were there to keep people safe. People that didn’t follow the rules of the road were the ones she often responded to while working. Reckless driving led to accidents but she couldn’t think about that now. No, right now she needed to get to the Animal Hospital and she needed to get there fast.

“Damn it,” she cursed as the light turned yellow and the car in front of her stopped. “It is the middle of the night, what are we stopping for.” She blamed the car in front of her for stopping. There had been plenty of time for both of them to have made it through the light. What frustrated her even more was that there was no reason for the light change seeing as there was no one else traveling on the road. As soon as the light turned green and she was able to, she passed the vehicle she’d been stuck behind. “Can’t I catch a break.” Her night was getting worse by the second. She slowed down and turned on her blinker, signaling that she was moving over when blue lights lit up her rear view mirror. She rolled her window down then reached across the passenger seat and into the glove compartment grabbing her insurance and registration card. “Hold on buddy.” She spoke to her furry, four legged passenger. “Hold on.” She repeated when he let out a pained whimper.

The officer approached the vehicle, lightly touching the side of the Jeep leaving fingerprints on it in case the traffic stop escalated and the vehicle took off. Dispatch already had the license plate information, the prints were a backup to positively ID the vehicle in case the owner tried to dispute the officers had located the wrong car. “Good morning, my name is Officer Lance, I pulled you over because you were speeding.” Sara stood just behind the driver side door for her own safety. She didn’t want to make herself an easy target if the driver was armed.

Ava groaned. “My night can not get any worse.” She rested her head against the steering wheel. She couldn’t get away from Sara Lance. She worked day shift, so why was she pulling her over in the middle of the night. She was sure Sara was going to let her have it for being the very thing she’d accused her of, being reckless.

Sara looked into the vehicle and sighed. Of all the people she had to pull over. “Where’s the fire,” she asked. If it was any other firefighter she would’ve laughed at her own joke but with Ava Sharpe, she was going to keep it professional.

“Look Officer Lance, I know I was speeding, I know it’s wrong, but I really need to go.” Ava wasn’t going to make any excuses, she knew she was in the wrong, she just hoped Sara would hurry it up.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry Ms. Sharpe.” Even though she wasn’t Ava’s biggest fan, she wasn’t going to give her a ticket. Out of courtesy, she didn’t normally ticket fellow first responders not without a good reason, but she still needed to know why the firefighter was going 20 over the speed limit.

“The only open Animal Hospital is in the next town, my dog got attacked on our walk and he’s not doing too well. Now will you please just give me my ticket so I can go.” She leaned her head back against the headrest willing herself not to cry in front of the cop. She couldn’t lose her dog, not so soon, not after everything. She blamed herself for taking him on a walk this early in the morning, all because she’d been too afraid to face the dark images that had been plaguing her sleep.

Sara moved to the passenger side of the car to look at the dog. “Ah baby, you’re not feeling too great are you,” she asked the dog. Ava was right, he wasn’t looking good. He had several lacerations and bite marks on his face, neck, and shoulder. “Relax,.” She looked up at Ava. “I’m not going to give you a ticket.”

Ava leaned towards the police officer. “So I can go,” Ava asked, she was relieved that she wouldn’t have to explain a speeding ticket to her chief the next time she worked.

Sara shook her head pulling out her phone. “No, hang tight.” She searched her contacts before dialing a number and putting the phone to her ear. She held a finger up signaling that she needed a minute. As the phone rang she reached inside and carefully pet the dog. “Hold on buddy, we’ll get you some help.” She didn’t make eye contact with Ava as she waited for the line to be picked up, instead she continued to talk to the dog as if he were her own. “Amaya, I am so sorry to wake you. I need a huge favor.” She hated waking her friend up in the middle of the night but she considered this an emergency. “I have a dog that needs to be checked out.” She didn’t have to say any more, the second her friend realized an animal was involved she told her to bring the dog over. “You’re a lifesaver, we’ll see you in five.” Sara secured the phone in it’s holster. “The hospital is still thirty minutes out, my vet is five minutes away and she’s one of the best.”

Ava wasn’t sure what was happening but she wasn’t going to say anything and ruin the kindness she was receiving so she nodded.

Sara reached for her radio. “Sierra nine six, show me clear warning, I’ll be out of service available for priority calls.” She pet the dog one last time before looking at his owner. “Follow me.”

Ava once again nodded, she couldn’t believe this was happening but she was thankful nonetheless. True to her word, five minutes later they were pulling up to a house with it’s garage door open and two people waiting inside. Ava got out and carried the dog to them. She recognized the male in the garage as the man she’d treated a few weeks back. “Officer Heywood, I didn’t realize this was your home.” She said in way of greeting.

Nate nodded. “Amaya is my fiance.” He pointed to the woman in question.

“Set him here.” Amaya motioned to the table she had set up. “Nate, shut the garage door.” It was cold out and she didn’t want the heat from the space heaters to escape. “I’m sorry we have to meet under such circumstances.” She told Ava before focusing on her patient. “Hello handsome boy, you’re having a rough night aren’t you.” She spoke to the dog softly. “I’m gonna make you feel much better.” She opened her travel work back and took out some medicine to give to the dog. “What happened,” she asked Ava while she worked.

“I couldn’t sleep so we went for a walk. We came across an unleashed dog that lunged at me and Scout got between us.” She hated that he’d gotten hurt protecting her. “You were so brave baby boy.” She kissed his face as Amaya continued to work on him.

“He’s up to date on his shots.” She was concerned about rabies and other diseases the other dog could be carrying.

“He is. So is the dog that attacked him. The owner and I exchanged information, I’ll make a report with animal control in the morning.” Ava could’ve called the police and filed a report with them then but she’d been more worried about getting Scout to the hospital.

“Sara, why are you working, graves no less.” Amaya had told Nate to stay in bed but he’d wanted to be there in case she’d needed help.

Sara shrugged. “They had a couple sick call outs, thought I’d help.”

“You are too nice, I don’t know how you switch your hours so easily.” Nate yawned. He didn’t know how she went from day shift to night shift. His sleep schedule would be messed up for days if he did that.

Sara shrugged. “I’m off the next two.” She’d catch up on sleep then. “What’s the guys info,” she asked Ava. “The dog owner,” she clarified.

“I can make the report in the morning.” Ava didn’t want the officer to take a report for animal control. Now that her dog was getting help, everything else could wait.

Sara shook her head. “Some people don’t learn, I’m not risking him letting the dog out without a leash in the morning, while kids are on their way to school.”

There it was, she was amazed to see it first hand, the thought process Mick and Laurel had told her about. She really did think about all the scenarios. She was realizing more and more how badly she’d misjudged Sara Lance. “I have his information in the car.”

Sara nodded. “Amaya, sorry again for waking you. I owe you big, lunch is on me, just say the when. Nate, I’ll see you Monday.” She pet the dog one last time before leaving. “Get better sweet boy.” Once goodbyes were said she headed towards the door and motioned for Ava to follow her. “I’ll get the report started and pass it onto animal control in the morning.”

Ava didn’t argue, she got in the driver seat of her Jeep leaving the door open while she pulled out the piece of paper holding the dog owners information.

Sara took the piece of paper looking at the address. “Sierra nine six.” She paused waiting for dispatch to answer her.

“Go ahead nine-six.”

“I’ll be enroute to 2241 Vancouver Way on a dog bite.” She gave the address and waited.

“History shows several disturbances, neighbor disputes, vicious dog, and medical calls.”

“Start me cover routine.” While the dog was confined she didn’t want to risk responding alone in case the owner became confrontational. The fact that there were vicious dog calls at the address meant the dog had been reported before on other incidences. She would call while on the way and find out what those incidents involved.

Sara took out a small notepad from her vest pocket and copied the information from the sheet of paper onto it for her report. Once she had all of the male’s information, she gave the piece of paper back to Ava. “What’s your address and phone number,” she asked. Once Ava gave her the information needed she flipped her notepad closed and tucked it back inside her pocket. “Animal control will follow up with you tomorrow, Amaya will take care of everything for the night.”

Ava nodded, after everything she didn’t feel she deserved everything that was being done for her. “Thank you Officer Lance, I really appreciate everything you did for us tonight.”

Sara cringed internally at the title, it reminded her of every single bad call she had with the blonde firefighter. “I didn’t do it for you, I did it for Scout. Have a better night, and slow down.” She didn’t spare Ava a second glance, she had a few more hours before her shift was done and she wanted to get the report finished before then.

Ava watched her walk away. She wondered what had caused the shift in her mood, not that she didn’t deserve Sara’s cold treatment. One minute she’d been warm and friendly and the next she’d lost all emotion. Ava watched the cruiser until it turned the corner before going back inside. While Christmas was still a week and a half away Ava began to rethink Laurel’s offer to join them. Maybe there was no hope in salvaging any kind of relationship with Sara Lance, she’d done a phenomenal job at making sure of that.

“You’re just in time, this big guy is all set.” Amaya told Ava once she walked back in.

“I can’t thank you enough, I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to him.” She stood by her dog, loving on him.

Amaya waved her off. “I’m just glad I was able to help.” She reached into her bag pulling out a business card. “My personal number is on the back, if you need anything just let me know. Take him to your vet or bring him to me in a few days so we can see how he’s doing.”

“If it’s okay with you, I’d rather we come see you.” She really liked Amaya, she also liked that she was local and allowed house calls in cases of emergency.

Amaya nodded. “Of course, I’d love to see this sweet face on a regular.” She kissed the dogs snout.

“Thank you again Amaya, Nate, I’m sorry to have woken you.” She apologized once again after loading Scout into her Jeep.

“Don’t mention it.” The couple said their goodbyes and retreated inside.
“I hate to say it buddy, but I’m glad we got pulled over tonight.” She spoke to the dog. Scout wagged his tail in response. “Yeah you’re right, she’s not so bad.”

Chapter Text

Sara looked around the room accounting for everyone at the sound of the doorbell. She wasn’t expecting anyone else, everyone that was supposed to be there was already there. All of her family and friends had been at her house hours before for games and movies.

“I’ll get it.” Laurel jumped up before Sara could. She and Mick had neglected to tell Sara that Ava would be joining them for dinner so she wanted to get to the door first. She’d been worried if asked, her sister would’ve said no. She was sure both blondes would be upset at this but it was for the best.

“Ava, hey,” Laurel greeted the firefighter cheerfully, giving her a hug. “I’m so glad you came. Not that I gave you a choice.”

“Hey Laurel.” Ava smiled at the eldest of the Lance girls, returning the hug. The warm welcome was short lived as the younger sister walked around the corner.

“What are you doing here,” Sara asked. She’d come to see what was taking her sister so long. Seeing her and Ava hugging was the last thing she’d expected. She’d need to have a long chat with her sister about uninvited guests.

Ava looked at Laurel with a worried expression on her face. “You didn’t tell her,” she hissed. “This was a bad idea.” She took a step back towards the door. She’d come to dinner with the understanding that Sara knew she was coming. Both Mick and Laurel had assured her that Sara had known and was okay with her being there. She’d messaged them hours before to make sure they’d told her. She would rather spend the holiday alone than be in a place that she wasn’t wanted. “I should go.”

Sara glared at her sister before settling her gaze on Ava. The woman hadn’t exactly been fair to her and that had made it hard to like her. She’d tried to be nice to the firefighter, tried to have conversations with her when they ran into each other on calls but Ava always brushed her off and acted as though she was bothered by her presence. She’d told Sara she was reckless and that had pissed her off more than anything. Since that call she’d not made an effort to befriend her.

Laurel snuck away while Sara and Ava had their stare down.

“No, stay. You’re here.” Sara tried to make the statement more welcoming but she was having a hard time doing so. A part of her wanted to kick Ava out, she had no reason to give her another chance but if she was here on a holiday then it meant that she didn’t have anywhere else to be. No one deserved to be alone during the holidays, not even Ava Sharpe. “Most people bring a bottle of wine.” Sara gestured towards the bottle of scotch in Ava’s hand.

“Well, I’m not most people.” Ava gave her a shy smile, using her free hand to rub the back of her neck nervously. “Laurel said this was your favorite, a sort of peace offering. For being an ass. If you’re willing, I’d like to start over.” She extended the bottle out for Sara to take. She waited anxiously as Sara regarded her for a few seconds before she smiled accepting the peace offering.

“This is the good stuff, I might need to hide it from the family. Mick will probably try and sneak off with it if he sees it.” Sara looked at the label, impressed that Ava hadn’t settled for a cheap bottom of the shelf brand. Sara wasn’t one to hold a grudge, she’d learned long ago that life was too short so she decided to give the firefighter another chance. One more chance, she told herself. “I accept, on one condition.”

Ava wasn’t sure she was going to like whatever condition Sara had to offer but she’d hear her out anyway. If Sara was willing to give her another chance then she’d try and do the same. “What’s that.” She shifted nervously.

“You don’t call me Officer Lance.” She could see that Ava wasn’t ready to accept her condition. “At least not while you’re in my home. I’m off the clock and out of uniform. Here, I’m just Sara.”

Ava thought about it for a split second before nodding. “Very well, Sara.” She said her name out loud testing it out. She quite liked the sound of it but she was not going to tell the blonde that.

Sara smiled, feeling like she’d finally won one. “Come on, you can meet the rest of the family and friends.” She gestured towards the living room.

“How many friends exactly,” Ava asked. Mick and Laurel had mentioned others were coming but hadn’t given her an exact number and she wasn’t a fan of large groups.

“Just a few that don’t have family close by. You know most of them. Though I have to warn you, a handful of them are cops so prepare yourself.” She laughed at her own warning.

Ava was surprised at how quickly she was beginning to enjoy Sara. When out of uniform, she didn’t see a reckless cop but a rather relaxed, down to earth person who laughed at her own jokes, regardless of how lame they were.

“Everyone this is Ava, she works with Mick at station 5. You know Nate, Amaya, Zari, Ray and Carter. Kendra is a dispatcher, she’s married to Carter. The lovebirds are nauseatingly happy.” She said the last bit in a whisper. ”I don’t know who’s worse, Nate and Amaya, my sister and Mick or the two love birds.” She made a gagging sound.

Ava laughed before she could catch herself. She stopped when she saw the small proud smile spread on Sara’s face. She knew exactly what Sara was talking about. She’d seen Mick and Laurel together and they were as Sara said, disgustingly happy. She believed her when she said the other two couples were just as bad. Being around Mick and Laurel reminded her how lonely she felt at times. She never had anything remotely close to what they did.

“This is Leonard’s sister Lisa.” She introduced her to the other Snart. “You know Cisco, and I’m sure you’ve seen Caitlin, she’s a doctor at the emergency department.”

Ava greeted everyone, Laurel had not been kidding, this was quite the gathering. She hadn’t expected so many people to fit in a room so comfortably. She missed having a closeness like this with family and friends. She hadn’t had that in a long time.

“And you know those two jerks.” She referred to Mick who had Laurel sitting on his lap watching the movie. She glared at the duo that had conveniently forgotten to tell her Ava was coming to dinner. She wasn’t mad, not really, this may have been just what they needed to start over. Ava had an adorable laugh, she’d been surprised to hear it, especially directed towards something she’d said.

“Ava,” Mick called out. “Glad you decided to come.” He smiled, wiggling his eyebrows.

Ava rolled her eyes. “You’re lucky Laurel is right there, I wouldn’t want her to get caught in the crossfire.” She threatened. Despite things going well so far she was still going to get him for lying to her to get her there.

He gave her a bigger smile, pulling Laurel closer to him pretending to use her as a human shield. Laurel didn’t put up a fight as she relaxed against him pulling his arms tightly around her.

“Come on, before you hurt him.” Sara led her to the kitchen. “Like I said, they’re disgusting.”

“I heard that,” Laurel yelled after her.

“I wasn’t whispering,” Sara yelled back. “Hey buddy,” she greeted her dog. “Justice here is the most important guy in my life.” She introduced Ava to her dog who’d been keeping her parents company while they put the finishing touches to dinner. “He hangs around the kitchen because he knows mom can’t help but give him food as she prepares dinner.” She gave the dog a knowing look.

“Hello handsome boy.” Ava smiled at the beautiful Collie petting his head. Justice was extremely friendly, he immediately relaxed whatever anxiety Ava was feeling at being surrounded by so many people.

“These are my parents, Quentin and Dinah.” She pointed at the couple in the kitchen. “Mom, Dad, this is Ava, she works with Mick.”

“Oh don’t tell me both my daughters are dating firefighters now.” Quentin groaned playfully.

Ava laughed but only because the look on Sara’s face was priceless.

“Oh my god dad, we’re not dating, Jesus. This is why I don’t invite anyone over.” She couldn’t believe he’d just said that out loud. Her father was getting way to much enjoyment out of this.

“Quentin,” Dinah warned him with a glare. “It’s nice to meet you Ava dear. Don’t mind my husband, he thinks he’s hilarious.” It was something she loved about him. After all the years on the force, he’d managed to keep his sense of humor.

Ava nodded with a smile. So that’s where Sara got it from, thinking she was funny and laughing at her own jokes. “It’s nice to meet you both, do you need help in here,” she asked.

“No, no, go out there and enjoy yourself, we’re almost done here.” Dinah assured her. She and her husband always did this part alone. It gave them time together without the kids around.

Sara shrugged, she was used to her parents kicking her out, it was something they did for as long as she could remember. “It’s no use, come on, let’s get a drink.” She pulled Ava towards the counter. She set the bottle of scotch Ava had given her in the back of the cupboard and poured them both a glass of wine. With a glass of wine in hand the pair made their way to the living room to watch what was left of the movie.

“So Die Hard,” Ava commented.

“If you say it’s not a Christmas movie, I swear I’ll kick you out. And, I’m keeping the scotch.” Sara turned around threateningly.

“Hey, I’m just glad they officially announced it as a Christmas movie, the guys in my unit and I watched it every Christmas.”

Sara was relieved, she would’ve hated kicking Ava out, especially after how well everything was going. “Good save.” She turned back towards the living room. “Gah, Ray. What have I said about sneaking up on me.” Ray turned the corner, almost knocking Sara over. Sara jumped back to avoid him, knocking into Ava and her full glass of wine.

Ray put his head down letting out an apology. He quickly walked around them to get into the kitchen and to avoid Sara’s wrath.

“Sara, I am so sorry,” Ava apologized touching the wine stain that soaked Sara’s back.

“It’s fine, I’ll just go change, it wasn’t your fault. Ray’s known to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s lucky I didn’t lay him out.” Sara worked extra hard to tone down her reflexes while at home, being surrounded by family and friends. Had she been at work, Ray would have probably had a broken arm and a bruised face.

Justice went to her side immediately, rubbing against her leg as a cat would and licking her hand.

Sara smiled at her canine companion. “I’m okay buddy.” She assured the dog, petting his head.

Pleased that she was in fact alright, Justice went back into the kitchen and joined her parents.

Ava watched in amazement, she wondered if Justice was a service dog. Her dog would react the same way anytime she was having anxiety or a panic attack. She was pulled from her thoughts by Sara.

“I’m gonna go change. Feel free to get more wine and if you don’t mind, taking mine with you.” She held up her glass for Ava to take.

Ava wordlessly took the glass and returned to the kitchen still thinking about the way Justice had just behaved. She wanted to ask Sara but she didn’t think thirty minutes of civil conversation granted her permission to ask such a personal question.

“Ava, where is Sara,” Dinah asked noticing the blonde was by herself.

Ava held up her mostly empty wine glass. “There was an accident, she went to change.”

Dinah laughed. “Well that explains why Ray rushed through here with his tail between his legs.”

“That would be why.” Ava nodded with a smile. Sara’s mom was very friendly. She didn’t feel like the stranger she was around her. She opted to stay in the kitchen instead of joining a room full of people in the living room.

“So Ava, how long have you been with the fire department.” Quentin questioned, he wanted to know the person his daughter was hanging around.

“Just a year, but I was a medic with the Army for eight.” She took a sip of her wine waiting for the next interrogating question. Sara’s father was the chief of police, she knew there’d be a lot of questions whether she was dating his daughter or not.

Quentin smiled. “Well thank you for your service. Star City is no war zone, but it damn sure can feel like it some days.” He’d been a cop for a long time, there was very little he hadn’t seen.

Ava nodded. She’d been on a few calls that reminded her of her deployments. Those were always the hardest. Thankfully for her, Mick was supportive and always helped to ground her. As long as she didn’t stay in her head too long and didn’t have multiple triggers, she was fine. She pushed away the negative thoughts. “Thank you, Sir.”

“Call me Quentin.” He smiled, putting her at ease. He normally liked to tease the firefighters that came to their family events but Ava looked like she was feeling out of place already. He didn’t want to make her too uncomfortable, not yet, he was sure there would be time for teasing in the future.

“Ava dear, dinner is ready. Will you get Sara,” Dinah asked.

Ava nodded setting her glass down. Dinah called for Laurel and Lisa to set the table as she left the kitchen. Sara was in the process of pulling her shirt over her head when Ava came to her open door. She stopped in the doorway unable to take her eyes off of Sara’s back.

Sara turned around having heard the small gasp. She found Ava frozen, her eyes on her. She wanted to say something but she didn’t know what, she wasn’t sure how much Ava had seen. By the shocked look on her face she was sure she’d seen enough. “Did you need something,” she asked instead.

Ava cleared her throat trying to find her voice. “Um yeah, sorry, your mom sent me to get you, dinner is ready.”

Sara nodded. “Okay, I’ll be down in a minute.”

“I didn’t mean to walk in on you, I should’ve.” She looked at the door and back to Sara, she didn’t know how to finish the sentence.

“Don’t worry about it, I should’ve shut the door.” Sara answered uncomfortably.

Ava nodded. “What you told Gail.” She started to ask but Sara stopped her very quickly.

“I don’t want to talk about it, let’s just try and enjoy dinner.” She didn’t want to talk about her ugly scars or how she got them. She didn’t want to dredge up the awful memories she wished to forget, especially not today. Today was meant to be a time for family to gather together and enjoy each other. Today she celebrated another birthday, another year of living. She didn’t want to relive what it took for her to stay that way.

Ava grabbed Sara’s arm without thinking. She felt her muscles flex defensively and so she quickly let go. “Sara, I really am sorry.” She apologized once again. Though she wasn’t really sure what she was sorry for. Whether it was for walking in on her or for the fact that she’d suffered.

Sara rested a hand on Ava’s arm. “You’re okay, it was an accident.” Sara gave her a reassuring smile. “Come on, dad and Mick get impatient when they’re made to wait and food is involved.” She tried to lighten the mood.

Ava chuckled. “You don’t have to tell me, I work with the guy, he is the definition of hangry.”

Sara laughed. “That would be our Mick. Ask him about the time his crew was on standby during a hostage negotiation. For a moment I was sure we were going to have a secondary situation on our hands.”

Ava once again found herself laughing. She didn’t know what it was about Sara that put her at ease despite everything they’d been through but she was glad she was able to experience it.

“What was taking you two so long.” Laurel met them at the bottom of the stairs.

“Oh, nothing.” Sara shrugged. “I was just telling Ava about the time Mick’s team was on standby and he was hungry.”

“He’s going to kill you.” Laurel laughed remembering that day all too well. She and Mick hadn’t been dating long and Sara had always been very animated in retelling stories. Mick had known the second he’d seen her that Sara had ratted him out, he’d pouted for hours.

“That hose dragger can’t touch these guns.” She flexed to show off her biceps, placing a kiss on each muscle.

Ava rolled her eyes at the nickname and followed the sisters into the kitchen. She felt right at home at the Lance’s Christmas dinner, it was like being with her military family. Everyone was from a different background but that didn’t matter to any of them because they were their own kind of family. She learned that she really liked Leonard’s sister Lisa, especially the way she flustered Cisco. She had her laughing most of the night. The love birds as Sara had called them, were as annoyingly in love as Laurel and Mick, and Nate and Amaya. She decided she was glad she’d come. Laurel gave her an ‘I told you so’ smile from across the table as if she knew exactly what she’d been thinking.

Chapter Text

"Trauma fractures comprehension as a pebble shatters a windshield.
The wound at the site of impact spreads across the field of vision, obscuring reality and challenging belief." -Jane Leavy

 

Ava was having one of her worst days back. She’d known there would be days that were harder than others but she’d been blessed not to have anything more than minor scares, accelerated heart rate or nightmares. She wished she’d called out, she’d seen the forecast for the day but she was into the second day of her shift and there was no leaving, not without a good reason. She wasn’t ready to tell her Captain she needed the day off because the weather was disastrous on her mental well being. She didn’t want her coworkers to treat her differently, it was bad enough that Mick had caught on that something was off. He’d been giving her concerned looks since before their recent call, a gang related shooting. They’d barely managed to keep the young man alive long enough for the doctors to take him into surgery. “Hey Mick,” she got her partner’s attention once the hospital staff took over the care of the gunshot victim. “I’m gonna need a few minutes.” She was grateful for him because he didn’t ask any questions, like he knew exactly what she needed and only gave her a silent nod.

He pointed her towards the staff’s break room. “I’ll ask them not to use it for a few.” He’d seen the look on her face, he was sure the storm was causing havoc on her mentally. He’d seen her try to hide the flinching, the white knuckles as she’d gripped the steering wheel. The way she’d looked at her blood soaked hands after the care of the patient had been transferred to the hospital staff. He knew she was more than capable of taking care of herself but everyone had their limit and it was clear that Ava was quickly reaching hers. “I’ll clean out the medic unit, take your time, I mean it.” He wanted her at one hundred percent, they were out of service while he cleaned and restocked the ambulance anyways. It wasn’t too busy so he didn’t feel guilty keeping them unavailable.

Ava nodded, she didn’t know what she’d done to deserve such an understanding partner. “Thanks Mick.”

Mick returned a half hour later, the ambulance cleaned, stocked and ready for the next call. “Blondie, what are you doing here,” he asked Sara. She stood in the doorway of one of the emergency rooms while a nurse was inside assessing a patient. It had been almost a month since they’d ran into her at work. “Tackle another poor undeserving perp,” he asked jokingly, he made sure to keep his voice down. He never wanted the patients to hear him and think he was making fun of them, even if at times he was. He didn’t need any more complaints on his file, not ones he could easily avoid.

“Hey Mick,” she greeted him looking behind him for his partner. “Mental health hold, hospital didn’t have the staffing to watch him until an evaluator could come in.”

“So babysitting duty,” he asked.

She shrugged. “Basically.” This was her least favorite part of the job, the sitting around. She didn’t mind being there for the patients, she was glad he’d asked for help instead of killing himself, she just hated the not being able to do anything. It made her restless. “Where is Ava,” she finally asked.

He looked around making sure no one was within hearing range before he spoke. “She needed a minute. She hasn’t said anything but I think the weather is bothering her.” He nodded towards the break room. He really hoped the forecast was wrong and the thunderstorm would die down soon.

Sara stared out the window, it was pouring outside. At first she thought that Ava didn’t care for the weather until she remembered what Mick had told her. “You said she was military right.” She couldn’t recall the branch but she was sure he’d mentioned her not being out of the service long.

He nodded. “Army medic. County had a shooting, we transported for them,” he said in way of explanation.

Sara grimaced. “That can’t be a good combination.” It was bad enough having your PTSD triggered by one thing let alone multiple. Those were the days that Sara preferred to hide away from the world and work on remaining in the present. She’d had more experience with that than she cared for. She reached for her radio. “Sierra Eight Six, Sierra Nine Six on talk.” She called for Leonard on the Radio and asked him to meet her on the talk around channel. They used this channel to communicate without tying up the air on the main dispatch channel.

“Eight Six on talk.” Leonard switched to the appropriate channel.

“Len, if you’re not busy can you swing by the hospital.”

“On my way.” He responded without further questioning, he figured whatever it was, Sara would tell him when he got there.

“Dispatch copies.” They heard Zari jump on the talk channel to let them know she’d heard their traffic and would be adding Leonard to Sara’s call.

“How are you doing,” Mick asked her once she got off the radio. He liked to check in on her every once in a while, make sure she was actually good and not just putting on an act.

“Most days I’m good. Leonard has gotten really good at knowing which days aren’t good, so it helps. I’m gonna need to get him something good for his birthday, again,” she joked. Leonard had been a life saver on so many occasions. While her triggers weren’t frequent, she still suffered from nightmares, the occasional flashback and on certain days she just felt as though she’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing she did worked to make things better.

“If you need anything.” He didn’t need to finish the sentence.

Sara nodded. “I know. Thanks Mick.” She patted his shoulder.

“Everything okay,” Leonard asked once he arrived.

“I’m fine,” Sara assured him. “Do you mind keeping an eye on Clifford here,” she asked, referring to the patient that was currently on a mental hold.

 Leonard nodded. “Hey Micky, you gonna keep me company,” he asked his longtime friend.

 “Looks that way.” Mick didn’t really mind since it was Leonard, anyone else and it would have been like pulling teeth. He didn’t like small talk and that’s what he normally got from a lot of people.

“Break room,” she asked Mick, at his nod she headed in that direction. Sara opened the door to the room slowly not wanting to startle Ava. She didn’t know the mindset she was in and the last thing she needed was to make things worse for her. She looked around the room, she didn’t find her immediately. She stepped further into the room, shutting and locking the door behind her. She made another sweep of the room looking for the firefighter. She almost missed the bit of blonde hair peeking from beside the couch. She moved closer to her making sure to make her presence known. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight before her. Ava sat with her back against the wall, her knees drawn to her chest with her hands between her chest and knees, rocking slowly, her breathing labored. Sara stepped into Ava’s line of sight and looked for any sign that Ava aware of her. When she didn’t get one, she stepped back, took her utility belt off and set it away from them. She didn’t know where Ava’s mind was, she didn’t want her thinking she was a threat and reaching for her gun. Once she was unarmed she took a knee in front of Ava. “Ava,” she said her name quietly. “Ava, can you hear me,” she asked.

Ava looked past her as she continued to rock against the wall. She flinched as lightning flashed followed by thunder crashing seconds later outside the hospital window. “Get down,” she called out to Sara, urging her to take cover.

Sara looked back at the windows that held Ava’s gaze. She stood up slowly and moved to them. She pulled the string for the blinds bringing them down, blocking out the lightning on the other side. The noise was going to be her next task, but she’d need Ava to acknowledge her before she could do anything about that. She moved back to Ava, returning to her earlier position. “Ava, it’s Sara, nod if you can hear me.” Again she received no response so she moved closer. “Ava, you’re in Star City, you’re safe, you’re at the hospital.” She repeatedly reminded her she was safe. She thought she saw a split second of recognition before it disappeared at the sound of thunder. “Breath Ava, deep breathes.” She spoke to her for several minutes reminding her where she was and that there was no danger. “That’s it, deep breath in, hold it, exhale.” She repeated the phrase several times until Ava started following her instructions.

“Sara,” Ava questioned tilting her head slightly to the side in confusion. She hadn’t noticed her until now. She wondered how long she’d been there. She wanted to dig a hole and jump into it. Of all the people to see her like this it had to be Sara Lance, the strongest person on the police force.

 “You’re okay,” Sara assured her with a smile. She knew that Ava was probably feeling embarrassed, she’d been where she was now. Having a panic attack or a flashback while on shift was the worst thing that could happen, she’d been lucky to have a partner who understood her and didn’t think any less of her after each episode. Leonard had been godsend.

 Ava looked around the room, her gaze dropping to her bloodied hands. The thing that had pushed her over the edge. She’d been handling the storm fairly well until she’d spent a second too long looking at her hands. The sight of the blood covering them sent her back to the war zone, where she was surrounded by her injured squad, her family. Her breathing picked up again as she continued to look at them.

Sara followed her gaze, noticing the blood for the first time. She stood up and moved to the sink. She grabbed a ton of paper towels, wet them and brought them back to where Ava sat. “Deep slow breaths.” She reminded Ava. “Stretch your legs,” she instructed. She needed Ava to relax her body before she went into another attack. “Trust me,” she said when Ava didn’t immediately do as she’d asked.

Ava looked at her a second longer before nodding and doing as she’d been asked. She focused on Sara instead of the blood that had leaked into her gloves and dried on her hands making them feel stiff.

“Good, now I want you to breath, inhale slowly for three seconds, hold it, hold it, hold it, exhale, exhale, exhale. Good, again. Inhale.” Sara continued talking, keeping her voice calm and gentle. She watched to make sure Ava was following her instruction. Once she knew she was focused on her voice she continued talking her through controlling her breathing while taking one blood soaked hand in hers and using the wet paper towels to remove the blood. Once both hands were as clean as she could get them without actually scrubbing them she gave them a gentle squeeze.

Ava’s gaze never left Sara’s face as she talked her through her panic attack. She’d felt so embarrassed at first but Sara didn’t seem bothered at all. She acted like they’d done this a hundred times before. She’d just smiled at her reassuringly.

“Better,” Sara asked after a few minutes.

Ava nodded. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Sara moved to sit beside her, leaning against the wall, shoulders barely touching. She reached into one of the pockets of her vest. “Here.”

“Earplugs,” Ava asked, moving the pieces in her hand.

“They’re noise canceling. You’ll still be able to hear so they come in handy and they’re not too noticeable.”

Ava looked at the unopened package. “Am I taking your only pair,” she asked. She wanted to ask why Sara had them but figured she’d leave that question for another time.

“No, I always keep a few pairs in my cruiser and one on me, I’ll restock when I get back to the car.” She’d learned to keep several pairs nearby. She’d used them a few times with kids and even adults that were sensitive to the noises around them.

“Thank you Sara.” She was learning not for the first time that there was a lot about Sara she didn’t know. She hadn’t allowed herself to get to know her because she’d labeled her as reckless and she’d wanted nothing to do with someone who had no regard for the risks they took. “I’m sorry,” she said with a sigh. “I misjudged you.” She looked at Sara who was staring across the room instead of her.

Sara finally looked at her. “You’re not the first, I’m sure you won’t be the last.” Sara was used to it, people always found a reason to judge her. The top three reasons being, because she was a female, because her father was the chief of police, and because of her past.

“Still, I’m sorry.” She apologized once again. “Maybe Mick was right, there is more to you.” She nudged Sara’s shoulder.

“I hate to say that Mick and Laurel were right but yeah, we may have more in common than I cared to admit.” Sara told her, there was a lot they could talk about, the main thing being, coping mechanisms she could teach Ava in dealing with their line of work and past trauma. “Have lunch with me.”

Ava turned her head meeting Sara’s gaze as she thought about it. She nodded. “Lunch sounds great.” This was the first interaction she’d had with Sara since Christmas and she was glad that it was going well despite the circumstance that led to it.

“Tomorrow,” Sara asked.

“As long as we stay in, it’s supposed to continue to storm and I’m not trying to...”

“Be out in it,” Sara finished for her.

Ava nodded. She avoided being out in public for fear of panic attacks and flashbacks. Seeing that she already had one, she was more likely to have another if she didn’t tread lightly.

“Yeah I get that. Been there, so no worries.” Sara remembered how frequent her attacks used to be. She went months at a time isolating herself in her home. “What’s your number. I’m not going to ask Mick for it, I’d never hear the end of it.”

Ava laughed, finally able to relax.”You’re not lying.” She gave Sara her number and watched as Sara messaged her. She stood up wiping whatever debris she’d collected from the ground, Sara followed right after her. “I should get back. I lost track of time, I’m sure Gideon is pissed we’ve been out of service for so long.”

Sara shook her head. “Don’t worry about it, Gideon is one of the most understanding people you’ll meet, she’s been there for me, a lot.” They didn’t have time to go into that now. They could talk tomorrow.

“Maybe, but I don’t think she likes me because I was kind of a bitch to you.” She remembered the glare Gideon had given her after Sara had brought in the pizzas.

Sara laughed. “Oh I never said she liked you, but she’ll come around, I did.” She winked. “Take her some cinnamon rolls from the shop on Elm, she’ll forgive you.”

Ava nodded, keeping the gesture in mind. “I should probably hit the bathroom, I can’t imagine the mess I look.”

Sara looked her up and down. “Nah, you look good, just use the sink for a good wash.” She didn’t want to remind her of the blood that was still on her hands.

Ava gave a shy smile and nodded, she washed her hands while Sara put her utility belt back on. “Good call.” She nodded towards Sara’s waist.

“Like I said, I’ve been there.” Sara opened the door leading the way back to their respective partners.

“Just in time, station four just got a call in our district, you up for it,” Mick asked. He eyed the pair for a second trying to judge for himself whether going back into service so quickly was a good idea. Sara’s nod assured him that everything was good.

“Yup,” Ava said pulling out the earplugs Sara had given her. “Thank you Officer Lance.” This time she said it softly, as a friend rather than someone who couldn’t stand to be in her presence. She smiled as she adjusted the earbuds in each ear.

“Stay safe.” Sara said in response, no longer bothered by Ava referring to her as Officer Lance. She watched them walk away for a few seconds before turning to her partner.

“What’s going on there,” Leonard asked with a curious expression on his face. He’d known after Christmas that they’d put their differences aside but this was a whole new level. They acted like they were actually friends.

“Nothing.” She said quickly, too quickly.

“Riiight.” He answered not believing her, he’d wait for her to tell him. It was never a good idea to push his partner to talk. “You good here,” he asked. “Carter and Ray are on a disturbance with several drunks, I want to cover till they give the ok.” It wasn’t unusual for extra units to respond to calls they felt uneasy about.

“I’m good, thanks Len.” She took the seat he’d been occupying and sat with Clifford as they waited for the evaluator. According to the nurse, it would not be too much longer.

 

***...***

 

Sara had just gotten home and set her things down when she received a message from Ava. She put her phone back in her packet without checking it. She had an excited dog that demanded her attention. “Hi buddy.” She greeted. “I know, I know, I missed you too. Oh stop,” she told the dog as he began to whine. “I haven’t been gone that long. Come on.” She led him to the backyard. She sat on the porch swing enjoying the rain while Justice took care of business. She pulled out her phone and checked Ava’s message.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done had you not been there. It’s never been that bad and I didn’t have Scout with me to pull me out of it. Thank you again, Sara.”

Sara read the message several times smiling at the use of her first name. It was obvious Ava was still learning to deal with the trauma she’d had to face in the military. She didn’t want to push too much over text message. These conversations were usually better in person. Besides, Ava was working, she worried that talking about things might trigger another attack while she was still on duty. “You don’t have to keep thanking me. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like to have a panic attack at the worst possible time. How is my buddy Scout?” She read the message a few times before deciding to send it. She and Ava had only started tolerating each other after the Christmas dinner. She didn’t know where they stood, everything was new for them. When they’d hated each other the universe had thrown them at each other every shift. Since they’d called their truce, they hadn’t had a single call together.

“Scout is doing great thanks to you and his new vet. He loves Amaya. You know, I never saw myself having a dog. I’m more a cat person but the therapist I was seeing when I first got back suggested I get a service dog.  This is Siren, she was a gift.” She attached the most recent picture of Scout and one of her cat.

Sara smiled at the pictures Ava attached. Scout looked much better and happier than when she’d seen him on her traffic stop. She was glad he’d made a full recovery. For a cat, Siren wasn’t a bad looking tabby either. “What?!?”  She sent the first text message. “You’re a firefighter who prefers cats? I knew there was something off about you, other than you being a hose dragger that is.”  She sent a smiley face with the message. She laughed at the eye roll gif Ava sent her followed by a message. “Come on buddy.” She called out to Justice. He had a tendency of playing in the rain and she didn’t want him tracking mud in the house.

Ava rolled her eyes, there was that insulting nickname again, cops loved calling firefighters that. “I’ll have you know, cats are just as amazing as dogs. At least mine is. Don’t you underestimate this hose dragger, at least I’m not a blue canary.” She wasn’t above name calling.

“Ouch! I haven’t heard that in a while. Them are fightin words Miss Sharpe. And as for the cat, you are so biased. No cat is cute. They’re all little demons.” Sara shot back.

“Who are you talking to,” Mick asked his partner as he stopped at a red light. She’d been doing a lot better since they’d left the hospital. She was looking down at her phone smiling not even realizing they were driving in the middle of a thunderstorm. He was pretty sure he knew who she was messaging, but he wanted to hear it from her.

“What,” she asked. “No one, just looking at funny cat videos.” She showed him her phone to prove that she’d been telling the truth. What she hadn’t expected was Sara’s reply coming in at that exact moment.

“Right, so that’s what you’re calling her now. I guess it’s better than Officer Lance.” He teased, secretly pleased they were finally talking, really talking.

She put her phone down, too embarrassed to look at the message Sara had sent with Mick’s gaze on her. “Fine, I was talking to Sara.” She said after a few minutes. “It’s just, she really helped me out earlier.” She defended. “And, maybe we do have more in common than I originally thought.” She conceded quietly.

“So you like her then,” he said proudly. It was rare that a woman told him he was right, he was going to enjoy it as much as he could.

“What, no, we’re friends.” Her cheeks turned red. She loved working with Mick but sometimes she wished he wasn’t so comfortable with talking, she blamed his wife for that. Kendra and Lisa had told her Mick wasn’t quite as open about his feelings before Laurel came along.

“Check your messages, I know you’re dying to. The Lance sisters know how to worm their way into your heart without you knowing it.” He remembered when he’d first met Laurel. One minute they’d been friends the next he’d been a grinning buffoon constantly checking his phone on shift waiting to talk to her. “No teasing, I promise.” He turned his attention back to the road.

She didn’t check her message, not while Mick’s attention was one her. “Do you think we can swing by the bakery on Elm and then hit up dispatch,” she asked, changing the subject.

“Bribing Gideon,” he asked with a knowing smile. He’d had to take peace offerings to dispatch a few times, they’d gotten him out of several complaints.

“Yeah basically, Sara said the cinnamon rolls are her favorite.”

He nodded. “The cinnamon rolls never fail.” He started towards the bakery. He didn’t comment on the fact that she’d let slip that Sara had given her the information or the fact that she’d called her by her first name several times.

 

***...***

 

Ava walked into dispatch nervously with a box of treats in hand thirty minutes later. She was relieved to find Gideon sitting in a pod by herself, it made her feel more comfortable not having the rest of the shift stare at her. “Hey Gideon, you busy,” she asked while holding the box behind her back and out of sight.

Gideon shook her head in the negative, she was surprised to see the blonde firefighter. “At this very second I’m free but we both know that could change at a moment’s notice.”

Ava knew all too well how quickly a slow day could become chaotic. “I’ll be quick then.” She brought the box from behind her back. “I wanted to apologize, we were out of service for so long, it was my fault and I know it got a bit busy. Anyways, Sara said you liked the cinnamon rolls from the place on Elm.” She handed the box over whilst biting her lip waiting to see if Gideon accepted her apology.

Gideon was surprised to hear Sara’s name. She’d been sure the two didn’t get along or rather, Ava didn’t like Sara. “Like is an understatement.” She smiled accepting the gift. “I love them.” She opened the lid and peeked inside humming in anticipation. She could not wait to devour the sweet treats. She closed the lid and set the box on her desk turning her full attention on Ava. “Thank you Ava, that was very kind of you. Tell me, what had you out of service for so long.” She wanted to know more about the woman standing before her. She’d known very little about her and if she and Sara were talking, then she wanted to get to know her for herself. Afterall, Sara was like a daughter to her. “Sit.” She motioned towards the edge of the desk.

Ava sat down but didn’t answer, she didn’t know what to say. She stayed silent for almost a full minute debating her words. She wanted to lie and make up an excuse but she couldn’t bring herself to. Sara had told her Gideon was an understanding person, that she’d been there for her. She looked at one of the windows as the lightning lit up the room further. “Between the weather and the shooting I needed a minute to gather myself.” When Gideon didn’t say anything she continued. “I guess eight years in the military and five deployments tend to mess with your head,” she joked. She always tried to downplay the affects her deployments had on her because she couldn’t stand the pitying looks people gave her.

Gideon nodded, she now understood why Sara had requested Leonard to meet her at the hospital, she’d needed him to watch the male in her custody while she’d been with Ava. “And how are you doing now,” she asked, Ava had tried to downplay the situation but she could tell she was still bothered, she wasn’t the same woman that had done a sit a long a few month back.

“Better, Sara gave me these, they help.” She showed her the ear buds.

Gideon smiled. “Ah yes, Sara doesn’t go anywhere without a pair, sometimes it’s good to drown out the noise.” She patted Ava’s thigh. “I’m glad to see you two are getting along.”

Ava wondered how many people were rooting for her and Sara to become friends.

“You’re about to get an injury accident.” Gideon looked at her screen for the fire call that just dropped. “Thank you for the treats Ava, be careful out there.”

“Will do.” She didn’t know why those words made her feel so happy, it wasn’t that she wanted Gideon to like her. At the end of the day she didn’t know her well enough to care but the fact that she cared about her safety made her feel really good inside. “Have a 9-1-onederful shift Gideon.” She winked at Gideon and was pleased with the laugh she got out of her.

“Dear god, don’t teach Sara that one.” She shook her head. She was still smiling when Ava left. She most definitely preferred this Ava over the snobby one she’d initially met.

Ava left the center and jumped into the passenger seat of the ambulance feeling a hundred times better. “Updating the wife,” she asked with a smirk on her face.

Mick rolled his eyes and tucked the phone back in his pocket after disconnecting with Laurel. “I’ll have you know, our relationship does not revolve around you and Sara, but yes, yes I was.” He laughed when she rolled her eyes. “Hey, you had me sitting outside waiting, what’s a man to do.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She turned the lights and siren on. “Let’s get to this accident.”  

 

***...***

 

It was hours later before Ava finally messaged Sara back. “Sorry, Mick kept staring at me. I have a terrible poker face.” She smiled at Sara’s immediate response.

 “Want me to threaten his life? Or even worse threaten him with Laurel. I’ll do it, just say the word.”

 Ava didn’t doubt for a minute that Sara would follow through with her threat.

“No need, but I will keep that in mind. He’s actually very supportive of us being friends.” She replied.

 “He and Laurel have been dropping not so subtle hints at us becoming friends since the day we met. Happily married couples are disgustingly annoying.” She sent the first message. “What time is good for you tomorrow, I know Mick usually sleeps till noon after the nights he’s busy at work.”

 Ava thought about it for a minute, it had been fairly steady all day, but she wouldn’t call it busy, if the pattern continued then she wouldn’t need too much sleep the next morning, unless her nightmares kept her up all night. “Let’s aim for 1300.”

“1300 is perfect, I hope your shift is (the Q word that is not to be uttered). Text or call if you need anything.” She put the offer out there because she knew the rain was supposed to continue all night and having already had one panic attack because of it, she was likely to have another. “I mean it.” She sent another message to make sure Ave knew she was serious about being there if she needed anything.

Ava laughed at the first part of the message. The Q word Sara was referring to was quiet, no one dared utter that word in the police, fire or dispatch world. The minute they did, their slow day normally turned into chaos. “Thank you, Sara.” She replied to the second part of her message. “I really appreciate it. Have a good night.”

“Good night Ava.”

Ava shot out of her bunk a few hours later, covered in sweat, her breathing labored, her heart pounding. She looked down at her hands, turning them over looking for the blood that had covered them moments before. She shut her eyes tightly wishing the images out of her head and took a deep breath trying to come back to the present. She looked around for her phone, once she found the device she traced the wire attached to it and found the earbuds that had slipped out of her ears as she’d slept. She placed the buds back in her ears and turned the music up. She wasn’t worried about missing the tones of a call since the lights in her room automatically turned on when they were dispatched. She settled back in her bed trying hard to go back to sleep. After an hour of trying and failing to sleep she debated messaging Sara. She looked at the clock considering her options. It was just after four, she didn’t want to bother her, not this early, she’d make it through the day just fine if she had to stay up. She got up and headed towards the gym room located in their station. If she was going to be up she was going to make good use of the time.

Chapter Text

 

"You're not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth and raging courage." -Alex Elle

 

Sara grabbed the take out she’d brought with her and got out of her SUV. She ran the short distance from the vehicle to the front door of Ava’s house. It was pouring and it hadn’t let up all day. She shivered as she felt the water start to seep through her jacket. She rang the doorbell and waited, swaying from one foot to the other in an effort to keep warm. She waited a few minutes before knocking on the door. She thought about leaving, if Ava was sleeping then she didn’t want to bother her. She took a step back when she heard footsteps on the other side of the door.

“Sara, I am so sorry, I didn’t hear you.” Ava apologized. “Come in, come in.” She swung the door open, ushering Sara inside. “I had my music on. Scout heard you.” She pet the dog as he came to stand by her, sensing her nervous energy. “I should’ve just texted you to come in.” She closed the door and locked it once Sara was inside.

Sara smiled, all too familiar with the dog’s position at his charge’s side. Justice was always there to comfort her when she needed it. “It’s just water, no big deal, except that I’m dripping all over your floor.” She looked around her feet at the small puddle and droplets of water.

“Don’t worry about it.” Ava waved off her concern. “Like you said, it’s just water.” She left and returned less than a minute later with two towels. She tossed one on the floor handing the second to Sara. “You didn’t have to bring food, I was going to make us something.”

Sara laughed. “Sometimes I forget that not everyone is as terrible a cook as I am.” She didn’t argue that fact anymore, she’d come to accept it a long time ago.

Ava shook her head. “You’d never make it as a firefighter.” She smiled. “Physically you’d be fine, but you need to be able to cook. We appreciate good meals. Let me take that.” She reached for the food.

“Yeah, not gonna happen, I’ve given up on learning to cook but if you want to cook for me I will not fight you on that, I love food.” Sara gave Ava the food. “Thanks,” she said once her hands were free to use the towel.

Ava set the food on the kitchen counter and returned to take Sara’s wet jacket. “I’ll just hang this in the bathroom.” She took the jacket, putting it on a hanger and hanging it on the shower rod to let it drip into the tub.

Sara used the towel to dry her hair, face and hands. “Hey there Scout.” She knelt down to get at his level. “You’re looking good buddy.” Scout wagged his tail loving the attention and licking her face. “And you must be Siren.” She greeted the cat by extending her hand out. “You little,” she cursed pulling her hand back.

“You alright,” Ava asked, coming back into living room.

“Your cat hates me.” Sara held up her hand to show the scratch marks. As if to prove her right, Siren hissed and turned away. “Told you.” She turned to Scout. “And that is exactly why I’m a dog person,” she talked sweetly to the dog, kissing his snout.

“You okay,” Ava asked again, taking a look at Sara’ hand.

“I’m fine, I’ve had worse.” She stood up. “Cats are assholes.” She gave Siren the side eye.

“Give her time, she’ll get used to you. Let me give you the two minute tour.” She led Sara from room to room. Sara stopped at the wall of pictures in the hallway on their way back into the living room. “That’s my team.” Ava smiled sadly.

“Not all of them made it home,” Sara said mournfully, it wasn’t a question, she could hear the sadness in Ava’s voice.

Ava shook her head. “No.” She pointed at the youngest man in the picture with the biggest smile. “We took this a month before the deployment was over. Jax was killed a week later.” She ran her fingers across his face. “He was 20, the youngest one on our team.” They’d made it fourteen months without incident. They’d all been confident they could make it another month. They’d been wrong.

“I’m sorry Ava,” Sara apologized, she knew her words wouldn’t bring the young man back but she hoped they comforted Ava nonetheless.

Ava gave her a half smile. “I tried to save him, but he’d lost too much blood and help wasn’t coming.” She inhaled deeply. “The anniversary of his death just passed. I thought I’d dealt with his death, yesterday was a big indication that I haven’t. I’ve been brushing off my therapist and the handful of friends that came back to the states. I’m a soldier, a firefighter, I didn’t want to believe that I needed help. The only thing I did that the therapist suggested was get Scout.” She pet the dog as he stood by her side doing his best to comfort her.

“So you’ve been dealing with everything on your own,” Sara asked. She couldn’t believe that Ava had been on her own, probably suppressing everything. It was a wonder she didn’t have more panic attacks. She was sure if she did, she’d hid them from Mick and everyone else.

Ava nodded feeling embarrassed. “I’ve done a hell of a job haven’t I.”

“It’s never too late to get help.” Sara knew first hand how hard it was to admit to needing help. Taking the first step was the hardest part.

Ava’s eyes were glued to the picture. She walked past this hallway several times a day and rarely stopped to look at the pictures. Sometimes it was too difficult to see the soldiers that didn’t make it home, seeing Jax’s big smile was the hardest. “Let’s eat.” She didn’t want to think about her dead friends, not when the weather outside reminded her of the explosions and mortar fire that claimed their lives.

Sara didn’t push, it was obvious Ava was done talking for the time being. “Did you hear my stomach growling,” she asked feeling slightly embarrassed.

Ava chuckled. “No I hadn’t noticed, but now.” She looked down at Sara’s stomach. “Let’s feed you Miss Lance, I fear for my life.”

Sara groaned. “Why are firefighters so dramatic.”

Ava rolled her eyes glad for the lighter topic. “Come on.” She moved to the kitchen with Sara behind her. “By the way, thank you for lunch.”

“Don’t mention it. I didn’t even have to get out of the car, I’m a bit of a regular.” One of the perks of being a regular, the staff knew her car and her order by heart.

Ava laughed. “I imagine you are.” Ava took out plates and silverware setting them on the counter. “Living room,” she asked.

Sara nodded grabbing the plates and the bag of food while Ava grabbed them waters.

Ava broke the silence halfway through their meal. “I never said it and I should have, thank you for saving Gary and I.” She wished she could take it all back. Have a redo, but it was too late for that, she could only hope to do better.

Sara leaned against the back of the couch, her head turned to looked at Ava. “You know, I never really understood why you disliked me so much, I know you said I was reckless and all but you really seemed bothered to see me. I don’t get it.” That was the one thing that had bothered Sara, she thought about how much time had been wasted. Time they could’ve spent getting to know each other. Mick and Laurel had been right that they’d get along, she’d realized that after only a few minutes of them being together at Christmas.

Ava set her plate down and turned so that she could face Sara. “I made a quick judgement about you. The only information that dispatch had been able to provide was that the man had been involved in a pursuit with the officers and that he’d been taken into custody. On our way to come check out your burglar, Mick was betting money that it’d be you that had taken him down. He went on and on about what a badass you were and how you always chased and caught the runners. I guess I painted an image in my head. I didn’t give you a chance to draw that picture, I drew it based on the information presented to me.” She sighed, picking at the creases or her jeans.

Sara was about to explain her actions when Ava continue.

“I lost a lot of people while on active duty. Some of their deaths could have been prevented. We had soldiers that thought they were indestructible. Their recklessness got them and others hurt. It’s how.” She paused to clear her throat. It was becoming increasingly difficult to talk. “It’s how Jax.” She shook her head unable to finish, she couldn’t bring herself to say it. “We had a team rush in without full intel. They were ambushed, our squad was the closest to go in after them.” She closed her eyes remembering that day as if it were yesterday. She opened her eyes when she felt a weight being placed on her thigh. She smiled at Scout. He was always there for her when she needed him. He let out a small whine and placed one of his paws on her knee.

Sara smiled at the dog, she was all too familiar with the gesture. “I’m sorry that happened.” She apologized for Ava’s lost friend. “I understand why you’d wanted nothing to do with me but Ava despite what it looked like, I’m the opposite of reckless.”

“I know that now.” She smiled apologetically at Sara. “Those dispatchers sure do love you. You’re all they talked about during my sit-along by the way. Cisco was explaining everything you were doing and why you were doing it. I think the boy has a crush.”

Sara laughed at this. “Cisco is harmless, it’s not me he has a crush on, it’s Leonard’s sister Lisa.” Lisa and Cisco had met a few times at family functions and he’d been smitten ever since, but of course he was too afraid to make a move for fear that Leonard would kill him.

“Noted.” That explained so much. Ava had tried to figure out why he’d been so flustered during Christmas dinner. She relaxed against the couch, her hand scratching Scout behind his ears. The storm outside was finally dying down and between Scout and Sara she was finally able to relax a bit. She thought it would be a lot harder talking to Sara but just like their time in the break room, Sara made her feel as though this was a normal daily thing for them. “I should’ve given you a chance.” Ava apologized, going back to their previous subject. “I really am sorry Sara.”

“A few years ago you would’ve been right in your assessment of me being reckless, but I am no longer that person. Life and experiences changed me, it was a wonder I’d made it as long as I had.” She’d thought she was a hot shot when she’d first started with the department. “When my father was a commander of a gang and drug task force, he was after a crime boss by the name of Damien Darhk.” She tried not to show how much that name bothered her. Saying his name out loud still gave her chills. “Unlike the many politicians and cops he’d paid off, my dad would not have any of it. Dad and his team went after him and his crew hard. They’d take them into custody for any violation they could legally justify. After several warnings to back off went ignored by my dad and his team, he took drastic measures.” Sara’s hand subconsciously ran across her stomach, touching the scars there. “Since Darhk couldn’t get to my dad he set up an ambush for my district. I was a rookie cop, thought I was untouchable and my cover, Tommy, was as bad as I was.” She could never push that night from her memory, no matter how hard she’d tried. “We were outnumbered and help was still a few minutes out, he killed Tommy and took me.” She closed her eyes. The memory of waking up in an abandoned warehouse, hands chained above her head to a beam, her toes barely touching the ground still fresh in her mind.

“Sara, you don’t have to.” Ava had a feeling she knew where the story was going and she wasn’t sure she was ready to hear it. She remembered the scars on Sara’s back and by the way she was rubbing her abdomen now, she had a feeling those scars were also on her stomach. She didn’t want Sara to relive whatever horror she’d had to endure for her sake.

“It’s okay.” Sara smiled. It had taken her a long time to be able to talk about it but she’d learned over time with the aid of her therapist that the more she talked about it the easier it got. Telling the story itself didn’t get any easier, but bouncing back to the present after each retelling got easier every time she talked about it. “I spent six days with him. In those six days he made it his mission to break me.” She could feel her heart rate picking up.

Scout lifted his head from Ava’s lap and looked between his owner and Sara. Ava patted the couch letting her dog know that it was okay for him to join them. She figured Sara needed him far more than she did at that moment. The dog jumped onto the couch, spun around on the cushions twice before settling against Sara’s side.

Sara sighed, drawing comfort from the canine, wishing Justice was with her. “By the time they found me I’d all but given up on living and it wasn’t until almost a year later that I started seeing a future for myself.”

Ava’s heart broke at hearing Sara talk about her dreadful past. She had no idea what to say, she’d seen and been through a lot herself but that was nothing compared to what Sara had been through. She reached out and squeezed the hand Sara had laid on Scout.

Sara interlaced her fingers through Ava’s squeezing back. “I’m not telling you this for sympathy, my experiences changed me, and for the longest time I thought for the worst.” She’d began talking about her past to let Ava know what it had taken for her to lose her reckless streak. She’d continued because she knew that Ava needed to hear it. Needed to know that bad things happened but those things didn’t need to control her future. “I’m telling you this because I want you to know that it gets better, therapy helps, the dog helps, and friends and family help. It’s good to let people in. It took me a while to realize that. I wish I had someone to tell me what I’m telling you now. Someone who had an idea of what I was going through. I know our situations are different but at the end of the day they affect us the same way.” She didn’t let go of Ava’s hand when she was done talking, instead she drew comfort from it just as she was drawing comfort from her service dog. “Talking about it is hard but it gets easier the more you do it and if you don’t want to talk, then write it down but never go back and reread it. Write it and leave it alone.”

Ava used her free hand to wipe the tears that had run down her cheeks. Sara was right, she’d held so much in and it had finally caught up with her. “I grew up in a military family, it’s the only way of living that I knew. Crying and sharing feelings was a weakness, so when I went into the service I pushed my feelings down, I was in a man’s world, I didn’t dare show any emotion. When I lost my first friend, I buried myself into my training. From then on I repressed anything I felt and became selective on who I allowed to get close to me. It took over two years for me to get close to Jax and the guys. Losing him only reminded me that having feelings and getting close enough to share those feelings was the worst. I knew Mick wanted us to be friends, deep down I felt something from the moment I met you and that scared me. I couldn’t afford to let myself get close to someone that was reckless, someone I could lose.” Sensing her need for him, Scout moved to lay his head on her lap with his back legs on Sara.

“I understand why you thought I was reckless. Why you wanted nothing to do with me. I’m glad that’s changed.” She tightened her hold on Ava’s hand.

“Me too.” Ava smiled tearfully. She hadn’t realized how much she’d needed this.

“And Ava, sharing your feelings and crying does not make you weak. It takes strength to be able to open up to someone on that level.”

“It’s going to take some time for me to get used to having people to talk to.” Ava confessed.

“You never have to talk when you don’t want to.” Sara assured her.

“Thank you Sara.” Ava smiled at her from across the couch.

“But just so you know, for someone who doesn’t think they’re good at sharing their feelings, you do an amazing job of it.” She said lightly, hoping to lighten the mood. “Well, now anyways, a month ago I wouldn’t have thought you knew the word sharing.” She laughed at her own joke.

Ava rolled her eyes. “Thanks Sara.” Ava chuckled, she was once again amazed at how quickly Sara could make her forget the heaviness she’d felt moments before. “Do you um, wanna watch something funny,” she asked. They’d had enough gloom for one day.

Sara nodded. “That would be great. Just no cop shows, I can’t help but point out all the things they do wrong and most people end up hating watching the shows with me.”

“You are preaching to the choir, that’s how I feel about military and fire shows. I mean have you seen Chicago Fire,” she asked with an offended look on her face. “They go into the buildings by themselves, half the time they don’t have their face masks on and the few times they do, they’re not wearing their hood to protect their necks and ears and the fact they can see anything through a working fire is just ridiculous. It’s damn near impossible to see your hand in front of your face during an actual fire.” She glared at Sara who was openly laughing at her. “What,” she whined.

“Nothing.” Sara cleared her throat. “I think you’re cute when you go all nerd mode.”

Ava blushed tucking her head and looking away from Sara who’d just called her cute. “So.” She cleared her throat. “The Office,” she asked.

“That sounds perfect. It’s actually one of my go to shows. We can watch the episode where Dwight starts a fire to test everyone and you can critique him as a safety officer or the one after where they have to learn CPR.” She normally played it when she was stressed and needed to watch something mindless and anxiety free.

Ava laughed at the episodes Sara mentioned, she was very familiar with both of them. She scrolled through the seasons to find the episodes. “What are your other shows,” Ava asked curiously as she continued looking for the episode.

“Friends, Family Guy, Superstore, How I met your mother.” She trailed off trying to think of others. “Anything mindless and funny.”

“I have one,” Ava told her timidly.

“Oh,” Sara asked, an eyebrow raised in interest.

Ava nodded. “Brooklyn 99, I know you don’t like cop shows but they’re just silly, you know going in it’s not a serious cop show.”

Sara narrowed her eyes. “So cute.” She smiled. She found Ava to be adorable when trying to explain her views on things. “We can watch that next time. I’m gonna grab more water do you want any,” she asked taking her own glass from the table.

“I’m okay, thanks.” Ava smiled and turned her attention to the television. She couldn’t believe how well things were going.

“Your cat just tried to kill me.” Sara returned a few minutes later with water on her face and shirt.

“Oh no, what happened.” Ava stood up to check on Sara.

“She ran in front of me trying to trip me, in the process of trying not to fall, to my death,” she said dramatically. “I splashed myself with the water.” She held up her now half empty glass of water. “I told you, cats are demonic.”

Ava grimaced biting her lip. “Siren could be sensing that you don’t like her.” Siren was always great with her coworkers, it shocked her that she didn’t want anything to do with Sara.

Sara sighed. “Maybe. Or maybe she’s just mean.” She glared at the cat in question. She was never a cat person, her dad had given her a canary when she was younger and she’d known then that cats and birds didn’t mix, so she’d disliked them ever since.

“Give her a chance Sara, maybe she just takes after her mom and needs a little extra time.” Ava defended her cat. She really wanted Siren and Sara to get along.

“Well hopefully she doesn’t take as a long as her mom did,” Sara joked. “I was ready to strangle her.”

“Yeah I didn’t make it easy did I,” Ava asked scrunching up her nose.

Sara laughed. “You really didn’t. You know Gideon texted me during your sit along.”

“Oh God,” she groaned.

“I dreaded running calls with you, I was sure if the criminals didn’t kill me then your death glare would.” Sara hated the calls they ran together, even when they were brief and they had very little interaction together.

Ava cringed, she’d known she’d been unfair and judgmental but she hadn’t realized how much she’d affected Sara. “I was a jerk.”

Sara nodded in agreeance. “A total jerk.”

Ava laughed glad to put their rocky start behind them. “Forgive me,” Ava asked.

“I guess. I’m sure you’ll find a way to make it up to me. I love food.” She reminded her.

Again, Ava found herself laughing “You’ve got yourself a deal.” They spend the rest of the day settled back on the couch watching mindless television and enjoying each other’s company.

Chapter Text

 

Imagine meeting someone who understood even the dustiest corners of your mixed up soul.” -Unknown

 

“Three times in one day blondie, you trying to set a records,” Mick asked as he and Ava approached Sara and Leonard on a traffic stop.

Sara rolled her eyes. “First of all I didn’t call you on the accident, it’s not my fault people don’t know how to drive in perfect weather. Second, you requested PD on that combative diabetic, I was trying to get lunch. Which by the way I still haven’t had. Third, I didn’t call you on this one.” She directed the last fact towards Ava.

It had been a week since their lunch and while she and Ava had stayed in contact by phone, they had not had any calls together. A part of her still worried that Ava would push her away if at any point she felt she was being reckless. She did not want to go back to the way things used to be.

“Relax Officer Lance, I mean, Sara. I mean.” Ava groaned. This was the first time she’d seen Sara in uniform since their friendship had started and it was all very confusing for her. She’d gotten so used to referring to her by her title while in uniform she had a hard time calling her by her first name now. “Sorry.” She blushed tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

Sara laughed. “Meh, I mean, you’re not wrong, I am in uniform.” She pointed out, hoping Ava would also relax. “The deal was when I was out of uniform.” She reminded her.

“Good point.”

Mick looked between the pair in amazement. He couldn’t believe these were the same two people that couldn’t stand to be in the other’s presence a few months back. “When you two are done, I’ll be over there. Checking on the patient.” He laughed at their shared embarrassment.

Both women rolled their eyes letting out a ‘shut up Mick.’

“I think I liked it better when you didn’t get along.” Despite what he said, deep down he was really happy they were getting along. He liked not having to be the buffer keeping the two from killing strangling each other. He’d have to call his wife later in the day and update her.

“Anyway.” Sara pushed him as he walked passed her. “He was fine until Leonard told him he had a fail to appear warrant on a shoplifting charge. All of a sudden he can’t breath.”

“Ah, incarceritus.” The medics were all too familiar with criminals trying to avoid a jail cell by feigning an ailment. Mick walked ahead of them to check on their not so ill patient.

“Remind me to give you something before we clear.” Ava had hoped they’d have another call together after their combative diabetic. Having three calls with the same officer in a single day was almost unheard of, so she was glad to see Sara again.

“Another peace offering,” Sara asked. “You know you don’t need to, I think we’ve moved passed that.” She’d lost count the number of times Ava had apologized for her actions early on in their relationship.

Ava laughed. “No, not exactly. More of a thank you. For last week. It really helped, to talk.”

“I enjoyed myself too.” Sara smiled. Despite all the heavy things they’d talked about, she’d had a lot of fun hanging out with Ava. They’d ended up watching several episodes of The Office and a few of Brooklyn Nine Nine. She’d caught Ava looking at her several times during the latter show. She could tell Ava was nervous she was hating it. “So what did you get me,” Sara asked, she had all but forgotten about their patient. “You know what, tell me after.” She motioned towards Mick, who was already checking on the driver.

“Don’t worry about it. He’s fine.” Mick was doing his best not to tease them. “I’ll be seeing you Len.” He said goodbye to his friend and started walking towards the ambulance. “Stay safe blondie.” He winked as he walked by not wanting to interrupt whatever moment they were having more than he already had.

“I already requested the tow Sara.” Had there been a second person there to take the car, they would’ve preferred releasing it to their care. That way the owner didn’t have to pay all the tow fees and the officers didn’t have to deal with the paperwork that came with an impound. Leonard loaded the arrestee in the back of his cruiser. Sara would stay and handle the vehicle impound for him while he processed the prisoner.

“Thanks Len.” She leaned against her cruiser. “So what do you have for me,” she asked excitedly. It wasn’t often she got presents. Especially not during work.

Ava reached into her side pocket and pulled out a baggie of treats. “They’re frosted animal cracker muddy buddies.” She explained as she gave her the bag. “I made some during lunch. The guys request them often.”

“How does anyone stay in shape with you around.” Sara accepted the baggie and set it on the hood of her cruiser. She pulled out a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer from her vest pocket and poured a small amount into her palm. The amounts of germs she came in contact with in a day was far to great and she didn’t want to risk getting sick. She rubbed her hands together before taking a piece out of the bag and testing it out. “Oh my god,” she moaned. “This is amazing.” She was excited to have something to snack on while she waited for the tow truck to arrive.

“Next time I’ll make you your own batch.” Ava was pleased with Sara’s reaction. She’d been nervous at how Sara would take the gesture but she was glad she’d decided to bring her the snack.

“You’ll have no complaints from me.” Sara took another piece of muddy buddy out of the bag and put it in her mouth.

“I’m glad you like them.” Ava looked back to her waiting partner. “I should go.” She didn’t want to but they both had a job to do and hanging around and talking was not it.

“Wanna go hiking next time the weather is good and we’re both off,” Sara asked. Ava seemed to be doing a lot better but she found being out in nature always helped to clear her mind.

“That would be great.” She smiled. “Stay safe Sara.” This time she had no trouble using her first name.

“You too Aves.”

Sara settled in her cruiser and started working on the impound sheet while waiting on the tow truck. She finished the paperwork before allowing herself to enjoy the treats Ava had given her. She set the empty baggie on the passenger seat and snapped a picture of it. She sent it to Ava with the caption, ‘All gone.’.

“Did you even chew?” Ava responded quickly.

Sara smiled. It’s a good thing she’d done her paperwork first or Ava would of really thought she’d inhaled the deliciously sweet snack. “I chewed, thank you very much! It was just so good! I couldn’t stop once I started. I think I’m addicted.” It was a good thing she didn’t have a bowl of her own. She’d have eaten the whole thing in one sitting.

“I’ll make more for when we go hiking.” Ava promised.


***...***

Trying to find a day off together with the overtime Sara had previously signed up for, Ava’s schedule and good weather had been more difficult than expected. The duo continued to bond over text messages and the occasional call together in the weeks that passed. It was always too dark for a hike after Sara got off work and so they kept postponing. Finally having a shared day off, the pair planned on introducing the dogs to each other and going hiking. While Sara’s weekend was just beginning, Ava’s was coming to an end. Sara worried that it would be too much since Ava had to work the following two days. “You sure you want to go hiking today? I don’t want you to be sore for work tomorrow.” She was okay just hanging out and relaxing.

Ava grinned at the message. “I’ll be just fine, if you’re worried you can’t keep up…” She challenged. She knew Sara was fit, in the days they’d started talking she’d also learned that she got great joy in messing with her. Everything had become a bit of a competition, though they both claimed it to be a healthy one.

“Oh don’t you worry about me, you just try and keep up.”

Ava rolled her eyes and sent a gif of Stanley Hudson rolling his eyes.

“See you soon.” Sara responded with a smiley face.

Ava took the top off to her Jeep, it was the perfect weather to drive around without it, despite it being early March. She set the treats she’d promised Sara in the passenger seat and loaded Scout into the backseat. She put her camelbak along with a few extra water bottles for the dogs in the back of her jeep. Once at Sara’s she took out the container of sweets and led Scout out of the car. She and Sara had agreed that they needed to introduce the dogs to each other before they loaded them into the small backseat of her wrangler.

“Hey Ava.” Sara smiled. “Justice is out back.” She knelt down to pet Scout. “Hi buddy,” she greeted the lab.

“As promised.” Ava handed her the container.

“Yes.” Sara pumped her first in the air. “It’s a good thing I’m getting my workout in.” She led the pair towards the kitchen where she placed Ava’s gift on the counter and then to the yard.

Being that both dogs were trained and extremely friendly it didn’t take but a few minutes for them to begin playing and chasing after one another in the yard. Once they were sure the dogs were good to go they loaded them into the vehicle.

Sara went to put her bag in the back and stopped. “Uh Ava, why do you have weights in your car.” She lifted the two ten pound weight plates and looked underneath them, adding up the weights. “Seriously Ava, you have 140 pounds in here. Why on earth do you have so many weights.”

Ava moved to stand beside her. She’d forgotten they were there, she was so used to seeing them it hadn’t registered that Sara might find them odd. “I like to challenge myself.” She would sometimes put them in a holster and carry them on her back during her hikes.

“Show off.” She shoulder bumped Ava, though with the height difference Sara’s shoulder only reached Ava’s upper arm. “You sure you want to go hiking with me,” she asked. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to ‘ weigh ’ you down.” She started laughing at her own joke. “Get it, cause of the weights.” She pointed at the weights and started to laugh even harder.

“Dear god, that was just terrible.” Ava couldn’t help but laugh at Sara’s awful pun. It wasn’t the joke that had her laughing, it was Sara’s reaction to it. “Come on before you hurt yourself.” She nudged her towards the passenger seat. She reached for the door opening it for Sara not thinking too much about the action. She blushed when she realized what she’d done. “Sorry, habit.”

Sara was still laughing as she climbed into the jeep. “Thank you.” Sara accepted the chivalrous gesture. She was the one that normally opened doors for people, though she wasn’t opposed when they did it for her.

Ava shook her head before going to her side.

After calming down Sara reached across the center console and pushed Ava’s door open from the inside. “What,” she asked when Ava gave her a look. “You think you’re the only one that’s used to opening doors.”

“You’re impossible.” Ava shook her head. “Thank you.” She smiled at her before climbing inside.

***...***

“How many times have you done this particular trail,” Sara asked a few minutes into their hike. Ava seemed very familiar with the trail.

Ava thought about it, it had been a while since she’d done this particular one. “Um, maybe ten or fifteen times. It’s one of my favorites. The trees and the river that runs along most of it are very soothing.” When it was particularly warm out she’d hang out by the stream and allow Scout to cool down in it.

“It’s beautiful.”

They walked in silence for a while with their dogs a few feet ahead of them. “While in the Academy, I didn’t really have time to think, I was usually exhausted by the time my head hit the pillow and I slept through the night without a problem.” She took a deep breath of the fresh air surrounding them. “It wasn’t until a few months after the academy that the nightmares started back up again. I was more relaxed at work and everything wasn’t as draining as it had been in the beginning. So I started working out twice a day and added hiking to the mix. When that wasn’t enough I started using the weights.”

“Did they help,” Sara asked referring to the workouts and the weights.

“At first.” Ava sighed. “I used to workout to the point of dropping, it started taking its toll though. It started affecting my everyday life. That’s when I decided to see the therapist.”

Sara didn’t say anything else, Ava was clearly in her head, and she didn’t want to interrupt her train of thought.

“The therapy felt useless, it didn’t help and I think the reason it didn’t help was because I was never completely honest with her. I always felt so helpless and exposed when sharing what was going through my head. I was a soldier. I’ve had to make hard decisions in a moments notice. I’ve overcome obstacles that were damn near impossible, but I couldn’t control my thoughts and my dreams.” She went silent again. She’d hated going to the therapist, those first few sessions had been brutal. She’d held back a lot and she was sure her therapist had known that. The therapist had tried to push her to talk but that had only further shut her down.

“Do you feel that way right now,” Sara asked. “Helpless and exposed I mean.” She clarified, she continued to look forward, not wanting to put too much attention on Ava.

Ava thought her words over before shaking her head. “No, it feels natural when I talk to you about it, like we’ve done it a million times before.” Just like it had felt in the break room and then again when they’d sat on her couch talking after lunch. She didn’t understand why it was so easy with Sara.

Sara didn’t want to react too much but Ava’s words made her heart rate pick up. She was glad Ava felt comfortable enough with her to share and not to feel vulnerable, especially since their friendship was so new. “I’m glad.” She smiled. “When is the last time you saw her, the therapist,” she asked.

Ava cringed knowing the answer was not one Sara would approve of. “Four or five months ago, maybe longer. I thought things were getting better, having Scout around helped.”

“Maybe you should try again.” Sara recommended. “Really try this time.” She remembered her own sessions. They hadn’t helped until she’d decided she’d wanted to get better.

“What if I’d rather talk to you,” Ava asked with a pout, this was so much easier for her than talking to a shrink. She didn’t feel shame or embarrassment when talking to Sara.

“You can always talk to me, no matter the day or the time, but there are things a therapist can do for you that I can’t.” Sara was just glad that Ava was finally getting things off her chest. She couldn’t believe she’d gone this long dealing with things on her own.

“I’ll think about it,” Ava promised.  

Sara gave her the side eye not believing her, she’d made the same statement to her family all those years ago. Ava was going to need a push. “After I was rescued, my family tried to help me but I pushed them away. None of them understood what I was going through, especially not my therapist, so I refused to go. I survived Damien Darhk alone, I was determined to get better alone.” Looking back now she realized how much that had set her back. “I locked myself in my room, away from my family, away from the world and away from anything that could hurt me. I didn’t realize until later that I was hurting myself more than anyone else could. My father, blaming himself for what I’d been through, started drinking. My parent’s marriage almost fell apart. My sister started dating an abusive guy that led her down a dark path. My parents had been so focused on me that they hadn’t realized she was struggling too. That was the push I needed. My family was breaking apart because of what I was going through. I had been ready to take my life, to end the constant pain and fear I felt. I didn’t want to live any more. I overheard my parents fighting one night and it hit me. If my family was falling apart while I was living, I couldn’t imagine what would happen to them if I wasn’t around anymore.”

The dogs that had been walking ahead of them the entire time returned to their sides. Each pressed up against their respective owners.

Sara scratches Justice’s head as she continued. “It wasn’t easy at first. Some days the depression, the flashbacks, the nightmares and the panic attacks were even more frequent after sessions. A big party of me wanted to quit, but one look at my family and I was reminded why I was fighting. It took years of therapy, both by myself and with the family. I had several setbacks, but the important part was that I kept trying. I never wanted my family to suffer because of me. Not if I could help it. I still see a therapist twice a month, sometimes more, when I need it.” She hadn’t shared the beginning parts of her recovery with anyone, her therapist was the only one who knew what had finally pushed her to start the road to recovery.

Ava thought about what Sara had said, it couldn’t have been easy for Sara to accept help but she’d done it. She had no excuse for not seeking help, not when it was so readily available. What Sara had been through was worse than anything she could fathom. If Sara was able to seek help and be where she was today then she was going to try. Really try. “I’ll call her tomorrow.” She promised.

“Good. Now come on.” Sara pushed her. “I was promised a challenge.” She wanted to lighten the mood. It was never a good idea for her to stay in the past too long.

Ava laughed appreciating the change in subject. “You know I can do this hike with you on my back right,” Ava asked.

“No way,” Sara exclaimed in response. “I’m a lot heavier than I look.” She picked up the pace.

Ava looked her up and down while matching her pace and shrugged. “If you say so.”

Third of the way through the hike, Sara surprised Ava by jumping on her back and wrapping her legs around her waist.

Ava stumbled for a brief second before catching herself. She laughed and hooked her arms around Sara’s legs holding them in place. “Light as a feather.” She continued the hike not bothered by the extra weight.

“Okay, you made your point,” Sara said after a few minutes. “You can put me down now.” Ava had not slowed down in the minutes she’d carried her.

“You sure, cause I can do this all day.” Ava was feeling smug, she’d definitely won this one.

“Yes, I’m sure.” She laughed, Ava was definitely in shape. She shook her legs out once Ava set her down. “For the record, I could carry you too.”

“I have no doubt in that, though it wouldn’t help that my legs would be dragging on the ground.” She laughed at the look Sara gave her.

“I’m only three inches shorter,” Sara exclaimed standing up as tall as she could.

Ava looked down at her to emphasize the height difference. “If you say so. Race you to the end.” With that, she took off.

“Oh you’re on.” Sara chased after her, catching up and passing her. The dogs wanting to join in on the race ran ahead of the duo in excitement.

“Impressive,” Ava commented catching her breath. “For someone with such short legs,” she teased. “You are really fast.”

Sara rolled her eyes, she was used to the short jokes. After all, she worked in a field of mostly men. “I have to be faster than the criminals.” Sara pushed her. She’d been determined to beat Ava on their race even if her chest and lungs were on fire. “Wanna grab dinner, and hang out,” she asked once they’d loaded the dogs up. “Beating you makes me hungry.”

Ava was sure she’d never hear the end of it, but she regretted nothing. She enjoyed Sara’s competitive side. It wasn’t often that she had someone that could keep up with her. “That would be great, I’m starving.”

Sara moved to the driver side door. “My turn.” She opened the door for Ava.

Ava didn’t argue, instead she got in and did as Sara had done before, she reached across the center console and opened Sara’s door.

Chapter Text

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says 'I'll try again tomorrow.'" -Mary Anne Radmacher

 

Ava sat anxiously in the waiting room of her therapist’s office. This was her third attempt in two weeks. Every part of her told her to get up. To run. But she’d promised Sara this time she would make it through the appointment, if not all of it then at least some of it. She’d come twice before and just minutes before her appointment, fear had overtaken her and she’d found herself running out the door. Sara, as always had been extremely understanding and supportive. She continuously encouraged her to try again. That her reaction was normal. She even offered to come with her which Ava had declined. She needed to know she could make it to an appointment on her own. Ava hated herself for being so weak. So afraid. She’d been to war, seeing a therapist should not be as crippling as it was. She looked between the exit and the office door her therapist was behind. That urge to run making a strong reappearance. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. ‘I can do this.’ She reminded herself. She’d heard the phrase from Sara several times in the past few weeks. ‘I got this.’ She was startled from her thoughts when the office door opened and her therapist, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, stepped out.

“Come on in Ava.” The Dr. Thompkins greeted her with a smile.

Ava stood but did not move forward. All the pep talks she was giving herself were not encouraging her to move.

“Do you need a minute,” her doctor asked. She’d seen this many times. The fact that Ava was still there was a very good sign. She didn’t want to push her. She’d been worried about Ava the past few months, she’d been surprised to see her name appear on her schedule. She was also not surprised when her assistant had told her that Ava had run out minutes before the start of her appointments.   

Ava nodded, taking several more deep breaths. “Sorry,” she apologized once she was able to get her feet moving.

“You’re fine dear.” Dr. Thompkins stepped aside and allowed Ava to pass through the threshold of the office. “Sit anywhere you’d like.” She motioned towards the chairs. She would allow Ava to choose her seat first before picking her own. She wanted Ava to feel as comfortable as possible.

“Thank you.” Ava appreciated not having to sit with her back to the door.

“How are you doing Ava, it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen you.”

Ava began picking at the band of her sleeve. She’d known her therapist would be disappointed in her. “I’m sorry Dr. Thompkins.” Ava apologized.

“Ava we’ve been through this, you can call me Leslie. There’s no need to apologize, I was worried about you. I’m glad you’re here.” Leslie reassured her. She knew how difficult it was for patients, especially veterans, to return to therapy after months of being absent. “How is work,” she asked, hoping the easy topic would get her to open up.

Ava relaxed a bit. Work she could talk about. “It’s been good. I’m finally on my own and I couldn’t ask for a better partner and crew.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Last time we spoke you were still on probation.”

Ava nodded. Last time she’d been to therapy was a few months after the academy.  

“And Scout. How is he.” She’d been very pleased when Ava had told her she’d gotten the service dog.

Ava smiled at the mention of her canine companion. “He’s great actually. He’s been a lifesaver on more than one occasion.”

“How so,” she asked. Without knowing it, Ava had opened the door for her to get into her mental health status.

“He senses when my anxiety is going into overdrive before I even realize it.” Ava thought about the many times Scout had nudged her, whined or even barked at her to get her attention focused on him instead of her thoughts. “He’s snapped me out of it before things got too bad on more than one occasion.”

Leslie smiled, something had changed with her patient. She could tell in the few moments they’d been talking. She was more open this time around, she wasn’t holding back as she had when she’d first come to her. Despite her tense posture, she was more relaxed. “Have you had any panic attacks that Scout was not able to help you with.” The way Ava eyes averted to the door told her the answer was yes and she was debating whether she wanted to share or run.

Ava looked at the door that held her freedom for a split second before focusing on her therapist once again. She closed her eyes pushing the urge to run down, she’d promised she’d try. “I was at work, he was at the house and I had a panic attack in the middle of my shift while still at the hospital.” Her hands shook as she thought about that day. She brought her knees towards her chest and rested her feet on the seat cushion, wrapping her arms around her shins. This helped her not to look at her hands and made her feel solid. Impenetrable.

Leslie wondered if that was what had finally pushed Ava to return to therapy. “What happened that triggered your panic attack.” Ava had already shared more this time around than she had the entire time she’d seen her several months before. She would see how much she could push before needing to back off.

Ava stayed silent as she thought about that day.

“Ava.” Her doctor got her attention. “Deep slow breaths.” She reminded her. Ava had been lost in her thoughts. She didn’t want her dwelling too long on the negative aspects of that day, she didn’t want to risk another attack.

Ava took a few calming breaths remembering the way Sara had instructed her to during her attack. “There was a bad thunderstorm, lasted for two days.” She dropped one foot back down to the ground, trying to relax her body. She kept reminding herself that she was in a safe place. “I was already on edge when my partner and I were dispatched to a gang related shooting.” She paused once again to regulate her breathing. “Once the doctors took the patient I removed my gloves, Blood had seeped into my gloves and spent a second too long staring at my hands.” She looked down at her hands, she was relieved to see that they were not stained red.

“The blood reminded you of your last deployment.” She didn’t have all the details but she’d known Ava had lost a member of her team and had come close to losing many others.

Ava nodded it. “It was like I was back in the war zone with the mortars going off, the bombs exploding, knowing help wasn’t coming. All I could see was the blood of my teammates on my hands and I could do nothing to help them.”

“That sounds like a very serious attack Ava. What helped bring you out.” Without professional help and training it would have been very difficult for Ava to come out of her attack on her own.

Ava smiled thinking about Sara. “A friend, it was actually the second time I’d seen her. Well the second time that I wasn’t a total jerk to her.” She still regretted the way she’d treated Sara in the beginning.

“I’d like to come back to that.” There was definitely a story there but she wanted to push through the attack first. She didn’t want to risk Ava shutting down on her. “How did she help with your panic attack.”

Ava couldn’t believe how the thought of Sara alone relaxed her enough not to want to run to the safety of her home. “She talked me through my breathing. Kept reminding me where I was and that I was safe.” She remembered how embarrassed she’d felt at first. She looked down at her hands again remembering the way Sara had taken each hand in hers and had wiped the stranger’s blood that had covered them. “She cleaned the blood and just talked to me. Kept bringing me back to the present anytime I started to drift back.” She smiled remembering that day and how far she and Sara had come since then.

“Your friend sounds like she has experience dealing with trauma.” She wondered if this friend was a medical professional.

“She does. Sara has been through more than any one person should in a lifetime.” It always saddened her to think about the thinks Sara had to endure. “She’s the strongest person I know. She’s actually the reason I’m here. I promised her I’d try again. Really try.”

Dr. Thompkins nodded, making a note in the pad beside her. This explained why Ava had been so open with her this time around. She wanted to learn more about Sara and her relationship with her patient. “I’m glad you’re trying again, I truly believe with therapy and the correct coping mechanisms, you can live a normal life without the fear of panic attacks lurking at every corner.”

“That’s what I want.”

“Well Ava, looks like our time is up, can I expect to see you again soon,” she asked.

Ava stood up and smiled. “Yes ma’am, I already have my next appointment scheduled.” She moved to the door with Dr. Thompkins behind her.

“Good, next time I’d like to discuss this friend that you were, in your own words, ‘a total jerk to’.”

Ava chuckled at her therapists use of the air quotes. “Sounds like a plan.”

***...***

“How is work?” Ava messaged Sara a few hours later. Since their lunch and hike, she and Sara talked almost all day, everyday. If they were not on a work call, they were talking. They spent most of their days off together with the dogs. Sometimes they would go out and explore different trails, other times they would simply stay in and hang out.

“Len and I are competing to see who writes the most traffic tickets.” True to her word, Ava had called her therapist and scheduled an appointment, an appointment she’d had earlier that morning. “Want to grab lunch?” She remembered what it was like at the beginning of her therapy, even on her good days, she felt worse after her sessions. While talking about and reliving painful events helped in the long run at the time she felt like she was being tortured all over again.

“You’re not too busy?” Ava was relieved Sara had known exactly what she’d needed, she’d been going stir crazy being alone and inside her own head.

Sara messaged her a few minutes later. “I already called Gideon, she’ll get me if something big happens. Chinese place near Verdant?” She was craving Chinese and the restaurant was still in her district if she was needed for an emergency.

Ava smiled, appreciating that Sara had come to know her well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to get in the way of her work so she’d made the decision of lunch for them. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Hey, sorry. Had to do a traffic stop on my way here.” Sara apologized to Ava who was already at the restaurant by the time she got there. She’d tried to ignore the minor infractions but the car had almost caused an accident by running a red light. “You look like you could use a hug.” She opened her arms for Ava to walk into.

“I look that bad,” she asked, moving into the outstretched arms.

“Nah, you always look good. Come here.” She engulfed the tall blonde in a tight hug.

Ava blushed, Sara was really good at making her blush, though most of the time it was unintentional. Ava was relieved her crimson cheeks were hidden to Sara as they hugged. She was thankful Sara held onto her longer than an average hug would normally last.

Sara continued to hug her. “Hugging for 20 seconds releases Oxycontin which reduces stress.” She explained her extended hold.

Ava couldn’t remember ever hugging a person for that long. She felt the stress of her morning beginning to dissolve as the hug went on. “I needed that.” She smiled when they pulled apart. She’d spent a good part of her morning cuddling with Scout, he’d helped but he didn’t talk back and today was one of those rare occasions where she wished he could.

“Do you want to talk about it,” Sara asked once their food arrived, if all Ava wanted was company then that is what she’d give her but she wanted to give her an opening.

Ava played around with her food for a few seconds before shaking her head in the negative, she was finally feeling better, she didn’t want to talk about it and go back into her dark thoughts. “Who’s written more tickets so far,” she asked instead.

“It’s neck and neck. Len is tough competition.” She was sure by taking a break he’d beat her but she didn’t care. Loser bought lunch, she was more than happy to take the loss.

“How often do you guys do this, is there a quota,” she asked. She’d always wondered if the officers had a certain number of tickets they had to write each month.

“Officially, no. Unofficially, there is a ‘recommended’ number of tickets they’d like for us to write. We procrastinate and do them at the end of the month, we hate doing traffic stops so we try to make a game of it.” Captain Hunter would kill her if he found out she let slip they had an unofficial quota. He always said it was a ‘performance’ standard that they had to meet but they all saw it for what it was, a quota. It wasn’t a requirement her father, the Chief, had created. It had started with the command staff. “Don’t tell the Captain or Gideon I told you this.”

“Gideon,” Ava asked, she didn’t know what Gideon had to do with it.

“I forget you’re not as involved on the PD side, Gideon and Captain Hunter are married. They’ve been together for years, they met a few years after he lost his wife and son in an accident.” She’d known the captain a along time, her heart had broken for him when he’d lost his family.

“That’s awful.”

Sara nodded. “It took years for him and Gideon to figure things out, but they are perfect for each other. They’re both very happy now.”

“I’m glad.” Ava smiled. “Did I tell you I brought her cinnamon rolls like you’d suggested,” she asked. She’d completely forgotten to tell Sara that she’d been successful in getting Gideon’s forgiveness for being a total ass.

“You didn’t, but Gideon messaged me the minute you left. She wanted to know what had changed and at what point we’d become friends.” She laughed, Gideon had drilled her with questions. She hadn’t thought about it, she’d been dispatched to a fight a few minutes later and had forgotten about it completely.

“That figures.” Ava sighed, she’d seen Gideon’s expression firsthand. “On another topic, Leonard, is he seeing anyone,” she asked.

“Why, you interested,” Sara asked jokingly, she knew Leonard was gay so she wasn’t bothered by the question but it still sparked a seed of jealousy.

Ava shook her head “God no, I’m not the boyfriend type. I have a friend I think he’d like. He’s an Army buddy that runs with county fire.”

Sara filed the information she’d just learned about Ava away for later. “What’s his name,” she asked excitedly. It had been a while since Leonard had dated anyone. She and Lisa had been trying to set him up for months but he always found something wrong with the perfectly good, eligible guys they tried to set him up with.

“Ray, they call him ‘The Ray’ because of his bright and cheerful personality, he’s the sweetest, aside from being a firefighter, I think he and Leonard would get along well.” She’d been thinking about this since she’d gotten to know Leonard a little bit better during the Christmas dinner and all the calls they’d ran together since.

“So we need to plan a group gathering and getting them into the same room.” Sara’s mind was already formulating a plan.

Between the two of them they came up with a game plan, they’d have to get Mick and Lisa involved but they were sure the pair would be on board. No one wanted Leonard to be happy more than those two.

Sara dropped her fork and turned up her radio when an alert tone went off telling her a high priority call was being dispatched.

“District six, 1265 Harris St, disturbance with a gun.”

That was her district  She hated that she had to cut lunch short but she wanted to be there to have Leonard’s back. “Sierra nine six,” Sara responded, letting Gideon know she was available.

“Sierra eight six,” Leonard answered.

“Nine six, eight six, six parties involved, one armed with a gun, a second possibly with a knife.” Gideon went on to describe the people involved.

“I gotta go.” Sara reached for her wallet.

“I got it.” Ava put a hand on her arm stopping her search for her wallet. “Just stay safe.”

Sara smiled. “I will.” She took a step towards the door before stopping and turning back to Ava giving her a quick hug. “I’m really proud of you for taking the first step. I’ll talk to you as soon I can.” She released her and ran out the door before Ava had a chance to respond.

The next two hours felt like an eternity for Ava. She had been tempted to message Sara several times but hadn’t wanted to distract her from the situation at hand. She went to the gym to keep herself busy instead.

“We’re good, had bit of a standoff, everyone is in custody, aside from a few bumps and bruises, everyone is okay.” Sara messaged Ava as soon as she could. She probably wouldn’t have said anything at all had Ava not been there to hear the call go out. She knew she’d be worried. “Up for hanging out when I get off.” She send a second text. She hadn’t forgotten the reason behind her lunch with Ava.

Ava sighed in relief at the first message. She’d just made it home after her very long workout when Sara messaged her. “Yes please, bring Justice.” She was glad she wouldn’t have to be alone.

***...***

Sara arrived with Justice an hour after her shift. She’d gone home, showered, changed, and picked up the canine. “We’re here,” she yelled walking in after a quick knock. Scout ran and greeted the pair eagerly, happy to see them both. Siren ran and jumped on the counter which caught Justice’s attention. “Leave it buddy, she’s mean.” She warned her dog. Justice whined but did as told.

“Hey,” Ava greeted the pair. “You’re just in time, I just finished dinner.”

“I always have impeccable timing when it comes to food.”

After eating the pair moved to the couch. Sara reached for the remote before settling back against the couch with Ava beside her. “I don’t know what I’d do without Netflix.” She started scrolling through the romantic comedies. “50 First Dates,” she asked. Ava had not brought up her session so she’d left it alone.

Ava nodded, not really caring what they watched as long as it kept her distracted.

“You sure you don’t want to go to bed.” Ava was half asleep beside her with her head resting against her shoulder.

“I’m sure,” she mumbled adjusting her head on Sara’s shoulder, trying to get more comfortable. She wasn’t ready to be alone with the nightmares that were sure to come.

Halfway through the movie Ava was asleep. Sara looked down and smiled, Ava looked very peaceful but she knew the position she was in would more than likely put a kink in her neck. “Aves,” she whispered.

“Hmm,” she hummed, shifting against her.

“I should head out and you should get to bed, you’ll be more comfortable.”

Ava shook her head. “No, stay. I don’t want to be alone.”

She knew Ava had been afraid to sleep, she’d seen her fighting sleep for the past half hour. “Alright, but let’s at least get comfortable.” Sara reclined her side of the couch and slid down a bit. She placed a pillow on her thighs and patted it, signaling for Ava to lay down.

Ava thought about it for a split second before laying down and resting her head in Sara’s lap, her arm stretched out across Sara’s legs.

Sara grabbed the throw from the back of the couch and covered Ava.

“Thank you,” Ava said softly, closing her eyes once again as Sara’s fingers started to massage her scalp.

Sara watched her for a few minutes, she wished she’d been off to spend the day with Ava and be there for her. She settled for having the next few days off. She’d see if Ava was up for a hike the next day. Sara’s sleep was light, she was prepared for the nightmares as they plagued Ava that night. She woke her up any time it seemed Ava was getting too deep into her dreams.

“Lay with me,” Ava asked after having woken up from yet another nightmare.

Sara nodded, stretched out on the couch and opened her arms signaling for Ava to come to her.

Ava laid down beside her, resting her head against Sara’s shoulder, pulling the throw to cover them. “Thank you Sara.”

Sara tightened her hold on her in a makeshift hug, kissing the top of her head. She was extremely proud of the steps Ava was taking to heal. Ava had a tough battle ahead of her but Sara was confident she’d concur it.

Chapter Text

“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.”  - Brene Brown




“Morning.” Sara smiled down at Ava. She’d been up for several minutes watching the blonde. They’d had short bursts of sleep throughout the night so she was sure Ava was as tired as she felt. 

Ava stretched out beside Sara snuggling into her side. She froze when Sara laughed. She’d been so comfortable she had forgotten where she was and who she was with. “I am so sorry.” She apologized, pushing herself up. “Morning.”

“I didn’t want to wake you.” Sara sat up. The movement catching the both dog’s attention. They moved excitedly in front of the couch greeting their owners. “I’m gonna let them out.” She untangled herself from Ava and moved to let the dogs out. She wanted to give Ava a few minutes to gather herself. When she returned Ava was not in the living room so she went into the guest bathroom to brush her teeth.

“You found the spare toothbrush, good. French toast,” Ava asked walking past the open door.

“That would be amazing.” Sara never turned down any meal Ava offered to make. French toast was better than all the cereal brands she had in her pantry. “I was thinking of hiking after breakfast. It’s really nice out.”

Ava nodded. A hike would help to clear her head. “That would be great.”

After breakfast the duo packed up the dogs and made it to Sara’s so she could change into hiking attire.  

 

***...***

 

They decided on a trail neither had completed before. “Thank you.” Ava stopped a mile into their hike. “For last night, for staying, and for this.” She motioned to the greenery around them.

Sara stood in front of her placing her hands on Ava’s upper arms. “You’re not alone in this, not anymore.” She rubbed Ava’s arms a few times before she let her hands slide down to hold Ava’s.

“I’m still getting used to that.” Ava gave Sara’s hands a gentle squeeze. She released one of Sara’s hands pulling her back onto the trail with the other. “I didn’t realize how bad it was, I mean, outside of the panic attack.” She’d been thankful not to have had another major attack since the one at the hospital. “Not until I started talking about it.” Her hold on Sara’s hand tightened.

Once Ava’s hold loosened, Sara interlaced their fingers together. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” Sara reminded her. Sometimes just being out in nature and enjoying its beauty was enough to clear and calm the mind.

Ava smiled. “I know, I never do with you.” It was something she really appreciated about Sara, she never pushed, she could talk and abruptly change the subject and Sara would not miss a beat or question the new topic.

Sara smiled but stayed silent, it always warmed her heart that Ava felt so comfortable with her, especially after the way their relationship had started.

“After my appointment, I felt like I’d just come back from deployment, everything felt so fresh. The isolation, the loneliness, the loss. I was overwhelmed. It took me a little while before I realized I wasn’t on my own.” She had wandered aimlessly for over an hour before she’d unlocked her phone and Sara’s last message displayed on her screen. She stopped walking once again and turned to face Sara. “It was actually your, ‘you’ve got this’ message before my appointment that reminded me that I wasn’t alone.”

“It takes a while, but with each session and each day that passes it gets easier. You’ll remember you’re not alone next time.” She was going to make sure Ava knew it.

“I don’t feel alone right now.” She looked down at Sara with an appreciative smile. “Thank you, Sara.” She reached up and brushed a piece of hair from Sara’s face and tucked it behind her ear. She withdrew her hand immediately realizing what she’d just done. “Sorry,” she apologized trying to withdraw her other hand from Sara’s but Sara wouldn’t have it.

Sara could still feel Ava’s touch on her face. She was pretty sure Ava was not the only one blushing, her own cheeks felt very warm. She wanted so badly to reach out and pull Ava towards her and kiss away any negative feelings she was having but she knew it wouldn’t be healthy. It wasn’t what Ava needed, she needed a friend. She tugged at the hand she was still holding. “Come on, I’m hungry.” She changed the subject.

“You’re always hungry.” Ava laughed, happy to move past the awkward moment.

“I don’t eat that much.” Sara argued. “I don’t.” She repeated when Ava gave a hum in disagreement.

 

***...***

 

“Ava, I’m glad to see you.” Dr. Leslie Thompkins greeted Ava the following week. “How was your week,” she asked once they were both settled in their seats.

Ava shrugged, thinking about her week. “It could’ve been better but it also could’ve been worse.”

“How so,” Leslie pushed for more details. Ava seemed more closed off this morning than she did the week before.

“Oh, um.” Ava realized the doctor wanted more information. “Sorry, I’ve been in my head more this week.” She adjusted in her seat. “The nightmares were worse.”

“That’s normal, with time they will decrease.” She didn’t want Ava giving up. The nightmares from the trauma were always frequent in the beginning. “You’re forcing your brain to process the trauma you’ve dealt with.”

Ava nodded. Sara had told her that would happen but it didn’t help to prepare her for the nightmares that plagued her at night.

“Besides the nightmares, how are you, you got off shift this morning, correct,” she asked. Ava nodded. “How was your shift.”

“It was good, I’ve been more irritable lately. Short fused.” She explained. She’d found herself pausing to take a deep breath several times during her shift. Every little thing had annoyed her. She’d known she wasn’t being rational but her brain refused to listen to her.

Dr. Thompkins nodded. Nothing Ava was telling her was a surprise to her. “Again, that is normal and part of the process.” She grabbed a pad of paper from her desk and started drawing on it. “This is called the Cognitive Triangle.” She showed Ava the image she’d sketched. “You’re familiar with it,” she asked when Ava chuckled.

Ava nodded. “It’s what’s kept me from going off on undeserving people all week. Thoughts, emotions and behavior.” She motioned towards the three sides of the triangle. “Our thoughts affect the way we feel and the way we behave. Our behavior affects how we feel and our thoughts. Our emotions affect our thoughts and our behavior. Is that correct,” she asked.

Dr. Thompkins was impressed, not many people were familiar with it. “You are absolutely right.”

“Sara explained it to me a few days after my last session. I’d snapped at her for something trivial and when I went to apologize she just smiled and said she’d been waiting for it.” She smiled thinking about that day. Sara hadn’t even flinched, turned out she’d been expecting the mood swings and had actually been worried that Ava had been happy go lucky outside of her interrupted sleep.

Dr. Thompkins smiled, it seemed Ava was having therapy even when she wasn’t in her office. “This Sara, did you meet her at the hospital,” she asked. She recalled Ava and Sara had not had a pleasant start. Had Ava not told her Sara had been through her own trauma, she would’ve thought her to be a professional.

Ava shook her head. “No, she’s a police officer. She’s actually my partner, Mick’s, sister in law. The first day I met her, my partner told me how amazing she was. But the more he talked her up the more I thought she had a complete disregard for her own safety.”

“You thought she was reckless and so you wanted nothing to do with her.” Leslie guessed. She knew Ava’s type well enough. “I’ve been doing this a long time dear.” She laughed at the surprised look Ava gave her.

Ava chuckled, she was easier to read than she’d thought. “You nailed it. Mick kept telling me we had a lot in common but I wanted to stay away from someone who continuously put their life and the lives of others in danger. I didn’t want to get close to someone just to have them taken away. Every time we responded to officer requested medicals with her I just felt this tight dark feeling in the pit of my stomach.” She was happy those days were behind her. “I would see her and all I could think was, she’s going to get herself killed or worse get others killed.” She paused, rubbing her hands together. “Every time I saw her, I  thought about my team members, injured and dying.”

“She reminded you of the team that had led to your team members getting hurt.” In one of her sessions with Ava the first time around, the blonde had refused to talk and the more she’d pushed her the angrier she’d become. It was in that moment of pure anger that she’d let out what had happened to her team.

Ava nodded. “I saw her and I saw them all bleeding out, dying, and me not being able to do anything about it.” She looked down at her hands half expecting them to be covered in her team’s blood.

“What changed,” she asked. It seemed that Ava truly hated Sara in the beginning.

“It wasn’t until a few months later that her sister, Laurel, and Mick explained how Sara operated. Another medic and I had responded to a fall that turned out to be a domestic violence situation. The victim had finally snapped and pulled a gun on her husband. Sara was the responding officer. She put herself between the gun and us. She talked our victim down, got her to agree to help and instead of thanking her, I called her reckless.”

Leslie tried not to cringe at this bit of information. Ava had not been exaggerating in her statement the previous week.

“I told you, I was a total jerk to her.” Ava had seen the slight brow raise even if her doctor had tried to hide it.

“So how did you go from being enemies to friends. Close friends from the sounds of it.”

“After I called her reckless, Sara let me have it, she told me she’d only tried to befriend me for my partner’s sake and that she’d continue to have my back. It was later that night that I had dinner with Mick and Laurel and they explained the way Sara worked. How she calculated all her options before making a decision.” She shifted in her seat. “She pulled me over sometime after and I got to witness her thought process in action, it wasn’t anything big but I realized how wrong I’d been, I felt like a bigger ass.”

“What happened when she stopped you.”

Ava smiled at the memory. She remembered the dread she had felt when she’d realized who had pulled her over. “Scout and I were on a walk when he was attacked by another dog, he was in bad shape and I was speeding to get him to the animal hospital. She asked me where the fire was.” She laughed. “I didn’t think it was funny at the time but looking back now, even when she was pissed at me she was making jokes.”

The doctor also found the joke to be funny though she could see why Ava had not thought so at the time.

“Once she realized why I was speeding she immediately moved to Scout’s side and told me she wouldn’t give me a ticket but that I couldn’t leave. She called her friend who happens to be a veterinarian and had me follow her to her house.”

“She surprised you,” she stated. She could hear the awe in Ava’s voice.

Ava nodded. “Completely. I didn’t deserve any kindness from her, not after the way I’d behaved. It wasn’t until after Scout was being looked at that I saw for myself what Mick and Laurel had talked about. Sara went back into cop mode and told me she was going to go contact the other dog owner for the attack and for having his dog off leash. When I told her she didn’t have to, that I would contact animal control in the morning she said that she didn’t want the man letting his dog off leash in the morning with kids walking to school.” She remembered how amazed she’d been with her at that moment. “She had calculated future consequences for how she handled the call in a matter of seconds.”

“That is impressive, I have to say I don’t think I would’ve thought about the children, as long as the dog was secured.”

“That was my thought process, the threat was over. She didn’t stop there though. It was then that I really regretted everything. I hadn’t given her a chance.”

“This was the turning point for you,” Dr. Thompkins asked.

Ava nodded. “It was for me, but now, she didn’t want anything to do with me.” She laughed, she’d made a mess of things. “It wasn’t until Christmas that her sister basically told me I didn’t have a choice, I was going to their Christmas dinner. She also told me that Sara was aware I was going to be there.”

Dr. Thompkins narrowed her eyes. “Why do I have a feeling that Sara didn’t know you were coming.”

Ava laughed once again. She hadn’t expected to laugh so much at a therapy session. “Because they didn’t tell her. She’d looked like she wanted to kick me out but for some reason she didn’t and I was thankful. I apologized and asked for a second chance. She didn’t have to give it to me but I sure am glad she did.”

“Sara is a very forgiving person.” Not many people would be so quick to forgive months of mistreatment.

“She says life is too short.” Ava agreed, Sara was very forgiving. “I didn’t run into her for another month and that was when I had my attack. I had been embarrassed when I’d come out of my panic attack and realized where I was and who was there with me. But Sara acted like it was the most natural thing in the world. She’s been teaching me how to cope. She’s been really good for me.”

 

***...***

 

Unlike her previous appointment when Ava finished with her session she pulled out her phone to message Sara. She wasn’t surprised to find an unread message from here .

“Up for a girls night?”

She smiled down at her phone.  “Girls night sounds good.”  She could do with a lot of distraction. She didn’t want to spend the evening with her thoughts.

“Great, I’ll message the ladies, your place or mine?”  Sara had a feeling she already knew the answer.

“Mine, if that’s okay. Bring Justice.”  She enjoyed spending time at Sara’s place but after her therapy session she didn’t trust that she’d be okay somewhere else, even if she had Sara and Scout with her. She wanted to be in the comfort of her own home.

 

***...***

 

“Hey,” Ava greeted a few hours later. “I ordered some pizza. Should be here in the next half hour.”

“Perfect because believe it or not, I’m hungry.” Sara laughed when Ava muttered ‘shocker’.

“Knock knock.” Laurel stuck her head through the door before walking in. “Hey sis.” She hugged her sister. “Hey Ava.” She hugged the firefighter. “Good call on the girls night by the way. Mick and Leonard are going out too, I think they’re making it a guys night, Mick said something about Carter, Barry, Ray and Nate, joining them.”

“So then you don’t have to be home anytime soon.” Sara was excited for a night with all her lady friends. She spent plenty of time with Laurel but her sister always felt guilty not being with Mick when they were both off.

“I’ll get that.” Ava went to answer the door when the doorbell rang, leaving the sisters alone to catch up. “Caitlin,” she greeted.

“Hey, Ava this is Iris, Barry Allen’s wife, he works on Sara’s shift.” Caitlin introduced the two women.

Ava was familiar with the officer, she’d responded to a few calls with him. “Iris as in Iris West-Allen,” she asked, putting two and two together. Iris nodded. “I’m a fan of your work.” She shook Iris’ hand and led her inside to where Laurel and Sara had made themselves comfortable on the couch.

“Thank you.” Iris had been worried about intruding since she didn’t know Ava, but once again, Barry had been right, she’d be fine.

Zari and Kendra arrived together shortly after, followed by Amaya and Lisa.

Ava had been amazed how easily the conversation flowed between the group. She looked around at the women that had made themselves comfortable on the couch and floor. She’d been worried there’d be too many people for her to be around but she’d been glad Sara had suggested the girls night. This was definitely what she’d needed. She wasn’t used to having friends outside of work but she was slowly realizing she liked it very much. She smiled, catching Sara looking at her with a knowing smile.

“Oh my god that is so cute.” Amaya shrieked, pointing at the animals. She pulled out her phone to take a picture.

The group stopped talking long enough to see what had Amaya so distracted. They all let out a resounding awe. Scout and Justice were curled up around each with with Siren stretched out on top of them.

“Oh sure, she gets along and cuddles with a dog just fine, but me she can’t stand.” Sara grumbled. She was glad her dog got along with Ava’s pets but she still couldn’t figure out why Siren disliked her so much.

“Wait are you saying Siren doesn’t like you,” Amaya asked. “She likes everyone. What did you do.” Ava had brought the cat in to be examined and the staff had loved her.

“Why does everyone assume I did something,” Sara whined.

“You do refer to her as ‘ the cat ’ anytime you talk about her.” Ava had told her to try being nicer.

“Whatever, I’m getting another drink, anyone want a refill.” Sara stood up and looked at the mostly empty glasses. “Laurel you haven’t touched your soda.” Laurel hadn’t touched alcohol in almost two years and no one pushed her to. She normally drank four or five sodas instead, except tonight she hadn’t even started on the first one.

“I’m trying to cut back on my caffeine intake, trying to get healthy.” She explained finally taking a sip of her Pepsi.

“Oh please you’re the healthiest one of us, what gives.” Sara wasn’t convinced her sister wasn’t drinking to be healthy. The group of women were all in great shape but it wasn’t because most of them ate healthy, a lot of it had to do with the amount of time they spent at work or at the gym.

“Okay, okay, you got me. We weren’t going to tell anyone yet but Mick and I have been trying for a baby. So I’ve been trying to cut back on my caffeine intake.” She smiled as her sister registered what she’d just said.

“Wait, what,” she exclaimed, the drinks all but forgotten. “You’re working on making me an aunt,” she asked trying to hide the tears that were welling up in her eyes. “No more soda for you, you get water or juice, actually just water.” Sara pushed the drink away from her sister.

“Laurel that’s so exciting.” The rest of the group congratulated her.

“We’re excited, it’s been a bit of a struggle but we’re hopeful, Mick has been amazing.” Not a lot of people got to see the protective, loving side that she got to see. Sure he was protective with his friends but it was nothing to how caring and protective he was of her.

“Is that why he abandoned me with Gary, is that what your appointment was for,” Ava asked. The thought of Gary’s driving making her nauseous all over again.

“That would be why.” Laurel laughed.

“I guess I forgive you, but only because you had a good reason.” She was beyond happy for her partner and his wife.

They spent the rest of the night discussing everyone else’s relationships, enjoying the pizza and their time together.

“I was thinking we have the barbecue at our house,” Lisa told Ava and Sara as she stood in the doorway, ready to leave. Once everyone had left they discussed their plan in introducing Leonard to Ray.

“That’s a great idea.” Sara was eager to meet Ray. She wanted to judge for herself whether this man was good enough for her partner.

“Let me talk to Ray and see what his plans are first, then we’ll set a date.” Ava was determined to get him there. It would be hard trying to fit several schedules together but they were going to make it happen.

“You have my number now so just let me know.” Lisa smiled at the pair. She hugged them and left, leaving them alone.

“Not a bad end to the day.” Ava sighed, shrinking into the cushions of the couch.

Sara nodded dropping down beside her, their sides touching. “You want some alone time.” She wasn’t sure if Ava was done being around people. A lot of interaction with people could cause over stimulation.

Ava shook her head. “No, unless you need to leave.”

“Nope, I’m perfectly content just hanging out. It can be a bit overwhelming having all of them over at once but they’re good people.” She didn’t talk or hang out with the ladies that had spent the evening with them every day, but she knew if she ever needed any of them, they would drop everything to help her. She would do the same for them.

“I really like them.” Ava could definitely see herself becoming friends with all the women that had just left. “You okay,” she asked. She’d noticed Sara discreetly rubbing her side all night.

Sara removed her hand from her side and layed it in her lap. “Yeah, the cold.” She motioned towards the window, the weather had turned from warm to cold unexpectedly. “Makes my scars ache sometimes.”

Ava’s gaze once again fell onto Sara’s midsection. “Can I,” she asked.

Sara lifted the side of her shirt watching Ava’s reaction. Ava had seen her scars once already but that had been for a brief moment and at a distance. This close, Sara was sure Ava could see the raised skin and the jagged edges.

Ava’s hand reached out and hovered over the scars before finally touching the worst of them. “Does this,” she cleared her throat. “Does this one bother you the most.” She ran her finger along the scar that began on Sara’s abdomen and ran around to her back. Ava could feel the scar tissue under the raised skin. This one looked far worse than the ones she’d seen on Sara’s back.

Sara tensed under Ava’s initial touch and nodded. “It’s one of the worst ones, I have a few on my back that flare up but not like this one.” She tried to massage the scar as often as she could to break away some of the scar tissue but it never seemed to be enough. Outside of physically seeing her scars, the weather and the pain it caused always reminded her of her time in captivity.

“Sorry,” Ava apologized. “I didn’t mean to push.” She’d noticed Sara’s distant look.

Sara smiled and grabbed her hand. “Don’t apologize, I’ve come to accept the scars, they’re a part of me, and as awful as they are, they remind me that I survived.”

Ava lowered Sara’s shirt and settled beside her with her hand resting on Sara’s abdomen covering the scar, occasionally rubbing it.  

 

***...***

 

Mick returned from the bar a few hours later. He showered and slid into bed being careful not wake his sleeping wife.

“Hi,” she whispered, moving to lay across his chest.

“I didn’t mean to wake you.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Go back to sleep.” He kissed the top of her head and closed his eyes.

“You know I don’t sleep as well when you’re not here.” She always slept better when he was there. She missed his presence when he wasn’t around and so her sleep was always light. “How was your night with the guys.”

“It was good. It went from a small gathering to about a dozen of us. I invited Gary, hoping it would give him some life experience but that boy is almost beyond help. He fell off a bar stool after his first drink.” He chuckled thinking about the young firefighter. “How was your night.”

“Same, minus the drinking part. I may have told the ladies that we’re trying to have a baby, they were very happy for us. Sara can’t wait to be an aunt.” She smiled when he laughed. He’d told her that she’d be the first to break and tell people and she’d argued with him until he’d backed down. “Don’t say it.” She was waiting for the, I told you so.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about doll.” He knew better than to say, I told you so. “How were Ava and Sara, still friends.” He changed the subject before he got himself in trouble.

Laurel sighed. “Yup. I don’t know what they’re waiting for. Even a blind person can see the attraction is there. You should’ve seen them Micky, they were eyeing each other all night.” It had taken everything in her not to ask them when they’d started dating. She’d promised Sara she wouldn’t push her and so she’d kept quiet. “I need to have breakfast with my dear sister, see what’s holding her back.”

“Don’t push doll, they need to figure things out on their own. They’re friends now, isn’t that what you wanted.”

“It is, I just want Sara to be happy, like I am.” She lifted her head to place a kiss on his cheek. “I love you Mick, you make me so unbelievably happy, I just want for Sara to have what we have.”

“I know you do, but neither Sara nor Ava are the types of people to be pushed or rushed, let them do things on their own time.” He tilted her chin up so he could kiss her. “Enough about them, about that baby.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Laurel smiled, she was overwhelmed with how much she loved this man and how happy he made her.

Chapter Text

Friendship is the comfort of knowing that even when you feel alone, you aren’t. -Unknown

 

“You’re glowing,” Sara told her sister the next morning. “Someone didn’t go straight to bed after they got home,” she teased Laurel. Sara held her at arms length to get a good look at her.

“Oh grow up Sara.” She pushed Sara’s hands away so she could sit.

“I’m not the one blushing because of a sexual innuendo.” Sara pointed out. “So how is the baby making going. By the blush on your face, I’m guessing it’s going well.”

“Things are going just fine, if you must know.” Laurel loved her sister but sometimes she was just too much. “How are things with Ava, still just friends.” She’d promised Mick she’d leave the whole Ava and relationship thing alone but she really didn’t feel like talking about her sex life with her sister.

Sara narrowed her eyes. “We’re just friends.” She picked up the menu and pretended to look through it.

“You put that menu down Sara Lance, we come here at least once a month and you always get the same thing, you can’t fool me little sister.” Laurel pushed the menu down.

“There is nothing going on, we’re friends.” She put the menu down. “Just friends.” She added, she really needed her sister to drop it. Since she and Ava had become friends it was the one question she could count on her sister to ask every time they talked, whether in person or on the phone.

“You are not fooling anyone, except maybe yourself. I saw you two last night. You need to ask her out.”

Sarah sighed. “We are just friends, I’m not asking her out.”

“Why not,” she asked. “You two aren’t dating and she makes you happy, imagine if you were.” She absolutely believed in friendships, but she knew there was a lot more for her sister and Ava.

“Because she’s healing Laurel, can you please let it go, for now at least.” She’d thought about it several times. She wasn’t oblivious to how much happier she was since she and Ava had become friends but right now she wanted to be there for Ava as her friend. She also didn’t want her mother getting in on this conversation, it had taken weeks to convince her that she and Ava were just friends after the Christmas dinner.

“Fine, fine, no pushing, promise.” She crossed her heart. She’d drop it for now. She could tell Sara was serious and for a split second she seemed sad that she couldn’t date her friend. “Ladies night was fun.” She changed the subject.

“It was, it was long overdue.” Sara agreed. Not only had it been fun, it had also served its purpose and that was to distract Ava.

“Mick said the guys had a great time too, we’ll have to do it again. Oh, there is mom.” Laurel stood up to wave her over to their table. “Hey mom.” she hugged her and took a seat.

“Hi mom.” Sara did the same.

“Hello darlings, it is beautiful out today.” She loved her time with her daughters. She enjoyed the time spent with them without the rest of the family. The male half of the family. “So tell me girls, what’s knew.”

Laurel talked about work, the new cases she’d been assigned and the struggle she was having with a particular case.

Sara shrugged, not much had really changed in her life outside of her and Ava becoming friends. “There’s a new hiking spot that Justice and I went to, he really enjoyed it. We’re going to go hiking later.” To her relief Laurel didn’t bring up Ava and acted as a distraction when her mother did and in turn she didn’t tell their mother that Laurel and Mick were trying to conceive. Her mother had not been subtle about wanting grandkids and she was not going to open that door. Even if Laurel hadn’t bailed her out, she wouldn’t have subjected her sister to that.

After breakfast Sara went home, changed and returned to Ava’s.

 

***...***

 

“How was breakfast,” Ava asked once they started the hike.

“It was good, had a lot of catching up to do with mom and Laurel. Mom was all over her about wanting grandkids. I think she senses that something is up.”

“Poor Laurel. Did you tell your mom,” she asked.

Sara shook her head. “Most definitely not, I could never do that to Laurel, she’d never hear the end of it.”

“What about you,” she asked.

“What about me,” Sara asked. “Do I want kids, or is my mother harassing me about having kids.”

Ava shrugged, “Both I guess.”

“I’m not sure I can have kids.” Sara’s hand dropped to her stomach, her fingers running across the scars. “Mom brought it up once and she felt awful once she realized it. She hasn’t brought it up again.”

“Sara, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” Ava had a habit of putting her foot in her mouth when it concerned Sara.

Sara waved her off. She wasn’t upset, there was no way Ava would’ve known. “Like you said, you didn’t know. It took a while but I accepted the fact that I would never have my own kids. Adoption is always an option. What about you, do you want kids,” she asked.

Ava didn’t answer for half a minute. “I haven’t thought much about it, there were times I didn’t think I’d ever make it back to the states. Settling down and starting a family was never a primary concern of mine. I got so used to pushing people away, being alone, I didn’t think about having a family of my own.”

“Being alone is a sad way to live. My family can be a pain in the ass at times but I wouldn’t give them up for anything. I don’t think I would have survived without them.”

“Being around you guys on Christmas Day made me jealous for the first time in a long time. My family was never close, not the sentimental kind, as you recall, it was nice being around yours.”

“Well you’re more than welcome to spend time with my family, speaking of which, we have family dinner tomorrow, it’s at my house, you should come.”

Ava immediately shook her head. “No Sara, I don’t want to intrude on your family dinner.”

Sara rolled her eyes and shoved her gently. “I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear you say that. You’re coming, it’s final.” Sara was sure her family would be more than happy to have Ava for dinner, the only dilemma would be convincing her mom that she and Ava were not dating. She would need to get Laurel’s help with that.

“Okay fine, do I need to bring anything,” she asked, her nerves already kicking in. She’d already met the family but this was different, this was their intimate family dinner.

“No need, mom usually comes over early when it’s at my place and does the cooking.” Sara had told them several times that they didn’t need to keep her house in the rotation since she never helped with any of the cooking but they refused, saying it was only fair that her place was included.

Ava thought about that for a second before making a decision. “How about you tell your mom to come over at a normal time and I’ll do the cooking.”

“Ava, no.” Sara shot that down immediately. “I didn’t invite you over to cook, I invited you so you could enjoy the family gathering.”

“I know that Sara, I want to.” If she was going to intrude on the family’s dinner the least she could do was help with the cooking.

“You’re sure,” she asked, she loved Ava’s cooking so if Ava was sure, she would not turn down her delicious food.

“I’m sure.” She nodded, already thinking about what she’d make. She followed Sara down the trail. “Let’s go eat and then we have to go grocery shopping. I’ve seen your fridge and there is not enough food to feed one person let alone a family that includes you and Mick. Honestly, I don’t know where you two put all of that food.”

“So dramatic.” Sara didn’t think she ate that much.

“Sara you had almost a whole pizza on your own last night.” Ava reminded her. “A large pizza, I might add.”

Sara couldn’t argue that, she had been pretty hungry. “Let’s go.” Sara pulled at their joined hands picking up the pace, the thought of food motivating her.

Once their shopping was complete Sara was tasked with unloading the groceries while Ava went back to her place to pack a bag for the night and retrieve the dogs they’d dropped off earlier.

“You’re going to start cooking now,” Sara asked a few hours later. She wasn’t sure what Ava was making that required overnight cooking.  

Ava shook her head. “No, but if I marinate the chicken thighs tonight they can soak up the flavor of the herbs overnight and that way I don’t have to do it tomorrow.”

“Need any help.” Sara hopped onto the kitchen counter watching Ava work.

“Not with this, but if you want to get the bowls, the mac and cheese is almost ready.” She covered the chicken and put it in the now fully stocked fridge.

“Ava this is amazing.” Sara scooped another spoonful of the mac and cheese. “Way better than the boxed stuff. Thanks for compromising and using the shells, they’re my favorite.” Ava had been more than happy to compromise after Sara had picked up a box of the processed cheese.

“You’re welcome. Thank you for not making me eat that awful boxed stuff.” She cringed just thinking about it.

“Hey, I don’t have someone to cook for me, I do what I need, to survive.” She preferred the boxed stuff over eating out everyday.

“We’re going to change that.” Sara wouldn’t survive long eating the things she did. “We’ll start tomorrow, you’ll help me make dinner.”

Sara almost choked. “You want me to do what,” she asked, already feeling terrified.

“I promise, you’ll be fine.” She patted her forearm. “You’ll just dice veggies.”

Sara thought about that. “I can handle that.” Dicing she could work with. “Come on,” she stood up a few hours after dinner, Ava was half asleep beside her. “I’m not doing another night on the couch, we can share the bed.”

Ava didn’t immediately follow, she eyed the couch for a few seconds and looked at Sara. She knew the couch was not as comfortable as the bed, she also knew that if she stayed out on the couch, then Sara would be right there beside her. She stood up and followed Sara, she’d kept her up a good portion of the night the night before, she didn’t want to do that to her a second night.

The canines curled up together on the floor in front of the bed after being let out. Sara climbed into bed and watched Ava’s tense body as she laid on her back, staring at the ceiling. She turned on her side to face Ava. When after a minute Ava didn’t say anything she took hold of Ava’s hand, that got a reaction out of her.

“Sorry,” she apologized. “I was in my head.” She explained, turning on her side to face Sara. She put her other hand over Sara’s.

“Wanna talk about it.” As tired as she felt, she couldn’t let Ava stay up by herself.

“I, I’m afraid of what I’m going to see.” She remembered the nightmares from the night before and she wasn’t ready to face them again. She was afraid that tonight’s dreams would be worse. Her retelling of her team’s ambush to Dr. Thompkins had triggered a new set of nightmares.  

“I want you to wake me.” She didn’t want Ava dealing with her nightmares on her own. “I mean it Aves.”  

“Okay.” She conceded though she wasn’t sure she’d actually do it. She didn’t want Sara tired at her family’s dinner.

“Come here.” Sara rolled on her back and held her arm out for Ava to move closer.

Ava moved without hesitation. She curled her body around Sara’s, resting her head on her chest hoping the steady heartbeat would ease her mind. Sara’s heart rate was faster than she’d expected. She lifted her head to look at Sara.

Sara moved her hand from Ava’s side to the center of her upper back and pushed her back down. “This is new.” She explained, her heart rate had been just as bad the night before but Ava hadn’t laid her head on her chest so she hadn’t felt it. “It’ll settle down in a few minutes.” Her hand settled against Ava’s side again. “I hope,” she said after it didn’t immediately calm down.   

Ava didn’t want Sara to be embarrassed so she grabbed Sara’s other hand, pulling it towards her own chest. She held their hands there for Sara to feel her own heart racing. “You’re not alone.”

Sara was glad she wasn’t the only one who’s heart was racing. “Are you comfortable,” Sara asked.

Ava nodded against her chest.

“Good, remember what I said, I want you to wake me.” She interlaced her fingers with Ava’s. “Good night Ava.”

“Night Sara.” She sighed contently before closing her eyes.

Sara woke up to an empty bed, she looked around the room for Ava. She panicked when she didn’t find her or the dogs. She climbed out of bed in search of the firefighter. “I thought I told you to wake me.” She must’ve been really tired not to have felt Ava leave the bed. She found her sitting on the couch staring off into space with a dog on either side of her.

“You looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you. I’m sorry,” she apologized once Sara stood in front of her.

Sara knelt down in front of Ava. “Ava you don’t have to apologize. Talk to me.” She wiped at the tears that started to fall.

“I can’t stop seeing it.” She looked down at her hands, rubbing them together.

Sara covered Ava’s hands with her own. “What are you seeing.”

“Jax, I can’t stop seeing Jax, dying. His blood, ” She looked down at their joined hands and shook her head. “I can’t,” she whispered.

“Oh Ava.” She knew there was nothing she could say that could take away the pain she was feeling. “Would it help if we were at your place,” she asked after a few minutes of silence. She wondered if being at Ava’s the previous night had helped her.

Ava looked at the clock on the wall and shook her head. “It’s after midnight.”

“Your point.” Sara didn’t see the dilemma, she didn’t care what time it was, not if it would help Ava in any way.

Ava smiled, Sara was really good at pushing the darkness away, even when she wasn’t trying. “Sara it’s late, we have to come back here tomorrow. I’ll be fine.”

Sara shook her head. “We don’t have to be here until late afternoon, put your shoes on, I’m driving.”

“Sara,” Ava argued.

“The more time you waste arguing the less time we have to sleep.” She stood up pulling Ava with her. “Justice, Scout, let’s go.” She let go of Ava’s hands and started for the door, she turned around when Ava didn’t follow, and if Ava didn’t follow, it meant the dogs weren’t going to leave her side either. She grabbed her keys, put her shoes on and opened the door and stared at Ava expectantly.

Ava sighed, she knew Sara was right, she’d be a lot more comfortable in familiar surroundings. Maybe going back to her place wasn’t a bad idea, at this rate neither of them would get any sleep. She stood up and put her shoes on following Sara out the door.

 

***...***

 

“Ave darling, this meal is amazing.” Dinah commented.

Quentin nodded beside her. “One of the best.”

Ava blushed, she was used to people praising her cooking, but it felt different when the praise was coming from Sara’s family. “Thank you, but I didn’t do it all myself, Sara helped.” And just like that, everyone stopped eating and looked at her in disbelieve. “She did.” She confirmed.

“Don’t act so shocked.” Sara rolled her eyes. “I cut up these perfectly cubed veggies.” She stuck a fork into a potato, showing it to them before putting it in her mouth.

“You both did a wonderful job.” Dinah had been surprised when Sara had told her not to come early, that dinner was taken care of. Sara never invited anyone to their family dinner.

“Thank you again for having me, cooking dinner was the least I could do.” Ava had been extremely nervous when Sara’s family had arrived. Sara had been right, per usual, they hadn’t missed a beat. They’d immediately welcomed her and treated her as one of their own.

“You cook like this and you’re welcome to every dinner.” Mick said around a mouth full of food.

Laurel elbowed him. “Don’t talk with food in your mouth.” She was glad Ava had joined them and she didn’t want her dad or Mick’s teasing to push the two further back into the friend zone.

He chuckled and kissed her cheek once he swallowed the food in his mouth. “Yes dear.”

Sara was relieved that her family hadn’t made a big deal of Ava being there, they’d been extremely welcoming, too welcoming where her mother was concerned. Ava was banished from the kitchen for the clean up since she had done the cooking. Sara of course had tried to get out of the cleaning since she’d helped cook but her family would have none of it.

“So you invited Ava to the family dinner.” She emphasized family. “What happened to taking things slow and being her friend.” Laurel stood shoulder to shoulder with Sara as one washed while the other dried the dishes.

“We are friends, nothing has changed. Ava needs to be around family and there is no better family than ours.”

“You’re right there little sister. I’m glad you did, she fits right in.” Laurel bumped Sara’s shoulder. “I’ll finish up here, go find Ava before she’s cornered by dad.”

Sara looked around for her dad, she got a little worried when she didn’t find him or Mick. “Thanks.” She went in search of Ava. She was relieved to find her father in the living room, if he was here it meant he wasn’t interrogating Ava somewhere. “Hey dad, have you seen Ava,” she asked looking around the room.

“I think she went outside a little bit ago, sit.” He patted the cushion beside him.

Sara settled beside her dad. “We’re just friends,” she said it before he could say anything.

“I wasn’t going to say anything about that, but remind me to later.” He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. His daughter was quick to deny whatever relationship she had with the firefighter. “Is she alright, she seemed a bit tired, as do you.”

Sara didn’t know what to say without sharing too much, she didn’t feel it was her place to say. “Just a long night, we’re good.”

The seriousness in her voice told him she wasn’t going to tell him anymore. “If you need to talk.” He left the sentence unfinished.

“I know, thanks dad. I’m good. I’m going to go find Ava.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek and stood up. “Hey mom. Thank you both for welcoming Ava.”

“Of course sweetheart, she’s a darling.” Her mother hugged her. “I think our daughter is falling for a firefighter.” She told her husband once Sara was out of the room.

Quentin wrapped an arm around his wife. “Looks that way. Mick will have back up soon.” Not only was their daughter falling for the firefighter it was clear that the firefighter was also falling for their daughter.

 

***...***

 

“You and Sara have a long night.” Mick sat beside Ava on the porch swing and raised his eyebrows suggestively, handing her a beer.

“Not that kind of night.” She elbowed him. “We’ve been over this, we’re just friends.” Even if she wanted more with Sara she wasn’t in a place to offer Sara the kind of relationship she deserved.

Mick looked at her sideways. “I was teasing.”

“I know, I’m sorry.” She sighed. “I haven’t been sleeping well and the past two nights have been worse than usual, I’m a bit on edge.” She apologized.

“You don’t have to explain. Sara gets this way sometimes, especially after one of her therapy sessions.” He left it there in case she wanted to talk.

Mick was far too observant. “I started therapy a few weeks ago,” she said quietly, she was surprised that she didn’t feel uncomfortable talking to Mick about this though she didn’t plan on making it a habit. He said nothing, instead he grunted and took a sip of his beer. “The county shooting brought up a lot of issues, issues I thought I’d dealt with.” She played with the label on her beer bottle. “I’ve had nightmares for years, they’re nothing new, the shooting intensified them, it took me back to my last deployment.” She set the beer down on the ground and tucked her legs underneath her, getting more comfortable. “Sara made me realize that I needed to get help and doing things on my own hadn’t done me any good.” The lack of sleep was starting to get to her.

“It took Sara a while to get to where she is today, from what she and Laurel have told me, she made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, mistakes she probably wants you to avoid.” He tried not to react when Ava’s head fell on his shoulder, her eyes drooping closed. This was the most intimate moment he’d ever shared with someone he’d worked with and he wasn’t sure of what to do next. He settled for pretending he didn’t notice and drank his beer in silence instead, gently moving the swing back and forth. He looked up when the door to the backyard opened and Sara walked out.

She smiled at the sight. “She okay,” she asked.

“She will be, now if you could.” He motioned towards Ava.

Sara sat on Ava’s other side and gently tugged her towards her. “Thanks Mick.”

He nodded, grabbed Ava’s abandoned beer and went back inside to find his wife.

“Sara,” Ava mumbled, shifting against her.

Sara tightened her hold. “It’s me, wanna go to bed inside,” she asked. Ava shook her head. “Okay, we can just stay out here.” She didn’t mind staying out, the weather was nice and having Ava curled up around her was something she was starting to enjoy. As the minutes passed her own eyelids grew heavy, she settled her head against Ava’s and closed her eyes, her family could let themselves out.

Laurel and Mick stepped out to say goodbye a little later to find them both sound asleep. “Hey babe can you get the blanket from the couch, it’s getting a bit chilly.” Mick retrieved the blanket and handed it to her. “Just friends my ass.” She covered the pair with the blanket and followed Mick back inside as he told her to leave it be. “Four months Micky, four.” Her sister and Ava had been friends for over four months, she couldn’t believe they weren’t dating yet. Mick turned and looked at her with that look that said ‘I mean it’. “I know, I know, they’ll figure it out on their own.” She accepted the hug he gave her and melted against him when he kissed the top of her head. “I love you.”

“I love you too doll. Let’ go home.”

Chapter Text

Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.

Anyway. Still. Despite. -Wentworth Miller

 

“Need us to bring anything?” Sara sent the message to Lisa, it had taken some work and some convincing, but Leonard had finally agreed to host the barbecue at his house. Sara knew he’d eventually concede, the difficult part then became keeping him from taking overtime to avoid the event all together.

“Us, huh? I didn’t realize you two had become an us, miss we’re ‘just friends’.” Lisa replied back a minute later.

Sara rolled her eyes. She felt as though she’d been doing that a lot, rolling her eyes. Ever since she and Ava became friends. She couldn’t go a few days without one of her friends or her sister asking if she and Ava had gotten together yet. Of course Laurel coming out to see them curled up and sleeping together after their family dinner two weeks back had not helped matters. “Ha. Ha. Ha. For your information, we ARE just friends. We’re riding together. That’s all.” She knew the ‘just friends’ act wasn’t holding up anymore. She and Ava spent way too much time together and talked too often for her friends to accept that they were just friends since Sara didn’t talk to any of them for more than a few minutes and she definitely didn’t hang out with any of them more than once or twice a month, work permitting.

“Riiiiight.” Lisa replied. Sara and Ava could say they were friends as many times as they’d like, they weren’t fooling anyone. “We’ll deal with your denial later, as far as needing anything, grab some chips and dip please.”

Sara was about to roll eyes but stopped herself, she laughed, she could almost hear her mother’s voice in her head saying her eyes would get stuck in the back of her head with how often she rolled them.

“What,” Ava asked from the driver’s seat.

Sara shook her head. “Nothing, Lisa is being her usual self, she wants us to get some chips and dip.”

Ava nodded, she noticed Sara rolled her eyes a lot, especially when talking to Laurel or Lisa, she’d thought about asking what it was they were saying that warranted that reaction but thought better of it. Sara would tell her if she wanted to.

“You’re here,” Lisa greeted the pair excitedly, taking the grocery bags they’d brought. “The others are in the back, some of them are already in the pool.” They’d gotten really lucky with the weather and having everyone off on the same day. “When is Ray getting here.” She couldn’t wait to meet him.   

Ava looked down at her wrist to check the time. “Next half hour, he had a thing with his parents.” Ray was close to his parents and made it a point to see them often. She’d spent some time with them after her first deployment with Ray. She liked them very much, they had sent her and Ray some of the best care packages while they were on deployment even though they hadn’t known her.

“Good, Lenny already started on the burgers.” She directed the statement to Sara. The woman never turned down food.

“Awesome, I’m starving.” Sara was out the door before either of them could say a word.

Ava shared a look with Lisa. “You’d think I’d get used to that.”

It was comments like this that made it hard to believe the two weren’t dating. She shook her head, they would have to be her next mission. She had Leonard to deal with first. “You’ll learn not to bother, and of course always have food on hand.” She opened the refrigerator door and pulled out a beer and a bottle of wine and held up the options for Ava to pick from.

“Wine please.”

Lisa glanced down at the beer for a second before handing it Ava. “Sara can have the beer since she’s not here to choose.”  She poured a glass of wine, handing it to Ava.

“About time you got here,” Leonard said in way of greeting.

“Someone’s grouchy.” She shoulder bumped him. “Hey guys.” She waved at the group already in the pool and the ones sitting around it that included her sister and Mick and the ladies sunbathing.

“Get in here.” Carter and Nate splashed water towards her.

“Soon,” she promised. “What’s got you so moody.”

“I have a feeling that Lisa is up to something, do you know anything about that,” he asked. He eyed the sliding glass door that lead back into the house where his sister was currently hiding.

Sara looked away suspiciously. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She moved back towards the door. “I’ll be right back, I’m gonna grab a drink.”

“Sara,” he called after her. “Sara get back here.” He sighed when she disappeared inside. Now he was sure something was up, he was also sure that Sara and Lisa were not the only ones in on it. Mick and Laurel had retreated to their corner rather quickly once they’d gotten there. It wasn’t like Mick not to join him at the grill.

“Len is definitely suspicious.” Sara shut the door behind her and grabbed the beer Ava offered. “Thanks.”

“Why do you think I’m in here and not out there.” Her brother was too observant and too suspicious for his own good.

“Sara, don’t tell me you’re hiding too,” Ray asked, a big knowing smile on his face.

Sara punched his arm, pushing him towards the door. “I don’t hide, I came in for a drink.” She was definitely hiding.

“Sure you did. Hey Ava.” He greeted the fire fighter. “So, you guys wanna let me in on what you have planned.” There had to be something going on.

“There is nothing going on Ray. Excuse me.” Lisa left to answer the door. “Hey, you must be Ray, I’m so glad you could make it.” She gave him a quick once over pleased with what she was seeing.

Ray smiled brightly. “Sorry we’re late.” He apologized. He hadn’t planned on staying with his parents so long but he’d lost track of time, which wasn’t unusual when he was with them.

“Don’t worry about it. You couldn’t find a more flexible group if you tried, come on in.” She lead Ray and his friend to the kitchen. All of their professions required them to go into work unexpected, or work late. They weren’t bothered when people didn’t show up on time or when plans had to be changed.

“Hey Ray,” Ava greeted, hugging him. “Guys, this is Ray Terrill, we did a couple tours together. Ray, these are Lisa, Sara and Ray Palmer.” Things were going to get confusing having two Rays.

“Nice to meet you all.” He was especially happy to meet Sara, Ava had accidentally mentioned her when inviting him to the barbecue. She’d been quick to change the subject when he’d asked about her which had only peaked his interest. “This is my partner, Nora Darhk. She didn’t have plans for the weekend so I dragged her out to breakfast with my parents and the barbecue, I hope that’s alright.”

“Darhk, as in.” Ray Palmer didn’t finish his question. His eyes traveled to Sara who had tensed beside him.

“She is nothing like Damien Darhk. I wouldn’t have invited her if she was anything like her father.” Ray immediately jumped in to defend her, this was the exact reason Nora had not wanted to come to Star City, especially not to a house filled with cops.

The group jumped at the sound of glass shattering. Their attention turned to Sara, her hand was now empty and gripping the kitchen island, her breathing becoming more labored with each passing second.

“That’s not good.” Lisa muttered. “Sara,” she said calmly.

Sara continued to look past her and straight at Nora, her eyes distant. She tried to talk but the words wouldn’t come out, she squeezed her eyes shut trying to control her breathing but her usual techniques weren’t working which caused her to panic further.

“Ray.” Lisa looked at their Ray. “Take Nora out back. Ava, I want you to get Laurel and Leonard.” This was not at all how she’d planned for this day to go. The pair didn’t question her and did as they were told. Nora looked between Sara, Lisa and Ray before allowing the tall brunette to guide her out.

“I should leave, I knew this was going to be a bad idea. I was stupid to think I’d be welcomed in a house full of cops in a city my father did unspeakable things in.” Nora tried to push Ray’s hand off of her shoulder but he wouldn’t budge.

“Look, you just caught Sara off guard. She has suffered the most at his hands, she didn’t have her guard up and wasn’t prepared to hear his name, let alone meet his daughter.” The guilt he saw on Nora’s face alone told him that she wasn’t anything like her father. “Let Sara catch her breath, you are not your father, these guys will see that. You wouldn’t be a person who risked her life to save others if you were anything like him. Stay, outside for now.” He said the last line with a smile hoping to lighten the mood. He was pleased with the half smile she gave him.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I think it would be best if I left.”

“Nora, you’re not the only one here with a criminal for a parent, if there was ever a place you fit in, it’s with this lot.” He turned her back towards the pool. “Come meet everyone else.”

Nora reluctantly allowed Ray to lead her towards the pool area where the remainder of the group was. She was used to people hating and judging her, that was nothing new. What she wasn’t used to seeing was the look she’d just seen in Sara’s eyes. Recognition, followed by fear and then panic. It was in that moment that she’d put two and two together. This Sara was the cop, the one that her father had kidnapped and tortured so many years before. She felt sick to her stomach.

 

***...***

 

Ava returned with Leonard, Laurel and Mick a minute later and moved back to stand beside Sara. She’d never been with Sara during an attack, she was always so in touch with her feelings and emotions, she was able to snap herself out of any situation before it escalated into a panic attack. Ava quickly realized she had no idea what to do.   

“What happened,” Laurel asked, moving to stand in front of her sister.

“Ava’s friend Ray brought Nora Darhk.” Lisa answered.

Laurel’s head whipped around, she glared at Ray. “What were you thinking.”

“Look I didn’t know there was history, like I’ve already said, she is nothing like her father, she’s one of us.” He felt like everything was moving in slow motion. This was not what he’d expected when he’d invited Nora. Sure there was going to be resistance, there always was but it never took long for people to look passed Nora’s family ties because of the genuinely kind person she was. He had hoped that given the opportunity this group would come to accept her also, though with the way things were going, he was losing his optimism.

“Laurel.” Mick got her attention and pointed to Sara, she’d only gotten worse since they’d entered.

“Right, Leonard, go to Sara’s get Justice.” She instructed, focusing her attention on her sister once again.

Ava shook her head. “He’s at my place with Scout. I can go get them.”

“No, I’ll go get them, I know your address.” Ray offered. It was obvious that Ava didn’t want to leave and since this was a mess he had inadvertently created, he’d help fix it.

Ava nodded, grateful she wouldn’t have to leave Sara’s side.

“I’m driving.” Leonard wanted to get there fast. Being a cop in the city you lived in had its privileges. He was sure he wouldn’t get pulled over, the officers knew him and knew well enough that if he was speeding, it was for a good reason.

“Look, had I known the fallout of bringing Nora, I wouldn’t have brought her.” Ray broke the silence a few minutes into the drive, outside of accepting directions Leonard had said little to nothing to him.

Leonard nodded in response, there was nothing that could be done about it now.

Ray sat up and turned to face Leonard. “She really is nothing like Damien. She’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She works so hard to get out from behind her father’s shadow. People are awful to her, they automatically assume she’s just like him. They treat her like a criminal, and she just takes it, she turns the other cheek because she knows no matter how much good she does, she’ll never make up for the suffering her father caused.” He slumped back into his seat after giving Leonard further directions.

“I don’t think a single person in there is upset at you for bringing her. A little heads up would’ve been nice.” He sighed. “Look, Sara has been through a lot.”

Ray nodded. “Leo you have to believe I didn’t know. I didn’t know she was that Sara until a few minutes ago. I didn’t think anything of it when Ava mentioned her last week.” He was very familiar with Sara’s story, as was Nora. There weren’t many first responders that didn’t know it which was why the deputies and fire fighters had been so cold to Nora when she’d first started. She had to work hard to earn their trust and respect. They arrived at Ava’s in record time and loaded up both dogs. “Nora and I will leave as soon as we get back.” Ray assured him.  

“There’s no need for all that, we’ll talk to Sara when we get back, if Sara is okay with it, then no one will say otherwise. The last thing any of us want is for you to feel not welcomed.” He sighed when he didn’t get a response, he hated sharing personal information with strangers. “Look, we’re no strangers to criminals for parents, Mick and I come from a family of criminals, we had to forge our own paths. I’m a cop, my sister is a nurse and Mick is a firefighter married to the District Attorney.”

Ray could tell Leonard was uncomfortable sharing as much as he had which only made him appreciate him more. “Thanks Leo.”

 

***..***

 

Once Leonard and Ray left, Lisa made her way to the patio door. “I’m going to make sure everyone stays out.”  

“You good here,” Mick asked, he didn’t want to crowd Sara, she was in capable hands. Laurel nodded. “Be careful of the glass,” he warned. With that he followed Lisa out.

“Sara, can you hear me,” she asked.

Sara nodded but didn’t open her eyes.

Laurel sighed in relief, that was definitely a good sign. She placed her hands on Sara’s shoulders hoping to ground her. “Come on Sara, breath through it, you’re safe, it’s just you, me, and Ava.”

Sara squeezed her eyes shut tighter, her breathing becoming more labored. “It’s not.” She gasped. “Not working,” she cried. She knew what she needed to do, but her body was not cooperating. “I can’t breath.” She grabbed at her neck. Darkness crept around the edges of her eyes when she opened them and she swayed.

“Ava be ready to catch her.” Laurel warned, she’d been through this enough times to know what was going to happen next.

Ava didn’t have time to question Laurel because the next thing she knew Sara’s eyes rolled to the back of her head and she collapsed. Ava caught her before she could hit the ground and lifted her into her arms.

“Come on.” Laurel led the way into one of the guest rooms. “Are you okay to keep her or do you want me to take her.” Ava’s tight hold told her she wasn’t going to let go of her sister anytime soon.

“Anything I need to know,” she asked. She didn’t want to leave Sara’s side but she also didn’t want to make things worse for her either.

Laurel set the pillows up against the headboard and stepped back. “It helps if you’re sitting up with her. You have your phone,” she asked.

Ava nodded. “Back pocket.”

Laurel grabbed the phone and put it on the nightstand beside the bed. She waited for Ava to settle against the headboard before covering the pair with a blanket. She sat on the edge of the bed and tucked a strand of hair behind Sara’s ear. “I hope this doesn’t set her back.” She kissed her sister’s forehead. “We used to sit like this with her for hours at a time in the beginning. As long us we held her, she didn’t slip to deep into the past.” She continued to smooth out Sara’s hair. “The attacks were frequent and easily triggered.” Laurel fought the tears that were threatening to fall. She hated seeing her sister like this. “Sometimes I forget that she’s my little sister. She’s always so strong, so independent, always helping others. It’s easy to forget how much she’s suffered until I see her like this and she seems so small and fragile.” Her hand stilled as Sara adjusted against Ava. “Our family almost fell apart in the beginning, she never said anything but I think she blames herself. She puts on a brave face with us, even when she’s struggling. I’m glad she has you now too, you’re good for her.”

Ava remembered Sara telling her about her family almost falling apart, the push she’d needed to start the road to recovery. Sara would do anything for her family, including lying to them to protect them. “She’s been good for me too.” She gave Laurel a sad smile.

“Hey.” Leonard stuck his head through the ajar door. “Scout is outside, he must have sensed Nora’s anxiousness because he attached himself to her side the moment Ray and I got here, Justice wanted to follow.” He’d had to pull the dog away. He pushed open the door allowing him inside. Justice immediately jumped onto the bed. He settled against Sara and Ava placing his snout on Sara’s thigh, letting out a small whine.

Ava pet the dog, she was just as worried as he was. “I didn’t think they’d still be here.” She was going to send her friend a message as soon as she could, she’d thought for sure Ray would have taken Nora and left.

“Palmer convinced Nora to say,” he said hesitantly eyeing Laurel. “And I convinced Ray to stay. Mick and Sara trust you, and you trust him, we’re not going to toss him out. Ray swears she’s not like her father, and something in me tells me he’s telling the truth.” He wasn’t sure why he was defending the man he’d just met but his sad, guilt filled eyes had gotten to him.

“It’s okay Leonard.” Laurel needed to get out there and assess Nora Darhk for herself before Sara woke up. “Make sure you stay in contact with her. Justice is trained for this, once she’s awake he’ll act as a distraction. Between the two of you, she’ll be okay.” She squeezed Ava’s forearm and stood up to follow Leonard out. “Let me know if you need anything. She shouldn’t be out too long.”

Ava nodded and held Sara closer kissing the top of her head. It was no wonder Sara was always so good at dealing with her panic attacks, they were nothing in comparison to what she had to overcome.

“Ava.” Sara stirred against her but didn’t pull away.

Ava held her closer. “I’m here.”

“Laurel,” she asked.

“She’s out back, want me to get her,” she asked, already reaching for the phone on the nightstand.

“No, this is fine.” Sara shook her head, tightening her hold on Ava’s shirt. “Hey baby boy.” She greeted her dog as he sat up and licked her face. “Thanks buddy.” She pulled him against her burying her face in his fur.

Ava adjusted her hold so that Sara and Justice could both sit comfortably in her lap.

Sara was silent for a long time and Ava let the silence stand. She would sit there in silence for as long as Sara needed her too.

“I was caught off guard,” Sara began to explain. “This was a safe space so I let myself relax. When I’m at work or out in public I always prepare myself for the worst because a lot of things can happen that are out of my control. I stay alert so when the worst happens I’m ready for it. I wasn’t expecting his daughter of all people to show up at a family and friends barbecue. I got overwhelmed. It got worse when my body wouldn’t listen to my brain, I panicked. You saw how that ended.” She snuggled further into Ava when she tightened her hold on her. “When he had me, he liked to remind me that my life was literally in his hands. He got great joy out of choking me until I either passed out or nearly passed out. It was all a game to him.” She explained, her hand moved to her throat. “Anytime I get overwhelmed and can’t breath my brain goes back to a time where I was alone and helpless. I feel like I’m back in that room with him and his hand is wrapped around my throat.” She took a deep breath just to remind herself that she could.  

“You’re not alone now.” Ava repeated a line Sara had said to her dozens of times.

“No I’m not.” Sara confirmed.

“I’m really sorry Sara.” Ava apologized. “I didn’t know he’d be inviting anyone and Ray had no idea what bringing her would do.”

“He couldn’t have known.” She wasn’t angry with Ray or Ava. “I’m not upset.” She promised. “Just caught off guard.”

“What happens next,” Ava asked, wanting to be as prepared as possible.

“Not sure how this time will go. There are the nightmares, mood swings, irritability, anger, anxiety, fear.” The list was long. “It’s too soon to tell, but I’ve learned to identify most of them, I try to communicate them when I notice them so just, be patient.” Thanks to her continued therapy and the cognitive triangle she’d introduced Ava to earlier that month, she’d come to identify her thoughts, emotions and behavior. It had done wonders for her and her family once she began to identify and communicate her moods. “Sometimes I just need time and space to sort everything out and when I’m ready I’ll let you know.”  

Ava tried to pull away from her completely. “Space, right, sorry.” She apologized. She was definitely not giving Sara any space at that moment. She’d been too afraid to let go.

“Not right now.” Sara clarified, leaning against Ava once again. “Right now, this is exactly what I need.” She was content being with Ava and Justice.

Ava wrapped an arm around Sara holding her tight. With each passing moment she was more in awe of Sara. If she hadn’t seen for herself, she’d have never guessed Sara had a full blown panic attack less than an hour before. “We can stay like this as long as you want.” A few minutes later Ava found herself laughing. “Hungry,” she asked.

Sara nodded. “Think the guys left any food,” she asked while sitting up, already missing the warmth that Ava’s body provided.

“I hope so, for their sake.” Ave grabbed her phone. “Let me just.”

Sara pushed the phone down. “I’m okay.”

“Sara, they’ll understand.” She had been ready to check on whether Nora and Ray were still there.

“I promise, I appreciate that you care enough to kick your friend out but like I said, she caught me off guard. I’m prepared now, I’ll be fine.” She hoped.

Ava didn’t fight her, if Sara thought she could handle it then she wouldn’t argue, she knew her limits better than anyone. “If you change your mind.” She reminded.

“You’ll be the first to know.” She was pushing herself and she knew it but she had to know that she could handle having reminders of Darhk after all the time she spent healing and learning to cope.

The pair, along with Justice made their way down the hall, towards the kitchen. Sara stopped abruptly causing Ava to walk into her. Justice nudged her hand with his head to remind her he was there.  

Ava took hold of Sara’s other hand hoping to keep her in the present in case of another panic attack. “What’s wrong,” she asked.

Sara shook her head in an effort to clear it. She took a deep breath and listened to the women talking in the kitchen. “I’m good.” She squeezed Ava’s hand and pet Justice with her free hand.

“I’m glad Ray convinced you to stay. Whether you want to believe it or not, you fit in with this bunch.” Lisa understood better than most what it was like to have an evil man for a father. The group had taken the time to get to know Nora, none of them felt it right to kick her out because of who her father was.

“I really appreciate you saying that, I just feel sick to my stomach any time I think about what he’s done. What he did to your sister is unforgivable, I don’t want to cause her anymore pain.” She couldn’t understand why Laurel hadn’t kicked her out yet. If their roles were reversed she wasn’t sure she could be in the same room with anyone that hurt her family in that way.

“You’re right, what he did was unforgivable, but you’re not him.” It had taken Laurel a half hour before she’d been able to force herself to talk to Nora. Her first instinct had been to send her and Ray packing but one look from Mick and the sad look on Nora’s face had stopped her. Also Scout being glued to her side and the way she’d smiled down at him and talked to him had made it even harder to kick her out.

Sara took a few more calming breaths before making her presence known. “Laurel is right.” She stepped into the kitchen causing all three women to jump. Scout moved to her and Ava’s side immediately. “Look, I know you’re not him, I wasn’t expecting to hear his name, let alone meet his daughter. I try and lower my defenses around these guys otherwise Ray and Nate would end up on their backs with a broken nose for all the times they unintentionally bump into me or startle me.” She was pleased when that got a chuckle out of Nora and agreeing nods from Lisa and Laurel. “Lisa is right, you will fit in just fine with this group. You’re not the first with a criminal for a parent.”

Lisa hummed in agreement. “My dad kidnapped me and threatened to blow me up if Leonard didn’t help him rob a bank.” Lisa jumped in. “Leonard was always great at breaking into thinks as a teen.”

“Leonard and Mick were minutes away from being sentenced to a juvenile detention facility when a judge decided to give them a second chance.” Laurel added. “We are more than our past and that of our family.”

Nora wiped at the tears that started to fall, she’d never been so easily accepted. These people had more reason to hate her than anyone but they had been the quickest to look past what her father had done. “You’re sure,” she asked, looking at Sara. She was the deciding factor, if Sara couldn’t handle having her around, she’d completely understand, she’d leave without question.

Sara nodded. “I’m sure, look I just need time to prepare myself mentally anytime you come over.” She would have anxiety, she was sure of that but with preparation she would avoid an all out panic attack.

“You have no idea how much that means to me. My whole life I’ve been judged for his actions, it’s tiring, always having to prove myself.”

“Well, you have nothing else to prove here.” Lisa wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Your Ray vouched for you, Ava vouched for him, and Mick and Sara vouched for her.” They trusted Mick and Sara’s judgement.

“Speaking of Ray.” Ava spoke up for the first time. “How is that going,” she asked hoping to lighten the mood. She felt proud of herself, she had caught Sara’s attention.

“He’s a gay mess.” Nora snorted. “He’s got the hots for your brother.” She narrowed her eyes at Lisa. “Oh my god, is that what this get together was about,” she asked. “To set them up.”

The women all nodded. “I just thought they’d be perfect together.” Ava added. “I filled Lisa and Sara in and this is what we came up with.”

“God and I almost ruined it all.”

“Stop that.” Sara snapped. “You didn’t ruin anything.” She gave Ava’s hand a squeeze before releasing it. She moved to the other side of the kitchen counter, the dogs following closely. She grabbed a glass from the cupboard filling it up with water, she was done drinking for the day. She avoided alcohol when she was in a dark place, she didn’t want to rely on it to temporarily numb her problems. “I’m gonna grab food, I’m starving.” She was almost out of the kitchen when she turned back around. “Don’t hide in here.” She directed the statement at Nora.

“She’s amazing,” Nora commented once Sara was out of the room.

The group nodded in agreeance.

“That she is,” Laurel responded. She hadn’t been sure what shape Sara was going to be in when she’d left her in the room with Ava. She didn’t seem too bad, but she was always good at masking how much she was struggling. She’d have to get Ava’s help in keeping an eye on her the next few days.

 

***...***

 

“Hey sleeping beauty.” Leonard greeted her as though nothing had happened, which was exactly how she preferred it.

She smiled appreciatively at him, she was constantly reminded of how thankful she was for her friends and family. They all knew how to handle her during and after one of her episodes. “I feel like I have a hangover.” She grabbed the half eaten sandwich out of his hand and took a bite. “I’m starving.”

He shook his head and smiled. “If it was anyone else.” He worked on making two additional sandwiches, he was sure Sara would want another after finishing his off. “You remember Ray,” he asked.

She nodded. “Nice to see you while not having a panic attack.” She joked, a big part of her was embarrassed but there was nothing she could do about what happened, it was in the past. “Thank you both for getting the dogs.”

“You’re welcome.” Ray responded, he noticed both dogs were at Sara’s side. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” he apologized.

“Will you please tell him to stop apologizing.” Leonard put a hand on Ray’s shoulder and immediately pulled it back realizing what he’d done.

Sara smiled triumphantly, Ray wasn’t the only gay mess around. “He’s right Ray, you don’t have anything to be sorry for. You couldn’t have known.”

“I know, but still.” He tried again.

She shook her head. “Like I told Nora, she caught me off guard, I know she’s not him.”

“Thanks, she’s had it rough.” He smiled at the pair and bowed his head. “Anyways.” He cleared his throat. “I know Leo doesn’t drink, would you like a drink,” he held up his empty beer bottle.

She shook her head lifting her glass of water. “I’m on water for the rest of the day. Thanks Ray.” She turned to Leonard the second Ray was out of earshot. “Leo, huh.” Leonard didn’t let many people call him anything other than his full name.

He shrugged and looked after Ray. He’d wanted to correct him on the drive to Ava’s but Ray had been feeling so guilty for having brought Nora he didn’t feel right correcting him. He would never admit it to Sara or anyone, but he liked the name, especially the way Ray said it.

“You like him.” Sara accused. She couldn’t wait for a moment alone with the ladies that were exiting the house.

Again he shrugged. “He’s not terrible,” he said nonchalantly, going back to his burger. “He’s the complete opposite of me.” he spoke after a few bites.

Her head tilted to the side. “How so,” she asked.

He shrugged. “He’s not dark inside.”

“Len.” She interrupted. Leonard was always so hard on himself because of his past and the things his father made him do.

“No hear me out.” He held up his hand. “He’s former military and a first responder so you know he’s seen a lot of darkness but you could never tell just by talking to him. He’s so.” He paused trying to think of the right word. “Light.” It was the best word he could think of to describe him. “He’s like a ray of light.” He put emphasis on ray.

Sara smiled, she’d never seen Leonard like this and she loved it. “Ava said they call him, The Ray, because of his bright and cheerful personality.”

“Fitting.” He liked that nickname, it was way better than his, Captain Cold, a nickname that had started in the academy.

“I think you should ask him out.” She tried to say it as nonchalantly as she could, she didn’t want Leonard to feel pressured.

He chuckled. “He may have already asked.”

“And you said what,” she asked, she hated that he was messing with her.

“I said yes.” He looked over to where Ray was standing, talking with Nora and Ava, a big smile on his face. “How could I say no to that face.”

Sara’s heart melted right then and there, she wanted so badly to squeal but that would only make things awkward for Leonard. “Captain Cold my ass, you big softy.” She punched his arm lightly.

It donned on him the reason for the gathering. They’d been trying to set him up. “Thanks,” he said. “For putting this together.” He offered her a burger.

“Thanks.” She took a bite of the burger. “It was Ava’s idea, she thought you two might hit it off.” She smiled as she looked at the tall firefighter.

Leonard looked down at her and then at the blonde in question. “Still friends,” he asked.

She nodded. “Yeah, friends.” She felt ridiculous calling her that lately. She wasn’t blind to the chemistry they shared, to the feelings she had for her.

“So what’s holding you back.” Leonard wasn’t one to have sentimental conversations but this was important to him, Sara was important to him.

Sara sighed. She’d had this argument with Laurel, and herself a few times. The more she said it aloud the more ridiculous it sounded. “She’s healing, as am I.”

“You don’t want her to be with you just because you need her and she needs you.” He finished for her.

Sara nodded, Leonard knew her too well.

“Do you need her or do you want her,” he asked.

She answered without hesitation. “I don’t need her, I want her.” It felt good to say that out loud.

“Ask her what she wants.”

“I will.” She looked towards Ava once again and smiled when she caught Ava looking at her, a big smile on her face. “Get over there and talk to, ‘The Ray’, I know you want to. I’m going to get some sun.” She finished off the last of her burger and went over and laid out beside Mick. While she didn’t mind having Nora there, she didn’t think it wise to push too much interaction in one hour.

“Blondie,” he said in way of greeting, cracking an eye open to get a look at her.

She smiled at him, she’d gotten really lucky as far as brother-in-laws went, Mick never made a big deal out of anything. “Enjoying the peace,” she asked.

He hummed in response. He enjoyed laying out in the sun, relaxing and thinking about absolutely nothing. “You good,” he asked once she settled in the lounge chair beside him, a dog on either side.

“I will be.” She closed her eyes and stretched out. She would call her therapist first thing Monday morning. Until then, she’d do her best to stay relaxed.

He turned his head opening both of his eyes this time, looking her over, deciding whether he needed to say more. She looked content, tense, but content, so he let her be.

Chapter Text

 

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results." — Willie Nelson

The next morning Ava sprung up in bed after hearing a loud crash followed by the blaring sound of the smoke detector. She turned to Sara's side of the bed looking for the blonde cop but found it empty. "Sara," she called out. Seconds later she was greeted by Scout. He came to the bed, barked and went back towards the door. He did it a second time urging her to follow. Ava jumped out of bed feeling awake, alert and panicked. She hurried out of the room in search of Sara and whatever had set off the smoke detector.

Coming into the kitchen she found the cause of it all. Sara stood in front of the stove with a hand on either side of the stove and stared at the pan. The pan, Ava noted, had black smoke coming from it. "Sara," Ava called out to her. When she didn't respond Ava reached around her, turned off the stove and placed the burnt pan in the sink running cold water over it. She turned on the vent above the microwave and grabbed a dish cloth. She began to swing the cloth in the area of the smoke detector hoping to clear the smoke and silence the alarm. After several swings the offending noise finally stopped and she was able to survey the situation.

Sara hadn't moved or said a word and that worried her. "Sara," she said quietly. Sara closed her eyes in response and took a deep breath. Ava looked at Justice as he nudged his charge letting out small whines not wanting to startle his owner.

"Sara." Ava tried again this time putting a gentle hand on Sara's shoulder.

Sara shrugged the hand off of her shoulder and took a step back. "I'm fine," she snapped. She continued to back up until her back was against the wall. Sara closed her eyes taking in deep slow breaths, her hand resting on Justice's head.

Ava took a deep breath, Sara had warned her about the possible change in her mood and behavior after the panic attack she'd had the day before. Time and patience, she reminded herself. "You're not fine Sara, and that's okay. Why don't you take the dogs outside with you, get some fresh air." She suggested, the last thing she wanted was to push Sara away but it was obvious she still needed her space.

Sara had told her that she sometimes needed time to sort things out in her head before being able to talk so she wasn't upset Sara had snapped at her. She'd been prepared for this. She was pleased when Sara nodded and left with the dogs in tow. She waited until she heard the door to the backyard open and close before she took a good look around the kitchen. From the charred pan and the mix on the floor she could only assume that Sara had been making an attempt at pancakes. She wondered why, they both knew Sara wasn't the greatest of cooks. Ava was the one that cooked with the occasional assistance from Sara, while Sara took care of the clean up. It had been their routine any time they were together. Wetting the dish towel she set out to clean the pancake mix from the floor and the bits that had splattered on the wall and fridge. With the kitchen clean and the charred pan scrubbed, Ava took out the ingredient to make pancakes. If that was what Sara had wanted then that's what she'd make. She almost jumped when a pair of arms circled around her hugging her from behind.

"I'm sorry Aves," Sara mumbled against her back.

Ava placed the finished pancake on a plate with the rest and took the pan off the burner, turning the stove off. She turned around, engulfing Sara in a hug. She didn't say anything, she would follow Sara's lead, if all she wanted was to stand there and hug her then that's what she would do.

Sara pulled back and looked at the plate stacked with food. "You made pancakes." It was a half statement, half question.

Ava nodded. "Isn't that what you wanted," she asked.

Sara released Ava from the hug, she eyed the pancakes and shook her head. "I wanted to make you breakfast," she said shyly, feeling her cheeks heat up. "I know you like french toast, I didn't think it'd be so hard, put some bread in some egg mix and toss it in a pan, except I burnt several pieces. So, I threw out that idea and decided pancakes would be easier. You saw how that turned out." She looked down, too embarrassed to look at Ava.

"You tried to make me breakfast," Ava asked even though she already knew the answer. No one had ever done that for her. She was always the one doing the cooking. "Why," she asked. "You didn't have to."

Sara shrugged. "I wanted to." She was reminded of her conversation with Leonard the previous day. She'd wanted to make breakfast and talk to Ava about what she wanted, see if maybe Ava wanted the same things as herself. "I thought maybe." She shook her head. "It's nothing." She chickened out.

"Sara." Ava lifted Sara's chin so that she could look at her. "Talk to me."

Sara almost melted at the soft look Ava was giving her. Instead of talking she reached out with both arms taking Ava's face in her hands. She stood on her tiptoes and pulled Ava to her, bringing their lips together. Her kisses were hesitant at first, barely touching Ava's lips before she put more pressure. She was about to pull away when Ava's arms dropped down to her waist pulling her against her, deepening the kiss. "I've been wanting to do that for a while now." Sara confessed once they pulled apart, resting her forehead against Ava's.

Ava hummed, "me too."

"You have," Sara asked. At Ava's nod she continued. "Why didn't you."

It was Ava's turn to shrug. "I guess I didn't want to confuse your emotional support for romantic feelings. I wanted to be with you because I wanted it, not because I needed it." She let out a frustrated sigh. "I'm not making any sense."

Sara smiled brightly. "Actually you're making perfect sense. You didn't want me to be your crutch. You didn't want to need me to be a round for you to be okay." She clarified.

Ava was beyond relieved that Sara understood. "Exactly, I shouldn't be surprised that you understand. My therapist said you would."

"I've put a lot of thought into this too, and I may have brought it up in therapy a few weeks ago." Sara was happy they'd both been thinking about this on more than just an emotional level. "I realized after my talk with Leonard yesterday that I was making excuses for not asking you out. Yes we both need help, I know we're not free from of our demons, nor will we be for a while but it doesn't mean we can't be happy and there for each other while we fight them."

"You said something about asking me out." Ava smiled excitedly. She couldn't believe this was actually happening. She was going to get a huge 'I told you so' from a few of her friends and most definitely her therapist.

Sara laughed. "I did." She took a step back taking Ava's hands in hers. "Would you like to go to dinner with me Ava Sharpe."

"I thought you'd never ask." This time she initiated the kiss. They both kept the kiss gentle not wanting to rush into anything. "Breakfast," she asked once they broke apart.

Sara eagerly nodded rubbing a hand across her stomach. "I'm starving."

"Of course you are." She teased. "Come on, I thought maybe we could eat outside on the swing."

"I like that idea." Sara grabbed the dog bowls filled them with food and took them outside before returning for their breakfast. She grabbed coffees for the both of them while Ava loaded two plates with pancakes and covered them with syrup, adding just a tad more syrup to Sara's plate. Once outside the pair sat in silence, each in their own thoughts though both content.

"I felt like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning." Sara started to explain in between bites. "I thought the nightmares would be worse but thankfully they weren't too bad but I still felt off so I decided I was going to stay positive. I kept reminding myself that it would be a good day despite my brain telling otherwise." It was one of the few ways she'd learned to get herself out of her dark place. She would remind herself things would get better until they did. "It was going great until I burned the first piece of toast. My thoughts started to turn dark very fast. I kept reminding myself that it was going to be okay, it was just toast, but with each piece that I burned and then the pancakes, I felt like nothing was going right." She paused to collect her thoughts. "It's really silly to think about it now." She chuckled. "I mean it was just breakfast, it wasn't the end of the world, but at that moment I felt like I could do nothing right even though I knew I was overreacting." She turned to face Ava more. "I'm sorry I snapped, I mistook your worry for pity, I had completely gone into my head, I didn't hear the smoke alarm until after I snapped at you."

It always amazed Ava how well Sara could communicate her struggles. "I forgive you Sara. I was worried. I woke up to the smoke alarm blaring and the bowl crashing, I thought something had happened to you."

Sara blushed, she'd completely forgotten about the pancake batter and bowl she'd sent flying across the counter. "Sorry about that, I made a mess. I didn't mean to scare you."

"You can stop apologizing. How about after breakfast we sit and enjoy a movie and then go on a hike, that always seems to clear my mind." She knew the hike would do the same for Sara though she seemed in a much better place now.

"Do you think we could have a picnic instead, I don't feel like hiking." Sara's eyes shifted to the surrounding yards.

Ava thought about it, she wasn't sure if she should be worried. It wasn't like Sara to turn down a hike.

"Please," she pleaded.

"Don't want me outdoing you on another hike huh," she asked teasingly.

Sara laughed. "That's exactly it."

"Okay, well I guess I'll save my beating you for another day." She sighed dramatically. "Have a particular spot in mind," she asked.

Sara winced, she wasn't sure how Ava would take her next request. "The backyard," she answered hesitantly.

Ava thought about it. It seemed that Sara wasn't up to being out in public yet. "Are we hiding Miss Lance," she asked with a smile that told Sara that it was okay.

"Maybe just a little bit." She brought her index finger and thumb together to show her how little. She didn't want to interact with other people. At least not today. She wanted to be in an environment with as few surprises as possible.

Ava nodded. "I think it's doable. We'll set up a picnic right over there." She pointed to a spot on the porch.

Sara laid her hand on Ava's leg. "Thanks." They sat on the swing and finished their breakfast in comfortable silence while the dogs chased after one another in the yard.

***...***

"Do you think we have enough cushion," Ava asked as she unfolded another blanket, laying it on the two sleeping bags and three other blankets.

"After this one. Yes." Sara grabbed the other corners of the blanket across from Ava, helping her smooth out the new layer. "Perfect," she said after inspecting the cushion of their makeshift picnic area by stretching across it.

Ava shook her head at Sara's antics. "You're something else." She was relieved to see her relaxed and acting silly. "I'm gonna get the basket."

"I'll be here." Sara grinned. She sat up once Ava disappeared inside and looked around for the tennis balls they'd brought out. After finding them she grabbed two of them and tossed them to the other end of the yard, watching as both dogs ran off after them. "No, I threw two for a reason." She told the dogs. "Justice, let Scout have that one. Get the other ball. No, the other ball." She repeated to her dog. "Here." She gave up on getting Justice to the right ball and instead threw him another one.

"Are you just going to throw balls till they each have their own," Ava asked as she came out with a picnic basket. Sara had told her she didn't need to do all that but she'd wanted to make it an authentic picnic experience. Just because they weren't at the park didn't mean they couldn't have the full experience.

Sara shrugged. "I have a whole bag." She held up the bag of tennis balls.

Ava couldn't help but laugh. Leave it to Sara to think throwing more balls was the solution. She wondered if Sara realized that at some point they'd have to get all the balls in the yard. "I brought a frisbee in case you were feeling adventurous." She tossed the flat disc towards Sara.

Sara caught the disc, turning it over in her hands. "You have a frisbee in your car," she asked.

Ava shrugged. "You never know when you'll need one."

"I shouldn't be surprised." The woman had weights in her car, having a frisbee shouldn't have surprised her. She took the balls from both dogs but only threw one this time. Letting them race for it and bring it back to her. "What are you reading," she asked after a few minutes.

Ava had made herself comfortable against the wall with a book in her hand. "Harry Potter." She held up the book to show her.

"Read aloud," she asked.

Ava nodded. She wasn't worried about Sara being lost or confused because the worn out copy she was reading was one she'd found in her bookcase.

Sara tossed the ball a few more times before laying down on her back with her head in Ava's lap. She closed her eyes as she listened to Ava read.

Ava paused for only a second. She smiled and continued to read once Sara closed her eyes. Physical touch wasn't new to them, but somehow this felt more intimate. She held the book with one hand and played with Sara's hair with the other, only pausing to turn the page.

Sara cracked an eye open when the reading stopped. Ava was looking at her, the book forgotten at her side. "You okay," she asked, opening both eyes.

Ava nodded. "I thought you were asleep. I guess I got distracted." She cupped her face, her thumb brushing her cheek gently.

"Just content." Having her hair played with always relaxed her. "In the beginning, it would take me weeks to get out of my head. I would stay cooped up in my room for days at a time, too afraid to step outside. It's nice not having to miss out on life every time I have a set back."

Ava had been worried that Sara was hiding by not wanting to go out. She hadn't realized how big a step it was for Sara to be outside the comfort zone of her house, her room and so she told her as much.

Sara smiled. She hadn't missed the worried, hesitant look Ava had given her when she'd made the request to stay home. She was all too familiar with it. She'd seen it on the faces of the people she loved the most for years. "I didn't want to accidentally hurt anyone." She turned on her side partially, facing Ava. "It's hard for me to tone down my reflexes after a panic attack. I worry that I'll hurt someone unintentionally. It wouldn't be the first time." She thought about the poor unsuspecting people who had been on the receiving end of one of her tight bruising grips. "With you and the dogs, I don't have to have my guard up."

"You trust us." Tears welled up in Ava's eyes. The trust Sara had in her was overwhelming.

Sara nodded. She reached up with her hand bringing it to the back of Ava's neck, pulling her down for a kiss. She pulled back after kissing her and looked into her eyes making sure Ava heard her. "With my life."

A single tear escaped as Ava sighed softly, pulling Sara in for another soft, slow kiss.

Chapter Text

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." -Khalil Gibran

 

A week later Sara knocked on Ava's door. She leaned against the frame waiting for her to open it. She and Ava were supposed to go out on their date after her shift but she didn't feel well and she was far too drained. A part of her had wanted to cancel, go home and sleep but she wanted to spend time with Ava, even if she was a bit under the weather. Their schedules had been conflicting the past week and they'd been looking forward to their date for days. The following day was going to be their first day off together since Sara had asked Ava out.

Ava swung the door open eagerly happy to see Sara. The tired smile on Sara's face concerned her causing her own smile to fall. "You look tired." She looked at her with a worried expression. Sara was usually upbeat and bubbly, even after a long shift. This wasn't like her at all, she wondered if Sara had been pushing herself too hard.

"Thanks ass." She pouted.

"Oh you know that's not what I meant. Are you okay," she asked, ushering her inside.

"Can we have a rain check on dinner. I don't think I can handle much of anything tonight." She rubbed at her stomach, the thought of food making her nauseous.

"Of course we can." She gave her a brief hug.

"You look, breathtaking." Sara looked Ava up and down really hating that they had to cancel.

"That's your congestion talking." Ava led Sara to the couch, not able to hide the blush Sara's comment elicited. "I'm going to change and I'll see what I have to make you feel better."

"I'm fine. I'm just tired." She yawned. "Can we just sit for a bit." She pulled Ava down with her curling up around her.

"Fine, but after I change." She pried Sara's hand off of her and quickly moved to her bedroom to change into a pair of sweats and an old Army t-shirt. Ava returned a few minutes later and wasted no time in wrapping her arms around Sara. Cuddling had become a regular thing for them long before Sara asked her out. They normally found themselves curled up with each other after a long shift or one of Ava's more mentally draining sessions and sometimes, just because.

"Mmm, better," Sara hummed against her.

"I hope you're not trying to get me sick." Ava joked.

Sara frowned, she hadn't thought it through when she'd decided to come over. She could've just called and cancelled but she'd wanted to spend time with Ava after a week of being apart. Getting her sick had not crossed her mind. "You're right, I should leave." She moved to get up.

"Don't you dare." Ava pulled her back against her. She laid down on the outside of the couch, pulling Sara down. "I haven't seen you all week, you're not leaving."

Sara immediately snuggled into her side resting her head on Ava's chest. "I'm feeling better already."

"When did you start feeling this way." One of the downsides to her and Sara's schedule was that they'd go days without seeing each other. Ava had worked the past 48 hours and today was Sara's sixth day of work in a row. It didn't help that other shifts had several people call out and Sara had picked up the overtime.

"I didn't feel too hot last night, but it wasn't bad, not until the past few hours." She closed her eyes as another wave of nausea hit her.

"I wish you'd have told me." She knew Sara didn't have to tell her, but she wanted to be there for her.

"You were working, I didn't want to bother you." Sara had thought about telling her but she'd never been a complainer, especially not for something as trivial as a stomach bug. She'd thought it was a bug, that it'd be gone after a few hours.

"Sara it's what girlfriends are for." The moment the words left her mouth Ava wanted to roll off the couch and hide. She couldn't believe she'd said that out loud.

Sara's head shot up quickly making her feel lightheaded. "Girlfriend." She gave her a wide grin.

Ava became extremely flustered. "I mean, I know we haven't gone on an official date or anything. We don't have to put a label on it."

Sara chuckled and kissed her cheek. "Relax Aves, I like the sound of that."

"You do," Ava asked, still feeling embarrassed.

"I do." She confirmed.

"Next time you feel like this you should tell me, then I could make you something to settle your stomach." She knew Sara was used to being independent but she wanted to be there for her just like Sara had been there for her after every therapy session, every panic attack and mood swing she'd had since they'd become friends.

"I'm here now." This was an adjustment for both of them. Sara had a lot of family nearby, she could go to them at any moment but they worried too much and she didn't want to be coddled, especially when it wasn't something serious. Though she was learning that she didn't mind being coddled when it was Ava doing the coddling.

"Yes you are, now rest," she ordered. She was pleased to find Sara asleep a few minutes later.

Sara gasped as she woke up a few hours later. She was disappointed to find that she was alone on the couch. She looked around in search of Ava.

"Hey, hey, you're okay." Ava rushed to her, sitting on the edge of the couch. She touched her forehead with the back of her hand feeling her temperature. "You're a little warm."

Sara nodded, she could feel it, which also explained the nightmare she'd just had. Nightmares were nothing new to her, she'd had a few in the past week alone though they were nothing like the ones she would have while sick, they were always more frequent and vivid when she had a fever. "I figured," she muttered. "Ava, if you catch me mid nightmare and you're not already with me, don't touch me." She looked into Ava's eyes. "These nightmares are nothing like the ones you've seen me have. I don't always know where I am and I don't want to hurt you." If she was having this conversation with anyone else she would have to do a lot more explaining but not with Ava, she understood what was going through her head. She'd lost count of the times she'd woken up and a family member was nursing a new injury because of her.

Ava nodded, she remembered Laurel telling her to keep in constant contact with Sara after she'd passed out from her panic attack. She and Sara had been through this several times with her own night terrors though she knew Sara's were different. While she'd lost a lot of people on deployments, she had never been physically attacked, her's had always been the threat of death by gunfire or explosion and seeing her team dying. "You won't hurt me, but I'll be careful." She brushed a strand of hair out of Sara's face and smiled. "Here." She handed Sara the pills she'd purchased earlier and reached for the class of water on the table. "Hopefully we get that pesky fever before it gets any worse." She knew the worse the fever the darker and more realistic Sara's nightmares would become.

Sara accepted the pills. "Thanks." She set the glass down on the table once she'd downed her pills. Her gaze snapped away from Ava when she felt the dog lick her hand. She looked down realizing for the first time that it was Justice and not Scout she'd been petting.

"I hope you don't mind. I felt bad leaving him home alone." Ava had gotten up once she'd known Sara was in deep sleep. She'd grabbed her keys and picked Justice up after a quick trip to the store for food and medicine.

Sara placed a hand against her heart, she was touched that Ava had thought about her baby. "Are you kidding me," she asked. "Thank you Ava. That was so thoughtful. I really appreciate it." She reached out and squeezed Ava's hand.

Ava smiled shyly, looking down with a quiet 'it was no trouble.' "Um, I made some homemade soup if you're up for it." She changed the subject not able to make eye contact with Sara while she looked at her with such appreciation.

Sara sniffed the air. "Is that what I'm smelling," she remarked. "It smells delicious."

"You think your stomach can handle some food," she asked. The last thing she wanted was for Sara to throw up.

Sara nodded. The smell alone made her mouth water, she would risk getting sick to have some of the soup Ava had prepared. She got up and moved towards the kitchen.

"What are you doing, go sit down, I got it." Ava grabbed her by the arm as they entered the kitchen.

"Ava I'm fine, I promise." While she enjoyed the attention Ava was giving her she didn't want to be waited on hand and foot.

Ava regarded her skeptically for a few seconds before she settled for a compromise. "Fine, you can stay in here but you have to sit at the table, I don't want your germs all over my dishes." She didn't really care about the germs, but she knew she wouldn't be able to get Sara to sit otherwise.

Sara sighed. "So bossy."

"Here drink this."

"What is it," she asked. The smell was not appealing at all.

"It's a Middle Eastern remedy. You boil dried lime and drink the juice. It'll help with the upset stomach. I added some sugar so it wouldn't be as bitter." She explained. This was something she'd learned about on deployment. She'd grown to like the taste but a lot of people couldn't get past the smell.

"If you say so." She took a few hesitant sips. "It's not terrible." She continued to drink while Ava filled two bowls with soup.

Sara finished her drink and set the mug aside, ready to try the soup Ava had made.

"How is it," Ava asked after several minutes of silence.

"Hmm," Sara hummed, she looked up at Ava having missed her question. She slurped the piece of noodle that was hanging halfway out of her mouth. "What did you say," she asked.

"I was asking how the soup was but I think I already have my answer." Ava didn't know why she ever worried about Sara hating her food, she had yet to dislike something she'd made.

"It's delicious, and even if I regret this later, I don't care." If she was going to get sick regardless she may as well enjoy the food.

After dinner Sara settled back on the couch with Ava beside her.

"Is this happening or am I hallucinating." Sara froze and looked down at her lap when a heavy weight plopped down on it.

"It's definitely happening." Ava looked down at the cat that had just made herself comfortable on Sara's lap.

"Get up and move away slowly." Sara pushed her gently urging her off the couch.

Ava moved away from the duo. She was amazed when Siren didn't move away or attack Sara, instead she stretched out.

"I have no idea what's happening right now." Sara reached out hesitantly scratching the cat's head. "She doesn't hate me anymore." She smiled. "You don't hate me anymore." She baby talked to the feline. "It took me being sick for you to like me." She complained to the cat as she continued to pet her, glad that Siren wasn't trying to claw her hand to shreds. "She likes me." She looked up at Ava with a big smile on her face.

Ava snapped a photo of the two to remember the day Siren no longer despised Sara. "She does." Ava confirmed, sitting back down beside Sara. "She takes after her mother. She just took a little bit longer to like you." She set her phone down. "Can I join you now," she asked, feeling jealous of the cat.

Sara smiled and nodded. "Yes please, she'd not as warm as you." Sara curled around Ava being careful not to bother Siren. "Hey Aves." Sara got Ava's attention halfway through the movie they'd put on.

"I thought you were asleep," Ava whispered.

"I was thinking, can we not tell Mick and Laurel yet," Sara asked. She didn't want to hear an 'I told you so or an about time' from either one of them.

Ava groaned, she'd never hear the end of it from Mick. Had it not been for her quick judgment of Sara, they would have been friends and probably dating a long time ago. "I am definitely okay with not telling them."

"Thank you." Sara gave her a tired smile. "Can we sleep in your bed," she asked. "It's more comfortable than the couch.

"Of course, why don't you go change, I'm gonna let the dogs out and put away the food."

Sara didn't argue, her body ached and she was feeling more tired than when she'd first gotten there. She gave her a peck on the cheek. "Okay babe." She was so tired she didn't realize she'd let the pet name slip.

Ava smiled, liking it. She got up and ushered the dogs outside to do their business while she cleaned the kitchen. Ten minutes later she finally made it to bed to find Sara already asleep. She set a glass of water on the nightstand on Sara's side of the bed along with some medicine in case Sara woke up in the middle of the night needing them. After getting ready herself, she climbed into the bed being careful not to wake Sara. As if sensing she was there Sara immediately gravitated towards Ava. Ava extended an arm under Sara wrapping it around her. She kissed Sara's forehead and held her close.

***...***

She needed to hold on, help would be on the way, it had to be. Her father and the Star city police force would not give up on her. He was wrong, he was lying, he was trying to break her, they did care, they had to, they were her family.

"I know what you're thinking Officer Lance and I can assure you, you're wrong." Damian's smile only grew wider at the look of disbelief on the officer's face. "You know you don't have anyone to blame but your father for this. I didn't want to hurt you. Oh no, I just wanted to conduct my business and be happy with my family." He wiped the blood from his blade on Sara's torn uniform top. "Your father didn't tell you did he," he asked. "Just like him, I'm a family man." He grinned.

"You are nothing like him you piece of shit" She tried to swing her leg at him only to be reminded that her ankles were bound together and tied to the floor.

"Now, now Officer Lance." He moved to stand beside her, his mouth near her ear. "Is that any way to talk to the man holding a knife," he asked as he slowly ran the knife across her upper back causing her to arch her back in an attempt to get away from him. He laughed at her failed attempt as the ropes held her in place. His laughter grew more villainous as she cried out in pain each time the knife connected with her skin. "But see unlike your father, I would do anything to keep my Nora safe, anything." He pressed the tip of the knife against her skin, laughing as she flinched. "Smile for daddy." She snapped a picture of his captive. "Ta ta." He waved as he walked away.

***...***

Sara screamed and attempted to get out of the restraints holding her in place. "Let me go," she begged. "Please, let me go." She pushed against the restraints once again.

"Sara," she called out to her. She cursed silently for not setting an alarm to give Sara medication, she could feel the heat radiating off of her. "Sara wake up, it's just a dream. You're safe now." It took everything for Ava to keep her hold on Sara. She wasn't sure she'd be able to connect with her again if she released her. She was torn between doing as Sara asked and holding on tighter in hopes of bringing her back to the present. The dogs had already climbed onto the bed in an effort to comfort her but Sara would not have any of it. She continued to thrash around continuously whimpering in pain. When fifteen minutes passed without any progress Ava reached for her phone and called the one person that could help her.

"Ava, what's wrong." Laurel's sleep filled voice came across the line. There had to be something wrong if Ava was calling her in the middle of the night.

Ava hated having to wake Laurel but she didn't feel like she had a choice. She wished she was better equipped to help Sara, wished that she'd asked Sara what to do if her fever spiked and this exact thing happened. "It's Sara, she's sick, she's having a nightmare. I can't wake her."

Laurel got out of bed and went into the kitchen not wanting to wake Mick. "How long," she asked.

"Fifteen minutes or so." Ava did her best not to let the panic she was feeling come through the line.

Laurel sighed heavily, that wasn't good, it meant Sara was having one of her more vivid nightmares. "You're not going to like this but you're just going to have to hold her and talk to her. Do not let her go, she needs to know she's not alone. Pull her back against your chest and hold onto to her."

Ava set the phone on speaker and adjusted herself around Sara as Laurel had recommended. Her heart broke hearing Sara's pained cries. She brought her lips to Sara's ear and started talking to her softly. "Laurel, I'm sorry I woke you," she said once Sara calmed down for a bit. "I'll keep you posted."

"I'm glad you called. Ava she might try to push you away when she wakes up, don't let her." Laurel and the family had experienced it many times in the beginning and at first they'd allowed her until the therapist had told them not to, it had been a major turning point for all of them.

Ava nodded then realized Laurel couldn't see her. "I won't, thanks Laurel." Ava tightened her hold around Sara and pulled her closer as she let out another pained cry. "You're not alone Sara, I'm here, come on darling, you're safe." She placed kisses to the side of her face. Sara's hands moved up and grabbed onto the hands Ava had around her. "You're safe Sara, it's just you and me. Just you and me baby." Ava tried to connect as much of her body to Sara's. Finally remembering Laurel was on the phone she addressed Sara's older sister. "Laurel," she asked, not sure if she was still on the line.

"I'm here," Laurel said after a moment, she'd been caught off guard by the terms of endearment Ava had let slip. "Please keep me updated, I can come over if you need." She wanted to be with her sister more than anything.

"I think we're okay, I'll update you as soon as I can." Ava promised.

"Take care of her Ava."

"I will." She would not be leaving Sara's side. She couldn't, not when she was in such a fragile state. After disconnecting with Laurel she directed her phone to play calming music softly while she continued to talk to Sara.

***...***

"Everything okay," Mick asked coming into the kitchen. "Hey, hey, what's wrong, talk to me doll." He held his wife close when her bottom lip trembled as though she wanted to cry.

"It's Sara." Her voice was muffled as she buried her face into her chest. "She's sick, she's been in a nightmare for almost 30 minutes Mick. Ava said she couldn't wake her." She hated that her sister's nightmares came back as badly as they did when she was sick, it was like she was being attacked all over again. "I want to go to her."

Mick wrapped his arms around his wife making her feel secure. "Ava's with her," he asked. She nodded against his chest. "Do you think she can handle it." Again his wife nodded. "I know you won't like what I'm about to say."

"You think I should let Ava handle it." She told him.

"Yes. I know you want to be there for her but if those two are headed where we all know they're headed then Ava needs to know she can handle Sara on her best days and her worst." He waited for her to protest. "Are you upset," he asked when she didn't respond.

She shook her head. "It's just hard not going to her knowing she's hurting."

"I get that, but she's not alone. Ava called you, you know she'll call again if she needs to." He was proud of his partner for reaching out to Laurel instead of trying to figure things out on her own. If not handled correctly Sara's nightmares and attacks could escalate quickly.

Laurel sighed, she didn't like the idea but Mick was right. "Can we stay up until Ava messages us, I don't think I can go back to sleep."

"Of course doll." He bent down and picked her up bridal style taking her to the couch.

"Ava called Sara darling and baby while she was talking to her, I think she forgot I was on the line." Laurel told him once he settled down on the couch with her curled up in his lap.

"Do you think," he asked.

She shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised, did you know those two spend almost all of their off time together," she asked.

"I had a feeling, anytime I ask Ava how here days off were and Sara was off she'd get this shy smile on her face and say it was good without further explanation."

"Those two are so obvious, no one would ever guess there was a time they didn't get along."

"I for one, am glad those days are over." Dual agency calls had been extremely tense for a while.

***...***

Sara wasn't sure how much time had passed, she'd lost track after the first two days. Going in and out of consciousness wasn't helping her stay in the present. Her will to fight was seeping out with every drop of blood that poured out of her wounds. She collapsed to the ground when he finally freed her from her arm restraints and left her there to lay in her own blood. She started to crawl to the door she'd seen him walk out. Just when she thought she was there she fell to the ground face first, her leg restraints keeping her from going to far from the center of the room. She tried to scream for help but her voice failed her. Her entire body was on fire. She didn't see a possible way out. She turned onto her side and continued to stare at the door, her only mean of escape was just out of reach and her body was to weak, she was too weak to continue fighting. "I'm sorry daddy," she whispered knowing he couldn't hear her, she knew he'd blame himself for her capture even though it was her fault, she should've been more careful. She'd been ready to close her eyes when a faint sound drew her attention. She picked her head up trying to find the source but it felt too heavy and so she let it drop again. "Help me," she cried out as loud as her sore and bruised throat would allow her.

"I'm here Sara." Ava responded to her plea for help. She'd been hopeful that Sara was waking up when she'd lifted her head but it had dropped without further action. "Can you feel me Sara," she asked. "I'm here with you. It's not real, you're safe now." Ava's lips rested on Sara's forehead. "Wake up Sara."

Sara felt it then, a presence she'd not felt during her time in captivity. She felt warm and cold all at once, the warmth was new, she should be freezing, her uniform top was in shreds and she'd lost a lot of blood. She couldn't figure out why she was warm. Her blood covered fingers reached out to touch the side of her head where a sudden warmness had started to spread. She closed her eyes, focusing on that warmness, the calmer she became the clearer the faint voice became. "Ava," she asked.

"Yeah Sara, it's me, you're safe, just open your eyes." Ava wanted to cry in relief at the recognition in Sara's voice.

"Ava," Sara asked again, this time more clearly.

"I'm here," Ava answered from behind her.

Sara turned around in her arms and faced her, tears filling her eyes.

Ava's heart broke for the umpteenth time. She hated seeing Sara in so much pain. "You're okay." She promised her once again pulling her into a hug, kissing the top of her head. "You're okay now." Ava held her as she shook.

Sara didn't fight the hug nor the tears that started to fall. She held onto Ava strongly afraid that this was still a dream and at any moment the horrors of her past would overtake her once again. "It felt so real." She spoke after some time.

"I'm so sorry you had to go through that again Sara." She rubbed Sara's back which caused her to flinch and tense in her arms. "I'm so sorry," she apologized.

"No, it's okay, you didn't know. They just feel so fresh, like he just." She shook her head unable to finish. Her scars were more sensitive after her more vivid nightmares.

Ava didn't respond, she didn't know what to say, she'd been ready to say she understood but she knew she didn't, what Sara had been put through was unfathomable, she would never truly understand.

Sara pulled away and looked at her. "Ava, are you sure this is what you want, to be with me I mean. It is a lot to handle, I can be a lot to handle."

Ava berated herself, Sara must've taken her silence as hesitation. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. After everything they'd been through already. "Don't be ridiculous Sara."

Sara pulled away even further, sitting up. "I'm not being ridiculous," she raised her voice. "I'm serious. I will never get better, I can't even get sick like a normal person. How long did it take to get me out of my nightmare." She knew from past experiences that it could take hours before any of her family members were able to reach her.

Ava sat up on her knees and inched closer to Sara. "I'm serious too." She took Sara's face in her hands. Laurel had warned her that she'd try to push her away though this was not what she'd expected. "I want you Sara, good days, not so good days and terrifying days where I feel completely out of my league. There will be days that I'll have no idea what to do to reach you and I'll do what I did tonight, I'll call the people that do know how and they will help me." She caressed Sara's cheek, relieved when Sara leaned into the touch. "Don't think that one bad night is going to change how I feel about you. You are one of the strongest people I've ever met Sara. You have the biggest and kindest heart, and for someone who's been through as much as you have, you are the most forgiving person I know. You don't give up on people, you didn't give up on me so don't give up on yourself by pushing me away. Please." After what felt like an eternity, Sara nodded. Ava pulled her into a hug, being careful not to put pressure on her scars.

"I'm sorry, I start to doubt myself and feel like a burden after particularly bad days." She wrapped her arms around Ava, holding onto her tightly.

"Sara you are not a burden, I couldn't imagine my life without you now that I know what it's like to have you in it. I want all of you Sara Lance."

"Thank you." She felt a lot better than she had a few minutes ago. "Wait, you said you called someone," she asked.

Ava nodded feeling nervous. "Yeah, I panicked when I couldn't wake you after fifteen minutes so I called Laurel. Which, I promised to message her." She untangled herself from Sara and grabbed her phone and sent a quick message to Laurel thanking her and telling her everything was okay. Laurel's response was immediate. "She says to tell you to get better and not to be stubborn and to let me take care of you."

Sara rolled her eyes, she wasn't a bad patient. "No she didn't." She didn't believe Ava.

"Yeah she did." Ava held up the phone for Sara to look for herself.

"I'm not sure how I feel about you two ganging up on me." She shivered remembering how miserable she actually felt.

Ava didn't see it that way. "We just care about you. Why don't you go change out of your clothes, I'll put new sheets on the bed and then you can take some more medicine."

Sara nodded, despite her horrible nightmare she felt really tired, she just wanted to lay back down. Before getting up, she acknowledged the dogs that were patiently waiting at her side. "Hi guys." She pet both dogs. "I'm sorry I worried you." She leaned down kissing each dog on the head before getting up and moving to one of Ava's dressers that held her clothes. Grabbing a fresh set of clothes, she disappeared into the bathroom, the dogs following close behind her.

Ava smiled at the pair of canines, as they snuck their way inside the bathroom before Sara could close the door. She would always be thankful to them, they provided a safety and peace that was rarely found in other human beings. When she heard the shower going , Ava picked up her phone and messaged Laurel again. "She seems to be doing better, you were right about the trying to push me away, thanks for the warning."

"I'm not surprised. My sister is always worrying about other people." Laurel responded. "She won't sleep as heavy for the rest of the night, she'll set an alarm for every hour till morning." Laurel wanted Ava to be prepared. It was something that Sara had been unwilling to change, even after bringing it up in therapy. It was a comfort thing for her and so they hadn't pushed her too hard about it.

Ava thought about the new piece of information, after what she'd witnessed, she didn't blame Sara in the least. "Thank you Laurel, I'm sorry I woke you."

"I'm glad you did, take care of my sister."

Ava smiled at the message, it meant a great deal that Laurel trusted her with her sister this way. "I will, get some rest." She set the phone down after Laurels 'you too' response and finished changing the sheets and changed out of her partially sweaty clothes. Sara's sweat covered clothes had dampened her own. "Feel better," she asked once Sara exited the bathroom and settled in the bed beside her.

"Much." She took the offered medicine and drank the entire glass of water. "Thanks." She set the glass down and grabbed her phone.

"Setting alarms," Ava asked, looking over her shoulder.

Sara froze, she hadn't thought about how Ava would feel about that. "Um yeah, I didn't even think, I'm sorry, I can sleep on the couch." She moved to get up.

"Don't you dare." Ava grabbed her arm. "Talk to me." Even though she knew about the alarms from Laurel she wanted to hear it from Sara.

Sara settled against the headboard setting the phone down in her lap. "I'm afraid to sleep too long or too deeply, the alarms help."

"I get it." If she were in Sara's shoes she didn't think she'd be able to go back to sleep at all, so the fact that Sara was even willing to try and sleep was huge. "I'll make sure to wake you if you so much as flinch." She smiled when she said it but she meant it, she never wanted to see Sara in the state she'd been in an hour ago. The memory of Mick swerving and quickly hanging up the phone months ago hit her as if it had just happened. So much made sense now. She understood now why he and Leonard had been so worried at the news that Sara was sick.

Sara finished setting her alarms and set the phone down beside her. "Thanks Aves."

"Any time darling, now come here." She opened her arms invitingly.

Sara smiled and moved into her open arms, settling against her. "Darling." She repeated. "I like that." She yawned, closing her eyes. She patted the spot beside her inviting the dogs who'd been patiently sitting by the bed. Sara felt secure with Ava pressed up against one side and the dogs against her other.

Ava kissed the top of her head and smiled, Sara never ceased to amaze her. Her strength and will power to keep going surpassed anyone she'd ever known.

AN: Happy chapter coming up next! I have a few more chapter ideas planned but I'm not sure how much longer this story will be. Thank you guys for reading!

Chapter Text

“One day, someone will walk into your life and make you see why it never worked out with anyone else.” -Unknown

 

Sara pulled up to Ava’s house on their next shared day off. She walked to Ava’s door feeling a bit nervous, she didn’t know why because she and Ava spent countless hours together. If they were both off then they were together, so rationally she had no reason to be nervous. This dinner was no different than the many times they’d gone out together, except that this dinner had a title, it was an actual date she reminded herself. She rang the doorbell and waited for Ava to answer the door. She had returned to work that week and felt better than ever. Ava had been by her side the entire time during her illness. Sara was amazed but not at all surprised to how quickly Ava adapted to her needs while she was sick. Not once did she hear Ava fuss or sigh about the alarm going off, instead she would pull Sara closer to her every time Sara silenced the alarms. When Sara was too deep in her sleep to hear them, Ava had gently woken her up, allowing her to reset them herself. Ava didn’t know until the next morning how much Sara appreciated being woken up. During breakfast she’d told her about the times, in the beginning, when her family had tried to let her sleep so when she slept through an alarm they let her and how that had only angered her and made her doubt them the next time they’d told her they would wake her.

“Penny for your thoughts.” When she’d first opened the door she’d been speechless. She’d always found Sara attractive, but standing there in her royal blue dress, she was simply breathtaking. It had taken her a few seconds to calm her racing heart and find her voice.

Sara hadn’t heard the door open, she was far more nervous that she realized. “You, um, you look, wow.” She looked Ava up and down appreciatively. “Red is definitely your color.” She always enjoyed seeing Ava in red, tonight was no exception.

Ava blushed, tucking her head down. “Thank you. You look, beautiful.”

“Thank you.” Sara grinned, glad that Ava was just as flustered as she was. She took advantage of the fact that Ava didn’t have her shoes on yet, her own heels making them the same height and leaned in towards her. “Hi,” she said after kissing her.

“Hi,” Ava whispered, giving her another kiss. “Come in, I just need to grab my heels.” She ushered Sara inside and disappeared into her bedroom while Sara greeted her dog.

“Hey buddy.” Sara pet the dog. “Well hello there Siren.” She scratched behind the cat’s ear and under her chin as she rubbed up against her. “She still likes me,” she yelled proudly towards Ava’s room.

“Of course she still likes you.” Ava returned with her shoes on. Siren, like the dogs, had not left Sara’s side while she’d been sick. They hadn’t figured out what had changed to make Siren like Sara. Sara for one, was not complaining. “We may take some convincing but once we like you it takes a lot for us to dislike you again.”

“Well, you were both worth the wait.” She winked. “Ready,” she asked.

Ava cleared her throat, Sara had the tendency to say just the right thing to catch her off guard. “Sorry, yeah, I’m ready.”

They both reached for the door handle at the same time, stopping just short of bumping into each other. “I should’ve known this would happen.” Sara laughed. They’d had a routine as friends, now that they were on a date they had to figure it all out again.

Ave nodded in agreeance. “Yeah, probably should’ve seen it coming.”

“How about since I asked you out, you’ll let me treat you. So that means doors, chairs, bills, all of it.” She didn’t give Ava a chance to argue. She opened the door for her date, grinning when Ava walked through it without a dispute. Sara’s victory was short lived however.

“I still need to lock the door.” Ava gestured towards the door behind Sara.

“Oh, right.” Sara moved out of the way. She’d never been with anyone as independent as Ava. This was going to make for an interesting night, she thought to herself. She opened the car door for Ava, smiling.

“Thank you.” Ava gave her a peck on the lips. This was an adjustment for her, she wasn’t used to someone opening doors for her, pulling out chairs and doing everything she normally did. She followed Sara’s rule and allowed her to pull her chair out once at the restaurant. “So let me get this straight.” Ava was laughing so hard she was having trouble breathing. “The rookie thought you were leaving him a trail of items from your utility belt as you chased your suspect.” She covered her mouth and nose when she let out a snort.

Sara nodded and joined Ava in her laughter. “He did. He told me he wanted to be just like me.” She laughed, remembering how impressed he’d been with her. “He couldn’t believe how calm I must have been to think about dropping my gear as I ran.” She leaned back in her chair as another fit of laughter hit the both of them. “He had no idea that I’d busted my utility belt on the fence and as I was running everything started falling off. What he didn’t notice was that I no longer had my belt on at all, that it was ten feet from where I had my runner.”

“That is amazing.” Ava was still laughing.

“It’s better than the time that I got stuck on the fence and needed help getting down.” She covered her face feeling embarrassed all over again. Only two people knew that story, until today.

“How did that happen, I was told you were practically a ninja.” Ava’s abdomen hurt from laughing, she couldn’t remember a time she’d laughed so much on a date. “Not an exaggeration. That’s seriously the rumor about you.” In the beginning when she’d heard it, she’d thought the firefighters were exaggerating.

“As far as titles go, ninja is not a bad one.” Sara was proud of that title. She’d worked extremely hard to get where she was.

“Quit stalling. How did you get stuck on the fence.” She wanted to know how the badass ninja police officer got stuck on the fence, needing help getting down.

“So I was running after.” She stopped when Ava interrupted.

“Do most of your stories start with you chasing after someone.” She wondered how often Sara chased after people. Her last story had begun the same way.

“Um, well, no.” Sara said nervously, she was having a really good time with Ava on their date and she didn’t want things to go south because Ava thought her reckless once again. It had been months since she’d thought of her as such but she still worried, especially now that she wanted to pursue a relationship with the tall blonde.

Ava wanted to kick herself, she knew Sara was self conscious when it came to the dangers of her job and how they affected her. Sara never said anything but she’d noticed she’d downplay the dangerous situations at work just to put her at ease. She reached across the table taking Sara’s hand in hers. “Relax Sara. I was just curious. Sorry. Please continue.” She didn’t want Sara to shut down or withhold information from her.

Sara regarded her for a second to make sure she wasn’t reacting negatively to her chasing yet another suspect. “Okay,” she said, now more relaxed as Ava smiled at her from across the table. “So I’m chasing this guy who’s like a foot and a half taller than me. He runs, sees a ten foot fence looks back at me and then back at the fence. I knew what he was thinking. He thought I couldn’t make it over the fence, he had this smile on his face, like he was in the clear. So now more than ever, I couldn’t let him get away.”

Ava was getting a kick out of how excited Sara was at the man being wrong.

“You should’ve seen his face, his eyes were about to pop out when I ran up the fence, it would have been great if my vest didn’t catch on my way down. Lucky for me he was too worried about me catching up to him to see me hanging on the fence like a child on one of those coat hooks on the back of the door.” She laughed at herself, she hadn’t shared that story with anyone.

It took Ava a few tries before she could get the words out, laughter overtook her every time she tried to talk. “Did you get him.”

“Hell yeah I got him. Thankfully Len wasn’t too far behind me. He climbed up and helped me down, ripping his pants in the process. We swore to never mention it again.” They had been quite a site that day. She’d taken the report while Leonard had gone to change before anyone noticed the ice blue boxer briefs he wore under his uniform pants.

“Well, speaking of losing pants, on one of my first fires out of the academy, I was in a rush and I’d been using the restroom when the tones dropped. It was a structure fire so I ran and put my bunker pants on and got on the truck. When we got on scene, Mick and I were on the nozzle so we go in and as I’m walking I start to feel my pants start to slide down under my fire gear, I’d forgotten to button them or even zip them up for that matter. There was nothing for me to do but waddle until we cleared. Mick had asked me what was wrong and why I was walking funny, he probably thought I shit my pants. He kept giving me that weird side eye.”

Sara laughed. “Oh my god, that is hilarious and I know exactly which look you’re talking about.” She mimicked the look as best as she could.
“Yes, that’s the one.” Sara had been spot on with the look she’d been referring to.

The couple continued sharing funny stories trying to avoid any heavy topics. Tonight was about them having fun and getting to know each other outside of the trauma they’d both endured in their past.

“I had a great time tonight,” Sara tells Ava as they reach her door.

“Me too. Did you want to come inside.” She opened the door, inviting Sara in.

“Maybe next time. It’s not that I don’t want to, I do, god knows I do.”

“You don’t have to explain. Would you maybe like to do this again.” Her face scrunched up in question.

Sara loved when she made that face. “I would love to.”

Ava smiled brightly. “Good, and this time, I’ll pick you up.”

“Yes Ma’am.” Sara gave her a mock salute. She got up on her tiptoes kissing Ava on the cheek. “I’ll call you later.” She walked backwards towards her vehicle with a smile on her face. She was a goner and she knew it. She wanted so badly to go back to Ava but she knew if she did neither of them would get any sleep and she had work first thing in the morning. She couldn’t afford to be tired, she needed her reflexes to be sharp when she worked. They’d have to have an earlier date next time, or maybe she could convince Ava to stay in for their next date. She smiled, liking that idea.

Chapter Text

 

“Ava, thank god. Is Sara with you,” Laurel’s worried voice came across the moment she answered the phone.

“What, no, she’s still at work.” She pulled the phone away from her ear to check the time. Her worry grew, she and Sara had been talking on and off all morning in between her calls. “Laurel you’re scaring me what’s going on,” she asked.

Laurel sighed, it wasn’t like her sister to disappear, no matter what she was going through. Not being able to find her brought back all the fear and pain from when she’d first been kidnapped. “Turn on the news.”

Ava did as instructed. “Oh no,” she gasped, turning the volume down, she’d heard enough. “Sara,” she asked.

“She was put on administrative leave after her interview. No one has seen her, Ava I don’t know where else to look.” Laurel cried into the phone. It wasn’t long ago that Ava had turned to her for help in dealing with her sister’s illness, she had hoped Sara had gone to her now just as she had when she’d gotten sick.

Ava took a deep breath in an effort to calm her racing mind. “Where are you now,” she asked, trying to formulate a plan.

“I’m at Sara’s again, I thought maybe she'd come here for Justice.”

“Okay, Stay at Sara’s, I’m going to check on a couple trails we like to frequent.”

“Do you think she’ll be there,” she asked, hopeful, she had nowhere else to search. Sara could be anywhere and that worried her to no end.

“I honestly don’t know.” Ava hoped she was there otherwise she had no idea where else Sara could be.

“Ava if she has a panic attack and it isn’t handled correctly she could really hurt herself.” Laurel was also worried about the hurt Sara could inflict on those who came in contact with her during her attack.

“We’ll find her.” Ava was determined to. She hated the thought of Sara being out there alone and hurting. “Scout, come on.” She led the dog to the back door to use the restroom before hitting the trails. “I’ll call you back,” she said quickly. “She’s here.” Sara sat on her back porch still in uniform.

“She is,” Laurel asked, relieved.

“Yeah, I need to go. I’ll keep you posted.” With that she hung up. She needed to check on Sara, Laurel would understand. “Sara,” she called out to her but got no response. She moved around to stand in front of her. “Sara,” she called her name again.

Sara looked right at her, she’d forgotten where she was. She’d come to Ava’s in search of comfort but she hadn’t felt ready to explain why she was there. She stood outside the front door briefly before deciding to move to the backyard. She didn’t want bystanders to question a police officer sitting around doing nothing while in uniform. That’s usually when the complaints that they paid her salary came and that she needed to be doing something, like cops weren’t humans with basic needs.

“Do you want to talk about it,” she asked, taking a knee on the step in front of her. She could tell from the redness around her eyes that Sara had been crying.  

Sara shook her head, her bottom lip trembling. It took everything in her not to break down and cry again. She new if she started, she wouldn’t be able to stop.

“Okay, we don’t have to talk. How about we get you inside and into something more comfortable.”

Sara shrugged. She wasn’t comfortable, but she wasn’t uncomfortable. She just felt numb.  

“Come on.” Ava stood up and extended her hand out for Sara to take.

Sara looked at the offered hand, then down at her own hands, and once again shook her head, not wanting to take Ava’s hand. She stood up instead, clasping her hands together in front of her.

Ava lowered her hand, the relief that Sara was willing to go inside and change overtook the hurt at her not wanting to take her hand. “Are you cold,” she asked when Sara shivered.

Sara nodded. She couldn’t get warm, despite the weather being nice.

“Okay, let’s get you inside.” This time Ava didn’t offer her hand. Instead she walked to the door with the hope that Sara would follow her to the bedroom. Scout stayed at Sara’s side rubbing up against her. She was pleased that Sara allowed that contact. She smiled when Sara’s hand settled on his head as she followed her into the house. Once inside her bedroom Ava paused, she looked between the dresser that held some of Sara’s clothes and the bathroom. “Do you think a warm bath will help,” she asked. She was not used to Sara being this quiet, she was always so good at communicating her feelings, seeing her this way now concerned her.

Again, Sara shrugged.

That didn’t help make her decision any easier. “Okay, come on.” She went for the bathroom, she felt she’d made the right decision when Sara followed. She started a bath, running it warmer than she normally would so Sara could start to feel warm. She turned around to find Sara struggling with her utility belt. “Let me.” She laid a gentle hand on Sara’s trembling hands, relieved when she didn’t pull away. Her eyes were on Sara’s, she wanted to take things at her pace, get her permission in every step.

Sara nodded, not breaking eye contact. Ava’s touch was the warmest she’d felt since it all happened.

Ava gave her a soft smile, giving her hands a gentle squeeze. Her brow furrowed when Sara winced in pain. “What happened to your hands,” she asked, turning them over.

Sara clenched her hands into fists, pulling her them away.

“Let me see,” she requested. “Please,” she pleaded when Sara shook her head. “It’s okay.” She assured her. She had a feeling that whatever Sara was hiding was self inflicted.

Sara closed her eyes letting out a sigh before allowing Ava to take her hands in hers. She relaxed her grip letting Ava uncurl her fingers.

Ava did her best not to react to the eight marks inside her palms. Marks that Sara’s nails had created. Sara had to have clenched her fingers extremely tight to create the marks. She was pretty sure it was in an effort to keep from crying. “They’re not bad, but they’re gonna sting for a few days.” She brought both hands up to her face placing a soft kiss in each palm.

Sara nodded, she wasn’t sure what she’d expected Ava’s reaction to be.

Ava released Sara’s hands and slowly undid her utility belt. She noted the empty gun holster as she laid it beside the sink. “I’m going to take your vest off.” She didn’t want to surprise Sara by reaching for the velcro on her sides. Once she unfastened it, she pulled the vest over Sara’s head, laying it beside her belt. She worked on the buttons of her uniform top next.  She let the garment drop to the ground. “Sit.” She brought the lid to the toilet seat down for Sara to sit on. Once she shut the water off in the tub, she sat on the ground with her legs criss crossed. She pulled one of Sara’s boot covered feet onto her lap, pulling down the zipper on the side and freeing her foot of the boot. She set the boot aside and tugged on the sock next. She did the same to the other foot, keeping her feet in her lap. She spent the next several minutes massaging Sara’s feet. She gave each foot a pat before setting it on the ground. She stood up extending a hand for Sara to take. Unlike before, Sara took the offered hand and stood up. “I’m going to undo your pants.” Sara allowed her to undo the button to her pants letting them fall to the ground beside her uniform top. “Are you okay to get the rest,” she asked. She knew Sara wasn’t shy about her scars but she didn’t want Sara to be in the state she was in when she got to see them fully for the first time.

Once again Sara nodded.

“Okay, I’m going to leave the door open if you need anything.” Another nod. “I think Scout wants to stay.” She smiled at her dog who’d made himself comfortable by the tub letting her know he wasn’t going anywhere. After another nod, Ava turned to collect all the pieces of Sara’s discarded uniform. She stopped when arms encircled her from behind. Sara hugged her tightly, resting her face on her back. Ava looked at her through the mirror and placed her hands on top of Sara’s. After a few seconds she let go and turned to face the tub. Ava smiled, her Sara was slowly trying to break through. She picked up the rest of the remaining uniform items, taking them out of the bathroom with her. She returned a few minutes later, after she was sure Sara was in the tub and set a change of clothes on the bathroom counter.

Ava sat on the edge of the bed taking a few minutes just to breath. She had no idea what she was doing, she hoped she didn’t make things worse. Sara had never gone this long without speaking. “Can you drop Justice off?” She sent a message to Laurel. She felt bad for having made her wait for so long, she knew she was worried. “She’s not talking, I’m giving her time and space.” The two things Sara had told her she sometimes needed. She hoped she was right in giving those things to her now.

“On my way.” Laurel replied. She’d been anxiously waiting to hear from Ava. After she’d disconnected from her earlier, she’d sent a message to her family telling them Sara was safe and sound, and that she’d keep them updated. She hadn’t told them where she was in fear that they’d all show up at Ava’s. “Here.” She messaged her twenty minutes later.

“Hey,” Ava greeted Laurel with a hug. “Make yourself home, I’m just going to bring Justice to the bedroom.”

Laurel nodded, setting her purse on the end table and taking a seat on the couch.

Ava walked into the room in time to see Sara crawling onto Ava’s side of the bed.

She lifted her head from the pillow when a weight landed on the bed. She looked questioningly at Justice and then back at Ava.

“Laurel brought him.” She explained.

Sara put her head back down on the bed and stretched out her arm. She tapped her bicep three times and waited for Justice to move to her. He laid down on his side, his head resting on her arm. Sara laid her free arm across his stomach curling herself around him.

Ava wasn’t surprised when Scout jumped up on the bed and laid down beside the pair. She moved to the edge of the bed and grabbed the throw. She covered Sara and the dogs with it, giving Sara’s shoulder a light squeeze. She wanted nothing more than to curl up with Sara but she didn’t want to make her feel smothered. “We’ll be in the living room when you’re ready.” She kissed the top of her head, she wanted her to know that she was not alone.

“How is she,” Laurel asked once Ava sat down beside her.

Ava sighed. “I’m worried. She hasn’t said a single word since I found her sitting on my back porch.” She turned to face Laurel. “Am I right in giving her space, I don’t want her to feel alone, not after the day she’s had.”

Laurel wished she knew the right answer, she didn’t know the exact state her sister was in. Even knowing sometimes, it was a guessing game on how to handle her. “Let’s give her a few more hours, it’s a lot to process.”

Ava looked back in the direction of her bedroom, contemplating whether she wanted to leave Sara with her thoughts for that long.

Laurel saw Ava’s hesitation. “Did she have Justice lay on her arm,” Laurel asked. It was how Sara slept anytime she was overly stressed. She’d cuddle with Justice and he’d push her stress and anxiety away just long enough for her to sleep peacefully for a short time.  

Ava nodded.

“Then she’s probably asleep already. It’s how she deals sometimes. Give her time, trust me.” Laurel squeezed her hand.

Ava gave Laurel a sad half smile. “I do trust you Laurel, I just, I hate this. I hate that she’s hurting.”

“Me too.” Laurel scooted closer to Ava, resting her head on her shoulder. “She’ll be okay, she has us.”

The pair sat together for close to two hours discussing the events that led to Sara coming to Ava’s and their plan for the next few days. Laurel couldn’t take off with her current caseload and the court appearances she had coming up so Ava made the arrangement with work and took the time off. They both turned around when they heard footsteps behind them.

Sara moved around the couch and stood in front of them. She waited for her sister and her girlfriend to move, giving her just enough space to be nestled between them. She grabbed Laurel’s hand with one hand and Ava’s with the other. She let out a deep, heavy sigh before she began talking. “It was supposed to be a simple family disturbance. I’ve responded to calls like it hundreds of times. There were no mentions of weapons and no history at the address.” Sara’s eyes became distant as she retold the story. She’d gone over it with herself several times, trying to figure out what detail she’d missed. “Caller reported his son banging on the door demanding he be let in and that he was not welcomed there. When we pulled up and started approaching the house he opened fire on us.” Her hold on their hands tightened briefly, Sara took a calming breath and reminded herself to loosen her grip. Hurting Ava and Laurel unintentionally was the last thing she wanted to do. “He wouldn’t listen to commands, we were both away from our vehicles so less lethal was not an option and we were too far for the taser to reach.” She closed her eyes, picturing the scene all over again. “Backup was coming but something in my gut told me it wasn’t going to get there in time.” A tear slowly rolled down her cheek, followed by another, then another. “He turned his aim at the house and started shooting.” A sob escaped her. “He was just a kid.” She shook her head. She knew she’d had little choice. If she hadn’t taken action then he could’ve killed everyone in the house.

Both women held her hands tightly, leaning further into her, offering as much support as they possibly could.

“I killed a kid, he had his full life ahead of him and I killed him. He could’ve had a chance if someone actually gave it to him. He’s been rejected and abused all his life. He never had a chance and now he’ll never get one.” The more she’d learned about the deceased the more guilt she’d felt.

Laurel looked at her sister and made sure she had Sara's attention when she spoke. “Sara he was twenty, he was young yes, but he was not a kid. He knew what he was doing. He knew there would be consequences for his actions.” Laurel had gotten as much information as she could about the incident and the deceased, because she’d known her sister would blame herself.

“Not long ago that could’ve been Leonard or Mick, but they got lucky. Someone gave them a chance. I should’ve done more, tried to find another way.” She argued, there had to have been an option she missed.

“Sara you are the most calculating person I know. If there was another way, you would’ve found it.” Ava jumped in.

“It shouldn’t have come down to this. The system failed him, I’m supposed to protect and serve.” She’d known that taking a life while on the job could happen, it was something every cop dreaded but had to be prepared for. She’d hoped that if she was ever in a situation where she needed to take a life it would be cut and dry. That she’d have no doubt about her actions. For a split second before he’d turned his weapon on his parent’s house she’d seen pain. A look she was all too familiar with.

“The system did fail but that’s not on you Sara.” Ava was sure if given a chance to actually talk, Sara would’ve been able to talk him down and gotten him the help he needed.

“She’s right Sara, he was shooting at you. If you hadn’t stopped him, he could’ve killed you if not his family and other innocent bystanders.”

Sara sighed, she knew they were right, but that didn’t make it any easier. “Can I just be sad for a while,” she asked.

“For as long as you need.” Ava and Laurel scooted closer to her, resting their heads on her shoulders allowing her to cry and mourn the life she’d taken.

“I’m sorry I’ve been a mess,” Sara apologized a few hours later when it was just her and Ava lying in bed. “I’m sure you had better things to do with your day off than worry about me.”

“Sara you are the strongest, most resilient person I know, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than by your side. Do I wish to have spent the day differently, absolutely, but that’s not because I was worrying about you. It was because I hate that you had to make such a difficult decision. A decision that has weighed on you so heavily. I hate that you’re hurting and there is nothing I can do to take the pain away.”

Sara found herself near tears once again. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you but I’m so happy to have you in my corner.” Sara lifted her head from Ava's shoulder to kiss her. Her kisses gentle, full of affection and appreciation.

“Sara.” Ava laid a hand over the hand Sara had sliding up her side, beneath her shirt.

Sara paused, pulling away. Eyeing her questioningly.

“We don’t have to.” She didn’t want Sara to do anything dictated by her emotions alone.

Sara smiled and leaned down, kissing her. “I want to, I’ve wanted to for so long, and tonight , I just want to feel you.” She smiled when Ava nodded, releasing her hand. “Thank you.” Sara moved to straddle her hips and leaned down to kiss her once again, her hand continuing its journey up her side. Both dogs took the hint and jumped off the bed, making themselves comfortable on the extra large dog bed Ava had purchased for them that Siren occupied anytime the dogs weren't around.

Ava grabbed the hem of Sara’s shirt, lifting it up and off of her body, tossing it aside. She scooted up against the headboard so that she was slightly sitting up. Her fingers grazing Sara’s scars, gently caressing them. She sat up fully, surprising Sara and flipping them over so that she was the one hovering above her. She leaned down placing a kiss on the small scar Sara had obtained several months back, the one she herself had treated in the back of the ambulance. She then moved lower to the more prominent scars that marked her abdomen, taking her time kissing and caressing each mark. She looked up and smiled at Sara lovingly. “You are so beautiful.” She returned to Sara’s lips, kissing her passionately, gently nipping at lip to be allowed access into her mouth.

 

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s at the end of the day whispering I will try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

 

Chapter Text

“Kindness can transform someone’s dark moment with a blaze of light. You’ll never know how much your caring matters.” - Amy Leigh Mercree

 

“Officer Lance.” Ava gave Sara a head nod and a big smile tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. An investigation had been conducted and after a few days, Sara’s shooting had been declared a good shooting. The video footage from both her and Leonard’s body cameras and the statements collected from witnesses had corroborated their stories. Sara had requested to remain off the remainder of the week to continue to see her therapist, to regroup and to process the shooting before returning to work. In the days that followed the shooting Ava did not leave Sara’s side. Aside from the first couple hours where Sara had refused physical contact, she had sought it out the remainder of the week. It was in the days they spent together that Ava learned some of Sara’s tells. When irritable or angry, Sara would close her eyes, inhale slowly and exhale sharply through her nose. During those times, she backed off and gave her space, even if it was just for a few minutes. When Sara’s brow furrowed, she wanted something but wasn’t sure how to ask. That one she learned early on and so she made it as easy as she could for Sara to ask whatever it was she needed. Whether it was a hug, kiss or even a meal.

Sara’s heart skipped a beat seeing the smile on Ava’s face. She had spent the entire week with her but it just didn’t feel like it was enough. “Hey,” Sara greeted Ava and Mick outside of the residence they’d been dispatched too, doing her best not to give away too much with both Mick and Leonard watching them. “You know, if you two wanted to see me so badly all you had to do was call. We could’ve just met up for lunch.” She punched Mick’s shoulder lightly.

Mick was glad to have his sister in law back in the field, he’d been worried about her when he’d first learned of the shooting. He’d gone to check on Leonard once he'd known she was safe with Laurel and Ava. “As long as you’re buying, we’ll take you up on that, but first." He pointed at the house. "Dispatch says our patient is drunk, uncooperative and the reporting party is also drunk.”

Leonard looked at his watch and grimaced. “It’s ten in the morning,” he commented. It was never a good sign when someone was drunk at that hour, his father taught him that lesson when he was but a child. “Let’s get this over with.” He sighed masking his disgust. As a cop he could not treat people a certain way because of his personal feelings and so he did his best to remain neutral.

“What he means,” Sara says as she moves to follow him. “We’ll go make sure the scene is safe for Star City’s finest.” She winked at the pair of firefighters.

“Well she’s in a good mood.” Despite the previous week’s incident, Sara was in high spirits. His wife was right, there was definitely something going on between the two.

“She’s always in a good mood.” It was something Ava really liked about Sara. She was constantly smiling despite the darkness she saw in her line of work, not to mention the trauma she had to overcome.

Before Mick could respond dispatch got on the radio to tell them that the scene was safe for them to go in.

Sara and Leonard stayed on scene until the patient was loaded into the back of the ambulance just in case he or his family member decided to act violently.

“Blondie, Len, thanks.” Mick nodded at the pair of officers and moved to the driver’s seat while Ava prepared to move to the back of the ambulance.

“Thanks guys, stay safe.” Ava smiled at the pair before shutting the door to the back of the ambulance.

Leonard turned to his partner the moment the doors closed. “You asked her out.” It wasn’t a question.

Sara was about to deny it but there was no use, Leonard spent way too much time with her not to figure it out eventually. “I did. We had our first date last week.”

Leonard smiled. “And by the grin on your face, I’d say it went well.”

Sara laughed, she was trying hard not to but she couldn’t hide the grin. “It went really well actually. I spent the entire week with her.”

“I’m glad, you weren't alone. She’s good for you.” He had reached out to Sara a few times the previous week making sure she was okay and that she had someone with her.

“What about you Len, been on a date with Ray yet,” she asked, She knew the two had planned on going out but she wasn’t sure if it had actually happened. Leonard had a habit of cancelling on his dates at the last minute with the excuse of having to work.

“A few.” He shrugged as if it weren’t a big deal but he and Sara both knew how big of a deal it was. Leonard had not dated anyone in years, he went out with several guys but he never bothered with second dates. He and Ray went out the day after the barbecue and then again a few days later.  

“Aaaaand, how was it,” she asked.

“He’s kind of great. We’re going out again tomorrow night.” He couldn’t help but smile.

Sara’s smile grew wider. “I’m really happy for you Lenny.” Any further personal conversation was halted when dispatch called them for a call. “Sierra nine six go for both.” She answered the radio for herself and Leonard.

***...***

“So, what’s going on between you and blondie,” Mick asked on their way back to the station.

Ava gave him a confused look. “What do you mean,” she asked. “We’re just friends.”

Mick gave her a disbelieving look for a few seconds before nodding. He was sure something was up but Ava was not giving up any information. “How is Mona, you haven’t mentioned her in a while.” He changed tactics.

“Mona,” she asked, wondering why Mick brought her up.

“Yeah, Mona. isn’t that the girl that takes care of Scout when you work.” He was pretty sure he had the right name.

He had her there. Mona would spend several hours a day with Scout on the days she worked. She came recommended by Gary, of people, after the dog sitter she had moved. She’d instantly liked her and most importantly, Scout and Siren liked her. “Oh right, she’s good. I set her up with Amaya, she's interning at her vet clinic.” Truth was, she hadn’t used Mona for the past month or so. Sara would either take Scout to her place or she and Justice would come to Ava’s so that he wasn’t alone all day.

Now he was sure, there was something going on. “Good, good. She’ll learn a lot from Amaya.” 

***...***

“Sara, I’m glad I caught you.” Ray jogged to catch up with her as she made her through the parking lot to her car. Her day had been pretty uneventful which she was thankful for but she was ready to curl up with the dogs and watch some mindless television.

She dropped her bag in the back seat of her SUV and shut the door. “What’s up,” she asked, leaning on her driver side door.

“Well, I, uh.” He rubbed the back of his head with his hand nervously. “I wanted to talk to you, but I wasn’t sure when would be a good time.”

“Spill it Ray.” She didn’t want to spend the next few hours in the parking lot waiting on Ray to ask want he needed from her.

Ray shifted anxiously. “I just wanted to catch you in the, uh, right mindset.” He hoped that she’d catch his meaning.

“My guard is up Ray, what’s up,” she asked. She’d told him numerous times in the past that he just had to come out and say it. He was smart to catch her just after her shift, it wasn’t until she was home that she let herself completely relax.

“That’s great.” He have her a big smile. “Ah, you remember Ava’s friend Ray. From the barbecue.”

She nodded. “I do.” She narrowed her eyes, dragging out the last word. “What about Ray.”

“It’s not really about Ray.” He shifted nervously once again. “It’s about his friend.” He didn’t say her name, even though Sara had her guard up, he didn’t want to trigger a panic attack.

“Nora.” She said the name for him. "You can say her name Ray, she's not Lord Voldemort." She teased, trying to get him to relax a bit.

He nodded. “Yes, Nora.” He tried not to smile and failed at the mention of the brunette’s name. “I wanted to ask her out, but I wanted to make sure you’d be okay with it. I completely understand if your not and I’m sorry to even bring it up, it’s just that her and I really hit it off at the barbecue and she’s super kind and funny and she loves musicals. She loves them as much as I do and Oklahoma is showing and I was going to ask her but I wanted to.”

“Ray,” Sara yelled his name to get his attention. “Breath.” She was worried he would pass out if she didn’t interrupt him and remind him to take a breath.

“Sorry.” He apologized.

“You like Nora,” she asked.

He nodded. “Am I the worst friend in the world.”

She shook her head. “No Ray you’re not. Anyone would be lucky to have you for a friend.” She laid a hand on his forearm. “She’d be lucky to have you as more than a friend.” 

“Seriously,” he asked excitedly. “You don’t mind.” He was overjoyed.

“I don’t.” She inhaled sharply when he wrapped his arms around her giving her a tight bear hug.

“Thank you Sara. You have no idea how much this means to me.” He knew it would be hard for Sara but that didn’t stop her from giving him her blessing.

“No problem Ray, just make sure I get a, I’m bringing a plus one notice on all the group functions.”

“Of course.” He nodded quickly, agreeing to her terms.

***...***

“Well this is a pleasant surprise.” Ava set her work bag by the door and greeted both of the excited dogs. “Morning.” She dropped down on the couch beside Sara, kissing her.

Sara set the crossword puzzle aside. “I should’ve told you. We came by to keep Scout company last night and I kind of fell asleep.”

“I don’t mind one bit.” Ava leaned down, resting her head on Sara’s shoulder.

Sara kissed her head and brought her arm around her shoulders to hold her close. “You smell like smoke, long night,” she asked.

“Mmhmm.” Ava nodded, eyes already closed. “Elderly female fell asleep with a lit cigarette.” She shifted to lay down in Sara’s lap when Sara guided her to the pillow she’d placed there.

“Everyone okay,” she asked.

“M’yea. Just a long night.” She yawned.

Sara didn’t say anything else, she played with Ava’s hair letting her sleep.

***...***

“Hey sleepy head.” Sara smiled down at Ava two hours later. “Have a nice nap,” she asked.

Ava nodded, giving her a sleepy smile. “Very good.” She yawned, extending her arms above her head and stretched her sore muscles. “Sara Lance don’t even think about tickling me.”

Sara froze, she thought she’d been more sneaky in bringing her arms to Ava's sides. “I wasn’t going to tickle you.” She lied.

Ava opened her eyes and gave her the, I don’t believe you look.

“I wasn’t.” Sara repeated. “Anyway,” she said changing the subject. “Ray stopped me after work yesterday.” She continued to run her fingers through Ava’s hair as she spoke. “He wanted to know if I was okay with him asking Nora out.”

“How do you feel about that.” That couldn’t have been an easy question for Ray or an easy conversation for Sara.

“He caught me off guard at first, I mean, I gave him my blessing but it wasn’t until last night while I was sitting here that I realized I was truly okay with it.”

That answered Ava’s question of why she hadn’t told her about this yesterday. She’d needed time to think things through.

“At first I said yes because it was the right thing to do as Ray’s friend. I could tell he really liked her. The more I thought about it, the more I realized, Nora deserved someone like Ray in her life. Someone that would make up for every bad thing that was thrown at her because of her father. Someone who made her happy, who pushed away the ugliness of this world just a little bit.”

Ava sat up straddling Sara’s lap, kissing her. “You are that someone to me Sara Lance.” She was always amazed by Sara’s capacity for love and her ability to put other people’s feelings above her own.

“And you are mine.” Sara’s heart felt full, overjoyed to have found her someone in Ava.

Chapter Text

 

"Verbal communication is essential in order to understand what is going on inside other people." Dr. Gary Chapman

 

Sara Lance drove with the lights and sirens on to the house fire she'd been dispatched to. Luckily she wasn't far from the scene when the call came out as there were reports of people possibly being inside the house. She parked down the street and out of the way of the fire units that were due to arrive. "Sierra nine six on scene, smoke and fire showing, contacting possible homeowner." Sara ran up to the woman frantically waving her arms, screaming for help. "Ma'am do you live here," she asked the distraught woman. "Is there anyone inside," she asked.

The woman's cries became more distressed. "My baby, please, my baby, he's inside. I couldn't get to him. Please," she begged, tears running down her face.

"Where in the house is he." Sara's heart rate picked up at the thought of a child being inside the smoke filled structure that was slowly being overcome with fire.

"He was in the living room when the alarms started going off and he hid, I couldn't get to him. I had to call for help. Oh god, what if something happens to him. Please, you have to save him." She grabbed onto Sara's arm. "I couldn't live with myself if, if." She couldn't complete that thought. She just couldn't imagine her life without her baby. "Please get JT, please," she repeatedly begged.

Sara turned her gaze down the street looking and listening for the fire department, trying to judge their distance by the sound of the sirens. "Nine six, what's the ETA on fire." She didn't have the right gear to enter a burning building, but if it came down to the life of someone else, especially a child, she would risk it.

"Four minutes." Gideon responded.

"Okay ma'am, I want you to stay out here. Living room is on the main floor," she asked. When she nodded, Sara moved towards the house, four minutes was a long time for a child to be inside a smoke filled structure. "Nine six, there is a child in the structure, living room, main floor, I can't wait for fire. They may need an additional ambulance." She wasn't a firefighter but from history of other fire calls she'd assisted on she knew one ambulance's crew would help fight the fire and the second would be there in case crew members got hurt. They would need a third for the person still inside. Once she was sure dispatch had copied her traffic she ran inside. She stayed low to the ground, the smoke already burning her eyes, she needed to be quick, the heat of the fire stung her skin. "JT," she yelled. "JT, my name is Sara, I'm a police officer. Make some noise so I can find you." She made it to the living room easily and paused to listen for any noise that JT could be making to make her search for him easier. When he didn't make any noise she began searching. She was trying her hardest to stay positive, but the longer the child was quiet the more dread that filled her. When she didn't see JT in the open areas she quickly searched behind and under the furniture. "Come on, come on." She covered her mouth as a cough overtook her. She needed to get out before she inhaled any more smoke. "JT," she called out again, searching under the table. "You have got to be kidding me." She reached under the table as another coughing fit overwhelmed her. "She grabbed JT and held him close to her chest with one arm and started for the main door. She was relieved to hear sirens coming down the street. Once out of the house she stood up and stumbled towards the yard, towards the fresh clean air. She collapsed to the ground, taking JT with her the moment she knew they were out of harm's way.

Mick and Ava were pulling up behind the fire truck when Sara stumbled out of the house hands clenched to her chest.

"My baby, you found my baby. Oh Justin don't ever scare me like that." She freed her baby from Sara's grasp.

Sara had many words to say to her, but she didn't have a chance to get them out as she continued to cough. Her eyes and lungs felt as if they were on fire. She got on all fours, letting her head hang as she continued to cough.

Ava and Mick ran to her side to check on her.

"Ma'am, step back." Mick told the woman he assumed to be the homeowner.

"Breath Sara." Ava instructed as she guided her into a sitting position, lifting her head up.

"Is there anyone else trapped, any people," Mick asked the woman holding a cat. He made sure to enunciate the word people before more lives were put in danger. The fire department went in after trapped animals regularly but not at the risk of their own lives. The structure was now fully engulfed, they would not be able to save much of it.

She shook her head in the negative, holding the cat closer to her chest. "No, no, she saved JT, she saved my boy. Thank you so much." She thanked Sara.

"Medic 75, home owner is claiming no other parties in the house, we'll be transporting one officer to the hospital emergent." He turned his attention to the homeowner as he stood. "Stay across the street and out of the way." He then turned to Ava. "I'll get the gurney." He rushed back to the ambulance to get the gurney, it didn't look like Sara would be up for walking in the immediate future. He returned less than a minute later. "You good to stand," he asked.

Sara nodded. She inhaled deeply trying to fill her lungs with as much air as she could. She felt as though she just couldn't get enough air no matter how hard she tried. The action only caused her to cough more.

"Take it easy." Ava instructed her. "You probably have smoke inhalation." She shot a worried look towards Mick.

"Come on blondie." He and Ava assisted her up and onto the gurney. Once she was loaded inside the ambulance, he moved to the driver's seat and started transporting her to the hospital while Ava sat in the back with her.

"What were you thinking going in there after a cat," she asked after a few minutes. Seeing Sara collapse to the ground scared her. She couldn't believe Sara would pull a move like that.

"She said." Sara tried to speak but another fit overtook her, not allowing her to talk.

"Don't talk." Ava instructed, holding the oxygen mask to her face when Sara tried to remove it. "You already have the cough." She made a note on her tablet. "Eyes are red, do they hurt," she asked.

Sara nodded.

"Headache," she asked.

Again Sara nodded.

She continued down her list. "Breathing difficulty."

Sara pinched her thumb and index finger together to indicate a little bit.

"Okay." Ava added the information to her report. "Keep the oxygen on, it'll help. Hopefully there isn't any serious damage and you'll get released soon." She smiled, squeezing Sara's hand.

Sara nodded and closed her burning eyes, angry at herself for not realizing she'd endangered her life for a cat. She knew better, she should've asked more questions. She was sure Ava was pissed. She could see it on her face. Ava was trying and failing not to show how upset and worried she was.

Once they arrived at the hospital Ava and Mick turned Sara over to the nurses. Caitlin had been in the area and immediately took over her care once she realized who the patient was. "We'll come back as soon as we can." Mick promised Sara. As much as he and Ava wanted to stay they couldn't, they had a job to do.

"Listen to Caitlin," Ava instructed, already seeing the fire returning in Sara's eyes. She was ready to get back on the street. Ava gave her hand a subtle squeeze making sure not to draw the doctor or her partner's attention. "See you soon."

Sara nodded, as much as she wanted to get out there and give the cat owner a piece of her mind she couldn't. Her eyes, lungs and chest burned and her head was pounding. Her lecture would have to wait for another day.

***…***

True to their word, Ava and Mick returned three hours later. Mick entered the room that held Sara while Ava waited at the door. She'd been ready to enter but stopped in her tracks once she'd realized Sara's parents, sister, and partner were in the room with her.

"Come here." Sara extended her hand out towards Ava. "It's okay," she said when Ava didn't immediately move towards her.

Ava took a deep breath doing her best to look past Sara's family members. Their focus had turned to her the moment Sara's hand reached out to her.

"Come on in Ava." Laurel invited her in. "I'll harass my sister later. She's stuck with me all night before I turn her over to you when you get off shift." She got up to give her sister a hug. "I knew something was up, just friends my ass." She remarked the last bit sarcastically.

"We're glad you're okay kiddo." Her mom kissed her forehead, making her way to the door with Quentin right behind her. It was obvious their daughter and Ava needed privacy.

"Thanks for getting her here so quickly." Quentin thanked Ava and Mick.

"Of course." Mick responded. Ava stood beside him, still too embarrassed to speak so instead she nodded.

"We'll be seeing you at the family dinner Ava." He was letting her off the hook, this time. The interrogation of their relationship could wait until the next family dinner. Ava looked scared and worried as it was.

"Yes sir." She gave him a small smile.

"Let's have lunch in the cafeteria." Laurel grabbed Mick's hand taking him with her. "Join us Lenny, I wanna know how things are going with Ray."

"Did you tell her," he asked Sara. He shrugged when she shook her head no. He really shouldn't be surprised that Laurel had known something was up. He said his goodbyes to Sara and turned to Ava. "As far as the family finding out, that could've gone a lot worse. You can breathe now." He laid a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it. "Let me know if you guys need anything, I have to go deal with my own twenty questions," he joked.

Ava nodded. "Thanks Leonard." He was right, she and Sara had gone over the many ways of telling her family and their possible reactions and I told you so, but they didn't get any of that, at least not yet.

"You're mad." Sara commented when Ava didn't move any closer to her once the room was empty except for the two of them.

"I'm not mad."

"Okay." Sara nodded. She grabbed her chest as she started coughing. "You're upset." She continued as if the cough had not interrupted her, her voice raspy.

Ava sighed, finally moving into the room and shutting the door behind her. "Honestly, I don't know what I am Sara." She sat on the edge of the bed beside Sara. She smiled sadly and brushed a strand of hair behind Sara's ear, her fingers brushing against the oxygen tube wrapped behind it. "Seeing you collapse like that." She shook her head in an effort to shake away the image. "I was scared Sara, and at the beginning yes, I was angry. We were a few minutes out, I couldn't figure out why you didn't wait. I couldn't believe you risked your life for a cat."

Sara held Ava's hand in hers. "The homeowner kept repeating that her baby was inside, that he was scared and how much she couldn't live without him." She paused, taking several slow deep breaths. "You don't have to tell me how dumb it was not to ask if I was going in after an actual kid. I know better." She shook her head, disappointed with herself. It was something she'd learned early on. People often referred to animals as if they were their children.

"I knew there had to be a reason for you going inside, but at that moment I wasn't thinking clearly, I was more worried that you'd gotten hurt. I'm glad you're okay." Ava leaned in to kiss her, it was hard to stay upset with Sara for long. "Don't scare me like that again."

"I'll try my best not to but Ava you know I can't promise you I won't get hurt again. This job is dangerous. I take a risk everyday just by putting on the uniform." Every time she put on the uniform she knew there was a chance she would not come home, that she could get injured or killed. That worry and stress was what normally drove significant others away. The appeal of dating a police officer quickly wore off the moment they stepped through the door after being injured or an extremely tough day. It took a special type of person to be with a walking human target.

"I know." Ava wasn't naive to the dangers of Sara's job. She'd spent hours thinking about all the bad scenarios that could happen. Her own job was only a little safer and that was because people generally preferred the fire department over the police department. Cops were seen as villains for arresting family members, members that the family called about to begin with. She could never really understand that. "I get it Sara, more than most, and my job isn't safe either. Things can go south within seconds, I'm just asking that you be extra careful. I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you."

"I promise to do my best." She held Ava's hand in promise.

Ava smiled in return. They shared a few seconds of silence before Ava chuckled. "I can't believe you thought JT was a kid." She was laughing by the end of her sentence.

"Hey," Sara whined, "You're supposed to be nice to me, I'm hurt." She let out a small pretend cough that turned into a real coughing fit. She let go of Ava's hand and grabbed onto her own chest, rubbing it.

Ava rubbed her back, feeling bad for having teased her.

Once she could breathe again she continued, "I thought it was a legit name. Who names their cat JT," she asked.

"Do you want to know what JT actually stands for," Ava asked.

Sara narrowed her eyes, not sure she wanted to know. Her curiosity got the best of her, she nodded.

"It stands for Justin Timberlake, apparently the cat has moves." She and Mick had learned a lot about the cat when the homeowner had come to thank them.

Sara stared at her wide eyed. If not for the serious tone, she'd have thought Ava was messing with her. "Unbelievable," she muttered.

"She wanted us to thank you. Apparently she and her husband could never have kids so they continued to adopt animals throughout the years. Her husband passed away a year ago and JT was the last pet her he brought home."

"Why did you have to tell me that, now I can't be mad at her." Sara was glad she'd been able to save the cat, even if it was at the expense of her own health. She would heal, she knew that. She couldn't stand the thought of that homeowner alone after losing not only her home but that last reminder of her late husband.

"Because I don't want you beating yourself up for risking your life for a cat." Ava knew that Sara would be hard on herself for days to come for not clarifying the species she was running inside to save.

***...***

"Good Morning," Laurel greeted Ava when she got to Sara's house the next morning.

"Morning," Ava greeted with a yawn. "Hey guys." She knelt down giving both dogs attention.

"I just took them out, they've not eaten. I wasn't sure on Scout's routine." Laurel had gotten up and taken care of the dogs before getting ready for work.

Ava smiled, she couldn't get over having people, family, look out for her and her canine companion. "Thank you Laurel, you didn't need to do that but I appreciate it."

"Nonsense." She smiled down at the dogs. "I have to take care of my nephews don't I boys," she asked both dogs, speaking to them as if they were her babies.

Ava laughed enjoying this side of Laurel. Scout and Justice were both loving the attention, their tails wagging a hundred miles a minute. "Come on you two, let Laurel get to work." She led the pair to the kitchen where their food bowls were. She poured each dog a scoop of dry food and mixed in some wet food into theirs bowls before placing them in front of the dogs. "How is she," she asked.

"Other than the coughing, she's pretty tired. On the bright side, her eyes aren't red and her headache is all but gone. It could've been a lot worse." Sara had been lucky the fire was not active in the living room otherwise the damage to her lungs would have been worse. "She's still sleeping." She motioned to the bedroom. "You should get some rest, you look tired."

"I will." Ava promised. "After Mona comes and gets the dogs. I feel bad that they've been cooped up and she hasn't had much time with Scout lately. She's going to take them to the park and hang out with them for a few hours."

"I'm sure they'll love that. Okay, I have to head out or I'll be late. I love you." She gave Ava another hug. "Let me know if you need anything."

Ava blamed the sudden emotion that came with the statement on her lack of sleep, that had to be it. It had nothing to do with the fact that Laurel treated her like family and told her she loved her. She held onto Laurel for a second longer, tightening her hold on her. "I love you too Laurel, thanks again." She let go of the elder Lance sibling. She was still smiling by the time she made it into bed an hour later.

Sara gravitated towards her the moment she settled down and got comfortable under the covers. "Morning babe," Sara mumbled against her neck.

Ava wrapped her arms around Sara appreciating the warmth that was radiating from Sara. "Morning."

"How was work," she asked after a big yawn.

"It was okay, go back to bed, we'll talk later." She kissed her forehead, snuggling further into her and the bed covers.

"You don't sound fine." Sara was feeling more awake. "You sound more tired than usual, did something happen."

"I promise you, I'm fine. Nothing happened. I just didn't sleep well."

Sara frowned, she had a pretty good idea of what had kept Ava up. "Nightmares," she asked. Ava was hesitant, but she nodded. "About me." Sara confirmed. Again Ava nodded. "Want to talk about them." She tried to sit up further but Ava would not let her.

"I'm fine." Ava assured her. Waking up and not having Sara beside her had terrified her after the first dream. She'd been tempted to call her just to hear her voice but had thought better of it. Sara needed her rest, waking her up in the middle of the night to reassure herself was out of the question. "They scared me, that's all. I knew they were not real, you're here, alive and well. I don't need to talk, this is exactly what I want."

Sara looked around the room searching for the dogs.

"They're with Mona, I figured she could help them burn off some energy. I wouldn't have sent them off if I thought for a second that either of us needed them." The nightmares the night before had been terrifying, but they'd been just dreams. Images her mind had conjured up of various scenarios where Sara was either dead or seriously injured. In every scenario, she and Mick were the ones to find her.

"You'd tell me if you weren't okay," she asked.

"I promise."

Sara nodded. "I'm glad you're home. I sleep so much better when you're here." She snuggled further into her.

"Me too." Ava held her close. She didn't need Sara around to sleep but she most definitely preferred having her there.

Chapter Text

 

“Healing does not mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.”

 

Sara woke up a few hours later, her chest felt heavy as she tried to breath. Her hand reached for the inhaler beside her bed when the heaviness she felt shifted. She looked down at the bits of blonde hair that lay across her chest and fell on her side. She and Ava had switched places and Ava was securely curled around her, head on her chest. She shifted slightly, adjusting where Ava’s head rested, breathing more easily. She abandoned the inhaler, her fingers running through Ava’s hair instead. “Aves,” she said gently so not to startle her. “Ava.” She called out to her, this time louder.

Ava’s eyes shot open, alert and looking for danger.

“Hey, hey.” Sara got her attention. “You’re okay, you were dreaming.” She could tell Ava was still out of it as she tried to get her bearings.

Ava’s eyes made a quick once over around the room before settling on Sara. “You’re here,” she whispered.

“I’m here.” Sara confirmed. “It was just a dream.” She assured her.

Ava nodded, mind still occupied by her very vivid dream. “Are you okay,” she asked.

“I’m fine, come here.” She pulled Ava down to her.

Ava settled against her being careful not to put all her weight on Sara. “I’m supposed to be taking care of you.” She mumbled against Sara’s chest.

“We can take care of each other.” Sara kissed the top of her head.

Ava sighed contently letting Sara’s steady breathing and strong heartbeat soothe her. “I was thinking,” she said after a few minutes. “How about we have a relaxing date day.”

“I’m in, what do you have in mind,” she asked.

“Maybe get pedicures, have a picnic at the park, movie night in the living room, nothing big.” She’d almost suggested hiking, but she didn’t want Sara to exert herself or her lungs.

“Yes to all of those things.” Sara loved low key days with just her, Ava and the dogs.

“Great.” Ava moved to get up. “I’m gonna check on Mona and the dogs, then get a few things ready.”

“You can do that in a minute.” She pulled Ava back down. “Right now I’m enjoying the start of my relaxing day.”

Ava smiled and shook her head, but she didn’t fight Sara’s pull. If allowed she’d gladly spend all day laying wrapped around Sara.

***...***

“This was a good idea,” Sara said as she sat up against a tree trunk with Ava’s head in her lap a few hours later.

“They think so too.” Ava motioned to their two service dogs who played not far from them. Scout and Justice were in their element as both grownups and kids came to pet them. Both Ava and Sara beamed like proud parents anytime someone complimented their babies and how friendly and well trained they were.

Sara looked at the happy dogs. Between Mona taking them out earlier in the day and their picnic they were in heaven. She was sure they would both crash later on.

“You know a few months ago.” Ava began. “I would’ve been stuck in my head for hours after some of the nightmares I’ve had the last two days.” She smiled up at Sara.

“And now,” Sara asked. She knew what Ava meant because she’d gone through the same process herself. At first the nightmares were unbelievably scary, and talking about them was out of the question, it was as if she was reliving them. After some time, and therapy, it felt good to share them with someone else, to bring them out in the light of day where they had no shadows to hide behind.

“They’re still scary when I’m going through them and when I first wake up, but the more I think about them, the sillier they become.”

Sara nodded. “Which is one that stands out the most from the last two nights.”

Ava chuckled, almost embarrassed for having feared this dream. “You’re investigating some petty crime of stolen shoes.” She laughs as she recalls the dream. “The suspect with said shoes, appears out of nowhere and begins to run in this open field of tall green grass with nothing around for miles. You start to chase him and he runs toward these train tracks that also appear out of nowhere. The next thing I know, he disappears and the shoes are left on the tracks. You bend down to look at the shoes as the train begins to approach and you are so focused on the shoes you don’t hear the train.”

“What could I possibly be so interested about in these shoes, that I don’t hear a train,” Sara asks. Never in a million years would she put that much focus on a pair of shoes. She’d normally retrieve and return them to their owner and if possible track down the thief. More often than not, the owners were happy with getting their belongings back that they didn’t bother filing official charges.

“I have no idea, but at the time that wasn’t my concern, my concern was that the train was coming right at you and no matter how loud I yelled trying to warn you, the noise from the train drowned me out. You were standing with the pair of shoes still in your hands when the train hit you. You disappeared and all that was left were the shoes.”

“You know what’s funny about all this, besides that I would never be stupid enough to remain on the tracks,” Sara asked.

Ava nodded. “There aren’t any train tracks in your district or any of the surrounding districts,” she asked.

“Exactly, and definitely no open fields. I am curious about these shoes though. They must have been worth a lot.” She laughed.

“Honestly they weren’t even new, I was pretty sure they were worn, which is why I couldn’t believe you chased after the guy for them.” The more she thought about that particular dream the more she relaxed, even while thinking of the scarier ones. Most of them she was able to put in the category of, Sara would never put herself in that situation, the few that she couldn’t place in that category, she set aside. She trusted Sara to do her best to stay safe. If, heaven forbid something ever happened, she knew they were strong enough to get through it. Together.

“What are you thinking about,” Sara asked. “I lost you there for a second.”

Ava smiled, sitting up to kiss her. “I was thinking that no matter what happens, we’ll get through it together.”

Sara hummed in agreement. “Watch out world.” She laughed. Her smile disappeared as a drop of water hit her nose. “Looks like our day out is getting cut short.”

“We better get going.” Ava sat up.

Both ladies started packing up their things as the few drops of rain increased to a slow drizzle. They were a few feet from the Jeep when the rain began to pour heavily. Sara loaded the dogs in the vehicle while Ava secured their picnic items in the back.

“Where the hell did the rain come from,” Ava asked as she climbed into the drivers side. She’d checked the forecast, there had not been anything mentioned about June showers.

“I have no idea.” Sara settled in beside her. “You good to drive.” Rain was always a sort of trigger for Ava and she wanted to do everything she could to help.

Ava took a few calming breaths, started the engine to her Jeep and settled against her seat. She took another long breath, calming her nerves before nodding. “I think I’m okay. Thanks though.” She pulled out of their parking space and started the short drive to her place.

Sara didn’t say anything when Ava started driving in the direction of her home. The original plan had been to go back to Sara’s but with the unexpected storm, and the sudden lightning and thunder that came with it, she understood Ava wanting to be in the comfort of her own home.

“I want to try something, if you’re willing.” Ava turned to Sara once they were parked in the driveway.

Sara nodded. Ava was about to push her comfort level, she could see it by the light fear and hesitation on her face. “What do you have in mind,” she asked.

“Get the picnic stuff, I’ll get the dogs.” She opened the garage door and got out of the Jeep. She went to the back seat and let the dogs out guiding them inside the garage, commanding them to stay there. She did not need two soaked dogs running around the house later.

Sara placed the picnic items inside the garage, by the door that led inside the house. She waited for Ava to make a move.

“I’m ready.” Ava commented, taking a step outside.

Sara followed her out into the rain. She smiled, this was a huge step for Ava. It was one thing when she was forced to be out in the rain while working, this was completely voluntary.

“I’ve been working on this in therapy.” She pulled Sara against her. She’d wanted it to be a surprise so she hadn’t mentioned it to Sara.

“Ah.” Sara smiled. “That would explain some of your tougher sessions this past month. Ava had been a bit more on edge after a few of her sessions, any loud or unexpected noises made her jump, caused irritation.

Ava nodded. “I wanted to surprise you, I didn’t think about what a pain I was to deal with. Sorry.” She apologized.

“It was worth it.” Sara stood on her tiptoes, kissing her softly. “I’m really proud of you babe.” She placed gentle kisses all over Ava’s face.

Ava smiled feeling extremely proud of herself. She couldn’t wait to tell her therapist that she’d done it, she’d stood out in the rain without the fear of being blown up or killed. The smile on Sara’s face matched her own, making it easier to push away her instinct to run and hide.

“You’re amazing.” Sara held her close. “You know lightning has struck five times, not even a flinch.” She knew this wasn’t easy for Ava which only made her more proud. The last few times it had stormed like this Ava had been on the verge of a full blown panic attack.

“I guess it’s good to have a distraction.” This time she initiated the kiss. “Let’s go inside.” She said after a minute. “I don’t want you getting sick and I don’t want to overdo it.”

Sara grabbed the back of her neck guiding her down for one last kiss before allowing herself to be led inside the dry garage.

Ava went inside and returned seconds later with four towels. She handed one to Sara and used another to towel dry Scout.

Sara didn’t waste any time getting Justice dried. Paying extra attention to his paws. She didn’t want Ava’s floors and rug covered in paw prints.

Once the dogs were taken care of the ladies worked on getting themselves dry.

***...***

“I had a really good day.” Sara commented beside Ava on the couch. “Thank you.”

Ava hummed, she enjoyed their day of relaxation also. “Me too.” She leaned against Sara. “Bed,” she asked.

Sara nodded, her eyes feeling heavy. “Bed.”

“Want me to carry you.” Ava smiled already knowing the answer.

Sara gave her a gentle nudge, pushing her away. “Don’t you dare.”

“Get in bed, I’ll get these two.” She pointed to the dogs who’d sat up excitedly at their owner’s movement.

“Okay.” Sara didn’t argue. The events of the day, while relaxing, still wore her out. “I know I keep saying it, but I am really proud of you Aves.” She’d lost count the number of times she’d told Ava she was proud of her. She snuggled against her and motioned for the dogs to join them. Ava had pushed herself mentally today and while she’d done well, she wanted to be ready for anything the night brought. The dogs jumped up onto the bed and curled up beside their charges. “Night Ava.” She yawned.

“Good night Sara.”  

Chapter Text

Sara returned to Ava's after completing a full week's work after a few days off allowing her body to heal which meant she and Ava rarely saw each other in that week. "I know it shouldn't be possible since I still see you every day but I missed you this week." She tells Ava as they get ready for bed.

"I know the feeling," Ava says, pulling the covers on her side down, slipping into bed. "We got spoiled last week with three whole days of just us. It felt." She paused trying to think of an appropriate word. "Empty." She decided. "Not having you around." One of them always had the dogs but it just wasn't the same not having the other around.

Sara nodded, agreeing with her. "That's how it feels when you're on shift two days and I have the days off." Sara hated when Ava's shift fell on her days off. It meant they only had one day together before she had to return to work. "This is why Laurel abandons the family anytime she and Mick have shared days off." She'd never cared about someone enough to understand the want of being around them, as often as possible.

"Being gone two days, sometimes longer when the need arises takes its toll on relationships and family functions." She loved having four days off after each shift but it was hard when friends wanted to get together after work or on the weekends she worked.

"I think we have a good work life balance." Sara smiled scooting to Ava's side of the bed.

"Yes we do." She smiled pulling Sara down for a kiss. Then another, and another. She held Sara close once they parted.

"What're you thinking about," Sara asked after a few minutes. "I can feel your heart racing and I know it's not from the kissing." Her heart had had enough time to settle down after their short makeout session, it had to be something else.

Ava smiled, she really shouldn't have doubted Sara's ability to pick up on her nervous cues when something was up. "Father's Day." She paused. "My mother called, she wanted me to go over for dinner but I told her I had plans." She had promised Sara's family that she'd be there for Sunday dinner. She hadn't thought about Father's Day or her own father.

Sara got up on her elbow to get a better read on Ava's face."My family will understand, you can come to dinner another time."

Ava shook her head in the negative. She was looking forward to dinner with the Lance family. They always made her feel welcomed, like she had always been a part of their family. "No, I don't want to miss dinner, you family will think I'm trying to hide." She joked. This was going to be their first dinner with the family as a couple. "I told my mom I'd make lunch."

"Okay." Sara couldn't figure out what the dilemma was. Ava had enough time to make both gatherings. "What's got you so anxious," she asked. She could read it all over Ava's face.

"I don't want to go alone." She mumbled. "Will you come." She knew she was asking a lot of Sara. Especially since she'd told her about how her father was.

"Of course I'll come." She leaned down to place a kiss on her cheek. "You're crazy if you thought I was going to let you go on your own, without backup."

"Thank you." Ava smiled. "I don't know why I'm so nervous, he always makes me feel like I don't live up to his expectations, like no matter what I do, I'm a disappointment." She sighed thinking about her father.

"You're anything but a disappointment Aves, if he can't see that, he doesn't deserve you for a daughter." Sara wasn't looking forward to meeting the man, but she'd do it, for Ava.

"I don't know how, but you always know exactly what to say." She pulled her down for a kiss, thanking her in actions for how much she appreciated her. How much, dare she say, loved her.

Sara didn't bother responding in words, she brought her hand to Ava's cheek cupping it, holding it tightly as she showered her with kisses. She pulled back long enough to remove her top before returning her lips to Ava's lips, jaw and neck line.

Ava let out a soft moan, rolling them over so that she could straddle Sara's hips, removing her own shirt.

Sara sat up, her lips connecting with Ava's skin immediately. She placed feather light kisses just above her breasts, taking her time appreciating her soft skin. Her hands slid up Ava's sides, her thumbs grazing her ribs just below her breasts, eliciting a shiver from the tall blonde. She smiled knowing the exact affect the movement had on Ava. She gasped as Ava's teeth bit down hard on the nook between her neck and shoulder.

"Don't tease." Tonight she didn't want slow and steady, she wanted Sara to take her. To make her feel nothing but pure pleasure.

To anyone else, it may have sounded like a complaint but Sara knew better, it was a command. "Yes ma'am." She smiled, she enjoyed teasing Ava, sometimes she would tease her until she begged to be touched, tonight was not one of those nights. Ava wanted her and she wasn't about to deny her. She kissed the faded shrapnel scars on her chest and shoulder before bringing her lips to a hardened nipple. She bit down gently pulling it with her teeth.

"Thank you," Ava sighed in pleasure. Sara had applied just enough pressure to elicit pain without making it uncomfortable. Her fingertips moved up Sara's back being careful not to scratch her already scarred back. "Yes." She hissed as Sara held her free nipple between her thumb and index finger, pinching it, gently at first and then hard. Her hips bucked against Sara's as her back arched.

Sara loved this side of Ava, she didn't hold back what she was feeling and wasn't afraid to tell her what she wanted. She released the nipple from her mouth with a pop before taking the other between her lips, gently this time. She circled the erect nipple with her tongue, teasing it until Ava's hand grabbed the back of her head, pushing her into her chest, forcing her to take more of her in her mouth. She sucked gently until her other hand reached the abandoned nipple squeezing hard as she sucked harder on the nub in her mouth.

"Fuck." Ava gasped at the sudden onslaught of pain and pleasure, her hand held Sara's head in place. She released her hold on Sara's head, allowing her to pull back after a minute bringing her head down, pulling Sara into a passionate kiss, slipping her tongue inside her mouth, tasting her. She nipped at Sara's lower lip eliciting a small gasp. "I want you," she whispered, lifting up enough to allow Sara to move from beneath her. She rid herself of all remaining clothing as Sara scooted off the side of the bed.

Sara watched briefly as Ava discarded what little clothing she'd been wearing. Distracted she reached into the bedside drawer for the dual strap on they'd recently purchased. She stepped out of her pants and underwear and into the harness bringing it up to her thighs, she held it up with her hands as she climbed back onto the bed. She sat up on her knees facing Ava, only releasing her hold on the harness when Ava took hold of it. She watched intently as Ava brought the harness further up her thighs and closer to her center. She wanted to reach down and insert the dildo into herself but she knew Ava enjoyed doing that part herself. She adjusted her knees, spreading them further apart to allow Ava to do as she pleased.

"Ready," Ava asked, her voice lustful and breathless.

Sara nodded, she was beyond ready. She was sure if Ava didn't touch her soon then she would burst.

Ava reached between Sara's legs, her fingers slipping through her folds, parting them. "You're so wet." She loved the effect she had on Sara. She wasn't gloating though because she could feel the wet pool between her own legs. She leaned in kissing her, Sara's moan sounding muffled against her lips. She withdrew her fingers smiling at the disappointments groan from her partner. She brought her soaked fingers to her lips, sucking Sara's juices off of them.

"You're killing me," Sara whined. "You said no teasing." She reminded her, that went both ways.

"Sorry," Ava apologized. "I can't help myself, you smell so good, I just wanted a taste." She kissed Sara letting her taste herself. She complied when Sara deepened the kiss, her tongue slipping into her mouth, Sara's hand slid down, nudging the hand Ava had holding the harness. Ava moved the harness further up until the tip of the dildo connected with Sara's center. Sara hissed against her lips, hips shifting, trying to find friction. Ava moved the dildo against Sara coating it with her own juices before finding her center once again and pushing it inside her with one quick flick of the wrist.

"Gah," Sara let out a deep sigh. "Ava please." She wanted Ava to hurry. She wanted more, she needed to feel the dildo move inside her.

Ava pulled away from Sara and tightened the harness around her hips, she wanted to be filled by Sara just as badly. "That okay," she asked, taking the protruding rubber in her hand giving it a gentle tug.

Sara moaned, the slight tug having shifted the plug inside her. "Perfect, now turn around." She requested.

Ava kissed her once again before complying. She waited in anticipation as Sara adjusted herself behind her, her hands starting their journey at her knees, her fingers gently pressing into her sides as they moved up, cupping her breasts, massaging them. Ava leaned back against Sara, trusting her to hold her up.

Sara placed kisses along Ava's shoulders and neck as her hands found her breasts. She brought one hand down the front of Ava's chest, feeling her shudder. Her fingers wasted no time finding Ava's clit. She rubbed the nub in a circular motion, pleased with the sounds that escaped Ava's lips. Sara lifted her hips bringing the dildo up between Ava's legs, stopping her massage of Ava's clit. She held Ava's hip to steady her as Ava rubbed herself against the silicon shaft between her legs. "You are so fucking hot right now," Sara hissed against her ear. "Ready," she asked once she was sure the dildo was lubed enough to penetrate her without hurting her.

Ava nodded, she was beyond ready, her skin was on fire. She allowed Sara to use the hand on her chest to stabilize her while her other hand pushed down on her shoulder guiding her down to the bed. She rested her weight on her elbows, her head looking back, signaling to Sara that she was set.

"So sexy." Sara marveled at Ava's curves, her nails raking down her sides resting on her hips. She grabbed the dildo with one hand sliding it through Ava's wet folds causing her to grind against it. She rubbed the tip of it against Ava's clit twice before bringing down and entering her in one fluid motion.

"Fuck me." Ava let out loudly, feeling filled.

"I plan to." Sara teased leaning down to place a kiss on her lower back. She rocked her hips slowly, pulling out just enough to elicit a moan from Ava before pushing herself back in. Once she was sure Ava was ready for her she took hold of both of her hips, using them to keep her balanced and synchronizing Ava's movement with her own trusts. She rocked against her hard and fast, each thrust causing the plug inside her to rub against her bring her closer to climax.

"Sara." Ava breathed out after several minutes. "Stop." She was close to coming and she knew she wouldn't last much longer.

Sara immediately stopped, pulling out completely. "You okay, did I hurt you," she asked in concern. She was always mindful about not getting carried away, the last thing she wanted to do was hurt Ava.

Ava shook her head, breathing heavily. "No, I just wanted to see you." She turned around to face Sara, kissing her. She loved that Sara's immediate concern had been about her, that she wasn't upset in the slightest for having paused their pleasure when she knew they were both very close to coming. The grin that overtook Sara's face was bright and overwhelmingly filled with love and adoration. "Come here." She pulled Sara against her as she collapsed onto her back with Sara on top of her. She hummed as Sara slipped inside her once again resuming her thrusts. With each thrust her movements became more erratic. She slipped her hand between their bodies, pressing her thumb against Sara's clit pushing her over the edge as she continued to thrust hard and fast bringing Ava to climax with her.

"Fuck." She repeated Ava's earlier exclamation as she slowly pulled out of Ava and lay beside her, breathless. She squeezed her eyes shut trying to focus her vision. She opened them seconds later to find Ava smiling at her. "You okay," she asked.

"I'm in heaven." Ava rolled into her side resting her head against Sara's chest. As they lay there both catching their breathe Ava reached down and loosened the straps on the harness. "Ready," she asked. Once Sara gave her the go ahead she tugged on the harness gently causing Sara to hum as she pulled out the dildo buried inside of her.

"Best investment ever." She motioned towards the discarded strap on that would need to be cleaned later. "Come here." She pulled Ava to her, snuggling against her..

***...***

"I've got your back." Sara reached over and squeezed Ava's hand as they waited outside the door to be let in. "See what I did there." Sara winked, doing everything in her power to make Ava laugh.

"You're impossible." Ava laughed. She gave her a nervous smile, she'd wanted to turn around and leave but Sara would not allow her.

"Ava." The door swung open. "And you must be Ava's friend Sara." Ava's mother greeted them giving Ava a tight hug. "Come in, I just set the table." She spun around leaving the door open for them to follow.

Sara turned her head to face Ava. "Friends." She mouthed in question. "Friends don't do what we did last night." She winked.

Ava groaned. "Don't even joke about that in front of them." Ave didn't want to get an earful from her very traditional parents. "Mom didn't mean anything by it, dad on the other." She rolled her eyes.

"Not a word." Sara promised, following Ava inside.

"Ava." Her father stood from the table, setting his newspaper aside.

"Hi dad." She gave him a brief and slightly awkward hug. "This is Sara, I told mom about her yesterday."

"Ah yes, the police officer. I did some reading on you young lady. Seems you're not one to be messed with."

Ava's brows rose, did her father just compliment Sara? She couldn't believe her ears. Maybe today wouldn't be a total disaster. And then her father continued.

"I told Ava to become a police officer, it's a noble profession. I wanted her to put her military background to good use, not be a hose dragger." He shook his head as if the disappointment was still fresh on his mind. "But what can you do, children don't always listen to their parents."

Sara tried to gage Ava's reaction to his statement but she seemed indifferent. She was reminded of the Ava she'd met almost a year ago, indifferent and unfazed by her. But she knew her better, she knew it was a facade. The comment had actually bothered her. She decided, she didn't care for Ava's father at all, but she'd play nice for Ava's sake. "Ava is one of the best medics and firefighters we have, I think that's because of her military background as a combat medic. She's able to asses the situation and triage patients within seconds while it takes some of the newer medics minutes with the help of their partners."

He nodded but said nothing further on the subject. "Let's eat." He motioned towards the set table they stood at.

"Thank you," Ava mouthed. She smiled when Sara winked at her and stepped behind a chair pulling out for her. "Thanks," she said out loud.

"Always." Sara gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze before sitting in the chair beside her. She did her best to ignore the annoyed look on Ava's father's face. "Everything smells so good," she commented as she took her seat beside Ava.

"Mom is a great cook, wait till you try her snickerdoodles." She smiled at her mother. Her mother wasn't a bad person, she'd always tried to bridge the gap between her and her father. But years being married to him, she'd picked up on some of his ridiculous beliefs and behavior. She remembered her mother being more loving as a child, she'd turned stern and logical the longer she'd been with her father.

"I'm afraid I'm a bit out of practice. It's been a while since I've made a batch, I usually make them when Ava is around and it's been nearly a year." She said with a hint of accusation.

"Sorry about that." Ava apologized, but she wasn't really. The year away from her parents, her father, had been good for her. Sara's family had adopted her and filled in the void her parents had put there. "I've been working on some things, mentally." She said the last bit hesitantly. She knew how her father felt about therapy and feelings. "I'm doing much better." She smiled, remembering how she'd concurred the storm the week before.

"That's good to hear dear." Her mother reached across the table patting her hand.

"You know what I say about that." Her father spoke.

"I know dad. Put it in a box, lock it up, throw away the key." Ava had heard that many times growing up. 'Suck it up young lady, soldiers don't cry.' She'd lost count the number of times she'd heard that growing up.

"Throw away the box too." He added. "No need to carry all that baggage."

Sara couldn't believe what she was hearing. It's no wonder Ava hadn't dealt with her trauma for years, the man sitting across from her was a terrible example of dealing with trauma and emotions.

"You disagree," he asked Sara.

"I personally don't think that's a healthy way of dealing with things, there are only so many boxes you can lock up and throw away, before you tire out. Dealing with the issue and treating it gives better results in the long run. But each person deals with problems differently." She wanted to tell him he was ridiculous but that wouldn't have been nice. After all, she was there to make things easier on Ava, not let him goad her into an argument.

"Let's eat." Ava's mom interrupted before an argument could ensue.

"This is delicious." Sara commented after a few bites of the pot roast, veggies and mashed potatoes.

"Thank you Sara." Ava's mom smiled proudly, it was nice to get a compliment outside of the approving grunt her husband occasionally provided.

To Ava's relief the rest of their lunch went without further discussion on her father's disappointment of her career choice or the fact that she was seeing a therapist and a big part of that was thanks to Sara, because anytime her father brought up either topic, she would change the subject by asking him about his career and hobbies.

"Tell me about your family, Sara, do you have plans with your father today," Ava's mother asked hoping to keep the topic off of her daughter so that she could avoid an argument between her husband and her daughter.

"My mother is a professor at the university, I have one sister, she's the district attorney, she's married to Ava's work partner, it's how Ava and I met." She looked at Ava remembering their first encounter a year ago. "It feels like a lifetime ago now." She smiled at Ava.

"And your father." Ava's father interrupted the non verbal communication between his daughter and her friend.

"Sorry." Sara apologized. "I got distracted there for a second. My father is the chief of police for Star City. We actually plan on having dinner with them later on."

"Your family is very accomplished." He was very impressed. "So you're following in your father's footsteps."

"Dad." Ava interrupted before her father could go into another rant of what a disappointment she was.

"What," he asked defensively. "Is it so bad that I'm impressed with your friend and the fact that she followed in her father's footsteps, it's every father's dream." His voice raised. "Her father must be very proud."

"Because you're not." Ava dropped her utensils on the table. She should've known this lunch would not have been different from any of the ones she'd had since getting out of the military.

"I just don't understand why you would get out after investing so many years into your career. A career you excelled at might I add."

"Because I got tired of seeing my friends die." She snapped, she always did her best not to lose her temper while speaking with her father because he used it as a tool against her, calling her emotional and irrational. "I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment to you dad, but you know what, I don't care anymore, I'm not that child that joined the military to seek her father's approval anymore. I'm finally happy, and in a good place physically and mentally." She tossed her napkin on the table and stood up. "And you know what, Sara is not just my friend. I care about her, a lot, she makes me happy."

"I will not be disrespected in my own home." Her father stood up abruptly pushing his chair back.

"Darling, Ava." Ava's mother looked between the two people that mattered the most to her. She'd hoped today would be different, she wanted nothing more than for the rift between her husband and daughter to be repaired.

"I'm sorry mom, I can't do this." Ava took Sara's hand, guiding her towards the exit, her mother following close behind.

"Maybe we could do lunch, sometimes," her mother asked once they were outside. "The three of us." It had been really good seeing her daughter again. She hadn't realized how much she missed her until she'd seen her.

Ava nodded doing her best not to cry. "We would like that." Ava hugged her. "I love you mom."

"I love you too sweetheart." She watched as her daughter and her girlfriend got into Ava's Jeep before making her way back inside to deal with her stubborn husband.

"You okay," Sara asked once they were on the road.

Ava nodded, angry at herself for hoping for more from her father. "I will be."

"We don't have to do dinner with the family." Sara offered.

"Yes we do." If it was any other day Ava might have taken her up on the offer. Going home and stress eating ice cream sounded very relaxing but she wasn't going to pull Sara away from her family. Not today. "It's Father's Day. We're going. Besides, I could use some actual family time."

Sara had figured that would be her answer but wanted to give her the option of opting out nonetheless, they went to Ava's to get the dogs before making their way to her parents house. Sara shot a quick text to her dad telling him they were going to be early and not to interrogate Ava as she was sure he'd planned to.

"Ava, Sara." Dinah greeted the pair. "It's good to see you both." She hugged first Sara then Ava and led the duo inside. "Your father is outback, he's excited to show you both his Father's Day present."

"Finally broke down and got him that grill huh mom," Sara asked. Her dad had been asking for it for months. Arguing that while he had a grill, this one had a smoker attached.

"Oh you know I can't say no for long." She disappeared into the kitchen. "Go say hi, he promised to be on his best behavior." He'd shown her the message from Sara and from the sadness she saw in Ava's eyes as she hugged her, lunch with her parents had not gone well.

"Hey dad," Sara greeted him cheerfully, engulfing him in a hug. "Happy Father's Day."

"Thank you kiddo." He hugged her, kissing the top of her head. "Hello Ava." He smiled brightly at her, he could see why Sara had warned him to take it easy. As hard as she was trying to hide it, Ava was sad. "Well don't just stand there, give this old man a hug." He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly. Like a father trying to take away the pain of their child. "I'm glad you were able to join us today."

Ava had tensed as she'd moved in for a hug but the second his arms circled around her, her body relaxed. The only other time she'd felt the loving hug of a father was when she spent time with Ray's parents. Her eyes filled with tears, she pulled away doing her best to hide them, to keep them from falling.

"Sara." Her father got her attention. "Why don't you get us a few drinks. And get the wings from your mother. They're going to take a while." He gave her his empty beer bottle.

Sara looked between him and Ava, he wanted a minute alone with her. She gave him a pleading look to take it easy, she was sure he'd seen the fragile state she was in without her having said anything. At his nod she smiled. "Any preference," she asked Ava.

Ava shook her head. Anything and everything sounded good at that moment. "You pick."

"Okay." Sara nodded. "I'll be back," she said in her Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation. She laughed at herself and stood on her tiptoes, giving Ava a kiss on the cheek.

Ava laughed despite how terrible the impersonation was. It didn't hit her that Sara had kissed her cheek with her father present until she felt his stare on her. Her cheeks turned red. "Um." She began but realized she had nothing to say.

"Relax Ava." He smiled reassuringly. "My Sara cares about you and she's not going to stop showing you how much because her dear old dad is in the room." He checked the heat on the grill wanting it just the right temperature for the wings he'd soon be cooking. "Who do I need to have arrested for putting that sad look on your face," he asked, his attention still on the grill. He'd known from Sara's text that things hadn't gone well with Ava's parents, he had not been prepared for the sadness he was seeing now. No child should look like that after spending time with their mom and dad.

Ava opened and closed her mouth several times, unable to speak, tears filling her eyes once again.

"I'm sorry." He apologized. "I didn't mean to upset you." He wanted to reach out and wrap an arm around her but didn't want to smother her.

She shook her head. "You didn't." She rubbed her eyes before the tears could fall. "Lunch didn't go as well as I'd hoped. My father and I could never see eye to eye and it's only gotten worse since I got out of the military."

Quentin nodded, both surprised and pleased that she was willing to open up to him. "Your father was military," he asked.

She nodded. "Retired general."

"Disappointed you didn't follow in his footsteps." Again Ava nodded. He couldn't imagine being disappointed in his daughters for following their dreams. "Do you regret getting out."

She shook her head not sure where Sara's father was going with the line of questioning. "No, the military was slowly destroying me." She didn't know why, but she didn't feel the need to hide her feelings and put on a brave face while talking to Sara's dad. It was the complete opposite of talking to her own dad.

"Are you happy," he asked, not digging into her time in the service. "With your job." He clarified. He knew she was happy with his daughter, a blind man could see that.

"Very much, some days are tough but at the end of the day, I feel like I'm making a difference." Even on her worst days she wouldn't give up her job for the world.

He smiled at her. "Then that's all that matters. You can't please everyone Ava. And that includes your parents. You have to do what makes you happy."

She knew that but it was hard to move past her father's disappointment. "I just wish things were different."

This time he didn't resist the urge to wrap an arm around her shoulders bringing her to his side. "One day they might be, until then, I'm proud of you kiddo."

It took everything in Ava not to break down as he pulled her into him, doing the most fatherly thing she hadn't expected but longed for. He kissed the top of her head as he told her how proud he was of her.

"You always have a family here. No matter what." He smiled down at her. "There's that smile." He grinned. "Sara would kill me if she thought I made you cry." He tightened his hold briefly before releasing her as Sara came out of the house with a tray of wings and three bottles of beer.

***...***

"Did we miss it," Laurel asked as the family sat out in the backyard enjoying their dessert.

"Miss what," Sara asked, she was sure there hadn't been any plans outside of dinner.

Laurel rolled her eyes. "The thousand questions dad likes to ask anyone we bring home."

"First of all." Quentin held up a hand. "I don't ask a thousand questions, thirty at best." He smiled at his daughter. "Second, yes you missed it, Ava passed with flying colors." He winked at Ava. "For a firefighter that is."

"High praise coming from the chief." Mick held up his beer. "Welcome to the family." He smiled at his partner. The rest of the family joined him in cheers.

***...***

"Your family is something else." Ava tells Sara later that night. "I thought Ray's family being loving was a fluke, that families like that didn't really exist. Always happy, loving each other, enjoying their time together."

"My family has been put through the ringer, if not for one another, we never would have survived." She held Ava close. "I'm sorry lunch didn't go as planned, but you always have a place in my family."

Ava sat up leaning over her. "Thank you Sara." She cupped her cheek in one hand and leaned down, kissing her softly. Unlike the night before she wanted to take tonight slow. She wanted to show Sara how much she meant to her.

***...***

Mick stopped at the front porch of their house. "Were you expecting a delivery," he asked, picking up the flower arrangement with a card that read 'congratulations' and the box beside it.

Laurel shook her head smiling behind him. "No, not for a few more months."

He unlocked the front door taking the arrangement with him. "I'll call the flower shop tomorrow. They probably sent it to the wrong house." He held the door open for her allowing her to pass through. He set the box and the arrangement down on the kitchen island.

"Is it address to anyone," she asked looking over his shoulder.

He shook his head, picking up the box. Shaking it. "Nope, just says, 'father to be'." He was about to set the box down but the way she looked at him told him there was more to it, that the box and the arrangement were exactly where they needed to be. "Laurel." He didn't want to get his hopes up, in case this wasn't what he thought. Tears welled up in his eyes. "Is this what I think it is," he asked, the box in his hands began to shake as his hands trembled.

"Open it and find out."

He set the box down on the counter, carefully removing the tape that held the sides down. He pulled out sheet after sheet of colorful tissue paper discarding them on the floor eager to get to the bottom of the box. A sob escaped him as he reached into the box pulling out the positive pregnancy test.

"There's more." She motioned to the box with one hand, her other hand resting on his lower back.

He didn't hide the tears that fell as he reached into the box pulling out a picture frame. "That's our baby." He pointed to the small speck on the photo. "That's our baby." He repeated, his smile bigger than she'd ever seen it.

"That's our baby." She confirmed, letting her own tears of joy fall. "Happy Father's Day Mick."

Chapter Text

 

Sara’s eyes snapped open as she was thrown across the bed, catching herself just before she could roll off the edge. She took slow breaths trying to calm her racing heart. She looked on the other side of the bed in time to see Ava roll off the edge, dropping to the ground. 

“Where is it,” Ava asked in a panic. 

Sara walked over to Ava’s side of the bed, the dogs already at Ava’s side. Scout doing his best to nudge her and get close to her. “Where is what,” Sara asked.

“Get down.” Ava scolded, pulling Sara down by her arm. “Why don’t you have your rifle.”

“My rifle,” Sara asked as things started to click. “My rifle.” She repeated, this time in understanding.

Ava nodded once again reaching under the bed. “Where is my rifle, it should be here.” Ava’s search became more frantic.

“Ava stop.” Sara placed a hand on her arm, stilling her search. “Look around you.” She instructed once she had Ava’s attention. “What do you see,” she asked, keeping her voice soft and soothing. 

Ava looked around the room slowly, her eyes finally resting on Sara. “Our bedroom.”

Sara smiled, something about Ava recognizing the room as theirs made her especially happy. “Yup, our bedroom, and what do you hear.”

Ava closed her eyes listening to the sounds outside. “Fireworks.” She sighed. “I thought we were under attack.” She took a seat on the floor leaning against the nightstand beside the bed. After a moment her shoulders shook with laughter. “I can’t believe I dove for the floor again.” 

Sara joined her on the floor facing her. She was not at all surprised at how quickly Ava bounced back from her brief panic. She’d known the unplanned fireworks would be an issue and had brought it up with her and in therapy. “Wait, what do mean again,” she asked. 

“Mick and I responded to a call last night and as we were walking up to the house I heard this loud bang. I dove behind a vehicle before realizing it was fireworks.” She smiled, remembering the look on Mick’s face. “I could tell Mick wanted to laugh, but to his credit he didn’t. He just said, ‘deployment’, in that question not question kind of way. Like he already knew.” 

“That would be Mick. People don’t give him enough credit. He’s very intuitive.” 

“Yeah he is.” She let out a soft sigh. “Let’s try this sleep thing again.” She got up extending a hand down for Sara to take. “Who are you calling,” She asked once they settled into bed. 

“Ollie,” she said, holding the phone to her ear. “Hey.” She greeted her childhood friend. “No I’m fine.” He was always worrying about her. “I need a favor.” Just as she knew he would, Oliver told her whatever it was, she could consider it done. “I know you’re probably getting a lot of these calls but can you have one of the guys check Vancouver Way for fireworks.” She rolled her eyes as she listened to Oliver tease her about that not being her address. “Yes, it’s Ava’s.” She confirmed. If it wasn’t that her friends were happy for her she would’ve been annoyed with the amount of teasing she received. “Thanks Ollie.” She disconnected the phone settling beside Ava. “Oliver said he’d check the area himself, unfortunately this time of year gets busy with fireworks complaints and reports of shots fired.”

Ava grimaced. “I don’t envy the officers working.” The call volume had to be high. “You didn’t need to call him, he’s already busy, I’ll live.”

Sara shrugged. “He doesn’t mind, Ollie and I go way back.”

“He was your district partner.” Ava recalled. He’d been busy on another call the night Sara and Tommy had responded to the ambush. While the call he’d been tied up on had saved his life, it had left him with a lot of guilt. She had a feeling his immediate willingness to help Sara out was his way of making amends even though Ava was sure Sara didn’t blame him for anything. 

Sara nodded. 

“He’s a sergeant now.” 

Once again Sara nodded. 

She wondered why Sara hadn’t tested for sergeant. She was one of the best cops on the street. She was a natural born leader and would make an amazing sergeant. The other officers already looked up to her and came to her for guidance. 

“You want to know why I haven’t tried for sergeant,” she asked, reading her mind. 

Ava nodded. “We don’t have to talk about it if you’re not up to it.” She wasn’t surprised Sara had known what she was thinking, she was always able to read her. 

Sara sighed. “In the beginning I knew I wasn’t ready. There was a lot I needed to learn.”

“And later on.” Ava pushed. 

“I was afraid. Afraid I wasn’t stable enough. I always have this fear that I’ll freeze, that my team will suffer because of it. If I get triggered during a major incident, I can get people killed. You saw how bad it was when I met Nora. I can’t afford to have something like that happen while on the job.”

Ava thought about what Sara said for a few seconds. “When was the last time you had a panic attack while at work,” she asked.

Sara looked off, thinking about it. “It’s been a few years, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have one.”

“Because you have your guard up while working.” Ava said, more a reminder than a question. 

“Because I always have my guard up,” Sara said somewhat bitterly. Yes as a cop she had to be prepared for anything but she knew she was different from other officers. They were able to relax after they were sure there was no danger on the call they were on but she could never do that, she couldn’t risk a certain word or action sending her into a state of panic. 

“I’m sorry,” Ava apologized. “I didn’t mean to upset you.” She sensed Sara’s mood turn dark.

Sara shook her head. “No, I’m sorry.” She sighed curling up against Ava. “I was about to have a pity party.” She smiled up at Ava, kissing her jawline. “I haven’t thought about the sergeant’s test in a while, I’ll think about it.” She knew she had been letting fear control her, stopping her from furthering her career and she’d come too far to let her past control her now. She would also bring it up with her dad and therapist.

“For what it’s worth, I think you’d make an amazing sergeant.” She kissed the top of Sara’s head and squeezed the hand Sara had resting on her heart. 

“Thanks Aves.” Sara smiled, the thought of promotion not scaring her as much as it had in the past. “So I was gonna surprise you tomorrow but since we’re already up,” she said, as Ava tensed beside her when another round of fireworks were set off. “I booked us a campsite away from here. It’s pretty secluded with nothing heard for miles except nature. What do you think,” she asked. 

Ava looked down at her. “You booked a trip away,” she asked, eyes filling with tears. “For me.” She added. 

“You told me Fourth of July weekend was always rough with all the unexpected fireworks, I thought it would be nice to get away for a few days. I have the days off and I may have talked to Mick, got your days taken care of.” She said the last bit nervously hoping Ava wouldn’t be upset that she all but requested vacation days for her without her permission. “Please don’t cry,” she pleaded. “I’m sorry, we don’t have to go.” She held herself up on her elbow so that she was looking down on Ava. 

Ava shook her head trying to stop the tears that were threatening to fall and failing. “You did that for me,” she asked with a teary smile.

“Of course.” As far as Sara was concerned, it wasn’t a big deal. She wanted for Ava to have a nice Fourth without going into panic every time she thought someone was firing at her. “I had it scheduled for the day after tomorrow but with the amount of fireworks that people are setting off this early, I say we go tomorrow morning.” It wasn’t unusual for people to set off fireworks, even though they were illegal in their city, this year the citizens of Star City started earlier than normal. She’d never thought about the havoc it caused veterans that were triggered by the sounds until Ava brought it up the week before because she’d wanted Sara to be prepared. “What do you say,” she asked when all Ava did was smile at her. 

“God I love you.” Ava blurted out, her face turning a dark shade of red. 

Sara’s face hurt from the smile that overtook it. “You love me,” she asked. 

Ava nodded. “I have for sometime.” She felt relieved having finally said the words. She’d come close so many times but she’d chickened out. 

“I love you too Ava.” She leaned down and kissed her. “For a while now.” She murmured against her lips. “I love you so so much. Man it feels so good to say it out loud.” 

Ava chuckled, she knew exactly how Sara felt. She didn’t know when the feeling of like had turned to love but it had hit her one day while they were watching a movie and Sara had been laughing, tears running down her face, laughing at a ridiculous scene that she herself had cringed at. “I’m glad I don’t have to worry about blurting it out at the most random times now.” Ava lifted her head stealing another kiss. “Like when you’re frustrated but you want to help with dinner and nothing goes right, or when you pout because the dogs are curled up on either side of me and they leave no room for you, or when you make those dad jokes and puns that only you find funny.” 

Sara smiled fondly. “You can say it as often as you want, I will never tire from hearing it.” 

“Good.” Ava smiled. “Because I love you, so so much.” She repeated Sara’s earlier words. 

***...***

“You weren’t kidding,” Ava said looking around their camp site. “This is really secluded.” She was grateful for the privacy. “I don’t plan on keeping my hands off of you.” She wrapped her arms around Sara’s waist pulling her back against her chest as they surveyed their riverside campsite. 

Sara chuckled, leaning against Ava. Gone was the Ava that had jumped at every sound she heard, fearing she was under attack. “You’re not gonna get any complaints from me.” Sara held her in place. “Once we set up the tent and canopy, I want to hit the lake.” 

“That sounds amazing. I’m really hot.”

“Yeah you are.” Sara winked while Ava rolled her eyes, smiling.

“Guber.” She pulled her in for a kiss. “Come on, or we might not leave the campsite,” she said breathlessly after a few minutes. 

With the site ready, the pair loaded the dogs into the truck and set out for a nearby lake. 

“It was nice of your dad to let us borrow his truck.” Ava had been touched when he’d dropped the vehicle off that morning and taken Sara’s. She’d once again been overwhelmed at having a family looking out for her. He’d hugged her as he always hugged Sara when she was tense and it had immediately comforted her in a way only a father’s hug could comfort. 

Sara smiled, the look of awe on Ava’s face when talking about her dad was one she herself often wore. “He’s pretty amazing. Once we all started going to therapy he was a completely different man. For a while he avoided me, the guilt ate at him when he saw me struggling. He blamed himself for what happened, but after a few sessions we sat down and talked even though neither one of us wanted to. We realized we’d both been feeling guilty about what the other was going through. Anyways, after that he became my biggest source of comfort. He was the one that could instantly ease my tension with a simple hug.” 

Ava smiled at that. She had experienced just that this morning. “Thanks for sharing him with me since mine happens to be an asshole.” She reached across the center console taking Sara’s hand in hers. 

“My family loves you almost as much as I do Ava. Yes your dad is an asshole but at least your mom is coming around.” She glanced at Ava briefly before turning her eyes on the windy dirt road. 

“I love them too.” She wiped at the tear that rolled down her cheek. “So,” she said cheerfully. “Paddle boarding.” While she’d been outdoorsy most of her adult life, she’d never tried stand up paddle boarding. 

“It’s super fun and very relaxing. You can do it standing up, kneeling or sitting down. It takes a bit of practice and balance to stand with the dog on board especially when they’re not used to it so I was thinking you take Justice and I’ll get Scout familiar with it and then we can switch.” 

“And you just happen to have two paddle boards,” she asked. She’d looked them up when Sara had mentioned paddle boarding, they were not cheap. 

Sara smiled as once again her family had come to the rescue. “Actually the second belongs to Laurel. Mick dropped it off this morning while you were in the shower.” 

“Is your whole family in on this,” Ava asked, touched once again at having a family that went out of their way for her. 

Sara nodded. “I told you.” She turned her gaze to Ava. “They love you.” She focused on the road again. “When I mentioned my idea, they all jumped on board, they wanted to help.” Her parents had been heart broken at the state Ava had arrived to their house on Father's Day, they’d told Sara they never wanted to see her so sad again, not if they could help it. Laurel and Mick were all too happy to lend their assistance. 

“I’m an emotional mess.” Ava wiped at the happy tears that rolled down her cheeks. 

Sara smiled, she wasn’t worried about the tears, she knew they were happy ones and so she said nothing. She continued to hold onto Ava’s hand giving it a gentle squeeze. A few minutes later they arrived at the lake and unloaded the mini cooler containing drinks and sandwiches that would sit on Sara’s board along with the two boards that had yet to be inflated and the dogs. 

“Wow.” Ava commented as she stood at the edge of the lake, board in hand. “This is beautiful.” She looked around the large lake that was surrounded by trees. The lake had several small islands in the middle of it and a few large boulders that stacked on top of each other made perfect for climbing and jumping. 

Sara stood beside her appreciating the beauty of the lake. This had always been one of her favorite places to escape to. “Wait till you’re in the water, there is nothing like it. I also brought these.” She held up two bundles.

“Hammocks,” Ava questioned. 

Sara nodded. “Yup, courtesy of Mick, he may not look it but the man loves his hammocks.”

Ava laughed. “I can see that, he’s always talking about how he wants to relax by the beach and do nothing all day.” 

“That was pretty much their honeymoon, when they weren’t you know.” She shuddered at the thought, she wanted to punch Mick for having put the thought there. The man had been all smiles when she’d picked them up from the airport after their honeymoon. She’d had to remind him several times it was her sister he was talking about, of course, Laurel had only laughed, happily kissing her husband, not caring how uncomfortable it made her sister. Deep down she hadn’t minded, because her sister was finally happy. 

“Where did you go,” Ava asked. 

Sara blushed, she’d been so engrossed in her thoughts she’d lost track of the seconds that ticked by as they stood beside the lake. “Just thinking about Mick and Laurel after their honeymoon. I’d never seen my sister so happy, so at ease.” 

“She is his world, I knew that the day I met him. I was taken aback at the way he lit up when talking about her. It had taken me by surprise, guys in our field aren’t always quick to show emotion, especially to people they’d just met. I knew he’d make an amazing partner that first day.” 

“Mick is something else.” Despite all the teasing, she loved the man. She set her board down adding the cooler to it and strapping the hammocks to the cooler’s handle. “Let’s get wet.” She winked at Ava, grinning from ear to ear. 

Ava smiled, fighting the urge to roll her eyes and failing. “I should have seen that one coming.” 

“Yes, you should have.” Sara pecked her lips and pulled away before she could get too distracted kissing her girlfriend. She set her board on the water and Ava followed her lead. “On the board Justice.” She pointed to Ava’s board steadying it as her dog walked to the front and sat. She had Ava take her place to steady the board as she led Scout by the collar on to the front of the board near the cooler, talking to him gently as she led him. “Good boy.” She petted him as he nervously settled at the front. “Ready,” she asked Ava. At her nodded she grabbed her paddle and placed one knee on the board and gently pushed off towards deeper water and then placed her second knee on the board all the while talking soothingly to Scout. Ava pushed off gently following Sara’s lead. 

“That wasn’t too bad.” She said once she got into a rhythm, sitting cross legged on the board. 

“You’re a natural, and so is this sweet boy.” She spoke to Scout in her baby voice. A few minutes into the water and he’d relaxed, his tail wagging. 

The pair stayed on the boards for hours, occasionally stopping at one of the islands to allow the dogs to stretch their legs and swim in the water. They found a couple sturdy trees and set up their hammocks while they enjoyed their lunch. 

“I could get used to this.” Ava leaned her head back enjoying the sun hitting her face. 

“Me too.” Sara hummed beside her. 

***...***

It was Fourth of July day and Ava was feeling down. Sara sensed it the moment she’d stepped out of the tent to find Ava sitting near the campfire with a dog on either side. “Aves,” she said tentatively, not wanting to startle her. “You okay,” she asked, squeezing in beside her on one of the logs that surrounded their campfire. She smiled sadly and it broke Sara’s heart. 

Ava sighed, she hated feeling like this. “I had a nightmare.” She spoke softly. 

“Why didn’t you wake me, how long have you been out here,” she asked. She normally heard Ava when she got up. “I guess I was really tired.” 

“I did wear you out last night.” Ava smiled at the memory of their night together. 

“How long have you been out here,” she asked again, not letting the wonderful memories of the previous night distract her. 

“Not long, the nightmare is not why I’m out here. Are you sure you want to spend Fourth of July in the woods instead of with your family? I feel guilty for taking you away from them.” The guilt had been eating at her. “The holiday is supposed to be about freedom and celebration. Not isolation in the woods away from the people you love.”

“First of all, this is not my first Fourth of July away from the family, I have worked most of them for the past few years, it’s part of the job. Second, I am with the people I love. Ava you are my family now. Until we work through the havoc fireworks cause on your mental well-being, I’m more than happy to spend the time with you, in the woods.”  She cupped Ava’s cheek in her hand, caressing her cheek with her thumb. “I love you, this is where I want to be.” 

Ava inhaled sharply, once again overwhelmed by the emotions Sara invoked in her. “I love you too, thank you for always knowing exactly what to say.” She pulled her in for a kiss, feeling a hundred times better than she had a few minutes ago. 

“Knock knock.”

They pulled apart at the arrival of visitors. 

“We come bearing breakfast.” Leonard held up a cast iron skillet. 

“Ray,” Ava asked. “What are you two doing here.” She stood up to give her friend a hug. 

Ray set the cooler he’d been carrying down, returning Ava’s hug. “Sara mentioned her plan to Leo, after talking to me to see if I wanted to get away from the noise, he booked a campsite a few sites down.” The Fourth didn’t hit him as hard as it did Ava but he always struggled with the holiday. He too had lost friends, sometimes it was hard to celebrate the freedom so many of his friends had lost their lives for. 

“I’m glad you’re here.” She released him and gave Leonard a quick hug before turning to Sara. “I love you.” She whispered, her sadness from earlier all but forgotten. 

“I love you too.” She didn’t care if Leonard heard her, he’d known she’d loved the blonde long before she’d been brave enough to admit it to herself. “I’m glad you guys are here, believe it or not,” 

“You’re starving.” Ava and Leonard said simultaneously. 

She laughed. “Yup.” The four sat around the fire for a few hours enjoying their breakfast and their time together. After their food settled and they put the fire out they set off for a hike on one of the nearby trails with Scout and Justice leading the pack. 

“This was a good idea,” Ray said as he and Leonard walked hand in hand behind the ladies. “Thank you.” He kissed his cheek. 

Leonard smiled turning to kiss his partner. “You’re welcome, I honestly didn’t think about the Fourth affecting you until talking to Sara. You’re always so composed, so in tune with your feelings I didn’t even think to ask. Sorry about that, I should’ve been more aware.” 

Ray stopped, turning Leonard to face him. “You didn’t know and I never mentioned it so you stop those thoughts right now, I’m just as guilty, I should’ve let you know the effects this holiday has on me. We’re both sorry and we’re both forgiven, okay,” he asked. 

Leonard smiled. “Okay.” 

“Good.” Ray turned back and began walking the trail tugging on Leonard’s hand when he didn’t immediately follow. 

Leonard once again smiled. He loved this man and the thought both exhilarated and scared him. He’d never had thoughts of love with any of his past partners. As if sensing his thoughts, Ray turned around and gave him one of those big smiles, the one that lit up his face, one that undoubtedly had a hand in earning him the nickname “The Ray”.

***...***

Hours later the four returned to Ava and Sara’s campsite. 

“Where did all these cars come from,” Ava asked. There were quite a few trucks and SUVs leading down to their site. “What did you do,” she asked Sara. 

“What makes you think I did anything.” Sara led her to their site, the dogs running ahead having heard and smelled something neither of their owners had picked up yet. 

“Surprise!” 

Ava stopped in her tracks, eyes welling up with happy tears once again. “You did this,” she asked turning to face Sara. 

Sara shrugged as if it was nothing. “You didn’t want to pull me away from everyone and I didn’t want you spending the holiday alone. Everyone was more than happy for the getaway.” She nudged her toward their family and friends. “Like I said before, you have a family now. Let’s go say hello.” 

Ava stood stunned for a brief second before she was tugged towards their friends. Amaya and Nate were the first to hug her followed by Kendra and Carter. Sara’s parents along with Mick and Laurel also stood by waiting to love on her. Lisa stood by her brother and his boyfriend, smiling happily at her, Zari, Cisco and Caitlin beside her. Ava’s step faltered at the next pair. She turned to look at Sara.

“I’m good, I invited her.” Sara assured her.

Ava smiled, if Sara had invited her then she’d mentally prepared herself for the moment. “I’m glad you’re here Nora, you too Ray.” She smiled, hugging the pair. 

“We’re glad too.” Nora smiled, hugging Ava while making eye contact with Sara, mouthing a ‘thank you’. Having people treat her like family was not something she was used to.

Sara smiled, while she could feel her body tense it was nowhere near as bad as she thought it would be. Inviting Nora had been a risk, one she was glad she’d taken. She looked around at her family and friends, thankful for each and every one of them. 

“I can’t believe you’re all here, aren’t you going to miss the fireworks,” Ava asked, after all, fireworks are what most people enjoyed about the holiday. 

“Family trumps fireworks every time.” Dinah wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You are family Ava, we love you.” She whispered the last bit so that only Ava could hear her. 

Ava was overcome with joy. A year ago she’d been huddled on her bed at the fire station, music blasting in her ears too afraid to go to sleep and doing everything she could to drown out the sound of mortar fire and exploding bombs. Today, those were the furthest things from her mind. Being surrounded by family and friends, she didn’t have time to dwell on the negative emotions this holiday invoked. After several hours together, their friends and family bid them goodnight and hit the road back home. She was finally alone with Sara. “I have no words,” she said as they sat by the fire, arms wrapped around each other. “To think a year ago I was a total bitch to you.” 

“It’s in the past.” Sara moved to straddle her. “All I care about is that we’re here now, that you love me, and I love you.”

“With every fiber of my being.” Ava’s one hand rested on Sara’s lower back holding her tightly while the other slipped to the back of her neck pulling her in for a soft kiss. 

Chapter Text

"Sara," Ava whispered. "You awake," she asked, keeping her voice low in case Sara was actually asleep.

Sara turned to face Ava. Laying on her side, she rested a hand on Ava's hip, smiling sleepily at her. "You okay," she asked. "Fireworks." The Fourth was over but there were always the few stragglers that continued to go off every so often.

"No." She shook her head, it warmed her heart that Sara was always concerned about her well-being. "I mean, yes I'm okay." She clarified at Sara's worried expression. "No it's not the fireworks." She scrunched up her nose making Sara smile.

"What's up," Sara asked, it wasn't unusual for them to talk late into the night, but Ava never woke her unless something was bothering her. She looked at the clock behind Ava's back, it was close to midnight. "What's got you up so late."

"I was thinking." She paused not sure what Sara would think of her idea.

Sara lifted up on her elbow resting her head in her hand. "Hey." She caressed the side of Ava's face. "Whatever it is, you can tell me."

Ava smiled, Sara was always good at reassuring her, no matter how trivial the issue causing her stress was. "I was thinking, well I've been thinking about this since the camping trip. Since we spend so much time at each other's places, how do you feel about us moving in together." She played with the hem of Sara's shirt nervously waiting for her response.

"I think that's a great idea." Sara smiled brightly. "It actually makes perfect sense seeing as we're constantly switching between your place and mine. The only question is, your place or mine."

Ava thought about it another second before offering. "I really like your kitchen, even if it wasn't used to its full potential before I came along." She teased.

Sara chuckled. She was right, her microwave had been her most used appliance. "And I like your living room area, it's more open. And your master bathroom. I love that tub." She hummed thinking about the many times the two had shared a bath together.

"Focus." Ava kissed her lightly on the lips, knowing exactly where Sara's mind had gone off to.

Sara groaned. "You can't tell me to focus and kiss me at the same time. You're not helping."

"I can't help myself." Ava kissed her again and pulled back. "How attached are you to your house."

"What are you thinking," Sara asked. Knowing Ava, she had a plan, and a backup plan in case Sara didn't like the first one.

"I was thinking we rent the houses out, and maybe get a shared place, one with your kitchen, my open living room and a spacious tub." She waited as Sara thought about the idea.

"Renting them out would be a good investment. There are always first responders looking to rent. I like the idea of a new place. A place of our own. I can't wait to come home to you every night that you're off and you coming home to me after your shift." She never got tired of spending time with Ava.

"Me too. We can start looking tomorrow." She couldn't wait to start the search.

"Good, now that we have that settled, can I focus on something else," Sara asked, her voice low, her hand already moving under the bottom of Ava's shirt.

Ava let out a moan as Sara's hand slid under her shirt cupping her breast, her thumb grazing across her nipple. "Yes please," she sighed, her back arching, pushing more of herself into Sara's hand.

"Good answer." Sara hovered above her for a brief second before claiming Ava's lips.

***^^^***

"Ava," Sara called towards the bedroom when she heard a car door slam. "Your mom is here."

Ava practically skipped out of their bedroom, excited to have her mother over. She hadn't realized how much she missed her until their Father's Day lunch and the few lunches and dinners she'd shared with her since. "Thank you." She stopped to drop a kiss on top of Sara's head as she worked on packing the books into boxes. A few minutes later Ava returned with her mother, Pam and Sara's parents. "Look who I found." Ava's grin overtook her face. She still couldn't believe her mother was here, happy and ready to help her move in with her girlfriend.

"Hey, I'm glad you guys are here." She was extremely pleased her mother and Ava's instantly hit off when they'd invited them both to lunch. It gave Ava's mother another friend and it allowed them all to become closer. Ava's mom had joined them at the family dinner the previous week and had cried when she'd bid Sara and Ava goodnight. She apologized to Ava for not giving her a more loving environment. One like the one Sara had grown up in. Which in turn had caused Ava to start crying followed by Sara because she hated to see Ava cry. Happy tears or otherwise. "Watch the boxes, they're everywhere." Sara jumped to her feet giving the trio a hug.

"You two seem to have a lot of the packing done," Pam said as she looked around the bare living room.

Ava blushed. "We were up early, too excited to sleep." She and Sara had stayed up late packing up her place and had started early on Sara's.

"Knock knock," Mick said, sticking his head through the front door looking around before opening it fully. "I was promised food for my services." He smiled, stepping inside.

"Where's Laurel," Sara asked looking behind him.

"She's not feeling too great, she's a bit rundown from work, I told her to stay home and sleep for a few more hours, she'll join us later."

"She's okay," Dinah asked, concerned for her eldest daughter. She'd been more sick than usual, she hoped it was nothing more than exhaustion from the hours she'd been putting in at work.

"She's fine." Mick assured them. "She'll meet us at the new house later." He was relieved when the family accepted his answer. He and Laurel had wanted to wait a bit before telling everyone about the baby, just in case there were complications. It had taken months of trying and failing to get pregnant, they didn't want to get the family's hope up. "So what's left," Mick asked, wanting to change the subject before he let anything slip.

"We haven't started on the kitchen, guest bedroom, or the garage. We're mostly done in the bedroom and what you see here." Ava pointed out.

"Pam, how would you like to help me in the kitchen," Dinah asked. "Maybe we can get some breakfast going." This time last year she would have expected an empty fridge and a freezer packed with microwavable meals. With Ava around she was sure there'd be plenty of fresh food available for breakfast.

"That sounds great, I ran out of the house and missed breakfast." She and Randy had another fight, as they usually did anytime he learned she was going out with their daughter. He'd been angry Ava had not apologized and his anger had only intensified when Pam had told him he was the one that'd been in the wrong. She smiled at the family that had not only welcomed her daughter but herself. It amazed her how at ease she felt with the Lance family. The moment they'd met her they'd made her feel like she was part of the family. The first time she'd gone to lunch with Sara's mother she'd been worried the woman would judge her for not supporting her daughter like a mother should but Dinah had surprised her. She'd hugged her and treated her like friend. Like they'd known each other for years. After a few lunches she'd finally accepted Dinah's invitation to join them for dinner. The invitation had been for both her and Randy but he'd immediately refused when she'd brought it up. Being around Sara's parents made her realize how much she'd failed her daughter. She promised herself that she would do better.

"How are you doing Pam," Dinah asked once they were alone in the kitchen. She hadn't missed Pam's earlier statement about running out of the house. She'd let slip in the past that Randy was not okay with her spending time with Ava and in his words, condoning her daughter's relationship.

Pam sighed, there wasn't much that got past Dinah. She set down the spatula she'd been using for the hashbrowns. She looked towards the kitchen entryway making sure it was empty before looking at Dinah once again. "I've decided to leave Randy." She was sure Dinah would be happy about the decision, even though she never spoke ill of her husband she knew Dinah did not care for him because of the way he treated her and Ava.

Dinah had not expected that. "How do you feel having made the decision," she asked keeping her reaction neutral. She was pleased Pam had finally made the decision, but she knew it hadn't been an easy one. After all, she and Randy had been together for quite some time.

"Honestly." She paused, taking a deep breath. "Overwhelmed, nervous, excited, but mostly, I'm terrified. I have no idea what I'm doing. I've been with Randy for 30 years."

Dinah stood beside her putting an arm around her shoulders. "It's scary, but you're not alone. That young lady in the other room beams anytime she sees you. She will be there for you and will support you, as will my family."

Pam nodded. "Thank you Dinah." She leaned into the half hug. "Now I just need to find a way to tell Ava." She'd stayed up late into the night thinking about it.

"Tell Ava what," Ava asked walking in. "Breakfast smells delicious." She sniffed the air. "What's going on. Everything okay," she asked.

"I'll go give Sara a hand." She squeezed Pam's forearm with a reassuring smile. "You got this."

Ava looked at her mother with concern. "What's going on mom." She moved to stand beside her. "What's wrong."

"Maybe we should sit." She pointed at the breakfast table. She waited for Ava to grab a seat before pulling a chair close to her. She took her daughter's hand in hers. "I don't know how to say this so I'm just going to say it."

Ava nodded. "Whatever it is, you can tell me." It felt like deja vu, it wasn't that long ago when Sara had used the same words just before they'd discussed moving in together.

"I've decided to leave your father." She waited for her daughter's reaction.

Ava sat silently for almost a full minute, that was the last thing she'd expected. A million thoughts ran through her mind as she processed her mother's news. "Are you at peace with the decision," she asked finally.

Pam nodded. "I am. I'm scared out of my mind." She let out a nervous chuckle. "You're okay with this, you don't think I'm making a mistake." She confirmed with her daughter.

Ava took both of her mother's hands in hers. "Mom, all I want is for you to be happy. If not being with dad is what makes you happy then I'm a hundred percent okay with it."

"I asked him last night to come help you and Sara move, he lost his temper as he always does and I lost the last bit of hope I'd been holding onto. I'm an idiot for thinking he would change after 30 years."

"You're not an idiot, you're someone that doesn't give up. Someone I'm proud to call mom. We will help with whatever you need."

Pam gasped. "I haven't thought further than telling you." She panicked. "I have no idea where I'm going, what I'm going to do next. I was so angry last night, I didn't think everything through. I mean I've been thinking about it for a while but I hadn't planned on telling him last night."

"Mom, breath. We'll figure it out." Ava assured her, it wasn't often she saw her mother this frazzled.

Pam chuckled running a hand through her hair. "You're right." She smiled, tears filling her eyes. "I don't deserve you."

"Of course you do mom, I love you. Now come on." She stood up, pulling her mother with her. "Sara is hungry, and it's not pretty when she or Mick get hungry."

Her mother laughed. "I don't tell you this enough, I'm proud of you Ava. I am so blessed to have you."

Ava loved this side of her mother, the open one that isn't afraid to show emotion. "Thanks mom."

"Hey, dad and Mick are going to make a trip to the new house, Len and Ray are gonna meet them there to unload, do you want to go with them to boss them around," Sara asked.

Ava rolled her eyes. "Don't be ridiculous Sara, of course I do. Want to eat first," she asked. She didn't want breakfast to get cold.

"Now who's being ridiculous. I'll go get everybody." With that she was out of the kitchen.

Pam released Ava and moved to the stove where the food had been left. "She's something else."

"Yes she is." Ava smiled. She wondered if Sara had sensed her need for her from the other room, she always had impeccable timing.

***^^^***

"Everything okay with your mom," Sara asked as they followed behind Mick and her father, in Mick's truck, while Mick drove the u-haul. Ava didn't immediately respond. "We don't have to talk about it." She was sure she'd interrupted something earlier but she hadn't wanted to make things awkward for Pam.

"No, I want to." Ava reached across the center console to take Sara's hand in hers. "She told dad she wants a divorce."

"Woah!" Sara exclaimed, she did not see that coming. "How do you feel about that." She knew Ava's mother wasn't happy with her father, she just hadn't expected her to divorce him.

"I think I'm okay with it." She was, she kept telling herself, a part of her worried about her father, but she wanted her mother happy. "She told him last night, there's a lot she's going to need to figure out. I told her we'd help her."

"Of course." Sara immediately told her. "Today we move us, tomorrow, we move her." She joked.

Ava chuckled. "Maybe not tomorrow. A few minutes before you came into the kitchen she was actually on the verge of a panic attack. She hasn't thought that far out."

"I don't blame her. She was with your dad a long time."

"She was." Ava agreed. "I was thinking, what if we don't move the big furniture items from my place and she stays there until either she figures things out or permanently. My place is paid off, so she won't have to worry about a mortgage."

Sara's head whipped in her direction. "Your place is paid off," she asked. She couldn't believe it. She was financially responsible and often made multiple payments on her house but she still had years left on her loan. "How is that even possible."

Ava shrugged. "I took out a VA loan, got really good rates, and several tax free deployments. I bought the place a year after I joined the service as an investment. I rented it out while I was enlisted. So I made double payments every month." She said it as if it were the most common thing in the world.

"Honestly, I don't know why I'm surprised." Sara shook her head. "But I like the idea of your mom taking over the house. It will be a familiar place for her and she'll be closer to us and the family. If she's comfortable with letting the family know, let's have everyone over for dinner, talk about it, see what she wants to do."

Ava brought the hand she was holding to her lips, kissing it. "I love you."

"I love you too babe." She squeezed Ava's hand.

***^^^***

"Have I told you how much I love you," Ava asked as she held Sara in their new tub. It had been a long day but everyone had finally left and she and Sara could finally have some alone time together.

Sara shrugged, leaning back against Ava. "Once or twice."

Ava tightened her arms around Sara's waist. "I need to do better." She dropped several kisses on Sara's shoulder, making her way up her neck, stopping just below her ear. "I love you Sara, thank you for tonight. I know you wanted to spend the evening christening every room in this house, I appreciate you taking the time to get my mother settled into her new house. And for getting help lined up to get her moved."

"She's family." It wasn't the first time she'd reminded Ava tonight. "While I am disappointed not to be christening every room in the house, I will settle for this room and our bedroom." She turned to kiss Ava. "We'll take care of the other rooms in the morning."