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the break of dawn

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The early morning has always been Sara’s favourite time of day.

Granted, time is different and kind of weird when they’re in the time stream, and it’s not like the view is the same as when it’s dawn on earth in real time - but none of that really matters. There’s nothing like the stillness of everyone sleeping, when Sara finally has a bit of solitude, for her to train, try and focus, gather some of her thoughts - and right now she has a lot to think about.

After all, Rip is (was?) her friend. And she’s just ratted him out to the Time Bureau, of all people, and now he is God knows where at the Bureau’s mercy. If they have any.

But, she thinks as she loses her focus for a second and manages to drop her bo-staff (she picks it up, growling with anger), that was right after he betrayed them - when he betrayed her. And after everything they’ve been through, too.

Her thoughts are interrupted, though, when she hears the soft thud of footsteps and the doors slide open. Instinctively, Sara whips her bo-staff in the direction of newcomer, and her eyes widen when she realises it’s Zari and Sara’s still managed to poke her in the shoulder.

Even as she recoils slightly, Zari looks… different. Her eyes are softer, and the yellow blanket draped around her and her hair loose and her slippers peeping out from under pyjamas give her this air of - vulnerability, almost. It catches Sara by surprise, to the point that her heart skips a beat.

Then the moment passes, thankfully, and she hastily moves her bo-staff away while pushing her hair away from her face.

“Sorry,” Sara says. “I - didn’t think anyone else was up. You managed to catch fajr, huh?”

Zari raises her eyebrows. “How did you -”

“I spent some time in Morocco with my girlfriend a few years back. She told me more about the religion, the culture. Besides, it’s kinda hard to forget the sound of the call to prayer.”

Yet for some reason Zari’s face falls. “I wouldn't know. I've never really heard the adhaan before. Like - my dad would do it, on occasion, in the house, and then my brother did sometimes, and there were videos that I managed to find on the Dark Web, but I've never heard it in a mosque for myself.”

“I'm sorry,” Sara says softly. “I… didn't realise.”

Zari shrugs. “‘S’okay. You can't miss what you never had, right?”

“Right.” Sara gestures towards the edge of the bay where Zari can sit, and she does so and Sara follows suit.

“So, uh, what's your excuse for being up this early, Captain?” Zari asks.

Sara chuckles. “I once told a… friend of mine that a warrior trains every day. Would be kind of hypocritical of me not to honour that.”

“You miss her,” Zari says flatly, and it's not a question. “Whoever she was.”

“I miss a lot of people,” says Sara, and despite herself a kind-of smile spreads on her lips. “And her name is Kendra.”

And Sara can see as Zari’s brow furrows as she connects the dots.

“You mean… Ray’s ex, Kendra?”

“Ray told you about her, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess once you bond with the eight-year-old version of a guy, you're kinda stuck with him. And, uh, he talks a lot.”

Sara laughs. “Yeah, no kidding.”

“He had the same look that you do, you know.”

“What look?” Sara says, folding her arms and trying to put on a brave face.

But of course Zari sees through that mask in an instant. “That look that tells me she was more than just a friend to you.”

“You ever liked a girl like that before?” The question is out of Sara’s mouth before she can stop herself, and the moment she says it she regrets it, even before she catches the look on Zari’s face.

“Maybe,” she says. “When I was a teenager, there was… someone. My best friend, actually. But, uh, she never knew. And neither did I half the time, to be honest.”

And at this Sara sighs. “Yeah, it always sucks falling for someone you can't have.” Suddenly it's all too much for her, and Sara jumps to her feet, picking up the bo-staff on the floor, and starts training again, whipping it at an imaginary target and then twirling it with her hands.

“That thing’s pretty badass,” Zari says, and Sara can't help but grin at how she seems a bit reluctant to admit that.

“Want me to show you how to use it?” Sara offers.

Naturally a proper smile breaks out on Zari’s lips at that. “Uh, yeah, go on, then.” She gets to her feet, blanket falling off her shoulders.

“Okay, so you gotta start with a strong foundation. Feet apart, both hands on the staff.” She waits, and Zari does as she's told, grasping the bo-staff and centring her feet. Sara reaches out, moves Zari’s hand a few inches so they're more evenly spaced. “And then it's all about the wrist movement, all right? You've gotta move your feet at the same time, kind of like a dance. Like this, yeah?”

And, hands closing around her wrists, Sara shows Zari what she means, helping her, until she's pivoted and is pointing the staff in the opposite direction. Then Sara moves away, and Zari manages to twirl the staff in her hands a few times on her own.

“So is this what you do when you're angry?” Zari says, spinning on the spot and aiming the bo-staff in Sara's direction. Instinctively Sara's hand goes out to block her and snatch the staff out of Zari’s hand. “You dance with a stick?”

Sara laughs as she walks a few paces away from her, breaking it in half and throwing one to Zari. “It's called a bo-staff. And who said anything about me being angry?”

“I did, just now,” Zari says pointedly. “You just booted the British guy who's in love with you off the ship -”

“Rip is not in love with me,” Sara says hotly. Then she realises she's getting a little worked up, and she says in a calmer tone, “And I did what was best for the team after our former captain made some shitty decisions.”

“Yeah, but I can tell he was also your friend. And you calling the Time Bureau on him wasn't something you were able to do easily.”

Sara sighs. “And here I was thinking I was getting better at the whole subtlety thing.”

Zari shakes her head. “Nope. You're not that hard to read. And, I mean, as far as coping mechanisms go, training at dawn isn't the worst. Even if you are alone.”

“Well, I guess I’m not anymore. Alone, I mean.” And she pauses for a second, takes a deep breath, before she says, “I’m with you.”

“That doesn’t sound cheesy at all,” Zari says, but it’s with a smile. It fades a little, though, as she aims her half at the bo-staff at Sara’s shoulder and manages to get her, to both their surprise. “Sorry. Uh, earlier… before the mission, you mentioned you lost your sister. I’m sorry.”

Sara nods in acknowledgement, and she sits down on the edge of the cargo bay again. “Me too,” she says with a sigh. “You know, at first, it was really hard, because all I could think about was how many times I had let her down in the past. Disappointed her. Betrayed her.”

“How do you mean?” Zari asks, sitting next to her. Sara shivers involuntarily, and Zari picks up her blanket and offers it to Sara. Sara takes it, puts it around them both.

“I mean I slept with her boyfriend behind her back,” Sara says in a hollow voice. “Repeatedly. And then she thought I was dead for six years and when I came back I got back together with him.”

Zari’s eyes widen.

“The same guy?”

“The same guy,” Sara says grimly.

“Wow. That’s - some heavy shit right there.”

Sara chuckles lightly. “Yeah, no kidding. But we, uh, worked things out.”

“Wow. I mean, I’m glad you worked things out, but...”

“Yeah, Laurel’s always been a pretty forgiving person. And when we kind of reconnected, after all that crap went down, I - was reminded of why, growing up, she had always taken care of me.”

Zari sighs. “Yeah. That’s what big sisters are for.”

“Hey,” Sara says softly, “I’m sure you were a great big sister.”

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“Family always is,” says Sara. “And, look, Zari, I’m sorry. I… know you want to save your brother. And I wish you could. But I don’t make the rules.”

But Zari shakes her head. “I didn’t think you seemed like the one to follow them either.”

“I know. But then a friend of mine broke them. In a big way. And it had a lot of consequences that I saw with my own eyes. It’s shitty, I know. Trust me.” She hesitates, then, wondering if she should share this with Zari - when she hasn’t shared it with anyone on the ship, not even Amaya or Jax. “And, you know, maybe someday, if… when we defeat this Mallus guy, I might look for a way to bring Laurel back.”

“But you just said - time travel has rules and you gotta follow them,” Zari says, looking nonplussed.

Sara nods. “Yeah. But there are other ways to resurrect people. And Laurel - she's strong. Good. She deserves to have a full life.”

“You talk about her like -”

“- she's still alive?” Sara says, and somehow she manages to muster a smile. “I mean, she is, to me.”

“You mean, in your heart, or whatever?”

And Zari sounds so sceptical that Sara bursts out laughing as she gets out from under Zari’s blanket and to her feet. Zari watches, folding her arms and raising her eyebrows in question.

“Sorry, just - I think if you knew her… you would probably get along.”

“Why is that?”

“Same sense of humour, for starters. And in answer to your question… I didn't mean that, but that doesn't make it any less true. I actually meant - where we are, right now, in the time stream, we're not in any particular moment in time. So it doesn't mean the same thing.”

“I figured maybe you're in denial,” Zari says quietly, not looking Sara in the eyes as she gets to her feet too. “God knows, I would understand that.”

And Sara probably shouldn't, not when her feelings are all over the place and she can't tell exactly what is tugging at her heartstrings right now - if it's grief or anger or pain or something else that even in her head she dares not name. But nevertheless she reaches out and squeezes Zari’s hand. It's warm, and after a moment Zari squeezes back. “Maybe I am. But I'm just saying, Zari - maybe someday, we can do something. For your brother. Just… not today.”

Zari nods, and Sara lets go, wishing she could will away the sudden thudding of her heartbeat. “I appreciate that, Sara. And, uh, back in 2042… my friends called me Zee.”

Sara smiles, now, and the tightness she was starting to feel in her throat dissipates, to her relief, and her pulse slows a little.

“Can I ask you something?” Zari says.

“Sure.”

“Is Amaya okay? Because I - we were supposed to watch a movie last night, and we were talking and then suddenly she just freaked out and left.”

“What were you talking about?” Sara asks, careful to keep her tone light.

“She just asked me if I ever killed anyone when I stole stuff. I said no, and I asked her the same thing, if she had, and she kind of -”

“I think you should ask Amaya about this,” Sara interrupts.

“If she has killed anyone, I'm not exactly going to judge her. Or anyone on this ship. Except to say you're all a bunch of losers,” Zari adds affectionately, “but, like, you guys already knew that. And, anyway, Amaya is…”

“Different?”

Zari nods. “I don't know why. I don't know what it is with us. But it's like - something’s drawing me to her. And even when I try to pull away I just get closer.”

“I had one of those. No matter what happened, no matter what time I was in, I always ended up finding him in the end.”

“I didn't mean it like that with Amaya,” Zari says quickly.

Chuckling, Sara says, “Yeah, I know. It's not like that with us either. Not for a long time, anyway. But, uh, he did kind of save my soul. Literally.”

“So, what, my soul needs saving, now?”

“Not yours. Amaya's. And that, Zee, is all I have to say to you on the matter.”

Wrapping her blanket more firmly around her, Zari sighs. “Fine. Go ahead and be all weird and cryptic.” She pauses, considers for a second, then says, “You wanna go have an early breakfast?”

Sara grins. “Lead the way.”