Sara takes a quick look at her phone, before realizing oh shit, she was late for her date. Not only was she late by an acceptable standard, for which she could easily blame on traffic, or some jay walker that ended up needing an ambulance because they were hit by a car passing by, but by a margin that really was inexcusable.
Not the kind of margin someone could easily forgive, point being.
Her heels sharp against the ground, Sara’s grateful she picked a suit for this occasion. Speed walking, the eternal blessing it was, only indicated someone was confident in themselves, or that it was due to a sense of panic. It was usually the latter.
By the time Sara arrives at the restaurant, there’s a queue of people at the door, in evening gowns and mink jackets, in suits and ties, in ordinary, comfortable clothes all groaning, talking among themselves.
There’s a note on the door. They’re closed for the evening, due to a sudden emergency; the owner probably had something come up last minute, Sara figures, but still.
That’s when she spots her date: tall, brunette, and lanky. Unassuming in appearance, but very good at wise cracks, very well versed in snark and all things history. In theory, she had been his guide around the city— ‘show the new guy around, sara! he’s new, he can’t possibly know anything.’— only to discover that within the trainee period, he had already managed to weed out all the good bars and local places without her help. Hell, he had even suggested to her restaurants she would like.
That still didn’t explain why they were dating. Not really, not in any sense that mattered, at any rate; it had been a work suggestion, based on how well Rip managed to back up her work and verify it with data and security measures of the like. Like yin and yang, apparently; she didn’t think either she or Rip had even considered that possibility, he was a widower and she was happily single, but Martin Stein, when persistent, was something that could be avoided in the long run.
Hence, their sort of date. They’d agreed to get dressed in something fancy and snap pictures of them throughout the night: mementos, proof that they had done something, in hopes it would quiet down the office gossip and move onto someone else. Amaya and the researcher—Nate Heywood, his name was; the black sheep of the Heywood family for not joining the military—that came in for police reports from fifty years ago, for example.
Amaya had fifty dollars down on her having a crush on Rip; it seemed ridiculous, purely silly in hindsight, that Sara was offended at that idea. If she didn’t have a crush on the guy, she wouldn’t worry about why she was bothered by the idea of it existing. It should be a good laugh and an easy fifty dollars, but here she was.
Rip rustles through the crowd like it was made of water. “They’re closed,” he tells in explanation. He’s at least half a head taller than her. It’s distracting.
Sara’s not too surprised. Her memory, she hopes, will serve her good here: “Didn’t this use to be a front for Eobard Thawne?”
“The Legion of Doom,” Rip replies darkly, “it was primarily used for money laundering and holding hostages prior to transportation to other destinations.”
“I should’ve shot Darhk when I had the chance,” Sara tells him, memories of Damien Darhk still present. The bastard of a man didn’t deserve the death he deserved. He didn’t deserve to die via self sacrifice, not considering the people he had hurt, the people he had killed, the justice that would never be delivered for those left behind.
Rip reminds her: “You would’ve been suspended.”
“By who?” Sara asks, shrugging. “Everyone in the department wanted Darhk dead.”
“Well,” Rip starts, “there was his—”
Sara sighs, resigned, yet still angry. She probably would always hold that anger, no matter how unjust it was. “I know.” What’s implied: he wasn’t punished for nearly killing Laurel, and his end was better than what he deserved. Rip moves to comfort her by rubbing her back, just close enough, not not intimately familiar. Just like he always did, close enough to touch, but never more.
Sara’d disturbed to find herself wishing they could be more, and yet, here they were still were.
Rip clears his throat, a reminder that they should be cautious, in case they were recorded. It was bad PR, and it’d deny them future promotions or transfers to better locations. Besides, the daughter was still around.
“I suppose,” Rip tells her, “it could be self defense.”
Sara smiles, smugly. “Exactly.”
The two of them shared the ability to make references out of horrible things, in a self deprecating sense of humor, and it was terrible. To no one’s fault by their own, it also happened to be hilarious.
The crowd of people starts dissipating, down all directions of the street, dispersing quicker than crowd control could be summoned. All that remained now was the two of them, standing around, so lonely it could almost be considered awkward.
Rip sighs, almost to himself. “I don’t suppose we could go to Jonah Hex’s Western Bar.”
Sara looks at him, then looks at the pristine, new suit she’d taken from Laurel’s closet. “Not in this,” she tells him. She did not want to pay for the dry cleaning, no matter the circumstances.
Rip suggests: “I have a dust jacket you can use.”
Sara sounds vaguely annoyed. “Laurel doesn’t know I have her suit,” and I don’t plan on getting it dirty is implied.
“What do you suggest doing instead then?” Rip muses, “I don’t particularly fancy feeding the ducks and watching the sun set over a pond.”
Sara looks temporarily confused. Hence the words that fall from her mouth, in clear disbelief. “Who are you and what you done with Rip Hunter?”
Rip shakes his head in amusement. “That was,” he coughs, to clear the laughter from his throat, “what Martin used to propose to his wife. He mentioned it as, a uh, method of persuasion.”
Sara’s seen Stein post the exact same things on Facebook—him, Clarissa, Jax, Lily and Ronnie on family picnics, food usually untouched, and they were always filled with a long captions, abbreviated essays. “You’re not proposing, are you?”
Rip looks mockingly hurt. “Now,” he teases, “why would I do that?”
Sara scoffs. “Someone told me I was the love of their life after two weeks of dating,” she resists the urge to roll her eyes, “and that they loved me.”
“Well,” Rip looks at her with warmth, fondness in his eyes, “I certainly wouldn’t do that.”
“What?” Sara turns to face him now, inches away from his, the five inches of distance lessened by the heels she had on. “You don’t have the nerve?” She teases him, so close that it becomes impossible for him not to focus on his attention on her.
Disregarding that she’d been holding his attention the whole time, of course.
Sara watches as he processes it, slow and steady. When he’s about to reply, whatever that may be, she cuts him off. “You should see the look on your face,” she laughs.
He blushes, and his cheeks are so damn red. It’s cute, she thinks, but she wouldn’t tell him even if she wanted to, and she didn’t. It’s a temptation, though, but Sara lets it stay. They were supposed to be a date, anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to leave it.
Rip plays along well; just accepts and it moves on. He looks at her with affection, and there’s something strange about that feeling: this wasn’t like when they’d be on an extended break, at the coffee machine when they were supposed to be working—coincidentally, this was when the researcher with the floppy hair would ask Amaya for her help digging through the archives, and Amaya’d come out smelling of his cologne—and they’d make conversation about cases and office gossip, mock their rival agency for their bureaucratic inefficiency and plan evening drinks. There’s something missing from that and now, and that was presence of other people; still, all Sara feels towards it is a sense of ease, comfort.
There’s always been something about Rip she recognizes, the shared brokenness and the way they’d carry their pasts with them in tribute, and that’s something they’d understood about each other: don’t ask for the specifics unless the other brought it up themselves, but everything else was implied. It worked, strangely enough, and so Sara sticks with it.
“Well,” Rip tells as they approach the lone restaurant at the end of the street, “there’s a restaurant down the street.”
They get closer to the restaurant; upon further examination, the restaurant is, again, closed.
Annoyed, Sara rolls her eyes. Heels be damned, why was it the one day she and Rip were supposed to get something done they couldn’t?
“We could always drive somewhere,” Rip suggests, as she denies his every suggestion.
“Where would we go?” She asks, because if she had known nowhere would be open, she would’ve worn flats instead of heels. Seriously.
Rip sighs, if not a little annoyed himself. “Most of the bloody restaurants I know are closed. Unless you’d like to go to one of the shopping complexes—”
Sara looks at him, long and hard. He corrects himself: “Or, we could walk down the street aimlessly.”
“I like the second option,” she tells him, ignoring that the distance between the two of them had progressively grown tighter. It’s nothing, she reminds herself, but she’s a damned liar if she believes that.
Rip just goes along with what she says, as they stroll back the other way, catching new angles on buildings that they’d already passed once. All the while, Sara finds her a little more confused: she should be enjoying this, in theory. It should be fun, light-weight, a night of relaxation. So, why was it that she felt there was something burdening her?
Maybe, surely it had nothing to do with the possibility she could be attracted to the man next to her, even after she had denied it through and through, gone on dates just to prove people wrong (there was never a second date, to which Amaya always looked suspicious at. A gentle raising of the eyebrows here, a little nudge to sit them next to each other at drinks, and that was ignoring the group chat that seemed to go off the minute she and Rip got back from a long drive somewhere. Quite a coincidence, really.)
Rip nudges her, and it’s only then does she realize that they’ve made their way back to where they had started. “Should we go find a restaurant somewhere else?” He asks, before adding. “Martin handed me three hundred dollars to take you to a steak house.”
Sara scrunches her nose as she frowns. “A steak house?” They get into his car, just like clockwork, Sara in the drivers seat and Rip in the passenger seat. The one where the steering wheel should be, he grumbles after mistakenly turning into the wrong lane, to receive a number of dirty looks from the drivers surrounding him.
Rip looks as annoyed as she does. “Yes,” he exclaims dramatically, “it’s not the worst time to do things, at least.”
Sara can’t help but laugh. “It’s Friday night,” she starts. “Most people are busy right now.”
“That’s the point, apparently,” Rip tells her, “It’s quite romantic to be something tonight.”
“Not really,” Sara replies. “Skipping work is better.” She ignores the way it seems he was looking at her in a new light, but she can’t help but enjoy it.
Rip catches on, glimmer in his eye. “And what would we be doing in the meantime?”
Sara shrugs, the motion moving off her shoulders emphasized by the closeness of the space they were in. “I have an apartment.”
Rip demurs. “I don’t suppose we would be playing board games the whole time.”
Sara focuses on the road, otherwise she would’ve looked at him in a mix of confusion and exasperation. “I have a bed in my apartment.”
“Two beds and a couch,” Rip tells automatically, just based on the number of times they’d been lurking around in her kitchen at the early morning, when insomnia robbed them both of sleep and they didn’t want to be alone with their thoughts.
Sara’s fingers tap against the steering wheel. “The bed I’m thinking of is big enough to suit two.”
Rip replies, ever so cheekily evasive. “The bed in the guest room once suited Doctor Heywood and Miss Jiwe.”
There’s a red light approaching as Sara steers them towards a small diner near the suburbs. It’s quiet, homey. “I told you to burn the sheets when they were done.”
“Those sheets did make for a rather lovely bonfire,” Rip recalls, the sheets reduced to ashes at the hours of morning, when they were meant to be working. It had been the two of them and Martin, who had complained for weeks on end that their mutual encouraging of bad behavior reduced the productivity of their office.
Never mind that they were a Private Investigative Firm, where nothing they did was a) even remotely legal, b) even though they basically did the work the police did without the moral-legal-common-sense based objections and c) the office was a train-wreck on a normal day, much less the holidays or given anything else that came up.
Sara clears her throat to get them both out of memory lane. The car was conducive for heart to heart conversations, and for the two of them at least, it was okay. Sara explores a different avenue of interest. “Have you thought about the office gossip? About us?”
Rip looks at her with keen interest. “What about it?”
Sara tries not to look annoyed. “What are your feelings about us? You and me.”
“We’re friends, colleagues, partners; you have keys to my apartment and my doorman insists that you’re my wife even if I tell him we’re not romantic—” Rip starts, before cutting himself off. “Oh.”
They’re stopped at another red light and Sara deems it safe to look at him. Softly, she speaks. “It took you long enough.”
“I don’t really know,” Rip starts. “You’ve been one of my most enjoyable companions, but—” He’s a a loss for words, and the unsaid rings clearer than the words he did say. I don’t know beyond that.
“I kept thinking to myself,” Sara shakes her head as she says this, “that you looked handsome earlier. And I kept finding myself checking you out when I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I considered buying you a bouquet of flowers,” Rip tells, a small smile on his lips. “But I wasn’t sure if they would be appropriate.”
“I was going to drive to the Waverider,” Sara tells him in lieu of a proper answer, “but I think my apartment would be better.”
“It would be,” Rip tells her, before asking. “If I remember correctly, I baked a cake and left it there.”
“Dinner and desert,” Sara tells herself, before telling him: “I do love your cooking.” It’s a cheeky remark, but being in a car with someone, no one else, provided a source of intimacy that couldn’t be easily replicated elsewhere.
The second part is more to herself, but she’s alright with him hearing it.
“The cake would just be dinner,” Rip tells, “desert would be in your bed.”
Sara, in a deciding notion, “We can postpone the steakhouse.”
Rip couldn’t help but agree more.