It starts ringing in her head the moment Nate pulls away from her. She sees the reality hit him a moment later, shining heavy in his eyes before he even says a word.
She doesn’t know how she knows. In theory, it should take hours, maybe days, before the timeline resets.
(She just knows.)
She stole an hourglass, two years ago, when she walked off the cliff of a broken timeline and out onto the jagged headland of the Waverider. And now the last of the sand is running out.
(It was never hers to keep.)
Thanks to these ridiculous kids, standing all around her, she’s seen so much she never could have dreamed of. Not even back when there was an honest-mom-he’s-really-real baby dragon in her life. She’s seasoned enough to know what it looks like when a timeline resets. But the theory’s got nothing on the feeling. That she’s tied to the tracks, staring into the searing lights of an oncoming train that’s long been headed straight for her.
She’s always been a fugitive, ever since she stepped onto the Waverider, running away from everything she deserved. Found herself running towards so many things, instead. Where there was a gaping hole in her heart, new family. Where she’d failed her world, the chance to save another -- in her own quirky way.
(But it was always going to catch up with her.)
Behind her, Ray is blinking worried eyes at her, as though he’s figuring it out. Her friend, Ray, schmience guy, the bravest, purest soul in the realm. And sure, she’s rolled her eyes at every single one of his gallant speeches about the power of friendship -- but somewhere along the journey, she started to believe him. She was never a damsel, but when he first met her, she was in some soul-deep, despairing distress. And that’s how he saved her -- with friendship. With rousing optimism she pretended to hate, video games he pretended to lose. With pass-the-popcorn-and-don’t-talk-to-me-you’re-annoying movie nights, when his eyes were dark with sadness and she couldn’t breathe, and his hand found hers across the chasm. Maybe they saved each other.
He can’t save her now.
(There isn’t time.)
Sara, who hasn’t seen it coming yet, still hugging Ava a few feet away, glowing with the familiar delight of a battle won. Sara, her friend, who showed her what it means to be a hero, a champion of the outcasts, the lost and the broken. Who started with Zari, when she was all of those. Talking her out of all the mistakes she could have made, when the red mist clouded her vision. Standing back, when it was kinder to let Zari hack her way through history. Sara, who storms the castle of death, every day, by throwing herself into life more fiercely than anyone Zari’s ever known.
She can be a hero for Sara now.
(Even if she’ll never know it.)
Charlie. Her friend, Charlie. Who Zari’s been so mad at, these past months. Two tempests blasting at each other, stirring each other up like a compulsion. And now, in these short seconds that are all she has left, she can’t even remember why. Well, it probably didn’t help having to watch Charlie walking around the ship with the stolen face of her-- Amaya’s face. Or that Zari kept wondering if... But Charlie’s good. Zari’s watched them become a Legend, so much more easily than she ever did, because the team really mattered to them from the start. Loyal like the team belongs to them, but standing firm on their line in the sand.
Showing Zari that every soul in the world, human or monster, matters.
(This choice matters.)
Mick Rory. Her friend, Mick -- though it took her a long time to think of him that way. Fire and wind and the furious blaze they stoke in each other. Cake-eating contests that Gideon has to declare a draw before one of them starts vomiting. Sitting together at the bridge window, in the eerie silence of the early morning, when the Waverider is a ghost ship for them both. Waking up the next day to find he’s making pancakes for her, even if he pretends he just happened to end up with more than he can eat alone.
If she had the chance, she thinks she would miss him.
(She won’t have the chance.)
John Constantine. And wasn’t he a surprise? John, her friend, in his own guarded way. Quiet shared hands of cards when the tension of a long mission gets too much, neither of them saying a word of what they’re feeling. Friends who deserve each other -- who both sealed their hearts away in such deep vaults they forgot how to unlock them. And he does have a heart, even if he’d never admit it. She’s proud of him for finding his way back to it.
He won’t be proud of her.
(He won’t be anything.)
Ava Sharpe. Ava, her friend, who very nearly wasn’t. Ava, who stands like a cop and barks orders like an-- ARGUS agent. The order to Zari’s chaos. They’re from nearly incompatible worlds, see things so differently. But Ava tore up the rulebook and threw herself into the fight, became a Legend when they needed her. Zari admires that. And they have Sara in common, and Zari loves her for making her friend happy.
She hopes they’ll be happy for a long time.
(She’ll never know.)
Nora Darhk. Nora, the friend Zari tried, failed to rescue when she was just a child. She was never sure if Nora could be saved, and then she just went and saved herself. Nora’s seen so much darkness -- too bad there’s no time to annoy anyone with that pun -- and still manages to be a light. And a hoot. Zari hasn’t done any of the little things she thought she might do with Nora -- go for coffee, join her book club, indulge in shared rolling of their eyes at their ridiculous boyfriends. She thought there’d be time for all of that.
What does a Legend have, if not time?
(No one ever has enough time.)
Mona, her new friend. Such an indomitable spirit, who’s stood up to terror that tore her apart from the inside out, and never flinched, never stopped loving everyone and everything. Who Zari wanted to get to know better.
They’ll never know each other now.
(They never did.)
Nate. Oh, Nate. Her friend, before anything else, whose arms are tight around her, like he thinks he can hold back time itself. Nate, always so easy to be friends with. Accepting Zari as she was, no matter how often she tried to push him away. So much love in his heart -- for her, for Ray, for all of them. Nate, who surprised her, showed her she still had enough pieces of a heart left to put back together.
Even now, after everything.
(Even love can’t stop what’s coming.)
All her friends. It’s good that most of them are oblivious, still hugging each other, holding hands, laughing. Mission accomplished, right? The timeline will shimmer and warp in a blink, in a heartbeat, and take the Legends right along with it. They’ll go right off back to the ship to celebrate, and they won’t even--
Remember, she wills desperately, through her last tears. The Legends have done greater miracles than this. They’ve shaped aberrations into people, saved lives lost in dark timelines, defeated demons with love squashed into a giant plush toy. She just saw them bring back the freaking dead. Stranger instruments in the hand of God she could never imagine -- but if anyone can do it, they can.
She wouldn’t change a thing. That was never a question. If it came down to her or Behrad, she’d choose her brother, her family, every single time. She’d choose both her families, jumping out of the temporal zone to save Nate over and over again, if she had to.
That’s their legacy in her life. They shaped her into the hero she never wanted to be.
(And now she doesn’t want it to end.)
Why can’t I--