Chapter 1: Like a Million Little Doorways
Leonard careens down the corridor, alternately pissed and alarmed at his own disorientation and weakness. The alarms that are screaming all around him don’t help, making his already battered skull ache and his head swim. He thought he’d handled the lock rather masterfully with his makeshift tools, but he must have set something off.
He can hear yelling, changes direction, bounces off a wall he would have sworn had jumped out at him, keeps running. Or staggering. Whatever. What matters now was that he’s out. Away from Druce’s sadism, away from the room where he’d been kept for…how long? He’s out, and he can figure out what was going on, find somewhere safe, contact the…the others. Find out how long it’s been. Druce had taunted him with the suggestion that it’d been longer than he thought, but…
Leonard rounds another corner then and came face to face with two people, a tall man and a short woman, both wearing dark suits. They gape at him, taken aback by his presence even though the alarms are apparently telling them of a fugitive on the loose, and he takes advantage of it, barreling through them and onward.
The woman tries to grab him and connects with his left wrist. Leonard yelps even as he yanks it away, even as he curses the weakness of the pained noise. The open wounds throb, the pain so sharp that it makes him reel dizzily, and he rather distantly thinks that he’ll definitely be leaving DNA evidence behind him. Doesn’t matter. He has to get out of here.
His usual stellar sense of direction avails him little here, though, in this thoroughly unknown place, and he’s disoriented enough that he isn’t even sure he isn’t going in circles. But…
Then Leonard turns another corner, looking back over his shoulder, and crashes into another person. They almost topple—if he’d been managing more speed, they would have, but his limping stagger had been getting slower and slower—and while Leonard tries to pretty much course-correct immediately and keep going, he’s just about tapped out. The other person yelps, and they get tangled up in each other. Leonard gets a brief impression of blond hair and limber muscle as they sort themselves out, as he pulls back and sucks in a pained breath, planning to bolt again.
And then they’re staring at each other, there in that bland office-building hallway with alarms blaring all around them.
Leonard’s head spins. This isn’t real, it can’t be, but it seems real, and…
“Sara?” he breathes, disbelieving.
If it isn’t her, it has to be her doppelganger, her clone. (“Her daughter?” whispers the part of him that’s silently terrified that he’s simply missed far too much time.) The woman across from him looks a little older, maybe, but not much, and that’s…that’s surely recognition in her eyes, right?
Recognition and complete and utter incredulity.
“Leonard,” she breathes in return, staring at him in a way that he can’t quite read, especially not now, with his head aching and his equilibrium completely and utterly shot. “How…when…”
Sara, his Sara, the one he’d known before the Oculus—it must be, it must—reaches out a hand as if to place it on his jaw. But Leonard winces despite himself, more because of the scruffy, unkempt, mostly gray beard he knows is there, and her hand drops away.
And then she’s all business, uncertainly hidden, and that’s OK, that’s what they need right now.
“You’re trying to get out of here?” she asked Leonard, as if needing confirmation.
“Wherever here is,” he agreed.
Sara reaches down to grab his hand—fortunately getting that and not his wrist. “Come with me.”
About three weeks ago
“No.” Sara shakes her head, staring at Ava, Time Bureau director, her ex, the woman she still cares for—the woman who’d just said those unbelievable, awful words. “No. No. No.”
The rest of the room is mostly still, and her words drop into the silence like it’s a pool of still water. She’d heard intakes of breath from both Mick and Ray, who are flanking her, the only two other original Legends remaining, but rather to her surprise, neither of them moves or say more. Maybe they couldn’t quite believe what they were hearing, either.
Behind them, Charlie—she thought it was Charlie--says something quietly, and Nate answers her. Zari is quiet, too, and in the tiny corner of Sara’s mind that’s always keeping tabs on the powder keg that is her team, she thinks that’s odd, if perhaps better in the moment.
John is off doing…John things, and he’s taken Nora with him, so at least that point—those points—of potential trouble are out of the game, Sara thinks—and she’s perfectly aware that she’s doing this mental rundown of her troublemakers to keep herself from screaming at the woman in front of her, who’s staring back at her with an expression that suggests she just doesn’t get Sara’s reaction.
“I know Director Hunter didn’t want the Time Bureau to become the old Time Masters,” Ava says carefully, leaning back against her desk and folding her hands in what Sara recognizes as her “official director pose.” “Including having the tools they had to…to do their job.” She scans them. “But this time, the tools would be in better hands.”
Her gaze fixes on Sara, who’s pretty sure she still looks horrified, and the expression turns just a touch beseeching. “Sara. Think of the good we could do! No more running around trying to clean up messes—we stop the messes from happening first.”
Ava shakes her head then. “No more disasters like the one that took out so many agents earlier this year,” she adds softly. “No more.”
Sara still can’t find words. But Ray does, finally.
“You’re talking about rebuilding the Oculus,” he says, his voice disbelieving. “You really are. What…how could you?”
As if Ray’s words finally convince the others that this is real, Mick finds his voice too. “Snart died to blow that thing up,” he snarls, stepping forward, and Sara almost senses rather than sees the others moving, as if ready to pull him back—or help him, she’s not sure—if he moves farther.
This is already so very, very out of control, but Sara holds up a hand anyway. Mick subsides, but she can feel him simmering at her side, and she can’t blame him, she can’t, this…
“How did this even come about?” she asks, trying to sound reasonable and not like she wants to scream. “Rip set up all his rules and plans so that this would never happen. You told me that.” She takes a deep breath. “The Oculus is…is gone. It blew up. Who even told you it was possible to recreate it?”
Ava studies her, then nods, seeming to decide to continue although she does give the others a dubious look. “About a month ago,” she says, lifting her chin, “a young Time Bureau agent decided to use his new time courier to visit the place where, in a way, all this started.”
Silence. Then: “The Vanishing Point,” Ray says quietly.
Sara shudders. She’s pretty sure Mick does too. But Ava continues. “What’s left of it,” she acknowledges. “But when he returned to the Bureau…” She pauses, then nods again. “Well, he brought something—someone else with him. Someone who apparently had been stuck in time itself, until the time courier created a portal.”
Mick says something they can’t quite hear. Sara reaches out and puts a hand on his arm, but she doesn’t stop staring at Ava. The other woman turns to the door behind her and says something, and the door opens, two armed agents escorting in an apparent captive and…
It can’t be. It…
The tall man who steps in the doorway isn’t a long-lost, snarky, missed crook. He’s something Sara had dreaded seeing almost as much as she’d hoped to see Leonard.
“Well,” Zaman Druce, former head of the Time Council, says smoothly. “Fancy meeting you again.” His lips twitch just a little. “I rather figured you’d all have managed to write yourselves out of history quite some time ago.” He scans them. “Or perhaps some of you did. Such a…pity.”
There’s a beat of silence…and then Mick roars, bringing his heat gun up and pointing it at Druce even as Nate and Zari move to grab their teammate’s arms and Charlie starts cursing. Ray does as well, using language Sara has never heard from him before, and Ava steps forward too, in front of Druce, as the time agents look like they’re not sure who to point their weapons at.
Only the former Time Master and Sara don’t move, and only they are silent.
But if looks could kill, Sara knows, she’d have one more notch on her scabbard.
“Do you know what he did?” she asks Ava quietly as the din begins to die down, and Nate and Ray steer Mick out of the room at Sara’s request, the others going with them. “Do you know?”
The director looks a bit defensive but more angry. “He’s trying to make amends,” she protests sharply. “Surely you understand that!
Sara tries to act like those words, which certainly do come from a place of deep understanding of Sara herself, don’t sting. “His actions killed thousands,” she responds, a little sharply herself. “Including Rip’s wife and child. And…and a member of our team.”
She’s made a practice out of pretending Leonard Snart had never existed, over the past four years—especially since they’d returned his apparent earlier self to the timeline. But the flash of unexpected and painful hope from a few minutes ago is still singing in her veins, and damn it…
“And so did your teams’ actions, when you blew up the Oculus and the Vanishing Point,” Ava points out, in what Sara privately thinks of as her “I’m-by-far-the-most-logical-one-in-this-room” voice. She’s reaching for control of the situation again, and part of Sara wants to do everything possible to rip it away.
But it won’t work. Ava is convinced of the rightness of this, at the moment, and not even Sara can convince her otherwise.
The director is waving earnestly at Druce, who’s wearing a dignified expression that makes it seem like he is indeed the martyred leader out to make amends here.
“He’s not at liberty to wander,” she continues, “and…” She pauses, sighs, looks at Sara again as if imploring her to listen. “He has so much information. So many things we didn’t even know, things Director Hunter never told us. We’ll do it the right way this time. We won’t let it corrupt us. You need to help us…me.”
Sara just stares at her, until Druce speaks up again.
“Yes, ‘Captain’ Lance,” he says, and Sara thinks she’s the only one who hears both the mocking quotes around the title and the hint of amusement in his tone. “Why don’t you want to do the right thing?” A pause. “Unless you’re afraid you’re the one who will be corrupted. After what your people did.”
It would be so easy to put a knife through his throat. But…
That’s not you anymore.
“Ava,” Sara says instead, ignoring Druce, focusing on her ex. “Have the time agents found…anyone else in the timestream, around the Vanishing Point?” She refuses to look at the Time Master, refuses to see his knowing smirk.
Ava just looks puzzled. “No,” she says simply. “Not at all.” She spreads her hands out before her. “The odds that Master Druce himself somehow survived were…astronomical.”
Sara nods, although that “Master Druce” turns her stomach. Then she meets Ava’s eyes one more time, letting regret and resolution both into her gaze as she takes a step back.
Despite everything Sara’s said, the other woman still looks surprised, even a little hurt. “You won’t help?” she says, tone stunned. “You won’t help me bring the Oculus back, even with all the good it could do? The people it could save?”
“No,” Sara tells her simply, turning away, “we won’t. Not now. Not ever.”
The armed agents escort Druce back to the small suite of rooms that serves as his prison, then, leaving the Time Bureau director sitting at her desk, staring out the windows.
It’s not a bad prison, as prison go, Druce thinks to himself as they usher him in, closing the door and looking it securely behind him. Not so comfortable a living space as he’s used to, of course, but so much better than the endless nothing of where he’d been in the timestream. And as he insinuates himself with various higher-level agents—he’s been finding them, the one by one—it becomes even more comfortable.
Of course, it’s not really a prison at all, not anymore. Not that his captors know that.
His lips twitch again, and he pushes up the voluminous sleeves of his robe to show a time courier strapped to his arm, above his elbow where it won’t slip down, just in case.
These foolish time agents, this so-called Time Bureau created by Hunter, didn’t keep nearly good enough track of their toys. And while Druce’s origins are so far older than Hunter’s that he can barely remember the time period, he’d also been a mere street thief, once upon a time. (“Kleptai!” someone shouts in the dim recesses of memory.) It’d been child’s play to acquire one.
It’s been most useful. He needs to figure out how to use it for more, soon, but not right now. There will be time.
He is, after all, a master of it.
Druce steps into his sleeping quarters, shutting the door firmly behind him. He’s already “trained” his captors to respect his privacy while he’s closed off in here—and whether or not Hunter’s protégé, the blond woman who tries so hard to pretend that she’s not more than a trifle uncertain in the job, realizes it, she wants the knowledge (and the control) he has so desperately that he already has a powerful hold over her. He will be undisturbed.
And so will his “guest.”
The niche, closed off by another door from the sleeping quarters, isn’t much bigger than a closet. Druce, humming to himself, jimmies it open, then smiles thinly as said guest winces away from the light.
“Well, my friend,” he tells the man there, a man bound by his wrists by the ceiling hook probably meant to hold a light fixture. A man who, like himself, had fallen out of the timestream thanks to a time courier portal—but into a trap laid by Druce, and not just the confused regard of a group of clueless time agents. “I saw your teammates today. Some of them, anyway. Seems others hadn’t survived.” He pauses. “Shall I tell you which ones?”
Silence. The man’s eyes remain closed.
“No? Ah, well.” Druce considers him a moment longer. “You are going to help me, you know,” he tells the man. “You’ll have no choice in the matter. I’m going to need all the temporal energy you’ve absorbed, and your friends don’t even know you’re alive.”
Druce shrugs and closes the door again. He pushes his sleeve up again, taps something out on the time courier, and then steps through the portal that appears.
All is silence for a minute or two.
Then Leonard Snart opens his eyes.
They’re cold, and blue, and very, very determined.
Chapter 2: All the Stages We Passed Through
“You haven’t seen her at all?”
Mick Rory folds his arms and scowls at the woman on the Waverider’s main screen. “Answer ain’t changed in the past minute.”
Ava pinches her nose with her fingers, looking like he’s making her headache worse. Mick feels victorious.
He figures that if that’s the most he does to Bureau Chick considering that she’s talking about bringing back the same damned thing that killed Snart—well, she’s getting off easy. (And he doesn’t believe for a second that Sara’s gonna let her get away with that, or he’d be doing a hell of a lot more. He’s already decided he’s going to kill Druce. Again. The question is simply when.)
But Bureau Chick really doesn’t seem aware of any of this. Which seems kinda odd, because Mick might not like her, but she’s not stupid.
“Well,” she sighs, as Mick hears at least one of the others—Haircut, he’s pretty sure it’s Haircut, and probably Pretty too—wander on to the bridge behind him. “If…when…you see her. Tell her… it’s not what she thinks.”
Mick doesn’t ask. “Got it.”
The screen turns blank, and Mick turns around, noticing Haircut’s frown and Pretty’s look of confusion. (So what else is new?)
Ray stares at the screen, then looks back at Mick. “She’s looking for Sara?” he asks. “But…Sara went to the Bureau, to try to get a time courier. Hours ago. What happened? Do you think she’s OK? Should we go looking for her?”
Mick sighs, put upon. “Tell ‘em, Gideon,” he instructs, leaning against a jumpseat.
The AI speaks up promptly. “Ms. Lance has been in contact with us, Dr. Palmer,” she says. “A while ago. However, she asked that Mr. Rory and I not tell Director Sharpe that. She said just to wait, and she’d be back in touch.”
Haircut looks confused. “You lied?”
Mick rolls his eyes. And Gideon’s silence is the sort that he knows could easily be translated as “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
“I obeyed the command of my captain, Dr. Palmer,” she says finally. “And you may wish to consider why she asked me to do so. Especially given recent events.”
When Sara had first started visiting the Time Bureau in this time and place, the dynamic had been so contentious that it’d seemed only practical to figure out a safehouse of sorts nearby. She’d found a place—a former office building in an unlikely section of town, unlikely to be sold or rented to anyone new—and set it up, figuring it was better to have a bolt-hole than not.
She’d never expected to be hauling one Leonard Snart in there.
Leonard seems…dazed. Far from his usual sharp intellect and gaze. He just stares at Sara as she gently pushes him down on the battered secondhand sofa there. And then she sees his wrists—and the ragged, raw wounds around them.
“What the…” She takes a deep breath, holds it a moment, then lets it out slowly. Her first thought, running into Leonard in the Bureau hall, had been that they’d found him after all, and that Ava had lied. But it’s not adding up, none of these little details, and she needs to know more.
Especially just who or what Snart this is.
And so, she sits down opposite him, trying not to hope, and tries to sound like the businesslike captain and not a woman who…who…
“I need to know,” she tells the man, trying for calm. “If you’re the Leonard Snart from this time and this Earth, tell me something only I would know.”
Leonard’s brow furrows as he looks at her. “This time?” he murmurs. “This Earth?” But then he shakes his head roughly and focuses, blue eyes intent in a way that does things to Sara’s stomach.
“You kissed me,” he says quietly. “At the Oculus.” He looks down at his arms. “You had to pull yourself up, and I couldn’t let go, but…”
It’s enough and too much. “OK,” Sara says abruptly, getting up as quickly as she’d sat down. “You’re you. OK. I’ll be right back.”
Because this safehouse is meant for the Legends, of course there are plenty of first-aid supplies. Sara fills a basin with warm water, and takes that, a soft cloth and some disinfectant back to where Leonard is still sitting, brow furrowed, a rather distant expression still on his face. A variant of shock, she thinks, barely willing to truly accept that it’s him now, really him.
Sara puts the basin down next to him, then wrings out the cloth, reaching out tentatively to take his left hand. Same callouses, she notes. The very same.
Leonard doesn’t flinch or pull away. Shock, Sara thinks again. She gently starts wiping at the raw wounds, and he still doesn’t move, despite what must be considerable pain.
“Did the Time Bureau do this?” she asks quietly, after a moment.
It takes Leonard a long minute to respond.
“I don’t know what the Time Bureau is,” he tells her, sounding just a little more like the sardonic Len she knows…remembers. His lip curls. “Sounds annoying. But, no, that rat bastard Druce did this.”
Sara freezes, then keeps working. “But…”
Leonard doesn’t seem to hear her. “One minute I was in…in the same nothing I’d been in since the Oculus blew up, then I’d landed hard on the floor.” He shakes his head roughly. “He’d been ready, and I…I wasn’t in good shape. Next thing I knew, he had me bound, and…that was it. Not sure how long.”
Leonard manages to focus on her, and he seems to realize what’s behind the intense question. “He has this watch gadget,” he mutters. “It opened some kinda portal. Boom.”
No doubt what that is. “Druce has a time courier? But…” She stops. It doesn’t matter right now. The water in the basin is pink, and she starts on the other wrist, letting Leonard rest the other on the basin rim.
“Sara,” he says after a moment, roughly. “How long?”
She’s not going to pretend. “About four years,” she tells him, feeling his flinch then. “A little less.”
No other words are needed in the question, but Sara’s pleased to be able to give good news here. “Mick is fine,” she tells him, eyes on her work, trying to remove ground-in debris without causing more pain than she has to. “He’s good. He’s still a Legend, and he…did you know he writes? He’s published now. He’s OK, Leonard.”
She’s sure it’s not her imagination that a little tension goes out of him. Then: “Lisa?”
Now Sara hesitates. “You have to realize…” she says carefully, “we all thought you were dead…”
“And you told her.” Leonard’s voice is calm, more accepting than she would have thought. “But…is she OK?”
As OK as she can be. “Yes.” Sara wrings out the cloth again. The water is a much darker pink now. “She is. Cisco keeps tabs on her. She’s traveling, checks in from time to time.”
Leonard sighs. He’s quiet as Sara carries the basin back across the small room, and quiet as she sits down again, taking his left hand again and starting to wind some gauze loosely around his wounds.
After a moment, Sara starts talking again, just to get it out. “Rip’s gone,” she tells him, eyes on his wrist. “Presumed dead.” A pause. “Martin…he died.” She really doesn’t want to go into it more, not at the moment. “And Jax left the team. So did Kendra and Carter—yeah, that’s a long story—after we defeated Savage.” She finishes that wrist, lifts her eyes to his. “It’s just me, Mick, and Ray left, of the original eight.”
Leonard’s gaze is steady. “And you’re captain.”
She waits for more questions, but in vain. He’s silent, and so is she, as she wraps his other wrist, securing the gauze with a clip.
“There’s a shower,” Sara says after a moment, “and there are some shaving supplies in there, if you want. I kept this place stocked up for any of the Legends who might need to use it.” She glances up at him. “I mean. If you want to.”
Leonard smirks, just a little. “What,” he drawls, and oh hell, she’s missed that drawl, “you don’t like the beard?” He reaches out to touch it, as if he doesn’t remember just how long it’s become, then frowns and glances in the mirror to their left. “Gray,” he mutters.
Sara almost smiles at his vanity because, well, it is—though not unattractive. But she also can’t avoid noticing just how thin he looks.
“Food?” she asks. “I can go get some kinda takeout.”
Leonard’s eyes flicker. He understands what she’s not saying.
“Wouldn’t say no,” he says, and they’ve both won another brief reprieve from feelings.
“Oh, bloody hell!” Charlie shouts, turning and scowling at them all indiscriminately. “Are you fuckin’ kidding me?!
The Waverider’s bridge is in an uproar, but Mick is just standing there, staring at nothing in particular and letting the chaos wash over him. He’s still digesting this, trying to figure out how he feels, if he believes it. Sara…Sara wouldn’t tell him this, of all things, without being sure, but…
“Snart,” Constantine muses, leaning against the holotable. “Leo’s doppelganger here? Presumably without the guy at home?” He nods, once, smirking. “Sign me up.”
“Leo’s his doppelganger,” Mick mutters, but not loud enough for anyone to hear him. He turns to face the others, still unwilling to chime in more…yet.
Zari rolls her eyes at British. “I don’t think that’s the part of all this that’s got everyone upset.” She glances at Haircut. “He was one of the original Legends? The one you all thought died at the Vanishing Point?”
“Yeah.” Haircut looks upset. Well, Snart had taken his place—or, Mick’s place, after everything. “Sara doesn’t think the Bureau knew Druce had him…but we can’t be sure, not yet. She said they’re gonna lie low, in case the Bureau is watching the ship, and we can pick them up tomorrow.”
Charlie folds her arms, still scowling. “I don’t know why any of you lot, with what you told me about this Oculus thing, are giving those wankers the benefit of the doubt at all,” she points out. “They want to control people, to control time. Your boy Snart was being held captive there and from what Sara said, he was a bit the worse for wear. They have this Druce character, the one who was your real big bad back in the beginning. What else is there to know!?”
“This is also the one that was part of the Legion, though,” Pretty points out, looking a bit uncomfortable as he glances at Mick. “Are you sure…”
But Haircut glares at his friend before Mick can. “That was an earlier Snart. Right, Mick?” He looks earnestly—well, he does almost everything earnestly—at Mick. “Before the Flash, before the Legends. And the Legion kinda lied to him. That wasn’t the Snart we knew.”
Mick still thinks there was more to it than that, but… “Yeah.”
And Sara would know, he thinks. She’d know. He’ll still feel better when Gideon confirms it, but she’d know.
He doesn’t pray. He hasn’t done that since before his mom died. But he hopes.
He really, really hopes.
The man who walks back out of the bathroom, more or less clean-shaven and scrubbed, looks far more like the Leonard she remembers, except for the odd tentativeness in his eyes where there used to be snarky confidence.
And the fact that he’s not wearing a shirt. Yeah, that too.
Sara rips her gaze away from scars and skin to focus on the gaze again, registering the mix of amusement and awkwardness there. Leonard lets the black leather jacket in his hand fall to the floor by the door and shrugs, folding his arms.
“There weren’t any shirts in there,” he says, with a quick glance down at the borrowed sweatpants that are both a little too big and a little too short. “And I’ll be damned if I’m putting the…the dirty one back on.” His shoulders hunch, and Sara wonders just how long he’d been trapped. “Prefer to save the jacket, if I can. But…”
“It’s OK,” Sara tells him quickly. “I think there are a few out here.” She gets up, waving a hand at the take-out boxes on the table. “Um. I didn’t want to go far. Chinese OK?”
Leonard takes a step forward, eyebrows lifting. “I’ve been getting Druce’s leftovers, if that, so…
It’s an opening, but Sara chooses not to take it. Not yet. She doesn’t want to think of Leonard at Druce’s mercy, because Druce isn’t anywhere she can make him pay right now—and she’s very, very sure she’s going to want to.
Instead, though, Sara just turns away, clearing her thoughts, going to a battered dresser and pulling out a blue T-shirt in approximately the right size, which she tosses his way without looking. “If you want,” she says, staring briefly at the cabinet and thinking of the tracery of pale scars before turning around. “Just…if you want.”
When she does turn around, Leonard has pulled the shirt on, giving her a brief smile as he reaches for a carton of kung pao chicken. So Sara smiles too, and grabs another container, and that’s enough seriousness for now.
“What are we going to do about Druce?”
Haircut’s voice is low and serious. Mick looks up from his typewriter, ready to protest this intrusion into his quarters, then sighs at the look on the other man’s face.
He’s changed, he thinks. Snart wouldn’t…won’t recognize him. But he knows, he knows how Haircut’s feeling, given that Snart had ultimately taken his place and his death. (Mick’s place. Mick’s death.)
“We kill him,” he says shortly. “One way or another. I don’t care what Bureau Chick says. He’s trouble. More than trouble. Disaster.”
Ray perches gingerly on one of Mick’s chairs. “You think Sara will be OK with that?”
“Don’t care.” But Mick sighs. Haircut is the last one, besides Sara, who really gets this. “Well,” he says, taking his glasses off and putting them aside, rubbing his forehead, “yeah, I do.” They’re the only three original Legends left, he thinks with a pang. He hadn’t really wanted to come on this wild ride—that’d been Snart, and he’s still not sure ultimately why—but he had, and he’d changed, and that was how it was.
“I think…” he says, choosing his words carefully—and that’s a big difference too, a huge one, “I think that Sara’s gonna want to do the killing herself. An’ if anything, we might have to stop her from doing it too messy.”
Haircut blinks at him. “But,” he says slowly, “the Bureau…”
“Won’t matter.” Mick hesitates again. This ain’t his story to tell, not really. And frankly, he’d only put a lot of pieces together afterward.
“Won’t matter,” he repeats, looking down at the keys. “Blondie’s gonna want to off him herself. You’ll see.”
Leonard, after eating a fairly decent amount of spicy chicken, has put his head back against the armchair and closed his eyes. Sara watches him for a while, still amazed at his presence, but eventually rises and moves quietly into the space that passes for the bedroom.
She rather wishes that there’s more than just a mattress on a rudimentary frame there, but it’s a king, and it’s comfortable, and that will have to do. She grabs clean sheets and makes it up, adding pillows and an old but soft quilt, then goes back to the main area.
Leonard opens an eye and regards her as she approaches him, but Sara can see the weariness in his face. How long has it been since he’s had a decent night’s sleep? Does the time in the Oculus even count? It certainly doesn’t seem, from the little he’d said, that it was very restful.
“There’s a bed…well, a mattress, in the other room,” she says, jerking her head in that direction. “Not much, but comfortable. I’ll stay on the couch. Sleep as long as you want.”
Leonard opens his other eye, watching her, then gets to his feet, moving in a way that shows Sara just how stiff and sore he is. He hesitates, then glances toward her, then away again.
“I…wouldn’t mind having someone nearby,” he mutters, not looking at her, “I mean, there. In the same room.” A pause, and he wipes a hand over his face while Sara realizes he must mean in the same bed, too. “It was…I couldn’t tell how long it was, in the Oculus, but it was kinda like…maybe sensory deprivation. Sometimes I wake up, and I still…”
He pauses another moment, then gives a thoroughly humorless laugh. “What’d you say? More than three years ago now?” Another pause. “Lonely. Like everyone I….everyone was a million miles away.”
He lifts his gaze and meets her eyes. “I’m not talking about…more, just…stay? I…please.”
It’s a plea, from a man who’s always made a practice of being cool and needing no one. Sara pauses just a moment, then nods.
“Sure,” she says, just as quietly. “Of course I will.”
Chapter 3: For So Many Different Directions
Posting a little early! As you asked, Tavyn. ;)
Ava ends her latest call to the Waverider, lowering her head into her hands with a sigh. Over the past few years, she’d thought her relationship with the Legends had been getting better, even with her breakup with Sara, but it seems they’re nearly back to square one now. All because none of them seem to be able to get past the, well, past.
She understands their dislike of Druce, somewhat. But for a group of misfits who’ve always been about gathering people who need a second chance, the depth of the hatred seems a bit inexplicable.
She wonders wistfully again why Director Hunter hadn’t told the bureau, told her, about the tools the Time Masters had had at their disposal. He’d gone to so much trouble making the bureau a body that was responsible and careful. Hadn’t he trusted them after all?
Her thoughts are interrupted by a noise at the door, and Ava lifts her head, carefully composing her features as the guard bring Druce in, stationing themselves by the door as the man himself approaches her.
“Master Druce,” she says formally, clasping her hands. “How are you?
The man inclines his head to her. He’s a little worse for wear—holding one arm stiffly, and with the dark color of a bruise on one side of his face. She’d known that, but they haven’t yet had a chance to do an in-depth examination of what had happened earlier, when the alarms had alerted everyone to someone breaking out of Druce’s quarters. Someone who, as it turned out, hadn’t been Druce.
“Well enough,” the man says stiffly. “Given that I was attacked in my own quarters by a murderer and time criminal.”
Ava nods. She’s been looking at the security camera videos from the hallways and comparing them to Time Bureau records, and she’s pretty sure what’s coming. Still, she wants Druce to tell her, wants his full take on the matter.
“You said a portal, like one created by a time courier, opened in your quarters,” she says, “and this intruder emerged, attacked you, and ran.” She pauses. “That’s all the information we exchanged in the middle of the chaos. Now, tell me more. You recognized this person, didn’t you?”
Druce scowls—not, she thinks, at her. “It was the one who blew up the Oculus itself,” he says, cold anger in his voice. “The man named Snart, who looked in my eyes and taunted me as he destroyed it all. All my ships. All my men.” His eyes narrow. “He must have been trapped in the timestream, like me.”
Ava thinks of Sara’s careful questions about the timestream around the Vanishing Point. Had she been thinking of this Snart, who’d caused the explosion?
She’s met Leo Snart of Earth X, who’d struck her as a good man and a responsible one, but this version seems altogether different. A crook and a killer, she knows from the records. Not a good person. But then why had Sara asked about him? Had she wanted to warn Ava?
And why had she fled the bureau with him? Something isn’t adding up. Ava bites her lip despite herself. Sara might be in danger, and she can’t figure out why the Legends aren’t even concerned. It’s like they’re too fixated on stymying her to just listen.
“We’ll find him,” she tells Druce. And Sara.
The former Time Master nods, once, regally. Ava isn’t particularly pleased at his growing tendency to behave as though he’s the one in charge here, but she ignores it, choosing to simply dismiss him by looking downward and reaching for some paperwork.
The guards step forward and Druce turns with them, heading for the door. But right before he steps out, he turns back toward her and clears his throat.
“This man,” he says when Ava glances up, “Snart. He is, after all, a thief. And he…stole something. From the Vanishing Point. It is important that we regain it.”
Ava frowns at him, puzzled. “What?”
But Druce is gone now, with his escort back to his rooms, and Ava can’t help feeling like she’s the one who has, after all, been dismissed.
Leonard had stretched out on the mattress and fallen asleep near-instantly, a measure of how exhausted he’d been. Sara, rather tired herself, watches him a few minutes, trying to wrap her brain around the fact that he’s back, really truly back, then lies down herself with a sigh. She expects a bit of insomnia, considering all the thoughts rattling around in her brain, but she also falls asleep, quickly and thoroughly.
She’s not sure how long it’s been when she wakes again, to utter darkness and a noise of strangled terror coming from the man on the other side of the mattress.
Sara shakes her head roughly, hearing another cry, then hesitates only a moment before shifting over a little, reaching out gently to touch Leonard’s hunched shoulder.
“Len,” she whispers. “Leonard. It’s OK.”
He thrashes a little more, and Sara tightens her grip carefully. “Leonard,” she says, raising her voice just a little. “You’re not…not there.” She shifts even closer, wanting him to feel her physical presence. “You’re here, I’m here, you’re safe.”
Leonard rolls over abruptly, staring at her in the dark with eyes that just barely reflect a little of the light reflecting in from the small lamp she’d left on in the other room. “Sara,” he says.
“Yes.” Sara moves closer, studying him. “I’m here.”
“This is real.”
The dumbfounded shock in his voice hurts. “It is.” Sara moves her hand back, running it down his arm, then lifting her fingers to touch his jaw. “You’re back, you’re out of the timestream, and you’re free. It’s OK, Len. It’s real.”
He stares another moment. And then he reaches out slowly, carefully moves his hand behind her neck, and pulling her toward him just a little, bows his head…and then kisses her, finally stealing the kiss she’d challenged him to so long ago.
Sara closes her eyes, savoring the tentative touch of lips. She parts her lips a little, inviting more, and feels his own intake of breath before…
And then he’s not just kissing her, he’s devouring her, and Sara’s there for it, devouring him in return, their bodies pressed together, their mouths tasting and their hands wandering. Sara, after a moment, reaches down and grabs the hem of Leonard’s borrowed shirt, tugging it up enough to splay her hands out flat on his back. He, for his part, works his hands under her own top, blunt nails scraping against her skin, pressing her closer, and she hums in pleasure, biting his lip gently and moving one hand downward to the small of his back.
And then Leonard suddenly jerks his head back with a gasp, making Sara blink and catch her breath, staring at him.
He looks dazed. “I’m sorry,” he mutters, looking down at Sara. “I’m sorry. I just…there was so much nothing, and…I didn’t know what…what was real…for so long…”
The broken mutter from her once-confident crook breaks her heart. Sara reaches up to touch his jaw again, looking into foggy blue eyes, and tries to decide what to say.
“Leonard,” she says gently. “It’s OK. I…” She takes a deep breath. “I think maybe we could both use this. The physical comfort. And as for the future…well. We can talk about that later. But for now…Len, I want you and you want me too.” She runs a thumb along his jaw. “Let’s comfort each other, OK? I can think of no better way to prove that…that this is real, and you’re home.”
Leonard regards her, and then the corner of his mouth ticks up. “I dreamed—or hallucinated, I guess—a lot,” he says quietly, eyes on hers in the dark. “When I was in the timestream. Some after. But, Sara, I don’t think it was ever anything quite so pragmatic.”
Sara smirks back at him, loving the way he drawls her name in a way that echoes deep down in her bones…and other more sensitive areas. “Assassin,” she whispers at him. “Definitely pragmatic.”
Leonard’s lips twitch in return. “Captain,” he whispers in return, a use of her title that’s even sexier than the way he says her name, and then he ducks his head to kiss her again.
Sara meets him halfway. She moves her hands back to the hem of his shirt, yanking it up. He helps her maneuver it over his head, then throws it somewhere in the room as Sara runs her hands down his sides.
There are scars. She lets her fingers linger on them just a little, enough to show that she simply considers them part of him, then allows her hands to wander farther as she moves her mouth down a little to his neck, enjoying the noise he makes, quietly determined give him something distinctly real to take him through the night.
Leonard had meant what he’d said about hallucinating a lot, in the timestream. It’d been either a whole lot of nothing or a kaleidoscope of images and sounds with no initial rhyme or reason.
Gradually, though, over a timeframe that he can’t even begin to guess at, distinct trends had begun to emerge, taking over his wavering consciousness for periods of time, submersing him in dreams. Bits and pieces of his past, or a hoped-for future—the things he didn’t do, that’d kept him up at night.
These dreams had focused on good things, sometimes wonderful ones, a bit of a surprise to a man with plenty of darkness in his life—but the coming out of them, that was always rough. And Leonard wasn’t the sort to trade a pleasant dream for knowing what was truly going on around him.
He has a foggy suspicion that something had been directing those dreams or hallucinations. Something not without its own motives. But he’d gotten the impression that they were, at least in his case, meant to help, to cushion the fragile human mind at sea in the timestream from all that alternative cacophony or nothingness. It—the Time Force, for lack of a better term—had seemed almost perplexed the times when he’d resisted.
Many of those dreams had been about Sara.
And none of them had been as good as the reality.
Oh, the Time Force could give him a fantasy, but it couldn’t even come close to the way Sara laughed when he drew his fingertips up her sides—or when she unexpectedly wrapped one of those small, strong hands around him, and he threw back his head, startled, and banged it into the wall, leading to much swearing.
It couldn’t come close to how she breathlessly whispered his name as he touched her, or the noise she made as she slid down onto him, hands splayed on his chest, or the way their names, each uttered by the other, melded as the world came apart around them.
Or the way he felt afterward, holding her as her breathing evened out in sleep.
Not even close.
The Waverider picks them up the next morning, not so far away from the safehouse, a quick stop with the hatch already open so Sara and Leonard can duck on board and the ship can get into the timestream quickly—just in case.
Leonard stumbles, just a little, as the Waverider takes off again, still a little unsteady from his weeks in captivity—and the fact and he and Sara had decided to “comfort” each other again that morning probably didn’t help. (Though he has absolutely no regrets about it.) But before he can fall, a big hand reaches out and closes around his bicep, holding him steady.
Mick stares at him. He looks different in a way Leonard can’t quite place, but it’s not in a bad way. Leonard tries to give him a smirk in return, but Mick doesn’t return it.
“It’s him,” he says to Sara in what’s not quite a question.
The captain, who seems to have no problems at all with her balance, flicks a knowing smile Leonard’s way and then looks at Mick. “Yes—as close as I can tell without the medbay and Gideon’s expertise,” she tells him, bracing herself as the ship jumps into the timestream. She looks at Leonard again. “That should be your first stop. Get a clean bill of health...and confirmation.”
Then Sara sighs. “I need to go contact...the Time Bureau,” she tells Mick, running a hand through her hair in a way that betrays more uneasiness about that than Leonard would have thought. “Team meeting on the bridge after that’s done and you’re done in the medbay. Tell Gideon.”
“Gotcha, Boss,” Mick rumbles, getting a head tilt from Leonard, though he can’t help but smile a little at the words. Sara gives Leonard another of those little smiles, then turns and heads down the corridor toward the bridge. Leonard watches her go, then glances back at Mick, uncertain what to say.
Has he been forgiven for his actions, at the Vanishing Point and before? Nearly four years...it’s a long time. Mick looks like he’s settled in here, and Sara is “Boss” now, and...
And his oldest friend steps forward then, wrapping his arms around the very startled Leonard in a bear hug, lifting him right off his feet and squeezing in a way that could be threat as well as affection. (And very probably is.)
Leonard wheezes a little, and Mick lets go before he loses his breath, setting him back down on his feet and nodding in satisfaction at the look on his—former?—partner’s face.
Leonard blinks at him.
“What,” he manages.
“It’s good to have you back,” Mick says simply. “Just don’t go telling Haircut or Pretty that I do hugs.” He turns toward the medbay and Leonard falls in next to him, bemused.
“Pretty?” he inquires.
“Ha. You’ll see.”
The ship seems much the same, though the others on it must be keeping their distance, for whatever reason—whether it’s letting the returned team member acclimate without too much chaos or making sure he is who he says he is first. The medbay seems a little newer, a little shinier, and Leonard glances around, trying to match memory to reality.
“The kid made some updates, before he left,” Mick says a little gruffly, waving him toward one of the chairs. “Blondie told you?”
“About Jax...and the professor? Yeah...”
But a familiar voice interrupts them as Leonard settles into one of the medbay chairs, a voice that makes him smile again. (He seems to be doing a lot of that. More than usual, anyway.)
“Hello, Mr. Snart,” Gideon’s familiar voice says smoothly. “It’s very good to see you again.”
Leonard starts to respond, but Mick does first. “You sure?” he asks, his voice nearly a bark.
The AI’s voice gets a touch prim. “His right hand is of my make, Mr. Rory. I am sure.” She starts scanning Leonard as the two men stare at each other, the returnee wondering what Sara hasn’t told him yet.
“You’re a bit malnourished and dehydrated,” Gideon announces only a few minutes later, oblivious to (or more likely, ignoring) the tension, “and there are some barely healed injuries, the worst of which is the rather nasty bone bruise on your upper left humerus. And, of course, the still-raw wounds on your wrists.”
She pauses. “I’m going to ignore other...recent...bruises. And scratches. And odd muscle strains.”
Leonard frowns, but Mick huffs out a laugh, studying him and reading Gideon’s prim comment correctly.
“So it didn’t take you and Blondie long to make up for lost time,” is all he says.
Leonard lifts an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
Mick snorts, and Leonard thinks then, a little belatedly, of how he and Sara both seemed intent on leaving their mark on each other the night before—and that he’s wearing a T-shirt and not his usual layers. Still, he brazens through it, eyeing Mick and thinking about his friend’s need for confirmation that he’s himself...and Sara’s mention of other times and Earths.
“I figure you got a lot to tell me,” he says simply. “So, ‘fess up. Before I have to go meet the rest of this crew.”
Mick studies him, but his dubious expression is interrupted by Gideon’s voice again.
“I want to give Mr. Snart some nutrients and hydration intravenously,” she tells them, “as well as antibiotics. Forty minutes or so should be sufficient. So, Mr. Rory, you might as well start talking.” A pause. “Mr. Snart is, after all, correct. There’s a lot to tell.”
Mick makes a noise that’s part sigh, part grumble. But he nods and then pulls up a chair.
“OK,” he says, taking a seat, “so, after you...after the Oculus blew up, we went after Savage...”
Chapter 4: Every Bridge That We Burned
Longer chapter! Thanks again to Pir8grl.
Ch. Four: Every Bridge That We Burned
The relief on Ava’s face when she sees Sara on the viewscreen is almost enough to make Sara feel bad for not communicating sooner. Almost.
“You’re OK,” the Time Bureau director says, the relief filling her tone too. “Sara...what were you thinking?”
The chiding tone puts Sara’s hackles up, but she just lifts an eyebrow, wondering just what Ava herself thinks happened.
“That you’d been holding one of my teammates and hadn’t told me,” she says matter-of-factly, folding her arms. “And I’m sorry for that assumption, but given that I came across him hurt, running through the bureau and desperately looking for a way out, I think you should understand.” She pauses. “Now do you believe me about Druce?”
Ava blinks, then frowns at her. “About what?” she asks. “This Leonard Snart attacked him.” She keeps going as Sara blinks back at her. “Yesterday, before he fled, and it doesn’t help that he’s the one who actually taunted Master Druce before blowing up the Vanishing Point and all those people...all that information...”
Sara cuts in sharply, wondering just what’s going on here—though the mental image of Leonard snarking at Druce after she’d had to leave him there at the Vanishing Point is amusing in a way she’d never thought of before, when it hurt too much to consider.
“He’s my teammate and my friend, and he gave his life—or we thought he did—to save free will and make it possible for us to fulfill our mission,” she tells the other woman, knowing there’s some heat in her voice. “You do realize that was a team effort? It could have been any of us who blew it up. It could have been me.”
Ava gives her an uncertain look, but then frowns, folding her own arms.
“But it wasn’t,” she says calmly. “You wouldn’t have done that. And you didn’t, in the end, did you?”
Sara stares at her.
Get him outta here.
Just do it.
But Ava’s apparently taken her silence, the stunned flash of painful memory, as a sort of agreement. She nods. “Druce says this Snart stole something from the Vanishing Point,” she adds. “Something important, something we need.”
Leonard hadn’t exactly had a free hand to steal anything. Not even a kiss. “What?”
A hesitation. “He didn’t say, exactly,” Ava says carefully. “But we’ll figure that out.” She picks up a paper from her desk, glancing down at it. “When you bring him back here. Are you in the timestream now? How long will it take?”
Her tone is so matter of fact, her demeanor so sure that the Legends will fall in line with her expectations, that Sara’s jaw drops. They’ve had their battles, even when they were together, but how…how could she...
“I’m not,” she snaps as Ava glances up in surprise. “Bringing him back. We’re not. Len...Leonard is one of us, and he’s finally home and he’s been through a hell of a lot. Why would you think we’d just turn him over, abandon him, on your say-so? Especially when we keep telling you that Druce is evil, that this whole Oculus thing is a huge mistake?”
Ava, of course, promptly picks up on the one thing Sara would rather she didn’t pick up on.
“Len?” she asks. “Sara…” She runs a hand over her face, then shakes her head incredulously again. “I know you said, ‘a friend,’ but you’re not actually fond of this criminal, are you? You’ve never said a word about him before in my hearing, and you’ve mentioned all your lost teammates.”
Sara watches her, at a loss for words, and Ava picks up on that too. Sara can see the moment she does.
“That’s…part of the idea, isn’t it?” the Time Bureau director says softly. “You cared too much, didn’t you? Maybe blamed yourself. All for someone who…who’s really the opposite of everything I stand for.”
Sara finds her voice. “Ava…”
But the other woman’s face is closed off now, an expression that Sara knows well—and maybe Ava’s not the polar opposite of Leonard after all, because she’s seen him close off like this too, pulling his ice about himself and acting like he doesn’t care. Even when he does—too much, just like Sara. And just like Ava.
“This is beside the point,” Ava says firmly, nodding to herself. “I don’t care about punishing this...this crook so much, though Master Druce may feel otherwise. But we need back whatever he has, and the Oculus will be rebuilt.” She looks the speechless Sara in the eye, stony-faced. “I’m tired of you insisting that this is a bad idea, when it’s so easy to see all the good that could come of it. You’re so dedicated to holding on to this grudge that you can’t see the big picture here.”
She doesn’t know...she didn’t see... “At least look at Rip’s records!” Sara protests swiftly, trying to get the words in before Ava cuts her off again. “Look at what the Time Masters did, to him, to his family...to so many others, when they backed Vandal Savage. Hell, we could find Kendra and Carter...you could talk to Mick...Leonard...”
The name just makes Ava’s expression ice over more.
“I understand that you consider this Snart…one of your people,” she says, ignoring the protest, “but he’s a criminal and a fugitive, and the bureau will treat him as such.”
And then she cuts the transmission.
Sara stares at the screen, her heart hurting, at war between anger and frustration, disappointment and sadness. She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly, then steps away, turning to head back to the main bridge.
It occurs to her suddenly that she hadn’t asked Ava about Druce’s time courier. But it probably doesn’t matter, she decides. Hell, with the way she’s defending the former Time Master, it's likely she gave it to him.
Raymond hugs him.
That’s not surprising at all. Leonard thinks he’d be more surprised if the Boy Scout hadn’t greeted him with some demonstration of physical affection. But it’s the sheer joy on Raymond’s face that takes him a trifle aback
This team has lost people. The opportunity to get one back—that’s a fine, rare thing.
A new dark-haired woman, clearly with Raymond, gives him a dubious look and a polite enough nod. Leonard, knowing who she is now, gives her one much the same. He’s not one to judge someone based on who their father was—how could he?—but Damien Darhk had killed Sara’s sister and been part of the Legion.
As, apparently, had Leonard.
He’s still digesting what Mick had told him about the Legion of Doom (awful name, that) and Leonard's apparent presence among them. He doesn’t remember it, not at all, and he’s not sure which way it’d be more unnerving.
(Plus, what Mick had described...well, Leonard knows perfectly well he’s got a pretty crappy past in more ways than one, but even the person he'd been in 2013 hadn't been quite that much of an asshat. He thinks.)
(And the Doomworld thing? What kind of an ideal world would it be if there was no planning to a heist, no challenge? That’s not the kind of world that would have come even partly out of his head, not at all. He can’t believe it.)
But there’s not really time to consider that piece of the past at the present. There are too many things to catch up on, too many new people to meet. Leonard likes Zari, the computer hacker from the future, just about instantly for her wry sense of humor and snark, and he and Charlie size each other up pretty quickly, smirk at each other, and leave it at that. Leonard will admit he has trouble wrapping his head around the shapeshifter thing, but he’s been “resurrected” after more than 1,000 days in the timestream, so what the hell does he know?
Nate Heywood, the aforementioned “Pretty,” is even more dubious about Leonard than Nora Darhk, despite Raymond’s enthusiastic introduction. He’s a historian, apparently, and turns into metal, apparently, and Leonard doesn’t really give a rat’s ass if Heywood wants him there or not.
The new Englishman-in-a-trench-coat is John Constantine. He’s apparently a warlock—all right, then—and just as apparently nothing that even approaches straight, given the once-over and good-natured leer he immediately gives Leonard when they meet. Leonard gives him a smirk of acknowledgment back—OK, he does like his badass blonds—but no further encouragement.
He still needs to talk about that future with Sara.
Who, after all these introductions have been made, strides onto the main bridge like the captain she is, glancing around to make sure they’re all there—and pausing just long enough to give Leonard a particular small smile.
Leonard—like a lovestruck idiot, he thinks, with no particular regrets—returns it. He hears a thoughtful hum from Constantine, who raises a suggestive eyebrow as Leonard glances over but says nothing further.
“All right,” Sara says with a sigh, leaning against the holotable. “By this point, I have to presume, you all know about and have met our new, old teammate.” She looks directly at Leonard then, smiling openly, and Leonard can’t help but smirk back.
Snart, you’re gone.
Mick chuckles and Leonard can hear Zari stifle a noise of understanding, but Sara’s continuing. “You know how I found him and some of the background,” she says, then sighs again. “I just contacted the bureau to try to figure out just what’s going on. It didn’t go well.”
Charlie mutters something that sounds downright filthy under her breath, but Sara ignores her. “Av...the director seems to be willing to overlook anything Druce might have done,” she says. “She wants the Oculus tech from him that much.” Then she looks at Leonard. “They also claim you attacked him. When you escaped.”
Leonard shrugs. “I certainly tried more times than one,” he admits. “But when I got loose, he wasn’t even in the room.”
Sara frowns, as if trying to figure something out, then shakes her head. “She also said you stole something,” she tells him, sounding almost amused. “From Druce, from the Vanishing Point. And that they need it back.”
“Right on!” Charlie tells him happily, but Leonard holds up a hand, shaking his head. He can think of only one thing he might have “stolen” there at the end, in any manner of speaking.
Well. Two things. Though Sara’d more properly stolen the first.
“Druce told me he needs the temporal energy I absorbed, over my years in the timestream,” he tells the group, slipping back into his habitual drawl. “To rebuild the Oculus. Not sure how he plans to get that, but it’s probably not pleasant.”
That stirs a flurry of talk, about temporal energy and how it might relate to life force energy (Constantine and Nora), speculation about computers and supernovas (Raymond and a somewhat baffled Nate), some fairly vivid threats specifically against Druce (Mick), and general profanity (Charlie). Sara and Zari just watch in amused silence, and Leonard watches Sara—until he finally sighs and interrupts the others, drawing all eyes to him.
Leonard shakes his head. “Here’s the thing,” he says, looking around. “Druce thinks it’s a done deal already. That the Time Bureau is meant to become the Time Masters, everything coming back around when the Vanishing Point is created and frozen in time. That it was always that way, and always meant to be that way. He thinks he’s put it all together.”
"Could...could that be true?” Heywood asks, staring back at him.
“And then the Time Masters, in a way, lead to the creation of the Time Bureau,” Sara murmurs thoughtfully. “Time loop.”
For a few moments, silence reigns.
“If he’s right, though, if we stop Druce—would Rip never recruit the original Legends?” Raymond asks plaintively. “What would that do to time? Do we have to let it happen?” He looks around, gaze lingering a moment on Nora and, interestingly, Nate. “If we stop the creation of the Time Masters, we’d never meet…but then we’d never be able to stop Druce. Who wouldn’t be a Time Master anyway. Oh, I’m getting a headache.”
“That’s just bollocks,” Charlies scoffs. “This tosser, Druce…he has to come from somewhere right? So how does that work?”
Sara frowns at that, thoughtfully, and Leonard notes it, but then Heywood speaks up again.
“But…Rip Hunter used to work for the original Time Masters,” he protests. “Wouldn’t he know if he wound up recruiting them? And the Time Bureau has time couriers, instead of timeships. Why would they take the technology a step backward like that and go back to ships?” He pauses. “No offense intended, Gideon.”
Leonard listens for the AI’s response, but the prompt “None taken” comes from what seems to be a human throat, not a mechanical one. He turns, momentarily stunned silent, as he watches another unexpected Legend walk smoothly into the room. Sara grins at his reaction.
“Because it’s easier to control people using ships and AIs than more autonomous devices like time couriers,” says Gideon, in the android body she’s been using from time to time over the past few months. She smiles. “I apologize for my lateness. I was running through a lot of records before I transferred to this body.”
She glances at Leonard. “Hello again, Mr. Snart. It’s a pleasure to meet you in this new form.”
Leonard makes an effort to close his mouth. “Gideon,” he says. “This is new.”
She gives him a rather impish smile. “A bit, yes,” she agrees, then looks at Sara. “Captain,” she says, and Leonard doesn’t think he’s imaging something sad in the title—though she carries on before he can examine it, looking around the room. “Team. I don’t have as much information on the origin of the Time Masters as I would like, but I have more than almost anyone else is likely to have. May I?”
Sara waves a hand. “Please, Gideon. And thank you.”
The AI...android...woman...nods. She perches on the holotable comfortably and looks around again.
“The origins of the Time Masters are shrouded in mystery,” Gideon says a bit didactically. “I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose.” She smiles a little. “Even the AIs that run the timeships, such as myself, were supposed to be wiped from time to time, to keep them...us...from holding too much information or, for that matter, developing personalities.”
Zari laughs. “Let me guess,” she says, pointing at Gideon. “You found a way around that.”
“Well, the fact is, Captain Hunter falsified the records. And he never did wipe my memory.” The impish smile is a little sad again. “Which is why I...am who I am, now.” She shakes her head, getting brisk again. “More to the point, I remember a lot."
Heywood perks up at that. “Do you know what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa?” he asks eagerly. “I...” Then he glances around the room, notes the expressions, and subsides. “Never mind. Later.”
Gideon continues. “The Time Masters, who have also been called the Linear Men...”
“Why ‘linear’?” Leonard interrupts, then waves the question away. “Also, later.”
The AI continues, again, with good grace. “...were supposedly created after some sort of experiment trapped a scaled-down supernova, which some of you are quite familiar with, at what came to be known at the Vanishing Point. When it became apparent, the story says, that this phenomenon froze time in a single repeating instant there, the Time Masters were created to take advantage of it and be the guardians of the timeline.”
Charlie said something profane. “Ain’t that always how these prats spin it?” she mutters, waving a hand in the air. “They’re always the ‘chosen ones,’ all hoity-toity. But the only ones who chose them is them.”
Mick grunts in agreement, and Gideon nods to her. “Indeed,” she murmurs. “Well, the 'prats’ you speak of in this case were the High Council, and Zaman Druce had been their leader as long as I’ve been aware. They were the core group, the founders. Other Time Masters and support staff were brought in and trained, but the council members started it.”
“And because the Vanishing Point was outside of time, no one can say really when it really came to be,” Raymond noted. “You...you think Druce might be right. That he has to create the Time Masters with the Time Bureau.”
Gideon sighs. “I think that if he recruits a core group from the bureau...and causes the phenomenon that traps the supernova in the first place...yes. He may be correct.”
“Wouldn’t you know, love?” Constantine finally speaks up, watching Gideon with an expression that seems oddly gentle. “You have records on these wankers, right? Do they match the bureau’s?”
The AI smiles at him. “The Time Masters used pseudonyms, so I cannot simply compare names,” she reminds them. “And my records do not always include pictures, especially not for the High Council. And I was not likely to meet them.” She spreads her hands out before her. “According to them, I am an object. A tool. Definitely not a person, and hardly someone you’d actually acknowledge, let alone socialize with.”
“Their loss,” Constantine says gallantly, making Gideon laugh, but Leonard’s distracted by the look on Sara’s face.
“Ava?” she asks Gideon, simply, her voice nearly breaking on the simple two syllables.
It’s not hard to figure out what she’s thinking, and Leonard winces. If her ex-girlfriend had actually been...was...a Time Master...
Gideon gives her a sympathetic look. “Not that I know of, Captain,” she says gently. “But many of the High Council were not...visible. They kept to themselves or went hooded in public.”
Mick clears his throat and then speaks up gruffly. “I met some of the High Council, Blondie,” he points out. ‘When I was Chronos. And she wasn’t one of ‘em.” He pauses. “But I didn’t meet ‘em all.”
“The director wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t be part of that,” Nora speaks up, then hesitates, looking at Raymond. “Would she?”
At this point, Leonard would do just about anything to get that look off Sara’s face, but as it happens, he has a point he needs to make anyway.
“But the supernova went boom,” he cuts in, raising his voice a little. “I know. I was there.”
Raymond looked over at him, eyes widening. “Now, that might be what Druce wants the temporal energy for,” he says excitedly. “Could he use it somehow to bring the supernova back? Or to take the Vanishing Point back to when it existed?”
Gideon looked thoughtful. “It might be possible,” she said. “In fact, likely. No offense, Mr. Snart, but you are truly lousy with temporal energy at this point. Enough to work any number of seeming temporal miracles.”
“None taken,” Leonard echoes her earlier words, wondering precisely what she means, but he’s drowned out by Raymond, who’s out of his seat and pacing now.
“Then trap the supernova, harness the Oculus computer to it,” he says, spinning to face them, “and once it’s up and running, you have your time loop.”
“Crap,” Zari says, into the silence. “So, what are we going to do?”
But Sara’s been shaken from her stunned silence, galvanized into action now. “Stop them,” she says grimly, scanning the room. “First, they can’t do anything without Leonard, so we keep him out of their reach.”
“I’ll happily go along with that,” Leonard comments, getting a wry smile in return before Sara focuses on Mick.
“Mick, could you look at some of the Time Bureau records Gideon has?” she asks. “See if you recognize anyone as a Time Master?” He grunts an affirmative, but she’s already moving on, looking at another team member. “Gideon. Can we still get to the Refuge?”
That gives at least some of them—Mick and Ray and Leonard, the ones who know what it means—pause, but Gideon nods promptly. “I can get us there,” she says confidently, rising from her seat on the holotable. “Let me become part of the ship again, and I’ll set a course.” She pauses. “It will take a bit. More than a day in the timestream. It’s a rather…circuitous…route.”
Leonard digests that with a tip of his head, then looks to Sara. The captain looks weary, but nods in affirmation, and Gideon turns toward the corridors—only to turn back a moment later.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Snart,” she says apologetically. “I’m afraid I have your old room. I’ve been trying to learn more about being human, and it seemed that having a human sort of space to myself might help.” She bites her lip, looking quite human in that moment. “I can give it back, but I’ve refurnished it…and my clothes are there…”
Leonard gives her a wry look. “I think I can find somewhere else to crash,” he says, thinking that he’s become a bit of a softie. “A spare…”
“There ain’t any.” Mick shrugs when Leonard looks at him. “We combined a few for more space. I could clean out a bit of mine, but that might take a while…days…”
Leonard thinks of Mick’s propensity for clutter, sighs to himself, but Sara clears her throat then, drawing their eyes. But she meets only Leonard’s gaze.
“It won’t be a problem,” the captain says, watching him intently, tired smile lurking about her mouth. “I think he has somewhere to stay.”
Is she offering…? Leonard tilts his head to the other side. He’s pretty damned sure she is.
“Right,” he drawls in return. “No problem. Got a place.”
Mick looks back and forth at them, barks out a laugh, exchanges a look with Gideon and turns away, talking quietly to the AI as they go. Leonard’s about to lean over and say something suggestive to Sara when he hears a dry chuckle from behind him.
“Oh, is that how it is?” Constantine smirks at them, rolling an unlit cigarette from hand to hand. He leans toward Leonard. “Not totally like Leo, then, are you, handsome?”
Leonard flicks a glance at Sara, who’d already told him a bit about his Earth-X doppelganger. She’s looking resigned, but also a touch amused, and he decides suddenly to mess with the supposed warlock, just for fun.
So, he looks back at Constantine, lowering his lashes and studying at the other man through them.
“Let’s just say that I’m rather more...flexible,” he drawls suggestively, leaning back toward him in return.
Constantine blinks back, looking briefly stunned—until Leonard actually bats his eyelashes and then leans back toward Sara, who loses control of the laugh she’s been restraining. They both smirk at the other man, whose surprise turns into brief amusement warring with irritation.
“Prats,” he mutters, not without humor. “Get my hopes up.”
“It’s true enough,” Leonard informs him. “Just can’t say I’m…available. At the moment.” He looks at Sara, who gazes back. “I think.”
Her lips twitch again. “I think so, too.”
Constantine sighs dramatically, sticking his unlit cig behind his ear. “Pity,” he muses. “Well, let me know if you’re up for…shall we say, another player on the board.”
And with that, he winks, turns, and saunters away, leaving Leonard and Sara alone on the bridge.
Chapter 5: Somehow We Find Each Other
I need to acknowledge here that my own personal headcanon for Mary Xavier is that she's a Time Lord. And I'm sticking to that. :)
People come and go, times change, and John will always be John. Sara shakes her head, though she also smiles, and glances at Leonard. He looks a bit nonplussed—and a little intrigued, fancy that—but shakes his head too, glancing back at her.
“Interesting fellow,” he drawls, crossing his arms. “Old flame?”
“Something like that.” Sara sighs, stretching, feeling her spine crack—and Leonard’s interested eyes on her. When she relaxes, she holds out a hand to him and—after a moment, in which she sees the old Leonard, the cold-hearted one whose preferred armor was to pretend not to care for anything, flicker behind his eyes—he takes it.
She’s living in the captain’s quarters now, and any trace of Rip is well and truly cleared out. Any trace of Ava—maybe not so much, although Leonard won’t know that. Probably.
He glances around the comfortable space, rolling his shoulders and clearly all too aware that he’s on this ship now without a single possession to his name. Mick had packed up his things, once, but Sara has no idea where they are—except for the one sweater hanging in the back of her closet, which she intends to keep.
“Nice,” comes the drawl. “Sure you wanna share?”
Sara considers him. “I know,” she says finally, picking up a comb from the bedside table just to have something to do with her hands, “that I might have overstepped there. But Mick was right; there’s not really much other space right now. We can get a room ready for you, but I figured until that...”
Her voice trails off. Damn it. Leonard’s not the only person here who wants someone beside him in the night right now.
“Not what I meant.” He steps closer, eyes dark, and studies her in return. “I’m not her, Sara.”
Mick’s been talking. And even after all this time, he’s too damned perceptive, and it stings. “That much is obvious,” Sara snaps back, regretting it immediately.
“Listen, Len...” She runs a hand over her face. “Ava and I were done, that way, long before I even knew you were alive. And I’ll always care for her, but we want different things...and I’m not always OK with some of the things she’s willing to do.” Testing on magical creatures, rebuilding the Oculus...becoming a Time Master?
A deep breath, and she looks up at him. “Yes, I’m sure I want you here. Not just because I know you’d prefer to have someone near you. I would too, but you’re not...not a substitute. You’re you, and I missed you. So...”
Her words run out, and Sara looks down at the comb in her hands, then sets it down again. When she looks back up again, Leonard’s taken a few steps closer, still watching her intently.
“Well. Everyone’s pretty busy right now, too busy to worry about clearing out a room for one long-lost crook,” he says after a moment, reaching up to just barely brush her jaw with his fingers. “So, we bunk together for now.” A pause. “And maybe, we decide we want it to stay that way. But no pressure.”
Sara closes her eyes at the touch. “No pressure,” she echoes, knowing already that it is what she wants. But he’s right, too. There are too many other things to worry about, and they’re both a bit emotionally strung-out at the moment.
“Still.” Leonard’s voice is barely a whisper, and Sara desperately wants a shower and a nice long nap, but that voice is doing things to her, and so is the arm that carefully snakes around her, an anchor, pulling her close against him. “Doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it.”
The nap can wait.
“We need him back!” Druce actually has the temerity to raise his voice at her, the bastard, glaring and learning forward in a way that’s hard not to take as a threat.
Ava glares back coldly, folding her arms and remaining seated at her desk, just barely flicking a glance at the two guards behind Druce. They should, she thinks a bit distantly, be stepping forward in case the “prisoner” needs restraint right about now. But they’re not. That’s...odd.
“And we’ll get him,” she says calmly, ignoring that problem for the moment. “But right now, they’re blocking the time couriers, and we can't track the ship. That won’t last forever. We’re watching for them.”
Druce sniffs. Something’s changed, Ava thinks, something besides Snart’s appearance and escape. The former Time Master has gone from penitent, to matter of fact, to openly demanding.
So, she reaches for the upper hand again. “Perhaps it would be easier,” she points out, tone implying his own fault in this matter, “if we knew precisely what he stole. Perhaps we could obtain it separately.”
What you say he stole.
Now, where had that thought come from?
“That will not be possible.” Her tactic works somewhat, though. Druce hesitates, and then his expression drops into something a great deal more rueful. “It is...” he says slowly, “rather hard to explain.”
For a beat, she thinks he will. But then Druce shakes his head again, though at least he seems wholly more reasonable. “I will,” he says calmly. “But not yet.” He bows his head. “May I return to the library, Director Sharpe? It all has to do with my research on how to fix this.” The look he gives her might be sincere. Might. “I should have it all worked out soon. And then, then I will tell you everything.”
Ava studies him, not happy with the matter. But she has a funny feeling that pressing this won’t go well either—and Snart is, after all, an admitted thief. Why should she doubt that he’d stolen something?
Len, Sara had called him.
“All right,” she says, nodding. “Please do.” A pause. “I will update you if there’s anything new.”
“Thank you, Director Sharpe.”
The oddly reticent guards guide him out, and Ava waits a beat or two before slumping back in her chair, just a little. She’s missing something, she thinks, staring at the spot on her desk where a photo of her and Sara once sat. How can she feel like she’s losing the upper hand over a man with no followers, no weapons, and no way out of this time? And why does she feel like she needs the upper hand, given that he’s trying to help, to provide the Time Bureau with a tool it desperately needs?
She closes her eyes, thinking of Druce’s description of how the Oculus can control time, tame it, turn it from a chaotic and tangled mess into something ordered. Linear. Controllable. How can that be bad? There’s so much over the past few years that could have been fixed so much more easily...
She’s not sure how long she sits there, thinking...or maybe dozing, just a little, it’s been a long few days...when there’s a rap on her door, which then opens.
Gary hasn’t been much on active duty since the whole possession thing, but Ava trusts him enough to make sure he’s the person who’s keeping an eye on the bureau computers and the “blip” that is the Waverider in time. They can’t see precisely when and where it is, at the moment, but they can see that it’s there—and they’ll see where it finally ends up, eventually. The ship can’t shield from them indefinitely.
And Gary—he has his own connections with the Legends. He’ll report to her, and her alone. She wonders, again, why that’s a consideration that’s been nagging at her.
“Yes, Agent Green?” she asks, falling back on formality. “What is it?”
Gary sidles in the door, closing it firmly behind him, and approaches. There’s a mix of consternation and worry on his face, and Ava stands up, suddenly concerned.
“The Waverider, it...” He gulps. “Well, it sort of vanished.”
“I know we weren’t able to track...”
“No.” Gary holds his hands out. “Vanished. Poof. No blip. No sign of, um, destruction or trouble, just...gone.” He stares at her. “Director. What does that mean?”
Ava stares back. She runs through all the trouble she’s known the Legends and the Waverider to get into, and what they might be doing with their newest passenger.
She has no answers.
“I have no idea.”
The Refuge, from above, looks just like Sara remembers it. She wonders, briefly, if young Rip might still be there—or if her, Leonard, Mick or Ray’s childhood selves might be.
Gideon had been close-mouthed about where and when and how the Refuge was, even now, and Sara can’t quite blame her. She doesn’t really understand how the hidden complex and its time-isolated environs work, and right now, that's not really her focus.
The android version of Gideon demurs when invited to leave with the rest of them, and Sara, pretty sure she knows why, doesn’t argue. Some of the others—especially Charlie and John—show an inclination to hide in their rooms instead of going, but Sara ousts them anyway. She’s not sure why, but she feels like this is the sort of thing the Legends are going to need to face as a team—even if it’s a different team than it’d been on their last visit.
The path is the same, the house is the same, even the faint, happy yells of children are the same. Sara takes a deep breath, inhaling the same scent of flowers and greenery as she leads the Legends toward the entrance. She feels Leonard’s arm bump hers, and she gives him what she hopes is a reassuring smile. It feels wrong, to be here without Rip.
But they need to know more, and this is the best thing Sara could think of.
As they approach, a tall figure appears at the top of the stairs, just like before, and Sara halts, the others stopping with her. Mary Xavier gazes down at them, her face stoic and calm for a long moment—before her expression breaks into a smile.
“Hello, my Legends,” she says. “I’ve been expecting you.”
Like before, Mary promptly ushers them into the house and into the parlor, but this time, they’re not immediately plied with tea. Leonard watches, a touch bemused, as the woman scans them all, then nods to herself as if marking them in her memory.
“All right,” she muses. “Ms. … pardon me, Captain Lance, Mr. Snart, Mr. Rory, and yes, Dr. Palmer. Please come with me. My office isn’t really built for more, but you can report to the others.”
She briskly turns to those others before anyone can either think to take offense—or flee. “The rest of you, enjoy the house and grounds...and the kitchen. It’s fully stocked, of course, Ms. Tomaz.” She winks at Zari, then nods to Nate and Nora. “Mr. Heywood, Ms. Darhk, you may enjoy the library. There is, of course, a great deal of history, but also a few intriguing grimoires, Ms. Darhk. Nothing too dangerous, of course. But intriguing.”
As Nora blinks at her, she turns to the uncomfortable-looking Charlie. “My dear shifter, there’s a music room you might like to see, but, please—take care. Some of the things are rather old. There’s a full music library too, and I believe you’d enjoy that.”
Then, she turns to Constantine, who looks just as uncomfortable but who is just as clearly trying to conceal it under an insouciant smirk and a cigarette dangling from his lips. In a blink, though, the cig is gone, tossed into a wastebasket, and the mistress of the Refuge and the warlock called the Hellblazer consider each other for a long moment.
“Oh, my,” Mary says after a moment, though there’s amusement in her tone. “You’d best come with us, then. Less likelihood for trouble.” She claps her hands, and turns away, leading the bemused group of five Legends toward the stairs and upward as the others mill about.
The office is small, lined with shelves filled with books and other interesting objects, including an odd tool that looks a bit like a screwdriver and curiously draws the eye. Leonard’s fingers twitch, but he has a distinct feeling that if he tries to steal anything here, he’ll most certainly regret it. Instead, he parks his hip against a wall, folding his arms, right by the chair that Sara promptly takes, backing up her role as the current captain of the Legends.
Constantine drops into the other chair with a huff, slouching into it and putting his feet up as if to broadcast his irritation at being here. Mary Xavier rolls her eyes at him, then looks at Mick, who’s studying the shelves, and smiles.
“Hello again, Mr. Rory,” she tells him, giving him a smile. “I can tell you, at this meeting, that I enjoy your books very much.” The smile turns a touch sly. “There are copies in the library, although I do keep certain ones away from the children.”
Mick blinks at her. “Uh,” he manages. “Thanks.”
Mary glances around. “I do wish Gideon had come to the house,” she says with a sigh. “But...she’s afraid she’ll see young Michael, I’m sure.” She shakes her head, then moves behind the desk, takes a seat, and studies them.
“Well,” she says after a moment, “I knew you’d be coming. But the question is, is it not, why?”
She stops, waiting for a response right then and there, with an air of listening that’s more than the surface question seems to call for. Leonard hears Sara take a deep breath and glances down at her, noting the concern and worry on her face—but also the determination.
“How,” she says, carefully, “do we break the Time Masters’ loop without breaking time?”
Mary considers her—and then she smiles.
“Now,” she says with satisfaction, “that’s the right question. There are many smaller questions within it, of course, but that’s the right question at this time.” She nods. “There’s so much I could tell you, and we could get bogged down in it for days, but that’s the point of it all.”
“Then...there really is a loop?” Raymond blurts out. “Druce is right? He’s supposed to create the Time Masters from the Time Bureau?”
Mary glances at Mick, who shifts uncomfortably. “There is,” he says shortly, glancing at Sara. “Sorry, Boss. I didn’t get a chance to say back on the ship, but I matched a few people in the Time Bureau records with Time Masters.” He shrugs. “Travis O’Connell...Liri Lee...Ryder...Rayak...Jia Chén..." A shadow crosses his face. "Walker Gabriel. Couple others. With Druce, that’s more than half the High Council.”
Mary inclines her head. “Yes,” she says simply. “None of the High Council passed through my doors as children. They all came from the Time Bureau. Everyone since, however, has been brought to me by the originals, to raise up to become new Time Masters.”
Leonard glances at Sara again. The look on her face is blank and careful, but she nods. “What about Druce?”
Here, the other woman hesitates, just a little. “I don’t know,” she says finally. “I suspect he found himself a traveler in time through some other means, first. Before wrangling this loop to his advantage.” A pause. “He is...very old. Not older than me, of course, but old.”
Leonard eyes her, wondering, but Sara clears her throat. “ ‘Zaman’ is ‘time’ in Turkish,” she muses. “I don’t know about ‘Druce.’ ”
“I believe it to be a bastardization of a word for ‘druid’ in a very old Celtic language,” Mary tells her. “But when I first encountered him, he called himself ‘Archontas.’ ”
Constantine finally speaks. “ ‘Lord,’ ” he points out. “In Greek.”
Mary inclines her head. “Yes,” she acknowledges. “The grandiose adopted name of a child who grew up with, and as, nothing.” She sighs. “Whatever else he has been, he has always insisted on turning similar children into new Time Masters, giving them the power they never would have in their original homes. I have always wondered about that.” A shake of her head. “But enough of that. We were talking about time loops.”
She sweeps some of the books on her desk to the side—Leonard notes at least one by Rebecca Silver there, to his amusement—and pulls a large pad of paper toward herself, picking up a pencil with her other hand.
“The Time Masters, who have also been called the Linear Men, talk about ‘preserving the timeline,’ as if there’s only one true way for time to flow,” she says, drawing a flowing line around the borders of the top sheet. “Part of that is control, of course. They believe they’re more well suited than any others to determine what the so-called ‘proper’ timeline is.”
She studies the simple drawing, then looks back up at them. “Of course, not only are they rather misled in their drive for control, they’re not quite right about time. They look at time as a line, a singular pathway, when, actually, it’s more like...”
Mary pauses, a slight smile lingering at her lips. Leonard waits, glancing at Raymond, but when the other man doesn’t speak, he sighs, thinking about what the object on the bookshelf had reminded him of.
“...a big ball of, oh, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff,” he finishes for her, drawling the words. “Right?”
Mary’s eyes crinkle at the corners as she smiles at him. Raymond makes a startled noise and glances at him, as does Constantine, the latter with an appreciative chuckle. Mick grunts, and Sara merely lifts an eyebrow.
“Correct, Mr. Snart,” Mary says, inclining her head to him. “It’s not really set, and it’s not meant to be contained, not really.” She pauses. “Are any of you familiar with the concept of Hypertime?”
Raymond just about bounces in his chair. “Oh! Oooh! It’s like a…a web of timelines, right?” He glances around at the others. “Well, it’s sort of just a theory, but it’s an interesting one. It holds that there’s not really one true timeline, just like Ms. Xavier said.”
Mick snorts. “We know there are other Earths, Haircut,” he says. “Skirt’s from one of ‘em. Leo, too.”
Skirt? Leonard wonders briefly.
“No, it’s not quite the same as the Multiverse,” Raymond starts, but Mary looks up a hand, looking amused.
“Dr. Palmer, you’re correct,” she says, “but if we start getting into that…well, we’ll be here longer than we really should be.” Raymond makes a disappointed noise, and Leonard hears Sara chuckle quietly before she leans forward.
“So, what are you getting at?” she asks, in a clear bid to help Mary steer the conversation back. “This…Hypertime?”
Mary gives her a smile. “Well,” she continues, “think of Hypertime as the aforementioned ball of timey-wimey stuff. Timelines branching and reconverging and so on. Not the separate Earths of the Multiverse, but real in their own way nonetheless.” She pauses. “The temporal computer that the Time Master call the Oculus isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself. It allows for study and for pinpointing true problem spots and clearing up tangles. A window, not a weapon. But the Time Masters—as you know, they used it to control, and to bend people’s lives to their will.” She shakes her head. “And that…that never works out fully as the people doing the controlling think it will.”
There are no strings on me. Leonard smirks a little, and he thinks he sees her wink as him.
“So,” Mary continues. “In fact, perhaps the Oculus should exist. But the Time Masters…” She nods, once, in the silence. “Break the chain,” she says, and it’s almost a command. “Find a crack in what’s supposedly meant to happen. One little crack is all you need to start it.”
Raymond sits up straight. “But won’t that ruin everything? Rip won’t recruit us if there’s no Vandal Savage, no Time Masters.”
Constantine nods. “One little crack…that’s caused a lot of trouble,” he says laconically. “Broken nations. Worlds. More.”
Leonard feels a chill run down his spine as he glances at Sara. Despite everything…he doesn’t really want to undo the past five years, doesn’t want to go back to what he was. He glances at Mick, who looks blank. No, Mick wants to do that even less, if possible.
“But that’s the point, in a way. Of Hypertime. If you do this right...” And for some reason, Mary’s watching Leonard intently here, and he shifts uncomfortably. “...you’ll unmoor the time going forward from the past. Separate it. Time will move on as it will. And the past is another country.”
“They do things differently there,” Mick murmurs, unexpectedly. Mary nods. Constantine hums thoughtfully. Raymond sighs. And Sara and Leonard look at each other before looking back at Mary.
“But…how?” Sara asks intently. “Do what right?”
But the older woman shakes her head. “I’ve said enough. It’s up to you now, my dears.” She stands. “Too much and I…I risk controlling too much myself. And I cannot do that. I cannot interfere to that degree.”
Sara opens her mouth to retort, but Leonard—who has certain admittedly ridiculous suspicions—does first.
“Why did you agree to work for them?” he asks, regarding her. “The Time Masters. If you disagree so much with what they are.”
Mary sighs, then gives him a small smile, as if she knows precisely what he’s doing. She probably does.
“I’ve been through enough war. Someone needs to care for the children,” she says quietly. “To teach them. I knew that, in time, that could change everything.” She nods. “And it did. One of those children, Michael Carter…Rip Hunter...became the man who brought you all together.”
Chapter 6: Through All That Masquerade
Sara rubs her forehead as she walks through the Waverider’s hallways. For all she’s learned and all she’s seen as the Waverider’s captain, temporal theory can still make her head hurt.
They’re staying for a bit, probably just a night and day, both to gather more information and by popular demand. Nate and Nora had proven difficult to pry out of the Refuge’s library. John, in a rush to prove just how much he didn’t care about such idyllic country life, had immediately tried to slouch back to the Waverider, but Nora had quickly caught him, waving a book in front of his face that made his eyes go wide—and sent him at a trot toward the library.
Charlie, whom Sara had expected to be nearly as cynical as John, alternated between listening to every piece of music she can get her hands on in the Refuge’s music library—including, she’d said enthusiastically, a full history of punk in all its forms—and trying to drag Zari down there to listen to it too.
Zari was rather more enamored with the kitchen, or rather, the pantry—and, a little to Sara’s surprise, she’d befriended a number of the children at large about the place. They’d seen nothing of young Michael Carter, and with that information, Zari and Ray had managed to get a somewhat nervous Gideon, in human shape, to come with them to the house. Sara isn’t sure what the AI had been expecting, but Mary Xavier had greeted her, literally, with open arms. As far as Sara knew, the two were now off together, talking quietly.
They’d all been invited to stay there, in real beds in a real house, and most of the Legends had taken the offer. Sara had wanted some quiet and solitude, though, and the familiar surroundings of the ship, so she’d walked back here alone, thinking about all Mary had said…and all she hadn’t said.
And about Ava.
She couldn’t have been a Time Master. Or couldn’t become one in the future. Either. Both. Just…no.
There’s a niggling little doubt in her, though, and Sara hates it. For as long as Sara has known her, Ava has been about law and order and control. Of herself, of the world around her. She goes by the book. She believes in the good of the many over the good of the few.
And for all her strength, she often felt inferior. Because of the clone thing, mostly, Sara knows, but inheriting the Time Bureau from Rip in such a dramatic matter hadn’t helped. Neither had the disaster of this past year, the loss of so many time agents Ava felt responsible for.
Druce had been able to get to her. Sara can’t help but feel a little rotten about that, although she knows that their break-up had been mutual, an acknowledgment that Sara wasn’t happy trying to be the person Ava wanted and vice versa. But…
Enough. Sara stops on the quiet bridge and looks around. She needs a distraction. Maybe it would have been better to stay at the house. At least there’d be plenty of that.
Or maybe distraction had followed her. Sara turns on her heel at the sound of the drawl, smiling as she sees Leonard holding up the doorway at the other end of the room, watching her.
“I thought you were staying there,” she says, ambling slowly toward him. “You and Mick were talking, and I figured eventually you’d find that library.”
Leonard watches her through his lashes. “Mick was catching me up on more of the last few years,” he drawled, pulling out of his lean a little. “At least, until some of the others dragged him off to see something and he abandoned me”
Despite the words, his tone is light, so Sara grins. “Aaaawwww,” she says, going up on her toes and reaching out to run her fingers down the lapels of his jacket, which Gideon had somehow salvaged and cleaned. “Are you settling for spending time with me?”
Leonard smirks back, but his eyes go a bit dark, and he leans forward a little, into her space, taking her breath away.
“Time with you will never be settling,” he says quietly, intensity in his voice. But he still doesn’t touch her. Not quite.
Oh, they’re playing games, are they? Well, if he wants her to take the lead, Sara’s up for that. “So, the kids are all at grandma’s house,” she suggests, knowing her own voice has dipped a little, throaty and suggestive. “Wanna play?”
A smile flickers over Leonard’s face, lighting his eyes in a very satisfying way.
“Well,” he returns, “never reckoned on being a father, given the piss-poor example I had. But in this case…”
Sara feels a momentarily burst of awkwardness. The analogy had seemed apt enough but given their agreement to just have a bit of fun for now, see where things took them, she feels likes she’s brought in a more serious element. No matter that the “kids” in question are technically responsible adults, or for that matter, she could be a single mom…
This is ridiculous. She shakes off the lingering thought of how nice it would be to have a full partner on the Waverider, focusing on the now, and tightens her fingers on his jacket, pulling him closer. Leonard’s hands land on her hips, warm and strong, and Sara tilts her head, and...
...catches her breath and laughs right out loud as he picks her up (with a muttered “oof” she deigns not to acknowledge). “Hey,” she mock-objects, wrapping her legs around him and moving her hands to his shoulders. “Where are we going?”
“Hmmm...” Leonard carries her toward the middle of the bridge. “Holotable? Captain’s chair? Any preference?”
The very timber of his voice tells her pretty explicitly what he plans to do there. Sara shivers, libido going from interested to off the charts. Still, she laughs again as he pauses.
“We have a big, fairly comfortable—for the ship, anyway—bed just down the hall, and you want to get frisky on the bridge?” she asks with amusement, realizing belatedly that the “we” also assumes something beyond simply sharing space.
Leonard’s eyes gleam at her, though he doesn’t answer directly. Then he looks over her shoulder. “Holotable, I think,” he muses in that damned sexy drawl, hands tightening on...oh, of course, they’ve slipped down to her ass. “More room.”
The last two words emerge in more of a purr than anything else. Sara shivers again, pressing against him as he carries her to the holotable. The new jeans Gideon had made for him in the fabrication room leave little to the imagination at the moment, and he’s clearly just as aroused by this as she is.
“Holotable it is, then,” she whispers as he sits her down on the edge. “So, this has been a fantasy, huh?”
Leonard, hands still on her ass, pulls her forward a little, flush against him again, making her gasp. “It’s been…an ambition,” he admits, voice husky.
“Since when?” Sara squirms against him, grinning as he mutters profanity under his breath, fingers tightening.
“Since that first day on the Waverider.”
He ducks his head abruptly, and then Sara’s kissing him, hands moving to his jaw as his fingers move to the snap of her pants.
She’ll never be able to look at the holotable quite the same way again.
“Captain! Sara? Are you in there?”
Leonard wakes up abruptly at the voice—Heywood, he thinks. He blinks the sleep out of his eyes as Sara mouths profanity into his collarbone, arms tightening around him.
They’re back in their…her…the room, having made it back somehow after indelibly changing the Waverider bridge forever in his mind. (And thank god Gideon, in android form, had been at the Refuge and not around to “see” anything.) They’d continued their activities in bed, and Leonard is both pleasantly tired and entirely satisfied.
“Sara? Are you OK? Do you know where Snart is?”
With a groan, Sara pulls away, rising to her feet and reaching for a robe. Leonard, just a fraction of a second later, does the same, grabbing pants and a T-shirt from one of the drawers he’s claimed as his own. If Heywood barges in here, he doesn’t want to be as…relaxed as he lets himself be with Sara.
He’s barely pulled them on when Sara, clad in the robe and nothing else, throws open the door and barks, “What?”
From behind her, Leonard can see the historian/hero gape at her.
“Um,” he manages. “Sorry. We were looking for you and there’s…uh…your shoes and the shirt you were wearing yesterday were kinda just lying there in the middle of the bridge…”
Apparently they’d missed a few things before going back to the room. Sara sighs, Leonard smirks, and Heywood cranes his neck, suddenly realizing there’s someone else there.
“Who…oh!” His eyes widen before he tries to conceal the reaction. “Um…what…”
Behind him, Zari facepalms.
“You are the most clueless,” she mutters through her fingers. Leonard remembers that Sara has said Zari and Heywood had had a bit of a thing at one point, though it hadn’t lasted long. He rather thinks Zari’s more into Charlie, anyway.
“You knew about this?” Heywood asks her plaintively. Zari rolls her eyes at him, as does Leonard, and the two share a smile as Sara decides she’s had enough.
“What do you want?” she sighs. “Seriously, I thought I had a chance for a break…”
“Mary Xavier asked to see you,” the historian adds quickly. “Uh. And Snart.”
“Got it. Tell her we’ll be there soon.” Sara shuts the door in his face and lets out an aggravated breath.
Trying not to chuckle, Leonard saunters over, pulling her into his arms. How has he gotten so easy with this all of a sudden? “Kids, huh?”
“Some days it feels that way.” Sara lets her head thump on his shoulder. “I wonder what Mary wants.”
Leonard, who’d been both intrigued and unnerved by the woman, shrugs. “For us to bring her some Big Belly Burger the next time we pay a visit? Who knows?”
Sara shakes her head, though she does so smiling, pulling away to Leonard’s regret. “Well, let’s go see what it is. And see if the ‘kids’ behaved.”
“If they didn’t, can we ground them?”
Mary Xavier’s in her office when Sara and Leonard walk in together. Sara watches the older woman’s eyes flicker from one of them to the other, a smile—a sad smile?—crossing her face.
Huh. Sara frowns briefly but modulates the expression as Mary focuses on her.
“Captain Lance, Mr. Snart,” the other woman says. “Thank you for coming.” She pauses. “I would, however, like to speak to you individually, please.”
Sara and Leonard exchange a glance. Neither of them, Sara thinks, is very happy about that, but Leonard nods curtly, taking a step backward toward the door, then another.
“Be outside,” he tells Sara, eyes still on Mary, who gazes steadily back.
“OK.” Sara waits until the door closes behind him, then frowns again at Mary, who simply smiles at her.
“I am sorry,” she says with a tinge of regret. “Still, I have my reasons.” She pauses, picking a compass-like object up from her desk and then putting it back down. “Mostly, I asked you here to tell you that...that if things do not go well, at the Vanishing Point, you are welcome here.” A wave of her hand seems to include all of the Refuge itself. “This place is out of time, and I can hide you and yours indefinitely”
Sara blinks at her. “Thank you,” she says almost involuntarily. Then: “Do you really think the odds are that far against us?”
“The truth is, Captain Lance, that I do not know.” Mary sighs. “I know what I hope for. I know what I think...but nothing is set in stone.”
Sara makes a thoughtful noise. “Even if...if the time loop has happened? Already? Or before?”
Mary spreads her hands out before her. “What is before? What is after? Time is more fluid than many people realize. As I said earlier, there’s a chance of breaking the chain here. The wheel. Whatever you wish to call it.”
Sara nods, accepting this despite her qualms. Then she pauses. “And...Leonard?”
Mary meets her eyes. “He’s at risk, with this,” she admits. “Only one of them—your Snart and Zaman Druce—can come out of this.” Her gaze is kind. “It could be Mr. Snart. I hope it is. But, my dear...this isn’t certain.”
Sara lets out a long breath. “So...”
“So, appreciate what you have. While you have it.” She nods. “Always, I think, good advice.”
Sara emerges from the office looking very thoughtful. Leonard steps toward her, noting the sadness in her eyes as she focuses on him, no matter how well she tries to disguise it.
“OK?” he asks quietly.
“Hmm.” She pauses, and Leonard knows she’s not going to lie to him. “I don’t know. I hope so.” She shakes her head. “Talk about it later, OK?”
Mary Xavier is looking at her bookshelves when Leonard reenters her office, feeling uneasy and perhaps a little annoyed. He doesn’t much like this “mysterious time...whatever” act, but something deep-seated is telling him to trust her—and that’s unnerving in and of itself. He never trusts people right off.
“Mr. Snart.” Mary puts down the book she’s holding, nodding to him. “Good morning.”
Leonard doesn’t feel like small talk. He folds his arms. “What do you have to say that Sara couldn’t hear?” he asks a bit harshly.
Mary doesn’t seem upset by his brusqueness. “Oh, nothing she couldn’t hear,” she says with a sigh. “In fact, I rather alluded to it when I spoke with her just now. But she has her focus, and you have yours, and this seemed best at the moment.” As Leonard shows no sign of sitting down, she doesn’t either, simply moving back behind her desk and watching him.
Finally, Mary speaks again. “Only one of you—you or Zaman Druce—can come out of this fight for the Oculus,” she says gently. “But...you’ve guessed that, haven't you?”
Leonard doesn’t ask how she knows. “Seemed logical,” he drawls, moving into the room a little more. “The whole ‘neither can live while the other survives’ trope is pretty classic, after all.”
Mary’s eyes sparkle and she tilts her head to him. “Indeed.”
“Plus, seemed like that might be why Druce wants me, when he has his own share of temporal energy from a dip in the timestream anyway.”
“He does—though not as much as you, the man who was at time’s ground zero.” Mary nods at Leonard’s thoughtful hum. “The thing is, while the Time Masters have always thought they’re subtle and know all the ins and outs of time...well, they’re not. And they don’t. Not like Druce wants to think.” She nods at Leonard. “He probably does truly believe he has to kill you, at the Vanishing Point, to release that temporal energy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
“I mean, I’m perfectly willing to kill him first, but...” Leonard studies her. “What’s the other way?”
Mary’s eyes are serene. “Meet him at the Vanishing Point,” she says, putting her hands flat on her desk. “Harness the temporal energy in yourself. Bend your will to it. Take the both of you and the wellspring back to the time of the supernova, and into time.”
Leonard dislikes showing surprise in front of this woman, but his eyes widen despite himself. “I can do that?”
“Hypothetically.” Mary’s lips twitch at his reaction. “Yes, Mr. Snart, you can do that. You have the will, and the temporal power all around—and within—you. And once you’re there, in the timestream...you have an advantage Druce does not.”
She smiles. It is not a particularly nice smile.
After a moment, Leonard smiles back.
Chapter 7: Each Time We Turn a New Corner
Going right to the Vanishing Point didn’t seem really feasible, given that they don’t know what Druce and the bureau are up to now, but staying at the Refuge longer isn’t really something Sara wants to do either. After some thought and a team discussion, she decides to put the ship down in 1892 Siberia, in a remote and uninhabited location where they should be undisturbed, at least long enough to go over plans and see if anyone’s made a move on the Vanishing Point yet.
They’ve used the location before, when they’ve needed a breather, but although the Time Bureau—in the persons of Ava and Gary, anyway—knows about it, Sara figures it’s not likely anyone will be looking for them there at the moment.
Which is why it’s a surprise when Ava steps out of a time courier portal right in front of Sara and Leonard when they’re nearly to their quarters.
The other woman’s eyes widen when she sees Sara. “Oh, thank god.” She squeezes her eyes shut a moment in apparent relief, seemingly not even registering Leonard yet. “When the Waverider blinked back into existence, we found things had reset and we could track you again...I didn’t know what had happened, if you were all right...”
Back into existence? Reset? Sara can’t help wondering, but there’s no time for that now—because Ava’s spotted Leonard.
Her crook’s gone into full nonchalance mode, although Sara can see still see telltale signs of tension in the way he holds himself and the lines around his eyes. He has the new cold gun he’d fabricated with Gideon at his side, but Sara’s very relieved to see that he’s not in a drawing position. Yet
Ava’s eyes widen just a trifle more and then narrow. For several long seconds, the two just study each other—Sara holding her breath—until Leonard decides to be polite. (Or to be an asshole, depending on how you look at it. Maybe it’s both.)
“Hey,” he drawls, in that “I am a wonder of reasonableness” tone Sara’s heard him use before, usually to people he’s unsure about or not too fond of. “You must be Ms. Sharpe.” A pause, while Sara closes her eyes and sighs inwardly. “Leonard Snart. We haven’t had a chance to meet.”
Given that Sara herself had “met” Leonard again while he was running for his life in Ava’s own Time Bureau, Ava’s clearly not sure how to take that. She looks down at the hand Leonard extends to her, then glances over at Sara, her expression clearly saying, “Is this guy for real?”
And Sara can’t help it. She can’t restrain a smirk, because Leonard’s just so…Leonard…and she’s missed that, even if she feels a little bad for poor Ava, confronted with it in such precipitous circumstances.
It’s the wrong thing to do.
Ava’s face goes blank, and Sara realizes immediately that she’s taken it the wrong way, as if Sara is making fun of her—although Sara hadn’t meant it that way at all. She opens her mouth to say so even as Ava draws herself up, eyes going steely, a defensive posture Sara knows well.
Ava and Leonard do have more in common than they’d ever realize.
“Leonard Snart,” the bureau director says in a clipped tone, “I'm taking you back to the Time Bureau, there to...”
But Leonard’s eyes have gone cold now, too, and he’s tensed in a way that puts Sara on edge. He draws himself up too, and Sara can just see the “you and what army?” in his expression.
Sara steps between them swiftly, already regretting her brief lapse. “Wait,” she says. “Ava, you need to know…”
“I know enough,” her former lover cuts in stiffly, glancing at her. “Why do you think…”
Leonard clears his throat then, and at first, Sara could kick him. Then she sees the look in his eyes and the way he’s edging backward.
Leonard never runs away from a fight. But apparently, for Sara, he’s willing to take himself out of this fray for now.
“Gonna go get some fresh air,” he says quietly, eyes on her. “All right?”
Ava tenses, but Sara nods, holding his gaze. “Might want to wear the parka,” she says just as quietly. “Gets cold here.”
He nods…and with one more opaque glance at Ava, turns and walks away, back down the corridor. Sara lets out a breath as Ava simply stares after him, then turns her gaze back at Sara—who nods quickly at the doorway.
“Let’s take this into private, OK?” she says. “Please?’
Ava hesitates, but gives her a jerky nod, following her into her quarters.
Sara regrets it nearly immediately, though. Leonard’s regular presence here is now unmistakable, really, from the black clothing folded neatly on a chair to the faint scent of sandalwood—not something Sara personally favors, though she definitely likes it on him—in the air. Ava isn’t unobservant, either. She takes a quick glance around, then focuses on Sara with an expression that’s trying not to be betrayed.
“Seriously, Sara?” she manages. “The crook?”
It’s hard not to get defensive, especially with everything Sara knows. But: “That’s beside the point,” she says, trying to sound matter of fact. “It is, Ava.” She hesitates. “Why are you trusting Druce over me? We might not…be together anymore, but I wouldn’t lie to you. He’s working against you in your own bureau!”
But the betrayal is still there. Ava shakes her head. “My job is to do what’s best for the timeline, Sara,” she says starkly. “And he’s offering the chance to make a difference, more than…more than I’ve been able to do so far. And you’re protecting a criminal and a murderer…hell, you’re sleeping with him!” She shakes her head violently, taking a step back. “I shouldn’t have come here, not without backup.”
Sara follows her, her heart hurting. “Ava…” She takes a deep breath. “It’s not so simple. It’s really, really not.”
And then, faced with the look in Ava’s eyes, she makes a decision, immediate and instinctive.
And prays she’s not making a mistake.
“Listen to me,” Sara tells her intently, telling to convey every bit of sincerity she has. “We’ll be at the ruins of the Vanishing Point in a week. Do you hear me? We’re not…not going to lie down and take this, but we have to be there too, and…Ava, you have a choice to make. Please. Please make the right one.”
Ava draws in a breath, and the two women stare at each other.
But then Ava’s expression hardens again. She taps her time courier, takes a deep breath, and steps into the portal.
Sara feels tears well up as she goes.
Leonard saunters back in about a half-hour later, looking a bit more ruffled than Sara expects. Still, she breathes a sigh of relief at his presence—until she catches a better look at his bemused expression, and registers that he’s not wearing the parka after all.
“Where’d you get that jacket?” she asks, leaning against the wall, studying the blue leather coat, which seems both familiar and not.
“Stole it.” Leonard stops in front of her, studying her in return.
“Kind of an unexpectedly long story. The director?”
“Back at the Time Bureau, presumably.” Sara takes a deep breath. “I hope I didn’t make a big mistake. But…I couldn’t…I told her…”
Her voice trails off. And then Leonard, with his usual brand of unexpected sincerity, steps forward, not quite holding out his arms but obviously inviting her into them.
Sara takes the invite. She wraps her arms around him and rests her head on his shoulder, feeling the tears spill over.
And Leonard holds her, as long as she needs it.
Gideon, with many surprised apologies, makes sure that the Time Bureau can’t track them once again, and the Legends take themselves off to another “safe” time and place—Salvation, though not a time they’ve been there before and enough outside the town to stay away from trouble and temptation.
At least, Sara hopes so. (She’s threatened Ray with bodily harm if he decides to go play sheriff again.)
Then she calls a team meeting.
“You told her?”
Charlie sounds appalled, and Sara really can’t blame her. She rubs a hand over her face with a deep sigh, then opens her eyes again to meet the gazes of her team. No one looks quite betrayed, thank god—she doesn’t think she could take that right now—but there’s both confusion and uncertainty on a few faces. John is, as always, hard to read, Mick is stony-faced, and Leonard—who already knew about this—is typically cool.
“We need Druce to be there, after all. To meet Leonard, so we can set this whole thing in motion,” Sara says, knowing that she still sounds like she’s trying to convince herself. “And this way, they probably won’t be chasing us around, trying to arrest him.”
The shapeshifter swears again, but Ray’s nodding. “This gives us a measure of control,” he says, looking around. “Right? I mean, sure, now they know when we’re getting there, but it’s not like Druce can start without Snart.” He looks at Leonard. “Right?”
Leonard shrugs. “Far as I know.”
“But they could set a trap,” Nora points out, sounding a bit reluctant. “Couldn’t they? Shoot us down when we arrive?”
Zari raises her hand. “I’m against that, for the record.”
“Not without risking something they need.” Mick finally speaks up. He doesn’t sound happy, but Sara’s relieved to see that he apparently sees what she’s getting at. “Time Bastards need Snart alive.”
Nate winces at the epithet. “It’s not the whole bureau, though...right?” he asks. “We figure that Druce just recruited the other 11 original Time Masters from there?”
“Yes, Dr. Heywood,” Gideon chimes in. She’s part of the ship at the moment, the better to keep an eye on things outside and to study both charts of the area around the Vanishing Point and the temporal theory that might come into play in this whole mess. “Though we don’t know how much Druce has persuaded others to buy into his plan.” She pauses. “A lot will depend on that.”
Sara reluctantly speaks up again. “I still don’t think Ava’s happy about any of it,” she says quietly. “Giving her this as a good-faith gesture, it might make a difference. And Druce might have his 11, but that doesn’t mean Ava can’t keep the rest of the bureau.”
John chuckles. It’s not a particularly nice noise, and Sara narrows her eyes at him as he leans back in a jumpseat.
“Don’t matter,” he says, taking a cigarette out of his pocket. “Jealousy’s a driving force of the human race, love.” He points at Leonard with the cig. “And far as she’s concerned, you’ve replaced her with someone Druce is telling her is the bad guy. Sometimes we hear what we want to hear, especially where hearts are concerned.”
“The breakup was mutual.” It’s humiliating to have her love life dragged out on the bridge like this. No matter what else has happened on the bridge recently.
“No, it doesn’t.” Leonard’s voice is cold all of a sudden, and John blinks at him as the crook stalks over to Sara’s side. “What does matter is how we’re going to play this. We need a plan.”
Mick snorts, but it’s amused. “Predictable,” he mutters, and Leonard tosses him a smirk. Then he looks back at Sara.
“Captain,” he says, and there’s no irony or snark in the word at all. “What are you thinking?”
Sara gazes around the room, then back at him. “Well,” she says. “Let’s lay out what we know...”
She’s a good captain.
Leonard watches as Sara handles each of the current Legends perfectly, getting different ideas and bits and pieces of knowledge, putting them all together in the tapestry of a plan. As with the team he remembers, they all have different areas of expertise—some expected, some not.
Heywood’s a historian, but he also has inside knowledge of the bureau. Zari has wind powers, but she’s also a hacker with a keen knowledge of all kinds of tech. Raymond’s got a brain when he cares to use it, and he’s full of odd bits of facts and random shit.
Mick occasionally volunteers something he recalls from his time as Chronos. Charlie’s a magical creature (weird thought), but her grasp of human nature, for all that, is sometimes better than the humans’. Nora’s a magic user, but she’s had an interesting look at other elements of the supernatural as well.
Constantine’s the resident smartass now. Leonard wonders what that makes him.
“So,” Mick says, eventually, “we get there, to the Vanishing Point...or its wreck, anyway.” He looks at Leonard. “Snart slips off to try an’ get into the Oculus wellspring building without anyone seeing him, while we kick up a lotta fuss outside, distract the Time Bastards.”
Nate gives him a look. “Druce’s people,” he corrects.
“Whatever.” Mick continues. “When he gets in there, he either waits for Druce or meets him there. Druce tries to kill ‘im, but Snart does some time mumbo-jumbo and pulls everything outta whack, back to when the star there blew up.” He pauses. “Which doesn’t sound real safe.”
“It isn’t,” Leonard tells him a bit tersely. He remembers the power surging around him at the wellspring. He’s still not sure how he survived long enough to get knocked into the timestream.
Raymond clears his throat. “I think the idea’s that the supernova’s contained, right there, by the wellspring device. Druce will have it back in place, because controlling it is kind of the whole idea.”
“OK, Haircut. And then Snart takes them into the timestream, kicks Druce’s ass and breaks time.”
“No!” Sara, Raymond, and Heywood say in unison before looking sheepishly at each other. Leonard, remembering what Mick had told him about the Legends breaking time and everything that had come of that, can’t blame them.
Mick rolls his eyes. “Fine. ‘Breaks the chain.’” He frowns. “So, is there an Oculus then or not?”
“There would be, wouldn’t there?” Zari says slowly. “And you said Mary Xavier said that wasn’t a bad thing. But no Time Masters. So who makes sure it’s not misused?”
For a moment, the Legends just look at each other.
Leonard actually does have thoughts on that, but he’s not quite ready to share them, not even with Sara. He thinks back to his spell in the timestream, and the things he may have imagined and the things he might not have, and he keeps his peace.
Mick swears. “I ain’t staying on that rock any longer than I have to,” he says definitively. “Spent too long there already.”
Sara sighs. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” She looks at Leonard. “An awful lot of that is up to you,” she says. “Throwing everything ‘outta whack,’ taking Druce into the timestream. You up for that?”
He gives her the truth. “No idea. Time Lady there said it came down to willpower.” He pauses, letting a little arrogance into his voice. “If that’s all it is, I’ve got this.”
Heywood makes a slightly disparaging noise. “You’re a crook,” he says with faint disbelief as Leonard glances at him. “Isn’t that the opposite of willpower? The easy path?”
Sara bristles a little, but Mick laughs. “Easy? You’ve never been on one of Snart’s heists, Pretty,” he advises.
Raymond surges to Leonard’s defense too, somewhat to his surprise. “This is the guy who saved us all at one point or another,” he says staunchly to his skeptical friend, getting his feet and crossing the room to the crook. “You should have seen the shot he made in Salvation.” The scientist slings an arm over Leonard’s shoulders, a familiarity that leaves him bemused. “Hey! We could go show them...”
“No,” Sara cuts in as Leonard manages to smoothly duck out from under the arm. “No one’s going into town. I know what happens when we go into town.” She looks at Leonard again, though. “Seriously, though. You have no idea how to...do that?”
He shrugs. Nora, unexpectedly, is the one who speaks up. “I...we might be able to help with that,” she says, looking at Constantine, who shrugs as well. “Manipulating energy is kind of what magic is all about, after all.” She gives Leonard a tentative smile. “Can you feel it? The temporal energy around you?”
It’s a hard thing to answer. “Sort of. I think.” He hesitates. “I have to concentrate on it.”
Nora nods encouragingly—and Sara nods with relief.
“Nora, John,” she says, “see how you can help Leonard with this...temporal energy thing. Mick, Ray, Gideon, Zari, we’re going to look at what we know about the Oculus and see what we can figure out about it. Nate, take what Mick’s told us and see if you might be able to learn more about which members of the bureau went to Druce’s side. Charlie...well, help anywhere you think you can help and please don’t get into trouble.”
There are murmurs of agreement (and something rude from Charlie), and Sara nods again.
“All right,” she says, looking around. “Go, team.”
Chapter 8: A Tiny Moment of Truth
Continued thanks to Pir8grl!
For a while, after she steps out of the portal back in her office, Ava considers not telling Druce what Sara had said to her about the Legends’ plans for the Vanishing Point.
She’s still not sure why Sara had told her, after all. Was it a trick? She can’t even consider that Sara would actually betray her team. That would never happen. But this Snart? Maybe…
She wants to believe that the crook is a passing fling--but she’d also recognized that fond look in Sara’s eyes. For all their differences and their agreement to split, she misses having that look focused on her.
And the hell of it is, Ava thinks, standing in her office and staring out the window, that Snart had looked at Sara the same way. And he’d removed himself from their conversation, when everything about his posture had said he didn’t want to. He sure as hell hadn’t done that for Ava’s sake, or because he’d been scared. He’d done it for Sara.
Does he really love her? Does she really love him?
The thought hurts.
Ava, you have a choice to make.
A choice not to tell Druce? But Sara wouldn’t have told her then. She must want Druce and Ava and the bureau agents to be there.
The next week is, quite frankly, one of the strangest of Leonard’s life.
For the most part, since his return, he’s been an outsider plopped into the middle of the current Legends’ lives and routine, with a number of people he knows almost nothing about and an unexpected role as the captain’s unexpected lover. But it hasn’t mattered so much, given how whirlwind it’s all been. He’s used to rolling with the punches.
But this week? This week lets him get a glimpse of what their lives have been like, the dynamic Sara and Mick and the others live with on a daily basis now.
They have a chore and dinner rotation now, and there’s a thriving market in trading duties going on. Those who can and like to cook can almost always find a way to get rid of most other chores, something Leonard—who'd been responsible for making sure that he, Lisa, and, often, Mick ate reasonably for much of their youth—appreciates. He cooks up an excellent (if he does say so himself) stir-fried chicken with rice his first night on dinner duty and lets the offers to trade roll in.
(Sara, who admits she can barely boil water without burning it, is rather smug—at least until she realizes Leonard has every intention of driving just as hard a bargain with her as with everyone else. And offering to trade certain favors doesn’t work, especially when Constantine happily and shamelessly offers to do the same—and Leonard makes a mostly joking show of considering it.)
Everyone, at this point, knows that Mick is a writer. Zari is the proud owner of the right to read any finished works first, but there’s generally a clamor to pass around manuscripts before he sends them out, something Leonard gets to witness the first night they’re parked there. Leonard’s a little regretful that that particular right is no longer his, but he’s so pleased to see Mick’s work getting appreciated that he just waits his chance to read with everyone else.
Constantine, apparently always fond of a challenge, has decided that seducing an android is next on his list. Gideon seems fairly amused by this. Although she never—to Leonard’s best guess—takes him up on his suggestions, she flirts back with increasing skill, something that amuses the other Legends a good deal.
Raymond and Nora are besotted with each other, but that doesn’t keep Nora from puncturing Ray’s ego and occasional tendency to lecture good-naturedly on his pet topics whenever she can. Leonard is rather delighted with this, really, and the two trade zingers at every opportunity.
Charlie, though she decries Leonard’s taste in music, decides he’s quite all right anyway after Mick regales her with stories of some of their escapades in both crime and prison. The shapeshifter, Leonard thinks, isn’t nearly so tough as she likes to appear, but well, neither are he and Mick at this point.
Heywood, who Leonard eventually concedes to call Nathaniel, still eyes Leonard warily, but they reach a truce over the ship’s historical library and, perhaps oddly, bad sci-fi movies.
And over it all is Sara, more a long-suffering big sister to most of them than a mom, for the most part, for all her jokes otherwise. She referees and praises, scolds and organizes, and Leonard’s pretty sure they’d all do anything for her.
He thinks he probably looks a bit besotted, too. He doesn’t care. They end every day tumbling into bed with each other, and the captain’s quarters are increasingly considered “theirs.”
In all, the Legends plan and train like a team. They tease like siblings. They live, and eat, and squabble like a family.
It’s like a good crew planning a heist; it’s like life at its best when he and Lisa and Mick were younger. And Leonard’s increasingly aware that he doesn’t want to lose this. He doesn’t care if he looks like he’s lost his touch, that it seems like he’s gone soft. The dreams and nightmares of the timestream have given him a new perspective on the life he could lead...and he wants it.
He’s fairly driven to succeed at the Vanishing Point anyway, but that’s even more of a push. He throws himself into his “lessons” with Nora and Constantine, for all that none of them are really sure what they’re doing.
“It’s like trying to teach someone to swim when they’re standing in the ocean waves and you’re a mile away,” the warlock admits morosely after one frustrating session midweek. He leans back a bit precipitously in the chair he’d claimed in the rec room where they’ve been meeting. “You have this odd energy about you, and you can feel it. But I really can’t quite see it, mate, and even I don’t dare quite tell you what to do with it. It’s erratic. You could send this whole ship back to the Stone Age without meaning to.”
Nora sighs, gathering her legs up underneath her as she sits on the sofa. “At least we know that you can feel it and grasp it now,” she tells Leonard. “But John’s right...”
“Of course I am, love.”
“...we don’t have any good way of testing it out.” She bites her lip. “I wonder if this would work better with the ship in the timestream.”
After a second, Constantine sits up, nearly losing his balance. “That’s brilliant. Gid...”
“I truly hate to nix that idea, Ms. Da...Nora.” Gideon’s been trying to remember to use first names at everyone’s request. “But I’m uncertain how the timestream would react to that. It might be a perfectly safe experiment. Or...” She pauses. “...it might cause turbulence. Time waves or a temporal storm. Or worse.”
“Not good, then, love?” Constantine sighs.
“Not good at all, John.”
After a long few minutes of thoughtful silence, though, there’s a noise at the door, and Gideon’s android avatar walks in. Constantine puts the front two legs of his chair on the floor with a whump.
“No worries, we weren’t going to try anything hasty,” he tells her. “Or could you just not go a few hours without seeing me?”
Nora rolls her eyes at Leonard, who smirks.
Gideon gives him a sweet smile. “I see you all the time, John,” she informs him in an equally sweet-as-sugar tone. “Ship, remember? Even when you...”
“Ah, you don’t have to divulge all the gory details, love.” He winks at Leonard. “Unless the others want to hear them, of course.”
“Well, I certainly don’t,” Nora cuts in tartly. “Hello, Gideon. Do you have a suggestion for us?”
“I do, actually.” The android puts a thin white candle in an old-fashioned candlestick down on the table. “Mr. Sn...Leonard. If you can feel the temporal energy about you now...do you think you could use just a tiny bit?”
Now, that’s interesting. “Maybe,” Leonard acknowledges, getting up and strolling over to the table. “What are you up to, Gideon?”
“I’m suggesting starting small scale.” She pulls a box of matches from the pocket of the dress she’s wearing—humanoid Gideon had been rather appalled how many of the patterns for female clothing in her databanks hadn’t had pockets. “Think of the timestream as a body of water, of sorts—a river with an enormous capacity, or a constantly moving ocean. It’s very powerful, and very deadly, and if you mess with it unprepared, you will drown.”
Leonard leans against the table, studying her. “Unless you’re a...Waverider,” he points out after a moment. “To continue your metaphor.”
Gideon dimples at him. “Indeed,” she agrees, carefully selecting a match. “However, a small cup of water is a different matter. It may hold enough to drown you, if used very carelessly, but it is considerably safer.” She strikes the match, then lights the candle as Nora drifts over to watch.
Leonard frowns at it, then lifts an eyebrow at her. “You want me to try to...be a cup of water.”
“No...” Constantine sounds intrigued. “She wants you to try to control the equivalent of one.” He gives Gideon an impressed look. “I am surrounded by brilliant women on this ship.” Then, unable to resist, he gives Leonard a wink too. “And men, of course, mate. Don’t be hurt.”
Leonard ignores him, watching the candle as wax starts to run down the sides. “ ‘Fraid I’m going to need a little more information.”
“Try controlling just a little temporal energy,” Gideon tells him, motioning to the candle. “And turn time, just around this candle, back just a few minutes. To before I lit it.”
Leonard blinks. “Just like that?”
Constantine gets to his feet. “Won’t that be a lot harder than doing something larger?” he asks. “Such fine detail work?”
“Just because you tend to be a blunt instrument, John, doesn’t mean that everybody else is.”
Leonard hears Nora’s giggle in response, but he’s focusing on the candle, intrigued.
Feeling the crackle of energy around him, ebb and flow, time itself, holding him steady in the nothing.
A presence? Not quite. But not quite...not.
Blue light, all around him.
He reaches out, with his mind like Nora had told him, and grasps...a handful. No more. Lets a little trickle out. And then he stares at the flame—flickering, restless, beautiful; Mick might have had a point all these years—and flings that mental hand out, toward it.
Something shifts. Nora gasps, and Leonard distantly hears Constantine curse. And the candle...the wax stops, then flows backward, gathering back up into a single pristine column, and the flame winks out.
And then things feel normal again.
Leonard lets out an unsteady breath, then looks around. Nora and Constantine are staring at him and both look shocked, even the unflappable warlock. Gideon is smiling.
“Yes,” she says with satisfaction. “Just like that.”
Mick used to hate remembering his time as Chronos. So much so that he'd pretend that he barely remembered it. Even to the point of appearing actively dim—even more than his usual act—to the others on board.
He does remember it, though, or at least a good bit of it. Sometimes the details are distant—Gideon had told him once that the human brain simply wasn’t meant to live through that kind of time—and he’s still capable of losing pieces, but he remembers.
(No one, not even Snart, realizes just how much Gideon had talked him through the time after he’d returned to the team. She understood like none of the others did—she’d been at the mercy of the Time Masters too, before Hunter “freed” her, in a way. That’d been when he’d first started thinking of her as another person, and not just a ship.)
It’s funny, but he doesn’t mind as much now when Blondie wants to pick his brain about what he knows, the things he’d learned through all that time, though some of it’s now foggy indeed. And it’s kind of worth it to watch the others’ faces.
He’s just done that, held forth on temporal theory for a good five minutes and watched Blondie, Haircut, and New Girl go from interested to impressed to just a little blank as he gets out of the realm of what they really know, even Haircut. He smirks a little, smugly, at them after, planning to wait a minute or two and then explain it.
But then everything gets interrupted when Spooky Girl and British both nearly run on to the bridge, both looking excited and maybe a little alarmed.
“You didn’t feel anything? Out here?” Spooky Girl asks urgently, looking at all of them. Mick shakes his head, glancing at the others, whose confusion over his speech are now fading into confusion about what’s going on. (Damn it.)
British laughs a little wildly. “Gideon,” he says breathlessly, turning to shake a finger at the android, who’s following them side by side with Snart, “you are brilliant. Stunningly so.”
Gideon smiles at him serenely. “Yes,” she says, “I know.”
Snart’s wearing an expression that doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be satisfied or shaken. Mick studies him, concerned, and gets a half-shrug in return.
“What happened?” Blondie says urgently, looking from Gideon to Snart. “Do I have to start yelling to get someone to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Mr. Snart used a small portion of temporal energy to successfully walk back time by a few minutes,” Gideon announces to her. “Just in a very small portion of the ship, it’s true. But he did it.” She folds her arms. “Now, he just has to work his way up.”
That’s the cue for everyone to start talking at once. Mick himself lets out a long breath. He knows that he’d been starting to get worried that Snart wouldn’t be able to do what Mary Xavier had claimed he’d be able to do, but he hadn’t quite realized that everyone else on the ship had been just as worried. Including Snart, that usually arrogant and oh-so-proud SOB.
This isn’t much. It isn’t even close in scale, and they only have a few more days. But suddenly, Mick’s sure this will work. The Time Bastards won’t even know what hit them.
If anyone can do it, Snart can.
Druce is pleased by Ava’s news. So pleased that she immediately regrets telling him, even despite her conviction that Sara had wanted her to do so.
“He’ll be right where we need him to be, then,” the Time Masters says, satisfaction in his voice, as he paces Ava’s office. “They’re playing right into our hands.” He glances again at Ava. “If you’re sure of this, director, this is even better than delivering Mr. Snart into my hands here. You are sure of it?”
Ava stifles her urge to snap. She folds her arms and looks down her nose at him. “Very sure,” she responds, knowing her tone is clipped, an attempt to remind Druce that he’s still a prisoner. Technically. “Now, Master Druce, I believe it’s time for you to give me some information as well.” She powers on as Druce gives her an inquiring look. “Snart. He didn’t steal anything physical, did he? What does he have to do with the Oculus?”
Druce gives her a very patronizing smile, one that immediately raises her hackles, though Ava fights to conceal that reaction.
“Very good, my dear,” he says, facing her. “No, Mr. Snart…‘stole,’ shall we say…an enormous amount of temporal energy from the Oculus wellspring and the timestream. More than enough to, when regained, take us all back to the correct time, harness the supernova for the wellspring, and create the Vanishing Point as it should be.”
Ava keeps her expression steady as she continues to watch him. “And how, precisely, will you obtain that energy from him?”
Druce’s smile gets, if possible, even more condescending. “There’s a fine human tradition of power through sacrifice, you know,” he says. “That should work nicely.”
Ava only waits a beat, as if she’s not surprised—and on some level, she’s not, though she’s still struggling with it—before nodding curtly. “I’ll get a team together,” she says brusquely. “The best of the best.” The ones I trust most.
But Druce actually chuckles at her. “No need,” he says. “I already have a…team. Ten of your best agents. I’ve even already explained the whole thing to them.” He pauses. “Would you like to be the 11th, Director Sharpe? It seems you have earned it.”
Ava can only stare at him.
It’s one thing to know that Leonard should be able to do what Mary had said. It’s quite another thing to see him do it.
They can’t do too many test runs, especially not ones of great size—he’ll need the largest share of temporal energy for the Vanishing Point. But Gideon insists that smaller-scale tests should continue to allow Leonard to get a feel for the idea, and he’ll know what to do when the time comes.
And that’s why Sara’s standing in a field outside the ship with only a day to go, watching him undo any damage the other Legends have done.
He’d undone the blaze Mick had caused first, mainly because it’d threatened to spread. (Sara had laid the law down after that—nothing that could cause trouble if Leonard couldn’t fix it.) Then he’d righted the dead aspen Ray had knocked over and put all the leaves back on a living one when Zari had dislodged them with a ridiculously hard gust of wind.
Charlie, grinning, had shifted into a fox and trotted off into the undergrowth and emerged with feathers on her ruddy muzzle, licking her chops. Leonard had taken one look at her expectant look and said, flatly, “No.” Whatever unfortunate bird she’d consumed had gone un-resurrected.
That was just as well, Sara thinks uneasily. That was a particular can of worms she did not want them to open.
But now, Gideon had brought him one last challenge—a rock, a flat piece of limestone—with the flat fossilized impression of a leaf in it. She’d simply handed it to him with a smile.
A small thing, but potentially, Sara knows, very, very old. She watches, holding her breath, as Leonard studies it, closes his eyes…
And hands a green leaf, fresh as if it were newly plucked from a tree that surely no longer exists, back to Gideon.
Ray, watching, whoops and high-fives Nate, while Mick simply nods in satisfaction. The others celebrate more or less according to their personalities as Sara finally takes a breath, a long, slow one, and lets it out.
Leonard looks at her, an odd expression on his face—not the smile she’d almost expected, but then, she’s not smiling either. Despite the victory, despite the optimism. This is all too real, and it has the possibility of changing all too much.
Her own words, from years ago now, echo in her head.
For better or for worse.
Chapter 9: With Every Door That We Opened
The atmosphere on the Waverider that evening can’t decide if it wants to be a party, a last-minute planning session, or a possible farewell. Although, Sara thinks, it almost seems as if only she and Leonard are really feeling that last one.
Charlie and John are matching each other drink for drink—they’re clearly in the first camp. Mick’s had a few with them, but he’s more firmly in the second…and given how he keeps glancing at Leonard, maybe he does have a foot in the third. Zari, their teetotaler, is clearly with him, checking over all their notes and diagrams of the Vanishing Point and muttering to herself.
Ray, Nate, and Nora have all had a few drinks too, although after some discussions on the plans for tomorrow. They’re all sitting together on the sofa, leaning together and chattering, and Sara, watching, idly wonders if this will be the night a little too much is imbibed and they go for the threesome. She hopes not. She needs the whole team on point tomorrow, not having second thoughts or recriminations—or hangovers. They can take the leap—she thinks it might be good for them—some other day, preferably without alcohol involved.
Gideon’s part of the ship again, which Sara finds a little odd, given how much she likes to be part of things when the crew is socializing. But perhaps the AI has qualms about this too, despite how well her words of advice had helped Leonard.
The crook himself still has the same glass of scotch he’s been nursing for an hour in his hand, his eyes running over the crew and the ship like he’s trying to memorize them. Maybe, Sara thinks, watching him, he is.
And then he looks at her.
Sara stands abruptly, putting her own glass down half-full. “Gideon, last call,” she announces. “Everyone’s cut off after this one.”
That gets catcalls from Charlie and John and a chorus of very mild protests from the three on the sofa. Zari and Mick just exchange looks.
“Got it, Boss,” Mick rumbles after a moment. He looks at Leonard. “Snart. I want a few minutes.”
Leonard inclines his head. Mick nods back, then scans the rest of the team, sighs, and vanishes down the hall toward his room.
Sara watches as the others do the same—Ray and Nora on their own, fortunately. Zari rolls her eyes at Nate’s unsteady wobble, then ducks under his arm and steadies him, hissing to Charlie to sober herself up and get some rest. The shapeshifter gives her a cheerful one-fingered salute that seems more a suggestion than an insult, but follows.
John, rumpled as always, studies Sara and Leonard for a long moment, then seems to decide that it’s definitely not the time. He raises his glass in salute and saunters off.
Sara turns with a sigh, seeing Leonard getting to his feet and draining his glass. His eyes slide off hers, though, and he glances toward the corridor leading to most of the crew quarters.
“Be back in a bit,” he says quietly.
Mick deserves his few minutes and more. Sara nods and watches him go.
The time agent jerks his head off his fist, blinking, as Ava hisses at him. He’s stationed at the computer that’s keeping an eye on the Waverider, though they can’t track it again. Given that the only thing he can do is make sure that it doesn’t vanish, it’s boring work—which is probably why he’d been engrossed in a comic book.
“Director...Sharpe,” he says, lowering his voice and glancing around dramatically even though the rest of the room is empty. “Um. What’s going on?”
Ava eases into the room and takes a seat at the next computer, turning it on. If someone comes in—unlikely at this hour—she can pretend she’s doing something there. She stares at the brightening screen a moment, marshalling her words.
“I think Druce is staging a bit of a coup,” she says finally. “He’s handpicked agents for this trip to the Vanishing Point, and they’re all higher up, but not the ones I would have selected, not at all.” She glances at him. “He’s deigning to let me be one of them.”
But Gary’s reaction is not the horrified shock she’d imagined. Instead, the agent gives her almost a sad smile, glancing at the blip on his screen that’s the Waverider before looking back at her.
Ava stares at him, putting pieces together. “It was that obvious?” she asks faintly.
Gary rustles the pages of his comic book with a thumb. “Yeah,” he says finally. “He’s been...insinuating himself with some people for a while. Always the ones who think the bureau should be more heavy handed. And with a lot fewer rules.” He shakes his head, looking a little miffed and a little proud at the same time. “He didn’t bother with me. I mean, I wouldn’t have anyway, but...”
“And you didn’t think to tell me this?” It’s hard not to feel betrayed. Again.
The agent—really, her first friend at the bureau—looks at her, wide-eyed. “Oh! Um...I...well, I thought...”
His pause is so long that Ava comes to the obvious conclusion.
“You thought I knew.”
“Yeah.” The look is apologetic. “You seemed so pleased by the whole Oculus idea, all the people it could save. And, I mean, he was never going to let you control it. Not a guy like that. I figured you...”
Ava finishes the sentence yet again, numbly. “Had turned the bureau over to him. Of my own will.”
“Well. Yeah.” Gary swallows. “I guess maybe...maybe I thought you thought it was worth it?”
Ava stares at the screen where the tiny, blinking dot that represents the Waverider hovers.
A choice to make.
More than one, really.
And not so hard to make, in the end. Ava nods, firmly, and looks back at her friend. “Gary. This isn’t necessarily going to be easy, but I need you to do it. OK?”
He gulps, pushing away from the computer. “Yes, Director Sharpe.”
“We’re taking off soon, on the bureau mother ship. Per Druce’s plan, there will be only 12 of us. But...”
She lowers her voice. Gary leans in to listen.
The captain’s quarters feel...still. Empty. Sara looks around the room, noticing all the things she’s sure Ava did earlier. The jacket slung over a chair. The black boots underneath it. Shaving materials on the top of the dresser Leonard uses, and sandalwood in the air.
If she has any consolation at all right now, it’s that they hadn’t taken too long to—as Mick had said what seemed like years ago now—try to make up for long time. Not so long at all, she thinks, smiling a little as she remembers that first night, comfort given and received in the dark of the safehouse.
But she wants more time. Wants a lot of it. Wants a future, and a life with Leonard—she’s sure of that now. Right when it might be taken away.
He’s gone long enough for her to visit the bathroom and wash up, to return and change into a silky blue nightgown. Nothing too sexy—that doesn’t seem quite right for the night-before-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it vibe.
Then, in a stage of mental bargaining she hasn’t hit since those first days on the Amazo, back when she hadn’t yet known better, she stares at herself in the mirror so long that she’s still standing there when Leonard slips in the door.
She can see him clearly in the mirror as he closes the door behind himself, watching her, but she doesn’t say anything. What can she say? Oh, hey, this might be our last night together before you go running off to sacrifice yourself again? Before it’s all done, game over, have a horrible life if you have one at all?
Because if he doesn’t succeed, she’s realized, not only with she lose him, but the Legends will lose, period, because Druce will be able to use the Oculus to create the time loop in which they do so. In which she loses Leonard, loses Martin, loses Rip. Loses Nyssa and Ava, though not to death. Loses Laurel. Loses her father.
Loses everything. Again.
So, in the mirror, Sara watches Leonard regard her steadily for a moment, then reach down to take off his boots. Then he takes off his shirt, and undershirt, skin gleaming scarred in the mostly dark room.
That trust, that he’ll do anything other than go from one kind of cover to another, honors her, she thinks, eyes on that marred, beautiful skin instead of on his eyes. They’d kind of thrown themselves into this without perhaps as much thought as there should have been, two damaged people like themselves, but that’s OK, that’s good. If they’d waited, thought, overthought, maybe they’d still be staring at each other across crowded rooms, hiding behind card games and booze and words they didn’t acknowledge later because they’d come with the faint burn of scotch and the unreality of the timestream.
Leonard walks up behind her, and Sara stays still. Now, though, now she lifts her eyes to his, meeting gazes across mirrored glass, blue on blue.
His gaze still seems to be hot enough to burn holes in her. Sara shivers as she watches him lift his hands, calloused and scarred and always unexpectedly warm, and put them on her shoulders.
“OK?” he asks, voice completely unaffected, without that bedamned drawl or anything at all but his usual gorgeous, low voice.
And Sara starts to lie. Starts to tell him that she’s fine. That of course she is, that they have this, that Druce is a goner and that of course Ava isn’t a Time Master. She’s tough, she’s the captain, she’s Sara Lance, who’s lost, and lost, and lost again, and kept moving. And they’re going to have plenty more nights, plenty more days. A lifetime’s worth.
The words won’t come out.
She can’t. She just can’t. It’s too much, and she wants to be optimistic, she wants to say the words, but…
She doesn’t know. She can’t know. And it’s just too much.
Leonard sees her face, and his own goes still. Sara, frozen, watches him. If he offers sympathy, or reassurance, or anything else that he can’t prove to her, there in that room on the Waverider, she might lose it. After everything she’s been through, all these miles and years, she might finally lose it.
He doesn’t. He watches her for a long, still moment, and then his hands tighten on her shoulders, turning her, drawing her toward him, and Sara tilts her head up toward him, wondering, and…
This kiss is as scorching hot from the start as their first (second, if you count the one at the Oculus wellspring) was gentle. Sara gasps in reaction, and Leonard gives her no quarter, tongue swiftly finding entry and caressing hers, as he presses her backward, against her dresser, his hands moving downward to her waist, pulling her against him hard, not so much as a millimeter of space between them. He moves his hips against her, and he’s still wearing those tight jeans, and there’s immediately a warmth in Sara’s belly that demands swift action on her part, any other drama be damned.
Oh. Oh, yes. This is what she needs. After a heartbeat of stunned desire, she lifts her hands to his waist, copping a rather nice feel before swiftly moving them around to the front of his jeans. Meanwhile, Leonard’s managed to turn her, them, around, backing Sara toward the bed, his own hands down at her rear again, rocking her against him.
The backs of her legs hit the mattress before she can do more than pop the button to Leonard’s jeans. Sara momentarily ponders whether to try to keep her balance, but decides promptly against it, mostly because Leonard’s right hand is now low on the small of her back, lowering her more or less gently to the soft surface with him, their bodies still as close as possible given inconvenient clothing.
She tries instead to tug down the zipper and then the jeans, but…
“Damn it, Len,” she mutters breathlessly against his still-seeking lips, “yes, you have a lovely ass, and these jeans showcase it very nicely, but do they have to be this tight? Aren’t you worried about, I don’t know, doing yourself damage?”
That gets a chuckle, and Leonard pulls back, getting to his feet while Sara lies there, breathing hard, just now realizing that he’s managed to get her silken sleep shirt mostly unbuttoned as well as thoroughly rucked up about her hips. She moves up onto her elbows, smirking a little and enjoying the view as he smoothly manages zipper and jeans and briefs, shedding them and then kicking them away.
“You were saying?” comes the drawl.
Sara runs her eyes over the…scenery. “OK, I stand corrected. No damage. None. Perfectly…undamaged.”
That draws another chuckle, a low and sensual sound that makes Sara shiver again. Leonard moves on to the bed, on hands and knees over her, running those icy-hot eyes down the river of skin showing through the gap of the sleep shirt. Sara shudders as he ducks his head to claim her lips again, but this kiss is intense and brief. He moves his mouth to her jaw, then, and her collarbone, and, moving the blue silk aside in a thoroughly slow and arousing fashion, one breast…and then the other, insistent suction and the gentle scrape of teeth making her gasp.
At that point, she’s panting, barely crying out, and jerking her hips almost involuntarily. “Len,” she says, fighting back profanity, “I want…”
“Hmmm?” His eyes gleam at her, now about over her belly button. “What do you want, Sara?”
He says her name in that damned-sexy drawl, and Sara loses the battle with her language. Cursing helplessly in multiple languages, she reaches for him, but he evades her, moving lower, only to look up at her again.
“I don’t care what happens or doesn’t happen at the Vanishing Point,” he tells her, tone smoldering, so low it’s nearly inaudible, “you are never going to forget this.”
And by the time she starts to drift off to sleep in his arms, a good deal later, tired and thoroughly replete, Sara’s pretty sure he’s right.
It’s later, well after Sara’s sound asleep, that Leonard finally moves from his position besides her.
He pulls slowly, regretfully, away, pausing as her breathing shifts, then moving away again as it settles. When he’s finally climbed to his feet, he reaches for briefs and jeans and sweater, black leather jacket and the cold gun. All his armor, for the battle he’s going into.
Clothed and armed, he stands there a long moment, watching Sara as she sleeps, trying to impress the image in his mind. And then he turns for the door, opening it silently, stepping outside, and closing it behind him.
And then he stops in his tracks.
Mick and Raymond are standing there, both leaning against the wall opposite the doorway. Both with arms folded. Both watching him.
Mick grunts as their eyes lock. Then he glances over at Raymond.
“How,” he asks the scientist, “did the selfish bastard I used to know wind up becoming this dumbass with the obsession about sacrificing himself?”
Raymond shrugs. “I don’t know,” he tells Mick in return. “I mean, he always kept repeating that he wasn’t a hero. He doesn’t act that way, though.”
Leonard opens his mouth to retort, then stops, wondering just how long they’ve been here.
Mick smirks at him. “Don’t worry, lover boy,” he rumbles. “We ain’t been here very long—and the Waverider soundproofing is a helluva lot better than it used to be. But I know you, Snart. You always think you know best. Better than me. Better than anyone who tells you otherwise.”
He points at his former partner, then, as Raymond nods earnestly. “None of this goin’ it alone crap,” he barks. “This is a team. We act like one.”
Leonard knows he probably looks a little nonplussed. Mick, he’d already known, had changed…but this much?
“No one else needs to get in the line of fire,” he starts heatedly, grip tightening on the cold gun despite himself. “Mick…I’m telling you…”
Mick laughs at him, stunning Leonard into silence. Then he glances at Raymond. “You took our death—mine and Haircut’s, even if it didn’t wind up being death after all—before. You ain’t going off on your own this time.”
Leonard blinks, but Raymond nods.
“We’re not letting you, Snart,” he says, his own tone oddly gentle. “I’ve changed a bit in the past four years too, you know. I get it, you do what you have to do…but you don’t have to do this. Not alone.” He pauses. “You’ve got a team.”
A team. A family.
A good crew planning a heist.
He’s silent so long that Mick takes it as tacit agreement, nodding. “Now, you turn your ass around and go back in that room with Blondie,” he says gruffly. “She deserves better than you runnin’ off in the middle of the night to do stupid shit. Ain’t no faintin’ flower. She deserves to be fighting at your side.”
Leonard stares a little more, at a loss for words. And then he turns around, and he opens the door, and he goes back inside.
Sara lets out a sleepy mumble as he slips back into bed with her, snuggling in. Leonard, bemused and touched and just a little disbelieving, holds her close.
Yes. They’ll do this as a team.
Chapter 10: Every Game We Played
The penultimate chapter! The last is more of an epilogue, and I'll probably post it Friday.
Hope you're all enjoying it.
The Legends aren’t there. Not yet, anyway.
Ava stares out the viewscreen of the bureau mother ship as they come in over the wreckage of the Vanishing Point, blasted and silent and dark. There’s no sign of the Waverider. To her right, Druce is stone-faced, looking down at the wreckage of his past—and future?—home.
The blast of the exploding Oculus wellspring hadn’t wiped out everything—which doesn’t seem to make much sense; wasn’t it a freed supernova?—and there’s enough surface there to make the stand Druce wants. There’s even the ragged shell of a building around what Ava believes was the wellspring.
She bites her lip. Leonard Snart had caused this. But given all she’s learned…
“All hands brace for landing,” intones the pilot of the mother ship, a woman Ava had known by another name who now calls herself Liri Lee. Druce had gotten to so many of the bureau, so many people who believed they deserved more, knew better, because they’d been, for a while, custodians of time.
It’s true. Even with good intentions, power corrupts
Still, Ava rips her mind away from that. She braces, as directed, for landing. And she controls her expression as all those on the bridge…10, in addition to her and Druce…look to the Time Master for direction.
Druce scans them, then nods regally.
“I must go to the wellspring,” he announces. “There, to await the enemy. The others…keep them away.” His gaze hardens. “And you will be rewarded.”
The others don’t look at Ava, their supposed director, at all. They salute Druce, as does Ava, slightly belatedly.
The bureau has already landed at the Vanishing Point.
Sara, looking out the viewscreen of the Waverider, takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. She’s not naïve enough to believe that Ava isn’t there, given the presence of the bureau mother ship, but she’s trying not to think about it.
Leonard, to her right, glances at her. He doesn’t say anything, though, and Sara doesn’t pursue it.
Mick, to her left, mutters something under his breath. “Well,” he says, “Time Bastards are here. OK. Everyone clear on how we’re playin’ this?”
They’ve talked and talked about it, but it really all comes down to something too simple to even be called a plan.
John snorts. “The usual,” he says cynically, leaning against the holotable. “Chaos. While handsome there,” he nods to Leonard, “strolls through it all and goes for the wanker who started this.”
Sara rolls her eyes, forebears to mention that he really doesn’t have to be here—heaven knows John’s prone to wandering off on other business—and admits that he has a point.
“Yeah,” she acknowledges. “That’s essentially it. Gideon, would you pull up the info on the Time Bureau agents we know are in on this?”
Names and faces flash on the screen. Sara’s seen all the data before, but she studies it intently again, considering abilities and matching them with the teammates around her.
One, whom Mick had known as Walker Gabriel, is a bull of a man, and Sara knows that—should he become a Time Master—he’ll be an enforcer and hunter not unlike Mick had been, just much higher up. She already knows that Mick has called dibs on facing him, and she’ll respect that. It seems like there’s bad blood there.
The others: Hand to hand. High-tech combat. A touch of supernatural ability or more. Weapons expertise. High versatility.
In an uncanny way, Sara thinks, they really do mirror the Legends. Is this really how it was always meant to be? Legends vs. Time Masters, again and again and again?
“Versatile, my ass,” Charlie mutters from behind her. Sara glances around in time to see her cracking her knuckles. “I’ll show that minger who’s versatile.” She gives Sara a wolfish grin.
Sara grins back; it’s better than worrying. She pulls the viewscreen back to its view of the wreckage of the Vanishing Point and then glances over at Leonard.
“You ready?” she asks, trying to sound confident.
She expects snark in return. But Leonard’s eyes are cool and serious. He gives her one sharp nod, his gaze still on the viewscreen, on the place where he’d died…or they’d thought he had.
“Yes,” he says, voice low, intense. “It’s time.”
She doesn’t think he means the pun—but with Leonard, you never can tell. Sara reaches out and takes his hand, squeezing once, then lets go. They’d said what they needed to say to each other, last night.
And it is, indeed, time.
Druce’s people are waiting for them. Sara, bo in her hands, in full uniform, leads her own people toward them. She doesn’t look around to see when Leonard ghosts off on his own. She keeps her eyes forward and on the enemy.
The woman at the front of that group…it isn’t Ava. It’s a tall redhead, who’s watching them with equal parts wariness and what seems to be disgust. Sara, for now, resists the urge to glance around, looking for blond hair.
She flourishes her bo and reaches for cool confidence with a side of attitude.
“Well,” she tells the scowling woman, the one Mick had identified as Liri Lee. “Fancy meeting you all here.”
The woman laughs. “You are under arrest,” she says bluntly, coolly. “Legends? Agents of chaos, more like.” She nods sharply, looking around at them. “I’ll never understand why we just didn’t put you down like the mongrel dogs you are. Time was ordered and controlled until…”
Mick interrupts her. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says, staring over her head at Walker Gabriel. “Less talking. More fighting.”
And he brings his heat gun up and fires.
Well, it’s not how Sara might have chosen to start all this, but it works. The other woman leaps out of the way, Gabriel roars and charges Mick, and the fight is on.
Sara whirls as Lee turns for her, blocking and feinting at the redhead. She hears the other Legends engaging the other would-be Time Masters. And she counts as she glances around: one, two, three…10 total, looks like.
No Druce. But she doesn’t see Ava either.
Where is she?
The shell of the Oculus wellspring building is just that…a shell. Leonard strolls in like he owns the place instead of his terrified dash from last time, but his heart is thudding so loudly in his chest that it seems far louder than his own footsteps.
On some level, his own body remembers what happened here. The fear, the anger, the regret, the salt and sweet of Sara’s kiss. Staring at her as long as possible, trying to take her image with him into the night.
And then Druce. One last bit of defiance before it all went away.
This time, the Time Master waits for him here. Leonard can see his figure on the platform where the device that harnessed the wellspring stood—stands. The man, who’d worn regular, if nondescript, clothing of the time while he’d held Leonard captive at the Time Bureau, is now back in the sort of robe he’d worn before.
And he’s watching Leonard approach with an expressionless face—but furious eyes.
Ah. It’s nice to know he’s managed to piss off the Time Bastard again. Leonard slows just a little, adding a touch of swagger, a smirk touching his lips. Racing heart or not, he’ll be damned if he’ll show anything other than insolence.
He halts at the far end of the bridge over to the device, studying Druce. Waits until the other man decides to speak...and then promptly beats him to it.
“Well,” he drawls, folding his arms, “seems we wound up here regardless.” He tilts his head. “Too bad it’s not gonna go the way you think it’s gonna go.”
The words appear to infuriate Druce even more—just as Leonard wants. His eyes flash, and he takes a few steps toward the other man, almost involuntarily. Leonard can now see the large knife in his hand. A killing weapon; a gutting one. Peachy.
“You…” Druce starts.
Leonard inspects his nails. “Yes,” he says curtly. “Me.” He lifts his eyes, then, letting ice fill them. “And I’m gonna win this time, too.”
His taunting is working. Druce’s face goes hard, rage spilling over into features and body language. He takes another few steps toward Leonard.
“You are nothing!” he cries at Leonard. “Do you know how old I am? What I have seen? I walked the streets of ancient Athͮenai; I have dined in the halls of the lords of the future. The man named Chrysós brought me forward from my homeland and I became his better. I…”
“Don’t care,” Leonard cuts in nonchalantly. (Though he’s kind of wondering about this “man named Chrysós.”) If Druce gets just a little closer, he’ll be able to get a hand on him and start this whole thing. “You’re still…”
Leonard’s heart contracts, mostly for Sara’s sake, but he doesn’t take his eyes off Druce. “Seriously?” he yells, however, at the sound of Ava Sharpe’s voice. “You’re using cold puns? At me?”
He can see the blond woman moving in from his left…and, then, the glint of light off the gun in her hand. Crap.
Druce smiles smugly. He’s still just a little too far away for Leonard to lunge for.
“Director Sharpe!” he says, raising his voice. “Excellent timing!” The tone dips as his eyes bore into Leonard’s, and he takes a step backward. “The release of energy should happen as close as possible to the device and the wellspring as possible. But I don’t have to be the one who kills him—as much as it would be gratifying.”
In his peripheral vision, Leonard sees Sharpe move closer. He takes a reluctant step out onto the bridge, toward Druce, who takes another step back too. Then Druce turns, moving closer to the center of the platform, trusting the bureau director with his back. He’s that sure of her.
Leonard hears Sharpe draw in a quiet breath, and he dares a swift glance at her. The bureau director’s face is still and thoughtful, and her demeanor isn’t nearly as committed to her course as he’d figured.
So…he rolls the dice. He transfers more of his attention to her, even as Druce raises his voice, saying something else. Sara had loved this woman—still does in a way, he’s sure of it. There’s got to be something there.
“Sure you wanna do this?” he says very quietly.
Her eyes flicker—and Leonard’s suddenly very sure he’s right. He gives Sharpe a tiny nod, and just like that, they’re on the same page.
“Sara truly was telling the truth,” Sharpe says quietly. “All of it.”
“Pretty sure she wouldn’t lie to you,” he says just as quietly. “Sara takes care of the people she cares about. She’s lost too many of them.”
Ava nods, as Druce, realizing something is happening, turns back toward them. And then, in a lightning-swift move, she shifts, turning the gun on Druce.
The Time Master’s jaw drops.
Leonard watches as he struggles with what’s just happened. The look on Druce’s face is priceless, disbelief and horror and anger warring with each other. Anger wins.
“You were supposed to be one of us!” he roars, spitting mad. “A Time Master! You idiot! You’ve thrown it all away!”
Sharpe retorts, but Leonard is suddenly hearing words spoken not so long ago.
Find a crack in what’s supposedly meant to happen.
Ava Sharpe had, after all, become a Time Master, in the way things went before. Now, she wouldn’t be one. Because of her own decision, her own choice--the things that all time turns on.
One little crack is all you need to start it.
“Do what you need to do,” Sharpe tells him, voice controlled. “I’ll make sure no one else interferes.”
There’s no more point in waiting. Leonard takes three swift steps toward the incensed Time Master, who’s still staring at Sharpe. And almost before Druce realizes it, Leonard grabs his arm. The other man tries to pull away, and it would be just a bit too easy to fall.
But Leonard closes his eyes, lets the temporal energy surge, and then twists.
When Leonard had worked his smaller time tricks back at the ship and outside Salvation, Sara hadn’t felt anything. John and Nora had said they could sense a flicker of some sort of energy, and Charlie had described a sort of unnerving feeling during some of the bigger surges of time. No one else had noticed.
But when something happens at the Vanishing Point, even as the Legends are still facing off with Druce’s people, everyone feels it.
Sara thinks it feels a little like the bottom dropping out of the world—or her stomach, maybe both. She stumbles, catching herself, even as things feel like they start to whirl around her. She hears her team cry out around her, and tries to look, but everything’s blurry.
And then it’s done.
Sara’s stomach tries to revolt, but she controls it, drawing in a steadying breath, grip tightening on her bo, and looks for the team. Predictably, it’s the more magical members of the group who’d felt the discharge of energy the most. Nora’s down, but Ray’s standing over her, ready to defend her. John looks a little worse for wear, but he’s on his feet—more or less. Charlie…well, Charlie’s on her hands and knees, throwing up.
And there’s one of Druce’s Time Bureau people headed right for her.
Sara yells, feeling like her voice echoes oddly, and runs toward her teammate even as Zari whirls and does the same. The man—someone named Ryder, Mick had said—glances her way, raising a weapon, and Sara crashes into him, grappling briefly before she disarms him and lays him out on the ground.
There’s a noise behind her, though, and she whirls, realizing belatedly that she’s still a little dizzy. The woman Liri Lee is right on top of her, and…
And then Lee goes flying, knocked away by the burst of some sort of energy. Like the stun guns the bureau agents sometimes use, Sara thinks…and then blinks at the person who’d wielded it.
“Need some help?” Gary Green grins at her, incongruous in his thick dark glasses and dark suit, there at the Vanishing Point.
“What?” Sara manages, glancing around. Gary’s not the only one. Other bureau agents—not the ones answering to Druce—are helping the Legends who’d been most affected by the time surge and facing the renegade bureau agents.
“We kinda stowed away,” Gary tells her. “Director Sharpe didn’t like that Druce picked all the people on the mother ship. I, uh, got a group of the ones she trusts most together.” He gives her a lopsided smile, obviously proud that he’s one of them. “Thought we might be needed.”
Hope rises in Sara’s heart. “And where is she?”
He glances toward the wellspring
When Snart had grabbed Druce’s arm, they’d both suddenly glowed with a blue light so bright that Ava had taken a few steps backward, lifting an arm to shield her eyes. Things seem to spin, and then she sees a surge of energy down in the wellspring channel below.
She has just enough time to worry about that—a scaled-down supernova, Druce had said—when the light freezes, sort of, flickering in place. Controlled and steady, she thinks dizzily.
Is Snart—the man who destroyed the Oculus—creating it after all? She can barely see their shapes in the radiant energy by the Oculus device.
It surges again. Ava closes her eyes.
When she opens them again, both men are gone. Vanished into the light.
It’s kind of nice to know that after all those years of developing concentration and attention to detail—first to spite Lewis by becoming a better crook, then because of his own pride and love of a challenge—it’s all coming back to help him now.
Leonard will admit that this is a far greater challenge than most, though. He has to use the temporal energy to keep himself, Druce, and the device and channel for the wellspring the only things that are hurtling back through time, or he could age the others here out of existence—which doesn’t bear thinking about. And Druce, once he gets over his stunned surprise at what Leonard’s doing, tries to take over, but Leonard mentally strongarms him away.
I’ll show you willpower, asshole.
And…there. So long ago. The moment the supernova was born, and a ship—a sphere?—hovers not so far away. Leonard wonders, but this is not a point when he can hesitate.
He takes a deep breath and…stops time.
The supernova fills the wellspring. The device glows. The Oculus exists once more.
And Leonard takes himself and Druce into the timestream itself.
It’s blue, all blue light and nothingness. They’re surrounded by it. Leonard, watching, see Druce’s eyes widen with…fear?...before the other man controls his expression.
“The Oculus,” the Time Master breathes. “You destroyed it…and then you created it. Symmetrical.” And then he chuckles, giving Leonard a knowing look that turns his stomach.
“Ah,” he says. “After all, you’re still the pragmatic one. And while I don’t know precisely how Ms. Sharpe’s…change of heart...will affect things now, there is room for one more member on the High Council. Is that what you want? Because…”
Leonard laughs in his face.
“Nope,” he tells Druce. “We’re just here to make sure you don’t find ways to do this again.” He pauses. “Someone called it ‘breaking the chain.’ Doesn’t matter if it happened before. It’s not happening again.”
The Time Master blinks at him, clearly surprised. “But it has happened,” he says fervently. “It must happen. Or you would not be here, I would not be there. Those so-called Legends, they would not be here. Time is a line…you may move back along it, or forward, but you can’t just split it off.”
Leonard thinks of “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff” and the web of Hypertime that Mary had described to them. “Nope,” he says again, folding his arms. “It stops here.”
Druce’s eyes narrow. “And how, Mr. Snart, do you presume to do that?”
Leonard smirks at him. “Not me,” he corrects. “Them.”
The blue light brightens. Druce puts a hand up, looking almost frightened again. Leonard watches as the light takes a vaguely humanoid form, and the very same feeling of presence he’d felt while trapped here before.
They’d tried to help him cope, then. He knows that now. And he’s pretty sure he knows why. He’s been in juvie or jail or prison plenty of times himself.
The timestream…Time Force…regards Druce, then glances back at Leonard, who nods to them.
“Go ahead,” he says. “He deserves it.” He looks back at the Time Master, smirking. He might be more or less a good guy now…but that doesn’t mean he has to be nice.
The other man stares at him. “But…you…”
Leonard’s smirk grows. “You’re the one that imprisoned them and used them,” he says, looking back at the humanoid Time Force. “I’m the one who freed them.” He pauses. The figure of blue light takes a step toward Druce, who tries to back away but can’t. “Which one of us do you think they feel kindlier toward?”
Druce looks like a man facing his worst nightmare. “But you created the Oculus!”
“Doesn’t mean it’s controlling anything this time around…or ever again.”
And then the Time Force reaches out and grabs Druce’s arm, much like Leonard had earlier. Light flares—and they both vanish. Leonard feels a surge of power as the other man’s own store of temporal energy goes back to where it came from.
It’s all rather anticlimactic, really.
Leonard lets out a long breath, then glances around, trying to work out how he’s going to get home. He has power here…maybe he always will…but that doesn’t mean he wants to stay. He’s spent enough of his life in the timestream.
He only wonders a moment, though. That’s when the light brightens…and a humanoid figure appears there again. This time, though, they’re choosing to appear much more lifelike.
Leonard smirks a little. “So,” he drawls, studying the Time Force’s chosen form, “is this a way of pissing off the competition in the realm of...hmm...humanoid personifications of abstract concepts? By borrowing the form of the other guy’s representative?”
The entity studying him in return looks just like Barry Allen, at the moment, although they’re wearing a blue suit instead of a red one, and their eyes are nothing but blue light. They don’t respond, but they don’t seem ill-disposed toward him. Fortunately.
“So,” Leonard tells them, driven for once to fill the silence, “the Oculus is still a thing. Or a thing again, I don’t know. But no one’s gonna be controlling you with it now.” He eyes the avatar. “I kind of get the impression you wouldn’t be as easy to control anyway, now that you’re more awake and aware.”
The Time Force studies him…and then smirks. It’s not quite an expression Leonard’s ever seen on Barry’s face before, although he’s pretty sure he’s seen it in the mirror. Then, the being reaches out and takes his hand.
And with the gesture comes a question, asked directly into his mind.
It’s all Leonard can do not to jerk his hand away.
“No,” he says firmly. “Sorry, but no. I have...a lot of things to do. A life to live. But I don’t want forever.”
The entity that had just offered him immortality in the role of their caretaker inclines their head. Then they tilt it inquiringly, another clear question.
“OK, there are a few things I wouldn’t mind changing,” Leonard concedes. “If you don’t mind.”
When the Time Force indicates that they don’t mind indeed, he carefully opens his mind and lets them see, getting a prompt affirmative. Then the avatar lifts their blue-light eyes to Leonard’s and smiles again, stepping closer, a clear suggestion in their posture.
Time to go home.
Well, since Allen’s now married, he might as well enjoy this while he has the chance. Leonard closes his eyes against the light as Time-Force Barry’s lips touch his, warm, soft, and crackling with energy.
And then he’s falling into that light, again.
Ava feels like she can still see the afterimage of the blast on the inside of her eyelids when she hears someone—Sara—calling her name. She turns, watching the other woman—and some of the other Legends, plus the familiar sight of Gary and her other most-trusted agents—running toward her.
She waits uneasily for them, but Sara doesn’t hesitate. When she reaches Ava, she pulls the bureau director into her arms, hugging her soundly, spinning her around until Ava’s breathless.
“Thank god you’re OK,” Sara says, staring at her. “You are OK?
“I’m fine, Sara, I’m fine.” Ava reassures her. She starts to speak, to explain her change of heart, to apologize for not listening before, but Sara’s looking at the center of the wellspring now, and her face is still. Frozen.
Before she can speak, though, Mick Rory reaches them, scanning the area, his face a study in conflicting emotions.
“Snart?” he barks. “Where is he?”
Ava spreads her hands out before her. “He vanished. He and Druce,” she says helplessly. “Neither one of them has reappeared, although that did.” She finally turns and studies the light in the wellspring and the device atop it. “They brought it back anyway. The Oculus device.”
“It’s not like it used to be,” Sara tells her quickly. “Or, at least, it won’t be if Leonard did what he planned to.” She studies it, biting her lip. “But…”
Her voice trails off. And Ava can’t think of a damned thing to say to her.
It’s obvious…at least Sara hopes it is…that Leonard had indeed broken the chain. They’re all still here, after all. They’ve won. And Druce is gone.
But Leonard is gone too.
Sara stares into the wellspring as if it holds answers. But it didn’t last time, when it was blowing up around her, and it doesn’t now. But what if…
She turns, holding her hand out to a startled Ava. “Can I borrow your time courier?” she asks urgently. “Maybe…maybe he’s stuck again. Maybe we can get him out.”
The other woman blinks at her. “Well, yes,” she says, starts to remove the device, “but…”
“Blondie, it’s not the same.”
“But we have to…”
They all turn, and Sara focuses on the figure at the entrance to the wellspring building. It’s Gideon, who’s been part of the Waverider during all this, now back in her humanoid android form.
Even from here, Sara can see her smile.
“You’re needed back on the ship!” the AI calls, amusement and relief in her tone. "There’s something there you need to see!”
Chapter 11: In a State of Grace
And there it is! I hope you enjoyed it. Many thanks to Pir8grl.
I may write (or have written) a few one-shot follow-ups. The first (did someone say CaptainCanaryBlazer?) will be posted tomorrow or Sunday.
Please note that I continued my own personal Mary Xavier headcanon. Forgive me the indulgence. ;)
Leonard Snart is groggy. More than groggy, really. He feels like he’s been dreaming a very long time, and while it’s been a pleasant dream—something to do with Barry Allen—he feels like he needs to wake up.
But he can’t seem to open his eyes.
He’s not particularly comfortable, though, he thinks, consciousness prodding at him. He’s sort of sprawling in a semi-upright position, and one leg’s falling asleep. He really needs to wake up.
There’s a warm breath by his ear, then, as if the wish is granted. An amused whisper of “Leonard…”
He knows that voice. Sara. Yeah, he doesn’t want to ignore Sara. Not only is he quite stupidly in love with her (easy to acknowledge that, in a dream), Sara has knives. Lots of sharp, pointy knives.
Leonard opens his eyes.
Sara’s watching him, standing very close, amusement and relief warring with something deeper in her gaze. She’s wearing her white uniform, and she’s obviously been in a fight, from the bruise on her cheekbone and the few scratches he sees. A fight…
And it all comes back to him.
“Are you all right?” he asks sharply, sitting up and staring at her, ignoring the vertigo. “Sara…did…”
Sara shakes her head, but not in a negative. She holds up a hand and starts ticking points off on it patiently. “Druce is, apparently, gone,” she says. “And we won. The part of the Time Bureau that went over to Druce is under arrest by the other part. Ava isn’t a Time Master after all.”
Leonard remembers. “She was supposed to be,” he murmurs. “She was before. She chose otherwise this time.”
Sara stops, staring at him. “What?” she asks faintly, then shakes her head. “Not now…anyway, the Oculus exists again, although no one’s quite sure how to use it to see anything—or if it can be used to change anything. And the Time Bureau is building an outpost here, but it will be on a rotation of sorts. And…”
She leans over, looking at him, eyes bright and smile just a little shadowed. Leonard blinks up at her, wondering, expecting some sort of confession and trying to decide if he should make his first.
“And you’re in my chair,”
He glances around, finally, registering that he’s sprawled in the captain’s chair on the Waverider bridge. Where, apparently, the Time Force had dropped him. Evidently it has a sense of humor.
“Um,” he manages, then attempts to regain his cool, smirking up at her. “Well, you did say you wanted me here.”
Sara’s eyes flash with laughter, but there’s a chorus of groans from the side, as well as a wolf whistle from what seems to be Charlie and the call of “too much information, Snart!” from a voice that’s clearly Mick’s. The other man moves closer as Leonard struggles to sit up a little more, and the two old friends study each other for a long moment before Mick grunts.
“Good work,” he says, turning away lest any feelings be aired. “You didn’t blow yourself up this time.”
“I didn’t blow myself up last time!” Leonard calls after him, getting flipped off in response. Between them, it’s nearly as good as a hug.
Better, maybe. Because it’s them.
Sara’s studying the rest of the peanut gallery with a mock scowl. “I thought I told all of you to wait outside,” she says, but with humor in her voice.
“Since when do we listen?” Nate calls out, and Nora giggles. Of all of them, Leonard thinks, she looks the worst for wear, a bit of a shiner about her eye and her arm in a sling—but even that’s not too bad. Raymond is hovering, clearly ready to defend her against all comers. Charlie’s leaning on Zari as if favoring a foot—although neither of them looks unhappy with the situation.
Sara makes a face at them and waits until they trail off the bridge, then turns back to Leonard, holding out a hand. He grabs it and lets her haul him to his feet—although he notes immediately that he’s not quite as creaky as he might have felt before.
And Sara notices…well, something, too. She studies him intently, eyes narrowed, as if to figure out if the Oculus did anything bad to him, and he smirks in return, waiting until he realizes she’s not going to say anything.
“I got the Time Force to take a few years off me—and do a few other things,” he tells her. “We’re a little closer now.” He shrugs. “It tried to offer me immortality, but frankly, I don’t want it.”
Sara blinks. “Ah,” she says faintly, “OK. Good.”
And then she reaches out, grabs his shirt, and pulls his lips down to hers.
When they finally make it off the ship and over to the bureau camp, Ava is standing there, lips pursed slightly, studying what seems to be a map. She tosses a smile their way, though, as Sara and Leonard approach
“Dr. Palmer and I found the old Oculus viewing chamber in the wreckage,” she says. “And we could indeed use it to see many things, past and present, though I think it’s going to need a lot of practice.” She shakes her head. “And it seems to have a mind of its own now. Quite recalcitrant.”
Both she and Sara look at Leonard, who smirks and folds his arms. “Think the Time Force got a little tired of being used,” he drawls. “Tracking history, that’s one thing. Manhandling it to suit yourself, that’s another. Time Masters thought they knew better than anyone else. They didn’t.”
Ava nods distractedly. “Well, no one’s changing anything except through old-fashioned legwork, I think.” She sighs, though she doesn’t seem unhappy. “Same as before.” She gives Sara a regretful glance. “Still. You’re sure you want to trust this to the bureau? To me?”
The doubt in her voice makes Sara’s heart hurt. Yes, Ava had been wrong about Druce, but she’d done the right thing in the end and she’d changed it all. She starts to tell her former lover that, but then another voice lifts, a voice that makes two of the three of them spin and stare.
“Well, you will have me.”’
Sara blinks. She and Ava glance at each other in disbelief, then look back at the brown-coated man who’s walking toward him, looking more like he had back in the first days of the Legends than the more uptight days of the bureau. There’s someone behind him, stopping to speak to another Time Bureau agent, but that seems extraneous when compared to a resurrected director/captain.
“Rip?” Sara asks faintly. “How…”
Something occurs to her, then, and she turns to stare at Leonard, who simply lifts both eyebrows at her.
“Mary gave me a lift,” Rip Hunter is saying as he reaches them. “Filled me in, too. I’ve been staying with Jonah since I had to run from Mallus.” He smiles at Sara. “I understand you lot weren’t even that far away for a time…but I needed a bit of a vacation.” He glances at Leonard. “Welcome back, Mr. Snart.”
Leonard nods to him, while Ava straightens formally after a moment of shock. “The bureau is yours again, director,” she says carefully. “I…”
“Oh, I don’t want it.” Rip beams at her, rubbing his hands together. “Not only do I not want to accidentally impress any more of the old ways of the Time Masters onto the new form of the Time Bureau, I find I much prefer…hmm…the freelancer lifestyle. But I know at least something of what we can do here.” He nods. “So, Director Sharpe, put me to work.”
Ava blinks at him, then directs him toward the Oculus viewing chamber, where Ray is studying the mechanism. But Sara’s suddenly registered a comment from earlier. “Mary,” she says quizzically. “Mary Xavier? But how did she get here?”
“Oh, you don’t think I marooned myself at the Refuge all the time, did you?” The person who’d been following Rip steps out around him as he turns, smiling at them. “No worries, the children are tended. But this is quite an amazing accomplishment, my dear Legends, and I thought congratulations were in order.” She studies Leonard a long moment, then nods. “Also, Mr. Snart, you made the right decision.” She glances at Ava. “As did you, Ms. Sharpe.”
Sara’s frowning, bothered in some way by the loose ends. “But how? Do you have a timeship?”
“Oh, I have means, dear.” Mary turns aside and toward the Waverider, where most of the other Legends are helping bureau members set up temporary buildings. She waves toward something at the other end of the site. “No worries.”
Sara squints at it, a little puzzled that she can’t quite seem to see it clearly. But it looks like a small building, not like any kind of ship she knows. “You traveled here in that? You and Rip?”
Mary’s started toward Mick and the others, but she turns back. “Oh, don’t worry about me, captain.” She winks. “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Leonard makes a strangled noise as she walks away, and Ava gulps. Sara glances at her in surprise, seeing the strangest expression on her ex’s face.
“If she asks me to travel with her,” Ava tell her fervently, “I’m going.”
What? Sara frowns at her. “You’re not usually into older women,” she says in puzzlement. “And travel?”
Leonard makes a sound of disbelief, then, and both he and Ava stare at Sara for a long moment, then look at each other with identical expressions of surprise.
Then Leonard, unexpectedly, laughs.
“Sara Lance’s type,” he mutters, smirking at Ava. “Badasses who are closet geeks.”
Sara’s not sure how Ava will take that, but the bureau director smiles a little. “You might have a point there,” she murmurs, glancing at Sara, who smiles back. They’re all right, then.
“Of course he does, love.” They all look around as John Constantine, accompanied by Gary, joins them. The warlock winks at them. “Geeks are the best. They have the most magnificent imaginations.”
Gary looks simultaneously delighted and ready to spontaneously combust, but John’s moving on. “I’m wondering if handsome here’s tricks with the time energy might have had any repercussions elsewhere, rattled any cages,” he says seriously, looking at Leonard. “Gonna head off for a bit and check it out.” He jerks his thumb at the scarlet Time Bureau agent and switches his gaze to Ava. “Can I borrow this one?”
Ava glances at Gary, then evidently decides the other agent does indeed want to be “borrowed.” She assents, and John gives them all a mock salute before turning on his heel and heading off, Gary trailing in his wake. Sara shakes her head.
“He’ll be back,” she says to Leonard. “He’d never say it, but I think John likes being a part of something.”
“Yes…” But Ava sounds a little uncertain and Sara raises her eyebrows. The bureau director sighs.
“I think I might have unintentionally poached a few of your team members,” she admits. “Again.”
Sara considers. “Nate?”
“He’s a historian, and the Oculus lets him study time in a whole new way. And Dr. Palmer is fascinated with the mechanism,” Ava tells her. “He’s already broached the subject of staying on and improving it.”
“And if Ray stays, Nora will stay,” Sara murmurs. Three more Legends gone, including an original. She glances at Leonard but decides not to ask…not yet.
“I didn’t mean to,” Ava tells her. “But…”
“But they’re grownups and this is the chance of a lifetime.” Sara smiles at her. “And now, I’m going to go tell Gideon that Rip’s back. I figure she should hear that from a friend.”
“Oh, god, yes.”
Leonard clears his throat. “I’d sorta like to see this viewing chamber myself,” he says diffidently. “Maybe I can persuade the Time Force to be a little less…recalcitrant.”
Ava gives him a slightly skeptical look but nods.
“All right,” she agrees. “Let me show you where it is.”
Sara watches those two pieces of her own personal history walk away, to all appearances getting along better than she’d ever dreamed, and turns back toward her ship, a smile on her lips.
Gideon’s reaction is…human. Very human. Sara, having delivered her news, watches the AI/android go from disbelief to skepticism to hope before she sets off to find her former captain, a woman on a mission.
Someone probably should have warned Rip, too, Sara thinks wryly. Perhaps Leonard will.
But probably not. It’s the least Rip deserves for letting them think he was dead. Sara may not fully be convinced that’s what had really happened, but apparently that’s what they’re pretending.
She’d made another promise earlier, though, and this seems like a good enough time to fulfill it. Sara puts a message through to STAR Labs in 2020 and waits for someone to pick up, wondering how Team Flash will react to the news of a resurrected nemesis.
But it’s not that resurrection that makes her jaw drop when someone finally appears on the viewscreen.
“Martin,” she breathes, hands tightening on the console. “How…”
Stein very clearly doesn’t seem to understand why Sara’s staring at him like she’s seen a ghost. He smiles at her, the lines at the corners of his eyes crinkling, looking just the same and very much alive.
Leonard had gotten the Oculus to “change a few things,” he’d said. Sara’s pretty sure, now, that she knows what at least two of them were.
“Captain Lance,” Stein says. “How good to hear from you! It’s been a while.” He pauses, then, taking in her expression. “Whatever is the matter?”
Sara closes her mouth abruptly. “Nothing,” she says, perhaps a bit hastily. “I just…I didn’t know you were there. At STAR Labs.”
Stein still eyes her as if wondering what’s going on. “Well, my recovery took a while,” he says slowly, watching her. “I’m not going to be running around pretending to be a space ranger again! Well, probably not. But while I’m enjoying retirement, I need to get out sometimes. Team Flash can use the help, and I’m not getting under Clarissa’s feet.”
Sara seizes on that. “And how is Clarissa?”
Stein beams at her. “Oh, very well. She’s finally talked me into a vacation, did I tell you that last time? The Bahamas. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.”
He frowns at that a moment, then continues. “And Lily and little Ronnie are well, too. He went right from walking to running! Jax has already bought him a toddler-sized football.”
Sara laughs. “And Jax? How is he?”
“He’s fine. Very much enjoying college.” Stein leans toward the screen confidentially. “I think there’s a young lady, actually. But I try not to pry. It’s difficult, given how long we knew so much of what the other was thinking.” He pauses, studying her again. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” Sara tells him. “Yes, I am. Very ‘all right.’” She smiles at him. “Would you pass along a message to Team Flash, especially Cisco?” At his assent, she continues. “Tell them...ask them to track down Lisa Snart.
“And to tell her that her brother, he’s back. Leonard Snart is alive.”
When Sara finally walks back outside, Leonard is sitting on the ramp leading into the Waverider, watching the scene in front of him. After a moment, Sara drops down next to him, scanning the view herself.
Ava is in her element, organizing and directing, her map of the Vanishing Point now spread out on a portable table, and she’s pointing out something to Mick, of all people, who doesn’t even look too irritated. Ray and Nate are standing there with them, arguing what seems to be good-naturedly about something. Nora is talking to…is that Mary?
There’s no sign of Zari and Charlie, and Sara makes a mental note of that in her near-constant tally of where her Legends are—though she suspects she knows. The adrenaline of battle can bring out all manner of previously ignored desires. But before she can mention it, Leonard speaks up.
“That gonna be a problem?” he asks, tone thoughtful as he gazes out at the buzz of activity. Sara looks too, but she’s not quite sure what he’s referring to.
This time, he points. Sara looks…and smiles a little as she sees where.
“I think you might have lost your ship,” Leonard says, nodding to where Gideon is talking avidly to Rip not so far away. The former captain looks rather befuddled, but neither can he take his eyes off her. And the AI, for her part, has a self-satisfied little smirk on her face.
“Oh, I think it’s fine.” Sara smirks as he lifts an eyebrow at her. “Gideon,” she says with satisfaction, “I’m pretty sure, has plans for Rip.”
Leonard blinks, then looks back at the pair. “Oh,” he says. “Plans.”
“Right. And it’s one thing to be an AI in a ship with a captain who’s your leader and commander...”
“And another to be a humanoid AI with free will who has every intention of jumping that former captain’s bones.” Leonard’s lips twitch. “You go, Gideon.”
“Right. So, I figure the Waverider is probably still the Legends’. Gideon’s one of us, after all, and Rip says he prefers more freedom at this point. And we can still visit the Vanishing Point and the Bureau...” Sara’s voice trails off.
She glances at Leonard, studying that slightly younger face. It’s not so much different, really. The hair’s a little darker, but apparently, he’d gone silver early anyway. There might be a few fewer lines. Maybe a few fewer scars.
“Is it ‘us?’” she asks abruptly, looking back at the Vanishing Point. “Is it ‘we?’” A beat. “Are you staying, Leonard? Are you part of this team again, for good?”
He’s silent long enough that she looks back, unable to wait any longer. But Leonard Snart, her confident, arrogant crook, is studying her with something uncertain in his eyes.
“As one of the team?” he asks, so quietly she can barely hear him.
What is he…
Then Sara laughs as she realizes what he’s getting at. Her crook isn’t quite as confident as he appears.
“I love you, Snart,” she tells him, wanting, needing, to have the words out there. “I want you to stay. I want you to be lover and teammate and partner. Is that enough?”
Leonard’s expression goes rapidly from caution to stunned silence to satisfaction to…to something Sara can’t quite define. “For now,” he tells her in a low voice, continuing before she can even wonder. “Quite a ship you have, captain. Permission to stay aboard?”
“Permanently?” Sara asks him archly, getting a smirk in return.
“Well,” Leonard drawls, looking thoughtful. “Wouldn’t mind a bit of a break for a bit.” He pauses. “I’d like to meet your sister…and your dad, if you don’t think that’d end in bloodshed.”
Sara stares at him, parsing the words, which just don’t seem to make sense. She’d told him about how Laurel and her father had died, she knows she did, but…
But she’d also talked to Stein and Rip not so long ago.
“How…” she says faintly.
“I don’t know exactly how—or why—the Time Force chose to grant my requests, just that it did.” Leonard’s looking at her out of the corner of his eye. “Shouldn’t be like anything else ever happened now, to them. Don’t know if we’ll remember. Might fade in time.”
“I don’t care. I don’t care! Len…” Sara can’t find the words.
So instead, she just leans over and kisses him. And he kisses her back, there at the Vanishing Point, where they’d kissed the first time, on the day when Sara had thought any hope of “me and you” was lost forever.
After a moment, Leonard breaks the kiss just long enough to mutter, “Sara?”
“Love you, too.”
I don't believe in destiny
Or the guiding hand of fate
I don't believe in forever
Or love as a mystical state
I don't believe in the stars or the planets
O r angels watching from above
But I believe there's a ghost of a chance
We can find someone to love
And make it last
“Ghost of a Chance,” Rush