Ava Sharpe loved her job. If she were being honest, it was almost 80% of the reason why she woke up every morning. She had found her love for pâtisserie when she was still a young girl, helping her mother out with their holiday food, pies, cookies and so on. As she grew, baking became a sort of a reprieve from how chaotic teenage life had been. The constancy of measurements and timing and temperatures had been a good way to give her mind a rest from the perils of self discovery.
So it had been quite natural for her to go to culinary school. Her father had been a little disappointed, hoping that she would still go into law school or even the Academy, to somehow follow in his footsteps as a big shot prosecutor. Ava could admit that it would go well with her set of skills: a good eye for detail, a need for following rules, and her willingness to adhere to hierarchies, but nothing could compare to the peace of mind and the happiness that filled her soul when she managed to make something that actually made people happy.
She enjoyed making people smile with her food, she enjoyed the appreciative hums and the comments and knowing that it was because she was just so good that she had gotten where she had. Culinary arts was a field that, in Ava’s view, the only way you could go forward was by talent and good, consistent work. So that’s what she did, and it proved to be right.
Which brings us back to how much Ava absolutely loved her job. She never thought she would enjoy being in the limelight, having very much been a “behind the scenes” kind of girl growing up, and yet, here she was, with an entire youtube show of her own. When Snack Remakes had been presented to her, The Waverider - a very traditional culinary publication - was looking to expand into the digital world. Ava had left culinary school four years prior and had accumulated a significant amount of experience around the country, but she still did not feel quite prepared enough to try for her ultimate dream - Paris. So going on this new adventure - helping them solidify their social media presence,- with a traditional magazine that already had a good name around the world, seemed like a great opportunity for her. She could get her name out there, become slightly bigger in the patisserie world and then take her shot. It was perfect.
That’s where her life was at, then, almost a year later. Her show was the most watched on the Waverider Channel, she had more than 300K followers on instagram, and she constantly received messages about how people were considering following a career in the culinary field after watching her show. The actual difference she was making on people’s lives even made up for the amount of stress and frustration she endured while shooting her show.
Snack Remakes was a show where Ava was tasked with remaking and improving popular snacks, anything from Ruffles to Kit Kats to sour gummies. It was an instant hit, and if her bosses were to be taken into consideration, there was one big reason why: it was entertaining to see Ava’s attempts, again and again. Ava thought it more humiliating than anything else, extremely frustrating and stressful, but apparently people related to her almost hitting her breaking point in every other episode.
Remaking these candies was honestly one of the hardest things she had to make so far in her career; nothing in culinary school had prepared her for it, and of course it hadn’t, she was a chef not a fucking food engineer. She had come to own twice the amount of books just so she could find different recipes for every step of every snack she had had to remake. Her lack of social life was finally showing itself to be a good thing, giving her enough time to research and come into every new show a bit more prepared. Which still didn’t stop her for spending 5 days trying to remake a stupid fucking candy that was basically sugar, corn syrup and a fuck ton of citric acid, how fucking hard could that be?
And still, here she was, end of day five of episode 30, finally having wrapped up the fucking hellish candy. She thanked God and whatever other deities there were for finally having a good enough product because she could already feel the defeat seeping into her bones, leaving her ready to give up. All she wanted now was to go home, drink her wine, take a nice bath, and take the next day off, before spending the following week in preparation for the next episode. But as she was putting all her things in her bag, draping her apron on the top hook at the back of the kitchen, her boss, Gideon Saffitz, rounded the corner and let out a relieved sigh upon seeing her.
“Oh, great, you’re here. I was afraid I was going to have to call you back in, Ms. Sharpe.”
It didn’t matter how many times Ava had tried to get the woman to call her by the first name, it never stuck. At this point she just accepted it as a quirk of her personality, which was pretty warm and mischievous, apart from addressing everyone by their last name.
“Is everything okay, Gideon?”
“Yes, of course. I just thought that maybe you had forgotten about the staff meeting we are holding in about 20 minutes, since you were getting ready to head out.”
Shit. She had forgotten. That’s what happens when you spend 5 fucking days trying to make fucking stupid sour candy. She was gonna have nightmares about them for at least another week.
She just followed Gideon to the top floor, where the meeting was being held, in one of their fancy open concept conference rooms. The first time she had come to the top floors - the office floors -, where the magazine was written and all the decisions were made, she thought she wouldn’t mind working there either. Not forever, but a good editing position couldn’t hurt her plans. She knew she was their most senior chef from the channel, so she hoped that her hard work would be enough to earn her that.
As they entered the conference room, however, all thoughts of promotions, editing positions, and future fled from her mind. All her colleagues - Nate Heywood, Nora Darhk, Ray Palmer, Mona Wu and Gary Green were in the room. Both her bosses, Gideon and Rip Hunter, were there, as well as the entire staff that worked on the channel, plus four other people Ava had never seen.
She felt her body freeze over. Were they all being fired? She had come to develop a very special relationship with every single one of her colleagues. Of course, there were some she liked more, like Nora and Nate, who at this point were probably her best friends, and some she liked less, like Gary who got on her last nerve with his whole puppy dog thing he had going on, following them all around, wanting her approval on every single one of his dishes. She kind of understood it, he and Mona had just left culinary school after all, and this was their first job as chefs. But really, the boy better get himself together before she told him off on air.
If Ava were being honest, however, she didn’t even want Gary to be fired. Even he didn’t deserve it. So she stood very still in the corner of the room, waiting for the worst.
Oh this was going to be bad. “Legends” was a group name Gideon and Rip had come up with to give them a sense of unity on the camping trip they all did together back when the channel first started, for bonding, or so they said. Ava thought it kind of silly, but at this point she had come to associate it with news, of any sort. Gideon only took it out when she had to make group announcements, and in this case, anything that Ava’s mind could come up with was bad, bad, bad.
No one answered, so Gideon just kept on going as if she had never even expected a response from them in the first place.
“As you all know, the Waverider Channel has just hit 2 million subscribers-”
Before she could continue the whole room exploded in claps and noises. Nate next to her kept whooping nonstop. She couldn’t help but smile and feel the pride swelling inside her chest. Maybe this wouldn’t be that bad.
Gideon continued once the noises died down, a few seconds later.
“We hit 2 million subscribers and we are almost at the one year anniversary of the channel, so we thought this was the perfect moment for us to expand our brand and bring in new chefs and new shows to the channel. This will bring us to a total of 9 chefs and 10 shows, with one of the new shows, or more like a segment, being a more variety-based one, where most of you will participate. We will have another meeting in the following weeks with each of the new chefs to talk about their new shows and with all of you to settle the details about the new variety segment. Ms. Sharpe, Ms. Darhk, Ms. Wu, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Heywood and Mr. Green will continue with their shows as scheduled.”
The room was in complete silence, but the nervous energy everyone was feeling could be cut with a knife. The excitement was threatening to take over everyone. All of Ava’s earlier tiredness was forgotten as she finally let go of the last threads of the uneasiness she had been feeling prior. Their effort was paying off. Their little project was growing, and she was growing with it.
“Well then, without further ado, let me present you with the new faces to our channel: Sara Lance, Zari Tomaz, Charlie Parker, and Mick Rory.”
The room erupted in claps and sounds of all types again. Ava finally took a good look at the four of them standing off to the in front of the room. She locked eyes with the blonde woman for a second, but quickly looked away, feeling a little burned by the intensity of the way the woman was looking back at her.
Maybe this was going to turn out to be really a good thing.
They had all decided to go out for a drink afterwards. Nate’s idea, obviously. To bond and get to know the new guys better, he had said, but Ava knew for sure that he was more likely eyeing the three women as he went up to them. Joke’s on him, really, because Ava was pretty sure two of them were into each other. She just didn’t really know about the blonde. Sara Lance, or something.
The other new girls were really nice. Tomaz seemed a bit withdrawn at first, only really talking to Charlie and Sara Lance, but as the night went on, she let her slightly dark humor peek through and Ava really could appreciate that. Charlie - she kept insisting being only called by her first name - was pleasant enough, she seemed to be good with just chiming in when she thought the conversation suited her. Mick Rory didn’t utter a word after they sat down, just drinking beer after beer quicker than any of them could due to the flowing conversation.
Sara Lance was another story. She couldn’t quite figure the woman out. One minute she seemed to be hitting on Ava and the next, she was making some crude joke with the men. It was a bit off-putting, to say the least. She kept talking to Ava in this slightly suggestive tone that made Nate snicker and Ray’s ears turn red, and she was doing everything she could to not give them both what Nate had already named her boss bitch glare, or something to that extent. She tried to ignore the way Lance kept talking to her, especially the way it made her insides warm up a little. For all the comments the woman was making with the guys, Sara Lance was a player, and one thing Ava Sharpe did not do was play with her own heart. She certainly found the woman attractive, but that was as far as she would let that thought go. She was better off staying away from her, she was certain.
Overall, though, they seemed to have a nice group there. The night was just chill enough and they all seemed to click in a weird way, with such distinct personalities and still fitting right in. Well, except for the fact that she was trying damn hard to shut Sara Lance out. The woman was charming, she had a nice smile, and she was very beautiful - Ava had eyes after all. But her abrasive personality and fuckboy attitude underneath it all clashed with hers in a way she wasn’t prepared for.
They seemed to be the extreme opposite of one another. For starters, Lance was a self described “free spirit”. Ava loved for things to have a certain order. She not only loved it, she needed it. Ava was a perfectionist, if her 2 day limit for each snack remake turning into 5 plus every episode was anything to go by, and the other woman seemed to be good with just doing “good enough”, as her comments throughout the night on the contents of the channel and on her cooking skills showed Ava. Worse: Sara Lance was a dog person, and Ava Sharpe was a cat person. Sure, they also had some similarities it seemed, like very strong personalities and a dislike for white chocolate, but, if anything, that was a recipe for even more confrontation.
Ava was so relieved they each had their own show as she was sure she wouldn’t have to deal with the woman much because, otherwise, they were going to clash so much that it’d for sure be a disaster. Or something else , her mind supplied, and she quickly ignored that train of thought.
They were sitting right in front of each other, and as much as Ava tried to stay away from talking to the woman, more often than not, Sara Lance kept trying to make “small talk” with her.
“So, Ava, are you single?”
Ava had to stop herself from choking on her own drink.
“I don’t know how that is appropriate, Lance, we are work colleagues now.”
“Just asking. I mean, you are a beautiful woman, an almost celebrity or something-” Ava could hear Nate’s snickering at her side already. She elbowed him under the table. “- I’m guessing you have a bunch of guys following after you or something like that.”
It was Ava’s turn to snicker. “I’m not really the “guy” kind.”
The smile Sara Lance threw her way was a bit disarming, leaving her stunned for a second. Their eyes locked on each other for the next few breaths till Lance lowered hers to her drink, sipping her beer. Ava shook her head, letting go of whatever was clouding her thoughts.
She ignored Sara Lance for the rest of the night, and clutched more tightly than before to all the reasons she had to dislike the woman and think that they would never, ever work well with each other.
She didn’t see any of the new chefs for the following week.
Her free day was spent mostly at home, watching some new true crime show on Netflix to get her monthly fix and ate only take out or vegetables and fruits as snacks. She refused to touch the stove at all on that day, she just wanted to rest for a bit. It was good that she did because the next day when she came in to start planning the following episode with her staff, she felt good as new.
The planning days were mostly spent on the office floors, with her and the staff searching what snacks the public wanted the most, planning her social media posts, what she was going to cook these days in between. She heard from one of the staff members that all the new people’s shows had started shooting already, and she realized that they probably had already been working this out for a while, if they started right away.
The one year anniversary of The Waverider Channel was in a couple of months, which also made sense for the buzz and the speed in which they were trying to fit the new people in. On the third day of preparations, she got an email for the meeting about the new variety show. It was going to be some silly games, like everyone figuring out what sort of cheese they were trying while blindfolded, differentiating chocolates while blindfolded, everyone showing their own specialty, and so on. Or at least that’s what the email said, she was sure she would know more about it next Friday.
Said Friday arrived, and Ava could not stop feeling a little giddy. Not only for the meeting, because even though she kind of disliked the variety idea, feeling like it might be a bit too much on the entertainment side and not on the educational side - which was what she was usually shooting for with her show -, she was excited to show her skills a bit more; but also because she was starting her new episode shooting: Twix.
She didn’t want to say it was going to be easy because it never was. She had learned early on that every time she promised that she would for sure be done in two days, she more often than not almost turned it into a week ordeal. So she just set herself to do her best . And her best was usually damn fucking good , if she said so.
Ava greeted both Nate and Ray that were on different counters in the kitchen, working, as she walked in. They barely looked up at her, and she just smiled and went to her own space. She loved this atmosphere of concentration and work that was usually around the Waverider kitchen, when each of them was working on their own shows or projects.
Nate’s show, called Heyworld, was of him travelling around the country and showing different cooking techniques and things related to the culinary field, anything from how to make a knife to how to make kombucha, which was what he was currently checking up on in the back counter.
Ray remade dishes from well known chefs without ever looking at them, just by taste, touch and smell. It was extremely entertaining, if Ava said so herself, and also extremely educational, because Ray had this whole section where he went by every step of everything he was making explaining it to everyone, how he builds layers of flavors, how to properly cut up food and so on. That, and the fact that Ray has an amazing smile. He is probably one of the most positive and likeable guys Ava has ever seen, and she still was kind of amazed every time she saw him and Nora together, because they were such opposites: her with the whole dark and gloomy thing she had going on and him with his sunny personality, and still, they worked so well. That’s what love is, she thought every single time.
She waited, sitting on a stool in front of her worktop, while Helena, her producer, was fixing up the cameras and the lighting and Ray was finishing his shooting for the day. She started putting on her own microphone and fixing it in her clothes to hide it, putting aside the 10 boxes of different types of twix that were standing in front of her so she could bring it in once the show started shooting, when she heard the distinctive voice behind her.
“Bye Ray! Hey Nate, how is that kombucha coming along?”
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Sara Lance being there meant that chances were high they would end up interacting. They would end up somehow having to talk to each other, and this was exactly what Ava was trying to avoid. She tried to search her mind for any sort of excuse she could use to not have the woman on her show when she realized that Helena had already been calling her for 10 whole seconds to start the episode. She shook her head and put on her best smile Show time.
“Hey everyone! This is Ava. We are in the Waverider Kitchen, and today, we are making-” she held up one of the boxes “Twix!”
If the hairs on the back of her neck standing up were anything to go by, the woman was standing off to the side, watching her. Ava hoped her smile didn’t look too forced because it certainly felt like it.
And apparently it was, because Helena made her redo her entrance twice, until she felt it really couldn’t get any better.
“You really good to go on, Ava?”
“Yeah, sure, Lena, don’t worry.”
Helena looked at her with the strangest look, and Ava suddenly felt like looking anywhere in the room but at her. The woman knew her a little bit too well.
When she first joined the Waverider Channel, Helena had right away been paired with her to produce her show. The two of them hit it off right away: they had a similar personality, both hardworking type A’s, so working together was easy. But soon things grew into more than just a work relationship, and before Ava knew it, they were slowly inching towards a romantic one. She should’ve seen it coming, really, with the late hours, the confiding and the weekend dinners. They had both been lonely and at a similar point in their career, so Ava really just needed a friend, and Helena was that for her. The sex had been nice too, she couldn’t complain about that as well. But even with all their similarities, soon they both realized they were not the right people for each other. At first Ava had felt slightly wounded when the subject had been broached by the other woman, but soon she realized Helena was right. They wanted different things out of life and were way too similar to actually help each other grow in their relationship. So they stayed friends, and now, Ava really didn’t know if she would’ve managed to keep pursuing her career goals if it wasn’t for Helena, Nora, and Nate and all the help they gave her through the year in the Waverider Kitchen.
She knew she was going to get the interrogation of the year from Helena later, but right now she needed to focus.
Helena looked a little suspicious, and then said “call in the new girl, ask her about the twix.”
Ava knew this was coming. It was always a part of her show to invite some of the other chefs, or even some people from the administrative floor to help her out with whatever she was making - giving her tips, their view on the certain snack, and how she could make the snack better. So, with Sara Lance being there, obviously she would somehow make it into that segment.
She wanted to ask for someone else to come in, but Ava knew that the moment she did that, Helena would never let her live it down. So she sucked it up, turned around and smiled.
“Hey, Lance. Wanna come in here and help me out with my show?”
Sara Lance looked up from where she was hunched over the kombucha bottle with Nate, finding Ava’s eyes and raising an eyebrow.
“Are you sure, Sharpe?”
Ava made her smile a lot bit bigger, hoping it didn’t look as fake as it felt to her.
“Of course, what better way to integrate the new chefs than this?”
Sara Lance smiled and made her way to Ava’s workstation. Helena gave the signal and started rolling as soon as the other woman got close.
“So, twix, huh? How do you think that will work out for you, Sharpe?”
Ava narrowed her eyes. She knew she was being baited but she couldn’t help and rise to the challenge anyways.
“I think it’ll be perfect, Lance. Tempering some chocolate, adding caramel and making a cookie doesn’t sound so hard for a seasoned chef.”
Behind the camera, Helena raised her eyebrows at the tone Ava was taking. She wasn’t one to usually talk to people like that.
“Well, then I’m sure you won’t mind if I stay and watch this amazing seasoned chef do her work, right?”
Oh no. The dread started going up Ava’s spine and she looked at Helena, hoping for a way out. The other woman, however, just smiled and signaled for Ava to keep going.
Ava swallowed dry and tried to keep going through the script she usually went through with whoever was on the show.
"So, Lance, what do you think can be made better on a twix?"
Sara snickered. "Twix is like the perfect snack, the balance between crunchiness, caramel goodness and chocolate silky feeling is just perfect. There's absolutely no way you can improve on that, Sharpe."
Oh hell no.
“Is that a challenge?”
Sara stepped closer to Ava and she refused to give in and step back. Instead, Ava squared her shoulders. With the almost 4 inches she had on the woman in front of her, she thought she did a very good job of looking intimidating.
Sara Lance, however, didn’t seem phased at all. In fact, her smile only grew.
“It’s not a challenge at all, Sharpe, I’m saying you couldn’t do it. We can’t improve upon perfection.”
How dare she? How dare she come here, into her own show and insult her like that? Ava had years of experience, probably was way more qualified than Sara Lance ever was, she had studied in one of the best culinary schools in the country, and here came this woman telling her she couldn’t improve on a simple snack?
An industrialized, poor excuse for good chocolate, if Ava had any say in it.
Ava took a step back, straightened up and looked down at Sara, raising an eyebrow.
“Watch and learn, Lance.”
Sara let out a striking, free laugh, as Ava turned to her work station, eyes burning with rage, as she got down to work.
She would prove to this nobody that she was really fucking good at her job.
So that was how it started.
For the next three days (every time Sara Lance brought up how she had passed her self-proclaimed 2 day deadline that day all she managed to do was bring new, boiling anger to Ava’s stomach) she dove head first into making the perfect cookie, the perfect caramel, the perfect chocolate.
It took her a whole fucking day just for the cookie.
Another just for the caramel.
It was as if the cooking gods were looking down on Ava and trying to mess with her. She had never, in her whole career taken this long to perfect a simple cookie.
Ava refused to believe it had anything to do with Sara fucking Lance and the fact that she had stopped every day during shooting, for at least ten minutes to just watch Ava and sometimes make a quip or two about what Ava was doing.
She did not need Sara Lance’s opinion on how to make a fucking cookie, for fuck’s sake. Or her standing a little too close to be completely hygienic for food making. Who stood right beside a chef while they were cutting things? Sara Lance, apparently, because she made sure to have her leg pressed against Ava’s or have her hand brush the low of Ava’s back when she passed her. It all made Ava dislike her even more. It did not, in any way, make her flustered or unfocused.
She couldn’t figure out the other woman’s angle. At the moment she was leaning towards the idea that Sara Lance wanted the easiest way to get to the top of the Waverider ladder. And what better way to do that than to hitch a ride on the channel’s current most popular show?
Yes, that was the only sensible explanation for the woman to act like she was trying to sabotage Ava at every turn.
The moment she came to that conclusion, however, new waves of anger filled her. She couldn’t believe the gall of the woman. If there was one thing Ava hated, it was being taken advantage of. If the woman was going to do everything in her power to get to the top, she was not going to drag Ava down for it or smear her name on the way.
With that in mind, Ava came to her fourth day of Twix making on the Waverider Test Kitchen with renewed purpose and renewed anger. She was going to kill this and no one was going to use her hard work as a stepping stone.
Ava had already devised a plan: She would get there, do her job, and ignore Sara Lance as much as she could. If she arrived early enough, she was sure she could avoid the woman. Ava had no idea when she worked, but so far she had never seen her shoot one second of her supposed show. Maybe they had hired her just to mess Ava up. Or something.
She had also already perfected the cookie, the caramel and managed to find how to get the two to stay put on top of each other, so all she needed was to temper some chocolate and she was good to go.
The moment she stepped into the kitchen, though, she realized the woman she was trying to avoid like the fucking plague was already there shooting her fucking show. Fuck.
How the woman managed to be everywhere Ava was, she had no idea. She sometimes worried that she was being followed or that everyone on the Waverider was trying to play a trick on her, because there was no way that today, of all days, was going to be the day that Sara Lance was going to start shooting.
Ava gritted her teeth and tried to walk as quietly as possible behind the cameras to make her way to her own workstation without the other woman seeing her. Fortunately for her, it worked, and she wasn’t bothered by the other woman at all, except for the unpleasant buzz of her voice on the background for the first few hours of her work day. Soon, however, the voice was gone, as Ava got completely engrossed by her tasks, and the rest of the day seemed to go exactly as planned.
Except for the fact that the chocolate wouldn’t temper, no matter what. Ava was on her fifth try and she had no idea what the fuck she was doing wrong. She had done the same process more than a hundred times before, had been famed in her family gatherings for her chocolate covered cookies, and now, suddenly, she couldn’t do it?
She was about to throw the pot she was using against the wall when she heard a low chuckle beside her.
“Not a good time, Lance.”
“I was just going to say… You saw the sign about how some of the thermometers are broken right?”
That got her attention.
Ava didn’t even look up from the completely ruined chocolate, but she could feel herself getting even more angry. She was not even sure at whom it was directed now.
“The one right above the thermometer drawer, in the pantry?”
She took a deep breath and went straight to the backroom pantry and, sure enough, there was a huge sign that said some of the thermometers were broken, but Gary had mixed them all up so they were going by elimination at which ones weren’t working, so whoever used them next had to watch out for that. How had she not seen that?
She knew how. She had let her work station prepared for today the day before already, which meant that Gary had probably been trying to clean it all up (again) and messed it all up (again, it was the third time this month and everyone had asked him to stop).
Ava didn’t know who she felt like killing more, herself or Gary.
As she got back to her work station with all the thermometers, and saw Sara’s smug face, however, she decided that killing Sara Lance had to be the perfect answer to all her problems.
“You know, a thank you for stopping you from continuing making a fool of yourself, even though it was kinda hilarious, would be nice.”
“You better get out now or I won’t answer for my actions, Lance.”
When Ava turned around to shoot the other woman her best murderous stare, she was already gone.
Much to Ava’s chagrin, the shooting of the following two episodes worked pretty much the same way, with Sara Lance bothering her nonstop. The worst part was that Helena seemed to take a liking to the woman, if the fact that she always made her and Ava interact whenever they were around each other with a camera rolling, was anything to go by.
Today, apparently, was one of the days Helena was feeling cheeky. Ava could tell by the way she smiled as soon as someone entered the kitchen. Ava, being halfway through talking about the process of flavoring each one of her M&M’s, recognized it as a smile that Helena reserved only for one thing: making Ava suffer through another hour of Sara Lance.
She called Sara over with a wave, and Ava acted as if she couldn’t feel her day get worse by the second.
“So, Ava,” Sara fucking Lance said, with the ridiculous tone she started taking every time she talked to Ava lately. It drove her insane, especially because it did this thing to her insides that she tried so hard to ignore, which she knew was what the other woman wanted. To mess with her head, to throw her off her game. “How are those M&M’s coming along? You’re already a day late, Miss Hot Cakes.”
Ava groaned. “I already asked Rory to stop calling me that, do I gotta deal with that sh- stuff from you too, Lance?”
“Not our fault you are a one dish kind of woman for Legends weekly breakfast, Ava.”
Sara stepped close to Ava, who only stepped away from her and kept on mixing the ingredients for the sugar coating of the treats. She had been doing that more and more, as well.
“You’re trying to change the subject, Aves, how is the chocolate goodness coming along?”
When she finished speaking, the woman leaned over Ava, her chest touching Ava’s arm, as she reached for one of the drying M&M’s on the other side of the table. Ava forced herself to stand still, even though she forgot for a second what she was even doing.
When Sara came back up, with a huge grin on her face, Ava knew the woman realized how she had affected her. She only hoped her cheeks weren’t reddening. She could not let Sara Lance win.
Ava took a deep breath.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but this coating is taking slightly more time than I was expecting to perfect it.”
Sara frowned and looked back down at the chocolate on the other side of the table.
“The one I just ate seemed to have a good enough coating, though.”
“Of course for your clearly not properly trained eyes they look good, but if you paid attention to anything around you, you’d see they’re not evenly coated.”
The other woman’s laugh at that was way bigger than Ava expected. Did she look like a fucking clown to her? Sara Lance was laughing at her face about her poor job on making a simple sugar coating like she had no other care in the world.
God , how did that woman manage to be this annoying? Ava couldn’t stand being five seconds around her. And in those five seconds the woman would, always, somehow manage to either make some ridiculous innuendo or insult Ava somehow. Or worse, both.
And she seriously couldn’t get what Sara Lance’s fucking problem was. She didn’t treat anyone else like that. She asked Nora about it on their last mandatory work breakfast - that Lance had taken to calling Legends’ Breakfast -, their weekly breakfast meeting with all the chefs and their bosses, to discuss how the shows were faring and how the week’s schedule would go, and in which all of them had to bring a dish. Nora had just made this weird face when looking at her, and told her that no, Sara Lance, did not, in fact, treat anyone else that way.
That had made Ava even more annoyed at the woman, because it clearly meant that the woman was targeting her with that harrassment. Snack Remakes continued to be on a steady rise, gaining more followers and subscribers every week, so Ava kind of understood the appeal.
She was brought back to the present when Sara let out a breath.
“You know, if you look at me any harder I might catch on fire. And that’s not really the kind of spark I want between us, Aves.”
“Don’t fucking call me that either, Lance.”
Ava completely ignored the “no swearing in front of the cameras” rule that moment, but before she could say anything else, or even wonder what Sara Lance meant, the woman had already left, the only thing trailing behind her was the sound of another laugh, and a seething Ava.
Almost a month and a half to the day of when the new chefs arrived on the channel, Sara Lance did the one thing Ava would never forgive her for: she turned Ava into an internet meme.
Ava almost never saw Sara shooting her show, which had only one episode out so far, being in the process of shooting the second one. She was not about to admit that she had, in fact, watched the entirety of the first episode and found the concept to be quite a good one: in each episode, Sara Lance would make a chef-worthy dish with a maximum of five components that everyone could find at their own place, with the ingredients being chosen by the viewers. It was quite educational, even fascinating, but the first episode had been quite simple: some vegetables and pasta. Any idiot could do that.
She might, however, have been, kind of excited for the next episode when she saw its ingredient list. And by excited she actually meant that she 100% thought Sara Lance was going to fail that one- there was no way she could make something with mustard and asparagus somehow taste good. And if there was something that Sara Lance could use, it was a blow to her huge ego.
Ava brought her computer over to her workstation and fixed it up so she had a privileged view of Sara Lance at the stove on the other side of the room, but still could keep up the pretense of working. She was not going to give the woman the satisfaction of knowing she was watching, especially because she knew that would become ammunition for endless rounds of teasing by Sara and also by pretty much the entire crew and all the other chefs, who had apparently all taken after Sara Lance in teasing her.
Ava hated it, it almost seemed like the woman had managed to infect her perfect work place. It wasn’t the place she only had to worry about being frustrated over food - and Gary sometimes -, no, now it was almost a battlefield. Everyday she was dreading coming to the kitchen and hearing Sara Lance’s grating voice, and the easy laughs everyone had at Ava’s expense. She wasn’t proud of it, but she may have yelled one day at everyone to fucking stop with the jokes, after they all kept making snide remarks even when Sara wasn’t around. At least, they all calmed down after it. So, she had every intention of watching Sara Lance’s downfall, and she was going to revel in it.
After getting a bottle of water, she opened up an Excel spreadsheet where she kept all the information stored for the next episodes - which snacks had already been done, which ones they were considering and an entire categorization for difficulty level -, and settled down for the time of her life.
As the minutes passed however, Ava came to the conclusion that she might have been slightly off the mark about the woman. She moved elegantly around the kitchen, her knife skills were probably the best ones between them all - after her own, of course -, and she was actually quite good at cleaning after herself. She wasn’t as disorganized as Ava thought she would be, her workstation was spotless from beginning to end. The ingredients were taken care of perfectly, and if Ava didn’t know any better, she’d say Sara Lance had selected the items, instead of being challenged to do something worthy with them.
And what was even worse, the smell that was coming over from whatever it was that she was cooking wasn’t all that unpleasant.
Ava couldn’t believe that Sara Lance was going to one up her on this one too. She refused to believe it. Ava refused to believe that after making her life a living hell, the woman still got to be good, that there was no karma coming for her, that she could just be somehow good at everything, and Ava would always be the one to pay.
Focusing on her work again and trying her best to ignore the nauseating mix of frustration, annoyance and anger she felt in her gut, she decided that if it wasn’t to see the woman fail, she could very well see the episode once it came out. Ava started color coding all the information on her spreadsheet, something she had been meaning to do for a couple of weeks now but never had gotten around to. She got so completely lost in the work that it wasn’t until a couple of hours later, that she finally looked up.
And she would’ve just stayed there longer if it wasn’t for the fact that Sara Lance, the woman of her nightmares, was calling her over.
“Come on, the least you can do since you’ve been spying on me for three hours now, is to taste my food.”
“For your information, Lance, I only paid any attention to you for maybe 10 minutes. I got better things to do with my life than watch your evidently incompetent work.”
“Jeez, Aves, just come over and try it. Then you can berate me with some proof.”
That, at least, made sense.
Ava made her way to the other woman’s work station.
“Stop calling me that. You know I hate it when you call me that.”
“Sure Aves, whatever you say.” Sara Lance said, looking her in the eyes and raising a fork with a bite of some risotto she had managed to somehow whip out to Ava.
She closed her mouth around it without a thought, closing her eyes too as soon as the rice hit her tongue.
The next second however, her eyes opened so much they almost popped out of her head.
It tasted absolutely delicious.
If she was being honest, it was probably one of the best things she had ever tasted. Not only had she never even thought that doing something this good was a possibility with that ingredient list, she couldn’t believe that someone with such a terrible personality could be this good at cooking.
Cooking was something you did out of love, something you did with passion and heart and to make others feel things and experience happiness. Ava couldn’t fathom how someone who could only give her the worst experiences she had in a while managed to make something this exquisite.
And apparently, it all showed in her face, cause the smile that lit up Sara’s face could power an entire city.
“I take it you approve?”
Ava could only nod.
“Not bad, Lance, not bad at all.”
She went back over to get her computer and leave as Sara finished up her episode. Not for the first time since they met, Ava left the presence of the woman with a deep sense of confusion, but what was new, however, was the begrudging admiration.
That was, until Gary stopped her in the hallway a week later, a day after the second episode of The Lance Challenge went on air, to show her how she had suddenly become a widespread internet meme.
It was pages and pages of her face, eyes wide open with the fork in her mouth, looking like she had just had the realization of a lifetime, and several different captions.
Now not only was she made fun of by their entire staff, she was also made fun of by the entire internet.
She was going to kill Sara Lance.
Ava was nursing her third glass of champagne, and the party had barely started. She should’ve known it was going to be like this: if her colleagues couldn’t keep it professional in their day to day life, why would she expect that they would suddenly become upstanding coworkers when alcohol was involved?
She sighed and looked around the room.
The party was already in full swing. Gideon had rented an entire floor of a hotel for the event. Ava thought it was extremely extravagant and unnecessary, but then again, from what she gathered, business was going extremely well, the channel was growing, the revenue generated from it had an almost 30% increase a month and the written publication was becoming even more well known than it already was. Things were going well, so she guessed showing off came with the territory.
But the size of the event also meant lots of photographers, being constantly on edge, and policing her every action. She should’ve been used to it by now, having to spend almost 6 hours per day every other week in front of a camera, but that was all edited and she had some control over how her image was going to be seen there. With outside parties, she had none. Which was why the way the crew seemed to be back to teasing her was extremely annoying.
She had spent the better part of the party so far with Nora and Ray, but the side looks Nora kept throwing her every time Ava snickered at any of the jokes that even remotely involved Sara Lance were starting to annoy her, so she repositioned herself beside the hors d'oeuvres, just waiting for it to be an acceptable time to leave. She turned around to look again at the Legends. All of them were there, chatting animatedly on the other side of the room, except for Gary who was currently incapacitated after a kitchen accident, so he didn’t manage to come. She knew she needed at least another glass of champagne to go back there and deal with their recent attitude , but she also couldn’t handle being photographed or have a video of her out there on the internet drunk, not after the whole meme fiasco.
So she stayed slowly nursing her champagne, waiting for something, anything, to happen so she could distract herself.
“Hey, are you ok?”
Unfortunately , her prayers were answered.
“What do you want, Lance?”
“I think I made that pretty clear when I asked if you were ok. You look kinda gloomy.”
Ava raised an eyebrow, finally turning to look at the other woman who was leaning against the table, way closer to Ava than she was comfortable with. She sighed.
“Fine, if you wanna know, I could use a bit more alcohol in me, but I also don’t want to lose control when there’s actual photographers and all that here.
The other woman nodded and turned to look at the front of the room.
“I feel that. Could use a good bottle of scotch myself.”
Huh. An entire exchange that felt almost normal, that was new between the two of them. Lots of new things had been happening since Sara Lance started working with her.
And what problem did the other woman have to make her want to drink, anyways? Everyone on the Waverider loved her. She had special jokes with pretty much everyone on the crew, all the Legends loved her, her show was growing, slowly but surely, and her personal life seemed to have no problems, as far as Ava gathered. So what did she have to drink for, really?
Before their conversation could continue, however, Gideon’s voice sounded from the front of the room.
“Hello, everyone. First of all, I want to thank you all for coming. We all know how much we’ve prepared for this day, how much we fought to be here. And everyone in this room has helped us achieve that, so thank you all for the Waverider’s first anniversary! Here’s to hoping there are many more to come!”
Gideon finished and raised her champagne glass, everyone following suit. After taking a sip, she turned back to the public.
“And now, without further ado, here is a special presentation we prepared for all of you, to remember this year by.”
The projector Ava didn’t even realize was behind Gideon lit up, First, a few pictures of the behind the scenes were shown, them all in other corporate dinners, a few pictures of their weekly breakfast, all with some pop music that Ava couldn’t really place, but was sure she had heard on the radio before.
“Best moments”, it read after all the pictures had passed. Scenes from the show started showing up, Ava couldn’t help but laugh at all of them being goofs in one of Nate’s episodes and then a compilation of Ray explaining the benefits of putting butter in his coffee in every single one of his episodes. She looked at them to see him blushing profusely, while Nora leaned over and kissed his cheek. The slight mix of envy and sadness inside Ava that arose every time she saw how perfect the two were for each other was majorly obfuscated by how happy she was that they had one another. She wanted the best for her friends, even if she might never get that.
Her attention was brought back to the front of the room when the entire room started quietly laughing and snickering.
“And we cannot forget our new office romance…”
What? Was Ava really that out of touch because of what had been happening lately that she lost a huge chunk of information that clearly everyone was privy to? Not that she was interested in her colleagues’ personal life or anything, but usually she and Nora, sometimes even with Helena too, got together for a few drinks whenever there was any big piece of news that Ava should know about, so she felt like she knew this. By the way everyone was having some reaction, it appeared to be something big. She guessed she soon would know what it was, however, because the scene had changed and was about to show who the couple was and it turned out to be…
Her and Sara Lance.
It was their first interaction, when Helena first made her interact with Sara. Everyone laughed and clapped along with Ava’s obvious annoyance and Sara’s smile.
Ava’s head was spinning. She had no idea what was going on, why anyone would think that of them two when they both deeply disliked each other. She felt as if she were thebutt of a joke again, like she was being made fun of.
“And so it started, like cat and mouse they keep chasing after each other…”
Next up it was a bunch of snapshots of both Ava in the back of Sara Lance’s show and her in the back of Snack Remakes, watching Ava work. She had never realized the woman did that. She had only caught her once, and the woman had only smiled her insufferably cocky smile at Ava, who just went back to work as if nothing happened. She thought Sara had stopped after that once, but apparently not.
She had also never realized how many times she had watched Sara Lance work. She just needed to make sure the woman was not going to explode the entire kitchen or something. Ava was not about to admit that Sara actually looked striking as she was concentrated in her work.
Oh god. Had everyone realized that Ava thought the woman was… attractive? Well, everyone had eyes. They all saw how good looking Sara was, there was no way Ava was the only one on set that saw it. Not that it mattered much when she had a terrible personality.
To be fair, the least of Ava’s worries was that someone realized she thought Sara Lance was pretty. But Ava really prided herself and having a great poker face, in keeping herself in check and in knowing how to act properly around others. She liked to think that her ability to act professionally and properly deal with her own emotions was one of the reasons why she managed to be a good chef.
The amount of anxiety seeing that everyone was apparently seeing through her was off of the charts. Was she that terrible at hiding her emotions? Did everyone know everything? Was that why everyone had laughed at her every single day for the past month? Was she just showing all her emotions and her thoughts to everyone, unable to protect herself at all, and become the butt of ever-
The thunderous laugh around the room brought Ava out of her reverie. Without looking up she turned around and walked as fast and quietly as she could to the closest exit. She got to the staircase, taking off her stilettos, and going down enough floors that she couldn’t hear any more of the sounds from the party.
She sat down and started taking deep breaths, counting back from ten again and again. She knew what this was, it had happened before. Ava was no stranger to panic attacks, having started dealing with them during a particularly rough patch in high school when she first realized she liked girls. She liked to think at this point that she was an expert in dealing with them.
It took her about ten minutes, but she managed to clear her mind and slow down her breathing. She just needed a little more time to gather herself and leave. Ava just hoped her retreat was not noticed by the majority of people there, she really didn’t want to deal with any more memes of her face or any joking.
Soon, however, the faint sound of heels could be heard above her and she scooted to the side of the wall to let whoever it was pass. Ava hoped they would just leave her alone.
“I was afraid you had already left.”
Ava rested her head in her palms. Please, not now.
“Why? You wanna humiliate me a little more?” Her voice came out as nothing more than a whisper.
Sara sat beside her, way closer than Ava wanted her. To be fair, anywhere where Sara Lance was in her line of vision right now would be too close.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know they were gonna pull that. I would’ve stopped them if I could.”
“Why would you? It’s not like you have stopped anyone at any point for the past month when they have been making fun of me nonstop everywhere.”
“Ava, I didn’t know you saw it like tha-”
Ava got up and got down a few more steps. She couldn’t be close to the woman any more, she just needed to be left alone. She tried to level herself, get her voice to be stronger, but in the end it came out as barely above a whisper, meek and vulnerable, but it sounded loud and striking in the quiet staircase.
“Can’t you please just… stop whatever it is that you’re doing? I don’t care about whatever you want, what your end goal is, just leave me alone. Because of you my favorite place in the world became a nightmare, and I just want everything to go back to the way it was. Just leave me alone. Don’t talk to me anymore.”
With that, Ava turned around and ran down the remaining steps, not looking back.
Usually, Ava hated time off. She loved work, she loved planning the episodes, cooking, explaining the processes, everything about it. Her one day off between shooting was all she needed, but right now, she couldn’t have been happier for the week off they all had gotten after the anniversary party. She couldn’t bring herself to face all of them, to come back to reality. To have everyone asking her if she was ok, acting worried when the previous week they had all made her life hell.
She didn’t even know what everyone had seen. Ava had refused to go online or look at anything for the past two days in case that there was, in fact, something about her out there. She couldn’t handle being another talking point. She wanted her food to be the main attraction, her food to become well known, not her personal life.
So, she decided that ignoring it all was her best course of action. Out of sight, out of mind.
Except that it wasn’t that easy to ignore. Ava was restless, her brain kept replaying the happenings of the party, wondering if anyone saw anything, if she made a fool of herself, if she was going to come back to work to more and more whispers, more and more joking.
So the first two days of her week off were spent like that. The first day Ava may have drunk a bit more wine than was advised for a Sunday night, but it felt like the only way to stop her brain being so loud. So she indulged, an entire bottle of wine for dinner.
When she woke up on Monday with the headache of a lifetime, she felt like it was well deserved. Maybe the headache would slow down her mind, stop her from stupidly going round in circles.
Suffice to say, however, that it didn’t work, so she spent her second day off extremely grumpy, with a spoon and a tub of ice cream, shouting at the TV about how obviously fake everything about The Real Housewives of Atlanta was.
She fell asleep on the couch and woke up the next day with way more back pain than someone who is still not even in their 30s should feel. The tub of ice cream just had some melted liquid left at the bottom, so there was nothing to do with it but throw it away.
Her mood was progressively getting worse. It was her third day off and nothing was taking her mind off work. Or more specifically, someone at work. Ava had, at least, managed to keep the woman’s name out of her mind for the past two days, but apparently, enough was enough. There were many things wrong in the world at that moment, and at least half of them were Sara Lance’s fault.
She couldn’t rest, she couldn’t relax, she was pretty sure last night she had dreamed about almost being killed by someone that looked a lot like Sara Lance, but with black eyes and white hair, like she was some sort of zombie. It wasn’t enough that Ava didn’t have a moment of peace when she was awake, now the woman was plaguing her dreams too.
If this were some sort of cartoon, Ava would guess that there would be steam coming out of her ears. She could feel herself seething, the thoughts becoming circular, always coming back to Sara and everything that had been happening the last few months again and again and again. She was getting tired of feeling stuck, of having things out of her control, of not being able to move past this, no matter how much she wanted to.
Ava felt like she had tried every possible thing to distract herself, from relaxing to trying to take her anger out on something, and nothing was working. All she was left with was the bitter aftertaste of yesterday’s wine in her mouth and the knowledge that there was no escaping her own mind.
After taking a long shower and cooking something to see if at least eating might somehow help her mood, Ava realized there was only one way out of this funk for her: to find out where it all came from because it was quite clear to her that she and Sara Lance hated each other. Everyone in the show saw it, which was why they kept making those stupid comments. So, where the hell had Gideon, or whoever made that stupid video, gotten the idea that she and Sara were a couple?
She knew the only place she might somehow get answers was the internet, but she had also made a point so far to stay away from it. When the meme fiasco happened, Ava had ended up following an endless rabbit hole of hate on herself, the show, the Waverider and all her colleagues. She, of course, knew the internet was full of people with way too much free time, but Ava never knew it was that bad . Endless posts of everything that was wrong with her: from her appearance to her voice to her food (how people on the fucking internet could judge the taste of her food was something she didn’t know). Ava knew it was all utter bullshit, but it still kept her up at night for close to a month. Every time she laughed, every step she took, it reminded her of the comments that were made on those actions.
So now, understandably, she was very apprehensive about this entire thing. She needed to understand what was going on, but that either involved getting into contact with her colleagues - and she was not about to humiliate herself like that - or go look herself up on the internet, which was potentially traumatic but at least no one would know how weak she truly was. It was already enough that Sara Lance had been present for her most recent panic attack, she didn’t need the entire crew to have something else to use against her.
Ignoring the faint throb on the back of her head from the hangover, Ava poured herself another glass of wine, and turned on her computer. She would need more alcohol for this, and anyways , didn’t people say that nothing helped a hangover like drinking more? Well, she was about to find out.
Ava wondered where she would have to go, how long it would take for her to find any clues, but as soon as she opened her latest video and scrolled down the comments, her search was over.
"God, just KISS already!!!!!!”
“I bet my whole house they are already in a relationship and are just messing with us” - “Nah, man, there’s no way Ava even knows what’s going on, typical clueless lesbian”
Both of those comments had more than ten thousand likes.
“They’re so good for each other!!!!! This is like a fanfic or something!!!”
What the fuck even is a fanfic?????
“I think you are all clearly delusional...” - apparently some people on the internet did have a brain - “... they are clearly just two good friends, you all should stop pushing your gay agenda onto peopl-”
It was pages and pages and pages of that. Out of the almost ten thousand comments on the video, from what she was seeing, Ava would say that at least 80% of the comments were about her interactions with Sara Lance.
She had no idea this was happening. Even during good times, Helena was the one that brought Ava the best comments on her video and how it was doing, during their week of preparation. Analyzing and discussing the feedback they got from videos was essential to keep improving her show, and Ava considered it an essential part of the entire process. Of course, she knew Helena didn’t bring all of the comments for them, only the ones that were reasonable and understandable, either good or bad. A word had never been uttered to her, especially not by Helena, and if Ava was being honest, the woman was always very quick to shut down the rest of the crew when they were picking on Ava, which she was extremely grateful for.
Still, this all made no sense. This all meant that at least her crew knew about this situation, but if they did… then what? What could possibly be the reason for keeping this away from Ava? Her brain kept running nonstop, trying to find all the possible reasons this could be happening, and the only thing it kept getting stuck on was that this was being deliberately kept from her. The only possible reason was that they had a plan. Helena was always the person with a plan, she was organized, great at her job, and always came up with the best directions for their show. Ava was sure that if it wasn’t for her, they wouldn’t be there at all. Which meant that Helena had a plan.
And Ava was being kept out of the loop.
She froze up with her glass halfway up to her lips only to gulp it all down the next second. What if this was scripted all along and Ava was being kept out of the loop like some reality show kinda thing?
That had to be it. It was the only possible reason why they wouldn’t tell her about it. Some sort of long winded, ridiculous plan.
Well, nothing sold like romance, that was for sure. But that brought up the next question: how much did Sara Lance know?
There was no way the other woman wasn’t in on it, if only for the amount of “Sara really got game!” was anything to go by - which Ava completely disagreed with. She knew what flirting was like, she had even been on the receiving end of it plenty of times since she outgrew her awkward stage in early high school, and had also been on the giving end of it, quite a few times as well, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing in the interactions she had with Sara Lance that could resemble flirting.
But, if Sara was truly in on it all… then how did this all come to be?
Oh my god.
This was the woman’s plan all along.
Thinking that this would make her feel better had been a mistake. The hatred for Sara Lance that had burned so bright the past month and now sat in her belly like a dying fire was suddenly reignited. Her plan was succeeding, and Ava was being played like a pawn.
The worst part is that Ava couldn’t put together the two parts of the other woman: the one that would look for her after she left the party, who would sometimes manage to have a decent conversation with her, and the one that was such an infuriating asshole and had such a sordid plan.
Unless everyone was right? Unless they were actually picking up on something Ava wasn’t.
Ava shook her head, served herself another glass and drank it. She closed down her computer and found the goriest true crime documentary on netflix to watch on TV, hoping this time the distraction would work.
What she did not need now was for her mind to keep coming up with what ifs when it came to Sara Lance and for everything to change even worse than it already had.
Except that everything did change.
The following month, a new normal started to take place. There were no more jokes, people just casually greeted Ava and then avoided her eyes. She found it odd, but honestly, before this entire debacle happened that was exactly how most people treated her. She didn’t think she was cold or unapproachable, but she also liked to maintain a respectable work distance between herself and her colleagues. It wasn’t often she let work colleagues become friends, like she did with the legends, but that was because they mostly had been forced to work in close quarters quite often. And really, she didn’t regret it. But now, it was kind of odd to see them all treating her like that again because, even with all the joking, people had started to be warmer towards her. Something that she only realized now, when it all stopped.
Another thing that had changed was how tense their mandatory breakfasts had become. It was as if everyone was somehow wary around Ava, walking on eggshells when she was near. The joking had diminished, of course, and she was thankful for that, but so had the good hearted fun. She tried to initiate some joking a couple of times, and it caught on, but soon, her colleagues looked around the room and quieted down. It was as if the heavy atmosphere couldn’t be avoided.
And that was without even talking about how there was always one laugh missing. Ava had tried and tried and tried to not let her mind go there, but the difference was so stark that the first week she had felt sort of at odds, not knowing how to react. When she first came back, Ava felt as if the woman had been avoiding her. She apparently changed her shooting schedule, so it took quite a while for them to meet once the shooting restarted.
Ava had been seething, ready to burn the entire world down, ready for a fight, to confront the problem head on, but as soon as she interacted with the other woman, it was as if everything shifted and she didn’t know where they stood anymore.
Sara Lance had been polite . And that was it. The change in schedule meant that Ava almost never saw her around the kitchen anymore, and when she did see her, the woman gave her a curt “good morning” and went the other way. The weirdest thing were the things that Ava just now started realizing: the way the woman used to smile a lot more, how excited she got every time they bickered, how Sara’s eyes seemed to follow her everywhere, the taste of her cooking (Ava had somehow become the official guinea pig for the woman’s creations on her show - had been assured by Gideon herself that it was great for the channel). The list went on and on.
Everything had returned to normal, exactly as Ava wanted. And she realized she hated it.
She didn’t know what to do about it, really, because this was what she had asked for, spent the last two months asking to come back to, and now that it was here, she realized that it was… sad.
The team had been more united than they ever were after the new chefs arrived, and now every interaction seemed stiff, pale, contrived. They didn’t go out anymore. In fact, Ava hadn’t seen Nora at all since the party, except for parting words at the Waverider’s parking lot.
Confronting Helena about the entire thing had also been a bust. The woman just said Ava better “talk it out” with Sara, and kept on walking to set up their shooting. After that Ava never brought it up again. She knew Helena well enough to know she wouldn’t get another answer out of her other than that one, which was both frustrating and defeating.
There was nothing to talk out, and even if there was, it was not like Sara was even looking at her face right now. At this point, Ava was pretty sure she could drop dead in front of the other woman and she would just step over her and keep walking.
So, she did what she knew always worked: she was gonna pry the truth out of her friends. With alcohol. Lots of alcohol.
A girl’s night out had been in the works for almost three months now, with always one of the three women postponing it. Now, however, was the perfect time for it to happen, and nothing would stop Ava from accomplishing it.
Next Friday, the only day Ava, Nora, and Helena were all at the Waverider’s Test Kitchen together, found Ava quietly waiting, arms crossed, bag on her shoulder and leg bouncing from the nerves, leaning against one of their cars, for the other two women to come out of the building.
The other two left the building together, quietly whispering to each other and laughing a few seconds later. Ava frowned. She wasn’t aware the two had gotten so close. They were all friends, of course, but close enough friends to be whispering and laughing and sharing secrets with each other? Maybe Ava had been more out of it than she thought the past few months. That scene strengthened her resolve, this plan had to happen now more than ever. She couldn’t handle losing her closest friends on top of everything else.
Ava righted herself, knowing that she would look taller than both the other women. She needed any advantage she could get at this point. As soon as she moved, however, Nora and Helena saw her, stopping, the laughter dying down.
“Ava, hey!” Nora said, after a couple of breaths of dead silence in the parking lot, where it seemed like no one was even breathing.
“I have to resort to ambushing you two in the parking lot now, is that how it is?
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Before Nora even finished talking, Helena was already laughing and soon the other two women followed suit.
This was what Ava had been missing, this easy laugh. The way that no matter how bad things got, the three of them would manage to pull through. She needed to feel that certainty so bad right now, she hoped they wouldn’t let her down.
“You two are going with me to get drinks. I won’t take no for an answer.” Ava grabbed them both by the hand and started pulling them to the front of the parking lot. “I also already called an Uber. So no excuses.”
In the end, there were a lot less excuses and complaining than Ava thought. The three of them talked amicably during the Uber ride to their favorite get together spot, a bar not very far from the Waverider, that had a nice promo during happy hour. It used to be their weekend plan every other week, but it had started falling through the first few weeks after the new chefs came in.
Ava hated how she had unconsciously started separating her time at the Waverider as Before the New Chefs and After the New Chefs. She really hoped she wouldn't have to start a second division as before she told Sara Lance to fuck off and after.
Which brought her back to the reason why she was here at all. Well, she was there to catch up with her friends, but also to know what the fuck was going on.
They arrived at the bar and the hostess, Terry, who already knew them by name, led them to their usual booth, in a hidden corner. The perfect place to get a little bit drunk and a little bit talkative without getting anyone seeing any of them.
Ava didn't think any of them were famous by any means, but there was, sometimes, the odd person that recognized them, and the last thing she needed right now was for some random person to put a picture of herself half drunk online.
Helena ordered them all a round as they settled.
"So, what's going on?"
“Can’t I want to catch up with my favorite girls?”
Ava tried to give the two women her biggest smile, thanking all deities out there when their drinks arrived and she had something to do with her hands.
“Ava, we are your only girls. Or is there something you’re not telling us?”
She had to hold back from spitting out the huge gulp she had just taken of her moscow mule at Nora’s words. Ava was in need of some liquid courage to get this party going, but maybe she was going too hard at it.
“What? I have no idea what you’re - what are you talking about? Why would there be something I’m not telling you? Nora, you gotta know that-”
“Ava, Ava, relax. I was just teasing you.”
“Oh.” Ava let out an awkward laugh and this time took a much smaller sip of her drink.
The next hour was spent with easy laughs and talk about work and office dynamics. Apparently Nora had walked in on Gary and this guy called John Constantine during the anniversary party, who no one really knew, but apparently Gary hadn’t shut up about him since then. Ava did not see that one coming. She didn’t really know why, but imagining Gary with anyone was… just something she did not want to do. Good for him though.
Also they were finally starting the production of the new variety shows. Helena had been offered a promotion, which would make her executive producer for all shows on the Waverider Channel, but she would need to leave Ava’s show. She knew pretty much from the start that Helena was way too good to keep being just the producer of her small show. Ava knew she was headed for bigger and better things, and that this was the first step of a very successful journey. The woman, however, was very apprehensive about leaving her friend behind, not wanting to give up on what got her to where she was now. Ava, however, had no qualms about telling her that she better follow her dreams or she would get her ass kicked.
The conversation, however, died down eventually. They were already on their second silent drink, all of them finishing them, after already having had quite a few before that. Ava was finally starting to get tipsy, which was as good a time as any, because she knew her time was running out before both women started pressing her to talk about herself.
It happened before she could think of a way out of it. Helena put her phone down after scrolling through Twitter for a few minutes and turned to Ava.
“Okay, I gave you an hour and a half and-” she looked down at their tab, sitting on the corner of the table, “- 7 drinks, Ava, come on, spill.”
“There is nothing to spill, really.”
The look that both Nora and Helena leveled her with almost made Ava fear for her life. She sighed.
“There truly is nothing. I was actually sort of hoping you two would… tell me something.”
Both women looked at each other, before turning to Ava with an expectant look and a smile they were both trying to hide.
“I… wanted to know how you two have been. We have barely talked lately.”
“We both already told you how we are. Ava, what’s really bothering you?”
Ava finished her drink and ordered another one before continuing. She really needed as many moments as she could before she truly asked what she wanted, because she didn’t know if she was ready for what might be the answer.
“Do you guys have anything you been hiding from me?”
Nora ended up knocking her glass and Ava’s off the table when she moved her hands wildly.
“What the fuck, Ava? Why would we hide anything from you?”
“I thought you were finally gonna open up about what the fuck happened between you and Sara, and you are here suddenly accusing us of something? Ava Sharpe, I’ve raised you better than this!”
Nora nodded nonstop to Helena’s speech. Shit, this was going a lot worse than Ava expected.
“No, guys I’m- what do you mean what happened between me and Sara? Has she said anything?”
Before the other two women could share a look that Ava knew was coming she continued.
“And I know you two know something. You’ve both been avoiding me for a month now, I find out in a party full of people taking pictures of me that apparently there is some sort of conspiracy about me and Sara Lance becoming a couple of some sort, then I go online and find out that, apparently, the entire internet is in on it! Everyone knows! Everyone knew all along, except me! Me, the one you are all playing with, the one someone, anyone should’ve told about this, I’m the one being kept in the dark. And then I come back - and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Lance finally listened to something I said for once - but everything is different! You guys are treating me differently! Everyone is treating me like I don’t even exist or like they are scared of me, and I don’t know why! I hate it! I just wanted people to stop making fun of me, and this is somehow even worse than when people were talking shit behind my back!”
Shit. Ava realized she had said too much, opened up too much and had probably offended her friends in the process. She shouldn’t have had that last drink. Now her head was pounding and she had a mess in her hands.
The silence that followed was deafening, and seemed to stretch on and on with no end in sight. Ava got ready to start apologizing and take it all back when Nora spoke up.
“Damn, Ava, I didn’t know that that’s what you were feeling about the whole thing.”
“So you and Sara did talk the night of the anniversary party?”
Ava grimaced at Helena’s question.
“If you call her catching me halfway through a panic attack and me telling her to leave me the fuck alone ‘talking’ then yes, we did that.”
“Well, I asked because the following day Sara gathered everyone in the Test Kitchen and… well, she gave people the talk of a lifetime. Basically shut them all down. I figured you had said something to her.”
“So she was in on it all all along? Is she the reason why everyone on the internet thinks we have something and why none of you have told me anything about this at all?”
The sigh that both women let out was one that Ava had come to know the past few months. Nora reached over the table and put her hand on top of Ava’s.
“I really, really think you should sit down and talk to Sara. This is something you should hear from her.”
Ava couldn’t help the cold chill that crept up her spine at the words.
It was as if the gods themselves were looking down at Ava and laughing, because the moment she stepped inside the Waverider, she could hear her laugh.
She stopped, breathing heavily. Ava wasn’t sure if she was ready to deal with seeing Sara Lance again, but she guessed she either did this now or never. So she slowly started walking towards the Test Kitchen.
Once Ava turned the corner, she could see Sara there, on the other side of the room, laughing at something her producer had said. The longing that hit her was something Ava wasn’t prepared for. It had been more than a month since she had last heard Sara Lance laughing. She had forgotten how easy it was to get lost in her smile and how it seemed to light up a room.
Ava had long since stopped trying to make herself not think about the other woman. Ever since the anniversary party, it was as if Sara had taken residence inside her mind, and at this point, she just felt way too exhausted to deny her own mind. The endless streams of comments hinting at how she and Sara Lance might be a thing and trying to figure out what the fuck was truly going on and what the endgame might be were a constant running commentary at war in her brain and she wasn’t at a point where she could make sense of it at all. So she gave up, trying her best to cling to the feeling of betrayal and being played as the only force moving her forward. As the last thing she had that wasn’t incredibly confusing.
Each step she took closer to Sara Lance was as if her brain went more and more blank. Ava tried to grip the simple, uncomplicated feeling of hate that had been her constant companion for a few months now, but she kept coming up empty, the butterflies in her stomach dominating her entire being. She was trying to find the correct words, formulate the correct sentences and rehearse it in her mind so she didn’t give anyone any more reasons to make fun of her, but she kept coming up empty.
Ava was so caught up in her own spiraling mind that she didn’t see the table right in front of her, hitting it full on. The groan she let out and the rattling of every cutlery on top of it were enough to attract the attention of the entire room.
She looked up, her eyes finding Sara’s right away. The place seemed to be a bit colder than before, her smile was gone, and the quiet was deafening. Sara opened her mouth to say something, and Ava felt bile raising in her throat, so before the other woman could say anything, Ava turned around and left the kitchen.
After that ridiculous attempt at approaching Sara, Ava was the one that started avoiding her. Their schedules were already different enough that it wasn’t really hard. Even so, Ava still found herself turning around and leaving the few times she even heard the woman talk.
That seemed to be happening a lot more lately. Ava felt as if she was being haunted by Sara Lance. Her voice seemed to be there every time she arrived at work or left, her thoughts were plagued by what she could possibly reveal to Ava that would somehow change this entire dynamic, and yet she just couldn't bring herself to face it head on. There was a huge part of her, which seemed to be growing with each passing day, that just felt such longing every time she saw the other woman. Apparently the heart did grow fonder with absence, because this silliness only made itself known after she didn’t have what she had grown used to anymore. But on the other hand, letting herself play into whatever this was, this hope, was so incredibly dangerous.
Ava couldn’t remember the last time she even let herself hope for something long term, to think that someone fit her, to wonder, like a schoolgirl with a crush, to imagine what could be. Which is why this was absolutely the worst thing that she could ever imagine happening. The potential this had to fuck her up beyond repair was too much for her to be confortable. It was becoming more and more difficult to ignore, but she tried and tried, everyday.
She knew there was, rationally, only one way to put this all to rest: talking to Sara Lance. But, the idea that whatever it was might, somehow, end up making everything even worse than it was right now kept her from reaching out to the woman every time.
Everything turned completely worse, however when the other woman realized Ava was avoiding her, and unlike any normal human, she apparently couldn't let it be. It took her around 4 days to figure it out, but an entire week before Sara did more than just stare at Ava and raised an eyebrow everytime she had to make a sudden retreat.
After the whole "I know you're avoiding me and it's amusing to see you make a fool of yourself" stage - as Ava called it in her head - the stage that followed was the worst one yet: the one where Sara Lance tried to talk to her. She had no idea why, but whenever the other woman saw her around the Waverider, it was as if her eyes were glued to her, and two seconds later, she went up to Ava.
The first few times Ava was so shocked she turned around and left. The next one, had Helena keeping a very threatening hand on her back to keep her in place till Sara Lance arrived.
“Hey, Ava. I feel like it’s been forever since we talked.”
Ava turned around to ask Helena for help, but all she could see was the back of her and the other two crew members they were talking to. Seeing no way out, Ava turned to Sara with the biggest smile she could manage.
“We were never really the conversation type, Lance.”
Sara let out a low chuckle. “True. I just… wanted to check up on you. See how you were doing.”
“Oh. I’m… okay. I think?”
Ava was truly not expecting that line of inquiry from the woman, so much so that she couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice. They were not really friends, they didn’t really do small talk. This was a new development that Ava wasn’t really prepared for.
And then Sara smiled, and Ava tried to tamper down the warmth that took her over. This needed to stop, and soon.
Her salvation was Nora, entering the test kitchen at that moment. Before Sara could say anything else, Ava excused herself, saying she was being called over.
She felt like she couldn’t properly breathe, and the moment Sara turned around, Ava made her run for the exit, being stopped by Nora’s hand on her arm pulling her over to the outside of the kitchen.
“What the fuck are you doing, Sharpe?”
Ava would never admit it in her life, but if there was anyone that could make her feel like she was a kid being scolded, it was Nora.
“I… Have no idea?”
Nora sighed. “Are you free the rest of the day?”
“Come on, then.”
Nora took her to a cafe close to her place. Ava had been here once after a night out in which she had drank one too many shots and was too drunk to go back home, so she slept on Nora’s couch. She had been so embarrassed the following day she left before Nora even woke up, giving her a thank you cupcake at work the following day. A cupcake from this very establishment. Nora looked at her, with a smile, apparently remembering the same situation. Ava couldn’t stop the blush spreading on her cheeks.
Once they were both seated, their coffees in front of them, Ava couldn’t stop the nervous bounce of her leg. She knew Nora wanted to talk about this whole situation with her, but, honestly, it was the last thing she wanted. She was avoiding even thinking about it, if she was being honest.
Not that it was working.
“I assume you haven’t talked to Sara yet, if that excuse of a conversation you two had back at the kitchen was anything to go by.”
Ava’s blush only deepened. She suddenly felt like apologizing, and she had no idea why, so she just drank her coffee and waited for Nora to continue.
“Why haven’t you asked Sara about your suspicions Ava? It’s been two weeks already.”
Well, there it was. The million dollar question.
“I… don’t know, actually. It’s just…” Ava let her voice die down and just stared at her coffee.
Nora sighed and put her hand on top of Ava’s.
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
“Well, of course I am. I mean, last time I opened up to her about anything, it turned into whatever this is right now. Can you imagine if on top of all that I have to find out that you were all lying to me? That… that I was right all along and this is some sort of plan?”
“Ava, no one is lying to you.”
Ava sipped her coffee again before continuing. Her voice came out small and unsure, no matter how much bravado she tried to put behind it.
“You say that, but then you won’t tell me anything, Nora. How will I know? Can you imagine finding out your only friends have been lying to you for months? It’s already bad enough dealing with the doubt, can you imagine if I get confirmation?”
“Sara is your friend?”
“Well, you keep saying you will feel this and that if 'your friends' turn out to betray you, but I’m pretty sure you don’t think either me or Helena did that, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. The true problem here is that you don’t wanna be betrayed by Sara.”
“Well, that… makes no sense.”
“And yet, here you are, second time this month we’ve had one of these just so you could hash out your feelings about Sara. So what’s really going on Ava?”
The confused frown in Ava’s face only deepened as she finished up her coffee and thought over what Nora said.
“I… I don’t know? I just… I don’t want things to turn out worse, I just… I just want things to be good again. Better, maybe. But the idea that talking to her about this could somehow end up finishing this once and for all is… terrifying.”
“And why do you think that is?” Nora looked at her expectantly.
“I… have no idea?”
Nora sighed and shook her head. “How is it that both of you are so terrible at this? Fucking hell.”
The rest of the day her brief encounter with Sara and her conversation with Nora were playing nonstop on her mind. She just couldn’t make sense of everything that was running through her mind, of all the feelings that were running around in her heart with all the loose information she had. She felt like she was trying to put a puzzle together without knowing the shape of any of the pieces.
So if that weekend she drank a bit more than the one bottle of wine that she usually gave herself during the week, who could blame her? If she had gone through pretty much every single comment on all the videos of her show (and of Sara’s) just to see if she could finally get that insight, figure out what was going on, ease her mind, or anything, really , just to get her out of this weird funk she found herself in, no one was going to fault her for it. And if she had been spending all her weekends since she spoke to Nora and Helena like that, no one really needed to know.
That Monday morning, she made sure to wake up an hour earlier, do some meditation, go back into her routine of making herself a healthy breakfast and only then leave for work. She needed to be prepared, to stop this senseless downward spiral in which she was in, and the best way to do it was to get back into her routines. Routine was something Ava treasured like nothing else. It made her feel safe, her days feel full but also well balanced, and it was how she had managed to be as productive as she could possibly be.
She realized way too late that in the midst of this mess she completely let go of her own personal schedule. Ava had been so worried with figuring out what the fuck was going on inside her mind while trying to not be confronted with it that she had just been running on automatic.
But not today. Today her new life started. Whatever the hell that meant.
It lasted a total of three days, four hours and 33 minutes. She had been steeling herself for the next time she saw the other woman since she found her new resolution, but the moment she saw her, it was as if it all fell away.
Ava had just finished filming her show for the day, and when she turned around, Sara Lance was there, just standing at the door, with an easy smile, and the way it felt like before was just like a huge punch to Ava’s stomach. This was what she had been missing. This easiness, this feeling of light around her workplace, to turn around and be sure Sara was gonna be there, roll her eyes at her even if she ended up not really meaning it, and maybe, maybe , everyone was right . Maybe there was something, and there was only one person who could tell her what it was. So when the woman approached her and opened her mouth to talk, Ava couldn’t stop the words from coming out of her own.
“Did you know?”
“I tried asking Nora and Helena about it - believe me, I tried - and they just told me to talk to you about it. But you haven’t been honest with me not even once since we met, because I go online and I find out someone has been keeping the fact that the entire world believes we are dating and that there’s something there and all I can think about is how I’m being played . There’s something going on here that I’m not privy to and I don’t know why.”
Sara took a step closer to Ava, trying to touch her, unable to keep the confusion of her face. Ava just took a step back, shook her head and kept on going.
“No, please, let me finish. I know what I said at the anniversary party, and I really appreciate what you did, and, to be honest, I really thought that that was what I wanted, but now… Now everything has changed Sara. Everything has changed and I don’t know where I stand, and I don’t know who is telling the truth and I don’t know how I feel, so I need to know . Did you know about it?”
Sara took a deep breath, and the next words out of her mouth almost broke Ava.
“I knew about it. I actually was the one that asked Helena to not tell you about it.”
Ava let out a humourless laugh. How could she be so stupid, to get her hopes up, to let her mind flow with all these different thoughts, to give herself hope that maybe this was all a huge mistake… She should’ve known better.
“I knew it! You were playing me all long, weren’t you? You wanted to use me as a stepping stone to your growth on the channel-”
“What? Ava, no!”
“- and to make your name on my back! I can’t believe I almost fell for your-”
“Ava, let me explain!”
“- I should’ve never even given you the time of the day-”
“I WANTED TO ASK YOU OUT!”
The silence that followed Sara’s outburst was so complete, Ava was sure no one in the room was even breathing.
Her voice when was so small, she wasn’t even sure Sara would hear her.
“I asked them to not show you ‘cause I wanted to ask you out, okay? I’ve liked you since that first night, but I realized I made a bad impression, I don’t know why, but I saw that. So I wanted to give it some time, make you like me, you know? But, God, Ava, it was as if every week I just always made it worse. You always seemed to dislike me more and more, so I kept thinking, just one more day, you know? I’m gonna get it right at some point. But I kept making a fool of myself…”
This time when Sara took a step closer to Ava and took her hand, Ava let her. Her mind was running a mile per minute, and if a bomb fell on the building right then and there, she wasn’t sure she’d hear it.
Sara started again in a lower voice only Ava could hear.
“They were joking about me, you know? I'm sorry you thought it was about you, I didn’t realize it could be perceived like that, but everyone was mocking me for being so fucking bad at flirting that I managed to get the woman I’m into to think I hate her.”
The laugh that came out of Ava at that was unstoppable and pure joy. She couldn’t help the happiness that bubbled inside herself. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off of her, all the doubts and the self blame, finally extinguished. The months of worries ended up nothing more than overthinking, and honestly, she just felt like laughing at herself, at Sara, at this whole situation, at the whole world.
After her laughter died down and a few seconds passed, she squeezed the other woman’s hand and gave her a smile.
Ava just nodded.
“Do you wanna go on a date with me, Ava Sharpe?”