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history is made in between

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Gary just wants to quickly pop into the break room before going home. The drip tray needs emptying, and since Director Sharpe’s behavior has been erratic lately, he’s the only one who does it anymore.

Maybe she’s finally back to her old self again, though, for when he opens the door to the break room, she’s already in there. Then again, she’s nowhere near the coffee machine, but rummaging through one of the cabinets that hold the mugs and dishes.

She must be really absorbed in whatever she’s doing because she doesn’t notice him until he taps her on the shoulder. When she whirls around to face him, he knows immediately that something is off: her makeup is smudged and she smells funny – a bit like alcohol. But that’s impossible, she would never…

Gary abruptly reaches out a steadying hand – she seems to have substantially underestimated the momentum of her turning movement and is now flailing precariously towards him.

“Are you drinking on the job?” he gasps.

“Shhh, Gary…it’s supposed to be a secret,” she hisses and then starts giggling while hanging onto his forearms for balance.

“What are you doing in here?” he asks her incredulously.

“Looking for Rip’s secret stash,” she whispers, rather loudly. “He always was partial to a wee nip,” she adds in a terrible imitation of Agent Hunter’s accent and squints at the cabinets. “So there must be something around here somewhere.”

She lets go of his arms and turns towards the cabinets again – a lot more slowly this time, much to Gary’s relief.

“Do you really think you should be drinking even more?” he asks her tentatively.

“Oh, definitely! I haven’t had nearly enough to drink,” she mutters grimly and sways a little. “Now, where would somebody like Rip hide his booze – probably in plain sight, where anybody could see it but would never know what it really was…” she trails off, looking glum all of a sudden.

“Is this because of Captain Lance?” he asks her carefully.

He knows from Nate that they’ve broken up, and anybody can see that she’s taking it very badly – she just abandoned her post for three days! Most days, she doesn’t even take a proper lunch break.

“Sara,” she murmurs, on the verge of tears now. “She said that she loves me. Today. She told me that she loves me, and that it’ll save us both.”

“But that’s great!” Gary blurts out, and he feels his face split into an excited smile. “So you’re back together again.” He knew it! He knew that these two were meant for each other and…

Director Sharpe’s firm “No!” cuts through his happy thoughts. She looks a lot more sober all of a sudden.

“But why not?” he asks her, feeling completely bewildered.

She has been crazy about Captain Lance for so long now – since Nora Darhk put the captain into that coma, at least. And Gary has been rooting for them ever since – and it was going so well, too! They’d finally gotten together, even though the Legends had ruined their first date – well, the Legends and Gary, but he has more than made up for it since! After all, it was him who covered for Director Sharpe whenever she snuck off to the Waverider to supervise missions, and it was also him who thought up flimsy excuses to keep people from her office whenever Captain Lance showed up for another unscheduled performance review.

And then they’d just broken it off, and Director Sharpe has been miserable ever since, so why on earth wouldn’t she jump at the chance to get back together again?

“Romance isn’t for me,” she slurs and looks at him as if waiting for confirmation. “I need to concentrate on my job, and on the Bureau. The Bureau especially. I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the Bureau after all. And what good am I if I can’t even do the one job I was made for?”

She’s silent for a moment, just staring past him, before she continues in a small voice, speaking so softly that Gary almost can’t make out what she’s saying, “I can’t afford to get drawn into Sara’s crazy schemes. That’s what I told her. I told her that she’s on her own against Mallus, that the Bureau won’t help.”

Gary doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t understand where any of this is coming from.

“That’s not like you, Director Sharpe,” is what he finally settles on, because none of this is – not the drinking, not rejecting Captain Lance and especially not just abandoning her when before, she would have done anything for her.

She gives a short, bitter laugh and says, “Is it, though? We can’t really be sure, can we?”

He has no idea what she’s talking about.

“Oooh, I forgot,” she exclaims and jabs her finger into his chest. “They wiped you, so you don’t even know, do you?” She looks at him challengingly for a moment and then grimaces. “Shit, I think that was supposed to be a secret, too,” she groans.

For a brief moment, he’s surprised at her uncharacteristic swearing, but then the rest of her words sink in.

Now that he thinks about it, the whole of Wednesday had felt kind of hazy – like that one time Rick had accidentally grabbed the wrong tray off the kitchen counter and brought the brownies his roommate had baked to their D&D meeting.

“Might as well tell you now,” she mutters. “I’m a clone, Gary. Just a clone. There are thousands more just like me, all exactly the same as me. I’m not even the first at the Bureau. Rip just got a new one whenever the old one died. Eleven times! I don’t even know since when I’m me, you know? So how can I be with Sara if I don’t even know that? How can I be with her when I’m not even a real person, when I’m just like the other eleven, just like thousands of others?”

“Huh,” Gary mumbles dumbly, and then it suddenly dawns on him. “That’s why you brought me that coffee,” he murmurs.

“What?”

“Oh, it’s just…the first time you brought me a coffee, do you remember that?”

“Not really?” she says and scrunches up her face in confusion, “Why would I?”

He remembers it, though, could never quite forget it, in fact. He thought she’d read a self-improvement book over the winter holidays, something about enhancing your leadership skills maybe, but it makes so much more sense that she was simply a completely different person replacing a clone.

“It was at the beginning of last year. We had just pulled an all-nighter to get the paperwork done for that mission in 1882 Prague – the one with the rhinos?”

She nods thoughtfully, and the movement makes her sway a little again.

“You went in here to get yourself a latte, and when you came back you had made one for me as well,” he explains, and she’s still nodding along as though she’s starting to remember it, too.

“Just like that,” he adds, and even now he can vividly recall his incredulity at the small kindness that felt so out of character for her.

“You had never done that before,” he pauses to think for a moment, “I think you must have stopped asking Director Hunter for my dismissal around the same time.”

“You knew about that?” she whispers, looking deeply ashamed despite her intoxication.

“Yeah,” he says sheepishly, “Don’t worry about it, though. It wasn’t really you who did it after all.”

She’s just staring at him then, and he’s starting to get anxious that he may have accidentally said something to upset her even more – especially when she suddenly starts crying quietly.

He’s about to apologize profusely when she hugs him. She’s clinging to him, pressing her hands into his back and her face against his shoulder.

“It’s going to be okay,” he murmurs soothingly and carefully puts his arms around her, and to his surprise she hiccups, “Yeah.”