Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
Grief is a complex emotion that you never completely get past. Sara wakes up crushed by grief, missing Laurel terribly. She loses herself in her distress, but Ava is there to wipe away her tears and offer her the comfort of her loving presence.
Trigger warning :
I describe a panic attack (that briefly includes vomiting) and deal with grief in this OS. If those subjects are triggering for you, please, don't forget to take care of you first and foremost.
(See the end of the work for more notes.)
She woke up with tears on her cheeks.
The details of her dream were lost in the mists of her sleep, however the feelings, the deep sorrow laced with loss didn't left her. She forced herself to sit and brought a trembling hand to chase away her tears but she realized she didn't care. She was alone in her room on the Waverider. The subdued light that Gideon had turned on as soon as she pulled herself out of sleep helped her to cling to reality. She tried to calm her breathing but knew it was a lost cause when a sob escaped her tight lips. She had lost Laurel all over again in her sleep, and she hated her mind to put her through this now.
She had a pleasant week. Anachronisms were pretty easy to deal with and she had fun with her team; they had had a family night where they cooked and ate together before playing boards games. As usual, Mick got bored and started cheating, Ray was on the verge of crying when he loose, Nate and Amaya were all over each other and Zari won. She also spent some quality time with her girlfriend, enjoying trashy movies on Netflix and sexy times that were only interrupted twice by Garry. She had few nightmares that Ava easily chased away with loving words and soft lips.
She felt happy.
For a week.
And now all she could think about was how she lost her big sister.
She was alone now. While they were often far away from each other, separated by oceans or darkness too thick to be crossed, Sara had always found comfort in the knowledge that no matter what happened to her, Laurel was fine, Laurel was alive, Laurel would continue to fight and shine. But now she was dead. Her big sister died, how was that possible? How was that her reality? Sara survived the Gambit; she survived Ivo and Lian Yu. She became an assassin, a vigilante, a Legend. Even when she died she was forced to come back and fight. She was still alive, despite the odds, despite what she had done.
She was still alive despite the darkness of her soul, but Laurel was dead.
How was that fair? How was that normal? She was loud now, but she couldn't care. Her body was shaking so hard she felt dizzy and cold. So cold. She wrapped her arms around her waist, clutching her stomach in a vain attempt to fill the emptiness that was growing inside her. She fell on her side on the bed, not finding enough strength to carry herself. She was the Captain of a fucking time ship and she couldn't even manage to be there for Laurel, to say a last goodbye to her big sister. And now her dad was dead, and her mom was never there and she was alone. Her mind was racing; her thoughts were bursting and jostling to be heard, making her head the stage for a deafening cacophony where her grief echoed her loneliness. She needed it all to stop, she couldn't do it anymore. A silent cry broke free but it wasn't enough. Everything was too loud and too cold. Did she deserve this? For all the evil she has done, it only seemed fair that she had to suffer so much. But Laurel shouldn't have had to pay for her mistakes, for her darkness. A realization startled her and made her cry harder. She killed her sister. She killed Laurel. Going with Oliver on the Gambit and every single decision she took after that led to her big sister's death. She killed her and now she was dead and she alone and there was blood everywhere but it was all her fault because she corrupted and killed everything and everyone around her and she deserved to suffer…
"Captain, you seem to be having a panic attack, you should try to breath slowly in order to calm your heart rate and bring more oxygen to your brain."
But Sara couldn't hear Gideon; she was way too deep into her own infernal mind, living a nightmare that didn't wait for her to sleep. Her heartbeats were loud in her ears, and she felt nauseous. Her stomach was in turmoil from spasms and she barely had time to lean out of bed before vomiting. She couldn't breathe properly nor could she stop the dry heaves that plagues her innards. Dark spots appeared in front of her and she thought maybe she would die too, maybe it would finally end. She missed her so much. She just wanted her back. Her stomach contracted again but she had only bile to expulse, its acid burning her throat. Sara rolled on her back and closed her eyes; she couldn't see a thing with all the tears drowning her face. She should have drowned with the Gambit, it would have been easier. She felt something touching her and tried to move away from it without having to open her eyes. She was alone and nothing could change that. Rolling again to be on her right side, she brought her legs up against her abdomen and wrapped her arms around her neck.
Why was she so cold?
She was still sobbing when she felt a damp thing on her forehead, slowly sliding on her face and absorbing her tears. There was a hand in her hair and soft words were whispered in her ears but she couldn't decipher them. She was alone, her sister was dead and she was alone. Yet the hand in her hair was so tender, she knew she couldn't have imagined such softness. She tried to get a grip on her breathing, exhaling slowly before inhaling.
"That's it babe, you're doing great. Breathe in again with me."
She followed the instructions twice before feeling strong enough to open her eyes. At first she could only see through a thick fog and she had to blink several times before recognizing Ava's face.
"Hey there" her girlfriend whispered with a soft smile.
Sara didn't felt like talking, she wasn't sure she could nor did she know if she wanted to. It was enough to look at Ava. Her face was close to hers, and she could see wet trails on her cheeks. Was she hurt? She tried to sit but dizziness took hold of her and she felt the darkness creeping back in her sight.
"Take it easy, babe" Ava warned softly, resuming her soft caress with the cloth on her face.
Sara let her eyes close again and focused on her breathing. She wasn't alone but it wasn't her sister comforting her, because she was still dead. Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks, but she now cried more quietly, allowing her suffering to settle without being overwhelmed by it. Finally, after a small eternity, she opened her eyes to meet Ava's worried face.
"Ava" she croaked, her dry throat making her voice hoarse.
Her girlfriend kissed her forehead softly before putting away the cloth and giving her a glass of water. She helped her to sit before bringing the glass to her lips, tilting it slowly. Sara took a small sip tentatively, waiting to see if her stomach could keep it before drinking more. She drank a third of the glass before indicating to Ava she was done, not wanting to push her luck. The tall blonde put it on the nightstand before standing from her spot on the floor to sit next to her on the bed.
"Can I take you in my arms?" she asked.
Sara bit on her lips before nodding, ashamed to want comfort when she didn't deserve it. Ava slide her arms around her waist and guide her body against hers, leaning against the headboard to be more comfortable.
She had been so scared when she opened a portal to her girlfriend's room to see her struggling to breathe while heaving heavily.
After finishing a late meeting at the Bureau, she went back to her apartment; she had texted Sara that she wanted an early night at her home and she should come in the morning to have breakfast with her. She commanded Chinese and ate on her couch without really watching the show she had put on her television. She took a long and hot shower to relax her muscles and went to bed before 10pm. She slept peacefully holding Sara pillows against her chest before being jostled awake by her phone. It was barely midnight. She had grumpily picked it up, preparing to snap at Garry but was cut off by the AI's voice of the Waverider.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Director Sharpe, but I think you should come aboard quickly."
Ava jumped out of bed and threw on the first decent clothes she could find, her mind already filled with dread.
"What's going on? Is Sara alright?" she asked, fearing the answer.
"No, she appears to have a strong panic attack for the last forty-nine minutes. Her heart rate is very high, her breathing is erratic and her vomiting quickly dehydrates her. If this persists, she may lose consciousness. If you can't intervene, I'll diffuse a sedative into her room's ventilation before I wake up Miss Tomaz."
Ava stumbled on her feet, shocked by Gideon's rapport. Fear squeezed her heart but she chased it away. She had to focus, Sara needed her.
"Opening a portal now" she said.
She didn't know what she thought was waiting for her in Sara's room but she wasn't ready for what she saw. Her love was on the bed, clenching her stomach while throwing up bile at the edge of her bed, spit and vomit on her shin. Her whole body was trembling, covered in sweat; her face was pale behind the redness of her cheeks caused by physical exertion. She was crying so hard she couldn't properly breathe so she was hyperventilating between loud coughs.
Her name fell from her lips while her body was paralyzed by the sight in front of her. The Captain showed no sign of noticing her and she didn't know what to do. What happened? She never saw Sara in such a state, not even after her worst nightmare.
"Director Sharpe, should I diffuse the sedative?"
Gideon's voice broke her from her trance.
"No!" she exclaimed, remembering the scared look Sara gave her one night after telling her that her nightmares were the worst when she was under medication. "I'll deal with it."
Going back to her bedroom, she walked to her bathroom and took a face cloth, a mop, a glass of water and a basin filled with water. Stepping back in the Captain's room, she had to suppress a gag at the odor. Her first thought was to open a window, before she remembered where they were.
"Gideon can you do something for the smell?" she asked while approaching Sara.
"Of course." The AI answered before activating the aeration.
Sara was on her back, her eyes closed and her chest still rising erratically. Ava threw the mop to cover the vomit before kneeling beside the bed.
"Sara? Baby can you hear me?"
Upon receiving no answer, she lighted touched her shoulder causing the small blond to roll on her side in fetal position.
Ava felt tears on her own cheeks, feeling completely heartbroken. Maybe if she had been there with her… She forced herself to stop that thought, throwing herself a guilty party could wait. Dampening the face cloth in the basin, she slowly passed it on her girlfriend's face.
"Sara, my love, it's me. It's gonna be alright, baby, just keep breathing. Deep and slow breaths" she murmured, moving her other hand in Sara's hair, hoping the contact could be grounding.
She kept talking, taking the time to regularly rinse the glove in the basin before running it over Sara's face again. She would have liked to reach her neck and chest, but the blonde had circled her neck with her hands and Ava hadn't been able to loosen her grip.
"Her heart rate is calming, Director Sharpe, and her breathing seems to do the same." Gideon informed her.
"That's it babe, you're doing great. Breathe in again with me." Ava encouraged softly.
At that point, Sara seemed to get free of her panic attack or the worst of it at least. She watched her cry for half an hour before she opened up her eyes again and truly saw her. She helped her drink a bit, before joining her on the bed and taking her into her arms. While Sara seemed to gather herself, Ava breathed deeply for the first time in the couple hours she had been by her side. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was past 2am.
"I'm sorry" Sara muttered, her voice still heavy from her crying.
She didn't know for what she asked forgiveness: being a mess, taking her time, needing her… She was so exhausted she didn't have the strength to analyze the feeling. She felt Ava's soft lips on her hair and her arms tighten around her.
"I love you" Ava answered without missing a beat. "Are you feeling better?"
Sara only nodded. She still felt awful, but being able to breathe was a considerable improvement.
"Do you need something?"
Her first thought was "Laurel" but she pressed her lips shut and only shrugged.
"A shower maybe?"
Sara wasn't sure she could stand so long so she shook her head.
"A bath then?"
That wasn't a bad idea, she thought. Maybe then she wouldn't be so cold. She nodded and Ava took her in her arms and carried her back to her bathroom in her apartment. She sat her on the toilet's lid and prepared the bath. Sara watched her for a moment before closing her eyes. She didn't deserve her care, yet she wasn't strong enough to refuse it. Guilt poured in her chest and she felt tears sting at the edge of her eyes.
"May I undress you?"
Ava's voice was full of worry and love, waiting for her consent before touching her. She spoke quietly to her through the process and then helped her in the bathtub. Only when she was immerged in warm water did she finally open her eyes. Ava had taken the time to light several candles to create a gentler lighting. Laurel always did that and also sipped wine in her bath and Sara mocked her for being such a cliché. She closed her eyes again, not meeting Ava's worried look. But of course Ava didn't pressure her; she simply kissed her hairline and said she would be back. Ava lingered a moment at the door, watching Sara so small in her bathtub. She knew from experience that Sara will talk to her when she was ready, when she had enough time to process her thoughts and feelings, and she respected her need for time and space. But it was killing her. With a sigh she left her alone and went to clean her room on the Waverider, cleaning the floor and changing the sheets damp with sweat.
"Gideon, could you let the team know that Sara is with me and she will take her morning off?"
"Of course Director Sharpe."
Once Sara's bedroom was back to its usual self, Ava went back to her apartment and sat on her bed for a minute, gathering herself to be able to help her girlfriend. She couldn't let her own fears and sadness distract her from Sara. When she felt ready, she knocked once on the door not to startle Sara before entering. She hadn't move, still perfectly still with the exception of her tears. Kneeling beside the bathtub, she took a bottle of body wash and a new washcloth.
"Sara?" she asked softly. The small blonde kept her eyes closed but slightly turned her head towards Ava. "Would you let me wash you?"
She waited for a couple of minutes before receiving a small nod. She got to work silently, being careful as if she feared a sudden move could break her… which she did fear. The water was getting lukewarm so she added a bit of hot water she ran the cloth on her legs, eying Sara for any signs she was upsetting her. She was passing the cloth on her belly when Sara held her wrist, stopping her move. She had an excuse at the tip of her tongue when Sara spoke.
"I miss her."
Her voice was barely louder the breath of wind in the leaves of a tree but it echoed in the silence of the room.
"I miss her so much, Ava, I want her back." Her voice broke on the last word and she opened her eyes, imploring her of the impossible.
Ava dropped the cloth in the bath and took Sara trembling hand between hers. She didn't say anything, but didn't drop her eyes.
"I just woke up feeling her loss like that first day in the hospital. I think I had a dream about her or maybe a nightmare, and… I wanted my sister to hug me, to tell me it's gonna be alright. But she can't, because she died, and it was all my fault, and I didn't say goodbye, and it hurt so much."
Words tumbled out of mouth, quickly losing coherence and circling back to her missing Laurel and feeling guilty. Ava feared she was working herself up into another panic attack so she placed a hand on her cheek and rubbed it softly.
"It's not fair" Sara continued a bit slower. "I died too many times, I killed too many innocents, and I'm still here, while she is still dead. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to be the great one, the accomplished one while I messed around and die young. She was supposed to have an impressive career and smart kids while I was the fun aunt that got them into troubles."
She sobbed through the last words, but Ava could sense she had something to add, so she kept quiet and patiently wait.
"She is my big sister, and she's always been there for me, literally from the day I was born. She's my big sister and she said she'll always be there for me. Why did she lie to me, Ava? Why did she leave me? She promised me she'll be there if I needed her. I need her now! I'm her little sister and I love her and she promised!"
Ava couldn't take it anymore, she reached for Sara's trembling body and pressed it against her, wishing she could strip her of her pain and absorb it all inside of herself. She wished Zari had found a loophole that would let them bring back Laurel without messing the world, she would give everything she had to bring her back for Sara. Thinking of Zari made her realize that the woman was probably better equipped to comfort Sara. Ava was a clone and didn't have any experiences, real or fake, dealing with the grief of a sibling. Nightmares she could chase away but grief, there was nothing to be done to lift such a pain. What could she do or say?
"Would you take me to bed, please?"Sara asked in a small voice, filled with tears and doubts.
"Of course, baby" Ava answered immediately.
Practical things, that she could do. She kissed her hair before releasing her to get her fluffier towel and comfy pajamas. She helped Sara out of the bath, worry growing in her stomach at how weak her girlfriend seemed to be on her legs. She dried her efficiently and tenderly and put her in the jogging and sweater she prepared. Sara rested her head on Ava's chest for a moment before letting herself be guided to the bed. She tucked her under the covers, and then brought her a glass of water with some pills for her stomach that she refused. She didn't insisted and joined her in the bed, welcoming her in her arms. They both stayed silent for a while before Ava finally spoke.
"Would you tell me about Laurel?" she asked in a whisper.
Sara shifted on her chest, hiding her face in her neck.
"Why?" Her tone was a bit shy.
"Because she is your big sister and I would have love to meet her." Ava answered truthfully. "And I think talking about her, about your memories of her, might be a good way to keep her in your heart. If you talk about her and share her with others, it keeps her grounded with us, and that way, she's never completely gone."
Ava waited anxiously for Sara to respond; afraid she said the wrong thing and hurt her.
"She would have loved you, you know" Sara finally whispered. "You would have bond over your love of rules and gang together against me." She let out a teary laugh but kept going on. "She had a beautiful laugh that lit her whole face. She was tall like you and loved rubbing it to my face. She dipped her fries in her milkshake and loved a good glass of wine after a long day. She struggled with alcohol and drugs for a while but she was strong and fought to get over it. She gave me my White Canary outfit and told me to fight in the light. She was so annoying in her big sister role, trying to act like mom all the time. But when I was sad she would build a pillow fort and me read Peter Pan, no matter the time or my age."
Ava held her tighter but she didn't stop, memories of all sort spilling from her lips without link. She spoke of their childhood, of her affair with Oliver, of their relationship with their parents,… She talked and talked as time flew by, and when she didn't have anything else to say, she cried softly, but no longer for what she lost. She cried for what she had. She cried for the loving sister she had and all the memories, bad and good, that she shared with her. She cried because she loved her and was loved by her. She cried because she missed her and always would.
"I didn't realized that she would always be dead" she confessed, holding herself on her elbow to look at Ava. "I mean, I know she died, and I get it, but I think deep down I always thought she would come back. After all I did it, she thought I was dead and I came back to her, and then I died and she brought me back. I didn't realized that her death was forever. It scares me, I don't want her to be gone forever" she admitted in a breath, her red eyes fixed into Ava's.
Ava slipped her arm around her waist and brought her on top of her body, resting both her hands on her hips. She anchored her gaze in her and poured all of her love in it, imploring Sara to see it. She tried to find the good words, the ones Sara needed to hear, but she couldn't form them. So she decided to rely on Henry Scott-Holland words. She had read them a long time ago, maybe it wasn't even her but one of the clones before her, but they spoke to her for some unknown reasons. Maybe it was for that instant, to comfort her love.
"Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!"
She spoke quietly, never breaking their gaze even though she saw Sara's tears and felt her own. When she finished Sara repeated the last stanzas to herself, letting them settle in her heart. She nodded once, then twice before kissing her girlfriend and dropping her head on her chest. She could hear her steady heartbeats and let them lull her to sleep. She felt warm and loved and most of all, she knew she wasn't alone.
"Will you stay with me?" she asked, meaning more than just the night.
"Always, my love" Ava replied, knowing she never said truer words than those three.
I'm back with this new OS that is now officially a part of the series "What is sleep?". I'm pretty excited to have this home for all the OS I have in mind where I keep Sara from sleeping, not because I like making her suffer, I swear, but because I think trauma is important and hard to deal with, being an ex-assassin/former vigilante/Legend is no exception.
This OS was important for me for personal reasons and I hope I wrote it well. Grief is messy and hard and scary, because no matter how hard we cry, the reality of our loss stays unchanged. The poem "Death is Nothing At All" was written by Henry Scott-Holland in 1910 and I find it beautiful and heartbreaking but also comforting; I wanted to share it with you, because maybe someone, somewhere, someday, might need to read it just as I needed it. Grief is hard and life goes on, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. So here it is, thanks for reading it, I hope I managed to move you a bit.
Until next time mates !