It hurts less in your arms
Sara deals with a lot of pain in her life, and sometimes old wounds still stole her breath away. Some scars will always hurt but Sara understands that she doesn't have to let them.
(See the end of the work for notes.)
Time heals all, they say. Just give it time, it'll pass. With time, you'll feel better. It will fade in couple of days, months, years. How many, no one really give a precise amount of time. But time is always the solution.
Sara knew better now.
There was pain, there were losses that no amount of time could ever heal. It was all just an illusion, a lie people told to comfort themselves. Sara knew better. She had come to term with the fact that she would have to carry her pain for the rest of her life, whether they were emotional or physical. Another thing she had learn was that both were often linked. Today was one of those days. She had woken up with a sharp pain under her breast, it was hard to breath and for a dreadful moment if felt as if she couldn't. It went by as quickly as it had happened, but she was left breathless for a while. She held a trembling hand to her abdomen but the heat she felt radiating from her body dissuaded her from touching her skin. With a muffled growl she forced herself to sit upright and the blanket slipped on her thighs. She was drenched in sweat. She tried to alleviate the tightness in her stomach by leaning forward, but the mere tentative movement snatched a grunt of pain from her.
"Fuck" she swore.
Sara glanced around the room that Gideon had dimly lighted as soon as she had woken up, looking helplessly for something, anything, nothing really. The clock that she had set on Ava's time indicated 5:45, she had overslept her usual 5am mark. Yet she felt restless, a deep tiredness was settled in her bones. She bent her knees, leaned against the headboard and tilted her head against the wall.
She closed her hands in tight fists and waited for them to stop trembling. She had to pull herself together. The Legends would start waking up at 7am, Ava would call her between 6:30am and 6:45am so that they could start their day together as they had grown used to. She would always be up, training, eating or doing crossword puzzles waiting for her call. Ava would be worried to see her in her night clothes still in bed. She wanted to sigh, but the deep breath she took caused her belly to swell and her skin felt like it was tearing. The tears that came to her eyes were more an expression of her frustration than of her pain.
It was going to be a fabulous day, she thought bitterly.
She concentrated for a moment on her breathing, testing what was bearable and painful, counted to fifteen and then stood up. She bit her cheek, kept her fists clenched and walked out of her room to the bathroom. Standing upright required a great deal of effort, but she did not give in to the temptation to slouch, bend down, collapse to the floor and put herself in the fetal position. She moved forward with determination, or blind stubbornness, it was a matter of perspective. When she reached the bathroom, she locked herself in and faced the mirror. She looked at herself for a long time, silently defying her reflection to give way first before taking off her shirt in an angry and abrupt movement that tore away more than a grunt, a real cry of pain. She closed her eyes, but her tears still fell on her cheeks. Her breathing was messy and its erratic rhythm only made her torso more painful.
"Captain Lance, may I suggest you go to the medbay."
Gideon's voice startled her and she finally opened up her eyes. She vigorously wiped her tears away and went to turn on the shower.
"I'm fine Gideon, it's alright."
She removed her sleeping short and waited for the water to heat, cracking the knuckles of her hands.
"As I told you before, Captain, I can help with the pain. After suffering such a trauma, it is normal for your body to go through this sort of…"
"I said I'm fine!" Sara cried over the AI.
She entered the shower and hissed as the hot water burn her skin. But she stood under the spray an let it hit her entire body. After the first shock, the heat became a simple stinging on her skin and she relaxed a little. There were many things that Sara had learned to accept from The Gambit. Grief, pain, fear, loneliness, anger, blood lust, loneliness, doubt, guilt, shame, hatred, nightmares... It didn't mean that she liked it, but she had resigned herself to it, she had accepted that all this mess was her baggage to carry. However, what she hated most of all was this, on days like today. Days when old pains, old wounds, were remembered with intolerable intensity and power. It was as if her body was thrown back into the past and relived her wounds as it had done the first time. Ghost pain, her body reliving the trauma it already went through just as her mind did in her nightmares. Except, it wasn't real, she wasn't falling from a roof, three arrows stuck in her chest.
"It's not real", she whispered, willing herself to believe it, willing her body to remember it.
She already loved it once, she fucking died of it. No need to feel it all over again. Pouring body-wash on her hand, she lathered her torso with it, ignoring the pain she felt under her fingers. It was not real. Her hand was shacking. It was not real. No need to check for blood, she wouldn't find any. She checked. There wasn't, but it felt wrong. So wrong. She could feel each arrow piercing her, making its way through her skin, through her flesh.
"It's not real", she mumbled again.
But it was, it had been. She could feel herself falling into the air, into the void, into darkness. The cold that had inhabited her. It felt like burning and yet it was so cold. The dark, the fear, the pain. It hurt. She felt herself getting dizzy. She closed her eyes but only darkness welcomed her. She turned off the water with a trembling hand and got out of the shower. Her legs were uncertain, wobbly and she felt that they wouldn't hold her for long. She had just enough time to get to the toilet before she collapsed and threw up. The muscles in her abdomen were torturing her as her stomach convulsed and her tears joined the bile she was coughing up. At last, she had nothing more to spit out and she flushed the toilet, closed its lid and dropped her head on it. She waited for her heartbeat to settle and the room to stop spinning before standing again. She felt confident that the worst of it had pass. She went back in the shower to actually clean herself this time before brushing her teeth. She glared at the reflection of her naked body. It had taken her time not to be bother with her scars. They didn't make her less attractive, less strong, less anything. They were just traces of her past, marks that she survived her past, that she came out of it stronger. Most of the time now, she was proud of them, showing them off in pissing contests with Ollie, or as a proof that nothing could stop her to Ava. But not all of them. The scars from the arrows, these ones she never liked them. Most of the time, she just ignored them. Ava knew. And although she always made sure to let her know that she loved her, all of her, abs and scars, kissing each part of her body with the same care and love, she knew better than lingering too long on them. These three dots were a sensible subject on multiple points. She didn't like seeing them, she didn't like people touching them. And sometimes they were still sensible to touch, a bit sore. Other times, they were just fucking nightmares like today. And she hated them with everything she had. As she brushed her teeth harder than strictly necessary, she stared at them. Three dots. It was ridiculous. They had killed her and yet they weren't her uglier scars. Just three fucking dots. She spat her toothpaste and covered herself with her robe before leaving. She went back to her room, reached for the bottle of scotch she had hidden in one her drawer after Ava had made one her speech on her consumption of alcohol and let herself fell on the bed. It didn't hurt anymore, it was just sore like after a big fight. It was bearable. She still drank.
"Director Sharpe is calling" Gideon warned and Sara could swear she heard disappointment in the AI's voice.
"Put her on, please" she replied as she sat herself.
She didn't try to hide the bottle, she didn't want to lie for something like that. Ava appeared in front of her. She was getting dressed and Sara let herself appreciate the beauty of her girlfriend. She only had her white shirt on which she was still buttoning. Her long blonde hair rested freely on her shoulders having already been carefully brushed after her shower.
"Hey beautiful", she said just for the delight to see Ava blushed.
"Morning babe" Ava replied while closing the last button of her shirt. "Rough night?" she deduced upon noticing the bottle still in Sara's hand.
"Oh, I slept just fine", she shrugged, "The waking up part though, that's a whole other story."
Ava reached for her pants and bent a little bit to put them on, leaving Sara to catch a nice glimpse of her panties.
"Wanna talk about it?" Ava asked with a casual tone that poorly tried to hide the worry evident on her face.
"No, I'm all fine now", Sara assured. She even put down the bottle to ease Ava's mind. "So, tell me what you've planned for today."
She settled more comfortably on the bed as she listened to Ava talk. Her voice was familiar in a soothing way and seeing her moving around her room almost gave her the impression she was there with her. It was easier to ignore the dull ache of her scares Ava was complaining about Garry with that annoyed yet found smile. It was grounding. They hang up with the promise to see each other that night at Ava's flat.
Sara got herself ready for the day, putting on a tight tank top under a black turtle neck. Her skin was itchy under her clothes, but the two layers of fabric would limit the damage she could do to herself by scratching. Because she would scratch, that was for sure. She finished getting ready, allowed herself two big gulps of scotch before putting the bottle away and joining the Legends that were beginning to make themselves heard. Hopefully, the day would be busy enough to keep her whole mind occupied and distract her from her need to relieve her itch, her desire to just rip her skin off once and for all. She spent her morning supervising a new experiment with Ray and Nate, which meant watching them squabble, mediating on their behalf and minimizing the damage of said experiment. She discussed at length with Zari about a new update that the young woman had in mind for Gideon before going to deal with a minor anachronism that was resolved far too quickly. By the time 5pm came, she was on her third beer with Mick and out of distraction. Distractedly she rubbed her belly and sighed.
"Sure you're alright there, Blondie?" he asked with a nod toward her hand that was now aggressively scratching her abdomen through the layers of her clothes.
She stilled her hand with a curse and reached for a fourth beer.
"Peachy" she answered.
They drank silently for a moment. Sara kept one hand around her bottle, the other firmly closed in a fist and resisted the urge to wiggle to create friction between her skin and her clothes.
"Coconut oil" Mick grunted out of the blue.
"If it's old scars bothering you, massaging them with coconut oil helps. It softens the skin and reduces inflammation."
Sara stared at him with surprise not only for having correctly guessed what was troubling her but also for his advice.
"I know a thing or two about scars" he reminded her with a pointed look.
Fair. She sipped at her beer to gain back her countenance.
"They're usually fine, I don't need to do anything special for them." She offered finally in a low voice. "It's just sometimes, they hurt like hell for absolutely no reason."
Mick put down his beer and laid back on the armchair, crossed his arms on his chest and sighed.
"Every now and then" he said in an uncharacteristically soft voice, "I can feel the fire on my skin. As if its flames were kissing my skin again. There is no fire and yet my whole body is numb with pain. Some scars become red and swollen, the skin is tense and overly sensitive. People say that you can't feel anything on the scar tissue, that the nerves are too damaged to feel anything. It's bullshit. It hurts like hell."
Sara bit into her lips as she listened to him, tears gathering in her eyes. They wouldn't fall, she wouldn't let them. But as she heard her friend describe the precise thing she felt, she couldn't help but tear up.
"It took me a while to figure what to do" he went on, looking past Sara's shoulder. But Sara was looking straight at him and didn't miss his frown. "Pain is pain, you know. I thought it just came with the job, I just had to soldier on and wait for it to pass. It always does. Sometimes I ignored it, sometimes I went for it and made it worse. Kinda deserve that shit." He briefly caught her eyes at that moment, and the look their shared was louder than any words. "Took me a while to figure some things could help, and that it was okay to do them. My past is a bitch, I've done load of shit and caused a lot of my own pain. But past is also that, past. It doesn't have to come bite you in the ass whenever it wants. Especially old wounds. Already suffered them once, no need for an encore, no matter if you deserved them or not."
With a sigh, he stood and looked down to her.
"So, don't be stupid, and use coconut oil" he declared before leaving her office.
Sara sat still for a long moment, mulling over his words. Her relationship with Rory had always been more of quiet companionship and drinking buddies. They didn't talk much, they weren't big in feelings and all. So, when they did, when, one of them opened up, it was even more meaningful. She put down her bottle, no longer feeling in the mood to drown her thoughts in alcohol.
"If I may intervene, Captain Lance" Gideon said in a tone very close to "I told you so".
"You may, Gideon" Sara answered with a sigh.
"You might benefice from following Mr. Rory's advice."
She let out a bitter laugh. It wasn't every day anyone said that kind of things.
"I'll think about it."
"I'm sure Director Sharpe would be delighted to help you with the massage part."
This time, her laughter was sincere.
"Gideon, are you suggesting what I'm thinking about?" she teased the ceiling with an amused play of her eyebrows.
"I'm merely suggesting that Director Sharpe helps you relieve the pain. Whatever way you chose to interpret that sentence is not up to me, Captain."
It was in situations like this one that Sara wished Gideon could have her human form.
"I'm choosing to interpret it as you suggesting I have some sexy times with my girlfriend."
Sara could swear she heard the AI snort.
"Of course, you are, Captain Lance. And although sexual intercourse might help your state of mind", Gideon said making Sara chuckled at her choice of words, "I must insist on you considering using the coconut oil on your scars."
"Yeah, I know, I know. I'll keep it in mind" Sara promised as she stood. "Tell the Legends I'm at Ava's for the night."
"I will, Captain Lance."
She opened up a portal in the living room of the apartment but stopped just before crossing it.
"Thank you, Gideon. For everything."
"You're very welcome, Captain."
She liked to thing there was a certain softness in the AI's voice. She went through the portal and it was just closing when she heard Ava entering her home.
"You're early" she commented with a smile.
"Perks of being the Director" Ava replied as she walked to her and placed a tender kiss to her lips.
Sara placed her arms around her neck and stood on her tiptoes to deepen the kiss. She felt Ava's tightening her hold on her waist and she lost herself in the dance of their lips. Had she had spent the day kissing Ava, she would have had no time to think about bothering scars and dark memories. When they finally parted, Ava rested her forehead on Sara's and kept her close.
"Are you going to talk to me about what's troubling you?" she asked softly.
Sara closed her eyes and let their closeness eased the ache she had carry all day. She exhaled deeply and willed her pain to go away.
"Later?" she proposed finally. "When we're in bed?"
Ava kissed her forehead, her nose and her lips with tenderness.
"That's a deal, baby."
They spent a peaceful evening, they cooked together and ate on the couch without any formalities. Having agreed to discuss later enable them to have light chat about random things. Sara refused Ava's offer of wine, and settled for a soda. With a silent understanding, Ava put the bottle away and grabbed herself a coke too. They got ready for bed, taking a turn in the bathroom to shower and slipped under the covers. Ava welcomed Sara against her chest, tucking the smaller girl into her body, and ran a soothing hand on her back. Sara allowed the moment to go for several minutes before speaking.
"There's not much, really" she said with a depreciative shrug. "I just woke up with this pain in my abdomen, and it was pretty bad, but now it's fine, sort of."
Ava put some distance between their bodies to look at her in the eyes.
"Did you get hurt?" she asked with a worried frown.
"No, not today."
"I'm sorry, Sara, I don't understand."
Sara sighed and sat in the bed, Ava doing the same. She ran a frustrated hand in her hair and cursed under her breath.
"Here goes nothing" she mumbled before removing her night shirt and facing Ava.
She watched her girlfriend lowering her eyes on naked skin and closed her own eyes. When she heard Ava's gasp she knew she had seen the redness that she had herself seen in the shower. Her scars were swollen and the whole area was in an aggressive red. She hadn't been as good as she had thought at keeping her hands busy.
"Sara, what happened?"
Ava had barely touched her with the tip of one finger but it was enough to make Sara recoil from the contact. She opened up her eyes and found Ava's fixated on her.
"Nothing, I promise."
"It's obviously not nothing" Ava insisted with a pointed look at her skin.
Sara sighed and covered herself with the sheet.
"You know how sometimes my scars hurt?"
"When the weather is bad or you've trained too hard" Ava nodded.
"Well, with these three, there isn't always a reason I guess. It's… different, they're different."
Ava reached for the hand that wasn't clutching the sheet and linked their fingers.
"They're from the arrows" she said softly, letting the unsaid sit between them, loud in the silence.
"The one that killed me" Sara finally completed.
Ava reached for the lonely tear that ran on her cheek and wiped it with her thumb. She didn't move her hand then and Sara was grateful. It felt warm against her and she leaned on it.
"Talk to me, my love" she gently prompted.
And so, Sara told her. She told her about waking up with the same sharp pain she had felt on that roof. She told her about feeling like bleeding out again, about falling and losing herself in thick darkness. She told her about how the pain had made her sick and how it had faded into a dull ache that itched so much. She told her about the need to rip her skin, how she had tried and failed to ignore it. She told her all and Ava hold her tight, she embraced her whole being with her arms and her love.
"I'm so sorry, baby." Ava said as she kissed her hair. Sara had no more things to say and her tears had finally stop. "I wish I could have been there for you."
"You are" Sara mumbled against her neck. "It hurts less in your arms."
She sat back and kissed Ava with all of her love. She felt her hand on her skin, climbing her ribs, grazing the edge of her breast before caressing her back to press her harder against her. Sara pushed her tongue against Ava's lips and moaned when she let her in. She climbed on her lap, the sheet forgotten between their body, ran her fingers through her long hair and tugged lightly at them.
"Sara…" Ava gasped as she let her head fall.
Sara kissed once more her open lips before diving to her neck. She kissed and licked and bite every inch of skin she could reach before getting frustrated by her night shirt. She was trying to remove it when Ava spoke.
She immediately released the cloth and looked up to her girlfriend.
"What's wrong? You don't want to…"
Ava interrupted her with a kiss and a breathless chuckle.
"I do, baby, you know I do."
Sara had her trademark smug smirk on and she couldn't help but kiss her once more.
"I just think we should do something for your scars first" she insisted as they parted again. "Maybe apply some coconut oil?"
Sara groaned and rolled back on the bed with an annoyed sigh.
"What's with everyone and this damn oil?" she whined making Ava laughed.
"Well, it's pretty efficient. It hydrates and helps with…"
"I know, I know" Sara interrupted. "Can't we just have sex, Aves? It was pretty efficient, if you ask me."
Ava teasingly ran her index on the naked chest of her girlfriend, lightly teasing her nipples.
"We can do both" she replied, enjoying the lust darkening the eyes of the other woman.
Sara rolled on her side and tried to reached for her girlfriend again but she didn't give in. She sighed and looked down at her scars. She brought her hand to lay flatly on them, it could cover the three of them easily.
"I just don't like people touching them." She admitted at last.
"But I've already touched them, countless of times."
"It's different, Aves", Sara explained. "You're not really touching them, you're touching, we're making love or fooling around." She removed her hand when she felt the itch returned.
"They're part of you, Sara. When I touch them, I only feel you."
"But it's…" she tried to argue.
"I only feel you" Ava repeated firmly.
She reached for Sara's cheek and let her hand slide down her neck, her chest and then her abdomen. The inflammation had made it hot and she could feel how swollen they were. She hadn't missed the sharp breath Sara had taken at the first contact, but she didn't still. Her hand kept lightly caressing her skin, her scars, and she gradually felt her relax. She bent down to kiss her lips lovingly.
"Let me care for that part of you, and then let me make love to you", she whispered against her lips.