A/N: Continued thanks to unwittingcatalyst for betareading. Also special thanks to SophiaCatherine and Ballycastle_Bat for taking a look at a part of this I was uncertain about and needed some encouragement for.
Content notes: swearing from Charlie, mention of prison, loss of control/identity for Charlie, Rip comes back with neurological/time displacement issues
Wally doesn't think he has a favorite chore. His favorite bit is the chores being done, so he does them, problem solved. This does not work out well on the Waverider. Turns out people actually kinda like chores, no matter what they say. Some of them at least. He gets to learning which he should leave for who.
It's still so new to have chores be a choice. He got so used to doing so much growing up, taking the strain off his mom. She worked so hard and he made sure things got done when they needed to get done so the time they had together at home could be the best. At his dad's house somehow he already kept things ship shape in between all the meta-humans of the week. Wally didn't have anything to do there, except food shopping and the dishes – those were more to do with managing the appetite and consequences of being a speedster. It seemed fair to do those, no matter what his dad could have said. Wally never asked, just did it, worried his responsibilities would get dismissed in an overeagerness to make him feel at home and yet unpressured.
Now, there are more people to go round than he's ever experienced. It's weird to not have to do at least half of it. It's weird because he could do all of it. His favorite thing becomes letting others do some of it, having a rest. Sitting down and letting himself be, just like he'd been learning before Rip came to recruit him. He still blitzes through all the chores from time to time but he strikes a balance between not being taken for granted and not taking it all away from the others either. Limiting himself to once in a while, when people are super busy seems to work out okay and earns him grateful smiles. His favorite thing is being appreciated and with the Legends, he can get that.
When she first comes aboard it's hard for Amaya to see the Waverider as a potential home, borne out of pain and loss as her mission there starts. The demands on her attention she finds difficult to get used to too – the strange noises, the bright flashing lights. These far succeed the technology of her time, beyond even most of the predictions of the pulpiest sci-fi magazines, and it takes time to feel comfortable operating under the control (the care, she may correct in future) of a computer. Calling upon a well of calm within her, she reimagines it as merely background noise, inconsequential, and so blocks it out. Later, she learns what it means, how to read this foreign environment, but all she can hear then it what it is not.
She misses the sounds of the savannah. The villagers going about their lives around her. The chatter in her native language soothingly familiar. The flutter of fireflies at night. The wind in the grasses. The subtle movements of the animals keeping their distance, whose presence is known to her, touching on her senses extended with the totem. She misses the heat too, the burn of the sun unlike that of other times and places they visit. But she's missed these for longer than her time on this ship. She traded them for the urban sprawl of America and heroics of the Justice Society and deep down she knows that can only be temporary in either case. Zambesi is her home, her destiny – anywhere else she is a tourist, counting down the days until she returns. How can she see this ship as anything more than transport, awaiting the final call to take her to a home it cannot be?
However alien the ship seems initially, she does learn to think of it as simply another ecosystem, one with larger, more complicated animals. The sounds of the ship become soothing in their own way, if simply to reassure everything is going smoothly. She stops blocking them out, decides she must pay attention the same she would in any other environment. Visiting Axl, if Mick doesn't mind her intruding, helps to ground her when there is no earth immediately in her reach but there is something missing still.
She knows it when she sees it and she sees it on the rare occasion she visits Ray in his lab. She has a question for him about her totem - in case he and his science can shed light on ponderings she has long had about it that the elders do not have answers for. It is also an attempt to heal the rift her introductory impression had created between them. Her judgment had been swift and harsh and clearly taken to heart, words she came to regret once she saw past his bravado. What she spots to one side of his workspace is a small plant, a fern he identifies it as – good for air quality, though he's quick to compliment Gideon's management of their atmosphere. He says it's merely a boost for his space, a helping hand to his brain, but his enthusiastic and apologetic ramblings are not what she cares about in that moment.
Longing blooms in her heart at the sight of greenery amongst the scenery made up of so much metal and glass. The ship has the essential provided, the very oxygen they breathe cycled through artificial scrubbers, technically purified. But the automated cannot replace the essence of nature, something she realizes suddenly is as vital to her as her connection to the animal world. Life cannot come from man alone, nor fauna alone.
With Ray's help, she identifies species that could reasonably be grown on the Waverider, and which would support their lives in return. In some of her spare time, she wanders the ship considering where best to locate each carefully chosen plant. Once the decisions are made they set up lights to replicate the sunshine needed. Ray offers to teach her about hydroponics, excited for a new project to improve life aboard but Amaya asks him not to. She prefers to take charge of the watering and plant nutrition schedule rather than trust more to automation. To others, it would be a chore but to her it is a small daily joy to check-in on her plants, and it is also a piece of home to have here, one that she won't have to leave behind.
Being told to run maintenance on the Waverider doesn't feel like a good thing to Jax. Not the first time Rip orders him and not any day for ages afterward either. It was scut work, was what it was. Felt like a distraction, Rip dismissing him. Reducing him to brawn versus Grey's brain, as if he's only good as a mechanic or one half of a superhero. He has a lot of time to think on it, get worked up about it, and Grey doesn't think anything of it, which makes it feel even worse – is this all people expect of him?
Great adventures come along. He gets to feeling proud of what he and Grey can do together. He also gets to feeling proud of what he can do on the ship. He's starting to understand what he's doing, with Gideon's help. Future tech sounds fancy and intimidating, but it's still tech built by humans (as far as he knows) so it's gotta be possible to learn the ins and outs eventually - he's just got a select choice (Gideon's choice, the least damaging topics for an inhabitant of the past to be initiated into) of a couple hundred years of scientific innovations to update himself on before he can fully get his head around everything going on in the ship's innards.
He listens at night to the sounds of the ship. He still worries about making modifications – what if it isn't quite right, something out of place Gideon can't detect? What if, what if. By now Gideon is used to his late-night requests to read out systems status like a messed up bedtime story to soothe his anxiety.
Eventually, he finds out it was never about busying him, not the way he thought it was. It was about trust. It was about Rip's fear of disappearing – a fear that they've lived through twice – of his leaving them stranded, helpless. He wanted Jax to be the go-to guy but in his typical cryptic, emotionally stunted style, he hadn't simply told Jax – he'd forced him to live it, day in and day out until Jax knew every inch the same as he once did. If there's a lesson to learn there, it's redundancy, even though it hurts to think like that, about people, their crew. Zari snarks at him for his worst case scenario thinking, but she doesn't disagree about the need which is just as well because it's not long after that Martin gets hurt. Thankfully it's just a flesh wound – Martin's tireless Monty Python jokes while hopped up on painkillers are tedious as hell – and he retires as planned, leaving Jax wondering where he belongs. He doesn't have an answer, figures looking for one is a new adventure itself.
Of course he visits, flags up Gideon with a special email address she monitors across time and space. He likes to give her a once over, for old time's sake when he does. Zari keeps her and the Waverider in good nick with some of Mick's help at times. She doesn't have the same hum as before, she's changed, like they all have, but it has the same tones underneath, the same at her core, that he remembers falling asleep to. Sometimes when he visits there's a minor fault practically waiting for him. Zari gets very quiet, has a little smile she can't entirely repress. He appreciates it, a little taste of belonging. No matter where else he belongs in his life, he will always belong here in a timeless fashion – as Ray and Nate would say, one does not simply stop being a Legend.
Prison is more a state of mind, Charlie reckons. An actual place, sure, being in the clanger is no bed of roses but what you do when you're there defines who you are when you finally get out. Her special hell was a prison but she made do, made friends, of a sort. The Waverider isn't so different. Except the Waverider isn't the same when it comes down to it. For all the screaming and shouting, huffing and puffing to blow their house down, half of them didn't want her locked up and it didn't take so long before she has a cushy bed and all you could drink booze. As far as prison's go it was like a resort hotel with a side of weekly entertainment she got dragged into against her bad judgment. That and the need to repeatedly point out not everyone magical needed sending to hell, cheers.
Home, the Waverider is not. But it does okay, turns out it has some okay people too. She can make it work for her, but she doesn't feel comfortable and she knows exactly why. Home isn't something she's had for lifetimes by their standards. Home ceased to be about bricks and mortar. Home was what she brought with her. Getting comfortable was a matter of making herself into what she needed at the time. Snap of her fingers and she slipped right back into ol' Maria or Klaus. Her well-worn favorites weren't books or swords but bodies. When you could look like absolutely anyone, anyone you could imagine, there was satisfaction in finding the right face and the right outfit to offset it. Home was looking in the mirror and feeling right. And now, thanks to his bloody vengefulness the warlock she couldn't do that.
Being stuck in one skin made her feel itchy, and she had to physically change her clothes as well. She couldn't look precisely how she wanted but the ship at least provided whatever she could want to wear, she just didn't like the faff of getting dressed and undressed so avoided it unless she really had to. It felt sort of good to try out a new look each mission, but it still wasn't the same. She's too used to changing what she looks like. Once upon a time not too long ago she could be herself everywhere she goes. But this is what she has today. Adapt. Find another route to where you want to be.
If she couldn't change herself, the 2nd best thing to change was the ship. It started out with little touches. Moving things about. Because she could. A bottle. A book here and there. The side effect of annoying certain crew members was merely a tasty bonus. That gets boring quick, it's not enough. People move those back. Furniture feels like it could be more fun, more drastic a measure, changing the whole flow of a room.
The purpose wasn't to make things more efficient, though sometimes she does by accident which elicits cheery praise from Ray that has her feeling uncomfortably warm. It ought to be nice, he's proven himself a decent chap, yet there's a lingering grudge he didn't rally more for her. To stop them putting her behind forcefield to rot for who knows how long when they were confused about what to do with her wearing their friend's face. Changing the layout of a room never looks right for long, a brief satisfaction, but it's something to do and honestly, she's amazed they don't complain more.
Each change is a test of their patience, of how accepting they are of her. Those boundaries teased further and further until she almost feels the rest of them might like her... The concept of home is so far in her past she doesn't know what she could do to reach that for real. So she settles for making it hers, more hers with every change. Control is something they took away and she takes it back in small ways.
The great irony of being a Time Master was that Rip never quite felt like he had enough time to enjoy life. There was always the mission, before. The secrets. Keeping secrets was very taxing indeed. He remembers being tense, holding himself in, in an entirely different way than he must now.
He left, he came back. He left again. He comes back again. He's not quite the same anymore. Things don't feel like they happen in the right order. A weird notion to have for a former Time Master.
Things did not happen how he expected. Things no longer happen how he expects either. He does not happen as they expect. He thinks of words too early sometimes, sentences that seem to make sense to him spilling forth to find confused faces. Laughs at jokes he's only just got, but no one else can hope to because they have not arrived yet. He can hold a conversation of course, but no one would claim it was a normal conversation. There were too many tangents, too many threads in his brain out of sync these days. Days that he is lucky to have by all accounts. He takes them one at a time, in body at least.
He makes cakes. Gideon recommends another hobby initially, but he insists. Cakes are ordered. Recipes proceed as planned, one step at a time. The distractions in his mind don't matter, not if he crosses step one off the list, then step 2 and so on. If he loses his place he need simply look down and see where he is at.
Mind you, it took some time to adjust for the gluten substitute for Ray. Experimentation is not his forte anymore, failure frustrating him no end with trying to keep details straight in his head. Gideon is patient, Gideon is organized where he forgets, when he displaces facts or gets ahead of himself. He feels a failure a dozen times until he notices the common thread in how these are received, over and over the same, so stark to see when he focuses on it. Ray appreciates the effort. Perfection doesn't have to be the aim, accommodation is. A hundred disappointing gluten-free cakes are better than one masterpiece that can't be enjoyed by everyone. And the cakes, disappointing or not, produce oodles of washing up for Ray to do, which he suspects is almost a comfort to the man. More than once Ray has shown up mid-baking to get a head start on it with a wide grin on his face, providing unusually silent company as Rip follows the recipe. Only the gentle splashes of the washing and the chinking as he stacks the bowls on the drying rack are evident and for that Rip is grateful. They each take comfort in their task, neither alone as they do so.
For Rip, the cakes are a challenge. They go from untouched, perfection possible, if hard to attain...to gone, wiped away like a mandala in the sands of time. Except it's grabby hangry hands of the crew post-mission that tears these apart. It's a chore that never ends, people never cease to be hungry. They'll always need him.