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not bad, pretty bird

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Laurel pulled open the door to Captain Drake's office, not even trying to hide the grimace on her face. It was past time for her to go home and she had several case files tucked under her arm that she would rather be working on than wasting her time getting chewed out by Dinah of all people. Of course she'd rather get shot than be around Dinah for longer than absolutely necessary. She was sure Dinah felt the same. The pair were never really on good terms. They just had moments when they weren't trying to kill each other.

Dinah was sitting at her desk, staring blankly at her laptop. Her eyes were blurry with tears and Laurel knew that haunted look in her eyes anywhere. The stoic police captain had been noticeably less stoic behind closed doors ever since her run in with the Star City Slayer. Laurel couldn't blame her, afterall, she'd nearly died.

The mere thought of Dinah dying was enough to cause Laurel's skin to crawl. She didn't particularly care for the uptight captain, but she certainly didn't want her dead. Maybe this was what empathy felt like. She couldn't quite remember.

"You wanted to see me?" Laurel asked, trying to sound annoyed, but truthfully, she was somewhat concerned for Dinah.

Dinah lifted her gaze from her laptop. Now that Laurel had a full view of the captain's face it became apparent that the haunted look in her eyes was going to remain intact throughout their conversation. The dark circles under her puffy eyes only made Laurel realize just how real this was. This conversation wasn't going to be about work. She clutched her files tighter, feeling the folders start to bend under the weight of her grip.

"Yeah." Dinah said, voice shaking slightly, "Sit down."

Laurel took a seat, placing her case files on Dinah's desk, "Look, I'm no expert but maybe you should take some more time off."

"I didn't think you cared."

"I don't. You just look like shit is all."

Dinah looked down, biting her bottom lip. It took a couple seconds, but she looked up at Laurel again, giving her a good view of the long scar on her throat. Laurel nearly shuddered upon seeing it. She'd seen far worse, but somehow this one scar made her want to stop time and keep Dinah in this moment where she was safe.

It was stupid. Laurel hated feeling any emotion other than hatred towards the other woman, but right now all she could feel was worry. She couldn't fight how all of her senses seemed to scream at her to protect Dinah. She placed her hands on her knees.

"Seriously, Dinah, I'm worried about you." Laurel said, sure to keep her voice low.

A halfhearted smile played on her lips, "I didn't know you could feel that emotion."

"Apparently I can. Come on, I know you didn't call me in here to talk about the case I closed- which I promise I did the right way. So what's up?"

Dinah stood up from her seat, her movements were slow, almost like every drop of energy had been sucked from her body. Laurel stayed tense, ready to catch the swaying captain if need be. How could anyone do this to her? The thought burst into Laurel's mind before she even had a chance to stop it. Idiot. Not too long ago Laurel would have relished snapping her neck herself.

Now, after hearing Rene descibe exactly how he found Dinah to Felicity and after seeing Dinah in the hospital and now like this, she was sure the thought of killing her would never cross her mind again. Dinah sat down in the chair beside her, sighing softly. It seemed they were the only two people left in the station, minus a few officers working on paperwork. Laurel was grateful for the quiet night.

"It's stupid." Dinah said, keeping her voice low and eyes down. She let out a pained laugh as tears flooded her eyes, "I'm scared to walk home alone."

That was quite possibly the last thing Laurel was expecting to hear from Dinah, but nevertheless it made sense. The captain was traumatized. Laurel wanted to offer her support, her comfort. But she knew that - even in this state - Dinah wouldn't want it.

"I'm scared to do anything," Dinah went on, "I know that bastard is in lockup, but it doesn't change the fact that- that I'm scared, Laurel. I don't know what to do. I can't tell anyone, especially not the team. I can't afford to look weak."

"Hey. You are not weak." Caution be dammed, Laurel reached forward and took Dinah's hand in hers, "You are the strongest, baddest bitch I know. You nearly died, Dinah, I'd be concerned if you weren't paranoid." She rubbed small circles on Dinah's skin, "If you need someone to walk with you, at least until you're really back on your feet, I'm here."

Dinah nodded, wiping her tears away with the back of her free hand. Laurel couldn't tear her eyes from the scar on Dinah's throat that sent shivers down her spine. She felt guilt wash over her, consuming her mind and choking her. She should've been there. She would've kept Dinah safe.

As much as she resented Dinah, there was just something about her that she found herself drawn to. Only when she looked down at their hands that were entwined together and resting on the arm of Dinah's chair, did Laurel realize exactly how she felt about the woman whose hand she held so tightly.

"Are you ready?" Laurel asked, not looking up from their hands.

"Yeah." Dinah said, pulling her hand back from Laurel's as she stood up.

Laurel lingered in her chair for a moment longer, realizing just how cold her hand was without it cradling Dinah's. Though, she soon pushed herself to her feet and started to walk out of Dinah's office.

"Are you really going to just leave your case files on my desk?" Dinah asked, a hint of a smile on her lips.

"I'm walking you home," Laurel reminded her, putting her regular facade back on, "you don't really expect me to waste more time by taking those back to my office, do you?"

"You really are a bitch." Dinah playfully bumped Laurel's shoulder as they walked through the station.

Laurel blinked, completely blindsided by the affectionate gesture. Of course she'd just been holding Dinah's hand so their closeness was possibly just a product of that event. Laurel let out a small laugh, causing Dinah to crack a shy smile. In an instant, Laurel decided that Dinah's smile was the most beautiful thing she'd seen.

"Dinah, I'm really sorry I wasn't there." Laurel said as they stepped out into warm night air.

Her hand reached out for Dinah's again, fingertips brushing against her knuckles. She decided she would let Dinah choose what to do next.

"I'm sorry for everything I've done to you," Laurel couldn't stop the words from tumbling out, "I am really new to this whole empathy thing, but Dinah, I'm sorry for-… for everything."

She forced herself to break off. If they were having a moment, she refused to ruin it by bringing up Dinah's dead partner. The one she killed. She'd never admit, but sometimes she'd hear Dinah's pleas ringing in her ears. She couldn't shake what she'd done. Now, part of her didn't even want to look up, to face Dinah.

So she stared at their hands that were just barely touching. She tried to focus on the sounds of the street rather than Dinah's soft crying and the pounding of her own heart. Except her focus was soon broken by Dinah's hand grabbing hers.

She tilted her head, moving so that their forheads were resting against each other. Internally, she decided to let Dinah call the shots on what would happen between them. It was the least she could do. Except for one thing. Laurel's free hand lifted to the scar on Dinah's throat that could've easily taken the other woman from her. Her thumb traced the long, reddish wound that was just barely a scar.

"I forgive you." Dinah whispered through her tears.

Laurel couldn't stop the suprised breath that left her lips, "Just like that?"

"Just like that."

They stood there for a few minutes, just listening to each other breathe. Dinah had closed her eyes and seemed to relax. Laurel remained tense. Being this close to another person made her uneasy, yet she felt almost at home with her forehead pressed to Dinah's. Part of her wondered how Dinah could just forgive her. But maybe this forgiveness wasn't as easy as the ever stoic Black Canary made it out to be. Laurel reasoned that Dinah must've struggled with this.

Speaking from experience - both new and old - Laurel knew how it felt to lose someone. More accurately, she knew how it felt to have them taken away by someone else. She'd lost her father twice, both times by someone else's hand. Yet she still blamed herself. As her forehead rested against Dinah's, she rediscovered her own self hatred. She'd taken something equally important from Dinah and she wasn't even sure she deserved the other woman's forgiveness.

"We should get going." Laurel forced the words out, "The last thing I need is you chewing me out in the morning because you didn't get enough sleep."

Dinah nodded and pulled away, "I was already planning on doing that anyway," she smiled, eyes still bright with tears, "after all, you did leave your case files on my desk."

"Oh, shut up."

Laurel gave Dinah's hand a tight squeeze before they started walking again. Now that they were out of the station, Dinah seemed to keep closer to Laurel, suspiciously eyeing her surroundings. Laurel couldn't help but wonder if Dinah saw each shadow as an assailant. She certainly acted like she did. Laurel wanted to offer reassurance, some soft words to soothe her friend. Though, she had no idea what to say. Perhaps she would find her words or maybe she would settle for kissing Dinah's head. The latter certainly seemed appealing. An unexpected bang from someone slamming a car door across the street caused Dinah to grab onto Laurel's bicep with her free hand.

"I got you, pretty bird." Laurel assured her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

The DA suddenly became very aware of just how much she meant those words. She was still struggling to fight on the right side, but she knew that if Dinah needed her, she'd be there in a heartbeat. She would back the annoyingly stuck up police captain without so much as a second thought. And she would certainly be there to walk Dinah home for as long as she needed it. Not a single question asked. Dinah wasn't weak, she was just scared and alone. Nobody knew what that felt like better than Laurel.

As they turned down a different street, Laurel felt Dinah start to relax. The city seemed quieter than usual tonight. Maybe there were no concerts, no billionaire parties, not a soul wandering around. No one except the pair holding each other close as they silently walked. Their hands fit together perfectly, but neither of them would ever admit it.

"You think I'm pretty?" Dinah asked out of nowhere.

"I'd be a idiot not to." Laurel said.

There was a pause, "I think you're pretty too."

"Dinah Drake, I thought you'd be just a little bit better at flirting than that."

Dinah huffed in response and Laurel pulled Dinah's hand to her lips and pressed a soft kiss to her knuckles. She was sure that gesture had crossed some type of line and half expected Dinah to wrench herself away. But as Laurel let their hands drop to her side once more, Dinah gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Laurel glanced at Dinah, whose cheeks were as red as ever as she bit her bottom lip.

"Not bad, pretty bird." Laurel said, her signature grin intact.