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The Cards

Felicity pulled the drawer open and nearly sighed in relief. “Oh, thank god,” she said.

“Did you find it?”

“No. Maybe—I don’t know yet.” She swiveled on her fuzzy socks to shoot a grin at Laurel, who was across the dining room. “Not the point. I was actually exclaiming in relief because here we finally have it: proof positive that Laurel Lance’s pristine apartment isn’t completely perfect. Here it is, folks. A junk drawer.”

Laurel snorted. “Yes, even I have a junk drawer. Try not to lose your head.”

“But I always lose my head over tangled rubber bands.” Felicity’s grin broadened as she plucked a red one from the pile and shot it at Laurel.

Who of course snatched it from the air because vigilante. Duh. “Nice try,” Laurel said, pulling the rubber band over her wrist. “You’re as bad as Thea.”

“I’m taking that as a compliment. I don’t see it in here.” Because movie nights couldn’t happen without proper snackage, they were searching for the top of Laurel’s popcorn maker. Felicity was pretty sure she could MacGyver something, but Laurel had insisted. Felicity poked through the junk drawer. “You said it was blue, right?”

“Blue, flat, about yea big.” Laurel held her hands apart. “I have no idea what could have happened to it. I hope I don’t have to buy a new machine altogether. Wait, they sell parts, right?”

“Or we can print something up with that fancy 3D printer I installed in the lair last week.”

“Point,” Laurel said, and Felicity frowned as her fingers brushed against a stack of something that had a little give to it.

Curious, she pulled it out of the drawer, raising her eyebrows at the tactical cord—from the Black Canary suit, no less—wrapped around what looked like a stack of postcards. A grin spread over her face as she looked at a beach scene with the words PUNTA GORDA scrawled across the sky in tacky red font. “Oh hey,” she said, unwrapping the cord. “I sent you this, right?”

“Sent me wh—oh.”

Felicity pulled the last of the cord free and flipped through the stack. “Did you keep all of them? Wow, if I’d known you were a pack rat, I would have picked better pictures. I always chose the silly ones.” She had to smile, for they were indeed all there: South Africa, Auckland, Seattle. She’d been in touch with the team the whole time, but she’d liked writing little anecdotes about her day and sending them to a friend. The two apes in lederhosen postcard she’d found in Austria made her laugh. “Seriously, I should have picked classier ones because—you know, you’re Laurel—but these always made me laugh.”

She looked up suddenly, grinning, and nearly did a double-take. Laurel had an odd expression on her face, though when Felicity blinked, it had vanished completely. Maybe she’d imagined it. “Me too,” Laurel said, giving Felicity a warm smile. “I think you made my mailman jealous, though.”

“Did I? Ha. I really didn’t expect you to keep them. They’re really dumb. Like, here, I wrote a terrible joke about bytes. What was I thinking?”

“I got the IT guy at work to explain it to me, it’s fine. And no, they were nice.”

Then why the strange look? Felicity felt something drop in the pit of her stomach. Had she misstepped? She hadn’t meant to pry. Warily, she tidied up the stack and wrapped the cord around it again, replacing them in the drawer. “I don’t think the lid’s in here. I mean, we can skip the popcorn.”

“Ice cream instead?”

“It’s like you read my mind.”

An hour later, though, the movie wasn’t holding her attention—the stunts looked so fake, and apparently Laurel agreed from the way she kept snorting under her breath and critiquing fighting techniques—so Felicity mulled it over. Why had Laurel had that strange look on her face? Had she done something wrong?

What if she’d secretly hated the postcards? What if they were too weird, or too cheesy, or Felicity was just being a giant dork?

“If you think any louder, the movie soundtrack’s going to be jealous,” Laurel said, her voice mild as she took a sip of her tonic water. “What’s the matter?”

“Just thinking about the postcards.”

Laurel eyed her. “What about them?”

“You got kind of a weird look on your face, and now I’m worried that—we are the kind of friends that can send postcards to each other, right? For some reason now I’m wondering if I crossed some kind of line. Or maybe they were just really stupid, and if they were, you don’t have to coddle me or pretend or even keep them in a drawer—”

“Felicity,” Laurel said.

Felicity took that as a cue to breathe. “Right. Okay, that was silly. Ignore me. I’ve been overthinking things like crazy lately, with Damien Darkh on the loose and things being weird with being back in Starling—sorry, Star—City again.”

Laurel sighed. “It’s definitely not that.”

“It’s not?”

“I liked the cards. It was…” Laurel stared at the screen, face unreadable. “I’m not looking for pity or anything, but people, they have a habit of leaving. Sometimes willingly, sometimes they’re taken. Again, and again, sometimes. And then they leave anyway, no matter what you do.”

Sara, Felicity realized. She was talking about Sara. She’d seemed okay that Sara had taken off again to go find herself after coming back to life, but maybe they’d all been assuming things. Now Felicity regretted bringing this up, even though she remained morbidly curious. Laurel was so reserved for somebody that Felicity knew could be so passionate. It made her a great lawyer, but it sometimes meant she’d inadvertently stepped on the emotional equivalent of a mine in a minefield and there was never any warning.

“And the thing is, none of those people ever…they never stayed in touch. Which, I understand. Better things to do and all. But still there were no letters, no phone calls. Just silence from the void. Not even a postcard.”

“Until me,” Felicity said, putting it together. Her stomach sank for an entirely different reason. “Oh my god.”

“It was nice to be thought of.” Laurel’s smile was tight, but at least it was a smile. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“Well, no, but now I kind of want to thump some people on the head.”

“They’d only thump you back harder.” Laurel made that face she sometimes did when she was trying to defuse a situation. Sure enough, when she spoke again, her voice was droll. “Keeps life interesting, though, because most of them don’t give me advance notice they’re dropping by. The occasional heart attack is good for the soul. And no news is good news, really. If I don’t know what’s happening to them, it can’t be bad.”

“Schröedinger’s news?” Felicity asked, and Laurel shot her a questioning look. “Never mind.” Impulsively, she hugged Laurel from the side. They’d all led somewhat horrible lives, but she hated when one of her vigilantes was clearly hurting over the silent wounds.

After a minute, Laurel relaxed. “Just to make sure, this is not you pitying me, right? Because I’m fine.”

“Please.” Felicity scoffed. “This is friend cuddling, not ‘some parts of your life are shit’ cuddling.”

“Some parts are,” Laurel said, shifting to get more comfortable and not that bothered that Felicity was now using her shoulder as a pillow. Granted, she lived with Thea, who was kind of like a cat when she wanted to be, so that made sense. “But that’s all right. At least we’ve got terrible action movies and ice cream.”

“Damn straight.”

 

 

 

The Tea

Thea lost a sister-in-law (to be) the same day she gained a nephew.

Her life had been a cruel see-saw. Lose a father and a brother, gain back a vigilante and a brother. Lose a mother, gain a homicidal sperm donor willing to teach her to be strong. Lose a boyfriend, gain back occasional sex visits from a fugitive with seriously flashy parkour skills. Lose a half-brother, gain an honorary big sister for life (though Thea supposed she already had that. The more she looked back on her time after the Gambit, the more she realized what a rock Laurel had been in her life. That didn’t mean Thea would forgive her for using all the hot water again that morning).

When she thought about it later, after all was said and done and several men lay bleeding on the floor of yet another abandoned warehouse—Star City seemed to have an endless supply of those—Thea thought it was like a well-choreographed play. All of the scenes were there: the way Oliver’s entire body seemed to lose its color when Felicity pulled up the ransom video, the tight control when he told them the identity of the child, the look of dawning horror on Felicity’s face, the frantic rescue, the sight of the little boy clinging to the Green Arrow armor. The way Laurel’s face fell as she watched Felicity watching the vigilante and his son.

The red eyes and tear-tracks on Felicity’s face as she wheeled her way into Laurel and Thea’s apartment later that night.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice thick, and Thea’s heart ached just looking at her. “I could have gone to my mom’s, but she likes Oliver so much, I’d be the one c-comforting her and…”

It was, Thea understood as Felicity crumpled and Laurel knelt to hug her, the end of another act in the play. The end of a relationship.

It still made her furious hours later after Laurel had nagged Felicity into taking her bed. Thea sat on the couch with her Speedy gear unzipped and shoved down to her waist. Laurel had changed into yoga pants and a T-shirt, but she hadn’t said anything about Thea’s attire. Instead, she’d silently handed over a cup of tea, letting Thea seethe in peace.

“Why does he ruin so many relationships?” Thea asked when she finally couldn’t keep the words inside. “Felicity was so perfect for him. Is so perfect for him. Why is he his own worst enemy?”

Laurel only shook her head, her eyes on her own bedroom door.

“He proposed to her, which is literally saying ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you,’ and he couldn’t tell her he had a kid?” Thea wanted to throw her mug, but it was one of Laurel’s nice ones. She did hop off the couch to start pacing, though, because otherwise she was going to go insane. “What the hell is wrong with him?”

“So many things,” Laurel said. “Not all of them his fault, but so many things.”

“And it’s selfish, but the kid—William—William is my nephew, too. Or my half-nephew.”

“Nephew,” Laurel said. “Oliver doesn’t see you as a half-sister.”

“Right now I don’t care what my brother sees.” Thea kicked the coffee table, not enough to damage it. The brief pain in her toes dissipated at least a little of the anger. “But if I have a nephew, he should have told me. And Felicity. And the rest of us because hey, if one of us has a kid that can be used as blackmail, that seems pertinent.”

Laurel sighed and set down her mug, looking toward the front door a few seconds before the loud knocking started. For a woman whose primary weapon was sonic in nature, she had amazing hearing. “Stay here.”

“Are you going to fight him?” Thea asked, already shrugging back into the top part of her Speedy outfit.

“My apartment’s seen enough damage. Let’s see if I can solve this one peacefully for once.”

“I know you’re in there,” Oliver said through the door, knocking again. “Is she here?”

Laurel rolled her eyes at Thea. Instead of letting him in, though, she stepped into the hallway. Thea counted to three before she darted across the room, pressing her ear to the door.

“—she’s sleeping right now,” Laurel said.

“Wake her up. I need to talk to her.” Thea could imagine Oliver had his arms crossed over his chest, probably mimicking Laurel’s stance perfectly. The lull that followed made Thea imagine Laurel raising an eyebrow. “I don’t remember any of us giving you the job of Felicity’s bodyguard, Laurel.”

“I’m not her bodyguard, I’m her friend.”

“You’re supposed to be my friend, too.”

“I am, which is why it’s me out here and not your sister because she’s liable to kick your ass. You need to go. If Felicity wants to talk to you, she knows how to find you better than the rest of us do.”

A long pause followed and Thea rolled her eyes because of course Ollie wasn’t going to back down without a fight. “You’re all on her side,” he said, sounding tired.

“It’s not about sides.”

“What do you expect me to do? His mother asked me not to tell anybody if I wanted to see him. How was I supposed to choose?”

“Ollie…” Oliver wasn’t the only one who sounded exhausted now. Thea’s heart clenched in her chest; Laurel had been quiet since they’d retrieved William. She’d played with him a little, sitting on the floor in her Black Canary suit to stage a fake battle against his army men, and she’d contributed to the team discussion like usual. But now the reserve appeared to be gone. “It’s up to Felicity what she wants to do, and there’s too much at stake for sides here. You two are going to have to work this out on your own.”

“Yet you’re not letting me see her.”

“Not permanently. Just not right now. You can’t be here. Felicity’s hurting, Thea’s hurting, and I’m…”

“What?”

Thea felt her fists clench. Why wasn’t he getting the message already? She wondered why Laurel had paused for so long again, what her face looked like.

“I don’t want you here either,” Laurel finally said, and Thea blinked. That was certainly the last thing she expected Laurel to say. “I can do math, Ollie. I know how old that boy is and who you were supposed to be dating when you slept with his mother. And I’m not holding it against you—I forgave you for everything you did before you wound up on that island a long time ago—but I can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. So you need to leave. When Felicity wants to talk, she will find you.”

Again there was a pause. Thea leaned in closer, trying to listen harder through the door like that would give her any clue what her brother and her roommate looked like. And oh god, she hadn’t even put it together. William would have been conceived while Oliver was dating Laurel.

Why did her brother have to be so stupid about things?

Oliver must have opened his mouth to protest because Laurel said, “Don’t. I’m your friend, and that goes both ways, and as my friend, I am asking you to go now.”

“At least tell me if Felicity’s okay.”

“What do you want me to say? She’s upset.”

Thea really didn’t blame her. Hell, Thea wanted to step through the door and shout at Oliver, but really, what could she say? He had to be hurting worse than she was. He was the one that had lost Felicity. And yelling at somebody while hurting on their behalf was really counter-productive. Torn, Thea stepped away from the door and wandered back to the couch.

She had no idea what Laurel said that finally convinced Ollie to leave, but five minutes later, Laurel stepped inside, closed and locked the door, and leaned back against it. She ran her hand over her face.

“You okay?” Thea asked.

Laurel shook her head, but didn’t elaborate.

“Can I do anything?”

“I really want a drink. God do I want a drink.” Laurel looked at her hand and sighed; even from across the room, her stomach twisting in knots, Thea could see her fingers shaking. “I’m going to call my sponsor.”

“Sure, of course. I’ll, um, I’ll give you the room. I need to take a shower, anyway. And because I’m a considerate roommate, I’ll even leave you some hot water.”

For a second, a ghost of a smile appeared on Laurel’s face. “You’re never going to stop bitching about that, are you?”

“Nope,” Thea said, heading to her room to grab pajamas and a towel. When she emerged, she heard Laurel’s quiet murmur as she spoke to her sponsor—something she hadn’t had to do in a while, not since Sara had left again—but she crept toward the bathroom, trying not to be a bother.

She had no idea how team dynamics were going to shake out now. Damien Darkh was still at large, the Green Arrow still needed Overwatch, and the look on Felicity’s face had told Thea that it was Over. Thea stood under the spray and let the water pound against the bruises she’d picked up fighting a couple of henchmen.

She heard Felicity sobbing when she passed by Laurel’s room and paused. Eventually, she crept on. She understood that kind of uncontrollable crying. She’d done plenty of it over Roy, and she knew when somebody needed to be left alone. When she passed the couch, she saw nothing but the top of Laurel’s head, but the sound of even breathing told her that Laurel had fallen asleep.

Thea picked up the new mug of tea on the coffee table, which had only partially cooled, and studied it for a moment before taking a sip. Laurel made tea whenever either of them was having a bad night. Just a tiny bit of normalcy in the never-ending sea of chaos that had become their lives. It soothed Thea as she moved to her room and laid down on top of the covers, staring at the ceiling and trying to put it all together. She’d gained a nephew—cuteness himself, he looked just like a little Oliver from the pictures they’d had all over the manor when she was growing up—but it felt like she’d lost a team.

And she really didn’t know what to make of that.

 

 

The Bad TV

She didn’t mean to, but Felicity kind of moved in.

Her old apartment was Queen territory—Thea’s first and then Oliver’s and hers—and frankly, it had been paid for by Malcolm and that left a sick feeling in her throat, so she let Oliver keep the apartment. She was the CEO of Palmer Tech, after all, she could afford something pretty nice for herself. And she would as soon she found a place.

Instead, she became a permanent fixture on Laurel’s couch. At first, it was a form of denial, one she could only acknowledge in a hazy way. If she was staying at Laurel’s, maybe it was just a fight, maybe Oliver hadn’t lied to her for months all the while preaching honesty and trust. Maybe they weren’t over. But after a while, it simply became that apartment hunting and finding an accessible place, on top of running Palmer Tech and her Team Arrow duties, just proved to be too exhausting.

“Felicity, it’s fine. We like having you around, and you’re not in the way. Stay as long as you like,” Laurel offered, not looking at all bothered that yet another teammate was encroaching on her space.

So Felicity did.

Things with the team remained tense. She and Oliver argued all the time. Felicity took her anger out in passive aggressive and snide comments that made even Thea side-eye her, and Oliver returned the favor. All of their easy affection and camaraderie melted away until there was nothing but bitterness and sniping left.

She cried herself to sleep more often than she liked to admit. Luckily, Thea and Laurel gave her what privacy they could.

“Let me make sure I’ve got this right. You broke up with your fiancé because he had a kid?” Curtis asked as they were sharing Thai food over project plans one day.

Felicity only shook her head. “No. It’s fine that he has a kid, that doesn’t bother me. And William’s cute.” She actually liked William, though she wasn’t sure she’d have been ready to be a stepmother yet. She poked at her noodles and tried to corral the thoughts into words. “I knew what Oliver was like before we got together, and I thought I could handle it, but…he keeps too many secrets. There was no reason for him to hide the fact that he had a kid from me. Keeping me was more important than sharing the truth with me.”

“I see,” Curtis said, though the way his forehead wrinkled told Felicity the opposite.

Felicity pushed her food aside. She wasn’t hungry these days. “And now I can’t help but look at him and wonder what else he’s hiding. Because I know there has to be more, a bunch of insidious little secrets that are going to come bursting out at the worst possible moment and maybe kill us all.”

“O…kay…”

“And I don’t want to live like that. If I’m going to be with someone, I want to be able to trust them and I want to know they trust and respect me.” Felicity put her head down on the desk. “And that goes both ways. I kept a big secret from him for months and I probably wouldn’t have come out with it if he hadn’t caught me in the act. And what kind of couple does that?”

“I really don’t know what to tell you.” Curtis stole her lunch and took a bite. “You’ve tried talking to him?”

“We get nowhere.” Felicity sighed.

“I’m sorry.”

“Thanks.”

Curtis took another bite of her dinner and swallowed. “That said, I do have to bring all of this back and wonder what it has to do with the refresh rate on that powerpack cell we were testing, which is what I asked in the first place.”

“Was it?” He totally had, Felicity realized. She shoved all of her messy feelings about Oliver and their weird secret-keeping habits to the side, and grabbed the tablet. Work made sense. Science wouldn’t lie to her, so she could focus on that. “My bad.”

Hours later, she unlocked Laurel’s front door and pushed her way in, pausing to hang her purse up on the little peg Laurel had drilled in the wall for it at her height. Laurel sat on the couch, legs folded into the lotus position while she watched her trashy TV show. “Bad day at work?”

“Judge threw out a pretty crucial piece of evidence. I ordered Big Belly Burger, hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind? You’re my hero.” She wheeled over to the couch and transferred herself to the far cushion, throwing a blanket over her legs. “I’m sorry about the evidence, though. Will you be able to recoup that loss?”

“Probably not.” Laurel made a face and glanced at her. “You look like you had just as much fun as I did today.”

“I kind of unloaded on Curtis when he asked me an unrelated question. Just…full Felicity blather. He looked a little shell-shocked by the end.”

“Aw, Mr. Terrific?” Laurel adored Curtis. Felicity inviting him over for a game night had led to them bonding over, of all things, the same telenovela playing on TV. Living with Laurel had brought out her surprising love for absolutely terrible TV. “I’m sure he didn’t mind, though. He’s a sweet guy.”

“I’ll tell him you said so. It’ll take him an hour to stop blushing, but it will be worth it. Where’s Thea?” Felicity glanced toward her bedroom, but the door was open. Usually a sign that she wasn’t in there. “Training?”

“Nope. Parkour Prettyboy’s in town. She said to take her bed, since she’s not planning to use it.”

“Go Thea. At least somebody in this apartment is getting some and—whoa, god, that was mean. I was making fun of myself and brought you into it. I’m sorry.”

Laurel laughed and pushed herself off of the couch when the doorbell rang. “My single status does not actually bother me,” she called over her shoulder, “for the record.”

“Really?” Felicity asked a few minutes later, around a bite of her burger. “It doesn’t bug you at all?”

Laurel had her eyes glued to the TV. “I work fifty hours a week trying to put scumbags away and at night I go out and punch them in the face. When would I have time for a love life? I always thought the rest of you were the crazy ones.”

She had a point there. Getting over Oliver Queen was proving to be a full-time job on its own, but dating him had been time-consuming, too. And they hadn’t actually gone on that many dates. Just a honeymoon trip, then brunches with the neighbors, then lots of dinners in. Hell, between grabbing coffee in the afternoons if Laurel was in court (which was near the Palmer Tech building) and their standing every-other-weekend movie matinee outings, she’d been out with Laurel more than she had with Oliver.

“I’d believe you more,” Felicity said now, stealing a fry, “if you weren’t watching a telenovela that I know you never miss.”

“Rico and Isabella’s relationship is very important to me. Their love is true.”

“Until Rico lies or cheats,” Felicity said before she could stop herself.

Thea or Diggle would have made a reproachful comment about being too bitter. Laurel only turned to her in indignation. “Rico would never cheat on Isabella. You take that back.”

“You’re kidding, righ—you’re totally not kidding. Wow, you’re serious.”

Laurel pointed her burger at Felicity. “I will not have you besmirching my fictional completely-in-love characters.”

“I’m really worried that you’re not kidding about any of this.”

Laurel gave her a smug look and settled back into the couch, taking a giant bite of her burger as Felicity eyed her. When Felicity squinted, she only shrugged in reply and returned her attention to the TV.

“You have a better poker face than I remember,” Felicity said slowly.

“Do I?” Laurel finished off her burger.

(“You insulted Rico?” Curtis asked the next day. “What kind of monster are you?”)

 

 

The Cookies

As a matter of courtesy to her host, Nyssa picked the lock. She preferred the balcony, as the door to the building was far too exposed, but last time she had used her usual method of entry, she had surprised Laurel, who had been wearing nothing but a towel, and she had been attacked by a very naked Black Canary. As illuminating as the experience had been—she was only human—Nyssa wasn’t sure it was worth the jokes that Sara had cracked about her having seen both Lance sisters in the buff now. She’d also cooed and called Nyssa her little demon stud.

Her lover was a very strange woman indeed.

Lock satisfactorily disengaged, Nyssa tucked away her picks in her sleeve. She eased the door open a bare inch, studied the apartment through the crack, and deemed it safe. Laurel and Thea were likely asleep, as they should be at three in the morning. Nyssa would deposit her gear and get some rest; it had been a long journey, but this was the first time Laurel had used the code Nyssa had left with her last time, so she had dropped everything.

She pulled up short as she stripped out of one of Sara’s leather jackets. The couch was definitely not empty.

Ah yes. Felicity had finally wised up and kicked Nyssa’s ex-husband to the curb. That was perfectly fine with Nyssa. She could move on all she liked, but Oliver should remain alone and bitter for his sins. And it looked like Felicity had taken comfort in her friends after the breakup even months later, as it should be—even though it did put a crimp in Nyssa’s plans to sleep on Laurel’s very comfortable couch. She could sleep on the floor, but she sighed as she took in the wheelchair. She had no desire to be rolled over in the middle of the night.

Very well. Needs must.

She eased open Laurel’s bedroom door and studied the interior of the room in the dimness for a moment. Rather than selecting a likely patch of floor, she padded to the bed—Laurel slept on her side, facing away from the door—and climbed between the sheets on the unoccupied side.

Half a moment later, she said, “I wouldn’t use that, were I you. As tired as I find myself, the adrenaline from a fight would only serve to annoy me.”

Laurel let go of the knife on her nightstand, twisted, and gaped at her. “Nyssa?”

“You summoned. Here I am.” She closed her eyes and settled in to sleep.

“In my bed?”

“Your couch was occupied and I’ve no desire to sleep on the floor. Sara will not mind.”

Laurel put her hand on her chest to calm herself and collapsed against her pillow. “One of these days, I’m going to teach you how to knock.”

“A fairly bootless task, as I am already aware of how to do that.”

“And yet you sneak into my bedroom—literally into my bed—in the middle of the night and give me a coronary!”

“You heard me where very few can. You should be proud.”

Laurel groaned.

“I will say, though, that you wouldn’t have this problem if your couch were unoccupied,” Nyssa said.

“I’m not going to kick her out. Jesus.”

“That is not what I meant. It has been at least six months, and you have not…” How had Sara put it? “Made your move.”

Laurel’s face changed from aggravation to fury. “New apartment rule: if you’re going to share my bed, you need to shut up.”

“That’s going to be a difficult rule for your next bedmate to follow,” Nyssa said, closing her eyes again. She blocked the pillow strike without looking. “Your form is off.”

“Go to hell. She’s just a friend,” Laurel said, and Nyssa smiled.

Laurel sulked, but even she couldn’t fight sleep for that long, allowing Nyssa to slip into dreams not long after. She only slept deeply whenever Sara was around, so she felt Laurel shift over, no doubt seeking the heat source. Nyssa did not feel like waking her up to disengage the cuddling, so she slept on. She heard the alarm from the next room over, the sounds of movement, and kept her eyes closed, dozing instead. If Felicity had been living in the apartment for months, this was by now no doubt routine. She imagined the three of them operated fairly independently within the walls.

The door creaked open, though, surprising her. “Bad news,” Felicity’s voice said. “My computers down in the lair just pinged a result on—oh my god, you’re not alone.”

Nyssa opened her eyes. “Good morning,” she said, not moving.

“Uh.” Felicity blinked several times in a row, eyes dipping to the arm slung across Nyssa. It was impossible to see Laurel’s face since she had it pushed into Nyssa’s shoulder, her hair hiding it from view. “I’m sorry, I should have knocked. Wow, I really should have knocked.”

“She says the same thing of me,” Nyssa said, and Laurel stirred.

“I, uh, I didn’t realize you two were—at least you’ve got clothing o—I mean—wait, when did you even get here?”

The kind thing to do would be to correct the misconceptions she could see taking place in Felicity’s mind, but Nyssa had never been an exceptionally kind individual. And really, she was helping (though Sara might not agree). So Nyssa shifted, getting more comfortable. “Last night. She cuddles a great deal. I trust I did not wake you?”

“N-no.” Felicity looked perturbed about this fact, which Nyssa found to be ridiculous. A computer engineer couldn’t be expected to hear her when she was being stealthy. Felicity’s eyes kept darting back to Laurel’s arm. “No, I can safely say you did not do that. I, ah, I wasn’t aware that you and Laurel were…I thought you and Sara—”

She broke off because Laurel muttered sleepily under her breath and stretched. “Felicity?” she asked, rolling away from Nyssa. She sat up and finger-combed her hair back, scooting away from Nyssa. “Is something wrong?”

“Search got a hit,” Felicity said, snapping back to normal. It made Nyssa want to smile, but she kept her face controlled. “Do you want to call the cavalry, or should I?”

“Go ahead. I need a shower.”

Because the matter did not appear to be a pressing one, they did not travel to the lair. Instead, first Diggle arrived with Sara’s namesake in tow. Oliver showed up next and he also didn’t come alone. “Sorry,” he said as a young boy scampered inside and immediately raced for Thea. “It’s my weekend and the nanny—”

“It’s fine,” Laurel said. “We’ve got more than enough food.”

Breakfast gave Nyssa a chance to study the group of friends she’d left behind. They formed a council in their own right, gathered around Laurel’s dining room table. Thea played a video game on her phone with William, others passed young Sara around, and they discussed war plans. A great deal had changed: Laurel had grown confident, speaking less often than she would have before, Felicity and Oliver’s saccharine bond had mutated into professional respect, and Oliver himself had softened. He appeared to have lost the stick up his ass, as well.

“I mean,” Sara had said the last time she’d come back from visiting her old team, “I’m sad he and Felicity didn’t make it, but it really did change him for the better, I think.”

Nyssa could see what she meant now.

She had no desire to forgive the man her father had forced her to marry, but perhaps she would ease back on praying for his outright misery. He introduced her to William with a resigned, “This is Nyssa al Ghul, William. She’s Aunt Sara’s girlfriend.”

The boy had returned her polite bow. Perhaps there was hope for him after all.

Once a plan of attack had been decided—and voted upon, a new practice—they did not entirely disperse. Thea left to meet up with Roy, and Diggle took Sara home, but Oliver and William stayed. The latter pulled out a textbook and pushed it hopefully toward Felicity. Oliver had brought along his fletching gear and begrudgingly, Nyssa retrieved her own gear from the bedroom, as it had been far too long since she had seen to her arrows.

“When did you get to Star City?” Oliver asked as Nyssa inspected an arrow head and found it adequate.

She eyed him. “You’ve no need to worry about your city. I have not been terrorizing any of its citizens.”

He cleared his throat. “I was—I was actually just making small talk.”

“Oh.” He really had changed. Nyssa was not sure how she felt about that. “Last night. Late.”

“And you stayed here?”

“It’s a great deal more occupied than last I visited. Laurel did not mind sharing her bed.”

“Yes, I did,” Laurel said under her breath, as she was across the table polishing her tonfa.

It didn’t pass Nyssa’s notice that Felicity wasn’t paying that much attention to the homework she was helping the boy with. “It did not appear that way when I woke up and you were using me as a teddy bear,” she said.

Oliver shot a smartass grin at his crime-fighting partner. “You still do that?”

Laurel stuck her tongue out at him. “Shut up, Ollie.”

Felicity elbowed her. “Don’t say shut up in front of the kid.”

Laurel elbowed her back, and Felicity grinned. Also a new development. “Fine. Be quiet, Ollie,” Laurel said.

“Why is Miss Laurel telling you to be quiet, Dad?” William asked, looking up from his worksheet.

So it was Aunt Sara, Nyssa thought, but Miss Laurel. She wondered at the difference. William had not used “Aunt” to describe Felicity, either, now that she thought about it.

“Because I’m teasing her, buddy,” Oliver said to William. “See, what most people don’t know is that Miss Laurel is a cuddle-monster when she sleeps. She just—” He pantomimed a giant bear hug.

Laurel muttered something under her breath that Nyssa figured was not complimentary at all. Felicity, though, grinned.

“How do you know?” William asked, and Oliver froze.

This appeared to be sweet vindication for Laurel, whose eyes flashed as she took in the shamefaced Green Arrow. She folded her arms over her chest. “Yeah, Ollie, how do you know?”

“Because…” Oliver cleared his throat and looked around the table, no doubt realizing that he was seated with an ex-girlfriend, an ex-fiancée, and an ex-wife. Nyssa decided to enjoy this. “A long time ago, Miss Laurel and I used to date.”

“Like you dated Felicity?”

“Yeah, buddy, like that.”

“And Aunt Sara?” William looked around the table, focusing on Nyssa. “Did you date Miss Nyssa, too?”

Nyssa, never one to miss her shot, opened her mouth and closed it as Laurel kicked her under the table. Very well, she decided. She would let Oliver Queen save face in front of his son. “He has never had the pleasure,” she said to the boy. “Nor will he.”

“So are you dating Miss Laurel? That’s how you know she’s a cuddle-monster?”

“No. There merely were not enough beds.”

“Can we change the subject?” Laurel looked pained. “Please. The last thing the enemies of the Black Canary need to know is that she’s a cuddle-monster. Let’s change the subject.”

“I don’t know,” Felicity said. “I think it’s kind of great that you’re all cuddly.”

Really, Nyssa thought as she studied them, the last thing the enemies of the Black Canary needed to know was that a single compliment from a self-proclaimed nerd could make her blush like that. That was the true embarrassment here.

Nyssa stepped onto the balcony to take a phone call as she had promised the others she would deliver more allies—they could not rise against the latest foe without greater numbers than those they possessed—and returned to see Felicity, Laurel, and Oliver gathered around Felicity’s laptop. William played quietly on the floor, making little “nyoom” noises as he trotted a Flash toy around Laurel’s sofa. Nyssa studied the adults in the other room and then the boy. It didn’t pass her notice that he was about the same age as most of the youngest League recruits.

Hopefully he would have a much more fulfilling life than that.

He looked up and studied her, eyeing her up and down.

“Would you like to know a secret?” Nyssa asked. She had little use for younglings, but her friends liked this one and he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders in spite of his unfortunate genetic makeup.

He nodded.

“Follow me.”

In the kitchen, she dug through the freezer until she found the tupperware container she sought. When she showed it to the boy, though, he looked skeptical. “What’s in there?”

“Ma’amoul,” Nyssa said, opening the container and showing him the rows and rows of small cookies. “The secret is that Miss Laurel always keeps these on hand for when I visit. So you will always know where to find something sweet.”

William took a cookie and popped it in his mouth, smearing powdered sugar everywhere. “F’ank you,” he said, his mouth full. He swallowed and reached for another cookie.

Nyssa permitted him three in total, since they were small. She took two for herself and replaced the tupperware, flipping it down her arm simply to show off.

“Neat trick,” William said, wiping his sugary hands off on a kitchen towel. “Wanna see mine? Be my lookout?”

“Gladly.” Nyssa stepped to the door as the boy dragged over a kitchen stool, then hopped up on the counter. She kept one eye on the other adults—who were not paying attention—and another on the boy as he moved to the refrigerator, nimble as a monkey, and tugged out a little box. Prize in hand, he hopped down and presented it to Nyssa. “What is this?”

“Fruit roll-ups.” William opened the box and held out a little packaged sweet. “Miss Laurel buys them for me, but only the orange ones ’cos those are my favorites.”

“Excellent,” Nyssa said, accepting the gift. “My thanks.”

It was sticky and overly processed, but she had to admit, the sweet was rather nice. Yet another detail Laurel Lance silently handled, Nyssa thought as she sat on the countertop next to the innocent son of her nemesis. The entire apartment was full of such touches, and she had no idea how much of that Laurel’s teammates even noticed.

Hopefully for Laurel’s sake, one would take more notice, and soon. For now, Nyssa could only sigh and send up a silent apology to Sara, whenever and wherever she was. She’d tried.

 

 

The Other Cards

Without Thea or Laurel, the apartment was too quiet.

Felicity had stayed there on her own before, of course. A year since the breakup, naturally there had been nights where Thea was over at Roy’s and Laurel was out doing Laurel things. But this was different. Thea was gone, out of Star City and living with Roy, and Laurel…

Felicity swallowed hard and nudged herself forward. Laurel would be fine, she reminded herself for the fiftieth time. Two inches to the left and she wouldn’t be, but this way she’d only have a gnarly scar and a new story to tell.

“Not like I can wear bikinis much anymore these days,” Laurel had said as they’d gathered around her hospital bed, her voice cracking with exhaustion. “So what’s one more scar?”

Felicity’s hand had gone to the ugly lines stretching over her own stomach. She should be more used to her teammates getting hurt, she knew, as depressing as the thought was. Oliver wound up on the lair’s operating table once every few months, Diggle was always patching up some scrape or graze. But this hadn’t been the Black Canary that had been attacked, this had been ADA Lance and a faulty metal detector at the courthouse. She’d fought off the assailant, subduing him long enough for the police to intervene, but he’d gotten in one lucky stab.

Really, all you needed was one, sometimes.

“People are really going to wonder,” Diggle had said, “at how you were able to fight him off for that long.”

“They already asked,” Laurel had said. “Congratulate me. I apparently take kick-boxing classes.”

Felicity had picked up Laurel’s hand to hold it in her own. “That’s my girl,” she’d said, and Laurel’s unreserved smile had been blinding.

Felicity suspected that Laurel had been in more pain than she had let on, but at least she’d fallen asleep before the team had left. Now, Felicity turned on the TV in Laurel’s room and started up an old recording of This Bird Also Sings. She’d stopped watching after the third or fourth deserted island Rico had been marooned on, but it kept the silence at bay. She rolled over to the dresser and grabbed underwear and socks, making sure to get one of the bras that clasped in the front. Until the wound healed, Laurel’s mobility was seriously going to be limited.

Not as limited as hers, but… Felicity snorted.

In the closet, she picked a loose shirt that wouldn’t put too much pressure on the bandage. It was a tight space to maneuver even without her chair—Laurel owned almost as many clothes as she did—so it wasn’t surprising that when she tugged down a pair of pants, half the stuff on the top shelf came tumbling down on her.

She shrieked and backed up, slamming the wheel hard into the doorjamb. Mercifully, she stayed upright, though she wobbled.

“Ugh,” Felicity said, looking at the mess. That was definitely something she didn’t want to force somebody recovering from a literal stabbing to clean up, but there was no way in hell she was going to be able to reach that shelf. She settled for stacking the shoeboxes on the floor. She’d browbeat Diggle into putting them up for when he came to pick her up. One box, though, practically disintegrated in her hands, paper and cards drifting everywhere.

“Oh, you have got to be kidding,” she said. She locked her chair in place and lowered herself to the floor, resting against the wall so she could sort out the mess. “This is exactly what I don’t need and why does she have all of these postcards of downtown? I didn’t even know they made postcards of this place, nobody should want to visit here.”

She was about to shove them into the remnants of the box when her eye caught her own name. She flipped the postcard—an aerial shot of the local football stadium, so random—over and tilted her head. It was addressed to her. The date at the top was from shortly after Ra’s al Ghul had nearly destroyed Star City. Right after she’d taken off on her worldwide trip with Oliver.

Hey, Felicity!

Was so happy to get your card and to hear you and Ollie are well. You sound like you’re having a blast. Thea says hi and that she’s staying out of trouble (lying, obvs). City’s a wreck, but it’s May, so what do you expect? Miss you guys.

- L

PS - I don’t know how to get this to you. If you’re reading it, that means I was successful. hi!

Over a year later, Felicity smiled. She and Oliver had been off the grid, so mail wouldn’t have reached them. But it was sweet that Laurel had found Star City postcards. A little piece of home.

But wow, there were a lot of them. Curious, she moved to the next. The date was a few days later, the message pretty similar, with a little anecdote about Baby Sara. The next two followed in the same vein. The fifth, though, was different. Laurel had dated it and addressed it to her, but her writing filled both halves of the back of the postcard. It started cheerful, but three sentences in—

I can’t do this today, I’m sorry. Tonight sucked. I held a woman’s hand as she bled out in an alley because the ambulance wasn’t coming fast enough. They finally came, but I called the hospital later. She didn’t make it. Goddamn it. I don’t know why we do this sometimes. I didn’t get a good look at her attacker, so I can’t go after him either as me or as BC. What use am I in this? This woman should be safe at home, surrounded by loved ones. Instead she died among strangers that failed her a hundred times over.

I wish you were here, but I’m so glad you’re not. One of us needs to be happy and seeing the good things and I would much rather it be you. You deserve to have a nice time, which is why I don't think I’ll send this even I could find some kind of forwarding address.

I miss your voice. It's silly, but I wish I could call you and talk about this.

Dimly, Felicity was aware that on the TV, Rico and Isabella were arguing in two languages, but she couldn’t really process that with the buzzing noise rushing through her ears. She felt Laurel’s pain like a physical ache in her own chest. She’d known it was bad when Hive had shown up last summer, yes, but the others had never really told her about the decay of Star City from the inside out. Laurel had been on the front lines for that. She was so strong and quietly valiant about it, always pushing for the right thing. And Felicity knew she felt pain and empathy for the victims, a great deal more of it than most, but she’d never seen Laurel put it so bluntly as she did now in tiny writing on the back of a Star City Apiary and Honey Museum postcard.

She blew out a shaky breath and debated with herself. Yes, the postcard said Dear Felicity on top, but the words had felt wildly personal in a way she knew Laurel would never want her to see. She should just put the postcards back in the box and pretend she never found any of it.

She flipped the next postcard over.

Felicity,

I’ve given up on knowing where you’ll be next. John’s started a map in Sara’s bedroom marking all of the places you’ve been with little pins. It’s so adorable. Sara watches her daddy so solemnly as he tells her all about these places like she can actually see them while he talks. Maybe if you ever come back through, you can give her the real facts, as I’m pretty sure John was just making things up.

And you should come back. Things aren’t great, but your outlook always made them seem better than what they are. Maybe just for a visit.

Thinking of you,

L

“Aw,” Felicity said. “That’s sweet.”

The next postcard told a story about Thea teaching Diggle how to whip and nae nae, with a troubling note about some criminal activity that sounded too organized to be local. The start of Damien Darkh and the Hive agents, Felicity realized, her stomach twisting.

The June 25th postcard broke her heart.

Why did they give her back to me if they were only going to take her away so soon? I’d only just gotten used to talking about her in the present tense again. I wish I could be cheerful for you and tell you good news, but all I can think is it’s Sara’s half-birthday and how she always wanted presents today and not Christmas, and I can’t even have a drink and forget about it. I just want her back.

Sorry. I’ll be more cheerful in the future, promise.

“Wow, okay,” Felicity said. She dropped the card and leaned back, breathing heavily. The last thing she expected to find on a postcard for the Children’s Museum—which had burned down six months before—was a message that made her want to cry. She had to remind herself that Sara was alive, that they’d retrieved her soul and everything. And of course as much as she had missed her friend and how deeply her death had cut, it had to have been a thousand times worse for Laurel.

It took some doing, but she collected the postcards and the pieces of the box and hauled herself into her chair. She carted the lot out to the living room and moved over to the couch, staring at the stack on the coffee table. There was a funny feeling in her stomach that she should just put the box back, just leave it all alone.

Felicity reached for the next postcard and read on.

Most of the letters had been written in that aggressively cheerful tone Laurel presented to the world: smartass, bleeding heart, doggedly optimistic. But seeded in every few cards was a missive that felt like a bomb dropping, where Laurel would finally reach the end of her rope and would confess that no, things really were not okay. It was a side she rarely let the team see, and it felt like a sock to the gut every time.

And then there were the little phrases Felicity was finding it harder and harder to ignore.

I want you to be happy.

I’m glad you’re far away from this.

I miss you.

I hope you get to smile more.

On their own, they were innocuous, things one friend might say to another. But bundled together, as they were in this box, shoved out of the way like a secret…

No, Felicity thought. It couldn’t be possible.

There was absolutely no way in hell Laurel felt that way. Not about her. That was crazy. Beyond impossible. She’d met both of Laurel’s exes—had been engaged to one herself—and she definitely wasn’t like either of them. And wasn’t Laurel straight? She’d never really talked about it, or her lack of dates, but Felicity liked to tease her about a couple of actor crushes, and whenever she’d talked about somebody being cute, that somebody had always been male (Felicity had paid attention. Not that she was interested. Just, it was nice to know these things). This wasn’t, like, something Felicity could just bring up in a random conversation, and she wasn’t going to have any luck getting the TV away from Laurel’s trashy shows long enough to ‘accidentally’ queue up Carol and find out.

And why was she thinking about this, anyway? Why was she so curious?

Why did it make her stomach flutter like this?

She heard a knock on the front door and jolted back like she’d been caught doing something wrong. Before she could answer, she heard the key in the lock, and the tread of light footsteps. “Felicity? You home?”

“Sara?” Felicity swiveled about to face the doorway, gawking. She’d left her friend a message about Laurel’s injury, but she hadn’t actually thought Sara would get it.

“In the flesh.” Sara climbed over the couch and dropped down next to her, yawning. “I saw Laurel, thought I’d come say hi.”

“How is she?”

“For somebody who probably shouldn’t have survived being stabbed, she’s surprisingly good. Thanks for the note. You mind if I crash here? Rip’s giving everybody shore leave as long as we promise not to run into ourselves if they’re here. Of course, if we’re here, that’s a future version of ourselves and we know to avoid us, but whatever.”

Felicity thought about that for a second. “Doesn’t that break your brain a little?”

Sara stepped over to the desk, shrugging. She had too much eyeliner on and her hair was up in a side-ponytail, which really made Felicity wonder about the future. “You mostly get used to it. What’s that? Project?” she asked, reaching a hand out.

“No, don’t,” Felicity said, but Sara had plucked up a postcard and was reading it.

“My god, you sap,” Sara said, shaking her head at her absent sister. “So glad she got around to admitting her feelings, you two are cute together.”

Felicity spluttered, even though she hadn’t been drinking anything. “Her feelings?”

“Yeah, how she—oh shit.” Sara looked from Felicity’s face to the postcard and then back again. “She…hasn’t said anything yet, has she?”

“Yet?” The word came out as a squeak. “Wait, in the future, are we—”

She hadn’t seen Sara look panicky ever, really, but there was definitely alarm written on her friend’s face now. She threw the postcard away from her like it had burned her fingers. “You didn’t know.”

“Evidently not!”

“She hasn’t been exactly subtle about it.”

“Um, yes, she has,” Felicity said, not sure why she was arguing so vehemently when inside it felt like she’d fallen off a very high cliff and she wasn’t sure if she was going to crash hard or float gently to the ground. Everything felt a bit wobbly. “With my IQ, I like to think I would have noticed something like that!”

“Nyssa said she picked up on it ages ago. I thought for sure you’d be together at this point in the timeline and—ugh, time travel sucks.” Sara petulantly kicked the table and flopped back.

“Does this mean—wait, in the future, does this—”

“The future changes,” Sara said. “Sort of. I’m not telling you what happens. We’ve been over this.”

“I know, but Laurel—”

“Is apparently a very dedicated penpal.” Sara picked up the entire stack. “Did she send you any of these? Wow, Laur.”

“I found them in her closet.” At Sara’s look, Felicity felt her shoulders hunch. “I was getting clothes to take to her, and they fell on my head. Literally. And I saw my name and—let’s go back to Laurel’s feelings because that seems incredibly relevant, okay. How long has this been going on? Does she have feelings?”

Sara pushed herself to her feet and headed toward Laurel’s bedroom. “I’m putting these back and getting some sleep. You want to clear up how Laurel feels, talk to her.”

“It’s not fair to drop a bomb like that and walk away from me,” Felicity said.

“Yeah, because life has been so fair to all of us,” Sara said. “Talk to Laurel. Good night.”

Felicity didn’t sleep a wink that night.

 

+ 1: Felicity

Her injury screamed as Laurel unlocked her apartment, but there wasn’t much she could do. Her doctor had prescribed a higher dose of painkillers, but she’d argued him down. There was no way she would become emotionally dependent on drugs once more. And if that meant a few days in mild agony, so be it. She’d watch TV, eat popcorn, and let the Black Canary have a few days off.

Not that either of her partners or Felicity would give her a choice in the matter. They’d have plenty to say if she went anywhere near her mask and tonfa.

“Hello?” she called.

Sara popped up from the kitchen. “Why are you here?” she said. “You should be in the hospital.”

“I checked myself out.” Her voice was strained, which only made Sara glower; she offered up a silent apology by letting Sara assist her to the couch. Automatically, she glanced toward Felicity’s room. “Where is she?”

“She was on her way to visit you. In the hospital. Where you should still be.” Sara’s glower intensified.

“My doctor kept trying to get me to take a higher dosage.” Laurel eased herself back against the cushions, grimacing. The walk from the cab had left her sweaty and shaky. In truth, she was glad her sister was there, as she wasn’t sure she could have made it all the way to the couch on her own. “I can’t do that, Sara.”

“But if you’re in pain—”

“Using that as an excuse would eventually destroy me. It’s better this way.”

“Like hell it is. I don’t like it when you’re hurting.”

“Funny,” Laurel said, keeping her voice dry. “Me either.”

“Lay down. I’ve got some herbs Nyssa gave me—non-opioids, don’t start—that will help.”

Laurel wrinkled her nose. “Do they smell bad?”

“Yes. And you’ll take them anyway. Let somebody else take care of you for once. God.”

As much as she wanted to protest, she lacked the energy. Laurel obeyed, lying down and trying to find a comfortable position that wouldn’t jostle her wound. The herbs were as smelly as promised, but she finished the whole mug. “That stuff is foul. Are we sure that’s not a League torture method?”

Sara shook her head. “I forget how whiny you are when you’re sick.”

“Are you the pot or the kettle?” Laurel went quiet for a moment. “Did you take care of him?”

“Rip did.”

“Who was he?”

“Time-skipper I pissed off last week in 2182. He decided killing you would be the worst thing that could happen to me.” Sara reached out and pushed a strand of Laurel’s hair back, her eyes troubled. “I didn’t have time to warn you because Gideon went on the fritz. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. We live dangerous lives.” She hadn’t been entirely truthful with her team. They believed the man that had attacked her in court had just been another low-life angry at the Star City justice system. But the threats he’d made as she’d done her best to fight him off, those weren’t things the average mook would know.

Such a pity, he’d hissed in her face, the tattoos on his cheek whirling as she struggled to fight him off, a woman as smart as you, with your brain? You could have done so much for the legal system. And yet you deliver so-called ‘justice’ with your fists. Nothing more than a petty criminal yourself. You are a wasted opportunity.

“I mean, the worst part isn’t even that he stabbed me,” she said, handing the empty mug to Sara. “It’s that he called me ‘Pretty Bird.’ Please tell me that’s not what the Black Canary is known as in the future.”

“Sorry to break it to you, sis, but people think you’re pretty. I know, I know. I tried so hard to correct them and let them know you are indeed a hag, but they insisted I was wrong.”

“Brat,” Laurel said.

Sara got up to go put the mug back in the kitchen. “Felicity thinks you’re pretty.”

“The word she used was ‘gorgeous,’ actually.” And she wasn’t touching that one, especially now with her mind in such turmoil. She hadn’t seen her life flash before her eyes when the knife had bit into her. She’d only seen one face. A wasted opportunity indeed.

She looked toward the empty bedroom and sighed. She’d hoped Felicity would be home so maybe she could get it over with. But maybe this was better.

Coward, she thought at herself.

She raised her voice so Sara could hear her from the kitchen. “You’re not blaming yourself, are you?”

“Of course I am. He came after you because of something I did.”

And Malcolm Merlyn had killed Sara because of Ra’s, and Damien Darkh had threatened Laurel because of something he wanted Quentin to do. They were forever going to be expendable bargaining chips, the both of them. “Try not to be too hard on yourself. I kicked his ass for you and you’ll find we’re a pair of scrappy broads.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Sara circled around the couch and sat down on the coffee table, squinting a little as she studied Laurel.

A second later, Laurel discovered why. The world grew a little woozy. “What the hell was in those herbs?”

“Non-opiate sedative. Sweet dreams, sis.”

“Bite me,” Laurel said as she slipped under.

She woke up in bed, without a shirt, and with her roommate leaning over her. “Uh,” Laurel said, not sure which of the three things she was most perturbed about. Her side ached, but it wasn’t the bright red agony from before. “Hi?” she said to Felicity, who was putting away a bottle of antiseptic.

“You’re awake! Wow, okay. Uh.” Felicity jolted back and blinked at her several times. “Hi. This isn’t as invasive as I swear it looks, I was just changing your bandages. How…how do you feel?”

“Confused. What’s going on? How did I get in here? And what time is it? How long have I been out?”

Felicity took a deep, deep breath and wouldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s kind of late. And you’ve been unconscious for three days.”

“Th-three days?”

“Sara had to leave, but she said to tell you ‘sorry for the herbally induced coma,’ and something about if you weren’t going to take the proper drugs, she’d have to take matters into her own hands.” Felicity took another breath and wheeled back to the bedside, picking up a strip of gauze. She laid it against Laurel’s skin and carefully taped it down. “None of us are real happy with her, but she said it was perfectly safe.”

“Safe for me, maybe.” Laurel groaned and sat up. Her body felt greasy, and she really wanted a shower and a cheeseburger, in that order. “Her, however, I’m going to murder.”

“People keep trying that and it never sticks. You’d be better off with a strongly worded email.”

“Ugh,” Laurel said.

“Stay put. I’ll go get you a glass of water and some crackers or something.” Felicity hurried off.

Alone, Laurel groaned and cautiously stretched. It ached, but the pain could probably be managed with over-the-counter drugs, possibly. Maybe Sara had done her a favor. Or, and Laurel looked down at her bare torso, not. When she looked up, she spotted something on her dresser that made her freeze.

Those postcards had been in a box in her closet, that much she knew. She’d made sure of it. If they were out…Laurel looked toward the door and wanted to groan. Maybe Felicity hadn’t seen them. Maybe she hadn’t read them.

But it would explain why her friend suddenly seemed so nervy.

“Goddammit,” Laurel said under her breath. She’d been hoping to avoid that conversation forever, and she was not going to have it feeling as gross as she was. It took all of her strength to stand and her legs wobbled—not promising—but she made her way to the bathroom, stopping once to lean against the wall and breathe deep.

She grabbed the nozzle off of the wall and sprayed herself down as best she could without getting the dressing wet. Halfway through, her vision went briefly black. She saw the knife swinging through the air, heard the hiss of the man’s voice in her ears. Head pounding, she sat down heavily in Felicity’s showering chair and breathed deep until the spell passed. What the hell had Sara even given her?

“Laurel? Are you okay in there?”

Laurel grimaced. She hated others seeing her this weak, but she also couldn’t move. “Not really. I may have overestimated things.”

“Do you need help?”

“Sadly, yes.”

“Uh, are you decent?”

“Not remotely, but I won’t care if you don’t.”

“Okay, then. I’m coming in.”

She heard the gasp and the sigh. “Trust you,” Felicity said, “to wake up from three days of being unconscious and immediately try to do everything on your own. I told you to stay put.”

“Excuse you,” Laurel said, her voice cracking as she tried not to think about what Felicity might have read in the stupid postcards she’d never sent, “you don’t get to talk. I was there the first time you tried out your wheelchair, Miss I-bet-I-can-beat-you-in-a-race.”

“Exactly.” She felt Felicity’s hand between her shoulder blades and sagged into the touch, even though her side hurt. She still couldn’t look at her. “This is why you should learn from my mistakes. What were you even trying to do?”

“I wanted to wash my hair. I just have to take it slow, I guess. I’ll be fine.”

“Or you can let me help. Here, lean back. It’ll be just like at the salon.” Felicity took the shower nozzle from Laurel’s hand. Laurel grumbled as she obeyed, black spots appearing at the edges of her vision when she moved too fast. The hot water running over her scalp, followed by Felicity’s fingers, made her want to purr.

Felicity worked the shampoo into her hair. She knew it had to be awkward for Felicity since she was was naked, but Laurel lacked the energy to care. She sat back and enjoyed being coddled for a moment. Felicity filled Laurel in on everything that had happened in the past three days, which included a visit from Thea and Roy and a few minor problems for the team to handle.

She said nothing about the cards. Maybe she hadn’t read them. It could have been Sara, after all. When Felicity handed her a towel, she gingerly wrapped it around herself and tried to stand. Again, her knees turned to jelly.

“Use my shoulder, you’re not going to tip me over.” Felicity backed up and glared at Laurel until she obeyed. They moved slowly toward her bedroom. “Get in bed.”

“Real clothes first,” Laurel said. When she would have gone to her dresser, though, Felicity pointed at the bed. “You’re bossy today.”

“Not bossy, I’m the boss. And—god, I say that at work so often, it’s reflex at this point. Sit down before you fall down, though, you’re like a baby gazelle or something.”

“Is that a comment about my legs?”

“Your legs are perfect, use them and sit down already.”

“Well, there’s a conflicting order,” Laurel said, but she sat on the edge of her bed and watched Felicity rifle through her dresser. She looked at the stack of cards again and sighed. The way Felicity was deliberately not looking at them spoke volumes. “Thanks for taking care of me, though. You don’t have to.”

“What are vigilante-teammates-slash-roommates for?” Felicity handed her a shirt, and she gratefully pulled it over her head. The loose sweatpants were a little more difficult: she had to breathe through clenched teeth by the time she finished. Getting her hair brushed and braided was another ordeal; as much as she could have done it herself, Felicity glared her into submission and Laurel laughed a little as she handed over the hairbrush.

“You’re taking the salon treatment to the next level here,” she said, sitting carefully on the floor in front of Felicity and leaning back against her legs.

“Making up for my failed cosmetologist days. Also all of you are so stubborn about accepting help.”

“As I said to Sara, would you like to be the pot or the kettle?”

“Guess we all could learn to lean on each other more.” Felicity’s voice was quiet in a way that indicated there was a personal storm brewing. Laurel closed her eyes as the brush ran through her hair—she could really get used to being pampered like this—and wondered if Felicity was going to come out with it. Apparently she was, for she said, “You especially, though.”

“Probably.” Shrugging only made pain flare up in her side, so she winced. “Ow.”

“Really? I was expecting you to argue,” Felicity said.

“I had a long night of lying in a hospital bed,” Laurel said. She was still trying to wrap her brain around the fact that it had been three days ago, not less than an hour before. “It gave me time to think about some things.”

“Like what?”

“Mostly how much I’d rather be at home.” Laurel’s lips twisted up. “It’s stupid—this place has been broken into and almost destroyed too many times to count, and it’s still…”

“It’s a haven,” Felicity said.

Laurel looked at her bedroom door as she considered. She hadn’t liked her apartment at first. She’d paid for it with settlement money from Sara’s death from the Queen estate. The first couple of years, all she could see in the walls were that her sister had had to die—with her boyfriend—for the apartment to become hers. But over time, that had changed. Sara had come back and had needed a place to crash time and again, and Thea had needed a safety net. And Felicity had come here instead of to her mother’s. William and Sara the younger kept toys there. Diggle’s backup weapons lived in a safe under her floor. Her couch had seen so many people sleep on it. Her father. her mother. Felicity. It wasn’t hers alone anymore, and that made it better.

“A haven,” Laurel said. “I like that.”

“A haven with crowbar marks around the front door,” Felicity said, a smile in her voice.

“Well, you can’t deny it has character.”

“It does, at that. And a junk drawer.”

“I can’t believe you’ve lived with me for a year and you’re still amazed about that.”

“Perfect, gorgeous Laurel has a junk drawer. Of course I’m amazed about that.” Felicity finished the braid.

The compliments, effortless and typical for her, made Laurel smile. As much as her life sucked sometimes, as long as Felicity was there… She reached back blindly to wrap her fingers around her friend’s wrist. “The junk drawer has only grown more full since you moved in, I will note.”

“Hazards of rooming with a computer nerd. I tried to warn you, but now look at us.”

“I think an overcrowded junk drawer is a good compromise if it means having you around,” Laurel said. “Help me up?”

“This is going to be a comedy of errors, but sure.” It took both of them to get Laurel back onto her feet and into bed. Whatever Sara had given her was going to take awhile to get out of her system, Laurel figured. Tucking her in felt like a bit much, but if Felicity wanted to hover and worry, then so be it.

“I’ll call out and get some of that matzah ball soup you like,” Felicity said.

“You mean the matzah ball soup you like,” Laurel said.

“Minor details. It’s still good soup and will be better for you than that cheeseburger I heard you grumbling about.”

Before she could head off, though, Laurel reached out and touched her arm. She was starving, but food could wait. “The postcards—did Sara get those down?”

Felicity looked at her hand and not at her face. “They fell on me, actually. I was getting you some clothes and just, bam, paper waterfall, and a giant mess everywhere. I’m—I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to invade your privacy like that. I shouldn’t have read them.”

“It’s fine.” The words slipped out before Laurel could stop them. It wasn’t fine. It wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to her, but Laurel knew intimately what those letters she’d never sent said. She should have burned the damned things. She took a deep breath and steeled herself. “I hope you’re not—nothing in those postcards has to change the way things are now. I hope you know that.”

Felicity hadn’t looked up from her hand. “They said a lot,” she said slowly, like she was feeling the words out in her mouth. “Did you mean it? All that stuff about me?”

Laurel heard the question under the words: do you have feelings for me?

“Felicity…”

“Did you mean it?” Felicity said, meeting Laurel’s eyes. “Don’t—don’t do that thing you do, okay? Just tell me the truth.”

“What thing?”

“The self-sacrificing trick of yours. It’s noble, but sometimes you push yourself out of the way so somebody else can be the focus, and I’m asking about you here.”

Laurel wanted to look away, but she couldn’t, not with Felicity looking at her so fiercely. So she took a deep breath. “You’re definitely not an idiot, so I won’t lie to you. If you’re asking if I have feelings…” No, she decided, in for a penny, in for a pound. “If you’re asking if I love you, then, yes. I don’t expect anything from you. I meant it when I said all I wanted was for you to be happy.”

She wrenched her gaze and looked up at the ceiling, letting her hand fall away from Felicity’s arm. The truth was finally out there.

Felicity only said, “How long?”

“I don’t know. It…probably started when I got hit with the Vertigo.” She’d lost two loves of her life, Tommy through his insecurity and later his death, Oliver through everything that had happened. She’d once told Felicity that being single didn’t bother her. And it didn’t. For the most part. But being around Felicity like this, sometimes she wished they were more than just roommates. Even though she knew it wasn’t possible. “I couldn’t help it. You’re so vibrant and strong, and you have the biggest heart out of anybody I know. I don’t want my feelings to change anything.”

Laurel chanced a peek at Felicity, who regarded her steadily. “I found the postcards while you were still in the hospital. I’ve had three days to think about everything.” She licked her lips. “I was going to wait until you were feeling better to confess, but I guess I should have had Digg put them away, huh? You’re far too observant for your own good.”

“Sorry?” Laurel said. She didn’t dare hope. Three days. Felicity had been aware of the damning evidence for three whole days. “But I notice you’re still here.”

“Where else would I be? Do you not realize how awesome you are? I mean, like, wow. Not even getting into the whole ‘you have that face’ thing, but, like, you’re insanely smart and god, you care about everything so much. Like, you could have so many better options than a wheelchair-bound nerd.”

“And you have better options than a needy recovering alcoholic with abandonment issues, what’s your point?” Laurel said, wishing she had the energy to sit up. She really was going to read Sara the riot act. She couldn’t quite blame the remnants of the herbs on the fact that her heart was suddenly pounding. “Though if you want to keep talking about my face, I could really use some compliments because I’m pretty sure these herbs leached me of all color.”

“Shut up, you’re as gorgeous as you always are,” Felicity said.

They grinned stupidly at each other for a few seconds before it really hit. “So if you’re not upset, are you okay with this?” Laurel asked, hope fluttering in her chest.

“I have to check on some things first. You’re not currently building a super shrinking suit because your fiancée was killed and you’re seeking vengeance, right?”

“Can safely say no to that one.”

“And you don’t have any secret kids?”

“Trust me, I’d remember. For the record, you have very strange criteria.”

“I’ve lived a very strange life.” Felicity wrinkled her nose—adorably—and Laurel wanted to laugh. Even though she was aching from a healing knife wound, she felt lighter than she had in months, possibly over a year. Felicity knew about her feelings and not only had she not left like everybody else in Laurel’s life did, but here she was, smiling and happy about it. “But yeah, you pass the test, so I am very, very okay with this. I’m just sorry I didn’t put things together sooner.”

Laurel took a chance and threaded her fingers through Felicity’s. “I didn’t want you to notice while you were with Oliver. It wasn’t fair to you.”

“Or to you.”

“Life’s really not fair to me. I’ve learned to live with it.”

“Aw.” Felicity scooted closer and cupped her cheek, since Laurel didn’t have the energy to lift her head. She kissed her forehead, lingering. “We’ll have to take it slow, though. This is kind of new territory for me. I really thought you were straight.”

“So did I. And how slow are we talking? Because I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we already live together.”

“Meanie,” Felicity said, laughing. “Stay put, I’m going to call for the soup.”

Laurel waited until she’d left the room before she summoned all of her energy and rolled over so that she could squeal into the pillow. Sure, she’d been in a knife fight and a coma, but she couldn’t deny that this was probably one of the best days of her life. She’d imagined so many scenarios where Felicity had found out the true depth of her feelings, and they had always ended with doom and gloom. Never with this amazing happiness bursting in her chest.

Four months later, Laurel was carting dinner inside when Thea called. “I’m coming back to Star City pretty permanently, and I know Felicity has my old room,” her friend said. “But I was wondering if you’d mind another couch surfer.”

“Your old room is free,” Laurel said, setting the cartons of food on the counter and heading toward the dining room, where she could hear Felicity’s keyboard clicking.

“What? It is? Felicity moved out?”

“No, she’s still here,” Laurel said, and to prove it, she gave Felicity a quick kiss. She grinned and put the phone on speaker, mouthing ‘Thea.’

“What? Then I don’t understand how—ohh. Okay. Okay. I can work with this. How is Ollie taking it?”

“He’s…getting better.”

“He’s sulking like crazy,” Felicity said. “We don’t hold it against him because his pouty faces are really cute.”

“Not as cute as yours,” Laurel said.

“Aw.” Felicity grinned and grabbed her shirt, hauling her down for a long kiss, one they quickly got lost in.

“Guys?” Thea said through the phone. “Are you still there? You’re totally making out right now, aren’t you? Gross. Seriously, I don’t know where this came from, but is this what it’s going to be like living with you? Maybe I’m better off staying with Oliver instead. Guys? Guys? Hello?”

Laurel hit the End Call button. She could apologize to Thea later: she had better things to do right now.