This was not how Nyssa al Ghul normally acted after a row with her father.
No, in fact, this wasn't how Nyssa ever acted after a disagreement with Ra's. Usually, she would find a couple of underlings in the League that were still in the very early stages of their training, and she would take out her anger on them, pushing them almost to breaking point – and they would take it, because Nyssa was heir to the demon, and she could (mostly) do what she liked to whom she liked, and no one could bat an eyelid.
(Of course, sometimes, she would also find Sara and pull her away from her League training, loudly addressing her as "habibti" before al-Owal and silently daring him to say something. Together, they would go back to Nyssa's quarters, where Sara would bring Nyssa to breaking point in an entirely different way, succeeding in making her forget why she had been so riled up in the first place.)
But Nyssa was no longer heir to the demon. That title had been taken from her, stolen, as a matter of fact, at the expense of freeing Malcolm Merlyn, no less. And though nothing made her angrier than knowing the man who murdered her beloved was still breathing and could roam free, she also knew that Sara was not there to distract her from whatever conflicted emotions plagued Nyssa's mind.
Laurel was, though.
It was for that reason, therefore, that Nyssa stood outside the police precinct, waiting for her. She wasn't quite sure what she was going to say, or what she was going to do. Laurel had been in there for a while, long after Nyssa had changed from her League garb and into something more Western, and she was just about to leave, dismissing this as a bad idea, when Laurel came out of the back door of the precinct.
"Are you all right?" Nyssa asked once Laurel spotted her.
Laurel took a few steps towards her. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, actually," Nyssa admitted. She took a breath, looking down at her shoes briefly, before deciding it was best simply to be honest. "I missed your sister. I suppose I wanted something to remind me of her."
And though Laurel's features softened for a moment at the mention of Sara, she was already making to stride away. "Now's really not the best time."
Nyssa's feet moved, as if of their own accord, down the steps. "Are you – having problems with your father? I have some experience in that area." But as she met Laurel's eyes, she realised they were the same shape as Sara's. Nyssa had never really seen any resemblance between Sara and Laurel, besides their blonde hair, but now her breath caught in her throat, and for a moment, Nyssa couldn't speak at the striking similarity between them. It was almost like she was speaking to Sara herself. "Do you want to talk about it?" Nyssa asked after a moment.
"With you?" Laurel said, the surprise obvious in her voice and in the sharp features of her face. Nyssa tried for a smile, but it probably looked more like a grimace, and inwardly, she cursed herself for thinking this was a good idea.
But then it was Nyssa's turn to be surprised. Laurel took a deep breath, before looking up at Nyssa and smiling. "You know what? I could use a reminder of Sara too. Dinner's on me."
They ended up going to a small restaurant not far from the precinct. Laurel told Nyssa how the Lances used to frequent it quite often when she and Sara were younger.
"Yes, I can recall Sara telling me," Nyssa said, nodding and smiling at the memory. "She said they had some of the best pie in the state, if I remember correctly."
"That they do," Laurel agreed, smiling back, and she pushed open the door. Nyssa followed her inside. The tables were half-full, and Nyssa watched as Laurel greeted the owner like he was her friend, asking after his children and his wife. He spoke with a British accent, and as Nyssa looked around, she realised the restaurant had an East End theme, judging by the décor.
"Let me show you and your friend to a table, then, Laurel," he said warmly, once they had exchanged pleasantries. When Nyssa and Laurel were seated, he handed them two menus. "Would you like to see the wine list, Miss?" he asked Nyssa.
"No, thank you," she replied.
The man nodded graciously. "Let me know when you're ready to order, then."
Nyssa waited until he left before she spoke. "I was not aware that you were so open about your sobriety."
For a second, Laurel seemed surprised that Nyssa knew about her alcoholism – surprised, but also relieved. "I'm not. Not really. But he's an old client of mine, back when I was at CNRI, and he knows I don't drink since recently I've started going to the same meetings as him –" But then Laurel broke off, her face falling, and she looked away from Nyssa briefly.
"I am sorry," Nyssa said quickly. "I did not mean to offend you."
Laurel shook her head. "No, it's not that. I just – my father and I... we always used to go to the same AA meetings. Together. But since I told him about Sara's death, he – stopped speaking to me. Told me to go to different meetings from him. And when I showed up at the one he was at, after a week of no phone calls, no nothing, he just… got up and left."
"I am sure he will forgive you in time." Nyssa wasn't sure if her assurances meant anything to Laurel, but Laurel seemed grateful nonetheless. "I understand why you chose not to tell him about Sara."
"You do?" Laurel raised her eyebrows, again surprised.
"You wished to protect him," Nyssa said simply. "Perhaps because you have seen the toll her disappearance with Oliver Queen did to him the first time. His alcoholism. His marriage."
"How do you –"
Nyssa smiled. "I meant what I said about loving Sara with all of my heart and soul," she said, but after a moment, her smile faded. "To the point that it clouded my judgement and made me do many things I regret."
Laurel pressed her lips together in a tight line. "Having me poisoned, you mean. And, you know, kidnapping my mother."
"I am truly sorry for that," Nyssa said, and she meant it. "I know I do not deserve your forgiveness, endangering the both of you the way I did."
But for some reason Laurel shook her head, the beginnings of a smile back on her lips. "It's okay. It's obvious you've changed since then."
"What makes you say that?" Nyssa asked, taken aback.
"Back in the foundry," Laurel explained, "I – you were talking about Sara. About her laugh. About her smile. And I realised… for the first time since I met you, I get what Sara saw in you. And I get why you were the love of her life." And Nyssa found herself unable to speak once more – Laurel's candour, her openness, was something she had become unused to since Sara's death, so much so that Nyssa had no idea what to say in reply. Fortunately, Laurel swiftly changed the subject. "By the way," she said, "you don't have to avoid alcohol on my account."
"I know that," Nyssa replied. "I avoid it for other reasons."
"Is it… a religious thing?" Laurel asked. "You know, if you don't mind me asking."
There was a tentative hesitancy in Laurel's tone that was so unlike Sara, so alien to her that it momentarily threw Nyssa off-guard. "I do not mind in the slightest," she said eventually. "I believe alcohol clouds the judgement, if taken in excess. It slows one down, dulls the senses, and that has never been something I would want to risk."
"Good choice," Laurel said, nodding.
"The League, however," Nyssa continued, "does not completely disdain alcohol, despite the fact that most of its members follow… what you could call a selective version of Islam."
Shaking her head, Laurel said, "I don't understand."
"They follow the parts of the Quran that suit them, often twisting the words, the commandments, to mean what they want it to mean. But, in truth, the very principle of the League of Assassins goes against one of the fundamental tenets of Islam itself: that to take one life, except under specific circumstances, is to take the lives of all of humanity."
Laurel regarded her knowingly. "I'm guessing that part's not something you agree with."
"I believe in doing what is necessary," Nyssa said. "But… in answer to your question, I do not drink more out of practicality than any spiritual or religious reason."
"Right." At first, Laurel was silent, taking in Nyssa's words. Then she gestured at the menu before Nyssa. "They do a good mushroom pie here. If you're wondering what to get."
She glanced down at the menu. "Yes, that sounds good. I shall have that with chips."
Momentarily, Laurel looks confused. "With – oh," she said, her expression clearing, and for some reason, she chuckled.
"I thought you meant potato chips," Laurel explained. "You know. What do you call them? Crisps."
And Nyssa found herself smiling too. "Are you mocking my quasi-Britishness?"
"Maybe just a little. Speaking of," Laurel added, "why is your accent like that, anyway?"
Nyssa's smile widened, and after giving her order and handing the menu back to the waiter, she found herself telling Laurel the story of her father kidnapping a British tutor and bringing him to Nanda Parbat to school her.
"I must admit, I have never quite understood the allure of ketchup," Nyssa said as Laurel shook the ketchup bottle vigorously before coating her chips thoroughly with that awful red substance and spearing one of the chips with her fork. But she could not deny that Sara had been right. The pie she was eating tasted wonderful. "I remember when Sara asked for it when I was first nursing her back to health after I had found her on Lian Yu."
Laurel waited until she had finished her mouthful before speaking. "I'm guessing there aren't any convenience stores in Nanda Parbat."
"Not exactly. But I requested it from my personal servant, and she returned with several bottles of it two days later. Much to Sara's delight."
"You have a personal servant?" Laurel said incredulously.
"Of course. I am – I was," Nyssa corrected, not even trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice, "heir to the demon. With that came a lot of privileges."
Laurel's confusion was evident. "What do you mean you were heir to the demon?"
Sighing, Nyssa should not have been surprised that Queen had neglected to explain the situation to Laurel. "My father released Malcolm Merlyn as a gift, of sorts, to Oliver Queen. As part of his offer to Oliver to take his place as Ra's al Ghul."
"What?" Laurel dropped her fork on her plate with a loud clatter. "He wants… he nearly put a sword through Oliver a few months ago and now your father wants Oliver to take his place?"
"My father is getting old," Nyssa said, aware that this was a understatement – by a good few decades, too. "The time is coming for him to select a new heir. It has always been me, his daughter, but… I think he has deigned to select an outsider ever since I declared Sara to be my beloved."
"That's what you meant when you said you had nowhere else to go."
"And that is what I meant when I said I was experiencing problems with my father also," Nyssa added. "I understand what it feels like to feel written off, to be left to fend for oneself."
But Laurel shook her head. "My dad's mad at me, really mad, but... even in the precinct just now – he still put my safety first. He always will. That much I know."
"You are fortunate to have him in your life."
"What are you going to do, then?" Laurel asked. "I mean… do you need somewhere to stay? I have a spare room, if you need it."
Nyssa raised her eyebrows in question. "Are you saying you want an assassin living under the same roof as you?"
"I don't see you as an assassin," Laurel told her, and that same honesty in her made Nyssa's heart leap in a way it had done a long time ago, with Sara. "I see you as a woman my sister clearly loved having a rough go of it –"
"I would prefer not to have your pity," Nyssa interrupted, but Laurel pressed on nevertheless.
"– who could use a little help from a friend," she finished firmly.
The last word Laurel uttered surprised Nyssa the most. She remembered her father's words to her as a child – that there were no such things as friends, only acquaintances who simply hadn't let her down yet.
Still, Nyssa softened a little. "I appreciate the offer, Laurel, truly. But I have several safe houses in Starling. I will stay in one of them once we are finished here."
Laurel nodded in understanding, and for a minute she was silent as she dug into her steak pie. "Did you mean it when you said you would train me?"
"I truly do not have anywhere else to go," Nyssa repeated. "And I feel it is my responsibility to ensure you are as fully prepared and well-trained as possible if you wish to take on Starling City's criminals. To do that, I must teach you as I taught Sara. I feel… almost like I am honouring her memory in the process."
"I miss her," Laurel said suddenly. "I miss her so much."
"I do too."
"Can you –" For a second, Laurel hesitated again, as if unsure whether or not to continue. "Can you tell me about her?"
Nyssa was confused. "Tell you what about her?"
Laurel shrugged. "I don't know. Anything. How you met. How you fell in love. Why she stayed in Nanda Parbat. I mean, just because she's gone doesn't mean we can't remember her, right?"
"Right." Nyssa nodded, but a lump appeared in her throat when she saw Laurel's eyes filling with tears. "May I ask that you do the same?" she requested quietly.
Even through her tears, Laurel smiled, nodding too. "Sure."
Nyssa wasn't quite sure why, but she lifted a chip and dipped it into the pool of ketchup still on Laurel's plate, before holding it up. Almost instantly Laurel followed suit, picking up a clean chip from Nyssa's plate and dipping it into the ketchup too.
"To Sara," Nyssa declared, and Laurel was laughing now, laughing and crying at the same time.
"To Sara," Laurel echoed, and as Nyssa looked at Laurel, the sound of laughter was leaving her mouth barely before she even realised it.
And it was in that moment, as Nyssa and Laurel ate their ketchup covered chips, that in spite of everything, Nyssa's heart felt lighter than it had in a long time. Her worries disappeared, albeit momentarily, in the laughter as she exchanged stories with Laurel about Sara – to the point that Nyssa was almost convinced her beloved was dunking the chips in the ketchup with them.