Nyssa shouldn't be here.
That much she knows – even as she turns the corner and reaches Laurel's apartment, the back of her mind is full of misgivings. It's the middle of the night, after all, and for all Nyssa knows, Laurel is asleep. And even if she isn't, Nyssa is here on a whim; spontaneity has carried her all the way here, spontaneity and what she has decided on the way there to be nothing more than a meaningless infatuation.
At least, that is what Nyssa tells herself. She cannot possibly be falling for the sister of her beloved. To do so would be sacrilege of the highest order, surely – and yet, nowadays, it is not Sara who flits into her mind's eye in the rare hours of Nyssa's slumber.
No, it is Laurel, all parted dark red lips (smiling against hers) and unpracticed hands and droplets of sweat trickling down her neck and disappearing between her breasts.
The first time this happened, to say Nyssa was unnerved would be an understatement – and Laurel (beautiful, intelligent, astute Laurel) knew as much, too.
"What's on your mind?" she asked Nyssa, stretching her arms in the air and warming up in preparation for another sparring session in the Wildcat gym. (It had been abandoned ever since its owner died and had become their regular training spot.) Nyssa was sitting in the corner, back against the wall, hugging her knees and watching as Laurel lifted her arms and stood on her tiptoes. As she did so, her t-shirt rode up, exposing her toned midriff. "Nyssa? You've been acting off ever since we got in here. What's going on?"
"Not what... whom," Nyssa replied after a moment. She was aware of the ambiguity in her statement, but she could not be any more forthcoming about her feelings. Not when they were for her.
But then to her surprise, Laurel was at Nyssa's side in a flash, kneeling beside her, her hand going to touch her shoulder. "It's okay," she said softly. "I know how you feel."
"What – what do you mean?" Nyssa said, her eyes widening, holding her breath and watching as Laurel regarded her with what looked like sympathy. And then, just as suddenly, Laurel stood up and picked up her gym bag
"Come on, I'm taking you for a coffee." Nyssa didn't say anything, just regarded her incredulously, and Laurel said, shouldering her bag, "This is about your father, isn't it?"
Laurel shook her head. "Look, I think we've gotten to the stage where I can call you my friend, right?"
"I do not have friends." But when Laurel's face fell, she amended, "Just one."
And at that, some of the hurt in Laurel's expression disappeared and her eyes brightened once more. "Well, friends talk to each other. And they listen. And I've talked to you enough about my daddy issues to know it's about time I returned the favour. Especially because I can tell it's bothering you more than you let on. So come on. We'll train another time, okay?"
"You still have a lot to learn," Nyssa reasoned.
"You do too if you think I'm going to take no for an answer," Laurel replied, and when she extended her hand to Nyssa's, Nyssa found herself taking it and letting Laurel pull her to her feet.
"I see stubbornness is hereditary in your family."
"Damn straight," Laurel said.
And, indeed, Nyssa found that the Laurel who continued to crop up in her dreams was not only every bit as stubborn and unrelenting as the woman who sipped her coffee and listened to her talk and squeezed Nyssa's hand reassuringly as she confided in her. She was also just as beautiful, her hair just as soft, her mouth the exact same sensuous shade of pink that curved into a smile at all the right moments.
It's difficult, therefore, as she climbs easily up the wall so she can enter Laurel's apartment through the window (as she always does), for Nyssa to ascertain in her head why she's even there. She knows Laurel isn't patrolling tonight – she has a case she has had to work on solidly for the last two days.
So is it to talk again, to find solace in each other's company in a way neither of them ever expected? Nyssa certainly did not think the day would come where talking about the woman she loved would be a nostalgia that she revelled in, looked forward to, even. But it has. And that is all this is – training with Laurel, reminiscing with her about Sara, seeing in Laurel so many of her beloved's traits – it is all simply Nyssa's way of holding onto what little there is left of her yellow bird.
"There is one thing I do not understand," Nyssa said, swallowing a mouthful of her scone before reaching for her cup of tea.
"Shoot." Laurel licked her fingers, which were covered in jam and cream, and Nyssa found herself lowering her gaze and trying to focus on their conversation (and not the way Laurel let out a quiet mmm of culinary satisfaction).
"Why do continually insist on my being a good person... despite knowing everything I have done, the lives I have taken?"
"You're an assassin," Laurel reasoned. "It's kind of in your job description."
"And that does not bother you?"
To her surprise Laurel laughed. "What, like what you did today when you managed to tackle me with one arm – you're going to have to show me that one day, by the way – are you trying to ask if I'm not ever afraid that you're going to use that same arm to snap my neck?"
"No, I do not expect you to be afraid of me. I would never hurt you."
"I know that."
"I just... fail to understand why you do not think less of me knowing who I am."
"You're not the only one who's killed people."
"Yes, of course Sara –"
"I meant me," Laurel interrupted, making Nyssa start. "Not that many, sure, but I have. And just this year I tried to kill two people. I would have if no one had stopped me."
Her tone was casual, flippant, almost, but it was clear she was expecting judgement from Nyssa. Disbelief, perhaps.
"What was his name?" Nyssa asked, making Laurel raise her eyebrows.
"How did you know it was a man I killed?"
"You and your sister share a penchant for wanting to rid the world of evil men."
Laurel smiled. "You're not wrong. His name was Daily. Officer Daily."
"He was a police officer?"
"Yeah. He was a bent cop in the precinct who was working for Sebastian Blood –"
"– who was working for Slade Wilson," Nyssa finished. "I see."
"Yeah, I shot him just as he was about to kill Oliver. To be honest, it messed me up more than I thought it would," Laurel admitted.
Nyssa sighed. "I expect nothing less from someone like you."
But Laurel shook her head. "It was more because I was having... a pretty rough go of it at the time. Not so much because I had a conscience." Nyssa opened her mouth as if to disagree, but Laurel then continued, "To answer your question – I know you're a good person. Not just because you protected my sister and saved her life, and not just because you supported me and said you believed in me at a time when no one else did."
"Because I knew who my sister was in her heart. And I know she fell in love with you because she saw the person you are and have always been in spite of your past. And that person is a good person."
For a moment, Laurel's candour left Nyssa speechless. Then she said, "You have far too high an opinion of me."
Unexpectedly, Laurel took hold of Nyssa's wrist, her thumb pressing ever so gently against pulse point, which suddenly rocketed at her touch. "No, I don't. I'm just telling you what she saw. And what I see."
Bolstered a little by these thoughts, Nyssa slips inside Laurel's apartment, jumping onto the floor with the practiced weightlessness and agility of a cat. Laurel's living room is empty, Nyssa observes, and the lights are off, so she makes her way quietly up the hall. Her bedroom door is open, the light on, which is a somewhat encouraging sign. At least Laurel is awake.
It's then, however, that Nyssa halts in her tracks, because at the exact moment that she reaches the door there's a loud creak and groan of bedsprings before she hears a sound that makes her heart drop to her stomach –
And suddenly Nyssa finds it hard to breathe, because the visceral sound that whips through the night air is a hundred times more real than anything Laurel has said or done when haunting Nyssa's dreams. It's melodious, and the hum of satisfaction that follows is even more musical to Nyssa's ears.
She knows she shouldn't; she knows she should turn on her heel and flee as quietly as she came, but there's something that roots Nyssa to the spot, making it impossible for her to move. So despite herself, she squints through the small gap between the door and its hinges, and instantly Nyssa's breath catches in her throat – Laurel is lying on her bed, eyes closed, hand between her legs, her back arched as another moan ripples through the room.
Knowing she should look away, Nyssa scrunches her eyes shut. But immediately in her mind's eye is the sight of Laurel's breasts pushing into the air, supple, unrestrained by a bra and the thin white t-shirt doing nothing to conceal her fully erect nipples jutting out against the sheer material. Nyssa's eyes fly open, the tortuous fantasy her mind is concocting becoming too much for her, and she can't for the life of her tear her gaze away from Laurel through that gap.
The room is bathed in a dim glow, illuminating Laurel's hair so it seems golden in the light, almost like a halo splayed on her pillow. When Nyssa looks closer, she can see Laurel's panties are around her knees, and she watches as Laurel bites her lip in concentration and slides her fingers further inside herself.
It's then that Nyssa becomes painfully aware of the ache that has settled stubbornly between her legs. Nyssa crosses them, squeezing her thighs together to try and alleviate the throb of arousal she can so potently feel in her groin. It doesn't do much, though, and when Laurel reaches up with her other hand and lifts her shirt up to expose her breasts, Nyssa's surprised her own knees haven't given way beneath her completely. Nyssa holds her breath, watching as Laurel – eyes still closed – caresses her nipple with the tip of her thumb, then rolling it between two fingers. In the light (and in spite of the fact that she really should look away) it's hard to ignore how beautiful Laurel is; her skin is smooth, the centre of each breast a rich, dusky pink as they push forward into the air once more. Laurel pants softly, and it's once she hisses with pleasure that – unable to ignore her body's betrayal of her a second longer – Nyssa's hand finally goes inside her pants, her fingers at last beginning to relieve the throbbing feeling at her hot, wet centre.
She continues to watch Laurel, though, because it seems like she's close – her breaths are becoming more laboured, and with each one Nyssa herself becomes wetter, her essence dripping warmly onto her fingertips and dampening her underwear, having to bite her lip to stop any noise coming out of her mouth. Laurel's gasping now, and even though there is a couple of metres' distance between them, Nyssa can just imagine Laurel's fingers thrusting inside herself, toes curling around the sheets so they become as dishevelled as her hair and the little clothing she still has left. The thought alone makes her force herself to exhale softly, gently, before she holds her breath and listens, waiting for Laurel to come.
With one final gasp, Laurel does just that, and there is a soft thud as she collapses on her bed, breathing heavily. It's only as Nyssa proceeds to push her own fingers further inside herself, trying to alleviate the desire that is still very much present in her groin, that she hears Laurel's sigh – and the name she utters immediately after.