Everything changes when Laurel says Nyssa's name.

Laurel says it slowly, elongating it, stretching out its sibilance, not at the height of her climax but just as she hurtles back to earth. It makes Nyssa's hand freeze for several moments, and despite the door and the wall between them, she's never felt closer to Laurel. It's only then that she realises she is holding her breath.

Nyssa is rarely shocked. It usually takes a lot to even surprise her, and yet the entire time she has known Laurel Lance, all she has done is catch Nyssa off-guard. Somehow, in the relatively short time they've gotten to know one another, Laurel has always been able to get Nyssa to lower the walls that have always firmly been in place with almost everyone she has encountered in her life.

"It's Tommy's birthday today," Laurel said suddenly. Her voice was a little muffled from where Nyssa had her locked in a half-nelson. But then, much to Nyssa's surprise – and with a loud "oomph" of effort from Laurel – Laurel took control, managing a well-aimed back-kick into Nyssa's knee and then flipping her over so Laurel was suddenly on top of her, one hand pinning Nyssa's wrist to the floor.

For a moment, they just stared at each other, Laurel breathing heavily (her body was flush against Nyssa's so each rapid rise and fall of Laurel's chest Nyssa could feel), blonde hair darkened with sweat. Though Laurel's stance was victorious, though, there was no mistaking the pain in her eyes.

"Nicely done," Nyssa said. Laurel seemed to take that as her cue to get up, perhaps mistaking Nyssa's lack of movement beneath her for discomfort.

When Laurel turned away to take a sip of water, Nyssa found herself springing to her feet, extending her hand towards Laurel. But before Nyssa could touch her shoulder or say anything, Laurel said quietly – as if more to herself than to Nyssa – "I'm sorry, I don't know why I..." She trailed off, shoulders slumping, not quite finishing her sentence.

"You do not need to apologise. I understand." Then, when Laurel still hadn't turned round, Nyssa grasped her shoulder this time and said softly, "I understand what it feels like to lose someone – particularly when it is someone you loved."

And to Nyssa's relief, Laurel did turn slowly on her heel at those words, meeting Nyssa's eyes. "You'd think, with time, it would be... easier. And this time last year, it kind of was. I had just gotten Sara back, and just having her alive and in my life was enough for me to get through the difficult times – because at least my sister was by my side. But now I just – I miss her, and I miss Tommy, too. And I guess it's hard for me because when I lost Sara, I found Tommy, and when I lost Tommy I found Sara again, and now –"

"– you have lost them both," Nyssa finished for her. Laurel nodded, sitting down on the gym mat and crossing her legs. Nyssa did the same, sitting opposite her. "I am sorry."

"You don't have anything to be sorry for," Laurel said automatically.

Nyssa smiled ruefully. "I seem to recall you saying something different several months ago about Sara's death."

Unexpectedly, Laurel held out her hand, and after a second's hesitation, Nyssa took it. Laurel's palm was warm, her pulse steady beneath where Nyssa's thumb brushed against it.

"I was wrong. All you ever did was try to protect my sister."

Sighing, Nyssa said, "Clearly I did not succeed in that."

She made to let go of Laurel's hand but Laurel wouldn't let her. Nyssa's throat suddenly felt constricted, and she bit her lip, managing to suppress the wave of guilt that moments before had threatened to overcome her.

"Hey. I know from experience that nothing good comes from blaming yourself. Don't go down that road, okay?" And when Nyssa didn't reply, Laurel continued, "By the way. I may have lost people I care about, but what keeps me going is the people still in my life who are important to me." Laurel hesitated again, waiting for Nyssa to meet her eyes once more before she said, "People like you, Nyssa."

This is different, though. All this time as Nyssa has struggled with how her feelings have changed for Laurel – not once has it really, honestly occurred to her that those feelings would be reciprocated. And the very idea is so foreign to her that for several long seconds, her mouth is open, jaw slack with disbelief at the sounds that continue to permeate her ears.

In the immediacy of her orgasm, Laurel's breathing begins to slow. She continues to moan gently, though, a soft, lilting, utterly euphonic song that does nothing except torture Nyssa further – but in such a pleasurable way that once again it is impossible for her to move. And when Laurel lets out a sudden unexpected cry of pleasure, Nyssa can't stop herself looking through that gap between the door once more.

Already Laurel is touching herself again, and Nyssa's not sure why but the fact that she knows, now, that Laurel is thinking about her makes her feel less guilty for watching her in the midst of such intimacy. Perhaps that is why Nyssa manages to let go of the restraint she had tried so desperately to cling to in the past couple of weeks.

"Try not to move," Nyssa said. They were in Laurel's apartment, a first aid kit open on the floor alongside Laurel's boots and leather pants. Laurel was on her couch, her mask still in one hand, her wig flung somewhere behind her. Nyssa knelt beside her with a needle in hand. Attempting to tighten the stitch she had just sewn, Nyssa stared at Laurel's bare thigh, as if she could will it to stop quivering.

"Sorry," Laurel said. For some reason, her hand was shaking too, so much so that she dropped her mask and it fell to the floor.

"It is most likely just the adrenaline," Nyssa assured her. She looked up at Laurel, her hand hovering over her thigh. "May I?"

Laurel raised her eyebrows. "You don't have to ask." Nyssa didn't say anything in reply, just placing her hand on Laurel's leg to steady it, hold it in place while she finished suturing the bullet wound in her thigh. It was fairly shallow, thankfully, but when Nyssa pulled the needle higher, Laurel let out a muffled cry.

Normally, Nyssa was fine with pain – she was at a stage where she barely felt it physically, and when she inflicted it upon other people she had trained herself over the years not to be perturbed by it.

But with Laurel, somehow, it hurt Nyssa – more than she expected and certainly more than she was willing to let on. "Sorry," she found herself murmuring.

"'S'okay," Laurel replied, wiping the sweat away from her forehead with the back of her hand. "I would take something for the pain, but you know... that's for wimps."

Nyssa managed a smile at Laurel's joke, knowing perfectly well why Laurel couldn't take any medication despite the horrendous amount of pain she was surely in. She reached down for some gauze, and when she straightened up, she realised Laurel had unzipped her jacket and was slowly taking it off.

Immediately, Nyssa's gaze dropped back to the wound on Laurel's leg, and she worked quickly to dress the wound with gauze and tape it into place.

"Thank you," Laurel said gratefully.

"Next time," Nyssa told her firmly (or as firmly as she could when she was on her knees in front of Laurel as she was clad in just a lacy black top and panties), "do not underestimate your opponent."

Laurel nodded, sighing. "Got it."

And after zipping up the first aid kit, Nyssa got to her feet, turning her back to Laurel and making to head to the kitchen so she could wash her hands.

"Hey, you're staying for pizza, right?" Laurel called just as Nyssa reached the living room door. Nyssa looked back. Laurel was on her feet now, her jacket draped over her arm. Her legs were long, tantalisingly so, and combined with the fact that what little clothing she was wearing was black and lacy, it was hard for Nyssa to concentrate on what Laurel was actually saying. "I could do with some food. And maybe a distraction so I don't crave those really tempting pain meds quite as much."

For a moment, Nyssa considered, and in that time, Laurel had joined her in the doorway. "I do not know how much of a distraction I can provide, but I will stay if you wish. On one condition, however."

"Yeah? What?" Laurel asked. She sidled past Nyssa, still holding her gaze questioningly.

"You know what." Nyssa fixed her with a meaningful look.

And then Laurel smiled properly for the first time since she was shot, and Nyssa found herself smiling back. "Fine. No pineapple. If you insist."

It is for that reason that Nyssa doesn't stop herself imagining how sensitive Laurel must be right now. Nyssa watches hungrily as Laurel's fingers slip back inside herself, knowing she will gasp quicker, with more frequency – yes, like she's doing now – and Nyssa bites her lip, trying not to make a sound as Laurel shifts on her bed, moving up a bit and making the headboard creak.

The movement means Laurel's face is no longer in Nyssa's line of vision, but she continues to watch, her own thighs clenching around the fingers that are still inside herself. And then, as Nyssa's toes curl in her boots and she stands on the balls of her feet, she feels another warm rush of arousal in her core as Laurel whispers again, "Nyssa..."

It sounds like a prayer, a reverent utterance of grace, and that alone is enough to make Nyssa temporarily lightheaded, forcing her to lean against the wall for a moment for support. Her vision clears in time to see Laurel spread her legs wider, while squirming under her own touch, so caught up in heightening her pleasure that she does not notice her panties still around her knees. Nyssa watches as the material strains against Laurel's legs and then, not entirely unexpectedly, there is a soft tearing sound as the lacy fabric gives way at last.

Still, Laurel barely notices, simply disentangling the offending garment from her limbs and tossing it aside before turning on her side, her back to the wall (and Nyssa). And then all Nyssa can make out is the soft curves of her body's outline – the swell of her breast, the way her waist goes gracefully inwards and then her silhouette is rounded outwards at her hip. Nyssa waits, all wet fingers and bated breath, and she can tell (with unexpected accuracy) from the sound Laurel makes that her fingers are hovering at her entrance.

Nyssa closes her eyes once more, imagining herself at the foot of Laurel's bed, watching as Laurel parts her thighs, digging the heels of her feet into her bed, head thrown back, fingers encircling her centre. Still, nothing can prepare her for the keening moan that leaves Laurel's lips when – presumably – her thumb presses on her clitoris, and Nyssa can tell from her own thunderous heartbeat and the elevated level of throbbing between her legs that she's close herself. She waits, holds her breath, trying to stave off her orgasm (for some reason she wants to come as Laurel does), and seconds later she is rewarded by Laurel's loud whimper that becomes a long drawn out cry of obvious pleasure.

Nyssa's eyes are squeezed shut now, and she tries her utmost to control her breathing and bite back her own moan as she (quietly as possible) reaches her climax before slumping against the wall. Exhilaration fights the yearning Nyssa suddenly feels to march into Laurel's bedroom and claim her mouth with her own and make her come all over again – but as the cloud of lust finally begins to clear in her mind, she knows she cannot, even with the knowledge that they feel the same way about each other.

And part of it is about Sara. Nyssa does not want to follow in Oliver Queen's suit when it comes to betraying the love of her life – and for her beloved's sister, no less. But as she listens to Laurel's breathing (slowly steadying as she recovers from her second orgasm), Nyssa knows she would be lying to herself, if she tried to convince herself that there isn't another reason for her maintaining the distance between them.

The real truth is that Nyssa has not, cannot, will not accept the notion that Laurel could possibly fall for a killer like her. Nowadays, yes – following her exile from the League, she has exercised more restraint, for Laurel's sake. But that does not take away from the fact that still inherent in Nyssa's soul is a darkness that Laurel does not and will never deserve to be subjected to. Laurel deserves true happiness, the kind that someone like Nyssa could never provide for her. And Nyssa knows, as surely as she knows her own name, that if Laurel knew everything Nyssa has done in her life, if Laurel was exposed to even a sliver of the darkness in Nyssa's soul, she would not be whispering Nyssa's name with nearly as much gentle reverence. No. She would be recoiling in disbelief – as she should.

Nyssa bites her lip, holding back the wave of emotions that for a second threaten to overcome her. But she's made her decision to keep her distance. And it is with those thoughts, and an unassuageable ache in her heart that lingers for hours after, that at last Nyssa turns on her heel and leaves Laurel's apartment as silently as she came.