The sun is rising when Laurel surfaces from sleep, and even in her drowsiness she can't help but smile at the still-warm dent in the pillow beside her, and the faint glow of the bathroom light in the hallway, and - as she turns on her side - the sunrise's cloudy pinks and purples streaking across the sky like the brushstrokes of a carefree artist.
She pulls the blankets a little closer to her, so they go over her bare arms, because even in the heat of the rising sun it's still a bit chilly. As she does so she hears the soft pad of Nyssa's footsteps as she makes her way down the hall back to Laurel's room. Laurel smiles, turns on her side.
"Morning," she says, and as Nyssa settles back into bed with her Laurel can't help but reach out to play with Nyssa's hair.
"Good morning," Nyssa replies warmly. "I am sorry, I did not mean to wake you."
"'S'okay, Nyssa," Laurel says softly, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand. "Needed to… get up for work anyway."
"Now?" Nyssa asks.
Laurel laughs. "No, not even ADAs have to get to work that early. But I need to… shower. Get changed. Stay here with you for a bit," she adds with a smile, and when Nyssa smiles back and her eyes light up Laurel's heart can't help but soar with something that feels like joy. She kisses her, then, before landing another on the hollow of Nyssa throat and then burying her face in the crook of her neck. "I'm glad you're still here," she says, and her voice is muffled and she's glad Nyssa can't see her face or that she's holding her breath.
"As am I, ya Laurel," Nyssa murmurs back.
"I don't just mean here, here. I mean…" Laurel gestures around her. "Here. Part of me can't believe I still have you. You know. After everything that's happened."
Nyssa's hand slides down Laurel's back, pushing her hair out of the way, before caressing the gentle curve of Laurel's hip, thumb faintly tracing the stretch marks that decorate the juncture between her abdomen and thigh. "You know you can have me, samaya," Nyssa whispers. "In… every sense of the word."
"Thank you," Laurel said quietly, not quite able to look at Nyssa. They were in the alleyway outside Verdant that had become their familiar haunt, the starting point when Laurel would go on patrol as the Black Canary.
"For what? Oliver is in prison and the entire city knows he is the Arrow."
Laurel shook her head. "You know what."
"I was merely returning the favour."
"I've never saved your life before," Laurel countered.
"On the contrary, you have, Laurel," Nyssa said with a slight smile, touching her shoulder as if on impulse. "Without you I admit I would be… lost. Lost and -"
"- lonely?" Laurel suggested.
"Why do you say that?" Nyssa said sharply.
"Because it's what I see when I look in the mirror," Laurel said softly. "Or… at least, that was what I saw."
"Perhaps you should try to see what I see."
"Is it not obvious?" Laurel tilted her head to one side a little, watching her, not answering. "I see a hero. Starling City's guardian angel."
"If I'm any kind of angel, it's more the… fallen kind."
"What's so bad about falling, ya Laurel? Perhaps you are. But you are not falling apart. Or into pieces. You are falling into place."
"Poetic," Laurel said with a smile, and Nyssa shrugged, smiling back.
"It is nonetheless comforting to know Oliver has not accepted my father's offer," Nyssa admitted. "Forgive me for my selfishness."
"I'm sorry too," Laurel said quietly. "I was meant to keep you being in Starling between us."
"You were protecting your loved ones. I expected nothing less."
"Just like I would with you," Laurel said without thinking, and their eyes met for a split second before Nyssa looked away. Still, Laurel persisted. "I mean it. I'm not going to lose you too."
Nyssa sighed. "I dearly wish that was a choice that could be made, ya Laurel."
"You okay?" Laurel asks. She can't help noticing the faraway look in Nyssa's eyes. "You seem… somewhere else."
Nyssa doesn't say anything, just picks up Laurel's free hand with her own. Impulsively Laurel drops a kiss on Nyssa's palm. There's a scar there, faint but still visible, from where Oliver's sword had cut her. Laurel reaches up, then, finger running gently along the scar on her neck, also from Oliver's sword.
"I can't believe he did this to you," Laurel whispers.
Nyssa smiles but the pain is still there. "I have dealt with far worse."
"You know that doesn't make me feel any better, right?"
At this Nyssa's smile disappears. "I am sorry."
Laurel shakes her head. "No, I am. Oliver was -"
"The love of your life?" Nyssa asks.
"There was a time when I thought as much," Laurel admits. "But now I know better. And whoever he was to me… it doesn't excuse this." Laurel taps gently at the scar on Nyssa's neck before kissing it ever so lightly. "Especially considering it was all a ruse for Ra's."
"He had to be convincing," Nyssa reasons. "While I do not welcome him besting me in battle - I understand his motivations."
Laurel shakes her head again, kissing her this time, a slightly clumsy, misplaced kiss that lands on the corner of Nyssa's mouth. Laurel feels Nyssa smile against her lips at their touch, though, and that makes Laurel breathe a little easier. "That doesn't justify hurting someone I love."
"Well, if he can change, why can't you?"
"You don't understand, Laurel -"
"Then explain it to me," Laurel said determinedly, and on an impulse she stepped forward, taking the wet cloth from Nyssa without asking and dabbing it gently on the cut on her neck made with Oliver's sword. "I got it," she said softly, and to her surprise although at first Nyssa's hand went instinctively to Laurel's wrist it then fell to her side as Nyssa quickly acquiesced and Laurel dipped the cloth in the water again, wringing it out and wiping away the blood.
"Thank you," Nyssa breathed, but she winced and Laurel could hear her sharp intake of breath when the cloth stung at her skin.
"Sorry," Laurel said, and she couldn't help but wince too at her friend's pain. She tried to go gentler and breathed a sigh of relief when this time Nyssa didn't flinch at her touch.
But when Laurel was done Nyssa stepped away, not quite meeting Laurel's eyes. "Al-Saheem has been ordered to take me back to Nanda Parbat so my father can kill me. Or so he can."
"I won't let him," Laurel said instantly. "He'll have to get through me first -"
"Laurel, I am not afraid of death," Nyssa snapped. But Laurel's alarm must have shown on her face because immediately Nyssa added, "I am sorry. I just - have been ready for death for as long as I can remember.."
"Then what -"
"You know exactly what I am scared of, Laurel, and it has nothing to do with me."
"You said it yourself, Laurel," Nyssa said firmly. "You did not recognise Oliver tonight. And if anything were to happen to you I would never forgive myself - or be able to live with myself, for that matter - knowing you put yourself in danger for me."
Nyssa shivered, and Laurel instinctively reached for the jacket lying on the table nearby and put it around Nyssa's shoulders.
"That's not your call to make," Laurel said gently. "You know that. And don't you think that goes both ways?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oliver is - was - my friend. If he had hurt you - if the worst had happened…" Laurel paused, trying to fight the tears suddenly in her eyes. "What would I have done, Nyssa? I mean it. I can't lose you. I can't."
And then she was not sure why, exactly, but she raised her hand to Nyssa's cheek. Nyssa closed her eyes at her touch, grasping Laurel's fingers.
Laurel took a deep breath, and her heart rate accelerated very suddenly, making it hard for her to speak."Nyssa, I -"
"Laurel," Nyssa said again, but this time it was a plea. "Don't."
"Don't say anything that you would not have said if I hadn't nearly lost my life tonight."
And with that Laurel's hand dropped to her side and she couldn't quite look Nyssa in the eyes when she whispered - more to herself than to Nyssa - "Fine."
Laurel turned away, unable to bear the warmth still in Nyssa's gaze a second longer, and began to take off her jacket, going to stand near the pile of her regular clothes so she could get changed. A rustling sound of leather against skin told her Nyssa was doing the same several yards away from Laurel.
(That made it easier, then, for Laurel to wipe away the tears still brimming in her eyes, knowing Nyssa definitely wasn't looking.)
"Do you remember how we first met?" Nyssa asks, and Laurel gets it, lets her change the subject, humours her with a smile.
"Yeah. I remember being kinda scared of my sister's assassin girlfriend," Laurel says teasingly, but Nyssa's face falls and Laurel regrets it instantly.
"The assassin who kidnapped your mother and had you poisoned, you mean," Nyssa says, turning away so her back is to her. Laurel can sense the shame in the way she stiffens when Laurel reaches out, touches Nyssa's bare shoulder.
"Hey. I forgave you for that a long time ago. And - you're not the same person I first met, Nyssa. But the thing is - even if you weren't? You were only that person because you thought you had to be."
Nyssa doesn't reply but Laurel persists, shifting upwards a bit and then moving her hair out of the way so she can press a kiss on the back of Nyssa's neck.
And then Nyssa says unexpectedly, "And then you proved to me otherwise."
"No," Laurel says firmly. "You figured that out for yourself. It was all you."
"I have been a most excellent trainer!" Nyssa said with pride.
"We need to get this guy somewhere where he can't infect anyone," Laurel said, but then she caught Nyssa's eye and - completely on an impulse - winked. "And you have."
"And you have been the best student I could ask for," Nyssa said with a fond smile. "In more ways than one."
Laurel opened her mouth to reply but before she could an onlooker shouted, "Who is that?"
A crowd was starting to form, Laurel realised quickly. "Everybody get back!" Laurel called, using her voice filter.
"It's the Black Canary!"
"Is he dead?" shouted a woman anxiously.
"The Black Canary does not kill," Nyssa said firmly to the crowd before Laurel could say anything. Then, without warning, she fired a tear gas arrow in the middle of the gaggle of people, and it didn't take long for the area to clear.
"Come on, let's move him," Laurel said, and as she made to grab his shoulders she checked for a pulse just to be sure.
Nyssa saw her looking and laughed. "I was not merely saying that for the crowd's sake. You are not a killer, ya Laurel. You do not have it in you."
"For what it's worth, Nyssa," Laurel replied, panting as they lifted the man up the steps so they could tie him up and dump him in an alleyway, "you aren't either."
"I killed several people mere hours ago," Nyssa countered. "I am the daughter of Ra's al Ghul. Of course I am a killer."
"No," Laurel said, and she breathed a sigh of relief when they came to a halt and dumped their quarry unceremoniously to the ground so he landed with a thump. "You're not your father. You prove that just by being here, with me. You're better."
"If we were not in the middle of a city-wide emergency, ya Laurel," Nyssa said, unable to fight the beginnings of a smile judging by the way her eyes lit up, "I would vehemently disagree."
And her heart soars when Nyssa turns over so she is facing Laurel once more, gaze filled with the kind of searing heat that sends a warm flush up Laurel's neck and cheeks. "Regardless, ya Laurel… I will always love you for it."
And Laurel can't stop herself kissing her now, one hand going into Nyssa's hair and the other cupping her cheek. Nyssa just sighs at first, letting Laurel kiss her, but then - in one fluid movement reminiscent of their sparring sessions - Nyssa's lying on top of Laurel, knees anchoring against Laurel's hips so she's pinned down - but Laurel isn't exactly complaining.
(The white-hot-wet rush of arousal that starts up between her legs says that much.)
"I love you too," Laurel whispers back, just as Nyssa crawls down Laurel's body till she's at the crux of her thighs, pulling her legs apart just enough for her to land a kiss on the inside of her thigh. Warm breath ghosts her knee and Nyssa's archer's hands are gentle, fingers long and rough but oh so slow as they slip inside Laurel, making her gasp. Already her toes are curling and she grabs a fistful of the sheets, but Nyssa knows now to go easy, that Laurel's sensitive.
She knows Laurel's weak spots, the places where if her finger skirts up half an inch Laurel's knees will buckle, or when her mouth replaces where her fingers were just seconds earlier so Nyssa's humming against her clit while her free hand reaches for Laurel's. Laurel tries to tug it away, murmuring "I'm sweaty", but Nyssa doesn't seem to care, only holds on tighter so their fingers are interlaced.
And when Laurel knows she's close she pulls Nyssa up by the shoulders, kissing her. It's an unsteady kiss, because she's shaking, on the edge of her climax, and she can taste herself on Nyssa's lips (something she still isn't used to) and Nyssa's smiling but looks at her questioningly.
"I want to see you when I -" Laurel says breathlessly, not even able to complete her sentence, but Nyssa understands, kissing her again, lips touching her forehead and nose and finally her mouth once more. And all the while Nyssa's fingers are at work just below Laurel's waist, touching, stroking, caressing, parting damp hair and searching for Laurel's favourite spot. Nyssa lets out a small oh when she finds it, right into Laurel's mouth, and Laurel's close now, really close.
And then Laurel buries her face into Nyssa's neck, gasping for air, mouthing soft vowels into warm skin while her nails dig into Nyssa's back. When Laurel comes, though, she pulls back, looks right into Nyssa's eyes, richly darkened with arousal as Laurel rides out her climax, and there's something so inexplicably, intimately beautiful about the way Nyssa's gazing at her that Laurel has to kiss her.
Their fingers twine once more, and when Laurel raises Nyssa's hand to press a kiss on her knuckles, Nyssa says, "I wish it could always be like this."
And when, not much later, Laurel's got her head buried between Nyssa's legs and Nyssa's fingers are tangling through Laurel's hair and Nyssa's knees press right up against Laurel's bare hips - Laurel wonders if wishes ever came true.
And it's with that thought that Laurel falls asleep on Nyssa's shoulder that night, and for the first time in a long, long time, Laurel Lance dreams in full colour.