Notes: Title from "Blackbird" by The Beatles. Thanks to veritas724 for beta help and being my Arrow squee buddy.
Updated Note: Written before Felicity and Laurel met in canon in 1.21.
"They have better coffee here than I expected." Laurel wraps her hands around the plain white ceramic mug and takes a sip, her third cup since they arrived.
Oliver nods his head toward the Big Belly Burger sign. "They have better everything than expected." He smiles at her, the warmth shining all the way from his intensely blue eyes. In the five years he was away, she'd forgotten how intense they could be. They draw her in, give her hope that he's starting to truly recover. As the months have passed, Laurel has noticed that his smiles come more and more easily. He was so broken and distant when he returned from the island. So haunted. She's glad he's decided to live in the present again, with his friends and family to help.
At that moment, the waitress comes up to their table, full coffee pot in hand. She gives Oliver a familiar smile. "Can I refresh your cup, Oliver?"
He grins back up at her. "No thanks, Carly, I'm good."
Carly gives him a friendly pat on the shoulder and turns back toward the counter.
"I didn't know you were a regular here," Laurel teases, watching Carly float between the other tables. "First name basis, huh?"
Oliver nods, as if no one should be surprised that a billionaire has made a greasy spoon his new favorite watering hole. Why isn't this place teeming with paparazzi? she thinks. Or doing better on Yelp? It can't just be its location—Verdant's business is booming, despite being in The Glades. He sets his cup down. "She's a friend of Diggle's."
Laurel's eyebrows rise, and she turns to look at Carly with interest, ringing someone up at the register. "Friend? Or girlfriend?"
Oliver tilts his head back and forth, lips quirking, an almost-goofy gesture she thought he'd lost out in the South China Sea. "Closer to girlfriend now?" He shrugs. "You'd have to ask Diggle."
Laurel shakes her head. "I'll take your word for it." Taking another sip, she realizes something—she's rarely seen him separated from his bodyguard since John Diggle started working for the Queens. She doesn't remember Oliver being quite so buddy-buddy with any of the other security guards his family had employed in the past. Diggle's influence must be doing him some good. "You two are pretty close, aren't you?"
Oliver's expression grows thoughtful, and he looks down into his cup, studying its contents as if he can find the answers in its inky depths. "Yes. When you spend so much time with someone, it just happens."
Laurel suspects it's a lot more than that, but she lets it drop. Her phone vibrates in her bag, and she lifts it out to check. "Excuse me."
It's a text from Tommy. Meet you for lunch?
She grimaces, not about Tommy, but about how late it's already gotten. The time spent getting coffee with Oliver had flown by. She had been planning to just grab something to go here, take a working lunch so she could dig into her latest case. She types back, No time today, going to work thru.
She sets the phone on the table, face apologetic. "This has been great, Ollie, but I'd better get back to work. Some of us have to work during the daylight hours," she says, her words a gentle jab at Oliver as she picks up the laminated menu from the holder at the center of the table. "Since you're such a regular, what's good here?"
His fingers brush against hers as he pulls the card from her hand and scans it. "Hmm. I think nothing beats the original Big Belly Burger with everything on it."
She pulls the hand down into her lap. "Really? The same Oliver who used to complain if the steak wasn't exactly the right shade of pink likes a plain old burger?" she jokes. It's only after she says it that she realizes she's being a bit insensitive.
But Oliver's eyes twinkle. "Hey, a plain old, good old American burger tastes like five-star cuisine to me these days after a steady diet of wild birds and raw fish."
Her phone buzzes again—what is it this time? She ignores it for a moment. "So the next time we get together, sushi is right out?"
Oliver makes another goofy face. "Definitely."
She checks her phone; the text is from Tommy again. Why don't I bring by a bento? She chuckles at the coincidence.
"What?" Oliver asks, nodding at her phone.
"Tommy wants to bring by lunch... Japanese."
"Ah..." Oliver replies, the light going out of his eyes, despite his smile. He sets the menu back into its holder, breaks eye contact. "I guess it's settled then."
Her heart sinks a little—after the lovely conversation they've had today, she's sorry to be ending it on a down note. She hasn't asked Oliver what happened between him and Tommy, and Tommy doesn't want to talk about it either, not in more than one syllable answers, anyway. So she tries to keep her tone light. "Not necessarily. A burger sounds amazing right now."
Oliver brightens, maybe the day is saved. "You won't regret it." He lifts his hand to signal Carly, mouthing, "One original, to go." Carly nods and writes it on her pad.
Laurel types back to Tommy. Getting a burger, thanks tho. See you later? She slips the phone back into her bag. Looking up, she sees that Oliver's attention is toward the doors, where a cute blonde with glasses and a ponytail is coming in. She looks familiar, but Laurel can't really place her. Has she been at the club?
Oliver lifts a hand to wave at her. "Felicity! Over here."
Laurel's curiosity turns to definite interest. Another woman that Laurel has never met that Oliver knows by name? Sure, they don't exactly run in the same circles any more, but it really hits home that he has developed a whole separate life since he's been back.
"Oliver!" Felicity greets him in return, and then continues in a rush as she approaches the table, "You weren't answering your phone or your texts, and John wasn't around to chase after you, so I just switched on your phone's GP—oh!" She cuts off, realizing Oliver isn't alone. "Sorry, I didn't know you were..."
"Having coffee with a friend?" Oliver gives Felicity an understanding smile. "I didn't mean to worry you. What's up?" he asks mildly.
"Uh, well, it's really nothing urgent per se. I probably could have just waited, but you know, half the time, if I don't take care of it right away, I'll just put it on the backburner and forget it, and no one wants it charred black as..." she trails off awkwardly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Black as...?" Oliver asks, amused.
"Blackened fish? I don't know, I hate Cajun, all spicy and filled with bits I can't recognize... anyway!" She holds out her hand to Laurel to shake. "Felicity Smoak. I work at Queen Consolidated."
"Laurel Lance. I'm an old friend of Oliver's."
Felicity nods. "Also Oliver's ex." Then she blushes, hurrying on, "And a lawyer at CNRI. Um, great work you do there."
"That..." Laurel responds, a little overwhelmed by Felicity's barrage of words. "Is all true! Or at least we try to do good work. Are you... interested in legal aid?"
"Oh, no, not really. I just know who you are because of Oliver. Hard not to, working with him so—"
Oliver, whose eyes have been bouncing back and forth between the two women like a ball in a tennis match, interrupts. "Felicity has been helping me with my security system at Verdant."
"Yep, I'm his girl," she chirps, then clarifies, "His I.T. girl. I consult for him. That's all. Nothing else."
Felicity is very vibrant, Laurel thinks, liking her immediately. Laurel wonders idly if Felicity and Oliver have anything else going on between them, despite her protestations. Felicity is so different from the usual girls Oliver has dated, it might be good for him.
But she's not going to pry. Her food arrives then, tied up in a plastic bag, and Laurel stands. She tosses a ten onto the table. "It was nice to meet you, Felicity." To Oliver, she says, "Thanks for the coffee and the recommendation, Ollie. Let's do this again."
"Let's." He stands and pulls her into a friendly hug. "And soon."
As Laurel leaves the restaurant, she turns back to look at Oliver and Felicity, who are now sitting across the table from each other engaged in earnest conversation. Yes, she grins to herself, there is definitely something else going on there.
When she arrives back at CNRI, Tommy is waiting at her desk. He smiles widely on seeing her, leaning close to give her cheek a kiss. "I came anyway. Hope that's okay?"
She's got a lot of work ahead of her, but she isn't going to complain. Now that he's quit managing the club, he has a lot more time for her, and she's enjoying making up for lost time. "Of course it is."
She unpacks her burger from its container, noticing that Carly stocked the bag with plenty of napkins. Messy burgers are the best. Her stomach rumbles—she hadn't realized she was this hungry.
"Man, I wish I'd asked you to bring me one now..." He eyes his bento with regret.
"I totally would have." She sits in her desk chair and lifts the dripping burger carefully over the paper wrapping. "Time to see if these are as great as Ollie says they are."
"Oliver?" he says in an odd voice, just as she's biting into the burger.
She realizes her slip up too late, but for a glorious moment doesn't even care. The flavors of beef, red onion, mayonnaise and mustard mix with the bread and a seasoning she can't place, and she moans. "Oh, that's good," she says, wiping her mouth with a napkin. She hopes she'll have enough.
"Were you with Oliver earlier?" Tommy asks again.
Laurel sets her burger down with a sigh. "Yes, Tommy. He's still my friend, no matter what went down between you guys."
"I know." He frowns and looks down at his hands, which are curled into tight fists in reaction to her news.
She reaches over and places her hand gently on top of one of them, smoothing a finger across his tense muscles. "You're not going to try to tell me who I can and cannot be friends with, are you? 'Cause that sounds an awful lot like my dad."
His head shoots up, his face wearing an offended expression. "Ouch."
She lifts her eyebrows as if to say, You see what I'm saying? and goes in for another amazing bite of her burger.
"But he's not wrong." Tommy starts to unwrap his lunch.
Laurel swallows, opening her mouth in mock-shock. "Are you actually agreeing with my dad about something?" she teases.
But Tommy doesn't laugh. "Oliver has changed, Laurel. I mean, really changed."
"Of course he has, we all know he has. He had to have gone through hell on that island." They'd had this discussion before, back when Tommy was trying to get her to give Oliver another chance. It feels strange to have the shoe on the other foot. "Have you seen his scars?" She shudders, remembering. Seeing them had started their journey back to friendship.
Tommy nods slowly. "Those scars go a lot farther than skin deep. I think..." He shakes his head, as if the next words are going to be hard to say, "...there's something really wrong with him. Mentally wrong."
"Tommy, what?" She fully puts her burger down and swivels to face him. "You're not serious?"
"Dead serious." His lips quirk at some private joke. "He hides it well, but I saw it when we were working together. It's almost like part of him, the part that used to care about other people, is just gone. He only pretends to care now."
"So you're saying Oliver is some sort of... sociopath?" She throws up her hands. "C'mon, Tommy. He's trying to reach out, to heal. That's why we met for coffee today. He told me that he doesn't want to 'live on an island anymore.' If we abandon him..."
"He'll be fine. He has other people." He seems to realize how harsh he sounds and he explains, "John Diggle... Felicity Smoak... He's spent more time with them than me the last few months."
Strange how just today she had noticed how close Oliver was with Diggle and Felicity. It doesn't change her opinion. "They don't know him like we do, Tommy. He needs to keep his ties to the past as well as looking ahead."
Tommy just shakes his head. "They know him better than I do now."
What a blow-out it must have been if Tommy wanted to completely cut ties with the person he once called his best friend. She wishes he would open up to her about it. "Are you sure you don't want to talk about what happened?"
"I... can't. Not yet. Give me time, okay?"
As hard as it is to see him hurting, she says, "Okay." Then she leans over and gives him a light kiss to show she's all right with that. She's almost done with her burger, anyway. She wraps up the drippings and tosses it all into the trash. "I should get back to my casework now. Isn't your lunch break almost over?"
He glances at his watch. "Oh, crap, yes." Dumping his half-eaten bento into her wastebasket, he jumps up, snagging his jacket from the back of his chair. "You'd think being the boss's son, they'd cut me some slack, but..."
"Bye!" she waves at his retreating back.
Laurel pulls up the folder on her computer. She was only assigned the case today, and had spent most of the morning making sure the paperwork on her last case was filed properly. Speaking of...
"Thea?" she calls out over her monitor. "Are you back yet?"
Thea pops her head around a doorframe, "You called, boss?"
Laurel smiles and crooks her finger to get her to come over. Thea is starting to take to her clerical work—Laurel is going to miss Thea's quirky wit when her community service is over. "Could you pull out everything we have on..." She looks at her screen, squinting. "...Sonya Larina's case?"
Thea gives her a thumbs' up. "Gotcha."
While she waits, she checks the database for anything online. CNRI had taken on Sonya, a non-citizen who deeply wished to remain in the United States, because she had been charged with arson and could not afford her own lawyer. Reading her client's deposition, rife with broken English, Laurel begins to suspect Sonya is a victim of human trafficking, but is too scared or has too-limited English to convey it.
Laurel has a thought, opens up her contacts file. Her eyes run down a list of names, alighting on two likely ones. She picks up the phone to dial...
Ten minutes later, she's hanging up, frustrated. "Damn! Of all weeks to go on vacation!"
"What's up?" Thea says at her shoulder, carrying an armful of files.
Laurel jumps, she hadn't noticed her there. How long had she been standing there waiting? "Oh, I need a translator, but both of CNRI's contacts are out of the country this week."
"Bummer. I know a little Spanish... okay, not really that much. I may have texted my way through that class."
Laurel laughs. "Thanks for the offer..." Thea gives her a mock-serious nod. "...but what I need is a Russian translator."
"Hmm. Maybe try an app? That's the only reason I passed my Spanish class at all." Thea sets down the files beside Laurel's mouse. "Be back with the rest."
Laurel watches her go, impressed. Is there really an app that could do the trick? It would have to be a pretty damn good one, to make sure that the translation was solid. She pulls up her browser and starts to look for recommendations...
Then she stops, mid-stroke. Why get recommendations from random strangers on the internet? Laurel picks up her phone again and punches in a number she's had memorized for years. A woman answers, "Hello, Queen Consolidated. How may I direct your call?"
"Please put me through to Felicity Smoak."
End Notes: My plan is to flip-flop Laurel's and Felicity's point-of-view in each chapter. Constructive criticism, feedback and questions are highly desired! And of course, follow if you are interested in where this is going. :)