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Somewhere Between Paris and the Big Belly

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“I hate this,” Felicity said as she worked on combinations. Well, more gasped than said.

Laurel grinned. She’d shown up to the gym about ten minutes behind Felicity, and had already donned gloves and stepped over to the speed bag. She looked fresh and bright, and it was kind of unfair. “Do you really?”

“Yes. With every fiber of my being. This sucks. Boxing sucks. Vigilantes with amazing arms and effortless ability to punch everything suck. It all sucks.” Felicity punctuated every word in her final declaration with a hit to the heavy bag. She felt sweaty and gross and like sandpaper rubbed away at the insides of her chest and esophagus.

“Tell us how you really feel.” Laurel laughed and fell into perfect rhythm with the speed bag.

Felicity took a second to watch, though whether she was admiring the form or just the play of muscles as Laurel hit the bag, she couldn’t tell. “You suck,” she said instead, turning back to the bag.

“It gets better,” Laurel said, but the traitor didn’t put any sympathy into her voice whatsoever.

Felicity paused and leaned her forehead against the bag. “I think you’re lying. I don’t think it ever gets better, and the people who make it look easy are lying sadists who lie. But they’re also masochists for putting themselves through this.”

“Somebody’s cheerful this morning,” said a new voice to Felicity’s right.

She yelped and flailed in that direction, proving that boxing didn’t necessarily lead to fighting smarts. Sara, who’d sneaked up on her like the little sneaky sneak she was, only smiled.

“Sara! What the—who—when did you get here?” Felicity tackled her friend with a hug. It had been months. She’d gotten letters from Sara—the woman had watched Back to the Future II at some point and had really latched onto the idea of leaving packages with Western Union to deliver to Felicity—but she’d never been sure if her ways of writing back had even reached her friend.

“Temporary furlough,” Sara said.

“Don’t you mean temporal furlough?” Felicity asked. When both sisters gave her puzzled looks, she waved and took in a gulp of air. “It’s a time pun, ignore me.”

“Still cute,” Sara said, and Felicity squinted at her in mock-annoyance. “I came to make sure that the dimension where Sister Dearest died was still just a bad fever dream.”

Laurel rolled her eyes, her rhythm never altering at the speed bag, and Felicity pretended not to see. For all of Sara’s claims that Laurel had been killed by Damien Darkh, none of them actually remembered it. It felt…weird to think about. It definitely made her feel squirmy and horrified in a way she didn’t want to consider. She told herself it was because Laurel was her closest friend. And not anything more than that, of course not.

“Either way, whatever your reasons for being here, I’m glad to see you,” Felicity said, giving Sara another hug. She belatedly realized that her friend wore gear similar to Laurel’s. “Wait, you’re working out, too? Don’t any of you ever take a real vacation?”

“Nope,” Sara said. She squeezed Felicity’s biceps and grinned. “Look at you. Decided to get out from behind that computer screen and do some real work for once?”

“Oh, like she hasn’t saved your ass a dozen times from behind that screen,” Laurel said over Felicity’s squawk of indignation.

“Not as many times as she’s had to save your ass, sis,” Sara said.

“It’s a fantastic ass, I don’t mind,” Felicity said before she could really think about what she was actually saying. She immediately grimaced. “Was that weird? I feel like that was weird.”

“No, you’re right, I do have an amazing ass,” Laurel said, glowering at Sara, who leaned against the heavy bag and smirked. Laurel grimaced as she looked past them. “And hey there, Dad.”

“Am I interrupting something?” Quentin asked. He wore sweatpants and an SCPD T-shirt that looked older than Felicity. “Because I can go, if you need me to—”

“No, it’s fine, it’s just Sara being her normal charming self,” Laurel said.

Sara grinned at her sister. “You love me.”

“Some days,” Laurel said, and the sisters stuck their tongues out at each other. To Felicity, Laurel said, “Sara wanted to tag along and Dad decided this was a good chance for quality family time. I’m pretty sure I can convince them to go away if we’re bothering you.”

Yes, precisely what she wanted, more people around while she struggled with a heavy bag. Even better, a police officer in decent shape, and two scarily muscled vigilantes, all three of them effortlessly showing her up while she was out of breath and covered in sweat. This was why she’d gotten a gym membership, so Diggle and Oliver wouldn’t be around to see her struggling with all of this, really.

“No, no, it’s fine. Quality family time. I mean, we were almost step-sisters.” Which was way too weird to think about, considering Donna now had a boyfriend and Felicity had been…kind of checking out Laurel’s arms a minute ago.

“I’ll hold the bag for you,” Quentin said, like Felicity was even really strong enough to move the bag at all. She gave him a small smile and, with Laurel still at the speed bag and Sara stretching her leg over her head (what?), got back to work. “Looks like your form’s getting better.”

“Really? Because I feel like an overcooked noodle, and believe me, with my skills, I have plenty of experience with overcooked noodles.” Felicity did a combination Laurel had taught her when she’d first started showing her the ropes. “But thank you. How’s tricks in the policing business, Cap?”

He grimaced at the nickname. Ever since Quentin and her mother had called it quits—Donna had been gone back to Las Vegas for a promotion from her old workplace, and Felicity had urged her to go, feeling like it would be much safer to be away from shenanigans—Quentin had made it a point to be around more often. Usually in some paternalistic role, actually. Which was…well, it was heartwarming, if a touch misguided. Felicity had grown up perfectly fine without a father figure in the picture and she couldn’t deny that it was a bit strange that the man who would no longer potentially be her stepfather chose to stick around. He invited her out for coffee to catch up and occasionally dispense sometimes-helpful advice, he checked in on her the same way he did with Laurel, he’d even bought her a birthday present last month.

Now he broke out some of the gossip he’d kept her apprised of over the past couple of months, and Felicity appreciated the fact that it kept her distracted from the burning in her arms and thighs. On her other side, Sara finished stretching and moved over to the swerve ball. As far as Felicity could tell, she wasn’t exactly relying on pristine form the way Laurel did: she did backflip kicks and immediately sprang back to her feet, infinitely light on her toes. It seemed more like playing than actual training.

Laurel seemed to agree, for Felicity distinctly heard her mutter, “Show-off.”

“Trade?” Quentin asked, and Felicity, grateful for the break, gulped water down before she braced the bag for him.

That seemed to be a cue for Sara to roll easily out of her handstand. She popped to her feet. “Did Dad tell you he’s got a new girlfriend?” she asked Felicity.

“What?” Felicity turned toward him in delight. “Captain Lance has a new dame? Not that my mother’s a dame—well, she is, if you’re going by the Guys and Dolls definition of dame, but that’s not important. You’ve got a girl, Cap?”

Quentin groaned. “I don’t know why I tell any of you anything. And no, there’s nobody in the picture.”

“There totally is,” Laurel called over her shoulder. “She works down in City Records.”

“She brings him coffee with cinnamon,” Sara said. “Decaf.”

And she actually gets him to drink it,” Laurel said.

Quentin looked like the tips of his ears might actually turn red. He did a quick combination against the bag and muttered something about nosy spy daughters.

“I’ve seen her,” Laurel said. “She’s really cute.”

“Really? Go, Cap,” Felicity said.

“Yeah, yeah, yuk it up, all three of you,” Quentin said. He pointed his glove at Sara. “You, stop tailing me.” His glove moved to Laurel. “You, zip it.” And finally to Felicity. “You, no running background checks on her.”

“It was only going to be a small one!” Felicity said. She had to fight down the giggles when Sara gave her a fist-bump. “We’ve gotta make sure she’s good enough for you, Captain Lance.”

“Nosy brats, all three of you,” Quentin said.

Felicity tilted an eyebrow at Laurel, who hid a smile with one hand as she kept up the rhythm with the other. It wouldn’t be difficult to pull up surveillance of the City Records—she’d done it before, a million times—and see this mysterious lady caller that Quentin was blushing over. “Turnabout’s fair play,” she said.

“She has a point, Dad,” Sara said. “I seem to recall somebody prying into my love life last night. Not that I have much of one at the moment.”

“You and that queen didn’t work it out?” Felicity asked, and both Quentin and Laurel swiveled to look at her. Belatedly, she realized: “Oh, you didn’t actually tell them about her, got it. Right. Um. Forget I said anything. Queen? What Queen? The only Queen I know is Oliver—I mean, well, Thea, and I knew Moira a little, so that’s really a lot of Queens, when you think about it, but Oliver’s kind of old news where you’re concerned and—I’m just gonna stop talking.”

“You sure?” Sara asked, sounding more amused than annoyed. “Because we could happily follow that tangent to the end.” She did another handstand.

“Oh, leave her alone, it’s not her fault you’re terrible at communicating and don’t actually tell us things,” Laurel said.

Quentin squinted at Sara. “What queen?”

“It was a few centuries ago, and I was unavoidably detained by trying to save the universe. Wouldn’t have worked out, Dad. Besides, it was more like a fling. She was betrothed. Good in bed, though.”

Quentin paused and ran his hand over his face. “I’m not sure I needed to know that.”

“Can’t even commit to royalty,” Laurel said, shaking her head and clucking her tongue sadly.

“What’s it to you?” Sara asked.

“Maybe I want to be the Pippa to your Kate.”

Sara laughed. “That’s fair. But I’d have to pick a queen from a different century. One where we’re not likely to get burned at the stake.”

“Oh, fine, be pragmatic about it,” Laurel said.

“It was almost worth it, though, I’ll say that.”

Quentin kept his glove over his face and muttered.

“I think our esteemed father would like us to change the subject,” Laurel said.

“Okay. We haven’t teased Felicity in a while.” Sara tilted her head, which looked rather strange, considering that she was still in her handstand. “How’s that vigilante fetish of yours treating you, Ms. Smoak?”

“My what?” Since Quentin didn’t seem like he was going to resume boxing, Felicity straightened up and gave her friend a baffled look.

“You know. Your thing for masked muscly men. Oliver. Barry. Ray.”

“Quit that,” Laurel said, shooting a glare at her sister. “You do seem to have a type, Felicity, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a fetish.”

“You wouldn’t? I would,” Sara said.

“I don’t—it’s not a fetish,” Felicity said, feeling her cheeks go a little hot. Maybe Sara had a point: twice could be a coincidence, but three times spoke of a pattern. Well—she glanced at Laurel, saw her frowning at Sara, and looked away—four times, really.

“Are you sure about that?” Sara finally put her feet on the ground and popped up, not at all bothered by her prolonged time upside down. “Not that there’s anything wrong with fetishes. It’s not like there’s a dearth of vigilante types out there for you.”

“Unfortunately,” Quentin said. He looked over at Sara. “What about that one you travel with? The one with the fire-haircut. He seems like a nice kid.”

“Oh, not you, too,” Felicity said, groaning.

“Jax?” Sara tilted her head at Felicity, obviously considering it.

“He’s way too young for her,” Laurel said, hitting the speed bag a little harder than she had before. It put a hitch in her rhythm, but with a scowl, she evened it out again.

“It’s only Felicity’s opinion that matters, sis.” Sara tweaked Laurel’s ear as she walked by and ducked the half-hearted swipe.

“Laurel’s right: he’s a little young. And I’m not sure we have much in common,” Felicity said, shaking her head at both of them. She hadn’t actually seen the Lance sisters together much since Sara’s visits tended to be short. She knew they loved each other—you didn’t literally go to hell and back for a person you only tolerated—but she’d never really know they could be like this, bickering and teasing and relaxed. Sara could be a little shit, but one never forgot the heaviness of her past. And Laurel was warm and sympathetic, but ultimately she carried the same weight. Putting them together, though, and all of that seemed to lift.

“You could do worse,” Quentin told her. When Felicity and Laurel both protested that, he said, “What? I’m telling the truth here! Anything to keep the three of you away from Queen.”

“That ship has sailed,” Felicity said, and Laurel and Sara nodded.

“And thank god for that. C’mon, Dad, let’s get some ring time in.” Sara grabbed her father’s arm and hauled him off even as he protested. Over her shoulder to Laurel, she mouthed ‘You owe me!’ For what exactly, Felicity couldn’t be sure.

She went back to her routine; if she skipped any of it, she’d start slacking off tomorrow, and then the day after, and that was how bad habits formed. Or at least, that was what Diggle’s patient voice in the back of her head told her. At least Sara’s teasing had given her a breather, which meant that going back to the bag didn’t make her feel like an out-of-shape mess.

“I love my sister, but I never know what she’ll do next,” Laurel said after a minute.

“She seems a lot happier.” Like she’d found her higher calling, surfing through time and putting out fires in the past and future. “Though I’m always concerned I’m going to open a history book and see her picture with a caption that she seduced, like, an emperor or something.”

“You and me both,” Laurel said. “Or that she was the real Guy Fawkes.”

“I could see it,” Felicity said. “Though if anybody’s Guy Fawkes in that group, it’s Mick.”

“Point. Anarchy and rebellion? He’d be so proud.” Laurel had hit it off with Mick during the invasion, to a surprising degree. He’d even tolerated being saved by Felicity and Cisco, though he’d grumbled about the things he did for the Lance sisters the entire time. “You can ignore Sara when she starts teasing you about it, you know. She does eventually shut up.”

“Is she wrong, though? I have three major ex-boyfriends and two of them are, well…” The third was evil incarnate, so Felicity wasn’t sure where he counted. He certainly hadn’t graduated MIT and become a regular, if somewhat douchey, citizen like all of her college friends’ exes had. “And when you count my almost-thing with Barry, things add up.”

“You just have a thing for masks and muscles, huh.”

Felicity carefully did not look at Laurel. “Do you blame me?” she said, keeping her voice deliberately light.

Laurel laughed. It sounded oddly forced, but maybe Felicity was projecting. “Nope.”

“I will point out that I had a crush on Barry when he was skinny, not all Flash-y,” Felicity said, as she’d just realized how entirely shallow this conversation made her sound. “And I liked Ray for his brain, too! And Oliver, too, I guess. So I’m not completely shallow.”

“Felicity,” Laurel said, and this time her laughter sounded genuine. “I’m just teasing. Not a single member of this team would ever think you’re shallow.”

“Oh. Right. Okay.” Though she could definitely be shallow. Especially whenever Laurel wore anything sleeveless, and when she walked around the Foundry with her armor pushed down to her waist, revealing the sports bra she wore underneath and an amazing six-pack. Felicity could definitely, definitely be shallow then.

“I will say that you do sound kind of defensive,” Laurel said, and Felicity’s head jerked up. When she looked over, though, it didn’t seem like Laurel had noticed, as she had her back to Felicity. “Got a crush on somebody, mm?”

“No,” Felicity said way too quickly.

“Uh-huh.” Laurel didn’t glance back at her. “Lucky guy, whoever he is.”

“Not a guy,” Felicity said under her breath.

She’d forgotten the most annoying thing about the Black Canary: she might have a sonic weapon, she also had keen hearing. “Oh?” Laurel asked, her pace finally faltering. “My bad, I didn’t realize. Is it Thea? If it’s me, I’ll need a nice invite to dinner and flowers before you can enjoy this fetish you say you don’t have.”

Felicity froze. Before she could ask if Laurel was serious—surely she couldn’t be—the other woman went on, “Of course, it’s probably not me. It’s Amaya, right? She’s pretty cute, I wouldn’t blame you.”

Frustration edged through the shock. Why was Laurel going on about Amaya? Felicity had met her a couple of times and the weaponized animalistic nature of her powers was cool, but Felicity just wasn’t into her. Wait, was Laurel into Amaya? An ugly spurt of jealousy exploded in her chest. She gripped the sides of the punching bag, jaw clenched.

“If it’s Sara, you might want to watch out for Nyssa because she holds a grudge,” Laurel said, still focused on the speed bag and not looking at her when Felicity glanced over her shoulder. “I could probably give you a few pointers on how to handle them both, though. Not that you need any help. Just an offer.”

“Thanks,” Felicity said, trying to keep her voice neutral and absolutely failing.

Laurel finally stopped and stepped out of the way of the speed bag. “Is this bothering you? I can stop. Though really, whoever it is, you should go for it, they’d be lucky to have you.”

Should she really, though? Laurel had just dismissed the possibility as a joke—or had she? She hadn’t seriously dated anybody since Tommy had died or even seemed to be seriously interested. Felicity had never seen her flirt with anybody, but maybe…

“Felicity?” Laurel asked. “You okay?”

To hell with it.

Felicity leaned into the bag, pushing her weight against it and pressing both palms to it, before she turned, head ducked as she dealt with her aggravation.

“An invite to a nice dinner?” Felicity said, the words tumbling out of her mouth before she could stop them. “How nice are we talking here? Because as a CEO, I can actually afford to fly us to Paris or something super ridiculous.”

Laurel had her water bottle held up halfway to her mouth, completely still. She had the pleasure of watching a variety of emotion cross Laurel’s face in quick succession: bafflement, confusion, comprehension, and finally surprise. Laurel swallowed. “Oh,” she said. “I think Paris is a little bit much.”

“Probably,” Felicity said, heart already sinking. Of course Laurel was about to reject her, it totally made sense. They were friends and coworkers of a sort, and why mess that up the way Felicity and Oliver nearly had and—

“But I’m sure we can find somewhere between the Big Belly Burger and Paris,” Laurel said.

Felicity stared at her, a kind of buzzing in her ears as her brain tried to process what she’d just heard. A smile began to spread without her really being fully cognizant of it. “You understand that this is a date, right?”

“I already said I needed dinner and flowers,” Laurel said, but she was smiling back at Felicity almost as hard. “I know it’s been a couple of years for me, but that usually does say date, yes.”

“But why?” Felicity asked before she could stop herself. “And also what?”

Laurel, finally seeming to remember that she was holding her water bottle up, took a drink. She capped the water bottle and tossed it back toward the bench. She stepped forward. “Because I like you,” she said, “and apparently the feeling’s mutual.”

“Wait—no, don’t come closer, I’m all gross right now,” Felicity said, holding up her hands.

“Who said anything about any of that?” Laurel smirked and stepped around her, bumping the heavy bag a couple of times to test the weight. “You still have to buy me dinner, remember?”

“And flowers,” Felicity said.

Laurel grinned. “And flowers.”

“Right, and flowers,” Felicity said as Laurel started her heavy bag routine. Even though she’d seen it a few times in both the bunker and here at the gym, Felicity stopped to watch. She liked the look of sheer concentration, edging into stubbornness. “Just so you’re aware, it could be that I have a vigilante fetish, so this might all crash and burn horribly.”

Laurel shrugged as she continued to jab. “Might not, though.”

“I can’t decide,” said a new voice, and Sara stepped around the corner and crossed her arms over her chest, “if that was the cutest thing I’d ever seen, or just truly pathetically nerdy. Like, I really should take Felicity under my wing, help her with her game a little.”

“I think it’s worked out for the best,” Laurel said, though she met Felicity’s eyes and quirked an eyebrow, just a little, toward Sara.

Felicity gave a minuscule nod in reply.

“Here I am, valiantly distracting Dad so that Laurel can make her move, and you two are talking about flowers and dinner and—”

Laurel and Felicity sprang at the same time; Sara let out a laughing shout as she ducked, and chaos ensued.

Thirty seconds later, Quentin dashed around the corner and skidded to a halt on his ancient sneakers, sighing at the tableau stretched out in front of him—Sara with Felicity in a headlock, Laurel attempting to wrestle her sister away. All three of them froze mid-laugh.

“Anybody want to explain to the nice cop what’s happening here?” he asked.

The sisters and Felicity looked at each other. “Nope!”

Quentin shook his head at the three of them. “I don’t even wanna know,” he said, and walked off.

Felicity used the moment to shove Sara off of her, unable to stop the laugh. “I see how it is. Ask a girl on a date and her sister puts you in a headlock.”

“That’s what you get for this vigilante fetish of yours,” Sara said, ruffling Laurel’s hair and ducking out of the way once more.

“For the last time, it’s not a fetish!” Felicity said, but Sara had already vanished around the corner after her dad.

Laurel smoothed back her hair and grinned, leaning close. “It’s okay,” she said. “Besides, maybe I’ve got a nerd fetish myself. Ever think about that?”

And she, too, strolled around the corner. Whistling.

“Welp, it’s official,” Felicity said to the punching bag, as it was the only thing left to listen to her. “I’m in so much trouble.”

Then she got back to work. After all, Diggle’s voice in her head had a point: this was not the time to start slacking off.