Felicity Smoak is never going to make it at sea.
“Perhaps, Miss Smoak, you should have selected your future avocation with greater caution.” First Mate Lance sets a mug of water at Felicity’s elbow. “Or at least with sympathy toward your tender innards.”
“I’ve no innards left,” Felicity says. The water doesn’t look appetizing at all. Nothing, she is entirely certain, will look appetizing ever again. “I’ve tossed them into the sea, just as I’ll do with that water you’ve so kindly fetched me.”
Sara Lance’s grin is quick and unexpected. Though the haze of motion sickness and reliving all of her recent meals, Felicity has had time to get the measure of her new companions. Where Captain Queen is, First Mate Lance isn’t far away, and they both have such serious countenances that their smiles are always a surprise—and a welcome sight—to behold. “Drink it anyway,” she says, nudging the mug toward Felicity.
Felicity would rather not. “Perhaps if I don’t, the motion sickness will kill me and ease me from my misery all that much quicker.”
“And leave us without a navigator. Did you or did you not claim that your mind was the sharpest this side of the West Indies?”
“It was.” Felicity pushes to her feet. She’s traded her dresses for the same rough-spun trousers and tunic that the men wear, and her coat is actually one of Sara’s, for her own coats are covered in sick and in solid need of a washing. Luckily, she and the First Mate are of a height. “However, three days of nothing but a rolling ship and a rolling belly have killed any wit I once had and now I am an empty husk of a person, both in constitution and brain. I see you laugh, but I can’t deny it, I’m a useless sailor.”
“You’ll find your sea legs yet.” Sara picks up the mug and holds it out. “Drink.”
“You won’t rest until I have, will you?” Felicity sighs. Outside her tiny cabin, a luxury she affords only because she is the navigation officer, she can hear the bustle of the men. The ship’s carpenter and doctor, Mr. Diggle, can be heard talking to himself, so she figures he’s probably reading the same medical text that he came and read to her earlier when she was feeling poorly. Sara fills the doorway, mug held out and a resolute expression on her face.
Felicity takes the mug and sips, grimacing as it makes her stomach roil. She sips again, and a third time.
“Good,” Sara says. She holds out what seems like a piece of cloth, no bigger than Felicity’s thumb. “Now put this in your mouth and chew on it for a bit. It’ll calm your stomach.”
“What is it?”
“Soothing,” is all Sara will say, and Felicity understands that the woman isn’t leaving until Felicity has obeyed her orders.
It’s not actually cloth, but it certainly is chewy. Felicity thinks she tastes peppermint and other flavors she can’t identify—and then magically, her stomach stops rumbling. She looks down at it in alarm. “What did you just give me?”
“It’s an old remedy. It’ll settle you enough to get some food in you, which is why I brought you these.” Sara produces a couple of biscuits from her satchel and waits with her arms crossed as Felicity finishes them off. “Feeling better?”
“Much,” Felicity says because it’s the truth. For the first time in three days, it doesn’t feel like the ceiling and the walls are going to switch places. “My thanks.”
“We’ll make a sailor out of you.” Sara slaps her on the shoulder like she’s one of the crew. “Come above-decks. Captain thinks we’re lost. We could use a navigator.”
It’s amazing how quickly Felicity Smoak picks up Arabic.
Sara knew the navigator was smart when they picked her up in Nassau; the woman hadn’t stopped talking for a full twenty minutes and most of those words were numbers that Sara hadn’t understood. Oliver hadn’t either, he’d confessed later on over pints of ale with Mr. Diggle, who served as both the doctor for Verdant Vengeance and as Oliver’s confidant and conscience all in one. But she’d seemed smart and she had a strong chin that she’d raised against the world, so they should hire her on for their next journey smuggling rum into England, and that was that.
Eight months later, Sara has a mighty wish to travel backwards along time’s roads and change all of their minds. If they hadn’t hired Felicity Smoak, she wouldn’t be in this situation. She wouldn’t be a prisoner, like Sara. Even if she is smart and has essentially learned to speak Arabic and communicate easily with a crew that is mostly men who are wary of women with yellow hair.
“You are unhappy,” Captain al Ghul says during supper in the officer’s quarters. Because she and Sara are alone, Nyssa reaches across the table to cup Sara’s cheek with her hand. “I have made you unhappy.”
“No,” Sara lies. “I am content.”
“I traveled the sea looking for you.”
She knows she shouldn’t say anything. She should bite her tongue. “I was not lost.”
Nyssa’s dark eyes flash. “I swore to find you. You were lost. You still are lost, and nothing I do can make you smile at me like you once did. I even let you keep your plaything.”
“Miss Smoak is not a child’s toy, to be dragged along behind me on a string. You should have left her with ou—with her crew. That is where she belongs.”
“Mr. Szared says that she has charmed the crew. They give her the name of—”
“I know what they call her. But she does not belong here.” Just like, Sara thinks but she does not say, because she is well-aware of the knife that sits at Nyssa’s waist, a knife given to her by the dreaded Commodore Ra’s al Ghul, I do not belong here.
Nyssa dabs at the corner of her own mouth with a napkin, ever dainty for a woman Sara once saw murder three naval officers in cold blood. “I can’t very well turn the ship around and return her to your precious Captain Queen, Altayr Al Asfar.”
“You may not have a choice,” Sara says, and they finish their meal in tense silence.
She finds Felicity above, tucked away in an area out of the way of most of the crew. She still wears Sara’s old jacket, but her boots have changed, and her skin has browned from sun. Confidence sits on her like a second coat, straightening her shoulders and making her seem older than the very young woman that Sara took under her wing all those months ago. She has a small journal open over her knee that she is no doubt using to calculate the ship’s path. Mr. Szared, the navigational officer on the Nanda Parbat, has taken to asking her advice on many of the maps.
“How was your meal with the captain?” Felicity asks. “Have we a chance she will let us go at the next port?”
Sara shakes her head.
Felicity’s face falls. Neither one of them has brought up Oliver or any of their other close friends aboard the Verdant, but Sara has seen the way Felicity’s lip trembles at night when they sleep with their hammocks side by side in the crew quarters. “So we are bound to this ship, then?”
“I am. You are not.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Nyssa has no hold on you. The next time we near port, you will escape. You are a strong swimmer—”
“No,” Felicity says, shaking her head. “No, no, no—not without—”
“I will be fine,” Sara says.
“I came with you to keep you company. I will not abandon you.” Felicity gives her a wavering smile. “Oliver will find us.”
Sara rocks back on her heels and crosses her arms over her chest. “So it’s Oliver and not Captain Queen?”
“He’s not here to hear it, he can very well not protest. And if you want to inform him the next time we see him, very well.”
Sara’s smile falters a little. It’s been three months since they’ve seen Oliver, since Sara and Felicity were taken at sword-point by Nyssa’s men. Felicity, she knows, holds out hope that they will be rescued, but Sara lost hope a long time ago.
“It may be some time,” she starts to say, but they both look up when there’s a raucous chatter of Arabic from the crow’s nest.
Felicity shoots to her feet. “That’s—they’ve spotted a ship!” And without speaking, they race across the decks, climbing into the rigging to get a better view. Sara peers hard through the gloom, wishing for a far-seeing glass. Felicity’s eyes are much better than hers, though, for the navigator grabs onto her arm and whispers, “The sails are green! Sara, the sails—it’s the Verdant! They’ve found us at last!”
Sara looks at the men gathering around them, their swords out and their eyes on Felicity, the woman they call their small bird. Calmly, she puts her hand on her knife. She hopes she makes it through this alive, even though she knows in her heart it’s not likely.
They can’t have Felicity, though. This small bird does not belong to them.
The captain finds her after the battle, when the Nanda Parbat is long off the horizon, just as burnt and bloody as the Verdant feels now, and Felicity looks up into his face and wonders when the man last slept. It could be the blood loss—he took a nasty blade to the side, a blade that was meant for Sara—but the stubble he always keeps trimmed is a full beard and there are purple rings around his eyes. He also looks gaunt, and she wonders if supplies on the ship are so depleted that even the captain is skipping meals.
But he’s upright and smiling, even with the sling snowy-white against his tanned skin. “Miss Smoak,” he says.
“Captain.” She rises to her feet so fast that she hits her elbow against her bunk and pain sings through her arm. She lets out a vicious oath in Arabic.
Oliver takes a step back. “I beg your pardon—”
“No, it’s my clumsiness, pay it no mind.” She only shakes out her arm a little. Great mercies, it stings. “Is there aught I can do for you, Captain?”
“Ah, no, not as such. I just—I simply wanted to welcome you back aboard. We’ve been sorely lacking without you. Your cheerful talk—it has a way of livening the place up.” Oliver looks downright uncomfortable and overly large standing in her tiny cabin. He has a bruise on his chin and Felicity is reminded once more of the moment in the middle of the battle that he emerged through the smoke, sword glinting on the torchlight and madness in his eyes as he faced down the man holding a knife at her neck.
It makes her swallow hard, remembering it.
“I appreciate you trying to pretty it up,” she says because the cabin is getting warmer, “but what you mean to say, Captain, is that I talk too much and there has been nothing to fill the silence.”
“What I mean to say,” Oliver says, “is that without you, the silence is unbearable.”
Felicity feels her tongue growing thick in her mouth. She’s positive that if she tries to speak, she will do nothing but stammer, and with the way her heart is suddenly pounding, she won’t even hear it.
“I am much heartened you are safe, you and our esteemed First Mate both,” Oliver says before she can say anything.
“It is entirely because of you,” Felicity says. “Had you stuck to the code—”
“It was never a choice.” Oliver smiles and sketches her a proper bow, as though they’re in a dance hall and not aboard his ship. “I am glad to see you well, Miss Smoak. Until the morrow.”
And he leaves before Felicity can even wish him a good evening. Her knees are suddenly quivering, so she sits down (and bangs her arm again, though this time she hardly feels it) and remains there with her heartbeat still racing.
When she looks up again, it’s not Oliver darkening her doorway, but Sara. “Greetings,” the First Mate says, sounding hoarse. “It appears that you’ve got our good captain quite enamored.”
“I have done no such thing,” Felicity says, but her cheeks feel hot.
Sara raises an eyebrow and winces. She took quite a blow to the head fighting Captain al Ghul, Felicity knows, and that will probably give Felicity the shakes for a couple of days, knowing that her friend was almost killed in the battle. But Sara is for the most part safe and whole, and they are once again where they belong, and everything has worked out for the better.
“You should sit down before you injure yourself further,” Felicity says.
“No, no, I am not staying. I just wanted to make sure you are well.”
“I am the one that came through the battle with nary a scratch.”
“The battle that our captain led to retrieve you,” Sara says, and her grin is positively devilish.
“And you as well.”
“Perhaps, but I am a mere afterthought. You know, I do believe we require a celebration on deck tomorrow. With music, perchance? We’ll sure get the captain to take a turn with you. It will be most invigorating—”
“Ahem,” Felicity says, glaring at her friend. “The only thing required here is sleep. So go on with you, get some rest.”
“Oh, very well, spoil my fun.” Sara’s face turns sober for a minute. “I am glad we made it out of there alive, the both of us. I—I did not expect to, so… Good night, Felicity.”
“Good night,” Felicity says. When the door closes behind Sara, she shuts her eyes and breathes in. She listens to the Verdant’s sails and boards creak in the breeze and revels in the feeling of being glad to be home, until the word catches up with her. A home is something she’s never had before, but now, feeling the boards dip and sway beneath her feet while her heart still thumps from the intensity of Oliver Queen’s eyes, she knows she is where she belongs.
She is home.