it's amazing to me but i can't
seem to say what i'm doing here
my tongue is all twisted around the air
i'm looking for words that were so well rehearsed
but i can't find them anywhere
Amazed – Poe (Haunted, October 2000)
It was a complete and total accident.
She’d meant to call her best friend, Darcy, but she was absolutely terrible about actually using her contacts list - she’d memorized all her important numbers in the event that her phone was lost or stolen so she almost always dialed from memory.
The phone rings through to voicemail, and the automated voice repeated the number to her, but she’s so upset she spares it little more than a passing thought of, ‘when did Darce get rid of her message, she’s had that since high school’, and waits with bated breath for the tone. Before it even finishes, she’s speaking into the phone, rapidly pouring her woes into the wonderfully understanding ears of her best friend.
“Darce, I’m frakking panicking! I can’t believe he did this! The FBI took him, Darce, and it’s all my fault and I probably shouldn’t say that because what if they’re recording my calls or something, do they need a warrant for that, you’re the law expert and my god did I just confess to the crime they arrested Coop for over your voicemail, please don’t tell anyone I did that but please, please call me as soon as you can, because I’m sitting in the tub and freaking out -”
The stupid, computerized voice cuts her off and she hangs up, taking a long pull from the lukewarm beer on the side of the tub (her roommates’ preference, not hers, but there’s no wine in the house and in an emergency like this, anything with alcohol will do and she’s frankly glad for the beer or she’d be seriously considering the Nyquil in the medicine cabinet), and ducks under the sparkly, blue water.
Donna Smoak and Cheyenne Lewis, and Darcy herself, had always told her that in an emergency, nothing was better than a bath bomb and a drink - everything else could wait until she’d calmed down sufficiently to handle whatever the world threw her way. At fifteen, this had seemed like sage advice, but in four years at MIT, she’d never encountered anything she couldn’t handle.
And the combined wisdom of the Smoak and Lewis women isn’t helping.
She surfaces and reaches for the threadbare white towel on the floor by her head and dries her hands just in time; her phone trills through the bathroom echoing tinnily in the confined space. As she grabs the phone she uses her other hand to dry her ear with the towel and accepts the call, absently noting that it’s an unknown number only after she does so.
Putting on her best professional voice, in case the FBI really is tapping her phone and this is some random agent calling to tell her they’re at the door, she answers. “Felicity Smoak speaking.” She’s never been so grateful for her night job working for UPS’ customer service department.
“So, hi,” a male voice says - pleasantly pitched and maybe a little insecure- sounding. “I’m not Darce - I think you called me by mistake - but it sounds like you’re in real trouble, and one of my oldest friends is a lawyer. I’d be happy to call her for you.”
She doesn’t understand. She means to ask him who he is and what he’s talking about but what pops out is, “You found me a lawyer?”
He laughs, and it sounds a little like what she imagines really expensive red wine tastes like. He sounds surprised, but genuinely relieved, and it makes a small smile cross her tear-streaked face. “Well, yeah. Strange girl calls in the middle of the night saying she’s guilty of the crime the FBI arrested someone else for - what else was I supposed to do? I might not be your friend, but I can’t let you go to jail. Your little rambling problem is adorable. Unless you killed someone, that is.” He pauses, and when he speaks again, his voice is soft, and sort of wary. “You didn’t, did you?”
“Um, no…” she trails off and holds the phone away from her ear, squinting to read the numbers. She immediately groans - this man, whoever he is, has a phone number only one digit off from Darcy’s. She’s such an idiot. “I’m sorry, and I appreciate you trying to help but I didn’t mean to call you and your number is apparently super-close to my best friend’s and this is totally what I get for not just using Siri but she kind of creeps me out but it’s even worse when she’s a guy but that’s not the point.” She takes a deep breath and does a mental countdown to get her thoughts (and her mouth) back on track. “Sorry. But I need to call my actual friend, now.”
“Hey, none of that,” he says, his voice slipping into the soothing tones a person uses on a scared animal. “I actually like helping people, and I’m sure my friend would represent you in court if you need her to, but - well, I’d keep the confessions just between us, in case you’re right and they are tapping your phone. I’m serious,” he says when a strangled laugh/sob slips through her lips. “She’s a good lawyer. And I know she’d be willing to help. This is what she does, okay? Let her help you. I’ll pass your number along to her, and have her call you in the morning. That will give you time to talk to Darce, and then the three of you can settle things, okay?”
In nineteen years of life, she’s never experienced this much kindness from anyone besides her closest family (and she completely considers Cheyenne and Darcy to be family), but especially not a total stranger. “Okay,” she agrees. She can always just ignore the lawyer if she decides to turn herself in.
“Even if you do, don’t ignore her calls,” he says, and she winces when she realizes that last bit wasn’t as silent as she’d intended it to be.
“That was supposed to be in my head,” she admits, and smiles when he laughs at her. Mystery Phone Boy has a nice laugh, she decides.
“Good girl. Now, get out of the tub before you wrinkle up, call Darce, and I’ll text you Laurel’s number so you know to answer her call.”
“Yeah, okay,” she says, taking a deep breath. “I can do that.”
“Good. Sleep well,” he says, waiting for her near-whispered ‘goodnight’ before hanging up.
Felicity stares at the glowing screen until it starts to fade, and then taps it, bringing it back to full brightness. She taps the screen a few more times, and then adds the wrong number under Mystery Phone Boy to her contacts. She scrolls through again until she finds Best Bitch and laughs when Darcy’s signature message comes through.
“You’ve reached Darcy. If I’m not picking up, I’m either busy or I’m ignoring someone. Leave a message, and if I don’t call you back, it’s you”.
She takes a deep breath. “Darce, it’s me. Cooper was arrested by the FBI today and I really need to talk to you, so call me as soon as you can.”
She ends the call and pulls the stopper from the tub with her toes before she puts her phone back on the closed toilet lid and wraps what she can of her body in the skimpy, threadbare towel. Her phone chimes twice, one right after the other, and then falls silent. She picks it up on her way to the bedroom, and presses in her passcode to access the messages.
Best Bitch: Call you tomorrow. Entertaining.
She snorts. Entertaining was and had always been their code word for company of a sexual variety. Given that, she doubted Darcy had even listened the voicemail. She could call again, forcing the issue, but strangely, talking to Mystery Phone boy had calmed her down considerably, and she didn’t feel the need to pour out her troubles just yet. The morning would be soon enough, even given the time difference between Boston and Starling.
Mystery Phone Boy: Your lawyer’s name is Laurel Lance - full disclosure, she’s still a law student, but she’s the best. Her number is 555-203-0031. Answer her call.
She smiles a bit, and the phone chirps again.
Mystery Phone Boy: Are you programming it in? I bet you haven’t. Do it now. I’ll wait.
She rolls her eyes, but does as directed before shooting him a quick ‘done’. She pulls clean pajamas and underwear from her drawers and slips them on. The panties stick to the moisture still clinging to her legs, but the soft flannel pants wick up the rest of it. The large black shirt with the blood-red lettering that reads ‘I see Stupid People’ belongs to Cooper, and she snuggles into its familiar comfort as she pulls the covers back and slips beneath them. Her phone chirps again as she reaches to turn it on silent.
Mystery Phone Boy: Good girl. Go to sleep.
She rolls her eyes, but obediently snuggles deeper under the covers. She’s positive she’s too wound up to sleep, but she drifts off almost immediately, and wakes to the rattling of her phone vibrating against the cheap particle-board-under-laminate that is her IKEA nightstand.
The hand not currently tucked between the pillow and the mattress reaches across and fumbles against the sleek metal and glass of the iPhone (the closest she can afford to actual Stark technology, given that more than half of Apple’s software was reverse-engineered from tech stolen from Stark Industries) before her fingertips finally find purchase and pulls it close enough for her to answer as she lifts it to the ear not pressed into the pillow.
“’Lo?” She’s barely coherent before her first cup of coffee, and the morning after her boyfriend has been arrested is apparently no different.
“Hi, this is Laurel Lance,” a woman’s voice says, and Felicity is instantly jealous because this must be what writer’s mean when they speak of a ‘sultry’ voice, and she’s wanted one of those since she was nine, sneaking her mother’s bodice-rippers under her blankets and reading the saucy parts with Darcy by flashlight. “Tommy told me - well, not much, really, not even your name. But he did say you’d be expecting my call.”
Felicity laughed, her voice rough and scratchy. “Yeah, sorry about that. Felicity Smoak. I didn’t catch his name, either, so it’s not all his fault.” She stumbles out of bed and towards the coffeemaker; she has never needed caffeine so much in her life.
“Sounds like Tommy. He’s a good man. Got a good heart,” Laurel responds, an obvious smile in her voice. Felicity wonders if Laurel has a bit of a thing for Mystery Phone Boy. Under normal circumstances, she might even be a bit jealous, because Mystery Phone - Tommy - had sounded nice, but between the mess she’s in with Cooper and her own guilt over it, she can’t be bothered that Sultry-Voiced-Laurel and Nice-Sounding-Tommy might be a thing.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Laurel asks, and Felicity prays, not for the first time, that her inside thoughts had stayed inside this time.
“In about five seconds,” she answers honestly, pouring the life-giving liquid into her favorite mug and adding two perfect little cubes of sugar. Good coffee and sugar cubes are her two indulgences, mainly because coffee is about all she drinks and the little cubes make her feel super fancy. She takes a deep gulp, grateful that she’s got the coffee pot set to brew every morning at the same time, and savors the richness on her tongue as her body gets a much-needed jolt. She knows caffeine doesn’t actually work that quickly, knows that it’s a placebo effect, but she can’t deny that it works.
“Sorry about that. I’ve got a few minutes before I need to head to class, but basically - wait, are you sure the FBI isn’t tapping my phone?”
Laurel hesitates. “It’s not likely, but I can’t promise. I might be able to get my dad to look into it for you, but they might not be honest with him. Can you give me the generalities?” Laurel sure sounds sorry, but Felicity actually appreciates the other woman’s honesty about her uncertainties.
“My boyfriend Cooper and I are in a computer group of activists. Basically we try to use our skill with computers to help people,” she’s glossing over some major points here, but she can give Sultry Laurel the details when they meet in person. “Cooper allegedly hacked into the Department of Education’s website two days ago and deleted a lot of student loans. He was arrested yesterday afternoon.” There isn’t much else she can say without admitting to her guilt and compliance, right up until the deletion, anyway.
Laurel is silent for several moments. “Can we meet today?”
Felicity runs a mental schedule in her head; it’s her one day off work and her last class is done at eleven. She tells Laurel as much, and offers to meet at her office.
“Well…” Laurel trails off. “Tommy may have exaggerated. If I can get my professor and boss’ approval, I can make your case part of my internship - I’m only a semester away from graduating - but I’m still in law school. I haven’t even taken the Bar yet.”
Felicity closes her eyes and promises to look up Laurel Lance’s academic record before the meeting. “Well, maybe if I came to the office and explained the situation to your boss, it would help?”
Laurel hesitates. “The office is in The Glades, I’m not sure that’s the best idea,” Laurel says, and Felicity resists the urge to smack herself in the forehead.
“You’re in Starling. That actually makes sense. I’m - not. I mean, I usually am for holidays and stuff because my best friend goes to Culver and that’s where we decided to live, and maybe I should have gone there, too, but in my defense I started college three years before she did and there wasn’t any way for me to know she’d end up at Culver and I don’t think this is going to work because you’re literally on the other side of the country. Maybe I should get a lawyer in Boston, or do you think I can maybe just do this without a lawyer?”
“Breathe, Felicity,” Laurel says, inserting herself into the three millisecond gap before Felicity could continue speaking. “You absolutely need a lawyer. I think I can manage to get to Boston this evening, with a little help from our mutual friend. If I text you with a time, could you meet me at Logan?”
Surprisingly enough, Sultry Laurel’s voice has a calming effect of Felicity, and she finds that she can breathe easier, just listening to the other woman. “Anywhere in particular?”
Laurel laughs, then, and to Felicity’s ears it sounds like the chimes of angels’ bells. She’s seriously starting to get jealous of the other woman, or maybe she’s developing a little crush - she can’t tell which. “Starbucks,” Laurel offers, “where else? It’s the only thing guaranteed to be in every airport. I’ll text you a photo so you know who to look for when I send you the time.”
“Okay,” Felicity agrees with a grimace. She can do this. “Thank you, Laurel.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” she says before disconnecting.
Felicity stares down at her phone for several seconds, long after the screen has dimmed and then turned black. The past twenty-four hours have been utterly surreal and she’s afraid that it’s going to get stranger from here.