She applied to three schools, period, which Laurel and her mom just would not shut up about - what if you don't get in, the more schools you choose the more options you'll have, think logically Sara, applying doesn't cost anything now, better take advantage while you can, oh did I leave this Stanford pamphlet sitting out by accident, here I'll help you fill it out - and got into all three, which left her in kind of a tight spot. She'd been expecting to get turned down across the board and take the opportunity to spend a year or two driving around the country with her friend Holly, living in her van and hitting up all the national monuments. They've had this planned since they were fifteen, so she was kind of committed to the idea, is what she's saying.
Park City made the most sense logically, being four hours away from home (too long to pop in, but close enough that she can pop back every once in awhile and take advantage of Dad's new obsession with community center cooking classes), a middle of the road sorta school, elite enough to make Mom happy but not fancy enough that she'll spend four years buried in books, and also, hey, bonus points, nobody gives one single fuck about Laurel or Dinah Lance in Park City, which is really what closes the case entirely, for Sara.
The first year goes pretty quickly, Sara takes a couple art classes and learns how to throw clay, she rushes two sororities and hates every second of it, sleeps with the one girl's boyfriend and now all of Kappa Kappa Gamma has it out for her, so that's hilarious. She starts failing her lit class and gets chewed out by her mom, so in November she goes to her professor and begs to retake the midterm, and he tells her to write a paper on Flowers of Evil and he'll give her extra credit, and so she writes this super long thing comparing it to Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, because of course she does. Her professor laughs for five minutes straight when she hands it in and immediately gives her an A.
She maybe goes a little crazy for awhile, drinking a lot and running around with this girl Abby who wears all black and is always smoking clove cigarettes, crashing parties and being as loud and obnoxious as possible at every opportunity. They have a falling out in April when Abby decides to fuck Jason Willis even though she knows that Sara wanted him, so all of Spring Break is spent sending bitchy texts back and forth with her and listening sullenly to Laurel say 'I told you so, I had such a bad feeling about that girl,' before going on and on about her dumb new best friend Joanna-she-met-at-law-school. Ugh.
"You're doing alright, kid," her dad says, the last day of break, doing that thing where asks a question but phrases it as a statement, like he already knows the answer and he just wants you to confirm it for the paperwork. "Right? You're doing alright."
"I guess." Sara's been such a fucking drag all week; her plans to drive down to LA with Nikki from high school fell through, so she's just been hanging around the house like a loser, avoiding Laurel and letting Dad talk her ear off about cases. She's bored of her own moping, at this point. "It's not really what I thought it'd be like."
"Never is." Quentin shrugs, nudging her knee over with his foot so he can collapse on the couch next to her, swinging one casual arm around her shoulders. He's been doing that a lot this week, being all doting-dad and stuff. It's cute, so Sara lets him. "You remember saying the same thing about high school? You did."
"That was different," Sara replies, wrinkling her nose. "High school, you're too young to really know anything, but this is like - studying for a test for years, and then going in and finding out that all the questions are in Spanish."
Her dad laughs. "You aced Spanish, baby."
"It's a metaphor, Dad."
"I'm aware." He squeezes her affectionately. "You're a smart kid, Sara, you'll get used to it. It's only your first year, and you've got three more to figure all that shit out. Don't worry too much! You'll get wrinkles."
"Thanks. Thanks for that." Sara leans into him with a dry smile. "So, now that I'm in college, that means you're gonna start swearing around me?"
He shrugs. "Don't tell your mom."
April is finals, Sara doesn't remember a whole lot of that, most of it spent either studying or drinking and studying, essentially the same thing - and for May Term she goes on a service trip to Wyoming to help build a church or some shit, something her mom bullied her into. She spends the first half of the week sulking and sneaking around trying to find places to smoke a fucking cigarette without having to deal with everybody's disapproving glares, and then five days into that mess, that's when she meets Felicity.
"Wow, you're Sara Lance, right?" She's blonde, pretty in a cute-little-sister kinda way, with glasses that are way too big for her face and bright pink nails. "Oh my God! I've heard so much about you and I didn't know you were on this trip! Is that weird? Maybe that's weird, there's just like, fifty people who came and you were probably on the other bus than me - "
"What'd you hear about me?" Sara interrupts. Seems like a good idea, if she wants to escape this conversation before the apocalypse.
"Oh." The girl blushes a little, pushing her glasses up her nose nervously. "That's weird too, huh? I just - Professor Hannah? In the English department? I'm TA'ing one of his classes and he talks about you. He gave me that paper you wrote, about Baudelaire and Bob Dylan. It was so funny! And really good, although your conclusion could use some work, but - that's weird too, huh. I'm not sure he was supposed to do that - show me your paper, I mean - but he said you gave him permission to keep it and I guess technically I'm a colleague of his, even though I'm a student, and - "
"Wow, okay," Sara says, laughing despite herself, "that's good, honey, I get it. Cool your jets."
"Sorry." She laughs, squeezing both arms around her clipboard, looking down at the ground. "I'm Felicity. Felicity Smoak. Aaand, I'm a freak, nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, I'm Sara," Sara says, still chuckling, "although you already know that, apparently."
Felicity shrugs bashfully. "It was a good paper."
"Didn't know it was that good."
"Professor Hannah and I have a shared obsession with Bob Dylan/Baudelaire parallels," Felicity confesses, like it's a dirty secret.
Sara blinks at her for a second, then laughs again, utterly charmed and wow, she's wearing tights. This girl is wearing tights and a sundress in the middle of a Habitat for Humanity work site in dusty-ass Wyoming, and Sara really could not be more into this.
"You're cute," she says.
Felicity's eyes widen behind her glasses. "I am?"
"You are." Sara tosses her cigarette, hooks her thumbs in her belt loops and does her best John Wayne stance. "You wanna hang out for a bit?"
"Um, sure," Felicity says, still sounding surprised. "Just, like, right now?"
"Why not?" Sara looks over Felicity's shoulder, squinting at the bulk of their group, sitting on the grass in the sunshine and eating the gross bagged lunches. "You got a better place to be?"
"No." Felicity smiles, looking delighted. "Okay."
Sara smiles back, unable not to. "Right on."
(Anyway, that's how they met.)
Sara never intended it to turn into a relationship, it just sort of happened. Felicity's from Starling too, she and her mom live in Lamb Valley, and it's sort of dumb for Sara to laze around at home all summer and just...not hang out with her. She's cute and she always tries to pay for their dates, even though Sara's always the one who asks. Plus she makes Laurel uncomfortable, which is a plus.
"You really don't have to," Sara tells her, "like, I'm the one who wanted to see this movie, you don't even like Indiana Jones."
"No, no, I love Indiana Jones," Felicity says enthusiastically, "I just...well, I read what happens on the internet. I'm not going to tell you, though, you should decide for yourself. And I promise I won't bring down your vibe if you love it."
"Okay," Sara says uncertainly, "if you say so."
(Sara hates it. "Oh, thank God," Felicity says, clutching Sara's hand in relief.)
They spend a lot of time driving around, exploring the city, mostly because there's a lot of places neither of them have been before, and a lot of places that they want to show each other. Sara's favorite park, the one she used to go to with her dad when she was little, and this music store that Felicity likes, that sells comic books too. Coffee shops they've never noticed before, and apparently Starling City has an art museum, who knew? Felicity likes the more modern art pieces, like that weird one where you go inside this tiny room to listen to a recording of a porn star talking about her childhood, and then leave through the opposite side and there's this huge collage of garbage can lids on the wall.
"You have to look at it in context," Felicity argues.
"I literally have no idea what that means," Sara replies.
She's a constant surprise, full of excited energy and always wide-eyed and ready to try anything, whether it be a baseball game with Sara and Quentin ("Wow, can you believe I've never been to a real life baseball game before?" "Frankly, yeah.") or sneaking into a bar in the club district to see a punk rock band, the drummer of which used to do Sara's math homework for her, grades nine through eleven.
It happens very organically, more so than any kind of relationship that Sara's ever had before. Usually, there's intent, and pursuing, and accomplishment, especially so with guys. Sara wants things, and then she takes them. There's no bullshit, no waiting around by the phone - no, that's what Laurel does. Laurel is fantastic at that, actually, always knows just what to say to keep a guy intrigued, how to flip her hair and touch his arm just so to make sure he'll be thinking about her all night. But Sara? Sara covers up her utter lack of game by being as blunt as possible, and so far, it's worked pretty well.
But Felicity is different, different on so many levels. Sara feels like their thing just escalates every time she blinks, and she's just perpetually catching up. They've been kissing each other goodbye for at least a week before Sara really notices it. The first time they actually make out (in the back row of a movie theater, Felicity pulling away every two minutes and giggling because her earrings keep getting tangled in her hair, until Sara finally gets impatient and tells her to take them off, and shit gets real after that) Sara kinda feels like she dreamed it. The whole next day she sorta walks around in a daze, thinking, wow I felt Felicity up last night. Wow. Wow.
Sara wakes up in mid-July and has a romantic-comedy-style revelation, lying in bed with a whole grocery list of things she's come up with to tell Felicity in the ten-or-so hours it's been since they last talked, and her heart skips a beat sorta when she thinks about the date they've got planned for tonight, and all at once it just kind of - crashes in around her. She's got a girlfriend. She's got a cute girlfriend with cute glasses and a cute little button nose, and just - aw, man.
"So, um, look," Sara says, at dinner that night, halfway through the chicken quesadilla appetizer, "I thought we should maybe talk - "
Felicity's eyes go wide and she instantly looks stricken. "What? Oh my God, what?"
"What?!" Sara replies indignantly. "You didn't even let me finish!"
"Um, you started out with maybe the worst sentence ever," Felicity points out. "'We should talk.' Hello." She frowns at Sara, somehow managing to look disappointed and angry at the same time. "Are you breaking up with me before school starts? Because it's sort of super rude of you to make this a summer fling and not tell me beforehand - "
"I am not breaking up with you," Sara says, sort of disappointed and angry herself at the very thought. "I was going to say we should talk about the fall, like - the roommate. Thing."
"Oh." Felicity blinks. "Oh, yeah, probably, um."
"I just thought," Sara says haltingly, "we signed up to be roommates before we started the whole...kissing dating thing, and...I don't know, is this going to be weird? I feel like it might be weird."
"If we try to switch now," Felicity says evenly, "then we'll lose our apartment, and probably get stuck in the freshman dorms."
Sara wrinkles her nose at the idea of spending another year sleeping in a bunk bed made out of Popsicle sticks, walking up and down those awful stairs eight times a day, the utter indignity of floor meetings and that one weirdly intimate RA who's gotta be like, a ten-year-senior, she's been there so long. "Point." She reaches out to tug on Felicity's ponytail, an attempt to lighten up her frown a little. "It'd be a real waste of that insanely perfect GPA of yours, too."
Felicity picks at her napkin nervously, not quite meeting Sara's eyes. "I think. I mean - I'm willing to try. If you are! No pressure. Of any kind."
Felicity does that a lot, effusively assures Sara that she's not trying to pressure her into anything, usually while Sara is in the middle of pressuring Felicity into doing something. It is hysterically adorable. "Okay."
"Okay?" Felicity blinks twice and then smiles so wide Sara sorta wants to take a picture of her so she can do something embarrassing with it, like make it the background on her phone. "Okay."
Sara reaches out and takes Felicity's hand, with this fizzy feeling in her chest. Like - happiness. That's probably what that is. "Cool." She grins. "This is so dumb."
"I know, I can't wait," Felicity says, and then insists they spend the next twenty minutes feeding each other the rest of the quesadillas. Or maybe that was Sara's idea. Who cares.
They have sex for the first time that night in Felicity's bedroom because her mom is out of town and they can't really help it. Sara wakes up in the middle of the night and looks over and sees Felicity's face, highlighted in moonlight from the window, and her heart lurches a little and she thinks, this is dumb, this is so dumb, I can't wait, I can't fucking wait.