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Following and Falling Behind

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The first time she sees the other woman, Sara is stepping carefully down the aisle, the cuffs of her ratty jeans hanging dangerously close to the heels of her stiletto shoes.

"Wear your dress shoes for the rehearsal" seemed like a great idea until this moment right here, and she's deeply focused on not losing her footing—chin high, shoulders back, empty hands cupping an imaginary bouquet—when a figure in the deserted pew catches the corner of her eye. She shouldn't look, shouldn't shift her focus, but something about the high blonde ponytail is a tantalizing temptation, and she lets her eyes drift over.

She hasn't seen the girl before, which isn't all that surprising considering she only flew in for the rehearsal, and her gaze quickly takes in the stranger's appearance. From the top of her head—sleek ponytail, glasses, bright pink lipstick that she is steadily gnawing off—and down to what little she can see of the woman's figure—in a deep purple blazer, hunched over a tablet with a single-minded focus—the woman looks serious and professional and Sara's fingers itch to mess up that neat hairstyle, smudge that statement mouth.

She trips. Her hands are already out in front of her, so she lets herself fall onto them, laughing as she hangs her head toward the floor and then pushes herself onto her side. Looking back down the aisle, she sees Laurel waiting at the double doors, staring daggers at her.

"Sorry, sorry!" she says. "I'm fine, by the way." She gets herself back up on her feet and leans against the end of the pew to finally fold up her cuffs, which really would have been a great thing to do ten minutes ago. In the process, she glances back over at Ponytail Girl, who is watching with an alarmed look that quickly transforms into a suppressed grin when Sara smiles at her. Finishing with her cuffs, Sara raises her hand and waggles her fingers, earning a proper smile and a little wave back.

"Sara! Honestly, today, please?"

Sara can't resist an eye roll, but shuts her eyes and breathes deep before turning back to Laurel with a porcelain smile. "Sorry, sis. I'll just—" She puts her hands up and hustles the rest of the way to the front, taking her place on the left side of the altar and dutifully holding her imaginary bouquet. Oliver (the bastard/she doesn't really blame him) remains stoic and unmoving on the other side of the priest, and Sara holds her pose and her dignity as Laurel makes her own slow walk down with their mother on one arm and their father on the other.

When Laurel reaches the front, she hands off her fake bouquet to Sara with a thanks for pausing your fuckups smile, before receiving kisses from both parents and giving her hand to Oliver, facing the priest. The rest of the rehearsal is uneventful, if mind-numbingly boring, and Sara tries to focus on a) counting the panels in the stained glass window in her eyeline while b) listening for cues and not completely zoning out.

She really doesn't need to give Laurel any more reasons to send a glare her way.

So after she follows the "husband and wife" (almost) back down the aisle and out the church doors, and Laurel announces that everyone is free for the next couple of hours until the rehearsal dinner, Sara pulls a sneaky little double-back, returning to the sanctuary where Ponytail Girl is still bent over her tablet.

She kicks off her heels at the door and pads down the centre aisle, turning into the pew just in front of the other woman's seat. Climbing up, she kneels on the wood and leans over the back as Ponytail Girl finally looks up.

"Hey, I don't think we've met. I'm Sara," and she reaches a hand out to shake.

"Maid of honour and sister of the bride," the girl says, returning her grip, and continues without a pause, "unavailable for fittings due to living and working overseas, all of which you know, but," she points to her temple with her free hand, "this guy's a bit overloaded at the moment. Hi. Felicity Smoak, wedding planner, tech maven—" She flutters the same hand, like and so on, and Sara grins, finally retrieving the hand Felicity had held captive.

"Of course; Laurel speaks very highly of you."

Felicity's response is to raise a finely manicured eyebrow, and Sara's smile grows.

"Not buying that one, huh?"

Face carefully neutral, Felicity taps a finger against her lips, and Sara is thrilled to see her pastel nail polish matches her lipstick. "Your sister is very determined. She knows how to get what she wants, and I don't think that involves waxing poetic about her wedding planner."

"Hmm." Sara nods seriously. "Very diplomatic. Although if she were less offensively heterosexual, she might have mentioned you anyway. At least for my benefit." She tips her head down, one corner of her mouth curling, and looks up, waiting for a reaction.

Felicity blinks at her, face blank as the connections form, and then her eyes narrow slightly—and that's all she gets. It draws the biggest smile yet out of Sara. Maybe she's overconfident—maybe probably—but she tends to know what she's getting when she faces off with someone she's attracted to, and she's rarely wrong.

It's gratifying when Felicity can't help smiling back, shaking her head slightly and looking down at her tablet. "Um," she says, swiping at the screen, and then, "oh. I have work to do." She raises her free hand, flicking her fingers at Sara without looking up. "You need to go be distracting somewhere else."

Yes, she thinks childishly, doing a mental fist pump. I'm distracting. "Can do, boss. I'll see you again?"

The look she gets for that should really shut down all her confidence, but somehow she doesn't mind at all. "If you plan on attending this little wedding shindig I'm in charge of, yeah, you may just see me again."

"Okay, smarty-pants." She gets back up on her feet and points a finger at Felicity as she starts to walk away. "I'll have my eye on you." Another dismissive wave is her reward, but when she stops at the door to slip her shoes on, she glances back to see Felicity watching her go, fingertips pressed to her lips. Mental fist pump.

The rehearsal dinner is, unsurprisingly, lavish. Like the church and the hotel, the dinner is held one town over from Starling, in a historic manor with expansive and celebrated gardens. The decision to hold the wedding near but away was a compromise of sorts—those who could afford to travel could stay in the hotel, while it would also be an option to drive over on the day-of.

Having come from the hotel together, Sara and her parents stop short in the doorway of the dining room, a look bouncing between the three. Much as they've spent the last seven years adjusting to their place in the Queen way of life, it has not—and probably will never—become their milieu. Sara grabs her mother's hand and they wade forward to find their places at the family table, before joining the cocktail hour on the patio.

Sara hovers just behind her parents as they are greeted as royalty—not that Sara isn't just as heralded, but she's a little distracted scanning the space for, first, her sister, and a quick second (it is second she tries to make it second it might be a bit of an urgent second), Felicity. Laurel is hanging off Oliver's arm, laughing and glowing under the fairy lights in the centre of the crowd, and Sara has to do a full one-eighty to find Felicity just to the side of the door, glued to the wall with an earpiece and a tablet and her eyes sweeping the assemblage.

Once she spots her, Sara pushes up on her toes, seeking Felicity's eyes and waving excitedly when she catches them. A second later she realizes how ridiculous she looks and settles back on her heels, pressing her lips together, but Felicity has cast her eyes aside, suppressing both a smile and a blush, so it was probably worth it.

Her mother tugs on her arm. "Darling," she says, and introduces (or reintroduces, but who's counting) Sara to the person she's talking to. Once they've gone, and there's a little breathing room, Dinah looks back at Felicity. "You must have only just met Felicity—what, today, right?"

"Yeah." Sara nods, keeps her head down and runs a hand through her hair, casual.

It doesn't work. "Oh my word," Dinah says, then glances around and takes Sara's arm, pulling her closer and hissing, "You like her!"

Groaning a little, Sara shoves her hair in front of her face and mumbles, "We just met."

"You must really like her, then, to be acting like this the same day you met."

"Well, look at her!" she says, still facing the floor, throwing her hand up in a vague gesture. "You couldn't have given me some warning?" She glances at her mother's face, but does a double-take when she sees Dinah's mouth pursing against a smile. "Oh for Pete's—you set me up!"

"Cut the dramatics," Dinah says dryly. "I maybe… had an inkling. Laurel hired her."

"Well… still." She peeks over at Felicity, hair mostly hiding her face. "Have you spent much time with her?"

"No, not much," Dinah says, wrapping her arm around Sara's shoulders and guiding her in the direction of a waiter with a tray of drinks. "I sat in on a few of Laurel's meetings, but you know, she's very professional."

They each snag a drink and continue on, and Sara begins to say, "Too bad there—" when she notices what direction Dinah is leading them in and plants her feet. "Mom!"

"Shh," Dinah says, gently but determinedly pushing forward. "We're just going to say hi."

They're too close to Felicity to change direction now, anyway, so Sara reluctantly keeps stepping and tries to look less like the petulant child she actually is.

"Hi sweetheart," Dinah says as they stop in front of Felicity. She reaches out to touch her arm, beaming with pride. "Everything is just perfect. I am so looking forward to tomorrow."

A shy smile spreads across Felicity's face as she looks up, hugging her tablet to her chest. "Thank you, Dinah. You look stunning."

"Oh, thank you, dear." She turns her head suddenly, waving at someone before saying, "I better get back, but you two—" Giving Sara a little push, she starts to walk away. "—chat."

Sara shuffles forward a step, hanging her head and rubbing at the back of her neck. "Sorry. She's not exactly… subtle."

"It's cute," Felicity says, amusement in her tone, and Sara glances up to see a smirk gracing her lips. She drops her shyness like a veil and suddenly it's just that easy for Sara, too. Felicity tips her tablet forward, clicking the lock button and then saying, "It's twenty minutes to dinner, which means I have enough time to slip out for a breath of air." She looks up, tilts her head, and pushes both eyebrows up, before turning and heading for the door.

Sara grins and follows. They walk through the mostly-deserted dining room and past the swinging door into the kitchen. There's a tray full of champagne glasses ready to be brought out and Sara pauses. "Do you want one?"

Felicity looks back over her shoulder, her ponytail swinging side-to-side as she shakes her head. "I really can't drink on the job. Help yourself, though."

Shrugging, Sara double-fists it and quickens her pace to keep up as Felicity takes a sharp left, ducking into a dark and narrow hallway, before pushing out a door into the night. There's a path, a bench, a hedge, and nothing else—peace.

Felicity climbs up on the bench and sits cross-legged, spine straight, closing her eyes and laying her hands palm-up on her knees. Sara sits at the other end of the bench, taking a swig of her champagne and then turning, folding a leg up under her and studying Felicity while she has the chance. She seems to be… meditating, maybe?

Felicity's outfit is the same as earlier, purple blazer with a plain black cami underneath, and sleek black pants that Sara is almost certain are going to be covered in dust from her shoes. Her ponytail remains pristine and Sara wonders how often she has to fix it during a busy day. Her lipstick has obviously been reapplied, and she's not chewing on it now; she seems perfectly relaxed.

"I hope I'm not interrupting your break," Sara says, and Felicity opens her eyes, twisting at the waist to face her.

"Not at all." She props an elbow on the opposite knee, resting her chin on her open palm. "I'm probably worse, taking you away from your family."

"This is quite a spot," Sara says, looking around and letting that comment pass. "I don't know how you can cope with being around so many people all the time."

"Places like this help," she replies, shrugging, and then taps a finger against her temple. "But this is my oasis. Most of it moves around me."

Impressive, Sara thinks, but just nods, emptying her glass while Felicity's gaze rests on her face.

Then Felicity sighs, straightening her spine and cracking her neck to one side and the other. "We should go back in."

Sara raises her other glass, throwing it back in one gulp, and when she lowers it again Felicity is standing and reaching for her hand, taking the glass and passing it to her other hand before wrapping her fingers around Sara's to tug her to her feet. Sara's hand is cool from the champagne, damp from the condensation on the glass, and Felicity's fingers are warm against hers as Sara stands.

When Sara is back on her feet, there is almost no space between them and Felicity doesn't take a step back; in fact, her eyes drop to Sara's mouth, her tongue peeking out to moisten her lips, and Sara's jaw drops just slightly.

"Uhh," she says eloquently, and Felicity flashes an embarrassed smile before starting to slip past her. Sara tugs on her hand, though, and when Felicity looks back at her she says, "Sorry, your pants. You're going to want to brush them off."

The same smile sits uncomfortably on her face as she drops her chin, twisting around to see the backs of her pants, and Sara's heart thumps in her chest, almost painful in its force. She wants to say, Sorry, did you… were you… you looked at my lips. Can I kiss you? but they have to go back inside.

So, instead, she steps forward, sets a hand on Felicity's waist and, when she looks up, says, "May I?" and gestures to the dust. Felicity nods, sinking her teeth into her bottom lip with her brow gently furrowed, and Sara tugs her closer, wrapping one arm around her waist and holding her in place as she brushes at the dust. The air seems to still around them, the moment strangely intimate, and Sara isn't able to draw a full breath again until Felicity has ducked her head and gone back to the door.

As she reaches for the handle, she looks back, her smile small but certain, and Sara's heart settles back into a steady rhythm. Time to go.

That night, Oliver stays with Tommy and Laurel comes to sleep in Sara's room. They play the accepted roles, Sara the naïve little sister at her big sis's feet, Laurel the fully-adult soon-to-be-wife offering tidbits of wisdom for the younger to lap up.

And digs. Can't forget the digs. "Oh, I wish you had been here to help me pick the flowers." Right, because I know so much… about flowers? What? "Oliver was in charge of song selection, but you know, he probably would have listened to you…" Astonishing. "You have written your speech, right?" I wish I could say I can't believe you would ask me that, but I believe it all too well.

A swell evening, truly. She takes Laurel's champagne away at midnight but drinks herself silly, because one of them is the responsible bride and the other is… Sara. She's still the one who gets them up the next morning and delivers Laurel to breakfast with their parents, but she does it wearing sunglasses and wincing at loud noises so it's 'classic Sara.'

Whatever. She's zen. This is Laurel's weekend and that's fine. Soon enough Sara will be back out the door and so in the mean time she will smile and zen and think about cute blondes in ponytails.

(Their mother looks at Sara every time Felicity's name is mentioned, but doesn't say anything, thank God. Sara smiles every damn time and kind of wishes she could give herself a sharp kick in the ass.)

After breakfast, the women go back up to the suite where the hairdressers and makeup artists are waiting. The luxury remains just this side of bizarre to Sara. Thea joins them; Moira does not, which Sara can only assume is a ploy to maintain the mysterious allure of her perpetually flawless appearance. Is she even human? Never mind, I don't want to know.

In deference to her desire to not have strange hands all over her, Sara does her own hair and makeup, which also happens to make her the perfect target for Laurel's, "Can you please go make sure the dressing room is ready at the church?"

Don't you have a wedding planner for that sort of thing?

"Felicity has more important things to do. Please?"

Oh, right. Of course she does. Meanwhile I'm just the sister. Nothing important to do at all.

Smile. Zen. Drive over to the church with a rapidly scrawled checklist in hand, provided by Laurel, whose handwriting manages to be somehow lady-like even when edging into madness.

Said list is, honestly, offensive—made up entirely of things like "bridal gown" and "bridesmaids gowns—three (3)," with marginal notes to the tune of "check zippers" and "DO NOT STAIN" underlined three times.

Goddamnit, Laurel. Do you have any faith in me at all?

It's not with pride that Sara deviates from the plan. It's not vengeance—entirely—not a childish expression of resentment—altogether—but it is sort of all of the above, and what Sara considers a treat for herself, a reward.

She tries on the wedding dress. In the middle of the room, carefully, watching her feet and nails, staying on the carpet—carefully. But she's Sara. Classic Sara. Constant fuckup Sara. So the zipper gets stuck.

Still in the middle of the room, losing some of that care as she desperately strains her shoulders reaching behind her to wiggle the zipper up, wiggle it down, get it to move, somehow, and she's approaching meltdown (okay, maybe one tear, maybe two, but she's holding it together) when the door to the dressing room opens.

She watches in the mirror, heart in her throat, as the dark gap grows—please, please don't let it be, please, I'll do anything, oh please don't let it be—and then is filled by a slim girl with a blonde ponytail bowed over a tablet, and Sara sobs out an, "Oh my god," tears crashing down her cheeks in relief.

Felicity looks up at that, freezing in the doorway as she takes in the scene, eyes growing wide and mouth forming a small o.

"Please, please don't judge me," Sara says quickly, "but I need your help, I really really need your help."

Seeming to come to a decision, Felicity takes a step into the room and turns, closing and locking the door firmly before walking around in front of Sara. She leans against the wooden frame holding up the full-length mirror, and it takes a second for Sara to shore up the courage to meet her eyes—but all she sees is concern.

Looking around, Felicity locates the nearest box of tissues and sets her tablet down to pick it up, pulling a wad out for Sara to wipe her face and then grabbing a handful for herself, stepping closer and carefully drying the tears that have fallen to Sara's chest, before they can land on the dress. "I should really carry these with me," she mutters as she works, "being that everyone is always finding reasons to cry at weddings." After Sara blows her nose, Felicity takes a look at her face and rubs away some mascara before nodding. "You good? Need a bib?"

Sara snorts, or tries to, though it comes out more like a dramatic sniffle. "I think I'm okay, thanks. What I need right now is to get out of this dress."

"Sure," Felicity says, businesslike as she walks around behind Sara and bends to inspect the zipper. "This is quite a situation you find yourself in," she says absently, as Sara stands helplessly still, no idea what's happening behind her but hoping for the best. "But you shouldn't worry too much. Now that I'm here, I mean. I solve problems—that's what I do—and I'm pretty good at it. Plus everything's less scary when you're doing it with someone else. And if worst comes to worst, you can always blame me."

Sara huffs out another laugh, the pressure on her chest already beginning to abate as Felicity rambles. "I'm not going to make you lose your job."

"Okay," Felicity says, "but family trumps job, don't you think?" She peeks over Sara's shoulder, meeting her eyes in the mirror, and cocks an eyebrow.

"Not entirely—" she starts to say, but then Felicity is crowing and pumping her fist and the dress bodice suddenly loosens around her. "Oh my god," she says again, wrapping an arm under her chest to hold the dress up. "You're a lifesaver. Literally. She would have killed me."

"Glad to help," Felicity says, resting one hand on Sara's bare shoulder as she comes up to her side. She leans in, her weight on her hand, and presses her lips to Sara's cheek with a loud smack.

Before she can think about it, think anything really, Sara is switching her other arm to hold the dress and extending her now-free arm to wrap around Felicity's waist, pulling her flush against her side. She turns a bit to face her, watching Felicity's expression as it goes from slightly startled to understanding to… sinking her teeth back into her lower lip, eyes on Sara's mouth, before she looks up with almost a challenge in her eyes.

"Well, okay," Sara says, raising her other hand to Felicity's face now that the dress is pinned between them. She brushes her palm over Felicity's cheek, then hooks her hand around behind her neck and tugs her closer, bringing their mouths together.

Felicity melts into her side, the hand on Sara's shoulder flexing as her other hand comes up to curl in a loose fist at the base of Sara's neck, before spreading out to press against Sara's collarbone.

The kiss is not tentative, but not rough either; instead, an introduction that feels almost comfortable, almost like home. Sara's questioning lips say, Hello, how are you, nice to meet you, and Felicity's tongue replies, You're cute, I think we're going to be good friends. Comfortable and yet heady and dizzying, her stomach up in knots.

When Felicity shifts against her, Sara loosens her arm, giving her room to pull away. She doesn't fully, bracing her hand on Sara's shoulder with her face tipped up, eyes still closed and cheeks flushed pink. "Um," she says, blinking her eyes open and licking her lips. She stares at Sara for a moment, then things fall into place and her eyes lose their hazy cast.

"Right," she says, all business, taking one large step back. "You need to get out of that dress, right now, and I need to go do a million very important things, or Laurel is going to kill us. Both of us." She picks up her tablet and starts tapping busily away, and Sara's stomach sinks for half a million reasons all at once.

Struggling to swallow past the lump in her throat, Sara says carefully, "Can I… give you my number?"

Reaching automatically for her pocket, Felicity fishes out her phone and hands it to Sara, watching as she types in her number. "Try not to text me while I'm working," is all she says.

"Mmhmm." Sara nods, her lower lip pushing out, and then hands the phone back and closes her eyes.

"Hey," Felicity says gently, stepping forward again. She takes Sara's chin, turning her face, before brushing her hand over Sara's cheek and down to wrap around the back of her neck. Sara opens her eyes, shifting her mouth, and Felicity tips her head a little. "I don't know what this is for you," she says quietly, "but you're going to make it through. Just a couple days, then back to your life, right?"

"Maybe." Then she makes an effort, smiling and wiggling her eyebrows. "Maybe I'll follow you around to make sure."

Felicity narrows her eyes again, but leans in and kisses her, and Sara doesn't want to read too far into it, but when Felicity starts to pull away and then bites her lip, cupping Sara's cheek and kissing her one more time, she almost believes there could be something there.

A moment later, Felicity is gone in a whirl of professionalism, and Sara is left to finally step out of the dress, carefully lifting it to be hung again and sliding the zipper up with her heart in her throat. It seems okay, and she smooths her hands down over the bodice and skirt, checking that it is as spotless as it was when she first arrived.

Then she walks back to the middle of the room and collapses on the floor, burying her head in her hands and trying to process the tornado of thoughts in her mind. "You are so dumb," she says, looking up and facing herself in the mirror. "Truly a masterclass in dumb. I honestly don't know how you've managed to keep yourself alive, being this dumb."

After a second, she sighs, running a hand through her hair and leaning in, peering at the mess that her full face of makeup and panic-stricken tears have made of her appearance. "And yet..." She cocks her head, staring at herself, and then shakes it. "And yet, there's this girl. Look at you, dumb and ugly and ridiculous and kissing a beautiful girl on the day of your sister's wedding. How did you pull that off?" She widens her eyes at herself and puts her hands up in the air, miming confusion.

"I guess you're not a total lost cause. But I swear to God, if you fuck up one more time, we aren't going to get out of here alive." She and her reflection nod, accepting that reality, and then she lies back on the floor, staring at the ceiling.

"What the hell, Sara?"

Ah. She shuts her eyes briefly, then tips her head back to look upside-down at the door. Laurel has arrived.

Everything starts happening very, very fast. They have under an hour until the ceremony is slated to start, and Sara needs to redo her makeup and fix her hair while the other women dress. At least the others—their mom, Thea, and Joanna—can help Laurel, even if she does dart anxious glances at Sara every five minutes. Thankfully, they're all completely ready before the time comes to line up outside the sanctuary doors, and Laurel reaches for Sara as they wait for the signal.

"Thank you," she says quietly, wrapping her arms around Sara, and Sara lets out a breath, hugging her back.

"Of course. You ready?" she says back, drawing away to see Laurel's eyes. She shakes her head, and Sara laughs, hugging her again. "You're gonna be fine. I love you." She squeezes her and Laurel nods.

"I love you too." She pulls away and reaches a hand to their mom, looking around at the other women, tears filling her eyes. "I love you all so much."

"Don't cry!" they all chorus, and everyone laughs—the first tears spilling down Laurel's cheeks.

"I can't help it!" She starts to raise a hand to her face, but Dinah steps in, lifting her chin and carefully wiping away the tears, preserving as much of her makeup as she can.

"You're fine, sweetheart," she says softly, pride clear on her face. The door behind Laurel opens, and Felicity pokes her head in. "Let's go."

As they move out into the hallway and toward the sanctuary, Sara focuses fully on the next step, determined to keep Laurel's big day running smoothly. Felicity's presence is a little distracting, but Sara tries to stay in the zone, standing to the side with Laurel, grasping one of her hands tightly as their mother holds the other. Soon enough, the doors are opening to let Thea step through. Joanna is next, and then Sara is squeezing Laurel's hand and walking away, taking her slow steps down the aisle with a real bouquet in her hands this time.

She keeps her eyes pointed straight forward, but focuses on the priest, knowing better than to look at Oliver right now. When she reaches the altar and turns, the doors open one last time and Laurel steps forward with their parents on each arm. Immediately, the emotion hits Sara in the gut and her eyes fill; swallowing a sob, she focuses hard on keeping it together, making it through the ceremony without losing it.

If she's had a million reasons to be irritated and resentful over the past few days, all she can feel now is... Well, she can't really name all the feelings swirling around inside, but she realizes belatedly that her prickly façade has been a wall holding them back and the dam has just burst. She tried really, really hard to not feel them at all, but now she just blinks at the tears, barely hearing the priest as he leads the ceremony.

Sara ran away from home a long time ago. She knew what she was doing, and why, but now it hits her that in the process of running away from her past, she ran away from herself, too. Instead of dealing with the shit that went down, and what it meant to her, she just pretended none of it happened, or affected her in any way.

That was dumb.

Easy, but dumb. Now she has no choice but to confront it, and it honestly feels like her insides are being shredded.

Seven years ago, Oliver and Laurel started dating. Five years ago, Sara left. For good.

Five years ago, Sara came home from college. Five years ago, Oliver was staying at the house. Five years ago, everything almost went to hell in a handbasket and Sara ran as far and as fast as she could so that never happened. She quit college, abandoned everything she ever knew and loved, and started a brand new life.

Her only connection to home was her cell, and while she kept her family constantly updated, she cut almost every other tie. She was free: to do what she wanted, where she wanted, when she wanted. Who she wanted. She never actually came out to her family; just started sending home selfies whenever she was dating someone long enough for that to not be completely bizarre.

It was all worth it, in the end. Sara created a life for herself from scratch, one where she was happy and in control, and Laurel and Oliver got back on track.


If her relationship with Laurel was never quite the same... if her parents eyed her like a stranger every time she came home... if she may never quite be able to look Oliver straight in the eye again... it could have been worse. It could have been a lot, a lot worse.

So she cries it out, standing at the front of a church full of every person that's ever been tangentially related to her life, and she hopes they're all too busy watching the happy couple to notice her.

As she starts to calm down, feeling the catharsis start to dull the pain and allow her to take full, deep breaths, she reminds herself that she wouldn't change a thing she's done. It all led to this point, where her life makes sense and she hasn't caused the wreckage that has, if she's honest, always been hovering on the periphery.

She's always been one step from destruction, and it's always a fight to keep everything from shattering to pieces around her. Her only options are to let the destruction reign, or keep fighting every day of her life. She made her choice a long time ago.

Sniffling, she blinks out the last of the wetness from her eyes and tries to get her bearings. When she tunes back in to the ceremony, the priest is preparing to recite the vows, and so she does her best to tune right back out again. Although Laurel and Oliver haven't written their own vows, she just really doesn't need to hear all the promises they're making right now. Instead, she looks out over the assembled guests, searching the crowd until her eyes land on Felicity. She's wearing an earpiece and has her tablet at the ready, but as soon as Sara finds her their eyes meet and she realizes Felicity was watching her—brow deeply furrowed.

Sara sighs and offers a small smile and a tiny nod, trying to say, I'm okay, don't worry, without words. Felicity smiles back but tilts her head, clearly not completely buying it. Still, she doesn't look away or make a face, and doesn't seem to mind if Sara just wants to stare at her for a few minutes.

It's calming. It makes sense.

Even if Sara will be leaving again tomorrow.

Felicity shifts her attention to the right, so Sara does the same and hears the priest introducing "Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Queen." The congregation applauds and Laurel and Oliver start back down the aisle, beaming and holding hands. Before she follows them, Sara whips her head around and reaches for Thea, linking arms with her to walk out.

"Wow," Sara says, quiet and to the side, and Thea laughs.

She's beaming, glowing really, emanating a bright light of happiness, but she squeezes Sara's arm and pulls her closer, her voice sympathetic when she says, "How are you doing?"

"Oh, fine," Sara says, trying for breezy. She looks up as they pass Felicity's pew, but no one's there and she breathes a laugh. "Actually." She leans in to Thea, keeping her voice low and raising her eyebrows. "I kind of—don't tell Laurel—but I kind of met someone."

"At the wedding?" Thea grins, so ready to be happy about it, and Sara grins back. "Who?"

"Um, you probably..." They leave the sanctuary and see Felicity waiting just outside, tablet in her arm, and she directs them back to the dressing room. Sara desperately needs to fix her face before the photos start, so she pats Thea's hand and releases her. "I'll tell you later, okay?"

Thea nods happily, reaching for Dinah instead and making some unintelligible excited squealing noise, while Sara heads to the bathroom to wash her face. She splashes the cool water on her face a few more times, trying to tame the puffiness, and is just staring at herself in the mirror when there's a soft knock at the door behind her.

"Yeah?" she says, drying her face on some paper towels, and the door pushes open behind her. She braces herself for some new need or request, but instead Felicity slips in and shuts the door again and Sara relaxes, smiling. "Hey."

"Hi," Felicity says softly. She steps up beside Sara, resting her hand above Sara's elbow, and they look at themselves in the mirror. Then Felicity turns, putting pressure on Sara's arm so she turns to face her, and says, "I wanted to check on you. Are you okay?"

"Well, I'm a mess," Sara says, laughing a little, "and I need to do something about that before we get photos taken. But yeah, I'm okay."

"I won't keep you," Felicity murmurs, her thumb rubbing the soft skin on the inside of Sara's elbow, and then she steps in and wraps her arms around Sara's waist.

It takes a second for Sara to adjust; five years of living so far from family, from anyone with that automatic physical level of comfort, and physical contact becomes a surprise, an anomaly. But Felicity still makes sense, and so Sara wraps her arms around her shoulders, resting her cheek against the smooth side of Felicity's ponytail.

"There," Felicity says, though she doesn't begin to pull away. "That's better."

Sara smiles, eyes closed, moving one hand up to the back of Felicity's neck and then to tug gently on her ponytail. But much as she'd like to freeze this moment and not actually have to go out and live through the rest of the day, she doesn't have a choice, and so she shifts. As soon as she does, Felicity takes a step back, clasping her hands behind her, but Sara steps with her and holds her gently by the upper arms.

She dips her head to kiss Felicity, then says quietly, "You're very sweet," lifting one hand to cup Felicity's cheek.

"And very bad," Felicity says, before her mouth and eyes clamp shut at the same time as she realizes what she said. "Um." She peeks through her lashes at Sara, cringing. "I mean, I'm playing hooky. Not good. You know. That kind... of... yeah."

Sara laughs and kisses her again, and once more, before saying in a low voice, "You can be any kind of bad you want with me, darlin'."

The most unladylike sound bursts out of Felicity as she snorts and sputters at the same time. "Wow, you, that—" She shakes her head, staring boldly now, and then mutters, "That should not have worked for me."

"What can I say?" Sara pulls her into another hug, needing the comfort now while she can very briefly take it. "I have a way with the ladies."

"Yeah." Felicity holds her close, rubbing one hand up and down her back and then reaching the other one up, scratching through her hair. "You do."

"Mmm," Sara hums as Felicity's fingers dig through her hair, sending tingles down her spine as they reach her scalp. "Gotta go."

"I know," Felicity says softly, and then she's withdrawing her arms and meeting Sara's eyes. She doesn't say anything, but her eyes impart strength. You can do this. She kisses Sara once, and then she's gone, slipping back out the door without a sound.

Sara turns back to the mirror, trying to come up with a viable excuse for twenty-minute trysts in the bathroom on the day of her sister's wedding, even if it wasn't so much a tryst. Never mind.

Once faces are repaired, the day proceeds to the next finely ordered segment, photographs on the church lawn. There's sun and sweat, girls running around with powder touch-ups, poses and fake-smiling so long that your cheeks ache. Felicity is never out of sight but always out of reach, circling the fringes with a calm, watchful air, ensuring her careful planning comes to fruition.

As Sara practices her porcelain smile, her mind drifts to wondering. Is Felicity's own life so organized? Her apartment spotless, social life scheduled and colour-coded, budget meticulous? Sara doubts it, but at the same time she doesn't figure Felicity ever feels like her life is one step from the next three-story cliff.

What she wonders most of all is what it would be like to have a person like Felicity in her life on a regular basis. Sara doesn't want to be saved, and the worst thing she could possibly imagine would be to drag someone down into her drama. She just could use, maybe, a counterweight: a balance.

It's a dream, really, because it never seemed quite possible. It still doesn't. But right now, she needs a dream.

When at last the photographer is done with them, they pile into vehicles and drive back to the hotel for the reception. Sara is already exhausted, but she came into this weekend exhausted, so. Thank God for Tommy, because everyone else is paired off and no matter how fiercely Sara wants to support her sister, she probably wouldn't make it through this without him.

"You can't tell me you couldn't find a date," she says to him as they dig into their meals, seated together at the head table that awkwardly presides over the entire room.

"Well, obviously," he says without pride or shame. "But I could say the same to you," he points his fork, "and it would be equally true."

"Fair enough." She's distracted, now, looking for Felicity, and it doesn't pass him by. When she doesn't find her, she sighs, turning back to her food, and Tommy does his own sweep of the room, eyebrows raised.

"Looking for something?" He pauses for effect, making an idiotic face as he says, "Or someone?"

Sara grunts, glancing at him and taking a bite of food. "Not sure I should tell you. If Laurel finds out—"

"I heard that," Thea hisses, leaning in on Sara's other side. "You are not telling him first."

"Oh my God," Sara says very quietly, bowing her head over her plate. "You guys are overreacting and Laurel is going to hear."

"Tch." Thea leans in very close and says not at all as quietly, "She's kind of busy," nodding past them toward Laurel at the other end of the long table. They look over and, sure enough, Laurel is laughing and glowing etc etc we've been over this and Sara does her best not to roll her eyes.

"Okay, well," Sara says, keeping her voice low, and Tommy copies Thea, leaning in. "Have you guys met Felicity?" They nod, but don't seem to make the connection, and Sara kind of waves her hand, like, That's... pretty much it.

Thea says, "Oh my God," and Tommy, more calm, just says, "You hit that?" and Sara is deeply regretting every one of her life choices.

"Grow up, Tommy," Sara says, but Thea's next comment is not at all helpful.

"Okay, but did you?" she says, and Sara groans. "Because you got home, like, yesterday. Literally yesterday."

"Nothing happened," Sara says sharply, then turns to Tommy and sticks a finger in his face, "and if you tell anyone about this I will kill you." She faces Thea, putting her hands up in front of her. "You, I can't kill, but I'll think of something. Not a word, understand?"

Tommy just laughs, slapping her on the back. "Sure thing, Little Lance. We can keep a secret, can't we, Thea?"

"I know I can," Thea replies, "and if you have to kill him, well, no great loss."

Before Sara can move, Tommy is reaching across her to try to pinch Thea while she slaps back at him, and things are about to get really messy when Felicity appears on the other side of the table and all three of them freeze, staring at her.

"Hi Tommy, Thea," she says, smiling kindly. Her hands brace on the edge of the table as she leans in slightly. "Sara, we've got some time before cake and I could use your help with what we were talking about earlier...?"

This doesn't exactly support Sara's recent assurance about things going on and there being none of them, but all she can do is press her lips together and nod, pushing her chair out from the table. She doesn't look up at Tommy and Thea until she and Felicity are halfway across the room. Then she turns around, pointing two fingers at her eyes and then at the two of them, who are looking way too pleased with themselves. She'd follow up with a middle finger, but, you know, it's a wedding reception. Sara is an adult. Sometimes.

Felicity leads them out of the room, into a deserted hallway and then through a door that she unlocks with one key on an overloaded ring. They pass through a dimly lit room full of large and strangely-shaped shadows (Sara briefly wonders if she knows this girl well enough to be following her through this creepy a room), one more small corridor, and then a nondescript door that leads into a huge, glass-walled atrium full of live greenery and the vague bubbling that accompanies an unseen fountain.

"You really do know all the best shortcuts, don't you?" Sara asks, turning in place to take in the grandeur of the room. The ceiling is all skylights, stars just barely visible in the moonlit space.

Following her gaze up to the stars, Felicity sits herself down on the edge of a large, flat-topped rock. "Service personnel have it all covered," she says absently, leaning back on her hands. "Every time you scout a new location, devote forty percent of your energy to making friends on the staff. Makes life so much easier." Sara joins her on the rock, sitting in the space between Felicity's outstretched arm and her side, and Felicity shifts, wrapping that arm around Sara's neck and leaning in to her. "These are the things I would teach an apprentice, if I ever had one."

Sara glances at her face, so close, and says, "You're a little young to be master to an apprentice, aren't you?"

"You'd think so," Felicity says back, lifting her legs over Sara's lap to be more comfortable and then tipping her chin up, a smug little smirk lifting one corner of her lips, "but you'd be wrong."

"Gotta love a woman with confidence," Sara mutters as she stretches forward, one arm holding Felicity's legs in place as she tries to catch her lips.

Felicity puts a hand on her shoulder, keeping her from quite making it, and says, "Confidence..." She waggles her other hand—not quite. "Skills..." She holds up her thumb and forefinger, pads almost touching—so close. Finally, she bites down on her bottom lip deliberately and says, "Talents...," and holds her index finger up, like, eureka.

Meanwhile, Sara is staring at her lips, mouth dry. "Talents," she repeats gruffly. "Yeah, that... that works. Talents. Definitely. You're talented."

Laughing brightly, Felicity shifts her hand from Sara's shoulder up to curl around the back of her neck, finally letting Sara lean the rest of the way in and meet her lips. A little sound that may almost be a growl escapes Sara's throat as she slips her other arm around Felicity's waist, holding her firmly in place and kissing her a bit more aggressively, her tongue determinedly seeking the inside of Felicity's mouth. Felicity moans against her, sending Sara's mind spiraling, but all too soon a digital alarm starts ringing, splitting them apart.

"Sorry," Felicity says, breathless, digging her phone out of her pocket. "We have to get back for cake."

Grumpily, Sara watches her pull herself back together, muttering as they get up to leave, "This whole wedding thing is really messing with my game."

Felicity turns in front of her, still stepping backwards toward the door, and tugs at the waist of Sara's dress, grinning up at her. "Remind me to thank Laurel for introducing us."

"Very funny," Sara says, a rough edge to her voice, before reaching for Felicity's waist and pulling her back again. She stumbles a bit, hands flying to Sara's shoulders to keep from crashing into her, and Sara dips her head, sighing against her lips. Nerves flare up in Sara's belly for the first time in a while, and Felicity must sense it, cocking her head and looking up with concern.

"Tomorrow," Sara says, and concern transforms into something like resigned sadness, her mouth turning down as her eyes pinch slightly. "After the brunch," and Sara doesn't know why this is so hard, but she realizes she hasn't actually asked anything of Felicity yet. She smiles a little, trying to change the tone. "Will you be off-duty, then?"

Felicity smiles back, though her eyes don't light, and just nods.

"Okay," Sara says, arms locked around Felicity's waist as she bends and kisses her, saying against her lips, "We'll talk then. For more than five minutes. Yeah?"

Felicity nods again, following Sara as she straightens, wrapping her arms around Sara's neck and stretching the kiss out until a secondary alarm begins to ring. "Shit," she says sharply, then, "Sorry. But yeah, we gotta hustle."

"Lead the way."

As soon as they cross the threshold back into the reception, Felicity hurries away, head down. Sara pauses just inside the door, sweeping her gaze over the room. Dinner has been cleared, the cake brought out to the dance floor, and—what a surprise—Laurel is glaring at her. Shutting her eyes, Sara heaves a sigh, then looks back and smiles, giving a little wave. Laurel jerks her head to the side, pointing Sara back to her seat, and she obeys.

Although when she gets there she finds that her seat is otherwise occupied, a young woman she doesn't recognize, with white-blonde hair and tan skin, leaning on Tommy's arm and laughing as if she's never heard something so hilarious. Sara stops behind her and crosses her arms.

"Little Lance!" Tommy says. "I wasn't sure you'd be coming back. Laura, I'm afraid you'll have to vacate."

She pouts and simpers, but goes, and Sara drops back into her chair like a sac of potatoes.

"I thought you might try to make a break for it," Tommy goes on.

Only in my dreams. "I value my life, thanks."

He leans over the table, resting on his forearms, and asks, "How's your speech?"

Sara glances up, making sure Laurel is looking away, before shaping her hand into a gun and pointing it at her temple, popping her lips as the gun fires.

Tommy just nods, hanging his head. "At least you were born into it. I brought this upon myself."

Sara snorts, feeling a little better. "Plus you're the master of ceremonies. Your life sucks."

"Thanks." He looks up, catching sight of Felicity across the dance floor, and she gives him some kind of signal, so he sighs and pushes back his chair. "I'm up. Good luck."

"Extra good luck to you, bud," she replies, slapping his shoulder and trying to focus on the fact that at least he has to be the first to fuck it all up. Or, you know, do a great job that makes Sara look one hundred times worse, but she's trying optimism.

He steps up to the podium at the end of the head table, tapping on the microphone and tugging at his tie. "Hello." He clears his throat. "Hi. I'm Tommy Merlyn, best man and master of ceremonies. If you could all take your seats, we're going to cut the cake in just a moment."

Laurel and Oliver stand up and start to adjust each other's clothes in a terribly domestic way that Sara can't watch, so she shifts her attention over to where Felicity is helping the photographer make sure the cake is ready.

The cake is stunning and elaborate, but so traditional it makes Sara slightly nauseous. When you marry a Queen, there are certain expectations; they seem to work for Laurel—she always did want the white wedding—but for Sara... not so much. One benefit of abandoning your entire life and heterosexuality in one fell swoop: expectations shattered, she can pretty much do what she wants. If she ends up settling down with one person—never mind getting married, never mind a white wedding or any other kind of wedding—her mother will throw a party.

Laurel can hack it. Sara will never have to find out.

They cut the cake. It's... a cake-cutting. That's the other thing about tradition: it all kind of looks the same. No cutesy smashing of cake into faces (imagine Laurel with cake on her face and imagine how long Oliver would go on living) and then the waiters are serving dessert and Tommy is delivering his toast.

Sara would like to say that he did a beautiful job and it brought tears to her eyes—and maybe she will say it, anyway—but the truth is she spends the length of his speech staring at her notecards and swallowing hard against the whirlpool of anxiety in her gut.

One downside of abandoning your entire life and coming back only for visits and holidays is that you forget how to temper the need to be loved, to be approved of, to do right. You get used to doing what you want, when you want, and answering to no one. It all comes back in a rush, on the occasions you allow it. A rush, a tidal wave, and you have to relearn how to stand against it.

It's going to be fine. She's going to be fine. She swallows hard, again. One more time.

"...maid of honor, Sara Lance."

Shit. She coughs into her hand, pushes away from the table, tries to stand with poise, to wear the dress like it belongs on her body. As she crosses to the podium she reminds herself to smile, sweeps the smile around the room so it looks like she's happy to be there.

She steps up to the podium, sets her notes on top, and braces her hands on the sides. Inhales to the count of four, exhales to the count of six.

"Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce." She grins, turning immediately to Laurel and patting the air. "Hang on," she admonishes, without giving Laurel time to react. "Let me get there." Turning back to the front, she repeats, "Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. When Laurel and I were small, we were the odd ones out. Our parents were still together, still married, and they never showed a sign of changing that fact. Even when we stayed up some nights, whispering about two birthdays and The Parent Trap and maybe getting an apology puppy, somehow we knew that it wasn't something we had to think seriously about. Our friends would ask us what it was like, to have parents who didn't scream at each other, or involve us in fights, or refuse to speak to one another.

"We had no idea, then, what it took to make that happen. The effort that goes into making a marriage work. But they were our example; they taught us how to love. They made the choice, the commitment, to stay together and work through issues instead of giving up. When they lost sight of that, if they ever did, they found their way back around to it, staying on the path until they were walking in step again." She glances around, finds a tray of champagne glasses next to the podium—you really do think of everything, don't you, Felicity?—and picks one up, turning to her sister.

"Oliver and Laurel, you are taking your first step on the marriage path, but you've been walking together for what feels like a long time. You haven't always been in step, but somehow, you've managed to always find your way back to it, and that says a lot. You've made it this far, and I believe with all my heart that if anyone can make it work, you two can. I wish for you all the happiness of Quentin and Dinah Lance, and all the success, too." She turns back to the front, raising her glass and a small, self-deprecating smile. "To marriage."

She downs her glass—classic Sara—and plunks it back down on the tray, before turning to bend and wrap her arms around Laurel, who is crying too hard to speak. Sara just holds her, for as long as she needs.

Next, she leans into the space near Oliver's ear, her hand on his shoulder, his hand coming up to hover at her back. Close enough.

By the time she's back in her seat, she is experiencing an existential crisis. Was any of that true? Do I even know what true means anymore? The stuff about their parents, sure. Mostly true. She can't really blame them for the disaster she became. But Oliver and Laurel... lasting? Like Quentin and Dinah? Not likely.

Well, she did what she came here to do. Support Laurel, make her family happy, tell them what they want to hear. She hates lying, but honesty isn't always appropriate.

She hates appropriate.

Staring sightless ahead, hearing none of the following toasts, she starts to spiral and drags her thoughts bodily in another direction. Like, say, Felicity. After the toasts will be dancing, and Sara wonders what she'd have to do to convince Felicity to dance with her. She can't have important planning things to do while everyone's out on the dance floor looking stupid, right?

-She searches the table for her phone, finally finding it pushed aside and hidden by her cake plate. She contemplates the cake for a moment before shoving the plate across the table and putting the phone in its place. Looking up, she glances around but doesn't see Felicity, so stares at her phone instead. Felicity told her to try not to text while she's working. Sara is trying... right? What happens if she fails?

Biting down on her bottom lip, she worries it between her teeth and reaches for her phone, picking it up and weighing it in her hand. Unlocking it, she types out, Save me a dance? and puts it back down on the table.

Boundaries are made to be tested, right? Once. Just once.

She adds a winky face and hits send, then blinks back into the present and tries to look like she's been paying attention. On second thought, she pulls the cake back toward herself and picks up the fork. The sugar gets her through the next twenty minutes of toasts, followed by the emotional torture of first dances, after which Tommy throws it out to the band and finally comes back to collapse into his chair.

"Great job," she says dully, lifting her hand an inch off the table in offer of a high five.

"You too," he says back, copying her tone and sliding his hand across to give her a limp five. Despite her performance, she feels a lot better when Tommy's there to commiserate with her. Everyone who has a date flees onto the dance floor, all romantic and shmoopy and shit, and Sara wonders if she could get another piece of cake. Maybe she should text Felicity again. Just kidding.

Speak of the devil, Sara's phone buzzes. Meet me outside the main doors in 20. :) Sara could cry. "You think we could get more cake?" she says absently to Tommy.

"Probably. But first—" He stands and holds out a hand and she frowns up at him. "—we need to pretend our bitterness has not yet overtaken us. Come on." She sighs, letting him drag her out of her chair and onto the floor.

He's quite a nice dancer, unsurprisingly; he and Oliver had been brought up that way. Humming under his breath, he sweeps her across the floor with ease, despite her two (three? four?) left feet, and it takes her back—other dances, other times, with both Tommy and Oliver. When it was all too much and too little at the same time, when she was still too young and too naive to know better than to fall for a man with grace and a charming smile.

Her hands tighten without meaning to, the hand that rests in Tommy's suddenly gripping his uncomfortably tight, and he looks at her with concern.

She smiles. "Sorry. I just remembered, I have to make a call." She steps away, smoothing his jacket where she's rumpled it, continuing as if it matters. "You know how it is, time zones, long-distance calls in the middle of the night, on a Sunday, during my sister's wedding, you know, sometimes these things happen." She backs away, giving a little wave. "I'll be back in a few, I'm sure you can find someone to dance with, see you."

Well, that wasn't awkward at all. She walks quickly to the doors, stepping out and flattening herself against the wall to the side. A moment later, Felicity appears, as if from nowhere, and Sara laughs, her heart immediately lightening.

Felicity puts a finger to the small smile she wears and turns, leading Sara to a nondescript door and holding it open for her. When Sara has ducked into the room—more of a closet, well, no, actually a closet, with a mop bucket and everything—Felicity jams a broom into the gap and steps forward. There's just enough light to see each other in silhouette, and the music is only slightly muffled by the walls.

"Is this okay?" Felicity asks uncertainly. "It's not exactly glamorous."

Sara holds out her arms in waltz position, and Felicity steps into them, her hand on Sara's shoulder as Sara's arm curves around her waist, and their hands clasped together. The breath Sara takes comes in easily and slides out on a sigh as she holds Felicity close at her side, her body solid against Sara's arm and stomach. Sara shuffles her feet and they tune in to the music, starting to sway along.

"Your toast was beautiful," Felicity says softly, and Sara just hums in response, not agreement so much as acknowledgment.

After a moment, Sara says, "This wedding would be much more fun with a date." They speak in low matching tones, not particularly wanting to get caught dancing in a closet, and it adds to the intimacy of the moment.

"I s'pose you'd have to be pretty serious about someone to fly them halfway around the world for your sister's wedding."

"I guess so," Sara replies. "I don't know."

There's another silence, then Felicity says thoughtfully, "I've never actually gone to a wedding with a date. I mean, I don't go to that many weddings in the first place, and then taking someone to a wedding is kind of vouching for them in a really public way, and I know some people just take whoever they're dating at the time because it's better than being alone, and I can see that—" She breaks off when Sara huffs a slight laugh, turning and pressing her lips to Felicity's cheek.

"There was one wedding I went to with a college boyfriend, and he turned out to be a real piece of work, so I'm with you there."

"Yeah," Felicity breathes.

"I remember being a little girl," Sara says as they complete the tiny circle they've been swaying in and start to go around again, "when our parents would take us to weddings and Laurel and I would run around in our poofy dresses and hide under tables. And then..." She trails off for a second, back under that table peering at the dancing feet of adults from under the tablecloth. The next words come out on a sigh. "Laurel would tell me about her wedding. How grand it would be. Exactly like this, and exactly like that. She knew what she wanted... and she got it."

Together, their feet start to slow, to drag, and finally to still. Felicity turns her face into Sara's neck, sliding her arms up to wrap around behind, and Sara wraps her arms around Felicity's waist, closing her eyes.

It's heaven, but too brief. Before long, Felicity is shifting again, voice a little thick when she says, "Gotta get back."

"Really?" Sara asks, half-joking. "You got an important appointment with the dance floor?"

"No, actually." Felicity steps back, looking at Sara warmly, her eyes and the lenses of her glasses glinting in what little light there is. "But you do."

"Can't argue with you there." She lets Felicity go, but then snags her wrist as she starts to turn for the door, and Felicity looks back, tilting her head. "Thank you." She shuts her eyes for just a second, but meets Felicity's eyes honestly. "You've made this so much more bearable."

Taking a step back toward her, Felicity raises her free hand to Sara's cheek and kisses her, just once but lingering on her lips. "Come on," she says softly, and leads Sara back.

The rest of the night is spent guzzling champagne and tearing it up on the dance floor. Okay, looking stupid on the dance floor, but Tommy and Thea and her parents and sometimes Laurel are looking stupid with her so it's all good. Her mom and dad dancing to 80s dance hits in formal wear is one of the highlights of her life, honestly. Tommy breaks out the middle school dance moves and spins Sara and Thea around, one on each arm, and it's absolutely ridiculous and the most fun Sara has had in ages.

The only way it could be more fun would be for Felicity to join them, but Sara is an adult who can handle delayed gratification (and it helps that Felicity stays on the fringes of the room and makes occasional eye contact while Sara is dancing like an idiot, which would be more embarrassing with less champagne).

She stays longer than her parents but leaves earlier than Tommy and Thea, collapsing into bed and falling easily into sleep. Thanks, champagne.

In the morning is the bridal brunch, which probably has some cutesy name, but like that isn't cutesy enough? It is essentially several hours of sipping tea and socializing like a lady, but Sara gets to wear jeans and she can see the light at the end of the tunnel so it's bearable.

After two full hours, she uses "I have to pack" to get away, giving kisses to people she won't see again and saving her family goodbyes for when she actually leaves the hotel. The truth is she never really unpacked and just has to throw a few things back in her bag, but she locks eyes with Felicity across the room and raises her eyebrows. Felicity nods, and Sara can't get back to her room fast enough. (She's cool she's calm she's collected but she's about to be alone with Felicity in a private place for more than five minutes and she's not cool, she isn't cool at all.)

Her room is just down the hall and she kicks off her shoes inside the door, walking through the bedroom and into the bathroom to collect her toiletries. She pops the toiletry bag into her suitcase and makes her bed, shaking out the comforter to make sure nothing's hiding in there. After getting on her hands and knees to check under the bed, she does a final walk-through of the other rooms and zips her suitcase, rolling it over to the door.

Just as she's straightening up, there's a sharp rap at the door and she jumps—her feet literally leave the ground and she presses her hand to her chest. If she had pearls to clutch... The thought makes her laugh and she swings the door open, leaning on the knob and tipping her head against the wood. It's Felicity, of course, who steps right inside, letting the door fall shut behind her as she reaches for her ponytail. She manages to unloop the elastic once, but as soon as Sara is sure of what she's doing she steps forward.

"Oh, please," she says, reaching for Felicity's hands. "Let me." Their fingers just brush, and then Felicity drops her hands with a smirk, her eyelids sliding closed as Sara gently takes hold of the ponytail with one hand, unwrapping the elastic with the other. When it's free, she rolls the elastic onto her wrist and digs her fingers into Felicity's hair, carefully spreading out the confined section and then reaching for her scalp. She starts where it was tied and works out, scratching her nails through Felicity's hair.

It feels amazing, and the scent of Felicity's shampoo starts to spread, but what is truly magical is the look of pleasure on Felicity's face and the little moans that seep from her throat. Sara can't help her own groan, dragging her hands down to the back of Felicity's neck and then around to cup her jaw, and Felicity's eyes peek open as Sara takes one more step and kisses her hungrily. Felicity's arms wind around Sara's waist, tugging her closer, and Sara wraps her arms around behind Felicity's neck as their tongues war. Another groan comes out of Sara, and Felicity's hands slip down, past the hem of her shirt and then back up, sliding under the fabric and—

—and Sara reacts on instinct, pushing back and away and gasping for air. She catches one glimpse of Felicity's horrified face before her eyes slam shut and she drives her fingers into her own hair, thinking, Shit.

"I'm sorry—" Felicity says, ache and confusion in her voice, and she doesn't know what she's apologizing for, Sara can tell; nor should she.

Fuck. Sara opens her eyes and steps forward, reaching for Felicity's hand. "No," she says, wrapping both of her hands around Felicity's and then sliding one hand up to curl around her wrist, the other at her fingers. "I'm sorry. You didn't do anything wrong."

The look on Felicity's face is a mix of skepticism and confusion and fear but it's the fear that breaks Sara's heart.

She steps forward, slipping her arms around Felicity's waist and laying her cheek on Felicity's shoulder, and speaks low in the direction of her ear. "I'm sorry," she says again. "I'm not... I'm not simple, or easy. I didn't run halfway across the world because of my level head. I'm not... I don't..." She trails off, frustrated, and Felicity's arms come up around her, one hand at the back of her neck and the other stroking up and down her spine.

"Shh, shh," Felicity says soothingly. "It's okay. You don't have to apologize to me, Sara, not for being yourself. We're fine."

Sara sighs, shifting just enough to brush her nose against Felicity's neck before stepping away and taking Felicity's hand to lead her over to the couch. Folding one leg up under her, Sara sits down on the couch, and Felicity climbs up to face her, crossing her legs so that their knees just overlap. Felicity keeps hold of Sara's hand, wrapping it between her own in her lap.

They sit in silence for a minute, Felicity staring down at Sara's hand and Sara watching her, and then Felicity says softly, "I ran away too. When I graduated high school, I left home and I never looked back. I only go back when I have to, only keep the connections I have no choice about, and I don't... I don't know what I would do if I met someone who lived there."

"Oh," Sara says, suddenly understanding so much more.

"I might never see you again," Felicity says on a whisper, and she looks up, her brows drawing low over sad eyes.

"No," Sara says back. "No, that's not going to happen."

"You have a whole life—"

"No." She puts her other hand on Felicity's knee, sliding a bit closer. "I don't. I have an apartment, I have a paycheque; I don't have a life."

Felicity shifts her mouth, searching Sara's eyes, and Sara looks back quietly, her thumb sweeping over the side of Felicity's knee.

"I'm not going to feed you any lines," Sara says finally, "or promise you anything I don't know I can deliver. We've just met... believe it or not." She lifts the corner of her mouth in a lopsided smile and Felicity returns it. Then she looks down at their hands, pulling in a long breath and blowing it out through her nose. She tips her head to the side, her thumb still rubbing Felicity's knee.

This feels way harder than it needs to be. "But... I like you. I would like to get to know you better, to, um... see what happens, I guess." She looks up, uncertain. "It's kind of asking a lot for very little. I don't know if you—"

Felicity's hand tightens on hers. "It doesn't sound like all that much. Not if I get to... know you." She cocks her head, her smirk somehow sweet and saucy at the same time, and Sara pushes off her folded leg, bracing one hand on Felicity's knee and freeing her other hand to cup Felicity's cheek as she leans in to kiss her. Felicity returns the kiss, her hands smoothing over the curve of Sara's waist, and then Sara sits back, her hand trailing down Felicity's arm and tugging gently. She guides Felicity across the cushion, nudging her so that she turns and sits just in front of Sara's legs, her back against Sara's belly. Sara wraps her arms around Felicity's waist, linking near her belly button, and props her chin on Felicity's shoulder.

Felicity lays her hands on top of Sara's and says, "So, Skype?"

Sara nods, her chin bouncing off Felicity's shoulder. "Skype. Texts. Emails. Snapchat." Felicity laughs slightly at that, and Sara grins, but hesitates a little before saying, "And I want to come back in a month or two. Maybe take you on a real date, you know... if that might be something you'd be into."

"Oh no," Felicity says softly, settling back against Sara. "That sounds just awful."

Sara shuffles down a bit and lays her head on the arm of the couch, smiling at the ceiling. "Is that a yes, then?"

"This might be hard for you," Felicity sighs, patting her hands on Sara's, "being that you've got such self-esteem issues, but you can pretty much assume my answer will be yes. If you're asking the question."

Her stomach twists and turns and flips upside-down, but all she says is, "Okay. Good to know."

They stay there in comfortable silence, and Sara closes her eyes, thinking about a life that is more than an apartment and a paycheque. Thinking about coming home, but not alone, not facing anything down on her own. It's too soon to have ideas like that, she knows; but it sounds like a dream. Nothing that good can be real.

Well, fuck you too, she thinks at her brain, and picks up her head. She turns her face, her nose brushing behind Felicity's ear before she dips her chin to press her lips to Felicity's neck.

Felicity shifts, clearing her throat, and says, "Hey."

"Hey," she says back. "I gotta go soon."

A little noise comes from Felicity's throat, a disapproving hum, and Sara buries her face in Felicity's neck and hair, rubbing against her like a cat.

"When I come back," she goes on, "I'm going to tell you... more." Terror suddenly clogs her throat, and she shuts her mouth tight and swallows hard before trying again. "About who I am, and who I was, and how I came to be the way I am. I'm not... entirely sure you'll feel the same, after. But I have to try..."

Felicity stiffens, and starts to pull away, and for a second Sara thinks, Okay, okay, never mind, but instead Felicity turns sideways, folding her legs up beside her, and loops her arm around behind Sara's neck. She meets Sara's eyes, the blue in hers clear and unruffled, and holds her gaze for a long moment.

Then she smiles and leans in, pressing her lips to Sara's cheek, and her nose too, and Sara can feel the smile against her skin. "I'll listen," she says when she pulls back again. "Whatever you have to say to me, I'll listen. Okay?"

All Sara can do is smile and nod, something like awe lifting her heart. It's a start. If nothing else, it's a start, and a beautiful one.

When she can't put it off any longer they say goodbye at the door, nose-to-nose with their fingers tangled together at their sides.

"Text me when you land," Felicity says, and Sara nods, mumbles, "I'm gonna miss you."

"Good." Felicity tips her head, though her pointed look is a bit lost in the closeness and Sara's aching heart. "That means you'll come back."

"I'm gonna come back."

"I know. But a little added motivation never hurt anyone."

The sigh comes of its own accord, and Sara frees her hands to cup Felicity's jaw, letting her eyes trace her face from top to bottom before she kisses her goodbye. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye—and she turns away, pulling open the heavy door and dragging her suitcase behind her down the hall as Felicity stays behind to be discreet.

In the lobby, Laurel and their parents wait to see her off. Everyone looks casual and worn out in a way they haven't allowed themselves to be all weekend. She gets three long hugs and three quiet comments in her ear.

Laurel: "None of this would have worked without you, Sara, I love you." (How sweet.)

Dinah: "When you come home for her, come home for us too, okay baby?" (Oh for Pete's... reasonable request.)

Quentin: "Don't wait too long to tell your sister. She wants you to be happy." (Of course Mom can't keep a secret.)

Pulling away with a nonchalant air that will not hold up under scrutiny, Sara says, "I'm going to swing back around this way in a month or two. When I buy my tickets I'll send out a group email." Dinah hops a little, clapping with excitement, and Quentin just nods knowingly.

Laurel, on the other hand, raises an eyebrow and is opening her mouth to speak when Sara throws up a hand in a wave and grins, spinning around and making a break for it. She'll have to come clean, and fast, but not right now.

Hopping in the back of a cab, Sara asks for the airport and then drops her shutters, closes off her mind and begins to decompress. At first, it's I'm so tired, so tired, and she loops around and around the comments that got to her, the ones that really got under her skin. The reasons she stays away, the easy choice that is absence and distance, but every few minutes a smile creeps up her face without permission and she remembers Felicity in her arms, Felicity pressed against her, that smile and that mouth and those eyes and that hair. It still hurts—everything, everything hurts—but it's intermittent.

On and off, in and out, three days of brief scattered moments and there's this bubble in her heart that lifts it up and up and up.

It's hope.

(She almost forgot what hope was like, forgot how it felt to hope for more than a night or maybe two nights; forgot that life was more than an apartment and a paycheque and sex; forgot that you could take the bad, sometimes, and process it and spit it back out and move on from it, instead of pretending it didn't exist; forgot that there was a possibility, for some people, of partnership and coming home, that maybe she was some people after all; forgot that hope doesn't have to be a tragedy.)

(It might be a tragedy, but right now it's hope.)

(She'll take it.)