Letting Go - Chapter 31

Laurel’s head was swimming and didn’t seem inclined to stop anytime soon. How was it possible that whatever drug they used on her was still in her system? And going strong. Everything around her seemed wobbly, her stomach kept rolling, threatening to spill its nonexistent contents, and she just couldn’t muster enough strength to stand. She’d crawled all the way to the iron bars of the cage—it sure had seemed a long way. It had taken her almost as much time to get back in a sitting-on-her-heels position. And that was it. She managed to stay upright only by leaning her upper body against the bars. She had no strength left, her stomach was rebelling, her head was protesting, and her eyes were playing tricks on her.

Because that sure wasn’t a woman standing on the other side of the cage, head cocked, watching her like a scientist studying a strange specimen. A slender, beautiful, exotic-looking woman with long, dark hair and slightly almond-shaped brown eyes.

“You have the same eyes as your sister.”

Either she was hearing things as well or the woman was real.

“Sara was my father’s protégée,” the woman explained. “You can imagine his disappointment when she failed to return.”

Oh, her heart was bleeding for whomever this woman’s father was.

“I’m sorry it had to come to this.”

Laurel could just bet the woman was sorry.

“I apologize for the cage, but we cannot take the risk of you escaping.”

“Just kill me already,” she whispered.

The woman’s eyes widened. “We have no intention of killing you. You’ll better serve this city alive.”

“The contract.”

The woman flashed a chilling smile. “Is void.”

Sometimes the League of Assassins has their own agenda, she remembered Adam Bachman explain. Could it really be that easy?

“Adam Donner is no longer in the picture,” the woman continued. “He was ruining what progress this city has made since Oliver Queen’s return.”

Of course, they knew everything. And Donner was dead. Laurel tried to muster a modicum of pity for the guy, but couldn’t.

“Now all we have to do is wait for your sister.”

Sara. God, Sara. Things couldn’t end like this. “She won’t come.”

“She will to save her sister.”

Damn it. Laurel might be safe from the League, but Sara wasn’t. They were using her as bait and there was nothing she could do about it.

Λ

“Step away from the cage,” Oliver growled at the woman, arrow cocked.

She smiled. “You’re late. I was expecting you much sooner.” She looked at Sara. “What kept you?”

“You heard him, Nyssa,” Sara replied. “Step away from the cage.”

Nyssa shrugged and walked away from the bars. “By all means.”

Oliver rushed forward. “Laurel, are you okay?”

He reached between the bars and touched her cheek. She looked at him with eyes swimming with tears, gratitude and love, and smiled wanly. God, she was alive.

“Hang on, I’ll get you out of here.”

“You’ll have to climb,” Nyssa interjected. “The entrance is on top.”

He glared at her, but didn’t dally. He was inside the cage and beside Laurel in a heartbeat. He took her in his arms and closed his eyes briefly at how good it felt to hold her close again, hear her breathe.

“Are you hurt?” he murmured and lifted her a little, pleased when she didn’t collapse back onto her knees. It meant she wasn’t as weak as she looked. “Are you okay?”

“I will be as soon as we get out of here,” she replied.

He kissed her forehead. “Hold on, baby.” He lifted her into his arms and grinned when she lifted her arms to his shoulders. She was going to be okay. Once back on the other side of the bars, he dropped her legs lightly onto the floor, keeping an arm securely around her back. She wobbled a little and leaned against him, but she didn’t collapse.

“You’re free to go,” Nyssa said. “As for you, Sara, it’s time to come home.”

“I am home.”

The smile was gone. “Father’s been patient, he’s let you fly free, but his patience has run out. I have orders to bring you back.”

Oliver has had enough. “You’re not taking her anywhere.”

“Mr. Queen,” Nyssa said pleasantly. “As much as I appreciate your loyalty toward a friend, there is nothing you can do or say in this matter. Leave now.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said forcefully and pulled Laurel closer. He was judging the distance between them and Sara, calculating how much time they might have to get out of dodge.

“This isn’t about you. Or Laurel who you’re protecting so fiercely,” Nyssa replied. “No harm will come to her, to either of you. You have my word. You have my father’s word. The League of Assassins won’t touch you, unless you stand in our way.”

He cursed softly.

“Get out of here, Ollie,” Sara said calmly. “This is my fight. I’ll be okay.”

Laurel reached her arm toward her sister, curled her fingers around Sara’s, her eyes swimming with tears, and he silently promised he’d return as soon as she was safe and get her sister back for her.

Sara nodded, smiled, and pulled away. “Go,” she whispered.

He lifted his bow, shot a line-arrow, and, tucking Laurel safely to his side, proceeded in getting her out of harm’s way. As they rose toward the ceiling, he saw a circle of black-clad figures surround Sara.

Λ

Oliver, Laurel tucked snuggly in his arms, landed softly on a nearby roof where the sounds of the fight could no longer be heard. He sat her down gently and softly kissed her forehead, determined to return and help Sara fend off the League. They’ve known she wouldn’t come docilely and had planned accordingly, if the men surrounding her earlier were any indication. She was good, but she wasn’t that good. He was more than happy to help her even the odds. He had a beef with those bastards for taking Laurel.

Laurel clamped her hand firmly around his wrist. “I’m coming with you.”

She couldn’t. She had to remain here where she was safe, while he went back and helped Sara. “I have to go help Sara, and you’re staying here.”

“I’m going with you,” she repeated forcefully. She was pale, her eyes wide and strangely empty, the skin around her lips tight.

“I can’t help her, if you’re there.”

She stood, and walked slowly, her gait far from steady, to the fire escape leading from the roof. Unless he restrained her, which he had no intention of doing, there was no stopping her. He understood, he really did. It was her sister down there. She wanted to help. He’ll just have to hope she wasn’t too stubborn to refuse to stay out of the way if he asked. So he followed her, lifted her in his arms, and, surprised she didn’t protest or try to wriggle away, returned the way they came.

When he lowered them both down their escape line, the warehouse was deserted. The fighters must have taken the battle outside. Before he could take a good look around, Laurel released a distressed moan, tore herself out of his arms, and ran toward the open iron doors. His heart stopped as he saw her fall to her knees beside a prone body in black leather. He rushed after her and reached her just in time to see her remove the blond wig from her sister’s head.

A gloved hand lifted and leather-clad fingers clamped around Laurel’s. Oliver felt tears sting his eyes as he saw the pool of blood underneath Sara’s body.

Sara removed her mask and pressed it into Laurel’s hand. “Remember your promise.”

“I remember,” Laurel said softly, brushing her fingers through Sara’s hair. “I won’t let you down.”

“Tell mom and dad I’m sorry.”

“I will. Don’t talk, Sara. Relax, it’ll be over soon.”

Jesus. Oliver didn’t know what to do, what to say. He felt as if he was intruding. And he felt guilty. He should’ve left Laurel up on the roof and gone to help Sara. Now she was dead because he didn’t. He’s let them both down. Will Laurel ever forgive him? Will he be able to forgive himself?

“I love you, Laurel.”

“I love you, too, Sara.”

A rattling breath. “It doesn’t hurt. I thought it would hurt.”

Laurel brushed her fingers one more time through Sara’s hair as her sister closed her eyes and breathed out one last time. “Goodbye, pretty bird,” she whispered.

She slowly stood up and looked down at Sara’s body, the black mask clutched in her fingers and Oliver was finally able to move. He walked to her and hesitantly put his hands onto her shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he said shakily. “I’m sorry I didn’t save her.”

“There was nothing you could have done.”

“I could’ve saved her.”

She shook her head. “No, you couldn’t have, Oliver.”

Dread settled in his stomach. “What are you talking about?”

“There is only one way you can leave the League,” she said evenly.

He was starting to hate that detached tone. “Laurel.”

“This was her plan all along.”

He felt a chill rush down his spine. What was she saying?

“Suicide by the League. It beats the alternative.”

He turned her toward him, but she refused to look at him. “What alternative?”

“She was dying.”

“What?”

“No one could’ve saved her. The doctors said she only had a few months left. She wanted to make the best of them.”

Jesus. “Laurel, look at me.” He shook her. Hard. Anything to get her out of the fugue state she appeared to be in.

“The cancer had spread everywhere,” she said dispassionately, staring at a spot above his shoulder. “She was in constant pain. She didn’t say anything, but I knew. It was either a slow death, to wither away in a hospital bed, or this. She’d made her choice a long time ago.”

It finally made sense. Sara’s insistence on making amends, on being forgiven. The sadness and resignation he’d sometimes glimpsed in her eyes. Her frequent absences lately, the pleading out of joint patrols...Oh, God.

“How long have you known?”

Laurel finally looked at him. “Since she’s come back.”

Her eyes were defiant as if she was waiting, expecting him to push her away. He didn’t. He couldn’t. She’d known for months that her sister was dying, that they only had a few short months to spend together. She’d kept Sara’s secret no matter how hard it’s probably been to keep quiet. She’d carried this burden for so long, knowing how things would end—she’d known what would happen when she’d been taken by the League—and she didn't break. She’d gone through, been through a lot in the past months, yet she’d been strong for her sister. She’s always been there for anyone who needed her, while never having anyone being there for her, being her rock.

And she’ll once more have to be there for her parents. She’ll once more have to be their rock, but this time she’ll have someone as her own rock. Him. This time and every single time she’ll need him, he’ll be there for her.

He pulled her to him, hugged her close and tight. “She was blessed to have you as sister,” he whispered into her hair.

She stood stiffly for a second, then circled his waist with her arms, and held on as she cried against his chest.

Thunder crashed above them, and he looked up when the sky opened up as it was also mourning the passing of the wonderful, stubborn, brave woman that Sara Lance had been. As rain mixed with his tears, Oliver pulled Laurel even closer, and sent up a silent thank you and a vow to always cherish and protect the woman in his arms.


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