It was a five minute round trip to the bodega at the end of her street. She was out of cream and if she didn't have at least two cups of coffee before she got to work bad things usually happened. Oliver sitting on her front step when she opened her door that morning was the last thing she expected to see.
Which was why she was leaving her house in what could technically be considered pajamas. The hoodie she'd stolen from the man who had unexpectedly appeared in front of her covered a worn tank, and the loose fitted pants were amazingly without pattern, just a solid turquoise blue.
Felicity let out a startled squeak, one hand clutched over her chest, the other pushing uncombed hair out of her face as she watched him scramble to his feet and stand silently in front of her, hands jammed into his pockets looking grave and apprehensive.
"Oliver! What are you doing here?" she blurted out and then hastily dug for her phone as fear gripped her heart. "No missed calls or texts...what's wrong? Are you okay? Oh my god is it John? The baby? Lyla?" with each guess her anxiety rose, and Oliver just stared impassively, brows drawing closer together,
"No," he said sharply, cutting her off and easing her initial worry at the same time although the fine hairs on the back of her neck pricked to life, because something was still not right, "No, it's not...no one's hurt," he tried again, this time in a softer tone,
"Then what is it? I don't suppose you've taken to panhandling as a way to earn a decent wage, have you?" she tucked her phone away and gave him a lifeless chuckle, trying to ignore the tingle that shot down her spine when he didn't react,
His feet shuffled and he looked away, down the street, at her neighbor getting into his car and pulling away from the curb, at the bird that landed on a tree branch. He looked at everything but her.
"I found your father,"
He looked at her then and she couldn't have dropped her gaze if she'd wanted to.
His words struck her like a punch to the gut, leaving her breathless and lightheaded, and she didn't even realize she'd reached a hand out to grab the railing until he moved up one step and shot a hand out to grab her forearm.
There was a buzzing in her head as she tried to process what he'd said.
She didn't know what sort of noise she made but she knew she tried to back away from him, tried to get away from his touch because it was too much.
Her head was shaking back and forth, slow and yet erratic at the same time. "N….no…" she stuttered out and tried to move past him but he was like a statue and her knees were too shaky.
"I'm sorry, Felicity...I"
"NO!" she barked, a hot wash of anger suddenly flooding her body, making her limbs go numb and her skin tingle.
He stepped back then, down one step and just waited.
"I...I have to go to the store," and before she knew what was happening she found herself on the sidewalk, about to push through the small gate out to the street,
Of course he was right behind her, his hand catching her elbow and she whirled, "Don't! Don't you dare follow me!" not caring how loud she was being or who could see them. And then she turned and headed down the street, not once looking back.
Her mind was pleasantly frozen as she went through the familiar motions on auto-pilot. She even exchanged a few words with the cashier as she checked out and as she walked back to her house she kept her eyes firmly fixed only a few feet in front of her, not wanting to know if he was still there until she was once again walking through the gate.
He was exactly where she'd left him though, leaning against the side of her stairs looking forlorn and lost and she hated herself right then for the pang that went through her chest at seeing him like that.
"I'm sorry," he began, looking genuinely contrite, but there was also a bit of confusion there, as if he couldn't quite understand why she was reacting the way she was, and that is what sent her over the edge.
"My god, Oliver, don't you think if I wanted to find him I could have!" she exploded as she advanced on him, "I hack federal databases on a regular basis! I have always known I could have found him if I wanted to, but why would I! He left me! He didn't want me!" hot tears were falling faster than she could wipe them away, but she didn't know if it was her anger making her cry or the sense of betrayal she felt at him doing this behind her back,
"I just thought-"
But once again she didn't give him a chance to finish, "No! You went too far this time! You don't get all of me, Oliver, it's not fair. Not after- It's just not fair. I give...I give you so damn much. You can't have everything. Not like this." her hand clamped over her mouth in horror. She hadn't meant to say that. Every emotion she had for him seemed to be boiling over and she had no control over any of it. But it was like she'd broken the dam and now she couldn't stop, "Because I could! I could give you all of me. Every last scrap of my soul could be yours in an instant. I am barely hanging on to the little that already isn't, and somedays I wonder if I haven't already lost it. But this…" she cut herself off, knowing she'd already said too much,
For a long moment they just stared and she saw a storm pass through his eyes, "I didn't do this to hurt you or cause you pain, Felicity…" he looked down at her with such care it almost made her want to forget what he'd done, "I know how much his leaving affected you and I thought...I thought if you knew why, if you knew what had happened to him it might help. I swear I wasn't trying to...force my way in or control another part of your life," he sounded disgusted with himself, as if he was just then realizing just how entwined her life was with his.
She shook her head at his foolishness, because this was just so Oliver. He made a decision and damn the consequences, they could always be dealt with later.
Or not at all, a small voice in the back of her head scoffed.
"Your intentions don't mean anything. You should have never done it in the first place. Because now the information is there and I'm going to have to find out. You know I am. You know I will stand here and let you tell me what you discovered about my father because I have no other choice. It has been a choice of mine to not find him for almost twenty years but you took that away from me!" she blinked up at him, dashing away another flood of angry tears as she felt her chest tighten, "Now I have to face it. Now I have to know why he left me. Now I have to listen to the confirmation of why I wasn't good enough. And you think you're helping me, saving me, but you're not. And you know, it's ironic in a way, I don't know, maybe you looked into it because you wanted some pointers on how to leave Felicity Smoak,"
The bitterness with which she spat out her final sentence made her breath catch and caused Oliver to make some strangled, horrible sound that came from deep in his chest. But she couldn't seem to stop and suddenly she wasn't talking about her father anymore. "Because isn't that what you're doing now, Oliver? You think you're being noble. You think you're doing the right thing. But really what you're doing is leaving me. You might be here physically but...it's not all of you because you've got some stupid notion that it's better this way. And it's just going to eat, and eat, and eat, until one day there's nothing left of us. And maybe I'll leave or maybe you won't tell me to stay. It won't matter. The end result will be the same and I will spend the rest of my life once again wondering why I wasn't good enough, why I didn't matter enough to someone that I lov-"
She bit her lip to keep herself from continuing because she couldn't allow herself that slip. He couldn't have that. Her eyes might betray her but her words never could.
She hadn't meant to admit all of that. Ever since that night at the mansion she'd tried to keep a tight lid on her thoughts and emotions. She thought there was some truth to what he'd said. She didn't for a second believe Oliver was trying to hurt her, but when they'd returned and things had gone right back to normal she couldn't help but wonder. And it was eating away at her, eating away at them. He'd been more reserved, more careful with her. It killed her to admit but she was almost grateful now that she didn't spend all day with him because it was bad enough at night in the new lair, she couldn't imagine how awful it would be if she had to endure that at work as well.
He looked dumbstruck. Shocked. He stared at her in total confusion, head tilted to the side, the furrow between his eyes so deep it looked painful.
"So just tell me Oliver. Where is he." all the fight had left her, she was resigned to this and it was best just to get it over with, "Might as well come in, I've got cream for the coffee now," she held the bag aloft and walked up the stairs past him, pushing through the door she'd never had a chance to lock and didn't wait to see if he followed.
She was already in the kitchen by the time she heard the door shut and she tried to calm her racing heart by taking deep, measured breaths, but that just made her hands shake more and it took three tries before she could actually grab a mug without almost dropping it. When she reached for a second one she felt him behind her a split second before his hand closed over hers. They both froze, arms outstretched as she gasped, the warmth she felt from his touch running all the way to her elbow.
Carefully he pulled the mug from the shelf and sat it down in front of her on the counter but he didn't move away and she knew if she just herself rock back a couple of inches she's make contact with his chest.
"Just tell me," she whispered, hands coming down to grip the edge of the counter as she waited,
She could feel him hesitate, and the cloud of tension between them only seemed to grow until he finally spoke.
"I didn't set out to do this. Not on purpose. But I found something and then I couldn't let it go. So I kept looking into it. And...I'm not as good as you so it took time. That's what I've been doing. In between meetings with the lawyers and Walter, trying to get the company back, this is what I've been doing." he sighed heavily and she felt him shift, able to see in her minds eye as he rubbed the back of his neck,
"Felicity...your parents got divorced."
He stopped and waited and she wondered if this was the life altering news he thought he was giving her. If it was, her opinion on his definition of what was difficult to track down was going to seriously be in question.
"I know that. I mean…I had assumed so. I vaguely remember seeing a picture from their wedding in our house before he left,"
"But you never knew the terms of the divorce did you?"
It was the way he said it that made her stomach drop. Of course she didn't know the terms of the divorce. Her mother could barely bring herself to mention his name. All she'd done was say how they were better off without him, but Felicity had never understood how that could be.
"I couldn't find the full files but he petitioned for shared custody of you and was denied because he was leaving the state for his job. Your mother...she claimed he'd try to keep you, that she'd never see you again. Whatever else was said was enough to convince the judge to let your mother allow visitation as she saw fit. He paid child support every month until the day you turned eighteen. Never missed a payment."
She swayed, knuckles going white as she leaned forward and pressed her weight into the hard ridge of the granite in front of her. Oliver shifted behind her and somehow she flashed a hand up in time to keep him from touching her. She'd fly apart if he did.
What he'd told her made no sense. Her father had left. He'd walked out that night and never returned. He had a new life her mother had told her and they didn't fit into it anymore. The idea that her mother had actively kept him from her made no sense. Except as she let it sit within her she knew it was possible. Her mother was an opportunist. She had always been the first to look for the easy handout, a way to get what she wanted without having to work for it.
The idea that her father had been purposely kept from her because of her mother made her stomach roll and as a cold sweat broke across her skin she swallowed heavy to keep the bile from rising in her throat.
"Where is he now?" she managed to get out, small white spots dancing in front of her eyes as she forced herself to breathe through her nose.
The tension pouring off of Oliver only set her more on edge and she jumped a mile when his hand finally landed at her waist.
"He's gone, Felicity. Car accident two years ago." he said, this time moving forward and sliding his hand around to her middle as if he knew her knees would give out from beneath her.
A hoarse cry left her lips, as she clung to him not sure how she was still there, still present because nothing seemed real.
"He stayed with the same company. Moved around a few more times but never remarried. There were appeals for custody up until you were about twelve and then…" Oliver's voice trailed off and he held her to him tighter as tears dripped onto their hands, "I don't think he left you, Felicity. I don't think he had a choice,"
His other arm came around her then, overlapping hers as he supported her. He didn't make to move them. In the cramped corner of her kitchen she broke as almost two decades of long held beliefs fell away and she was left with nothing but guilt and heartache in it's wake.
She cried silently until it registered with her that if she had looked into this herself she would have known. She could have found him. She could have talked to him herself and known for sure why he left. But she couldn't do any of that now because he was dead.
That's when she completely let go, sagging in Oliver's strong hold as some distant part of her heard him whisper calming words into her hair.
The next time her eyes opened they were somehow on her couch. She was tucked against his chest, in his lap and she was certain if she didn't feel so numb she would have blushed.
"I'm sorry...when I found out I wished I hadn't looked because I knew I had to tell you and…"
She could hear the pain in his voice and couldn't help but be reminded of when she'd had to tell him about Thea and Malcolm Merlyn. Her heart seized at the knowledge that despite what he'd discovered he still told her, he hadn't kept it from her even though he knew it would do nothing but hurt her.
With one hand planted on his chest she pushed up and back, having to struggle a bit against his grip as he seemed reluctant to let her go. When she made to stand his hands dropped to her hips and held her steady.
"I'm...I just need some time to process all of this," her words were stilted and hollow and she made multiple swipes across her face with the back of her hand trying to remove all trace of the breakdown she'd just had.
"No, Felicity, I'm not leaving you,"
She tried to pull away, duck her head but he wouldn't let her as his palms came up to capture her face. His thumbs wiped under her eyes and she hated that the first thing to go through her head was how awful she must look. She wasn't one of those girls that could cry prettily, all dewy eyes and trembling mouths. When she cried her face went red and splotchy, making her nose puff, and her eyes so swollen she could barely see.
But Oliver was looking at her like he always had, with that same intensity that she could feel in her bones.
"I'm not leaving you," he repeated, each syllable enunciated so she would understand,
"Oh," she finally said, not blinking, not breathing.
"I never...I never want you to think that I don't want you in my life. And I'm not trying to be noble," he said the word like it left a bad taste in his mouth, "I need you safe. I'm not safe. I'm a broken wreck and you...you've made me so much better but I can't risk you, but I can't make you leave either and I don't know how to go forward from here."
Her heart felt like it was trying to beat its way out of her chest as her hands came up to grasp his wrists, futilely trying to ignore just how close they were right then.
"I told you before, I want to be unsafe with you." she deliberately used her words from that night and watched as his eyes darkened in response, and before she could decide that her next words could potentially change everything she pushed on, "I'm willing to take the risk. I'm willing to take the chance. Look what I just found out! Twenty years of not taking a risk leaves me with nothing but missed opportunities. You...I don't want you to be a missed opportunity, Oliver,"
His eyes shuttered and now she was the one reaching out to him, letting her fingers gently trace down the side of his jaw until she reached his chin, tipping it upwards.
"I'm in danger right now. Every day. Every mission. The only way that changes is if I quit and even then I could get hit by a cab crossing the street." she saw him wince and begin to pull back in protest but she hurried on before he could, "There are no guarantees in life. You of all people should know that. So...get your head out of your ass and figure out what's really stopping you, because if this keeps up there won't be anything left and it'll be too late."
With that she stood on shaky legs and headed back to the kitchen, trembling as she waited to hear the door shut behind him as he left.
She was in the same place she'd been in before, but she couldn't get her hands to obey her. So she faced the counter and waited. She couldn't believe she'd said that. That she'd laid it all out there. But she also never expected Oliver to admit what he had either and that had changed things.
Somehow she could sense him before she heard him, but she still didn't turn around.
"I meant it," his voice was rough and she knew exactly what he was talking about, "And one day I'll say it again when I know you'll believe me. But until then...I'm going to try and be the man I think you deserve. That's what's stopping me. Because I can't mess this up. I have one shot and it has to work. If it doesn't then I've ruined both of us." as he spoke he got closer until once again he was right behind her.
With hitched breath, the anticipation was almost too much for her to endure, and when his hand came around to splay across her middle a small noise left her throat. His warmth and scent surrounded her and she gave up all pretenses as she let herself sink back against him. His words a balm to her wounded heart.
"My biggest fear is someone using you against me because…" his head dipped down to rest against the side of her head, "God, Felicity...it's always going to be you. I will always choose you. Every single time and damn the consequences and I'm scared to death that the time will come where the stakes will be too high and you'll never forgive me."
She let out a shaky breath and turned in the circle of his arms, leaning back against the cabinets so she could look up at him. Her eyes were wet again but for an entirely different reason now. "How could I fault you for something that I would do in a heartbeat if it meant saving you?" she asked softly, hand hovering over his chest as he looked down at her as if he was afraid she was going to vanish in front of his eyes.
He exhaled sharply and dropped his forehead to rest against hers, "I can't lose you. I need you to be safe," he breathed out,
"I just need you," she countered,
He pulled back with a jolt, staring at her with a mix of fear, and hope.
"I believe in you. I believe in this," and she meant it, because any doubts she'd had about Oliver's feelings had been washed away. He was as open to her as he possibly could be, laid bare, no secrets, no lies.
His head fell forward again and she could feel his fingers flex at her waist. When his lips just brushed her temple she sighed as a shiver ran through her entire body.
"You're my undoing and my salvation...how is that possible?"
She couldn't answer him. All she could do was lean into his touch, turning her head so she could feel his lips again. It would be so easy to push up on her toes and kiss him like she wanted but they were both too raw just then and whatever this was that was happening between them she couldn't risk everything spiraling out of control.
Instead she settled on raising her arms and letting them wrap around his waist. He pulled her tighter until her head was tucked under his chin and she could her the thunder of his heart beneath her ear.
She hadn't even known this was possible until that night. Never had she imagined he could have felt that way about her. It was a dream she'd buried so deep she thought it would never see light and then he'd dug it out and dusted it off with three little words. She'd spent the last two months trying to figure out how to bury it again and she kept failing, because it was bigger than her now, bigger than them. And he had known. For once Oliver was a few steps ahead of her. The changes in his behavior made sense now. But they'd both just jumped off the cliff. Together.
Somehow a smile cracked her face, and it was joined by a weak laugh. He took her by the shoulders and looked down but all she could do was smile happily up at him. Because she was happy.
As much as it all scared her to death, pure joy rose within her and she couldn't stop it.
He didn't seem immune either and she saw his lips twitch once, and then twice before he gave in. A hand smoothed over her hair and then he was reaching into his pocket, pulling out a slim flashdrive which she took automatically.
"That's everything," he said, the mood sobering significantly, but his hands were still resting on her waist and she still was pressed up against him,
She wrapped her fingers around the stick and raised hopeful eyes, "I don't suppose you want to stay while I look at this. I don't think I'll be very much use at work today,"
There was another flash of white teeth as he couldn't contain his pleasure at being asked to stay.
"Lucky for you I'm still an unemployed ex billionaire and my calendar is free," he replied with a wry smile that made her roll her eyes,
"So you can get the coffee while I go clean up," she told him, reluctantly taking a step away from him, "Then we can add 'beverage procurement' to your Linkedin profile. I'll even endorse you. Who knows, It might just be the bump you need to turn a few heads,"
Before he could throw out a rejoinder she escaped down the hall. As she splashed cold water on her face and pulled her hair back she tried not to listen to the soft, easy sounds of Oliver in her kitchen.
Hours later she sat curled in the corner of her couch, tablet perched on her lap as she stared at the face of the man she could barely remember. Everything Oliver had found appeared to be true. The divorce had given her mother full custody and the discretion to arrange visitation as she saw fit. It had also required her father to pay a decent amount of child support which Felicity was fairly certain had never actually benefitted her the way it was supposed to. Her mother had always been vocal about how hard it was to raise a child on a single salary, especially in Vegas. Felicity had never suspected her father had been sending checks every month.
"I wish I could say I'm shocked she would lie to me about this but…I can't,"
Oliver's hand curled around her ankle and gave it a comforting squeeze, "I'm sorry,"
"Part of me wants to call her or go there and demand she tell me why,"
"You can do that if you want. Alone or...I could go with you," he offered which made the corner of her lip curl upwards,
"Thanks," the thought of Oliver going with her to Vegas to confront her mother was something she couldn't think about right then, "I just don't know what that would accomplish. She obviously had no problem hiding it from me this entire time,"
"Well if you do decide to go, I'm available,"
With a sigh she turned back to her screen to stare at the slightly grainy company photo she'd found buried in her father's company's archives. She had his eyes, she didn't remember that from when she was little.
In a cruel twist of fate she learned he'd lived in Boston the last six months she was at M.I.T. A bridge had separated them and she'd never known.
She'd had another breakdown then. Sobbing as she thought of all the missed chances. She admitted to almost searching for him when she turned eighteen but had changed her mind with her finger hovering over the return key and had vowed from that point forward to never look for him again.
Oliver had just scooted over and wrapped his arm around her shoulders as she wept, surreptitiously getting up to fix her another cup of coffee while she blew her nose and wiped her face.
She'd found the police reports of his accident but she couldn't bring herself to open the file. Oliver sat poised beside her, ready to catch her if she took that jump but in the end she knew it was too much, too far and she deleted it.
Which is how she found herself back to the tab that held his picture. She didn't know how long she stared at it, but she jumped to awareness when Oliver tried to slide the now dark screen away from her loose grip.
"Sorry, you fell asleep," he explained and she let him take the device and set it on the table while she rubbed at her heavy, gritty eyes,
He hesitated, looking unsure, "Want me to go?"
The words hung between them, heavy and full of everything that had happened that day.
Not trusting her voice she just shook her head no.
"Okay, then I'm not leaving," he said deliberately before taking hold of her legs and pulling them down some until she could lay her head at the end of the couch and rest her feet in his lap.
When his hand smoothed down her leg and squeezed her calf she tried to ignore the way his touch made spikes of electricity surge through her, or the way his words had filled her warmth.
As she let her eyes slip shut she thought about how important he was in her life and about how more than anything she trusted him. She had to trust him with her heart too, she didn't know any different.
When she'd left her house that morning she'd thought she was going to be back in a few minutes and instead her world got flipped upside down. Snuggling deeper into the couch she pulled his hoodie tighter around her and tried to hide her smile. In the past two years she'd gotten used to world flipping events. No need to change anything now.