***IMPORTANT*** Chapter One was updated previously to be longer than when it was originally published. If you haven't read the full thing, the start of this chapter is going to be confusing.
A/N: Sorry about the chapter confusion, but the originally published piece was just intended as a teaser and then I couldn't change the publish date. Anyway, thanks everyone so much for the support! I'm so glad people like the story!
Also, special thanks to mabscifiromantic on tumblr for editing for me. (And if any of you lovely people want to follow me on tumblr my username is writewithurheart and the blog is War Against Reality).
I hope you like the update. Review to let me know what you think! Follows and favorites are always appreciated!
The light filtering through his window illuminates his room slowly. Long before it's chased the shadows back into the farthest corners of the room, Oliver's up and moving steadily though his morning routine, pushing himself until his muscles burn and the only thing left to do is run laps around the property.
The cool morning air greets him as he immediately takes off over the gravel path. It helps clear his mind, granting him that blissful peace as he surrenders to the pounding of his feet on the ground. He's sure no one else in the house is moving. Tommy's going to be over around ten, at the earliest. He doesn't need to check if the factory is there this time, but he'll probably do that anyway. It would be a great opportunity to talk to Tommy about...things.
It's the end of his seventh lap of the property when he decides he's done. The sun sits visibly in the sky, so he's probably not the only one awake now. His suspicion is confirmed when he jogs across the back patio towards the kitchen only to be confronted by his mother. An audible sigh of relief escapes her throat as she lays eyes on him, her long silk robe suggesting she just jumped out of bed.
Like a punch to the gut, it hits him as he watches her wring her hands together in worry: how much she loved – loves – him and Thea, how much strength it must have taken to protect Thea once he and Dad were gone. He never really thought about it before. Of course he knew deep down, but he was never aware of how deep that feeling must be until right in this moment. She had been left to protect Thea against a mad man all by herself. It's hardly any wonder she would sacrifice herself on Slade's blade.
"Morning, Mom." He presses a quick kiss to her cheek, or rather the air over it as he tries to keep his distance because he's pretty sure he doesn't smell like a bouquet of roses at the moment.
"I woke up and you were gone, Oliver. I was worried."
He winces at the fear in her voice and realizes that she could be thinking along the same lines he was right before he fell asleep: that this was all a dream. "Sorry. I'm used to getting up early and moving. I'm back, Mom. I'm not going anywhere."
She relaxes slightly at the words, nodding like this is old business as she turns back to the kitchen. Her hand lands on his arm. "We couldn't handle losing you again, Oliver."
"Like I said: I'm not going anywhere, except to my room for a shower."
Oliver's heart leaps as his mother smiles and shakes her head. That's a good sign. He's making a difference this time, instead of being the broody cut-off person he was. It feels better, and he can't even seem to remember why he was like that when he first came back, until he realizes it has a lot to do with a certain blonde IT genius.
He sighs: his good mood dampened. His girl isn't even his girl yet, and since he's already thinking depressing thoughts, his mother is still involved in the Undertaking. He has to do something about that. He needs to come up with a game plan...fast.
"I have something for you." With a smirk Oliver holds out the hozen for Thea, her eyes cutting over him suspiciously.
"You did not come back from a deserted island with a souvenir," she chuckles, shaking her head.
He pushes down his smile as he explains it to her. He needs her to understand what he's attempting to do: reconnect. And this time he means it a hell of a lot more than he did the first time. He's actually going to talk to her, spend time with her, and be her older brother. Of course, she's probably not getting that out of his speech, but that's what it means to him. He'll be surprised if she even remembers a single word.
"A rock! That is sweet! I want one of those t-shirts that says, 'My friend was a castaway and all I got was this crappy shirt'." Tommy grins at the two of them as he approaches, proud of himself for the sassy comment. Oliver smiles openly at his friend's cheekiness, the thrill that Tommy is still alive buoying his spirits again.
Thea shoots their intruder a look. "Don't let him get you into too much trouble. I just got you back. Take it slow. I don't need to get out of school to hear you've been arrested on your first day back."
Oliver laughs. "Can they even arrest you if you're still officially dead?"
Tommy pats him on the back, laughing. "Exactly! That's the spirit. Well, the city awaits! Catch ya later, Speedy."
Her arms quickly wrap Oliver in another hug before he can walk away, a hug he's pretty sure she does just to remind herself that he is real and physically safe back home. He smiles at her, messing up her hair as she pulls away. Despite her disgruntled look, he can see the lightness in her eyes as he and Tommy flee the room.
"Have you noticed how hot your sister's gotten?"
Oliver stops in his tracks at the comment, frozen in chilling realization.
"Because I have not," Tommy quickly corrects, continuing to walk down the hall. He stops a couple steps later and turns back to a statuesque Oliver. "I was just kidding, dude. I'm not hitting on your sister."
He gives a gruff nod and forces a smile, placing one foot deliberately in front of the other as they walk to Tommy's car. Tommy picks up the easy banter once more, not fond of silences, but Oliver's mind is still reeling.
Sister. Their sister. Thea's not just his sister, but Tommy's, except Oliver's the only one who knows that. Well, Oliver and Moira. Somehow, in the shock of everyone being alive, his mind has glazed over the fact that Thea was related to both him and Tommy. The three of them were siblings. Of all the things he could have forgotten...
"Are you sure you're okay, man?" Tommy asks, pausing at the driver's side of his car, a frown drawing his face in.
"Yeah, I'll be fine." He smiles, but it's forced by the looming prospect of the lie that's being covered up right now. His mother and Tommy's father slept together. They're both Thea's brothers. She deserves to know that – she and Tommy deserve to know that, but how the hell is he supposed to tell them when he shouldn't even know that fact himself?
"Your funeral blew."
The chuckle bursts from his mouth and Oliver shakes his head to clear it. "You got lucky?" He misses this: the friendly banter, the joking back and forth. He hasn't seen this side of his friend in so long. He's back in the time when they only talked about girls, drugs, and getting laid. Later, they'll bond over more mature matters: business, which is almost laughable to consider right now. And then, Tommy will spurn him as a murderer...unless he can do something to stop it this time.
"Fish in a barrel," Tommy smirks at the memory, turning to look at Oliver with the playful glint in his eyes. "They were so sad..."
Oliver starts shaking his head, refusing to hold back his laughter. It's nice not having Tommy hate him. "No no no no..."
"And huggy. And I am counting on another target-rich environment for your welcome home bash."
"Welcome Home Bash?" He repeats with a smile, knowing exactly where this is headed. He can see the not-quite-sincere glint in Tommy's eyes. Tommy's already serious about Laurel. It might not be official yet, but his best friend knows how he feels, even if he hasn't admitted it to himself.
"You came back. From the dead. This calls for a party. Tell me when and where and I will set it up." Tommy laughs and Oliver can tell this is the most fun his friend has had in a while. The feeling is clearly infectious as he wants to laugh again.
Actually, what he really wants is to share his amusement with her. Oliver can practically see her sitting here, shaking her head while smiling at Tommy's enthusiasm. She would share an exasperated look with him and then indulge Tommy's idea. His two best friends getting along like peas in a pod. And they would get along. One babble and the two of them would be thick as thieves, leaving him and Diggle to stare at the two of them talking a mile a minute. He chuckles at the image. God, he wants that.
"This city has gone to crap," Tommy mutters as they stop at the traffic light with a perfect view of two corners crowded with ratty homeless. The buildings here have fallen into disrepair when a block away they look pristine. "Why'd you want to drive through this neighborhood anyway?"
Oliver spares a glance for his father's factory, but turns back to Tommy with a smile. "Being stuck on an island for five years got me thinking. I want to do something with my life. I want to help people."
Tommy frowns, eyebrows drawn together in confusion. "You were stranded on an island for five years and you want to come back and help the homeless? You can do that with a donation." He turns back to the road dismissively.
"I was thinking of a more hands-on approach." Oliver comments, watching Tommy for his reaction. The night club will be a good start, especially with Tommy's help, but this time around he knows they can do more.
"You're serious?" Tommy twists back as he stops at another traffic light.
"As a heart attack." He can see the consideration in Tommy's eyes. It's a start. He's not shrugging the idea off, but he's also not jumping on the bandwagon just yet. He needs a shove to push him onto this path, a nudge in the right direction. Tommy has a strong moral center. That much is obvious from his anguish over discovering Oliver was the Arrow. He has the opportunity to change that now.
"So what? You're going to stand on the corner and hand out sandwiches?"
Oliver shrugs, turning back to look out the windows. He had expected more support, to be perfectly honest. "Maybe, but I was thinking something more beneficial to the community. Something like your mom's old clinic."
"What?" Tommy wonders.
Oliver bites back a smirk. He hadn't been sure what he wanted to do, but the inspiration struck him here in the car. Malcolm announced he was shutting the clinic down a couple weeks prior to the Undertaking, but he could get involved, get Tommy involved, now. He could do something.
"Your mom's clinic. It's still open, right?"
"Yeah, but unless you went to medical school on that island, you're not going to be much help there." Tommy pulls the car over to the side of the road to give Oliver his complete attention.
Oliver chuckles, shaking his head. "No. I didn't get a degree, but there has to be something I can do to help. Don't you get tired of all the partying? Don't you ever just want to make a difference in this world?"
Tommy's fingers tap out a pattern on the steering wheel as he considers Oliver's questions, glancing periodically back at his friend. "You're actually serious?"
He nods. "I told you. I want to make a difference."
He runs a hand through his hair, falling back against the driver's seat. Tommy nods slowly, chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Actually making a difference, huh? Helping people?"
Oliver nods, watching the options flit across Tommy's face as he takes stock of Oliver's attitude. He can see it in his friend's eyes when Tommy realizes Oliver has changed. He's not the same person anymore and this time he's letting Tommy see it from the beginning.
"So what are we going to do to help people?"
"I don't know." He plasters his foolish smile on his face, the happy façade popping up because he's not ready to divulge his plans and he can't move too fast right now. "I just want to do something useful." He shrugs again, running a hand bashfully though his hair like he doesn't have a clear idea.
"So...less partying, more helping people, and somehow getting involved in my mother's clinic. Did I get all that?" He raises a single eyebrow at Oliver.
"Yup. That's the plan." Oliver grins. "Maybe I'll go to medical school after all."
Tommy snorts, rolling his eyes. "Uh-huh, sure, Oliver. I don't think you could sit still long enough to take a class, so we'll find something else for you."
Oliver agrees with a nod of his head. Tommy knows him the best. The only medicine he knows comes from firsthand experience. He really wouldn't be able to sit through a class. "You've got a point there."
"We could volunteer at a soup kitchen," Tommy offers, shifting the car back into drive and turning to check for oncoming traffic.
"We could run our own soup kitchen." Oliver's suddenly seeing the possibilities. He needs the club to cover his base of operations, but with his money, he can also open a soup kitchen in the Glades and run that at the same time. He could get his mother and Walter to invest. They would love that and it would be great publicity for Queen Consolidated.
Tommy laughs, shaking his head and bringing their conversation back to the light and easy conversation they started on. "So...what did you miss most? Steaks at the Palm? Drinks at the Station? Meaningless sex..."
He almost laughs as he remembers his first answer – Laurel. He can't even imagine answering that way now. There's only one girl he's missing right now and Oliver Queen hasn't met her yet. "Everyone." Felicity.
But Tommy knows him too well. He sighs. "Laurel, Oliver? Really? Everyone's happy you're alive and you want to see the one person who isn't?"
"I didn't say Laurel." Tommy's disapproval seeps out of him and Oliver finds himself wondering how he never noticed Tommy's feelings before. He can see it so clearly now.
"But you had that look you get when you're thinking about a girl. You're a horrible liar, Oliver." Without prompting, Tommy heads over towards CNRI and Oliver groans. He doesn't really want to go there and Tommy doesn't really want to take him.
"I wasn't thinking about Laurel." Oliver's mind is instead locked on Felicity's subconscious response to his kiss last night, even now making his lips twist in a subtle smile and his heart expand in his chest.
Tommy shoots him a disbelieving look as he pulls to a stop in front of the CNRI building. "Alright, if not Laurel, then who?"
"It's complicated," As in he really wants to talk to her, but he hasn't officially met her yet. And he's not about to mention the borderline stalking that happened last night...or the actual stalking. That wasn't really in any sort of gray area. It was a violation of her privacy. As much as he wants to pull her into his arms and never let her go because the last thing he said to her was 'I love you,' he can't say that. He has no right to say that. Not now.
"One of the girls you cheated on Laurel with?" Tommy frowns.
Oliver wrestles with a chuckle. "No. Not anyone like that." She's so much more than that.
"Then who?" Tommy twists to face him.
"Although, I should talk to Laurel," with that brush off, he exits the car, pushing his mind off Felicity. He can't just go up to her at QC without a tech problem that needs solving. Damn, he needs to get his focus back on the matters at hand. She's safe and happy right now. He can bring her in when the time's right.
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea, Oliver. And can we get back to the girl in-question? There's no way you've met a girl yet. You haven't even been back twenty-four hours." Tommy follows him into the building. "Seriously, have I met her before?"
Oliver shakes his head, a smirk on his lips. He slips through the halls with familiar ease he probably shouldn't have, but he wants to get Tommy off the subject of the girl he's preoccupied with. He reaches Laurel's desk just in time to hear: "You don't need to go outside the law-"
"To find justice: Your dad's favorite jingle," Laurel's friend finishes, her eyes landing curiously on the two billionaires now standing beside Laurel's desk.
Oliver suppresses a wince as Laurel turns to face him. He has a feeling this isn't going to go any better than it did last time. "Hello, Laurel."
"Oliver." Her voice cracks, the pain evident in her eyes and the tension that immediately stiffens her body.
"I know I don't have any right to ask this, but can we talk?" She should say 'No!' and yell at him to get out of her office, but he knows she won't. Part of her is still in love with him because they were safe and familiar. It's why she kept taking his sorry ass back and why he kept crawling back to her in the first place. Their relationship wasn't really healthy for either of them.
Her eyes dart to Tommy before coming back to Oliver. He knows what that means this time and he has no intention of getting in between them.
"I just want to tell you...I'm sorry," he says before she can really answer. "I was never good for you and I'm sorry that I invited Sara on the Gambit. I understand if you don't want to talk to me ever again, but I had to tell you that." He can't tell her Sara's really alive because right now she's part of the League of Assassins. He also can't bring himself to say that she's dead when he knows for a fact that she isn't. That's all he really needs to tell her. So he nods to her dumbstruck face. "I'll meet you in the car, Tommy."
He hopes that buys him enough time for the kidnappers to take him alone, leaving Tommy safe with Laurel. He's committed to not killing them this time. He's NOT going to kill them this time. He made that decision, a decision it's a whole lot easier to stick to if Tommy's out of the equation. He can handle whatever they throw at him if he's by himself. He can wait for the police rescue and not worry about the torture because he did make a promise – no killing – and he intends to keep it.
He went over this time and time again while driving around last night, searching for some way to escape the taser-torture and kidnapping. The only conclusion he could come to was making sure Tommy wasn't there. He can't fight them and leave them alive, they would know his secret and he can't have that. But he knows he can take their torture when he doesn't have to worry about Tommy.
The van's brakes squeal as it stops in the alley behind him. He forces himself to spin dramatically slowly, turning back at the commotion down the alley only to feel the prick of the tranq-dart. He puts up enough of a fight trying to get away that it doesn't look suspicious until the tranquilizer kicks in and he collapses to the pavement with a final swoop of triumph in keeping Tommy out of this mess.
Right before darkness closes in and he blacks out, he watches as the manager of the ice cream parlor they're parked behind opens the door to take out his trash only to be shot several times in the chest. He feels it like he's the one they were shooting. Shit. He should have known he'd forget something.
He has enough time to let the guilt wash over him before he succumbs to sleep.
He starts awake as the black bag is ripped off his head. Only now can he appreciate the lengths the kidnappers went to in order to avoid harming him, especially since they didn't show the same courtesy to the man in the alley. He's been woken up by far worse in situations like this. His surroundings slowly come into focus, the three masked figures all in black. Despite the demonic faces on the rubber Halloween masks, the figures seem hesitant, lurking nervously around the edges of the room. Knowing now why the men were hired, he finds himself more able to assess their attitude.
"Mr. Queen. Mr. Queen!" The voice is menacing, but the taser the kidnapper buzzes in his face is laughable compared to what he faced on a daily basis on the island. "Did your father survive that accident? I ask the questions, you give me the answers and nobody gets hurt."
Oliver stays silent, still shaking off the stupor of the tranquilizer. The goons exchange worried looks before the questioner turns and presses the taser to his shoulder, eliciting a shout. Did it deserve that? Probably not, but he doesn't want them to think he's too strong. He doesn't want them connecting him to the Arrow, when he finally goes out and meets with Adam Hunt.
"Did he make it to the island? Did he tell you anything?"
"What? What are you talking about? Who are you?" Oliver asks, letting a note of desperation and terror that he doesn't feel slip into his voice. He doesn't like the electric shock. Hates it, really, ever since the incident with Slade. Besides he's faced much more effective methods of torture without breaking. This guy doesn't stand a chance, especially since it appears he's been ordered to go easy on Oliver.
"ANSWER THE QUESTION!" The men around the room shift at the roar.
Oliver makes sure he flinches backwards and then wonders if he's overacting. "I-I...my father is dead! He died on that boat!" Well, that's the truth at any rate. He never specified which boat, and his father never made it to the island. "What do you want from me?"
The only thing that would make his story better would be tears, Oliver thinks, barely holding back a grin. This is almost fun. He should have played dumb the first time. Although this is probably only fun because he knows he's not really in any danger. That much is clear from the kidnappers' relaxed stances and unwillingness to use their weapons to cause him permanent physical harm.
"So your father went down with the ship? He didn't tell you anything?"
"He...he lectured me on my life choices. Wh-what does this have to do with anything?" adding a little twist of fear in his tone made a nice touch. Maybe he should be an actor. "Who are you? Why would you-"
His interrogator makes a hand movement a moment before he feels a second prick to the back of his neck, feeling the serum seep into his bloodstream. Once more he fights the instinct to keep fighting, to burst from the chair and attack. Before his world fades to black he watches the men relax, their last words staying with him.
"At least we didn't have to kill him."