dedication: to MaCall.
notes: whY DO I ALWAYS PICK SHIPS THAT WILL INEVITABLY HURT ME
notes2: the lady friendship kinda came out of nowhere but im going with it
title: like an arrow shot through the dark
summary: "It's like I'm dating Barry in Oliver's body." — Felicity/Barry, Caitlin.
They stare at each other for a second, horrified.
Oh my god, Felicity thinks. Oh, oh my god. Did I actually just say that?!
Of all the things she could have said, she was not expecting that to come out of her mouth. It's so—it's so stupid, because she and Barry, they've talked about this, and it's not like there's not chemistry and not like there's no reason for it but jesus, Smoak, get your shit together!
"You can't tell anyone I said that," she says, instead, eyes wide in her face. Caitlin shoots her this tiny little smile like yeah, I so get it, and Felicity wants to take it back, obviously she wants to take it back but she—can't. Words don't work like that, even though she wishes they did.
"Who would I tell?" asks Caitlin, still smiling like she knows all the world's secrets and they're heavy.
"Caitlin, please," Felicity says.
"You know I wouldn't," Caitlin sighs. Her curls tremble, and so does she; she shakes her head like she's trying to shake out of her skin, and it's not working, and so instead she just shrugs.
"I know, I just—"
Of course, right about then, Central City decides to implode, so.
Starling City at night is nothing but a sea of shimmering lights, and Felicity stands at the window of her apartment with her arms wrapped around her middle, feeling lost.
"There's no accounting for taste," she says aloud, hugs herself a little tighter. Ray's asleep in her bed, and, god, she should be curled up in there with him. She should be pressed into his chest, all her ragged edges tucked away, breathing the same air.
And instead she's out here, staring out at her city with unseeing eyes.
It's like I'm dating Barry in Oliver's body.
Stupid thing is still stuck in her craw—she hadn't even realized it until she'd said it—but she was right, it is like she's dating Barry in Oliver's body. And that's, god, that's so screwed up. There are probably clinics for situations like this? There are definitely clinics for situations like this, and on the off-chance that there aren't, she is definitely going to start one. She'll call it What to Do When You've Realized You have Made a Huge Mistake and are Dating the Wrong Dude. She'll even hire real therapists, yo, it is going to be a Thing, capital T. Mic drop, ka-POW!
That's dumb, though, so maybe not.
Instead, she takes a few deep breaths in through her nose, pushes her glasses up her nose, fiddles with her industrial piercing because the stupid thing is getting infected again. How is this her life now? Better yet, why is this her life now?
She doesn't have answers, though, so maybe having the question isn't as helpful as she'd have hoped.
Because the thing is—the thing is—
The thing is that Barry is cute, has always been cute, probably will always be cute. The thing is that Barry is so in love with Iris that he can't even comprehend caring about anyone else the same way. The thing is that oh god, she does have a thing for him? And no, the words aren't mixed up, that's not does she, it's she does, which is totally a different story. The thing is question mark, question mark, question mark? The thing is how did this happen? The thing is where was I? The thing is oh my god, Smoak.
(Is she spending too much time on the internet? Is that even a thing you can do?)
Barry is a Thing.
Probably she should have expected this. Maybe everything was building up to it, all of it: Oliver taking over for Ra's, Sara dead, Nyssa wild, Thea training, even just dating Ray. Maybe all of it was building up to this tightening inside of her, this antifreeze-blue feeling that was leaking through her veins and making her crazy. It wasn't poison, and it wasn't the end of the world, but—well.
In the morning, Felicity is going to have to have a talk with Ray. A Talk, capital T, Talk like We Need to Talk, Talk. That kind of Talk. Talk is such a weird word, talk, caulk, walk—
She keeps her arms around her middle. Her elbows are all sharp and her guts have gone slick like warm oil and her spine turns to diamond. And she's just pieces of a person, for a second, just a shattered thing that can't quite get it together. Okay, Smoak, she tells herself, calm the fuck down, you're fixating.
Which, yeah, she totally is.
She sort of… unravels, then. It's not a slow process, forcing herself to relax. This break had been coming a long time, and she's got shit to suss out. Her ankles fold first, then her ugly knobbly knees, and then the rest of her goes, too. The floor is a welcoming embrace, thick carpeting beneath her.
For a while, Felicity just sits on the floor, and she breathes.
(It's easy to forget to breathe, these days. Okay, okay, okay.)
Time gets weird and warpy, and she watches the clock tick from one to two to three to four AM, and doesn't close her eyes. The night flies overhead, stars shifting into grey pre-dawn until the sun is peeking over the horizon crimson red with first light, burning away the morning mist. The weather in Starling City is awful, but its sunrises are like nothing else.
The clouds stripe the sky pink and gold, and Felicity hasn't moved and hasn't slept, and that's okay because she feels a little better.
Sometimes you just need to give yourself the time to get clean.
And so she stands, shakes off the buzzing in her limbs, and goes to make some coffee. It's going to be an ugly conversation, and she's going to need fortification, for that. She's barefoot and in yesterday's clothes, rumpled, utterly unlovely.
"Good morning," Ray says from the doorway, very quietly. "You okay?"
Felicity pulls air into her lungs.
It hurts, because Ray's only mistake was falling in love with a girl who couldn't get her feelings together enough to love him back. It's wrong, and she's been in love with Oliver for so long that she didn't even realize Barry was creeping up on her like a weed. It's not fair, she knows, because Ray deserves the best and she's… not, right now. Not her best. Not deserving. Not okay.
"Yeah," she says, exhales heavily, pushes her hair behind her ears. "Yeah, I just couldn't sleep."
Ray opens his arms, and Felicity sinks into him like water into sand.
Wait, this is not supposed to be happening.
She pulls back and looks up at the cut of his jaw. And god, he's such a Disney Prince, all perfect dark hair and dorky smile and flannel sleep pants. Felicity doesn't even want to look him in the eye, but she's a big girl who has no time for cowardice.
"Hey," she says. Her voice doesn't break. "Can we talk?"
"Felicity? What are you doing here?"
This should be ironic. It's not.
"I need to talk to Barry," Felicity says, hands shoved somewhere deep into the pockets of her coat. It's almost summer, but there was a sweet chilled wetness in the air that hung around her head as she'd walked from the train to STAR Labs. Petrichor, that's the word, the smell of rain on dry grass, derived from Greek—petra, meaning stone, and ichor, meaning the blood of the gods of old.
(Weak fucking tangent, Smoak. Get it together.)
Caitlin raises a single perfect eyebrow, and tips her head. "I didn't expect you back so soon. Did something happen with Oliver?"
"No, it's about, um, what I said that I, y'know, didn't actually say, we said we'd never talk about it again, you know what, I'm just going to shut up now. Barry?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Caitlin says airily. "He's at the precinct, I think, but he should be back soon. We can go get coffee, if you want, because I know there's no good coffee in Starling City, it should be a crime."
Felicity could hug her. "Yeah, that would be great!"
"Let me grab my stuff. I'll be right back," Caitlin grins, and she whirls, a flash of red hair and nice clothing dashing out of the room before Felicity can say another word.
A flash, ha, that's funny.
She stands in the building's foyer, trying not to fidget. It's a bit like waiting for a friend while their parents stand and stare at you, not that Felicity's had much experience with that. She didn't have friends until after university, because it took just about that long to grow into herself. At least the windows here are big; there's no lack of light, and she appreciates that, even if it's the watery kind of sunlight that happens before and after a storm.
A minute later, Caitlin comes back clutching a jacket and a white leather purse that Felicity has to struggle not to salivate over.
"Ready to go?" she asks.
"Yup, just one more thing—"
"Just the alarm, Dr. Wells gets weird about it if we don't turn it on when no one's around. Anyway, are we gonna go?"
"Mhmm," Felicity hums, grinning as Caitlin tucks her hand into the crook of her arm.
The sun's out, at last, bright patches of clear blue sky peeping out from between the holes in-between the clouds. Wet asphalt, the click of her heels, the wind getting caught in her scarf—Caitlin laughs in her ear, the bell-sound of it carried away on the breeze.
Petrichor. God, it's a beautiful day.
(Beautiful but hard. Felicity thinks of sunlight through glass, thinks of her own diamond spine, thinks of a skein of light pulling her forwards towards Central City. Pulling her towards Barry. … She has is so bad.)
Jitters is empty, because it's eleven in the morning on a Monday, so of course Jitters is empty. It's probably a good thing, given the conversation that's going to come. Felicity's felt its weight the entire walk, knew it intimately even before Caitlin had said hello.
This is the price of friendship.
"So, you ready to talk about it?" Caitlin asks, after they've settled down in the squishy burgundy leather chairs in the back corner that are almost never empty. They got lucky; it's pretty private.
"Do I have to," Felicity says. She sounds like a five year old.
"You sound like a five year old," Caitlin says.
"I hate it when you do that," Felicity says, "that mind-reading thing is freaky."
Caitlin's smile is shark-like and also terrifying, lips curved up over the sharp whiteness of her teeth. "Have you met Cisco? I have to be able to read his mind to figure out what he's talking about half the time."
"Oh my god, when Cisco and Ray ended up—"
"With the naming thing? I almost lost it!"
It's kind of funny, and they end up giggling into their lattes like the pair of total geeks they are, and it's easy, for a few minutes, to swap stories rather than to talk about what brought them out here in the first place.
"How come you guys get all the good bad guys? It's like no one ever dies in this city! IS that normal?" and Felicity knows she's complaining but seriously, the amount of people Oliver's killed is actually getting ridiculous. She tries not to think of the stain on her own soul for helping. Harry Potter taught some pretty fucked up lessons, and Felicity was an impressionable kid.
"You haven't seen our basement," Caitlin says grimly. "We'd probably get arrested."
"There's a terrible thought," Felicity sighs, and slurps down some whipped cream. "I don't think Barry would survive more people he loves in jail."
"Wow, you are so ready to talk about this. Alright, go for it."
Caitlin just stares at her, eyebrows flat, mouth turned down. That is an expression Felicity knows well, but only because she's seen it on her own face in the dark reflection of a monitor screen every single time Oliver tried to avoid doing something she wanted him to do. Exasperation, but not the fond kind.
Felicity blows her cheeks out. "What do you want me to say?"
"Just the truth."
"Oh, like it's easy? I didn't even realize—until yesterday, I didn't even know—I am so dumb, Cait," she says miserably. "I am so, so stupid, I let it get so far without even knowing it was happening, and I hurt Ray in the process and it's shitty, okay, it is so shitty and it sucks and I hate feelings and like—why me? Why this?"
Caitlin takes a long sip of her drink, whorls of steam rising steadily in elegant intangible spirals. "That didn't seem very hard."
"You're the worst, you know that," Felicity says. "The absolute worst."
"Mhmm, I know I feel no shame, I've been told," Caitlin smiles over the rim of her mug. "Like dating Barry in Oliver's body, huh?"
The groan that escapes from Felicity's throat is nothing short of horrific. "Could we just pretend that I never said that? Please?"
"When other people are around, sure. What are you gonna do?" Caitlin asks, very gently
"I don't know," says Felicity, and her voice is very small. And then: "I broke up with Ray."
"That's good," Caitlin says, but it's not, not really, it's actually pretty awful, and the look on his face lingers in Felicity's mind, the broken blankness behind his eyes. "Baby steps, right?"
"Yeah, I guess," she says, softly. "I just thought—how did I miss it?"
"You'll get through it. Being smart is hard, I know, plus, Barry is kind of a loser no matter how you look at it," Caitlin reaches over to pat Felicity's arm. It's weirdly comforting.
"He really is a loser, isn't he?"
"You don't even know, Felicity. You don't even know."
"Hey," she says.
It feels like a piano playing in a sunlit room.
"Hey, Felicity, I didn't know you were back in town!" Barry sounds out of breath, which is just ridiculous because he runs marathons like other people blink. He's never out of breath.
"Yeah, I, uh, I just forgot some stuff. What are you—doing?"
"This, uh, it's nothing," he says, shunts
"Okay, you're a terrible liar, I don't know how Iris hasn't found out yet."
He winces. "Low blow, Fee."
"Maybe," Felicity shrugs, because she's not above low blows. It's the only way she survived MIT's tech department's caffeine-fueled coding benders—she's not ashamed of what she is. "Are you gonna show me, or what?"
"I—yeah," he says. "Here."
It's a board, covered over in articles and internet speculation and—is that string? Red string? Connecting things to each other? Who does he think he is, Batman? It's well-laid out, though. Smart.
"You are such a diva," she tells him, because he is.
He doesn't answer that, just runs a hand through his hair and grins dopily at her. It's so cute she almost can't stand it, and to distract herself, she pulls the second layer down. Her eyebrows rise.
Well, that's something, isn't it.
"Dr. Wells," she says, at last. "Huh. Never woulda guessed."
"We're not sure," he rushes to say. "But something's up, Felicity, something is way up."
"I'm not saying you're wrong," she says, slowly, because she remembers her profs at MIT talking about Harrison Wells, about the tragedy of his wife's death, about the loss of potential—all that scientific knowledge, down the drain. She remembers the grief in their eyes when they said two people died that night. Harrison is as dead as Tess is. "How does it make sense, though?"
"I don't know," Barry says, and he's restless, he's always so restless, like if he stops moving he'll wither into obscurity. "It's just—I don't know. Something's there, though, Felicity, Joe knows it and I know it and that's all that matters."
"Okay, that's a little high-handed," she says, tries to mimic Caitlin's perfect eyebrow raise and fails, probably.
"I'm trying to—you don't get it, it's not—"
"Hey," she says, catches his clenching fists in her hands and holds him steady, anchors him down. "Hey, Barry, calm down. I believe you."
"You do?" he asks, and there's something wretched inside of him, something seething and keening and shrieking to get out. Something wild. This, she thinks, is how he must have looked the night his father took the fall for his mother's murder. This expression, haunted and hollow and hungry for all the wrong reasons, plastered on a tiny Barry's face and oh. Oh.
"Yeah," Felicity says, very softly. Something hot and furious expands in her chest, because now the thought won't leave her alone—a terrified little boy, screaming at the sky. "I do."
"Okay," he says, and crumples into her arms.
"Oh," she says, the sound surprised out of her, and she catches him because, well, because she does. She was always catching Oliver, but this is different—her heart doesn't get all constricted because it's already there, and Barry's warmer than any person has a right to be. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah," he says. "Sorry, uh, I just—"
"No, it's fine, c'mere," Felicity says as she fits her hand around the back of his neck and tucks his face into her throat.
He makes a sound like a wounded animal, and presses closer.
For the second time in as many days, Felicity sinks to the ground. This time, though, she's hugging someone else, and she's feeling a little less unstable, a little more like the world isn't just going to end on her for the sake of ending.
"I've got you," she says. "It's okay, Barry, it's okay, I've got you. Nothing is going to happen, I promise, I promise, shhhh…"
They tremble together.
And later, after Barry's shook himself apart and let Felicity put his quiet shattered pieces back together, they sit on the floor, and they hold hands. The city outside hums with life, road-menders and air-conditioners and the clear reflection of the sky in water all part of the breathing.
"Sorry," he says, hoarsely.
"Don't be," she replies.
Barry tucks his arm around her, and presses his mouth to her hair. They're all tangled up in each other, and yeah, she should have seen this coming. It was the only inevitability, after all.
Like dating Barry in Oliver's body.
Who had she been kidding?