A/N: I don't know what to say...I have been gone for a long time and it was because I lost someone and I just couldn't write anything anymore.
I got a comment a few days ago that asked if I would continue and now we're all stuck inside with walls and time and instead of thinking I thought I'd try this again. So thanks for your unexpected comment and yeah...
It's a long one and I hope you like it.
Felicity dropped the phone.
So many things occurred to her all at once: her fear and supposed ridiculous suspicion had been right all along; Oliver had just threatened to shoot his own mother with an arrow; Oliver had almost shot her with an arrow (now the hooded man's strange concern for the accidental release of the arrow made sense); Oliver was bleeding out in the back of her car.
She instantly released the breath she'd been holding and took a deep gasp of air in to replace it. There were so many things that she wanted to do just then. She wanted to scream and run away and yell at him and—but he was bleeding.
"How bad is it?" She asked in some strange, detached voice she didn't recognize as her own. She started the car.
"I didn't think it was that bad." He paused, breathing heavily as she began to back out of the space, "But there's a lot of blood."
A lot of blood. She needed to get him medical attention quickly, but she couldn't exactly take him into a hospital and waltz him in there in a green hood. She backed out of the space and drove out of the parking lot at a painfully regular speed—somehow she'd managed to remember that it would look suspicious to whomever looked through the security cameras (which they most certainly would after the night's events).
As if reading her thoughts, he spoke again, "Take me to my father's old factory in The Glades."
"Yes Oliver, I'm putting the pieces together. That's where you've probably got your hideout or whatever, but unless there's a doctor in residence at your dad's deserted factory I don't think—"
"Felicity. Just do it. John will know what to do."
John? John knew—of course he did. Still, it didn't solve the problem. "John's not a doctor."
"Felicity please, just—" He groaned in pain. She could distinctly hear his breathing getting more shallow and she was suddenly very glad for Moira's insistence of the fact that, if she was going to get a BMW, she might as well get one with a V8 engine. She stepped on the gas.
She didn't really have anything to say. She just wanted to keep him talking—keep him conscious. "I—you're not going to die on me before we've had a proper argument about this."
He let out a very short and very forced chuckle.
It was hard to keep the other thoughts at bay—the ones about people dying because of this hooded man; a man she apparently knew; a man she was still married to. Felicity pushed those thoughts away. Those would have to wait.
He didn't respond. She couldn't hear his breathing anymore either. It had gone from shallow to deathly quiet. It was 2:37 am. At this point, there weren't many people out on the street, so Felicity didn't think too much about it as she pushed the gas pedal flat and ran the last three stoplights that were left.
"Oliver?" She tried again.
She pulled into the empty parking lot of the factory and turned off the car in one swift motion. Then she was out, wrenching open the door on the other side of the car and bending down to grab Oliver under his shoulders. It was the only way she'd be able to drag him inside. She pulled, but put him down quickly. He was really heavy. Sighing, she closed the door and ran into the deserted building. It was pitch black and she almost began to cry because if John wasn't there then she doubted Oliver would survive the car ride out of The Glades and all the way to the hospital. Still, Oliver had been sure, so that meant that John had to be here somewhere.
Felicity stumbled around in the darkness, biting her lip in frustration at the time she was wasting. She tasted blood, but stumbled on, tripping over a stray piece of wood and tearing her dress from the hem to just below her hip at the side. There had to be a basement. With that thought in mind, she pushed herself up and ran to the far end of the building, searching the walls frantically for a door. Brick turned to cold metal and, hands trembling, she pulled as hard as she could. She didn't even register the fact that she went down a flight of steps, or the fact that John had been watching the news at the computer. He was pointing a gun at her before she could do any of those things.
"He's really heavy," was all that she managed to say and she didn't even wait for John to put down the gun before she turned away and ran back up the stairs.
The next crucial half hour happened in a blur. There were latex gloves, cotton pads, disinfectants, tweezers, and stitches involved. There was also a heart monitor—not unlike the one she had found pushed into a corner of his room the first day that Oliver had returned—and a great deal of silence. Once the last stitch was through, Felicity peeled the gloves off and moved towards the computer chair.
"Thank you," she said.
John turned towards her, nodding solemnly in reply. He took off his own gloves and, eyeing the heart monitor wearily, he sat on one of the metal tables. "You don't seem very surprised by all of this," he said finally.
In her defense, she hadn't actually had time to look around. The basement was filled with a couple of the metal tables, one of which Oliver was lying on now, the computer desk with three monitors, a computer chair, various arrow-heads and arrows, and that was about it.
"I'm not. I mean—I am, but I guess I knew. I wish that this wasn't happening right now, but I suppose I knew…"
John smiled, "Yeah, he's not very good with cover stories."
"I'm guessing that's how you found out? You caught him in some sort of lie?"
"No," John said, turning serious again, "he saved my life. He brought me here and well…It took some time, but I'm in this now—helping as much as he'll allow."
Felicity nodded. There were so many questions bubbling up in her throat, and she was sure that John knew the answers to some of them, but she didn't want answers from John. She wanted answers from Oliver.
"Why did he go after his mom?" She asked, in an attempt to quell the need to ask the other questions.
John sighed. She could tell from his expression that he didn't want to answer questions that weren't his to answer. He was quiet so long that Felicity almost forgot she'd asked a question. "Walter isn't coming back from that business trip. He's missing. Oliver wanted to know if Moira knew anything about it."
"What? What do you mean he's missing? Since when? And why would Moira know anything about that?"
John shrugged. "He's been kidnapped. I don't know when it happened. Maybe a day or so—but there's something that he was looking into. You were helping him. The symbol. It means something big and if you found it while digging around for Walter, it means that Moira is involved somehow. I'm not sure. Oliver hasn't explained the whole thing yet."
Felicity sighed, sure that her brain would begin to hurt from all the information being thrown at her all of a sudden. They were quiet again and then John got up.
"I'll just check the perimeter—make sure no one's followed you. Maybe I should park your car closer to the back," he gestured at an exit near the far end of the room. Felicity gave him her car keys without a word and then he was gone.
Felicity stared at the door before turning her gaze back to Oliver. He lay shirtless on the cold, metal table. It was the first time she'd seen all the scars, but she hadn't had time to take it all in. She moved closer now. There was an odd sense of déjà vu—to the day when she'd seen him again for the first time in five years. It wasn't that long ago. He'd been sleeping and she'd watched for a while. She wished that he was sleeping—just sleeping—again. Well, at the very least, he was breathing.
The scars were all of various shapes and sizes—some were so faded that they were barely visible, others looked as if they might still hurt (they didn't, of course, but it looked that way). There were even a couple of tattoos that hadn't been there before the island. It looked as if he'd lived a whole other life in those five years instead of being a simple castaway on a deserted island. It didn't look like a fun life. It looked dark, and painful, and—Felicity backed away from him when a tear landed on his abdomen.
She hated herself for every argument she'd ever started with him—every stupid problem she'd ever aggravated. And she hated herself for the sake of hating herself because he was a murderer now, but she could feel herself locking herself in—how would she leave now? Divorce, yes. But distance herself now, when there was something so clearly broken in him? Felicity neared the table again, gently placing her hand over his forehead. When she was sure he didn't show signs of fever, she trailed her hand down to trace his jaw.
"You just—you always find a way to keep me around. I hate you." Felicity sighed, still tracing the lines of his face. "That's not true. That's not—I chose to stay around. I wonder why that is…" She bent down to place a kiss on his forehead but decided that she didn't have the right to. "Doesn't matter."
When John came back moments later, she was back in the computer chair. He handed her back the car keys with an apologetic smile—like he was the one who put Oliver up to the whole thing or something. Felicity tried her best reassuring smile, not sure what it looked like.
"What happened in there?" John asked.
Felicity sighed. "He threatened Moira. And I walked in—he yelled at me to leave, but I didn't know what would happen to Moira if I left, so I stayed and he turned on me. Moira shot him and he released an arrow."
"I'm fine. It missed. Two more shots were fired and he hit the ground. And then it was over. I moved to comfort Moira and when I looked back, he was gone. He called just as the police and everyone arrived—told me to go to my car. I thought he'd been kidnapped by, well, himself."
John nodded. "He wouldn't have hurt Moira, but you didn't know that."
"My question is, you're okay with him hurting other people? Because people are dead John."
John sighed, looking back at Oliver. "All I can say is that doing this with Oliver—it makes me feel like a good person. I've done a lot of things in my life that I'm not proud of. This is something I am proud of. He's taking out bad people. That said, I understand where you're coming from…I wasn't instantly on board either. It took some time."
Felicity didn't nod or anything because she didn't completely understand it and she didn't want to pretend that she did.
And then Oliver went into cardiac arrest. She and John rushed to his side. Her heart was somewhere in her throat as John began chest compressions. All she could hear was her heartbeat in her ears—a sign of her fear, but it felt more like a taunt because she had a heartbeat when Oliver was possibly losing his.
"Felicity!" John tried again. He was shaking her, hands firmly clasped on her shoulders. Felicity blinked, frantically looking around John to see what was happening with Oliver. "I've stabilized him. He's good. Are you going to be okay?" John asked.
"I will be—when he wakes up."
John looked back at Oliver, releasing her. "Yeah. He should wake up soon."
"I'm not dead. Cool," was the first thing Oliver used his faint voice to say.
Felicity had been updating the computers. It was something to do—it kept her mind from coming up with questions that only Oliver could answer. She turned quickly at the sound.
John was already standing over him, blocking her view. "You're lucky to be alive," he said.
Felicity made her way around John to see Oliver. His lips were pale, his blue eyes still looked dull. He turned his head slowly to look at her. "You're still here?"
The question lit a match. What the hell did he think she was going to do, leave? And that was the first thing that he thought to say after what he'd put her through? But she extinguished the flame before it got any bigger and simply backed away, returning to the computers. Oliver was still too weak. She wouldn't get any answers tonight. Her phone rang for the millionth time. Moira. She picked up.
"Felicity, thank God. Where are you? You left—you didn't let the officers check you. Are you all right? The physician saw me, but I think you should get checked too bec—"
"Moira, I'm fine. I just—Oliver called and I had to go. He…" Felicity looked back at his wound. It was going to take some time to heal and he would probably be wincing often. "I thought he was attacked too. He wasn't but he got drunk, fell, and dislocated his shoulder. He's going to be sore for a while. We're at my apartment. I'll take care of him."
"Is he okay? Felicity I think you should both come to the house. I can send a car—"
"Moira, he's fine. You know him. It was just a drunken mishap. How many of those has he had over the years?"
"But you were just attacked by the hood," Moira retorted.
"Moira, you were just attacked by the hood. I just walked in. Oliver and I are fine. We'll come to the house tomorrow. I haven't told Oliver about the attack yet. It won't do him any good tonight anyway. Are you all right?"
"Moira. Get some sleep. I'll be over with Oliver tomorrow."
"Okay, but if anything—anything at all you call me and come to the house."
"Thank you Moira. Get some rest." Felicity hung up.
It was an hour after he had woken up. His head still pounded and a nagging pain lingered where the stitches had been sown, but he was otherwise fine. Felicity was still sitting at the computer screens. She wasn't typing anymore—hadn't been for about half an hour now—but she was still sitting there. John gestured towards the stairs and Oliver followed.
"We'll talk about this tomorrow, Oliver, for now, just rest. And do whatever you can to ease her into the realization. Just—think about it though. You've involved her now and this is dangerous…" With that, John ascended the stairs.
The door shut with a loud, metal, clang. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Felicity jump. And suddenly what he'd done dawned on him. That jump—the one that amused him so over the years—would become a constant reminder of what involving her meant. Would she live the rest of her life looking over her shoulder? "It's just John. He left…"
"Oh…" Felicity breathed. "How are you feeling?"
Oliver sighed. This was nothing. He had almost died, yes, but it was still nothing compared to what he had been through. Of course, Felicity couldn't understand that. "I'm fine." He walked over to her, trying not to flinch as the simple movement tugged at his shoulder. "Felicity—"
"We should go. Let's go—if you feel well enough—please." Her blue eyes were full of exhaustion and some desperate fear. It was the quiet kind of fear—not the one that took you over and shook you physically, but rather the kind of fear that lay dormant and shook you from within.
He suddenly felt that fear in himself. He hadn't been afraid when he'd heard the shots in his mother's office, or when he fell. He'd been afraid when the arrow had slipped and headed towards her and now he was terrified at the thought that she might be afraid of him. "Felicity, I was never going to hurt you. The arrow—"
"Slipped. I know. I saw. I just want to leave this place Oliver. Let's go."
"I can stay here. You, go home. Thank you…" He said softly, hoping it would calm her. He wanted her to leave then, because he couldn't take the way that she looked at him.
"Why would you stay here?"
"It's a lot for you to process Felicity. It might be easier if you were away from me."
Felicity stood up from the chair, walked around him and headed to one of the metal tables where some of his spare clothes were laid out. She grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie and came back to hand them to him. "Get dressed and then we're leaving. Both of us."
Felicity looked unwavering—in that way she had of silently challenging him to start an argument with her. He did as he was told, taking the clothes and heading upstairs. It wasn't a good idea. It couldn't be a good idea to go with her now. He sighed in frustration. It was going to go like this: they would drive to her apartment in silence; they would sit in her apartment in silence; and then the questions would start. He would have to answer them—most, at least—to avoid arguments and to avoid that fear from coming back into her eyes. And then what? The pounding in his head grew.
The leather pants were replaced by the sweatpants easily enough, but the hoodie—even though it was a zip-up—was another story. It hurt to stretch his arm back and then he tried putting the injured arm through the sleeve first, but it still hurt to twist and reach the other arm back. He sucked it up with no more than a slight groan of discomfort. Still, he remained in the bathroom a little while longer. What was he supposed to do? Go with her and face the inevitable scenario? He just wished this whole thing could be undone. But it couldn't, so he went back downstairs.
Felicity was inspecting his arrows when he came back in. She looked very serious as she surveyed them—so serious that it was almost funny. "Can we just—go home and sleep and not talk about it until we wake up?"
That was what he'd wanted. And yet, when she said it, it also sounded like a bad idea. There was no guarantee that either of them would be able to actually sleep. How could they with what had just happened? And he would be thinking about what she was thinking and she would be thinking about him jumping off of roofs and putting arrows into people. Not talking about it until they "woke up" would be far too much time to let the fear fester and grow.
"Felicity," he moved to stand behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder in the hopes that she would understand that he meant well, "we need to talk about it. We have to because I have no idea what's going through your head."
Felicity let out a chuckle, but she remained facing the arrows. "You have no idea what's going through my head? Welcome to the club, Oliver because I have no idea what you're thinking lately." She didn't sound angry, or defensive, she just sounded tired.
"Ask. I'll tell you. I can now—you know what I've been hiding on account of this," he gestured at his wound.
Felicity turned towards him. She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "I wish I knew how to feel. I didn't know before—not really—and now, I'm even less sure."
"Knew how to feel about what?"
She didn't answer. Instead, she just took his hand in hers and walked towards the computer table. She took her keys and sweater in one hand and headed towards the back entrance, still holding his hand. Just as he'd thought, she was silent as she opened the passenger door for him, silent as she stepped into the driver's seat, and silent as they began the drive. Based on what she'd asked of him earlier, a discussion at a later time, he didn't think that the questions would come this morning. He could push a conversation out of her—he knew how—but that wouldn't do either of them any real good. Whatever fear was stirring in her mind now would have to be left alone to fester until she was ready to talk. He would resign himself to that.
"I'm not supporting this. I don't support this, but I'm going to ask you a favor anyway."
"Please, Oliver, don't die. If that's what this is, some kind of suicide mission, end it. If that's not what this is, then just stop and ask yourself if you really have to do this for some other reason than to process what happened to you—there are other ways to do that. And even then, if you come to the conclusion that you have to do it and it isn't a suicide mission, then just—don't make a habit of getting shot."
It occurred to him then that she may not have been afraid of him, but rather for him. But that couldn't have been it. Still, he was too tired to wonder. "Sounds, like I scared you," he said.
"You did." Felicity was quiet, staring intently at the empty road ahead. "I like you now, remember?" She added after some time.
Oliver chuckled half-heartedly. They were quiet the rest of the ride. When they arrived, Felicity waited for him on her side of the car, then took his hand again and said nothing as she led him inside. Once they were in the elevator, Felicity let go.
"Oliver?" She kept her eyes on the number pad.
"Where does it end? This crusade of yours—or whatever it is."
It didn't. The list had an end, of course, but there would always be someone hurting the city somehow. Was it about the city then? Or was it about the original promise he'd made to his father? He hadn't quite figured it out yet. "I don't know. Does it matter? I think that there would be other questions you'd want answered."
They exited the elevator and entered the apartment. Felicity didn't turn on any of the lights before she spoke again. "Yes, it matters Oliver. You almost died—and that was your mom trying to defend herself." She turned on the lights. Then she headed to the kitchen and he watched her take two mugs and fill the kettle and turn on the stove.
"That was because I was trying not to hurt anyone. If I want to…" He let it hang, not sure that it was at all the right direction for the conversation. "No questions?"
She looked up. "I asked. You answered."
"That's all you want to know? No, 'why are you putting arrows in people,' 'how are you justifying this?'"
Felicity poured the hot water in the mugs, sighing deeply. "I want to ask. I would ask…but I don't know if I want to know. Worst of all, Oliver, I don't know if I can handle any more. It's confusing as it is with just us."
That made no sense. She seemed so sure of where they were and where they needed to head. She'd made the first steps in getting things in motion for the divorce. "What's so confusing? You seem so sure."
"I am—I think. I want to be friends, but I also want to be away from you...I don't know." She handed him a mug. "The plan was to get a divorce and be acquaintances. Then the plan was to get a divorce and be casual friends. Now, I know this and it complicates things."
"How? We'll get the divorce and be casual friends or acquaintances. Whatever it is you want. The plan hasn't changed."
Felicity said nothing in reply. What did he want from her? He wanted to be friends. She infuriated him and made him laugh and she was brilliant. She wasn't fooled by his little act and that in and of itself was something that made him want to keep her close as a friend. She knew him better than to believe the charade. Everyone else was all too happy to see that he hadn't changed.
"And why do you want to be away from me?" He already knew the answer.
"Because of how we were. And because, everyone keeps treating us like we're together. I am happy that you are alive—very happy—but I also want to move on now."
Oliver nodded, taking the mug that she handed him. They drank standing in the kitchen. He mostly wondered what she was thinking. At least the fear seemed to have gone out of her eyes. They finished and he followed her in silence as she moved around the house, taking an extra blanket out of the closet, putting a glass of water on the nightstand on the other side of the bed, turning off the alarm clock. He half wished she'd turn and yell at him for shadowing her every move. She didn't. She just let him follow.
"You sleep here," she said eventually.
"I'll sleep on the couch."
"Felicity, you don't have to. I can take the couch or we can keep to ourselves like we did when I came back."
She shook her head, a ghost of a smile appearing on her lips. "I'd sleep beside you, but I don't want to hurt you. I can't control what I do in my sleep. Besides, you need the best rest you can get. You got shot. I'll be on the couch. Don't argue with me."
He wasn't going to. But he noticed the way she headed to the couch as if she was just going to sleep the way that she was, dressed in the day's clothes—clothes that were stained with his blood from carrying him and helping John mend him. Oliver followed her to the couch, just to see if she would notice, but she simply sat down and made to spread out the blanket over herself. She was allowed. She'd had a rough day after all, but the image of her sleeping like that—with blood covering her clothes—was not one that sat well with him.
From where he stood behind the couch, he bent down and took hold of her wrist. "Felicity. You have blood on your clothes…"
She looked down. For a very long time she said nothing and then she got up and headed to the bathroom without a word. Oliver followed only to the room and then sat himself down on the bed, waiting for her to come out. When she did emerge, it was much faster than he anticipated. She'd showered, and washed her hair in record time. She'd chosen a t-shirt that was slightly too big so that it came to her knees and made her look shorter than she was. It wasn't one of his shirts and even though there were a million other thoughts that were more important, he wondered if she'd simply bought a big shirt or if it belonged to someone else…
Felicity stood in the doorway for a long moment, looking him over intently. Oliver tried to hold still, hoping that she would voice her thoughts. He usually didn't have to ask. But she said nothing. Eventually, she made her way to the living room again, leaving the bedroom door open behind her. He decided not to follow her.
The sunlight shone brightly through the windows when she woke up again. Felicity lay staring at her living room ceiling for some time, listening to see if Oliver had woken up already. She heard nothing, so she got up and headed to the room. Oliver was laying on his back, as rigidly as he had been when she'd first gone to see him when he returned. Her room curtains were thick, blocking out the sunlight, so that she couldn't see very well. She got closer. Oliver's eyes were still closed. She reached out her hand to hover it over his face, being careful not to touch him.
Something red caught her eye. The corner of the bedsheet, right above his shoulder wound, was red. Felicity winced slightly—he'd probably torn the stitches in his sleep. She carefully peeled back the sheet, hoping the blood hadn't stuck to it already. The last thing she wanted for him was more stiches torn and more pain to be endured.
The sheet came back easily, blood still wet. Felicity fell backwards with a cry. The stiches were completely gone—like they hadn't been placed at all—and there was so much blood…She scrambled up, reaching for Oliver.
"Oliver!" He didn't stir. "Oliver!" Nothing. "Oliver!"
She woke up with a start. Sitting up, already blinking away tears. The living room was just as it had been in her dream, flooded with sunlight. Oliver emerged from the room. He looked half worried, half enraged, but the stitches were still in place. There was no blood.
Oliver looked around the room frantically and, when he perceived no threat, his eyes landed on her. "Felicity? Is everything all right?" He came around the couch and kneeled beside it.
She would've lied, but she could feel the hot tears running down her cheeks. He was fine. It had just been a dream, but the tears wouldn't stop. Now, they came just from her anger. For a steady year after the Queen's Gambit had gone missing, she'd dreamed of Oliver drowning; the water would rush into his lungs and she would feel the way that it burned him from the inside out, choking him. Apparently now, she would be suffering these dreams; Oliver bleeding out…
"Felicity. Please, what's wrong?"
She leaned her head against him, against his heart, making sure to keep away from his stitches. It beat steadily and she allowed herself a breath. "You wouldn't consider going back to being a boring guy who wears suits and shows up for meetings for a living, would you? I'll even add a 'pretty please,'" she whispered.
Oliver chuckled, placing a hand on the back of her head. "What's wrong?"
Felicity sighed, pulling away and getting up to head into the kitchen. She couldn't bear to look at him right then. "Nothing's the way it's supposed to be. You're back—that's good—but you're different. Not 'I spent five years on a deserted island different,' but some deeply haunted and tormented kind of different that I cannot even begin to fathom how to fix. That's fine…I suppose, we can't do anything about that, but you've become this person who needs to do these things and you somehow have the energy to pretend to be the person that you were.
"And I don't know what you're doing or why you're doing it exactly, but now I'll forever know that you're out somewhere dark doing something dangerous. You can't take that knowledge away. And that makes it impossible for me to move on. How the hell am I supposed to distance myself from you if I am waiting for you to text and tell me you've gone home for the night, or if I'm waiting to catch a glimpse of you at the office the next morning to know that you're safe? What do I say to my future boyfriend or husband every time I wake him up, screaming your name because you've drowned or bled out in my dreams? What do I say when he catches me smiling stupidly at one of your old texts or at the mere sight of you in the hallway? How do I explain that it has nothing to do with being in love with you and everything to do with seeing you breathe and move.
"Even then, he could argue that that is love and I would have no choice but to accept that assessment. Because I do love you. Despite everything I love you. I'm not in love with you, but I love you. But you know that…You knew that when I slept beside you every night. You knew that when I fought you on every decision—business or otherwise. You knew that when you were…gone. You knew that when you came back. And don't tell me that you didn't because you did. And I knew that it went both ways.
"And I can finally put our problem into words now…We were the neighborhood kids who hate each other. The kids who live next door to each other their whole lives and can't stand one another and seize every sliver of an opportunity to show it. But those kids don't really hate each other. They're just in an unbeatable competition with themselves, but they have to take it out on someone so they chose the closest person. They watch each other grow and change and hate each other while admiring one another. That's what we were—except we were adults whom didn't know one another and whom were forced to be around each other all day while trying to live separate lives. Does that make any sense?"
The sound of running water was her only reply. Felicity blinked, finally focusing on the tea kettle in the sink and the water spilling over as the sink ran freely. Oliver came up behind her, reaching around her to turn off the water.
"Does that make any sense?" She asked again, "Because I'm not sure I understand what I just said…"
Oliver backed away. She knew because her back was suddenly cold. "I'm sorry…"
"I don't want you to be sorry Oliver. I want you to be safe!" Felicity whirled herself around to face him. She closed the distance between them, placing her hands lightly on his chest. He looked even more tormented than when she usually caught glimpses of it. He looked guilty. And finally she could tell that he was regretting pulling her in. He was blaming himself.
"I'm not mad at you. I'm only begging you—I'll do anything Oliver…" Hot tears welled up in her eyes and blinking just made them stream down her cheeks. "Walter was fine before he looked into The Queen's Gambit. Now, he's missing. You were fine before you got on that damned ship…why did you get on that ship…" her voice trailed off and she buried her head in his chest.
He stayed perfectly still, but she didn't need him to react. She just needed him to understand. "All I'm saying is that Thea and I are fine because we haven't gone anywhere near the ship. Whomever or whatever is going on, in or around that ship, doesn't know that I've helped Walter. Just—if you just stay away from that damned ship. But you can't now, can you? Because you've been marked by it forever."
It was his turn to be completely bulldozed by information. She dreamed about the things that happened to him. She loved him—but yes, he'd known somewhere inside (they hadn't been held together for years by nothing than a paper that said they were married). It hadn't been good and there were so many times where they'd very genuinely hated themselves for going along with the whole thing, but the term 'divorce' had never popped up. And, though neither of them said it, it was unspoken that that was because they loved each other just a little bit—like the neighborhood kids with their eternal feud. She was asking him to stop what he was doing—and not just for his sake, but also for hers.
It was all important. But his mind was walking away from the kitchen, through the living room and out the door. He didn't want to address the things she was saying because he wasn't used to this kind of honesty from her, but mostly because he wanted to tell her he would stop and he didn't know how to explain that he couldn't.
A severe state of exhaustion and emotional confusion was his only defense for the words that came out of his mouth: "The shirt—whose is it?"
Felicity pulled away slowly, blinking the last of her tears out of her eyes. "Oliver," her voice came out in a breathless tone of disbelief, "you cannot seriously be asking me that right now. That is your response to all of this."
The fact that she didn't ask which shirt he was talking about (the fact that she immediately knew) told him everything that he needed to know—except the answer to his question. Why did he want to know again? What did it matter? It just did.
Felicity sighed, "It's a friend's."
Oliver found himself nodding, "A friend's…"
"I had to try, Oliver. I had to try to move on."
Of course she did. There was nothing but logic in that statement. She had every right. Hell, she should've been re-married by now! That's what he'd expected to find anyway. So what did it matter? It didn't.
"I know…you should've married him…your friend…"
Felicity's lips parted whether in disbelief or in an attempt to say something, Oliver wasn't sure. She turned away from him and towards the sink again, leaning heavily against the counter. "I should've married him…" she whispered flatly and then, "I hate you."
In a moment of sheer idiocy, Oliver saw light at the end of the tunnel. Good. If she hated him then she could move on and not care about any of this. But by the time he opened his mouth to reply he could see that that was stupid. Knowledge couldn't be taken away from someone. He hadn't just endangered her…he'd shackled her to him. "Felicity…I'm so sor—"
"I hate you," she said louder.
"I didn't think it through. I—I can't take it back," he said helplessly. His whole body hurt from the truth of it. He'd been helpless for so long. All that he'd been through was supposed to have ensured that he'd never be helpless again. But here he was…helpless.
Felicity shook her head slowly from side to side, so that her curls turned more unruly. "You can stop this now. At least then there will be some possibility…" She didn't finish the sentence.
But he couldn't. If he wanted to…he couldn't. Walter was missing and he was so close. He'd promised. He'd promised and he'd died so many times over the past five years and it had to be for something. "This isn't all on me Felicity. You should've moved on years ago." Oliver ran a hand over his face. Shit. If she'd just moved on… "Why didn't you?" It came out as more of a plea than a question.
Felicity was quiet for a long time, staring into the sink. Eventually, she let her knees bend until she sat on the kitchen floor, head rested against the cabinet. Never—not once in during the course of their marriage had he seen her like that. She'd always been strong and unmovable and too smart to have time to cave in.
Oliver moved closer, careful not to touch her, and sat down beside her so that he leaned against the cabinets, legs stretched out in front of him, and her face was partly turned in his direction. "Felicity why—"
"It doesn't matter now, does it? I didn't. And now, I can't…" she said quietly.
"Yes, you can. I am not your concern."
She didn't get angry like he'd expected she would. When she looked up, her eyes were glazed over and the right side of her face was red from having been pressed up against the cabinet. "Oliver," the corners of her mouth turned up in a slight smile that was so devoid of warmth he had to look away, "did it hurt to lose everyone?"
"Yes," he replied quickly so that he didn't have time to remember how much it had hurt.
"It's impossible to be left behind. I couldn't tell you how much it hurt even if I wanted to. When someone just goes…Being left behind..."
Oliver knew. His father had left him. He swallowed heavily, hating the lump that wouldn't dislodge itself from his throat. In all that he'd endured he'd rarely thought about the fact that everyone he'd lost had lost him in that absolute way too. They'd been left behind too.
"Were you happy to come back to everyone?"
"I was so happy to see you. I am happy every time I remember that you're back. But the fear of losing you is so monumental that I don't know what to do with it. You didn't die. But you were dead for five years and I now know what that is…I lived it for five years…we all did. Death is part of life, but if we lose you now…" Felicity sighed, "Don't tell me you're not my concern."
Oliver pushed aside the tidal wave of emotions that threatened to take him under. "So what? You're going to live the rest of your life in fear? You're going to live the rest of your life on hold?"
"Not if you stop this."
"And you don't think I could die in a car crash?"
"Stop it," she breathed, closing her eyes.
"Or a break-in gone wrong?"
"Stop," she sounded out of breath.
"Or an illness?"
"Stop! Stop!" She opened her eyes and tears spilled out onto her cheeks.
Oliver looked away. What was he doing to her? He wanted to stop it. He wanted to take the memories of last night away. He wanted her to divorce him and find someone normal so that she could finally be happy. How much of her life had been wasted because he'd been selfish enough to show up to that wedding?
"I hate you. I hate you. I hate you," she repeated, as the tears multiplied, and her breath caught every few words so that she had to gulp in big mouthfuls to appease her heaving chest.
"I hate me too…"
Her sobs continued for a moment before she was finally able to get enough air into her lungs. "You mean that. I don't."
"You should," he said, turning to look at her, hoping that his expression was serious enough. "You really should."
A/N: I spent the day yesterday reading through the whole thing since I'd forgotten so much of it...I don't know if this chapter turned out well, but I hope you liked it regardless and that it provided a momentary escape from all the craziness that's going on.
If you've been here from the beginning then...wow... thank you for sticking with it.
If you're new then I hope it was a nice bit of distraction.
More to come. But I don't know when...I haven't allowed myself to write in a long time...
I hope soon.