May 22, 2013, night:
Oliver and Diggle have strict instructions from Felicity, who seems far too excited, not to enter the basement until she gets there. Oliver's having trouble listening. He's waited his week and, though some injuries still linger, he's ready to go out in the field. Or perhaps a better statement is that he's itching to go back out.
He's spent the past week cooped up indoors, "resting" his injuries, dealing with Thea and Tommy – neither of whom are handling things well, and worrying about Queen Consolidated as well as what was now Tommy's company, Merlyn Global. Aside from other injuries such as last Christmas, it's probably the longest time he's been inactive in over five years.
His entire goal upon returning home had been to right his father's wrongs – to use the list of names he'd been given and go after the people who were corrupting Star City. He'd never thought about an end to that – never allowed himself to think of it. (Oliver isn't sure if that's because he genuinely thought he wouldn't get to the end because of death or imprisonment, or if he just couldn't allow himself to hope for anything.) Now that the Undertaking's over, Oliver's lost even as he tries to manage his family and friends and the companies.
He hasn't been sleeping well the past few days. Thea and Tommy barely manage to speak to him. He visited his mother once so far, but he hasn't been able to bring himself to visit her again. At least Star City's opinion of the Green Arrow is changing for the better.
He'd briefly entertained the idea of a romance, back when he'd thought the Undertaking was coming to an end, but Laurel is with Tommy now – and he's not sure he wants to give up the hood. Because if he's not the Green Arrow, then who is he? Oliver Queen has never been a good person. Before the island, he was a jerk and after the island… in all honesty Oliver Queen hadn't existed since Lian Yu, not once Slade had trained him.
Since he's been back, Oliver Queen hasn't exactly won any hearts over either. Purposefully, sure, but he's definitely not the kind of guy Oliver wants to be for the rest of his life. Frustrated and somewhat lost, Oliver needs the Green Arrow. Or, at the very least, he needs to pick up his bow and go a few rounds with some tennis balls.
Realizing he's thinking in the third person, Oliver forces himself to relax somewhat. At least Verdant still isn't open, he thinks, pacing back and forth by the bar. It's back to its usual layout after their event on Thursday night (followed by the amateur kidnapping attempt that would have been laughable had Oliver's friends and family not also been in danger) but with him and Tommy wrapped up in the details of their parent's companies and clean-up efforts still ongoing in the Glades they've decided to keep Verdant closed for another week yet. There's no one around to see his struggle. No one but Digg.
The man in question leans back against the bar, watching Oliver pace calmly. Aware of the eyes on him, Oliver stills himself and takes a deep breath. He really hopes Felicity hasn't done anything like a welcome back cake or something. Loud surprises and celebrations do nothing more than unsettle him and he still hasn't adjusted to eating sweet things.
On one hand, he thinks Felicity knows better. On the other, she can get rather excited at the small things (which is something Oliver will never admit he likes about her).
Finally, Felicity arrives. She seems to be brimming with barely suppressed enthusiasm, which only confirms that she has a surprise planned.
Oliver calms himself, stills his expression, and doesn't let his apprehension show. He raises an eyebrow. "Can I go downstairs now?" he asks, infusing just the slightest bit of sarcasm into his tone.
Felicity doesn't flinch. She grins, holding back her excitement, and gestures grandly for him to lead the way.
Oliver stands still for a moment, unimpressed, then makes his way to the locked door above the stairs. The lights are off downstairs but even so, Oliver can tell something is different. He makes his way to the lever that controls the lights easily, never mind the dark, and flips the switch.
The scene the light reveals is nothing like he expected. He'd thought maybe a minor celebration. A cake. A banner perhaps. He should have known better. Felicity's only been helping for three months, but she knows him now and has been caught up in what they can do for the people of Star City.
Their headquarters have been redone, revamped, remade. Gone is the old equipment Oliver had thrown together in the beginning. He hadn't cared about comfort then, only the mission. Now the place looks almost homey. Surfaces sparkle and gleam with new reflective silver metal. There's a new rack for his (new) bow and quiver, a mannequin for his uniform. A mat sits on the floor past the (new) computers, perfect for sparring.
Oliver's gaze travels the area, taking in everything.
"Felicity…" he doesn't know what to say.
"I had some help," she admits anxiously, wringing her hands as she steps past him into the open floor. "You only gave me a week so I asked Tommy to help move some of the bigger things but… You said we were going to do this different and I just thought–" she gestures around the room, "well a new environment can help sometimes, and we couldn't exactly go somewhere else–"
"Felicity," Oliver says again, interrupting her babbling. "It's perfect."
She blushes and her hands stop their nervous gesturing. "Really?"
Oliver steps forward and picks up the new bow that she got for him. Malcolm had broken his other one, and he'd only had the spare left. He'd already been making plans for a new bow, but it seems he doesn't have to do that anymore. He tests the bowstring, then turns back to her.
"Really," he confirms. He's itching to put on the hood and test out his new bow, and he lets his enthusiasm show with a warm smile.
Felicity returns the grin.
"Well then," Diggle says, looking quite impressed by the new setup, "let's go catch some criminals."
Though the call comes in as a simple attempted mugging – not something a detective would usually be called on immediately – it also comes with a code V for vigilante, and Quentin has suddenly been designated the go to person for such instances. It doesn't matter that they've never been able to catch the Arrow before, that he isn't usually there when they arrive (or at least, he isn't visible) – Quentin had been on the task force to take him down, then he'd worked with him to stop Merlyn (and Queen). He'd almost got demoted for that stunt, for saving the goddamn city – actually he had been demoted – but after Superman had spoken about the anonymous detective at the SCPD, they'd decided that he could keep his job.
He still heads the vigilante task force, but now, apparently, that just means he works cases that involve the vigilante, not that he's trying to bring down the Arrow. (At least, that's how his captain had phrased it when he'd spoken to him a week ago – nobody's seen the Arrow since the night of the Undertaking and rumors abound about possible injuries or retirement. Quentin doesn't see how a man like the Arrow could ever retire, but he keeps his thoughts to himself.)
Sure enough, he pulls up at the crime scene to see the would-be victim already sitting in the back of the ambulance, the would-be mugger handcuffed near the patrol car being read his rights. The Arrow is nowhere in sight and the two patrol cops are relaxed enough that Quentin is willing to bet he hasn't shown himself.
As he turns off his car and takes the keys from the ignition the EMT helps the would-be victim into the back of the bus, shutting the doors behind them. Quentin steps from the car and approaches the uniforms, watching the ambulance leave.
"How's it going boys?" he asks.
O'Malley waves as Jones helps the perp into the car.
"Not bad," O'Malley says as he gets closer. "Had to get him out of the vigilante's cables again but never saw the man himself."
"If he is a man," Jones comments, shutting the door behind the criminal.
Quentin gives the man a skeptical look. "He's as human as you or I," he says, not for the first time – though sometimes he doubts it himself.
The uniforms don't seem quite so convinced either, and with Superman out there in the world, Quentin can't really say for sure who or what the Arrow is.
"Not much of a scene," O'Malley continues as he and Jones approach their respective doors, "but feel free to check it out."
Quentin nods, then watches as they get into their patrol car.
The alley is dark and full of shadows, but that's to be expected from a crime scene. Even scum know how to take advantage of their environments. He doesn't see much point in looking for evidence he knows isn't there. The patrol car with the criminals in tow leaves, but before Quentin can get into his own car he hears a sound further down the alley.
He freezes and hesitates, but he's got a pretty good idea of who made the sound. Looks like he'd stuck around after all. He pulls out his gun and heads into the dark, glancing around.
"It's good to see you, Detective."
The voice comes from above him, distorted with that thingy the Arrow uses to change his voice. Quentin glances up, just barely spots the vigilante (hero now?) standing on the shadowy fire escape on the west side of the alley.
"So now you're sticking around to chat?" he asks sarcastically, lowering his gun slightly and taking his finger off the trigger.
"I wanted to thank you for your help," the Arrow says, ignoring his question as always. He's standing slightly at an angle to Quentin, keeping his face away and well shadowed by his hood. (He can't tell if the figure is injured.)
"Yeah, well, it wasn't just you I was helping." Quentin thinks of Laurel, still at CNRI when the earthquake device had activated.
"I wanted to thank you by making a promise," the Arrow continues, still ignoring his words. "I'll be sticking around for a lot longer."
"How do I know I can trust you?" Quentin asks suddenly. "You may have stopped dropping bodies but how do I know you won't start again?"
"You can take my word for it," the Arrow offers, "or you can trust Superman."
"What does that mean?"
"I'm making you the same promise Superman made me – I won't be dropping any more bodies in this city."
A noise from the other end of the alley has Quentin looking away instinctively, even though he knows the Arrow will be gone by the time he looks back. Sure enough, the fire escape is empty.
"Superman," he mutters under his breath, half in surprise, half disbelief. He holsters his gun and makes his way back to the street.
It's good to think that even the Green Arrow has someone watching him, ensuring that he doesn't screw up, but surprisingly Quentin feels a bit disgruntled about it. Territorial, even. Superman's a good guy – or alien, whatever – but Star City is Quentin's city.
Oh great, now's he's claiming the Arrow as Star City's hero, even if he's not sure he really trusts the man. Quentin runs a hand over his face. He needs a drink (not that he'll be getting one). What has he gotten himself into?
Diggle and Felicity head home after Oliver finishes his chat with Lance but Oliver, he's not quite so ready to turn in. The city is fairly quiet tonight but he still wanders the rooftops, pausing on some, jumping between others. It feels good to be back on the street for the first time since the Undertaking, but not an enthusiastic sort of enjoyment – more of simple contentment.
Maybe calming would be a better term for it. His mother's in jail and Thea still won't visit her or even talk about it and he's been talking with Walter and Tommy about how best to manage Queen Consolidated and Merlyn Global all the while Tommy still seems uncomfortable around him, as if he still can't trust him (but he'd helped Felicity set up their headquarters. That has to mean something). So hitting the streets again, stopping crime without any moral quandaries or hesitation, no question about right or wrong – it's refreshing. Oliver doesn't know how he could have ever considered giving this up.
Maybe if Laurel… But Laurel's with Tommy now and while, with the Undertaking over, Oliver wants to get involved more in his life out of the hood, he's really starting to appreciate what it means to be the Arrow. Starting to realize that, after so long fighting for his life, he wouldn't know what to do with himself if he put down his bow.
So he wanders the rooftops, a new bow in his hands, oddly content but not really looking for a fight. The physical strain of traveling around the city is enough, and it gives Oliver time to think, and contemplate his future with a clear head.
He stops on yet another rooftop for a brief pause and spots a figure above him. As Superman lands lightly beside him, Oliver doesn't move his gaze from the cityscape. With Superman here now, he wants to talk about how Superman could possibly be okay with his actions, wants to bring up the events of a week ago, but, also, he doesn't. Doesn't want to defend his actions to this man, who couldn't possibly understand them. Doesn't want to break the calm contentment he's reached this night, traveling across the rooftops of Star City.
"How many people know?" he asks instead, clicking on the voice synthesizer by habit, thinking of Thea.
"Who you are?"
Superman takes a moment to respond. "What do you mean?"
Oliver glances over at him. "Most of the world doesn't think about you having another life but you can't… do what we do and not have something to come home to." Even if that something is just Diggle and Felicity, cheering him on and helping him through. (Tommy's still reluctant to talk to him, Laurel's keeping her distance because Tommy is, and Thea's distracting herself with her relationship with Roy).
Superman meets his gaze, clearly thinking about how to answer the question. "Quite a few, actually," he says after a moment.
Oliver is both surprised and not. Only three people willingly know his secret, but then again, he and Superman are nothing alike, when it comes to some things.
"Do you… have a family?" Superman asks cautiously.
If he does know who Oliver is already, then he's a pretty good actor.
"Do they know?"
"No. But…" He doesn't need to say anything more.
They glance away from each other, studying the cityscape once more. "I could have called," Superman says, "I just, wanted to see how the city was doing. How you were doing."
For once, Oliver doesn't mind Superman's unexpected visit. "Do you have a family?" he asks in return.
A longer pause this time. "Yes," Superman finally answers. "And yes, they do know."
Food for thought, and the answer Oliver was looking for. He straightens, turning away from the city once more. "And how do we stand?" he asks bluntly.
Superman knows what he's asking about. "I understand what you had to do, even if I don't like he," he says hesitantly. "I just wish…"
"Don't we all?" Oliver growls out, interrupting him.
"My patrol's over for the night. We never did get to a second lesson."
Superman gladly takes the olive branch and this time Oliver leads him back to Verdant.
They spend about an hour working on Superman's fighting, which is still different than anything Oliver's ever done. On one hand, Superman needs to know everything a normal fighter would – how to fall properly, how to take a punch – but only in case he has to fight someone just as strong as him. On the other hand, he has to learn how to take a punch from someone who might break their hand on him. He doesn't have to worry about breaking his thumb if he punches someone wrong, or using up too much energy on useless moves.
It's … unique, but Oliver enjoys the opportunity to think about different ways to fight, even if he's the only one sweating at the end. He's still got his hood up, but he's fought in it plenty of times, so that's not much of a challenge even if he would prefer to take his jacket off. Oh well, he's made his decision regarding Superman and his secret and he's sticking by it.
Superman grins as they slow to a stop. If it's late here in Star City, then it's definitely late in Metropolis, but Oliver doesn't know if Superman even needs to sleep.
"Thank you," Superman says. "I'll call next time, if you're okay with continuing this."
Oliver nods. "Of course," he says, wiping his face off with a towel.
Superman makes his way toward the exit, but, not for the first time, Oliver finds himself stopping the Man of Steel from leaving.
"Do you know Batman?" he asks suddenly, glancing at the magazine Felicity gave him over a week ago, wondering if the man is just a myth, or a genuine vigilante.
Superman frowns thoughtfully, turning back to Oliver. "I wouldn't say I know him," he says. "I've talked to him a couple times. He told me to stay out of his city." A pause. "Why?"
Oliver shrugs. "Just thinking about what you said a while ago," he says. "About rumors. Of others."
"Yeah," Superman says, and his tone is thoughtful, a bit wistful even.
Oliver watches him go with a contemplative frown, for once completely uncertain as to what his future holds.
AN: Well, I am still completely terrible at keeping to my own scheduled timeline, but here we are, at the end of this story! Thanks for sticking with me!
The sequel to this, Starting Something, picks up pretty much where we leave off, since Oliver has no reason to leave town with Tommy still alive. Chapter One: A New Normal, will be (should be) posted on May 25th, but after that there's a bit of a time skip and I'll pick back up in July.