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There's Nothing But Light When I See You

Chapter Text

It's raining.

It rained the night Oliver came home too, but he was so out of it from the drugs they gave him for the flight that it's more like a sense memory than a clear picture. And the first night at home, waking up on the floor with his hand around his mother's throat, lighting illuminating her horrified expression.

Oliver doesn't like the rain.

On the island, rain was everything. Rain meant fresh water, which meant life. He can remember the taste of saltwater on his tongue, brine and fish, how he cried the first time he successfully caught rainwater.

The flip side of it was that getting wet was a potential death sentence, putting the body at risk for hypothermia or worse.

That was the island, the constant push-pull of die or survive, survive or die, and after awhile you forget what the point is, why you bother to hunt and fish and bleed. Forget why you're trying so hard, when you're all alone, when the most company you ever keep is when you hallucinate your little sister chasing your old family dog through the trees.

So Oliver's feelings about the weather are complicated.

He doesn't remember it raining this much in Starling City but it's been like this almost every day since he came back. It's not dangerous anymore, not with the luxury of car heaters and hot showers and heavy fleece sweatshirts. But it sets Oliver on edge, gives him this slight feeling of being in two places at once.

Like he brought the island back with him.

He can't sleep, not without taking pills the doctors prescribed for him. The side effects though, visceral night terrors that leave him a shaking, sweating mess on the bathroom floor, make staying up the more appealing option.

He runs at night, now. Around eleven usually, after Walter, his mom and Thea are in bed and his bodyguard has been sent home for the night. Oliver doesn't know that much about him other than he's ex-military, is infinitely patient, has a baby girl that keeps him up half the night but man Oliver just you wait, it's so worth it, you'll see one day.

Sure, Oliver said. One day. Like it wasn't some ridiculous fantasy. Like any woman would want to marry him now, have his child, trust him with a child.

It's raining, just before midnight on a Tuesday, and he's running, no headphones, through downtown Starling City, pushing through the fatigue that never totally fades anymore.

Oliver's got the hood of his grey hoodie up but his white tee shirt is already soaked through as he runs, the steady slap of his Nikes against the pavement. He drove from the house and parked his car by the fountain, walked for a couple blocks before breaking into an even, steady pace.

He's halfway down the street near the bus station when he sees her, just as a city bus pulls away from the curb. There's a young blond running from the other end of the block, one arm carrying a heavy looking purse and the other waving frantically to the already departed bus. It happens almost in slow motion: the heel of her shoe gets stuck in a grate and she goes flying, landing hard on her back as her arms go protectively around her bag.

Oliver runs faster, one hand reaching into the pocket of his sweatpants for his phone, but when he skids to a stop a foot away from her the woman shrieks and covers her head.

"My wallet's in my bag but please, please, don't touch the laptop," she begs.

Oliver stares down at her. Golden hair tied back in a tight ponytail, polka dot ruffled blouse, tight plum knit skirt and pointy toed pumps, one of which has a broken heel and is lying sadly on the pavement six inches away.

"It really isn't even worth it, I'm totally broke," the girl says breathlessly. Her full lips are painted a deep pink and she's got blue eyes behind her glasses. "My credit cards are totally maxed out, please, please don't kill me, if I get mugged my mother will murder me."

Oliver blinks in disbelief. "You think I'm trying to rob you?"

She squints up at him in suspicion. "Aren't you?"

"No, I - I was running and I saw you fall."

"What kind of person goes running in the pouring rain?"

"You were running." Oliver points out. "In heels."

"My car wouldn't start. Again. I had to leave it at the office," she complains, and when he offers her his hand she allows him to pull her to her feet, balancing awkwardly in one heel. "So I was going to catch the last bus instead, which I missed, obviously, and now I'm totally screwed."

"Can't you take a cab?"

She gives him a strange look. "Cabs won't go to the Glades anymore. Haven't for months. Are you new to town or something?"

Oliver frowns. "You live in the Glades?"

"Glades-adjacent," she says, sounding a little embarrassed. "I guess I'll just have to walk."

"Wait." He reaches out without thinking and cups her shoulder. And then stares, at his hand on another woman, the heat of her skin seeping through her damp top. "I can't let you walk alone this late at night."

She rolls her eyes at him, hitching her bag up on her shoulder. "Well, I'm kind of out of options here buddy."

"At least let me walk you home."

"For all I know you're a serial killer!" she retorts sharply. "And this, oh I'm just a sexy runner Good Samaritan act is just that, an act!"

Oliver's mouth falls open. "I went from a robber to a serial killer? Seriously?"

She shrugs. "This is Starling City, you never know."

"Look," Oliver says. "Let me call you a car, okay?"

"I'm sorry, call me a car?"

"Yeah, I have a driver my family uses."

"Oh, of course," she says faintly. "Right. Your driver."

"It's not a big deal."

"You don't have to," she says quickly. "I don't even know you."

"Are you always this stubborn?" Oliver pulls out his phone, his old Samsung flip phone from college because apparently while he was on the island computers and cell phones completely merged and for some reason his mother never thought to cancel his plan while he was in absentia.

"Maybe I'm not looking to be rescued," she retorts.

"For someone who doesn't want to be saved you do one hell of a Cinderella impression." He orders a car from his family's personal 24/7 (no questions asked) car service and sits down next to the girl in the sanctuary of the bus stop. She folds her legs under her, broken heel clutched in her hand.

"You don't have to wait with me," she says, sounding uncomfortable. "I mean, I'm sure you have better things to do than hang out with a klutz like me."

Oliver shrugs. "Not really."

She raises an eyebrow. "So you really were running? In this?"

"Couldn't sleep," he mutters.

"Ah." She nods. "You should try math."

He squints at her. "Math?"

"Yeah, couple of algebra equations bores me right to sleep. Or sudoku. Anything with numbers."

"I'm pretty sure I don't remember how to do algebra."

She smiles cheerfully. "Even better."

Rain lashed against the plastic sides of the bus stop. Oliver inhales hard through his nose and resolutely doesn't flinch. "Does it always rain this much this time of year?"

"Excuse me?"

"I don't remember it raining this much here," he mutters, thinking about the seat heaters in his car, how he'll go home later and take a hot shower and still shiver for hours.

He never really gets warm anymore.

"I wouldn't know," she says. "I've only lived here for a few years."

Oliver nods and remembers a few awkward seconds too late that he is in the company of a real live human being and he is expected to be polite, that when talking to an actual person (not a photo of your girlfriend or hallucinations of your family) reciprocal conversation is required.

"I grew up here," he offers. "But I've been gone for awhile."

"Oh," she says, and goddamn does she have a beautiful smile. "Welcome home."

"Thank you." He manages to sound gracious even, a small victory.

He idly thinks about being brave enough to ask her a question, like what's your name, where do you work, or where did you move from, or even, have dinner with me, but the car pulls up to the curb and the girl hops up, balancing on one heel and the ball of her other foot.

"Here." Oliver holds his arm out for her to grip as she hobbles across the sidewalk.

He opens the door for her and she beams up at him as she sinks into the backseat. It's like sun breaking through the clouds after the longest storm, like water after wandering for forty days in the desert. Like that time he did ecstasy with Tommy one Halloween and had a hallucinogenic, surreal threesome with a playboy model.

Basically it's like his head, his heart, and his dick have all come online after years of being in sleep mode (survival, real survival is all instinct, higher level feelings like human connection and lust shut down when you're all alone for five years, five years where nothing good happened).

As he shuts the car door he notices something on the bottom of her bare foot, a line of something dark, like a smear of dirt or a tattoo.

Or maybe her mark, he thinks, and wishes he'd looked closer, but the car's already halfway down the block. He walks back to the fountain where he parked the Bentley, shivering, clothes soaked through, but there's something warm in his chest that wasn't there before.

*

Thea skips the first three periods of school on Thursday to take him to the Apple Store in the Starling City National Mall to buy him an iPhone. It only takes a few minutes for Thea and the salesman to start flirting and the entire process takes so long that Oliver walks out, paces back and forth on the sidewalk for an eternity until his sister comes back outside.

"You're welcome," she snaps, and slams a slim white box into his palm.

"Thea-"

"Whatever, I have to go to school."

"Thea, come on-"

"You didn't even tell me you left the store, I turned around and you were just gone!"

He hangs his head. "I'm sorry Speedy."

His sister lets out a long suffering sigh and pats his shoulder. "I know, Ollie." She kisses his cheek. "I have to go, I'll see you at home later."

He sits on a bench for awhile, sick with shame, before bothering to open the box and look at the new phone before realizing he doesn't know how to use it, doesn't even know how to turn it on. Oliver sighs wearily and walks back to the parking garage where his driver is waiting for him.

"I need you to take me to QC," Oliver instructs, and John Diggle puts the car into drive.

Oliver leans back in his seat, eyes shut, thinking about the look on his sister's face - an exquisitely painful mixture of pity and rage. He breathes and absentmindedly pushes his palm against his left side, where his mark runs down his ribs.

At QC Diggle follows him up to Walter's office. Oliver explains his predicament, cheeks flushed, feeling like a moron next to elegant, steady Walter, who chuckles and scribbles down the name of a girl in the IT department who's apparently some absolute genius who revolutionized the company's blah blah blah.

Oliver smiles and nods, waits for Walter to send him on his way with a firm slap on his shoulder and a polite nod to John. They take the elevator down to the IT department, wander around in the maze until they find the little cave of an office where Felicity Smoak, apparent tech goddess, works.

Oliver knocks his fist against the open door and sticks his head in. There's a blond sitting with her back to him in a computer chair, a perfectly centered ponytail hanging down between her shoulders.

"Excuse me?" Oliver knocks again. "I'm looking for Felicity Smoak?"

The girl jumps and spins around in her chair and Oliver's mouth falls open in surprise because she's not just some blond, she's the blond, the girl from the other night.

"Ohmygod!" she yelps, a red pen slipping from between her fingertips.

"H-hi," Oliver stutters. "I'm, um...are you Felicity?"

She blinks heavily at him. "Yeah, I'm, yes! That is my name, uh, you, you're the"-

"Oliver," he interrupts. "Oliver Queen."

"Ohmygod!" she exclaims again, jumping up from her chair. "Of course, I knew I recognized you, it's nice to officially meet you Mr. Queen. I mean, Oliver, Mr. Queen was your father, okay I'm just gonna shut up now." Felicity closes her eyes, looking horrified, and sinks back down in her chair.

Oliver can't resist chuckling. "Felicity?"

She opens her eyes slowly, like she's afraid of what she's going to see. "Yeah?"

"You okay?" He feels a little bad for laughing at her but she's so damn cute like this he can't help it.

"Yes." She shakes her head and for the first time gives him a genuine smile. "Sorry, I assume there's an actual reason why you're here?"

"Yeah, I..." Oliver ducks his head, suddenly feeling a little bashful. "My sister just bought me a new iPhone but it's ah, kind of been awhile for me, I mean I missed the whole smart phone thing so...Walter said you could help me?"

"Let me see." Felicity holds out her hand and Oliver takes the phone out of his pocket and passes it over.

Felicity shoots him a quick smile and plugs the phone into a cord on her desk. "This won't take too long, I just have to install the software and then we can set up all your social media accounts."

Oliver scratches the back of his neck. "Social media?"

"Yeah, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram"-

"I don't need any of that," Oliver says quickly. "Just...I just need to know how to use it."

"Okay," she says placidly. "I can see why you'd want to stay quiet, I mean, the whole five years on an island thing, I'm sure people are hounding you, I knew I recognized your face, you've been all over the news." Felicity glances up at him and winces. "Sorry, I shouldn't... shutting up now, promise."

"That's okay," he says softly. "I mean, it's okay to talk about it."

She smiles shyly and looks down at her desk. "I'm um, actually working on something right now, did you want to come back for your phone when it's done? Shouldn't take that long."

Oliver shrugs because he literally has nothing better to do than to wait around, because that's how pathetic his life is now. "I can wait."

He sinks into a little chair in the corner of the cave that's passing for her office, watching her work while trying to be as surreptitious as possible about it because he's aware that it's not cool to check girls out while they're doing favors for you.

It's just - she's pretty. And sexy in a naughty librarian kind of way. He finds himself idly staring at the buttons of her pale pink shirt, imagines undoing them one at a time, creamy skin slowly revealing itself.

Okay so maybe being stuck on an island for five years without anything more than a picture of Laurel's face has warped his sexuality, which seems to be waking up rather forcefully, now that he's back, or maybe it's just Felicity.

Oliver hasn't felt a shred of real sexual interest in a woman since he left with Sara five years ago, and the final nail in that particular coffin was when Laurel Lance slapped him in front of CNRI's office his second day home from the island. She promptly burst into tears and left Oliver there on the sidewalk, hating himself because if he had just kept his hands off her sister Sara would be alive and Oliver, stupid playboy Ollie would be at the bottom of the sea like he deserves.

"Oliver?"

He can tell by the expression on Felicity's face that she's said his name more than once. "Sorry." He clears his throat. "It's done?"

"Here." She unplugs the phone and hands it back to him, gives him a brief tutorial on how to use the basic functions. "Now you're officially a functioning member of society again."

"Thank you," he says, feeling a warm glow in his chest. "You're kind of remarkable, you know."

She smiles. "Thank you for remarking on it."

"How's your car?" he asks, because he doesn't have an excuse to stay longer but he wants to, desperately, even if he doesn't totally understand why.

"In the shop," Felicity says, the smile slipping off her face. "The engine needed some work, I've been taking the bus." She sticks out her feet and he sees her shoes, little black flats with panda bears on the toes. "Hence the shoes."

"Sorry," he apologizes earnestly, shuddering, because ugh, public transit.

She shrugs. "Shit falls apart sometimes, that's life right?"

"Have dinner with me," he blurts out, out of nowhere, like he's lost his goddamn mind.

She blinks. "Excuse me?"

"I just mean - as a thank you, for setting up my phone. I could pick you up when you're done here so you wouldn't have to take the bus."

She reaches up to adjust her glasses. "You want to take me to dinner?"

Oliver yanks at the collar of his shirt, the back of his neck getting hot. "I'm sorry, I just thought" -

"No," she interrupts. "I mean yes, sorry. Thank you, I would love to eat you. Eat with you!" Her cheeks flush pink. "Sorry, my brain-to-mouth filter gets me in trouble sometimes."

"Oh, hopefully," he says offhandedly, and then finds himself flushing right along with her because he used to know how to do this but something about this girl makes him feel like a nervous teenager again.

"Smooth brother," Dig teases after Oliver has made plans to pick Felicity up in front of QC at seven. "Real smooth."

"Shut up," Oliver mutters, but he can't hide the smile on his face.

*

Oliver comes back to QC at seven that night and parks the Bentley out front, puts on his hazards and gets out of the car to lean against the passenger side door that faces the entrance to the lobby. It's cooling down and he's grateful he thought to grab his brown leather jacket to layer over his grey sweater.

Felicity emerges from the huge glass doors at five after seven (not that Oliver's counting), wearing a navy wool trench coat, a leather tote bag tucked under one arm. Her face lights up when she sees him and Oliver feels a warm glow spread across his chest and melt down his sides.

"Hi," she says, tucking a lock of windswept hair that's escaped her ponytail behind her ear. "We're not going anywhere fancy, right?" She points a toe in his direction. "I'm not wearing my fancy shoes today."

"No," Oliver assures her, feeling a wave of relief. Low expectations are much easier for him to manage. "You said you lived near The Glades, right? There's a great burger place" -

"Big Belly Burger?" she interrupts hopefully.

"You know it?"

Felicity smiles and Oliver gets that feeling again, that stupid melty feeling like something is lighting up inside his body. "Of course. Best burgers in town."

Carly is working when they walk into Big Belly Burger, she waves to him and calls out, "Hi Oliver! Sit wherever, I'll be with you in a moment."

"Friendly with the staff I see," Felicity comments as he leads her to a back corner booth.

"Carly's actually my bodyguard's sister-in-law," Oliver explains, sitting down in the booth opposite Felicity.

"Your bodyguard?" She unbuttons her coat and Oliver is suddenly thrown back to that morning at the sight of her pink shirt, the way he can see the column of her white throat with her hair pulled back like this...

"Oliver?" He jumps, startled, watching Felicity's concerned expression from across the table. "Oliver, are you okay?"

He blinks rapidly, feeling a little lightheaded. "Yeah. Yeah, sorry, what were you saying?"

Carly swoops in and rescues him, whipping her order pad out and dropping a plate of complimentary fries on the table.

"So," Felicity says, after they've both ordered house burgers, popping the end of a fry into her mouth. "Where's your invisible bodyguard, huh?"

"I gave him the night off," Oliver says, distracted by the appearance of her tongue as she licks her upper lip. "It's not really necessary, I can take of myself."

To his surprise Felicity flinches and stares down at the table. "I'm sorry, of course you can, you survived on an island for five years."

"Felicity." When she doesn't respond he reaches over the table and covers one of her hands with his own. "It's okay, it's fine."

"It's not fine Oliver, what happened to you must have been horrible." She glances up at him and to his surprise she looks genuinely upset.

"Felicity, hey. I know it's...hard to talk about, but it's okay. I'm back home, I'm alive. I'm in the best burger joint in the city and I have great company. Trust me, it's fine, okay?"

She nods, looking down where his hand is spread flat over hers. "Well you did get a great tan at least."

Oliver laughs, surprised, and just like that all the tension between them dissolves. He withdraws his hand and unexpectedly mourns the loss when he does, like Felicity is an external heat source he's just discovered, a second sun, bestowing warmth and light upon him whenever he's near her.

"You said you're not originally from here, right?" Oliver ventures, because all that warmth is making him feel kind of brave.

She nods, dipping a fry in ketchup before folding it delicately into her mouth and swallowing. "Yeah I moved here after I graduated. I did a summer internship at QC before my senior year, they recruited me."

"Wow," he says, impressed. "Where'd you go to school?"

"MIT," she says quickly, flashing him a tight smile. "Computers are kind of my thing."

"Yeah," he says, stomach contracting, that feeling he had in Walter's office coming back. "I'm getting that."

Like he's glaringly self-aware of his inadequacies in a way he wasn't before the island. He spent five years just trying to survive while everyone else was growing up, becoming adults with jobs and responsibilities.

What is he even doing here? This girl is smart, and beautiful, and probably worked ten times harder to get where she is than Oliver has ever had to work for anything, ever. Why would someone who's so warm and soft looking want to be near someone who's cold and broken?

The touch of her finger trails over the back of his hand and he feels a bolt of heat follow its path. "Hey," she says softly. "Where'd you go?"

"I'm sorry," he apologizes haltingly. "I'm not...I haven't, um...I'm kind of out of practice."

Felicity gives him a gentle smile and strokes the back of his hand. "Hey, I'm more comfortable talking to machines than people sometimes, I'm not judging."

"I think you're doing great," Oliver offers. "For the record."

Carly come back and deposits their burgers on the table, raising an eyebrow at Felicity. "Who's your friend, Oliver?"

"Felicity Smoak," Felicity says, holding out her hand to Carly. "I work at QC."

"Well how about that?" Carly gives Oliver a smile that makes him squirm before winking at Felicity, who giggles. "Enjoy your food sweetie."

They manage to get through the meal by making small talk in between bites, talking about QC, debating which coffee shops in Starling City are the best (Oliver has a split vote between The Grind & Jolt Cafe and Cafe Lux, while Felicity is partial to Stardust Coffee).

"But if we're being honest," she says shyly. "I like Jitters the most."

"That's in Central City!" Oliver exclaims. "You - you traitor!"

"It's good!" Felicity says defensively. "Come on."

"Your transplant roots are showing," he teases. "A native would never admit to liking Jitters better."

Felicity raises a sly eyebrow at him. "You won't tell, right? I don't want anyone to know I'm a traitor."

"Don't worry." Oliver smiles like it's easy, like he never forgot how to do it in the first place. "Your secret's safe with me."

He drives her home after dinner, following her directions to her condo. She's right, she doesn't live in The Glades, not technically. She's not that far from Verdant actually, within walking distance even. When Oliver parks the Bentley he jumps out of the car to walk around to open her door without even thinking about it. Some things are still just muscle memory, even now.

"So," Felicity says as they walk up to her door, bent over and fishing her keys out of her bag. "Thanks for dinner."

Oliver smiles (again! like it's nothing! what is this girl, the smile whisperer?). "Thanks for coming."

She makes a little sound of triumph and pulls out her keys. "Hey, I uh, gave you my number." She closes her eyes suddenly and slaps her palm against her forehead. "What I mean is, I put my contact info in your phone so if you have any more questions you can call me. Or text, oh my god, you know how to text, right?"

"Yes, Felicity, I know how to text," he says patiently.

"Oh thank Google," she sighs. "So I guess, I'll just, um, talk to you later?"

"Okay," Oliver says, and feels his hand twitch at his side when a stray lock of her hair falls across her forehead.

Felicity smiles. "Goodnight Oliver."

"Goodnight Felicity."

Oliver watches her let herself inside, the door closing softly behind her, and walks back down to his car and gets in. Sits in it without even starting the engine, watching lights turn on inside Felicity's condo, shadows flickering behind her curtains. He imagines her kicking off her shoes, dropping her bag on the floor. Taking off her coat, her fingers going to the buttons on her shirt and slowly undoing them...

Oliver blinks and realizes that he's sitting outside in his car like a stalker, shivering because he hasn't turned the car on and therefore, no heating. He starts the car with shaking hands, turns on his headlights and drives away.

Chapter Text

The thing about Verdant is, even though Oliver's name is on all the paperwork right next to Tommy's, Oliver doesn't actually have to do anything.

Tommy's taken care of everything - the financing, the decorating, dealing with the staff, the vendors, club promoters. All Oliver has to do is show up a few nights a week and sit in the VIP section and allow Tommy to tweet about it. Apparently his notoriety is good for business, millennials line up around the block outside Verdant to catch a glimpse of billionaire playboy Ollie Queen, back from the dead.

So it's Saturday night and Oliver's lounging on a love seat next to Tommy in a corner of the VIP section, a glass full of Stoli balanced on his thigh. The VIP section is filled with gorgeous girls in slutty cocktail dresses and rich douchebags dressed in suits by Armani, Gucci, Tom Ford. Oliver nods along blankly as Tommy points out the people he thinks Oliver should know, what they do, how much they're worth, like he thinks Oliver actually cares.

Oliver throws back a quarter of his vodka, relishing the burn. He didn't used to drink like this, he used to like Jaegerbombs and Lemon Drops and shots of B-52 (perfect for drinking with groups of girls, because it feels like a bomb going down but it's sweet and smooth too). His body is different now, after all that time on the island, he can't handle sugar like he used too. He's not as young as he used to be either.

He's fiddling with the sleeves of his charcoal grey Ermenegildo Zegna button down when Tommy sets down his Manhattan and raises his eyebrow at Oliver. "Incoming."

Oliver sets down his glass next to Tommy's as he turns around. Helena Bertinelli is walking towards them, wearing a midnight blue dress that reveals a dizzying amount of thigh, her sleek dark hair tucked behind her ears.

"Tommy," she says, leaning in to air kiss him. "And Oliver. Welcome back." Her lips are painted a deep plum and her teeth are very white in the dim light. When she smiles it makes her look like a predator.

Oliver stands up next to Tommy and allows Helena to lean in and give him a cool kiss on the cheek. "You're looking well," she says, her mouth twisting into a smirk.

"Thanks," he says, feeling naked as her eyes shamelessly trip over him. "How are you? You're married now, right?"

Something flickers across her face and she takes a step back. "Engaged. And no. Not anymore."

"Oh," Oliver flounders, his cheeks heating. "I'm, um. Sorry."

"It's fine," she says quickly. "You didn't know." She reaches up with one hand to smooth down her hair. "I should get back to my friends."

She walks away before Oliver can say anything else. Next to him Tommy groans and sinks back down on the love seat. "Nice, Oliver."

Oliver picks up his drink and takes a large swallow before sitting back down. "I don't - what did I do?"

Tommy drapes one of his hands over his eyes, like Oliver is exhausting him. "The guy got popped last year before they made it down the alter. Rumor is she's still pretty fucked up about it."

Oliver blinks. "Someone murdered her fiancé?"

Tommy nods. "Yeah, in his fucking office."

"Who killed him?"

Tommy shrugs. "Cops never caught him."

"Jesus," Oliver mutters.

"Yeah, she's been single ever since," Tommy comments. "She looked happy to see you though."

Oliver snorts. "You think that's what she looks like when she's happy?"

"I've always thought of Helena as one of those bugs who bites off their mate's head after they fuck," Tommy muses.

"Wouldn't know."

Tommy raises an eyebrow. "Really."

Oliver scowls. "Just because our parents tried to push us together a few times for the sake of their business interests doesn't mean we've slept together."

Tommy snorts. "So I take it your parents were fine getting into bed with mobsters then?"

"Wealthy mobsters."

Tommy looks hesitant. "You don't know if you two are"-

"We're not," Oliver interrupts. "We - we checked."

Tommy's mouth drops open. "You showed each other your marks?"

Showing someone else your mark is considered extremely intimate. Most people have marks in places that are easy to hide, like the bottoms of their feet or their hips or on their ribs, like Oliver. Occasionally you'll see someone's mark somewhere more visible, like their wrists (like Thea, to their mother's constant despair) or their neck, but it's rare.

He and Helena showed each other their marks at a Christmas party when they were both home for winter break during college. It was sophomore year, he and Laurel were on a break, and they ended up drunk in a guest bathroom peeling their shirts off, just to see if their parents' pushing had any merit.

No two marks are exactly alike, even the ones that match - matching soulmate marks are not identical but rather compatible in undeniable ways, like puzzle pieces. There are people who've made entire careers out of analyzing marks and confirming matches but it's usually pretty clear, given that marks are so intricately unique to their owners.

Helena's mark is on the left side of her ribs, like Oliver's, but he'd known immediately, drunk as they were, that she wasn't his soulmate. Her mark is an apple tree, branches twisting over her ribs, a snake curled around the tree trunk. Oliver had traced it with his fingers, thinking of the way Helena flicks her tongue like a snake, wears lipstick the color of a shiny fresh apple with poison on the inside.

It fits her, the way all marks do.

"She's not my soulmate," Oliver confirms.

That doesn't actually necessarily matter; plenty of people have successful, happy relationships with partners who aren't their soulmate. Hell, his parents weren't soulmates. Laurel's not his soulmate and they almost got married. Neither was Sara.

But it's hard, to start something knowing that someone else who would be a better fit, a perfect fit, is out there somewhere, looking for you.

"Well this got way too serious," Tommy bemoans. "Come on, I'll introduce you to this toothpaste model I met last week."

Oliver rolls his eyes and tosses back the last of his vodka, and dutifully follows after Tommy.

*

Post-island, Oliver's life has slowly fallen into a mind-numbing routine of sorts. He wakes up whenever he wakes up (assuming he slept the night before). Goes downstairs and chokes down some toast and drinks enough coffee to really wake up. Back upstairs to brush his teeth and swallow the regiment of pills the psychiatrist prescribed before Diggle picks him up and they go to the gym.

Oliver has a specific routine - thirty minutes of lifting, thirty minutes on the treadmill, and fifteen minutes of stretching. Then he showers and he and Dig go out for lunch somewhere expensive and discreet, where the waitstaff won't alert the paparazzi. Then they walk around, occasionally see a movie or sit in a coffee shop before inevitably going back to the mansion.

Sometimes, if Oliver is really bored, he'll slip away from Dig just to see how long it takes for him to find him.

If Thea is back from school when he gets home Oliver usually talks her into watching some show he missed when he was gone in her room while she does her homework on her bed. This means Oliver's suffered through watching the first three seasons of Gossip Girl, which is a whole other level of mind-numbing, but it's better than sitting in his room by himself.

If Walter isn't working late they all eat together in the dining room, while Oliver sits there with his nose in his wine glass, awkward in this new family that's developed in his absence. Thea's older and snarky and charming, and Walter is impossible to dislike even when he's sitting in Oliver's father's chair. His mother is the same as ever, beautiful and glittering and cold.

After Diggle leaves for the night Oliver goes out for a run, or puts on a suit and goes to Verdant, drinks for a few hours with Tommy, flirts with nameless girls he's never going to sleep with, resolutely doesn't dance, and goes home after closing, where he swallows more pills before crawling into his bed and wishing that when he awakens he'll be in his old life again.

Oliver's back from the island but he's still so lonely, even around people all day, and nothing makes it go away.

*

"You should get Tinder," Thea announces one Thursday night, when she and Oliver are in the den watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Thea's chemistry textbook in her lap.

Oliver shifts on the couch next to her. Onscreen Phoebe Cates emerges from a swimming pool in a red bathing suit. "I don't know what that is."

"It's a dating app."

"No thanks."

"You could at least download it. You know how to download apps, don't you?"

"Yeah, Felicity showed me," Oliver replies without thinking.

Thea throws him a sharp look. "Felicity who?"

"No one, just this girl who works at QC."

"Why were you hanging out with a girl from QC?"

"Because you bought me this monstrosity." Oliver spins his iPhone around in his palm. "Which I didn't know how to use. Walter had her set it up for me."

Thea considers this. "Is she cute?"

He glares at her. "So what if she is?"

"So you've been single now for like, almost six years" -

"Stay out of it, Speedy."

"Don't you want a girlfriend?" Thea questions. "I honestly don't remember you ever not having a girlfriend."

"That was before."

"So?"

Oliver shrugs, feeling uncomfortable. "So I'm different now."

"What, like celibate?"

"Can't you be twelve again?" Oliver begs. "I miss you being a baby."

Thea slams her book shut and drops it onto the coffee table. "I'm not a baby," she says hotly. "I'm seventeen."

"I know that," he says defensively.

"And you're old."

"Thea!"

"You're wasting time," she says. "You don't want to wait until you're fifty to meet your soulmate because you refuse to date."

"Soulmates aren't the be-all and end-all, Thea."

His sister sighs and flips her head over to sweep her hair into a ponytail. The sleeve of her pink cashmere sweater rides up, revealing the mark on the inside of her wrist. It's the Queen of Hearts, just like the standard illustration on the playing card, except that instead of clutching a flower she's holding a sword, the blade passing through the side of her head.

"Mom and Walter are soulmates," Thea says softly.

Oliver stares at her. "No they aren't."

"Uh yeah Ollie, they are." Thea wrinkles her nose. "They didn't tell you?"

He shakes his head, feeling numb. "I had no idea."

"I think they knew," Thea says slowly. "I mean, before."

"Before Dad died?"

"Ollie, calm down."

"I am calm." Oliver gets up, his ears ringing. "I'm gonna go for a run."

"It's ten o'clock!"

"I'll be fine, Thea."

"Ollie, come on."

"I'm fine," he insists, and hurried out of the den and back up to his room to change.

He pulls out a pair of track pants and a thin tee shirt to wear under his old Starling City Prep sweatshirt. When he strips down to his boxer briefs Oliver stops to catch his reflection in the carved full length mirror in one corner of his room. He still has no body fat but he's gaining muscle back. His shoulders and chest and abdomen are littered with scars from scrapes and cuts he got on the island, a rounded puncture scar from that one time he fell down a hill in the rain and a stick went two inches into the meat of his shoulder.

Oliver turns to the side as he pulls on his track pants and looks at his mark. It's an arrow, running down his ribs, finely shaded. In the middle is the outline of a word written in an alphabet that Oliver can't read, and he's never really had to burning desire to go to a mark specialist and have it analyzed.

And then he got stuck on the island and it made sense, the arrow part at least, like the biggest cosmic joke to ever exist. He's never figured out the text, after all this time. He always assumed it's his soulmate's contribution. Marks are like that, have a little bit of each person's personality woven into them.

Maybe his soulmate is in another country right now, walking down a street somewhere in Haifa or Santorini or Bangkok. Oliver hopes so. Wherever she is, he hopes she's somewhere sunny and warm and safe.

Oliver laces up his Nikes and pulls his sweatshirt on over his tee shirt. He takes the back set of stairs out of the mansion and walks around the house to the garage and takes the most inconspicuous car there, a black Range Rover. He drives through downtown Starling City and heads in the vague direction of Verdant (and therefore Felicity) without really thinking about it.

It's something that's almost too easy now, to not make decisions the way he used to before the island, on pure impulse based on his desire of the moment, or like more thoughtful people, carefully weighing outcomes and consequences.

After five years of learning how to block out everything in his head except for his survival instincts, he doesn't quite know how to turn it off. Every minute is a white knuckled clench, assessing danger, adjusting to the smallest changes in his environment without even realizing that he's doing it.

He parks the Range Rover up the block from a 24 hour convenience store and locks the car, zipping the keys in the pocket of his hoody along with his credit card. He has headphones this time, a pair of earbuds that came with the phone, because Felicity downloaded a few music apps onto his phone that even tech-idiot Oliver could figure out. The first chords of El Camino start up and Oliver starts out down the block in a light jog as the Black Keys sing along to the rhythm of his feet.

He runs, pushing all thoughts of soulmates and soulmarks out of his head, following a looping figure eight path so he doesn't accidentally dip too far into the heart of The Glades, making sure not to get too close to Felicity's townhouse because she doesn't need to know that he's an insomniac man child with a certain fondness for fair skin and blond hair.

Sara's mark was on the small of her back, a canary locked in an ornate filigreed cage. Oliver had made the mistake of touching it once, when he was fucking her against the sink in one of the private bathrooms of Poison, her entire lower back exposed by the cutout of her dress. Sara had stilled under his touch, hadn't turned around but lifted her head to catch his eyes in the mirror.

"You know what they use canaries for?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

Oliver had tightened his hold on her hip with his left hand, right one spread flat over her mark and shook his head, rolling his hips without pulling out. Sara had gasped and reached up to grip the back of his neck, her eyes half shut and stormy.

"They used to...send them into coal mines," Sara had moaned, fingernails digging into his skin as he fucked her. "If they kept - fuck, Ollie - singing then they knew...oh fuck, don't stop...then the air was safe. And when they stopped singing...they knew it wasn't, shit...they sent them down there to die ...Ollie please, come on."

He'd mumbled something in response, bending down to kiss her shoulder, focused on the lightning-electric feeling pooling in his gut. Sara shook when she came, left half moon marks on the back of his neck that took a few days to fade.

"I won't let anyone hurt you," he whispered when it was over, sex-stupid and vulnerable.

She'd laughed, turned around in his arms to kiss his throat. "Baby," she'd murmured. "They're the ones that should be afraid of me."

Oliver runs and runs, trying to shake the phantom feel of fingers on his neck, his brain helpfully vomiting up images of faceless female body parts marked by arrows. He runs until his lungs burn and he can't feel his legs, runs until El Camino ends and automatically cycles into Brothers.

Oliver slows down to a jog before settling into a brisk walk, unzipping his sweatshirt. He feels mildly better, physically worn out at least, which means there's a chance he'll actually sleep night instead of lying in bed awake torturing himself. He gets back to the block where the car is parked and decides to make a detour to the convenience store he saw earlier because he's thirsty and it still feels like a miracle, that it's a quarter to midnight and Oliver can walk into a store and purchase a bottle of water like it's nothing.

The store is brightly lit and it hurts his eyes a little; Oliver squints and walks to the back wall where the drinks are. For a second he just stops and stares, remembering that feeling on the island when he found a little freshwater pond in the jungle, the absolute relief cutting through his desperation.

Oliver picks out the largest bottle of Figi they have and cracks the cap open, chugs half the bottle down right there in the aisle. He can't handle being thirsty anymore now, it stresses him out, his heart fluttering with panic until he remembers that he's back and never has to want for water again.

On a whim he wanders to the liquor aisle and grabs a fifth of Grey Goose off the shelf and carries it along to the front of the store. There are a few people ahead of him waiting, Oliver gets in line behind a woman wearing a thick cream sweater coat tied over purple flannel pajama pants, her blond hair pulled back in a perfect ponytail.

Oliver rubs his eyes, wondering again if his entire life is just some joke the universe is playing on him. He steps a little to the side and tentatively clears his throat. "Felicity?"

She jumps about a foot into the air and whirls around, a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream in one hand and a cheap bottle of red in the other. "Ohmygod!" she exclaims. "Oliver!"

"Hey Felicity."

She clutches her ice cream tighter against her chest. "Please don't judge me."

Oliver chuckles and reveals his vodka. "Wasn't going to."

Felicity's eyes skim over him but it doesn't make him feel cold and uncomfortable, it makes him feel seen and warm inside. "Running again?"

He shrugs a little, guilty as charged.

"Next!" the cashier intones, giving them an annoyed look.

Felicity flashes him a little smile and steps up towards the cash register, sets down the bottle of wine and the ice cream.

"I got it," Oliver says, adding his vodka and half drunk water bottle, waving away Felicity's protests and handing over his credit card.

"Thank you," she says, looking a little sheepish. "You didn't have to" -

"I wanted to," he says quickly, maybe a little sharply, because she twitches and ducks her head, follows him out of the store and stands awkwardly next to him on the sidewalk.

Now that he's gotten over the surprise of seeing her Oliver takes a moment to actually really look at Felicity. She's not wearing lipstick and her eyes are watery and bruised looking behind her glasses. Oliver feels a sudden wave of shame, because he just snapped at her instead of saying something nice, like you're welcome, or it's my pleasure.

It's painful, these little moments of clarity when he realizes that he's just as much of a dick now as he was before he left the island.

"So," he says eloquently, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck, feeling desperate to offer something but unsure what. "Your night suck as much as mine?"

Felicity lets out a surprised laugh, her hands flying towards her mouth. "Yeah, you could say that."

Oliver considers her, standing in front of him in pajamas with freaking kittens printed on them, like he conjured her here, because why else would she be here so late and alone? He's still holding the bag with her ice cream and red wine. She must be single, he thinks, because even Oliver knows that no girl in a relationship (a happy one at least) has a need for either of those in the middle of the night.

"Wanna sit on that bench over there and have a drink with me?" he asks her, because fuck it, what does he have to lose?

She gives him an appraising sort of look. "Still not sleeping, I take it?"

He flushes a little at being so easy to read but then she shrugs and ambles over to the bench that sits under a little tree poking out of the concrete of the sidewalk. He follows and sits down next to her, pulls out her red wine (so cheap it's a screw top, Oliver can imagine the look on his mother's face if she saw him right now).

Felicity takes a swig straight from the bottle and passes it to Oliver, who trades her for the ice cream. Felicity pokes around and withdraws two plastic spoons and hands one to him before peeling off the cardboard lid of the ice cream container, the vodka forgotten at the bottom of the bag.

Oliver takes a pull from the wine bottle, making a face that Felicity laughs at around a mouthful of ice cream. "What, is the billionaire too good for Barefoot Merlot?" she teases.

"You do know this is shit, right?" Oliver says, but takes another drink anyway.

"Maybe, but alcohol is still alcohol," she says, snatching the bottle back and raising an eyebrow.

Oliver shrugs, catching the little upward tick of her lips that lets him know he hasn't really offended her. "Can't argue with that logic."

"Do you want some?" she asks, gesturing to the ice cream with her spoon. "Or are you a snob about everything?"

"I'm not a snob," he protests, pouting.

Felicity snorts and passes him the ice cream. "You're a terrible liar."

Oliver digs the flimsy plastic spoon into the ice cream. "But you're sharing with me anyway."

She smiles serenely. "I'm a generous person."

He pops the spoon in his mouth and has to repress a moan, he hasn't had ice cream since before the island. "Oh my god," he mumbles.

Felicity is grinning wickedly. "Haven't had ice cream in awhile?"

"You," he says, pointing at her with a spoon before shoving another giant scoop into his mouth. "Are a genius."

"You have no idea," she says cryptically, and chases a scoop of ice cream with a huge gulp of red wine. "So, do you want to talk about why you're running in my neighborhood at midnight instead of in bed in your castle?"

"Excuse me, my castle?"

Felicity shrugs. "You're a billionaire, don't you all live in castles?"

"It's more of a manor, really," Oliver muses, trading back the ice cream for the wine.

"Semantics."

He sighs, running his thumb over the neck of the bottle. "Did you know that Walter and my mother were soulmates?"

Her eyes go wide. "Uh, yeah, that's kind of, um ... common knowledge within the company? Not that we're all gossiping about the boss and I've never seen their marks of course, I mean, can you imagine? But uh...yeah."

"I didn't know," he confesses softly. "I mean, I knew she and my dad weren't soulmates but it didn't seem like that big of a deal when I was a kid. Most of my friend's parents weren't soulmates either." He takes another swig of wine before glances at Felicity. "Were yours?"

"My parents?" She laughs, once, but it comes out kind of strangled sounding. "No, definitely not."

"I guess it's just something I never really thought about before," he says. "Like, I know my...she's out there somewhere but I never really felt this like, overwhelming compulsion to find her or anything. But now that I'm back I feel like it's all anyone's talking about."

"Don't you want to know though?" she asks. "Aren't you curious?"

Oliver shrugs hesitantly. "I don't know. I'm not saying that I don't want to know but I kind of like the mystery of the whole thing."

"Ugh, I hate mysteries." Felicity shudders. "They bug me."

"You don't think it's romantic?" he teases. "All that" -

"Total unknowing? Pining for someone who doesn't even realize you exist yet?" She makes a face. "No thanks. I'll find him when I find him and until then I'm going to live my life." She gestures at the wine and ice cream. "Which is clearly is going just perfectly."

"My sister thinks I should date," he admits. "She's afraid if I don't find my soulmate I'll be alone forever."

"Sounds like she just wants you to be happy," she points out cautiously.

"I guess," Oliver mumbles. He's not sure why it's even bothering him so much.

Maybe because before the island (which feels like an entire lifetime ago) he always had one (or two, or three) girls hanging around at any given time. Women used to spread their legs for him like it was magic, all it took back then was a few sweet words and drinks charged to his black card and a pretty smile.

Oliver doesn't remember how to smile like that anymore.

"Hey," Felicity says, nudging his knee with her own. "What do you think?"

"I think I'd be a terrible soulmate," he says honestly, because something about Felicity makes him want to confess, to just be honest.

She frowns. "Why would you say that?"

Oliver squirms a little, clutching onto the wine bottle so hard his knuckles turn white. "You didn't know me back then but I was different, before the island."

"Okay...?"

He lets out a little noise of frustration. "Everyone acts like I ... like I just went on vacation or something. Like things can just go back to the way that they were before, but...." Oliver trails off, shaking his head.

Felicity reaches out lays her hand over his forearm. "The island changed you," she assesses. "Of course you're different."

Oliver exhales, feeling a warm wave of relief that somebody understands, even if it's just some random tech girl from his family's company who happens to keep popping up when he least expects it.

"I think it messed me up," he confesses, his chest fluttering with shame. "I'm messed up."

Her thumb runs over his sleeve. "Don't you think," Felicity ponders. "That your soulmate would be able to handle it? I mean isn't that the whole point of a soulmate? They're perfect for you, right? So even if you are messed up, which come on Oliver, anyone who went through what you went through would be messed up, that wouldn't...it wouldn't make you anything less to your soulmate, 'cus you know...soulmates."

"I guess," he hedges. "I've never really thought about it like that."

Felicity smiles gently. "Sometimes you just need a different perspective." She holds out her hand for the wine and Oliver passes it to her. Their fingers brush and he swears that he feels twinge of electricity at the point of connection between their fingertips.

He's a little drunk, not that bad, but definitely a little, his stomach warm and heavy. He didn't eat much dinner earlier; Raisa had made Beef Wellington, which Oliver used to love. But he just sat there, chewing with a dry mouth, remembering the first time he shot a deer with one of his rudimentary carved arrows.

Oliver had sat on the ground in the dirt next to the dead deer, pulling the arrow out slowly as its blood spread over the dirt. He'd had laid one hand over the deer's head and murmured, forgive me, forgive me, before hacking the poor animal into pieces and cooking it over a campfire.

He hadn't even known there were deer in China.

"Oliver." Felicity's fingers squeeze his arm. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Her hand is small but her fingers are strong when they squeeze and she's looking up at him like she's worried about him. "I never called you," he realizes.

"Oh," she says, and smiles. "That's okay. It's not like - I mean it's not like you took me on a date and promised you would call me, right? It's fine, it's not like I was expecting anything, I mean, of course you can call me, you know that, I hope you know that anyway." Felicity winces a little. "But no pressure or anything."

He grins. "How's that filter?"

She groans exaggeratedly. "Worse when I'm drinking." Which she follows up by taking a huge swig. "But since we're not judging."

Oliver chuckles. "No judging."

Felicity sighs and tilts her head until it rests on his shoulder. Oliver relaxes into it, her weight on him, solid and real. His whole body feels heavy and loose, he thinks maybe for the first time since he's come home he's actually feeling something like relaxed.

"Okay," she announces, squeezing his arm a final time before releasing him. "Time to go before I drink more and really get my babble on."

"Walk you home?" he offers.

Felicity rises from the bench and links her arm in his. "If you don't mind."

"Of course not," he says, suppressing the urge to make some crack about how vulnerable she'd be out here without him. He gets the impression Felicity wouldn't like the insinuation that she's anything less than a badass.

She doesn't live far, maybe ten minutes away. It's kind of soothing, walking with her, the comfort of her elbow linked in his. Like last time, he walks her right up to her door, watching as she turns the key.

"Well," she says, leaning against the door frame. "Thanks for the drink."

"Thanks for the company."

She smiles again, lingering with one hand on the doorknob. "You should really get some sleep."

"Yeah," he nods. "Definitely."

She laughs a little, like she can tell he's totally bullshitting her but doesn't call him on it, because Felicity is nice like that. "Goodnight Oliver."

"Goodnight Felicity."

She lingers again, walking backwards into her condo almost in slow motion, like she's torturing him on purpose, holding one hand up and mouthing goodnight when she shuts the door.

Oliver stands there on her little porch, frozen for a moment, listening to the scrape of the lock turnover. Breathing slowly and wondering if she's on the other side of the door thinking of him out here, separated by two inches of wood.

He walks back to the Range Rover, unlocks the car and gets in the backseat instead of the front. He's not really drunk drunk but he's not a total moron either, he knows he shouldn't drive right now. He sprawl back with his legs kicked out and pulls out his phone, the clock informing him that it's now one in the morning. Oliver opens up his email app and composes an email to Jake, the sommelier who works with Verdant sometimes, asks him to send a bottle of top shelf red (price is no object, he types, feeling kind of like an asshole) to Felicity's address and to charge it to Oliver's account.

He leans back against the seat and closes his eyes; a few minutes later Jake emails him back about some fabulous Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux Red Blend.

Fine, Oliver replies, and confirms the address without even checking the price because what does he care, it doesn't matter to him (or his obscenely high credit limit). What matters is that it's for Felicity, that he can do something nice for her, after basically hijacking her evening and whining about how his mother and stepfather are soulmates, boo-fucking hoo, Oliver.

He realizes suddenly, that Felicity didn't talk about herself or her night at all really, why she was out so late, why there were bruises under her eyes. She just listened to him, like she actually cares, and offered gentle advice without giving a lecture.

He slumps down in the backseat, doors locked, using his sweatshirt as a makeshift pillow, one hand curving over the mark on his ribs, and wonders if his luck is just too plain bad to get a soulmate even close to someone like Felicity. He drifts for awhile, eyes shut, thinking of atonement, the blankness of his mother's face when she looks at him, the warmth he only feels when he's near a certain blond. He breathes slowly like that, curled up in the car in the dark, trying to hold on to the imagined heat of Felicity until he can't feel anything else.

Chapter Text

Oliver wakes up with a stiff neck, curled up awkwardly in the backseat of the Range Rover, nauseas and thirsty. He inhales shallowly, squinting against the sunlight bouncing off the windows.

Fuck, he fell asleep.

Oliver swallows icy panic in his throat; he's so thirsty, fuck. He climbs over to the front seat and finds the keys to the car in one of the cup holders, his iPhone in the other. There's a plastic bag on the passenger seat that contains a fifth of Grey Goose vodka, unopened, half a bottle of water, and an empty sticky container of ice cream.

He grabs the water and chugs it even though it's warm and tastes vaguely like plastic. He can think a little clearly now, he remembers running last night, buying water at the convenience store.

Felicity.

Oliver has the nagging feeling like he did something stupid last night but he can't remember exactly what. He rubs his eyes and digs around in the glove compartment looking for a pair of sunglasses. He finds an old pair of black Ray-Ban wayfarers and he reaches for them without thinking before he freezes, sunglasses held tightly between his fingers, because these are his dad's sunglasses.

Oliver exhales and presses his forehead against the steering wheel until he isn't dizzy anymore, puts his dead father's sunglasses on and drives back to the mansion.

He gets the car back into the garage without anyone noticing but halfway up the back stairs he runs right into Thea coming down in her plaid school uniform, a quilted Chanel backpack hanging off one shoulder.

"Well, well, well," she says, smirking. "Where have you been all night?"

"Out," he mumbles.

His sister wrinkles her nose. "You reek of booze."

"Do not," he says defensively.

She arches one perfectly sculpted eyebrow. "What's in the bag, Ollie?"

He blanches, clutching the convenience store bag with the full bottle of vodka inside. Thea takes the opportunity to twirl past him on the stairs. "Take a shower," she calls out. "You smell disgusting."

"Whatever," he eloquently retorts, and drags himself up the rest of the stairs and down the hall to his room.

Oliver drops the vodka lightly onto his desk and goes into his attached bathroom. He peels his clothes off and gets into the shower, turns the water on as hot as he can stand and breathes in the stream, presses his forehead against the cool stone tile while hot water rains down his back. Oliver halfheartedly scrubs shampoo through his hair and soaks a washcloth with some Bvlgari green tea scented shower gel.

He doesn't even know how this stuff gets into his bathroom. He just accepts it, the way there is a rack full of dress shirts in his closet he doesn't remember buying, razors in the bathroom cabinet, hair gel, cologne, all this stuff he forget he even had while he was gone and now that he's back he can't really remember why he needed half of it in the first place.

Oliver rinses off the soap, steps out of the shower and grabs a dry towel, scrubs himself quickly before filling up an empty glass at the sink and chugging the water down just because he can. He opens the medicine cabinet and shakes out the pills the psychiatrist prescribed plus four 200mg ibuprofen tablets and swallows them all at once.

He walks naked back to his room and shuts all the curtains, throwing his bedroom into darkness, and collapses facedown onto the bed, squinting at his clock to confirm that it's not even eight in the morning.

Oliver sighs and flips one of blankets folded at the foot of his bed over his bare ass, flops back down against the pillows, and falls asleep almost immediately.

*

He wakes up in darkness to an obnoxious, insistent buzzing. Oliver groans and gropes blindly for his phone, answers the call without even checking the number and presses speaker before flopping face first into his pillow. "'Lo?"

"Oliver Queen!" a feminine voice announces.

"Speaking," he mumbles.

"You have a lot of nerve buddy!"

"Laurel?" he half groans, because what other woman would call him just to yell at him?

"Who the fuck is Laurel?" the voice demands.

"Who the fuck are you?" he replies childishly, body still heavy with sleep, wrapped up naked in a chenille blanket.

"Oh me? I'm nobody, just the woman you sent a twelve hundred dollar bottle of wine to! And now everyone I work with thinks we're like, screwing each other, and I'm probably going to get fired or at least have a meeting with HR in which I defend my previously sterling reputation against rumors that I'm fucking the boss's stepson."

Oliver blinks his eyes open all the way. "Felicity?"

"Yes, Felicity, for God's sake Oliver how many girls are you special-ordering wine for?"

He rubs his eyes. "I honestly have no idea what you're talking about."

"You sent a bottle of wine to my office!" she shrieks. "A very expensive wine!"

He yawns and thinks about getting out of bed but decides to simply turn over onto his back instead. "I, um...are you sure?"

"Are you serious?"

He remembers buying her wine when they ran into each other last night, cheap gas station brand wine, remembers teasing her about it but still drinking half of it with her. Remembers thinking of asking Jake about... about... oh shit. "So uh...you're mad about that?"

"You are unbelievable," she snaps, and hangs up.

Oliver stares down at his phone, at the blinking call ended icon on the screen. He goes to his call log just to see it, Felicity Smoak, right there on the screen. Sighing, he opens up his email and confirms that he did in fact ask Jake to send a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux that retails for $1199 to her office at Queen Consolidated, because Oliver is a complete idiot.

The worst part is that he feels bad; she'd sounded pissed off as all hell and Oliver vaguely recalls something about her reputation being called into question. Guilt is an emotion he wasn't terribly familiar with before, but after Sara, and Dad, it's his constant companion, a reminder that Oliver's decisions have consequences, that people die around him, because of him.

He sits up and cradles his head in his hands, wryly observing that it only took him about a week of knowing Felicity to totally screw up.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, he thinks, and gets out of bed in one fluid motion, stalks over to the huge armoire across the room and yanks on a blue henley and a pair of jeans.

He finds Diggle in the parlor downstairs, reading the paper, a china cup of coffee balanced on his thigh. "Somebody slept in," Dig comments without looking at him, idly flipping a page of his paper.

Oliver runs a hand through his hair. "What time is it?"

"After noon." He raises an eyebrow at Oliver. "Are you feeling alright?"

Oliver smiles stiffly. "I'm fine."

Dig drives them halfway to The Grind and Jolt Cafe before Oliver changes his mind and makes him drive all the across town to Stardust Coffee. He runs inside while Dig waits in the car, gets a red eye for himself and, after realizing he doesn't know how she takes her coffee, a vanilla latte for Felicity, because they make a shooting star in the foam and even if she doesn't like it he figures he'll at least earn points for trying.

"Ah," Dig says wisely when Oliver gets back in the car and tells him to go to QC. "This is about that girl, isn't it?"

"I don't pay you to comment on my personal life."

"You don't pay me at all," Dig says, and laughs quietly to himself all the way over to Queen Consolidated.

Oliver walks through the lobby with his head down, more aware than usual that people are staring at him. He's used to it, the way he attracts peoples attention like a magnet. It's something he's learned to live with - first as the adored child of Robert and Moira Queen, then as Ollie the playboy, adored by every young woman (and most of their mothers) in Starling City.

He takes the elevator to the IT department and wanders around until he finds Felicity's office. The door is already open so he steps inside, a cardboard coffee cup clutched in each hand. Felicity is staring intensely at her computer screen, earbuds in, her fingers flying over the keys.

Oliver sets her coffee on a little table by the doorway. Felicity is clearly completely oblivious to his presence and he takes a few seconds, just to observe her. Her hair is brushed back in another perfect ponytail, her lips painted a pretty lilac. She's wearing a pale blue scoop neck knit dress. It's short sleeved, he can see her bare arms for the first time and he finds himself scanning them, looking idly for her mark, but all he sees is creamy soft looking skin.

Oliver walks forward and knocks lightly on her desk. Felicity's head snaps up and she jumps out of her chair, yanking her earbuds out. "Oliver, what the hell?"

"Hey," he says, walking back to table and picking up her latte. "I brought you coffee."

Felicity blinks at him, one of her hands spread flat against her chest. Her nails are painted mint green. "What?"

"I didn't know how you took your coffee so I got you a latte, is that okay?"

Felicity shakes her head a little, like she can't get his words to process. "I yelled at you over the phone for sending wine to my office so you...came to my office. With coffee." She holds her hands out and takes the latte from him, examining it. "From my favorite coffee shop."

Oliver shrugs. "You sounded kind of upset."

She cocks a sharp eyebrow at him. "So you bought me coffee."

He winces at the tone of her voice, like she's suspicious of his motives. Maybe she thinks he's one of those guys, the ones who try to fix every problem they encounter by throwing money at it. "I'm sorry?"

"Sorry for giving my coworkers enough material to gossip about me for weeks, or sorry for buying me coffee?"

Oliver scratches the back of his neck, feeling a little flustered. "I was trying to do something nice."

"Oh." Her whole face kind of drops at that, Felicity turns away from her desk and pops open the lid of her cup, Oliver secretly feels a wave of delight when she smiles and dips a pinky into the foam before carefully securing the lid back on, sucking on the pad of her finger. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Oliver feels his shoulders finally relax, she's annoyed maybe, but not angry, he can deal with that. "Do you want me to go talk to Walter? I can explain" -

"No!" she yelps. "I mean, it's fine, I'm not actually in trouble or anything." Felicity shoots him a tight smile. "Just, you know. Gotta look out for the nosy bitches in marketing."

Oliver winces. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make things more difficult for you."

Felicity shrugs and leans back against the desk. "So why'd you do it anyway?"

"I meant to have it sent to your apartment," he says, like that matters.

Felicity laughs nervously. "I kind of meant, what could have possibly possessed you to buy me an extremely expensive bottle of wine on a whim like that?"

Oliver finds himself closing the space between them, hands shoved in his pockets. "Because you looked sad."

A shadow falls over her face. "What are you talking about?"

He swallows, mouth dry. "Last night. You looked sad and I never asked if you were okay and I. Felt bad, I guess."

"You felt bad," she repeats slowly. "Because...I looked sad." She's staring him, like she doesn't know what to make of anything he's saying. "So you bought me a bottle of wine."

"Yeah," he nods.

Felicity's fingers tap against her coffee cup. "That was totally not necessary, like at all, but thank you for thinking about me. The wine looks really good, I mean it should be good, it costs as much as my monthly student loan payment and you. Did not need to know that."

She sets her coffee down and gives him a tense smile, like she's exasperated with herself. "Thank you, it was a very nice gesture," she says, sounding oddly formal.

Oliver thinks about mentioning that it's really not a big deal. He's a billionaire, he doesn't even notice spending that kind of money. But then he thinks about Felicity's face when she told him her car needed work, her ridiculous gratitude for buying that six dollar bottle of wine last night, the idea of student loans.

He reaches out instead, daring to rest two fingers on the inside of her wrist. "So, are you - is everything okay?"

And just like that she side-steps him, his hand dropping down by his side as she pulls away.

"I'm fine." Felicity smoothes her hands over her dress. "Yesterday is just - it's just a bad day for me, okay?"

Oliver thinks about his parent's wedding anniversary, his father's birthday, Sara's birthday.

He knows bad days.

"Okay," he says quietly, taking a small step back to give her space, to show her that he understands.

She smiles at him again but this time it's soft, more genuine. "Look, um..." Felicity tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear, looking apologetic. "I actually kind of have a lot of work to do, which was really like eighty percent of why I lost my shit earlier on the phone, I'm sorry about that by the way."

"So where is it?" he asks. "The wine?"

Felicity rolls her eyes and walks around behind her desk, squats down and picks up a wicker basket. The wine is nestled in a huge swath of white tissue paper, a giant red bow slapped over the label.

"Yeah, I can't imagine why anyone would think we were sleeping together," he says dryly, feeling simultaneously proud and horrified at the wrap job. "Look, if you don't want it" -

"Oh, I want it." Felicity holds the basket protectively to her chest. "I earned this wine, buddy."

"Okay," he says, stepping back, hands held up in the air. "So I'll just talk you later?"

Felicity sets the basket back down, a hint of a smirk on her face, like she's won something. "Okay, Oliver. And thank you, for the coffee."

"You're welcome." Oliver smiles and, realizing he's being excused and doesn't have a bullshit excuse to stay, reluctantly waves goodbye and walks out of her office more confused than when he walked in.

*

The thing about Verdant is that no matter what night Oliver goes it's always the same: hot girls that all blur together in an endless wave of shiny hair and sparkly dresses, guys who all have the same haircut, Tommy in an expensive suit next to him, drinking and schmoozing.

It's boring, the endless repetition, but there's bottomless free liquor and sometimes the right girl will smile or shake her hair at him and Oliver will feel a glimmer of something, something electric and pulsing under his skin, reminding him of how he used to feel, back when he knew how to have fun.

The only anomaly tonight is the new guy Tommy hired to run drinks between the room and the back bar. He's young and almost absurdly pretty, crystal blue eyes, a sharp jaw that could give Oliver a run for his money.

"Is he even twenty-one?" Oliver mutters to Tommy, after the kid has taken his request for Stoli, neat, without batting an eye.

Tommy shrugs, one leg crossed over the other. "According to all his paperwork." He grins and elbows Oliver. "He just looks young to you because we're old men now."

Oliver snorts. "Speak for yourself."

Helena is here again, sitting a few tables away with a few other women. She's wearing a blood red dress with little straps, her lips painted to match. She's leaned back in her chair, hair parted down the middle and hanging down her back, holding a drink that's colored candy apple red. She catches his eye and doesn't smile so much as smirk, taking a careful sip of her drink so she doesn't smear her lipstick before turning her attention back to her friends.

She looks like a possibly psychotic Snow White in a cocktail dress. Oliver has to admit, it's kind of hot.

Their drinks come, the new kid passes Oliver's Stoli to him with a ducked head, mumbling, "Mr. Queen," the slightest trace of sarcasm in his voice.

"Oliver " he corrects, taking the glass. There's a lemon peel twisted around the rim and the vodka is ice cold, just as it should be. "Thank you, er..."

"Roy," the guy supplies helpfully. "Roy Harper."

Tommy sends Roy out to the main bar to deal with some apparent lime crises (again, Oliver is flooded with relief that he's not in charge of the staff) and drags Oliver out to the main room to do a loop around the dance floor, ostensibly to make sure none of the patrons are doing anything untoward like snort cocaine off the tables or starting a fight.

Oliver reluctantly takes a few selfies with some patrons, flashes fake smiles and follows closely behind Tommy lest he gets caught in the crush of the crowd. They end up at the bar, Oliver hops up to sit on the bar while he sips his drink because he's the fucking owner and he can, surveys the mass of bodies swaying together on the dance floor like a king observing his subjects from his throne.

Tommy is behind the bar conferring with the bartenders, talking while they're all mixing drinks and nodding frantically. That new guy, Roy, is here too, he's bar-backing, slicing up what one of the bartenders hysterically refers to as the last bin of limes. He's wearing the standard casual uniform, nice jeans and a black shirt. It's got long sleeves, which is why Oliver doesn't notice before, but he's got them rolled up to cut the limes, and when he lifts the knife Oliver can see his mark on the inside of his right forearm.

Oliver vaults over the bar and grabs Roy's arm with both hands so he can examine his mark. It's the King of Hearts, just like the playing card, except instead of holding a sword he's holding a yellow flower.

Just like Thea's, in reverse.

"Oliver!" Tommy is staring at him in horror along with half the staff. "What the hell are you doing?"

Oliver looks down where his hands are clamped around Roy, who's dropped the knife point down into the cutting board, face white, gritting his teeth against Oliver's hold.

Oliver yanks his hands away, feeling dizzy. "I'm sorry," he mumbles, stepping back and moving around Tommy. "I'm gonna go."

What the fuck? Tommy mouths, and Oliver shakes his head and escapes all the way to the alley before he feels like he can breathe again.

He calls a car back to the mansion and takes the back set of stairs up to his room, hovering at Thea's shut bedroom door for only a few seconds before continuing down the hall. He gets in the shower, turns the water as hot as it'll get as he turns it over in his head, his seventeen year old sister's soulmate working at his club.

Figures. Oliver goes out looking to forget and ends up only being reminded of how alone he is.

He doesn't know for sure of course, but it sure as hell looked like a match to him. He thinks briefly of telling Thea, but generally speaking that's considered interfering - if he really is her soulmate they'll meet face-to-face anyway, which leaves Oliver imagining a whole host of terrible ways his baby sister will possibly meet Roy.

He takes the sleeping pill in the cabinet even though he gets nightmares sometimes, because for some reason he still feels incredibly agitated, remembering the white marks his fingers left on Roy's arm. He wanders back into his room, pulls on a clean pair of boxer briefs and turns the lights off before getting into bed.

He lies there, heart thumping in his chest, thinking that if Sara was here she would laugh at him, flip her hair and whisper jealous? in that tone of voice that was sexy and teasing at the same time.

But she's not here, Sara is decomposing at the bottom of the sea because of Oliver, and here he is, jealous of his little sister, because maybe he was always nothing more than a selfish little shit.

Completely impulsively he reaches for his phone before realizing he doesn't even know what the point is. There's no one to call anyway. Thea's sleeping down the hall, Tommy's cleaning up his mess back at Verdant, Dig is at home with his wife and baby, and Laurel hates him.

Oliver scrolls lazily through his contacts anyway and stops when he gets to the F's, hovering over her name: Felicity Smoak.

They've texted exactly once, after she broke open the Chateau Lafite Rothschild. There was some banter Oliver managed to keep up with and it was nice even, but he hasn't texted her since, hasn't heard from her either. He stares at the text thread for a very long time before he gets up the courage to tap out hey and sends it before he can second guess himself.

To his surprise and relief he gets a response almost immediately: Hello, my favorite insomniac.

For some dumb reason his cheeks heat at the endearment, my favorite. He internally smacks himself, he used to have game, he used to not care about silly sweet things like that. Did I wake you?

Was up late working. No worries. You okay?

Can't sleep.

Yes, I gathered that.

This girl once told me about some math game that's supposed to work like a charm. Help a guy out?

Two minutes later he has a sudoku app downloaded and Felicity sends him texts instructing him on how to play. It actually works, he's terrible at it but it's a distraction, after awhile he rubs his eyes and sets the phone down, and just like she's psychic Felicity sends him one last text.

Sleep well, Oliver.

Chapter Text

Oliver stumbles downstairs at seven o'clock on Sunday night for family dinner and freezes in the foyer, suddenly feeling naked even though he's wearing black Helmut Lang slacks and a grey Vince cashmere sweater.

Helena Bertinelli is standing in the foyer, wearing a hunter green dress and plum lipstick, black pointy toe stilettos with thin straps crawling up her ankles, and standing next to her is her father, one of his hands rested paternally on her arm.

"Oliver, you're late darling!" His mother emerges from the sitting room holding a martini, Walter trailing behind her.

Oliver blinks at her, baffled. "What's going on?"

"Family dinner, darling. Remember?" His mother gives him a concerned smile.

Oliver swallows, feeling the heat of Helena's eyes on him. "You didn't tell me they were coming."

His mother laughs and pats his shoulder patronizingly. "You'll have to excuse Oliver, he seems to have left his manners back on The Gambit."

The rebuke lands like a slap, he ducks under his mother's hand and steps back away from her. He can see a flicker of pity on Helena's face out of the corner of his eye. "I'm going to get a drink."

He doesn't hear his mother's excuses for his behavior as he retreats to the bar and pours himself a generous vodka soda, gets a few good gulps in before taking a deep breath and walking back out to the wolves waiting for him.

Thea has apparently somehow managed to get out of dinner because of a sleepover so he's on his own, outnumbered by his mother, Walter, and the Bertinellis. Oliver follows them to the sitting room for an interminable cocktail hour, nose in his glass, before it is finally time to sit at the table for dinner.

His mother and Walter sit at the head and foot of the table, Helena next to her father and directly across from Oliver. Their parents discuss business over their spinach and strawberry salads while slowly and steadily getting bombed on martinis.

Oliver busies himself with getting properly drunk so he can get through this, watching Helena line up all her strawberries on one side of her plate, scraping them free of the vinaigrette dressing before eating them one by one. She sighs quietly before fixing Oliver with a little smirk.

Bored? Helena mouths.

He shrugs minutely, smiling just a little, and raises his glass to her before tossing back his drink.

"Raisa, can you please bring out another round of cocktails along with the soup?" his mother calls out.

Raisa appears a few minutes later along with a few staff members who work in the kitchen with her. The salad plates get replaced with butternut squash soup and everyone gets a fresh martini. Oliver's buzzed, his whole body warm and relaxed back in his chair as he trails his spoon idly through his soup.

The sharp point of a shoe brushes his shin.

Oliver startles, his head snapping up. Helena gives him an innocent smile and runs her foot up to his knee. Oliver doesn't flinch this time, lifting one eyebrow like a dare, because when he looks at her all he can think is basically, yeah, sure, why not?

She continues to play with him under the table as the soup course is taken away and replaced by rosemary chicken and roasted potatoes. Oliver picks at his food, unable to think beyond the pinpricks of pleasure-pain she leaves on his legs, all the while smiling demurely at their parents, taking delicate sips of her drink.

And then Helena puts the ball of her foot right up against his crotch and Oliver chokes on his drink, dropping his head to cough into his elbow.

"Oliver!" his mother exclaims. "Here, have a sip of water sweetheart."

He complies, feeling Helena pull her foot away, his cheeks flushing pink. They get through the rest of dinner without looking at each other; Oliver uncomfortably hard and overwhelmed, Helena sly and silent while dinner gets cleared to make room for desert.

"Oliver, Walter and I have some business to discuss with Frank. Why don't you take Helena upstairs and show her the new Pissarro?"

"What?" he asks dumbly. They've been discussing business for the past two hours, he's so bored he would cry if he wasn't drunk already.

"The Pissarro darling, it's hung in the upstairs study," his mother says with an impatient wave of her hand. "Go on, desert won't be ready to serve for another twenty minutes."

Oliver rubs his forehead as if that will make her words translate into something he understands. "You want us to go... look at a painting?"

"I'd love that," Helena says warmly, although her eyes are cold and calculating. "I absolutely adore the impressionists, don't you Oliver?"

"Yeah," he blurts out, because he knows an out when he sees one.

He gets up from his chair and walks out of the dining room with Helena, who follows him around the first floor back to the foyer and the stairs. She's two steps above him the whole time, her swinging ass in that tight dress right in front of his face all the way up.

She's been to his house before, he knows she intentionally turns the wrong way down the hallway in the direction of his bedroom instead of the study. She stops with her hand on the knob of the door to his bedroom and turns to give him a mischievous smirk.

Oliver leans forward, spreading one hand flat on the door so she's boxed in. "Are you sure this is the right room?"

Her eyes rake over him rather shamelessly and she opens the door, stepping back into his bedroom. He follows her inside and shuts the door, making sure to turn the lock. When he turns around she's right there, hands at his hips, and Oliver shivers.

He steps around her, sliding out of her grip, so he's facing her and the door and slowly walks backwards towards the bed, eyebrows raised like he's daring her to chase him. She takes slow steps towards him, their eyes locked, tension tight as a wire between them. The backs of his knees hit the bed and Oliver sits on the edge of the mattress, spreading his thighs apart as she steps in between his legs.

Helena pulls up the hem of her dress and rolls down a scrap of lace so she can kick her underwear off and Oliver's brain short-circuits.

"What-what are you doing?" he asks hoarsely. He knows what they're doing in general, but he wasn't expecting, well, this.

Helena reaches out and takes his hands, pulls them up to cup her naked hips, the skirt of her dress rucked up around her waist. "I haven't been with anyone since Michael," she confesses softly. "And you, Oliver Queen, look like you haven't been with a woman in a very long time."

He swallows, stroking her bare skin. "And?"

She puts her hands on his shoulders and swings up on the bed so she's straddling his lap. "I thought we could help each other with that. But if you're not interested..."

Oliver slides his hand in between her legs and she gasps. "Our parents are right downstairs," he reminds her.

It's a little twisted but so are they, he supposes. It's not really that surprising, the two of them, like this. He remembers what Tommy said about her fiancé. In some ways she's probably the only one who understands what it feels like, to be him, to be the survivor.

The one left to be haunted by the ghosts of loved ones with bullets in their skulls, lungs full of seawater.

He wonders idly if she dreams of her fiancé the way he dreams of Sara, if she's visited by an apparition at night with dead eyes and accusing hands.

She licks her bottom lip, head dropping back. "Just. No strings attached. Two friends. Helping each other..."

"Yeah, sure, okay," he agrees, because it's kind of perfect and fucked up and about exactly all that he can handle right now.

It's been years since he's touched a woman like this but his fingers remember what to do, how to make her shudder and moan until she dives for the button on his pants. She gets her hand around him and Oliver has to choke back a groan, everything whiting out at the sensation of it, her breath hot against his skin, her hair falling around them like a curtain.

Before he has the chance to worry about where the fuck he might be able to procure a condom she's reaching one hand down into her bra, producing a little foil packet with a wry smile.

He leans back on his elbows to watch her roll it down on him, lifting his hips so she can pull his pants down to his knees. Her thighs bracket his hips and Oliver has to shut his eyes for a second, total sensory overload as she sinks down onto him.

She falls forward, her mouth finding his. It's fast and dirty, her teeth scraping his ear, his hands clutching at her hips, feeling them roll back and forth in a steady insistent rhythm until they're panting into each other's mouths, her hands woven through his hair.

It's so easy to let go when he feels her clamp down around him, crying softly into his mouth. He falls all the way back against the bed, one hand on her neck to bring her head to his chest. They lay there for a minute, breathing heavily, before Helena rolls off him, her cheeks flushed and eyes glazed over.

"Hey," Oliver whispers but she pulls away, climbs down from the bed and discreetly grabs a tissue from the box on the nightstand.

Oliver disposes of the condom and pulls his pants back up with shaking hands. Helena smooths her dress back down and meets him by the door, self-consciously combing her hair back with her fingers.

"Hey," he tries again, his hand light on her wrist. "Are you okay?"

She doesn't quite catch his eyes but she nods and kisses his cheek. "Thank you, Oliver," she murmurs, and pulls her arm away.

*

Oliver spends a few days in a daze. He skips the gym, he doesn't go to Verdant. He unlocks his phone just to stare at Felicity's name.

He doesn't know what's wrong with him. Sex used to relax him but ever since that night he's felt unsettled, running for hours in the middle of the night only to go back home and lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering what he's done to deserve being tortured this way.

He hasn't talked to Helena since that night but no surprises there, they never were those kind of friends anyway. It haunts him a little, remembering the look she'd given him as she walked out of his room, like she'd been searching for something and now that she had it she didn't want it anymore.

Like he was a mistake.

He ignores Tommy's texts demanding to know why Oliver hasn't showed his face at Verdant, ignores his pointed observation that Helena hasn't been at Verdant all week either. He's reverting back to pre-island Oliver, whose primary method of problem-solving was pretending the problem didn't exist at all.

So it figures that he'd run into Felicity at Starling Grill on Thursday when he's running on four hours of sleep, his head full of sand while waiting in line for a salad bowl, Dig holding down a table in the far corner of the restaurant, talking to his wife on his Bluetooth.

She's two customers ahead of him, paying for a Thai rainbow salad, Oliver just catches the sound of her voice asking the cashier if he's absolutely sure that there are no peanuts or peanut sauce whatsoever on it. She's wearing a cream lace trench coat over a dark red dress with a flared skirt, revealing the curves of her legs as she sways slightly in her pumps, handing her credit card over to be swiped.

Oliver smiles to himself, stepping up to order a chopped Cobb salad for Dig and a Greek salad with chicken for himself. He feels strangely shy, unsure if he should really be bothering her on her lunch break. It's almost enough, just knowing she's here, six feet away, the light hitting her pale hair, making it glow like a halo.

There's a scraping sound to his left and Oliver turns just in time to see Felicity catch the edge of her heel against a chair and he lunges for her, catching her by the elbow, his other hand on her waist as he helps her regain her balance.

"Oliver!" Felicity exclaims, clutching onto his forearm with her free hand, the packaged salad safely tucked under her arm, using her grip to pull herself upright.

"Hey," he says, his whole body relaxing for the first time in what feels like forever. "Are you okay, are you hurt?"

"Only my pride," she says, flashing him a smile. "You're not secretly a superhero, are you?"

Oliver blinks. "Excuse me?"

She flushes, smoothing back a few loose tendrils of hair. "You're just always swooping in to save me out of nowhere, you know, you're very, um. Heroic."

Oliver chokes on a laugh. "I don't think anyone's ever called me that before."

Felicity tilts her head at him. "Well you certainly have the freakish good looks part down."

"Uh...thanks, I think?" he says with a chuckle.

"Compliment!" she exclaims. "That was definitely a compliment." She pushes up the frame of her glasses. "So anyway, thanks for saving my ass from the floor. How are you?"

Oliver swallows. "I'm okay."

Her forehead wrinkles, like she doesn't believe him. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," he says softly. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's nice to see you."

Her pretty blue eyes widen fractionally. "It's nice to see you too."

"Order for Queen!" the cashier announces.

Oliver leans in and cups her elbow, feeling something in his chest settle at the contact. "Have lunch with me?" he asks.

Her eyelashes flutter. "Lunch?"

"Yeah, just - wait for me?" He pays for the salads and gestures for Felicity to follow him to the back table where Dig is waiting, an amused smile on his face.

He introduces Felicity to Dig and within five minutes they're chatting like two long lost best friends while Oliver watches them, mentally trying to keep up, as their conversation veers from QC's latest applied science presentation to the military strike in Afghanistan last week, whether workers in the The Glades are going to strike in protest of one of the last health clinics closing.

Felicity barely finishes half of her salad before she checks the time on her phone and jumps up from the table, exclaiming that if she doesn't leave right now she's going to be late and she can't be late because her supervisor is a brown nosing anal-retentive troglodyte who's had it out for her since she was hired just because he thinks having a uterus means she doesn't know how to code.

Oliver blinks very fast before wisely choosing not to respond verbally, instead picking her coat off the back of her chair and holding it out for her to step into because fuck you very much Mom, he still has manners.

"Thank you," Felicity says, hitching her bag over her arm. "I guess I'll see you around Oliver?"

She opens her arms and Oliver steps into them without thinking, wrapping one of his arms across her back in response. Her cheek is right up against his jaw, he can smell the floral scent of her shampoo and for a second he blanks out, everything in his body settling, the anxiety he's been living with all week washing away at the feel of her in his arms, like she belongs here.

Felicity clears her throat and he realizes they've been hugging a little too long for acquaintances, and quickly pulls away.

"If you ever need saving you know who to call," he says, unable to suppress a small cheeky grin because he loves the way she's looking at him right now, like it's taking everything in her to walk away.

Felicity smiles, reaching up to wind a finger around her ponytail. "I'll keep that in mind."

He stares at her as she walks out, watching her skirt swirl around the soft curve of her calves as she steps through the glass doors and out onto the sidewalk.

"So," Dig says behind him, breaking Oliver out of his trance. "That's the girl from QC?"

"Yeah, that's her," Oliver confirms. "That's Felicity."

Dig breaks out into peals of laughter. "Boy, you are in a world of trouble. That girl just ran circles around you."

Oliver nods, staring out at the window even though Felicity is out of sight. "I think I kind of like that about her."

Dig laughs and laughs, patting Oliver's arm. "Good man."

*

Sara's laughing, shoulders doing a little sexy shimmy as she peels her robe off. The lights flicker but Sara just laughs and laughs and there's a terrific cracking noise and then water is rushing in, it's everywhere, and Sara scream and screams -

Oliver jackknifes up in bed with his hands outstretched, he swears he can still feel her, cold slippery skin slipping out of his grip. He stumbles out of bed and into his bathroom, peeling his sweat-soaked shirt and boxers off as he goes.

He takes a hot shower with his forehead pressed against the tiled wall, hands clenched into fists at his sides, ears ringing from the echo of her screams. He washes mechanically, staying in the shower until the water runs cold.

He can never fall back asleep after a dream like that so he doesn't try. He pulls on a clean pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt, wanders out the hall and downstairs, thinking about pouring a glass of something from the bar in the den and watching a movie until he feels marginally relaxed, but when he gets to the bottom of the stairs he sees Thea sneaking in the front door, teetering in a sky high pair of Louboutins, wearing only a tiny black fringed minidress.

At three in the morning.

"Hey," he hisses, jogging across the cavernous foyer. "Where the hell of you been?"

Thea blinks languidly in response. Her hair is a wild mess of curls and black eyeliner is smudged all over her eyelids.

"Thea," he snaps.

His sister laughs, low and throaty, and pushes him away. "Relax, Ollie."

"Thea, it's three in the the morning."

"So?" She lifts an eyebrow and gestures wildly around. "You see Mom complaining?"

"Thea"-

"Mind your own business, Ollie."

"Speedy, c'mon, I'm just worried"-

"Well don't be." Her voice is flat. "The big brother routine is cute but you can save it." Thea kicks off her heels, leaving them scattered across the marble floor tiles. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time."

She walks away from him, weaving through the foyer and up the stairs, like she's floating, leaving Oliver alone in the foyer, staring down at the soles of her abandoned shoes, viciously red against the floor tiles.

*

He goes back to Verdant on Saturday, but only because Tommy threatens to come to the mansion and drag him out by his hair.

Oliver enters through the back, walking down the narrow hallway past the stock room and Tommy's office, stopping when he hears a door creak open. He turns at the sound and catches Laurel of all people slipping out of Tommy's office, dressed in a sharp black suit jacket over a white silk blouse and skinny black pants. Her eyes widen in surprise, she nods at him and shuts the door all the way.

"Oliver, hello." Laurel doesn't come any closer but she doesn't back away either, which for them is progress.

"What are you doing here?" he asks.

"Just helping Tommy with some contracts," she says quickly.

"Oh. I didn't... know that you did that."

Laurel shrugs. "I was just leaving so... I'll see you around?"

"Yeah, sure."

Laurel sort of grimaces, like she wants to smile but just can't get there. "Bye, Ollie."

Oliver has to take a minute, wait for the guilt he always feels around her to settle before making it down the stairs into Verdant, finding Tommy in the VIP room chatting about the current drink menu with Roy, just fucking perfect.

"Well look at you," Tommy says cheerfully as Oliver approaches, eying Roy warily. "Finally get out of bed, did you?"

"Fuck you," Oliver mumbles, acutely aware that Roy is staring blatantly at him, arms crossed over his chest. "I need a drink."

"Roy," Tommy says, having the gall to snap his fingers and the younger boy rolls his eyes but walks away in the direction of the bar.

Tommy clamps one of his hands over Oliver's shoulder. "This going to be a problem for you?"

Oliver sighs and shakes his head.

"Look," Tommy says. "Just stay for a few hours, have a drink, maybe talk to a pretty girl. That's all I'm asking for here, Ollie."

He doesn't know how to explain to Tommy that somehow even that feels like too much, how can he when Tommy's basically running the club all by himself, puts up with Oliver's ever shifting attitudes and absences with little more than gentle teasing?

"Yeah, sure," he says, and sinks into a chair.

Roy returns a few minutes later, holding a drink out to Oliver, his other hand braced against the back of his chair. "Stoli, neat."

Oliver reaches out and takes the glass from him. "Thank you. Look, I'm... sorry about the other night."

"Whatever," Roy mumbles. "Let me know when you want a refill."

It's not exactly forgiveness but Oliver's not looking for that kind of understanding anyway so he nods, tips the vodka back and swallows until his chest burns. He does exactly as Tommy asks, sits in his chair, drinks the vodka Roy brings him every forty-five minutes, smiles blandly as pretty girls walk by.

By one am he's pretty drunk; music pounding in his ears like waves crashing against a boat, relentless. He finds Tommy, who takes one look at him and sighs, shaking his head, and gives him permission to leave. Oliver stumbles outside, pulling cold night air into his lungs like it'll sober him up.

He doesn't want to go home.

And then he remembers suddenly, that Felicity lives around here, and maybe it's the alcohol talking but it suddenly seems like a brilliant idea, just to walk by her condo, greedily craving that feeling he only gets around her, like maybe things aren't really that bad, like one day he won't wake up cold and full of remorse.

Except he doesn't just walk by, he walks all the way up to her front door and before he can stop himself he knocks, like some drunk crazy person. By the time she answers the door he's already walking away, cursing his own stupidity.

"Oliver?" Felicity stands in the doorway, illuminated by the little porch light. She doesn't have makeup on and her hair is piled in a messy knot on the top of her head. She's wearing a long white tee shirt with a panda bear on it and no pants, Jesus Christ.

"I'm sorry," he blurts out. "I was in the neighborhood and I thought I'd just"-

"Do you want to come in?" she asks.

He blinks at her, the words taking a second to resolve. "Okay."

She steps aside to let him in and Oliver drags himself into her condo, loose limbed from the vodka. There's a lamp on in the entryway, a kitchen to his left, flashes of color everywhere.

"Oliver." Felicity's standing up on her tiptoes, her hands on his shoulders. He blinks rapidly, he must have zoned out.

"Sorry," he mumbles. "I'm sorry, I - I don't even know why I'm here."

"That's okay." Her voice is soft and soothing.

"I shouldn't..." he swallows, feeling stupid and strangely vulnerable like this.

"Come on." She pulls him into the living room and sits him down on a purple couch. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he says automatically. "I'm just... Tommy, that's my best friend, he manages the club I own. He got me kind of drunk."

"Nice friend," she says wryly.

Oliver shrugs. "It's what Wasps do, right?"

"Wouldn't know, I'm Jewish." Felicity sighs and to his surprise leans down and pushes his hair away from his forehead. "Stay here, I'll get you some water."

He leans back against her couch and lets his eyes shut. He doesn't know why but it feels right, being here, with Felicity's soft hands and soft voice. He rubs his hand absently against his side, feels the earth spin under his feet as he breathes shallowly.

"Oliver." He opens his eyes to Felicity holding a cup of water in a plastic tumbler in one hand and a bottle of ibuprofen in the other.

"Thanks." He takes two pills and swallows down all the water. "I should go," he says, at the same time she blurts out, "Do you want to crash here?"

And then they both say "What?" and Felicity breaks into giggles.

"Stay," she says, running her thumb over the back of his hand. "The couch pulls out."

Oliver blinks heavily. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," she says. "Yeah, definitely. You, mister, look like you need some sleep."

He can't argue there, finds himself nodding along and helping Felicity pull the couch out into a double bed, watching as she flits around the room, gathering up a pillow and a set of sheets from the hall closet. "Are you going to be okay with this?" she asks. "Do you need anything else?"

"I spent five years sleeping on dirt, this is great, promise."

"Right," she says, slapping her hand over her forehead. "Well, um, if you need anything, I'll just be in my room." She tilts her head in the direction of the hallway.

"Okay."

Felicity smiles and then she's leaning in, her face a blur of creamy skin and blond hair, to plant a soft kiss against his cheek. "Goodnight Oliver."

"Goodnight, Felicity." He watches her walk away, staring at her bare thighs as she retreats to her bedroom.

He sinks down on the makeshift bed; pulling a turquoise patterned throw pillow to his chest. He doesn't expect to actually fall asleep, but the blankets smell like Felicity, like sunlight and roses and perfume, and he breathes it it, curls himself up under the weight of the fabric, body warm and heavy, falling asleep to the memory of her lips against his skin.

Chapter Text

Oliver, Sara murmurs. She's so close, right in front of him, bright blue eyes and a mess of blond waves. She's smiling. She looks happy, peaceful even.

Oliver, she sing-songs. Oliver, Oliver.

He blinks his eyes open and Felicity is kneeling in front of him, her hair pulled back in a messy topknot, a gentle smile on her face. She's touching him, he realizes, her hand sliding through his hair.

"Hey," he croaks, reaching up to scrub at his face.

Felicity strokes his scalp with her fingertips. "Hey. How're you feeling?"

"Good," he realizes, surprised. "I think I was tired."

She laughs gently. Her skin is bare, no makeup, lips peachy pale without lipstick. "I'd say so."

He looks around, realizing for the first time that sunlight is streaming in through the windows, lighting up Felicity's hair.

It's morning.

"I slept through the night?" he asks in disbelief.

"And most of the morning," she adds. "It's almost eleven."

"I'm sorry," he blurts out, because he's pretty sure it's not cool to show up at a girl's house wasted off his ass and commandeer her couch for ten hours straight.

"It's okay," she says softly. "You looked like you needed it."

He shrugs, helpless, sitting up, suddenly aware that he's still wearing suit pants and a navy blue Calvin Klein button down over a white vee neck.

"Do you want some coffee?" she offers. "I just made a pot."

"That would be great, thanks." Oliver pulls himself off the couch and starts to fold the blankets, Felicity shooting him a smile and leaning in close to help him.

There's a sudden boom and he jumps about a foot off the ground, one of his hands flying out to cup the back of Felicity's head, to protect her vulnerable skull. Oliver whips around, holding her close to his chest, trying to assess what the sound was and where it came from.

"Oliver," Felicity says softly. "It's okay. Its just thunder."

He blinks, looking down at her in confusion before glancing at the windows across the living room. She's right; it's storming out, the sky a sickening green-grey, a violet flash of lighting in the distance. It doesn't make any sense, just a minute ago he was looking at Felicity lit up by sunshine, and now the trees outside are shaking violently in the storm.

"Oliver," she says again. She's rubbing his back, her hands gliding up and down the crisp fabric of his shirt. "Are you okay?"

He steps back away from her, gives her his worst pretend smile. "I'm fine."

She eyes him up and down, her lips twisting like she doesn't believe him at all. "You should stay here until the weather clears up."

"Are you sure?" he asks. Who does that, offers that to a guy she barely knows, a guy who showed up drunk on her doorstep last night?

"Yeah, you shouldn't be out in that." Felicity shifts back and forth in front of him; she's wearing a little pair of grey gym shorts and a soft looking blue crew neck sweatshirt, white knee socks covering her feet. "Do you want to borrow a pair of sweatpants?"

"Sure." Because what else is he supposed to say?

She disappears back to her bedroom and comes out with a pair of worn grey men's sweatpants; MIT printed in block letters over one hip. "These should fit."

"Thanks." Oliver grips them in his hand, wondering who they originally belonged to, why Felicity keeps a pair of some guy's sweatpants in her room.

She directs him to her bathroom down the hall. Oliver pulls off his button down and suit pants, folds them up and places them on the counter. He uses the toilet, washes his hands, gargles with mouthwash he finds in the cabinet, and splashes cold water over his face before pulling on the sweatpants. There's a faint C written in marker over the tag.

He finds Felicity in the kitchen, pouring coffee into two mugs. "Here," she says, passing one to him. "Creamer's in the fridge if you want it. I'd offer you breakfast but you don't actually want me to cook for you, trust me. You're welcome to scavenge."

"I can cook," he says absently, opening her fridge and scanning the contents:

A half empty bottle of red wine, a tub of butter, orange juice. An almost full carton of eggs, a few blocks of cheese, (pepper-jack and two varieties of cheddar). A few bruised apples, a carton of spinach, a pint of blueberries, one lone red pepper.

"How do you feel about an omelet?" he asks, pulling out a container of vanilla flavored creamer to stir into his coffee.

When he glances over his shoulder Felicity is leaning against the counter with her mug cradled in her hands, mouth open. "Are you serious?"

Oliver hesitates. "I can make something else if you don't like them"-

"No, no!" she interrupts. "That's like, so not what I meant. I would be incredibly impressed if you made that."

He shrugs. "I don't mind, it's not hard."

She snorts into her mug. "Speak for yourself, buddy."

He offers her a tentative smile. "I could teach you?"

Felicity smiles back over the rim of her mug. "I'd like that."

Oliver sips his coffee while watching her melt butter on a large pan. "Keep the heat low," he advises gently, taking the carton of eggs out of the fridge. "Bowl?"

She side steps him to take down a large bright yellow mixing bowl from a cabinet. "What next?"

"I'll crack the eggs, can you wash the spinach?"

Felicity takes a large sip of coffee. "You know, this is sort of way more work than I normally put into making a meal," she says cheerfully. "I'm more of a inhale-take-out-over-my-desk kind of gal."

He carefully cracks the first egg on the countertop and splits the shell open over the bowl, watching the egg slide down. "Some things are worth the work."

She lightly bumps her hip against his, pulling out a bunch of spinach and holding it under the faucet. "I agree."

Oliver finds a whisk in a ceramic jar along with a rubber spatula and a few spoons, whips up the eggs and pours them over the pan. "The key," he tells Felicity, "is patience."

She passes him the spinach. "So how'd you learn to cook?"

He busies himself with tearing up the spinach and sprinkling it over the eggs. "I used to hide out in the kitchen during parties when I was a kid sometimes. Mostly to steal food but sometimes it was just... so boring, talking to all my parents friends, and I hated wearing a suit, so I'd go there when I needed to escape. Our cook, Raisa, she taught me a few things."

"Well thank god one of us can cook. I burn everything," she says mournfully.

"You didn't burn the coffee," Oliver points out, walking back to the fridge to get out a block of cheese.

"That's because my life depends on it." She grins, offering a cutting board for him to slice the cheese on. "I'm a caffeine addict."

"The first time I had coffee after I came back I almost cried," he confesses, focusing on the thin slices of cheese peeling off the blade of the knife as he works.

"It sounds like hell," Felicity says. "What you went through. Actual literal hell."

Oliver can't help but laugh as he arranges layers of small cheese slices over the slowly firming eggs. "It was."

She gives him a look of horrified disbelief. "Then why are you laughing, it's not funny!"

"No, no, it's just, the island. Where I was. It's called Lian Yu. It translates to purgatory," he explains. "Literal hell."

Next to him Felicity sighs and briefly, just for a few seconds, drops her head onto his shoulder. "You want a refill?"

"Please."

He keeps an eye on the eggs, poking gently at the edges with the spatula while sipping his fresh mug of coffee. Felicity dances around him, laying plates down on the small table in the corner and washing the pint of blueberries. When she has the table set Oliver adjusts the flame on the stove a little and gestures for her to come over.

"C'mere, I'll teach you how to do the flip," he says, and hands her the spatula.

Oliver stands behind and to the right of her, his fingers light on her wrist. "So first you just want to slide the spatula under the edge of the omelet. If it breaks apart it's not ready but this is good, see?"

Felicity nods, looking down at the pan very seriously, like she's about to operate on someone's brain. "Now what?"

"You're going to slide the spatula under." He uses his fingers to guide her hand, until half the omelet is under the spatula. "Now nice and slow, you're going to flip your wrist, like this..."

Felicity flips it over with his guidance, squealing in delight when the eggs don't break apart. "I did it! We did it! I swear, this has never happened before, my apartment is usually where eggs come to die a fiery death."

"See, you can do it." Oliver watches her do a little victory dance, looking up at him with big blue eyes.

Felicity laughs self-consciously, ducking her head. "Do you want juice?"

"Sure." He gives the omelet another minute, tests it with the edge of the spatula before cutting it in half and sliding each portion onto the plates Felicity set out.

She comes to the table with a glass of orange juice in each hand, drops into the chair across from him and grins wickedly. "Not bad, Queen."

"You made the coffee," he says seriously. "We both know that's the most important part."

"I love a man who appreciates me," she says, eyes twinkling, before taking a bite of her eggs and moaning in a way that makes Oliver think about all kinds of sounds he suddenly wants to hear her utter.

"Oh my god," she sighs, pointing her fork at him. "You. You should do more of this."

He shrugs, popping a few blueberries into his mouth and chasing them with orange juice. He almost gets tears in his eyes swallowing, remembering five years of icy freshwater from a pond that tasted like ashes and sorrow and guilt.

"Do you like to?" Felicity questions. "Cook?"

"It's just a hobby," he mumbles. "It's not a big deal."

"So you like what you do then?" she asks, admirably pushing past his obvious discomfort. "At the club?"

"I just own it." Oliver drags his fork through oozing cheese. "Tommy's the manager, he does most of the work. My uh, my mother wanted me to come to QC, but I just... can't do the corporate thing. I hate it."

Felicity laughs. "I don't blame you. I mean, don't get me wrong, your family is a great company to work for, but after everything...." she trails off, giving him a sort of wistful look. "What do you really want to do?"

"Getting a full night's sleep was really the only thing on my list," he jokes uneasily.

To his relief she laughs and leans over to grab an iPad from where it's sitting on the counter. "We should check the weather."

Oliver leans back in his chair, reveling in the easy domesticity of the moment: coffee in his mug, cold organic orange juice in his glass, a warm meal on a plate, a pretty girl across the table from him. He can hear the steady sound of rain falling but for the first time since he's been back it doesn't feel like a threat. It feels, well, cozy, wearing a stranger's fleece lined sweatpants, drinking Felicity's coffee.

Like he's a normal person, doing normal people things like eating breakfast and talking about the weather.

"Oh man," Felicity sighs, flipping her iPad around so Oliver can see the screen. "Look at that."

It's the hour-by-hour forecast of the day - thunderstorm warning until four pm, flooding possible. "Guess I'm stuck here for a little while," he says, not feeling the least bit sorry about it.

They migrate to the couch eventually, sitting at opposite ends, Oliver's feet on the coffee table because she doesn't seem to care, while Felicity tucks her legs under herself, curled up like a cat. Oliver is distracted by her socks, wondering if her mark is hiding under the fabric, watching her lazily flips through channels, pausing on the news with her bottom lip held in between her teeth.

The newscaster is recapping the night before, apparently there was a protest in The Glades that turned into a riot, storefronts set on fire, people injured, police hosing down protesters.

"Well that's awful," Felicity mutters, pointing the remote at the newscaster and aggressively hitting the mute button.

"I don't understand what happened," Oliver says. "I grew up here, The Glades wasn't great but it seems like it's completely deteriorated while I was gone."

Felicity suddenly looks apprehensive, shifting to sit up a little straighter.

"What?" he asks, something in his gut twisting.

She sighs and hits guide on the remote, making the news report vanish. "There used to be a QC factory in The Glades," she says.

"Yeah? So?"

Her mouth twists. "The factory got shut down. A lot of people were put out of work. Not to mention the city is broke, and you'd best believe the first cuts they make hit people in The Glades first, but I suppose that's another story altogether."

"So... this is all happening because of my family."

"Of course not," she says sharply. "Don't do that."

"What?" he mumbles, staring down at his lap.

"Take responsibility for things that have nothing to do you." Her hand finds his and Oliver jolts a little at her touch. "This is not your fault. Okay?"

He nods jerkily. Felicity stretches out, so they're sitting side by side now, and flips the channels until she gets to HBO. "You ever seen Game of Thrones?"

He shakes his head. Felicity grins wickedly and turns the volume up. It's a little too much for Oliver to follow, too many characters with strange names but it's fascinating anyway, he finds himself getting totally absorbed, the storm outside fading from his awareness. Next to him Felicity is half watching, doing something on her tablet that to Oliver just looks like streams of numbers moving across the screen.

They ride out a few hours like this, stretched out lazily on the couch while the storm rages outside. He wanders back to the kitchen when he gets hungry again and makes grilled cheese sandwiches on the sourdough bread he finds on top of the fridge for lunch.

"Seriously, you have to stop," Felicity says, looking absolutely thrilled when he hands her one on a plate. "You're going to ruin me."

He freezes halfway to the couch, imagining her here but naked, the word ruin taking on a very different concept.

"I mean, for food!" she blurts out. "Seriously, breakfast tomorrow is going to be so depressing by comparison." She pauses, looking thoughtfully at the ceiling. "Does a latte the size of my head count as breakfast?"

"I've had worse meals," he says offhandedly. "But, no, I don't think so."

Next to him she flinches. "I have got to stop doing that," she says softly, like she's embarrassed. "Speaking without even thinking about what's coming out of my mouth."

He reaches out and lays his hand over her wrist. "Please don't."

She goes very still under his palm, eyes wide and bluer than the ocean. "Okay," she whispers.

Oliver smiles in response and picks up his sandwich. "Okay."

*

Thea catches him sneaking into his room to change for Sunday night dinner, slipping into his bedroom after him and shutting the door behind her with a gentle click.

"Where the hell have you been all day?" she asks, arms crossed over her chest, intimidating despite her small stature.

"Out," he says shortly, pulling a pair of jeans and a grey henley out of his armoire. "Turn around."

Thea rolls her eyes but obeys so Oliver can take off his borrowed sweatpants (Felicity told him to wear them home, which certainly ensures he'll be seeing her soon if only on the pretense of returning the clothes).

"Did you even come home last night?"

Oliver pulls up his jeans and yanks the clean shirt over his head. "I was hanging out at Felicity's."

Thea looks over her shoulder, peeking at him between her fingers to make sure he's clothed before dropping her hand and turning back around. "The girl from QC?"

"Yeah."

"Oh my god!" she squeals. "Really?"

"We're just friends, it's not a big deal."

"Please Ollie, when have you ever been just friends with a girl?"

"I have friends that are girls," he says defensively.

"Friends you haven't slept with."

He winces; he still hasn't adjusted to the concept that his baby sister is a teenage girl, practically a young woman, who asks questions like this.

"Oh my god," Thea gasps. "Is she your soulmate?"

He snorts. "Don't be ridiculous."

"Why is that ridiculous? She could be, right?"

"As much as anyone could be, I guess. Come on, get real Speedy."

"You get real, Ollie! She works at QC, she works for Walter, our step-dad, come on, it makes sense!"

"That doesn't mean anything" -

"And you actually like her too, I can tell from the stupid look on your face."

"Speedy, I barely know her."

His sister gives him an appraising look he definitely doesn't like before hopping up onto a carved oak dresser, swinging her legs. "Tell me about her."

To his deepest humiliation he feels his cheeks get hot. Oliver was interviewed by Russian, Chinese, and US officials during the process of getting him out of China and back home (apparently finding a previously assumed dead American billionaire on a remote Chinese Island is a bureaucratic nightmare), but somehow nothing is quite as intimidating as getting interrogated by his little sister. "I don't know, she's my friend."

"Well, what do you know about her?"

He shrugs. "Stuff."

"Oh my god, you are hopeless. Okay, let's start with an easy one; where is she from?"

He flinches. "I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"She's um, not from here. She went to MIT and moved to Starling City after she graduated to work for QC."

"Boyfriends?" Thea asks crisply, all business. "Any other potential soulmates lurking in the background?"

"Not that I'm aware of." Remembering the faint C scribbled on the tag of the borrowed sweatpants.

"And she actually likes hanging out with you?" Her upper lip curves up in a teasing smile.

"We've hung out like five times, so I'd hope so."

"Five times!" Thea shrieks. "You didn't tell me that."

"Because it's not a big deal."

"Um, excuse me, I get decide if it's a big deal."

"It's really not. I took her to dinner to thank her for setting up my phone" -'

"Wait, you took her out to dinner?"

"I bought her a burger, it wasn't like, a date."

Thea tilts her head thoughtfully. "So you met at QC that morning when you got your phone" -

"No, wait," Oliver interrupts. "We met a few days before then actually."

"What are you talking about?"

"We, ah, ran into each other."

His sister wrinkles her forehead. "You ran into each other."

"Yeah, I was going for a run downtown and she was running to catch the bus. It was raining; she fell and broke her heel. I helped her."

Thea is staring at him. "Are you serious? That's how you met?"

"So?"

"So it was totally random... and then you just happened to meet again at QC."

"Yeah."

"Has that happened any other time? Randomly meeting?"

Felicity, waiting in line with a cheap bottle of wine at the convenience store, paying for a salad in that fancy dress, like a sleep-deprivation induced hallucination.

"Oh my god it has, hasn't it?" Thea says in a hushed voice.

"A few times," he confirms.

"Ollie, you have to tell Mom."

"No way. She'll freak out and drag us to a match analyst. I'm not going to put Felicity through that. And we don't even know - I mean, it's not like I've seen her" -

"Have you asked?"

"No, Thea, I haven't asked to look at her mark, are you crazy?"

"Are you?" she shoots back. "You've been sitting on this for weeks, acting like it's no big deal that you met your soulmate"-

"We don't know that she's my soulmate!"

Thea jumps down from the dresser and flips her hair. "That's why you're going to ask her on a date."

Oliver blinks. "What?"

"You, dear brother," she says with a smirk, "are going to call this girl. Or even better, you'll drop by QC. And you will ask her on a date, got it?"

He shifts his weight back and forth. "What if she isn't my soulmate?"

She shrugs. "Then you get to go out with a girl you like, what've you got to lose?"

She has a point.

*

The next morning Oliver gets up at eight, showers, scrunches in a little of the hair product that's been sitting in the bathroom cabinet, and gets dressed (nice jeans and a cream colored vee neck, causal, not trying too hard). He finds Raisa in the kitchen and sweet talks her into making a few blueberry scones while he and Dig work through a pot of coffee and watch the news.

"What's with the baked goods?" Dig asks, scooping his hand into the bowl of leftover washed blueberries and popping a few into his mouth.

"I want to drop them off for a friend," Oliver says casually, watching the newscaster argue with an alderman who represents a district in The Glades.

"Would this friend be Felicity?"

Oliver shrugs, following the argument on tv, trying to understand how shutting down the last health clinic in the Glades won’t completely overload Starling General, as the city apparently claims, like sending the poorest people in the city who probably don't even have insurance to the Starling General ER won't cause a healthcare crisis when people will have to wait hours, maybe even days to get treated.

Dig chuckles. "So you really like this girl."

Oliver cradles his mug in his hands and sighs. He tossed and turned most of the night, had to drag himself out of bed when his alarm went off and he's not all the way awake yet. "She's nice."

Dig pats his shoulder in a paternal kind of way that makes his chest tighten. "Nice is good."

Raisa wraps the scones in cellophane when they're done cooling, passes them across the counter to Oliver and winks. Dig drives them to QC, the scones balanced on Oliver's lap. It's another rainy day, the leaves on the trees hanging limp and dripping as they fly past his window. Dig parks in front of QC with his hazards on and Oliver jumps out of the car, turning up the collar of his motorcycle jacket. He ducks his head against the wind and walks quickly to the entrance, pushes through the thick glass doors to the lobby.

He walks to the elevator looking straight ahead, ignoring the occasional glance from onlookers who obviously know him. He knows he has to get over it, the constant low-grade paranoia that people are watching him, observing him and finding him lacking. He takes the elevator to Felicity's floor and walks down the hallway to her office. The door is open so he sticks his head in; she's standing in front of her desk stretching her wrists, watching something on her computer screen.

Oliver clears his throat and her head snaps up. "Hey!" she says brightly, and smiles, and it's like feeling the sun shine down, just for him.

"Hey." Oliver smiles softly back and steps inside her office, holding out the wrapped scones. "I brought breakfast."

"You - what?" Felicity blinks owlishly, fingers twisting in the skirt of her plum sweater dress.

"It's not a big deal. My, ah cook, made them, we had a few left over," he lies.

"You didn't have to do that," she says, but she's eying the scones hopefully with the look of someone who’s been subsisting on only caffeine for a while.

"You shouldn't just have coffee for breakfast," he says lightly, and sets them on her desk. “I thought we agreed that wasn’t a real meal.”

Felicity peels the cellophane delicately, grinning at him. "So you came here just to bring me breakfast."

Oliver straightens his shoulders. "No, actually. I have to ask you something."

"Oh?" Felicity breaks off a small piece of a scone, gesturing at him to proceed.

"Yeah, I..." Oliver swallows, watching her pop the scone between her lips, holding her palm in front of her mouth as she chews. "I wanted to ask you out to dinner."

She swallows, eyes widening. "Like...get a burger, have dinner, or like"-

"Like a date, dinner."

It's like falling, that moment when you know you've gone over the edge and there's no pulling yourself back, have no choice but to accept that you are plummeting towards the ground and will probably break every bone in your body.

"Okay. Yeah," she says, suddenly looking a little shy. "I'd like that."

"Oh," he says dumbly. "How's Friday?"

"Friday's great," she confirms, looking pleased. She picks up a scone and holds it out. "Did you want one?"

"I can't stay actually, I have to go do something,” he says, still stunned at how absolutely easy that just was. “But, dinner, Friday?"

Felicity smiles, leaning back against her desk. "It's a date."

Chapter Text

Oliver goes straight to Verdant from QC and finds Tommy in his office, opening the door without bothering to knock.

"Oliver?" Tommy pushes back from his chair and stands up, squinting at him. "You're here and it's - daylight out? Who are you and what have you done with my friend Ollie?"

"You're not funny," Oliver mutters.

"I'm a little funny." Tommy leans back against his desk and grins. "Nice to see you finally join the land of the living."

"I'm living."

"Clearly." Tommy's voice is dripping with droll sarcasm. "Is there a reason you're here or did you come all the way over just to scowl at me?"

Oliver sighs and rolls his shoulders. "I want to have a party."

Tommy nods, mock serious. "I know. That's why we opened a nightclub. Every night is a party, buddy."

"No, like a - an event."

"An event?"

"A charity event?"

Tommy's eyebrows shoot up. "Excuse me?"

"I want to throw a party to raise money for that clinic in The Glades."

"The one that's on the verge of being shut down?"

He nods, hands in his pockets, watching Tommy contemplate.

"I know a guy," Tommy finally says. "Could probably get us some sponsorship. Smirnoff maybe." He walks around to his desk and picks up his iPad. "Gotta promote it obviously and we'll need a few weeks to pull everything together."

"Seriously?" Oliver asks.

Tommy shrugs. "It's a good idea. Good PR for the club, for a good cause." His eyes glaze over for a minute. "I'll talk to the staff, and you and I will have to talk numbers."

"Numbers?" Oliver asks weakly.

Tommy rolls his eyes. "Never mind, I'll recruit Laurel for that, I mean if" -

"No, it's fine, I don't mind if she helps."

There's a strange, awkward moment of tension between them, and then Tommy chuckles and slaps Oliver on the shoulder. "So, someone's suddenly hot for healthcare?"

Oliver laughs. "We are not calling it that."

"Are you kidding?" Tommy smiles dreamily. "Picture every wealthy young socialite in the city in a bikini holding out her checkbook. You, my friend, are a genius."

*

"Unplanned synchronistic meetings," Thea reads out loud from the checklist open on her laptop browser.

Oliver leans back against her headboard. Thea's room used to be decorated princess pink and white, full of stuffed animals and sparkles. Now it's decorated with dark wood furniture, a heavy plum brocade bedspread and stacks of makeup palettes on her nightstand.

It's Friday evening, the night of his date. Thea has found some article online, Ten Signs You've Met Your Soulmate, and has insisted on reading it with him, like they're two girls at a slumber party.

"Ollie?" Thea prompts, turning over her shoulder to look at him. "That's the first question."

"If running into each other all over town counts, than yes."

"So, check." Thea, sprawled out on her stomach, squints at the screen. "Connected through family, friends or work relationships, check. Increase in abnormal astronomical activity?"

"What?" he asks, scooting closer so he can see.

"Here, they list some examples. Inconsistencies in the moon cycle - okay, whoa, I didn't know that was a thing, sudden fluctuations in temperature and or/ general weather patterns, excessive rain, thunderstorms"-

"Check."

"Seriously?"

"It was raining the night we met. And um, the other day there was a - just keep going."

"Okay." Thea gives him an impish smile and scrolls down. "General feelings of warmth and well being, fondness, etc?"

Oliver swings his legs off her bed. "Okay, I think we're good here."

"Ollie" -

"I get the idea, Thea."

"And?" His sister sits up on her bed, looking so hopeful it makes him ache inside. Oliver remembers Roy, his matching mark, and makes a mental note to do something about that.

Maybe. Eventually.

"And we'll see how tonight goes."

Thea sighs dramatically and flops over onto her back. "You're so lucky. I wish I was going on a date with my soulmate."

"Oh, you never know," Oliver says lightly. "You could meet him tomorrow."

"Sure," she says wryly. "Trust me, I know every guy at my school and none of them are candidates."

There's something he doesn't really like in her voice, some kind of exhausted undertone, that makes her sound older than she really is. Oliver leans against her doorframe. "You on your own tonight?"

Thea nods, pulling a hairband off her wrist to secure her long curls into a ponytail. "Mom and Walter are going to that benefit."

"You going to be okay here by yourself?"

Thea rolls her eyes and chucks a throw pillow at him. "Go get dressed, you're going to be late."

*

As per their previous arrangement, Felicity meets Oliver at Freccia, a little Italian place he likes because it's upscale but too small to be loud or crowded. He drives his Ducati there, parks on the street and unzips his motorcycle jacket as he enters the restaurant and checks in for their reservation. Felicity enters only a moment later, resplendent in a red cocktail dress, no glasses tonight, her hair falling in soft golden waves over her shoulders.

"Hi," he says, stepping forward to take her coat, a soft silky knit black thing. "You look beautiful."

Felicity smiles, pleased. "Thank you, so do you. I mean, not beautiful, you're a man, although you really are, but. Handsome! You look very handsome."

"Sir?" The hostess, a painfully thin blond with a sleek ponytail, smiles tentatively at him. "Your table is ready."

He and Felicity follow her to their table on the far side of the dining room, his hand low on Felicity's back. He can feel the heat of her skin through the fabric of her dress and Oliver thinks of that silly checklist, general feelings of warmth and wellbeing.

Is that the reason why he feels like this, when he's around her? Because she's his soulmate?

Does that mean she feels the same way about him?

Oliver pulls Felicity's chair out for her almost automatically, silently working through the mind-shattering revelation that it could be possible for someone - okay not just someone, some faceless girl, but her, Felicity - to feel that way about him.

A waitress comes and they both ask a little too quickly for wine when it's offered. Awkward laughter ensues, the waitress comes back with a nice Cabernet and suddenly they're on familiar ground again. Alcohol, always a lovely icebreaker.

They're both clearly nervous but while Oliver gets nearly silent when he's nervous Felicity babbles, so they're well balanced in that sense. Everything feels heightened to him: the gold color of her hair in the candlelight, the warmth in his stomach, that specific first date apprehension, the awareness that this is a litmus test of sorts for both of them.

When their waitress returns Oliver orders from the menu at near random, entranced at the way shadows from the light flicker over Felicity's creamy skin. He gets a few questions in while she dips a wedge of perfectly toasted sourdough in olive oil and is rewarded with a cascade of information, delivered in quick little bursts between bites of bread.

Oliver learns that she is originally from Las Vegas. She's an only child and grew up with her mother, a cocktail waitress, attended MIT on a combination of scholarships and student loans. He probes gently for more information about her family but all he gets is a strained sense of affection for her mother before she starts tossing questions back at him.

At some point they settle comfortably into banter as their pasta arrives. Oliver lets her carry the conversation as they eat, cataloging all the body parts he can see that her red dress is revealing: her shoulders, the top of her chest, her arms, her legs, so much skin exposed by that little dress, all of it flawless and unmarked.

The whole thing goes by too quickly. One minute he's twirling fettuccine around his fork, the next their empty plates are being cleared and the check presented. Oliver pays of course, mentally daring Felicity to challenge him but she just smiles and strokes the back of his hand as he signs the receipt. They walk back through the restaurant with her hand in his, her palm warm and dry against his skin.

The hostess appears with Felicity's coat and Oliver makes a grab for it just so he can have the pleasure of sliding the fabric over her shoulders, covertly scanning her exposed back to look for her mark but all he sees is the long line of her spine. His phone buzzes in his pants pocket, Oliver pulls it out and when he sees the name Mom flash across the screen he sends her to voicemail.

"Everything okay?" Felicity asks lightly.

"Just my mom," he explains. "Do you want to go get a drink? There's a great little bar down the street."

"Sure," she says, at the same time his phone starts buzzing again. Felicity laughs softly, fingers toying with the collar of her coat. "It's fine, answer it. My mom completely panics when I don't pick up, and I'm sure after everything you've been through..." Felicity trails off, her cheeks flushing.

Oliver sighs, flashes her a tight smile as he takes his phone back out and holds it up to his ear. "Hey Mom, this isn't a great time" -

"Oliver, your sister's been in an accident."

He stumbles over nothing, reaching out blindly to press his hand against the wall. "What are you talking about, what kind of accident?"

"Apparently Thea was driving under the influence and crashed her car," she says hysterically. "The doctors said she took some kind of street drug for god's sake!"

"Are you at the hospital?"

"Of course we're at the hospital, are you even listening to me?"

"Is she hurt?"

"I don't know darling, they said she lost consciousness and the car spun out, we haven't seen her yet."

Out of the corner of his eye he can see Felicity, concern all over her face. "Mom, I'm sure she'll be okay, I'm on my way."

He hangs up, blinking back a sudden wave of dizziness. "Um, so my sister was in a car accident, I have to go to the hospital."

Felicity just nods sharply, reaching into her purse to take out her car keys while gripping his wrist with her free hand. "Come on, I'll drive you."

Some detached part of him marvels at her ability to take charge during a crises as he follows her dumbly out of the restaurant, lets her lead him down the street to a parked Mini Cooper. Oliver folds himself into the passenger seat, moving it back as far as it will allow so his legs aren't bent in half. Felicity signals and peels away from the curb, quickly turning down the blast of music blaring through the speakers.

"Are you okay?" Felicity reaches over the gear shift to curl her hand around his.

Oliver nods and strokes the inside of her palm with his thumb. "She's only seventeen."

Felicity exhales sharply through her nose and drives faster.

When they get to the hospital she drives around the entrance to the visitors' lot and parks, opens her door and gets out before Oliver even has his seatbelt off. He runs around the car and she weaves her fingers around his automatically, like she doesn't even realize she's doing it, her heels clacking against the cement floor of the garage as they cross to the entrance of the hospital.

When they get to the wing where Thea is he sees his mother, dressed in a heavy beaded evening gown, and Walter, in a chic black tailored suit, from all the way down the hall, hovering outside what he assumes is Thea's room. Felicity hesitates next to him, pulling her hand out of his grasp.

"I should let you be with your family," she says softly.

Oliver nods, numb, torn in two directions - his sister, injured and down the hall, and Felicity, here, right in front of him, soft and sympathetic in the fluorescent light of the hospital hallway.

"Thank you for dinner," she says kindly. "I had a good time, before the, you know..." she trails off, gesturing with one hand.

"I'll call you?" he offers quietly, aware that his mother is staring at them from where she is pacing back and forth.

"Okay." Felicity leans in quickly and kisses his cheek. "I hope your sister is alright."

"Thanks." Oliver smiles tightly at her. "I'm sorry, this isn't exactly how I planned on tonight going."

Felicity shrugs lightly. "Shit happens, right?"

"Right."

"Okay." Felicity steps back, car keys dangling from one hand. "Goodnight Oliver."

She gets three steps away before he reaches out to grab her wrist, spins her back to him, and kisses her.

He doesn't even think about it, just threads one hand through her hair to cup the back of her head and pushes his lips against hers. Her mouth is warm, she tastes like lipstick and wine, lips parting softly against his. The warm glow is back, seeping into all his muscles, everything going still except for the steady pressure of his mouth on hers.

She pulls away slowly, blue eyes wide and dazed, fingertips going up to her lips like she can't believe his lips touched her there only seconds ago.

Oliver smiles, unbelievably pleased with himself all of a sudden. "Goodnight Felicity."

He watches her walk away, eyes lingering on her back until she disappears around the corner. Down the hall his mother is waiting with her arms crossed, lips pressed tightly together. Walter is next to her, glancing down at his phone before pocketing it and holding a hand out to Oliver.

"Was that Felicity I just saw?" he asks curiously, peering over Oliver's shoulder.

"Yeah, we were just, uh, catching dinner together; she gave me a ride." He moves around Walter to lean in and kiss his mother's cheek. "Hey Mom, how is she?"

His mother sniffs delicately. "Apparently one of her friends shared some drug with her and Thea thought she was fine to drive. She has three stitches in her forehead, a totaled car, and she's been charged with driving under the influence" - she breaks off, a trembling hand coming up to her mouth.

"Hey Mom it's okay, she'll be okay. Remember all the dumb stuff I did when I was her age?"

His mother lets out a choked laugh and pats his cheek. "Yes darling, you certainly were a handful but even so, you were never charged with a crime."

"Call Laurel," Oliver suggests. "I'm sure she'd be willing to help you out."

She nods, reaching up to delicately pat under her eyes. "I just don't know what I'm going to do about her."

"Why don't you go get a cup of coffee?" he suggest gently. "I'll go talk to her."

His mother nods, giving his cheek a final squeeze. "Thank you sweetheart."

Thea's curled up on her side on the bed in her hospital room, wearing an ugly green gown. She has gauze taped over her left eyebrow and there's an IV inserted in the back of her hand. She looks so small, fragile, and there's a sudden ache in Oliver's chest as he remembers what a little baby she was, how he was so afraid the first time he held her, worried he'd accidentally hurt her.

"Hey," he says softly, walking forward to sit at the edge of her bed. "How are you feeling?"

She sniffs and shrugs, eyes staring blankly at the wall. "I'm fine, Ollie."

"I wouldn't call getting high and totaling your car fine, Speedy."

She glares at him before crossing her arms and rolling over. "I already got a lecture from Mom, I don't need one from you too."

He sighs, curling his hand around her ankle. "I didn't come here to lecture you."

"Whatever," she mumbles. "It was stupid, I get it."

"Yeah, it was really freaking stupid," he says hotly, something in his jaw twitching. "You could've gotten seriously hurt, do you have any idea how lucky you are?"

She stares at him, her eyes wide and bloodshot. "Lucky?" she says hoarsely. "Oh yeah, I'm so lucky."

"Thea" -

"You don't even get it." Thea's face crumples and she starts to cry. "I didn't - I didn't think anything would happen, I didn't think Mom would even notice."

His fingers tighten around her ankle. "What are you taking about?"

His sister covers her face with her hands, her words coming out in muffled sobs. "You don't understand what it's like.... what it's been like. When you and Dad... it was like time just stopped, and all of a sudden we were just alone and it was like... it was like I didn't even exist without you. She never... she never notices me unless I'm messing up. I'm always messing up and now Mom hates me, I know she does"-

"Hey, hey, okay." He slides one arm under her shoulders to pull her up so he can hug her. "No one hates you."

"You don't see the way she looks at me sometimes." She pushes her tear-stained cheek against the side of his neck like she's trying to burrow into him.

"What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about." The fingers of her right hand are stroking her mark where it covers the entire span of her left inner wrist. "Like - like there's something wrong with me."

"Thea."

"It's true," she whispers. "You know it's true."

The thing is, he does know what she's talking about. He's seen it before, that strange look on his mother's face when she's watching her only daughter. Sometimes Thea will do something, like laugh a certain way, or make a silly dramatic entrance into a room, or smile slyly, winking, and their mother's hands will fly up to her mouth to muffle a gasp, a mixture of sadness, shock, and fear flashing across as her face.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs. "I'm sorry I wasn't there but I'm here now."

She shudders and rubs her forehead against his shoulder. "That doesn't magically fix everything."

"I know." He sighs and rests his cheek on the top of her head. "It's going to be okay. We'll figure it out."

"I missed you so much," she whispers in a tiny voice, curling her knees in against his chest like she's trying to make herself as small as possible.

He swallows thickly and tightens his arms around her because he's her big brother and that's his job, to protect her from the rest of the world, keep her safe. "I missed you too."

*

Their mother stays at the hospital with Thea until she gets released, Walter drops Oliver back off at Freccia to recover his Ducati. He waits until he's back in his room, reclining back in his bed in a pair of grey Emporio Armani boxer briefs, to pull his phone out and call Felicity.

She answers after only a few rings, like she's been waiting for his call.

"Hey you," she says warmly, her voice soft and low. Oliver imagines her in bed wearing a silk chemise, or an old MIT tee shirt, or maybe even nothing at all, just her skin against the sheets.

"Hey," he whispers back, putting the phone on speaker and setting it down on the pillow next to him.

"How's your sister?"

There's something intimate about this, listening to Felicity talk to him while he's in bed. Oliver twists up to turn off his bedside lamp and reclines back against the pillows, the light from his phone glowing in the dark room.

"She'll be okay but the car wasn't so lucky," he tells her.

"Cars are replaceable," Felicity murmurs. "Sisters, not so much."

"True," he agrees. "I'm sorry, that really wasn't how I wanted our date to end."

"Oh, I don't know." Her voice is light and playful. "I thought the ending was pretty great."

Oliver sinks down under the comforter, lips tingling at the memory. "Yeah?"

"Definitely."

Warmth blooms in his chest. "I was thinking... we didn't end up getting that drink."

"Are you asking me on a second date, Oliver?"

"I have to go to Verdant tomorrow night, just to run over a few things with Tommy. I could come by your place when I'm done?"

He wonders for a second if he's being too bold, inviting himself over like that, but then she says, "I'd like that." Just like that.

"I'll bring drinks," he offers.

"I'll be waiting."

Oliver smiles to himself, imagining her sprawled out on her couch waiting for him in a dress or even better, maybe one of those long tee shirts and no bra. "So I'll see you tomorrow night then?"

She's not here but he can feel her anyway, can feel her smile through the phone when she says, "it's a date."

*

He goes to Verdant the next night like Tommy asked him to, to discuss the event Verdant will host that unfortunately has been officially named Get Hot For Healthcare. It is kind of genius though - charity events are usually held in a ballroom somewhere, black tie, stuffy and boring. They're targeting their peers, young members of the glitterati searching for the next best party. Oliver has even volunteered himself to take official pictures with the guests (at extra charge of course) because as Tommy says, he might as well use his newfound fame for something good.

Oliver only has to approve what Tommy has come up with so far, skim over the numbers and sign off on hiring a social media manager to promote the event for them. He can't bring himself to care that much, preoccupied with where he's going when he's done with Tommy.

He's so anxious to get to Felicity that he ends up getting to Verdant nearly half an hour before he's supposed to. He goes in through the back, eager to avoid the crowd that's always milling around the front entrance. He doesn't find Tommy behind the main bar or on the dance floor, he spots Roy running drinks in the VIP room but still no Tommy.

Oliver takes the stairs up and walks down the hallway to Tommy's office. The door is closed but unlocked, Oliver starts to push it open and freezes, shocked at the tableaux he can see through the crack.

Laurel is here, wearing one of her sleek tailored work dresses, royal blue tonight, and she's bent over Tommy's desk, propped up by her elbows, skirt pushed up to her hips, and Oliver can see a sliver of Tommy's chest against her back, one of his hands wrapped around her neck.

Oliver steps away, swallowing back hysterical laughter. The door creaks as he tries to shut it, he can distinctly hear Tommy say something to Laurel and the squeak of Tommy's shoes on the floor as Oliver steps back into the hallway. A few seconds later the door swings open, all the way this time, to reveal a sheepish Tommy, cheeks flushed and dress shirt half-unbuttoned.

"Hey, Ollie," he says weakly. "You had to be early for once, huh?"

Oliver shrugs, another hysterical giggle slipping out of his mouth as Laurel pushes through the doorway, hands frantically smoothing down her skirt.

"Real mature Ollie," she sneers, and stomps away, heeling clicking loudly against the floor.

"So...." Tommy shifts back on his heels. "That was obviously not the way either of us wanted you to find out but...."

Oliver waves a hand dismissively. "It's fine, Tommy."

Tommy squints. "Are you sure? Did you miss the part about me having, em, relations with your ex right under your nose?"

Oliver shrugs in answer. He's seen both their marks obviously, they all know Laurel and Tommy aren't soulmates. Laurel's mark is on her ankle. It's a set of scales, old fashioned, intricately drawn and ornate like the cage of Sara's mark. Laurel's scales are equally balanced, one of them holding a feather and the other, a dagger.

Tommy's mark is on his ribs, like Oliver. He has a wand with a crescent moon on the top, although his father likes to refer to it as a staff, as if that somehow makes it more masculine and dignified.

"For what it's worth," Tommy says quietly. "I really care about her. Things were - hard after you were gone, and" -

"It's fine, I get it." What is he supposed to say, anyway? He and Laurel have been over for so long, he knows now there's no chance of them getting back together. "You're my best friend, you deserve to be happy."

Tommy squints at him. "Okay, this whole new zen Oliver thing you've had going on lately is really starting to freak me out."

Oliver grins. "Can we get on with it, I kind of have somewhere to be."

Tommy quickly buttons up his shirt, eyebrows raised. "Really?"

"Yeah, I'm meeting up with someone."

"Someone."

"Yeah, I'm kind of um, dating. A girl. I met a girl."

Tommy blinks in surprise. "Since when?"

"Technically? Yesterday."

Tommy starts laughing. "And she wants to see you again?"

Oliver grins and gives him a good natured shove. "Yes, so if you could just finish putting your clothes back on..."

"Yeah, yeah, you know what? Just go, I'll email you, let me know if there are any issues."

"You sure?"

Tommy winks. "Buddy, I've been trying to get you laid for weeks, fuck, please go. For me."

Oliver flushes. "It's not - we're not"-

"Okay, okay." Tommy grips his shoulders. "You, my friend, are Oliver Queen. You can do this. You are the master of women, remember?"

"Not this woman," he mumbles.

"Ollie," Tommy says sternly. "You've been with a playmate. That hot Red Bull rep in college. That freaking princess of... damn, what's it called?" He snaps his fingers. "Monaco!"

Oliver raises an eyebrow. "Your point?"

"My point is, you've got this. Jesus Ollie, you survived five years alone on an island. You're a motherfucking hero."

Oliver stiffens. "I'm not. God, why does everyone say shit like that? I'm not a hero! I didn't do anything good, I'm not good, I'm not special, I'm not smart, I'm just. I'm just lucky! It's just dumb luck! And Felicity is like - she's gorgeous Tommy, and she's funny, and she's smart, and I'm just this idiot with a credit card and scars and a bunch of failed relationships."

Oliver covers his hands with his face, overwhelmed, irritated at how easy it was for him to lose control like that.

Tommy sighs. "You really like her, huh?"

Oliver nods into his hands. "Yeah, she's... she's special."

"Is she your soulmate?" Tommy asks bluntly.

"Maybe."

"Alright." To his surprise Tommy puts his arms around him and pulls him into a hug. "It's okay," he says, his voice quiet and reassuring. "I just want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy."

Oliver's eyes sting. "I don't know, Tommy."

"Okay, this is what you're going to do. You're gonna go pick up a bottle of wine, maybe some chocolate or something, and you're gonna go romance the shit out of this girl, like you've been doing since you were sixteen, and she's going to fall in love with you. Okay?"

Oliver laughs dryly. "Okay."

"I mean it," Tommy says sternly.

"Okay." Oliver nods, resolved.

Tommy's face breaks out into a smile. "That's my boy!"

*

Oliver stops at a liquor store and buys a Mount Blac Malbec from Napa Valley, nice and moderately priced so as not to seem pretentious. He likes that Felicity doesn't seem to care about his money but it makes him self-conscious, the pressure to prove that he's not a spoiled trust fund brat who does things like drop a grand on a bottle of wine for a girl he barely knows.

He makes a quick detour at 7/11 and picks up a pint of mint chocolate chip and texts Felicity, so that when he parks his Ducati outside her building she's waiting for him, standing in the doorway, her silhouette illuminated by the flickering porch light.

She's dressed, nice but casual, in a soft looking knit grey sweater dress that falls to mid thigh over bare legs and little white ankle socks. At this point Oliver is almost sure her mark is on her foot, unless it's somewhere more private like the curve of her hipbone or maybe the soft contour of her stomach.

"Hi," she greets him softly, and rises up on the tips of her toes to kiss him.

Oliver goes through the usual chemical protocol when he's around Felicity: his body temperature rises, his cheeks heat, the tension in his chest dissolves, his lips curve up reflexively into a smile. "Hi."

"Come on in." Felicity reaches out and takes the hand that isn't holding the plastic 7/11 bag and leads him inside. "I see you've brought victuals."

"Wine," he announces, pulling the paper wrapped bottle out of the bag. "And ice cream."

Felicity beams and takes the bottle from him. "I'll open this, spoons are in the drawer."

She pours two generous glasses and brings them into the living room, Oliver grabs the spoons and follows her, peeling the lid off the ice cream carton and setting it down on the coffee table. Oliver takes the glass she offers and sits down next to her on the couch. Felicity takes a sip from her glass and makes a delighted little sigh, tipping her head back against the couch as she swallows.

"Do you like it?" he asks before he can help himself, and pops a giant scoop of ice cream into his mouth before he says something really dumb, like, do you like me?

She takes another sip, nodding. "I do, thank you." She reaches out to takes the ice cream, uses the same spoon that was just in his mouth to dig out a bite of ice cream. "How'd you know mint chocolate chip was my favorite?"

"It's what you had that night I ran into you, I figured it was a safe bet," he explains.

Felicity blinks and slides a fraction of an inch closer to him. She's sitting sideways so she can face him, head tilted sideways to rest against the back of the couch. "You remembered that?"

"Yeah, I - you're pretty memorable." Oliver buries his face in his glass, takes a gulp of wine that makes a new wave of heat roll through him as he swallows.

To his surprise Felicity grimaces, idly swirling her spoon through the ice cream. "Yeah, you didn't exactly catch me at my best that night."

Oliver reaches out and cups her knee, distinctly remembering Thea's insistence that Oliver be more proactive in learning about Felicity. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Oh, um...." Felicity shrugs hesitantly, like she's been caught off guard. "I told you that's kind of a bad day for me, right?"

He strokes the soft skin of her knee. "Yeah."

Felicity gives him a nervous-looking smile before tipping her head back, and chugs the entire glass. "Okay, so here's the thing," she says in a rush, while Oliver stares, dumbfounded. "I had a boyfriend, back when I was at MIT."

He nods, focusing on the word had, past tense. "Okay."

"We uh, we kind of had a bad breakup. He did - he did something, and it was like, well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, you know? And we got in a huge fight about it because I thought what he did was kind of like, morally reprehensible? We didn't exactly see eye to eye about certain things. Our philosophies kind of diverged, I suppose. So we broke up and I stopped talking to him and I dyed my hair blond"- Felicity breaks off, her cheeks flushed. "Sorry, I'm totally rambling."

"You're fine," he soothes, because jealously is creeping through his veins and he doesn't like that Felicity is talking about this guy like he did something bad.

"Sorry." Felicity reaches up and slides the ponytail elastic out of her hair, which falls in golden clouds around her face. "Anyway, he ended up getting into trouble and he, um... he couldn't deal with it, I guess."

Oliver slides his hand under her knee, where the skin is as thin and smooth as a flower petal. "I'm not sure I understand."

Felicity reaches out to put her empty glass on the coffee table, staring down at her socked feet. "He killed himself."

Oliver freezes for a second before following suit, plunking his wine glass down next to hers and moving the ice cream out of the way. "Felicity."

"It's fine," she says quickly, sitting tensely on the edge of the couch. "It was years ago. I'm sorry, it's so depressing, it's just, that night, it was the anniversary of his, you know, so it was on my mind."

She looks so small of a sudden, feet curled under her, hiding behind her hair, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Oliver swallows tightly, a lump in the back of his throat, remembering the sound of the gun going off, how he'd screamed and screamed at the black sky in terror and fury.

"Hey, c'mere," he murmurs, and puts his arms around her.

Felicity turns into him, pressing her face into his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "I haven't dated since then, it kind of took me awhile to get over it, and I"-

"It's okay," he says. "You don't have to explain anything to me."

Felicity tilts her face up to him, her bottom lip quivering slightly. "I really like you, Oliver."

He takes a deep breath. "I really like you too."

Her whole face softens at that and Oliver privately marvels at her reaction, that five little words made all the sadness drain out of her expression. "So is all my baggage turning you on or what?" Felicity teases a little desperately, clearly trying to lighten the mood.

He chokes out a laugh. "You're talking to the king of baggage," he reminds her. "I can handle it."

"Yeah?"

He smooths her hair away from her face. "Yeah. Are you... are you okay?"

Felicity nods, her tongue coming out to swipe against her bottom lip in a way that seems totally deliberate. "Yeah, like I said, it was a long time ago. Ugh I'm sorry, talking about exes on a date is such bad etiquette."

"It's okay." For some strange reason it makes him feel a little better - not that she went through something terrible but that in some way she understands; she's been through something, she knows darkness just like him.

"He wasn't my soulmate," she says softly. "I think in some way that made it easier. Knowing we weren't really supposed to be together anyway. But it's just..." Felicity sighs, reaching up quickly to rub her eyes behind her glasses. "It's just sad, I guess."

Oliver frowns. "I don't want you to be sad," he confesses.

She raises an eyebrow, her expression turning hopeful. "I'm not sad right now."

"No?" he questions lightly. One of his hands is low on her back; it'd be so easy, to scoop it under her ass and pull her into his lap.

She shakes her head, and this time her eyes drift to his lips. "Definitely not."

He tilts his head down, slow, watching her blue eyes darken and flutter shut, and kisses her. Felicity melts into him, lips soft and sweet and gently parting. Oliver forces himself to go slow, slow, barely any pressure, letting her set the pace. She reaches up, curving her hand around his neck. He groans quietly, the feel of her nails on his skin making him shiver.

His hand finds her thigh and Felicity uses her grip on his neck to pull herself up and swings one leg over his so she's straddling him, her knees bracketing his hips. Her sweater dress rides up, Oliver has to pull away just so he can look down at her exposed thighs. His eyes flick back up to hers as he spreads his hands out, gripping her toned quads.

"Okay?" he whispers.

Felicity takes her glasses off in response and leans back down to kiss. Oliver's hands creep up, feeling her muscles jump under his touch. He finds her hips, curling his fingers around them and squeezing lightly before sliding around to her ass. She whimpers into his mouth and Oliver has to bite back a groan.

"You're like, a ridiculously good kisser," she mumbles against his mouth, undoing the bottom button of his shirt.

Oliver hums in response, turning his head sideways to kiss her jaw, under her earlobe, trailing his mouth down to lick the column of her throat.

"Oh my god." Felicity tilts her head to give him better access. Her eyes are closed, mouth slightly open, fingers still working the buttons of his shirt open by touch alone.

When she gets to the top one Oliver shrugs the shirt off, leaving him in just a white Hanes undershirt and dress pants. Felicity blinks her eyes open and stares rather shamelessly. He can't help but grin, sliding his hands up her bare back under her dress to trace the line of her spine.

Her hands come down to the hem of his undershirt, a wicked little smile on her face, and Oliver reaches down to catch her wrists in his hands, his cheeks burning. "I - I have some scars," he admits quietly. "From the island."

"Okay," Felicity murmurs easily, taking it completely in stride, like it's nothing, and pulls gently out of his grip, her hands resettling on her own hips. "How about...."

She grips the hem of her dress and in one fluid movement she peels it up and takes it off, tossing it somewhere behind her. Oliver stares, frozen, taking in creamy round breasts in a pale pink satin bra, matching pink panties that make her skin gleam gold.

"Jesus," he grits out, not knowing where he wants to touch first, taking in the shadow of her ribs, a flat stomach, the curves of her waist.

No mark, still. Felicity is grinning, allowing him to just take her in, her hands sliding up her own body to idly play with her hair. It's like his brain just seizes up, a total inability to think straight or come up with any kind of strategy.

Oliver just reacts on instinct, surging up to wrap his hand around the back of her neck to pull her mouth to his. Felicity gasps as his lips press against hers, giving him the opportunity to flick his tongue between her teeth. Electricity shoots all the way down his spine at the touch of her tongue on his. Oliver spreads one hand flat against the dip of her lower back, using it as leverage to push their bodies closer together.

Felicity rolls her hips and he practically growls in response, dropping his mouth to her collarbone to suck a bruise onto her skin. Her head drops back, her fingers threading through his hair. It's like a fantasy, a beautiful half-naked woman falling apart in his hands, his whole body hot and shaking, mind blissfully blank.

"You feel so good," she slurs, like she's drunk, even though she's only had one glass of wine (albeit all at once). "God, I've been thinking about your hands, like, obsessively."

"Yeah?" he pants. He wants to take her bra off but then he remembers that this is technically only their second date and settles for cupping her with his hands instead.

"Yeah," she moans. "I can't... I can't stop."

"Me too," he confesses in a rush, reaching up to cradle her face in his hands.

They're both breathing heavily; Felicity's cheeks are flushed, her pupils blown. She smiles, in this soft, self-conscious way that makes something in his chest ache. He rubs his thumbs over her cheekbones, caught in her gaze, and can't help but tilt his face up a little so he can rest his forehead against hers.

"Hey," he murmurs.

Her tongue darts out to lick her bottom lip. "Hey."

"We should probably slow down," he suggests regretfully.

"Mm." Felicity rolls her forehead lightly against his and giggles, sounding a little slap-happy. "Do you want to stay over? To sleep, I mean. Like, sleep with me - I mean, sleep, not like have sex with me, although I definitely wouldn't have a problem with that" -

"Felicity." Oliver cuts her off, because hearing the word sex out loud is not helping his body cool down whatsoever.

She gives him that smile again, that sweet, almost shy smile that makes him want to pull her to his chest and hold her close. "Stay," she whispers softly. "Please."

Oliver slides his index finger under her chin, tips it up to the perfect angle to give her a soft kiss. "Okay."

Felicity uses the bathroom first while Oliver waits in the hallway. She comes out dressed in a loose tee shirt, short enough to skim the tops of her thighs, makeup scrubbed off, hair pulled up in a messy bun, socks still on. She gives Oliver a toothbrush to borrow, he uses it and the toilet in the bathroom and comes out in his undershirt and boxer briefs.

Felicity's leaning against the wall outside the bathroom waiting for him, a glass of water in one hand. "Come on," she says, and Oliver obediently follows her down the hall to her bedroom. It's so Felicity, a bright blue accent wall, purple comforter spread over a queen sized bed, cozy and colorful. She places the water on the nightstand and crawls onto the bed, flipping the covers back and raising an expectant eyebrow at him. Oliver flips the light off, plunging her room into darkness, and slides into bed next to her.

She curls over onto her side to face him, her fingers tripping over the sheets until she connects with his chest and scoots close enough to tilt her head towards him for a goodnight kiss. It's all so easy, like they've been doing this forever, like they're a real couple.

Felicity falls asleep almost immediately, the soft sound of her breathing in his ear. Oliver stretches out next to her and closes his eyes, drifts in a half sleep for a few hours before giving up and quietly extricating himself. He pads softly back to the living room, moonlight spilling over the floor from the window. He drops to the floor and does push-ups to failure, flips over onto his back and does crunches until his abs burn.

He walks over to her bookshelf, thinking of reading until he finally feels tired enough to sleep, when he hears footsteps in the hallway and hears Felicity call out in a small voice, "Oliver?"

He walks quickly back to the hallway where Felicity is hovering, sleepy and confused, relief plain on her face when she sees him and Oliver suddenly feels like an asshole, she clearly thought he left her alone without saying goodbye.

"Hey," he says softly, bending down to kiss her forehead. "I'm sorry, I should've warned you that I'm an insomniac."

"Oh right," she murmurs sleepily, reaching her arms up to wrap them around his waist so she can nuzzle her face against his chest. "I bet I can help with that, come on, come back to bed."

He goes along with her, climbing back into her bed, content to just lie there with her while she sleeps, but Felicity pushes him back so he's leaning against the pillows while she sits cross legged next to his hip.

"You don't have to stay up just because I can't sleep," he says, but Felicity just gives him a wicked smile and brings her fingers to the waistband of his boxer briefs.

"Trust me?" she whispers, slipping her hand inside and tugging down the elastic.

His mouth goes dry, he can't do anything but nod enthusiastically as she peels the fabric down and wraps her hand around him. Oliver drops his head back against the pillows with a groan and watches through slitted eyes as Felicity proceeds to give him the world's slowest hand job, until he's writhing and shaking under her ministrations, bottom lip clenched between his teeth to hold back a torrent of curses.

When he finally comes his world goes white, body melting with pleasure, vaguely aware of her cleaning him up, those small hands wiping him off. Felicity crawls over him to snuggle into his side, he automatically lifts an arm around her, staring in sleepy amazement as she winks and kisses his cheek.

"Go to sleep," she murmurs, and he does, just like magic.

*

He spends the next week working on the healthcare event with Tommy, hanging out at home with a grounded, moping Thea, and seeing Felicity. They go out to eat during her lunch hour with Dig, spend hours making out in dimly lit bars, get coffee and walk around the city. For the first time since he's come back from the island he feels normal, or close to it.

It's strange, this new thing in his chest, this warm steady feeling that everything's going to be okay.

Like hope.

The morning of the charity event Oliver changes into a henley and jeans, goes into the kitchen for a cup of coffee before he has to head over to Verdant to help the staff set up. His mother intercepts him, catching him by the arm as he's draining his mug.

"Take your sister with you," she instructs, tapping an email out on her phone. "I've had enough of her lying on my couch pouting at everything in sight."

"I thought she was grounded," Oliver says lightly, thinking of Roy, who's supposed to already be at Verdant to sign for the liquor deliveries for this evening.

"Put her to work, it'll be good for her." His mother waves a dismissive hand and swishes out of the kitchen, leaving a cloud of Chanel Number 5 in her wake.

Oliver sighs and wanders through the mansion until he finds Thea in the den, sprawled out on the couch in boxer shorts and one of his old hockey jerseys watching The Real Housewives of Coast City.

"Hey, time to get dressed, you're coming to work with me." Oliver walks over to the remote and switches the tv off.

"Hey, I was watching that!"

He catches the throw pillow Thea chucks at him and tosses it back to her. "Mom said I have to take you with me to Verdant, let's go."

"Ugh, boring."

"Come on, go get dressed, I'm gonna be late."

Thea scowls but allows him to heave her up by the arm and push her out of the room. She stomps upstairs grumbling but comes back down five minutes later in a pair of worn in skinny jeans and a cropped grey tank top, a stack of bangles covering her mark.

He drives the Range Rover to Verdant with Thea in the passenger seat, using the mirror on the back of the visor to apply a thick layer of lip gloss. He parks in the back, holds Thea's hand as they cross the alley, ignoring her complaints that she's not a baby, god Ollie, you're sooo embarrassing. He walks her through the back hallway past the stockroom and into the main area of Verdant, pulling out a bar stool for her to sit on.

Tommy was insistent on sticking with the tropical theme; the bar has been transformed into a tiki hut, stung with garlands of fake purple hibiscus and little unlit torches. It's all hands on deck today, servers are scattered across the dance floor blowing up plastic beach balls, setting up tables across one wall, and dumping fake sand into a cordoned off 'beach area'.

Roy is here, Oliver catches him conferring with one of the bar backs, a clipboard in one hand. Oliver catches his eye and waves him over, resigned to the fact that there's no avoiding this, his baby sister is almost eighteen and her soulmate is waking right over to them, his ridiculously blue eyes taking Thea in.

"Hey," Roy says, leaning up against the bar and offering a light smirk. "Who's the kid?"

"I'm not a kid," Thea immediately protests, giving Roy a dirty look.

Oliver chokes back a wave of laughter. "Roy, this is Thea, my baby sister."

"Oh my god Ollie, screw you, I'm seventeen!" Thea buries her face in her hands for a brief second before reaching out and smacking his arm.

Roy raises an eyebrow. "You brought your underage sister to your bar?"

"Yeah, she's helping out today," Oliver confirms.

Roy sighs, looking a little put out. "No offense but I've got a shit load of things to do, I don't have time to babysit."

"No problem." Oliver yanks Thea off her stool and pushes her at Roy. "Consider her your personal assistant."

"I have to work?" Thea looks thunderstruck and this time Oliver does laugh.

"Mom's orders," he says, smirking. "Consider this phase two of your punishment."

"What'd you do?" Roy asks curiously. "Max out your credit card? Spend all your trust money on cocaine?"

"If you must know I crashed my car," Thea says primly. "I'm being unjustly punished."

"Thea," Oliver warns shortly.

She glares at him but Roy just shrugs and pushes his clipboard into her hands. "You know how to take inventory?"

Thea gives him a blank stare and Roy rolls his eyes dramatically. "Come on princess, it's easy, I'll show you."

Oliver watches them walk back towards the stock room, feeling a modicum of relief that Roy's wearing a red hoody with long sleeves that cover his mark, before going upstairs to Tommy's office. Tommy has all the paperwork ready for Oliver to sign, he approves the drink menu (they're sticking with the topical theme, everything heavy on rum and tequila). He sits on the edge of Tommy's desk while Tommy runs the staff meeting, wanders back out to glance down at the main floor where Thea is following Roy around the bar, scribbling things down on the clipboard.

He drives Thea back to the mansion that afternoon when they're done. She doesn't say anything in particular, it's clear she hasn't figured out who Roy is, but she's smiling from ear and to ear and when Oliver asks her what she's so happy about she just shrugs, giggling behind her hand.

He manages to get in a workout in the backyard, showers, wolfs down a quick dinner in the kitchen before driving back to Verdant that night. He's wearing a sky blue tee shirt and jeans, as close to the theme as he's willing to dress, Tommy will just have to deal with it. They meet down the block from the club, where a freaking red carpet has been set up, photographers are crowding each other on the sidewalk taking pictures of scantily clad young women waiting behind velvet ropes.

"Really?" Oliver says to Tommy, raising an eyebrow.

"What?" Tommy says innocently, smoothing out his hideous bright orange tropical print button down.

Oliver sighs reluctantly but poses with Tommy outside the club before going inside. They have a photo station set up by the fake beach, Tommy gets Oliver in a plastic lawn chair, a daiquiri in one hand, before calling over the photographer and a staffer to organize a photo line.

"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," he grumbles, taking a healthy gulp of his drink.

"And I can't believe girls are willing to shell out twenty bucks a pop to take a picture with your ugly face but there you go," Tommy says cheerfully, and disappears into the crowd.

Oliver sighs, chugs his drink and sets down the glass, big fake smile on his face when the line starts moving. He takes pictures for what feels like hours, smiling so hard his cheeks hurts, reminding himself that he's doing this all for a good cause. The line finally winds down, the staffer manning the line grins at him, shaking a glass jar stuffed with twenties at him, before she saunters off to get Tommy.

"Got time for one more?" a girl's voice asks shyly.

Oliver snaps his head up. Felicity is standing in front of him, wearing a pretty blue and yellow floral sundress, her hair falling in beachy waves down her shoulders.

"Hey, you came!" Oliver jumps up from the chair so fast it tips over but he doesn't even notice, tipping his head down to give her a kiss.

"Of course I came, you've been talking about this all week." She slips her hand in his, surveying the massive crush of bodies on the dance floor, beach balls flying over their heads. "Looks like this was a massive success by the way."

"Yeah, we're thinking of doing a monthly thing," he says. "Hey, do you know what time it is?"

"Almost eleven," she informs him. "I would've been here earlier but the line was all the way down the block, it was insane."

"Great, let's go then," he says, eager to get out of the crowd and be somewhere with just Felicity.

"Don't you need to stay?"

He shakes his head. "I helped set up earlier, the photo station was the only thing Tommy needed me for tonight."

"Oh." Her lips curve up into grin. "In that case I know somewhere close by."

Oliver drives them to her condo in the Range Rover, parks outside on the street and follows Felicity up the walk, shifting impatiently as she gets her keys out and unlocks the door. She kisses him as soon as they get inside, her keys clinking as she drops them onto a little dish by a side table. Felicity starts to walk backwards, her hands hot on Oliver's hips, heading towards the bedroom.

"God, do you know how hard that was?" she breathes, kicking off her cork wedges and dropping five inches in height. "Watching a million hot girls in bikinis take pictures with their arms all over you?"

Oliver follows her into the bedroom, leaving the light off so he can take off his shirt without showcasing his scars and mark. "I barely even noticed them," he says in a rush, hands all over her dress to locate her zipper and undo it. "I just want you."

Felicity lifts her arms over her head and Oliver yanks her dress off, undoes her bra clasp with one hand and unceremoniously tosses it onto the floor. Her hands go to the fly of his jeans, he reaches down to help her and shoves them down his hips to kick them off, leaving them both in only their underwear. Oliver scoops her into his arms and she shrieks, laughing as he tosses her onto the bed and crawls up the mattress.

She's wearing a lace thong, it's too dark to tell what color. Felicity lifts her hips off the bed, her bottom lip sucked in between her teeth, and Oliver rolls the fabric off before setting down on his stomach, his hands on either side of her hips. He reaches down and presses a kiss to her hipbone, hearing her sharp intake of breath.

"Is this okay?" he murmurs, running his tongue over the bone.

"Yeah." Her voice is unfamiliar, high and tight. "Yeah, definitely."

Oliver pushes her thighs apart with his hands to settle between her legs. It's too dark to see properly, he walks his hands up to the apex of her thighs and finds her by touch, using his thumbs to spread her open where she's already wet, like she's been anticipating this.

The first touch of his tongue on her has Felicity bucking into his mouth. Oliver chuckles at her eagerness, using his hands to pin her hips to the mattress. He goes slow, licking into her until he feels her relax against the mattress, soft little sighs spilling out of her mouth. He draws circles onto her with the tip of his tongue, spells out secrets letter by letter, until Felicity's hands are buried in his hair and she's babbling, oh god, Oliver, please, Oliver, oh god, oh oh oh oh!

He works her down slowly, lapping her up, reveling at this - the taste of her in his mouth, her trembling thighs in his hands, her blue eyes wide open in the dark. He kisses his way up her body to sprawl over her, dropping his head to her chest to hear the sharp staccato of her heartbeat.

"Here." Felicity reaches down and presses a foil packet into his hand.

Oliver glances up at her. "You sure?"

Felicity smiles, serene and debauched, hair spread around the pillow like a halo. "So sure."

Oliver rips the packaging open with his teeth, kneels between her legs and slowly rolls the condom on. She's watching him, her hands running up and down his sides. Her fingers accidentally trip over his mark and Oliver jolts like he's been electrocuted. She doesn't seem to realize what's she's done, it's too dark to make out much more than the outline of their bodies, the tip of her nose, her light eyes refracting the sliver of moonlight spilling through the crack in the closed curtains.

He braces himself with one hand planted next to her head and reaches down to guide himself inside her. He forces himself to go slowly, a long torturous slide, until he's seated all the way inside her, and Felicity makes this broken noise in the back of her throat.

He puts his weight on his forearms, dropping his forehead to rest against hers. "Okay?"

Felicity smiles up at him and she looks like an angel like this, like something pure and sweet that Oliver just wants to ruin. "So okay," she breathes. "So, so, okay."

"I don't want to hurt you," he mumbles, turning his head to kiss her temple.

"So don't," she says, like it's that easy, and wraps her legs around his back.

Oliver rocks slowly into her, hyper aware of everything - her breath in his ear, the beat of her heart, the hot wet drag every time he pushes into her. He turns his head to the side so he can bury his face in her neck, licking and suckling whatever flesh his mouth comes into contact with. Her heels press against his lower back, her arms slung tightly around his shoulders. It's like drifting in a sea of Felicity and he doesn't want it to stop. He wants to feel like this forever, like every molecule in his body is lit up and glowing, just for her.

Felicity starts to moan, rolling her hips along with him. He forces himself to focus, keeping his pace steady and even when she starts to whimper, tightening up against him, nails digging into his neck. Heat pools low in his stomach, a warning sign, and he doubles his efforts, arms shaking with the effort of holding his body over hers.

"Oliver," she pants urgently. "Oliver!" Her head is thrown back, the white column of her neck exposed.

He finds her hands and laces their fingers together, kissing down the side of her throat. She squirms under him; Oliver slams into her again and again, until Felicity begins to cry out, her whole body shaking. She's close; he can feel it.

It only takes two more thrusts before her body tightens like a bow, one long line of tension. Oliver drops his mouth to kiss her and Felicity comes sobbing against his mouth, her hands squeezing his. He shudders, insistently fucking her through it until he can't hold back anymore; his hips stutter and he spills into the condom with a grunt.

After a few moments of just breathing, Felicity’s head tucked under his chin, Oliver regretfully pulls out of her and walks over to a corner of the room to trash the condom. When he turns around Felicity's curled over on her side watching him, naked and smiling and content. He has to rush back over to the bed just to kiss her, burying his hand in her hair as he lies back down. Felicity curls into him, finding all the places where her body fits right up against his body.

"Stay," she murmurs sleepily, kissing his chest.

"You got it," he breathes, and falls asleep with a naked Felicity wrapped up against his side.

*

Sara is crying, reaching her arms out for Oliver. Water is everywhere, he pushes through icy waves trying to reach her. Oliver screams for her, plunging under the water, hands searching for Sara's body. He finally connects with an arm, a wrist, but when he hauls her up it's not her. It's Felicity, bloated and blue and dead.

Oliver screams in terror and water rushes into his mouth, he chokes and chokes, Felicity limp in his arms as the water pulls him under. His mouth still opens in reflex, a scream tearing out of his throat and bubbling under the water, but when he opens his eyes there's just darkness and he's sitting up, head in his hands, and Oliver falls right off of something soft, a bed, idiot.

He stumbles around in the dark, choked sobs fighting to tear out of his mouth. He can hear someone calling his name, Oliver, Oliver, but he's lost in the dark and Sara is dead or maybe Felicity and he can't handle it, he can't fucking breathe. He walks right into something, a wall, and he follows it blindly, stumbling into a room, his hand smacking against a light switch.

He's in a bathroom, it floods with light and his eyes burn. Oliver gasps for air, hands over his face, and then someone is there, small hands all over him and he thinks of Felicity, dead Felicity, with blue lips and a white face, and he yells, jerking away, and rams the back of his head against the wall. He groans, trying to inhale but he can’t breathe, he can’t get any air, and everything slowly fades to black.

*

"Oliver." The voice is different than before, deep and masculine.

It’s Dig.

Oliver squints his eyes open. He’s on the floor, his bare ass cold against the tile, and his head is fucking pounding.

He groans and shuts his eyes.

“Open,” Dig says, fingers against his lips.

Oliver obediently opens his mouth and dry swallows the pill Dig places on his tongue. Dig touches the back of his head and Oliver rolls away, arms coming protectively to his face on instinct. From far away he can hear someone crying or maybe its just Sara in his head.

“Oliver,” Dig says softly. “Tell me where we are.”

“Bathroom.”

“Whose bathroom?”

“Fel… Felic” –

Dig barely gets him up in time for Oliver to heave bile into the toilet.

“Alright,” Diggle says. “It’s alright.”

He somehow has clothes for Oliver, who is too dazed to feel humiliated as Dig gets him dressed. Oliver blinks heavily, wondering where Felicity went. Dig leads him out of her apartment, Oliver’s eyes on the floor so he doesn’t have to see her, wherever she is, can’t make himself face it. He lets himself get manhandled into a car and buckled in; Oliver tips his aching head back and shuts his eyes.

Dig gets into the driver’s seat and just sits there for a minute. “Do you want to go to the hospital, just to get checked out?”

“No,” he mumbles. “I just want to go home.”

“I had a feeling you’d say that,” Diggle says grimly, and turns the ignition over.

*

Oliver emphatically sends Dig home when they get back to the mansion because it’s apparently five in the morning, quietly lets himself inside and stumbles up to his bedroom. He head hurts but it’s not so bad, and he’s not dizzy, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t have a concussion. He’s sure at least that Dig wouldn’t have left if he thought Oliver wasn’t okay, which is good enough for him.

He’s fine. He just needs to sleep, and then he’ll figure out what the hell to do about Felicity.

Oliver goes into his bathroom and swallows two sleeping pills, gargles with mouthwash to get rid of the sour taste in the back of his throat, and strips down to his boxers. He shuts off all the lights in his room, closes the curtains, sets his phone on the nightstand and crawls underneath the covers, drifting off to sleep to the sound of distance crying echoing in his head.

When he wakes up it’s to the sound of buzzing. Oliver groans and stretches, rolling over to snag his phone and unlock it. He has a text from Felicity, only two words but they make his whole body go cold.

Call me.

Oliver swallows and dials with shaking hands. It only rings twice before she picks up. “Hey,” she says softly. Her voice sounds hoarse, like she’s been crying.

“Hey.”

“How… how are you?”

“I’m okay,” he lies fluidly, without even thinking about it.

“Good, that’s good. Um, I was wondering, do you think you could come over? Like, now, maybe? Unless you can’t, but I really need to talk to you in person.”

Of course she does. She’s breaking up with him.

“Yeah,” he says casually, like it’s fine, like he doesn’t care. “I’ll be right over.”

“Oh.” She sounds surprised. “Okay then, I’ll uh, see you soon.”

He hangs up and covers his face with his hands before turning over and screaming into a pillow. It’s a little after noon now, which meant he got over six hours of sleep at home, so his head is clear enough to get through this even though driving himself over to Felicity’s so she can let him down easy like the nice girl she is is the last thing he wants to do.

He changes into a clean pair of jeans and a grey henley, grabs his brown jacket and jogs downstairs, and gets into the car. He drives all the way over to Felicity’s and when he parks he realizes he doesn’t even remember the drive, he’s that out of it.

“Come on,” he mutters to himself, gets out of the car and forcefully slams the door shut.

Felicity must be waiting because her door swings open right as he knocks. She’s wearing a pair of dark jeans and a soft looking pink sweater, hair pulled back in another perfect ponytail. And then Felicity launches herself at him, reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck.

“Hey,” he murmurs, one of his hands coming up to cup her head. “It’s okay.”

“I was so worried,” she says into his chest, her words coming out muffled.

“I’m fine,” he says softly. “Really, I’m okay.”

She sniffs and pulls away, giving him a fragile smile. “So I guess when you said you’d be a terrible soulmate this is what you meant?”

Oliver nods tightly, one of his hands coming up to nervously scratch the back of his neck. “Look, I get it, I can just go if you want.”

“Wait, what?” To his surprise she looks confused. “So you had a nightmare, so what? No, that’s not even what I want to talk to you about.”

He squints at her, baffled. “Okay?”

“Wait,” she says. “Did you think I asked you to come over because I was breaking up with you?”

“Uh… maybe?”

“Oh my god, seriously?” Felicity huffs, and grabs his hand. “Come on.”

Oliver allows her to lead him to the living room. “Sit,” she orders, pushing him at the couch.

He sits down more out of shock than anything else, watching her sit down next her and then bend down and take off her socks.

“What are you doing?” he asks slowly. “Felicity, you don’t have to do this.”

“I saw your mark,” she says, and Oliver’s stomach curls up in a knot.

“What?”

“In the bathroom, last night. You weren’t wearing a shirt.”

Oliver blinks at her, his ears ringing, watching as Felicity pulls her legs up and lays her feet in his lap. “It’s the right one,” she says softly.

Oliver slowly brings his hands to the sole of her right foot and there, right where he saw it the night they met, is her mark.

It’s an arrow.

Or rather, the thin outline of an arrow with a line of script, a word in another language that Oliver doesn’t know, written down the middle. He runs his index finger down the length of the shaft and Felicity gasps. When he glances up her eyes are glassy and her cheeks are flushed.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I don’t know if this is really the way you’d want to find out” –

“No, no,” he shushes her, transfixed by her foot is his hands, his arrow on her skin. “Do you know what the word means?”

Her expression softens. “Yeah. Beshert. It’s Yiddish. It can be used to describe any fortuitous event really, but it’s most commonly used to mean. Um. Soulmate. It means soulmate.”

“Felicity,” he murmurs, and releases her foot to hold his arms out to her.

She launches herself into his lap, pressing her face into his chest, and it feels so right, so perfect, and Oliver realizes he doesn’t even need a mark to prove it, he knows she’s his soulmate. He can feel it.

“Are you okay?” he whispers. “I know this is…” he exhales in frustration. “You’d be signing up for a lot. Media attention. Lawyers. My mother.”

To his surprise Felicity laughs. “Hey, you haven’t met my mother yet either, that goes both ways.”

“True,” he concedes. “Look, if you want to go to an analyst, just to be sure…”

“Oh. Um.” Felicity shifts off his lap, suddenly looking bashful. “We don’t need to do that. I uh, I have a prototype for an app on my phone that matches marks with up to 99.99% certainty."

He blinks at her. “What?”

She reaches for her phone, pulling up her camera app. “We’re beta testing now but I wrote the code, trust me, this is going to put match analysts out of business in a few years.” She holds the phone over her foot and snaps a picture of her mark before gripping the edge of his shirt. “Is this okay?”

“Yeah.” He lets her lift his shirt, his cheeks heating, and she takes a picture of his mark before sitting back cross-legged on the couch, phone in her hands, turning shoulder to shoulder with him so Oliver can see the screen.

Felicity pulls up both pictures of their marks in the app and taps a little bubble that says Match Me! A blue wheel appears on the screen, spinning and spinning and spinning. She reaches over with her free hand to grip his palm and Oliver squeezes her fingers, staring down at the phone.

The screen flashes green, and then text appears, in big bold letters. Congratulations! Perfect Match!

“Holy shit!” Felicity exclaims, and drops her phone.

She turns to him and they both start laughing at the same time, Oliver scoops her into his lap, his chest so warm and full it’s almost scary. Almost.

But then Felicity kisses him and it’s exhilarating, it’s everything he’s been aching to feel and thought he never would.

“Hey,” she says against his lips, giggling. “You want to take a walk or something?”

“A walk?” he parrots.

“Oh, it’s just, I feel like things are going to get crazy, you know, when everyone finds out, and I thought maybe we could just like. Process. Just the two of us. Go get coffee or something?” she asks hopefully.

Oliver smiles. “Yeah. I’d love to.”

He waits patiently for her to put her socks back on and retrieve her shoes. Oliver follows her out the door, stopping to squint up at the perfect cloudless sky, bright sunshine everywhere he looks.

“Oliver?” Felicity calls out. “You coming?”

Oliver smiles, nodding, and steps out into the light.