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Our love will never fade away (I'll bear your mark on my skin for eternity)

Chapter Text

 Prologue:

“I’ll spread my wings

And I’ll learn how to fly

Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye”

 – Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway.

 

Felicity winced as she heard the sharp sound of her high-school’s bell. Sighing, she slammed her locker’s door, checking that her padlock was in place before heading toward her advanced math class. She blended in with the crowd of loudly speaking students, walking close to the wall in an unconscious attempt to go unnoticed. Her first days at Las Vegas High-School, she had had to force herself to do so. Now, it had become something that she needn’t think about, a habit that was anchored deep inside her.

She reached Mrs Duncan classroom without crossing anyone’s path. Sighing in relief, she sat down on a chair in the far corner of the room. Grabbing her things and arranging them on her desk, she put her backpack on the floor and pushed it under her seat. Looking forward the beginning of the class, she waited for the class to start, doing her best to ignore the voices of her classmates, who either were talking about their plans for the weekend or the last game of the basketball team, the Wildcats.

A heavily pregnant Mrs Duncan walked in, carrying a worn out brown bag and sheets of paper in her hand. Felicity’s heart jumped in her chest when she saw them as excitement filled her veins. It was the test they had taken the previous week, the last grade of the trimester. She cared a lot about her average but she had reached a point in her life where she didn’t want to get good grades because it was what every student needed to get into college. No. She wanted good grades because she needed to have one thing in her life that didn’t suck. She needed one thing in her life to go well and getting good grades would do the trick since she couldn’t rely on anything else.

Mrs Duncan started giving papers back. Felicity got hers and pushed her glasses up her nose.

B-

Letting out a shaky breath, she bit on her lip. She had never gotten anything under A. Never ever. But then, she shouldn’t be surprised that it had finally happened. She hadn’t gotten enough time to study, between her shifts at work and her other assignments. Her hands shaking slightly, she grabbed a pen and listened carefully to Mrs Duncan’s explanations. She talked about a few important things that hadn’t been quite understood before the test. Felicity took down a lot of notes, willing her mind to learn all the things it hadn’t had the time to learn before the test. When she was done with the correction, Mrs Duncan went back to the lesson they were currently studying. When the bell rang, Felicity jumped on her feet and rushed toward her next class without looking back.

Her morning went smoothly after that. She didn’t run into any of the people who loved to turn high-school into a hellish experience for her. It didn’t happen often, most of the days she got at least two or three snarky comments before lunchtime. Apparently, that day was one of her good day and she was left in peace for four hours straight. It was so rare, it deserved to be highlighted.

Going back to her locker, she emptied her backpack and put the books and copybooks she’d need for the afternoon. She was almost done when she heard a grating coming from behind her.

“So I heard that someone got a bad grade today,” the owner of the voice said.

Clenching her fingers around the handle of her bag, Felicity turned around, her shoulders stiff. “Mandy,” she let out through gritted teeth.

Mandy Miller was the high-school’s queen, quite literally considering that she had been elected Queen at all the school balls she had intended since she was six years old, and Felicity’s persecutor-in-chief. She had taken a dislike to her, because she was two years younger than her and yet attending all her classes. Felicity had learnt the hard way that bullying the youngest was a rule set in stone that didn’t only stick to the movies and that the bullies were very often considered the bravest person by their pairs. 

Mandy reached for the sheet of paper stuck in Felicity’s advanced math book, the last one that she was holding and held it out for her friends to see. “See? Our little genius got a bad grade. What happened Ugly Smoaky? Was it too hard for you? Maybe you should consider going back with the sophomores?”

Sighing, Felicity tried to get her paper back. “Mandy, give it back!” She demanded when she held it up higher so that Felicity, who was small and not wearing heels couldn’t reach it.

“Oh no! I need to take a picture of this! I’ll hang it in my room and watch it when I have a bad day.”

Standing on her tiptoes, Felicity grabbed her paper and yanked it from Mandy’s hold. The sheet tore and Felicity fell back against the lockers. She felt pain start from where her back hit her padlock and huffed back a whimper.

“Look what you did!” She yelled at Mandy, rising the half she had managed to get back.

Mandy frowned before nodding toward one of her friends. “I think that you need to cool down Smoaky,” she told her, her tone so cold Felicity had to repress a shiver. Then, her friends slightly bumped into her and Mandy pretended to trip and fall toward Felicity. Half of her smoothie ended up on the latter.

Felicity shivered when the coldness of the frozen drink reached her skin, the thin fabric of her dress doing nothing to protect her.

“Oops I’m sorry, she pushed me,” Mandy said as the bell rang, signalling the ending of their lunch break. She threw one last scornful glare at Felicity before walking away, her group of friends behind her, already congratulating her.

Throwing her book in her locker, Felicity slammed the door so hard, the whole locker tremble. Then, she turned around, her blonde curls moving as she did, and rushed toward the girls’ bathroom, cursing all the while because she was going to be late for her first class of the afternoon. Letting her backpack slide from her shoulder and fell on the floor, she grabbed toilet paper and started wiping the smoothie that was still on her dress. Tossing the now dirty paper away, she grabbed more, moistened it and tried to clean her dress as best as she could. Her hands now trembling, she reached for the edges of the sink in front of her, holding onto it so tight, her fingers turned white. She let out a shaky breath and shut her eyes, swallowing back a sob.

She didn’t know why she was reacting that way. It wasn’t as if it was the first time that Mandy had been mean to her or that she had emptied her smoothie on her. Actually, she had wasted so much food on her, Felicity now believed that throwing food at someone should be considered a felony, especially when there were people who were dying of starvation on the planet. She tried to imagine Mandy in an orange prison uniform, doing community work and the thought made her chuckle. Wiping at her eyes, she chuckled slightly. She felt the waves of emotions flowed back and she took a breath, anchoring herself into the present.

Bending forward, she splashed water on her face not caring that she was going to be late anymore. Her grandmother’s necklace escaped from under her dress and she put it back, sighing. She usually didn’t wear precious jewel at school but her mother was going through a rough time again and Felicity didn’t want her to sell any more family jewels to get more money to pay their bills. She had already sold most of the jewels her grandmother had left them, Felicity wasn’t going to let her sell that last necklace, the last thing that she had left from her bubbe. She’d keep it, even if it meant that she’d have to work more at Daisy’s.

Shaking her head, Felicity righted her now damp dress. She put on her sleeveless denim jacket and hid the wet stain as best as she could. She combed her curls with her fingers and when she was satisfied with her appearance, she walked out of the bathroom.

 


 

Felicity’s lungs were burning, begging for mercy as her feet kept hitting the pavement, never slowing down, never offering her muscles the rest they were craving. She turned right at a corner and finally saw Daisy’s, the diner she worked at every day. Pushing the door open, she walked in, her breathing erratic, every single nerve endings in her body burning.

“Felicity, there you are!” Her boss yelled. “I don’t pay you to be late, where the hell were you?”

“I am sorry Daisy, my bus…”

The older woman raised up a hand to stop her. “I don’t have time to listen to the little problems of an insignificant teenager!” She threw Felicity’s black apron to her face, and put a notepad and a pen in her hands. “Go take some orders!” She barked.

Swallowing back the insults on the tip of her tongue, Felicity slid her backpack behind the diner’s counter and went to take orders, as she had been told.

She worked at Daisy’s every night. Her shift usually started an hour and a half after her classes ended, giving her some time to go back to her place and trade her school clothes for the black jeans and white tee that Daisy forced her to wear at work. During the weekends, she worked all day on Saturdays, and had her Sundays’ afternoons and evenings free. There were two other employees, James, the cook and Georgia, another waitress. Daisy did nothing aside from barking orders and coaxing the customers. It had indeed been proven that it was how a boss was going to be respected by his employees.

“I swear she almost had an aneurism waiting for you,” Georgia told her from behind the counter. “What happened to you?” She asked, concern in her eyes.

Felicity smiled reassuringly. She liked Georgia, she was the closest thing she had to a friend in that damn city. “Nothing, it’s just my bus… It was late.”

“I am sorry to hear that sweetie. Don’t listen to whatever Daisy says. I handled things well in your absence.”

Felicity nodded. “Thanks G, you’re the best!”

The brunette winked at her before getting back to her orders.

Almost three hours later, Daisy called her.

“Someone for you on the phone,” she said harshly. “Don’t take too long,” she added as she gave her the phone.

“Felicity Smoak,” she said.

“Felicity, this is Gina.”

Her mother’s co-worker.

“Hey Gina!” Felicity greeted her, faking a cheerful tone. “How are you?”

“Felicity, your mother didn’t show up.”

Felicity bit on her lip. Of course she hadn’t. Why else would Gina call her?

“Felicity this is serious. If she misses another shift, she’ll be fired.

“She promised me she’d come!” Felicity assured, recalling her brief meeting with her mother from earlier.

“She’s already twenty minutes late.”

Felicity let out a frustrated breath. “My shift ends in half an hour,” she said, glancing at her watch. “We’ll be here in less than an hour, I swear.”

“Unless you break all the traffic laws, you know you won’t. Felicity, I’m sorry but…”

Felicity snorted. “We’ll be too late?”

“I am so sorry Felicity, but the boss has given her many warnings…”

“It’s okay Gina I get it,” Felicity said as Daisy was starting to motion for her to hang up. “Listen, I have to go. Thanks for calling me.”

“Again, I am so sorry…”

“It’s okay,” Felicity cut her off dryly. “Goodbye Gina!”

She hung up before Gina could reply. Daisy walked toward her, a tray in hands. “This is for table 6. Hurry up!”

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Felicity walked toward table six. The rest of her shift passed in a blur. She welcomed customers, took their orders, brought them their food, the bill and then cleared the table. Her movements were mechanic though and her voice lacked any warmth, any life. Her conversation with Gina had sucked up all her energy.

 


 

She found herself standing in the storage room of Daisy’s after her shift ended. The room was dark and dusty but she couldn’t have cared less. She just needed a moment, to recentre her emotions, to get everything under control again. She was about to go home to a heartbroken, depressed and jobless mom. It wasn’t the first time it happened to her, it was certainly not the last either. It didn’t mean that it was getting any less hard with time.

Rising her tee, she exposed her hipbone and brushed the black arrow shaped into the infinite sign that lied there, a dark spot on the otherwise smooth and creamy skin. Immediately, the emotions of her soulmate, of that boy whose heart and soul were destined to be hers, exploded inside her. Her heart burst in her chest as his feelings meddled with hers, tangling their souls in a soothing embrace. They weren’t bonded yet, only a physical connection could seal an emotional one, making it unbreakable, but they still were connected to one another.

It wasn’t an invasive presence. Most of the times, it felt like a buzzing, a soft vibration coming from the depth of her soul that reminded her of his existence. She could always feel him, she knew he was there, somewhere, waiting to meet her. But some other times, the buzzing turned into a throbbing, so loud and powerful she couldn’t ignore it no matter how hard she tried. Then, she was overwhelmed by his emotions, his life and she could see things through his eyes, hear things through his ears and actually sense and feel everything through him. It was always brief, but intense. And some other times, when things were too hard for her, she could go to him and seek comfort in him. All she had to do was stroke her mark, the concrete evidence of their current connection, the promise of their future bond.

Electricity tingled at the tips of her fingers as she traced the shape of the arrow branding her skin and she closed her eyes, letting his presence comfort her. She gasped when his conscience crushed the psychic barriers of her mind and flooded her head. A kaleidoscope of colours exploded behind her eyelids and for a second, time froze around her. She wasn’t in a dusty storage anymore, in a sketchy diner located in an even sketchier area of Vegas. No. She was outside, under a sky so bright and so blue she had to blink several times to get used to it. Sounds of waves crashing against the shore reached her ears and she lowered her gaze, to see a crystal-clear sea and a pristine, white sand beach going for miles around. She gulped the salty air of the sea, letting it fill her lungs.

It was over all too soon. The barriers of her mind snapped back into place, throwing his conscience out of her. She took a step back and caught herself up on a swaying metallic shelve. Breathing in and out, slowly, she chased the remnants of his presence in her. His soul was bright and vibrant and always left a lasting print on her. She found it and closed her eyes to savour it, holding it close to her heart. She didn’t know if he felt it when she did that, when she drew comfort from him even though they weren’t bonded yet. She didn’t think he did because never in her life had she felt him draw peace and comfort from her.

But maybe, that was because he had never needed to. Maybe he didn’t need anything from her.

She shook her head to get that thought out of her head. Not everyone was like her father.

Feeling better, stronger, she walked out of the storage room and headed toward her place.

 


 

Scientists didn’t know where soulmates come from. They didn’t know why two people were born with the exact same mark on their skin or why these two people were intimately connected on the three planes of existence: physical, emotional and psychical. They didn’t know a lot about soulmates actually, but they knew the most important things.

Back in time, soulmates didn’t get together very often. Mainly because people generally did not leave the area they were born in, meaning that they never got the chance to meet their soulmates. And for the people who did get to meet their soulmates, they did not end up together as well, because of political alliances and arranged marriages. Distance, different beliefs, politics and wars kept soulmates apart for centuries, leaving people with a void in their heart and soul, a void they were desperate to fill but didn’t know how to. It was no wonder why they had spent their lives fighting. The loneliness of their soul had driven them crazy, slowly gnawing on the remaining pieces of their sanity.

Things started changing at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. Technological development made it possible to travel further away, faster and at a cheaper cost, making it possible for more and more people to meet their soulmates. One of those lucky souls was a scientist. His name was Howard Krast and he met his soulmate in New-York, in 1911. She was an Irish immigrant and after they were bonded, he started studying soulmates and tried to understand how things worked. His researches were the firsts ever done in that area and still inspires people in 2012. Krast discovered a molecule that was released during the bonding. According to him, it was that molecule who tied people together. He tried to create it, in his lab. He used his soulmate and himself as test subjects but failed. He realised that the molecule was something that could only be made by nature. Krast created his own company and its main purpose was to keep studying soulmates and improve their knowledge of the bonding process and the abilities it unleashed. With the development of computer science, he opened a database, the Soulmarks’ International Database, collecting data about soulmarks, to help people find their soulmates. Teenagers could sign in at the age of sixteen.

In the nineties, a scientist working for Krast researches and development department discovered a way to cancel the effect of the soulmates’ molecule. The discovery came in handy because the soulmark was as much a curse as it was a blessing. When people lost their soulmates, they lost a part of themselves. The bond was broken, cut in half. The half of the remaining mate was left hanging and desperate to find the loss connection again, to get it back. Soulmates were so deeply and intimately intertwined together, they could no longer exist on their own, not after the bonding. Their souls were the two parts of a whole and a world where they were alone and separate was just unfathomable and that’s why they kept looking for their lost half. Only there never was anything to find in the cold darkness of a shattered bond.

Those who lost their soulmates were hurting, going through a pain that was not only psychical or emotional but also physical. Things were just too much for the heart and soul to take, and it was up to the body to relieve them from their burden. And as if an excruciating everlasting pain wasn’t enough, some of those broken people could lose their mind because of the void in their psyche. The Med could prevent that from happening. The Med shut down the link. It cut the connection, stopped the pain. It was salvation for those whose lives had become a living hell.

The Med was a blue pill and it had to be taken every day. It cut the link, erased the soulmark. Nowadays, not only those who had lost their soulmates took it but also those who didn’t want to have anything to do with their soulmates or those who wanted to be able to choose. It was indeed possible to fall in love with someone who wasn’t your soulmate. Krast had discovered that there were several levels of connection between two soulmates. Meaning that some connections were stronger than others before the bonding. He had created a scale, from one to ten, that measured the pre-bonding’s level of entanglement. For instance, people who got a grade from one to four were more likely to fall for someone who wasn’t their soulmate. And in response to that, some groups of people, who claimed that the soulmarks were taking away people’s ability to choose for themselves, were formed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Those groups saw the Med as a way to get that freedom back.

 


 

Felicity was thinking about all of this as her bus drove through Las Vegas, bringing her back to her apartment’s block. Her parents were soulmates but it hadn’t stopped her father from leaving them when she was seven. He had started taking the Med, so that her mother couldn’t use the bond to find him and had never come back.

Sighing, Felicity walked toward the staircase, knowing that their building’s elevator hadn’t been fixed yet. They were living on the fifth floor and after the day she had just had Felicity most definitely didn’t feel like climbing up the ninety steps that separated her from her home but she had no other choice. When she reached the door to her apartment, she only wanted to do one thing: collapse on her bed. But unfortunately, she had a mother to take care of.

She dropped her backpack in the hallway, put her key in a bowl near the door and went looking for her mom. She found her, passed out on the couch, still wearing her pajamas.

After her soulmate had left her and taken the Med to shut his side of the bond, Donna Smoak had been left with a silent void in her soul. She had refused to take the Med, arguing that if she did, then she’d lose her husband forever. Everything went from bad to worse after that. Donna became depressed and unable to keep a job for more than a few months. It was always the same thing, she always followed the same pattern. At the beginning, she came back from a low point and found a new job. Then, when Felicity started thinking that it was it, that she was finally getting better, that things were going to go well, her mother fell back down, harder and lower than before. Felicity’s bubbe had helped them, working in spite of her advanced age to provide for them since Donna couldn’t keep a job. But she had passed away the previous year, leaving Felicity alone to take care of both her mother and herself.

Krast’s company, which now belonged to his granddaughter had opened clinics to take care of these people who had lost themselves. Felicity and her bubbe had thought about sending Donna to one but they were unaffordable.

Kneeling in front of her mother, Felicity shook her shoulder. “Mom,” she said, her tone firm. No response. She shook harder. “Mom!”

Donna mumbled something unintelligible and turned around.

“Mom, wake up!” Felicity insisted.

“Leave me alone!” She muttered. “Go away!”

“Mom,” Felicity went on. “You didn’t go to work. You didn’t even shower. You promised me you would!”

“I can’t do it,” Donna said, her voice muffled by the pillow she had buried her face in.

“Yes you can,” Felicity assured her.

Donna turned around again, this time to face her daughter. Her blue eyes were moistened. “I tried, Felicity, I swear I tried. But then I thought, “what if he comes looking for me while I am at work, what if I miss him because I am at work” and I couldn’t go.” Her voice broke and a few tears rolled down her cheeks.

Biting on her lip, this wasn’t the first time they were having this conversation, Felicity said. “It’s okay mom, I understand. I am not asking you to go to work. I just want you to take a shower. Can you do that for me? You don’t have to leave the apartment to do that and you know it.”

“You won’t make me go to work?” Donna asked, her eyebrow rising as her hopes went up again.

Felicity closed her eyes, fighting back her own tears. “No I won’t.” She then reached out for her mother’s hand and helped her up. She led them to the small bathroom and let her shower, leaving the door open on her way out, just in case.

Walking back to the living room, she heard her mother shrieked. Her heart skipped a beat in her chest and she ran back toward the bathroom.

“What? What’s going on?” She asked, panicked.

“Water’s cold,” Donna explained.

Felicity put her hand under the spray. It was freezing. Repressing a shiver, she turned toward her mother.

“You said you had paid the water bill,” she told her.

“Maybe I forgot…” Donna said, looking down toward her feet.

Felicity groaned before going back to the living room. No shower for them tonight. She grabbed her laptop and paid the bill online.

“Everything should be good by tomorrow,” she informed her mother.

Donna, who was now sitting on the couch, holding her knees close to her chest, nodded.

“Are you hungry?” Felicity asked.

Donna shook her head.

“Are you sure?” She insisted. You didn’t have lunch.”    

“I am not hungry,” Donna repeated.

“Alright then, let’s put you to bed,” Felicity decided. There were cereal bars in her mother’s room because chances that she’d wake up hungry in the middle of the night were high.

She walked Donna to her room and helped her get under comforter. She tucked her in her bed, kissed her forehead and bid her goodnight.

When she was alone again, Felicity served herself a bowl of cornflakes. She was too tired to cook a proper meal, especially if she was the only one who was going to eat it. Sitting down on the couch in the living room, she turned on the TV and reached for the mail. She hadn’t had a chance to look at it earlier.

There were a few bills and their sight tied a knot in Felicity’s stomach. How were they going to pay them, now that Donna has lost her job again? Felicity couldn’t work more at Daisy’s, she still had to go to school. Not knowing what to do, she put the bills away. They would still be here to mock her in the morning.

Her heart froze when she saw the envelope.

Opening it up with shaking hands, she unfolded the letter.

“Dear Felicity,

On behalf of the Admission Committee, it is my pleasure to offer you admission to the MIT class of 2016. You stood out as one of the most talented and promising students in one of MIT’s most competitive applicant pools ever. Your commitment to personal excellence and principled goals has convinced us that you will both contribute to our diverse community and thrive within our academic environment. We think you and MIT are a good match…”

Letting out a relieved breath, she felt tears prickled at the corner of her eyes. She wiped them away.

MIT.

She had gotten in and they were offering her a full scholarship.

She knew she’d still have to find a job but she didn’t care. Nothing could be worse than working for Daisy.

But what about her mother though? She couldn’t leave her alone in Vegas and she knew she’d refuse to move away, just in case Felicity’s dad ever came back.  When she had applied, Felicity hadn’t honestly thought that she’d get in. She hadn’t thought about any of this, she hadn’t felt like she’d need to.

But now she did and she was lost.

 


 

A week later, Felicity still hadn’t talked to her mother about the acceptance letter she had gotten. She couldn’t come up with a suitable solution for her mother and herself. She was considering turning college down and started working immediately after she was done with high-school. The thought depressed her but her mother needed her more than she needed to go to college.

When the bell rang, signalling the end of another day at school, Felicity packed her stuff back slowly, her heart heavy in her chest. Getting up, she walked out of the room and headed toward the exit.

She immediately noticed the man. He was actually kind of hard to miss with his black suit, black tie and white shirt. He looked like a bodyguard. She walked past him, wondering who he was and what he was doing here when she felt him move and follow her. She stopped dead in her tracks.

“Felicity Smoak?” He asked, his tone polite. His shoulders were large and broad but nothing in his demeanour felt threatening.

“Who’s asking?” She replied suspiciously, crossing her arms over her chest.

“James Wilde, private detective. Here’s my card.”

He handed her a small folded cardboard piece of paper. “You know it proves nothing, right?”

He nodded. “As it is written on my card, I work for the Soulmarks’ International Database,” he explained her. “Your soulmate’s family hired me.”

She blinked several times. She had turned sixteen in February but hadn’t created a profile for herself in the SID’s database yet.

“How do they know about me? I haven’t signed up yet.”

The man took a folder out of his small briefcase. “You didn’t, but your mother, Donna Smoak, did.” She reached for the folder and opened it. He had printed the file created and administrated by her mother as a proof. Her heart clenched when she saw that her mother had filled her profile with a lot of things that weren’t accurate. No, she was not a cheerleader, she was a tutor. No, she was not a fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she loved watching Doctor Who and Sherlock. And no, she didn’t dream to attend the Fashion Week, she wanted to leave for a road trip someday. As usual, her mother had skipped the “boring” parts of her life. Clenching her fists, she crumpled the file.

“I am guessing that she didn’t tell you about any of this,” James said, his eyes glued to her hands torturing the folder.

Felicity pursed her lips, anger and frustration making her heart swell in her chest. Her mother had created her account three weeks ago, right after her birthday and lied about many things. She had created a file for her, but hadn’t thought that saying true things about her would be a good idea. “No, I didn’t,” her voice taut.

“Would you mind walking?” James suggested. “I know there is a nice park down the street. It’ll be better to talk sitting down on a bench than here, standing.”

She nodded following him to the Lewis Family Park. They found a bench under a shade tree and sat down.

“Why did my family’s soulmate hire you?”

The detective took a deep breath. “They got a notification telling them that a match had been found for their son’s mark a few days after your mom created your account. They deleted his data right after that.”

Felicity tilted her head. “That still doesn’t tell me why they hired you,” she noticed, her frustration bubbling up in her chest.

“They asked me to investigate on you. And when I was done, they asked me to become a mediator between you and them.”

Felicity blinked several times, astonished. What kind of family was her soulmate living in? Who do they think they were? “A mediator? For what?”

The detective blue eyes met hers. “They want you to give up on your soulmate’s rights,” he told her, his tone colder than before.

Felicity felt like she had been slapped. Except this time, the pain was ten times worse than everything she had ever felt, because the slap had ended on her heart and not on her cheek. The quiet buzzing of her soulmate’s emotions roared to life, and she knew it was a reaction to the abrupt twist in her emotions.

“Why?” She managed to say, in spite of the lump in her throat that was making it hard for her to speak and breathe.

“It’s not in their family’s best interests to have their only son bonded to someone like you.”

Felicity felt like she had been slapped for the second time in a row. Tears prickled at the corner of her eyes, the insult leaving a stinging cut on her heart. Her soulmate’s emotions grew stronger within her and she identified concern. Digging her nails into the skin of her palms to anchor herself in the present, she shut them down.

“They are willing to pay the necessary price,” James Wilde went on.

“They can keep their money, I don’t want it,” she spit out, her tone ferocious. She still had some pride left inside her after all.

“You should reconsider your words Miss Smoak. They are willing to offer you a huge amount of money. And they also happen to be friends with Amanda Krast and they can get your mother a place in one of the best soulmate’s clinics of the country. You wouldn’t have to worry about anything, her medical care and everything else would be taken care of,” Felicity started shaking her head and he leaned toward her, his tone more insistent. “Think about it Felicity, your mom would get better, you could go to MIT, all your debts would be paid off…”

“What does my soulmate think of all this?” She asked, her voice shaking.

A shadow crossed the man’s face. It disappeared quickly though and Felicity didn’t linger on it.

“He wants what’s best for his family.”

“And I am not it?” She asked and she hated herself for sounding so piqued and bitter.

“No you’re not.”

She closed her eyes to keep her tears at bay. “If that’s true then why doesn’t he cut the link himself?”

Instead of answering her question, James got up. “Take a few days to think about it,” he told her. “Give me a call when you’re ready.”

He left her then and Felicity watched him leave, feeling more alone than ever. Her pain was strong enough to protect her from her soulmate’s emotions. For the first time in her life, she didn’t feel his presence with her.

She was utterly and completely alone.

She didn’t know what to think of what she had just been told, she didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, the promise of a place in a soulmate’s clinic for her mother was very tempting. She was doing so bad and Felicity didn’t know how to help her anymore. She needed doctors and psychologists, not a sixteen-year-old daughter who didn’t know what she was doing. But to get a place in the clinic, she had to accept the offer. What she had gathered about her soulmate’s family told her that she didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Who do they think they were? Some kind of royals? What kind of twisted people asked a private detective to investigate on a teenager and concluded that she wasn’t a good enough soulmate for their son? Felicity didn’t want to be connected to that particular kind of cold, cruel and calculating people. But on the other hand, she had been connected to her soulmate for so long, it felt like he was already an integral part of herself. How could she just cut everything? How could she close that door? How could she refuse them to ever be completely whole?

She hadn’t signed up in the SID’s database because after what her father had done to her mother, how he had walked out on her without looking back, she had realised that having a soulmate didn’t mean living together happily ever after. She knew better, she knew the ugly truth that was hiding behing the beautiful tale. She knew that a soulmate could either be the other half of your heart or the only one able to shatter it into pieces so small there was no way to ever bring them back together. She had needed time to think about whether or not she wanted to expose herself to that kind of pain and that was why she hadn’t signed in the SID right after her birthday. That and the fact that her life was a mess and that she didn’t want to drag her soulmate into it.

Now, she was realising that, maybe, she didn’t want to be the one dragged into the mess that was his life.

 


 

The ringtone of her cell-phone pulled her out of her thoughts. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the caller’s ID. It was Mrs Mill, her neighbour across the hall. She knew about Felicity’s mother condition and had offered to keep an eye on her when Felicity was at school or at work.

“Mrs Mill, what can I do for you?”

“Felicity, I am so sorry, your mother left! I tried to stop her but you know how she can be…”

Felicity let out a deep breath. Yeah, she knew exactly how her mother could be. “Did she say anything before leaving?”

“She mumbled things about an engagement. She kept saying that she was going to be late.”

“I see, thanks for calling me Mrs Mill, I’ll call you back when I find her.”

“Are you going to be okay? Do you know where she went?”

“Yes I do, thanks again Mrs Mill, but I really need to go.”

Hanging up, she got on her feet. She knew exactly where her mom was, it wasn’t the first time that something like that was happening. One of her mother’s only way to cope with the loss of her soulmate was to lock herself in their past memories. Judging from what Donna had said to Mrs Mill, she was living her engagement all over again. Thankfully, Paris Las Vegas was only fourteen miles away from her high-school and since her mother had lost her job, she was the one using their car.

Driving skilfully through the city where she was born, she reached the Paris Las Vegas hotel complex in record time. Parking herself, she started looking for her mother, her heart beating wildly in her chest. When she was locked up in a memory, Donna was so lost in herself, she could put herself in harm’s way just because her mind was focusing one the past and completely obliterating the present.

Felicity ran toward the replica of the Eiffel Tower, making her way through the crows. Her parents’ dream had always been to go to Paris but they had never had enough money, especially with a baby on the way, to travel there. Despite that, her father had found a way to make part of their dream come true by proposing to her mother under the Eiffel Tower in Vegas.

She breathed in relief when she saw her mother, wearing a quilted yellow dress and bright red heels. She was standing next to one of the tower’s foot, oblivious to the people passing by her, pacing as she waited for a man that would never come.

Biting her lower lip, Felicity headed toward her, slowly. Patience and gentleness were the only tools that she could use to coax her.

“Mom,” she called her, her voice soft.

Donna’s eyes fell on her but Felicity knew that even if she saw her, her mother didn’t recognize her. At least not completely.

“I am waiting for my boyfriend,” she said cheerfully. “He asked me to meet him here after the end of my shift! He asked me to look pretty, do I look pretty enough to you?” She swirled, her blonde curls following her movement.

Felicity put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “Yes mom, you look very pretty.”

Donna shook her head chuckling. “I am a bit young to be your mother sweetheart!”

Felicity swallowed tightly, tears threatening to roll down her cheeks and she forced her mom to look at her. Visual contact could bring her back faster. “Mom, we need to go home,” she told her, her tone firmer.

Donna’s smile faded slightly. “Felicity?” She asked.

“Yes mom, it’s me. We need to go home,” she repeated, carefully pulling her away from the Tower’s foot.

“No!” Donna protested, yanking her arm away from her grasp. “My boyfriend, he called me! He told me to meet him here, I can’t leave!”

Felicity looked around and saw that a few people were watching them. Not caring about what they might be thinking, she straightened her spine. “He’s not going to come,” she stated calmly.

Donna frowned in confusion. “He’s not.” It was half a question, half a statement.

“No,” Felicity went on. “He couldn’t make it. But he’ll be here tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Donna’s voice sounded more hopeful, more cheerful.

“Yes,” Felicity confirmed. Donna would have snapped out of the memory by then. Felicity knew from experience that she wouldn’t leave if she felt like he was going to come.

“And he’ll ask me to marry him?”

Felicity nodded, a tear rolling down her cheek. She caught it quickly and brushed it aside. “Yes, he will,” she promised.

“Are you okay, sweetheart? You look sad!”

“I am perfect,” she lied, cocking her head so that her mother could not see her eyes, “now let’s go.”

She offered her mother her arm and drove them back to their place. She called in sick at Daisy’s and helped her mother remove her make-up and get into her pajamas. She then tucked her in bed and left her, coming back a while later with a tray of food. She made sure that her mother ate properly before telling her to sleep.

 


 

She was working on her homework when she heard someone knocking at their door. Getting up, she opened the door to see Mrs Mill standing on the threshold.

“Mrs Mill!” She said, slapping her forehead. “I am so sorry, I forgot to call you.”

“It’s okay Felicity. I brought you some pizza,” she added, holding out a plate covered by aluminium. “Figured you’d need some comfort food after what happened.”

Felicity’s heart clenched in her chest at the thoughtful gesture. It wasn’t much but it was more than what anyone else was willing to do for her. “Thank you so much Mrs Mill,” she hugged her then.

Mrs Mill hugged her back, rubbing her back tenderly. She pulled away after a minute. “Is she okay?” She asked then.

Felicity shrugged. “She is sleeping.”

“It’s getting worse Felicity,” she stated. “Less and less time passes between two rough patches.”

“I am well aware, but what can I do?” Felicity tried not to sound too desperate but truth was, she was desperate.

“Have you considered making her take the Med?” Mrs Mill wondered.

“Unless I force it down her throat, I don’t see how I can have her take it.”

Mrs Mill sighed. She squeezed Felicity’s shoulder. “Take care.”

Felicity nodded. “Thank you Mrs Mill, for everything.”

 


 

Loud music. White heavy smoke. High pitched cheers. Green lasers light. Glasses clinking. Kaleidoscope of colours.

A girl’s laughter. Brown curls, beautiful eyes, a pretty smile.

A stolen kiss.

Forbidden heat and lust rushed through her veins, burning everything on its way toward her lower body…

NO!

Not her lower body.

His.

Felicity woke up with a gasp from her dream, her heart beating wildly in her chest. She sat down on her bed and took her head between her hands, a sob wracking her body as she felt her soulmate’s desire for the gorgeous brunette flood her veins.

Getting up, she walked toward the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face. She gripped the edge of the sink tightly when another wave of a lust that wasn’t hers wreck her insides. She had figured that her soulmate was older than her and it wasn’t the first time that he was enjoying the company of someone from the opposite sex. It didn’t happen often but it had happened a few times already.

She breathed in and out slowly, pushing his emotions in the back of heart, letting her own rule again. Then she went back to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep, in spite of her exhaustion. She felt like she had been slapped again and she didn’t know why.

Because it was not the first time that something like that happened.

But now things were different. She knew she wasn’t good enough for him now, she knew he didn’t want her.

And she wondered if the reason why she had never felt him seek comfort in her was because he actually had never tried to.

Because he hadn’t wanted to.

Because he hadn’t wanted her.

 


 

She called James Wilde three days later. He told her that a place could be found in Boston’s clinic for her mother, and that money would be transferred on her bank account as soon as the connection would be cut.

So there she was, standing in a drugstore, staring at the different boxes of the Med.

“Can I help you with something?” A voice asked her.

She turned around and her eyes met dark ones. A young slender boy, Andy his name tag supplied, was staring at her, his head cocked.

“Yes please,” she replied. “I’d like to…” She gestured toward the shelf.

“You want to buy the Med?” Andy guessed. “Aren’t you a little too young for that?”

“There is no age limit,” she shot back, crossing her arms over her chest in a defensive gesture.

“I know, I was just kidding,” he told her, a small on his lips. “You okay?”

She nodded. “Yeah, I just want to get one of… These!”

“That’s something I can help you with. They are so many boxes because the dosage is different, depending on the strength of the connection pre-bonding.”

Felicity nodded, she knew that.

“What’s your number?” Andy asked then, a hand already reaching toward the boxes.

“Nine,” she blurted out, her nervousness coming back and hitting her, hard.

His hand stopped mid-air. He arched an eyebrow. “Are you sure that you want to do this? Nine is… high.”

“I know. Just, give me the box please?”

Andy swallowed tightly, she saw his Adam’s apple go up and down in his throat.

“Here,” he said, handing her a white box. “Take the pill every day, around the same time. It will work instantly, and erase your soulmark. If one day you want to have it back, just stop taking the pill. The effect should take a few days to wear off but soon enough the connection will be back.”

“Thank you very much,” Felicity said before walking toward the cashier.

 


 

The pill was small, its colour a weird transparent blue.

It was funny when she thought about it, how the simplest and smallest thing could change her life forever.

Her soulmate’s emotions were pounding on the doors of her mind, heart and soul. She had successfully kept them at bay for the past few days, finding it less hard to ignore them every time a new day started. She wondered if he could feel her new resolution. If he could feel that she was about to separate them forever. She wondered if he’d miss her.

She shook her head at that stupid thought.

Why would he miss her when he had willing and available gorgeous brunettes around him?

Bringing the pill to her lips, she lowered her barriers one last time and let her conscience seek his. They brushed each other, a ghost touch on their soul, one last emotional caress before the end.

Goodbye.

Then, she swallowed the pill.

She pushed her jeans down, exposing her hipbone to her hungry gaze one last time. She watched her arrow fade away, felt silence wrapping his cold arms around her.

Their arrow had been shaped to look like the sign of the infinite. She chuckled bitterly, fully appreciating the irony of the situation.

They had ended before they could truly begin.

Chapter Text

Chapter 1:

“People help the people

And if you’re homesick

Give me your hand and I hold it”

- Birdy, People help the people.

 

 

Everything was dark around her.

Heavy, opaque, threatening darkness was surrounding her.

She called for help, screamed until her throat hurt, her lungs burnt but only the echo of her cries and sobs answered her.

She struggled against the binds that tied her to the cold and metallic bed, pulling and twisting until she felt hot blood dripping between her fingers.

Then she heard the voice, so cold, so low, and a shiver ran down her spine. The icy cold laugh and the whispered words of possession followed.

Bright white light pierced through the darkness, immediately reflected on the sharp blade of a knife, blinding her.

She felt the pain. She felt the burn. She felt the scorching trail of fire that her blood left as it flew from the cuts he had carved up in her body.

She felt it all.

And she wished that she would just stop feeling.

That she would stop hearing his voice and his mad words.

That she would stop feeling the excruciating pain he was inflicting her.

She prayed for salvation.

But when it came, it was too late.

 


 

Felicity woke up from her nightmare with a gasp. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest, pounding so hard against her ribs she feared it would crack them. Her breathing was uneven, crazy, her lungs rising and falling in her chest at a pace that would have worried most doctors. She felt like she was suffocating, like there was no air anymore. Groaning, she rolled in her sheets, which were damp with sweat. She tried to lift herself up on her elbows but failed and fell back on her back. Her whole body was shivering, and her arms and hands shaking badly. She clenched and unclenched her fists as she breathed in and out, slowly, trying to calm herself down.

Air filled her lungs and her heart settled in her chest. Her limbs stopped shaking and finally, she was able to sit down. She raised up her knees, her head falling between them, her hands grasping a few strands of her golden blonde curls. She kept from pulling at them, knowing that it would hurt more than it would anchor her. She got chills when the cool air of the room caressed her skin, which was covered by a thin layer of perspiration. Turning around, she reached for her knitted cardigan and put it on. She then gathered up her wet hair and tied it up in a messy bun on the top of her head. She stood up and wobbly legs and reached for her slippers. She put them on, collected her bedsheets and throwing them in a basket. She walked out of her room, carrying the basket with her and got out of her apartment on tip-toe. She didn’t want to wake her mother, she was still sleeping soundly.

Felicity closed her eyes for a second when a light breeze stroked her cheek, a ghostly caress that helped her pull herself out of her nightmare even more. Straightening her spine, she walked down the street and to the laundry opened twenty-four hours. The street lights were casting a low glow on the pavement, preventing her from being left to her own devices in the dark night. She jumped in surprise when she heard glass shattering on the asphalt. Her heart picking up in her chest, she turned around all her senses on her alert. She heard two cats meow and willed herself to calm down. It was nothing to worry about, just two stray cats. She resumed her walk, still feeling slightly on edge.

She walked in the laundry and found it empty. The lights lightening the place were buzzing, flickering. Felicity shook her head, wondering when the owner would do something about it. She put her bedsheets in one of the washing machine, inserted a coin and changed the settings before pressing “start”. The machine rumbled to life and the familiar sound made Felicity smile. Sitting down on a swaying bench, whose colour had faded away a while ago, she leaned her back against the wall and waited, savouring the sound of the wildly shaking machine. It was not pleasant, nor melodious but it was normal and Felicity craved normality.

When the cleaning part was done, she put her bedsheets in one of the dryers and let the machine work its magic. By the time it was over, the black sky had turned dark blue and a bright mix of pink and orange was appearing where the sun was rising. The beautiful mix of colours was a sight for eyes and Felicity stood at the door of her apartment’s building for a few more seconds, just to enjoy it for a little while longer.

She came back home to her mother waiting for her, wrapped in her pink bathrobe, her arms crossed over her chest. Donna Smoak didn’t look pleased.

“Where were you?” She asked. “You left without leaving me a note, I was worried.”

Felicity bit on her lip. “I’m sorry mom, I thought I’d be back before you woke up.” She put the basket with her cleaned sheets next to the couch of the small apartment they shared in Boston.

“I was worried, Felicity,” Donna repeated. “I woke up and you were gone…”

“I’m here now mom,” she told her, squeezing her hand reassuringly. “I am really sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”

Donna brushed a fallen strand of her hair aside from her forehead. “I know you didn’t mean to.” Her eyes fell on the basket and on Felicity’s bedsheets. “What happened?” She asked, her eyebrows arched in confusion.

Felicity sighed, her eyes avoiding her mother’s inquisitive gaze. “I just had a nightmare,” she said, keeping her tone light, as if it was no big deal.

Except it was.

Concern flooded Donna’s face. “I thought they had stopped,” she whispered, her hands coming up to cup her daughter’s cheeks.

“Not completely,” Felicity explained her. “But the last one I had was three months ago so I think it’s safe to assume that I’m getting better.”

“Oh baby,” Donna let out, pulling her daughter into her embrace. Felicity’s arms wrapped around her waist as she let her mother hug her and whisper soft words of comfort against her hair.

When they parted ways, Felicity gave her a mother a small smile. “Why don’t you go shower?” Donna suggested. “I’ll brew us some coffee.”

Felicity nodded. “That sounds like a good idea!”

She made her way to the bathroom then as she tried to ease the knots in her neck with her fingers. She let out a grunt when she didn’t even loosen up one. Stripping of her clothes, she turned the water on. She stepped in the shower, drops of hot water splashing her legs. Getting closer, she put herself under the hot spray, letting out a relieved breath when some of the tensions in her body were released. Untying her hair, she let her curls cascade down her shoulders. Closing her eyes, she rested her mind as she let the hot water do its magic.

Four years had passed ever since Felicity had started taking the Med that had shut down the connection between her soulmate and herself. She hadn’t seen or spoken to James Wilde, the mediator hired by her soulmate’s family ever since they had sealed their deal. Just like he had promised, her mother got admitted into one of the soulmate’s clinics. When she had told her the news, it had been one of Felicity’s life most heart-breaking moments. Even her father leaving hadn’t hurt as much as her mother’s screams and sobs. Donna had cried, begged Felicity not to do it. She had promised that she’d get better, she had promised that she’d change. But Felicity had known better. She had known that Donna had been too far gone to bring herself back together alone. She had needed help and the doctors the clinic had given her just.

The first few months had been awful. Donna had shut down completely, not talking to the doctors or the psychologists and therapists that were following her progresses and refusing to see her daughter. Felicity, who had been studying at MIT and living on the campus had been hurt by her attitude but had never once lost hope. She had written her letters, at least once a week, so that she’d know that she was still there, that she hadn’t completely forgotten about her. Finally, after months of hospitalisation, Donna had started opening up. She had started eating more, showering herself alone, putting one some make-up. Those were simple things but among the most important ones. Slowly, she had come back to life. She had accepted to see Felicity and as a part of her therapy, had replied to each of her letters. It had been a slow process, but nobody had said that healing was supposed to be quick and easy.

Felicity was in the middle of her third year in MIT when her mother finally accepted to take the Med and by doing so, to cut loose from her husband’s hold for good. Felicity had been very proud of her, of all the things she had achieved. She had offered her a ring to wear instead of her wedding band. It had never left her mother’s finger since that day. The doctors had allowed her out of the hospital after that day, but they were still watching her carefully. She had to come see her therapist once a week and someone had to make sure that she took the Med every day. That someone, of course, had been Felicity. She had left MIT’s campus to move in a small apartment with her mother. Donna had taken a job in a coffee-shop and they had lived a simple yet happy life together. Mostly happy. They had had one huge argument when Donna had wanted, actually she had demanded to know, how Felicity had been able to get her a place in Boston’s clinic. Felicity swearing that she hadn’t digitally stolen anyone’s money or hacked into any database to make it happen hadn’t been enough to make her stop asking questions. So Felicity had told her the truth.

Never in their lives had they argued the way they did that day. Donna, who had an unwavering faith in soulmates and true love – and that was quite beautiful that, despite everything that had happened to her, she hadn’t turned into a bitter and resentful person – had been really mad at her daughter for doing what she had done. Felicity had argued that she had done it to help her and that she’d do it again if she had to. She didn’t regret helping her mother, saving her life. She could never ever regret that, her mother was too important.

“Felicity, are you okay in there?” Her mother asked.

Her voice teared her from her memories, bringing her back in the present time.

“Yes mom, I am fine,” she yelled to cover the noise of the water hitting the white floor of the shower.

Her usually very white skin was now an angry red, because of the water’s heat. She turned the button left, to cool it down and washed her hair before conditioning it. When she was done, she washed her body, scrubbing her skin until it was even redder, in a desperate attempt to wash off the remnants of her nightmare. Finally satisfied and feeling slightly better, she shut the water down and walked out of the shower. She got dressed and met her mother in the living-room, taking her comb and her hair products with her. She set them down on the table, knowing that her mother would probably take care of her curls after she was done with her coffee.

“Here’s your cup,” Donna informed her. Her back was to the kitchen’s counter, and she was holding a cup of coffee between her hands. “Are you hungry? I can make us some pancakes if you want to.”

Felicity glanced down at her watch for the first time that day. It was barely six and a half. “I am not hungry yet,” she confessed. “Maybe we can have a second coffee and a proper breakfast later, at a decent hour?” She suggested.

Donna chuckled, taking a sip of her coffee. Felicity did the same. The hot liquid burnt the tip of her tongue then her throat but it wasn’t enough to stop her. She loved coffee too much and she needed at least a cup or two before being fully operational. Plus, the familiar taste was really comforting.

They set their cups in the kitchen sink when they were done and walked across the room. Donna sat down on the couch, Felicity on the fluffy rug on the floor, between her mother’s legs. Once they comfortable, she let her do her hair. Her curls were beautiful but needed to be taken care of thoroughly. Felicity didn’t mind doing it herself but she had little patience and her mother had plenty. She also loved taking care of it for her. When she was in the clinic, doctors had told Donna to favour physical contact with her loved ones, to compensate the loss of physical proximity with her soulmate. Moreover, Donna had never really done Felicity’s hair when she had been little, leaving the task to her bubbe. By taking care of it for her now, she was catching up on all the little things that her breakdown had deprived them of.

“What have you planned for the day?” Donna asked her daughter.

Felicity shrugged. “I wanted to go to the library and maybe to the gym, tonight. Why?”

“Well, since it’s my day off, I thought that maybe we could talk about your plans for the future.”

Felicity tensed up immediately. She had graduated from MIT with a degree in both computer science and cyber security a month ago, in June but she had yet to find a job. She had gotten offers, from several companies but hadn’t picked one yet. She knew she was running out of time, she knew she had to make a choice but she couldn’t bring herself to. She didn’t want to work with computers anymore, not after what had happened. It would remind her of him and she wanted to put him behind her, burry his memory so deep in her mind, she’d never find it ever again.

She wish she could tell her mother that, she wish she could tell her that after four years spent studying computers she didn’t want to work on them anymore. She wish she could tell her that everything had been for nothing. She really wish she could but she couldn’t. Her mother was so proud of her, of what she had achieved despite what had happened, Felicity didn’t want to disappoint her nor did she want to worry her. Because her mother would worry, if she told her she had no idea of what she wanted to do with her life anymore.

“I don’t know which company to pick,” Felicity eventually said, wincing when the comb got caught in a knot.

They remained silent for a while, watching the sunlight enlighten their small apartment. “Maybe you should look at this with a different perspective,” Donna eventually said, letting go of her daughter’s hair. She was done.

Felicity turned her head. “What do you mean?”

“Why can’t you pick a company?” Donna asked instead of explaining herself.

Felicity’s eyes widen slightly before she came up with a quick lie. “Because they’re almost all offering the same thing, a place in the IT department.”

“Then, instead of looking for a company, why don’t you look for a place to live instead? If the job offer is the same, then pick one in a city that you love and would like to live in.”

“I guess I could do that,” Felicity agreed, weighing the pros and the cons in her head.

“Why don’t you go pick your laptop and the offers then?” Donna asked, a bright smile on her lips. “We can look for details about the cities.”

Felicity nodded. She wasn’t entirely convinced that this was a good idea but it was basically impossible to resist her mother’s smile and pointless to try to get her to change her mind. Walking back to her room, she grabbed her laptop and came back to sit down next to her mother. She handed the job offers that she had printed to her mother.

“Well,” Donna started. “What about Gotham City?”

Felicity shook her head, her hold tightening on her laptop. “I don’t want to stay on the east coast.” She didn’t need to precise why.

“Okay then I guess we can forget about Metropolis, New-York and Washington.” Donna said as she tossed three sheets of paper away. “Chicago?” She suggested.

Again, Felicity shook her head. “Not on the east coast mom,” she repeated.

“Chicago’s not on the east coast,” Donna argued.

“It’s close enough,” Felicity maintained.

“Okay, okay! What about Central City?”

Felicity googled the city. It looked nice and Star Labs really sounded great. The only problem was that it was far from Las Vegas, where her mother had decided to go back. Now that she was better, Donna had started to miss her old life as a cocktail waitress. She used to love that job and be really good at it, before her soulmate broke her heart. She was bright, funny, delightful and still rocked heels and short dresses. She was made to live and work in Vegas. She had hesitated for a while before applying to work in a four-star hotel. She hadn’t wanted to leave Felicity alone but her daughter had encouraged her to do so. She had already lost so many years of her life because of what her soulmate had done to her, Felicity wasn’t going to make her lose more.

“Maybe,” Felicity told her. “What else do you have?”

“San Francisco?”

She googled the city. It looked beautiful on pictures but Felicity didn’t feel any pull toward it. “Nope, next one?”

“Coast City,” Donna told her. “The company’s small, it’s nothing compared to Palmer Technologies or Kord Industries but I am sure that you’ll be a nice addition to their team.”

Coast City was a sunny city near Los Angeles. The average temperature was eighty-three in summer, and the ocean was very blue, the waves amazing according to the surfers. “It looks really beautiful,” she told her mom, showing her a picture on her computer’s screen.

“It really does baby girl,” Donna agreed.

“I think we might have a winner,” Felicity whispered as she looked at more and more pictures. She’d probably have no problem finding a job in a restaurant or a coffee shop. “There’s only one city left though, it’s Star City.”

Felicity felt electricity tingled at the tips of her fingers as she typed the name. Star City. She frowned when the first pictures appeared on her screen. The skyline of the city looked oddly familiar. Actually, everything looked familiar, from the buildings to the beach, she felt like she had seen it all before but she couldn’t remember when or where or how. She scrolled down the pictures, a pang of longing tugging at her heart. She thought she recognised a street in particular, a coffee-shop and bookstore, and that was really weird because she had never set a foot down in Star City before. Still, she felt drawn to the city, her heart beating faster in her chest every time she saw something new pop up on her screen.

“Felicity are you okay?” Donna asked, concern filling her voice. Felicity realised then that she had been silent for a while.

She shook her head, trying to chase the lump of emotions that had moved in her throat. “Mom, I want to go to Star City,” was all she could manage to say.

 


 

The first day of Felicity’s new life didn’t go very well.

She forgot to plug her phone in when she went to bed. Her alarm didn’t ring and she woke up later than she had intended. She had had to get ready very quickly, plugging her phone to get at least twenty percent of battery to call her mother. She had taken a cab to go the airport but an accident slowed them down and she had had to run the last two miles, carrying both her suit and computer cases and while wearing heels. She had arrived at the airport of Boston just in time for the boarding. Then, she had thought that she’d be able to rest during the flight but she was scared of heights, even in a plane, and the journey had been a never-ending area of turbulence. She had feared to bring back up her breakfast more times than she could count. They had landed in Star City, safely and she had thought that maybe, just maybe her day would start to get better. It hadn’t.

The woman who was renting her her small apartment - her mother had called it a rabbit hutch and Felicity had argued that she’d find something better after she started working – had called her to tell her that she had had to leave the city earlier than she had planned and couldn’t come and pick her up from the airport, as they had agreed. She had left the key to the apartment to the janitor. He’d would be waiting for her in his apartment. Felicity had found herself alone, in a city that she didn’t know with a dead phone and new heels that had killed her feet, courtesy of her unexpected run. She was tired, exhausted even, and only wanted one thing: to curl up under a fluffy blanket for the rest of her life.

She had had a light lunch before she had hailed a cab. She had given him her address and had tried to relax and enjoy the sight of the city through the window. The same feeling of longing that had taken over her heart when she had seen the pictures of Star City for the first time had hit her, hard. Despite the awful conditions of her arrival in the city, she had felt like she belonged there. She had been meant to walk down the busy streets, among the people of Star City. And that feeling had been just weird because it made no sense at all.

They had gotten stuck in traffic and after half an hour of doing nothing, Felicity had asked if her apartment’s block was still very far. The cab driver, who had very nice to her, had told her that it not that far. He had explained her how to find it and she had thanked him with a generous tip. Felicity had never had a great sense of direction but his explanations had been very clear and precise. Unfortunately for her, it had started raining before she had arrived. Because yes, apparently, her day hadn’t sucked enough. She had run to find shelter and had eventually found a bus stop. She sat down on the bench that was protected from the rain by a small roof. By the time she had reached it, she had been soaked to the bone. When the weather had cleared up, she had started walking again but had quickly realised that she had gotten lost.

So really, her first day in Star City didn’t go very well.

Felicity groaned as she stared at the dark screen of her phone. She couldn’t use the GPS’ system of her phone because she had no battery left. Sighing, she decided to retrace her steps but quickly admitted her defeat. She was lost. After a few more minutes of wandering in the city, looking like a drowned cat and shivering because of the rain, she spotted a small coffee-shop, Star City’s sweet coffee. It provided caffeine and wi-fi, two of Felicity’s favourite things. Still carrying her suitcase behind her, she walked toward the entrance and pushed the door open. The light tinkling of wind chimes followed her entrance.

Her blonde young woman wearing ripped jeans and with half of her fingernails painted in red and the other half painted in black walked toward her, her eyes wide open.

“Dear god, what happened to you?” She asked, genuine concern shining in her blue eyes.

“Got caught in the rain,” Felicity explained, feeling better now that she was somewhere warm.

“Well, that sucks,” the girl commented. “Take your coat off, you must be freezing. You can go upstairs and hang it above a heater.”

“Thank you,” Felicity said, touched by the girl’s kindness.

“I’ll bring you towels and a coffee to warm you up. How do you like it?”

“With a lot of cream and sugar,” Felicity told her.

A smile tugged at the girl’s lips. “That’s how I like my coffee too,” she explained.

That made Felicity smile back at her. “I am Felicity,” she introduced herself.

“Sara,” the girl replied, shaking her hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Felicity nodded, already undoing the buttons of her coat. She reached for the handle of her suitcase but Sara stopped her.

“You can’t walk upstairs with that. Leave it to me, I’ll put it behind the counter.”

“Thank you,” Felicity repeated. Sara’s smile just grew wider.

Felicity made her way upstairs. It was less crowded than the room downstairs. There was only a couple and a man alone, working behind a computer. Felicity spotted the heater Sara had mentioned by the window. She hung her coat on the handle and hoped that it’d be dry soon.

“Nice bra,” the man who was working behind his computer said.

She looked down to her chest and saw that her white crop top was wet and very much transparent now.

“You might want to cross your arms over your chest,” he added wittily.

She looked up and her eyes met bright blue eyes, a square-faced jaw covered with a light stubble and a wide teasing smile.

Blushing furiously, she crossed her arms over her chest, to hide her now very obvious red bra.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, heat pickling at her cheeks.

He shook his head, chuckling. “Don’t apologise, it’s not your fault.”

She nodded before sitting down on a table near the heater, right in front of the man with beautiful eyes, dropping her laptop’s case next to her chair. Sara arrived two minutes later with her coffee and the promised towels. They were both fluffy and warm and Felicity felt a pang of gratitude burst in her chest. She dried her hair with one and dried her clothes with the other one.

She sighed as she leaned back in her seat, sipping her coffee as she stared at the coffee-shop. More customers came upstairs and soon enough, it was as crowded as the room downstairs. She smiled, enjoying the happy buzzing of people talking and laughing. This felt just as familiar as everything else in the city. That’s when she realised that this was it. She had moved out of Boston, alone. For the first time in her twenty years on earth, she was going to be all by herself, without her mom to come home to. The thought made her feel suddenly very emotional. She looked down toward her half-empty cup of coffee, trying very hard not to think that her mother wasn’t going to be there to brew her one in the morning. Wiping at a small tear, she took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to start crying in the middle of a crowded place.

The other waitress of the place, a beautiful girl with a dark chocolate skin, set a plate with a huge slice of chocolate cake in front of her, startling Felicity in the process.

“I didn’t order that,” she told the waitress, Iris, she read on her name tag.

“Sara said that you looked like you needed it and I agreed. Don’t worry, it’s on the house!”

Felicity bit on her lips. She hadn’t thought that her bad mood was that obvious. “Thank you.”

Iris smiled at her once again before walking away. Felicity stared at the chocolate cake, it looked absolutely delicious.

“You’d be a fool not to eat it,” the man in front of her told her from behind his computer’s screen. He was so tall, he couldn’t have hidden behind it, even if he had tried his best to do so. “It’s the best chocolate cake of the city.”

“And you know that how?”

“It’s my home,” he said, shrugging. “I’ve been everywhere, I’ve tried every chocolate cake I could find.”

Considering that the guy seemed to be made of muscles, she had a hard time believing him. “You don’t seem to be the kind of guy who eats chocolate cake every day.”

He smiled at her, a smile so large it showed his dimples. “Just trust me on this, okay?”

She nodded and tried the chocolate cake. He watched her, gauging her reactions. She swallowed the bite she had taken, the cake was tasted as good as it looked, and she raised her thumb up to the guy. He smiled warmly at her once again before focusing back on her work.

She ate a bit more and turned her computer on. She plugged her phone in, to charge it. Sighing, she moved closer to the heater, seeking its warmth. She watched the people in the coffee-shop, the weird of belonging, coming back to hit her again.

After a while, she heard the guy who had spoken to her twice complain.

“Sara, please help me, this machine is killing me.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed Ollie but I am working,” she replied, putting empty cups of coffee on tray.

“Sara, please,” he begged her. “This virus is slowing everything down and I don’t know how to get rid of it! You know I am not good with technology, I can barely send an email!”

“Ollie, do I look like an IT specialist to you?” She told him.

He smirked. “You don’t, but Iris…”

“Has a lot of work to do as well,” she completed. “Because we have an actual job you know?”

“That’s not fair!” Ollie told her.

She shot him a bright smile before going back to work. Felicity stared at him and his frustration was plain as day. She didn’t want to work with computers anymore and that included cleaning people’s mess but the more she looked at his face, the more she found herself feeling pulled toward him. She didn’t ache to play with a computer. No. She wanted to help him. So, she got on her feet, her arms still crossed over her chest because of her transparent top.

“Let me help you with your… virus,” she told him, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

He looked up to meet her eyes and she took a step back stunned by the beauty of his face, by the depth she could see in his clear blue orbs.

“Are you sure that you want to uncross your arms?” He teased her.

She sat down in front of him, shaking her head. “Just don’t look,” she told him and he pushed his computer toward her. She blinked, surprised. She hadn’t expected him to actually trust her with his computer.

It was the kind of viruses that she typically got rid of for breakfast but that was because she was good with computers. She could easily see why he hadn’t been able to do it himself.

“How often do you download stuff?” She asked him, because that’s where the virus had come from.

He furrowed his brows. “Do you work for the FBI?” He asked suspiciously.

She shook her head, smiling.

“Not that often,” he assured her. “I was just in a hurry yesterday, and I’d promised my sister that we’d watch that movie and it wasn’t at the video store so… I downloaded it. I thought my antivirus software would protect me, you know?”

“You haven’t updated your system in a while, that’s why it didn’t,” Felicity explained, starting a quick update.

“Did I mention that I wasn’t good with computers?”

She laughed, because the look on his face was just priceless. She then proceeded to explain to him exactly what had happened to his computer, how the virus had corrupted some of his files and how exactly it had done to slow done his processors. She went on and on, about wires, processors and viruses and computers and software. She waved her hands a lot, using them to help him understand things better. He listened carefully, and chuckled when she got too excited. When she was done talking, she blushed, mortified. She had just wanted to explain to him what had happened to his computer, not going on a tangent about computers.

“I am sorry,” she said, her cheeks burning now.

“I am not,” he shot back, a bright smile on his lips. “I’m Oliver by the way,” he told her, holding out his hand, still smiling and she thought that he needed to stop doing it because he was going to blind her. His face was beautiful. His smiling face was simply gorgeous.

Surprised, she blinked several times. She had almost given him an aneurism – he had listened carefully, yes, but she still had noticed that his eyes had almost popped out of his head – and now he was introducing himself. Who was this guy?

“Felicity,” she answered, taking his hand shyly. It was huge and warm and his hold was strong. She felt a shiver ran down her spine when they pulled away. Shaking her head to chase the feeling away, she stared at the screen. The update was almost done. The wi-fi was really great in the coffee-shop. The computer beeped when it was ready and she pushed it back toward him.

“There you go,” she told him.

“Thank you so much, you’re a life saver!” He said, his tone genuine.

“Ollie, stop bothering the poor girl!” Sara chastised him from behind.

“She fixed my computer!” He informed her.

“Really?” She asked. “You’re good with computers Felicity?”

She shrugged, wanting to brush the topic away. “I know a few stuff.”

“She knows more than a few stuff,” Oliver corrected immediately.

Sara arched an eyebrow. “You think that you could teach that idiot a few things about technology?”

Felicity shook her head, smiling. “No need, I think he has learnt his lesson.”

He nodded firmly. “Always calling the video store early so that they can hold the movie that I want by,” he said, his face serious, but his eyes betraying his amusement.

Sara huffed back a laugh before leaving. “So, Felicity,” Oliver started, leaning down toward her. “Tell me how I can pay you back.”

She opened her mouth to tell him that he was nothing but then she said. “Do you happen to know where this block is?” She asked him, taking her wallet out of her laptop case and showing him the paper she had written her new address on.

“Yep, it’s not far away from here actually. I can walk you, if you want to.”

She started to protest. “Oh no, that’s okay, I don’t want to disturb you.”

“Hey, I don’t mind at all! And if you’re worried that I am an axe murderer, then you should know that no one has ever been able to prove anything.”

She froze at his words, her hands clenching automatically around the handle of her case. He frowned at the sudden tension he could feel radiating from her.

“Felicity, I was just kidding,” he told her softly.

She shook her head. “Yeah, of course.”

“So… Shall we go?” He asked, looking almost shy.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“I really don’t,” he assured.

She got up then and reached for her coat. He grabbed her arm to stop her from putting it on. She tilted her head in confusion.

“You can’t wear that,” he told her.

“But it’s my coat,” she protested.

“And it’s still wet. You’re going to get sick.”

She arched an eyebrow. “And who are you? My keeper?”

“You saved my life when you fixed my computer. It’s only fair I save yours by stopping you from wearing this.” And as he finished speaking, he handed her his jacket wordlessly.

“I can’t…” She started to process.

He gave her a look and she just gave in. She put his jacket on and her senses were immediately assaulted by his warmth and scent that both felt just as welcoming as he was. They made their way back, Felicity paid for her coffee – she didn’t know how she managed to give the right amount of money because his scent was making her head spin – and Sara handed her her suitcase back.

“I hope I’ll get to see you again soon Felicity,” she told her.

“I think you will,” Felicity promised.

She walked out with Oliver then. As soon as they were out, he said.

“So, are you here on a vacation?”

She frowned.

“The suitcase,” he told her.

“Oh that? No, I am moving in actually.”

“Really?” He told her, another bright smile tugging at his lips. “Then welcome to Star City,” he moved his arm around, as if he was introducing her to someone and not to a city.

She laughed, his joie de vivre contagious. She realised then that she hadn’t smiled that much in a very long time. It comforted her somehow. Maybe coming to Star City had really been the right choice, maybe she really belonged there. “Thank you,” she told him, truly meaning the words, “and not just for welcoming me but also for being so nice and kind.”

He motioned to stop her. “You should have seen yourself when you walked in earlier. You looked like you had just lived the worst day of your life.”

“Well, it was a shitty day,” she admitted. “Until now.”

“So, have you found a job yet?”

His question made her want to tease him a little bit. “Do you work for the FBI?” She repeated.

He shook his head. “No, I am just asking this because I know a guy who’s desperately in need of someone with your particular set of skills,” he explained, pointing at his chest.

“That’s really nice of you but I am not looking for a job that involves my particular set of skills,” she told him as he made them cross a street.

“I don’t believe that! You were pretty passionate earlier.”

“It hadn’t happened in a while,” she admitted, blushing slightly.

“Well, I am glad that my poor skills could bring out that side of you.”

She frowned – was he flirting with her? She shook her head to dismiss the idea. It was ridiculous.

They walked in silence for a while and it wasn’t awkward at all. On the contrary, she felt very comfortable around him.

“We’re almost there,” he told her, pointing at a corner. “We need to turn left there and voila!”

She nodded. “Thank you so much, again…”

“Don’t mention it!” He paused before adding. “Can I tell you something without freaking you out?”

She nodded.

“I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before.” She just blinked trying to see if he was kidding or not. His blue eyes were sparkling but it seemed to be something that they did on a daily basis. And his tone had been serious. Very much serious. “Do you think that we’ve met before?”

She shook her head. “I’d remember you,” she told him. How could she have forgotten him? He had a killer body made of hard lines and strong muscles, his sandy blonde hair looked silky soft and his eyes were clearer than the ocean.

“Then why do I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before?”

They had both stopped walking and were now standing face to face. She looked at him, like really looked at him, focusing on him and not letting his beauty unsettle her. There was something about him, something that looked slightly familiar. But then, everything felt familiar in Star City.

“I don’t know,” she told him, tearing her eyes away from his.

He nodded and they resumed walking. They stopped at the door of her building. She opened her mouth to thank him again but he stopped her before the words could get out.

“It was my pleasure,” he assured her.

She went to take off his jacket but he stopped her, again. “Keep it,” he told her. “Something tells me that you’ll have plenty opportunities to give it back to me in the future.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 2:

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

And I am feeling good.”

     - Feeling good, Nina Simone.       

 

Felicity was feeling a mix of conflicted emotions stirring inside of her as she walked near the entrance of the building that was going to be her home for the next few weeks. She turned around once again on the threshold, waving at Oliver one last time. He waved back happily, drawing a finale smile from her. He turned around, walking away from her and she watched him for a second, taking in his toned body, his broad shoulders. Shaking her head, she pushed the door open and walked in, heading toward the janitor’s apartment. It was the first door on her left right after she walked in, at least that’s what the owner of her apartment had told her.

Taking a deep breath, she knocked at the door. She hadn’t had time to lower her fist that the door was already opening. A small man, bald and pot-bellied opened the door, holding himself up thanks to two black crutches.

“Felicity Smoak?” He guessed, his blue eyes scanning her. She shifted on her feet, feeling slightly uncomfortable.

“That’s her – I mean, it’s me – I am Felicity Smoak.”

He stepped aside to let her in and she took a shy step forward, immediately entering the living room.

“What were you doing with Oliver Queen?” The man asked suspiciously, his eyes screwed up.

She blinked, surprised. “Oliver who?”

“Queen. I saw the two of you talking through the window.”

Okay, that didn’t sound creepy nor stalkerish at all. “Well, I don’t know. I met him at a coffee-shop after I got lost and he offered to show me the way to the building.”

It was the man’s turn to blink. He did it, repeatedly, as if he couldn’t believe what she had just told him. “Well, that’s not that bad for someone who literally just arrived in the city. First day here and one meeting with Oliver Queen and before you ask it, yes, it’s Queen as in Queen Consolidated.”

Felicity opened her mouth to say something but she found out that she couldn’t get any words out.

“Albie darling,” a feminine voice said from another room, “stop bothering the poor girl, you’re scaring her with your questions.”

A woman just as small and pot-bellied as “Albie” walked in. She was all bright colours and wild printed garments. Her curly red hair was being held back by a green, yellow and orange headband. Her jewels were all big and flashy but somehow. She actually really pulled it off, she had managed to combine the vivid colours and different shapes on her clothes well.

“Hello Miss Smoak, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I am Fran Williams, and this is my husband Albert. Please, forgive him for his rude behaviour. My poor Albie is under house rest because of his crutches and he is bored to death. I am afraid my pastries and gossips are what’s keeping him alive.”

Albert shrugged, making a face that made Felicity laugh. He may look a bit invasive but she had no doubt that he was actually a really nice man.

“It’s really no problem at all Mrs Williams,” she assured her.

“God please, call me Fran darling!” She scolded her, but her tone and eyes betrayed her gentleness. “Mrs Williams was my mother-in-law, God bless her soul.”

Felicity chuckled. “Okay,” she said.

“I am guessing that you must be tired, my poor darling,” Fran told her, cupping her cheeks affectionately. “Here, your keys. The smallest opens the storage room you’re renting, warehouse is behind the parking lot, you can’t miss it. The biggest key opens the door to the washers’ room, it’s downstairs, first door on your left. The other key is the key that opens the door to your new home. There is a small grocery store down the street, you can go there if you need anything. As for tonight, if you don’t have time to cook yourself dinner, you should know that we always eat at exactly seven pm.”

“Thank you very much Mrs… Fran,” Felicity corrected herself automatically.

“Don’t mention it dear. A young girl like you, all alone in this big city, deserves all the help she can get.”

They talked some more before Felicity took her leave. Her apartment was on the third floor but thankfully, the elevator wasn’t out of order. Walking toward her door, carrying her suitcase behind her, she introduced her key in the door, turned it and pushed the door. It grated and she thought that she’d have to oil the hinges. Stepping in, she turned the light on.

A small smile tugged at her lips. Her mother had been right to call that place a rabbit hutch. Her apartment was really, really small. The kitchen, small and functional, was right on her left after she walked in. A small door on her right led to the bathroom. She stepped forward and ended in what would be both her living-room and office. An immense bookshelf covered the entirety of the right wall, a small desk was leaning right under it. The window was in the wall in front of the door. A small couch was leaning right under it, a small coffee table lying next to it. Her “bedroom” was actually a mezzanine above the kitchen. There was a bed, a bedside table and a shelf for her clothes.

Dropping her laptop case on the desk, Felicity reached for her phone and plugged it in. It immediately started charging. She walked up the stairs that lead to the mezzanine then and emptied her suitcase, tidying her clothes in the shelf. The rest of her clothes was in the storage room she was renting. She would come and get some of them, as well as some of her books and DVD’s and her coffee maker and her stereo system. She could not possible bring all of her belongings in the apartment, it was too small and she needed to be able to breath.

When she had accepted to give up on her soulmate’s rights, her soulmate’s family had not only given her mother a place in Boston’s clinic but they had also given them a huge amount of money – a sum of money with more zeroes than Felicity had been comfortable with actually. She had used part of it to pay off their debts and had kept the rest on a bank account, saving it for major emergencies. The beginning of her new life was a major emergency and until she found a job, she’d use that money to live. It didn’t mean that she wasn’t in a hurry to find a job, she had already a job interview planned for the next day. She was applying for an executive assistant position in a small tech company. She knew she’d have to work with computers as an EA but she didn’t mind taking down notes and sending mails. What she didn’t want to do was coding and programming. She’d never do either of those things ever, she wasn’t that person anymore. The company she had picked was small but extremely secured and private, the people she had interacted with telling her that she’d know more the day of the interview.

Taking off her heels and rubbing the soles of her feet carefully with one hand, Felicity reached for clean and comfy clothes aka leggings, a tee and a hoodie. If she was going to go back and forth to the storage room, she’d need comfortable clothes. She showered for a longer while than she had intended, desperately needing to feel hot water burn her skin. When she was done, she walked out and got dressed promptly.

The storage room looked as nice and clean as Felicity had expected to be. She wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving her things in some damp and dusty place. She had gotten boxes with the things that she’d want to have with her in her apartment ready, meaning that she didn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for the things she needed. In less than an hour, she had found and brought back to her apartment – rabbit hutch her mind supplied, sounding suspiciously like her mom – all the boxes she had previously selected.

She started unpacking them, turning the small apartment into a home. It instantly felt like one when she unpacked her Harry Potter books Doctor Who’s DVDs. Smiling, she brewed some coffee – she had packed some in her suitcase for survival reasons – and placed a few pictures on the coffee table and her bedside table. There was one of her with her mother in Boston, another one of her and her bubbe, one of her and Georgia, her friend back in Vegas. Seeing her smiling face reminded her that she had to text her, to tell her that she had made it safely. And that she needed to call her mother as well.

Reaching for her phone, she turned it on, and saw that she had several missed calls.

--

5:27 pm

I am alive mom, don’t worry!

Exhausted, call you tomorrow!

Love you!

FS

--

Then she typed one for Georgia, who had tried to call her as well.

--

5:28

Made it safely to Star City.

People are nice & hot!

XO

FS”

--

The answer came as she was starting to set up the internet.

--

5:34

Get some girl, you deserve it!

Call me during the week?

Love,

G”

--

Grabbing the handle of her backpack, the same one she had carried through her senior year of high-school and her four years of college, she walked out of her apartment, deciding that filling the fridge would actually be great.

She ran into Fran as she came back from the grocery store. She had temporary parked her car in front of the building’s entrance, and was carrying bags of groceries inside.

“Felicity!” She said, looking slightly more tired than she had earlier. “Everything okay?” She asked, concerned.

She nodded. “Everything’s perfect, thank you.”

“You do look better darling.”

“The magic of hot water,” she replied and Fran gave her a knowing smile. “You need any help with that?” She added, pointing at the bags she was carrying.

“Yes please darling. Albie’s body is not the only which is aging,” she told Felicity as she took the handle of her bags from her.

“That’s a lot of sweets that you have here,” Felicity told her when she looked down toward her feet, so that she wouldn’t trip.

“My grandchildren are coming to visit tomorrow,” she explained.

They got all the groceries inside. Then Felicity excused herself but promised to come back in time for dinner.

True to her word, she came back to have dinner with them and had a really nice time. They were both lovely and charming people. They had been bonded for forty-two years now, they had met when they had been eighteen. They had always lived in Star City had three children, all bonded and had ten grandchildren. Six of them would be there the next day and somehow Fran got her to promise to come by to eat a snack with them around four in the afternoon.

After dinner, Felicity walked back to her apartment, feeling better than she had in days. There was something Star City and its citizens, something strong and warm that made her feel like she belonged there. All the people that she had met had been kind to her, it was like they had all gotten the same memo asking them to be nice to Felicity Smoak.

Walking in her apartment, Felicity sat down on the couch, relaxing completely. Over, the day was one finally over. The feeling of peace that rushed through her last for about two seconds before she shifted on the couch. The fabric was worn-out and the springs were digging in her butt. Her eyes fell on Oliver’s jacket and the memory of their meeting came back to her. Sea blue eyes and warm smiles danced behind her closed eyelids. There was something with him, with the way he spoke, the way he moved that was familiar. She would have brushed that feeling away, hadn’t he felt the same way around her and hadn’t he been able to make her feel so good around him, something that strangers couldn’t do to her anymore. It was the first time that she experienced something that intense and she wanted to know why.

Reaching for her computer, she turned it on. Felicity had always hated mysteries, they had always bugged her. As a child, puzzles had always been her favourite game. She had always taken a great pride in solving them, putting their pieces back together. She used to do puzzle solving contests against her dad, where they tried to see who the fastest puzzle’s solver was. Felicity had won more times than she had lost. Now Oliver Queen and the familiarity that radiated from him were a mystery now and she was going to solve it.

Opening a new tab, she typed his name. Pictures and links toward articles flooded her screen. Oliver Jonas Queen born in 1989 was the heir of the Queen family and of his parents’ company. Robert and Moira Queen had created Queen Consolidated thirty years ago. Their love story looked like it had been picked from a fairy tale. Their families, both wealthy and influent, had been looking to invest in new technologies and had been talking about creating a company together when their children turned out to be soulmates. Together, they had created the company theirs parents had been dreaming of, had made it thrive and now it was at the forefront of technology. It was the kind of company Felicity could have worked for her after her degree, if she had still been into computers. Robert and Moira had had two children together, Oliver and his little sister Thea, who was almost eleven years younger than her brother but it was clear that their dearest child was their company. Which was kind of sad for their actual children.

Shaking her head, Felicity focused back on Oliver Queen. His teenage years had been wild, filled with parties and exuberant entertainment, the kind of entertainments only bored and rich spoiled-brats could afford. He, his wingman Tommy Merlyn, a fellow billionaire and most of their friends had been very active members of Star City’s anti-soulmates group, which was mainly composed of members of the city’s social elite. They were many pictures of them surrounded by women and Felicity highly doubted that they had joined the group because they actually believed in love and free choice. No. They had just wanted to have fun and had realised that having a soulmate would have prevented them from having their way with the opposite sex. They had dropped out of four colleges, apparently frat boys’ parties were not compatible with studying.

Things had changed when he had had a car accident four years ago. He had been severely injured and it had taken him months to recover. He had almost lost the ability to walk and had had to work hard to heal completely. And when he had come out of the hospital, he had been a changed man. Both physically and mentally. He had cut his hair, let his scruff grow. He had stopped partying and had started studying seriously. He had gotten a business degree and Felicity started to see the man that she had met earlier that day. After he had gotten his degree, his parents had wanted him to prove himself worthy of their company, they were nice and forgiving that way, and had had him start his own business, Q. Inc, which was still tied to Queen Consolidated, but running independent projects.

As for his personal life, Oliver had stopped partying. He was rarely on the cover of scandalous magazines. He was actually engaged to his soulmate, a woman called Isabel Rochev. She was a tall brunette, born in Russia and partly raised there and in America. She was now vice-president of a Russian company, with whom Queen Consolidated had a strong partnership, having outsourced most of their productions there. She seemed to be a crazy smart woman and a bold businesswoman, her achievements were quite impressive. But she also looked really cold, really haughty and Felicity had a hard time picturing someone as light and smiling as Oliver with someone like her. Seriously, she was scaring even when she was smiling, which did not happen often.

Turning her computer off, Felicity checked the time. It was almost ten pm and she had to wake up early in the morning, for her job interview.

Getting up, she went to the bathroom and got ready for the night. Then, she climb up the stairs to the mezzanine and got in bed. She left the lamp on her bedside table turned on, she couldn’t sleep in the dark if there was no one else with her and she finally lied down, her body aching and reminding her that she really had pushed herself during the day.

Exhaling slowly, she closed her eyes and fell asleep quickly.

 


 

Her second day in Star City started way better than her first one.

Felicity got up in time for a quick morning run that helped her settle her thoughts down and stop worrying about her future interview. Then, she had a long hot relaxing shower and got ready, putting on the very new and very expensive shoes her mother had offered her as a good luck present. Two cups of coffee later, she was on her way for Star City’s business district.

She was twenty minutes early for the first meeting of the day, which was supposed to start at 11am and last a whole hour. When she arrived, the people organising the whole thing made her and the other appliers sign a confidentiality agreement, because the company which was offering the position was going to reveal itself and a few of its projects to them. All this secrecy made Felicity doubt the company was as small as the offer had made it out to be and Felicity realised she had applied to become Oliver Queen’s executive assistant when two people, a man and a woman who worked for Queen Consolidated’s recruiting department walked into the room and introduced themselves. The “small” tech company was actually Q. Inc, Oliver Queen’s very own business! He had started it himself but it was still tightly tied to Queen Consolidated, which could be seen as the parent company and Q. Inc as a subsidiary branch, running different and independent projects. They were keeping things in the dark to protect the new business from industrial spying.

After that first meeting, Felicity’s mind was buzzing with information. Q. Inc was indeed a small tech company, the offer hadn’t technically lied on that point but it was a part of something so much bigger and Felicity was only twenty years old. She didn’t know if she was strong enough to be part of something that big. That wasn’t what she had been interested in, that wasn’t what had attracted her. The other people present, there were seven other appliers, didn’t look bother at all and for a second, Felicity wondered if they had been told the truth beforehand. But despite being afraid, Felicity felt drawn to the place. The same way the offer had caught her eyes, the meeting had caught her heart. Working for Q. Inc would be one hell of a challenge, she was well aware of that but still she wanted to give it a try. No. She needed to give it a try. And the strength of her desire scared the hell out of her. She had never felt like that about something, not even about MIT. She had never felt that strangely overwhelming feeling of possessiveness. It was her job to take and she was going to take it, come what may!

After the first meeting, they went out to eat lunch, the personal interviews only starting at two pm. They were all back at one forty-five.

“The interviews will start in fifteen minutes,” the woman from the morning told them. “You haven’t been given a specific time because Mr Queen will interview you in alphabetical order, starting with Mr Davis and ending with Miss Smoak.”

Of course, she was going to be last. Of course, she was going to have plenty of time to freak out about meeting the man who had walked her to her home and lent his jacket to her just the day before. The man had seen her bra for God’s sake! Things were going to be super awkward. But she wasn’t going to let that stop her. She was going to walk into the room and blow his mind with her capabilities and determination. In the end, Oliver Queen will be left with no choice but to hire her.

“Miss Smoak!” The woman from earlier called her. “Mr Queen will see you now,” she added, showing her the way.

Felicity grabbed her purse and computer’s case – she had brought it with her because she had suspected that she’d spend quite some time waiting during that day and got on her feet. She staggered because she had gotten up to quickly and steadied herself. She wasn’t going to trip in Oliver Queen’s office like some clot did in some questionably good books.

She saw him before he did, through the glass wall of his office. He was busy taking down notes, probably about the previous person he had interviewed. For a brief second, she took him in. His lips were slightly pursed, his brow furrowed as he was solely focusing on the paper in front of him. She was stricken by how different he looked, not different from the day before but different from his college years. She had spent quite some time watching pictures of him the previous day – and now that she put it that way she realised it sounded a bit stalkerish and creepy – and it really was incredible how much he had changed ever since his accident. He seemed taller, was most definitely broader. He now wore French suits and Italian shoes. Of course, there was still some parts of the young man he had been, that beautiful smile of his had probably charmed a lot of young women. But, he really was different and she was glad that she had been given the chance to meet that version of his, not only once but twice.

The moment he saw her and more importantly, recognised her, a familiar smile tugged at his lips. Getting up, he circled his desk.

“That will be all Gretchen,” he said, his voice lower than she remembered. His all demeanour was different from the previous day actually. He was more serious, more restraint and she guessed it was because he was at work. The woman nodded before walking out.

“Miss Smoak,” Oliver said, shaking her head, his fingers lingering against her palm before releasing her. “It’s a small world,” he added, walking them toward his desk. He sat down on his chair, she sat down in front of him, crossing her legs just like her mother had taught her.

“It is indeed Mr Queen,” she agreed, smoothing out her skirt, his eyes following the movements of her hands for a second. Smiling internally, she straightened her spine.

“I have to say, I didn’t recognise you from the picture you sent with your references,” he orientated her file slightly toward her and she bit on her lower lip as she saw her picture again. It had been one she had taken during her senior of college, when she had been on her way out of her Goth phase. She had changed her clothes and lightened up her make-up but she still hadn’t dyed her hair blonde back then, needing to strip it from its dark black colour first.

“You’ve changed a lot,” he went on, staring back and forth between her and the picture. She bit back a comment, she had been doing the exact same thing with him. He finally looked up from the file and the attention of his blue eyes solely focused on her. He watched her intently, his eyes intense.

“What are you watching me like that?” She asked after a while, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Things weren’t going the way she had planned. She was supposed to woo him, not feel like a damn ten-year-old being tested by her teacher.

“Like what?”

“Like you’re an X-ray machine and you’re looking for broken bones.”

He winced and she had to admit that it wasn’t the best comparison she could have come up with. “Do you have broken bones?”

Suddenly, she was itching to hold her ribs. Fighting that irrational desire back, she said. “No, I don’t.” Her voice was a bit too tight, but he didn’t seem to notice.

He relaxed suddenly, letting out a long breath and his shoulders going limp. “I am sorry, I am just trying to understand you. You got into MIT at the age of sixteen with a full scholarship. You got a degree in Computer Science and Cybersecurity four years later, you ranked second in the National Information Technology competition, you even studied the basics of economy! Everything tells me that you’ve been preparing yourself to create your own company and there you are, applying for an executive assistant position.” He paused, at a loss for words. “I don’t understand you Miss Smoak.”

“With all due respect,” she said, “you don’t need to understand me. You just need to know that I am a very professional and dedicated person and that I will always give everything I have to my job.”

“Then why not apply for a position in the IT department?”

“I don’t want to work with computers,” she stated.

“And it took you four years to realise that?” He asked an annoying eyebrow raised as if he wasn’t buying it and there was still one of these ridiculously bright smiles that forced smiles out of her on his lips.

To say that Oliver Queen was persistent would be a huge understatement. “I can be a bit slow,” she admitted.

What a way to woo him Smoak,” she thought.

“Well, I hope that you’ll be a bit faster as my executive assistant,” he told her, leaning down toward her, his hands joined and his elbows resting on his desk.

Her heart skipped a beat at his words. What was that supposed to mean? “What are you saying?”

“I am saying that I think that we can help each other out.”

She leaned toward him as well, a curious look on her face. “Really?”

“Yes,” he repeated. “My parents expect a lot of me. They want me to make this company thrive, to prove myself worthy of them.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I was under the impression that they’re…” The rest of her sentence died on her lips.

“That they are?” He insisted a teasing smile on his lips.

“I probably shouldn’t finish that sentence right before you make me a proposition,” she deadpanned. “A job proposition,” she quickly added, mortified. “Please, ignore me and go on.”

He shook his head, his amusement very obvious and went on, as she had asked. “I can’t fail Felicity. Q. Inc is already running a few important projects, the team is really working hard and I think I am doing a fine job at finding us investors other than my parents but… We still need new people, new minds with new ideas. I am not just looking for an executive assistant, I am also looking for someone who understands techy things and can translate tech language in English for me. I’ve seen you do it, Felicity I know you can and I know I get you. I also know that someone with your background won’t be happy with just setting down appointments and typing down notes during conferences. I know that you won’t be happy doing just that.”

“But I’ll be happy teaching you that updating your system is important?”

“And that I should not illegally download movies, viruses really are a bitch.”

She blinked, several times. She was pretty sure she had babble those very same words to him the day before.

“So do we have a deal Miss Smoak?”

She bit on her lower lip. He was offering her a good compromise. “Why me?”

He shrugged. “I have a good feeling about this.”

She tilted her head, trying to decrypt the look on his face. It wasn’t easy, she didn’t know him at all. But yet, she could see his point. And she could feel what he was feeling. She could even say that she had been feeling it for longer than he had, ever since she had walked in the meeting room the same morning. There was something there, they could actually help each other out.

“I think we do Mr Queen,” she nodded, holding out her hand for him to shake.

“I am glad,” he concluded, shaking her hand.

 


 

Later that night, after she had spent some time with the Williams and their grandchildren, she found herself congratulating herself with a well-deserved glass of wine.

She reached for her phone as she was applying the last layer of blue nail polish on her toes and dialled her mother.

“Hey baby girl! My new best friend nurse Annie just left the apartment.”

Nurse Annie was not really Donna’s best friends. She was just a nurse, who worked for a soulmate’s clinic. Her job was to make sure that the patients that weren’t staying at the clinic and had no one staying, living with them took the Med. Loneliness was one of the reasons people stopped taking the Med. Once the effect wore off, their side of the bond with their mate was back and it was a painful reminded that hadn’t been always lonely or that maybe they wouldn’t always be.

“Did she say more than two words this time?” Felicity teased.

According to Donna, nurse Annie wasn’t exactly a talkative woman.

“No, but I am sure she’ll crack after a while!” Donna chuckled. “But what about you baby girl, how was your job interview?”

Felicity smiled. “I got the job!”

Donna yelled through the phone and Felicity had to put it away from her hear.

“This is so awesome! And how’s Star City? Tell me everything, I want to know every detail!” She demanded.

“Star City is awesome mom,” Felicity confessed. “I am feeling really good there…”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 3:

“You’ve felt this way for far too long,

Waiting for a change to come

You know you’re not the only one.”

- Kodaline, One day.

 

Felicity had to wait four days before starting to work at Q. Inc. Her job interview took place on a Wednesday and Oliver decided that she’d start the next Monday, giving her time to settle down in Star City. She really appreciated the gesture, it was really nice of him. But then, Oliver Queen, she was starting to realise, was actually a nice person.

She took advantage of these four free days to visit Star City, to acquaint herself with her new environment, and her new neighbourhood more specifically. The closest coffee-shop to her place was the one Sara owned. She went there every morning after her morning run and had already gotten friendly with both her and Iris. There also was a park, near her building. It was always filled with running and laughing children, and that was completely normal, given that she had picked a family neighbourhood to live in – she passed two elementary schools during her morning run every morning. When she moved out of her rabbit hutch, she’d probably try to look for something in the same area.

Felicity didn’t stick to her apartment’s block and its surroundings though. She got out and went to enjoy Star City in all its glory as soon as she had rented a car, a bright red mini-cooper. She visited the business district, familiarizing herself with it. She was going to work there soon, she needed to know the place. She spotted a few places, that’d be perfect to have lunch and although she had no idea where these thoughts came from, she already knew the turkey sandwich from the small restaurant at the corner of 9th street was too greasy and Luigi’s pizzas were among the best of the city.

She drove down to the beach on Saturday afternoon. When she arrived, she parked her car, intending to stay for a little while. She made her way to the beach and took off her shoes, enjoying the coolness of the sand scratching against the soles of her feet, of its small grains slipping between her painted toes. She quickly decided that Emerald Coast was her favourite spot in the whole city. The beach was small, the waves furiously beautiful as they crashed against the dark rocks. It was actually named after some special moss, a surfer explained to Felicity, a moss that only grew on the rocks and was a deep emerald green.

Felicity had grown up in Vegas, a city lost in the desert and traveling to Boston had opened up her eyes. She wasn’t meant to live somewhere lost inland. She needed wide opened space and immensity, blue horizons stretching as far as her eyes could see. She needed to know that the world was big and that she was free to go wherever she wanted to. Sitting down on her jacket, she watched the sunset, the dark blue of the ocean seeming to swallow the bright orange and warm red of the sun. She blinked, the view inspiring that same odd feeling of familiarity she had learnt to live with during the past few days. It also inspired a wave of contentment to wash through her in gentle laps. She felt at peace and just where she was supposed to be. And yeah, she knew it made no sense, but she didn’t care. She had been through so much during her last year at MIT, she needed that. She needed to feel good, even in the strangest place. She snapped a couple of pictures for her mother and Georgia, before making her way back to her place.

The next day, after going over her closet, she decided that if she was going to be Oliver Queen’s executive assistant, she needed to slightly upgrade her clothes. She still was a twenty-year-old girl and owned a lot of flannel shirts, large blouses and comfy jeans, not really the kind of clothes an executive assistant wore. It was time that she got more skirts and high-heels, things that would help her look a bit older than twenty years old. She decided that she could do that while drinking a cup of good coffee from Sara’s coffee shop – eating a slice of chocolate cake wouldn’t hurt either, Oliver was right, it was very, very good.

Reaching for her computer, she left her apartment and headed toward Star City’s sweet coffee. It was a lovely and full of life place, where time seemed to stand still, where people met and had a good time together. It was a place where they could relax and forget for a brief moment about their troubles. It was a place of contacts and intimacy, two things Felicity craved immensely. Pushing the door open, she closed her eyes for a second, letting her senses take in the atmosphere of the place. The low buzzing of conversations, the light whirring of coffee brewing, its smell, rich and hot. Heading toward the counter, she smiled at Iris.

“Hey Felicity!” She greeted her. “You look good!”

“You’re not looking so bad yourself,” she replied, a smile tugging at her lips. “I’ll have my usual,” she ordered. “And a slice of chocolate cake,” she added.

Iris nodded before starting to get her order ready. She handed it to Felicity, who paid for it before going upstairs. Sitting down at the same place where Oliver had been sitting when they had met, not that she was thinking about it or anything, she turned her laptop on and started doing her shopping. She didn’t do that much of online shopping anymore. She had used to, after leaving Vegas and Georgia, who had been her shopping buddy back there. But she had stopped when her mother had gotten out of the clinic and had taken her with her instead. Donna loved clothes and make-up and girly stuff in general. It had been part of her therapy to reconnect with that kind of things, the kind she used to love.

Felicity groaned when she saw the total of her cart.

“I should have my boss reimburse me,” she sighed, reaching for her credit card and typing down her references.

“Why are you drinking coffee in a mug with a teabag on it?” A small and reedy voice asked.

Choking on her drink, Felicity set her mug down on the table – it was one of her favourite things about the coffee shop, all their mugs were different. She looked down to her right and saw a small little boy, wearing sneakers and jeans with a Quicksilver polo shirt. His skin was light chocolate, his eyes big and curious reminding her immediately of Iris’.

“Because I don’t like doing things normally,” she replied, a small smile tugging at her lips.

The little boy’s eyes widened. “Does it mean that you drink tea in a mug with coffee beans on it?”

She pursed her lips, holding back a laugh. “Occasionally, yes. Now, what are you doing here?”

“My nanny is sick so momma took me with her to work.”

Felicity nodded. “Your mom’s name is Iris, right?” She guessed.

A small smile tugged at the boy’s lips when he recognised his mother’s name.

“And where’s your dad?”

“Daddy is working on a case,” the little boy told her very seriously. “My daddy is a cop.”

Felicity frowns. “He is?”

The little boy nodded. “Momma doesn’t like it when I say that. She says he carries plastic bags, not guns. Momma doesn’t like guns, she says it hurts people.”

Forensic science,” Felicity’s mind supplied. “Your momma’s right kiddo,” she told him. “Bad people can use guns to hurt others.”

“When I grow up, I want to be a superhero,” the boy proudly claimed, sticking out his little chest and his non-existent muscles.

“Oh really? And what kind of superhero would like to be?” She asked, smiling at the smiling face of Quicksilver printed on his polo shirt.

“I want to be like Quicksilver. I’ll run so fast, nobody will be able to catch me! You won’t be able to see me!” And as he said that, he ran to hide behind a chair, making Felicity laugh when she met his bright brown eyes, which were sparkling with gentle mischief.

“Do you like superheroes?” He asked from between her legs. He’d slipped under the table and had crawled back to her. When he’d reached her, he had gotten up, letting his head poke out from his hiding place.

“Yes, I do,” she confessed.

“Who’s your favourite?” He asked curiously.

“I like Hawkeye,” she told him.

He frowned and the confused look made his cute little face look even cuter. “But he doesn’t have any superpowers! And he uses a bow! It’s lame.”

She shrugged. “I like arrows,” she explained, a flash of her missing soulmark crossing her mind.

“Just like you like drinking coffee in a mug meant for tea?” He asked.

She nodded and he smiled. “You’re weird!”

“JJ Allen what do you think you’re doing?” Iris called, her hands on her waist, her eyebrows frowned severely.

“I made a new friend momma,” the boy told her and Felicity moved aside to let him crawl back from under the table.

“But you left without telling me where you were going,” Iris lectured him, kneeling down in front of him to check up on him. “I was worried.”

“I didn’t leave momma,” the little boy explained, his little voice sounding so cute to Felicity’s ears, she didn’t know how Iris managed to keep a straight face. “I know I am not allowed to go outside alone.”

“Don’t leave without warning me again,” she asked him before standing up, holding his little hand tightly. “I am so sorry,” she told Felicity. “I hope he didn’t bother you too much!”

“No, he is a really nice little man,” Felicity assured her, smiling.

“You see momma, I am a nice little man. Can I stay with my friend now please?”

Iris frowned. “Felicity can’t watch you baby, she has things of her own to do.”

“I don’t mind watching him for a little while,” Felicity assured her.

“Are you sure?” Iris insisted. “He can be a bit lively.”

“Go back to work in peace, I’ll handle him,” Felicity promised. She knew just how Iris was feeling. She had had to work once while having someone to watch as well. Of course, her mother had had nothing to do with a small child back then but she had been just as reckless and not cautious.

“Come here, JJ,” she invited him, bringing a chair next to hers. “I’ll show you a superhero game that you will be unable not to like.”

He squealed and raced toward her, jumping on the chair. “Thank you F’l’city,” he said and she laughed at how he mispronounced her name.

She let JJ finish her slice of chocolate cake and they played video games for a short while until Felicity switched to something more instructive. They ended up solving puzzles and JJ turned out being really smart and focused.

Iris came back almost an hour and a half later. JJ’s father had come up to pick him, having been freed from work earlier than he had expected. The little boy thanked Felicity and made her promise to come visit him sometimes and bring him some of her comics.

“You okay?” Felicity asked Iris as she was cleaning up a table.

She nodded, but still, she really looked exhausted. “Yes. I am taking a break in five minutes, do you mind if I sit with you?”

Felicity shook her head. It was Sunday and she had nowhere else to go.

Iris came back a few minutes later, a sandwich and an apple in hand.

“Enjoy your lunch,” Felicity told her, sipping at her coffee, she had asked for a refill when she had been playing with JJ.

“Thanks,” Iris said, smiling. “And thank you again, for watching JJ. You really didn’t have to…”

“It was my pleasure,” Felicity stated. “But I had no idea you had a child,” she admitted. She knew Iris was working for Sara as a part time job and that she was studying at Star Uni to become a journalist.

“Yeah,” Iris nodded, “I know what you’re thinking, I am too young.”

Felicity shook her head. “I am in no place to judge you. But do you think that you’re too young?”

Iris chuckled. “My soulmate and I, we met when we were seven. We lived in the same town, went to the same school and our fathers were good friends. We never left each other ever since that day. We bonded when we were in high-school and… I got pregnant when I was nineteen, during a mate’s haze.”

Felicity bit on her lips. Mate’s haze really were a bitch. She had never had one, and would probably never have one since she was taking the Med but she knew what it was. When two soulmates bonded, they strengthened their already existent connection. Their emotional and psychical connections were stronger, as well as their physical bond and desire for one another. A mate’s haze was a short period of time where two mates were overwhelmed by their lust and love for one another and desperate to turn it into something more, to create a new life out of their connection. It was a purely biological reaction to the bonding and their length and frequency depended on the strength of the connection. Felicity, whose number had been nine, would probably have had several mate’s hazes a year and they probably would have lasted for more than a day or two.

“We hadn’t really planned for it,” Iris went on, “but you know what a mate’s haze is. It’s so strong, it can screw with contraception.”

Felicity nodded. Hormonal contraception could not resist a mate’s haze meaning that condoms were most definitely needed during one.

“Anyway, JJ was born nine months later. We named him after my father, Joe. He was a cop but…” She bit on her lips, her eyes suddenly looking misted. “He died in service before JJ was born.”

“I am sorry Iris,” Felicity said, reaching for her hand and squeezing it tightly to comfort her.

“It’s okay, I am okay. I just… Wanted you to know that your help meant a lot to me. We’re still young and raising a child is not that easy.”

“Especially when the nanny calls in sick,” Felicity agreed, trying to cheer her up a little bit.

“Exactly,” Iris said, chuckling lightly.

“You can be proud of your boy,” Felicity added. “He is really nice.”

“Thank you Felicity,” Iris replied, smiling. “But enough talking about me,” she went on, wiping at her eyes, “what about you? Have you met your soulmate?”

Felicity’s smile disappeared immediately and her shoulders dropped lightly. “No, I haven’t met him yet.”

“You registered in the SID?” Iris asked.

Felicity shook her head. Iris frowned.

“You don’t want to meet your soulmate?”

Felicity swallowed tightly the lump of emotions that was quickly forming in her throat. She focused on the tea bag on her mug but the lines got blurry anyway. It happened every time she thought about her soulmate, every time she spoke of him, of them, although they would never be.

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” she said, feeling eager to change the topic and Iris must have sensed it because she quickly said.

“But this is obviously none of my business. How about we talk about something else?”

Felicity agreed, relieved, and they orientated the conversation toward a safer topic, which ended up being Felicity’s new job at Q. Inc. She still felt that lump of emotions that the talk about soulmates had brought into her throat though and she knew that she’d have to face the storm that was raging inside her, the sooner the better. Half an hour later, Iris’ break ended and she went back to work. Felicity decided that it was time for her to go and she made her way back home.

Her legs shaking, she slammed the door that led to her apartment shut. She slid along the door until she was sitting down on the floor, bringing her knees to her chest and holding herself together tightly.

Speaking of her soulmate was extremely hard for her. Felicity didn’t regret the choice that she had made four years ago. She had done it to help her mother, she had done it because it had been clear back then that her soulmate didn’t want her. She had both protected herself and saved her mother and she could never regret that. But it didn’t mean that it was easy for her.

Voluntarily taken the Med, cutting a viable connection or a formed bond, no matter what the reasons were, was not natural. Anti-soulmates’ groups claimed that men and women needed to be able to choose, to make their own choices and that the Med was the solution to achieve that. Well, Felicity knew now they were full of crap. Cutting a connection between two soulmates which were both alive was not natural, and certainly not pleasant. It was painful, Felicity felt a dull ache in her heart every day, some more than others. She felt a void where her soulmate’s emotions used to be, a void she knew would never be filled. Now of course, her reactions were related to the fact that her number, nine, had been one of the highest possible. The higher the number, the worst the pain. Maybe it was why the salesman in the drugstore had wanted to know if she had been absolutely sure when she’d first bought the Med. And maybe, had she known about the pain and the emptiness, she wouldn’t have taken it. But now she had and she was going to keep taking it.

The Med had tamed Felicity’s side of the bond, it had shut it down, locked it behind bars, preventing it from connecting with her soulmate’s side during the pre-bonding stage of their life. And the pain came from the strength of her imprisoned connection, which was fighting to be freed from its prison. There were days where she had to take two pills instead of one because she could feel the spot on her hip where her mark used to be burn, a sign that signalled a reforming connection. It was exhausting, fighting her nature, fighting what was hers every day. Most of the time, she tried not to think about it and just took the Med, trusting it to do its job. But whenever, she started thinking about her soulmate, whenever she opened the box she had locked him in, whenever she started thinking about what could have been… She started hurting even more.

She was hurting now, as she sat down with her back to her door, curled up around herself. She was hurting because she’d never experienced a mate’s haze like Iris had. She’d never fall in love with anyone, curtesy of the strength of her connection. She could care about other people but not fall in love. She’d probably never have a child of her own, not that she wanted one but… It was something she could have considered, with her soulmate.

Her soulmate was the only person she could have had a life with.

He was also the only person she could never have.

And it hurt.

It hurt so damn much.

 


 

Felicity got up early the next morning. She had made sure to set an alarm earlier than necessary, because she had wanted to arrive a bit early. It was going to be her first day at Q. Inc and she’d rather be really early than slightly late.

She woke up to a text from Georgia, who answered her question about which pair of shoes to wear for her first day as an executive assistant. Picking out the heels her friend had recommended, she went to shower. She got dressed, did her hair, applied make-up in record time. Then she ate a quick breakfast, brushed her teeth and left, ready to conquer the day.

Star City was awakening as she drove through the dark streets. Lights were being turned on in buildings, buses and the tram were starting to run in town. She took in the sight of her city, contentment washing through her in calm and steady waves.

Parking her car in Q. Inc’s lot, she made her way up to Oliver’s level, where she knew her office was as well. She was welcomed by a very tall black man, with shoulders so wide, Felicity was pretty sure he could carry two Felicitys on each of them. He was wearing a suit and there was an emotionless mask on his face. She called it a mask because his eyes betrayed a warm personality.

“Good morning,” he greeted her, his voice low and gentle, just like she had thought it would be. She had no doubt that he could turn it into something more threatening, but Felicity was not someone that needed to be threatened. “You must be Felicity Smoak, Mr Queen has told me a lot about you.”

She chuckled. “He better has only said nice things,” she joked.

A smile tugged at the man’s lips and she frowned. He held out a hand for her to shake and she took it. His grip was firm and solid and she realised that he would only need to squeeze a bit harder to break her hand.

“I am John Diggle,” he introduced himself. “Mr Queen’s driver and his bodyguard.”

She huffed back a laugh. “And what are you protecting him from? Sticking his tie in the printer?”

He shook his head amused. “Mr Queen is the heir of one of the country’s biggest companies. Many people wish him harm and it is my duty to protect him from those who do more than just wishing it. You don’t have to worry about anything though, I’ll protect you too.”

“Last time I checked, I wasn’t the heir of one of the country’s biggest companies,” she pointed out.

“They don’t care about who’s standing beside Mr Queen when they set up bombs and explosives.”

She burst out laughing, which was kind of funny considering what he had just said. Then she met his very serious eyes and immediately stopped laughing. “You’re kidding right?”

He gave her an enigmatic look and she started panicking slightly.

“Please John, don’t scare her away already,” she heard Oliver said as he was walking toward them. “I don’t want to have to beg her to come back – not that I wouldn’t do it if it was necessary, because I totally would,” he added just for Felicity.

“Mr Queen,” she greeted him, blushing slightly.

“Miss Smoak,” he replied, smiling and tilting his head slightly. “I can assure you that no one has ever tried to take me down. People don’t see me as a threat in the business world, I’m afraid. It’s hard for me to get rid of my old… reputation,” he said, sighing. He didn’t have to precise which reputation he was talking about. Flashes of articles about parties and arrests by the police danced behind her eyes. “Thankfully, we’re going to change that.”

“So that they can start setting up bombs under your car?” She teased.

He huffed back a laugh and John Diggle said. “I like her.”

Oliver gave him a look before leading Felicity toward her office which was right in front of his. They were only separated by a hallway and glass walls.

“So,” Oliver started, “I have a meeting with a few people from R&D department, I should be busy all morning. I thought that you could stay here and get comfortable around the office, look at my computer and yours and see how you can get our interfaces in perfect synch.”

She blinked. He frowned. “What? Surprised that I know the word “interfaces”?”

She chuckled. “No, I am just… The reality of this all is just hitting me.”

It was his turn to chuckle. “You weren’t kidding when you said that you were a bit slow,” he joked.

She stiffened, cut to the quick. “Wait until the end of this morning Mr Queen and you’ll see just how slow I am exactly.”

“I look forward to it Miss Smoak,” he told her, gathering his things for his meeting and leaving his computer open for her to do as she pleased.

Getting to work, her heart started hurting when she saw the system he was using, and that had been installed on her computer as well. She was pretty sure that he hadn’t gotten anyone from QC’s IT department to check on his computer in a while. The people there would probably have had a cardiac arrest at the sight of it. Sighing, she updated it to a faster and easier version to use. She then checked the security around his data. It was good, a hacker like her could crack it but that was because she was really good. She added another encrypted password just to be safe. Her hands were trembling by the time she was done with these minor improvements. She hadn’t done worked that much with a computer in a while and it didn’t sit very well with her. Flashes of her last year at MIT crosses her mind, flashes of him, of his voice and she clenched both her fists and eyes shut, trying to get a grip on the turmoil of emotions that was being stirred up by all those painful memories.

Once her hands had stopped shaking, she did the same changings to her own computer, customizing them so that they’d fit the use she’d have of them. She then worked on their agendas and electronic addresses, synchronizing his everything to her everything. She created a private secured cloud for them, so that they could exchange files more easily and added a new channel to the intern messaging system, one made just for them.

It was past noon when she finished and she ordered lunch for them both before walking to the bathroom, needed to freshen up. She locked herself up, her hands shaking even more badly than before, the right side of her ribcage burning. Resisting the urge to scratch the skin there, she opened up the tap and splashed cold water on her face. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest as memories she was doing her best to bury pressed at the edge of her mind. Instinctively, her hand came to stroke her hipbone, although there was no soulmark there anymore and no comfort to find. The familiar gesture helped calming her though and she sighed in relief when the pressure of her past released her mind. It was just a one-time thing, she wouldn’t have to do that kind of work with computers again.

When she came back, lunch had arrived but Oliver was still gone. She paid for them both and waited for him. He had texted her while she had been the bathroom, telling her that he’d be back soon.

She heard the elevator’s doors rang and then his voice, loud and angry.

“No mother, I won’t do it!” He yelled through the phone. “Not unless you give me a valid reason and don’t start telling me that she’s too young, because she’s not!”

He turned around the corner and she arched an eyebrow. He had changed a lot from this morning. His tie was set loose, his sleeves rolled up his arms and his suit jacket thrown over his shoulder.

“This is ridiculous mother, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” He paused next to her office, listening to whatever it was that Moira Queen was telling him. “With all due respect mom, Q. Inc is my company and I’ll do as I please with it. Now, I am going to wish you to have a nice meal with father and a nice day.”

He hung up angrily then, before looking up toward her.

“Something’s wrong?” She asked.

He sighed pinching his nose. “You could say that. My mother does not approve of you as my executive assistant.”

She opened her mouth to say something but he cut her off immediately.

“Before you say anything, you should know that my mother does not approve of a lot of things. You just happen to be the one she doesn’t approve of today. She says that you’re too young and not qualified…”

“And maybe she’s right,” Felicity argued, feeling her shoulders starting to fall.

Oliver shook his head. “I don’t believe that,” he assured, his hands coming up to press her shoulder in an attempt at comforting her.

“I don’t want to cause you any trouble,” she added and he shook his head at her words, his hand squeezing her shoulder more tightly.

“Don’t be ridiculous, everything’s okay,” he assured her. “Now, why don’t you show me what you’ve been up to while I was gone?”

“I ordered lunch, maybe we should eat it while I show you. I don’t want the food to get cold, it doesn’t taste…”

“… well when it’s been reheated,” Oliver completed. “I so agree with that. What did you get us?”

“I was in the mood for Chinese and I got you Chow Mein and a few Dumplings. I hope that’s okay, I didn’t know what you liked and Chow Mein was a safe choice, I mean who doesn’t like Chow Mein? It would be so stupid if you didn’t, and please can you stop staring at me like that and just tell me if I ordered right already?”

He blinked, his intense blue eyes now filled with amusement. “It’s my favourite,” he said, staring at her in disbelief. “You even asked for the right sauce. How did you know?”

She shrugged. “Let’s call this a lucky guess,” she suggested and he nodded.

They ate lunch while she showed him all the things she had changed, all the improvements she had made to the system. He looked really satisfied. That afternoon, he took her with him to meet the team that worked in the R&D department. She made the scientists who thought and designed the technologies the company was creating and then handing over to QC, the parent company.

After that, they get back to the office and talked about the work they would have to do for the upcoming weeks. The R&D department had three important projects currently running, and the three of them had been approved by QC. It wasn’t that bad considering that Oliver’s company was still really young. But the thing was, QC was a really big company, with a certain reputation. Oliver wanted to live up to his parents expectations, that much was clear, but he also had his own ideas for his company. His parents’ plan was to have him take over QC and merge the two companies together when he would. But the more she listened to him talk, the more Felicity realised that maybe Oliver didn’t want to take over QC. He wanted to take Q. Inc down a certain path, a path QC was staying away from. He was really interested in green energies and environmentally-friendly and cleaner technologies. He wanted a new team, a secondary one that would take his company right where he wanted it to go.

They spent their first week reviewing all the files and folders introducing projects he had gotten from various inventors, scientists and engineers. They made three piles: YES – NO – MAYBE. Unfortunately, the “NO” pile was the highest. Felicity also got more familiar with the company and its employees. They all welcomed her warmly, even more so when they found out that she understood tech and was slightly nerdy and started affectionately calling her “rookie”. Aside from that, she also experienced what it meant to be an EA as she found herself handling Oliver’s electronic mail box and his agenda. She also typed down notes during conferences with investors mostly, but sometimes with fellow businessmen.

Their main problem came from the fact that they both had a different definition of the words “organisation”. Oliver called her “messy”, she called him “fussy”. Seriously, the man couldn’t stand to see anything out of place. His folders were perfectly aligned, his desk perfectly clean, the files lying on it all classed in alphabetical order. They bickered about each other’s annoying habits quite a few times, under the amused gaze of Diggle. But aside from that, they worked very well together. The best thing about Oliver was that he didn’t think less of her because she was his EA. He listened to her suggestions. The decision was always his in the end but still, he let her talk and speak her mind. They complemented each other quite well, Oliver knew things Felicity didn’t and vice-versa. Where he was quiet, she was bright and talkative and where she was shy and reserved, he was confident and unwavering. They were also very good at communicating with each other, understanding one another through words and looks.

When Friday night and the weekend came, they left the office together.

“So, what did you think of your first week here?” Oliver asked.

“What did you think of my first week here Mr Queen?” She shot back, smiling.

He tilted his head. “It was quite good Miss Smoak. I think I’ll keep you around for a little while longer.”

She shook her head, amused. They both knew their first week together had been amazing. Felicity knew that wishing for things to stay that way was foolish, there would be a moment where they wouldn’t understand each other, where they would clash because they were very different, and had different opinions about things but still, she wished. She wished for her second week to be just as amazing.

“What are your plans for the weekend?” She asked when they stepped out of the elevator.

“My little sister is spending the weekend with me. I don’t get to see her much now that I’ve moved out of the mansion.”

She nodded. “I hope you’ll have a nice time,” she told him.

He smiled. “Thank you. What about you though? I heard that you have gotten close to Iris.”

“Yes, she and Sara are very nice. I think they’ve adopted me,” she confessed.

He huffed back a laugh. “So, any plans?” He insisted and she frowned, surprised by his insistence.

“Is “Netflix and chill” an appropriate answer?”

“A very appropriate one indeed,” Oliver approved.

They had reached their cars, and Diggle was waiting for Oliver near his.

“I guess I’ll see you on Monday,” Oliver said and she thought she heard something more in his voice but he didn’t give her time to linger on it as he opened his door.

“See you on Monday,” she told him.

 


 

On Saturday night, Felicity couldn’t focus on the TV-show she was watching. She was craving two things: a latte from Sara’s coffee-shop, which wasn’t that odd when she thought about it although it wasn’t her usual order and watching Fast and Furious, which was very odd. She had never seen the movies, had never wanted too. She didn’t even like cars!

But there she was, craving Paul Walker’s blue eyes, Vin Diesel’s abs and latte.

Starting another episode of her TV-show she tried to tame her desire but it only became stronger and stronger until she couldn’t take it anymore.

Sighing, she reached for her hoodie and her keys and got out. She stopped by Star City sweet coffee first and got her latter, earning a weird look from Sara. It was the first time that Felicity had ordered one. She then looked for the closest video store on her phone and made her way to it.

The blue frame of the shop looked really familiar but then, what didn’t look familiar to her in Star City? Shaking her head, she pushed the door open and walked in. The Imperial March started playing and she chuckled, amused. The cashier winked at her as she raised her thumb up toward him. It really was funny. And nerdy. But that was beside the point.

She started walking between the alleys, looking for that damn movie she wanted to watch for no apparent reasons. She watched the movies available carefully, hoping to find one that would take her mind away from cars and races. That’s when bumped into a small brunette, because she wasn’t paying attention to her surroundings.

“Oh I am so sorry,” she said, kneeling down to get the girl’s movie, which was, ironically enough, Fast and Furious.

“Thea are you okay?” She heard a voice asked. “Felicity?” She froze.

“Oliver?” She called, her eyebrows frowned.

“Wait, this is Felicity?” The brunette, Thea, said.

“Wait, you know who I am?”

“What are you doing here?” Oliver asked, ignoring both her and his little sister. He was holding two coffees that came from Sara’s coffee shop and wearing blue jeans and a dark Henley with a leather jacket. He looked more relaxed than he did in the office, more handsome too. Shaking her head, Felicity forced herself to stop ogling and looked up to meet his eyes.

“I came here to rent a movie, that movie,” she added, pointing at the DVD Thea was holding. “Although that’s really weird because I’m not really into cars and races or people driving cars and winning races.”

Oliver chuckled.

“That’s actually why I was staring at the movies,” she went on, feeling her cheeks burn. She was standing in a video store’s alley wearing a hoodie and really comfy clothes in front of her boss, who, of course had to look like he had just gotten out of a photo shoot. “I was trying to get this one out of my mind. I am sorry I bump into you Miss Queen.”

“It’s okay, I am happy to finally meet you, Ollie has been talking a lot about you. Although, you shouldn’t say anything about that movie, it’s one of his favourites. He’s very much into cars and races or people driving cars and winning races.”

Felicity chuckled, shifting on her feet nervously. “You don’t?” She asked Thea.

She shrugged. “You could say that. We played Rock – Paper – Scissors game. I got to pick the food, he picked the movie.”

Felicity nodded. “Okay, I’ll let the two of you go back to your movie night then,” she told them. “I’ll see you on Monday Oliver.”

“Yeah, have a nice evening Felicity.”

She nodded again, reaching for her ponytail with her hand before turning around clumsily. She heard a soft hit and an “Ouch” before Oliver called her back.

“Felicity!”

She turned around again, and saw Thea watch her brother expectantly.

“Would you like to join us?” He offered.

She took a step back, shaking her head. “No, thank you really, but that would be unprofessional.”

Thea rolled her eyes. “You’re not at the office.”

“But we will be on Monday,” Felicity argued. “Besides, I don’t want to ruin your weekend with your sister,” she added.

“Come on,” the youngest Queen said. “I’ll be very happy to have someone with me. My brother can be a bit broody!” She paused, for a second and then she went on. “You’re new in town, you need to make friends not watch a movie alone in your apartment. That’s sad.”

“Thea!” Oliver gasped and Felicity choked on her own saliva.

She paid them no attention. “Please Felicity. It’s just a movie night.”

“She’s right,” Oliver added. “Besides, it really is a shame that you’ve never seen that movie before!” He grabbed the DVD and brought it up to his heart, his blue eyes finding hers and encouraging her to say yes.

She sighed and finally gave in.

Oliver drove them to his penthouse. It was a twenty-minute ride and when she objected that there probably was a coffee-shop and a video store closer to his penthouse, he said that Sara’s was the best and she couldn’t really argue with that. They fought about what to listen to but Oliver backed down when Felicity chose to side with Thea.

“Girls,” he mumbled as they shared a knowing look.

Oliver’s penthouse was amazing. Felicity had never thought that she’d ever see the inside of her house’s boss and yet, there she was, standing in his living-room, which was both warm and welcoming. She walked to the window as the Queens got the movie ready and stared down at the city. Star City wasn’t sleeping, not at this hour of the day on a Saturday night. It was full of life, its lights flickering and looked gorgeous from up here, next to the dark and mysterious waters of the ocean.

“Felicity, are you coming?” Thea called her, patting a spot next to her on the gigantic couch.

She nodded. They started the movie right after that and for an hour and half, Oliver and she bickered playfully, teasing and joking, Thea throwing a comment from time to time.

“Felicity come on! How cool is that car?”

“This is not a car Oliver, this is a mini spaceship!”

“And that! Did you see that?”

“Of course I saw that Oliver, I am right next to you.”

“How cool is that!?”

“You can do that in real life. If you do that Oliver, you die.”

“Are you two always like this?”

But in the end, she really liked the movie. It was really hard to resist to a very enthusiastic Oliver.

He drove her back, after the movie and after she had thanked Thea for the millionth time and after she insisted that she was fine taking a cab.

“I had a really nice time,” he told her as he turned the engine off.

“I am sensing a “but” coming,” she said, trying to hide her nervousness. She had had a nice time too but maybe it had been a mistake, maybe she shouldn’t have accepted, maybe they should have kept things professional.

He chuckled and turned around to look at her better. “It’s just something you said about us being professional.”

She frowned. “What about it?”

“Well, we can be professional at the office and friends outside of it. I mean, I’d be pretty pissed if I had to fire you to have you as my friend because I really want to keep working with you. But I’ll do it, if you really think that this, and by this I mean friendly movie nights, is unprofessional.”

She blinked, several times. “What are you saying exactly?”

“I am saying that I’d like to give us a try as both colleagues and friends.”

“But why?”

He shrugged. “I have a feeling that we’ll make good friends.”

“Just like you had a feelings that we had already met before?” She teased him.

But he wasn’t smiling anymore, he wasn’t teasing nor joking. He was serious, very serious. “I still feel like it you know. It’s only been a week, I know, but it honestly feels like ten year.”

“So this is how boring I am?” She said, offended.

He shook his head. “No, no, it’s just that… This week has been pretty amazing, I really enjoyed working with you and it felt like it wasn’t the first time we were doing it.”

“And yet it was,” she whispered softly, hearing him reciprocate her feelings about their first week together was making her very happy.

“Exactly,” he agreed. “And that’s why I don’t want to lose you as my colleague.”

She stared at him for a whole minute astonished by the honesty she could see shining in his eyes. She smiled at him them. It was a small smile, a shy one. One that conveyed her unsureness but also her will to try. She opened the door.

“Next Saturday Mr Queen, I’ll make you watch a decent cool action movie.”

He chuckled at her words. “Looking forward to it.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4:

“Glad that you made it, look around

You don’t see one person sitting down

They got drinks in their hands and the room’s a bust

At the end of the night, maybe you’ll find love.”

- Fergie ft. GoonRock & Q-Tip, A little party never killed nobody (all we got).

 

 

When the printer made THE sound Felicity groaned.

The sound was a loud throbbing, followed by a few cackling sounds that made Felicity cringed and held her pen tight enough to break it – metaphorically speaking of course, she wasn’t nearly as strong as Dig, who could probably break ten pens in one squeeze of one of his big hands.

Sighing, and fighting the urge to just bang her head against her desk, Felicity pushed her chair away from her desk and bent under it, to check on the wire. She had told Oliver three days ago already that they really needed to change the damn printer and he had dismissed the idea, saying they had more important things to do and that as long as her “magical mumbo jumbo” worked and kept the printer going. Her “magical mumbo jumbo” being her playing with the wires until a faulty contact jolted the machine awake.

Crawling back under her desk, she reached for the back of the printer and opened it, for what seemed to be the umpteenth time, exposing cables and wires to her tired eyes. She was an executive assistant for God’s sake, not a printer technician – although she highly doubted that printer technician existed. Reaching for the two capricious wires, she brought them together, trying to get a sparkle.

“Come on,” she whispered. She felt like one of these people in the movies who stole cars by hotwiring them. Except what she was doing was not nearly as cool as stealing a Porsche or a Ferrari. Not that she knew anything about cars worth stealing, it was Oliver who kept ranting about them and she had just assumed that someone as rich as him knew what he was talking about.

“Woah! I knew good old Ollie hadn’t hired you for your brains,” a man voice said from behind her.

Startled, she jumped slightly, but forgot about her desk above her head and hit the top of it. She cried out in a pain and got out from under her desk, massaging her scalp with one hand. Getting on her feet, she glared at the man who had dared insulting her.

The man was tall and slender. His hair was raven dark, his eyes icy blue and his smile was probably the reason why he had gotten so many girls in his bed when he had been younger. Because yes, she was facing none other than Tommy Merlyn, her boss’ best friend.

“Jerk,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You can’t call me that before having at least one drink with me,” he told, grinning widely, and slightly stupidly at her.

Reaching for her bottle of water, Felicity took a gulp of it. “There you go, jerk,” she repeated, setting her bottle back on her desk.

He shook his head, his grin widening. “It doesn’t work like that,” he told her.

“I got a drink, you were here, I’d say it does,” she went around her desk, reaching for the flash drive with the files she had wanted to print. Then, she walked toward Tommy Merlyn, “And for your information, Mr Queen did hire me for my brains,” she added.

He shook his head, chuckling. Then, they both heard the elevator’s doors open and Oliver walked out. He was coming back from a meeting with his parents at QC. He had asked Felicity to come with him but then had cancelled at the last minute, pretending that he needed her to go over some reports.

“What’s going on here?” He asked when he saw his best friend grinning and Felicity’s annoyed expression.

“You need to buy me a new printer,” she told him, “and find another best friend. Yours sucks.”

That said, she got in the elevator and headed down toward the labs’ level. She could have printed the notes she had taken after going over Oliver’s reports in his office, but since she was supposed to give them to the head of the team working on one of their projects, she may as well print it downstairs. She did just that and then lingered in the lab, listening to one of the engineers talk about his progress. He was really optimistic about the breakthrough of his activities. Felicity gave him a few words of encouragement before going back upstairs. She ordered lunch for herself on her way back, she knew Oliver was going out with his best friend, adding frozen yoghurt and fruits to her usual order. She had been craving that ever since she had woken up, courtesy of the exceptionally warm day.

Her order arrived twenty minutes later and she sat down at her desk with it, grabbing a new file that needed to be reviewed. She knew Oliver didn’t like it when she didn’t take a real break from work but she didn’t mind reading while eating. The first file’s idea wasn’t that bad but financially unrealistic so she threw it on the “NO” pile. Taking another, she immediately got hooked by the presentation and the guy’s calculations. She was so lost in her reading, she didn’t hear it when Oliver sat down next to her, having brought a chair from his office to do so.

It’s only when he dived a spoon in her desert that she looked up from the file.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked him, her eyebrow arched.

“Eating?”

“My desert,” she pointed out, grabbing the cup and taking it away from him.

“Oh come on Felicity! You always order the biggest cup they have, although you know you won’t finish it. I’m merely trying to prevent good frozen yoghurt from being wasted.”

“You could at least wait until I’m done!” She protested. “Besides, I thought that you didn’t like frozen yoghurt.”

He shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t like it. There is just too much sugar in it. And I don’t know why, but I’ve been wanting to eat some ever since I came to work this morning and I am blaming you for it.”

She froze. “Why?”

“You’re rubbing off on me!” He said, stretching his arm, which was insanely big, and diving his spoon in her cup again. “By the way, what were you reading? You looked pretty into it.”

She nodded. “It’s one of the projects you received. The guy has designed a new battery. It’s a hundred percent recyclable battery which uses the heat produced by the piece of tech it’s supplying to recharge itself. It’s amazing.”

Oliver tilted his head. “It does sound amazing. Who’s the inventor?”

Felicity rummaged through the sheets of paper on her deck to find the guy’s resume.

“Messy,” Oliver coughed and she glared at him. He just smiled at her and she shook her head, holding back a smile.

“Here I got it!” She said triumphantly. “Our winner is Curtis Holt, a fellow MIT graduate,” she added. “He used to work for Palmer Tech but he quit a few months ago.”

“Well, Palmer’s loss is our win, set up an appointment with Mr Holt for next week please.”

She nodded but then frowned as he got up. “Why not this week?”

“Because we have more important things to do this week.”

He got a sheet of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Felicity. She unfolded it and saw that it was a list of names.

She frowned. “Please tell me it’s not a dead pool.”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “My parents are organising a little party next week, and this is the guests’ list.”

“I still have no idea why you’re giving it to me.”

“Well, all the people on that list are either rich, important, influent or a little bit of the three. These people could be potential investors for Q. Inc.”

Felicity nodded, going over the list. There really was a lot of names on that list, how was it possible to know that many people? The Queen family just wasn’t normal.

Oliver chuckled. “Don’t tell me about it,” he said and she clenched her eyes shut. She had spoken her thoughts out loud, again. She tended to do that more often than not.

“Sorry, go on, I have a feeling that you were about to say something important.”

“Obviously, I can’t talk to all these people in one night and I don’t want to waste my time doing small-talk with people I know won’t work with me in the future.”

“Let me guess, you want me to pick out potential investors from the guests’ list?”

He nodded. “Exactly. And try to find out what they like, try to find me a way to break through their walls and get to them. If I make a good impression on them, they’ll remember it in the future, when it’s time to put some money up.”

Felicity got to work immediately after that. It took her two days to go over each name on the list, she stopped counting after sixty-five guests. She picked out ten potential investors for Oliver, but three of them were really standing out.

“Our first target is William Fitzpatrick. His grandparents were Irish immigrants and he is very proud of his legacy. They built their fortune on the metal working industry but ironically enough, William Fitzpatrick the third is an environmentalist. He cares about the planet and supports causes such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. He is very close to Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Oliver tilted his head, staring at the picture of Fitzpatrick she had printed with her brand new printer, a gift from Tommy Merlyn himself. “Okay, so what do I do to get him to like me?”

“You could start by telling him how much you love pandas,” Felicity suggested.

He gave her a look.

“Sorry, not helping. Well, Mr Fitzpatrick is a fine connoisseur of Irish’s whiskey. He’s known for collecting bottles of very rare and expensive malt whiskey,” she added, faking an Irish accent that only earned a wince from Oliver.

“So I only have to get him a good bottle?”

She smiled. “You could say that. Next on our list, Tamara Anderson,” she showed a picture of her. “She’s a woman in a man’s world, she built her own company from scratch and her new company just designed a whole new windmill, more efficient, increasing the production of electricity of thirty-five percent per hour.”

Oliver whistled, impressed. “Sounds great,” he commented.

“Because it is great,” Felicity assured him. “Seriously, that woman is my hero. I mean, look at her, strong, confident, independent. Her only problem is the broom stick up her…”

“Okay, Felicity stop, I got the idea! How do I get her to like me?”

“Well, Mr Queen, I hope that you still know how to charm a woman.”

He blinked. “You want me to flirt with her? I am engaged,” he reminded her.

She shook her head, trying very hard to ignore the picture of him and Isabel Rochev on his desk. “Flirting is not cheating,” she reminded him. “Besides, your fiancée is in Russia.”

Still, Oliver didn’t look convinced.

“Come on Oliver, this isn’t that hard. All you have to do is pay her a few compliments, make her laugh and maybe dance a couple of times with her.” She paused, looking for the right words. “Just be your charming and usual self, she’ll like you.”

The same way she liked him. They had had that second movie night she had promised him at his place. She had brought the movie, Star Trek, and pop-corn, he had gotten them food from a sushi restaurant whose food he had deemed to be so good Felicity had had no other choice but to give it a try. And it had indeed been really good. They’d had a nice time that night, bantering and talking about almost everything and anything. Oliver was witty and funny, having a conversation with him was as easy as breathing. Plus, he had a way to make her feel like more than herself. He laughed at her nerdy jokes, let her whispered the lines of the movie while the actors delivered them and chuckled when she jumped in surprise at something she yet knew was going to happen. Her point being that if he was half the person he was around her with Tamara Anderson, then, he’d win her over in five minutes.

“Finally, last but not least, Martin Walker. His fortune comes from his family’s stock investments. He is a philanthropist, involved in more than just one cause. He has created a foundation which hires doctors and send them in Africa, to vaccinate children.”

“He sounds like a decent man,” Oliver stated.

“He is,” Felicity agreed. “He has been married with his soulmate for almost twenty-years, they have three children. He believes in family and I think that’s what you’ll need to stress when you speak with him. Show him how concerned you are with the world’s problems and show him that you’re like him: a man devoted to his soulmate and family and to the world.”

Oliver nodded although she couldn’t help but notice the flash of sadness that crossed his eyes. Before she could ask him about it, he moved on toward another topic.

“Thank you Felicity for your hard work, I am really impressed with what you did.”

She gave him a small smile. “It was nothing.”

“Have you picked your dress already?” He asked her.

She blinked. “My dress?” She repeated, confused.

“Yes, the dress you’re going to wear at the party.”

“I wasn’t aware that I was invited,” she told him, biting on her lower lip nervously.

“It was implied,” he told her.

She blinked again.

“I can’t go there without my girl Wednesday,” he insisted.

“It’s Friday,” she corrected automatically.

“Never heard of a girl Friday who could hotwire a printer. Besides, your job interview took place on a Wednesday, making you my very own girl Wednesday.”

She chuckled, shaking her head.

“Tommy will be there too, since he works with his father at Merlyn’s Global. He’s looking forward to seeing you again. He says he likes you.”

Felicity sighed. “I still haven’t forgiven him yet.”

Oliver chuckled, getting up from behind his office. “Well, he’ll be there without his soulmate, so you better get yourself ready to have him around you. A lot.”

She winced and Oliver’s smile widened, revealing his dimple. “I’ll pick you up at seven thirty on Saturday. Don’t be late.”

She nodded.

“And wear something fancy.”

 


 

When Felicity got the text on Saturday morning, she was just getting out of the shower.

--

“9:27 am

Meet me at Star City’s library on 5th street at 11.

And bring a picture of your dress for tonight!!

TQ”

--

Frowning, she tried to guess how Thea Queen had gotten her number. And why she was requesting something that specific. Sighing, she reached for her phone, mechanically typing Oliver’s number.

--

“9:30 am

Did you give my number to your sister?

FS”

--

His reply came quickly.

--

“9:31 am

What if I did?

OQ”

--

“9:32 am

You could have asked for my permission!

FS”

--

She even added a few angry emojis.

--

“9:35 am

It’s my sister, not the devil.

Still on for tonight?

OQ”

--

She sighed deeply. That night, they were invited to the party organised by his family. Felicity really had a bad feeling about it, she really didn’t want to go but had no other choice but to go. She was Oliver Queen’s EA there was no way on earth for her to cancel.

--

“9:37 am

Yes. See you tonight!

FS”

--

“9:38 am

See you tonight!

OQ”

--

Felicity walked in Star City’s library. She had had no trouble finding it, she had already been there once ever since she had moved in. After the beach, Sara’s coffee-shop and Q. Inc, it was her favourite spot in the city. The building was beautiful, its architecture classical and stately. But as the city’s population had grown, they’d needed to extend the library, adding a whole new wing, which was much more modern. It had been entirely funded by the Queen family. Knowing that freaked the hell out of Felicity. It was insane to have so much money, she didn’t belong in this world. It was partly why she didn’t want to attend the party with Oliver. She was pretty sure that she was going to do something wrong, to say something inappropriate and that she’d embarrass him just as much as she’d embarrass herself. She could handle it but she didn’t want to put him in trouble.

She noticed Thea, sitting down at a table, her books and copybooks opened in front of her.

“Hey Thea,” she greeted her.

The small Queen looked up from her homework and smiled at her.

“Felicity, hi! I am glad you came. Please, have a seat,” she added, pointing at a chair.

Felicity sat down in front of her. “You’re far away from your home,” she stated.

The Queen mansion was indeed located outside of the city. It had probably taken Thea a thirty-minute drive to get to the library.

“And yet, I am not far enough to escape the Queen’s name,” Thea joked, gesturing toward a plate stating that the library had been funded by Thea’s family.

Felicity tilted her head at the young girl’s words. It sounded as if she was joking but there was something in her eyes, a depth that told Felicity that maybe she meant every word.

“Are you okay?” She asked her politely. She didn’t to push or meddle in her business but she figured that there was nothing wrong with asking her such a simple question.

Thea nodded. “I am perfect, what about you? Ready for your first party with Star City’s social elite?”

Felicity froze, her shoulders went limp as she felt something weigh on her stomach. “Not really,” she confessed.

Thea patted her shoulder gently. “I wish I could tell you that everything is going to be okay, but I know for a fact that it won’t.”

Felicity’s eyes widened. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that my mother is going to give you a hard time. She and Oliver argued over you during Sunday’s family lunch two weeks ago, it was awful. I’d never heard them fight like this. And they fought again last Sunday, although more cordially. It was worse than when they were openly yelling at each other.”

Felicity felt like she had been slapped. She had heard Oliver and his mom fighting over the phone, but since Oliver hadn’t brought it back, she had thought that things had settled, that his mother had changed her mind on her. Clearly she hadn’t and Oliver hadn’t told her anything about it. Was it why he had refused that she came with him for his business meeting? But then, why not taking her with him to a business meeting, but inviting her to the party? It didn’t make any sense and she felt a bit disappointed that he hadn’t told her about what was going on with his family.

“Why were they fighting over me?” She asked, her voice shaking slightly, her fist clenching tightly around the fabric of her dress.

Thea shrugged. “Mom says that having a young and fresh executive assistant isn’t good for the company’s image, especially considering Oliver’s past.”

Felicity blinked. “But… He is engaged. To his soulmate.

Thea chuckled bitterly. “Soulmate doesn’t necessarily means faithfulness.”

“Yes, it does,” Felicity argued but then her words died on her lips. Her father had left her mother, his soulmate. They didn’t know why, but maybe it had been to go live his life with another woman. “Okay, maybe you have a point here but… I am not that kind of girl and your mom shouldn’t judge me without knowing me, it’s… Mean.”

Thea chuckled more. “You poor naïve thing, you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, do you?”

Felicity frowned, hurt by her harsh tone and words.

“My mother is not the nicest person in town, especially to people she sees as a threat. Or when she’s scared. And you Miss Smoak, I don’t why, but you scare the hell out of her.”

Felicity’s thoughts brushed her MIT memories. No, Moira couldn’t have heard of her supervirus. She had buried its codes with her old-self a long time ago.

“My mother hates your guts Felicity and that makes me like you even more.”

Felicity arched an eyebrow.

“You need to not be afraid tonight,” Thea told her. “Hold your head high, straighten your spine and don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re worth less than them. Because trust me, you’re worth more than any of them.”

“Uh… Thank you, I guess?” Felicity said, the weight on her stomach extending to her heart and lungs. The party was going to be a disaster.

“Did you bring the picture of your dress?”

Felicity nodded and showed it to Thea. It was a cute short purple dress that Felicity had bought with her mom a year ago.

“You’re not going to prom or to a wedding,” the young Queen stated, reaching for a pen and starting to write down an address on it. “Go to this place, say I am the one sending you. The owner is a friend, he’ll find you a dress.”

Felicity started to shake her hand, pushing the paper back toward Thea. “I can’t accept,” she protested.

“Yes, you can and you will,” Thea insisted, opening Felicity’s hand and putting the piece of paper between her fingers. “I’d go with you but I have an essay to write and a few lessons to study. Ollie should have warned me sooner.”

She rolled her eyes and Felicity frowned.

“Before I forget,” Thea went on, getting her phone out of her purse. “Come here, we need to take a picture.”

“Why?” Felicity asked, her head tilted.

“Because my friend will probably not believe you if you tell him I sent you. And because I need another picture for your profile in my phone. The one from you resume really sucks, you look much better as a blonde.”

“Thank you,” she said before coming closer to Thea. She snapped a few pictures of them before sending her favourite to Felicity.

“Now off you go,” Thea chased her away. “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo go find your dress!”

Felicity chuckled, shaking her head. “This is not a Cinderella story,” she told her.

“It doesn’t hurt to dream it was though, does it?”

Felicity paused, considering her words. “No, it doesn’t,” she admitted before leaving.

The owner of the boutique was a short bald man wearing round glasses on the tip of his nose. He wore ripped jeans, t-shirt with a heavy metal band’s name printed on it and a tailcoat. He was weird with his big boots and excessively big jewels but Felicity like him immediately. His name was Carl, with a C not a K he reminded her more than once during the short amount of time she spent with him. She felt a bit out of place with her white sneakers and denim dress among the beautiful clothes around herbut he somehow managed to make her feel comfortable.

She had to show him the picture she had taken with Thea in the library to have him actually believe the young Queen had sent her. But as soon as he had seen the picture, he treated her… well… like a queen. He made her try on countless dresses, criticized her bearing and the way she walked while hearing wheels. At some point, Felicity texted Thea, asking her why she hadn’t told her she had sent her to a modern torturer. Thea didn’t reply to that text. Carl made her parade, gave her advice and even complimented her in the end when she reached what he called “the elegance of a ribbon falling in the air”. He told her how to apply her make-up and how to do her hair but she got to pick the dress. Actually, from the moment Felicity saw the blue one hanging from its hanger, she knew it was the one. It was the one she had to wear. She didn’t know where such certainty came from but she wasn’t one to question it. She tried it on and when Carl approved it by raising his thumb up, a wide smile spread on her face.

When she came back to her apartment after spending the biggest part of her afternoon with Carl, she still had some time to get ready. She took another shower, the hot water relaxing her slightly. Thea’s words had been in the back of her mind during her visit at Carl’s, but it had been easy to shut it down back there. Now that she was alone, Felicity found it harder to do. Sighing, she focused on dolling herself up. She hadn’t gotten to do that a lot in her life, she had almost never been to balls back in high-school and had ditched prom as well. It was fun to do it now, although she felt more like a lamb getting ready to meet wolves than a butterfly flying out of his chrysalis for the first time.

At seven twenty-five, she got out of her apartment and went to wait for Oliver outside of her building. Diggle parked the car in front of her at exactly seven thirty. Oliver stepped out of it and she rolled her eyes when she saw the colour of his handkerchief. It was a Caribbean blue, one that matched both his eyes and her dress.

He looked at her up and down and then back up, his eyes widening as he took her embroidered gown in, her light make-up, her curly blonde hair falling down elegantly from her up-do, circling her face which was free of her square glasses. He took her in, really in, making her shift her balance nervously on her feet. She started blushing and he still hadn’t said anything.

“Oliver,” she snapped, because she couldn’t take it anymore.

He took a step back, startled. Clearing his throat, he said. “You look nice. Really nice. Great actually.”

She chuckled. “Thank you, you don’t look so bad yourself. And it seems that we’ll be making quite the pair tonight,” she added, her hands mechanically coming up to adjust his handkerchief.

“Team Q. Inc?” He asked her, raising his pinkie finger.

She rolled her eyes at him – her boss was a huge dork, but he hid it well, most of the time – but still crossed her pinkie with his.

“Team Q. Inc,” she nodded.

“Team Q. Inc,” Dig added, opening the window next to him. “Now will the two of you please get in the car? We’re going to be late.”

They quickly got in the car and spent the drive to the Queen Mansion in silence. Felicity was feeling extremely nervous, edgy. Usually, she would have talked and talked until the sound of her own voice made her cringe but not tonight. Tonight, there was a lump in her throat and she was sweating excessively. Which was not a really sexy thing but it wasn’t like she had any control over it. She took a deep breath, her fingers clenching around her clutch tightly.

When Diggle passed the impressive metallic portal, Felicity gulped. But then the house came on sight and she felt like she was going to throw up.

“This… This is not a mansion,” she stated, shaking her head in denial. “This is a castle.”

Oliver chuckled at her words, his hand coming up to squeeze hers gently. “It’s not that big. The house is only 7 are. The whole property, which includes the gardens, is about 2 hectares.”

She blinked at him. “I grew up in an apartment which was about three hundred twenty two square feet,” she blurted out. “I am pretty sure that I’ll need a GPS to walk around your house.”

“You won’t need a GPS,” he assured her. “You have me.”

She shook her head. “You are going to charm investors all evening long,” she reminded him.

“And you’ll be by my side the whole time.”

“What if I need to go to the bathroom?”

He gave her a look and she looked down toward her toes, which she had painted a bright silver colour. “Let’s go,” she eventually said, “before I change my mind and run away from this place.”

Oliver chuckled and got out of the car. He went around it and opened her door for her, offering her his arm.

“What a gentleman,” she teased him.

He smiled. “My mother would be proud of me,” he replied.

The mention of his mother made bile rose up in Felicity’s throat. She wanted to confront him about not telling her about his arguments with her and the fact that she hated her but it was not the time nor the place. Later, she promised herself. They’ll get back to that later.

The ballroom, because yes, the Queens’ castle – there was no way she was calling it a mansion, no matter what Oliver kept telling her – was actually big enough to have his own ballroom, was already full of people talking, cheering and dancing when they arrived.

“Anderson is standing by the piano,” Felicity told Oliver, immediately recognising her platinum blonde hair. “And oh my god, is that an actual quartet?”

“Fitzpatrick is keeping the bar company,” Oliver said, ignoring her questions.

Waiters were making their way between the guests, some carrying petits fours and others flutes of champagne. The golden liquid was sparkling under the dimmed light coming off of a few lamps. The windows that led to the gardens had been opened, allowing people to walk on the patio and enjoy the quiet evening. A soft breeze was making the white net curtains dance, almost in synch with the music. Silvery rays of light were being reflected on the perfectly waxed wooden floor and Felicity found herself being fascinated by the contrast between the gold light of the lamps and the colder one of the moon. Until Oliver tugged at her arm and reminded her of where they were. Shaking her head to get back in the game, she plastered a bright smile on her lips and followed him around the room. Because there were too many guests at the party, they had both learnt half of the names and were telling each other who was who before they greeted them. Oliver always made sure to introduce her politely before the conversation turned toward more professional topics. Felicity listened quietly, answering questions carefully, weighing her words in her mind and heart when she was being solicited. It was exhausting, to always ponder her words, she didn’t know how Oliver managed to do it. What was more exhausting though, was the eyes of his mother. They hadn’t talked to her properly yet but they had seen her and she had seen them. The moment her eyes had fallen on Felicity, the hair at the back of her neck had ruffled. Moira’s blue eyes were icy cold on her but at the same time also filled with scorching hatred. It made Felicity want to crawl back into her skin. It also made her wonder what she could have possibly done to get under his mother’s skin like that.

They were joined by Tommy at some point. He had come to the party with his father.

“Miss Smoak, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” he told her, smiling.

“Mr Merlyn, I wish I could say the same thing about you.”

He put his hand on his heart and faked a hurt expression. “You’re killing me.”

“You’ll recover,” she replied, unable to hold back a laugh at the very serious look on his face.

Tommy shook Oliver’s hand before getting them all a flute of champagne. She smiled happily. Champagne, liquid courage. Exactly what she needed to remain sane for the rest of the evening. But before she could take a sip from her drink, Oliver took the flute out of her hand and set it back on a tray.

“No alcohol for you,” he explained, “you’re underage.”

She blinked astonished by the audacity of him. “I wasn’t aware you were my chaperone for the night,” she said through gritted teeth, anger starting to build up in her chest.

“I am just looking after you,” he said, shrugging.

“The same way you were looking after me when you didn’t tell me about your arguments with your mother?” She hissed, her arms crossed over her chest.

He frowned, tensing up immediately. “Who told you about that? Thea?”

“Well, it wasn’t you, that’s for sure.”

He pinched his nose, sighing. “Felicity, can we talk about this later?”

“Sure,” she nodded, turning around.

“Where are you going?” He asked her, catching her arm before she could leave.

She rolled her eyes. “Getting myself a coke, I am not allowed to drink alcohol, haven’t you heard?”

He released her and she made her way to the bar. She ran across Thea, who barely stopped to greet her. She looked in a hurry to leave the room but before Felicity could turn around and follow her to ask her if she was okay, she came face to face with Moira Queen.

To say that the Queen’s matriarch was intimidating was an understatement. She was terrifying with her perfectly done hair, there was not a single strand of her hair out of place, her slender silhouette and her smart and calculating blue eyes.

“Miss Smoak,” she said, her voice so cold, it made Felicity shiver.

“Mrs Queen,” she replied, focusing really hard to prevent her voice from wavering.

“Finally we get to meet,” Moira went on, her eyes roaming over her. Felicity remained still, not letting her see how much she was affecting her. It seemed that Moira was analysing her, looking out for flaws, imperfections, anything to use as a weapon against her. And she really didn’t understand why. She had never met her before, and she was pretty sure she hadn’t done anything wrong ever since she had started working for Oliver. At least, the hatred she had seen earlier in her eyes had backed down a bit and was now barely a spark.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Felicity told her, her tone cheerful and her smile sincere. She really wanted to do her best to melt the coldness Moira had surrounded herself with.

“I can’t say that the feeling is mutual, unfortunately,” Moira stated, refusing to shake Felicity’s hand, who took it back slowly, humiliation making her cheeks burn.

Clearing her throat, she asked. “And why is that?”

“I know girls like you Miss Smoak, only daughter of a poor cocktail waitress in Vegas…” Moira shook her head, her tone poisonous. “I’ve seen plenty of Felicity Smoaks in my life. You’re all young and beautiful and you want to become someone in this world. My family’s name and wealth attract you, you want your slice of the cake. And girls like you always think that their looks and charms will get them somewhere, will get them something.” She paused for a second and Felicity realised then that she had stopped breathing and that her heart was beating furiously in her chest. “Let me tell you this, you won’t get anything from my family as long as I’ll be living on this earth so you might as well pack your things again and leave this city.”

Felicity’s blood was pounding furiously against her temples. She tried to take a deep breath, to calm herself down but air got caught in her throat. Her cheeks were burning, the insults and humiliations making her clench her fists in anger. But before she could actually reply anything to Moira, she felt an arm slip around her waist, reaching for her hand. She turned her head and her confused eyes met Tommy’s.

“Moira, what a beautiful party, you’ve really outdone yourself,” he congratulated her, but his tone was fawning.

“Thank you Thomas,” Moira replied, bowing her head.

“Now excuse me but Felicity here promised to dance at least once with me tonight,” he added. “How about we go now?” He suggested, glancing at Felicity.

The blonde nodded and they took their leave. She let Tommy lead her to the dancefloor. There, he placed a hand on her waist and they started swirling around the room, a respectable distance between them.

“Are you okay?” He asked softly, his hand holding hers pressing it gently.

She nodded. She didn’t care about the fact that Moira had judged her without even trying to know her or that she had basically called her a manipulative cold-hearted gold-digger. Someone as vile as that woman didn’t deserve that she lingered on her words or attached any kind of importance to them. Of course, her words had hurt her and she felt slightly humiliated. But Felicity knew who she was and it wasn’t the kind of women Moira had pictured.

“Yes,” she said, “thanks for stepping in though. One more minute and I think that she’d have jumped on me.”

Tommy chuckled. “You looked like you needed help and your knight in shining armour was too busy to notice.”

Felicity tilted her head and Tommy pointed at Oliver, who was currently dancing with Tamara Anderson.

“How about we go get you a drink?” Tommy offered. “You’re still pale.”

“Pale?” She repeated. She felt like her cheeks were on fire, although her heart had settled in her chest as soon as Tommy had walked in. She didn’t know why but, despite his jerky comment from their first meeting, she felt comfortable around him, almost safe.

“Yes,” he assured her. “Come on, you’re giving ghosts a run for their money.”

Tommy let her drink half of a flute of a champagne.

“I am brave but not suicidal and Ollie will most definitely kill me if he hears about this,” he told her.

And then, he danced some more with her. They parted ways when Oliver came to her, telling her there was someone she needed to meet absolutely. He introduced her to the director of the Applied Sciences department of QC and she soon found herself caught in a conversation revolving around processors and mainboards. After that, they started walking around the party again, going from one guest to the other, staying purposefully away from his parents. At least, Felicity did it purposefully, she didn’t know about Oliver but she was relieved when he made no attempt to go meet them. Thea joined them at some point during the party and that’s when the fun truly started. She kept whispering snarky comments in Felicity’s ear and the blonde had to do her best not to laugh. She cracked a few smiles though and Oliver arched an eyebrow at them more than once, silently reprimanding them.

People started leaving the party around midnight. The three of them decided it was time for them to leave too and they met Tommy on the patio. He had taken off his tie and opened the first buttons of his shirt. Oliver did the same, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt as well, exposing his toned and strong arms to the world’s eyes.

“Felicity, would you like to visit the gardens?” Thea offered. “They’re quite the sight at night.”

Felicity hesitated, turning toward Oliver. “That depends, when is my curfew chaperone?”

Tommy snorted and Oliver just rolled his eyes at her.

“I wouldn’t say no to a walk either,” Tommy said. “I think I’ve had too much champagne,” he added, winking at Felicity behind Oliver’s back.

“Let’s go then,” Thea decided, knotting her arm with Felicity’s.

They followed the path that went through the gardens. It was enlightened by small electric torches which gave a romantic touch to the atmosphere. Not even five seconds after the beginning of their walk, Felicity had to admit Thea had been right. They were quite the sight at night. The air was cool but not cold at all and surprisingly enough, Felicity found the shadow of the trees not really threatening but tempting, inviting. They walked by a few marble benches and tables, bunches of flowers and cherry trees and Felicity tried to guess what other wonders were being hidden by the darkness.

They stopped by the pool, which was absolutely gorgeous. The water’s colour was a weird mix of white blue and green created by the spotlights underwater. There was a small cascade and the lapping of the water hitting the surface of the pool sounded like a symphony to Felicity’s ears.

“Woah,” Felicity said, out of words.

“Want to come closer?” Thea asked.

She nodded and the two girls walked to the stairs. Felicity kneeled down and dipped a finger in the water. It was surprisingly warm.

“It’s heated,” Thea explained.

Of course it was. Wiping her finger on her dress, Felicity got on her feet again, turning around to where they had left Tommy and Oliver.

“Where is Tommy?” She asked Oliver.

He smiled innocently at them. Too innocently.

She heard Tommy’s footsteps come from behind her before she felt the warm water hit her skin. Yelping, she turned around and saw that he was attacking them with a water gun, whose reservoir was the biggest she had ever seen in her life. Thea bolted right after he started hosing them. Felicity raised her hands to protect her head.

“Tommy stop!” She yelled.

He only stopped when the water gun was empty and she was soaked.

“I’m going to murder you,” she shout, starting to run toward him.

He laughed and ran away from her, circling the pool. He stopped dead in his track when he almost bumped into Thea, who was holding a loaded water gun.

“Okay,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Maybe we can talk about this.”

“Felicity, do you want to talk about it?” Thea asked, holding the gun.

“Nope,” the blonde replied.

“Ollie, help me out here man,” Tommy begged him.

He shook his head. “You got yourself into this mess buddy,” his friend replied.

Everything happened really fast after that. Thea pulled the trigger and Tommy ran away, to avoid the water. The girls started to chase him, Thea handing the gun to Felicity so that she could get her revenge. The moment she pulled the trigger, Tommy lowered himself and the water jet hit Oliver instead, soaking him to the bone.

Felicity and Thea both stopped running. The blonde dropped the gun on the floor and raised her hands up. He blinked, astonished, as if his mind couldn’t wrap up around what had just happened.

“Oliver, I am so sorry,” she whispered.

He glanced at his soaked shirt then at her, at his shirt and at her again and she knew exactly when he had made up his mind.

“Run,” he told her.

She took a step back as he stepped toward her.

“Run,” he repeated.

“Oliver, I am sorry,” she begged, half-laughing.

“Last chance to run Smoak,” he warned her, a devious grin on his face.

Her dress was soaked and heavy and she was wearing heels. There was no way on earth she was running. She’d slip and twist her ankle.

“Come on Oliver,” she told him, taking another step back as he stepped toward her.

“Tommy go get Thea,” he said to his friend, his eyes never leaving Felicity’s. They were solely focused on her and she felt her wet skin burn at the intensity of his gaze.

He was one step away from her when she made an attempt at running away from him. He circled her wrists with his hands, his hot skin burning against her much cooler one. Dragging her to him, he lifted her and her wet heavy dress without flinching. She started struggling, half-laughing, half-begging him no to do what he was about to do, but his hold on her was firm and he didn’t let her go. She heard Thea laugh as well as Tommy threw her in the pool. She yelped when Oliver threw her in the water.

Her body hit the warm liquid and for a second, she remained underwater, letting her body getting used to its new environment. Then, she pushed on her heels to get back to the surface. The fabric of her dress was dragging her toward the bottom of the pool, but Oliver had been kind enough not to throw her somewhere too deep. Reaching for her feet, she unbuckled her shoes and threw them on the edge, Thea quick to imitate her.

“So, how is the water?” Tommy asked, his head cocked.

“Why don’t you come and see for yourself Merlyn?” Thea said, swimming toward her Felicity.

The two girls exchange a look before they started splashing the two men stupidly standing on the edge of the pool. They both fought back and that’s how the battle truly started. They all splashed one another, the sound of their laughter piercing the otherwise quiet night. They stopped fighting when they were soaked to the bones and their arms started protesting. Too much was too much. The girls remained in the pool though, while the two men went to get them all towels. Thea kept flashing bright smiles at Felicity and the blonde couldn’t help but smile back just as brightly. She couldn’t remember when she had been last that happy.

Later, Oliver parked his car in the lot in front of her building. Felicity was wrapped up in a bathrobe and towels, her hair was a mess, her make-up was ruined and she was facing her boss but she couldn’t have cared less.

“I am sorry,” Oliver said as she was about to thank him.

She tilted her head. “About what?”

“About not telling you that my mother and I had argued over you.”

She smiled at him. She had already forgiven him, she could see why he hadn’t told her; he just hadn’t wanted to worry her. And that was exactly why she wasn’t going to tell him what his mother had told her exactly. She wasn’t going to be the reason why the mother and the son fought. She didn’t need Oliver’s help to prove Moira that she was wrong about her. She’d do it herself, she’d deal with her problems alone, like she had always had.

“It’s okay Oliver, it’s already forgotten. I had an amazing time tonight and everything went well with the people we wanted to impress.”

“This night is a success,” Oliver agreed.

She nodded and opened the door. “See you on Monday. Good night.”

“Good night,” he replied and she closed the door, a smile lingering on her lips as she walked toward her building’s main entrance.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5:

“If I lay here

If I just lay here

Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”

- Snow Patrol, Chasing cars.

 

 

She was surrounded by silence and darkness again. She couldn’t hear a thing, she couldn’t see anything. The absence of noise was deafening, oppressing. The absence of light was scaring, threatening.

The hair at the back of her neck rose suddenly.

She could feel his gaze on her.

Heavy. Intense. Calculating.

She could feel his eyes traveling the curves of her body.

Staring. Observing. Scanning.

Then his voice.

Disembodied. Cold. Toneless.

“You don’t have to be afraid, Felicity. I am not going to hurt you.”

It was his voice, her brain recognised it. But it wasn’t his voice. The voice she had grown used to, fond of. It was like he was a whole different person.

At his words, fear crashed in her body, weighing on her lungs, altering her breathing. Blood rushed to her ears, hammering against her temple. Her heartbeat sped up as a mix of sharp terror and pure horror kicked in her veins. Soon, her heart was pounding so hard against her ribs she feared for a second that it’d dig its way out of her chest.

She tried to sit down but gasped when she realised both her hands and ankles had been tied to the bed she was currently lying on.

She felt a hand brushed her forehead and she trashed, trying to get away from his cold skin, a single touch enough to make her feel sick, to make her stomach twist and swirl.

“Baby, baby shhh! Everything is going to be alright,” he said, his voice soft meant to be soothing but disgusting her instead. “I just want to give you my mark,” he added.

Beads of sweat rolled down her forehead to her neck as bile rose up in her throat. She started struggling against her bindings again, with renewed vigour. She wanted to scream, to call for help, to cry out, to beg him to let her go but she couldn’t. The bastard had gagged her.

He turned on the light. It was so bright and she had been in the darkness for so long, it blinded her and she clenched her eyes shut.

The pain and the cut came quickly after that.

And she screamed through the gag.

 


 

Felicity woke up from her nightmare with a scream. She kicked her sheets and comforter away from her, feeling like they were trying to strangle her. Turning around, she fell from her bed, scared of the mattress, a reminder of that night, and that bed he had tied her to. Crawling away, she only stopped when her back hit the wall of her apartment. The sharp coolness of the painting made her gasp and she opened her eyes, taking her environment in, as it was enlightened by the small lamp she never turned off on her bedside table.

She wasn’t back in that room again. She was safe, in her apartment, in Star City. It wasn’t the same metallic bed she had lied on for twelve hours, it was her wooden bed, the one that had been in the apartment before she even moved in. The room was not dark, it wasn’t silent. There was light, and she could hear the noise of the street from where she sat, the sound of cars driving piercing through the quietness of the night.

She was safe, no one was going to hurt her.

She repeated the words like a mantra, curling up around herself, holding her knees to her chest. Her fingers dug into her skin almost to the point of pain but she revelled in the pain. It was anchoring her in the reality, tearing her away from her nightmare.

Her legs were shaking, her hands trembling. Her hair was damp with sweat, her heartbeat an uneven mess.

But she was safe, no one was going to hurt her.

Getting up on her wobbly legs, she headed towards her bed, with the firm intention to go back to sleep but the mere idea of lying down again was enough to make her feel sick again. She sighed, clenching her eyes shut. She hadn’t had a nightmare that strong in a really long time. She wiped the tears which were threatening to fall from her eyes and decided to go for a shower. She reached for her phone first though and groaned when she saw it was barely three in the morning. It was going to be a really long day.

Sighing, she went to the bathroom and got under the hot spray. She let the scorching water hit her skin for a very long time, letting it clean her and wash her nightmare away. When she got out, her skin was an angry red, and she almost felt sick as the heat got to her head, making the world spin around her. Wrapping herself in a fluffy towel, she got out of the bathroom in a hurry. Goose bumps broke on her skin when she was hit by the cool air of her apartment. Hurrying upstairs, she quickly got dressed, putting on the clothes she had picked for the day before going to sleep.

She made her bed quickly, not tucking the sheets properly. When she was done, she went downstairs again and settled down on her couch. She was exhausted, as she always was after such an intense nightmare but she wasn’t feeling sleepy and she still had a long time to go before work. She considered watching a movie on her computer but she was still dealing with the aftermath of her nightmare, meaning that getting her fingers anywhere near a keyboard was not an option. She turned to her bookshelf then and picked one without looking. It was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a book her bubbe used to read to her every night when she was a child. Smiling, Felicity opened it and started reading, out loud, filling the silence with her voice, keeping her demons at bay with the story of Charlie and Willy Wonka.

When her alarm broke off, she jumped in surprise and dropped the book, which fell at her feet. Picking it up, she put it back on her bookshelf and went to do her make-up, her headphones on. She was forcing herself to move to the rhythm of the music and humming the lyrics of the songs. It was a technique she had developed with her therapist. If she forced herself to think positive and be positive, the claws of her nightmare would loosen up from where they were still wrapped up tightly around her mind and heart. Felicity desperately wanted them to, she needed it for her own sanity, hence the dancing and singing although she was tired.

Cracking her neck, she sighed when she saw her reflection in the mirror. There were ugly purple bags under her eyes and she’d have to use a massive dose of concealer to hide them. Tying her hair in a high ponytail, she gave herself a nod, satisfied with her appearance. Wrapping her foulard around her neck, she put her coat on and grabbed her purse, leaving her apartment for the day. She drove to Sara’s coffee shop, which thankfully opened very early in the morning. She opened the door and smiled slightly as the scent of the place hit her, engulfing her in a warm and safe cocoon of familiarity.

“Well, someone look like they had a wild night last night,” Sara greeted her, a bright smile on her lips.

Felicity clenched her fist around the handle of her bag. It was one way to put things, yes. “You have no idea,” she replied, focusing on the menu she already knew by heart to prevent her thoughts from going back to her nightmare. The night was over, the sun was rising, another day was starting and she was safe.

“Wanna talk about it?” Sara offered. “Around a drink maybe?” She added, a small smile on her lips.

Felicity blinked, blushing as she thought she had misheard her.

“I am not asking you out,” Sara clarified then. “I’m not saying I don’t want to though, because you’re a very fine piece of woman but… You’re not into women, at least I don’t think so.”

Felicity chuckled letting out some of her nervousness. “Yeah, right.”

“But you’ve been here for more than a month now, and you don’t go out much. I just thought it’d be nice to go out, have you meet new people!”

Felicity smiled. Sara’s idea was a good one, she really needed to meet people older than three years old and not her boss’ family or acquaintances. “I’d love to go out with you,” she accepted.

“Great!” Sara smiled. “What about tonight?”

Felicity winced. “We’re going to have to take a rain check on that, I’m leaving for the weekend with Oliver tomorrow and I need to pack my things.” It took her two minutes to realise how her sentence sounded. “I mean, I am not leaving with him as in we’re going for a romantic escapade or something… We’re leaving for work. It’s business. Strictly platonic and professional business.”

Sara chuckled. “You’re so cute. I guess we’ll go out when you come back. When do you come back?”

“On Monday morning.”

“I’ll see you on Monday then,” Sara said, handing her her coffee and the slice of chocolate cake she had ordered.

Felicity nodded before leaving. The party at the Queen mansion two weeks ago had been a huge success. Oliver had really charmed Martin Walker, a potential investor for Q. Inc. That was why Walker had invited him to attend a few conferences in Coast City, where he lived. Because she was his EA, Felicity was going to tag along and accompany him. Although even if Oliver hadn’t wanted her to come with him, she’d have anyway because Walked had invited her specifically as well. They had had a nice talk at the party and she had apparently made quite an impression on him.

Aside from that, they had been really busy during the past two weeks. They had met Curtis Holt, the battery guy Felicity had really liked. He had been as brilliant in real life as he had seemed to be on paper, and it turned out he had more ideas in that genius mind of his than just the battery one. He had quit Palmer Technologies to follow his husband, who had gotten job in a very famous private clinic in Star City. Oliver being Oliver, he had told him he was really happy he had had to quit his job and apply at Q. Inc. He had hired him, of course, and Curtis had started working on his project, in a private lab because Oliver wanted to keep his activities secret from his parents. This was his company after all and as he had told Felicity, the more he ran it, the more he felt like it was his to do as he was pleased with and not only a mean to prove his parents he was worthy of his legacy. Felicity, who hadn’t heard from his mother ever since the party, had been relieved when he had told her that. She really didn’t want to have to deal with the Queen’s matriarch. She’d do it if she had to, but she really didn’t want to.

When she arrived at Q. Inc, Oliver wasn’t in his office yet. Checking her watch, she realised she was early. Groaning, she sat down behind her desk and started her computer. Then, she heard the bathroom door open and close. Getting up, she made her way to the bathroom and she saw a tall and skinny beautiful brunette walk out of it, wearing heels that made her legs seem to go on and on. Her hair was long and curly, falling perfectly down her shoulders. Her eyes fell on Felicity from behind her sunglasses. Taking them off, she arched a contemptuous eyebrow at Felicity.

“You must be the executive assistant,” she said, her tone cold, snobbish.

“You must be the Russian fiancée,” she replied, just as coldly, recognising Isabel Rochev from the pictures she had seen in Oliver’s office.

A flash of something crossed Isabel’s eyes. “I am his soulmate,” she corrected.

“Oliver didn’t say you were back from Russia or that you’d be here this morning,” Felicity explained, frowning in confusion.

“It was a last minute decision,” Isabel said, her tone colder than before, so much that Felicity had to shake back a shiver. “I travelled during the night.” Felicity’s eyes were caught by the beautiful engagement ring at her finger and the diamond on top of it. A ray of light got caught in it and was being reflected in Felicity’s eyes, blinding her. She winced, looking away. Isabel smirked proudly.

“I hope you had a good trip,” she said, unsettled by the woman’s attitude.

Felicity held out her hand for her to shake but instead of holding her hand out as well, Isabel Rochev put her thermos bottle in it.

“It was excellent thank you. Now, why don’t you go do your job and fill this?” She asked. “And while we’re at it, you might want to stay near the coffee maker for a while. I haven’t seen my fiancé in a very long time, our reunion will probably be,” she hesitated, looking for the right word, “noisy.” She chuckled, but it lacked any warmth. “But I guess I don’t have to explain that to you, you know what it is to have a soulmate.” She paused. “Or maybe you don’t.”

Felicity took a step back, feeling like she had just been slapped. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but found herself being too astonished to form a coherent sentence.

“Off you go,” Isabel said then, dismissing her with a wave of her.

Felicity turned around and left her mind on autopilot. It was only when the elevator doors open again and she stepped in the lab’s floor – they had the best coffee mark – that what just happened her.

“Cold bitch,” she yelled throwing Isabel’s thermos on a table angrily.

She closed her eyes, trying to chase the undesired images of Isabel Rochev and Oliver Queen doing wicked things to one another from her mind. It was her workplace for God’s sake! Surely, they could wait until they were back home before jumping each other. A pang of something she didn’t recognize tugged at her heart. Gasping, she brought a hand to her chest as she attempted to catch her breath. She didn’t know why but the mere idea of them being together, of doing things together made both her blood boil and feel sick. She felt both hurt and humiliated and she knew it made her look all flushed. Damn it! Why were all the women in his life acting bitchy around her? And how come someone like Oliver was bonded to someone like Isabel? How was it possible? Oliver was warm and kind and she was just a cold and mean bitch. Baring her teeth to keep from yelling, she hit the button of the coffee maker, instead of gently pressing it. The device roared to life and she got some coffee ready, her hands shaking slightly at the thought of what could be happening a floor above her head.

“You look like someone who’s having a bad day.”

Felicity look up and saw Curtis standing in the doorway.

“I am having a bad day,” she replied, reaching for the thermos and filling it with coffee.

“Come on, it has barely started,” Curtis argued.

“It has not, trust me,” she assured him walking toward the elevator. But then she stopped. She couldn’t go back upstairs, not after what Isabel had said. What if she walked in on them? Her fingers clenching around the thermos, she turned around, meetings Curtis’ concerned eyes.

“You okay?”

“I am gonna throw up,” she said, making her way toward the bathroom.

She locked the door behind her and headed straight for the sink. She opened the tap and splashed water on her face, hoping to cool down her heated cheeks and not caring if it ruined her make up. She didn’t know why she was reacting so badly to Isabel’s behaviour. Even Moira at the party had been meaner to her, more threatening than Isabel. And yet, there was something, something more repulsing, disgusting coming from the Russian woman. Felicity couldn’t explain what it was, but it was getting to her, big time. She felt personally offended by her presence, as if the woman didn’t belong here. It was stupid because it was her fiancée’s company. If anything, Felicity was the intruder.

She remained in the bathroom for half an hour. When she had calmed down, mostly, she got out and headed back to her floor, praying really hard to not walk on anything she wouldn’t be able to unsee. When she stared at Oliver’s office, she found him working on his computer.

“Felicity, there you are!” He said happily, smiling at her. “I was wondering where you were. Did you get stuck in traffic?”

She shook her head, confused. What was he talking about? “No, I’ve been here for at least forty-five minutes.”

He tilted his head. “Why were you hiding downstairs?”

She stared at him, blinking. His suit was perfectly in place, there was no wrinkles or creases. His hair was perfectly done, as it always was, his eyes clear blue, his cheeks not flushed, his skin not looking particularly heated.

“Felicity, this is me noticing you staring.”

“I ran into Isabel and she asked to go get her coffee,” she waved at the thermos in her hand. “And then she said, well she rather implied that you and she were going to, that you…” Her words died on her lips and Oliver frowned.

“That we were?”

“That… Youhadn’tseeneachotherinawhileandyouweregoingtodofunnybusinessintheoffice,” she blurted out really quickly.

“Excuse me, was that supposed to be a sentence?”

“Sex Oliver!” She snapped, suddenly, dropping the thermos on his desk. “She said the two of you were going to have sex! And honestly, I don’t care, you love her, she loves you, it’s beautiful, congratulations on the bonding guys, but I really think that we need to establish rules. No sex in the office. This is my workplace as well and I don’t want to have to fear walking in on my naked boss.”

Oliver blinked several times, repeatedly processing her words vomit. “I don’t have sex with Isabel,” he confessed. “Here,” he added quickly when Felicity gave him a look. “I don’t have sex with Isabel, here. No, no, no, big NO! No funny business here, just business.”

She stared at him suspiciously. “You promise?”

He gave her a smile. “As long as you do the same,” he said.

She blushed furiously. “What? Oh no worry on that front, I don’t do funny business. Nope! Thanks, but no thanks!”

Oliver chuckled.

“I think that’s too much information Felicity,” Dig informed her.

She jumped in surprise, startled. “You’re here too?”

He nodded. “And I promise that I won’t do funny business here either,” he teased her, winking at Oliver when Felicity’s cheeks became a scarlet red.

“So you met Isabel?” Oliver asked, moving on.

She nodded but didn’t say anything about her bitchy behaviour. She’d handle it herself, the same way she had planned to handle his mother.

“Yes, why was she here? You didn’t tell me she was coming back from Russia.”

“It wasn’t planned,” Oliver confessed. “You know we’re going to meet with Martin Walker this weekend?”

Felicity nodded. How could she have forgotten about that?

“Well, he is very much into soulmates and when I was younger I wasn’t. My parents thought it would be a good idea if I took my soulmate with me for this trip. It’d help me prove me how much I’ve changed.”

That made sense and it would also prove Martin that he and Oliver had more in common than what he thought. “Yours parents suggested it?” She asked. “You said you wanted to keep them away from Q. Inc’s business.”

“I do! But I couldn’t really hide from them I was going to be out of the city for the weekend now, could I?”

“You might have a point here,” she conceded. “So, Isabel’s going to come with us?”

Oliver nodded. “Is that okay?”

She shrugged. “Sure.”

His blue eyes searched for hers but she looked away, walking out of his office as she spoke. “We should go over the weekend’s program.”

And they did go over it. Their plane, QC’s jet, was leaving Star City’s airport at seven and a half am the next morning and they’d arrive at Coast City before eleven. A driver would take them to their hotel, where they’d leave their things and change. They were invited for lunch by Martin Walker in a famous restaurant of the city on Saturday and after that they’d go with him to the main conference of the weekend, which would take place at the university. It was going to be about global warming and renewable resources. Then, there would be a cocktail party and after that they’d have dinner at Walker’s place, with his family. On Sunday afternoon, they’d attend a conference about new technologies and Martin would make another speech then. They’d be free after that but they weren’t going to go back to Star City before the next morning, Oliver had said he wanted to enjoy his time in Coast City, he hadn’t left Star City in a very long while.

When Felicity came back home that day, she collapsed on her couch, exhausting from her sleepless night and her long day at work hit her, hard. Closing her eyes for a second, she willed herself to get up and do what she had to do. She packed her things for the weekend and reheated leftovers for her dinner. She got a text from Iris as she was eating and debating whether or not to take the cute yellow dress she had recently bought.

--

“7:58 pm

JJ wants you to bring him a souvenir from Coast City.

IW-A”

--

Felicity smiled at that.

“8:00 pm

What does he want?

FS”

--

“8:05

A postcard will do. He is making a collection of them.

IW-A”

--

“8:07

Got it!

FS”

--

Getting up from her couch, Felicity went to bed, collapsing between her sheets. She turned the lamp on her bedside table on and lied on her back, staring at the ceiling. She was exhausted, she could feel the tiredness pull at her muscles, she almost felt sore, as she always felt after a violent nightmare followed by no time to rest and recover. Her mind felt tired too. She had tried to stay positive all day long, but knowing that she was going to spend two entire days with Oliver and his lovely soulmate was killing her. She didn’t know what she’d do if Isabel pulled a stunt like she had in the morning. She was nervous and anxious and her nightmare from the night before wasn’t helping her feeling any better. It was still pressing at the edge of her mind, threatening to take her back again and drown her in the dark depths of her memory. Sighing, she turned on her side and closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing, letting happy memories fill her. Her hands automatically came to her invisible soulmark, stroking the smooth skin there lightly. She felt her caged bond press and tug at her heart to the point of pain. She bit on her lips. She’d rather face the void in her soul than the demons in her head.

 


 

When she woke up, she was feeling numb, her head was spinning. She blinked several times, hoping that the darkness would disappear.

Where was she? How long had she been there? Why was it so dark? Why wasn’t there any sounds? Why had he taken her?

Her cheeks burnt, where her tears had rolled down and dried on her skin. She could feel the cold metal of the bed she was still tied to press against her naked spine. The bastard had taken off her shirt, but not her bra or her jeans.

She tried to move and cried out in pain. She could feel how sore her wrists and ankles were, she could feel the torn flesh and dried blood she had drawn out by dint of struggling against the metallic handcuffs he had used to tie her up. She couldn’t see but she knew the skin there was bruised, raw. She felt a throb coming from her ribs.

And in a second everything came back to her.

The pain. The blood. His knife.

His mad words as he had carved his mark on her body.

“I know it hurts, but it won’t last.”

“Soon you’ll be mine.”

“We are meant for one another.”

“I’m just giving you my mark.”

“We’ll bear it for eternity.”

 


 

Felicity woke up from her nightmare with a gasp, all her senses on alert. She looked around her, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

Safe, she was safe.

Heat was coming from her scar on her ribs, she could feel it pulse as her chest went up and down in synch with her erratic breathing. She swallowed back a sob but couldn’t do anything to prevent the tears from falling for her eyes. Stream of salty water went down her cheeks, burning her skin. All her limbs were shaking as his voice echoed in her head.

“Soon, you’ll be mine.”

She clenched her fists, digging her nails in the skin of her hands, knowing she was going to leave crescent shaped marks there.

“I just want to give you my mark.”

Getting up from her bed, she made her way downstairs on wobbly legs. She felt like she couldn’t breathe, like she was suffocating.

He wouldn’t shut up. His freaking voice wouldn’t leave her in peace!

Yanking the window open, she took a gulp of fresh air, letting the evening cool breeze bite her skin. She closed her eyes and stood like that for a while, waiting until the panic that was filling her veins receded completely. She closed the window then, lying her forehead on the cool glass, settling her breathing down even more.

Safe, she was safe.

Staring at the clock, she groaned when she saw it was a bit more than four in the morning.

Feeling exhausted but knowing that she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, Felicity decided to get ready for the day. She went in the shower and pressed her forehead against the wall as she let the steaming water undo the knots in her body. She could have fallen asleep, hadn’t she been too scared to close her eyes. She hadn’t had two nightmares in a row in a very long time. She didn’t know what caused them but she could guess. It was probably because she was feeling stressed. Her life had changed a lot in the course of the last few weeks. Maybe this was payback for everything she had put herself through. She thought about giving a call to Doctor Hamilton. She was the therapist she had seen for a few months and she was the person who had helped her deal with the trauma and her PTSD. They were still in contact, in spite of Felicity moving on the other side of the country. Doctor Hamilton had really helped her deal with everything that had happened to her, she had pulled her out of the hole she had been after she had left the hospital. Felicity was better, thanks to her. Unfortunately, there were just some things that even a doctor as good as Doctor Hamilton couldn’t heal. There were some things she couldn’t help Felicity with. Because there were some parts of her mind and soul that couldn’t be fixed by a therapy. They needed a special kind of healing, a soulmate’s touch. A touch that Felicity was never going to get so what was the point of calling Doctor Hamilton? She’d tell her to stop taking the Med and it was not something Felicity was willing to consider. She’d get herself out of this mess alone, she didn’t need anyone else’s help, especially not the help of a guy who had never cared about her.

Felicity took a cab to go to the airport and arrived half an hour earlier. She met Oliver, Isabel and Dig at the rendezvous point they had picked. The two men greeted her warmly whereas Isabel shook her hand so tightly, Felicity was pretty sure she was actually trying to break her bones.

“Are you okay?” Oliver asked as they were walking toward the plane. “You look tired,” he added.

She gave him a small smile. “I am fine,” she lied.

He frowned and she could see he didn’t believe her. But he didn’t push and she was grateful for it. Oliver had a way of watching her, his blue eyes had a way of solely focusing on her that made it really hard for her to lie to him.

They got in the plane, Oliver and Isabel sitting down next to each other naturally, hands in hands. Felicity sat next to Diggle, in front of them, a headache caused by the lack of sleep starting to make her head throb.

“You okay?” Dig asked.

She nodded, but her mind wasn’t there.

“You don’t have to be afraid, Felicity. I am not going to hurt you.”

She clenched her fists.

“I am fine.”

He nodded and they spent the rest of the flight talking about his soulmate, Lyla, and their one year old son, John Diggle Junior. Diggle and Lyla had met in the army and bonded immediately. They had come back from war together but without John’s brother Andy, who had died in Afghanistan, and had helped each other dealing with the damages violence and blood had inflected them. If Doctor Hamilton had heard that, she would have been proud of them. Now four years later, Lyla was working for a federal agency and Diggle was Oliver’s bodyguard. He had been hired to protect him right after Oliver had gotten out of the hospital, after his car accident. They had grown very close to the point where Diggle had asked Oliver to be the godfather of his son, John Junior.

“Everyone calls the little guy Jay though,” Dig added, showing her picture of a cute little boy with messy hair and a bright toothless smile.

“Just like everyone calls you Dig.”

He nodded. “Exactly.”

She held him his phone back and his eyes caught the bracelet she was wearing. It was an arrow, a little reminded of her gone soulmark.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “But why an arrow?” He asked and she tensed up. Oliver, who had been busy showing things on his tablet at Isabel looked up from the screen and stared at her.

She shrugged. “I just like arrows,” she replied before adding her bracelet under her flannel shirt again.

Oliver got back to his tablet after that, his expression unreadable. Diggle and Felicity talked some more, until the plane landed. Then, Diggle went to help their taxi driver put their luggage in the car’s trunk. Felicity tried to protest, to argue she could carry her own stuff alone, but internally, she was relieved. She felt really tired, her headache was getting worse as time passed and Diggle’s muscles looked way more capable than hers to lift heavy weights. Not that Felicity travelled heavily, unlike some other cold bitch she wouldn’t name…

They made it to the hotel where they had around an hour to get ready before they lunch with Martin Walker. When they arrived at the hotel, Felicity’s jaw nearly dropped. Never in her life had she stayed in a five-stars hotel before. Everything was just so luxurious, the doorman, the bell-boys, everyone was waiting on hand and foot around them and it was just too much for Felicity. She quickly realised it was what travelling with Oliver Queen meant and if she was going to keep working with him, she’d have to get used to it. Quickly.

Her bedroom was immense, ten Felicitys could easily fit in the room. The couch looked perfectly comfortable, the bed downright amazing. Even the carpets looked fluffy enough to sleep on them without waking up with backaches. Sighing, she got the dress she had picked for the occasion out of her travel bag and went to the bathroom, which could probably welcome five more Felicitys, and got ready. She undid her make-up completely and did it again, trying her best to hide the marks left by her two sleepless nights. She took an aspirin for her headache and rubbed her temples with the tips of her fingers lightly, trying to loosen the pressure currently exerted in her skull.

Satisfied with her appearance, she got out of her room and met Oliver and Diggle in the hotel’s lobby.

“Where’s Isabel?” She asked, holding her trench above her arm.

“Still getting ready,” Oliver explained, staring at her intensely.

She shifted, suddenly feeling ill-at-ease. “What?” She asked, her tone more defensive than it usually was.

“Your dress is… pink,” he told her. “It’s very pink.”

She frowned. “What’s wrong with pink?” She looked down to her dress. “Oh my god, do I look like a marshmallow? That’s it! I look like a freaking marshmallow. You can say it, go on, I can take it. Damn, I knew I should have picked the yellow dress,” she complained, biting down on her lower lip.

“Felicity,” Oliver said, one of his hands landing on her shoulder to calm her down. “You’re the only person I know who can pull out a dress that pink with so much panache and elegance.” Smiling, he added. “And you do look like a marshmallow. But it is a very nice and very edible marshmallow.” She froze and he paused, his mind catching up with what he had just said. “I didn’t mean it that way. Damn, what are you doing to me? Three weeks ago I’d have never said anything like that.”

She chuckled, remembering all too well the countless times she had made sexual innuendos in front of him. One of the most memorable ones was the time they had been debating what to have for lunch and Oliver had refused categorically to order “greasy and unhealthy food” arguing that he was “very particular” with what it was he put in his body, to what she had replied “I noticed. I said not noticed right?” Because, she had totally noticed. Oliver was a very good-looking man, wearing button-up shirts that did really nice things to his abs, tailor pants that did even nicer things to his tight butt, and ties that always brought out his very blue eyes. She knew she was his employee but she was a young woman, first and foremost. Women could not be exposed to so much perfection and just not noticed.

A throat being cleared behind them was what took Oliver’s hand away from her shoulder. She held back a shiver, immediately missing his warmth. They turned around and saw Isabel staring at them, a strange look in her eyes, her arms crossed over her chest. Oliver walked to her and kissed on her cheek before offering her his arms and leading her to the car Martin Walker had sent them.

Felicity had never stayed in a five-stars hotel. She had never eaten in a five-stars restaurant either. Today was obviously a day of firsts for her. That day, they were having lunch with Walker, his wife and a few of his associates, meaning the meal was spent talking business. Felicity listened more than she talked. Tiredness was taking its toll on her and she was trying to save her strength for later. She’d have to be fully functional during the conference that afternoon, given that she’d have to take down notes. She felt like a hammer was using her brain as its personal anvil, but yet she did her best to listen to what was being said. She could feel Isabel’s eyes on her and she didn’t want to give the woman any more reasons to hate her. It wasn’t that hard to focus on Walker’s words though. He was a man in his mid-forties, who had been married to his soulmate for almost twenty years. Father of three, he felt truly concerned with the world’s situation and where it was going. He was a very selfless man, full of ideals and principles, two things Felicity appreciated and valued immensely.

They left for the conference around one and a half pm. Martin drove with them, explaining that he had help organised the conference as he partly worked at Coast City’s university. His relations and connections with the business world had helped him get important people to come, just like his relations and connections with the science world had helped him.

The auditorium was already very much crowded when they arrived and unfortunately, Martin had to leave them, as he was supposed to make the first speech of the day. Isabel, Oliver and Felicity sat down and the blonde got her tablet out of her purse, ready to take down notes.

“How are you going to take notes on something that small?” Oliver whispered in her ear.

“Watch and learn Mr Queen,” she replied as they shut down the lights in the room. She tensed up immediately as they were plunged into darkness. Oliver who was sitting right next to her felt it immediately.

“What’s wrong? Scared of the dark?” He teased her.

She gulped.

“I am just giving you my mark.”

“We’ll bear it for eternity.”

“Something like that,” she replied, doing her best to shut her memories down.

His whole demeanour changed at her words as she felt him grow more concerned. “Are you gonna be okay?” He asked her.

She nodded, letting out a small breath when a screen was turned on, enlightening the room. Walker walked on stage, a single spotlight focused on him. He made a vibrant and powerful speech about the importance of realising that changings needed to happen now and not in a year or two. Now. Then he let scientists and specialists go on stage, as well as businessmen. They talk about global warming and renewable sources, Tamara Anderson even came on to talk about wind energy and her new windmills.

“She’ll be at Walker’s tonight, for dinner,” Oliver whispered in Felicity’s ears.

“Get your flirty game up,” she told him.

“You do realise that my soulmate is sitting next to me, right?”

Felicity contorted herself to take a peek at Isabel. She was lost on whatever it was she was reading on her phone.

“She looks busy,” she said, shrugging.

There was a questions/answers session after the presentation. Oliver had a few of his own, Felicity had written them down as he had whispered them to her during the presentation and she had added two of her own. The debate was animated and serious, minds and opinions clashing. When the conference was over, it was time to move to the small cocktail party. And Oliver and Felicity went on a mission, talking to all the people, scientists, engineers and businessmen who shared Oliver’s vision and opinions. It was the whole point of his journey after all: securing things with Walker, meeting new people, and building contacts. Just like at the party at the Queen mansion, Oliver didn’t let Felicity drink alcohol. She didn’t protest, though she could have. Her headache was still very much present, making it hard for her to focus on what was being said. She wasn’t going to let anything else affect her senses.

She stood by Oliver’s side for two hours, without ever complaining or wincing, in spite of her heels killing her feet, exhaustion pulling at her muscles and her head throbbing painfully. She kept smiling and answering in the best way possible to the questions she was being asked, the conversation keeping her mind away from her nightmares from the previous nights. Isabel, who stood close to Oliver, with one of his arms wrapped tightly around her chest, watched her carefully during the evening and she hated every second of it, without ever making the mistake of showing it to her. She felt scrutinised, spied on but she ignored her the best she could.

At some point, she went to the bathroom. She was about to exit it when the door was pulled open and Isabel Rochev walked in, as if she owned the place.

She made a small sound of disdain when she saw Felicity before walking toward a mirror, pulling out a make-up bag out of her purse.

“Felicity Meghan Smoak,” she said, applying a mascara to her already perfectly painted eyelashes.

Gritting her feet, she turned around. “Yes Miss Rochev?”

“I can see what you’re doing, Miss Smoak, I am not blind.”

Felicity arched an eyebrow. “And what am I doing exactly?”

Isabel put her mascara back in her clutch and took out lipstick instead. “You’re doing your best to impress my fiancé and all the people out there. You’re trying so hard to be looked at and appreciated, it’s almost pathetic.”

Felicity rolled her eyes. “I am just trying to do my job. I am trying to help Oliver and maybe you’d do that as well if you weren’t so wrapped up around yourself.”

Isabel put her lipstick back in her purse and turned around to face Felicity, her lips now a bloody red. “One day, Oliver will realise what a big mistake you were. I wouldn’t get too comfortable around here Miss Smoak, you’re not meant to stay.”

She left Felicity before the blonde could add anything else. Leaning down against the door, she closed her eyes, revelling in the mostly silent bathroom. She did her best not to give any importance to Isabel’s words. Just like Moira, for some reasons she didn’t know about, she seemed to hate her and to be desperate to never see her again. But in the meantime, she felt so tired and so emotional, she couldn’t help but feel hurt. What had she done to deserve to be treated like that? She had thought that she fit in Star City, that she belonged there. The feeling of familiarity which came along with the city had comforted her, made her feel that way even more. But what if she had been wrong? What if it had been all a lie? What if she didn’t fit? She had started to have nightmares again after all. Maybe it wasn’t just because she had been pushing herself lately. Maybe it was because she was losing her way by staying somewhere it was obvious she was not wanted.

Her phone buzzing got her out of her thoughts.

--

“6:56 pm

We’re leaving, where are you?

OQ”

--

She took a deep breath to settle her emotions down before walking out of the bathroom a brave mask plastered on her face. She was Felicity Meghan Smoak and she’d resist to Isabel Rochev the same way she had resisted to Mandy Miller in high-school: by being strong.

They went back to their hotel to freshen up and change again before having dinner at Martin Walker’s house. Felicity took a shower and traded her bright pink dress for a black one, much simpler. She let her hair down and free and walked out of her, meeting with Diggle in the lobby.

“Oliver and Isabel aren’t here yet?” She asked.

He shook his head. “You okay Felicity?” He asked, looking concerned. “You look exhausted.”

She shrugged the question off because she had seen Oliver and Isabel walk out of the elevator. She was wearing a red sexy dress, with a split on the side that exposed inches of smooth skin and her perfectly shaped thigh, something that Felicity would most definitely never have.

The drive to Walker’s house was spent in silence. Felicity stared at the city through the window and neither Oliver nor Isabel made an attempt at saying anything. The atmosphere was heavy, the tension so thick Felicity could have cut it with a knife. She didn’t know why though and was too tired to care. All she wanted to do was crawl up in bed and forget everything about the last few hours.

Walker and his family were leaving in a gorgeous beach house, with a pool almost as beautiful as the Queen’s. His house was big and entirely environmentally friendly, something he took great pleasure explaining to his guests.

When they sat down for dinner, Felicity found herself between Oliver and Walker’s oldest daughter. She was fifteen and despite being used to business dinners and the presence of guests in her home, she was reserved and quiet. The conversation started with the conference of the day, people going back to what had been said during the questions/answers session. Then it moved towards the conference from the following day and they all talked about their expectations. It was really interesting, Felicity wasn’t doubting it but she just wasn’t there. She was feeling so tired, and her headache wasn’t going away. She just wanted to go to sleep but she had to hold on, just a little bit longer. And Oliver’s presence right next to her didn’t help.

She knew he knew something was off with her. He had noticed it in the morning when they had met at the airport. He hadn’t pushed her to talk but she knew he’d seen something was wrong. And she also knew he worried about her. She had felt his eyes on her more often than not throughout the day, watching her, checking on her. It was really nice of him but she didn’t need that. She didn’t need him to worry about her or to wonder if she was okay. She didn’t need him to offer to comfort her or anything. She could take care of herself alone.

While they were eating desert, someone asked about Walker and his wife and the story of how they’d met.

“We almost didn’t meet because her father was a member of an anti-soulmate’s group,” Walker explained. “That’s why I am fundamentally against the Med. It’s a heresy.” He turned toward Oliver. “What about you Mr Queen, I heard that you used to be a part of an anti-soulmate group as well, along with some of your friends.”

Oliver nodded. “That’s correct. But I never took the Med though, I never wanted to be cut off from my soulmate, and I never will,” he added, reaching for Isabel’s hand. He held it tightly but his blue eyes lacked any real warmth and his tone sounded fake to Felicity’s ears.

“What about you Tamara, what do you think?” Walker asked.

“I think I don’t have time for a soulmate,” she explained. “I am too busy with my company.”

“Fair enough,” Walker said. “I won’t lie to you and say that I am not a fervent supporter of Mr Rollins’ law concerning the distribution of the Med.”

Felicity tilted her head. As someone who took the Med on a daily basis, she kept herself connected to the news related to it. Mr Rollins was a powerful and influent man who had started a campaign asking for the Med to only be given to those who had gotten a prescription from a doctor. Basically, it meant that only people like Felicity’s mother, people close to losing their sanity, were going to be allowed to take the Med. When Mr Rollins had started his campaign, Felicity hadn’t been worried but now she was. He was becoming more and more influent every day and had strong people supporting him.

“So you’d vote to take away people’s right to choose?” She asked, her tone casual.

Everyone turned toward her, eyebrows arched in surprise. She hadn’t spoken a lot during the meal.

Walker tilted his head. “There is no choice to make Miss Smoak. Your soulmate is who you’re destined to be with.”

“Well, some people want to have the choice and the Med can give them that. The choice. It’d be unfair to take it away from them, don’t you think? Because, you know, sometimes it’s not about wanting to be with your soulmate but about being able to be with them,” she explained, her cheeks reddening as people kept staring at her, one pair of blue eyes more intense on her than others.

“Felicity, may I ask you how old you are?” Walked said.

“I turned twenty a few months ago,” she replied softly.

He smiled. “You’re just too young my dear, but when you live as long as I have with your soulmate then you’ll realise there’s nothing soulmates can’t overcome.”

Felicity though about her mother, who had been abandoned by her father but held back her snarky comment. The night wasn’t about soulmates, it was about business.

It was almost midnight when they got back to the hotel. Felicity’s mind was solely focused on her bed and sleeping for nine uninterrupted hours. She got ready for bed but when she lied in between the soft sheets, she found herself unable to close her eyes. She tossed, she turned trying to find a comfortable position but nothing was doing the trick. The monster wasn’t in her bed, it was in her head. She couldn’t sleep because she was too scared. Scared of having another nightmare, scared of having to go through the pain again. She couldn’t close her eyes, afraid that the darkness would swallow her and keep her.

She hadn’t really slept when her alarm went off. She had put her headphones in her ears and had listened to music, her mind zoning out from time to time but never really resting, never getting its strength back. She was weakened, both physically and mentally exhausted. She could feel her bad thought, her dark memories, pressing at the doors of her conscience.

“I know it hurts but it won’t last.”

“Soon you’ll be mine.”

“Just SHUT UP!” She yelled, throwing the shoe she had been putting on across the room. It knocked a vase off a shelf. Fortunately enough, it fell on the carpet and didn’t break.

“I am just giving you my mark.”

She pulled her head between her legs, pulling at her hair tightly, tears rolling down her cheeks. It was exhaustion. Everything was caused by her exhaustion. If she could sleep just one night, if she could just rest, she’d be able to shut the voice down. She just needed to sleep.

Taking a shaky breath, she got on her feet and went to get her shoe. She put it on, the heels killing her already sore feet, pulling at the muscles of her legs, which protested by shaking. She straightened her spine. She could do this, she knew she could. She had handled her mother and her demons, she could handle her own. She could do this.

Walking out of her room, she went to meet Oliver, Diggle and, the thought made her cringe, Isabel. But when she walked in the eating room, the bitch was nowhere to be seen. The moment she entered the room, Oliver’s blue eyes travelled to hers and he smiled happily at her from behind his cup of coffee. She smiled back and made her way to them, sitting down next to Dig as she was expecting Isabel to come down at any moment.

“You okay?” Oliver asked, handing her a cup of coffee.

God, the man was a mind reader! A huge cup of strong coffee was the thing she needed most right now.

“I am fine,” she replied bringing the cup to her lips and drinking half of the black and steaming beverage in a one go. She’d need a lot of caffeine in her system if she wanted to survive the day. “You?” She asked, finishing her drink and filling herself another cup.

“Yes, everything’s fine,” he told her, pushing the sugar towards her, knowing she liked her coffee with more sugar than actual coffee.

“Where’s Isabel?” She wondered, looking around to see if the cold woman was coming down.

“Something came up, she had to leave and go back to Russia,” Oliver explained. There was something in his eyes, something weird but she was too tired to identify it. She just assumed he was annoyed his soulmate had to leave so quickly.

“During the night?” She couldn’t help but ask, a “Is she insane?” very much implied.

“Yes during the night, now can we talk about something else?” He said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “Hey are you sure that you want to do this?” He asked as she was trying to add more coffee to her already dangerously full cup.

“Drink coffee? Yes, why?”

“It’s going to be your third cup,” he pointed out. “You might want to slow down.”

She shook her head. “I am tired.”

He tilted his head in question, worry filling her eyes. “You already were tired yesterday,” he stated.

Again, she shook her head, and said reluctantly. “No, you said that I looked tired. I told you I was fine.” She was well-aware her tone was cold, slightly aggressive and she really felt sorry for it. Oliver wasn’t responsible for her bad mood and sleepless nights, it was unfair to take her frustration out on him.

“I am sorry,” she apologised quickly. “I am just really tired. But let the monster drink as much coffee as it wants and you should be fine,” she added, in an attempt at making him smile.

When his lips stretched slightly, she gave herself an internal nod of approval.

The day went smoothly after that. They met with the Walkers for brunch and then they all went to the last conference of the weekend. It was a shorter one but just as interesting as the one from the previous days. Oliver had a private meeting with Walker then and when he walked out of it, he was grinning so brightly and so stupidly, Felicity snapped a picture and sent it to Tommy and Thea.

They parted ways with the Walkers then, thanking them for a very interesting weekend and promising to stay in touch. Then, they enjoyed the rest of their day in Coast City. Oliver insisted on going to the beach, and so they did. Felicity took off her heels and they strolled along the coast, Diggle right next to them, exchanging stories from their past. Felicity was the quietest one, because she was feeling tired and because Oliver told stories so well, it would have been a shame to prevent him from speaking. They ate dinner in a small pizzeria, Oliver paid as he almost always did when they were eating together, something Felicity fight over with him all the time. But not today, she didn’t have it in her and he smirked at her when she didn’t bat an eyelid when he took his wallet out.

They went back to the hotel after that and Felicity bid them goodnight and thanked them for the amazing day they had had when they reached their floor. Oliver and Diggle left together, apparently they had a game of Star City’s basketball team to catch up with. Felicity took a long and hot shower before going to be, hoping that the hot water would help her relax enough to sleep.

And it did, somehow. She slept for two hours. Only to wake up after another nightmare.

Except it had been a different one. It had been less intense than the other meaning that as soon as she had recognised the darkness and silence suffocating her she had been able to yank herself out of the dream. She had never been able to do that. She had never been able to get out of a nightmare before but this time she had and it meant so much to her. It was progress. It had to be.

Taking deep breaths, she focused on the memories from the day, the beach, Dig’s smile, Oliver’s voice and felt the last remnants of panic withdraw. She needed fresh air in spite of feeling better. She needed to feel that she was free to move, that she wasn’t tied to anything. So, she reached for her short boots, and put them on, as well as a hoodie, her scarf and a beanie. Her hair was damp with sweat and the evening’s air was cool. She wasn’t going to risk to catch a cold. Her copy of Charlie safely tucked in her pockets, she made her up to the rooftop of the hotel where she knew were a pool, deckchairs and a mini-bar. She had no interest in the mini-bar and went to lie down on a deckchair, staring at the pool’s water, which was bright and enlightened by small lamps underwater with fascination.

“Felicity.”

Her heart skipped a beat. She turned on her side, curling herself up around her. No, no, no. She was wide awake, she had gotten out of the nightmare. It was over, she was okay.

“Felicity.”

No, no, no.

Darkness. Silence. Metal. A sharp blade. Hot blood.

“Felicity?”

She yelped when someone touched her and she would have probably tumbled to the floor if the hand on her shoulder hadn’t tightened its grip to hold her still.

“I am sorry,” Oliver said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Blue met blue and she took a deep breath as warmth spread in her body from where he was touching her, as his voice filled her ears and covered the one torturing her, silencing it more efficiently than the music she listened to or the sound of water hitting the shower’s floor.

“It’s nothing,” she assured him, sitting down on the deckchair. Oliver sat down in front of her, his head cocked, his blue eyes solely focused on her, in that special way of his that made her skin tingle.

“What are you doing here?” She asked casually, as if it wasn’t three in the morning and she wasn’t sitting down on the rooftop of a five stars hotel with her boss staring at her intently. She lied back down on her side, facing him. His eyes followed hers.

He shrugged. “I couldn’t sleep. You?”

She looked down toward her hands, her eyes focusing on her nails painted a bright red. “I couldn’t sleep either,” she confessed.

“But you were tired,” he objected.

She tangled her fingers together, knowing exactly what he was doing, feeling it in her bones. He was asking the questions he had been holding back ever since he had seen her at the airport the day before. The questions he had been holding back the previous day and during the day as well. The questions she hadn’t wanted to hear, filled with concern she didn’t need.

“Felicity,” he said, his low and steady voice a command for her to look up and meet his eyes. Oliver, she had realised, spoke a lot with his eyes. They conveyed different and subtle shades of emotions for those who paid attention. And Felicity paid attention. “Please, tell me what’s wrong,” he said, determination meddling with the concern and worry storming in his blue orbs.

“It’s nothing,” she said, a lump forming in her throat. “Just a nightmare,” she quickly added, turning her head away so that he wouldn’t see the tears that were flooding her eyes.

“Felicity, it doesn’t look like it’s nothing,” he told her, his tone patient but firm, one of his hands reaching out to hold hers. “Does it happen often?”

She shook her head, a tear rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t know how he had done it, but in a minute he had pierced all her defences, leaving her emotions raw and throbbing in her chest. “Not that often,” she assured him, wiping at her eyes with her scarf. “I am sorry,” she added. “I usually don’t cry but… I am just really, really tired.”

“Felicity, how often does that happen?”

She shook her head, still avoiding his gaze. “I like to say it’s like the tide. It comes and goes. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming and sometimes it’s not.”

“What is it about?” He asked softly and she froze immediately at his words, her fingers clenching around his hand, all her muscles tensing up.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said hurriedly and his hand squeezed hers.

“What do you want then?”

Finally, she looked up from their joined hands, his big and toned, hers, small and white and met his eyes. She saw certainty shine look back at her and she knew in that moment that no matter what’s she asked for, he would give it to her in a heartbeat.

“I know it’s unprofessional but…” She hesitated for a split second. “Can you give me a hug?”

He gave her a small smile before getting on his feet. She started moving.

“Don’t move,” he told her.

Frowning, she obeyed nonetheless and remained on her side. He went around her deckchair and lied down on his side as well, behind her. He wrapped his arms around her, engulfing her in his warmth, his scent, hot and most definitely male surrounding her, stopping her tears. She felt him press a short kiss on the top of her head but it was so short, she thought she had imagined it.

It was remarkable how a simple contact with another human being could make things better. Felicity didn’t know how he felt, but the moment they were settled down, she felt good again, the coil in her body loosening up. She couldn’t hear his voice in her head, just his breathing in her ear. She couldn’t see the darkness anymore, just his joined hands as they met in front of her. She closed her eyes, letting his presence comfort her.

It was truly remarkable, the power of a simple hug, she thought before succumbing to the darkness.

Chapter Text

 Chapter 6:

“I pick my poison and it’s you

Nothing could kill me like you do

You’re going straight for my head

And I am heading straight for the edge.”

- Rita Ora, Poison

 

 

Felicity felt the caress of the sun on her face before she actually opened her eyes. Turning around, she buried herself in her pillow, enjoying her last minutes of slumber peacefully, feeling both content and sated. She went after her dream, chasing it, her heart aching at the thought of it. She wanted to catch it and hold it close to herself forever. It had been a beautiful dream, the kind of dream she hadn’t had in a while. She couldn’t remember it clearly, only sensations like the caress of the wind on her cheek, the blinding clarity of the light, warm hands exploring her body making her feel both safe and cherished. She turned on her other side, a happy smile spreading on her lips. Stretching lazily, she opened her eyes, humming contently. Today was going to be a really good day, she could feel it in her bones.

Her alarm broke off and she happily got out of bed, cheerfulness kicking in her veins. She padded towards the bathroom and started the shower, not feeling like going out for a run. Things had changed for her ever since she had had her last series of nightmares. She had fallen asleep in Oliver’s arms, something she couldn’t quite explain and she didn’t even want to try. There was just something about him that connected to her. And that night, on the rooftop of their hotel, he had made feel safe enough and she had been able to fall asleep. The next morning, she had woken up at noon, comfortably tucked in her bed. He had brought her back and at first, she had felt very embarrassed but in the morning, he had acted like it was no big deal, simply telling her he had been happy to help. And then things had changed. She had been afraid to go to sleep the following night, fearing her demons would come back to haunt her. They hadn’t, to her biggest surprise. Now, she hadn’t a nightmare in almost two weeks and she felt immensely better. Something had shifted inside, she couldn’t pinpoint what neither why nor how but she knew it had. She felt lighter, happier.

During their little trip out of town, and because of Moira’s disdain toward her and Isabel’s obvious hostility, Felicity had felt like maybe she didn’t fit by Oliver’s side, maybe she wasn’t made to work with him. She had been proven wrong in the simplest way when they had returned. Things had indeed just gotten back into place, as if they hadn’t attended the party at the Queen mansion where his mother had insulted him, as if they had never gone on a trip with his cold fiancée. They had gone back to being Oliver and Felicity and it had been all the reassurance she had needed. He called her messy and she called him fussy at least ten times per day. They weren’t able to agree on where to eat lunch and often had to pick a place by playing rock-paper-scissors. They teased one another and bickered over silly things, like his habit of ordering her highlighters by shades or her tendency to ramble and get lost in whatever it was she was trying to tell him. He still turned to her for help whenever Curtis was updating him on his next improvement – the guy was awesome but could never completely get rid of a tech language and she still asked him a lot of questions about the business side of things. They made a good team and Felicity wouldn’t let his mother’s attitude or his soulmate’s rudeness ruined what they had.

The night on the rooftop changed many things, and one of them ended up being their friendship. They hadn’t talked about it, but what had happened that night had been huge for Felicity. She had never relied really on anyone’s for help, never trusting anyone completely to let them take care for her. But she had let Oliver hug her and hold her, she had even cried in front of him and it had been something. She hadn’t told him what had happened to her, and she never would, it was her burden to bear, but she had opened up. Slightly. And there was more to the story. They had shared an intimate moment. His arms had been wrapped up around her, his hands had been holding hers, she had been pressed to his chest when he had carried her to bed. They hadn’t talked about it but it had been intimate. Now she knew why the both of them hadn’t addressed the topic openly. It had been intimate, yes, but in the meantime, it hadn’t meant anything. He was engaged to his soulmate and they were going to get married soon. They were just friends and really, it was fine with her. Furthermore, she had a feeling they were going to become even greater friends.

It had already started actually. They always ate lunch together, with Dig either sitting with them or watching them from afar, his dark eyes unreadable. Sometimes people joined them, such as Tommy or co-workers from Q. Inc. But most of the time they were alone and filled the silence with easy talking about anything. Their favourite thing to do was playing twenty questions and each of them always tried to come up with the best question – “If your life could be a movie, which one would it be?” “Oh no, I can’t answer that, you’ll think I am a nerd.” “I already think you’re a nerd.” “Fine, I’ll tell you but when you hear my answer, remember you were the one asking in the first place.” Or “If the only thing you could ever eat was either Doritos or cheerios, which one would you pick?” “None, I’d rather die of starvation.” “You’re no fun Oliver!” “You’re the one sentencing me to either eat Doritos or cheerios for the rest of my life.” Some other times, they ordered each other’s food, Oliver asking for as much vegetables as possible and Felicity making sure that his whole meal had been fried. They had a lot of fun in the office and out of it, sometimes meeting for coffee at Sara’s before going to work, some other times texting and emailing silly things – okay the last part was mostly Felicity’s doing but he did send her a gif of a cat hugging his master once.

She was more aware of him now, of the subtle shift in his mood his body always betrayed him. She was learning how to read him without realising she was. She was noticing things about him, such as the way his eyes always laughed whenever Tommy was around or his smile would soften, grow more affectionate when Thea was around or mentioned. She was noticing how he’d rub his fingers when he felt nervous or how his brow would furrow when he was upset. His lips were always pursed when he was focusing on paperwork, always half-stretched in a smile when he was listening to her. She was noticing how he always held the door open for her or how he always pulled her chair out whenever they weren’t eating in the office. She noticed how his eyes shone when they were talking or how his hand fell on her shoulder whenever she started rambling. She noticed a lot of things and she wondered if he did too.

Humming cheerfully, she got ready for her day. When she opened her closet, she realised she was in the mood for pink and bright and so she put on a white and pink dress which hugged her waist tightly. Tying her hair in a high ponytail, she left her apartment and went to Sara’s coffee-shop where she lingered for a while, talking with her friend. She had gotten closer to Sara ever since she had gotten back. They had yet to go out for their drink but Sara had invited Felicity to come with her to boxing class and the blonde had really like the first two lessons she had been to.

It’s with her head moving to the rhythm of the song she had been listening to in her car that she walked in Q. Inc, her ponytail swaying happily. She pressed the button of the elevator and stepped in. But she tripped on her very high-heels and probably would have fallen if two strong and warm hands hadn’t caught her, pushing on her back to keep her on her feet. She turned around, blushing.

“Careful, I really don’t want to fill the papers to report an accident at work,” Oliver said, looking down toward her feet.

“Sorry, I am trying out new shoes today,” she replied, offering him a small smile.

His hand left her back for her shoulders, to stabilize her and only left them when she stood completely still. “With longer heels,” he noticed. “Why?”

“Because you and Diggle are two gigantic men! Talking to you gives me torticollis.”

He chuckled. “It’s not our fault if you were born so small,” he teased her.

She nudged him playfully. “Careful Mr Queen, you don’t want to get on my bad side.”

He tilted his head. “Oh really? Miss Smoak, I have to ask, are you threatening me?”

She shook her head, smiling innocently. Maybe too innocently. “I’d never do such a thing! I am simply making a statement.”

He smiled back at her and they both exited the elevator, only to find Diggle already waiting for them. Felicity frowned. Oliver and Diggle usually arrived together. As if he had sensed her question, Oliver explained.

“I came in early this morning, long story short I had to call Isabel. And Diggle waited for me here when I went to get a bowl of fresh air.”

Felicity nodded. She didn’t know what kind of relationship Oliver and Isabel had but it surely wasn’t a conventional one. It was unusual for two bonded mates to leave apart from one another, she didn’t know how they handled their mate’s haze – and quite frankly, she didn’t want to have to think about it because he was her boss and it was just ew.

They started their day then, going over the things they had to go over and getting ready for Oliver’s skype conference with a firm in China. Felicity was still going over her notes, long after noon. It wasn’t until Diggle walked in with Big Belly Burger bags in hands. Felicity looked up, smelling the delicious scent of fries and greasy burgers.

“John Diggle you’re my hero,” she told him getting on her feet to get her food.

“Thank Oliver, he’s the one who suggested it.”

“So, am I your hero?” Oliver asked, cocking his head in a way that made Felicity’s heart clench in her chest.

“Let’s see what you got me first,” she said.

“What? You called Diggle your hero without checking your order.”

“But I like Dig, Oliver,” she teased him.

He crossed his arms over his chest glaring at her. Her smile only grew wider.

“So, what do we have here? A burger with extra pickles, a little bit of fries and a little bit of potatoes, chicken nuggets, BBQ sauce, a coke, a vanilla milkshake and a chocolate chip muffin,” she smiled brightly. “Oliver Jonas Queen, you’re my hero.”

Oliver winked at Diggle and the three of them sat down and ate their lunch. Felicity was quiet, listening to them talking about sports. She wasn’t really interested but she liked listening to the two men, especially Oliver. He was a really big fan of Star City’s Archers, had been ever since his dad had taken him to his first game when he was six, and always got really impassioned when he talked about them, or a game or whatever it was that was happening on the basketball field. Felicity liked to see his eyes shining more brightly, his hands moving as he mimicked a motion of his favourite player, his cheeks reddening as if he was the one playing, when really all he was doing was telling a story.

They finished lunching and got ready for Oliver’s conference. It went well and they debriefed it together. They were still going through it when they were interrupted by Felicity’s ringtone. It was her emergency ringtone, the one she had set up especially for her mother.

“Excuse me, I really need to take this,” she told Oliver, her heart skipping a beat in her chest. What was going on? Did something happen? Was her mother okay?

“Mom,” she said, picking up. Just as she walked out of Oliver’s office, she saw Moira Queen stepped out of the elevator. She stared coldly at her, not greeting her, not saying anything, just staring down coldly at her, disdain filling her eyes as well as a calculated hatred.

“Felicity are you there?”

“Yes, mom, what’s going on?” She asked worriedly, stepping in the elevator to have some privacy. She heard someone cry over the phone but it wasn’t her mother.

“It’s Georgia,” Donna explained. “Something happened, she needs you.”

Felicity arched an eyebrow. She had talked to her friends the previous day and she had been fine, excited even. She had been about to meet her soulmate, they had met thanks to the SID and had planned a first meeting for this week. He was a pilot and was going to be in Vegas during the week. But why was she crying? She had been looking forward that first meeting for so long. It should have been the happiest day of her life, she should be smiling, dancing around, laughing. Not crying.

“What happened?” She said, chewing down on her lower lip.

“She… It’s not very clear, she came to me crying and she just won’t stop. I don’t know what happened, but she keeps saying “I couldn’t push the door”. What does that mean?”

Felicity clenched her eyes shut, taking a deep breath. “She got cold feet,” she said, pinching her nose. “Mom, I am at work now and I need to get back to it. I’ll see with my boss if I can leave a bit early, exceptionally and I’ll call you back as soon as I can, okay?”

“Okay. Hurry up Felicity, she doesn’t look okay.”

When the elevator’s doors opened again, Moira Queen’s loud voice was the first thing she heard. Taking a step back, she didn’t want to get involved in a mother / son argument, she did her best not to eavesdrop. Until she heard her name.

“This is unacceptable Oliver. You can’t keep this Felicity girl with you.”

“And why is that mother?”

“Have you seen her resume? She is not qualified. She is too young and far too pretty. Rumours about how she got her position will be festering like cancer very soon.”

“The journalists know I am not into very young girls fresh out of college, blonde additionally.” Okay. That wasn’t hurtful or offending at all.

“Well, you should tell that to the photographers we had to pay so they wouldn’t release the pictures of you and your assistant standing pretty close from one another at the party we held at our house, or the pictures of how friendly the two of you were in Coast City, especially the second day on the beach.”

Felicity blinked. What the hell was she talking about? She hadn’t heard about any pictures. But then if Moira had made sure they weren’t published, it was normal.

“Mother, should I remind you of my soulmate’s existence? Surely, you remember Isabel.” There was something with the way he said her name, something cold and detached. As if his words carried more than just their usual meaning. “Besides, you don’t have to worry about Miss Smoak mother, she is just an employee. She brings me coffee and helps me handling my agenda. Nothing more.”

Felicity froze at his words, the sting of his previous comments about her worsening, turning into a burn that spread from her heart to her whole body. She felt heat, hurt, anger and humiliation, kick in her veins, igniting the fire which had started to consume her.

“Oh really? I heard Thea say you and she have been spending a lot of time together.”

She heard Oliver chuckle, but it wasn’t the warm and amused chuckle she had grown used to. This one lacked any kind of warmth and it turned Felicity’s heart to ice. “Thea doesn’t know what she is talking about. I haven’t spent more time than appropriate with Felicity. She is just an employee. I barely know her to be honest. Our interactions are strictly professional.”

She staggered, catching herself on the wall. She felt her stomach twist in her belly as bile rose up her throat. Blood rushed to her ears and she blinked for longer than usual, in an attempt to calm herself down. What was she hearing?

“You really don’t have to worry mother. Felicity is just an employee, and I treat her as such.”

Deciding that she had heard enough, she walked toward his office, her heart hurting in her chest. Clearing her throat to let them know she was here, she saw the exact moment Oliver realised she had heard everything. His eyes widened and his lower lip trembled slightly and she guessed her watery eyes, her scarlet red cheeks and clenched fists had something to do with it.

“Mr Queen if you’re busy with your mother, surely I can come back later,” she said, her voice steadier than she had thought.

“No, no, it’s fine. My mother was just leaving,” he informed her, giving his mother a look.

“Very well then,” Moira complied turning around. Her cold blue eyes fell on her and although she really wanted to crawl back Felicity didn’t. She held her gaze.

“Miss Smoak,” The Queen’s matriarch said.

“Mrs Queen,” she replied just as coldly, hoping her blue eyes were carrying just as much coldness as Moira’s.

She left her son’s office, without ever looking back. Felicity watched her retreating form before turning back to face Oliver, who looked a bit paler than he had a few minutes ago.

“Felicity about you heard,” he started to say.

“There is no need for you to explain your words Mr Queen,” she cut him off. “I am just an employee after all, you don’t owe me anything and certainly not an apology,” she added, her tone icy.

He winced and ran a finger through his hair, something he did when he was nervous. “Felicity, please let me explain.”

“I just wanted to ask you if me leaving a bit earlier was fine with you,” she went on, determined not to let his words reach her. “Something came up, a personal matter, and I need to go take care of it.”

“Sure you can go, but is everything alright? Do you need anything” He asked worriedly, concern filling his eyes.

She braced herself, not letting the emotions she was shining in his eyes reach her. Friends helped each other and he had made abundantly clear they weren’t. “With all due respect Mr Queen, I am afraid this is none of your business.”

“Felicity, please,” he took a step towards her and she stepped back. “I didn’t mean anything, I didn’t mean a word I said, you know that right?”

She crossed her arms over her chest in a defensive gesture. “Actually, no I don’t,” she disagreed. “After all, what do I know? I am just a very young girl fresh out of college, blonde additionally.”

He clenched his eyes shut. “Felicity, I didn’t mean anything. You know I like you, I care about you. It scares me a little bit sometimes, I’ve just met you and yet it feels like it’s been forever.” He paused, and shook his head, as if he was trying to chase a bad memory. “It’s just… My mother doesn’t like you and I don’t know why but she really does and I just thought that if I told her you didn’t matter to me, she’d drop it.”

Her eyes went wide, and anger kicked in her veins. “And you think it makes what I heard better?”

He blinked, surprised. “I just told you I didn’t mean it.”

She rolled her eyes at him in frustration, feeling her heart tighten in her chest. “If this is you caring about me Oliver, I don’t want it. I want my friends to stand up for me not to back down and drag me down with them when things get hard.”

“Felicity, this is not what happened,” he tried to reason her.

“Yes it is!” She yelled. “We’re friends Oliver, at least I thought we were. Because what you just did is not what friends do.” She paused, struggling for words. There was a lump of emotions forming in her throat, one she had a hard time swallowing back. “You just told your mother I meant nothing to you, you even lied about my work here reducing me to the kind of dumb girls she sees in me. You just insulted me, and disregarded my importance straight to the face of a woman who despises me. And do you want to know the worst part of it all?” She waited, he didn’t say anything. He just stared blankly at her. “You don’t even realise you did it,” she let out, her voice lowering down, her shoulders going limp. She was suddenly feeling defeated. “I needed you to have my back Oliver and you just let me down. But maybe it’s my fault after all, maybe I thought there was more here, that maybe I was worth more than being treated like this, that our “friendship” deserved better.”

A flash of pain, caused by her words, crossed his eyes. She could see he wanted to walk towards her but was holding himself back because he knew she’d step away from him. “Felicity, I didn’t do it to hurt you. I just wanted her to get off my back. Our backs. And I’m sorry I hurt you in the process, it was not my intention.”

She shook her head, all her insecurities coming back to hit her hard. “I had doubts about us being both colleagues and friends but you convinced me to give it a try and I gave in… I shouldn’t have. This is obviously not working and since your mother hates me, maybe I should just leave.”

“No!” Oliver protested immediately and vehemently. “You’re not going anywhere.”

She shook her head, a tear rolling down her cheek. “You’re not the boss of me Oliver! You don’t get to decide what I do or don’t do.”

“Felicity I screwed up, I realise it now, please let me fix this.”

She shook her head.

“I need to leave,” she repeated, her mind running away from what hurt, him, being in his presence, and focusing on what it could handle. Georgia, her mother. “I wasn’t lying when I said I needed to leave early.”

“I already told you that you could go,” he reminded her. “Now the question is, will I see you on Monday?” He asked, the distress clear in his eyes.

She sighed, her shoulders going limp as his tensed up. “Yes,” she said, her voice lower than it had ever been in his presence.

She turned around then and went to her desk, where she gathered her things before hurrying toward the elevator. She almost ran into Diggle in her haste to get away.

“Felicity are you okay?” He asked, holding her shoulders with his strong hands to steady her.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” she lied. “I just really need to go.”

“What’s going on?”

She shrugged, getting inside of the elevator. “Someone needs me,” she just said as the doors closed. Reaching for her phone, she typed a quick text, saying she’d call her mother back in twenty minutes max. She drove skilfully through Star City, knowing the streets by heart now, every turn, every traffic lights, every speed bump. She felt numb as she made her way through the buildings and houses. Oliver’s eyes and the look on his face when she had turned around were haunting her. But his voice, his words, were echoing in her ears.

“She is just an employee.”

“I barely know her to be honest.”

She clenched her fingers around the wheel, shaking her head in denial, refusing to cope with what she had heard. She couldn’t believe it, she couldn’t believe he had actually done that. She had never expected him to choose her over his mother or his soulmate, and it was why she hadn’t wanted to involve him in her arguments with the women in his life in the first place. But she had at least expected some respect from him, some recognition of who she was and what she did for him. It didn’t matter to her he hadn’t done it to hurt her but because he had wanted his mother to let them be. It didn’t matter to her at all. Because in the end the result was the same: he had told a woman who hated her she was expendable, she wasn’t important, she didn’t matter. And it hurt. It really really hurt. Especially after she had started to let her guard down and actually be herself more around him. Especially after the moment they had had. It hurt because for once she had relied on someone, she had let him help her and he had turned his back on her. She felt betrayed and she hated herself for feeling that way. It wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t opened up, if she hadn’t accepted his help and if she hadn’t expected more of him.

She hadn’t stepped in her apartment and yet she was already on the phone, calling her mother back. From what she had told her, it seemed that Georgia had refused to go meet her soulmate. Felicity knew he had been taking the Med from the moment her friend had turned sixteen until very recently. She remembered the day Georgia had called her to tell he had finally stopped taking the Med. She had been so happy, thrilled beyond words. Felicity had felt her excitement through the phone, and her desire to meet him, after all this years had made no doubt to her. But she hadn’t gone to the meeting, she’d gotten cold feet and now it was up to Felicity to understand why and help her deal with everything.

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on her.

“Felicity, everything okay?” Her mother’s voice said through the phone.

“Yes, I talked to my boss and he let me go early,” she clenched her fists, trying to block the memory of her last conversation with Oliver out of her mind. “What about you? How’s G?”

“She has stopped crying,” Donna informed her. “But I am not sure it’s a good thing. She’s sitting by the window and she’s just… Staring at the void.”

Felicity sighed. “Hand her the phone, please.”

She waited as her mother went to Georgia. When the two girls had met, Felicity was a clumsy fifteen-year-old who needed a part-time job to pay the bills and Georgia had been a twenty-one-year-old with dreams bigger than her wallet but with her heart on her sleeve. They had bonded quickly at work, sticking together and helping each other out whenever Daisy gave them a hard time. They had kept in touch when Felicity had left to go to MIT because although she had been more than ready to leave Vegas behind her, she hadn’t been ready to leave her only friend. Now four years later, they were still friends, texting each other daily, calling each other at least once a week.

“G,” she said when she heard the phone go from her mother’s hand to Georgia’s hand. “G, it’s me Felicity.”

For the longest moment, her friend didn’t say anything. And it worried her. But then, she let out a shaky breath and whispered. “I screwed up F.”

“Tell me what happened,” Felicity prayed her, her voice soft and patient.

Although she couldn’t see her friend, she could feel her shrugging. “I couldn’t do it. Everything was going on perfectly, the moment I came close to the restaurant we’d picked, I felt my mark grow and burn but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. So I ran away but now the mark won’t stop burning and I don’t know what to do, and I am just feeling so lost...” Her voice broke then as a sob wrecked her body, cutting her rant off, and Felicity’s heart broke for her friend.

The soulmark was more than just a black mark on people’s skin. It was more than just the physical proof of an evasive bond. Scientists actually compared it to an organ. An organ was by definition a collection of tissues joined in a unit to serve a purpose in the body. And that’s what the soulmark did. Before the bonding, it served the connection between soulmates, blood was actually drawn directly from above the soulmark to be analysed and determined the level of pre-bonding entanglements. When two soulmates met, the mark grew, sometimes going from one inch and a half to almost four inches! It also started burning and people said only the touch of the soulmate could stop the pain. And after the bonding, the mark kept growing, especially during sexual activities or a mate’s haze. The fact that Georgia’s mark hadn’t stopped burning meant that she had been too close from her soulmate, physically speaking. Their minds had been connected ever since they had been born and now it was their bodies’ turn. There was no running away from it and Felicity needed to make Georgia understand this. But first, she needed to understand why her friend had ran. Why she was scared.

“G, what went through that mind of yours? Why didn’t you push the door open?”

She knew Georgia by heart now. She was full of insecurities, as a result of her soulmate taking the Med for so long. She spent a lot of time questioning herself. It had taken her a while to realise she was meant for more than serving burgers at Daisy’s and to pursue her dream and become a decorator.

“I was scared. He has stopped taking the Med now but what if one day he starts taking it again? What if he realises he can have better? What if he leaves? I don’t want to get a taste of heaven if it’s only to have it be taken from me.”

Felicity closed her eyes. “G, listen to me very carefully. You don’t know why he started taking the Med. You don’t know what happened to him in his life, what made him the man he is today. It’s not your fault, you’ve been cut off from him for a long time. But maybe it wasn’t his fault either, maybe he had no other choice. And you won’t know for sure until you ask him.”

“I am scared he’ll be disappointed…”

“You’re the girl meant for him,” Felicity cut her off. “He can never be disappointed in you.”

“We both know it’s not true. And what if he already has…” She tried to protest.

“G, no! He stopped taking the Med. He contacted you through the SID. He reached out, he took a step toward you and it matters. It means something.” She paused for a second then added. “You are a beautiful, smart, talented young woman Georgia Wickins. You’re funny and kind, and he should feel lucky to have you as his soulmate. No scratch that, I am sure he feels lucky to have you as his soulmate and he’s probably dying to tell you all of this in person.”

“You don’t know that,” Georgia argued.

Felicity smiled. “You’re right I don’t. So why don’t you call him. If only to set up another meeting. The two of you need to touch, the sooner the better.”

“I am scared F,” she whispered through the phone, her voice so low it was almost as if she was afraid to be heard. She sounded like a little girl and it was up to Felicity to find the right words to reassure her.

“I know you are G, but I also know you’re strong enough to overcome this. You’ve been through so much already and this, meeting him, it’s the easiest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life. You know what they say about meeting your soulmate anyway…”

“It’s like waking up from a beautiful dream only to realise it had become true,” her friend finished, sniffling. “I am going to call him,” she eventually said after a beat of silence.

“You do that. And make sure to tell him how you feel,” she added. “It’s important the two of you communicate a lot. And well.”

Georgia chuckled at that and the two girls talked some more, Felicity knowing her friend needed to think about something else, to take some time to recollect herself before she faced her soulmate again. They talked about everything and nothing at the same time and it did Felicity some good as well. It kept her thoughts from going back to Oliver and what had happened at Q. Inc.

After they hung up, Felicity remained on her couch, staring at the ceiling for a whole minute, a swirl of emotions storming in her chest. Comforting her friend who was afraid her soulmate would take the Med again and leave her as she was taking the Med herself made her feel slightly uncomfortable. She felt like a huge hypocrite and it forced her to face a few things she’d rather stay away from. There were some boxes which were just better left closed. Her soulmate was one of them and yet in that moment, he was all she could think about. Was he feeling like Georgia? Was he full of insecurities because of her? Did he feel like he had disappointed her somehow? He had, when he had been involved with those girls but did he know it? Had he realised he had made her feel unwanted, undesired, like a burden and not a blessing? And how had he felt when she had taken the Med for the first time? Had he understood? Had it hurt him? Was it hurting him now? Was he in pain because of her? Or had he resigned himself to taking the Med? She shook her head, biting on her lips. So many questions she’ll never know the answers to. Her hand fell on her hipbone, where her soulmark used to be. She felt the connection stirred inside her, it pressed against the bar of its prison. She winced, the pain sharper than it had ever been but didn’t take her hand away.

Her soulmark had grown and burnt once, when she had been fourteen years old. Felicity remembered that day of May as if it had happened only a few hours ago. Her mother had been working in a famous casino back then but that night, she hadn’t been feeling well. She’d zoned out in her memories, just like she used to before she started taking the Med. Felicity’s bubbe had been really tired so Felicity had called a cab to let her rest and had gone to the casino alone at almost eleven pm on a school-night to pick her mother up. The moment the cab had entered the parking lot, the connection had roared to life, swelling up in her chest until it was so big Felicity had feared her heart would burst. She had lifted her tee-shirt only to see her soulmark had doubled its size. The burn had been scorching, so strong and intense her skin had felt hot under her shaking fingers. She had tried to look for him, to find him but the crowd had been too big. So she had gotten to her mother, and despite the pain, had gone back home with her. Her bubbe had taken her to the hospital when she had come back home that night. They had given her a shot of the Med – that’s how she had learnt her pre-bonding level was so high actually – and when she had woken up the next morning, everything had gone back to normal. She had gone back to the casino the following night but nothing had happened. He had left.

A text got her out of her thoughts.

--

“4:37 pm

Meet me at SCSC in twenty!

TM”

--

She groaned not feeling like going out, especially not with the best friend of the man she was so desperately trying not to think about.

--

“4:39 pm

Why?

FS”

--

His reply came quickly. Tommy was a fast texter, especially when he wanted something.

--

“4:40 pm

Need to ask you sth.

See you in 20, I’ll order your usual.

TM”

--

Getting on her feet, Felicity locked herself in the bathroom to put on more comfortable clothes. Then, she got out of her apartment wondering about what Tommy wanted to ask her. She ran into Mrs. Williams on the way, and helped her carry her grocery bags to her kitchen. They talked for a few minutes, Felicity asking about her family and grandchildren. She had met some of them once and had really liked them, in spite of them being… energetic!

She walked in Star City’s sweet coffee and waved happily at Iris, standing behind the counter. She found Tommy upstairs, with two steaming cups of coffee in front of him.

“I am warning you, I don’t want to talk about what happened with Oliver,” she said, sitting down in front of him.

He arched an eyebrow. “What happened with Oliver?”

She tilted her head. “Come on Tommy, I know you know. I usually finish working around this time and when you texted me, you told me to be here in twenty minutes, meaning you knew I had left Q. Inc early, meaning Oliver told you what happened.”

Tommy shook his head. “Dig called me, said you looked pretty upset when you left and that you might need a friend.”

“He called you of all people?” She asked, her brows furrowed.

“Come on Felicity, you know you like me,” he replied, offering her a bright smile.

She couldn’t help but smile back at him. Because, she did like him, she really did. Everything in Star City felt familiar and she had gotten used to it. She knew things about places, she felt like she had already visited some of them although she knew she hadn’t. Star City was a place of deja-vu, it felt like a home. And she felt the same way around Tommy. It was actually why she had forgiven him his bad manners so quickly. Because Tommy was okay, Tommy was safe, Tommy was family. She knew she could trust him with everything and it was a really weird feeling, because she didn’t know him that well and yet she knew.

“I still don’t want to talk about it,” she insisted.

“It’s okay,” he assured her, taking a sip from his coffee. “Can I just say one thing?” He asked.

She nodded, adding sugar to her coffee.

“Whatever it is that happened between the two of you, it is not worth losing what you have.”

That made Felicity pause. “And what do you think we have exactly?”

He shrugged. “Something worth keeping.”

Felicity shook her head. It wasn’t the kind of answers she had expected. Moving on, she leaned forward. “So what did you want to ask me?”

“What are your plans for Thanksgiving?”

She chocked on her coffee. “Thanksgiving? My plans for Thanksgiving in more than four weeks?”

He nodded. “Yes, it’s one of the perks of being bonded to a planner who loves thinking ahead,” he chuckled slightly, his eyes filled with love at the mention of his soulmate, Laurel Lance, Sara’s sister. Felicity had yet to meet her but she knew Tommy was planning on introducing them. “I was wondering if you were going to go visit your mother in Vegas. And if you are not, to tell you you’re welcomed to join us.”

“Actually, my mother is coming to visit me,” Felicity explained, nervously playing with the handle of her cup. She had gotten along pretty quickly with Tommy but she hadn’t expected him to invite her for Thanksgiving. It was a lot and it meant just as much to her.

“Great, you can bring her along if you want! Sara will be here too with her dad, Iris’ family. I invited my dad, but I highly doubt he’ll join us.”

Felicity reached out for his hand, squeezing his fingers lightly. Tommy rarely spoke of his father but she didn’t need him to tell her anything. He was the active of Merlyn Global, a lot could be found about his life on the internet. He had lost his wife and soulmate under tragic circumstances almost twenty years ago. She had been shot in the Glades, Star City’s troubled area. According to Tommy, his father had never been the same after that and Felicity could easily understand why; he had lost half of his soul, the mother of his child.

“What about Oliver?” She asked to cheer him up a little.

Tommy shook his head, hiding the emotions in his eyes. But Felicity knew anyway and held his hand a little bit tighter.

“The Queens are celebrating Thanksgiving in family.”

“But you are family,” she objected.

Tommy smiled at her, a smile so bright she had to look away from him for a second. “I am happy you think so but what I meant is they celebrate Thanksgiving together. Pretty sure Isabel will come back from Russia for the occasion.” He had this way of saying Isabel’s name, as if she was an annoyance he couldn’t get rid of.

“You don’t seem to be too fond of her,” she pointed out.

“Well, let’s just say I am relieved she’s not my soulmate.”

Felicity gave him a look. “But she is your best friend’s soulmate.”

“Doesn’t mean I have to like her,” Tommy shot back looking unapologetic. “Anyway, will you come and celebrate Thanksgiving with us?”

She nodded. “I’ll talk to my mom but I don’t think she’ll mind.”

“JJ is gonna be so happy,” Tommy told her and a small smile spread on Felicity’s lips.

They lingered at the coffee shop for a while after that, talking their most memorable Thanksgivings. Tommy had more to say than Felicity but she didn’t mind. Tommy was a breath of fresh air and as they spoke, she couldn’t help but compare him to his best friend. It was easy to talk to him as it was to talk to Oliver but he was different, much different. He was cheerful and open-minded, loud and bright in ways Oliver wasn’t. Tommy was happiness. Sure, there was a shadow in his eyes, losing his mother so young had wounded him deeply, but he didn’t let it affect him. Instead, he revelled in his bond to his soulmate, radiating mated bliss. She didn’t get the same vibe from Oliver, he was more guarded, more cautious.

They parted ways around six pm. Felicity wanted back to her apartment, shambling. Her thoughts were going back and forth between Oliver and Oliver and Oliver again. Always Oliver. She was upset and annoyed by it. She didn’t want to be upset, she didn’t want to care. She wanted not to care about whether or not they were friends, about his mother, about his words. And yet she did and it annoyed her profoundly. She noticed he hadn’t tried to call her or text her. She noticed she thought of him when the news mentioned the upcoming game of Star City’s basketball team. She wished she didn’t but she did and it annoyed her. Two months ago, she hadn’t known anything about him and now she was moping because he had been an ass to her?

She went to bed, feeling both disappointed and hurt. She couldn’t believe the same morning she had woken up from a beautiful dream, happy and content. She had been so sure the day would be beautiful back then. She had been wrong. She tossed and turned for hours, sleep always slipping away from her. Around three am, she kicked her comforter away from her angrily and got out of bed, angry at herself because she couldn’t fall asleep and angry at Oliver for being the reason of it all.

She settled down and her couch, deciding that a Doctor Who marathon was the only thing to do. She was half-way through her first episode when she heard a knock at the door. She pressed “pause”, her heart pounding in her chest. Getting up, she rushed to the door, knowing who she was going to find on the other side. She turned the handle, feeling so confident she didn’t check the peephole and opened the door.

Oliver Queen was standing in the doorway, wearing dark jeans and a leather jacket on top of a white tee. She stared at him for a whole minute, her mind pleasantly numb and frozen. He looked very good in that tee, it hugged his perfectly chiselled muscles and brought out his bright blue eyes. His hair was messier than usual and she liked it, it made him look younger, less serious. He was carrying a plastic bag in one hand, a bouquet of pink daisies in the other. She felt a bubble of pure happiness burst in her chest. He had come to her and it meant a lot. It meant everything.

But she wasn’t going to tell him that, at least not yet.

“It’s three am in the morning, what are you doing here?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

He blinked, rubbing his fingers the way he always did when he was feeling nervous. “I couldn’t sleep, after how we left things today…” He paused for a second, collecting himself. “I couldn’t sleep and from the look of it, you couldn’t either.”

“Don’t think too much of yourself Oliver, maybe it wasn’t because of you.”

“I know it was though,” he insisted. “Because you were the reason I couldn’t.”

She sighed.

“Can we talk inside?” He asked. “I brought you mint chocolate chip ice-cream and flowers. They’re your favourite right?”

She nodded taking the bouquet he was handing her. “How did you know?”

“I asked you once.”

She arched an eyebrow. “And you remembered?” She was truly impressed. They had played 20 questions so many times, there was no way she was remembering everything he had told her, all the things she had asked him.

“I thought this one was worth remembering. Just in case and now I am really glad I did.”

“How did you find flowers at this time of the night?” She asked him, bringing the bouquet to her nose letting the fresh and soft scent of the flower fill her head until the world spun around her.

He gave her a smile, his smile, the smile which spelled trouble and fun at the same time. “I’m Oliver Queen,” he just said.

She shook her head and stepped aside to let him in. It was the first time he came inside and he looked very big, very out of place in her rabbit hutch. She got them two spoons, to eat the ice-cream he had brought and they settled down on her couch. She felt slightly conscious now, alone with her boss in the middle of the night. She was wearing her pajamas, which were revealing more skin that she was comfortable with and she had a serious case of bed hair while Oliver looked perfect. Reaching for a hairband on her coffee, she tied her blonde curls in a messy bun on top of her head, Oliver watching her intently. She motioned for him to open the ice-cream and he did, holding the cup in between them.

“You wanted to talk,” she eventually said after five minutes of silence. It hadn’t been uncomfortable but she could feel the tension between them and wanted it gone, as soon as possible.

“Yeah, I wanted to but I didn’t expect you to be so…” He hesitated. “Calm. Earlier, you looked really upset and mad.”

“I don’t want to fight with you,” she stated. “So I think we should…” She paused, took a little bit of ice-cream. His next breath got caught in his throat and she went on, “Clear the air.”

“I’m sorry, for what I did, what I said. I went to talk to my mother right after you left and I told her you were my friend before being a valuable employee. You are here to stay and I recommended she got used to the idea.”

She nodded, hearing his words. Her heart skipped a beat at the way he said she was here to stay. He said with such certainty, it was almost scary. She hoped his mother would get the message. She let her spoon in the cup and rubbed her hands against her thighs nervously, goose bumps breaking on her skin because of the temperature’s difference. Oliver noticed, his eyes trailing down her legs and he wordlessly wrapped a blanket lying on his side of the couch around her legs.

“I didn’t tell you about it but your mother talked to me at the party and she said some really nasty things about me, basically calling me a manipulative gold-digger. And don’t get me started on how Isabel acted like a total bitch to me when I met her and then later during the weekend. They made me feel unwanted, undesired but you… You accepted me immediately and without asking any questions. You made me feel like I belonged, like I had a right to be here. And this is why it hurt so much when you didn’t defend me. I felt like you were giving up on me, like it had all been a lie. I get why you did it and I need you to get why it hurt me so much in return.”

He nodded, putting the unfinished cup of ice-cream away. He shifted on the couch slightly then so that he could look at her in the eyes, bringing her legs across his because her couch was small and he was tall.

“I am so sorry Felicity, I hope you know that. Earlier, I didn’t like seeing you this upset and I hated myself for being the one who had made you feel that way. I shouldn’t have taken you for granted, and I shouldn’t have dismissed the importance of our friendship. I won’t do it again, I promise.”

She nodded, believing him, believing the honesty and remorse she could see shining in his eyes. She knew, deep in her heart, he wasn’t faking any of this. She let him take her hands and squeeze her fingers. Her thumb stroke his knuckles in response and for a second, it was just them, blue meeting blue, creamy skin against calloused fingers. Then he blinked and she slipped her hand from his grasp. She felt a patch of rough skin in the palm of his hand and she frowned.

“What’s that?” She asked, her thumb coming back to him without her consent, looking for the puckered skin she had felt. She found it and realised it was a scar. “Where did you get it?” She asked, her eyes looking up from the rosy skin.

“It’s from my car accident,” he told her, a mix of emotions filling his eyes, the dominant one being pain. Raw, burning, acute pain.

It was the first time he mentioned his car accident in front of her, the one he had almost died from four years ago, the one he had taken so much time recovering from.

“It must have been awful,” she said, her thumb not leaving his scar, none of them doing anything about it. “What happened?” She asked, knowing he wouldn’t shut her out.

He closed his eyes for a second, his pain more evident before saying. “I lost control of my vehicle,” he eventually confessed, his voice barely higher than a whisper.

Her heart clenched in her chest. She wished there was something she could do, something she could say to make him feel better, to chase his demons away. But there was nothing she could do. She wasn’t his soulmate, her touch couldn’t soothe him the way Isabel’s would. And yet, she kept rubbing his small scar, the only she could see but not the only one on his body.

“What were you watching?” He asked her, moving the conversation somewhere less personal. Felicity understood where he came from and respected the boundary he was putting back in place.

Doctor Who,” she told him.

“The show with the weirdo living in a police box?”

She rolled her eyes at him, slapping his shoulder playfully. “It’s called a Tardis mister.”

She leaned down to get the remote control before coming back down, pressing play. His eyes fell on her collarbone and he tilted his head, his hand reaching for the patch of skin which had been exposed when her hoodie had slipped from her shoulder.

“Is that your soulmark?” He asked and she realised it was his way of asking her the permission to touch.

She shook her head. “Just a tattoo,” she told him and his fingers brushed the four small birds flying right under her collarbone. It was a small tattoo, usually easily covered by her clothes.

“What does it mean?” He asked, his voice easily drowning the sound of the TV.

She took in a sharp breath, feeling heat spread from where he had touched her. “What makes you think it means anything?”

He cocked his head. “Come on Felicity, I am starting to know you.”

She nodded. She didn’t his question right away, looking for the right words, weighing the pros and cons in her mind. It was something very personal, something she felt she could share with him but in the meantime, she felt a bit scared.

Taking a deep breath, she said. “A few years ago, I let go of something and most of the time, I try not to think about it. But once a year, I add a bird to the tattoo. Because even though letting go was the right thing to do, I don’t want to forget.”

Oliver stared at her, contemplative. “Four birds,” Oliver counted. “Four years.”

She nodded. He reached for her hoodie’s sleeve and put it back in place before settling down more comfortably in her couch, his arms on her legs across his lap.

“So,” he said. “About that weirdo in a blue police box.”

She chuckled, feeling like a weight had been lifted from her chest. “Stop calling him a weirdo Mr Queen or I’ll kick you out of my place.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” he teased her.

“Try me,” she challenged him and he just shook his head. He started asking her questions about the show and she answered them. He made no attempt to leave and she made no attempt to get him out.

She was feeling as happy and as content as she had felt when she had woken up from her dream in the morning and she didn’t want to let go of the feeling just yet.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7:

“My power’s turned on

(Starting right now) I’ll be strong

I play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

Cause’ I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”

- Rachel Plattern, Fight song.

 

 

When Felicity woke up, the first thing she heard was the sound of TV. Some anchor woman was talking about the news in the city and Felicity’s fuzzy brain caught a few words, such as “restricting policy”, “Rollins” and “the Med”. It should have worried her, it should have woken her up with her heart beating wildly in her chest and a mind full of fears. But it didn’t. She was surrounded by warmth. It was warm everywhere around her, and so comfortable. She felt like a bird in a nest of fluffy blanket, heated bodies, solid chest and strong thighs.

She paused for a second.

What?

Heated bodies? Solid chest? Strong thighs?

She opened her eyes, gasping. Blinking she took the scenery in, her mind unable to accept what her eyes were seeing was not a dream but a very tangible reality. She was curled up on her couch, her legs wrapped up in a fluffy blanket and lying across Oliver’s lap. Oliver Queen, her boss, was looking as good as ever after a sleepless night, his blue eyes shining as brightly as usual. His hands rested on her legs, his fingers patting her legs, and they seemed to be moving with a will of their own.

As if he had sensed her waking up, he turned his head to face her a smile spreading on his lips.

“Good morning,” he whispered, his low and rough voice too much for her to handle with zero caffeine in her body.

“Morning,” she replied, rubbing her eyes. She frowned when she didn’t meet her glasses.

“I took them off of you when you fell asleep,” Oliver explained. He leaned toward her coffee table and retrieved them for her.

“Thank you,” she said, her cheeks turning a bright red, not because of the heat in the room, but because she was feeling embarrassed, mortified even. She had fallen asleep on her boss. Again. She remembered vividly watching a few episodes of Doctor Who with Oliver, defending her favourite TV-show from his snarky comments with everything she was worth. But then, he had gotten up to change the DVD and she had told him to be careful with her baby and then… Nothing. She had fallen asleep. Biting on her lower lip, she clenched her fingers nervously.

Feeling her stiffened next to him, Oliver arched an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?” He asked.

“I fell asleep on you,” she told him, the word “again” very much implied.

He shrugged. “It’s okay, I don’t mind. I’d have moved you but when I tried, you almost woke up so I decided to just let you be. I know you have trouble sleeping.”

Felicity felt her cheeks redden even more. At this moment, she felt exposed, vulnerable. And she didn’t like it at all.

After her father had left, breaking her mother’s heart and mind in the process, Felicity had had to grow up fast. Her bubbe had given her a seemingly normal childhood but she had been an old woman, working forty hours a week as a help and a sitter to provide for her daughter and granddaughter. She had loved Felicity dearly but had very often be really exhausted, the loss of Felicity’s grandfather, her soulmate, not making things any better. So Felicity had had to learn how to take care of herself, quickly and efficiently, for those nights where her grandmother came home so tired, the only thing she could do was going straight to bed and sleep until she had to wake up before dawn. Felicity had learnt how to braid her hair alone, how to make herself sandwiches to eat at school, how to pick clothes adapted to the weather… This childhood had shaped Felicity into a very strong and independent woman. And when she had given up on her soulmate, her independence had grown exponentially. She had had to accept his family’s help to save her mother and after that, she had sworn on her bubbe’s grave it would be the last time she accepted anyone’s help. She had sworn to be better, to be enough for her mother and for herself. She had stayed true to her word ever since. Even when her mother had gotten out of the hospital, Felicity hadn’t really relied on her, keeping her problems for herself instead and dealing with them on her own.

This situation with Oliver was not okay. It had to stop, sooner rather than later. She knew she was the one to blame for it, but her asking a hug from him had been a one-time thing. She had been exhausted and he had been there, all warm and kind and she had given in. Just once. It shouldn’t have happened again. Because she didn’t need his help, she could handle herself just fine. And more importantly, she didn’t want him to care for her. It was already enough he knew she had a problem, she didn’t want to expose herself more, she didn’t want him, or anyone for that matter, to know her that intimately. He hadn’t moved her just because he hadn’t wanted to wake her! It meant something right? It meant he already cared, at least enough to give her time to rest. They were friends and she valued their friendship but she didn’t want him to care for her in that particular way. Because if he started caring, she might get used to it. And she couldn’t get used to it because the day she’d lose it all, it would be hard and it would hurt so damn much. She had been there, she had done that and she didn’t want to go through it all again.

“Felicity are you okay?” Oliver asked.

“I am sorry, I am so sorry for last night, I… I shouldn’t have –,” she started.

He cut her off immediately. “It’s okay, really,” he assured her, his hands reaching for her shoulder in the familiar motion he used to calm her down whenever she started rambling. “It was the least I could do after what happened yesterday,”

She shook her head, taking her legs away from him and bringing them back to her. “Let’s not talk about what happened yesterday anymore, okay?” She suggested, bringing her knees close to her chest in a defensive way, hoping it would be enough to prevent him from getting under her skin. Again.

She knew why she had fallen asleep on him in Coast City, she had been exhausted after a few sleepless nights and honestly she could have fallen asleep on anyone, really. But what was excuse for last night? And more importantly how did Oliver always manage to pulverize her defences in one second?

She was lost in her thoughts, struggling with her emotions but then, the anchor woman’s voice pierced through her mind’s barriers and brought her back to the world of the living.

“Andrew Rollins will be seen by the governor of California before his speech in Los Angeles where five thousands militants are expected. His petition to regulate the access to the Med developed by Krast laboratories has been signed by more than two millions people and is being supported by very important personalities such as Martin Walker, Bruce Wayne CEO of Wayne Enterprises or Tom Altec, winner of five Academy Awards…”

Felicity shook her head as the woman on the TV went on. Oliver noticed it and arched an eyebrow.

“Does it bother you?” He asked, confusion filling his eyes.

She shrugged. “I just think it’s better to let people choose what’s best for them,” she told him. She didn’t know what she’d do if a law was indeed created to regulate the access to the Med. What would become of her? A doctor would never allow her to take it, her physical condition, or mental state did not require she took the Med, on the contrary! What would she do then? What would happen between her and her soulmate? Would he be like Georgia? Unable to trust her? And what would he say, when he’d learn she had accepted to be cut from him for money? Maybe he’d understand but maybe he wouldn’t. What would happen then?

“What do you think?” She asked him. “I know it’s a silly question to ask, you’re with your soulmate after all, but you did belong to an anti-soulmate before…”

Something shifted in his eyes as he turned his face away from her, staring into the void. “I think we should be able to be with whoever we want to.”

Felicity frowned. Clearly, his response implied he was against regulating the Med, but that was the thing. It implied he was against it. Why hadn’t he answer her right away? And why had he turned his face away?

She didn’t have time to linger on that though, because he pushed on his hands to get up from the couch. Then he reached for her hand, saying. “How about we go out for breakfast?”

She turned to check the time on her watch and gasp. It was not seven am yet.

“Maybe you should go home,” she replied, offering him an out. “You haven’t slept at all and…”

He raised a hand to stop her. “I don’t mind not sleeping.” He paused before adding, laughing. “It actually reminds me of my wild years, at least the recipe hasn’t changed: a beautiful night and a beautiful girl.”

She snorted, her cheeks turning bright red. “Please tell me this is not with that kind of particularly lame lines you got all those girls in your bed and while we’re at it, how many girls are we talking about exactly Casanova?”

It was his turn to snort. “Not nearly as much as the media says. I’ll tell you more around breakfast.” When she didn’t move, he went on. “Come on, you need to try the eggs and bacon from the place I have in mind. It’s at the seaside, you’ll love it,” he insisted, stamping his feet like a petulant child.

A flash of wooden chair and glass table crossed her mind. “I’ll need to put some clothes on first,” she told him, taking his hand and letting him pull her on her feet. He was so strong he did it all on his own and it was kind of sexy – at least Felicity’s tired brain found it sexy. And fascinating. Would he be able to support her weight on one arm only? Because it was how strong he looked. And damn what was wrong with her brain? Why was she thinking about this?

He grinned at her. And really, it was unfair how good he looked after a sleepless night. Even his clothes were impeccable, not even slightly rumpled. “See that’s not exactly what I used to hear during my wild years.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Boor!” She called him, climbing the stairs of her mezzanine. “Turn around!” She commanded as she took off her pajamas to put on some clothes.

“Okay, okay,” he said, obeying her.

She quickly found something comfortable to put on and got dressed, still talking. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” he told her.

“I know you said there weren’t that many girls but what about Isabel? She must have felt your involvement with them,” she added, remembering very vividly how she had felt her soulmate’s desire for other women as if it had been her own.

“Not really,” he explained quickly. “Our pre-bonding connection wasn’t that strong, only a three.”

“I see,” she nodded, still not thinking it made his behaviour acceptable. “Honestly, I don’t know how you do it. Even if, your pre-bonding connection was only a three, the two of you are bonded now. It must be painful to be apart so often and for so long.”

“We’ve learnt how to deal with it,” he replied. “And we’ll be living together once we are wed.” His voice was strained though, he didn’t sound really happy at the thought of his upcoming wedding. She turned around to see he had stiffened slightly, and he was rubbing his fingers nervously. She assumed it was probably hard for him to talk about it, it was certainly a sensitive topic.

She ran downstairs, her coat thrown on her shoulders and patted his chest lightly, her fingers traveling to his shoulder, mimicking the soothing gesture he always did to calm her down.

“Let’s go,” he told her a smile coming back to his lips catching her hand to drag her with him.

They got out of her apartment and Felicity was relieved when she saw he had come to see her with one of his cars and not his bike. She had nothing against the engine and watching him drive it was kind of sexy – he and Tommy had shown her how cool driving a bike could be but she had categorically refused to climb behind either of them. He opened her door for her, like a perfect gentleman and she sat down, a smile on her lips. The day had barely started and it was already a good one.

He drove skilfully through the streets of Star City. The sun was barely rising, as days were shortening now that fall had begun, and Felicity realised it was her favourite sight of the city. It was truly beautiful when it was still sleepy and yet the light was there, engulfing it, casting a golden glow over the tall glass buildings.

He parked the car near a small restaurant close to Emerald coast. The moment she got out, Felicity was hit by the fresh and salty air of the ocean, wind dancing with her curls, which she had let down. Cold air reached her senses, tickling them awake. She turned around to smile at Oliver. He smiled back at her and motioned toward the restaurant with his head. Felicity followed him, looking around her, drinking the landscape in. The sun was rising on the other side of the horizon, meaning that the sky above the ocean was still dark but Felicity didn’t mind it one bit. She loved the darkness of the waves and the sound of them crashing on the rocks. It was wild and free and exhilarating.

“I love this beach,” she explained to Oliver after they were settled down in the restaurant, the wooden chairs and the glass tables exactly how she had thought they’d be. “I found it a few days after I moved in. It’s gorgeous.”

Oliver nodded. “I’ve been coming here ever since I was a little boy. Raisa, the housekeeper, used to take me here for walks. Tommy and I have learnt how to surf of those waves.”

Felicity tilted her head and listened to him tell her about his first surfing class. They were interrupted by the waitress, who brought them their bacon and eggs – which were as good as Oliver had said they would – and he went on when she left. Oliver, Felicity realised as he kept talking, in spite of his name and who he was, was a simple man, with very simple taste. Of course, he could still come to someone’s house in the middle of the night with pink daisies in hands and act as if it was completely normal but he was also the guy who enjoyed renting DVDs with his little sister on Friday nights or eat breakfast at seven am and a half in a small restaurant near the beach with his executive assistant. It was maybe her favourite part of him, his desire not to be just Oliver Queen, but also allowing himself moments as just Oliver. And she felt honoured he let himself be just Oliver around her. She felt so comfortable around him, it made her happy to see he felt the same toward her.

Felicity liked working with Oliver, especially because they did so well together. But she loved being his friend more and she felt grateful for him being so adamant after their first movie night together. She listened to him share a few stories from his past, his voice low, amused and his blue eyes shining happily. He didn’t get into the wildest details, it was something she realised he didn’t like to talk about, as if he was ashamed of who he used to be and what he had done. He seemed to regret most of his actions and she wondered why. Because he didn’t seem to be the type of person who regretted things and yet, he did regret his past. Why?

In spite of that, he did tell her a few stories, all of them including one infamous Tommy Merlyn. She really liked listening to him, she liked the dimple appearing whenever he smiled, making him look even more beautiful. She shared a few stories of her own from Vegas and he listened to her carefully, filling the gap between her words with his laughter. She liked this aspect of him, where he, famous Oliver Queen, listened to her, unknown Felicity Smoak, and was truly interested in her and what she had to say.

They had a nice time together, watching the day starts, eating good food and sharing stories about their past. Felicity felt a pang of something missing tugging at her heart throughout the conversation though. She had never gone to parties like him, she had never hung out with friends in nightclubs or even gotten drunk. Oliver seemed to regret a few things, though he didn’t tell her about them exactly and stiffened every time she tried to learn more, but he most definitely did not regret all the fun he had had with his friends. She felt sad she had never lived anything he had. Oliver asked about her sudden quietness and when she told him, he laughed at her. He reminded her he was older than her and she was not even twenty-one yet. She still had time to do the things he had – though he made it pretty clear to her, he’d do his best to keep her away from clubs and drunk nights. She realised he was right and remembered she still had to go out for a drink with Sara. They hadn’t had time yet, between their jobs and boxing classes, but she knew, eventually they would.

It was time she went out and enjoyed her youth.

 


 

When the shrilling sound of her ringtone pierced through the silence of her quiet rabbit hutch, Felicity groaned and buried herself deeper in her pillow. She couldn’t see the sunlight, meaning it was not seven am yet and it was unacceptable to be woken up before nine am on a Sunday morning. Especially considering she had a full night of sleep to catch up with. Felicity travelled down her bed, until her feet reached the edge and her head was entirely covered by her comforter, trying to get away from her phone and adulting.

The annoying sound stopped and she hummed contently, her brain already going back to sleep, where her dreams were filled with melted mint chocolate chip ice-cream and pink daisies. But then, just as she was drowning back in her drowsy bliss, the shrilling sound echoed against the walls of her room again. She groaned her hand coming out from her warm nest, clumsily locating her phone to pick it up. It had to be important if whoever was calling her was insisting.

“Felicity Smoak,” she mumbled, her voice half-muffled by her pillow.

“Felicity, hello? It’s Iris.”

Felicity lifted herself up on her elbows, rubbing her eyes with one hand. “Iris, yes, I know, I recognised you!”

“I am so sorry, did I wake you up?”

Felicity bit back a snarky comment. “It’s okay, what’s going on?”

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know who else to call. My nanny called in sick, again, and I have no one to look after JJ. Would you mind coming over?”

Felicity shut her eyes close. “No, I don’t. I am on my way,”

“I’m really, really sorry Felicity, I’ll make it up to you, I promise!

“Don’t mention it Iris,” Felicity told her, shifting the hand holding her phone and kicking her comforter away. “I’m really happy to spend some time with my buddy.”

“Barry should be back by noon,” Iris added. “Again, I am really…”

“Iris, it’s okay. See you in twenty.”

Felicity reached out blindly for a pair of jeans and a tank top. She put them on quickly, doing it again for her tank top when she realised she had put it the wrong way round. She grabbed small boots and a jacket, her small shoulder bag and got out.

Iris didn’t live far away from Felicity’s building – it was a twenty-minute walk and a little bit more than a five-minute drive. Felicity made it quickly, there was no traffic at this time of the day, especially on a Sunday. She knocked at the door and Iris opened it, looking really upset.

“Felicity, you’re a life saviour!” She said, hugging her quickly.

“Don’t mention it,” her friend replied, hugging her back quickly.

“I owe you, big time!” Iris insisted. “JJ just woke up, he’s sitting on the couch.” They walked in the small living-room where JJ was indeed sitting on the couch, wrapped up in a fluffy blanket, his teddy bear safely tucked under his chin, his thumb in his mouth.

“Hey buddy,” Felicity said softly, waving at him. He was looking so cute, it made her heart flutter in her chest.

He waved back at her, but didn’t take his thumb out of his mouth. Poor thing, he was probably very tired.

“So,” Iris explained, “He hasn’t had breakfast yet but you can give him cereals, he loves Cheerios. He doesn’t need to shower but he has to freshen up a little bit. Make sure he brushes his teeth correctly, he is one quick monkey who likes sneaking away. Don’t let him talk you into watching too much TV, or to spend too much time on the tablet and…”

“Iris, Iris, relax!” Felicity cut her off, her hands landing on her shoulders. “I know how to take care of a three-year-old,” she added, sounding both reassuring and confident. After all, it couldn’t be harder than taking care of a depressed forty-year-old.

“Sorry, little mama bear moment,” Iris chewed on her lower lip. “I really hope he won’t give you a hard time.”

Felicity gave her a smile. “Don’t worry about that, your son is my buddy, right JJ?” The little boy nodded, his curls dancing on top of his head. “See, we’re all good? Now go to work or you’ll be late.”

“Thank you again,” Iris said, throwing her bag over her shoulder. “I owe you, big time! And you can help yourself with anything, it’s okay. Mi casa es tu casa or whatever it is they say in the movies.”

“Thanks,” Felicity repeated, chuckling and waving a hand at her.

Iris got out of the house, waving right back at her. When she was gone, Felicity turned toward JJ.

“So,” she told him, rubbing her hands together in a cheerful gesture, a smile spreading on her lips at how cute he looked. “Breakfast?” She suggested.

He nodded again, before holding his little arms out for her. Felicity walked toward him and lifted him up, his body curling around her hip. She went to the kitchen, which was bright and full of colours – Felicity hadn’t expected anything else from Iris, really – and she settled him down on a chair. She got a quick breakfast ready for themselves, pouring herself a cup of coffee and warming the milk for his cereals the way he had told her he liked before sitting down next to him. He had put his teddy bear on the table, right under a huge board on which several pictures were pinned. They were family pictures mostly, but some of them included friends and two got Felicity’s attention: the first one featured JJ sitting down on Oliver’s lap, opening a gift and the other JJ’s father Barry was standing next to Oliver, arm in arm. Both men were smiling proudly at the camera. Felicity knew Oliver was friend with Iris but he hadn’t told her how he’d met her and she’d assumed it was through Sara. But he looked pretty cosy next to JJ’s father.

“You know Oliver?” She asked JJ.

He nodded, a moustache of milk above his higher lips. Felicity rubbed it away with her thumb as he said. “Uncle ‘liver,” he enunciated, swallowing down a mouthful of Cheerios.

Felicity chuckled. Uncle ‘liver would be really happy to hear he was actually an organ. “Yeah, you know him well?”

“He’s daddy’s friend, daddy makes him laugh. And he brings me presents on my birthday. He got me Coco,” he pointed at his teddy bear.

“You know he’s my boss? I work with him every day.”

JJ tilted his head. “Really? You’re lucky! Uncle ‘liver always carries me on his shoulders and he throws me in the air like a rocket and he goes with me in the big water slide at the swimming-pool.”

Felicity smiled, shaking her head. She had no doubts picturing Oliver doing all these things with JJ. Or with any child, really. They finished eating their breakfast and then moved to JJ’s room where she picked some clothes for him before taking him to the bathroom. He remained calm and nice, brushing his teeth properly, letting her clean his face with a washcloth and comb his curls.

They went back to his room after that, where JJ showed her his collections of legos and they decided to start building a castle. It took them an hour and a half but in the end their castle was half the size of JJ and colourful, made of pieces in different colours. Felicity snapped a picture of JJ kneeling down proudly next to their creation and grinning. She sent it to Iris before JJ insisted on snapping one of her, arguing she had helped building the castle as well. She sent it to Uncle ‘Liver.

--

“9:03 pm

Looking for a new job…

Maybe as an architect?

FS”

--

The reply came almost an hour later, when she was reading a story to the little boy.

“9:58 am

Very funny Miss Smoak, I expect you at the office at 9 am sharp.

PS: You can tell JJ his castle is beautiful.

OQ”

--

She chuckled at that. It was very Oliver-like.

--

“9:59 am

How do you know it’s JJ’s?

FS”

--

“10:03

The walls.

OQ”

--

Felicity looked up to the blue walls of JJ’s room. There was a rocket painted on one of them, and fluorescent stars were glued to the ceiling. She asked JJ about them.

“I want to be a cosmonaut when I grow up,” he informed her, precisely articulating each syllables.

“I wanted to be one too,” she confessed. “But then, I realised I was afraid of heights.”

Her comment made JJ giggle. “Will you do me a favour when you are a cosmonaut?” She asked him, tickling his sides playfully.

He giggled more, louder and she leaned down to kiss his chubby cheek. “Say hello to the stars for me, okay?”

They read some more before settling down on the couch, watching cartoons featuring superheroes. And just like Iris had promised, JJ’s father came back home before noon.

“Daddy!” JJ yelped when he heard him coming in. He rushed toward him, leaving the couch, where he had been all wrapped up around Felicity and jumping in his father’s arms.

“Hey buddy!” Barry said, lifting him up. “I am happy to see you too!”

“Me too daddy,” he soundly kissed his father’s cheek before saying, a small pout on his lips. “But I don’t want Felicity to leave, I love Felicity she is nice and funny. Can we keep her?”

Barry chuckled at that, just as Felicity got up from the couch to greet him. They had run into each other a few times at the coffee and although they hadn’t had time to talk a lot, Felicity had felt like he was a nice but slightly dorky guy.

“Felicity’s not a pet JJ,” Barry explained patiently, “you can’t keep her forever!”

“What if I marry her? Then she’ll have to stay with me.”

Felicity snorted and Barry’s smile widened. “Well, first you’ll have to talk with your mother about this – and between us, I highly doubt she’ll allow you to marry anyone before you’re forty. Then, maybe Felicity doesn’t want to marry you.”

“You don’t?” JJ asked, his big brown eyes looking at her expectantly.

“Well…” He cocked his head, his eyes giving her up a puppy look she found herself unable to resist to. “Fine, I’ll marry you. Until you don’t want me anymore.”

A smile spread on the boy’s lips and he high-fived his father. Then, he said. “Will you stay for lunch?”

“Yeah,” his father approved. “Offering you lunch is the least we can do,” he added.

She shrugged. “I really didn’t mind watching him, you don’t need to feel like you owe me anything.”

Barry smiled at her, before pressing a small kiss to his son’s temple. “Okay, let me rephrase this: do you have anything else better to do?”

She shook her head.

“It’s settled then, you’re staying.”

Barry and Felicity cooked a quick lunch and JJ helped them by setting the table – meaning he put things on the table and Felicity came after him to right their position. Felicity and Barry fell into an easy conversation, the both of them sharing a multitude of interests. They talked TV-shows and movies and comics and Felicity really liked that. It was the kind of conversation she couldn’t have with Oliver, Diggle or Georgia because they weren’t nearly as much into that kind of stuff as her. And she understood and respected that. They all had their hobbies and very own universes. But it felt nice to talk to someone who understood puns such as “May the 4th be with you” or knew instantly what she meant when she said “I want a sonic screwdriver for Hanukah”.

At some point during the meal though, JJ’s eyes started fluttering and Barry put him to bed for a nap.

“Poor thing, he’s been up for so long,” she pointed out.

Barry nodded, sitting back down in front of her. “Yeah, thank you really for this morning though. You saved us, big time!”

She raised a hand to stop him. “It was a pleasure, he’s a sweet and lovely boy.”

Barry chuckled. “With you, yes. He enjoys torturing us, his parents, can you believe it?!” He asked, sounding slightly offended.

Felicity huffed back a laugh. “I can actually!”

They started talking about their work after that, he was working on an exhausting case, he couldn’t tell her much about it just that it was big. She told him about Q. Inc and they ended up talking about Oliver.

“I owe him a lot,” Barry confessed as they walked toward the living-room and sat down on the couch, the both of them holding a steaming cup of coffee in their hands. “When we moved in Star City, things were complicated. Iris was pregnant, jobless and I had to work extra-hours to pay the bills. I ended up working on a robbery case in Oliver’s apartment. The detective in charge of the investigation was a douche, he still is – a douche I mean – and he works with the traffic units now.” The thought made him smile. “He basically told Oliver to get reimbursed by his insurance and forget about what had been stolen. He was a Queen after all, he didn’t have to worry about getting his money back. But the thing was, the thief had taken some family jewels Oliver really wanted back. So I kept investigating on my own, you know, running a couple more tests on the evidence found on the crime scene. My work paid off and we found the robber and what he had stolen before he could sell it back to a wholesaler. Oliver was so grateful, he didn’t know what to do to thank me. In the end, he introduced Iris to Sara, she offered her a job and we’ve been friends ever since.”

“Wow! That’s an unusual way to make a new friend.”

Barry smiled at that. “Yep, but I can’t say I regret it. Oliver is a good man, loyal and trustworthy. You’re lucky to work with him.”

“Careful Barry, you sound like someone who has a crush.”

Her comment made him laugh.

“I consider myself lucky to have him as my friend,” she went on. “We had a fight on Friday and he showed up at my house at three am with flowers and ice-cream as an apology. Seriously, what kind of crazy person does that?”

Barry chuckled lightly. “The craziest kind!” Felicity rolled her eyes at Barry and he quickly developed what he had meant. “I mean, the best kind! And Oliver, he is a good man, really. Good men do that and more for their friends.”

Felicity tilted her head, sensing the shift in his tone. “What do you mean?”

Barry shrugged. “He helped me when I was in trouble.” He paused for a second, clearly figuring out if he could tell her more or should just shut up. He went with the first solution. “A year ago, my mother died in a car accident and… losing his soulmate nearly killed my dad. Oliver helped me find a place for him in a soulmate’s clinic. He’s still there but is getting a little better every day,” he explained briefly. “All thanks to Oliver.”

A wave of understanding and compassion washed through Felicity as she realised exactly what Barry wasn’t saying. His father had broken down after his soulmate’s death, the same way her mother had after her father had left. And just like her mother, he had needed to be closely followed by doctors, therapists and specialists in order to get better. And thanks to Oliver, he had gotten the care he had needed. Something shifted inside Felicity as a new form of respect for her boss and friend blossoming in her heart.

“My mother was in a clinic too,” she replied softly and his eyes widened when he understood what she was implying. They didn’t know one another very well but they got that. They got each other’s pain and fear for their remaining parent. He nodded and Felicity knew she had just gotten a new friend, one with whom she shared more than just a couple of personality traits. It was a friend who was going through the same thing she had been through, one who was feeling what she had felt. It was a friend who understood without her saying a word.

And it was priceless.

Barry and Felicity kept talking a little while longer but at some point, tiredness caught up with the blonde and she left to go home and rest. A long week at work was ahead of her, she needed her rest. She wrapped herself up in a blanket and curled up on her couch, her head resting on a bright pink fluffy pillow her mother had gotten her.

Again, she was woken up by her ringtone and she mentally slapped herself for not turning it down when she had gotten home.

“Smoak,” she uttered, her voice rough and sleepy.

“Good afternoon “Smoak”, this is Oliver Queen. May I speak with my sweet and lovely EA, please?”

“She is sleeping,” she groaned. “At least, she is trying to but people keep calling her at indecent hours.”

Oliver chuckled on the other side of the line and it drew a smile on Felicity’s lips. “There she is, my smiling girl Wednesday.”

She tilted her head, surprised. “How do you know I’m smiling?”

“Just a hunch” he replied before going on. “Felicity, I need your help.”

She rolled her eyes. “I figured that much already,” she teased him. “What is it?”

“Remember how my parents helped funding the new aisle of Star City’s museum?”

She nodded sensing where this was going. “Yeah…”

“Well, the inauguration is on Saturday and I was wondering if you wanted to be my date. My very friendly and platonic date, but still… The girl on my arm. There’ll be a ball and I’ll need someone to dance with.”

“Why don’t you ask Thea?”

“My little sister is attending the ball on her own,” he explained.

That made Felicity laugh, he sounded really offended Thea had refused to come with him. “You must be desperate if the only friend you can ask also happens to be your EA,” she said, shifting from her position on the couch.

“Or maybe you’re the only friend I wanted to ask,” he corrected.

Her next breath got caught in her throat and she coughed, her cheeks reddening. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Me at a party with your mother…” She shivered. “Been there, done that.”

“I talked to her Felicity, she promised me she’d stop.”

“Oliver…” She tried to protest.

“Come on Felicity. I’ll make sure everything is nut-free and I’ll even let you take a sip of champagne.”

She arched an annoyed eyebrow, though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Wow, you really know how to talk to a woman Mr Queen,” she said, dryly.

“Felicity, don’t make me involve Tommy. You know how persuasive he can be.”

Felicity chuckled at that. Honestly, she didn’t need to be threatened with Tommy to accept. She could picture Oliver in her mind on her own, his blue eyes pleading with hers, his lips pouting slightly in that cute way to coax her, his head slightly tilted, his hair messy and tempting her fingers to run through the sandy strands.

She sighed, consciously ignoring how screwed she was.                                                   

“Okay, I’ll come. But you better let me have my own flute of champagne,” she warned him.

She heard him breathe in relief of the other side of the line. “Felicity, you’re a life-saviour.”

She chuckled at that. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

 


 

“Felicity, did you print the reports I asked you?” Oliver asked from his office. “Felicity?” He called her when she didn’t reply, when she didn’t even do as much as acknowledging him. “Felicity?” Oliver said, getting up and coming to her. “Felicity are you okay?” He asked, worried.

His presence got her out of her drowsiness and she quickly locked her computer, so that he wouldn’t see what she had been staring at.

“The reports?” She asked, turning her chair to face him. “Yes, I got them somewhere, here, hidden,” she started rummaging through her files before finding what she was looking for and holding it out triumphantly for him.

“Thank you!” He started to walk away but then he stopped and spun around, facing her again. “You sure you’re okay?”

She gave him a small smile, untightening her grasp around her mouse slightly. “Yeah, I am all good,” she assured him, unlocking her screen and closing her email box, her heart pounding in her chest.

She saw him arch an eyebrow and open his mouth to say something but she was saved by the bell. Or more precisely by the elevators’ bell. Frowning, they weren’t expecting any visitors, Felicity got up from behind her desk to join Oliver. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw both Moira and Thea Queen walked toward them. Felicity didn’t mind the young girl’s presence, it was her mother she was less fond of.

“Mom?” Oliver asked, surprised, stepping in front of Felicity to meet his mom. “What are you doing here? And why isn’t Thea at school?”

“Woah, hello to you too Ollie, how are you? Fine? Me too, thanks for asking,” Thea sighed, crossing her arms over her chest and scowling, obviously upset. But it seemed to Felicity she wasn’t mad at her brother but at her mother. Moira was standing next to her but Thea was paying extra attention to her, to make sure their shoulders weren’t brushing, and she was all tensed-up. Something had obviously happened between the two.

“Later Oliver,” Moira said as an answer to her son’s question. She offered him her cheek then so that he could kiss it. “Miss Smoak, good afternoon,” she said, her tone cordial and her eyes not cold or filled with hatred meeting hers.

Frowning, Felicity did shake her hand in greetings. “Mrs Queen,” she said, not really understanding what was happening. She knew Oliver had talked to his mother but she hadn’t really been expecting her to act like this, all polite and cordial, around her.

“Thea, why don’t you go tell your brother what you did today?” Moira suggested, her eyes not leaving Felicity. “I’ll stay here and speak with Miss Smoak.”

The teenager followed Oliver into his office reluctantly, dragging her feet.

“So Felicity, how is work?” Moira asked, her perfectly manicured hands trailing along the files on her desk.

Felicity frowned. She was by no mean a woman comfortable with pretending or acting like some things had never been said.

“Are we really doing this?” She asked, frowning.

Moira tilted her head. “What are you talking about dear?”

Felicity didn’t like the way she called her “dear”. It was meant to be kind but Moira’s mouth had a way to make the word sound threatening. “The thing where you pretend you like me and I act like I don’t know you hate me.”

Moira smiled at her. “I have to say I like your honesty Felicity,” she told her. “But I’ve been speaking a lot with my son lately and I decided to give you a chance. I realised what I had said and done to you was completely unjustified and I am just trying to start over. If it’s okay with you, that is.”

Felicity stared at her suspiciously, trying to see if Moira really was sincere or was just playing a new game. The mail she had gotten earlier not helping. But before she could say anything else, Thea and Oliver came back, the latter with furrowed eyebrows.

“Oliver,” Moira said, her tone cheerful. “I was just telling Felicity I am looking forward seeing the two of you at the museum opening this week. This is why I am actually here, there’s a few things I need to discuss with you Oliver. Thea stay here with Felicity, I won’t be long.”

Mother and son left them and Felicity found herself alone with Thea. The youngest Queen came to sit down on her chair, and she started turning on it, playing with it.

“So,” Felicity said, taken aback by Thea’s attitude. “Why aren’t you at school?”

Thea shrugged. “I got sent home.”

Felicity’s eyes widened. “What happened?”

“Oh, you didn’t ask “what did you do?” it’s nice to see someone still has faith in me.” She laughed dryly and Felicity frowned. She wasn’t anything like the cheerful and happy girl she had met before. She opened her mouth to say something but Thea cut her off. “And before you say anything, you should know that, for once, no, the idea wasn’t mine, but yes it was worth the look on my mother’s face when she came to get me. How can you spend hours sitting down on this chair?” She asked, patting it arms. “It’s so uncomfortable,” she complained.

Felicity blinked, not knowing what to say or what to do. There was something in Thea’s eyes, a mix of pain and frustration she was doing her best to hide and it made Felicity’s heart clench in her chest.

“And before I forget, I arranged an appointment with Carl for us on Friday at three pm. I heard, you decided to remain around the Queen family, God help you, and I’ll make sure you are dressed up to play the part. I won’t let the wolves tear you apart.”

Felicity huffed back a laugh. “Come on Thea there’s no need to be so dramatic, your family isn’t that bad.”

“Or so you think,” Thea replied mysteriously. “And before you say anything, I talked about it with Ollie, he said it was fine with him.”

Felicity shifted, feeling suddenly a bit uncomfortable. “Is it really necessary to go so early? I mean we could meet with Carl after I am done at Q. Inc.”

Thea shook her head. “Nope. We have so many things to do, I am pretty sure we won’t have enough time.”

Felicity’s eyes widened and Thea burst in laughing. “I am going to torture you in the most delicious ways Smoak and you’ll be begging for more before it’s over.”

Felicity chuckled and Thea’s eyes sparkled with mischief, her cheerfulness chasing the shadows away from her blue orbs. Moira and walked out of his office a few minutes after and the women took their leave, letting Oliver and Felicity go back to their work. And as she watched them leave, Felicity couldn’t help but notice that Thea was walking next to her mother, yes, but was also making sure to be as far away as appropriately possible from her mother.

 


 

When Felicity came back from Curtis’ lab with his reports for the week, it was to find Thea sitting in her chair in front of her desk. Again.

“Still uncomfortable,” she said, pointing at the chair. “You ready to go?”

“I still have a few things to tell Oliver before I’m ready to go.”

Thea rolled her eyes. “Relax Felicity, you’re going to see him again tomorrow. I know twenty-four hours is long but I think the two of you might just make it.”

It was Felicity’s turn to roll her eyes at her. “I really need to tell him a few things about this report,” she said. “Then we can go.”

Thea put her beanie back on her head. “Waiting for you here.”

Shaking her head, Felicity came in Oliver’s office holding the precious report out. She dropped them on his office and explained a few details to him. In the end, he had to kick her out of his office because Felicity wasn’t comfortable with leaving the company early, two Fridays in a row. She told him so and he assured her it was fine, pushing her toward the exit, his warm hands on her shoulders, her cheeks red in embarrassment.

“Have a nice afternoon ladies,” he told them.

“Don’t worry big brother, I’ll take good care of your EA, she won’t have a hair out of place when you see her again.”

Felicity felt her cheeks redden even more and Oliver huffed back a laugh. “Felicity’s not the one I am worrying about.”

He winked at the blonde and Felicity said, her tone reassuring. “I’ll watch your sister carefully, don’t worry.”

Thea rolled her eyes and the two girls walked out of Q. Inc, buttoning up their coats when they met the coldness of the air. A cold spell had started in Star City during the week, winter was coming and Felicity was so not looking forward going out the following evening, only wearing a light, silky dress.

Felicity drove them to Carl’s private showroom. The small man welcomed them with his usual cheerfulness and perfect manners. He offered them tea and asked them questions about the museum opening – asking who’d be there, what kind of music would be played and so many things about the organisation’s details. Thea answered most of the questions and once Carl had a better idea of where they were going and the kind of event they were attending, he started rummaging through the dresses in his showroom, grabbing five at a time, throwing them at their faces and pushing them toward the fitting rooms.

They had a really, really nice time trying on the dresses together. Carl had cleared a corner of his showroom, to give them some space to parade in front of him. They did it together most of the times, walking out of the fitting rooms together and they gave him a little show, posing and laughing together. Carl was mesmerized by them, saying it looked as if they had been doing it together for years. Both his assistants agreed with him and it made the two girls blush and giggle at the same time. Felicity didn’t know why, but she felt around Thea the same way she felt around Tommy. Thea was safe, Thea was okay. She could be herself around her and let go of things. So she did. She enjoyed herself and they had the best of time, sharing an intense moment of complicity, complimenting or teasing one another. At some point, Carl asked for a camera and snapped a few pictures of them, trying to capture their chemistry.

The best picture, the one Felicity sent to her mother and Thea to her brother, in spite of Felicity protesting and saying it wasn’t really appropriate for her boss to see her like that, was the last one he snapped. Felicity was sitting across a couch, her legs thrown over the armchairs and her short bustier dress revealing inches and inches of skin. She had set her curls free a long time ago and they had been spread on a dark red pillow, Thea’s hands lost in them. The young Queen was sitting down against the couch, the top of her head pressing against Felicity’s ribs, her legs crossed in front of her, hidden by the silk of her dress. Carl took the pic from above, climbing up a small ladder in order to do so. It was a gorgeous picture and the two girls both really liked it.

After that picture, they went back to their main activity though, which was finding the perfect dress for the museum opening. And unfortunately, problems arose when Felicity refused to try on a gorgeous black silky dress with a lot of cut outs.

“What’s wrong?” Thea asked, frowning.

“I just don’t like the cut outs,” Felicity replied, twisting her fingers together, feeling more and more uncomfortable as her friend kept on insisting.

“Girl, you have a killer body. You don’t have to be afraid, you’ll look great in it.”

Felicity shook her head, her hand coming up to hold her ribs.

“At least try it on, to make him happy,” she punctuated her sentence with the cutest pout ever, and she looked so much like her brother, Felicity almost gave in. But then her grip on her ribs tightened and she remembered why she couldn’t, didn’t want to wear cut outs.

“Thea, please just let go. Besides, I am already falling for the pink dress,” she quickly added, pointing at the dress she was currently wearing.

“It does look good on you,” Thea agreed, her eyebrows furrowed.

Carl raised two thumbs in approval and they spent a bit more time looking for a perfect dress for Thea. They eventually found it and then they started looking for accessories to go with their dresses. They tried countless pair of shoes, to Felicity’s delight. Carl gave them another lesson of grace and bearing, righting their ways of walking and moving while wearing heels with their dresses. It was way past five when they had everything they needed for the opening and Felicity really thought they were going to leave, earlier than Thea had planned to. But then Carl asked them to put their shoes on and made sure they knew how to dance on the music. Thea, of course, had been taking dancing lessons ever since she had been five. She was as graceful as a feather and she moved perfectly in synch with the rhythm of the music. Felicity on the other hand… She had the agility of an elephant in a china shop. She had never been a great dancer, her dancing should be actually called her jumping and throwing her arms in the air. She had danced at the Queen’s party but it had been more swirling around and she had had Tommy to guide her. The following day, Moira Queen had made sure the musicians would play waltz. The equivalent of torture in Felicity’s vocabulary. She really loved dancing but only when other people were actually doing the dancing. Even Carl, who was according to Thea, a miracle maker didn’t get her to “float around the room like a cloud in the sky”.

When they made it back to Felicity’s car, they were both feeling exhausted.

“I don’t know how I am going to drive,” Felicity said after a while. “He killed my legs.”

“Thank God your car is an automatic then,” Thea said winking at her, just when her phone buzzed. “Ollie replied to the picture I sent him!” She happily told her, as Felicity turned on the ignition.

“Really, what is he saying?” She asked, driving out of the parking lot.

“He loves your legs and thinks you should only be wearing that kind of dresses in the office.”

Felicity chocked on her saliva, her cheeks turning bright red. “What?”

Thea chuckled, the little vixen. “Just kidding.”

Felicity breathed out in relief, it was the third time spoke of them that way and it wasn’t sitting well with her. They were friends, nothing more and she didn’t want Thea to get the wrong idea of how things were. He had a soulmate, they had an unconventional relationship, yes, but still. There were some boundaries one just didn’t cross.

“He says he doesn’t allow you to quit to become a model. And he blames me for my “bad influence” on you.”

It was Felicity’s turn to chuckle. “What about your mom? Why didn’t you send her the picture?”

Thea scowled and stiffened immediately. “Because. What I do in my free time is none of her business.”

Felicity’s hand clenched around the wheel. She had noticed things were tensed between the mother and the daughter when they had visited them at QC on Monday but she had thought it had only been temporary, a one-time thing. Clearly, it hadn’t been.

“She is your mother,” she tried to remind her, her voice smooth.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Thea sighed. “She is always trying to control everything, it’s exhausting.”

“I am sure she only wants what’s best for you.”

“The same way she was mean to you because she thought it was what would be best for Ollie if you disappeared?”

“She realised her mistake and apologised,” Felicity explained. Moira had come by Q. Inc again during the week and she had been nothing but cordial to Felicity. Of course, the blonde hadn’t forgotten what she had done to her, but for Oliver she wouldn’t hold onto the past either. It wouldn’t do any of them any good.

“If you truly believe that then you’re a fool. She hates your guts and will try to stab you in the back whenever she can.” Thea’s words were harsh and although Felicity wasn’t exactly hurt by them, she hadn’t been really convinced by Moira’s abrupt change of behaviour, she still winced. “Just so you know,” the brunette went on, “she doesn’t really approve of this,” she pointed at the both of them. “She’s putting on a good face for Oliver but she made me understand she wasn’t okay with me hanging out with you.”

“Why did you do it then?” Felicity asked.

“Because I like you dummy, you’re kind, honest and funny. It’s refreshing around here. Plus we have natural chemistry,” she showed her the picture on her phone and Felicity had to agree with her. “And also because not doing what Moira Queen wants me to do is my favourite activity.”

Felicity frowned, glancing quickly at the young girl sitting down next to her. She looked frustrated and sad, her legs to her chest, her eyes stubbornly facing away, staring at the darkness enveloping Star City.

“Thea, do you want to go eat something?” She offered.

She had been about to take her back to her house but the young Queen looked like she could use a good talk. It was obvious she needed someone to talk to, someone who wasn’t from her family and after all the things she had done for her, Felicity thought she owed Thea that much. And who knew, maybe she’d be able to help her.

“I am supposed to go back home immediately after I am done with Carl,” Thea reminded her.

“No one but us knows we’re done with him. Besides, you just said not doing what you mother wants you to is your favourite activity.”

Thea stared for a second, utterly speechless. “I knew there was a reason why I liked you Smoak.”

Felicity chuckled, shaking her head and drove to Big Belly Burger. They settled down in a booth in the back of the room, where no one could see them. She highly doubted anyone would recognise Thea but she didn’t want to take any risks. There, Thea proceeded to tell her a bit more about her strained relationship with her parents.

It was harder to be a Queen in Star City than it looked. People were expecting things from her, because of who she was and the things her name implied. Her parents put a lot of pressure on her shoulders, they wanted to shape her into what they wanted her to be and Thea just didn’t want the life they were setting up for her. It was very cliché but it didn’t mean it wasn’t true or painful for the young girl. She was craving normalcy and anonymity and honestly, Felicity couldn’t blame her. She had been in the spotlight her whole life long, she had never really had anything that only belonged to her.

“What about your soulmate?” Felicity asked, finishing her milkshake.

“If he is the slightest bit smart, he’ll stay away from me and my messed up life,” Thea replied bitterly. “Sometimes, I almost wish to wake up with my side of the bond alone, seeking his.” She chuckled, but it lacked any warmth and enthusiasm. “Can you believe it? I wish my soulmate would take the Med.”

Felicity’s heart clenched in her chest and she reached out to take Thea’s hands. “Have you registered to the SID?” She asked softly.

Thea looked up to the ceiling. “Mom’s handling my account. It could be that there is a match but I don’t know about it because mom thought he wasn’t an appropriate soulmate for me.”

Felicity froze at her words. “She wouldn’t do that, would she?” Her voice was shaking, her memory taking her back to that fateful day where she had met James Wilde. She wasn’t a fool, she knew there were a lot of people like her soulmate’s family. She felt really sorry for Oliver and Thea. Being born in that kind of family surely wasn’t easy.

Thea shrugged. “I honestly don’t know,” she confessed shaking her head. “Oliver is so lucky, Isabel is perfect, exactly what mom and dad had in mind for him.” She sighed, pushing the rest of her fries away.

“What’s your number?” Felicity asked, concern filling her. Did Oliver know about this? She knew Thea and he were very close but had she told him about this? He had already found his soulmate, so he didn’t have to worry about any of this but it didn’t mean he didn’t care about his sister’s soulmate.

“7.3,” Thea said.

Wow, a strong bond. It wasn’t rare to have weird numbers such as, 7.3 or 5.2 or 3.1. Measuring the level of pre-bonding connection wasn’t an exact science. Technically, Felicity’s bond to her soulmate had been 8.8. But since it was above eight, she had to round up to nine and take the Med as if her level was exactly 9.

“Can I tell you a secret?” Thea asked her after a few seconds of silence.

Felicity nodded, leaning forward. Thea reached for her bag and got a small needle out of it, it looked a lot like the one full of epi Felicity carried everywhere with her, because of her allergy to almost every kind of nuts. She didn’t have to ask what Thea’s contained though. She had seen a needle just like this once in a hospital in Vegas when she had been fourteen years old.

“He lives in the city?” She asked, not believing it.

Thea nodded shyly. “We’ve almost met thrice already. But honestly? He doesn’t deserve to get involved into all this mess. I don’t want that for him.” She paused for a second then added. “People think being a Queen is funny, they think having all this money and the shining cars is awesome. But that’s the thing. They only think about the bright and shiny side of things. The reality of my life is very different from what magazines keep writing.”

“Don’t you think it should be your soulmate’s call to make?” Felicity asked, her hand seeking Thea’s and squeezing her fingers lightly, to comfort her. “Maybe he wants to be with you,” she told her.

“Maybe,” Thea repeated. “But I don’t want to be with him.”

The words stung, they reminded Felicity of her own soulmate, who hadn’t wanted her, who had gotten involved with other girls and had partied so much she had feared he’d die from a cirrhosis at the age of forty. She felt the bond inside her roar to life, just like it always did whenever she thought about the past, about her soulmate. It pressed against the edged of her mind, looking for a way out, desperate to find its other half. She took a long breath to steady herself and it did slightly alleviate the pain in her chest. If Thea truly didn’t want to be with her soulmate, she’d act just her own had. She’d attend parties, she’d get drunk, she’d drugs. She’d even take the Med. But she wasn’t doing any of those things, or at least did it discreetly enough, and it told Felicity more about her than her words.

The two girls talked some more but soon enough, Thea’s phone started buzzing so Felicity drove her back to the Queen mansion. She hugged the young Queen tightly before they parted ways.

“If you ever need anything,” she whispered in her ear, “you know I am only a phone-call away, okay?”

Thea nodded, putting a strand of her hair back behind her ear. “Yeah thank you. For the meal and for the talk. I really appreciate it,” she said, looking and sounding really sincere.

“It was nothing,” Felicity assured her.

“It was already more than what other people ever did for me,” she squeezed Felicity’s hands before offering her a small smile. “Now go home and sleep! You need to rest after a day like this.”

Chuckling, Felicity nodded before leaving.

 


 

Felicity really should have seen it coming.

She really, really should have seen it coming.

After all, it wasn’t like Thea hadn’t warned her.

Or that she hadn’t had doubts about Moira’s apology to her.

But even if she forgot about all of this, she still should have seen it coming when she got Oliver’s text.

--

19:37 pm

My mother needs me there now, I can’t come and pick you up.

Meet me inside? I’ll make it up to you by taking you to BBG when we’re done, pinkie promise.

OQ”

--

Of course Moira would find a way to bring her son inside first so that Felicity would arrive alone. And of course she’d tell the welcoming team she was persona non grata and of course she’d keep Oliver busy so that he wouldn’t answer his phone.

“I am telling you mister, I am Oliver Queen’s EA, we were supposed to come in together, platonically, as platonic friends, because that’s what we are, friends I mean and also colleagues, because I am his EA. Did I mention I was his EA? Because I am, I work for him five days out of seven and damn what was my point already?”

“I hear you Miss Smoak but Mrs Queen clearly specified that you weren’t allowed inside the building,” the man she had been arguing with for the last ten minutes said, his voice strained as he was reaching the limit of his patience. “Now, you can leave on your own volition, or I can call the security team and have them escort you to your car.”

Her cheeks burning because of the feeling of humiliation she felt bursting in her chest, Felicity walked away, hitting the pavement angrily with her heels. She could feel people in the crowd watch her walk away as she tried one more time to call Oliver. When he didn’t pick up, again, she felt her last shred of dignity being taken away from her. She had never been so humiliated in her life before, Moira could give Mandy Miller a run for her money.

“Felicity?” She heard a familiar voice calling her.

Turning around, her eyes fell on Tommy, who was waiting to get inside, his soulmate, Laurel Lance, standing by his side, wearing a gorgeous golden dress. She wiped at her eyes and made her way to him.

“What’s going on?” He asked immediately, concern filling his eyes. “Where’s Ollie?”

“Already inside,” she said bitterly. “Moira told the security I was not to be let inside and he’s not answering his phone.”

“Damn it,” Tommy cursed, reaching for his own phone. He tried to call Oliver and in the meantime, Felicity introduced herself to Laurel properly.

“Felicity Smoak,” she told her, shaking her hand.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Laurel replied. “I am happy to finally meet you.”

“Likewise,” the blonde replied, truly meaning it. “Although I had hoped it’d be under better circumstances.”

“Oliver’s not picking his phone,” Tommy let out through gritted teeth, his frustration evident.

Felicity sighed. “It’s okay, I didn’t really want to go anyway. Tell him you saw me but I wasn’t feeling well, I don’t want him to argue with his mother over me.”

“Felicity no,” Tommy argued, grabbing her arm to hold her back. “I’m Tommy Merlyn and I’ll get you in, don’t worry. And then, we’re going to have a talk with Moira.”

“Tommy,” she protested. “It’s not necessary, really. They won’t let me in and I don’t want you involved. I don’t need…”

“Felicity just shut up and let me handle this, okay?”

She did shut her mouth, her stomach twisting inside her belly because of her nervousness, fear and humiliation. When they reached the man at the museum’s entrance, he refused to let her in, again.

“I am Tommy Merlyn and I am telling you Moira Queen had made a mistake. Maybe I should also remind you I am the second best donator to this museum and the whole Ancient Greece’s collections was funded by my family.”

The man’s cheeks reddened furiously and he let them in. Felicity stared at Tommy for a whole minute, her mind completely numb. It was the second time he was saving her from Moira and she was at a loss for words.

“Felicity, you okay?” He asked, helping both Laurel then her getting out of their coats.

She nodded, the question, bringing her back to the present moment. “Yes, thank you for your help. Now, please let me handle Moira on my own, okay? And don’t tell Oliver anything. I got this.”

“You sure?” He insisted as they made their way toward the ballroom.

“Absolutely,” she assured him.

“Okay – and just so you know, if you want to throw a flute of champagne to her face, I won’t hold you back.”

Felicity chuckled at that and so did Laurel. “Something tells me Felicity is going to be more subtle than this though,” Tommy’s soulmate pointed out.

Felicity nodded firmly, her eyes scanning the crowd. When they fell on a familiar silhouette standing among people in a black tux, his broad shoulders and messy hair unmistakable, a smile spread on her lips. And then, as if he had felt her eyes on him, he turned around a smile of his own spreading on his lips. His blue eyes travelled from the top of her head and her elegant up-do to her feet, taking in her pink silky gown. It was a gorgeous gown with an asymmetric shoulder and a pleaded skirt and belted waist. It was very simple, except for the slit at her right leg, exposing inches of her creamy skin. It wasn’t an outrageous slit, it stopped mid-thigh, but it was kind of sexy and she pinpointed the exact moment Oliver spotted it.

He made his way through the people present skilfully, reaching them in record time.

“Felicity.”

Her name fell from his lips in a breath, a small confession carrying more than its meaning. His bright blue eyes on her filled with satisfaction and pride telling her everything his mouth wasn’t.

“Oliver,” she replied, taking the hand he was offering her.

They stared at each other for a while and the more his eyes remained on her, the more she felt her cheeks burn. They were so intense, so focused on her, it made her feel uncomfortable. Not awkward uncomfortable but it’s-so-hot-in-here uncomfortable.

Tommy clearing his throat reminded them of the world’s existence and their eyes broke away, shattering the bubble they had gotten lost in. They did some small-talk and were soon joined by Thea, who looked absolutely beautiful in her night blue gown. Oliver found it hard to speak when he saw his baby sister, who wasn’t a baby anymore, dressed like a woman.

They melted in the crowd after that, making their way from one group of people to another, talking about art and archaeology, complimenting the Queens for their donations to the new aisle and on the rare paintings, statues and other pieces of art they had gathered. Waiter and waitresses were walking swiftly among them, furtive shadows carrying trays and making sure everyone was holding a flute of champagne and eating petits fours.

They moved to the ballroom for Moira’s speech. The museum used to be a castle and when City Hall had decided to turn it into a museum, they had kept some rooms, such as the ballroom, to hold receptions there. The Queen’s matriarch came on stage under a thunder of applauses, to which she responded with a bright smile on her lips and a tonic wave of hand. She stopped at the centre of the stage and when she spotted Felicity in the crowd, her eyes widened slightly before she got herself back together. She made a beautiful speech about art and the importance of remembering the past before announcing people the ball was finally opened.

Oliver turned toward Felicity expectantly, a small smile on his lips. But her eyes were focused on Moira Queen, who was talking to the museum’s curator. She made her way to her, promising Oliver she’d be back in a minute or so.

Anger had flared inside her, the moment she had seen the Queen matriarch. There was a lot Felicity could take. Insults. Disdain. Judgement. But hypocrisy and humiliation were too much. Moira had crossed a line and Felicity was going to make it very clear she wasn’t going to let herself be intimidated by her.

“Miss Smoak, what a surprise,” Moira greeted her dryly.

“I guess it must be a pretty big one,” Felicity said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Moira batted her eyelashes innocently. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she assured with quite some nerve, her blue eyes cold and filled with renewed hatred. It only served to stroke the fire burning in Felicity’s veins.

“You know exactly what I am talking about,” she hissed. “You didn’t want me in here, you told the security I wasn’t allowed inside. Why?”

“Does it really matter?” Moira asked, looking annoyed. “You got in, sadly. But it’s okay, it’s only the beginning. I’ll have you out of this town before the year is over.”

“Or so you think,” Felicity shot back. “I’m here to stay.”

“Says who? You? My son? Oh Miss Smoak please, don’t embarrass yourself any further.” She chuckled dryly. “You don’t think my son is going to pick your side, do you? Or maybe he will, the way he did the other day. I wouldn’t mind that to be honest.”

Felicity clenched her fists around her clutch, wishing she had a flute of champagne with her. Her cheeks burn at the memory of what had happened with Oliver barely a week ago.

“My son is never going to pick you Miss Smoak, because you’re nothing to him. You’ve never been anything and you never will be. Just get used to it and leave.”

Or what? Felicity thought.

“You know Mrs Queen you sound a bit too defensive, for someone so sure of winning.”

“Spare yourself a heartbreak Miss Smoak and just leave already.”

She tilted her head. “Excuse-me, a heartbreak?”

Moira snorted. “I see the way you look at him. I know an interested woman when I see one.”

Again, Felicity felt like she had been slapped. Instead of defending herself, she knew it was pointless to try and explain she wasn’t a gold-digger, she chose to attack.

“Oh really? Is it because you’re one yourself?”

Moira glared at her, truly glared at her and it took everything Felicity had in her for her not to take a step back. She held her head high, her spine straightened the way it used to be whenever she confronted Mandy Miller. Except this wasn’t just a bully. This was Moira Queen, her boss’ mother, a very wealthy and influent woman.

“Felicity?”

The blonde turned around, and saw Laurel staring at her worriedly. Felicity spun again, to face Moira but saw that she had left. She let out a deep breath.

“I’m sorry for interrupting,” the brunette in front of her said, “but Oliver is looking for you.”

“I need a drink,” she whispered, her legs shaking slightly after her confrontation with Moira.

“The bar is right over there,” Laurel told her, pointing toward it. “How about we go get you a little something? We can learn more about one another around a drink.”

Felicity gave her a small smile. She didn’t look like Sara at all but she sounded nice and Felicity really felt like talking to another woman.

“Don’t take it personally,” Laurel eventually advised when she explained her the whole situation. “Moira has always been very protective of Oliver.”

“But it seems so personal to her. She. Hates. Me.”

“And you have no idea why?”

Felicity shook her head. “Maybe I offended her in another life?” She suggested.

Laurel chuckled at that. They talked some more about Moira but Felicity quickly realised it was leading her nowhere and so she orientated the conversation toward a less sensitive topic. Since she needed something to cheer her up, she asked about Tommy and her.

“Ow, it’s one silly story,” Laurel confessed, blushing slightly.

“Really? Tell me! Tommy has told me a lot about you but nothing about how the two of you met.”

“It’s so stupid, I feel so dumb whenever I think about it,” the brunette admitted, chewing on her lower lip. “We met in high-school but we were all part of the same anti-soulmate group. It was fashionable to be part of one back then,” she explained, shaking her head in disapproval to her past-self actions. “We were both taking the Med and we were both dating other people but we felt a pull toward one another. He was the one person I always came back to.”

“Twisted,” Felicity commented, sipping her champagne slowly, savouring it.

Laurel nodded. “I know right?”

“Why did you stop taking the Med?” Felicity asked.

Laurel shrugged. “After Oliver’s accident, Tommy and I both realised how fragile life was. We decided to stop taking the Med together. Imagine my surprise when he proudly showed me his mark when it reappeared on his skin and I realise it was the same as mine!”

The image made Felicity laugh. “It’s a beautiful story,” she said. “The two of you were meant to be.”

“That we were,” Laurel agreed.

Suddenly, she felt a wave of boldness strike her. “I heard Oliver wasn’t taking the Med back then. Do you know why?”

“Yes! He had a strong connection with his soulmate, they were an eight or a nine, I don’t remember exactly. And he said he couldn’t cut their bond, that she needed him.”

Felicity frowned in confusion. Oliver had told her his connection with Isabel had been a three. “Are you sure?” She insisted. “He told me his connection with Isabel was a three.”

Laurel blinked and her grip tightened on her glass. “Oh yes, silly me! Now that you’re saying it, I remember. I mixed up Oliver’s story, with one of our other friends’ story. Sorry!” She chuckled nervously. “Yes, you’re right, his connection was only a three.”

Felicity blinked not entirely convinced. Laurel hadn’t seemed to doubt her memory until Felicity had pointed out what Oliver had told her. But if she had been right, it meant Oliver had lied to her. Or at least had forgotten about his number. And she knew for a fact that forgetting your number was practically impossible. It was itched to your memory the same way the soulmark was itched to your skin.

Before she could think about any of this more, she felt a large hand fall on her naked shoulder, encompassing it completely. The fingers flexed on her skin just as she felt a presence behind her, warmth and a familiar scent radiating off of it.

“Tommy’s waiting for you with Thea, Laurel,” Oliver told her.

She nodded. “Yep, felt it,” she pointed at her heart. “It was nice talking to you Felicity, I look forward to seeing more of you.”

“Me too, see you later Laurel,” Felicity replied, a smile on her lips. She turned around, to face Oliver. His lips were pursed, his eyebrows furrowed. “What’s wrong?” She asked.

“Why are you avoiding me?” He shot back.

Her eyes widened. “I am not avoiding you, why would say that?”

“Well, you haven’t been your usual self earlier and then you left to go speak with my mother, of all people, and with Laurel.”

It was true she had been pretty upset at the beginning of the party, because of what Moira had done. But it had absolutely nothing to do with Oliver, and he needed to get this idea out of his head. Quickly.

“I am not avoiding you Oliver, I promise,” she assured him, her hands coming up to right his bow-tie’s position. She patted his chest lightly when she was done, smiling. “From now on, I’ll be spending time with you and you only, okay?”

He nodded. “You don’t have to. It’s just you’re starting to become quite popular among our friends and I wonder what it will take for me to remain your favourite person in Star City.”

“What makes you think you’re my favourite person in Star City?” She teased.

“Let’s not lie to each other, okay?” He replied, his tone humorous.

His comment brought her back to her conversation with Laurel. She opened her mouth to ask about his connection with his soulmate. But then she realised: it was none of her business. Oliver and she were friends yes, and the soulmate’s topic was a very private and intimate one. And she couldn’t blame him for not wanting to discuss it with her.

“Felicity did you hear me?” Oliver asked.

She tilted her head, getting out of her thoughts. “I’m sorry what?”

“I asked you,” his hand grabbed her arm, his thumb tracing the line of her bones, his eyes watching goose bumps break on her skin with fascination, “if you wanted to dance,” he finished, his fingers meeting hers.

“Yes,” she said, breathlessly, squeezing his hand, all thoughts about his soulmate forgotten.

He walked them toward the dancefloor then, where Tommy was dancing with Laurel, Thea with her father and Moira with Walter Steele, Queen Consolidated’s CFO and a close family friend. The Queen matriarch’s eyes threw daggers at Felicity when she saw her with Oliver but the blonde chose to ignore her and to focus on the man in front of her. He raised their joined hands up, his other down falling on her higher back, pulling her closer to him. She caught herself on his shoulder, and she wondered for a second what kind of picture they made together.

“I should probably mention I am a terrible dancer,” she confessed as Oliver started leading them among the crowd of other dancers.

“I am an impeccable dancer,” he told her. “Don’t worry Felicity, I’ve got you!”

“Carl is an impeccable dancer too,” she reminded him. “And even he couldn’t get me to dance proper…” Her words were cut when he let go of her to make her spin, his hand coming back quickly to pull her back to him.

“I think you’re doing just fine Felicity.”

And of course, she almost tripped when he said that.

“Stop thinking about your feet,” he advised her. “And focus on something else.”

“Like what?” She asked just as she looked up from her feet to meet his eyes.

“Me for example,” he told her, his voice lower than before, his eyes darkening slightly.

His grip on her back tightened, and his spread his fingers until his thumb grazed her naked skin. She kept her eyes on him and their bubble from earlier came back. She forgot about everything else but him, his blue eyes being the only thing she saw, his breaths the only thing she heard. It was easy she realised, dancing, “floating around the room like a cloud in the sky” with him. It was easy to swirl around the room, to only pull away for brief second whenever he had to make her turn, his hands always bringing her back to him, every time a little bit closer. It was easy to be lifted by him, her petite waist fitting perfectly between his palms. It was easy to dance, it was easy to be, and Felicity realised it was a given around Oliver.

 


 

True to his words, Oliver took her to Big Belly Burger before driving her home. They sat down in the same booth she had sat down with Thea the previous day, Diggle in front of them. Oliver was the one to take off her heels and to stretch her legs onto his lap and after that, he let her steal all his pickles and if Felicity could have fallen in love with someone who wasn’t her soulmate, she’d have fallen in love with him right there and then.

They were about to leave when she got a text from Tommy.

--

“1:23 am

I know this is going to get me into a lot of troubles but I SHIP you guys!

TM”

--

She frowned, staring at the picture he had added to his text. It had probably been taken between two dances, because both she and Oliver were standing still. They were staring at each other, completely oblivious to the world, a small smile lingering on Oliver’s lips.

“What is it?” Oliver asked, when he noticed she had been staring at her phone for a while.

She shook her head. “It’s nothing,” she assured him. “Tommy’s just messing with me.”

She saved the picture anyway.

They drove her back to her building then and Felicity bid them goodnight before making her way upstairs.

She felt something was wrong before she was out of the elevator. The hair at the back of her neck rose up, all her senses on alert. When she saw her door opened, the handle broken, she dropped both her clutch and heels rushing inside her home.

To say her apartment was a mess would be an understatement. It had been wrecked, completely and entirely wrecked. Someone had ripped her couch opened, her coffee table had been split, her bookshelf and desk snatched from the wall they had been fixed. Clothes, books, and broken tableware were scattered around the room, torn pages mixing with white feathers and broken pieces of glass. Her mattress was stuck in the stairs, ripped open just like her couch. Even her laptop and DVDs had been smashed on the floor. Her fluffy blanket she loved so much had been torn into pieces and Felicity felt her heart break at the sight of her beloved rabbit hutch, invaded and destroyed.

She raised up her shaking hands, which were still holding her phone, scorching tears rolling down her cheeks, burning her skin. She unlocked it and opened the mail which had turned her blood to ice when she had received it at Q. Inc the previous day.

“Star City doesn’t want you Miss Smoak.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8:

“Don’t let me go,

Don’t let me go,

Don’t let me go,

We’re falling apart and coming together again and again.”

- The Fray, Never say never.

 

Felicity didn’t sleep in her apartment that night.

It took her a while to get a grip on her emotions. But in the end, her inner strength was enough to tame her fear and worry. Scared Felicity went away and rational Felicity came in, taking over control of her body and doing what needed to be done in order to keep herself safe and sane. She called a cab in the middle of the night and drove through the dark streets of Starling City, a small bag with a few belongings held tightly and protectively against her chest. She slept in a motel for the night. Actually, she didn’t sleep but she did stay in the shabby room for the night. She sat down on the cold sheets, looking for what to do, step by step. She needed to think and rely on her intelligence and resourcefulness to get herself out of this mess.

It made no doubts to her who was responsible for the break in and the destruction of her things. Two people had made it pretty clear they did not appreciate her presence in town: one was in Russia, the other was in Star City and had the money and resources to do pretty much everything she wanted. It was intimidation, plain and simple and Felicity needed to be the smarter one there. She needed to straighten herself and show she wasn’t impressed or scared. She wasn’t really, she had been through worse but the violence and the extremes Moira had been willing to go to that night made her pause and wonder.

Why did she hate her so much? Why did she want her gone so badly?

She had done nothing wrong!

And it was because she knew she hadn’t done anything worth such a wrath that she was going to stand her ground. She had all the rights to stay in Star City because, contrary to popular beliefs, Moira Queen did not rule it. And she was so wrong to think she wasn’t wanted in the city. Because she was, she had friends and she knew they cared about her and wanted her here. Oliver. Tommy. Thea. Diggle. She was going to stay, for all of them. But since the Queen’s matriarch had decided to level up her game, she was going to do just the same, adjusting her own game to hers.

The first thing she needed to do was to move in another building, one with a better security system. It had always been part of her plan, moving out of her rabbit hutch, but still it saddened her to have to leave so early. She really had gotten used to her little nest and had wanted to save some money first, before going anywhere. The plan had been to move out in 2017, not October 2016. She’d have to change her plan but maybe it was all for the best. Her job at Q. Inc paid well and it would be nice to have an extra bedroom for her mother. She was going to come and visit her for Thanksgiving at the end of November. She knew it’d be complicated for her to be all moved out in four weeks but she was willing to give it a try.

So she spent the whole night up, looking for apartments in the neighbourhood, writing down phone numbers to call during the next day, using her tablet since her computer had been completely smashed. She enjoyed doing it. It kept her busy, helped her stop thinking about how this violation of her privacy was reminiscent of what had happened to her in the past, in that dark room, on that metallic bed. Deep down, Felicity knew Moira had gone too far. But what could she do? She was Moira freaking Queen. Surely, she hadn’t trashed her apartment herself – though the image of the ever impeccable Moira Queen destroying her things made her laugh – and she was smart enough to have covered her tracks well. The fact that Moira hadn’t tried to hide her hatred toward her could play in Felicity’s favour but in the end, if she went to the police and accused her of hiring someone to scare her away, they’d find no proof and things would become all tensed up and awkward with Oliver and she did not want that. He was the best thing to have ever happened to her, after MIT and she was not willing to risk their friendship.

“And what do you think we have exactly?”

“Something worth keeping.”

She was going to be super busy during the last week of October. She found six potential apartments and scheduled two visits per night, starting on Monday and finishing on Wednesday. She spent these few days in a hurry, going to work during the day and doing her best to keep everything from Oliver, spending her lunchtime doing her accounting and leaving the office as quickly as she had come in to be on time for her visits. She knew she was acting weird and she knew Oliver was noticing things but she didn’t want him involve in any of this. She was a big girl, she could take care of herself and find a new place to live on her own.

Felicity had some money left from her soulmate’s parents but if she was going to move out in a bigger apartment, she’d have to pay three months of renting and removal men. She also had to fix the damages in her apartment, if she wanted to get her deposit check back. And the damages to her beloved rabbit hutch were really important, meaning the price to pay would be very, very high. She also needed to buy herself a new laptop – though she could still use her tablet for the time being – and some of her books and clothes had been irremediably torn, broken and needed to be replaced. She knew the money she had saved could cover her expenses but she feared she’d have some work to do in her new apartment, meaning she’d have to get more money out… That was why she was doing her accounting very seriously, she didn’t want to get in trouble with her bank counsellor on top of everything else.

She ended up picking an apartment she hadn’t chosen to visit. But after her sixth visit and another disappointment, she finally found what she was looking for. The owner of the apartment she visited last, noticed her desperation – she hated living in a motel and couldn’t get back to her rabbit hutch because of the renovation work – and told her about a friend of hers whose tenants had just left her apartment, in the same building. She got her in touch with her friend and Felicity went to visit the apartment immediately after. It only had one bedroom, and that was why she hadn’t paid any attention to it when she had scheduled appointments, but with a little work and layout, she could turned the utility room into a second bedroom. And since it was a furnished apartment, she’d only have to pay for the work in that room, something her bank account would be very grateful for.

She found herself organising the pursuit of the operations, so to speak on a Thursday night in Sara’s coffee shop. The renovation work in her rabbit hutch were done and she had come back to live in it, though she didn’t sleep there well at night. She highly doubted Moira would send someone to kill her in her sleep but it didn’t mean she was feeling serene. The owner of the apartment she was going to rent was very eager to have a new tenant, so Felicity could get the keys as soon as her file with all the papers needed to rent a place would be complete. Since she had moved not so long ago, she had no problem finding all the papers and they scheduled an appointment for Friday evening. Felicity too was very eager to move. She wouldn’t have too much trouble to leave her place. Her landlady usually rented it to students, meaning that she only asked for a letter and the payment of the month’s rent. Felicity would have to pay November’s rent, though she would probably move out on the first or second weekend of the month. She’d lose money but she didn’t really care. It wasn’t that much money and as long as she was out and somewhere safer, she’d be happy. She wrote her letter notifying her desire to vacate, signed a check, adding pictures of the newly fixed apartment and felt a bit better when the envelope was sealed. Everything was going fast, too fast perhaps but she didn’t care. It was how she was. Fast and efficient, especially when it came to protect herself.

When she was done with the not so funny parts of moving out, she looked at the picture of the utility room she had taken with her tablet. There wasn’t that much work to do in it, just a lot of cleaning. The wooden floor and the walls just needed to be freshen up a little bit and she’d have to buy new pieces of furniture. She’d turn that room into a nest, her nest.

“Hey Felicity!”

The blonde looked up from her tablet, her eyes meeting the blue ones of Barry.

“Barry!” She said, putting her papers away so that he wouldn’t see them. She hadn’t told anyone she was moving out. “How are you doing?”

“Good, what about you?” He asked, sitting down in front of her.

“I am good,” she replied hurriedly.

He cocked his head, and his eyes fell on the envelope she had just closed and the papers she hadn’t had time to put away and were still scattered on the table.

“You’re moving out?” His eyebrows were furrowed in confusion. “Where to? Please tell me you’re not leaving Star City. Some people would be very hurt if you were and by “people” I don’t only mean JJ.”

Felicity gave him a small smile. “I’m not leaving Star City, don’t worry. I am just leaving my apartment.”

The news seemed to surprise him. “What? Last week I heard you tell Iris how much you loved your apartment. You said you felt like a fledging in your nest.”

“All birds have to fly at some point,” she told him, locking her tablet.

“But why in such a hurry?” Barry insisted, going over her papers, cop’s habits she guessed. He always seemed to sneak his nose everywhere.

She paused for a second and just stared at him, considering if she could tell him the truth or if she should just shut up. She quickly concluded that she couldn’t. But she could tell him half of it, it wouldn’t hurt especially since he was working for the police. And maybe she’d feel a little better if someone else knew.

“Someone broke into my apartment,” she explained calmly, as if it was no big deal at all and she was talking about her grocery list.

His eyes widened and his whole demeanour changed completely. “What? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Did you go to the police?” She shook her head. “You need to! You need to fill a police report, we need to open an investigation and…”

“Barry, Barry, please calm down!” She pleaded with him, as she could his outrage grow. “It was nothing really, nothing was stolen and I wasn’t hurt, okay?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He immediately asked her, now sounding hurt, offended. She scowled and he frowned. “Did you even tell someone? Oliver? Your mother?”

Her cheek reddened and she looked down toward her cup of coffee.

“Felicity, why haven’t you told anyone? For how long has this been going on? What if something had happened to you? I know you said it was okay but it’s not and you need to understand that, the sooner the better.”

Guilt and shame burst in her chest at the same time. Barry was right. But telling her mother would have only worried her, and after what they had been through after him, Felicity had just wanted to spare her a little. And Oliver… Well, telling him was just out of question.

“It happened during the weekend,” she told him, looking up again. She didn’t have to feel ashamed or anything. She had taken care of her business, as always. “But it’s okay now, I’ve found a new place, with a better security system. And it’s closer from Q. Inc, so it’s really a win-win situation for me.”

“As a police officer,” he started.

“You’re a forensic scientist Barry,” she corrected.

He rolled his eyes. “Same. As a police officer I have to ask: do you have any idea who could have done that? If it wasn’t a robbery maybe it means it was personal, maybe they’ll try again…”

She raised a hand to calm him down. “Barry, I told you it’s okay. I’ve dealt with it.”

“Felicity, a break in is something serious. You should tell someone about it.”

“I did! I told you!”

Barry shook his head. “Tell your friends Felicity,” he insisted.

“Aren’t you my friend?” She said, smiling.

He didn’t smile back. “I am serious Felicity. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

She bit on her lower lip. She wasn’t going through this alone. She was taking care of things herself, she didn’t want to be a burden for the people around her. Some people would call her stupid, she’d rather call herself independent.

Barry left her soon after, giving her piercing looks and telling her to talk to her friends. She promised him she’d think about it, though everything was already all thought. Oliver had other things to think about, business were starting to get really serious at Q. Inc and she wouldn’t be the reason her mother started worrying again. She had been there and done that once. It had been enough.

She started thinking about her new apartment and what she’d like to do with the utility room, all the while checking on her bank account, making sure that her ideas were all affordable. She was taken out of her thoughts by the sound of a chair being pulled. She looked up from her tablet and blue met blue. Her heart skipped a bit. Not the blue she had been thinking about but she liked this one just as much. Tommy.

She cocked her head. “Hey!” She greeted him, a smile spreading on her lips, her heart thrumming happily in her chest. She locked her tablet, pushing the paper she had been taking notes on away.

“Miss Smoak, we need to talk,” he told her very seriously.

She frowned. He looked dead serious. “What do we need to talk about?” She asked.

“My best friend,” he replied. “He doesn’t know I am here, by the way you’re an easy woman to track down Miss…”

His words froze her blood. Normally, she wouldn’t have minded them but after the break in in her apartment…

“Felicity, are you there?"

“I am sorry, what did you say Tommy? I zoned out for a second.”

 He huffed back a laugh. “Yeah, I’ve noticed.” He paused for a second, making eye-contact with her to be sure he had all her attention. Then he went on. “Oliver doesn’t know I am here, he’d probably kill me if he knew what I am about to do…”

“And what are you about to do exactly?” She asked, leaning toward him, a small smile on her lips.

“What did Oliver do? Why are you mad at him?”

She frowned. “I am not mad at him.”

Tommy arched an eyebrow. “Really? Then why he is moping around, saying you’ve barely talked to him during the week. He’s pretty sure things went well at the museum opening and he doesn’t understand what’s happening and he’s afraid to ask you about it because he can be an idiot sometimes.”

Felicity blinked then slapped her forehead. Of course Oliver would think he had done something wrong. Ever since they had argued, he had been really really nice around her, bringing her coffee in the morning, making sure she knew how much he regretted what had happened, making her feel wanted and needed in a way she had never felt wanted or needed before in her life. She hadn’t thought that her distancing herself slightly because she had personal matters to deal with would affect him but she should have known it would.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry… It has nothing to do with him. I’ve had to deal with a few things and… It’s really not about him, I am not mad at him or anything.”

“Really?” Tommy insisted.

“Really,” she repeated smiling.

Tommy let out a little breath. “Okay, can you go tell him this then? He was worried – don’t tell him I said that though, he’d kill me.”

Felicity chuckled, running a hand through her hair. “I will. Promise.”

“And will you tell him about what happened at the museum opening?”

She scowled. “No,” she said coldly, clenching her fingers around her stylus.

He sighed. “Felicity…”

“Tommy, please, we talked about this already. I can handle this.”

He sighed again, more deeply. “I guess I’ll have to stick around you to make sure the dragon doesn’t gulp you down.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m sure your soulmate will appreciate it.”

He shrugged. “She likes you. It seems to happen a lot.”

“What?”

“People liking you.”

She blushed and looked down at her tablet.

Tommy smiled smugly, leaning down in his chair more comfortably. “What are you working on anyway?” He asked, reaching for the paper she had been taken down notes on.

“Painting, new bed, new desk, lights, removal men…” He read. “Don’t tell me you’re leaving Star City! People would be really sad if you are, me included.”

She snorted, getting her paper back. “Why do you all think I am leaving Star City?”

“Why do you need removal men?”

“Because I am moving out, genius,” she told him, gathering her things.

“Why hiring removal men?” He asked. She tilted her head in question and he went on. “You know me, Oliver, Diggle and even Barry – though the boy is thick as a stick. If we can help you move out, we’ll be glad to do it. And you won’t have to pay men to do the job.”

Felicity twisted her fingers together. “It’s okay, really I don’t need help…”

Tommy raised a hand to stop her. “This is not about you needing help. This is about you letting people help you.” She bit on her lower lip before opening her mouth. “Don’t try to protest, I’ve seen how you don’t want help on the Moira front, I am assuming you don’t want help on that front either? Too bad, I am offering mine and I am sure the others will be happy to give you a hand as well. I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said people liked you Felicity.”

She nodded. “I’ll keep you in touch,” she promised.

“You better. Because I am not going to let this go.” His phone rang and he got up to take the call. She grabbed her own phone and typed a quick text.

--

“6:34 pm

How does pizza sound for dinner?

FS”

--

The reply came quickly after, drawing a smile on her lips. It was like he had known she would text and had been waiting by his phone.

--

“6:35 pm

Depends on what you order for me…                          

OQ”

--

She shook her head, knowing his favourite.

--

“6:37 pm

Cheese and pepperoni.

FS”

--

6:40 pm

Opening the wine. You can have one glass.

OQ”

--

She rolled her eyes at his text and Tommy came back to her.

“I have to go and… Why are you smiling?”

She shrugged. “I just got plans for dinner.”

He smiled at her. “Very well then, have a nice evening Miss Smoak.”

She got up and he helped her into her coat. “Thank you very much Mr Merlyn, have a nice evening as well.”

They both walked toward the door, waving at Sara on their way out.

“I am serious Lissy, talk to Oliver.”

“Lissy?” She asked, her head tilted.

He nodded, a smile on his lips. “Yep. You’re our Lissy now and we’re keeping you.”

She huffed back a laugh before hugging him tightly.

 


 

“I am not mad at you,” was the first thing she said when Oliver opened the door to his apartment.

He cocked his head, and her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him. He was leaning against the door, wearing jeans falling low on his hips and a tight black t-shirt. He was barefoot and his hair was slightly damp, telling her he had just gotten out of the shower. She could see drops of water running down his neck and she really shouldn’t have found it as sexy as she did.

“I am not avoiding you and I am not mad at you,” she repeated. “And I am sorry for making you feel like I was,” she added, handing him the pizzas she had bought.

He stepped aside to let her in and closed the door behind her.

“Let me guess,” he told her as she made her way in his loft, settling down on his couch. He had already poured each of them a glass of red wine, to go with the pizza. “Diggle?”

“I am not going to reveal my source, so you might as well want to let it go.”

“I will, if you tell me what’s going on with you,” he replied, sitting down next to her. He cut their pizzas as she took off her boots, to bring her legs under her. When she was in position, he handed her a slice of her pizza and a napkin.

“Thank you,” she said.

He didn’t reply, and took a mouthful of pizza. He moaned happily, swallowing it down. “Luigis’s?” He asked and she grinned. “God bless you!”

Her grin widened and she took a bite of her pizza.

“So, what have you been up to?” He asked her, turning so that he’d face her.

“I am moving out,” she told him bluntly.

He choked on his wine. “What? But you love your apartment.”

“I’ve been told on many occasions it’s too small,” she reminded him.

“Well, it is small,” he replied, grinning.

She rolled her eyes at him and proceeded to tell him what she had been up to for the last few weeks, keeping the break in a secret though. She told him about the visits, how she had found her new apartment, the meeting she was going to attend the following day to get the keys and the work she’d have to do to turn the utility room into a bedroom. She even showed him the pictures of her new place, telling him the owner had been a bit sceptic about renting her apartment to a freshly graduated twenty-year-old.

“Woah!” He said, his eyes wide open. “I don’t know how you do it,” he confessed after a second. “You’re twenty…”

“Almost twenty-one,” she reminded him.

“Right, almost twenty-one,” he corrected, “but you handle things better than twenty-seven-year-old me would. Sometimes I forget you’re so much younger than me…” He paused. “How do you do it?”

She shrugged, playing with her glass of wine, enjoying the way the lights reflected themselves in the deep red liquid. This was what she had to become. How her life had shaped her. But she couldn’t tell him without him asking questions so she went with something much simpler. “This is the way I am,” she eventually said, trying to run away from the sudden seriousness of the conversation.

“I have to say I like it Miss Smoak,” he replied, smiling.

She smiled back at him and told him Tommy had offered to help her moving out. Oliver stiffened at her words.

“You told Tommy before telling me?” He asked, his voice sounding casual. Too casual.

She tilted her head. “Oliver Queen are you jealous?” He stubbornly looked away from her. She slapped his forearm. “I can’t believe it, you’re jealous!”

“Hey! You’re supposed to be closer to me.”

She chuckled. “Tommy may or may have not found me at Sara’s coffee shop and he may or may have not seen me planning things.”

Oliver relaxed a little bit.

“Oliver, stop being an idiotic jealous man! You know JJ’s my favourite.”

He rolled his eyes at her. “But JJ can’t go out with you on Saturday to buy all the things you need for your new apartment. He can’t cook you lunch and then he also can’t help you paint your bedroom. Or assemble your new pieces of furniture. That kind of stuff.”

She shook her head. “You’re unbelievable,” she sighed.

He shrugged. “So, you’re up for a busy Saturday?”

She bit on her lower lip. “Are you sure? Because I am sure you have something better to do.”

“Actually, I don’t. My soulmate lives on the other side of the planet, my best friends have soulmates to take care of and my little sister would rather go shopping with her friends than hang out with me so…”

“I am your backup plan to save you from a boring Saturday?”

He grinned. “You said it yourself!”

“Okay, let’s do this. It could be fun.”

“Come on, you know it will!”

She huffed back a laugh. She knew it would.

 


 

Everything went smoothly with her appointment on Friday. The woman really was sceptic with Felicity renting her apartment, she was young and her job at Q. Inc was her first one, so the blonde got where she was coming from. But in the end, she had the money and had a resume and references to speak for her.

Oliver knocked on the door of her rabbit hutch at eight am sharp on Saturday. They had a long day ahead of them and she didn’t know who was the most eager to live it. It was probably her, but his excitement was really palpable.

“It’s the first time I do this,” he explained her when she asked him about it. “I didn’t take care of anything when I moved out and Tommy didn’t really need my help either. We had people doing it for us. So I am glad I get to help you, makes me try new things.

His response made her smile and she was brought back to their breakfast at the seaside restaurant. Deep down, Oliver Queen really was a simple man.

“So where are your knew keys?” He asked her. “And is that a new couch?”

She panicked for a second, yes it was a new couch but it looked very much like the old one and she hadn’t thought he’d notice the difference. Thankfully, she had her keys to distract him with.

“Here they are!” She happily said, making them tinkle.

“Well congrats on your first decent apartment Miss Smoak,” he told her, taking them from her.

“Well thank you for hiring me Mr Queen, you made it all possible.”

“This is what I call a good investment,” he replied as she put on her shoes. She could feel his eyes intensely focused on her and she raised up an eyebrow.

“What?” She asked.

“How many pair of shoes do you own?”

She burst out laughing, getting up and putting on her coat. “Oliver, you should not ask questions you’re not going to like the answer to. Now come on, let’s go.” She patted his chest and they got out of her rabbit hutch.

He insisted on them going to her new apartment first. She gave him a tour and he listened carefully to all the things she wanted to do.

“There, I’m going to hang my Doctor Who’s poster.” or “All my books will go in the guest room, except for my favourites. These ones I’ll keep in my bedroom.” or “I think I’ll put the movies on the right side of the TV and my TV-shows and the left side. It’s bigger and I’ll be able to get all my funko pop out of their folders.”

He smiled when she mentioned her funko pops. Since he didn’t know what they were she had gotten him one of Jon Snow, arguing that he “knew nothing” and “it was time someone educated him and told him about all the wonders life had to offer.” He still had his Jon Snow on his desk at Q. Inc, it had become their private joke.

“So any idea of the painting you’d like to put on these walls?”

“Blue,” she told him. She had been thinking about it a lot during the past few days and she was sure now. “Something between blue and sea-green. I want the walls to remind me of the sea.”

He smiled at the dreamy look in her eyes and pushed her toward the exit.

“Let’s go get your painting. And your bed. Did I tell you I am probably the best mattress tester you could ever find?”

“I bet you are. You must have slept on your fair share of mattresses.”

He blinked, looking rather surprised. She winked at him and got into his car. He got in right after her.

“What? I was just kidding Oliver,” she said, slightly worried when he didn’t reply.

“I know you were.” He punctuated his sentence with a smile but she could see a shadow remaining in his eyes. She wanted to slap herself. She knew he hated talking about his past, she knew he regretted most of the things that had happened – though he refused to tell her why. She shouldn’t have made a joke about this. She really shouldn’t have and yet she had. What an idiot!

She let him pick the radio station, in spite of them having very different taste in music and listening to something he liked seemed to help him relax. She saw the tension in his shoulders loosen up a little bit and soon enough, her smiling Oliver was back.

They spent a few hours at the shop, and they had a lot of fun, trying on mattresses, pointing at ugly paintings or admiring beautiful interior designs. As always, it was fun and easy to be Oliver and she learnt a lot about him during that little trip. Contrary to what his apartment interior had made her think, he liked warm colours and comfy wooden pieces of furniture. When she asked him about it, he brushed the topic away, saying Isabel loved modern and metallic things better. As soon as his soulmate was mentioned, she stopped pushing, not wanting to see him stiffen up, as he always did whenever Isabel came up in a conversation.

“I think I like this bed,” she told him, after three hours of walking, staring and laughing.

He tried to stretch on it and almost pushed her out of it when he did. “It’s too small,” he complained.

She rolled her eyes. “For you perhaps, but you’re not going to sleep in it, I am,” she argued. “And it’s just the right size for me. And it’ll go well with the painting and other pieces of furniture I’ve picked.”

“But what if you have someone staying over?” He insisted.

“I don’t plan on having someone staying over,” she shot back. “Or if I do, I have a guest-room.”

He chuckled. “I am not talking about a guest, I am talking about a guy. Or a girl. That you like. You know, what about your soulmate?”

Her eyes went wide open.

“Come on Felicity!” He told her, squeezing her shoulder. “You know a lot about me and my love life. What about yours? Have you met him yet?”

She blinked. What was happening? One second they had been talking about her bedroom and now he was asking her about her soulmate. What the hell was happening?

She closed her eyes for a second, her bond roaring to life, pressing against the walls of its prison in her mind. Taking a deep breath to calm herself down, she said, her voice not as steady as she would have liked.

“I’d rather not talk about it, it’s complicated.”

Oliver tilted his head. “Really? You know you can tell me about it, right? That’s what friends are for after all.”

She shook her head. “Yes, but I really don’t want to talk about it,” she insisted. The bond was pressing harder as feelings from the past assaulted her senses. Comfort, love, pain and rejection all melted into one wave of agonizingly strong emotions. It was another crisis, the ones she was having because she was taking the Med and she had to clench her fists to not cry out in in front of Oliver.

“Felicity are you okay? You look pale.”

She had no trouble believing it. She was a mess of emotions. Her bond was pressing against her mind, the pressure so strong, she was feeling her bars holding it prisoner crack. Her breathing fastened, her heart picked up in her chest as waves of panic wrecked her insides.

“Yes, I am fine. I just need to go to the bathroom. Wait for me here, okay?” She said hurriedly, rushing away.

She locked herself in the bathroom. With shaking hands and without thinking, she reached for the Tablet of the Med she always carried with her and gulped down one pill. She had already had one in the morning, this was the second. Immediately after, she felt the bond collapsed, numbed by the chemicals in the blue pill. She splashed water on her face and fanned herself with her hands, trying to cool down. It wasn’t the first time she had felt the walls crack. No, they had almost crack that day, when she had been tied up to the bed, right before the police found her. But it was the first time a crisis had started so quickly, so suddenly. And it scared her. Because the bond was getting stronger, she was feeling more and more of it and it shouldn’t be happening. Not while she was on the Med.

She righted her hair and her outfit and when she was satisfied with her appearance, she walked out.

“You okay?” Oliver asked when she came to meet him again.

She nodded but he still looked worried, and there was something in his eyes, something that looked a lot like curiosity. Again, she assured him she was okay and they hurried to finish her purchasing. They went back to his apartment, where he proceeded to make them lunch. Oliver Queen was a sight to behold, he did their quick lunch with as much love and care as if it had been a romantic dinner and it made her smile internally. Oliver was a dedicated person, she knew from the time they spent working together. She also knew it from the way he cared about his family and friends. And she was seeing it now, as he poured everything he had to give in the simplest things of life. He was impressed by her strength she was impressed by his dedication and she wondered why he was like this. What had happened to him to make him so involved, so committed, she was dying to know.

They went to her new apartment after that and worked in the utility room, getting their lightness and fun from the morning back. The bond was still sleeping, the double dose of the Med having a strong effect on it. They cleaned and fixed what needed to be fixed on the floor and then on the walls, Felicity spending a lot of time ogling Oliver, fascinated by the play of his muscles under his T-shirt. Her boss was a very handsome man and she could totally see how he had gotten involved with so many girls in the past. She probably would have fallen for his smile and dimples too.

They worked until late that night, ordering take-out at some point, eating their first meal ever in her new apartment. They were sitting in the middle of her newly painted in white bedroom, the lights of the streets reflecting themselves on the walls they had spent hours cleaning, fixing and then painting. They’d applied the sea-green painting she had picked the following day, if their muscles weren’t too sore.

“Felicity,” Oliver said cautiously after a few minutes spent admiring their handy-work silently.

She turned her head toward him. “Yes?”

“About earlier,” he started, shifting uncomfortably. “I am sorry I brought up your soulmate. I had no idea, it would do something like this to you.”

She shrugged. “I didn’t react that bad,” she tried to minimize.

“For a second, I feared you were having a stroke.”

She chuckled, sipping at her water bottle. “I wasn’t. It’s just complicated. My soulmate’s out of the picture, has been for a while and I don’t like talking about it.”

Oliver frowned. “Out of the picture? Is he… dead?”

That made her pause. Because honestly, she had no idea. Her bond was struggling against the Med, yearning to be set free but what if there was nothing waiting for it on her soulmate’s side? What if only a cold and silent void was waiting for her bond behind the doors of its prison? She didn’t know if her soulmate was dead, just like she didn’t know if he had started taking the Med – which would have been the smartest decision since she was herself taking it. She remained for a long moment before answering.

“He’s not dead,” she told him, knowing it was true the moment the words fell off her lips. If he had died, she would have felt it, she knew it.

Oliver nodded, playing with the edge of his t-shirt. “And do you think he’ll be back in the picture one day?”

She shook her head. “I highly doubt it.”

“Well, his loss,” he stated getting up. He dusted his jeans before holding out a hand for her to take. She let him pull her on her feet and gave him a small smile. He replied with one of his own, before saying.

“If you ever need to talk about it, you know I’m here.”

She nodded, something tightening in her throat. “I appreciate it.”

And she truly did.

The next day, they came back and painted her bedroom. Felicity thought the colour she had picked brought out Oliver’s eyes so she let her pencil fell on his shirt on him once or twice. He rolled his eyes at her every time, but never fought back, arguing that he was “more mature”.

The following week, she spent her days at Q. Inc, and things were back to normal between Oliver and her. If anything, they were maybe a little closer. Accepting his help, letting him in a way had changed things for her. She felt less guarded around him. There were still some things she wasn’t going to share, but they all had their secrets – Oliver being the first one on the list – it was how life was.

And when her day was over, her night started and she spent her evenings travelling between her two apartments, bringing a few of her things with her every time. She invited Barry over one night and he helped her put together the new pieces of furniture she had bought for her bedroom. She would have asked Oliver but when he had tried doing it, he had started yelling not nearly an hour into it, cursing at the people writing instructions. Barry had more patience and assembled everything in a flash.

She moved out definitely the next weekend, only two weeks after the break in in her apartment and sometimes it seemed like it had happened months ago. She hadn’t seen or heard from Moira during these two weeks and though she didn’t complain, it did worry her. She knew it was the quiet ones that needed to be watched most. But so many things had happened, she had been so caught up in her mind to really have time think about her boss’s crazy mother and her undying hatred toward her. She didn’t even realise things were happening, and they were happening fast. She had moved out in two weeks for God’s sakes! She felt the need to press the button “pause” but knew she couldn’t just yet. Once she’d be settled, she would. Until then, she still had some work to do.

Oliver, Diggle, Barry and Tommy came to help her move her boxes while Laurel and Thea started unpacking things, following the instructions she had written with a felt-tip marker on the boxes “living room”, “bedroom” or “bathroom”. It was the first time Felicity was with all of them together at the same time and it was truly something. They made moving out fun and just by being their usual selves. Tommy teased everyone, only stopping whenever his soulmate rolled her eyes at him, Barry babbled about physics and lifting the boxes, Diggle was the quietest but reassured everyone but by his presence and Oliver and Thea bantered and argued only like a brother and a sister could and it was something really fun to see. Felicity had never really had a group of friends to rely on, she had been bullied in high-school and had had trust issues in college but as the day went on, she realised having friends and letting them help her out felt very, very good.

Diggle and Barry were the first ones to leave. They both had a soulmate and a child to go home to. Felicity promised to call them for her housewarming. Then Tommy and Laurel left, they were invited by Laurel’s father to dinner. She thanked them for their help and they reminded her she was invited for Thanksgiving, with her mother. When she closed the door, he was left with Thea and Oliver. He was sitting down on her couch, resting while his sister was looking around, moving light boxes out of the way. There were still a few boxes to unpack but she’d do that on her own.

“Who’s up for some take out?” She suggested, coming back to sit down next to Oliver, who shifted his position to accommodate her. “I’m offering,” she added.

“Well, if you’re offering,” Oliver said, looking at Thea for her approval. The brunette nodded.

They ordered something to eat and chatted while they waited for their food to arrive.

“So,” Oliver started. “You happy?”

She gave him a bright smile. “It’s the biggest place I’ve ever lived in,” she confessed. “I hope I won’t get lost.”

He chuckled. “You won’t, don’t worry,” he assured her.

“Says who? You? Not all people grew up in a castle, you know? I’m not kidding, my college apartment was so small, it was half the size of this place.”

“Speaking of college, where do you want to put this?” Thea asked, holding out a box with college written on it.

Felicity stiffened immediately. The sight of the box enough to bring back unpleasant memories.

“Felicity?” Thea insisted when she didn’t respond right away.

“Felicity?” Oliver nudged her and she shook her head, pulling her mind out of Boston. She was in Star City and she was having a very good time that didn’t need to be tainted by dark memories.

“Give it to me,” she said, getting up. “I’ll take care of it.”

She hid the box under her clothes in her closet. It was covered by fabric, meaning she wouldn’t have to see it every day. Sighing, feeling slightly better, she came back to her friends. Their food arrived twenty-minutes later and they listened to Thea telling them about the upcoming winter ball she was organising for her high-school and at some point, she got Felicity to agree to go shopping for the perfect dress with her.

They left soon after dinner, Mrs Queen demanding that Thea was home early and Oliver being adamant his sister respected her mother’s wishes. He surprised Felicity by giving her a quick hug before leaving – they usually weren’t the hugging type. His sister hugged her tightly wishing her a goodnight in her new home.

 


Felicity knew instantly Oliver had something to ask her when he got up from his chair to walk to her. He had The look on his face. His lips were slightly pursed, and his blue eyes, bright and pleading though he had yet to say anything.

“What do you want?” She asked without looking up from her screen. It was Friday, the last day of their week from Hell. They were leaving Q. Inc for a week of break, to celebrate Thanksgiving and spend some times with their families and they had had a lot of work to do before finally being able to take a break.

He tilted his head a smile stretching his lips at her question. “What makes you think I want something?”

She looked up from her computer screen and stopped typing. “You’re doing that cute thing with your eyes you always do when you’re about to ask me something and you know I might say “no”.”

“I do a cute thing with my eyes?” He sounded surprised.

She nodded. “Don’t act like you don’t know what you’re doing Queen. And ask me already, we still have a lot of things to do before we are officially on a break.”

“What are you doing tomorrow night?”

“Me? Nothing. But you are going out with Tommy, to a basketball game? Star City against Coast City, right?” When he nodded in approval, she smiled proudly. “You see! I do pay attention when you talk about sports.”

He chuckled, running a finger through his head. “Tommy just cancelled and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me.”

She blinked. “Tommy cancelled? Why would he do that? He loves that damn sport even more than you do.”

“Trust me, he cancelled with a good reason.”

She got up from her chair, walking toward the archive room on their floor. “Why did he cancel?” She asked, going through the reports she needed to put away.

“He’s busy with Laurel, if you see what I mean.”

She paused, stopping her walk and Oliver almost bumped into her. “Gross!” She said, shaking her head, to chase images of Tommy and Laurel lost in one another from her mind.

“Well, at least it’s happening now and not before Thanksgiving. I’d rather have him cancel our plans than his Thanksgiving meal.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” She opened the door of the archive room and walked in, Oliver right behind her. “Why don’t you go with Diggle?”

“He flies away with Lyla tomorrow in the morning.”

“Barry?”

“Roots for Central City.”

“Thea?”

“She has other plans.”

That made her pause. “She spends a lot of time out of the house,” she pointed out casually. She knew things were hard for the youngest Queen and she was wondering whether or not Oliver realised it.

“I was worse at her age,” he replied, shrugging. “So, you in?”

She sighed. She really wasn’t into sports. Not at all.

“Please,” Oliver pleaded her. “I’ll make sure you have the best of time, just say yes.”

She turned her head to face him and saw he was doing the cute thing with his eyes again. She felt her determination crumble. “Okay,” she told him.

He raised his fist high in victory. “Yes! I am so glad I get to be your first.” They both froze at his poor choice of words and Felicity’s eyes even widened. “I meant, I am glad to be the first to take you out to a basketball game. I’ll do things the right way, don’t worry.”

She chuckled. “I know you will. Now can you please grab me that box on the top of the shelf, please?”

“Sure,” he reached for it before handing it to her.

“Hold on,” she opened the box, filed the reports in it and then he put the box back on the shelf.

“Need anything else?” He asked, dusting his suit.

She shook her head. “I am all good. Let’s go!”

He opened the door for her and she rolled her eyes at him.

“I already said “yes” you know?” She told him, when he pulled her chair for her at her desk.

“Just making sure you don’t change your mind. You look fancy by the way? Is that a new dress?”

She gave him a look. He raised his hand in a defensive gesture. “I know it sounded like I was trying to coax you but my question is actually legit.”

“Well, I am going out with Sara after work and since we’re going to work until late, I won’t have time to go home to change so…”

He arched an eyebrow. “You’re going out? Where?”

“That, Mr Queen, is none of your business,” she replied.

“Okay, okay. Just be careful.”

She chuckled at that. “There’s a reason why we’re taking boxing classes.”

He went back to his office after that and they both got back to work.

She got a text from Sara at some point, cancelling their plans. She had to go have dinner with her father since Laurel couldn’t. Their father was taking the Med, since their mother, his soulmate, had died from cancer almost a year ago. From what Sara had told her, it had been hard for him to lose his soulmate so abruptly and needed a lot of contact with his two daughters. He needed love to fight the loss.

 


 

“6:00 pm

My car won’t start… Come and pick me?

*does the cute thing with eyes*

OQ”

--

Felicity groaned.

--

“6:02

What would you do without me? I wonder…

FS”

--

She threw her bag over her shoulder and got out of her apartment. She ran down the stairs, and walked out, excitement bursting in her chest. She wasn’t into sports, yes, but she was going to spend some time with a very good friend and that was enough to make her happy. Plus, Oliver fanboying over his favourite basketball team was a sight to behold, one of the funniest things she had ever witnessed and she was happy she was getting to watch him do it live. Tommy’s loss was her gain.

She made her way to her car. She unlocked and went to open her door but paused, all her senses on alert. Goose bumps spread on her skin and she turned away, her eyebrows furrowed. She felt watched, observed. She was always hyper-aware of her surroundings, ever since she had been taken. And at this very moment, something wasn’t quite right. She looked around, chewing worriedly on her lower lip. When she saw nothing out of the ordinary, she shook her head and got in her car.

She was greeted by an Oliver wearing a Star City’s jersey, and with green marks on his cheeks. He attacked her, with his fingers covered with greasy green painting he cautiously applied on her face, drawing an S on her right cheek and a C on the right one. He put a cap on her head.

“There, you’re ready to go,” he said.

She stared at him for a whole minute before saying. “Dork.”

He cocked his head before urging her out. “We’re going to be late, let’s hurry up.”

He insisted upon driving and she indulged him. On the way, he told her about the new season that had started in November and she listened to him quietly, amazed by his fervour. In thirty minutes, she learnt everything she needed to know about the players, their stats, the transfers that had happened during the summer and the new coach of the team.

They arrived a bit early at Star City’s arena but Felicity didn’t mind it at all. She took in the beautiful arena, the white and green benches and seats, the brand new basketball field, with a bright wooden floor, the giant screens, which were all black for now and of course, the brown marmoset holding three arrows, white, green and gold, the mascot of the team, the motto of the team “aim straight” written in black letters around the animal’s head. Everything was new to her and she was enjoying it all.

“Why is the mascot carrying three arrows?” Felicity asked Oliver, playing with her bracelet.

“Because one of the founders of the team was the Olympic champion of archery Neil Leyton, born and raised in Star City. Ever heard of him?”

She shook her head. “I’m not into sports.”

He rolled his eyes. “Shame. Anyway, Leyton is Star City’s little prodigy. He won countless titles and medals and gave money to the basketball team when she was created. He was a huge fan and wanted his city to have a team of its own. The arrows weren’t in the original emblem but when Leyton passed away, they were added.”

Felicity nodded. “I am guessing Leyton is also the reason why arrows are Star City’s symbol in general?”

“Yep. He helped the city grow. Star City was small when he first won a gold medal in 1932. Or was it 1936?” He shrugged. “It’s been a while since I had to do a history lesson to someone.”

“As if you had ever done one…” She teased him.

“True,” he admitted smiling. But then his smiled faded away. “I hope you have a nice time.”

“Don’t worry,” she assured him. “Basketball and I have an understanding: it helped me get a B- in sport when I was high-school and in return, I enjoy watching it from time to time.”

Oliver chuckled at her words. She remembered the day of her sport exam as if it had happened the day before. Mandy Miller, her high-school nemesis, had been there and had mocked her all along, calling her a clumsy bag of bones unable to shoot to save her life. It was a bit before she cut the connection with her soulmate and he was a huge fan of the game, so she had drawn both strength and motivation from him. She smiled, remembering how good it had felt.

“Why are you smiling?” Oliver asked.

She shook her head. “No reason. I’m just glad to be here.”

“I’m glad too.” He quickly added. “To be here, that is.”

She rolled her eyes at him, again. A few minutes later, Oliver bought them pop-corn from a food vendor and the game started soon after. At the beginning, Felicity wasn’t really into it, she was focusing more on Oliver and his reactions – either happy or frustrated – than on the game. But then, her eyes were more and more glued on the field than on her neighbour and found herself anxiously tapping her feet on the floor whenever Coast City had the ball and balling her hand into a fist whenever Star City scored a basket.

Oliver and Felicity high-fived when the team won, the both of them smiling proudly. They made their way out of the arena, Felicity doing all the talking, commenting every single action of the game, using her hands to mimic the players’ movements, bouncing around happily, her ponytail moving with her.

“So, did you like it?” Oliver asked.

“Yeah, it was really funny. I loved the atmosphere. I’m usually scared of crowds, I feel like I am drowning, you see? But not tonight. The crowd was awesome and it was thrilling to think that we all wanted the same thing: to see our team wins!”

Oliver smiled at her enthusiasm and insisted on driving when they reached her car.

“If I am going to get into that thing you dare call a car, I want to at least drive it. It should save some of my maleness.”

She rolled her eyes at him, considered leaving him there but then decided on letting him drive them back to his place, where they were supposed to have dinner. He stopped at a red light and Felicity stiffened, the same feeling of being watched from earlier back. She turned her head around.

She saw the lights. Blinding.

She heard the screech of tires. Deafening.

And then nothing but cold and black silence.

 


 

His voice was the only thing she could hear. Darkness, the only thing she could see.

“Felicity, wake up, please.”

His voice was frantic, his tone pleading.

“Felicity, open your eyes, come on.”

It was remarkable, all the different layers of emotions a voice could carry.

Fear. Worry. Hope. Anger.

More fear, terror. Horror. Panic.

So many layers.

“Felicity please, open your eyes.”

Blue eyes crossed her mind. She knew that voice. It came with warm arms, pink daisies and breakfast near the sea. It came with easy banter, floating around the room and bright smiles which showed perfect dimples. She had to open her eyes, to reassure him, to tell him she was okay. But it was just so hard… She wasn’t in pain but she was feeling numb. Like all her energy had been sucked out of her, drained. There was a pounding in her heart, a raw throbbing ache. She didn’t want to open her eyes but she understood it was important she did, so she tried. She didn’t know where she found the strength to open them in the end, but she did.

She fluttered her eyes open and the bubble she had been locked in shattered. She heard the sounds of sirens, of alarms going off. She saw red and blue go on and off. Panic burst in her chest as she realised she didn’t understand what was happening, she didn’t even where she was or what she had been doing before chaos broke all around her.

Warm hands cupped her cheeks and brought her eyes back to the blue her imagination had done no justice to.

“Oliver,” she croaked, her voice rougher than it had been in a while.

“Felicity,” he said, his thumbs stroking her cheeks lightly. She feels a hot trail, coming down from her forehead to her cheek. Adding that sensation to the throbbing in her head, she quickly realised it was blood. Her blood.

“What… What happened?” She asked.

He opened his mouth to answer her but suddenly, there were paramedics surrounding them and cops demarcating a “do not cross” perimeter around them. Two paramedics pulled Oliver away from her, to check out for any injuries. Everything felt it was happening in slow-motion, Felicity felt like her mind had left her body and she was watching everything from the outside. That’s why when two other paramedics started talking to her, asking her questions about what had happened and if she was in hurting, she found herself unable to tell them anything. She didn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t even feel it when they took her to an ambulance.

“Miss, do you remember the car crash?”

The car crash?

Felicity turned her head and her eyes fell on her car. She saw her side entirely wrecked, her door was open.

“I don’t remember anything,” she whispered.

“Miss Smoak, we need to take you to the hospital. You have an opened wound on your forehead that needs stitches and it is high likely you have a concussion.”

The hospital?

No.

Flashes of her lying on a stretcher, doctors yelling orders to nurses, her ribs pulsing, her blood dried on her skin rushed through her mind, freezing her heart in her chest.

She shook her head, pushing away the paramedics’ hands who were working on her. She had yet to be put in the ambulance, they had sit her down at the edge of it.

“No!” She shout. “I don’t want to go to the hospital!”

“Miss Smoak, you need medical attention, this head injury could be worse than it looks.”

“No!” She insisted, pushing their hands away again. “No, I don’t want to go!” Her cries were growing louder, her movements more frantic in spite of the pain she was feeling and the dizziness that was threatening to overtake her.

“Miss please…”

“What’s going on here?”

Oliver. She rushed to him, her fingers clamping around his arm tightly. She felt the world spin around her immediately, her head protesting against the sudden motion and its speed.

“Felicity, what’s going on?”

“They want to take me to the hospital. Please don’t let them,” she asked, a few tears rolling down her cheeks and her fingers flexing around his forearms.

“She needs an MRI and stitches sir,” one of the paramedics said.

“Oliver please,” she begged him. “I don’t want to go.” Her voice broke and she shut her eyes, only to be assaulted with images from her past, of that doctor with the white beard who had done her stitches.

“Felicity, I am sorry but you have to,” he told her, one of his hands coming up behind her knee to lift her up. She pushed against his chest, struggling to free herself but he held her still. “Hey, you don’t have to be afraid. It’s just me, okay? I’m coming with you and I’ll be with you the whole time.”

“Sir…” A paramedic started to protest.

“Your colleagues said I was okay,” he cut her off dryly. “It’s her side of the car that was hit by that crazy driver. She is the one in need of medical attention, not me.” His voice softened when he brought his attention back on the blonde in his arms.

“I am scared,” she whispered softly. “I hate hospitals.” She shivered, remembering the coldness of the white walls of the room she had stayed in, of her loneliness too.

Oliver adjusted his hold on her, bringing her closer to him, to his warmth where she seemed to always be welcomed.

“You don’t have to be afraid, I’ll be with you the whole time, okay? I’m not leaving your side, not for a second,” he promised.

She nodded and he nodded back, getting in the ambulance.

He kept his promise and stayed with her through everything. He was with her when they took her down for an MRI. He was with her when they stitched up the wound on her forehead and cleaned the cuts on her arms. He held her hand and caressed her hair when she stiffened completely at the sight of the needles, which looked too much like the ones that had been used to fix the skin on her ribs. He wiped her tears away with his thumb, comforting her with words whispered with a soft and sweet voice.

She had a mild concussion. Her slight amnesia had been caused by the hit on her head. The wound on her forehead had needed six stitches to be closed. She could go home but needed to be watched carefully through the night, to be woken up every hour. Oliver brought her back to her apartment, wordlessly offering to stay with her. He had called his family to reassure them while they had been waiting for her results and he had also made sure the cops wouldn’t come to bother her with their questions. He offered to call her mother for her but she told him not to. She’d do it herself in the morning. Her mental state was still fragile and she tended to worry a lot about Felicity. She needed to be the one making the call otherwise, she might jump in the first place, to come check on her.

“Are you okay?” She asked, although her mind was already half-asleep.

“I’m fine,” he replied.

She knew he was lying though. His voice was strained and she could feel the tension in his muscles from where he was holding her to help stand on her feet.

“Give me your keys,” he said before she could push the matter further. They had just had a car accident. Surely, it had reopened old wounds, brought back bad memories to him, the same way her little trip to the hospital had to her.

It felt weird to be in her apartment again. When she had left earlier, she had been so happy, excited even to go out with her friend and attend her first basketball game. It felt like it had been forever ago. Now, all her happiness and excitement were gone. She felt empty, like her emotions had been sucked out of her. Even her stranded bond was surprisingly quiet, not boiling, not struggling. Just numb, completely and utterly numb.

They stood there for a second, the both of them standing, welcoming the silence with relieved minds. Everything had happened so fast after she had woken up, everything had seemed to be completely out of their control. But now they were alone and they were getting their control back. All the things that had seemed to happen in slow-motion, all the things that had seemed blurry and coming out from a dream hit them. They became real. Because they were real.

Tonight a car had hit their car and had driven away right after.

Tonight, they could have died.

“Do you want to shower?” Oliver asked, his voice not as soft as it had been in the hospital. She could see why. If he was going through the same thing she was, things were suddenly hitting him as well. And considering his past, it was probably hurting him a lot more than it was her.

“Felicity?” He insisted when she didn’t reply. “Shower?”

Honestly, she was ready to collapse on her bed. “Later,” she told him.

“Need help to change your clothes?”

“I’ll be okay,” she said, a hand coming up to hold her ribs protectively.

“Okay.”

He took her to her room and left her alone while she changed. She struggled to take off her clothes and then get in her pyjamas but with slow and precise movements she eventually made it. She wasn’t really in pain anymore, the drugs they had given her at the hospital were already kicking in but they also made her feel numb and dizzy, as if she was wrapped up in a cotton ball.

“Oliver,” she called when she was finally lying on her bed.

He walked in and stopped at the edge of her bed. “You ready to sleep?”

She nodded. “You can sleep in the guest room, if you want to.”

“Thank you. You mind if I shower first?”

She shook her head.

“Good, I’ll wake you up in an hour and a half then.” He turned around immediately but she caught his arm.

“Oliver!”

He stopped, turning to face her again. “What?”

“I’m glad you’re okay.”

A flash of something crossed his eyes and she felt his arm tense around her fingers. He stepped toward her, one of his hands coming up to her face. She sucked in a breath, astonished by the different emotions swirling in his eyes, the most dominant one being pain. So much pain. Slowly, his fingers stroked her cheek, pushing a strand of hair away.

“I’m glad you’re okay too,” he whispered.

“We’ll talk more tomorrow?” She asked.

He nodded. “Tomorrow.”

He turned around again and went to turn off the lights she had hung above her head.

“No!” She stopped him.

He paused, frowning.

“I can’t sleep in the dark,” she confessed.

He let the lights on then and walked out, leaving her door open.

She closed her eyes then, letting out a long breath. She didn’t remember the accident but she was no fool. She knew her dreams, or nightmares, would refresh her memory. And if they didn’t, if she didn’t dream of the crash then, she’d dream of him. The thought only was enough to twist her stomach painfully in her belly. She fisted her sheets and bit on her lips, to repress a sob.

The sound of the shower reminded her she wasn’t alone. Oliver was here and she knew he’d be right there if she needed anything. It helped her relax, though she still was afraid to fall asleep. But she couldn’t resist her exhaustion or the drugs anymore and she fell asleep.

 


 

She was woken up by Oliver.

But she wasn’t woken up by him shaking her shoulder and whispering her name in her ear, like the first two times.

No.

She was woken up by grunts. Loud grunts. And sounds. Incoherent sounds supposed to be words but she couldn’t make out one.

Getting up on wobbly legs, she reached for a jacket, to protect herself from the cool air of the room. She was confused, her head was spinning – she had gotten on her feet to fast after waking up – but she still made her way to her guestroom, supporting herself on the wall to make it without falling.

She saw Oliver, his huge frame too big for the bed in the room. He was convulsing around the sheets, beads of sweat rolling down his forehead. His whole body was tensed, tight, he had fisted his pillows in his sleep. Swallowing she took a step closed. His eyes were clenched shut, his lips half-opened.

“Please don’t go,” he whispered, grunting, his grip tightening around one of his pillows. “Please, don’t go, I’m sorry.”

She had had enough nightmares herself to recognise one. Her heart clenched in her chest at the sight of him, clearly in pain. Carefully, she reached for him.

“Oliver,” she called him, her tone firm.

“I’m so sorry, please don’t let me go!”

“Oliver,” she repeated, her voice louder and shaking his shoulder.

“Please stay,” he begged and it sounded more like a sob to her ears. “I love you!”

“Oliver!”

He jolted awake, his blue eyes wide open, a storm raging inside of them. His breathing was uneven and she knew from experience his heart was pounding in his chest. She also knew he was feeling lost and confused, as the last remnants of fear instilled by his nightmares shook him.

“Hey, Oliver,” she said, cupping his cheeks, forcing him to look at her. “You’re okay, it was just a nightmare and it’s over. You’re awake now.”

“Felicity,” he whispered, his fingers coming to grip hers. “It wasn’t a dream. It was real,” he added, his voice shaking. “It happened.”

His first accident. “I know, but it’s over now,” she reminded him, one of her hands coming up, her fingers running in his hair in a soothing motion.

He nodded but closed his eyes, one single tear rolling down his cheek.

“I can’t go through this again,” he whispered.

She frowned. “What do you mean? How often do you have nightmares?”

“How often do you?” He asked.

She shook her head. “No, don’t make this about me.” She paused for a second, staring at him straight in his eyes, seeing his pain, raw and throbbing.

“How often?” She asked again.

“Not nearly as much as I used to.”

It wasn’t really an answer but she decided to accept it. For now.

“Who were you talking to?”

He looked down. “My soulmate.”

She thought she hadn’t heard properly. “Isabel?”

“Yeah…”

She let go of him and took a step back, the air suddenly suffocating. “Maybe you should call her,” she said. “Talking to her will do you some good, I’m sure.”

He nodded and she walked out of the room, to give him some privacy. She made her way back to her room, conflicted emotions boiling inside of her.

She hadn’t been back for a long while when she head a soft knock at her door.

“Felicity?” She heard Oliver whisper.

She lifted herself up on her elbows.

“Yes?”

“You mind if I stay with you for a while?”

She shook her head and sat down on her bed, patting the space next to her. He crossed the room and went to sit down next to her. He put his arm over her shoulders, pulling her against his side and after a second of hesitation, she leaned on him, letting her head rest on his shoulders.

“I was really scared earlier, when you were unconscious,” he eventually said and she wrapped an arm around his waist.

“I’m okay now,” she told him, squeezing his side.

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t scare me like that ever again.”

“I’d appreciate it if we never had a car accident ever again.”

He chuckled at her words and kissed the top of her head. “Deal.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9:

“Tell me your secrets

And ask me your questions

Oh, let’s go back to the start.”

- Coldplay, The Scientist. 

 

Felicity woke up for the last time of the night very calmly, without an erratic breath, without her heart beating wildly in her chest, without beads of sweat rolling down the curve of her nape. It surprised her, in the best way possible. She woke up slowly, fighting against the last remnants of sleep which were trying to keep her in the resting darkness of her dreams. But when she did manage to open her eyes, there was an odd feeling of peace surrounding her, cocooning her. She wasn’t in pain, she wasn’t scared. She had slept well and tight and she felt safe, comfortably tucked under her comforter, warmth and soft sheets shielding her from the outside world.

She could see the sun shining through the curtains in her room. The part of her who had been born and raised in Vegas would have been delighted by the thought of another beautiful day ahead. But the rational part of her knew what that kind of sun was now, a bright but cold sun of fall. It was a cold beauty and illusion of comfort, a pale copy of the sweetness of summer. Felicity was by no mean a woman who cared much about the weather. She loved rainy days spent reading, wrapped up in a fluffy blanket, a cup of hot cocoa and whipped cream next to her. She loved sunny days spent walking in the park, enjoying the reflections of the sunlight on the green leaves of the trees just as much. But right now, as everything that had happened the previous night was slowly coming back to her, she realised she very much needed the heat of one of these suffocating Vegas days, where wearing clothes and having long hair were pure torture.

The basketball game. The car crash. The hospital. Oliver’s nightmare.

It all came back to her, making chills run down her spine. Gone was the feeling of peace. Gone was the feeling of safety. She was wide awake now and very much conscious of how close she had been from being seriously injured, of how close she had been to lose everything. And as if it had been waiting this whole time, her headache came back, raw and throbbing, making her clench her fists around her sheets. Kicking her sheets away, not feeling well anymore, Felicity got on her feet, her legs shaking slightly.

She made her way to her living-room, from where she could hear noise and was greeted with the sight of Oliver, sitting on her couch, watching the news. The moment he saw her, he turned his head toward her.

“You’re finally up,” he said, his blue eyes an ocean of emotions.

“Did you get any sleep?” She asked.

He shook his head and she felt something break inside of her, the memory of his nightmare from the previous night vivid in her mind. She knew his pain, she had lived it and still was sometimes. She knew how hard it was to have your own mind playing against yourself, to have your mind torturing you. It left invisible scars on people, the kind of scars that never stopped hurting, ever. She made a beeline for him and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. She knew her touch couldn’t heal him as much as his soulmate’s but she couldn’t just stand there and do nothing. She cared about him so much already, she couldn’t leave him in pain.

He stiffened when she started holding him but she figured it was because she had surprised him. He relaxed immediately under her touch, pulling her to him. She awkwardly sat down on her knees on the couch, one of his arms wrapped around her waist – she was so petite, he could completely circle it with one arm only – his head lying against her chest, his ear reaching her collarbone and the four little birds marking her skin. She hesitated for a second before running her fingers through his hair in what she hoped was a shooting gesture. When he let out a small breath, she realised it was and she kept doing it, enjoying the feel of his sandy strands against her fingertips.

“I’m sorry Felicity,” he eventually whispered and she pulled away from him, frowning.

“For what?”

“For not being my usual self. I just...” His voice failed him and he took a second to regain his composure. “I just need some time.”

“Honestly? I’d be worried if you were feeling alright, like what happened was no big deal at all. Take all the time you need, I’m not one to judge you.”

He nodded, his lips pursed. “How did you sleep?” He eventually asked. “How are you feeling?”

She took a deep breath before answering his questions, taking some time to collect herself. She was feeling better now. It was truly remarkable the power of contact with another human being, the things a simple hug could do to a person.

“I’m okay,” she assured him. “My head’ is hurting a little but it’s manageable.”

“Wait here,” he told her.

He got up from the couch and went to the kitchen, where he had left her medication when they had come back the previous night. He got her a tablet she had been given at the hospital and a big glass of water to swallow the pills down.

“Thank you,” she said, taking two pills in a one-go as gratefulness burst in her chest.

“Don’t mention it,” he replied, watching her carefully.

“What?” She asked of a whole minute of him staring at her.

“You really didn’t have any nightmares?” He insisted. “Don’t take it the wrong way, I’m glad one of us had a good night of sleep but… What happened last night was huge and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t tell me about it because of my own reactions to it.”

She blinked, once, twice. The big dummy. He thought she was lying to spare him some pain. It was totally something she was capable of, but not this time.

“I think I’m still processing what happened,” she admitted. “I still don’t remember anything so… Maybe it helps?”

He shook his head. “There’s not much to remember,” he explained. “One second everything was fine and the other, you were turning your head and that SUV was hitting your side of the car. Your head banged against your window and before I could comprehend what had happened, whoever was driving that car was already on their merry way.”

Felicity looked at her legs, she had brought them to her chest after setting her half-empty glass of water back on her coffee table. She was hoping for a glimpse of something to cross her mind, for something to flash behind her eyelids, for anything to come back to her. But nothing did and she didn’t know if she felt relieved or if it upset her. What she did know though was that she didn’t like the look on Oliver’s face and in his eyes. He had been scared, and clearly their accident had brought back very bad memories to the surface. But there was more than just the demons from his past in his blue orbs. There were anger and guilt mixed together and she didn’t like that kind of combination.

“If only I had heard them come sooner…” He said, fisting his hand.

Felicity covered his fist with her small hand, intertwining her fingers with his. “Hey, no thoughts like this allowed here mister! We both are more shaken than hurt, and I think we should focus on that.”

His other hand came up to her head and he brushed his finger over the gauze covering her stitches. She knew she’d have stiffened and maybe pulled away, had it been anyone else. But this wasn’t. It was Oliver so she didn’t. She let him touch her, the same way he had let her hug him. She could see in his eyes, he wished his fingers could heal her. And honestly? She wished they could too.

“You are more than shaken,” he whispered softly, his distress and guilt even more evident.

“I think I’ll make a full recovery Mr Queen. And either way, this wasn’t your fault so stop beating yourself up, okay?”

He opened his mouth to say something but he was interrupted by the buzzing of his phone. They both checked and the name of Thea greeted them, as well as her smiling face. It was the picture Carl had taken of the two of them the day they had tried on dresses for the museum opening. Seeing it twisted something inside of Felicity’s stomach. So much had happened since that happy afternoon, it felt like she had been posing with her friend forever ago.

Oliver picked up and talked with his sister for a few minutes, reassuring her about him. He then handed her the phone.

“She wants to speak with you,” he told Felicity.

The blonde took the device as he got up, mouthing “breakfast” and pointing at her fridge. She nodded, not that he needed her authorisation to help himself and do as he was pleased in her house.

“Felicity, hey how are you?” Thea’s voice sounded weird, all strained and worried.

“Good, I’m good,” she assured her.

“Quit it Smoak and be honest. I’m not ten, there’s no need to hide things from me.”

“It’s just a concussion and a few stitches Thea, it’s no big deal.”

The other girl laughed dryly on the other side of the line. “It’s not “no big deal. Are you going to be okay?”

It was Felicity’s turn to laugh. “The doctors think I might just make it,” she told her. She was truly touched by her friend’s concern, but really she had been through worst. And yes, she knew it didn’t automatically lessen the importance of what had happened to her, life wasn’t a trauma contest after all, but really, she was going to be fine. It’d take a few days, and she wasn’t entirely convinced she wasn’t going to have nightmares, but for now she felt okay, both physically and emotionally.

The two girls talked some more and then Felicity hung up. Oliver’s call log appeared on screen, it was the last thing he had checked before locking it and Felicity didn’t mean to, but she couldn’t help but see he hadn’t called Isabel last night, like she had suggested he did. Taken aback, she got up from the couch, to meet him in her kitchen. He had already pulled a few things out of the fridge, to fix them a quick, and of course healthy, something.

“You and I are going to talk about how you do your grocery shopping,” he told her when she gave him his phone back.

She didn’t smile at his small attempt at teasing her. “Why didn’t you call Isabel last night?” She asked him directly.

He started doing that thing he always did with his fingers whenever he was nervous and she crossed her arms above chest, hey eyebrows furrowed.

“She wasn’t the one I needed to talk to last night,” he simply told her.

She arched an eyebrow. What? “You and your soulmate surely have an unconventional relationship,” she pointed out.

“I’m not going to try and deny that.”

She shook her head. There was something wrong there. There was something very wrong. First, they lived apart from one another. What kind of soulmates did that? The unbonded kind. Then, maybe they were but she highly doubted Oliver was the kind of man who actually saved himself for his marriage. And there was also that weird thing, where he’d told her their number was a three and Laurel had let slip it was actually an eight or a nine. She had caught herself when Felicity had told her it was a three but… That was odd, right? For one of his oldest friends, his best friend’s soulmate to forget about something like that?

She opened her mouth, to press the issue but they were interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Were you expecting anyone?” He asked her, frowning.

She slapped her forehead, wincing in pain because the medicine had yet to kick in. Georgia.

“Damn, your friend from Vegas is coming to visit you, isn’t she?” Oliver said.

She nodded, her eyes clenched shut. “I can’t believe you remember.”

“Well, I did forget, because of everything that happened…”

Again, she nodded, wincing slightly, mentally slapping herself and shaking her head in disapproval. “I’m a terrible friend,” she whined as Georgia knocked again.

“Go open the door,” Oliver told her, pushing her toward the apartment’s entrance.

“There’ll be a lot of squealing and high-pitched screams,” she warned him. “Brace yourself.”

He gave her a short nod. Checking the peephole, she opened the door to her gorgeous friend who had died her hair red since she had last seen her in flesh and blood. The moment she did, Georgia dropped the handle of her luggage and rushed toward Felicity, engulfing her in her embrace.

“Felicity!” She yelled hugging her tightly.

“G!! I’m so happy to see you!” The blonde replied, hugging her just as tightly, ignoring the way her screams and squealing did no good to her headache.

“Me too, F, god I’ve missed you. And were you always so tiny?”

Felicity chuckled, pulling away with regret. She was truly happy to see her friend, to have her here with her – even if she had completely forgotten she was visiting her for two days, before her mother arrived for Thanksgiving.

“Don’t be mean G, or else I’ll put you back in a plane for Vegas.”

“I’m just messing with you and oh! I didn’t know you had someone staying over…” Georgia said, her voice dropping slightly as her eyes hidden behind her square glasses fell on Oliver.

“Oh my god, he’s not staying over!” Felicity immediately corrected her, not wanting her friend to get the wrong idea. “I mean, he did spend the night here but it was because I needed to be watched after the accident last night and…”

“The accident?” Georgia asked, concern filling her eyes. “What happened to your face?” She added, raising a hand to check the gauze on her forehead.

“Nothing, I’m fine,” Felicity started to say but was quickly interrupted by Oliver.

“A car hit ours while we were coming back from a basketball game last night,” he explained. “Felicity had a concussion and a wound which needed stitches. I stayed with her for the night, to make sure she wouldn’t fall asleep and never wake up.”

Georgia blinked, once, twice, processing all the things she had just been told. Then she said. “You managed to take her to a basketball game?”

Felicity huffed back a laugh and Oliver frowned, not knowing if he should be laughing or not. “G, don’t mess with him just yet, I don’t want you to scare him away. And by him I mean Oliver Queen, my boss.”

The red-headed nodded. Felicity stepped aside to let her in, before closing the door behind her. Georgia’s eyes widened at the mention of Oliver’s name.

“So you’re Oliver Queen? The Oliver Queen Felicity keeps talking about?” She said, raising her hand toward him. “Of course, you are, I may or may have not googled you when Felicity got her job at your company so I know what you look like, I’ve seen pictures but I have to say they don’t do you any justice.” She paused. “And I meant that as a compliment, not a flirt. I know you have a soulmate, I have one myself and I’m just going to shut up.”

Oliver looked at Felicity. “Do you get your rambling habit from her?”

The blonde shook her head, her curls following the motion. “It’s the other way around, I’m afraid. She gets it from me.”

That made Oliver chuckle. “Of course she does. Even I ramble now.”

“Yeah, that’s part of her plan to get under your skin and if you aren’t careful, she’ll make herself comfortable and won’t ever leave you. She can be sneaky that way!”

“It’s a good thing I don’t want her to leave then?”

Georgia turned toward Felicity, smiling. “I like him.” Her eyebrows furrowed at the sight of her friend though and she bit on her lower lip nervously, more concern filling her eyes. “So you had a car accident, how did that happen? Are you sure you’re okay? Why didn’t you call me? Maybe I shouldn’t have come…”

Felicity shook her head firmly, her hand grabbing her friend’s. “No, it’s nothing really. We haven’t seen each other in so long, cancelling was out of question.”

“Besides, we kind of forgot about everything after the crash… We were actually very surprised when you knocked on the door.”

“I completely understand,” Georgia assured them. “It also explains why F is still wearing her pajamas.”

“She just woke up,” Oliver confirmed.

Georgia sighed, squeezing Felicity’s fingers. “I’m worried F. First there was the break in in your apartment, now this…”

Felicity’s blood froze in her veins the moment the words escaped her friends’ lips. A long silent followed her declaration, so long and perfect it was almost deafening. Confusion appeared in Oliver’s eyes and Felicity’s heart started kicking in her chest with a vengeance.

“The break in in your apartment?” He asked, his voice lower than before.

Georgia’s eyes travelled from Oliver to Felicity then back to Oliver. Surely, she was picking up the very sudden and very thick tension that had appeared between them. Her eyes widened and she said.

“You didn’t tell him?” Her tone was not judgemental but definitely accusatory.

“No, obviously, she didn’t,” Oliver said, coldly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“And you didn’t tell him about what his mother did that night as well?” Georgia went on.

Felicity glared at her. “G!” She yelled.

“F!” She replied, yelling as well. “Did you expect anything else from me? I’m your friend and here to have your back.”

“If that was true you would have shut up,” she hissed angrily.

“Enough you two!” Oliver cut them off. “What did my mother do?” He demanded.

Felicity looked away from her friend, to meet Oliver’s blue eyes. There was something in them, a mix of anger and pain she had never seen before. And it was directed at her, she was the cause of his anger and his pain. She had done that to him. But she didn’t understand why he was feeling that way. It wasn’t like she had kept a huge secret from him. She had just refused to share a few details about her life.

“It wasn’t that bad,” she started, shifting uncomfortably, not liking the way he was staring at her. His blue eyes were solely focused on her, pinning her where she was standing on the ground.

“Tell me what she did Felicity or God help me…”

She frowned, anger bubbling in her chest, making her blood boil in her veins. “Or what? You’re going to force the words out of me?”

“If I have to, yes, so quit with the lying!” He shout, his voice rising for the first time.

Felicity took a step back and Georgia looked toward the floor.

“Okay, maybe I should just let you guys deal with this…” She suggested, tapping the floor with the tip of her boot.

“No!” Felicity said when Oliver said “Yes.” She sighed before changing her mind and telling where the guestroom was.

“What did my mother do?” Oliver asked again, anger radiating off of him in strong waves that made her feel terrible.

“She told the security I was persona non gratta at the museum opening,” she eventually confessed through gritted teeth, her fists clenched tightly. “They wouldn’t let me in.”

His mouth fell open, all colours living his face as realisation struck him. “That’s why you called me so many times that night.”

She nodded and his shoulders dropped. “I ran into Tommy and he got me in,” she explained.

“So you got Tommy to lie to me too?” He asked.

“It wasn’t lying,” she tried to say. “I just didn’t tell you something about my life, because I have a right to privacy, you’re not…”

“What about the break-in?” He cut her off rudely, jumping quickly to the other subject and she realised he was more worried and upset about this than what her mother had done. She didn’t know how that made her feel. “Is it why you suddenly decided to move out?” He paused and added immediately after, not needing her to confirm his suspicions. “So I was right, it was really a new couch? Did they steal anything? Were you there? Were you hurt?”

She shook her head, twisting her fingers together, not liking his way of pressing her with his questions, not liking how the situation was so quickly getting out of her hands. He was never supposed to know. But now he did and he wanted the truth to flow and he didn’t care if she felt overwhelmed. “It happened during the museum opening.”

Oliver blinked. “A museum opening you wouldn’t have attended, hadn’t you run into Tommy. Is that why you didn’t tell me? Do you think my mother is behind this?”

“I don’t know, do you?” She shot back.

“Don’t make this about me!” He yelled, pointing an angry finger at her. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me? I thought we were friends!”

The words felt like a slap but she ignored the stinging pain and stood her ground. “I wasn’t going to come between you and your mother,” she yelled back.

“Felicity a break-in is a very serious thing! Did you tell anyone beside your friend? Did you call the police?”

She didn’t reply, looking down toward the floor. It was everything he needed. He let out a frustrated breath, rubbing his fingers together, not nervously this time but angrily.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” He yelled again. “This is your safety we’re talking about!”

“I didn’t want to let your mother intimidate me,” she replied.

“So you do think she’s behind this?”

“I got an email telling me I wasn’t wanted in Star City and I’ve been hearing that quite a lot ever since I moved in and from both your charming mother and your delightful fiancée!” She paused for a second, trying to get a hold on her emotions. Adrenaline had kicked in her veins, because of the fight but she knew she desperately needed to calm down. An argument so soon after a concussion, surely, wasn’t all that good. “I’m not accusing anyone of anything,” she calmly explained, focusing on her breathing. “I’m just saying it’s one hell of a coincidence.”

Oliver didn’t reply to that. He just stared at her for a while, pain and anger still swirling in his blue orbs. “When were you going to tell me this?” He asked coldly.

She looked away.

“Never?” He guessed. He chuckled dryly, shaking his head. “This is not okay Felicity. This is really not okay.”

“Listen Oliver, I get why you’re mad but…”

“No!” He cut her off, again. “No, you don’t. You said it yourself earlier “it wasn’t a lie”. Except it was! You lied to me, hide things from me and this is not okay. This is not what friendship is.”

“I didn’t want to cause you trouble,” she said. “For God’s sake, it’s your mother we’re talking about here, Oliver.”

“And she is threatening you, my friend.”

“Friends aren’t as imp…”

He raised a hand to stop her and she did because of the dark look on his face. He had jumped from angry to mad in a second and it took everything she had in her for her not to take a step back. “Don’t you dare finish that sentence!” He took a deep breath, trying to collect his emotions. “After what happened in my office with my mother a few weeks ago, you said what I had done wasn’t what friends were supposed to do. Well, now it’s my turn to tell you what you did isn’t what friends normally do. And not only did you lie to me but you also didn’t go to the police and endangered yourself in the process and that…” He clenched his eyes shut for a second and she swallowed heavily. “That is not something I can accept. Do you have any idea how I’d feel if anything happened to you? And because of my mother on top of all things? How I’d feel if I knew I could have stopped it, had you told me everything?”

She opened her mouth, tears pricking at the corner of her eyes. “I didn’t do it to hurt you,” she said. “I wanted to protect you from this fight between me and your mother.”

He shook his head. “You’re a fool if you think I’m going to believe this.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” She gasped, offended.

“Well, you’re not the most honest person around here, are you?”

“That’s rich coming from the guy who lied about his connection to his soulmate,” she threw in without thinking. His eyes widened at her words and she saw a flash of panic cross them. It was brief but it happened and it ignited her anger. She hadn’t known if he had been lying before, but now she most definitely knew. “Laurel may or may have not said your connection to your soulmate was an eight or a nine,” she said as an explanation.

“She wasn’t even able to give you the exact number and you’d believe her over me?”

He had her there but when she opened her mouth, to argue with him, he cut her off, again. “Again don’t try to make this about me. I said I didn’t believe you because I’m starting to know you Felicity. No scratch that, I know you. I know how guarded you are, how protective of yourself you are. And I think that’s why you didn’t tell me. I think you simply didn’t trust me enough.”

She opened her mouth to protest but no sound came out.

He shook his head, disappointment joining the party his pain and anger were having in his eyes. She couldn’t feel her headache anymore, but she didn’t know if it was because of the medication she had taken or if the throbbing of her heart was covering everything else.

“And if there is no trust between us then I wonder what the point of this friendship is.”

He left after that and she tried to hold him back but it didn’t work. He just walked out without looking back and she was left standing in the doorway, knowing she was the only one to blame for what had just happened.

Georgia’s voice got her out of the numb state this fight had just left her.

“Felicity?” She asked carefully, sounding unsure.

“I’m going to go for a shower,” Felicity told her, making her way toward the bathroom without sparing her a glance.

She felt truly exhausted as she started the shower. She hadn’t really walked to the bathroom, she had more dragged herself. Her heart felt heavy in her chest and there was a bitter taste in her mouth. Her emotions were a tangled mess and she didn’t know where to start to untie the knots twisting her mind and heart. She knew she wasn’t angry anymore. No, her anger had completely faded away once Oliver had walked out of her apartment without even looking back. Now she was just a complete mix of negative and conflicted emotions. She was upset, that much was sure but it wasn’t what dominated her at the moment. What dominated was sadness. There was an aching hollowness inside of her, one that made it hard for her to breathe and think properly. One that hurt so much, she was now completely oblivious to the physical pain she was in.

Tears running down her cheeks in an uninterrupted flow, she got in the shower, hoping the hot shower would make her feel better.

“I thought we were friends.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“You’re not the most person around here, are you?”

“If there is no trust between us then I wonder what the point of this friendship is.”

More tears came down her cheeks, burning and unbidden as the memory of the fight played all over again in her mind. It was like a broken record, his words coming back to bite her again and again, the pain of the sting more intense each time.

She knew where he was coming from when he said she didn’t trust him. She knew she had a hard time opening up to people, letting them in both because she didn’t want to disturb anyone with her problems and because life had taught her the hard way what could come out of trusting people, of letting them in. Felicity had learnt at the price of her own blood she could only count on herself. So maybe Oliver wasn’t wrong when he said she didn’t trust him, because from his perspective it certainly looked like she didn’t. But what he didn’t seem to realise was that she had actually opened up to him more than she had opened up to anyone else, and more quickly than ever. It had taken her a lot of time to allow Georgia in her apartment or trusting her enough to confide in her and tell her about her family and what she was going through at home. It had required time to build their friendship. With Oliver things had been very much different. One day, he hadn’t been here and the day after, he had been everywhere, invading every corner of her life to the point where she didn’t remember how life was before him. They had known each other for about three months and she had already let him in her home countless times, she had given away little details about herself, little things she was usually afraid to tell because she didn’t know how people would react to the real her. It didn’t seem like it was a lot to him but to her, it was everything. She did trust him, in her own way. She had told him about her nightmares and she had let him see her at her most vulnerable state. She had even fallen asleep around him a few times. But maybe that was the problem. She had showed him she was comfortable around him but when something had happened to her, she hadn’t come to him, she hadn’t told him about it.

Felicity shut down the water and got out of the shower, not feeling any better. She got dressed quickly and went to the kitchen, from where she could smell the delicious scent of home-made pancakes. She found Georgia setting the table, holding a plate of pancakes.

“I thought of this as an apology breakfast,” she explained. “But then I realised I’m not sorry for telling him. He deserved to know and you needed him to know. You can’t go through this alone F.”

Felicity nodded. She wasn’t mad at Georgia, not really. None of this would have happened, had she told Oliver everything from the beginning. She walked to the table and picked a raspberry from one of the bowls of fruits her friend had prepared. She felt another pang of sadness tugged at her heart at the thought of Oliver, who had wanted to cook them breakfast but she chose to ignore it.

“If this isn’t an apology breakfast then what is it?” She asked.

“A comfort breakfast?” Georgia suggested. “I didn’t mean to listen to your conversation but the walls are thin and the two of you were kind of yelling. Loudly.”

Felicity winced. “Sorry about that,” she apologised, sitting down. Georgia did the same and they started eating.

“Want to talk about it?” The red-headed asked.

Felicity shook her head. “It’s too soon, I still need to… Think about it.” She pointed at her head.

Georgia nodded. “I understand.”

They remained silent for a minute, the both of them lost in their thoughts when Felicity decided to lighten the mood a little bit. “So how are things with the love of your life?”

A small smile stretched Georgia’s lips. Something brightened in her brown eyes and Felicity couldn’t help but smile back at her. Happiness suited her friend well. “Good, they’re perfect. Ben is…” She chuckled, stars in her eyes, a dreamy smile on her lips. “He’s perfect. I mean, it’s cheesy to say that, because he’s my soulmate so of course I’m going to find him perfect but… He actually is.”

Felicity snorted, popping a blueberry in her mouth. “You’re right it does sound cheesy but I get what you mean. What have you guys been up to? You’ve been pretty vague on the phone, saying the two of you have been out on a couple dates.”

Georgia nodded. “After our phone-call I went back to the coffee-shop, I told you about that right?”

“Yep! You said the idiot had been waiting for you.”

Georgia’s smile widened. “Yes, if that’s not a proof he really wants us then I don’t know what is.”

Felicity chuckled. “We had an amazing time and we decided not to rush things and to date for a while instead. You know, to strengthen our connection before actually… Bonding. It’s not easy because he’s a pilot but… I think we’re dealing with it just fine.”

“So… No funny business yet?” Felicity asked, voluntarily teasing her friend.

“Sex with your soulmate is more intimate than anything and although it’s very tempting to just jump them when you meet them, it’s also important not to rush things and to take the time to get to know one another perfectly. Being bonded to someone isn’t only about two bodies craving one another. It’s also about two souls coming together,” Georgia ranted, very seriously.

Felicity nodded. She understood perfectly what her friend was telling her. If she wasn’t taking the Med, and with her soulmate, she’d probably wait to get to know him more before rushing the physical side of things.

“So no crazy heated sex between the two of you yet?” She asked again, waiting for a confirmation.

Her friend nodded before adding. “Just because you don’t get to the main course just yet doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the appetizers,” the red-headed said, blushing slightly and suddenly focusing more on her pancakes.

“G!” Felicity squealed, her eyes wide opened. “You really told me nothing over the phone! I want details now!” She demanded petulantly.

“Well… It’s different from my previous relationships, to be honest.” Georgia had dated a few guys while her soulmate had been taking the Med, considering it foolish to wait for someone who was shutting her out. “Of course, it’s different, he’s my soulmate. Everything is… More intense. I had never felt anything like this, anything that intense and I’m not only talking about the pleasure following the little funny business we allow ourselves, I’m also talking about the little things. Being with him increase everything I’m feeling, it makes everything better, brighter even stupid things like drinking coffee at six am before work or finally sitting down after a long day at the office. He truly makes my life more beautiful and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

Felicity felt a lump of emotions form in her throat as she listened to her friends’ words and saw the look of utter happiness on her face. Those were things she’d never ever experienced and a pang of longing tugged at her heart. Tears prickled at the corner of her eyes but she held them back. She had made her choice a long time ago, so had her soulmate.

“I’m so happy for you G,” she said reaching out for her friend’s hand. “You only deserve the best, I’m glad you got it.”

“F, you can’t imagine how it feels to finally be with him, to finally be able to touch him. I wish you’d find your soulmate too so that you can feel it yourself.”

Felicity stiffened at her words. “G don’t be that girl, please,” she asked, her voice lower than before.

Her friend cocked her head. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t be that girl who just got her soulmate and is so lost in her happy bubble made of love, strawberries and marshmallows she wants everyone around her to be with their soulmate too because she can’t fathom other ways to be happy.”

“I’m not that girl Felicity,” she stated. “I’m well-aware there are about a million different ways to be happy, with your family, your friends, your job or your hobbies. All I’m saying is that having your soulmate and being with them is true happiness. They make you whole again and nothing compares to that, nothing. Soulmates are who we’re supposed to be with, they’re proof there are no coincidences in this world, only fate and it’s useless to fight against fate.”

“Still against anti-soulmate’s group and the Med, I see,” Felicity noticed.

“Now more than ever,” Georgia admitted.

Felicity looked away from her, not really knowing what to reply to that. Georgia knew she was on the Med but it was a topic they both avoided like the plague, knowing it would only serve to create tensions between the two of them.

They finished eating and planned the two days they were going to spend together. Georgia was leaving on Tuesday and Felicity’s mother was supposed to arrive the same day, but later. They spent the morning dealing with the aftermath of the crash. Her rental car had been hit pretty badly and she needed to organise her papers and official documents, to make sure her insurance was covering her and would pay for the repairs. Felicity also called her mother, to tell her what happened. Donna reacted as badly as she had expected her to and Felicity had to use everything she had in her to appease her and talk her into not coming over immediately. Georgia even helped her, saying she would watch Felicity carefully and take good care of her.

They got out for lunch in the middle of the afternoon, right after hanging up and then Felicity gave her friend a tour of Star City, showing her her favourite spot in the city. She asked for the Williams’ car, with whom she still spoke with on a daily basis, to drive them through the city, since hers was out of order. They went back to Felicity’s apartment quickly though, because the blonde still felt pretty tired. It made her feel bad, she felt like she was ruining her friend’s visit. Georgia was quick to reassure her. They did their nails together, watching whatever silly programmes were being aired. They ordered pizza for dinner and because Felicity felt a bit more rested, they went out to the movies. Once they were back home, they locked themselves in Felicity’s room and talked half of the night, about everything and anything. Georgia tried to learn more about Oliver, she was really curious about him, but Felicity brushed that one topic away every time she brought it up.

She hadn’t heard from Oliver since he had left, and she thought it was probably normal considering how they’d left things. In spite of knowing in her heart he wouldn’t text or email her, her heart kept jumping in her chest, every time she heard her phone buzz, to the point where she decided to cut the sound of the device. He didn’t contact her, but she didn’t blame him for that. She knew he wasn’t the one who had to do the first step. She knew she had to reach out to him but she honestly had no idea of how to do that. For the first time in a very long time, she didn’t know what to do or what to say. She knew she had to apologise but then what? Where would they go from there? She didn’t know. And it hurt, it really hurt, the pain seemed to be digging a bigger hole in her chest, a hole with nothing but a bitter sadness. She tossed and turned that night, unable to sleep, unable to think about anything else but him. She realised she hated fighting with him. She had already disliked when they had fought over what he had said to her mother but now, she had the confirmation. More than disliking it, she truly hated fighting with him. She loathed not knowing whether or not they’d be okay, not being able to talk to him whenever she felt like doing so. Their friendship had been so natural, seeing it in jeopardy paralysed, made her life empty. And it scared her, the depth of her feelings and attachment to him.

The following day, Georgia and she went shopping in the morning. She bought a white outfit since Tommy had invited her to a black and white charity. Then, they stopped by a salon to dye Felicity’s hair again. For a while her hair had been blonde but with her dark roots visible. She wanted to be completely blonde now, so she died her roots as well and lightened the colour of her hair making it look like pure gold. After that, they decided to try a spa Thea had recommended. They had the best of time, talking and being taken care of. When they were done pampering themselves, Felicity drove down to Emerald coast, showing the beautiful beach to her friend. They ate dinner there and went back to Felicity’s apartment. They watched a movie that night, comfortably wrapped in blankets on the couch, cups of ice-cream between their hands. Since Georgia’s flight was early in the morning they called it a night earlier than they had the previous day. Once she was alone, Felicity tried to call Oliver and when he didn’t pick up, it hurt. She called three more times, he never picked up. The fifth time, she left a messy message, asking him to call her back.

She drove Georgia back to the airport the next day and went back to her apartment. She did a little cleaning, getting the place ready to welcome her mother the following day. Oliver still hadn’t called her back and no, she wasn’t checking her phone every five minutes. She got a text from Tommy in the middle of the afternoon.

--

3:34 pm

Coming over, we need to talk.

TM"

--

Uh…

--

3:36

O-okay?

FS”

--

He didn’t reply to that and she sighed before typing another text.

--

3:37

Bring coffee while you’re at it!

FS”

--

Then, she tossed her phone away, sighing heavily. She was in for another lecture, she knew it. Half an hour later, she heard a knock at the door. She went to open it, smoothing out the rumples of her dress as she was walking. On the other side was waiting a very good-looking Tommy Merlyn, wearing dark clothes, his dark hair a nice mess on top of his head.

“Tommy, hey!” She said, brushing a blonde curl away, behind her ear.

He pointed an accusing finger at her. “I leave you guys alone for a second to spend some time with my soulmate and the two of you managed to get into a car accident and fight. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“To be fair, none of this was planned,” she tried to humour him.

He arched an eyebrow and took a step toward her. She didn’t let him in.

“Where’s my coffee?”

He got two steaming cups from behind his back and she took the one with her name written on it. Their fingers brushed and she had to hold back a wince when she felt like she had been burnt, just by touching him.

“Now, you can come in,” she said, stepping aside, frowning at the lingering burn she felt, starting where their hands had brushed. She looked up to see if he had noticed anything. He didn’t seem to have.

He rolled his eyes at her eagerness for coffee and she closed the door behind him, shaking her head to stop thinking about that burn. She had probably imagined it anyway. They settled down in her kitchen, their coffees in front of them.

“So… I spoke with Oliver,” Tommy said after a second.

“And let me guess… He told you everything?”

Tommy nodded. “Why didn’t you tell us?” He asked calmly.

She could see in his eyes he wasn’t mad at her for not telling him about her problems. But just because he wasn’t mad didn’t mean he hadn’t been hurt by her attitude and her way of keeping people at arms’ length.

She shrugged. “It’s just the way I am. I deal with my problems alone…”

Tommy raised a hand to stop her. “I’d like for you to use the past tense in that sentence, please. I have a feeling you’re here to stay in Star City and I have another feeling you and I are going to remain friends for a while so let me get this straight: you’re not alone anymore. I want to be here for you the same way you are for me, especially when such serious things happen to you. And this applies to Ollie, Dig, Barry or Sara. You need to trust us a little anymore.”

Felicity’s grip tightened around her cup of coffee. “Trust isn’t something that comes easily to me.” She felt relieved when he didn’t press the issue. She knew there’d be a time in the future where he’d want to know more, especially if their friendship kept on thriving. She didn’t know what she’d do then but for now, she was happy he wasn’t asking more than she could give him.

“I can understand that but Felicity, it’s really something you need to work on, hard. What you did, hiding very important stuff from us, wasn’t okay. What if something had happened to you? We wouldn’t even have known about it!”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she said, twisting her fingers in nervousness.

“And I think it would be good if you’d just open up a little. If you don’t, I fear, either you’ll stay alone or you’ll have to deal with me checking on you every few minutes. It’ll be quite annoying, a lot worse for you than me by the way, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my friends.”

Felicity chuckled at that. “Okay, okay, I’ll work on it, I promise.” She paused for a second, looking down toward her coffee. “I’m really sorry Tommy, I didn’t do it to hurt you – or Oliver or anyone for that matter. I just… It’s just the way I’m used to be.”

He nodded. “That my friend is why meeting new people is very important. The right persons help you become a better version of yourself.”

“If only Oliver could have reacted like you…” She sighed.

Tommy shook his head. “He can’t, not when it comes to you.”

She frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, he’s the one who hired you and it’s his mother who’s giving you a hard time because of it. He’s too emotionally involved to be able to think about it the way I can.” He took a sip of his coffee before going on. “I was with him this morning. He was really upset, he thought you’d have called by now. And to be honest, I thought so too. You’re seriously disappointing me Lissy. Usually, the two of you are always talking, what’s happening?”

Felicity frowned, her confusion stronger than her embarrassment at his last words. “I called him five times last night. I even left a message – not a brilliant one, I admit it but still… I called.”

“You sure? Because he assured me you didn’t.”

“Tommy, I’m telling you I did.”

He ran a hand through his hair, sighing. “Damn…That’ll teach me to try and fix things between my friends.”

“I’ll try to call him again today, but my mother arrives tonight so… I’ll be pretty busy.”

Tommy’s eyes widened. “Oh that reminds me! Meal starts around 1 pm on Tuesday. Be on time, Laurel hates it when people are late.”

Felicity chuckled. “I hate it too so don’t worry, we’ll be on time.”

“And, I wanted to remind you of my charity on Saturday…”

“As if I could forget about it,” she said, smiling at him. Tommy had organised a charity at Star City’s swimming pool. He was raising money for children who couldn’t practice a sport outside of school or play an instrument or have any kind of extra-curricular activity because their parents didn’t have enough money to pay for them. The money would also help offering them vacation outside of Star City. “But you do know I won’t be able to give more than a symbolic dollar?”

“I know that but your boss is going to donate enough for the two of you.”

Felicity chuckled lightly. “He’s coming?” Her heart skipped a beat at the thought.

“Yes, his parents aren’t though, so you can already relax. But Isabel is, God help us. She won’t stay the whole evening though, she has an early flight back to Russia on Sunday.”

Felicity frowned. She had already noticed Tommy wasn’t too fond of Isabel but now, he wasn’t really doing anything to hide it.

“Why don’t you like her?” She asked, casually playing with her coffee cup.

Her question made him laugh. “You really don’t see why?”

“Well, I know why I don’t like her, she was a bitch to me. But what about you?”

He shrugged. “She just doesn’t fit you know? She and Ollie… They don’t fit.”

“Laurel said Oliver’s connection to his soulmate was an eight or a nine. Oliver says his connection was a three.”

Tommy rolled his eyes. “Honestly? I stopped wondering or asking questions a while ago, when I realised I wouldn’t be getting any answers. You should do just that or more important, you shouldn’t try to understand Oliver and Isabel. There’s nothing to understand, it doesn’t make any sense.” Felicity gave him a sceptical look. “For example, they don’t have any chemistry. Unlike two other people I know…” He gave her a side look and she shook her head.

“Tommy don’t go there please!” She warned him.

He huffed back a laugh, holding his hand out in defence. “Okay, okay, I won’t. But just so you know, I still ship you guys.”

She shook her head. “You’re weird.”

“And Oliver’s contact pic in your phone is the one I sent you after the museum opening so…”

“How about we talk about something else?” She suggested hurriedly, her mind desperate to find a safer topic. “A black and white themed party? Why do boys have to wear black and girls white? It’s weird!”

“Because I say so? Last year, boys were wearing blue and girls red. It’s a habit I got from my partying years. Always find a way to identify your potential targets easily.”

Felicity shook her head and he gave her a poor smile.

“Smart, I know?”

She shook her head again, clearly not impressed and his smiled widened. They ended up talking a bit more about the charity. He had been organising it once a year for four years, always picking a new location – he had already done it on a basketball field, in a theatre, a gymnasium and on a tennis court - always picking a special theme and each time had been a bigger success than the previous one. People always donated more for children and even more when it was a party thrown by Tommy Merlyn himself.

He left around two hours after coming in and he gave her a hug to tell her goodbye. A hug that she had to shorten when she felt her skin burn wherever he had held her, and that in spite of her clothes. She leaned against the door after closing it, breathing heavily through her noise. The burn wasn’t painful but it was unpleasant, uncomfortable and it unsettled her. Her bond quaked slightly behind the bars of its prison and she clenched her fists, ignoring its presence the way she did every day, but it was still harder than usual. She focused on her breathing for a few minutes, feeling the weird sensation calming down, but not leaving her body.

Reaching for her phone, she called Oliver again. She shifted her weight on her feet nervously, as she listened to the usual ring. When he didn’t pick up, she felt her heart drop in her chest. She left another message, asking him to call her back. She then got her bag and went out to get her mother at the airport.

Her mother was all bright colours, toned skin and perfectly curled hair when Felicity saw her and the sight made her really happy. It had been a while since she had last seen her mother looking that good, rocking a sexy dress and high heels like a pro. She hugged her daughter tightly, brushing her hair away from her head and chewing on her lips in worry at the sight of Felicity being hurt. She reassured her for the millionth time, telling her she was fine but it did nothing to appease her mother. She reached for her arm and didn’t let go, brushing it, squeezing her fingers from time to time, as if she was making sure she was really there. Felicity couldn’t really blame for that, considering all the things they had been through.

They drove to the Williams’ place after that and picked them up. They had wanted to meet Felicity’s mom when they had learnt she was coming and Felicity had offered to invite them to go out and eat at the restaurant, since they had been very kind to her and had lent her their car while she had been waiting to get another rental. Dinner went well and the two Smoak ladies went back to Felicity’s apartment with a smile on their lips, happy to be back together again. Donna’s smile was the brightest, Felicity could tell she was happy to see her daughter wasn’t alone in such a big city and that she had surrounded herself with good people.

Felicity proudly showed her her new apartment and her mother was really happy she had left the “tiny and closed off” place. She told her everything about the small work she had had to do and about how her moving in had been. And if the name “Oliver” came up way too many times, she didn’t realise it. They went to bed early, knowing they had a million things to do the next day. Since Felicity had given a tour of Star City to Georgia earlier in the week, it was easy for her to give one to her mother, she knew the easiest and most practical way to show her all of her favourites spots in one go. Felicity did most of the talking during the ride, her mother listening to her carefully, her eyes taking in everything. There was something slightly off about, she barely said a word about her job and her life back in Vegas but whenever Felicity tried to ask her about it, she brushed the topic away. For a while she feared her mother was breaking again, she worried she had stopped taking the Med but she had seen her swallow a pill down in the morning. It wasn’t that, and clearly Donna didn’t want to talk about what it was that was bothering her. Felicity decided not to press the issue – for now. She certainly would before her mother left on Friday night.

The blonde felt grateful for her mother’s presence, which was a very appropriate feeling the day before Thanksgiving. She had missed her a lot, more than she had allowed herself to admit. She was still just a twenty-year-old girl after all, she was still young, it was normal to still need her mother. Having Donna with her also helped to think about something else. Oliver still hadn’t called her back and it worried her a lot. She wasn’t sleeping well, tossing and turning for hours every night, the unresolved situation between them stressing her out. She probably would have gone to see him, hadn’t she been very reluctant to come across Isabel and hadn’t she had her mother with her. She was really looking forward Tommy’s charity, to see him. She knew talking there wouldn’t be easy but if she was lucky, Isabel would be too busy socialising to bother her.

They got up early on Thanksgiving to bake a pumpkin pie. Tommy had said not to bring anything, but Donna hated going somewhere empty-handed and had taught Felicity to always bring something with her. They stopped by a flower shop on their way and bought something for Laurel as well. When they arrived, only Sara and her father were already here.

It was Tommy who opened the door.

“Happy Thanksgiving ladies!” He greeted them with a bright and white smile on his face.

“Happy Thanksgiving Tommy,” Felicity replied, stepping in to hug him. The burn she had felt when they had touched the last time they had been together roared to life and she inhaled sharply. It went unnoticed as Laurel was coming up to introduce herself and take the flowers away from her mother’s hands, thanking her loudly. “This is my mother, Donna.”

“Are you sure she is your mother?” Tommy asked, teasing. “The two of you could be sisters.”

Felicity’s eyes widened, while Donna squealed happily, caressing her daughters curls. “Oh Felicity do you hear that?”

“You had to go and tell her that,” she said, glaring at Tommy.

He huffed back a laugh. “Well, what can I say, it’s the truth! I’m Tommy Merlyn and it’s a pleasure to finally meet Felicity’s mom,” he introduced himself, kissing her mother’s hand, making her giggle. Felicity rolled her eyes at him before greeting Laurel.

She chastised them for bringing a pie but Donna shush her easily, telling her it was nothing. They moved to the living-room, where Sara and their dad were waiting for them. The blonde was wearing a black leather dress and Felicity couldn’t help but laugh at it. It didn’t really fit the occasion but Felicity hadn’t expected anything else from her. It was how Sara was, wild and uncommon, and also why being around her was always interesting. She had painted her nails and lips a dark red and when she hugged Felicity, the blonde had a hard time hugging her back, the burn that had started after hugging Tommy lingering. Then, she was introduced to Quentin Lance, Laurel and Sara’s dad and when she shook his hand, she felt the fire started again, stronger. It truly made her skin crawl, her blood pound in her veins with a furious desire to just go away, to put some distance between her and all these people she was “Well, well, are you going to sail away right after the desert sailor?” Sara teased her, pointing at Felicity’s navy blue dress.

“Yes,” she played along. “I’m tired of this city, I want to settle down on a tropical island.”

“Don’t tell Oliver that!” Tommy interrupted them.

Oliver’s name made Donna tilt her head. “Is he coming today?” She asked.

Felicity frowned. “Why are you asking?”

Donna shrugged. “Well because you talk about him a lot. “I ate lunch with Oliver here,” “Oliver said that”, “It reminds of that one time with Oliver”…”

Tommy chuckled at Donna. “Unfortunately, my best friend won’t be here with us today. He is spending Thanksgiving with his family.”

Donna looked a bit disappointed to hear that and Felicity felt relieved when the bell rang. It was Iris, Barry and JJ.

“F’licity!” The little boy yelled when he saw her.

He rushed toward her, not letting his parents the time to take his coat off of him.

“Hey JJ!”

“I’m happy to see you! Daddy says you have a bump on your head, do you want me to kiss it better? That’s what mommy does when I fall from my tricycle.”

Felicity smiled brightly and leaned down to kiss his cheek. “You can kiss it better if you want to.”

He lightly kissed her forehead and she knew he was being careful not to hurt her. It did something to her heart and she felt a warmth spread inside her belly, soothing the burn she had previously felt.

“Who’s this little nugget?” Donna asked.

JJ frowned. “Is she another Felicity?”

Donna chuckled and Felicity rolled her eyes. “No Junior, it’s my mother.”

“Good afternoon madam you’re very pretty,” he told Donna, holding his tiny hand out.

Donna smiled and shook his small fingers. “Good afternoon Junior, you’re very adorable.”

She squished his cheek and he giggled. Iris came to them, rocking her pale pink dress and heels, a bright smile on her lips. Barry was right behind her and when he hugged Felicity she felt the same burn from before came back and she had to take a step away from him. It was making her head spin and she sat down for a second, needing some time to collect her emotions.

What the hell was happening?

At first, she had thought it had been nothing with Tommy, she had thought she had imagined it. But obviously, she hadn’t.

“Baby you’re okay?” Donna asked. “Your cheeks are red.” Maybe the fire she was feeling was actually a fever in her blood. Donna put a hand on her forehead frowning. “You don’t have a fever though. Why don’t you go put some water on your face though? Your cheeks are really red.”

Felicity nodded, escaping to the bathroom. She splashed water on her face, happy to always only buy waterproof make-up. She felt the burn decrease slowly and she took a deep breath, to calm herself down. She felt the bond inside her head come to life and she clenched her fist when it pressed against the bars of its prison, roaring angrily, desperate to make her understand something. She shook her head, trying to shut it away. Something was wrong with her, something was very wrong. She shouldn’t be able to understand her bond, it was supposed to be completely muffled, utterly silent. With tears pricking at the corner of her eyes, she blindly reached for her bag. Now wasn’t the time for a crisis. Here wasn’t the place for a mental breakdown, so without thinking about it, she took an extra-pill. She swallowed it, relief settling inside her. She had no idea what was going on, why she felt a burn when touched by other people or why her bond was making its presence felt so often lately but she knew today wasn’t the day she was going to get any answers. Today, she was celebrating Thanksgiving with her friends. Today she was going to have a good time, she was going to enjoy herself more, just she had wowed to.

She felt the burn again when her shoulders bumped Barry’s when they both tried to get up at the same time, when she brushed Lance’s fingers when he gave her the salt or when Sara brushed her hair away to have a better look at her small earrings. It was driving her crazy slowly. Having people touching her all the time made her angry and she didn’t know where that anger was coming from. And her inability to handle a simple touch and her own anger upset her beyond words. All she wanted to do was to have a good time with her friends and her own body and mind were betraying her. She wanted to kick and scream and cry in frustration. Why was there always something to ruin her happy moments? Couldn’t she just have one day, one happy day for herself?

Apparently, the answer was no, she couldn’t.

If anyone noticed that something was off with her, nobody pointed it out. The food was delicious and the conversation happy and interesting, at least it was, when the burn was decreasing enough to allow Felicity to focus on it. It felt good to be with her most of her friends for Thanksgiving, it had been a while since she had been surrounded by so many people for this particular time of the year. She wished her other friends would be here too, Georgia, Thea, Dig, Oliver… She chased that feeling away quickly though, when her traitorous mind reminded of Oliver’s last words to her.

“I wonder what the point of this friendship is.”

Donna came to talk to her later that night, when they were back to her apartment. Felicity was lying down on her bed, wrapped up in a blanket, staring blankly at her arrow bracelet. Ever since they had been alone, the burn had disappeared, leaving her both mentally and physically exhausted. Physically, because the burn had been about her body, and mentally because it was her mind who had tried to fight it off. And now, to her biggest confusion, she felt relieved to be alone, not to be surrounded by people touching her anymore.

“Are you okay baby girl? Earlier, you seemed a little bit… tensed.”

Felicity opened her mouth to tell her she was okay but then she remembered Tommy’s words.

“I think it would be good if you’d just open up a little.”

“No, I’m not really okay. I don’t know why but… Even though I’m taking the Med, my bond is… strong, I feel it inside my head and heart and… It kind of hurts. And today, every time Sara, Lance, Tommy or Barry touched me, I felt like I had been burnt.”

Donna frowned sitting down on Felicity’s bed, concern written all over her face. “For how long has this been going on?”

“It started a few days ago, when Tommy came over.”

“Maybe you should call a doctor. You shouldn’t be able to feel your side of the bond, I know I don’t.”

Felicity chewed on her lips, worried. She twisted her fingers together nervously. “What if there’s something wrong with me?” She didn’t ask the second question that was burning the tip of her tongue, “what if there’s something wrong with him?” but it seemed that Donna got it anyway.

“If this goes on, call a doctor, okay?” She advised, squeezing her daughter’s knee.

Felicity gave her a small smile. “Did you have a good time today mom?”

“Yes,” Donna replied, her eyes shining brightly. “Your friends are really nice.”

Felicity nodded firmly. “They truly are. And what about Vegas? Are you happy there? I couldn’t help but notice you were avoiding talking about it.”

Her mother’s smile faded away. “Of course you noticed. You know me better than anyone else.”

Felicity tilted her head. “Mom?”

“It’s not how I thought it would be baby. At first, it was everything I had been dreaming of but lately… I’ve been feeling like what I thought I wanted and what I truly want are two very different things.”

“What is it that you want then?”

Donna shrugged. “I’m a forty-year-old single woman with only one child who leaves two hours away if you fly. I want to be with you baby, that’s all.”

Felicity reached for her mother’s hand, a few tears pricking at the corner of her eyes, a lump forming in her throat.

“Then we’ll try to make that happen,” she promised.

Donna left again the following day and Felicity used her time alone to rest. She didn’t try to call Oliver again, assuming he probably hadn’t called her back by lack of time but because he had been busy with his so called soulmate.

Saturday and Tommy’s party came quickly. Felicity dressed in white, putting a white bikini under her shirt. She knew they weren’t going there to swim, the chances for her to end up wet were very small but she couldn’t help but feeling nervous. She had been unable to find her white swimsuit with little cherries on it, the one she had already been wearing in high-school. She had been sure to have it, so she hadn’t bought a new one when she had gone shopping and when she had realised it was nowhere to be found, it had been too late for her to go buy another. So she’d have to do with a small bikini that didn’t cover much skin and that once belonged to her mother. She had believed her daughter would wear it one day and Felicity had taken it to make her happy, knowing she’d never wear something that didn’t cover her right side.

She was about to leave, she had just gotten her new rental car when she heard a soft knock at her door. Frowning, her heart skipped a beat when she saw who was waiting for her on the other side of the door.

“Oliver.”

His name fell from her lips in a relieved breath. He was all dressed in black, looking as handsome as ever, although he had bags under his eyes.

“You didn’t call. You didn’t come. You didn’t even text,” he said, glaring at her.

She frowned. “I called, I left messages but you never called back. I thought you were busy with your soulmate and you’d come back in touch with me when you’d be… free again.” She said the last words quietly, looking down toward the tips of her shoes.

“I didn’t get any calls from you,” he said, surprised and confused.

“Don’t make me hack into both our phone records to prove it to you,” she said, still looking down toward her shoes, unable to cross his angry gaze.

“You don’t use computers anymore.”

She looked up and said, very seriously. “I’d do it for you.” Then she winced. “And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound that dramatic.”

He huffed back a laugh and she let out a breath she hadn’t known she had been holding.

“Oliver I…” she started.

“Felicity,” he said at the same time. He bowed his head slightly. “You go first.”

“I wanted to tell you I’m sorry, for lying to you and keeping things from you. Opening up and relying on people is not something I’m good at but… I’ll try to be better from now on.”

He nodded. “As long as you don’t hide anything from me ever again, we should be fine.”

“You’re not going to be patient with me, are you?”

He shook his head, his hands coming up to take her free one. She sucked in a breath, getting herself ready to feel the burn. She didn’t. “No, I’m not and that’s because you’re important to me and I need to know when you’re not okay. So I can make it better.” His thumb rubbed over the top of her hand and still she felt no burn.

It felt weird to hear those words, and believing them was hard but there was something in his eyes, an unwavering certainty, an open honesty that told her he meant every word. Before she could process what was happening, he pulled her in for a hug, engulfing her in the warmth of his arms. She wrapped her own around his neck after a few seconds and he exhaled slowly.

“I hate fighting with you,” he admitted.

“I hate fighting with you too,” she whispered back, finally relaxing after almost a whole week and he tightened his hold on her.

“Thea’s waiting in the car, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the charity with us. I’ll drive you back.”

She chuckled at that, the sound muffled in the crook of his neck, he smelled very good she noticed, a strong and woodsy scent, something male but with a softness to it, a softness that was only him.

“Okay,” she accepted, holding onto him a bit tighter, content now that she had him back with her.

They made it to Star City’s swimming-pool, which had been beautifully decorated for the occasions. There were beautiful lights everywhere, bright balls, some floating around the room, some tied up to some lead weight. Waiters and waitresses were moving around the crowd with silver trays carrying sparkling flutes of champagne. Children were running, giggling happily and laughing out loud. A small heated pool had been opened especially for them and Tommy had also hired magicians and a clown to entertain them.

Thea left them right after they arrived, saying she had seen someone she knew from school. Oliver let her go, telling her to come to them once in a while before turning toward Felicity.

“Ready for another night of mundanities?” He asked.

She wasn’t. The burn was back, not nearly as intense as it had been on Thanksgiving but then the party had barely started. She knew it would increase and it did, every time someone did as much as brushing her shoulder. But she put on a brave smile on her lips and said, teasing.

“They seem to happen quite a lot around you Mister Queen. You forgot to mention that in my job description.”

He chuckled and she smiled, focusing on him and doing her best to ignore her discomfort. She had missed his company more than she was willing to admit and she wasn’t going to let one stupid little thing ruin her evening. On the bright side of things, her bond was all calm and silent but it probably was because she had taken a higher dose of the Med than usual.

They made their way around the other guests, doing small talk with some, talking about more serious business with others. They had a really interesting conversation with Walter Steele, QC’s CFO and Oliver’s father’s best friend. Felicity had run into him a few times already but had never had the pleasure to speak with him directly. He was a very nice man, with a wonderful accent and Felicity instantly liked his good manners, his politeness and clever mind. Sadly, he was unmarried and she thought it was a pity for a man like him to be alone.

Felicity excused herself for a minute at some point, feeling like she was suffocating inside the building, burning up from the inside. The noise was tiring her and she felt like she would spontaneously combust if she had to shake any more hands. Going out, she was instantly hit by the cold air of the evening. She brought the lapels of her jacket closer to her chest and she exhaled slowly, trying to calm down. The outside pool, who had yet to be emptied in spite of the time of the year, looked beautiful and Felicity couldn’t help for the summer to be here. It would be amazing to come here, to swim a bit and get a tan.

She frowned when she recognised a silhouette dancing dangerously close to the edge of the pool.

“Thea!” She called, walking toward her friend. She hadn’t come to tell them if she was okay in a while.

The brunette turned around and Felicity gasped when she saw she wasn’t wearing her coat, just a crop top that barely covered anything.

“Thea, are you crazy? Get back inside, you’re going to catch a cold!” She told her, concern filling her.

She made her way to her friend, and realised something was off in her eyes. Her pupils were dilated and she was stinking a strong and rancid smell of alcohol.

“Felicity hi!” She said giggling. “I’m happy to see you my friend,” she added as she tried to wrap her arms around Felicity’s neck. She tripped and almost fell on the ground. She dropped the flask she had been holding though, the liquid it had been containing spilled on the floor.

“Oh no. That was some pretty good stuff,” Thea whined before giggling. She bent over to get the flask back.

“Oh my god, you’re drunk!” Felicity realised, reaching out to take the flask from her.

“Of course I’m drunk. It’s the best state to be in. When I’m drunk, I forget about everything, about how my life sucks, about how my mom is full of shit…”

“Thea, give me that flask!” Felicity demanded, trying to get it while eyeing the edge of the pool. Thea wasn’t stable on her feet and kept stumbling toward the cold water.

“She thinks you want to hook up with Ollie!” Thea giggled as if it was the most hilarious thing she had ever heard, taking another sip. “I don’t think you do but it would be nice to have you as my step-sister. I love you F’licity.”

“Thea for God’s sake, give me that bottle!” Felicity yelled, grabbing the silver flask.

“No!” Thea yanked it away from her. The movement made her trip and she fell backward in the pool.

“Fuck!” Felicity shout and without thinking about it twice, she took off her coat and dived after her friend. Drunk people couldn’t be trusted to swim alone and Thea had fallen where the pool was the deepest. Of course.

The cold water bit Felicity’s skin, the sting almost too much to bear. But she ignored it and swam toward her friend, who was struggling to keep her head above the water.

“Damn, it’s cold!” She swore. “It’s cold, I’m drowning, help!” She yelled.

“Thea shut up,” Felicity ordered, wrapping an arm around her waist. “I’ve got you.” She swam toward the edge of the pool and helped Thea grip the granite.

“My flask,” she said, once she was out, pointing at the silver object.

Felicity rolled her eyes and went to get it back, feeling the cold fill every inch of her body. So much for not swimming that night. She got the flask and they hurried out of the pool. Thea was still on the ground, shivering and chattering, her lips blue, her make-up ruined. Felicity put the flask in her back pocket and wrapped her coat around her friend’s shoulders. She was shivering and chattering herself, they needed to get in, quickly.

“Get up Thea,” she demanded, pulling at her friend’s hands.

Thea refused to move.

“Thea!” Felicity snapped, stamping her feet, her veins turning a purple colour she didn’t like at all.

When she heard her friend sob, she thought she had imagined it. “I’m so sorry, please don’t hate me.”

Thea’s turned blue eyes shining with tears to her and Felicity’s heart clenched in her chest, moved by the pain she could see in them.

“I don’t hate you Thea,” she reassured her. “Now please, get up, we need to get somewhere warm.”

The brunette let her help her up and Felicity led her toward the door. They were close to it when Oliver pulled it open. When he saw them, shivering and dripping wet, his eyes widened.

“What the hell happened?”

Felicity opened her mouth to say something but then Thea slipped from a grasp, hurrying away. “I’ll be waiting for you inside,” she said.

“Thea, don’t!” Felicity tried to hold her back but the young girl was already ten steps away.

“What happened?” Oliver asked, taking off his coat to hand it to her.

“I found Thea with a flask, she was really drunk Oliver. I tried to take it away from her but then she tripped and we fell and are you listening to me? Why are you staring at me like this?”

“What’s that?” He asked pointing at her. She looked down and froze knowing immediately what had gotten his attention.

“It’s nothing,” she said hurriedly, putting his jacket on to cover the almost eight inches long, two inches large patch of puckered skin branding her ribs.

“Felicity, it’s not nothing,” he insisted, reaching out for her.

She took a step back and a flash of pain crossed his eyes. “Oliver, we need to get back inside,” she reminded him. “Thea, she needs you…” She added, trying to walk past him. He grabbed her shoulders to stop her.

“Felicity, tell me what that is! Who did that to you? What happened?”

“It’s none of your business!” She yelled, anger mixing with the shame and pain she was feeling at the moment.

There was one major difference between Tommy and Oliver when it came to her. The first was able to give her time, he knew how not to punch. The second on the other hand… He was stubborn and demanding.

“Yes it is!” He shot back.

That angered her even more. What the hell? How dared her? “And pray tell why?”

Her tone made him snap. She saw something shift in his eyes and he said, as if it was obvious. “Because I like you Felicity, I care about you, a lot!”

She paused for a second. What? What had he just said?

“What does it have to do with anything?” She asked, shaking her head unable to process and accept his words. He probably didn’t mean them. Soon, he was going to realise what he’d said and it’d take the words back. They were just friends. He didn’t like her and he didn’t care about her a lot. He cared about her like a regular friends, because it was what they were, end of the story.

He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “Everything,” he replied. “You’re important to me and…”

She shook her head. Again, he would take them back as soon as possible. “That doesn’t give you the right to demand things like that from me.” She paused for a second, trying to calm down, trying to get a hold on her breathing again. “I know I promised to open up but you’re going too far,” she stated, standing her ground.

“Felicity, I…”

“No!” She cut him off, without listening to what he had been about to say. “The last person I opened up to did that to me.” She pointed at her ribs, her cheeks burning from the mixed and conflicted feelings fighting inside her heart and mind.

His eyes widened and he immediately calmed down. “I’d never hurt you, you know that, right?”

She looked away from him, and wiped at her tears. “Guess what? He said that to me too.”

He didn’t say anything for a whole minute and she stood there, cold, her heart beating wildly in her chest, pain, shame and bad memories mixing in her core. Her pain was caused by her bad memories, her shame because he had seen the ugliest part of her, her past. A part of her no one should have ever seen. And yet he had and she felt ashamed, exposed, fragile. Her mind was using her weakness at its advantage, pressing things she’d rather forget against the edge of her conscience. They were pulling her toward the darkest part of her.

But then she heard it. His voice. Soft words whispered only for her.

Then his hand. Warm and comforting only for her. He intertwined their fingers together, rubbing his thumb over her skin. The gesture, simple but powerful, pulled at something inside of her. She took a deep breath and just like that, she was out of that place filled with monsters and darkness, where she was just the shell of a young woman.

“I’m sorry.”

A lump of emotions formed in her throat and she had to fight back more tears, confusing joining in the mix of emotions swirling inside of her.

“Thea,” she reminded him, needing to focus on anything else but the last five minutes, on the scar on her skin, on the memories pressing at the edge of her mind. “We need to…”

He nodded, letting go of her hand. She immediately found herself missing the contact but didn’t dare taking it back.

“Let’s go,” was all he said.

Chapter Text

 Chapter 10:

“How can you see into my eyes like open door?

Leading you down into my core where I’ve become so numb

Without a soul my spirit’s sleeping somewhere cold

Until you find it there and lead it back home.”

- Evanescence ft. Paul McCoy, Bring me to life.

 

It was weird to go back inside, where everything was hot, almost suffocating and also noisy, just on the verge of too loud. It was weird to go back inside, among people cheerfully talking, enjoying themselves, completely oblivious to the storm raging inside of her. Because yes, there was a storm inside of her, slowly rising but already promising to be devastating.

It had started the moment they had stepped back inside. She had been hit by the heat given off by all the bodies gathered inside instantly, a sharp contrast with the coldness of her own body, who had been freezing mere seconds ago. It had made her head spin and she had almost collided with a waiter. Immediately, the burn, the very burn that had caused her to walk out in the first place, had come back white hot and blazing. Her restrained bond had immediately stirred up, making itself known loudly, buzzing in annoyance and had it had feet, it would have stamped them exactly like a petulant child. And that was just downright crazy. Felicity had taken two pills. Two! With only one, she shouldn’t be able to feel anything, so with two, she should be all good, and for hours and yet, she was feeling everything. Why was her bond so strong? Why were her walls cracking? Why was she feeling all these things? And worse, what if the burn was caused by her side of the bond? What if it was rejecting people’s touch because they weren’t her soulmate? She knew it wasn’t possible, because she was taking the Med but… A lot of things were supposed to be impossible and yet, they kept happening.

She didn’t have time to linger on that thought for a longer while. She brushed a man’s arm as she was following Oliver and it ignited the fire running wild under her veins even more. She didn’t know why she did what she did next. She really didn’t know what pushed her to reach out for Oliver walking ahead of her, what pushed her to grab his hand and to not only hold it but also intertwine her fingers with his and hold onto him as tightly as she could.

Maybe it was because she was trying to rely more on the people around her.

Maybe it was because she was starting to trust him more than she did anyone else.

Or maybe because he was the last person who had yet to burn her.

She really didn’t know why she did it. But she did and it made him turn back, his eyebrow raised in question. She gave him a look and must have understood what she wasn’t saying because he just squeezed his fingers before resuming his walk, stopping only when they ran across Tommy.

Their friends’ eyes fell on their joined hands.

“Did I miss something?” Felicity expected Oliver to drop her hand at his comment, but he didn’t and she totally would have, hadn’t he been holding as tightly as her. “And jeez Lissy, you’re all wet! What happened to you?”

“Fell in the pool with Thea,” she explained.

Tommy’s eyes widened but before he could reply anything to the small bomb she had just dropped on him, Oliver cut him off.

“Have you seen Thea?”

He nodded. “I saw her from afar not five minutes ago. She was heading toward the ladies’ room.”

Felicity and Oliver exchanged a glance, nodding to one another. They needed to get to her, the sooner the better. Her unexpected bath surely hadn’t sobered her up and it would be best if people didn’t know Thea Queen had gotten drunk at a charity event. The newspapers would immediately tear her apart, saying she was falling into her brother’s steps and though Felicity didn’t really know what had pushed her to think alcohol would be the right answer to her problems, she knew being given a reputation of a spoiled brat was absolutely not what the young girl needed. Felicity was also pretty sure it was the kind of scandals Moira Queen wanted to avoid at all costs, and by all costs she meant not being afraid to use any means necessary to make sure people wouldn’t get the wrong idea of things. Reprimands and lectures could all wait until the next morning. Right now, Thea needed their help.

“Okay, we’re going to go find her,” Oliver decided.

“In the meantime, I’ll find you both dry clothes,” Tommy said. “And hot drinks.”

Felicity nodded. Her clothes were still soaked but she had stopped feeling cold ever since she had walked back inside the building. Her teeth had stopped chattering and her veins and nails weren’t that purple anymore, turning back to a more normal, healthier colour.

She and Oliver made their way to the ladies room. When Oliver put his hand on the door to open it, Felicity stopped him.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked.

“Getting to my sister,” he said as if it was obvious.

“You’re not seventeen anymore,” she reminded him. “Going into the ladies room isn’t what you do.”

He sighed annoyed but she stood her ground. “I’ll go,” she told him, pushing the door open and letting go of his hands. She instantly missed his warmth and his presence at her side but straightened her spine and gritted her teeth. Her friend needed her and in order to help her, she’d handle the burn as best as she could.

The ladies room were empty, except for two women. One was washing her hands, the other fixing her make-up.

“Thea,” she called, after greeting the two women with a small nod. “Thea, are you there?” She asked, knocking on the only closed door, from where small sniffling sounds could be heard. “Thea, it’s Felicity. Please open the door!” She insisted, knocking again, a bit louder.

The woman who had been washing her hands got her clutch back and walked out. Felicity looked at the other one, applying another layer of mascara around her eyes and gestured toward the door asking for privacy. The woman rolled her eyes at her, clearly annoyed, but got out nonetheless, slamming the door rudely behind her.

“Thea, please open the door!” Felicity asked again, getting a grip on her patience. She had always had a huge amount of patience around computers. When it had come to humans… Not so much. But Thea wasn’t just another human being, she was her friend and she was in desperate need of her help.

She reached for the handle when Thea didn’t reply to her – she had nothing to lose after all. She turned it and breathed in relief when it turned and she was able to open the door. Her heart clenched in her chest at the sight of Thea. She was sitting down on the floor, her arms wrapped around her thin legs, holding them protectively against her chest. Her face was buried between her knees, her sobs muffled by her wet clothes. She was rocking back and forth, in perfect synch with her tears. Water had dripped from both her clothes and hair which were as soaked as Felicity’s.

Kneeling down slowly, Felicity raised a hesitant hand toward her friend.

“Thea,” she whispered, scared of what might happen if she touched her, scared of the burn. The brunette didn’t react to her name. So Felicity exhaled slowly and put a hand on her shoulders, her touch light at first, firmer when she realised the burn wasn’t increasing.

“Thea,” Felicity repeated.

The brunette looked up, her blue eyes almost entirely black, confusion and pain filling them, sharpening their usually kind look. They were red and swollen from crying, stains of mascara were crossing her cheeks. Now that she was closed to her, Felicity realised Thea was shivering like a leaf at Fall, her nails, veins and lips were purple, in spite of the blonde’s coat.

“I’m not feeling well,” she hip-cupped, making Felicity frown.

It took her a few minutes to realise she wasn’t shaking because she was cold but because she was feeling sick and had been shocked, both by her unplanned bath and whatever it was that had been bothering her. Everything happened in a second after that. One moment Thea was all wrapped up around herself then Felicity blinked and her friend was throwing her coat away, bending over the toilet to empty the contents of her stomach. The blonde immediately reached out for her, catching her hair and pulling it back, her other hand patting her back to comfort her.

Thea cried some more, as a shiver ran down her spine, whispering incoherent words of apologies. Felicity tried to calm her down as best as she could, replying to all her sorrys with comforting words and encouragements.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You’re okay, everything’s going to be okay. Just take a deep breath, can you do that for me? Just breathe.”

The brunette did as she was being told, inhaling deeply, exhaling slowly. She didn’t throw up again and after a while, she stopped shaking. Felicity let out a little relieved breath when she felt her settle down and her panic decrease. Thea was still tensed though, the muscles in her shoulders hard under Felicity’s hand, her knuckles white because of her hard grip on the edge of the toilet. Felicity helped her sit back again before going up, grabbing toilet paper on her way. She wet it and then cleaned Thea’s face with it, her gestures precise and gentle. She washed away the traces of ruined make-up, revealing the big purple bags under her eyes and her very pale face. The young girl let her take care of her without saying anything, just staring at Felicity, watching her every move.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” She croaked, her voice broken by her tears.

That made Felicity pause. For a second, she was brought back to her earlier conversation with Oliver on her doorstep. It felt like it had happened forever ago, when really, it had only been barely a few hours ago.

“Because you’re important to me,” she simply answered, realising how true the words were the moment they left her lips. Thea was her friend – they got along well, hung out occasionally, texted almost every day. She was her friend and she cared about her. Simple as that.

“Can you get up?” She asked her.

The brunette nodded.

“Then let’s go,” Felicity said, getting up on her feet and then offering her a hand. Thea took it and got up and wobbly legs. “Do you want to drink some water? Clean your mouth?”

“Yes, thank you.”

They had barely made it to the sink when Oliver and Tommy walked in, startling the two girls.

“Jeez!” Felicity yelped, bringing a hand to her chest. “Don’t you knock?”

“You weren’t coming out,” Oliver explained.

“And these are for you,” Tommy added, handing them clothes. “We’ll let you change now.”

He turned around and walked out. It took Oliver some more time, which he spent staring at his sister, taking her in and making sure she was okay. He only left when he was certain he could, leaving them to put on the warm clothes. They changed quickly, Thea needing Felicity to help her as her balance still wasn’t all that great. They put their wet clothes, including the blonde’s coat in plastic bags Tommy had thought to bring up. With regret, Felicity didn’t put Oliver’s jacket back on, wrapping it around Thea’s shoulders instead, to keep her warm.

They got out and Tommy handed them plastic cups of hot tea. Felicity gratefully accepted hers, immediately taking a sip and burning the tip of her tongue in the process. Thea declined hers at first but then her brother threw her a look and she took it, wordlessly. They finished their drinks quickly, and Felicity soon felt a pleasant feeling of warmth spread inside her body, easing down to feeling of the burn. She hadn’t been touching anyone except for Thea in nearly half-an-hour, the fire inside her was decreasing, slowly and she felt grateful for it.

“I’m sorry Tommy,” Oliver said, “but we’re going to have to leave early.”

His friend raised a hand to stop the rest of his apology. “It’s okay, I understand. How about I follow you to the entrance where these two will get their coats and bags back.”

“Already have my coat,” Felicity informed him. “I took it back before going out and…” She didn’t finish her sentence, too surprised when Thea wrapped two arms around her, holding on to her tightly, her cheek resting on her shoulders. She let out a sigh of satisfaction, which was quickly followed by a sound that suspiciously sounded like a purr.

“You make a good pillow,” she mumbled, getting comfortable and closing her eyes.

Felicity stared at Oliver who sighed. “Thea, now is not the time nor the place to sleep.”

“You’re just jealous,” she shot back. “And I’m tired,” she added, holding the blonde a little tighter.

Felicity rolled her eyes before reaching for her friend’s arm, moving it so that she’d be able to support her, without looking like she was while they walked back to the entrance.

She pulled her phone out of her bag as soon as she got it back. Oliver was supporting Thea now. The sleepier the brunette was feeling, the heavier she was and though Felicity was strong, she wasn’t that strong.

“What are you doing?” Oliver asked, motioning toward her phone with his chin.

“Calling a cab?”

He tilted his head. “Why?”

“Well, your sister needs to be put to bed, the sooner the better. Bringing me back to my place will make you do a detour and…”

“You could come with us,” he suggested. “You know Thea has her own room in my apartment, right? I’m sure she has some clothes she can lend you.”

She frowned. “Why would I come with you? You and your sister obviously need to have a family talk,” she added, lower so that no one would hear them. They were waiting for Tommy to come back, he had gone out to bring Oliver’s car to the door, since he had found himself being busy with an armful of a sister starting to sleep off the alcohol she had drunk.

“We could use a talk too,” he pointed out.

She paused, staring at him for a second. Then she whispered. “This was your plan all along, right?”

He gave her a sheepish smile. “I may or may have not planned to kidnap you.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You couldn’t have just asked?”

“It’s not a kidnapping anymore if I ask for your permission,” he stated.

“Oliver,” she warned him.

“Fine! Next time I’ll call: “Felicity hey, wanna do a sleepover?”

She shook her head at him. “Well, now that you’re asking, no, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said.

He closed his eyes briefly, sighing. “Felicity please. Earlier, we didn’t really have time to talk properly and I’d like for us to take the time now.”

“We can take the time tomorrow, during the day.”

“But I’ve noticed it’s easier for us to talk at night.”

Tommy chose this moment to come back. “The car is here,” he said, handing the keys to Oliver.

“Felicity please,” Oliver insisted.

She hesitated before giving in. They did need that talk and she wanted to stay close to Thea, just to make sure she was really okay. “Alright,” she said and Oliver smiled brightly at her, making her smile back at him.

“Goodnight guys,” Tommy said after they were all buckled up in the car. “Feel better Speedy.”

Thea was already asleep at the back of the car, Felicity next to her to check on her and make sure she was sleeping peacefully.

“Goodnight Tommy,” Oliver and Felicity said in unison before he started driving away.

Since they had been in a hurry to get inside the car, she had avoided to hug Tommy goodbye, barely squeezing his hand meaning that the burn kept decreasing, slowly fading into the background of her mind, her bond suddenly very quiet.

The release of so many of her tensions could have lulled her to sleep. It would have been really easy to fall over the edge and let slumber take over, especially now that she was feeling warmer - except for her swimsuit, since Tommy hadn't been able to fin dry one, she had taken her bikini top off but not the bottom - and more at peace. But she didn't, running her hand through Thea's hair in a soothing gesture instead, as her friend was lying almost completely on her. She listened to the quiet sound of the car driving, and watched the almost empty streets and roads of Star City at this time of night, enjoying the play of the streetlights' reflection on Thea's cheek, the moon and the stars invisible guardian from where she was.

Oliver didn't say a word during the whole car ride, she didn't either. Anticipation was making her body buzz. She knew they had a lot to talk about. She was both looking forward and repelled by the thought of their upcoming conversation. She knew he'd ask her questions, but she didn't know if she'd be able to give him the answers he wanted. But she would certainly ask him questions of her own, so maybe they'd be able to find a middle ground, a compromise of some sorts.

He parked his car in the underground parking lot of his building. Felicity unbuckled Thea, who was still sleeping soundly, and waited for Oliver to come and pick his sister up before unbuckling herself. He gave her the keys to his apartment and carried Thea while she handled the plastic bags with their wet clothes in them. She opened the door to his penthouse and wordlessly, they walked in. She took it upon herself not to let herself be distracted by the gorgeous view of the city they had from up here.

Oliver left her to put Thea to bed and she made her way to his laundry room – because yes, that was how huge his penthouse was, enough to have its own laundry room – to hang their clothes so they could dry during the night.

"Felicity?" She heard Oliver's voice calling for her.

She walked out of the laundry room and went to meet him in the hallway leading to the bedrooms. He was holding a pile of clothes in his hands.

"She sleeping?" She asked.

He nodded. "I tried to wake her up but she is too lost to be brought back. Not even a zombie Apocalypse could do it."

Felicity chuckled lightly at that. And Oliver let out a deep sigh, scratching the back of his head.

"I just wonder what has gotten into her."

The blonde frowned, crossing her arms over her chest. "You know she is not doing that okay, right?" She said, remembering clearly the bitterness she had felt in Thea during their post-shopping talk.

"I know she's under a lot of pressure. Been there, done that myself. And I don't want her to end up like me, I want more, better for her."

"Why Oliver? You're a good person."

A shadow crossed his eyes and his voice sounded suddenly tighter, as if there was a lump of emotions constricted it. "I'm not talking about who I am now, but about who I used to be."

Ollie. Spoiled brat. College failure. Womanizer.

"You know, there's only one way to prevent that from happening."

He tilted his head, inviting her to go on.

"Be there for her," she told him. "Support her when the pressure is too much for her shoulders. Take her hand when she's losing her way. Hold her when she's falling apart."

She was well-aware she wasn't telling him something he didn't already know. It didn't mean he hadn't needed to hear the words, to have someone make them real. He thanked her with his eyes, his bright blue orbs conveying more things than his words ever could.

He handed her the clothes he had been holding then, saying. "Shower then talk?"

She nodded in approval, heart thrumming happily in her chest at the thought of a warm shower. She wasn't feeling much of the cold anymore but still. Her skin needed the contact with hot water to permanently erase the stinging bite of the freezing water of the pool.

Oliver's shower was just like the rest of his place. Well-equipped, gorgeous and oh so damn expensive. She realised how hard it would be for her to get out of the shower the moment she stepped under the hot spray. The water was deliciously hitting her body, drops softly rolling down her curves close to a caress. She enjoyed for a minute before remembering he was waiting for her. She debated whether or not she should use his soap, since there wasn't anything else to use - Thea probably had left her toiletries in the bathroom adjoined to her room. She eventually gave in, really needing to clean herself up to chase away from her skin the way of chlorine. She scrubbed herself clean, washing her hair, and then walked out of the shower, smelling woodsy but not as good as Oliver did. Not that she had paid any attention to his smell, because she hadn't. She had just happened to be wearing his jacket earlier, and she remembered it from there, nothing more. She put on the clothes he had picked for her, shaking her head when she realised he had forgone a bra. She didn't need one to sleep but if they were going to stay up and talk... Sighing, she went to take of her hair. She combed it, untying as many knots as she could. She knew it would be awful in the morning, all wild and curly because she had washed it without using her usual products and without brushing it the way she always did. She got out of the bathroom when she satisfied, mostly, with her appearance.

She didn't find Oliver in the living-room, like she had expected to and so she went looking for him. She called for him when she didn’t find him. She had a pretty good idea of where he was, his bedroom, she just didn’t want to walk in uninvited.

“Oliver?”

“In here,” he replied and she took as permission to join him.

She found him sitting down on the rug next to his bed, some sort of books on his knee. She went to sit down next to him, bumping his shoulder with hers in the process. He looked up from the photo album he had been looking at, smiling at her. She leaned down, to take a better look at the picture he had been so focused on when she had walked in. It was him, younger, with no scruff on and his hair longer.

“When I was in college, I had black raven hair, with purple streaks so if you’re staring at this picture because you’re ashamed of your former haircut you should know we all mistakes in that area when we’re young.”

He blinked, once, twice before a smile threatened to stretch his lips.

“Black raven hair, uh?” He asked.

“I had the whole goth look,” she went on, shaking her head at her questionable former tastes.

“You know I need to see a picture of you at that age now?”

“At that age? I’ll let you know it was a year and a half ago mister! I’ll also remind you that some of us aren’t as old as you are!” She said, slapping his shoulder playfully.

“How could I forget? You spend half of your time teasing me about my “advanced age”.”

“Well, you do ramble about me being messy,” she pointed out.

He shook his head at her words. “I’m never going to win that debate, am I?”

She shrugged, amused by their little banter. It had been a while since they had just one another and she’d truly missed it. She had missed him. It was weird to think barely a week ago they had had their car accident. Everything seemed so far away, especially now when it was just the two of them.

“Why are you looking at this picture anyway? Is it because of Thea?” She asked, trying to decipher the look in his eyes. It was focused, solemn. There was a gravity to it, something very serious and stern. It was a side of him she rarely saw and it made her realise maybe he was staring at more than just a picture of his past-self. He was staring at his demon.

“I guess so,” he replied, closing the album and putting it back in place. “I don’t know how to tell my parents about tonight.”

Felicity bit on her lower lip. “Why?”

“I don’t want to hear them say how much of a bad brother I am or how terrible the example I set for her to follow is.”

Felicity’s heart clenched in her chest at the resigned look on his face. “You don’t believe that, do you? Because let me tell you that would be very stupid. You’re not responsible for what happened tonight. I’ve talked a little bit with Thea and what I’ve been able to gather is that she’s angry at your mother.”

Oliver chuckled bitterly. “My mother, always the cause of troubles.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You don’t have to, I’m well-aware of how she can be. I told her about you by the way. About what happened at your apartment.”

Felicity’s eyes widened. “Why would you do that?”

“Because this has to stop. You’re staying and she needs to accept it. I made it pretty clear she had to, and I think she got the message. At least, I hope so.”

Felicity sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Earlier, Thea said your mother thought I wanted to hook up with you.”

Oliver chuckled, his eyes brightening slightly. “Do you?”

“What? No, you’re not my type!!” She blurted out clumsily, feeling her cheeks redden.

“Hey!” He said nudging her, pretending to be offended. “I do have an ego, you know?”

“Well, don’t count on me to boost it.”

He shook his head, disappointed. “Tsk, tsk…”

“Besides, you have a soulmate right? Isabel,” she reminded him, the name burning the tip of her tongue, a knot of ugly emotions, anger, disgust, jealousy and possessiveness tightening in her stomach, the last two ones surprising her. She really hated that woman, she knew that, but she had no reasons to be jealous of her. She really hadn’t anything Felicity wished she had.

“My father doesn’t think I’m worthy of Queen Consolidated,” Oliver explained, ignoring her comment about Isabel. “He doesn’t believe in me, he doesn’t think I have what it takes to be a good CEO, that I have what it takes to carry on the family’s legacy. This is why I’m Q. Inc’s CEO. He wants me to prove myself, to show him I’m the man he needs me to be.”

Felicity looked at him as if seeing him for the first time. She had already gathered that being a Queen was way harder than it seemed to be. She just hadn’t realised how hard it actually was. And hearing Oliver talk about his father, about how he thought so little of him made her question the kind of love and affection he had received during his childhood. Had his family always been like that? Or had they changed when he had grown up? It didn’t really matter at this moment, because if the sad look in his eyes meant anything, they probably hadn’t been good at parenting him for a long while.

Unable to stand the tortured look in his eyes, she reached for his hand, intertwining her tiny fingers with his much longer ones. She knew it wasn’t much, but if there was one thing she had learnt since she’d met him it was that physical contact always made things better.

He brought their joined hands to his knee, staring at them for a while. She could see he was battling with himself, she could feel tension tightening his shoulders from where their arms were connected. He was thinking, weighing the pros and the cons for something, she didn’t know what. Eventually, he made up his mind and said.

“Marrying Isabel is just one of these things I have to do to prove myself.”

She froze at his words, her grip loosening up around his hand. “What?”

“I can’t really tell you more about it… But I just wanted you to know that.”

She stared at him, blinking and… Speechless. Oliver Queen had made her speechless, bravo! With just a few words, he had completely frozen her mind and brain, making her unable to form a coherent sentence.

What? The? Fuck?

“She isn’t your soulmate?” She asked. “Is this some kind of arranged marriage?”

He didn’t reply to her questions but the look in his eyes was the answers she needed. She frowned.

“Does Thea know?”

“What does it have to do with anything?”

“Does she know?” She insisted.

He nodded, looking unsure.

“What about your soulmate?”

A shadow crossed his eyes. “She’s gone, out of my life and never coming back.”

She paused for a second, remembering the words he had grunted during his nightmare.

Please don’t go. I love you.

A dreadful feeling flooded her. “Is she dead?” She asked, her voice low, her tone cautious.

He shrugged. “How would I know? She’s on the Med.”

She felt like a ton of concrete had been poured down on her. Running a hand through her drying hair, the dreadful not leaving her, a shiver running down her spine. Something was off, something was really off. “And you wonder why your sister’s drinking her ass off at parties?”

“What?” He asked, his eyes widening, his tone slightly angry.

“She is carrying a needle of the Med in her bag because her soulmate lives in the city and she’s so afraid to meet him, every time they almost run into one another, she takes a dose, to keep him away from her and the messed-up life she thinks she has. How do you think seeing her brother marrying a woman because his parents are still letting their lives be ruled by middle-aged methods makes her feel?”

“She doesn’t have anything to do with this.”

“But this is her life, her world. She probably thinks she’s next on the list.”

“We all have to make our own choices, take our responsibilities. I realised I needed to be the man my father wants me to be. Thea will be free to do as she wants when the time comes.”

“You should make sure that’s true. And then, you should make sure she knows it.”

He nodded at her words and she looked away from him, needing to escape his eyes. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard. Isabel wasn’t Oliver’s soulmate – that actually, she could believe and it also explained why Moira was kind of afraid of her, her son wasn’t bonded to anyone – and he was marrying her, not because he loved her but because his father needed him to, for some reasons he couldn’t tell her about.

This was huge.

So, so, huge.

“Does anyone else know?”

He shook his head. “Just you.”

“Not even Tommy.”

“He wouldn’t understand.”

“What makes you think I do?”

“The fact that you’re still here?”

He pressed her fingers slightly and she looked down toward their hands, taking in the sharp contrast of their differences. She was small and soft, he was toned and firm.

“Why tell me Oliver?” She asked again, turning again to meet his eyes.

“I don’t want to lie to you. Remember the trust I was talking about the other day?”

She nodded, the memory of their fight stinging.

“It goes both ways,” he said softly. “I have to give as much as I take.”

“I don’t know if I can do that,” she whispered, a lump of emotions forming in her throat.

“Just answer my questions,” he replied, tightening his hold on her. “I promise not to push.”

She nodded, taking a deep breath to clear her head. “Okay.”

“Why didn’t you call the police, after the break-in in your apartment?”

She shrugged. “Same reason I was scared to go to the hospital. It always brings back bad memories. And I’ve grown up knowing better than to trust the cops and since I was suspecting your mother to be behind everything, I thought it would be best to just… Stand my ground.”

“What kind of bad memories does it bring back?”

“The kind that prevents you from sleeping at night,” she replied, looking away from his eyes. She wasn’t seeing any pity in them, only compassion but still. She looked away.

“The kind that leaves a mark.”

She froze and he went on.

“I won’t pretend I didn’t see what I saw tonight Felicity,” he stated simply and she tensed up immediately, the scarred skin of her body starting to tingle.

“You weren’t meant to see it,” she replied, bringing her knees up to her chest, unconsciously using them to shield herself. If he noticed it, he didn’t say anything about it.

“Felicity… Who did this?”

“He was my boyfriend in college,” she said, still refusing to meet his eyes. “Computer genius, decent soccer player. Turned out he was also a psycho.”

“Felicity, I…”

“Don’t say you’re sorry, it’s not your fault,” she interrupted him.

He groaned and bumped his head into hers lightly, his lips brushing her hair. She closed her eyes, relaxing under his touch to her biggest surprise and she wondered, not for the first time since she had met him, if his ability to always be able to soothe her down was a superpower.

“Tell me he’s in prison now?” He asked, his tone harsher.

“He should stay there for the rest of his life.”

He pressed a real kiss to the top of her hair. “Good.”

She waited for another question to come, but no words fell from his lips. True to his words, he wasn’t pushing. And true to her words, she had opened up a bit. Their conversation didn’t end there, and if she was being honest with herself, she’d admit she’d known it wouldn’t stop. Felicity got the photo album from his hands and started flipping the pages, asking him questions about some pictures. They let go of each other’s hand but their fingers kept brushing as they turned the pages of the album together. They talked and talked, Oliver’s stories, giving them many and many topics to talk about and Felicity was reminded how easy it was to just be with him. The conversation always flew naturally, they were relaxed, comfortable with teasing, and not afraid to disagree with the other. But there was something more now, something that wasn’t there before. Maybe it was because of the red wine he had gone to get them. Maybe it was because they’d laid out some truths. Or maybe it was just because of the night. She didn’t know and didn’t care. She was feeling happier and more at peace than she had in days and it was the only thing that mattered.

“That one was taken after I fished my first salmon with my grandfather,” he told her, pointing at a picture where he was flashing the camera a smile with missing teeth, holding a fishing rod and a salmon proudly.

“You were such a cute little boy,” she said, smiling at his slightly rosy pink that just wanted to be squished tenderly.

He huffed back a laugh. “Are you saying I’m not cute anymore?”

“You’re handsome now, that’s not the same thing.” She said, although she knew it was the wine that made her speak so bluntly.

“You’re not so bad yourself Miss Smoak.” His sentence was meant to be another round of their usual teasing and banter but his tone was very serious. He was looking into her eyes, his blue ones darker than they had been at the beginning of their conversation.

“And that is the wine talking,” she teased, trying to ease down the sudden tension in the room, feeling a blush creep up her skin the longer he looked at her with that look on his face. “Tell me more about that day,” she asked, pointing at the picture.

“My grand-parents owned a bungalow near Emerald Bay, like Tahoe. My parents used to send me there to spend the summer, because sometimes they were just too busy with the company, you know?”

Felicity nodded then chuckled. “Emerald Bay, Emerald Coast… I’m starting to see a pattern to all of this, Mr Queen?”

“I didn’t name those place.”

“But you obviously love them both.”

He shrugged, smiling. “What can I say? I love green.”

“So is that why you picked a green tank top from your sister’s closet?” She asked, fisting the fabric of the top he had given her.

He shook his head. “Honestly? I just grabbed what came to me first.”

“I’m going to act as if I believe you!” She said, as he took another sip of wine.

“I went through my sister’s underwear drawer for you, indulge me.”

She huffed back a laugh and he hid his blush in his glass of wine, taking another sip. Her eyes flickered to his lips when he pinched them slightly, to chase the taste of the dark red liquid. For a split second, she wondered what would happen if she leaned forward just slightly and then pressed… She shook her head before she could finish that very dangerous thought.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, just…” She chuckled nervously, suddenly feeling like she was suffocating, her strained bond roaring back to life. She waited for the burn to come, it didn’t. Instead, she felt waves of mixed emotions flood her veins. Oliver was too close to her, his eyes were looking at her a way she was fairly sure they shouldn’t be, his smile and dimples were just too perfect, his lips looked too kissable and wow, she really needed to take a step back. Actually, she needed to take several steps back. She was feeling overwhelmed by him, by his presence, his warmth next to her, his scent on her skin.

“Felicity?”

“It’s just the wine, I think it’s getting to my head,” she said hurriedly.

He lips curled up slightly. “Light-weight.”

She got on her feet, her head spinning but she managed to hide it from him by anchoring her feet more firmly into the ground. “How about we call it a night?”

He looked disappointed and she glanced at the clock on his bedside table. She gasped when she saw it was past four in the morning.

“That would probably be best,” he said, getting up as well, their glasses and the empty bottle in his hands.

They walked out of his room and stopped in front of the door of the guestroom she was going to sleep in. Without knowing how, Felicity found her back pressed against the closed door, her hands holding onto the handle, Oliver standing in front of her. He wasn’t close enough to her for her to feel oppressed but he still was close enough for her too feel the heat coming off his chest. It was his eyes’ turn to flicker to her lips and without thinking, she rose up on her toes and pressed a kiss to his cheek, sparing them both the awkwardness that would have come with a drunk mistake.

“Goodnight Oliver,” she said, giving him a small smile.

He blinked, before gaining back his composure.

“Goodnight Felicity,” he said, squeezing her hand.

Felicity walked in what would be her room for the night, closing the door behind her. She undid the bed quickly, before slipping under the covers and comforter. The sheet smelled good, something that reminded her of Oliver and she thought it was no coincidence, since he probably used the same washing powder. The pillow was soft under her ear and she reached for another one and hugged it to her chest tightly, a deep sleep quickly taking over her mind.

She woke up to the sound of the rain against the window, the soft lopping of the water music to her hears. It pulled her out of sleep gently. Her eyes fluttered open, blinded by the cold grey light of a November's day. She turned around, reaching for her phone blindly. It was dying so she turned it off after checking the time. It was past ten in the morning. She turned around, burying her head in the pillow she had been cuddling before sleeping, sighing contently. Her environment was unfamiliar and usually, it would have worried her but not this time. She knew where she was, safe. She realised it was the first time she was sleeping at a friend's place and the thought made her laugh. As a child, she hadn't really been the girl invited to slumber parties, the other girls thinking she was too weird because she'd rather read than play skipping rope. Back in high-school, her mother had needed her presence with her every night and in college, she had either slept in the dorms or in the small apartment she'd shared with her mother. She smiled when she heard noises coming from the kitchen.

Kicking the sheets and the comforter away, she got up and made her way to the kitchen, pulling the lapels of her jackets over her chest to protect her from the chilly air of the morning. She was greeted by the sight of her boss with a serious case of bed hair, wearing a white tee and grey sweatpants, hanging low on his hips. His muscles arms were tossing the food cooking in the pan skilfully, his tee lifting up slightly every time he pulled the pan up and shook it to make sure his omelette wasn't sticking to the fond, exposing inches of perfectly toned skin. His lips were pursed in concentration, the skin around the mole at the corner of his mouth, stretched and she had to force herself to look somewhere else, anywhere else, to stop a very dangerous train of thoughts threatening to cross her brain.

"Hey there," he greeted her, his voice slightly rough from the lack of use and just perfect.

She felt herself blush from head to toe. She knew Oliver was a very handsome man, she had said so herself the day before. And she was around him every day. So she knew how good-looking he was, wearing tailor made Italian suits and French shoes. But nothing had prepared her for the sight of him casually cooking breakfast in his kitchen on a Sunday morning. He wasn't just handsome anymore, no, he was more, he was sexy and she was very affected by all his sexiness. She was young, yes, but she was still a hot-blooded woman, sensitive to attractive males. And Oliver was a very, very attractive piece of man that she could only handle with the right amount of caffeine in her system.

"Hey!" She replied, her voice strangled. "Get a grip Smoak," she chastised herself. "It's just your friend and boss."

She made her way to a stool and sat on it, truly appreciating the support of the piece of furniture.

"Did you sleep well?" He asked her, toning down the fire under the pan.

She nodded. She may have not slept a lot, she had slept well and she felt more rested than she had in days. And she was honest enough to admit it was because things were okay between them. She didn't know how, but in a few months, he had made himself necessary to her well-being. It scared her mind a little but her heart didn't care, butterflies bursting in her stomach instead when he smiled at her.

"Yep. You?"

"Perfect!"

"Thea's still sleeping?" She asked, her feet moving toward him without asking for her brain's permission, stopping only there were standing next to each other and she could rest her cheek on his shoulder, watching the golden omelette with cheese on top of it cooking.

"I don't think she'll wake before another hour or two. You hungry?"

Her stomach grumbled loudly in response.

"I'll take that as a yes," he said, his blue eyes amuse, his lips curled up. "Coffee is ready, you know where the mugs are."

She nodded and poured them both a cup of coffee, it helped that she knew how he took his.

"Any headache?" He asked, setting the omelette on the table, with bacon and bowl of fruits while she brought their coffees and orange juice.

She shook her head. "Nope, I'm all good."

He cut the omelette, giving them a slice and she tasted it immediately, in spite of his warning, burning the tip of her tongue. He watched her anxiously, waiting for her verdict. A smile stretched her lips and she said.

"So you can cook breakfast."

He let out a small, relieved breath. "I'm glad you think so."

"If one day you're looking for a roommate, give me a call. I mean seriously, this place is amazing. The shower is magical, the sight on the city gorgeous and you can cook..."

Oliver chuckled, shaking his head. "That kind of arrangement would benefit you. What about me? What do I win?"

“You mean aside from my wits, charming personality and adorkableness?”

“Yes, aside from all that.”

She paused for a second, looking for a smart answer. "I always pay my rent in time and I come with DVDs and books. Lots and lots of DVDs and books."

She could see her answers wasn’t really satisfying. “With my help, you can win “Who wants to be a millionaire?”

“I’m already a billionaire,” he deadpanned, turning around to grab something.

That’s when she noticed the small tattoo on his arm, a shattered circle. Sara had the same, at the exact same spot but since she had several other tattoos, Felicity hadn’t thought to ask her about it. “What’s that?” She asked, pointing at it with her fork.

He looked down at the tattoo, a shadow crossing his eyes. She had hit a sensitive string apparently. “The symbol of the anti-soulmate’s group I used to be a part of.”

Her eyes widened. “You have it tattooed on your body?”

“We all used to. Tommy and Laurel got it removed a long time ago.”

She tilted her head, sensing something was off with him. “And why didn’t you?”

He hesitated before replying. “Because I don’t want to forget that part of my life, what it cost me.”

She frowned. He sounded so serious…. “Why did it cost you?”

He looked down toward his plate, running away from her eyes, something he rarely did. Oliver spoke with his eyes and understood a lot about people with them as well. He only walked away when he wanted to hide something. What was it this time, she didn’t know.

“Can we keep that conversation for another day?” He asked her.

“Sure,” she agreed, quickly looking for something to say that would cheer him up.

After a few minutes of her talking about nothing and everything, babbling about she didn’t know what and incorporating jokes to the mix, he relaxed, his eyes coming back to hers, his lips stretched. They finished eating together, Felicity picking fruits from his bowl, earning a “so you can eat healthily” from Oliver.

“Of course Oliver, fruits are sugary. Unlike your damn vegetables.”

They cleared the table when they were done, doing the dishes together, Felicity nudging Oliver all the while, arguing he was invading her personal space. She had drunk a lot of coffee, but she still needed a reasonable distance between all his sexiness and her incredibly normal self. He left her to take a shower then and she went to get her clothes from the previous day back. They were dried so she put them on, leaving the clothes she had slept in a basket in the laundry room. When Oliver was done with his shower, he drove her back to her apartment, leaving Thea a note telling her he’d be back soon, in case she woke up while he was gone.

He parked in her parking lot, turning the ignition off.

“You okay?” She asked.

He had been silent during the whole car ride.

“Yeah, just preparing myself for a very unpleasant conversation.”

“Be nice with Thea. I think she needs it. Nice but firm,” she quickly added, because the young girl did get drunk at a charity, organised by a friend on top of everything.

“Maybe you should have stayed,” Oliver joked.

She shook her head. “It’s a conversation I don’t belong in.”

He nodded. “I know.” He paused for a while, his fingers running over the wheel before saying. “Felicity, about what I told you last night, about me and Isabel…”

“I can’t tell anyone? I’d figured that much already.”

He let out a small breath of air. “Good. Thank you.”

“Don’t worry Oliver, your secret is safe with me,” she insisted, covering his hand with her. “But I just have one question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Are you happy?”

He took his time to answer her, his blue eyes locking with hers.

“Yes.”

She gave him a satisfied nod before walking out. “See you tomorrow,” she said.

“See you tomorrow,” he replied, waving his hand.

The next day at Q. Inc was awful. The burn came back whenever people touched her. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Some people burnt her, like Diggle, a few scientists working in the company, some didn’t, like Curtis. She didn’t understand the logic behind the pain she was in, because yes, now it was painful while it had just been bothering a few days ago, but after two days of a white-hot burn scorching her skin, she couldn’t bring herself to care. She became very good at avoiding touching people as much as possible and thankfully no one noticed anything. The weirdest part of it all was Oliver, whose touch didn’t burn her and even alleviated the pain, making the burn disappear. She consciously chose not to think about why. It wasn’t a box she wanted to open, knowing it would just blow up at her face if she did.

It angered her, to have her bond torturing her that way, to somehow have her own body and mind failing her. Except it wasn’t just her bond which was failing her. It was also science. Something had to be wrong with the Med. The little blue pill she was taking every day had to be malfunctioning; it was the only logical explanation to what she was going through. She was so frustrated, she just wanted for her bond to be gone, it was all she had wanted for the last four years and it was still here, now even stronger than her.

She set up an appointment with a doctor in town, who clearly wasn’t a specialist of the Med but was kind enough to give her a colleague’s number who, he assured her, was one of the best in town when it came to soulmates and strained bond. Unfortunately, that specialist was a very busy man with a busy schedule. But oddly enough, they got her an appointment for the following week after she described her “symptoms”. She didn’t know what to make of it, but surely it wasn’t good? Why taking her in emergency if it wasn’t, well, an emergency?

She found herself earlier than usual at the gym, punching repeatedly a boxing bag, beads of sweat rolling down her neck, dampening her hair. She hit the bag, again and again, pushing her body further than she usually did, enjoying the burn in her muscles, revelling in the sound of her punches, letting a bit of the frustration and anger from the past few days go with each movements.

“Someone’s here early I see,” a voice said from behind her.

Felicity immediately tensed up, recognising the voice. Sara. Clenching her eyes shut, she turned around, her brain desperate to find a reason not to hug her or give her a kiss on the cheek to say hello.

“You okay Lissy?” She asked her. Tommy’s nickname had been adopted by most of their friends, except Oliver, for some reasons. She got why he didn’t use it at work, but there was nothing wrong with using outside of it.

“Yeah, I’m perfect!” She replied quickly. “Just have a lot going on on my mind,” she explained, pointing at her head. She took off her gloves, throwing them haphazardly on her bag. She reached for a towel, wiping her face with it.

“You know,” Sara said. “We still have to go out for our drink.”

Felicity froze at her words. “Yes, that’s true,” she agreed, trying to hide the panic blossoming inside of her, the thought of going out in crowded places enough to make her heart skip a beat in her chest.

“It could do you some good, help you clear your head a little. Especially after that car accident you had or that fall in the pool at Tommy’s charity.”

Felicity winced. “So you heard about that?”

Sara smiled at her. “How about we go out on Friday night? Just you and me and the city to conquer!” She said, smirking playfully, her eyes sparkling dangerously.

Felicity scratched the back of her head. “I don’t really know,” she said, evasively.

“Oh come on! You need to go out more Felicity! Your best friend in town is your boss and that’s so sad.”

Felicity shook her head, as she tried to protest. “Oliver’s not my best friend…”

Sara frowned. “You’re telling me if I take your phone, I won’t mostly see mails from him in your inbox and at least five new texts from him?”

“You won’t see anything, you don’t know my code.”

“Zero – five – zero – nine, the day you arrived in Star City. And met me, Iris. And your boss/best friend. No wonder why Tommy ships you guys.” She shook her head, sighing.

Felicity felt herself blush. “Can we talk about something else, please?” She asked, reaching for her sport’s bottle and taking a gulp of fresh water.

“Sure. Friday night we go out. I know the perfect spot, something not too crazy for your first time in a night-club. You’ll love it.

“Sara…”

“Felicity,” her friend cut her off. “I don’t want to offend you but you really look like you could use some fun. And who knows, maybe we’ll find you a cute guy to hook up with!”

Felicity, who had brought her sport’s bottle to her lips again, choked on her water and started coughing, once, twice. She felt her cheeks redden, tears prickled at the corner of her eyes, her throat was burning.

“Is that really necessary?” She managed to enunciate.

“Not really,” Sara replied, patting her back, the burn spiking up in Felicity’s body. “But after what you’ve been through lately, you deserve to get laid.”

“I’m a virgin,” Felicity blurted out.

Sara’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

Felicity felt herself blush and she looked down toward her sneakers.

“I mean, wow, I didn’t see that one coming.” Still Felicity didn’t look up. “Hey Felicity, there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin, okay? It’s totally fine.”

The blonde shifted her balance on her feet uncomfortably. “Yeah?” She said, her voice unsure, suddenly feeling really shy. Sara was so beautiful, so confident in who she was and in her body. She was her own boss, and having as much fun as she wanted, living a free life fitting perfectly the free mind she had. She felt so lame compared to her.

“Of course. And it’s okay to want your first time to be more special than a one-night stand, in an unknown place with a stranger you’ll never see again in your life.”

“How was yours?” Felicity asked curiously.

They had both sat down on a bench, towels wrapped around their necks.

“Crappy. My boyfriend at the time didn’t really know what he was doing and in the end I had to take the matter in my own hands if you see what I mean. I dumped him right after that.”

“You dumped him for not being good in bed?”

Sara laughed at that. “I’ll let you know, it’s a very good reason to dump someone. But I actually dumped him because he was a liar. He had this reputation to be a guy with a lot of experience and… In the end, he was a virgin, just like me. I didn’t want to be with someone unable to accept who he was.”

Felicity nodded.

“Anyway,” Sara went on. “My second time was much better. I orgasmed twice, hard and felt sore for days…”

Felicity chuckled. She was a virgin yes, but she wasn’t a prude. “The guy knew what he was doing that time?”

“It was a girl actually. And she had a wicked tongue.”

Felicity huffed back a laugh and Sara winked at her.

“So, about Friday?”

Felicity hesitated. On the one hand, she really wanted to go out with Sara, have fun, maybe get drunk and dance in the middle of the dance-floor. She wanted to meet new people, to laugh at silly jokes, to play stupid games. But on the other hand, she didn’t know if she’d be able to bear the pain caused by the burn. What was the point of going out if what was waiting for her was pain? But maybe if she took a higher dose of the Med, three pills instead of one or two, just for one night, she’d be able to handle it. She knew taking a higher dosage of the Med could damage the bond, rather seriously but it wasn’t like she was going to need it someday. And even if she were to meet her soulmate one day, one time taking a higher dose of the Med wouldn’t hurt.

“Okay,” she accepted, already looking forward to that night out.

Friday came quicker than she thought. Before she could blink, Felicity found herself at Q. Inc, going over the reports of the week thoroughly, the week-end only half an hour away. She was interrupted from her reading by Oliver coming to sit down on her desk, careful of not disrupting any files or pens.

“Felicity,” he said.

“Hmm,” she replied, a highlighter between her lips, her finger tracing the different columns of the chart she was studying. She was highlighting the most important things in it, so when Oliver went through it, he could go straight to what was important.

“Are you doing anything tonight?”

That made her pause. She took the highlighter out of her mouth. “Yes, actually, I am. I’m going out with Sara.”

He blinked. “You’re going out with Sara?”

She nodded.

“You didn’t tell me,” he stated, his tone casual, the look in his eyes… Not so much.

She frowned. “Was I supposed to?”

He shook his head, his shoulders going limp. “No, I mean, you have a right to have a life outside of Q. Inc and our friendship, I mean, it’s not like I’m expecting you to tell me everything. You’re free to do whatever you want and not tell me about it.”

“Thank you for that precision,” she said.

“So where are you going?” He asked, clearing his throat.

“Sara talked about a club named Poison, does that a ring bell?” She asked, getting up and circling her desk to put the file she had been working on back in the box he belonged in.

He winced, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. “The owner, Max Fueller, and I are acquaintances. We were in high-school together, he’s a dick.”

Felicity nodded, closing the box. Oliver took it and brought it back to his office, still talking.

“How are you going to get in? And get drinks? Last time, I checked you were underage.”

Felicity turned her head toward Diggle, her eyes wide open. The man just shrugged. “You know how he is,” he mouthed.

She shook her head. Diggle wasn’t wrong. She knew Oliver was a bit protective of her and it bothered her. She didn’t need him to protect her, she could take care of herself. Yes, she had promised to open up and she had, it didn’t mean she was going to change who she was, which was a rather strong and independent young woman.

“Don’t worry about that Oliver,” she said leaning down against his office’s door. “Sara is going to get us ready for the night. And once she’s done, no one will dare question our age.”

And on these words, she turned around, going back to her own business.

She went back home after work and took a long and hot shower, washing her hair. She was putting on her bathrobe when Sara arrived. She had come to her place with her bike, but they’d call a cab to go to the club. They got ready together, doing each other’s hair and helping out with each other’s make-up. They had a lot of fun, it was the first time they were hanging out outside of the coffee-shop or the boxing gym and Felicity really liked discovering a new side to her friend. Sara was easy to be around. She was fun and strong-headed and she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Conversations with her were never boring, because she was just so unpredictable, it was almost impossible to know how she was going to react, if she was going to like or dislike something, approve or disapprove. There was something about her, an aura of confidence mixed with mystery and strength Felicity admired greatly. Sara was the woman who wore ripped jeans and Doc Martens as well as she wore heels and short dresses. She was the woman who enjoyed riding a bike and going out as much as she loved baking pastries and serving coffee. She was the girl who listened to all kinds of metal music but still dances on electro music in night-clubs. And tonight, she was taking Felicity with her on one of her nightly adventures and the blonde was thrilled beyond words. Excitement was filling her veins, making her body buzz in impatience. She wanted to be out there already and see for herself what the world of the night had to offer.

When they arrived at the club, they handed over their jackets and bags to the man in charge of the dressing-room. Felicity shivered when she was hit by the cold air of the club’s hallway. She couldn’t wear a dress with cut-outs, for obvious reasons but there was nothing wrong with backless dresses and the one she was wearing exposed at least half of her back.

“You ready?” Sara asked, winking at her.

Felicity nodded. She had taken three pills of the Med. Her bond was completely anesthetized and earlier, when Sara had touched her, she hadn’t felt any burn. She was ready.

She could already feel the beat of the music under her feet, it was echoing against the walls loudly and her heart matched his rhythm to whatever it was the DJ was playing.

“Let’s go then,” Sara said, dragging her along.

A security guy opened a door and Felicity’s eyes were blinded by a kaleidoscope of lights. Sara tugged at her hand and they started climbing down a spiralling staircase. Felicity grabbed the metal rail with her free hand, her head spinning, her senses being assaulted by too many information.

People were dancing in the middle of the crowded dance-floor, bodies rubbing against one another, jumping together, hands thrown in the air. The music was loud, very loud and Felicity thought she recognised a summer hit being mixed with basic electro tuning. The beat was so strong, it was making the staircase tremble under her feet. Or maybe it was because of all the people climbing it up and down, she didn’t know. There were so many people, the two girls actually had to stop going down in the middle of the stairs, waiting for the path to be cleared.

Felicity took advantage of the opportunity to watch with a deep of fascination the different light effects, swaying her hips to the rhythm of the music. Smoke fell on the crowd and another kaleidoscope of lights starters, fluorescent green, bright blue and blinding red melting together, flickering, disappearing and coming back in perfect synch with the rhythm of the music.

They eventually made it downstairs and Sara immediately headed for the bar. She ordered two drinks for them, something slightly softer for Felicity, for which the blonde was grateful. She didn’t want to be drunk after just one drink.

“To our night out!” Sara said, raising her glass.

“To our night out,” Felicity repeated, not regretting her decision to go with her friend in the slightest way.

They clinked their glasses together before gulping their drinks down in one-go. The alcohol burnt Felicity’s throat, and she winced at the taste. It wasn’t bad, but it was strong, much stronger than the champagne she had drunk at parties or the red wine Oliver had made her taste. She had never been much of a drinker, even when she’d attended a few parties while in college. A warm ball formed in her stomach and she revelled in the feeling. She had been careful when she had lived without her mother, and when they’d moved back in together again, she’d fallen back in her old habits of being the responsible one between the two of them, not drinking too much just in case her mother would need her. Tonight, no one was waiting for her at home, no one needed her to look after them. So she was going to enjoy herself and have a blast.

“How was it?” Sara asked, smirking at the look on her face.

“Good,” she said, chuckling. The DJ started playing another song and Sara yelped happily.

“Oh my god, I love this song! Come on Felicity!”

Sara dragged her toward the dance-floor, Felicity’s protests having been drowned by the cheers of the crowd. She wasn’t much of a dancer, and she was afraid to look stupid or ridiculously if she started to move and…

“Relax,” Sara screamed near her hair. “This is fun,” she added, already swaying her hips, her blonde hair bouncing on her shoulders with her movements.

The music was even louder now that they were on the dance-floor, in the middle of the crowd. It was so loud, Felicity could feel the beat echo in her bones. It would take some time getting used to it but she already found herself liking it.

“Come on Felicity!” Sara encouraged her, grabbing her hands. “Dance!”

So she danced. She intertwined her fingers with her friend’s and she let her take the lead, guide her movements. She swayed her hips to the rhythm of the music, bouncing on her feet, strands of blonde curls falling from her up-do the faster she moved. She let go of Sara’s hands at some point, letting them fall on her body as she danced and danced with her friend, meddling with the crowd, free of the burn, her bond silent.

“Damn,” Sara said, fanning herself with her hands. “What a night Smoak!” Her cheeks were red, her hair a slight mess.

Felicity chuckled, out of breath but happy, so, so happy. They went back to the bar and ordered two more drinks, talking as they drank them. Felicity was most definitely buzzed now. She was giggling stupidly at everything Sara was telling her and she was feeling more relaxed than she had in days. And she felt hot, so so hot, her cheeks were on fire, her blood was burning in her veins.

Sara was telling her the story of a very memorable game of beer pong when Felicity realised someone was observing them. Actually no, it wasn’t that. The guy was watching her friend, literally devouring her with his eyes but Sara couldn’t see him, since she was turning her back on him.

“Don’t turn around,” Felicity warned her, feeling playful. “But there’s a hot blonde whose eyes are glued to your backside.”

Sara’s eyes sparkled. “Oh really,” she said, turning slightly to face the barman, offering her profile to the blonde who had been watching her. “You’re right Lissy, he’s hot.” She asked the barman to give the man whatever it was he was drinking and she cockily raised her glass toward the blonde’s when the barman served him.

Sara sighed contently, turning to face Felicity again. “Well, I took the first step. Now whether I’m going home alone or not is up to him.”

Felicity stared at her with her eyes wide opened. “Do you often do that? Go home with some random guy?”

“Random guy, random girl, I’m not picky. But I never bring them to my home. I always go to their place, makes it easier to leave in the morning.”

Felicity nodded. “What about your soulmate?” She asked.

Sara snorted. “That’s the question isn’t it?” She shrugged. “I’m twenty-five and not ready to settle down. I’m taking the Med, she’s not suffering from me sleeping with other people, so yeah. Everything’s cool.”

They were interrupted by the blonde guy, who came to ask Sara if she wanted to dance. “Whatever happens, I’m not leaving before you do Lissy,” she whispered as the guy was dragging her away. “And Felicity don’t freak out, but there is a guy coming your way. He looks cute!” She quickly added.

Felicity froze, her hand clenching around her empty glass. But then, she reminded herself she was here to have fun and interacting with a guy, doing some mild-flirting could be considered as such, right?

“Hey,” a male voice said from behind her. She turned around, a smile plastered on her face.

“Hey,” she replied. He was tall and slim, wearing a suit but having taken off his tie and suit jacket. He had rolled his sleeves up, exposing toned skin but his forearms were lacking strong and firm muscles, which apparently had become one of her standards. His eyes weren’t blue but a dark brown, almost black and his cheeks were closely shaved. He was handsome, there was no denying it but he wasn’t her type. And what was wrong with her, she didn’t even have a type!

“I’m a regular here but it’s the first time I see you,” he told her, his voice low, his accent foreigner.

“It’s probably because it’s the first time I’m here,” she replied, smiling.

“Really? I knew something was brightening up the place tonight, it’s probably you.”

Her usual self would have probably rolled her eyes at him, at his crappy pick-up lines but she just smiled, shaking her head.

“What are you drinking?” He asked her then, taking a step closer to her.

She told him what she had been drinking and he ordered them drinks and they started talking. He was openly flirting with her and she was trying to reply, though things were much more innocent in her head. His name was Marco, he was Italian and working in the financial world. In spite of Felicity’s protests, he got them new drinks. And she hadn’t finished hers when he invited her to dance. She accepted, giggling and he led them to the dance-floor.

Felicity’s mind was pleasantly buzzed and though at first it felt a bit weird to dance with a guy, it hadn’t happened to her in a while – she wasn’t counting Tommy and Oliver, they were her friends – but alcohol helped her relax and she soon found herself relaxing and grinding against Marco, one of his hands caressing the skin of her back, which was plastered to his chest, his other one holding hers tightly. They danced together for a while. Her feet were hurting, protesting it was too much. Her heart was beating to the rhythm of the music and her blood was boiling in her veins, turning her cheeks and skin a bright pink.

At some point, he made her swirl and she ended up in his arms, his hands falling low on her back, where her skin was covered with fabric. He trailed his fingers up, reaching her smooth and exposed skin. He leaned down toward her and pressed his lips to hers, taking her by surprise. She closed her eyes, trying to relax. The last guy she had kissed had been her boyfriend in college and…

“Soon you’ll be mine.”

She heard his voice in her head, clear as if he was next to her. Her heart skipped a beat in her chest as she started panicking. Marco was still kissing her, she had his tongue shoved down her throat and she found herself not liking it at all. Without her realising it, he had moved them away from the dancefloor and his hands were touching her everywhere, her exposed back, her covered butt, hips, waistline and then her ribs…

“I’m just giving you my mark.”

Suddenly, she felt her bond roared to life, blazing anger filling her veins as her skin started to burn everywhere Marco was touching her. She yelped and pushed him away from her. She felt him take a step back, the white hot pain she was feeling blinding her.

“What the hell?” She heard him say, before she tumbled over and fell on her butt, her mind slipping away from her body, being dragged in the darkest part of her memory.

“She was still tied up to the bed when she woke up, both her legs and hands handcuffed to the metallic rails of the piece of furniture.

Blood had dried around the wound on her ribs, around his mark that he had carved on her skin. The wound was burning and throbbing, the tender skin cut, raw and so, so sensitive, even the chilly air of the room was hurting her.

She didn’t know exactly for how long he had been holding her hostage, for how long he had been torturing her but she could guess it had been a while. Her bond was buzzing, and she could feel her skin tingle where her soulmark used to be, meaning she hadn’t taken the Med in a while. She knew it took a few days off for the effects to wear off, and it hadn’t been a few days since he had taken her, if she trusted her level of thirst and hunger. But her connection to her soulmate had always been stronger. If she could last a little while longer, maybe her bond would break free and…

And what?

Nothing.

Her heart sunk in her chest.

Her soulmate didn’t want her, didn’t love her. He didn’t care about her and wouldn’t come for her. And even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to. No one knew where she was, not even her. She was all alone in this and could only count on herself.

She tried to move, but cried out in pain, the gag in her mouth muffling the sound, when she realised how sore her wrists and ankles were. She had cut her flesh open when she had struggled to free herself, and she could feel the dried blood rub against the metallic handcuffs, sharp pain coming off the scarred skin.

She felt something move next to her and she quickly closed her eyes, pretending to be asleep.

“I know you’re awake baby,” he said.

She heard a lamp being turned on but her eyes remained close. His hand caressed her cheek and she hissed, her eyes opening against her will. She saw his face then, close to hers and she turned her head away. He grabbed her chin and brought her eyes back to his.

“You’re bearing my mark now,” he whispered softly, his lips pressing a kiss to hers. Bile rose up in her throat, disgust filled her and her heart started beating like a manic, fear kicking in her veins. She noticed he wasn’t wearing a shirt and she saw his soulmark, a black spot on his stomach.

“The wound has stopped bleeding,” he added, his hands coming to where he had cut her open, not touching her. “Now, we can move on to the next step.”

“Felicity? Felicity, are you okay?”

She could hear Sara’s voice but she couldn’t see her. He was the only thing she could see because she was still in that damn room, tied up to a cold bald, a gag in her mouth preventing her from saying anything.

“Felicity?”

She felt a hand shake her shoulder and when the burn running in her blood spike up, she cried out in pain, crawling away from her friend.

“Please don’t touch me, it hurts.”

She heard a phone buzz and while Sara picked up, she wrapped herself in a ball, making herself as small as possible, rocking back and forth, tears running down her cheeks. Her ribs were on fire, her scar hurting.

“You’re bearing my mark now.”

“Ollie? Thanks for calling me back so quickly, I need your help! […] It’s Felicity! Something’s wrong with her, I don’t know what to do! Please, Ollie! […] Yes, we’re still at the club. […] In the bathroom!”

She tried to reach out for Felicity but the blonde just crawled further away, hissing in pain.

“Ollie, she really isn’t okay!” […] “I don’t know what happened! […] Okay, see you soon!”

“Now we can move on to the next step,” he said and Felicity’s heart pound in her chest. Blood rushed to her ears and she started moving again when he reached for something behind him. Her eyes widened when she saw it was a pair of scissors and she started protesting, yelling, crying, begging, no sounds coming out from her mouth since he had gagged her.

“Sh, sh,” he tried to appease her, stroking her forehead, pushing away a few strands of hair. “No more hurting you baby. I’m sorry, getting the mark hurt but it was the only way. Now, we’re getting to the fun part. To the part where you become mine for eternity.”

More tears rolled down Felicity’s cheeks when she understood what he was implying, what it was that he wanted to do to her. Panic, fear and horror meddled inside of her and she shivered, violently.

He moved away from her and brought the scissors to her chest, cutting her bra off of her and brushing the useless pieces of fabric away from her breast, exposing her skin to the chilly air of the room. Panic filled her veins and she started trashing, struggling, as he bend over her and started cutting her jeans as well, whispering mad words of possessiveness, telling her all the wicked things he wanted to do to her.

Her bond was becoming crazy, was being driven mad by his actions. It was kicking and punching the walls of its prison in a desperate attempt to get out, to get to its other half, to call for help. Felicity was kicking and struggling just as much, not caring about the pain or the soreness in her muscles, knowing that she needed to keep fighting, knowing that she wouldn’t make it easy for him, that she’d fight until the end.

But then she heard a bursting noise and then the one word that meant salvation.

“FBI!”

“Felicity!”

She opened her eyes and saw Oliver rush in the bathroom, reaching for her, until Sara stopped him.

“Don’t touch her,” she warned him.

Felicity wanted to protest, to say it was okay but the words got caught in her throat. She was still gagged, her wrists and ankles were still tied up to the bed. She was still in that room, struggling, fighting.

“What happened?” Oliver demanded, his tone harsh.

“I don’t know, I left her for a short while and then she was with that guy and things didn’t seem to be okay so I came back to her and I found her like that. I took her to the bathroom but then she started pulling away from me, saying not to touch her.”

“A guy? What guy?” He said, his tone angry.

“I don’t know, just some dude in the club…”

Oliver shook his head, ignoring her and kneeled in front of Felicity, keeping a reasonable distance between the two of them. She could see him, where she hadn’t been able to see Sara earlier. She knew she was getting out of the nightmare but panic was still twisting her stomach, bad memories were still haunting her, his voice was still in her ears, making her want to throw up.

“I’m going to make you mine.”

“Felicity, did he hurt you?”

“You have my mark now all we need to do is come together.”

She clenched her eyes shut, trying to shut his voice out. She tried to take a deep breath but the air got caught in her throat.

“Felicity, it’s really important, did he hurt you?”

“We’re going to be bonded soon baby, don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”

She opened her eyes, seeking Oliver’s blue ones, focusing on him and solely on him. Her boss, her friend. The man who had held her when she had needed it the most, the man whose touch always eased the pain of the burn.

“It’s not him,” she whispered and he frowned before understanding what she was saying. He instantly reached for her hand but stopped himself.

“Is it okay if I touch you?”

She nodded. She needed him to touch her, to take her in his arms and shield her from the outside world, to shut down the monster’s voice in her head.

Slowly, he took a hold of her hand and she let out a little breath of relief when she felt some of the tensions inside her immediately melt away. She reached for his other hand and he dragged her toward him, taking her in his arms. She let go of his hands to wrap hers around his head, burying her face in the crook of his neck, his familiar scent cocooning her. He closed his arms around her, engulfing her in his arms and it was only when she stopped shaking that she realised she had been trembling like a leaf in autumn.

He pressed a kiss to her temple before sliding a hand under her knees and getting on his feet, carrying her bridal style. She kept her face in the crook of his neck, holding on to him tightly, as she would hold onto a lifeline.

“I’ve got her Sara, let’s go!”

They got out of the bathroom, where the sounds and noises coming from the night club were muffled and back to the main room. Felicity kept her eyes shut and her entire focus on Oliver, his warmth, his strong arms carrying her, the steady beat of his hear she could feel against her skin, louder than the sound of the music.

Going out of the club, getting her things back – Oliver never let go of her – happened quickly, really quickly. Soon enough, they were outside, the cold air of the night biting her skin, torrent of water fall from the sky. Everything happened in a blur after that, so quickly it made Felicity’s head spin: getting to Oliver’s car, saying goodbye to Sara, letting go of Oliver, the drive through Star City’s street… Before she knew it, he was helping her unbuckle her seatbelt and get out of the car. He shut her door closed then and without asking whether she could walk or not, he lifted her up in his arms again and hurried them inside his building, so they wouldn’t get wet.

“It’s not my place,” she pointed out. Her voice sounded weird to her own ears but alas there was nothing she could do about it. She was feeling a bit better, the burn had vanished, her bond was silent again. But only a fragile dam kept waves of memories at bay. She knew she was in for a sleepless night, she knew she was in for days of fear and internal struggle.

“Your bed’s too small for two,” he replied, opening the door to his apartment.

He walked in and closed the door, leaning against it for a while. He left them in the dark, allowing himself, and herself too, to process everything that had happened. They stood there in his entryway, listening to the sound of the rain lapping loudly on the rooftop of the building, hitting the windows relentlessly. Felicity’s breathing and heartbeat had both evened out a while ago and she snuggled closer to Oliver, knowing he was the cause of it. He was the one making her feel safe. He pressed a kiss to her temple before saying.

“Shower?”

She nodded, and he took her to the bathroom. He set her down on the counter, starting the shower. He left then, and came back a while after, with clothes.

“I’ll be right outside,” he simply told her and she nodded, taking off her shoes.

The moment he closed the door, everything came back to hit her, hard.

Marco’s hands all over her body, his tongue in her mouth, his taste on her lips.

She shuddered and got under the hot spray, holding her sides tightly.

Then Marco’s hands were replaced by his hands and a sob wrecked her body, so loud and strong, she brought a hand to herself to muffle her cries.

Marco’s hands and lips had reminded her of his hands and his lips on her. Of how he had kissed her when they had been together, of how he had touched her when she didn’t know what kind of monster he was. And then, it had triggered the worst memory of her life.

His hands hurting her, cutting her open. His hands roaming over her, touching her, stripping her of her clothes, his words torturing her mind, soughing the most terrible things against her skin.

“I’m going to make you mine.”

She shuddered at the memory of his words, squeezing her legs together tightly as more tears rolled down her cheeks, her lungs swelling up in her chest. She hiccupped, lacking air. She had been saved that night, truly saved from something far worse than the pink and puckered wound on her ribs.

Blindly, she reached for Oliver’s soap and poured a generous dose in her hands before scrubbing her skin vigorously, washing every part of her body, once, twice, chasing away the feel of his hands on her. She rubbed and scrubbed her skin, sometimes even scratching it with her nails until it was red and raw. Then she reached for shampoo, poured some in her hands as well and started massaging her scalp, hard enough for it to hurt. She rinsed her body then, and got out on wobbly legs. Her skin was on fire but at least she couldn’t feel his hands on her anymore. It hurt when she dried herself with the soft towels but she kept her tears at bay. She was done crying.

She put underwear on first when her skin wasn’t damped anymore, then a tank top. Her eyes caught the reflection of her scar in the mirror.

“You’re bearing my mark now.”

Anger flared up in her chest and she fisted her hands, glaring at the scarred skin, a permanent reminder of that night, of what he had done to her, of what he had been about to do to her.

Gone. She wanted it gone so bad it hurt.

She tucked the tank top under her breasts, staring at the scar. Then, she traced its outline with the tips of her fingers before she started rubbing it furiously, wishing she could just tear it from her skin. But she couldn’t, it was here to stay forever. Just like he had wanted to.

“We’ll bear it for eternity.”

She heard the door open before she actually felt him circle his arms around her, taking a hold of her hands and pulling them away from her scar.

“Felicity stop,” he whispered in her ear. She struggled against him and he let her get away from him, not wanting to overwhelm her with his presence but he didn’t let go of her hands.

“I just want it to be gone,” she broke down. “I can still feel him. His hands, his touch,” she explained, pointing at her skin. She normally would have felt bad, for exposing so much of herself, for letting him see just how broken she was exactly. But she was too far gone to care.

He held out a hand, reaching for her but she took a step back. “Please don’t. I don’t want any more hands on me.”

He nodded, something shifting in his blue eyes, but she was too on edge to understand what it was. “Okay,” he agreed. “No hands.”

He took a step toward her and a breath got caught in her throat at the serious look she saw in his eyes. Slowly, he lowered himself down in front of her and shifted uncomfortably, twisting her fingers together, not understanding what he was doing. Then, she felt his breath, hot and trembling, ghosting over her sensitive skin. She tensed up immediately until she felt his lips brush against her scar in a soft kiss. Blood rushed to her ears and she let out a small breath. Her legs shook but she kept herself up, his lips traveling somewhere else on her scar, his touch still soft, so tender it brought tears to her eyes. He traced the outline of the ugly mark with his lips, pulling at something inside her as he did so.

“What are you doing?” She whispered, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Kissing it better,” he replied, his eyes not looking up, remaining solely focused on his task. He pressed small kisses again, making sure his scruff wouldn't rasp against her sensitive skin. The gesture was so affectionate, it felt like a caress, a caress which reached her soul.

She shut her eyes closed, a new range of emotions bursting in her chest. Fondness replaced her panic. Affection, her fear. Love, her anger. The dam that had been holding her emotions at bay broke and she was flooded with memories. But they weren’t the memories of that fateful night. No they were older memories, the memories of a time where she wasn’t alone. They were memories branded by a black arrow-shaped mark and she recognised what his lips on her skin for what they really were.

A soulmate’s touch.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11:

“But when you touch me like this

And you hold me like that

I just have to admit

That it’s all coming back to me.”

- Celine Dion, It’s all coming back to me

 

 

The first memory which came back to Felicity was one when she was six years old. Someone had pushed her in the school's playground and she had fallen on the ground, scratching her knees on the asphalt. She had tried to be a brave little girl but in the end she had cried a little, because the cuts were large enough to cover her entire right knee and the disinfectant had stung on the raw, angry red skin. But then she had felt something hold her from the inside. It had surprised her at first and she had been a little scared but then she had felt warmth spread inside her making her toes curl up in her small shoes and it had comforted the same way a hug would have. She had realised later it was not a something that had held her but a someone and said someone was her soulmate. It was the day she became aware she was never truly alone, there was a buzzing in the back of her mind and heart connecting her to her soulmate.

The second memory was a painful one as well, but it was a different kind of pain. It wasn't physical but emotional. It was the memory of a day, a few weeks after her daddy had dropped her at her grand-mother's place after picking her up at school. He hadn’t even bothered getting out of the car, letting her untangle herself from her seatbelt alone. He had driven away without even looking back before she could shut the door properly and had never come back. They had been painting boxes at school for Father's day but Felicity had had no father to give the box to. It had made her really sad, especially when her teacher had suggested she gave the box to someone else. Who else was she supposed to give a box painted for Father's day to? Felicity had been about to cry when she had felt something pull at her and for a second, she hadn't been in her classroom, but in a playground, a little boy with dark hair talking animatedly to her, telling her a joke she couldn’t remember anymore but that had made her laugh. It was the day she realised her connection to her soulmate was stronger than others.

She was much older in the third memory. It was the memory of that day on the basketball field where she had had to win all her games, in order to get an acceptable grade in PE. It had been an awful day. Her teammates hadn’t been really nice to her or helpful because they were too afraid of Mandy Miller, who hated Felicity with everything she had and had decided that the nerdy bag of bones wouldn’t get to shoot a basket of the day. Felicity had been pretty desperate, she had been well aware she needed a good grade in physical education but she was just so lame and clumsy, she had known she wouldn’t make it without help. It had hurt to admit it to herself, because she wasn’t one to beg for help, but that day, she would have done anything for a little hand. And then it had hit her: her soulmate loved basketball. She had seen him play more than once. She had been the one to initiate contact with him that day, drawing both strength and motivation from him. It was the day she realised together they could achieve great things.

More memories flooded Felicity’s mind, seeping in all her senses, sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing, taking over the control of her body. They weren’t always in chronological order, going back and forth between the different moments of her life. One time she was fifteen, burying her grandmother and he was partying, hard. Then she was seven, building her first computer and he was playing with a small giggling girl with pigtails. She was being drowned in memories, memories of her rubbing the mark on her hipbone to meet him, memories of their connection bringing them together in spite of their will, not caring about futile things such as distance and time. She was overwhelmed by their common past coming back to her and she was stunned by its raw intensity, its gut wrenching beauty. Now that she had been deprived of their connection for so long, she could truly realise how special it had been. Even in their darkest moments, even when she had felt about giving up on everything, even when he had been tangling up with other girls, they had been together.

Having finally been heard, her bond roared triumphantly from behind the walls holding it captive. Finally, Felicity was listening. Finally, she was starting to understand. She felt like a fool for not figuring it out earlier. All the signs had been there, quivering, waiting for her, and she hadn’t picked them up – but how could she have known there was something to pick up in the first place? How could she have known that the man in front of her, the man who had made a place for himself in every aspect of her life, as her boss, as her friend, was her soulmate? How could she have guessed? But here they were, the evidence of their profound attachment to one another, an entanglement of their souls so deep it had survived years of separation, and thrived in spite of the medication she had been taking.

She had craved the things he had. She had known Star City before even setting a foot in town. She had felt at home in his home, had become friends with his friends, had started caring for his family and for those he cared about. She had fallen in love with all his favourite spots in the city, she had known how the seaside restaurant would look like although she had never been there before. She had known things about him, little insignificant things to the eyes of the world but so important, oh so meaningful to their eyes. She had been able to fall asleep in his arms and she hadn’t been able to sleep when they had fought. He had kept her nightmares at bay while she had gotten him out of his own.

It felt like it lasted for eternity. Memories kept washing through her in strong and steady waves. Some were so powerful she was drowning in them, and some were so small, she felt like she was floating peacefully. She remembered everything, even the smallest things, the small details of a day she had forgotten a long time ago. And they were all connected to her soulmate. They all brought her back to him. She was pulled by the tide, taken away by the streams, following the path of an arrow looking like the sign of infinity. Even the shape of their soulmark was leading her right back to him. To his city. She would have laughed at it, had she been able to. But she wasn't. Because if it felt like it eternity, it was really a whole second. One perfect second where she had gotten a taste of forever. Where nothing, not their problems, not the way they'd hurt one another, absolutely nothing else but them, had mattered.

And then, the second was over and she was brought back to her senses, to her body buzzing with a myriad of emotions, to his lips pressing small kisses against the scarred skin covering her ribs. She closed her eyes, savouring the contact of his lips against her. One single tear rolled down her cheek, as he kissed her softly, right where she was hurting. Her body. Her soul. His gentleness pulled at something inside of her and she felt her heart skip a beat, before starting again, stronger, steadier. Panic, fear, all the negative emotions that had been torturing her, faded, chased away by his gentleness. Chased away by a soulmate's touch. Her soulmate. His touch. Her hand, with a volition of its own, shot up and her fingers tangled in his hair, keeping him right there, prolonging the contact between the two of them.

Until suddenly it was too much. Too many things bubbled up in her chest. The bliss of the reveal, of the recognition was brushed aside as love, confusion, affection, wonder and surprise meddled inside of her heart and mind, ready to burst out, words she knew she couldn't say threatening to fall from her lips. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, only to see Oliver, Oliver, still kneeling down in front of her, his arms along his sides, just like she had asked him to.

Oliver Queen was her soulmate.

Of course he was, it was so obvious now that she thought about it, now that she knew.

She disentangled her hand from his hair and slowly, lowered herself down. She wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing him closer to her, her face finding its rightful place in the crook of his neck. She fit perfectly in his arms and the simple statement was enough to form a lump in her throat. His arms didn't make their way around her waist to hold her, still doubtful she could handle hands on her body but she felt them flex at his sides, itching to comfort her, to touch her. She wanted to tell him it was okay, she knew he was the last person on earth who would ever lay a hand on her in order to hurt her. She wanted to tell him she knew. But she couldn't, not now and maybe not ever.

She hugged him for a while, how long, she didn’t know. It could have been a minute or a whole hour, she lost track of time the moment the warmth radiating off his chest reached her much cooler one, warming her caged heart up. She breathed him in, slowly, his scent like a balm over her wounds, soothing her ragged emotions, calming her down. She hugged him until he felt confident enough to hug her back, his strong arms wrapping around her petite waist. She hugged him until she felt her knees burn and shake in protest against the position they were in. She hugged him until her own arms started to feel heavy around his neck and loosen up their tight hold on him.

That was his cue to move. The moment her arms started slipping away, he moved. One of his own fell down, and wrapped around her knees before turning her sideways just as he lifted her up. She probably should have been amazed by his display of strength, he was carrying and moving her as if she weighed nothing, but she was too lost in him to bring herself to care. He walked them out of the bathroom and led them to his bedroom, keeping silent. He carefully deposited her on his bed, brushing away from her eyes a damp strand of hair. He leaned down to kiss her forehead before walking out again. A few minutes later she heard the sound of water running and guessed he was taking his own shower.

Goosebumps spread on her legs when the cold air of his room hit her skin, now deprived of his warmth as its personal radiator, so she quickly undid the bed, and buried herself under the covers. She found his pillow, the one smelling just like him and rested her cheek on it, making sure her body wouldn't invade his side of the bed. She waited for him, not even trying to close her eyes. She knew she wouldn't be able to fall asleep alone.

She felt much better now, thanks to him, it seemed her panic attack from earlier had happened a while ago. But she knew it was a fragile balance and she needed to fortify the barriers of her mind to protect her from the dark memories before she could consider falling asleep alone. She knew she needed Oliver for that and she hated it. He was not the problem, she was. She felt like she was using him, now that she knew the truth and he still didn't. But she couldn't tell him. It was too soon, the realisation too fresh, too raw.

Oliver Queen was her soulmate.

Her bond thrummed happily behind the bars of its prison at the thought. She swore she could almost picture it doing a happy dance in its cell. It had been heard and was now hoping to be released.

No. She couldn't, not now. She needed time, just a little time to think things through properly.

He had gotten her out of her thoughts when he came back from the bathroom, his hair damp, wearing sweatpants hanging loosely from his hips and a white tee. He was holding a brush and the pants he had gotten her from Thea's closet. He wordlessly handed her both items to her and exited the room once more, either to do something or just to give her some privacy. She got out of bed and put on the pants quickly, before brushing her hair and doing it in a loose French braid.

She got back under the covers and waited. He came back soon after and switched off the light in the room. They were left in semi-darkness, as streaks of moonlight were coming in through the window. Only the sound of the rain hitting the rooftop of his building could be heard as he padded to bed. He joined her and she moved slightly to let him settle down comfortably on his side. He opened his arms and she didn’t hesitate before snuggling against him. She knew she shouldn’t, she knew it was too intimate, just like him kissing her scar was, but she didn’t care. She didn’t care at all. She was so on edge, she was well-aware the smallest thing could make her fall over right back in her nightmare and if being held by Oliver could help her anchoring her mind into this world then so be it. She’d deal with the consequences later.

She laid her head on his chest listening to the steady beat of his heart, the heart which was supposedly beating in perfect synch with hers, one of her hands coming up to rest next to her face. One of his arms wrapped around her, pulling her impossibly closer and went to rest against her ribs. He stopped himself, knowing what lied under the thin fabric of her shirt.

“Is it okay if I touch you?”

His voice broke the silence that had fallen between them. It was rough from the lack of use and it also seemed to the blonde, there was something else, some kind of emotions tightening his vocal cords.

“Yes,” she whispered back, her fingers starting to draw meaningless patterns on his chest. She felt unable to lie still, her body buzzing with both anticipation and nervousness. This was a lot, almost too much and yet she was happy to be there, to be with him.

His hand fell on her ribs, squeezing them gently before he relaxed next to her. It seemed as if he wasn’t able to lie still himself because his own fingers started tracing the lines of the scar his lips had already learnt earlier.

“What happened at the club?” He asked after another moment of silence.

She didn’t tense up at his question. His presence and warmth were enough to remind her that everything was over and she was safe, though it did make her uncomfortable. What had happened earlier? She didn’t really know herself. One minute she had been having fun, more and less and the next one everything had gone to hell.

“I had a panic attack,” she said, her voice small, almost shy.

He remained silent, waiting for her to go on, not pressuring her with questions, for which she was grateful because she could feel he had plenty. She knew she would, if a friend had called her in the middle of the night to come over to a club and take care of another friend.

“There was this guy. We were flirting and I let him buy me a drink or two, I don’t really remember. He moved us to the dance-floor and it was fun at first, you know? Dancing, not caring about anything.” The more she spoke, the more memories came back, flooding her mind. She remembered the bright lights blazing in her eyes, the loud music played by the DJ. The patterns she was drawing over his chest stopped being so meaningless, her nervousness making her hyper-aware of everything around her, even his slightest intake of air.

“And then?”

She shrugged, twisting her legs together, not knowing how to get the words out. She knew the Med was still keeping them apart but she also knew it wasn’t doing its job properly. She had felt a pull toward him and it was now pretty obvious to her he had as well. His protectiveness, his pushy behaviour, his possessiveness and sort-of-jealousy whenever she was concerned. It all made sense. Now how was she supposed to tell him she had kissed some other guy at a party? She knew the most rational part of him wouldn’t care. But the unconscious one, the one feeling the pull, even a weak one, would. It would care an awful lot.

“He kissed me and I kissed him back and before I could realise what was happening he had moved us and…” She hesitated for a second, waiting for him to react. His breathing remained even but his fingers did drift away from her scar and flexed around her hip.

“And?” He insisted.

“It brought back bad memories and I –,” she hesitated again, her voice getting caught in her throat by the memories of hands and lips that didn’t belong to her soulmate. She shifted slightly against Oliver, trying to put some distance between them and he accommodated her by shifting on his side, while she remained on her back, staring at the ceiling.

“And I panicked,” she confessed softly.

She paused then, playing with the hem of her shirt, her eyes glued to the ceiling as she made up her mind. She fisted the tank top the words out before she could bring them back in.

“His name was Cooper and he was my boyfriend.”

She felt him stiffen immediately. “Felicity you don’t have to…”

“But I want to,” she cut him off. “If you want to hear it, that is.”

She had never told the story to anyone. Her mother had been there to witness it all, Georgia too - she was Felicity's best friend and Donna had called her for moral support. She had talked to her psychologist but then again, she hadn't told her the whole thing, not really, since she had already known most of it. She had never fully said what happened to anyone and had never intended to. As usual, she had wanted to keep it all to herself, to bear that burden only on her shoulders. But there she was, lying only a few breaths away from a soulmate she had thought had been lost to her forever. She didn't know where they stood, she didn't know what to do with the revelation she had had earlier. But if she didn't tell him, she would never tell anyone. And she had promised him to open up, to share her burdens.

Still, this was huge and she waited anxiously for his answer.

"Okay," he said, reaching for the hand playing with the hem of her shirt and holding it tight.

She let out a small breath to gather her strength. "His name was Cooper and he was my boyfriend," she repeated, opening a box she had sworn to keep shut a long time ago. "I met him at the beginning of my third year of college and back then I was a very different person.” She closed her eyes, a blurred image of the girl she used to be dancing behind her closed lids. “Black raven hair, purple streaks, cargo pants and leather jackets, I had the whole Goth look," she shook her head in disapproval at the memory of how she had looked, starting to play with her braid. "I wasn't really popular in high-school, you know? And things didn't really get better in college. People were nicer, sure, but I wasn't really close to anyone. I didn’t know how to make friends."

"I can't believe it," Oliver said in disbelief. She couldn't see him, but she had no trouble imagining the surprised look on his face.

"It's true," she assured him. "I haven't always been like this," she pointed at herself, twisting her braid between her hands. "When I met Cooper, I didn't really know what to do. It was the first time someone had been remotely interested in me and I couldn't help but believe this was some kind of a joke, that if I let myself believe maybe he was sincere, he'd prove me he was fooling me just for the fun of it right after I gave in. So I held back. I tried to push him away, but he wouldn't have any of it. He kept coming back, sitting down next to me in class, offering me small presents, and by presents I don't mean the usual flowers and chocolate normal people use, but nerdy stuff. Things he knew I’d love, about my favourite comics or TV shows.” She chewed on her lower lip, feeling like a fool for falling for him. She knew it wasn’t her fault, he had done everything to get in her pants, so to speak. She knew she wasn’t to blame for yielding.

“He wormed his way into my heart and before I knew it, I was thinking more and more about him." She paused for a second, mixed feelings blossoming in her heart at the thought of the feelings she had once had for Cooper. They left a bitter taste in her mouth and she swallowed hard. "It felt nice," she explained. "To be wanted and to have someone who cared about me." She hadn't told him a lot about her family, her father leaving, her mother being depressed and heart-broken after that but she knew she'd let enough details out for him to understand she had been an adult far before being turning eighteen.

"We eventually started dating," she went on.

"What about your soulmate?" He asked, his thumb rubbing her knuckles.

She did her best not to react to his question. She exhaled slowly, her heart picking up in her chest as she looked for an appropriate answer. "He wasn't in the picture." She felt him move next to her and she waited for a minute to pass before getting back to her story. "It was nice, really, really nice actually. It was the first time I was in a relationship with someone and it felt good. I was still a bit guarded around him, yes, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop but when it didn't, I started to open up more. He wasn't just my boyfriend, he was my best friend too. We were the same you know, both nerdy, both good with computers. We hacked a lot together, challenging one another. He pushed me to be better, stronger and to speak my mind more."

"The two of you were close?" Oliver asked.

She shrugged. "As close as two people who aren't soulmates can be, I guess. I wasn't in love with him but I cared about him, a lot. I trusted him and I guess that's why it was so easy for him to..." The words died on her lips.

"Felicity," Oliver said, his fingers squeezing hers.

"It happened during the summer between our third and fourth year. We had been together for a bit more than six months and though we had been intimate we had never..." The words stuck to her tongue and she felt herself blush. How was she supposed to tell him this? She shifted uncomfortably, not knowing how to say the words.

"The two of you had never had sex?" Oliver asked, rather bluntly, reading her mind as usual.

Her cheeks reddened even more and she bit on her lips. "I did try to go further but he always stopped me, sometimes with good reasons, some other times arguing we should not rush into things, saying he wanted to be sure I wouldn't regret it later." 

"You had never...?"

"Like I said, he was my first boyfriend," she cut him off immediately, not wanting to discuss that with him.

"It’s okay," he nodded, his thumb moving to her palm, rubbing soothing circles against the tender skin until she relaxed a little.

"He never talked about his soulmate, you know? It was taboo between us actually. I never mentioned mine, he never brought his up." She paused, taking a deep breath, knowing she was getting to the hardest part of the story. She shifted once more and Oliver, being very careful with her and listening to every signal, pulled at her hand to bring her back into his arms. She was nestled against his chest, the top of her head safely tucked under his chin. He had brought one of his arms under his head, and the other was gently lying on her waist.

"I learnt afterwards she died in a car accident a few years prior and it broke his mind. He didn't take the Med and... Well. I don't have to tell you what it did to him." She knew she didn't have to explain what had happened to Cooper after his soulmate had died. Everyone knew what happened to those who lost their soulmate to death and didn't take the Med. At best, they were broken and for most of them never spoke a word again. But at worst, the loss drove people crazy, the desperation pushing them to do anything, even the most unspeakable things, to get what they had lost back.

"It pushed him over the edge?" Oliver questioned, his voice tightened by something. Fear? Apprehension of what was coming? She didn't know for sure and she couldn't see his eyes in the semi-darkness of his room.

"Yes," she felt tears prickled at the corner of her eyes, flashes of the mad look in his eyes crossing her mind. "The FBI was already after him. He had kidnapped another girl before and..." She bit on her lips. "She didn't make it, he killed her when he realised she wasn't what he needed."

Oliver moved his head to be able to look at her but she didn't look up to meet his eyes. She remained solely focused on the fabric of his shirt, knowing if she faced his emotions directly, she would break. And she couldn't afford to.

"What do you mean? What did he need?" His tone was more urgent than it had previously been, as if she was communicating him her own anxiousness as they were getting close to the real horror of the story, to the most sordid details.

"Cooper was not his real name. He used his skills with computers and tech in general to build himself a brand new identity. And he was good, so good and smart actually, he managed to escape the FBI without needing to hide himself in some lost places in the middle of nowhere," she paused, remembering the day it had all been explained to her, remembering the faces of the federal agents in her hospital room. "He did not just create a new identity for himself, he became Cooper. He was Cooper and just like everyone else on this earth, he thought Cooper needed a soulmate."

She could pinpoint the exact moment he understood what she was trying to tell him. His hand on her waist flexed slightly, gripping her more firmly. "Don't tell me he..."

"He killed the girl because after he was done with her, he realised they weren't bonded."

"And he tried to...?"

He sounded angry and disgusted. He was still lying next to her but she felt his breathing speed up, and if she moved closer, she would feel his heart pounding loudly in his chest. She could only imagine the myriad of negative emotions probably assaulting him, not only because he was her soulmate but also because he was her friend and cared about her. And she knew everything he was feeling was directed at Cooper, at what his twisted mind had made him do to her, and to that poor girl as well.

"Yes, yes, he did," she confirmed, her voice wavered, failing her for the first time ever since their   conversation had started. Her mind was full of images of Cooper, of his hooded eyes. Her skin and lips tingled as she remembered his hands on her, the kisses he had stolen from her.

“We’re going to be bonded soon baby, don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”

She clenched her eyes shut, fisting the fabric of Oliver's tee. She knew she was about to cry, the emotional impact left by this traumatic experience too much for her, too painful. He leaned down, his lips brushing her hair before he pressed firmer kisses on her forehead and temples, everywhere within his reach.

"Felicity..." he started to say.

"I don't remember what happened with exactitude. How he drugged me, how he took me to that place," she shivered, remembering the darkness and the coldness of the basement he had held her captive in. "But I do recall what happened after I woke up the first time. I remember him. I remember the pain. And how it started again I woke up the second time, throbbing and blazing at the same time. It's like he carved the memories of that day in my mind, the same way he carved his mark on my skin." She felt Oliver stiffened besides her but she paid him no mind. The dam in her mind had broken and the words were flowing out of her mouth freely now, completely uncensored. "It's his mark I bear on my ribs," she said. "And the bastard made sure it was big, just like a mark grows when you're around your real soulmate. I can’t not see it, not matter how much I want to."

"Felicity please, tell me he didn't..." He didn't finish his sentence but she didn't need him to. She knew what he was asking. Had he tried to make her his? Had he destroyed every single part of her?

"The Feds arrived before he could get to the "fun part"," she winced at the words, tears rolling down her cheeks, because of what had happened and what could have. He could have gone further, he could have had her against her will. He could have killed her.

Hearing that didn't make Oliver relax. If anything he tensed up even more, his hand on her waist flexing again.

"Felicity," he said, his voice breaking, his anger still present but nothing compared to his pain. He was hurting for her and it made her heart clench in her chest, a breath getting stuck in her throat. She moved closed to him, wrapping her arms around him, letting him do the same with her.

"Sometimes I feel like he still has me, like I'll never get out of that room," she cried against him and she felt his hands squeeze her waist, his lips pressing an awkward kiss against the side of her head, one that fell on top of her ear, brushing her metallic piercing.

“Shh,” Oliver soothed her down tenderly, his hand patting her back, rubbing up and down her spine in an attempt to steady her, to stop the trembles of her body. She hadn’t even realised she had been shivering. “He never had you Felicity, and he never will. You’re not an object or a property, you’re a person, a strong and beautiful person whose true soulmate is out there, somewhere.” The thought brought more tears to her eyes. God, he had no idea how true his words were. “You’re out of that room. You’re walking out that room every single day, when you get up, when you go to work, when you brush your hair or when you put on a bright pink dress. You’re walking out of that room every time you choose life over the darkness he’s tried to drag you in. I honestly have no idea where you find the strength to do so but… I’m in awe of you.”

She pinched her lips together, her face finding its place again in the crook of his neck, his familiar scent filling her nose, invading her senses. “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me the truth,” he whispered and she nodded against him, holding him a bit tighter, unwilling to let go.

“No, thank you.”

“For what?”

“For being my friend,” she told him.

He chuckled at her words. “But that Miss Smoak, is the easy part.”

She woke up in a much different position than the one she had fallen asleep in. She had moved away from Oliver during the night, and she was now as far away from him as possible, lying on her stomach – her favourite position to sleep in, one arm wrapped around a pillow, cuddling it. Oliver was still on his back, and the only connection between them was their hands, holding. One fragile single thread, and oh, wasn’t that the story of their life?

She turned her head to face Oliver. He was still sleeping soundly, and he looked much more relaxed than he did when he was awake. She watched silently, careful not to wake him. She knew he had waited for her to fall asleep first, fighting his own tiredness to stay with her and make sure she wasn’t being dragged by a nightmare, and he deserved to rest now.

She watched him sleep, her own eyes still heavy and in desperate need to close again but she fought that urge back. Everything that had happened the night before was slowly coming back to her. The panic attack. The soulmate’s touch. Their talk.

He was her soulmate. Oliver Queen was her soulmate.

Objectively, she knew she should tell him the truth. She knew she should tell him she was his soulmate and he was hers. But she was scared of the consequences, of what would follow. Unpleasant conversations would need to happen and she didn’t know if she could handle them. Oliver had just called her strong, but he had no idea how untrue that statement was. She wasn’t strong enough for them, she had never known how to be. Now that her memories had come back to her, she realised she had never been the strong one in their relationship. He had been. Laurel’s words echoed in her mind.

“He said he couldn’t cut their bond, that she needed him.”

He had been there for her, whenever she had needed him to. And that was what made his betrayal even more painful, his close entanglement with other women so awful. How could someone help her and hurt her in one of the worst ways possible? Hadn’t he realised it had hurt her when he had been sleeping his way around Star City? Hadn’t he realised it had been disrespectful? That it had felt like a slap across her face?

She still didn’t know if he had been aware of his mother’s plan to pay her off. When he had mentioned his soulmate after he had told her he was marrying Isabel because it was what his parents expected of him, he had said “she’s gone, out of my life and never coming back”. It had sounded harsh and pretty permanent to her. What if he had said that because he knew she wasn’t coming back? Because it was part of their deal? What if he didn’t want her to come back?

But what if Moira had acted behind his back – it was possible after all, it was totally her style – what would he think of her then? Would he see her as a gold-digger? A cold-hearted and interested young woman who had ran away from him when she had been given the right amount of money? Would their friendship, their partnership survive that? What would become of them once the truth was out? Would they be strong enough to face the storm together? Or would the tempest tear them apart? Would she lose him to the truth? What if he didn’t understand her motivations? What if he hated her because of what she had done? She knew he liked her and cared about her, but the girl he knew was Felicity his friend, his EA. Would he like Felicity his soulmate the same way? She was scared of what she would find out.

And what about Moira? Felicity understood now where her hatred was coming from, why she had been so adamant she left quickly and without looking back. She hadn’t been afraid she and Oliver would hook-up together, she had been afraid they would fall for one another. And maybe she had called her a gold-digger because she truly thought she was one. After all, she had accepted the money she had been offered four years ago, even her felt like one from time to time. She had had her reasons to accept the deal, yes, but it didn’t change the fact that she had indeed accepted to be paid off.

And what about Isabel? She had probably sided with Moira, which led Felicity to think there was more to the arranged marriage between Oliver and Isabel than just him proving to his parents he could be the son they wanted him to be. What if there was more at stake than just Oliver’s worth? What if there was money, a business deal running deeper? Did Oliver know about it? He had admitted there was more to the story than what he had told her, but what had he meant by that? And what about Isabel’s soulmate? Why would she agree to marry Oliver? Who was the real gold-digger in all of this? And what about her? Where did she fit into this? Was it even safe for her to tell Oliver that she knew? His mother had already hired someone to break into her apartment to scare her off, and Felicity still wasn’t sure she hadn’t been the one behind their car crash? Who knew what she would do if she heard Felicity knew? Oliver would never let her get hurt but Moira had already proven an accident could easily happen…

Her mind was a swirling mess of questions and interrogations but she knew now wasn’t time to think about possible answers. She would get back to everything when she would feel better, and more importantly, when the very man she had been running from for the last four years wouldn’t be fast asleep next to her.

That was when it hit her.

He had kissed her the night before. Not on the lips, like lovers did, but on a far more personal place where she was concerned. And they had slept together, again not like lovers did, but still. They had shared a bed, and had held hands throughout the night. It hit her all of a sudden and it freaked her out a bit, enough for her to sit down, carefully letting go of his hands so he wouldn’t wake up.

The loud buzzing of his phone vibrating against his bedside table echoed in the silent room, making her jump in surprise and Oliver bolt awake. He blindly reached for the device and answered sleepily, his voice rough and his hair ruffled.

“Oliver Queen! […] What? No! I mean, I don’t know! What time is it? […] I’m sorry. […] Yes, I understand.” He turned his head toward Felicity and mouthed the word “mother”. She shifted uncomfortably and gestured toward the door, signalling him she was going out. He shook his head, holding her hand to keep her there. “Okay, I got it. […] Yes mother, I’m taking this seriously. […] Walter is here as well? […] Okay, I’ll be right here. […] Okay, see ya.”

He tossed his phone away, rubbing his face with his hands.

“You okay?” Felicity asked, tilting her head. She felt suddenly awkward. She hadn’t minded being in his bedroom with him the night before, she had been too far gone in her own mind to care, but now that she was feeling better, that she had had time to think, she felt conscious, almost uncomfortable. It was really intimate and crossing at least half a dozen lines friends shouldn’t… Well, crossed.

“Forgot about a business lunch with my parents and some board members of QC.”

Her eyes went wide and guilt coloured her cheeks a bright red. “Shouldn’t you be hurrying to get there?”

He nodded. “I should. But first,” he turned to face her properly, his blue eyes filled nothing but sweet concern. “How are you feeling?”

She bit on her lips, looking down at the comforter. “Much better, thank you.”

“I’m glad,” he assured her. His eyes met hers and she gave him a small smile, tucking a strand of hair which had fallen from her braid behind her ear.

“Oliver, your lunch!” She reminded him, urgency clear in her tone.

Her voice snapped him out of his thoughts. “Yeah, right, let’s go! I’ll drive you back to your place.” She got up but stopped moving when she saw the disappointed look on his face.

“What?” She asked.

“I’m sorry, if I could cancel that lunch I would…”

She shook her head, raising a finger to stop him right here and there. “Are you kidding me? If anyone has to be sorry, it’s me. I’m the one who got you late for your very important lunch business and the more time we spend talking about it, the later you’re going to be. So off you go, hop in the shower! And don’t think about driving me back, I’ll take a cab.”

He frowned but went into the bathroom anyway. Felicity worriedly bit on her lips. She felt like one of those girls, or boys for that matter, after a one-night stand who were trying their best to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible, from the person they had share an intimate moment – and she didn’t mean intimate in the sweet way of two people coming together but intimate because of the physical proximity which was kind of unavoidable while performing the sexual act and wow great, Felicity was rambling in her head now. She sighed, her point being, she felt awkward, it really looked like she was trying to get as far away from Oliver as possible and she didn’t want to make things look like this, because it wasn’t how she felt. Yes, she wanted to put some distance between them, so that she could think about their “soulmate” problem but she wasn’t freaking out about what had happened between them the night before. They had just shared a bed, it wasn’t like they had done anything wrong! And yes, some kissing may have been involved but it had mostly been to comfort her, make her feel better.

Shaking her head, she decided to get ready as well, knowing if she busied herself, she’d stop thinking and being awkward. She did the bed quickly, opened the window to clean the air of the room and then walked out, padding to Thea’s room. She borrowed some clothes, knowing she would clean them during the weekend and brought them back to Oliver at Q. Inc, on Monday. She got dressed quickly, deciding to take a shower at her own apartment. She put her shoes from the previous day back on, and went to get her clothes from the previous day back in the laundry room, where Oliver had put them after deposited her on his bed.

She was all done and ready when he got out of the bathroom, wearing suit pants and a white tee, his hair slightly damp.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you?” He insisted.

She nodded. “Yes! I don’t want you to be later at your lunch. By the way, why didn’t you tell me about it at work?”

He shrugged. “It’s one these unofficial meals, where we all promise we’re not going to talk about the companies when really, it’s the only thing we do.”

“Sounds boring.”

He nodded, pouting and she could see in his eyes he really didn’t want to go. “Aren’t you going to help me escape this?”

“And give your mother another reason to hate my guts? No, thank you, I’ll pass.”

He chuckled at her words. “Yeah, right. Not my best idea.” He paused before saying, his tone suddenly more cautious, more serious. “Are you going to be okay?”

It was a delicate question to answer. She knew the night had stirred up really bad memories for her, the panic attack had been the most intense she had had in a very, very long time. But she also knew that opening up about it and more importantly, letting him, her soulmate, hold her had done her some real good. She still wasn’t okay, and she didn’t know when she would be but she knew the day where she’d have completely left the darkness behind her was coming. She had felt her soulmate’s touch and although it had been brief, one single stolen night she had allowed herself, she knew it had been intense enough to change a few things inside her.

“Yes, I will,” she said softly, reaching for his hand. “Thank you for being there for me.”

“It’s what friends are made for,” he told her.

She nodded, pinching her lips together to hold back a smile. They made their way to the door, stopping in the threshold.

“Give me a call when you’re home, or if you need anything…”

She nodded. “I will,” she promised, letting go of his hand and closing the lapels of her jacket over her chest. It smelt like smoke and sweat, reminding her of the party from the night before. “Goodbye Oliver, talk to you later.”

“Goodbye Felicity.”

She gave him a small nod, smiling softly before walking away, her heart suddenly feeling heavy in her chest, her bond starting to protest.

“Felicity,” he called her back.

She turned around, her hands gripping her clutch tightly. “Yes?”

“We’re okay, right? I mean, we’re cool?”

She retraced her steps, coming back to him. She rose on her toes and kissed his cheek. “The coolest,” she affirmed.

And then she left, this time without him calling her back. She felt weird when she sat down in the cab she had hailed. Her bond, which had been silent until now, was now buzzing in annoyance. She still didn’t know why it was so loud while being on the Med, though she could guess it was because she had been close to her soulmate, but at least now she understood what it was saying, what it wanted. Too bad, it wasn’t what she wanted. She opened her clutch and gulped down without water her daily dose of the Med.

“Where to Miss?” The cab driver asked.

“Star City’s sweet coffee please,” she asked.

She really needed a huge dose of caffeine if she wanted to make it through the day. She had slept well but it had all been pretty exhausting and now that she was alone the tensions she had unconsciously piled up in her body - some about Cooper, some about Oliver - were starting to loosen. She needed some coffee to bring some energy back into her muscles. She was also hoping to catch Sara. She owed her an explanation about what had happened at the club. She didn’t know what she was going to tell her, but she knew she would come up with something.

She paid for her fare and got out of the cab, crossing the street to reach the coffee-shop. The place was crowded, but it wasn’t that surprising. It was lunch-time after all. Sara was standing behind the counter, with bags under her eyes. Iris was nowhere to be seen, but Felicity remembered she had asked for a few days off in order to take care of JJ who had caught the flue. She remembered then she had promised to visit him during the afternoon.

The moment Sara spotted her, she motioned toward one of the other waitress, asking her to replace her before making her way to Felicity.

“Lissy!” She said, pulling her in for a tight hug. Felicity felt the burn rise under the skin but she gritted her teeth and bore with it.  “How are you doing? You got me really worried yesterday!”

“Better, much better, thank you,” she replied, hugging Sara back before pulling away.

“Are you sure? I was so, so worried, I left right after you. What happened?”

“You mind if we talk about it around a cup of coffee?” Felicity suggested.

The blonde shook her head. “Nope but I can’t take a break for more than twenty minutes. Things are kind of crazy here, as you can see.”

Felicity nodded and soon enough, the two young women were sitting down with steaming cups of coffee in front of them.

“So what happened yesterday?” Sara asked. “You looked pretty shaken.”

Felicity took a sip of her coffee before saying. “It’s a long story but… I’m on the Med, just like you and sometimes, I react badly to other people’s touch. Last night was just one of those nights.”

Sara’s eyes widened. “You? You’re taking the Med?”

Felicity nodded. “It hasn’t been very efficient lately, I’ve set up an appointment with a specialist for next week.”

Sara blinked. “You’re taking the Med?”

Felicity nodded again, frowning. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

Sara shook her head, putting her cup of coffee back on the table in front of them. “I don’t know. You just don’t seem like the type who’d take the Med, I guess…”

Felicity tilted her head. “Since when is there a “type”?”

Sara chuckled nervously. “There isn’t actually, it’s just… I don’t know, you’re Felicity.”

“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”

Sara shrugged. “Nothing, I guess.” She paused then said. “Okay let’s rephrase it, you’re just the kind of girl I could totally picture posting sickeningly sweet pictures with your soulmate on Instagram. And before you say it’s weird, I’d have to ask you to check the last pictures you posted on your account, with Thea, Tommy or Oliver. If you can be that funny and sweet with your friends, I can only imagine what it would be with your dear soulmate.”

“I don’t post sweet pictures,” Felicity protested, blushing slightly.

“Should we talk of that picture of you, Ollie and Dig while you were lunching at Big Belly Burger the other day or…?”

Felicity cleared her throat, chuckling as her cheeks turned even redder. “Okay, you may have a point here.”

“Of course!” Sara said, faking an offended expression. “So… Why are you taking the Med?”

“I’d rather not talk about that,” Felicity told her. “It’s not something I like to talk about, it’s… complicated.”

Sara nodded. “I understand, but if one day you need to, you know I’m here, and I won’t judge. I’d be in no place since I’m taking it as well.”

Felicity nodded. “True.”

“And what about Oliver?” Sara asked then, her tone casual. “Does he know you’re taking the Med?”

Felicity shook her head. “No, he doesn’t.”

Sara frowned. “Then what does he think happen last night?”

“It’s… It’s complicated.”

Sara arched an eyebrow. “Oh really? Complicated seems to happen a lot around you Miss Smoak.”

Felicity shrugged, looking down toward her cup of coffee, desperately looking for a way to orientate the conversation toward a safer topic. She didn’t have to in the end. One of the waitresses working for Sara tripped and fell while she was carrying a tray meaning that the blond had to shorten her break to go back and help her employees. Felicity finished her coffee alone, then texted Iris to warn her she was going to come by soon and that if JJ or she needed anything, she would be happy to bring it. She ended up buying Chicken soup and noodles from a small Chinese restaurant near their house, both were JJ’s favourites.

The little boy was bed resting when she arrived but he did smile at her when she brought him food. She helped him eat some, with Iris watching and encouraging her boy. When he had eaten half of the soup, they left so he could rest and went back to the kitchen. Iris made them a quick lunch – Felicity’s coffee had helped waking her up and she had then realised she was starving – and they ate together, the brunette asking Felicity about her night out. She remained pretty vague, saying she had had to leave because she had felt bad, which wasn’t technically a lie. Felicity liked Iris a lot, she was a brave young woman who had had her fair share of struggles but she didn’t want too many people to know about her and what had happened at the club. She knew she could count on Oliver and Sara’s discretion and though she had promised she’d open up more, she wasn’t going to start telling everything about her life to everyone.

She went home then when she was done, quickly texting Oliver to tell him she had made it back safely. The moment she closed her front door, she lied against it, sliding down slowly. Everything hit her hard. Now that she was alone, without anyone to keep her busy, and occupy her thoughts her mind went straight back to all the things that had happened, all the things she had discovered. The memories struck immediately. One second, she was still thinking about JJ and the next one, her body was buzzing in anticipation, and she felt like every nerve ending in her body had been electrified. Her brain was overdriving, her cheeks reddening because of how hard and fast it was processing the last fourteen hours.

Her soulmate.

Oliver was her soulmate.

Her eyes hadn’t seen his soulmark but her body had recognised his touch and her brain had done the math.

She took her head between her hands, wishing for it to not be true, for it to be just a joke, wishing for once to be wrong. She wasn’t.

His family had the means to pay her off. From what she had gathered about Moira Queen in the short period of time she had known her, she could easily see why she would deem her, the poor daughter of a depressed cocktail waitress, as unsuitable for her son. Her being Oliver’s soulmate also explained why Moira hated her so much now and why she felt so threatened by her. Oliver’s past with the anti-soulmate group and his former behaviour with women fit what she had seen as a teenager. All the pieces of the puzzle were falling together and she was left with no other choice but to accept it the way it was.

Oliver Queen was her soulmate.

Now what?

She got up, taking off her heels and tossing them aside. She dropped her clutch on a shelf, not paying any attention when it fell on the floor. She stripped from her clothes as she made her way to the bathroom. She was on auto-pilot, her brain solely focused on Oliver, her mind filled with so many questions she was afraid it would burst. She didn’t really know what she was feeling, it was somewhere between confusion and understanding, numbness and love, fear and hope.

She needed to tell Oliver the truth. She knew most of the things that were torturing her mind would stop if they just sat down and had an open-hearted conversation about their past and feelings. The only problem? She didn’t know what she was feeling. She was an emotional mess, jumping from one emotion to the other within seconds. She had spent a lot of time being mad at her soulmate, for the way he had acted and now, she had a very hard time reconciling this person with Oliver, the man she had gotten to know ever since she had moved to Star City, who was someone she cared about deeply. She was aware they needed to talk, he deserved to know the truth but in the meantime, she didn’t feel she could tell him.

She stopped walking when she reached the bathroom. She stood in the middle of the room for a second, looking at her body, still clasped in the underwear she had borrowed from Thea. She stared at her reflection, at her hipbone where her soulmark used to be, at the ugly scar on her ribs, the four birds on her collarbone. She stared at herself, hoping to get a glimpse of what was in her soul.

“What’s holding you back Felicity?” She asked out loud, needing to voice her problems and struggles. “What are you afraid of?”

Her hand fell on her hipbone and she drew the outline of her soulmark, remembering perfectly the stark contrast of its blackness on her white skin when it had been there. The answer to her questions flew easily then. A mad man had tried to own her once. He had even carved his own mark on her skin with a knife. He had tortured and broken her in every way a person could be. And every day, she was fighting to get her independence back, to belong to herself again. In the end she was asking herself the same question people who were taking the Med were asking themselves: did she want to belong to someone? Or did she want to be free to make her own choice?

But was the choice real? Or was it just an illusion? Considering their strong connection, she knew there would never be anyone else for her to fall in love with. But what if she opened up her heart and took a risk? What if he broke it the same way her father had broken her mother’s? Oliver had always been a man who enjoyed woman’s company. He was apparently faithful to Isabel now, but it was mainly because it was what his parents expected of him. He was trying to please them. She wasn’t what his parents wanted for him, on the contrary. She was just Felicity, the girl his mother had had to pay off so that she wouldn’t be a part of his life. What would happen if he had to choose between her and his family? Would he choose her? She wanted to say yes, because of their bond and connection and because it was the twenty-first century and arranged marriages were kind of outdated, at least in the US. But what if he didn’t? What if he chose his family over her the same way she had chosen hers over him? What if she had lost him forever the day she had cut their bond? She didn’t want to expose her heart only to have it destroyed.

Shaking her head, she brushed her teeth quickly, did her hair and then went back into her room and put on her pajamas. She was tempted to just run away and leave everything behind. It would be an easy way out, and she knew she could disappear without leaving a trace. But she also knew she couldn’t go without leaving a part of her behind as well and that was why she didn’t succumb to the temptation. And shad to think about her strained bond and the burn. Her doctor’s appointment on Monday made leaving town even more out of question. She needed to figure things out on the bond front before making any decisions.

Monday came slowly. Felicity had been left alone with her thoughts all weekend and it had almost driven her crazy. She felt relieved when her clock rang early on Monday morning. She was happy to go to work. It would occupy her, keep her thoughts from drifting. It was strange because she was going to spend the day with her soulmate but it didn’t bother her since when she and Oliver were in full business mode, nothing could distract them.

She thought it would be weird to see him, not only because he was her soulmate now but also because they had shared a very intimate moment during the weekend. She thought things would be “You kissed me on Friday night while I was breaking into your arms” kind of awkward. But them being them, things went as smoothly as possible. They had a lot of work to do and it made it easy for her to get lost into the job.

The part of Q. Inc which was mainly a subsidiary branch of QC’s applied sciences was doing just fine and there wasn’t much work to do with it. No, what kept them busy was the second project Oliver gotten himself into, the one his parents didn’t really know about, the one he had hired Curtis for. This project was growing more and more; Oliver had hired two more people to assist Curtis and they had made some major progress on two projects, one of them being the creation of an everlasting power source, a battery with enough power to last a lifetime. At least, that’s what Curtis was aiming at.

“Curtis’ new reports sound very promising,” Oliver told Felicity. They were sitting in the conference room, going over reports and data.

“Yes, very!” Felicity replied enthusiastically. “Honestly? This guy is a genius,” she explained, rereading his report for the umpteenth time. “He’s applying the principle of cogeneration to the power cell, it’s amazing.”

Oliver frowned. “I know we already talked about that cogeneration thingy but would you mind…?”

“Going over it again?” She guessed.

He nodded and she smiled, glancing at her watch. She needed to leave work early if she didn’t want to be late at her doctor’s appointment. She still had some time ahead of her though.

“Cogeneration is the use of waste heat given off by electricity production. Ray Palmer had been using it with Palmer Tech’s toward in New-York for a couple of months already and he’s been helping the city by given away the extra-energy.”

Oliver tilted his head. “Ray Palmer? Why does this name ring a bell?”

“Because he is on your parents’ guest lists for their little party before New Year’s Eve?” Felicity suggested.

“Yeah, right that’s it! By the way, you’re still coming?”

She sighed. “It’s not like I really have the choice, do I?”

“Everything will be okay, don’t worry,” he told her, giving her a small smile.

She just shrugged before focusing back on the report before her. “These results are truly amazing. You can be proud of yourself Oliver. This side project of yours is really turning into something big.”

“I’m glad, but it’s really important our projects for QC remain our priority. The company really needs us to be at our best.”

Felicity nodded. Sometimes, she had a feeling Oliver preferred working on his side project than on whatever it was his parents had asked him to work on. But then, he would remind her of what was really important. QC.

“Sure, you remember you have a meeting with the head of Applied Sciences tomorrow?”

He nodded. “I almost never forget about my meetings,” he reminded her.

“I like that you add the word “almost”. Otherwise, I’d have to wonder why you keep me around exactly.”

“Because my days would be sad without you?” He suggested.

She shook her head. “Are you using flattery because you want to ask me something?”

He chuckled. “If I wanted to ask you something, I’d be doing the cute thing with my eyes.”

“You’re doing it right now,” she objected.

“No, I’m not. It’s just my natural charm,” he added, his blue eyes sparkling brightly.

She rolled her eyes at him before focusing back on their work. They were almost done with the reports when she realised what time it was and that she really needed to go. She got up and Oliver frowned when he saw her.

“Where are you going?”

“I have a doctor’s appointment. I told you about it the other day, remember?”

Realisation came down upon him and his blue eyes widened. “Yeah, of course, I remember.” He slapped his forehead. “I’m so sorry I forgot. Is everything okay? I know I forgot about your appointment but I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell me why you were going to see a doctor.”

Felicity shifted on her feet uncomfortably. Indeed, she hadn’t told him she was going to see a soulmate’s specialist. She was even less likely going to tell him now. “It’s just a regular check-up,” she said, shrugging. “Everything’s fine, don’t worry,” she added, walking away so he wouldn’t see her face. She was a good liar, but not so much where he was concerned. She started to put on her coat and she heard him follow her.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” he said. “Tommy is coming to have lunch with us.”

She nodded, moving her ponytail from where it had gotten stuck in her collar. “I know. He texted me at least fifteen times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten.”

“Yeah me too,” Oliver said. “I wonder what’s going on with him.”

Felicity shrugged, wrapping her scarf around her neck and reaching for her bag. “I guess we’ll know everything about it tomorrow.”

“Yeah. See you tomorrow then.”

“See you,” she said, stepping inside the elevator. “Curtis wanted to see you before the day ends, don’t forget to come by before you leave for your dinner at the Allen’s,” she told him as the doors were closing.

He nodded and she barely had the time to wave her hand at him before the doors were completely closed.

She hurried to her car, not wanting to be late. She drove skilfully through Star City, trying her best not to lose her temper as she got stuck into the traffic. She let out a small breath when she parked. She was almost fifteen minutes early, exactly how she had wanted to be. She got out of her car and walked inside the hospital. She still wasn’t feeling comfortable in a place like this. Walking inside white hallways and smelling the usual smell of disinfectant and bleach always brought back bad memories. Memories of a time where she had been transported to a different hospital, shivering and in shock, her side disfigured. She paused in front of a sign, looking for the right department direction.

She made her way to the reception desk. A nurse was sitting behind a computer and typing very quickly. She immediately noticed Felicity though and a smile spread on her lips as she said.

“Good afternoon Miss, how can I help you?”

“Good afternoon, I have an appointment at five fifty with Doctor Lazarev.”

“Right, let me check the schedule…” Her eyes went back to her computer and she pressed a few keystrokes before saying. “Miss Smoak?”

Felicity nodded. “That would be me.”

“Okay, I’m going to ask you to wait for Doctor Lazarev in the waiting room and to fill this preliminary questionnaire. Please bring it back to me as soon as you’re done.” she added, handing Felicity a piece of paper.

She took it from her. “I will, thank you very much,” she said before making her way to the waiting room.

She sat down, nodding politely at the already present people. She got a pen out of her bag and started reading. There were all very basic questions and she had replied to all of them soon enough. She went to give the questionnaire back to the nurse and sat back down on her seat, her phone in hand, her Candy Crush app opened.

“5:37 pm

Any plans for tonight?

TQ”

--

“5:38

Doctor’s appt.

FS”

--

“5:38

BTW lost at CC bc of you.

FS”

--

“5:39

You sick?

#SorryNotSorry, I still have to catch up with you.

TQ”

--

That text actually made Felicity smile and she was typing a reply when her phone buzzed between her hands.

“5:39

Shopping tmrw?

TQ”

--

“5:41

Nope, I’m fine.

Kay, need a dress for your parents’ party.

FS”

--

“5:42

Pick me up at school? Have to study with friends for a test then I’m free.

TQ”

--

“5:44

Deal, see you tmrw!

FS”

--

Felicity locked her phone then and looked around her, paying attention for the first time to her surroundings. The waiting room was like a lot of waiting rooms, equipped with toys for babies to play with, chairs and magazines. She watched the advertisements on the wall but quickly turned her head away, one was about the importance of protection during mate haze induced sex to avoid undesired pregnancies. She got the book she had packed out of her bag and started to read doing her best not to think about that poster. It wasn’t like she was ever going to experience a mate haze, right?

She was halfway through her book when the nurse called her name. She followed her to the doctor’s office, which looked exactly how a doctor’s office should look like.

“Sit right here,” the nurse said, “Doctor Lazarev should be here soon.”

“Thank you,” Felicity said, taking a seat.

The nurse left then, not without shooting her another bright smile. Felicity waited again, shifting uncomfortably again when time kept on stretching and the doctor still wasn’t arriving. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten anything since lunch. The sound echoed in the otherwise silent office and she had to bite her cheek to hold back a laugh. Finally, she heard the door being pulled open and she turned in her seat. A man in his mid-forties walked inside the room, his steps determined and fast.

She got up and held out a hand for him to shake.

“Felicity Smoak,” she introduced herself.

“Doctor Lazarev, glad to meet you,” he replied, shaking her hand.

The burn roared to life in her body and the doctor didn’t miss her small wince of displeasure.

“It burns doesn’t it?” He asked, sitting down and motioning for her to do the same.

She nodded, sitting back down.

“For how long has it been burning?” He asked, skimming at the questionnaire she had filled earlier.

“Wow, straight to the point,” she couldn’t help but notice, putting a strand of her hair back behind her ear.

Doctor Lazarev smiled at her and it showed his dimples. “I know my patients can wait a lot sometimes so once we’re in my office, I try to make it up to them.”

Felicity chuckled. “That’s very nice of you. And to answer your question, it started burning a few days before Thanksgiving.”

He hummed, typing down something. “I see you’ve been taking the Med for four years?”

“Yes, it’ll be five years in March,” she added, wanting to be perfectly precise on everything, to be sure they understood one another properly.

“Okay, and your pre-bonding connection level was 8.8. That’s very high.”

Felicity felt herself blush, though she didn’t know why. “Yeah, I know…”

“I see you’ve answered yes to the question “Have you met your soulmate yet?” so I’m assuming you know why you’re burning then?”

She shook her head. “I only figured out who my soulmate is this weekend. And so no, I don’t know why I’m burning every time someone’s touching me.”

“Alright, we’ll get to that in a second, I just have one last question to ask you,” he paused for a short second. “Does everyone’s touch burn?”

Felicity took her time to reply to that question, she needed to think about it, to recall all the moments she had been touched during the past few days. Her mother and Curtis hadn’t burnt but Thea, Sara, Tommy and John all had.

“Almost everyone,” she told him, confident in her reply.

“What about bonded women?”

Felicity didn’t know about every bonded women, mainly because she didn’t always know if the woman she was interacting with was bonded, but she did know Laurel’s touch hadn’t burnt her whereas Sara’s, who wasn’t bonded, had.

“I think they don’t,” she told him.

“It’s completely normal,” he told her, smiling reassuringly. “My question was really oriented, I was expecting that kind of answer,”

She let out a small relieved breath when she heard his words. After spending so many days worrying about the burn, it actually felt really good to be told it was “normal”. Sure, it didn’t fix the problem but it meant at least that nothing was wrong.

“So about the burn?” She asked again.

“The burn, right,” he paused for a second, adjusting his glasses on his nose. “You’re burning because you’ve been around your soulmate for a while long enough for you to start the bonding process.”

Felicity’s eyes went wide. “What? That’s not possible, I’m on the Med.” She immediately objected.

“The Med would work and prevent that from happening if your number was under 7.4. Unfortunately, the Med isn’t as efficient as people are being told, especially for high numbers like yours. In the questionnaire, you said your bond was never completely quiet. You could still feel it, that it was still talking to you, trying to communicate with you. That’s because of your high number.”

Felicity bit on her lips, fearing she was understanding where he was going with this. “So in concrete terms, what are you saying?” She asked, her throat tight.

“I’m saying extended proximity can start the bonding process of the people with the highest numbers, even when they’re on the Med.”

Damn. Exactly what she had thought he’d say. “So we’re starting to bond,” she stated confusion and panic filling her chest, her heart skipping a beat.

No. No. No. This couldn’t be happening.

He shook his head. “Yes and no. Sexual intercourse are necessary for soulmates to actually bond, I’m sure you’re aware of that.” She nodded immediately and he went on. “But usually, before soulmates get to that part, they try to know each other better, they spend some time together.”

“Yeah, that’s what my friend Georgia and her soulmate are doing,” she mentioned without thinking.

“Rightfully so. The bond is not only physical, it’s also emotional. And at the beginning of the process, the bond is strengthening. Growing stronger. And this is why you’re burning when you’re being touched by other people. Your body only wants your soulmate’s touch.”

“When you say the bond is growing stronger, do you mean the connection strengthen as well?”

“Yes, usually the number goes up of one or two levels meaning that an 8.8 like yours is heading straight to a 10.”

A 10? A 10?!

WHAT?

“But… But…” She tried to protest, her words failing her, her hands falling flat on her thighs. “That’s the highest number,” she said, her voice so small, almost shy, she wasn’t even sure the doctor could hear her.

Doctor Lazarev nodded, giving her a sympathetic smile. “This is why you’ve had to take extra pills lately. The dosage isn’t working for your bond anymore, it has grown too much and your number has changed. I have to say, it’s the first time in my career I’m encountering such a high number. It’s actually why I wanted to meet you as soon as possible, I’m really concerned with your bond.”

She tilted her head. “Why?”

“There is a reason why the Med doesn’t work perfectly well on people with such high numbers.” He paused and she motioned for him to go on. “The reason is quite simple: some things are just meant to be. They cannot be strained, at least not forever.”

Felicity just stared at him for a short while, her head spinning. She had been given so many information, her brain had a hard time processing everything. She was feeling overwhelmed by what she had been just told. Oliver and she had already started bonding? What about Oliver? Could he feel it?

“What about my soulmate?”

“What do you mean?”

“What does he feel? Is his side affected? Does he feel it growing stronger?”

Doctor Lazarev stared at her for a few seconds, considering his next words carefully. “He has to feel something, but I can’t know for sure the exact extent of what he’s feeling.” She gave him a look and he understood that she needed more. He leaned down toward her. “If you allow me a childish comparison, maybe I can explain things better to you.”

“I’m listening.”

A fond smile stretched his lips. “My daughters are in a Rapunzel phase and this is where the analogy comes from. I’ve had to use it a few times already, that’s why it’s coming so easily to me.” He cleared his throat before going on. “Your side of the bond is Rapunzel, your soulmate’s is Flynn Rider and the tower is that phase where soulmates aren’t bonded. Rapunzel and Flynn can see one another, interact and sometimes, she can throw her hair at him and they’re close enough to touch but not to connect entirely. Are you following me?”

She nodded.

“When you take the Med, you’re cutting Rapunzel’s hair and taking her voice away from her. She can no longer reach out to Flynn, she can no longer speak with him or touch him, they’re completely isolated from one another.”

“But they can still see each other, right?” She objected.

“Rapunzel can see him perfectly from her point of view, yes, but it’s harder for him since he’s stuck on the ground. His eyes are meeting concrete. Do you understand?”

Felicity chuckled. She wasn’t amused at all, her laughter was close to bitter but she was understanding him perfectly. “Your analogy is perfect, have you considered sharing it with your colleagues?”

He gave her a small smile. “A few times already, yes.”

“And where does the burn fit in that analogy of yours?”

He sighed. “It doesn’t, I’m afraid. You’re burning because your body is craving your soulmate’s touch. You’re affected by all men, because your soulmate is a man himself and feels threatened by everyone who look remotely like him. Exceptions being made of the men bonded to other men.”

“And what about women?” She asked.

“Well, you’re affected by non-bonded women because of your sexuality. You are attracted by both genders.”

Felicity felt herself blush. “I’ve never really thought about it… I mean, with women.”

“Oh don’t worry, it’s okay. Most people never think about it because we’re all naturally attracted to the people who are the same gender as our soulmate, and yet, our bond always feels territory around non-bonded and sexually active people.”

“What if I take a higher dosage of the Med? The proper dosage for a 10 and not a 8.8? Would the burn stop? Would the bonding stop?”

“It should work, but I’m afraid it won’t be permanent unless you get away from your soulmate too. And I don’t recommend you do that either. I truly meant it earlier when I said some things weren’t meant to be strained. As cheesy as it sounds, some people are just meant to be together.”

“I didn’t say I was going to do it,” she hurriedly replied, “I was simply asking a question,” she added, knowing she sounded a bit too defensive but not caring.

He paused. “Theoretically, it should work. But not permanently.” She chewed on her lips, her arms crossed over her chest. “Felicity, the connection you have is a precious gift, one that should be cherished not tamed. I don’t think you realise how rare it actually is. I’ve been studying soulmates ever since I graduated from high-school. It’s the first time I meet someone whose connection is a 10, or at least is going to be one.”

She frowned. “You said my number was a ten,” she pointed out.

He shook his head. “No, I said you were aiming toward a ten. You might not be there quite yet. Moreover the evolution isn’t a stable one and definitely not the same for everyone. Maybe you’ll just be able to reach a 9.5 or 9.6, we can’t know for sure.”

“And what about people being born a 10?” She asked.

He pinched his lips together, his fingers intertwined in front him. “That’s a really interesting question.” He considered his next words carefully before saying. “People cannot be born a 10, it’s a myth. A very popular one, I’ll give you that,” he added when she opened her mouth to protest, “but it’s still a myth. Being born a 10 already doesn’t leave room for growth.”

Felicity leaned back down in her chair, feeling dazed. He had told her so many things, he had given her so much to think about, she was completely lost, she didn’t know where to start. Her shoulders went limp when she realised the true importance of everything she had just learnt. She felt like all her energy had been sucked up from her body as one question rose in her mind:

What was she going to do?

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 12:

“Our love was in the hall

All packed in boxes

 

And I saw

What it was

That I had done

To you

 

I was wrong”

- Sleeperstar, I was wrong

 

Felicity had been through a lot of things during her twenty years of life on earth. She had had her fair-share of life-shattering moments. The first one being when her father had left her and broken her mother’s heart and the last being when Cooper had abducted her and held her captive for twelve uninterrupted hours. Life and trials had shaped her into someone who could take care of herself alone and wasn’t easily surprised or scared. Until that moment in Doctor’s Lazarev office.

Firstly, she realised she had taken the news of Oliver being her soulmate fairly well. Once she had connected all the dots, once she had put together the pieces of the puzzle’s frame – she still had to gather the pieces to fill it – denying it or trying to fight it had seemed pointless. Things were the way they were, he was her soulmate and there was nothing she could about it. So she had accepted the truth pretty easily, knowing she’d figure things out like she always did, knowing she’d find her way out of this mess. But now, Doctor Lazarev had pretty much told her there was no escaping that truth. There was no way out for her, at least not one that was permanent.

To say it scared the hell out of her would be an understatement.

“Felicity, I’d like to take a blood sample if that’s okay with you and see where your number is at.”

Doctor’s Lazarev’s voice got her of her thoughts. He was looking at her from behind his glasses, his eyes gentle on her. Swallowing back the lump of emotions in her throat, she nodded.

“Do you know the procedure?” He asked her as she got up and followed him toward the exam table in the back of his office.

“Yes,” she replied, her voice shaking a little. Not only was she feeling terrible after what he had told her but she also deeply hated needles. She hated anything that could damage her skin.

“Are you okay?” He asked her, concern filling his eyes.

She didn’t reply immediately as they both settled down and she rolled up one of her sleeves, to expose her arm.

“Yeah,” she said evasively. “Just trying to process everything you told me,” she added.

He gave her an understanding nod, a small sympathising smile stretching his lips. “I know it can be a lot,” he said, strapping a rope around her arm before cleaning the area he was going to pierce with his needle. It was a small needle, the rational part of Felicity’s mind tried to reassure her. But it was a needle nonetheless, the very irrational part of her mind always there to worry her more than necessary.

“You should try to relax a bit,” he advised her kindly, when he approached the needle from her arm.

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, doing as she had been told. The needle pierced her skin and she chewed on her lip at the short but sharp pain that came with it. It was another gift from Cooper. She was scared of pointy objects, for example she had a hard time using a knife which didn’t have a round tip. Doctor Lazarev filled a small tube with her blood before cleaning the tiny hole in her skin and covering it with a small band aid. He walked away from her when he was done then, stopping in front of the table all his instruments were lying on. He put a bit of her blood in a small square device, pressed a few buttons before turning around her again.

“We should have the results in a few minutes,” he informed her.

She nodded, perfectly remembering the doctor who had performed the same thing for her in Vegas when she had been fourteen years old and in desperate need of a dose of the Med. The device beeped loudly after a few minutes and Doctor Lazarev turned around, checking the results.

“So?” She asked, her heard pounding in her chest.

“9.4,” he told her, his eyes wide opened.

Blood rushed to her ears and she felt her shoulders going limp.

9.4. As close to her former 8.8 as 10.

“For how long have you been close to your soulmate?” Doctor Lazerev asked her.

“We met in September,” she supplied.

“Plus 0.6 in the course of three months,” he said, calculating quickly. “That’s…” He seemed to be at a loss for words. “That’s incredible.”

She shook her head, not needing to hear how incredible or amazing her number was. “But taking the higher dosage of the Med will stop the burning, right? And slow down the bonding process?”

He frowned. “Yes, but I don’t recommend you do that.” He strolled to her and sat back down on his stool. “Felicity, your bond is very strong. And the stronger a bond is, the stronger it fights against the Med. But just like when humans fight, it can be injured. Sometimes severely. I know a couple, their number is 8.9 now but it used to be 7.8. One of them took the Med for a few years and when they finally found themselves they were unable to bond completely. They came here for help but the strained bond had been too damaged and there was no fixing it. Now, there is no telling it’s going to happen to you, but I do think you need to be informed of what the worst case scenario can be before you make any decision.”

Felicity chewed on her lower lip worriedly. “My soulmate and I have a really complicated history Doctor and I don’t know if we are what’s best for each other.”

“I have a device which says differently.”

“With all due respect doctor, a number, no matter how high it is, is just a number. I’m a real person with a complicated past, and so is my soulmate.”

Doctor Lazerev paused for a second, staring at her intently. “Felicity, I don’t think I’m the doctor you need.”

She tilted her head. “Excuse me?”

“Have you considered seeing a soulmate’s counsellor?”

Felicity snorted. “I’ve had my fair share of therapy sessions, thank you very much.”

He tilted his head slightly, the look on his face slightly reproving. “It could do you and your soulmate some good.”

“Is that what you recommended that couple you spoke of earlier do?”

He nodded. “That and stay together. To give life and nature a chance to fix what chemicals and science had destroyed. And honestly? I don’t want to have to give you that advice.”

“Haven’t you already?” She shot back quickly.

He shook his head. “No. Right now, I’m only advising you to talk with your soulmate. Communication and honesty are the keys to success in a relationship.”

Felicity arched an eyebrow. “You sure you aren’t a soulmate’s counsellor yourself?”

“My wife actually,” he corrected her.

She chuckled slightly. “Maybe you were right when you said some things were meant to be.”

“I’ve been wrong about a lot of things in my life but this is not one of them. Talk to him Felicity.”

She nodded absent-mindedly and then they proceeded to go back to his desk. She paid him, thanked him for his time and all his precious advice before leaving. The moment the door to his office was closed behind her, she felt all her fears coming back to hit her, hard. She hurried out of the hospital, the sound of her heels on the lino floor following her, reminding her of where she was and what she had been told. She got into her car quickly, and pulled out of the parking lot, her hands trembling around the wheels.

“I’m saying extended proximity can start the bonding process of the people with the highest numbers, even when they’re on the Med.”

They came here for help but the strained bond had been too damaged and there was no fixing it.”

“Some things are just meant to be.”

She hit the wheel out of frustration, angry tears rolling down her cheeks, leaving a trail of fire on their path down her skin. She felt her heart swell exponentially in her chest as if it was fucking done with everything and was now seeking a way out of the confinement of her ribcage. But just like there was no way out for her, there was no way out for it. She was stuck in this whole mess, in all over her head and sadly, all over her heart as well.

She didn’t know how she made it back to her place. Her tears, steaming and salty, were blinding her and her hands were clenched so tightly around her wheel, it was a miracle she managed to turn it. But she did it and when she was done, she got out of her car, slamming the door so violently, she heard the window tremble. The cold air of a December evening hit her, but did nothing to tone down the fire in her veins. It only made it boil under her skin and she impatiently locked her car. She walked away then, the angry sound of her heels echoing loudly in the night that had taken over Star City. She tripped on a crack in the pavement and tumbled over, scratching her hands and knees on the floor, her tights ruined.

Blood rushed to her ears as she held back a scream.

“Well isn’t that fucking great?” She said, through gritted teeth, taking off her shoes, since one of her heels was broken. She pulled herself up again, grateful that no one had been around to witness her encounter with the dirty asphalt.

Straightening her spine, she walked inside her building, wiping at her tears trying to get a hold of the swirl of emotions twisting her insides.  She held no illusions about what she had to do now. She knew she needed to tell Oliver the truth, about her, about them. She needed to lay everything out, bare for him to see. But it scared her, it scared her so much it made her head spin and bile rise up in her throat. Because the man in front of her had nothing to do with the boy she had once been connected to. Would he understand her? Why she had done what she had? Would he still look at her the same after she told him she had accepted his family’s money? It scared her, she couldn’t see anything good coming out of that conversation. But it was time for her to have courage, and to face things as bravely as she could.

She reached for her phone, her hands shaking badly. She unlocked it, succeeding after three attempts, her fingers sliding up her screen. All she had to do was call him, ask him to meet her. It was quite simple.

Except she couldn’t do it.

She didn’t know how to do it. How to get the words out. The only thing she had ever been good at was running.

Running from her soulmate, running from Vegas, from Boston even from her own mother.

She could run now if she wanted to. Disappear into the night. It would be easy, so easy. Way easier than facing him.

She locked her screen again, her decision made. Without thinking about it twice, not giving herself a chance to change her mind, she rushed into her guest room, pulling her suitcase from under the bed, her hands still shaking badly. Coming back to her bedroom, she put it open on her bed. She started rummaging through her closet, throwing things haphazardly into it. Clothes, books, toiletries… She blindly piled them up in her suitcase, a torrent of tears flowing down her cheeks.

Away. She needed to get away, as quickly as possible.

But in her haste, she elbowed her jewellery box. It fell on the floor and her jewels were scattered on the floor.

“Damn it,” she cursed, kneeling down to put everything back in place.

Her heart clenched painfully in her chest when she grabbed her arrow bracelet. She paused, forgetting about everything, from her suitcase to her rumpled clothes inside of it as her mind focused entirely on the sparkling bracelet she was holding between her hands, the small arrow she had held on for most part of the last four years. She had bought it right after she had started taking the Med, on an impulse. She hadn’t thought about it too much back then, assuming she had done it just so that she’d have a little reminder of what could have been but would never be.

She played with it for a few seconds, her thumb rubbing over the arrowhead tenderly. It calmed her down a little, the flow of tears diminishing considerably, allowing her to see things more clearly, both literally and figuratively. Her soulmark had been erased by the pill from her skin, her mate banished from her soul by the chemicals, but she had been the one letting that happen. It had been her decision to take the Med. She had had her reasons, he and his family had pushed her to do it, but in the end it had been her choice. She had swallowed the damn pill down. And yet the day right after she had purchased an item reminding her of him. She had held on their mark for the past four years. She knew in her heart, she had never truly been able to let go and forget. And now she was on the verge of running again. But how could she run away from him again? The man she knew now had nothing to do with the boy she had been connected to.

She closed her eyes for a second, her eyelids fluttering. She thought about Oliver’s eyes, a perfect blue reminding her of the sea. She thought about his smile, warmer than the sun and always able to force a smile out of her. She thought about his arms, strong enough to hold her in a tight embrace which seemed like it had been made for her only and in a way, it had. She thought about his way of rubbing his fingers when he was nervous, his annoying habit to go on tangents about sports or his general tendency to take control of everything, as if he was a CEO even without his suit on. It reminded her of his dedication to his company, to the well-being of his employees or to his family’s legacy, all of these qualities which made her admire him more. She thought about how protective of Thea he was, of how much he cared about his friends. About her too. She could almost feel his lips on her forehead again, against her temple, in her hair, the raspy touch of his stubble following the softness of his kisses. She remembered his warmth, his hard chest pressing against her curves.

She hadn’t been able to completely let go of him when he had hurt her in the past.

How was she supposed to run away from him now that she’d seen the most beautiful parts of him?

And what about the other friends she had made in Star City? Thea, Sara, Iris, Tommy. What about them? Running away from Oliver meant running away from them as well. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want to lose the life she had built for herself in the city. She had nestled in there and she was happy, truly.

She had no idea how she was going to tell Oliver the truth but she knew now running was out of question. She simply couldn’t lose everything again.

She quickly put her bracelet on before getting on her feet again. She strolled toward her suitcase and emptied it slowly, carefully putting her things back in place, making sure her clothes were properly folded, her books perfectly aligned. Once she was done, she collapsed on her bed, near her empty suitcase.

She didn’t know how she was going to tell Oliver about them. Surely, blurting it out wasn’t the right way, but then, was there a right way to tell someone you were their long lost soulmate? She highly doubted it. But she knew, she needed to be cautious, to announce it properly, again if there even was a proper way to make such an announcement. She didn’t know how their conversation would go. She could guess they’d both have a lot of questions and the answers would probably bring either a lot of screaming and yelling or a lot of tears. Maybe it would bring both and the idea was quite repelling. They were going to fight, it was inevitable and the thought made her feel sick. She hated it when they fought. And what about his family? How would Moira react? She was probably going to be super angry.

Felicity frowned, sitting back on her bed, the thought of Moira bringing something else back to her memory.

James Wilde the mediator the Queens had sent her to get her to give up on her soulmate’s rights in exchange of money and a place for her mother in a soulmate’s clinic. He had made her sign a contract back then, a contract which precisely stated the terms of their agreement. What if she decided to terminate it?

Jumping on her feet, she rushed to the living-room and wildly opened the drawer where she kept all her important papers, bills and other stuff. She rummaged through it for quite a while before finally finding what she was looking for. She sat down on the floor, her back to the sideboard and went over the contract. It seemed quite simple, from the look of it but Felicity was no idiot. She knew, from her experience with computers that sometimes even the smallest and simplest piece could actually turn out being the most complex one.

Running a hand through her hair, she sighed. She needed help on this, the help of a professional, preferably. Chewing on her lower lip worriedly, it took her about two seconds to remember there was someone she could contact. Heading back to her room, the contract still in her hands, she reached for her phone.

She dialled Tommy’s number and waited for him to answer, still torturing her lower lip between her teeth.

“Lissy, hey!” He happily greeted her after picking up. The sincere cheerfulness in his voice made her crack a smile. How could she have thought about leaving a city where she had friends who obviously cared about her?

“Hey Tommy! I hope I’m not bothering you.”

She heard some noises on his side of the line then nothing. “No, you’re not bothering me at all, just got home from work. Had some late paperwork to do,” he quickly explained. “But then I guess you know what it is.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I’m your best friend’s EA, remember?”

He chuckled slightly. “How could I forget? Are we still on for tomorrow’s lunch?” He asked her, his voice strained, almost worried.

“Yeah sure, everything okay?”               

“Yes, just thought you were calling to cancel.”

She shook her head, although he couldn’t see her. “No, that’s not why I’m calling. I actually could use some help,” she started, “juridical help.”

“What is it?” He asked her, his tone suddenly more serious.

“Well, to sum up things briefly, sometime ago I signed a contract with a mediator from the SID and I was wondering about how to terminate the contract. Do you think Laurel could do something to help? Or recommend someone?”

Tommy hummed thoughtfully before replying. “I don’t know. I mean, soulmate’s trials are not Laurel’s speciality but it doesn’t mean she can’t help with the contract. I’ll ask her tonight and get back in touch with you, is that okay?”

“Yeah, that’s perfect. Thank you,” she quickly added.

“But what about you Lissy? Are you okay? Are things alright with your soulmate?”

She bit on her lip nervously. “It’s complicated, I’m trying to sort things out.”

“Well, I’ll do my best to help you,” he promised her.

“Thank you Tommy, I truly appreciate it.”

“That’s what friends are made for. I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

“Yes,” she said enthusiastically. “See you tomorrow. Bye Tommy!”

“Bye Lissy.”

Felicity took several deep breaths after hanging up. There was nothing else she could do now, except wait for Tommy to get back to her. She raised up the contract, to see it better. It was just a few sheets of paper and dark ink and yet these two things combined had never looked so threatening. Sighing, she put it away, knowing there was nothing else she could do. She went to take a long and hot shower, staying under the spray far longer than usual, ate a quick dinner and headed to bed early, knowing she’d need a good night of sleep if she wanted to be able to handle another day feeling the burn anytime someone who wasn’t her soulmate touched her.

Their next morning at Q. Inc started with a meeting with some QC’s business partners, who were by extension Q. Inc’s. The reunion lasted for about two hours and a half and they talked about money, profits and investments, so much it made Felicity want to gouge her eyes out – there was a reason why she’d chosen to study computers and not get an MBA. But still, she stood quietly next to Oliver and took down notes, as she was supposed to. When they were done, she spent her time organizing them for him.

It was only when Oliver cleared his throat that she realised he was sitting in front of her, half of his body resting on her desk, his fingers intertwined and resting on his knee. Her throat went dry immediately, because he just had to look ridiculously gorgeous, and the fact that she knew now he was her soulmate did not make him less attractive to her. Quite the opposite actually. She had never really lingered on how good-looking he was, because it would have been very inappropriate and unprofessional, considering how they were both friends and colleagues but now things were different. She was allowed to appreciate all his handsome maleness.

“JJ is wondering how “F’licity” is doing?” He told her, his head tilted slightly.

She frowned in confusion. “What?”

“Yesterday. Dinner at the Allen’s. JJ asked about you.”

She exhaled, her shoulders falling slightly. “Oh right, your dinner. Well, I’m fine, very fine actually, never been finer!”

It was Oliver’s turn to frown. “You sure?”

She nodded. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” She asked then, her fingers brushing the strokes of her keyboard.

He shrugged. “What about your doctor’s appointment.”

She tensed up, her fingers freezing above her keyboard. She opened her mouth but found herself unable to say anything, his bright blue eyes having her pinned in her chair.

“Felicity?” He insisted, and when she heard the concern in her voice she relaxed slightly and pulled her fingers away from her computer.

“It was just a regular check-up. But the doctor still took some blood from me,” she added, showing him her arm where her vein was still blue.

He took a hold of it, his eyes caught by her arrow bracelet for a second before they focused on the blue mark on her skin. The bruise was small, it would completely be gone in a couple of days. Oliver stroked the skin there and she couldn’t help but giggle. He arched an eyebrow at her.

“I’m ticklish,” she explained.

A smile stretched on his lips before he said. “I think you’ll make it out just fine, Miss Smoak.”

“Doctor Queen, I do believe you’re right,” she agreed, smiling back at him – because how was she supposed to resist his dimples?

“Really Ollie?” A third voice said, coming from the elevator. “Playing the doctor’s fantasy at work, with your EA? I thought you knew better.”

Oliver immediately dropped Felicity’s arm, while she turned as red as a tomato. They both got up to welcome Tommy, who was grinning at them widely.

“You’re here early Tommy,” Oliver said, coming up to hug him.

“Well, I’m sorry,” he replied, hugging his best friend back. “Had I known I’d be interrupting something, I would have arrived right on time.”

He turned toward Felicity then and hugged her too. The burn came back, ignited by his touch but she clenched her teeth and bore with it. Knowing what was causing it made it easier for her to deal with it but still, it was a very unpleasant feeling, close to pain.

“You aren’t interrupting anything,” she quickly explained, before pulling back.

“Sure thing,” he said, winking at her playfully before becoming serious again. “I spoke with Laurel. She said you could come by her office tonight if you wanted to.”

“Why?” Oliver asked, turning to face Felicity.

She hadn’t expected Tommy to bring things up in front of Oliver and she found herself frozen in place. “Uh…” She paused for a second, straightening her spine. Time to stand her ground. “I need Laurel’s help on something, a contract I signed a long time ago. But I won’t be able to come by tonight,” she quickly added for Tommy. “I have plans with Thea already.”

He gave her a reassuring smile. “No problem, you can come by tomorrow night, Laurel won’t mind.”

Felicity nodded, smiling back at him. “Thank you.”

“What kind of contract?” Oliver insisted and his tenacity made Felicity want to bang her head against the wall.

Tommy looked at Felicity, letting her decide what she wanted to reveal, or not reveal in the particular case. She felt gratitude burst inside her heart, thankful for him being such a respectful friend.

“It’s nothing important,” she lied. “I’ll tell you more about it when I know more myself,” she said, and that really wasn’t a lie.

He watched her cautiously for another minute before saying. “Okay.”

Her eyes went wide. “Okay?” She repeated and he frowned in confusion. “Just okay? You aren’t going to push and insist and drive me crazy with your questions?”

He shook his head. “You just said you’d tell me more about it when you know more yourself. I believe you.”

A breath got caught in her throat at his words and she felt warmth spread inside her belly. She smiled at him brightly – how could she not? – and she heard Tommy sigh. “You two are really something,” he whispered, shaking his head.

She felt herself blush again and Oliver was prompt to orientate the conversation toward a safer topic. “Should we go to lunch already?” He asked.

Felicity checked her watch. They still had ten more minutes to go before their lunch break officially started. “You’re the boss,” she reminded him. “But to be honest, I’m almost done with the notes from this morning, so if I could just…”

He interrupted her, guessing what she was going to ask and gently said. “Go.”

She made her way back to her desk and quickly finished what she had been doing, Tommy and Oliver’s voices in the background. She didn’t listen to whatever it was they were saying, because she was pretty sure it was about the latest game of basketball but she found it nice to hear them laugh while she was working. Oddly enough, it was soothing.

She printed her notes and brought them to Oliver’s office. She put on her coat and wrapped her scarf around her neck before joining Tommy and Oliver. They stopped talking when she arrived.

“All done and ready,” she told them.

“Ah… We men always have to wait for you women,” Tommy deplored, faking a dramatic tone.

She rolled her eyes at him before turning toward Oliver. “Dig?”

“Went to get the car,” he informed her.

She chewed down on her lips. She didn’t like the wealth and opulence that came with the Queen name. It really something she wasn’t used to. She thought it was extravagant to have a driver taking them wherever they wanted because they were all very capable of driving themselves. Heck, Oliver was always doing it outside of his work hours! But she knew it would be ridiculous and not very environment friendly to take several cars to go to the same restaurant so she just relaxed and followed them silently to the black Bentley that probably cost more than her apartment. And she was barely exaggerating.

The ride was spent mostly in silence. Oliver was sitting next to Diggle, while Felicity and Tommy were in the back of the car. There was most definitely something odd with the black-haired man. He wasn’t his usual light-hearted self. His smiles were strained and he was fidgeting in his seat, taping his foot on the car’s padded mat. He was stressed, that much was obvious but his nervousness was rubbing off on Felicity. She couldn’t help but wonder what was worrying him. Tommy had been such a good friend to her, ever since they had met. He was her white-knight in shining armour and she didn’t want him to be anything but utterly fine and happy.

Tommy was the one inviting them apparently, although Felicity knew she’d insist on sharing with him at the end of the meal, and he had booked them a table in a small but famous restaurant within the city. The place was cosy and well-decorated, with wine red leathered seats and dimmed orange lights.

When they arrived, the waitress gulped when she recognised both Oliver and Tommy. Since she had started working with Oliver, Felicity had gone out for lunch with the two of them quite often and almost all the time, waiters and waitresses reacted that way to their presence. Felicity had long guessed it was bound to happen when the two incredibly handsome heirs of two multi-billions dollars company went somewhere. She always felt weird when she was out with them. They were just them, tall and confident, and she was next to them, small and geeky. She felt out of place, like she didn’t really belong. She knew it was just an impression, because they were all friends but she also knew how it looked like in the eye of the world. More often than not, she realised people stared oddly at her with their eyes always seeming to ask “who are you and what are you doing here?”

They sat down, Felicity safely tucked between Oliver and Tommy, Dig in front of her. He filled them in about how his son was doing while they ate their appetizers. Tommy barely spoke a word, still looking super nervous. The waitress came back to take their orders and that’s when Oliver, who had noticed something was up with his best friend, chose to confront him.

“What’s up with you Tommy?” He asked.

Tommy cleared his throat, before leaning down toward his coat. He got a small box out of his pocket and Felicity’s eyes widened when she recognised the familiar mint-green box from Tiffany. He opened the box and showed its content to her. It was a ring, a gorgeous ring with a platinum band and a sparkling diamond.

“What do you think?” He asked nervously.

She frowned. “I think Laurel won’t be too happy with this turn of events. I actually think she’ll be furious and maybe she’ll try to murder me, and damn that’s a scary thought! She’s a lawyer, she probably knows how the police investigates and the best ways to dispose of a corpse and…”

“Felicity!” Oliver cut her off, his hand landing on hers and pressing it softly while she heard Dig huff back a laugh and saw Tommy give her a look. “I think Tommy was simply talking about the ring.”

Oh right. The ring. With the sparkling diamond. Sparkling brightly even with the dimmed lights of the restaurant.

“Why are you asking me?” She questioned nervously. “Oliver’s your best friend, you should be talking about all of this,” she pointed at the ring, “with him.”

Tommy shook his head. “I need a woman’s opinion on this. Besides, Oliver wasn’t capable of picking a ring for Isabel himself, his mother was the one to do it so he doesn’t really have his say in the matter.”

“Hey, watch it Tommy!” Oliver warned him, sounding offended.

Felicity nodded slowly, swallowing hard. “Well, I don’t have much experience in the whole proposing thing but I do think it’s a beautiful ring and that it will look even more beautiful on Laurel’s finger,” she said, hoping her words would erase her little rambling from their memories.

“I want to ask Laurel to marry me,” he confessed, handing the box to Oliver so that he could have a better look at the ring.

“Well, that much was obvious,” Felicity teased him and Oliver nudged her. She rolled her eyes at him before focusing on Tommy again. “Is that why you’re all nervous? You have to know she’s going to say yes, right?

He gave her a nod, but the nervousness didn’t leave his eyes, though there also was excitement shining in them. “I know but… It’s the only proposal she’s ever going to have and I want it to be perfect, unforgettable. I want it to be something she’ll remember for the rest of her life, I want it to be a memory we’ll share with our children with tears in our eyes and fondness in our voices.”

Felicity felt a lump form in her throat at the sheer honesty she could feel in Tommy’s voice. She had never heard him sound so unsure, he was always so confident and sure of what he wanted and what he was doing… There was something immensely sweet with him looking so fragile.

“You don’t have to worry buddy,” Oliver said. “The two of you are so ridiculously in love, I know whatever you do, it’ll be the best moment of her life.”

“Do you have any idea of when and more importantly how you’d like to do it?” Dig asked.

“Yeah, I’d love to ask her on New Year’s Eve. I already have a very good idea of what I’d love to do and… I’ll need your help guys.”

Felicity and Oliver stared at one another, nodding, before turning again to face Tommy. “You can count us in,” Oliver assured him, handing the ring back to him.

Tommy let out a small relieved breath and was quick to put the box back in his pocket. “Thank you,” he said.

“That’s what friends are made for,” Felicity reminded him, repeating the exact words he had spoken to her the previous night. “Now, I know I’m not an expert in the whole soulmate thing either but how exactly are you hiding this from her?” She asked. “I mean, bonded soulmates share thoughts and emotions. How can she not be suspecting anything?”

Tommy and Dig exchanged a knowing look. “We could try to explain it to you but,” Tommy started.

“But you can’t really understand it as long as you aren’t bonded with your soulmate,” Dig finished. “Isn’t that right Oliver?”

“Right,” he said, his voice wavering. Felicity knew why. He couldn’t know what they were talking about since he wasn’t bonded to his soulmate aka her. He was spared from having to talk further about bonds and soulmates by the waitress, who was coming back with their orders.

They spent the rest of the meal discussing Tommy’s proposal ideas before making their way back to Q. Inc. Tommy left them there to go back to his own office. Oliver and Felicity immediately put themselves back to work. They had barely gotten started when Curtis came in to steal Felicity from Oliver, needing help with something on his project. She was a bit reluctant to go with him at first but then Oliver nearly pushed her inside the elevator while Curtis dragged her after him and she decided to let herself be pushed around. Thankfully, he didn’t make her work on a computer, he just needed someone to go over his preliminary calculations. When she was done, Felicity went back to the executive floor, her mind full of ones, zeros, xs and ys.

She was greeted by the voices of Oliver and Thea, talking.

“Shouldn’t you be at school?” She heard Oliver ask.

“My history teacher was absent, so I thought I’d come here early and do my homework while waiting for Felicity. Where is she by the way?”

“Right behind you,” Felicity said, a small smile on her lips.

Thea turned around then and strolled toward her, her arms opened for a hug. Felicity let herself be hugged, rather tightly, in spite of the burn. It wasn’t really intense around the brunette, probably because she was family.

“I know I’m here early, but I promise I won’t bother you,” Thea wooed, stepping away from Felicity. “Any of you,” she quickly added, glancing at her brother, seeking his approval. There was something odd with him, he was… well it was hard for Felicity to put a name on what was wrong with him, but if she were to try, she’d say he was… Stiff. Which was weird because he had been perfectly relaxed when she had left. Has something happened while she had been gone?

He stared at his little sister for a long while before exhaling slightly. “Stay put and don’t disturb Felicity.” On those words, pronounced with a tone sharper than she’d ever heard, he started retreating toward his office.

Felicity tilted her head. “Uh… Oliver? We have to go over a few reports,” she reminded him.

He turned again, his lips pinched tightly. “Not today, I have other things to do. Something came up, it’s about our Russian facilities and…” The rest of his sentence died on his lips. “I have to take care of it.”

“Okay,” she said, still frowning.

He walked back inside his office and closed the Venetian blinds suspended to the glass doors of his office. It was the first time he was closing them, in the few months they had been working together. Shaking her head, astonished by his weird behaviour, Felicity went back to her desk, Thea watching her carefully.

“What’s wrong with him?” She asked.

She shrugged. “No idea,” she said, her voice small. “He seemed fine when I left to help Curtis.”

“He was arguing with Isabel over the phone when I came in,” the young Queen said, dragging a chair so that she could settle at a corner of Felicity’s desk. It was big enough for the both of them to use it without bothering each other.

The name of the woman engaged to her soulmate made Felicity’s blood boil in her veins and her bond snarled unhappily. At least, she thought it snarled, it was hard to say since it was still strained by the daily dose of the Med she was taking. She hadn’t gone to buy the stronger pills, hence the burn when she had touched both Tommy, Dig and Thea. Her usual dosage still did a pretty good job at keeping her separated from Oliver. Well, in a way, since she was burning except when he touched her. But she was at least sure he didn’t suspect anything about them and that was perfectly fine with her. The only different thing now was that her bond was communicating more openly with her. Or she was understanding it better since she knew the truth. She honestly didn’t know which reasons she loved best.

Felicity occupied herself by responding to all his emails and by setting down the meetings they had previously talked about. She was often interrupted by Thea, who got her to help her with her algebra’s homework. Felicity didn’t mind it much, especially because just like her brother, Thea seemed to get things when she explained them. Maybe she had missed her vocation after all and should have become a teacher.

Oliver still hadn’t reopened his office’s blinds when it was time for them to leave Q. Inc. Felicity and Thea stared at one another not knowing whether or not they should go talk to him. They turned toward Dig for advice who encouraged them to at least try.

“Lead the way,” Thea said, motioning toward Oliver’s closed door. “Not in the mood to deal with my grumpy brother now.”

Felicity took a deep breath before knocking at the door.

“Come in,” Oliver allowed.

She did as she had been told. He was sitting behind his desk, papers scattered in front of him. He had loosened up his tie around his neck and rolled up his sleeves. She had never seen him look so rumpled at work and if she was entirely honest with herself, she’d admit it was really working for him. And her.

“You okay?” She asked.

“Yeah… No, it’s complicated.”

She took a cautious step toward him. “Want to talk about it?”

He shook his head. “I can’t, family business. What did you want?”

She nodded, straightening up and stepping away from him. “Just to tell you we were heading off. Dig’s staying though.”

“Right, okay. Tell him to go to, I’m going to be here for a while and I don’t want him to go home too late.”

She frowned. “Are you sure you don’t need help?”

“I’m 100% sure you can’t help me,” he replied and it hurt a bit. She knew it wasn’t his fault, that there were things he couldn’t share but still. The rejection stung.

“Okay then, we’re leaving. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah right,” he said, already going back to the papers in front of him.

She walked out and closed the door. She told Dig what Oliver had said and the three of them left together. Felicity and Thea walked in silence to the blonde’s car. They hadn’t seen one another ever since the charity organised by Tommy where the young Queen had gotten drunk. They had talked through texts a few times already but they still hadn’t talked about what had happened. Felicity didn’t particularly want to bring it up, she wasn’t Thea’s mother or sister. But if her friend wanted to talk about it then she wouldn’t push her away as well. And judging from the way she was suddenly all tensed up and fidgeting, Thea very much wanted to talk about it.

They got in Felicity’s car and the blonde pulled out, Thea messing with the radio until she found a station playing songs which reminded Felicity of her night out in the club with Sara. It reminded her of the good parts of that evening, the dancing and the drinking, not the bad parts and that’s why it didn’t bother her to listen to them.

“Lissy,” Thea said after five minutes of watching Felicity driving.

“Yes?” The blonde replied, turning her head to look at her. She looked so small in her car seat, with her legs crossed and her traditional beanie on top of her head. That girl was always wearing either a beanie or a cap, it was quite fascinating.

“I realise now I haven’t really apologized for my behaviour’s at Tommy’s charity the other day…” She started and Felicity mentally high-fived herself. She was becoming really good at reading the Queens children and she wondered to what extent her bond with Oliver was involved in that.

“You don’t have to apologize to me,” Felicity was quick to reassure her.

“Well, that’s not true. My behaviour that night affected you as well.”

Felicity let out a small breath. “Honestly Thea, the only thing affecting me, worrying me, is you. I just want you to be okay and I think we can both agree you were not that night.”

The brunette nodded and Felicity glanced quickly at her. Her jaw was clenched, her fingers white because she was holding on her seatbelt too tightly. “I got into another fight with my mother and I drank because I wanted to… I wanted to piss her off.” She paused for a second then, looking for the right words to explain herself. “You might have noticed my mother is someone who loves being in control. She wants things to go her way and her way only.”

Felicity chuckled bitterly. “Don’t I know about that?” She whispered, not only thinking about Moira’s behaviour ever since she had started working for Oliver but also her behaviour when she had been sixteen and Moira had daintily deemed her unsuitable for her son.

“Well, a drunk me is not something she can control,” Thea stated bluntly.

“But you do realise you’re hurting yourself in the process, right?” Felicity asked her and Thea nodded.

“That’s what Ollie told me the next day.” She sighed and Felicity felt sorry for Thea. Her mother may have been hard to handle when she had been younger but she’d never done anything she knew would hurt on purpose. Sure she could have taken the Med on her own volition, but she had been too broken to do so. Felicity didn’t know Moira personally but she sure as hell didn’t look like a broken woman.

“What were you arguing about?” She asked.

“About her controlling problem mostly, and the fact that she’s still handling my SID’s account.”

Felicity tilted her head. “I thought you didn’t want to meet your soulmate, to know who he was. You said you didn’t want to be with him.”

Thea shrugged. “For his own sake,” she reminded her. “But then a friend of mine pointed out he had a voice in the matter. It was as much his call as it is mine.”

Felicity felt pride burst in her chest and a bright smile spread on her lips.

“There’s no need to look so smug,” Thea told her rather dryly but when Felicity glanced at her, she saw she was holding back a smile.

“What happened with your mother?” Felicity asked then.

Thea shrugged. “She refused to give me the passwords to my account,” she shook her head. “God, I can’t wait to turn eighteen. Then, she won’t have any other choice but to hand them to me.”

“Then what? You’ll go after your soulmate? What if he doesn’t have a SID’s account?”

Thea shrugged. “I’ll give a final goodbye to my mother dearest nonetheless and be on my merry way. She’ll probably freeze my trust funds but who needs so much money to live anyway?”

Felicity didn’t know if she was kidding or dead serious. She looked really serious and it kind of worried her. “I’m sure Oliver would help you,” she said, her tone voluntarily reassuring.

Thea chuckled dryly. “For that, he’d have to stand up for himself and it’s not something he has ever been good at doing.”

Felicity frowned. What was she talking about? Before she could ask that question, Thea was already going on.

“I don’t want to end up like him, you know? Working for my parents, doing what they ask of me, even the most absurd and stupid things.”

Because Felicity knew Isabel wasn’t Oliver’s soulmate and he was marrying her because it was what his parents expected of him, she had no problems understanding the meaning behind his sister’s words. But she couldn’t let her know she understood, she’d promised Oliver she’d keep his secret.

Thea’s words worried Felicity a little bit though. She was postponing telling Oliver the truth about them because she wanted to know where she stood on a juridical point first. She knew telling him everything would be the hardest thing she had ever done. She knew they’d fight over what had happened between them but she also believed they’d make it. Mending their bond would be hard but if she’d learnt anything from their short time together, it was that they made a good team. A team good enough to achieve great things. And some parts of her actually believed in them enough to think that someday, they’d be together. But that could only happen if he chose her instead of his family. And all of the sudden, she wasn’t sure he would.

“He’d have to stand up for himself and it’s not something he has ever been good at doing.”

Swallowing down the feeling of uneasiness that had risen up inside of her, Felicity turned toward Thea.

“I don’t understand your mother. Her story with your father is incredible. It’s fairy tale’s material and yet, she is controlling your SID’s account. Controlling whether or not you know about your soulmate.”

Thea let out a small breath. It took her a while to reply but when she did, her words made Felicity’s heart skip a beat in her chest. “A word of advice? You shouldn’t believe everything you read about our family in the magazines or online.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Thea shrugged. “Can’t tell you. We all have our secrets after all.”

She orientated the conversation toward a more frivolous topic right after that and Felicity let her do so. She wasn’t ready to unveil more of the Queen family’s secrets. She had already enough in her plate with hers. But she did put that particular information aside in her mind, just in case.

“By the way, I’m buying your dress,” Thea informed her. “And your shoes and accessories.”

Felicity choked on own saliva. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah, for Hanukah.”

Felicity shook her head firmly. “No, it’s too much. I can’t accept. I refuse to accept.”

Thea chuckled. “Too bad I’m not leaving you the choice, right?”

“Thea…”

“Felicity no,” Thea cut her off. “Please, let me do this for you. My parents’ party is a big deal and I want you to be the Cinderella to my fairy godmother self. Again,” she quickly added.

“Thea…”

“Felicity, please…” And then she gave her a look, the very same look Oliver always gave her whenever he wanted to ask her something. Felicity turned to look at the road again, feeling her heart melt in her chest.

“Okay,” she eventually gave in. “But it will be the one and only time, do you hear me? After that, you’re done helping me out, okay?”

Thea gave her a mischievous smile that meant trouble. “We’ll see about that,” she said.

They spent a few hours at Carl’s, Thea had two dresses to pick, one for her parents’ party, another for her high-school winter’s ball and Felicity only one, but both the brunette and the blonde were particularly picky that day. They ended up eating Chinese take-out there, Carl feeding them with stories from the time he was working for a very famous designer house.

The next day, Oliver acted the same way. He locked himself up in his office, closed the blinds and let her go about her business. Which was both weird and unsettling. Something was wrong, she could feel it but he was distancing himself so much, she didn’t know how to reach him anymore. He didn’t even come to have lunch with her, which he always did. He just got what she ordered for him, barely thanking her before locking himself again in his office. She ended up eating with Dig alone, which was fine with her, she enjoyed his company but still. She was hurt by his behaviour especially because she didn’t understand it.

She heard Dig chuckle and she looked up from her pasta box and from the piece of meat she had been torturing with her fork for five good minutes.

“What’s so funny?”

He shook his head, amusement making his eyes shine brightly. “You have the exact same sulking look on your face Oliver had when you were dealing with your moving out and barely speaking a word to him.”

She opened her mouth to say something but closed it.

“I’m not sulking,” she said after five minutes.

“Sure you aren’t,” Dig said.

She rolled her eyes at him and forced herself to be more cheerful. Whatever it was that was bothering Oliver wouldn’t last. He’d handle it and then move on. At least she hoped so.

She hoped for five whole hours. Then he walked out of his office, looking as rumpled as the day before and more tired. There were bags under his eyes and she felt concern fill her veins.

“Are you okay?” She asked, jumping on her feet.

“Isabel is coming back from Russia earlier than planned. She’ll be here by the end of the week and will divide her time between QC and Q. Inc,” he announced her.

The news had the effect of a cold shower on Felicity and crushed all our hopes for a quick problems’ resolution. Because Isabel’s presence meant trouble. BIG trouble.

“But… Why?”

“My parents have been negotiating an even stronger partnership with her company. She’s coming over to finalise the terms of the agreement.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”

He pinched his lips together and she saw his shoulders fall slightly. “It’s a recent development,” he confessed. “Things are fastening.”

She frowned. “Is that why you’ve been distancing yourself from your side projects?” She asked him. She knew Oliver had developed them and hired Curtis because it was something he really was interested in and a way for Q. Inc to become self-sufficient and in the meantime, prove to his parents he was a good businessman, could charm investors and build a project of his own. But lately, he had been more invested in the projects his parents had sent over to him.

He sighed. “Kind of. It’s complicated.”

He looked really tired, almost weary and Felicity couldn’t help but reach out for his arm. She squeezed it slightly and he gave her a small smile. “Hey, you know I’m here if you need anything.”

“Yeah, I just…” He hesitated. “I know you and Isabel don’t go along very well. I don’t want you involve with her or my business with my family.”

“Is that why you quite literally pushed me to go with Curtis yesterday?”

 “Yeah…” He scratched the back of his head. “This project it’s… It’s like our baby and I trust you with it while my parents keep me busy with other things.”

Felicity smiled when he called the project their baby. Because he was right. She had helped him develop it. She had helped him pick investors, she had gone with him to meet them. She had advised him on who to hire, she had been there to analyse data and explained them to him. The technologies developed may come from Curtis’ mind but the whole thing was their baby. She swallowed, hard, a myriad of emotions bubbling in her chest. She looked away from his bright blue eyes, chewing down on her lips. A moment like this made it hard for her not to tell him the truth. She felt the words press down on her lips, threatening to fall without her consent. But she couldn’t, not yet.

“Thank you,” she told him.

He nodded. “The day’s over,” he went on. “And you have your appointment with Laurel, so get out of here. No need to pull extra hours.”

“Yeah, right. Don’t stay too late,” she said, putting her coat on.

“I can’t promise anything on that front,” he told her and she just shook her head at him.

Laurel was working for one of Star City’s biggest law firm and Felicity got stuck in traffic on her way to her office, much to her displeasure. But she eventually made it and walked inside the building, which was lavishly decorated. She immediately took off her beanie, the weather had been very cold in Star City lately, taking in her surroundings. Everything looked impeccable, almost immaculate. Even the plants in pots were perfectly cut. She felt a bit out of place as she made her way toward the reception desk. A young man was sitting behind it.

“Good afternoon miss what can I do to help you?”

“I’m a friend of Laurel Lance and she told me it was okay to come by. Could you please tell me where her office is?”

He nodded. “Sure thing, you must be Felicity Smoak?”

“Exactly, I’m her.” She shook her head, her ponytail bouncing on her shoulders. “I mean, it’s me.”

He chuckled, obviously amused by her. “2nd floor, second door on the right.”

“Thank you very much, have a nice end of day.”

“You too,” he wished her, smiling brightly.

She found Laurel’s office pretty quickly. The glass door was closed but she could see Laurel reading a file through it. She knocked softly. Laurel looked up from the paper in front of her and smiled at her before motioning for her to enter.

“Come in,” she said.

Felicity nodded and opened the door. In the meantime, Laurel got up to meet her. They greeted one another politely. They had gotten along well the few times they had met but they weren’t really intimate. Still, Felicity found it nice not to feel the burn when they touched.

“Felicity, it’s good to see you,” the brunette told her, smiling kindly.

“It’s good to see you too, and thank you really for agreeing to meet me. I’m sure you have a lot of work to do and…”

Laurel raised a hand to stop her. “Don’t mention it. I’m always happy to help a friend out.”

Felicity smiled at her and sat down when she gestured for her to do so. “How are you?” She asked, dropping her bag at her feet.

“I’m okay, what about you?”

“I’m okay too,” Felicity replied.

“So what brought you here today?” Laurel asked her, leaning down toward her.

“Hm…” Felicity hesitated looking around her. “Just before we get started, hm… Even though I’m not one of your clients, none of the things I’m going to tell you today are going to leave that office, right?”

Laurel nodded firmly. “That goes without saying of course. I’m bound by professional confidentiality.”

Felicity let out a small relieved breath. “Okay, great. So, hm, well…” Felicity stammered, reaching for her bag and pulling out the contract she had signed when she had been sixteen. “Four years ago, my soulmate’s family reached out to me and in exchange of money and a place for my mother in a soulmate’s clinic, they asked me to give up on my soulmate’s rights.”

Laurel didn’t even bat an eye at her confession and instead reached for the contract. She had probably heard crazier things in her career. “And now you want your soulmate’s rights back?”

“You could say that. I met him,” she confessed. “He doesn’t know about me but I know about him and our bond is strong. Crazy strong. Running away from it isn’t really an option anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to fulfil my part of the contract, it’s just that I can’t anymore.”

Laurel frowned. “If you could fulfil it, would you?”

Felicity bit on her lip. “Probably not,” she whispered.

Laurel nodded and went over the contract quickly. Felicity watched her carefully as she read it, underlining a few things here and there.

“Well,” she said after a while, “I’m afraid everything depends on your soulmate’s family. If you break your part of the agreement and goes to your soulmate without talking to them first, they could sue you.”

Felicity huffed back a bitter laugh. “We’re talking about soulmates,” she reminded Laurel. “What kind of judge wouldn’t decide in my favour?”

Laurel shook her head. “Felicity this isn’t about love, this is about business. If you break a contract, a judge can demand you give back what’s been given to you in the first place. And from what I’m reading, it would be an insanely huge amount of money.”

“So what can I do?” Felicity asked, her shoulders going limp at the news.

“You could take a lawyer and get in touch with them but I don’t recommend you do that. It would look very aggressive.”

“Then what do you recommend I do?”

Laurel intertwined her fingers together. “Well, you could try to go talk to them yourself.”

Felicity shook her head immediately. “I don’t think they’ll listen to me,” she admitted.

“Then, you could get back in touch with the mediator they sent you four years ago and ask him to do his job. Mediate. Find a new arrangement. And if you don’t want to deal with the same mediator, I’m sure you’ll find a trustworthy one in town.”

Felicity considered it immediately. From a logical point of view, she agreed with Laurel. Asking for a mediator to help them find a new arrangement looked like the best solution. But Felicity had gathered enough about Moira Queen to know she’d refuse to allow her back in Oliver’s life. She had gone to great length to scare her away before, she highly doubted she’d see reason now. Especially if she had already picked a suitable woman for Oliver, aka Isabel Rochev.

Felicity pinched her nose slightly, suddenly feeling extremely tired.

“Felicity are you okay?” Laurel asked, concern laced in her voice.

She nodded. “Yeah… Just, you know, worried.”

Laurel reached for her hand. “You don’t have to. If your bond is as strong as you say it is then you have nothing to be worried about. Your soulmate’s parents will break the contract.”

Felicity let out a shaky breath. “My soulmate’s family…. They hate me.”

“They…” Laurel stopped herself, realisation coming down upon her. “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know the answer to that question but… Who’s your soulmate Felicity?”

Felicity pinched her lips together, frozen in place. She stared at Laurel and she didn’t like what she saw in her eyes. She waited for a few seconds to pass, for her heart to settle in her chest, before saying. “You’re right Laurel, you don’t want to know the answer to that question.”

The brunette nodded, giving her an encouraging smile. They talked some more, about the technicalities of the contract Felicity had signed and then about everything and nothing at the time. When she left her office, Felicity wasn’t feeling any better. If anything, she was feeling more lost than ever.

Felicity had thought she’d have time to put herself back on track during the days before they all left for ten days of vacation on December the 23rd. She had been wrong, dead wrong. Oliver hadn’t been kidding when he had told her he trusted her with their side projects. He had been extremely busy with his parents and Isabel during those days and because of that, she had been extremely busy herself handling everything else. They had barely talked to each other in almost three weeks, Isabel taking up all of his time. The days she was at Q. Inc, she was already in his office with him when Felicity arrived, they went out to eat lunch together and when they came back it was to lock themselves in his office again. And the days she wasn’t at Q. Inc, either she or Oliver’s parents made sure he had a lot to do and very little time to accord to Felicity and their side-projects. Isabel was using the “soulmate” argument to her advantage an awful lot and the blonde had been very tempted to put her back to her rightful place more than once but had always held herself back. She couldn’t say anything before she met with the mediator and they had an appointment settled for January, 2017.

It had been hard though, very hard for her to see Isabel and Oliver together. She knew they were just pretending, she knew it was an arranged marriage but still. It had made her heart clench painfully in her chest to see Isabel on Oliver’s arms, it had made her blood boil to see her hands all over his body and it had driven her bond crazy to hear her claim he was her soulmate. No. He was Felicity’s. The rational part of her mind knew Oliver wasn’t a piece of meat but the most primal part of her, the one controlled by her bond didn’t care at all. And the fact that Isabel acted like a total bitch to her whenever Oliver was leaving them alone hadn’t made things any better. He had been careful with that, always making sure to be with them but he had had to leave them a few times and whenever he had done so, Isabel had made sure to show Felicity just how much she despised her. Her condescending attitude had made Felicity clench her fists a few times. Even Mandy Miller in high-school hadn’t gotten under her skin the way Isabel Rochev had. But then again, Mandy Miller hadn’t kissed her soulmate – apparently, it had only happened because a few photographers had surprised them on a date night. Still. Yuk.

She had had a lot to do at Q. Inc and she had realized, much to her displeasure, how sad it was to work without Oliver. He made things easy for her, the same way she made things easy for him because they were complementary. What she couldn’t do, he could, what she could do, he couldn’t. And they were good friends, teasing one another regularly, sometimes bickering over the other’s annoying habits. It made the day go faster and the most boring stuff relatively fun to do. Facing everything alone, except for the five seconds it took him to apply his signature where it was needed, had been awful. But the saddest part had been that she had missed him. She had missed him while he had been only a few feet away from her and she had hated it very much.

And while Felicity had been busy at Q. Inc, she had been busy outside of the company as well. She had spent a lot of time with Thea. Things were tensed between her and her parents. They were arguing a lot, about her grades, looks and a few other stuff and usually she’d go to her brother’s place to escape her house but she didn’t go along very well with Isabel, that hadn’t surprised Felicity much, and so she had sought refuge at her place. She hadn’t dared going to Tommy’s, although he was practically like her second brother because he was living with his soulmate and she hadn’t wanted to bother their daily life. So Felicity had found herself spending a lot of time with Thea, at her place or at the library or at the movies’ often wishing she could do more to help her. And on top of that, she had gone out with her other friends, eating dinner at the Allen’s after watching JJ for them or attending her boxing classes with Sara twice a week.

She also had had to plan her ten days of vacation. Her mother was coming over for Hanukah. She would be arriving on December the 24th, the first night of Hanukah and leaving on January the 2nd. Felicity really wanted to make these days of vacation and celebration with her mother special. The previous year, they hadn’t really had a nice time. It had only been a few months after Cooper and Felicity had still been dealing with the aftermath of her abduction, nightmares, panic attacks and other delightful stuff. Tommy had invited them over for lunch on Christmas day, and she had accepted. Her mother had gotten along with all her friends when they had met for Thanksgiving and she knew it would be the perfect moment for them to exchange presents. Plus, Tommy had sworn to have their faith well-represented as well in his home. The only black spot was going to be Oliver and Thea’s absence. They were going to spend the day with their parents, sadly. She would only see them again at their parents’ party, on December the 28th.

So Felicity had been really busy, meaning she hadn’t had much time to think about Oliver and the fact he was her soulmate. She had gotten back in touch with James Wilde, the mediator Oliver’s parents had sent to her almost five years ago and they had set up an appointment and that was about as much as she had thought of Oliver and the fact he was her soulmate. She was doing her best to avoid thinking about all of it because she knew once she started, she’d want only one thing: talk things out. And she couldn’t. Not yet.

Donna’s plane landed on time in Star City and the moment she saw her mother, Felicity regretted forgetting her sunglasses at home. She was wearing a bright orange form-fitting dress absolutely not appropriate for the snowy weather of the city. But she looked good, with her golden locks bouncing on her shoulders, her tanned skin and killer legs that seemed to go on forever because of her heels.

“Oh my beautiful girl!!” She said when she saw Felicity. “I’m so happy to see you!”

“Mom,” Felicity said, hugging her tightly. “I’m so happy to see you too.”

And she truly meant it. The last few days had been particularly exhausting, because of the situation at Q. Inc and because of all the things that were going on in her personal life as well. Felicity could handle a lot but at the end of the day, she was still a twenty-year-old who sometimes just needed her mother to hug her.

“Let me look at you,” Donna asked, pulling away from her but still holding on to her shoulders. “Oh baby, you’re so beautiful,” she added after a checking on her.

Felicity herself blush, her hands straightening her mother’s hair. “You too, mom. You look very good.”

They went to get her suitcase then, hands in hands. Once they had gotten it, they went back to Felicity’s place. Donna took some time to get herself settled in the guest-room, while Felicity sat on her bed, quietly listening to her mother happy chit-chat about Vegas and her job. It felt good to see her so happy and full of energy. It had been a while since she had last seen her like this, it was almost as if she was… Glowing.

When Donna was done emptying her suitcase, the two Smoak women settled down in the living-room, glasses of wine in hands.

“I like what you’ve done with this place,” Donna said, looking around her and humming appreciatively. “You’ve made yourself at home here.”

“Yeah, I did,” Felicity agreed. She had changed a few things since her mother had last been inside her house.

“But…” Donna looked down toward her glass of wine. “It’s a big place for a girl alone.”

Felicity arched an eyebrow. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying maybe it’s time for you to find a boyfriend…”

Felicity froze. She hadn’t told her mother about Oliver, or that she’d met her soulmate. She had really wanted to, because she knew her mother’s advice could be precious and maybe help her out but it hadn’t felt right to tell anyone, Oliver needed to be the first one to know.

“I was thinking about getting a cat actually,” Felicity told her, not wanting to have the “boyfriend” conversation with her mother.

“Felicity,” Donna said, giving her a look. “A cat is not a person.”

“That’s exactly why I want one,” Felicity said, feeling a ball of anger form itself inside her chest.

“Baby, not all people are like Cooper. Or your father.”

Felicity raised a hand to interrupt her, her blood boiling at the mere mention of these two men. “Stop mom, right here!” She demanded harshly. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

Donna pinched her lips together, looking down her glass again. Felicity looked down too, her anger receding slightly.

“I just want you to be happy Felicity,” her mother told her then, her voice soft and soothing. “And you seem lonely.”

Felicity shook her head, chuckling. “How can you say that mom? I have a lot of friends.”

“Your friends don’t warm your bed at night,” Donna pointed out.

“Yes and that’s why I bought an extra blanket the other day,” Felicity replied dryly, making abundantly clear the fact she didn’t want to discuss that particular matter any longer. “Look mom, I appreciate your concern,” she said, trying to calm down a bit and soften her voice. “But I’m fine, really.”

Donna nodded, not looking utterly convinced. They moved from the couch after that and while Felicity reheated some pizza for, Donna made a salad. They sat down around the table, Felicity going over their programs for the next few days.

“You’ll be alone the night of the Queen’s party, sorry about that mom. It’s not really something I can skip,” Felicity apologised. She hated that she had to leave her mother alone, she didn’t know when they’d see each other again and she wanted to make the most of the time they had together.

“I know baby girl, you’ve already told me about it, remember? I’ve planned something to occupy myself.”

Felicity cocked her head. “You have? What is it?”

Donna cleared her throat. “I’m going out on a date hon.”

Felicity’s eyes widened and she dropped her fork in her plate. “You’re… You’re…” She stammered, at a loss for words.

“Going out on a date,” Donna repeated. “Yes.”

“But… How – when – who?”

“Well, it’s something I’ve been discussing with my therapist for a while now. He thinks I’m ready to explore new things, contact with other men.”

“But… Do you feel ready?” Felicity asked, completely astonished by the news.

Donna nodded. “Yeah, I do actually. I’ve met someone. We’ve gotten along pretty well and we’ve agreed to go out on a first date.”

Felicity stared at her mother, not knowing what to say. Her mind had just been blown away.

“Honey, could you please say something?” Donna asked after a while of silence, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

“When I saw you at the airport, I thought you were glowing,” Felicity told her, smiling softly at her.

Donna frowned. “What are you saying?”

Felicity leaned toward her and reached for her hand. “I’m saying if the man you’ve met is the reason why you’re glowing that beautifully then I want you to go out on more than one date with him.”

A bright smile spread on Donna’s lips and with her free hand, she stroked Felicity’s cheek tenderly. “Thank you baby girl,” she said, her voice tight with emotions.

The rest of the day went by quietly. They only went out to go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients they’d need to cook latkes and fried pastries as well as flowers for the next day at Tommy and Laurel’s. When they were done, they spent the afternoon cooking, following the recipes left by Felicity’s grandmother punctiliously. None of them were great bakers but they did their best, putting their heart and soul into their task. They talked about older times, when their family was bigger. It did some real good to Felicity, to be with her mother and to surround herself with her family’s traditions. A pang of emotion tugged at her heart when she thought about how she used to help her grandmother and how she’d always let her lick what was left of the dough. The evening, they spent it talking, humming songs and blessing and lighting up their Menorah.

The two bouquets of flowers, one for Felicity, the other for her mother, were delivered around nine pm. There was a card attached to each of them, but Felicity didn’t need to read hers to know who had sent them. She smelt the pink daisies’ sweet perfume, letting it engulf her. Reaching for the card with a bright smile on her lips, she eventually opened it.

“Felicity,

Thank you for coming into my life.

May you always be in the light.

Happy Hanukah.

- Oliver.”

She traced the outline of his perfect handwriting with the tip of her index finger, her heart speeding up slightly in her chest at his words. She pinched her lips together tightly, hoping to dyke the wave of emotions she was feeling rising up inside of her. In the end, it was Donna’s voice who brought her back.

“When am I going to meet Oliver Queen, Felicity?” She asked. “Tell me he’ll be here tomorrow.”

She wiped her eyes quickly, letting out a shaky laugh. “I’m afraid he won’t, he’s busy with his own family.”

Donna shook her head. “That’s a pity. Felicity, you have to organise a meeting with him while I’m here. You speak so highly of him and now he’s sending us flowers… I really want to meet him.”

“Well, I’ll see what I can do mom,” she said, the thought of her mother meeting her soulmate dreadful. It was easy to lie about who he was to her when he was absent. It would be less easy with him around. She was pretty sure her mother would notice something, she was her mother after all. Mothers had a super-powers around their children, they were always noticing everything.

The next morning, they both woke up really early. They had to get ready to go to Tommy’s place and they had also promised to bring fried pastries and more latkes meaning they had to bake fresh ones before leaving.

They left Felicity’s apartment around noon. A cold spell had fallen on Star City and it had snowed heavily during the night. The main roads and accesses had been cleared up but driving was complicated nonetheless, especially because of the patches of ice. The path that lead to Tommy’s house had been partially cleared and Felicity smiled at the mental picture of Tommy, out in the cold early in the morning armed with a shovel to put the snow away for his friends. The snow cover was thick, and Felicity could only imagine how his garden looked. Something told her they’d probably end up playing outside at some point. Thankfully, she had brought spare clothes to change into. Just in case.

She parked her car and noticed Barry’s car was already there. A smile spread on her lips as her mother got the flowers for Laurel and half of the pastries. Felicity reached for the bag of presents in her car’s chest, and took the rest of the pastries. Heavily laden, they made their way to the house. It was Barry who opened the door to greet them, a squealing JJ in his arms.

“F’Licity! F’licity!” He said, his small arms held in front of him, reaching out for her, his brown curls bouncing on top of his head.

“Isn’t that my favourite little boy?” Felicity replied, a bright smile on her lips as Barry stepped aside to let her in. She felt JJ’s arms brushed her sides and she turned around awkwardly, kissing his cheek soundly.

“Ah lipstick!” He giggled, rubbing his cheek to take away the sticky colour, still reaching out for Felicity with his free hand.

“Calm down buddy,” Barry told him. “Let Felicity breathe, she’s barely arrived!”

“But I want to show her what Santa brought me,” he pouted.

“In a minute JJ,” Felicity said.

“Lissy hey!” Tommy’s happy voice greeted her from the living room. In a second he was here, helping her out with the presents and taking the pastries from her mother’s hands.

“Tommy! Merry Christmas!” She told him, hugging him tightly in spite of the burn.

It was unpleasant and she knew it would grow more unpleasant throughout the day. There was no way she could avoid touching her friends on Christmas day but she was determinate not to let that ruin her day the way it already had in the past. Knowing what caused the burn helped her because she knew nothing was wrong with her.

“Happy Hanukah Felicity, I’m glad you’re here.”

“I’m glad to be here too!”

He winked at her, before greeting her mother properly as well. Laurel and Iris joined them and Donna offered the flowers they had bought the day before to Laurel. Felicity hugged Iris first, she was looking as beautiful as ever, before turning toward Barry and hugging him as well, taking JJ from his arms in the process. The little boy practically leaped into her arms and when he wrapped his little arms around her neck to hug her, she couldn’t help but let her head fall against his, the characteristic smell of babies’ shampoo, soap and cream filling her nose.

“Daddy told me not to say Merry Christmas. He said to say Happy Hanukah,” he actually had to pronounce it thrice before getting it right. “So Happy Hanukah F’licity.”

“Thank you JJ, Merry Christmas to you. Did Santa bring you your presents already?”

He nodded firmly. “Yes, but I think Santa is too old.”

Felicity frowned, while everyone around them quietened to listen to his reedy voice. “Why would you say that?” She asked while he played with one of her curls.

“Uncle Tommy said he brought something for me here too because he had forget to leave it under the tree.”

“Forgotten,” Iris corrected him immediately. “Because he’d forgotten sweetheart,” she repeated and JJ nodded.

“If Santa is getting too old to be Santa, who is going to bring me presents next year?”

Felicity chewed on her lips, looking for the right answer. She adjusted JJ’s position her hip before saying. “Santa’s not getting too old JJ, he just brought you something here so that you’d have a present to open with all of us.”

“But uncle Tommy said he forgot it…” He argued stubbornly.

“Uncle Tommy made a mistake,” Felicity shot back. “It’s been a while since he was a little boy and he doesn’t remember how Santa operates well.”

“Hey!” She heard Tommy protest. “Are you calling me old?”

She nodded, grinning proudly and everyone in the room burst out laughing. “And if you want to know the whole truth,” Felicity went on as they all moved to the living-room, while Laurel went to the kitchen with Iris, “Santa brought presents at my house for you too. He knows I’m your friend and he trusted me to give them to you.”

“I made a drawing for you F’licity. I’ll go get it!”

JJ wiggled for Felicity to put him down then and as soon as she did, he ran away. She watched him go fondly when she felt Tommy stood next to her.

“How are you Lissy?” He asked.

“Good, you?”

“Good too,” he replied, giving her a small smile.

She hesitated for a second before asking. “Your father?”

“I saw him yesterday, we ate lunch together. And he took the company’s jet today to spend Christmas out of the country.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, pressing his arm tenderly, in an attempt to comfort him.

“Don’t be, it’s been like that for a while. I’m used to him not being here.”

She shook her head. “We both know it’s not something a child ever gets used to.”

He nodded, pulling her in for a hug no more words needed. They both knew how it felt not to have their father around.

“Are you guys okay?” Barry asked them then, putting a hand on Felicity’s shoulder. It enhanced the burn, already burning hotter because of Tommy’s hug but she gritted her teeth and didn’t let anything get noticed.

“Yeah, we were just talking about…” Tommy lowered his voice. “Fathers.”

Barry’s shoulders went limp. “I visited mine at the soulmate’s clinic this morning.”

Felicity felt for him. It was something they often talked about, his father and how he was doing at the clinic. Felicity knew exactly what Barry was going through and she could sometimes understand him better than Iris. She obviously couldn’t support or comfort him the way she could, but she did understand him. Sometimes he barely had to say a few words before she interrupted him, knowing exactly what was going on and she found herself more often than not offering him advice based on her own experiences with her mother.

She gave him a small smile, squeezing his hand softly. His father still had a long way to go before he could celebrate Christmas with him again. But he would eventually, just like Felicity’s mother was there to celebrate Hanukah with her.

They were interrupted by the door opening again and the arrival of Sara and her father, Quentin, and soon enough, they were all standing in the living-room, drinking the aperitif and talking loudly. Felicity played a little bit with JJ, who showed her his brand new remote-controlled car while Tommy and Barry put the presents brought by Santa at other people’s places under the Christmas tree. Yeah, next year, they’d have to prepare this part of the celebrations better.  

Felicity and JJ had followed the car in the entryway when they heard the bell ring. They exchanged a surprised look. Felicity turned toward the living-room’s door and saw Tommy on his way to her. He motioned for her to open the door. She did it and her eyes widened when she saw who was waiting on the other side.

Thea and Oliver.

A smile spread on the brunette’s lips when she saw Felicity and she launched herself in her arms.

“Happy Hanukah Lissy!” She said happily.

The blonde’s arms automatically wrapped around her neck, her eyes still wide opened.

What were they doing here? What was going on? Had something happened?

“Merry Christmas Thea,” she whispered in her ears, her eyes glued to Oliver.

He was looking as handsome as usual but there was something wrong with him. There were bags under his eyes and he wasn’t holding himself up the way he usually did. His shoulders were limp and the look on his face, sad, preoccupied, until JJ jumped in his arms.

“Uncle ‘Liver!” He shout, clapping his hand happily.

“Hey buddy!” He replied, high-fiving him, a smile illuminating his face a little bit.

“Ollie! What are you doing here?” Tommy asked, a smile stretching his lips at the sight of his best friend. “And Speedy, you’re here too!” He added when Thea pulled away from Felicity.

“Party sucked at the Queen mansion,” she explained, letting him pull her in for a hug. “And when I left, my brooding brother decided to tag along.”

“I’m not brooding,” Oliver said through gritted teeth.

“Whatever,” Thea replied, letting go of Tommy. She gave her brother a weird look, shaking her head in disapproval before walking inside the house. “Hey Laurel! It’s been a while!” She enthusiastically greeted their host.

“C’me on F’licity! Say hi to Uncle ‘Liver.”

“Oliver,” she corrected JJ, raising up on her toes to kiss his nose. “Hi,” she added turning to face Oliver. “You okay?” Now that she was closer to him, his weariness was even more flagrant. But he did his best to chase it away and he gave her a small smile nonetheless.

“Yes, I’m fine,” he lied and she didn’t hold it up against him. She understand it wasn’t the time nor the place to talk.

“Come on, let’s get inside,” Tommy encouraged them all. “It’s cold here.”

Oliver nodded and they all walked inside the house, Tommy closing the door behind them. “I’m sorry we’re showing up unexpectedly.”

Tommy shook his head, raising a hand to stop him. “None of this with me buddy. You know you’re always welcomed in my house.”

“Mommy, daddy, look!” JJ said when they reached the living-room again. “Uncle ‘Liver is here.”

Felicity glanced at her mother, waiting not so patiently for her reactions. Donna didn’t disappoint. Her eyes widened when she saw Oliver and while she had been talking animatedly to Laurel and Sara’s father just a minute ago, she was now utterly silent. Felicity bit her lip when she saw her check him out. It was typical of her mother, she had taken that habit in Vegas’ casinos.

Shaking her head, Felicity stepped in, ready to make the presentation but JJ beat her to it.

“It’s Felicity’s mommy,” he explained. “And this is Uncle ‘Liver,” he went on, patting his chest lightly – and the sight of Oliver holding a child was so insanely cute, it made Felicity’s heart fluttered in her chest.

Felicity huffed back a laugh. “My boss,” she added.

“And friend,” Oliver completed. “Mrs Smoak, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

The word “Mrs” seemed to get Donna out of her reverie and she said, shaking his hand firmly. “Oh my god, please call me Donna. Mrs Smoak was my mother!”

“Okay… Donna,” he added, flashing her a bright smile and when Donna blushed slightly, Felicity could help but laugh for good.

Felicity found herself stuck between the Queen siblings when it was time to sit down to eat. The blonde didn’t mind it one bit, on the contrary. Being close to Oliver alleviated the pain of the burn and Thea kept cracking jokes in her ear. The meal went smoothly, the food was delicious, the wine tasty and the conversation flew lightly between all of them.

They went back to sit in the living-room after the dessert. Iris had put JJ to sleep, he had stayed up late the night before to try to catch Santa and needed to rest. They’d wait for him to open the presents. Tommy turned the TV on and they watched a Christmas movie while drinking warm wine, still talking. Thea and Sara were even playing a game of War. And the brunette was totally kicking the blonde’s ass. Barry talked Felicity into a game of chess, which she won. It’s only when she walked up from the board that she noticed Oliver wasn’t anywhere in sight. She had been watching him carefully the whole afternoon long, worrying about him. He had tried to put on a good face for everyone but she had known better. His smiles had been strained, his laughter constricted.

Taking advantage of the fact that everyone was still talking or deeply invested in the movie, she discreetly got out of the room and went looking for him. When she noticed his coat was missing from the coat rack, she reached for her own, trading her heels for the spare moon boots she had brought with her. She opened the door, as silently as possible and got out.

It was still cold outside, but it had stopped snowing – it had started again while they had been eating. Felicity buried her hands in her pocket and hunched her shoulders, trying to keep herself as warm as possible. It was a lost cause, she could already feel the tip of her nose get colder and the bite of the freezing wind was making the skin of her cheeks sting. She went around the house until she reached the garden and found Oliver sitting on the swing set, staring at the immaculately white snow, only ruined by the tracks of his feet.

She made her way to him, the snow squeaking under her feet.

“Hey!” She said, her voice soft. She didn’t want to disturb the perfect calmness that had taken over the place.

He didn’t look up to meet her eyes, too deeply lost in his thoughts and so she decided to sit down next to him. She put the snow away from the seat in front of her and then sat down, gasping when she felt the wetness and the coldness of the seat come in touch with her coat and through it, her butt.

“Damn, it’s cold,” she cursed.

“Go back inside Felicity.”

His voice was rough, beseeching. It made her heart skip a beat in her chest.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong with you. And don’t say nothing,” she added just as he was saying it.

“Nothing.”

She reached for his hand but he took it away from her and it both hurt and worried her more.

“Oliver, what’s going on? I’ve never seen you like this before. Is it because of Thea and your parents?”

He didn’t answer right away. She let him take his time, because of how much she hated being pushed to talk herself. “If I was smart, I’d say yes and you’d get off my back.” His words stung more than the cold did and she looked down toward her hands stuck in her coat. “But it seems that I’m not smart because yes, I’m upset by what’s happening between Thea and my parents but it’s not… It’s not the main reason.”

“Then what is?” She insisted.

“My parents have decided to fasten my wedding to Isabel. We’ll be wed before February.”

Felicity’s heart stopped beating in her chest. Then it started again, coming back with a revenge, pounding loudly against her ribcage. She felt blood rushed to her ears and her fists tightened in her pockets.

“You don’t sound so happy about that,” she managed to say, doing her best to hide how the news was affecting her.

He sighed, tilting his head slightly, still not looking at her. She was grateful for that because she didn’t know how she could have lied to his eyes. “Well, it makes it more real I guess. I knew it was coming, obviously but now it’s happening and… I can’t help but wish I had more time.” She opened her mouth to say something but he went on before she could do so. “I know it’s what needs to be done, and I’ll do it, but… I wish I hadn’t received the news on Christmas day. It really isn’t what I asked for to Santa.”

Felicity felt her throat tightened with emotions as her brain was sent into overdrive by his words.

“I know it’s what needs to be done.”

He had told her he was marrying Isabel because it was what his parents expected of him but his words seemed to carry more meanings. As if there was something else, something more, bigger at stakes. She wondered where she fit into all of this, if he really needed her in his life after all. She was starting to fear she was actually going to be a huge complication.

But right now, she didn’t care about herself. She only cared about him.

“Are you sure you’re happy with all of this Oliver?” She asked, trying to hide her eagerness. From the moment she’d seen him, she’d felt it rise inside of her, that visceral need to make sure he was okay, happy.

“I’m as happy as I’ll ever be,” he told her. “Isabel and I came to an understanding, an arrangement of some sorts which makes things work between us.”

“What about her soulmate?”

He shrugged. “She never speaks of him but I know she isn’t taking the Med and they’re bonded.”

Felicity’s blood froze in her veins and it wasn’t because of the weather. How could someone be bonded to their soulmate and yet accept to marry someone else? And how could said soulmates be okay with it? It was beyond her, completely. But then again, maybe she was too young, too naïve to understand what was truly at stakes.

“And what about your soulmate?”

The words fell from her lips before she could hold them back. He stiffened and for a second, she wished he’d tell her it was none of her business, that she should stop asking him questions about his personal life. And when he did not, when he remained silent and the weight of her words became significantly heavier between them, she felt the muscles in her body tense up.

“I haven’t spoken of her in a very long time,” he told her.

She bit on her lips, distracting herself with a seam of her coat. Of course he hadn’t spoken of her. She had been taking the Med for a while now, and before that he hadn’t really cared about her. Why would he speak of someone he didn’t care about?

“Would you like to do it now?” She heard herself say and god what was wrong with her mouth? She didn’t want to hear him talk about her.

“I just…” He paused, turning around to look at her for the first time since she had found him. “I don’t want you to look at me any differently.”

She saw the fear in his eyes just as much as she heard it in his voice and she felt a lump of emotions form in her throat. “I won’t, I promise,” she said, reaching for his hand. They were both wearing gloves, making the skin to skin contact impossible, but she was hoping her touch would comfort him nonetheless, reassure him somehow.

“My soulmate has been taking the Med for four years. It’ll be five years in March.” He paused for a long minute, looking away from her to stare at the snow covering the ground, letting go of her hand in the process.” She’s lost to me forever and I’m the only one to blame for it,” he confessed.

“Why would you say that?” She asked, managing to keep her voice from trembling without knowing how.

“When I was a teenager, I was just like Thea, always fighting with my parents. They wanted to control everything: what I was wearing, what sport I should be practising, what I was going to study and where, what my job would be… It was driving me crazy and just like Thea now, I looked for a way to escape them. I wanted to have something in my life they had no power over.”

“So what did you do?” She asked even though she already knew the answer.

“I partied, I did drugs. Tommy was with me through it all, because he had some issues with his own father he wanted to forget. We got so drunk and so high together we couldn’t even remember our own names. And it felt fucking great, especially when I dropped out from four colleges. You should have seen the look on my parents’ face,” he chuckled bitterly, shaking his head, “it was priceless. I didn’t care that I was hurting myself back then. All I cared about was being a huge disappointment to my family. I wanted to take what they wanted for me away from them the same way they had taken what I wanted for myself away from me.” He kicked in the snow, obviously upset by what he was telling her, by his former self and she almost asked him to stop if it was too much for him. Almost. “That’s why I accepted to join the anti-soulmate group. You know my parents’ story is incredible. The way they met, how the arranged marriage turned out to be a soulmate’s marriage,” he chuckled bitterly. “You have to understand Felicity, I was a total jerk back then, looking at the best way to piss off my parents. And what better way to piss off a famous couple of soulmates than give the finger to my own soulmate and sleep around?”

Felicity looked down toward her shoes, her blonde curls falling to partly hide her face. She was feeling cold, inside and outside. She wouldn’t have been hurting more, had she been slapped. And the worst part of all was that she wasn’t only hurting for herself, she was also hurting for him. Because his pain was evident in his voice, just like his disgust for his younger self.

“I was torn between love and hate with my soulmate,” he told her. “I didn’t take the Med, unlike Tommy, because her life was shitty and I knew she needed my help. I didn’t care she was my soulmate. To me she was just a little girl I was stuck with. She was younger than me, much younger and she reminded me of Thea and in the end, I guess that’s why I stayed and helped her as best as I could.” Felicity chewed down on her lower lip, hard, to keep from crying. “I knew I was hurting her when I was sleeping with other girls,” Oliver went on, “but I didn’t care. I thought she should consider herself lucky I wasn’t taking the Med and sticking around.” He paused for a second and Felicity didn’t need to see his face to know he was keeping himself from crying as well. “My soulmate was strong. She wasn’t giving up on anything and the greater she was, the worst I felt. She was going through things much worse than me and yet she was doing better. I felt like a failure next to her, she was making me realise how much of a screw-up I was and instead of trying to make a better man out of myself, I just spiralled further down. I partied more, drunk more, slept with more girls.”

“Why…” Felicity had to stop for a second, to gather herself up. “Why didn’t you try to draw some strength from her? Why didn’t you let her help you?” She had thought he’d been partying because he had wanted to. She had never suspected any of this. She had been so engrossed in her own struggles and problems, she hadn’t realised he’d been going through a lot as well and she felt terrible for it. She had failed him, just like he had failed her.

“I honestly don’t know.”

She took a deep breath and she felt the lump in her throat loosen up a little bit. She straightened herself up, and brushed her hair away from her face. “What happened then?” She asked.

“One day, she started acting weird. At least her emotions started to. They darkened. I felt anger and resentment, pain and fear. I wasn’t used to those with her, especially not directed at me. They started distancing themselves from me. She was always everywhere,” he pointed at his heart and head, “vibrant, brilliant. And suddenly she started fading away. That’s when I realised she wanted to take the Med and I freaked out.” He paused for a second. “It’s funny how the prospect of losing something makes you realise how important it is to you.”

“You didn’t want her to take the Med?”

“Hell no! I wanted her to stay. I knew she was living in Vegas, I went there for my twenty-first birthday and we almost met in a casino, so I decided to go find her and stop her. I didn’t even think about it, I just jumped in my car and…”

Felicity stiffened at his words and her heart sped up in her chest.

No.

Blood rushed to her ears and her hands started shaking in her pockets.

She had started taking the Med four years ago. He had almost been killed in a car accident four years ago.

She shook her head, refusing to entertain the idea that maybe she…

No.

“I was on the highway when she took it. It felt… I can’t describe you the pain I felt when she swallowed that damn pill. It was both physical and emotional and it was most definitely the worst thing I’d ever felt in my entire life.”

Her shoulders went limp and she felt her lower lip tremble. “That’s why you lost control of your vehicle and had your car accident?”

He nodded and reached for his glove. He took it off and reached for her hand. “Remember that scar?” He asked her.

She gave him a nod, not trusting her voice. She was doing her best to avoid his gaze as well, not wanting him to see her eyes welled up with tears.

“I kind of lied to you about it,” he explained. “I didn’t get in the car accident. I got it after, when I punched a mirror in the hospital.” He paused. “When I realised she had walked out of my life and I had been the one to show her the way to the door and then push her away.”

Her fingers shaking slightly, she traced the outline of the small scar she had noticed a long time ago when they had been sitting on her couch, back in her rabbit hutch. It was because of her. She had done that to him. Not only had she been blind to his problems but she had also almost killed him. She had failed him on so many levels, it was making her head spin. Her heart was aching in her chest as she realised how much she had hurt him. And the worst part of it was that he was blaming himself for everything. He didn’t know the role his family had played and they had let him carry the guilt on his shoulders not caring about him or his feelings.

For the first time in years, she felt the weight of the four small birds tattooed on her collarbone weigh down on her. She felt the weight of the years on her shoulders. And it was heavy, god, so heavy, it made it hard for her to breathe. And oddly enough, her side of the bond was silent.

Completely and utterly silent.

“Oliver, I’m…”

They both would never know what she’d been about to say because Tommy’s voice echoed in the silence of the garden.

“Guys! We’re opening the presents!”

Felicity didn’t want to move. She didn’t want to go and open presents. She wanted to curl up into a ball and cry until there was nothing left inside her body.

“We’re coming,” Oliver replied, getting on his feet and putting his glove back on. Tommy nodded and closed the window he had opened to talk to them. “Felicity?” Oliver called when he realised she wasn’t following him. “Felicity?” He said again, walking back to her.

She shook her head. “Yeah, I’m coming.”

He offered her his hand and she took it, even if touching him was the last thing she wanted right now.

“Thank you,” he told her on the way back. “For listening.”

“Anytime,” she said, her voice so low she wasn’t sure he had heard her. She barely heard it herself. They made it back into the house and stopped in the entryway to take their coats and shoes off.

“Stop moving,” Tommy ordered them, coming from the living-room to greet them.

They both froze, looking at him with arched eyebrows. He pointed at something above their heads.

Mistletoe.

Felicity’s heart skipped a beat.

And she was fairly sure it hadn’t been there when she had gone out earlier.

“Tommy,” Oliver started.

“It’s tradition,” his best friend argued, grinning like the cat who has just caught a plump mouse. Two plump mice in their case.

Oliver scratched the back of his head, shifting his weight on his feet awkwardly. Felicity stood there, her heart in her throat. She felt like she was suffocating and she needed to walk away before she broke down for no apparent reasons in front of everyone. Deciding to be done with that stupid tradition, knowing Tommy wouldn’t let get them away with it, she raised herself up on her toes, Oliver’s current position putting his cheek on display perfectly. Except he turned his head at the last moment and her lips met his. They were surprisingly warm and soft, feeling like pillow mountains. His stubble made the kiss prickly, but she didn’t mind it one bit. Because the moment their lips touched, everything around them faded away. Her bond, which had been utterly silent ever since Oliver had started talking about her, didn’t react the way she had thought it would. It didn’t roar to life, yelling and screaming in delight. No. It fluttered in a very intimate way, so intimate it made her heart clench in her chest and it was so intense she had to grip the fabric of his coat in her fist, tightly.

She pulled away when she felt cracks on the walls created by the Med around her and stepped aside, not meeting Oliver’s eyes. She looked up and saw that Tommy was staring at them, his eyebrows frowned.

“I need to go the bathroom,” she mumbled, escaping the entryway quickly.

She fled up the stairs and locked herself inside the same bathroom of the house. Her legs wobbling, she leaned down against the door to hold herself up. When a sob wrecked her body, she brought her fist to her mouth, in a desperate attempt to muffle herself. Tears flowed down her cheeks, as pain and guilt joined forces to crash her heart and soul. Her legs finally buckled under her and she slid along the door landing on the cold tiles. And then, just like she had wanted, she curled herself up into a ball and cried. She cried, her head hidden between her knees, her body rocking back and forth against the door. She cried, and she forgot about everything else but what she had done to him. To Oliver. She cried and sobbed and hiccupped, feeling utterly wrecked. She could still feel the taste of his lips on hers and it made her cry even more.

She could have never felt them. She could have killed him. She had almost killed him.

“Felicity, are you alright?” She heard her mother say through the door. “Everyone’s waiting for you downstairs,” she added.

“I’m coming,” she uttered. And she knew her voice was hoarse and broken from crying.

“Felicity? Open the door, please.”

“Go back downstairs mom,” she ordered. “I’m coming.”

“Uh… Okay.”

She heard her walk away and then she got on her feet. She walked to the sink, looking up to see her face and make-up completely ravaged by her tears. Reaching for her clutch, she took off her contacts and put her glasses back on. If anyone asked her why she’d been crying, she’d pretend it was because of her contacts. Splashing waters on her face, she fixed her make-up as best as she could. She still looked like a mess when she was done, but she was at least a more presentable one.

Taking in a deep breath, she quickly decided what her next course of actions was going to be. She was going to go back downstairs and smile and laugh and spend a nice moment with her friends. She was going to be happy for a few more hours and wouldn’t think about all the things she had learnt that day. She was going to enjoy her mother’s company until the Queens’ party and there, she’d confront Moira Queen and tell her a piece of her mind. She wouldn’t wait for her appointment with the mediator. She’d tell her what it was she was really thinking and after that, she’d tell Oliver the whole truth. And hopefully, everything would be out in the open before the year’s end.

Felicity stared at her reflection with a critical eye. The dress Thea had bought her clung to her body’s curves and its bustier necklace exposed inches of white creamy skin and the four birds tattooed on her collarbone. Taking a deep breath, she gently pulled the fabric of her dress up, so that she wouldn’t step on it and walked out of her bedroom.

“Mom, I’m coming!” She warned Donna.

She met her mother in the living-room. Donna who had been sitting on her couch, a glass of red wine in hands jumped on her feet, squealing.

“Oh my beautiful girl!” She said, her eyes widened, her hand covering her mouth opened in an “o”.

Felicity twirled around, giving her a little show.

“If only your grandmother was here to see you… You’re so beautiful! You look like a winter angel.”

Felicity felt herself blush and she looked up toward her toes, which she had painted a silver colour to go with the icy blue of her dress.

“Thanks mom,” she replied, smiling at her. “You look beautiful too,” she added, admiring the way she look in her short red sequins dress.

“Oh you know… I did my best,” she said, playing with her curls nervously.

Felicity reached for her hand to stop her before she could ruin her hairdo. “I think you look amazing,” she told her. She frowned when she saw uncertainty shine in her mother’s eyes. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

Donna shrugged. “I just…” She shifted nervously under Felicity’s gaze, tucking a curl behind her ear. “I just don’t know if I can still do this…” She sighed. “I haven’t been on a date with anyone in years, and the last first date I’ve been on was with my soulmate… I don’t know if I can do this,” she admitted, chewing down on her lips worriedly.

Felicity immediately tucked her lower lip free and rubbed her mother’s lipstick slightly to erase the mark of her teeth. “Mom, dealing with men is what you do every day at the casino. The only difference is that tonight, you’re going to spend the evening with a man you’ve chosen to be with, because you like him. He should feel lucky to have you to entertain him for the evening because you’re beautiful, funny and kind. You got this, I know you do.”

“Thank you baby girl,” Donna said, her voice tight with emotions. “God you’re making me cry,” she added, wiping the corner of her eyes carefully.

Felicity just smiled at her and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time.”

Donna nodded. “I hope you will too at your party.”

Felicity’s smile faded slightly. She wasn’t looking toward the evening. To say that she was nervous would be an understatement. Anxiety was twisting her insides and she hadn’t been able to eat anything that day. Whenever she had tried, she had felt like she was going to be sick. And the fact that she would be attending the party alone wasn’t helping. Oliver was going to be with Isabel at his arms all the time and Thea had already texted her to inform her her mother had insisted she stayed by her side throughout the evening.

A knock on the door interrupted her train of thoughts. Felicity frowned. She was supposed to drive herself to the Plaza, where the party would be happening and her mother was meeting her date directly at the restaurant.

She and smiled when she saw Tommy standing on the other side through the peephole. Quickly she unlocked the door and opened it.

“Good evening sir,” she greeted him, her heart melting at the sight of him wearing a tux.

“Good evening my lady,” he replied, bowing his head and pretending to take off a hat. “There is a party in town and I’m here to escort you there,” he explained.

She chuckled. “Where is Laurel?”

He sighed. “Unfortunately she wasn’t feeling well, and a handsome man like me can’t show up at a party without a pretty girl on his arm. Just like it would be a shame for a pretty girl like you to show up alone.”

“True,” she replied. “But I do hope Laurel will feel better soon, preferably before New Year’s Eve otherwise your plans to propose will be taking a knocking.”

“Hold on to that hope, please,” Tommy agreed, nodding vigorously. “Ah Donna! You look beautiful as well,” he told her.

“Thank you my boy! Felicity didn’t tell me you were going to come and pick her up.”

“Well, I didn’t know he was coming,” Felicity defended herself.

“I tried to call you but you didn’t answer your phone, sadly.”

“My phone is lost somewhere in my clutch already.”

“It’s okay,” Tommy said, smiling gently. His eyes fell on the tattoo on her shoulder.

“Wow, nice tattoo,” he complimented her.

“Tattoo? What if it’s my soulmark?”

Tommy frowned, looking slightly disappointed. “Is it your soulmark?”

“No,” Donna interrupted them. “Felicity’s soulmark is an ar…”

“…mine,” Felicity was quick to finish. “A cute little ermine.”

Tommy shot them both a weird look but didn’t make any comment. Instead, his eyes travelled from Felicity’s tattoo on her collarbone down to her wrist and her arrow bracelet.

“An ermine. Sure. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes,” she said, letting out a relieved breath. “I just need to put my shoes on.”

She finished to get ready quickly, hugged her mother goodbye and before she knew it, she was sitting down next to Tommy who once again, was her white knight in shining armour. She felt more relaxed with him by her side, she knew that, whatever happened that night, he’d never let her down.

Tommy’s driver stopped in front of the Plaza’s entrance and her friend came to open her door, offering her his hand. She gladly accepted it, not caring about the burn. She needed all the help and support she could get. They started walking up the steps when Tommy said.

“Wait, isn’t that Oliver?”

He pointed at a silhouette a few steps ahead of them. “Yeah it’s him.” She would have recognised these broad shoulders anywhere.

Gripping Felicity’s hand more tightly, Tommy hurried up so they could catch Oliver up. Just like Felicity had expected, Isabel was by his side. The sight of the Russian woman, who tensed up the moment her cold eyes fell on the blonde.

“Oliver, hey!” Tommy greeted him. “Isabel,” he added, his tone less cheerful.

“Mr Merlyn, Miss Smoak,” she replied, her voice colder than the night’s air.

“Tommy… Felicity.” Oliver’s eyes fell on her and she saw him take her in, slowly. She took him in as well, glad to see he looked better than he had on Christmas day. They hadn’t seen each other since then, and the rest of the day had gone by awkwardly, because she had been shaken up by what he had told her. “It’s funny seeing you guys together,” he said, finally tearing his gaze away from her. “Where is Laurel?”

“She wasn’t feeling well so she stayed at home,” Tommy informed him.

“What a pity, I hope she’ll feel better soon,” Isabel minced and Felicity internally rolled her eyes at her, annoyed by all her fakery.

“Thank you,” Tommy said, nodding curtly.

“How about we get inside,” Oliver suggested. “It’s cold out here.”

The four of them started moving up again but when they reached the entrance, Isabel stopped them.

“Maybe it isn’t in our companies’ best interests to have Merlyn Global’s vice-president come in with an employee of Q. Inc. I’m just worried about how it’ll look in the public eye.”

Felicity felt Tommy tense up next to her but she just shrugged. “Oh Isabel, I’m sure it’ll look just as good as Q. Inc’s CEO coming in with Stellmoor International’s vice-president.”

If looks could kill, Felicity was pretty sure she would have died right here and there. Deciding that staying wasn’t a good idea, she’d end up slapping the woman at some point, she reached for Tommy’s arm and dragged him inside, her strides long so that she could get away from them more quickly.

“What was that Lissy?” Tommy asked her after they had handed their coats to the staff members supposed to welcome them. “You know they’re engaged.”

“She knows we’re friends,” she shot back, “and yet she made a comment about us.”

They made their way to the ballroom and when they stepped inside the crowded room, which was lavishly decorated with white lyses, crystal glasses and plates in china on the table, Felicity stopped herself all of the sudden. It was one thing to handle the burn caused by Tommy’s touch only. It was a whole other one to handle such a heavy crowd.

“Remind me why we’re here already,” she whispered, her hold tightening around her clutch.

“Well, to talk about business while claiming regularly it’s not what we’re doing. The beginning of a new year is always the perfect time to form new alliances in the business world. It’s the right time for fresh starts but you can’t be too eager or obvious with your intentions otherwise you’ll lose the game.”

Felicity felt her motivation flattened. She wasn’t good at pretending, unlike Tommy who had been doing this for a few years already. She knew how to act in society, she had done quite well when Martin Walker had invited Oliver and her over in Coast City but she still wasn’t a hardened businesswoman. She wasn’t even a businesswoman in the first place. Oliver only needed her here to represent their side-projects while he’ll be a good son to his parents and be the voice of Q. Inc’s main goal: support Queen Consolidated.

“Look, Thea is there,” Tommy said, pointing at a table in the centre of the room.

A smile spread on Felicity’s lips when she recognised the brunette. It faded away quickly though. Her friend was sitting down next to her father and looked utterly bored. Felicity’s eyes moved from her to scan the room, looking for her mother, the woman she wanted to confront. She found Moira Queen closely dancing with Walter Steele, the CFO of Queen Consolidated. His hands were wrapped tightly around her waist and she seemed to be completely lost in their conversation, her eyes never wavering from his.

A waiter passed by them and Tommy got them two flutes of champagne.

“Here,” he said, handing one to Felicity. “Cheers!” He added, raising his glass up.

“Cheers,” she replied, clinking their glasses.

They both took a sip from their drink before Tommy took a hold of her hand again and they went to give their regards to all the prestigious guests of the party. They shook a lot of hands, cracked a few jokes and went looking for their seats. They traded Laurel’s name with Felicity’s so that she’d be able to sit down next to Tommy. It was all for the best because Martin Walker, the main investor for Curtis’ project at Q. Inc, would be sitting down around that table as well. They ran into him in the crowd and he insisted on having her tell him how things were going. Of course, he was getting regular updates but it wasn’t worth a good conversation, with funny anecdotes. He smiled a lot at her quirky comments and it made her feel like she was doing a fine job at reassuring him about his investment.

They were talking to a friend of Tommy’s father when Felicity froze next to him, gripping his arm tightly.

“Don’t turn around,” she whispered excitedly in his ear. “But Ray Palmer is walking toward us.”

She hadn’t told Oliver when she had brought up his name a few days ago at Q. Inc but she was really excited to meet Ray Palmer for the first time. He was a brilliant engineer and his genius mind was always coming up with new ideas. His company was at the leading edge of technology and she was following their progress closely. She still had a hard time using a computer, the memory of MIT and Cooper too fresh in her mind, but it didn’t mean she’d lost all interests in technology. Why would she be working for Oliver at Q. Inc if she had?

Tommy’s father’s friend left them just before Ray Palmer joined them, a beautiful brunette with an evident baby bump at his arms. It was Anna Loring, a journalist and his soulmate.

“Mr Merlyn,” he said, shaking Tommy’s hand, “Miss Smoak,” he added and she just froze.

“You know my name?” She blurted.

He nodded, smiling. “I make a point of honour to always know the names of all the guests attending the same events I do.”

“Actually, we share,” Anna cut in, patting her soulmate’s chest lightly. “I learn half of the names and he learns the other half.”

“Your name happens to be one of the names I had to learn,” Palmer went on. “I was extremely surprised when I found out you were Oliver Queen’s EA. With your qualifications and degrees, you could be working for the IT department at Queen Consolidated, aiming to quickly become its youngest head.”

Felicity blushed. How was this her life? Ray Palmer knew about her and he thought she could become the head of Queen Consolidated’s IT department! She hold back a squeal of delight and instead enrolled herself into a very animated conversation about Q. Inc’s side-projects and Palmer Technologies’ development of the cogeneration process while Tommy and Anna got lost in the flood of their technical jargon.

They parted ways when Anna felt the need to sit down but Palmer got Felicity to promise him to give him a call so they could talk business.

“So this is how you look like when you meet your idol?” Tommy teased her.

She smiled, turning around to look for Oliver. She caught his eyes on her, an unreadable expression on his face, and she raised her thumbs up excitedly. He gave her a small nod before bringing his attention back to Thea. Isabel was nowhere in sight, and Felicity wasn’t exactly going to complain. The further she was, the better. And yes, she was aware that was mostly her very possessive bond talking but she didn’t care.

“Would you like to dance?” Tommy offered, putting their empty flutes on a tray.

“Yes,” she enthusiastically accepted.

She was starting to realise the burn wasn’t as strong as it used to be around Tommy. Maybe it was because her bond had realised it had nothing to fear from him, she honestly didn’t know and didn’t care. He led her to the middle of the room where people were dancing. She wasn’t a fabulous dancer, except when she was with Oliver, but she managed not to trip on Tommy’s feet which she considered a victory. At the end of the song, they traded partners, like everyone else in the room and Felicity ended up with Walter Steele, which had been partnered with Moira before her. Again.

“Miss Smoak,” he greeted her, his British accent sounding like music to her ears.

“Mr Steele,” she replied, forcing a smile on her lips. She was feeling the burn when he was touching her and it was more unpleasant than with other people. She wondered why because she had already spoken a few times with Walter and they had gotten along nicely. And maybe it was the problem. The burn was hotter around people she appreciated. And it had indeed been blazing hot when she had shaken Palmer’s hand.

“Did you get a chance to speak with Mr. Palmer? I heard he was eager to meet you,” he told her.

“Oh really?” She felt her cheeks redden slightly. “We did talk a little bit.”

“That’s great. Did you tell him about that battery Mr. Holt is working on?”

Oliver hadn’t revealed much about his side-projects to his parents but she knew he had told Walter about them. Having known him his entire life, he was very close to him and seemed to have a better relationship with him than with his own father. His father who was swirling with Isabel Rochev just a few feet away from her and Walter.

“Just what was necessary to get him interested. Oliver wants to diversify his partners and investors.”

“I know, that’s why I told Moira inviting Mr. Palmer would be a great idea.”

She couldn’t help but notice how his voice slightly softened when he pronounced Moira’s name before saying. “Thank you for your help Mr. Steele, it means a lot to Oliver.”

“He knows he can count me. So can you by the way,” he added. “I’m happy he’s found you, he’s doing better at Q. Inc. Don’t misunderstand me, he was already doing a great job, but now he’s… Perfect. He’ll be QC’s CEO sooner than we think.”

Felicity nodded, a strained smile stretching her lips. Of course she was happy to hear her presence had affected Oliver in a good way. After all, his had affected her in the best way possible. But Walter’s words were worrying her to no extent. Was it the reason why his parents were fastening his wedding to Isabel? Did they want Oliver to already step up and become QC’s CEO? Before she could try to get more information, it was time to change partners again and she ended up pressed against the solid chest of the very man who had been occupying her thoughts for a long while now.

“Oliver,” she said, her body automatically relaxing against his own.

“Felicity,” he replied, his hand falling on her waist, holding her tightly. “You look breathtakingly beautiful tonight,” he whispered.

“That much, uh?” She teased him, already getting lost in their bubble. They hadn’t been that close in weeks and she had missed him a lot. Secrets still kept them apart, but she put them to rest long enough to savour his warmth and his presence near her. She had truly missed him.

“Yes, that much,” he confirmed, stepping away from her so that she could turn, quickly pulling her back to him. “I saw you speak with Palmer earlier. You looked happy.”

She saw a shadow of something crossed his eyes and she gave him her brightest smile. “I think I may have found us a new business partner.”

“That much, uh?” He said and she playfully slapped his shoulder.

He chuckled slightly and the sound made her heart melt in her chest. God, she had missed him.

“We haven’t talked much since Christmas and you contacts’ accident,” he started saying.

“We haven’t talked at all,” she immediately corrected.

He looked down, his shoulders going limp for a second. “I’m sorry. With my parents planning the wedding, I’ve been really busy and…”

“It’s okay,” she interrupted him, the mere mention of the word “wedding” making her feel sick. “I just wish…”

The music stopped entirely and they stopped dancing as well. It was time for dinner.

“Can we talk later?” She asked him, reluctant to let go of his hands, to let go of him. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

“Sure,” he nodded, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing it tenderly. It made a blush creep over her cheeks and her heart fluttered in happiness.

She excused herself, exiting the room to go to the bathroom. She hadn’t made it there when she felt a hand grabbed her arm and yank her back, pulling her against a wall. She wiggled and got away from the other woman’s grasp before looking up to see Isabel Rochev looking at her scornfully.

“You and I need to have a talk Miss Smoak,” she said.

“I don’t think so,” Felicity replied angrily, trying to walk away from her.

“Oh yes we do. James Wilde contacted us, he said you had asked for a meeting with him because you wanted to break your contract with the Queen family.”

That made Felicity pause. “How…?”

“His loyalty is being well-rewarded,” Isabel simply said.

Felicity’s eyes fluttered at this new blow.

“Now let me ask you a question Felicity. What do you think you’re doing exactly?”

“You’re not a part of the Queen family, I have nothing to say to you,” she spit out through gritted teeth, trying to pass by her. Isabel grabbed her arm to stop her.

“I’ve been a part of the Queen family for longer than you have Miss Smoak,” she stated.

Felicity tilted her head. “You’re nothing without a ring on your finger,” she reminded her. “And by a ring, I mean an actual wedding band, which you’re aren’t wearing.”

“Yet,” Isabel was quick to add. She then crossed her arms on her chest, putting her engagement ring on display. “You should spare yourself Felicity and stop whatever it is you’re trying to do here.”

“What?”                            

“Life is not a fairytale,” she claimed, her tone harsh. “Just because you meet your soulmate doesn’t mean you’re going to end up living together happily ever after.”

“Are you talking from experience?” Felicity shot back, crossing her arms over her chest as well.

“Maybe I am,” she replied mysteriously. “You want to get your soulmate’s rights back? Fine. But have you thought about what will happen once Oliver knows about you? About what he’ll do?” Felicity opened up her mouth to say something but Isabel cut her off. “It’s okay if you haven’t, because I have. He’ll reject you my dear, simple as that. He will never pick the girl who almost killed him over his family.”

“It was an accident,” Felicity protested. “How was I supposed to know he was driving?”

“You would have known, had you cared enough about him,” Isabel stated, her tone dead cold.

“Don’t you dare talk about what you don’t know,” Felicity threatened her, her tone cold and angry. Isabel’s know-it-all expression and her smirks were making her blood boil in her veins.

“I know more than you think Felicity. I know how you were never Oliver’s choice back in the days and how you’ll never be his choice now.” Felicity opened her mouth to say something but Isabel didn’t let her. “Do you want to know the real reason why we’re getting married?” Isabel asked.

Felicity didn’t reply, and instead she stared stubbornly at the floor, waiting for the storm to end. Her fists were clenched tightly along her sides, she was digging her nails in her palms to prevent from slapping Isabel across the face. She wasn’t a violent person by any means but the Russian woman just knew how to push her buttons.

“Because without the financial support of my company, QC would have already closed down.”

Felicity’s eyes widened. “What?”

“It’s true. They were flirting with bankruptcy when Stellmoor decided to support them. Marrying me is just another way to strengthen the partnership of our companies.”

“No,” she breathed out.

“Now, let’s think for a minute that Oliver would choose you, the gold-digger who almost cost him his life, over his family, which has always been there for him. Do you really think he’d choose you over the thousands employees of QC and Q. Inc? Do you really think your bond is worth the fall of two companies? Will you be selfish enough to ask him to give up on everything just for you?”

“I – I,” Felicity stammered at a loss for words. What was she hearing? Was it true?

“And let’s face it, even if he did, you wouldn’t be fit enough to be his wife,” she shook her head, laughing. “Honestly, I wonder what Mother Nature was thinking when she decided to pair the two of you together. You’re such an ordinary girl Felicity, it’s almost sad! You’re the kind of boring girl that eats ice-cream on her couch on Friday nights because she has nothing better to do with her life. Oliver Queen deserves better than that lonely girl. Oliver Queen deserves a woman people look up to. And guess what? Nobody spares a glance at your thick thighs and the fat in your arms. Actually nobody spares you a glance at all, unless you’re wearing one of your inappropriately short dresses of course. Men are just men after all.” She sighed. “And don’t get me started on that supposedly genius mind of yours. You think your nerdiness makes you adorable? I’m sorry I have to be the one breaking the news to you but when people laugh or smile, they’re all merely feeling sorry for you. You embarrass yourself so much sometimes with that big mouth of yours, you’d take the risk to embarrass your soulmate as well? Even your so called soulmate would be ashamed of you if you opened your mouth in public. I’ll give you one thing though. You’re one hell of an actress. You’ve played with your past quite well, at least well enough for Oliver and all his friends to pity you, Felicity the victim. But you know what? People’s pity doesn’t make you likeable or worthy of anything. It only makes you pathetic and Oliver Queen doesn’t need pathetic in his life. He doesn’t need ordinary and average. He needs a strong and ambitious woman, not a broken doll. The little girl you used to be was never enough for him, the woman you’re turning into isn’t as well. You’ll never be enough for anyone Felicity, get used to it.”

“I…”

“I don’t know what you think this is but this is not your real life Cinderella story. You can dress up as much as you want, put on a sparkling dress and drink champagne but it won’t change anything. You’ll never be part of this world because you just don’t fit here. This is real life Felicity, not a movie. Girls like you don’t get the boy! Do Oliver and yourself a favour and walk away. Preferably for good this time.”

Felicity stood for a very long moment, utterly silent, standing still. She watched Isabel leave, blood rushing to her ears. She stood still unable to come up with something to say, unable to hold her back and give her a piece of her own mind. Unable to do anything but feel. She didn’t know what she was feeling exactly, her emotions being a total mess at the moment but she knew she probably would have felt better if Isabel had tied her up to a car and then dragged her naked body through mud, brambles and nettle fields. The pain would have been much more bearable than the one that was currently threatening to overwhelm her. She was crying, when had she started, she had no idea, her fists clenched tightly along her sides, her whole body shaking violently.

You’ll never be enough Felicity.”

A gut-wrenching sob wrecked her body and she had to catch herself up against the wall to keep herself from collapsing on the floor. She gasped, fighting for air, feeling she was suffocating. Every intake of breath was painful, every beat of her heart an agony.

“Felicity?” She heard the sounds of someone rushing toward her. “Felicity, what’s going on?” Tommy asked, wrapping an arm around her waist to support her.

“I just – I…”

She was lacking air to form words. She hiccupped, her sobs growing bigger, louder. Tommy pulled her into him, his grip on her firmer, and he stroked the back of her head with his hand, trying his best to comfort her.

“Shhh…” He whispered against her hair. “It’s okay, everything’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” she managed to whisper back. “I just want to go home,” she added.

“What happened?” Tommy insisted, putting a hand under her chin to make her look at him.

“Nothing,” she said, escaping his grasp, catching herself on the wall. “I’m just not enough.” Her voice broke again, as more tears rolled down her cheeks. Her whole body was trembling, her insides were swirling and she felt like she going to be sick.

“What? Who said that?”

Felicity closed her eyes, shaking her head as blackspots started dancing behind her eyelids. “I just want to go home. Leave this place.”

“Felicity, how about I call Oliver…” Tommy suggested.

“No!” She yelled, the name piercing her heart like an arrow would its target. And yes, she was well-aware of the irony. “No,” she added, trying to get a grip on her emotions, knowing she was looking slightly hysterical. “I’m going to go home and you’re going to go back to the party.”

“Felicity…” She started to move, her legs wobbling, but he gripped her arm.

“Tommy please,” she begged. “Let me go.”

She didn’t know what he saw in her eyes but it was enough for him to let go of her arm. “What I am supposed to tell Oliver?”

She shrugged. “Nothing,” she whispered, more tears rolling down her cheeks as she started walking away from him again, the sound of her heels echoing against the wall. “Everything’s over,” she added for herself, her hand on her chest, trying to hold her heart in place.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13:

“Nothing goes as planned

Everything will break

People say goodbye

In their own special way

All that you rely on

And all that you can fake

Will leave you in the morning

But find you in the day”

- Andrew Belle, In my veins.

 

Felicity didn’t immediately leave the party. Not because she didn’t want to, no, she was actually pretty desperate to get out. But she couldn’t. She was feeling too weak, and just wouldn’t stop crying. How would she ask for her coat back if she could barely form an understandable sentence? How would she hail a cab if she could barely breathe? She knew she needed to get a grip on her emotions; to control herself more and that’s why she made her way to the bathroom instead of heading for the Plaza’s entrance. Luckily enough, the room was empty when she walked in. She locked the door behind her and collapsed on the floor right after, a sob wrecking her entire being, her whole body shaking badly. She gripped the fabric of her dress, clenching it tightly in her fists, needing something to hold onto.

Felicity knew pain. She had experienced all different kinds of pain in her life. The pain caused by abandon, when her father had walked out of her life to never come back. The pain caused by loss when her grandmother had passed. The pain caused by helplessness when she had watched her mother sink into depression. The pain caused by rejection, when her soulmate had gotten involved with other girls. The pain caused by humiliation when Mandy Miller had tortured her in high-school. The pain caused by emotional abuse when Cooper had lured her into being with him. And last but certainly not least, the physical pain. The one Cooper had put her through when he had cut deep into her skin to carve his mark on her body. So Felicity knew pain. And she knew how to handle it, how to grit her teeth and bear with it until things got better. Because things always got better. It wasn’t true that time healed every wound but it did make things better. It soothed even the deepest cuts, inch by inch until it was possible to live past the pain.

But now, as she was walking away from Tommy, Felicity was feeling another kind of pain. The symptoms weren’t actually all different from what she had been through in the past. Her heart was aching, the pain dull and sharp at the same time. She felt like it had been torn to pieces, the fragments so small she doubted she’d ever be able to bring them back together again. Her lungs were suffocating in her ribcage, each intake of air burning down her throat. Her stomach was rolling up and down inside of her, as if she was on a ship in the middle of a storm. The accuracy of the comparison made her head spin. She was the ship and the storm was the truth Isabel had poured down on her. And this was where the difference laid. For the first time in her life, she was feeling pain caused by the truth. The cold hard truth, which had felt like a freezing shower.

A freezing shower which had been her wake up call.

Because there was nothing Isabel had said to her that wasn’t true.

What the hell had Mother Nature been thinking when It had decided to pair her up with Oliver? They couldn’t have been more different from one another. Felicity was just a calm and ordinary nerdy girl. She enjoyed nights in, filled with movies and take-outs and occasionally going out with friends was a plus whereas Oliver’s life was an endless circle of evenings out, filled with mundanities and meetings. She could attend one once in a while but she knew she couldn’t live that kind of life. There was a time where she wouldn’t have minded being exposed to the eyes of the world, where she would have even craved it, her desire to surround herself with people, to finally belong somewhere stronger than anything. But that time had stopped when she had been abducted and tortured. Now she was more protective of herself, more suspicious of the world. She had opened up to the world and had been burnt in return. Remaining in her small bubble was the best solution.

She closed her eyes, more tears rolling down her cheeks. Really, why pairing them up? They weren’t anything alike. Oliver was six feet of hot handsomeness. He truly had everything: the toned skin, the firm muscles, the blue eyes and the cute smile with the dimples. He was charismatic and funny without even trying. People loved him, rightfully so. He was very lovable after all. But Felicity? She wasn’t like that. She knew she could really rock a dress and looked relatively pretty but she wasn’t a sex bomb. And according to all the pictures of Oliver from his wild years she had found online she wasn’t his style either. She wasn’t a tall brunette with hypnotic eyes. She didn’t have big boobs or strong legs that went on forever. She was blonde and small and her eyes were hidden behind square glasses. Her breast was ordinary because fat just wouldn’t go up to her boobs and went down to her thighs instead. She was cute but she didn’t have the same aura Oliver had. Her brain ran a mile a second and her mouth was directly connected to it meaning that more often than not, she ended up telling people more things than she had originally intended to. Most people laughed amusingly at her but it was highly likely they just felt sorry for her. And honestly? If self-pity was her thing, she’d probably feel sorry for herself too. Since she didn’t, she mostly felt embarrassed, mortified even, when her rants ended on very inappropriate sexual innuendos. It was something that had started after Cooper had occurred. She had gone from dark colours to bright colours. From invisible to way too talkative. But what she had become still wasn’t enough. She had never been enough and she had been a fool when she had entertained the idea of her and Oliver finally coming together.

But did any of these considerations mattered anymore? She wasn’t so sure. Because Oliver wasn’t marrying Isabel just because it was what his parents expected of him. No. He was marrying her because they had made a deal and the fate of two companies and thousands of people depended on that deal. Doctor Lazerev had said some things were just meant to be. Sadly, she was going to be the one proving him wrong and step back while she still could.

Taking a deep breath, she got on her legs, which were still kind of wobbly and she fought back her tears. Unlocking the door she had clumsily locked behind her earlier, she made a beeline to the sink, knowing deep down it was her will only that was keeping her up. She splashed water on her face, hoping to cool down her cheeks a little bit. It did her some good and, encouraged by that small progress, she tried to fix her make-up. She looked like a raccoon, with her smudged mascara, ruined eyeliner and powder and there wasn’t much she could do without the appropriate products. But she did do enough and in the end, she went from looking like a raccoon to looking like a panda. She wasn’t sure it was better but since she loved panda better than raccoon, she decided that it was. Sighing, she dragged herself out of the room. She was feeling weary and exhaustion was pulling at her muscles. She only wanted one thing: to be out of the Plaza, preferably as soon as possible.

She reached the entrance and asked her coat from the staff members who had taken it from her when she had arrived earlier with Tommy. God… She had felt so confident back then, so hopeful. She had been planning to confront Moira, she had been about to tell Oliver the truth about them and… No. The mere thought of him was enough to make the ache inside her heart grow. She could already feel her tears fight with her will for their right to flood her cheeks again. She needed to stop thinking about Oliver, or what had happened, otherwise she was going to breakdown all over again and she couldn’t. She wouldn’t.

“Are you okay ma’am?” The man who was handing her coat back to her asked, concern filling his eyes.

“Perfect,” she replied, giving him a nod and a generous tip before leaving.

The cold air of the night felt like a slap across the face. Felicity hunched her shoulders and hurried downstairs, careful not to trip on her way down. Stupidly hurting herself was the last thing she needed that night. She crossed the street and hailed a cab. She opened the door and quickly got inside, appreciating to be back inside a warm place. She gave the driver her address and he started pulling away.

“And please, stop by Walmart on the way.”

“Walmart? But I’d have to make a detour Ms.”

Biting back an angry comment, the poor man hadn’t done anything to her after all. On the contrary, he had only been trying to help her save some money. “Please, just stop by Walmart,” she pressed him, close to beg.

He nodded gently, focusing back on the road. She sighed in relief, catching her reflection in the mirror. She looked like a mess, but then maybe it was because she was one. Her eyes were red and puffy, a mix of blue, black and red. Leaning back in her seat, she stared out through the window. Star City was a beautiful city, especially at night in winter, when it had been snowing for the biggest part of the day. The streetlights were being reflected on the white snow cover, making the city look like it was glowing. She felt good here, at home and the mere thought of leaving, of never seeing its buildings again… It formed a lump in her throat and tears welled up at the corner of her eyes. She wiped them away quickly, breathing through her nose slowly.

When the driver started slowing down and Felicity recognised the familiar sign of Walmart, she unbuckled her seat belt. The driver parked the car and she opened the door, saying.

“Stay put, I’ll be right back. You can keep the meter running.”

She walked inside the shop and headed straight toward the drinks section. She selected two bottles of wine, recommended by Laurel on Christmas day, and she tried her very best not to pay attention to the weird looks people were shooting at her. She could only imagine what they were thinking of her and her bizarre appearance. She was standing in the middle of a Walmart alley at almost nine pm dressed like a princess with her very expensive dress, jewels and hair done up in a complicated style but looking like she had been partying for days with her red cheeks and smudged make-up.

When she was done with the alcohol, she made her way to the pharmacy’s alley. She quickly found what she had been looking for. The pill for a ten. She didn’t hesitate before taking it, throwing it in her cart without sparing it another glance. She stopped in the middle of the alley when it occurred to her that, maybe, one day, she wouldn’t be able to do so anymore, courtesy of Mr. Rollins and his desire to regulate access to the Med. If the law was voted, what would she do? She shook her head, the question enough to send waves of panic down her body.

Thanking God for the invention of automatic cashier, she probably wouldn’t have been able to stand the look of an actual cashier at the sight of booze and a box of the med with the word 10 written in bold character, she quickly paid for her stuff and rushed back to the taxi.

She had barely closed the door and her taxi driver was already pulling away. She reached for the box of the Med she had just bought and tried to open it, her bond protesting wildly in her head and her hands shaking as a result. They really were trembling like never before, it was so bad she was pretty sure she wouldn’t have been able to read a text, had she been holding her phone. After several failed attempts she decided to just blow off some steam and shredded the folder loudly. She quickly swallowed the pill down, not needing water in order to do so. She had taken so many pills in her life, she had learnt how to do it without liquid. She didn’t feel her hipbone burn, where her soulmark used to be and she guessed it was because she was already on the Med. But she knew the effect was immediate, because her bond, which had been voicing its displeasure quite loudly suddenly became utterly silent and she felt her heart skip a beat at a result. To use Doctor Lazarev’s analogy again, it was as if Rapunzel, who had been locked in her tower, had now been chained up and gagged. It was just like when she had started taking the Med. How long would it last? How long would it take before her bond found its way out and started being a thorn in her side again? She had no idea. She just knew that, all of a sudden, there was a deafening silence around her and a throbbing void in her chest. She swallowed, hard, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat. She hadn’t realized how much she had gotten use to her bond being loud and vibrant again. Yes, it had annoyed her at first but it had also given her hope. Now, she was left with nothing. There was no more hope.

“Are you doing drugs in my cab?”

The driver’s voice got her out of her thoughts.

“What?” She asked, her eyes wide opened.

“Are you doing drugs in my cab?” He repeated, looking up to meet her eyes in the mirror above him.

She shook her head immediately. “Why would say that?”

“You look like you’ve been through hell,” he stated simply.

“And according to you, doing drugs would automatically be the solution to that particular problem?”

He shrugged. “You did buy two bottles of wine.”

She snorted, shaking her head. “Point taken.”

“So… Are you doing drugs in my cab?”

“Are you going to turn me in?” She asked suspiciously.

He chuckled. “No, but to buy my silence, I might ask you to share.”

She couldn’t help but smile a little bit and a smile of his own stretched his lips.

“So she can smile,” he said, a thoughtful expression on his face.

She looked down toward her clutch in her lap. “I wasn’t doing drugs in your cab,” she admitted, her voice small. “It’s just been a long night.”

“It has barely started though,” he reminded her.

“Damn, I knew I should have bought more bottles,” she replied and he chuckled again.

She was grateful for what he was trying to do which was keep her focus on something else than her own mind and its dark thoughts. He didn’t know her at all and yet, he spoke and joked with her, his tone gentle, just to try and make her feel better. His kindness moved her and that’s why she gave him a nice tip when he stopped near her building.

“Thank you,” she said, not only speaking of the ride.

He gave her a brief understanding nod before driving away. Her hands holding onto her bottles of wine tightly, she walked down the street to her building’s entrance. Her heart felt heavy in her chest as she opened the door to her apartment. Everything was the same way it had been when she had left. And yet, everything looked different. Duller. Darker. Her world had lost the little something that had made it shine brightly lately, the same way she had lost hope.

She dropped the bottles of wine on her kitchen table before locking herself in the bathroom. She opened her dress and let it pool down at her feet. She took her expensive shoes off and kicked them aside, not caring where they landed. She took off her jewels then and it was when she reached for her wrist and her arrow bracelet that she realised it was missing.

Her heart, which had been dead in her chest a minute ago, jumped back to life.

“No, no,” she whispered, kneeling down toward her dress, checking if it hadn’t gotten caught in the fabric.

It hadn’t.

“No, no,” she whispered frantically, running out of the bathroom, reaching for her coat. She slipped her fingers inside the sleeves frenziedly.

No arrow bracelet there as well.

Her heart beating more quickly in her chest than it had all night, she threw her coat away, her hands coming up to cup her head and gripping her hair, hard. She dug her nails in her skull to the point of pain, tugging at her blonde locks in frustration, her lower lip trembling.

She had lost her arrow bracelet.

It was an old piece of jewellery, one which had cost next to nothing four years ago. The clasp had probably broken and she hadn’t felt nor heard it fall. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she pinched her lips tightly together to hold back a sob. It was probably for the best, she tried to reason as she dragged herself to the bathroom again, her energy entirely gone from her body. That way you can completely let go of him, the rational part of her mind quickly supplied.

But her bracelet had meant so much to her, her heart argued. It had been more than just a reminder of her past, it had been her beacon of hope for the future.

And now she had lost it, it was gone. There really was no more hope. And that hurt more than all the things Isabel had said to her.

Stumbling in the shower, she turned on the spray, hissing when the hot water hit her skin. That last blow was the hardest to put up with. She didn’t believe in coincidence, the whole soulmate’s concept was based on destiny. Having a soulmate meant fate existed; one was destined to be with a specific someone. There were no uncertainties, no coincidences. So what was she supposed to think now that she’d lost the very thing that had connected her to her other half throughout the years?

Now that she had taken the new Med, staying in Star City was unthinkable. Staying near Oliver would only diminish its effect. She had to leave town, find another job and settle down somewhere else. Somewhere far, very far. Australia maybe? Or England? She’d go and it would be like she had never been here in the first place. Maybe her friends would miss her a little bit at first but they’d forget about her, eventually. She hadn’t been in Star City for too long, they’d go on with their lives without her, she was sure of it. But she couldn’t help clench her eyes shut at the thought, tears rolling down her cheeks and meddling with the water.

“It’s funny how the prospect of losing something makes you realise how important it is to you.”

Oliver’s words echoed in her mind and she leaned her forehead against the cold tiles of her shower’s wall, water ruining her up-do and then cascading down her neck. Her mind was filled with images, memories of the few months she had spent in Star City with Oliver. Memories of their bickering at Q. Inc, of their long talks and silly games they’d played to pass time. The same silly games which had brought them closer, which had made them learn so much about the other. Memories of late movie nights and hugs and kisses they used to comfort one another. She could his blue eyes perfectly and hear his laugh in her ear and the reality of her situation hit her, hard. In the past, she had cared for the boy and despised the young man. She had resented almost hated the soulmate. But she loved the man and she knew she always would.

The verb “love” made her pause.

She’d never used it before, never applied it to someone that wasn’t family. Oliver wasn’t family. He was darks jeans and white tee-shirt, firm muscles and broad shoulders, warmth and safety. He was her boss, her friend, her soulmate. He’d made a place for himself in every aspect of her life and she’d let him. She’d opened the doors for him, welcomed him inside her arms, accepting his comfort and offering him support in exchange.

Oliver, she realised, was home. Her home.

And it wasn’t leaving Star City that was so repelling to her. Leaving him was.

And she’d have to watch him marry another woman from afar.

The mere idea of him calling Isabel his wife, of her calling him her husband made her blood boil with anger and she cried out in frustration, punching the shower’s wall while she was at it. She heard her knuckles crack and her angry scream turned into a sharp one of pain. She cradled her hand on her chest, breathing noisily through her nose. She shut down the water with her good hand and got out of the shower. She wrapped herself as well as she could in a towel and walked to her bedroom, to put her pajamas on. She managed to get into them using only one hand, hissing every time she had to move her injured one. She looked down at it when she was dressed. It was swollen, and most definitely blue. She knew it wasn’t broken, but it was still bruised and it hurt. Probably more since she was distressed and transferring emotional pain to the body was an actual thing.

She shuffled her feet to the bathroom again and undid her hair, brushing it clumsily before doing it in a messy bun. And that simple task was suddenly very complicated to accomplish, with only one hand at her disposal. When she was done, Felicity moved to the kitchen, where she wrapped ice cubes in a dish towel before putting the makeshift icepack on her swollen hand. She let out a small relieved breath when the cold immediately alleviated some of her pain and she regretted not being able to put ice cubes on her heart as well.

“But that’s why alcohol and ice-cream were invented,” she mumbled under her breath, struggling to open one of the bottles of wine. She knew no mint-chip ice-cream and red wine Band-Aids would ever be able to fix her heart but she knew they’d both numb her heart and mind and that’s what she wanted now. Not being able to feel anything. Not being able to think about anything.

She poured herself a very generous glass of wine before moving everything to the coffee table in front of her couch. Felicity gathered her phone from her clutch and turned on the TV, not really wanting to watch anything, but needing to fill the void and silence around her with something. Some dumb TV-reality program would do the trick. She unlocked her phone and saw she had several missed calls and texts.

“9:11 pm

Tommy said sthg happened to you. You okay?

OQ”

--

“9:15 pm

Why did you leave so early?

TQ”

--

“9:27 pm

Felicity, you okay?

OQ”

--

“9:34 pm

Did you get home safely?

TM”

--

“9:41 pm

Lissy, you aren’t picking your phone. Please tell me you got home.

TM”

--

“9:45 pm

Felicity pick up your phone!

OQ”

--

“9:57 pm

Got home safely, you can tell Oliver to stop worrying about me.

FS”

--

“10 pm

Why don’t you tell him yourself?

TM”

--

Felicity sighed. For obvious reasons, she didn’t want to talk with Oliver, but she also knew if he didn’t hear from her that she was fine, the chances to find him on her doorstep demanding answers would go up like crazy. And she wanted to see him less than she wanted to talk to him. Besides, it was easier to lie through texts than it was to lie to his face. To giver herself strength, she sipped half of her glass in one go without tasting the red liquid on her tongue – this wasn’t about savouring at all but getting drunk quickly and efficiently. Then, she typed a quick text.

“10:05 pm

I’m fine, no need to worry about me!

FS”

--

The answer came after she had emptied her glass and poured herself another one.

“10:08 pm

What happened? What did you want to talk about?

OQ”

--

“10:10 pm

Nothing, get back to your party.

FS”

--

“10:12 pm

Tomorrow, we talk.

OQ”

--

“10:13 pm

Going to be busy with my mom. Tomorrow and the following days.

FS”

--

He didn’t reply to that and she guessed he had probably gone back to the party. Not that it mattered to her or that she’d have wanted him to fight her on her last text or anything because she didn’t. Absolutely not. Sipping her second glass of wine, she ate some ice-cream before pushing the cup away, not feeling any better and not liking the mix of wine and mint. She stared at the void, the sound of her TV only a buzz in the background, drinking her wine and crying silently. She’d never been much of a weepy when she had been a teenager. She had probably cried more over the last few months than she had in her entire life. And she wanted to be mad at herself, for being so weak and sensitive, but she couldn’t. She just accepted she couldn’t be strong all the time.

Her mother came home earlier than Felicity expected. She had barely reached the end of her first bottle. She was still sitting on the couch and she hadn’t moved, not even when the ice cubs had completely melted on her hand.

“Oh Felicity, hi!” Donna said, a bright smile on her lips. “I didn’t think you’d be here already,” she said, her eyebrows furrowing at the sight of her daughter sprawled out on the couch. And her eyes widened at the sight of the bottles of wine next to Felicity. “Baby, are you okay?” She asked, concern laced with worry in her voice.

“Never been better!” Felicity replied cheerfully, and she knew her voice was too high to sound anything else but drunk. “How was your date?” She squinted her eyes, seeing her mother’s lipstick slightly smudged. “Did you kiss him?”

Donna blushed slightly.

“Oh my god you totally did!” She squealed. “You go mom, get your man!” She added, clapping her hands happily.

Donna frowned, and gave her a weird look. “Well, technically, he kissed me. He doesn’t seem to share my “no kiss on a first date” rule.”

“Aww!” Felicity squealed again before starting to giggle. “I’m so happy for you. You deserve all the happiness in the world mom! I’d squish your face if I could but I can’t. I hurt my hand in the shower.”

Donna tilted her head, dropping her clutch on the floor. She rushed her daughter’s side, her eyes filled with concerns. “You hurt your hand?”

Felicity nodded, showing her bruised and swollen hand to her. Her mother took a quick look at it before saying.

“I’ll be right back.”

She came back a few minutes later, holding a square towel and Felicity’s first-aid kit. She dropped everything on the coffee table, taking Felicity’s glass from her hand. “You drunk all of this alone?”

The blonde nodded, watching her mother sit down next to her.

“Why baby? Did something happen at the party? Why did you cry?” She added, tracing the path of Felicity’s tears on her cheeks with the tip of her fingers.

Felicity shrugged. She was feeling pleasantly numb, just like she had wanted to. She had stopped crying a while ago and now the memory of the party seemed very far away, Isabel’s voice in her head having been replaced with a nice alcohol-induced buzz. That was probably why she didn’t really feel the pain when Donna cautiously dried her hand before applying some cream on the bruise. Then, she wrapped it with gauze, making sure the bandage wasn’t too tight.

“Thank you mom,” Felicity replied. “You must be tired of fixing me,” her mouth quickly added, without her brain’s consent. “It seems as if you’ve been doing that only for a while now.”

“It’s my job to take care of you hon,” Donna replied softly, cupping her cheek. “But you didn’t answer my question Felicity,” she insisted, keeping her daughter’s injured hand in her lap.

Felicity shrugged. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she simply said, feeling her tears coming back and the nice bubble of denial she had been stuck in started to break. She didn’t really feel all giddy and squealing anymore.

Donna’s shoulders went limp and she got up, gathering up Felicity’s glass, the bottles of wine and the ice-cream. Felicity leaned back in the couch, and closed her eyes, suddenly feeling exhausted. Until she felt the couch dip next to her and she opened her eyes again to see her mother staring at her expectantly, handing her a glass of water and some sliced bread.

“Eat and drink,” she demanded, rummaging through the medical aid-kit again and getting two ibuprofen tablets out. “And swallow that,” she added.

Felicity did as she was told. She wasn’t feeling like giggling or squealing anymore. Her mother’s severe eyes on her made her feel like she was six years old again and she had played with the wires of the microwave, to try and fix it just like “daddy does it all the time”. When she had eaten all the bread, and drank two glasses of water, Felicity started feeling the hold of the alcohol on her brain loosen up even more. Her head fell slightly as exhaustion hit her, reminding her of what she had been through that night.

“Come on,” Donna said. “Let’s get you to bed.”

She helped Felicity up, and walked her to her bedroom. She undid her bed, so that she could slid into it and tucked her in. She sat down next to her, brushing wet strands of hair away from her face. Felicity smiled slightly at her tenderness.

“I can see something happened at that party baby,” Donna whispered and when Felicity opened her mouth to say something, she interrupted her by pressing two fingers to her lips. “You need to sleep now, I can see in your eyes that you won’t last too much. But we’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”

Felicity nodded and Donna leaned forward to kiss her forehead. “Goodnight hon.”

“Goodnight mom,” Felicity replied.

Donna got on her feet and started walking away. When she reached the door, Felicity called her back.

“Mom!” Donna turned around, a question in her eyes.

“Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?” Felicity asked, almost timidly.

Donna looked surprised but she nodded nonetheless. She came back to her daughter, who turned on her side to make some room for her. Donna lied down next her and wrapped her arms around her, holding onto her tightly. Felicity hid her face in her comforter. She fell asleep in her mother’s arms, silent tears rolling down her cheeks.

When she woke up the next morning, it was to the sound of a fried pan slamming against a hotplate and the delicious smell of pancakes cooking. Her eyes fluttered open and she groaned when the light of the day reached her eyes. She blindly looked for a pillow, gasping when she used her wrong hand. Eventually, she managed to cover her face with a small square pillow. She had a mild headache and though she had slept through the night without waking up, she was feeling still exhausted. And there was an aching hole in her chest, filled with immense sadness and deep longing. Sighing, she kicked her sheets away and got on her feet. She shuffled to the chicken and found her mother setting on the table.

When she saw her daughter, Donna didn’t say anything. Instead, she reached for something and Felicity’s heart jumped in her chest when she realised it was her new box of the Med.

“Care to explain?” She asked.

Felicity shrugged. “It’s the Med,” she simply said, feeling taken aback and trapped. She had just woken up and was still feeling a bit drowsy. She most definitely wasn’t ready to face her mother and her questions.

“For a ten,” Donna said. “Last time I checked, your number was 8.8.”

Felicity bit on her lower lip. “Well, now it’s 9.4,” she told her, knowing there was no point in lying to her now that she had seen the box.

Donna’s eyes widened. “9.4… 9.4… That’s… How?”

Felicity looked down toward her feet. “My soulmate’s Oliver.”

Donna fell on a chair at the news and her jaw dropped. Not literally, but her mouth did fall open. Sighing, Felicity moved to sit down in front of her and told her everything that had happened at the party the day before, and what doctor Lazarev had told her about her bond. Her voice was low and neutral, lacking emotions. She didn’t like being that detached but she knew she’d break down again if she wasn’t. That’s also why she kept the details of her story with Oliver for herself. Thinking about him that way, thinking about how he had held her or kissed her was just too painful.

Donna didn’t say anything for a long while after her daughter was done telling her story. She had been the perfect listener, never interrupting Felicity and letting her say things at her own pace while holding her hand tightly.

“When are you going to tell him the truth?” She eventually asked, her voice strained.

“Never,” Felicity replied, nervously playing with the fabric of her tank top. “He can never know mom, this is very important.”

“But why?”

“What part didn’t you understand?” She angrily shot back, knowing it was unfair to take out her frustration on her mother but doing it nonetheless. “The one where I almost killed him? Or the one where his marriage to Isabel is the only way to save QC and Q. Inc?”

Donna gave her a warning look and Felicity hunched her shoulders.

“Sorry,” she quickly apologised, doing her best to calm herself down but she was feeling so angry and revolted, she had to let those emotions out, one way or another. 

“Felicity, you have to tell him the truth. This,” she pointed at the box, “is only hurting you. And him.”

She shook her head. “I can’t tell him mom. I won’t be the one to put him in a position where he has to choose between me and his employees.”

“What are you going to do then? Keep working for him? Watch him marry another woman?”

“No of course not…”

“Then what are you going to do? Leave? To go where?”

“I – I don’t know,” Felicity stammered, feeling overwhelmed by her mother’s relentlessness. “Somewhere far. Maybe abroad.”

“Abroad? What about me? Visiting you in Star City is one thing, visiting you in another country a whole other. And what about your friends? There are people here who care about you. What about them? Are we supposed to say one last goodbye and then be done with them?”

“I – I don’t know, okay?” Felicity yelled, slamming her uninjured hand on the table, making her mother flinch. “Do you think this is easy for me?” She asked, her voice distorted by her anger. She got on her feet and started pacing. “Do you think I hold all the answers? That I know what to do and where to go? Well guess what? I don’t! I have no fucking idea of what I’m supposed to do now. I’m lost, okay!? Completely and utterly lost!”

She stared at her mother breathing heavily, her fists clenched tightly along her sides. “I don’t know what to do mom. I wasn’t prepared for this, it was never supposed to happen,” she pinched her nose fighting back her tears. God, why things had to be so hard and complicated? “I understand why you want me to tell him and you have to believe that I would have, had the circumstances been different. But I can’t tell him and I can’t stay, even if I don’t want to go either.” She took a deep breath, trying to get a hold on her emotions. “I really need you to support me on this mom, to help me. Please,” she added.

Donna closed her eyes, her lower lip shaking slightly. “I only want what’s best for you baby,” she eventually said, the look on her face more serious than Felicity had ever seen in her whole life. Donna’s voice wasn’t warm like it usually was, but cold and harsh.  “And it’s not that.”

Felicity flinched, her fingers twisting the fabric of her jammies.

“But…” Donna’s voice softened slightly. “You’re my daughter and I’ll help you, even if I don’t approve of your choice.”

Felicity nodded, feeling relieved. Donna wasn’t really on her side but she knew she’d help her, through anything. And right now, it was everything she needed.

Obviously, the two of them didn’t really feel like happily celebrating Hanukah after that. Something was weighing down on them now, there was a lingering tension between them. Felicity hated but there was nothing she could do about it. In spite of that, and under Donna’s impulse, they kept on with their traditions at night while they spent their days planning where Felicity’s journey would take her next. The blonde was doing most of the job though, because she knew her mother didn’t like it. But she did listen to her suggestions when she had some. Things were incredibly hard for her. She wasn’t leaving because she wanted to but because it was needed. It wasn’t really her decision, her choice was motivated by the current situation in Star City. To say it wasn’t really animating her to find a new position somewhere would be an understatement. She did attempt to write a resignation letter from Q. Inc though but she found it hard to find the right words and she knew it probably was because there wasn’t any.

She didn’t try to contact anyone, responding briefly to the texts she got from Tommy or Sara. She avoided talking to Oliver, not replying to his messages at all. And he surprised her when he didn’t show up at her doorstep. But then again, she could easily guess why. He was probably very busy with Isabel and his family and hoping to see her on December the 31rst, when they were supposed to help Tommy prepare things for his proposal to Laurel. Felicity had wanted to cancel at first but her mother had convinced her otherwise, reminding her she hadn’t left Star City yet – she still didn’t know where to go, but London was the city she was the most attracted to. Plus she already was on babysitting duty that day for Barry and Iris, so spending some time with her other friends as well wouldn’t hurt her. She’d just have to avoid being alone with Oliver.

Barry and Iris were celebrating their bonding anniversary on December 31rst, and they had decided to spend a romantic day and evening together. On Christmas day, they’d asked Donna if Felicity and she were okay with babysitting JJ, while Felicity had been outside with Oliver. Donna being Donna she had gladly accepted, not that Felicity would have refused if she had been present. But in the end, she’d be the only one watching JJ for most of the day, since Donna was leaving on another date with her mysterious boyfriend, for the whole day. Felicity was happy to see her mother happy and radiant so she hadn’t minded it too much when Donna had told her the news. In fact, she was looking forward to that day. She’d wake up super early to go watch JJ, they’d spend the day together, help Tommy in the afternoon and then they’d have a nice New Year’s Eve dinner with Donna. It was going to be a beautiful day, at least a better one than the ones she had spent hiding herself from her mother to cry and looking for somewhere to go and a new job.

 


 

Tommy Merlyn was a lot of things, Felicity had learnt in the time she had known him. He was a good businessman, a loyal friend and a loving soulmate. He cared about his family’s legacy about as much as he cared about what the future was holding out for him. He wasn’t perfect, but then nobody was, but he was fundamentally good. Now, as she was helping him prepare his proposal for his girlfriend, Felicity realised Tommy Merlyn was also a huge sap. And it made her laugh to no end.

To propose to Laurel, he had spent an insanely huge amount of money to rent Star City’s high school because he had decided to ask her to marry him where he had met her for the first time. He had discussed his plans for the evening with his friends and together, they had refined every single details, so they’d spend an unforgettable evening. At first, they’d watch the movie they’d watch on their first date in the chemistry class, thanks to the overhead projector. They’d sit on blankets and pillows and eat popcorn and drink beer, just like they had that day. Then, they’d move to the hallway, where Tommy had first laid eyes on Laurel when she had been transferred to Star City’s high school. There, they’d eat her favourite meal on a small table, with a white tablecloth and a few candles to light things up a little bit. There would be two blackboards surrounding them, covered with pictures of the two of them throughout the years. Tommy wanted to remind her of all the things they’d been through during dinner. Then, they’d move to the gym, where their prom ball had taken place. They’d been elected King and Queen, even though they hadn’t even attend the thing as a couple and Tommy had been adamant they decorated the place exactly like it had been decorated that day. There, surrounded by flickering lights and red roses, Tommy would propose. He had even hired the band who had played the song they’d danced on after being crowned.

And it was to help Tommy get everything ready in time that Felicity found herself inside a gym, climbing up a ladder to fix lighting garlands to the ceiling. Wires were wires after all, whether they came from a powerful computer or something as beautiful as a garland.

“You alright up there?” Thea asked, as she was pinning silk ribbons to the walls.

“Never been better,” Felicity replied through gritted teeth, doing her best to stop looking down. She raised her arms up above her head again, gasping because the ladder was less stable when she wasn’t holding it. And also because she was wearing a crop top sweater and whenever she lifted her arms, she was afraid her scar would be exposed to her friends’ eyes. She had already felt the cool air of the gym hit the bottom of the car and thankfully, her friends had been too busy to notice anything but she didn’t know how long her luck would last. Damn Oliver for being late! She would have never worn that top, had she known she’d have to raise her arms high above her head.

“You’re doing great,” Tommy assured her. He was himself standing on another ladder to help her fix the garlands and tulle banners to the ceiling

“You’re the best F’licity,” JJ added, his reedy voice making Felicity a bit better.

“We’re almost done,” Tommy told her, hammering the last hook, before attaching the garlands to it. “And here, we’re done.”

“I’m so gonna kill Oliver,” she mumbled, relieved that it was finally time to go down.

“He’s being held back by Isabel,” Thea reminded her. “Have mercy!”

Felicity rolled her eyes and started climbing down, her legs shaking just slightly. When she reached the floor, JJ put a hand on her leg, smiling from ear to ear. She pinched his nose playfully, before running a hand in his hair. He giggled and she couldn’t help but huff a laugh too. They had had a great day so far, and she was actually happy Oliver was being held somewhere else, even if it meant she had to be the one climbing up the ladder. It was a small price to pay to avoid spending time in his company.

“So, what’s next?” Felicity asked, rubbing her hands together.

“We help Thea with the last ribbons and then… the blackboards,” Tommy said.

She nodded. “Right. You have the pictures?”

“In my car. I’m going to go get them, you stay here and help Thea. I’ll be back soon. Want to come with me buddy?” He asked JJ then and the little boy shook his head, his curls bouncing on top of his head.

“I’m staying with F’licity,” he said, gripping the fabric of her pants.

“Ouch, you’re hurting me,” Tommy joked, winking at Felicity.

He left them then and Felicity hurried to go help Thea while JJ gently offered to throw the pieces of ribbons and tulle banners in the bin.

“Hand me the scissors,” Thea asked and Felicity did it without thinking, coming up to hold the ribbon while Thea shortened a side.

“Careful with my fingers,” Felicity teased her. “My hand’s already been injured enough.”

“Aw poor baby! Did the doctor offer to cut it as a cure?” Thea replied humorously, bringing the scissors close to Felicity’s hand.

“They did actually,” Felicity explained, staring at her bandaged hand, “but I voted against it.”

“Wise choice,” Thea commented, pinning the last ribbon. “You can always use a hand,” she added, flashing her a bright smile.

Felicity smoothed the silky decorations and the girls both got on their feet, satisfied with their work.

“JJ be careful with your car, don’t play near the ladders,” she recommended when she saw the remotely controlled car hit one of the ladders a bit too violently, making it tremble slightly.

“Sorry F’licity,” he told her, guiding his toy somewhere else and running after it, babbling something about it being the “the most fastest car on earth”.

“You’re so good with him,” Thea complimented her.

Felicity shook her head. “I have nothing to do with this. He’s just a nice kid.”

Thea shrugged. “If you say so.”

Then, she suddenly shifted on her feet nervously, turning to face Felicity again. The blonde arched an eyebrow at the look on her face, the exact same Oliver always had when he wanted to ask her something.

“What is it?” She asked.

“You’re good with computers, right?” Thea said. “I’ve heard Ollie mention several times how good you are at explaining things to him and you did tell me the story of how you hacked into the phone of that Mandy Miller girl who was so mean to you in high-school so I assume that you know your way around a keyboard and that you know it very well actually.”

Felicity tensed up slightly, unpleasant memories surfacing again. “Yeah you could say that.”

“I was wondering if you could…” Thea chuckled nervously. “If you could help me with my SID’s account.”

Felicity frowned. “You’re turning eighteen in three weeks Thea, how could I possibly help you?”

“It’s driving me crazy,” she confessed, chewing on her lower lip worriedly. “The mere thought of my mom hiding things from me… It’s killing me. I need to know.”

“Thea, I…” Felicity started but she was interrupted by the arrival of Tommy and Oliver.

“Look who I found outside,” Tommy cheerfully said.

“Uncle Liver,” JJ squealed, dropping his remote control to jump in Oliver’s arms.

“Hey buddy!” Oliver greeted him, lifting him up.

“You see what we did?” The little boy asked, pointing at the garlands.

Oliver whistled, impressed. “You helped doing that?”

“Yes,” JJ confirmed, nodding happily. “I climbed up the ladder and helped Tom-Tom!”

“Is that so? You’re stronger than you look then,” Oliver teased him, tickling his sides playfully. The little boy giggled in delight and Felicity felt a smile stretch her lips. She felt her heart clench in her chest at the thought that soon, she wouldn’t be here anymore to witness this anymore. A lump form in her throat at the sight of her soulmate, looking more carefree than he had in weeks. When he looked up and his eyes crossed hers, a wide smile on his lips, she felt her legs shake slightly. Being in his presence today, even for a few hours, was going to be harder than she had expected it to be and she started regretting not cancelling everything.

They moved from the gym to the inside of the school, and the hallway where they’d eat dinner. They had previously set the table and the chairs up, and Thea had decorated them with comfortable pillows and beautiful fabric. Oliver and Tommy went to get the blackboards while Thea and Felicity started organising the pictures of Laurel and Tommy. The plan was to have one blackboard covered with pictures of their youngest years, before they were a couple, and another blackboard covered with pictures of their life together.

“How is it possible to have so many pictures with the same person?” Felicity wondered.

“Laurel loves taking pictures,” Thea reminded her. “So do I by the way,” she added, leaning toward Felicity to snap a selfie of the two of them.

“I want to be on the picture too,” JJ pouted, holding his arms out.

 Felicity lifted him. “Excuse Thea’s rudeness little man,” she apologised, kissing his cheek.

Thea nudged her playfully but did snap another picture, of the three of them this time.

“This is how you’re working?” Tommy teased them when they came back with the first blackboard. It was meant to be a joke, but Felicity could still feel his nervousness. She didn’t blame him though. He was only going to propose once in his life, and everything needed to be perfect, and more importantly ready on time.

Thea stuck his tongue at him. “We’re taking a break,” she replied, as they went away again. “Let’s get started though,” Thea suggested once they were out of sight, “or I fear Tommy might have a stroke.”

“He’s going to propose to the love of his life tonight. It’s normal to be nervous,” Felicity immediately defended him, letting go of JJ again.

“I never said it wasn’t,” Thea told her, reaching for a magnet to put the first picture on the board. “God I love weddings,” she sighed. “We’ll go shopping together, right Felicity? I’m sure Carl will come up with amazing ideas for our dresses. And if he doesn’t, then I will,” she laughed.

Felicity nodded absent-mindedly, knowing that she probably wouldn’t attend the wedding. Leaving Star City meant putting everything behind her. And in her heart she knew it was the true reason why she hadn’t cancelled her plans for today. In the end, those were among her last moments with the people she had met in Star City and had grown so close to and it she was determined to make the most of them.

She was saved from replying to Thea by Tommy and Oliver coming with the second blackboard.

“What were you guys talking about?” Oliver inquired.

“I was just telling Felicity how much I love weddings,” Thea informed him. “I can’t wait for your big day,” she added, elbowing Tommy playfully.

“F’licity, F’licity,” JJ cried, running toward her, his very small legs making the simple task cuter than it normally was. “My car doesn’t move!” He whined, handing her the remote control.

“The battery’s probably dead,” she told him, kneeling down next to him. “We’ll have to charge it up at home because I didn’t bring the charger here with me.”

“But I wanted to show uncle ‘Liver it’s fast,” he sniffled.

“How fast it is,” Felicity corrected gently. “You’ll have to show him another time. But if you want, I have this car game you like on my phone. You can show uncle ‘Liver that,” she added encouragingly.

He nodded and she handed him her phone, telling him to be careful with it. “Thank you F’licity.”

She got up again, watching him sit down against a locker tenderly. She looked up and saw Thea staring at her intently.

“What?”

“Nothing,” the brunette said. “Just thinking your children are going to be very lucky to have your as their mother.”

Felicity snorted, shaking her hand. “If I have children,” she couldn’t help but correct.

“You don’t want children?” Oliver asked her.

Her next breath got caught in her throat. It was the first words he had spoken to her directly since he had arrived. “I didn’t say that,” she replied. “I just…” She hesitated, nervously playing with the hem of her sweater. “I just never really thought about it.”

“Which is completely normal,” Tommy immediately agreed, coming to her rescue after sensing her nervousness. “You’re not twenty-one yet.”

“Right,” Oliver said, focusing back on the pictures in front of him.

They spent a few minutes without talking, pinning the pictures to the boards with only the sound of JJ’s game to fill the silence surrounding them. Until Tommy gasped.

“Oh my god, Ollie do you remember that party at Helena Bertinelli’s?” He asked him excitedly, handing him the picture he had been holding.

Oliver frowned for a second, wincing slightly. “Yep, I do,” he said, not sharing his friend’s enthusiasm.

“We played a stupid game of Truth of Dare with our teammates before going,” Tommy told them. “Helena was the cheerleader’s captain and she had decided to throw a party in her house after we qualified our team for the finale of the state’s basketball championship,” Tommy shook his head, chuckling fondly at the memory. “Those idiots dared us to try and make out with more girls than the other. We were supposed to snap pictures to count down the number of girls we had kissed after the party.”

“Gross!” Thea and Felicity said both at the same time.

“This is technically when I kissed Laurel for the first time. It was more a peck than a kiss to be honest but I remember it as if it was yesterday,” he added softly, getting the picture back from Oliver.

“So I’m pretty sure I’m going to regret asking that question but who won that dare?” Thea asked, scrunching her nose slightly.

“There actually was a system of points. Three points for a kiss on the cheek, seven for a peck, eleven if we went all in like the French do. And of course, extra points if she had let us grope her a little bit.”

Felicity tensed up at his words. For the first time ever since she’d met Oliver and Tommy, she was confronted to her soulmate’s tumultuous past. She knew that whenever Tommy started sharing some of their stories, he made sure his friends would only tell the funny stories. Not the uglier ones, involving sex, drugs and alcohol. Because deep down, she knew Oliver wasn’t proud of his past, of who he used to be, and after their conversation on Christmas, she even believed he regretted most of the things he had done.

“That system of points still exist,” Thea blurted out before realising what she had just say when her brother stiffened and shot her a dark look. “Not that I’ve been a part of any game including it, I’ve just… I’ve just seen guys, and girls too to be honest, use it at parties.” It wasn’t enough to make Oliver relax. “So Tommy,” Thea went on, eager to change the topic, “who ended up winning the game in the end?”

“Ollie,” Tommy answered. “He scored 50 extra points that night, with Helena Bertinelli herself.”

Thea gasped while Felicity frowned. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing,” Oliver assured her, a blush creeping on his cheek.

“It means they did it,” Thea said, looking slightly disgusted. “Ew, ew Ollie!”

“Oh,” Felicity let out, understanding what Thea had meant, her shoulders going limp. Why was she so surprised? It wasn’t like she didn’t know how he used to act back then.

“Can we talk about something else?” Oliver asked, clearly looking ill-at-ease.

“No way,” Thea interrupted him. “This is golden blackmail material,” she added, grinning like the cat which had just caught the canary. “Tommy, do you have more stories to share?” She asked. “What about this picture? What does it remind you of?”

“Oh this was at Carter “Douche” Bowen’s place,” Tommy started. “Ollie was dating Carrie “Freaky” Cutter then and she was a bit of a possessive bit…”

“Guys,” Oliver warned them.

“Right, sorry Ollie,” Tommy apologised, looking back to the pictures in front of him.

Thea grumbled a little bit after he stopped talking but the conversation was quickly orientated toward weddings, which were really something she loved. Adored would even be more accurate. They talked about Tommy’s weddings, what he had in mind for his big day.

“But what about you guys?” He asked them. They had just finished pinning the pictures and were now waiting for the florists to come and drop the red roses. “What would you like for your big day?”

“The Plaza, in May or maybe June,” Thea replied immediately. “Roses everywhere, very expensive champagne and a princess dress with lightings, like that Zac Posen’s dress from this year’s MET gala.”

Both Tommy and Oliver chuckled. “You’ve put a lot of thought in your wedding Speedy.”

“I’m just thinking ahead,” she replied, shrugging. “What about you Lissy?”

Felicity, who had been drinking, choked on her bottle of water. “Me?” Her voice was strangled and she coughed some more. “I haven’t been thinking ahead.”

“You haven’t thought about your children, you haven’t thought about your wedding,” Thea listed. “What do you think about when you think of your future?”

The next place to run.

Felicity was this close to say that to her. But she couldn’t, obviously, so she went with a more neutral.

“I’m kind of soulmateless at the moment.”

“Me too,” Thea argued. “But I already know I want three children, and their names will start with the letter C. Camila, Cecily and Chris are my favourites.”

Felicity blinked at her and noticed Tommy had started fidgeting nervously. “You’re crazy.”

Thea shook her head. “No, you want to have thought of baby names before you start arguing with your soulmate over them.”

Tommy snorted at that and Felicity shot him a weird look. JJ got on his feet and came to Felicity handing her phone back to her. He couldn’t play anymore, having lost all his health points. She lifted him up in her arms after that.

“Felicity will marry me,” he said very seriously then, wrapping one of his arms around her neck.

Everyone chuckled at his words.

“Aren’t you a bit young?” Oliver asked, amusement filling his eyes.

JJ nodded. “I’ll be four soon,” he reminded him.

“That’s still young,” Oliver insisted. “And what about your soulmate?”

He shrugged. “I don’t have one,” he said, hiding his face in Felicity’s neck.

The little boy was too young to understand what a soulmate was exactly and what it meant to have one. But since every children were born with a mark on their skin, most parents chose to tell them tales and stories of princes and princesses being soulmates, and sharing the same mark, in order to have them grow up knowing about soulmates. Barry and Iris were among them.

What JJ meant when he said he didn’t have a soulmate was that his other half wasn’t born yet. At such a young age, it was hard to put into words how having a soulmate felt, but it wasn’t complicated to say how not having one felt. Children weren’t exactly in pain when they were born before their soulmate, but they did feel a void, one they often told their parents about. They forgot about it while they grew up though, the presence of their soulmate erasing everything else. Felicity had never been through that, since she was born seven years after Oliver and she didn’t remember exactly how it had felt to have him in her heart and thoughts when she had been around three and four years old. She had just been left with a vague impression of bright colours and sweet tenderness. It wasn’t common for two people to be born with such a huge difference. Most soulmates were born the same year, four years top. Huge age gaps like Felicity and Oliver’s were rare but actually not the rarest. The rarest were those exceeding ten years.

“She’ll be in every part of your life soon enough kiddo,” Tommy told him, patting his back. “Damn, I…” he sighed.

“Language,” Felicity chastised him immediately.

He cocked his head. “I don’t remember about Laurel’s birth. But then, that’s probably because we were born months apart,” he added, scratching the back of his head.

“Mine was born before me,” Thea said.

“Mine too,” Felicity confessed.

Tommy opened his mouth to say something but then the florist called him to tell him he had arrived and they went to get the boxes of flowers. They dropped some boxes in the hallway before making their way to the gym where they hang roses on the arch Tommy would propose to Laurel under.

“I remember when my soulmate was born,” Oliver said after a while of them working silently, except for exchanging advice and ideas.

Felicity froze at his words while Tommy and Thea looked up from their flowers.

“I don’t remember the exact date but I do remember the day perfectly. I was six years old, maybe seven already, I really can’t say. My soulmark had been burning all day long at school. I know now it wasn’t that bad but then I thought it was awful. I kept scratching it, trying to relieve some of the pain. Raisa – you remember Raisa, Felicity? She’s our family’s help, I told you about her.” She nodded, a lump of emotions forming in her throat at what he was telling them. “Well, she picked me up at four, like she always did. She had even baked me my favourite cookies during the afternoon,” he said, smiling fondly.

“The double-chocolate ones?” Tommy wondered.

Oliver nodded. “Yep. Raisa was worrying a lot and she called my parents to ask for their opinion. They said it was probably nothing – I really was fine after all, except for that burn – and they urged her to put me to bed, but to call them if things got worse.” He paused, smiling softly, looking down at the rose he was holding. “Her cry woke me up in the middle of the night. I heard it echo in my head. Her first cry. It pulled at something, right here,” he pointed at his chest, “and before I knew it everything was brighter, better. She was everywhere.”

Felicity pinched her lips together, swallowing, hard, to loosen up her throat a bit. No one had pointed out Isabel, Oliver’s so called soulmate, was actually three years older than him and she didn’t know if she was happy or sad about it. She dropped the roses she had been holding on a near table.

“I need to go to the bathroom,” she excused herself, pinching her lips as she left, trying to hold back her emotions.

“And before I knew it everything was brighter, better.”

She pushed the door behind her, leaving it half-open and took a few steps toward the sink. Oliver really wasn’t making things easy for her when he said such things. She gripped the rims so tightly her fingers turned white. The moment she had decided to leave, she had known it was going to be hard. But it was so much worse than what she had expected. She loved her friends, her life in Star City. She loved Oliver too, his eyes, his smile, his laugh. She wiped the corner of her eyes, trying to find the strength inside her to hold onto her what she had decided. What she needed to do.

“Why are you sad?” A small voice asked her.

She jumped in surprise, putting a hand on her chest to cover her racing heart. “JJ, God! You scared me kiddo.”

“Why are you sad?” He insisted, his little eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

She cocked her head gently. “I’m not sad,” she told him softly.

“But you have a sad face.”

She shrugged, widening her smile a little bit, to reassure him. “I’m just a little bit tired,” she explained.

“Do you need to go to sleep? I’ll give you Coco, he’ll watch while you sleep,” he added.

“That’s very nice of you,” she replied sincerely, knowing how much he loved his teddy bear. “What about you? Do you want to go home? Are you tired?”

He nodded, his curls following the movement of his head. “A little bit,” he admitted.

“I know it’s not funny to be here all day,” she agreed, a sympathetic smile stretching her lips. “I’ll tell you that, we finish with the roses in the gym and then we go back home.” There wouldn’t be much work left to do, and she was sure Thea, Tommy and Oliver would have enough hands between the three of them to handle it. Plus, if they left early, Oliver wouldn’t have time to talk to her in private, like she suspected he had planned.

He smiled, clapping his hand enthusiastically. “Can we eat key lime pie?” He asked. “Daddy takes me when he picks me up from the nanny.”

Felicity knew which place he was referring to, having been there with Barry herself once. “Deal,” she agreed, lifting him up in her arms.

They went back inside the gym and soon enough, they were done with putting the roses on the arch. They all stepped away, admiring their hard work.

“We should think about becoming professional proposal planners,” Thea commented, smiling appreciatively.

Both Oliver and Tommy chuckled, shaking her head.

“You can still do it if you want to,” Felicity told her, squeezing her shoulder gently.

Thea gave her a small smile and Felicity’s shoulders dropped when she realised what she had just said. Thea was going to study at Star City’s University next year and get a MBA.

“Anyway, what’s up next?” Thea asked, shaking her head.

“The band should be here soon, they need to install their equipment,” Tommy replied.

“JJ and I will go now,” Felicity informed then. “He’s starting to get tired and I know there isn’t much left to do so…” She looked down toward the tips of her shoes, feeling slightly remorseful for leaving before everyone else.

“Yeah, it’s okay. I’m surprised the kid lasted that long,” Tommy told her, squeezing her hand lightly.

Now that she was taking the proper dose of the Med, his touch wasn’t burning her anymore and it was a relief. She helped JJ into his coat, putting on his beanie, scarf and gloves. It was still cold outside, the weather still being very snowy. She put on her own coat when she was done with JJ and they left, waving everyone goodbye and wishing Tommy all the luck, not that he would need it. They walked to her car and Felicity held JJ’s little hand in hers on the way.

They stopped by the small bakery shop near the police station where Barry worked to eat the key lime pie JJ had mentioned. Felicity snapped a picture of JJ and his white creamy moustache and quickly sent it to his parents. They didn’t reply immediately, but Felicity didn’t expect them too. They were after all gone for a romantic escapade and had decided against consulting their phones during it. They had given Felicity the number of the place they were staying in, to use only in case of emergency.

“F’licity, can we go to the park before going home?” JJ asked her politely, a cute smile on his lips.

She tilted her head. “I thought you were tired.”

“But the park is just here,” he told her. “And I want to play in the snow, please.” He pouted slightly, and it made him look so adorable, she had to fight off the desire to hug him tightly and peppered his face with kisses.

She sighed. “Well, we did spend the whole day between four walls,” she admitted. “I guess we could use some fresh air!”

“Yes!” He squealed in delight.

“But we won’t stay out for too long,” she warned him. “I don’t want you to catch a cold, your parents would kill me.”

“I’ll protect you F’licity,” he assured her and she shook her head amused by his confidence. The little boy really was her favourite person in the world at this very moment.

They walked to the park, which was not as empty as Felicity had thought it would be. There was a few couples strolling between the snowy trees and a few children playing in the snow, building snowmen. Before she could hold him back, JJ was running toward the children, who welcomed him warmly and he started helping them with the snowmen. Felicity politely greeted the people watching them, funnily most of them were grandparents, before bringing her attention back to JJ.

Parts of her conversation from earlier with her friends came back to her as she watched the children play in the snow, giggling. They looked so happy, so carefree, so innocent, it tugged at something in her heart. A pang of want and longing, she hadn’t known she had in herself overwhelmed her. It had always been out of question for her to have children with someone other than her soulmate. Her father had been her mother’s soulmate and it hadn’t prevented him from leaving. Who knew what would happen with someone with less attachment to her? She didn’t want her children to be fatherless. So she had decided she’d never have any and it had always been fine with her. Until now. Until she met her soulmate. Until Oliver.

It was normal, she thought, that she was wondering about the what ifs. About what could have been. It was normal she was desiring things she had never wanted before, hoping for things she knew would never be. She was still too emotionally invested in this part of her life where she had entertained the thought of being with her soulmate. She knew with time and distance she’d find her former self back. But for now she was here and she indulged herself a small fantasy. One single fantasy. She imagined a boy with high cheekbones and adorable dimples. A boy with blue eyes clear like the sea and sandy brown curls bouncing on top of his head. She closed her eyes, saving the boy in a corner of her heart. Unreachable, but safe.

When she opened her eyes again, she realised she wasn’t seeing the children anymore. She frowned, her heart jumping in her chest in worry, but then she spotted one counting and she figured they were playing hide-and-seek. She let them play for a while longer before getting JJ and telling him it was time to go home. He took her hand without protesting, waving goodbye to his friends with the other.

They started walking toward the park’s exit and at some point, JJ decided to run ahead of her, hiding himself behind trees, his little head with his mischievous smile the only thing peeking out. Until he called for her.

“F’licity! I found a box!”

Frowning, she walked to the tree he had hidden behind. He was standing next to a cardboard box.

“Don’t touch it,” she told him. “We don’t know who put it there or what’s inside.”

He nodded and came to her. She looked around, trying to see if there was anyone around. There wasn’t. Sighing, she kneeled in front of the box and watched it carefully. It didn’t look dangerous, but then dangerous things rarely looked like it. She was startled when she heard a faint nose and felt something knock the box. From the inside. Intrigued, she opened it and her heart clench in her chest at the sight of two very small kitten glued to one another and still shivering.

“Oh!” She let out, motioning for JJ to come. “Look!”

“Kittens,” he whispered. “They’re so small!” He said, looking at them in wonder. “Why are they in a box?” He asked her and she bit on her lower lip nervously, not knowing how to explain to him that sometimes people abandoned their pets.

“I don’t know,” she said, taking off her scarf. The snow had dampened the bottom of the box and the two poor kittens were lying on it, wet and freezing. Carefully, she moved them and they meowed weakly in response, their blue eyes half-open. Then, she placed her scarf in the bottom of the box, before putting the kitten back in.

“Why are you putting them back in the box?” JJ asked. “We can’t leave them here,” he stated, his little hand reaching out to pet one of the kitten. The poor baby was so tired, it didn’t even fight the contact.

“Of course not,” Felicity agreed, getting on her feet, the box in her hands. “But I know nothing about kitten and how to take care of them.”

“Mommy takes me to the doctor when I’m sick,” JJ told her very seriously, walking close to her now that they had a precious cargo to take care of.

Felicity checked her phone for the time. 5 pm. “At this time of the day? On New Year’s Eve?” She shook her head. “I doubt we’ll find a vet willing to see them.”

“We have to try,” JJ insisted, as they reached the car. Felicity sighed. She put the box with the kitten on the seat next to her before buckling JJ up in his seat. Then she sat down, and pulled her phone out of her purse. She had several missed calls from Oliver, which she decided to ignore, and one from her mother. She had left a message and Felicity listened to it, biting on her lip worriedly.

“Felicity, I just wanted to tell you I’m probably going to be late for dinner. I’m so sorry baby, we went far out of town, and now the road is blocked because of a car accident – a heavy truck slipped on the icy road. We have to wait for the road to be cleared out, it should take a few more hours and then we have to actually drive back... I’m so sorry baby, I’ll call you back when I know more.”

Felicity sighed, that was bad luck. Shaking her head, she texted her mother to let her know she had gotten her message. Then, she opened Google – it was why she had gotten her phone out in the first place after all. The blessed search engine was kind enough to inform her there was an animal shelter opened until 9 pm every day and to guide her there, using the GPS app she had downloaded – she had a terrible sense of direction.

They went there and were received quickly by a vet. The kittens were two weeks and a half old and they’d find them right before their condition became critical. There was a male and a female. They were white long-haired kitten, with darker ears, tails, muzzles and paws and both had beautiful blue eyes.

“You probably saved their lives,” the vet told Felicity and the blonde was glad that JJ was too absorbed by his game on her phone to hear what he was saying. They didn’t make her pay the consult, it was New Year’s Eve after all and even offered her what she’d need to feed the poor babies. It wasn’t exactly the time for Felicity to get a kitty, even less two kittens but the shelter was already taking care of too many animals and the look JJ shot her when she suggested they keep them made her forget the idea quickly. She could keep them for now and give them for adoption later, when they were older. If she didn’t fall in love with them in the meantime, of course.

They went back to Felicity’s apartment after that and it was almost 6:40 pm. Felicity felt exhausted when they stepped inside the elevator. It had been a very long day and when she realised it was far from being over, she grunted. JJ was happily babbling about the kittens and Felicity felt relieved that pets were allowed inside her building, because JJ spoke of the kitten so loudly and enthusiastically, it would have been impossible for her to get them in discreetly, right to the face of her neighbours.

She almost dropped the box with the kitten when she saw Oliver sitting down, his back to her door, obviously waiting for her.

“Oliver,” she let out.

“Uncle ‘Liver!” JJ shout giddily.

He got on his feet and Felicity felt her heartbeat fasten. What was he doing here? What did he want? What was she supposed to do?

“Hey again buddy,” he said smiling, running a hand though JJ’s hair.

“We have kittens!” JJ told him, fisting the fabric of his dark jeans tightly.

Oliver frowned. “You have kittens?”

“Yes,” JJ nodded. “I found them in the park and Felicity took them to the doctor and he said we had to keep them.”

Oliver looked up to Felicity. “It’s true,” she confirmed.

“That’s why you didn’t pick up your phone?”

“I was busy,” she quickly said. “I hope you haven’t been waiting here for too long.”

He shook his head. “Nah, it’s alright. Although I feared for my virtue when your neighbour, Mrs. Fisher, insisted I came in while waiting for you.”

Felicity couldn’t help but chuckle. Mrs. Fisher was her next-door neighbour and an old cat lady. She was anything but mean or dangerous but she could be quite persistent. She had been alone for too long, and craved others’ company more because she’d never been bonded to her soulmate. Felicity would probably become a Mrs. Fisher someday. At least she had the cats now.

Sighing, she reached for her keys to open the door, but between the box with the kittens, her purse and the bag with the stuff she’d need for the babies, she found herself struggling. Oliver immediately came to help her, taking the box from her, his hands brushing hers in the process. She gasped when the simple touch made her skin react, goose bumps breaking along her arms. She quickly turned her head away, focusing on the door in front of her instead of the blush she could feel spreading on her cheeks.

The three of them walked inside her apartment and Oliver closed the door behind him, listening to JJ telling him about the pie he had eaten and what games he had played in the park with the other children.

“You should be careful,” Oliver warned Felicity. “If you keep spoiling him like that, he’ll never want to leave you.” He put the box on her couch and opened it.

“Damn,” he swore. “They’re so small.” He reached for one hesitantly, the female – there was a dark spot on her back, that wasn’t on her brother’s. Felicity watched him pet her before he lifted her up. She fit in his hand perfectly.

“She looks good on you,” she said, going to fetch a blanket. The vet had said keeping the kitten warm was very important.

When she came back, Oliver had knelt to let JJ pet the kitten in his hand. Felicity moved the box from the couch, her fingers brushing the male’s back reassuringly. She put one of the blankets on her couch, then she carefully deposited the two kittens on it, wrapping them tightly. They looked adorably cute in the pink blanket, holding onto one another.

“What are you doing here?” Felicity eventually asked Oliver, while JJ carefully caressed the kittens’ heads, whispering sweet words to the “kitty cats”. Their eyes were closing and Felicity had a feeling they were finally all warm and content. They only needed to be fed now and she’d get to it after she had dealt with Oliver.

“You weren’t picking your phone, so I came to see you,” he simply said, before gesturing toward JJ.

She opened her mouth to suggest they moved away from the three-year-old when her phone rang. She picked up immediately and got on her feet, Oliver right behind her.

“Yes mom?” She said.

“Felicity, I… Have… News.” There was something wrong with the call, static and interference on the line.

“What news? Mom I don’t hear you very well.”

Oliver gave her a questioning look and she mouthed. “Date.”

His eyes widened even more and she ignored his surprise to focus on her mother’s words.

“We’re stuck… A snow…storm is coming.”

“Snowstorm? Did you say snowstorm?” She asked.

“Yes, not safe… to drive… right now.”

“Wait, you’re not coming back?

“I’m so sorry baby… I’m leaving… you alone with JJ.”

Felicity clenched her eyes shut and pinched her nose. That’s why she didn’t see Oliver coming to her and sweep her phone out of her grasp.

“Donna, this is Oliver. […] Yes.” He scrunched his nose in the same cute way Thea had earlier, obviously struggling to understand Donna because of the static. “Don’t worry about Felicity, JJ and I will keep her company. […] Yes, sure. Take care.”

He hung up then and Felicity stared at him with her eyes wide open. “Be my guest, take my phone, talk to my mom without my consent…”

Oliver chuckled. “I just wanted her to know you were going to be fine,” he said.

“I could have told her that myself,” she hissed back. “Besides, don’t you have somewhere to be tonight?”

He shrugged. “My parents and Isabel are busy I-don’t-really-know-where and Thea is attending a party with her friends from high-school.”

“They’re leaving you alone? Just like that?”

He nodded. “New Year’s Eve is not really a family thing.” He crossed his arms on his chest at the look on her face. “What’s wrong with you anyway?”

She opened her mouth to say something when JJ came inside the kitchen. “F’licity can I feed one of the kitty myself?”

“One of the kittens buddy,” Oliver corrected him gently. “And maybe you should let me and Felicity take care of that, okay?” JJ pouted. “C’me on, don’t give me that look man. I’ll let you help me with the cooking. We wouldn’t want Felicity to poison us for New Year’s Eve,” he added playfully, his tone teasing. He was obviously trying to get a reaction out of Felicity and he got one when she rolled her eyes at him.

A smile appeared on his face and he asked, his tone hopeful. “You’re staying?”

Oliver turned to look at Felicity. “I don’t know, am I?” He asked her.

She sighed. It wasn’t what she had planned for the evening. It wasn’t what she wanted at all. Her plan was to distance herself from everyone and especially Oliver, not to spend a whole evening with him and a three-year-old who’d go to bed before the night was over for the grown-ups. What would she do once she was alone with Oliver? It was obvious he wanted to talk to her. What would she tell him? She knew she couldn’t lie to him face to face, he’d see right through her immediately.

But how could she say no to him, when he was using JJ against her? He knew she wouldn’t refuse the boy anything.

“Of course, he’s staying,” she found herself saying, forcing herself to smile.

Everything was going to be alright. She just needed to regain control of the situation. But it was kind of hard when she was suddenly feeding kitten with a bottle next to Oliver, JJ next to them throwing out name ideas.

“Peanut.”

“I’m allergic to nuts.”

“Bacon.”

“We aren’t going to eat it buddy.”

“Cookie.”

“What’s with you and naming kitten after food?” Felicity eventually asked, laughing.

“I love food and I love kittens,” the little boy explained simply. “Can I take a picture with your phone please?”

“You know how to do that?” Oliver asked, looking surprised.

“Of course Uncle ‘Liver. Daddy lets me use his phone!”

“But you’re not four yet!” Oliver protested.

“Time to live with you time old man,” Felicity teased him, glad she could get revenge for his comment on her cooking. “And sure you can,” she added for JJ, patting his leg gently.

After they were done feeding the kittens and taking care of them, Felicity went to the bathroom with JJ, to help him shower while Oliver started cooking dinner. As soon as he was out and clean, the little boy went to help him and Felicity watched them from afar, her arms crossed over her chest to hold her heart back in place. The image of the little boy she had safely tucked there was coming back to haunt her.

Why did Oliver stay here? Why was he making things so hard for her? And why wasn’t he with his family? His fiancée? It would make sense, especially if he wanted people to believe in their fake union.

“Come help us F’licity,” JJ told her from where he was standing on a chair to reach the counter and help Oliver.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to rest my hand,” she told him, pointing at her bandaged hand. It was still sore and bruised from how she’d punch her shower wall.

“What happened to your hand?” Oliver asked, frowning.

“Little boy’s ears,” she said.

Oliver quickly covered JJ’s ears with his hands, making the little boy giggle before he started to fight against them.

“I punched a wall,” she said, rolling her eyes at him.

His frown grew deeper. “Why?”

“It was being rude to me, I had to defend myself,” she deadpanned.

He gave her a look and she shrugged. He let go of JJ and Felicity’s eyes focused on his hand, where she knew a scar was marking his skin. The same way he had punched a mirror after he had realised she was gone, she had punched a wall when she had realised she had to leave him.

“I was angry, because I lost something,” she answered him, hoping it would satisfy him. It wasn’t technically a lie. She had lost him that night.

“Look inside my coat’s pocket,” he told her.

She tilted her head. “What?”

“My coat’s pocket. The left one.”

Frowning, she got on her feet and reached for his coat, which he had left on her couch. She pulled out a small box and when she opened it, she saw her arrow bracelet, shining slightly because of the light inside her kitchen.

“I found it at the Plaza,” Oliver explained. “Must have fallen from your wrist when you left the party, it was on the stairs, outside.”

She opened her mouth to say something, anything but no words come out. She had lost it outside, what were the chances of having Oliver find it? She felt a lump of emotions form in her throat and she had a hard time swallowing it down. When she had lost her bracelet, she had thought it wasn’t a coincidence, that it really was time for her to let go. But now, she had gotten her bracelet back and Oliver had been the one to give it to her. What was she supposed to make of that? What was she supposed to think?

“Felicity, are you okay?” Oliver asked and she heard mild concern in his voice.

“Yes,” she replied, closing the box. “Thank you,” she added, truly meaning it. “You have no idea how much this means to me. I was really upset when I lost it.”

He nodded. “I can understand that. I tend to get upset too when I lose something,” he told her and she felt like he was talking about losing something far more important than losing a bracelet.

He gave her a small smile and she replied with a soft one, knowing now what she had to do. Enjoy the evening. Enjoy the night. It was an unexpected gift. She was being given one last chance to be with him and be happy with him, before it was time for her to go. She’d be a fool if she wasted it. With her arrow bracelet back, the circle was fully complete. She could go back to what her life used to be before Oliver, before Star City. But she wouldn’t do it without enjoying another few hours in the light first.

“Thank you again,” she added, going up to hug him.

It was quick and she pulled away before he could hug her back but it was enough to make her feel better.

“You’re welcome,” he replied, squeezing her shoulder.

They stared at one another for a second, forgetting about JJ. Until he said.

“Are you going to kiss like mommy and daddy do?”

They broke eye-contact at his words. Oliver started coughing and Felicity felt her cheeks redden, and a nervous laugh escaped her.

“What? Oliver and I? No, no way, never!”

“But you look like mommy and daddy do,” he insisted.

Oliver pinched his lips together before saying. “It’s because we’re very good friends,” he explained. “But just good friends. We’re not like mommy and daddy, right Felicity?”

She remained silent for a second, her eyes going back and forth between them.

“No, we’re not,” she agreed, her fingers holding the box in her hand a little bit tighter.

In the end, she made the most out of the evening. She laughed and smiled and enjoyed the presence of her soulmate and her favourite human being in the world, who happened to be a three-year-old boy. She drank tasty wine and ate good food – that may be the only point on which Oliver and she were complimentary, since she couldn’t cook to save her life and he was a chef. They watched a Disney movie, Finding Nemo, with JJ in Felicity’s lap and the sleeping kitten in Oliver’s. JJ fell asleep before the movie was over but they didn’t move him until the very end.

When the credits started, Felicity smiled, looking down at JJ sprawled out on her chest, his curly head buried in her neck, his little arms hanging loosely along her sides. Then, she turned her head, to see Oliver’s eyes shining slightly.

“Oliver Queen are you crying?” She whispered.

He shook his head. “I’m not.”

But she did see him wipe his eyes and she squeezed his hand lightly.

“I’m going to put him to bed,” she told him before getting on her feet. JJ would be sleeping in a folding crib Barry and Iris usually used when they went on vacation. She carefully set him down in his bed, and covered him with his blanket, safely tucking his Coco under his arm. She brushed her fingers lightly against his cheek.

“Goodnight,” she whispered softly even though he couldn’t hear.

When she came back, she found Oliver standing against her kitchen counter, a piece of paper on the table. He had his arms crossed over his chest and a look on his face she had never seen before. It was angry, but mostly it was hurt. She was facing raw pain, the kind of pain people walked away from because it was just too much and nothing could have prepared her for it.

“Care to explain?” He asked. No scratch that, there was something definitely demanding in his tone.

Slowly, she reached for the piece of paper. Her heart sunk in her chest when she saw what it was.

Her attempt at a resignation letter.

Frack.

“Oliver,” she started, her voice shaking slightly. “I…”

“You what Felicity?” He cut her off. “Is there something you wish to tell me?”

His voice was hard, his tone harsh. He’d never used that kind of tone with her. Ever.

She pinched her lips tightly, her heart throbbing in her chest. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes,” she repeated, looking up to meet his eyes, “there is. I quit.”

“No you don’t.”

His reply was quick and strong. It didn’t call for any debate.

“Yes, I do.”

“Is it because of what I told you at Tommy’s the other day?” He asked, the pain underlying in his tone hitting her like arrows in her chest. “Ever since I told you about it, you’ve been acting weird, distancing yourself from me, ignoring me…”

“Oliver,” she tried to say.

“And I’d like to remind you,” he went on as if she hadn’t said anything, “that you promised you wouldn’t look at me any differently. And yet you are.”

“It’s…”

“It wasn’t easy telling you,” he interrupted her again, running a hand through his hair in frustration. “Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Because I’m not this jerk anymore and I never wanted you to know about him but I thought – I thought after all the things you had shared with me, I could share that one thing without being afraid.”

“Oliver, you don’t understand…”

“What is there to understand?” He shouted, and for a short second, she thought he might wake JJ up. “I told you the truth about me and now you want to leave. What is there to understand?” He repeated, his voice breaking by the end of his speech.

“I’d tell you if you let me speak!” She shouted back, starting to feel frustrated.

“You promised Felicity,” he reminded her. “You promised you wouldn’t look at me differently and I trusted you.”

The words hurt and she felt her heart shatter in her chest. She hadn’t thought of that. She hadn’t thought he’d feel like she was pulling away because of who he used to be, because of what he had told her.

“I’m not looking at you differently Oliver, I swear,” she told him, her voice shaking. “And it’s not the reason why I want to quit.”

“Then why?” He asked, his eyes a swirl of emotions – fear, pain, desperation, they were all there, taunting her. “Did something happen at the party? Is it my mother? Is it Isabel?”

She shook her head. “No,” she tried to lie. “Nothing happened, they’re not the problem.” She knew she couldn’t lie to him so she had to tell him the truth. At least parts of it. “I am,” she confessed.

“No,” he stated, strolling toward her. “You’re not.”

Before she knew it, he was there, close to her. He crossed the invisible borders of her personal space and invaded her bubble, forcing her to take a step back. He didn’t let her go far though because he wrapped an arm around her waist and brought her back to him, pressing her chest against his.

“Oliver,” she gasped.

“Now, you listen to me, and you listen very carefully Felicity Megan Smoak.” She swallowed, her heart pounding in her chest, her skin burning in the most pleasant way where his hand was holding her tightly. “You’re not a problem Felicity, you’re a solution.” He shook his head. “Sorry, that wasn’t my best way of saying things. What I mean is that with you here, with me, I’m better. I’m happy. Both at work and in my life. You make me happy and I don’t want to see you go.”

“Oliver…”

He leaned his face closer to hers, cupping one of her cheeks and her next breath got caught in her throat. “That day, under the mistletoe, when you kissed me, I – I felt something,” he whispered. He leaned impossibly closer to her, enough for her to feel his warm breath on her lips. “Something I’d never felt before,” he went on, his nose rubbing against hers. She felt him shiver against her as he inhaled deeply. “God, what are you doing to me?” He whispered, his voice so low she wasn’t sure he had meant to say the words out loud.

“I’m not…”

“Don’t,” he interrupted her, sounding slightly annoyed. “Don’t pretend you don’t feel it, because I know you do.” He tilted his head slightly after that, his lips brushing her cheek. She felt her legs buckle under her and she probably would have fallen if he hadn’t been holding her. He pressed a firm kiss under her ear and a shiver coursed through her body, goose bumps breaking on her skin and she mentally cursed the way her body was reacting to his, in spite of her will, in spite of the Med.

“Felicity,” he whispered tenderly, and she felt her heart skip a beat in her chest.

“Oliver,” she replied in a breath, her fingers fisting the fabric of his shirt, bringing him impossibly closer to her.

It proved to be his undoing.

He crashed his lips to hers forcefully, muffling her gasp of surprise in the process.

For one perfect second, time stopped and it was just lips against lips. Skin against skin. Chest pressed to chest.

The calm before the storm.

But then Felicity put two and two together and she realised what was happening. She was kissing Oliver. The thought drew a deep moan out of her and he took advantage of it to slip his tongue past her lips. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him to her while his tongue invaded her mouth, not losing time to discover her, learning her and immediately stroking boldly against her tongue. She replied as best as she could, tasting the savour of wine on his tongue but in the end, she was helpless against his assault, against the desperation with which he was consuming her. She was surrounded by him as he was taking possession of all her senses. He was the only thing she could feel, taste, smell - the heady perfume of his cologne was making her head spin, until her head was literally spinning. He picked her up and turned her around, so that he could sit her down on her kitchen table. His tongue slipped out of her mouth and he nibbled at her lower lip, earning a long moan of pleasure from her when he soothed the pain with his tongue.

He moved his mouth from hers to her jaw, peppering open-mouthed kisses on every inch of skin within his reach, nibbling her skin lightly on the way to her ear, making sure to rasp his scrub against her sensitive skin. She threw her head back to give him more access, abrading her lips to hold back the sounds of pleasure he was pulling out of her. His hand moved from her waist to her hipbone, where her soulmark used to be, his fingers starting a fire wherever they brushed her skin. Her own hands gravitated toward his chest on their own volition and she knew it had to be where his own soulmark was. She swore she could feel it pulse under her fingers. Or maybe it was just his heartbeat, she honestly couldn’t say and didn’t care. She cried out when he reached her ear and tugged at her earlobe in the most sensual way, her fists clenching the fabric of his clothes, desperate for something to hold onto.

“Oliver,” she moaned, her breathing erratic, her heart beating so hard and fast she feared it was going to dig a hole out of her chest. Her bond was still tied up by the Med, but she felt it was that close to breaking and it was what brought her back from the haze Oliver’s lips on her had sent her in. She reached for his hair and made him pull away from the column of her throat, where his journey had taken him next.

He pressed back soft kisses on her mouth, whispering against her lips.

“Please don’t go away,” kiss, “please?” kiss, “no one’s ever stood by me for so long before,” kiss, “and – and I look at you, and I… and I’m home.” He didn’t kiss her this time, just leaned his forehead against hers.

Her eyes welled up with tears when she heard the words that had made him cry earlier being so softly and tenderly said to her. It wasn’t hard for her to understand why they meant so much to him now.

“I’m sorry Oliver…”

She felt more than she saw his desperation. It was palpable, in the way his hands came up to cup her cheeks and held onto her tightly, just as she was trying to pull away from him. “Felicity, please don’t go. Please stay.”

I love you.

It was the words from his nightmare. The ones he had spoken to his soulmate. The ones he had spoken to her.

And the truth was that she loved him too.

It was that truth she needed to use against him now. To tell him she was leaving.

“Oliver, this is exactly why I have to go,” she told him, her voice breaking. “You’re getting married in a few weeks and this… This can’t happen.”

His hold on her tightened. “But I don’t care about her the way I care about you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she replied, her heart throbbing in her chest at the pain she was inflicting to the both of them. “You’re getting married and I don’t fit in this. I won’t be the other woman and I need to go before I get burn.”

“I already did,” he confessed.

She wanted to reply that she had too. But she couldn’t.

“Oliver, let go of me,” she demanded.

“If you want me to accept that resignation letter,” he whispered, “you’ll have to leave town without giving me any address to return it to you.”

He kissed her forehead tenderly for the longest while and she closed her eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks. Then, he stepped away, gathering his coat, heading out. He stopped to look at the small box with her arrow bracelet.

Turning around to face her again, he said. “If there was something more between us, you’d tell me, right?”

She held his gaze, praying that her eyes wouldn’t betray her.

“Yes,” she told him in a breath.

 


 

A week and a half later, Felicity was still recovering from New Year’s Eve, locked in her apartment, the two kittens her only company. They were both recovering well from their misfortune in the snow, growing up and gaining weights as they were supposed to. JJ had named the male Nemo and she had picked the name Arrow for the female– there was apparently some part of her brain which enjoyed dusting her wounds with salt. Barry and Iris had accepted to let JJ keep Nemo but they’d agreed it was best for him to stay at Felicity’s with his sister until he was older and stronger. Aside from that, Felicity hadn’t really talked to any of her friends since she had briefly replied to their Happy New Year texts. She knew Laurel had accepted to marry Tommy – but that wasn’t really surprising. Laurel had called her to tell her about the contract she had signed when she was sixteen. She had told her it wasn’t valid because she hadn’t been an adult when they had made her sign it, and her mother hadn’t signed it with her either. Felicity had thanked her for her help, even though she had known deep down it didn’t matter anymore.

She was busy working on her computer when she heard someone knock at her door. Well, pound on her door would actually be more accurate. Frowning, she went to open the door, wondering who could be visiting her a bit after two pm on a Thursday afternoon. She got an answer when she looked through the peephole.

Thea.

She opened the door, surprised to find her here and not at school.

“So, she is alive,” the brunette said, her tone both accusing and angry.

She walked past Felicity and right inside her apartment, not waiting for an invitation. Felicity closed the door behind her, leaning her forehead against the cold metal. She was in for rough moments. Sighing, she turned around to face Thea again. She had crossed her arms over her chest and she was glaring at her.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothi…” Felicity started but Thea cut her off immediately.

“You barely reply to texts, you refuse to go out and you don’t go to work so please don’t tell me nothing’s wrong with you because it’s obvious something is.”

“Thea, I assure you…”

“Stop it!” She shouted. “I’m having the worst day ever and I can’t hear another lie. I just can’t.”

Felicity frowned, concern filling her. She was about to leave, yes, and she had been putting distance between her and friends, yes, but it didn’t mean she didn’t care anymore. On The contrary, everything was made so much harder because she cared a lot. It didn’t mean she didn’t want to help either, quite the opposite actually.

“What’s happening?” She asked immediately.

Thea laughed dryly, shaking her head. “You would know, hadn’t you been MIA for the last few days.”

Felicity gave her a look. “Thea, what happened?”

“Ollie went back to Russia with Isabel three days ago. I only found out today, they’ve all been keeping it a secret from me.”

Felicity’s heart froze in her chest at the words. Gulping, she said, trying to keep her tone even.

“Why would they do that?”

Thea shook her head, a bitter expression distorting her features. “Because they knew I wouldn’t react well to the news.”

“Why is that?” Felicity questioned, although she could pretty easily guess why.

“He’s supposedly going there to visit QC’s installations.”

“Supposedly?” She repeated, her nervousness dampening her hand. Her suspicions were being confirmed.

“They’re going to elope,” Thea spit out, clenching her fists in anger and frustration. “And to the outside world, it’ll be as if they are two soulmates, madly in love, who couldn’t wait to be together and decided to just go with it and get married.”

“But Thea, they are…”

“Oh please!” The brunette cut her off. “We both know it’s just bullshit.”

Felicity opened her mouth to say something but Thea interrupted her again. She was doing that a lot.

“I know Ollie told you the truth,” she explained.

“Oh,” Felicity said, looking down toward her feet.

“I tried to talk him out of it but he didn’t listen to me,” Thea told her, looking both disappointed and miffed. “He’s getting his life ruined the same way my parents did and it’s so damn frustrating,” she added, stomping her feet.

Felicity froze at her words.

“What did you just say?”

“Oliver is getting his life ruined,” Thea repeated. “He’s letting our parents control…”

“No, not that,” Felicity interrupted her, her heartbeat fastening, her hands shaking slightly at what she’d just heard. “About your parents. You said they’d gotten their lives ruined. What does that mean?”

Thea frowned. “Ollie didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Felicity urged her on.

“He said he told you the truth and I thought he meant the whole truth,” Thea said, chewing worriedly on her lower lip, hesitancy filling her eyes.

“What’s the whole truth?” Felicity almost yelled, her frustration rising by the minute.

“Our parents aren’t each other’s soulmates, their marriage was arranged by my grandparents.” Thea confessed quickly, as if she was afraid she’d regret telling her the truth. “It’s a lie. The perfect Queen family, it’s all a lie.”

Felicity took a step back, her head spinning.

“A word of advice? You shouldn’t believe everything you read about our family in the magazines or online.”

Thea’s words from before made so much more sense now. Actually, everything made so much sense now and she felt stupid for not having figured it out earlier. She’d always wondered why Moira, who was supposedly happily in love with her soulmate, would force her son to marry someone who wasn’t his soulmate. She knew why now. She was doing to him what had been done to her. She closed her eyes, memories of the party coming back to her. She saw Moira and Walter dance closely, looking at one another as if there wasn’t anyone else in the room. She thought about how Walter had stood faithfully next to Moira and Robert throughout the years, without ever settling down and getting married. She thought about how fondly he said her name. More memories of the party came back to her and that’s when the most horrible doubt grew inside of her. She thought about how much time Isabel spent at the mansion, about how close she was to the Queen family, about how she was bonded to a mate who was fine with her marrying someone else. A memory of Isabel and Robert dancing together at the party floated in her mind and she felt bile rise up her throat, burning her from the inside. God, she was probably going to be sick.

“Thea,” she asked, her voice shaking with emotions. “Do you know who your parents’ soulmates are?”

The brunette shook her head. “No, they never told us.”

Her words had the effect of a cold shower on Felicity. They snapped her awake and brought her back in control of things. Her head stopped spinning and she calmed her heart enough to be able to think clearly again. She moved from the hallway to her living-room, where she gathered her purse and her coat.

“What the hell are you doing?” Thea asked, her eyebrows furrowed.

“There is somewhere I need to go,” Felicity told her, taking her car keys. “You stay here and wait for me,” she added, walking back to the door.

“Where are you going?” Thea insisted, her tone laced with surprised and worry.

“I’ll tell you when I’m back. Stay here, I won’t be long.”

She opened the door and walked out. “Oh and there are two kittens asleep in my bedroom. If you hear some noise, it’s probably them.”

She left then, without waiting for an answer.

The drive to Queen Consolidated was a total blur. She focused on the road, and on her driving blocking over thoughts from her mind. She couldn’t let what she was suspecting overwhelm her. She needed to keep her head clear otherwise she’d become crazy. Her hands shaking slightly on the wheel, she parked her car in the lot.

She had never been more thankful for Oliver’s stubbornness than when she was granted access to Walter’s office thanks to her Q. Inc’s ID badge. Oliver hadn’t accepted her resignation, meaning she was still an employee, meaning she was still welcomed inside both Q. Inc and QC’s buildings. The man behind the reception desk was even kind enough to give Walter a call, so that he knew she was coming. She twisted her fingers nervously in the elevator, mentally preparing herself for the conversation that was ahead of her.

“Miss Smoak,” he greeted her when she knocked at his office’s door. “I was surprised when Jimmy called to tell me you were here to see me,” he told her, getting up to welcome her and shake her hand.

“I’m sorry, I hope I’m not disrupting anything,” she apologised, watching him close the door to his office before motioning for her to take a seat. She was quick to obey, her fingers tightly wrapped around her bag’s handle.

“It’s just that you said at the party you were here for me if I ever needed anything,” she quickly added.

 “I stand by my word,” he assured her.

She nodded, taking a deep breath to give herself some courage.

“Mr. Steele, I’m going to ask you a few things and I need you to tell me the truth,” she then told him, rather directly.

He frowned but gave her a small nod of approval nonetheless. She was a hundred per cent sure he was Moira’s soulmate. And it was because she knew confronting Moira and Robert with that information would be pointless that she was sitting down in his office. She could expect more lies and manipulations from Oliver’s parents. She was hoping for more from Walter. Oliver had always trusted him more than he did his parents, it was time for her to see if he had well-placed his trust.

“Are you Moira’s soulmate?” She asked.

He didn’t blink, didn’t flinch, didn’t react in any way. And for a long moment he remained silent, watching her cautiously, gauging her.

“You already know the answer to that question, don’t you?”

“You did promise me the truth,” she reminded him.

He held her gaze, before nodding slightly. “Yes, yes I am.”

“Isabel Rochev is Robert’s?”

“She is,” he confirmed.

Hearing her suspicions being confirmed made Felicity’s heart jump in her chest. Bile rose up in her throat again. What kind of twisted people would make their son marry their soulmate? It was wrong, so wrong, on so many levels.

She tightened her hold on her bag. It wasn’t the time for her to get lost in her own mind and thoughts. She needed to stay here, with Walter and learn the truth. The whole truth.

“And you know I’m Oliver’s soulmate?”

Again, he nodded.

“Why?” She asked, her voice barely louder than a whisper. She didn’t really know what exactly it was that she wanted to know but Walter seemed to know.

“Moira and Robert both came from wealthy families. On paper, they were perfect for one another, they had the potential to achieve great things. And they did achieve great things,” he added, gesturing at his office, but it was easy to understand he was talking about the whole building. There was sadness in his voice, sadness and bitterness. He had let go of his mask the moment she had started confronting him and she could know see how he really felt, who he really was.

A broken-hearted man.

“What about you?” She asked. “What about Isabel?”

“Twenty years separate Robert from Isabel,” he told her as if it was enough justification. And Felicity guessed it was. “As for me, Moira’s family was old and extremely conservative. I had no money and my skin colour didn’t really suit well with them, to say the least. They deemed me unsuitable for her right away.”

“And she let them?”

She couldn’t help but sound a little bit judgmental. Moira seemed so strong, not at all like the kind of woman who could be made to do something, how could she have let her parents decide for her? Walter noticed the different tone in her voice immediately.

“You’re in no place to judge her,” Walter told her, defending his soulmate as best as he could. “You let her do the same thing to you.”

“But how could you stay? How could you watch her be with someone else? Have his children?”

Walter didn’t reply to her immediately. For the longest moment, he just stared at her, with a sorrow so deep in his eyes she instantly regretted asking her questions.

“Because it was harder to leave and spend my entire life away from my other half than to stay and share her with another man.” He paused, his shoulders dropping slightly. “The things we did Felicity, the things we let happen…” He sighed. “We’ve been living a lie for thirty years. Thirty years where I’ve been living in the shadow for the sake of this company.” He paused, his hand rubbing against the surface of his desk lightly. The desk he had stayed in the dark for. Felicity pinched her lips tightly, feeling for him. “They say love conquers all but they’re wrong. Money rules this world and it doesn’t care about whether or not people are meant to be. I used to be an idealist you know, I used to think that the mark on our skin was the only thing we should ever worship, the only thing we should ever need. In good times and in bad. In sickness and in health.” His eyes looked away from Felicity and she felt her heart dropped in her chest. “Life proved me better.”

“And now QC is flirting with bankruptcy and it needs Stellmoor to survive. So really, was it all worth it? All those broken hearts, all this time,” Felicity shook her head, disgusted, “wasted in vain.”

Her words snapped Walter out of his dark thoughts, because suddenly the warmth in his eyes was back, and the sadness receded.

“Who told you that?” He asked her frowning.

“Isabel,” she replied.

He rolled his eyes in irritation. “That’s not entirely true. QC does need Stellmoor’s support, but we’re not flirting with bankruptcy. Isabel just wants to make sure she gets parts of what should have been hers, had she married her soulmate. Robert was unable to refuse her, like always, and Moira suggested she married Oliver to enter the family since she didn’t want to just sign shares off to her.”

Felicity’s eyes widened. What the hell?

“And what will she do if one day you come to her and ask her for what should have been yours as well? She’ll marry you to Thea perhaps?” She asked, barely to contain her anger and disgust. She jumped on her feet and started pacing, her brain going into overdrive. There was so much to think about, so much to process.

And important decisions needed to be made.

“I’m not Isabel Rochev,” Walter defended himself. “I’m not thirsty, eager for more or ambitious. I’m content with what I have, happy with what I do and honestly… I’m too old to want more.”

That made Felicity stop and consider his words. Moira, Isabel, Walter and Robert… They were all crazy. But he was probably the sanest of them all. They had been living a lie for so long they didn’t know how to get out of it anymore. And since there was no exit, they were dragging innocent people in it. People who had never asked for anything. Thea. Oliver. Thea’s soulmate. Even her.

“They should have divorced the moment Isabel met Robert,” she stated. “Tell the truth and hope for the best.”

“And break the trust of the board? Of the investors and shareholders? And fight over their shares of QC?” Walter shook his head. “It would have brought the company to its knees and you’re smart enough to understand it.”

“You can’t ask me to not tell Oliver the truth,” she whispered, reading the hidden meaning behind his words.

He closed his eyes for a second, so that she wouldn’t see the dilemma raging inside of him.

“Walter please,” she added, almost begging. “I don’t want to be you.”

The moment she said the words, she realised how true they were. Walter seemed like a broken-man. He claimed to be happy with what he had, but she knew no money could ever compensate the time he had spent in the dark, the time he had spent lying and more importantly, the time he’d spent not getting a family of his own.

“I don’t want you to be me either,” he eventually said, opening his eyes again. “I care about Oliver as if he was my own son and I’d be lying if I told you I don’t want better for him than this life we’ve been living for almost thirty years.”

Felicity nodded, gathering her things up.

“Thank you Walter,” she said, her hand reaching for his. He gently squeezed his fingers in reply.

“Be happy Felicity and have no regrets,” he told her.

She nodded shortly and he walked her out of his office. She pulled her phone out of her purse and speed dialled Oliver’s number not caring that he was in Russia and it was probably the middle of the night for him. He didn’t pick up and she sighed, stepping inside the elevator which was empty except for one man.

Robert Queen.

“Hm,” he hummed when he saw her. “Isn’t that my son’s soulmate? I’m surprised to see you’re still in town.”

“Not for long, I can assure you,” she replied through gritted teeth, dialling Oliver’s number again. He didn’t reply again and she exhaled slowly, annoyed.

“It’s frustrating, isn’t it? When technology fails you.”

Felicity turned her head to face Robert. “Excuse me?”

“I mean, these things are meant to make our lives better, but sometimes, they just make it ten times worse. But then, you’re the genius. You understand these things much better than the old man that I am.”

His tone was unpleasantly sweet, honeyed. She found herself be more ill-at-ease in his presence than she had been in Moira’s and Isabel’s. She could deal with pure unadulterated hate better than with hypocrisy.

“Or you know, the person I’m trying to call is just not available at the moment.”

“There’s always that possibility of course,” Robert agreed. “Though, it has been brought up to my attention this problem is a recurring one of yours. It’s time you understand what it means when someone keeps ignoring you.”

Felicity turned around, her fists clenched tightly, not liking the things he was implying at all. “Let me guess,” she said, trying to fill her voice with as much contempt as she could, “you’re probably referring to Thanksgiving, when I tried to get in touch with your son and he never got any of my calls or texts, because your wife or you or that Russian ice woman you’re making him marry did something to his phone.”

“Careful Ms Smoak, you don’t want to accuse my family of anything without evidence,” he whispered making her want to crawl out of her skin.

“I don’t need any evidence,” she replied. “I know exactly what I need to know.”

Robert frowned and took a step toward her, just when the bell rang to signal they had reached the bottom of the building. “You should forget what you think you know Ms Smoak, and hurry your departure of Star City. Accidents happen so fast these days,” he added.

The doors opened and she couldn’t reply anything to him, because people were waiting for them to get out of the elevator to get inside. She hurried outside of the building, her heart pounding in her chest. Robert Queen had just threatened her and the tone he had used to say the word “accident” made her feel like he was no stranger