title: we keep all our promises (be us against the world)
category: arrow
genre: drama/romance
chapter rating: pg-13/teen
overall rating: nc-17/explicit
inspiration: gif (source)
word count: 10,017
summary: [au – no island] Oliver Queen has no idea what he's doing with his life, but when his father gives him an ultimatum, he has to figure it out. After meeting Felicity Smoak, he finds himself on a new path and his eyes are opened to what happiness really means and how finding it takes more courage than he ever thought he had.

we keep all our promises (be us against the world)


Oliver was pretty sure that he had reached a whole new level of dick in his personal life. Point in fact, he was on the way to his girlfriend's apartment to finally end their on/off relationship; something that had been a long time coming. But was he worrying about her or what he was going to say? No. No, he was thinking about the woman he'd fallen for while still in that relationship. He just couldn't get it out of his head. Stuck on repeat, he just kept worrying that Felicity wasn't going to forgive him. And he couldn't blame her if she didn't.

Three years.

He'd been with Laurel for three years.

Some days it felt like so much longer than that, and not— not in a good way.

He'd wasted so much time. He'd dragged his feet, acting like it was fine, it would all be okay, he'd deal with it later. A leftover habit from the past, one he'd used far too often to make himself feel better about not dealing with something. And, much like always, it caught up with him. Later was now. He should've done this a long time ago, he knew that. Long before he ever met Felicity, but definitely after he had.

He'd like to say that he grew up, that he'd reached a point in his life, where he didn't avoid responsibility to a point that debilitated him, but he hadn't. Even knowing how important this was, how necessary it was, he still didn't go inside right away. He lingered outside Laurel's apartment building for a long time; too long. Sitting in his car, going over what to say, what was fair, what needed to be said and what didn't. He left one hand on the steering wheel, thumb drumming against it, while the other ran a hand through his hair, his eyes glancing at the clock on the dash periodically. One minute became five and then ten and soon, a whole hour had passed with him doing nothing but procrastinating the inevitable.

It wasn't that he didn't want to break up with Laurel. He'd done this, come here for that exact reason, more times than he could count. But then she'd open the door and she'd smile at him… That bright, beautiful smile of hers, that used to make his stomach twist up with regret. They would argue and she'd yell and throw things and he'd leave, vowing that this time he'd stay away. But then a few weeks would pass and he would come back, with flowers and a half-assed apology, and she would forgive him, because she always did, and the cycle would continue. Only this time was not going to be like the rest.

Felicity hadn't promised him that they would get together after. There was a chance she was never going to forgive him for this. His track record with relationships was a joke, so for them to start on the tail of one riddled with him cheating wasn't exactly a shining endorsement. But the fact remained that, whether Felicity was waiting for him in the end or not, this thing with him and Laurel just couldn't keep happening.

He was tired. Fucking exhausted with the whole thing. The back and forth, off and on, repetition of it all.

With a heavy sigh, he finally pushed the car door open and climbed out. He was on auto-pilot on the way up to her apartment, having walked this same path so many times he could do it in his sleep. He scraped a hand down his face, going over what he wanted to say in his head, his lips moving along to the words. When the elevator doors opened, he took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose before he stepped off.

And then he was there, staring at the gold lettering that marked her door, his fist raised. Swallowing tightly, he knocked, a stuttered noise that seemed oddly uncertain.

Did he hope she answered or did part of him still want to run away?

A bitter smile tugged at his mouth. God, he was such a coward.

When the door swung open, his heart swooped down like a leaden weight to settle in his stomach.

Laurel smiled at him, even as her brow furrowed with confusion. "Hey! I wasn't expecting you tonight. Didn't you get my message? I've got a paper due tomorrow, so my apartment's kind of a mess right now. Books and papers everywhere."

He nodded. And, for just a second, he saw his chance to escape. He could leave, try again tomorrow, pick up where he left off. He could come over in the morning, or maybe later, when she was done school. Felicity would probably want some time to herself anyway. A day or two to wrap her head around things before she wanted to talk it out. So, he had time. He could walk away right now. Except… if he did that, he always would. That was his pattern and it always had been.

His grandfather used to tell him when he was a boy that he should always do the important stuff first. "Don't put anything off that needs doing, Ollie. You do that, you're never gonna get anywhere in life… Take your daddy for instance. Robbie doesn't take no for an answer, does he? No, sir, he knows what he needs to do and he does it! Now, he could learn a thing or two about what's important, but we all got our own priorities, don't we?" And Oliver would always nod and agree, in part because his grandfather was the smartest man he'd ever known, but also because his priorities at the time were praise and love and if he agreed then maybe his grandfather would tell him what a smart boy he was and give him a cookie and a pat on the back.

Laurel was already reaching for the door. "…get together tomorrow, okay? I'll call you when I'm done class."

He put a hand out, pressed to the door so she couldn't close it. "It can't wait."

Her brow furrowed, lips parted with surprise. "Um… okay…" She took a step back. "What's this about?"

He stepped into her apartment, closing the door behind him, and started toward the living room with her hot on his heels. His eyes darted around uncomfortably, his finger picking at his thumb, nervous energy running through him with no outlet.

"Ollie?" she asked, her voice raising a little. "Did something happen? I mean, I know you had another meeting today… Financing for the club, right? How'd it go?"

Jaw twitching, he turned to face her and, with little fanfare, announced, "We got it. Full financing. He cut us a blank check."

"Wh-What?" Her eyes went wide in surprise before she let out a little laugh of excitement. "Oh my God! Ollie! That— That's amazing!" She looked up at him searchingly. "You're going to have your own business! Have you told your dad? He must be so proud of you!" Her face was bright, genuine joy shining in her eyes, and Oliver felt a little twist in his chest. She hadn't been so encouraging about it, but now that it had a real possibility, he could see how quickly she was readjusting the dreams she had of them together.

He half-smiled, devoid of the joy he'd been feeling earlier, and shook his head. "I haven't told my dad. We went out to celebrate after the meeting."

Laurel paused. "Celebrate," she repeated, her head raising. "What? You and Tommy?"

Oliver cleared his throat, unbuttoning his suit jacket. He wondered if it made sense to sit down, or maybe standing was better. She'd probably try to kick him out pretty early on, but he didn't want that. They needed to talk. Not fight, not yell and scream until they were hoarse, but to actually talk. They never did that when they had a problem.

So, he crossed the room, taking a seat in the overstuffed armchair, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, and rubbed his hands over his face, sighing.

He could hear her as she silently moved to the couch, sitting adjacent to him, close but just far enough away that she was out of reach. Did she know what was coming? Had she been expecting this for a while? She had to know they weren't working. They weren't making sense. He'd told her, hadn't he? He'd told her that things with them were never going to really last; they were never going to work forever. That they were just chasing circles that never went anywhere. Because they were. They always were. Right from the beginning, it was all just one endless race toward nothing. They stalled, restarted, and never quite got the right traction. But then, denial was something they'd both embraced early on, wasn't it? And what were words if he never followed through with them?

When he dropped his hands, he turned to look at her, unsurprised to see that she looked worried and wary and had crossed her arms over her chest defensively.

"This isn't working," he finally said, meeting her eyes.

She shook her head, blinking against the tears that were quick to collect.

"Laurel, you're not happy. I don't make you happy. I… I'm never going to be what you want, or what you need, or…" He let out a quick breath. "Or what you deserve."

"That's not true," she said thickly, her lips trembling. "I love you."

He licked his lips, glancing away. "You remember when we got together? It was all so easy… We were young and all that mattered was having fun… I screwed up, I got into trouble, I got arrested, and there you were. You picked me up and you dusted me off, and you told me not to do it again. Told me you wouldn't be there next time. But… you always were. You always will be."

Blinking quickly, she sniffled. "Of course I will. I've always been there for you. You… You're Ollie."

Shaking his head, he blew out a breath. "It's okay to be sick of cleaning up after me. I know you're tired of seeing me in the papers or on TMZ or getting that call at 4 in the morning that I…" He laughed hollowly. "I pissed on some cop's car."

"It was a mistake. You were drunk…" She swiped at her face, wiping tear tracks from her cheeks. "It happens. I forgave you for that."

"That's the problem."


"You always forgive me. And you shouldn't." He swallowed tightly, his brows hiking high. "I played off that. I used it because I knew you'd always be there. No matter how much I fucked up or how many times I fucked around on you, you'd always be there. You'd always take me back. And I don't—" He sighed, tapping his fingers on his knee. "I have no idea why. Maybe in the beginning it was because you loved me, because I convinced you I'd be a better guy next time; that I wouldn't do it again… I don't know. But I lied. I lied, Laurel. Because I was never gonna be a better guy. Not the kind of guy you wanted or the guy you needed in your life. I was just… I was an asshole. God, I was a dick. I mean… I wasn't doing anything with my life. I partied all night and slept all day and I ignored everybody telling me to stop wasting my life. The only reason I went to work with my dad was because I didn't want him to cut me off. I wasn't growing up. I didn't make that decision for myself. I just knew that, without his money, I'd have nothing. 'Cause that's all I was. A good time wrapped in too many daddy issues, scraping by on what I learned in charm school."

Laurel stared at him, her eyes wide and her brow furrowed. She didn't understand. Not where he was going or where he was coming from, but he couldn't stop it all from pouring out. The dam was breaking and the flood was overwhelming, but it had been a long time coming and it needed to be said.

He shifted forward on his chair and clasped his hands together, squeezing his fingers when they shook. Emotional intimacy, verbal honesty; these were not his forte.

"When I was eight years old, I used to sit outside and wait for my dad to come home. I'd sit out there all afternoon. I wouldn't eat dinner or do my homework or come inside, not— not until the town car pulled up and I saw him. And every day I thought it'd be different. I thought he'd be happy to see me, you know? That he'd get out of that car and he'd just smile and laugh and grab me up and ask me how my day was and tell me how the best part of his day was coming home and seeing me. Family sitcom stuff, right…? But, he never did. He came home and he sighed and he asked me what I was still doing up, wasn't it past my bed time… And I'd follow him into the house, thinking maybe we could eat dinner together and talk, but…" He shook his head as tears bit at his eyes. "But he'd tell me he was too tired and he'd take his lunch and go to his office, locking the door behind him. And sometimes I'd wait there, too. I'd sit outside his door and hope that maybe he wouldn't be so tired after… But I'd always end up falling asleep. The door would never open. And Raisa would find me, carry me up to my room and tuck me in. She'd kiss my forehead and tell me that my dad loved me, he just…. He was a busy man."

He nodded. "And for a long time, I believed that. I believed he loved me even though he never said it. That I was still important to him even though he never really talked to me. But, then I was, I don't know, twelve, thirteen years old, and… Eventually you just grow out of that, you know? You stop believing things just because other people say them. So, I stopped working so hard to get his attention the right way. I stopped hoping he'd see me and I started making him see me… I let my grades fall, I stopped doing homework so the teacher would call home. And when that didn't work, I told myself I didn't care anymore. I didn't care what he did. But I did. I fucked around at school and I started getting into real trouble and I realized that the only time he ever really talked to me was to tell me I needed to grow up. The cops would drive me home and I'd laugh, I would laugh, because now he had to open that office door and invite me in. Now he had to look me in the eye and remember that he had a son… He had me!"

He blinked quickly and reached up to drag a hand down his mouth. "It got really easy after that, pretending I didn't care… It was so easy to stop trying, stop doing anything, really… It helped that I came from such a respected family, though. So, I didn't get kicked out of school like I should have. And all those colleges wanted me even thought my GPA was shit and my record even worse. Because I was still a Queen even if I was a fuck up. And it looks really good when you've got a billionaire on your roll call…" he scoffed, bitterly.

Grinding his teeth together a moment, he took a moment to collect himself, squeezing the knee of his pant leg under his fingers. But then he looked at her, his mouth pressed in a firm line. "Do you know what I thought when I met you?"

She shook her head vaguely, still overwhelmed with what he'd said.

"I thought… 'Dad's gonna like her. Beautiful, smart, wants to be a lawyer, yeah…' Might as well have picked you out himself." He smiled sarcastically. "You're a lot like him, you know? Motivated. Strong. Stubborn… You were probably the only thing I ever did right in my dad's eyes. He's probably still wondering how I ever got you to give me a chance." He laughed shortly. "But that wasn't the hard part. Being what you wanted, convincing you I could be, that was…"

She'd moved down the couch and reached for him now. "You didn't have to convince me. I… I want to be with you."

He looked down at her hand, curved around his and frowned. "Why'd you stick around?" he wondered. "I hurt you, over and over again. I cheated on you and I treated you like crap. You should've run away from me the first time I messed up. I don't get it. I don't get why you'd waste your time."

"I wasn't! I… You're my first love." She smiled brokenly. "You're… You made mistakes, but it's okay. We all make mistakes. I mean, I'm not perfect. I'm not! And I don't expect you to be!"

"But you had expectations. And you should. The problem is I'm… I'll never live up to them."

"You're wrong. You're… You've got the contract now. You'll have your own business. Ollie!" She let out a faint, soft laugh. "You've worked so hard and you're already doing so much. I see that! I see how far you've come and how much this means to you."

He nodded. "Now."

She paused. "What?"

He stared at her searchingly. "You see it now. But you didn't, when I was starting out. You expected me to fail. You expected me to go back to my dad… And it's okay. You should doubt me. I've done literally nothing to prove I'm anything but a failure."

She shook her head quickly, her mouth open to argue, but he didn't let her.

"The thing is, you're always going to think of me as the guy who cheated on you and never cared about anyone but himself and couldn't be trusted to do anything but make mistake after mistake after mistake. And, for some reason, you'll forgive me for that and you'll let me try again and maybe next time I'll be a little better, maybe next time I'll actually mean it when I say I'm sorry, but I'm never gonna grow up if I'm with you. And you're never gonna be with someone you deserve. Because that guy is a lot better than what I've been to you."

Her voice cracked, "What are you saying?"

He was quiet for a long moment before he finally told her, "I don't want to do this anymore. I don't…"

"You don't what?" She let out a huffing breath, her eyes becoming hard. "You don't want to be with me? Is that it? You don't love me?"

He shook his head. "I'll always love you, Laurel. I'll always care about you."

"Don't." She waved a finger at him, sneering. "Don't lie to me!"

"I'm not lying. You… You were a huge part of my life."

"Right!" She laughed emptily. "So huge that as soon as your life really starts, you just get rid of me…" Shaking her head, she swiped at her tears. "And for what? Because your dad didn't love you enough?" She stabbed a hand at her chest. "Iloved you! I was there for you. I picked you up from the bars and bailed you out of jail and planned out our whole fucking life together, Ollie! I did!"

"What life?" He stared at her. "What life were we going to have, Laurel? What do you think it was going to be like in ten years, huh? You want us to be like my parents? They can barely stand to be in the same room together some days. The life you think we could have, it's a dream. Our reality is more like a nightmare."

She flinched, turning her head away. "We could take some time… You can focus on getting the club going and I can focus on school. Maybe when this is all over, when there's not so much stress, then we can come back to this." She looked back at him hopefully, tears brimming in her eyes. "It wasn't all bad! We can go back to the good times." Reaching out, she gripped his hand. "This is good. We can get it all out on the table, we can talk about it, and when we try this again, it's a clean slate! No more lies. No more cheating. I— I know I haven't been supportive of you and this club and… I didn't know how you felt about your dad. I'm sorry. I regret that. But… you need to talk to me about these things. I can't read your mind. We need to be honest…"


His mouth turned up faintly in a sad smile and he let out a breath before he met her eyes.

"You want me to be honest?"


He paused for a moment, considering what it meant. If it would do more damage than good. But the truth was, this was part of their cycle. If he didn't end it, if he wasn't completely honest with her, what was the point?

"I didn't celebrate with just Tommy tonight," he told her, shaking his head faintly. "A few months ago, before we got back together, I met someone." He felt her hands go slack around his. "We were just friends. She… She caught me by surprise… I don't know. I just kept running into her. And things just… progressed. She's… been there for me, through all this stuff with the club and dealing with everything with my dad…" He rubbed at the furrow of his brows, his voice thick as he admitted, "And I fell in love with her."

Laurel inhaled sharply, her hands falling from around his.

He didn't look at her right away as he continued, not sure he could handle what he'd see in her face. "I didn't mean to. And I knew it was wrong. I knew I was still with you and it wasn't fair, not to either of you. But…I've never felt that way about anyone before and… I didn't want to lose her. So, I tried to just be her friend and I ignored all the problems you and me were having. And Tommy warned me, he told me that I was gonna screw it up, but I didn't listen. I thought I could handle it. I thought… I don't know. I don't know what I thought. I just know that I wasn't ready to deal with our relationship on top of everything else. But that's not working. This—us — we're not working."

Blowing out a heavy breath, he finally looked at her, at the hurt in her eyes and the tears streaming down her splotchy cheeks.

There was a long, tense moment before she asked, "Did you fuck her?"

He shook his head.

"Don't lie. Not now." Her voice was shaking. "Did you fuck her before you came over here to break up with me?"

He struggled for a moment before he said, "I kissed her. But I stopped. The phone rang, I… I knew it was you. I didn't…"

"You didn't what?" She arched an eyebrow at him. "You didn't want to sleep with her when you still had me, is that it? You didn't want to taint what you have with her?"

That… That was pretty close, actually.

She let out a scoffing breath, as if she knew that was exactly why.

Oliver rubbed his hands over his face and sighed. "You have every right to hate me. I'm not going to make any excuses for this. I'm sorry that I hurt you, and I'm sorry that I didn't end things a lot time ago, before any of this happened. I'm just… sorry."

She stared at him, a tear tripping off her lashes. "You're sorry," she repeated. "For hurting me, but not for loving her, right? You broke my heart, but it's okay, because you salvaged hers…" With a snort, she shook her head. "So what's so different about her then, huh? What makes her so special that you're not going to hurt her just like you did me? What happens in a year or two when you've got some half-naked college girl in your club, drunkenly groping you, up for anything? Is Saint Oliver going to suddenly grow a conscience and not cheat? Hm? What happens when you get bored playing the respectable adult, Ollie? Is she going to pick you up from the club or sit behind you in court or convince your parents that you're really trying this time…?"

She glared at him bitterly. "Because you're right, it does get old. And maybe this feels good when everything is all perfect and new and you've got your club, but it's not always going to be like that. One day you're going to wake up and you're going to get cold feet, because you always do when it comes to growing up and commitment, and you're going to do the same old things you've always done. And when I see your stupid face, drunk and grinning on some piece of shit tabloid, I'm going to laugh." She grinned then, full of empty mirth. "Because I dodged one really shitty bullet, but she'll be stuck scraping you off the floor of whatever jail cell they throw you in this time." Standing abruptly from her couch, she stabbed a finger toward the door. "Now, get out."

Mouth folded, he stood from the chair and looked at her, practically vibrating in her anger and betrayal, barely restraining the tears that continued to fill her eyes.

"I know you're pissed at me, and you should be. You don't have to believe me, but I mean it when I say I'm sorry that I hurt you."

"Go," she snapped through gritted teeth.

Without another word, he walked down the hall toward the front door, unsurprised when, as soon as he walked through it, she slammed it closed behind him. He didn't deserve her forgiveness, he knew that, but that didn't mean he didn't regret hurting her.

As he walked down the hall to the elevator, he sighed.

Smiling emptily to himself, he snickered. Tonight was supposed to be full of celebration; instead, he'd broken the hearts of the only two women he'd ever been in love with.

And the award for asshole of the year goes to…

Kelsey arrived with alcohol; she held it up as if it were a weapon to be used to fend off anything terrible the world had to offer.

Felicity started to laugh, only to break down crying.

She folded forward, her face buried in her hands, shaking her head, and sniffling.

With a soft sigh, Jennifer came forward, wrapping her arms around Felicity and dragging her toward the living room while Kelsey closed the door and went to the kitchen to find a few glasses for the Scotch she'd brought with her.

Felicity had changed out of her celebration outfit of earlier, taking a long shower and trading in her pretty purple dress for her comfiest pajama pants, a grey t-shirt, and her fuzzy, faux-fur, slipper-boots.

While she tried to gather herself, Jennifer sat beside her, rubbing circles between her shoulder blades, silently waiting, patient as ever.

Meanwhile, Kelsey returned with the alcohol, taking a seat on Felicity's other side, plopping down beside her and dropping the full bottle of scotch on the table with a bang, the clang of glasses right behind it.

"All right, share the details. Even if you didn't break down in tears, you've got your sad pants on, literally, so, what's up?" Kelsey wondered, pouring theme each a glass before she sat back on the couch, crossing her legs.

Felicity shook her head, leaning back, swiping at her eyes and rubbing the tear tracks from her cheeks. "I'm an idiot."

"Arguable," Jennifer replied, turning to face her better, hugging her sweater closed and tipping her head. "Start at the beginning."

"The beginning…" Felicity snorted. "Stupid coffee break… I don't even like strawberry yogurt. In fact, the whole yogurt family is kind of iffy for me. But I forgot to bring a granola bars. Now granola bars I like. They take forever to expire and there's substance, right? You can actually chew a granola bar. There's something about yogurt though, all squishy and liquidy and it just slides down your throat, no effort needed… Stupid yogurt."

"Either I'm drunker than I think I am, not unusual, or you are making no sense," Kelsey sighed, raising an eyebrow. "Jenn? Tie breaker?"

Jennifer frowned. "Maybe the beginning was too vague…? What happened tonight? Is it work? Family? Oliver-related? What?"

Felicity took a deep breath, rubbing her hands over her knees as she sat back even further, sinking against her couch. "Oliver got funding for his club," she informed them, staring at a spot on her wall, just a few inches off the floor, where a small table used to sit until she kept knocking into it and finally moved it somewhere less hazardous to her shins.

"He and Tommy wanted to go out and celebrate and they invited me, because I've been trying to help, I guess, sort of. I mean, I was supportive and I did some research and I helped them out with this commercial, it's… It was nothing, really. I—I'd do it for you guys, too. I just thought I was being friendly, because I was, because, you know, he has a girlfriend and he's, well, him, and I'm me, and that… that wasn't going anywhere. So what if I had a tiny crush on him, right? Because that happens. There was that time, junior year, where I thought I was in love with Kelsey, but I really just wanted to steal all of her self-confidence for myself, but whatever, the point is… I was being a friend.

"So, they wanted to take me out, and I said, yes, because hello, free food, and also dancing— I was promised clubbing afterwards. But then I ate too much, like strain the stitching on my dress ate too much. So, I decided to call it a night and Oliver brought me home and then… then we danced, because he said he promised and there was this… this really sweet moment where it was just… just us. And we were right there and there was no music and it was… intimate. Like— Like nothing I've ever felt before. It was just… It was like everything else just fell away and all I could feel was the way he was holding me and all I could hear was the sound of him breathing and then… Then he was kissing my neck and it just felt… right, you know? And then he was pressing kisses all over my face, and they were soft and so delicate that I almost couldn't breathe for a second, because I've never felt that special before…"

She realized suddenly that one of her hands had risen, her fingers faintly fluttering just under her mouth.

"And then we were kissing and it was… the most amazing kiss I've ever had. I… I've never felt that much passion and intensity before, just overflowing."

"I'm gonna need a bigger glass," Kelsey muttered, shifting in her seat and reaching for the bottle of scotch.

"So what happened? What changed between passionate and intense to crying on your own?" Jennifer wondered, frowning.

"His phone rang." Felicity's head fell back, her eyes squeezing shut for a moment. "Reality called in the form of his girlfriend."

"That dick!" Kelsey exclaimed angrily.

Felicity shook her head, raising her head once more. "No, that… I—I knew he had a girlfriend. He'd mentioned her before. Laurel. I just… The last time we talked about her, he said he knew he had to break up with her. And we just— We never really talked about her again. He doesn't bring her up a lot, and what he has told me has been kind of… negative, I guess. Not against her, not exactly, more like them as a couple. So I just, I don't know, maybe I convinced myself that he broke up with her, to make myself feel better when we were kissing. Maybe I didn't want to remember that he had a girlfriend." She rubbed her hands over her face. "I don't know. I… I didn't think he'd kiss me if he had someone else. I…"

"You trusted him," Jennifer said softly, reaching out to rub a hand down her arm.

Felicity turned to look at her, tears brimming in her eyes. "I'm an idiot." She shook her head, her lips trembling. "And a home-wrecker."

Jennifer's mouth tilted slightly with amusement. "I don't think you have it in you to be a home-wrecker, Smoaks. I think you just got caught up in a really emotional friendship that took a turn into romance that maybe it wasn't ready for."

Her brow furrowed, eyes dropping to her lap. "He told me he was going to break up with her. That he'd wanted to for a long time and he should've done it a long time ago, but he didn't. He said he wanted to be with me and that he's wanted to explore this… thing between us for a while. But… I don't know."

Taking her hand and squeezing it, Jennifer wondered, "So let's say he does break up with his girlfriend, what then?"

Chewing her lip, Felicity shook her head. "I don't know."

"Best case scenario?"

"We get together and move past all of this and, I don't know, have a relationship…" Felicity shifted, her gaze darting around uncertainly. "But how do we do that? He… He had a girlfriend this whole time, I… That doesn't exactly endorse him as a good boyfriend, right? I mean, if he knew how he felt about me, but he stayed with her anyway…"

"Again, what a dick," Kelsey muttered.

Felicity turned to her, sighing. "I don't think he tries to be. I think he's trying really hard not to be. I mean, he said he was a coward and he always runs away when things are difficult. And I know— I know that doesn't sound like a good thing. But admitting it and realizing it's something he needs to work on, that's a step, right?" She groaned, her head falling back. "I know I sound like I'm defending him, and maybe I am, a little, but I just… I feel like I'm painting him in a really crappy light, and I don't think that's who he is."

"Maybe he painted himself that way," Kelsey argued. "Look, I'm all for you getting your freak on with anybody who looks that good. And clearly he liked you. Totally ignoring what happened tonight, from what you've told us and what we saw that night he stayed over after his drunk pity-fest, he's definitely attached to you. But just because he's figuring his shit out now doesn't mean he's going to come out a winner at the end of this. The whole point of figuring things out is that he's still in that whole 'who am I' quest for enlightenment, which means he doesn't know who or what he wants." She shrugged. "You really want to tie yourself to that sinking yacht?"

"Pretty sure it's 'ship,'" Felicity muttered.

"Tomato, potato," Kelsey dismissed.

Jennifer rolled her eyes, shaking her head, and turned back to Felicity. "As much as Drunky McWiseWhenIFeelLikeIt doesn't know her idioms, she does have a point… Hey, I'll be the first to toss my hat into the Felicity and Oliver ring. I think he's been good for you. You were getting lost in that 'all work, no play' cycle for a while there. I know Kelsey and I have been pretty busy, and you've got your dog-walking thing, but human interaction is important, too. And having Oliver around, even just as a friend, it was lightening you up. You were happier with him around. But he is going through a transitional period in his life and, to put entirely too much pressure on what I learned in my college psych classes, he might be attaching a lot of the positive changes in his life to you… So, while it might seem super whirlwind romance and sweet, you've gotta be careful, too." She shrugged. "I don't know him enough to say, so don't chalk it up to what we're saying automatically, but objective opinions can't hurt…"

Felicity nodded faintly, her heart aching a little. "So what do I do?" she wondered, her voice a choked whisper. "Because even if he's going through that whole 'who am I' thing, I'm not, and I…" She blinked back her tears. "I really like him."

Kelsey sighed, leaning over to rest her head on Felicity's shoulder. "I know I say it too often, but drinking's not a bad idea. And sex with a hot stranger can't hurt."

"Don't get me started on how at least one of those, if not used in moderation, actually could hurt, a lot…" Jennifer muttered. "Listen, you know we'll support whatever you decide to do. You want to stick this out, see what a relationship gets you, we'll be right there cheering you on. If you want to cut ties and never mention his name again, we'll pull a Harry Potter and call him He Who Shall Not Be Named. And if you want to do something else, something in-between, okay. Because, in the end, all we can do is give you our opinion and support whatever decision you make."

"Unless you make a really stupid decision, then we have to intervene…" Kelsey snorted. "Like that lacrosse player in freshman year, you remember?"

Felicity rolled his eyes. "I still don't think you needed to show up, scream at him about trespassing laws, and pepper spray him. It was a bit much."

Kelsey shrugged. "You do things your way, I'll do them my way. And creepy, stalkery, lacrosse boy needed a reminder that his behavior was not okay… Besides, that pepper-spray was just sitting around in my purse, unused, for far too long."

"You had it exactly two weeks. I remember when you got it. It was an impulse buy," Jennifer reminded.

"You say that like it's a bad thing, but all I hear is 'I'm jealous I didn't get to pepper-spray anybody,'" Kelsey sing-songed in return.

"We're not having that debate again," Felicity interrupted, raising a finger when Jennifer inhaled deeply to argue.

"Fine… for now." Jennifer shot Kelsey a look and then turned back to Felicity. "So? What do you think you'll do?"

"Yeah, are we pro-Oliver or anti-billionaire-dick?" Kelsey wondered.

Felicity looked between them and sighed. "I need a drink."

"Hallelujah, sister," Kelsey laughed.

"Should I be surprised, excited, or concerned that you're getting home this late?" Tommy asked as Oliver tried to quietly make his way to his room.

Oliver jumped at the sudden sound of his best friend, and turned, searching him out, only to find Tommy sitting on the island counter in his kitchen, a carton of milk in hand.

Oliver joined him, sighing to himself.

"That good, huh?" Tommy joked, raising an eyebrow.

"I just broke up with Laurel," he answered, pulling out a stool to take a seat.

"Again?" He snorted. "What's the tally now, anyway?"

Oliver shook his head. "No, it's final this time."

"Uh-huh." Tommy guzzled back the last of the milk before hopping down from the counter, circling the island, and tossing the carton into the garbage can beneath the sink. "Not to be a buzzkill, but I've heard that before."

Dragging a hand down his face, he scratched at his chin, frowning. "I kissed Felicity tonight."

Tommy's brows hiked as he walked closer. "Well, that's different." He waggled his hand back and forth. "Not hooking up with someone before or after a Laurel break-up so much as hooking up with someone you've actually got feelings for…" He rested his elbows on the counter and stared at Oliver curiously. "So, where does that leave you two?"

He winced. "I kissed her before I broke up with Laurel, and then I stopped kissing her to remind her that I was still in a relationship, but I didn't want to be, and would go and break up with her."

Tommy frowned. "Not the best way to start a relationship. But I've heard worse. Like, 'the test is positive.' That one's always a doozy."

Oliver sighed. "I was honest. I explained that I wanted to be with her and that it was a mistake to start things before I ended it with Laurel, but I was an idiot and I already had too much on my plate and every other excuse which doesn't hold much weight…" He rubbed his fingers into his eyes. "I asked her not to give up on me…"


"But why wouldn't she?" Oliver raised his head, already feeling defeated. "What the hell good am I to her anyway? I mean I'm not exactly prime stock for anyone, let alone someone like her…"

Eyes narrowed, Tommy pursed his lips. "Where's this sudden burst of self-loathing coming from, anyway?"

"Laurel just reminded me that I don't exactly have a great record with relationships, and I'm wondering if maybe not pursuing this thing with Felicity would be better for her."

Humming, Tommy nodded. "Sure. I get it."

Oliver blinked. "You do?"

"Yeah. I mean, Felicity's smart, gorgeous, loyal, funny, quirky, a little geeky, supportive… I could go on for ages, you know. In fact, if you hadn't seen her first, I think I'd be calling dibs. Might even take myself off the market for a catch like that."

Glowering now, he stared his grinning friend down. "Is there a point to this?"

"Well, when you look at the long list of what makes her a pretty awesome candidate for girlfriend, and then look at your history, it's not too pretty… So, I can see why you'd want to bow out, tail between your legs." Tommy pointed at him. "You know who'd be good for her? Carter Bowen. That guy's got it together, am I right?"

"He's a douche. And Felicity doesn't need some uptight asshole like that. She needs someone who's actually going to care about her and what she says and what her day was like. Someone who'll walk her dogs with her and rub her hands after a long day and pick up her favorite wine and remember that she likes cherry flavored cough medicine and lemon tea. No way is Carter Bowen going to do that. He'd probably just sit around talking about all the ways he's so much better than other people. Narcissistic ass-hat."

Slowly, Tommy grinned. "So, problem solved then, right?"


"Oliver, you're a shit boyfriend."

He snorted. "Thanks."

"Sorry. You were a shit boyfriend to Laurel, and probably anybody else you dated."

"Yeah, that really took the sting out," Oliver muttered sarcastically.

Tommy ignored him. "The difference here is that those people weren't Felicity and you've grown up a lot in the last few months. Like, so much that it puts me to shame a little, so maybe try to rein it in a little…"

His mouth twitched, his good humor starting to edge back in.

"I know you loved Laurel, but when you two got together, you were young and dumb and a jerk. A fun jerk, sure, but still a jerk. And with you and Laurel, I don't know, you just kind of stayed there. You were used to it, she was used to it, it was comfortable. But you're growing up, you're starting your own business, you're getting independent, and I don't know, man. I've never seen you like this —how you are with Felicity— with anybody else. So, I'm not guaranteeing it won't blow up in your face at some point, but… I don't know if walking away is the best choice. Even if it doesn't work out, you should still try. Might not go anywhere, but I think you'd regret it more if you never gave it a chance."

Oliver stared at him a long moment before he nodded. "Yeah… I probably would."

Tommy half-grinned, pushing off the counter. "Cool. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a hot Russian in my bed that I promised I'd get back to ten minutes ago."

Snorting, Oliver grinned as Tommy walked off, clapping his shoulder as he went.

Standing from the stool, he made his way to his own room, letting Tommy's advice roll around in his head.

He didn't know if Felicity would want to explore anything. He didn't know if she'd even want to be his friend after things happened. But he did know that he cared about her. Scratch that. He was in love with her. And even if she did slam the door in his face, and he wouldn't blame her if she did, he still needed to try.

Because maybe she wouldn't.

Maybe she'd give him a chance.

If anyone would, it'd be her.

He hoped.

The following morning, after taking Jasper for her morning run, Oliver made his way over to Felicity's apartment. He only lingered outside, psyching himself up, for five minutes before he gathered up his courage and went inside. He considered calling ahead but then decided the conversation needed to happen in person. If she told him she didn't want to talk, or she needed some more time, he would respect that. It would suck, but he wouldn't push her.

His palms were damp as he walked up the stairs; he wiped them on his jeans as he stood awkwardly in the elevator leading to her floor. Time seemed to be flying by. This was probably why he avoided doing important things, he decided. They made him nervous. The outcome to this felt like it was going to be life-changing and that… was really scary.

All too quickly, he found himself standing in front of her door, his fist raised to knock. He hesitated for just a moment before closing his eyes tightly and rapping his knuckles against her door.

There was nothing at first, no voice telling him to just hold on, no hurried feet rushing to the door, and he wondered if maybe he'd missed her. It was the weekend, so he wasn't sure if she'd taken Mario out for a walk. He checked the watch on his wrist, wondering if maybe dropping by the park to see if she was there was a good idea…

But then, just as he was getting anxious, the door swung open and his breath rushed out of him for a moment.

Her hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail, curls falling down her back and spilling over her grey-blue t-shirt.

His heart thudded in his chest as he watched her smile dim.

"Hi," he said, clearing his throat when his voice came out a little thick.

"Hi." Biting her lip, she reached up to adjust her glasses and glanced away. "I guess this is when we have that really awkward conversation…?"

He let out a stilted laugh, nodding slightly. "Yeah, uh…" He scratched his temple. "If—If you're up for that."

After a few second's hesitation, she pushed her door open wider and stepped back, making her way into her living room. He watched her as she walked away, his nerves frayed. Closing the door behind him, he followed after her, taking a seat in the arm chair next to her couch. He turned his eyes up slightly, thinking of the parallels to last night. Only Felicity knew why he was there, she knew what this conversation was about, while Laurel hadn't been expecting it to turn out the way it had.

He tapped a foot on the floor, staring his palms for a moment as he struggled with what he wanted to say.

Felicity had folded one of her legs under her and was picking at the frayed knee of her black jeans.

He turned to say something, pausing briefly when he saw the panda heads on her sock. A soft smile turned his lips and he shook his head, letting out a sigh.

When he finally turned his eyes up to her, he found her already looking at him.

"I'm a selfish person," he admitted. "I don't think it started out that way, not on purpose. I think… I know that I wanted my dad's attention, and when I didn't get it, I looked for it in other people. And when I found it, I held onto it, I abused it, and I never really deserved it… My whole relationship with Laurel was me fucking up at every chance, wondering how long it would take for her to give up on me, and she never did. And instead of realizing that I was hurting her and she didn't deserve it, I just kept screwing up, kept pushing those boundaries, waiting for the day she'd get tired of it. But she didn't, she always took me back, and the thing is… I don't even think she loves me anymore, I think she's just used to me. Used to being the adjusted one in the relationship and having to put me back together every time I got into trouble…"

He ground his teeth together and turned his eyes up. "It wasn't healthy and I knew that. I knew what we were doing to each other and how we stayed together, it wasn't good for either of us, but… I'm selfish. Everything with this club and my dad and realizing that I need to grow up, it's been hard, a lot harder than I ever expected, and I thought I could just ignore it. I thought I could deal with this stuff with Laurel later. But then… you were there. And I know it's not fair. I know I screwed this up before it started, but…" He turned to her, staring at her searchingly. "You're so important to me, Felicity. You're… You've been amazing and I… I tried to tell myself that my feelings for you weren't changing, but I think they always were. From the moment I met you, I think something was different, and I was always going to end up here. I know my timing sucks and I know I should've done this a different way, but I can't take it back now. I can't fix it, not completely. And I won't… I won't blame you if you don't want to be with me, but please don't shut me out. I don't… I'm still going to be selfish and ask you not to leave me completely."

Felicity stared at him a long moment before turning her eyes away. "You just missed Jennifer and Kelsey. They stayed over last night. I…" She shook her head, forcing a smile. "I was kind of a blubbering mess, actually."

He winced. "I'm sorry. I—"

"You had to go and break up with your girlfriend…" She nodded. "I know."

He pursed his lips for a moment, not quite sure what to say.

"The thing is, Oliver, I can't blame you completely. I… I knew you had a girlfriend. You told me about Laurel. I just… I don't know, I thought you broke up. I thought… He wouldn't do this, he wouldn't kiss me if he was with someone else…" She bit her lip when it started to tremble. "And that was my mistake. I never really asked. And I think… I think I wanted to believe that you wouldn't. That you broke up with her or you'd know better or something… So, I can't blame you for the kiss, not really. I was a willing participant in that."

He stared at her, slightly confused. "I feel like there's a 'but' coming…"

"But…" She took a deep breath and turned to stare at him. "You're not ready for a relationship."


"And I'm not sure I'm ready to be in one with you."

He closed his mouth.

"I won't deny that I feel something for you, because I do… I feel a lot, but you're going through a lot of personal stuff right now and you're figuring yourself out and I… I want to be there for you, as a friend, but I don't want to add to that pile." She shook her head. "I had this huge speech planned out where I told you that you're growing up and you're becoming someone that isn't the coward you think you are and the person I see you becoming is so, so wonderful. Because the man you are right now is already fifteen shades of awesome. And I've seen you grow, I've been there while you became someone completely different from who I first met in that break room, months ago." She licked her lips. "But you're still growing and you're still figuring out who you are in all of this. So maybe in a few months, I'm not going to be who you want to be with. Maybe you'll realize you and Laurel can try again and maybe you won't. And maybe you'll know that I am someone you want to be with. But maybe you won't. And the thing is… I know who I am and I know who I want. But I won't be a stepping stone in your recovery or your growth."

"You're not," he told her, his hands balling up into fists as he shifted forward in his seat. "Felicity, you're not a phase. You're not someone I'll grow out of, you're someone I want to grow with. And I know I'll have to grow a lot faster to catch up, but I can get there. I can be where you are. I can be what you want."

"You just got out of a relationship." She held up a hand. "Good or bad, it was a long-term relationship with someone you loved. You need to find out who you are out of that relationship before you can jump into a new one." She reached for him, her fingers curling down into his palm. "I'm not closing the door. I'm saying I don't think we should open it completely, not until you know for sure."

He squeezed her hand, holding onto it tightly. "And in a few months, when I still want to be with you?"

"Then we talk about it again."

A muscle in his jaw twitched. "This isn't just you trying to let me down nicely?" he wondered, trying for humor, but feeling a twinge in his heart that was anything but funny.


He looked up, meeting her eyes.

"We started this friendship with honesty; I wouldn't lie to you now."

He swallowed tightly. "I'm still gonna wanna be with you… What I said last night, how I feel about you, that isn't going to change. I know I have a lot of growing up still to do, and it's going to happen. With this club and my dad and just me. But how I feel when I'm with you, how much I want you, I don't think that'll ever go away…"

She closed her eyes for a moment, when they were bright with tears, and then smiled at him. "Maybe it won't," she murmured.

"I can make this up to you… However long it takes, until I'm where I need to be, I can do that."

"As long as you're doing it for you…" She stared at him meaningfully. "You can't grow up for someone else. If you have problems with your dad, you need to work those out because you want to. If you want this club to succeed, you do everything to make that happen because it's your club and you deserve it. Because in the end, even if we get together, things change, life happens, and we might not make it a year, two years, ten years down the line… So, if you change your life, any single aspect of it, do it because you want that change. Even when I'm not there, when nobody is there but you, make sure that life is exactly what you want for yourself."

He nodded. "Okay."

He knew she was right. When wasn't she? If his life was going to do any real changing, it would have to be because he wanted it to. No more hiding from it. No more waiting for it to magically happen. Just like when he wanted his club to get off the ground, he and Tommy went out, every day, and made it happen. And there were things he still needed to work on. He had no idea who he was on his own. He didn't know who he was outside of a relationship with Laurel. Or maybe he did, but he'd never really recognized himself before. He'd always either been with her or been the bachelor that spent too much time in clubs, picking up anybody who was up for it. So this would be different. This would be him figuring out exactly where he stood in the world, without Laurel there to pick him up if he fell.

And maybe that was exactly what he needed. Because Laurel hadn't been completely wrong. He always screwed up somehow. He always found a way to make things worse for himself. And how would he feel if, in a few months, he ended up hurting Felicity just like he had Laurel? No. He needed this time to get his head straight. To focus on the club and where he wanted to be, who he wanted to be going forward.

Felicity wasn't promising she'd be there at the end, there was no satisfaction guarantee that came with anything he was doing, but that wasn't the point. He'd spent too much of his life avoiding anything that took work, anything that wasn't fun or easy, and now that had to change. Now he was going to open a club and grow up and hopefully end up being a happier, well-rounded person because of it. Did that mean he wasn't disappointed that she wasn't signing on board for all of it? No, of course not. Because one of the scarier parts was that he had no idea how long it would take for him to grow up and find himself. And a lot of things could change in a few months; his current circumstances were proof of that. So what if she moved on? Or gave up on him? Or stopped caring about his screwed up and wounded billionaire playboy shtick?

"Does this mean no more meeting up at the park to play fetch?" he wondered, half-smiling.

"You're not getting rid of me that easily…" She looked up at him earnestly. "I'll always be your friend, Oliver."

He swallowed thickly, a breath of relief caught in his throat. Because he did need her. Even if she never loved him like he did her. He still needed her in his life. "Good," he choked out. "Because Jasper's kind of attached to you."

"Is she?"

"Tiny bit."

"I'm a tiny bit attached to her, too," she replied, squeezing his hand.

He didn't know what happened after this, but he really hoped that, eventually, one day, when he came to her to tell her how he felt, she'd tell him she loved him, too, and that 'I'll always be your friend' would become 'I'll always be yours.'

For now, he could wait.

[Next: Chapter Eight.]

author's note: so, anybody who follows me on Tumblr knows that I took a hiatus from writing approximately a week ago. I was getting a little overwhelmed with asks about updates (on this fic specifically, but a few others, too) and just a constant flood of prompts. And I decided I needed a break from writing, because it was starting to take all of the fun out of it for me. The thing is, I love writing, especially for this ship. I spend 5-6 days in practicum and 3 of those are also days I spend in school. So, in between homework and late-nights running drop-in, I was writing, getting in as much as I could on the one day off that I had to myself. And I churn out a lot of fic - like, probably too much - which is something I'm proud of. But I don't ever want writing to become an obligation. I want it to continue to be something I love and enjoy sharing with everybody.

There's still a lot of this fic to be written and I am writing it. I'm overjoyed by how many people enjoy it. But I do ask that you be patient with me in terms of updates. I have three weeks left of school and I'm already extremely overwhelmed with things as they are. So you will get the next chapter of this and every other fic, but please don't ask me when or demand it immediately. I need time to write and that added pressure tends to turn me off writing.

Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I know a lot of people were hoping that their relationship would start right away, but I feel that would do a disservice to them. Oliver is still figuring himself out and Felicity is a little worried about whether or not their relationship would be like his with Laurel's. He needs to do some more growing up. I will say, however, that they will continue to grow closer and some things happen that help move that along.

Lastly, don't be too hard on Laurel. She's being dumped (for like, the nth time) and told that there is no fixing it because Oliver's fallen in love with someone else while still in a relationship with her. She admitted she made some mistakes and he definitely has his share of mistakes in their relationship. Some of the things she said may be hard to hear, but she also wasn't completely wrong. Even if her lashing out was painful and even a little cruel in places. So please, no Laurel-bashing.

I hope you're looking forward to more! Please do leave a review; they're my lifeblood.

- Lee | Fina