A/N: Huge thanks to Abbie and Kat for keeping me sane through the writing of just about all of this chapter. If you've been keeping up with this fic on tumblr, here will be one relatively new scene in here, though it will already have been posted to tumblr. Thanks for sticking with me despite the long stretch between updates. This fall semester was intense, and it made finding time to write difficult.
Felicity makes no secret about the fact that she finds the Queen family breakfasts uncomfortable. Since Oliver's just fine with not letting his family know that she is literally living in a bottle in his room, he's never bothered to make her go after that first morning. Sometimes she chooses to all on her own, but most mornings she blinks herself back into her bottle as soon as Oliver leaves.
It's after one of these Felicity-less breakfasts that Moira catches Oliver on his way back upstairs.
"Oliver," Moira says. "We need to talk about Felicity."
Oliver keeps his face carefully schooled into a neutral expression. He's been waiting for this conversation. "What about her?"
"Darling," Moira reaches for him, but he leans back just a touch, so her fingers only brush against his arm. If his mother is hurt, she doesn't let it deter her. "You've barely been back, and already this woman is…"
"Is what?" He doesn't mean it to sound like a challenge, necessarily, but he doesn't want Moira to finish that thought.
"In your bed," Moira finishes, and Oliver bristles. He doesn't bother to correct her, however. "And in your heart. I'm concerned your heart is a little too fragile right now."
Oliver takes a deep breath. "I've been alone."
"No, Mom. Alone." She won't understand; he knows this. There's no way to explain this kind of alone, no way to put it into words.
Her hand is still on his arm, a steady, gentle pressure. "I don't want to see someone take advantage of that."
"She's not taking advantage of me. You don't have to worry."
Moira's tone softens. "It's my job to worry, Oliver. I had someone do some digging on her."
"You shouldn't have done that." Carefully, Oliver shifts so she's no longer touching him.
"Mom," he says firmly. "No. I don't want you looking into her. I don't want anyone looking into her, do you hear me?"
Moira bristles. "Oliver, I only have your best interests at heart."
"And I'm looking out for her best interests," Oliver says sharply. "Don't dig into her. Trust me. Even if you don't trust her right now, trust me."
It must be killing her, Oliver thinks, not to know, not to understand. Moira was once the first person he would go to if he were ever in trouble. She was once the first person who heard his secrets, reassured him that all would be well.
But Oliver has spent five years without her. Five years of separation. Five years of learning to rely on no one but himself. He does not need Moira now, even if he needed her then.
It's going to take a while for their relationship to find balance again. Part of him wonders if it ever will.
When Oliver makes it back to his room, he finds Felicity sitting in the alcove in front of his window, knees pressed against her chest. Her hair is up in it's usual high-ponytail, the blonde curls brushing against the back of her neck. She's dressed in a different version of what Oliver's come to think of as her 'genie outfit'. Oliver finds his attention momentarily drawn to the dark purple slippers on her feet, the way the toes of the shoes curve up, and the little golden bells attached to the tips.
She doesn't turn to look at him as he approaches, even when he sets a hand on her shoulder.
"Felicity? I need you to do me a favor," Oliver says, sitting down beside her. As he lets his hand fall from her shoulder, he fights the urge to reach for her hand, to stay physically connected to her.
"People don't ask me for favors."
"I'm asking," Oliver says again. "For a favor."
Now she looks up at him, eyebrows furrowed. "You don't need to ask me for anything."
"Felicity. I know how this all works. And I'm telling you I'm going to ask you something, and if you don't want to do it, I want you to tell me no."
For a long moment, all she does is stare at him, like she can't quite believe what she's hearing.
"You'll tell me no?"
"If I don't want to do it," Felicity says softly. "I will tell you no."
He breathes out. "Good. Tommy is throwing a benefit dinner for Laurel tomorrow night, and I was wondering—" Oliver clears his throat. "Would you… would you like to come with me?"
He watches her face carefully. For a moment, she looks pensive, then—
"It's a party?"
Felicity nods slowly, like she's taking a moment to process that. "Why don't you want to go by yourself?"
He hesitates. The Oliver Queen he was five years ago would have gone without a second thought, but now…
"It's overwhelming," he says, after a long moment of silence. "There are so many people, and more often than not they're all looking at me, like they can figure out everything about me just by staring."
"So why me?"
Oliver rubs the back of his neck, unease settling into his stomach. "Because you understand. More than anyone else, Felicity. When I'm there, back out in the world..." He draws a blank trying to describe the sensation. "It's like I want to crawl out of my own skin. Like I know I'll go crazy if I have to stay in that moment for even one more second. So I just end up shutting down in order to get through everything. I don't… I don't like the person that I am when my brain just checks out like that."
Felicity stares at the toes of her shoes while he talks. Her lips are pressed together, and her expression is pensive.
"When I'm with you," Oliver says with his heart in his throat. "When I'm with you, none of that happens. I'm just. I'm okay. I can breathe."
Now she looks up, meets his gaze with hers. "Okay," she says. "I'll go with you."
"Yeah?" he asks, just to be sure.
"Yes." She slides her legs to one side, adjusting the way she's sitting and reaching over to cover his left hand with hers.
Oliver turns his hand over, lacing their fingers together. He tries not to stare at the silver manacle wrapped around her wrist. "I have to do a lot of work on Verdant today. Meet with a few more contractors. Did you want to come with me, or did you want to stay here?"
"Why would I come with you?"
"Because," Oliver says, standing up. He tips her chin up with the side of his forefinger. "You have a better idea of what the inside of the club should look like, and frankly I'm terrible at describing it. Magic yourself up some fake business cards, and we'll call you my interior designer."
He loses himself for a moment then, gaze slipping from her face to the wall behind her, a little more lost than he was before. Oliver shakes his head slowly, blinks a few times. He struggles to drag himself back to the present, back to Felicity, whose eyes haven't left his face.
"Better yet," he says. "We'll just call you my partner."
Uncertainty hits the moment Oliver turns away. He stops halfway to his dresser, wondering whether or not he should face her again. Ultimately, he decides he can't look at her face, doesn't want to see her expression when he says what he says next. "Unless you don't want anything to do with it."
He hears her stand, hears the bells on her shoes jingle. "No," Felicity says. "I'm just… not used to this."
"To being involved. To being wanted for more." She's moving closer now.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that… you want me to come to a dinner with you, but not because you want to show me off. You want me to help you with your business, but not because you want me to use my magic."
She's standing right behind him. All he has to do is turn just slightly and he can look at her. Oliver just doesn't want to. She's right. He doesn't want her magic, doesn't care about it. Doesn't want to let it become a poison that sinks into his bones.
Felicity's hand hovers over his shoulder, but she doesn't actually touch him.
He very desperately wants her to, but he pushes those feelings aside. Tries to focus on something else. Felicity pulls her hand away. Oliver swallows down his disappointment.
"Thank you," she whispers.
In order to keep up the illusion that Felicity is a normal human person with a normal human life, she and Oliver do take certain magical measures, when they can. As far as Moira, Walter, and Thea know, Felicity is a friend of Oliver's. Sometimes they spend their nights together.
When it comes time to go to the fundraiser Tommy throws Laurel, Oliver takes her out to lunch. She uses a bit of her own magic to appear a few blocks away from the Queens' mansion, and he picks her up in his Porsche.
"This is ridiculous," Felicity mutters when Oliver orders the most expensive bottle of wine. "You realize all you'd have to do is just say the word, and I could have an incredible feast spread out before you. Servants and elephants and magic carpets—"
"You're doing something nice for me," he says, matter of fact. "By coming to the benefit tonight."
She raises an eyebrow. "What's your point?"
"You're doing something nice for me; I'm doing something nice for you."
"You like food," Oliver says. "You missed it. We both did."
She fights against giving him a smile, but something about the light in his eyes makes the struggle futile. "There will be food tonight."
He grins. "Not this food." Their server arrives with the bottle of wine. "And I'm pretty sure not this vintage."
Felicity feels herself melt a little when she takes her first sip of the Lafite Rothschild. "I love red wine. Wine is one of those few things that's still good. I can't get buzzed though. Not even a little tipsy.
"No hangovers though," Oliver points out. "That's a silver lining."
She takes another taste of wine. "There aren't too many of those—silver linings, I mean. I guess I'll take them when I can get them."
He orders her entree for her—"I want you to try this; if you don't like it we'll just order you something else, but it's my favorite dish here, and I want you to try it."—and Felicity is surprised to find out that she does in fact enjoy what he's ordered for her. It's pasta, with shrimp and cheese and cream, and it's delightful. She eats it slowly, bite-by-bite, savoring each bit. Food is one of the few perks of being out of her bottle, when her Masters let her have it.
Oliver doesn't just allow. He encourages. He buys her food. It's the strangest, most wonderful thing.
He also insists that they order dessert. When Felicity can't decide, he places an order for two: one to split, and one to take home.
"For later," he says with a wink.
They show up a little late to the benefit. Oliver keeps his arm around Felicity's waist or his hand pressed against the small of her back, and she's not sure whether he's using the touch to ground her or to keep himself steady. Perhaps it is both. They drink champagne and mingle and Felicity loses track of how many people she meets.
Many of them are people Oliver knew from before the island. They greet him with clasps on the back or shoulders that Felicity knows he doesn't want. They smile at him behind glasses of wine or champagne. Some are loud and blunt. They scrape at Felicity's calm like sandpaper. Oliver plays his part dutifully, smiles and jokes and stories that begin with, "Hey, remember when we..."
Others are awkward, uncomfortable. They do not know what to do or what to say. She likes those kinds better. Oliver pretends just a little less, is himself just a little more. He smiles kindly at one of his mother's old friends who looks almost in tears to see him healthy and whole. He takes her hand and tells her honestly that being back is an adjustment, but one that he's slowly making.
He introduces Felicity "Smoak" every time. Most of the men offer her a casual smile, send congratulatory grins in Oliver's direction. Some of the women try to engage her in conversation. She spends a delightful fifteen minutes talking about this charity where one of Moira's friends works.
They also meet a few of Laurel's friends from CNRI. And then the woman herself comes over midway through the evening, politely thanking them both for attending.
Felicity should be in pain. She should hate seeing this woman here, talking to Oliver.
But it's the same as it was in the club. Oliver's heart wants other things. Laurel—in a romantic sense—is not on that list.
And even if she were, he still wants Felicity to be okay. So she is.
But then someone approaches Oliver, and he turns to speak with them, leaving Laurel and—
"Felicity," Laurel says. "I'm glad you and Oliver could come. We didn't get to talk much the other night."
"No," Felicity says softly. "We didn't."
"Are you enjoying yourself?"
Felicity's not quite sure how to answer that question. "Everything's very…" Nervously, she glances around the room, feeling like no matter what she says next, it'll be the wrong answer. "Lovely."
Laurel smiles. "Good, I'm glad."
Felicity thinks she should say something, but what that could be is an idea that completely escapes her.
Coming unwittingly to her rescue, Tommy saunters up to the two of them. Smoothly, he slides an arm around Lauren's waist. "Hi, gorgeous," he says. "Can I have steal you away for this dance?"
"No," Laurel says, "You'll have to borrow me. I still need to talk to people after."
"You drive a hard bargain, but I'll take it."
As they walk off to the dance floor, Oliver suddenly appears beside Felicity. He places his hand on the small of her back, his thumb rubbing back and forth against her spine. "We should dance."
She turns to look at him, curls bobbing around her shoulders. "We should?"
"I'm not sure how?"
"Oh," Oliver says. "It's easy. If I can do it, you can do it."
"Really," he promises, a playful lilt to his voice. "C'mon, what are you afraid of? I won't step on your toes. All you have to do is follow me."
Drawing in a deep breath, Felicity takes his hand and lets him lead her out onto the floor. There something slow and jazzy playing. Felicity doesn't recognize it, but she doesn't recognize much music these days. Anything after the 50s is kind of a blur, even though Oliver has given her this little device that will play an overwhelming number of songs. Felicity spent the better part of an afternoon figuring it out, even going so far as to try taking it apart—which was next to impossible.
(Oliver's promised to help her find a computer she can take apart. She's developed quite an interest in all the new technology. It's so far from what she most recently remembers that it's almost mind-boggling. Together they've found quite a few books on computers for her to read. She's spent almost all of the time she's not helping with Verdant pouring through them with great interest.)
Carefully, Felicity glances at the rest of the couples swaying together on the floor. Most of them aren't doing anything incredibly complicated. She mimics the ladies, placing her left hand on Oliver's shoulder and keeping her right hand in his. After that, she just sways in the same way he does, slow and easy.
At some point she closes her eyes, lets him tug her closer. Soon her head is resting against his chest. He's the perfect height for that.
One song melts into two, then three, then four, and then Felicity loses count. Suddenly, Oliver's kissing her forehead and saying, "C'mon. Let's go home."
She doesn't tell him that home is right where she's standing.
Next to him.
It throws Tommy off, walking into the Queens' living room one day to see Felicity Smoak's feet in Oliver Queen's lap.
It's a strange moment. Oliver's attention is completely focused on the tablet in his right hand. Felicity is reading what looks like The Internet for Dummies.
There's a sassy one liner on his tongue, but it never makes it to his lips as he stops and studies them.
They're just existing. There. Together. Oliver's hand is on her ankle, fingers rubbing against the side of her calf—and she's wearing a dress, so his fingers are caressing her bare skin. It's oddly intimate, considering other things Tommy has walked in on Oliver doing with pretty girls.
They're both so deep into their own little world that neither of them seem to notice Tommy standing in the doorway until he waltzes further into the room and sits down on a nearby armchair.
Felicity flinches, but Oliver just looks up at him. "Hey. What's going on?"
"I wanted to talk to you," Tommy says. "About Verdant."
Oliver's attention shifts completely. He sets down the tablet and shifts towards Tommy. "What about it?"
There's no malice in his tone, no concern, nothing but simple curiosity.
Ignoring the lump of nervousness in his stomach, Tommy says. "I want to invest."
"Okay," Oliver says without flinching. "How much?"
Tommy blinks, surprised. "I'm serious."
"I know," Oliver tells him. "So am I. I just want to ask you what you'd like your involvement to be, because I'd love to have you working with me on every part of this, if that's something you'd be interested in."
"Honestly, Oliver, my father is threatening to cut me off if I don't do something productive again, but that's not why. I just finished throwing this fundraiser for Laurel, and I loved doing it. I know they're not exactly the same, but they're close and… you and I together, we've always been great."
Without another word, Oliver stands up and holds out his hand, Solemnly, Tommy shakes it. Then, Oliver breaks into a big smile, and Tommy follows his example, and the hug that follows is certain and easy. Oliver clasps him by the shoulder when they let go, then turns to offer a hand to Felicity. "C'mon. We've got to get our partner up to speed. He can't get on board without knowing exactly what he's getting into."
Felicity doesn't say anything, but there's a glint in her eyes and a smile on her lips when she takes Oliver's hand.
Verdant is quite a bit different from the last time Tommy was there. At the moment, it's a construction zone. Oliver gives him a thorough tour, making sure to specify things that he and Felicity have been planning on developing, but haven't had a chance to finalize yet. Felicity points out a few areas where they're having a hard time deciding what they want to do, walking him through different options and their pros and cons.
"I hate to ask this," Tommy says, "But are you an investor?"
She shakes her head quickly at the same time Oliver says, "Yes."
They look at each other. Tommy raises an eyebrow.
"I'm just helping," Felicity says quickly. "It's been fun. But I don't have any money invested in the business."
Oliver meets Tommy's eyes and maintains steady eye contact. "She's my partner. If you're in this with us, she's your partner too. That's the only way this works."
Tommy holds out a hand to Felicity. "I guess I should have done this earlier."
After a quick glance at Oliver, who makes an almost imperceptible nod, Felicity shakes it. She pulls her hand away quickly after, but she shakes it. Oliver rubs the back of his neck, but then hastily grabs for Felicity's hand before it falls back to her side. Tommy catches the awkwardness of the gesture, but Felicity doesn't seem to, because she goes right along with it as if nothing is wrong.
"Let me show you the second floor," Oliver says. He keeps Felicity's hand in his as they carefully climb up the stairs. Tommy follows a little bit behind them. There's nothing but a temporary wood railing along the edge looking down onto the area Oliver told him will be the dance floor.
"I do have one question," Tommy says,"Will I be getting dental, because this smile wasn't cheap?"
Oliver doesn't try to hide his grin. "I'll look into it."
They tour both Oliver's office and the manager's office before returning to the railing to look down at the dance floor. The three of them stand side-by-side, Felicity in between them.
"It should look pretty good," Oliver says, "If we get the lighting right. You can practically see everything from up here."
Right now all they can see is a lot of equipment spread out across the cement floor, but Tommy can imagine it will look awesome once it's done. Very atmospheric.
Nodding, Tommy turns towards Oliver, shifting his body so he can lean his elbow against the railing. "So, what's with all the green, you got an interest in—"
Later, he won't be sure what does it, whether he leans too much of his weight on something that can't support it, or if his balance is just off.
All he knows is that there's a loud crack.
And then he's falling.
Felicity screams and almost loses her footing when the railing breaks. Suddenly Oliver's arms are sure and steady around her middle, pulling her firmly away from the edge. As soon as she's safe, he runs for the stairs. Taking hesitant, yet quick steps towards the edge, Felicity looks over.
Blood has begun to pool on the ground around Tommy. He fell right onto an area of the floor where they were about to lay new concrete.
There's a strand of rebar sticking out of his chest, blood soaking into the shirt around it. As Felicity stares down, open-mouthed, her gut twisting with horror, Oliver falls to his knees next to Tommy.
The way he says Tommy's name is a prayer.
In a blink, Felicity is at Oliver's side. She stands over them, while Oliver cups Tommy's cheek with his hand and tells him not to talk.
Oliver turns his head in her direction but doesn't take his eyes off of Tommy. "Felicity get my phone and dial 911."
Numbly, she shakes her head, even as she magically makes the phone appear in her hands and begins to dial. "They won't get here in time."
"Oliver," she yells, and the word echoes in the empty space. Her thumb hovers over the call button on the screen. "He is running out of time. I can't help him if he dies."
"Call 911," he tells her again. "They will get here."
She doesn't want to cry, but her eyes are already stinging. She gets down on her knees beside Oliver, puts her hand on his shoulder. "No they won't, but I can help him. You just have to ask."
"I can't, I—" He actually turns to meet her eyes then, and he looks so lost. All this want want want pulsing inside him and Felicity can feel it. Knows way down in her bones how much he wants Tommy.
—can't lose him, can't—
"Oliver," she says again, past the tightness in her throat. His left hand is still on Tommy's cheek, so she grabs for his right hand. That's the moment the tears start to come. "Please, I am begging you. Make a wish."
There is no part of her that does not know what she's asking. She's not sure that Oliver does, kneeling on the floor in a pool of his friend's blood, torn between the two of them, curse twisting at his heart like it's ripping out Felicity's.
"I wish…" he swallows, his eyes sad. He stares at Tommy while he says the words. "I wish for you to help him."
The rush is immediate. The power that flows through her is incredible. It filters through every part of her being; it's like bathing in sunshine.
Felicity crosses her arms and blinks.
Every ounce of power drains out of her in a rush. She falls forward onto her palms, dizzy, breathing shallow. Her hands land in the pool of Tommy's blood. Droplets of red splatter across the bonds on her wrists.
She doesn't see Tommy healing, but she feels it. Feels the rebar slide back out of his lung, feels the liquid sucked out of his lungs, feels bones and tissue quickly sewn back together, feels breath enter his lungs as he gasps like he's been years without air.
The silver manacles on her wrists squeeze her skin. Pain spikes up her arms, but she sucks in a breath and tells herself it will pass. It was only one. The pain will pass. She can handle it.
There was no choice to make.
There never is.
Tommy's curled up on his side; Oliver's hands are still on his shoulders. Felicity stares down at her blood-covered hands, at the red against silver. A quick blink makes the blood disappear.
"What—" Tommy manages between coughs. "—the hell—" Another cough. "—was that?"
He presses a hand on his chest, over where the rebar was. Felicity knows there won't even be a scar. The healing will be seamless.
Felicity doesn't have words. Her head is still spinning, the pain in her wrists is fading slowly, and Oliver—
Oliver's the one who speaks. "Felicity's a genie."
There's a pause. Everything flashes across Tommy's face in a matter of seconds: shock, confusion, awe, alarm, and then back to confusion.
Quickly, Oliver amends his previous statement: "Felicity's my genie."
Felicity sits cross-legged in midair, her chin in her hands, and listens to Oliver and Tommy yell at each other. They're standing very close together. Everything about their posture is tense. They've been at this for at least the past fifteen minutes.
"...I found her on the island. I opened her bottle," Oliver is saying.
Tommy is angry. He's angrier than Felicity has ever seen him. And he's hurt. The two emotions are a tumultuous mixture. He looks like a storm. His voice is all ominous thunder, and his words have the pin-point precision of lightning. "You can't own a human being, Oliver."
"You think I don't know that? You think I'm not doing everything I can in this situation? It's not as simple as you think."
"I'm not human," Felicity says simply.
Both men stop to turn and look at her.
"I'm not," she says on a shrug. "Not technically. Not anymore."
Tommy stares for a moment, chest heaving, eyebrows furrowed with confusion. Then he turns back to Oliver, and without missing a beat, says: "You can't own a person."
"If he doesn't, I go back into my bottle." She's drawn their attention again. "I go back there, and I stay there. Completely alone until someone else owns me. This is the only way I get to exist."
"Well, that sucks." Tommy says, matter of fact.
Felicity nods. "Tell me about it."
"And you," Tommy looks at Oliver. The anger has taken a backseat to confusion. "How does this work?"
"We're trying to figure that out," he says softly. "But for right now, I don't wish for anything—" He winces, and Felicity mentally adds in the unspoken anything else. "—and she—" He takes a deep breath and looks right at Felicity. "She lives as normally as she can."
"And you're, what, Oliver? Her noble prince?" Felicity wonders if he intends it to sound so scornful. So embittered.
Oliver even doesn't react to the taunt. "I would set her free in an instant if I could." He stops. Looks away. Looks back. "But I can't."
The words rest between the three of them for a moment. They seem to hover in the air, just like Felicity. And whatever emotion is beneath Oliver's words, it soothes something. It changes something. Tommy doesn't deflate this time, like all the wind has been taken out of his sails. He relaxes. Like there was some test that Oliver just passed.
"So," Tommy says, turning to Felicity. He starts again at the sight of her hovering in midair. "You've got phenomenal cosmic powers and an itty-bitty living space?"
Felicity sighs. "Something like that."
"That's why," Tommy says suddenly. "Why there was no logical reason how you could have met her? Why her name wasn't on the list of guests for your welcome home party? This is why?"
"Yes," Oliver says. "This is why."
"Why didn't you just tell me?" Tommy asks.
Oliver gives Felicity a meaningful glance. "It wasn't my secret to tell."
"It was hers," Tommy surmises. "Okay. Okay, I get that. You were protecting her."
He rubs the back of his neck, "That's why you don't have money invested in this. Everything about you suddenly makes so much sense—and also no sense at all."
Felicity uncrosses her legs and drops to the ground. "Trust me, this is new for me too, most Masters don't want anyone else knowing about me. I'm… safer that way."
"From what?" She catches curiosity in his tone, but not want. He is not Max Fuller. He does not want to possess her. This she knows.
Felicity hesitates on the answer, they couldn't keep me safe from themselves, and they were the real danger, but Oliver jumps in. "This has to stay between us. I hate to ask you to keep a secret from Laurel but—"
"Not mine to tell," Tommy says. "I get it. And it's not like she'd believe me anyway. Does Thea know?"
"Tommy," Felicity says, taking a step toward him. "You're the only one who knows, and it needs to stay that way. Please."
He studies her carefully, then holds out his hand. "I won't tell anyone. Promise."
They shake hands. Tommy doesn't let go right away, instead he holds her hand and her eyes for a long minute.
"And Felicity…" He pauses. It's not hesitation, but it might be genuine feeling. A begrudging respect. "Thank you."
Her breath catches in her throat. There's nothing she can think of to say. He doesn't understand the full extent of what she's just done. He doesn't know about the ache echoing in her wrists, the strengthening of the curse binding Oliver to her. He doesn't know and he cannot understand.
But his thanks is a strange balm to her heart. Her eyes burn with tears, and she looks everywhere but directly at him, unable to speak as Tommy walks away. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him put a hand on Oliver's shoulder. The words they exchange are low, and she doesn't strain to hear them.
Everything changes once Tommy's gone. Suddenly, Oliver doesn't seem able to look at her anymore. His lips are tightly pressed together, and he rubs the pad of his right thumb against his right middle finger.
"I'm not sorry," Felicity tells him, when the silence has become almost too much. "You shouldn't be either. I would do it again."
Oliver looks up. "Would you?"
"Yes," she says, with conviction. Without hesitation. "I would. It was the right thing to do."
Oliver reaches for her, and she willingly lets him take her into his arms. "I have never ever deserved you," he whispers into her hair, with so much unguarded emotion that she could drown in it. She doesn't have a response to that. There is no response to that, and not because of the statement's truth or falsehood.
Overwhelmed—because of Tommy, because of Oliver, because there is still phantom pain radiating up her arms—Felicity holds onto him for dear life.
As tears stream down her face, Felicity blinks, just once, with purpose.
She hopes Oliver doesn't notice the pool of blood on the floor is gone.
Felicity's first Master was a brute of a man whose name is a word Felicity refuses to even think. After six months of solitude in her bottle—six months of boredom and no master and cursing the name of the person who'd cursed her with this new life—the stopper was pulled and a strange sort of magic curled around her and pulled her up up up through the neck of the bottle. Her whole body thrummed with magic, swam in it.
And there was something on her wrists.
The man who stared down at her was shirtless. He had dark eyes and broad shoulders and the smile that lights up his face carried just a twinge of wildness to it.
"Master," she'd said, and the word had been pulled out of her mouth before there was time to even process that she was saying it. "What is it you desire from me?"
She remembers the way his hands cupped her shoulders, remembers how his touch seemed to twist her emotions. Her body thrilled at the sensation of his hands on her skin, but the rest of her did not.
"I can wish for anything?"
She remembers the fear that shuddered through her at the delight in his eyes. His desire for her was palpable, and she remembers thinking not me, you cannot have me.
But what she'd said was, "Anything you want, Master."
(In time, she'd learned how to suppress that word, how to not throw it into conversations unless it was absolutely necessary, but he was Felicity's first, and she made many mistakes with him.)
And oh, the things he had wanted.
Felicity knows now how to sort her Masters into categories. They are, in almost all instances, one of the seven deadly sins—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Looking back upon her first, she knows now that his deadly sin was greed. He wanted physical things because he wanted them. Felicity provided him with all kinds of material possessions: animals, weapons, servants, living spaces, and artwork, whatever he wished.
It was a good thing, Felicity knew, that her first Master had been that particular kind of selfish, because if he had been like one of the others who wanted to stay in her good graces, she might not have lasted.
He'd kissed her once, drunk on wine she'd provided him with his evening meal. It was harsh and sloppy and unpleasant, sweetness tasted sour, but he'd wanted her and for a few moments she'd complied despite the sick feeling coiling in her gut.
She remembers the weight of his body on top of her after he'd passed out. She remembers how careful she'd been to roll him over so as not to wake him and run the risk of him wanting to finish what he'd started. She remembers sliding out of his bed, retreating to her bottle.
She remembers sitting on plush cushions, one clutched tightly to her chest as she waited in the darkness of her bottle, listening, waiting, dreading.
In the morning, he was obsessed with something else, and Felicity was determined to keep his mind off of her. She didn't mind granting wishes so long as it wasn't her as his reward.
(In one day, he'd tightened the bonds of her wrists so tightly that they bled. She cried herself to sleep that night, desperate to be rid of him, but terrified of being without him.)
As it turned out, he was far from the worst one.
For seven years, she was his Genie, until one of his 'friends' figured it out and slit his throat while he slept. That friend became her second Master.
It is the face of her first Master that haunts her dreams one night, and she wakes up to find herself drenched in sweat and breathing heavily like she's been years without air.
Oliver's kneeling on the bed, and sometime during her dream he must have pulled her into his arms, because her back is against his chest and he's telling her that she's okay, that she's safe, over and over again.
With a gentle hand, Oliver wipes her hair away from her face. He coaches her through her breathing, telling her to inhale and exhale with him. It takes an absurd amount of time, considering that she's a magical creature, for her breathing to slow down.
When she has calmed, she slips out of his arms. She does not want to be touched. She does not want to be held. (She does not want to be, but that is not up to her and never has been.)
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks, and she shakes her head. She doesn't want to talk about it, and that want is hers, so she will cling to it with all she has
"Do you want to try to sleep?" he tries again, looking oddly helpless, sitting on the bed in a pair of sweatpants and nothing else.
She shakes her head.
Oliver regards her for a moment. Then he stands and heads for the walk-in closet. "Put on something warm," he tells her with a glance back over his shoulder.
She acquiesces immediately. When he returns—dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket—he cautiously takes her hand and says, "Come with me."
Oliver takes her out on his motorcycle that night. She wraps her arms around him, and they fly through the city. There's no need for any conversation. Felicity just follows his instructions to hold onto him tightly.
Somehow, Oliver manages to time their trip so that just as the sun is rising they reach the top of a ridge that gives them a fantastic view of the cityscape. There's an orange glow cast over the water, as he pulls off to the side of the road so they can rest for a little while.
Even after Oliver removes his helmet, he doesn't press her to tell him anything. They just watch the sunrise together in silence. At some point he takes her hand, and his thumb rubs absently across the backs of her knuckles. The touch is soothing, and Felicity's struck for a moment by just how dangerous this moment is.
This lingering affection for Oliver is not a good thing. She's allowed the curse to pull her down into the endless pit that is falling in love with one of her Masters before. She can't do it again. She doesn't think she can survive the aftermath.
She doesn't think she can cope with the pain that will fill her heart after Oliver Queen inevitably dies. Both the pain brought by the ever-constant realization the depth of how much the curse has affected her feelings toward him, but also just the pain of his absence.
Even losing the Masters she's hated hurt. How could she possibly stand the pain of losing one she genuinely likes?
"Better?" he asks as they get ready to head back.
Felicity nods her head. Then she presses her body up against his, wraps her arms around him, and tries not to think about how little time there is before Oliver Queen is nothing more than another one of her memories.
Tommy waits until sunrise to give up on sleep.
Light creeps into Laurel's bedroom slowly, slipping between the white curtains and slowly stretching across the floor as the day dawns. Beside him, Laurel sleeps. It's Saturday. She has nowhere to be. It's the only reason he's still here. If it were a weeknight, he would have woken with the shrieking of her alarm, watched as she quickly and efficiently walked through her morning routine, and then helped himself to a travel mug of coffee before he followed her out the door.
Today he gets to watch her wake up. He thinks that alone might be worth the night of no sleep.
His brain had simply been too busy to settle down. Even after—he can't help the softness that settles inside him at the memory of being with Laurel last night—he still hadn't been able to get the events at Verdant out of his mind.
Tommy traces his fingers along the place where the rebar impaled him. He's sure that it happened. The memory is too clear, even if every scrap of physical evidence appears to no longer exist. He remembers falling. He remembers feeling his skin knit back together. That happened. That was real.
He knows it.
And if he accepts that as real, then he has to accept…
Felicity has to be real too. That's the only explanation for why he's still breathing. There's just no logical way to reconcile the world he knows with a world that also has genies. Real, live, magical genies. Genies who have the power to grant wishes.
Thousands of questions spin around in his head, and he has the answers to none of them.
But Oliver does. Oliver has to know more than what Tommy has been told. Is she the only genie? Can she only grant three wishes?
Why can't Oliver set her free? Does he really want to?
Even as that question floats through Tommy's mind, he knows the answer. Oliver would wish her free if he could. That's what Oliver said, and Tommy doesn't think he was lying. Not to him. Not about that.
Next to Tommy, Laurel shifts in her sleep, momentarily distracting him from thoughts of Felicity. He still can't quite believe he's getting this moment here with her. Even if he still doesn't have a drawer.
He's never done slow before, but he can. He will. For her.
It had been hard last night to shrug off greeting her with an extra-long hug with a quick quip and a genuine smile. There was no way to explain that he held her longer because for a few brief minutes he thought he might never get another chance to hold her again.
On the nightstand, Tommy's phone vibrates. He tries not to disturb Laurel as he reaches for it. The new text message is from Oliver. Meet at Verdant at ten?
Tommy hesitates for a moment, and then types out a quick, Yes, that'll work, and then sets the phone aside.
Laurel hums. She snuggles in close to him. Gently Tommy kisses her forehead. "G'morning," Laurel mumbles. "How did you sleep?"
He kisses her so that he doesn't have to confess that he didn't sleep a wink.
Later, when Tommy walks up to Verdant's back door with a cup of coffee in one hand, he finds Oliver waiting for him.
"We need to talk," Oliver says.
Tommy thinks that's somewhat of an understatement.
Oliver unlocks Verdant and they both step inside. Neither of them seem to be able look at the spot on the floor where Tommy lay bleeding.
For a while, they talk business. Papers need to be signed, agreements need to be reached. Oliver has apparently spent time figuring out an entire list of things Tommy can get started helping them with.
Eventually, the list of things to discuss slowly dwindles down to the one last thing neither of them have yet possessed the courage to mention: Felicity.
Tommy's the one who brings up the genie in the room.
"Where's Felicity this morning?" Tommy asks, intentionally keeping his tone light.
"At the house. In her bottle."
Tommy waits for him to explain further.
"She thought we needed some time."
"She wasn't wrong," Tommy agrees. "I wish you'd felt like you could just tell me."
Oliver's smile is pained. "You got to admit it was a bit far-fetched. I had no assurances that you would even believe me."
"So wish for an elephant," Tommy says. "I'd have believed you if I'd seen that appear out of thin air."
"That's not exactly fair to her," Oliver tells him.
Tommy sighs deeply. "Yeah. I know."
Oliver's quiet for a moment, then: "I always want to tell you everything. You know that right?"
Tommy swallows. His voice feels brittle when he says, "So why don't you, Oliver?"
"There's too much."
It hurts, and Tommy looks away from him for a moment so Oliver doesn't see it on his face. "I can handle more than you think."
"You shouldn't have to. I don't want you to."
That stings too, but before Tommy can bite out a reply, Oliver quickly continues: "You don't deserve that."
"But she does?" Instantly, Tommy regrets those words.
Oliver visibly flinches. "No," he says quietly. "She doesn't."
"I know that she's with you because she has to be," Tommy says, "But Oliver, you can't honestly tell me that there aren't feelings involved." He doesn't specify if he means Oliver's feelings or Felicity's feelings, but he guesses it's both.
Oliver's gaze drifts past Tommy to the wall behind him. For a moment, Tommy wonders where he just went.
When Oliver returns, he replies, "It's complicated."
"She's a genie," Tommy says. "I wouldn't expect simplicity."
"She's designed to give me everything I want. She's designed to be everything I want." Oliver shakes his head. "That doesn't give her a lot of choices."
"Doesn't exactly give you a lot either." Oliver gives him a confused look, so Tommy clarifies. "You're just supposed to resist the literal girl of your dreams? That's what she is, isn't she?"
Oliver lets out an unnatural sounding chuckle. "Something like that."
Tommy rubs the back of his neck. "I have a hell of a lot of questions, Oliver." It's an olive branch and they both know it.
"I don't have most of the answers."
"She does," Tommy surmises.
"I won't stop you if you want to ask them, but you may not like what you hear." It's Oliver's own olive branch, in a way. What it isn't is an I'm sorry for not telling you, but it is an I won't withhold things from you now.
Tommy thinks it's enough.
That afternoon, Tommy pushes open the door to Oliver's office and walks inside. Oliver's on the phone, but he looks up and holds up his hand in a casual wave. Felicity's sitting on a long, cushiony couch that Tommy is relatively sure that Felicity has conjured that up out of thin air, because there's no way it was there yesterday.
Quietly, Tommy slips over to Felicity. "C'mon," he says, offering her a hand. "I'm here to rescue you from Oliver."
For just a moment, Felicity looks completely terrified.
"Not like—" he winces. Idiot. "Not like that. He's just going to be on that call for the next three hours. You should come get lunch with me."
Felicity glances at Oliver, possibly to get his permission. Does she actually need his permission? Tommy still doesn't fully understand all the ins-and-outs of this whole genie thing.
But Oliver nods his head at Felicity and mouths thank you to Tommy. It doesn't escape Tommy's notice that all the tension drains out of Felicity immediately. He holds out a hand, and after another quick glance at Oliver, she lets him help her to her feet.
Big Belly Burger is easy and within walking distance, so that's where they go.
"Do you know what you want?" he asks after they sit down. He's eaten out with her and Oliver enough that he's picked up on the fact that Oliver usually orders for her. At first he thought it was odd. Then the genie secret came out, and he realized that she was probably a bit unfamiliar with twenty-first century menu choices.
Felicity shrugs. "You wanna surprise me?"'
"How do you feel about milkshakes?"
"I like them."
"French fries or onion rings?"
She hums softly. "Both?"
He glances up at her over the top of the menu. "How about I order one and you order the other and we'll share? Sound good?"
She looks relieved. "Sounds good."
"So," he says, after the waitress has taken their order. "About the whole genie thing… how does that—how does that even happen? It's not exactly a typical career path."
Without the menu, Felicity doesn't seem to know what to do with her hands. "Some genies are born."
The careful wording of that statement is impossible to miss. "But not you."
"No," she says. "Not me."
"Human," she finishes. "I was human."
"Father, mother, all that?"
"I suppose so. I don't remember them."
"Not at all?"
"It's been six hundred years. I didn't know my father very well. He left when I was really young, and my mother—" Felicity stops to take a sip of her water. "I couldn't even really begin tell you what she looked like beyond...her hair was the same color as mine. I think."
"How old were you, when…" He stops, trying to figure out how to phrase something as awkward as You turned into a genie? He settles on: "When things changed?"
"Twenty-three." she says. "I was twenty-three when he cursed me."
"Who is 'he'?" Tommy asks.
Their milkshakes arrive before Felicity has a chance to answer.
"How did you and Oliver meet?" Felicity asks, using her spoon to scoop the cherry off her whipped cream and pop it into her mouth.
"Neither of us actually remember."
"Really. We've known each other forever. He's just always been there." Until one day five years ago when he abruptly wasn't there, but Tommy doesn't want to think about that anymore. Oliver's here now. "I feel like the more interesting story here is: How did you and Oliver meet?"
"He opened my bottle on Lian Yu," Felicity answers.
"And that… was it?"
"He opened my bottle, and he wished that he could go home."
Tommy freezes, feeling as if the floor may as well have dropped out from underneath him. "You're the reason he came home?"
The warmth that spreads through his chest is indescribable. He reaches for Felicity, and he lays his hand over hers. Her eyes widen when his fingers close lightly around her wrist, but even so, she lets him. "Thank you," he says. "For bringing him back—thank you."
She blushes—blushes—and ducks her head, but doesn't pull her hand away.
"What? What did I say?"
"I just realized that—" she looks up, eyes meeting his, "—saving him, bringing him home, it's probably the only truly good thing I've done in six hundred years."
"That can't possibly be true." The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them, and the sadness on Felicity's face makes him wish he could put them back. "
"You don't know what I've done."
"I don't need to." He says. "You saved him. You saved me."
They're interrupted again by their waitress setting down two baskets of food. It doesn't escape Tommy's notice that Felicity uses the distraction to casually pull her hand away from his.
She's very adept, Tommy realizes, at slyly keeping people within her control. As visibly uncomfortable as she's been during their conversation, it hasn't gone anywhere she wasn't actually okay with it going.
Biting into an onion ring, Tommy decides to wait to see what conversation she'll instigate.
"I don't want to hurt him, you know," Felicity says. "Hurting him is the last thing that I want."
Tommy swirls a french fry around in his milkshake. He was expecting her to avoid the serious part of the conversation, not go down a different avenue. "I believe you."
He watches as she bites into an onion ring. She closes her eyes and chews the food carefully. It doesn't escape his notice that she's clearly savored every bite of food she's taken during this meal.
"So Oliver has had you, all this time, and he hasn't done anything crazy?"
Felicity frowns. "Define crazy?"
"I don't know." Tommy thinks for a moment. "A lifetime supply of chili."
She gives him a skeptical look. "Does he like chili?"
Tommy shrugs. "Maybe he does now. I don't understand him anymore, Felicity. I used to know him as well as I knew my own name, but now everything's different."
"He was alone for a long time. I know a little bit about what that's like."
"I don't want things to stay like this," he tells her, and the truth in the confession hurts. He got Oliver back. He just also wishes that he'd gotten Oliver back.
"Tell me about Oliver," Felicity says. "The Oliver that you know, not the one that I know."
"I taught him to dance."
She laughs. "Really?"
"Really," Tommy says. "He was trying to get with this girl—"
"Laurel?" Felicity asks with a hint of trepidation in her voice.
Tommy nods. "—and I'd taken ballroom dancing classes, so he enlisted my help." More like demanded and then begged, but Felicity doesn't need to know that.
"What kind of dancing did you teach him?" Felicity asks. "I've been holed up in a bottle since the sixties."
"Nothing that modern, actually," Tommy says. He lets himself get lost in the memory for a few seconds, remembers them shoving aside the furniture in the Queen's living room. It's a nice memory. "He wanted to learn how to tango, but there's no way I could teach someone with complete lack of rhythm how to tango in an hour. Oliver has two left feet."
As he looks at her, an idea hits. "You could probably fix that?"
There's the faintest hint of a smile on her lips. "Probably," Felicity says. "If he asked. He wasn't so bad at Laurel's party?"
"That's what I taught him," Tommy says with a fond grin. "How to stand on your feet and sway."
"Oh. Well. He's very good at it." She bites into another onion ring. Tommy's only been paying a little bit of attention, but she definitely likes those more than she likes the french fries. "You taught him well."
Suddenly Tommy's brain jerks him back to what Felicity said a few minutes ago: "Wait—the sixties?"
She nods, mouth filled with deep fried onion.
"So you've just… missed the past five decades?"
Another nod. Something clicks in Tommy's mind. He wonders if helping her adjust helped Oliver adjust.
"What would you do?" Felicity asks suddenly. "If you just… found a genie on the beach. What would you do?"
It's the hardest and easiest question of Tommy's life. He understands in an instant why Oliver's first thought was going home, because the next words out of his mouth are: "I'd wish for my mom back."
Felicity doesn't seem surprised by his answer. "Where is she?"
"I'm sorry." Felicity's quiet for a moment. "I couldn't bring her back. And not because I wouldn't want to."
"Can't bring back the dead, huh?"
She shakes her head. "That's why it was so important that Oliver wish right when he did. If you'd died… there would have been nothing left for me to do. We would have lost you."
There's something he's not understanding, and he knows it. What he remembers about almost dying is fragmented into bits and pieces. The details are fuzzy around the edges. Tommy leaves them be for now.
"Huh." He leans back in the booth. "You know, besides my mom and Oliver… I'm not sure I even have anything else I'd wish for."
"Pretty sure you'd think of something," she tells him with a sad sort of certainty.
"Willing to bet you couldn't make my Dad love me." The words are out of his mouth before he really has a moment to process saying them, and as soon as he's spoken them he wishes that he could take them back.
She doesn't, to her credit, give him any reassuring platitudes. She doesn't tell him that she's sure his father loves him, or that people express love in different ways, or that his father can't be that bad. Instead, she pushes aside the empty basket that held the french fries. "I am both disappointed and tremendously relieved that I don't have that particular kind of power."
Tommy shakes his head in disbelief. "I can't believe I even said that, Felicity. I never—" He stops, struck by a horrible thought. "You can't… make me open up about things, right? That's not a genie thing?"
"No," she says. "That's not a genie thing."
He thinks on that for a moment. "Must be a Felicity thing then," he says sincerely.
She blushes. Tommy's struck with the sudden need to back out of the moment. Quickly, he stands up, adjusts his jacket, and picks up the receipt. "I'll take care of this and be right back," he tells Felicity.
When her expression turns uncertain, he waits just a moment, wondering.
But whatever is causing the furrow in her brow and the pressing together of her lips must fade, because all she says is a soft, "Thank you for lunch," before he walks away.
"How was lunch?" Oliver asks when Felicity returns. He crosses the room to meet her halfway and gives her a quick hug, like he can't bear to go another few seconds without touching her. He probably can't.
She waits for a moment before she answers. "Good, I think," she says. "I… like him."
Those words if spoken to anyone else would be trouble. But she trusts Oliver. She does.
"Is… is that okay?" she stammers.
He takes one of her hands in both of his. "I'm glad, Felicity. I really am. You deserve to have friendships."
"I don't need them."
"Everyone needs them," Oliver argues. "Everyone. You're no exception."
"That never ends well for me, Oliver. Someone gets jealous. Someone decides they want the bottle."
"I'm not going to get jealous over you spending time with my best friend, Felicity."
Panic swells up inside her. "I don't want your friendship to be ruined because of me."
"Hey." He tips her chin up with the edge of his finger. "If our friendship gets ruined—which it won't—that won't be because of you. That'll be on me and him. It won't be your fault."
Her rising panic bubbles into white-hot anger at him for not understanding. "Do you know what he told me, Oliver? He told me that I saved you. That I saved him? But you know what I didn't do? I didn't do any saving. If you'd wanted me to let Tommy die I would have let him die. My loyalties and my choices and my every action is tied to what my Master wants. It's tied to what you want."
"You begged me to let you save him, Felicity. How the hell was that not your choice?"
"Because you still have the power, Oliver. We might both be trapped in the same hell, but we both know that inside that fiery pit of misery it is your boot pressing against my throat." Her vision blurs and she's not sure which Master she's yelling at. Oliver's in the room with her, but the trajectory of her words is scattered across space and time towards a hundred different men.
He recoils like she's just slapped him. She watches as he throws his shoulders back, bracing for a physical confrontation she can't and won't give him.
Taking a step forward, Oliver looms over her, and for a moment she wants to take an instinctive step back. She doesn't. She doesn't move, and most importantly, she doesn't flinch.
And Oliver deflates. All the defensiveness falls off of him, and in the tiniest voice he says, "You're scared of me. I thought you were scared of the curse, but you're not. You're scared of me."
She doesn't bother to deny it.
He reaches for her, and this time she moves away, but not back. She steps to the side. She's shaking, but not with anger.
"Felicity," he says softly, slowly, and never before him has anyone said her name like he does, like the word itself contains infinite meanings.
Another Master would have turned cold, filled himself with irritation and anger at her words and her resistance to his wants. He wants her to let him touch her, he wants to reassure her, he wants her not to be scared of him, and there are too many contradictions inside Felicity for her to think completely clearly. But she doesn't want him to touch her, and he hasn't done anything to make her feel reassured, and she is scared of him.
At the same time, she does not want to turn him against her. She wants to hit him and to hold him. She wants to be treated with tenderness and not tyranny. And the thought of the tenderness frightens her more than the thought of the tyranny. Because she could—she, Felicity, the person and not the genie—could love him. For wanting her to be normal and wanting her to have friends and for making her beg him to hurt her so someone's life could be saved.
The shaking slowly subsides. When she looks up at Oliver, she feels like she broke something deep inside him. But Felicity's hands have always been good at fixing things, and she puts them to good use now.
She touches his forearm. It's light and barely there, but it's a connection. She knows by the way it shudders through her whole being that it does the same to his.
She doesn't step towards him, but she leans in, and he comes to her. There is an easiness about the way he wraps his arms around her.
When he kisses her forehead, Felicity closes her eyes. Tears drip down her cheeks. There is no way for this to last, and that knowledge hurts.
"I'm scared of myself too," he whispers.
Even though he's returned to civilization, Oliver remains silently aware that he keeps himself in shape because he's still expecting to find a threat lurking around every corner. He's still trying to survive. Even though he probably doesn't need to anymore.
More than that though, he likes how he can push his body to exhaustion, likes how he can work until his brain shuts off. When he works out, he doesn't have to think about the island, he doesn't have to talk to anybody, and he doesn't have to watch people try to process how different he is now.
To her great credit, Felicity never comments on this—except once, to tell him that it would be easier for her to just give him abs if he wants them. He explains her that he just enjoys it, and she seems to instinctively understand.
She understands a lot about him without him ever having to explain. Oliver doesn't find this fact as unnerving as he thinks he should. On the contrary, he sort of likes how Felicity knows what to do without asking him. She knows instinctively when to give him space; she understands when to talk and when to listen, when to push him to tell her what's going on, and when to leave him be. She knows when he wants her around and when he doesn't. It's helpful.
Everyone else in his life is tip-toeing around him, never knowing what to do or what to say. And Felicity just knows.
It's one of the days when he wants her with him all the time, even if he's not craving conversation. Oliver is doing push ups; she's sitting on his back, tracing the crisscrossing of scars on his skin. She's quiet through all of his reps, until he gets to the last number.
"I could take them away you know," Felicity says. "All I have to do is blink."
"I don't want you to," he replies, lowering himself to the floor one last time. "Not if it would take a wish."
He thinks the entire Genie/Master system is perverted, but nothing more so than the fact that his wishes would cause her physical pain. Oliver's no stranger to pain, but he'd rather endure it himself than knowingly or unknowingly inflict it on others.
Felicity uses a little magic to keep herself hovering in the air while he rolls over onto his back. Slowly, she settles on the floor beside him. Her thigh brushes against the side of his hip.
"It wouldn't," she says, drawing a finger across the curve of one mark close to his ribcage. "I could do it without one. I just would never do it if it wasn't something you wanted. And I know that sometimes…sometimes you wish they were gone. You're a little indecisive about them, actually."
"They're part of me now."
She frowns, and he's distracted for just a moment by her lips, the fullness and the bold pink color that matches her outfit today. "I understand," she says, solemnly. "You want to go back to the person you were before them. You don't actually want them removed."
Her perceptiveness is off-putting. "How do you do that?"
"I'm yours," she answers simply. "I need to understand all your desires if I'm supposed to fulfill them."
If that's true, that means she knows what he wants when he looks at her, when he touches her, when he kisses—
"Yes," she says softly. "All of them. Even those."
"You've never explained how that works," Oliver says, suddenly desperate to change the subject. "How you could do that kind of magic—take away the scars—without a wish?"
"The magic I have isn't mine, you know. It's connected to the bottle; the curse just gives me a way to access it. Some of it is right there, mine for the taking whenever I need it. Some of it I need you to give me access through, by wanting things. Your wants are…"
She stops, and he realizes that she's searching for the right way to explain, so he stays quiet.
"Your wants are like a key, giving me access to deeper, more powerful magic. Your wishes, those are much more potent magic. The strongest magic a Genie can wield comes from the power of her Master's wish."
He reaches for her, touches the silver bonds around her wrists. They're looser now, just sort of there above the surface of her skin. "But I can't wish for you to be free."
"I can't free any genie. It's a rule. Since the magic runs through me, it's a rule I have to follow even if you are the one who wishes it. I can't raise the dead. I can't kill anyone. I can't make anyone fall in love. And I can't free myself."
"You can't make anyone fall in love?"
"Not consciously," she says. "There are ways to work around that, manipulations and tricks. I've had some very creative Masters. Many of them made me do things I'm not proud of."
"Tell me about one of them," he says, and he wills it not to be an order. "One of the Masters before me."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"Please," he says. "I want…"
He's not sure what he wants. He wants the information. He wants to know, but it's not mere curiosity. He wants to know because this is Felicity, because she's important to him, because he needs to protect her. And in order to do that…
"I want to understand," he says. "Please. I want to understand."
And—perhaps because of the way she seems to know his longings so intimately—Felicity gives him what he wants.
"Christopher," she says. "He was sixteen, and a thief. He was mine—or, I was his, it doesn't really matter; it's all the same—around three hundred years ago."
"How well do you remember him?"
"I remember him. I remember all of them. I can't forget. It's all there, every word every moment. Every touch. One Master wished it away, wished that I'd forget about all of them. It was very far into our relationship. We were very closely bound, and the jealousy…the jealousy had begun to drive him mad. Besides, he'd accidentally lost me to other Masters at least three times, and he'd killed each of them to get me back. He thought I dreamed of them, wanted them, and loved them more than him. But then he died, and all the memories came back. I had a year of peace before my bottle opened again."
"What happened to Christopher?" Oliver asks. Felicity's hands are trembling in his, and he doesn't like seeing her so upset. Christopher seems like a happy enough memory to distract her from the heavy sadness weighing in her voice.
"The Master after him cut out his heart in order to take me away. He was so young. Not even twenty-five yet. He had a good heart; I didn't have many kind Masters, but before you—" She breaks eye contact with Oliver—"before you, he was the kindest. I didn't like the one who killed him very much."
"What did that one make you do?"
He sees the moment he loses her to the memory. She's no longer looking at him, but through him. Her expression is sorrowful. Oliver sits up, and reaches for her.
"Felicity—" he starts to say, and instantly she pulls away from him.
"You don't want to know, Oliver. You don't want to know any of this, because this is what you become."
"You keep saying that I don't want to know, Felicity, but it's not about me wanting to know. It's about you needing to tell someone."
She shakes her head. "I know what you want from me. I always know. I know all your wants. You want to fix me, but you can't, Oliver. Setting me free won't even do that, all it does is leave me alone with all these memories and all this pain."
"Hey," he cups her face with his hand. "You won't be alone. I'm still going to be here."
"You say that now, but they all say that. And good or bad they all eventually leave me. It's time for you to stop thinking that you're different. They all think they're different. This is the only future for me."
And that's something he understands all too well: the suffocating feeling of all the walls closing in. Being hopeless. Having no good choices, no good options. Knowing that the only hope for tomorrow was just in surviving today.
Oliver Queen knows what it is to have no future.
Wrapping an arm around her waist to draw her body close to his, Oliver leans in so he can press his forehead against hers. One of her legs slides across him so she can settle onto his lap. Even though her words and tone were harsh and angry, revealing centuries of deep hurts, Felicity easily sinks into his embrace with a shuddering exhale. For just a moment, it feels like they're the only two people in the entire house, in the entire city, in the entire world.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Felicity," he promises, and he feels the delicate preciousness of this moment. He wonders fleetingly if she had this with other Masters, if she was like this with them, but the thought is something that only partially forms. It vanishes the second she presses her lips to his. It's a distraction, and he knows it, but that doesn't stop it from working.
When she pulls away, he opens his eyes to find her shrouded in a haze of purple smoke. He clings to her like a lifeline, trying to hold her closer even as he feels her slipping through his fingers.
"You only say that because you think you have a choice," she whispers, and a second later, she's disappeared back into her bottle.