The sun was shining brightly through the window, making Felicity squint as she tiptoed to see the mirror on the motel room wall. She was attempting to apply her eye pencil, but the combination of the blinding sun and the positioning of the only mirror in the room made it difficult for her to see her reflection - even in heels.
She wished she could see herself in the mirror properly, if only to see if the dress she was wearing didn't look completely outrageous. It was her black, almost completely backless strappy dress with cutouts on the sides and a lower neckline than she usually wore. She'd only worn it once before, when she was in Central City, and even after everyone's assurances, she still winced remembering how overdressed she felt next to everyone else in their jeans and sweatshirts. Felicity wondered now, once more, if it was too much, and she was in half a mind to change into something else when the door to the bathroom opened.
She smiled when she saw Oliver emerge from the bathroom, only wearing a towel around his waist, and she could see via the mirror that he quirked an eyebrow before smiling back.
"Whoa," he said, making it to her in a few long strides and putting his arms around her from behind, "you look beautiful."
"Mm," she said, loving the feeling of his damp skin against hers. She moved her hair out of the way, over one shoulder, allowing him better access to the back of her neck. "Thanks. It isn't… mmm… too much?"
His lips stilled for some reason. "No, of course not. Though I really don't want –"
"I know you said you didn't want a fuss," Felicity interrupted, "but it's your birthday. The least I can do is take you out to dinner."
He let her go, and she turned round, trying not to feel worried. "Are you okay?" she asked, and she must have failed miserably at keeping the concern out of her voice, because he immediately looked up.
"Yeah," he said eventually. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"It's just dinner," she said, and she tried smiling. "If you want, you can totally see it as a second date instead of a birthday dinner. You know, since our first one went so spectacularly."
She was relieved when he laughed at that, and she went to sit beside him on their bed. "Yeah, I guess that works."
"Is there…" she started to say, but she was hesitating, and Oliver seemed to notice. He covered her hand with his.
"What is it?" he asked.
Encouraged, she tried again. "By all means tell me it's none of my business, but is there… any particular reason you don't want to celebrate? You know, besides the whole, you being on an island for five years and not knowing when it was?"
Oliver sighed. "Yeah. It just brings back… bad memories. And even if the memories are good, I just feel like – like I'm reminded of things I don't want to think about. The people I've lost… the – relationships I've broken…"
"What do you mean?" She put her hand on his bicep, and he closed his eyes at her touch. It seemed to help.
"The last birthday I celebrated, really celebrated, was Tommy's. And it wasn't all bad… but I can just remember the bad parts. I can remember Malcolm coming… and then just a couple days later, I can remember Tommy's face when I had to tell him who I was after the Triad tried to kill Malcolm, something I now know was my mother's doing." He laughed bitterly. "And my mother… she was killed by Slade right in front of me just a few days before my last birthday. Suffice it to say… I didn't really feel like celebrating then either."
"Oh my God," Felicity breathed. "Oliver, I'm so sorry… I didn't even think –"
He shook his head, cupping her cheek and silencing her with a kiss. "You have absolutely nothing to apologise for," he said firmly.
"We don't have to go," she insisted. "Seriously, Oliver, we can just… stay in, do something else. Or not do anything at all."
"Absolutely not. You already booked a table. And," he added, looking her up and down before meeting her eyes, still holding her face with both his hands, "you've kind of changed my mind with that dress."
Felicity laughed, comforted by the now familiar lightly teasing tone his voice took on whenever he said something flirtatious. "Want to know something funny?" she said, and he nodded, getting up to get dressed. "I was planning on wearing this to our second date anyway. When you first asked me out, I mean."
"Yeah. But we technically didn't even have a full first date. More like half of one. If that. Which kind of makes this date 1.5." They both laughed, and she was glad they could joke about that at least. She watched as he pulled on his clothes, still smiling.
"Did you really have a first date worse than that?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes, shaking her head in exasperation at the memory that sprang to her mind. "More than one, actually. I had one guy take me to a wine tasting, which could have been really fun, but he ended up getting so drunk he could barely pick himself up off the floor. So there was obviously no chance I could have a decent conversation with him." Felicity picked up her eye pencil again, considering. "To be honest, you did better than most in that department."
"Oh? How do you mean?" he asked, and he was half-dressed now, only missing his shirt.
"Come on. You told me the colour of the pen I was chewing when we first met. I didn't realise until then that you're actually a romantic at heart." This last was said fondly, and Oliver shrugged, smiling.
"I'm not really. I just have a good memory, that's all." His smile faded a little after a moment. "Sometimes, I wish it wasn't so good, to be honest."
"Like I said, we don't have to go if you don't want to," she began, but he shook his head.
"I do want to."
"Are you sure?" she asked.
But for some reason, that made him smile more as he stepped towards her again. "I'm sure of one thing," he murmured, running his finger down her cheek. Felicity found herself tilting her face up to his, smiling back.
He sighed contentedly. "I love you."
And as usual when his lips were on hers, Felicity's worries dissolved in his kiss, and they were forgotten in the laughter that ensued afterwards as she tried to rub her lipstick off his mouth.
A while later, Felicity was making her way back to the restaurant, a wrapped present in her hand. She had stopped just as they reached the restaurant, saying she had forgotten her glasses in the car. She wondered now if he had even believed her – after all, there was no reason, really, for her to need them just for dinner – but he had just nodded, saying he would wait for her in the bar, and gone ahead nevertheless.
She also could not help but wonder if maybe her present was a bit too much – if it was all a bit too much, especially after what he had said to her in their room. But Oliver had insisted on going and had seemed relatively at ease as he drove the Porsche, following Felicity's instructions and just laughing when she refused to tell him exactly where they were going.
As she reached the restaurant, she held the present behind her back, opening the door and spotting Oliver almost immediately at the bar. A glass of scotch sat in front of him. The bar was empty except for him and the bartender, who, Felicity noticed, was leaning forward on her elbows, probably completely unaware of how much she was staring at him.
"So, are you waiting for someone?" the bartender asked, twirling her hair around her finger.
Felicity bit back a laugh, watching as Oliver moved back a bit on his barstool and took a sip from his drink. "Yeah," he replied eventually. "My girlfriend, actually."
And she wasn't sure exactly why, but her heart soared when he said that. It was strange, thinking about it, because despite their declarations of love and all the time they had spent together, they hadn't been together, together, until now. Even then, they had been too busy learning about, loving, exploring each other to think about labelling their relationship, but Felicity found herself feeling unusually glad to hear him affirm it aloud nevertheless.
He chose that moment to glance at the doorway, and this time, Felicity did laugh when Oliver practically sprang to his feet, a smile of relief on his face. She opened her mouth to say something, but he caught her by surprise, closing the distance between them and kissing her full on the mouth. She could taste scotch and could feel his lips curve into a smile on hers, but after kissing him back nevertheless, she looked at him quizzically, one eyebrow slightly raised at the unexpected affection of his greeting. He shook his head, still smiling as he reached into his pocket and placed a couple of bills on the bar, murmuring a thank you to the bartender, and it was as he turned back to Felicity that he seemed to realise what she was holding behind her.
"What's this?" he asked, and Felicity was relieved that his expression was more one of curiosity than annoyance or frustration.
"You'll have to wait and see," she said, trying to sound mysterious. She raised her eyebrows, though, at the look on his face. "What?"
For a second, he hesitated. "Is there any point in me saying –"
"– that I didn't have to get you anything?" she finished, and he chuckled, nodding and probably wondering why he even bothered to ask. "None at all. Well, you can say it, if you really want, but the truth is, I've been meaning to give you this for a while now, so you totally don't have to see it as a birthday gift if you don't want to."
"Still," he said, "you really didn't have to."
Felicity reached out and took his hand, looking up at him. "I know I didn't. I wanted to." And after tiptoeing to kiss his cheek and sharing a smile with him, she led him away from the bar and into the restaurant. It was busy, dimly lit with candles that filled the room with a gentle amber glow, but they were shown almost immediately to their table in a quiet corner with a view of the beachfront outside.
"I'll have a scotch, please," said Oliver to the waiter once they had sat down.
"White wine for me," Felicity requested, and the waiter nodded and walked away from their table. It didn't take long for her to notice that Oliver seemed deep in thought. "Having déjà vu?" she guessed.
"A little," he admitted. "But I double-checked and am sure I don't have a tracer on me this time."
"That, and the only people who would want to blow us up are either in prison or dead," Felicity added helpfully, and thankfully, Oliver laughed.
"True." He paused for a moment as the waiter returned with their drinks.
"Thanks," Felicity said, picking up her drink and taking a sip, and once the waiter left, she said, "So… that bartender looked pretty into you."
"Not really," Oliver said, shrugging but still smiling. "Besides, I told her…" For some reason, he hesitated a little, and she was quick to finish off his sentence.
"… that you were waiting for your girlfriend?"
He looked a little sheepish at that. "So you heard that part."
They paused for a moment as a bowl of bread and a plate of hummus was placed between them, and Felicity picked up a piece, dipping it into the hummus and taking a bite. "Oliver," she said, aware of his eyes on her and the slight nervousness she could see in them, "'girlfriend' is okay. It's good. I like it."
Letting out a small breath, he looked relieved and took a piece of bread from the bowl too. "Me too," he said, and she smiled. "I just… never thought we'd be here, that's all." He gestured around him. "I don't mean, you know, here. I mean… us. The fact that there even is an us."
"I know what you mean," she said softly. "And I guess that's not something we really thought about when it was just you and me in our motel room bubble. But hey." She placed the present on the table in front of him. "We seem to be doing okay so far."
Oliver looked at it with an expression on his face that was hard to read. Felicity could sense trepidation, though, or at least hesitation, and it was clear he noticed, too, because seconds later, his hand covered hers on the table. "Sorry," he said.
Shaking her head, she placed her other hand on top of his. "It's your birthday. You don't have to apologise."
And then he nodded, more to himself than to her, tugging his hand away. He unwrapped the gift, revealing a photo album bound in dark green leather. Felicity watched as he opened it, looking at the first photo (one of him, Thea, Moira and Walter) and without even realising it, her shoulders became a lot lighter at his smile and the incredulous widening of his eyes.
"I had to hunt around for that first one," she said, "trying to find a picture of you with your family when you didn't have that pre-island haircut, and that Christmas one was one of the only ones I could find… actually, I had to hunt around for most of them, because apparently, even in your billionaire playboy days, you were never a huge fan of photos, but I've actually been putting this together for a while, and when I asked Thea, she was very helpful, and I know it's not much and you've obviously seen most of them before, but –"
"Felicity," Oliver interrupted, finally cutting across her, picking up her hand and kissing her knuckles, "it's perfect."
She could feel a faint blush on her cheeks as his gesture attracted a few stares from the people at the tables closest to them. But Felicity just smiled, trying to keep her voice level as she said, "Turn to the back." He did so, and he chuckled at the photos on the two back pages. The one on the left was of Felicity fixing Oliver's bow tie at John's wedding. Neither of them were looking at the camera, but she had picked it because of the look on Oliver's face, which she had apparently not spotted at the time.
"When did you get this?" he asked.
"I asked John if I could take it a little while ago," she explained. "He got them developed, not long after we came back from Nanda Parbat, and… I guess I liked this one the best."
"I like it too," he said.
"That, and just after this was taken, I think you did your speech."
Oliver nodded. "I remember." For some reason, it looked like he was hesitating, but then he said, "I also remember wanting to tell you how beautiful you looked that day."
Closing her eyes, Felicity smiled to herself, still unused to the unreserved candour of Oliver's compliments. "You looked kind of handsome yourself," she replied after a moment, and she wasn't lying. "You totally rocked the whole suspenders and bow tie look." He laughed before looking down at the last photograph in the album. Taken a few days before the wedding, it was an impromptu photo of Oliver, Felicity, Diggle, Roy, Laurel and Thea in the foundry.
"I still can't believe I agreed to take this one," he said.
"I'm still surprised you did, to be honest," she agreed. "I didn't think you even knew what the word 'selfie' meant, let alone a Team Arrow one."
He smiled, shaking his head in mock exasperation. "We don't call it that," he intoned, as he always did when she used the phrase. "Besides, I only agreed to it to make Thea happy."
"And you insisted everyone take off their costumes, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole Team Arrow thing."
"It was more because I didn't want some hacker finding out our secret identities," he teased back, and Felicity laughed.
"But I'm glad we took it – costumes or no costumes."
Felicity nodded, shutting the album and moving it to one side. "Me too. A lot of good memories in here."
Again, he covered her hand with his. "Thank you for being part of it."
"You're welcome," she said warmly, squeezing his hand before she opened the menu.
It was when they were halfway through the starters that Felicity finally asked what had been on her mind for probably longer than she wanted to admit.
"Why don't you talk about Tommy?" she said, and she immediately regretted it when she saw the look on his face. "I mean… besides the obvious reasons. Sorry, I didn't mean – I just notice you get this… look, whenever you or someone else mentions him. Especially…"
She trailed off, already wishing she hadn't spoken, but to her surprise, after a moment, he said, "It's okay. I don't mind you asking. Especially what?"
But Felicity was still a little hesitant. "Especially if that someone else is… Laurel."
Oliver grimaced. "Do you remember when we found out about the undertaking?"
"Yeah. Kind of hard to forget."
"But do you remember me saying that if I stopped it…"
"… you were ready to hang up your hood?" she said. "Yeah. I remember. But what's that got to do with Tommy?"
"He and Laurel had gone through… a rough patch. Actually, they weren't even together anymore. He had broken up with her because he thought she and I should have been together."
Felicity wasn't sure where this was going. "Okay."
"When we broke into Merlyn Global, I talked to Tommy. Told him to fight for her. But after we found out about the undertaking, I didn't really think about that. All that was in my mind was that it would be possible for me to leave that life I had chosen… that there was a way out. And I went to Laurel's place and…"
"You slept with her," she finished.
He smiled ruefully. "You can see now why I've never said anything about this."
She shrugged. "It's okay."
"Well," she amended, "I mean, it's weird, sure, us talking about it, but you were with her for… however long. I figured something must have happened with you two at some point. After the island, that is. And I can't exactly begrudge you of your love life. You know, before me. I mean, I could, technically, but I don't think that's exactly fair."
Encouraged by this, Oliver smiled, seemingly grateful for her babbling, and he eventually continued, "Tommy saw us. He said he had taken my advice and had gone to talk to her, only to find… me with her. He confronted me about it later, and I was so wrapped up in trying to tell him about his father's involvement in the undertaking that I didn't even apologise to him. Not properly. I never got to."
She found his hand on the table and their fingers locked together. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
"So am I," he said, and his eyes were fixed on their linked hands. "He was my best friend. And ever since then, I've felt like I betrayed him. And no matter how much I've tried to honour Tommy's name, I… don't feel like any of that can possibly make up for what I did to him. Especially since I broke my promise when I killed Ra's."
"I didn't know him," said Felicity, "apart from a thirty-second phone call with him once, but I'm sure he would have understood better than most – especially because he had a psycho mass murderer for a father – why you did what you had to with Ra's." She could see he looked unconvinced. "And I know for a fact that your best friend would be glad that you're happy now."
Oliver nodded. "Yeah, he was the one who told me that I couldn't be happy if I was alone."
"What did you say?"
For some reason, he chuckled. "I said my happiness isn't important to me."
"It's important to me," said Felicity firmly, and when Oliver sighed, gazing at her with such reverence, such wonder, she was suddenly back in Palmer Tech when she had told him to fight to live – when he had that expression on his face, in his eyes, in the loosening of his jawbone, as if he was having an epiphany borne from her words.
"I love you," he said suddenly, his voice quiet but his sincerity evident from that same look in his eyes.
She tilted her head to one side a little, surveying him, smiling. "I love you too."
Their conversation once again paused as a waiter took away their empty starter plates, but they were still holding hands, their knees occasionally bumping together under the table.
"Can I…" Oliver began, but he hesitated, and Felicity looked at him questioningly. He took a breath and tried again. "Can I tell you about him?"
"Tommy, you mean?"
"Yeah. You were right. I don't talk about him enough. But the truth is… so many of my memories of him are actually my happier stories. Maybe I need to remember them."
Felicity nodded, still smiling. "Sure."
And so it was as they tucked into their main course, well into their second (and, thankfully, explosion-free) date that Felicity finally learned more about the best friend of the man she loved. This time, when Oliver talked about Tommy Merlyn, his face lit up – dimples evident in his smile, the sparkle of amusement in his eyes, nose scrunched up when he got to a particularly funny part of the tale he was telling – and it was Felicity who gazed at him in awe, experiencing an epiphany of her own.