Author's Note: And here we are at the end of my little hiatus fic. It's been fun interacting with you guys. If you want, you can find me on twitter as jsq79. I hope you all enjoy tomorrow's new episode.
This time he isn't alone on his way to Central City. Felicity is next to him on the hard plastic bench that, despite the fact that the train is less than a year old, has already become warped and grimy. He'd offered to put his jacket over the seat to protect her dress, but she'd just laughed at him. It's what he had wanted, the two of them together on this journey, laughing at each other. It's everything he's dreamed of since he first found out about William. Like so many of Oliver's dreams, it comes true in a way that is twisted and cruel. And all his fault.
"I'm sorry," he says to the woman beside him.
"You've already said that."
"Yeah, but I don't think I can say it enough." He turns to her, even though this really isn't the time or place, because what if he doesn't get another chance? "Felicity...thank you for this, for everything. And, look, I just…. I just want you to know that I know what I did wrong. Please, please know that. I was stupid and a liar, and I was all of those things because I was scared. You were right about that. I was so scared- of losing you, of never getting to have William."
She's not looking at him, but she is listening to him, not telling him to shut up, not pulling away when he takes her hand. He doesn't want to push. He wants to be content with earning back her friendship, but he also can't help himself.
"If I hadn't talked to you, well, this would be a very different kind of trip." He feels ill even thinking about it. If he'd never talked to her, he knows he would've just gone with Samantha's plan. "You helped us find another way. If you ever decide to give me another chance, I promise, you'll never have to doubt me because I will never, ever exclude you again."
"You don't know how much I want to believe that's true."
She hold his gaze then. There's still doubt there. And it hurts. It really, really hurts, because she used to be the one, the only one, who never had any doubts about him. He's the one who put them there. She doesn't trust him right now, not fully, and he tells himself it's okay. He will spend the rest of his life proving to her that she can.
Barry is waiting for them at the station. He's there to drive them to an undisclosed location, but Oliver suspects the real reason he's there instead of Caitlin or Cisco is to try to talk to Felicity. It had sort of...come up, during one of their conversations that not only had Barry known about William, but also that Barry had maybe implied that Felicity and Oliver would be over if Oliver told her the truth. Felicity had been really calm about it and had mostly made him go over the whole time travel thing until she understood it (which was problematic considering that Oliver himself didn't really understand it), then she'd let it go. She'd turned back to her computers and started clacking away like she does and Oliver hadn't really thought much about it until Laurel told him that she heard from Cisco that Felicity wasn't answering Barry's calls.
It occurs to him that life in Team Arrow occasionally bears a striking resemblance to life in a high school. And if Oliver is going to admit that, then he also might as well confess that he isn't so completely different from his high school self that it doesn't make him feel a little better, not being the only one on the outs.
Barry spots them on the crowded platform and he looks so hopeful and so much like a golden retriever puppy that Oliver is mostly surprised Felicity was able to hang onto her anger with him this long. Felicity motions for him to come closer, and Barry's face lights up in relief as he winds his way through all the people and their luggage. Oliver notes the gleam in Felicity's eye and has the urge to warn the other man to proceed with caution, but he doesn't. It's not his place to meddle, and he's kind of looking forward to whatever Felicity has in mind.
She keeps getting Barry to come closer and Oliver is sure she's going to give in and hug him. Instead she kicks him. Barry is stunned, and Oliver can't help his snort of laughter.
"You kicked me." He rubs his shin.
"You deserved it. Why did you tell him I would break up with him?"
"You did break up with him!"
"Because he didn't tell me! In part because you told him I would break up with him! Do not confuse the point Barry Allen."
Smart man, Oliver thinks. A quick apology is definitely the way to go.
"You should be. Friends before bros, Barry. You shouldn't have kept that secret."
"I'm really sorry." He's doing the puppy face again and Oliver knows Felicity is a goner.
"You're forgiven, but don't you ever pull a stunt like that again." Felicity pokes his stomach since she can't reach his chest.
They're okay again and while Oliver wants to chalk up the twinge in his chest to happiness for them, he's trying to be more honest with himself, and he knows it's actually jealousy. He wishes his relationship with Felicity could be repaired that easily. He lets himself feel it, but not for too long. He's waiting for Barry to realize what just happened.
He doesn't wait long. A smile spreads over Barry's face as he puts it together. "Hey, you kicked me! With your leg!"
And then they're all smiles. "The implant is working," Oliver says.
"There are some signs that the implant might be working," Felicity corrects.
He understands her caution, but Oliver was there at her last appointment. It's going to happen. It's his turn to be the one without doubts. "The implant is totally working."
Barry takes them to a nondescript house in a suburb of Central City. There's a swing in the tree out front and for some reason that detail makes Oliver ache. It's all so...nice. It's like it's mocking him. Fifteen minutes later, Caitlin pulls up with Samantha and William in her back seat. William's eyes are downcast, but Oliver sees them brighten when he notices Felicity. He goes and grabs William out of the car, tossing him over his shoulder and carrying him into the house. Samantha, he notices, heads straight to Felicity and hugs her.
Once they're inside, Felicity starts explaining the system she's set up. They've been over it thousands of times, and it is flawless She gives them a folder with their new identities and documents. She has it arranged so that she doesn't even know their new names or where they're going. She also delivers the devices she's developed so that they can check in with Oliver at scheduled times. Finally, she gives Samantha an emergency number and instructions.
"You'll always be able to find me. And if anything ever happens to me, there's an extensive backup protocol. Help will never be far away."
"Wow, Felicity, you've really thought of everything." Samantha is carefully studying the dossier Felicity handed her.
Oliver agrees and for the millionth time he thanks any deities that might want to listen for bringing her into his life. The safeguards Felicity has put in place are beyond anything he could've thought of, much less implemented, on his own. He'll be able to talk to William weekly- more than has been possible up until now. He won't be with him physically, but he won't have lost him entirely.
While Felicity, Samantha, Caitlin and Barry go over the tech and backups, Oliver pulls William aside.
"So you're my dad. I didn't know I even had a dad," William says, fiddling with the little duffle bag that Oliver imagines holds all the things an 8-year-old believes he needs when he's told he has to start a new life.
"Yeah. And I'm sorry I haven't been there before."
"My mom told me why." He shrugs and looks up. "It's cool that you're the Green Arrow."
Oliver grins. "You know that has to be our secret, right buddy?"
William nods. "It's still pretty cool. But...mom says we have to go away."
"That's true. We want you safe, that's the most important thing. And, hey, Felicity gave you that game that's also a secret phone, and we're going to get to talk and see each other over the camera every Saturday."
William nods again, a little sadder this time. "But we won't get to play baseball together. Most kids get to play baseball with their dads."
Oliver's eyes fill with tears. It's like his chest is caving in. He seeks out Felicity, looking to her for strength. She nods at him from over Samantha's head, and it's enough. "I know. It sucks. One day, William, even if I'm an old, old man we'll play baseball together. I promise."
William's grin returns. "If you're really old I'll definitely be able to beat you. I'll beat the Green Arrow!"
And even though it sounds hollow to his own ears, Oliver forces a laugh and wraps his little boy into a bear hug. "That's right. I love you, WIlliam. Always remember how much I love you."
Neither Oliver nor Felicity says a word on the train back to Star City. They watched Samantha and William drive away and it was all Oliver could do not to weep. He doesn't feel like weeping anymore, though. His mind is already spinning away from this place. The old numbness is back and what he wants is to hurt something. He rubs his thumb and forefinger together, itching to hold his bow. It's over now, and he wants to get back to the lair. He wants to do some damage.
Felicity keeps shooting him worried glances. There's a quiet voice on the edge of his thoughts whispering that he should turn to her, that he is regressing, that he is undoing all of the progress he's made in the last month. But for now, the pain is too overwhelming, and he just can't beat it.
She places a hand on his thigh, and he does turn to her. He's not his best self right now, but she's beside him. She's not yet gone for good.
Felicity says she'll herself home, and he's still so proud of her for that. Paul says she learned to drive in a day, like it was nothing. She calls him over before she leaves and Oliver is sure she's going to ask him to come back with her. She doesn't, though, and Oliver knows that she can feel his need to be moving. She has to. It's palpable. She offers him a sad smile and echoes his own words from a couple of weeks ago.
"For the record, you can call. Anytime. I will always pick up."
Oliver spends the next three hours alone in the lair. He starts with the salmon ladder. He moves onto shooting at tennis balls. He finishes with the training dummy. He's tempted to go on patrol, but the team is already on it. And honestly, he knows it would just be an excuse to be reckless, and he doesn't want to be reckless anymore. In the midst of all his personal upheaval, the team has made some solid progress in their fight against Darhk. They're close now, and he wants to save his fights for the villains that matter.
What he really wants right now, what he needs, is Felicity. He has failed her spectacularly, but he hasn't lost her, not in the ways that matter. All that's left is for him to prove that he can be the man she needs him to be. The man she deserves.
He can't save the world tonight, but maybe he can save his relationship. Even if he can't….he can at least save himself.
He doesn't call. He just shows up. It takes her a while to get to the door, but he knows that it's not because she is unhappy he's there. It just takes longer with her chair. The chair he doesn't think she'll need for much longer. He smiles genuinely for the first time that day. She opens the door, and she's wearing that damn unicorn t-shirt with the glitter he hates, and it's the most beautiful goddamned thing he's ever seen.
"Did you check to see who it was before you opened the door this time?" He manages to say around the lump in his throat.
"I knew it was you."
He's flying apart then, falling into her. She cradles his head in his lap for a while before she says, "Come in. is probably snapping photos right now, and we can't have Star City waking up to tweets proving that its future mayor bursts into tears at the sight of a harmless unicorn shirt."
He chokes out a laugh as he follows her in. "It's not harmless. I will never be able to get all the glitter out of the bed." He'd kill for her to still be in his bed, glitter and all.
She stands. She can only manage it briefly- just long enough to transfer to the couch- but he is in awe of her. Then she's holding out her arms to him, and he's back where he belongs.
They stay like that for minutes, or hours, or days. Time seems to stop, but one thing becomes clear. She meant it when she said she could take whatever he had to say. She is the strong one.
So he decides not to be afraid anymore.
His hands are trembling, but it doesn't stop him. "I supervised slave labor in Lian Yu. The second time I was there, when ARGUS forced me to go back. I killed a man. More than one, but I killed one innocent man. I killed more in Russia. Not so innocent." The next part feels impossible, like it could be the end of him, but he tells her anyway, "I was a party to human trafficking. I didn't realize...when I did...I killed a lot of people when I found out, but it didn't take any of it back. Felicity, it didn't change any of it." He goes on and on, tells her every horrid detail. She doesn't flinch. She doesn't tell him to stop. She just keeps holding him, offering him comfort he doesn't deserve.
"You do deserve it, Oliver. You do. You deserve some good stories."
"Felicity, after everything I've done- to you, to other people- how can you believe that?"
She wipes at his tears. "Terrible things happened to you. And you did terrible things in return. But Oliver, as soon as you had the opportunity, you started doing good. You still make incredibly bad decisions-"
"I'm going to do better. From now on, I'm going to do so much better."
"I know. You're trying." She urges him to sit up, to face her. "I want you to understand something Oliver, I don't love you because I'm overlooking all the bad and choosing to see all the good. I love you because I know who you are and now I know where you've been & what you've done and because I know that you're trying. I don't think you understand how remarkable that is, the way you never stop trying. It's so much more than most people manage...and it makes me try harder too. You make me better too. That's why I fell in love with you. It's why I still love you."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that I want you to stay, Oliver. Stay with me tonight."
Pieces of himself click back into place. "Felci-" she cuts him off with a kiss, and he has missed this, He has missed her. His hands are in her hair, and he is bringing her closer and closer. He eventually forces himself to pull away to tell her he loves her, because it isn't enough to think it, he has to say it out loud.
She smiles at him and says gently, "Don't get too excited. We're not completely there yet, okay? I'm not ready to put the ring back on."
He can't help the twinge of disappointment. He knows he's getting more than he had any right to hope for just in getting to stay, but he can't resist dreaming big.
"Be patient," she says. "I happen to think you're a pretty safe bet. When I'm ready-and I really think we're talking about when, not if-I'll let you know. I'll do the proposing this time around."
It's not everything. But it is enough. He leans his forehead to hers. "I will live in constant anticipation of how you'll manage to top my proposal."
"Well, for starters, I can guarantee mine won't end in a massacre."
It's not a joke he could normally take, but he's here with her again, and the light is already setting in. "Promises, promises."
"Mmmhmm." She pulls him close again, gently pressing her lips to his.
"I'll love you forever," he murmurs, then he loses himself in her.