A/N: Oddly, if there's one thing I love in stories it's tension between two characters. And, from that, we get this little fanfic.
It's an A/U where Oliver and Felicity were married before the Queen's Gambit was lost at sea. He's still going to be the Arrow, now it's just a little more complicated.
(They are both a little OOC in this first chapter, but they'll get to be their usual selves in later chapters. Also, the first few chapters will be Felicity's POV. We'll see Oliver's POV in later chapters).
I hope you guys like it!
She'd gotten the call minutes ago and already she was in the car, racing. Racing. It had been over, done. Done. And now? Now it wasn't over anymore. Now it was more complicated than she could have ever imagined.
Everything around her was a blur, but her mind was full of the things she did not see. Beyond the barrier of her car, people were huddling around TV screens, Radios, cell-phone apps, Computers…There were dozens by now. Headlines. They were all the same. All the same… Oliver Queen Alive,
Billionaire Oliver Queen Lives,
Oliver Queen: Sole Survivor of the Queen's Gambit,
Five Years Later, Oliver Queen Emerges
News cars were behind her, following her as she sped towards the home she'd wanted to run from so many times. Her phone buzzed continuously beside her, ringing. Ringing. Different faces appeared on the screen: Mom, Dad, Thea, Henry, Jane, Tommy. The road winded down to a single path and she ripped her right hand away from the wheel. Phone. Swipe.
"Open the gate."
"We haven't told him—"
"Open the gate," she repeated.
In the distance, the double gates began a lethargic separation, inching slowly apart. She hadn't hung up the phone yet and she could hear Thea breathing softly on the other end of the line. She didn't need them to open fully—just a little more. When she was sure that the car would fit, she pushed the gas-peddle flat, racing past the still-opening gates.
"Close the gate," she said.
"He keeps asking for you."
She hung up.
The car came to a screeching stop in front of the open double-doors. Thea was there, looking a mess of elated, worried, and unbelieving all that once. She wrenched the door open, not even bothering to close it behind her as he flung herself out of the car.
"How long has he been home?" She asked.
"Couple of hours—we tried to reach you, but—"
"In a meeting," she explained curtly, looking past Thea into the foyer, as if expecting Oliver to appear pale, haggard, and dripping wet, at any moment.
"He's asleep. It took quite a bit of convincing—you'd think after five years…" Thea trailed off and that caught her attention. She looked at the girl whose brother had just risen from the dead. The smile on Thea's face was sad and she didn't have to ask Thea why; Thea had yet to find out if the brother she'd gotten back was the brother that had set sail all those years ago. "You'd think he'd be…tired…"
Before she could respond, Moira appeared in the middle of the foyer, Walter stood behind her looking happy and uncertain. She was noticing that this was a trend—they were happy and uncertain. Five years was a great deal of time. Things had changed in five years, and he hadn't been here to absorb it—at some point, he'd have to absorb five years' worth of information.
"Felicity, Thea, get inside and close the door," Moira said quietly, as if her voice would somehow travel upstairs and wake her sleeping child.
Letting out a breath, Felicity walked back to her car, wrenched the keys from the ignition, and closed the door, leaving her phone on the passenger's seat, before following Thea inside. They walked in silence to the living room, where tea had been laid out. They each let themselves sink into the chairs and then simply stared at one another in disbelief.
It had been years since Felicity had sat with them like this in the living room. She came over often enough, but it was usually on business, or to see Thea. Moira's glazed blue eyes told her that she was thinking the same thing. Ever since the Gambit had gone under, ever since Oliver and Robert had been declared missing, ever since the company papers had been singed, they had all avoided the living room like a plague. It became a room haunted by the memories of Oliver and Robert—a room where the air was thick and the walls were suddenly closer together. Of course they'd used it over the course of five years, but never again like this—never all at once. Until now, there hadn't been any room for all of them—not with the air so thick and the walls so close.
All that hung in the air now, were questions: What do we tell him? How do we tell him? When do we tell him? But even as they took up space, hanging heavily over each of their heads, they smiled. Because the air was bearable again.
The tea turned cold, untouched as it was in the pot. The sun went down. Somewhere beyond them, beyond the space where they could be touched, reporters crowded the massive gates: snapping pictures of the house in the distance, going over the facts, speculating on what was happening behind the walls of the impenetrable fortress. They had no idea that the family wasn't crowding their newly-returned son, brother, friend, husband; that he was quite alone in a room above their heads, and that they were quietly staring at one another below.
"He's got some—some scars," Moira said finally. Darkness had already settled over them and, at some point, the staff had turned on the lights throughout the house.
Felicity looked around at the others. None of them seemed surprised. "What do you mean?"
"He didn't ask us anything and, I suppose, that's why we didn't ask him anything, but something happened to him in those five years. His body is covered in scars…" Moira explained.
Before she formed a complete thought, she was standing. Giving Moira her best smile of reassurance, she walked out of the living room. There was a moment, when her hand touched the railing of the staircase, where she hesitated. Did she still have the right? The right to walk right into his room and see for herself the story that his scars told? She realized that, in his mind, she did. Leaving her shoes at the base of the stairs, she ascended, slowly. She was here now, there was no need to race anymore. One. Step. At. A. Time.
And then she found herself in front of his door—the door she'd hated, trusted, and sometimes even loved. She remembered how to open it without making any noise and she almost laughed bitterly because she remembered it for the wrong reasons. And as she turned the cold knob, she was five years younger again, heart racing with irritation, exhaustion, and indifference (if such a thing was possible). Pushing softly, she slipped through the crack, not wanting the light from the hall to wake him. The room was pitch black and she took a moment to let her eyes adjust.
There was a small, blinking light on one end of the room that belonged to some medical equipment. She felt her lips stretch out into a smile, because the first thing that she wondered was whether the doctor had simply been finished with it and had left it on the far end of the room, or if the stubborn Oliver that she had known those many years had been the one to push the equipment aside. It was probably the latter.
She noticed then that he lay flat on his back and her smile fell away. He didn't sleep like that. Once she'd seen him, and noticed that seemingly insignificant detail, she couldn't look away. Her slow, caution was gone and she was racing again to the side of his bed. He wore a long-sleeved shirt and grey sweatpants, covering up whatever scars Moira had been taking about. But he didn't look at all like she'd imagined him to. He wasn't frail, ghostly. He was strong, muscular—so solid that she was sure nothing could move him. The lines of his jaw had become sharper—there was no more playboy-ish charm there. He'd shaved recently; there was a small wound on his left cheek where he hadn't been so careful. She reached out to touch it. She just had to make sure he was real…
There was a thud. Something had fallen. Someone had moved. And—and she couldn't breathe. She couldn't breathe. She'd fallen, or been pushed. Oliver hovered over her, his hand clasped tightly around her throat—sky blue eyes full of a storm that she hadn't seen coming. Felicity wriggled her right arm free from between them, placing it on his cheek. "I—I—" It's me, she wanted to say. She couldn't. "Shhhh…"
The storm cleared up briefly, before coming back with full force and he pushed himself away from her like she'd burned him. "I'm sorry," he whispered, running his hand through his hair. "I'm sorry," he wouldn't meet her eyes. Taking a moment to catch her breath, she sat up.
"It's alright," she assured him when her voice had returned. "I shouldn't have done that—touched you."
"I'm sorry," he repeated, now looking at her. His eyes were a lighter blue that she remembered, a clear blue that matched some ocean she was sure he'd seen enough of over the course of five years—too much of. "You're back from work," he said finally and she realized she'd been staring at him, trying to convince herself that he was real.
"I—It's been five years…" It wasn't the answer she'd wanted to utter. It wasn't much of an answer at all, but it was all that came to her.
His eyelids slammed shut, cutting her off from any silent response reflected in the seas of blue. He stayed like that so long, sitting up against the side of his bed, with his eyes closed, that she became worried. He stood abruptly, opening his eyes and extending his hand to help her up. She looked at it stupidly for a moment, before placing her hand carefully in his. It was rough and warm; blood flowed through his veins. He was real.
Before she could say anything, he pulled her against his chest, wrapping his arms around her. She returned the hug. They stayed like that for what seemed like ages. "I've missed you," he said.
And she laughed, the kind of laugh that induces tears. She laughed because he meant it. She laughed because she'd missed him too. She laughed because it might have been the first moment in which they both meant it wholeheartedly. Felicity pulled away, still laughing, just enough to place a kiss on his cheek. "I've missed you too."
Oliver pulled away enough to look at her, and she could tell that he was taking her in—checking if the details had remained the same. "You cut your hair," he said, freeing one arm and bringing it between them so that he could reach for her shoulder-length hair.
Another wave of laughter escaped her. "Yes. So did you."
He smiled, "A couple of hours ago."
"It looks good. You look…good," she said, burying her head under his chin to avoid having to face his reaction.
"You should sleep, come to bed."
He turned his head, pressing his cheek flat against the top of her head. "It's been five years; I know…Your clothes aren't in the closet. I noticed. Just tonight—lay down. Tomorrow you can tell me what I've missed. Good things I hope."
Her heart broke then. As terrible as it sounded, her heart broke then in a way that it hadn't broken when he'd been gone. She wanted to sink to the floor and cry, but she didn't. "Okay."
"It really has been five years; you'd usually never give in without an argument." It was an attempt to make her laugh, but she couldn't manage it just then, so she pulled back and tilted her face upwards to press a kiss on his lips. There wasn't much there—there never had been—but it was comforting somehow.
She couldn't fall asleep. And when she opened her eyes, she found him flat on his back, either staring at the ceiling, or his head tilted to look at her. When she tossed and turned and opened her eyes for the hundredth time, he spoke: "I'm sorry… I didn't really think it through. Would you sleep better somewhere el—"
"Stop. Stop apologizing. Stop caring what I need. What do you need? Would you sleep better alone? Do you need to talk now? What do you need Oliver?"
"How fast did you leave?" He asked, tilting his head to look at her. There was no accusation in his voice, or his eyes. He simply wanted to understand.
"Three years in."
His expression flickered from confusion to anger and he sat up. "Three years…You were free of all of this and you waited three years? Why?"
Felicity could feel the walls going up in her head. She was ready to get angry, to fight with him like they used to. This was the perfect opportunity. But she took a breath, and let it go because he wasn't angry with her. She could see that he was fighting something else—something in himself.
"Because the first year I was angry with you. The second year I mourned you. The third year I—I wasn't quite ready to leave…I don't know. I couldn't." She sat up beside him, so that she could see his expression better in the darkness. Oliver looked at her silently, his face flickering from one raw emotion to the next: anger, shame, pain, admiration. "How much time did you spend regretting all of it?" she asked, because she knew. If she'd been stranded God knows where, going through God knows what, she would have spent every quiet moment regretting it, praying that if she ever got home, she could change it all. Live a life she wanted.
His hand hovered beside her cheek for a moment and then he dropped it. "Felicity I—" He looked down, closing his eyes, thinking his answer through, but Felicity didn't want him to think.
"It's alright. I just want to know—that's all."
Oliver met her eyes again, but she knew that he'd already thought his answer through. "I spent all of my time regretting it—regretting allowing our parents to push us into this absurd marriage, regretting going through with it, regretting fight after fight. I thought about each moment when I could have stopped it. There were so many moments where I could have stopped it. I thought about each moment when I could have put an end to it. I thought about each stupid fight—we never finished a single fight, did you know that?"
She knew. She'd thought about it too. "One of us always walked away."
"One of us always walked away," he repeated. After a long moment of silence passed, she let herself lay back and fixed her eyes on the ceiling.
Sometimes she'd imagined him coming back—being found—but she never imagined what she would do if that happened. She was always the accessory in those fantasies. He'd return, recover, and then promptly ask her for a divorce. She'd sign without a moment's hesitation, wish him well, and be on her way.
"I also spent time regretting how I handled the whole thing—how I treated you," he said suddenly.
Hesitantly, she placed a hand on his shoulder. He flinched at the contact, but didn't move to shake her off. "You never treated me badly. We just fought a lot, that's all."
"Sometimes you tried…I never tried to make it work. I could have tried. I should have tried."
Oliver turned to look at her and she dropped her hand. She watched silently as he shifted, placing a hand on either side of her so that he hovered over her. His blue eyes restlessly scanned her face, searching for some reaction.
"Do you think—could we have? Could we have made it work? Loved each other eventually?"
She shook her head. "Sometimes I did love you, Oliver. I wasn't in love with you, but I loved you sometimes. You—I don't think you ever loved me in any way, but to be honest, I don't know. Talking wasn't one of our strengths." He chuckled and she realized she'd forgotten what his laugh was like. She remembered liking it. It was one of the reasons she helped Moira enforce family dinners so strictly; he laughed at almost everything Thea said.
"No. Talking wasn't one of our strengths." He leaned down, pressing his lips against her forehead, before laying back down beside her. "We're talking now though…"
"Yes, well that's because you just came back from the—" she stopped herself because Oliver had returned, but Robert, hadn't.
"I came back from the dead."
"Yes…And we're not exactly married anymore. I mean—we are, now that you're alive and all. Are we? I don't really know how that works…what a mess that'll be to sort out…Doesn't matter—you're home."
"And you're not…" she couldn't decipher the tone of his voice and he didn't meet her eyes then; he chose, instead, to stare up at the ceiling. "I've kept you awake long enough. Sleep and we'll sort through the years I missed later."
"You should try and get some sleep too."
"I'm not tired."
"Is it because I'm here—you're not used to someone sleeping so close anymore? I could sleep in the guest room—"
"No. No, I'm just not tired." He met her eyes again, and gave her a small smile of reassurance. "I'll try," he added.
The sunlight streaming through the gap in the curtains woke her that morning and she opened her eyes slowly to find Oliver still lying flat on his back, much to her dismay. When had he started sleeping like that? The sheets were thrown towards the edge of the bed and his shirt had risen up slightly. The ghost of a jagged line rose from his hip bone upwards, disappearing below the shirt.
Slowly, she hovered her fingers over the line, being careful not to touch him. His breathing was even, calm, and it gave her the courage she shouldn't have had. She placed her fingers on his skin, covering the scar. He didn't stir, so she dared to inch back the fabric of his shirt. Another scar appeared. It was thinner, but it hadn't faded as much as the first. Her fingers pushed at the fabric again but this time his hand caught her wrist.
"You don't want to see the rest. Trust me."
Felicity could feel his eyes on her, but she couldn't look away from the section of skin; it had been marred over the years by who knows what, or God knows who and she'd been here, going to work, hating his memory, coming home, mourning him, going to bed, losing hope…
"Are you—are you all right?" She hadn't noticed the water welling in her eyes until she felt the tears streaming down her cheeks.
He let go of her wrist, placing his fingers under her chin so that she would look at him. "I won't lie to you anymore. I'm not—not really. I need to take some time to figure this out—what happened to me; I need to process it. And I've been gone for five years, so life here hasn't stayed the same. I need to process that too. But I am all right because I'm here. I'm home now. So it's…complicated."
She nodded and rested her head on the pillow again.
"You're…different," he said.
"I don't think so. Maybe a little, but not much. I think it's just the situation—the fact that we aren't fighting or ignoring each other that makes you think that."
He shifted, turning on his side, his leg pressed against hers. In all the years they had been married, they'd touched only when they needed it—when they had ignored each other for weeks and it had been too long. They hadn't wanted each other, but occasionally, they had needed to touch. Now, all she wanted to do was touch him—not because she wanted him, but because she needed to make sure that he was real and that the Oliver that laughed at all his sister's jokes was still in there…somewhere.
She sat up, pushing the urge to place her hand on his face, his shoulder, his scars, away. "We should get ready and go downstairs. They haven't seen you since yesterday afternoon. They'll be worried."
"I'm here," he said.
"Yes, but…I've been here all night and I'm not sure I believe it. Stay with them today, so that they believe it." Without waiting for a response, she got up and made her way to his bathroom. "I'll just wash my face here then you can shower. I should head home and do the same before heading into work."
Once the bathroom door closed, she leaned heavily against it. There had been more emotion in the past few hours than there had been during the entire course of their marriage and it was all just a little too much. Felicity walked shakily towards the sink, avoiding her own reflection in the mirror as she splashed water on her face, wiping away mascara and make-up with the hand towel. She turned the water off and took time to breathe—just one, two, three…
He was home…five years and he was home…and it was nothing like she had imagi—what the hell were they supposed to do now? With one final breath, she pushed herself away from the sink, and re-entered the room. Oliver was there, standing awkwardly in his own bedroom and it almost made her cry. What had happened that he didn't even fit in his own home anymore?
"I should go Oliver. But—shower, go downstairs, be with them. I think Thea's staying home from school today…" She looked down at her hands, not sure how to say goodbye.
"I should stop by QC, and there's an old warehouse of ours in The Glades that I want to check—"
"Tomorrow, Oliver. Today, they need you and you need them."
He bit his bottom lip, as if ashamed he'd even brought it up. She reached for the doorknob, but he placed his hand against the door. "Come back—later…there's still—we should talk."
"We will…we do that now," she joked.
He gave her a weak smile before removing his hand from the door and letting her walk out.
There were quick footsteps on the stairs and, by the time Felicity began descending them, she was met with a large group. Thea, Moira, Tommy, and Walter were all huddled at the bottom, staring up expectantly at her. She almost turned around and headed back up.
"Let her be. She has to get to work. I'll be down in a minute," Oliver said from the top of the stairs. She hadn't even heard him follow her out.
She turned to face him, mouthing a quick thank you. He winked and she didn't know what to do, so she nodded and finished her descent. They all stared at her, wide eyed, mouths opening and closing with questions they weren't voicing because he still stood at the top of the stairs. But they wanted to know: was he okay, did he say anything about the scars, what was going through his head? Felicity knew, because they were the same questions she still had. She glanced back at Oliver, strong and imposing, with eyes that were no longer at the mercy of his emotions. He controlled them now, hiding whatever he didn't want to face—whatever he didn't want them to face.
The door of her car shut and she grabbed the phone she'd left on the passenger's side. She called work first to let them know that she would come in late. Then she called Thea.
"What happened in there? You didn't say a word," Thea began after the first ring.
"He's…as all right as he can be, Thea," she replied, leaving the manor behind.
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know—he talked, but not about the five years…just—other things."
"Did you tell him?"
"I didn't have to. He already knew. He saw that my things were missing from the closet."
"Listen, I have to go, but we'll talk later."
"I—I promised Oliver that I would come by."
Thea was silent for a moment. "I'll see you then."
The apartment had never felt too large for her. Grand windows provided a beautiful view of the city below and the open space just felt—full of air. That's why she'd chosen it in the first place. It was breathable. It made her feel free. Now, it felt too big. And somehow, it had to do with Oliver being back.
She hurried through to her closet, throwing a dark-blue pencil skirt and white dress shirt on her bed before jumping in the shower. More than anything, she wanted to let the water wash everything away, but she had somewhere to be.
Jane was pacing the length of her office—Oliver's office—when she walked in. The petite redhead practically ran towards her at the sound of the elevator closing. "I called about a hundred times Felicity! I stopped by your apart—"
"I wasn't home." Felicity side-stepped her needing the pile of papers on her desk to hide behind more desperately than ever.
"You weren't home? Your husband comes back from the—"
"You never got divorced," she retorted. "I just want to know if you're okay."
"I'm…something. I don't know. I could just really use the work right now. And please delay any meetings for now. I don't really want any questions or anything for now."
"You said now three times in one sentence."
Felicity let herself fall heavily on the desk chair. Jane took a seat on the other side of the desk. Her blue doe-eyes were so wide with worry that Felicity momentarily felt like she should comfort her and not the other way around.
"I'm…whatever I'm supposed to be in this situation. It doesn't matter though because what matters is Oliver. He needs to be okay. You know?"
Her friend nodded. "I'm surprised you even came in today. Walter and Moira called in their absences for the rest of the week since yesterday. Meetings, contract signings, the whole company's been put on some sort of hold. Understandable. You should take off too… come back when everything settles down and—I don't know. What do two divorced, but not really divorced, people do when one of them comes back after five years on some island?"
A giggle escaped her involuntarily. It wasn't funny, yet she couldn't help but laugh. "One of us had to die—almost literally—so that we could have a conversation. That's sad. It's more than sad it's ridiculous!"
Jane looked around, her expression unsure. She didn't know what to say and Felicity couldn't blame her. Even she didn't know what to say.
"I'll get to work. Just try and fend off anyone who wants to talk if you can."
Jane nodded, and promptly returned to her desk.
"Felicity. Talk to me," was Tommy's greeting as he breezed into her office, ignoring Jane's sounds of indignation.
"Tommy." Felicity held up her hand to let Jane know that it was okay.
"They told me you were there all night." Tommy wore jeans, a simple black shirt, and brown leather jacket. The usual. He looked just as he always did, walking in unannounced as he always did and, for a moment, she thought that maybe Oliver hadn't come home—that everything was as it had always been.
"So?" He sat down on one of the chairs across from her desk, resting his elbows on the glass surface after pushing some papers to the side. "Did he—"
"He didn't say anything about the island Tommy. We talked about other things…us—the way we were. That sort of thing."
Tommy watched her carefully, almost as if he were afraid that he would scare her off. He'd never looked at her like that before. It was probably the situation that they were in. She hoped, against all hope that she hadn't looked at Oliver that way—though she probably had—it was a terrible way to look at someone.
"I'm fine Tommy. Just trying to get some work done."
"Well…have you eaten?"
Felicity looked at the clock. 1:00 p.m. "No."
"I'll go get you some lunch then. I haven't eaten either. We could eat in here together." He smiled, but it wasn't his usual smile. It had that same careful little mask over it.
Felicity shook her head, leaning to the side to grab her purse at the foot of her desk. "We can go get lunch somewhere—It'll be good to get away from the office for a bit."
Tommy glanced to the right, where the wall, as nearly all walls in the building, was made entirely of glass. "I—I don't think that's a good idea…"
"Seriously Tommy, I'm fine. I—"
He shook his head, smiling apologetically, "No. That's not it. It's just that—the press is gathered around the building since they can't get near the mansion."
Felicity dropped the bag. Why couldn't they just let them be? The man just came back from the dead. Forty-eight hours was suddenly too much time to extend to the man?! "Ughh!"
Tommy looked down at his hands, "Yeah. I—uh—drove by your apartment and they're there too…"
She sighed, dropping her head, suddenly quite heavy, in her hands. "I'd almost forgotten what it was like to be married to Oliver Queen…"
"Look, don't worry about it. I'll go get some take-out, we'll eat, you'll work. If you want, I can come by later and take you home—or you can crash in one of my guest bedrooms. We'll work something out."
She tried her best smile, hoping it was enough. But Tommy didn't smile back; it just wasn't convincing. "I promised Oliver I'd go back tonight—to talk a bit."
"Then I could drive you there and, if you want to leave, give me a call and I'll come get you—take you wherever. If the press is still around your apartment building you'll just crash with me."
"Hey, what are friends for?"
A/N: So there we have it; Chapter 1.
Going forward, you'll recognize some events from the show (slightly altered, of course), but there will also be new events that were never in there at all.
Let me know what you think!