Disclaimer: I don't own any aspect of the tv show Arrow.
This story begins during season 1 episode 13: Betrayal. There are numerous tie-ins to episodes during the rest of season 1 and perhaps illusions to season 2.
Deep under the old Queen factory, Oliver sat hunched over the copy of the List that he pulled from his father's dead body. It was now the only copy of the List that Oliver knew was in existence, but perhaps that was not even true anymore.
Above him, machinery began clanking. Something in the mechanical room, probably the boiler, was kicking on again. But the heat it would emit could not warm up the cold feeling in Oliver's gut. Why did Walter have a copy of the List? Walter was his father's old friend from the company. But Oliver would have known that Walter was allied with him to fight the criminal elite of Starling City. Surely his father would have said that in his messages that Oliver received later. Oliver was absolutely certain of that. There were no other scenarios that would explain the copy of the List that Walter obtained.
No other scenarios worth considering.
His mother held answers though. She eliminated possible ways that the book wound up in Walter's possession. Oliver realized that she recognized the book containing the List, but easily explained it. A list of people that owed Robert favors. That was a reasonable assumption for her to make considering she said that Robert was unfaithful and kept secrets from her, from everyone.
After all, Oliver knew secrets serve to protect the people close to the secret keeper. Oliver knew his parents loved each other, regardless of their faults, so his father would use secrets as a means of protection for his wife and even Oliver himself. It was that simple. Everything was explained.
The only loose end was how Walter found the List. That too could be explained because years ago Moira only packed away Robert's things; she did not throw them out. There were ample opportunities for Walter to stumble upon a second hidden copy of Robert's List and think that he found something that was Moira's. Walter did not absolutely know where the List came from so there was no reason to be suspicious of its appearance.
Furthermore, Felicity looked into the List and she did not find a direct connection with Moira. And Felicity was the epitome of thorough when investigating anything.
Diggle was just paranoid. Perhaps he was also resentful because Oliver caught his old army friends last week when they convinced Diggle to commit crimes under duress. Diggle did not know all the background on the List, and Oliver planned to keep it that way, because secrets do protect people.
"You bugged my mother?" Oliver accused Diggle.
"Just listen," reasoned Diggle.
Oliver's face tightened as he listened to the conversation between his mother and a digitized male voice: "I need you to remove and dispose of thoroughly the warehouse where you're storing the remains of 'The Queen's Gambit.'"
"I already told you," said Moira, "I knew Robert's yacht was sabotaged."
The recording ended and Diggle said, "I'm sorry man." The silence stretched on between the two like a wide chasm threatening to engulf them in the dark. Diggle did not know what to do to comfort the normally stoic Oliver. If this were any other conversation Oliver would already have a mask of indifference plastered across his face and shrugged off the sentiment. Then he would state he was gearing up for the next vigilante attack. Diggle was about to reach out and place his hand on Oliver's thigh to comfort him when Oliver broke the silence.
"The yacht was sabotaged." Oliver's whisper cut through the room, "Somebody tried to kill my father."
Oliver had clearly not connected the successful murder of Robert Queen with the presumed death of Oliver years ago when the Queen's Gambit sank. That conversation would take much longer to digest. Instead, to steer Oliver's perspective to his own view, Diggle stated, "Your mother was involved somehow."
Oliver's anger rose to the surface at that, "You do not know that she was involved, Diggle!"
"What I do know, and so do you, is that she kept this a secret." Diggle insisted with a powerful tone, the tone of a commanding officer. "Why would she do that if she didn't have something to hide?"
A digital beep sounded. Diggle questioned, "Is that…?"
"Yeah!" Oliver cuts off Diggle to answer the Hood's cell phone for a timely call from Laurel. Only it was Lance and Oliver needed to put aside his distress over his mother and the second copy of the List to help someone in need right now: Laurel.
Oliver wearily returned to the hideout under the Queen factory. He was not physically tired from his fight against Cyrus Vanch, but he was mentally exhausted from forcibly controlling his thoughts. Laurel had needed his specific skills. Even Lance had asked for the Hood's help rather than recklessly attacking Cyrus by himself. Oliver reminded himself: acting as a vigilante came first. His own concerns took a distant second.
Laurel was safe again and there was nothing to do except contemplate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the second copy of the List. Oliver realized that he was not thinking entirely rationally on this issue. But perhaps there was another avenue Oliver could investigate.
After dialing the office number at Queen Consolidated, Oliver held his phone up to his ear. Hopefully she kept long hours at the office. She seemed like the type who would.
"Hello? This is Felicity Smoak speaking."
"Hello Felicity," greeted Oliver as he tried to keep the strain from his voice. "Can I ask a favor of you?"
"Uh, well, you are my boss so I am at your beck and call," replied Felicity. Then she quickly babbled on, "Except if it will violate interpersonal office relationships. Then I would need to consider the situation. We just sat through sexual harassment training and I…don't need to tell you all of this."
Perhaps the first hint of a smile leaked out of Oliver as Felicity talked. Calling her was definitely a good idea. "Meet me where we were last time. Be discrete. I have some questions for you." And he hung up.
Felicity held on to the phone. Oliver was an enigma and this time he did not even give an excuses for his need to talk to her and he assumed she was willing to meet him. "Right, boss. Be there shortly, thanks for listening," Felicity finally responded to the static on the phone.
Oliver grabbed his jacket and pulled the collar up around his ears and hunched his shoulders while he ducked out of the factory. Felicity would lift the weight that the controversy had saddled on him. A few questions and a half a cup of coffee later, Oliver would return to tracking down the true criminals of the city and sleep at home in peace knowing the true character of the people who shared his roof.
After considering all of the ways Diggle could be wrong while making his way to the coffee shop, Oliver pulled the door open and keep his eyes low while turning to take a seat at the tall table by the window.
The employee at the counter called over to Oliver, "Good evening, we are about to close up for the night but I can fix you something to go if you want."
Startled out of his musings, Oliver grunted before walking up to the counter. He laid a couple of hundreds on the counter and asked, "Could you stay open for a little longer tonight and get me and my friend a cup of whatever she orders?"
Astonished, the employee looked up at Oliver and greedily fingered the bills as he stuttered, "Ya ya, uh, I can just clean over on the other side of the restaurant. If you need anything just holler."
As Oliver turned to wait, Felicity entered the restaurant and a smile graced her face. "Hello, what are we doing here in the middle of the night? I am going to need to a caffeine boast to stay awake. Have you ordered yet?" To the barista she requested, "One strong coffee with soy please."
Oliver held up two fingers indicating that he would have the same before leading her to a seat in the back of the restaurant.
Felicity carefully watched Oliver as he sunk into the seat. Normally he was so self-assured and almost smug. This Oliver had demons. She hoped he was not angry about the notebook she had presented to him previously. But Walter had asked her to investigate it and now Walter was gone. She didn't have many other options.
Trying to start with confidence and poise that she no longer felt, she said, "Well, I like this restaurant. Great coffee and good food plus it's far enough away from Queen Consolidated headquarters that you won't run into coworkers here." Perfect, she thought to herself, she established a commonality about the location and indicated she was being discrete in a simple opening statement. Surely he would not fire her; she really wanted to keep this job, she hated polishing resumes.
Oliver looked up at her and began, "Hum, good location. So, um," he paused, "about the…notebook, I just wanted to hear how you got it again. Can you remind me?"
"Well, you did look a little spacy when I gave it to you." Felicity winced at that. She did not mean to accuse her boss of being as high as a cloud so she plowed on, "I told you basically everything though. Walter came to my office and handed me a blank book and asked me to figure out what secrets it held. At that time it looked empty but I discovered that the names were written sub visible wavelengths in the UV spectrum. I had Walter look at the notebook with glasses that reveal the names. He was reserved about telling me anything, but asked that I not say anything to anyone else which I did not do until I told you. And I will not tell anyone else now. Anyway, he asked a few questions about the practicality of a book with invisible names and asked if I could make them visible. Of course, with a simple chemical reaction, if you know what you are dealing with, I was able to make the names visible to the naked eye as they are now. I was completely discrete when I got the supplies to reveal the names and no one else knew what I was doing. But then Walter disappeared. When he did not turn up again it started to feel fishy. I already knew that the list of names included many of the vigilante's targets and neither Walter nor I were listed, but I was worried. I tried not to worry, but it all felt like to much of a coincidence." Felicity ended with a sigh. "That's when I decided that I had to show the notebook to someone else, so I came to you."
Oliver did not move during Felicity's story. He just studied the table top with his hands clenched tightly at his sides.
The barista carried over their drinks and set them on the table. Felicity quickly reached for the coffee and wrapped her hands around the warm mug while taking a deep breath of the rich dark coffee scent. It was clear that Felicity's answer had not settled any of Oliver's concerns. Biting her tongue, she waited for Oliver to make the next move while she gingerly sipped the piping hot coffee.
After watching the steam from the coffee curling upward, Oliver finally moved. He took a deep breath followed by a quick sip of the coffee. Finally, Oliver lifted his eyes up to Felicity's. "Did you find any connections between the names and my mom?"
Felicity shook her head. "No. I only began to look for connections and then Walter disappeared. Before that I went through the names and security flagged an employee from Queen Consolidated who died soon after. Walter told me that the list seemed to be dangerous so I stopped looking into it and waited for some kind of news. Like I said before, I then decided that I could trust you."
Earlier that night when Oliver called, Felicity expected that he would actually tell her what was going on. Oliver's actions clearly showed that something was very wrong. Felicity was not privy to any of the details, but it looked bad. Oliver was staring at his cup of coffee again, looking like the weight of the world was firmly strapped to his back.
Finally Felicity could not take the sullen silence any longer.
"Oliver, have you heard of the Copernican Revolution?"
Surprised, Oliver looked at Felicity. "What? Was it a war?"
"No," Felicity responded. "People used to think that the earth was the center of the universe. Everyone believed that the sun and all the stars went all the way around the earth every single day to create day and night. Then people started to look through telescopes and doing complicated geometry and what they realized was not what they expected. Suddenly, the earth was not the center of the universe.
"Now this might not seem like a big deal today, but people resisted Copernicus' discovery because it defied their ideology. You see, religion stated that the earth was the center of the universe too. Then a scientific revolution said no; everyone needed to change their mindset because they were wrong about the movement of our plant for millennia. The debate went on for centuries and at one point the Pope convicted Galileo of heresy for upholding Copernicus' views on earth's orbital path. But eventually everyone was convinced that the earth orbits the sun and so that is what we learn in school today."
Oliver raised an eyebrow at Felicity, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"What, you don't believe me? You can Wikipedia it later. Anyway, the science philosopher Thomas Kuhn wrote that things can completely alter your basic assumptions or paradigms about what is right or true. It is called a paradigm shift. It changes your worldview and afterward everything looks different, but eventually you realize that there is still day and night even if the earth goes around the sun instead of the sun orbiting the earth."
Felicity paused so that Oliver could contemplate her rather lengthy analogy to what she thought was going on. Eventually Oliver met her pleading gaze as she asked, "Can I still trust you?"
Oliver broke eye contact with Felicity. Why did everything have to become more complicated? But he would do everything he could to protect Felicity. Resolutely, Oliver meet Felicity's imploring eyes. "Yes. You can always trust me."
I just don't know if I would trust myself, Oliver thought to himself.