A/N: Tollie, Tollie everywhere. I just can't stop! These are a series of drabbles, through different time periods in their relationship. I've written some missing scenes from episodes ("Toxic", "Odyssey", "Injustice", "Bulletproof", "Shield", "Pandora") and some that can be placed throughout the series. I also included a short piece from Issue #6 of the Smallville comics, just because I could.
I don't own Smallville, no profit was had but a lot of fun was.
[Their story doesn't end.]
It isn't until they're miles from the embankment that Oliver realises what they've just done. He plunges the thruster of the boat, sets it to top speed and lets the sea breeze plaster salt to his face. When he looks behind him, sees Tess huddled with her knees to her chest on the boat's floor, his heart breaks for her. Her face, smeared with dirt and blood, is all but hidden behind wisps of her hair—but Oliver can still see the way her eyes moisten.
He steps toward her and offers his hand, just like before. Tess looks up at him blankly, her lips parted like she wants to say something but there's nothing left inside of her to say.
So Oliver asks a question, to ply something out, because they can't go on like this. "Why did you do it?"
She knows what he means, what he wants from her but his voice is gentle, not accusing. They've saved each other today, he is her saviour and she is his so there would be no reason to hide the truth, and no reason not to trust him. She takes his hand and with his help she stands, finds his eyes and resists the urge to tumble into his arms and cry.
Oliver's question echoes in her mind. Why did you do it? There had been a third man, one on the boat, one who hadn't killed anybody but was still as guilty as the others. Oliver had been about to shoot him, but the man had no weapon—he was no threat.
"Why did I tell you to let him go?" Tess asks for clarification. She feels Oliver's fingers twine around hers. "Because nobody else should die today."
Ready or not, here I come!
The small girl and the red-haired woman are ushered into a room, and Oliver Queen's young eyes watch as the girl looks all the way up to stare at the bearded face of the man beside her. Oliver wonders if she'll be a new friend, someone to play hide-and-seek with in this big mansion.
He's perched along the scaffolding, holding his breath at what he sees below. This was supposed to be a rescue mission—to find Clark—but Oliver's salvaged something he never expected to see again.
When Tess speaks, she's commanding and there's so much that's different about her. She commandeers Regan like he's nothing, powers her way through the arctic forte and controls the situation effortlessly.
Too bad Oliver has to break up the show. He's almost feeling a tinge of pride at seeing this new-and-improved Tess Mercer, knowing he's had a hand in the makeover—no matter how much he regrets it.
They reach Fiji, near-stumble into a ramshackle hotel off the coast and tumble their way through the language barrier to ask for change for the payphone. There'd been a box of money on the boat, notes only, and it buys them a room and a bottle of rum.
Oliver promises to buy new clothes as he turns on the shower and tests the temperature. Tess stands numbly by him, staring at the bracelet on her wrist. When he looks at her Oliver thinks of joking about finding her a top to match, but he keeps quiet and strokes her face instead.
"It's going to be okay." He guides her toward the shower and when their eyes meet, something passes between them but it's gone as soon as it came. "Leave your clothes here, I'll throw them out."
He turns around as she undresses and once she draws the curtains he scoops up the pile of bloodied clothes.
Oliver returns an hour later and Tess has already drunk a quarter of the bottle. She's on the bed, wearing the hotel's gown—a brown, matted thing fraying with worn cotton—and her damp hair is loose around her shoulders, brushed straight. She's drinking from the bottle.
"Take it easy, Red," Oliver says, not quite teasing. "We've still got hours till we're properly rescued."
He throws a bag of bought clothes at her feet on the bed and goes to shower. He takes his time, savouring the way the water streams across his skin. When Oliver emerges wearing a fresh pair of khakis but no shirt, he finds Tess hasn't moved. She's staring at the bag of clothes, hasn't bothered to look through them. She's still holding the bottle of rum.
"Want to give me some of that?" Oliver asks, sliding onto the bed next to her and taking the bottle anyway.
He drinks, heavily—ends up halving the bottle in one go.
Tess watches him and a smile appears on her face, quiet suddenly. "What happened to taking it easy?"
"I'm a party boy," he quips back, voice raspy. "Don't you know that?"
She laughs at him and he takes another hit.
They've just about finished the bottle between them when Tess turns to look at him, her eyes sad and when she speaks, her voice is just above a whisper. "I keep seeing it. I keep seeing him, and the gun…"
"Tess," Oliver interrupts her gently, taking her hand in his. "Think about something else, okay? It'll hurt, it's going to hurt but for right now, just be somewhere else."
He creates an oasis for her, talks to her about Malibu sunsets and sangria, anything to take her away from the rundown hotel they're in and the cheap rum they're drinking. He holds her hand even when he kisses her, feels her fingers winding around his and her other hand on his chest. He promises her one day they'll come back to Fiji under better circumstances.
The first punch feels good, his knuckles grazing the kid's cheek and when he pulls back, the Kryptonite ring tears a chunk of skin clean off. Oliver draws back, collects again then pulls back, hits again. The kid's screaming for him to stop, the ring hurting more than Oliver's fists but it's all the same—he's in pain, his friend is slumped over by the door with an arrow buried into her shoulder, and there's no escape.
Oliver tears himself away, listens as Clark implores the kid to return his powers and that's when Oliver steals away to help Tess. She's unconscious, tied to a chair, bruised and bleeding from her lip.
Oliver—Green Arrow—looks back to Clark and the other man stares back with wary eyes. Oliver doesn't wait to hear Clark's verdict on Tess, and as he carries her from the room he wonders fleetingly who the real hero is.
When Tess wakes Green Arrow is gone—but Oliver sits on a chair by the bed, faded blue jeans covering battle wounds and black shirt hiding fresh bruises. He can't cover up the ones on his face though, streaks of red and circles of blue forming around his eyes.
Tess winces at her own pain, struggles to move her head off the pillow and just manages to find Oliver's eyes in the darkened room.
"I see you've found your clothes."
He doesn't smile at her jibe, doesn't offer her one in return but instead looks seriously at her, his hands folded and elbows resting on his knees. His look is piercing, his eyes concerned for something more than just her safety, and Tess breaks their gaze to look around the room. It's not her bedroom and Tess recognises the columns at the corners of the bed—one of the mansion's guest rooms.
Guessing what her frown means, Oliver placates her curiosity. "Your room is in need of a makeover. This was the closest room to the library with a bed."
Tess remembers the explosion and gingerly touches her lip. The blood's dried. "What happened?"
"I don't know," Oliver lies, too easily. "When I came to I found you passed out at your desk, there was no one else here."
She doesn't ask anything else, but Tess thinks she owes Clark her gratitude.
His eyes don't leave her but Oliver can't bring himself to ask anything either—what could he say?
"I should go," he says quietly, catching the surprised look Tess gives him. "You kicked me out earlier, right?"
You could stay, it's late, but the words don't leave her mouth and Tess watches silently as Oliver walks to the door.
"Oliver." Tess turns on the bed and waits for him to look at her. His dark eyes penetrate hers and shivers spill across her body. "Sometimes I do wish we could go back, start over."
But you're all grown up, and it's too late for that, Oliver thinks as he looks at her, this woman dressed in red with the wounds to match. We could never trust each other, anyway.
Oliver laughs because it's so ridiculous, coming from her. "A merger? What kind of merger?"
Tess has learned to hide her feelings well, mask them behind a threat, or a promise. She's even used sex once or twice. After Oliver's infidelities and since Lex's schooling, Tess has also learned how to control people.
For the last few months Oliver has been under her thumb, a piece for her to move about the board just to show him she could. But now she wants nothing more than to relinquish control to him.
"Any kind you want."
After dinner, back at the mansion, Tess hands him a scotch and Oliver decides to kiss her. She's left everything in his hands, after all, so why not? She doesn't push him away immediately but neither does she relax, and the roaring fire acts as a score to their otherwise silent intimacy. When she does pull back Tess looks at him with heavy eyes.
"Oliver, I know I said…"
"It's okay," he says quickly, brushing his top lip with a finger. "I just thought what the hell. Had a little wine, too, so…"
But she kisses him again, her body pressed against his, fingers running through the fine hairs at the back of his neck. Oliver's arms circle her waist and Tess sighs into the kiss when she feels his fingers spread around her hips. The familiarity of his touch is an unexpected comfort to her and Tess moves her fingers to the collar of Oliver's jacket, pulling it slowly over his shoulders.
Oliver pulls back from her and lifts a hand to stroke her face. "Okay, now I'm confused. You do, but you don't, then you do again…What's going on? The whole merger thing, huh? What is that?"
He looks at her earnestly and Tess considers telling him the truth. What harm could it do? She'd have an ally, at least—no one more than Oliver would want Lex dead. But truth is hard to take back.
Oliver's hand brushes her hair behind her shoulder and his fingers trace the chain of the locket around her neck. Tess takes his hand in hers, winds her fingers between his and steers him away from the locket. In a simple way she pacifies him, finishes sliding off his jacket without a word and leads him from the warmth of the library to the cool finality of her bedroom.
"Just for tonight," she tells him as he slips off her red dress, but Tess isn't sure she means it.
She takes his weight and he takes his time, and Tess had forgotten how he could make her feel. She gives up control and just lets herself feel, and once they've exhausted themselves there's just heavy breathing and the rustling of sheets. Oliver, unknowingly, finds the chain around her neck and runs his fingers along its length. When he reaches the locket Tess covers his hand with hers, and Oliver realises she's shaking. He moves up beside her and sees her crying silently and he doesn't ask her why, just holds her even as she turns from him.
"So you got my invitation?"
Tess turns to the familiar voice, eyes not hiding her annoyed disappointment. Oliver's dressed in a black suit, holding a tall glass of champagne out to her with a winning grin.
"I was under the impression I was meeting an investor," Tess cuts back at him. "Got all dressed up and everything."
When she takes the champagne from him, Oliver presses a hand to the small of her back and steers her to the outside balcony of the Ace of Clubs. "I do appreciate that, thank you. But you know how I also like it when you dress down."
Tess shrugs off his hand, smooths the sides of her black satin dress and presses her lips to the rim of the glass, tasting expensive bubbles. They can still hear the muted tones of a soft piano playing from the bar when they lean against the railing outside. The night is warm, an oppressive heat that's peaked in humidity, and Oliver loosens the knot of his tie.
"What are we doing here, Oliver?" Tess asks with an edge to her voice.
Oliver all but pours what's left of his drink down and sets the glass on the railing. "Well I know how much you love to dance around me. So I thought I'd even the playing field."
He lets his elbow fold around the railing's edge and watches Tess finish the glass of champagne before leaning in close to her. "We're going to dance."
Tess stiffens when she feels Oliver's hand on her back and darts her eyes over his. "No we're not."
When he looks her over, studies her hair in curls around her shoulders, a red halo over the woman in black, Oliver smiles. Their game isn't over and he loves taking control, only to have it taken out from under him. He'll take it back, of course—that's the dance.
He straightens suddenly, takes the glass from her hand and settles it next to his on the railing, and slips his fingers through hers. She doesn't pull away, and even smiles up at him—a daring smile, like if you do this, I'll do something even worse, but Oliver's already leading her back inside.
"It's a quiet night, not many people," he talks in her ear and unwanted shivers spill across her back. "No press, just us and a couple of other romantics drinking through the night."
"Romantics?" Tess quips back, knowing he really means lonely people but she leaves it at that.
He holds her hand to his chest, gently grips her waist with his other hand and they're swaying to the slower notes of the piano, each key an echo into the next. As the first song drifts into the second, Tess feels herself lulled into the comfort of it all and it's hypnotic, his body close to hers, so longed for that she's embarrassed to admit it even to herself. She loses sight of what's in his eyes as she lets her head dip into his shoulder, and revenge is the furthest thing from her mind.
He tells her to read it, forces the paper into her hand and watches her face as she starts to speak.
Oliver. I never thought I'd have to tell you how I feel about us, because the smile on my lips when I looked at you pretty much said it all. But now that you won't be seeing it anymore, I'll have to use words to tell you. I never loved anyone the way I loved you. And I never will again. You will always be my brightest star, my knight in shining leather, my hero.
The words are foreign to her, she's never seen, heard nor spoken them before. But they break her in two, and it's cruel and she hates it. She tells him she didn't write those words, that they both know Chloe did. She sees the disrepair in his eyes, the rage and grief and love and thinks he never looked that way for her.
Oliver hears the click of a gun at his head and he raises his arms when the metal tip is pressed against his temple. Shit.
He can't see his assailant, can't shift to turn his face but when he hears haggard breathing—torn, hesitant—he knows who it is.
"Mercy, come on. You don't want to kill me."
"Well that's just it, Oliver," he hears her say, voice discernable in the abandoned hall of the mansion. "I'm not your Mercy anymore."
But she lowers the gun and Oliver turns to face Tess, hair pulled back into a warrior's ponytail, orange under the glow of the red sun—it runs in streams through the stained-glass window above them, reminding them of the world they're in.
Tess in turn looks at Oliver, a worn man almost lost of hope, torn jeans with a cracked leather jacket, gold stubble thick over his jawline. Fighting for the resistance—always a latent death wish.
She drops her eyes and holsters her gun. "You need to get out of here. General Zod will kill you on sight."
"Like you should have done, I'm presuming?" Oliver bites back. He forces her head up with a hand over her chin. "Huh?"
Tess slaps his hand from her, pushes him roughly into the wall. "I still could."
But she doesn't raise her weapon, doesn't lay on hand on it. Instead she grips the collar on his jacket, pulls Oliver into an alcove and presses her elbow against his throat.
"What are you here for?" she asks him in a scathing whisper.
Oliver doesn't answer, just looks into her eyes and imagines they're back on the island, when Tess's innocence showed unabashed in the looks she gave him. Now what stares back is a cold warrior, a monster of war and deceit, one whose abandonment of love was revenge on being abandoned first. But he still loves her, he still wants to save her—though she's far beyond that now.
So he shakes his head, lowers his eyes so she doesn't see the lie in his words. "Nothing."
"Then get out of here," Tess says coldly. "Go back the way you came in."
She waits until Lex is asleep—it's the only way. Tess isn't exactly sure how this works, but she can control his body at night, take over subconsciously perhaps. Whatever it is, Oliver had better get the message.
She encodes emails, watches the screen darken and sees Lex's reflection look back at her. She types cryptic messages, sends them to the one person who will know how to decipher them.
Even dead, Tess has unfinished business. Her redemption might be too far for her to reach now, but if she can talk to Oliver there might still be hope. She just hopes he'll understand, because god knows they've been through everything together—and there could still be more to come, if only he knows her well enough to be able to read between the lines.