A/N: First Arrow fic, hello! This is a very new fandom for me and normally I'm not all about pairings in the first season but I can't get over Oliver and Felicity. There is just this energy between them, this chemistry from the very first episodes which I don't see with him and Laurel, as much as I try. And while I recognize that this will probably be the underdog relationship, I'm damned if I don't write about them, so I did.
Set immediately after 1x17.
Edit: So, I was just informed that Kosovo was actually more likely Coast City and I've changed it. My apologies.
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.
The moment Felicity appears in the room and willingly offers her services to them, Oliver notices the shift of mood in Helena. She is interested in Felicity, in what she can do and why she is privy to his secret, so to distract her from it, he has to make Felicity seem unimportant.
So he orders her to go, to get out, and while the harsh words make him cringe – and the surprised look on Felicity's face makes him feel like a complete asshole – he hopes she will understand later on. She is so untainted in his eyes, so innocent and worlds away from the darkness he calls home, despite hovering at the edge of it, that he feels the need to protect her, to shield her from it as much as he can. He promised to protect her and this is him doing just that. Dig catches on and tries to wordlessly convey to her that this private thing is a dangerous thing and that Felicity should stay as far away as possible. She leaves, to his great relief but the puzzled look on her face means question time for later.
Oliver turns to Helena and the smirk on her face is cruel and taunting and he fears he might have been late in his effort to divert the attention from Felicity.
"How many girlfriends do you have, exactly?"
She laughs and he's a bit relieved that she considers Felicity to be just a girl and doesn't seem to realize her real worth, his efforts to hide her from the Huntress seemingly having worked.
But later, much later, when he thinks it's all over and done with and just allows himself to relax with McKenna, he doesn't yet know what that moment will cost him. When he listens to the voice mail some twenty minutes later, he realizes that Felicity is right and Helena probably hasn't left but before he can start thinking about where she'll go, he hears her in the background of Felicity's call.
"I don't think we had the chance to be properly introduced this morning."
The blood in his veins runs cold and that moment of absolute, terrifying fear pushes him into action. He barely has an excuse for McKenna as he flies out, willing his bike to go faster, to already reach the headquarters of Queen Consolidated. All the while the knowledge of what exactly Helena could ask of her and how she could hurt Felicity makes terrible images flash in his mind's eye. Helena is not above killing anyone and she's smarter than he gave her credit for, having realized just what Felicity is worth, at least professionally and hoping she didn't realize the personal worth to him.
He runs up the stairs of the skyscraper, all the way to the IT department, to where Felicity should sit every day to be safe, and feels like he can't breathe until he hears her voice, and finds her, a bit shaken but without visible damage. The fear in her eyes, though, makes anger flare up inside of him and whatever he might have still been feeling for Helena disappears. She won't get away with this and he is prepared to kill her now.
In the end, after everything's been said and done between him and McKenna, he returns to the factory. He feels miserable and exhausted, and with Helena a killer, still at large, and McKenna leaving for Coast City and Laurel never giving him the time of day, he wonders if he can ever have a normal relationship. Wonders if that, too, is something from his past, because he can't achieve normal. Normal was for the playboy Oliver Queen, the one who left destruction in his wake and drew his own boundaries. Maybe now the vigilante part of him is all that he has and he deserves this solitude, this being alone because it's safer for everyone involved.
He notices the head of blonde hair at the computer. But uncharacteristically for her, Felicity's not doing anything, there isn't the unmistakeable sound of typing and the screens are all blacked out. She's just sitting in front of her computer, staring at something.
She is startled and when he sees her hand rise up to wipe at her eyes, something inside of him clenches because he would recognize that gesture from anywhere. He might resort to being alone but she has already been pulled into his world and the effects of that transition are already evident in what she's been through this evening.
He approaches her slowly and sits down next to her. She looks at him and tries to give a watery smile.
"Sorry, I didn't think you'd be back tonight, thought you'd stay at the hospital with your girlfriend."
He clears his throat uncomfortably. "Yeah, I don't...it didn't work out."
"She's moving to Coast City. It's fine."
It's not but his focus is attuned to Felicity, to the tears that have stopped falling – whether from drying up or from keeping them under control due to his sudden presence, he isn't sure – and the reason behind them. He thinks he understands it well enough but waits for her to speak, giving her time.
"I was just tying up some loose ends, you know. Thought I'd better check my systems and make sure they were still running."
He doesn't know how to approach her, how to ask her things because feelings have never really been his forte and all he can offer are threats and apologies, neither one better than the other.
"I'm sorry I dragged you into this."
She shakes her head quickly at that and jumps in. "No, you don't have to. I shouldn't have just barged in and started talking about the FBI and my skills because she was there. I should've paid more attention to it, Dig always tells me to pay more attention to my surroundings, and I just babbled on and-"
He cuts her off. "Felicity. I'm sorry. This was not your fault."
He's told her this once already but apparently that didn't quite cut it. She searches for something in his eyes – for what, he doesn't know – and then nods once. But he can see that she's not entirely convinced.
"Listen to me. What you do, you do it very well. And I'm glad you're here to help us with our...our missions, so there's nothing for you to be sorry for. You didn't know Helena was here and I didn't realize she could use you. I shouldn't have left you alone, should have been there."
She touches her keyboard and the screen comes to life. He can see all kinds of data running on the screens and her eyes follow it with a tiredness he doesn't want to associate with her.
"I know that this is hard for you, Felicity, and-"
"No, you don't." Her voice is calm, a complete turnaround from her babbling a few moments ago but her gaze doesn't leave the screens even as she keeps talking. "You don't get it."
"Then tell me."
"I can do a lot with a computer. I can manipulate information, break into any kind of a system, can find things and I've always thought those were good things. I'm very good at what I do at Queen Consolidated and I'm even better when I'm helping you, doing it for you."
She takes a deep breath and Oliver doesn't interfere; this is going somewhere and she needs to say it. Her eyes follow the stream of data but he knows she doesn't really see it.
"I never thought that what I do isn't for the good. Maybe I'm naïve but I've considered my skills an asset, a means to help people and now, she took it from me. I did everything I would do for you in the exact same situation – I hacked the FBI database, I extracted information, I wiped my digital fingerprint clean, I even provided her with the marshals' radio frequency – but the means didn't justify the end. I helped her kill people and all because I'm good with computers."
She looks at her hands now and by their shaking and the slight trembling of her lip and the furrowed brow, he knows that she is closer to a breakdown than her calm voice betrays. In a way, he figures it has been a long time coming. Not just because of what went down tonight but because of everything she's been through since he dragged his injured self into her car and pretty much forced her hand. They haven't talked about all the close calls, not even about her nearly being blown to little pieces; he doesn't need talk but he's starting to realize that she is wired a bit differently. A lot more normally.
"She made me use my skills for doing bad things. Those people died because I told her where to find them. And you know what that means? What I do, I do very well, usually. The line of code you see on the screen is a simple tracking exercise to pinpoint a location. A first-year at MIT could do it in fifteen minutes. And I can't do it. I can't because every time I try to begin, I hear her voice. So, you do the magic around here? Work your fingers on that keyboard, just like you do for Oliver. That's what she took from me and I just want it back."
It's the first time Felicity tells him something of what went down with Helena and he really wishes she hadn't caught his arrow or that McKenna hadn't shown up because the realization of how much she broke Felicity is making him itch for retribution.
But he can't have it now, so he settles for the more immediate solution and gently, very slowly, takes Felicity's hands in his. She follows the movement with her eyes but doesn't really react; her hands are cold and still shaking and they feel limp in his hands.
"It's tainted now. I killed with those hands."
"No. Felicity, look at me."
Her eyes reluctantly rise to meet his and he sees the desperation, the agony, the point of no return she is quickly approaching.
"You didn't kill anyone. Helena had the choice to act on the information and she chose to kill them, not you. You had no part in this, no real choice, Felicity. She took it from you and I know what it feels like to be bereft of control over your actions, trust me."
There is a sliver of hope brimming in her eyes, fighting to be let out, wanting to believe in his words, in him.
"You had no choice and nobody blames you for that. She would've killed you otherwise and-" His own voice breaks for a moment as he imagines finding Felicity the same way as he did, only with an arrow in her and it stirs something unforgotten in him but he shakes that off because it's not the reality, and focuses on the now.
"Nobody expects you to have died for that. I don't blame you."
She reaches breaking point and the tears roll down her cheek, slowly but continuously. He contemplates trying to hold her but doesn't think it would be appreciated; she must hate to show this part of her vulnerability but he is glad that she trusts him enough for at least that. Still, she doesn't let go of his hands, but squeezes them tight and he understands her need for some human contact but still the underpinning of wanting to be alone. Maybe they're not that different after all.
After a while, the tears stop. Her eyes are clearer and the pain in them is gone, replaced by something more like her. He knows that she will be craving for something normal now and offers just that.
"Do you want to show me how you are going to crack that code?"
There is a hint of smile and she lets go of his hands. "Let's do this."
He doesn't feel the need to push her into talking about something more, into hashing out everything that has happened. She is tougher than she looks and doesn't need to be coddled or patronized but he also won't forget that what he considers normal for a day, she might find overwhelming. So they both revel in this normalcy as she cracks the code in seven minutes and smiles.
A/N: Ah, yes. The story got a bit away from me and I thought it was too soon for a romance but I hope you enjoyed it and will leave me a review to let me know.