Title: I'll be your friend (I'll help you carry on)
Series: If I Were a Better Man
Sequel to: I want you close, I want you (I won't treat you like you're typical)
Friendship(s): Felicity & Tommy, Felicity & Thea
Notes: This is an in-between to a story based on an AU idea where Felicity and Oliver met before he was stranded on the island and his return to civilization; it's pretty important that you read that too or you'll be confused. This happens during the five years that Oliver is missing, cementing the friendship between Tommy and Felicity as they grieve.
Word Count: 7,543
Summary: [If I Were a Better Man series | Part 2] A life-long friendship grows from the seeds of loss as Felicity and Tommy lean on each other to get through Oliver's disappearance at sea.
I'll be your friend (I'll help you carry on)
Felicity had moved on from cleaning her apartment to taking apart her appliances. So far, she was pretty sure her toaster had never run smoother, her coffee hotter, and, while it wasn't her intention, she now got free porn channels on her television. She was rewiring her DVD player when she heard a knock at her door. Pausing, she lifted her head, and readjusted her glasses from where they'd slid down her nose. She waited for some kind of sign that whoever was on the other side might identify themselves. Although, she had a pretty good idea of who it was.
"Felicity, I know you're in there…"
She rolled her eyes.
"If you don't let me in, I'll… hire somebody to break this door down."
Helpless to it, she snorted.
"Hah! I heard that!"
"Then hear this: Go away!"
He sighed and a thud followed, one she was fairly sure was his forehead hitting the door. "I know you saw the news…"
Felicity frowned, biting down on her lip.
"It doesn't mean anything. I… It's not… He…"
Blinking against the sting in her eyes, she shook her head. "That was very well put, Tommy. Everything is so much clearer."
He groaned and she could hear him sliding down her door to sit on the floor.
After a minute, she sighed, putting the DVD player to the side. She pushed herself up to stand and silently crossed her apartment to sit on the other side of her door, imagining he was sitting in the same position, his knees up and his head ducked.
Four days ago, Oliver Queen, his father, and the crew of the Queen's Gambit had gone missing at sea. A storm had struck, contact was severed, and while Search and Rescue had tried very hard to find them, there was no wreckage or lifeboats to be found. In that time, there had been non-stop attention on the disappearance. Nobody from the Queen family had talked to the media, tucked away in their mansion, waiting for word, letting representatives plead with everybody to give them space. Tommy, on the other hand, had showed up at Felicity's house every afternoon for the last four days. Often, he wouldn't say much; he just needed the company. And honestly, so did she.
Today, however, he was early. And she knew why.
Sara Lance, daughter of a high-ranking police officer in the SCPD had been on the yacht with Oliver. She'd texted a few friends when she met him at the bar and early in the morning when she'd set sail with him to China. The news outlets had picked up the story just this morning, adding her to the list of victims. She watched as reporters swarmed the precinct to get any kind of reaction from Sara's father, getting little more than anger at their gall. At the same time, they circled like vultures outside of Sara's older sister Laurel's apartment for a sound bite, heartless over how distraught she was.
All the while, Felicity sat numbly on her couch.
He'd said goodbye to her. He'd asked her to wait for him. He asked for a kiss and promised to bring back souvenirs. And he had another woman on the yacht.
It shouldn't have hurt. It shouldn't have even surprised her. But it did. Because just for a minute, just for a hopeful stretch of time, she'd thought he had changed and they could work. She'd looked up at him, smiling down at her, and she was sure it wasn't just that cheesy, handsome grin of his. She thought he was genuine. She thought her gut was telling her that Oliver really cared. But she was wrong. She was just one more on a long list of women duped by that stupid smile of his.
Hurt and anger welled inside her, fighting for top place.
But they fled her as quickly as they flared to life.
Oliver was missing. It felt wrong to be mad at him when he was either drifting at sea or drowning beneath it. What did her feelings matter? What did any of it matter? Hadn't she just thought, days ago, that even if nothing happened between them, she just wanted him and the others to be safe? She buried her face in her hands and took a deep breath. That was it then. Despite the flirting and the promises and whatever else, he was out there, possibly in danger, and that was all she needed to think about. He was her friend. Before anything else, he had been her friend. And that was all he was ever meant to be.
"It could be good," she murmured.
Tommy scoffed disagreeably. "How?"
"Her dad is a police officer… He might be able to rally more help," she said, trying to be encouraging.
"Felicity," he sighed. "The Queens are billionaires. His family has every possible resource deployed as we speak…"
She frowned, recognizing the truth behind his words. While she hadn't seen Moira Queen on camera, she knew that she was doing everything in her power to find her husband and son. She wouldn't rest until they had something. Felicity only hoped that 'something' was good news. Not for her sake, but for Tommy's, for Oliver's mother and sister. She wasn't sure what she would do if she saw him again. Certainly not what she first expected to. Dreams of a smiling Oliver holding out a keychain and a post card as he waited for his kiss and his date had drifted far, far away. Well out of reach.
"It's my fault," Tommy's voice reached through the door to her.
She shook her head. For a man who was nowhere near the yacht, Tommy Merlyn held a lot of guilt for his best friend's sudden disappearance. She opened her mouth to again tell him that Oliver would understand that he hadn't gone to see him off, but she didn't get a chance.
"I took him clubbing Tuesday night… I shouldn't have. He… He was doing so well. He was excited, you know? You agreed to a date, he was taking an interest in QC, his dad was proud of him. He… He was changing his life around…" His voice cracked near the end. "And I got scared. I… I thought he might leave me behind, so I told him we should have a drink, you know? We should celebrate. Finally— Finally, he was getting the girl…"
Felicity bit her lip as it trembled and blinked her stinging eyes.
"One drink turned into two and four and… And this woman came over; they usually do… It's not hard to get attention when your face is on every other magazine. She was pretty; brunette, I think… I didn't catch her name."
Sara, she thought but didn't say. She had one of those names that sounded elegant and sweet. Much better than Felicity. The picture they'd put on the news was of a beautiful brunette; her hair long and perfectly curled. She had a bright smile; it made her whole face light up. It made Felicity feel frumpy. It wasn't Sara's fault that she caught Oliver's attention. Truth be told, she looked like she fit with him a whole lot more than Felicity did. But oddly, she'd never been insecure about her looks, about how she and Oliver would look together. It hadn't occurred to her that those were defining differences too. She'd seen his lifestyle, seen how the partying and lack of direction didn't quite fit with her, and she'd made a judgement call that it would only end in heartbreak. But she hadn't gone so far as to think about what it would be like to step into his world, to be seen on his arm. She imagined people watching the news weren't surprised that this beautiful Sara had been with Oliver. But if they'd put up a picture of her, she imagined they would have thought she was only onboard to work tech support.
Shaking her head, she remembered that it really didn't matter. Sara was onboard a ship that went down. She probably didn't care one iota about whether or not the news had put up a flattering picture. And really, who cared if she was beautiful? Felicity imagined she was smart, in college maybe. Her sister was in law school, wasn't that what the news reported? And her father was a cop. She wondered if Sara had the same justice-minded future ahead of her.
She was suddenly wondering a lot about a woman she didn't know and she hated that she was still comparing herself to her. She vowed to stop that and tuned back into Tommy. It seemed he too had wandered in his memory because he wasn't too far into his retelling of the night before Oliver left.
"Oliver was drunk, he was… He was his old self and… Responsibility? I mean…" He laughed hollowly. "What did we ever need with that?"
She didn't answer, instead picking at a loose thread on the knee of her ratty old jeans, the ones she wore for comfort, that reminded her of long days back home on the farm. Of riding horses through the fields and telling her dad not to work so hard. Of fresh air and hay and the sun beating down on her face.
"It was stupid. It was so stupid. Because I could see him making that mistake. I should've stopped him. I sat there and I thought, 'She'll never forgive him.' And I-I let him do it because… because I wanted to keep my drinking buddy, my wingman… So he walked away with her and I was relieved. I was relieved because he was still the same old Oliver. He still screwed up, just like I did. He didn't take anything seriously, just like me… He left and I felt like life was back to normal. And then he woke up and he was even more stupid than usual and he took her with him…
"And I know him, I know what he was thinking… 'Just one last time. Just one more mistake, right?' He'd come back, he'd make it up to you, he'd convince you to give him that chance anyway… Only he's not coming back… He's not coming back, Felicity, and I know you want to hate him. I know you want to blame him, but don't. Please…" He let out a ragged breath. "I should've stopped him. I should've done something. He… He really liked you, I swear he did."
Felicity stood from the floor and swiped quickly at her face, rubbing under her eyes and breathing in slowly, trying to find her calm. She unlocked and swung her door open, fast enough that Tommy hadn't expected it and fell back against her floor, sprawled out, and stared up at her with guilt.
She held a hand out for him to take and, while he hesitated, he let her help him up. His clothes were a little rumpled and she thought he might have hit the liquor cabinet a bit early, but he was fine otherwise. She walked into her kitchen and started a pot of coffee, not looking at him, preferring the distraction.
He took a seat at the table, as he often did, and they let the quiet sink in.
It was a few minutes later that she finally brought his steaming cup of coffee over, the mug hot enough to sting her skin. She dropped it down in front of him and warned, "Careful. It's extremely hot."
He glanced at her and then down into the depths of his black coffee. He didn't take a sip, didn't add cream or sugar. He just wrapped his hands around it and let the heat sink into his palms. His eyes were bloodshot, ringed red, and he had bags beneath them that said he wasn't sleeping well lately. He hadn't shaved since the news that Oliver was missing broke, the scruff made that obvious. He was so different from the man she'd been introduced to in the past. He had his moments where his humor would break through and momentarily lift the gloom, but they were rare. The Tommy she knew now was broken, worried, and lost.
"It's not your fault," she told him.
He glanced at her, shaking his head miserably. "It is."
"Oliver's a grown man, Tommy. He had a choice and he made it." She shrugged. "He wasn't ready and… I knew he wasn't. I knew he and I wouldn't work out… We're too different. We want different things, we always have."
"But he was trying. He was trying to want those things," he argued, staring at her searchingly. And for a moment, Felicity wondered if he was worried that if she didn't care what happened to Oliver, then he would lose her, he would lose that safe place to go, that person who knew how much it hurt. Or maybe he was still playing wingman, still trying to help his best friend get the girl, despite everything.
She half-smiled at Tommy understandingly. "Do you know what I told Oliver right before he decided he was going to change?"
He shook his head.
"I said that he was good enough, he just wasn't good with me…" She licked her lips as she sighed. "And I was right… Oliver is… He's a great friend; he's sweet and funny and extremely loyal. But those things, they don't follow into a relationship, not with him. He's still in that mindset of just wanting to have fun and that's fine. Good for him. But I… I'm not there. I don't want to be there. And instead of recognizing that, he took it as a challenge, and he thought he needed to change. But that wasn't the point. I—I missed my own point…" She rolled her eyes at herself. "Oliver is my friend, Tommy. He was a good friend. I should've let it stay there. I should've made it stay there."
He stared at her a long moment and then nodded. "Okay."
"So no more guilt, okay? Because let's face it, nothing and no one can stop Oliver Queen when he wants to do something…" She forced a smile on her lips.
He laughed under his breath. "That's true… I don't think he's ever given up in his life… Not even that one time he tried to convince a police officer that he wasn't speeding, he was undercover with the local drag racers…" Seeing her raised eyebrow, he added, "We watched Fast and Furious that weekend and he was a little drunk."
"And how did that go over with the SCPD?" she wondered, although she just could just imagine how unamused the police were.
"We were detained and he spent nearly the entire night reciting the movie in an effort to make his story sound more realistic…"
She laughed, smothering a smile. "Wow."
He shrugged. "We were bailed out in the morning. Makes a good story at cocktail parties… I guess in a few years, so will the 'lost at sea' edition…"
Her expression softened. "Don't give up yet, all right?" She reached for him, her hand on his wrist. "You said it yourself, he's never given up."
He smiled faintly and nodded, ducking his eyes down to the table. "What if he does though?" he wondered, brow furrowed.
She tipped her head questioningly.
"What if he does give up…?" He looked at her then. "Where's that leave me?"
She squeezed his wrist gently. "I can't replace Oliver, and I would never try to, but… If you ever need a friend, you know where I live."
He nodded slowly, blinking a few times against the tears he rarely let fall, and then his hand left his coffee mug and covered hers. "You too, Smoak… You too."
Felicity half-smiled up at him and though she would have much rather their friendship be born under different circumstances, she knew as she sat with him that whatever happened, Tommy Merlyn was going to play a large role in her life. She thought it might be the only good thing to come out of a truly awful loss. It couldn't make up for it, by any means, but it was their only comfort for now.
The following morning, the rescue mission was officially changed to a body recovery. She found Tommy crying outside her door at six in the morning. She had a key made for him that afternoon and hoped that wherever Oliver was, he knew she would take good care of his best friend.
"Come on, just one drink."
"I'm really not a drinker," she told him, shaking her head. "Now, red wine, beer, even a tequila shot or two? Yes, that I'll do…" She scrunched her nose at the bottle of whiskey he'd placed on her table. "But I'm not a whiskey girl."
"It's the drink of the broken-hearted," he declared, tipping the bottle over to pour them each a glass.
"It's what old men drink as they reflect on their life with maudlin regret," she argued, but took the proffered glass.
"I'll remember that later, when I'm in my twilight years, wearing a silk robe and puffing on a Cuban cigar." Taking his own drink up, he raised it for her, expecting a clink.
Rolling her eyes, she reached across. "Cheers."
Tommy returned the sentiment before downing his whole glass, knocking it back on the table and giving his head a shake before he poured another. Felicity, on the other hand, slowly sipped at hers, her nose wrinkled.
"You're a terrible drinking buddy," he sighed.
"I wasn't trying to be a good one." She dropped her glass back to the table and folded her hands together. "Tommy…"
"Hmm?" He stared at the bottle, picking at the label.
"It's been a week."
He didn't answer right away, not that she was really expecting him to. She found she had to prod Tommy a lot of the time. Not nag him, exactly. She just had to make important declarations and then wait for him to process and respond. Not like Oliver who often reacted without thinking anything through, impatient and eager to say whatever crossed his mind. She wasn't sure if this was a new facet of Tommy, though. Maybe in the past, he just hadn't had a lot of hardship to think about and now that he did, it took him some time to decide how he felt about it.
"I stole this off my dad," he finally said, turning the bottle toward her. "He's been busy lately… Too busy to ask how I'm dealing with the disappearance of my life-long best friend…" He laughed humorlessly. "So I raided his alcohol cabinet as revenge…" He shook his head and took a long drag from his glass. "I was standing in front of it and suddenly I remembered doing the same thing when I was sixteen. Only Oliver was with me then…
"We kept laughing, we thought for sure we were going to get caught… But dad was in his office, he was on some conference call or something." He shrugged. "All I know was that whatever I was doing, it didn't matter in comparison… So Oliver and I took as much as we could hold between us and piled it in the trunk of one his dad's cars. It wasn't about the alcohol though, wasn't even about getting drunk, it was just… It felt good. Making him pay somehow. Making him realize that… I'm still there…"
Felicity had never met Malcolm Merlyn. She'd seen him in press releases, commercials, newspapers, but she was a Queen Consolidated employee, so she'd never had reason to meet him. The only reason she knew Tommy was because of Oliver's interest in her. It was hard to imagine that fun-loving Tommy being raised by the man he was telling her about. She imagined Malcolm was cold, careless, that he dismissed his son more than anything. And maybe that made sense; maybe that was why Tommy looked for love and acceptance elsewhere. Why he tried so hard to be the life of the party. She wasn't sure.
Taking up her glass, she knocked the whole thing back, all the while knowing she would regret it in the morning. But Tommy wanted to drown out some of the hurt and she didn't need to make him feel bad about it. Besides, there was probably some hurt in her she wanted dulled too. And one night couldn't hurt. It wasn't like it would become a routine, at least not for her. She was being honest when she said she wasn't much of a drinker. A glass of wine fit her just fine.
Tommy watched her before a slow smile appeared, and then he reached over and topped up her glass.
"This won't always work, you know," she warned.
He tapped her glass with his. "I know."
Tommy was slumped in the chair across from her desk, sunglasses on and suit disheveled. She wasn't entirely sure he hadn't fallen asleep. He'd showed up just after lunch, bringing bagels and coffee with him. He hadn't said much, just asked her how her day was going and what she'd been dealing with. She rambled on for a while about a few tech problems she'd had to deal with. He didn't comment. Sometimes she found he just liked hearing her talk, he just needed the quiet filled, and he knew she wouldn't judge him for it.
This was a common occurrence now. For the last two weeks it seemed that Tommy had picked up where Oliver left off, at least in some respects. He seemed to think it was his job to be her lunch buddy now. And, to be honest, she appreciated the effort. Especially since she'd gotten into the habit of not making a lunch, expecting Oliver to show up with food in tow.
At the same time, it felt different. Not just because Tommy was quiet and often sullen, but because Oliver's presence had felt different. There was always something in the air when he was with her, something electric even if she tried to ignore it. He liked getting into her space, asking questions about her life and her family, wanting to know her. He brought his world into hers, telling her about Thea and his parents, about Raisa, his favorite staff member, and Tommy, his partner in crime.
It was different but not unwelcome. So she let Tommy sit in Oliver's seat, even if he didn't fill it the same, and she accepted the lunches he brought, even if he never got her sandwich order right, and she talked about work and her mother calling the night before. It wasn't perfect. He would never be Oliver for her and she would never be Oliver for him. But it was comforting and easier than she expected.
It was almost time to leave when he stirred and she realized he really had fallen asleep. Her lips quirked with a faint smile. Tommy didn't have a job, so it wasn't as if he was blowing anything more important off. Maybe under different circumstances that would annoy her. Billionaires and their habit of not taking anything seriously, not contributing. But she didn't have it in her to criticize, to suggest he find something else to do. She liked having him around and she didn't think it was the time to start pointing out that it couldn't go on forever. He couldn't be a permanent fixture in her office. Even Oliver left after her lunch break ended.
For now, she would let it happen, though.
She gathered up her jacket and shut down her computers before she tossed out their empty or, in his case, nearly full but ice cold coffee cups and then she tipped her head to tell him it was time to go.
He nodded, silently standing, stretching his back out before he followed her through the door and out of the office. He was familiar enough that nobody commented, nobody even seemed to think it was odd. And she thought maybe Oliver's presence in her office was noticed more than she expected. It would certainly explain why she kept getting those odd looks; looks she realized now were full of pity.
She and Tommy rode the elevator down to the main floor. He leaned back against the wall, rubbing his fingers under his sunglasses and into his eyes. "Dinner?" he asked her.
"You want to go out or call for take-out?"
He raised an eyebrow.
Take-out it was.
And, considering how he looked, it was probably for the best. Tommy had become rather reclusive lately, if it could be called that when he spent 90% of his time at her house.
"When we get back to my apartment, you're taking a shower," she told him, and then frowned at his chin. "And maybe you should consider shaving, mountain man."
His lips twitched. "Are you suggesting I smell, Miss Smoak?"
She looked up at him and snorted. "Friends tell friends when they stink."
"True enough," he decided.
She hoped that meant he might pick up his old routine of showering daily, but she doubted it. He had his moments of clarity, where he went about life like he used to, but they were rare of late. He was still too damaged, too worried, and she wondered if there was really a timeline to follow here. If there was a certain amount of time that would pass before normal life just became routine again rather than a foreign concept.
For now, if he needed somebody to remind him to shave and shower and get out of the house, she would be it.
Well, maybe leaving the house would take a little longer. Until the shaving and showering became routine, at least. That was as much for his benefit as it was for anyone who had to be in close contact with him.
"I'm not going out to the club with you."
Tommy groaned from where he sat on the couch. "Felicity, don't make me break out the blackmail material…"
Raising an eyebrow, she looked over at him, an X-Box remote in his hand, the sound muted from the television as he paused it. "What possible blackmail material could you have on me?" she asked dismissively.
His eyes cut away. "I don't currently have any…" he admitted. "But I could hire a professional to find some… Or even make some up if the price is right."
She rolled her eyes. "Tommy…" Crossing the room, she sat down on the opposite end of the couch. "Why do you want to go clubbing?" She shook her head. "I can barely get you to shave most days… I hesitate to ask when the last time you showered was… And I think you've already put a pretty big dent in the alcohol trade these last three weeks."
He licked his lips, turning his eyes away, and fiddled with the controller. "I talked to Oliver's mom yesterday…"
Felicity stayed silent. Tommy called the Queens daily, trying to find out if they'd learned anything. It usually only made him sullen. There was never anything to lift his spirits and each passing day that Oliver was gone made the outcome more and more grim.
"They've been discussing when the right time to officially declare them dead is."
Her gaze fell for a long moment, staring at the pattern on the couch. She knew it was coming. According to Search and Rescue, to experts, to the news, to anybody who had an opinion on the matter, there was very little chance that anybody on the yacht had lived. The body search had come up with nothing, but so did everything else. They couldn't find them and the consensus was that they were so deep beneath the ocean that there was no chance of reaching them.
"I know it's stupid…" He turned to look at her, his eyes swimming. "I know it doesn't make sense to believe that he's still alive, that he'll come home… I know that I'm kidding myself…" He ground his teeth. "But just for tonight I want to pretend that he's coming home… He's just sunbathing on a yacht somewhere, carefree, completely clueless to everybody's worrying…" He stared at her searchingly. "I want to go back, Felicity, to before all of this happened… Okay?"
Licking her lips, she nodded. "Okay."
"So you'll come with me?" His brows hiked, his expression pleading with her to indulge him.
"I'm not sure I have anything 'club-worthy' to wear, but yes, I'll come with you tonight."
And then he was forcing a grin on her, one that nowhere near reached his eyes. "You can be my wingwoman, Smoak. Talk me up to everybody."
She snorted and reached for the other game controller. "Trust me, Tommy, I think your reputation will precede you." She unpaused the game and got comfortable on the couch, crossing her legs beneath her. "You know you're going to have to shower, right?"
He glanced at her. "Do you still have that mango body wash?"
Rolling her eyes, she looked over at him. "You told me it made you feel less manly last time, remember?"
"Yeah, but I felt so refreshed afterwards…"
"Probably because it was the first shower you took in a week… And by the way, we're never letting it get that far again. I will shove you in the shower, fully clothed; I'm not kidding."
He grinned. "You wash my back, I'll wash yours."
"You wish," she scoffed.
He laughed under his breath and sat back on her couch, lightly smiling to himself.
It wouldn't last long, she knew. Tommy's good mood came and went, a constant roller coaster. She was fairly sure he didn't think he deserved to be happy, not with what was happening. But if he needed this night, if he needed to forget for just a moment, then she would go with it. Clubbing wasn't really her scene and she was sure she'd stick out like a sore thumb, but Tommy was her friend and he was hurting. She'd do anything to make that stop.
Well, almost anything. There was no way in hell she was loofah-ing up his back in that shower. That was one line they were never going to cross.
"Why did I agree to this?" she wondered into her beer bottle before she took a long drag.
Just as Felicity expected, she felt weird at the club. It would've been different if she was there with Penny. She and her best friend had gone clubbing in the past, usually spending the night just dancing with each other, waving off offers from anybody who wanted to join them. It wasn't about finding someone to take home so much as blowing off steam. But Felicity was well aware that blowing off steam meant taking someone home in Tommy's case. And she wouldn't judge, really. As long as everyone involved were consenting adults, who hopefully used protection, she didn't see any harm in it. But being out at a club at Tommy Merlyn's side was not easily ignored. For one thing, she was pretty sure the female population, at least the part of it interested in sleeping with him, thought she was an obstacle, which she was not. But that didn't stop her from getting catty looks or having to put up with the dreaded 'what does he see in her?' stare she'd become all too familiar with.
They had been at the club a little over an hour. Tommy had a table reserved for them and she'd spent the majority of her time sitting at it, nursing her drink, playing on her phone, trying to look busy. Tommy was dancing. If it could be called that. It was more like standing in the middle of a mass of beautiful women as they all moved and he was just sort of forced to go with whatever they did. He didn't seem to mind. He was smiling more than she'd seen in weeks, and laughing too. It was nice. Enough to make her feel like it was worth it to drag out a form-fitting dress she'd much rather have left in her closet and put on a pair of shoes she always forgot pinched her toes.
The whole point of tonight was to make sure he forgot his problems for a while. Why she had to be there, she wasn't sure. She much preferred being that solid place he landed when he was done drinking himself into oblivion. Or, well, that was really more of her floor and she was the person dragging him to her couch and leaving a bottle of water and some Tylenol within reach. She was the support, not the partner.
"What's a pretty girl like you doing sitting all by yourself?" a voice called out.
Felicity's head reared up quickly and she stared, wide-eyed at the man standing in front of her table. He was tall, enough that she had to crane her neck to see him, with dark hair and shark-like smirk. His teeth were almost too white; it was a little distracting. Like Tommy, he was dressed nicely in a buttoned dress shirt and dark jeans. Unlike Tommy, he hadn't skimped on the cologne and it was far too strong.
Felicity was well aware of his intentions, but she wasn't interested. One night stands weren't her style. She didn't begrudge anybody them, but she didn't want to go home with a stranger and regret it in the morning. The only thing on her schedule for tonight was making sure Tommy enjoyed himself and going home to curl up on her couch and watch TV.
"Uh… Would you believe checking in with the babysitter about my six children, all under the age of five?" she tried. She didn't want to flirt, she didn't want him to buy her a drink, and she definitely didn't want to make small talk.
He laughed. "Six, really?" He looked her over, well as much as he could since she was sitting, so really he just stared at her breasts. Which were all too emphasized in her scoop-necked dress, she realized, fidgeting under his stare.
"You don't look like you've had six kids…"
"Good genes," she replied, shrugging a shoulder. "Really fertile ones, so…"
He mouth quirked up one side. "I like kids," he persisted.
Felicity raised a skeptical eyebrow. Sure, her children weren't real, but if they were, she didn't think she'd be picking up their step-dad at a club. "I'm sure you like the process of making kids, but trust me, mine are brats. Very loud, always demanding attention. Seriously, they're a nightmare. At least three of them try to climb into bed with me every night."
Not the least bit deterred, he slid into booth. "Maybe you should get a lock…" he suggested, reaching over and sliding his fingers up her forearm.
She looked down at the unwanted touch and then scooted away from him. "Maybe I should get home instead. Babysitter's are expensive. Have a good night…" She stepped out from the booth and pulled at the end of her dress, disliking how much leg was on display before she started walking away from the table.
"Hey…" A hand touched her wrist. "Why don't we get a drink first? One for the road."
She looked back, sighing irritably. "No, thanks, really not interested."
He frowned. "I don't know why you're being such a bitch about this. You're just Tommy Merlyn's cast offs anyway."
Putting a hand to her hip, she turned to face him fully. "One, I wasn't being a bitch. I was trying to be polite, but you just wouldn't take a hint. Two, Tommy is a friend of mine, so don't make assumptions about something you know nothing about. And three, if you think a girl turning you down makes her a bitch, then maybe you should ask yourself what makes you such a special snowflake. You've never met anyone and just not wanted to sleep with them?"
He stared at her, his mouth ajar, but then anger flashed in his eyes and she knew that he wasn't going to simply think about what she said, he was going to lash out and be even more of a jerk. Rolling her eyes, she turned on her heel to walk away. But then he was grabbing her arm again and yanking her back. If it wasn't for the heels that she wasn't used to wearing and the tight confines of her dress, she might have been able to keep from stumbling, but that didn't happen. She lost her footing and was forced into facing him again.
"If you don't get your hand off my friend, I'm going to have the bouncer break it," a voice interrupted.
Felicity's head turned to find Tommy standing just a few feet away.
Her attempted suitor looked over at him, sneering.
But Tommy was surprisingly menacing for a man she didn't think had a mean bone in his body. He stepped forward and the shadows around his eyes, more from lack of sleep than anything, made his features look dark, his face drawn. "Get… your hands… off of her…" he ordered, staring the man in the eye.
Slowly, his fingers released her arm and she stepped back from him, rubbing the skin where she could already feel it bruising.
"You can have her… She's a bitch anyway."
Suddenly, Tommy was smiling. He ducked his head, laughing under his breath, and pushed the sleeves of his shirt up a little further. "Thank you," he said.
The man shook his head, confused. "For what?"
"I really needed this."
And with that, Tommy reared his arm back and took a swing. It connected, his fist slamming into the guy's jaw hard enough that he fell sideways, crashing into a table. A pitcher of beer was knocked over, drenching two of the four people in the booth, each of whom yelled. Suddenly, all of the attention was on them. The music stopped and people started to crowd around. Whether it was from the attention or purely because Tommy hit him first, the guy pushed up, his mouth bleeding, and attacked back.
Felicity stood, wide-eyed, her hands over her mouth as the fight fell to the floor, with the guy getting in a few good hits to Tommy's face before Tommy managed to turn them over and then his fury was absolute. Maybe it was a build-up of his anger of what had happened with Oliver, with his life, but there was nothing and no one that could keep Tommy from taking it all out on the guy beneath him.
She'd never seen violence first hand before. She'd seen blood, of course. She lived on a farm. But she never saw two men brutally beat the crap out of each other. Even now, it was really only Tommy beating somebody else. Sure, he was bruised and at least one of his eyes was going to be black and swollen, but it was obvious that he would be crowned 'victor' in this fight.
It took her a couple minutes to react, but finally, she shouted, "Tommy," as loudly as she could.
With the music cut and a crowd silently staring on in shock, her voice was the only thing that could be heard. And thankfully, it was.
He stopped, his arm still raised in the air, his knuckles torn, his chest heaving with labored breathing. She moved hesitantly toward him and put a hand on his shoulder. When he flinched, she circled around so he could see her, and she bent so they were eye to eye.
"It's me. It's Felicity," she murmured soothingly. "Come on." She covered his fist with her hand and lowered it. "Come on, we're going home."
He stared at her, his eyes a little glazed. "Felicity…?"
"It's okay… It's okay, Tommy. I've got you." She helped him stand, his knees wobbling under him, and she looped an arm around his waist.
The man on the ground groaned, rolling over onto his stomach. She could vaguely hear him yelling about suing them, but she didn't care. She stopped by the bar and left her information with the bartender in case the cops were called. Tommy was a public enough face, and had enough history with the SCPD, that they would recognize him. She wanted them to know that, if charges were pressed, they would cooperate. Finally, she led Tommy out of the bar and away from the prying eyes of the other patrons.
Tommy was silent as he leaned against her and Felicity didn't push him. She flagged down a cab and put him in the back, taking the front seat and giving the address to her apartment building. The ten minute drive was spent listening to the radio and staring out the window.
'Well, so much for a night off,' she thought. He'd just wanted to forget and she'd ruined it. She rubbed at her forehead, feeling a headache coming on. Now he was probably going to be charged with assault, maybe even sued for medical costs or something. Considering the guy he'd fought with, she wouldn't be surprised if he tried to say there was lifelong damage to milk Tommy for as much as he could.
When they returned to her apartment, Tommy waved her off from helping him out of the car. He followed her up the stairs to the door and waited for her to unlock it. He didn't seem all that disturbed with what had happened; he just wiped at the blood dribbling from his split lip from time to time. They took the elevator up to her floor and walked down the hall to her apartment. When they got inside, he simply made his way to the bathroom to get cleaned up while she dug out an ice pack for his eye and another for his knuckles.
He washed his face and returned, crossing to the kitchen table, taking his usual seat. They always wound up here, she thought. All they needed was a mug of coffee each. Given how beat up he looked, she thought he'd prefer the bottle of whiskey she kept for his bad nights.
She folded one ice pack and pressed it to his swollen eye; he raised his hand to take it from her, holding it in place. The other she laid over his knuckles, and then sat down on her seat across from him, watching as he stared down at the tabletop a long moment.
"I'm sorry," she murmured. "I know you wanted a normal night… I wasn't expecting any of this. I tried to put him off, but he was persistent. I mean, I told him I had six kids at home, Tommy. Who keeps hitting on someone when they warn you they have six children?"
His lips twitched.
"Anyway, I'm sorry… If you want, we can go out tomorrow, try again…? Just, maybe not the same club…"
He finally raised his eyes to meet hers and shook his head, a smile pulling at his mouth. "Are you kidding? Tonight was great."
Her brow furrowed. "Tommy, you have a black eye, you might be getting sued, and you physically attacked somebody… I'm not sure great is the word I'd use."
He shook his head. "Don't worry about a lawsuit. My dad's lawyers will get rid of it," he dismissed. "I had fun. I got a little drunk, danced with some beautiful women, and I totally won that fight. I mean… I don't see a future in boxing for me, but I held my own."
She blinked at him, her mouth open but no words coming to her. This was not the reaction she was expecting.
He tossed the ice pack off his hand so he could reach for her, covering her hand with his. "I'm not saying all my unresolved anger is gone, but it felt amazing to hit that guy," he admitted, his eyes sparkling in a way they hadn't in what felt like forever. He grinned at her. "And honestly, this isn't the first time I've gone clubbing and it ended in a fight… It's just the first time I had a good reason to get into a fight."
Her head tipped as she tried to smother a smile. "You're one of a kind, you know that?"
"Thank you," he replied, but the weight of it, the sincerity in his face, said it was for a lot more than just her compliment.
Maybe it wasn't the best way to spend their Friday night. She wouldn't exactly be looking to do it again in future. But if it was what he needed, if it made the old Tommy shine through even just a little, then it was worth it. For now. She would probably change her mind if he really was sued or arrested. But for the moment, with him smiling at her, she convinced herself that it would be okay. That he would be okay. She hoped that was true.
[Next: Part Two.]
Author's Note: So this will progressively get happier. It starts off pretty sad because they're in the thick of their grief, but it will get better as they go and begin to accept and move on. Obviously, as we all know, Oliver's alive, but this has to be treated as if they have no idea he's coming back. For those of you who are excited, Felicity meets Thea in the next part and thus begins Felicity's role in the Queen family!
For those of you who don't know, the prologue of the main story is up, "Until I wrap myself inside your arms (I cannot rest)," because I'm incredibly impatient and was too excited to share it. So I suggest reading that. It picks up when Oliver returns from the island and focuses more on Oliver and Felicity.
I'm really, really enthusiastic about this series, so I hope you are too. Please leave a review. I'd love to know if there's anything you're hoping to see or have focused on and what really stands out for you!
Thanks for reading!
- Lee | Fina