A/N: I don't know what this fic is doing. I don't know when or how often I'll be updating it. I don't know anything except it demanded to be written, so here it is. Also, I'm told shēngcún means survive in Mandarin. If that is wrong please please please someone correct me.
"Breaking news: Olivia Queen is alive. The Starling City resident was found by fisherman in the North China Sea five days ago - five years after she was missing and presumed dead following the accident at sea that claimed the Queen's Gambit."
Starling City is cold, but not cold in the same way Lian Yu was cold. The coldness of Lian Yu was a bitter ache that sunk into Olivia's bones and refused to leave. Starling City is distant, unfamiliar. The city is foreign to her now, no longer her home, her ally, her friend. The contrast is surreal in a way, disorienting.
She's dreamed of returning for so long that this reality still feels like a fantasy. Olivia's not sure what's real anymore; she's not even sure she'sreal anymore. The real Olivia Queen drowned in the ocean on a yacht. This Olivia was born on Lian Yu, in the rain and the dirt and the brutal waves.
Rain pelts against the window in front of her and slides down the windowpane, blurring the glittering city below her. Her reflection is there, beyond the droplets of water, fuzzy and distorted.
She reaches her hand up to touch the glass, tracing the lines of her jaw.
A small mirror weighs heavily in her other hand. The nurse hesitated to give it to her, but Olivia was quietly insistent.
She doesn't use it to look at her face; she doesn't want to see that. She wants to see the scars on her back. She wants to see how the raised tissue crisscrosses over her shoulder blade. It's idle curiosity, nothing more. They don't matter.
Twenty percent of her body is covered in scar tissue. That's what she overheard one of the nurses say, and that was the number she used. Twenty percent. One fifth.
It's a ridiculous number. The nurse doesn't have the ability to catalogue all of the damage. The only scars she can count are the ones she can see: the second degree burns on her back and arms, the fractures the X-rays reveal.
No one knows how everything aches in her bones, weighs on her shoulders. They can't see the constant agony thrumming through her veins. It's a chronic pain that Olivia's just learned to live with, to push down, to reign in.
Olivia turns at the sound of her mother's voice and stares at the woman who's just entered the room. Her hair is different - curled, not quite as blonde as Olivia remembers it - and the lines around her mouth and eyes have deepened just a touch with age, but the woman is still her mother.
"Mom." The word is out of Olivia's mouth before she can stop it, and she's taken a step towards this woman who is so strange and so familiar at the same time.
Moira's eyes are filled with tears as she walks towards Olivia. "Olive."
Olivia has to fight against the instinct to shy away, to flinch back. Moira will not hurt her.
Gently, her mother's arms encircle her, and Olivia comes home.
The house looks bigger than she remembered it. The ceiling is cavernous above her. It's full of sunlight and memories.
Her mother is saying something, but Olivia's not there anymore. She's five years into the past, promising a squirming thirteen-year-old Thea that they will go see Mamma Mia together when she gets back. She's hugging Raiza goodbye.
She's grabbing a bottle of red wine from Tommy and blowing him a kiss as she runs up the stairs. She's kissing Sean under the mistletoe hung above the front doorway; she's smelling the scent of her father's cigars wafting from his office.
Except Sean is gone; her father is gone; and Olivia still doesn't understand why she's still breathing.
The past is suffocating, chocking, and Olivia finds she can't stay there anymore. The present reasserts itself when a door upstairs slams and footfalls echo down the stairs.
Olivia looks up just as Thea reaches the landing. Her baby sister - the girl who was just starting to like boys, who sat up with her late into the night watching romantic comedies with a tub of Ben & Jerry's - is tall and willowy and beautiful. Her hair is long and curled, and she knows how to put on makeup. She probably has her own make-up now; she doesn't have to sneak into Olivia's room and 'borrow' hers, painting her lips with dark reds and sloppily smearing shadow around her eyes with no regard for anything resembling technique.
"Thea." For so long her sister's name, her sister's identity, her sister's very existence, has been such a closely guarded secret that the word feels foreign on Olivia's tongue.
Thea bounds down the stairs and jumps into her arms. Olivia is still taller, so Thea has to stop on the bottom step and push herself up on her tiptoes, the way she did five years ago.
"I missed you," Thea says, "I missed you so, so much."
Then they're both crying, and suddenly Olivia's remembering how it feels to cry because of happiness, not pain or hurt or just wishing that her existence would end already. She presses her hand to the back of Thea's head, feeling the soft texture of her sister's curls, inhaling a sweet scent of a familiar shampoo. Olivia shuts her eyes tightly.
"You were with me the whole time."
"What did I tell you, 'Liv? Yachts suck." There's an undercurrent of emotion beneath Tommy Merlyn's joking tone. Olivia turns at the sound of his voice to see him standing in the doorway. A smile lights up his face when their eyes meet. His hug is firm and welcome; he hasn't changed at all.
"Tommy." Olivia blinks back tears as she hides her face in her best friend's shoulder.
Tommy Merlyn is everything from her life before. He's the guy who held her hair when she puked the first time she drank too much of her father's vodka. He's the guy who took a punch for her after he stepped between her and some creepy guy who was hitting on her. He's the one she called after a bad breakup, the one she saw bad movies with, the one who first taught her how to throw a punch, the one who got her into trouble and then got her out of it again.
She would call him a surrogate brother except they've screwed around a few too many times for that to really be accurate. Still. Losing her V-card to him and his talented tongue was more than worth it.
"I missed you, Livy," he whispers, kissing her cheek.
For the first time since the island, Olivia smiles because she's happy - not because it's expected. "I missed you too."
After the revelation that Olivia now has a stepfather she barely knows, Tommy takes her out for drinks.
He doesn't press her for information, and she doesn't offer him any. The island is a secret she wants to keep bottled away from the world. If she doesn't have to talk about it, then maybe it will stop hurting.
The whiskey burns at the back of her throat, but she downs one and then another. Tommy matches her shot for shot.
By the time Olivia's on her second shot, the words still won't come and the pain still won't go. She latches onto the only point of conversation she can find. "Who'd you hook up with at my funeral?
Uncomfortable is an awkward look on Tommy. "I hooked up with Laurel."
Olivia chokes on her third shot, wiping at her chin with the back of her hand. "You what?"
He shrugs at her. "After your funeral. I hooked up with Laurel."
She blinks at him, not sure of why that confession worsens the ache in her gut. She's not here to indulge in personal drama. She's here to make all the wrong things right again. "Was it good?"
Tommy smiles crookedly at her. "Yeah."
Tommy's been in love with Laurel Lance as long as Olivia can remember. Laurel is completely oblivious to this attraction, at least she was the last time Olivia saw her.
"How is Laurel?"
His grin fades. "Her brother is dead."
Olivia sobers immediately. "I know that. I saw him die."
"She blames you."
"It was my fault."
"No, Liv, it wasn't."
"He wouldn't have been on that boat if it wasn't for me."
Reaching across the table, Tommy grabs her hand. "Livie, Sean was on that boat because he loved you."
"Yes," she says, lifting another shot to her mouth, "and it killed him."
That night, Olivia dreams of the yacht going down, of saltwater fills her lungs, of Sean's screams as the crash of waves sweeps him away from her.
She dreams of her father's arms lifting her from the frigid water and dragging her onto the raft. To keep her warm he wraps his own coat around her lingerie clad body as the rain and wind whip around them. She screams Sean's name into the blackness until her throat is hoarse, but they never find him; he's just gone.
She dreams of her father's blood spilling on the life raft and his voice echoing around her. The sharp, tangy cold stabs her toes. Thunder booms and lightning flashes above her head. The storm that destroyed Olivia Queen.
You have to survive, Olivia.
She wakes with sweat dripping from her brow and her fingers locked around her mother's throat.
Olivia sleeps with her bedroom door locked after that.
"What do I call you?" Olivia asks.
"Diggle's good. Dig, if you want."
"You're ex-military?" Olivia doesn't wait for an answer; she silently unbuckles her seatbelt and slips out of the car, undeterred by the fact that it's still moving.
Away from Diggle, Olivia heads to the glades. She takes her wooden trunk and makes her way to her father's old factory in the glades. She sets in the center of the cavernous room and slowly spins around, taking in the view of the dilapidated building.
It'll need fixing. Olivia has never been under the impression that it wouldn't. She's also spent the past five years growing accustomed to hard labor.
Crafting the foundry into a functioning hideout takes the better part of three days and nights, during which time Olivia drags down huge standing lamps, boxes and boxes of computer equipment, and the wooden trunk she brought back from the island.
She sweats and she breaks and she builds, but in the end it's done.
Leaning back in her chair, Olivia smiles at her freshly set up system. Then she takes the last thing her father ever gave her, a bound notebook, and carefully flips through the pages until her eyes settle on a name.
Olivia pries open the lid of the trunk and throws it open. Her hands gently lift out the bow, fingers testing the tension of the string.
The compound bow was, in many ways, her only friend on the island. This was the one thing that never deserted or failed her.
Olivia takes a package of tennis balls, and walks over to the pitching machine she's set up.
Dumping the balls into the machine, Olivia grabs her quiver and presses the on-switch.
Not one of the tennis balls has a chance to hit the floor.
It takes a lot of convincing to get Tommy to take her to see Laurel, but in the end, Olivia gets what she wants. Really, when it comes to Tommy, Olivia knows how to always get what she wants.
The second she sees Olivia, Laurel's face goes dark.
"He was my brother, Livy, not one of your playthings. You didn't get to use him and throw him out like all your other one night stands."
"That wasn't what it was like."
"What was it like, Olive? Because Sean loved you for years and up until the moment you talked him onto that yacht you never cared to give him the time of day."
"He meant a lot to me."
"You know what's the worst? I couldn't be angry at you because you were dead, and I couldn't grieve because I was so angry at the both of you. That's what happens when your brother dies while screwing your best friend."
"Laurel," Tommy says, "That's not fair."
She whirls on him. "You don't get a say on what's fair. How did you think this was going to go, Meryln?"
The expression on Tommy's face would be adorable if it wasn't so pained. "About like this."
Laurel spins back to Olivia. "We buried an empty coffin. Because my brother's body is at the bottom of the ocean. Where you left him."
With that, Laurel walks back into CNRI.
Casually, Tommy slides up next to Olivia and nudges her shoulder with his. "You alright?"
Olivia doesn't look at him. "Yeah," she lies. "I'm fine.
Olivia's hands are steady as she paints the mask around her eyes, deep greens and dark blacks she's chosen to help conceal her identity. She loads her arrows into her quiver with careful precision.
When she finds Adam Hunt, he is surrounded by people on the bottom floor of his office's parking garage, but bodyguards and lawyers can't protect him from her.
Fitting an arrow to her bowstring, Olivia readies her breath. After the first arrow strikes, one of Hunt's bodyguards fires a shot off at her.
"Hey," she says, teasingly, surprising a giggle. "You missed." Her distorted voice echoes around the parking structure. The effect is eerie, and it forces Olivia to surprises a smile. It barely takes her twenty seconds to efficiently remove the rest of the bodyguards from the equation.
When a terrified Adam Hunt lands hard on the glass covered concrete, he looks up to see her crouched on the roof of his car, arrow trained right on him. He holds out his hands in a gesture of surrender.
"Just tell me what you want!" he screams.
Leaping down, Olivia grabs Hunt by his lapels, leers down and softly says, "You're going to transfer 40,000 million dollars into Starling City Bank account 1141 by 10 pm tomorrow night."
"Or I'm going to take it. And you won't like how." He flinches away from her; but Olivia calmly starts walking away.
"If I see you again you're dead!" Hunt yells after her.
Olivia happily sends him one last arrow to remember her by.
Tommy insists on throwing Olivia's Welcome Back From The Dead Bash in typical over-the-top Tommy Merlyn fashion. Nevertheless, Olivia forbids him from inviting the male strippers, although she can't help but notice that all the male servers are topless. And built.
And if Olivia was even remotely interested in a one night stand, she might be a little bit more appreciative of the impressive biceps and abs on display.
She only has eyes for one man tonight, and his name is Adam Hunt. Every few minutes she checks her phone, waiting for the money to transfer. It never does.
Olivia sighs. So, he wants to do this the hard way. Fine.
It's a good thing she brought her bow.
In Adam Hunt's office, with his bodyguards spread out all over the floor, Olivia's fingers are secure on her bowstring. Her breathing is even and her hands are steady as she nocks her trick arrow. The weasel is up against his desk, sweating and shaking. Begging. Adam Hunt is a sniviling coward. Adam Hunt does not want to die.
Olivia remembers how she desperately pleaded for death only to escape the waves that brutally crashed against her tiny liferaft. She thinks about how the sun rose against the shape of an island called purgatory. The ocean spat her out on a beach coated with rock and sand.
This moment is the reason fate allowed her to live. It has to be.
"Adam Hunt," she says. "You have failed this city."
Olivia lets the green arrow fly.