Title: Every whisper, every sigh (eats away this heart of mine)
Series: Broken Hearts and Betrayal
Word Count: 8,727
Summary: "If I have no chance, if you're really done with me… Say the word. I'll respect it. I'll stop trying to fix it. Just tell me you're done… Because if you don't, I'm not going to give up on you."
Previous: When they ask me if I regret it (I'll lie and say I do), I really fucked it up this time (didn't I, my dear?), I saved you every time (I was a fool for love), Things cannot be reversed (we learn from times we are cursed),
Every whisper, every sigh (eats away this heart of mine)
It was their one month non-iversary.
To celebrate, mostly her own strength and not the actual demise of their relationship, Felicity would not be secluding herself in her apartment or eating ridiculous amounts of junk food. The time for crying and regretting how things turned out was over.
Exactly one month ago, she and Oliver officially ended their relationship. Okay, more aptly, she ended their relationship. And, technically, three days earlier was the anniversary of when she emotionally cut herself off from him after finding him and Laurel Lance kissing in his office. But today was one month after she found him in her apartment, desperate to explain himself, before she decided that no, she would not let herself continue in a relationship without trust. And that wasn't all on him, it was on her too. She didn't trust him. Even when he explained that Laurel kissed him, some kind of desperate act to prove to herself that she was over him after a bad breakup… Closure. She laughed bitterly in her head.
See, that was the problem. It wasn't that Felicity didn't love Oliver, or that he didn't love her, it was that she didn't believe he ever stopped loving or hoping for Laurel. So no, the trust issue was not all on him, it was on her too. She'd spent years by his side, watching the on-again, off-again saga, and when it finally seemed to be over and he saw her there, really saw her, she tried to convince herself that he wouldn't just drop her like a sack of potatoes as soon as Laurel so much as breathed in his direction. But it was hard to put that much trust in a person, not because Oliver wasn't worth it, or hadn't proven time and again that he would always be there for her, but because she'd seen him try and try and try again to be what Laurel wanted and needed. Failure after failure and it only made him try harder. What woman wouldn't look at that and think that everyone outside of them were just pit stops before they finally got it together?
And, well, it was a wake-up call. Not one she particularly liked. In fact, some days she wished she hadn't picked up at all, and she was still happily ensconced in the blinding afterglow of what she had with Oliver. And other days, particularly days when every muscle in her entire body screamed at her to stop, she knew that she was doing the right thing.
Her celebration of their non-iversary would be spent at Dynamite Gym. She'd started going to kickboxing classes three times a week, at first just to work off her anger and hurt, and later because it felt good. She had a lot of stress in her life, and a lot of secrets weighing her down. There were days when she felt weak, and on those days, kicking the crap out of a weight bag actually made her feel better.
Sometimes John joined her; he would train her there rather than at the foundry, whatever it took to make sure she was safe if something ever happened and she didn't have her two muscled partners in vigilante-ism to step in and save her. But most of the time, it was just her, the instructor, and the other women who wanted to work off some steam. And usually, after the class was over, she was the only one who stayed longer to keep beating the bag, and her wibbly-wobbly self-esteem, into submission.
So tonight, after work, that was where she would be. Not wallowing, not drinking copious amounts of alcohol, not finding excuses to sleep on her couch so she wouldn't notice how empty her bed was without his large body there to take up most of it. There would be no pity party for her. Nope! She was going to carry on with her head held high and completely ignore the voice mails Thea had left her, wondering why she wasn't at the last three weekly dinners with Oliver and how she better be there tonight or Thea would personally find her and pry all of her electronics from her bony fingers. Personally, she thought the 'bony fingers' comment was a little hurtful and unnecessary, but she understood that Thea was only worried and confused and this was how she expressed it. Obviously Oliver wasn't telling anyone they broke up, which she might have confronted him about, except she was trying her best not to be in his general vicinity.
She still went to the foundry, more so in the last week than the three before, but it was only to update her computers and exchange information on whoever was terrorizing the city that week. Oliver had, thankfully, given her the space she wanted. He followed her carefully constructed schedule of when she would be coming in to the foundry, and when she'd prefer he not be there. He was always upstairs, though; always within reach if she needed to share her findings with him. Most days, she could spot him across the club, talking with bouncers or staff, figuring this or that out. He didn't turn to look at her, but she could always see the way his shoulders tensed as soon as he heard the click-clack of her heels on the floor. He knew it was her and, worse, it was a reminder of things that had happened.
But he didn't turn to stop her, to force her to listen to him like she knew he still wanted to. As much as she tried to avoid him, they still had contact. Each night, when he suited up to take out bad guys, she was there. She didn't stick around during his patrolling like she used to, only when he needed her eyes and ears for one of the big fish. It felt weird, not to linger, to help him dress up and paint his face, to hand him his bow and kiss him good luck before he left. She tried to leave while he was dressing, so she didn't have to think about it as much, didn't have to feel the familiar twitch of her fingers as they wanted to reach for him.
He lingered before patrolling. He tried not to stand too close to her desk, but sometimes he forgot, sometimes he got too close and only stepped back because he could see how she tensed. And she'd watch his hands ball up into fists at his sides as he moved out of her space and tried to put his focus elsewhere, asking questions in that gruff voice of his that tried, and failed, to cover his hurt.
And he did hurt. She didn't doubt that. She understood that Oliver hadn't wanted to break up, he didn't want to hurt her, but it didn't change their circumstances. It had happened, it was over, and she was moving on as best she could. He needed to do the same.
It was nearly lunch when she got the call. She didn't bother checking the call display, the double ring told her it was someone within the building. "Felicity Smoak, IT," she answered.
"I'm going to quit."
Felicity's lips twitched as she let out a laugh under her breath. "Cynthia, this is the third time you've threatened to quit in the last four days."
"Are you implying I won't? Because I will! I will quit! He's driving me crazy!" Angrily, she said in a hushed whisper, "Nothing is good enough for him. Yesterday he told me I clear my throat too much. How does someone even do that?"
"He's just lashing out. He's been stressed."
"No, stressed I get. Stressed is when he starts pacing, like he's been doing for the last forty minutes. Stressed is when he gets that weird ticky thing in his jaw. But this, this is not stress, this is him stating very clearly that he doesn't like me and he doesn't want me to be his assistant."
"Oliver wouldn't know a good assistant if they bit him on the ass and waved a gold medal in his face for being the greatest executive assistant in the entire universe…" she argued. "Look, it's not you, it's him."
"I've done everything he asks! I picked up his coffee order this morning, just like always, and when he said it wasn't hot enough, I warmed it up, and when he said it was too hot, I blew on it. And by then, he decided he didn't want coffee, he'd just have water, but it had to be room temperature. So I poured him a glass from the jug he keeps in the office, but then he said that water was stale…" She sighed, long and loud, and Felicity could just imagine Cynthia rubbing her temples. "So I filled it with fresh water, but that water was cold, so it had to sit for a while. Apparently tired of waiting, he said he wanted the coffee, but it was cold now too, and he was staring at me like it was my fault. I'm not kidding you, he stared at me with those beady eyes—"
"He doesn't have beady eyes."
"I'll call them whatever I want to when he's being a tyrannical asshat. So they were beady, all right!?"
Felicity bit her lip to hide her amusement. "Fine. They were beady."
"Right. So he was glaring at me with his beady eyes, all judgemental and angry, and I could see it. He didn't have to say it. 'You're not good enough. You're not who I want here.' That's all they said. And you know what? Fine. I get why he's already had two other assistants quit on him. He— I don't know what happened on that island, but he's got some kind of Jekyll and Hyde thing going on, because one minute he's nice and friendly and the next, as soon as he realizes he has to call me into his office and rely on me to do anything, it's like he's suddenly the jerkiest jerk to ever jerk. And I don't want to do it anymore. So you need to find a replacement, as soon as humanly possible, because if I have to put up with one more—"
She stopped, the gruff voice of her boss interrupting her. Clearing her throat, she replied, "Uh, yes, Mr. Queen?"
Felicity strained her ears to hear his reply.
"Did you put in the lunch order for today?"
She sighed, quietly enough that Felicity barely heard her. "Of course, sir. Just like every day."
"And you made sure—"
"No peanuts. I reminded them three times."
"Good," he replied shortly.
A few seconds passed before Cynthia made a low growling noise. "Not even a thank you. I mean, I know it's my job, but would it hurt him to show a little gratitude?"
"He forgets sometimes."
"That's no excuse!"
"I agree, but I don't think he does it to purposely hurt you," Felicity soothed.
"Whatever…" She sighed. "He's pacing again."
Felicity chewed her lip for a moment before finally raising a hand and pinching the bridge of her nose behind her glasses. "What color tie is he wearing?"
"Yellowish… Kind of gold, I guess."
"Is it tight or loose?"
"He pulled it loose like an hour ago."
"Okay, and did he pull it to the left or right?"
"Um, the… right…? No, the left. I always forget which is which."
"Okay. In your desk, right side, three drawers down, open it."
There was some rustling until finally, "Okay, now what?"
"In the wooden box, there are handmade teabags, take one out. He doesn't like sugar in it. Make a cup, let it steep, and bring it to him. Don't say anything, don't explain yourself, just put it on his desk and walk out."
"Really? Tea? You think tea is going to calm the savage beast?"
"Just trust me…" Felicity assured.
"Fine. I should go anyway. It's my lunch break. I'm hoping if I get out of the building for an hour, I'll come back and not want to quit."
"Does this mean you're taking back your verbal resignation?"
"No, I'm putting it on pause and seeing if some Thai food from that nice shop on the corner calms me down… If I come back and he's still acting like a lion with a thorn in his paw, then I'm going to see who else is hiring. Because seriously, there's only so much bad mood I can put up with."
"And I understand that, totally, but as much as Oliver seems like a jerk, he needs you… I need you. Because if I have to sit through another rehiring process, searching for someone to work for him that meets all of my many requirements, I might just pull my hair out."
There was a pause and then, "I don't know if this is crossing a boundary, but… Why exactly aren't you still working for him? I mean, you know him better than anyone. I know the office gossip about how weird it was that he was dating his executive assistant wasn't always flattering, but you two made it work… And obviously he doesn't want anyone else around because they're not filling your shoes right. So why not come back?"
"IT is where I need to be," Felicity answered shortly. A knock at her door caught her attention then and she breathed a sigh of relief. "My lunch just arrived. Have a nice break, Cynthia. And please, try not to take it personally. He really does need you."
"Yeah, yeah…" she muttered. "I'll probably call you back in a couple hours to complain again. Thanks for letting me vent."
After hanging up, Felicity stood from her desk and circled it, walking to the door. As she pulled it open, she offered a half-smile to the delivery boy.
He glanced at the bag and the name scrawled on the receipt. "Felicity Smoak? I have a lunch order here for you."
"Let me guess, fully paid for and a warning about a peanut allergy?"
He nodded, holding the bag aloft. "The tip was covered too, so have a nice lunch, ma'am."
With a faint sigh, she took it, smiling faintly in thanks and goodbye. She closed the door and walked back to her desk. This wasn't out of the ordinary. Oliver had started sending her lunch after the first week. She remember the first time it happened, she'd been startled at the knocking on the door, confused by the sudden intrusion and even more so by the food being pushed on her.
Felicity stared at the bag, her brow furrowed. When she'd asked who it was from, she hadn't been surprised, but she wasn't sure what to do about it. She finally decided that it was a line that couldn't be crossed, not right now, not when everything was still so fresh. She called upstairs and waited impatiently for the new assistant to answer the phone.
"Mr. Queen's office, how may I help you?" Elizabeth answered, her voice sounding strained, forcibly polite.
"Hi Elizabeth, it's Felicity—"
"Oh, thank god," she breathed in relief. "Please, you have to come up here. I can't do this. I don't want to do this. I think he's glaring at me. That's all he does. All day, every day, he's glaring at me. I don't know who I replaced, but they should come back and put him and me out of our misery, because he is not adapting well and I feel like crying. This job is killing me. The stress is killing me!"
"O…kay…" She readjusted her glasses. "I had no idea there was so much… tension in the office."
"Tension? This isn't tension. This is warfare. It's like he doesn't know I'm his assistant. The only time he's been nice to me was when he asked me to put in a lunch order for you this morning. Which, by the way, if you were going to ask, I'm supposed to tell you that he knows how often you get distracted with work and forget to eat, so he took the liberty to make sure you didn't forget to take care of yourself. Which, fine, is actually really sweet of him. But other than that, all he does is growl and glare at me. And I mean 'growl,' I didn't think people could actually do that, but he's like an angry mountain lion that's just waiting to rip me limb from limb, I swear!"
"That's… descriptive. Look, I know Oliver can be kind of… aggressive. But he's got a lot on his plate right now, between Queen Consolidated and helping his sister run Verdant. He's just stressed out and—"
"Miss Smoak, I don't mean to be blunt, but that man hates me. Maybe not me exactly, but he hates that I'm doing this job. I have no idea why, but he does, and frankly, I don't want to be in a job where my boss hates me. I know he didn't hire me, and I thank you for the job, but I'm not sure it's the right fit…"
Felicity sighed. "When can I expect your letter of resignation?"
"Well... I sent it to you an hour ago."
Closing her eyes, she nodded. "Okay. Just… Please hold on as long as it takes for me to find a replacement, okay?"
"And I'll write you a letter of recommendation for the hassle, all right?"
She breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you!"
"Sure. Sorry about, well, all of this…. I didn't think he'd react so negatively to having a new assistant."
She let out a bark of a laugh. "Negatively is one way of putting it. For the first three days, he didn't even say hello to me. He just grunted as he walked by and muttered something about how I wasn't 'pink' enough… What does that even mean?"
Felicity tugged on the collar of her pale pink top and shook her head. "It's nothing. Like I said, he's stressed, so he picks weird things to be upset about. Listen, I'm going to put out an ad for a new assistant, okay? So it shouldn't be too long."
"Okay, thanks. I'll let you go. I know your lunch is probably going to be there any minute. Mr. Queen was very adamant that it be on time."
"Uh, yeah, it actually just got here."
"All right. Have a nice lunch. I better go. He's yelling at someone on the phone."
Felicity closed her eyes, pressing a hand to her forehead. "All right, thank you Elizabeth."
After hanging up, she sat back in her chair and groaned.
She started thinking about the hassle it was going to be to find Oliver another assistant and absently started to unload her lunch. The smell was heavenly and she couldn't help but let a smile slip as her stomach gave a grumble of approval. It was too early for him to be making these kinds of gestures, but she had a feeling even if she told him that he would just ignore her. Often, during the time she'd been his assistant, it was him who reminded her that it was time to take a break for lunch, prying her away from her computers for some self-care. Usually, though, Oliver made it a point to leave the building for lunch. They didn't always eat at high class restaurants, but there were a few that had bottles of wine she'd only dreamt of adding to her wishlist. Oliver spoiled her, even before they were dating. Which should make this no surprise, but it was.
She understood he was angry; he didn't want a new assistant, he wanted her. She knew everything about him and his many secrets, which meant he could let his guard down. It meant he didn't have to put on a show all the time, especially in his office, but now he couldn't. Now he had to keep his image intact and he had to watch his words around his new, unfamiliar assistant that he didn't know from anyone. But she wasn't going back, she wasn't leaving the comfort of the IT Department, or snuffing out what little pride she had left to make sure he was comfortable.
He would just have to deal with it. Eventually, he'd get used to having a new assistant. He would have to.
With that decision made, she dug into her lunch with a moan of appreciation. Maybe she wouldn't tell him to stop sending her lunch though; apparently she needed it, and he did know what she liked.
Taking a seat at her desk, she pulled out her lunch, spreading it out over the space she'd prepared for this exact reasons. Oliver always had his assistant send lunch at the same time; she'd become some adapted to the intrusion of the delivery person stopping by her office with food in hand that she prepared for it. And, like usual, he'd picked one of her favorite restaurants and meals. Her mouth was already watering.
She took her time eating, putting her work on hold for a much-needed break. Her shoulders were tense and her neck had a kink in it, clear signs she'd been too focused on her computers to take into consideration her body's needs. It would be about this time that Oliver would put those strong hands of his to work, rubbing away the strain on her shoulders. She could already imagine how her head would fall forward, chin on her chest, as his fingers worked out the knots down her neck. His lips would follow, just a short, sweet kiss to her nape, and then his hands would slide down the length of her back before he pulled her into his arms, settling her against his chest.
Her throat tightened at the thought, and she quickly rubbed her own hand over her neck to ease some of the discomfort. She needed to stop torturing herself with this stuff. Thinking about the good times so much that she missed them acutely.
A sharp knock at the door drew her eye and it opened a moment later, admitting a surprised Cynthia, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly agape.
"It worked," she said.
Closing the door, Cynthia moved to plop down on the chair across from her. She was a pretty woman, with bright red hair piled on top of her head, horn-rimmed glasses that were more for fashion than sight, and warm brown eyes that showed the friendly nature that had drawn Felicity into hiring her. Cynthia was more than qualified for the job; she reminded Felicity a little of the wide-eyed IT girl she'd been when she first started at QC, only Cynthia had a much sharper tongue when pushed. She wasn't a doormat and she let it be known, which was it was probably so hard for to be around Oliver every day and put up with his attitude.
"I brought the tea in, put it on his desk, and walked out. He didn't say a word, he just kept pacing and grumbling. I was going to leave, get lunch, take some time to calm down, but then I looked over and he was drinking the tea. He sat down at his desk and he just… relaxed. All the tension just…" She swiped a hand through the air, "disappeared."
Felicity nodded, digging her fork back into her salad for another bite. "Tea is a thing with him. He only wears the gold tie when family is bugging him. It's an unconscious thing. I told him once it was the whole 'Queen' thing, you know, royalty, crown, gold…" She shrugged. "Anyway, when you said he pulled it to the left, that's usually a sign that he's going over something that happened. With the pacing, it just means that he probably had a fight with his mom or Thea and he can't stop thinking about it… So that's why I went to the tea. It calms him down. You can't use it for everything, but you said he'd been pacing for a while, so…"
Cynthia blinked at her. "I'm sorry. I think you lost me when you said you knew what was bothering him based on what color tie he was wearing." Her brows hiked. "No wonder he doesn't like anybody else. You can literally read his mood based on his clothing choices." Tossing her hands up, she shook her head. "How? How is anybody supposed to measure up to that?"
Felicity wouldn't admit it, but part of her just plain didn't want anyone to measure up to her. She wanted to be the one and only, the very best he ever had… Was that too much to ask? Probably. It was probably really selfish of her, but she decided that was okay for the time being. It had only been a month. She could still be a little selfish.
"Shouldn't you be on your lunch right about now?" Felicity wondered, changing the subject.
Cynthia waved a dismissive hand and sat forward to eye her food. "He really goes all out, huh?" She sighed. "This is probably going to sound really Single White Female, but some days I'm really jealous of you…"
Brows hiked, she nearly choked on her salad. "Wh-What?"
"I mean, don't get me wrong, Mr. Queen is a total sourpuss…" Her nose wrinkled. "Grumpiest man I've ever had to work for. But… Something changes when he talks about you, or when he puts in the food order. He's just… softer, or something, I don't know. And when I talk to you about him, I guess, it's like you know a different side of him that I don't see, that probably nobody does. So you've got this amazing job and this handsome billionaire who's probably only happy when he's with you, and you're smart and pretty, and I'm over here, trying not to cry whenever he so much as glances in my direction, pulling my hair out with how stressed I am, with no boyfriend and no other job prospects and seriously regretting putting off college because of my stupid musician ex-boyfriend, who only ended up cheating on me with that bitch Mandy Lawrence anyway!"
Felicity blinked. "That sounds… hard…" she said, struggling with what to say.
"And now I've just unloaded a lot of personal stuff on my boss' girlfriend, some of which kind of implied that I wish I was her, but I swear I'm not crazy. I'm just really tired and stressed out and your boyfriend is a jerk who hates me and makes me hate my job!" She gulped in a deep, shaky breath, sounding like she was on the verge of tears. "Please, just let me mainline him that tea so I never have to put up with another of his grumpy glaring sessions…"
Her lips twitched and she shook her head. "If it's bothering you that much, I'll talk to Oliver about how he's been treating you. Like I said, I don't think he's doing it intentionally. You're just kind of the… scapegoat for a lot of his frustration. But you don't deserve it and that's no excuse. So I'll talk to him, okay?" She nodded. "And… And don't wish you had my life, trust me, it's… not as put together as it seems."
Cynthia scoffed, reaching up to wipe at her nose. "Yeah, sure," she said, disbelievingly. Standing from the chair, she moved to leave. "You know, I've only seen him smile one time, and that was at a picture he has of you on his desk. Most of the time he's either really angry or really sad; personally, I don't know how you do it… You must be some kind of super-woman."
With that, Cynthia took her leave, walking out of Felicity's office with little more than a wave.
Sighing, she slumped back in her chair, pushing her salad away, suddenly no longer hungry.
This non-iversary was already kicking her ass.
She was sweating, profusely, and it felt good. Panting, she raised her gloved hands and planted her feet.
"Left jab, left jab, left jab," Terry, the instructor, told her.
She aimed for the pad tied to his left arm as he stood facing her, and hit it with three powerful knocks.
"Good job. Left jab, right cross."
She punched with her left and followed it with a longer, stronger hit to his opposite, padded arm with her right fist.
Terry was the instructor of her kick boxing classes, but some nights when she came in just to burn off some steam, he offered to work one-on-one with her. He was a tall, thickly muscled man with olive skin and a no-nonsense attitude. Unsurprisingly, he and Digg got along great. Terry expected the best every time they fought and wouldn't accept anything less. When he saw her, he didn't see fragile, petite Felicity, he saw someone with power that she needed to learn how to access, and that was the kind of motivation she wanted and needed.
"One-two, one-two," he said as she continue with her left jab, right cross for five more combinations. "Let me see your knee." He lowered his arm to take the hit as her knee rose up with force.
Left jab, right cross, left knee. Left jab, right cross, left knee. The smack of her hitting the pads was all she heard, loud and hard. The force behind each blow made her feel strong; it made her feel in control and capable. While everything else felt like it wasn't what she wanted it to be, this she could make happen just the way she wanted it to.
It went on like that for a half hour. He changed the combinations, adding a round-house kick, changing it from a jab to a hook, picking up speed, demanding it to be faster, harder, until she was just answering his cues, just a machine that moved on auto-pilot, attack attack attack.
And then he wasn't telling her what to do, he was talking to her.
"You've been coming here a few weeks now, but I've never seen you this worked up…"
She gritted her teeth and threw three right hooks. "Bad day," she answered, before answering his physical cue for a left round-house kick.
"Looks like more than that."
She blew out an agitated breath threw her nose. "Can we just do this? Please?"
His brow furrowed. "Why'd you start coming here, Smoak?"
"Distraction. Protection. Boredom. Take your pick."
He shook his head and raised his left hand for her to start jabbing. "No, if you wanted that, you'd just ask Diggle. So what is it…? Why do this?"
Her face tightened as she kept hitting, harder and harder until her arms felt so heavy, so tight, that the strain was almost too much.
"Because I'm weak. I— I'm… I'm never enough… Not for anyone or myself… And I want to be more. I need to be more. I need to know that I can do this, on my own, and not have to rely on anybody else. Because they don't matter." She banged a gloved fist against her chest. "I matter. And when I start questioning myself, start wondering who I am anymore, or how much I matter, then there's a problem."
Slowly, Terry nodded. "I've seen a lot of people come through those doors… Self-esteem is one of the biggest reasons they stick around."
She raised her eyes to meet his. "I know I'm smart and competent and if you put me in front of a computer, I can do anything… But there are times when I just don't feel like I fit, like I don't measure up, and they eat away at me."
He stared at her a long moment and then he raised his arm again. "Right jab."
She took a deep breath and got back into position. She answered his request, and all the requests after it.
"Harder," he demanded.
And she did.
"Faster," he told her.
So she was.
"Nobody makes you weak," he said, raising his arm, motioning for a jab, a hook, lowering it for a kick. "If you feel weak, then make yourself strong. You are in control. You make the decisions in your life. Nobody is better than you unless you let them be better."
She blinked back the burn of tears as she hit the pads again and again, raising her knee up to slam it into the pad once, twice, three times, giving a loud, angry growl.
"I was just as good as her. I was strong and I kept his secrets and I helped him, every day. I didn't expect him to be better. I didn't expect him to be who he was before. I pushed him when he needed to be pushed and accepted him for who he was."
Two left jabs, one right hook, and a left round-house.
"I gave him everything for three years. And for six months, I was everything to him. And he threw that way. He ruined that!" She could feel the tears slip out of her eyes, but she didn't swipe them away, she just hit and kicked and pushed herself. "She is smart and beautiful and they have history, and I am tired of feeling like I can't measure up. I'm tired of wondering if he'll ever love me as much, or more. I'm tired of wondering if he ever loved me at all…" She let out a gulping cry then and stumbled back, her fists falling to her knees as she bent over, trying to catch her breath. "I tried really hard. I did…"
Terry sighed, unlatching the pads on his arms and reaching for her, a comforting hand braced on her shoulder. "You are a bright, strong, amazing woman, Felicity… I don't know who broke your heart or who this woman is and I don't need to… I know that you work hard and you prove yourself every time you step into this gym. But you need to ask yourself who you're proving yourself to. Him… or you?"
She stared up at him, her chest heaving as she struggled for air. She pushed upright, fists on her hips. "Me."
He nodded, giving her a half-smile. "Good. 'Cause you have to come first…" He pointed at her. "Love's gonna come and go, you're gonna give your heart away and get it stomped on from time to time, but in the end, all that matters is you know you gave it your best shot… You know that you're worth the best, and you don't settle for anything less."
She stared at him a long moment and then nodded. "I do… I won't."
"Good." He reached out and started undoing the straps on the wrists of her gloves, pulling them free. "Now hit the shower and take the night off. You're gonna be feeling this workout for a few days, I think."
She managed a wobbly smile. "Thanks, Terry," she murmured sincerely.
"Sure." He patted her shoulder as he gathered up the pads and gloves. "See you soon?"
"Yeah, you're not getting rid of me anytime soon."
He grinned at her, and walked off to put away the equipment.
Stepping off the mats, she found herself feeling a little less emotionally heavy than she was when she walked in, and for that she was grateful.
Felicity didn't like showering at the gym, so she gathered up her things and drove home. She had an hour until she had to be at the foundry, so she took her time showering and eating a late dinner. The usual feeling of dread and discomfort wasn't as overwhelming for her as it had been previously. He would be there, she was expecting that, but she wasn't worried about being around him, having to see him.
It was progress.
After showering, she blow-dried her hair and tossed it up in its old ponytail. She hadn't worn it up in a while, and it felt like getting back to basics. She liked it. The drive to Verdant was easy; she put the radio on and sang along, putting in more effort than necessary, belting out Beyoncé with gusto, and possibly getting a few looks from passing cars, but whatever. It was her non-iversary and if she wanted to act like a fool, she would.
After parking her car, she made her way up to the club, which wouldn't be open to others for another hour. Security was already setting up out front; they gave her a nod in hello as she passed them by; they were all familiar with her by now. She was thankful that Thea wasn't at the club yet and quickly made her way to the door leading downstairs, plugging in the code and pulling it closed behind her before she started down the metal stairs. She smiled at the quiet of the room. Neither Oliver nor John were there yet, but the lights were on and her computers were waiting for her. She gave a sigh of relief as she sunk into her chair and turned it to face her multi-screen set-up, quickly becoming immersed in updates and on-going searches.
Nearly an hour passed with little more than her fingers click-clacking on the keyboard before the door opened above, admitting the other two parts of Team Arrow. She didn't turn to meet them; partly because she was so involved in what she was doing, and partly because sometimes it was hard to tear her eyes off of him. It was difficult to go from seeing someone every day to barely seeing them at all, even if her heart tore a little each time he was close.
"Somebody looks busy," John said as he walked toward her.
She very slowly, and with much effort, tore her eyes from her screens to look up at him.
He offered a half-smile, reassuring and comforting, and squeezed a hand around her shoulder.
"Somebody has an auspicious lead on a high-end bad guy for you two to play vigilante warfare with."
His brows hiked. "Sounds promising."
"Hence the use of 'auspicious.'" She wagged a finger as she turned her chair to face him better. "And no, that's not because I just got a word of the day calendar to furnish my office."
His lips twitched, amused. "So who is he?" he wondered, crossing his arms over his chest.
She leaned back and, with a few clicks, brought a picture up. "Allen Warren. He runs a security outfit that is raking it in. For the last couple years, he's been using what happened in the Glades to scare customers into updating their security. It was mostly just a money-grab. The more afraid they are, the more they're willing to spend. But recently, since the streets have been cleaned up more than usual, fear has gone down. Which is why Mr. Warren took it upon himself to start bringing fear back around…"
Turning back to her computer, she grabbed her mouse and started bringing up clip after clip from newspapers and online blogs. "There's been a series of break-ins in some pretty rich buildings lately. They've all been on the lower levels, and carefully planned for the apartments that don't have his security and that are empty at the time of the robberies. This way his brand doesn't look bad, but he can also say that, given just how 'pro' these robberies look that his customers should definitely upgrade their systems with him. So not only is he getting new customers, he's gutting loyal customers."
She frowned, drumming her fingers on her desk. "Now, this would mostly just make him a really slimy businessman, except the last place they hit wasn't empty…" She tapped a screen and brought up a video, the sound muted, of a woman sobbing into a handkerchief as she was held up by what appeared to be her father. "Rebecca Height, 26. She and her husband came home early from an art show and walked in on a robbery in progress. They rushed the couple to escape and Eric, thinking they might hurt him or his wife, attacked back. He was shot three times in the chest, died before the ambulance was even called... Because Eric tried to defend them, the insurance company is saying his death was his own fault and refuses to pay her out anything. Allen Warren is using her as a shining endorsement for why the rest of the building should sign up with his security company."
Clucking her tongue, she turned to face him, finding Oliver not far away. "We can't let him keep this up. It's not fair, and he's putting people in serious danger."
Solemnly, John nodded his head, taking on the 'soldier with a purpose' look she was used to.
Oliver walked forward then, closer than he often got in the last couple weeks. "I know Warren. He spends a lot of time at high-society parties, looking for new customers."
She pointed at him and then looked back at her computer. "Exactly. Which is why the timing is kind of perfect… Instead of going to a party, he's throwing one himself. Thanks to his recent foray into crime, he's pulling in some serious money, and he's decided to show it off a little. Sooo…" She clicked a few things on her computer and brought up an email in her own inbox that was being sent out to Starling City's elite. "I received this yesterday morning. I was just going to junk it before I realized the golden ticket for what it was…" She spun in her chair once more to face them. "Oliver Queen's been invited to Allen Warren's new, and completely over the top, mansion for a little soirée of the most boring kind. Dancing, champagne, five course meal, and a whole lot of bragging… Oh, and on the side, you can sneak into his office and get at his personal hard drive, so I can pick apart his life and get the proof needed to show that he's a weasel who caused the unnecessary death of an innocent person."
He stared down at her a long moment, his gaze intense and lingering. "Why'd the email go to you?" he asked.
She swallowed tightly, surprised by the question. "Because… as far as Starling City is still concerned, you and I are still together. Which means going through me is easier than trying to get the new assistant to solidify plans." Shoulders rigid, she turned back to her computer. "Like I said, I was going to junk it until I realized how important it was."
She could almost hear the muscle ticking in his cheek.
"This is good," John said simply. "Easier than trying to get past his outside security on top of it. We can bypass the worst of it." He nodded, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Do you have schematics on the house?"
She nodded. "Because it was recently up for sale, I was able to access the realtor's records. I have the blueprints on the whole place. I have a good idea where I think his office is, which isn't too far from the ball room he'll be throwing the party in. We've got a little over a week to plan; it's not much, but I think it's enough. What do you guys think?"
She looked over her shoulder to find John and Oliver having a silent conversation, before finally they both nodded; they'd do it.
With their agreement, she brought up the schematics and soon John was buried in them. With his background, he was able to say where they would put security and how easy it would be to bypass who and where. While he was busy, Felicity moved toward Oliver, who was going over the papers she'd printed of the recent break in's.
She tugged on her fingers nervously. This was the first time she was initiating contact and her stomach twisted and turned as she walked closer. Her feet were silent, no click-clack of her heels, her panda flats barely making a noise. But he lifted his head a little, as if he felt her approach. One month and four days ago, she would've slid her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. But not now.
He turned to her, his hand squeezing tightly around the pen in his hand, before he released and let it drop to the table. He stared at her uncertainly, as if he hadn't been expecting her and he wasn't sure what to do. It was rare that Oliver looked at a loss, but there was something boyish and sad about him now. He eyed her carefully, like a dog worried it would be kicked.
"Hi," he offered.
She nodded her head in silent hello. "Cynthia came to talk to me."
His brow furrowed and his eyes fell in that way that told her he was searching his memory for the face attached to that name.
"Cynthia… your assistant… Red hair, funky glasses, getting tired of you glaring at her…" She waved her arms. "Ringing any bells?"
His lips pursed as he met her gaze once more. "I know who it is, I just didn't know her first time…"
"What do you usually call her?"
His eyes darted away and with a sheepish expression, he admitted, "I don't call her anything. I just tell her what I need done."
Her head tipped, brows hiked. As her hands found her hips, his lips twitched, and she realized she was taking on a familiar pose, one she often used when about to chastise him for something or another.
Sighing, she shook her head. "Oliver, she's threatening to quit… And don't shrug at me!" She pointed at him. "This is your third assistant. You can't keep scaring them off."
"I'm not," he grunted. "It's not my fault if they can't keep up."
Licking her lips, she took a step forward, her hand falling to his forearm, more out of habit than anything. Tipping her head up, she stared at him earnestly. "I know this is difficult for you… Things are changing and it's hard to adjust. But you need an assistant, you need someone to rely on."
He swallowed thickly, staring down at her. "I had that," he said quietly. "And I ruined it."
Her heart clenched hard in her chest. "Oliver…"
"I know you won't come back." He shook his head, casting his eyes up as he struggled with himself for a moment. He inhaled deeply and finally met her eyes again. "But every day I have to look at your desk and not see you… and it just reminds me that I did this. I ruined this. And I get angry. Not at them, at me, but then they're there and they're trying to fill your shoes, and they can't, so I lash out. I know that."
She blinked, a little surprised about how, well, honest he was being, and how aware he was of his own actions. There had been many times in the past where she had to force Oliver to see what he was doing and the reason behind it. He could be pigheaded, that was for sure, but he seemed to be fully aware of what he was doing and why it was happening.
"I know they call you… I know when she— when Cynthia came in today with tea, that wasn't her. That wasn't her solution, it was yours…" He looked down at her hand on his arm and he ground his teeth. "It wasn't the tea that calmed me down; it was knowing you still cared… even a little bit."
She blinked quickly and cast her eyes away. "I'll always care," she murmured.
"You just won't always be there."
She looked up at him abruptly, her brows knit. "I can't… I can't be the one getting you your coffee or calming you down. I can't be that close to you every day…" She shook her head. "I'm trying really hard to be okay, and I need you to try too."
His jaw flexed. "I am."
"You need to stop treating Cynthia like this is her fault. She has no idea why you're acting like this. She thinks you hate her."
"I hate what she represents."
She stared up at him. "Direct it somewhere else. Cynthia is my choice. She'll stay on and you'll treat her with as much respect as you would—" She stopped herself before she could say 'me,' but she couldn't come up with a good replacement in time and Oliver caught on.
Pain slashed over his face. "You," he said. "Except I didn't. I ruined your trust and disrespected you in the worst way I could…" He nodded, looking defeated.
Biting her lip, she shook her head. "Please? Will you just give her a chance?"
He didn't answer right away, but eventually gave her a short nod.
"Felicity?" John called, drawing her attention.
She turned to him, and he waved a hand to bring her over.
She moved to leave, but Oliver stilled her, a hand on her hip, warm and large. His thumb stroked gently, absently, and as much as she enjoyed it, she knew she had to stop him. She reached for his hand, but hers only fell, covering his for a moment. There were times when all she did was trace the lines on his hands, dragging her soft fingertips over the callused pads of his, teasing the edges of his palm, his knuckles, the scars that littered his skin, before finally resting her fingers on his pulse, feeling it thrum steadily. Not this time though. Not ever again.
She waited for him to say something, anything, but he didn't. Instead, he leaned forward and he pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I've missed you," he breathed, his lips brushing her skin. "I know I don't deserve to, and I know you're only talking to me because of Cynthia and this mission… But I miss you."
She closed her eyes, and her lips from returning the sentiment. She squeezed his hand just once and then she pulled it from her hip and walked away. She crossed the room quickly and joined John in going over the information she'd gathered. She put Oliver and that whole confusing mess on the back burner. He didn't touch her again that night, and he didn't talk to her directly, but she could feel his eyes following her, drinking her in.
Later, when he left to dress for his patrol, she slipped away like she always did. She went home and she ate ice cream and she curled up on her couch and told herself she'd only watch one episode of Doctor Who. But it was an excuse. She was still the same broken mess as she was before, and one month hadn't changed that. Like nearly every night before, she slept on the couch to avoid how often she rolled over, searching for him in her half-asleep state.
Happy non-iversary to her.
The following morning, Felicity was running late. She'd overslept and the couch had left her body achy. Worse, the hot water in her shower ran out before she was done, her hair dryer died, she couldn't find her flats anywhere and had to wear a particularly pinchy pair of heels, and she didn't have time to stop for her usual cup of coffee.
To say she was in a bad mood was an understatement.
Hurrying to work, she only hoped that the topper wouldn't be that it was the day Cynthia put in her letter of resignation.
As soon as she stepped into her office, she saw the tall cup of coffee steaming away on her desk. Confused, she dropped her bag in a chair and circled her desk. Wrapping her hand around the cup, she raised it, finding a sticky-note attached with Oliver's familiar scrawl across it.
Be my plus one?
It wouldn't be the day Cynthia quit, she decided. Oh no, it'd be the day she killed Oliver Queen.
[Next: Part Two.]
Author's Note: So this is a two-parter! Yay. It was only supposed to be a one-shot, but it has a longer plot and I realized it would be almost 20,000 words if I didn't break it up. There's a lot of Felicity/Oliver in the second half, so be excited for that. This won't be the last part of this series though; there's a lot more to come.
I hope I was able to translate the importance of the kick-boxing, because it's meant to be a form of therapy for her. It's kind of a nice contrast actually. Oliver, who's usually more physical, is seeing a counselor, sitting down to work through his issues. Felicity, who is usually more verbal, is physically fighting what she perceives to be her weakness.
Also, because I've had a lot of people ask, Felicity and Laurel will be talking about what happened. Not in this part, but in another one; it's actually going to happen in the last part of the series, which is a multi-chapter. So it's coming, have no fear!
Anyway, I hope you guys liked this! I'm excited to share the second half with you. :)
Please leave a review! It means the world to me!
- Lee | Fina