title: sometimes it lasts in love (but sometimes it hurts instead)
category: arrow
genre: drama/romance
ship: laurel, oliver/felicity
rating: pg-13
word count: 10,297
summary: After five years away, Laurel returns to Starling City in hopes of reuniting with Oliver, only to find he's moved on.

sometimes it lasts in love (but sometimes it hurts instead)

I heard that you're settled down
That you found a girl and you're married now.
I heard that your dreams came true.
Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you

Time passed quickly while she was away. Days became weeks became months and then, before she knew it, years had passed. It was her own choice. She trained and she trained but she never quite felt ready. She always felt like she could be faster, stronger, more efficient, so she stayed. She stayed and she learned until she felt the mask she donned fit her right, until the name Black Canary wasn't just a moniker but an extension of herself.

When Sara died, for the second time, it was final. Laurel cradled her in her arms as she bled out on a rooftop, smiling up at her, looking somehow relieved. Maybe it was the exhaustion of fighting a battle in the shadows, of keeping herself apart from the family she loved so much she was desperate not to let her life, her problems, her enemies touch them. Those lines around her face, battle weary and far too deep for a woman so young, finally smoothed out as she took her last breath, her wide blue eyes staring sightlessly up at her big sister.

Laurel left the following morning. For what, she hadn't been sure. Understanding? Enlightenment? What she found was strength. She found a calling.

She hadn't understood why Oliver did what he did then. Why he hid behind the hood to bring justice. For a time, she even hated him for it. Twice she lost her sister, and twice she felt it was his fault. But when she put Sara's mask on for the first time, it finally felt like a piece was falling into place. It didn't sit quite right on her face yet, but it would one day.

That day came five years later.

When she returned Starling City, it looked much the same as it had when she left, except the Glades were no longer the slums they'd once been, or the chaotic mess they'd been post-Malcolm Merlyn's wrath. They had been cleaned up to a degree. Perhaps not quite as safe or as clean as the rest of Starling City, but better than she could ever remember in her history as a citizen of the city. There were still homeless people, still soup kitchens, still damage that needed repairing, and still criminals that took advantage of the weak, but it was a far cry from the desolation it'd been before.

Was it Oliver's doing? she wondered. Had Queen Consolidated paid to clean up so much of the mess he hadn't been able to stop from happening in the first place? Is that how he scrubbed his image clean? Or how he managed to sleep at night, after knowing his best friend died in the rubble. Her heart panged even now. Six years after Tommy died saving her life and she still missed him, still missed his smile and his laugh and that tender look on his face when he told her he loved her. She hadn't deserved him then, and she wasn't sure he'd want her now. There was a bitterness to her that she used to forward herself, to make herself battle ready, to harden the parts of her that might pause or flinch or spend one extra moment second-guessing her actions.

Was Oliver this dark? She'd thought of that a lot while she was away. Is this what he carried on his shoulders? This bitter darkness that haunted her heart and pushed her past her limits each time she faced a new foe. He'd always tried to be the old Ollie. The man she used to know. Tommy's best friend and her… Her what? Once upon a time she'd thought he was the love of her life. And when he came back, despite everything, some part of her hung on to that old dream. Even now, after all this time, she thought maybe… Maybe. Maybe now could be their time. Maybe now they were in the right place. Maybe now, without the lies and the secrets, they could make it work.

And maybe she wasn't as bitter and as hard as she thought she was if some corner of her constantly battered heart still yearned for a future with a man she both loved and hated in equal degree.

Her first stop should have been her father's. She missed him. She couldn't even put into words how much she missed hugging him and hearing his voice and those arguments that yes, sure, sometimes drove her crazy, but were so them. She was as stubborn as he was and she was proud of it. In the five years she was away, she called sometimes. On her weak days, the days when her body ached and her mind fractured, when her heart and her will told her she couldn't do this, she called him and she whispered tearfully, "Daddy?" And he always sighed and told her, "Come home, Laurel." But she didn't listen, and sometimes she wondered if she called just to hear him say that, because it only built up her resolve to keep trying, keep fighting, keep molding herself into what she needed to be.

Her first stop wasn't her father's, it was Tommy's grave.

She didn't say much. She wasn't sure what to say. She laid a handful of daffodils on his grave, not the least bit surprised to see that it was well taken care of and there was a bouquet of fresh, purple irises already laid out beneath his name.

"I hope you understand," she whispered, letting her words linger on the air before she left the cemetery and drove into town.

There was no grave for Sara but the empty one they'd put there when she first "died." It felt wrong somehow to go to a place she knew her sister wasn't when she'd held her as the life fled her body. But she'd made her amends, she'd done what she could to honor her in shaping herself after her. Only with less scars, less baggage, and far fewer enemies to call her own.

Her next stop was Queen Consolidated.

She just needed to see him.

She'd called twice while she away, neither time did she speak. But he'd said her name after a few seconds, like he knew. It was full of sorrow, full of apologies. For her or for Sara, she didn't know.

He didn't ask her to come back.

She often wondered what that meant.

When she was away, she'd disconnected from the world. Nothing but a phone she rarely used. There was no internet, no news, no television at all. She wanted to be centered. She had to focus on her studies, on her training, and she couldn't do that if she was watching the rest of the world continue on naively or fall apart honestly. When she returned, she thought it would be the same, or maybe worse. Maybe buildings would be on fire and chaos would fill the streets. Maybe the Glades would rise up and revolt against the rest of the city. Maybe, like Gotham, the criminals would roam the streets in angry droves.

She found peace instead.

It seemed Arrow had done what he'd set out to do and kept some semblance of control over Starling City. Between his alter-ego and the billionaire CEO routine by day, he'd managed to put to rights the city he'd called his own. For a moment, she wondered where she might fit. Would she join his team or set out on her own? Would she perch high on the buildings, looking down on the city, searching for a fight, for anybody to oppose her? Maybe night was when they all came out. Maybe that was when the city came alive with crime. Maybe that was when she'd finally put to use everything she'd learned.

Five years was a long time, but she knew better than anyone that wiping out one criminal meant ten more popped up to replace him. As a lawyer, and the daughter of a police officer, she'd seen it all too often. Ollie might have maintained some order, but there was bound to be an enemy out there, and she was eager to make their acquaintance.

But if she learned anything from Sara it was that balance was needed. She could be the Black Canary by night, but she needed to be Laurel by day. She needed to have a life, a family, a career. She couldn't live in the shadows, she had to melt into them only when the time was right.

When she went to Queen Consolidated, she wasn't sure what she was expecting. An emotional reunion, probably. She missed him. Missed who she thought he was and who he could be now. The jaded warrior she'd seen on the rooftop against Slade Wilson had haunted her dreams for a long time. Just as the broken-winged bird her sister made still clouded her heart.

"Choose!" he demanded, waving a gun between the two women kneeling before him, arms tied behind their backs, rain pouring down on them, soaking them to the bone. But the shivering Laurel felt wasn't because of the icy water dribbling down her back, it was the understanding that this very moment would either be the end or the beginning of her life.

Three weeks. That was how long she'd known Sara was alive. Three weeks of trying to understand, of coming home to her apartment and finding her long-lost sister perched on the couch, looking awkward and unsure of herself. She'd been angry. God, she'd been so mad at her for keeping this from her. How could she do that? Didn't she understand how awful it'd been? How much she'd grieved for her?

"There are bad people out there, Laurel. Terrible people that would stop at nothing to destroy me using you."

And she'd scoffed, hadn't she? She'd scoffed just like she had when Sara was a teenager and exclaimed that she was in love with some new boy. The third in as many months.

But Sara was right. There were terrible, awful people out there, and one was standing at her back, telling Oliver Queen, who she only now realized was the vigilante, to choose between her and his assistant.

There was no shock on Felicity Smoak's face. She looked frightened, yes. She was shaking just like Laurel. But she wasn't shocked to see the hood fall back and reveal Oliver's angry, intense face.

It dawned on Laurel suddenly. They were working together. The IT specialist that was suspiciously working as his executive assistant, that everyone just assumed had been put in his office for window dressing, was working behind the scenes.

Despite the situation, she found herself wondering how close they were. Were the rumors completely wrong or just slightly skewed? Maybe he was sleeping with her. Maybe he was even in love with her. He certainly looked worried enough, taking a step forward when the gun abruptly turned toward the blonde woman, who hunched her shoulders up to her ears in response.

"Stop," Oliver said, using a voice that Laurel had never heard before. It was deep, raspy. This wasn't Ollie it was Arrow. Was that who he'd always been since he came back? Was Ollie the real mask?

Her head spun.

She had a gun at her head and the man she sometimes thought was the love of her life was far more than she'd ever expected. She could admit she had her suspicions once, but it was hard to beat a lie detector test. And, after a while, she just didn't see how it could add up. The Hood was methodical, he was a killer, he did terrible things while simultaneously managing to do things she could only call good. He confused her. Ollie didn't. Ollie was selfish. He looked out for himself and he often made rash decisions that ended up hurting others. Those two people couldn't possibly be the same person.

But they were.

"How long did he give you to decide? Huh, brother? How long before you sold her out?" Slade demanded, spitting the words with venom. "How long!?"

"I didn't choose. I reacted. He was going to shoot Sara, so I got in the way. I didn't pick her. I didn't choose to let Shado die… Ivo killed her. Ivo chose."

"No. No, you were given a choice and you made it. You got in the way of one bullet and you let it take Shado instead. You chose, and now you'll choose again. So what'll it be, huh?"

Laurel flinched as she felt his hand on her face, dragging his knuckles down her cheek. "Another Lance? At least this one you actually cared about, huh?" He turned his attention to Felicity then, tucking a hand under her chin and tipping her head back. "Or maybe this one. She's loyal, isn't she?" His thumb rubbed circles over her chin. "Smart and beautiful, I can see why you keep this one close…"

"They're not a part of this, Slade," Oliver hollered. "We can do this without them. Just me and you."

"A tempting offer." He dragged the barrel of his gun down Felicity's face, starting at her temple and slowly moving it down until he had it pressed deep against her cheek, making her hiss against the pressure. "But I like the symbolism I've crafted here, don't you?"

Laurel's tearful eyes cut between Slade and Felicity and over to a bow-less Oliver. She knew Slade had demanded he come unarmed, but had he really listened or was there a back-up plan here? The fact that her life was now in the hands of two men was, without a doubt, the most frustrating situation she could ask for. What right did they have to drag her and Felicity into their problems? She was not some doll for them to prop up. Laurel Lance was no damsel in distress and the fact that she was being forced to be one did not sit well with her.

"Please… We were friends once."

"We were. But you betrayed me. You betrayed her! She loved you and you killed her!" Slade yelled, stabbing a finger in Oliver's direction as he stood, the gun now trained on Laurel. "You had your chance then. After everything she did for you, for us, that was how you repaid her?"

The sincere, baffled anger in his voice almost made Laurel turn to look at him. She was piecing it together now. Sara and a woman named Shado had been in her and Felicity's place at some point while they were on the island. Oliver was forced to choose, who lived and who died. He chose Sara, and he let Shado die. Who Shado was, Laurel wasn't sure; either Oliver's lover at the time or at the very least someone he cared about. If history repeated itself, would that mean she lived or died? Was she considered the Shado or the Sara? Her head turned to see Felicity kneeling there, her eyes squeezed shut for a moment before she opened them abruptly and trained them on Oliver.

And for a moment, everything stopped. A conversation was shared, silent as it was, between grimly set lips and tiny, almost unnoticeable head nods and shakes. Felicity was telling Oliver something, she was deciding something, and he was arguing.

Once again, Laurel felt out of place. She didn't fit here, she barely knew what was going on, piecing together what she could from the fragmented story Slade and Oliver were sharing. Did Felicity know? Did she knew who Shado was or that Sara was alive? Did she know about Sara before even her own sister had? Laurel couldn't help a bitter stab of irritation that this woman who she barely knew had managed to ensconce herself so deeply in the lives of two people who played such a significant part in her life. While Laurel had been trying to do things the right way, to bring justice through the courts, Felicity had been playing sidekick to Oliver's Hood, killing and tipping the scales of justice to their advantage whenever it fit. She didn't hate Felicity, how could she, she hardly knew her, but Laurel hated that she was on the outside, without all the information, while someone else was in on everything.

"I won't ask you again," Slade told him. "Either you choose, or I choose for you."

Oliver pursed his lips and lifted his chin with determination. "I won't let them die."

"And I won't let them live," he promised, with the same lethal warning in his voice.

They stared at each other, a volley of masculine desperation passing between them, and Laurel wished she had the strength Sara had. She wished she could beat these Neanderthals over the head and tell them to stop with the testosterone overload. Her life, Felicity's life, should not depend on which one of them came out the victor in their battle. They weren't chess pieces, to be moved at these men's discretion. They were living, breathing people who did not deserve this. Self-righteous indignation welled up inside her, but with a gun so close to her head, the words caught in her throat. She might not know Slade, but just from what she'd seen, she knew he wouldn't be reasoned with. He had a vendetta and he aimed to see it through. She and Felicity were just casualties of that.

A beat passed, and then another, until finally, a small voice said, "Oliver."

His eyes finally broke from Slade's to meet his assistant's, and, for a second, Laurel's breath caught in her chest. Was she pleading her case? Was this the part where they tried to convince Oliver of which one he should save? Was this when they played tearful victim and tugged on his heartstrings until he picked them? Because she was a lot of things, but she was not someone who begged. If this was the day her life ended, she would not ask Oliver Queen to be her knight. Laurel Lance did not, and would not, beg for anyone.

"It's okay…" Felicity said, her voice cracking. "I don't blame you. I'll never blame you."

Oliver's brow furrowed, his shoulder slumping, and the look he pinned her with was something Laurel had never seen before and wasn't sure how to describe. Defeat? Heartbreak? Sorrow? A mixture of all three, threaded with very real fear?

"Felicity…" He said her name like a prayer. Like one word could fill a dictionary with everything it meant.

And for three long seconds, Laurel thought he'd chosen. She thought he'd picked Felicity and was going to let her die.

She closed her eyes and waited for the shot.

"Oliver Queen, you were remarkable," Felicity told him, her voice throaty. "And I don't regret any of it."

Laurel's eyes opened abruptly and her head swiveled. Because that was a goodbye if she'd ever heard one. Her brow furrowed and her mouth parted.

The gun turned, the barrel brushing blonde curls, and the shaking woman let her eyes fall closed, a tear slipping loose, but she didn't whimper, she didn't sob or beg or plead.

"Time's run out, old friend. Is that your choice? Another Lance."

Oliver's chest was heaving, his hands balling up in fists. "Slade, please, don't—"

The gunshot was so loud Laurel swore she lost her hearing for a few seconds.


Her heart stopped and she felt a spray of blood hit her shoulder. She let out a choked breath, her eyes wide, and slowly, so very slowly, turned her head, expecting to see Felicity toppled to the ground, lifeless, eyes empty staring up at her.

But Felicity was still up, still breathing. Slade too was alive, though he was bent to one knee. Someone had shot him, the blood Laurel wore was from a wound on his leg. She scrambled forward, pushing herself to her feet and hurrying out of reach of the madman with the gun. Oliver rushed forward, grabbing up Felicity and pulling her out of the way.

Slade was laughing. "You think one bullet's going to take me down?" he roared before pushing back up to stand.

"I've got a few more," came Sara's reply as she leapt from a nearby building and rolled into view.

Slade looked blood-thirsty and suddenly it was Sara he wanted dead, not a stand in with her sister. Laurel was struggling to get her bindings off and desperately searching for a weapon, any kind of weapon, to aid Sara in her fight. A bow appeared, handed from Sara to Oliver, and now it was two against one. But as much as those odds seemed promising, Slade was a powerhouse and Laurel was absolutely sure that the odds were still stacked in his favor.

Shaking hands knocked her fingers out of the way and then she was released, turning to see Felicity standing there. "We have to go. We're a liability right now," she told Laurel. "I know you want to help, but you're a distraction. They can't focus with us here."

Laurel wanted to argue that she was capable of fighting, that they could even out the odds here, but this woman had almost died so Laurel could live. This woman knew more about the three people now fighting just twenty feet away from them than Laurel could ever know. And much as Laurel considered herself an expert on Sara and Ollie, the people fighting right now were not who she knew. They were Black Canary and Arrow, and she didn't know them at all.

A hand gripped her forearm and tugged. "Laurel, I know you're scared for them, but trust me… We have to go." She shook her head. "Digg will be here soon. He'll help them."


"Now!" Felicity barked, with more gumption than Laurel ever expected out of her.

She let herself be dragged away, all the while staring over her shoulder at the fight commencing in the background. Sara darting and weaving in and out of reach, looking elegant and powerful with each jump and twist. And Oliver, strong and powerful, brutal in his intensity, meeting each blow that came his way and returning the same. Violence and anger and retribution collided together in black and green and red. Blood wet the floor and stained their skin and dripped from the gloved knuckles of the fists that flew.

When they were out of sight, she could still hear them, war cries echoing in the night.

She wouldn't witness the final blow that decided Sara's fate, but when all was quiet, she would step back onto the roof to see the aftermath. Slade was dead, a mass of useless muscle and empty rage. The only two left standing were Oliver and his bodyguard/driver; neither of which looked like they were capable of staying upright much longer.

On the ground was Sara, her hand pressed to a wound in her stomach. Her bow-staff stained red with what Laurel knew was Sara's blood. Her legs were twitching, her body spasming as she bled out. Laurel rushed to her, gathering her into her lap and hugging her close.

Vaguely, she could see a flash of blonde out of the corner of her eye as Felicity hurried in, rushing to the other two. Laurel couldn't care less.

She removed Sara's mask so she could see her better, so she was looking at her little sister and not Canary, not an alter-ego but the girl who grew up at her side. Who shared gossip about boys and stole her make-up and tried on all her clothes long before they'd ever fit her. She held Sara as she smiled up at her, teeth red with the blood she was choking on. She held her as the exhaustion of seven years fighting for her freedom finally left her. She wasn't a ghost anymore, she wasn't a soldier. She was just a woman, just a daughter and a sister. She squeezed Laurel's hand as it cupped her cheek, and she didn't cry, even as Laurel's tears fell from her face onto Sara's.

"Shh…" Sara whispered, her clear blue eyes filled with relief.

And Laurel didn't scoff then, no. She screamed.

Five years later and she could still feel Sara's face against her hand, still hear her voice as clearly as ever. She could still remember how Oliver, broken and sorry, dragged himself over and knelt in front of her, reaching out to squeeze Sara's lifeless hand in farewell. Though he didn't apologize, it was written clearly in the shadows of his tired face. And she wondered how she ever could have thought he was the same man he'd been before the island when he clearly wasn't.

It was a blur after that. Her dad arrived, sobbing over Sara even more desperately than he had the first time they thought she was dead. Oliver, Felicity, and the other man, whose name always escaped her, were already gone by then, the body of Slade Wilson missing too. She didn't know what her father did with Sara, she was gone before she could ask. She set out with little more than a bag of clothes and a vague understanding of what she needed to do.

And now, here she was, with that same bag of clothes and a slightly clearer idea of what her future would be like. She would don the blonde wig and the mask and save the city as Sara had once tried to. Whether that was by Oliver's side, she was about to find out.

It felt weird to be wearing a dress again, to have heels on her feet when she'd previously spent so much of her time in workout attire. But it felt good, it felt like those old roots were growing again and the parts of her that she'd missed were still there to build on. She wasn't just Laurel now, she was the Canary too, but, for the moment, as she crossed the marble floor of Queen Consolidated to the elevator, she was only Laurel, just a woman come to put her destiny into order.

She rode the elevator to the top floor, hands clasped calmly in front of her even as a part of the old her wanted to squirm nervously with anticipation.

When the doors opened, she walked down the hall with purpose, searching out the office she still remembered so well.

She stumbled slightly when she didn't find the familiar, and likely shocked, face of Felicity Smoak staring back at her.

There was man, instead. Young, wearing a slightly askew bow-tie and thick, square glasses, while chewing on a pen as he typed away at his computer.

Hesitantly, she walked forward. "Hello?" she greeted.

He looked up abruptly, brows hiked. "Hello. Hi. Um, how can I help you?" He squinted at her. "You're not the 2 o'clock, are you? Because you're really early…" He frowned, taking his mouse in hand and tapping something on his screen. "I did move that to 2, right? Because I know it was originally 1, but Mr. Queen takes lunch at noon, and he always plans to be back for 1, but he never is." He waved a hand. "Not that Mr. Queen isn't extremely punctual otherwise. He is. He's a great boss and a very accomplished CEO who you would be extremely lucky to work with in any capacity. Which I'm sure you know, since you're here, and his reputation precedes itself. I just… He just takes longer lunches because, well, I don't honestly know. He's the CEO. I don't really ask. I just prepare, right?"

Laurel blinked. "He's at lunch?"

"Mm-hmm." He nodded eagerly and pointed at his screen. "Yep, says right here that he's taking his lunch at Joseph's. It's a great Italian joint. If you're here long, you should check it out. It's not fine dining, but they make a great pasta. I should know, they usually bring me back something. She's sweet like that. Always thinking of the minions." His eyes widened. "Oh, not that they think I'm a minion or treat their staff badly. I just—"

"Joseph's?" she repeated, nodding before she turned on her heel. "Thank you."

He sputtered after her, not quite sure what was happening, but she didn't bother to stay and explain. Instead, she made her way to the elevator and used her phone to look up Joseph's Italian restaurant. With any luck, it was close, and she wouldn't have any trouble tracking him down.

When she left Queen Consolidated, she hailed a cab, managing to get one before a number of other people waving frantically for a ride. She might have felt bad if she wasn't so focused on her mission.

Joseph's wasn't nearly as fancy as Laurel was expecting. It wasn't the five-star dining that Oliver had frequented previously, expecting only the best and getting it because of his superior standing. Instead, it was a small Italian eatery, with only about ten tables in total, most of which were full. She stepped inside and searched around for his familiar face, not surprised to see him sitting as far from the windows as he could get. It was an attempt to avoid unflattering paparazzi pictures, she was sure. Then again, she imagined the paparazzi weren't likely to stake out here, since it didn't look like the type of place anyone of his caliber frequented.

The walls were painted a dark red, with paintings of old, Italian villages, cobble stone streets, and splashes of red, green, and yellow to last for days. The tables were dressed in red and white table clothes with little candles in blue glass holders sitting in the center, unlit at this time of day. It was quaint, simply put.

Oliver sat forward in his seat, his elbows on the table, arms crossed one over the other. The empty plates put to the side said he'd already eaten, but the full glass of wine told her he wasn't finished indulging yet. It was only 1 now, and his assistant said he wasn't likely to return until just before 2, in time for his next meeting.

She stared at him for a long moment, at the white button-up he wore the clung to his arms and spread over his chest in such an attractive way. How had she missed how strong he was, how much his body had changed since the island? He wasn't lanky like he used to be, but sinewy in a way that only lent itself to battle. It seemed so obvious now.

Her gaze moved up to his face, surprised to see it so open as he grinned, laughing deeply at something his lunch companion was saying. She lingered on his face; she hadn't seen him that lighthearted since before the island, when he hadn't had a care in the world outside of what club he and Tommy were going to "bless" with their presence that night. He looked good. He looked… happy. And, while she'd had trouble reading him in the past, this unobstructed view of him seemed sincere. There was nobody to put on airs for, no audience to play for. It was just him and—

Her eyes darted to the right to see who it was he was eating with.

Her stomach twisted as she saw blonde hair.

She shouldn't be surprised. Just because Felicity wasn't his assistant anymore didn't mean they weren't still close. If anything, she should be relieved that she was alive considering the last time she'd seen Felicity, she'd been in just as much danger of being killed by a madman. And, Laurel imagined, given Felicity's night-life, she probably got into a number of similar scrapes since then. But there she was, alive and well, and making Oliver smile wider than Laurel had seen in nearly twelve years.

While a part of her wanted to interrupt, wanted to see that smile turn toward her, she didn't move yet, still watching.

Felicity said something before she sipped her wine, not as full as Oliver's glass was. She was prettier than Laurel remembered. Laurel suddenly felt a little outdated in the dress she'd bought six years earlier. She wasn't sure if fashion had changed much; it didn't seem like it when she was walking through Starling City earlier. But somehow Felicity's bright blue dress with black lace flowers sewn into the fabric seemed so much more eye-catching. It helped that she was wearing bubble gum pink nail polish that seemed to pop whenever her hands moved, which was a lot, since she seemed to constantly be gesticulating.

Only one hand was moving, however, when she placed her wine glass back on the table, and even that stopped when Oliver reached across, his thumb rubbing away a drop of leftover wine from her mouth. It wasn't a shocked kind of still, like she might expect, instead it was as if Felicity had long become used to Oliver taking liberties like that. Her tongue darted out to lick her lip as she seemed to ask if she got it.

He smiled at her, his thumb catching her lower lip and holding it for a moment. His eyes were half-lidded as he replied to her and Laurel disliked the loud din of the restaurant for how it masked his words.

His fingers left her mouth, only to slide up her cheek, stroking delicately, and Laurel's heart twisted at the tenderness on his face as he stared at his former assistant, that same intensity in his eyes that she hadn't completely understood five years ago on a slick roof with a gun at her head.

A waiter blocked her view then and Oliver's arm retracted. The dishes were cleaned up and taken away while Oliver produced a credit card to pay the bill.

Felicity stood, taking her black pea-coat from off the back of her chair and folding it over her arm as she waited for him to grab his own jacket and stand with her.

Laurel left the restaurant quickly, but didn't go too far. She wondered, briefly, how much her mentor would look down on her for using what she had learned to spy on her ex-boyfriend. This definitely wasn't what she'd been taught. But something inside of her needed to know. If she was ever going to have any peace, she had to know if this thing between her and Oliver was really, truly over. If he'd moved on, if he was happy with Felicity, if he built a life and there was nothing missing from it, then she knew.

They stepped out of the restaurant arm-in-arm, with Felicity's lightly wrapped in his, her hand up and comfortably resting on his bicep. Oliver had put his suit jacket back on since he was bound to return to the office soon and Laurel wasn't surprised to see how sharp it made him look. For all that he'd never been interested in being the CEO of Queen Consolidated, he certainly fit the image of it now.

They walked leisurely down the sidewalk, with Felicity doing most of the talking, her free arm waving around as she spoke while he nodded, often spending more time looking at her than he did where he was going. Somehow, between them, they managed to walk down the street without once bumping into anyone, as if they were trading off on being the eyes around them, taking quick looks at their path before returning their gaze to where they wanted it, on each other.

They turned down another street, and Laurel frowned since it was in the opposite direction of Queen Consolidated. Soon, she found herself walking through a crowd of people all collecting around various vendors. There were tables with homemade jams and jellies, jewelry, clothing, art, and knickknacks. Silk scarves hung inside a tent, with colorful pashminas that Felicity let her hand glide over. Oliver was quick to dig into his pocket for his wallet, but she just as swiftly patted his hand in a gesture for him to put it away. They kept walking, Felicity's eye catching on something else, but Oliver looked back at the pashminas, his eyes narrowed.

His gaze was cut off, however, when Felicity hurried forward toward a table filled with blankets. She rubbed her hand over a small green one, a white apple stitched into the corner. She smiled up at him and lifted the fabric, running a corner against his cheek. He rolled his eyes and produced his wallet then, handing over the asked price before taking the bagged blanket in hand and sliding an arm around her waist, leading her away from the table.

They moved to and fro, stopping here or there, lingering over baubles, organic fruits, and books. When they stopped near a table of leather-bound journals, they stopped to admire them, and Laurel ducked into the tent beside it, a sheet of thin, white fabric separating them.

"This one's nice… You know, you'll need a new one soon," Felicity told him.

"I've still got space left in the other one," he replied.

"Oliver, you write in it every night. And last I checked, your days were hardly boring, so they take up a number of pages."

"I don't always write about my days. I write about the island too."

"Which takes even more paper."

He sighed. "I've already filled three. And I still think it's a bad idea to have a written record of everything I've done."

"First of all, it's invisible ink for a reason. Second of all, those journals aren't getting anywhere near the wrong hands. Queen Manor is like a fortress. Nobody gets in there without explicit consent."

"It helps that you personally designed the security system. Even if the retinal scan is a bit much."

"No complaining!" she told him sternly. "That retinal scan will pay itself off in the future."

"As long as everyone's safe, I'm happy."


Laurel watched Felicity's shadow lean over, her head falling against Oliver's chest.

"I know it's hard sometimes, but I think it helps you to write it all down."

He bent to kiss the top of her head. "I know." And with that, he took the leather-bound journal she held and paid the vendor for the purchase.

They didn't do much more shopping after that, except to stop and buy a bag of fresh green grapes from one of the last booths before they were out of vendor's alley and back on the busy sidewalks of the city. They looped back around and began the trek toward Queen Consolidated, all the while sharing the bag of grapes, with Felicity holding one up at a time and him eating them from her fingers. There was a time that Oliver would've made a joke that he was a king who belonged amongst a sea of women at his beck and call, but for every grape Felicity fed him, he seemed to pluck two from the bag and feed them to her, sometimes interrupting one of her rambles.

Laurel kept a safe distance, never quite close enough for them to notice somebody was tailing them but near enough that she could still see them clearly. It helped that the sidewalk was busy with people walking in both directions, often on cell phones or playing with iPod's and so too distracted to notice the concentration she placed on the couple ahead of her.

Why she kept following them, she wasn't entirely sure. The lawyer side of her brain considered just how close she was to being a stalker at this point, while the Canary part of her was adamant that she was merely acclimating to her new surroundings and collecting information on a possible future teammate… and his tech support.

Admittedly, at his point, she knew that they were in some kind of relationship. The extent of that she wasn't sure. They were obviously intimate with each other, but Oliver had been intimate with a lot of people in his life, so she wasn't sure if Felicity was different or if, because of the lifestyle they led, they simply found comfort with each other, too busy and secretive to build relationships with people who weren't in the loop. She preferred that idea, but a sinking in her gut told her different.

Oliver was too focused on her, too interested in everything she had to say, he smiled at her verbal gaffes and the animated way she way she talked and moved. He wasn't just enamored with her, he was in lo—

A horn honked loudly and drew her attention, suddenly putting her on high alert, far more attentive to her surroundings. What was she doing? All of her training and she was putting every inch of her attention on them. This wasn't going to end the way she wanted it to, and she knew that now, but she was still following, her chin ducked down a little to hide her face. Her hands were tucked in the pockets of her jacket, a discrete, forgettable black.

Soon, Queen Consolidated was within reach and she watched curiously to see if Felicity would follow him inside or not. Was the company aware of their relationship? Did she still work for him? Was the man upstairs a temp, or had Felicity returned to her roots in the IT Department? But as they paused out front of the building, they turned to each other to say goodbye. The bag they'd collected from vendor alley was put on the ground at their feet as Oliver's hands fell to Felicity's hips and drew her forward a few more inches, while hers braced on his forearms to steady herself. She tipped her head back to see him, smiling all the while, her gaze darting between his mouth and his eyes.

He smiled slowly, that low, simmering suggestion there that Laurel had seen many times in the past, just lacking the same degree of intensity he was giving to the woman in front of him. He leaned forward, first kissing Felicity's forehead and then dropping his lips to hers; it was short, sweet, with lingering pecks in between whispered words, and then he was taking a step back and letting out a heavy sigh. Felicity reached across to smooth out his jacket for him and readjusted his already straight tie. She smiled and gave him a reassuring nod before she bent to pick up the bag. Just as she was about to turn and leave, however, he tugged her back and stole another kiss before winking and turning on his heel.

She rolled her eyes after him, smiling affectionately before she turned and walked to the curb where a black town car was waiting. Climbing in the back, she dropped her bag to the floor and said something to the man in front, who Laurel soon recognized was the same driver as before. The trio was still together then, despite terrible odds.

The town car pulled away from the curb and into traffic while Laurel's eyes returned to the tall figure walking into Queen Consolidated, returning to his duties as CEO. She checked her watch; he had ten minutes until his next meeting, somehow she wasn't surprised.

Despite the warnings in her head, she made her decision and walked into QC, crossing the floor quickly and taking the elevator up to the top floor, her toe tapping anxiously on the floor. Gone was the confident woman who had walked in earlier, now she had questions, now she wanted to know if she'd spent five years waiting on a reunion that was not going to be anything like what she wanted.

For a moment, as the numbers climbed, she wondered if this was what he felt when he came back from the island. Had he been hoping for something different when they saw each other again, only to find her sleeping with his best friend and blaming him for things she didn't fully understand? Though, at the time, she had every right. He didn't go out of his way to tell her what happened, he didn't tell her Sara was alive, and he had cheated on her with her own sister. She had every right to be angry with him. But not now. Now it was her returning after five years of almost no communication. It was her coming back to a world she wasn't completely up-to-date on. And it was him who had moved on.

She stepped off the elevator resolved to understand.

The same man as before sat at the desk outside Oliver's office and he stood, offering a smile. "You're early again, but this time he's here. If you just want to take a seat, I'll let Mr. Queen know you've arrived, and—"

She didn't bother waiting to let him finish, instead she walked right into Oliver's office and kept walking until she was nearly at his desk.

"If you'll just give me a few minutes, I can meet you down in the conference room, Ms. Pagnotta," he said, his back to her for the moment. However, when he turned to offer his fake smile, it immediately dropped upon seeing her face. "Laurel." His voice was shocked, his brow furrowed.

"Ollie," she replied, smiling though her voice was sad. "I… I stopped by earlier, but your… assistant said you were out to lunch."

His eyes darted away and then he looked back at her. "You were there… You were the one following us."

Her eyes widened.

"I couldn't spot you, but I knew someone was there."

Either her technique wasn't as good as she thought it was, or she was so distracted with them that she wasn't focusing the way she should have. Regardless, she didn't defend herself. "I was going to say hi, but… you were busy."

"It's been a long time." He shook his head, offering a faint smile. "I'm glad you're back. Are you staying?"

She nodded, the motion stilted. "Yes. I… I'm back for good. Actually, I originally wanted to talk to you about… Sara and what she used to do." She swallowed tightly. "It can wait for now. I can explain that after. I just…" She pressed her hands together and tugged on her fingers. "I wanted to see you."

He stared at her a long moment and then dropped his gaze to his desk, where he fiddled with a picture frame absently. It was then she saw it, so very obvious and yet she'd missed it every time. A gold wedding band wrapped around his finger, shiny and solid.

"You're married," she breathed.

He met her eyes steadily and gave a short nod.

"To… Felicity," she said, and even she couldn't say her voice wasn't full of surprise.

"Nearly three years," he told her.

"Three years." She pressed a hand to her stomach. "Three… years…" She shook her head and turned, letting out a bubble of laughter. "We were in a relationship for three years and you broke out in hives when I mentioned getting an apartment… You ran away on a yacht with my sister!" Her voice rose with an edge of hysteria as she turned back around to face him. "How long? How long were you together before you proposed?"

He shook his head.

"How. Long?"

He pursed his lips but replied, "The first time, eight months."

"Eight months," she repeated in shock, and then paused. "The first time?"

"A mission went sideways, she got hurt…" His eyes turned away as a haunted look passed over his face, his memory clouding his eyes. "I asked her to marry me while Diggle was stitching her up…" His lips quirked then and he turned his eyes back to her. "She told me I was only proposing to distract her from the needles and it wasn't going to work."

"And the second time?"

"I'd been shot. I was a little hazy at the time. Diggle had me hooked up to an IV. I remember telling her that there'd be no wi-fi connection on our honeymoon because I didn't want to have to cut it short to save the world… She told me I wasn't allowed to propose in life-threatening situations."

Laurel's throat burned. "How many times did you propose before she said yes?"

His good humor faded. "Laurel…"

She squeezed her eyes shut when they burned. "I waited years for you to propose. I checked your sock drawer for hidden rings. I dropped hints. I brought up all our friends getting engaged. But you… You were never going to, were you?"

His face fell and he tapped his fingers on the edge of his desk. "We didn't fit together… Even before the island. I was selfish and self-involved and… you went with it. You hoped I'd change. But I used that against you, I manipulated your hope that I could be better…" His jaw ticked as he ground his teeth. "And when I got back, yes, I still loved you. I wanted to have something good in my life, something from my past that wasn't tainted by that island. But we had too much history and I had too many secrets."

"You don't have those anymore." A tear dribbled down her cheek. "After Slade, after Sara, I knew everything."

"And then you were gone. You left."

"Don't." She stabbed a finger toward him. "Don't tell me that if I'd stayed it would be different. I was on that roof, Ollie. I saw the way you looked at her. I saw how terrified you were when she said goodbye. She was ready to die, she was ready for you to pick me, but you weren't. Not even then. If Sara hadn't showed up, you would've saved her, don't tell me you wouldn't have."

"I would've done everything I could to save both of you."

"Maybe," she allowed, "But that doesn't change the fact that you already felt something for her…" A sad smile crossed her lips. "I didn't stand a chance, did I?"

He was nice enough not to answer her, but they both knew what it would be. No, she hadn't. He might not have known it then, but he was already in love with Felicity, and while Laurel staying might have derailed things for a bit, eventually, he would've found his way into Felicity's arms. It hurt. More than she thought it could. But maybe that was okay, maybe this was better. Men only complicated things. Relationships, love, she didn't have time for that yet. She needed to establish herself as Black Canary. She needed to live up to the legacy her sister had left behind, build on what she'd started.

That didn't make her any less curious, however.

"You never did tell me how many proposals it took."

He licked his lips and nodded. "Six… We were together a little over a year when she accepted, and we got married on our two year anniversary."

Her eyebrow arched up as she nodded, her eyes falling, and then she stepped forward, to see the picture he'd been playing with. She expected a wedding photo. Maybe they'd be on a beach and Oliver would be staring adoringly at his bride in white, with her windswept blonde hair, pink cheeks, and winsome smile. She did find a wedding picture, though it wasn't a beach they stood on, it was what appeared to be the sprawling back yard of Queen Manor, with the happy couple standing under an arbor of white roses and ivy twined all around it. Oliver's arms were around her waist as he smiled down at his beaming bride. The wedding picture wasn't what made her breath catch in her throat, however; that was the smaller picture tucked into the corner of it of a tired Felicity, smiling sleepily at the camera as she cradled a newborn baby in her arms.

"Her name's Grace… She's almost six months old." The pride in his voice was clear and her head swiveled up to see him, smiling lightly down at his little girl. He had a daughter. A beautiful baby girl.

The green blanket with the white apple suddenly flashed in her mind. A baby blanket.

"You're a father," she whispered, a note of awe in her voice.

He half-smiled. "I am."

"A husband and a father." She felt a little dizzy with the revelation. "And a vigilante at night."

"Not as much lately. Roy's been helping and, when Grace was first born, and…" He grimaced. "Barry came to help out too."

The first name was familiar, but the second drew a blank in her mind. More vigilantes, she wondered. Just how big had his team gotten while she was away? Had someone else stepped in to fill Sara's shoes?

"Felicity went on maternity leave. That's why Matt is here instead. She hand-picked him, if you couldn't tell… When she's finished, things will probably pick up more, but right now, with Grace, we're trying not to take as many risks. It can't last forever, the city doesn't stay safe just because I need it to. But for now, it's working."

She nodded slowly. "But you need help."

He lifted a shoulder, still unwilling to admit that was exactly what he needed.

Raising her chin, she met his eyes squarely. "Regardless of our history, I went away to prepare myself. My sister fought for something and I want to do the same. I've trained, I know what I'm doing, and whether you want me on your team or not, you're going to see me out there."

His eyes narrowed. "Laurel, it's not that I don't think you're capable. But this isn't easy. People get hurt."

"I've been hurt. Now it's my turn to make the right people pay for how they've hurt others." She shook her head. "This isn't a discussion. It's a warning. I'll be out there, so maybe tell Roy that I'll play friendly if he does."

His jaw ticked, but he nodded. "Fine. But I want to talk more about what you learned and who you learned it from… Learning to fight and being in a fight are two very different things."

"We'll talk," she agreed, taking a step back. "Just… maybe after I've had time to process everything."

He nodded.

A knock at the door had her head turning and she realized Matt was standing next to who was supposed to be Oliver's next appointment. She turned back to face Oliver and offered a faint smile. "I should let you get back to work."

She made it three steps before he called her name.

"I am happy you're back."

Her eyes closed briefly, a sting of tears blocked before she turned back to see him. "Not the reunion I was hoping for, but it'll do."

He stared at her searchingly. "I'm sorry… that I can't be what you want."

"No, you're not. If you were sorry, you wouldn't have her or your daughter, and I don't think you'd choose anyone over them." Her smile was watery. "Just tell me you're happy. Tell me this was supposed to happen, that she's who you're supposed to be with."

A beat passed as he read her, deciding if it would hurt her more or less to be honest.

"Felicity is everything to me," he answered sincerely. "I'd fall apart without her."

Her lips parted on a breathless sigh as she nodded. She believed him. She believed that he asked Felicity to marry him six different times, patient enough to wait for her to be ready, for the timing to be right, and impatient enough to keep trying until he got the answer he wanted. She believed that the first time he asked her, when she was being stitched up, he hadn't asked only because he nearly lost her, he asked because almost losing her reminded him how much he loved her, how much he needed her. She believed him when he said he'd fall apart without her, and for all that some part of her wished it was her and not Felicity, she hoped he never lost his wife, she hoped he never knew that devastation. Not only because she knew the grief would tip him over the edge, but because she did love Oliver. She loved Ollie, her first love, her college boyfriend, the man who broke her heart far too often, and somehow managed to hold it longer than anyone else. Above all else, he was her friend, and even if it hurt her heart, she did want him to be happy, to be loved, even if it wasn't with her.

"Okay." She nodded, blinking back her tears. With a deep inhale, she said, "Congratulations, Ollie… You have a beautiful family."

He nodded. "Thank you."

"We'll talk, soon, about Sara and… my time away." She clasped her hands together. "You can introduce me to your team, properly this time."

"That sounds fine."

Nodding, she turned and walked away then, her head held high. She didn't bother to explain herself to the curious and confused Matt, she simply walked down the hall to the elevator and rode it to the bottom. She didn't realize she was crying until she stepped outside and felt the breeze, cold on her wet cheeks. She walked away quickly, no exact destination planned, but eventually found herself on the roof she'd once faced her fate. For a long time, all she did was pace in circles, eventually perching on the edge, looking out on the city. Time passed, the sun slowly setting. Her joints ached when she finally moved, and she pushed herself into action, leaping from one roof to the next, building to building, enjoying the exertion of each muscle.

How she found herself at vendor's alley, she didn't know. Maybe some part of her just needed to see it, needed to know if he'd do what she thought he would. It was after five, he was officially finished for the day, and most of the vendors were packing up. She imagined most CEO's would stay later than the others, but with a baby daughter at home, she just knew Oliver would be hurrying out of his office.

Not without one stop first though.

She watched as he left the waiting town car and quickly made his way to the vendor with the silk scarves. He pointed out two pashminas, one bubble gum pink and one royal blue, and offered up a wad of cash for them. They were the same that Felicity had touched earlier in the day, her fingers lingering and her eyes soft with appreciation. Ever the adoring and attentive husband, he carried them back to the car, happy to bring his wife home a present.

Laurel wondered if Felicity would be surprised, or if she was used to things like this from him by now.

Years and years ago, when Laurel had deluded herself into thinking one day she would be his wife, she remembered thinking about how he would come home from work with flowers and share his day with her. He'd listen as she told him about what case she was working on and they'd share a glass of wine as he rubbed her feet. The Ollie she knew, however, wasn't like that. Oh, he could be charming. He bought gifts, mostly of the 'sorry' variety, and he showed up with expensive bottles of wine, usually a precursor to sex, and he even rubbed her feet from time to time. But he was restless, he didn't have a job, nor did he want one, and he often got bored just listening to her talk about college, having dropped out of more than his fair share.

Felicity's Oliver would probably know her favorite wine, something worth savoring. He probably carefully selected each bottle, ordering her a glass every time they went out to eat. He probably liked watching as each flavor burst on her tongue and anticipated getting to kiss those wine-soaked lips until she was putty in his hands. He almost definitely rubbed her feet, and her hands, overworked from typing. He'd listen to her babble and fill him in on her day, even when he shared it with her. He'd buy her gifts, some expensive, some not, just to see her smile. He'd propose six times and tell her he loved her every chance he got and never get scared when the idea of commitment and moving in together and spending their lives with each other would come up. They'd be topics he brought up first, ideas he relished.

Laurel's Ollie was not Felicity's Oliver, but she was starting to think it wasn't just a matter of pre-island or post-island. Maybe, even if he'd never been shipwrecked, never gone through what he had, eventually he would have found her anyway. Maybe he would have visited his dad one day at QC and run into a quirky blonde in the halls, struck up a conversation, flirting as he always did, but something would be different. She would be different. And somehow, they would still end up exactly here, with Oliver married to Felicity, and baby Grace the proud product of their devotion. Maybe, maybe not, but the reality of it was that he was married to her, he did love her, and he wouldn't want it any other way. So Laurel accepted that, much as it panged her heart.

She let the rooftop looking down on vendor alley and made her way toward the building her dad lived in. It was time to stop living in the past and start building a future, beginning with the only man in her life that really mattered.


Flower meanings:

*Irises mean inspiration; because Tommy's death triggered Oliver to stop killing (except for that when Felicity's life is in danger, apparently)
*Daffodils are for chivalry, for when Tommy saved Laurel's life

Author's Note: So I originally just wanted to write a blurb about Laurel seeing Olicity living happily ever after, but then I realized there's no way she wouldn't have seen that happening if she was in the city, so I needed to get her out of it. Brainstorming, I figured I'd take Laurel into her Black Canary phase, she wouldn't know what was going on back home or how things had changed. So when she came back, she was sincerely surprised to see how much Oliver had grown and that he was a happily married man. I didn't want to hurt Laurel and I didn't want to write her as some hateful, spiteful bitch, because I don't think she's like that. I tried to write her as honestly as I could and portray her in the right frame for someone who was beginning a new life but still holding onto their old life. In any case, I hope you liked it, I know a lot of Olicity fans don't care much for Laurel or the barrier she presents, but I did want to explore her character a bit, so long as it still came out Olicity in the end, haha. ;)

Speaking of, while I was writing this, a few story bugs planted themselves, but I'd like to know if you guys were interested in seeing a three-part story about how it all came to fruition through Oliver's point of view. From when they first got together, to the six proposals, to Laurel's abrupt arrival after a well-spent lunch with his wife. So, let me know, because I already have quite a bit written out, including the aftermath of Slade's attack and how Olicity got together, and two of the proposals. Couldn't help myself.

Happy new years, everybody! Thank you so much for reading, please do leave a review. They keep me writing!

- Lee | Fina