“Oliver Queen has returned to Starling City. The local billionaire and presumed heir to Fortune 500 Company Queen Consolidated shocked everyone five years ago by enlisting in the U.S. Army. Queen was a regular in the tabloids and a fixture of the local club scene. No one knows where this change of heart came from but we are glad Mr. Queen finished his tour and has come home in one piece. We’re sure his family feels the same.”
The town car pulls up in front of Queen Manor and Oliver lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in. After five years overseas he is finally coming home. The original plan had been a two-year tour with the Army in Afghanistan. His unit, however, had been assigned a special operation halfway through his third year and Oliver had elected to stay with them. Until now.
“Here we are, Mr. Queen. Do you need help with your belongings?”
“No, I’ve got it. Thanks.” Oliver exits the car and grabs the few things he’s brought back with him, a duffle bag and a small metal safe box. He walks towards the doors and they ease open when he pushes on them.
“Hello?” Oliver calls out and hears a rushing of feet from upstairs.
“Ollie!” A whirlwind of brown hair and long limbs rushes down the stairs and throws itself at him. He quickly drops his belongings to the ground in order to return the embrace. “I’ve missed you so much!”
“Me too, Speedy. More than you know.” His little, well not so little anymore, sister was one of the people Oliver missed the most. Being back here, having her in his arms, it’s almost surreal.
“Ugh, I told you to stop calling me that like twenty letters ago.”
“Then you should know by now I’m not going to stop.” He grins before really taking the rest of her in. She’s changed so much these past five years. The pictures don’t do her justice. “When did you grow up on me?”
“Oh don’t you start, too. I already get enough of that from Tommy.”
“Speak of the devil and he shall appear.” The voice chimes from the still open doors.
“Tommy Merlyn.” Oliver envelops his best friend in a hug, patting him on the back. Until five years ago the two were inseparable. Where either one of them went the other wasn’t too far behind.
“Man is it good to see you. By the way, how many numbers did you get in the airport wearing that? Ladies go crazy for a man in uniform.” Oliver reaches into his pocket and pulls out a napkin with a number written on it followed by a bright red kiss print.
“I might have to borrow that some time.”
“Lending out the uniform in order to get your best friend laid is generally frowned upon.”
“Oliver.” Oliver turns to see Moira Queen walk in through the parlor.
“Hi, mom. You look beautiful.” She wraps her son in a hug and he presses a kiss to her cheek.
“Thank you, sweetheart. Now come along. Raisa made your favorites for dinner.”
They all head to the dining room and upon entering it looks like they are having dinner for twenty. Robert Queen stands at the head of the table.
“Welcome home, Oliver.”
“Dad.” His hand is extended for Oliver to take and after a brief shake everyone takes his or her seat. Surveying the table he notices the empty seat next to Thea.
“Oh she said she had some super important tech problem at QC that just had to be taken care of tonight.”
Thea rolls her eyes. While she loves and respects her best friend dearly, she can’t help but think the girl needs a hobby that doesn’t involve coding and wiring.
“Right, she’s interning there this summer isn’t she?”
“Yes and she’s quickly out shining the rest of the IT department, including her supervisor. It’s no wonder she’s a year ahead at MIT on full ride.”
The pride in Robert’s voice does not go undetected. He’s always had a soft spot for Felicity. It’s something Thea had mentioned over the course of their written conversations when Oliver was away. Thea would always be Robert’s little princess but Felicity’s intelligence was something he boasted about often.
“Felicity has always been brilliant.” In fact, it was one of the first things Oliver noticed about her when they met all those years ago, when she was only twelve and he twenty-four.
“And she never lets anyone forget it.” The words escape Thea with fondness.
There’s silence for a few minutes as everyone takes their first few bites of dinner before Tommy breaks the silence.
“Alright let’s see what you missed. Superbowl: Giants, Steelers, Saints, Packers, Giants again. Someone let one of the Kardashians have a kid. Oh and Lost, all dead. I think. It was really unclear.”
“Tommy, I was fighting in the war, not stranded on a deserted island.”
“You know you were very vague in those letters on how much media exposure you had there.”
“I appreciate the sentiment.” They exchange a grin, already falling back into their brotherly rhythm.
“Okay, tomorrow you and me, we’re taking a tour around the city a la Tommy’s new sports car, see how many tickets we can rack up and get you reacquainted with the world.”
“Get down, kid!” Gunshot rings out and bullets whiz by their faces at alarmingly close distances.
“She’s trapped! We have to get her out of there.” Oliver tries to move but he’s pushed back against the wall.
“You’re right but we need a plan. Charging across open terrain while under attack isn’t going to do us any good. We can’t help her if we’re dead.”
Suddenly there's a loud booming noise and the heat surrounding them flares up tenfold. There’s a bright, flashing light and it consumes them, searing their flesh and causing everything else to fade. It’s all white and it burns.
He can hear her screams mixed with his own.
“Oliver! Oliver, wake up!”
His instincts kick in. There’s a hand on his shoulder and he grabs it, flipping his attacker over his shoulder and onto the floor. His legs straddle the person’s waist and his hands close over a slender neck. He squeezes, closing the person’s airways and causing her to gasp for air.
“Oliver...” His brain finally identifies the voice. The next second Oliver is scrambling backwards, far away from a wheezing Moira Queen, who is being assisted by her husband.
“I’m sorry! Mom, I’m so sorry!”
They weren’t supposed to know about the nightmares. At least not yet when he’s so unprepared to talk about it.
“It’s okay. I’m alright.”
But it’s not okay. The way his parents are looking at him right now, it’s like they don’t even recognize him. He can imagine what they see, his hands shaking and eyes wide. He probably looks like a wild animal to them, barely human.
“Oliver, it’s okay, sweetheart.”
But it’s not. They couldn’t save her. She died because they couldn’t save her. Okay isn’t something he ever expects to be again.
“I’m throwing you a welcome home bash at the club. I was thinking ‘Murica for the theme. You can even wear your uniform.”
“I’m pretty sure wearing the uniform when drinking breaks about twenty different rules.” He can’t help but laugh at his friend’s joking. God, he missed that. “So tell me more about this club. You wrote about it some but I want details.”
“Verdant? Once I graduated with my business degree I started looking for real estate for the club. Your dad offered to sell me that old Queen-Steele factory in the Glades. It’s only been open for a few months but it’s one of the most popular clubs in Starling. We expect to break even with the development costs within the next year or less.”
“That’s awesome, man. I’m happy it’s going so well. Damn, I wish we had thought about that when my parents cut me off.”
The freezing of Oliver’s trust fund was what instigated his decision to enlist. That seems like a lifetime ago. The Oliver he was then is so different from who he is now.
“So, what’d you miss most? Steaks at the palm? Drinks at the station? Meaningless sex?”
“You know there are women in the Army, Tommy.”
“Oh, hey! Now we’re getting to the good stuff. I’m gonna need a physical description and list of her… talents.”
“I didn’t say there was a girl, just that I wasn’t surrounded by men all day.”
“Uh huh, sure. I’ll get you to talk. But you’re saved for now because we are here.”
The building they pull up to seems out of place in its current setting. Where everything else surrounding it appears dilapidated and unattended, CNRI stands well maintained and clean. Walking in, Oliver and Tommy have to weave their way through cubicles and dodge out of the path of people who are running around holding large stacks of papers and files.
“Ollie!” He smiles at the sound of his best friend’s voice and turns around with open arms.
“Hi, Laurel.” She takes the few steps between them and wraps her arms around his shoulders. “It’s good to see you.”
“I missed you so much.” She slides down and plants a kiss on his jaw before stepping away.
“What, no love for Tommy?”
“I think you got enough this morning, Merlyn.” Laurel rolls her eyes but closes the distance to place a firm kiss on his lips before smiling up at him. “Hi.”
That is going to take some getting used to. When Oliver left, everything between the three of them had been strictly platonic. But over the years it seemed Tommy and Laurel had grown closer. So close, in fact, that they now live together. When Tommy wrote Oliver to inform him that they were dating, Oliver had been happy for his two best friends. He knew Tommy had a long-standing crush on Laurel that went on and off throughout the years and he was glad to see that finally come to fruition.
“That’s better.” Tommy places another peck on her lips before continuing. “You think you’ll get enough work done today to stop by Verdant tonight? Can’t miss your best friend’s coming home party!”
“Yeah, I just have to pull the final prosecution together for the Adam Hunt case. Asshole somehow switched venues to be tried in front of Judge Grou, whose reelection campaign he funded.”
“Adam Hunt? That’s pretty big. I’m assuming law school went well then?”
Out of everyone who wrote him, besides his parents, Laurel was the least frequent. He knew she had been busy with law school and Tommy would often update him on how she was doing. He didn’t blame her.
“Yes. I’m not saying it wasn’t hell going through it, but I’m happy here. It was worth the struggle.”
“Laurel, we need you to go over the new section of the prosecution.”
“Ah, Joanna, looking beautiful as ever.” The girl in questions smirks at Tommy’s antics.
“You should know by now, Merlyn, that flattery will get you nowhere with me.” She hands a file to Laurel, who reads over the front before letting out a sigh.
“And that’s my cue. I wish I could talk more but this case…”
“Say no more. See you tonight?” Oliver reaches out to pull her into another hug.
“I’ll stop by. It really is so great to see you, Ollie. You look good.”
She gives Tommy a kiss goodbye and walks off with Joanna, already discussing the case at a rapid-fire speed only a lawyer can posses.
“Is she normally this busy?”
“You should have seen her when she was still in school. And when the boards came around? Forget it. I think I was having less sex than when I was single.”
“That’s not really saying much.”
“No, I suppose it’s not.”
They climb into the car and Tommy speeds back to the mansion.
It’s a shame; they don’t pick up a single speeding ticket on the way.
Oliver can feel the bass vibrating throughout his entire body. Multicolored lights strobe and flash about, momentarily blinding him. People are shouting and laughing, colorful drinks in hand. He can see girls wearing barely-there outfits of camo and red, white, and blue dancing on top of the bar and on platforms. A huge American flag covers the wall behind the DJ. He and Tommy never really were ones to do a party halfway.
Speaking of, Oliver spots his best friend toasting amongst a group of people. He catches his eye and nods in greeting. Tommy signals the DJ to cut the music as he walks over to Oliver, grabbing two shot glasses off of a passing tray.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the man of the hour!” Tommy hands one of the glasses to Oliver and clinks in salute before they both down the clear liquid. Cheers rise up from the partygoers and people raise their glasses. “Now ladies, please, give our brave hero a proper homecoming!” More shouts ring out and Oliver raises a hand in greeting before walking with Tommy to the bar.
“Okay, by my estimate you haven’t had sex in 1,839 days. Unless there’s something you want to tell me.” He gives Tommy a blank look. “Right, so as your wingman might I suggest the fiery hot redhead in the sinfully tight dress?”
“What would Laurel think if she heard this?”
“Hey, this is for you, not me. None of them hold up to Laurel in my eyes.”
“Merlyn, I do believe you are thoroughly whipped.” Tommy looks as if he’s going to protest but only gives him a self-deprecating smile.
“What can I say, man? She’s incredible.” Oliver would have to agree on that.
Looking around, he catches sight of a blonde at the end of the bar. She’s standing by herself with her back to them and running a hand through her slightly curled hair. The royal blue dress she’s wearing falls to the floor but her entire back is on display. It’s all skin, starting at her shoulders and ending at the base of her spine, the cut just shy of indecent yet still classy.
“I’ll be right back.”
Before he realizes it Oliver is crossing to the other side of the bar. He walks up behind the girl and briefly places a hand on her back to grab her attention. She turns to face him and he barely gets out a word before she throws her arms around him.
“Oliver!” Wait, he knows that voice. “You’re back! I’m so glad you’re home!”
He really, really knows that voice but for some reason can’t seem to place it. The warmth of the girl in his arms is a bit distracting and he pulls away before something embarrassing happens.
“Ollie! Felicity! I finally found you guys.” Oh shit.
“What? You go away for five years and forget about everybody? Come on, Oliver, I told you I dyed my hair in one of those letters.” Oh fucking shit.
No, this beautiful blonde bombshell cannot be Felicity. Felicity has brown hair and braces and glasses that are slightly too big for her face. She’s disproportionate limbs and regularly teasing him with Thea. Felicity is a girl twelve years his junior, not this woman standing before him now. She can’t be. Because if she is Felicity, then he just had some very inappropriate thoughts about the girl he and his family have basically adopted as their own.
Did he mention she is twelve years younger than him and best friends with his baby sister?
“Felicity?” He really needs to think of something else to say besides her name.
“Uh, yeah, Felicity. You know, sister’s best friend, lives in the mansion, basically part of the family, just finished with her first year at MIT?”
“You okay there, Ollie?” He forgot about the presence of his little sister, his little sister who is only one year younger than Felicity.
“What? Yeah, no, I’m fine just wow you look…” gorgeous, stunning, drop dead sexy “grown up.”
But she’s not. She’s seventeen, almost eighteen if he remembers correctly, and he’s thirty. Maybe if he keeps reminding himself of that he’ll stop thinking about the heat of her bare skin against his hand for the brief second he touched her back.
“That does tend to happen, big brother. Don’t worry, Lis, he gave me the same speech when I first saw him, too.”
Now if only he could have the same thoughts about her that he did Thea. It has to be the tequila. Five years without it has made him an extreme lightweight. It’s also been awhile and he is a man, those tendencies don’t just disappear and unfortunately they don’t care about what is and isn’t appropriate.
“You look grown up, too.” Felicity reaches up to run her fingers through his cropped hair and it is definitely not helping the situation. “No more flow. I kind of like it, makes you look manly.” He needs to change the subject right now.
“How did you two get in here?”
“I believe it was somebody who said ‘Right this way, Miss Queen’,” Thea replies smartly before Felicity chimes in.
“Don’t worry, we’re not drinking. We just wanted to come celebrate your homecoming.” Jesus they’re not even old enough to drink.
“Well, you’re not drinking.” Felicity gives Thea a look. “Just a glass of champagne to celebrate.”
“You shouldn’t be drinking anything.”
“Okay, Felicity and I aren’t little kids anymore.” He’s noticed. He’s definitely noticed.
“No, but you are seventeen.”
“Hey, I’m almost eighteen. Give it a few weeks and this is totally legal. You know, minus the drinking.” All the reminders of just how old, or really how young, Felicity is make Oliver feel like a complete pervert.
“And you’re really one to talk, Ollie. Need I remind you of the time you totaled the car mom and dad bought you for your sixteenth birthday? Or when you were arrested for peeing on a cop? Or, hey, how about the party you threw at which Felicity almost drowned?”
The last one causes him to wince. That’s something Oliver will never feel he has made up for. There were a lot of stupid things he did as a teenager and a college student but usually no one else was hurt as a result of his actions.
Felicity silently pleads with her to stop. The past few years have been hard for Thea. Hell, they’ve been hard for Felicity, too. But there’s no reason to take it out on Oliver right now.
“Listen, I know it was hard, me not being here.”
“You left me! You could have died! And I know you tried with the letters and occasional phone call but it wasn’t the same. I love you. But you can’t come back and act like you weren’t missing from my life for five years. You can’t come back and tell me how to live a life you’ve barely been in.” With that Thea turns to walk away, abruptly ending the conversation.
“I’ll go talk to her. I’m glad you’re back, Oliver.”
Felicity rests a hand on his arm before following Thea through the crowd of people, leaving Oliver dazed and confused. Part of him wonders when the fuck he stopped thinking about Felicity as his kid sister’s best friend but an even bigger part wants to know where all this anger in Thea is coming from.
“The brave soldier returns home from battle.” Oliver turns at the sound of the familiar voice and can’t help but grin.
“Sara Lance, how have you been?”
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that? I bet you have some serious war stories you can share with the class.” She leans in close and places a hand on his bicep. “And the muscles to match apparently.”
Oliver laughs and takes a step closer. He and Sara are both familiar with this dance. They used to do it often and the ending results were always satisfying. And like he said, it’s been awhile.
“I heard you just opened your own athletic training complex. That’s pretty impressive.”
“Yeah, you should come check it out. I also teach self-defense lessons. Maybe you can come in, show us some of your macho Army man moves.”
“I don’t know, some of those are top secret. It might cost you.” Her hand trails down his arm and their fingers intertwine.
“I think we can arrange something.”
Oliver looks over to the other side of his bed and finds Sara fast asleep. A glance at the clock tells him it’s almost four in the morning. Any normal human being would be asleep right now, especially with the workout he and Sara just participated in. But sleep is something he has learned to go without since joining the Army. Truth be told, he doesn’t think he could sleep for long even if he tried.
Getting up, Oliver pulls the sheets over Sara so she’s covered. Their clothes are strewn about the room and he collects them, silently laughing at her bra hanging off his ceiling fan. After he’s folded her clothes and left them in a pile on the bedside table, Oliver pulls on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt and wanders downstairs for a snack before taking a seat on the couch in the parlor and turning on the TV.
His mindless viewing is interrupted by the sound of a collision and muffled cursing. Felicity stands behind him, holding onto the model ship she almost knocked over when she spotted Oliver and collided with the table.
“Oh my God, Oliver, you scared me!” She places a hand over her chest to calm her frantically beating heart. There’s usually no one up in the mansion at this time of night.
“Sorry. I don’t sleep much these days.”
She’s traded out her contacts for glasses and the dress she was wearing for a pair of pajama shorts and what looks suspiciously like a t-shirt he once had. Her curly blonde hair has been pulled back into a sloppy updo. She looks more like the Felicity he remembers from five years ago but he’s still hit by the realization of how beautiful she’s become. The desire he felt when he saw her at the club doesn’t return in full force and he takes this as a good sign. Chalk it up to the shock of seeing her the first time and how much she’s grown.
“My dad didn’t sleep well after his first tour either. I mean, I’m not assuming that that’s why you can’t sleep or anything. You might just be overwhelmed by tonight and hopped up on adrenaline or something. Not something like drugs something, just something else not related to illegal substances.” She bites her lip to stop her rambling and Oliver finds himself momentarily distracted.
“What are you doing awake? I thought you would be in bed right now.”
“Oh, yeah, I woke up with a headache. Thought I would come down and grab a glass of water, take a couple aspirins.” She wasn’t a very good liar when she was twelve and he’s happy to see at least that hasn’t changed.
“Felicity…” He’s willing to guess whom the water and pain relievers are really for.
“Don’t be mad at Thea, okay? Not having you here was really hard on her, even if she does understand why you chose what you did. I think this last year was especially difficult. She’s taking her SATs and looking at colleges. I haven’t been here because of MIT and your parents have been busting ass at QC. It’s just been a hard year for her.”
“She’s not the only one it’s been tough on. How are you holding up? And don’t say you’re-”
“We both know that’s not how you really feel. Sit down, talk to me.” She hesitates before rounding the couch and sitting on the opposite end.
They weren’t this close before he left. He had only known her a few months before his deployment. But Felicity was one of those people you wanted to talk to. She always listened with genuine interest and spoke with kind honesty. From their first meeting Oliver had found it easy to open up to her, despite the large age difference. Truthfully, sometimes he would forget just how young she was because of the maturity and intelligence with which she spoke.
“What do you want me to say?”
“How is everything with your mom?”
“I… wouldn’t really know. I haven’t gone to visit her very often. Her trial is coming up in a few weeks though.”
“Is that something you want to be there for?”
The relationship between mother and daughter has always been rocky. Karen Smoak was not maternal by nature. She was brilliant, cutting, and what women in business aspired to be. A mother on the other hand, not so much. Felicity had been unplanned and while she had no doubt that her mother loved her, she also knew Karen’s priorities. They had a system to their interactions but after her mother took the job in Central City and Felicity chose to live with the Queens, their relationship was reduced to minimal, obligatory contact.
“I don’t know. She’s my mother and although she wasn’t the best, she tried. There’s nobody else to support her besides me.”
Sitting there, she looks so small, helpless and Oliver remembers that she’s only seventeen, too young to have gone though what she has.
“Hey, it’s all going to be okay.” He reaches out to take a hold of the hand that’s resting between them and smiles down at her.
Both of their heads swivel towards the entryway. Sara is standing there in the button down shirt Oliver wore earlier tonight and nothing else from what he can tell.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize you had company.” Felicity jumps up from the couch, cheeks turning red. “I’m just going to get that water and head up stairs. Uhm, yeah, okay goodnight, Oliver.” Flustered, she escapes the room squeaking out an apology as she passes Sara, who only smiles at her before walking over to stand in front of Oliver.
“She’s cute.” There’s a slight question to her tone.
“She is Felicity Smoak, Thea’s best friend who has been living here for the past two years. Her mother is Karen Smoak.”
Recognition flits across Sara’s face. Karen’s arrest had been all over the news when it occurred and with the upcoming trial the coverage has been picking back up again.
“I woke up and you weren’t there. If I remember correctly, that only happens when we spend the night at my place.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t sleep.” She frowns at that.
“You want to talk about it?”
She’s offering and it’s genuine but he knows she won’t push him either way. Sara would listen if you wanted her to but she was also more than okay with not talking.
“I can think of better things we can do than talk.”
Oliver reaches out and grabs her hips, pulling her into his lap. She giggles before pressing her lips to his neck and running her nails lightly along his arms.
He quickly forgets about Thea and Felicity and his nightmares and loses himself in sensation.