Many people, Thea knows, think her life is the equivalent of an endless summer. Growing up rich and happy, sheltered and protected, her every need met and her every wish fulfilled. They don't know that the endless corridors of a huge, prestigious estate can get awfully cold if there's no one around to keep you warm at night, have no clue how it feels to grow up in the spotlight, constantly watched by a public who thinks they know her and have a right to pronounce judgment about her every move. The truth is, there's hardly anyone left who truly knows her at this point. Her father and brother are gone, her mother's working almost every hour of the day, and loneliness wraps itself around Thea's heart with icy fingers.
Yeah, yeah. Poor little rich girl, cry me a river, Thea's heard it all.
Then Oliver comes back, and it should get better. But he's not the brother she knew. Instead of feeling relieved, Thea feels more alone.
Until she meets him. They're polar opposites, fire and ice, grown up in the highest and the lowest places this city has to offer, but together they're just right. It's such a cliché – the princess and the thug, the beauty and the beast – and yet it feels nothing like a fairytale. Roy fights her every step of the way, but if there's one thing growing up in her glass palace with her golden spoon has taught Thea, then it's how to be insistent. He claims to be too cold, too jaded to be hers, but he thaws in her arms and, by doing so, manages to warm every part of her in return. She watches him sleep in his small hideout down in the Glades, and it feels more like home than her room at the Queen estate has in a long time.
She should have known it was too good to be true, could never last.
Loneliness, Thea finds out, is like an addiction, like cancer; it can be fought, and for a while it can be beat, but it's never really gone. A new winter is inevitable. Roy pushes her away. Within the space of a few months, she loses her mother and, once again, her brother. She didn't think that could hurt more than it did the first time. She was wrong.
The new father she gained instead doesn't know how to give her warmth. He knows how to train and teach, how to drill, but he doesn't know how to love. He means well, but with him, the core of her became more frozen than it ever was. Made anew in his image, the Thea Queen who finds out about her brother's clandestine night time activities has very little in common with the little girl flocking to everyone who could offer her a little spark, be it affection or excitement. Part of her always knew, she thinks. She's proud. She's relieved. A little bit worried, too, but less so than when she thought he was simply withdrawing from her because he didn't want her to know about what hurt him. He thought he was protecting her, and that's maybe the only thing that makes his lies sting still – she never needed protecting, what she wanted was the truth. From Oliver, from Roy, from everyone.
Thea Queen is very well capable of protecting herself.
Until she isn't.
Life after death, for Thea, starts out with a fog of intangible thoughts and memories. The first train of thought she can grasp onto, when it's started to lift and the world has begun to make sense again, is that now everyone in her family has died at least once. It makes her want to laugh, the hysterical kind, like she's lost her mind. Then it makes her want to cry, and that's worse.
Oliver is gone again, so is Roy, and this time Thea picks up their bow. The weight of it in her hand is more familiar than it has any right to be, like it belongs there, inevitable all along, as if she was meant to share their burden from the start. Only she's not sharing it, really; they're gone and it's squarely on her shoulders now – hers and Diggle's and Laurel's and Felicity's. Thea feels stronger than she ever did, and also more weak, brittle, stretched too thin.
She's not lonely anymore, but grief and guilt conspire to create just as cold a vice around her heart as loneliness did before.
Roy is the first to come back to her, however temporarily, and this time he does so much more than keep her warm. He ignites a different fire within her, fans the tiny flame she tried to ignore until it catches and grows, and then he lets her go. It's a decision she should have made for herself, wanted to, but couldn't. And there's a part of her that's still scared, remembers the night before when she watched him sleep like she used to after they first met and thought, hey, maybe I can keep this. Stay here, with him, and never lose anyone else again. But that's not how loss works. It is impossible to run from, will find a way to sneak in through the cracks, needs to be confronted and defeated rather than ignored, and if anyone knows that it'd be Roy. He takes that option away from her, and at first she's angry, hurt and disappointed. Then she finds the costume, and everything's clear. She helped him become something more than he used to be, and she did so by loving him, because that was what he needed. Now he's repaying the favor, and he does so by leaving, because that is what she needs. Thea doesn't need protection or shelter. She needs someone who believes in her, trusts her to make the right choice and deal with all its consequences.
They were never meant to last; they were meant to be each other's salvation, to melt away the ice and the snow so something new could grow.