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When his puberty comes and goes, without anything happening, Oliver believes what everyone says to his all too relieved parents: that clearly the Sentinel/Guide gene in his DNA will remain dormant.

His parents show the perfect amount of dismay at hearing the Center representative’s regretful words, but Oliver knows his parents very well: Robert and Moira Queen are glad that their son will be ‘normal’.

After all, what are Sentinels if not a legacy of a savage past, just a step above a feral and uncivilized human with the instinct of a predator? And what about Guides, weak minded and cursed to follow their Sentinel’s every decision with no say in any matter?

Oliver is seventeen then and thinks he doesn’t care, but something in him settles heavily around his heart from then on. He tries to shake it off, to forget it with every party and every pretty girl who just isn’t right, but the emptiness doesn’t ever go away.

***

When Sara dies in front of him, something in Oliver explodes and he loses consciousness.

When he wakes, his father is there with him, in a boat in the middle of the ocean, and every hurt of his father is Oliver’s, every emotion Robert Queen feels Oliver feels. The implacable sun, the lack of water, is a never ending torture, but nothing has prepared Oliver to come online, to be a fucking Guide.

He doesn’t say anything to his father and Robert believes that his frequent lapses into unconsciousness are due to the dehydration. Oliver doesn’t contradict him.

Oliver feels the moment his father comes to the firm resolution of ending his life to give him a chance, but the anguish (his? His father’s?), the hope, the fear, are so overwhelming that Oliver can’t do anything but lose himself even more in those emotions. When the shot is fired and his father’s mind ceases to exist, he does as well.

***

When he comes to, he coughs up sea water and bile. His mind, his emotions, feel fractured, jumbled. He hurts, he aches. He wishes he’d known about the gun, because he would have gladly taken his own life to spare himself this.

He shies away from thinking about his father, but he can’t. Feeling his father’s pain as his own, his desire to make him live…

He throws up again and again, even if there’s nothing in his body but bile and pain. He loses consciousness once again.

***

It’s the hunger that wakes him up next. There’s a delicious smell of cooked meat in the air that reminds him of the few times his father had taken him and Thea camping. For a moment he wonders why no one has woken him, then he opens his eyes and see a palm tree and everything comes back.

He feels sick again, but his body has nothing to give. He shuts his eyes, but opens them abruptly when a voice speaks dryly in a foreign accent.

“Come eat, little spirit.”

***

Anything that happens later, whatever pain, suffering, joy, he feels, Oliver knows that is thanks to Yao Fei, because he is the man who keeps Oliver alive. He is the Guide who teaches him what it means to be a Guide. How to be one.

***

Coming back to Starling City is strange. It’s not that it’s a big city. It’s not the people. Being surrounded by so many minds hasn’t been a problem for years.

It’s the flux of memories of another life, lived by a person who has died and been born anew.

He has a mission now, a purpose. His hands are covered in blood, of all the lives he’s had to take to be here today. He is a Guide, but he has killed. To survive, to save other people, but he has killed. He is not a nurturer, a gentle soul, like the Guides walking past him now. He is a warrior, an avenger.

He possesses the gifts of a Guide, but his mind, his body, is more that of a Sentinel. He finds it ironic, because he’s certain he is harsher, harder than a Sentinel born and grown up in Starling could ever be.

He’s more like a Sentinel of old times, fighting for his tribe. This tribe – his tribe now – doesn’t recognize it needs him and it would be appalled by his methods.

He doesn’t go to the Center to register. He’s sure no Sentinel can match his feral drive. Any other option is just a hindrance.

Maybe Oliver is damaged. Maybe a Guide like him has no place in the modern world. But he is exactly what Starling City needs right now.

***

As much as he’d like to keep to his room until the night comes and his true self can come out and hunt, he has a role to play during the day. It’s bothersome but necessary.

That is what he keeps repeating himself while he and his mother are on their way to Queen Consolidated. His mother needs to be reassured. She needs to believe his son is alive and well. She needs to believe the person she’s known for years is still alive. He’s not, and she will understand it in time, but not today.

The company building is exactly like he remembers. The windows, the entrance, the corridors, the offices. Everything is almost as it was, and Oliver feels on edge. If he were on the island still, he would be waiting for an ambush, for something to come out and attack him.

But he is not on the island. He takes a deep breath and tries to focus on his mother and stop cataloging every exit, every little thing that could be used as a weapon at a moment notice.

Then he steps out of the elevator on a floor (he’s dismayed to realize he has no idea where his mother is taking him) when something slams into his mind and his head snaps up, his eyes locking onto another, startled pair.

His Sentinel is right in front of him, beautiful and soft like a rose.

Everything is upside down. Nothing makes sense. Here she is, his blessed protector, young and fragile like all the people Oliver needs to protect, and how is it possible that such a woman could be his perfect partner-

His Sentinel takes a step forward. Then another.

Oliver should say something. He should stop what is happening, because he can’t accept this, he can’t even if he wants to, with all his being-

She stops right in front of him and Oliver barely hears his mother asking what his going on, because his Sentinel raises her hand and cups his cheek. Mind blank, he leans into the touch and breathes.

She’s so lovely and everything the island made him forget and-

“Here you are.” she says softly, like a secret, and Oliver can’t help himself. He leans forward until his forehead touches hers. Calm pervades him from the point of contact to the rest of his body and his soul is finally at peace.

Oliver feels boneless and as safe as he’s never felt before. He realizes then, that nature hasn’t made a mistake. He will protect their tribe and his Sentinel will be his sanctuary, his safe shelter. His Sentinel is his perfect match.

Sentinel.”

“Guide.”

They breathe as one.