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'Always' Starting A Bit Sooner

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Oliver looked at the woman sleeping next to him, Blonde hair fanning around her pillow like strands of gold, her pink mouth soft and relaxed, brows scrunched only slightly as if she was still concentrating on something even as she slept. She looked adorable, and Oliver had to bend down to kiss her to remind him that she was all his.

 

He had met Felicity Smoak three years ago in Hong Kong when he had been, for a lack of a better word, recruited for ARGUS. She had been a surprise, a reprise from everything that was dark and bad with her bright smile and whip-sharp mind. Oliver had been the darkest he had ever been when they had met, having had to torture people for information on a regular basis. But then she came along, ten months after Oliver was recruited, one of the Argus agents bought in a young girl of 20 years as their new weapon against anything tech, and Oliver had wanted to kill every last one of them for wanting to corrupt a soul that looked so pure even to a monster like him.

 

But Felicity surprised him, she kept up with Amanda Waller sometimes even better than Oliver himself could, and when they started pairing up for assignments, Oliver found out just how good she was.

 

He also realized that most people cared more about their money than they did about their body parts. Felicity was good at interrogations. All Oliver had to do was scare their target shitless and then Felicity would swoop in and threaten every penny they had.

 

It worked like a charm most of the time.

 

The next two years they spent together, were wonderful. They both had jobs they could stomach because of each other, even if they didn't like them, and they were in love. Oliver was sure Felicity was God's way of apologizing for everything he went through on the island. She was everything that was light in his world. A bright north star and all he could ever hope to do was follow her lead out of the darkness.

 

That was before Amanda Waller gave him his last assignment.

 

“You want me to infiltrate the Russian Mafia?” He looked at her incredulously, but Waller’s expression didn't change,

 

“The Bratva, yes. It's supposed to be a year long expedition.” Oliver scoffed at that,

 

“I'm not doing it, Waller. This isn't like before. I have a family now, a wife. I'm not leaving her for a year.”

 

“Yes, I know all about your relationship with Ms.Cuttler-”

 

“Queen.” Amanda raised a brow,

 

“Mrs.Queen.” Amanda corrected, “And that is why I have an incentive.”

 

“There is nothing you could offer-”

 

“If you complete this mission successfully, I will let both you and your wife go.”

 

Oliver froze,

 

“Just like that?”

 

“Well, you would have exhausted your value in this organization. And once Mrs.Queen completes her own assignment, she can leave too. ” Oliver narrowed his eyes,

 

“And what exactly is Felicity’s assignment?” Amanda leaned back in her chair, and gave a little smirk, knowing that he had already agreed. The temptation of a normal life, a normal life with Felicity at his side, a chance to maybe go home, to be able to correct his father's wrongs was all too much.

 

“That, Mr.Queen, is a need to know.”

 

Oliver agrees anyway.

 

Oliver should've known not to trust Amanda Waller. His year in Russia is a completely new kind of hell, with sporadic amounts of contact with his wife at best. He can tell from the strain in her voice how worried she is for him, and he wishes he could tell her he's fine, but he's promised Felicity that he will never lie to her, so instead he just tells her how much he loves her, and hopes it will be enough until he can see her again.

 

A year undercover in the Bratva results in him becoming fluent in a new language, becoming Captain, and adding countless number of scars to his already scarred body. His buzzed hair is longer again, and he can drink vodka like it's water. When Felicity sees him again after 369 days, she hugs him so hard, Oliver thinks he might just soak her tears inside him. But it doesn't matter because he's holding her just as hard, grip firm enough to bruise, because she's even more beautiful than she was when he left, and he's missed her something fierce, and all he can think about is how he doesn't ever want to leave her again-

 

Which of course means he will have to leave her again.

 

And that is why he's drinking her in now. Felicity is still working on finishing her assignment, but Oliver's been given a deadline of 24 hours before he's supposed to board a plane to Lian Yu, where a Chinese fishing boat will be waiting for him. After which he will go to Hong Kong, contact his family, and go back home to Starling.

 

Only, he knows Starling won't feel like half the home the woman beside him feels like.

 

Felicity wakes up with a soft noise at the back of her throat, and Oliver snuggles deeper into her when she stretches awake,

 

“Hey there, stranger.” Her husky voice greets, and he smiles at her squinted eyes, reaching over to her bedside to grab her glasses for her,

 

“Good morning, hun.” His melancholy tone of voice is more effective in waking her up than her regular cup of Java. She frowns at him, and her fingers come closer to scratch lightly at his scruff, and Oliver almost purrs,

 

“Hey, what's with mopey face? You're going home today. That's a good thing.”

 

“I don't want to go anywhere without you.” He tells her, and he can see her melt at his words, an almost wordless ‘aww’ leaving her lips before she rolls over on top of him,

 

“It won't be for long. Just a couple of months and I'll join you.”

 

“And then we'll start a new life.”

 

“That's right. We'll buy our own place, and we'll paint the walls really bright, and have ridiculous amounts of throw pillows on our gigantic king sized bed-”

 

“-and we'll also have a proper wedding ceremony.” Oliver continues for her, and Felicity hmms,

 

“Maybe something outdoors. Or on the roof. A small ceremony with a few of our friends and family,”

 

“And no catering.” They grin at eachother, and after a moment, Felicity's smile dims slightly as she traces her fingers along Oliver's hairline,

 

“You will also want to right your father's wrongs, I know that. And I'm not going to ask you to not do it. But,” Oliver takes a breath, dreading what she'll ask of him because he knows he will do whatever she asks him to, “Don't lose your soul. Nothing your father did is worth the peace that you've found in these past years.” Felicity's eyes soften until they're almost luminescent, “Don't lose sight of that light. Not even for your dad.”

 

“Okay.” he replies just as softly, and Felicity grins before burying her face in his neck again.

 

Oliver is sure the both of them would've shed a few tears at the air strip during their farewell if it isn't for the fact that Amanda Waller is impatiently tapping her shoes 3 feet away from them. As it is, they hug each other tight, and Oliver places soft kisses on Felicity's face in between promises to ‘ see you again real soon ’ and ‘ you'll be with me before you know it ’. Felicity doesn't cry either, but from the brightness of her eyes, Oliver can tell it's a near thing. Instead, she takes off one of her necklaces, removes his wedding band from his finger and places it on the chain before clasping it around his neck,

 

“If you have an affair, I'll know about it.” She mock-growls, trying to lighten the mood, and Oliver goes with it,

 

“Yeah, there's not a single woman in the world that's worth facing your loud-voice.” Oliver tells her, and mock shudders, laughing at her protest. He's about to lean in for the millionth kiss when a clearing of a throat interrupts them,

 

“It's time to go, Mr.Queen.”

 

Oliver lets out another sigh, kisses Felicity one last time, and turns over to climb the plane before he decides to do something stupid and stay. He and Felicity, they have a real chance at a better life. And if a few months separation can guarantee them a life of peace, Oliver's willing to make that sacrifice.

 

The trip back to Hong Kong, even though not quite a blur, is mundane enough that Oliver doesn’t bother remembering any details. It’s on the airport that one of the ARGUS Agents gives him all the necessary papers that state that he’s been in a medically induced coma for the past three months in Hong Kong. It’s the only explanation as to why he would be in his peak physical condition if he was supposed to be on an inhabitable deserted island for the last five years. The next stretch of his travel, from Hong Kong all the way to Starling is filled with equal amounts of dread at the idea of facing his family, excitement at the prospect of reconnecting with a few of the people he’s lost over the years, a grim sort of determination at wanting to do what’s right for his city, all of which is covered in a shadow of the longing he feels at the absence of his wife at his side. For the past two years, the only time Oliver and Felicity have been away from each other had been a couple of days at a time for missions, and even then, the adrenaline and his survival instincts made the time spent away from her move a lot faster than it would’ve normally. Now, there isn’t much that can distract him from thinking about her, at least not until he reaches Starling City.

 

He reaches Starling City unexpectedly quietly. He doesn’t have a lot of possessions, a green trunk that he’s been carrying around with him for the past 3 years, a wallet with petty cash and a picture of Felicity in her impromptu wedding dress, a smart phone he shouldn’t technically know how to use, but is also filled with pictures of his wife and the life they’ve built together, his wedding ring carefully placed around a silver chain which superstitiously hangs underneath his henley and the clothes on his body. His story is that one of the chinese fishing boats found him unconscious on the shore of the island, and brought him back to Hong Kong, where they kept him for months in a rather shady hospital, trying their best to nurse him back to health. When they finally gave him a clean bill of health, his first action had been to call his family at the Queen Mansion to let them know he was alive.

 

Moira had cried for twenty minutes on the phone before Oliver convinced her to hang up so that he could actually show up and they could continue celebrating his general state of living when they could actually see each other. In the end, after five long years, Oliver sees his mother at the airport. The Queen Private jet has just landed, and Moira is waiting just outside the limo at the hanger, everything about her being perfectly pressed and coiffed, except her hands are shaking, and her eyes are watery.

 

She loses the battle against her tears when she sees her son climb out of the plane. He looks so much different from when he left, bigger in every sense of the word, his hair cropped short and jaw covered in stubble. Moira didn’t know who she was expecting, mabe a part of her thought that Oliver would look exactly the same as the day she had last seen him, Frat boy shorts and floppy hair and all, or maybe she would have to face some stranger who wore the hollowed out face of her eldest child, someone malnourished and sleep-deprived. The Oliver that greets her is somewhere in the middle, he’s certainly not the same boy who had left 5 years ago, but he’s still beautiful, still recognizable, his eyes are clear, his face fresh, he might as well have been vacationing in hawaii for how relaxed he looks,

 

Moira supposes the doctors in Hong Kong took really good care of her son. She’s grateful. And also slightly resentful because they’ve had him for the last three months, but no body thought of even contacting her,

 

But then Oliver is in front of her, and Moira is throwing her arms around her son, and it’s nothing like how it used to be before. Oliver’s shoulders are bulkier, harder, his grip on her is both tentative and desperate at the same time-- It’s new. But, Moira thinks that she can get used to this too.

 

“Oh, my beautiful boy.” She breaths, because that part hasn’t changed. He is still hers. Her boy. Her son. Her reason to fight and hers to protect.

 

And she will. She will protect him even if it’s the last thing she does.

 

Oliver supposes he should feel a myriad of emotions at seeing his Family Manor, but all he can feel is the almost childlike excitement at the prospect of seeing his little sister again. The doors open almost as if by themselves, and the Old Oliver wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but the man Oliver is now is cautious, his eyes travel and take in his surroundings, making a mental headcount of all the servants, he sees a barely familiar man making his way towards him, and Oliver tenses slightly when he smiles,

 

“Oliver, It’s damn good to see you.” Oliver remains quiet, he can’t for the life of him put a name to that face,

 

“Oliver, you remember Walter Steele? He was a friend of your father’s from the company.” Moira sounds slightly nervous, and Oliver thinks that maybe he should pay a little more attention to this Walter, but that’s when he sees Raisa standing at the corner, and almost involuntarily, he finds his lips curving into something that resembles a smile,

 

“It’s good to see you, Raisa.” Raisa’s smile, the tears in the corner of her eyes, they’re all maternal, and it warms Oliver’s heart,

 

“Welcome home, Mister Oliver.” She then turns to look at Moira behind him and continues, “Mr.Merlyn phoned, he wants to join you for dinner.”

 

Oliver knows his mother is saying something to him, but that’s when he hears a door open and close and most of his attention is on the grand staircase, and he feels himself lighting up as he sees Thea rushing towards him,

 

“Hey, sis.”

 

She’s older now, beautiful and bigger, but her child-like excitement at seeing him hasn’t changed, and neither has her grip as she throws herself at him. If he concentrates hard enough, under all that perfume, and hair product, he can still smell the familiar scent of his baby sister, and the similarities that play in his head make him huff out a laugh,

 

“Ollie!” She breaths, and the old nickname sends another pang through him. “I knew it. I knew you were alive.” He doesn’t know how to respond to that, doesn’t want to think what she’ll say if she ever found out that he’d made a life for himself all the way across the ocean instead of fighting tooth and nail just to come back,

 

But then again, other than Thea and his mother, there wasn’t much reason to come back. And back home, he had Felicity, and the opportunity to be a better man, a fresh slate if he ever saw one. And yes, he may not be as innocent as he was before the gambit, but he likes to think that with Felicity’s help, and the sometimes slightly dubious good work they’ve done for ARGUS, both of them have become the best versions of themselves they could’ve been under those circumstances.

 

So he pulls away from Thea and smiles at her instead, taking in everything that is new or different about her. Last time he saw her, she was 12, about to turn thirteen, now she’s eighteen. His little sister is not so little anymore.

 

“I missed you so much.” She says, her voice trembling slightly,

 

“You were with me the whole time.” He tells her, and it’s true that she was. He can’t remember the number of times he told Felicity about Thea, the number of times the thought of her kept him going on that island, she had been the best part of his day before he was stranded, because everything with Thea had always been so easy. And from the look in her eyes, he can tell that she’s still his Speedy, he can tell from the borderline hero-worship that’s shining on her face for him, that she’s still the same girl that used to follow him around everywhere.

 

Oliver excuses himself after some reconnecting to ‘freshen up’. It’s been a lot more overwhelming that he thought it would be, and he needs some space to breath between his mother’s constant concern for his mental stability and his sister’s constant curiosity over his time away. Oliver freezes when he enters his room; just like his mother said, nothing’s changed. He can almost see himself laying on the bed, with Laurel studying beside him, or some other girl when Laurel was too busy to hang out, it makes the guilt come rushing back, and Oliver finds that he can’t look too long at any of his previous belongings without at least feeling some degree of strangeness. He’s not the boy anymore, the one who left all his problems behind and instead took the sister of his then girlfriend on a sex vacation.

 

Instead, he’s a man who loves his wife more than life itself. He’s a man who is devoted to her, who has her heart with him just like she has his. He’s a better version of himself, not because of the island, or because of Argus, but because of Felicity. The thought brings a pang in his heart, and before he can contemplate the repercussions for too long, he’s already taken his phone out and is dialing her number,

 

“Oliver?” He closes his eyes as her lovely voice echoes through. It’s been a little over 24 hours since they’ve spoken to each other, and while it’s not the first time that’s happened (being an undercover Mafia captain doesn’t leave much time for calls to secret loved ones) but it doesn’t get any easier,

 

“Felicity.” His voice comes of weaker than planned, huskier but trembling,

 

“Hey honey, you alright?” He clears his throat against her concern,

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” He smiles slightly against her unconvincing ‘hmm’ and continues softly, “It’s just, a bit harder that I’d thought it’d be.”

 

“What is?” Felicity asked just as softly, and if he closed his eyes, he could almost see her eyes soften at his admission, she always did that, made herself softer somehow whenever he was feeling particularly vulnerable. He especially loved how she fit against him in moments like those, how they molded against each other, and absentmindedly, he took out his wallet, taking out the picture of her he’s kept there from the day they got married. It had been an unconventional affair, a quick ceremony that barely lasted half an hour, but Felicity had managed to get herself a white dress that he’d almost choked on his tongue upon seeing, and their vows had been honest and heartfelt. He took the picture later in the night, when they had stopped on the hallway on the way to their hotel room as Felicity rambled on and on about changing her last name. He had wanted to preserve the memory forever, the time in his life when he was at his happiest, and he done just that, snapped a picture while she talked, and printed it out as soon as he could.

 

It had been with him throughout Russia, and he was sure, it would be his guiding light here in Starling City till she came back to him.

 

 

“I miss you. And being back has been a lot more… exhausting than I thought it’d be.”

 

“Aw honey, I’m right here. You can call me anytime. And well, of course meeting your family after five years is exhausting. You just have to think about all the things you’re looking forward to.”

 

“Well, I’m looking forward reconnecting with Thea.” He started hesitantly,

 

“There you go, big guy.” Oliver chuckled,

 

“And Tommy is coming over for dinner.”

 

“Oo, the infamous Tommy Merlyn. That is going to be fun.” Oliver smiled at his feet as he thought about his friend,

 

“I can’t wait for the two of you to meet. You’d get along so well.” He could hear the smile in her voice when she hmmed,

 

“Someday, honey.”

 

“Yeah. Someday. Soon, though.”

 

“Soon.” She concurred, and then they were both silent as they soaked in each other’s virtual presence, and then Oliver continued,

 

“There are also some things I’m really not looking forward to.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

 

“Like letting my mother know that I know she’s in some kind of a sexual relationship with my dead father’s friend.”

 

“Oo, maybe not really word it like that?”

 

Oliver hmmed unconvincingly, “Also, I’m really not looking forward to apologising to Laurel.”

 

“Well, I’m guessing that’s going to be the toughest part of this all.” Felicity paused, “I know we’ve talked about this, but I would just like to remind you that there is a good chance Laurel won’t immediately forgive you for what happened.”

 

“Yeah, I know.”

 

“I would also like to remind you that the only thing you did wrong in this whole scenario was cheat on your girlfriend. Sara was her own person, an extremely strong one from what you’ve told me about her, and her actions were her own. You both were your own people.”

 

Oliver doesn’t say anything for a few moments, and then sighs, feeling himself lighten against her salvation and grow burdened from the past memories at the same time. “Okay.”

 

“Okay.” She agreed.

 

“I really wasn’t a very good boyfriend before.”

 

“Well, lucky for you, you’re the best husband in the whole wide world.” Felicity chirped on the other end and Oliver huffed a chuckle,

 

“Uh-huh, and you would know how? Had a lot of husbands?”

 

“Oh, tonnes.” Oliver laughed at her mock-serious voice, and Felicity returned it with a giggle of her own. He heard beeping on the other end and then Felicity was speaking again,

 

“Alright love, I need to go now. Project deadline and all.” She said, “But, call me whenever you need me, also when you don’t need me. I’m here, and I love you.”

 

Oliver sighed, calmer than before the phone call, “I love you too.”

 

He could hear her blow him three loud kisses before she ended the call, and Oliver smiled at the home screen of his phone before shutting it off. It was another picture of her, of course. Oliver has always been slightly obsessed with taking pictures of Felicity, she was always smiling, always pretty, and never camera shy. His wallpaper was from the day after they had officially moved into an apartment of their own, there had been no furniture except a mattress and a TV, and the walls were an unpainted white which they weren’t allowed to repaint because it had been on rent. But, the morning after their first night spent in their home had been memorable, with Felicity just in her underwear and his shirt, looking angelic against the natural light and white walls, so of course he had to take a picture,

 

He’s looking forward to more moments like those. Quiet, domestic moments filled with ringing laughter and padding of bare feet across hardwood floors mixed in with smell of coffee and fabric softener.

 

He’s looking forward to building a real life with Felicity Queen. And nothing and no one is going to get in between that.