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How I Met My Father (continued)

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I still can't believe I'm doing this. But Thea was tired of being powerless in her own life. Of people lying to her, keeping her ignorant, 'protecting' her while putting her in even more danger. And there she was, stupid and blind to everything going on around her. She didn't like Malcolm Merlyn, but at least he hadn't tried to run her life for her. He swore he wouldn't lie to her. Not that she believed that for a second. She'd never believe anyone ever again.

"So where were you?" she asked, when the silence in the limousine grew too strained. "You couldn't have shown up sooner when that psycho had us tied up? Before everything went to hell?" Before her mother had been killed. God, how that hurt, no matter that Thea had been angry at her. There was always time to reconcile... or so she'd thought.

A shadow passed over Malcolm's features. He took a breath before answering. "I returned to Starling City to save your mother from that farce of a trial."

Thea frowned, and he nodded, encouraging her to follow through to her own conclusions. "You paid off the jurors." Of course. At the time, the verdict to free Moira had seemed like a miracle from Heaven. No, it was a dirty deal, arranged by this devil of a man.

"Afterwards, I asked her to tell you the truth about your parentage. I wanted to be able to connect with my only living child." His eyes darkened. "Moira took exception to that, so instead, she set the League of Assassins on me." He spread his hands in a shrug. "It wasn't safe for me to stay in Starling City, and I've been trying to stay a few steps ahead of them ever since."

Malcolm looked down, at his hands resting on his knee. "I didn't know your mother was in trouble. From the news feeds, things seemed to be going well, the whole mayoral campaign...." The corner of his mouth twitched into a smile. "If anyone could come out of jail then turn around and be elected mayor, it was Moira." The smile faded, replaced by something else. Thea realized it was pain. He hadn't shown any before, not even when she'd shot him. Her mother's death had truly hurt him. "I wish I could have been there, I wish I could have saved her. I thought Oliver would protect her better than that!"

Of course, Oliver. Who had failed to mention the man they had let into their home, whom they'd given a whole damned tour to, their new family friend, was in fact, a lunatic bent on killing them all. Damn her brother! Hmph. Half-brother.

Thea looked out the window, watching the barren city flow by through the tinted glass. The darkness obscured the smoke and the grim morning clouds. She should feel something, some sense of loss, of mourning. But she felt the same as she did every day: empty.

"So tell me," she said, feeling numb enough to know this truth, "about this... thing... you and my mother had." Her dad hadn't noticed. Or was it he hadn't cared? Walter never noticed; Oliver didn't notice, even when it was happening all over again.

"We didn't have a 'thing,'" he said.

"Well, you had something, or else I wouldn't be here," Thea shot back accusingly. "How long did you have the hots for her? Did you not even care you were cheating with your best friend's wife?"

"Thea," he said abruptly, cutting her off. "It wasn't like that."

"Oh?" This ought to be good. "What was it like?"

Malcolm gave her a look of frustration. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"I am sick of my life being built on a bunch of bullshit and lies! My mom had an affair; I get that! It was all tawdry sleeping around and just pretending to be the happy little family." She folded her arms. "I'm not a baby any more."

"All right." Again, he remained calm in the face of her vehemence. "Your mother and I didn't have an affair. It was your father."

She snorted. "That's crap."

"No, Thea, it's.... Robert was a good man, a good provider for your family -- a good father. But... he had a wandering eye. A weakness." Malcolm seemed to be trying to make excuses for him. "It didn't mean anything. He never meant to hurt your mother or to leave your family."

Thea felt her teeth grinding together. Could it be true? She wouldn't trust it. "None of this explains how you ended up screwing my mother."

Malcolm took another breath. "It wasn't like that. We.... It was a few weeks after my wife was killed. I wasn't... handling it very well. Moira came over.... She was looking for Robert; he'd lied to her again about where he was." At least he had the decency to look embarrassed, recounting this story. He rubbed a hand over his face. "We were both hurting, and lonely. We needed.... Just the comfort of a human touch." He swallowed. "I swear to you, it never happened again. Moira felt badly about it... and I felt so guilty afterwards, I left the country...." He shook his head.

Thea studied him intently. He wouldn't meet her eyes. How could you tell a lie, when the entire truth of your life was built from them? "So that was it?"

"Yes."

"No torrid affair, no clandestine meetings?"

He shook his head.

"Just one, single, solitary time, and bam! How lucky can I be?" Oliver had told her that their -- his -- father knew she wasn't his daughter. Her mother denied there was an affair, saying that it was very brief. "So all this time, you've been lurking around, friends with my mom and dad. But nothing happened?"

"No, it didn't."

"Oh, you were all just friends. You weren't in love with my mother the whole time?"

He turned away, looked out the window, his eyes not registering the landscape beyond. Thea began to think he wasn't going to answer. Then he said softly, "I loved your mother very much." His voice was stripped of all its strength, a vulnerable ghost of itself. His eyes filled with pain, and for a moment it seemed.... No. He took another breath, and became impassive stone once more. "But clearly, she did not feel the same way about me."