“You all right?”
Dig’s voice sounded distant in his ears as Oliver crossed the Foundry basement to the wooden crate he’d brought back home with him; the crate that contained Yao Fei’s bow, his hood… the List. He picked it up, feeling the smooth leather with his fingertips as he shook it, his brain already working.
“My father, he told me that he failed the city. Asked me to right his wrongs, but I never knew what he meant until now.” He could feel Dig and Felicity watching him as he paced, working his thoughts out. He was getting a little excited by what he’d just figured out. He wanted to explain it to them. So they understood.
“It's the Undertaking. I promised myself that when I crossed all these names off the list, I'd be done, but taking down these people... it doesn't honor him.” And that was what he wanted, more than anything else. He wanted to honor his father, to be the man his father had hoped he could be. He wanted to make his father proud, even in death. “I was just treating the symptoms, while the disease festered. I stop the Undertaking, I wipe out the disease.”
“What are you saying, Oliver? You would hang up the Hood?” Dig sounded incredulous and Oliver turned to face his two partners. Dig appeared skeptical and Felicity looked… she looked almost concerned, actually.
“Merlyn's plan is what I returned from the island to stop,” he explained, unsure who he was hoping to convince more. Dig? Felicity? Himself? He felt a pull, but he wasn’t sure towards what.
“Why don’t we wait until we see what’s in this data - see if I can even find this device before we start celebrating?” Felicity suggested.
Oliver found himself nodding before he realized it. “Yeah, that would be.... Yeah.”
Dig looked between the two of them before pushing off the table he’d been leaning against. “Well, since it’s probably gonna be a long night, I’m gonna go grab some Big Belly. Want me to bring you guys back anything?”
“Belly Buster and a chocolate shake,” Felicity said, turning back to her monitors.
“Same,” Oliver replied. “And a large order of onion rings.”
“You got it. Be back in twenty.”
The clattering of Dig’s boots on the stairs faded away until the banging of the security door announced his total departure. Oliver sighed, dropping the list onto the table next to Felicity’s monitors. She glanced up at him.
“You should be happy,” she told him. “You know... if you’re this close to being done, to being able to hang up the hood.”
“I am. I’m - I don’t know what I am, actually. It’s strange.” He pressed a hip against the table, crossing his arms over his chest.
“What are you going to do if you aren’t arrowing bad guys?” She turned in her chair to look at him, a teasing smile turning up the corners of her brightly painted lips.
“That’s just it,” he said. “I don’t know. I thought I’d know. I thought -” He stopped himself.
Oliver glanced down into Felicity’s upturned face. Her eyes behind her glasses were wide and shining in the low light of the Foundry basement. She was listening to him, intent on what he was saying. He realized not only could he tell her what was on his mind, he wanted to.
“When I… when I was coming home, I thought that if I could ever have a normal life again, I’d want to be with Laurel. But somehow… things had changed. I’d changed. She’d changed.”
Felicity said nothing. But her silence was comforting. He settled against the desk more, letting more of his guard down than he ever had since he returned to Starling.
“I was awful to her, Felicity. I cheated on her constantly before the Gambit. And then… I brought her sister with me. I was sleeping with her sister and with her and all Laurel wanted was to move into an apartment together. And I ran for the hills like the Devil was after me,” he admitted. “I was a coward.”
“Why? What scared you about that?” There was no judgement in her voice, which he appreciated, but he still felt awful having to reveal this ugly part of himself to her.
“I was young and reckless and selfish,” Oliver said, sighing. “I took her love for granted. She knew I was cheating on her. Maybe not with her sister, but she had to know about some of the others.” He winced when he saw Felicity’s eyes narrow at the realization there’d been many more women he’d cheated on Laurel with. “Yeah, I was pretty terrible. And I think I knew that. I think I wanted her to know that too. She was so willing to look past all my faults because she wanted us to work out so badly. But I wanted her to see me for the dirtbag I was and dump me for good. Why do you think that is?”
Felicity lifted a shoulder. “I don’t know, Oliver. Maybe it scared you? How much she loved you?”
A thought occurred to him. “Maybe it scared me how much I wasn’t in love with her back.” After all, how could he have done all that to her if he’d truly loved her, the way she’d loved him? Something felt right about that revelation. It settled in his gut like a weight. He’d been a truly awful boyfriend to Laurel. She’d deserved better than him. She still did.
Felicity was watching him, her expression understanding. She shifted towards him and patted his arm.
“I feel terrible, Felicity. I hurt her.”
“You didn’t know what you were doing,” she said. “You know now. You can apologize now.”
Oliver nodded. “I will. I need to at least try to make up for what I’ve done.”
“Haven’t you been doing that all year?” Felicity asked him, her voice gentle. “You’ve been there for Laurel all year long, helping her out with her cases, with her father… keeping her safe.”
“You’re right. I have. Maybe I was subconsciously searching for atonement.”
“You need to tell her though. So you’re on the same page.” Felicity peered over at her screens, where the decryption was cranking along. “How does she feel? About you?”
He rolled his shoulders, pushing off the desk and pacing across the space to the wooden trunk. “I’m not sure. I mean, she was furious with me when I first came back. Then she apologized for that and wanted to be friends, but I was a dope and pushed her away and since then we’ve just… blown hot and cold with each other. She asked me… when I was at the hospital with Walter, I ran into her and I got the impression she might still have feelings for me. ”
His eyes flicked over his shoulder in time to see Felicity’s eyebrows shoot up. “Well, then you absolutely have to talk to her. What about her and Tommy?”
Oliver patted the hood where it lay atop Yao Fei’s bow. “Tommy is good for her. He makes her smile. He loves her. I told him to fight for her. He thinks she’ll always pick me but… I think she’s smarter than that.”
“Are you jealous?”
He was quiet for a moment. Then he turned back around and looked at Felicity, his friend and partner. She sat in her chair like she did night after night, helping him in this crusade of his. She believed in him. She didn’t even need to say it, he knew she did. Oliver wasn’t always sure he deserved that belief, but she offered it without qualification. Not for the first time, he wondered if he could have done this without her. Dig too. But Felicity… she was different. Special. And she was waiting for him to answer his question.
“No. I’m not jealous.” It was the truth.
“So we’re back to the original question then. What will you do if we take down Merlyn, stop the Undertaking and you get to hang up the hood for good?”
“I don’t know,” he replied honestly. “Whatever I want, I suppose.” He didn’t tell her that he hadn’t honestly expected to survive very long in this mission. It was likely a moot point now anyhow. “How about you?”
“That’s a good question,” she murmured. He crossed the room again to stand next to her. “You know, when I first joined up with you two, I said I would only help until you found Walter.”
“But you’re still here.”
“I’m still here,” she confirmed. “Somewhere in the last few months, I found a purpose to my life that had been missing for… a long time.”
Oliver could tell there was a story there. He bit his tongue to keep from asking about it, to just let her talk as she’d let him talk.
“I care about people and I want to help them. Working with you and Dig, I’ve been able to do that. If you stop… I don’t know if I can. I might just have to go find a new hero to run tech for.”
She winked at him, that lazy blinking of eyes that was never quite a proper wink but that Oliver enjoyed anyhow. Still, her words bothered him. The idea of her working with, of her inspiring anyone besides him was upsetting. The idea of coming into this basement and not seeing her sitting at those computers was upsetting. Hell, the idea of not coming down here at all was upsetting.
“Can’t have that,” he said, but he was already distracted by a thought that he was having.
“What are you plotting, Mr. Hood?” she asked him. “Because that is very much your plotting face.”
“I was thinking… what if I didn’t hang up the hood? What if we kept doing this, just to help out, to keep the city safe, to help out those who need help?”
The smile that bloomed across Felicity’s pretty face could have lit the whole room. “I was hoping you would say that.”
“But if I do that… if we do that… then my mission is no longer to right my father’s wrongs, is it?”
Felicity shook her head, her blonde ponytail swinging.
“What is it then?”
“That’s what you need to figure out, mister.”
“Will you help me?” The question came out a lot more earnest than he’d been aiming for. He’d intended to keep things light and teasing. But somehow, with her looking at him like he was inspiring, like she was happy to be his partner, it was impossible to be anything but completely sincere.
“Of course,” she replied easily. “No place I’d rather be.”