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Target Practice

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It takes a lot to surprise Oliver Queen. Your ex-girlfriend's sister who supposedly died not once but twice coming back to help you save your city? Sweet. Your arch nemesis returning to create an army of indestructible soldiers to destroy your city? A bit annoying, but alright.


But finding Barry Allen, of all people, in the Arrow Cave (the foundry, his brain corrects) all by himself? Shooting arrows?


That was surprising.


"Barry!" Oliver exclaims, and Barry is right in front of him in an instant. Papers fly everywhere, and Oliver finds himself holding his breath. "Hello, Barry," he says, taking a deep breath.


"Oh." Barry glances at Oliver's bow in his hand and blushes. "Um, hi Oliver."


Oliver surveys the room and notices the sheer amount of arrow lodged in various places of the room. Lodged in a wall? Check. Dangling from the ceiling? Check. He's lucky that he keeps his trick arrows separated from his normal ones in here, or else Barry probably would've destroyed not only the Arrow Cave, but blew himself up in the process. The thought makes Oliver’s stomach churn.


He takes another deep breath and asks, "What are you doing here, Barry?"


Barry seems to understand that Oliver isn't too happy, and cautiously, he answers, "I was training, like you said I should do."


"I said you should train, not destroy the foundry," Oliver points out.


"Well sorry for not being an expert at archery," Barry says with a sigh of his own. "Honestly, I don't even know what I'm doing here." He stands there for a moment, seemingly lost in thought, then he spits out, "I'm sorry. I'll clean up." Before Oliver knows it, Barry's running around the Cave, gathering up all of the arrows. Barry's back in front of Oliver just as fast, the bow slung over his shoulder and the arrows in his hands.


There's a pause, in which Oliver finds himself wondering who he pissed off recently to get this as punishment. Not that he hated Barry--Oliver actually liked the kid very much--but Oliver knew that no one can just pick up a bow and arrow and expect to hit the target. It took him almost a month to actually master the weapons, and he highly doubted that Barry's super speed affected how fast he learned things, right? Besides, a whole month of this? No thank you. Oliver’s patience was on the opposite end of the spectrum than Shado’s. "Thank you," Oliver says, the end of the phrase rising so that it sounded less like an expression of gratitude and more of a question.


"I should go, shouldn't I?" Barry asks with a chuckle.


"No!" Oliver exclaims before he can stop himself. Actually, he should go, but Oliver doesn't want Barry to leave just yet, especially because Oliver appears quite mad right now, but the anger has subsided, leaving nothing but amusement. "I mean, yeah, you should go. But come back tomorrow. I could teach you, if you want to learn."


Barry's eyes light up instantly. "Really?"


"Sure. Why not? Central City could always use an arrow shooting speedster, right?"


"Yeah," Barry responds with a laugh-a genuine one, this time, "It could."

*** *** ***

It's fast how quickly someone can change their mind.


"I don't know why you're doing this, Oliver. It's not like I can teach you how to run a mile in four seconds to return the favor."


Still, Oliver leads Barry down the stairs and into the Arrow Cave, and picks up his bow from where it hangs on the glass case. "I'm not doing this for a favor," he simply responds before turning to face Barry. He holds out the bow and says, "Come on. Just a few shots. You said you wanted to yesterday."


Barry eyes the weapon closely, looking as if he would speed out of here in an instant. "Yeah. But the closer I got to the Arrow Cave, the more I realized that this is a really bad idea. Seriously, this isn't really necessary," he says, "I don't need a bow and arrow to save my city, so if you don't mind, I'll just..." He trails off, but Oliver grabs Barry's arm before he can dash away. He groans then, and with a roll of his eyes he spits, "Fine. You win."


With that, Oliver grabs an arrow and points at a target that's across the room. "See that?" he says, "We're going to shoot it." He thinks that he sounds like an one of those teachers who always speaks to her students as if they're stupid, and he hates that, so he decided to stop talking and do what he does best--shoot.


"Nock the arrow," he says, doing the same. "Draw back the string," he adds, aiming at the target. He takes one deep breath, then another, and concludes, "Release the arrow." The arrow whizzes through the air before piercing the target straight through the center. Oliver hands the bow and an arrow over to Barry and says, "Do exactly as I did. And remember to breathe."


"Okay," Barry responds, sounding a bit (more like very) skeptical as he takes the weapon from Oliver's hands. "Okay," he repeats, less skeptical and more focused. He nocks the arrow, he draws back the string, and the look of pure determination on Barry's face brings a smile to Oliver's face. He's so strong, he thinks, he's so--


Barry releases the arrow, and lodges itself about fifteen feet above the target, almost hitting the ceiling.


Oliver sighs. This is going to be a long night.

*** *** ***

Does Oliver hate Barry? Not at all. Does Oliver hate Barry's ability to not hit the damn target no matter how hard he seemingly tries to do the opposite? Yes, very much.


But Oliver finds that he isn't frustrated, or irritated. He's more amused if anything, which should've been a red flag right then. There should've been a red, flashing light with the words, ‘THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH OLIVER QUEEN’ blaring in the background.


But instead, there was nothing. There was not so much as a warning.


Barry had just hit the target (not the bullseye, but the arrow had hit the target which is a miracle in itself) and looked into Oliver's eyes. They were bright with enthusiasm, and Barry had said, "Well, it took me a couple of days, but I did it."


And Oliver had looked back into those green eyes of his, smiled fondly, and responded with, "Yeah, you did. Now we just need to work on you aim a bit more.”


Oliver may have failed English in school, but he certainly knows irony when he sees it. How in the hell could Barry be so terrible at archery, but make a straight shot to his heart?

*** *** ***

Barry pierces the arrow through the bullseye a few days later. “I did it!” Barry exclaims, then he whirls around, “See? Told you I pick up on things faster.”


This is pathetic. Oliver Queen, you are absolutely pathetic. The thought races through his mind, and before he can stop himself, he’s exclaiming, “Do you want to learn hand to hand?”


Barry’s eyes widen in surprise. “I know hand to hand already. Besides, I do recall kicking your ass a few weeks ago.”


“Yeah, with your super speed,” Oliver points out, “What if, for whatever reason, you can’t use your powers? Then what?” He wants to spit out a please, but then that would make him sound desperate, and Heaven forbid he sounds desperate for Barry Allen.


He must sound convincing--or a little bit desperate--because Barry sighs before letting himself smile. “Sure, tell me all about how to snap a man’s neck.”


It’s meant to be joking, but suddenly Oliver’s not in a joking mood.

*** *** ***

Oliver doesn’t teach Barry how to snap necks. He teaches him the simple things--armdrags and takedowns and whatever keeps Barry as close to Oliver as possible.


Barry doesn’t catch on. His takedowns are too slow, his footing is clumsy--he’s struggling without his speed. Oliver finds that he’s not at all frustrated, and he thinks that Shado would be proud of the patience that he has suddenly developed. Although a voice in the back of his head is screaming at him, nagging him about how a man like Oliver Queen doesn’t just acquire patience, or use the term metahuman, or laugh at a chemistry pun he doesn't even get.


The thought is pushed to the back of Oliver’s head, because Barry’s wincing on the padded ground, laughing and saying, “I bet you love manhandling me, don’t you?” Then he’s blushing and saying, “That came out--weird. I meant you love-”


“Tripping you and maneuvering you to the ground?” Oliver offers.


Barry smiles, all sunshine and rainbows and puppies. “Yeah, that.”


And yeah, Oliver’s in love.


And yeah, Oliver’s screwed.

*** *** ***

Oliver’s teammates are kind enough not to ask why Barry’s spent so much time in the Arrow Cave (sorry, foundry), or why Oliver sulks more than he usually does when Barry’s around. Thea doesn’t know about the long, lonely nights, filled with breathless moans and silent cries of Barry’s name.


Barry doesn’t hear the confession.


Granted, how could he? It was in Russian, under his breath, just loud enough for only Oliver to hear, while Oliver was showing Barry how to patch up his own wounds. He notices how Barry blinks, as if he heard something, before he shakes his head and goes back to observing the lesson.


Oliver hopes Barry doesn’t notice how Oliver releases the breath he had been holding.

*** *** ***

He’s confessed countless times in countless languages now, times over target practice and combat training and late night patrols. But, apparently, only one confession would matter. The one in English, when they’re both sit across from each other, separated by a candle.


“Meditation is important, Barry,” Oliver had been explaining, “It helps you focus on the important things, helps you concentrate on the mission. It helps you concentrate on your goals, brings you down to earth.” There’s silence as Oliver lets his eyes flutter shut, lets his mind focus on nothing in particular. He suspects that Barry’s doing the same, until he hears him clear his throat. “Barry, you need to be absolutely silent in order to-”


“I love you.”


Oliver thinks that he’s let the words slip out--It was only a matter of time, Ollie, the voice taunts--but when he opens his eyes, Barry’s face is expressionless. Oliver blinks. “What?”


“I said I love you.”


And yes, that’s exactly how he heard it before, in Barry’s voice, confident and sure. Like he meant it.


“Barry, I--”


“That’s what you told me,” Barry interrupts, “I understood it. I mean, not instantly, but I memorized the phrases then looked them up. You said ‘I love you’ five times in Russian, three times in Arabic and two in Chinese.”


Oliver has no idea how to fill the awkward silence that ensues afterward, so he only offers, “You know Google Translate isn’t always accurate, right?”


It’s not supposed to be a joke, but Barry bursts out laughing anyway. Here’s Barry Allen, laughing his ass off while Oliver Queen struggles to stop himself from having a heart attack. Finally, Barry pushes the candle aside and says, “Well, they all translated to the same thing, so I gave Google the benefit of the doubt.”


Oliver sometimes forgets how fast Barry is. He’s reminded now, when Barry’s suddenly in his personal space, and now Oliver’s really trying not to have a heart attack, because Barry’s so close, and all Oliver has to do is lean in--


Barry’s faster. He presses his lips to Oliver’s before Oliver could beat him to it.


It’s a joke, Oliver thinks instantly. But then Barry’s lips are pressing more firmly against his, and their lips are parting slightly, and oh, this is no joke. Barry’s tongue slips into Oliver’s mouth and he groans as Oliver presses his hands against Barry’s neck. It’s all Oliver’s dreamed about and more, better.


They pull apart at the same time, their eyes fluttering open, their lips plump. Oliver rests his forehead on Barry’s. Finally, Barry chuckles. I want to do something cliche and say ‘I love you’ in Russain, or whatever, but I have no idea how to, even though I’ve heard it five times.”


Oliver shakes his head in amusement. “Just say it in English,” he whispers, “It’ll sound just as good.”


“I love you Oliver.”

He was right.