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Home is Where the Heart is

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Winter 2002

He’s standing at the centre counter, his sleeves rolled up as he begins to chop the mushrooms into small dices. His tongue just barely sticks out, his entire focus on the large mushrooms in front of him. His blonde hair falls flat on his forehead just barely skipping over his eye and he blows lightly to get it out of the way, never flattering from his current job.

“I don’t see why we can’t just have pop tarts,“ a small voice whines petulantly, “we can even have the blueberry ones and have some fruit for breakfast.”

“That’s not fruit.” Oliver Queen laughs, turning to his right and sure enough his best friend is grinning at him cheekily.

It’s an early Saturday morning and Oliver promised his mother that he’ll get breakfast for both him and Felicity. His mother had already left for her early shift, leaving the two teens to fend for themselves, something both children have been used to since they were 10. This is however the first time Oliver wants to make something for Felicity, he’s been practicing for the past 3 weeks to perfect his omelettes knowing it’s her favorite.  

Felicity Smoak’s dark brown locks are braided in pigtails, her large black frame glasses sliding down the tip of her nose, she still hasn’t grown into the used frames. She unlike Oliver doesn’t need the small stepping stool to reach over the counter so instead she has her elbows pressed onto the counter surveying all the ingredients in front of them. The freckles splattering her nose is more prominent under the yellow light of the kitchen and Oliver can’t help but notice how cute she looks. Oliver cheeks redden when he mind wanders, he’s been noticing little things about his best friend a lot lately. Felicity has been his best friend for half his life, he should not be thinking about how pretty she is.

She’s just Felicity.

“Why can’t you just make scramble eggs, then?” Felicity whines in annoyance.

Oliver knows that’s it’s due to hunger more than anything so he doesn’t take it personally. When she woke up and found him in the kitchen, he knew he had caught her curiosity and for the first few minutes she played well with being his su chef, helping get some of the ingredients and grating the cheese, but now that her hunger has stepped in, she’s just cranky .  

“That’s boring.” Oliver replies, “Besides, you like omelettes.”

“You’re taking so long .”

“You’re just impatient.” Oliver retorts, he rolls his eyes when Felicity starts munching on some of the grated cheese, “Stop eating the cheese, Felicity!”

“Hurry up and cook then!” Felicity huffs her shoulders shaking with impatience . She circles the counter again looking at him expectantly her blue eyes wide and pleading with him.

“I wanted to teach you how to make the omelette.” Oliver can’t help release his own whine and his ears redden in embarrassment but Felicity only sighs dramatically as she sinks down onto her open palm and looks at him with a forlorn expression.

“Oliver, I’m hungry .”

“I thought you said you wanted to learn how to cook for yourself, after you got sick off of the egg rolls from Mrs. Lu?” Oliver points out.

He turns on the stove and sprays the pan all the while gathering his bowls of ingredients and Felicity easily reaches some of the bowls for him that he can’t get from his stepping stool. She giggles at him but doesn’t comment, a sure sign of how hungry she really is.

“Why would I need to cook when I have you?” She says it so offhandedly that Oliver looks across her in surprise and she has to pause from stealing some of the ham slices to figure out his expression. She then shrugs her shoulders and looks at him, her clear blue eyes wide and full of earnest, “You’ll always cook for me, right Oliver?”

Oliver grins widely and nods in agreement, he can’t imagine a point in his life where Felicity won’t be in it and as long as they are friends he’ll always cook for her. “Until we’re old and wrinkly and can only eat mash potatoes.”

“Ew.” Felicity giggles, “At least I’ll still be taller than you.”

There it is.

Growing up he and Felicity have always been the same height but a few months shy of Felicity’s 13th birthday she shot up and she’s now a head taller than Oliver and she never lets him forget it. Oliver’s mom told him that girls just get their growth spurts earlier than boys, but it doesn’t stop Felicity from teasing him mercilessly about it.

“You will not.” Oliver grumbles which only causes Felicity to giggle again.

He really loves hearing Felicity’s laugh.

“I’ll always love you, even if you’re a shrimp.” Felicity teases and Oliver gasps when she wraps her arms around his waist and pulls him into an unsuspected hug from behind.

Felicity seems none the wiser as she peers down at the simmering pot in front of them, her chin resting on his shoulder, but Oliver is very aware of her, he’s feeling things he’s never felt before, both his body and the feel of her body against his.

“Felicity,” Oliver’s voice cracks and he clears his throat, his cheeks pinking up, that’s been happening a lot lately especially around Felicity. “You’re gonna make me burn the eggs.”

“Some chef you are.” Felicity teases, but she slips out and moves to grab two plates for them to eat. “You’re gonna have to know how to multitask when you open your restaurant.”

“Somehow, I don’t think my su chef is gonna be holding onto me like a koala.” Oliver teases.

“That’s true, but just in case I’m preparing you for anything.” Felicity teases  sticking her tongue out at Oliver as they both giggle. “Now, can I make my famous hot chocolates?”

“Famous? Felicity all you do is warm the milk and add the mixture and some marshmallows.”

Felicity gasps her hand going to her chest dramatically, “I’ll have you know adding the correct amount of milk and marshmallow is a science .”

“Sure it’s not math? One in the cup and then two in your mouth?” Oliver teases and laughs when Felicity walks past him and shoves him lightly with her hip as she goes to get the two mugs.

The continue on in silence, Oliver finishing the last of the omelette while Felicity smuggles some marshmallows while making their hot chocolates. Oliver only shakes his head, but he knows that the extra bag of marshmallows in the cupboard are there for that very reason, Felicity loves the little snack too much.

He grins proudly when Felicity devours their breakfast, gushing about how good the food tastes, melted cheese dripping from her chin and they both giggle loudly as they eat. They are sitting at the foot of the couch, their sweats clad legs stretched out in front of them as they drink their hot chocolate, empty plates discarded at the side.

“I love winter.” Felicity hums contently hugging her hot chocolate to her chest, as she savours the warmth. She snuggles next to Oliver, her head resting on his shoulder, “I wish our winter break was as long as summer break.”

“Then we’ll never have time to swim in the lake.” Oliver points out just as he drains the last of his hot chocolate.

“Oh, I love school, but I love swimming in the lake more though.” Felicity says thoughtfully, “you’d have more time to teach me how to ice skate. I think I want to try this year.”

Oliver shakes his head, this is a usual winter arguement between the two, for as long as Oliver can remember Felicity has always refused to learn how to ice skate always preferring to watch.  When they were 5, both their mothers signed then up to learn, but the moment Felicity stepped onto the ice she went sprawling across the ice, slamming her head against the barrier and earning herself 5 stitches. Suffice to say Felicity never went on the ice again, until a few years she claimed that 10 was for too old to go classes to learn, thus leaving the responsibility on Oliver to teach her.

Every year since then, she’s promised that he could teach her, but she’d always chicken out the moment they got to the lake.

Felicity sits up and turns to face Oliver, her legs curling over his so she can face him. Her cheeks are red from warm drink and she’s so close Oliver can practically count all her freckles on her nose. He looks down at her and grins when he sees she has a white moustache from her hot chocolate.

He raises his hand and brushes his thumb across her top lip, Felicity freezing in surprise, “Chocolate mustache.”

They are sitting so close that Oliver can feel Felicity’s hot breath against his skin. She had discarded her glasses earlier when they fogged up while she drank her drink and now Oliver can see her blue eyes wide and staring back at him, her lips slightly parted. Oliver’s eyes dart from her parted lips and then to her blue eyes and without really thinking about it he leans forward and presses his lips gently against hers.

Felicity’s entire body freezes in surprise and Oliver almost pulls back in horror at her lack of response, but then he feels the tension drain out of her body, only her fingers grip his t-shirt tightly and he breathes a sigh of relief when he feels the barest hint of pressure as she kisses him back.

The kiss finishes as soon as it started but Oliver feels as though he’s flying, his cheeks are red and he can see Felicity smiling at him shyly, her entire face pink. Oliver doesn’t know what to say, Felicity only giggles softly and leans into him again and presses her lips a little bit more forcibly against his.

“Ollie! Ollie! Ollie!” A high squeal pulls both teens back almost as though they were on fire and a small body come hurling towards them landing in Oliver’s lap.

Oliver groans as his three year old sister, Thea looks up at him with wide brown eyes, her short brown hair is a mess on top her head and he can see a long line across her face where she fell asleep, “Ollie! we have pizzas?”

Oliver laughs wholeheartedly and narrows his eyes at his best friend who is giggling behind her hand, her cheeks still pink from their kiss, “I told you we shouldn’t have had pizza last night.”

Felicity sticks her tongue out at him and the tightness in his chest eases when he realizes he has not completely ruined their friendship, she grabs Thea tossing the toddler with ease earning a loud giggle in return, “Don’t you want Ollie’s famous scramble eggs?”

“With ketchup?” Thea asks innocently looking back and forth between the two teens.

Oliver and Felicity exchange looks of disgust but nod nonetheless, “Of course.”

“ Liccy I wants a piggyback ride.” Thea demands already starting to crawl up Felicity body to get to her.

“Alright, you monkey.” Felicity says with a laugh  spinning around so Oliver can put Thea on her back, she turns around to face Oliver her cheeks pink, “Do you think...can we...if you want...can we do that again?”

Her words come out in a rush, but Oliver hears her quite clearly and he feels the heat rising up his chest and he nods his head vigorously, he’s almost afraid his ears might fall out at his eagerness, “Yea, I’ll like that.”

“Me too.”


 

Fifteen Years Later

“Chef Dearden! Chef Dearden!”

Oliver Dearden silently growls as one of his new waiters runs behind him, he was hoping to pop into his office grab a few things and then pop out without being seen. He takes a deep breath and fingers the small box in hand slipping it into the pocket of his coat and spins around to face his waiter, “William, how can I help you?”

The waiter, a skinny 19 year old, looks at him nervously shifting from one foot to the other unable to meet Oliver’s eye, which is disconcerting to say the least if the kid needs to converse with customers daily. “William, you have to look people in the eye when you speak to them, customers aren’t going to feel comfortable with you if you can’t look at them.”

His words seem to register with the young man and William looks at him shyly, “Where are the dinner menus? Do we just switch out the lunch for the dinner at the end of the day?”

Oliver looks at him in confusion, “Didn’t Danny go over this with you?”

William looks alarmed at first but shakes his in the negative, “No there was an issue with one of the vendors and he had to sort that out.”

Oliver sighs once again his head waiter seems to be taking up the slack from his manager. Oliver suspect he’s going to have to have a talk with his manager at the end of the week, yet another issue to add to his already long to do list.

The top of the list seems to be currently burning a hole in the pocket of his coat. The ring box seems heavy in his pocket, heavier than it should be, like it’s weighing him down.

He bought the ring three weeks ago and left it in his office for safe measures. The only problem it's been three months and he’s yet to take any steps further to actually using the ring, thus he decided to take it out from his safety deposit box and take it back home so the constant reminder would hopefully fuel a fire under him to get a move on it.

He bought the ring on a cold dark winter day. He was strolling through the streets of Manhattan, contemplating his current life choices and why he felt like he was in a current runt while he had everything he’s always dreamed of, when he caught a couple standing under the falling snow in the midst of a life changing event. Caught up in the romance of it all Oliver found himself outside of jewelry store and before he knew it he was purchasing a small diamond encrusted ring. Instead of feeling elated he only felt foreboding.

That should have been the first hint that something was amiss.

There is a gnawing guilt that eats away at him, a constant reminder that before he even uses that ring there is something specific he needs to do, something he chose to ignore the past 7 years, but with the purchase of this ring he realized he’s finally beginning to take those steps to put the past behind him. If only he was able to complete his task with the efficiency in which he was able to purchase the ring. A ring that instead of finding a home on his girlfriend’s finger, it was nestled in the deep alcoves of his safety deposit box in his office. Hiding away like a dirty little secret and ironically resting nearly on top of 5 year old papers than have yet to see the light of day, not since the moment they arrived in his small 2x4 apartment deep in the Bronx.

Instead of listening to his instincts he chose to quell those thoughts and store the ring in his office until he was ready to put it to use.

It's been three months since then and Oliver has realized out of sight out of mind is not the best plan of action so he went on a limb and pulled the ring out of its hiding place. He can only hope that he’ll finally put it to good use.

They have been together for over three years and Oliver loves his girlfriend dearly but there is just something that's been keeping him back.

He walks into their east side two bedroom apartment, toeing off his shoes before he enters the foyer. After growing up in a small one storey house sharing with his mother and sister never in his life thought that he’d have a foyer much less a spacious apartment that overlooks Central Park.

When he moved to New York City seven years ago he’d always dreamed he’d end up here. Yet somehow despite having a four star restaurant an amazing apartment and loving girlfriend he still feels as though something is missing.

“Babe, is that you?” The soft voice calls out pulling him away from his thoughts.

He stuffs the ring box into the front pocket of his jeans just as she walks into the living bare feet tapping against the wooden floor and already dressed for their run. A run he’s incidentally running late for.

“There you are! Did you find what you were looking for?” She asks with a smile.

Her long brown hair is tied up in one and swept to the side, her long tanned legs are encased in yoga pants the lack of jacket  showing she's ready for the early summer morning run.

“The forms were on my desk like I suspected.” Oliver says with an over exaggerated huff of annoyance the lie coming easily to him. He places a kiss on her forehead and makes a beeline for their bedroom, “I'll be out in a minute.”

He goes into the bedroom his hand automatically going to the box in his pocket. His grip tightens around soft material. The usually neat folded clothes on the lone chair is all but gone, instead there is a dress haphazardly across the worn leather and a light scarf just hanging by its frayed ends at the bottom of their bed. The sight is so foreign but familiar at the same time, he’s taken back to years ago where walking through his bedroom was like an obstacle course as he avoided scattered high heels, jumped over tangled computer cords and had to spend ages to find his side of the bed.

The scattered room has him so preoccupied he doesn't hear the footfalls approaching until a small hand snakes under his worn t-shirt making him jump. Oliver watches in horror as the small box slip from his finger and clatters to the wooden floor, the clinking of the diamond encrusted ring across the floor seems to echo around the still room. Oliver reacts almost immediately and clampers to the floor reaching for the box almost as though he can rewind the last few seconds and pretend it never happened.

He’s down on one knee now his hand curled around the now broken box, the flimsy hinge never standing a chance against the hardwood floor.  He has the small ring between his thumb and forefinger and finally takes the chance to look up at her. Her brown eyes are wide and full of surprise, but he see them begin to swell with tears.

His heart clenches at the image he makes, at the pure elation on her face and he knows there is no way out of this. He looks across at her warm eyes, and a sense of calm overtakes him like a warm breeze filtering in on a hot summer night.

He can do this.

He repeats the small martra in his head, but yet the words are stuck in his throat like a stubborn worn piece of gum under his shoe refuse to let go.

He can't do this, not now. She deserves better, something planned. Something memorable. Certainly, not when he has so many uncertainties swimming around in his mind.

He looks at her with uncertainty, but she only has eyes for the glistening piece of jewelry, dwarfed by his much larger hand. “McKenna…”

“Yes!” She squeals so loudly, so unlike her that he barely has time to brace himself when she tackles him to the floor, hot wet kisses trail against his heated skin.

Her entire body is thrumming with excitement Oliver can practically feel it through her skin as her arms snakes around his neck and th finally lock eyes. The glee on her face is contagious and Oliver is reminded why he decided to buy that ring in the first place and this time when he smiles it's real and full and he’s gotten to this point and he hold the ring up between them and looks at her expectantly.

McKenna nods her head vigorously and then tackles him, the fall back onto the floor their lips fused together.

It’s not until he’s slipped the ring on her finger and they are lying contently on the floor in a heap of limbs does he acknowledge that it's finally time for him to pull out those 5 year old papers and finally close the door to his past.

But first he has to explain to his fiancé why he's visiting his hometown so suddenly and pointedly not inviting her along.

 


 

Two days later he finds himself sitting in his rental car 10 minutes outside of the little town of Starling, fingers nervously curling and uncurling around the steering wheel.

When he told McKenna that he needed to head to Starling alone, her reaction was incredulous as he expected. She begged to come, to meet his mother and sister, but Oliver insisted that he had to do this on his own. After all it's been 7 years since he's been to Starling (well 5 if he counts his mother’s wedding, something he tries to forget) and while he has spoken to his mother at least twice a month it’s just not the same.

At least that was the story he told McKenna, and while it may be true it's only just the tip of the iceberg of what is waiting for him back in Starling.

With every mile he covers the weight on his chest gets heavier and many times he has to fight the urge to turn the car around and just pretend he never came.

The small little wooden box that sits in the passenger side rattles as the car rolls over the gravel road leading up to the large lake house. He can feel the cool wind against his face that family lake water smell overtaking his senses.

He’s home.

He grabs the small wooden box and the aged envelope and slides out the seat looking up at the large two storey house with a wrap around porch. His step falters as he's bombarded with memories, of late summer days building the porch filled with laughter and soft kisses and ending with warm swims in the lake only a few yards away.

But in the last few years those carefree days were few and far between and instead was filled with yelling and tears and so much anger.

Oliver looks down at the old wooden box, the childlike engraving with the words “Oliver and Felicity” making his blood boil. Resting in the box is torn up pieces of divorce papers but the sentiment is not laced with romance but just contempt and vengeance, the bright pink post it is still curled up resting on the torn up pages a massive ‘fuck you’ at best.

The latent anger begins to simmer again as he takes purposeful steps up the small flight of stairs.

He reaches the front door and knocks violently on the hardwood the rattling of the blinds almost drowning out the firm knocks.

“Felicity!” He bellows loudly

He knocks again this time more forcibly as he yells again, and his anger increases when he doesn't hear any movement he growls an angrily. A soft growl in response started him and he looks down just in time to see a small white furball come charging at him and before he can react two small teeth imbed itself into his ankle.

“Fuck!” Oliver yells in pain. He's just about to kick the furball when he recognizes the large floppy ears and realizes it's not a puppy as he suspected but a rabbit.

A demon rabbit at that. The rabbit bares its teeth again it's red eyes glaring at Oliver as he sinks his teeth into Oliver ankle once again. Oliver is just about to kick the furball loose when a high pitch scream halts his actions.

“Ollie, don't attack him!”

“The fucking thing is biting me!” Oliver snaps angrily trying to shake the rabbit off without causing too much damage.

“I'm not talking to you.”   she hisses as she scoops up the rabbit cuddling it to her chest and whispering soft words of reassurance to the small animal.

“You named your demon rabbit after me?”

“Well the resemblance is uncanny.” Felicity replies cattily.

Now that Oliver no longer has the demons rabbit hanging off his foot he can finally take her in. Gone was the dark brown hair and replaced is golden locks that form soft curls around her face just tickling her bare shoulder blades. The large round framed glasses that she’s had since they were kids are now replaced with thin wired square frames that fit her face perfectly. But behind the hair and the glasses, Oliver can see the familiar freckles and the sparkling blue eyes he knows all too well.

Those sparkling blue eyes though hold a fire on them and are narrowed warningly at Oliver.

“What are you doing here?” Felicity asks coldly, her eyes linger on the small box in Oliver's hands and Oliver knows that she has an inkling as to why he's here.

“I came for a divorce.” Oliver says forcibly as he brandishes the large folder in her face.

“I thought the hot shot New Yorker would have people do that for him.” Felicity retorts making no effort to take the envelope from Oliver.

“The last time I had my lawyers send you the papers you turned them into potpourri and sent them back in a box, so I'm sorry if I didn't think mailing them would be the best use of my money.” Oliver all but growls shaking the box in front of Felicity face and she only grins smugly in return.

“I know how much you enjoy a good puzzle.” She says flippantly.

“I seem to recall you being the one that loved puzzles.”

His keen observation gives her pause, but her shoulders go rigid once again and her fingers gently caress the ears of Ollie the rabbit. “I'm sorry to disappoint you - well actually I'm not at all that sorry - but once again you have wasted your money to buy a plane ticket to come here hoping for a different response. I'm not interested.”

With those final words she spins on her heels and enters the house slamming the door in his face.

“Felicity! Felicity! You can't ignore me forever.”

The adjacent window opens next to the door and Oliver can see the rabbit still calmly curled up in her arms, “I recall doing a fine job of it for the past 7 years.”

“Felicity, can we at least talk?” He pleads.

“Oliver, the time to talk was 7 years ago before you took off to New York City. I am not interested.”

With those words she slams the window shut and pulls the curtain forcibly across, she has another thing coming if she thinks Oliver will just walk away silently.

He growls angrily in response, “if you won't talk to me why the fuck won't you just divorce me?”

“Last I checked I married Oliver Queen. When you find him, tell him to give me a call now kindly remove yourself from my property Mr. Dearden.”

“Last I checked this house was under both our names.” Oliver snaps back just as angrily.

The curtain is pulled back yet again and Felicity's eyes are blazing as she glares at Oliver, “are you threatening to get me kicked out of my house?”

Oliver falters at her accusation, “of course not. Felicity, I just want you to sign the papers.”

“Not interested.”

Once again the curtains are pulled shut and Oliver is beginning to wonder if she will yank them right off the rods in her anger. “Why the fuck won't you sign the fucking papers?”

The curtains open again but this time Felicity smiling, her eyes gleaming at him evilly, “because you want it so much.”


With those final words she closes the curtains and Oliver can hear her footfalls as she walks away and he knows she has dismissed him, for now.