DISCLAIMER: The Arrow characters are the property of Warner Brothers Television, Berlanti Television, and DC Comics Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2013 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Oliver watches from the shadows as Laurel and her father get into a police cruiser and drive away. He wanted to carry Tommy out to her, knew he should, but with her father there, he couldn’t risk it. Keeping his identity hidden is easier when he’s moving fast and shooting arrows, not when he’s delivering the corpse of his best friend. Of the man who loved Laurel.
Did Laurel love Tommy?
He closes his eyes but he can still hear the aftermath of the destruction around him. He can smell smoke, and dust fills his nose, almost coats his tongue.
Merlyn could do this? To avenge one woman? This much damage?
Merlyn did do this. Because Oliver failed to stop him.
His phone vibrates gently and he looks down, sees that it’s Felicity. “Are you all right?”
“I am. It’s sort of a mess in here—dust everywhere, which is so not good for my equipment. But nothing major has collapsed and I ran up the stairs a couple of times to make sure they weren’t going to fall down and trap us in the lair. The front door still opens and, more importantly I’m sure to you, still shuts and locks. Doors can get out of square, you know, after an earthquake. I have a cousin in L.A and she says—” Felicity does the abrupt stop that says she knows she’s talking too much. “Anyway, I’m here and scared but fine. No you and no Diggle, though.”
“Dig’s in the hospital. He was stabbed.”
“He’s...he’s okay, though?”
Oliver can hear a difference in her voice from when he first met her. This is a woman who can ask if a man who’s just been stabbed is okay. The old Felicity would have still been stuck on a man being stabbed. “He will be. He needs to be there a few days. I called Carly.”
“Good.” She sighs. “I’m not going to go back to my apartment tonight. It’s too crazy out there on the streets. Are you coming back here?”
“I have a few stops to make first.”
“Okay.” She cuts the connection. She never used to do that. Rambled on and on before suddenly saying, “Okay, bye” when she realized she was talking too much again. But now she cuts the line when they are done; she knows he has things to do.
He calls Thea’s phone, gets voicemail, and tries again. She picks up and says, “I’m trying to drive, Ollie.”
“Out of the Glades. But no one is moving. Massive gridlock thanks to your best friend’s evil dad. Did we know he was evil? Is Tommy evil?” She laughs in a way that tells him she doesn’t really find this funny. “And here I thought Mom and Malcolm were just having an affair.”
He wants to tell her Tommy’s dead, but there’s no way Oliver Queen can know that yet, only the Hood can, and even though Thea’s boyfriend is eager as hell to meet the Hood, Oliver doesn’t think Thea would be overly pleased to find out her big bro is the vigilante.
He’s already changed too much for her liking as it is some days.
“Are you safe, Thea?”
“I’m fine, Ollie. I’ve got the doors locked and plenty of gas, and I have a tire iron sitting next to me.”
“Why don’t you have Roy sitting next to you? I assume that’s why you are in the Glades?”
“He was with me. He wanted to help some people on a bus, but he said he couldn’t do that and worry about me. So he sent me away.”
Roy did that? Maybe the kid has more promise than Oliver initially thought.
“I’ve got to check on Mom and Laurel, Thea. You call me if you need me, all right?”
“I will. And don’t bother checking on Mom. She was arrested.”
He wonders if it makes him a bad son that he doesn’t feel sorry for his mother. Maybe jail will be good for her. Make her see what an idiot she’s been. She can say she did what she did for him and Thea, but he doesn’t believe her, not completely. His mother has enjoyed being in power. He has seen that for himself: some part of her enjoyed it. If he hadn’t staged his intervention with Dig as the Hood, would she ever have come clean? Done the right thing?
“I’ve got to go, Ollie. We’re moving again.”
“Be careful. Call if you need me.”
“Will do. Bye.”
He pulls out the phone he uses with Lance and calls him.
Lance answers on the second ring. “You’re alive.”
“I am. There was a second device—we didn’t know.”
“I sort of figured that one out on my own, thanks.” He sounds tired. Oliver knows the snideness is just a part of who Lance is; although he thinks disappointment and heartache color the sarcasm more than dislike for him at this point. “Do you want something? I have to get my daughter to the hospital.”
“No. Do that.”
He will have Felicity find out what hospital. In the meantime, he rides around on his bike, looking for people to help. There are a distressing number of options for who to choose.
By the time he finds the bus Roy is working at, most of the helping is done. People are sitting on the curbs, and normally Oliver would tell Roy to get them farther into the street so they don’t get hit by any falling glass, but this is a part of the Glades that isn’t that built up. They’re safer on the curb than in the street.
Roy looks over and sees him. “You.”
“Me.” He gestures to the bike. “You want a ride out of here? Got anywhere you need to be?”
He remembers too late that he turned off his voice modifier when he was talking to Thea. What the hell did Lance hear, because the voice Roy is hearing is not that of the Hood, but of Oliver Queen.
“You,” Roy says again, and there is a world of wonder in the tone. “Seriously? You?”
“Shut up.” How many people can know his secret identity before it’s not a secret anymore? There’s the old saying that three can keep a secret if two are dead. So he’s probably pretty well hosed at this point. He is about to hit the voice modifier but decides there’s no point. This boy wanted to meet him. Let him meet him.
Maybe he didn’t turn the thing on for a reason?
“I won’t tell Thea,” Roy says. “You don’t want her to know, do you?”
“No. Now climb on the damn bike and shut the hell up.”
The traffic has thinned out and he’s pretty sure Thea will be home by now, so he heads for the house. They ride fast because he is eager to get to the hospital to see Laurel, and he thinks Thea is probably going nuts worrying about the boy holding so lightly behind him. He thinks Roy is holding lightly not because he’s worried how it might look to be holding on to another guy any tighter, but because he doesn’t need to. His balance is impeccable; he leans just right as they make a turn.
This boy could learn. Is that what he wants? To make a difference by being like Oliver?
He drops Roy off at the drive. “I trust you can break in on your own? No reason for the Hood to have the code to the gate, after all.”
Roy grins. “I can.” Then the grin fades. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you. You knew that and you were an asshole the other day.”
“No, I am an asshole. It’s not a temporary thing.”
Roy’s expression doesn’t change. “Can we talk?”
“We’ll see. Keeping my secret will be a good start to convincing me I want to have anything to do with you other than socially, since you’re seeing my sister.”
“I will. I’m good at keeping secrets.”
Oliver wonders what this kid has seen in his life. Life can be hard in the Glades. “Do you love my sister?”
“I do.” No hesitation. Good. Thea deserves that.
“Be good to her or I’ll kill you.”
“Yeah, this isn’t the kind of talk I had in mind.” Roy rolls his eyes and then he turns, running lightly until he gets to the gate, and he jumps, finding foot- and handholds on the bars, and then is over, landing lightly. “And I have skills, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Keeping your mouth shut is the only skill I care about at the moment.”
“See you around, Arrow.”
“That’s a stupid name.”
“So is the Hood. And the Vigilante isn’t much better. Do you have a name you prefer?”
“Just don’t call me anything. Now go see my sister. I can hear your phone ringing and that’s probably her.”
Roy picks up his phone and grins when he says, “I’m at your house. I’ll be right up.” He listens for a moment. “No, I’m already in. I sort of...well, you know me.” He laughs and it’s a happy, boyish laugh Oliver is surprised he can make.
Thea is good for him. That’s real happiness in his expression.
Roy smiles wider. “Okay, fine, meet me halfway.”
Oliver grins, turns the bike, and takes off, leaving Roy to his reunion. He drives to the edge of the city and then pulls over and calls Felicity. “You still okay?”
“I am. The water’s not safe to drink, according to reports coming out on the city’s website, and I’m thirsty. I boiled a bunch of water on the stove in the club kitchen and filled some empty booze bottles—figured they’d be safer than empty water bottles. No one sucking on them, for one, or hopefully not—maybe your employees routinely pass the bottle around. Ewww. I’m going to sanitize the outsides, thank God you believe in Purell. The insides should be fine—the alcohol would sterilize, right?”
Her chatter is like a little piece of normal. “Sounds right to me. The water will taste...interesting.”
“To be honest, I’ve had enough interesting for one night.” She sighs. “Did you need something?”
“I do. Laurel’s been taken to the hospital, and I need to know which one.”
“Okay. Hold on.” There is the sound of keys clacking and then she’s back. “Starling General.”
“I don’t know if she’ll want to see me. She almost died tonight.”
“But you got her out?”
“No. Tommy did. He’s...” He can’t say the word. Why the hell can’t he say the word?
“He’s dead.” There. It’s said. He won’t lie to Felicity the way he lied to Tommy about not killing his father. Felicity can take it. She can take whatever he needs to tell her.
It’s why he’s glad she’s stuck around, even though she said she would be done once Walter was found. It occurs to him that his stupid idea that he could give up this dance was wrong. The city needs him in the hood now more than ever.
He told Laurel she saw the real man inside. But that man doesn’t exist when he has the hood on. When he’s in the lair. That man only exists if he’s free.
He was a fool.
He loves Laurel more than anything, but he was crazy to let his heart get in the way of what he had to do. If he hadn’t gone to her, would Tommy have been with her when it mattered? Would they have gotten out of CNRI together? Alive. His two best friends.
He frowns. Dig and Felicity are his best friends now. Different kinds of best friends. They know the blackness in his soul and stand by him anyway. Tommy was repelled by it. Oliver’s not sure what Laurel would do if she found out.
She thinks the Hood is a romantic figure—Oliver got that much out of her during pillow talk last night. But would the reality be the same? The man who kills people—would he be romantic? Could she live with what he does?
He pulls a change of clothes from the satchel on the back of his bike and slips into the woods to change. Just jeans and a t-shirt but it’ll turn him from the Hood to Oliver Queen. He stashes his bow and arrows in a leather tube he’s attached to the side of the bike. Then he wipes off the makeup around his eyes, using the mirrors on the bike to check to make sure he got it all.
He’s worked up several stories in case he ever doesn’t get it all. They are all pretty stupid, so he’s trying to come up with more. Maybe he should ask Felicity to help: she’s creative and knows way too much about comics. Surely this comes up for those heroes.
Hero. He’s not that. He only has to look out as he pulls back onto the road and see the destruction that lies ahead. He’s not a hero.
He gets to the hospital and hurries to admitting. They give him Laurel’s room when he lies and tells them he’s her fiancé. She’s being held overnight for observation, which is standard in this kind of situation, the admitting nurse tells him, but the doctor doesn’t think there’s any damage other than bruises.
He walks down the hall to her room, sees Lance sitting by the bed, and coughs quietly.
Lance gets up, and there is nothing in his eyes that say he noticed anything odd during their phone call. Oliver supposes the cell towers are jammed—connections have been scratchy all night. Maybe he’s fine. Safe.
Lance puts his hand on his arm, pulling him away from the room. His grip is surprisingly gentle. His eyes are, too.
Was the nurse wrong? Is Laurel dying? Did Tommy not get to her soon enough?
“Oliver, I need to tell you something about Tommy Merlyn.”
Oliver feels a rush of relief. Then he lets it go and tries to pretend he’s just a normal rich guy finding out his best friend has died.
It’s surprisingly easy. As Lance tells him how he had to restrain Laurel to keep her from going back into the building, Oliver knows his distress is clear.
“I’m so sorry,” Lance says, and he actually sounds like he is. “I know my daughter loves you. I know I’ve been a real bastard about you and her. I just want you to know...well, maybe things aren’t as black and white as I thought. Tonight...tonight changed a lot of things for me.” There is something in his expression that Oliver isn’t sure how to read—maybe he’s not so safe. Although Lance helped them. Lance risked everything to help them.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Go on in. She’s awake.”
Oliver turns and walks into Laurel’s room. Her smile, usually so beautiful, is dim.
“Hey,” he says as he sits down where Lance was sitting. “How are you?”
“I’m terrible. Tommy’s dead.”
He looks down. “I know. Your dad just told me. But Tommy came for you. He was a hero.”
She nods, then she laughs softly: it is a very bitter sound. “As I lay under that piece of concrete, I kept thinking that the Hood would rescue me. Isn’t that stupid? Like I’m his special project or something.” She takes a deep breath. “But it was Tommy who came for me. He loved me, Ollie. He told me that.”
“I know he did.”
“I loved him, too. What was I doing with you if I loved him, too?”
He feels as if she’s stabbed him. Is this what she felt when she heard about Sarah going off with him on the yacht? “We were in love first, Laurel. You and I...we have something.”
“Where were you?”
“When Tommy was rescuing me. Where were you?”
He has a feeling that she will check anything he says. She has that look. “I was at the club.”
“The city was coming down around us and you were at the club?”
He isn’t sure how to answer, decides there’s nothing to say unless he wants to tell her the real truth. And she’s already disappointed in him and the Hood tonight. Will knowing he and the Hood are the same person make things better or only much, much worse?
“I thought you had changed. Were you with a woman? That perky blonde who clearly knows me when I’ve never seen her?”
“She’s my IT girl. I...talk to her.”
“She didn’t have the look of just an IT girl.” Laurel takes a deep breath and lets it go with a sigh. “Ollie, I’m tired. Can we...can we just forget last night happened?”
“Laurel, I can explain if you just give me time.” He looks down because he realizes he can’t explain, that he’ll never explain to her. All the things he wanted to tell her about the island, now they need to remain hidden. He tries another tack. “I can’t forget it happened.”
“I’m tired. Can you get my dad?”
He hears the part she didn’t say: get her dad and then leave. He nods and stands up, leans over to try to kiss her forehead, but she turns her head so his lips land on her hair over her ear. “I love you,” he murmurs.
She does not say it back.
He walks out, gestures to Lance who now has a cup of coffee in his hand. “She wants you.” Then he turns and walks out, gets to his bike somehow, drives fast—too fast given the state of the roads—to the club, and gets his gear and practically runs into the lair.
Felicity is standing up, a knife in her hand. “Oh, God, it’s you. You never come in that way. You’re usually all stealthy.” She stops and looks at him—really looks at him. “What is it?”
He shakes his head, but he can feel tears—God how he hates crying. It reminds him of the boy he was before the island. Weakness, that’s all tears are. “We failed this city, Felicity.”
“Are you going to put an arrow through my heart? And if you do, who will put one through yours?”
He doesn’t tell her Laurel already did.
She walks over, reaches behind him and lays her hand gently on the back of his head, then pulls until his forehead is pressed up against her own. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. Yes, we failed. But we saved a good part of the Glades. Even if we’d known about the second device, who would we have sent to stop it?”
Roy, he thinks. He could have sent Roy. But he wouldn’t have thought that a few hours ago. So, she’s right.
It’s nice, standing here like this, she is warm and she doesn’t judge. He puts his arms around her and says, “How do we make this right?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice is broken. She hugs him, squeezes hard, and he groans. She pulls away enough to really study him, sees where the wound is, that he’s packed it with some gauze he keeps in the satchel, that it’s bleeding through. “Oliver. Did Merlyn do this to you?”
He starts to laugh. “I did this to me. To get Merlyn.”
“My God.” Her voice holds both shock and approval. “He’s dead?”
“Good. Come on. Let’s get you patched up. It’s a shame I’ll never be able to put all this field medic experience on my resume. Would really add to my extracurriculars if I ever need a job that’s not at your company.” She grins, and he feels himself settle down. As she works, she tells him about what’s broken or nearly so in the lair. Then she meets his eyes and says, “How is Laurel?”
“Physically, she’ll be fine.”
“You’re not saying a lot with that answer.”
“I slept with her last night.”
“I know. I could tell that’s where you were going. You were so...happy at the idea of hanging up your hood.” She rubs his arm gently. “Was it everything you hoped for?”
He nods. “But now she hates me. I can’t tell her the truth, and if I don’t, then the only story I can give is that I was here, at the club, with you. She thinks you’re my girlfriend on the side.”
“Do you want me to talk to her?”
“You would do that?”
“At great length, with probably many uncomfortable pauses, and she would ultimately decide I’m a blithering idiot.” Felicity smiles, her beautiful smile. So different than Laurel’s. Laurel always looks like life is about to turn tragic at any moment, even when she’s happy. Felicity embraces the good, even when she spends so much time in this cesspool his life has become.
“Don’t talk to her. It won’t help.” He pulls her back into a hug, rests his head on her shoulder. “My friend is dead. My mother is in jail. The Glades have descended into chaos.”
“But you’re alive. And you can help.” She rubs his back. “And I’ll help you. And so will Dig when he gets out of the hospital.”
He thinks of Roy. “And we may have a new recruit. I’m still assessing him.”
She pulls back and gives him a stern look. “Him? Bit low on estrogen around here, dontcha think?”
“Oh, like you don’t dig being the only woman in the secret lair.”
She grins. “I really, really do.” She touches his cheek, and he leans into her hand. “It’ll be all right. We’ll make it all right.”
He nods slowly. He even musters up a small, tight smile.
But he isn’t sure he believes her.