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) 2014 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
He Needs You
Laurel sat by her father's hospital bed, holding his hand but not saying anything as the monitors beeped and the rasp of the respirators went on in a soothing rhythm. He was going to be all right. The doctors seemed sure of it. He'd wake up soon, they said. When his body was ready.
Sara sat across from her; a crewman on the ship had heard Laurel's cries and told Sara something was wrong. Sara and Nyssa had been there, helping to stabilize her father in ways Laurel couldn't.
Why did Sara know so much more about basic life-saving than Laurel did? When had the little sister surpassed the older?
The jacket Sara had given her felt tight as she sat, constricting like it was a snake intent on ending her. She shrugged it off.
"You okay?" Sara didn't seem to miss much anymore.
"You said Oliver would need me."
"He will." Sara's voice was full of the strange calm she never used to have, and again Laurel felt like the younger sister.
"Where is he, then?" Her tone turned into a whine and she winced.
"He's making sure Slade won't hurt anyone else."
"He, just Oliver. Or he and that...Felicity?" That woman that Slade was going to kill instead of her—not that Laurel wanted to be the one with the blade at her throat, but maybe she did, if it meant Oliver would love her again. Or maybe he had never really stopped. She'd never stopped; why should he?
"She's really nice." Sara's voice was the one that she'd used years ago with Dad to divert attention from a broken plate or her boyfriend sneaking out of the window.
"Mmm hmmm. And you didn't answer my question." She met Sara's eyes. "Why would you tell me he's going to need me if he's already got her?"
Sara didn't look away. "Because you're his friend. And he needs all the friends he can get."
"His friend." Laurel closed her eyes. "And she's...more?"
Sara seemed to have to think about that, and her smile changed, as if she liked this Felicity—maybe in the way she liked Nyssa. Laurel had a sudden vision of Oliver and her sister and the IT girl in some crazy threesome. Three blondes getting it on while fighting crime.
And Laurel out in the cold. Not that she wanted to share Oliver. She'd never wanted to share him. Was that the problem? Could he not be faithful to one woman, even now when he'd changed so much?
"She's important to him, Laurel. In ways that really have nothing to do with romance right now."
"So, you aren't jealous of her?"
"I left Oliver, not the other way around. I'm not good for him. He needs...someone brighter, sunnier."
"And you think I define that?"
Sara smiled. "Once upon a time, before I took off with your boyfriend and this whole lost on an island thing happened, you were the sunnier of us."
"No." Laurel shook her head, remembering how serious and studious she'd been when they were younger, how impish her little sister had been. "You were the sunny one, Sara. And I think you still are, black leather outfits notwithstanding."
Sara laughed. "Hey, you've got the jacket. Or don't you want it anymore?"
Laurel shrugged. "It won't make me you. Or...her."
"It wasn't intended to make you anyone: it's just a jacket. You and Oliver have history. You need to work out what that means now with all that's happened. Now that you know who he really is." She stood. "I'm going to get some coffee. You want?"
"No, I'm okay." Laurel saw a dark figure cross in front of the small glass window on the door to her dad's room. "She's still here?"
"She loves me."
"Do you love her?"
Laurel frowned. "As much as you love Oliver?"
Sara sighed. "She's better for me. And I won't pull her down into my darkness. She already lives there. Heir to the demon and all that."
Laurel laughed at the expression on Sara's face. "Does she ever get tired of saying that?"
"She really doesn't." Sara walked around the bed and kissed Laurel on the forehead. "Okay, I'm going to take Nyssa outside. I'm sure she's unnerving the hospital staff."
Laurel laughed softly and waved her off, was left with the hiss and beeps of the machines.
Where the hell was Oliver?
Felicity got comfortable in the back seat of the plane Oliver had insisted on flying and watched him work the controls. She was still shaken by all the things that had happened. All the ways they'd beaten Slade and saved the city. Without death.
Well, except for Isabel. Was it horrible to say she wasn't crying any tears over that death? And it wasn't Oliver who did it, just super-assassin Nyssa, so really not like it was Felicity's problem.
John asked Oliver something she couldn't hear over the engines, so she didn't try to listen, just settled in and thought about the night—that night. All the things.
Not the love thing. Well, she'd think of that eventually because this was Oliver who said it, even if he didn't mean it, but he might have meant it—what with the "we both sold it" comment. And the way he looked at her—really looked at her—that night at the house and just a while ago on the beach.
But it wasn't the "I love you" she wanted to think about it. It was that he, Mister "I must do everything myself or I will again fail this city," had left it up to her to stop Slade. He had trusted her that much.
No one had ever trusted her that much. She wasn't sure Oliver had ever trusted anyone that much.
She'd been terrified Slade would frisk her, would find where she'd stashed the hypo, but he'd been so sure he'd gotten her right out from under Oliver's nose, he hadn't looked.
Not very smart. Felicity would have freakin' cavity-checked a prisoner. She didn't trust anybody not to be carrying a weapon after all this time working with Oliver.
The partner that took down his nemesis. His idea, though. Brilliant, even if she'd suggesting letting Slade outfox him. She'd never thought he'd run in that direction with it.
Do you understand? The feel of a hypo being pushed into her hand. The knowledge of what he was giving her.
She'd felt a thousand feet tall. She could do this.
Laurel had glared at her nonstop as Sara got them out of the building once Felicity had stabbed Slade with the cure. It was probably safe to say that Laurel hated her now.
And Felicity didn't think Oliver had filled Laurel in on it being a ruse before they left for the island. As far as Laurel knew, Felicity was the woman Oliver loved—but no, Sara would know the truth.
Sara would tell her.
Sara understood everything.
Felicity was going to miss Sara so much, even if she'd started out a little jealous.
"You okay back there, champ?" Oliver's voice. So dear. And the name—Felicity laughed at it.
"Fine and dandy. Where is the inflight drink service? Or peanuts. Although allergies sort of put the kybosh on those, eh? Now we're stuck with pretzels, which I'm sorry but if you're watching your carbs they are so not the thing."
She heard both men laugh. She was babbling: all was right in their world.
Truth to tell, she'd babbled on purpose for them this time. Just to make them happy.
That's what family did.
Sara sat with Nyssa in the sunshine, on a bench in a park across from the hospital. She hadn't gone outside just to stop Nyssa from her "scowl and stalk" routine. Sara had been feeling cooped up, feeling like she needed to do something—anything, until her dad woke up.
"Why are you encouraging your sister to seek out Oliver? Is it your wish for her to take your place as a vigilante?"
"Why are you listening at doors?"
"I have very good hearing. I didn't try to overhear—neither on the dock nor just now. She would make a terrible assassin."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure she'd aim more for hero." Sara laughed. How much training had it taken her or Oliver to get this far? Laurel could hold her own at times, but she was years and a world of adversity away from donning a mask and kicking bad-guy ass. "Besides, I don't want her living in our world. Yours, mine, Oliver's. You know me better than that."
"I know you are not always kind, little Canary." Nyssa leaned in and nuzzled her ear. "I also know how Oliver and Felicty Smoak, MIT Class of oh nine, look at each other."
"Okay, possibly my favorite thing she's ever said. And she's said some great things. She backs down for no one." Sara laughed and reached for Nyssa's hand. "A long time ago, Laurel made sure that I could not be with Oliver. Not just by preventing me from getting to him but by taking him first once Dad grounded me—thanks to her narcing me out."
Nyssa sat back, waiting. Tales of revenge weren't shocking to her.
"Oliver needs light in his life."
"Your sister is not light. She is...gray. Mired in wanting to be something other than what she is."
"I know. I hope she finds that person she wants to be."
Nyssa frowned. "Then why...?"
"Oliver still has feelings for her. But he loves Felicity. I'm pretty sure he knows he loves her, but he's held back. The old 'must not endanger those I love' shtick."
"And yet he let her deal with Slade."
"And that, I think, will be the turning point." Sara smiled. "I could have loved her. Maybe them both together. If things had been different. If my heart weren't spoken for." She smiled at Nyssa. "I love you, you know."
Nyssa got the soft look she rarely wore. "I was...not sure."
"I know. I'm sorry. It was good to be with Ollie. Because now I know that I don't belong with him. We fight well together, but just being us...that would never work. Laurel will find that she may love him, may get him in her bed, but she has no place in the Arrow's world. Even wearing my jacket." Sara smiled, a bit nastily she knew. "Maybe especially with my jacket."
"So like a poison, he will get her out of his system?"
"Exactly. And meanwhile, Felicity will still be here. Loving him. Never forcing it. And knowing he trusted her more than any of us. He could have tried to make Slade think I was the one he loved, but he didn't. It never occurred to him, I bet. They'll be good together. She makes him smile the way he used to, when he was rich and spoiled and young and the whole world lay ahead of him."
"And that is good?"
"He's not going to be that guy again—that's not what I mean. Just...it's nice to see him open up, to see him...happy. She makes him happy and Laurel won't, not for long."
"And then you will have paid her back?"
Sara nodded. Even if her running off with Oliver on the Queen's Gambit had probably been payback enough. But since that hadn't ended well, and they'd been separated early on, she'd never felt like it had completely put paid on the issue.
"And more importantly, then my sister can move on, just as I have. The Lance girls do not need Oliver Queen."
"No, I imagine Oliver Queen needs the Lance girls far more than you need him." Nyssa smiled. "Or you, at any rate. Your sister will show her true self in time."
"Yeah. I've seen a lot of versions of Laurel since I've been back. I'm not sure any of them are the real her."
"For some, the road to self-awareness is a slow one. You and I took the lightning path."
Sara laughed. "And boy doesn't my body feel like it. My aches have aches."
"I can fix that." Nyssa's voice was a purr.
"And you will." Sara stood up. "Once my dad wakes up."
Felicity paused midway down the stairs, felt Oliver stop behind her—he was always so attuned to her, well, to anyone, but especially to her. Should she read more into that than what it probably was: him protecting the one person who could do jobs he couldn't?
"What is it?" His breath, in her ear, so warm. Had it always been so warm?
And was she going to spend every waking minute analyzing what he was doing and why? Not that she hadn't before, but it was more on the "I like you and you'll never like me back that way" scale and now, suddenly, she wasn't sure.
Slade took Laurel because he wants to kill the woman I love. He took the wrong woman. I love you.
And then he'd pressed the syringe into her hand and asked her if she understood, because this was not, in any way, Oliver telling her everything she'd fantasized about him saying to her. It wasn't.
Did he have to sound so damn sexy? And there, his hand, on her shoulder—what was it with him and her shoulders? As shoulders went they were fine, but still. Should she read into it?
No, what she should do was answer him. She turned to glance up at him. "Home, trashed home." Then she made her "I hate cleaning the lair up" face.
And he laughed. Because he hated to clean it up, too, and somehow John had managed to sneak out of it.
"Dig sure picked the right night to do his own thing."
She frowned, biting her lip the way she did whenever a computer wasn't doing what she wanted fast enough. "There's something going on. With Lyla, I think. I don't mean they're together, because obs, right? But...something he's not saying."
Oliver smiled. "He was going to tell us something. Then..." He shook his head. "He'll tell us when he's ready. Not all secrets are bad." The look he gaver her was the tender one she lived for.
It is tender, right? She's not just making that up especially since he said he loves her. Only not really. Damn it all.
He tapped her forehead. "A lot going on in there."
"I hate cleaning."
"That's not what's going on in there." He took her arm, urged her down the stairs, and they began to right overturned chairs and tables, and he helped get her equipment up so she could see what was ruined and what just needed to be reconnected. "Do you want to talk about it?" His tone was super casual, but the way he looked back at her, it was the same look he'd had after he'd slept with Isabel.
Because of the life that I lead, I just think that it's better to not be with someone that I could really care about.
But then his expression changed, and he looked around the lair and back at her, and he seemed to be saying, "Just help me clean this place—our home—up. Just be with me and not make me explain."
"No. We can talk later." She grinned, the grin that let him of the hook, and he closed his eyes for a moment, but she wasn't sure if it was in relief or disappointment. She decided to give them both a break and find a new subject. "So, about Dig. I think it's something big and that's why he doesn't want to tell us yet. You don't think he's leaving, do you? Joining Lyla in Argus?"
"No." He stopped and looked over at her. "Do you think so?"
She shrugged. "Something's going on there."
He nodded, then he started laughing. "How many bottles of nail polish does one person need?"
She looked where he was working, saw that her desk drawer had been tossed, all the bottles falling, some breaking. Shit, some of this stuff was expensive. "Gonna need a lot of acetone to clean that up."
"We could call it floor art." He tried to pull the bottles out of the spilled polish but they were stuck. "Or not."
His phone beeped and he pulled it out, gave it a quick look, then stood up. "I have to go."
"Detective Lance is in the hospital. He was hurt worse than we thought."
"Oh, no." She liked Lance. A lot. "Go."
He slipped the phone back into his pocket. "Laurel sent a text."
"Sure, that makes sense. We were out of the country with our phones off some of the time—and super crappy reception on Minefield Island."
"Sara's there, too."
"Ooh, then the heir to the demon can't be far behind."
He laughed. "Right."
"Go, Oliver. Go be with them. They need you. I'm going to leave this till morning, though. Or is it already morning?" She checked her watch. "I have no idea what time it is now—is it night? It was dark when we came in, right?"
He nodded. "Come on, I'll walk you out." He held out his arm.
She took it, tried not to read into the gesture.
Laurel heard a soft cough at the door, looked up and saw Ollie. She smiled and held her hand out. "He was hurt so bad. I didn't know or I'd have made him get it checked out."
He came to her, took her hand and squeezed it gently. "None of us knew how badly he was hurt. I doubt he did."
"No, you're right. He didn't." She wasn't sure what to say to Oliver now that he was here. At least he was here alone. "Where were you?"
"Dropping Slade off in a prison he won't escape from."
"Went alone?" God, could she sound any needier?
"No. Diggle and Felicity came, too. They're my team, Laurel."
"You made that clear before." Not that it had kept her out of the fight—had she made things better or worse for him? The fight wasn't her natural place, unless it was in a courtroom.
"Sara told me you set Slade up. With Felicity. How you felt about her."
"I did set him up. He couldnÕt resist taking her."
She noticed he wasn't saying he didn't love Felicity. Then again, he wasn't saying he did, either.
"Here's what I don't get, Ollie. I've known you, and pushed for you, and loved you for years. You've known her...what? A year? Two? How come she gets to know the real you and I had to chase after shadows? How many times could you have told me the truth?"
"You didn't want to know. Why would the Arrow care that much about protecting you? It was right in front of you the whole time. But I know why you didn't see it. I know how I used to be when I was that spoiled rich kid—nothing like a hero."
"Or a killer." She regretted those words as soon as they were out. "I mean, I know you're trying not to be."
"But that's still where you go first." He took a deep breath and let go of her hand, walking over to the chair Sara had vacated and sitting down. "How is your dad really?"
She knew she could refuse to answer, could make him stay on the topic she wanted to discuss. But she also knew that Ollie—whether the old one or this new, more serious one, did not like to be pushed into a corner when it came to talking about his feelings. Or his failings.
"They think he'll be okay." She suddenly felt cold, and pulled Sara's jacket around her shoulders.
"Did you steal that from Sara?"
"Well, she stole you from me, so it would be fair, wouldnÕt it?" Shit. Not what she'd meant to say. She needed a meeting so bad it hurt. Had been headed for one with her dad when he'd collapsed. Hadn't been to one while they kept this vigil next to his hospital bed.
She'd kill for a damn drink.
"She gave it to me, Ollie. Parting gift, only she didn't leave, not with Dad injured. She's still here with Nyssa, Princess Warmth."
Oliver actually laughed. "Yeah, not my favorite person."
"For several reasons, I'm sure. She's taking Sara away."
He shook his head, not looking away. "Sara left me."
"So you're free."
His nod was sort of this weird, half-crooked thing. As if he couldn't decide how to answer that.
"Do you love your Felicity?" Directness used to be one of her better qualities, why not try it again here.
"She's important to me." Oh, so much unsaid in that word: important.
"But Slade took me first. He thought I was the one you loved. Why would he think that, Ollie? You were sleeping with Sara last he knew. Why not pick her?"
"On the island, when I met him, I had your picture. I...when things got hard, I'd pull it out."
"Oh." She took a deep breath. Did that make her feel better? She didn't think so. It just made her feel more, and feeling too much was what made her drink in the first place. "Ollie, I'm so glad you're here but...I really need to go to a meeting. There's one down the street. Would you stay with Dad? Until I get back?"
"Of course. Laurel, yes."
She reached across the bed, clasped his hand tightly. "I want to be good for you, like we used to be. I want to be...your sunshine." She tried to smile, but her mouth was shaking. "And I really need to go."
"I'll be here as long as you need me."
"Or until another crisis calls?" Was it smart to leave her dad with him? Then again, Sara was around here somewhere. And she was back in the assassin business, apparently.
Life was so much easier without these stupid secret identities.
Sara walked into her dad's room and was surprised to see Ollie sitting in her chair. "Hey."
"Hey." His smile was gentle. "I'm so sorry this happened."
She shrugged and sat down in Laurel's chair. "He was in the fight. You know how he is. It's where we get it."
He laughed. "Yeah, I think you're right." He reached across the bed, took her hand when she reached back. "I miss you."
"I miss you, too. But it's better this way."
He let go of her hand. "Okay."
"It really is, Ollie. You and me...we're just darkness squared."
He laughed, but it was the bitter puff of air that meant he wasn't amused so much as just accepting a painful truth the best way he knew how.
"Did you give Laurel your jacket?"
"Did you give her your mask and wig, too?"
She liked that he sounded mad—as much as she wanted to pay Laurel back, she also wanted to keep her safe and help her stand on her own. They were goals at cross purposes, but Sara understood herself enough to know it was how she felt. "No, I didn't. I wouldn't. She's not ready. Felicity is more ready."
They both smiled at the idea.
And that was why, someday, Oliver would find his way to Felicity. Because no one else made him smile that way.
"Don't let Laurel into our world any more than you have to, okay?" She took a deep breath. "She'll want to help, and she may be able to—the prosecutor's office has a bit of a vacuum after Slade's goons got done rampaging in city hall. But...don't let her become me, or her version of me. Just...be her friend. She needs you."
More than Oliver needed Laurel, truth be told.
"I'll always look out for her."
Sara heard the unsaid, "No matter who I'm with" and smiled softly. "Where is Laurel, by the way?"
Sara leaned back. It was in her nature to think that meetings were weakness. That booze was too. But then she'd let killing become her addiction, moving around, never having to be herself became another one. This time, choosing her own path, being just herself, maybe she'd need a meeting for that?
"How's Thea holding up? Without your mom." She couldn't imagine how Oliver felt, watching Slade run his mother through, the same sick choice presented that had gotten Shado killed.
"Thea left town. IÕm not sure where she is. I hope she'll call me when she's ready."
"She will. She loves you. I heard an earful working as a bartender for the club. Boss lady was exasperated with you but it was clear how much she cared."
"I hope you're right." He yawned, the kind that meant he'd been up way too many hours.
"Go home, Ollie. I've got this."
He started to protest and she cut him off. "Go home. This is a Lance problem." She grinned at him, and he finally stood up and walked around to her side of the bed.
"I love you, Sara."
"I know." In his way, he probably did. She lifted her face, felt his lips soft on hers. "I love you, too, Ollie." Enough to walk away when that was what was good for him. "Now go home and get some sleep."
It was only once he was gone that she realized he had no home anymore.
Felicity was half asleep when her phone rang with Oliver's ringtone. She fumbled for the phone, putting it to her ear but keeping her eyes closed. "Please tell me there's not another crisis."
"There...sort of is."
She sat up. "What now?"
"I...I don't have anywhere to go. I mean I will. I'll get an apartment. Or normally I'd sleep in the lair or the back-up lair."
He was babbling like her on a semi-coherent day.
"Oliver, I have a couch. Come over."
"Thank you." He ended the call without saying anything else.
He was at her door about fifteen minutes later; she'd heard his motorcycle outside. Had put a sheet over the couch and piled it with several blankest and pillows. He smiled and said, "Thank you."
"Quit saying that. I owe you at least for the mine you saved me from, if nothing else." She studied him. "You look like you're going to drop. Bathroom is that way, my bedroom is that way if you need me, kitchen fridge is in there if you want something to eat."
"I'm fine." His eyes were half lidded and he looked exhausted.
She pushed him down onto the couch, let him pull off his shoes and get comfy, and then she settled the blankets over him. "Good night," she murmured, fighting to not lean down and give him a kiss.
He was half asleep, but he grabbed her hand. "I'm always safe with you."
"Always." She squeezed his hand, then set it down on top of the blanket. He was out in seconds. "You're always safe with me, Oliver."
He rolled to his side, and she tucked the blankets back around him, then turned the light off and went back to her bedroom.
Usually she tossed and turned a little bit. But she felt safe, too, with him out there on her couch, ready to stop anyone who might want to hurt her.
"I love you, too, Oliver," she whispered into her pillow, then relaxed and let go of the day, of everything, serenaded by his soft snoring wafting in from the living room.