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A Hero?

Chapter Text

Felicity Smoak's P.O.V.

 

Felicity didn't even pretend she wasn't watching her boyfriend as he worked out—performing pull-ups on the pipes ridiculously high overhead because the billionaire didn't care to spend time installing actual exercise equipment down here. Never mind that the nightclub up above was really started as just a cover for when he was out vigilante-ing. The absurd and probably unsafe location did, however, provide her with an excellent view... then again, Oliver working out anywhere was hot.

 

And sleeping with him hadn’t done anything to diminish that. If anything, knowing him so intimately only made her want to explore some more. Not that he’d seemed to mind, these last few weeks. A very good thing, not just for their relationship, but also because it seemed to be about the only way she could make sure he didn’t pull all-nighters under the hood even when there wasn’t an actual emergency going on.

 

Like right now there really wasn’t, and the programs she had running—always scanning the worldwide web for Walter and, just now, compiling data on the Arrow’s next target—didn’t need her direct supervision at the moment. So there was absolutely nothing wrong with her enjoying watching her boyfriend workout overhead. Even if just how high up he’d decided to do the pull-ups did kind of make her want to buy exercise mats to cover every inch of the floor down here. Although, even if she didn’t try to completely cover each semi-dangerous spot with Princess and the Pea like thoroughness, too many mats in general might make walking in heels and rolling her chair around much more of a challenge.

 

How Oliver had gotten into such great shape while on the island called Purgatory wasn’t really relevant. However he’d made the transition from a partying playboy who probably only had a personal trainer visit the mansion occasionally to a man who clearly knew how to take care of his body didn’t really matter. He did know what he was doing now, because he performed every exercise perfectly.

 

And Felicitas would know, because the Amazons had made her master every exercise needed to make herself fighting trim, too. Not an easy thing for an Immortal with an already strong Quickening. Because the Quickening’s response to any form of pain was to heal it at once, without necessarily helping the muscles become stronger. Sure, she could also push the raw power of her Quickening through every muscle to make herself significantly stronger than she would otherwise be, but becoming an Amazon had been the work of decades in ancient times because they had helped her overcome the obstacles in the way of making herself stronger with or without the powerful energy that made her an Immortal. After the fact, the Quickening was of course much more helpful. Now she’d have to actively try to get out of shape as it managed her metabolism and made sure every hard-won muscle stayed in perfect shape. And she still wasn’t sure that getting herself into fighting trim hadn’t helped her Quickening grow into the truly massive pool of active and extremely powerful energy it was today—maybe even more so than the many years she’d lived and the heads she’d had to take in that timeframe.

 

Focusing back on watching her boyfriend was a much more pleasant activity than where that train of thought was headed, however, so Felicity made herself do just that. Oliver doing pull-ups was almost as impressive as the salmon ladder—only almost though, because she didn’t have the delicious view of his abs from this angle. Still, it was further proof of just how perfectly in shape he was: and watching his pecs, biceps and everything else at work together to perform each perfect pull-up so masterfully was truly a thing of beauty…

 

Digg deliberately bumped her chair then; just hard enough to jar it and get her attention. When she looked—actively not letting herself frown—at him in response, he nodded towards one of her computer screens.

 

Felicity glanced at it, and wasn’t surprised to see that the video she'd been waiting for on the Starling City Sentinel's website had finally finished cycling through the ads she'd muted. So, not even trying to bite back her heartfelt sigh, Felicity obligingly tapped back to the start of the video and then turned the volume back on. That done, her eyes immediately strayed back up to her boyfriend again even as the semi-familiar voice of the local newscaster came out of her computers.

 

"Lawyers for John Nickel spoke to the press today. Saying they're pleased the D.A declined to indict their client on charges stemming from the recent fire in one of Nickel's buildings."

 

Felicity’s fingers flew through the keystroke that’d pause the video without even a quick glance away from the ceiling performance. Everything important in the brief news report was verbal, after all, and the sight above her head was much more worthy of watching then some scumbag either being hounded by the press and/or the shouts and scowls he deserved from some of the many people he’d hurt who’d made a point of also being outside the Starling City Courthouse today.

 

"John Nickel is one of the wealthiest real estate developers in Starling City," Oliver spoke up, grunting as he kept performing pull-ups overhead all the while. "He's also one of the dirtiest. That building that burnt down last night?” He stopped to hang up there as he finished firmly, barely even short of breath. “Wiring was not up to code."

 

Sadly that sort of thing wasn't at all as uncommon as most people would like to believe. Cameras, the worldwide web and the like all lent the modern world a more transparent appearance than any age before it’d ever had. But that transparency was in large part an illusion, because what you saw was still what someone else allowed you to see.

 

Just like Immortals only told a precious few mortals the truth about themselves, but hiding in plain sight wasn’t that hard for most of them because the truth just wasn’t what most people were looking for. Most people didn’t want to look deeper than the surface glance, for any number of reasons.

 

Everyone wore the masks that were expected of them these days, too, and most people were much more selfish and unconcerned with others than modern society allowed them to admit. Modern businessmen cut corners and everything else they could to maximize their profits, just like lords with serfdoms and plantation owners with slaves had in times past. As almost everyone else with any semblance of power ever had, in their struggle to maintain that power and position.

 

Sometimes the lines they crossed were corners that should never be cut. But the more they got away with, the more they'd try in the endless, ever-unsatisfied gluttony of their greed. Resulting in lives lost that did not need to be, just because someone wanted to cling to a few too many pennies—here, and there, and everywhere.

 

Felicity knew that, but she made the obvious suggestion anyway, "Maybe he didn't know that."

 

It was the sort of question that the American justice system demanded be asked. Presumed innocent until proven guilty and all that. Supposedly. She’d really never understood the concept from a practical standpoint. As a theory, of course, it was marvelous, but while she’d never believed in executing criminals unless their crimes were proven, she also didn’t believe it was wise to let a man who was accused of rape get away with it just because the woman he’d hurt was too traumatized to speak against him—or let anyone accuse someone else of a crime they didn’t commit without consequences. Though The Witch, of course, had had a very direct impact on Felicitas’s ideas about justice in that regard…

 

Nickel was a real estate developer, owner and landlord. Not a rapist—or a murderer in the strictest sense of the word. It was more than likely that he had known that his buildings weren’t up to code, because it wasn’t just one of those buildings that’d recently burned down. The one last nice was the third one this winter. And the last count she’d found on the serious code violations that’d been reported on Nickel Enterprises in the wake of the fires was over two dozen, and those were just the ones that’d been re-inspected so far. As the one responsible for everything in those buildings, John Nickel had to have known about at least most of those problems. What corners he’d cut—and the corners his underlings had cut, too—were the sort of things he had to know.  If only so he could make sure all the paperwork was filed correctly and—in the case of each corruptly cut corner—the right bribes were paid.

 

And those bribes had been paid; Felicity had found more than a few of them very quickly, the Starling City D.A just didn’t want to admit it: whether that was because she didn’t want to start investigations into city officials or because a not quite so obvious bribe might lead back to her hardly mattered.

 

Though it did make Felicity wonder if the Arrow might be paying a visit to Kate Spencer a visit sometime soon, whether her name was in The List or not. Felicity would be honestly surprised if that happened, because the chivalrous leanings Oliver might not even be fully aware he possessed probably wouldn’t let him. But then again, Oliver had actually met the woman, too—when he’d manipulated Detective Lance into arresting him for being the vigilante with a vaguely fool-hardy plan to get himself out of it. The District Attorney might’ve made a better impression on him at the time then the general expectation most people had of public officials in Starling City these days.

 

To be fair, Felicity hadn’t found any evidence of bribes the woman had taken—and it was something her programs should’ve found fairly quickly as she had them investigate everything to do with the Nickel case and the fires in general. So it might not be money. No, it was more than likely the woman worked in favors: on some level that was just the way the world worked.

 

But Kate Spencer wasn’t on the List—on the one Oliver’s father had given him or the copy he’d let his mother throw into a fire months ago. That complete, undamaged copy had burnt up, of course, but Felicity still knew every name on it. She’d copied them all down before weeks before she’d given the book to Oliver—that’d been part of her investigation of the time for Walter Steele, though the names she’d pointed out to the now missing C.E.O had only been a small fraction of that list that may’ve had something to do with his kidnapping—or murder.

 

But D.A Spencer wasn’t in that little book, so Oliver probably wouldn’t even consider targeting her unless she did something truly terrible. There were women who were on the List, however, and the Vigilante had yet to target even one of them. Something Felicity might have to point out to him sometime soon…

 

Though he had tried to aim an arrow at one woman so far—and Chien Na Wei was not an easy woman for anyone to cross off, her Immortal teacher and Triad Leader had certainly seen to that. And that was also something Felicity should probably consider addressing, though not with green arrows or her boyfriend’s help. Zhishan had kept a fairly low profile since the Huntress had probably put a bullet into him and Oliver had stopped the Triad’s retaliation from escalating into an all-out gang war that would have brought the League of Assassins to Starling City with the blessing she couldn’t withhold. Or possibly even the League of Shadows, but that wasn’t likely.

 

Regardless of his completely criminal career, Zhishan was also a fellow student of Sun Tzu and Nakano. So Felicitas could be sure the man was no fool, because neither one would’ve even considered tolerating it.

 

What’s more, Oliver wouldn't be justifying the next hit on his List to her if he hadn't already done some research. At least enough to know that he could justify his choice.

 

Yes, the media coverage of those horrific fires was pretty close to justification in and of itself. But her boyfriend had been more than able to follow her concerns regarding his foolhardiness in specifically going after prominent citizens after they’d been in the news because their name happened to be on his List. There’d come a—very possibly fast approaching—point where that’d be much too predictable. And more importantly, they still didn’t know why that List—no those lists, plural—were written in the first place. But so far it’d still served as a relatively reliable litmus test for The Vigilante’s targets, so combined with research and proper planning he should be able to stay somewhat safe. Or so she hoped…

 

Oliver let go of the pipe with one hand, hanging overhead on the one other hand to look down at her as he replied. "I guess he also didn't know about the seven people who have frozen to death in his other buildings over the past three years."

That angle gave her a lovely view of his impressive abs again, but Felicity didn’t let herself look longer than that initial glance of appreciation before she met his expectant eyes with her own. She didn’t let herself smile or say anything either, just continuing to listen for now. Because she’s already done her part; and Nickel had both more skeletons than the media knew about and no potential orphan to give her pause tonight.

 

What’s more, nothing about the man made her think he’d have the balls to not give in when he found himself facing an arrow tonight, so it wasn’t at all likely that Oliver would actually kill him anyway. Scaring Nickel onto a straighter—both more ethical and more worthwhile—path would be better for everyone. Maybe even John Nickel included, though he undoubtedly wouldn’t ever appreciate it.

 

"Yeah," Digg shook his head, clearly already sold on Oliver's choice of target. "He's a real man of the people," he finished dryly; all of them knowing that every bit of the bite in his tone was aimed at the man they were talking about targeting tonight.

 

Oliver grunted through one more one-handed pull up before he let go, dropping down the several feet from the ceiling to land in a crouch, absorbing the impact of his landing with the ease of obvious practice.

 

Felicity blinked as she considered that effortless landing, wondering—not for the first time—what sort of things had been on Lian Yu to shape Oliver Queen from the former party-crazy playboy into the warrior that she’d fallen in love with.

 

Much as his constant work-outs would seem to indicate otherwise, Oliver didn't exercise all the time there. He spent at least some of that time being tortured, and far more time training.

 

Some of that training may even have been from a member of the League of Assassins. Or even a member of the League of Shadows with too much time on their hands but not enough to have followed their mortal protégé back home—though the fact that Felicitas lived here might have something to do with that.

 

Of course, it was entirely possible she was seeing more there than there actually was. Immortals and Mazin’s small but powerful secret society weren’t the only group of highly trained fighters in the world. That some of his skills and reactions reminded her of the training she’d observed at Nanda Parbat didn’t mean he actually knew anything about the assassins that most of the world was meant to believe were ghost stories. And the chances of another Immortal having already eased him into the truth about her kind were so absurdly low she couldn’t even start to let herself hope for it. Even after weeks of sleeping together and teasing more secrets out of each other all the while…

 

"Not for long," Oliver was shaking his head as he turned around, meeting her gaze steadily. Not so much studying her as waiting for a negative reaction that just wasn’t coming. "The D.A ignores this. And the police can't do anything because all these slums are in the Glades," he reached over to grab the little book that'd started his crusade at his father's dying behest. "So tonight, Felicity, we cross Mister Nickel's name off the List."

 

He opened it to show her the page where John Nickel was scrawled among so many others of Starling City's corrupt elite, waiting for her to accept the book and then watching her consider it for a long moment.

 

On the one hand, it did go against her personal moral code to kill someone who might change. The French headhunter she'd sent away with a warning wasn't the first and—much to Methos' unending frustration—he wouldn't be the last one she'd let go either. But that was The Game. That was other Immortals. And it’d been the way of such things for a very long time—even longer than her lifetime.

 

It had been a while, though, since Felicitas had last allowed herself to become so entangled with these kinds of moral questions involving mortals. At least where she was directly involved: armed and ready. All those bloody battlefields were, for the most part, ancient history even for her. Still there, back in her long, long memories, but rendered far-away and shadowed by time.

 

Felicitas wasn't only a warrior who'd left the battlefields behind though. Before all of that, and during it, she'd been a leader of nations. And she'd been drawn into the rulings and tribulations of various societies in times much more recent than all of that, too.

 

And even if she hadn't, if her history hadn’t been anywhere near so long and arduous, she'd still known what she was signing up for when she joined Oliver Queen's crusade. She'd known it would be about more than just saving Walter Steele from whatever she'd helped him become embroiled in. She'd known that, too, before she had agreed to actually date Oliver. Let alone sleep with him. So it wasn’t a decision for her now, no matter how much her vigilante seemed to think it was.

 

"You okay with that?" Oliver's quiet question broke into her thoughts with a gentle caring that was at odds with what he was actually asking her—but very sweet all the same.

 

And she could feel the weight of his gaze on her still, trying to see what she was thinking—except he really couldn’t imagine any of it. Not yet.

 

Felicity looked back at the computer screen, tapping the key to resume playing the video as she turned how she should answer over in her head. More to give the two men something to watch while she thought, though both of their gazes stayed zeroed in on her the whole time anyway.

 

"The scene outside of the courtroom where Nickel was released this afternoon was, not surprisingly, tense..." the reporter described over the video of the man getting into the back of his limo. In the background countless people were protesting: their many angry voices merging into a wordless, echoing outcry of anger at the absolute injustice.

 

And it was those irate voiced that made the words crystal clear for her.

 

Or maybe it was her own memories of being burned to death, like those poor people that'd died, but couldn't come back like she could. Not that that wasn’t something she’d had to survive living through, too. More times than she’d ever care to try counting…

 

"One hundred percent," Felicity’s firm response finally found its way out, and she offered Oliver a nod as he accepted the book back from her.

 

The archer accepted the book back with one hand, but he gently caught hers with the other in the same move.

 

Felicity blinked up at him, then cocked her head to the side when he kept staring straight back at her.

 

Finally Oliver said what was weighing on his mind. “You sure?” he asked her again, sounding like he thought the question alone might make her change her mind.

 

Making the Immortal blink up at him again, a bit bewildered by his hesitation her. But then again, he had been keeping a slightly closer eye on her ever since they watched the news report about the first fire. And by the time the last one happened, he hadn’t even been trying to hide his concern. She had, after all, admitted she didn’t like fire because it was how her mother had died and how someone she’d loved had tried to hurt her…

 

So Felicity nodded firmly again as she told him, “Yeah, Oliver, I’m sure,” she answered, before jerking her chin at the monitors because she didn’t want to take back her hand. “He’s not a good guy. Obviously. He’s hurt a lot of people—and it’s not like he has an innocent little kid depending on him.”

 

No, John Nickel had been completely selfish his whole life. And he’d hurt a lot of people in the process. Worse, innocent people had died because of him. He may not have been directly responsible for the deaths of his tenants—he didn’t set the fires last week or summon the cold weather that killed others, either. But he did build the buildings with the unsafe wiring that’d caused the fires. And before that, he was notorious for turning off his tenants’ heat when the winter was at its coldest if a payment was even a little late.

 

Nickel was a consummate example of the criminal elite that Oliver said preyed upon their city. And he deserved the arrow that was going to be pointing his way tonight.

 

Influenced by decidedly justifiable anger or not, Oliver’s crusade wasn’t about vengeance. And while some might say this couldn’t entirely be called justice either, no one could honestly say that this man didn’t deserve to be punished. John Nickel had willfully caused the deaths of numerous people who’d never done him any harm. His victims’ only mistake had been trusting him to build and lease their homes to them, when he was only interested in spending as little as he could and squeezing every single penny out of them that he could, too.

 

And, unlike that angry mob, the Arrow was willing to give John Nickel a second chance to do the right thing. To accept his wrongdoing, pay for it and then move on. That lined up with Felicitas’ own life philosophies perfectly. So she could watch her boyfriend prepare for his mission—leather, arrows and all—with only her worries for him weighing on her heart. These fears she’d learned to accept and live with a long time ago, so it was almost a surprise when he stopped before heading out.

 

“Hey, don’t worry,” Oliver told her, the shadows he’d painted around his eyes looking strange without his hood on over his head, but also because the warmth in his gaze didn’t belong in the shadowy mess of not-quite-a-mask that he’d made for himself. “This guy doesn’t even have personal security at night. And you said yourself his home security system’s a joke. This won’t take long.”

 

Felicity wanted to believe that, but experience won wisdom made her caution. “He might surprise you. People do that sometimes,” she shook her head and added quickly before he could say anything else, “Be careful?”

 

For half a second Oliver clearly wanted to protest. Wanted to repeat himself; tell her that nothing could go wrong. That tonight would be like a cakewalk when compared to some other nights. But he made himself bite that back and just nodded instead, some part of him recognizing that that agreement was really what she needed from him much more than any empty reassurance.

 

And that was yet another small step in the right direction on his part. Now if only she could find the strength to take a few more steps of her own. Except her history—who and what she was—was probably more of a dance. A complicated, crazy dance that was terrifying because it could all too easily end in heartbreak.

 

It had before.

 

And whether Methos had been right about her last lover seducing her for her money and connections—the royal favor she’d had back in Spain then especially—it didn’t matter. She’d let herself fall in love with José, let herself trust him, and eventually told him the truth even when some part of her hadn’t wanted to. Had considered his full-hearted support of the Inquisition, even in its dying days, and wondered whether it was wise to tell him.

 

That part of her had been all too right then.

 

But she’d liked to think it was just being irrationally paranoid now.

 

Most of which wasn’t something she should be contemplating while Oliver was standing there, ready to go out as the Vigilante except for his still lowered hood: still standing there because he was watching her.

 

So Felicity gave him a small smile, stood up to go up on her tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. Her hands were somehow steady as they went up to put his hood into its place as carefully as she’d ever helped any of her past lovers with their own armor before battle. Not that a mere hood counted as armor for anything other than his identity, but he was going into a battle of a sort all the same, and this ensemble had a lot to do with how he got into the right mindset beforehand.

 

Oliver’s free hand came up to cup her cheek for a moment, then, holding her tenderly. Not so he could bend down to kiss her. No, he just held her like that for that moment, and then he pulled just as carefully away, like he thought she might disappear if he moved too fast.

 

Oliver hadn’t kissed her while wearing the Hood yet, not once. How he’d always pushed that Hood and its shadows back first told her it was deliberate, but she hadn’t been able to decide if it was something she should question or not yet.

 

Felicity let him go, watching as he turned to walk away. Though she did call after him as he rounded the corner, “And don’t turn your comm. off!”

 

Because he’d forgotten to turn it on a few times and had actually turned it off three times so far. She’d put a lot of work into making sure the things were totally secure, so they really should be using them fulltime now, whether her vigilante wanted her to hear him threatening people or not. At least she assumed that was why he kept forgetting to turn the device on or deliberately turning it off. She could control it remotely now if she wanted to, too, but it meant more if he let her listen.

 

It was only mildly irritating. How he seemed to be trying to use the hood to separate himself from what he was doing while he was wearing it. How he wanted everyone he cared about—her included now—to be separate from all that,

 

It was something of a paradox for her, when compared to previous lifetimes and the situations in them that resembled her current life even a little. The warriors she’d loved in ages gone by lived and died in those ages of war. Honor and dignity were expected aspects of going off to war, whether she was going to war herself or the one being left behind.

 

But Oliver didn’t see himself as a soldier. Not really. If anything he saw himself as the criminal the cops had smeared him as, regardless of the much more positive portrayal the media had started presenting him with in more recent months. In his mind he was a criminal, he was just the necessary lesser one among all too many other evils. Controlling the criminals by being one of them, and therefore not able to fully hold himself apart from them.

 

That was a very hard mindset to change, especially when the man holding it was so very stubborn. But that was why it was so very important. More important than Felicity herself—and everything and anything about her—could ever be.

 

“He’s right, you know,” Digg only spoke up after they’d heard the outer door to the alley open and close. “This should be a cakewalk.”

 

“Yeah,” Felicity agreed as she made herself sit in front of her computers and started typing again. “It should be.”

 

Click-click-click. Click. Click-click.

 

The pseudo-bodyguard sighed. “You’re right, too,” he allowed, and then offered. “Where do you want me?”

 

“Monitor the comms?” she shrugged.

 

Click-click-click. Click-click-click.

 

“You have a better chance than I do of making him not do anything too stupid.” He pointed out with a smirk. She didn’t have to look at him to know it was there because she could hear it.

 

The Immortal snorted. “He listens to you, too, Digg.”

 

Click-Click. Click, click, click. Click-click.

 

“Sometimes, yeah. But like he said, Nickel doesn’t have any personal security, and your boy already knows how to get around the security system.” Diggle shrugged. “Not sure what help either one of us could be, unless he does decide to do something stupid. And like I said, he’s more likely to listen to you telling him not to do it than me telling him he’s a suicidal idiot.”

 

Click, click, click. Click-click, click.

 

“Tried that before, huh?”

 

“Close enough to it,” Digg confirmed.

 

And Felicity chuckled. “I can keep listening while I work,” she told him with a shrug. “You haven’t beaten any of the dummies up in a while.”

 

“Roger that,” he snorted, and headed for the washroom to change into his workout clothes. “You’re phones not hidden on one of ‘em, right?”

 

“Nope,” Felicity answered easily, flicking one hand at where the mentioned device was safely charging on her desk. “It’s right here. Thanks.”

 

The bodyguard snorted again, but didn’t say anything else.

 

He already knew she wouldn’t answer his halfhearted questions about how she’d gotten her phone on top of the tallest dummy a few weeks ago, because she’d told him and Oliver why more than once already, and that was much more important than a minor balancing act. She wasn’t that much shorter than either of the men.

 

So not long after that the steady song of her typing was joined by the beat of his fists pounding away.

 

Click, click, click. Click-click, click.

Bam! Bam-bam! Bam-bam-bam!

 

It didn’t sound right though.

 

It wouldn’t until Oliver came back. The thrum of his motorcycle over the comm. telling her he was still headed towards his target just wasn’t the same.

 

Maybe she should invest in cameras. It wouldn’t be anything like watching him workout, of course, and odds were he’d hate having her watch even more than he sometimes didn’t like her listening. But it was worth thinking about. Being able to actually keep an eye on him all the time would be better than only listening.

 

And worrying.

 

Though that wouldn’t stop either.

 

Bam-bam! Bam-bam! Bam-bam!

Click, click, click-click, click-click.


NEXT: Target Turned Victim.

Everything doesn't exactly go as planned...

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen's P.O.V.

 

The jump onto Nickel’s balcony was the easiest part of getting into his building, especially since the door was unlocked and the security system disengaged. It wasn’t at all what Oliver had expected.

 

He hadn’t been expecting this’d be particularly hard, of course, but there had been a lot of angry people outside of the Starling City Courthouse earlier tonight. All of them there to vent their justifiable anger at the developer. All of them overflowing with protests for the man’s departure from the courts during that brief—and understandably biased—news broadcast. Nickel had been smart enough to expect that and prepare for it by hiring a private security detail for the occasion. So why would his security system not be on?

 

It didn’t make sense, but the Vigilante didn't care to question why something was even easier than it should be. So other than filing the observation away at the back of his mind and continuing with just a little more caution than he otherwise might have, he didn't spare it much thought. The farther he got into the apartment though, the more those spare thoughts reared back up as unadulterated suspicion and wariness.

 

Something was off. Very, very off.

 

Felicity had confirmed earlier that Nickel’s personal security detail had dropped him off before signing out for the evening. Nickel’s personal car was still in the lot down below. So the man should be here.

 

He wasn't.

 

But the security system was off before the Vigilante got here, which again didn’t make any sense. The man had known enough to hire private security to get him safely out of court today. He had known to do that before he saw the mob outside the courthouse, too.

 

Nickel had his home secured electronically long before all his recent problems. With the recent judicial storm and the media circus surrounding it, there was no way he wouldn’t have it in use.  Most people with home security systems, after all, actually used them to secure their homes all the time.

 

Why Felicity seemed to feel that was silly and unnecessary most of the time he’d never understand. She was a beautiful and beyond brilliant woman, but some of the things she did—like not using her security system or even locking her doors regularly did not make sense to him.

 

What seemed like every light in Nickel’s apartment was on. Probably to try and stave off the paranoia inspired by just how many people the man had to know had every right to hate him. That more than well warranted wrath had only been somewhat represented by the small mob scene outside the courthouse earlier today. And it wasn't paranoia if someone actually was out to get you… so why the hell was the security system off?

 

The T.V in the bedroom was on but muted, only further contributing to the eerie quiet that was filling the real-estate tycoon’s home like an ominous, tension-filled fog.

 

Oliver held his bow at the ready as he padded swiftly down the stairs, the carpets padding making it all too easy to descend them silently even while he reached back to draw an arrow from his quiver at the same time. Only to stop, his eyes narrowing as he surveyed the scene down below.

 

The living room was a mess in every sense of the word. The coffee table at its center had been overturned, scattering decorative knickknacks everywhere. A tall floor lamp had been knocked over, too. And there was a large knife on the floor.

 

Oliver crossed the room carefully, avoiding each of the mess's obstacles with easily execute steps, before crouching next to the knife and picking it up.

 

It wasn't the sort he kept strapped all over his person and all around the Foundry. Not only was it not green or even vaguely arrow-shaped, it wasn't at all designed for fighting. It was a chef's knife—likely drawn from the block on the kitchen counter when Nickel realized there was an intruder in his home. No blood on the edge, though, so he hadn't had a chance to use it before being disarmed. Taken by surprise, maybe?

 

Even if the man had known someone was here, Nickel’s corrupt dealings hadn't hinted at the sort of shady past that might make the Vigilante wary of him possessing any significant fighting abilities. Oliver had had every expectation of terrifying the real estate tycoon into at least paying the monetary compensation to the people he had taken advantage of and hurt—both the survivors and families of those that hadn’t been that lucky.

 

The slumlord wasn't the sort who'd fight back. He wasn't even the sort that would try to bluster his way out. While he might make the mistake of trying to buy the Vigilante off at first, with the reputation he had built up it was highly unlikely that the man wouldn't do everything he was told to avoid a second visit.

 

That was one of the main reasons Oliver had chosen him as he tried to ease Felicity further into his ‘crusade,’ as she called it. Most of her complaints about what he’d done as the Vigilante over the last few weeks seemed to be centered more on how much time he was spending under the Hood. That seemed to matter a lot more to her than what he was doing—or who he was targeting—while wearing it.

 

Oliver’s girlfriend was, surprisingly, not overly opposed to his method for trying to save Starling City. Sure, she'd protested a few times. She hadn't like the idea of going after Ken Williams, because she wasn't interested in ‘being an accessory to orphaning’ an innocent kid. But Oliver had been sure it wouldn’t come to that, and he’d been right. Williams had folded with only a warning from the infamous Vigilante, and he’d been able to tuck his son into bed every night thereafter. Truthfully, if that outcome hadn’t been all but certain Oliver would have skipped over the single father for at least a while, but he hadn’t thought it necessary and he’d been right.

 

Just like he would have been right about John Nickel, except the slumlord wasn't where he was supposed to be, and he obviously hadn't left willingly. So where the hell was he? And—more importantly—who had taken him?

 

When Oliver returned to the lair, he wasn't surprised to find both his teammates still there. At least one of them would’ve stayed around just in case he had to call for help, as the comm. he always wore now made all too easy to do even if he didn’t turn it on half the time. Felicity and Digg would want to be sure he was alright before they went home, no matter how easy the mission was supposed to be.

 

And his girlfriend had waited for him every time he’d gone out these last few weeks, even the nights John hadn’t, all but making him take her home for the night. Not that he’d fought her all that hard. She was probably listening to him the entire time anyway.

 

Oliver hadn’t turned on his side of the comm., but he didn’t doubt she could do it remotely any time she wanted to. And the concerned look of puzzlement she shot his way as soon as he came back pretty much confirmed he could have reported the startling findings in real time instead of turning them over in his head the whole way back. But he had wanted the ride to stew on the discovery while he burnt rubber and weaved through traffic, because he didn’t deserve her reassurances or her calming logic if he’d somehow drawn another dangerous individual to Starling City…

 

“That was fast,” Felicity frowned. “And I didn’t get to hear the whole ‘you have failed this city’ thing. You do say that, right? Or did the media make that up to sell subscriptions? ‘Cause I don’t think I’ve heard you say it yet.”

 

It was almost enough to make Oliver smile as he tugged his hood back, but he was too angry for that and he didn’t want to snap at her, so he started pacing instead.

 

Ever since he’d found out how her last serious relationship had ended—with the bastard she’d been about to marry calling her a witch and actually trying to burn her for it—Oliver had tried to be even more careful with showing her his temper at all. He didn’t want to scare her.

 

Not that she ever seemed scared of him. At all.

 

And he didn’t know what to make of that, either…

 

“Oh no, he says it,” Digg answered for him with a snort as he came over from the training he’d obviously started not too long ago. He was pulling his gloves off while he asked the obvious question, “What happened?”

 

So Oliver put his bow down with a sigh and then he told them, still pacing and turning everything over and over again in his head as did so. “He wasn’t there.”

 

Felicity frowned as he finished explaining why Nickel’s name couldn't be crossed off yet tonight. "He was just gone?"

 

"No!" Oliver shot that down angrily—though that anger was all for himself. "Not gone. Taken." He regretted his anger even as he let it loose, but somehow she still wasn’t flinching away.

 

"Looks like Nickel was on somebody else's list, too." Digg observed much more calmly, and his calm—and the worried look that Felicity wasn't even trying to hide—made the Vigilante force his unhappy reaction to tonight’s finding back down a bit.

 

"Well, after the fire last night, it's not entirely surprising," Oliver admitted, before nodding to the worried blonde. "Felicity, I need you to get me everything that you can on Nickel. Focus on his tenants, and anyone who might have filed a formal complaint against him, or," he hesitated with a wince, and then made himself finish firmly. "People that lost something in the fire."

 

“Well, it’s gonna be some list,” the tech genius winced herself, shaking her head as she pointed out, “I mean, slum lords aren't generally known for their popularity. Plus...” she trailed off, biting her lip and looking away.

 

Oliver waited barely a second before he demanded, “What?” he almost winced again at the edge in his tone. It was far sharper than he'd intended: exactly why he hadn’t let himself answer her when he first came back into the Foundry tonight.

 

It earned him a deserved look from his other partner, though he would've regretted it anyway. But it barely seemed to surprise his girlfriend.

 

"Nothing," Felicity answered him with just as much of an edge in the lone word. "It's just..." she sighed, and spread her hands, "You went over there to be all 'gurr, stop being bad or I'll arrow you,'" she made some sort of ‘scary monster’ sign with her hands as she said it, then threw both hands wide again while she finished disbelievingly, "And now you want to rescue him?"

 

Put that way it did sound a little bi-polar even for his normal activities as the vigilante. So Oliver acknowledged the exasperated but not unreasonable point with a nod, then he tried to explain calmly as he watched his girlfriend lean back in her seat. "I don't like the idea that somebody dangerous is out there."

 

That instantly earned him raised eyebrows from both his teammates, along with an even more disbelieving tilt of Felicity’s head, which made him sigh yet again.

"Somebody else," Oliver emphasized, as he closed the distance to the computer desk, because getting the point through to his girlfriend was more important than the former soldier.

 

Digg had been much more against the idea of vigilantism at the very beginning than Felicity seemed to be. The bodyguard hadn’t pulled any punches, and when he accused the archer of losing his mind ‘on that island’ and becoming a murderer, he’d meant it. Every word. But once Oliver had made him face up to the fact that Starling City needed the help from someone, because the cops and courts just couldn’t cut it, he’d come around about as fast as the vigilante had honestly expected. After that, getting all the messy and sometime dangerous details by him was considerably easier. Digg was a soldier who’d seen war—he understood life and death, and he knew that death sometimes had to be dealt out.

 

Felicity was the exact opposite in almost every way. She liked the idea of a hero out to save their city. It was the nitty-gritty details she had to be sold on.

 

And even if Oliver weren't dating her, her belief in him would be important to him… no matter how much he didn't think the word "hero" belonged anywhere near him. That she could believe that helped him feel just a little bit better about himself, and her belief in everyone else gave him a glimmer of hope for them, too.

 

Besides that, if it came down to a moral discussion between the three of them, Oliver already knew he'd be outnumbered almost every time. And he understood why, even before Digg had made the point more than clear. The ex-soldier was smart, and Diggle knew that he wasn’t anymore opposed to violence than Oliver himself was. Both of them were, basically, used to it.

 

To Digg’s reasoning, that meant that the opinion of a civilian, even one who was now working with them, should carry more weight in the long-run than either of theirs, because her idea of ‘right and wrong’ was probably closer to the truth. Uncorrupted by violence, maybe—or simply so pure because of her determination to believe in people. Especially them. Especially him.

 

Oliver wasn’t sure he’d ever agree with her on that, not entirely. Well, no: agree might not be the right word… understand or accept fit better.

 

Sometimes a wrong was necessary, even if it wouldn’t make a right. Sometimes it still just had to be done. And sometimes he had to be the one to do it. That wasn’t heroic. It just was.

 

But even if he couldn’t completely understand the way her remarkable mind worked, her opinion still mattered to him much more than he could ever say. She was his light—no matter how much he didn’t deserve her.

 

So he was watching her eyes closely as he stalked over to her computer desk. "Because, typically?" he continued deliberately, hating himself for every word that had to be said even as he reached for the little book his father had left him as he finished. "They don't show my level of restraint."

 

Felicity held his gaze until he turned away a long moment later, and he felt her eyes follow him. And the fact that she wasn’t frowning or wincing was a small surprise he didn’t have the mental energy to think about now. Almost all that energy was being consumed by his anger at the fact that he may have inspired yet another crazy copycat.

 

Then again, that wasn’t ultimately what the Dark Archer had been. He’d been far too skilled for that…

 

Of course, Oliver had to notice, with no small amount of wonder once again, that Felicity really wasn’t afraid of him.

 

How she could trust him—believe in him—that much, Oliver knew he’d never understand. Not completely. But a pretty big part of him—a bigger part than he could let himself think about—was already starting to depend on that belief. Her faith in him, her hope and light…

 

And these days that only brought his mind back around to the idea that someone had once tried to snuff that light out. The idea that he might not have ever met Felicity if the last man she’d let herself love once had had his way was something he truly couldn’t stomach. He couldn’t come close to even trying. But Oliver already knew that he’d exhausted every avenue available to him to try and figure out the full story there. Some of those avenues were longer than others, and might take a long while to come back to him, but without the man’s name there wasn’t anything more he could do.

 

And the only real way to find those answers was for Felicity to decide to tell him, and so far she’d been willing to give him very little. She said the bastard who’d tried to hurt her was dead, but beyond that she’d stayed stubbornly silent.

 

She didn’t talk much about her past, just like he didn’t talk about his. Trading bits and pieces of their stories was fair, and it worked, but it was also much slower going than he liked.

 

So all he could do was keep trying, keep waiting—and keep himself focused on the mission, too. That was why he turned and stormed back towards the table he’d left his bow on.

 

"So you're gonna cross Nickel off anyway?" Diggle asked then.

 

 

"No," Oliver huffed, fighting the urge to growl only because his girlfriend was still watching him worriedly.

 

Maybe he should be even more relieved by the fact that he couldn’t remotely intimidate her: because she knew he wouldn’t hurt her.

 

But relief wasn’t something he could feel right now. So he forced himself to continue calmly as he kept flipping pages, looking for another name on The List that stood out. "I'm finding somebody else who needs a talking to."

 

Felicity’s gaze was still on him—he could feel it, even though she was still typing: searching for their missing quarry somehow via the worldwide web. Clearly she didn’t need to look at the keyboard or even the monitor to type her codes…

 

“No,” Felicity told him. “You’re not.”

 

She didn’t need to add that she was completely capable of locking him in here, too. Maybe she already had, even though they’d done that dance already. She likely had some more steps.

 

Oliver’s eyes snapped back to her. “Felicity—”

 

“You can’t just pick someone else in that book because you didn’t get to cross off the first one you chose for tonight, Oliver,” the blonde told him, meeting his glare head on with her own. “That’s how you get sloppy. How you get caught. Or hurt. Maybe both.”

 

“She’s right, man,” Digg weighed in, not unexpectedly.

 

Oliver sighed. “So what? You just want me to wait?”

 

Yes,” they actually said it in unison.

 

Then Felicity waved at the farthest wall, which he usually used for target practice. “Kill some more tennis balls if it’ll make you feel better.” She paused in turning back to her computers to gesture at the other side of the room. “Oh! Or the rats. There’s a really big one living in the wall over there. Seriously, it might’ve crawled out of the Fire Swamps.”

 

Oliver blinked and frowned as he looked over at that wall she’s flicked a finger at as she went back to typing instead. Then blinked again as he noticed a big box on its side on the floor.

 

“Huh?” Digg was the one to ask for.

 

“You know, from The Princess Bride,” she replied evenly. “The Rodents of Unusual Size?”

 

“Oh.” Digg answered, sounding like he had no idea what she was talking about, but he covered it pretty well with, “That what the rat poison’s for?”

 

“Um-hum.” Felicity answered, her eyes still on her computer. The steady stroll of her typing hadn’t resumed though, not yet. Now she was scrolling through something instead.

 

“Or,” Digg continued again slowly, like he was sounding out the idea—though Felicity was probably the one he was more worried about offending here. “You could go home, man. Spend some time tonight with your family.”

 

"That's when the work is done, Diggle," Oliver returned flatly, not entirely sure why he was still standing there arguing with them.

 

Then again, Felicity’s threat to trap him in or out of here a minute ago wasn’t an idle one: she was completely capable of it. And Oliver didn’t want to go out of his way to give her a reason to do either one. Again.

 

And somehow, some of his anger had already started to simmer down just a little. Partially because he didn’t want to snap at his innocent girlfriend again, or Diggle either, because neither one had done anything to deserve it.

 

But also because Felicity mentioning big rats making their homes down here had surprised him. The movie reference he actually understood wasn’t the problem—they had just been talking about his sister’s favorite movie growing up not too long ago—but he hadn’t noticed the rodent invaders himself. It was the sort of thing Oliver should have noticed and he hadn’t even seen the rat poison until Digg pointed it out just now. He hadn’t thought that having a good sparring partner and a beautiful, brilliant woman down here would distract him quite that much, but apparently they had. And he didn’t even mind

 

"Okay," the bodyguard nodded. "Then we'll grab dinner while Felicity's—"

 

"I'm not hungry," the archer shot that down, too, without waiting for any other suggestion, like he could take his girlfriend out instead. He should, and would, if Felicity weren't the only one of them with any chance of finding John Nickel’s current whereabouts anytime soon. But that wasn't the case, and unlike his teammates obviously thought, Oliver didn't need a break. He needed to hit someone.

 

But Digg's response was equally firm as he stole the book full of corrupt names out of Oliver’s hands and shut it right in front of him. "I'm not asking." He glanced at Felicity then. "You want anything?"

 

"Where are you going?" the blonde answered evenly, her eyes still moving from one monitor to the others now as her hands never seemed to stop moving as they danced across the keys and occasionally over to the mouse.

 

"Big Belly."

 

"Hmm, tempting," the tech genius admitted, considering it a moment, then saying: "Sure, get me a chocolate shake. Please and thank you."

 

Despite everything, Oliver's mouth twitched up on one side in slight amusement as he asked his girlfriend, "What about your dinner?"

 

"One of those is a meal on its own," Felicity answered, still working. "You two should eat there though. Don't let your burgers get cold on my account." She paused a moment, but not long enough for either of them to decide if they should protest even while she still barely seemed to be paying any attention to them anymore. "This shouldn't take too long," she added lightly. "As long as it wasn’t, you know, like the C.I.A that snatched him, or something like that. I should have an idea of where he is, or at least what happened, by the time you get back."

 

Digg snorted, "Doubt Langley would let one of theirs get away with this much stupidity. ‘Specially all the bad press." Then he turned towards the door. "You comin'?"

 

Oliver kept his eyes on his girlfriend a moment longer, but then he sighed turned to follow him. "Yeah."

 

"Uh, guys?" Felicity had turn in her chair to raise an eyebrow at both of them as they looked back at her, and she gestured at her boyfriend then. "Don't you think you should look a little less green before you go to Carly's?"

 

The vigilante glanced down at himself, and he could sense his bodyguard giving him a quick once-over, too.

 

"Yeah, probably good idea," Digg agreed with her unnecessarily, and Oliver turned to go into the washroom instead then.

 

"I'll be out in minute," Oliver threw over his shoulder. By now he had getting out of the green leathers down to a system he could do in his sleep.

 

The only part he had to actually think about was remembering to throw the thermals he wore in the wintertime into the laundry basket as his girlfriend had insisted. That they only did that laundry roughly once a week didn’t matter, he had so many pairs he wouldn’t need to notice if they skipped a week. The important part was keeping Felicity happy, even if it was with something as silly as him wearing clean long underwear every night.

 

It was one of the easier trades. One of the ones he really didn’t have to even think about. So he didn’t.

 

Like crossing as many names off The List as he could, it was simple. And it was something he could do now.

 

Waiting was a lot harder.

 

Wondering was even worse, but he couldn’t stop himself.

 

Had Felicity been engaged the first time he saw her here in Starling? He honestly couldn’t remember if he’d seen her hands that night, let alone if there’d been an engagement ring sparkling on one of them. Mostly he remembered her babbling to herself after she told his picture he was ‘cute.’ He thought her hair had been in a ponytail then, and that she’d been wearing heels and a skirt that’d made her legs look miles long. But the only time he might’ve seen her hands was when she was setting the paperwork she’d been in there to deliver onto the desk. If the telltale glitter of a ring had been there, it hadn’t registered.

 

But that only made Oliver keep wondering.

 

If he’d said something that night…

If meeting him back then might’ve spared her that heartache…

 

Waller would have killed her, of course. Or dragged Felicity in to work for ARGUS, too. And Oliver certainly couldn’t have ever wanted that for her.

 

So it wasn’t worth wondering.

 

Still, he did wonder.

 

Or had she been engaged even younger? Maybe back when she was still at M.I.T? Had a kid-genius fallen in love with a madman while she was developing her skill set after escaping Sin City? A madman who couldn’t know just how lucky he was to be dead already…

 

Oliver might find it easier if the bastard was still out there. Alive and waiting for the archer to hunt him down and shoot him with at least as many arrows as he’d killed Matthew Shrieve with back in Hong Kong after the crazy and corrupt U.S army general had released a biological weapon there. At least then he’d be able to do something about the wrong that’d been done to the woman he loved.

 

But fate was being bizarrely kind to Oliver by even letting him meet Felicity Smoak. To expect more would only be stupid. So all he could do was keep punishing the people he could still punish.

 

Whatever Digg and Felicity had to say about that…

 


 

NEXT: What Are Friends For?

Now who could Felicity have called to keep her brother away from Starling a little while longer?

Chapter Text

Amanda's P.O.V.

 

Amanda shook her head, “I don’t see why you’re being so damn difficult about this,” she sighed, and didn’t even blink at the incredulous scowl the older ancient shot her way.

Methos didn’t need to humor her, but he knew it’d be easier for him if he did. Otherwise, she’d just keep harping to avoid giving him the time to sulk and scheme. “Maybe because you know where I wanted to be by now—no, before now; yet you’ve dragged me here? To the wrong side of the world?”

 

“I didn’t drag you,” the thief denied. “I asked you to come, and you agreed.”

 

“You said MacLeod here needed our help. Desperately, you said. Several times,” the older ancient bit out, with an extra dose of sarcasm-coated emphasis on the descriptor. “He looks just fine to me. In fact, everyone here in Paris seems perfectly fine,” he finished with a gesture to all of their friends who were watching them snap at each other with varying degrees of amusement and indulgence. “So all I can assume is that you just dragged me to Europe and all around the French countryside for nothing.”

 

At this point Amanda couldn’t bother denying it. The last few weeks had been nothing short of exhausting as she’d tried to stay just far enough ahead of the older Immortal to keep him from realizing what she was doing. She wasn’t at all ashamed to say that she’d probably reached the limit of her persuasiveness—and the world’s oldest man’s indulgence.

 

Hopefully Felicitas had reached a point in her fledgling relationship where her big brother dropping in soon wouldn’t ruin it. She deserved to be happy again, and Amanda wanted to see that for her friend.

 

Methos did, too, he just had to get to the point where he’d both remember and admit that.

 

Amanda knew she should’ve expected Methos would’ve tried to check in with Joe. The Watcher’s lifework was keeping track of MacLeod, and as his longtime friend that meant looking after him, too. She probably should’ve tried to stay ahead of him there, kept Joe in the loop—but Amanda hadn’t thought of that because Mac might not have agreed to be used in that way. In the end though it was Joe calling to tell them that the Highlander was perfectly fine in Paris—and actually hadn’t run into a headhunter in weeks—that’d ended her till then successful distraction. After that, their trip around France was undeniably at its end. Then she had all but dragged him to the Highlander’s current barge.

 

But because Amanda never liked actually admitting defeat, and she did still have one more ace up here sleeve, she’d try it. “Well, we’re already here,” she pointed out with a shrug. “You might as well lend me a hand before you fly back to the states.”

 

“Instead of catching the first plane back?” Methos shook his head, his biting tone clearly demanding the further question of: ‘now why would I do that?’

 

Amanda sighed and pointed out, “You don’t like that painting being there anyway.”

 

Methos actually blinked at that, but his eyes were narrowing as soon as they opened again. That was his thoughtful scowl though, so all wasn’t lost here yet. And he still had more than half his beer left. His beer being still half full meant he’d at least stay as long as it took him to finish it.

 

And Amanda had heard many stories—mostly from Rebecca, but some from Felicitas herself—the lengths that this man had gone through to keep his little sister safe.

 

Methos was happy enough being a myth himself, because who looked for a myth? That bastard Kalas would’ve never thought to try seeking out the oldest of all Immortals if he hadn’t caught that unlucky Watcher trailing him. Duncan wouldn’t have looked for Methos either, because myths weren’t real—until they were.

 

Legends like Felicitas though? Those were very real, and all the more powerful for it, no matter how much exaggeration and embellishments made it into the tellings and retellings.

 

So Methos had long made it a point to ensure that his sister’s triumphs past from living memory as soon as they could, even if that meant Felicitas’ glory  had to go to someone else. Lucky for her brother the ancient queen didn’t actually care about things like fame…

 

But Amanda knew the old man had to hate the painting in the collection that’d been created by Spain’s royal family even more than Felicitas did. His sister, however, wouldn’t easily forgive him for destroying another collection of national treasures for her. Supposedly… that was what she’d said more than once anyway. And as Methos had more than proven when he’d needed her help to steal the Methuselah’s Stone from the Watchers: he was not a good thief. He’d be a fool to pass up her offer of help, and he wasn’t a fool either. Most of the time…

 

“Okay, what painting?” Richie butted in then. He’d been frowning between the two of them, just like everyone else, but as he was the youngest there it wasn’t surprising that his patience with the two ancients had snapped first. “And what are you two even arguing about, anyway?”

 

Duncan spoke up before either Methos or Amanda could decide if they wanted to answer him. “Amanda wants help stealing something, and for some reason she’s asking him instead of me,” the Scot shook his head, clearly caught somewhere between pleased and confused by the turn of events.  “I’m not sure why she dragged you into this,” he added with a nod to the other pair of guests that’d showed up at his barge mere minutes before these two.

“Oh, we are going to ‘elp, too,” Gina told the Highlander with that bright smile that always made him blink at her for a moment of amazement, even after he’d attended her wedding four times now.

 

It didn’t make Amanda feel even a twinge of jealousy.

 

Gina was a married woman, one who wouldn’t ever even dream of having an affair. Least of all with the friend who had put so much effort into saving Robert and Gina’s marriage when it otherwise might’ve come to its end a few years back. He’d even managed to drag Methos into that, somehow…

 

But more than that, Duncan was a very dear friend to her. A very handsome, charming and useful friend who happened to be great in bed. Amanda loved all of those benefits, and she loved Duncan, but she also knew she wasn’t in love with him.

 

Before she’d met the arrogant ass who’d somehow stolen her heart, Amanda had always told herself she wasn’t meant for love like that. That she simply wasn’t capable of loving someone like that. She wasn’t the type—the all-in, forever sort.

 

Sometimes Amanda liked to tell herself that her heart had been safer like that. And she knew she had been safer like that.

 

But the heart wants what it wants.

 

And she wouldn’t trade the time she had had with Nick for anything, even if he hated her now…

 

“Oh are you?” Methos raised an eyebrow at the pair, but turned back to Amanda without waiting for a response even as his words forced her attention back here. “Well, you don’t really need my help then, do you?”

 

“You want to help,” she told him firmly.

 

“No, I want to be back in America right now,” he said just as firmly.

 

“Well, you’re not, you’re here,” Amanda shot back, spreading her hands. “So why not do something productive?”

 

“‘Productive?’” Duncan snorted, and both Joe and Richie were grinning in slight amusement.

 

The thief ignored them all—they really weren’t important. They were just a means of getting the older Immortal to stick around a bit longer. And hopefully make him remember that Felicitas had the right to make her own choices, especially when it came to who she wanted to be with. No matter how badly her last relationship had ended—though Amanda would admit that last ending was one of her worst memories, too.

 

“You know, the sheer coincidence of it all is incredible to me,” Robert spoke up, shaking his head as everyone blinked at him. “Of all the people Duncan could’ve turned to few years back, for you to have been her own teacher’s teacher seems impossible. Though good fortune for our part, certainly,” he gave his wife a smile.

 

“Fate ‘as been very kind to us in our friends,” Gina agreed, smiling back.

 

“Wait, what?” Duncan blinked between the two of them, then looked at Methos. “You already knew Gina? Then how—”

 

“No, I didn’t. We’d never met before that,” Methos cut in, shaking his head. “Might’ve been easier for me to avoid that whole mess if we had—knowing you, though, probably not.”

 

“I am glad you realized eet so quickly. Very glad,” Gina told the ancient, then frowned, “But I wondered, ‘ow did you know? Did she tell you about me?”

 

“No,” the ancient shook his head. “She’s taken on so many students over the millennia, I’ve lost count. Never mind trying to keep track of all the names.”

 

“Then ‘ow did you know?” Gina kept pressing curiously.

 

Methos looked at her a moment, then shrugged. “How you fight was familiar. Too familiar. Once I’d gotten my hands on my sword again, anyway, and could actually notice things like that. You have your own style, of course—and that the two of you have trained together was obvious, too,” he gestured between husband and wife, and then shook his head. “But most of the moves that might’ve worked were all her.”

 

The lady nodded. “I was so surprised when you deesarmed me. Zat move, it ‘ad never failed me. No’ till zen,” Gina admitted, shaking her head. “Of course, Fe—”

 

“She Who Shan’t Be Named,” Methos interrupted, the firmness directed at her—his ‘sort of niece’ in the way he and Felicitas defined their relationship—much more mild than the tone he had for the friend he was annoyed at right now.

 

The younger Immortal rolled her eyes with a small smile that reminded Amanda very much of Felicitas, but then went on obediently, “Yes. Well, she ‘ad warned me that it could be blocked.”

 

“And that’s why you immediately leapt clear,” Methos nodded approvingly. “She taught you well.”

 

“She did,” Gina nodded back, then added, “And you taught ‘er well.”

 

“Tried to, anyway,” Methos grumbled, taking another gulp of beer. “Some of it stuck.”

 

"We all 'ave to live our lives our own way," Gina murmured.

 

Amanda was pretty sure she'd never be able to make her face form a smile like the one the other woman offered so easily then. Softness and kindness anywhere near that level did come half so easily to her. Though she could easily see why the Highlander had been so smitten with the woman back before she was off the market.

 

It clearly didn’t make Methos feel better, however, because he just snorted halfway through another gulp of beer, before he answered, “You learned that from her, too, I’m sure.”

 

“I did.” Gina nodded yet again, “I learned most of what I know from her,” she admitted softly, a faraway look on her place. Undoubtedly remembering some of the time she’d spent with her teacher, very fondly from the soft smile forming on her face—and her husband’s, for that matter.

 

It only made Duncan look even more put out.

 

“So did I,” Amanda interjected, knowing she was rubbing salt in the wound and not caring. It wasn’t exactly true, of course, since Rebecca was her first teacher—but even she had seemed to defer to Felicitas most of the time. It was an interesting dynamic to observe, especially once she’d gotten over the shock of realizing that Felicitas wasn’t the elder of the two ancients by far. Rebecca had had more than thousand years on her, yet somehow the fact that few of those years were spent in positions of true leadership, when so many of Felicitas’ chosen lives had, had made a very real difference…

 

Besides, Duncan MacLeod and Felicitas would eventually meet, Amanda was sure of that, and she didn’t want him to have any doubt going in who everyone else would side with if he kept being a champion for that witch. Because that duel finally happening was probably what it would all come down to. And if Duncan insisted on getting in the way—well, Methos might well try to talk his sister down yet again, like he had so many times before, but he’d be the only one of the Highlander’s friends that would. Whether the witch liked it or not. Of those here, Gina and Robert would certainly side with Felicitas, along with Amanda and probably Richie, too. Hell, so would Joe if that fight took place in his lifetime—he’d never cared for Cassandra at all. Then again, the Watchers did have a much better view of the big picture than Duncan ever wanted to look for…

 

Amanda did understand where Methos was coming from.

 

The former horseman would never be able to take Cassandra’s head, because he felt responsible for the monster that the woman had become, and he probably always would. He was partially responsible, of course, but what he’d been three thousand years ago couldn’t be blamed for everything his former slave had done since then. Cassandra had made many choices all on her own since then, and many of them had hurt countless people.

 

But a part of Methos had also loved the woman. It was that love that’d helped him let her go when he couldn’t protect her, and it was that love that’d eventually driven him to turn on Kronos and bring the Four Horsemen’s first ride to its end back then. Felicitas may have been the really important step, as she was the one that’d helped him see that he could change, could become a good man no matter what he’d once been. But the Witch had set him on that path.

 

Amanda could follow all of that easily, and she was sure Felicitas could, too. Her Majesty was much more understanding, in general, than the eternal thief had ever been.

 

And Joe had told her and Richie about how Methos had stepped in and taken the head of that crazy bitch, Kristin Gilles, when Duncan couldn’t make himself do it. How Methos had, at first, tried to make Mac realize that Kristin would keep coming after him, and one day she might win. Still, Duncan couldn't make himself kill a woman he'd once made love to, no matter how crazy and vindictive Kristin was. So, in the end, Methos had cut off her head.

 

Amanda had heard the Watcher once compare Cassandra and Kristin, and Joe was probably right about that witch being to Methos what Kristin had been to the Highlander. And the world's oldest Immortal was too smart to not know that, too. That might well be why he chose to step in for his friend, even if Duncan would never return the favor. 

 

It wasn't like Methos didn't know that he couldn't save Cassandra from what she had chosen to be and become. What was done couldn’t be undone. But the nightmare couldn’t end until he let Felicitas end it at last. Or at least just stayed out of her way…

 

For Amanda—and many other Immortals, too—that it was Felicitas who wanted Cassandra dead was even more damning than knowing all or any of the crimes she’d committed. The ancient queen was one of the most forgiving people Amanda had ever met. And yet, even after almost two centuries of sticking to the shadows since her last tragic romance, Felicitas had been a powerful figure among Immortals for a very long time.

 

Amanda’s ambitions almost always aimed towards the next great steal. Rebecca had tried to teach her better. In between teaching her the importance of regular bathing, how to swing a sword, and sending her out into the world to face her fears—rights and wrongs had been at the very core of Rebecca’s teachings. Amanda had wanted to learn, and accept, some of it. Some of it she’d had to. Some she’d struggled with, and always would. Growing up an orphan on the streets, always stealing to survive—dodging and running when she had to—had made Amanda who she was. She'd grown past some of it over her thousands plus years of life, with help. Rebecca. Felicitas. MacLeod. And Nick.

 

But no one could change who she was completely—even Amanda herself couldn’t do that. She could try to help her friends and protect the people she cared for though. And keep hoping that that would be enough.

 

Anything bigger than that, well…

 

Like most Immortals, of course, Amanda lived with The Game because she had to. And because ideas like ending The Game—without the seeming inevitable ‘Only One’ left alive—was much too grand for her mind. For her, it was a wonderful thought: a dream or a wish, but that was all. Making solutions out of problems like that, though, were for the truly brilliant dreamers like Felicitas. And everybody else she could, and did, inspire. Amanda just felt better knowing that her brilliant friend was dreaming again. That was enough for the likes of her…

 

So it might seem strange for Amanda to truly hate someone she’d never met herself. But some people deserved that sort of hatred, and she was sure that witch was one of them. After all, that heinous crime from thousands of years before was not the only one the other Immortal woman had committed. Rebecca had told of a dozen more; and indicated that were many more that the ancients of Eternal Circle knew about.

 

They’d kept records of these things, and while the thief had never seen them she imagined that those historical accounts would put most of the Watchers’ Chronicles to shame. Or maybe not. Maybe they were the vital historical details, while the Watchers were the mundane day-to-day journal entries. Either way, those accounts were why Rebecca and many others who’d never met Cassandra had still counted her as an enemy.

 

But Methos wouldn’t let them hunt her down.

 

It was even simpler than that for Amanda though. That witch had not only hurt her friend, but had more than earned the enmity of one of the most forgiving people Amanda had ever known. Cassandra had murdered innocents just to hurt Felicitas, after all.

 

How anyone could think it right to murder children the thief could never imagine. The closest Amanda had ever come to having a child of her own was when she found Kenny, waking from his First Death at ten years old. That had failed spectacularly, but she’d spent barely a year with the boy, and he was an Immortal who also had to live with The Game.

 

Amanda hadn’t let herself become close with many mortals as an Immortal, because the pain from losing them was all too inevitable. She couldn’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for Felicitas, so early into her eternity, to have the ones she loved taken from her so suddenly. Utterly unexpected and horrible. Couldn’t imagine what it must be like to have that tragedy from her very first lifetime still hanging over her, unresolved, even now: thousands of years later…

 

So Amanda found it easy—and not strange at all—to hate the other Immortal woman she’d never met. Someday, fate would surely make Cassandra cross paths with Felicitas again. Someday, however, Methos wouldn’t be there to stop what had to happen. And when that happened, Amanda had to believe justice would win out, whether it was disguised as The Game or not. It might, after all, be vengeance, but that revenge was more than justified.

 

Yet Duncan MacLeod was another possible complication with that scenario. Cassandra had hidden how horrible she really was from the Highlander well. She’d started grooming him before he’d even become Immortal—even before he was a full-grown man. The witch supposedly played the damsel in distress very, very well, so of course the chivalrous Highland fool rushed to her aid every time. She’d even gotten him to side against Methos for a time. A man he saw as a friend, who’d saved his life more than once…

 

Amanda had come to Duncan for help before, too, but she’d never actually try to control him like that witch did without a moment’s thought. She’d never understand how the Highlander could just ignore that that was what the woman was really known for—not just masterfully manipulating people, but using her Quickening to force them to do her bidding like some sort of Sith from Star Wars or a siren of ancient times. He probably thought he was too damn stubborn to really be controlled like that. But women were his biggest weakness, even without otherworldly powers on top of their usual charms…

 

“So how’d you guys meet?” Richie asked, just as suddenly as he’d inserted himself into the conversation every other time so far. At least everyone else looked equally startled, but they’d all been pretty quiet for at least a minute there, so it was really just their thoughts he’d broken so abruptly into. With everyone looking at him, he shrugged, “Hey, you’re obviously not going to actually explain any of what you’re talking about. So why don’t you at least tell us that?”

 

“They’d hit a rough spot in their marriage,” Methos replied dryly, just sipping at his beer this time, before concisely summarizing. “MacLeod had the bright idea of making me pretend to be a headhunter that was going to decapitate Robert, here, to make Gina remember that she didn’t want to lose him. It worked, but then she wanted to hunt me down. And she found me. Here, actually. Though the barge was at a different pier then.”

 

“It was,” Duncan acknowledged.

 

“Why were you even hiding here?” Robert asked the ancient then.

 

“He made me give him the barge,” the Highlander answered, not quite grumbling. “In exchange for his help.”

 

“Hey, I needed a place to stay,” Methos shrugged. “And you were making me risk my neck. It was a fair trade.”

 

“One you did not make ‘im keep,” Gina observed, then asked, “Was eet a test?”

 

“No,” Methos shrugged again. “I just remembered I don’t actually like boats that much, so why would I want to live on one?”

 

“Hmm,” the lady laughed lightly.

 

Methos ignored her amusement to arch an eyebrow at the youngest Immortal then. “Pretty sure you heard about that a while back. Starting to go senile, are we?”

 

No, I remember hearing all about that,” Richie rolled his eyes. “I meant them,” he added, gesturing between Amanda and the De Valicourts.

 

“You must’ve met through Rebecca, right?” Duncan guessed before any of them could answer his student’s question.

 

“No…” Gina started, then changed her mind and admitted. “Well, yes, I suppose we did, in a way,” she finished with a wince.

 

“Wasn’t my favorite first meeting, I’ll admit,” Robert spoke up, shaking his head, returning the little smile that won from his wife, but they could both barely manage it as he went on. “We were in Dorset, staying at the Trent Estate with Rebecca’s blessing while she attended a—well, that wedding. Her early return was not a pleasant surprise, through no fault of hers—of any of yours, of course.”

 

“No, it’s not a pleasant memory for any of us,” Amanda agreed with a heavy sigh, shuddering as she remembered. Living through it was a horrible enough hardship, none of them wanted to relive it by remembering. So she didn’t let herself think of any specific memory from then, per say, just the general feeling that’d gone along with all of that—shock, horror, anger.

 

Returning to Rebecca’s English estate while one of the few successful Immortal couples in the world were already staying there hadn’t seemed like the best idea to her. Not after their friend’s wedding had failed so tragically. Her teacher had thought that waking on familiar holy ground, surrounded by friends, would be as important for Felicitas as making sure she hadn’t woken up until her body had fully healed. Far away from where her last love had come to such a terrible end…

 

“I confess,” Gina said then, looking at Methos as she went on. “I am surprised we did not meet you then as well. We would ‘ave gone to the wedding ourselves, eef not for za business zat kept us een England. But you were there, no?”

 

“Oh, I was there,” Methos answered darkly, throwing back what was left of his fourth beer before tossing empty bottle into the nearby garbage and heading for the fridge again.

 

The Highlander would’ve probably protested well before now, if the oldest Immortal hadn’t made her stop to buy the two six-packs they’d showed up here with.

 

Methos opened the new beer and took a sip, before sighing and looking at the thief again. “So were you. Yet you want to keep me from making sure she’s not making another mistake?”

 

Amanda scowled. “Yes, I was there, too,” she agreed, not even trying to stop the harder edge that entered her voice. With what they were talking about now, that edge was necessary. “Remember, I was the one you passed her burning corpse to after you’d torn her off that damn pyre.”

 

“Yup, I’m definitely missing something here,” Richie said, then looked around at everyone else. “Am I the only one that doesn’t know what they’re talking about?”

 

“No,” Duncan admitted unhappily.

 

But he wasn’t going to push yet. Not when so many of his friends were talking about something that was obviously painful for them.

 

The realization that they were talking about rescuing another Immortal from burning at the stake—a very late rescue, but a rescue all the same-was apparently enough to keep Richie’s mouth shut for a while, too. After that first comment, anyway.

 

And Joe, of course, was just watching them all right now. Undoubtedly filing every little detail away for his daily log.

 

“It was a long time ago,” Amanda told the Highlander. “You were around here, at the time. Trying to help Darius, I think,” she shrugged, because it wasn’t really important. It wasn’t enough to help Joe figure anything out, which was what Methos would care about. But it was enough to make the Highlander bite his tongue a bit longer. Though she didn’t doubt she’d have to answer some more questions the next time they were alone. For now, however, she looked back at the world’s oldest Immortal. “You don’t like that painting being there. I know you don’t.”

 

“No, I don’t,” Methos admitted after he’d finished swallowing his latest gulp of beer.

 

Actually, that he was going through the stuff like it was water and he’d been thirsty for days might also have a lot to do with why Duncan MacLeod wasn’t being a lot more demanding right now. Especially since they had all basically invaded his barge for this. Mac wasn’t known for turning his friends away, of course, but the fact that his guests were all talking about something he wasn’t allowed to ask about had to irk his Highland pride.

 

“But it hasn’t been a problem, and it won’t be one unless this leads to Joe having the Watchers look into it,” Methos sighed, shaking his head then. “Which is why you started this argument even with him here. Clever.”

 

That had Joe blinking between the two of them, either unsure of how to feel about the fact that he was being used in this argument he couldn’t fully follow, or just amazed that they were spelling that out in front of him. Without more information, he couldn’t hope to understand… though it did go to show just how good of a friend he was to all of them that he wasn’t already demanding answers.

 

Amanda nodded in response, “Thank you.”

 

“You realize I don’t have any idea what you two are talking about, either, right?” the Watcher stated, his eyes going from one to the other and back again several times.

 

“I want him to help me steal a painting in El Prado,” the Immortal thief told him promptly.

 

That had both the Highlander and Methos frowning. Duncan always disapproved of her stealing, but of course the much older ancient wasn’t ever fazed by her thievery, so that wasn’t what was behind his scowl.

 

“And our help, as well,” Robert interjected calmly, raising his own beer to the other Immortal thief then. “Freely given, of course.”

 

Amanda nodded back, smirking slightly as that only irritated the Highlander more.

 

“Okay, so, if I offer to help with that, will I get to know what the hell all of you are actually talking about?” Richie asked them, before complaining, “‘Cause the whole talking about someone without actually telling us who they are is really irritating.”

 

“So sorry,” Gina offered him in response, giving him that same soft smile that always made the Highlander—and probably many others—soften.

 

It had the same effect on Richie, and Amanda was pretty sure the tips of his ears had turned red, too. This aspect of having the other Immortal woman around was actually pretty fun. Amanda might have to make sure the kid stayed with them. Just to see how red he could turn when he was hit by both Gina and her teacher’s considerable charms.

 

Robert, she was pretty sure, wouldn’t mind watching either. And he was probably a hoot, too. He had been a pirate for a number of lifetimes before he met and married the love of his eternity.

 

“It’s a different tactic for you, I’ll give you that,” Mac told her suddenly, some of his normal disapproval showing again as he seized onto his student’s suggestion. “Don’t know why you think it’d work on me though.”

 

“Oh, I don’t,” Amanda laughed lightly and flashed him her own best smile. “I’m not allowed to introduce you either, so I’m really just here for Methos. Well, and Joe, too.”

 

“You want me to help you steal something?” the Watcher blinked at her, but she knew better to believe the canny man had actually missed the earlier exchange. Or just forgetting it. He was getting up there now, he could be going senile…

 

Methos didn’t even leave it unsaid, “No. She wants you to know she wants to steal a painting in Madrid. She wants you to know it has something to do with someone I don’t want the Watchers to know about, to make me help her steal it.” He tilted his beer bottle at her. “Really, rather clever.”

 

“So you are going to help, right?” she clarified, just to be sure.

 

He sighed, “Not sure why you’d want me to help so much, other than the obvious. Not after the thing with the cat,” he shrugged. “But yeah, it’s not like I have much choice now.”

 

That was an exaggeration, of course. If Methos really didn’t want to help, there wasn’t anything Amanda could do to make him. This ‘threat’ was barely even a real one.

 

It wasn’t like Joe maybe telling the Watchers to look through the El Prado’s masterpieces for the face of an Immortal they didn’t know would be an easy feat. The only Watcher who had seen Felicitas’ face was Joe himself, and she’d undoubtedly been well disguised then. Plus, thanks to her tech-savvy the Watchers didn’t have a picture of Felicitas either. So if Joe really wanted to figure out which portraits they were talking about, he’d have to study all of them himself. And there were over eight thousand paintings in that vast collection. From what Amanda recalled the problematic painting wasn’t even called a portrait, because the commemorative piece that Francisco Goya had made to mourn Felicitas—or whatever she’d gone by back then—wasn’t the precise style of the portraits of that time. It might’ve been meant to be more than that, but all of the mortals who remembered that were gone and Methos had likely made sure that all mentions of the masterpiece’s origins hadn’t outlived them. So the painting it question was recognized as a social comment of the period, the final days of the Inquisition, but not much more than that. Its links to another Goya portrait, and the lady of the court the Spanish royal family had so esteemed, wouldn’t be easy history to track down anyway.

 

Besides all that, even if Joe did want to figure out which painting they were talking about, the Watcher was already keeping so many secrets for all of them that trusting him to keep one more wasn’t that hard. Even for an extreme survivalist like Methos.

 

But all of that, even all smashed together, was far from a point worth arguing. Methos wasn’t going to leave yet, and he was actually agreeing to help now. Two very big birds with one tiny stone… even if said stone was an exquisitely cut diamond.

 

“What thing with the cat?” MacLeod blinked between them.

 

Amanda snorted, “You know, I’d actually forgotten about that?”

 

Before she could say anything else about that, however, Joe was speaking up again. “Wait, is this the woman that found you at my bar before?” the Watcher wanted to know. “The one that doesn’t want to meet Mac?”

 

Immediately, the Highlander’s brow furrowed, all set to start to start brooding even after Richie looked like that decided him on being more amused than annoyed for now.

 

Amanda glanced at Methos, and saw the French pair who currently called Italy their home do the same. Actually, Amanda was pretty sure their vineyard was on yet another estate that actually belonged to Felicitas, but she couldn’t confirm that now. Not when they all only wanted to see how the world’s oldest Immortal would handle that direct—and accurate—observation.

 

Methos finished the long sip of beer he’d been taking before he answered simply, “Yes.” He shrugged when he saw the surprise that Amanda couldn’t hide. “No point in denying that. It’s not like it helps them find her or figure out who she is. Or was. Unlike the painting.”

 

Amanda ignored the irritation in his tone, having already accepted that it’d be there for a little while now. Likely until they saw Felicitas again and he had to recognize that she was perfectly fine. Hopefully even happy. Even the over-protective big brother would have to accept that. Regardless of how much he wanted to protect her from further heartbreak and pain.

 

Even if Joe did have the Watcher researchers start looking into El Prado for a possible Immortal’s portrait, they wouldn’t find it anytime soon. And soon they’d be working from copies—photographs, at best—of what was already a fairly abstract piece of art.

 

Amanda hoped that was a fair assumption to make, anyway, because Methos had made sure the ancient Library of Alexandria burned specifically to erase all the evidence therein of the ancient queen who’d also been involved with Alexander the Great. A smaller point of conflict between the two ancient Immortals, Rebecca had said, but if Felicitas had been angry with him for burning some scrolls she likely wouldn’t take the loss of almost nine thousand masterpieces well. But maybe she should make a point of reminding him that they did have photos and copies these days, so destroying the original would really be for nothing?

 

“Why does the lady not want to meet me?” Duncan finally had to ask. “How have I offended her?”

 

Amanda actually thought about answering him, but Methos would appreciate her mentioning that witch even less that everything she’d already done of late combined. Much, much less. Bringing her up would be another detail he would not want the Watchers—even if it was only Joe—to have. And it might make the Highlander a little too interested as well. So she only sipped her beer as the older Immortal answered.

 

“Like I told you, it’s not you,” Methos sighed.

 

While she agreed with Felicitas on almost all of this, Amanda could also understand that sigh, and the aggrieved look on the Highlander’s face. There wasn’t anything that could be done about it though, not yet. Felicitas wasn’t willing to form a friendship with yet another man who would try to stand in her way when it came to Cassandra. It had to be hard enough for her that Methos still wanted to protect the witch, so Amanda really couldn’t blame her.

 

And Methos couldn’t either: that was why he hadn’t tried to circumvent her wishes on this.

 

Duncan would just have to live with it—minimal explanations and all—perhaps for as long as the witch drew breaths.

 

Amanda would like to think that the full story might bring Duncan MacLeod around to her way of thinking—Gina and Robert’s, too—but she couldn’t be nearly sure enough to risk being the one to defy Felicitas here either. So she wouldn’t.

 

Yes that disaster in Spain was something that Felicitas might be able to put completely in her past at last, so stealing the painting a master of the arts had made to mourn her—to complete the set, since it was Goya’s second painting of her—seemed only fitting. Plus it should keep Methos on this side of the world a little while longer.

 

That Amanda planned to go to Starling City with him, and that Nick was living there now—right across the street from their friend—had nothing to do with why the thief didn’t want to fly back across the Atlantic again yet. As nervous as that made her...

Flashback…

“So… I guess this is goodbye, huh?” Nick asked, blinking up at her because he was too tired to keep his eyes open, but that sheer stubbornness of his kept trying to—just to keep seeing her, seeing anything, a little longer.

Amanda honestly couldn’t say anything to that, despite everything, so she just kept holding his hand, her eyes locked on him, too, while she listened to what he thought would be his last words.

“Amanda…”

“Yeah?”

“Give the money back to the bank,” he told her, managing a smile that was almost like his normal one.

Amanda tried to smile back, but she could barely manage a quick upturn to either side of his lips and a half choked chuckle before another agonized groan escaped him. She reached for his face, but could barely let herself have a reassuring caress before she pulled back. Then she drew in a breath and finally said, “I want you to forgive me.”

Nick forced his eyes open again to look at her, “For what?” he asked, with barely enough strength left to get the words out.

Amanda swallowed, “For this,” she answered, then immediately raised the gun she’d been holding and fired it straight at his heart.

BANG!

Nick gasped, his eyes and both flying wide in shock for a whole second, before both collapsed into the sudden, supreme stillness of death.

And Amanda could only keep staring at him. Studying his handsome features as all that pain and exhaustion faded away along with all traces of life. For a very long moment afterwards the only sign of life at all was the way his final breath had fogged the air around his face. Then the sudden pulse of another Immortal’s Quickening hit her senses at it burst into action right in front of her.

Buzz!

Almost immediately, Nick’s eyes flew open and he suddenly sat up, drawing air into his desperate lungs—because he was alive again.

Thank God.

Already Amanda could see all of that sickness and exhaustion from the powerful, painful poison fading right before her eyes. “You’re not gonna die,” Amanda told confidently, because she now knew it was the truth. “You’re going to live,” she finished with a firm nod, meeting his eyes as he looked up at her again, now in shocked disbelief. “You’re Immortal.”

Nick looked away, still visibly shocked. But better by every second, as each gulp of air—and pulse of the Quickening through his body—helped him heal and regain his strength. After a moment he reached up for the handrails he hadn’t been able to support himself on even with her help a few minutes ago and heaved himself to his feet.

Amanda stood also, watching him anxiously. And as he turned to start walking away from her through the factory, she followed.

It was a long minute, at least, of walking in very weighty silence, before he finally asked her, “How long have you known?”

“Since the day we met,” Amanda answered honestly, letting some of her real relief at the admission leak into her voice. Because keeping this vital truth from him hadn’t been easy, especially as her heart had fallen harder and harder for him, but it’d had to be done.

If he’d known he was a Pre-Immortal he would’ve gotten in the way even more with The Game—well before he had any place in it.

If he’d known he couldn’t die so long as he kept his head, he would’ve taken even more stupid risks.

Both of which could be problems anyway, now that he was Immortal, too. But at least she could now be sure that he’d grown a little from that right every wrong in the world daredevil. At least a little bit…

Amanda had come to love his determination to right the wrongs he saw in the world: a central part of his character. But back when they’d first met he’d been grieving and angry. That had led to him taking chances he shouldn’t have. Trying to tell him he’d be an Immortal, like her, one day hadn’t seemed like the wisest idea under those circumstances. And telling a Pre-Immortal that was something Rebecca had always advised against, so…

“Which is why you told me what you were,” Nick realized, and he still wasn’t looking at her.

There wasn’t really way around that, so Amanda only nodded. “Yeah,” she answered quietly, watching him anxiously. “And because I trusted you with my life.”

At that, Nick’s eyes did finally snap back to hers. “But you didn’t bother to share it with me.”

“It wasn’t my place,” Amanda shook her head.

“But it was your place to shoot me?” Nick immediately snapped at her.

That had been the farthest thing from easy to do, but it’d had to be done, so Amanda nodded uncomfortably. “Immortality is triggered by a violent death. The poison Peyton gave you was slow acting, and it would kill you… forever.”

“Only you couldn’t just let that happen…” he shook his head, staring at her.

Amanda blinked at him, and then also shook her head. “No.”

Nick kept staring at her, then he finally snapped, “But it was my life.”

“Well, now it’s your life, forever,” Amanda spread her hands. “I’ve given you a gift,” she pointed out.

Truly not able to understand how he couldn’t see that. Or what he was so angry about.

“You call this a gift?” he asked her, still staring disbelievingly.

“Yeah,” the older Immortal answered with another nod.

Nick shook his head. “Hundreds, maybe thousands of years of life, and all I have to do is go around decapitating people to survive like you. That’s a gift?”

He’d hated The Game when he wasn’t the one involved with it, so Amanda could more than understand how much worse it would seem to him now that he had to be involved in it. She hated The Game herself, but that wasn’t all that Immortality was or could be…

“But you’ll see things… you never imagined,” Amanda tried to tell him, holding his eyes as she kept trying to help him see that this wasn’t an end. That it didn’t have to be. “You’ll become things you never dreamed of… forever. It’s something most people just dream about.”

Nick shook his head furiously. “My friends, my family, everyone I’ve ever known or loved… standing by watching them die?”

“…Not everyone,” she pointed out what she’d hoped would already be obvious.

He turned away and started walking again. “It’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare.”

Amanda closed her eyes, swallowing as she tried to tell herself to just give him time.

That this would be a shock to anyone.

That he’d forgive her eventually.

That at least he wasn’t dead…

End of Flashback…

 

Amanda hid her grimace behind taking a sip from the bottle Duncan had given her. Much better stuff than the swill Methos was gulping down. It didn’t wash away the bitterness, but that wasn’t because of the beer.

 

More than a decade had passed since that terrible, with no sign that the new Immortal she’d let herself fall for before he was even one of them was even inclined to look for her. Sometimes years felt like weeks to Immortals, but the thief had felt every empty day since then. Sometimes every empty hour…

 

But if Nick did want to find her, he would.

 

Amanda hadn’t been able to help him adjust to Immortality. He hadn’t wanted her to, so she couldn’t help him anymore. Not until he asked—or at least wanted—her help.

 

She’d done her best to respect that.

 

Other than asking Felicitas to look after him—by offering the same services she provided for many other Immortals—Amanda had stayed far away from Nick. Even going so far as to leave a city if Felicitas warned her he might be visiting that same city soon.

 

But she couldn’t avoid him forever. She didn’t want the confrontation that might be coming. Another friend of hers needed her though, and Amanda wouldn’t let her down…

 

Truthfully, considering that experience—and some of the other times she’d run into poisoners in the past—it wasn’t any wonder she was automatically siding against the witch. She’d like to think she would anyway, but she couldn’t say it wasn’t also a factor.

 

Felicitas was her friend.

 

Duncan was also her friend, and a friend with some very excellent benefits. But he wasn’t always right either. And in the case of the witch, he was very, very wrong.

 

Amanda would like to think she could help him see that, if she could find a way to do it without dishonoring her other friend’s wishes. After all, that’s what friends were for…

 

Right now though, the thief had to stay focused on helping one friend.

 

Amanda looked back at Methos again, arching an eyebrow as she cut into the Highlander’s unsuccessful attempts to find satisfactory answers that the world’s oldest Immortal wasn’t going to give him. “So? Are you going to help?” she asked him, and then added before he could try to answer, “Or are you really going to try just showing up with no peace offering at all?”

 

Methos frowned at her again, but then nodded. “Fine, I’ll help. But this had better be quick Amanda.”

 

“That may just make it interesting,” she teased him lightly.

 

Ding-ding-ding.

Ding-ding-ding.

 

The sound singing from Joe’s coat pocket had all of them looking at the Watcher as he pulled his mobile phone out and looked at the screen, a frown appearing almost immediately.

 

“What’s wrong?” Duncan was the first to ask, perhaps hoping that this would be a problem he could know about and deal with. He should’ve realized already that tonight he was well and truly doomed to be disappointed.

 

“Nothing,” Joe answered after slightly too long a pause for it be just from him reading the text or email that’d come in. “Just some more news breaking out of Starling City.”

 

“The Robin Hood guy again?” Richie asked right away.

 

“Nope. Sounds like they’ve got another vigilante. Two of ‘em, maybe,” the Watcher answered, then almost immediately corrected himself, “Though the second new one may’ve just been intervening because of the first.”

 

“A little more clarity than that’d be much appreciated, Joe,” Methos suggested dryly. Sort of giving his tacit approval to talk about it in fromt of everyone here.

 

Neatly done, Amanda thought. Though she was sure at least Mac noticed. Of course, Gina and Robert had both perked up at the mentioned city, too, so that could’ve clued the Highlander in a bit. Not Richie though, he was still focused on whether or not Robin Hood was real and had been in hiding till now for longer than MacLeod had been around. The winemakers, though, were interested in the American city for the same reason Amanda was.

 

Or half of it anyway: they were friends with Felicitas, not Nick. As far as Amanda knew, Felicitas was the only other Immortal Nick might count as a friend of sorts. He didn’t headhunt, she’d be shocked if he ever sank to that, but being Immortal himself had seemed to make him think the ‘There can be only one’ crap was some kind of code he should live by.

 

Joe sighed, but did try to explain then. “Someone just broadcast a video called ‘The Glades Betrayed.’ That’s Starling City’s slums, and the video was the broadcaster basically murdering a slumlord that the press had been vilifying lately.”

 

“Could be the archer,” Duncan pointed out. “He might be escalating.”

 

“Nah,” Joe shot that down. “New guy used a gun.”

 

“And?” Methos pressed, obviously seeing something Amanda didn’t particularly care enough to look for.

 

“And we figured The Vigilante might pay Nickels a visit soon, so we were watching him.” Joe admitted with a shrug. “But he showed up a few minutes after this other guy dragged Nickels off.”

 

Methos snorted, “And your Watcher didn’t get an arrow either?”

 

Joe gave him his most unimpressed look. “Some of our people out in the field are pretty good, you know.”

 

“Yeah?” the world’s oldest Immortal raised an eyebrow at him. “Who’s under the hood, then?”

 

The Watcher sighed, but then admitted, “They lost him in traffic,” he shook his head. “Our people are taught to be a lot more careful after that whole mess with Kalas. And following a motorcycle weaving through traffic is the farthest thing from inconspicuous.”

 

“True,” Methos allowed with a chuckle.

 

“And ze other new vigilante?” Gina asked just then. “You zaid zhere was another?”

 

“Oh, right,” Joe nodded. “Well, this guy was gonna show the whole murder, but apparently someone else shut his broadcast down before the whole city had to see the actual murder.”

 

“How do you know the government didn’t do that?” Richie wondered.

 

“‘Cause a government agency wouldn’t hide behind another name for something like this. They would’ve said N.S.A, F.B.I, whatever.”

 

“And what did they say?” Methos asked, and was he frowning again?

 

“‘The oracles are watching,’ apparently.” Joe shrugged. “Research is looking into all of it now. They’re pretty interested in all of this.”

 

“Does make it sound like this Starling City may be the place to be soon,” Richard observed calmly, not reacting to the frowns it earned him.

 

“Yeah, if you don’t mind risking an arrow wound,” Methos rolled his eyes. “I much prefer G.S.W’s myself. Much faster, and cleaner, too.”

 

“Depends on how good a shot they are,” MacLeod put in, shaking his head. “Some of the Brave’s I knew among the Sioux could aim arrows better than anyone with a gun could ever hope to shoot a bullet.”

 

“Fair,” Methos allowed sourly.

 

“And this guy’s supposedly really good,” Richie pointed out.

 

The world’s oldest Immortal rolled his eyes, “So they say.”

 

“No, he’s right,” Joe backed the kid up this time. “We haven’t found any evidence that this guy ever misses. And some of the shot’s he’s made were ridiculous, almost impossible shots, but he made them.”

 

“Good for him,” Methos said a little too sourly, making Amanda realized she’d definitely missed something here.

 

Then again maybe it was just the idea that the vigilantism in Felicitas’ current home had strayed into her current expertise…

 

Amanda was both curious and a little amused, but she didn’t want to risk the older Immortal changing his mind on heading to Madrid instead of Starling City tonight, so it probably wasn’t a great idea to let this keep going. “I’ve charted a plane to Madrid for five o’clock,” she told Methos. “That’s enough time for you, right?”

 

“Sure,” Methos agreed, then added firmly. “I’ll fly, so we don’t get lost.”

 

“If you must,” she shrugged, knowing better than to argue at this point.

 

“And I’m booking the seats back to the States for tomorrow night, so whatever you’re planning has to happen tonight.”

 

Amanda sighed dramatically. “You have no respect for my profession.”

 

“I have the utmost respect for you and your abilities, Amanda,” Methos corrected her mildly. “I just much prefer when you’re not working against me.”

 

“I’m not—”

 

“And don’t even try to convince me that she didn’t ask you to keep me away from her new boyfriend a little longer,” Methos told the thief firmly.

 

“Okay, I won’t,” Amanda agreed, hesitating a moment before she asked him, “You can fly a PC-12?” she shrugged when he raised an eyebrow at her. “Just checking.”

 

“Yeah, I can fly most planes,” he answered, and that did not surprise her at all.

 

“That can fit all of us, can’t it?” Duncan suggested, and Amanda wasn’t the only one who blinked at him.

 

“Wait, you want to help me steal something?”

 

“No,” the Highlander rolled his eyes. “I want to know what the hell’s going on.”

 

“‘Fraid you’re doomed to be disappointed a while there, my friend,” Robert told him before anyone else could respond.

 

“I am sorry, Duncan,” Gina added. “But our friend does ‘ave her reasons.”

 

“She does,” Amanda agreed, just to see if the Highlander’s frown could get any deeper. It actually could.

 

“That mean I can’t come, too?” Richie asked, and added, “I’m fine with helping.”

 

Amanda wasn’t at all sure of how much help he could ever be, but she also knew that Felicitas had never said she wasn’t willing to meet MacLeod’s student. And making sure yet another one of the Highlander’s friends would be on her side could only be a good idea. She didn’t say anything just yet, though, instead just watching as the same—or at least similar—thoughts played out across the oldest Immortal’s face.

 

“You want a ride to Spain, that’s fine,” Methos shrugged. “Not sure we need everybody helping to steal one painting though.”

 

No, Amanda didn’t really need any of them to help. It’d likely be interesting to see what sort of grand theft this turned into though.

 

“I think I’d like to see Madrid again, too,” Duncan spoke up again.

 

Methos sighed, “MacLeod—”

 

“I won’t ask anymore about your friend if that’ll make you happy,” the Highlander cut in.

 

Amanda rolled her eyes, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Duncan,” she advised.

 

“Fine, I’ll try not to, aye?” Duncan looked between the two ancients. “And maybe the lady will be more inclined to meet me then?”

 

Methos snorted before taking another sip of beer.

 

“I don’t think it’ll be that easy,” Amanda answered him.

 

“But worth the shot?” he asked her.

 

It was Gina who answered him though. “Yes. I think so.”

 

Amanda frowned as she thought about it, and then glanced at Methos, who was stubbornly taking another silent sip of his beer. “What do you think?”

 

“What’s it matter what I think?” he answered a little acerbically.

 

“Methos.”

 

“Fine, fine,” the former horseman sighed, then shrugged. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt.”

 

Amanda rolled her eyes, “Well, with that ringing endorsement, I guess I’ll see you all at Le Bourget.”

 


 

NEXT: Dropping into the Calamity.

Tommy’s POV...

Where was he in this episode, anyway? Really, other than when Oliver finds out that the Savior’s latest victim is a ‘friend’ of Thea when she finds them at Verdant after the next broadcast is playing, we don’t see Tommy at all. With all the stuff going on with Laurel, you’d THINK he would’ve been around a little more, but no… He should’ve been though, so now he is. Really, it isn’t any wonder the character developed an inferiority complex. The writers kept forgetting about him! So, we’ll see him next. :-)

Chapter Text

Tommy Merlyn's P.O.V.

 

Tommy only did a double-take when he saw all the arrows, because they were in the quiver by the bow, and the green hood was right there next to them. He’d thought his friend would be wearing all of that right now.

 

Oliver, though, wasn’t even here.

 

But Smoaky was. She was down here all by herself: her scarily fast typing an indication that she was probably working on something.

 

So if Oliver wasn’t out aiming arrows at somebody, why wasn’t he here on his crazy ladder-thing? Or beating up the poor dummies that tried to fight back? Or going through more tennis balls than any tennis instructor ever could with the archery practice that he clearly didn’t even need?

 

That’d been scary the first time he saw it, even knowing his friend wouldn’t hurt him, but Tommy it that intimidating anymore. Not since he’d recognized what Felicity was humming while they’d watched her boyfriend practice last time. It’d take him a long time to place the song, since it was from a Disney cartoon, even though Mulan had been one of Thea’s favorites years ago. But he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to watch Oliver shoot tennis balls again without at least imagining they were apples…

 

“Something I can do for you, Tommy?” Felicity asked him without once turning towards him.

 

Tommy blinked, but then he realized she must’ve seen him on the cameras. And it wasn’t like Ollie or Mister Diggle would come in through the club entrance either, would they?

 

“Hey, how’re you doing?” he asked her with a grin she wouldn’t see because she still wasn’t turning to look at him.

 

“Good, thank you. And you?” the blonde answered evenly, sounding sincere even as she stayed wholly focused on her task. It was almost as impressive as how fast her fingers were flying over the keyboard.

 

“Good, thanks,” Tommy answered as he turned one of the rolling chairs and moved it closer before sitting down. He glanced at her monitors, but all of them were packed with windows full of computer codes or similar program-things that meant nothing to him.

 

“How are things with Laurel?”

 

“Oh, um, better,” Tommy answered honestly, even though it was a little weird talking to the side of her head. He didn’t feel like she was ignoring him, or even irritated at him bothering her or something like that. But it was hard enough to get a clear read on her when she was looking him in the eye, never mind when she wasn’t. Something she and Ollie had in common, these days anyway. “A lot better. But I’ve uh, I’ve been busy here at the club, and she’s got some family drama going on.”

 

“Oh?” Felicity followed up as soon as he stopped, still sounding politely interested even though her eyes had still never left whatever it was she was working on.

 

“Yeah, her mom’s in town. Kinda unexpected, I guess, ‘cause I don’t think they talk much anyway. Not since the divorce and her mom moving to Coast City. But she’s not mad at me anymore, so that’s a huge relief…” Tommy shrugged, a little embarrassed at his ramble, but the blonde was just that easy to talk to.

 

And he did feel like he owed her, since that strange double-date spent watching a movie about assassins had helped him and Laurel through a road-block he hadn’t seen any way around on his own.

 

“Everything okay with her mom?” Felicity asked, and the honest concern in her voice made it more than polite interest now.

 

How much Smoaky really did seem to care about everybody was something she and Laurel had in common. Sure, the tech specialist’s career choices didn’t reflect it the way the C.N.R.I lawyer’s did, but she still clearly did care a lot. Maybe that was why Ollie fell for her so fast. Or maybe that was just why Tommy could believe his friend would stay interested in her. Well, that and the fact that the vigilante had actually trusted her enough to share his crazy mission with her by choice.

 

“No,” Tommy sighed in answer, then he shook his head with a wince. “I mean, yeah. Missus Lance isn’t dying or anything like that. She just…” he hesitated, then figured, what the hell? “She doesn’t want to believe Sara’s dead.”

 

That finally made the blonde stop typing, and she turned to blink at him, but he hurried on before she could say anything.

 

“I guess she never did. But now she has all this, uh, ‘evidence’ she wants Laurel and Mister Lance to go through. Pictures and maps, stuff like that.” He spread his hands, not knowing anything more specific than that, because his girlfriend said she wanted him to stay out of it and so far he had.

 

He just wasn’t sure how long he should listen—or if he could ask anyone else for that sort of relationship advice. Not Ollie, obviously, because asking him for advice with Laurel was just too painful. But Ollie’s current girlfriend had helped Tommy more than once before now, so a part of him really wanted her advice now. Maybe that was weird, but it felt like an almost good idea…

 

Felicity nodded slowly, “Because Oliver was found alive?” she phrased it like a question, but it was so obvious it wasn’t one.

 

“Yeah,” Tommy sighed and shrugged again. “They were on the same boat, and apparently there a lot of islands in that area of the world.”

 

“So—what?” the blonde blinked. “Is she trying to organize searches of all of them? ‘Cause there’s gotta be a couple hundred that aren’t inhabited.” She shook her head. “At least.”

 

“Don’t know,” Tommy shrugged again. “Laurel wants me to stay out of it, be her ‘beacon of sanity’ or something like that.” He shook his head. “I keep trying, but…”

 

“Just being there for her can be enough, Tommy,” Felicity told him when he trailed off. “Trust her to tell you what she needs,” then she shrugged. “Though making sure she eats and sleeps regularly would be a good idea, too.”

 

“Am I supposed to feed mom and dad, too?” he asked her, only half joking.

 

“It wouldn’t be the worst impression you could make on your future in-laws,” she answered him with her face so straight he had to stare at her for a few seconds.

 

“…Uh, I think you’re getting a little ahead of us there, Smoaky,” Tommy replied a moment later.

 

The blonde chuckled, “Possibly.”

 

“Just a little bit…” Tommy shook his head, smiling slightly even as he decided to change the subject, “So what’re you working on?”

 

“Oliver and Digg are grabbing burgers,” Felicity answered his earlier, unasked question first, and then she turned back to her computers to start typing so fast she had to be speeding. “I’m trying to find one of our targets.”

 

He almost didn’t ask, but he kind of felt like she was waiting to see if he would and he didn’t want to fail the test, so: “Who? Uh, can I ask that?”

 

“You just did,” she answered promptly, then added. “John Nickel.”

 

“The slumlord that the D.A didn’t charge earlier today?” Tommy cocked his head to the side. “Maybe he didn’t—”

 

“He did everything the media’s accusing him of, Tommy,” Felicity cut him off. “We already looked into that. I found bribes covering it up all over the place.”

 

That made him frown, now in confusion, “How would you find bribes?”

 

“Hacked his bank accounts. Followed the money,” Felicity shrugged. “It’s the kind of thing that the police need a warrant for, but I don’t.”

 

“‘Cause Ollie’s not arresting him,” Tommy sighed, still frowning.

 

“No.” Felicity agreed. “He probably won’t have to kill him though.”

 

He blinked at her again, “What?”

 

“Nickel doesn’t have any ties to organized crime or any history that might make him think he could stand up to the Vigilante. And infamy can work wonders,” Felicity sighed. “Oliver should’ve been able to go over there, spend a few minutes threatening him into doing the right thing, and that should’ve been the end of it.”

 

“‘Should’ have?” Tommy asked her. “Didn’t work out that way?”

 

“It might have, if he’d been there. He wasn’t.”

 

“I thought the courts let him off today, even after there was another fire just last night.” Tommy recalled with a frown. “Why would he go into hiding now?”

 

“He didn’t. Someone took him,” Felicity answered evenly, like it was a normal thing for someone to say.

 

Took him?” Tommy repeated, blinking again.

 

The blonde nodded seriously, “He hurt a lot of people, Tommy. A lot of people have every right to be upset with him.”

 

Tommy thought about that a moment, finding he couldn’t really deny it.

 

There had been a lot of fires in the last few weeks, and from what the media had been saying those weren’t the only hardships the poor people living in the slums Nickel built and managed had had to endure there. As if living in The Glades wasn’t bad enough for the people that couldn’t afford any better. Put that way, he had to admit he couldn’t care that much about a man like that ending up with an arrow in him. The hardest part was still just the fact that his friend was the one firing that arrow—except, in this case, he apparently wouldn’t be. Was it wrong for him to feel relieved at that?

 

After a moment Tommy hesitantly asked, “But?”

 

The blonde sighed again, “But Oliver doesn’t like the idea of someone else running around punishing people on their own. So I’m trying to figure out who took Nickel, where and why. Well, maybe not why. We probably already know that.”

 

“Yeah…” Tommy turned that thought over for a minute, then just asked her, “So he’s upset there’s another vigilante?”

 

It was a hard thing for him to get his head around. After all, if Ollie really thought he was helping the city, shouldn’t he want other people to want to help, too?

 

“He’s not wrong, Tommy,” Felicity was still typing as she glanced at him, and still her fingers didn’t seem to miss a single key. “Whoever they are, we don’t know what they’re going to do next. And that could be dangerous.”

 

“But the guy—”

 

“Should pay for his crimes,” Felicity cut him off, then shook her head. “But John Nickel should face justice. Not vengeance.”

 

He stared at her a second before asking, “What’s the difference?”

 

She met his eyes and answered evenly, without even seeming to think about it. “One is order and reason; the other is chaos and hate. One is meant to stop the cycle of pain, to make things better for society as a whole. The other only causes more pain, and doesn’t stop the cycle at all.”

 

Well that was all very philosophical. Especially considering Tommy was pretty sure Ollie had never opened any of the books for a philosophy class either. The genius in front of him undoubtedly had opened, read and understood every one, so he wasn’t going to try arguing with her. Especially since he wasn’t sure he knew what he wanted to argue for here. So he decided on changing the subject again. “Hey, speaking of family dropping by, when am I going to get to meet your brother?”

 

Felicity looked at him, but only gave a headshake at the very severe shift in subject. “Sometime soon, I’m sure,” she shrugged. “He didn’t tell me when, remember? You were there.”

 

“Well, yeah, but it sounded like he was gonna be hopping on a plane here soon,” Tommy told her, because it really had sounded like the other man might show up at his sister’s door the next day. And it’d been more than two weeks now.

 

The blonde shrugged again, “It’s all relative.”

 

Tommy wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but it looked like she was going to keep going so he didn’t say anything in response.

 

“I think he was planning on coming a lot sooner, but a friend of ours needed his help with something.” Felicity looked thoughtful, “Which reminds me, I really do need to get Amanda something nice for that.”

 

“Wait… You asked a friend to keep your brother from visiting?” Tommy stared at her. For a moment he expected her to deny it, either because it wasn’t true or because she just didn’t want to admit to being that devious, but then she shrugged.

 

“‘Asked’ isn’t quite the right word,” Felicity told him, “I may have complained a bit much when I told her about his call. She said she could keep him out of my hair for a little while. That’s all.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Tommy shook his head. “Is she at least his girlfriend?”

 

Amanda?” the blonde actually snorted. “Oh no. No, no, no. I can’t ever see that happening. They have far too much in common,” she chuckled as she shook her head. “But she’s an old friend, and she didn’t want to let him bother me just because I’m dating again. So she’s taken him somewhere.”

 

“Somewhere?” Tommy repeated, shaking his head another time. “And your brother just lets his old friends drag him around like that?”

 

“‘Let’ is not exactly the right word either,” Felicity shrugged. “Most people have a really hard time saying ‘no’ to Amanda when she has her mind set on something. Anything, really. But even she won’t be able to keep him away forever, especially since she probably wants to meet Oliver, too.” She stopped typing suddenly, her hands actually freezing where they were hovered over the keyboard while she winced. “Which means she’ll see Nick again. Lovely.”

 

“Nick?”

 

“My neighbor. He’s Amanda’s ex-boyfriend. And I hadn’t even thought about that till now. Dammit.” Felicity sighed. “I’m pretty sure they haven’t spoken to each other since the break up, so that should be fun…”

 

Tommy heard the sarcasm in the last word, but he understood it so he didn’t bother asking.

 

Friends fighting were never easy—friends that used to date but were still both your friends while fighting with each other would probably be a lot worse. It was one of the reasons he’d been so glad that Oliver didn’t seem to mind that he was dating Laurel now. And thrilled when he realized his friend had somehow even moved on.

 

Instead he focused on another question he’d had while she strung all those words together. “You’re not worried about your brother meeting Ollie?” he finished with a gesture at the room around him—green outfit, arrows and all—because the blonde had actually glanced at him before he’d finished there.

 

“No.” Felicity answered, sounding sure. Then she sighed, “And yes.”

 

“Well that makes perfect sense,” he teased her, a little surprised at how easily it came. “There’s no contradiction there at all.”

 

It got him a little smile, but that fell away as she sighed again. “My last real relationship didn’t end well.”

 

That sounded like an understatement if he’d ever heard one, but Tommy wasn’t sure it was really his place to push. Not her anyway. This was the sort of thing he probably should bug his sort-of-still best friend about, wasn’t it?

 

“So, anyway, my brother is probably going to be pretty protective,” Felicity finished, then started typing yet again.

 

Tommy watcher her for several long moments, then he finally observed, “I’m pretty sure Ollie can take care of himself, Smoaky. Especially now that he’s, you know,” he waived at all the arrows.

 

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you…” she replied with a chuckle that sounded strange—way too dark for her.

 

“Yeah, I do,” Tommy told her. “I don’t care what he tries. Your brother’s not gonna be able to scare Ollie off.” He was so certain of that it kind of surprised him as he said it, but he knew it was true all the same.

 

“Maybe not,” she allowed, not sounding like she agreed with him at all.

 

But before Tommy could think of anything more to say one of the computers started going crazy: Beep! Beep! Beep!

 

Felicity turned to look at one of the monitors, and frowned. She hit a few more keys, and then a new window opened on the monitor closest to him. “Shit,” she swore, making Tommy blink, but then he saw why.

 

A middle-age man’s frightened face was staring out of the window, what looked like duct-tape covering his mouth and most of his beard. Over his head were the words:

GLADES BETRAYED!

                                                                                 

“Uh, that’s not good, is it?” Tommy asked her with a wince.

 

“Ya think?” Felicity answered without looking at him, her fingers flying over the keys again.

 

“Who do you—”

 

“Shut up, please,” She cut him off. “I have to concentrate right now.”

 

Tommy obediently shut his mouth and just watched her for several more seconds, till she spoke again.

 

“Actually, no. You should go back upstairs,” Felicity told him, hands still flying over keys and her eyes still locked on her screens.

 

“What?” he blinked at her, hoping he didn’t sound too hurt. But he was trying to not be in the way here and she was kicking him out anyway?

 

“This website just popped up on every digital screen with an I.P address originating in The Glades,” Felicity told him seriously. “That means some of your clientele are going to be seeing it. You should be up there; help the bouncers keep them all from panicking.”

 

“Oh,” Tommy blinked again, because that made sense—some sense, anyway—so he nodded as he got up. “Yeah, sure I’ll—but can I do anything to help—”

 

“Yeah,” the blonde interrupted again. “Keep the club from turning into a mob scene. Please and thank you.”

 

“Oh—Yeah, okay,” Tommy made himself hurry for the stairs. He heard Felicity start talking again when he was halfway up, but her fast, worried words obviously weren’t for him.

 

“I found Nickel. Click the link I just sent you.”

 

And he had to wince again even as he quickly hit in the code that’d let him out of the basement. He’d been meaning to ask exactly why you needed a code to get out of the Vigilante’s secret lair, but he couldn’t turn around to bother Smoaky with it now. She clearly had more important things to worry about right now—and he was pretty sure the Vigilante and his buff but unnecessary bodyguard would be storming back in here any minute, too.

 

That Ollie was apparently right about this new vigilante not being a good thing wasn’t something he was going to think about right now either. Mainly because he wasn’t sure how it fit in his own head that it would’ve been okay if the slumlord had just been found somewhere, dead, but it wasn’t okay that he was tied up and terrified somewhere, with someone who wanted everyone to know it…

 

Upstairs the music was still playing as the D.J set a pounding rhythm for a face pace on the dance floor. All the bartenders were busy, too, so business was obviously booming. They’d be in the black again tonight as long as the club didn’t burn down again.

 

It didn’t look like anyone was overly preoccupied with what a strange man was doing on their phone or tablet. But he knew Smoak was probably right to send him up here anyway. She seemed to be right about most things.

 

“Hey, Mike,” Tommy flagged the acting security head down as soon as he saw him, continuing as soon as the big guy had hurried over.

 

“Yeah, Mister Merlyn?”

 

Tommy didn’t let himself wince, because he’d really like less formality than that, but Ollie had shot that idea down a while back. “Tell everyone ta keep an eye out, okay? I guess there’s something crazy going on online. Friend of mine thinks it might cause a panic if people see it on their phones.”

 

“Didn’t see anything on mine,” the bouncer frowned, taking his phone out to look again and actually showing the screen to his boss.

 

“Yeah, it’s not on mine either. She said something about addresses in the Glades—internet addresses, I think,” Tommy shrugged. “But better to be safe, okay? Just try and keep people calm. I’m gonna be up by André,” he gestured towards the D.J who’d just started a slower song. “If it starts to look like anything’s going on, I’ll take over there, okay?”

 

“Sure thing, Mister Merlyn,” Mike agreed, happy to have an action plan.

 

Tommy was, too. If only because it meant he had something to do to keep himself from heading back down into the basement to find out what the hell was happening outside of Verdant. But this nightclub was his job, the only one he’d ever really had, so he wasn’t going to fail at it.


NEXT: Speed Dial #1.

John Diggle’s P.O.V.  Who would be Digg’s first call if he needed help from someone with a lot more resources than him?

Chapter Text

John Diggle's P.O.V.

 

John had decided to wait by the bar for their order before they’d even set foot in Big Belly Burger. Not to talk to Carly, it was way too busy in here for her to spare him more than a quick ‘hello’ and several smiles. But he knew that she’d put their order ahead of many others, because she always did, so it’d be out soon. He also knew that if he started trying to talk to Oliver before their food arrived there was nothing to keep him from bolting back to the basement and his bow. Well, nothing except the fact that Felicity was back there and she expected them to talk so her boyfriend would probably stick around. Still, Digg had kept one eye on the seemingly unconcerned billionaire, but the younger man hadn't made any effort to sneak away on the way to the hopping burger joint, or while waiting at their table.

 

"Thanks, Carly," John nodded to his former-sister-in-law-turned-girlfriend as he accepted the two baskets of food with a smile.

 

"You're welcome. I’ll have Felicity’s shake ready when you’re done," Carly returned his smile with her own, but didn't try to hide her concern as she asked, "Hey, is everything okay?"

 

"Yeah," Digg answered immediately, the sort-of lie rolling off his tongue with an ease that didn’t bother him nearly as much as it probably should. "Yeah, thanks," he nodded as he turned away, closing the short distance to their table with quick steps and dropping his employer's burger and fries in front of him before taking his own seat.

 

Oliver immediately picked up the burger and took a big bite, chewing through it for a second and swallowing before admitting, "Hungrier than I thought."

 

Digg accepted that with a nod, munching on one of his fries as he watched the archer take another big bite.

 

"Are you waiting for me to finish before giving me the lecture?" the vigilante asked him then.

 

Digg had to smile at his directness. Irritating though it sometimes was, the bodyguard much preferred blunt honesty from a brother-in-arms to the evasive, secretive Houdini that he'd been running after every day those first few weeks of his employment with the Queens. "Oliver, you've been spending a lot of time under the Hood these last couple weeks," he pointed out calmly, starting on his own burger.

 

"Keeps my ears warm," the archer answered blithely.

 

So, both direct and evasive tonight. Fan-fubar-tastic.

 

Digg ignored that comment, swallowing and then asking instead, "I thought things were going well with Felicity?"

 

He knew the two of them had started sleeping together. And thankfully that’d only meant that while the archer was a little more physically affectionate around their tech expert, they hadn’t made him witness more than a few quick kisses that he’d call P.G enough for even A.J. Digg suspected that Felicity might be inviting Oliver over more and more these last couple weeks because being in her bed kept him off of the streets and rooftops anymore than he already was out there, but then that was why he hadn’t forced this conversation before now.

 

"Yeah," the other man answered unhelpfully, finishing the last over-sized bite of his burger and not continuing as his bodyguard and part-time partner watched him.

 

Digg cocked his head to the side, trying a slightly different tactic, "Learned anything about where she picked up fencing yet?"

 

And finally a crack in the too-calm man's armor; one corner of his mouth turned down for just a second before going flat again as he shook his head and reached for a fry. "No." Oliver chewed on the fry for a second, then finished, "I’ve asked. She deflects every time. She won’t talk about her last boyfriend much either.”

 

“The guy from Spain?”

 

“Who tried to burn her, yeah,” Oliver scowled, shaking his head. “She won’t even confirm they met M.I.T. Never mind tell me what his name was.”

 

“Didn’t she say he was dead?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Digg studied his friend for a moment, and then asked him, “You think she’s lying about that?”

 

Oliver didn’t answer immediately, instead choosing to take another big bite of his burger, chewing and swallowing it through before he admitted. “No, I don’t,” he shook his head, “But then why won’t she tell me more about him?”

 

The former soldier shook his head. “Some memories are a lot harder to talk about than others,” he said, then pointed out. “You know that better than a lot of people.”

 

“Yeah...” the archer sighed, munching on a few fries with clear unhappiness.

 

Diggle just kept watching him, honestly curious about what’d come out now that he’d gotten the other man talking about what he was bottling up. He had a good idea as to some of the motivating factors that had the man across from him putting on the hood every night of the last two weeks, but he wanted to know if he was missing anything else. So he kept eating, almost at the same pace as the vacuum across from him, while he said what he needed to and kept listening.

 

Oliver finished his burger off before he grumbled, “And she still won’t tell me what happened to the couch either."

 

Diggle almost snorted in amusement at that. Of all the mysteries their tech genius had, there were a few that weren’t very high on his list of priorities. How she’d gotten her phone to sit atop that dummy a while back was one of them—it still confused him, but it didn’t really matter.  Why she’d decided to have a neighbor take her couch away while the home security system she wasn't working correctly and was supposed to be on in case the Huntress showed up was malfunctioning he couldn’t understand either. But the crazy crossbow-wielding bitch hadn’t shown up, thank god, and hadn’t been seen for a while, so he tried not to think about it too much.

 

"Hum," Digg nodded, more than understanding how that might bother the other man—despite how much of a double standard he was setting expectation-wise.

 

Well, the sword-part he understood, he wasn’t entirely sure what it was about Felicity changing her couch that bothered the archer so much. Even if she had done it during that power outage that’d kept him from seeing it as it happened and hadn’t bothered to tell him about it either. Besides, he was pretty sure the fact that Felicity had replaced her old couch was what bothered her boyfriend, much more than how she’d done it, so he was staying out of that.

 

"We're all entitled to our secrets, man." Digg pointed out, taking another bite of his own burger, chewing and swallowing before he added: "Haven't noticed her shoulder bothering her anymore myself. Have you?"

 

The memory of the bloodied bandages the blonde had tried to hide from them was not a happy one for either of them. But both men hated that Felicity had been hurt—and that someone had hurt her right outside their base of operations made it that much worse. That, too, bothered the bodyguard a lot more than the stupid couch did. Especially since he couldn’t think of why she’d tried to hide it from them…

 

"No," the billionaire admitted, then sighed. "Not in a while. Her shoulder looked good as new, so the cut must’ve been less severe than we thought. She won't talk about that either, who hurt her, I mean." He shook his head, then openly frowned as he asked flatly, "So what's the problem? You think I’m losing my grip? You think she's distracting me?"

 

"No," Digg immediately shook his head. "It's just the opposite, really. You seem calm. Scary calm." He shrugged. "Except when you’re with her, for the most part. But Felicity doesn't seem to mind you watching her anymore than you mind her watching you, so—"

 

"Wait," the billionaire blinked, "Is that—"

 

"No," the former soldier cut him off before he could actually ask. "No, I’d wondered if you two might be one complication too many, but it hasn't been a problem. Not yet anyway."

 

"And it won't be." Oliver reassured him firmly, pausing to emphasize the point before he went on. "Whatever she's hiding, Digg, she's a good person. You know that just as much as I do."

 

"Yeah," Digg nodded easily. "Yeah, I do. Just make sure you remember that."

 

That got another frown from the vigilante. "What?"

 

"If it doesn't work out between you two,” Digg kept going even as his friend’s frown got deeper. “Felicity won't hold it against you. She's not the type. She'll stick with us, help us find Walter; probably help us out however she can along the way." He paused, then shook his head. "But you want her to stay after that."

 

Oliver kept frowning that very deep frown, neither confirming nor denying the observation. He didn’t have to, that it was the truth was just too obvious, so the bodyguard went on.

 

“I've seen you around her when you're not in—what she calls—your 'gurr arrow mode,'” Digg told him, smirking when that got the expected surprised snort of amusement out of the archer: the softening that was reserved almost entirely for Felicity. "You're happy with her, Oliver. And that's not a bad thing."

 

“I didn’t say it was,” Oliver pointed out a little too flatly.

 

“You didn’t have to.” Digg gave him a look for a long second, then shook his head again. “But it’s got me wondering if you might be trying to prove something you don’t have to?” He met the other man’s gaze for another long moment, then pointed out, “Pretty sure I’ve heard her tell you that you don’t have anything to prove to her at least a half dozen times now.”

 

“I’m not trying to prove anything.”

 

“Then why are you crossing names off on that list like Christmas is this weekend and you haven’t finished shopping yet?”

 

“She’s Jewish,” Oliver responded flatly, annihilating another fry before he sighed. “And she doesn’t like The List anyway.”

 

“No, she doesn’t. And she’s not the only one. We don’t even know where it came from, remember. Not really.” Digg reminded him, picking up a few more fries himself.

 

Oliver sighed again at that. “I know. But what else am I supposed to do? Listen to police scanners? Felicity’s already doing that.”

 

“Yeah, she is. Why do you think she’s doing that? And don’t say anything comparing crime to cancer again.” John just watched him for another long moment, shaking his head when the archer shrugged and started fiddling with his fries instead of saying anything in response. “She’s doing that because you’re so desperate to get out there all the time now.”

 

“I’m not ‘desperate,’” Oliver retorted right away. “It just has to be done, and I’m doing it.” He shook his head. “And it doesn’t matter where The List came from: it’s a good starting point.”

 

John snorted. “Repeat that last part to Felicity. Please.”

 

“What?”

 

“‘Doesn’t matter where it came from?’” he repeated, each word coated in equal parts sarcasm and disbelief.

 

“It doesn’t,” Oliver insisted. “We still do our own research ahead of doing anything. The List just helps us—”

 

“Helps you, you mean. I still don’t wanna see the thing.”

 

“Felicity looks at it, too,” the vigilante told him firmly.

 

“Yeah, I’m sure she’s got it all typed up and who knows how many programs analyzing it all the time,” Digg nodded. “Doesn’t mean she likes you using it so much.”

 

“Has to be done,” Oliver insisted again.

 

“No. It doesn’t,” the former soldier shook his head. “Have you thought of just trying being happy? Not making your girlfriend drag you home every night just to make sure you’ll get some sleep? Maybe spending some time with your family, too?”

 

“That’s when the job’s done, Diggle,” Oliver tried to tell him again, but this time the bodyguard wasn’t standing for it.

 

“It’ll never be done though,” John told him. “Seriously, man. As a five-year-plan, trying to cross off every name in that book isn’t gonna work. And it’s not what we should be doing, anyway.”

 

“Then what should we be doing?” the vigilante demanded. “Huh? We haven’t heard from Helena in weeks—no one has seen her anywhere. Even Felicity can’t find any trace of her. So either she’s hiding or she’s dead. And we haven’t heard from the other ar—the other guy either.” Oliver shook his head. “What exactly am I supposed to be doing while we wait for one of them to show up again?”

 

Diggle held his glare, deliberately finishing off his own burger before he answered. “Sometimes waiting is all you can do, that’s always the hardest part,” he responded evenly, then reminded his friend, “But that doesn’t mean it’s smart to keep running off half-cocked all the time. Exact opposite. Like Felicity said, that’s how you get hurt or caught. And you’re still avoiding the people you care about.”

 

“No I’m—”

 

“Your mom knows she doesn’t have to check in on Felicity several times every work day, Oliver. Anyone who’s spent five minutes watching Felicity work on anything knows she’s more than capable. But your mom keeps stopping by ‘cause she hopes getting to know your girlfriend better will lead to spending more time with you. And pretty soon your sister’s gonna start doing it, too.” John shook his head as he watched the archer inhale more fries through his frown.

 

He considered mentioning that the only reason Thea Queen hadn’t been bugging her brother’s new girlfriend probably had to do with her own new boyfriend—the one Oliver hadn’t even noticed yet ‘cause he’d spent so little time with his sister lately. But that wasn’t what he was trying to get at here. Plus, maybe putting Roy Harper in the vigilante’s sights wouldn’t help, and the kid didn’t deserve it either.

 

“You need to tap the brakes, man.” John told him firmly. “Let yourself have a life.”

 

“I can’t,” the archer finally admitted, even more flatly than before.

 

“Why not?”

 

Oliver sighed then. "People tend to get hurt around me, Digg. It's a miracle Helena didn't hurt Felicity,” he shook his again, adding darkly, “If she didn't hurt her at all, that is."

 

There was no denying that. They'd both been beyond relieved that the brilliant blonde could still rail at them for being over-protective after her encounter with the Huntress. Even if it was more than a little inconvenient at the time, it was still a relief that she was physically and emotionally able to do it.

 

"Yeah, man," Digg nodded. "But it's not like you can introduce every girl you like to your secret life. Bertinelli more than proved that. Felicity's really one of a kind."

 

"She's remarkable," Oliver agreed softly, mind clearly elsewhere as he said it.

 

"Yeah, she is," Digg agreed, pressing the point home, "And the life you're leading, with everything it entails—"

 

"Doesn't leave room for an actual life," Oliver cut in with a nod, frowning thoughtfully. "Few months ago I would've told you I didn't need one."

 

"That'd be a pretty bleak future you plan on spending with no one," Digg scoffed at the idea, unhappy to realize he was as close to the truth as he'd thought, even if it was obvious Felicity had made enough headway so far to merit a change, however slight. "And what about now?"

 

BRING-BRING-BRING, the sound of a phone alert going off was normal background noise in the diner, barely noted in the back of the soldier’s mind, even when it was almost immediately followed by a BEEP-BEEP from another phone.

 

"I'm used to isolation," Oliver admitted with another sigh.

 

Digg nodded, "And that, is exactly what worries me," he shrugged. "You've been home for eight months, Oliver, but sometimes I don't think you left that island yet." He shook his head even as the sound of another nearby phone vibrating made him frown. "Only time it seems like you're not stuck in the past or focused on that list is when you're crossing a name off it—or you're really with Felicity. Or your family, some of the time."

 

Not that the Queen scion had spent much time at all at his family home, or anywhere else with his mother and sister, in weeks. Moira Queen had undoubtedly seen more of her son at Queen Consolidated, which really did probably have some role in why the acting-C.E.O had taken such a personal role in fast-tracking the new Cyber Security Department. Oliver was practically living with Felicity now, after all, though that might have as much to do with his inability to refuse her as it did with his initial worries over Helena or the Dark Archer showing up at her house without him there to protect her…

 

Burr-RING! Burr-RING!

 

Another phone going off made both men frown and look around, taking in all the people who were staring at their phones now, and all the others that were taking them out to look, too.

 

Bring-Bring-Bring-Bring—BRING!

 

"What the hell is going on?" Digg wondered aloud.

 

They both watched as several more people answered their phones, all of them also staring at something on the screens.

 

As if in answer, Oliver's phone vibrated on the table and Digg's phone dinged on his belt. They both answered when they saw it was Felicity calling, though the ex-soldier did wonder exactly how their tech girl could be doing that simultaneously... then again, she was their absurdly over-qualified tech specialist.

 

"Yeah?" the vigilante answered the phone expectantly.

 

"I found Nickel," Felicity answered quickly, the worry in her voice making both of their frowns deepen as she told them, "Click the link I just sent you."

 

Oliver obeyed, tapping the screen, even as Felicity's voice kept echoing out of his phone's speaker.

 

Digg didn't bother, instead listening to the tech genius and watching what opened on the billionaire's phone.

 

"This came up on every screen with an I.P address originating from the Glades. Someone’s broadcasting it nearby."

 

Digg did press the link then, and winced as a video opened. The beat-up, terrified face half-hidden by the duct tape over his mouth was barely recognizable as the man they’d seen strolling out of the courthouse on the news only a few hours ago. The words that were taking up a third of the screen over him weren’t going anywhere good, either: GLADES BETRAYED!

 

"If you make the Glades your home, you know who this man is," a man's garbled voice abruptly declared in the video, and the judgmental tone gave both of them the unhappy confirmation that their suspicions of a soon-to-be unhappy ending were accurate. "John Nickel. He owns your tenements. Manages your slums. Provides the leaking roofs over your heads."

 

Nickel was shaking his head desperately, but that and his muffled screams were ignored by his captor as this new—and somehow even more dramatic—vigilante kept going.

 

"The led and mold in your pipes, and the asbestos in your walls. Basically, he makes money off of our suffering. But the police aren't interested in helping us. They may have let us down, but I won't!"

 

Digg winced, his certainty on the conclusion of this video clearer with every word the unseen man said.

 

"John, I want to give you the chance to state your case. Why shouldn't you be punished?" the man behind the camera followed that question up by ripping the tape off the bearded, beaten man's face.

 

Nickel cried out in further pain at the action, but obviously knew how dire his situation was, because he started confessing almost immediately. "I-I knew there was bad stuff in my buildings."

 

If he were facing the Hood—or the Arrow, now—that quick confession might’ve earned him some leniency. But whether the slumlord was aware of that or not didn't make a difference, because the man who was holding him didn't sound nearly as reasonable as Oliver Queen... no matter how ridiculous his comment about restraint might've sounded not even an hour ago.

 

"Track him, Felicity," Oliver ordered into the phone as he recognized the same thing. The commanding words were barely more than a whispered growl with everyone around them so quiet, but the urgency vibrated through each syllable.

 

They probably didn’t need to worry about anyone listening to them though, not when all eyes and the ears attached to them were locked onto the fate of the doomed man playing out on all of their electronic devices.

 

"I'm trying." Their tech genius replied, audibly as aware of the danger as both of them were. "I'm looking…"

 

Again Digg wondered how she could be talking through their phones while they were both watching the video, but now wasn't the time to ask by a very long shot.

 

"Okay, yes, I made a little profit!" Nickel admitted desperately. "At least they had a place to live. Without me, people like that would end up on the street."

 

"'People like that!'" the new vigilante repeated, clearly infuriated by the words as he slapped the tape back over Nickel’ mouth, earning gasps and startled exclamations from many of the stunned audience in the diner. "That's all we are to guys like this!"

 

Nickel’s desperate groans and gasps were only muffled by the reapplied tape as more of his restrained body came into view, his camera-wielding captor backing up even as the slumlord's eyes widened in terror. Undoubtedly because the terrified man had a much better view of the gun that the audience could barely see. The gun that was pointing right at him. The gun that was going to kill him.

 

"Dammit," they could just barely hear Felicity’s oath as the angry man continued.

 

"I find you... guilty," the unseen man decreed.

 

Then the screen went dark.

 

Diggle blinked, because by then he’d fully expected to see John Nickel’s murder as it happened on his mobile screen—and what was apparently every other electronic device in The Glades.

 

"What the…" Oliver was frowning at his phone, too, not liking where the video was going either, but still as surprised as John to see it end like that.

 

They weren’t alone, though, all around them chatter had already started up as everyone wondered what’d just happened. Even though most everyone had to know that John Nickel had probably just died, whether they’d witnessed it on the video or not.

 

But then the cacophony of telephone sounds came again—his phone dinging as another image appeared on his screen. It looked like an eight on its side, with what looked like eyes peering through it. And underneath it were the words:

The Oracles are watching…

 

They scrolled across the screen in tiny scripted letters that looked especially elegant after impactful blocks of GLADES BETRAYED!

 

Even more sounds of surprise from all around made John glanced up, and he saw Oliver was looking around, too, because on his phone—and what looked like a lot of others—the same symbol and words were displayed for a handful of seconds more, before they all disappeared as suddenly and simultaneously as they’d come. When John looked back at his own phone, waiting for whatever the hell was happening there next, he was a little surprised to see his normal call-open screen there, and nothing else.

 

"Guys, you better get back here, right away," Felicity sighed, still on speakerphone for both of them. "In the meantime, I’ll see what I can find out."

 

"Good work, Felicity," Oliver replied as he stood, tossing a hundred on the table as he did so. "We’ll be there soon."

 

"Yeah, see you soon," John echoed him, already on his feet also, ready to follow the billionaire as both of them tucked their phones away and turned towards the door. Though he wasn’t a hundred percent sure their tech genius was still there—signing on and off had never been drilled into her head.

 

"John!" Carly’s call stopped him, and he turned to see her hurrying over with a takeout bag and two boxes in her hands.

 

"Thanks, Carly, but—"

 

"You still need to eat, John," Carly cut him off, sliding the contents of each barely touched baskets of fries into a takeout box with practiced ease. Then she dropped both boxes into the bag before offering it to him, the whole maneuver having taken her barely a couple of seconds. "Here. And Felicity’s shake is in here, too."

 

John accepted the bag with a sincere smile, despite everything that’d just happened. "Thanks, Carly."

 

She offered him a tremulous smile as she nodded, stacking the two now empty baskets together even as she grabbed the hundred dollar bill off the table. She’s never bothered trying to tell his boss that Diggle didn’t have to pay at the diner. Her boss knew he was family even before he made the move from her former brother-in-law to her new boyfriend and that combined with the fact that John and his deceased brother had both served in the military seemed to merit greasy meals for life here. But then the Queens had more than enough money to spare, and John would’ve told her that Oliver would only smile if she told him and keep overpaying. Still, she’d probably try to come back with the change if her boyfriend waited around, so John only nodded to her again before hurrying out the door with the food that none of them would probably have the stomach for anytime soon.

 

To his slight surprise Oliver was waiting for him outside, his patience apparently still intact, even though his face turned into a thunderstorm that couldn’t be directed at anyone yet. He turned back towards what was now already widely recognized as the area of The Glades dominated by his club without a word. Big Belly Burger’s close proximity to the new nightclub had undoubtedly already gone a long way towards boosting this particular burger joint’s popularity; another thing Carly’s boss undoubtedly appreciated. But that wasn’t something that could distract the archer right now either.

 

"We don’t know where that was," John pointed out; only loud enough to be heard by the man next to him as they beat a fast walk over the pavement. "Image was too close-up. All I saw was that the poor guy was scared shitless. You see anything else?"

 

"No," was the vigilante’s growled reply, but the bodyguard got it.

 

He was angry, too. While—like Felicity and Oliver—Digg had agreed that John Nickel had deserved a visit from The Arrow, what they’d just watched wasn’t justice of any kind. It was murder, plain and simple. It was one madman deciding to take the life of another—planned and executed. So it was premeditated, too.

 

There had been a time when John had thought the same thing of Oliver Queen—back when he’d first found out his employer was the Hood. But at least he gave almost everyone the chance to change for the better. Just not the hardened criminals, or the experienced hit men or others from that ilk: that would just be an exercise in futility. And stupid. But the white collar crooks and lower level thugs all got their chance to try and right their wrongs, involuntarily or not. Some took it. Some didn’t. But it was there.

 

This new guy—whoever the hell he was—wasn’t doing that. Everyone who’d seen that video knew that. His mind was made up before he’d started filming. Maybe before he’d even captured his victim. And nothing Nickel said was going to change his fate.

 

What was worse, after the three tours Digg had served in the ‘Stan, the idea of someone here trying to copy some of shit he saw the enemy pull over there just could not sit well with the former soldier. He went over there to defend his country, not bring all that insanity back home. Unfortunately, the worldwide web didn’t just spread the good stuff out there—for everything good that came with the computer age, there were all the threats and terrors, too…

 

So Digg didn’t have any trouble ignoring his friend’s ill-temper. Both because he understood it himself, and he’d come to expect it from his employer. Oliver spent more time working out than his bodyguard did, and a majority of his remaining time was spent as the city’s arrow-armed vigilante. That the archer’s relationship with Felicity had gradually improved his general temperament wasn’t surprising: just being around Felicity did that. So long as he wasn’t headed towards screwing that up, Digg was okay with letting almost anything else slide for a while.

 

"Felicity tell you anything else?"

 

"No, she hung up with me, too," Oliver replied, but then his stride slowed as the thought dawned. "Wait, you think…" he trailed off, but the former soldier didn’t wait for him to put the question together.

 

"It said ‘Oracle,’" he reminded the other man.

 

"No, it said ‘Oracles,’" Oliver countered. "Plural."

         

"Uh-huh." John rolled his eyes, because that wasn’t really a difference and they both knew it, he’d just realized it faster.

 

"Not that that really makes much of a difference," the archer admitted himself a breath later, as they were turning the corner and starting across the lot to the nightclub. "Why would she…" he trailed off into a barely noticeable hesitation before he finished with the realization. "She didn’t want people to see it."

 

"She’s not wrong, Oliver," John told him. "People shouldn’t have to see something like that. Lotta people don’t want to either, they just can’t look away." He shook his head. "’Sides, guys that do stuff like this want the attention, right? Gives ‘em a sense of—"

 

"Power," Oliver interrupted with a nod, but his current frown wasn’t much better than his former scowl. "But if this guy was able to get the video onto every screen in the Glades like she said, he must be a hacker, too." With that, the vigilante took off running the rest of the way across the lot, still headed for the side alley that they used as their entrance that was only seen on their own security cameras, but at a much faster clip.

 

John didn’t bother running after him. Because once Oliver really thought about it, he had to realize that while there were other hackers out there, it wasn’t likely that many of them were anything like Felicity Smoak.

 

There were many reasons that Moira Queen had said she didn’t expect to have much trouble getting people at Queen Consolidated to accept the genius as the head of their brand-new cyber security division. One of the main reasons was that anyone who watched her work—or just talked to her—had to recognize that she was completely brilliant.

 

And she had, after all, one-upped the other hacker already tonight. Besides, it wasn’t like the whacko—another hacker or not—could attack her through the computer screen or something like that, right?

 

Though considering the loud voices Digg could hear as soon as he opened the alley door, maybe he shouldn’t put so much faith in the couple working things out on their own just yet. The tech girl’s sheer genius could only circumnavigate so much, even with all the help of her very forgiving heart and her having just as much stubbornness as her boyfriend. Especially if he was going to be so over-protective that even the professional bodyguard had to call it stupid.

 

"Well, what was I supposed to do?" Felicity demanded, interrupting Oliver’s tirade about her risking herself just as Digg reached the open area. "Let a murder play out on thousands of screens throughout the city? Even some people in the Glades do let their kids play with their phones or computers sometimes!"

 

"You didn’t have to tell him you were the one that stopped it!" Oliver snapped back at her.

 

Their tech genius rolled her eyes, and both her hands dropped from her sides as she turned away from him to drop back into her computer chair then. Apparently deciding that that was not something she had to stand up to the archer on—or maybe making a silent power play by being the one sitting down. Or both.

 

Digg decided to just keep watching. These two were just too fascinating not to.

 

"It’s not like I gave him my full name and contact info, Oliver.” Felicity pointed out reasonably. “No one should even recognize ‘Oracle’ as someone who works with the vigilante here in Starling yet."

 

"Why’d you say ‘Oracles’ instead of ‘Oracle’?" Digg asked her then, both because he wanted to know the answer and to keep Oliver from saying something else. Fascinating or not, he didn’t really want a front row seat to seeing just how long these two could keep arguing in circles—he was pretty sure it’d make even a soldier with a strong stomach dizzy.

 

"Safety in numbers," Felicity shrugged. "Groups or organizations are always more intimidating than lone individuals, even fake ones."

 

"Smart," John nodded his approval.

 

"Yeah, well, it didn’t do Nickel any good," Felicity sighed. "But at least that’s an image that thousands of people didn’t get completely scarred into their psyches tonight."

 

Both men wince had to wince at that. Both of their imaginations had plenty of fuel to paint a painful picture of what’d probably happened to the man, but neither one necessarily needed more fuel for their nightmares.

 

"You saw him…" Oliver trailed off unhappily.

 

And Felicity nodded. "Whoever this guy is, he killed John Nickel. Shot him twice in the chest. I barely got the broadcast down in time," she finished with a sigh, then immediately continued. "But I sent the complete video on to the S.C.P.D."

 

"What?" Oliver blinked at her, a combination of concern and confusion seemingly making his protectiveness temporarily take a backseat. "Why?"

 

And for a moment the blonde blinked right back at him, before she slowly answered, "…Because there’s someone out there that wants to go around terrorizing the city by killing people and making everybody else watch while he does it?"

 

"Seems like a good reason to me," John agreed with her, then grimace even as he asked her. "You sign that, too?"

 

Because it, too, had to be put out there before their vigilante had a chance to realize it on his own and say something stupid.

 

Felicity rolled her eyes. "Yes. That is the point of me having a made-up name for the comms, isn’t it? So they know who I am, but not who I really am?"

 

"No!" Oliver snapped, looking up at the ceiling as he growled. "It’s so they don’t know who you are!" he only looked back at his girlfriend after he’d finished growling, and she met his eyes straight on, holding his gaze for several long seconds.

 

“Yeah,” she insisted stubbornly then. “That’s what I said.”

 

John jumped in again before they could get going. "Any luck tracing him?" he asked, and thankfully that was enough to shut their vigilante up for a second, as he waited for her response.

 

But their genius only sighed. "No. Unfortunately this guy’s definitely got more than just a subscription to WIRED." Felicity shook her head. "Pirating his Glades-wide broadcast wasn’t hard; it was a fairly simple hack. But he wasn’t on long enough for me to get a lock on him. Like I said before, he was definitely in the Glades, but we already knew that."

 

Considering the madman seemed to think he was representing the people in the Glades—or at least avenging them against men like Nickel that’d harmed them—Digg could agree that the other hacker being from around here was a safe assumption to make. He also thought it was a safe assumption to make that said madman was inspired to do this by their own vigilante, Starling City’s infamous ‘Man in the Hood.’ But now didn’t seem like a good time to bring that up. Not yet, at least. They all knew it already: that was in large part why the archer was so pissed off, no reason to put it out there just yet.

 

"His website hasn’t been much help yet either," Felicity went on

 

“Website?” Oliver repeated.

 

“Yeah, he probably designed it himself, specifically for broadcasting this,” Felicity answered, not looking at either of them because her eyes were locked on the two computer screens that didn’t have video they’d been watching currently paused on John Nickel’ last moments of life. “I’ve started working on it, but even some of my best programs’ll probably take a while.”

 

John thought he might get used to watching her type at some point, but it hadn’t happened yet. Her fingers were flying over the keys far faster than he could ever remember seeing before, and he also hadn’t ever noticed her making a typo. Not once. He was beginning to wonder if she ever did, but then he was also leaning towards the likely answer there being ‘no.’ Or, if she did, it was gone too fast for him to notice it—corrected before he could notice it.

 

"I’ll keep at it," Felicity went on. "But I’m gonna have to leave the programs working on it through tonight and tomorrow."

 

"Tomorrow?" Oliver turned from back what looked like a serious contemplation of whether or not he should start on the salmon ladder or the training dummy, his eyes zeroing in on the back of her head again with a frown returning. "Felicity—"

 

"Can’t be helped," she stopped typing to spin her chair back towards him, her hands locking on the armrest for a moment as if to keep them from going back to typing on their own. "It’s protected by some serious encryption, Oliver. It’s not something I already recognize, it’s all original work. And I’m sure it only has the one access point. It’s not something I’m gonna be able to get through quickly."

 

"You hacked the F.B.I for Helena in—"

 

"No, I pretended to hack the F.B.I for the Huntress: I created a dummy site setup to look like what she should expect a federal database to look like. And that was based more on the site the F.B.I creates for the public, because it’s probably the only thing she’s seen to compare to." Their computer genius shrugged. "Could I have hacked the real F.B.I database to pull up info on local safe houses protected by the U.S Marshalls just as quickly?” she shrugged and answered herself immediately. “Maybe, maybe not. That stuff’s supposed to be secure for some pretty good reasons. Either way, that database has who knows how many people cleared for legitimate access to it, so it’ll never be as secure as a protected site that’s set up to allow access to far fewer—maybe only one individual. It’s creator."

 

"Easiest way to keep a secret’s to not share it at all," Digg interjected with a nod. "Makes sense."

 

"Felicity, we need to find this guy," Oliver told her. "Before he goes after somebody else."

 

"I know," the blonde replied just as firmly. "That’s why I’m already working on it. But that doesn’t change the fact that the timeline for this isn’t anywhere near as short as we want it to be, and I have to work tomorrow so I can’t pull an all-nighter and keep working through the day, too." She hesitated for barely a second, and then sighed. "I mean, I could keep working on it through the night until I have to go to work tomorrow morning, but I can’t call in sick, Oliver. Today’s Q.C. Cyber’s first day with most of the internal applicants we’ll be taking. I still have some interviews left, but we’re gonna be up and running. And I have to be there. Your mom’s gonna be there, and some of the board might be, too—"

 

"Which is why you be here all night and go in without any sleep," John finally cut in firmly. "Your programs will keep working on it, right?"

 

"Yeah," Felicity nodded quickly. She paused for a second, and then offered, "I could contact some other hackers, too. See if any of them have any idea who this guy might be?"

 

"No," Oliver shook his head quickly. "No way to know for sure they’re not this guy—"

 

"None of the hackers I’d be contacting are local," Felicity interrupted, wrinkling her nose in distaste as she finished. "I don’t know any other hackers in Starling, actually, which seems odd now, come to think of it. Actually, no, the guy that does cyber-security for M.G-2 is a hacker, he said so, and we had a hard time getting in there, so he’s probably pretty good. But I wouldn’t contact him anyway."

 

Which was a good thing, considering how much darker their vigilante’s face had been getting the more she talked about the other man, but it was still funny to watch. All things consider they had to take their doses of humor where and when they could get them, and Oliver Queen wasn’t actually amusing as often as most people would like to think he was…

 

"Yeah, still not a great idea when he might already be looking for you, Felicity," Digg pointed out reasonably, before some unreasonable thing could come out of Oliver’s mouth. "Let me try some of my contacts first, see what I can dig up."

 

The blonde blinked at him, then frowned. "You know other hackers?" she asked, sounding somewhere between confused and offended.

 

"No." Digg assured her with a grin. "I know soldiers who went into law enforcement after they left the service. Some of them are feds now. They should be able to tell us if anyone’s already looked into this guy."

 

"Oh." She nodded, offense and confusion gone. "That makes sense."

 

The ex-soldier looked towards Oliver again, a little surprised he hadn’t already had something else to say, but the archer actually thinking before speaking wasn’t really a bad thing. "Anything to add, man?"

 

Oliver shook his head, "Just be careful what you say," he decided on saying, making his bodyguard roll his eyes.

 

"Might have to talk a bit ‘bout the guy shooting arrows at people," John told him, smirking slightly as the archer aimed a scowl at him. "Tends to come up whenever you talk to someone who hasn’t heard of anything else about Starling City. Not like we have anything else in the news half as much, not the national news anyway."

 

"You say that like it’s a bad thing," Felicity chided him in turn, though she’d turned back to her computers and started typing again already.

 

"Not bad," he replied with a shrug. "Just something to expect, ‘specially whenever you reach out to someone outside of Starling."

 

"Ha, if you think people in Starling aren’t still talking about the vigilante, you haven’t been paying attention to most people. He comes up about as often as the weather at Q.C. More, some days."

 

"What?" Oliver was blinking at her. "Really?"

 

"Yes, really," Felicity laughed lightly, and then sighed. “Although I haven’t hung out by the water cooler much lately, and I suppose I’m gonna be gossip at Q.C now, too." She wrinkled her nose in clear distaste at the thought, and shook her head. "Surprised nothing’s made the tabloids yet. But I guess they’re still afraid of your mom."

 

"What’d you mean still?" asked Digg, glancing between the now slightly smirking archer and the back of their genius’s head.

 

"Mom never liked the paparazzi anywhere near me or Thea, kept our family lawyers pretty busy when we were kids." Oliver explained, then shrugged. “She had to back off a bit when Tommy and I were older, but I’m not that surprised that Thea wasn’t on T.M.Z even half as much with her partying."

 

"Partying was pretty much all she was known for, I think, before you came back," Felicity recalled, most of her attention still clearly on her computers. "Not much different from any of the city’s other rich kids."

 

Digg figured that wasn’t really something he wanted to let Oliver think about too much, because it could drive him further into the blame and self-hatred that was already starting to stir thanks to what had to be a copycat. "You said you sent the rest of the video to the cops, right?"

Felicity did turn her head to look at him then. "Yeah, I did."

 

"Was that just Nickel getting shot, or…"

 

She sighed again as she shook her head. "Yeah, mostly. But the shooter said there’d be more, too. ‘Plenty more’ who’ve committed ‘crimes’ against the Glades, I think. Something like that…" she tapped a few more keys before going on. "There, it’s on both your phones now. But it’ll delete itself after you’ve watched it once, so pay attention."

 

"Roger that," Diggle agreed while the archer nodded. He eyed the other man for a moment. "You good?"

 

"Yeah. I won’t be going out again tonight," Oliver nodded, then gestured to his insane exercise equipment. "I’ll get a few more reps in while we wait. Let me—

 

"Us," Felicity insisted and the vigilante nodded.    

 

"Let us know what you find out."

 

"Roger that," Digg said again, glancing between the pair for a moment before nodding and turning out. Knowing the tech genius would call him back if their vigilante got any idea in his head she considered stupid—like trying to go back out tonight anyway.

 

He waited till he was out in his car with the engine heating up before he took out his phone again. Maybe he should’ve watched the video back inside, or waited till he was home again, but he wasn’t planning on driving directly there just yet and sticking around here wasn’t going to help the couple sort things out.

 

BANG! BANG!

 

Even though he was entirely expecting it, the resounding sound of the dual gunshots exploding out of his phone’s speaker still made him jolt slightly while he watched Nickel’ body go limp thanks to the two huge holes in his chest.

 

Two kill-shots at point-blank ranges, right into his heart. No one could say it wasn’t an execution. No one could say it wasn’t murder.

 

And once again John Diggle found himself surprised to be agreeing with Oliver Queen about something the man had said about himself—put up against this copycat, he really was the reasonably restrained one.

 

It was a long moment where John was left staring at a murdered man’s cooling corpse before the new vigilante went on, but eventually the madman did want to hear his own insanity out loud. "There are plenty more people who need to answer for their crimes against us," the madman declared, sounding a little less angry now. Appeased by the act of violence instead of horrified by it—and his slighter softer voice was now very obviously altered by a voice-synthesizer not unlike the one that Oliver had always used. "So… who’s next?"

 

“No one,” Diggle answered darkly, “if we have anything to say about, whack-job.”

 

The video disappeared as soon as it’d ended, as promised.

 

John nodded to himself, not even considering checking, because he knew he didn’t need to. Instead he hit the number that was still his number one speed-dial. Something he probably didn’t want Carly to find out. Though knowing her, she wouldn’t even consider holding it against him.

 

"Michaels," the familiar voice answered, and despite everything that’d happened between them, hearing her voice again was like a big breath of fresh air.

 

"Hey, Lyla," Digg greeted her. "Sorry to call so late."

 

"Everything alright, Johnny?" his ex-wife asked immediately. Ignoring the reference to the late hours, which meant she was already up and likely working. But on what?

 

Diggle took a deep breath before he asked her, "Just wondering if you knew anything about the new vigilante yet?"

 

"New vi—there’s another one? Seriously?" Lyla demanded, not quite incredulous, but effectively answering his question. "‘Cause I know you’re not talking about the Robin Hood guy."

 

"Nope," Digg snorted, shaking his head. "John Nickel—you know the real estate crook? Someone just shot ‘im, with a gun, not a bow and arrow. While filming it. Live. Appeared on my phone—and everyone else’s at Carly’s. Think it was as on the T.V, too. And a friend of mind said it appeared on computer screens."

 

"Can’t say it was on mine," Lyla sighed, and he knew her well enough to know that the unhappiness in her tone was more at the fact that some psycho was running around their city. Well, probably two from her point of view. "But it sounds like it might’ve been a local broadcast—and I’m not in Starling right now."

 

"Sounds about right," he didn’t bother trying to ask where she was or what she was doing. "Just figured I’d ask around. Guy’s supposedly going after people who’ve committed crimes against the Glades, I guess, so my employers shouldn’t be on his radar. But better to be safe than sorry."

 

"If they don’t fit his M.O, yeah they should be fine," Lyla agreed. "And considering all the Queens have done for Starling City, I’d think you’d be right." She paused for a moment, and he knew her well enough to wait for whatever she was thinking through. "Maybe not Robert Queen if he was still around, since there’s probably some hard feelings over his closing the Queen Steel Factory still. But he’s not, and your boss has recently opened a business there that’s already bringing some income into the neighborhood again. He should be fine."

 

"Yeah, that’s what I thought," Diggle agreed with a sigh. "But you haven’t heard anything about the guy?"

 

"About a local so-called ‘hactivist’ that’s recently escalated to murder in front of the captive masses?" Lyla sighed. "Nope, sorry. But I’ll make some calls if you want?"

 

"So can I, and it sounds like you have other things to worry about right now," Diggle replied evenly. "Thanks though."

 

"Anytime, Johnny," was her calm reply.

 

"Know a few guys that work with the F.B.I and N.S.A now," he went on, both because he didn’t want to hang up yet and he didn’t want her to start worrying about him now. Not that he could actually control her at all. Never had a chance of that—never would, and never wanted to, either. "I’ll try there next."

 

"Try Coleson first, think he got promoted to Section Chief—something like that—little while back. And let me know if I can help," Lyla insisted again. "I won’t be back in town though for a while. Few weeks maybe."

 

Diggle smiled slightly. "You know I can look after myself, Lyla."

 

"Yeah, me too," the ARGUS agent retorted. "Doesn’t mean you won’t worry, just like I do."

 

"Fair enough," he agreed, and then his smile fell as something else occurred to him. Something he probably should get out there, no matter how much he hated the idea of using his ex-wife to do it. "What about these ‘oracles’ that shut his show down?"

 

"What?" Lyla replied, and he could almost see her blink. The surprise was only barely there in her voice, but the blatant question was a clear indicator for her.

 

"Don’t doubt Nickel’ is definitely dead, ‘cause the psycho was about to pull the trigger when the video vanished," Diggle explained. "It was replaced by some symbol—looked like a sideways eight, I guess?—over a message about the oracles watching?"

 

Lyla was quiet an especially long moment, then she sighed. “Well, that’s something, I guess,” she said, sounding a little relieved. “Can’t say The Oracles working against some murdering-hacktivist really surprises me. And it’s probably for the best, all things considered."

 

That made the other former soldier frown and his eyes narrowed. “Wait, so you do know these ‘oracles?’ Are they ARGUS, then?" he tried, because that’s what he would ask if he didn’t know who they were.

 

More importantly, if Felicity had worked with his ex-wife before—with ARGUS before—that was something he wanted to know, even if it wasn’t something he would’ve ever thought to ask.

 

Besides, if Felicity had gotten herself onto ARGUS’s radar, some of the secrets she was still keeping might well be stuff Oliver and Diggle both really did need to know about. After all, Oliver had already tied her family to an investigation ARGUS still had open—that her grandfather was a victim was probably why the archer hadn’t already asked her about it. Of course, the fact that it’d happened before even her mom was born might have something to do with that, too. And Oliver was much more determined to confirm that the ex-boyfriend who’d tried to hurt her—actually burn her for witchcraft, supposedly—was really dead.

 

"Not as far as I know."

 

Digg hesitated a second, then observed, "Not that you could tell me if they were?"

 

Lyla’s hesitation was even more noticeable at that point. "I don’t think they are, Johnny." She paused again, but then she went on again. “They’ve helped us before, though. They’re one of the few real do-gooder groups of hackers out there. Things like shutting down this new bastard are right up their alley.

 

“What’d you mean?” John asked her carefully, not sure if he really wanted to know when it was something Felicity hadn’t chosen to tell them, but Lyla would expect him to ask after she’d said that much. Despite security clearances and current occupations, she trusted him and wanted to tell him. And he was trying really hard not to feel bad about taking advantage of that.

 

We don’t know much about them, Johnny. Waller’s never wanted to openly investigate them—‘cause they’ve helped us out and they’ve never been a problem, I guess. Only reason I know of ‘em is they saved my ass a while back,” Lyla confessed quietly. “ARGUS had a mole in our tech department that tried to leak a lot of stuff to Wiki-leaks. Would’ve blown my cover at a bad time. Real bad. Probably would’ve gotten me and a lot of other good people killed. But these ‘Oracles’ somehow redacted all the pertinent details. Our tech department still isn’t sure how, but it was enough for Waller to order them left alone… though she might know if they’re part of another federal agency, too, I guess.

 

John swallowed. “Something to be thankful for then,” he shook his head. “You’re really okay, right?”

 

I’m fine, Johnny,” Lyla reassured him gently. “That was years ago. And our security restrictions have been a whole lot tighter since then.

 

“Good,” John approved. And with that what little willingness he had to keep pushing that idea as a cover went up in smoke. "Right. Thanks, Lyla," he said in response. "You take care of yourself, okay?"

 

"You too, Johnny," she answered right away, and the warmth in her voice dimmed a bit with worry as she went on. "From the sounds of things, your job is starting to sound more dangerous than mine. Hell, just living in Starling might be more dangerous these days."

 

"Somehow I doubt that," Diggle replied dryly. Because he’d honestly heard too many things about ARGUS while working with Special Forces not to think otherwise. So had his ex-wife, but then she’d joined them anyway.

 

"Yeah, yeah," Lyla sighed. "I gotta go, Johnny. But really, take care of yourself, okay?"

 

"Roger that," he agreed easily. "You, too."

 

Then they hung up.

 

They weren’t married anymore, and they didn’t work together. But that didn’t keep them from caring about each other still.

 

So Digg knew that if ARGUS wasn’t already looking into this, they would be soon. Just like Lyla knew that he’d be worrying about whatever the hell she was doing now. But those worries never went away anyway. They just had to learn to live with them.

 

And apparently he now had to thank Felicity for saving the woman he loved, too. But that was something he’d do the next time he saw her, not now.

 

So Diggle opened his contacts list and started scrolling through those he’d tagged as old army buddies for the ones that might be able to help. Coleson, R was there, and he would’ve been one of Digg’s first choices to check with anyway. After Lyla, because she was usually right about these kinds of calls and her by now rather high rank in the ever-secretive ARGUS meant she had a better idea of the real broader picture then anyone on the outside ever could. Coleson was also keeping him up-to-date on the F.B.I’s still ice-cold search for Walter Steele, but chances were his old Special Forces buddy would’ve already heard about this and he wouldn’t mind sharing some basics.

 

Hopefully before Oliver got the idea of asking Felicity to hack the F.B.I for this… though come to think of it, she might’ve already done that anyway.


NEXT: A Life Lost.

Felicity’s P.O.V.

Needless death is the worst waste of all.

Chapter Text

Felicity’s P.O.V.

 

Felicity knew she should be putting tonight’s events in the right perspective. She should be fitting it all into any one of many boxes inside her head that’d help her pack it away. Stop thinking about it and move on. She’d done it countless times before, because she’d had to then just like she did now, but it never seemed to get any easier…

 

John Nickel was not a good man.

 

His victims were some of this city’s most desperate, preyed upon because they couldn’t fight for themselves, let alone fight back against him. Especially, in many cases, because they didn’t even know they needed to fight until it was much too late.

 

When they didn’t have the money to pay for heat during the long, coldest nights of the year, they had to struggle to keep warm without it. When they were already struggling to keep food on the table they couldn’t waste time arguing with their heartless landlord. Not when that wasted time might mean even less food, or heat, or some other staple of survival they’d then also have to do without.

 

That mob outside the courthouse, protesting as the man was released this morning, had every right to be angry. Justice might be impartial because it should be—and most of the time it was—but sometimes that blindness left all those with eyes fit to be tied. Especially when that supposed blindness was really just a cover for a bribe.

 

That was why Felicity hadn’t tried to argue against the fearsome Vigilante paying him a visit. It’d made sense, after all: no matter where that yet unexplained list of names had come from, Oliver wasn’t wrong to think that Nickel was a man that needed to be taught the error of his ways. It was a lesson the city’s corrupt courts clearly couldn’t teach, but that didn’t mean the man didn’t still deserve it.

 

But even a man like John Nickel didn’t deserve to die like that. No one deserved to die like that. Begging. Pleading for mercy from a man that wouldn’t even consider it: someone that must have forgotten what the word even was…

 

And to broadcast it all like that. It was a demonstration that highlighted what was wrong without any attempt at all to fix it. Let alone offering any hope that it could be fixed. Something that was to be expected from politicians most of the time these days, but a psychopath actively imitating both them and some of the heartless terrorists of this age was as scary to imagine as it’d been to see.

 

It reminded Felicitas of too many terrible times. She’d hated watching witch burnings even when she wasn’t the one burning. She’d hated watching every other type of execution that was supposed to scare other people into not making the same mistakes. She’d hated it every time, regardless of whether she’d ever suffered that particular death or not. She’d hated condemning people, too, of course, but there were times when it’d been unavoidable.

 

Though this was one she hadn’t ever encountered herself. Not getting shot, of course, she’d had that misfortune. But begging for her life was something she’d never seriously had to do. For what’d been her last night as a mortal, death had really been the better option than capture and she’d known there was no way around it no matter how hard her royal guards had all fought to protect her. Too many of them had fought and died that night, for her: the only one of them that didn’t stay dead. And after that, her First Death, each and every death had seemed to diminish the occurrence as a general rule. Some stood out, of course, but most of them tended to blur together after a while.

 

Felicitas had begged for others many times, but never for herself. Not really. Yes, she’d begged her lost loved ones to come back to her more than once, just like she’d pleaded for their too short lives to be spared instead of being cut even shorter.

 

But to make a man beg for his life like that, knowing full well that there was nothing he could say that would move you to mercy… Did that make this new ‘vigilante copy-cat’ completely heartless or heart-sick?

 

“Hey, are you okay?” Oliver asked her with a frown as he came up behind her.

 

And Felicity could only answer with a flat, “No.”

 

Her boyfriend was quiet a moment before he hesitantly offered, “You want to talk about it?”

 

“No,” she answered flatly again, because really, what could she say?

 

“You sure?” Oliver pressed, his big hands settling lightly over her shoulders; startling her only because it made her realize how tense she was as he started trying to gently rub that tension away.

 

Felicity flinched a little as that first cord of anxiety all but snapped, then she relaxed with a surprised moan she couldn’t have stopped even if she’d wanted to. Her head fell forward and her eyes dropped shut as she let herself just focus on the soothing feeling of the strong, warm hands massaging the too tight muscles around her neck.

 

Oliver kept at it for several long, sweet minutes, and Felicity let him, just enjoying the attention and trying not to think about how much she hated the very idea of the new vigilante running around taking the law into his own hands in their city. Possibly diminishing the Arrow’s work with every insane action he took…

 

And not letting herself think about all the people she’d lost over the years, either… even though John Nickel couldn’t have been less like any of them if he’d tried.

 

“This wasn’t your fault,” Oliver finally spoke up again, voice as firm and sure as his hands. “You know that, right?” he asked her, those marvelous hands never stopping their gentle ministrations.

 

“I do.” Felicity sighed, still leaning forward with her eyes closed as she answered. She’d had to learn a long time ago that you couldn’t control other peoples’ actions for them, and that most of the time you shouldn’t want to, so you also couldn’t take responsibility for actions not your own. You could only do the very best you could and try to keep others from doing their very worst. “Doesn’t make it much easier, does it?”

 

“No,” her vigilante agreed, and she could hear his frown.

 

And that was what made her finally sit up, shrugging his hands off as she spun her chair around to look up at him. “You know it’s not your fault either, don’t you?” she asked him, and then frowned at him when he immediately started shaking his head. “Oliver, it’s not—”

 

“This guy’s a copycat, Felicity. And I’m the guy he’s copying,” the archer pointed out with a scowl. “That makes this my fault.”

 

“It doesn’t,” she insisted, holding his gaze calmly. Grabbing his hand and tugging him closer when he started to turn away, successfully turning his surprised eyes back to hers. “Oliver, it doesn’t. He’s made his own choices. Just like you have. Yours may’ve influenced him, but you’re not making his choices for him. He is.”

 

Oliver sighed, shaking his head again. “I guess,” he allowed, not sounding particularly convinced.

 

Still, it was an admission of agreement, no matter how slight, so she’d take it. It was a start.

 

“I’ve almost got the right programs ready to go,” Felicity told him, unnecessarily tilting her head a little towards her computers to indicate what she was referring to. “Probably another ten, fifteen minutes, tops.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” he assured her, turning towards the salmon ladder and walking towards it, taking his shirt off along the way and tossing it towards the nearest table as he went.

 

Felicity didn’t even bother hiding the fact that she was watching him, she never did. Not really. He was showing off, after all, that meant he wanted to be watched, so why shouldn’t she watch?

 

Oliver could have jumped up to grab the bar and start climbing up the ladder with it facing away from her, but he didn’t. He never did. Instead he turned around once he was underneath the contraption and stretched for just a few seconds before he finally bent his knees and made that first leap. Not even trying to hide the slight upturn on either side of his mouth as she kept watching him appreciatively.

 

Swing… THUD!

 

Swing… THUD!

 

Swing… THUD!

 

After watching those first few beautiful leaps heavenward, however, Felicity made herself face her computers again to get back to typing. She really was almost done and it wasn’t that late, so there was no rush, but better to have the programs running sooner rather than later…

 

Click-click-click. Click-click.

Swing… THUD!

Click. Click-Click-Click.

Swing… THUD!

Click-click-click-click-click.

Swing… THUD!

 

There was a strange sort of peace to it, typing away down here while the man she was in love with worked out in that perfect spot that she could keep in her peripheral vision. Just like he could keep her in his while he showed off.

 

It felt safe, but that wasn’t really the right word for it. It wasn’t like she was scared when she was anywhere else. Ever, really.

 

When you weren’t afraid of death anymore most other things weren’t so fearsome either. She’d lived so long—and ‘died’ so many times along the way—that very little frightened her. As an Immortal Amazon warrior there simply weren’t many things she couldn’t fight off if she wanted to. Sometimes the situation simply didn’t allow that, sometimes her heart alone wouldn’t allow the fight, but most of the time she didn’t even think about it. After a while, those momentary deaths mostly didn’t matter much once she’d survived them. Dying, herself, wasn’t something that scared her.

 

Losing her loved ones, though, that would always be impossibly hard…

 

Swing… THUD!

Click-click. Click-click-click-click. Click-click.

Swing… THUD!

 

That was why this was so nice. It always was when it happened again—and no matter how long the length of time in between it always felt like it’d been a long time since she’d last felt it. The feeling of belonging somewhere again. To know she was making a difference and it was appreciated…

 

Even if she did have to keep working on Oliver, himself, to make him realize he was making a difference, too. More importantly to make him realize that he wanted to make a difference, that he was trying to and succeeding, and that all of that was a good thing…

 

Swing… THUD!

Click-click. Click. Click-click.

Swing… THUD!

 

Buzz…

 

The sudden silent assault of her sixth-sense warning her of another Immortal somewhere close by was not at all welcome.

 

Swing… THUD!

 

Felicity couldn’t quite stop herself from pausing for that first second of adrenaline rush, closing her eyes to force the as-yet unnecessary burst of energy back because she wasn’t in immediate danger. Then she opened her eyes and brought up all the club’s security feeds on the monitor that her boyfriend wouldn’t be able to see without coming all the way back around her desk and looking right over her shoulder again.

 

Swing… THUD!

 

It only took her a moment to spot a familiar face, and she bit back a groan at the sight of him here.

 

Swing… THUD!

 

 “What’s wrong?” Oliver asked her suddenly, apparently noticing even though she’d suppressed her vocal reaction. So he probably wasn’t keeping her in his peripheral vision; he was looking right at her.

 

Felicity had to tilt her head up to blink at him where he was hanging from the bar all the way at the top, by the ceiling, watching her from there like it was a perfectly logical place for him to stop even though he’d never bothered to put pads or any other kind of safety gear underneath that ladder he looked so lovely on. “Huh?”

 

“You were doing that crinkly thing with your eyebrows again, a second ago,” he told her, still watching her with concern. “Yeah, that. What’s wrong?”

 

Felicity immediately shook her head, concentrating to make her brow smooth out of the furrows he’d noticed. “It’s nothing. Just tired, I guess.”

 

The lie fell from her lips and it sounded believable even though it wasn’t that easy to say anymore. Wasn’t easy to lie to him anymore…because she didn’t want to. Dammit.

 

Oliver gazed down at her a moment, before he made his whole body jolt backward much farther than normal: yanking the bar back that much farther to drop abruptly straight down. Until, at the last possible second, he lurched forward and slammed the bar into the ladder’s bottom rung after skipping all of the ones in between.

 

THUD!

 

He released his hold almost immediately, dropping down to the ground just as fast. So fast that Felicity could only blink as she watched him land with all the calm agility of a cougar: absorbing the impact with expertly bent knees. Even with her eyes especially fast thanks to the adrenaline buzzing through her every nerve end, she couldn’t decide if she should frown or not as he rose and walked back towards her, crossing the room and rounding her desk in a few quick steps.

 

Felicity also couldn’t make herself hide all the extra security footage she’d brought up on the far left monitor. She just sat there as her boyfriend looked over her shoulder, and sighed when he tensed behind her as soon as he spotted the problem.

 

“That’s the guy from Merlyn Global, isn’t it?” he asked her, not pointing Starek out because he knew he didn’t need to. And not trying to hide the unhappiness and dislike in his voice either.

 

Somehow his protectiveness still struck her as very sweet.

 

At some point it’d undoubtedly begin to irritate her at least a little bit, it always did to a point, but that hadn’t happened yet.

 

“Yeah, the head of their cyber security division,” Felicity confirmed with a sigh. “Paul Starek, that’s him.”

 

They both watched Starek accept his drink from the bartender and then turn in his stool to look around the club. Not just looking around, but obviously looking for someone.

 

Because of course he was—Felicity knew that, though Oliver didn’t. Starek could sense her, too, so he was looking for her.

 

That may even be why he’d come here, since Verdant had come up in their conversation during her little ‘undercover op.’ He may have stopped by more than once before, too, with this only the first time he’d happened to be up there while she was here, too. Her dragging Oliver home every night of the last few weeks once he’d crossed a name off his list meant they weren’t always around when the club got crowded like it was now…

 

Not that she could say any of that aloud to Oliver.

 

Because normal people couldn’t sense other people’s presence like this. Some well-trained fighters could sense threats, and many people could feel it if they were being watched, but no mortal could know a specific someone else was there when there was a crowded club and the whole floor of a building between them. That was an almost exclusively Immortal sense.

 

The only exception being people who were really good with magic. Not that she cared to talk about them either…

 

“He’s looking for you,” Oliver finally just said what they both had cause to suspect. Or he had cause to suspect, while she knew it for a fact.

 

“Maybe he is,” Felicity sighed again. “We did talk about Verdant that day. He brought it up, but…” she shrugged. “My cover was Erika from Q.C and this is your club. So if he realized I wasn’t really Erika and couldn’t find me there, either…”

 

“Here’d be another place to try,” Oliver nodded, and she knew without looking at him that his frown was more of a scowl now. “You think the guy’s really that desperate?”

 

Felicity did glance at him at that, blinking because of the question, not the scowl that she’d already known was there on his handsome face. “What?”

 

“You shut him down pretty hard. I mean, you were really hot—are really hot. Gorgeous,” he told her, and then shrugged. “But why would this guy go to so much trouble when you clearly weren’t at all interested?”

 

Felicity blinked again, and then she didn’t even try to keep her brow from furrowing. “Maybe because it’s his job?”

 

That somehow had Oliver blinking at her like he really hadn’t considered it. “What?”

 

Okay. So maybe there was more than a bit of jealousy mixed in with all his protectiveness… she probably shouldn’t find that adorable, but she did.

 

Felicity shook her head. “He’s the head of Merlyn Global Group’s computer security division, Oliver,” she reminded him. “And he all but gave me direct access to the company’s most secure mainframe. If he realized after that that I wasn’t who I said I was, of course he’d have to keep looking for me.” She shrugged then. “Could be worse. He could’ve reported me to the police, but the S.C.P.D never came around asking about anyone in our I.T Department either.”

 

Oliver frowned at her. “I thought you covered your tracks?”

 

“I did,” Felicity confirmed, and surprisingly she didn’t have to focus all that hard on not letting her eyes roll as she held his gaze. “But he still knows I said I was from Q.C. He might think I just hacked them to start with and made the employee file, but I knew at least enough to do that. So he could’ve had the cops asking around, since it was something that happened right before everything with the Triad, Deadshot and, well, you.”

 

“It could’ve thrown suspicion off of Tommy’s dad, too, if he told the cops about you.” Oliver realized, his frown mostly one of concern again. “They could have blamed you for the footage disappearing. And the S.C.P.D would’ve investigated—”

 

“‘Cause they would’ve assumed I had something to do with the Triad, yeah,” Felicity cut in smoothly, then she shook her head. “But clearly he didn’t tell them about me, ‘cause the cops never came to Q.C about it. And believe me, I was waiting for that.”

 

Odds were that Paulius Starek didn’t tell his employer anything about her either. It was one of those peculiar times where she probably had their shared Immortality to thank, because it was why he would’ve kept her secret, even if it was also why the former European courtier was looking for her now, too.

 

After all, Malcolm Merlyn might’ve had his head white-hat get rid of the security footage in an effort to ensure that no one other than his son knew that he’d killed those two Triad foot-soldiers at all, let alone so easily. Those swift strikes—spot on and completely cold brutality—would have raised suspicions he couldn’t allow. Questions that a member of the League of Assassins could not be asked—released from service or not. Any investigations of those secrets, after all, would require a report to Ra’s al Ghul, and Malcolm Merlyn didn’t know that the League of Assassins’ attention had already been drawn here.

 

Getting rid of the proof in Merlyn Global’s security system was paramount if he’d wanted to effectively erase the chance of exposure. Merlyn might have the tech-know-how to have done it himself, but it was more likely that Sarek had done it. The C.E.O wouldn’t have been inclined to protect someone he didn’t know who’d found her way into his company’s super-secure servers under false pretenses only hours before a criminal organization tried to take his life.

 

Not unless someone from the League of Assassins had spotted her going there and reported it to Mazin, who might’ve ordered Merlyn to not only leave her be, but also to protect her at that point. But that was far from likely. Felicity might not have spotted a mortal assassin shadowing her, simply because she didn’t consider most mortals threats unless they were actually attacking her or someone she cared for. Her boyfriend, however, was ever-vigilant—to that almost-paranoia point that Methos would approve of—so he would have noticed.

 

So Starek was probably the one that was protecting her in that regard. Not that it’d keep him from being curious about her, and suspicious regarding their first meeting. It was to be expected. Just like the footage of his boss never making it to the S.C.P.D hadn’t saved Merlyn from Team Arrow’s own suspicions, even if they hadn’t gotten even close to acting on them anytime soon.

 

Oliver likely wouldn’t act until he at least told Tommy they knew what his dad had done—and he wouldn’t want to barge into that confrontation waiting to happen with any haste. Felicity wouldn’t be pushing them into that confrontation any sooner than she had to either. Oliver and Digg didn’t have the puzzle pieces to even see the outline of that picture just yet, but she did…

 

“You were waiting for that?” Oliver repeated incredulously, then demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

Felicity sighed, “Tell you what? Nothing happened.”

 

“But if you thought the S.C.P.D might—”

 

“Like I said, Oliver, I’ve covered everything,” the blonde interrupted firmly. “Part of that means following up on possible problems. There weren’t any.” She sighed and nodded to the screen showing the security camera views of the busy nightclub. “Until now.”

 

Oliver was silent—and whether it was in disapproval, protectiveness, jealousy, or some crazy combination thereof didn’t really matter.

 

Felicity didn’t bother looking back at him to find out, instead she studied the current security footage and sighed. Because yup: the man was still definitely looking for her. And would be until she left the range his Quickening could detect her own at.

 

“Felicity, it’s not like he can get down here,” Oliver’s sudden reassuring words surprised her more than his now slightly sweaty hands settling on her shoulders did. “Tommy’s the only one that might think of you if he starts asking about any Q.C tech experts hanging around here. He wouldn’t say anything. Besides, it’s not like you actually told that guy you came here a lot. You just said you’d been here, and by now most of Starling City can say that.”

 

Huh. Now he was being verbally reassuring. Huh. what she’d expected, but this man did have the tendency to surprise her. Not an easy feat after her twenty-eight centuries and everything she’d experienced therein, but there it was. It might also be part of what drew her to him—beyond his crusade and his amazing physique. It was also a large part of what could probably keep her fascinated for a long while.

 

“No, I know…” Felicity agreed with a sigh as she wished, not for the first time, that her life could actually be that simple.

 

But it never was for any Immortal, not really. And those that thought it was were only fooling themselves.

 

Oliver was quiet a long moment before he finally asked her, “Do you want to head out now?”

 

She sighed again, “In a minute. I just have to finish one more thing.”

 

“Okay,” Oliver agreed, and his tone was much easier than before. But he didn’t go back to the salmon ladder, seeming to sense that she needed the comfort of his presence a lot more than another distraction right now. His work outs were always a pleasant distraction, but she wouldn’t really be able to enjoy it with the buzz still going in her head.

 

That subconscious warning signal would keep going, unable to be pushed entirely out of her thoughts because she hadn’t yet met the other Immortal’s eyes. That she knew who and where he was didn’t matter, maybe because it was a two way street and he didn’t know where she was on it. Their Quickenings were still actively clashing and would keep echoing through their temples until they made eye-contact or one of them went out of range of the other.

 

Buzz…

 

If anyone ever came up with a way to shield against it, it couldn’t come too soon. Much like lightsabers. Okay, maybe a little more than lightsabers, since eliminating a headhunter’s means of finding you would mean not necessarily needing the weapon to fight them. Maybe. She still really wanted a lightsaber…

 

Click-click-click-click-click-click…

Buzz…

Click-click. Click-click. Click-click…

Buzz…

Click-click-click-click.

Buzz…

 

Even with the unpleasant distraction, though, it really was barely the work of a minute to get everything up and running for the night and the next day like she’d wanted. Most of the programs Felicity had running now were variations of programs she’d already used to find, track and occasionally monitor other Immortals around the world when it proved necessary. No, they were slightly altered versions of the other side of her hacking—what so many Immortals knew her for: trying to make sure their kind didn’t make any mistakes that outed them all to the rest of the world, which meant not just tapping into the Watchers all the time, but countless intelligence agencies and their dear databases, too.

 

Click-click-click-click.

Buzz…

Click. Click. Click…

 

It was why it’d been so easy for her to get Nick to help her infiltrate the S.C.P.D’s computers. For almost anyone else—even another Immortal—he would’ve put up much more of a fight, but when she was the one he came to for cleaning up his messes and establishing his new identity each time he had to move from one life to the next, so he couldn’t argue that much with her. Just like so many, many others…

 

Not that she’d necessarily needed his help there, but it did make things much quicker and easier. Just like being able to ask him occasionally about the investigation into the vigilante sometimes gave her insight into the S.C.P.D she wouldn’t be able to get any other way, even if he was probably starting to get suspicious in that regard. He wasn’t a stupid man. And something had been bothering him for a while now, but Oliver had stayed over every night these last few weeks and hadn’t left earlier than her any of the mornings, so Nick hadn’t had the opening he had to be waiting for to storm over. Not yet.

 

Click-Click. Click-Click. Click.

Buzz…

Click-click-click. Click.

 

As soon as she had the promised programs going, Felicity she turned her chair and stood up to get ready to go, unsurprised when only one of Oliver’s hands dropped from her shoulders, while the other stayed where it was. Another staple of silent reassurance that she really did appreciate, even if she didn’t need it so much in relation to Starek. No, what she worried about more and more the longer they dated was how this amazing man would react to her secrets when she finally told him the truth.

 

Oliver Queen obviously had countless secrets of his own, but she was sure he didn’t suspect her secrets were anything in comparison. He cared about her, and so he wanted to know her better, and that included her secrets, too. He was instinctively protective, too—those hard honed instincts especially sensitive to any danger—and she was sure he especially wanted to know about anything that threatened her long before it became a problem, because she was no different in that regard. But that was all so much a part her Immortality that it went hand-in-hand. And Oliver was willing to wait for her, but how would he react to the most basic fact that the last five years of his life—no matter what had happened in them—could never compare to the last twenty-eight-hundred of her own?

 

“Ready to go?” Oliver asked her. He didn’t really need to ask, but he likely couldn’t think of something else to say. Also, he knew he shouldn’t go up there to confront the other man because it’d only lead to more problems. He knew he couldn’t try to scare Starek off as the Vigilante or Oliver Queen, and he hated it. That’d all played out on his face though—including the realization that he knew he couldn’t do anything—so she didn’t need to pay it any mind herself.

 

Buzz…

 

“Yeah,” Felicity sighed, bringing her hand up to rub her brow as she shook her head. “I just need my coat.” She watched as he stepped away to grab said coat even as she picked up her purse, smiling slightly as he helped her put it on. “Thank you,” she offered quietly, and then she raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re gonna need to at least put your shirt back on. It’s not even forty outside.”

 

Buzz…

 

Her boyfriend chuckled in response, but nodded and immediately went over to the nearby chair one of his sweaters was draped over. Deftly shrugging it on and tugging it straight before he raised both eyebrows back at her. “Better?”

 

“Oh no, I much preferred you a second ago,” Felicity reassured him with a laugh that surprised her only a little because it wasn’t something she could usually do when her temples were buzzing, but her eyes were crinkling as a real grin edged up around his lips.

 

Buzz…

 

The repeated reassurance that he planned to go with her now helping her relax despite all the adrenaline. So he wasn’t going to do something stupid after she left: like get Starek kicked permanently out of the club or, worse, put on his uniform again to head back out after some other name on that list.

Buzz…

 

“Me too,” Oliver told her, still grinning a little. “But it might raise some questions.” Then he gestured towards the side-alley entrance. “My car’s closest.”

 

Felicity blinked at him. “Oliver, I drove here tonight, and I have to be at work tomorrow.”

 

“So I’ll drive you then.” He shrugged. “And I can pick you up after work.”

 

Buzz…

 

By which he meant he’d make sure she left work at what he considered a good time. Something his mother would help with, especially if Felicity’s new job meant the returned Queen heir started actively showing more interest in his family’s company if only because his workaholic girlfriend worked there. And a part of her was a tiny bit suspicious regarding how often he wanted her to leave her car overnight in the Glades—practically asking for it to be stolen and chopped up…

 

But Felicity really didn’t want to argue about any of that with him, not when she was almost a hundred percent positive that the still growing sense of aggravation flaring up from the pit of her stomach had much more to do with the unacknowledged presence of the other Immortal, not her over-protective boyfriend being himself. “Fine,” she agreed with another sigh, rolling her eyes anyway. “Lead the way then.”

 

No matter how guilty she felt about the secrets she still kept, it still felt good to walk out with him hovering and not even trying to hide it right now. When she eventually told him the truth it’d annoy her more if he happened to try and do the same thing every time she had to handle another Immortal being around. But for now, knowing it was just the man she’d fallen in love with reacting to her own discontent because he’d noticed it, because he cared, she could accept it easily enough. And even enjoy it a little bit.

 

For now.

 

Though with Methos—and undoubtedly Amanda, too—headed here soon, Starling City was fast approaching what one might mistake for a Gathering Place. Wouldn’t that be fun…


NEXT: Such A Waste.

We haven’t heard from Thea Queen in a while…

Chapter Text

Thea Queen's P.O.V.

Thea sighed as her boyfriend pulled away, only noticing the knocking on his nearby front door as he got up to walk towards it. Still she couldn’t stop herself from saying, “Oh, now you want to stop?” she asked him, her tone as teasing as her smile.

 

Roy grinned right back at her. “Well, we don’t all have butlers,” he reminded her with a shrug as he rounded the partition to get to the front door, which his visitor had obviously heard him coming towards because they’d stopped knocking on the thin door. “You know, some of us actually have to answer our own doors.”

 

“Oh, the horror…” she returned, stuck somewhere between a smile and a smirk even as she decided to shut up so he could get the interruption over with and they could get back to what they’d been doing.

 

Roy shook his head, but clearly decided the same thing, because his smirk fell from is face to make a serious mask as he turned to answer it.

 

There was a guy with a few inches on him waiting outside, and he immediately tried to come in when the door opened, but he stopped after that first step because Roy had shifted slightly to block him. He looked over the partition right at her then, and Thea wasn’t surprised to see that ‘where have I seen you from before?’ look cross his unfamiliar face. “You look familiar,” he told her, shaking his head. “I seen you on T.V or something?”

 

“Probably,” Thea nodded, offering a small smile as she told him, “I’m Thea Queen.”

 

There were times when her family’s notoriety could be beyond infuriating, and times that it was useful, too. But she’d lived with it all her life—paparazzi and all the other self-entitled press and all—so it wasn’t something she let bother her if she could. And just now she was in a pretty good mood, though that mood would be a lot better if he hadn’t interrupted them…

 

“Yeah, right,” he chuckled disbelievingly.

 

Roy spoke up before she wanted to try and convince him or not. “Did you get it?”

 

Thea half-wondered at her boyfriend not bothering to introduce his friend, but since they both wanted him gone sooner rather than later she wasn’t going to interrupt either. Instead she just watched curiously.

 

His visitor looked back at him and nodded, handing him a brown paper bag. “Tomorrow night. Joe wants us there at 11 P.M. He said to be on time, Harper.”

 

Roy nodded, then the other guy left and he immediately closed the door behind him, locking it again before he headed back towards her on the couch.

 

“What’s happening tomorrow at eleven?” Thea asked him, glancing at the bag as he set it down on the coffee table while he sat down next to her again.

 

“You know, I’m actually kind of focused on what’s happening right now,” Roy responded, leaning forward to kiss her again as soon as he was back on the couch.

 

“Oh, okay,” Thea couldn’t help but smile into the kiss.

 

But after only a few seconds her nosiness got the better of her, and her hand shot out to grab the bag.

 

“No, no, Thea don’t!” Roy tried to tell her even as she turned the bag upside down.

 

Thea stared at the gun that fell out into her hands.

 

Roy took it away from her a second later, and her horrified stare immediately transferred to him.

 

“Why-Why do you have a gun?” she demanded incredulously, standing up and stepping away to stare down at him. As if lifting purses and stealing a car weren’t bad enough…

 

Roy didn’t try to get up or reach for her as he rolled his eyes, “Because I’m no good with knives,” he said, only half-sarcastically.

Thea snorted in utter disbelief, still staring at him.

 

“Look, it’s just a liquor store,” he tried to tell her, shaking his head. “The guy’s a creep. Trust me, he deserves it.”

  

Thea’s frown only deepened all on its own as she shook her head, stunned at just how easily he talked about hurting someone. Anyone… How could he even think that that could be okay?

 

Could this really be the same street-smart guy that’d leapt to her rescue when a pair of punks had tried to rob her only a little more than a block from here?

 

Roy sighed, “Look, if it’ll make you feel better,” he did something with the gun that made all the bullets fall out of it, letting them tumble down onto the table like deadly dominoes all at once, before he looked up at her again. “I won’t be armed.” He sighed when she just kept frowning at him. “Of course, the owner won’t know that, but...”

 

Again, Thea could only shake her head in horrified incredulity. “I-I got you a job at my brother’s club,” she reminded him, hoping she didn’t sound as desperate as she felt right now. “You have choices. You don’t have to be a criminal.”

 

“I’m not talking about phone bills,” Roy told her, shaking his head as he looked away like she was the one being unreasonable here. “I owe people. People with much bigger guns than this.”

 

Thea stared at him, hating how he looked and sounded like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders right now. Hating how he didn’t think there was any way to escape that wait. Hating that he wouldn’t even consider asking her for help if mere money was the problem…

 

Roy finally looked back up at her with a sigh. “Look, here in the Glades, this is pretty much the only solution.”

 

And yet for all he liked to tease her about her family’s money, he’d rather commit crimes than even consider asking her for help?

 

Thea swallowed back the sob that wanted to shoot up her throat, shaking her head repeatedly. “No. No, lots of people in the Glades live honest lives. Obviously not you,” She shook her head as she bent down to grab her purse up off the floor and headed for the door. “You’re just a waste.”

 

The last few words could barely make it out of her mouth—it felt like they were strangling her as they came up her throat. But that feeling probably had a lot more to do with the fact that it was true. And she hated that truth more than anything…

 

“No, Thea,” Roy finally got up to follow her when she reached the door.

 

She was already down the steps by the time he made it out after her, and she didn’t let herself look back as he called after her. Not when she was pretty sure there’d be tears cutting tracks down her cheeks any second now.

 

“Thea!” Roy called after her, “Let me make sure you get home okay.”

 

“Don’t bother,” Thea told him, still not turning to toss the words over her shoulder as she walked quickly, determinedly, away.

 

She didn’t care that the street lights were already coming on because the sun had gone down.

 

She didn’t care that it wasn’t far from his place that she’d almost gotten mugged in broad daylight just a few weeks back.

 

She didn’t care that that was really why Roy had always wanted to meet her in safer places than the Glades, and not let her go anywhere without him when she was there.

 

Not if he actually wanted to be a criminal.

 

Not when he could be so much better.

 

No matter how good a kisser he was…

 

Thea wiped away the single tear that escaped as she started walking down the main street again, headed in the general direction of her brother’s club both because there would be taxis dropping and picking people up there and because it was a known fact that  Verdant had made that specific spot in the Glades generally safe. Maybe because the cops patrolled there much more regularly than any other area of the Glades now, but she honestly thought the fact that the Vigilante had made a personal appearance there once and saved both Ollie and Tommy once might have even more to do with it.

 

But then what did she know?

 

Nothing, obviously…

 

Thea shook her head angrily again, telling herself to stop moping and to hold off on the tears till she was home in bed. It wouldn’t do anyone any good if the paps plastered her tears across the tabloids.

 

How Felicity had managed to duck them all so completely so far, Thea couldn’t imagine. But her brother’s new girlfriend hadn’t been photographed anywhere other than in the release from Q.C’s P.R Department about the computer genius heading Q.C’s new cyber security division. As far as she’d seen online, the paparazzi didn’t even know that Ollie was going steady with anyone yet, even though they’d been on multiple dates and Ollie had spent more time at her place than not—most nights especially—these last few weeks…

 

Well, at least that was something Thea could ask her about. After all, mom had been bugging her at work for weeks now. It’d only be fair if Thea stopped by herself…


 

NEXT: What Has To Be Done?

Amongst everything else going on, Felicity learns yet another secret she’ll have to keep along with all the others…

Chapter Text

Felicity Smoak’s P.O.V.

 

It had become a regular thing now, Felicity realized with a smile: making coffee for two. Prepping her coffeemaker for the following more had been a habit of hers for as long as the helpful appliance had been around. Especially after some marvelous innovator had added the pre-settable timer. The warm aroma of freshly ground and brewing coffee was a good way to wake for the day. Much more so than the jarring clamor of an audible alarm, even if millennia of waking with the sun or soon after meant she almost always would.

 

It was odd, how nice even the little regularity of prepping her coffeemaker was now. Nothing on its own, of course, but now that she was making coffee for two, not one, there was something simply nice about that.

 

Felicity smiled as she pressed the button to set the device to go off at the same time tomorrow as every day.

 

How much Oliver loved her coffee undoubtedly had a lot to do with it, too. Though she didn’t know where he’d gotten the idea that he might mess it up if he turned it on. As if there was something magical about it. There wasn’t, but how much he appreciated her coffee was nice, too.  

 

Neither one of them was addicting to the stuff like so many others were these days. If Oliver ever had been the long time he’d had to do without it, like so many other comforts, would’ve cured him of that dependency. That caffeine boost was a helpful kick-start to the day, especially on some of these cold winter mornings. Yet Felicitas had done without it for thousands of years before this. And the Quickening made it almost impossible for an Immortal to develop any kind of dependency. Not on anything chemical anyway…

 

Oliver’s smiles were addicting though.

 

Almost everything about him was.

 

Knock-Knock-Knock.

 

Felicity’s smile fell into a frown even before her eyes darted to her kitchen door a few feet away.

 

She didn’t mind visitors at all, even early in the morning, but it was starting to feel like everyone came in that way instead of the front door. Maybe she should just get rid of the other entrance.

 

The random idea made her roll her eyes at herself.

 

Oliver would hate that. Changing the couch had bothered him so much, so a door disappearing would have to be infinitely worse. Even if her front steps leading to wall instead of a doorway wouldn’t look completely ridiculous.

 

Of course, her boyfriend would undoubtedly like her secret doors and the hidden tunnel exits they led to. If she could think of a way to explain them that didn’t involve: ‘Well, it’s just in case someone comes around wanting to cut off my head…

 

But that wasn’t important now.

 

No one should be visiting her now. Not by the back door anyway.

 

Oliver had left on his motorcycle only a few minutes ago.

 

The driver Moira had insisted on, courtesy of Q.C and her new position there, wasn’t due for another fifteen minutes and he’d send her a text if she didn’t see him show up. Kevin used to insist on coming up to the door to knock and then walk her to the car, but she’d managed to talk him out of that on their second day together. Felicity could have argued about the fact that she owned a car and was more than able to drive herself to work, but Moira was working so hard to make sure her transition to her new position went smoothly, so the Immortal couldn’t bring herself to make trouble for her. Let alone start an argument solely for the sake of arguing.

 

Besides, Felicity could follow the reasons for what Oliver’s mother wanted, and the results bore it out. Everything—from placing the new Cyber Security Department on half of the highest floor available, to assigning Felicity an E.A and driver, to having her ride the executive elevator everywhere—was aimed towards one purpose. And that was making sure that when the next board meeting rolled around, Felicity could walk in to nods and smiles of welcome, instead of raised eyebrows and questions.

 

It was also why Felicity had upgraded her wardrobe without being asked: and she knew Moira had approved, even if her tastes didn’t run as bright and bold as the Immortal had decided to stay.

 

But who could be at her back door?

 

Not Nick. He’d left for work over an hour ago. And it wasn’t any other Immortal anyway. She would’ve sensed anyone long before they made it to the door to knock—or try to break in.

 

Not Nyssa either. Even that fainter feel of a Pre-Immortal would stand out from a lot farther away, especially when all of her attention was focused on where they were standing. She’d been able to sense Nyssa’s approach even further than most. Mazin’s daughter was both strong and proud, a warrior to the bone, and it shone through even in the barely-there presence of her not yet triggered Quickening.

 

But who else could it be then?

 

There weren’t that many people really in Felicity’s life here, anyway, and of the few that were, only Oliver or Digg might visit this early.

 

Except Oliver had just left and he was meeting Digg at Verdant to try and look for the latest madman while she was at work. That hopefully meant something more fruitful than simply waiting for her computers to beep at them, but whether that meant Digg contacting old army buddies or Oliver paying a visit to the Bratva was anyone’s guess. Or they might just beat up the dummies—or each other—while waiting for her computers to beep at them.

 

And that still meant that she didn’t know who would be calling on her now. They hadn’t knocked again yet, which meant they were more patient than was common these days. Or they weren’t especially anxious to see her.

 

It must be a messenger from the Mazin or his daughter then. They could simply call the phone that the League provided for secure communications, but Felicitas couldn’t say it’d surprise her if her student was still too old fashion for that.

 

Shaking her head, Felicity finally just turned and drew the nearest hidden sword—this time from the sheath hidden along the bottom of the dish cupboards—before she headed for the door. Not remotely trying to keep her heels from tapping across the floor.

 

Clack, clack. Clack, clack. Clack, clack. Clack, clack.

 

She hesitated when she was standing there though. A sword would raise questions, even if it was someone with a good reason for not knocking on her front door. “Who is it?”

 

“Ta-er al-Usfar, Honored One,” a faintly familiar female voice responded promptly. But it was the name—title, really—that registered more than the voice.

 

Felicity opened the door right away then, not bothering to hide her sword first because she didn’t need to. “Is Nyssa alright?”

 

The other blonde blinked at her. “What? I mean, yes, of course, she’s fine,” she shook her head, “She’s not why I’m here, Honored One.”

 

Felicity considered the assassin for a moment.

 

The woman Nyssa loved looked worried, anxious even. But if her ‘new’ niece was alright, the ancient couldn’t imagine what would worry this woman so much.

 

Mazin wouldn’t send his daughter’s Beloved away from her to act as a mere messenger, so it couldn’t be that. Come to think of it, she had a hard time imagining that the Demon’s Heir would send her Beloved away either.

 

So after a moment Felicity simply stepped aside. “Come in then, Ta-er al-Usfar.” She waited till the other woman had complied before shutting and relocking the back door behind her. “Would you like some coffee? Tea? Juice? Water?”

 

The assassin started to shake her head, but stopped before she was even halfway through the motion; her face twisting into even clearer worry and confusion as she undoubtedly remembered that refusing a drink from her hostess was not something League etiquette allowed. Insulting an Honored One, after all, was not something that was done.

 

Mazin’s people were among the few who still learned and practiced such general etiquette as a rule, not a suggestion. And yet they’d already offended her once this month with Nyssa’s little test.

 

“Maybe just some water?” the girl asked. “If that’s alright? Is that—”

 

“Of course that’s fine,” Felicity returned her sword to its sheath. Then she reached into a cupboard and pulled out a glass, before stepping over to the fridge to fill it there.

 

Strictly speaking, per the old customs and thus the etiquette the League—likely Nyssa herself—would have taught the assassin that she should have accepted the drink that was offered. Asking for anything else could be seen as insult or an attempt to insult. That went back to the days when hosts wouldn’t necessarily have a dozen different drink options available.

 

Mazin was still a stickler for such things, but Felicitas never had been. What was important to her was that any guest she wanted there should feel comfortable and welcome in her home. And she’d like to try and believe now that her student’s people weren’t going to be her enemies, though she couldn’t know for certain till she saw the man himself again.

 

It’d been almost twenty years since their last meeting, after all, and time could change even Immortals. Unfortunately.

 

And Felicitas had offered several different options deliberately—mentioning the coffee only because it was what she was having, even if it would’ve meant she’d have to make more to serve a second cup. The assassin already looked anxious enough anyway, so she undoubtedly didn’t need any caffeine to potentially put her even more on edge.

 

Offering the cup to the young woman, who quickly took it, Felicity nodded towards the dining room table and started towards it herself, picking up her to-go mug of coffee along the way. “I don’t have long. My ride to work should be here any minute now,” she warned as she sat down and watched the other blonde sit across from her. “But how can I help you?”

 

Ta-er al-Usfar took the requisite sip of her water, and then a second one as she realized she really was thirsty, before answering. “I’m sorry to bother you—”

 

“None of that,” Felicity interrupted, firm but smooth and echoed in the single headshake she allowed herself. “I don’t expect apologies for everything, and if you’re not going to make me late for work I really don’t care,” she said, and then repeated: “Now, how can I help you?”

 

The blonde finished another sip—gulp, really—of her water before she tried answering again. “Nyssa said I need your permission to act here? In Starling City, I mean?”

 

Felicity didn’t let either of her eyebrows shoot up to show her surprise, instead choosing to cock her head to the side. “Well, yes. That’s the root of all our latest problems, isn’t it? Or most of them, anyway.” She did let herself frown then. “Who do you want to kill here?”

 

“No one!” the assassin burst out, so vehemently that the Immortal couldn’t help but blink at her.

 

“Alright. Glad to hear it,” Felicity nodded. “Then what do you need my permission to do here?” she asked, adding at the other blonde’s hesitation, “I can’t give my permission for an action if I don’t know what it is.”

 

The assassin swallowed, but nodded. “It’s… A League member’s family lives here. I mean, most of them do. But they’ve been… they’ve been causing problems lately.”

 

“What kind of problems?” the Immortal asked, though she’d already guessed the answer.

 

The assassin sighed, “They’ve been looking for them.”

 

“Looking for the League member, you mean?”

 

“Yeah,” Ta-er al-Usfar confirmed unhappily. “They’ve been posting pictures online. Making a lot of phone calls,” she shook her head. “It has to stop.”

 

Felicity nodded slowly. “Then why not simply tell them to stop looking? The League doesn’t forbid all contact with your family unless there’s a real reason to.”

 

That had been something she and Mazin had argued over for years: back when she was much more involved in the nation he was making. It was one of many arguments she’d eventually won. It wasn’t reasonable to expect any warrior to give up their past life entirely, to devote all their loyalty to Ra’s al Ghul. That was a liege lord demanding total obedience and perhaps even death without giving anything truly comparable in exchange.

 

If a warrior wanted to move on from their past as if it’d never been that was one thing. It was entirely different to tell someone who did still have people they loved that they could never see them again. To take away what most people would naturally fight for and try to replace it with some intangible idea couldn’t work. Not entirely.

 

Mazin had thought it a perfectly acceptable expectation at first, whether it would’ve had to be enforced by what amounted to brainwashing or not. But eventually even he had had to admit it was wrong.

 

And far from wise.

 

That sort of thing was a breeding ground for resentment. It was important to know every warrior’s true loyalty. Their word could be trusted based on the choices they made freely, and those choices could also be used to predict their future actions—and loyalty—with far more accuracy than any forced choice could.

 

“That wouldn’t work, it’d only confirm that she—that they’re right,” Ta-er al-Usfar responded. “If they’re given that much, they…” she shook her head. “They’ll never stop looking.”

 

“And Ra’s al Ghul can’t allow that,” Felicity nodded calmly.

 

Because there were limits to what even the most reasonable of ‘Demon Head’s’ could allow as the head of a veritable nation of assassins, and people actively looking for them was one such limit. It didn’t matter that these people had no idea how dangerously deep into the world’s darkest shadows their search could go. Some shadows, what with those in hidden in them, couldn’t tolerate even the briefest glimpse of a flashlight, let alone many such lights amounting to a full spotlight. That idea was tangible enough, and more than dangerous enough, for any warrior to understand. An assassin especially.

 

“They think you’re dead?” Felicity gently clarified.

 

The other blonde blinked at her, unable to hide her shock for a whole second as she stared silently back.

 

Felicity offered her a small smile. “You weren’t doing a great job of hiding your personal connection, dear. You’re too nervous,” she shrugged. “And you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t about you.”

 

Ta-er al-Usfar nodded slowly as she admitted, “They’re my family. They think I died years ago.” She said, then insisted, “They have to think that.”

 

“So you’re here to make them stop looking, and that’s it?” Felicity checked, just to be sure. Though from how anxious the other woman was, she didn’t really think she had to. “Ra’s al Ghul doesn’t expect anything else?”

 

Mazin might not order the assassination while the family members were here in Starling City. But she wouldn’t put it past him to get over his mild aversion to technology just enough to see the targets lured from their ignorant safety in his teacher’s home. Free airplane tickets to somewhere—almost anywhere would work if they had to be killed. Anywhere other than here.

 

Hopefully it didn’t need to go that far.

 

Though it could.

 

Felicitas had personally asked Mazin’s people to step in to protect an Immortal or their secret as a whole more than once. He’d protect his people, if it came to that, no less fiercely. And she couldn’t expect anything else. Sometimes such choices had to be made, no matter how hard it was…

 

“He doesn’t know,” Ta’er al-Usfar confessed, swallowing once. “Not yet, I mean. Nyssa knows, but…” she shook her head. “If they stop looking, then they’re not a problem.”

 

That was a very fine line to be walking with the Head of the Demon, but Felicity didn’t particularly care herself. “And you don’t want them harmed, I’m sure.”

 

It made sense. And it did explain all the anxiety—the whole vibe—she was getting from the young woman since she first stepped inside. But the excess of nervous energy vibrating from her even now didn’t quite make either. Not for a member of the League of Assassins, no matter how new she was to the League. Then again, if she thought Ra’s al Ghul might potentially order her to kill her family—or just send someone else to do it—it might make some sense. Almost anywhere else in the world that assassination could happen very quickly; and all too easily for the organization that made assassination their trade.

 

No!” the assassin shook her head vehemently. “I’d never—That’s why I need to make them stop looking…” she trailed off. “They’re my family.”

 

It was a relief to hear. Further proof that the man Felicitas has turned from a warlord into something more like a king hadn’t changed as much as she might fear could be the case. Not from the passage of time, a Dark Quickening, or anything else. At least if he was still this reasonable, he was still a man who could be reasoned with.

 

Felicity didn’t need to think about her next question, but she kept quiet a moment longer anyway, studying the younger woman curiously. “What have you planned for them then?”

 

The assassin blinked at her, but her training carried her into a respectful report as soon as her surprised eyes were open again. “They think I died, years ago. On…” she trailed off, shaking her head slowly. “They think that I drowned, on the other side of the world.” She sighed. “But a few years ago, when I first joined the League, I was careless. A tourist got a picture of me in a Chinese village. They posted it online—they were just posting every picture they took on that trip—when they started their Facebook account, I guess.”

 

“Some people find it easier to go through them that way,” Felicity replied, nodding patiently.

 

“Yeah, well, I guess my mom was trolling Facebook or something, ‘cause she found the picture and—it’s not a clear shot.” The assassin sighed again. “I was wearing a hat. They couldn’t see half my face.”

 

“But your mother doesn’t have to.”

 

The blonde grimaced, sighing again as she agreed, “No.” She swallowed, and was quiet for a long second as the Immortal patiently waited for her to keep going. “She-She’d been looking for me. Before that. But Nyssa said she hadn’t actually found anything else, so it wasn’t-it wasn’t a problem.”

 

“So the problem is the picture,” Felicity nodded again, then offered. “I can wipe it from the web if that’d help?”

 

“No,” Ta-er al-Usfar shook her head. “We already did that. But she must’ve printed a bunch of them ‘cause she keeps uploading it again. I tried to steal the hardcopies, but she must’ve had more somewhere else. And now she has Dad and-and my sister looking, too.”

 

Once again the Immortal could only nod, recognizing—and sadly understanding—how the League would have to respond to that if the family in mourning kept it up. “And now it is a problem. Or almost one.”

 

The blonde nodded, “Yeah…”

 

“So what are you going to do about it?” Felicity asked her again. She’d be tired of asking the question if it wasn’t such an important one. And if this woman wasn’t almost family because of her relationship with Nyssa.

 

Ta-er al-Usfar sighed. “I asked someone else in the League—she’s called al-Thaelab—to come here with me. She’s waiting at one of our safe-houses now, but she’s the same age and physical type as me. An-And like I said, the photo’s not a clear shot. Most of my face is hidden by the baseball cap I was wearing that day.”

 

“So it could be her in the photo,” Felicity acknowledged, approving of how well thought out—and not at all lethal—the plan was. And if the woman who was playing the part was as clever as her namesake, the fox, it was fair to expect she’d be able to pull it off. “An elegant solution,” she offered, then asked, “You think she can convince them?”

 

“She will,” the assassin said firmly, though whether it was more to convince the ancient or herself was anyone’s guess.

 

Felicity studied her a moment more, then finally said, “And what aren’t you telling me, Ta’er al-Usfar?”

 

The blonde blinked at her again, but she still couldn’t quite manage to hide the slightly guilty look in her eyes that’d inspired the question. “Nothing, I—”

 

“Don’t lie to me,” the Immortal cut in firmly. “The truth, please,” she insisted holding the assassin’s gaze until she wilted, several long moments later than the ancient had expected.

 

“It’s not important, not really, but…” the assassin sighed. “They think I died on The Queen’s Gambit. With Ollie.”

 

This time Felicity couldn’t stop her own instinctive blink from happening. But then it all fit neatly together inside her head.

 

Tommy had said that Laurel’s mother was here in Starling now. That she’d shown up unexpectedly, looking for the help of her ex-husband and her eldest daughter in trying to find their youngest because she didn’t think Sara was dead…

 

She was right.

 

Sara Lance was sitting at Felicity’s dining room table right now.

 

Though how, exactly, Laurel’s little sister had gone from sneaking onto a boat with her sister’s boyfriend to becoming a member of the League of Assassins, Beloved to the Demon’s Heir, had to be quite a tale…

 

“Oliver said you died,” Felicity told her, watching her, more curious than careful. “That you drowned when the boat went down.”

 

Sara winced. “I asked him to.”

 

“Then he knows you’re not dead?” Felicity asked, not quite able to believe that.

 

“No, he…” Sara winced again, but kept going anyway. “He thinks I drowned after that. On The Amazo—another boat. I would have died that time, I think, if Nyssa hadn’t found me…”

 

“He said you died when The Queen’s Gambit sank,” Felicity said it again: just to make sure they were on the same page. And because repeating the same line of thought had so far proved an effective way to make the young warrior offer more information with minimal effort. Not surprising given that she needed the Immortal’s support.

 

“I almost did, sometimes I still can’t believe I didn’t. There were times I wished I had, too.” Sara shook her head. “Doubt he talks much about that damn island. I know I don’t. But we’d met up there, about a year after The Gambit and…” she sighed, shaking her head again as she soldiered on. “Well we weren’t sure we’d survive to make it home, so I asked Ollie to tell my family that I died with his Dad and everyone else if he made it home and I didn’t. They didn’t—They don’t need to know what I’ve been through.”

 

“Or that you somehow became a member of the League of Assassins?”

 

“They definitely don’t need to know that,” Sara insisted. “If they knew, an-and they didn’t hate me, they’d want to keep in touch. And the League’s enemies could try and use them against me…” she shook her head again. “If they keep looking for me, that could still happen. If-If Ra’s al Ghul allows them to live that long.”

 

“Then why not tell them that you are alive and to stop looking for you?” Felicity pressed, because she couldn’t not sympathize with the mother that was trying to find her daughter, and she wanted to believe Mazin would allow his daughter’s Beloved at least that much leeway, regardless of how fearsome the League’s enemies might be these days.

 

It should probably bother Felicitas that she didn’t know enough about the current affairs of the League to judge those enemies for herself. But it didn’t. If Mazin was still the man she called her brother, then she could trust him.

 

If he wasn’t… well, then she’d have to face being his enemy herself too soon as it was.

 

“I can’t,” Sara insisted, setting the almost empty glass she’d been fidgeting with down to free her hands so they could emphasize her pleas. “Please, Honored One. I’m not the girl I used to be. They wouldn’t know me—and they’re better off not knowing what I’ve become.”

 

Felicity studied her a moment more, not agreeing, but given how deeply the girl before her believed it she wasn’t going to change her mind in a few minutes. That was all the time she had right now, and much more thought would be needed before she could decide to change anything herself.

 

“Please…” Sara said again.

 

So Felicity nodded again. “All right. I hope everything goes well.”

 

Thank you,” the blonde said sincerely, even as she stood and offered the respectful bow the League expected from her. “Thank you, Honored One.”

 

Felicity nodded again, “Let me know how it turns out,” she said in dismissal, just to make sure the young woman—or another League member—wouldn’t make the mistake of trying something else if this plan didn’t work out. But as the young woman turned to go she spoke up again. “You know that this will hurt them. It’ll break your parents’ hearts. Your sister’s, too.”

 

Sara Lance didn’t turn back around, but the moment it took her to respond was undoubtedly a reaction of some kind. “I know,” she admitted with yet another sigh. “But it’ll keep them safe, too.”

 

Keeping the ones you loved safe always mattered a great deal, of course, but their happiness should matter, too. But sometimes hard choices like this were necessary though, and Felicitas still needed to think more about all of this. So she finally nodded again and stood to follow her across the kitchen. “Good luck, Sara.”

 

The other blonde blinked, but then almost bowed yet again as she repeated: “Thank you, Hon—”

 

“Call me Felicity,” the Immortal interrupted, gentle but firm as she met the much younger woman’s eyes. “My name here and now is Felicity Smoak.”

 

Sara nodded, and did bow again this time. “Thank you… Felicity.”

 

Felicity watched her walk away before she closed the back door behind her again, locking it without a thought. Then she made herself turn to leave for work, because that was what she actually had to do today.

 

Everything else had to come after that, in so much as it could.

 

So she wasn’t going to think about how strange at was to have some of her own secrets tying so directly back to some of Oliver’s.

 

She wasn’t.


Translation: “al-Thaelab” = “the fox”


NEXT:

The Waiting Game Can Get Violent

John Diggle’s P.O.V.

While Felicity’s at work, Digg & Oliver can’t do anything but wait for the next attack, or the means to find the attacker. At least they have plenty to talk about. Not that they’d just stand around talking though, not while they can spar.

Chapter Text

John Diggle’s P.O.V.

 

John rolled his eyes as the door to the former foundry turned into a basement slammed shut behind him. Not because of the door: the alley entryway had always done that all on its own if you didn’t deliberately prevent it, and first thing in the morning he didn’t tend to think of it. And he’d wondered if the vigilante might’ve set it up that way as a sort of non-electronic security measure on top of the alarm system and its password entry, but he’d never asked. What’d had him rolling his eyes though, was that that the somewhat expected clang didn’t interrupt the relentless beating he could hear his friend giving one of the dummies.

 

Bam-Bam-Bam!

Thwap.

Bam-Bam-Thwap-Bam!

 

John had nothing against beating on the dummies. That’s what they were there for, and he spent plenty of time keeping in shape that way himself.

 

Bam-Bam-Bam!

Thwap.

 

But the fact that the archer was here ahead of him, beating the dummies and blocking what few retaliatory strikes he didn’t feel like dodging might mean this morning was gonna be an even harder one than he’d expected. Either it meant that Felicity let her boyfriend leave a lot earlier than usual because she was going into work early herself, or something happened after the bodyguard left last night to lead to her not dragging Oliver home…

 

John really hoped they hadn’t had their first fight last night. He hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep last night to wrestle with that first thing. There probably wasn’t a good time for it to happen, but right in the middle of this maniac terrorizing the city via the worldwide web wasn’t the best time to distract Felicity from finding him.

 

Especially since she was the only one that could find the bastard. The N.S.A had had no luck, and neither had ARGUS—or Lyla would’ve called him back already, no matter where she was now. The problems of the rest of the world, while important, just didn’t measure up as more important than the ones at home. Whether you were there yourself or not. And John knew his ex-wife still felt that way, too, because she’d even said that ARGUS’ headquarters being here, at home, had been one of the deciding factors in why she’d taken a position there. Even after all the whispers they’d both heard while in the service together.

 

Bam-Bam-Bam!

Thwap.

Bam!

 

“Hey,” John called as he came around the corner, watching as the other man threw three more quick blows and blocked the one the dummy tried to swing back before he turned to respond, and just stepped around the swing of the second dummy he was sparring with at the same time.

 

Show off.

 

Bam-Bam-Bam!

 

And Felicity wasn’t even here... then again, she’d probably glare at him for the unnecessarily added risk, no matter how impressed she was by it.

 

“Hey,” Oliver nodded back. “You’re here early. Couldn’t sleep?” he grunted as he started another fast set.

 

Bam-Bam! Bam-Bam!

Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam!

Thwap.

 

“Not as early as you,” the bodyguard pointed out, then shrugged. “Got enough sleep. Ready for work. You?”

 

Bam-Bam!

 

“Yeah. We left almost right after you did,” Oliver admitted, but apparently that was a problem somehow because he’d started frowning not even halfway through. And his fists somehow started hitting the dummy even faster.

 

Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam!

 

Maybe Felicity had actually had to drag him home last night?

 

“Problem?” John pressed after a moment, and was more than a little surprised when the archer actually nodded right away, fists still flying as he landed blow after blow while darting around the two dummies, dodging their multiple swinging ‘arms’ much more often than he bothered to block them.

 

Bam-Bam! Bam-Bam!

Bam-Bam-Bam!

 

“Yeah.” Oliver grunted. “That guy from Merlyn Global.”

 

Bam-BAM!

Thwap.

 

“Remember, the computer guy?”

 

Bam-Bam-BAM!

 

John cocked his head to the side. “The one that was hanging off of our girl?” he frowned, not sure he liked where this might be going. “What? You think he might be this Savior?” he asked, because he just couldn’t see the nervous, almost eager-to-please geek turning into the psycho they were worried about in only a few short weeks. Though if that’d happened, he probably would have to side with Oliver the next time he was arguing against Felicity going out in the field, no matter how good she was at it. But he realized right away that that wasn’t it, because the archer stopped his attack to turn and look at him.

 

“Who?” Oliver frowned, eyes unwavering even as he deftly caught the one dummy wing he was in range of before it could bop him from behind.

 

And the bodyguard blinked back. “Never mind, I’ll tell you what I got in a minute,” he shook his head. “What about the M.G guy?”

 

Oliver kept frowning even through a sigh. “He was here, up at the bar last night.” He gestured unnecessarily at the stairs the three of them only used once in a while—Merlyn came down those stairs more often than all of them combined these days. “Felicity spotted him on the security cameras.”

 

John thought about it for a second before he shook his head, “So?” he shrugged in response to the look the archer shot him. “It’s a bar in a nightclub, Oliver. Open to the public. People spending money up there’s a good thing for you, whether you like ‘em or not.”

 

But the billionaire shook his head quickly. “He was looking for Felicity,” he insisted as he headed for the wrack his bow and arrows were displayed on like some kind of ever-changing adaptive art that the ex-soldier still had to shake his head at some times.

 

The topic apparently made him want to have access to arrows, which wasn’t what Diggle wanted to encourage at all.

 

But what the vigilante had said though made John frown, too. “Wait, he was asking for her? Did Merlyn—”

 

“No,” Oliver cut him off even as he put the full quiver on one shoulder and picked up his bow with the opposite hand. Then he looked back at his pseudo-bodyguard with a sigh. “Remember, he asked her about Verdant. She said she’d been here. And he was definitely looking for someone.”

 

John nodded, and then deliberately pointed out, “Might have agreed to meet a friend here, too, Oliver. We can’t just assume—”

 

“Felicity thinks he’s looking for her, too,” the vigilante insisted firmly, not quite storming over to his makeshift practice range. “With everything that happened at M.G. Tower, he’s gotta suspect she was there for either me or the Triad.”

 

John watched, not letting himself raise an eyebrow at the vicious kick Oliver gave one of the baskets of tennis balls to send them all careening towards the far wall.

 

Clatter!

Bom. Bom. Bom. Bom.

 

Instead he crossed his arms and just watched as the archer started drawing and firing arrows seemingly too fast to be aiming. But each and every one hit a ball and pinned it to the wall. Never to dream of bouncing on tennis courts again.

 

Thwip—pow!

Thwip—pow!

Thwip—pow!

 

Seeing that the archer clearly wasn’t going to say anything else on his own, John spoke up again. “Maybe,” he allowed, because the head of Merlyn Global’s cyber security looking into the Q.C computer specialist who’d made an unplanned visit mere hours before the Triad attacked his boss did make more sense than he liked.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

It would make more sense if it were the cops that were looking for the ‘fake’ Q.C employee though. Except the geek Oliver was so worried about apparently hadn’t reported her to them.

 

That was something to be grateful for, all things considered. Whether it was because the guy did have a crush or just didn’t want to admit he’d screwed up on the job ‘cause of a pretty face and a lotta leather.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

More importantly, for John Diggle’s peace of mind, anyway: at least this wasn’t just about the vigilante being over-protective and unreasonably jealous. So he just added, “But it’s not like he’d recognize her out of the goth getup.”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“He might,” the archer disagreed unhappily. “They talked for a while.”

 

John remembered that. He also remember Oliver growling almost the entire time—making his partner very glad at the time that Felicity’s comm. was not set to receive and transmit. Girl would’ve had another whole job on her hands if she’d thought she had to keep Oliver from charging in there after her. Even if she trusted the vigilante to restrain himself, ignoring his growls would’ve still made her job harder.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“She disguised her speech patterns and used a fake accent the whole time,” John reminded him, shaking his head because how easily she’d seemed to do that had really taken him by surprise at the time.

 

Oliver was all but entirely distracted by the guy that was flirting with Felicity—the same guy they were talking about now—so maybe it hadn’t registered. Then again, the vigilante seemed to switch between a whole bunch of languages with an ease that still sometimes surprised his friend, so the fact that his girlfriend with the genius-level I.Q could do that—and mimic the correct accents in English well—might not seem like a big thing to him.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

It wasn’t unheard of for civilians to have such skills. Most people could mimic at least some accents if they’d heard enough of them to copy—and between widespread television and the internet the examples weren’t hard to find. He could chalk it up to something like that easily enough, if not for what Lyla had said about ‘The Oracles’ being a hacktivist group that occasionally helped out even ARGUS. After hearing that, John had to wonder if maybe their hacker wasn’t as far removed from this kind of thing as they’d thought she was before she’d met the vigilante…

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“Same voice,” Oliver insisted, shaking his head unhappily. “And her disguise wasn’t fool-proof.”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“It was damn near it, Oliver,” John had to insist, because he was not going to let the archer add some geek’s name to his list because he happened to be jealous and more than a little over-protective. Even if said geek’s job did mean he was looking for their girl now. “If he’s looking for her, he’s looking for an I.T girl in leather, with real long black hair and goth make-up. Not a company executive wearing the latest business fashions with glasses and a blonde ponytail most of the time.”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

How easily Felicity had switched from wearing simple skirts and blouses with cute shoes to the kind of clothing that the heads of companies would expect to see on anyone on their level had surprised Digg only a little. Most of that surprise had just been from her not even needing to go on some ridiculously expensive shopping spree. She’d apparently already had the right kind of clothing stored away in her wardrobe. Then again, he had wondered even when he was with Lyla why women thought they needed so many different clothes…

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“He runs the same department at M.G that Felicity’s the head of at Q.C now,” Oliver was scowling again. “If they have to meet—”

 

“Then Felicity can be her normal, super-smart and sweet self, and pretend she’s never seen him before,” John shrugged, somehow all too sure that their girl could play that out if she had to. “He might ask her if she has any relatives in Starling City, but that’s it. It’s not like he has any way of knowing for sure that it was her.”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Digg was also sure that Felicity didn’t want the tech guy to end up with an arrow in him just ‘cause he’d flirted with her.

 

Thwip—pow!

Thwip—pow!

 

“Maybe…” Oliver allowed with another heavy sigh.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

John waited a moment, then asked him, “Anything else happen last night?”

 

“No,” the archer answered, before all but demanding, “What’d you find out?”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“Not much,” John admitted, sitting down in the chair nearest to the computers that wasn’t Felicity’s chair, keeping the monitors in the corner of his eye so he could see if they stopped and did or said something he might actually have a chance of understanding. “Spoke to a friend at the N.S.A,” he met the archer’s eyes again as he went on. “He said this guy’s code matches a cyber crusader who’s been on their radar. He hacks into fringe sites under the username ‘The Savior.’ N.S.A thinks he's a former resident of the Glades.”

 

"Former?" Oliver focused on the one word even as he launched another arrow at another unfortunate tennis ball.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

And John understood, because the psycho’s rhetoric would’ve made him assume the self-named ‘Savior’ still lived among the people he was supposedly trying to save, too. But they couldn’t know that for sure.

 

“Yeah, well, they don’t know where he is now. Or who he is, either,” the former soldier explained. “‘Bout a year ago, he hacked himself right off their radar. Erased all traces of his existence. Left ‘em trying to retrace their steps based on the notes they had in hardcopy.”

 

From the sounds of it, there hadn’t been much printed out or in writing, so even the N.S.A didn’t have much more info than they did.

 

Oliver only frowned at that, even as he turned to shoot another arrow without ever seeming to take aim, but another ball was stuck to the wall a second later.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Erasing everything like that couldn’t be an easy thing for even a tech expert to do. So this guy was definitely above average.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“‘Bout what Felicity said, too,” Oliver nodded thoughtfully. “She said we don’t have to watch the computers, the programs’ll run themselves.”

 

Digg nodded, having expected that.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“But they’ll take a while, she said. Probably all day,” the archer continued, all but scowling as he aimed at another poor ball. “Something about the website being so secure ‘cause only the creator’s allowed access.”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“This from our girl who could’ve hacked the F.B.I for the Huntress in a few minutes if she wanted to,” John shook his head, still amazed at their genius’s skill even so.

 

Given that she was comfortable hacking her way in and out of ARGUS with no one the wiser unless she let them know.

 

But then he frowned. “How do you think she stopped his broadcast?” he asked, because wouldn’t she have needed to stop the website itself for that?

 

Thwip—pow!

Thwip—pow!

 

“Don’t think she did,” Oliver shrugged. “I think she just cut it off. Or blocked however he was getting it to everybody in the Glades. Blocked his hack, something like that.” The archer finished with another shrug before he fired another arrow.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“And that had to be a lot more vulnerable than his website,” the former soldier nodded, because that did make more sense. “Right.”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Unfortunately, if this guy’s computer skills were that good—good enough for the N.S.A to already be looking for him even before last night, and unable to find him—odds were even Felicity’s search programs wouldn’t work her magic fast enough to stop him from a second offense.

 

Another murder…

 

No matter how much they all wanted to stop the bastard.

 

Even if Felicity had been hacking even ARGUS for years…

 

John’s frown was all for himself as he thought of that. He really should tell his partner what he’d found out about their girl. It might be important that that be out there.

 

But John hadn’t told either of his partners about Lyla yet. That he’d even been married once upon a war-torn time, or that his ex-wife was now a pretty high-up agent in ARGUS.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

And Oliver had yet to share how he had legitimate access to the up-to-date military file on both John Diggle’s military service record and his by now expired security clearance. Though how easily he’d found that ongoing cold case file in ARGUS’s own database could be a pretty big clue. After all, he hadn’t asked Felicity for any help with that.

 

As far as Digg knew, Oliver hadn’t tried all that hard to ask about Felicity’s past, or her family’s past, either. Probably because he knew that there were plenty of questions he didn’t want to answer about his own. But all those questions couldn’t be avoided forever…

 

The ex-boyfriend—ex-fiancé—she’d told Oliver about was the obvious sticking point for Felicity. Understandably, since she’d said the bastard had tried to burn her when she revealed some major secret. Like the religious fanatics and other assorted lunatics used to do—legally—if they believed, or claimed to believe, that their victim practiced witchcraft. Or anything else their religion didn’t agree with.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Digg could understand how that might make revealing the same secret even harder in the future. No matter what the actual secret was. And, like Oliver, a part of him really wished the bastard was still alive—just so he could help kill him himself.

 

Real skill with a sword that she, for some reason, still didn’t want to own completely up to.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Digg could also understand some of Oliver’s unwillingness to share his secrets. There were things he’d seen in the ‘Stan that he couldn’t talk about either, even with fellow soldiers who’d been there.

 

Even with Lyla. Maybe especially with Lyla.

 

But that didn’t mean those secrets should be kept buried. Especially if they weren’t stuck in the past: if they were affecting you in the present, or might lead to something happening here and now, or in the future, they had to come out in the open to be dealt with. One way or another.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Like the possible cult of serial killers that might be why Felicity learned to swing a sword in the first place. That was still worrying—and weird—no matter how he tried to think about it.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

The ARGUS files about that—the ones that Oliver apparently had legitimate access to—weren’t at all reassuring either.

 

Sure, those files might’ve been why Felicity had first started hacking ARGUS in the first place. But that just came back around to the fact that she’d chosen to expose herself to save people she didn’t know: and that really was remarkable.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

And she’d saved Lyla

 

Add all that together, and John Diggle was willing to wait for Felicity to tell them the truth in her own time. A part of him even liked the idea that all of them had some sort of ties to his ex-wife’s agency, regardless of all the whispers that’d once made ARGUS agents sound like the soldier’s boogie-man. One of them, anyway.

 

He supposed he could be glad that some of the even stranger stories he’d heard in the ‘Stan weren’t coming true, too. Even if there were times that the vigilante—when he was out under his hood—did remind him of the campfire storied about deadly warriors who killed and then vanished like ghosts…

 

Finally John just said, “So all we can do is sit here and wait?”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“And train,” the vigilante indicated the dummies, then shrugged. “Or spar, if you want?”

 

Thwip—pow!

 

“Sure, I just gotta change,” John agreed, standing to head towards their mini-locker room even as the archer kept loosing arrows.

 

Thwip—pow!

Thwip—pow!

Thwip—pow!

 

John really did understand why Oliver was so bothered by all of this, because he was, too.

 

Not so much the tech specialist who was looking for their girl—he trusted Felicity, and was sure she could take care of herself when it came to tech. She had done a surprisingly great job on her last foray into fieldwork, too.

 

Though anything was better than the last time they’d all gone out on a mission together—when Digg had found himself trying to disarm a bomb collar from around his friend’s neck. Felicity had held up under all that pressure though: no matter how scared she had been with that thing around her neck, she’d stayed focused on what she’d had to do to help Oliver catch the damn Dodger. Helped Oliver save her. She’d been brilliant that night, as always: and by comparison, whatever trouble this other tech expert might cause them just didn’t seem like something worth losing their heads over.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

But this ‘Savior’ psycho was another matter entirely. The sooner he was taken out of the picture the better. By an arrow or the cops, Digg doubted anyone would care.

 

Thwip—pow!

 

Changing into his workout gear didn’t take long, of course, but it was long enough for Oliver to finish skewering every single tennis ball. By the time the bodyguard walked out only a few minutes later, the wall was decorated with the archer’s transient art.

 

“Not sure I’d leave that up there if I were you,” Digg commented with a gesture at the wall as he headed for the mats.

                                                     

“The wall’s not what bothers her,” Oliver snorted, continuing as his friend joined him, ready to spar. “She just thinks it’s a waste of arrowheads.” He shrugged. “She’s not wrong.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Digg caught the fighting-sticks that were tossed his way with a nod. “What’s the point of the exercise anyway?” he asked, while warming his hands up by twirling the sticks around.

 

Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr…

 

It’d always seemed like a stupidly fake thing to do when he saw it in movies and the like, but the vigilante’s explanation behind the general purposes of it—either warm up beforehand or deliberate misdirection for your opponent—did make sense. The same sort of tactic was used in other styles of fighting: both to maintain agility and as a distraction strategically. Both of which the vigilante was—at times aggravatingly—good at…

 

Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr…

 

“Moving targets,” Oliver shook his head, also twirling the sticks a few times. “Not like I can setup a real practice range down here with the kind of equipment you can buy.”

 

Whirr, whirr, whirr…

 

Realistically, Digg was sure that they could find a way to get their hands on the actual equipment that was supposed to be used for that sort of practice. But it also wasn’t something that needed to be debated. That Oliver had gotten used to just using his environment for that sort of thing over the years wasn’t a bad thing. That his return home meant he again had all the money he could ever want to burn didn’t mean he had to.

 

Suddenly Oliver was moving almost too fast for Digg to block the strikes—almost.

 

Thwack! Thwack!

 

It was a slightly satisfying measure of how much better John Diggle had gotten in just the last few months that he could block those lightening quick strikes. As was the fact that Oliver wasn’t holding back even half as much as he used to…

 

Thwack-thwack-thwack!

Thwack!

 

Oliver’s nod was barely big enough to spot—the edges of his mouth turning up was easier to see, but both were signs of approval at how far his friend had come.

 

How far both of them had come…

 

Whirr, whirr… Thwack-thwack!

 

Digg knew that those little hints of feeling were more due to Felicity than him. He’d been a friend, advisor and partner to the best of his ability over the last several months, but the other man had opened up more to the bright, brilliant blonde in every one of their meetings than he had to his unnecessary bodyguard over the same number of weeks. He’d had an impact, he knew, but Felicity’s was much more of one, at least on the very personal level he still only let a few people see.

 

Whirr, whirr…

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

 

John couldn’t begrudge the other man that though. He was happy to see both of his friends doing so well together, despite everything that could have—and maybe should have—stood in their way…

 

Whirr—Thwack-thwack! Thwack!

 

“You’re getting better,” Oliver said then, and it was almost enough to make Digg drop the sticks in shock.

 

The ex-soldier half wondered if that wasn’t what the archer was aiming for but knew that Oliver Queen wasn’t quite that ruthless. Not with his friends, anyway.

 

“Thanks,” Digg nodded, before he feinted left, switched right and at the last second switched back.

 

Thwack!

 

But the blow was blocked with moves that the archer made look just as easy as he’d arrowed all the tennis balls to the wall without ever aiming at them.

 

“So are you,” Digg said a second later, huffing as they both stepped back and started spinning their sticks again.

 

Whirr, whirr…

 

Oliver snorted—not quite the little laugh that Felicity could typically surprise from him a few times a day without even seeming to try, but close. “Thanks.”

 

Whirr, whirr…

 

“You have, man,” Digg insisted then, going on before the archer could answer again or even just roll his eyes. “You’re not at the computer trying to find some reason to add Starek’s name to the list.”

 

A few months ago he’d come into the Foundry several times to find the vigilante researching his next target like that. Most times after the name had appeared in the news, especially if Laurel Lance was tied to those corrupt names in any way. Then it was always a safe bet that there would be an arrow aimed at them sooner rather than later.

 

Whirr, whirr…

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

 

That Oliver wasn’t even at the computers now showed a degree of self-control that the bodyguard wouldn’t have believed him capable of back then. He had physical stamina and martial discipline to spare, of course, but patience was one of those words that only rarely seemed to exist—if it absolutely had to.

 

Whirr, whirr…

 

John thought that might have something to do with how hard the vigilante had been pushing himself these last few weeks. Sure, it could also be some illogical goal of crossing off every name as quickly as possible just to have it over and done with. That couldn’t work, since there were a lot of names in that little book. The bodyguard didn’t know who they were and didn’t want to after Gaynor, but he’d seen that there were around half a dozen names scrawled on both sides of every page, and that it looked like there weren’t many blank pages left at the end. But John could understand his friend may be diverting his impatience and worry regarding Felicity’s potentially dangerous secrets into the rush of names he’d crossed off in the last few weeks.

 

Whirr, whirr…

 

That Oliver wasn’t even looking at the computers also demonstrated that he did recognize his girlfriend’s very real technical abilities. Abilities that definitely deserved a certain degree of faith…

 

Whirr, whirr…

 

Or, at the very least, it indicated that the archer found Felicity’s triple computer setup as intimidating as Digg did.

 

Thwack-Thwack! Thwack-Thwack!

 

“Starek can wait,” Oliver finally allowed, quickly continuing with, “We

gotta stop this whacko, Digg.”

 

Whirr, whirr…

Thwack!

 

“Yeah,” Digg agreed. “I know.”

 

“He’s not gonna stop on his own,” Oliver all but growled.

 

And soldier couldn’t even consider arguing with that, so he said, “We will. We’ll get him.”

 

‘Cause anything else was unacceptable.

 

Thwack!

Thwack!

Thwack-Thwack!

 

“Not much we can do now though,” Digg added, as unhappy to be saying it as the archer was hearing it. “Other than wait for Felicity’s programs to come back. I already ran down all my contacts.”

 

Whirr… Thwack!

Thwack!

 

“Yeah…” Oliver’s sigh sounded more like a growl.

 

Digg shook his head. “What about some of yours? The Bratva wouldn’t have any reason to protect this guy, right?”

 

Thwack-thwack-thwack!

 

“No,” the archer admitted, but he was shaking his head. “But someone like this wouldn’t be anywhere near the Bratva.”

 

Digg thought about pointing out that the vigilante himself had become a Bratva captain at some point and still was one, but there was nothing to be gained from that. After all, Oliver was likely right—this self-named ‘Savior’ all but had to be a loner, not a criminal mastermind of any kind. And probably not someone who’d survive long around career criminals.

 

Whirr, whirr, whirr…

Thwack!

Thwack-Thwack!

 

“What about ARGUS?” he finally asked, and the blank look he was expecting dropped over the archer’s face again.

 

“What about them?” Oliver asked. Almost evenly, except for the slight downturns on either side of his mouth.

 

All that was expected, but the slightly raised eyebrow made Digg feel like he should be more on the defensive than he normally was while sparring with this man. So the soldier started attacking again instead.

 

Thwack-Thwack!

Whirr—Thwack!

Thwack-Thwack-Thwack!

 

Only to grunt as the archer swept his foot out almost too fast for his friend to follow and his feet were kicked right out from under him.

 

…Thud!

 

And so Digg found himself flat on his back with no breath in his lungs for half-a-second as he stared at the ceiling overhead.

 

Not that this was the first time this had happened. But he wouldn’t get better if the archer always held back and he knew it, so the retired soldier couldn’t hold it against him and he didn’t want to. Instead he forced himself to sit up and accept the help the other man offered as he got back up.

 

“Thanks,” Digg said, then silently nodded to the mini fridge full of water bottles by the mats.

 

Yet another addition Felicity had insisted on adding a little while back. He pulled one out for himself and tossed one to Oliver as he opened his own, watching as the archer caught it as deftly as ever even with taking the time to toss one stick into the opposite hand while catching the water with the then free hand.

 

“So you couldn’t get anything there either?” Diggle finally just asked him.

 

“No,” Oliver answered flatly, before drinking some water.

 

Digg took a sip from his bottle, too, and then he shook his head. “So we’re just gonna keep waiting then?” he asked, then smirked. “Unless you want to bug Detective Lance again?”

 

The vigilante rolled his eyes. “If the S.C.P.D had even the slightest chance of catching this guy we wouldn’t be worried about him.”

 

“Yeah, we would be,” Diggle objected, frowning because he really did hate this psycho. The bastard had picked up the worst of Oliver’s torches to run with and they had to stop him before he started a citywide fire with it. That the whacko was copying the tactics of terrorists, too, only made this that much worse.

 

Oliver shrugged, but that wasn’t a denial. Then he put his half-empty bottle down on a nearby table and nodded back at that mats. “Again?”

 

Digg sighed, but nodded as he put his own water down. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

 

Whirr, whirr, whirr…

                                                                 

                                                                                                                                    

NEXT:

Wisdom Age-old & Ageless

Thea Queen’s P.O.V.

Thea needs some advice, and Laurel’s wasn’t what she wanted to hear so she’ll try a new source… well, new to her.

Chapter Text

Thea Queen’s P.O.V.

 

Thea wasn’t sure she should be here.

 

Going to see Laurel at C.N.R.I was a lot easier, and not just because Thea herself worked there and no one even looked at her twice when she walked it anymore.

 

Ollie’s ex had decided to just forget about his baby sister after Ollie and Sara—Laurel’s own little sister—had both presumably gone down with The Queen’s Gambit: dying together because they’d been cheating together at the time. And sometimes that still hurt, just like everything about that worst-nightmare-like-disaster that’d taken half her family from her and ruined her till then idyllic childhood all in one horrific night. The sudden, unacceptable shock, followed by the months—no, years—of loss, abandonment and misery… none of that was something she’d ever be able to forget.

 

So becoming Laurel’s office monkey wasn’t something she’d looked forward to at all. But the lawyer had gone to bat for Thea when Ollie asked her to. And Laurel had been pretty great about supervising the teenage delinquent as Thea was serving out her required hours of community service. So asking her for advice had made some sense.

 

Thea just hadn’t liked the little bit of advice she’d gotten. At all.

 

So now she was here: looking for a second opinion that’d hopefully taste a little better—or at least make the future look a little less hopeless.

 

No one would ever even hint that Thea Queen wasn’t welcome at Queen Consolidated. Her name was on the outside of the building because her family owned it and had for longer than Thea herself had been alive. But it was still a little weird to be riding the elevator to a floor she’d never set foot on before. Though that was most of them because other than the lobby and the floor above it where you could walk in from the skywalk to the parking garage, the only floor the teen had been to here was the one her mom was working on.

 

Thea hadn’t really visited while Moira Queen was the acting-C.E.O in Walter’s absence though, because it made him feel even more absent. She hadn’t wanted to admit that. And visiting her mom while Moira was working out of what was supposed to be Walter’s office hurt. Even thinking about it now hurt, and it would keep on hurting until Walter was home again. Like that hurt was the drumbeat and her stepfather’s absence was the energizer bunny that was still beating away at that drum. It wouldn’t stop until they got Walter back, no matter how less likely that seemed with each passing day. But they got Ollie back after five years, so the missing husband and stepfather being brought back to them, too, wasn’t impossible

 

“Miss Queen? Is everything alright?”

 

Startled out of her thoughts, Thea blinked twice before she saw the slightly older brunette who was helpfully holding the doors of the elevator open—on the floor she’d told the elevator to go to.

 

“Are you alright, Miss Queen?” the woman asked again, her gentle voice sounding like she really was all concern, though those sharp looking blue eyes were studying her intently.

 

“Yeah,” Thea shook her head, “Yeah, sorry. I’m fine, just lost in thought. Uh, thanks…”

 

The brunette’s smile didn’t make those eyes look less sharp, but it was still reassuring. “Good. Were you getting off at Cyber Security? Or did you want to go up to the Executive level? I think your mom’s still out at lunch, but—”

 

“No. No, I’m not here to see my mom,” the teen interrupted, stepping through the opening after the other woman whacked the doors to keep them from closing on her for what probably wasn’t the first time. “I was bringing lunch for Felicity. I mean, Miss—no, um, Doctor Smoak. Is she here?”

 

“She is,” the other woman confirmed. “I just left her office. I think her E.A was about to order lunch, but you should be able to catch them if you head in now.”

 

“Great!” Thea enthused, about to head on by, but then she stopped with a wince. “I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met?” she asked uncertainly.

 

Because before the Queen heiress had started working at C.N.R.I, surrounded by The Glades and all its too many problems—and before she’d met Roy—Thea had gone through her life pretty obliviously. It’d been innocent during her ideal childhood, but after that stupid ship sank, Thea had all but dedicated herself to it. To trying not to care, because caring hurt too much. The haze of parties, booze and drugs Ollie had so disapproved of had been the perfect escape from that until the Vertigo disaster.

 

But all of that also meant that Thea hadn’t been paying attention. So she’d never really noticed anybody at her family’s company other than Walter, her mom, and their secretaries. So it was entirely possible Thea had met this helpful woman with the sharp eyes before and just hadn’t been paying enough attention to remember…

 

The older woman only laughed lightly, and somehow that did soften her eyes a little in the way her earlier smile hadn’t. “We haven’t. I’m Jen. Jen Hunt.”

 

“Thea Queen,” the teen replied, offering her hand then hesitating as she added, “But you already knew that.”

 

To her surprised the other woman caught her hand as she started to drop it, giving it a firm shake. “I do, but it’s nice to meet you, Miss Queen.”

 

Thea found it a little easier to return the older woman’s smile then. “Nice to meet you, too,” she glanced in the direction she was sure Felicity’s office would be.

 

Yeah, she hadn’t been here before, but her mom had set this place up, so the executive office would be in the same general area of the floor as her own was a few floors up. Whether the top lawyers were on this floor or not.

 

“Do you work with Felicity?”

 

“Hopefully,” Jen nodded as she released Thea’s hand. “Just interviewed, so I’ll find out if she liked me or not in the next few days.”

 

“Good luck,” Thea offered, almost automatically. Then she gestured and said, “I really should get going.”

 

“Of course, don’t let me keep you,” Jen waived her away just as her phone started vibrating from where it was on her belt. “Looks like I’ve got a call anyway. Enjoy your lunch, Miss Queen.”

??

“Thank you.” Thea nodded, moving off, only really listening to the start of the nice woman’s call because she still wasn’t sure if she should be just dropping in on Felicity like this, unannounced, so she was walking really slowly.

 

“Jen Hunt… Of course, counselor, how may I help you? …I did travel through China several years ago, yes…”

 

Thea almost stopped, but then she shook her head. There was no way that was related to the phone call Laurel got from the Chinese Embassy today. China was a huge place with lots and lots of people living in it, and even more passing through every day…

 

“Good morning, Miss Queen.”

 

There were times when the fact that everyone in Starling City knew her face was really irritating, but Thea reminded herself that there were also times when it was helpful as she returned the secretary’s greeting. “Hi. Is Felicity free for lunch yet?”

 

“Yes, Miss Queen. And Doctor Smoak’s expecting you,” the perfectly polished woman told her, that polite smile never twitching even as she indicated the open office doors while the teen blinked at what she’d said.

 

“She is?”

 

“Oh, yes, Miss Queen,” the secretary nodded towards her computer monitors. “This desk receives an alert when our floor is selected in the elevator, and when it stops here. And of course we have access to the surveillance, of course.”

 

“Oh, um, of course,” Thea blinked again, because she wasn’t used to thinking of Q.C as particularly high-security. But it didn’t matter to her either, even if this patient, perfect-looking secretary had been watching her stare off into space in the elevator until Jen had snapped her out of her thoughts. “Okay then. I’ll just, uh—actually, do you know if she likes sushi?” she asked with a wince.

 

She really should have asked before, but coming over here after she’d left C.N.R.I had mostly been a spur of the moment kind of thing. It was something she’d thought about even before she’d talked to Laurel, but she hadn’t really decided to do it before she left C.N.R.I unsatisfied. Specifically, she’d thought, ‘What the heck? Why not give it a try?’ while she was calling in her lunch. Buying two of what she’d already planned on having had seemed like a good idea when she was stopping at Toro’s, but she didn’t actually know if Ollie’s girlfriend even liked sushi.

 

“I’m afraid I don’t know, Miss,” the secretary answered apologetically. “We’ve only been working together for the last two weeks now. She hasn’t asked for sushi, but she hasn’t said she doesn’t like it either.”

 

“Right. Sorry,” Thea sighed, “I guess I’ll just ask her.” And so saying she finally made herself enter the corner office that wouldn’t be as big as it was if her mom hadn’t been making a statement with it and its placement so high up on the building. “Felicity?”

 

The blonde looked over from her desk with an immediate smile. “Thea, hello. How are you?”

 

And it was almost surprising how much of that invisible weight on her head—all the uncertainty and nervousness weighing her down—seemed to at lessen when faced with that friendly smile. It didn’t disappear, but those last few steps into the office definitely felt a whole lot lighter.

 

“Good. I’m-um. Your secretary said you hadn’t had lunch yet? I brought sushi,” Thea held up her Toro’s bag a little, then she hurried on to add. “If you like sushi. If you don’t—”

 

“I love sushi,” Felicity reassured her as she finished what she was doing with a few keystrokes so fast that her visitor couldn’t remotely guess what she’d typed with all of the keys clacking together almost all at once. Then she stood and rounded her desk, waiving to the nice sitting area right in front of the picturesque view the office windows provided. “Here, we can sit over here, okay? Your timing’s perfect, I’m starving.”

 

“Oh, good.” Thea replied as she sat down, focusing on opening the takeout bag and pulling out the two lunches to offer one to the blonde and keep one for herself. “Here.”

 

“Thank you,” Felicity said as she accepted it, neatly snapping the chopsticks into a usable pair before she opened the container, set it down on the table and used the thin wooden utensils with an ease the suggested a lot of practice. Then she actually moaned in delight after the first bite.

 

Thea giggled, but found it was easier to relax now that they were both eating. She could focus on the food and not the fact that she really didn’t know this woman she’d decided to come to for advice after talking to Laurel Lance hadn’t helped her feel better at all.

 

“Doctor Smoak?” the pretty polished lady was standing in the doorway just then.

 

“Yes, Amita, enjoy your lunch.”

 

“I can wait—”

 

“That’s not necessary,” Felicity interrupted, shaking her head. “Just have the front desk answer while you’re gone.”

 

“If you’re sure, ma’am.”

 

“Quite sure, thank you,” the blonde waived her off, and the secretary finally left to get her lunch.

 

Thea almost apologized again for not calling ahead, but stuffing a piece of sushi in her mouth seemed like a better idea as she watched the automatic doors swing shut behind the perfectly polished figure.

 

“No school today?” Felicity asked after she’d swallowed her second piece of sushi.

 

“Nope. Professional day for the teachers to work on tests or, well, I don’t know. Something,” Thea shrugged. “I got in some extra hours at C.N.R.I this morning, but they already have a bunch of volunteers today so they didn’t really need me.” She shrugged as she freed her chopsticks from each other and started mixing wasabi in with her soy sauce.

 

“I’m sure they appreciate the help,” the older woman offered even as she dipped her third piece of sushi into the soy sauce. “But it’s important for you to take some time for yourself, too. Everybody needs that.”

 

That seemed as good an opening as any, so the brunette seized on it. “Yeah, um… Actually, I could use some advice,” Thea admitted with another wince. “I know we don’t really know each other that well—”

 

“A few lunch dates could change that, and we’re already on the first one,” the blonde cut in to point out calmly. She shrugged even as she deftly picked up another piece of sushi with her chopsticks and asked: “What’d you need advice about?” before she put the sushi in her mouth.

 

Thea nodded slowly, then sighed. “I’m dating this guy who’d definitely be described as a bad boy,” she admitted. Almost word-for-word what she’d said to Laurel earlier. Except she didn’t know Felicity’s dating history, so she couldn’t say anything about that next. “He’s—um, well, it’s kind of hard to explain.”

 

“Take your time,” the older woman told her, then asked lightly, “What’s his name?”

 

“Roy,” Thea answered without thinking about it, then winced yet again. “I kind of haven’t told my mom and Ollie about him yet, so, um, would you mind…” she trailed off uncertainly, breathing a sigh of relief as the blonde answered lightly again.

 

“Your secret’s safe with me.” Felicity reassured her, then asked: “So what kind of advice to you need about bad boy Roy?” she popped another piece of sushi in her mouth as soon as she finished.

 

Thea snorted, amused at that description despite herself. Then she sighed again. “I got him a job at Ollie’s club, but he…” she shook her head. “He’s still, well, he’s doing some other stuff that I don’t like. He says he owes people a lot and he has to work with them…” the teen trailed off, not sure how much more than that she really wanted to say when she was already second guessing herself on deciding to come here for help. Or more like fifth guessing herself, at this point.

 

But the blonde seemed to be pretty focused on the piece of ginger she was cleaning her palate with just then, not particularly bothered by the conversation at all: although she was just as clearly thinking about what she’d heard and what she wanted to say. Somehow that was reassuring. A lot more than Laurel’s instant recriminations of Roy, no matter how sensible and expected that’d been…

 

“Would I be wrong in assuming Roy isn’t someone you met at school?” Felicity asked then.

 

“No,” Thea blinked. “I-uh. I sort of met him near C.N.R.I,” she admitted with another wince as she realized where that automatically led. Even more so than the confirmation that he wasn’t another trust-fund brat from the fancy prep school she’d be graduating from in just a few short weeks.

 

“Hmm,” Felicity nodded slowly. “Well, if he likes you half as much as you like him, he’ll care about your opinion.”

 

“As much as I…” Thea blinked, then shook her head rapidly. “I-I don’t—”

 

“You should talk to him,” the older woman cut in firmly, looking up from her lunch, blue gaze locking with brown.

 

“I tried that,” Thea shook her head. “He didn’t—”

 

“Try again then. Or don’t,” Felicity shrugged. “It’s up to you. Up to how much you care and how much effort you want to put into the relationship.” She shook her head. “But if you want to fight for it, then fight.”

 

How?” the teenager couldn’t help but ask, shaking her head. “He doesn’t want to talk to me about any of that. He just wants to pretend it isn’t a problem.”

 

“Avoiding conflict often feels much easier than facing it head on,” Felicity dipped another piece of sushi before popping it into her mouth, again reminding Thea that she should be eating, too. “But if you don’t talk about your problems, Thea, you’ll never be able to find solutions together. Let alone make any other kind of progress.”

 

The brunette nodded slowly, frowning as she swallowed her latest tasty mouthful. “But you think I should?”

 

Felicity held her eyes for a long moment, and something about her soft evaluating look was comforting even before she offered a small nod

“If that’s what you want to do. It’s your choice, not mine.”

 

“No, I mean…” Thea sighed. “If I’d asked Ollie or my mom about this they both would’ve told me he’s too old for me and I can’t date him.”

 

“You’re over seventeen, so the law here says you’re fine,” Felicity raised an eyebrow. “I hope he’s not too much older than you?”

 

“N-No. Well, he’s almost twenty-two,” the teen admitted with yet another wince. The little more than four years between them wasn’t really a big deal, especially since she was eighteen—legally able to do everything except drink and rent a car. But she was still in high school and Roy wasn’t, and that seemed to some adults that seemed to matter much more than what Thea herself wanted or how old she was.

 

“Your brother may not like that,” Felicity allowed, “And I’m not sure about your mom.” She shook her head. “But what you want is what’s really important.” She cocked her head to the side. “Do you love him?”

 

Thea blinked, startled by just how bluntly the older woman had asked that. And even more surprised by how easy it was to answer. “I-I think I do?” she said, and then added quickly, “Maybe? We-We’ve only been dating for a few weeks now, but…”

 

“Sometimes that’s all it takes,” Felicity told her softly as soon as she’d trailed off. “For some of us it’s all in a look. For others it’s their laughter, or how they make you laugh. Still others need years to be sure,” she shook her head. “We’re all unique, Thea. All of us with different thoughts and desires. And all of us have to choose what we want.”

 

Thea swallowed. “But how do you know?

 

Felicity sighed as she looked out the window. The early afternoon sunlight shone along her hair and set a soft glow to her face. It reflected off her artsy glasses, hiding her eyes. But it didn’t hide her thoughtful—reminiscent?—smile as she said, “The day your brother and I met he lied to me.”

 

“What?” Thea blinked, not at all able to keep the shock out of her voice.

 

The expected instant dose of disappointment didn’t hit her though. Maybe it should, but the other woman was wearing that soft smile still as she looked out at the sunshine glinting off of the other glass encased skyscrapers.

 

“Straight to my face, he told me a lie that couldn’t remotely be true.” Felicity nodded. “It was complete bullshit. He knew it, and he knew I knew it, too. And when I called him on it…” she shook her head. “He just smiled,” she finished with a soft smile of her own.

 

“I wasn’t sure he remembered how to do that—smile—before he met you,” Thea told her without even thinking about it. “After he came back, from the, uh, island, I mean.”

 

Felicity hummed through the soft smile still gracing her face. “I think I started falling for him right then. I didn’t realize it at the time,” she shook her head. “Somehow I never do…”

 

Thea cocked her head to the side, studying the older woman curiously for several moments.

 

Something about the shadows playing across her face even with that soft smile made her look… old, almost? Not like an old lady, of course: her skin was as smooth as any Oil of Olay model’s. But there was a sort of ageless age to the way those shadows and sunlight cut across that soft smile. Like the Venus de Milo or the Mona Lisa, maybe…

 

Thea shook her head, bewildered by her own thoughts.

 

Where had that even come from? The woman Ollie had fallen for was older than Thea, of course, but not that much older.

 

Maybe it was just the air of mystery around her? They really didn’t know each other that well yet.

 

And that thought made Thea decide that she would take Felicity up on more lunch dates in the future. Who knew, maybe she’d see some more of Ollie then, too.

 

“So, when did you realize you were in love with Roy?” Felicity’s question brought her back out of her thoughts to find that the blonde’s soft smile was now directed at her, and something about that interested look was still very comforting. Curious, but with such a soft edge that it felt like no answer could be wrong…

 

But Thea still winced. “Um, just now? I guess?”

 

Felicity chuckled softly. “Nothing wrong with that, like I said, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it when it happened,” she told her, then pressed gently again. “When do you think you started falling for him though? Think about it. There must have been something.”

 

It came to the teen even as her brother’s girlfriend was talking about it, but she still didn’t say anything for several long moments after she paused. Weighing whether she should answer or not. In the end, though, Thea just decided to go with it. ‘Cause, again, why the hell not?

 

“He saved my life,” Thea admitted, nodding when that earned her a surprised blink from the blonde—and hurrying on as her smile fell into a concerned frown. “Yeah. I-I was walking in The Glades. By myself. And these two guys came out of nowhere… they-they wanted money. An-And one of them, he had a knife. I was so scared, I just froze…” she shook her head, a little surprised to feel a small smile starting to form as she remembered. “But then Roy, he came out of nowhere all of a sudden, too. One of them ran off while he fought the guy with the knife.”

 

“That must have been scary,” Felicity murmured sympathetically.

 

“Yeah.” Thea agreed, sighing as she went on. “Roy kept punching the guy till he was out. Then he got up and he…” she swallowed. “He’d been stabbed in the side. Or just a cut, I guess, the doctor said it wasn’t that bad—after I dragged him to the hospital.”

 

“Smart,” Felicity approved, before saying, “You didn’t report it.”

 

Thea didn’t get the sense that she was asking. Then again it was safe to assume that if the Queen heiress had called the cops her mom and Oliver would’ve found out about it. And Felicity would’ve heard about it before this, too. “I was okay. And Roy didn’t want to press any charges either. It seemed easier to just forget about it…” she admitted, glancing at the older woman but now Felicity wasn’t smiling or frowning, so the teen kept going. “At the hospital, Roy needed stitches and a shot. Tetanus, I think, but I didn’t really ask.”

 

“That’s for the doctors and other medical professionals to think about,” Felicity allowed. “Though they prefer their patients paying attention, sometimes it’s hard.”

 

Thea nodded. “He’s afraid of needles. Roy, I mean. So I told him to think about something else. And when he said, ‘Like what?’ I didn’t even think about it. I just kissed him…” she realizing she was smiling again then, but couldn’t stop as she finished. “He looked at me like I was an angel straight from heaven.”

 

“That’s sweet,” the blonde murmured, sounding too sincere to be anything but.

 

“Yeah. It really was…” Thea agreed softly, and then she sighed. “He lives there. In the Glades,” she swallowed. “And I know that that’s so different from how I grew up that it’s not even comparable, really. I mean, I can’t even imagine some of the stuff he’s had to deal with…”

 

“But you want to try,” Felicity said after she’d finished swallowing her most recent bite of sushi. “You want to help him. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

 

“Yeah, but how do I help?” Thea asked her earnestly. “I mean, he won’t even talk to me about money, not really. He makes stupid jokes about it sometimes, but half the time it doesn’t even sound like money’s the problem…” she trailed off, frowning as she thought about it. “But what could he owe then?”

 

“Favors, or something like that,” Felicity answered her without even thinking about it, shrugging as the teen blinked at her. “A lot of people who don’t have a lot of money to spare will trade something else instead if they need to. Could be something they do have, or it could just be work—a favor, a job, something like that.” She shook her head. “Working for money and using that money to pay bills and buy stuff is simpler. Straight-forward. Safer, even. But it only works if you can get the work, and enough money to make ends meet. Some people—a lot of people in the Glades these last few years—simply can’t. So they either have to make do without everything they need, or they have to find some other way to get it.”

 

“Like stealing it,” Thea said softly, wincing again as soon as she realized the words had slipped out.

 

Felicity only shrugged. “Or trading favors—or jobs, maybe.”

 

Liking knocking over a liquor store, Thea thought, but this time pressed her lips together in frown to keep from saying it. She hated the idea that Roy had had to agree to rob somebody because of something else he’d needed at some point. “But couldn’t he just pay them back with money instead?”

 

“Maybe, maybe not,” Felicity answered gently. “It depends on who he owes: and if they’re willing to renegotiate the bargain or not.”

 

“But they probably would, right?” Thea pressed, not sure why she thought the other woman even could answer, except that she did keep answering, so why not keep asking?

 

“For enough money, probably, but I honestly don’t know, Thea. I’m not the one he owes,” Felicity answered gently.

 

Thea nodded, “So I just need to figure out who this ‘Joe’ guy he owes is then.”

 

“Absolutely not,” Felicity said immediately, so firm that Thea could only stare at her as she shook her head.

 

All that reassuring softness was suddenly gone, replaced by a steely no-nonsense resolved that the teen didn’t know how else to react. That steel probably had more to do with why Ollie was willing to open up to this woman than the softness, Thea thought, but her mind couldn’t make it much further than that right away.

 

“You can’t go around Roy that way, Thea. That won’t help the two of you at all, it probably won’t help him, either, and it might lead to you getting hurt or worse.”

 

“But—”

 

“You’ve already had problems with some criminals in the Glades, remember? Roy had to save you then, and the people he owes could be a lot more dangerous.”

 

Thea blinked, unable to deny that, still she shook her head, “But I want to help him.”

 

“Then help him, but let him help you do it, too.” Felicity nodded, gesturing with her chopsticks before she picked up her last piece of sushi. “Remember, he knows The Glades. He knows what he’s mixed up in. You don’t know either one.” So saying, she stuck that last bite in her mouth and started chewing, her gaze never waving.

 

Thea looked down at her own lunch, picking one of the pieces up and dipping it into the soy-wasabi mix before sticking it in her mouth. It still tasted good, but it felt a little heavy on her tongue as she thought through what the other woman was telling her.

 

Felicity didn’t say anything, just closed her container from El Toro’s while she waited, setting it and her used chopsticks back in the bag that the teen had brought them in.

 

Finally Thea just asked, “What if he won’t let me help him?” she wondered if her voice really sounded that small, though that was a fair representation of how she felt right now, thinking about that.

 

Felicity sighed, and then she was reaching over to take Thea’s free hand in her own, squeezing it gently. “That’s his choice, too, Thea. You can only make your own choices and try to convince him to make the ones you want. But they’re still his choices to make.” She squeezed her hand again. “If he’s half as great as you say, he’ll hopefully make the right choice. But if he’s not ready to accept help, you’ll have to decide if you can accept that, too. Or keep fighting until you two can agree, or until you can accept defeat.”

 

Thea blinked when her eyes started to feel like they were burning, but she swallowed and then nodded anyway.

 

“If it comes to that, or if the fighting does have to keep going for a while, you come see me again, okay? We’ll have a lot of red wine and chocolates at my place.”

 

Thea blinked again, but this time she was biting back a grin as she reminded her, “You know I’m not supposed to drink, right?”

 

“Hasn’t stopped you before this,” Felicity shrugged. “And that’ll just mean you get more chocolates than me. Maybe.”

 

The brunette couldn’t help but grin back at her for a moment, shaking her head as the blonde patted the back of her hand.

 

“Now I’m afraid I have to get back to work, but you finish your lunch. Your mom should be stopping by soon for my next report soon, and I’m sure she’d love to see you.” Felicity suggested as she moved back to her desk and sat back down, starting to type again at that same speed that was almost dizzying if watched too closely.

 

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap…

 

Thea frowned as she watched, focusing on Felicity’s face instead of her super-fast hands, “You won’t tell her and Ollie about—”

 

Tap-tap. Tap, tap-tap-tap…

 

 “I already said your secret’s safe with me, Thea,” Felicity cut her off with another smile. “Promise… but you really should introduce them sooner or later if you’re serious about Roy.”

 

“I know…” she sighed, shaking her head. “But Ollie didn’t even like Shane, and he at least was someone I knew from school. I’m sure he won’t like Roy either.”

 

Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-Tap. Tap…

 

“No, your brother would probably be happier with you not dating until your thirty or something like that, but big brother’s don’t tend to get that.” Felicity chuckled. “But if he sees you’re happy, he’ll be happy for you, Thea. And so will your mom.”

 

“I guess…”

 

Tap-tap-tap…

 

“Tell you what,” Felicity said then. “My brother’s due to arrive in Starling sometime soon. How about you introduce Roy around the same time?”

 

Thea blinked, then grinned, “What, you think Ollie’ll be nicer to Roy then?”

 

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap… click-click.

 

The blonde didn’t answer right away this time, her brow furrowing and her nose wrinkling up a little as she thought on the answer, before she finally admitted, “No. But it might help a little bit. Put it in perspective for him.” Then she shrugged. “And I’ll try to make him think before he opens his mouth if I can.”

 

Tap-tap-tap…

 

That only made Thea grin again, “What? Threaten him with the doghouse?” she suggested, watching the blonde at work even as she made herself eat some more of her sushi.

 

How had the woman gotten through hers so fast? At least it was confirmation that she really did like it…

 

Tap-tap. Tap-tap…

 

“We don’t have a dog,” Felicity answered evenly, not even blushing at the teen’s teasing, and going on thoughtfully. “And he likes the couch. Or he did. Maybe I should get a dog. What do you think?”

 

Thea blinked at her, more than a little segue-wade. But after she swallowed another sushi she just shrugged and went with it. “I always wanted a cat more myself, but a dog might be cool.” She thought about it, then shook her head. “I can’t remember Ollie ever saying he wanted one. I know Tommy wanted a dog, he was gonna call it ‘Arthur,’ you know, like King Arthur? But his dad said ‘no.’ Not sure why—but I never got why my mom and dad wouldn’t let me get a kitten, either.”

 

“Well, you should come with me to the shelter then,” Felicity suggested. “We can pick out our new pets together. Maybe drag Oliver and Roy along if we wait till after they’ve met?”

 

Thea blinked, but then shook her head. “I’m not sure my mom would let me—”

 

“If she doesn’t want a cat at the mansion you’ll just have to visit my house a lot,” Felicity cut in, giving her smile that looked almost impish.

 

Tap-tap-tap-tap…

 

Thea had to grin back at her again. “That’d be cool,” she agreed, sounding a little more eager than she probably should, but she couldn’t help it. Something about the idea of dragging her boyfriend and brother to an animal shelter to pick out a pet that they’d all take care of together was weirdly appealing.

 

It probably had something to do with how alone Thea had felt for years after her father and brother died—how she still felt some times, even with Roy in her life and Ollie back—but she wasn’t going to think about it too much. It felt better to focus on a not too far off future where her problems with her boyfriend weren’t so big and maybe, with Felicity’s help, Ollie wouldn’t hate him for being her boyfriend either…

 

Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap. Click-click.

 

Excuse me, Doctor Smoak, Miss Queen?” the E.A’s voice suddenly emerged from Felicity’s desk, apparently back from her lunch already. Was that even twenty minutes?

 

Felicity paused, sighed quietly, and then looked towards the phone intercom that her assistant was speaking to her through. “Yes, Amita?”

 

Sorry to interrupt your lunch again, ma’am,” the E.A apologized, going on without waiting for a response. “Cynthia called. She’d like to know if Missus Queen could stop by shortly, or…

 

“Yes, the report’s ready, Amita.” Felicity told her firmly. “Please show her in whenever she’d like. Thank you, and thank Cynthia for me, too.”

 

Of course, Doctor Smoak,” the E.A responded.

 

Then Felicity hit the intercom button and sighed again.

 

“Speak of the devil and she’ll appear?” Thea suggested, more than able to understand how someone might feel that way about her mom checking in on them all the time. Hell, half of what she liked about her mom taking over here at Q.C while Walter was missing was that she wasn’t checking in on her delinquent daughter half as much as she was a few months ago—back when Thea herself was still acting like a stupid brat and her mom was only saying something because Ollie had questioned her on her parenting…

 

“Oh no, I don’t mind your mom at all. She’s been wonderful,” Felicity shook her head. “And Amita’s great, too, but I can’t for the life of my get her to stop calling me ‘Doctor Smoak,’ and it’s getting aggravating.”

 

Thea blinked at her, “Huh?”

 

Felicity sighed again, “There’s times and places for formality, Thea, especially at work, but I don’t want this department to be quite as rigid as some of the other departments in Q.C. Stifles creativity. And I think ‘Felicity’ is more approachable than ‘Doctor Smoak,’ don’t you?”

 

Thea couldn’t help but blink again. “Uh, yeah? I guess?”

 

Honestly she’d never really thought about that kind of thing before. She was so used to being called ‘Miss Queen’ by almost everybody, whether she knew them or not, that it really didn’t faze her most of the time. The paparazzi who shouted her first name to get her attention—and any number of other things to get whatever kind of reaction they wanted—were much more irritating…

 

Felicity sighed again, “I’ll just be glad when the new secretary starts. I think you met her on the way out? Jen? She should be easier to work with for that.”

 

Thea blinked and found, “Wait, you’re replacing, uh, Amita because…” she trailed off, not sure if she really should be critiquing the older woman when she really didn’t know anything about the situation. And she had liked Jen, too…

 

“No, I’m not replacing Amita. I’m just delegating some duties differently,” Felicity told her calmly. “She’ll still be my executive assistant—basically, my second-in-command for the department. She’ll help me stay on top of everything and make sure it continues to run smoothly. Jen will be answering phone calls, memos, filing, faxing, that kind of thing. They’ll have to work together on my calendar.”

 

Thea thought about that a moment, then cocked her head to the side, “Won’t that just mean Amita will be spending more time with you?”

 

“No, it won’t,” Felicity answered firmly. “She’ll be paying very close attention to everyone else. And I may have to send her up to visit your mom and the other board members a lot.”

 

Thea snorted, amused despite herself. Her mom and Walter never made work sound that interesting, let alone funny, but listening to Felicity it was almost like a soap opera, which in a weird way made it a lot more interesting and easier to understand than anything at Queen Consolidated ever had before. Still, she had to ask, “And this is just ‘cause she won’t call you ‘Felicity’?”

 

“No, of course not,” the blonde rolled her eyes. “There’s a few other reasons, too,” she shook her head. “But she’s good at her job, and she’ll be even better when we’ve got the whole department up and running.”

 

“Okay, if you say so,” Thea shook her head, finally popping her last piece of sushi into her mouth and munching on it.

 

“Well thank you ever so much,” Felicity responded flatly, but she sound more amused than anything.

 

“You’re welcome,” she answered, going for the same tone but coming off a little too bright for it. The office doors’ suddenly swinging open on their own made her glance towards them, and she wasn’t surprised to see her mom headed this way. “My mom’s here.”

 

“Right on time,” Felicity answered, hitting a few more buttons before she stood and rounded the desk again to greet the acting-C.E.O with a smile just as she walked in. “Moira, good afternoon.”

 

“Good afternoon, Felicity,” Moira returned with a warm smile.


Thea couldn’t help but blink again as she watched the two shake hands. She didn’t think she’d ever heard anybody at the company call her mom anything other than ‘Missus Queen.’ Except for Walter, of course, but then again she kind of already thought of Felicity as family, too—with how much Oliver obviously adored her it was impossible not too, so it wasn’t that surprising…

 

The acting-C.E.O glanced her way then, and blinked in surprise as she realized that Felicity’s other visitor was her own daughter. “Thea? I thought you were working at C.N.R.I today?”

 

“That was this morning, mom,” Thea told her as she got up, dropping her own empty lunch container in the bag on the table again. “I just stopped by to have lunch with Felicity.”

 

Her mom immediately smiled happily again. “Great mind think alike, I was just going to check on you,” she told Felicity.

 

“I’ve only worked through lunch that one time,” Felicity grumbled, but she was grinning a little even as she said it.

 

“Once is still one time too many,” Moira told her, but she was smiling, too, even before she looked at her daughter again. “That was very sweet of you, Thea.”

 

“It was,” Felicity agreed, smiling warmly.

 

Thea couldn’t help blushing as she shrugged. “Well, obviously we weren’t getting anywhere waiting for Ollie to bring you around.”

 

Moira laughed shortly, “No we weren’t, were we?” she shook her head then focused on Felicity again. “I hope you wouldn’t mind a family dinner sometime soon?” she asked lightly enough to make it sound off-hand.

 

Not nearly enough to stop her daughter from rolling her eyes, but Thea didn’t say anything, and she had to smile at Felicity’s easy agreement. For weeks now they’d been wondering what Ollie was up to; and Thea hadn’t seen Felicity since the opening night at Verdant. Ollie was clearly splitting his time between his new nightclub and his girlfriend, and in some ways Thea was really happy to see it, but she missed her brother and wanted to get to know Felicity better. And she knew her mom felt the same way, only the acting-C.E.O had the easier opening of working in the same building as Felicity and being able to drop in whenever she wanted…

 

“I’d like that,” Felicity agreed easily: clearly as unfazed by an invitation to dine at Queen Mansion as she had been by giving advice to Thea about her bad-boy boyfriend from the Glades.

 

“When’s your brother visiting?” Thea butted in then, earning a surprised look from her mother and a light laugh from Felicity.

 

“Sometime soon,” Felicity replied. “He didn’t give me an exact timeline on when he’ll show up.” She shook her head. “Whenever’s the most inconvenient for me, I’m sure.”

 

“Your brother?” Moira asked, almost as lightly as before, but not quite able to disguise the fact that she was fishing for information she didn’t already have.

 

Making Thea feel a little bit smugger that she knew something first. No matter how petty that was. She was still a teenager. And her mother had had much more one-on-one time with the brilliant blonde than Thea had so far.

 

“Yes,” Felicity answered with another little sigh, though the upward tilt to either side of her mouth made even that sound fond. “He’s over in Europe, so we haven’t seen each other in a little while. But he did call to say he’d be visiting soon—mainly, because he found out I’m dating again,” she finished with an eye-roll that was just as fondly exasperated as her sigh through a smile had been.

 

Thea snorted, and then just dissolved into giggle at the look her mom shot her because the grin that Felicity gave her at the same time more than covered it.

 

“And what does Mister Smoak do in Europe?” Moira asked, after she’d shaken her head and done that thing with her eyes that meant she wanted to roll them but was too lady-like to let herself.

 

“Oh, it’s Pierson, actually. Doctor Adam Pierson. We’re foster siblings, technically, but still family,” Felicity shrugged. “He’s a linguistics expert, so he works with just about any translations they could want at the Louvre.”

 

“Impressive,” Moira commented, and Thea knew she wasn’t imagining the approving tone, but the blonde didn’t bat an eye at that either so maybe it wasn’t as obvious as it’d sounded to her daughter.

 

“Not really,” Felicity shook her head, and she might’ve rolled her eyes again—the change in angle had the sunlight glinting off her glasses and made it hard to tell. “Languages come so easily to him it’s almost boring most of the time. So he started studying computers a while back—mostly to bug me, I think. But he hasn’t quite caught up yet,” she shrugged, still smiling. “He doesn’t really have the patience for machines.”

 

This time when Thea giggled again she wasn’t surprised to see her mother was smiling, too.

 

“Well, we’d love to meet Doctor Pierson whenever he happens to visit,” Moira told her then.

 

“Yeah, Ollie’ll be thrilled,” Thea put in with another grin, and even her mom’s mouth twitched a little at that. So maybe she wouldn’t be opposed to watching her son meet his girlfriend’s big brother?

 

Something to look forward to—whether Ollie was an ass about Roy or not, annoying him was his younger sister’s prerogative and they’d missed out on half a decade of that!

 

“Yes, well, we’ll all look forward to that, I’m sure,” Moira murmured, before she finally got to the point of why she was here. “Cynthia said you have a report ready for me?”

 

“Yes,” Felicity nodded. “It’s printing now. Amita should be bringing it—ah, right now.”

 

The doors opened again then, just ahead of the E.A that would soon be doing a different job while the new secretary took over what she was doing now. But the teen took that as her queue to go.

 

“Well, I think I’ll head out now then, let you two get back to work,” Thea said as she stood up, grabbing the bag of what was now trash as she crossed the office again, stopping where the other women were standing. “It was nice talking to you, Felicity,” she said, leaning in to accept the hug that the blonde offered almost automatically.

 

It was really nice…

 

“You, too, Thea, and thank you for lunch.” Felicity said, not letting her go right away. “Give me a call or stop by whenever you’d like, okay?” she added when she did pull away.

 

“Okay, thanks,” Thea smiled as she stepped back, accepting the card the blonde offered her right away.

QUEEN CONSOLIDATED.

Doctor Felicity Smoak.

CYBER SECURITY.

Underneath the heading was the phone number for Q.C with Felicity’s extension number at the end. And two other numbers were written underneath in delicate cursive, after the letters ‘H’ and ‘C.’

 

“That’s my home and cell,” Felicity told her. “And really, call whenever you’d like. Okay?”

 

“Okay, thanks,” Thea repeated, nonetheless sincerely. Then she added with a smile, “Let me know when you want to go looking for your new puppy, too. That’ll be fun.”

 

“Yes it will,” Felicity agreed with a smile.

 

It was all too easy for Thea keep smiling back, even as she turned to look at her mother next, and unsurprisingly the E.A was on her way back out because the acting-C.E.O had the requested report in hand.

 

Moira wasn’t reading it yet though, so she stepped forward automatically to give her daughter a kiss on the cheek and accept that automatic hug that Thea gave her. “Have a good afternoon, sweetheart.”

 

“You too, mom,” she replied, before heading for the still open office doors.

 

“How did your meeting go?” Felicity asked politely just as Thea walked through the doors. The only part of that that surprised her was how long it took her mom to answer.

 

“It went about as expected,” Moira sighed, sounding more troubled than Thea could remember her ever admitting to being before.

 

Losing dad, Ollie and Walter had all hurt her, but Moira Queen wasn’t one to talk about her feelings. Not even with her daughter. She shared her joys, her expectations and her disappointments, but never her sorrows. Like talking about them was admitting defeat or something like that, though someone becoming a shut-in who lived in her pajamas for several weeks wasn’t…

 

It was almost enough for Thea to stop and turn around, go back into the office to see what was wrong. But not quite.

 

First, whatever it was had to be something related to work, which Thea wouldn’t understand even half as well as Felicity would. And, again, her mom didn’t talk to Thea about stuff that was bothering her. Moira Queen always put on a brave face for her kids—or tried to. Sometimes she couldn’t, like right after The Gambit sank with dad and Ollie on it, or after Walter vanished. But most of the time that brave face was all she wanted her kids to see, and Thea tried to respect that.

 

Most of the time.

 

Thea wished her mother trusted her enough, thought she was grown up enough, to talk to about what was bothering her. To let her try to help; whether it was something to do with Queen Consolidated or not. But she knew better than to try and push the problem in front of Felicity.

 

Ollie was the one that their mother had wanted to groom to fit into their father’s shoes, after all, and Thea didn’t want to work in this imposing building either. It was too tall, too shiny, and too polished. Too much of the masks and acts that she so hated about being part of the uber-rich level of society.

 

There were things that Thea liked about being royalty in Starling City. Having more money than she’d ever know what to do with was something she’d only recently started to feel guilty about: especially since Roy didn’t seem to want her help with something that’d almost been a non-issue to her before.

 

Sure, she’d partied and spent more money shopping than she’d ever be able to guess at since she’d never looked at the price tags—but before C.N.R.I, before Roy—that was all she knew. Yeah, Thea had known that there were a lot of people out there that did have to worry about money all the time, but Q.C donated to charities all the time and her mother donated even more, so what was there to feel guilty about?

 

But the more Thea thought about it, the guiltier she felt. She thought about Roy only agreeing to rob some creep that owned a liquor store because he owed someone he couldn’t pay back any other way. She remembered how hard it was not to blink when Roy had pretty much said he had to steal to survive because no one would hire someone with his record. His record that, according to Laurel’s dad, was all arrests, no convictions…

 

How many muggings happened in the Glades because the mugger couldn’t do anything else to get by?

 

How many purses were snatched by people that didn’t want to become muggers but had to steal to survive?

 

How many thieves went into rob a liquor store with an empty gun?

 

What if the creep who owned the store had a gun? The owner of a store in the Glades almost had to, right?

 

Thea hoped that maybe whatever it was about Felicity that made it so easy for Thea to talk to her might also work on her mother. Stranger things have happened…

 

“Tell me, Felicity,” Moira was saying as the office doors started sliding closed automatically after her daughter had passed through them. “How difficult do you think it might be to trace an offshore account back to its owner?”

 

Huh. So it was something business-related then.

 

Well, that definitely made Felicity absolutely the right one to talk to now. Walter might be better, but he wasn’t here right now and Felicity was a genius, so…

 

In the meantime, Thea had to talk to Roy… but should she wait till he’d be headed out to that store or not?

 

11 P.M, that tall guy had said. Hanging out in the Glades, even just outside of Roy’s house, that late might not be the safest idea.

 

But Thea had to believe that what she and Roy kind of had—and what they might have—was worth the risk. Was worth fight for.

 

And, like Felicity had said, that was her choice to make.

 

She could only hope that Roy would hear her out this time, and make a choice they both could live with, too.


NEXT:

No Target?

Oliver Queen’s P.O.V.

Oliver’s still stuck waiting… and he does NOT like it.

 

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen’s P.O.V.

 

“Anything new?” Oliver asked with a sigh, because he was honestly expecting what he got in response.

 

“Hell if I know,” Digg shrugged, gesturing to the computers. “Don’t have any idea what at least half of that’s supposed to mean. How ‘bout you?”

 

Looking back at the monitors, Oliver couldn’t stop himself from grimacing. Because as far as he could tell the computers were doing at least half a dozen things at once, but other than count the average of six windows that were constantly opening, closing and opening again, seemingly of their own volition on the monitors, he couldn’t really tell what the hell they were doing, either.

 

“This is a tech guy,” Digg reminded him again, though it sounded less and less tolerable every time one of them said it. “But it looks like she’s pulled out all the stops trying to get him.”

 

No. If she were pulling all the stops, Felicity would be sitting here, directing her programs and computers through whatever the hell it took to find this madman before he struck again. Because no matter how amazing her programs were—and no one could deny that they were absolutely amazing, but—they still weren’t her.

 

But Felicity couldn’t be here right now. The world didn’t work that way. And Oliver couldn’t hold Felicity’s work at Queen Consolidated against her, and he wouldn’t. She deserved the much higher profile position she had in the company now. She was much too brilliant to be kept hidden away down in the I.T Department, unappreciated by all but those that—while not geniuses like her—were at least smart enough to appreciate how breathtakingly brilliant she was.

 

More than that, Oliver almost didn’t want her here now. Not really.

 

He was almost hoping that this maniac would strike again while she wasn’t here to try and stop him; because while she might be able to blame herself for not being here and for possibly causing him to escalate when she interrupted his last show, Oliver could hope that if Felicity wasn’t here when the next attack happened she might not blame herself for being unable to stop the so-called Savior in time.

 

Of course, Oliver could blame himself just fine. Odds were that ‘The Hood’ had served as some sort of unintended inspiration for this madman, which was something he’d worried about happening when he came back to start attempting to save his city as a vigilante anyway. And that didn’t make it any easier to have it happening now.

 

“Think she’s using that air magnet thing?” Oliver wondered uncertainly, because nothing on the three computer screens other than the time in the bottom right corner looked familiar to him. Well, that and all the letters and numbers blurring continuously through the programs looked like letters and numbers, of course, but what the hell the combinations of them meant he couldn’t even start guessing at…

 

“You feel free to ask her when she gets here,” Digg told him, his tone ringing that it’d be the archer’s funeral even more loudly than his words. “I won’t.”

 

Oliver shot a look at the older man, but then rolled his eyes as he realized he was right. Questioning Felicity about the specifics of her work likely wouldn’t lead anywhere good, it never did in high-stress situations, and this was stressful for both of them in different ways. She’s probably yell at him about how she didn’t tell him how to make his arrows, or something like that. But then a specific part of what the bodyguard had said earlier jumped out of the back of his brain. “Wait, why a year ago?”

 

“What?”

 

“You said before that this guy, he hacked himself off the system a year ago,” Oliver reminded him. “What happened a year ago?”

 

“Yeah, I asked,” Digg shook his head, “They don’t have a clue.”

 

Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding!

 

The sudden sounds from the previously almost silent computers yanked both men’s eyes back to the machines that’d been whirring away while the different images on the trio of monitors rapidly changed all on their own for several hours now. On the far left monitor, a new screen had opened, its border briefly flashing red several times before another window opened next to it—though the video in the first red framed window was far easier to follow than the computer codes racing across the other.

 

We’re back!” the same disguised voice from the night before declared almost cheerfully.

 

Oliver and Diggle both grimaced as the camera was pointed at a new man tied-up on the same sort of crucifixion setup as the bastard’s last victim.

 

This guy was younger than Nickel and wearing a suit, but he was just as wrecked with terror as the late slumlord had been. He might not know where he was, but he knew who had him and what was gonna happen next. His life was likely to end on the other end of the gun that was being pointed at him along with the camera.

 

As the madman started talking again, the same headline appeared at the top of the screen.

GLADES BETRAYED!

Despite the intervention of big brother’s censors, we now have with us Assistant District Attorney Gavin Carnahan.

 

The introduction—or maybe the realization that the broadcast had started—drew panicked shouts from the A.D.A, but whatever pleas he was trying to make were effectively muffled by the duct-tape, just like Nickel’s cries had been.

 

And Oliver’s eyes narrowed, because a man that frequently represented the city by prosecuting criminal wasn’t at all the sort of target he would’ve expected his copycat to go after next. That, and the name Carnahan wasn’t anywhere on the List, so he couldn’t remotely tell himself that this wasn’t one of the people in his city he wanted to protect. Not threaten, let alone kill.

 

Now, D.A’s are supposed to go after bad guys,” the self-named ‘Savior’ went on then. “But this one? He can’t even be bothered to bring them to trial.” There was definite disgust in the man’s voice, and that only got deeper when he continued. “Like the ones who killed my wife in a bodega!

 

Another program popping open on the far right screen caught his eye, and Oliver wasn’t that surprised to see what looked like it might be Carnahan’s own case files scrolling through half the window, with the other half full of the program still being computer gibberish he’d never be able to do anything with, other than stare at it. His not-brief-enough time working with ARGUS had sort of accustomed him to just making use of the tool provided without thinking about it, but watching Felicity’s computers seem to react repeatedly to different scenarios without any input from anyone at all just now did sort of make him think of the old Terminator movies.

 

"He said there wasn't enough evidence!" the 'Savior' went on with the clearly painful subject. "You think the evidence would have turned up if she'd been killed in one of Starling City's nicer neighborhoods?"

 

Beep-Beep!

 

Another window opened, displaying an article from last year’s Local News in the Starling City Sentinel.

 

“Emma Falk. Grieving husband is Joseph Falk,” Oliver summarized after a quick glance through the article, turning to look at the center screen where another information window had just opened, but Digg was already reading that, so he just asked. "What'd we have on him?"

 

“Looks like there’s still not much there, guy really did wipe himself off the grid,” the ex-soldier reminded him, but went on without paying any attention to the vigilante’s glare. “Former city worker, Department of Transportation, computer technician. Left his job when his wife was killed…” he trailed off with a wince.

 

Oliver saw why when he looked at the date, “A year ago today.”

That was probably his trigger, or at least why Nickel’s very publicized trial and subsequent release last night had set him off. So this might’ve happened even if the archer hadn’t put the List on the backburner more than once over the last few months—like when he’d gone after cop-shooting bank robbers instead of heartless landlords like Nickel months ago.

 

"No current phone, no current address," Digg followed up as he finished reading through the other bits of data that kept magically appearing on the center screen as her searches dug out whatever little bits Falk had missed.

 

The widower stopped rambling then with a long, drawn breath, but his next declaration drew both men’s frowns back to the third screen where his video was still playing in the red frame, though one of the screens behind it had changed. “Gavin, you're a lawyer. You're used to making a case. So go ahead. I'm going to give you ten minutes to deliver the closing argument of your life.

“Dammit…” Oliver scowled, “We’ve gotta find this guy. Shut him down.”

 

Ten minutes,” Falk emphasized on the screen again. “To convince me not to blow you away.

 

Then the camera went away from the lawyer and was set facing a watch, which was counting the seconds away.

“Yeah well, do you know how to find whatever she does that with?” Digg asked him pointedly. “If it’s a program, not something she does on the spot?”

 

He had a point, but it wasn’t helping.

 

As if in answer, another program popped open on the left monitor, underneath the live video that was playing out before who knew how many people. The computer codes still meant nothing to Oliver, but the map of the Glades he recognized, along with what had to be a search-grid that was narrowing over it, zeroing in on what was hopefully the location of the A.D.A and the man that would murder him if someone else didn’t step in.

 

The sight of it had Oliver darting towards the alley exit, grabbing an earpiece as he went. “That’s a trace,” he shouted as he ran out. “Tell me where he is!”

 

“You gonna hood up?” Digg called after him.

 

“It’s the middle of the day, Diggle!” Oliver shouted back as he grabbed his motorcycle helmet instead. He much preferred the infamous anonymity that the Hood gave him, but common sense told him there wasn’t time to suit up anyway, even if all the grease paint in the world would be able to conceal his identity, which it wouldn’t. “Come on, Digg, what’s it say?” he demanded into the comm. as he switched it on before he’d even reached his bike.

 

Trace’s still running,” the ex-soldier reported promptly.

 

Oliver released a frustrated growl, but that was all he could do now that he was on his bike, its engine purring and ready to take off with all speed. Just sitting here, waiting, wasn’t something that came easy when an innocent man’s life was literally on the line. “Come on, come on…”

 

Yeah, it’s still running,” Digg reported again.

 

Oliver bit back what he wanted to snarl in response, but just barely, though a second later he got his reward for it.

 

Got him,” the other man reported. “He’s at 23rd and Mira.

 

Oliver was almost out of the alley before he’d even finished, speeding through the streets at less than safe speeds as he tried to reach the now completely innocent man that this new vigilante was going to murder on camera. “How’s Carnahan?” he asked a few turns later, barely even registering the honk of the diver he’d scared with his last maneuver as he left him far behind.

 

Struggling,” Digg reported. “Poor guy’s terrified.

 

I’m almost there,” Oliver said, glad both that the destination happened to be so close to Verdant and really glad that Felicity wasn’t in the basement watching with Diggle.

 

Not even a whole minute later he was leaping from his bike at the address, busting in the first door he came to at what was obviously an old office building. Another minute and he was headed up the stairs as fast as his feet could carry him, because the A.D.A only had a few more minutes left if Falk stuck to his timeline.

 

“Nothing on the first floor, on my way up.”

 

Digg didn’t say anything in response, but he could hear the desperation growing in the far-off voice of the A.D.A. Carnahan’s words weren’t clear enough through the comm. to understand, but his desperation definitely shouted straight through.

 

“Can’t find him!” Oliver growled after he’d forced open every door on the final floor, too, and bolted up to the roof. “Spartan, he’s not here!”

 

What?

“I searched every office on every floor. He’s not here.” Oliver reported quickly, and then demanded just as fast, “Is this the right place? Are you sure?

 

It’s where the—What the hell?” Digg’s response was all forced-calm until it gave way to outright confusion.


“What?” Oliver demanded.

 

Program say’s he moved,” his bodyguard answered, audibly forcing himself through his own confusion. “Go north. He’s at the intersection of Ocean and Grand.

 

“On my way,” Oliver replied, running without a thought for the edge of the roof to leap all the way over to the other rooftop.

 

Crossing on high because it was a much more direct route and there was considerably less traffic to slow him down or watch him run by. And fortunately the buildings in this—the mostly residential—are of the Glades were crammed in more than close enough for him to keep running across rooftops and leaping between them. When he finally got to a building to the north that didn’t have just a little alley between it in the next one he instead jumped down the fire escape, grabbing rapid handholds on each level and letting them go just as quick to slow his several story descent as little as possible. A big truck driving by conveniently saved him from slowing down to drop the stairs from the second story or leap off them, and he stayed on top of it until it came to a stop behind another vehicle. Dashing across it and then weaving in between traffic, ignoring the honking horns of the cars that weren’t quite close enough to actually hit him.

What’s going on?” Felicity’s unexpected voice in his ear almost made him stumble, but his body managed the next leap and landing on auto-pilot anyway. “Did the trace work?

 

How are you—

 

I’m hiding in the restroom,” Felicity interrupted the bodyguard. “Local News picked up the broadcast, started a breaking news bulletin. I can still kill it, it’s just gonna take a little longer—and that won’t help A.D.A Carnahan. Are you—

 

“Trying to find him, yeah,” Oliver finally interrupted her, breathing a bit rough from the exertion of his breakneck parkour even as he jumped and climbed over the last obstacle between him and the second location. Then he looked around for any place where the so-called ‘Savior’ could be hiding himself and his soon-to-be victim. All he saw was construction equipment and the men that were working with it all over the area. “I’m at Ocean and Grand. There’s just a vacant lot here. Something’s wrong with the trace. Oracle, could he be redirecting it somehow?”

Redir—no. Not for—oh, goddammit.” Her response ended with the painful sounding oath rushing out, then she went quiet.

 

And in the background, again, he could hear the desperate sounds of the A.D.A’s shouts again. Clearly the calm logic he’d learned in law school couldn’t hold up under a threat to his own life. Which was fair, ‘cause it shouldn’t have to—it shouldn’t have ever come to this.

  

“We need to find the right address now!” Oliver ordered harshly, hating the fact that he had to snap at her almost as much as what he knew she was probably watching on her tablet.

 

Arrow, it’s over,” their ex-soldier reported then, just an edge of weary sadness leaking through his military-engrained discipline as he finished. “Carnahan's dead.

 

Oliver’s eyes dropped closed immediately as he fought for control of the desperate monster that wanted to crawl up out of his gut right then. He had to swallow twice before he felt capable of saying anything to her. “...Oracle?”

I cut the broadcast in time. Barely,” she responded right away, but she sounded so subdued and sad that he could practically feel it himself, even through the adrenaline and rage that’d powered him through the dash to this spot. “I-I’m sorry, I—

 

Not your fault,” Digg tried to tell her before the archer could find the words while he jogged back down the street at a much less breakneck pace, returning to where he’d left his motorcycle on the side of the road to find it still there and running—yet another one of the signs that the vigilante’s existence had cowed some of the local criminal elements somewhat.

 

Yes it—

 

“No, Oracle, it isn’t,” Oliver told her firmly. “Just finish up at work as soon as you can, okay? Then you can help us figure out how he did this.”

 

I’ve already finished the interviews and meetings for the day. Your mom didn’t want to keep going into the afternoon. We’re starting them again tomorrow,” she sighed, sounding exhausted. “I can get a ride to the club and—

 

“I’ll be out front in twenty minutes,” Oliver interrupted her.

 

That was the only thing he could tell her to do now.

 

Stanley or Daniel will have me there in ten, so I’ll see you there,” she answered firmly.

 

Oliver frowned. “Who?”

 

The Q.C drivers that your mom assigned to me—I’m not sure which one it’ll be this afternoon. I haven’t gotten used to their schedules yet.

 

Oliver sighed, but then nodded. “Okay, see you there.”

 

He’d rather tell her to stop watching when she turned the program off for everyone else.

 

He’d rather tell her all the blame for not stopping this bastard belonged to him. Because it did. It absolutely did. If his actions as the Hood had helped the grieving widower turn into a vengeful madman, then Oliver was at least partially responsible for each life he took: that it was with bullets, not arrows, didn’t make any difference there.

 

But Oliver knew Felicity wouldn’t believe him, and arguing about it would only let her blame herself more. Better to give her something productive to do, and hope the end result would be another one of his arrows finding Joseph Falk’s broken heart before he could hurt anyone else. Before he could hurt Felicity anymore than he already had…


NEXT:

Not Enough

Felicity’s P.O.V.

Oliver's not wrong to be worried about Felicity's reaction to the so-called "Savior's' latest attack.

Even if it's far from the only thing that's going on right now...

Chapter Text

WARNING #1: While the violence in this chapter is straight out of the Arrow canon , I was a little hesitant to post it less than a week after the horrible events in Las Vegas. But allowing acts of terror & insanity to dictate how we continue on with our lives is the last thing we’re supposed to do, so here it is… So, please remember that the villain here is a madman with a gun and one of his victims pleading for his life. If this might be a bad trigger for you, you may want skip the part of the chapter after the Glades Betrayed broadcast starts. It’s fairly obvious.

That said, my heart goes out to everyone hurt by the premeditated, manmade tragedy in Las Vegas. Every life or loved one lost, everyone injured, and everyone who was just plain scared by this—whether you were there yourself or just terrorized by the idea and/or watching it on TV.

Enjoy the scene.


Felicity's P.O.V.

 

The interviews had gone well. Some of them might even bear worthwhile fruit soon enough.

 

It might even be amusing to have one of Mazin’s assassins pretending to be a harmless secretary for a little while. If Felicity could keep herself from asking if Mazin’s vassals really thought she wouldn’t notice that the all too competent young woman with a perfect resume and friendly smile also had a fighter’s figure and the calluses you only got from training all the time with swords and other weapons. Maybe an archer’s calluses, too, but the sword calluses were a definite. That, and Jen Hunt’s resume really was too perfect, just like her cheerful story was. Though saying she’d backpacked around the world after college before she came back home and started looking for a job was a fairly creative way to hide how well-traveled she’d become with the League of Assassins…

 

Still, ‘Jen’ could undoubtedly do the job. And if Mazin wanted someone close to Felicitas he’d keep sending people until she took someone, so why not take the one she already knew was from Nanda Parbat? After all, it might be entertaining. And he’d tell her whatever it was that’d inspired his latest bout of over-protectiveness eventually.

 

That much, at least, Felicity knew.

 

What she didn’t know was what exactly Moira Queen wanted from her. Not here at Queen Consolidated, anyway.

 

Getting to know each other was something Oliver’s mother and girlfriend could’ve done over dinner and drinks, after all. Or lunch, like Oliver’s nervous but hopeful baby sister had decided to do today. Had Moira followed that path, it would’ve meant a whole lot less work than the regal woman seemed to be putting into making Felicity someone here at the family’s company.

 

Moira was protective of Felicity, of course, for Oliver’s sake, but her support here at Queen Consolidated seemed like more than that. Though that was undoubtedly why the other woman wanted Felicity to take her time with everything. Her son—over-protective hypocrite that he was—had said several times that Felicity worked too much all the time, and Missus Queen had obviously taken his concerns to heart.

 

But Moira Queen was still the acting-C.E.O in Mister Steele’s absence, and she was also a smart, reasonable woman. So thus far working with her hadn’t been half bad.

 

In fact, it seemed as though Felicity was going to have almost complete autonomy over the new department. Yes, Moira was regularly checking in on her, but almost every time it’d just been to make sure everything was going well and then to remind Felicity to let her know if she needed anything. The two times that weren’t that had more to do with the other people visiting the new department at the time, too—namely the head of the Legal Department whose office was directly on the opposite corner of the building from Felicity’s own, and the head of Applied Sciences. The point of Missus Queen’s presence then couldn’t be clearer: whether anyone thought Felicity would have the Queen name anytime soon or not, Moira was going out of her way to make sure everyone knew that Felicity was the queen of her own little kingdom in the company.

 

Truth be told, Felicity would probably find it a lot of fun—a surprise turn on the rollercoaster of life and an interesting new challenge… if not for the maniac that Oliver was undoubtedly still trying to find and stop right now. The maniac that Oliver hadn’t already aimed an arrow at: because Felicity hadn’t found him yet. Because the psycho was hidden somewhere in the city behind firewalls that she’d find impressive if she wasn’t so pissed off as the one who’d built them…

 

“Is everything all right, dear?” Moira’s voice yanked her back out of her thoughts. The report she’d been reviewing now sat on the glass tabletop that’d served as a spot for lunch already today.

Felicity nodded quickly, “Yes, sorry. I was lost in thought for a moment there.”

 

“Of course,” Moira nodded, not trying to hide her studious eyes. “And how were the interviews today? Any interesting applicants?”

 

All of that was in the report that Amita had handed her, but the acting-C.E.O wasn’t asking for the credentials or statistics, she wanted Felicity’s impression. If Moira wasn’t so obviously taking her under her wing, Felicity might think she was trying to undermine or micro-manage her, but that wasn’t it. The other woman was trying to be a mentor to someone she couldn’t know had mentored far more people than she ever could, but that didn’t make the effort any less endearing.

 

“Well, I’ve found my secretary already, so that’ll help Amita a lot,” Felicity admitted, hesitating a moment before she continued honestly, “We have some good people working here already, a lot of them can fill a few spots on the team. But I haven’t seen anyone yet that’s especially good at thinking outside the box. Well, no, there’s a few people in Applied Sciences that are great at it, but they didn’t apply for a transfer—they’re happy where they are. And they’re inventors, really, so Q.C is better off keeping them there, too.”

 

Moira nodded. “I suppose creative thinking is necessary for cyber security?”

 

“Very. C.S is always evolving,” the Immortal shrugged, then tried to explain. “I mean, everything is, but we have to stay ahead of the black-hat hackers, and finding all the holes in the box is what they do. The white-hats have to be able to think like them, only better and faster, to keep stopping them. That could mean moving the box, building another box inside it, or something a lot more creative.”

 

“That makes sense,” Moira nodded as she came up to stand next to her by the windows, studying the cityscape for only a moment before her eyes came back to the other blonde. “The interviews are done for today, correct?”

 

“Yes, I think so,” Felicity replied, glancing automatically at the desk on the other side of the glass wall—and not letting herself frown or sigh when she saw her assistant was already back from her much too short lunch break. “But Amita’s back, so let me double-check.” She pressed the correct intercom button on her desk—not wanting to, as it was something she was more than capable of looking up herself, but knowing that her choosing not to ask her E.A might lead to the assistant-C.E.O thinking the woman wasn’t working out for Felicity. And the woman really couldn’t put any more effort into her job—as the still half-full smoothie on her desk, which she was probably calling her lunch—could attest. “Amita, are there anymore meetings today?”

 

No, ma’am,” Amita answered promptly. “There’s several more first thing tomorrow.” She hesitated, then offered. “I-I could call down to the I.T Department, and Applied Sciences, to see if any of the applicants are free early?

 

Those were both the places that all the applicants who were already working here at Queen Consoldiated were coming from. Other than the guy in accounting that thought knowing what phishing was meant he might have a shot at it. But calling them in early with no warning and therefore no time to prepare themselves would hardly be fair, so Felicity shook her head.

 

“No. First thing tomorrow’s fine.”

 

“Yes it is,” Moira agreed, then she looked through the glad wall as she spoke to Amita. “If you would, Miss Banha, please write up a brief analysis of each applicant’s résumé and send it to my office before you leave today.”

 

Yes, of course, Missus Queen,” Amita agreed quickly.

 

Felicity waited a moment to see if the acting-C.E.O would say anything else, then she said, “Thank you, Amita,” before turning the intercom off.

 

“Cynthia will make sure I have a chance to read it before the meetings start tomorrow.” Moira met Felicity eyes again then, explaining calmly, “Not to undermine you at all, dear. This department is dependent upon your expertise, so as I’ve already said: whom you hire is, of course, entirely up to you.”

 

She had said that. Several times and in front of many witnesses.

 

But Felicity knew that was how it worked. Her current persona, per say, supposedly didn’t come from great fortune, but that was all a matter of digital information that she could change whenever she chose. Felicitas herself had come from immense fortune. As the heiress of a very wealthy mother who’d founded an empire that’d ruled the Mediterranean for centuries—till it finally fell under the spite of Rome long after her first lifetime. Her son hadn’t let her leave Carthage without the means to support herself no matter where she went, and his descendents had often called on her for advice when they could, which they’d all insisted on paying her handsomely for whether she wanted them to or not. By the time the monarchy descended from Dido’s throne gave way to the republic that eventually waged war with Rome, Felicitas had amassed more personal wealth than most nations could ever imagine claiming. And none of that was figurative—it was gold and jewels that would always have value, which she’d only added to over the years in everything from more treasures to properties all around the world.

 

All her wealth wasn’t from Carthage, of course: so many of the amazing people she’d known were remembered by not just her—as part of the history of the world—for very real reasons. They’d taken care of their parts of the world at least, and they’d taken care of their friends, too. Felicitas included.

 

Sun Tzu. Socrates. Plato. Aristotle. Magnus Alexandros. Cleopatra. Charlesmagne. Raziyah al-Din. Maria Christina. Francisco Goya. Alan Turing. And many others in between…

 

She also knew many Immortals who each played their own amazing parts in the world. And she knew more than a few mortals whose coils weren’t yet spent. Money and influence were what move and even shook the world—and Felicitas was far from a stranger to either.

 

In general, she knew that world and how it worked like the backs of her hands. It was the specifics she was a little out of the loop on here and now.

 

So Moira Queen was still more mystery than not right now. Helpful to a fault. Almost desperate to see Felicity succeed and maybe bring Oliver into Queen Consolidated with her. Or at least to see both her children healthy, happy and safe… But what was she so afraid of?

 

“You want to know for the Board?” Felicity asked the other woman then, startling her back from whatever thoughts she’d gotten lost in.

 

Moira surprised her a little by shrugging. “There isn’t another board meeting until the end of June. Normally we meet every quarter, unless some unexpected circumstances force us to meet sooner.” She shook her head. “But it never hurts to be thorough, and the more reports I bury them in the less time they have to come up with questions and complaints that really don’t matter,” she finished with a slight smile and a conspiratorial tone that made the other blonde laugh.

 

“Well, that makes sense,” Felicity agreed easily enough, but her phone vibrated violently in the only pocket her dress suit allowed, making her jump. That nearly led to the device making a suicidal leap away from her chest, but she managed to catch it in time, and then frowned when she saw just which warning had come up on the screen.

 

G-B ALERT.

 

G.B. Glades Betrayed. The Savior.

 

Dammit.

 

And she’d so hoped it was just something about another Immortal, like Starek, rather than the maniac that Oliver was probably still blaming himself for inspiring. If only wishing made it so…

 

“Felicity? Is everything all right?” Moira asked her again, again drawing her attention back to her nice corner office.

 

“No,” Felicity answered with an honest sigh as she quickly read what the alert was telling her and carefully edited her response. “Looks like that guy in the Glades is broadcasting again. And now the local news has picked it up.” She started towards the device that she’d already learned would project television shows—or almost anything else—she wanted on hallway glass wall: one button making the glass opaque, another turning the projector on, and one more to input the television channel. Where the show’s anchor was announcing over the emboldened words:

LIVE

BREAKING NEWS.

—to bring our viewers this information out of The Glades, where the man calling himself ‘The Savior,’ has now captured a second victim—Starling City’s own A.D.A, Gavin Carnahan—and is broadcasting live to the city. Our warning to all viewers: this man is wanted by the S.C.P.D for the murder of John Nickel under similar circumstances last night, and as this is live footage we cannot be sure of what we’re about to see…

 

“Well, it’s rather obvious, isn’t it?” Moira opined with a weary sigh. But the question was just as obviously a rhetorical one as she went on without waiting for either of them to answer. “What is this city coming to?” she shook her head.

 

On the screen, under the same headline as before: GLADES BETRAYED, a man in a now ruined suit was whimpering as the camera—and his captor, who was carrying it—came closer. But he started trying to talk to him as soon as the tape was ripped off—obviously he was being allowed to beg for his life, too.

“Look! Listen! Listen to me, okay?” the A.D.A pleaded desperately, all but breathless with terror. “I have fifty-three cases on my desk right now. I don’t always have time—”

“You should have made time,” his captor cut him off.

“I know!” Carnahan insisted, his desperation ringing through each word. “I know!”

 

And that was all Felicity could let herself watch like this: stuck here just watching and not even trying to do anything. She shot to her feet, grabbing her tablet off her desk, and then turned towards the office door, only just remembering to stop to excuse herself as quickly as she could. “I-I’m sorry. I can—I’ll be back in a minute.”

 

“Take your time, dear,” Moira reassured her with the weary but understanding sort of calm.

 

Amita looked up as Felicity exited the office, but only watched her cross it to the ridiculously nice bathroom that was basically just for her and her assistant to share. “Doctor Smoak, can I get you—”

 

“No,” Felicity cut her off, making herself stop in the bathroom doorway to look back at her. “No, thank you, Amita. I’ll be fine. Just help Missus Queen, please.”

 

“Of course, ma’am,” Amita agreed quietly, and was already turning to go into the office as Felicity went into the bathroom.

 

After she’d locked the door behind her, she walked over to the beautiful bench an interior designer had placed there as both decoration and resting area. It was surrounded by mirrors, but was also just where you could sit if the equally elegant door to the lone toilet was closed and you had to wait. Instead, she started accessing all of the information her tablet already had ready for her, which included a smaller screenshot of the video she’d left Moira and Amita watching in her office.

“—the resources. But-But I tried.” Carnahan was trying to insist, only to flinch and whimper again as the madman holding him at gunpoint cocked the gun. “Sorry! I’m sorry!” he begged, but saying sorry wasn’t going to save him…

 

Sighing, Felicity finally turned her attention to her phone and activated the function that’d allow her to directly link up with the communication’s system she’d designed for the team. For a moment she didn’t hear anything, but then there was a thud and a grunt, which told her Oliver was probably already flying over rooftops or something like that.

 

“What’s going on?” Felicity asked after a too long moment of waiting for either one of the too quiet men to say something and hearing hold more grunts and thuds from Oliver’s side of the comm. “Did the trace work?” she asked, barely daring to hope it was going to be that easy.

 

Digg’s surprised voice responded almost immediately. “How are you—

 

“I’m hiding in the restroom,” Felicity interrupted because pointing out that she was the one that made this system seemed mean. “Local news picked up the broadcast, started a breaking news bulletin. I can still kill it,” she told them, glancing at her tablet to confirm that the program she’d designed to automatically start getting into place for that was doing so.

 

It was, it was just taking a little longer because of the local media interest. It wasn’t just the website’s broadcast being sent out over the top of all over programming in The Glades—a broad-scale hack that wasn’t all that hard to block if you knew how—now it was the local news picking up the video and displaying it themselves.

 

Clearly completely missing why it was that she’d blocked the very end of the broadcast last night and giving this madman exactly what he wanted in the process. To hurt everyone else as much as he was hurting—a sick sort of vengeance that could only seem like justice in his own mind.

 

But the relevant point for her was that it’d take just that much more work to stop Channel 7 from showing the world what this ‘Savior’ wanted it to see. Fortunately, it wasn’t a scenario she was unprepared for either—she’d had a ‘just in case’ program setup for years now—ever since that Watchers widower had almost outed the Watchers and all Immortals to the world.

 

“It’s just gonna take a little longer,” Felicity told them quickly, “and that won’t help A.D.A Carnahan. Are you—”

 

Trying to find him, yeah,” Oliver cut in this time, sounding only a little out of breath.

 

Felicity wanted to ask if he was wearing a better disguise during the day, at least his motorcycle helmet or something like that, but she was too busy doing what she could on her tablet to argue with him right now. Especially with how badly the A.D.A was doing with the trying to save his own life with an argument right now.

 

“I took-took the cases that were… That-That I thought that I could—”

“Win,” the madman interrupted knowingly.

“Ye-Yes,” Carnahan gasped, clearly knowing he was soon going to die no matter what he said. “I-I’m so sorry…”

 

I’m at Ocean and Grant,” Oliver suddenly told her then. “There’s just a vacant lot here. Something’s wrong with the trace. Oracle, could he be redirecting it somehow?

 

“Gavin Carnahan,” the madman finally just said it while his victim stared at him, wide-eyed and gasping. “I find you guilty of crimes against the Glades.”

 

Felicity blinked. “Redir—no,” she shook her head sharply, staring at the result her tablet could show her from the twenty different programs she currently had running right now. Though the relatively small tablet screen could only show her so much when they had to give the live video and the program ready to block it priority. “Not for—oh, godammit,” she swore abruptly when Carnahan suddenly started shouting, probably seeing a finality on the face only he could see: his murderer’s face.

 

“Don’t do this!” he was shouting, clearly knowing he couldn’t do anything else. “Don’t do this!”

The madman ignored him. “And I sentence you to death.”

“No!”

 

Felicity’s fingers flew to the button set to block the broadcast—or more accurately, trap it within her setup—and thankfully it went into effect immediately like it was supposed to: only allowing her to see what happened next. Just in time…

 

“No!” Carnahan kept screaming. “No plea—”

BANG! BANG! BANG!

 

Felicity closed her eyes and swallowed, telling herself not to think about either the pointless loss of an innocent life or the many friends—far too many—that she’d loss to similar stupidity, cruelty, or just plain evil over her long, long years.

 

It wasn’t easy, though, because the man that called himself ‘The Savior’ was no hero. He was just a murderer. But thinking anymore on that wouldn’t help her or anyone else, so she boxed it away as best she could, to stay focused on what she could do next.

 

We need to find the right address now!” Oliver suddenly shouted into the comm., probably because he didn’t like how quiet she and Diggle had both gotten now. And after his race around the Glades to try and rescue the unfortunate A.D.A, his heart had to sound like a drumbeat in his ears right now.

 

Digg answered him before she could even think of what to say in response. “Arrow, it’s over,” he told the other man regretfully. “Carnahan’s dead.

 

Her hero was quiet a long moment as he, too, tried to stomach that reality—that failure. Then his breathless voice finally came again, this time much more gently through the comm. “Oracle?

 

Felicity sighed sadly, but tried to make herself answer calmly. “I cut the broadcast in time. Barely,” she told him softly, not able to put any emotion other than her sadness at the unnecessary loss of life out of her voice. “I-I’m sorry, I—”

 

Not your fault,” Diggle tried to tell her right away.

 

But he was wrong.

 

Felicity shook her head just as quickly. “Yes it—”

 

No, Oracle, it isn’t,” Oliver interrupted this time, his voice still gentle but as firm as ever. His heart had to still be beating in his ear, but he was worrying about for her as he went on. “Just finish up at work as soon as you can, okay? Then you can help us figure out how he did this.

 

It seemed so wrong. Unfair that both men were worrying about her so much here. She was the one that’d failed both of them, the innocent A.D.A, and Nickel, too. Their reassurances weren’t something she deserved right now.

 

“I’ve already finished the interviews and meetings for the day,” Felicity said before Oliver could say anything about stopping by to drag her out of the office already. “Your mom didn’t want to keep going into the afternoon. We’re starting them again tomorrow,” she finished with a sigh she couldn’t bite back, shaking her head tiredly. “I can get a ride to the club and—”

 

I’ll be out front in twenty minutes,” Oliver interrupted firmly.

 

Felicity immediately shook her head again even though he couldn’t see it. “Stanley or Daniel will have me there in ten,” she told him firmly. “So I’ll see you there.”

 

“Who?” the frown in the vigilante’s voice wasn’t covered by Diggle’s soft snort.

 

“The Q.C drivers your mom assigned to me,” Felicity felt a bit bad rolling her eyes, but he couldn’t see that and she couldn’t stop herself from doing it either. “I’m not sure which one it’ll be this afternoon. I haven’t gotten used to their schedules yet.”

 

No, she hadn’t gotten used to the schedules that she suspected Moira had personally setup to make sure Felicity stopped working long hours on any regular sort of basis. But she did remember their names. Then again, her hero was handling his adrenaline crash combined with failing to save poor Gavin Carnahan a lot better than she was. She was boxing it away because she couldn’t handle it right now. Not yet.

 

For that drawn moment she thought Oliver might argue, but then he sighed, telling her he’d recognized she was right even before he finally agreed. “Okay, see you there.

 

Take your time, Felicity,” Diggle interjected then, after a whole minute of just letting them argue almost like he wasn’t there.

 

Felicity swallowed, but then made herself nod again. “I will, Digg. See both of you soon.”

 

Then she disconnected the call. Because she wasn’t going to let either of them comfort her about this. She didn’t deserve it.

 

And she had to get going now, because if she wasn’t on her way out sooner rather than later she didn’t doubt Oliver would find his way here. While that might make his mother even more accommodating than she was being already, it wasn’t what Felicity wanted as part of her job here going forward. She hadn’t remotely planned for such a massive promotion falling into her lap here, but she’d learned long ago that the key to survival was a combination of knowing how to make yourself adapt and knowing what you could let yourself evolve into, and what you couldn’t…

 

When Felicity stepped out of the bathroom she wasn’t at all surprised to see that her office wall wasn’t opaque anymore, instead it was all clear glass. And it offered her a view of her office that showed Oliver’s mother was in there alone, sitting on the couch, which did surprise her a little bit either.

 

The pensive look on the Queen matriarch’s face as she gazed out the window at the cityscape they called home—looking a lot like she wasn’t actually seeing the city itself—reminded the Immortal of the concerns she’d already noticed more than once. The barely-there lines that even the highest-end moisturizers couldn’t keep away from her mouth and eyes if the stress was there too often. The shades of fear hiding in her eyes. The tiny trembles she sometimes disguised with finger tapping…

 

But Moira Queen wasn’t one to talk about her concerns. Especially not when she was supposed to be the strong one—whether that was the acting-C.E.O or the mother. Here and now, she was both. She didn’t yet know Felicity well enough to separate her from either Oliver or the company, so any personal problems were out of the scope of their currently still just budding relationship.

 

Even if they were closer, Felicity suspect Moira wouldn’t want without more than a little pressure. That Thea had walked out even after she’d shot a concerned glance back at her mother earlier told the Immortal that. But her youngest baby wasn’t someone Moira would ever want to be weak in front of either. Walter was probably the only person his wife might choose to lean on, but the fact that she couldn’t was probably a big part of the problem.

 

But maybe Oliver could get through to her. If he could let his guard down enough to get her to do the same. Something he wouldn’t be able to do while some whacko was terrorizing the city. If he couldn’t get through to her… well, then Felicity would have to start looking into Starling City’s elite—the good ones—to figure out which ones Moira might consider her real friends…

 

“Are you alright, dear?” Moira asked as soon as Felicity walked into the office. Apparently not even half as out of it as she’d looked. That thoughtful fear had vanished behind the strong mask only a mother’s face could create as soon as she saw the other blonde again.

 

“Yes—I mean, no. I…” Felicity hesitated, trailing off because for once her mouth didn’t have to say on its own, so the right answer just wasn’t coming out.

 

“Amita is making us some tea,” Moira told her, and indicated the other side of the couch she was sitting on. Where her daughter and Felicity had chatted through sushi what felt like a week ago now. “Why don’t you have a seat?”

 

Felicity shook her head, and finally forced the right polite words out, “Thank you, but I-I think I’ll check in with Oliver, if that’s okay?” she asked, already knowing the woman well enough to be sure she’d get the answer she wanted right now.

 

In Moira Queen the mother would always win out over the business woman and the socialite. She could paint a masterful mask for the other two, playing both parts perfectly as needed. But her family was what mattered most. And even though she’d handled the creation of Q.C’s new department and Felicity’s resulting promotion without fault, it was still a pet project of her missing husband that she hadn’t even considered before Oliver had introduced Felicity as his girlfriend…

 

“Of course,” Moira immediately nodded, standing up to come over to stand with Felicity again, rather than continuing to watch her hover in the office doorway from the couch. “I’ll call down to the front desk for a car and Amita will make sure everything is ready for tomorrow.”

 

It was only when the mortal mother took Felicity’s hands in her own that the Immortal realized she was trembling. Just a little bit, but it was there. And she was cold all over, so she must be pale. Probably why Moira had suggested she sit down a minute ago. But she had to go, no matter what all the horrible memories she wasn’t letting all the way out of that dark place at the back of her brain were apparently attacking her body with anyway.

 

“Take care, dear,” Moira told her firmly. “I will call to check in with you tonight, all right?”

 

“You don’t have to—”

 

“I would like to, please.”

 

“All right, thank you,” Felicity agreed quietly, not letting herself think that she was running from her first major day on this job. She really wasn’t, anyway, the woman she was talking to right now—her boss, not just as the acting-C.E.O, but apparently her immediate supervisor now, too—was planning on sending her home anyway. Before that horrible news report.

 

“And if you don’t feel up to the interviews tomorrow, it’s quite alright. We’ll just reschedule them,” Moira patted her hands gently as she sighed. “All this madness in our home isn’t good for any of us. That Hood character was frightening enough, but this new madman doesn’t even seem to answer to his own rules.” She sighed again, shaking her head as she added almost to herself, “And I fear it will only get worse.”

 

Felicity only nodded her agreement, then hesitantly asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to—”

 

“No, no, dear. You go. I’ll call the front desk, they should have a car coming around before you get to the lobby, even in the executive elevator.” Moira offered with a small smile that grew a little bit when Felicity wrinkled her nose.

 

“I’m still not sure I should be riding in there.”

 

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, dear,” the company’s acting head reassured her for the third time that day, “You’re a department head now. None of us have the time to be stopping on every floor when we need to get places quickly. That’s the whole point of that elevator.”

 

And in theory she was right. But Felicity knew that most of the other department heads didn’t ride in the executive elevator. That only the actual executives, and the board members, did. Because they were the head-honchos and that kind of exclusive convenience was an accepted norm, just as much as it was a status symbol. But Oliver’s mother had taken Felicity Smoak completely under her wing, and clearly already expected her to be treated like a member of the Queen family, even though she was only dating Oliver and working for the company. Still, the Immortal knew better than to fight it too much more, so she finally nodded again.

 

“Thank you, Missus—”

 

“I told you to call me, ‘Moira,’ dear.” Oliver’s mother cut her off again, but she was smiling as she shook her head. “I think you’ve managed it all the way through most of our workday together so far, though, so we’ll let this one go for now.”

 

The sound of approaching footsteps drew their eyes towards the little area off the side of her office, which led to a large meeting room that also had a nice break area setup off of it. Which was undoubtedly where Amita was now bringing her freshly brewed tea in from, and that made Felicity feel a little bad about leaving, but she couldn’t do anything to help the others stop the so-called ‘Savior’ from here. And a pot of tea wouldn’t cure her emotional upheaval—only catching the monster could come close to that.

 

“Take it easy tonight, Felicity, and then try to keep going. That’s all we can ever do,” Moira told her, before patting her hand again and then letting her go. “Go on, dear.”

 

Strong indeed. If there was one word that could describe this mother lioness above all others, that had to be it. Which only made the fears she hid almost flawlessly that much more concerning.

 

But there still wasn’t anything Felicity could do about that now. And she could be doing something about the crazy man who wanted the world to witness his premeditated murders…

 

“Thank you, Moira,” Felicity replied, before she finally let herself turn and leave. The elevators—including the executive one—weren’t that far from her office, but today it felt like a long way.

 

Somehow the emptiness of her new department’s side of this high-level floor made it feel far, maybe because the vague sounds from the legal department, which she shared the floor with, seemed a long way off, too. It shouldn’t be so bad when there were people working—and becoming familiar faces—in her own department here. But she was only halfway to the elevators when the sounds of someone hurrying after her in heels made her stop and turn back.

 

Tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap…

 

Not surprisingly, it was her assistant, because she couldn’t imagine the Queen matriarch would let herself even consider that fast dash where anyone could see it.

 

“Ma’am, I’m glad I caught you,” Amita told her with a smile, then held out a familiar purse to her. “You forgot to take this with you.”

 

“I guess I did.” Felicity blinked at her purse, then accepted it with a small smile for the eager-to-please and ever-helpful young woman. “Thank you, Amita.”

 

“Of course, Doctor—”

 

“Call me ‘Felicity,’ Amita, please.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” the woman agreed unconvincingly. Just like she had every other time Felicity had made the same request.

 

And Felicity sighed, but accepted that that was all she was going to get for now. “Don’t stay too late today, all right? We have an early start tomorrow.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Amita agreed more convincingly this time. “I hope you feel better.”

 

“Thank you,” Felicity sighed. “Have a good afternoon.”

 

“You as well, ma’am,” Amita called after her.

 

Felicity didn’t look back, just continued walking the rest of the way to the elevator she was supposed to ride up and down in now. Trying, the whole way down, to convince herself that the sinking sensation in her stomach was just from the especially fast drop of it going straight from one of the building’s highest floors all the way to the bottom without stopping. It didn’t work that well: because she’d never been any good at lying to herself.


NEXT:

Sometimes We Lose

Oliver Queen’s P.O.V.

The last thing he’d wanted was to see her hurt, but he’d done what he could to prevent it and it wasn’t enough. Now he can only try to help her hold the pieces together… 

                         


A/N: Okay, so NEXT chapter will be the waited for Olicity conversation. Sorry. I know I kind of promised it with the pictures last time, but this seemed to fit well here. THAT conversation IS next though. Promise…

And now, one more nice gif…

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen's P.O.V..

 

Oliver had hurried all the way back to the Foundry, but by the time he got there Felicity was already seated at her desk, hard at work. The sight of her typing away wasn't alarming, but the tension in her back—ramrod straight, shoulders stiff even as her fingers flew over computer keys—and the worried way Digg was silently watching her from nearer to the doors than her computer made him wince. "How is she?" he asked, the words deliberately soft so that only the former soldier could hear.

 

Diggle shook his head. "Hasn't said a word, really," he answered just as softly. "She's been staring at the tracking program, doing—well, something with it, since she got here. I think she already sent the S.C.P.D the full video again, too, but…” he finished with a shrug. “More than anything, she’s gone quiet.”

 

Not like her at all, and both men knew it. The genius went quiet when something was wrong. Very wrong. But here they both also knew what was wrong, and to expect the reaction…

 

Oliver winced again, but then nodded. "Thanks, Digg."

 

The older man nodded back, "I'll be upstairs," he said, before heading for the stairwell that led up into the club.

 

Oliver deliberately let his feet fall much heavier than normal, not stomping: but making sure she should be able to hear his approach if she was listening.

 

Felicity didn't react until he was right behind her. "I'm sorry," she said, her words almost too soft for him to hear right next to her as her fingers kept flying over the keyboard and her shoulders looked like they might snap under their own strain. It strummed straight into every keystroke, making the normally reassuring rhythm something he couldn’t let himself focus on without going crazy.

 

"This wasn't your fault," Oliver answered firmly, while trying to decide if he should pull her away from her desk or not.

  

The blonde shook her head, "I was the one who was supposed to find Carnahan, and I—well, I mean, my programs sent you to those bogus locations. I..." she trailed off, then shook her head again, the motion so angry that it was a wonder she didn't hurt her neck stuck on top of her too tense shoulders. "You could've saved him if I’d just—"

 

"Hey, hey, no," Oliver interrupted, reaching down to catch her chair and jerk it back from the desk, turning her towards him with her hands still held stiffly in the air, ready to keep on typing. He knelt down to take both those small hands between his own: gently rubbing his thumbs across the undersides of her wrists to try and sooth her a little. "It's not your fault, Felicity.”

 

“It is.”

 

“No. It isn’t. You didn’t point that gun or pull the trigger, right?"

 

“No.” She tried to pull her hands away as she started to protest, but he didn't let her. “But—”

 

"No," Oliver cut in again, holding her tearful gaze as he shook his head slowly. "This is the thing with what we do. Sometimes we lose." He saw the words hit home, and tried not to wince as they only made her tears finally spill over. After only a moment's hesitation, he stood up again and pulled her up into his arms, rubbing her back as she sobbed into his shoulder.

 

"It's not right," Felicity sobbed the words out, still almost whisper soft, but absolute. "It’s not."

 

Each word was all anguish and anger she felt at the wrongness that shouldn’t be but was the unavoidable, unchangeable reality.

 

"No, it's not," Oliver agreed, biting back the thought that life rarely was fair, because it wasn't like that'd make her feel better.

 

Somewhat surprisingly, though, it only took her a few minutes to cry her pain out before her tears slowed, and then she stopped trembling: her breathing purposely evening out as she started to pull away.

 

Oliver didn't let himself frown as he studied her face. Thankfully there were no shadows under her eyes as she glanced back towards her computers. This close, he should be able to see them even if her ornamental glasses would normally hide them.

 

So maybe she had slept last night? Maybe this was just the shock of watching two men be murdered hitting her now? Knowing that the next victim wouldn’t be grabbed tonight so she didn’t have to focus on stopping the next murder just yet, her subconscious was finally releasing everything she’d shoved into the back of her mind?

 

It was possible. But he still hated it—at least as much as he could hate any part of her, which wasn’t very much.

 

Oliver had been a little relieved when she’d said herself last night that she wouldn’t be able to call in sick. That she’d have to go into work. Because that meant she’d have to go home to get some sleep last night. They both did, and he’d woken up before her, so she’d even gotten a good few hours there.

 

If Oliver hadn’t been in bed with her last night, he would’ve worried about her maybe spending the whole night on her computer at home, whether she had to be at work the next day or not. He’d held her all night, though, so he knew she hadn’t.

 

And Digg somehow thought he was the one that had to be lectured about not over doing it… at least he knew he had limits. Sometimes he didn’t think Felicity did.

 

Still, Oliver knew he’d seen her drink three separate cups of coffee this morning, and that was another one with her now. Another one that probably wasn’t her fourth. No matter how high her tolerance, running on that much caffeine couldn’t be helping her with this, especially if she was drinking all the coffee to compensate for sleep he hadn’t noticed she wasn’t getting…

 

Then again, even if she was well-rested, Felicity probably would be taking this badly. Oliver had expected it, after all. She was a good person, who cared about other people. Sometimes too much. Oliver couldn’t see Felicity not reacting badly to what she’d just made herself watch even after she’d made sure no one else would see it. Except the police when she forwarded the full tapes to them…

 

Still, the archer was sure his girlfriend needed to rest much more than she needed to keep pushing herself. Especially since Joseph Falk’s grief was clearly on a vengeful path even worse than Helena Bertinelli’s. The Huntress, at least, had all her rage aimed at her father and his fellow mobsters. She didn’t care about people caught in the crossfire, but she wasn’t aiming for them either unless doing so would help her get what she wanted. Falk was just picking people to kill, killing them, and making the whole city watch it. And he wasn’t anywhere near done yet.

 

Felicity tried to turn in his arms to go back to her computers then, “I should—”

 

"No," Oliver stopped her, holding her in place with one hand on each of her still tense and slightly trembling shoulders. "You need to breathe first. Get some rest. Come on."

 

"What? No, I—Oliver!" she yelped when he deftly scooped her up in his arms bridal style. "I can walk! Put me—"

 

"I'll have Digg drive you home," he told her, ignoring her protests because she wasn't actually struggling in his arms, in fact her whole body was almost limp like she might doze off any second now. "One of us will come back to pick you up after you've gotten at least some sleep."

 

It was Friday night, so she shouldn’t be headed to Queen Consolidated anyway. Not that one of the drivers she thought was assigned from the Q.C motor pool wouldn’t show up pretty fast if she called. Oliver didn’t doubt that his mother had made it clear to the company that provided the drivers for both the company and the family that Felicity was to be treated like she was already part of the family, so they’d bend over backwards to keep her happy. Assuming she even bothered with calling anyone, when she probably missed driving her ridiculous little car.

 

At his words, however, the tech genius did start struggling, "No, Oliver, I have work to—"

 

"You need a break, Felicity," the archer firmly cut her off again, "You need to rest."

 

"I won't be able to sleep after watching that!" Felicity protested, and that made him pause at the bottom of the stairs.

 

Oliver sighed, "You can try. It won't be as hard as you think." He started up the steps then, but stopped when she half twisted around to latch onto the nearest railing, her unexpectedly tight grip refusing to budge as he tried to gently shift her back into his hold, but he was barely able to move like this himself without risking dropping her. "Felicity—"

 

"I won't sleep at home, Oliver," his girlfriend insisted firmly. "Even if you or Digg take me home, I won't be able to. I know I won't."

 

Oliver sighed again, then insisted softly, "Let go. Please."

 

She hesitated for a very long second, then finally obeyed.

 

He immediately shifted her back into the much safer bridal hold, before carefully turning around and sitting on the steps to settle her in his lap. He looked into her eyes then. "Did you sleep last night? Really?" he asked her, hating that he thought he knew the answer—and hating that he hadn’t noticed last night when he was sleeping right next to her.

 

Felicity held his gaze for a moment, then sighed as she admitted. "No. I dozed a little. I know I had the programs going, but I still wanted to do something. I’ve never been very good at just waiting,” she shook her head. “But I dozed a little. And I’ve pulled plenty of all-nighters before, Oliver. I'll be fine. I need to—"

 

"Falk’s already killed the man he blames for not receiving justice for his wife's murder," Oliver interrupted her again, keeping his voice carefully firm but calm. "Between grabbing Nickel and Carnahan, he probably got even less sleep than you did. He's not going to be taking anyone else for a little while. Maybe tonight if he’s following a pattern. Maybe later. And we need you back at a hundred percent when he does."

 

"But I..." the blonde swallowed as she squeezed her eyes shut. "I can't get his eyes out of my mind. Or his voice. You didn’t hear him pleading with that monster, but I can’t forget it. I can't—please, Oliver, I-I don't want to have nightmares with him blaming me, too!"

 

Oliver had to squeeze his own eyes shut, the plea tearing into him almost as harshly as his own self-recriminations for bringing her into his world in the first place. But it couldn't be undone, and he couldn't abandon her now. So he hugged her to him even more tightly, then said again, "This was not your fault."

 

“I know,” Felicity admitted, another sigh finding its way through her lips with the words. “Doesn't feel that way.”

 

"I know," he answered, waiting to see if she'd start sobbing again.

 

She didn't. Instead, ever the source of surprises, she finally admitted, "I am tired."

 

"I know," Oliver answered again, and carefully shifted them around till he was standing with her in his arms again, before turning to keep going up the stairs.

 

"I'll just keep working at home," Felicity threatened then, and he almost laughed as he rolled his eyes.

 

"There's a couch in the office upstairs. We can sleep there until the club opens. Or at least a few hours, okay?"

 

She was quiet for what seemed like a really long second—or two whole steps, then she very softly repeated, "…We?"

 

"I could use a nap, too." Oliver nodded, though he knew he’d probably be watching her to make sure she was getting some sleep the whole time. It was better than breaking more dummies while they waited for her computers to work more magic. As he finally reached the top of the staircase, only to frown at the security pad that really didn't need to be on this side of the door, but was.

 

"Okay," Felicity finally agreed, before pointing out again. "I can walk, you know."

 

"Yeah, but you might run back to your computer instead," Oliver replied in the same teasing tone. He did, however, finally set her down between himself and the door—if only so he could hit the code in and then open said door—but he then held it open for her with a raised eyebrow: deliberately blocking the way back downstairs at the same time.

 

Felicity rolled her eyes, but the edges of her lips were slightly upturned as she stepped through the doorway. The almost smile made him feel a little better even as the lights in the hallway made the smudges left by her tearstained mascara obvious even partially hidden by her glasses.

 

Oliver didn't say anything, but he wasn't surprised by the looks being shot their way while the staff watched as he followed Felicity the short distance across the club to reach the staircase that led up to the office.

 

The look that Digg gave them, of course, wasn’t judgment—he was worried, just like Oliver was. But he also apparently trusted the archer enough to let him handle this: instead of saying anything or even trying to follow them up the V.I.P stairs, he gestured back in the direction the pair had just come from.

 

Oliver only nodded in response, most of his attention still on the small blonde that was putting on a good face for the more critical eyes that were following them, despite the tears she’d shed only a little while ago.

 

Digg could keep an eye on Felicity’s computers while the two of them caught some shut eye—even if he might not understand most of what said computers were saying he’d notice when an alert went off, just like Oliver did. And unlike his girlfriend, his 'bodyguard' knew better than to skip sleeping between missions.

 

Even if Joseph Falk was their ultimate mission now, finding him before he murdered someone else couldn't take precedence over sleeping. Not when not sleeping might make the difference between finding him in time to save his third victim or not. Not that Oliver would ever even hint at that to Felicity. She felt more than guilty enough as it was.

 

There was one problem Oliver hadn’t foreseen with using the office though. And that was the fact that his best friend—as Verdant’s General Manager—had a desk in there, too.

 

"Are you alright?" Tommy asked, standing as Oliver closed the door behind them with a sigh. "Is she alright? What happened?" he demanded, glancing rapidly between them.

 

Felicity’s unexpectedly impressive neutral mask fell as soon as she saw their friend, and she bit her lip, clearly unsure what she would say, what they could say. She went willingly when Oliver took her elbow and steered her towards the large sofa that dominated the side of the office opposite their two desks.

 

"The 'Savior'—that's what the guy who's started killing people who've supposedly 'betrayed the Glades,' calls himself," Oliver made himself explain as he sat down next to the small blonde. "He just killed again."

 

Tommy shot a frown at his computer, undoubtedly wondering why the video hadn’t popped up like the last one had, since they were smack dab in the middle of the Glades. But he didn’t say anything about that as he moved to sit in one of the chairs by the couch, glancing between them again, clearly not making the connection to why Oliver's girlfriend looked like she'd been crying. "That sucks. But what—"

 

"We couldn't stop him," Felicity interrupted this time, her voice probably close to too soft for Tommy to hear, because he was leaning closer in his seat again and Oliver, sitting right next to her, had only just heard her, too.

 

"Stop him?" Tommy repeated, visibly surprised, though that faded a little with a wince as Felicity shot him a look.

 

The exchange didn’t make sense to Oliver, but he was busy not letting the stab of pain at Tommy’s initial reaction show, even as he carefully explained. "He's not gonna stop killing. Nothing any of his victims says’ll change his mind—he’s already decided to kill them. Once he takes them, they’re dead—and most people don’t deserve that. So we have to stop him."

 

Tommy stared at him a long moment, looked at Felicity, then shook his head. “No, I agree I just—sorry,” he shook his head. “I wouldn't have thought you'd be going all-out after someone else for targeting guys like Nickel. I mean, I know it’s probably hypocritical of me to not like him getting off ‘cause he has money—my dad’s money got me out of plenty of things. But…”

 

“We both did,” Oliver agreed.

 

“Yeah, but the stupid stuff we did wasn’t hurting anyone else,” Tommy finished. Tactfully, he left unsaid the observation that what the Hood was supposedly doing wasn't that different in many cases. It was there, but it wasn’t said. So that was another step closer to their maybe being able to really be friends again, despite everything.

 

Felicity shook her head, her earlier irritation at Tommy apparently already forgotten. "That's what I said," she sighed tiredly, then grimaced. "'Course that was before the whacko just killed Nickel.” She swallowed. “And before Mister Carnahan… that poor man."

 

"Carnahan?" Tommy repeated the name with a frown. "Don't remember that name in the news for anything recently."

 

"He wasn't. He was an A.D.A," Oliver grimaced, still hating himself for not saving the man. Not that he could say that now—Felicity felt bad enough for both of them. "His ‘crime’ was that he didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute the guys who killed Falk’s wife last year.” He finished with a grimace as he watched his friend’s frown also deepen.

 

“What? An A.D.A?” Tommy blinked. “I mean, I could understand him going after whoever killed his wife—heck, I could see my dad doing that without even thinking about it. But why…” he shook his head.

 

"He's angry at the world," Felicity answered softly when he trailed off. "Blaming everyone for her death. Lashing out at everyone till the pain stops," she shook her head. "Except it won't."

 

"No," Oliver agreed with another sigh. "And he won’t stop, that’s why we have to find him. After you get some rest." At seeing his friend’s frown focus on the blonde again, he explained, “Sorry, we have to steal the couch, but she didn't sleep well last night after Nickel was killed.”

 

That Felicity didn’t deny it now was a confession all on its own, but then the fact that she somehow had so many programs ready to go for them in her absence was, too. It left him wondering again if he’d slept through her getting up to work on anything—he’d gone to sleep with her in his arms and woken up with her there, too, and her laptop hadn’t been on the bed with them. But all he could guess was that his conscious really did trust her that much. Even as he hated himself for not recognizing that she was so much more bothered by what she’d seen then he himself was.

 

Nickel had not been a good man. Far from it. He’d hurt many people—for profit. Squeezed every penny he could out of people who didn’t have the pennies to spare, and in turn he’d also spared them no mercies every step of the way. Turning off their heat when winter was at its coldest and not installing good fire control measures either…

 

Nickel had completely deserved a visit and an arrow aimed at him—but he should’ve been given a chance to change, too. To help this city heal by taking the first step down that path. Not been executed on live video with no opportunity to right his wrongs at all. That didn’t help the people he’d hurt at all.

 

Didn’t help anybody. In fact, making people watch that only hurt them. Now that Oliver had thought about it, Felicity was right on that. He’d seen more than a few kids with phones at Big Belly Burger last night, with their eyes glued to the horrible scene on their screens. Unable to look away from something they shouldn’t have to see.

 

And Felicity shouldn’t have had to watch that anymore than most of the people of the Glades had…

 

"Oh, um, okay," Tommy nodded then, his frown more worried than confused now as he looked at Felicity again. "I was done with everything important anyway. And I have to check to make sure everything's ready downstairs. So I’ll just…"

 

It was actually a few hours before he'd normally do that, but Oliver appreciated the white-lie if it'd make Felicity feel any better about trying to sleep here and now. "Thanks," he nodded as his childhood friend stood to start towards the door.

 

“How’s Laurel doing?” Felicity asked before Tommy was all the way there and Oliver paused to glance at his friend again, caught by the concern in his girlfriend’s voice and his friend’s reaction.

 

Tommy had stopped, too, his face trying to wince and smile reassuringly at the same time—forming an odd expression that Oliver couldn’t name. “She’s-uh-okay. I just talked to her a little while ago. Apparently her parents have taken over her apartment now, but she still thinks it’ll work out.” At the look Oliver gave him, he shrugged, “Long story. I’ll let you know how it all works out. At this rate, though, we might have to come over for another movie night sooner than expected: if only to get away from those two. If that’s alright?”

 

“Of course it is,” Felicity said automatically, then she winced. “Though The Princess Bride might not be the best movie choice, considering the circumstances.”

 

Tommy blinked, then winced, too. “Yeah, not sure she’ll wanta think about Sara maybe off being another Dread Pirate Roberts.”

 

Oliver blinked between them in honest bewilderment, “What are you two talking about?” he asked, not able to follow the conversation at all. Even though he vaguely remembered the movie—it was one of Thea’s favorites for a while, but he’d really only watched some of the scenes. And how did The Princess Bride have anything to do with the Lance family?

 

“Like I said, it’s a long story,” Tommy told him again, shaking his head. “I’ll tell you later.” Then he flashed Felicity a miniature of his standard smile as he reached for the door again. “Get some sleep, Smoaky. Both of you.”

 

"Thank you, Tommy," Felicity replied around what wasn’t quite a full yawn. “Let me know if I can help at all.”

 

“That’s not—”

 

“Let me know if I can help at all,” Felicity insisted again, this time a lot more firmly. “Please.”

 

Tommy blinked at her, then nodded. “Okay. I will. Uh, thanks…” he told her, before offering Oliver a nod as he ducked out the door and closed it behind him.

 

They heard the lock click a few seconds later, making Oliver smile slightly at the consideration. With the door locked no one would be able to bother them except Tommy and Digg, the only two people besides Oliver with keys. And it wasn't like the door couldn't be easily unlocked from inside the office.

 

He wanted to ask again what the two of them were talking about. What was going on between his friends now that had his girlfriend worried even though he didn’t know anything about it?

 

But that wasn’t why they were up there at all.

 

It was a little easier than expected to force himself to relax back against the couch, though it still wasn’t as comfortable as her old one had been. But wrapping his arm around the petite blonde's shoulders as he did so, to pull her back with him, helped a lot. "Get some sleep," he told her gently, smiling almost without thought as she leaned into him and tucked her head under his chin like she'd done many times now when he'd spent the night on her couch as they fell asleep together while watching a movie. Like most of the time when he was with her in bed, too, because she liked to cuddle close. Just like she had last night, when he’d thought she’d slept at least as many hours as he had. Only this time he wasn’t going to close his eyes until he was sure she was sleeping.

 

"Okay," was her quiet answer.

 

That was when he noticed she was shaking slightly, and he wanted to kick himself for not bringing a blanket up here with them. But she probably wasn’t shivering from cold—the office wasn’t that cold. In fact, it was a lot warmer than the basement. Either she was crying or she was shivering from something else other than fear again.

 

A blanket would still be good, but he wasn’t going to get up to go get one. Instead he pulled her a little closer, pressing a kiss into the crown of her head. “Get some rest.”

 

“You’re staying?” she asked him softly.

 

“Yeah,” Oliver agreed.

 

“What about—”

 

“Digg’s taking care of everything. I’ll check on him in a bit,” Oliver reassured her. “Now get some rest.”

 

“Okay,” Felicity agreed again. And it was barely a few minutes before her breathing really evened out in sleep.

 

Oliver watched her for a long while after that, reassured by her steady, even breaths and by the warm, relaxed weight of her body as she slept cuddled up against him.

 

At least he could take care of her here and now. Everything else in the city might be going to hell because yet another person in Starling thought vigilantism and vengeance went hand-in-hand rather than understanding that his vigilantism was just justice without a blindfold.

 

Restraint was what they were missing—restraint and the opportunity for redemption, in Oliver’s mind. But sometimes even he thought his mind was a scary place to be…


NEXT:

Repainting History A.K.A The Heist

Joe Dawson’s P.O.V.

It’s one of the more weirdly fascinating nights of Joe’s life, and his career as a Watcher especially. But he kept his word, so he wouldn’t be writing any of it down…

Chapter Text

Joe Dawson's P.O.V.

 

Madrid was as beautiful and bustling as Joe remembered from his only other visit to the Spanish capital over two decades before. Even now, long past sundown when all the businesses that didn’t sell some combination of food, alcohol, music and maybe dancing had long since closed for the day. It probably said something about Joe Dawson’s life choices that he could count on one hand the number of times he’d been away this late in the last few decades, and that all of them had involved his Highland friend who’d been born long before him and would hopefully outlive him by even longer.

 

The later hours had gotten harder and harder as the Watcher’s all too mortal body had aged. He’d officially handed over the bar’s closing hours to his assistant manager when they’d held his 60th birthday party there. That Duncan had started regularly going to bed a lot earlier than he had even a little before that probably wasn’t a coincidence. Although Joe himself didn’t personally observed the Highlander most of the time anymore either—unless something particularly interesting was expected to happen and the Council wanted his firsthand account because they knew that Mac and his friends wouldn’t tolerate anyone else shadowing them for long, or at all for something ‘interesting.’ Not that he even needed to watch MacLeod, really, the chronicles he wrote about his friend had a lot more details than most just because they were friends. Something the old guard Watchers still had a hard time swallowing, but the younger generation ran things now: and with much more open minds, too.

 

Still, there were some things other than partying, drinking and dancing that called for the nighttime hours, and Amanda’s infamous illegal career was one of them. Joe was still having a hard time believing he’s here though. In the getaway ‘car,’ outside one of Madrid’s premier museums with a handful of Immortals, as an art heist was happening inside right now.

 [A]

Amanda was notoriously difficult to watch. To the point where Joe was pretty sure that she’d known about the Watchers before Mac had introduced the two of them years ago, which was also the main reason he hadn’t protested meeting her at all. Some of her Watchers had long insisted that it was to be expected, especially as her chosen criminal career became harder and harder with the advances in technology and security. Of course the Immortal Thief was careful, especially when she was stealing something. So the rare times they actually managed to watch her in action were true coups.

 

Angelina and Robert’s involvement seemed pretty superfluous, but then all of them kind of did. Amanda was a true master of her craft; regardless of how much pickier she’d gotten in just Joe’s lifetime about what was worth her time and effort. She was more than capable of stealing a painting from the El Prado’s walls without any additional help. She just wanted Methos there, to keep him from being somewhere else back in the States, so she’d effectively wrangled all of them into helping making it happen.

 

Richie was much less of a surprise than his teacher. The kid was still in the exploratory stage of his Immortality—per the patterns of most Immortals, he probably would be for a lot longer than Joe lived. That meant he was wandering the world just like many other Immortals, looking for new and exciting things and making both new friends and, occasionally, enemies, too. Friendship was what tonight was about; with so many other Immortals involved in this of course Richie Ryan wasn’t going to be far away if he could help it. Not a bad policy, since the Immortals who could befriend more of their kind tended to lasted longer than those that tried to hide themselves away. Risky, in that it might lead to a friendship that wasn’t real, with a headhunter who only wanted another head. But the kid was careful, so hopefully he’d keep his head for a long time yet.

 

Joe’s not sure what to make of the fact that Duncan MacLeod is here though. On the one hand, Amanda had gotten the Highlander to help her with various thefts in the past, but it’d been decades since she’d even tried to involve him in a heist. Richie, Robert and Gina being here made Mac’s presence make some sense though. The Highlander had always been protective of the people he cared about, and always would be. That was how Amanda had gotten him involved in some of her past heists without even needing to try that hard: his honest concern for her easily overriding any and all misgivings he had about what she was doing—stealing in general—being wrong. Add so many more of his friends to the mix, and it was almost to be expected that the Highlander would be here, too.

 

But Joe had the sneaking suspicion there was more to it than that. He knew Mac, after all, and he’d been watching all of them during the whole crazy conversation that’d led up to this. That was, after all, what he did. Even if he hadn’t decided how much, if any, of this he could safely report to his fellow Watchers without risking Methos deciding his friendship was too dangerous and disappearing again. Maybe for good.

 

Until the still unknown Immortal was brought up the other night though, Joe had been pretty sure Mac wouldn’t be headed to Spain. Once it became clear, however, that this lady was someone so many of his friends cared a great deal about, the Highlander took notice. That the mysterious ‘Ashley’ did not want to meet Duncan MacLeod only had the Highlander wondering what he’d done to offend the lady, and what he could do to make up for it. Hence, here he was, too.

 

With all these different Immortals involved in this heist, Joe could barely bring himself to care about what they were stealing or why. It sounded like the painting in question was a portrait of the lady that didn’t want to meet Mac, and that Methos made it a point to try to keep said lady out of recorded history just as much as himself, but as fascinating as all of that was…

 

Actually, the hardest part for Joe now was the simple fact that he knew his friends didn’t want him to report any of this. Sure, he’d kept some details about Duncan MacLeod out of his chronicles—and he didn’t even feel too bad about it. Not since Mac had also started following Methos’ example and had been keeping journal entries about his adventures for years now that were packed full of a lot more details than Joe could’ve chronicled even if he wanted to. MacLeod had only let him read some of them, but had also followed Methos’ advice and started putting his journals in a bank vault that’d go to the Watchers if he ever lost his head. That all too final detail was probably why Joe hoped he’d never see them.

 

Though the fact that Methos had a few vaults of his own in a similar somewhere setup might just lead to the Watchers putting together a heist like this if they ever found out about it. Not surprisingly, the world’s oldest Immortal had admitted that his own journals weren’t willed to the Watchers, but to another Immortal—a fact that was much less surprising than their very existence. Especially since Joe now had seen a hint of the lengths Methos would go to protect the people he cared about. That wasn’t so much of a surprise though. Methos had stepped back into The Game for Duncan more than once, and fought against the other Four Horsemen for him, too, so there was a definite precedence there…

 

Joe wished he could be in there, though: watching as the grand heist took place. Not to chronicle any of it, of course: just to see it. History as it happened—or at least as it was rewritten, something he strongly suspected Methos especially had done many times before tonight. But he was even less spry than he used to be, so Amanda’s decision that Joe be their getaway driver wasn’t a surprise either. Her explanations about footprints and his tread being just too distinct even made sense.

 

At least the world’s most successful thief had decided that they could use radios tonight, so the Watcher could listen to them as long as he didn’t study the radios too closely. That qualifier was one that Methos and Amanda both had been very adamant about. Apparently these particular radios were the most secure in the world, and the matter-of-fact explanation that they were that secure simply because any investigation into them would lead to mortal peril far more quickly than the one plagued by suicidal curiosity might expect. So both ancients had warned their friends to not even try going there, for their own good. Something Methos especially had adamantly emphasized, even going so far as to say that the curious cat who might want to investigate that mouse hole was suicidal one on its last life—and that there were no Immortal cats out there.

 

MacLeod hadn’t liked the warning. Not because of any particular curiosity as the super-secure devices’ dangerous origin, but because of the threat therein. The Highlander didn’t run from fights, whether they were challenges or something else entirely, so this kind of thing definitely hit him the wrong way. But with everyone else united against him on this he’d had to accept the older Immortal’s advice.

 

Joe himself had taken the warning seriously without a second’s thought: very deliberately not even looked closely at his radio since then. What was one more secret? The Watchers still thought that Adam Pierson had only been a Pre-Immortal when he’d worked among their researchers on the Methos Chronicles—completely clueless to the fact that Adam was Methos. Even many of the details of MacLeod’s life had gotten pretty easy to keep to himself, which may be why he hadn’t even seriously considered looking for the lady that this heist was all about…

 

Joe had seen her face. He could describe it. The Watcher’s had some really good sketch artists working for them, so they could come up with a likeness for this ‘Ashley’ if he actually wanted to.

 

If he wanted to.

 

But he didn’t.

 

Didn’t do it.

 

And didn’t want to.

 

Just like Joe didn’t think he’d let himself look at the painting—if Methos and Amanda even let him anywhere near it—when they got it out here.

 

“I don’t see why we all need to be sitting out here,” Mac finally let himself complain—he’d been stewing on the fact that he really had no place in Amanda’s master plan here for hours, and it’d just gotten worse once they were all stuck in the same small space with nothing to do but listen and wait.

 

Joe had honestly found it amusing to watch, because in literally every other instance of Amanda asking MacLeod for help with were chosen profession the Highlander was, at best a very reluctant assistant.

 

But then again, after Nick came into the picture Amanda hadn’t been stealing even half as often as she used to—saying that it just wasn’t as much fun as it used to be—and she hadn’t asked Mac for help even once. Not even after Nick’s First Death had led to him basically blaming Amanda for making him Immortal. Something the Watcher didn’t think he’d ever be able to see eye-to-eye with the former detective on…

 

Add all that to the idea that there was some other Immortal lady out there who specifically did not want to meet the Highlander for some reason, and Mac’s opinion on art theft, or at least this art theft, seemed to have done a complete one-eighty.

 

“Eef the alarm ees set off, we will need to escape quickly,” Gina reminded her former suitor lightly.

 

And there was one of the occasions Joe really wished the Watchers had a time machine to go back to see specific events firsthand. The story of how smitten Duncan MacLeod and Hugh Fitzcairn had been with the lovely Lady Angelina, only for both to have to bow out when she fell for the charming Baron de Valicourt. He was still kicking himself for missing their marital problems and MacLeod trying to play marriage counselor—and dragging a very reluctant Methos into it, too—a few years back. All of it a life lesson for the Highlander his Watcher would've liked to see him live through. Not that it was too hard to imagine…

 

“Aye, I know,” Mac sighed, shaking his head, “But—”

 

Oh stop whining, MacLeod,” Amanda chastised him over the radio, her amusement clear. “We’re in. Now where are we going?

 

Joe shook his head, suspecting that she really didn’t need to ask. The lengths she’d gone to just to involve the other Immortals—and himself, everyone except MacLeod, really—was still somewhat amazing.

 

“It’s with the other Goya’s, of course,” Robert answered right away, sounding so matter-of-fact that even he should’ve expected the answer he got. [B]

 

We already know that,” Methos’s voice came through their radio now, sounding about as exasperated as the Watcher had ever heard him. And he’d heard the world’s oldest Immortal exasperated—mainly with MacLeod—plenty of times. “And we know they’re in the gallery with the other nineteenth century Spanish painters. But this is the national museum of Spain, so a little more specific, if you please?

 

MacLeod looked like he wanted to defend his friends, but neither the former-pirate nor his wife were at all perturbed, so the Highlander kept quiet as the lady replied.

 

“Oui, of course,” Gina nodded. “Eet is near the middle of the hall, opposite el Vuelo de Brujas,” she said, and then her pretty face twisted a little unhappily. “Not at all appropriate, I know.”

 

Oh, I don’t know,” Methos replied, sounding either amused or thoughtful—or maybe somewhere between the two. “They’re both critiques of the Inquisition, and it could be argued that one led to the other. Though the donkey’s a bit on the nose.

 

“The donkey’s a traditional symbol of intentional ignorance,” Duncan interjected then. “Witches’ Flight’s full of symbols like that. That’s why most scholars agree it’s a rationalist critique of superstition and ignorance on religious matters. The Inquisition an’ all the people who saw the injustice of it all, but were not willin’ ta try an’ stop it themselves.” [C]

 

Fascinating,” Methos replied dryly, still sounding amused. Then again, as his current career revolved around translations for the Louvre, he probably heard or saw plenty of this on a semi-regular basis.

 

Are you going to help me with this or not?” Amanda suddenly hissed at him.

 

Right, right,” the older ancient replied, and they could all but hear him rolling his eyes at the same time. “What’d you want me to do?

 

Hold this.” Amanda ordered.

 

That I can do,” Methos agreed. “As long as no cats come around.

 

That made the thief snort, “Oh, god, stop reminding me of that,” she told him, not quite able to keep the light laughter out of her voice. “I’m trying to concentrate here.

 

Sorry,” Methos said, and he probably couldn’t have sounded more insincere if he tried.

 

“I don’t understand why we’re replacing it with the altered painting,” Robert complained a moment later, apparently having decided the pair in the museum was done bickering for now. “I mean, that could still lead back to her.”

 

Not so easily,” Methos replied, shaking his head. “It’s deliberately not an exact forgery. It looks enough alike to fool anyone who doesn’t know it well, but anyone else won’t notice the changes.

 

And I already switched out the photos they took of the original, too,” Amanda told them, a little distractedly. “So they won’t have anything to compare the forgery to even if they do notice.

 

“Except maybe tourists’ pictures,” Duncan put in, shrugging when he heard the thief scoff.

 

Those aren’t nearly high-quality enough to make much of a difference, and you know it.” Amanda replied. “The protective glass’s is in the way even if they ignore the ‘no flash’ signs.

 

Then Methos spoke up again, sounding almost pleased. “You’re right. It looks like it could be the same painting—but it doesn’t look exactly like her anymore. The smile’s probably the only change that might give it away as a fake to anyone who’s seen it before.

 

The smiles not that different,” Amanda objected mildly, obviously concentrating on something else as she said it.

 

It’s not her,” Methos insisted.

 

Yeah, but that’s the point,” Amanda reminded him, and the Watcher had no problem picturing the two ancients standing in front of the forgery they’d just replaced the original with and studying it. “And she looked sad in the original, too.

 

That’s true,” the world’s oldest Immortal allowed, before admitting, “Its great work. Who’d you get to paint it?

 

“Wyatt,” Amanda answered, then sighed. “Though getting him to change it even this much wasn’t easy. He’s really into his genuine fake’s thing.” [D]

 

“Won’t he recognize that the painting’s his?” Joe pointed out, wondering at exactly how the thief intended to get around that if it happened. He couldn’t imagine the infamous painter would willingly take that risk. The man had made a name for himself as one of biggest art forgers of the twentieth century but later been all too happy to turn his associate in and serve his time for it. Ironically, the time behind bars had made the man’s current career: as an artist whose recognized forgeries sold for a lot more than most other still living artists could see happen.

 

He doesn’t even know where the original’s hosted,” Amanda replied. “Since someone’s made sure it’s image has never ended up online.

 

Don’t look at me,” Methos retorted then. “She hates this thing a lot more than I do.

 

That wasn’t the first time one of the Immortals who knew this mysterious woman had made a similar comment, so it wasn’t a surprise. What it was, though, was a tease. Joe was just glad he wasn’t the only one who was not in the know here, and that he was still managing to handle that fact a lot better than the Highlander was.

 

Amanda sighed, but finished explaining, “All he had was my photo of it, and he thinks it’s a Goya that’s still part of a private collection.

 

“So as long as he never visits this particular art museum it should be fine,” Robert nodded. “Fair bet, since most museums still aren’t happy to see him most of the time.” He paused, then frowned. “But doesn’t he sign them and put computer chips in the parchment, marking them as his fakes?”

 

Yes,” Amanda grumbled. “Painting over his signature wasn’t hard, but it took me weeks to figure out how to get rid of that thing.

 

Surprised you didn’t just ask her,” Methos commented.

 

Thought about it,” Amanda admitted, and then sighed, speaking softly as she kept working on something. “But if she’d figured out what I wanted it for, she would’ve told me not to do this. And she probably would’ve insisted on paying Wyatt’s fee for the forgery of a painting she hates, too.

 

Hmph, point,” Methos agreed, also sighing.

 

Are you guys leaving yet?” Richie’s voice came over the radio just then. “The guard’s almost done with his patrol on the other side of the museum: you only have a few minutes before he gets there.

 

Yup, just a sec,” Amanda answered. “I just have to finish resetting the security system, and… okay, all set. Where is the guard now?

 

He’s looking at the statues,” Richie replied.

 

Joe rolled his eyes even before the older Immortals snapped at him.

 

Which statues?” Amanda and Methos demanded in unison.

 

Uh, the two naked guys in front of the queen that’s like half their size?” Richie tried to explain. “Or smaller, really: her head’s around their knees, I think?

 

Again Joe found himself thinking that Mac would’ve handled the younger Immortal’s job much better. The Highlander knew a lot more about most art than his former student. But unlike Mac, Richie had been a thief at one point, so Amanda’s decision to have him being the one keeping an eye on the security guard via the pirated security cameras probably wasn’t just to annoy MacLeod. Though it might’ve also been a provision by Methos to ensure the Highlander also didn’t see exactly which Goya painting they were stealing tonight…

 

Castor and Pollox?” Methos guessed, then asked, “Are the two of them leaning against each other, one of them holding something?

 

Uh… yeah? I think so,” Richie confirmed hesitantly. “It’s kind of hard to tell at this angle—looks like he might be holding a sick or something like that.

 

Good,” Amanda approved. “That’s at least five minutes away. We’re headed to our exit now.

 

“Another problem,” Duncan spoke up again then, and Joe turned to follow his gaze to the man in a business suit that was walking towards the closed museum’s entrance. “Looks like the director’s stopping by, he’s headed towards the main steps right now.”

 

Dammit,” Amanda sighed. “He checks in with the night security in person once a month, but I thought he’d be coming next week.

 

It’ll change the guard’s route,” Methos pointed out unnecessarily. “And we might not be able to make the climb out fast enough to not be noticed. Assuming he doesn’t notice the hack first…

 

And they’d been so careful about all of this because they didn’t want anyone to know the two paintings had been switched. Drawing any attention at all to the portrait, after all, wasn’t at all what they wanted. It’d defeat the whole purpose of doing this in the first place.

 

“Keep going, both of you,” Gina spoke up then. “We will handle him,” she told them, and then ordered, “Mac, come.”

 

The Highlander didn’t even hesitate, more than happy to be climbing out of the passenger’s seat even as Robert moved up to take his place while Gina came around after closing the rear exit.

 

“We are Americans tourists,” Gina was saying as she looped her arm through the Highlander’s and dragged him towards the closed museum’s entrance. “And we are looking for the Fountain of Neptune.

  

It’s that way,” they heard MacLeod tell her through the radio. “At the end of the Paseo del Prado.

 

Yes, but we do not know that,” Gina insisted, somehow not sounding exasperated as she said it. “We are asking for directions.” Suddenly she was speaking much louder, clearly trying to get the director’s attention before he made it all the way to the museum entrance. “¿Señor? ¿Discúlpeme, señor?

 

And Joe watched, more than a little amused as the two Immortals, despite or maybe because of Mac’s honest nature, played the role of two lost tourists to a T.

 

¿Si señora? ¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?” an unfamiliar man’s voice replied, not sounding at all bothered by the sudden question.

 

Muchas gracias.” Gina said, before hurrying on. “Nosotros estamos mirando—oh, how do you say it? Ah—Nosotros—” “I speak English, señora,” the man interrupted to tell her then. “How may  help you?” “Oh, thank god,” Gina responded with what sounded like real feeling, and the Watcher noticed that her pretty French accent could vanish when she wanted it to, like when she was pretending to be an American and wanted to sound like one. She went on again before anything else could be said while the Highlander just stood next to her like a silent statue. Then again, he was probably coming off as the husband that didn’t want to ask for directions pretty well. “That’s the problem with trying to visit all of Europe all at once. There’s so many different languages—and it’s wonderful, of course, but—” “Si, señora, of course,” the man still sounded vaguely amused. “How may I help you?” But then it was hard to be too upset with a beautiful woman like Angelina de Valicourt while she was thanking you so profusely, probably with that pretty smile on her face. Even as Missus de Valicourt—or di Valicorte, as they were calling themselves while living in Italy—was lying through her pearly whites right now. “This is El Prado, isn’t it?” Gina asked then. “It is. Pero, the museum is closed now,” the museum’s director went on then. “It will be open again in the morning.

 

Oh, yes, of course, we understand that, it’s so late,” Gina replied, and they could hear that brilliant smile in her voice. “But we were looking for the fountain. The Fountain of Neptune? It’s near here, isn’t it? It looks like it is, on the map. Here, darling, show him the map.

 

That is not necessary, señora,” the Spaniard finally got in then. “Funte de Neptuno is just at the end of the paseo.” It looked like he tried to point them in the right direction, but then Gina spoke up again.

 

Oh, but we just came from that direction,” she protested worriedly. “Are you sure? It’s very big, isn’t it? I wouldn’t think we could miss it?

 

Si, si, señora,” the Spaniard reverted back to his own language as he reassured her, but switched back just as quickly as he went on. “It is at the center of the roundabout, in the Plaza Cánovas del Castillo. Perhaps you were not close enough to see it, pero if you follow the street—

 

I told you we were going the wrong way,” MacLeod finally spoke up then, and his typically brogue was missing, too.

 

An easy mistake,” the museum director tried to reassure them, “Just follow the—

 

But the two Immortals weren’t about to let him go just yet.

 

No you didn’t,” Gina sounded somewhere between hurt and offended now, but irritation was winning out as she went on. “You said you thought it might be the other way, but you weren’t sure. You made me choose—”

 

You chose wrong,” Duncan interrupted brusquely, sounding a lot like a five-year-old who thought someone had said the sky wasn’t blue.

 

Well you wouldn’t let me ask for directions earlier!” Gina protested, now starting to sound like she might break down any second now. “Now we have to walk all the way back, but it isn’t my fault—

 

You’re the one that wants to see the damn fountain.

 

You wanted to see it, too! You said you did!” Gina insisted, and she might really be forcing fake waterworks right now from the sounds of it, which was probably why the uncomfortable Spaniard spoke up again.

 

Más ven cuatro ojos que dos,” the poor mortal man tried to calm the couple down. “De verdad, the fountain is not far. You must have come out only just far enough away not to see it. Pero, you need not walk all the way—there are many taxis available late into the evening. There you see? The black and white with the red stripe? The ones with green lights are available.

 

Okay, you two,” Amanda’s voice came over the radio just then, before the other two Immortals could start arguing about taxi fares or something like that. “We’re out now. You can let the poor man go now,” she told them, sounding about as amused as everyone else was at this point.

 

And here I wanted to see how long they could keep him standing there on the steps,” Methos commented, obviously also amused.

 

He’s right,” Duncan sighed then, going on quickly, clearly making the effort now to console his pseudo-wife. “And you’re right, love, we can just get a taxi there. I’m sorry I snapped—I’m still not used to these late dinners.

 

El amor es ciego,” the relieved director chuckled then. “Señora y señor, buena velada. Please excuse me.

 

Oh, of course,” Gina said, much more enthusiastically again. “Muchas gracias, señor!

 

De nada, señora. Señor.

 

It was a very weird night for the Watcher, but not at all a bad one.

 

Joe hoped it was an indication of more good things to come, and that was why he decided again in his own head, even more firmly than before, that he wasn’t going to look at the painting. He wasn’t going to look at the actual Goya that was stolen or the almost lookalike that’d been put in its place across from the Witches in Flight. Being a friend to the Immortals had always felt better than just watching them ever did, and he didn’t expect that to ever change. No matter how few years he likely had left at this point.


TRANSLATIONS: (Courtesy mostly of Google Translate, though my taking Spanish in high school means I’m not completely hopeless at it, I guess, even if I haven’t had the need to speak it in years)                    

  • Paseo del Prado – Street of the Prado
  • ¿Señor? ¿Discúlpeme, señor?” – “Mister Excuse me, mister?”
  • ¿Si señora? ¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?– “Yes madam? How may I help you?”
  • Muchas graciasNosotros estamos mirando… Nosotros—- “Thank you very much… We are looking for… We—”
  • Pero - But
  • Funte de Neptuno – Fountain of Neptune
  • Plaza Cánovas del Castillo AKA “The Plaza of Neptune” – A large roundabout near the museum that, judging by all of the prominent places near it on Google Maps, probably serves as a fairly prominent landmark, thus why Gina chose it as the reference point they were asking about. Yes, she could’ve picked something harder or father away, but that ran the risk of the helpful Spaniard admitting he didn’t know/couldn’t help them. Not likely, given that tourism & hospitality are central to his career, but still… I thought the argument was more amusing though. Anyway, per Wikipedia about the plaza: “Finished in its center by the Fountain of Neptune… very close to the El Prado Museum… From 1895 a municipal agreement baptized it with the name of the nineteenth-century politician Antonio Cánovas del Castillo.” And yes, there is plenty more than that excerpt down the beautiful blackhole of Wikipedia
  • Más ven cuatro ojos que dos.” – “Four eyes see more than two.” Spanish proverb that basically means the same things as “two heads are better than one.”
  • De verdad – “Of truth” = Truly
  • Pero - But
  • “El amor es ciego…” – Love is blind…
  • Señora y señor, buena velada…– “Missus and mister, good evening.”
  • Muchas gracias, señor!– “Thank you very much, mister!”
  • De nada, señora. Señor.– “You are welcome, madam.

EXPLANATIONS: (All courtesy of the Wikipedia wormhole)

 

[A] El Prado – “The main Spanish art museum, located in central Madrid.  It is widely considered to have one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, & the single best collection of Spanish art. Founded as a museum of paintings & sculpture in 1819, it also contains important collections of other types of works. El Prado is one of the most visited sites in the world, & is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world. The numerous works by Francisco Goya, the single most extensively represented artist, as well as Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, & Diego Velázquez, are some of the highlights of the collection… T he collection currently comprises around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints & 1,000 sculptures, in addition to a large number of other works of art & historical documents. As of 2012, the museum displayed 1,300 works in the main buildings, while around 3,100 works were on temporary loan to various museums & official institutions…” And the intro on Wikipedia does keep going. Take a look if you’re interested. But basically the key points here are that the museum was originally the royal family’s art collection and Amanda probably couldn’t have picked a more important Spanish art museum to rob. The relevance on the first point will, of course, become clearer in a later story.

    

[B] Francisco Goya – “A Spanish romantic painter & printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th & early 19th centuries & through his long career was a commentator & chronicler of his era. Immensely successful in his lifetime, Goya is often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters & the first of the moderns. He was also one of the great portraitists of modern times… He became a court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786 & this early portion of his career is marked by portraits of the Spanish aristocracy & royalty… Goya was a guarded man & although letters & writings survive, little is known about his thoughts. He suffered a severe & undiagnosed illness in 1793, which left him completely deaf. Afterwards his work became progressively darker & more pessimistic. His later [works] appear to reflect a bleak outlook on personal, social & political levels, & contrast with his social climbing… In 1807 Napoleon led the French army into Spain. Goya remained in Madrid during the Peninsula War, which seems to have affected him deeply [which can be inferred from his works at the time, though many were not printed till decades after his death]…  Other works from his mid period include…a wide variety of paintings concerned with insanity, mental asylums, witches, fantastical creates, & religious & political corruption, all of which suggest that he feared for both his country’s fate & his own mental & physical health… His late period culminates with the “Black Paintings” … where, disillusioned by political & social developments in Spain he lived in near isolation...” with his (maybe) mistress.

And yes, this was a fascinating journey through Wikipedia. It’s amazing what you can learn about subjects you thought you already knew. All that said, Goya seemed to be the best famous Spanish artist for this role in Felicity’s past, so I’m playing with his timeline quite a bit. Francisco Goya was the Spanish Court Painter from 1789 to 1808 (I think, Wikipedia wasn’t entirely clear there). The Ominous Decade was from 1823-1833 after a whole bunch of historical happenings. All told, the timing doesn’t work, so here I’m making Goya 20 years younger. Writer’s license. Please don’t hate me.

 

[C] Witches Flight – “Vuelo de Bruka” AKA “Witches in Flight or Witches in Air… is an oil canvas painting completed in 1798 by… Francisco Goya. It was part of a series by 6 paintings related to witchcraft acquired by the Duke & Duchess of Osuna in 1798. It has been described as “the most beautiful & powerful of Goya’s Osuna witch paintings” … acquired by the Prado in 1999. At center point are 3 semi-nude witches wearing penitential coroza bearing aloft a writhing nude figure, their mouths close to their victim, as if to devour him… Below, 2 figures in peasants garb recoil from the spectacle, 1 has thrown himself to the ground covering his ears, the other attempts to escape by covering himself with a blanket, making the figa hand gesture to ward off the evil eye. Finally, a donkey emerges on the right, seemingly oblivious to the scene… The general scholarly consensus is that the painting represents a rationalist critique of superstition & ignorance, particularly in religious matters: the witches’ corozas are not only emblematic of the violence of the Spanish Inquisition (the upward flames indicate that they have been condemned as unrepentant heretics & will be burned at the stake), but are also reminiscent of Episcopal mitres, bearing the characteristic double points. The accusations of religious tribunals are thus reflected back on themselves, whose actions are implicitly equated with superstition & ritualized sacrifice. The bystanders can there be understood as appalled but unable to do anything or willfully ignorant & unwilling to intervene.  The donkey, finally, is the traditional symbol of ignorance.” And again, yes, this was part of the fascinating Wikipedia wormhole I was caught in for all of this—but it was also part of why I decided Goya was an artist Felicitas probably would have supported while she was in Spain. That he’d paint her twice—once as a commission to the Court Painter & later to mourn her murder—seemed all the more fitting. But, again, we’ll hear more about all of that a bit later in the series…

[D] "Wyatt” is an original character heavily based on John Myatt, “a British artist [who] was convicted with Art forgery… [and] perpetrated what has been described as “the biggest art fraud of the 20th” … After his release [from prison], Myatt has continued to paint commissioned portraits & clear copies, & has held exhibitions of his work. His paintings are now marked indelibly as fakes, & can be bought from Castle Galleries in the UK. It is reported that they have sold for up to 45,000 pounds.” I was originally going to just use his name, but I don’t think he copied Goya—or if he did, Wikipedia didn’t say so & I didn’t see any that looked like Goya on his website. Plus I haven’t decided if I’ll want to drag the forger into the later story yet, so it’s just easier saying he’s someone else. Again, writer’s license?


NEXT:

Audio Recall

John Diggle’s P.O.V.

There are few things more aggravating than knowing you recognize something you need to remember but not being able place it…

Chapter Text

John Diggle's P.O.V.

 

Digg frowned as that familiar sound echoed out of the computer speakers, taunting the edges of his memory but refusing to actually be placed in any more memorable—more useful—form.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

It was beyond aggravating. Especially knowing it could be a vital answer here, and an answer that he knew he knew, if only he could remember why it sounded so damn familiar!

 

"Anything?" Oliver asked as he came down the stairs from the club in a few quick bounds, his eyes going to the computers that Felicity had left running when he'd dragged her out a few hours ago. Right where Diggle was sitting at now, as he had been since the two of them had gone upstairs for a break that their tech girl had very obviously needed.

 

"Felicity still asleep?" Digg asked, even while he set the sound back to looping, hoping that maybe the thirtieth—at least—repetition might make the memory click. Their genius would probably have it looping automatically for him with a quick keystroke, but it wasn’t an option her intimidatingly intelligent setup had offered on its own, and he wasn’t going to try messing with any settings. The program that’d isolated the sound for them to listen to looked nothing like i-Tunes, far as he could tell the only things they had in common was the ‘play’ symbol he kept clicking on.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

"Yeah, hopefully she's gonna be down for a while," the archer nodded, not even trying to hide the relief in his voice. Or the guilt at not noticing sooner yet again.

 

Digg could sympathize with both emotions, though not to quite the same extent: Felicity wasn't his girlfriend. Even if he sometimes wondered if Oliver Queen didn't sometimes forget that he was in love with their tech girl. But that was only because the vigilante did sometimes have the worst case of tunnel vision he’d ever encountered.

 

Then again, maybe it was a trait the archer and his genius girlfriend actually shared, since she’d pushed herself practically to a breaking-point all on her own without Diggle noticing until she was already there. At least Oliver had not only noticed, but acted, too. That right there was proof of how far the vigilante had come—had personally grown—in just a handful of months. Thanks mostly to Felicity. Sure, Digg knew he’d played a part, too, but the walls he usually had to navigate were ones that Felicity walked through without even needing to break them.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

Ironically, though, the Bertinelli bitch going after Felicity a few weeks ago had really seemed to open Oliver’s eyes. And thankfully that’d led to their relationship progressing instead of self-destructing—something Digg was pretty sure he could credit Felicity for also. But Oliver had made some leaps and bounds of his own, too. The two of them were actually still cute together anyway, even if the archer had let his focus on the mission make him snap at her a little while ago. He'd clearly felt bad for it afterwards—more so than she had, since their failing to save the poor A.D.A had hit her so hard. Next to that, her boyfriend snapping at her hadn’t even seemed to register.

 

John just wasn't sure how he should feel about the circles the two of them were dancing in the early stages of their relationship. Other than thankful for the fact that they could actually keep working together without it getting in the way. Most of the time. And no one could ask more than that.

 

"What've you got?" Oliver asked again.

 

Digg sighed, setting the headphones he'd been listening to down to set the audio through the computer speakers instead, before hitting play yet again.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

"What is that?" the archer asked with a frown.

 

"It's in the background of both the videos Falk broadcasted. Felicity had a program already analyzing them when I came down. It picked this out, so I started listening," Digg shook his head. "Looked at the videos a few times, too. Nothing more to see in either one. He keeps 'em focused on his victims’ pretty close-up. They're tied to what looks like metal pipes at around head height. Somewhere dark, with a light focused on them. What looks like sheets of plastic hanging down around them," he shrugged, shaking his head again. "I don't know, maybe to deliberately disguise wherever he is. But her program did pick out this sound—it's in the background the whole time. In both videos." He hit play again, grimacing as the familiar sound still refused to be identified for what it was inside his mind.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

"Sounds like a car driving over lane markers," Oliver observed, and his partner noticed that he was nodding along with the rhythmic sound. "But it's there the whole time?"

 

"Yeah... so bigger than a car." Digg nodded.

 

"What, like a bus?" Oliver shook his head. "That stays on one of the lines instead of inside it?"

 

Digg hit play again even as he shook his head. "No."

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

"No. It's too big for that, too."

 

"And no one would keep driving like that, anyway," Oliver sighed, shaking his head. "So what is it?"

 

If he could answer that, the bodyguard wouldn’t be hitting play for the fiftieth time just now, so he didn’t bother answering.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

"I know this," Digg sighed, shaking his head again. "I know I know this." He closed his eyes, forcing himself to relax as he listened again for a moment.

 

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

Thah-Thunk-Thah-Thunk...

 

"A train!" his eyes snapped open as he realized it, even as he shook his head. "The old subway!"

 

"What?" Oliver frowned, shaking his head. "Starling City doesn't have a subway."

 

"No, but we used to," Digg told him, then explained: "When I was a kid, my dad used to take me down to the Rockets game. By subway. I remember, for 14 minutes, I'd lean against the window, feeling the rhythm of the train moving." He nodded as he finished, leaning down over Felicity's desk to work the mouse and keyboard again without adjusting the seat—something he still wasn't willing to do after the last time she'd glared at both of them all night for adjusting her seat even a little. He wasn't the computer whiz she was, but a quick search on Google brought up what he was looking for up. "Look, these are all the old stops. And there, the line runs right under 23rd and Mira—"

 

"Then a little further north it cuts under Ocean and Grand," Oliver nodded, again not trying to hide his relief at the realization.

 

Remembering how devastated the small blonde had looked, even though she’d been trying half-heartedly to hide it when she showed up earlier, Digg could more than sympathize. And he hadn’t even been here to see her finally crumble into the archer’s arms, though how sure he felt that she had broken down a little while ago definitely made him all the more sympathetic…

 

"And he worked at the city's Transportation Department before his wife died," the ex-soldier continued, also relieved to have it all fitting together. Both because they both knew that knowing would do their girl more good than even the breather she’d needed, and because it meant that the next time the self-proclaimed ‘Savior’ struck, they'd be able to stop him.

 

“So he’s hiding somewhere in these old subway tunnels?” Oliver said, half to himself—and the other half was all doubt that his partner shared as they frowned at the maps.

 

“Doubt it,” Diggle shook his head. “He probably just drags his victims there when he’s ready to shoot them,” the ex-soldier winced at his own words, but kept going anyway. “The city’d have to notice the power drain if the subway was running all the time when it’s not supposed to.”

 

“Surprised he could get it running at all,” Oliver shook his head. “I mean, when was the last time this thing ran?”

 

“Mid-nineties, I think, maybe a little later,” Digg shrugged. “Wasn’t that old when it was shutdown, though. Think it was supposed to be cutting edge for its time, too.”

 

“Why’d they shut it down?” the archer wondered.

 

The pseudo-bodyguard shook his head. “Don’t know. They probably said something about it costing too much, or not enough people regularly used it. Maybe most people in Starling City drive cars.” He shrugged. “Or it was just like why your dad shut his factory down here: no one wanted to put money into the Glades anymore.”

 

Oliver had frowned at the mention of his father’s past decision, a mess that Diggle knew he’d already tried to fix. And he gave the other man points for trying, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a valid point here. “The subway didn’t just service the Glades,” he pointed out, looking at the old map that Google had found for them. “Looks like it ran all through the city at one point?”

 

“Yeah, it did,” Diggle nodded. “But who do you think actually used it all the time?”

 

That made the billionaire wince, then he nodded. “The people who needed the cheaper transportation. The people who live here in the Glades.”

 

The ex-soldier nodded again. “That’s why there’s so many more tunnels under the Glades. Lot more stops, too. The two routes covering them probably took three or four times longer than the others all told, but they got the job done.”

 

“Yeah,” Oliver said, still frowning.

 

Digg was frowning, too, though—remembering how hard his parents had taken the loss of the subway. It’d been more than just trips to the ballgame: fun times that’d happened about a third as often once they had to pay for a taxi or the gas to get there, plus parking, once they had a car. Just getting back and forth to work had become harder, too. When faced with walking the sometimes dangerous city streets at night on a regular basis, a car had become a must have and things like family trips to the baseball games had become a lot less frequent. The city had supposedly started bus routes to cover the Glades just as extensively, but it wasn’t hard to imagine how that was just comparatively not nearly as reliable and effective when anything from everyday traffic to the almost as regular gang violence in the Glades was always getting in the way of the buses being anywhere near as reliable as this subway once was…

 

“So we can’t find him until he comes back online again?” the vigilante asked then.

 

“Probably not,” Diggle agreed, looking at him. “You want to check the tunnel we know he was in?” he asked, watching as the archer thought about it for several long moments.

 

“No.” Oliver shook his head. “We’ll wait.”

 

Diggle nodded. “Okay.”

 

It made sense. After all, they didn’t know if the madman used the same subway car and line each time. Staking it out would be a waste of time that they might not have to spare if Falk took another victim down some other line while the vigilante stakes out a different one.

 

Granted, they could always drop a dime to the cops—have the S.C.P.D stake out every subway. But they had no way of knowing if the police would listen. An anonymous tip might be ignored, and a tip from the Arrow might just have them setting traps for him instead of Joseph Falk. And if the S.C.P.D got in their way and another person who’d supposedly betrayed the Glades died as a result… well, none of them would take it well. Whether the ‘Glades betrayer’ #3 was another innocent or a scumbag forced to face judge, jury and execution on camera.

 

The vigilante glanced at the computers again then, “Think they’ll start searching again on their own if she’s still asleep when he comes back on again?” he asked.

 

Maybe hoping that their genius would sleep through the next one and only wake up to find that that was the case.

 

Diggle didn’t disagree with the sentiment. “Probably,” he shrugged, then grimaced. “Hope so, ‘cause I haven’t got a clue how to make them do it.”

 

“Me neither,” Oliver sighed. “We should probably ask Felicity to show us that kind of stuff.”

 

“Be my guest,” Digg replied dryly, but he wasn’t disagreeing.

 

It was a little more than ‘the basics,’ but still the sort of stuff they should probably all know. John Diggle could think of more than a few scenarios where they might need to use the computer system when Felicity Smoak wasn’t here. If he turned his pessimism up all the way, there was the simple fact that they couldn’t protect her from everything. They’d try, of course, but none of them were all-knowing—and their genius was brilliant, but not invulnerable.

 

Thinking of that, though, John had to wince yet again. Because while it would hit him hard if something happened to Felicity, it’d hit Oliver a lot harder. And if that happened, well: the Hood’s worst days would probably look like nothing in comparison…


NEXT:

Just Trying To Help

Tommy Merlyn’s P.O.V.

There’s only so much you can do when you’re on the outside looking in, even in you are in the know…

Chapter Text

Tommy's P.O.V.

Tommy glanced up as he heard the office door open not long after Oliver had come down and disappeared downstairs. "Hey," he greeted as he saw the petite blonde looking around. "How're you feeling?"

 

"Better, thanks," Felicity nodded as she walked carefully down the stairs, surprisingly not looking all that uncomfortable at how out-of-place she was—even with the club not yet open, her sleep ruffled, flowery dress-suit looked out of place in the nightclub.

 

Somehow, though, the sight of her still made Tommy feel a little better about his best friend. Because he'd seen how Oliver, despite everything, was able to relax around her. Even smile and laugh sometimes. And he'd seen how much Oliver obviously cared for her—even more so when the scary vigilante had all but carried her up into the office and fallen asleep on the couch with her because she'd desperately needed the break.

 

Tommy knew it might be self-centered of him, but it was still a relief to see that his friend had moved on. If only because it made it feel a little more okay that Laurel had moved on, too—with him. Falling for her hadn’t seemed like a horrible idea when he’d thought his best friend was half a decade dead, but as soon as Oliver was found and brought back… he had to wonder if trying anything with her counted as a betrayal. Even with Laurel saying Ollie had no hold on her after what he did and Oliver actually agreeing

 

It didn’t really have anything to do with what Oliver now spent so much of his time doing. It wasn’t like Tommy thought his friend would snap his neck for dating Laurel—even if finding out that said friend could snap people’s necks had made his threat about doing so if Tommy hurt her sound even more real: ‘cause he really hadn’t sounded like he was kidding even before Tommy had found out he ran around in a green hood and shot arrows at people sometimes. That wasn’t really the problem though: the problem was that Oliver and Laurel were together when The Queen’s Gambit went down, even though Oliver taking Sara on that same boat ride had meant he was trying to throw that relationship away…

 

But Oliver barely seemed to even see Laurel when Felicity Smoak was in the room, and that went a long way towards reassuring his childhood best friend. That, and if someone so bright could know everything Oliver was doing—much of which Tommy still didn't—and still love him anyway... Well, maybe his best friend shouldn't give up hope on him either.

 

Still, the flowers made Tommy wonder, "You wear that for the meetings at Q.C today?"

 

“Yes,” Felicity shrugged. “It makes me more approachable, which I’d prefer to be. But we’ve only transferred in a few people from I.T so far, We’ll start interviewing more applicants later this week, and I’ll start looking at outside applications after that. I’ve finished setting up an entrance test for the applicants to take, the results from that at the end of the week should help.” She sighed, shaking her head. “I’m hoping the applicants from Applied Sciences will do better than I’m expecting most of my former co-workers from I.T to do. The ones that I haven’t already accepted anyway.”

 

“If they already work for Q.C why haven’t you met more of them yet?” Tommy asked, blinking at her. Because it really didn’t make sense to him—she’d worked for Oliver’s family’s company for years now, after all. “Why do you need to look outside of Q.C at all?”

 

Felicity smiled slightly. “I.T’s handled Q.C’s cyber security till now, and I know there are a few people that are even good at it—those are the ones I’ve already transferred. But hacking, and protecting against it, is as much about changing as anything else. The cyber world is always evolving, and we have to evolve with it. The best way to do that is make sure our team stays ahead of the curve—both by educating the people we have and hiring as many people who are already ahead as we can.”

 

“Okay…” Tommy agreed slowly, because that did make some sense. Though what was throwing him now was that this girl really was a genius—it was something Oliver had said more than once, so had Diggle, and he’d heard Felicity reference it in that offhanded sort of way that made it sound unimportant once or twice. But just how much Missus Q had run with raising Ollie’s girlfriend up at Queen Consolidated was starting to make a lot more sense to him now, too. Missus Q didn’t know about Ollie’s alter-ego—if he could call it that—so the only other thing that could’ve prompted her to believe that the girl Ollie seemed serious about might be up to the challenge was the doctorate she got at M.I.T.

 

“Moira doesn’t want to publicize the new department too much just yet, so I probably shouldn’t talk about it,” Felicity commented then, her nose a little wrinkled in contemplation. It was cute.

 

Tommy grinned, “Hey, compared to your other secret—his secret, I mean?—this is nothing. Not sure I understand half of what you’re saying anyway.”

 

“You understood me just fine,” the blonde corrected him, her tone slightly chastising, but she was grinning to. “Just don’t talk to your dad about it, okay?”

 

“Uh, okay,” Tommy agreed, grin falling even as he shrugged. “Can’t say I’ve talked to him much since he signed himself out of the hospital A.M.A and went back to work the next day. He’s been busy—Missus Q’s probably heard more from him than me. They’re working on some sort of joint-venture, I think?”

 

The blonde blinked at him, then shook her head. “I wouldn’t know,” she admitted honestly. “Moira hasn’t said anything about it to me. But she doesn’t want to me talk to anyone outside of the development team until she’s brought it to the board herself. She hasn’t said if that’ll be the next quarterly meeting or sometime sooner. Hopefully sooner, though, since the development team is mostly just me at the moment, and even I can only talk to myself for so long.”

 

Tommy snorted, “You already know the ones you took from I.T though,” he nodded as it all added up, then he had to grin as a thought occurred to him. “They at least know you’re heading up a new department, right?” he asked, a little amused at the thought of her wandering the hallways, hanging out by the coffeemaker or water cooler to check up on which of her former colleagues she wanted to steal.

 

The idea of her failing to hide behind a water cooler—those flowers would pop out at you—was hilarious, but also ridiculous. Missus Q would never let her do it that way: she probably already had Felicity setup in a nice office with at least an E.A to make sure everything kept moving smoothly and no one bothered her. But it was a funny thought.

 

“Some of them, and yeah, I already grabbed a few of the ones that I knew would be a good fit. A lot of them had already figured it out. Apparently my doctorate meant I didn’t blend in as well as I thought in I.T.” Felicity shrugged again. "Most of the real interviews will start next week though, after they’ve taken the test."

 

Tommy nodded then gestured her towards the bar. "Come on."

 

"Where's Oliver?" the blonde asked as she let him tow her over to the bar stools.

 

"He went downstairs like ten, maybe fifteen minutes before you came down." Tommy admitted, but held onto her elbow when she tried to head that way. "Since Ollie was worried about you sleeping earlier, you probably haven't eaten anything either, am I right?"

 

The blonde winced, but insisted, "I'm fine."

 

"You are more than fine," Tommy flashed a grin at her, earning him the amused eye roll he’d somewhat expected. "But let me arm you with at least a juice before you head down, okay?"

 

"Okay. Thank you," Felicity chuckled as she nodded, letting him nudge her into the nearest bar stool as he walked around to begin rummaging as he waived off both of the bartenders that were getting ready for their shift. “Thea did bring me sushi for lunch just a few hours ago.”

 

“Great. But I’m still gonna arm you with an orange juice,” he told her,

 

The blonde nodded again, “Okay, but no alcohol, please."

 

"Yes, ma'am, that’s probably a good idea," Tommy obliged as he grabbed a glass and headed for the machine that made the fresh-squeezed orange juice that Laurel had somehow talked him into having here. He still couldn’t exactly remember how he’d ended up agreeing to that, but the juice was pretty popular—even though most of it was immediately mixed with alcohol when it was served here. "Though you should really come back here to have fun sometime soon."

 

"Duly noted," the blonde chuckled again.

 

“So,” Tommy spoke up to be heard over all the sounds the gigantic electronic juicer made as it pulverized more fruit to make its latest batch of fresh as could be orange juice. “What happened to your brother visiting anyway?”

 

“Hasn’t happened yet,” Felicity shrugged. “He’ll be by sooner or later, I’m sure. Probably whenever it’s most inconvenient for me.”

 

“Sounded like he was gonna be here a lot sooner,” Tommy said as he finally started filling their two big glasses. “When he called a few days ago, I mean.”

 

“Eh, ‘soon’ is a matter of perspective, really.” She shook her head. “He called to give me time to clean up my guest room and warn Oliver. I can’t expect more than that.”

 

Tommy tried a sip of his own glass to make sure the latest batch still tasted right—and it did, amazing as ever—before he started filling the second huge glass for Felicity. “What’s he do, anyway?”

 

Felicity didn’t answer right away, just looked at him for a moment that felt strangely long, but then she shrugged. “Research, mostly,” the blonde answered blithely. “History and languages. Or of languages. But don’t ever ask him about that. He’ll keep talking till you keel over or hit him.”

 

“Okay,” Tommy chuckled. “Thanks for the warning, I guess,” he shook his head, smiling as he set her juice in front of her. “But why does Ollie need a warning, then? I mean, he’s—well, you know.” He shook his head. “Don’t think either a translator or a historian’s gonna scare him all that much.”

 

“Maybe, maybe not. There’s a reason they say don’t judge a book by its cover.” Felicity offered him a smile as she accepted the large glass of orange goodness. "Thank you, Tommy," she took a few sips, before she stood again. "But I really should get down there now. So I’ll take this with me."

 

"Okay, okay," Tommy waived her off, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to make her stay—whether he still wanted to know more about this ‘Adam Smoak’ or not. "Just take the juice with you so Ollie can't accuse me of not looking after you. Your boyfriend's gotten pretty scary, you know."

 

"Actually I..." Felicity trailed off, staring at something behind him.

 

Tommy turned just in time to see the normal anchorman for Starling City News appear on the screen yet again after the BREAKING NEWS BULLETIN screen faded.

"Dammit…" the genius swore before the broadcaster even said anything.

 

"More on the story out of the Glades. The kidnapper seems to have another victim, and is again broadcasting the feed to his website," Greene announced gravely, continuing as the foggier image from a much less expensive camera was displayed. "Another warning to viewers: this is live footage, so we're not sure what we're about to see."

 

The young man in the new video is much younger than the slumlord that the new vigilante had targeted before, and probably younger than the assistant district attorney, too, but Tommy had missed that one. But worse than that, Tommy realized as soon as the camera gave a full view of that chiseled face and the dark eyes wide with fear—he recognized the kid.

It was Roy. Thea’s Roy.

 

The kid Tommy had promised to give a job here no matter how long it took him to get his head out of his ass, ignoring his criminal record because it was all arrests, no convictions. And because he’d much rather Thea be dating a guy who worked for him than some gangbanger out on the streets.

 

The same kid Ollie hadn’t yet realized his sister was dating. And Tommy hadn’t wanted to tell him because he wasn’t sure any kid deserved a visit from the vigilante for dating his baby sister, whether he’d grown up in The Glades or not.

 

"Meet Roy Harper," a robotic-sounding man's voice—probably disguised somehow—introduced the kid that Tommy had hired a few weeks ago because Thea had asked him to. "Arrests for larceny, robbery, and aggravated assault."

 

"I've gotta go," Felicity said as she hurried for the hallway that led to the basement that was apparently the Hood's secret headquarters.

 

“Ye-Yeah,” Tommy acknowledged with a nod, his eyes not following her from the bar. That not-at-all hidden entrance was yet another thing that'd bothered Tommy about all of this, but it hardly seemed relevant as he watched the beaten boy seem to deflate at his captor's angry words.

 

"You're already up?"

 

Tommy glanced away from the T.V again as he heard his best friend's voice, spotting the man emerging from the hallway that the blonde had been headed for.

 

And yet you’re out on the street. Another gangbanger in the Glades,” the city’s newest madman was ranting.

 

Like the kid the bastard had kidnapped had been in the Glades to hurt people rather than just because he happened to live there. Like Roy—and hundreds, or maybe even thousands of other people—didn’t live in The Glades because they had to, because they couldn’t afford anywhere else in the city. Because Roy couldn’t afford anywhere else without accepting charity from either his girlfriend or his boss because of said girlfriend…

 

Running free,” the madman spat out. “Like the ones who killed my wife!

 

“Oliver,” Felicity was saying behind him, and Tommy turned towards them again in time to see her gesture towards the T.V. “He took-um-someone else. He’s just a kid!”

 

Their vigilante immediately moved closer his eyes on the television as he wrapped an arm around his girlfriend, and Felicity watched him for a moment with a worried frown. With another ‘GLADES BETRAYED!’ murder about to happen, they definitely didn’t have the time to waste now, still she followed Oliver across the room all the same.

 

And Tommy guessed he couldn’t blame them, because he could barely tear his eyes away from the horrifying news report, too, but they also didn’t know what made this hit so close to home. He had to tell them, but he had to figure out how to make his mouth move first…

 

I grew up in the Glades, too,” the so-called ‘Savior’ was telling his victim-to-be. “And it didn't turn me into a criminal.

“I know that kid,” Tommy finally forced the words out, before the pair could turn away again. They stopped to look between him and the T.V, and it was only then that Tommy realized he’d come out from behind the bar without even noticing: gravitating toward the two people that might be able to fix this. God he hoped they could. They’d try, he knew: and at least they maybe could do something.

 

But it was important that Ollie realize just how bad this was. Not just because it was just so goddamn wrong for this to happen to this kid from the Glades that was trying to turn his life around, but because of how much it’d hurt Thea, too.

 

"How?" Oliver demanded.

 

"Thea, she—"

 

"Tommy!" the younger Queen's terrified voice stopped him, and they all spun to watch her hurry into the club, tears already streaming down her face even as she changed course when she saw her brother, crashing into his arms instead. "Ollie!"

 

"Thea, what happened?" Oliver demanded as he held her, visibly torn between getting back to his mission and finding out what'd happened to his sister, who judging by the smeared mascara all over her face, had been crying quite a lot.

 

Considering who was on the T.V screen, any hope of keeping the archer from realizing his sister had a boyfriend now was well and truly gone; because even Ollie wasn’t that oblivious. Wave it right in front of his face like this and he was gonna see it. But Tommy had planned on telling him just now anyway.

 

"I-I was arguing with Roy and—"

 

"Wait, you know him?" Oliver cut in, gesturing towards the T.V screen.

 

Thea automatically turned to see what he’d indicated, before Tommy could decide if he should try to stop her from seeing her boyfriend’s beaten-up, defeated and terrified face being televised for all of Starling City to see. "Oh!" her hand flew to her mouth to catch a sob, and Tommy caught her as her knees buckled. "Oh, God, no!"

 

"Thea," Oliver gently turned her away from the television, “What happened?”

 

"Roy and I, we-we were in a fight, and some guy came out of nowhere and just attacked us!" Thea shook her head wildly, staring desperately up at her brother. "He-He doesn't deserve to die!"

 

"I promise you, he's going to be okay," Oliver's reply was so serious, so certain, it made Tommy wonder how he'd ever believed his friend hadn't changed from the kid he was before he'd been lost at sea. "You stay here with Tommy, all right?"

 

Tommy couldn't do anything other than nod even as the tearful teen was passed into his arms, automatically wrapping his arms around her and holding her close as Oliver finally rushed back out of the room to the vigilante hide-out hidden under the club, where Felicity was probably already typing away since she’d left already: sometime after Thea had run in…

Tommy couldn’t say he minded. Not when the vigilante might be the only chance this kid who meant so much to Thea had. So he kept holding the teen, helping her stand and trying to sooth her even as he tearful eyes went back to the T.V. Where they hopefully wouldn’t watch her boyfriend die soon. It was all he could do for this girl that’d always been like a baby sister to him, too. Be here for her, and hope for a miracle that only the three people downstairs could provide.

 God, he hoped they could pull it off…


NEXT:

Intervention

Felicity’s P.O.V.

Felicity doesn’t believe in luck, but the third time had better be the charm…

Chapter Text

Felicity Smoak's P.O.V.

 

Felicity actually stopped on the stairs and turned to look back at her boyfriend, “Starling City has a subway system? Since when?” she demanded incredulously.

 

Had,” Diggle was the one to answer, calling up from where he was standing by her computers, clearly waiting for whatever it was that he could do to help. That sight was all it took to get her moving again, resuming rapid steps the rest of the way down with Oliver right behind her even as their friend went on. “We had one, when I was a kid. Think they closed ‘em down in the mid to late nineties.”

 

“That’s why we don’t remember it,” Oliver nodded.

 

Felicity wasn’t nodding for the same reason, of course—unlike these two she wasn’t a pre-teen or a toddler back then—but she still couldn’t say that. At least the pieces were flying together now. “He was underground. The trace worked, but—”

 

“That’s why we couldn’t find them,” Oliver acknowledged, sounding just as relieved as she felt. “And how we’re gonna find Roy.”

 

Felicity was already dropping into her seat: her hands braced over the keyboard as she quickly took in what was already on display, processing what everything on the monitors’ means before she started typing. Her programs—including the search protocols—were already active. Now she just had to fine tune them with more information it didn’t know to look for, but with a few quick keystrokes it would…

 

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-Tap-Tap…

 

For Felicitas, the relief was so deeply heartfelt because this meant that her programs hadn’t failed. That she hadn’t failed when everyone was depending on her technical skills to save an innocent man's life. And she didn’t doubt that Oliver and Digg both felt the same way: yes, they had failed to prevent two murders they’d wanted to stop, but they’d tried and done the best with what they had. They just hadn’t had all the information. Now they did, so they should be able to save another life before it was shot short far too soon.

 

Later, however, Felicitas would have to look into these abandoned subway tunnels. Specifically, she’d have to figure out just how, exactly, she hadn’t known about them running underground all around the city she’d made her home. Sure, the former stops were probably sealed over, and she definitely hadn’t seen any bigger stations that couldn’t be so well concealed, but she still should have known they existed.

 

Hell, it was probably how the League had been able to design the tunnels she could escape through from her house so easily, which only had her kicking herself now because—again—she should have known that, but she hadn’t. She hadn’t ever bothered with checking the three tunnels that were available escape paths from her house if ever needed. She hadn’t set foot in them, let alone investigated how they’d come into being at all. She’d simply accepted the additional security measure to make both her brothers a little bit happier, and put it out of her mind after that. More the fool her…

 

Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap…

 

Still, this was a real relief. It’d been completely unexpected—the idea that her programs might not work. Honed from years of careful consideration and countless calculations, to find and help the good Immortals or try and stop the bad ones, even with slightly altered parameters they’d always worked. Until they hadn’t.

 

Except they had, only they couldn’t understand the reading. Couldn’t follow the path that was outlined for them, because they were all but ignorant of what was underneath the city. A whole web of underground roadways hidden underground thanks to the subway that'd been abandoned when Oliver was still a boy and Felicitas hadn’t been anywhere near this city she now called her home...

 

Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap…

 

Felicity still hated the fact that they hadn't been able to save that poor A.D.A. And she still felt guilty. She should have known, should have paid attention. Failure was always so much harder to accept when it meant lives—when it meant any life—lost. She was human, so she made mistakes like anyone else. But the loss of life made the guilt stab so much deeper…

 

But now another life was on the line.

 

Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap…

 

An even younger man, who’d made some mistakes in his short years, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t change. Couldn’t become a better man. Given his gradually developing relationship with Thea, maybe he already was. The fight the tearful teen had been speaking of when Felicity was headed for the basement had to have had something to do with that, but even if they were fighting about it, Felicity couldn't imagine Thea Queen willingly dating some guy who planned to stay a gangbanger all his life. No matter how hot he was.

 

And he was still so very young.

 

He still had plenty of time to try and change.

 

And Felicity had seen his record. She'd looked Roy Harper up back when Thea first started spending time with him. Months ago. He'd snatched some purses—including Thea’s, which was ironically how they’d met and how he first ended up on Felicity’s technological radar as a result. The Queen name coming up in any S.C.P.D report was relevant to her, after all, whether there weren’t charges pressed or not.

 

But Roy was mostly harmless. He’d gotten into a few fights, and stolen a car once. Or just been caught riding in a stolen car—that report wasn’t completely clear, which was probably why it’d never led to a trial. None of the people he'd traded punches with had been particularly innocent themselves. Even the arresting officers had come down on his side in more than half of the just shy of a dozen fights, saying that it was mostly self-defense on his part. Or defense of others, a time or two. Thus the reason why his records was all arrests, not convictions.

 

Roy Harper had never even been in a court room—at least not since he'd become an adult. And juvenile records were sealed for good reason: the follies of youth shouldn't be held against anyone all of their life. Even if a several thousand-year-old Immortal’s idea of ‘youth’ was somewhat skewed from everybody else’s… the idea still held true for most.

 

Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap…

 

But not for someone like Joseph Falk. Not for a man who’d lost his reason for being, and lost all reason with her...

 

And just like when faced with the insanely, unreasonably vengeful Helena Bertinelli, Felicity could relate. Gods, could she relate.

 

But seeking your revenge on the world was never the answer. For you, or for the world as a whole: revenge never helped anybody. That was the difference between it and justice—one was a selfish need to destroy, the other was the selfless need to protect. It was a hard line to walk sometimes, but it had to be respected all the same. Anything less led only to anarchy… something the Glades weren’t a stranger to.

 

Something the world wasn’t a stranger to either. Sadly.

 

Too often the cycle of cruelty won out. A wheel of violence spun endlessly on with all the force of fate—like it couldn’t be avoided if only anger and hate were given a little less weight. If only the world wanted to stop that wheel, to protect more innocents from being crushed under its weight. If only justice could prevail—with forgiveness and wisdom, too, or not. If only the world could want what was right: the harder uphill journey, even if it was coated by the blood and grime that could make slipping downhill instead near to unavoidable…

 

But that was why everything always had to be one step—or even just one breath—at a time. And that was why she had to stay focused on what she was doing at this very moment, too.

 

“He used to work with the city’s Department of Transportation,” Felicity said as the pertinent information appeared on one screen. She didn’t bother trying to enter it into the computers. Her programs were already scouring the subway maps that Google had, in fact, been able to find.

 

"Where is he now?" Oliver wanted to know as he came up behind her again. Now undoubtedly garbed all in the green leather and fully armed about as fast as he possibly could have. He’d all but leapt down the rickety staircase that they still needed to replace a few minutes ago.

 

Felicity didn’t bother responding yet, because she couldn’t answer until the answer came. Barely a moment later the awaited for beep did come, as if in answer, "He's on the old cross-town line," she told him, as she sifted through the many maps for the most accurate one. It showed where all of the closed entrances and sealed-off sections of tunnels were. After a quick scan of it, she nodded, "If he continues on this route, he'll be at the Spring Street stop in just under ten minutes. That's—"

 

"I know where it is," Oliver called back even as he headed for the outer door. Obviously he’d already studied the old map well enough to not need it as a reference point for how to navigate the city…

 

"Be careful!" Felicity called after him, exchanging a worried glance with Diggle before looking back at the muted broadcast, she bit her lip, but then un-muted the video even as she put the comm to Oliver in her ear and activated it. "Arrow? You took your comm, right?"

 

"Yeah, I’ve got it," was his short but accurate answer, and after a few seconds of silence she heard the familiar sound of his motorcycle roaring to life again. "How's Roy doing?"

 

Felicity shook her head, "We're still just seeing his face—nothing’s happening now," she glanced at the ex-soldier, who'd been listening to the video on headphones while they were concentrating on finding the madman.

 

"Falk stopped ranting little while ago," Digg reported calmly, also wearing a comm. "Wasn't even talking to the kid then: just kept going on about everything that was wrong with letting the gangs run wild. Mentioned his wife's murder a few more times. Said he'd give the kid a few minutes to think about his choices—that was a few minutes ago though."

 

"I'm surprised he can keep the camera tri-pod steady on a subway, especially with the state that one must be in after being out of use for years," Felicity shook her head. "He can't be standing there just watching Roy... can he?" she asked, wincing in sympathy for the young man at that creepy thought.

 

"Don't think so," Digg shook his head. "Sounded like he was leaving him alone while he made sure the broadcast stayed up this time. Not sure why he'd be broadcasting that, but this guy's not all there…"

 

"No, he's not," Oliver agreed, but he wasn't growling the words. If anything, he sounded sad.

 

Felicity could understand that, but it made her wince. And made her really hope that some miracle might present itself and allow Oliver a way to disable Falk without killing him or letting him kill Thea's boyfriend.

 

“He said something about not letting ‘Big Brother’ stop him this time, too,” Digg added.

 

Felicity just shrugged, not caring because she’d already triple-checked those particular protocols and whatever the crazy man had done wouldn’t work. In fact, the more stable, stronger connection he’d aimed for tonight would actually be even easier for her to shut down. He wasn’t even forcing the broadcast anyway, it was only showing up on most TV screens across the city because the local news had picked it up and broken into the current shows. And Felicitas had figured out how to temporarily shut the media down a long time ago—back when it looked like a psychotic headhunter might manage to expose the Watchers, and through them all Immortals, to the world. Her programs were still carefully keeping track of every avenue needed, though the simple act of cutting the one vital link—the website—off would take them all down at once. So, if it came to that, Falk wouldn’t be able to force who-knows-how-many innocent people to watch something terrible and tragic that they didn’t want or need to see. Thea wouldn’t have to watch her boyfriend die. Because Felicity had already figured this guy’s tech out and was confident, again, that she was better than him. She had to be.

 

The image shifted again then, though, and Felicity frowned. “I think something’s happening…”

 

"Now, I'll give you ten minutes to state your case, Roy," Falk's disguised voice said then.

 

"Arrow, it's started. He just said ten minutes."

 

"I'm almost there," the vigilante reassured her.

 

And Felicity realized then that she couldn't hear his motorcycle anymore. Then again, the old Spring Street stop wasn't far from here. In fact, it was probably the same stop most of the Queen Steel Factory workers had once used every day, back before it closed, which was years before Oliver's dad closed the factory. She heard the loud sound of a nearby train—the somehow functioning subway—rushing by a few seconds later instead.

 

"So tell us," Falk ordered his victim, sounding a lot calmer than the last time Felicity had listened to his voice.

 

Maybe that was reassuring.

 

"Why should you get to live?"

 

Then again, maybe not.

 

Roy closed his eyes, his entire expression defeated as he shook his head slowly. "I shouldn't…" he answered bleakly, almost too soft for them to hear through the broadcast. "Just do it."

 

Felicity met Digg's worried glance with her own, before turning back to the tragic video as the boy spoke again.

 

"Kill me." Roy was staring the camera straight-on as he said it, an image of solemn bravery, then he closed his eyes in acceptance.

 

"Um, Arrow, I'd hope Roy was trying to use reverse psychology on Falk, but it really doesn't look like it," Felicity said into the comm, though the loud sound of the subway cars speeding through the tunnel, with Oliver obviously on them now, meant she didn't know if he could still hear her or not.

 

Maybe that was something to think about in the future. Better comms... it could join the list after 'better lair with a much better hidden entrance.' Because while the under the club hiding place was kind of cool, it wasn't well hidden at all, and it really wasn't equipped with anything more than the bare minimum. Save for her computer setup, of course. Though even that could be improved upon...

 

And better body armor, because leather wasn’t considered state-of-the-art even during the Middle Ages, and Oliver was aiming arrows at people who mostly wielded guns. Even the League took that kind of thing into account…

 

"Just go on! Do it!" Roy's angry shout drew her startled eyes back to the online video. "Kill me!"

 

After a moment, Falk finally replied, "You really don't care if you live or die?" he asked disbelievingly.

 

Roy grimaced, that defeated look making another appearance as he looked down and answered softly again. "No one's gonna miss me,” he said despondently. “I'm just a waste."

Felicity swallowed back a sob of sympathy for the feeling that she knew was entirely untrue. Her earlier conversation with Thea and the teen’s reaction to what was happening both proved that. But it was another feeling that wasn't hard to understand, given his circumstances. And also a feeling she could remember having herself more than once—even though she’d been wrong then, too.

 

"Well, then we agree on something," Falk said a moment later. "This world would be better off without you in it."

 

Thud!

 

The camera angle suddenly changed, wavering towards the ceiling of the subway car, which was still mostly disguised by the sheets of plastic that'd been wrapped and hung all around it—probably with Falk adding a few to what'd been put there when it was decommissioned to deliberately disguise it.

 

"Arrow?" Felicity spoke a little louder now, since she could still hear the loud speeding subway sound that probably meant Oliver was still outside the car. "He heard you."

 

Their vigilante didn't respond, so Felicity and Diggle could only watch the very narrowly-shot video as Falk set the camera down on something. It wasn't the tripod, or whatever he'd had it on before when it'd been watching Roy 'contemplate his choices.' It'd been relatively steady then, now it was shaking with every bump of the rickety out-of-use and long unrepaired old tracks and maybe the madman’s hands, too.

 

They could just see Roy, bound in that same crucifixion-like posture, but Falk obviously wasn't paying attention to his video anymore, because they could also see some of the bars—the handrails—overhead, which were obviously what Roy was tied to, hung across the aisle. Then the ‘Savior’ obviously moved the camera back in the tri-pod aimed at his captive, because the jarring motions of his movements and the subway’s rhythmic shaking steadied even as the kid—and undoubtedly Joseph Falk himself still behind the camera—looked around wide-eyed.

 

SMASH!

 

The sound of glass—probably one of the car’s windows—shattering echoed through both Falk’s broadcast and her comm. to Oliver, making Felicity startle slightly. The only change they could see though was Roy’s defeated look turning into total shock.

But it’d obviously startled Falk, too, because he somehow knocked the tri-pod off-balance. It was left still standing, but the camera’s angle now gave them a clear shot of Roy’s whole form, as well as some more of the background, though the general area was still shrouded in plastic sheets.

 

Falk didn’t notice, however, undoubtedly because Starling City’s real vigilante was there with them now. Something even the viewers without a direct comm-link to him could assume: because one of Oliver's green throwing-knife-sized mini-arrows was suddenly lodged in whatever was holding Roy in place. Not that they could really see it clearly enough to be sure: Falk's deliberately blurry, shadowy video disguised everything except his victim's spot-lighted face pretty well.

 

Which, now that she thought about it, could be considered kind of convenient for Team Arrow, too, whether Oliver wanted to call them that or not…

 

"Come on," Digg muttered, almost too softly for her to hear over the still loud subway sound in her ear. "Come on."

 

"Let... the kid... go," the familiar sound of Oliver's angry growl was just barely audible on Falk's recording.

 

But Felicity heard it through the comm, and it made her eyes go wide with the realization that it wasn't his ‘vigilante voice.’ "Arrow!" she shouted in panic, shaking her head. "You don't have your voice synthesizer on!"

 

There was a long moment of silence, through the comm and the video, and then Oliver's voice sounded different when he spoke...

"If you kill this kid, he'll never get an opportunity to change!"

 

But still not digitally disguised. It just sounded like he was deliberately deepening his growly voice. Great.

 

Felicity’s sigh was almost a growl of her own.

 

"You can give him a second chance!"

 

"Don't worry," Digg reassured her before she could think of anything else to shout at her vigilante boyfriend about how he was supposed to keep his secret identity secret. His comm. was clearly muted because she was only hearing him right there. "With the subway’s sounds, no one'll recognize him growling. They can barely hear him. And Oliver Queen hasn’t growled at any cameras that I know of."

 

"We can only hope," Felicity sighed as their vigilante kept trying to reason with the vengeful widower. He picked the worst times to decide the glass was half full instead of half empty...

 

Then again: she probably shouldn’t try to talk about that. Especially if Methos was going to be around sometime soon: he’d never be able to keep his mouth shut about that.

 

"We're the only ones who can save this city!" Falk's desperately determined voice was digitally disguised on his video. Obviously his personal microphone had his voice synthesizer still going. The voice she could here saying the same words to Oliver through their comm. sounded considerably weaker. Almost desperate. "We can't stop now!"

 

"We're not the same!" Oliver shouted back, voice kind-of still disguised by his snarly anger more than anything else.

 

Plus the subway sound.

 

And the camera’s little microphone.

 

Well, she could hope, couldn’t she?

 

"You've killed people for this city… so have I!" Falk insisted, some of the uncertainty she could hear through Oliver's comm even audible through his synthesizer for all of Starling City to hear. "What's the difference between you and me?" he demanded before taking a heavy breath that sounded odd through his device.

 

That Falk was still bothering with the device was odd though anyway. Seeing as he’d already given them everything they needed to identify him before he killed his last victim. But that wasn’t important.

 

Felicity bit deeper into her lower lip as she could only keep listening, and watch Roy keep struggling with his bindings. Along with most of the Starling City, at least, since she couldn’t imagine the media not continuing to broadcast this. Not when they could make a pretty good guess on who had just interrupted ‘The Savior’ and—it not see much of what was happening—still hear it. And even if they weren’t smart enough to realize that the city’s real vigilante was the one interrupting now, the interruption alone should be worth broadcasting.

 

They could still see Roy Harper, even if the view was now skewed. The young man was trying to free himself with the mini-arrow, while the arrow’s maker distracted his would-be-murderer.

 

"Come on, Roy, you can do it," Felicity murmured softly, biting her lip as the boy started tugging more, trying to get free now that he had a chance.

 

Emma never got her second chance,” Falk protested, his voice sounding tearful even through the camera’s disguise. “You have no idea how lonely it is…

 

Felicity frowned as the figure of a thin, wiry man holding a handgun backed almost into the camera's off-kilter view. His face was out of frame, because of the tilted camera: they were seeing his feet, but not Roy’s. Meanwhile they could see most of Roy’s still scared face, but not what his feet were doing.

 

Her program had already setup to disrupt the website’s transmission if needed, of course, but with Oliver there now that hopefully wouldn’t be necessary. Considering the Arrow was obviously the hero here, this could even be a good thing for the city to see—for their team, anyway.

 

The thin man started shifting right along the edge of the camera’s odd angle. It looked like he might actually be turning away from the infamous Arrow, though mostly people probably still called him ‘The Hood’ or ‘The Vigilante.’ Whether he knew the newer name or not, however, if he was actually tuning his back on the archer—especially to turn towards the very victim the undoubtedly more combat-trained vigilante was there to save—in which case Falk really was crazy.

 

"Joseph," Oliver's voice was softer now, but Felicity breathed a sigh of relief because she could also hear the rougher, unnatural edges of his voice-synthesizer being used at last. "Joseph!" he snapped when the man actually turned towards Roy.

 

They could see that from the angle of Falk’s thin torso, just like they could see that the young man Falk wanted to kill had finally gotten a hold of the arrow that was really more of a knife to start sawing at his binding. But thankfully the archer all but snarling his name was enough to make the other man look back at the hooded vigilante again. So Oliver went on. Very obviously distracting the madman so his victim-to-be could escape. Well, ideally it was obvious to everyone except Joseph Falk.

 

"I understand being alone," the vigilante’s voice was closer to the camera now, and sympathetic even through his ARGUS-provided—and additionally altered—synthesizer. He’d finally turned it on, thank god…

 

But the fact that his voice was so well disguised here, and he wasn’t even in view himself, meant Felicity was free to wonder what perfect strangers might be thinking of this unexpected ‘show.’ What people like the police, like Detective Lance and Nick, too, might be thinking…

 

"But it doesn't give you the right to kill people in cold blood," the archer finished firmly.

 

"He deserves it!" Falk insisted, and they could see his chin as he jerkily shook his head. "He's just like the gangbangers who gunned her down! He's no different than them!"

 

Except Roy wasn’t one of those gangbangers, he was just another boy among the many who ran with gangs because they lived in the Glades. But that was a difference the grief-mad man wasn’t capable of seeing, let alone acknowledging…

 

Finally Roy managed to get one hand free, and he immediately started working on the other with rapid sawing motions as Falk’s blurry image shifted again.

 

"And now I get to gun him down…" the uncertainty was gone from the self-named 'Savior's' voice as he turned and resolutely raised his gun towards Roy just as the kid had started tugging his second hand free.

 

"Don't do it!" Oliver shouted.

 

And that had Roy hitting the floor just as the first gunshot rang out, his hand sliding down the railing thanks to the still steady grip of that second binding.

 

BANG!

 

The shot missed because the boy had ducked.

 

Thwip!

 

Felicity didn't even blink when an arrow shot through Falk's thin chest not even half-a-second later. An arrow going through his heart as soon as he'd tried to adjust his aim towards the floor and the boy that was trapped there.

 

BANG!

 

Falk got the second shot off even as he looked down at the arrowhead now protruding from his chest, clearly shocked as he dropped his gun. Only some of his face was in frame as he looked down at it, but it was more than enough to see his clear shock.

 

Thankfully, the arrow had completely thrown his aim off, too, because Roy was pushing himself up off the floor even as Falk fell towards it. Giving the little camera’s still skewed shot a perfect view of the green arrow through the thin man’s chest and the utterly stunned look on the face of the young man as he watched his would-be-murderer taking his last gasping breaths.

 

"Oracle," Oliver's voice was soft, and maybe a little sad, when it came through the comm undisguised again. And not audible from the now dead madman’s camera: so he was already out of that car at least. "I’m stopping the subway now. Not sure where, but call in an anonymous tip to the police. Let them know where they can find Roy on this line somewhere north of the Spring Street stop."

 

“Um, yeah, of course,” Felicity acknowledged. “I’m still tracking the signal, but I’ll wait a few minutes, okay? We don’t want them coming in on top of you.”

 

Yeah, okay,” her vigilante sighed.

 

Felicity frowned, that sigh making her not want to go on, but she knew she had to. “We should call the news station, too,” she made herself say, and in the barely noticeable pause that followed, she wasn’t at all surprised to see Digg rolling his eyes.

 

"What?" Oliver sounded more confused than angry. “Why?

 

"Arrow, you..." Felicity trailed off, making herself wait patiently as the very loud sound of long unused breaks coming on squealed through the comm. When it was done, and the subway train obviously stopped, she continued, "That was live. On television.”

 

Wait,” the frown was clear in Oliver’s voice. “You didn’t cut it?

 

“Why would I’ve cut it?” Felicity replied, aiming for reasonable rather than sarcastic, which was why she didn’t let herself roll here eyes. “You were there: the kid was going to be okay.”

 

Oracle…” the vigilante tried to growl her codename, but it came out as more of a sigh again. Born from the weariness that only defeat and failure could bring, because while he’d saved one life, he’d wanted to save them both…

 

Felicity shook her head, “Arrow, you just saved that kid’s life, and you killed a man, on live television. Obviously, you were defending Roy—no one will be able to contest that, but it'd be a better idea to use it. Let the media improve your image a little more, like they did after the fire-thing."

 

There was really no point in arguing it not, since it was already done, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t. Though she would’ve much preferred face-to-face instead of over their highly secure but maybe not invulnerable communications system…

 

"Fe—Oracle," Oliver sighed, and she knew he was shaking his head. "I don't care about my 'image,'” he said that last word with a snort that was somehow both sarcastic and still sad. “I'm a vigilante, remember? Not a politician."

 

Felicity snorted, "So hearing Cassie Carter call you a hero on Civil Dispatch wasn't a good thing?" [1]

 

"No, it was nice," Oliver admitted, sighing again. "But that doesn't make it true."

 

"I'll call it in," Digg volunteered then, pulling his own comm. out of his ear while he headed for the cabinet that held all their always charged super-secure burner phones from ARGUS.

 

And Felicity had to not let herself react to the barely there amusement in his voice. Especially since she knew he probably agreed with her more than Oliver. After all, the ex-soldier hadn't joined on to just scare bad people, despite whatever Oliver thought he was doing as he made his way down his dad's list. He'd signed on to help save Starling City. Ergo, hero.

 

That Diggle didn’t necessarily want to listen to the two of them fight about it wasn’t something she could hold against him either.

 

"Spartan's going to call the news' station," Felicity dutifully re-laid, before looking up at the man. "Don’t forget to switch the synthesizer button for your voice. Unless you want to sound like Darth Vader, they’re all set for that right now."

 

Some might say the voice of Anakin Skywalker after he’d fallen to the Dark Side wasn’t the best disguise to pick, but Felicitas had liked that Vader had found his way back to the Light in the end. Once he had a reason to… true, the prequels put the suitably sinister face on his first fall, but she’d still always liked the initial idea that even the most evil of men could find their way out of that darkness and into the light again if they were simply given a reason to do it. Especially for Immortals, but for humanity in general, too…

 

And besides, it wasn’t like the S.C.P.D seeing that sort of symbolism when it came to The Arrow and those who supported him would be a bad thing…

 

"Yes, ma'am," Digg answered so dutifully that Felicity had to wonder if he was teasing her, but another sigh from Oliver just as he started his bike up again distracted her.

 

How had he gotten back to where he’d parked it so quickly? Or had she just not been paying attention to the time?

 

"I'm on my way back."

 

"We’ll be here," Felicity promised before she closed the link, since the archer had apparently realized this was something they should be saying when they could make eye-contact. Then she turned towards Diggle, and frowned when she saw he was actually using a phonebook—a real paper one—to look up the local news’ contact information. That made her pause and turn back to her computers to just run the quick search and gesture at the results as they came up. "In have the number,” she told him, before she went on. “Do you think the Arrow should call Lance, or the Oracles should contact the S.C.P.D again?"

 

Digg grimaced as he came closer again to get the offered phone number. "I think your boyfriend referring to himself in the third person is weird enough,” he told her with a tired tone somehow sounding a lot like an eye-roll as he added, “Please don’t start referring to yourself in the third person plural."

 

Felicity hesitated only a second before she snorted at that, "It’s a good habit, Digg," she told him, smiling slightly, "Especially since we don’t want anyone connecting us to the Arrow or the Oracles."

 

So what if this was yet another secret she should probably have already told them about? It, like most of the things in her life that normal people should call ‘strange’ was pretty directly tied to her Immortality, so until she found the nerve to let that secret out, some of the smaller ones that were attached to it were mostly immaterial. And the layers of secrets like this were still important. After all, if there might ever be a time when Oliver could pull back his hood in front of someone like Detective Lance and expect anything other than an arrest and a court date, it was a very far-off thing right now…

 

"In public, yeah," the ex-soldier shook his head as he waived towards the green arrow display she sometimes frowned at, but hadn’t yet gotten around to convincing its owner that it really was a bad idea to have it there. "When we’re down here, surrounded by all these green arrows? Give me a break, huh?"

 

Felicity chuckled even as she nodded. "Okay, but I should—"

 

"At least wait for him to get back and ask him, Felicity," the former soldier advised as he dialed the number on the burner he’d pulled out of the their charging station, which still had five more to spare at her insistence. "We probably don’t want anyone connecting the Arrow to the Oracles anytime too soon, and he wasn’t in the same train car when he started talking to you so they didn’t hear that.

 

Felicity blinked at him, “Digg, the S.C.P.D already knows that an ‘Oracle’ works with the Arrow. I identified myself when Oliver gave one of the secondary comms’ to Lieutenant Pike, remember? When he was shot by the Triad?”

 

The ex-soldier blinked, probably surprised that he’d forgotten that—though the last few weeks had been packed full of plenty of surprises. “Haven’t seen anything in the news about the Arrow—or the Hood—having a known accomplice afterwards. Maybe Pike didn’t remember… blood loss or trauma leading to missing memories, or something like that?” he shook his head. “If he did, the S.C.P.D would be looking for you.”

 

“They probably are,” Felicity shrugged. “They don’t have anything to go on though. Other than I know the Arrow, that I’m called ‘Oracle’ and sounded like Darth Vader when I was trying to keep the lieutenant alive.”

 

“True, I guess,” Diggle agreed, though he clearly still didn’t like it. But instead of saying more about that, he frowned as he studied the screen of the phones he’d never had to use. “What do I hit to change the voice?”

 

“Gimme,” Felicity held out her hand, taking the phone and quickly calling up the right setting. She considered making him sound totally ridiculous, but didn’t want to risk the news station thinking it might be a kid making a crank call as a result. So she just made sure it wasn’t exactly the same program settings that Oliver used or the one she’d used. If it was too easy for them to figure it out, they might be able to reverse-engineer it after all. Then she handed it back to her friend. "There you go. Just hit the call button now."

 

He turned his frown at her then, looking a little suspicious. “This isn’t gonna make me sound like Mickey Mouse, is it?”

 

Felicity raised an eyebrow at him and asked impishly, “Would I do that to you?”

 

Digg studied her impish smirk for just a second before he shook his head. “No. Not now.” He decided, and nodded. “Thanks.” Then he paused for another moment before going on, “Actually, that reminds me, I have to thank you for—well, something else.”

 

Felicity blinked at him, then cocked her head to the side. “Something else you can’t tell me about?” she clarified curiously, her mind flying through what that could possibly be tied to.

 

He couldn’t have found out about her asking the League of Assassins to look into Andy Diggle’s death. She hadn’t told him and they certainly wouldn’t. But he already knew she was scouring the internet for information on Deadshot for him, they’d talked about that a few times, so that couldn’t be it. It was the only thing she could think of off the top of her head though, so she could only watch curiously as the former soldier’s face twisted a little in a grimace.

 

Then he sighed. “Yeah, basically. But, really, thank you.”

 

“Well, okay then. You’re welcome,” the Immortal answered right away, turning back to her computers to just let him get back to making that phone call.

 

After all, it wasn’t like she had the right to hold anyone’s secrets against them—especially Oliver or Digg—so it was just easier to accept it and let it go. He’d wanted to thank her, and he had. Maybe it was something that’d come up again later and she’d learn what she was actually being thanked for, maybe not. She had too many secrets herself to care too much about something so simply sincere and—in its own way—honest.

 

Felicity went back to watching the live-feed still playing on the now dead ‘Savior’s website. She wasn’t surprised to see that the local news channel had gone away from the image of Roy staring at the corpse of the man that’d tried to kill him. They’d probably promised to come back with updates of any changes as soon as they realized that The Arrow wasn’t there anymore. She couldn’t be sure, because she’d had their window with their broadcast playing on one monitor, but muted, with a background program confirming that the only difference between what was on the website and the news was the barely-there time delay between the two.

 

Still, she couldn’t make herself leave the kid who hadn’t been able to beg for his life alone. Not that he knew she was watching, but still… So she kept the feed open, even as she went to work making sure that her hacking wouldn’t stand out anymore than anyone else’s when government-employed investigators really got around to comparing them.

 

And, at the same time, Felicity tried to mentally gear herself up for the argument she knew might be coming. Because she’d let Oliver take care of her, and now it was his turn to let her take care of him. Even if he didn’t think he was a hero, he was one, and it was about time he started to see it…

 

But since she knew Oliver was on his way back on his bike, it was safe to make the other call, too. Just to make sure that Roy was rescued by the cops come to get him out of the subway soon, not particularly rapid reporters rushing to the scene of the crime first. So she grabbed the phone that was kept charged on her desk, Vader voice-synthesizer already on, for specifically this purpose, and selected the contact number she’d programmed into it a few weeks ago, glancing at the image that came up with the contact info just because it was there.

 

It was answered on the second ring by a tired man’s voice. “Pike.

 

“Good evening, lieutenant. I hope you’re doing better?”

 

There was a noticeable half-second pause as the S.C.P.D lieutenant processed what his ears were telling him, then he sighed. “I’m on the mend, Vader. Now what do you want?

 

Felicity had to smile a little, bemused at the weary and wary acceptance in the man’s voice. She’d expected it, of course, but it was still nice to hear. “Just to let you know that your men can find Roy Harper in the old subway. On—”

 

Damn, that actually makes sense,” Pike cut in with a sigh. “You know, I’m supposed to be on medical leave right now.

 

“So you’re not going to call it in?”

 

The lieutenant snorted. “Poor kid doesn’t deserve that.

 

“No, he doesn’t,” Felicity agreed, glancing back to see Diggle returning. She shrugged when her friend frowned at her, and got an eye-roll in response.

 

You could’ve called it in yourself, you know.

 

“And would most of your men take Darth Vader all that seriously?”

 

Pike snorted again, “Probably not.” He was quiet for a second, then he added. “Tell him ‘thank you’ for me.

 

“Of course,” Felicity smiled, then she shook her head. “But Mister Harper’s been stuck down in that subway long enough, so you’ve got another call to make.”

 

Yeah, roger that,” the lieutenant sighed.

 

“He’s on the cross-town line, under the Glades, north of where it used to stop for Spring Street,” she reported, then offered, “Have a good night, lieutenant.”

 

You too, Vader… and thanks.

 

Felicity was still smiling as she hung up and glanced at the far right monitor to confirm that all the programs that’d keep her calls untraceable—on top of the original ARGUS-provided hardware in the phones—had done their job. Not that she expected it to be a problem tonight, as the Pike was probably home either watching a late night T.V show when the latest news broke or only having turned the television on because someone told him about even while he was on medical leave. But it never hurt to be thorough.

 

“He’s not gonna like that either,” Diggle pointed out unnecessarily, his perfectly neutral tone actually rather impressive.

 

Felicity chuckled, “He’ll get over it.”

 

The bodyguard’s sigh was half-grumble, half-groan, but he didn’t voice any other complaint as he turned towards the other tech station to put the phone he’d just used away.


NEXT:

After-Action Answers?

Digg's P.O.V.

Oliver doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but maybe he’ll start to see that’s what he is. Sometimes, with a little help, of course...  

 

Chapter Text

John Diggle's P.O.V.

 

John didn’t let himself sigh until after he’d put the phone that hopefully hadn’t made him sound like Mickey Mouse back on its charger. Then he glanced back over at Felicity again, “Local news knows,” he reported.

 

“I know,” the blonde replied with a nod towards the screen where the station was just coming back on with another breaking news—or another piece to the same segment. The video was muted, but the headlines and the image of that kid still stuck in the subway car staring at the corpse of his would-be-murderer said it all.

 

Seeing that particular picture again made the former soldier wince, but he wasn’t going to start thinking about all the kids he’d seen caught up in senseless violence over in the Middle East. Thinking about that wouldn’t help, and the only real similarity here was how damn sad it was. The same could be said about needless violence almost anywhere: especially the far too many times kids were caught up in it. But those weren’t thoughts he could let himself mull over without at least one beer to wash it all back down with…

 

Instead, Digg pointed out, “He’s gonna want to talk about that, too.”

 

“I know,” Felicity said again, sounding like it was a simple thing when it really wasn’t. But most of that lack of simplicity was rooted in the relationship that’d already blossomed between the two of them, so the bodyguard wasn’t going to get in the middle of that.

 

In so far as this tied back to their team, sure, but Diggle had already resigned himself to being the regular third wheel in this scene. Now that Merlyn might be down here more often, at least he wouldn’t be the only one.

 

Either way, he had no intention of acting like some sort of regular couple’s counselor for the pair, so if that was going to be an issue here he’d back away. And no one in their right mind could accuse him of any kind of cowardice for that—it wasn’t. It was just him having a brain in his head and thinking with it. After all, this particular pair could completely destroy anyone they wanted to: the vigilante had proven he didn’t need his bow and arrows to take on anybody in a physical fight, and Diggle preferred not to think too much about all the scary things their genius could probably do on her computers…

 

Still, Digg was a little curious himself, so he asked her, “Why didn’t you block it?”

 

Felicity looked back at him then. “Do you think I should have?”

 

“That’s not what I said,” he shook his head, then added, “And I asked first.”

 

The blonde snorted, smiling slightly as she turned back to her computers. Still just looking at the screens that were more computer code than not, not typing or doing anything else to them just yet. Not that her scarily self-sufficient seeming computers seemed to need the input. “Oliver was there. He wasn’t going to let Roy be killed.”

 

“But he also didn’t wanta be on live T.V for any of that,” Digg pointed out, walking a little closer to sit in the chair that was near her desk. “He expected you’d cut it as soon as he got there, even with you warning him about the voice-changer.”

 

“You’re right, on both counts.” Felicity cocked her head to the side. “You were watching, too, though.”

 

“Couldn’t tear my eyes away,” the soldier admitted, shaking his head. “But that wasn’t what stopped you.”

 

“No, it wasn’t.”

 

He held her calm gaze for a long moment, then finally sighed as he demanded, “So? What was it then?”

 

“Yes, Oliver probably didn’t want any of that to be broadcasted, and he probably expected me to cut it even though he was there,” Felicity shrugged, turning back to the screen where they could still see the kid sitting alone with his would-be-murderer’s body. “Doesn’t mean he’s right. To want that; or to expect it.”

 

“No, it doesn’t,” Diggle allowed, shaking his head again. “But I’d like to understand your reasoning. ‘Cause you’re pretty good at out-thinking both of us, but your team still deserves to know what you’re thinking.”

 

That made the blonde sigh, before she turned to look at him again. “They needed to see that.”

 

“Who?”

 

Everyone.” Felicity insisted emphatically. “Starling City doesn’t have much to believe in, Digg. And it’s been that way for a while now, with no one doing much of anything to change it—so people have started to think it can’t change.”

 

“That might be true, Felicity,” Diggle allowed, before he shook his head. “But Oliver’s not interested in being a hero.”

 

She actually chuckled at that. “Yes he is. He just doesn’t think he deserves the recognition.”

 

The ex-soldier thought about it for a second, then shrugged, “You might be right. But he won’t think so.”

 

Felicity sighed again. “I know,” she shook her head again, too. “But he’s working his way there. Baby steps.”

 

“Towards what?” he asked her, holding her gaze steadily till she finally answered him.

 

“Saving this city. And, eventually, Oliver not hating himself.” Felicity raised an eyebrow at him. “You have a problem with that?”

 

“Me, no.” Digg denied, then nodded towards the security cam of the alley, where they could see their vigilante was just coming to a stop. “But he will. On the second one.”

 

“Of course he will,” Felicity rolled her eyes. “Like I said; baby steps. A little kitten’s steps, maybe, or a puppy’s…”

 

Diggle shook his head, “Well, let me know if you want me to a throw a few extra punches in there, too.”

 

The blonde snorted, “Kind of counterproductive if it’ll make him even more defensive.”

 

Digg snorted, “You must’ve noticed by now that he has a pretty hard head.”

 

“Baby steps,” she said again.

 

Then the expected sound of the alley door opening and closing had them looking in the direction they otherwise didn’t hear their teammate coming from. But with Oliver’s ninja-like reflexes and stealth Digg had almost gotten used to not hearing him. Point of fact, they’d only heard the door because Oliver himself had made sure that particular door made noise as a non-tech sort of security measure—long before Felicity had said up her much more high-tech system.

 

“You called it in?” the vigilante asked as soon as he saw the two of them waiting for him.

 

“Yup,” Felicity confirmed before Diggle could. “Digg called the news’ station on one of the phones. I called Lieutenant Pike and I’m monitoring the S.C.P.D’s computers. They’re already on their way there.”

 

Digg didn’t let himself roll his eyes or frown at her.

Oliver just sighed.

 

“They dispatched patrol cars to cover the subway a few minutes ago,” Felicity continued calmly. “The Major Cases Taskforce is on their way too.”

 

The archer paused when he spotted the video of Roy still staring at the cooling corpse of the man that’d wanted to murder him. “Sooner’s better than later,” he agreed with a sigh, deliberately turning from the computers to walk to his bow’s special storage case.

 

Diggle just leaned back against the table he’d been standing next to, deciding to watch the two of them for now. See how this played out.

 

“They’ll be there soon,” Felicity half-acknowledged, half-reassured. She waited a moment, watching her still hooded hero stand there, seemingly staring at his bow. “You should probably go check on Thea. Tommy’s with her, but she’ll be wondering where you went as soon as she starts to calm down.”

 

Diggle’s eyes narrowed, and he glanced at the image of the teen—the ‘gangbanger’ that Falk had decided to pluck off the street as his third victim—in a new light. The pair’s determination to save the boy hadn’t seemed strange to him, of course, but if Roy Harper was someone that the vigilante’s baby sister was close to, the murder would’ve hit closer to home than he’d expected. Going by Oliver’s wince at the mention of his sister, however, the boy they’d just managed to save was more than a friend. Great

 

Oliver shook his head, “I can’t go back up right away,” he sighed, finally turning to look back at them, though he still had the hood up. “What do I use as a cover for this? I promised her I’d—”

 

“You promised her that Roy was going to be okay, and he is,” Felicity interrupted. “Now you need to go up there and apologize, say that the phone calls you made were dead ends, so thank God the vigilante got there in time.”

 

Both men blinked at her.

 

“Wow…” Diggle had to say then, nodding slowly. “That’s an impressive twist on the truth,” he commented, amazed at just how deftly this woman’s brilliant brain worked. Especially on stuff like this: not just tech and her amazingly wide-range of expertise therein.

 

It also made him wonder though. How quickly she came up with stuff like this. How easily she’d slipped into a role to successfully infiltrate Merlyn Global—seamlessly carrying it out despite the difficulties therein. The puzzle pieces got positively magnetic when he added in Lyla’s mention of just how well-regarded ‘The Oracles’ were in the intelligence community. Especially given that his ex-wife wasn’t just talking ‘in general,’ but about her own scary employers: the infamous ARGUS, which even most soldiers in Special Operations found scary. Toss it all together, and John Diggle did have to wonder if their tech girl wasn’t a lot more than just a college student at a tech school before she came to Starling City…

 

“It works, doesn’t it?” Felicity said with a shrug. Then she looked at her boyfriend again. “Unless you want to tell her the truth?”

 

The archer blinked at her again as he answered incredulously, “What?”

 

“You could bring her down here and—”

 

“No,” Oliver cut her off, shaking his head firmly from side to side. “My family can’t know about this,” he insisted, not seeming to notice his girlfriend’s frown as he went on. “They’re safe—or at least safer not knowing.”

 

“Humph,” Felicity said the sound with a roll of her eyes, but then she looked back at her computers. “Then you should change and get upstairs soon.”

 

Diggle watched as the archer watched her for a long second, smirking a little as the younger man blinked at her again before he frowned.

 

“Wait, that’s live? You still haven’t blocked the broadcast?” Oliver asked—a question, really, more than a demand. Confused more than upset.

 

Maybe one ‘baby step’ complete, then? Hell if he knew. And he definitely wasn’t going to start thinking about if Oliver was more like a kitten or a puppy, ‘cause that was weird. The kind of weird that was cute from Felicity, but just plain weird from almost anyone else.

 

Felicity looked back at her boyfriend again, “The news isn’t showing it anymore, but it’s still playing on the website. I’m sure that the S.C.P.D will shut it down when they get there.”

 

“Why haven’t you—”

 

“I could block it, but why bother?” Felicity shrugged. “This way the S.C.P.D doesn’t really have anything new to go on to figure out who I am, which should make you happy. And I can keep an eye on Roy, which makes me feel better, too.” She gestured to the screen. “And I’m not the only one, there’s several thousand people still watching the website.”

 

Oliver hesitated at the last qualifier, but then he asked her, “It’s still broadcasting across the Glades?”

 

“No. Just on the website. He didn’t force the broadcast across all devices in the area this time, he tried emailing the news instead and waiting till they were broadcasting his feed, probably because he thought he could protect that,” Felicity shrugged. “I could’ve shut it down, but I didn’t need to. And a lot of people went to it as soon as the news stopped showing it.”

 

Why?” the archer asked her, sounding completely bewildered.

 

Diggle smirked because he was pretty sure he saw the tech genius bite back another, ‘Why not?’ before she reconsidered and answered more thoughtfully.

 

“You stopped a murder, Oliver,” Felicity reminded him calmly, spelling it out in reasonable, steady syllables. “Roy’s going to be alright, when almost everyone probably thought he wasn’t going to be. It’s not surprising that I’m not the only one that wants to watch until the S.C.P.D gets there: just to know for sure.”

 

Oliver was silent a moment, then he sighed. “But you said you didn’t want people to have to see that,” he gestured towards the screen. “To have to watch as someone was murdered right in front of them.”

 

“That wasn’t murder,” Diggle had to say then; though he was pretty sure Felicity was going to say the exact same thing. “You saved that kid’s life, Oliver. You gave Falk every chance to surrender. Hell, you didn’t even fire that arrow till he was actually aiming at the kid.”

 

“Yeah, but—”

 

“Oliver, you saved Roy. And he deserved to be saved. He would even if he wasn’t important to Thea, you know that.” Felicity shook her head. “Sure, he was born in the Glades, and he’s made some mistakes. But there’s a reason the S.C.P.D barely bothers with petty crime in the Glades, and everyone knows it. Just like there’s a reason the D.A didn’t decide to charge him when he was in a stolen car, either. He may be tied up with some gang, but the only people he’s ever actually hurt were either trying to hurt him or someone else. He didn’t deserve to die for that.”

“No, I know, he didn’t. He doesn’t,” Oliver agreed, and then sighed as he shook his head. “But I didn’t want to kill Joseph Falk, either.”

 

“It was a clean kill, Oliver,” Diggle spoke up then, meeting the archer’s eyes when he looked his way. “He was going to kill that kid. You stopped him. Doesn’t get much more clean-cut than that.”

 

The soldier made no mention of the fact that Oliver hadn’t let that arrow loose before the first shot because he was just that good, because the archer knew he could fire the arrow before Joseph Falk could aim and fire a second time. It wasn’t what needed to be said now, though it might mean something to many of the people that’d seen it tonight, skewed and distorted though the video was…

 

Oliver nodded, but he was still frowning.

 

Felicity sighed again then. “What happened to Emma and Joseph Falk was a tragedy. One that no one deserves,” she shook her head. “But Joseph took his grief and pain and decided to inflict it on other people. That’s not something that can be allowed. All it can bring is more pain, and more violence. And no one should want that.”

 

Diggle knew he should agree, but at the same time he knew he wanted to kill Deadshot—the man who’d murdered his brother. Many might call it justice, all things considered: who knows how many others had ended up dead because they were caught in the sniper’s crosshairs. But deep down he knew his motivations for it were all about vengeance. All about his baby brother not being around anymore, dead and gone before his time with a widow, son and brother left behind. Because of a stray bullet, the only shot that particular sniper had ever missed—even if it was only because Andy was a bodyguard doing his job by getting in the way. So he kept quiet.

 

“It’s the difference between justice and vengeance,” Felicity told him then. “One’s good for society, and the other isn’t—or one at least isn’t hurtful, while the other is. One is all about helping people heal, while the other is only about the pain. Joseph chose to hold onto that pain against all reason, and then he struck out at everyone else.” She sighed again, but then kept going. “It might’ve been one thing if he’d gone after the people who actually killed his wife. If he’d killed them, even a jury might’ve let him off for it whether they technically should or not. People tend to sympathize with that kind of thing, or at least understand it—an eye for an eye. But he didn’t do that.”

 

Digg nodded, speaking up then, “Instead he went after other people. Like the A.D.A who hadn’t been able to help him.”

 

“And Nickel, who had nothing to do with his wife’s murder a year ago,” Felicity nodded. “And Roy, who hadn’t done anything to draw his attention at all—except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time tonight. Because he lived there, in the Glades.”

 

“I know you’re right,” Oliver said then. “You both are.” Then he shook his head. “I still wanted to save him.”

 

Felicity nodded. “I did, too,” she admitted with a sad smile.

 

“Would’ve been nice,” Diggle sighed. “But we can’t save everybody, man. No matter how much we want to. And you couldn’t have given him another chance—he was gonna kill that kid.”

 

“Yeah,” the archer sighed. “I know.”

 

“You did try to talk him down, Oliver,” Felicity reminded him again. “No one can deny that either. It’s on the video, too. Everyone heard it.”

 

They heard Falk say he was going to kill Roy. Heard the Arrow tell him not to. Heard the first shot. And if they were listening closely enough they only heard the arrow fly right before the second shot went off… saving Roy’s life in the process. That was what the S.C.P.D and everyone else would get from that video, again and again, no matter how many times they went over it.

 

Oliver frowned again at that, though this one looked more like his normal annoyed frown—not like he was biting back something painful from finding its way out. “Yeah. Including the Taskforce I’m not supposed to keep leaving evidence for, right?”

 

The blonde shook her head. “There wasn’t anything there that they didn’t already know—other than you using your ‘gurr voice’ to start with instead of having your voice synthesizer on. Please don’t do that again,” she requested a little too firmly for it be considered anything other than an order. Then she finished her calm explanation. “They couldn’t even see you. Just Falk and Roy.”

 

“Yeah, well, they wouldn’t have been able to hear my ‘gurr voice’ if you’d cut the video when I got there.” Oliver complained.

 

Making his bodyguard struggle to keep a straight face, because the other man just sounded so defeated about it. Like he had to complain, but already knew he wasn’t going to win. Then again, his girlfriend was a genius. And his girlfriend. John found himself surprisingly impressed to realize the younger man had already made those mental calculations and was arguing anyway, with none of the anger or shouting he’d half expected seeming to make any sort of appearance. Not yet at least.

 

“They also wouldn’t have concrete proof that Falk’s death was justified,” Felicity pointed out reasonably.

 

Oliver sighed, “I’m a vigilante, not a cop, Felicity. It doesn’t matter if—”

 

“It does matter!” Felicity interrupted, scowling at him then. “Oliver, it does.” She threw her hands wide for emphasis. “You want to save this city, don’t you?”

 

The archer actually blinked at her at that. “Of course I do. But I’m doing that by cleaning up the worst of the crime—the criminals the cops can’t touch. Not by broadcasting—”

 

“Falk’s broadcasts’ were horrible,” Felicity interrupted again then. “He wanted to commit murder on camera; live in front of everyone he could broadcast it to at the time. Most people don’t want to see that, but they also wouldn’t be able to look away. They wouldn’t be able to make themselves turn it off, no matter how much they didn’t want to see it. That’s why I cut the other broadcasts.”

 

Oliver scowled, some of that expected anger finally starting to show. “Well they shouldn’t have had to watch me kill Falk either!” he snapped at her, though he looked away as he said it, not looking back till the angry words were already out.

 

Huh. That was interesting…

 

Felicity stared calmly back at him for several long moments, and when it didn’t look like she was going to say anything in response Diggle decided to speak up again.

 

“Not the same thing, man. We’ve been over that already.”

 

“Yeah, fine. I had to kill him to save the kid,” the vigilante allowed unhappily, before he shook his head, “Doesn’t mean anyone else should’ve had to see it.”

 

“Do you want someone else to pick up where ‘The Savior’ left off?” Felicity asked him then, the words sounding so calm that for a moment they didn’t hit either man even as she went on. “Grabbing anybody they want off the street and killing them in front of everyone? Or even just killing whoever they want without any cameras?”

 

Oliver scowled again. “Of course not.”

 

“Well, anyone who might be tempted to copy him will think twice about it—now that they know that you will stop them.” Felicity pointed out, still sounding surprisingly calm. “Sure, it would’ve gotten out that he was killed by you anyway. Roy would’ve told the cops the whole thing, and while they probably wouldn’t publicize it, the coroner’s report would still say Joseph Falk was killed by an arrow—probably even a green arrow, just to be clear—and everyone with a brain would be able to meander over to the right conclusion.” She shrugged. “But this way? They’re already there. No wandering necessary.”

 

Diggle, thinking he finally saw where she was going with this, spoke up again then. “She’s got a point, man. Last thing we want is people thinking that you want them to do stuff like this, right?”

 

Oliver blinked at both of them, then sighed. “Right,” he sighed, shaking his head again. “Fine. I still don’t think it was a great idea, but I get it. I guess.”

 

“Good.” Felicity replied just as matter-of-factly, then a little more softly. “Thank you.”

 

The archer nodded, then finally yanked back his hood and put his bow down. “I’ve gotta change. How’s Thea doing?”

 

“Tommy’s still with her,” Felicity answered right away. “He took her up to the office a few minutes ago. This hit her hard, I’m sure, but at least she knows Roy’s alright. The club won’t be busy for a while, but the cops probably won’t let Roy go anytime soon either. She might want to head over to the S.C.P.D.”

 

“Yeah,” Oliver sighed, nodding slowly. Then he started towards the washroom. “I’ve gotta get changed and get up there. You’ll—”

 

“We’ll keep an eye on everything,” Felicity nodded.

 

“Thank you,” the vigilante actually said, before he headed into the washroom and shut the door.

 

Diggle couldn’t help but blink at the closed door, then he looked back at the computer genius. “Well, that went a lot better than I expected,” he had to admit.

 

Felicity chuckled. “Like I said, Digg. Baby steps.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Digg rolled his eyes. “For you de-clawed kitten?”

 

She smirked. “Not a puppy?”

 

“Well, de-clawed cat sounded better than neutered dog,” Diggle shrugged, not quite able to stop himself from grimacing on the last part. “Though if your boy’s any kind of cat it’s one that people don’t confront without a gun. Like a lion, or a tiger, maybe.”

 

“Oh no, not a tiger,” the blonde denied, her nose wrinkling up in distaste as she emphasized the last word, but it straightened as she went on with a thoughtful shake of her head. “And male lions don’t hunt for themselves. He’s more of a panther.”

 

“Do I want to ask what you two are talking about?” Oliver asked them as he came back out of the washroom in the same suit he’d been wearing upstairs before, still buttoning the shirt up while he crossed the room towards the stairs, his eyes on them the whole time.

 

“No. You don’t.” Digg answered right away, wondering what it was the woman in front of him didn’t like about tigers but deciding not to ask. Not now anyway.

 

“I’ll give Thea a call in a few minutes,” Felicity told her boyfriend. “If she asks, I’m still watching the website online, and I’ll be up as soon as the police arrive, okay?”

 

Oliver stopped at the bottom of the stairs, tucking the slightly rumpled dress shirt in straightening the jack then the shirt collar as he shot a little frown at her. “Why?”

 

Felicity rolled her eyes. “Because knowing that might make her feel a little better, and I want to check on her, too?” she answered with one pointedly raised eyebrow.

 

Her boyfriend blinked at her, but then his surprised frown melted into an appreciative smile as he nodded. “Yeah. Thanks,” he nodded, but didn’t turn to go yet. “Do you want to come up now?”

 

“Not yet,” Felicity shook her head, indicating the screen with the teenager still staring at the body of his would-be murderer. “We’ll keep an eye on him.”

 

“I can do that, Felicity,” Diggle offered, though he wasn’t surprised when she shook her head.

 

“Thanks, but I want to.”

 

“Okay,” Oliver nodded understandingly this time. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

The bodyguard nodded in response to the look sent his way, grabbing a chair to roll closer to their girl while the vigilante headed upstairs to both play the ‘club owner’ and actually be a concerned big brother for a bit…

XXX.

NEXT: Heavy is the Heart

Thea Queen's P.O.V.

There’s few feelings worse than worrying about a loved one, even knowing they made it out of a near-death experience without dying…