the ponies run, the girls are young, the odds are there to beat
you win a while, and then it ends, your little winning streak
& & &
It’s Tuesday, Felicity thought as she pulled the keypad-protected door of the lair open, a little drained after a long day Vice President-ing, must be human trafficking.
As she made her way down the stairs she was reminded that Tuesday was also leg day for her morning workout routine -- that plus ten-hours-and-counting in really cute and very high heels had left her calves a little sore. She sank into her chair with a happy sigh, dropping her bag by her feet and kicking off her shoes. The lair was cool, even on a warm spring day like this one, and she wished she’d thought to bring slippers or even fuzzy socks with her -- the cement floor was so cold against the soles of her feet that she was getting goose bumps.
“Hey,” Oliver said, taking a break from his sparring session with Diggle to come greet her. He paused beside her workstation and smiled down at her. “How are you?”
Felicity could feel Diggle’s amused gaze on them, but chose to ignore it. “Good,” she answered with a grin of her own. “I brought food.”
Oliver nodded. “We’ll finish up and then eat.” He paused, then reached out and touched her shoulder briefly before rejoining Diggle on the mats.
Felicity watched them for a moment, then started to check on her searches. She and Oliver were… something undefined. More than friends, but not together. Not yet, anyway, though they’d kind of, sort of agreed that they were both on board with that eventuality. Only this time around, she was the one pumping the brakes, because she trusted Oliver with her life, no questions asked, but she was still having a hard time fully trusting him with her heart.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. It was more that she knew he believed he was all in, but she needed more than a couple weeks and some amazing words from him to believe it herself. Which she didn’t think was unreasonable, considering how he’d pushed her away before. So they were working on rebuilding their friendship, on regaining the closeness they’d lost over the past year. On occasion, it was a little awkward, and Diggle was just lucky that Felicity loved him so much, or she would’ve taken her sweet, digital revenge already for his unrepentant glee at their situation.
Her computer chimed its alert, and Felicity turned to the rightmost monitor, rolling her chair a bit closer. She skimmed the information, eyes narrowing, and then typed in a few commands, wanting a deeper search with more precise terms before she drew any conclusions.
She was tracking Frederick Todorov, a truly repulsive human being who’d slithered his way into the Glades during the post-earthquake chaos and had been trafficking ever since. Mostly young girls and teenagers -- orphans, runaways, and at-risk kids who made the mistake of trusting the wrong person.
The worst part about it was that Frederick Todorov had been disappearing these kids for nearly two years, and hardly anyone had even noticed.
Felicity was determined to get him, but he was smart and apparently a cash-only kind of guy, which made him much more difficult to trace.
So Felicity had flipped the script -- if she couldn’t trace him to find out where he was capturing and holding these kids, she would find all the possible locations instead, and then vet them, one by one. It was a good plan, but a tedious one. Because tax records and the registry of deeds and real estate listings could only tell her so much -- the rest she’d asked the guys to check out in person.
And the list of possible locations -- abandoned properties that were large enough to house/imprison groups of people, yet isolated enough to keep it all quiet -- was depressing long. Forty-seven properties, actually, of which they’d cleared only nine so far.
Well, they’d cleared eight, really -- the abandoned steel factory Oliver and Roy had checked out last night had been used very recently. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything to prove or disprove that it’d been Frederick Todorov and his band of human traffickers. The motion-sensor camera that Oliver had left behind hadn’t captured anything other than a couple rats, but Felicity just had a feeling about that place. It was certainly creepy enough. Hence her enhanced searches -- she just knew if she could figure out the right parameters, she could link Frederick Todorov to that steel factory.
Her sweaty teammates called it quits on the mats and wandered over to be fed, so Felicity took a break and joined them at the small work table. Roy wasn’t there yet, but she bet herself that he would show up soon enough -- he seemed to have a sixth sense for free food.
Sure enough, Roy appeared before Diggle even finished passing around the containers, and Felicity awarded herself 10 points for winning her own bet. She noticed Oliver’s gaze on her and tilted her head inquisitively
“You look amused,” he said, but it was more of a question than a statement.
Felicity grinned and shrugged, not really wanting to explain. “I just like our Team Arrow dinners.” Oliver gave her an exasperated sigh, but he was smiling back at her. He’d learned that no manner or volume of protest was going to dislodge the name of their little family.
Beside her, Diggle chuckled and said, “If you two are finished with your pre-dinner flirting…”
Flushing a bit, Felicity grabbed the moo goo gai pan and asked about the baby. No matter how much Roy rolled his eyes, Felicity knew the one topic they were all more than happy to talk about was little Sara Diggle, the seven-month-old bundle of giggles and drooly smiles. And Dig was always more than happy to share her latest milestone, even when it was something as minor as Sara making grabby hands at the plush giraffe toy Felicity’d bought her several months ago.
The meal passed quickly, and afterwards, Felicity promised them at least three new places to check out tonight before rolling her chair back over to the monitors. She lost herself in the searches as the guys went through their normal getting-ready-for-patrolling routines.
She felt Oliver’s approach moments before he touched the back of her chair. “We’re heading out,” he said.
Felicity turned to him, and they just looked at each other for a long, charged moment. She knew he was fighting his impulse to say something she wasn’t ready to hear, while she was fighting her impulse to hurl herself into his arms and make him promise to come back safely. But they were both stubborn, so instead of any of that, they stared at each other in a strangely heated silence. Until Roy muttered something and then yelped when Diggle elbowed him for it. Oliver rolled his eyes at their antics, but he was smiling while he did it.
“Happy hunting,” Felicity said, tilting her head to look past him and include Dig and Roy. Oliver let his gloved fingers skim along her shoulder as he stepped back with a nod.
Grinning again, she turned back to her computers, listening to their retreat. A couple minutes later, they were en route in the black van, and all three of her vigilantes checked in on the comms. Smiling, Felicity tapped her transmitter. “Be safe, boys,” she said, then muted her microphone. She’d learned the hard way that she had a tendency to talk to herself when working out complex computer problems. Apparently, musings on the best ways to deploy polymorphic code could be a little distracting when the guys were engaged in fisticuffs.
Felicity wasn’t sure how long she’d been working when something tickled her senses. Pausing, she tilted her head, listening for whatever minute sound had caught her attention. Better not be rats again, she thought. Then shuddered. Ugh. She liked tiny rodents better than, say, giant spiders, but that didn’t mean she was actually okay with rats sharing their basement safe house.
Felicity didn’t hear anything else, even as she held her breath to be sure, but slowly spun her chair around to scan the lair anyway. Nothing seemed out of place.
Still, her pulse was pounding a little too loudly in her ears, and she forced herself to take a slow, deep breath. Nothing. It was nothing.
After a moment, she shrugged and turned back to her computers.
& & &
Oliver crouched in the rafters, looking down on far too many fighters for he and Roy to handle themselves. They’d gone in blind, but stumbling onto criminal operations in a tumbledown warehouse in the Glades wasn’t exactly a shock. Still he hadn’t expected twenty-- Oliver squinted, trying to make out forms in the far corner-- twenty-seven lowlife human traffickers to be milling about the floor of this particular abandoned warehouse. He was grimly satisfied to have located these assholes, while at the same time frustrated as hell that he and Roy couldn’t just drop to the warehouse floor and finish things.
Carefully, he tapped the transmitter secured in his jacket and breathed, “Felicity, there’s too many for a drop-in. We’re going to need a distraction.”
He scanned the warehouse floor for a few moments, considering and discarding various plans of attack, before he froze -- Felicity didn’t answer.
Oliver frowned, automatically glancing to Roy, tucked away in the rafters across from him. Roy met his gaze and shrugged one shoulder, confirming that he couldn’t hear a response from her and didn’t know why either.
“Felicity?” Oliver asked again, adding as much volume as he thought wise, considering they were badly outnumbered in a warehouse full of criminals.
Still nothing, and Oliver swallowed against the sudden flare of panic, his hand tightening on his bow as his pulse raced. Maybe it was just an issue with the comms. It was rare, but it had happened a couple times -- usually took Felicity a few minutes to get things up and running again. “Dig?” he tried.
“Yeah,” Diggle answered immediately, “I’m here.”
And Oliver knew that something was very, very wrong. He knew it in his bones. “Do you think her comms are down?” he asked anyway, needing Diggle to give him something to latch onto. Needing a possibility that didn’t make his blood sing with panic.
“I’m already on my way back, Oliver,” Diggle answered, and Oliver could hear the van’s engine revving high. The fact that Diggle hadn’t even mentioned that he was leaving Oliver and Roy to their own devices before he took off to check on Felicity meant Diggle was more than a little concerned himself. That knowledge didn’t make Oliver feel any better. “Sit tight,” Dig added.
Every muscle in Oliver’s body was tense, adrenaline coursing through him, urging him to do something. Sitting tight was pretty much the last thing he wanted to be doing right now, because now that he thought about it, he hadn’t heard her on the comms for a while. Not that radio silence was that unusual, but this was Felicity, after all -- she interjected her observations and comments pretty predictably. Only she hadn’t done so tonight. She’d acknowledged their standard check-in once they were all on the road, but she hadn’t responded when they arrived. Had she?
“Roy,” he breathed, not at all surprised when his voice came out low and angry, “when’s the last time she spoke?”
Roy answered so quickly that Oliver knew his thoughts had been running along the same tracks. “‘Be safe, boys,’ I’m pretty sure.” Roy sounded worried, too, and Oliver’s panic ratcheted up another notch. Because they’d been outside on recon for about an hour before he and Roy had ventured inside. Which meant that no one had heard from Felicity for an hour.
An hour. How had he not noticed?
Guilt and fear tangled together, making his chest ache as he tried like hell to slow his breathing, to calm his panic the way he’d done a million times before. But this was different. This was Felicity.
“Dig,” Oliver said, keeping as tight a grip on himself as possible. “Drive fucking faster.”
“Roger that,” Diggle answered grimly. “Three minutes out.”
Oliver knew he should be paying attention to what was going on below -- identifying the most dangerous threats, discerning patterns for their patrols, looking for weaknesses to attack -- but he couldn’t. Every second he and Roy stayed there crouched in the rafters increased the odds they would be discovered, but Oliver couldn’t spare a single thought for his own safety until he knew Felicity was okay.
So instead of retreating or planning an attack, Oliver spent those three minutes listening to his own breathing speed up, staring into nothingness, and trying his hardest to ignore the horrible images his brain kept trying to serve up. He’d seen far too much pain and suffering in the past seven years for his imagination to spare him now -- every image was worse than the one before. Blood and agony and Felicity’s voice begging for him to help, to make the pain stop.
Oliver’s grip tightened on his bow until it creaked in protest.
He heard the van’s engine cut off and knew Diggle had left his transmitter on, letting Oliver hear everything in real time. Fuck self-preservation -- Oliver shut his eyes, focusing his entire body on the sound of Diggle wrenching open the back door to Verdant and the familiar, irritating thump of the club’s sound system.
Diggle muttered a curse under his breath and Oliver’s stomach clenched.
“Door’s compromised,” Diggle answered immediately, his breathing elevated as he pounded down the staircase into the lair. “Felicity? Felicity!” he called, following that up almost immediately with, “She’s not here, Oliver.”
Oliver was already moving, not sparing a glance for Roy as he made his way as quickly and quietly as possible back to the small window they’d used to get inside. He was ten feet away when he heard the shouts from below. “We’re made, Dig,” he said, even as he grabbed an arrow from his quiver and turned toward the human traffickers below.
& & &
Felicity woke with a start, in a grim, mostly dark room. Her head was pounding, and she groaned before she could stop herself. She knew better than to alert presumed bad guys when she hadn’t even evaluated her surroundings yet.
Carefully, Felicity opened her eyes, held still, and scanned the room -- she saw dirty ceiling tiles first, from her super-not-comfortable position flat on her back. The walls were a worn, industrial grey with three high windows that let the dim glow of a streetlight in through a layer of grime, and a single, solid-looking door. The floor was dusty and there was no furniture in the room save an old, hulking metal desk several feet away from her.
All in all, there wasn’t much to help her identify where she was (or how she’d gotten there). On the bright side, she appeared to be alone, which, as far as possible kidnappings went, had to be considered a good sign.
She was assuming kidnapping based on the pain in her head, the strange location, and what would surely be a locked door once she was able to try it, but it didn’t escape her notice that she wasn’t tied up. So that was a little strange.
Tired of looking up at the world from the dirty floor, Felicity moved to sit up. Her abdomen protested, immediately and sharply. Gasping against the sudden sunburst of agony, she pressed a hand against the pain and felt -- wetness?
Lifting her hand, Felicity immediately recognized the dark red stain as blood. So, apparently she was bleeding. Not awesome. She pressed her hand back down, whimpering a little, because, ow, pressure hurt.
“Okay,” she muttered, starting to feel more than a little scared now. Because maybe she wasn’t tied up because she was left here to die. Which was -- yeah, way too terrifying to think about at the moment, so she made herself breathe in slowly and then out. “Let’s reevaluate.”
When she looked down along her body, she saw enough blood on the floor beside her to speed up her breathing into panicky gasps. Was that all her blood? Which… would be less gross than if she were lying in a puddle of someone else’s blood, but also way more terrifying because that looked like an unreasonable amount of blood to have lost. Though it would actually be terrifying in a different way to have been placed in a pool of someone else’s blood -- the inescapable implication being that she would probably be next.
So basically either possibility suggested Really Bad Things in her future.
Felicity shut her eyes and told herself to calm down. She could feel her blouse sticking to her skin, and realized she was either bleeding out pretty quickly, or she’d been lying there unconscious for a while.
She wasn’t crazy about either option.
Plus, now that she realized she was injured, she felt discomfort with each inhale -- there was a dull kind of pressure/pain in her stomach, and that sharp threat lingering just in case she tried to move. Also her head hurt -- she was confident she had a concussion. So everything was pretty terrible, essentially.
Felicity held her breath for a moment to stay the string of curses that she really really wanted to let out. And then her brow furrowed -- she could hear some faint, tinny noises that sounded more like human voices than something industrial.
Carefully, Felicity turned her head to the right, scanning the floor. Eyes widening, she reached up with her free hand and picked up her small ear bud. It must’ve fallen out when whoever dumped her here. She stared at it, a little stunned, and then pressed it into place to hear -- fighting. Felicity let out a happy exhale that was almost a laugh. She could hear the familiar grunts and exhalations of Oliver and Roy fighting.
Her amusement faded when she heard gunfire.
Not sure whether she should be relieved at the possibility of enlisting their help, or concerned about whatever not-great situation they were in, and Felicity brought her hand down to the control tucked into the middle of her bra. Thank God her kidnappers weren’t the grope-y type -- for many reasons, but right now, because they hadn’t found her comms. She pressed the transmitter with shaky fingers, hoping like hell it worked, and said, “Diggle?”
“Felicity!” Oliver answered, sounding out of breath and more than a little panicked. Still, Felicity felt better just hearing his voice. “Where are you?” he demanded with a grunt. “Are you okay?”
“Oliver, focus,” Diggle chided. “Felicity, what happened?”
“I… I don’t know,” she admitted. “Just woke up somewhere not there. Alone in a room,” she added. Because that seemed like important information for Oliver to have so he could focus on not ending up dead or captured himself.
“Are you hurt?” Oliver demanded, breathing hard.
Felicity knew she couldn’t answer truthfully, not when the information would just distract him while he could be literally fighting for his life. “Probably a concussion,” she admitted. “But I’m okay. Diggle?”
“Yeah, one second,” he answered, and then the sounds of fighting cut out, and all Felicity heard was Diggle’s concerned voice. “They can’t hear us anymore. They’re at that warehouse beside the old train station on Washington. I’ll patch them back in when they’re clear.”
“John!” Felicity said, then groaned a little because apparently speaking too emphatically wasn’t really making whatever was wrong with her stomach feel any better. “Call the police to their location so the bad guys are distracted and--”
“Already did that,” he interrupted, his regular no-nonsense tone laced with more than a little concern. “Now tell me about your injuries.”
“Um,” Felicity said. Because her current situation wasn’t great, but she probably wasn’t in immediate peril, while Oliver and Roy were outnumbered and--
“Felicity,” Diggle said, “I don’t see any signs of a struggle here -- your shoes and your phone and your tablet are where you left them, which means whoever grabbed you knocked you out, either with drugs or by hitting you in the head.” He paused for a second, and when he spoke again, it was a command. “Tell me about your injuries.”
She wanted to argue, but she’d been in Diggle’s position more times than she’d like the remember -- desperate for all the information so she could figure out a way to get everyone back safely. And she would really like someone to figure out how to get her home safely. That was right at the top of her wish list, behind making sure Oliver and Roy were safe, and a hospital. Or at least a doctor. She was pretty sure whatever was wrong with her abdomen would be too much for Diggle’s emergency field medicine training.
So she took a breath and said, “Head feels more like a knocking-me-out pain than a fuzzy-drugged-up-and-dehydrated pain.” She frowned up at the ceiling.“Plus -- how long was I out?”
“We’re not sure,” Diggle answered. “Your last transmission was nearly an hour and a half ago. How long ago did you wake up?”
“Just a few minutes,” she answered absently. So she was probably still in Starling, or very close by.
“Are you certain you’re alone?” Diggle asked.
“No one’s in this room with me,” she answered slowly, “and I haven’t heard anyone since I’ve been talking to you.” Which probably meant whoever grabbed her and dumped her here wasn’t guarding the door or anything.
“Okay. You were unconscious and your head hurts,” Diggle prompted. “Any nausea?”
“No. Thank God.” She couldn’t imagine how awful it would be to throw up, since she currently couldn’t move very much without a flood of pain in her abdomen.
Of course, her editorial remark seemed to have tipped Diggle off to her other injuries, because he sounded gruff and almost angry when he said, “What else?”
“Probably some bruises and whatnot,” she answered, trying to put off the inevitable, because he wasn’t going to take this next part very well. Oliver would take it worse, though, so she was glad he wasn’t on the comms at the moment. “There’s a--” She stopped, trying to figure out how to phrase it, and finally settled on, “My abdomen is bleeding some.” True. Though a clear understatement.
“From a cut?” Diggle demanded. “Describe the wound to me. Is it bleeding freely?”
“I haven’t actually sat up yet,” she admitted, her eyes falling shut in anticipation of his reaction.
“You’re restrained,” he guessed. “Can you get free?”
“No,” Felicity answered. “I mean, no, I’m not tied up or anything. I’m assuming the door’s locked, but haven’t been able to check. Other than that,” she continued, her voice shaking a little, “I’m just… here in a room. There’s… there was bleeding more earlier, I think. Before I woke up, I mean.”
“Felicity,” Diggle said, softer now, which meant he was really concerned, “are you not able to sit up?”
She wanted to be pissed at him for figuring things out so quickly, but instead she felt really bad that she was going to have to disappoint him. She knew it would hurt like hell, but she braced her free arm and tried to push herself upright, but -- “Ahhhh, ow, ow, yeah, okay,” she gasped. “Can’t sit up.”
“All right, Felicity,” Diggle said. “Don’t try to sit up, okay? We’ll just come get you instead.”
Felicity stared up at the stupid ceiling tile with tears in her eyes. “I would like that very much,” she said in a small voice, “but I don’t know where I am.”
& & &
END PART ONE
“Diggle,” Oliver barked, wheezing a little as his ribs protested the full-out run. “Diggle, talk to me.”
He and Roy were clear of the warehouse, finally, and making their way back toward the foundry as fast as humanly possible. Unfortunately, it was at least five miles, which was going to take way too goddamn long for Oliver’s tastes. Because he didn’t know everything about where Felicity was yet, and that meant he couldn’t go get her and make sure she was safe yet, and that needed to happen right fucking now.
“Get back here and I’ll fill you in,” Diggle answered, and Oliver faltered. Because if Diggle wouldn’t tell him...
“Hey,” Roy said, stopping a couple yards ahead of Oliver, breathing hard but looking determined, “Give me a minute and we’ll have a ride back.” He gestured at a ten-year-old Honda parked nearby, and while Oliver was physically able to run the distance between here and the foundry, stealing a car would be faster.
“Fine,” he said, then half-turned away, refocusing all of his attention on the comms. “Diggle, let me talk to her.”
“Diggle!” he nearly shouted, not caring one little bit whether anyone was close enough to hear him. “Let me talk to Felicity. Right now.”
Diggle didn’t answer, but suddenly Oliver could hear her voice, “--so they must not have taken me that far.”
“Felicity?” Oliver said, half-relieved to hear her voice, and half-terrified that she still wasn’t sure where she was.
“Oliver,” she answered. She sounded okay but scared, her voice just a little higher than normal. “You’re okay?” she asked.
Oliver shook his head, his chest tightening -- of course she’d ask about him. “Fine,” he answered shortly. “Listen--”
“Oliver,” Roy called from the driver’s seat of the Honda. “Get in.”
He considered arguing, considered demanding to drive, but he couldn’t focus on much other than her voice in his ear, so he folded himself into the passenger seat. He barely had the door closed before Roy chirped the tires peeling away from the curb. Normally he would protest, but tonight, he barked, “Faster.”
Roy obeyed. The drive took less than ten minutes, but somehow Felicity and Diggle successfully avoided answering any of Oliver’s questions. Which was starting to piss him off, mostly because the implication was terrifying. His hands were fisted in his lap, his knuckles white as his voice got louder and louder. “Diggle, just tell me.”
“I am telling you,” Diggle answered, but he wasn’t and he didn’t, just repeating the same basic information with no fucking details to work from.
When Roy screeched to a halt outside of Verdant, he gestured toward the door and said, “Go. I’ll ditch the car.”
Oliver barely paused long enough to close the car door. He sprinted across the abandoned club floor, then loped down the basement stairs two at a time. Diggle was sitting at Felicity’s workstation, several programs running in parallel, and when he turned around the look on his face nearly caused Oliver to stumble.
“What?” Oliver demanded, but it came out a breathy whisper.
But it was Felicity, her voice scared but strong over the comms, who answered. “Oliver.” Oliver couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe waiting for her to continue. “We’re not sure exactly where I was dumped.” He flinched at the word, but before he could protest, she continued, “But the real issue is that I think I was…” The hesitation nearly brought Oliver to his knees -- he was bent over, his hands resting low on his thighs when she finished, “stabbed, I guess.”
“No,” he breathed. “Felicity--?”
“Abdominal wound,” Diggle interrupted, and Oliver didn’t know when his friend had gotten up or come to his side, but Diggle was urging him forward until he could collapse into a chair. “No exit, and Felicity thinks it’s too large of an entrance would for a gunshot, so we’re working under the assumption that she was stabbed.”
Stabbed? She’d been stabbed?
Abdominal wounds were tricky. And dangerous. And could be really fucking painful.
The thought of Felicity slumped somewhere unknown, injured and bleeding--
Oliver leaned forward, dropping his head down as white spots danced behind his eyes. He felt detached, far away, like there was a layer of cotton in between him and what was happening. “What--?”
“She’s been gone nearly two hours,” Diggle continued, his tone somber and just a little unsteady, “and she doesn’t have any trackers or electronics on her other than the comms, which don’t have GPS--”
“Clearly an oversight on my part,” Felicity muttered.
Oliver’s eyes drifted shut for a moment. “Felicity.”
“I should’ve thought of that,” she answered. “It would’ve been so easy. When I--” She stopped abruptly, and Oliver could hear the shaky inhale before she continued, “When I get back, it’s trackers for everyone all the time. Because this kind of sucks.”
“Felicity.” He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what he wanted to say -- everything was jumbled into a painful, throbbing knot in his chest.
“It’s okay, Oliver,” she lied. Oliver could hear the tension in her voice and knew she was in pain.
“From what Felicity’s described,” Diggle said, “we think she’s in an abandoned or seldom-used building, and we know from the timeframe she’s still within about a sixty or so mile radius from here. We’re working on narrowing down possible locations.”
Oliver blinked rapidly, his vision blurred and uneven. Because what he heard from all of that was she was badly injured and they had no fucking idea where she was or how to find her. That had to be wrong. It had to be. “Dig,” he pleaded.
“Oliver,” Felicity said, her voice low and full of empathy, “They couldn’t have taken me too far, and we’ve created a search grid, but...” She sighed. “I’m sorry, Oliver, but it’s a big area.”
And just like that, everything came rushing back into painful focus -- Oliver was jittery with a flood of adrenaline-fueled panic, with the feel of the leather against his skin, with the sound of her computers running without her there. He lurched to his feet, unable to stay still. “Diggle, where do I go? Tell me where to start.”
Stone-faced, Diggle just shook his head. “Oliver--”
“Tell me,” Oliver interrupted, louder now. “Give me somewhere to start! I need to find her!”
Silence held for a long moment after his shouts, then Oliver heard Felicity take a shuddering breath. “Oliver,” she said, “you can’t blame yourself for this. Whatever happens--”
“No!” he roared, because he would not let her say anything that sounded like goodbye. “We’re not doing that. We’re going to find you and you’re going to be okay.” There were no other options for Oliver.
“Okay,” she answered, and he could tell from her tone of voice that she was humoring him. He didn’t care.
“Where do I start, Felicity?” Oliver asked, a little bit calmer. He saw Roy at the top of the stairs, Laurel behind him, and gave a quick nod in acknowledgment before turning his attention back to Felicity. “You’re the brains of this operation,” he reminded her, “where do you want me to start?”
“The steel factory,” she said after a moment. “Based on the timing, I think this is related to Frederick Todorov. I think we tipped him off by accident.”
& & &
It didn’t take long for her boys to jump into action, despite having too large of a search area for Felicity to feel much confidence that they’d find her without some lucky guesses. And as a child of Vegas and a certified statistics whiz, she knew the odds -- her odds -- were... not great.
Oliver was on his way to the steel factory from the other night, while Diggle and Roy were hitting all of the rest of the facilities that Felicity’s research on Frederick Todorov had turned up.
There was really no reason to pick those possibilities over any other place within an hour’s drive of the lair to look for her. Oliver did not react to that very logical comment very well, so she’d agreed to keep thinking about ways to narrow the search grid while her boys worked their way down that list.
Felicity had been a little surprised when Laurel volunteered to stay at the computers -- and, if Felicity were being honest, a little scared, since Laurel was kind of terrible at computers. Laurel had also called her father, so there were at least a few cops out joining in the Great Felicity Hunt of 2015.
She barely suppressed a giggle, and then wondered if her terrible mental jokes were a sign of blood loss.
And suddenly nothing seemed all that funny anymore.
Felicity wondered how long it would take for reduced blood flow to affect her brain function. Because she was the one who was supposed to be figuring this out, which she couldn’t do if she lost so much blood that her brain started to fritz out. Which -- was terrifying, actually, because what if she just laid there and bled so much that she had lasting brain damage from hypoxia by the time Oliver found her?
And she was really regretting all that research she’d done that first night in the lair on traumatic injuries and blood loss.
Her fingers felt a little stiff, and her bare legs were definitely cold, and the implications were terrifying. She started to shiver, started to feel a strange pressure in her chest, only belatedly realizing her breathing had sped up. Panic wouldn’t help, because accelerating her heart rate would just cause her wound to bleed more rapidly. But it was kind of hard not to panic, all things considered.
“Stop it,” she told herself, and then winced a little when she realized she’d actually said it aloud, because--
“Felicity?” Oliver questioned immediately. She could hear the hum of his motorcycle engine, and the worry in his voice. “What’s wrong?”
She managed to stifle the semi-hysterical giggle, since -- yeah, stab wound. “No, just -- I’m fine,” she answered instead, but her voice sounded strange -- kind of high and thready and weak. “Really.”
“Felicity,” Oliver said, his voice lower this time, calmer (though she could still hear the tension), “breathe with me, okay? Nice, slow, deep breaths. In,” he said, and she could hear him inhaling, “and out.”
She tried to match her breaths with his, tried to relax her body again, but it was hard. When she closed her eyes, all she could feel was the cold, damp concrete floor and the sickly, sticky wetness of her own blood soaking her clothes.
All she could think about was dying here, alone in an empty room while Oliver and Diggle listened.
“Felicity. Breathe with me.”
Felicity’s eyes snapped back open and she stared up at that stupid ceiling, focusing everything she had on his voice, on his slow, exaggerated breathing, until the tightness in her chest eased some. “Thank you,” she whispered, still trying not to shiver.
His response wasn’t a word so much as a worried grumble, and Felicity turned her attention back to the room around her telling herself to focus on the things she could control. Or at least investigate. She’d already dragged herself painfully to the door and groaned through her attempts to open it. (She’d turned her transmitter off for that, which Oliver didn’t notice -- probably only because he’d been sprinting to his motorcycle at the time.) As she’d suspected, the door was locked.
She actually had a couple bobby pins in her hair, but no earthly idea how to pick a lock. And also, she was pretty sure she couldn’t possibly sit up to even attempt it -- at least not without passing out from the pain.
Now she was in the process of painstakingly dragging herself the few remaining feet to the desk. Not that she expected there to be a fully charged smartphone or a map with a big old “X” labeled “YOU ARE HERE” tucked into the drawer, but she’d be damned if she’d just bleed out on the floor without trying everything. If the desk was a dead end, she’d go back to the door and try to pry the hinges loose. Assuming she had the strength.
What was really bothering her, Felicity thought as she paused to catch her breath, was the question of it all -- why stab her and leave her here? Why take her at all?
The idea that her current situation was linked to Frederick Todorov was more than a little terrifying, considering he could either leave her to die, or come back and provide basic medical care before selling her into slavery.
So maybe she would just put a pin in that possibility and concentrate on other things.
Other options. Because she was a member of Team Arrow, and there probably was no shortage of bad guys who would like to stab any one of them.
Whoever did this could’ve just killed her, and he -- or she, because Felicity was not a misogynist and a woman was fully capable of all of this kind of evil -- but for the ease of things, she was just going to refer to the jerk who did this as a he... or maybe as Charlie. It would probably help to focus her anger if she started calling him Charlie, who she imagined, for some reason, with the skinny jeans, bowling shirt, and fedora aesthetic of a hipster douchebag.
Which was kind of weird, but for now, she was going with it.
“Charlie the douchebag,” she murmured, propping herself back up on her elbows and gritting through the pain as she pushed herself along the floor.
“Location one’s clear,” Diggle checked in, trying and failing for his normal no-nonsense tone. She appreciated the effort, but she wasn’t really sure how she was supposed to handle her guys updating her every few minutes as they continued to not find her. Kind of like a weird countdown to her death.
“Felicity, are you okay?” Oliver asked, and she realized she must’ve made some kind of distressed noise.
“Yeah,” she lied. “Just checking the desk.”
“Don’t exert yourself,” he snapped, and she’d be offended if she didn’t know how terrified he was at the moment. He didn’t let her reply, adding, “I’m at the steel factory.”
She heard the sound of his bike cutting off, but kept moving. When she reached the desk,she paused for a moment, just breathing through the pain.
When she gathered some strength, she reached up and opened the bottom drawer from her prone position, but she couldn’t see inside. Carefully, Felicity tapped her transmitter to mute her comms, then took a steadying breath and pushed herself up into a semi-seated position with her left arm, while she dug through the drawer with her right.
Oh, and she made a horrible, terrible, really loud half-scream/half-sobbing kind of noise, because holy shit that hurt.
Still, Felicity pressed on, her supporting arm starting to shake a little from the pain and the effort. The bottom drawer was empty, so she yanked open the small middle drawer -- empty. She couldn’t see into the top drawer, and had to paw through it with her free hand.
“Fuck,” she yelled, and dropped back onto her back. Which hurt, because everything hurt when she moved, and she was going to die in this stupid empty room with those stupid ceiling tiles staring down at her.
Felicity flung one arm over her face and cried.
And that fucking hurt, too.
& & &
Oliver entered the abandoned steel factory cautiously, only half-listening as Roy crossed another potential location off the list.
What a terrible fucking list -- places where Felicity may currently be dyin-- bleeding. Oliver grit his teeth and kept moving.
The factory wasn’t too dissimilar from Verdant’s original form -- a relic from Starling’s industrial past, now left to rust and crumble in the Glades. Hulking machinery still stood along the left of the building, strange mechanical shapes covered with flaking paint. Oliver moved quickly past them toward the back corner. The foreman’s office and what used to be the workers’ locker rooms were the only small rooms that could fit Felicity’s descriptions.
Oliver moved quickly but quietly, all senses on alert. When he reached the back wall, he readied his bow and kicked the doors open, one at a time. The first three rooms were mostly empty, with rusted out rows of lockers along the walls. The fourth and final room was empty at first glance. No Felicity.
Oliver felt that knot in his chest tighten. One of the things the island had taught him was an appreciation for time -- an understanding of how quickly time passed if you weren’t paying attention. In this circumstance, every second wasted on locations where Felicity wasn’t was a second closer to--
He couldn’t even think about it; his mind refused to entertain the possibility that they wouldn’t find her in time. And he needed to get moving again.
Then Oliver noticed the sheet of paper tacked to the far wall. He tensed, listening again for any possible other people in the factory. Still nothing. He crossed to the paper and stopped short, frozen with dread.
Dear Arrow: You can’t find me without her expertise, and now you can’t find her.
He read the words scrawled in pencil three times before he could react. With shaking hands, Oliver tugged his cellphone out of his zippered pocket and snapped a picture of the note, texting it to Dig and Lance. He couldn’t say it over the comms, couldn’t tell Felicity this.
Because it was Frederick Todorov -- he’d taken Felicity, and he’d left her somewhere to die, and without Felicity working her computers, they had no fucking idea where to find her.
“FUCK!” Oliver roared, punching the wall with the side of his fist as he turned away from the hateful note.
“Oliver?” Felicity asked, sounding scared and sad and, goddammit, he’d forgotten to mute his comms.
“Steel factory is clear,” he answered, his voice tight with anger. He couldn’t fucking help it, couldn’t control the rage racing through his body. He was going to kill Todorov.
His cell phone rang, and Oliver looked down to see Diggle’s name. Grimacing, he muted his comms and pressed the phone to his other ear. “You saw the note?”
“You need to calm down,” Diggle replied.
Oliver took the phone away from his ear for a moment, incredulous. “Excuse me?” Because Felicity was slowly bleeding to death somewhere and they couldn’t fucking find her, and if that wasn’t a good enough reason to panic, then Oliver would goddamn like to know what was.
“Oliver,” Diggle snapped, “Felicity is scared out of her mind and trying to keep herself calm for you and the rest of us. If you need to freak out, you mute the goddamn comms. You got me?”
Regret hit him, and Oliver felt the sting of tears in his eyes. “Dig--”
“I’m serious, Oliver,” Diggle interrupted. “We’re all moving as fast as we can, doing as much as we can to find her. Lance has half the police force involved, and the only reason it’s half is that the rest of them are trying to round up Todorov’s men after your confrontation earlier. We will find her.”
“Did they arrest Todorov?”
“No,” Diggle admitted. “No sign of him.”
Oliver felt jittery again, like his body wasn’t fully under his control. It was the kind of bone-deep fear he hadn’t felt since the early days on the island.
It was the fear of losing everything.
With one last glance at Todorov’s note, Oliver turned and moved quickly towards the factory entrance. “I can’t lose her, John,” he said, his voice wrecked. “I can’t.”
“I can’t either, Oliver,” Diggle answered. “Listen, Felicity is walking Laurel through some sort of predictive analytics, trying to prioritize the search. In the meantime, we keep going the way we’re going -- modified grid search, okay? You check all the possibilities in your quadrant as fast as you can.”
It would take too long to check every possible location -- even covering the rest of the locations Felicity had targeted as part of her Todorov research would maybe take too goddamn long. They needed something, some way to narrow it down if their brute force search was going to work.
Oliver reached his bike and paused for a brief moment. “Todorov’s right -- I can’t find a damn thing without Felicity.”
“Oliver?” Laurel asked, sounding hesitant over the comms.
“Thanks, Dig,” Oliver said. He ended the call and unmuted his comm. “I’m here.”
“I’m texting you addresses,” Laurel said. “There are a few more possibilities nearby for you to clear.”
“Got it,” he answered.
“Guys?” Felicity said, sounding excited. “Did you hear that?”
Oliver stopped just as he was about to turn on his bike, his hand flying to his earpiece as if that would make her words clearer or bring her closer. “Hear what?”
“That--” Felicity practically growled with her frustration. “It was-- Ugh, I can’t remember.”
Oliver’s chest constricted -- was she having cognitive trouble? Had she lost that much blood already. “Felicity?” he asked, his voice shaking a little bit.
“The bridge,” she said, and Oliver could hear the implied fist-pump in her voice. He'd heard it a hundred times before, and hope flared to life with the familiarity of Felicity cracking a case.
He took an unsteady breath, about to ask for clarification, but Diggle jumped in, sounding a hell of a lot calmer than Oliver when he asked, “Which bridge? What are you hearing, Felicity?”
“The drawbridge.” Felicity’s words tumbled together in her rush to explain. “The bells -- you know, the warning bells before it opens. I can hear that.”
Oliver asked, “The 54th Street bridge?” as Diggle said, “There’s a drawbridge across the skinny part of the bay -- Hudson Ave, I think.”
The bubble of hope Oliver was feeling deflated some when Lance chimed in with, “Little Neck has a drawbridge, too. Sweetheart, do you know which bridge you can hear?”
“I’m... I’m not sure,” she answered quietly, sounding a little frustrated now. “I mean, do drawbridges have their own unique bell-ringing patterns?”
“I don't know,” Oliver said, revving the engine of his Ducati, “but we’re going to find out, and until we do, we’re going to focus on properties that are near those three places. Laurel--?”
“On it,” Laurel answered immediately. “Felicity, can you--?”
“Pin the location of each bridge,” Felicity said. “And then I’ll explain how to refocus the search.”
Oliver allowed himself a small, hopeful moment as he sped towards the harbor.
& & &
The countdown on her life continued, and despite the brief flash of triumph she’d felt when she recognized the sound of the drawbridge, Felicity’s hope slowly drained as the minutes passed.
Which was weird, because she was normally a very optimistic person. But she didn’t have a lot of energy left, and trying to explain to Laurel how to create and run a complex search function over the phone while in pain -- well, it was hard. Harder than it should be, because she could do those searches in her sleep, and if there was one thing that Felicity Smoak was good at, it was talking.
Usually. But she was starting to have trouble focusing, feeling a little hazy and tired and like if she just took a quick nap, maybe--
“No!” Oliver growled over the comms. “Felicity, no naps. Do not close your eyes. Felicity!”
Startled, she opened her eyes and blinked sluggishly at the stupid dirty ceiling tiles. “I’m awake,” she said. Despite her efforts to sound alert, her words ran together a little. “I’m okay.”
“I think I’ve got the searches going, Felicity,” Laurel said, her tone low and soothing. “Guys -- I’m sending you each new areas to search close to the harbor and the drawbridges, okay?”
“Already on my way,” Oliver answered gruffly, and Felicity could hear the sound of his bike engine over the comms. The familiarity of his voice in her ear was calming, and she smiled to herself. “Felicity, you still there?”
“Yeah,” she said, eyes snapping open again. “I’m still here.” She was able to swallow an inappropriate laugh, ‘cause where else would she be? Wasn’t that the entire issue?
“Warehouse on Inman is clear,” Diggle offered quietly, and Felicity whimpered, just a little bit. “We’ll find you, Felicity,” he added. “I promise you, we will.”
She grinned tiredly at the ceiling. “Thanks, John.” She wasn’t sure she believed him, but she appreciated that he was trying to keep her calm. She hissed a little as she tried to shift, her muscles protesting the cold, unforgiving floor beneath her.
Lance and Roy and Oliver each checked in again, relaying information she didn’t really process. Felicity let herself drift a bit, because the fogginess was a little respite from the increasing pain in her stomach, the strange pressure in her chest. Then she thought she heard a door opening, heard Oliver yelling her name, and for a moment, she felt a swell of relief -- he’d found her. She was going to be okay.
When she turned her head toward his voice and opened her eyes, she was disoriented, still lying in that stupid room with its stupid door, and no one was there. She was still alone, still bleeding out on the floor. Oliver was shouting her name over the comms, and she could hear Diggle’s panicked voice calling for her, too. “Yeah,” she said, then cleared her throat. “Sorry, what?”
She pressed her free hand over her mouth, swallowing back a sob.
“Felicity, please,” Oliver said, loud and scared, “you have to stay awake. You have to.”
“‘Kay,” she answered, hating how small and weak she sounded. “Can you--?” She stopped, not wanting to bother him while he was frantically searching for her. She couldn’t make him multitask like that. Multitasking. She did like Italian, even though they hadn’t even looked at the menus that night.
“Felicity, what do you need? What can I do?” Oliver was practically begging, and his desperation scared her.
She knew he’d hear the tears in her voice when she answered. “Can you talk to me?” she asked, tears tracking down into her hair.
“Of--” He stopped, and the sound of his motorcycle cut out for a few seconds when he muted his comms. “Of course,” he said, sounding as unsteady as she felt. “Laurel, can you--?”
“On it,” Laurel said. “Felicity, I’m gonna keep everyone else off of your channel. You’re only going to hear Oliver, okay?”
“Okay,” Felicity answered. “Thank you.”
“Felicity, tell me where you want me to take you on our second first date.”
Felicity blinked, a little stunned by his topic of conversation. “Oliver?”
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go, Felicity,” he said, sincerity and fear all tangled up together in his voice. “You pick the place.”
She smiled up at the ceiling, more tears welling in her eyes. If he was trying to distract her, he was doing a pretty good job of it. “I don’t really care,” she admitted, her voice getting steadily weaker. “Anywhere with you is fine,” she added, feeling a little drowsy again.
“Felicity!” He was shouting again, and breathing hard, but the roar of his motorcycle was gone and she didn’t remember him turning it off. Did she drift off again?
She blinked up at the ceiling. “I’m here.”
“Tell me about Vegas,” he demanded, and she could hear the steady sound of his footsteps as he ran, and then a grunt and the squealing protest of unused metal hinges.
“My mom likes you,” she said. She didn’t really know why she was telling him that. “She thinks you’re handsome.”
Oliver gave a watery chuckle. “Yeah?”
“She asks about you,” Felicity added. She frowned, thinking about her mother, about how devastated her mother will be if-- “Oliver, will you call her?”
“My mother,” she explained. “Will you call her? After, I mean.”
“Felicity, no,” Oliver growled. “There’s no after, okay? I will call her when we get you to the hospital, and I will fly her out here, and she’ll be waiting for you when you get out of surgery, okay?”
“Okay,” Felicity agreed, “but if--”
“No!” he yelled. She heard him draw a deep, unsteady breath, and when he spoke again it was softer, but no less intense. “We’re not doing that, Felicity. We don’t need to do that.”
She let her eyes drift shut again, and more tears streamed down into her hair as she tried to calm herself enough to answer.
“I’m here, but, Oliver,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper, “it’s getting hard to breathe.”
& & &
Oliver checked the map on his phone again and turned left, scanning for the warehouse. He’d taken to describing things to Felicity, because she was getting weaker, and while he needed her to stay awake, he also didn’t want her to waste her energy trying to talk. “You’d hate this place,” he told her, “I just saw a rat scurry under the wall.”
Instead of a huff of laughter or a smart remark, Felicity whispered, “I think my heart’s beating too fast.”
Oliver pressed his hand to the comm in his ear until the pressure from plastic bud hurt. “Just breathe, Felicity. Breathe nice and slow for me, okay?”
He was running between buildings, moving as fast as he possibly could, because it’d been an hour since he left Verdant to search, nearly three hours since she’d been taken, and her voice was getting progressively weaker. They were running out of time.
The panic sat low and heavy in his chest, weighing down each step he took.
Detective Lance checked in again. “Nothing at Pier 53.”
Fuck. Every time Dig or Roy or Lance spoke, it meant they’d wasted another ten minutes of Felicity’s life searching the wrong places. Oliver had stopped checking in -- he was clearing buildings, talking to Felicity on the comms, and trying his best to ignore the fact that she would die if they didn’t find her really fucking soon.
“I should be cold,” she mused. “Because I’m losing blood volume. Lost blood volume. And probably I’m in shock, too. I think I was cold before, but now I’m sweating. Not the good sweating, like workout sweating.” He could hear the smile in her voice when she added quietly, “Like you sweat.”
Slowing down as he reached yet another oversized metal door with yet another padlock, Oliver closed his eyes momentarily at her words.
“Always liked to watch. Not for sweating.” Her words were starting to slur; she sounded so tired. The weight in his chest tightened, constricting all of his muscles and making it hard to breathe. “Not a weird fetish person. Just -- you’re beautiful, Oliver.”
“Felicity...” He could hear the tears clogging his voice, the desperation making it shake. “Felicity, please.” He pulled another explosive arrow out as he backed up ten feet, firing it into the wood beside the padlock and turning away as it detonated. Quickly, he kicked the door open and swept inside.
“Wish we had more time,” Felicity said in a melancholy sing-song tone.
His stomach churned and he thought seriously that he might throw up, barely seeing the vast open expanse of the warehouse around him. She couldn’t think like that, she couldn’t give up. “Felicity--”
“Wish a lotta stuff,” she continued, and Oliver wasn’t sure she was even hearing him anymore.
“Yeah?” he said, needing her to stay conscious. He knew she wasn’t here, knew she would’ve reacted to the sound of the explosive arrow, but he jogged the entire length of the warehouse just in case. “What do you wish, Felicity?”
“Wish we didn’t take it slow, because you never kissed me for real,” she answered slowly, and she sounded so disappointed.
Oliver jerked to a halt and bent a little at the waist, unable to keep himself upright, even though he had no time to stop and let himself feel any of this. “I will, Felicity, I swear. As soon as I find you.”
“Wish I could see Sara grow up. Wish I -- Oliver?” she asked, sounding a little more alert.
“What?” he demanded, sprinting toward the warehouse door so he could move on to the next one. “What is it, Felicity?”
“Are you here?” she asked, sounding awed. “I hear… I hear someone.”
Stopping short, Oliver cast wild eyes around the very empty interior of the warehouse. Nothing remained of the infrastructure -- it looked more like an airplane hangar inside than a warehouse. And there were definitely no small rooms with windows. Which meant that whoever Felicity was hearing wasn’t him. “Maybe,” he said instead, then muted his comm and pressed the cellphone to his other ear. “Diggle?”
“Not me, man,” Diggle answered, breathing hard. “I’m between warehouses.”
“Oliver?” Felicity asked again, sounding hopeful, and Oliver wanted to burn the whole world down, because he could never live up to her expectations.
“I’m still here,” he said, moving again, top speed for the door, desperate to get to her before whoever she was hearing could. Because the only person who knew where she’d been left was the person who dumped her there. And the only reason Oliver could think of why Todorov would come back was to finish the job.
“I hear… Hello?” she raised her voice, or tried to. It made him stumble to hear how soft and thready her attempt was, because she was running out of time, goddamnit, and now she was calling out to some unknown person. “Hello?”
“Felicity?” he pleaded. He froze when he heard a loud sound in the background -- wood splintering. Oliver stood on the warehouse loading docks, his entire body tense and expecting a killing blow. “Felicity, what’s happening?”
“Oh,” she said quietly.
“Felicity!” Oliver shouted, his hands pressed to his head in sheer panic.
For the longest second of his life, there was nothing but silence over the comms.
Then he heard Roy shouting, “Oliver! Oliver, I’ve got her.”
“Where?” Oliver glanced around to reorient himself, and took off at a dead run toward Roy’s search area.
Roy didn’t answer immediately, talking instead to Felicity, saying she was doing great, that he was there, that Oliver was on his way. Oliver tried not to think about it, but he’d never heard Roy sound quite that shaken before, and he was fucking terrified of what he would find when he got to her side.
“Roy,” Oliver thundered.
“The old warehouse on pier 48,” Roy answered. “She was right about the drawbridge. Laurel -- get an ambulance. Fast.”
Oliver pushed himself harder, pissed as hell that the warehouses along the piers weren’t close enough together for rooftop travel. Instead of heading straight to her, he was stuck on the pavement running in right angles, adding seconds she didn’t really have to how long it would take him to reach her.
He could hear sirens behind him, he could hear Diggle and Laurel and Lance in his ear talking logistics. If he could’ve spared even the slightest motion without slowing himself down, he would’ve torn that earpiece out and just focused on her, on Roy talking to her and begging her to stay awake.
Oliver’s lungs were bursting, his leg muscles burning with fatigue, but he’d learned a long time ago to push through pain, and he kept running. Six short blocks, then four.
One, and a turn down onto the pier before he slammed through the doors of the warehouse, hollering “Roy,” between gasps.
“Back here,” Roy yelled.
Oliver saw the door in the far left corner of the darkened interior, saw a flash of red and sprinted, only slowing up so he could go through the door in some semblance of control instead of falling onto her.
He saw Roy’s panicked face first, from where he knelt beside Felicity. Felicity was flat on her back, and there was blood, so much blood, her clothes were soaked with it, her hands, too. But the worst was how pale she was. Far too pale, her lips tinged almost blue. And her eyes were closed. He stared at her for a long moment, waiting to see her chest move, to see her breathe.
“No,” Oliver whispered, frozen.
& & &
END PART TWO
Felicity felt pretty far removed from everything, which she supposed was bad. She didn’t remember what being in shock felt like, but probably this? The panicked voices coming across the comms seemed like they were shouting at each other from a distance. Like they were at the bottom of a well.
Or maybe she was in the well? It was dark and kind of cold here, so she could be in a well. Did they have wells in the city? Maybe that’s why no one could find her -- because they were checking warehouses and she was down a well.
Only belatedly did she realize that her eyes had slid closed, so maybe it wasn’t actually as dark here as she thought it was, but checking seemed like a waste of effort.
“Felicity,” Oliver said. Yelled, maybe?
He sounded pretty bad, so Felicity did her best to rouse herself from this weird hazy kind of dozing. It was really hard to open her eyes, though, so she just kind of let her head tilt a little towards his voice.
“Felicity, please, open your eyes.”
When she felt his fingers skimming along her shoulder, she groaned and forced her eyes open. Because maybe he was actually here?
Everything was dark and fuzzy for a long moment, while she tried to blink the picture into focus.
“Felicity?” Oliver knelt beside her, his hood pulled down, his mask dangling around his neck, and his eyes wide and scared and fixed on her face.
Her breath left her in a painful rush, her eyes stinging with tears. He was really there, his palm warm on her shoulder, his familiar face eclipsing the stupid ceiling tiles she’d been staring at for hours. He found her. She tried to smile for him. “Oliver,” she whispered.
“Yeah, I’m right here.” Gently, he pulled her hand from the wound on her abdomen and laid it beside her hip, before he covered her injury with his free hand. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, and increased the pressure.
God, that hurt. She tried not to react, not to whimper, because he was helping and he shouldn’t feel bad about doing what he needed to do.
Everything was too bright and too real, suddenly. Beside the remains of the door he’d kicked in, Roy shifted his weight from side to side, staring down at her with a clenched jaw. He tried to give her a reassuring smile when she met his gaze, but it looked more like a grimace.
Felicity knew she was in trouble, but Roy’s reaction and the shaky tension she could feel in Oliver’s touch pretty well convinced her that she was going to die there in that stupid, stupid room, even though they’d found her. Because at some point, not enough blood would be left in her body, and her heart would just... stop.
And, God, she didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to leave Oliver, her beautiful, impossible man.
It took a scary amount of effort, but she moved the arm closest to him until her wrist rested against Oliver’s kneecap, trying to soothe him and maybe herself with the contact. She felt the warm wetness of her blood on his leather pants and let her eyes fall closed again, even as she tried to smile. “Knew you’d find me,” she breathed.
“Don’t,” he said, his voice clogged with tears. His fingers clenched her shoulder, then moved to skim along her cheek, before clasping the hand beside his knee. “Don’t try to talk.”
“I’ll go direct the paramedics,” she heard Roy say. “Update Dig.”
“Thanks, Roy,” Felicity managed. “Tell Dig I love him.”
“Tell him yourself,” Roy snapped back, and she knew how scared he was for her. She was a little freaked out about how much she wasn’t freaked out. Shouldn’t she be scared? She probably should -- she had been before. But now mostly she just felt fuzzy.
“I’ll try,” she promised, hating how weak and breathy her voice was.
Oliver’s hand convulsed around hers. “Felicity, I just need to you to hang in there a little longer, okay? You’re doing great. Just keep breathing with me. The ambulance is here, they’ll be here in a second.”
He looked so sad. She wanted to tell him it wasn’t his fault and she’d be really pissed if he started to blame himself, but then he let go of her hand. Slowly, she convinced her eyes to open again. He was unzipping his hood, revealing his form-fitting black undershirt, and she blinked, confused. Why was he stripping? Not that she would ever complain about it, but it seemed like a weird time for it. “Ol’ver?” she slurred.
“You’re in shock,” he answered, trying to shrug out of the leather jacket without moving the hand keeping pressure on her injury. “I need to keep you warm.”
“No,” she said, sounding a little stronger than she felt. Because the paramedics were coming. People would see him, they’d know who he was. Her thoughts were racing, jumbling together more than usual, and she couldn’t seem to get enough words out to explain. “Stop,” she said, groaning as she lifted her hand to his waist, gripping the bottom hem of his jacket before he could get it all the way off. Her arm shook with the effort, and she wasn’t sure how long she’d be able to convince her fingers to hold on. She glared up at him. “Don’t.”
“Felicity,” he said, leaning down until they were separated by just inches. “I don’t care about that. I don’t care about me.” He was crying a little, and that more than anything scared her. She refused to let go of his jacket, refused to let him take it off.
From behind Oliver, she heard a new voice say, “Oh, God.” Felicity looked over to Captain Lance, who stared down at her with wide, shocked eyes. Then he half-turned away to bark orders into the radio clipped to his jacket.
Ignoring Lance entirely, Oliver held her gaze, mask off, hood down, the jacket pooled around his elbows. “Breathe, Felicity,” he ordered, folded over her protectively. Even in the dim light, his eyes were so impossibly blue that she couldn’t look away. “Just keep breathing for me, okay?” Oliver gently pulled her hand from his jacket and gripped her fingers tightly.
Lance put a hand on Oliver’s shoulder for a brief second, then slid his own coat from his shoulders and laid it over Felicity. It was warm and smelled like Old Spice, and Felicity murmured something that she hoped was thank you.
“Don’t talk, just breathe,” Oliver ordered, ignoring everything but her. She was having trouble drawing full breaths, and she realized just how far gone she was already. When she’d been able to focus on trying to help them locate her, it was easier to ignore the steady deterioration of her ability to breathe. She felt panic pooling in her chest, constricting her lungs further.
Oliver brought their joined hands up to his chest, letting her feel the rise and fall of his own too-quick breaths. “Breathe,” he said again, the anguish clear on his face. “Please, Felicity.”
“You need to pull that hood up, son,” Lance said gruffly from her other side, his fingers checking the pulse at her wrist. “Paramedics just arrived.”
“I don’t care,” Oliver snarled.
Words seemed beyond her grasp at the moment, but he’d always been able to read her. Felicity turned her head a little bit more towards Oliver, pleading with him to be reasonable, to protect himself.
He let his eyes slip shut for a long moment, his jaw tight, and then he tugged his jacket back on, and yanked the hood up. “I just need you to be okay,” he told her, leaning so close the his face was all she could see. “That’s it. Nothing else matters.”
“Me, too,” she said, and she was too tired to explain what she meant, too tired to keep her eyes open. She heard footsteps and voices, but mostly Oliver urging her to fight, pleading with her to stay with him, to breathe, to live.
“Sorry,” she breathed, just before the world went dark.
& & &
Oliver barely had time to panic that Felicity had lost consciousness before two paramedics swept into the room. He spared them the briefest of glances, noticing Roy hovering awkwardly just inside the doorway, mask on and chin angled down.
Oliver refused to move, kneeling in Felicity’s blood, one hand on her wound, one hand wrapped around her slack fingers, even as the paramedics moved around them in what seemed like organized chaos. He didn’t have his voice modulator on, but his voice was so unsteady and suffused with fear as he begged her to keep breathing that he couldn’t even recognize it himself.
“We’ve got this… uh, sir,” one of the paramedics said. “Could you please move your hand?” Oliver realized they’d cut Felicity’s dress open, revealing her pale skin stained dark red with her blood. The paramedic who’d spoken to him held a large bandage just over her abdomen. Reluctantly, Oliver released the pressure on her wound, flinching as more blood welled up from the jagged entrance. He felt his own pulse pounding, the noise loud in his ears as he cataloged every rise of her chest.
Light flared unexpectedly and Oliver squinted, noting absently that Lance was using his flashlight to illuminate Felicity to assist the paramedics. He seemed to be keeping most of the light beam away from Oliver, to keep his identity secret.
Not that Oliver gave a shit at the moment, because now that the paramedics had slapped some monitors on Felicity, he was certain she was crashing right in front of him. Her heart was beating way too fast and her blood pressure was way too low, because most of her blood volume was on the goddamn floor. Oliver grit his teeth to hold back the inhuman noises fighting their way out from his soul.
He couldn’t watch her die. He couldn’t. More importantly, she couldn’t die. He would cheerfully die in her place if that’s what it took for her to live. He wanted to hit something, to kill something, to do something. But there was not a damn thing he could do for her -- there were no demons to slay, no threats to eliminate. All he could do was hold her hand and talk to her and trust the paramedics to keep her alive.
He was terrible at trusting people, and his anxiety level continued to climb as he watched the paramedics struggle to find a vein for the IVs she needed so desperately. They couldn’t lose her now, not after they’d found her, not after she’d held on for hours.
Oliver felt a familiar hand land on his shoulder. He didn’t spare Diggle a glance, maintaining his vigil beside her on his knees. It felt appropriate -- if Oliver believed in God, he’d be praying. Felicity believed -- or at least Oliver thought she did -- so he closed his eyes briefly and asked her God to please, please spare her beautiful life.
Please let her live.
“She’s strong,” Diggle murmured, and Oliver wondered how much he’d said out loud. He focused his attention back on her -- her face far too pale and slack, her blonde hair stained reddish at the ends with her blood. The image would haunt him; he knew his subconscious well enough to know that his nightmares would now prominently feature Felicity bleeding to death on a dirty grey floor.
When one paramedic reached for the hard plastic stretcher, Diggle squeezed Oliver’s shoulder, and he knew Dig wanted to talk. Stubbornly, Oliver remained where he was. He wouldn’t leave her side until he absolutely had to.
He would ride in the ambulance, he would walk through the hallways of the hospital, fluorescent lights be damned, he would hold her hand until the absolute last step outside the operating room or the MRI machine or whatever. He'd call a press conference to confirm he was the Arrow if it would increase her odds by even a percentage point.
“Man, you need to take a step back,” Diggle said quietly.
“I’ll go with her,” Diggle said, and the idea was so startling that Oliver half-turned and glared up at his friend.
Diggle stared back, arms crossed and impassive. “Go get cleaned up. You can’t sit in a waiting room like this.”
Oliver glanced over to Roy, who was standing as far in the shadows as possible, then turned back to Felicity. He was torn between the logic of Diggle’s point and his absolute need to keep holding Felicity’s hand. Because what if he was helping to anchor her here? What if her hand in his was keeping her from slipping away? What if he let go?
“If she were awake, she’d tell you the same thing,” Diggle said.
Oliver turned back to her as the paramedics rolled Felicity carefully onto her side, her head lolling in a way that made Oliver wince as they slid the backboard beneath her.
“We need to move her now, sir.”
Oliver nodded, one hand gripping hers tightly, the other smoothing her hair gently back from her forehead. “Is she stable?” he rasped.
He hated everything about the guarded look on the paramedic’s face when he answered, “Stable enough for transfer. Sir?”
It went against everything Oliver wanted, but he leaned over her prone form, pressing a soft, desperate kiss to her forehead, whispering promises and pleas into her skin. As the paramedics lifted her, Oliver rose to his feet, only letting go of her hand at the last possible second as they reached the door of the room she’d been locked in.
He held his breath, listening, but the rapid beat of her heart continued to be measured in soft beeps as they rushed her toward the ambulance. Diggle paused just long enough to hold up his phone and give Oliver a nod, then hurried after them.
Oliver turned and punched the wall with an angry shout. He flattened his hands against the wall, leaning his forehead into the cool drywall as he took a shuddering breath. He stayed absolutely still for a long, silent moment, fighting off the galloping panic he felt before he turned back to Roy to--
And he’d forgotten about Lance. Lance, who’d been on the comms with Laurel to help coordinate the search with Team Arrow. Lance, who’d brought as many cops out to search for Felicity as he could. Lance, who now knew that Oliver was the Arrow.
Oliver had no idea what to expect -- he knew Lance respected the Arrow, but he’d never been a huge fan of Oliver Queen. Understandably so.
The older man was watching him with a clenched jaw and an unreadable look. After a long moment, he tapped his cellphone. “Turns out I just called Oliver Queen to let him know his friend was taken to the hospital. Suppose he’ll turn up pretty quick.”
Oliver let out an unsteady breath. “Thank you.”
As he turned to leave, his attention caught on the blood -- on Felicity’s blood on the floor; on the bloody handprints on the desk; on the smears where she’d clearly dragged herself to the door. Stomach churning, Oliver glanced at Roy, swiped his bow from the floor, and then set off at a run for his bike.
By the time he’d driven at truly reckless speeds back to the lair, stripped out of his bloody gear, pulled on jeans and a t-shirt, and scrubbed the blood from his trembling hands, Roy was coming down the stairs. Laurel was still sitting by the computers watching him with wide eyes. She didn’t push Oliver to talk, simply held Felicity’s phone out for him to take as he headed for the stairs.
He gave them both a quick nod. “Thanks. I’ll be at the hospital.”
The drive over didn’t register; nothing really did until he found Diggle in the emergency department waiting room. “Where is she?”
“She’s stable enough for surgery,” Diggle answered. “They need to find the source of the bleeding and stop it. Her BP is still low and her heart rate is high.”
Oliver swallowed against the flare of panic, nodding his understanding. “Where--” He stopped, cleared his throat to try to steady his voice. “Where can I wait?”
Diggle tilted his head toward the elevator banks. “Fourth floor.”
Numbly, Oliver followed, his entire body shaking with nerves and the aftereffects of a three-hour adrenaline rush. He couldn’t bring himself to care, simply slumping against the corner of the elevator, and then collapsing into a chair in the surgical waiting room while Diggle spoke to someone at the nurses’ station.
Scrubbing a hand over his face, Oliver considered whether to call Felicity’s mother. He didn’t have a lot of information, and, worse, didn’t know how to tell her that her daughter was critically injured. He wasn’t handling it particularly well himself, and he had no idea how he could help Donna Smoak deal with this.
Diggle returned, holding out a bottle of orange juice for Oliver, even as he took long swigs of apple juice himself. “They’ll let us know as soon as they know anything,” he explained. “You should eat something, too.”
“This is fine,” Oliver said stubbornly, downing the orange juice in several long swallows. He wasn’t moving from this spot until he knew she was okay. He didn’t care about his blood sugar, or the fact that he couldn’t seem to stop his hands from shaking, or that he’d been in a state of panic for hours now with no end in sight. None of it mattered. He just needed Felicity to be okay.
And he felt like he might fly apart if he couldn’t see her soon, if he didn’t get confirmation that she would live.
Reluctantly, he pulled Felicity’s phone from his pocket and keyed in his PIN. Felicity had set them all up with secondary accounts on each other’s phones for emergencies just like this, but Oliver had never once considered that he’d have to log in to Felicity’s phone so he could find her mother’s telephone number. He’d never imagined having to make such a terrible call.
He tried Donna Smoak from his phone first, but she didn’t answer and he didn’t want to leave this kind of information on a voicemail. He made a frustrated noise, then dialed from Felicity’s phone, cringing when her mother answered on the third ring with, “I can’t really talk, baby girl, I’m at work.”
Her cheerful voice cut deep, and it took two tries to get any words out. “Ms. Smoak,” he tried to keep his voice steady and reassuring, “this is Oliver Queen. We met when you were in Star--”
“Oh, my God,” Donna interrupted. “What happened? Is Felicity okay?”
Oliver let his eyes slide shut. “She’s in surgery,” he answered, needing her to know Felicity was alive before he explained the circumstances. “Earlier this evening she was stabbed in the abdomen.” He decided not to explain that she’d nearly bled out on a dirty floor while they tore apart the city looking for her. “We’re not sure--”
Donna’s wail of anguish cut off whatever Oliver had been going to say, and he brought his free hand to his face, willing himself to stay in control. “Ms. Smoak? Ms. Smoak, I’m going to fly you here so that--”
“Someone stabbed my Felicity? I can’t-- That doesn’t make any sense. Is she going to be okay?”
Donna Smoak’s desperation brought back that horrible, tight feeling in his chest. “She’s stable right now and in surgery.” He sounded anguished and scared and all the things he’d tried to tamp down while making this call. “The doctors are going to locate the source of the bleeding and fix it.” Please, let them be able to fix it.
“She has to be okay. She has to. I can’t lose my precious girl.” And then her tone changed from semi-hysteria to a steely determination that reminded Oliver of her daughter. “I need to be there. What hospital?”
Eventually, Oliver persuaded her to pack a bag and head to the airport while he handled getting her a ticket. He’d promised Felicity her mother would be there when she woke up, and he was going to make damn sure that it happened.
Also, it helped to have something to focus on for twenty minutes. Once the plane ticket was squared away, Oliver slumped back in his seat and stared at the wall, trying his damnedest to keep his thoughts under control. To keep his fears under control.
None of his experience on the island, or afterwards, or even back here working as the Arrow -- none of it prepared him for the soul-leeching ordeal of sitting in a drab hospital waiting room, cable news blaring from a TV in the corner of the room and magazines scattered among the end tables. Because in any other instance, he would be moving or planning or researching or doing something of value. Something to contribute to the outcome.
But Felicity was in surgery. Emergency surgery. And all he could do was wait.
He probably paced between the hallway door and the window overlooking the city for a good thirty minutes before Diggle snapped, “Oliver, would you please sit down.”
“I’m not gonna sit down and read fucking Sports Illustrated,” Oliver ground out. “I can’t just sit here. I need to--”
“There’s nothing you can do right now, man,” Diggle interrupted. “You think I like just waiting around?”
Oliver pressed his palms flat against his thighs and made himself take a controlled breath. Then another. He perched on the edge of a chair, grimacing in frustration.
All the coping mechanisms he’d learned, all the ways he knew to remain calm and level-headed -- nothing worked. He couldn’t stop the way his hands trembled, or make his knees stop feeling like they may refuse to support him. He definitely couldn’t make his imagination stop presenting a hundred ways today could have ended -- could still end, since emergency exploratory surgery wasn’t exactly a sure thing.
Not that Oliver let himself even entertain--
He shot up from his chair, pacing to the window, trying desperately to outpace his thoughts.
For the next two hours, Oliver and Diggle paced; stared impatiently out the window; checked in with the nurse’s station -- basically anything to make time go just a little bit faster.
Nothing worked. This waiting was a much more effective form of torture than anything he’d ever learned from Waller.
Oliver was just about vibrating with tension, his jaw clenched so hard it was giving him a headache, when finally a tiny woman in dark blue scrubs and a white lab coat pushed open the door to the waiting room and looked between Oliver and Diggle.
“You’re here for Felicity Smoak, right?”
“Is she okay?” Oliver demanded, taking two long strides to meet Diggle at the doctor’s side. He scanned her quickly, taking in her messy ponytail, the credentials dangling around her neck, and the dark brown clogs on her feet. She didn’t look nervous, but she didn’t really look happy, either, and Oliver didn’t know how to read her. He wasn’t really aware of holding his breath as he waited for her response.
“I’m Doctor Gutierrez. She’s out of surgery and in recovery.”
Breath left Oliver in an uncontrolled woosh, and he bent a little at the waist, palms braced on his thighs. “Thank God.” That heavy knot in his chest eased some, and he managed a deep breath in.
“What were her injuries?” Diggle asked.
Doctor Gutierrez nodded once. “The stab wound was pretty deep, and compromised Felicity’s small intestine, which we repaired. Our bigger concern overall was the blood loss -- and the resulting instability of her condition. Felicity’s heart stopped twice during surgery, but--”
A high-pitched whine in Oliver’s ears drowned out whatever else the doctor said, and he felt Diggle pushing him into a chair. He hung his head between his knees, his breathing unsteady.
Her heart stopped.
She’d died on the table. Twice.
“They brought her back, man,” Diggle said, his hand firm on Oliver’s shoulder. “She’s alive.”
Oliver nodded, taking a deep shuddering breath before he looked back up at the doctor. She’s alive. “When can I see her?”
Doctor Gutierrez gave him a small smile. “She’ll be in recovery another hour or so, but you can see her once she’s in her room. She’s strong. I’m optimistic for full recovery.”
Oliver remained seated, letting Diggle absorb all the details. He didn’t have the emotional capacity to think about Felicity’s recovery just yet. He couldn’t think about anything other than the fact that he’d come so fucking close to losing her. He pressed his face into his hands and was surprised to feel wetness on his cheeks.
& & &
Felicity regained consciousness gradually, in strange, hazy stages. She heard echo-y voices and an incessant, steady beep, and she could feel the dull ache of medicated pain in her abdomen. But she couldn’t really put all of it together.
So she floated a little more, her mind sluggishly stumbling through the possibilities as she tried to remember what had happened.
It was the familiar smell of coffee that finally cut through the fog. She inhaled deeply, and the soft rumble of voices ceased immediately.
Felicity could feel a small hand wrapped around hers, recognizing the long nails and multiple rings of her mother. She tilted her head in her mother’s direction and blinked her eyes open, squinting a little against the sun streaming in from the window.
“Good morning, baby girl,” her mother said, smiling down at her with tears in her eyes. She looked tired and stressed and relieved as she lifted Felicity’s hand and pressed a kiss to it. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Felicity knew she was in a hospital room, but she couldn’t remember why just yet. Something about ceiling tiles? But something scary. How could ceiling tiles be scary?
And then Oliver touched her other shoulder, the weight of his fingers familiar and comforting. She turned her head toward him -- he was out of the chair he’d pulled to her bedside, leaning close with barely suppressed fear in his eyes, and Felicity remembered everything in a sick jolt. She remembered him kneeling beside her on the cold concrete, keeping pressure on her wound and begging her to live.
A knot of panic lodged heavy in her chest, even though she was pretty clearly in a safe place now. Her body tensed, and it hurt a little bit, but she couldn’t seem to control her reactions. She looked up at Oliver with wide eyes. “Oh,” she breathed, studying his face, noting the desperation lingering in his eyes, “you did find me.”
The guttural noise he made in response broke her heart a little bit. “Yeah,” he managed, blinking back tears. He had one hand on her shoulder, and wrapped the other around her hand, careful not to disturb the IV taped in place.
Felicity smiled at him, wanting to reassure him she was okay. “I wasn’t sure if I imagined that part.”
“We found you,” he answered gruffly. “I’m sorry it took so long.”
She clung to his hand, wanting to say a hundred things, but not having the energy to put any of it into words. “You found me,” she repeated, hoping he’d understand. They stared at each other for a long, charged moment, and just his presence made her feel safer. She felt her muscles start to relax.
Her mother patted her hand. “You’re going to be just fine, baby girl.”
Felicity blinked slowly, feeling the unmistakable narcoleptic pull of the drugs. “Did I smell coffee?” she murmured.
Oliver huffed a laugh, and she felt an answering smile on her lips. But it was her mother who answered. “Oliver was kind enough to make a run to the coffee shop.”
“Yes,” Oliver said, when she opened her mouth to ask, “I brought you some. Though I’m not sure you’re cleared for liquids yet,” he added, his voice still low and grumbly.
She couldn’t seem to make her eyes open, but she tilted her face towards him and she thought she was smiling when she said, “Rule-breaker.”
She was pretty sure she felt him press a kiss to her temple as the drugs pulled her back under.
She thought she resurfaced once or twice, just long enough to take a couple sips of water and maybe mumble something to the nurse or to Oliver, but she still felt so hazy and confused that she couldn’t be certain.
Some time later, Felicity woke more naturally, frowning at the sunshine before she even opened her eyes. She lifted both arms, only remembering that she was in a hospital injured when her entire torso protested her attempt to stretch. She hissed, her eyes snapping open.
Diggle was there, moving quickly to her side. “Morning,” he said. Gently, Diggle moved her arm back down to her side before leaning closer to kiss her cheek. “It’s really good to see your smiling face, Felicity.”
The pain began to recede and she grinned up at him. “Yours, too.” Though he looked nearly as haggard as Oliver had.
He patted her wrist before he dropped into the nearby chair. “Your mom went to the hotel to get a little sleep. She had to scramble to get here, so she didn’t get much sleep last night.” Felicity gave him a knowing look. “None of us did,” he conceded, rubbing a palm against his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured. She knew it really wasn’t her fault, but she also felt like she should’ve been able to do something to avoid getting kidnapped from the supposedly secure lair.
“Hey, none of that,” Diggle chastised. “Oliver ran back to his apartment to shower and change, but he should be back any time.”
She nodded, feeling a little out of sorts. Without him in the room, a little of her panic bubbled back up. Her ordeal -- that was scary. And while she trusted Diggle implicitly to keep her safe, she also needed Oliver. She couldn't explain it -- her need for his presence was visceral, and she understood the floating anxiety wouldn't resolve itself without Oliver.
“Roy was here for a while earlier, but he’s working with Laurel on something -- that last search you set up before--” Diggle stopped short, grimacing in lieu of directly addressing her getting-stabbed-and-abandoned-in-a-warehouse-somewhere-to-die thing. “That search detected what we think may be a pattern.”
Felicity brightened, determinedly ignoring the way her stomach churned at the thought of her searches for Todorov. At the thought of Todorov. Because then she thought about that dark room and the tangy, coppery smell of her own blood, and the dread and the anxiety. She’d tensed up again, and told herself to stop it. Told herself to focus on the mystery. “What kind of pattern?” she asked, proud but also surprised that her voice sounded mostly normal.
Diggle studied her for a moment, and she knew she hadn’t fooled him at all. “The steel factory, the warehouse where Roy and Oliver tangled wth Todorov's guys, and the prior location we suspected are all not just abandoned,” he explained slowly, “but in legal limbo with the city. all three owners have been charged with defaulting on their property taxes.”
“Using the abandoned property of tax scofflaws,” Felicity answered, just because the word was fun to say. And because thinking about criminals who cheat on their taxes was, as a general rule, much less scary than thinking about criminals that kidnap people and sell them into slavery or stab them. “He is smart.”
“But you figured it out.” Diggle smiled at her in that genuine, heartwarming way of his. “You’re smarter.”
Before Felicity could answer, her nurse arrived -- an incredibly tall brunette woman in fuchsia scrubs. Felicity got a quick update on her condition, and before she really knew what was happening, the nurse -- Marsha -- had her up and out of bed, taking small, unsteady steps around her room. To help with healing. And to help her organs resettle, which, honestly, made Felicity a little nauseated.
Marsha had just given her approval to get back in bed when Oliver reappeared, a small duffel bag in one hand. He froze just inside her room, eyes wide. “Felicity, should you be up?” he demanded.
She rolled her eyes at him. “Oliver, this is Marsha. My nurse. On whose orders I am doing a little walking.”
And then Oliver was at her other side, his hand hovering at the small of her back, and she felt like a total idiot in her shapeless hospital gown. A tiny idiot in between two very tall people. And since she couldn’t lift her arms too high without pain, she was clutching one of their hands in each of hers and using them like mobile handrails.
When they reached her hospital bed, Oliver glanced at Marsha, and then down at her. Felicity tilted her head, not quite understanding the intensity of his expression. “What?”
“Just--” Oliver’s free hand landed on her shoulder, then skimmed down her arm to her elbow. His fingers gently tugged her a little closer. “Can I--?”
He wanted to hug her. When Felicity realized, her eyes quickly overflowed with tears, and she nodded. “Please.”
Carefully, he stepped to her, the hand on her elbow shifting up to cup the back of her head, his other arm wrapping lightly around her shoulders. She knew he was being gentle in deference to her wounds, but Felicity wasn’t having it -- her arms came around his rib cage and she buried her face in his chest, leaning her weight into him. As long as she didn’t press her stomach against him, she was fine -- better than fine, actually. She felt calm and protected and safe, everything she wasn’t for those hours she laid in an abandoned building trying to stave off her own death.
And then she was crying, and it hurt a little bit, but not enough to stop. Because the fear and terror weren’t gone, not even close, and she needed the safety of his arms to release some of it. He held her close, his hands rubbing comforting circles even as he murmured soothing words into her hair.
Felicity cried into his shirt until her legs started to shake.
“It’s okay,” Oliver whispered. “I’ve got you.” He eased her back, setting her carefully onto her bed, then shifted her legs onto the mattress so she didn’t have to use her abs. She leaned back, the bed already tilted so she was essentially sitting upright.
She blinked and brushed her hands across her cheeks, taking a few deep breaths to calm down. When she looked up, she realized both Marsha and Diggle had disappeared, leaving her and Oliver alone.
Oliver hovered at her bedside, and she reached for his hand, urging him closer. He obliged sitting on the edge of her mattress. “How are you feeling?” he asked, low and earnest.
Felicity bit her lip for a second. “Well, definitely like I got stabbed and had surgery,” she said, “but aside from this area--” She waved a hand in the air above her abdomen-- “I’m good. A little tired.” She studied his face, noting the familiar signs of sleep deprivation in the tightness of his jaw and the smudges below his eyes. “Have you slept?”
He looked away from her for a moment. “Not really,” he answered, his voice low and rough, and she knew that meant he’d had nightmares whenever he’d actually managed to drop off. His thumb rubbed small patterns on the back of her hand, and she wondered how much of that was to comfort her, and how much was to reassure him that she was still there.
Felicity could still feel that fear coiled up somewhere inside of her, hiding beneath the dull ache of her surgical incision, and she could see Oliver’s remaining fear in the tension of his body. She knew they both needed something else to focus on, something not upsetting. So she tapped her fingers lightly against his and pursed her lips before saying, “So I think you still owe me something.”
The sudden uncertainty on his face was actually kind of adorable. He looked like he desperately wanted to give her whatever she wanted, if only he could figure it out. “I do?”
Nerves hit her, then. Because it was one thing to say things to him over the comms while she was literally dying, but it was quite another to sit here, really close the actual flesh and blood Oliver and ask him to kiss her. Felicity looked down at her nails, the bright teal polish chipped from her attempts to get out of that stupid room. “Um.”
“You said you’d kiss me,” she managed, keeping her chin down as she chanced a look at his face. “On the comms, while--” She cut that off before they fell into that hole of scary thoughts. “A real kiss,” she clarified. “Not that the time we kissed wasn’t real, but it was sad,” she continued. “And also in a hospital,” she mused, frowning as she glanced around, “which is kind of weird. I mean, I don’t want--”
And he was kissing her, one hand sliding along her jaw, his fingertips dancing down her neck. Felicity melted into it, because it was really good. Like, really, really good. Orders of magnitude better than their first/last kiss the year before.
Her hands ended up on his biceps, holding him close as his free hand landed on the mattress beside her hip, allowing him to lean closer and deepen the kiss.
She wouldn’t have expected a kiss while she was recovering from major surgery in a hospital room to be quite so heated, but she was whimpering a little and urging him closer, her fingers digging into his ridiculous muscles. She wanted nothing more than to lay back and pull him on top of her, but-- “Stupid incision,” she muttered into his mouth.
With a huffed laugh, Oliver pulled back a few inches. He pressed a soft, quick kiss to her lips, then another, slightly less quick kiss before sitting upright again. “I’m not going anywhere, Felicity,” he told her in his measured, vow-making voice, his eyes blue and steady.
She couldn’t stop smiling if she tried. “Me, neither.” She could still feel the weight of everything that happened yesterday, and she realized that the fallout would need to be dealt with -- by both of them. But maybe there was enough time now, while she was healing, for them to take a breath, to take a moment for themselves and not let it be tainted by any darkness.
“So I brought you something,” Oliver said, and he sounded -- nervous? Felicity studied him, as he pushed himself up off her bed, walking over to retrieve the small duffel bag he’d dropped near the door. “I don’t know -- it might be--” He shrugged and made a frustrated noise. Yup, he had that same weird, stumbling thing going on as the day he’d asked her out. She still flushed a little at the thought that she -- Felicity Smoak -- could make Oliver Queen nervous.
Though it was only fair, because even after one hell of a kiss, he still made her nervous when he looked at her like that. Felicity shifted a little, hiding her grimace at the quick flare of pain. “You can’t mention a gift and then not give it,” she told him, her tone light and -- she hoped -- encouraging.
Oliver put the duffel down on the rolling table that was over the foot of her bed and looked at her with a small furrow in his brow. “Are you keeping liquids down?”
She wrinkled her nose at him, because -- that was definitely not a flirty question. Puzzled now, she nodded. “Uh, why?”
He shifted his weight, and she stared at him, trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with him. “I just wanted,” he started, then stopped. He took a slow breath and straightened, one hand resting on the top of his duffel bag. “I’m done waiting,” he said, and he didn’t sound nervous anymore; he sounded certain, “and I hope you are, too. This is it for me -- You’re it.”
“Oliver,” she whispered, her hands tangled together in her lap.
“So I thought maybe we could,” he paused, shrugged, and when he continued, the words tumbled out in a confused rush, “have our second first date right now.” He reached into the bag and pulled out a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream in illustration.
Felicity blinked, staring open-mouthed at this man, wondering how, exactly, she got so lucky as to be loved by him. “I--” She grinned at him, unable to come up with a single reason not to say, “I love you.”
The shift in his expression was amazing -- his nervousness fled, replaced by the biggest, truest smile she’d ever seen from him. He closed the distance between them with two quick steps, and they were kissing again. And they were really good at that. Like, she was pretty sure they should win awards for how awesome they were at kissing each other.
When she broke away, she grinned at him. “Please tell me you brought spoons.”
Oliver’s smile was so smug it was basically a smirk. “Of course. I’m not an amateur.”
Felicity rolled her eyes at him. “We’ll see about that. Now get me a spoon.”
Oliver beamed down at her, affection and happiness and more than a hint of lust in his eyes, before doing her bidding. “So bossy.”
“You love it,” she shot back, grinning.
Twisting off the lid of the ice cream carton with a flourish, Oliver presented it to her. “Yes,” he agreed, “I really do.”
NOTE: C'mon, guys, I wouldn't KILL FELICITY! I mean... at least not without labeling this major character death. Because I would totally kill Felicity. Or Oliver. But considering the traumatic canonical events of late, I hope the upbeat ending works for you. Thanks for reading!