It's sort of incredible how much Isabel's voice grates at her nerves.
Felicity hadn't realized exactly how much until the news broadcast was turned off and Queen Consolidated's obnoxious public face was silenced, at least temporarily. Isabel makes her twitch, muscles in her face and shoulders flinching involuntarily. Felicity's not naive enough to think that Oliver, John or Sara miss that lovely little reaction, but they don't have time to focus on her utter loathing of Isabel right now.
They've got much bigger problems.
Her hair smells like smoke and C4 and she's wondering how exactly she can add today's events to her resume. Demolition experience? Too obvious and way too illegal sounding. What if someone actually asks her about it? "It was totally legal, I was… legally blowing a building up..." Corporate restructuring expert? That could work. She should come up with something. She's pretty sure she's about to be out of a job with Isabel in charge and even if she's not, she's not sure she can knowingly work for a supervillain. Especially one that makes her face twitch. That's all she needs, Isabel thinking she's winking at her.
But even that takes a back seat to Slade's plans for the city, his plans for Oliver.
"Since Applied Sciences went kaboom," Felicity notes, thinking out loud. "He can't use our technology - well, formerly ours - for his warped science experiments."
"Slade's had us on our heels for weeks," Digg says. "It's about time we took the fight to him."
"All that'll do is set him back," Oliver says. "We have no way of knowing where the next attack is coming from."
There's got to be a way to anticipate what Slade's next move is, like some algorithm she can write or predictive programing she can apply. This is her wheelhouse. It's why she's here, right? She might not shoot a bow and arrow or fire a gun, but she can outthink nearly anyone, darn it. There has to be something she can do.
"What if we..." she starts, but the words die on her lips as a sharp whir of noise and a streak of red bursts into the room.
She's not even done blinking before Oliver's standing in front of her, crowding her backwards as everyone else instantly draws their weapons, echoing surprised shouts and graphic variations of 'What the hell?'
Felicity catches a glimpse of red before it flitters away when weapons point its direction.
"Whoa, hey! Not a threat! Not a threat!" a vaguely familiar man's voice protests, followed by a small whimper.
The sound makes Felicity pause for a second and she almost moves around Oliver to see what it is before common sense kicks in.
"Come out now," Sara says, taking a step towards the blur's hiding place.
"Totally come in peace, guys, I swear," the voice says again, sounding more and more familiar.
A red gloved hand appears, like a white flag, wiggling.
"Come out," Sara repeats and it - he? - slowly does.
"Who the hell are you?" Oliver demands, one hand in a tight fist, the other keeping Felicity secure behind him. "How did you..." He pauses, and she can hear the wheels in his head turning just as quickly as hers because what the heck is going on? Since when was moving that fast a thing? Oliver hesitates before asking again, "Who are you?"
"Oh… wow, is this the old lair? Man, I forgot how small this place was," the newcomer says.
Felicity tries to peek around Oliver's formidable frame. His grip on her arm tightens, but she's not having it. She's pretty sure they'd all be dead if this... whatever wanted that. He did just swoop in in the literal blink of an eye, all red and flashy, and wow, like their lives weren't weird enough?
The glimpse of the newcomer she does manage might almost be comical if it weren't for the circumstances.
The man is dressed head-to-toe in some sort of skin-tight red suit. And she does mean skin-tight. If it were bedazzled, she might mistake him for an ice skater. But that's somehow not the most surprising thing. No, the most surprising thing is that he's holding a small child protectively against his chest, shielding the little girl from the various weapons pointed at them and cupping the back of her head so her face is buried in his shoulder.
The whimpers are coming from her.
Felicity's heart lurches at the realization.
Oliver's eyes are glued to the mass of blonde curls tucked up against the stranger, and Felicity can feel the hesitation in his touch. He can't quite seem to decide if he should lower his guard, if he should actually trust this... guy. Neither can John or Sara, for that matter. There's an intruder, yes, and that's dangerous in and of itself, but he hasn't made any threatening moves at all. In fact, all he's done is declare himself friendly... and protect a child.
Felicity grips Oliver's arm and peeks around him again, and this time he doesn't stop her.
"When am I?" the man in the red suit asks.
"I'm sorry, what?" Sara blinks at him.
"2013 or 2014. Am I right?" he asks, sounding like he really wants them to tell him he's wrong. When nobody speaks up, he sighs. "This isn't what I intended. At all. But... I guess it could be worse."
"How about less questions and more answers," Oliver says, his muscles coiling. "Who the hell are you? What are you? How did you get in here? How did you find this place?"
"Just… before I explain, I've gotta ask... Did they turn on the particle accelerator yet?"
"What does that-" Digg starts.
"Yes," Oliver interrupts.
"Good. You already know me then. I'm from the future," the man tells them and Digg immediately scoffs. "The accident with the particle accelerator did something to me. I run fast - really, really fast. Fast enough to travel through time actually."
Felicity blinks. "What?"
Her eyes fly to Oliver. He's frowning, and she can see the wheels turning in his head as he tries to make sense of what he's hearing, but then it quickly morphs into shocked surprise and she turns to find the man in red has removed his mask.
"Barry?" Felicity breathes, barely audible.
He's older, by at least a few years, and he's more built, like he really had grown a bit, but he's got the same hair, the same nervous smile when he knows what he's saying or doing is completely ridiculous, the same eyes… it's definitely him.
For once in her life, Felicity is stunned speechless.
"That… is not possible," Digg says, his jaw practically on the floor. He looks at Felicity, like he's waiting for her to agree with him.
"Well… actually…" she replies, voice trailing off as she thinks about it.
Because, yeah, theoretically…
"You've got to be kidding me," Digg snaps. "Time travel? That's ridiculous."
"So's a World War Two era super soldier serum that basically makes you invincible," Sara points out.
"But time travel?" Digg protests, his voice rising as he waves at Barry.
"Uh, do you guys mind toning it down a bit?" Barry asks, rocking the whimpering girl in his arms a little. The sound has Felicity moving without even realizing it, but Oliver stops her. "You're kind of scaring her and she's had a rough day as it is."
Felicity puts her hand on Oliver's forearm with a quiet, "It's okay." He looks down at her, their eyes meeting. His brow furrowing before he relents, relaxing his stance, letting her step out.
"Why are you here?" Oliver asks, his voice edged. "What time are you from exactly and…" His eyes focus on the blonde curls again. "Who is she?"
"What time are you from exactly…"
Not for the first time, Felicity wonders what exactly he saw in his years away… or rather, their years away - everyone else in the room looks like they've been sucker punched, while Sara and Oliver are acting like this is just another day that ends in y.
"It's complicated," Barry tells them. "I had to get Ellie out of a bad situation. It's not safe for her in our time right now, and I don't have the kind of control I usually do over where I end up. There's this other speedster and he's…" He struggles, looking for the right words. "He's messing with the Speed Force. I can't control when I go or where I end up until I defeat him. Which means I can't get her home until he's gone, so…"
"Whoa, wait… you want to leave her here?" Felicity asks, finding her voice again and speaking up as she puts the pieces together. "With us?"
The little girl pokes her head up at Felicity's voice and turns to look at her. Big, watery blue eyes widen when the toddler sees her, and Felicity's heart does that lurchy thing again when she sees the terror all over the little girl's face. Her eyes are puffy and wet from crying, her hair in tangles. She has a scratch on her cheek, like she tripped at some point, and her clothes are smudged with dirt.
"I need to," Barry says, and then he pauses, his eyes glazing with sympathy. "You told me to, Felicity."
Oliver frowns with a, "She did?" just as Felicity asks, "I what?"
"Momma?" the toddler asks, her voice trembling, and then she reaches for Felicity.
"What?" Oliver breathes as Felicity jerks like she's been electrocuted.
"Uh… what? No. I mean..." She blinks, shaking her head. "That's not… I mean… Wait… What?"
She feels Oliver's gaze like an actual weight being shoved against the side of her head, but she doesn't dare turn to look at him. She can't. She's frozen and completely unable to process anything past the desperate, "Momma?" she'd just heard…
The little girl lunges forward - towards Felicity - and if it weren't for Barry's lightning-quick reaction time, he probably would have dropped her. She's scared, that much is obvious, and the more Barry tries to keep her still, the more urgent her sobbing becomes as she reaches desperately in Felicity's direction, her chubby, freckled cheeks wet with tears, her pouty lips quivering. It stirs some primal instinct in Felicity that she didn't know she even had - part of her wants to take the girl, hold her and calm her down, but the larger and far more dominant part of her is still frozen in shock.
"I want my momma," Ellie sobs, squirming and reaching for her.
Felicity just gapes at them, still frozen, because what?
"Uh, Felicity…" Barry starts, struggling to hold her.
"Felicity, just take her," Oliver says.
She turns wide urgent eyes to him, moving to shake her head but he levels her with a look, a look that says, 'I know. I know this scary and we have no idea what is going on, but we'll figure it out. I swear.' Does he even realize what he's asking? And yet the calm reassurance warming his eyes loosens the tight band that has been systematically wrapping around her ribs, and she takes a quick breath... because apparently she was holding her breath. Like he can see it too, he gives her a short nod before his eyes slide back to the little girl - to Ellie.
His face shutters as he stares at her. "I don't think she'll calm down until you do."
She can't read his tone, and she really doesn't want to because he's staring at her child. From the future. It's freaky.
"Right," Felicity whispers, nodding and then she turns to take the struggling child from Barry's arms.
Ellie practically leaps into her arms.
"Hey, it's okay, you're okay," Felicity says automatically as the toddler wraps her arms around her neck. "I've got you. You're okay."
The little girl buries her face in her shoulder, her breathing instantly evening out as she calms down, huffing out little puffs of air against the crook of Felicity's neck. As Felicity readjusts her closer, Ellie takes a deep, shaky breath before relaxing against her completely.
It settles something in Felicity too, much to her ever-growing surprise.
It actually feels natural, which is just downright crazy.
Heart in her throat, Felicity smooths a hand down Ellie's head and back, earning her a little sigh. And before she knows what she's doing, she holds the little girl tighter, cradles her closer, and she knows with a vivid certainty that she can't let anything happen to this child.
"It's not safe for her here," Felicity says to Barry. "Slade's out to destroy the city and we have no idea where he's going to strike next."
She glances at Oliver for backup but he's staring at Ellie still, a strange look on his face, one she can't read. She frowns at him - is it that strange that she has a kid? He looks like someone told him they were going to surgically remove his lungs.
A thought strikes her and she swings back to Barry.
"Unless you know? About Slade, what he's planning… Can you help us? You know what happens, right? You have to."
"Oh no, no, no, I'm already disrupting the timeline way more than I should," Barry says. "I didn't have any choice in bringing her here, but it would be a really bad idea for me to intentionally change anything else. Trust me, I had to learn that the hard way."
Felicity stares at him, the pain in his tone telling her everything she needs to know. She hasn't known Barry that long - she even thought that maybe there was a spark there, something that...
Was Barry the father? Was that why he'd brought her back, was that...?
The thought shoots through her before she can fully process how stupid it is - he certainly isn't acting like the little girl's father and he'd barely been able to keep her in his arms, like he didn't know what he was doing…
Still, Felicity almost takes a step back, away from him, because it can't be right.
It's a logical assumption, yes, one that might make sense somewhere, maybe, but the way her gut is twisting tells her no.
She's just staring at Barry and judging by the way he's frowning at her in confusion, he doesn't like it.
Oliver steps up, severing the connection.
"Take her to someone else then," he says, the edge in his voice making Ellie flinch. Felicity almost whirls on him and tells him to watch his tone when he says, "Somewhere else, maybe, where she won't be in danger. To her... to her father, maybe."
Oliver's eyes dart to her a split second, that look back.
"Oliver, man..." Barry says with a sheepish look, staring at him like just his name was supposed to tell him everything he needed to know. When Oliver just stares at him uncomprehendingly, Barry drags his hand through his mop of hair with a deep breath. "I kinda already did."
The entire foundry goes strangely still.
"I… beg your pardon?" Felicity snaps, her hand freezing where it'd been stroking Ellie's back. The little girl shifts in her arms, like she can feel Felicity's discord and she doesn't like it.
She absently realizes how strange it is that she's already slipped into thinking of her as Ellie, instead of a random child from the future who her crazy future friend just told her was...
"Her name is Elizabeth Queen," Barry tells them. "And you both asked me to bring her back so the two of you in this time could keep her safe."
Oliver blanches. You can actually see his stomach plummeting as he freezes, just... blinking.
"I'm like... ninety percent sure I heard you wrong and ten percent sure I'm hallucinating right now," Felicity breathes, nodding swiftly, trying to control the sudden rapid staccato beat of her heart as it pushes way too much adrenaline-filled blood through her system. She swallows, barely aware she's starting to hold Ellie too tightly. "Make that more like 70/30, actually. And I'm not... positive that one precludes the other."
"Ow, momma," Ellie says, pulling back and Felicity instantly relaxes her hold, naturally curving herself around the little girl, almost like it's something she does every day.
Everyone stares at her.
"Wow… that's actually..." Sara says with a derisive laugh. "Right, of course."
Felicity can't look at any of them.
Not at Oliver standing stock still, not even blinking as he stares at Barry, or at Digg raising his eyebrows and grinning in a stupidly wide fashion, or at Sara shaking her head and staring at the two of them… the three of them.
Instead, she tucks her head down and kisses the top of the little girl's head absently, breathing in her unfamiliar scent, stroking a hand comfortingly up Ellie's back.
She can't think. She can't even think about the tiny possibility that this is true. Because, that would mean...
"Oh wow," she whispers into Ellie's hair.
"That's not…" Oliver finally starts, his voice cracking. He stops himself and swallows, looking a little pale. "I mean... we aren't… like that."
You don't freaking say?
"Oh, believe me, I know," Barry confirms. "I get a whole speech about that, like, a year from now or so." He changes the timbre of his voice mockingly. "'Guys like us don't get the girl.' I enjoyed making you eat those words later."
Oliver looks like he literally can't find any words to respond to that.
Guys like us don't get the girl.
It's apparently literally an entire year away and already she wants to smack Oliver for even thinking that. But thinking what? They aren't like that. They'll never be like that, that's just... ridiculous. Unthinkable.
As if she'd asked the question out loud, Oliver looks over just as she looks at him and they freeze. It's like time takes a break, everything around them stopping. His hands are shoved in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, as if he's going to make a break for it the first chance he gets.
"Oliver," she whispers, just for his ears, and he starts at the same time that Ellie pulls her head out of Felicity's shoulder.
The little girl's eyes latch onto Oliver and... she smiles.
In that instant, they both know it's true.
Oliver makes a noise very close to a choking sound as Ellie whispers, "Hi, daddy."
Felicity's chest tightens to the point of pain and she takes a shaky breath because… this, this is right, and every inch of her knows it. Which is insane because it's Oliver and the thought of anything past him touching her arm or shoulder - or her cheek that one time, but she'd just gotten shot saving Sara, so... special circumstances - is completely out of the realm of possibility.
A beatific smile ghosts over his lips for a split second, a smile she's never seen before as he instinctively opens his mouth to respond, but then it's gone in the next second as he stops himself, a slash of pain and reticence flashing over his face as he realizes what he was about to do.
Felicity can't read his face or the emotions swirling in his eyes, and she suddenly doesn't want to because the way he abruptly shifts away from them...
He looks like he wants to be anywhere else but there.
And their child.
His eyes meet hers and she knows the sorrow staring back at her is a reflection of her expression.
Amazingly, it's Sara who saves them both from having to say anything.
"Look, Slade Wilson is out to destroy the city and anyone connected to Oliver specifically," Sara points out. "It's not safe for her here. If he finds out that Oliver has a daughter..."
"I know that, but Zoom is after her throughout time," Barry tells them. "It's not safe for her anywhere, but she stands a better chance here with you now than she does in the future, or with me while Zoom and I chase each other through history. You have to protect her." His eyes land on Felicity and then Oliver, where they stay. "You cannot even begin to imagine what she means to all of you."
He's right. Felicity can't even begin to understand how she knows he's right, but breathing in the scent of her child and feeling the little girl cling to her, calming down from her presence alone…
Well, she's got an inkling of an idea, anyhow.
"When will..." Sara starts, but Barry suddenly stiffens, like he hears something only he can.
"I'm sorry," Barry says, backing up. "I'm so sorry, but I've been here too long already. He's gonna find me. And if he finds me then he finds her, and I can't let that happen."
A spike of panic slices through Felicity's chest because he really is leaving this little girl in their care and what the hell is she supposed to do with that? She has no idea how to take care of a child in the best of circumstances but now, with the ever-present danger of Slade and the newly bestowed title of 'mommy' thrust upon her… it's positively daunting.
She takes a quick step towards him, the words, "But you can't..." about to come out when Barry levels a steady look at her.
"I'll be back." His eyes slide to Oliver and then back to her. "I promise."
And then with a blur of red and a gust of air, he's gone, leaving Ellie burrowed in Felicity's arms and Oliver staring at the spot Barry had been standing, his muscles slowly bunching, starting to look more and more like a cornered animal than an actual human.
He doesn't look at her or Ellie.
"Okay then…" Digg says, sounding entirely too amused considering a man had just appeared - literally running through time and making a quick pitstop in the foundry, like he'd just stopped in for coffee - and deposited a tiny human in Felicity's arms before running right back out. "This has been an interesting afternoon."