The High-Velocity Helicarrier Hotel
(for all your escaping needs)
“You came for me.”
Felicity lifted her head from where she’d been worrying her bracelet, wondering why the SHIELD agents hadn’t taken it when they’d unloaded her onto the actual—and hot damn, it was flying in the air, and how did the physics even work on that and how much fuel did that require? What kind of fuel was that, and what was the carbon footprint on this thing?—flying aircraft carrier. Weren’t they supposed to strip you of things like your jewelry and shoelaces to keep you from hanging yourself? Felicity still had her shoelaces and even more threateningly, so did Oliver. She was good, probably the best in the business with technology, but Oliver was just hundreds of times more lethal than she was.
But all of those thoughts faded, dashed upon the rocks, when she turned and looked at Oliver, stuck in the cell next to hers. “Did you think I wouldn’t?” she asked.
Oliver simply tilted his head at her.
“Or would you rather I hadn’t? You knew one of us would come.” Granted, Diggle wouldn’t have hired a human trafficker and consequently attracted the attention of an Avenger and nearly died in a plane over the Pacific, but one of them would have come for him eventually, either way. “It’s pretty much a given.”
Oliver fell quiet. He looked leaner, the muscle tougher and more starved, and Felicity imagined that food in the island wasn’t quite the balanced diet she kept stocked in the Foundry refrigerator. Feeding a roving contingent of three to five vigilante crime-fighters wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. “I’m not sure that I thought anybody would come,” he said.
“Well, it’s not like you made it easy on us,” Felicity said. “I mean, next time you’re going to go off and do your loner thing, you could pick some place with at least a Holiday Inn, is all I’m saying. And wi-fi. Actually, I prefer wi-fi to a hotel.”
Finally the corners of his lips tilted upward. That, even more than seeing Oliver on the runway, seeing that he was whole and physically undamaged, sent a tidal wave of relief through her. It had been a really, really lousy three months, but she had at least some small piece of Oliver back.
Granted, they were still being kept prisoner by a shady government faction. It was the little things.
“I should buy the island,” Oliver said. He finally rolled to his feet and ambled over to the bars between their cells, resting his elbows against them. “Put a hotel on it.”
“With a Felicity Smoak Executive Suite.”
“As flattering as that is, I prefer the wi-fi.”
Oliver’s smirk turned into a full smile. “Would I give you anything less?”
Felicity rose to poke at his bicep through the bars. The man was still solid. “If you thought you could get away with it.”
“I’d argue, but you probably have a point.” Oliver laid a hand over hers. Maybe it was the fact that her day had been long and full of stress, maybe it was the fact that she hadn’t seen him in three months, maybe it was the fact that those three months had sucked, but whatever it was, Felicity had to swallow hard as something at the back of her throat worked. Those were the same calluses she had memorized over years and countless missions. Oliver leaned in close. “Three cameras that I’ve counted.”
“Four,” Felicity said under her breath. Like Oliver, no doubt, she’d studied the holding area extensively when the Black Widow and Hawkeye had escorted them in. “One embedded in the wall to your left—it’s thermal. I can crack the lock on the door.”
One of Oliver’s eyebrows rose fractionally. “How long?”
“Thirty seconds, not that it’ll do much good. The instant we knock out the cameras, they’ll know something’s up. Won’t be enough time to get us out of the cells and to the door.”
“And if I cause a distraction?”
“I mean, that might work, but we’re kind of on a flying aircraft carrier so it’s not like escape options are a dime a dozen. Unless you’ve learned to fly, which—wait, have you learned to fly? I mean, you went to the island, you could come back with super powers, we never actually figured out if there was anything mystical to…” Felicity broke off because Oliver was doing that thing where part of his face twitched, with either humor or annoyance. “Guess not. So we’d have to get past the assassin wonder-twins and steal one of their super-advanced jets and—wait a second. When you said distraction, you were doing that thing again, weren’t you?”
Oliver affected an innocent head tilt, which essentially confirmed her theory. She felt her stomach begin to sink. “Thing?”
“That thing where you’re about to do something noble-and-or-stupid.”
“They’re only interested in their so-called Hood. They don’t need both of us.”
Felicity felt a sigh build up and decided there wasn’t a point in stopping it. “Of course,” she said. She pulled her hand out from under Oliver’s and crossed back to the little padded bench in her cell. As far as holding cells went, she had to give SHIELD points for aesthetic. The cell didn’t hold much—a bench, a sink—but the walls were a trippy metal design with trapezoids and other shapes that reminded her a bit of a metallic waterfall. The metal felt cool against her back.
“Felicity, what are you doing?”
“Waiting to see what the aforementioned wonder-twins want with us.” Felicity folded her arms over her chest. In previous years, she might have glared, but they had far too much history for anger. Besides, self-sacrifice was kind of their thing. With the Dark Archer, Oliver had stabbed himself. A showdown with Nyssa Raatko had led to Felicity locking herself into a building about to blow. He’d taken a bullet for her. She’d taken an arrow for him and would consequently always know when it was about to rain. Countless other encounters had ended with one or the other of them ducking to cover a prone body from an explosion or facing down the wrong end of a gun barrel for the other person. The only thing that changed, in Felicity’s eyes, was the person making the suicide play.
Oliver’s jaw tightened. “There’s no reason both of us have to be here. If you have an opportunity to get away, you should take it.”
“You’re better with me,” Felicity said. Because that felt heavy, she gave him a couple of finger guns. “Double or nothing, buster.”
“So your solution is just to sit there?”
“And look oh-so-pretty. I mean, not that I think I’m hot hot or anything, but—you know what? I am pretty. So yes, here I am. Sitting. Sitting pretty, even.”
Oliver huffed out a laugh and retreated to his own bench so that they were like mirror images in their cells, if an IT nerd and a muscled vigilante could remotely look alike. The tiny bit of levity tugged at Felicity’s heartstrings in a painfully joyous way. It meant there was still hope. Well, of course there was hope. If there hadn’t been, Felicity was sure Oliver wouldn’t have allowed himself to be found on the island.
She was being ridiculous.
“You’re more than pretty,” Oliver said, breaking the silence again.
God, it really was stupid how fast her heart could accelerate over his unexpected compliments, even after all this time. “I’m the first woman you’ve seen in months. It’s just, I don’t know, psychological imperative for you to feel that way.”
“If you say so,” Oliver said. He crossed his arms over his chest and tilted his face toward the ceiling.
SHIELD certainly was taking their time. It hadn’t surprised Felicity to be thrown behind bars—she’d learned two things from working with Oliver and the less important of those things was that with him, things could somehow always get worse—but she wasn’t thrilled. This whole day, from Natasha Romanoff hiding in the bathroom of the plane she’d chartered to them nearly dying in midair to them finding Oliver to her getting to meet Hawkeye to them finding an actual floating Helicarrier, had been one giant kernel panic. The only positive thing was that Oliver was safe, and he was unhurt.
And sitting in the next cell.
This time, Felicity was the one to break the silence. “She’s holding up,” she said.
Oliver swiveled his head to look at her.
“You didn’t ask, I know, but I thought you’d want to know. She’s…well, she was wrecked, but she’s holding together, and she’s dealing with it.”
“Does she blame…I mean…”
“She doesn’t blame you.”
The muscles around Oliver’s jaw-line stood in sharp relief for an instant as he obviously struggled to control himself. “She should.”
“And take away Roy’s agency?” Felicity had thought her voice would waver more; this was a conversation she had played in her head for weeks, ever since Diggle had said, it’s time for him to come back and she and Thea had agreed. “He made his choices.”
“And what about you? Do you blame me?”
The question was so far from what she had been expecting—in truth, the pantomimes she’d rehearsed with the Oliver in her head, there had been a lot more guilt and you don’t understand and I put him in danger!—that Felicity outright gaped. “What?”
“For leaving,” Oliver said, his eyes hard. “Do you blame me?”
“This feels like a dare,” Felicity said, frowning.
Oliver scowled and pushed his hand over his hair. “Do you?”
“God, no. I mean, it wasn’t convenient, but—is that what you’ve been thinking? Oliver, our friend died. He was part of our family, like the, I don’t know, lantern-jawed weird son-in-law who brings the dishes to Thanksgiving dinners that the rest of us don’t understand, but we eat them anyway because he kind of has a face that was like genetically designed for puppy dog eyes—and this is really getting away from me.” Felicity sucked in a deep breath. “He died doing what heroes do, and even though it was his choice, we all needed to process it. And if you ask me, it’s perfectly understandable for the guy who spent five years away from civilized society drinking coconut milk on an island to maybe need some alone-time. So if you’re looking for castigation, you’re not going to find it here, buddy. I still lo—like you.”
Oliver held her gaze. Felicity had to lick her lips because her throat felt super-dry, but she didn’t look away. Why hadn’t she even considered that Oliver might feel that way? Of course he would feel guilty over not being able to be there for Thea, never mind that Thea hadn’t wanted anybody there and had made that perfectly clear. And Oliver tended to be into self-flagellation way more than Felicity liked. Certainly, she’d spent some quality time imagining things with whips and maybe a ball-gag or two, but those were fantasies that lived locked up in the dream journal file and they weren’t in any way real life.
In real life, Roy had died, and as a team, they’d lost a partner, a friend, a lover, and an apprentice, respectively. To expect that they wouldn’t have been shaken by grief would have been utter madness.
“And now,” Felicity said, remembering that they were in two cells in a long hallway of them, “I’ve pretty much announced our team dynamics to any SHIELD techs listening. Go me.”
“It’s okay, it’s probably not information they didn’t already have.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel like less of a motor-mouth.”
There was a pause from the other cell. “Yes,” Oliver finally said, and Felicity grimaced.
“What a lovely sentiment,” said a new voice, and Felicity flailed her arms a little. She hadn’t even heard Clint Barton come into the cell area, but there he was, leaning indolently against the wall opposite Oliver’s cell. She swore she could practically hear his biceps bulging through the nondescript black jacket that he wore.
It just figured that everybody she knew had awesome arms, it really did.
“How long has he been there?” she asked, turning angrily to Oliver.
“Not long,” Oliver said.
“I hope you’re enjoying the accommodations,” Clint said.
Oliver gave him the CEO smile. “Top notch,” he said, showing all of his teeth. “I see you went out of your way for us.”
“Finest hotel you’ll find at this altitude. If you find any bedbugs, take it up with Management. Miss Smoak, you mind coming with me?”
“I mind very much,” Felicity said. “I want to stay with Oliver.”
“It wasn’t actually a request,” Clint said, though he seemed more amused than annoyed.
“Then you shouldn’t have phrased it like a question.” Felicity crossed her arms over her chest in a move that she swore was not a sulk.
Clint only laughed. It wasn’t even a mean laugh. “This is going to be so much fun. Please, Miss Smoak, come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“Nat wants to talk to you.”
There was no way in hell she was trusting the Black Widow again. Natasha Romanoff might have saved her life a couple of times, but she was at least half of the reason Felicity Smoak was sitting in the cell in the first place. “In an interrogation room, probably,” she said, scowling.
“Guaranteed to be twice as comfortable as this place is,” Clint said, his smile only getting bigger. The amusement seemed actually genuine, like he was having the time of his life bantering with the two of them.
“You should go,” Oliver said, breaking in before Felicity brought up her next protest, which was that a girl had rights, damn it, even from a super-shady government organization operating in murky legal arenas and probably over international waters. “I’m certain,” and he was looking hard at Clint, “no harm will come to you.”
“Hey, we’re the good guys,” Clint said.
“Yeah, tell me that when I’m not stuck in your creepy prison illegally, arrow-face,” Felicity said under her breath, but at Oliver’s intent look, she shuffled her way to the door, literally dragging her feet against the stamped metal floor.
“Arrow-face?” Clint asked.
“I thought that was your nickname for me,” Oliver said.
“The great thing is that it’s versatile and can be meant for any archer in my life,” Felicity said, glowering at one first and then the other. When Clint unlocked her cell door, she stepped through and held her wrists up, waiting for the inevitable techno-shackles or whatever SHIELD used, but he only closed the cell door behind her.
“This way, ma’am,” Clint said, gesturing toward the exit. She followed him, absolutely not admiring the line of his jacket across the breadth of his shoulders. For one thing, based on the conversation she’d overheard between Natasha and Clint having on the radio, he was taken goods, and for another, it felt vaguely like cheating, even though she and Oliver hadn’t ever been an official thing and might never be.
Thinking of Oliver made her stop at the door and look back at him. He was leaning against the bars of his cell, sticking his arms through them, and she could see the pale demarcation of the scar Harley had given him on his forearm. “Why can’t the Widow talk to us both?” she asked, her voice rushing like it always did when she was nervous. “I don’t see any reason why you need to separate us.”
“Go, Felicity. I’ll be fine,” Oliver said.
“See? Greenie says he’s good.” Clint jerked his head at her. “It’s just a talk. Won’t take long.”
“Sure it won’t,” Felicity muttered. She gave Oliver a long look, but eventually followed Clint out of the room. Three armed guards waited outside. Felicity eyed them. “Seriously?”
“Transport policy aboard the Helicarrier. Think of ’em like your own personal honor guard.”
“And cannon fodder,” the lone female guard, who was about Felicity’s height and wore a much more lightweight uniform than the two male guards, said. A collapsible bow hung at the woman’s side, where a dagger or a pistol might be on anybody else. The guard noticed the attention, for she grinned. “Oh, she’s quick, Barton.”
“You’re talking too much, Bishop,” one of the other guards said, and Felicity wondered if she imagined the grimaces that overtook Clint and Bishop’s faces for a split second.
Clint jerked his head and led the way, the two male guards falling in beside Felicity and Bishop bringing up the rear. Felicity thought she might have been humming, but surely SHIELD agents weren’t that unserious. Granted, she looked about twenty, tops, so maybe they were and Felicity had just had the wrong idea about SHIELD all along.
She kept her head down and mentally catalogued every detail she could gather as they walked along: locations of computer panels in the hallways, attire and weaponry of people they passed in the corridor, navigation that might come in handy later. As far as she could tell, all of the hallways inside the Helicarrier were practically identical, or Clint Barton was a sadist and taking her down the same hallways over and over again.
“Nice flying ship,” she said to Bishop, who she figured had a better chance of replying. “Really love the ambience.”
“Isn’t it grand?” Bishop asked, and Felicity could hear a smile in her voice.
“No talking to the prisoner,” the guard to Felicity’s left said.
“Blowhard,” Bishop muttered. Felicity was sure she was the only one that heard.
She was about to direct a question to Clint—shouldn’t they be there by now? The Helicarrier didn’t look that big—when overhead, lights flickered once, twice, and flashed briefly red. Felicity automatically reached for the taser that wasn’t there—they had stripped her of it—as the rest of the guards shifted into ready mode, snapping to attention and hands reaching for their weapons.
When the lights flashed red a second time, Clint looked over at the guards. “Klein, Hui, take Miss Smoak back to her cell. Bishop, with me.”
“On it.” Bishop darted around Felicity and dogged Clint’s heels as he strode away without a second look.
Felicity, on the other hand, was left with the blowhard and his partner. The blowhard—Klein—grabbed her arm to pull her along. “Hey, I can walk, you know. It’s been almost—” and she had to remember the sign that Diggle had hung up in the Foundry, and do a little basic math to add her trip to the number, “—thirteen days without a tripping incident.”
“Quiet. Keep up.”
She was tempted to twist out of his grip and show him a thing or two, but she suspected he was too strong for her, and if she got free, then what? She was still on a flying battleship.
When they arrived back at the cell block, she drew up short. Oliver wasn’t in the other cell. Was he the reason the alarms had gone off? If he was, he was going to be annoyed she’d ended up where they started. But it was also just so typical of them that she also didn’t think he’d mind, really. It was nice to know some things never changed.
So Felicity sat in her cell and this time, she did sulk, her arms crossed over her chest as she glared at Hui and Klein. It gave her absolutely no warning for when the door to the cell block swung open.
Klein and Hui leapt to attention. It didn’t do them much good: the man in the SHIELD uniform that strode through the door never paused as he clocked Klein. A crunch noise made Felicity wince before the guard collapsed. Hui didn’t even get a chance to reach for his gun before a figure in a red hood darted through the doorway and drove a taser arrow into the meat of his thigh. Static and a faint odor of burnt cat fur crackled through the air.
“You’re here! You got my message!” Felicity nearly threw herself up against the bars in relief. She wasn’t sure she’d ever been this happy to see John Diggle, not even when he’d shown up to save her from falling into a vat of acid. The SHIELD uniform he’d obviously stolen stretched a bit tight over his torso, but at least it was long-sleeved. Only a hint of silver glinted at his left hand. “I wasn’t sure the tracker worked right, but you’re here! How did you get all the way down here without being seen?”
“Good to see you, too,” Diggle said, his smile genuine.
“Did you have any trouble getting on the ship? Did you bring Sara? Where’s Oliver?”
“No, she was busy, and I don’t know. Stand back.”
Felicity hurriedly backed away. Diggle grabbed the locking mechanism with his left hand and squeezed. The metal protested, sparks skittering from the panel, but with one wrenching twist, her friend yanked the console clean off. The door swung open easily. “Your rescue, as ordered,” Diggle said.
Felicity launched herself at him. “You’re brilliant,” she said, giving his cheek a smacking kiss. “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Thank you.”
“What, no love for me?” the figure in the red hood asked. “I might not have a fancy bionic arm, but I took out one of the guards, too, you know.”
Felicity gave her a hug, too, and was very proud of the fact that she didn’t babble about being overjoyed to hear that note of humor in the words. “My hero,” she said.
“Okay, okay, don’t cry all over me or anything. Geez.” Thea Queen shoved her hood back. “We’re here to save the day, not sit around and discuss our feelings ad nauseum.”
Felicity glanced at Diggle; he rolled his eyes back at her, as if to point out that this was what he’d dealt with on the entire flight to the Helicarrier. Appropriating a SHIELD uniform had apparently let him slip through the ranks pretty easily, but how on earth Thea had gotten through with her black leather pants, knee high boots, red hooded jerkin, and her bow strapped to her back, Felicity had no idea. Just one of the marvels that was being Speedy, she guessed. Queens never fit easily into any categories, not even the ones you assigned them to.
“So what’s the plan?” she asked. “Is Oliver somewhere?”
“We came for you first,” Thea said. “We were kind of hoping the two of you were together.”
Felicity squinted at Oliver’s sister and protégé. The strange mix of accusation and hope in her tone felt a little out of place for the barb. She decided to ignore it and instead focused on the lock to Oliver’s cell. “No, they took me up to interrogate me, and when they brought me back, he was gone.”
“It would have been too convenient,” Diggle said, shaking his head. When he tapped her on the shoulder, she absently took the Bluetooth piece from him, more interested in the lock. “We’ve only got a few minutes according to the extraction plan, so we’d better go. Any thoughts on where they might have Oliver?”
“Not sure. If you get me to a computer, I can probably hack into the video cameras.” Felicity studied the lock. There was a mechanism attached, which was flat, matte black, and about the size of a half dollar. The design didn’t look like any of her lock-picks, which she knew Oliver used exclusively these days. She was the team computer genius and engineer, as Diggle’s prosthesis could attest, but this looked after-market and expensive. With a shrug, she palmed the device—
And the alarms started to shrill in earnest.
“Time to go?” Thea asked.
“Time to go,” Felicity said. Diggle shouldered past her. Ever since Felicity had accidentally called him a “meat shield” a couple years before, it had been agreed that Diggle led the way, no matter what. He did so now, long strides eating up the hallway as Thea and Felicity jogged to keep up. “So what was the plan?”
“Sneak in, get you, get out,” Thea said. “Punch anybody that gets in our way.”
Felicity gave her a look.
“Admittedly, we weren’t going for finesse,” Diggle said over his shoulder.
“You think?” Felicity asked, and a platoon of SHIELD agents rounded the corner. “Oh, boy.”
Diggle ruthlessly slammed the first agent into the ground. Thea was only half an instant behind him, jumping and caroming off of the wall to get over the felled agent. She brought both prongs of her wrist stunner down on a second agent’s shoulder. It left her vulnerable to an attack from a third agent while Diggle fought agents four and five, so Felicity slid for home plate and kicked his legs out from under him. Agent three toppled. Thea hit him with a taser dart from her wrist crossbow right as Diggle dispatched the last of the guards.
“Well,” Thea said, looking at the unconscious agents piled in the hallway, “guess we can kiss the idea of working peacefully with SHIELD good-bye.”
“They kissed that good-bye when they threw us in a cage,” Felicity said as she scrambled to her feet, and Diggle and Thea’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “What? I am just saying. That is not how you greet people you consider friendly.”
“I see you and my brother really didn’t work things out,” Thea said.
“What the hell do you mean by that?”
“Maybe we should go now?” Diggle asked. “I mean, it’s nice to catch up and all, but—”
When he broke off, Felicity and Thea whirled. “Oh, crap,” Felicity said, eyes going wide. Like Clint Barton earlier, she hadn’t heard this man approach, but there was definitely a scary-looking dude at the other end of the hallway. He wasn’t wearing a SHIELD uniform—no, his clothes were black tactical clothing with an ungodly number of straps—but something about the general air of menace around the guy made Felicity take a step or two back. Maybe it was the bulging “muscles” on the obviously fake metal arm at his left side, or maybe it was just the determined, annoyed look on his face.
Possibly, it could have been that the lower part of his face was covered by a mask. Either way, he looked scary. He stood like a gunslinger with his gun still in its holster, and Felicity got the distinct impression that, given the opportunity, this man could mess even Oliver up.
“Crap,” she said again.
Diggle flexed his own metal arm so that the SHIELD uniform ripped around his wrist. “You two should go,” he said without removing his eyes from the scary dude. “I’ve got this.”
“But,” Thea started to say.
“Get to the jet.”
Felicity recognized the determined chin tremor in time to grab Thea’s wrist before she could snatch an arrow from her lightweight quiver. Scary Dude and Diggle didn’t have any weapons out. Adding a weapon to the fight would only escalate things. “We need to go,” Felicity said, yanking on her friend’s arm. “We need to go, we need to go, we need to run.”
She kept up the chant as they sprinted off. Thea outpaced Felicity within seconds: she might have been the smallest one on the team, but she came by her nickname honestly. Felicity did her best to keep up, glad that she’d given in to the active lifestyle years before and she was at least, if not very fast, able to keep her breath when running was necessary. “Won’t they just be surrounding the jet, waiting for us to get to it?” she asked.
“And working?” Felicity nearly stumbled; gawking and running at the same time was more difficult than she’d anticipated. “I was still working out the kinks before I left!”
“I made Applied Sciences check the bit that was giving you trouble.” They skidded around a corner together, where Thea tased a lone straggler of a guard. “They said you missed a semicolon.”
“Are you kidding me with this?” Face-palming and running was more difficult than gawking.
“Yes,” Thea said, and the grin she sent over her shoulder made Felicity feel like, for one second, things were back to normal, that their team was whole, that there wasn’t a gaping, red hoodie-shaped hole. “It was a lot more complicated than that, duh. But it works. For how long, I don’t know, though. So let’s find Oliver and get out of here fast.”
Felicity finally spotted the computer panel along the wall. “Got it. Cover me.”
“Yes, ma’am. What’s the plan?”
“If I know your brother, and I like to think I do, he’s figured out what’s going on,” Felicity said without looking away from the screen. She recognized this system—it used a variant of the security protocols that she’d hacked nearly six months back—but getting full access from this point and with no time was going to be nothing short of working a miracle. She attacked the cluster that would be more useful: the security feed. “Which means that he’s out there either being stupid or providing some kind of distraction so we can get away or both. And if he is…”
“What are you going to do?” Thea asked, crowding in closer to watch the screen.
Felicity was used to that. “I’m going to help him out. Cover me, I’ll only need—” Crap on a cracker, this system was far more complicated than she’d thought. “—two minutes. And that’ll give Diggle time to catch up.”
“Or for Soldier McMetalArm to get us,” Thea muttered.
“Yeah, yeah, but—”
An arrow sprouted out of the wall above the console, making her jump back with an “Oh, dear lord!”
Thea spun, an arrow already nocked on her bowstring. There was a brief curse before she loosed the arrow, which embedded itself into the corner of the hallway. Felicity caught a glimpse of the lady guard—Bishop—from earlier, peeking around the corner at the end of the hall, only a few inches away from the arrow.
Thea already had a second arrow out. “Oh, she’s just a kid.”
“Yes, because you’re not twelve,” Felicity said and ignored all instinct to dive for cover. Instead, she yanked the arrow out of the wall. “What have I said about arrows near my computers?”
“It’s not your computer.”
A second arrow hit the wall next to Thea’s shoulder. She shot back, missing again, which told Felicity that it was on purpose. She could only hope that their foe’s misses were deliberate as well because she really, really did not want to end this horrible day shish-kabobed. She typed faster as Thea reached up and snatched an arrow from the air before it could hit the wall—which wasn’t, she had to notice, anywhere near her head or any place that could cause serious damage. If this Bishop person was such a lousy shot, why did she even use a bow, anyway? Wouldn’t a gun be more effective? Or was Felicity doomed to meet every single person on the planet who preferred Paleolithic era weaponry over semi-automatics?
She swore under her breath as she tore a firewall to pieces. Now she just had to get to the security system and figure out where Oliver was.
Thea’s curse made her fumble a line of code and jerk away from the computer. The other woman clapped a hand to the middle of her forearm. A second later, blood welled up between her fingers, and Felicity noticed the arrow sticking out of the wall. She reacted by instinct, dragging both of them back into an alcove and out of range. “What the—”
“She hit me!” For a split second there was nothing but rage on Thea’s face.
“How bad is it? Let me see—” Felicity reached for her, but Thea only yanked her hood on. Unfortunately, Felicity knew what that look meant, from both Queens. “Thea, no. She could hit you again—”
“She took off. Stay here, I’ve gotta go kick her ass.”
“We’re supposed to be getting out of here!”
“It won’t take more than a minute.” Thea shook Felicity off and sprinted away.
“Well, crap,” Felicity said, turning back to the computer. She switched to typing one hand so she could activate her headpiece. “Hey, Digg, how’s it going?”
“Little busy at the moment!”
“Okay,” Felicity said to herself, “guess now’s not a good time.” Rolling her eyes, she focused on the screen again, and fist-pumped a little when she broke in.
Something grabbed her from behind. Thankfully, Felicity was an old hand at that, and so she didn’t flail, but rather chopped back with her elbow the way Diggle had taught her. It felt like a solid blow to somebody’s ribcage, but her attacker didn’t even grunt. The person just yanked backward again, and let her go. Felicity stumbled, crashing into the wall hard with her elbows and rear end. She let out a yelp that was part pain, part surprise.
Natasha Romanoff, the friggin’ Black Widow, stood in front of her. Granted, she’d seen the woman “drunk” (tranqued out of her ever-loving mind, and even threatening Felicity with a knife would not change her stance on that) and there had even been a little bonding on the plane and, hell, Felicity had given her pain meds from her own stash, but absolutely none of that lowered the lethality of the redhead across from her.
Neither did the amused look on Natasha’s face.
“Good reflexes,” Natasha said. “I’ll have a bruise there.”
Felicity put her hands up. “I swear I’m not out to get your ultra-shady organization. I’m just trying to get my team and get out of here.”
“Oh, I didn’t think you were a threat.” The amusement only intensified. “But unfortunately, I do have my orders.”
“They’re not to kill me, are they?”
Natasha’s left eyebrow twitched a little. That wasn’t enough of a no for Felicity’s sanity until the assassin said, “’Course not, Flicka.”
Felicity immediately straightened up. “Seriously?” she asked, and remembered belatedly that the woman was still dangerous. But even so… “C’mon!”
Natasha drew back a little.
Felicity rolled her eyes. “I mean—c’mon, not like ‘c’mon, kill me!’ but more like ‘c’mon, Flicka? Really?’ It’s not even close to my name. And why haven’t you killed me, anyway? I mean, granted, with your skill, it’s like a combat boot crushing a beetle, so it’s not like you’re hesitating out of nerves.”
“I don’t want to kill you,” Natasha said.
“And I’m hesitating because when I attack you, I don’t want you to fight me off,” Natasha said. Felicity narrowed her eyes. Why did it seem like there was a strange emphasis on fight me off? Natasha’s eyes cut down to her own hand and back up to meet Felicity’s eyes. There was some kind of USB stick in Natasha’s hand. What on earth? Was Natasha trying to help her?
“I am about to do something so, so stupid,” Felicity said to herself, and jumped the Black Widow. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was trying to do, punch her or something, but either way it didn’t matter. Natasha stepped easily to the side and put Felicity into a headlock. “Urp!”
“Struggle at least a little,” Natasha said under her breath. Felicity felt the USB stick slide into her hand, and she began to fight back in earnest, using her core strength to try and buck Natasha off. For somebody that was actually shorter than her, though, the woman was, like, super-human strong. Natasha wasn’t actually choking her, so she didn’t see spots gathering at the sides of her vision, but she still had a grip like iron. “Right knee.”
“Aren’t you attached to that knee?” Felicity asked, not quite as quietly.
“Just do it and get to the computer already. They’re not going to believe it if I don’t put you down soon.”
“I’m pretty sure they don’t believe it already,” Felicity said, but she took a chance and drove the heel of her right foot into Natasha’s knee. In a move that probably looked real for the cameras but definitely felt incredibly surreal, Natasha loosened her grip, and Felicity threw all of her weight forward and actually tossed the Black Widow over her shoulder.
Natasha hit the ground hard. Felicity flinched, but ignored her instinct to bolt and instead dashed for the computer. It took a second for her hands to stop shaking long enough to palm the USB drive into the computer smoothly—all of those missions with Oliver came in handy with the sleight-of-hand thing, they really did—but Felicity shoved the drive in and hit the execute command.
The alarms stopped shrilling.
Natasha sat up and dusted herself off as though completely unaffected. “Just as I suspected,” she said.
“You’ve had training.” Natasha jumped to her feet without using her hands. “Ready to go?”
“What the hell is going on!”
“I’m getting you out of here.”
Felicity didn’t budge. Her head was beginning to hurt with the sheer amount of questions running through it. “Why?”
“Because I promised you we’d get you back to Starling City.” Natasha said it as though it was the most obvious thing on the planet, and in her hours in the other woman’s company, Felicity was coming to understand that she did this a lot.
Felicity looked at the computer screen. “You disabled all the cameras.”
“No, you did that.” When Felicity did nothing but gape, Natasha rolled her eyes—she also did that a lot, too—and grabbed her jacket to pull her along. “I needed you to be the one to disable the cameras so when the higher-ups ask questions later, I can honestly say I didn’t do it. I’ve got my team wrangling yours so we can get you all out of here.” She glanced at the blood drops on the floor. “Some of them follow orders better than others, evidently. How seriously was your little archer girl hurt?”
“A graze, I think. Your, um, little archer girl did that,” Felicity said as Natasha yanked her into a stairwell.
“Yeah, Kate’s…unique. But Clint likes her, so we keep her around,” Natasha said. “This way.”
Felicity followed her into a stairwell. One flight up, Natasha cocked her head, quizzically, like she was listening to something Felicity couldn’t hear. Felicity tensed, waiting for an attack to rain down on them from above, but Natasha only turned to her. “Would you do me a favor and tell your girl we’re not the enemy?”
“I’m not so sure you aren’t,” Felicity said.
Lines formed around Natasha’s mouth. “She’s got Kate in a headlock.”
Well, when she put it that way. Felicity tapped her headset on. “Speedy, let her go.”
“How do I know this isn’t a trap?” Thea asked over the comm.
“I think she’s trying to help you escape.”
“She shot me!”
“Yeah, and trust me,” Felicity said, looking at Natasha, “her superiors will be having words with her about it. Just go with it, okay. I’ve got an inside scoop on this one.”
“Your ‘inside scoop’ is why we’re on this boat in the first place,” Thea said, a definite grumble in her voice, but apparently she released Kate Bishop, for Natasha nodded. “You have a lot of explaining to do, Lucy.”
“I’m not the only one,” Felicity said, deactivating the headset. Though she gave Natasha a pointed look, the spy ignored her and kept climbing stairs. Felicity had to double her pace to keep up. “I’d say sorry about that. Speedy’s going through some stuff.”
“The same stuff that put Queen on that island?”
“If you must know, yes.” Good god, she really was blabbing all of the team’s secrets to the world’s scariest spy. “And I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Fine by me. This way.”
“And the day just keeps getting weirder,” Felicity muttered under her breath.
Natasha cast an amused look her way. “Do you have many normal days?”
“Not since ‘And I spilled a latte on it,’ no, but it’s the principle of the thing. What? It is.”
“This is fun,” was all Natasha said to that.
As they neared what Felicity hoped was the top level, her headset crackled to life again. “Felicity,” Diggle said, sounding very calm and reasoned. “Did you neglect to mention that you befriended and possibly recruited the Black Widow?”
“I think it’s the other way around, Digg. Where are you? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I made a new friend myself. Following Bucky to the deck now.”
“Who the hell is Bucky?” Felicity asked. “Wait, Scary Dude is Bucky?”
Natasha actually snickered. “Scary Dude. He’ll like that.”
“Apparently so,” Digg, who probably couldn’t hear Natasha, said. “According to him, our ETA on deck is one minute. Where are you?”
Felicity glanced at Natasha and received a nod as they reached the top of the stairs and the other woman began to climb a ladder. “Same. Got a location on Oliver?”
“He’s on deck,” Natasha said.
“How on earth do you know that?”
“You’ll see. C’mon.”
They emerged through a hatchway on the deck and she saw Clint and Oliver squared off. How Oliver had gotten his bow back, she didn’t know, but he was standing next to an empty space on the carrier deck, where the air seemed to…shimmer? That must be the Queenjet, and while she was thrilled that the cloaking was working, maybe she needed to fix something in the—no. Felicity shoved that information back into a “to be viewed later” file and focused on the standoff happening in front of the invisible jet. Wind buffeted at her jacket and hair, spitting her ponytail into her face for a second.
“How on earth do they think they’ll hit each other with this wind?” she shouted to Natasha over the wind.
Natasha shook her head. “They wouldn’t miss, but that’s not the problem.”
Felicity finally saw the two SHIELD agents flanking Clint, weapons aimed at Oliver. “Oh, crap,” Felicity said. “What are we going to—”
She broke off because Natasha was already striding across the deck. Even though Felicity knew the Black Widow could handle a couple of redshirts on her own, she followed. Maybe it was all the times she’d raced after Diggle and Oliver or Roy and Thea when they’d fought to get out of some place. Maybe it was just that she was becoming as much of an adrenaline junkie as everybody else in her friggin’ life.
Natasha struck the first agent hard at the junction of neck and shoulder, not even waiting for her to topple before sweeping the second agent’s legs out from under him. Felicity was left with nothing to do but gape.
“Aren’t SHIELD agents supposed to be harder to take down than that?” she asked.
“In theory.” Clint grinned and finally lowered his bow. “We’ll have to embarrass these two so they don’t recount exactly how easily they went down and get us all in trouble. About time, though. I think your boy’s bow arm is getting tired.”
“I could go all day, Barton,” Oliver called back over the wind, though he lowered his bow as well.
“Peacock later,” Natasha said. “We have an escape to get through first. Bucky, are you—oh, you’re here.” Diggle and Scary Dude Bucky had emerged from yet another hatch about twenty feet away. Felicity could see the pause as Oliver and Diggle regarded each other after three months of not seeing each other, and she figured the spies saw it, too. But it didn’t matter; the two men did that handshake they’d had for years, and then Diggle headed toward the Queenjet, which wavered into existence as the cloaking function was deactivated.
Okay, that was just cool.
“That’s my cue,” she said, and blinked at Clint, Natasha, and Bucky, wondering exactly what you were supposed to say in situations like this. Thanks for betraying your agency for me? Sorry your bosses are megalomaniacal jerks with no sense of hospitality? She went with, “Thanks. And for getting us off the island, and, for that matter, onto the island, and the save from the human trafficker and—gosh, that’s a lot of debts to repay.”
“We’ll talk about it over coffee next time I’m in Starling City,” Natasha said. She didn’t try to hug Felicity, which Felicity appreciated because that would just be weird. “Catch you around, Flicka.”
“Felicity,” Felicity said as she headed for Oliver and the jet. “My name is Felicity.”
She had a feeling Natasha was never going to get that right. But hey, she’d made a terrifying new friend. A terrifying new group of friends.
“Just Thea left, I think,” she told Oliver as she approached the jet. “If you want to go inside and help Diggle with the pre-flight, I can wait for her.”
“You should go in. I’ll wait for Thea.”
“Okay. Yeah, good idea. That’s one awkward reunion I don’t want to be—I mean, um.” Felicity clapped her hand over her mouth, eyes going wide. Why, why, why hadn’t they developed a cure for foot-in-mouth disease yet? “Not that it’ll be awkward. It won’t be awkward. I didn’t mean to say awkward.”
“Really? Because you’re saying it a lot,” Oliver said, but his jaw wasn’t clenched like it usually was when he was annoyed. Instead, his eyes looked almost warm when he laid a hand on her arm, just above the elbow. His thumb traced a pattern against her jacket. “I missed you.”
“Now I know you mean that. Nobody could look my babbling in the face and lie that badly.” Felicity glanced over and spotted Thea and Kate, both of whom looked a little worse for the wear, finally show up on deck. Thea purple cloth wrapped around her forearm. “See you onboard.”
On the Queenjet, she only had one minor moment of panic just inside the doorway, remembering how the plane she and Natasha had essentially hijacked had gone into a dive, the storm grey of the ocean rushing toward them far too fast for her liking.
“Doing okay?” Diggle asked, breaking her out of her reverie. “Where are Oliver and Thea? We need to go.”
“I think they need a minute.”
“For a group that is trying to escape, we sure are hell-bent on taking our sweet time,” Diggle said. But even as he said that, he twisted in his seat to look at Felicity. “You doing okay? Going to the island by yourself and having to deal with all of this can’t have been easy.”
“I’ll be better when we get out of here,” Felicity said.
“Then tell the Queens to move their asses and go strap in.”
“Yes, sir,” Felicity said, though she smiled as she headed back to the door. The sight that greeted her made her stomach sink: Oliver and Thea were glaring at each other, arms crossed over their chests. What had happened? She hadn’t even been gone that long. “Oi! Queens! Any reason whatever you’re talking about can’t be discussed on the actual jet? In flight? Away from here?”
“Yes,” Oliver said, looking stone-faced.
“No,” Thea said at the same time.
“Okay, well, I vote we get away from here before we undo my scary new friend’s work. Vámonos!”
“Oh, fine,” Thea said, but when she turned toward the jet, Oliver grabbed her arm and said something, too low for Felicity to hear. Felicity blinked as Thea’s face went through the gamut of emotion, starting at surprise and somehow ended at happy. She bounced toward her brother, but Oliver grabbed her arm and yanked her onto the jet with him.
“Diggle, get us out here, please,” he said as he hauled the door closed. “Quick as you—” He broke off because Thea had tackled him with a hug. Felicity grabbed the bulkhead to avoid crashing into the siblings as the jet took off.
“What’s all this?” she called over the noise of the engines. “What were you fighting about?”
“Nothing,” Oliver called back. He grimaced and braced both himself and Thea, as the latter was still clinging to his midsection. “And she’s just happy to see me, I guess.”
“Well, that makes two of us. C’mon, Speedy, let’s get that arm looked at.”
“It’s just a cut, it doesn’t need anything,” Thea said.
Felicity rolled her eyes, though she was smiling, so relieved that they’d gotten away from SHIELD. “I have no idea what it is with you two and actually wanting scars,” she said.
“It really is just a cut.”
Oliver settled into a seat, leaving Felicity and Thea to take the couch. After Felicity retrieved the medical kit, she pulled Thea’s arm closer to her and unwrapped the cloth that had served as a de facto bandage. The sight of the gash only made her sigh. And to think, she’d once felt squeamish at the sight of blood. Now she pretty much had a medical degree—from an online university of Youtube, specialty Livejournal communities, and a few “random” online friends that happened to also be medical professionals—and could probably sew up a cut like this in her sleep. In fact, she was pretty sure she had a couple of times, as Oliver had a penchant for getting in trouble when she was running on nothing but far too many cups of coffee and her own adrenaline.
Thinking of all of those times made her glance up at him. Her hands stilled, for his gaze was already on her, and the look on his face was something she couldn’t decipher. There was an odd heaviness to it, one she hadn’t felt since the first few tumultuous months of their partnership, when she’d daydreamed that they were like one of those great couples that had the will they or won’t they? conundrum affecting their every move.
With them, it had been they won’t. Or they hadn’t, at any rate. But apparently nobody had informed her heart of that, as it began to flutter in her chest.
She sucked in a deep breath and put her head down, focusing on stitching up the wound. It was a proximity thing, she figured. The low buzz of sexual attraction—or, hell, attraction in general—always existed whenever she was around Oliver Queen. But they hadn’t seen each other in three months, so of course it was going to be stronger for awhile. She’d simply deal with it. “So how did you like your new friend?” she asked Thea. “Any more headlocks we should know about?”
“She started it. Also, what the hell was all of that about, anyway? We’re friends with SHIELD now?”
“No, just the Black Widow and her team of renegades,” Felicity said.
“It’s a long story,” Felicity said.
“We’re on this plane for awhile,” Diggle called back from the cockpit.
He had a point. So Felicity unpacked her entire day on the team, from accidentally chartering the one plane piloted by a human trafficking scumbag, to being rescued by and nearly dying with Natasha, to finding Oliver on the island—“You hugged?” was Thea’s input. “That’s it?”—and finally to their time on the Helicarrier.
“Natasha gave me a program to disable the cameras so we could all sneak out. But the thing I don’t get is how you got away, Oliver.”
“Barton left something on my cell lock. It let me out about three minutes after you left. Before I could find you, he found me.”
“And the lifelong bromance of archers began?” Thea asked.
Oliver scoffed. “Hardly.”
“Aw, are you jealous, Mr. Queen?” Felicity said, grinning over at Thea. “Even if he did help us escape, we still like you more.”
“Some of us more than others,” Thea said, giving Oliver an innocent smile.
Oliver bared his teeth at his sister. “What part of ‘when we’re back in Starling City’ did you not get?”
“Oh, I got it, but this is more fun,” Thea said.
“What is going on?” Felicity asked.
The siblings shared a look. “Nothing.”
“What’s that about being back in—” Felicity broke off to yawn. “Starling City?”
“Just looking forward to Big Belly Burger, that’s all,” Oliver said. “Just one of those luxuries I didn’t have on an island.”
“See, I told you. No islands. Places with hotels and wi-fi,” Felicity said. “Though you’ll have to convince Carly to open a franchise if you want the Big Belly anywhere other than the Star-C.”
“No, let’s let that stay a special Star-C thing,” Oliver said. When Felicity yawned again, he raised an eyebrow.
“It’s been a long day,” she said, shifting on the couch to get more comfortable.
“You should take a nap.”
“I’ll let you have the couch,” Thea said, pushing herself to her feet. She shifted her bandaged arm around—it had required a couple of stitches, which might be a new record for how little damage the team had taken escaping somewhere—and squinted at Oliver. “Actually, no, I think I’ll just go hang out with John. He can give me a flying lesson.”
“You’ve crashed how many cars now?” Diggle called back.
“Cars and planes are not the same thing!”
“Yeah, planes are scarier.”
“Got that right,” Felicity said under her breath. She pulled off her jacket and draped it over herself as she scooted down the couch. The Queenjet had a full stock of blankets, but that would require getting up, and her eyelids felt far too heavy to even consider that.
A moment later, she felt a blanket being draped over her. “Thanks,” she said.
“On Queen International Airlines, we seek to provide the best service possible,” Oliver said.
Felicity cracked one eye open. There were dark circles under his eyes that spoke of his insomnia problems continuing. “I can scoot over if you want to sleep, too,” she said. The couch was far more comfortable than any of the chairs.
He tilted his head. “You don’t mind?”
“Plenty of room.”
Oliver shook his head and retrieved another blanket. He had to help Felicity sit up, as she wasn’t too interested in moving, but he took a seat on the end of the couch, propping his feet up against the seat opposite. Truth be told, he wasn’t the most comfortable pillow, as he worked out far too much for any sort of soft padding, but his scent was familiar, and even more than that, welcoming, so she drifted off with her head on his thigh, finally comfortable after a long, hellish day.
Until something in her pocket started to buzz.
“What the hell!” Felicity shot up, nearly knocking heads with Oliver. She’d lost her cell phone, so what on earth… Frowning, she pulled out a little black device, the lock-pick that had broken Oliver free of his cell on the Helicarrier. It was buzzing sharply.
“Is it supposed to be doing that?” Oliver asked. He hadn’t even opened his eyes.
“I have no idea.” Felicity poked at it with a finger.
“Flicka?” Natasha Romanoff’s voice filled the cabin. “Come in, Flicka. This is the Widow, over.”
“You have got to be joking.” Felicity felt all over the device, which wasn’t much bigger than a silver dollar. Finally, she located a button. “Name’s not Flicka, over.”
“Sure it is. Over.”
“Flicka?” Oliver asked.
Felicity settled back against the back of the couch. His arm was still there, but he didn’t move it. He sounded like he was probably still mostly asleep, which was doing interestingly twisty things to her insides. “She was tranqued and had a hard time getting my name right. And now it appears to be her sense of humor.”
“They’re not tracking us with that, are they?”
“They probably are.” Felicity pressed the button. “What is this thing? Over.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not SHIELD. Design’s mine. I just thought you might need a way to get in touch in the future, considering I owe you one for fixing the sat-nav. Over.”
“You know that I’m going to verify that you’re not just using this to track me the second I get back to my lab, don’t you?”
“I’d expect nothing less. Let me know if you come up with any improvements. How’s your lunatic?”
“Lunatic?” Oliver asked, finally opening his eyes a little.
“She means you,” Felicity said, and realized exactly what she was saying. “Not that, like, I own you or anything. Just a conversation we had on the plane, about having lunatic archers and—wow, yes, apparently there is not a way to explain this makes it sound good, so.” She thumbed on the device. “He’s good. He appreciates the assist. How’s, um, your lunatic?”
“Barton thinks the two of you make a cute couple.” There was a pause from the other end, while Felicity felt the temperature of the cabin shoot up uncomfortably as her cheeks pinked. “Though he says your boy’s form could use some work.”
Oliver shifted to get more comfortable, and as he did so, pulled Felicity closer to him. “With the way he was holding his elbow, I’m amazed he could hit the broad side of a planet, let alone be the ‘World’s Greatest Marksman.’”
“Apparently,” Felicity told Natasha, “the feeling is mutual.”
“Excellent. I’d better go. Catch you around. Over and out.”
“See you,” Felicity said.
She held up the disc, wondering exactly how it worked. She couldn’t wait to take it apart and get a look at the circuitry. “Weird,” she said. “And sorry about the ‘you being my lunatic’ thing. It was one of those you had to be there things, really.”
“That’s okay,” Oliver said, eyes closing again. “If you say I’m your lunatic, that’s what I am.”
Felicity leaned forward to drop the radio/transmitter/whatever it was on the chair by Oliver’s feet. Instead of lying back down, she propped her feet up and used his shoulder as a pillow instead. It was a stupid, needy thing to do, especially when her feelings for him had been so out of control all day, but she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Nah, you’re not a lunatic,” she said.
She settled in, feeling his chest rise against her chin, and for a long moment, she thought he had fallen asleep again. At least, she was sure he had.
Until he said, “Thanks for coming to get me.”
“Anytime. Any place, even if there’s no wi-fi, which is basically the ultimate declaration of love in Smoakese, and don’t you forget it.”
Felicity let out a sigh that was pure contented pleasure. Her last thought before falling asleep was to wonder what exactly she’d said, as she felt Oliver’s smile against the top of her head. She’d worry about it in Starling City, just like whatever it was Oliver had promised Thea would happen there.