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Like a Ton of Bricks

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Like a Ton of Bricks

As she sighs, Felicity clicks the clock out icon on the computer unnecessarily hard. Her hours are displayed in the unmistakable red of certain overtime—not that she expected anything else. She was in overtime on Wednesday. Every client she has seemed to have a computer crisis this week, and she’s been left to pick up the pieces.

Finally, it’s Friday, though, and a long weekend is in order. Most of her Friday is already gone, but there’s plenty she can do after eight o’clock. Work has made her neglect her duties in the city and she needs to blow off some frustration, so maybe a night under the mask is in order.

She reaches for her phone, typing a quick message. Just got off work and looking to blow off some steam, she sends to Oliver. Frowning at herself, she follows up with a second: In the sparring way. Not the sex way. After she’s confident it clears up her meaning, she sends one last message. Is it OK if I come to Verdant?

Not expecting a quick answer from the slowest texter ever, she shuts down her three work computers and gathers her things. After pulling on her coat, she checks her phone again. One notification, but only from her work email. She dismisses that to look at Tuesday. Maybe he’s in the field without her.

The thought shouldn’t make her frown, but it does. After he’s called her in on so many of his missions, it’s strange to think of him in the field by himself, without telling her. Oliver typically keeps her informed of where he goes in the hood, just as she tells him where she’ll be in the mask. Because the police and the criminals are equally their enemies, the only people Oliver and Felicity can depend upon are each other.

After locking up the office, Felicity walks to where her car is parked on the curb. It’s only after she turns out. The engine that her phone dings. When she opens the text from him, it reads, You’re always welcome at Verdant but I’m stuck at the house with mom. Stockholders dinner for QC. As she frowns, a second text comes in: Raincheck?

Sighing, she throws her phone into the seat and pulls out of her parking space. Of course he would have other plans; this week has been one frustration after another. All she wanted tonight was to drink a little, spar with her best friend, and unwind from work. She could always take a bottle of wine from the cellar and take out some training dummies, but it’s not the same. Maybe Roy will be home so they can commiserate about being alone together.

Felicity pulls the old Volkswagen into her driveway. Oliver or not, she’ll need a change of clothes and the new set of throwing knives she’s practicing with. Gathering her bad and phone from the passenger seat, she exits the car, trying not to pout. Stupid Oliver and his stupid rich life.

She deflates a moment later. It isn’t Oliver’s fault it’s been a bad week, nor can he be blamed for the commitments he has to his family. Maybe the problem is that Felicity has started to depend on him a little too much for her liking. She’s spent the last three years waging war against the mobs of Starling City, and she doesn’t need him to help her.

That doesn’t stop her from wanting to spend time with him.

With a groan, Felicity turns her key into the lock. She drops the bag with her laptop on the couch before calling out, “Roy? Are you home?” The lack of response answers her question, but there’s also a note on the bar: Picking up a shift at Mona’s tonight. Be home around midnight. After he quit school, Roy’s first job was bussing tables at the twenty-four-hour diner on Third, and they’ve always been good about calling him when they need someone to fill in.

While his unwavering work ethic is always something she admires, Felicity drops her things on top of the note. Alone again. Suddenly the idea of those training dummies doesn’t seem so bad.

“Looks like it’s Friday night with the knives,” she mutters to herself, walking to her room.

Pushing the clothes in her closet aside, Felicity slides back the piece of plaster that hides her wall safe. She enters the ten-digit code on the touchpad, using the sleeve of a nearby jacket to wipe her prints from the screen after she finishes.

Oliver’s base might be more impressive, but Felicity’s favorite will always be her vault. The walk-in model isn’t large, but it’s custom-built so that it almost disappears into the floor plan of her house. One shelving unit is lined with medications she shouldn’t have access to, but the others contain her variety of weapons and her Deathstroke gear.

It takes her only a moment to grab her new set of throwing knives and her duffel bag. For good measure, she throws in her swords and her gear, just in case she decides to work out some issues on the Triad tonight. Satisfied, she exits the safe, locking up behind her.

She turns back to the closet to exit when something catches her eye. Against one wall is an item of clothing she didn’t push aside with the others, and it makes her stop short. The dress is at least three years old, one of the last remnants of the life she lost in Japan. She bought it for some event or dinner she would have attended with her ex-fiancé, but the tags are still on it.

Even now, Felicity can’t help but admire the dress a little. It’s sleeveless and sky blue with a black lace overlay across the front of the shoulders. The split up the side of the skirt is wide, but another piece of black lace fills it, despite being several inches shorter. The back would cover her wing tattoos perfectly, while still having a diamond- shaped cutout on her lower back.

Felicity grabs it off the rack as an idea hits her. Maybe instead of just moping around in the basement, she could take some time to actually enjoy the nightclub raging overhead, buy a drink at the bar and lose herself in the techno music for a while.

After changing clothes and gathering her duffel bag, Felicity exits the house while texting Roy, Going to Verdant. Don’t wait up.

It takes her about twenty minutes to get to the club, and by then, Verdant is already in full swing. There’s a line of people at the front door, but Felicity has no intention of waiting with them. She parks on the side of the building, using the entrance near the cellar and the basement.

When she arrives at the door, there’s a bouncer standing by it, a hulking man hired for his size and sheer intimidation factor. While he might be daunting to someone else, Felicity could drop him in two hits before slicing his throat with the butterfly knife concealed in her bra.

Fortunately, the bouncer is a familiar one. He’s let her into the club several times before when Oliver has had a computer emergency, so he simply steps aside with a, “Miss Smoak.” No throat-slashing required. She breezes past without a word.

She stops long enough to unlock the basement and drop her bag at the top of the stairs, but then Felicity turns in the opposite direction to the club. For the first time, she steps onto the floor.

Immediately she understands why so many people seem fascinated by the club. Being surrounded by the industrial architecture and the strobe lighting makes the music just a little more powerful, giving the area an almost magical quality.

At this point in the night, the dancefloor seems like a writhing sea of bodies, but the bar is mostly deserted. She drops onto one of the stools in the corner, just next to the cash register.

A bartender with a muscular build and several scars on his face is with her immediately. “What can I get you?” he asks, with all the finesse of a battering ram.

“I’ll take a glass of the Japanese single-malt neat, please,” is her reply. The bartender looks at her as though she’s grown a third eye. “The Japanese single-malt whisky,” she clarifies. “Suntory Yamazaki.”

“We don’t carry that here,” he finally says.

Felicity makes a face; she knows the inventory list here, and she knows Oliver. He’d keep a bottle on hand, even if exclusively for the two of them. “You’ve carried it for almost a month,” she insists.

His eyebrows narrow as he starts to open his mouth, but someone else swoops in. “Is everything okay here?” Tommy asks, barely sparing her a glance. His attention is only on the bartender, which tells her this isn’t the first incident they’ve had.

“No,” is her answer to his question. “What does a girl have to do to get a drink around here, Merlyn?”

His eyes widen as he does a double-take. Self-consciously, Felicity reaches for glasses that aren’t there. “Damn, Smoak,” he finally says, eyes raking over her. “You look…” He struggles for a moment. “Amazing.”

“I’m gonna take it as a compliment that you didn’t say ‘hot,’” she teases.

“You deserve a better description than that.” His head tilts to the side. “If you’re looking for Ollie—”

Felicity saves him the trouble. “I know,” she assures him. “I just wanted to grab a couple of drinks before sleeping it off downstairs.” She makes a face. “Bad day at work.”

“Say no more,” Tommy assures her with that rougish grin. He turns to the bartender. “Whatever Felicity wants, she gets. Her drinks are on the house.” She opens her mouth to protest, but he holds up a hand to stop her. “Ollie said he’d kill me if I ever took your money here.” He motions to himself. “While I’d make a beautiful corpse, I’m not ready to die just yet.” He claps his hands together. “What can I start you off with?”

“The Suntory,” she says, for the third time. She taps her fingers on the bar.

He nods before grabbing the bottle off the top shelf and pouring her a glass. The look on the bartender’s face is priceless. “Suntory Yamazaki is top-shelf,” Tommy explains to him gently. “Not a lot of people ask for it, but we mostly keep a bottle around for Ollie.” His eyes lock on Felicity’s. “This is one of his favorites.” Something makes her think he isn’t just talking about the whisky.

“Rene is new around here,” Tommy explains, in a subtle apology. “He’s still learning.”

“I didn’t grow up with this fancy shit,” Rene adds, his tone the opposite of Tommy’s.

“Me, either,” she replies. “I just spent a few months in Japan.”

Tommy taps the bar, his eyes soft and full of empathy; he seems to understand how much pain went into that sentence. The same hesitation she saw when she told him about Japan touches his expression. “I have to get back to putting out fires,” he declares after a moment. Slowly, so that he doesn’t startle her, he reaches out to pat Felicity’s hand. “Have a better night, Smoak. You deserve it.” He flashes her that grin again. “And if you ever want to talk…” He winks.

“Thanks, Merlyn,” she replies with a wave.

After he walks away, Felicity takes a sip from the glass. The bartender sneers at her. “How many times you have to suck Queen’s dick to get free drinks?” he demands.

The hostility is overwhelming, but Felicity is starting to think it’s this guy’s default setting. She doesn’t let the surprise show on her face. This asshole doesn’t know her, and she isn’t going to give him the satisfaction.

“I don’t really see that it matters,” Felicity replies with a shrug, taking another sip from the glass. “Anything would be more than the zero times I’d suck yours.” She punctuates the thought with a smile so sweet it makes her want to gag.

His face contorts before he leans across the table. “You see all those women out there on the dancefloor?” he asks her. “Queen’s screwed most of them.” Rene crosses his arms. “They don’t last for very long before they become disposable. Neither will you.” He glances off to where another patron waves for him. “Don’t let him define your worth, too.” With that, he walks away.

While he may be mostly wrong about what he said, Felicity knocks back the rest of her drink. Somehow he managed to stumble onto her fears. After Japan, being alone just brings her back to seven months in a metal box. The two months of her crusade lying to Roy had been the hardest months of her life. Sometimes when she’s by herself, that same, thick fog of loneliness rolls up on her again until she thinks she might choke on it. It’s why she couldn’t let Oliver go when she should have. It’s why she couldn’t be alone tonight.

But alone or not, Felicity isn’t going to let anyone talk about Oliver like that.

Armed with a familiar rage now, she pulls her phone out of her bag. During the nights where she couldn’t sleep and was recovering from her injuries obtained during her missions, Felicity was writing code for Oliver’s systems. He might have had the vision to start the club, but it runs because of code she built from the ground up. All of his systems are integrated by her design.

She watches one of the other bartenders swipe their ID card into the system before entering the customer’s order, and she grins. Felicity supposes there aren’t many men named Rene in the system. After typing a few commands, she simply waits.

Another waiter drops a very red cocktail in front of her before pointing to the other end of a bar. “Strawberry daiquiri from the gentleman in the corner,” he says.

Felicity glances toward the man. He’s certainly attractive, with dark hair and striking features. In another life, she wouldn’t have hesitated to accept the drink, if only to strike up a round of light flirting with him. Maybe she would have even gone back to his place for a night of uncomplicated sex.

In this life, she’s done enough self-destructing. Uncomplicated sex just leaves her feeling more empty and alone, and she’s learned all too well the dangers that strange men can hold. Her adrenaline highs come from a different kind of danger now—one that can only be satisfied with a mask and a fight.

Pushing the cocktail back toward the bartender, she replies, “Tell the gentleman I say thank you, but I don’t drink bullshit fruity cocktails and I’m only interested in drinking tonight.”

The bartender remains impassive, nodding once before walking away. He brushes past Rene on his way to the cash register.

Like a predator watching her prey, Felicity smiles. Rene swipes his card once, frowning at the screen. He swipes his ID card a second time, the furrow between his brows growing. “Son of a bitch,” he mutters under his breath.

“Having trouble with the register, Mr. Ramirez?” Felicity asks innocently.

It takes him a full thirty seconds to register her words. Slowly he looks up at her, the confusion written on her face. She holds up her phone, his name still in red where she locked him out. “The reason I drink for free is because I designed the program you’re using exclusively for this club. Not because of any sexual expertise I may or may not have.” She unlocks his ID before pushing her phone back into her bag, noticing that Rene has the decency to look slightly mollified. “You should get to know people before you pass judgment on them.”

“Well, Queen ain’t exactly known for—” he starts.

She rolls her eyes; Oliver hasn’t taken anyone to bed in five years. “Why do you work for him if you hate him?” Felicity asks, circling her finger around the rim of her glass.

Rene only snorts before pulling the bottle of whisky off the top shelf again, refilling her glass. “Who else would be dumb enough to hire a guy with a dishonorable discharge?” he grunts in reply. “Never even asked me about it. Said my background check cleared. Started the next night.” He chuckles. “Bet he didn’t even run one.”

“Oh, he ran a background check,” Felicity assures him. Oliver hates unknown variables; she’d bet everything she owns that he runs all his employees through the ARGUS facial recognition software she hijacked for him. “He just decided to hire you anyway.” Whatever reason he had for hiring Rene Ramirez, it wasn’t made blindly.

Leaning across the bar, she tells him, “I was a hacker in another life.” Rene’s eyebrows shoot up. “Oliver knew that when we met.” She motions to him. “He knew you had a dishonorable discharge and hired you anyway. And Oliver and Tommy both have criminal records.” Her head tilts to the side. “If anyone understands that your past doesn’t define you, it’s Oliver Queen.”

“I could be a maniac for all he knows,” Rene points out.

Felicity hides a laugh by taking a sip from her glass. Rene has a better chance here if he is a maniac; Oliver seems to have a penchant for attracting them. After all, he’s let her into his life. “Then he’s watching you, checking up on your performance, and making sure you aren’t,” she tells Rene. “So you better not be running around at night in a hockey mask.”

He snorts, actually cracking a grin. It makes him look less terrifying. “I ain’t Deathstroke.”

After taking another sip from her glass, Felicity replies, “No, I suppose you aren’t.”

He opens his mouth as if to ask, but another person at the bar flags him down. Rene walks away without another word.

Sighing, she takes another sip from her glass. A man occupies the stool next to her, and she cuts her eyes over at him. The man who tried to buy her a drink earlier.

When he notices her attention, he drops one elbow on the bar, turning to Felicity with a smile that promises trouble—and not the kind she’d want to get into. “Hi, I’m David,” he says.

“I’m here to drink,” Felicity replies flatly.

His eyes harden just the barest amount. She wouldn’t have noticed it before, but she’s seen that look in too many violent men. “So the bartender said when he returned your drink,” he replies, his voice still smooth as honey. “If you don’t like bullshit fruity cocktails, what are you drinking?” He studies her glass. “Bourbon, whiskey, brandy…?”

She takes the last sip from her glass. “I was drinking Japanese whisky,” she replies, raising a hand to flag down Rene. “Now I’m done.”

Mr. Can’t Take a Hint leans closer. “Want to spend some time on the dancefloor?”

“I’m done,” Felicity repeats as Rene shows up. She turns to him, passing him a fifty from her purse. “Thanks for tonight, Rene. I hope this place works out for you.”

Without taking the cash, he holds his hands up. “Tommy said not to take any money from you,” he insists.

Leaning across the bar, she shoves the bill into the pocket on his black silk shirt. “First rule of Verdant?” She smiles. “I’m scarier than Tommy and Oliver put together. Take the money before you upset me.” It must do the trick because he nods. “Goodnight, Rene.”

The creep next to her puts his hand on her thigh, and it takes everything in her power not to rip it from his body and beat him with it. “Don’t be like that, sweetheart,” he calls.

Instead of cutting his hand off, she simply sweeps it off her leg. “Think of me like a window display,” she says. “You can look all you want, but you can’t touch.” All of her frustration for the night suddenly comes out. “I don’t want to make a connection. I don’t want to go back to your place—or mine, for that matter. Go have fun with your hand tonight.”

“It’ll be fun,” the guy tries again.

“She said no,” Rene interrupts, drawing himself up to full height with a dark expression on his face. For the first time, Felicity wonders what he did to earn that dishonorable discharge. “So back off before I call a bouncer over here to escort you out.” The look on his face says he isn’t above taking care of it himself.

Rolling her eyes at the display of male testosterone, she strides off. Despite her casual exterior, her eyes flick back and forth, remembering that article she read about the two men crashing bars and assaulting women. He might have been harmless and drunk, but that doesn’t mean worse won’t be stalking around outside.

Shaking her head, she passes the bathrooms, her focus only on the basement door. She’s gotten jaded because of her vendetta, expecting trouble around every corner.

It turns out that she doesn’t expect it from a dark corner of the hallway.

He comes out of nowhere, hiding in the shadows so that no one expects him. He shoves her into the men’s restroom, then up against the wall, so hard her head spins.

Before she can get her bearings, two more men enter the restroom, locking the door behind them. Both are familiar to her, but her eyes narrow at the bigger one. The persistent asshole from the bar. She’s willing to bet David is a fake name.

The second is dressed in the black slacks and silk shirt of the Verdant bar staff.

“She didn’t take the drink,” he warns. “I couldn’t drug her.”

Felicity never thought that hating strawberry daiquiris would be the thing to save her.

“I couldn’t slip one into her drink, either,” Fake David adds. “She wouldn’t bite and that asshole bartender wouldn’t leave her alone.”

“Sorry to inconvenience you boys,” Felicity quips.

The behemoth with his hand around her throat punches her. When she spits blood, it lands in his face. She’s been hit harder by mafia accountants.

“It’s okay,” Fake David says to Behemoth. “It’s always better when they fight.” When Behemoth steps aside, Fake David leans over her, gathering her wrists in his hands. “What do you say we have some fun, sweetheart?”

In spite of the situation, Felicity starts to feel the excitement build. Maybe this was what she needed tonight. She might not have her mask, but at least she can have the fight. Though rapists may not be her first target, she’s always been glad to come down on them like a ton of bricks.

No doubt they feel safety in numbers. She’s not very tall or very large, and the three of them have her surrounded. They think she’s the one in their mercy—cornered by three men, one of them massive. Three against one isn’t a fair fight at all.

She’ll have to be merciful.

With a predatory smirk, she leans in. “You want some fun?” she whispers to him. “Let me show you how I play.” When she takes his earlobe into her mouth, he stutters out a breath in surprise.

When she bites it hard enough to taste blood, he screams.

Before any of them respond, she jams her knee into his groin as she spits out the chunk of ear. Fake David releases his hold on her, and she slips past them to the left.

All three of them round on her, probably thinking the situation hasn’t changed. Despite the fact she’s still small and there’s still three of them, her current location provides her an advantage: in front of the sinks and urinals. Bathrooms are full of hard, bone-shattering surfaces.

Daiquiri Guy comes at her first, tall but twiggy and awkward. She slides past him, then slams his head against the mirror. It cracks as he collapses, blood dripping off of it.

Behemoth and Fake David come at her at once. Behemoth is slow, giving her ample time to deal with Fake David; a punch to the face stuns him for a moment as he clutches his nose. Behemoth gets a face full of the air dryer on the wall before she jams her foot into the sensitive area between his legs.

Fake David is on her a second later, shoving her back against the mirror. She blocks his punch before slamming his already broken nose into the bottom of a urinal. The vindictive part of her hopes the last person forgot to flush. She elbows him in the back for good measure.

Unable to release Fake David in time, Behemoth is on her again, lifting her away as though she’s a ragdoll. It gives her the opportunity to stick her stilletto heel into his gut, then her elbow into his jaw. It makes him drop her.

Her head cracks against a sink on the way down, causing her vision to swirl. Behemoth wraps his hands around her throat and squeezes until it feels like he’ll break her neck. It takes a moment to realize he’s kneeling over her.

Instead of clawing at her throat, she reaches into the top of her dress for the butterfly knife in her bra. He squeezes tighter as she struggles, causing her to cough. She pulls it free and flicks it open, prepared to push it through his jugular.

A slam startles both of them, causing him to release the pressure on her throat. Felicity takes a heaving breath in surprise as the weight of him is knocked off her.

As soon as she scrambles to her feet, she lunges at him again. A pair of hands catch her, touching her long enough to shove her away. “It’s over, Blondie,” a rough voice says. When her vision stops swirling, Rene Ramirez is standing between her and her next victims. “They ain’t going to hurt you anymore—not in this shape.”

She follows his gaze to the three men, all collapsed on the floor and bleeding. They’re still breathing, but she doubts they’ll be attacking anyone else for a long time.

Blood drips from the surfaces of the bathroom—hers and theirs, but mostly theirs. A dark sense of satisfaction washes over her, and she nods to herself as she flicks the butterfly knife closed, slipping it back into its hiding space.

Rene’s eyes flick from her to the three men. “Looks like you put up one hell of a fight.” He turns to her. “They didn’t…?” He trails off, and Felicity shakes her head. “Good.”

Still panting, she leans against the opposite wall, sliding down it to sit on the floor. Rene keeps an eye on her, but studies the scene. Suddenly, he points. “Is that guy missing part of his ear?”

“It should be around here somewhere,” Felicity replies dryly. “I spit it out.”

He releases a low whistle. “Damn, Blondie.” Rene shakes his head. “You’re tough. Crazy, but tough.”

She cuts her eyes at him. “If you call me ‘Blondie’ again,” she warns, “I’ll do to you what I just did to them.”

Holding up his hands, he assures her, “Whatever you say, Mike Tyson.” He turns toward her. “I need to call the cops and inform my boss.”

“No cops,” Felicity replies immediately. He looks at her like she’s lost her mind. “Get Tommy, then get the bouncer to escort these assholes out of here.” When he doesn’t move, her eyes narrow. “That wasn’t a suggestion,” she growls. It does the trick; he’s out of the room in seconds.

Felicity sits next to the door, admiring her handiwork. One of them stirs, then groans; it might be Fake David. Rising to her feet again, she walks toward them, her heels clicking on the tile floor.

“I hope you had fun,” she whispers to him. He shivers—as he should. “The next time I see you, I’m going to make you understand what it means to be a victim. You’ll get to be the one begging for mercy. You’re going to be the one feeling violated. You’ll be the one asking to stop, to take my hands off you.

“But I won’t. Not until you’re dead.”

 


 

When Oliver walks up to the side entrance of the club, the bouncer snaps to full attention. At one look at the expression on Oliver’s face, he stands aside and holds the door open.

Tommy is already waiting for him. Before Oliver can ask, his childhood friend assures him, “She’s fine, Ollie. A few bruises and a little rattled, but a bartender found her before he could do any serious damage. She went downstairs before I called you.”

“Who was the bartender?” he asks, never breaking stride.

Scrambling to keep up, Tommy answers, “One of the new ones. Rene Ramirez.” Oliver nods once to himself. He thought the former SEAL would be a good addition to the team; his only crime was going too far in order to save lives. If that’s his only flaw, Oliver can live with those circumstances.

“Tell him to wait in my office,” he calls over his shoulder, already entering the keycode for the basement. “I’ll be with him shortly. Make sure we revoke access for the bartender that was part of this—I don’t want to see that bastard in my club again.”

Before he can descend the stairs, Tommy catches his arm. “Promise me you’re not gonna put arrows in these guys,” he demands. Oliver only throws him a look, and Tommy grimaces. “If the Arrow is found going after three men who just tried to attack Smoak, it’s only a matter of time before they start talking to you, Ollie.”

“Not tonight,” Oliver admits finally. It’s not the answer Tommy wanted, but the best he can give. Tonight, he’s worried about Felicity. Once he’s sure she’s all right, he’ll start planning his next steps.

Before Tommy can do much more than sigh, Oliver pushes through the door, taking the stairs two at a time. He doesn’t think his pulse has slowed since he answered his phone and Tommy delivered the news. Oliver can count on one hand the number of times he’s truly been afraid.

He can add one more to the list tonight.

When she’s not at the computer, he walks straight to the bed in the back. A sigh leaves him as he sees her there, asleep and breathing peacefully. Her hair fans behind her in waves, and she seems to be wearing one of his shirts. If not for the bruises forming on her jaw, wrists, and throat, it would seem like a normal night.

Careful to avoid jarring her, he sits on the edge of the bed. Felicity is alert immediately, reaching for the switchblade on the table. It’s open and coming at him within seconds.

He catches her wrist, and she relaxes just as quickly as she startled. When she lays the switchblade on the table again, he notices the green handle. His switchblade. “I’d appreciate it if you’d stop trying to kill me,” he teases.

“You’re supposed to be at a family thing,” is her greeting. “Why are you here?” It takes her a second before she groans. “Tommy called you.”

“Tommy is a very good general manager,” Oliver tells her. “He keeps me informed about the club.” He offers a tentative smile. “And I think he was worried about you.” That makes two of them.

Oliver reaches out to touch her, he draws back at the last minute. The last thing she probably wants is for another man to touch her without her consent.

Reaching out, she places her hand over his. “I’m glad he called you,” is all she says. He threads his fingers through hers, and she doesn’t flinch at his touch. “You’re the least annoying friend I know.

She offers him half a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, and Oliver sobers. “How are you feeling?”

Settling back into the bed, she says easily, “I’ve had worse. My head is spinning, but I mostly just feel tired.” She yawns, emphasizing the thought. “I hit my head, but I had Tommy check my pupils with a flashlight.”

“You shouldn’t be sleeping if there’s a chance you have a concussion,” he tells her gently, though Felicity is aware of that.

“You don’t have to fret about me, Oliver,” she insists. “I had it handled. I think I needed a fight tonight.” Felicity grimaces. “Sorry about the bathroom, by the way. I may have broken a few things.”

“I’m more concerned about you,” he insists, brushing some of the hair away from her face. “If you need to talk about what happened, you can always talk to me.”

Propping her head up on her elbow, Felicity makes a face. “You mean knocking the shit out of three guys who wanted to rape me?” They both flinch at the word. “I’m okay, I think. I was never in any real danger.” A dark smile flits across her lips. “I am the danger, Oliver.”

“I still have the right to be concerned about you,” he answers. Because she doesn’t seem convinced, he changes tacks. “If someone had attacked me tonight—”

“They’d be enjoying their few minutes of life,” she finishes, her tone turning sinister. “I’d go after them the minute I was sure you were safe.”

Oliver looks away. “You have no idea how badly I want to hunt them down,” he confesses. What he doesn’t tell her is what he’d do. They wouldn’t die tonight; they’d live. For a few days at least, but possibly weeks. Their deaths would be a slow agony, and he’d reach a level of nighmare that even she couldn’t imagine.

“I have other plans for them,” Felicity answers cryptically. Sensing his hesitation, she insists. “This is women’s business, Oliver.”

Nodding, he decides that revenge is best served by the Vengeance of Starling. That doesn’t mean he has to like being kept out of the loop.

After they lapse into silence, Felicity sits up, opening her mouth as to say something before closing it several times. “Would it be weird if I asked you for a hug?” She fidgets with her hands. “I know you don’t typically ask when you hug me, but I don’t really do this and—”

“You don’t have to ask,” he assures her. “The answer is always yes.”

She practically throws herself at him, arms wrapping around his neck as she rests her chin on his shoulder. Oliver breathes deep as he holds her tight, the tension in his muscles loosening. She’s here, she’s safe, and she’s mostly okay. That’s more than he could ask for.

Eventually, she releases him, and he places a hand on her arm before rising to his feet. “You’re leaving?” Felicity calls after him in a small voice.

Turning to her, Oliver replies, “I have some business to take care of upstairs, but I’ll be back.” She releases a sigh. Maybe she’s less okay than he thought. Physically, she’ll be fine, but mentally, she might take some more healing. “I need to meet with a bartender who deserves a raise.”

“He does,” Felicity agrees, pulling her butterfly knife out from under her pillow. “I don’t know where you found him, but he isn’t horrible.” She flicks the knife open and closed absently, through a variety of patterns. “I’m pretty sure he thinks we’re sleeping together.”

“What?” is all he manages to say.

“Maybe not sleeping together,” Felicity allows. “But he seemed to think I was getting free drinks because of my oral sex skills.” Oliver releases a surprised cough, his face feeling hot. He needs that idea out of his head before it can cement. “I’m not sure I denied it, either,” Felicity adds thoughtfully. “I was more concerned about knocking him down a notch.” She pats his shoulder. “You should probably correct that.  But the point is that Rene is a good addition to your club, and you should keep him.”

He blinks several times, no words coming out. “Go take care of your business,” she insists in a firm tone. It grows small soon after. “But come back, okay?”

Oliver leans over to kiss her forehead. “Always.”