In the recesses of a smoky bar somewhere past the Florida-Georgia line, SHIELD agents Natasha Romanoff and Felicity Smoak knock back drinks at a stained wooden table and study the amber bottle because it’s easier to admit their weaknesses to the whiskey than each other. Even after three rounds Felicity finds herself turning her empty shooter endlessly, fingertips leaving oval smudges on the glass. She doesn't feel the burn of the alcohol; she feels hollow and aching and bone-weary after five months infiltrating Starling City to locate and tag the Green Arrow, a vigilante gone to the dark side over the course of three years and a mounting body count. Taking out the SHIELD operative assigned to the city’s underbelly had been the archer’s undoing. Watching the man she had come to understand fall, a perfect triangle of bullets through his heart from Natasha's steady hands, might be Felicity’s.
Natasha pours them another splash of liquid forgetfulness, setting the bottle down on the tacky surface of the table, and toasts her friend with a softened, regretful smile.
“To the job,” she murmurs, everything else she cannot say aloud in her expression: that she understands what it is to find the remnants of a good man under scars and betrayals and blood red hands, that she knows Felicity’s history and the question that haunts her friend.
Felicity tries to smile back and fails as she lifts her own glass. She swallows the whiskey quickly, wishing it burned enough to cause the tears in her eyes, and slams the glass down with more force than she meant to. The alcohol won't wash away the question that's looking back at her through the wistful resignation in a dying man’s eyes. She'll never know the answer, can never know the answer, and that still doesn't stop it.
If SHIELD hadn’t recruited her - if she had still been just a tech girl in Starling City, had joined Queen Consolidated as she always planned - would things have gone any differently?