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Like A Queen

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Even over the roar of his motorcycle Felicity’s voice is clear and steady in his ear as she guides him, Sara, and Roy through the city’s traffic in pursuit of the latest criminal to fall into their radar.

Over the past several months a criminal the FBI has come to nickname “The Shadow” has been steadily moving across the country targeting warehouses owned by major corporations and taking only the highest pieces of tech on the property which, naturally, are also the most powerful and top secret pieces of tech in the company’s possession. It started in Gotham when the newest and shiniest piece of hardware in Wayne Tech seemingly vanished without a trace over the course of an hour, although, because it happened in Gotham, very few bat an eye. It wasn’t until LexCorp and Kord Enterprises were hit that the FBI finally got involved and Felicity, a proud and very protective mama to her digital babies, kept an eye on the investigation and upgraded the security surrounding her beloved Watchtower satellites.

Unfortunately for Felicity, The Shadow, nicknamed because the only footage of the caper has so far been a solitary shadow, has come to Starling City.

Unfortunately for The Shadow, Felicity’s security system is steps ahead of any found in other companies and now the Arrow, the Canary, and Arsenal are all on his back.

“Arsenal, turn left on 8th. Canary, you turn right. Arrow, keep driving him into Mark St,” Felicity orders. “It turns into a dead end; we should be able to trap him there.”

The streets of downtown Starling are still crowded with traffic at this time of night, but it seems that citizens have grown used to seeing a trio of masked vigilantes speed through the city and readily move out of their way. Oliver takes this as a sign of just how much things have changed since he first donned the hood. It’s one thing to have the support of politicians and the police force; it’s another when the people he works to protect back him up too.

Still, even as a blue Corolla switches lanes and honks in approval, he curses when The Shadow’s unmarked black van speeds through yet another green light.

Something doesn’t feel right.

“How the hell is he hitting all of the greenlights?! He’s hitting every single one!”

“It’s like he’s predicting the traffic,” Sara adds, no doubt also feeling that something is off about this guy.

Roy huffs. “Why are you guys complaining? Just drive him into the spot, I’m almost there.”

“He’s turning left into an alley!” Felicity cries out.

Oliver swiftly follows as the van makes a smooth turn into an alley between two brick office buildings, its side mirrors missing the parallel walls by a handful of inches as it drives quickly and, it seems to Oliver, calmly out into a side street and towards the outskirts of town.

The plan was to try and keep the chase in and around the warehouse district, away from people and traffic and the grid. It’s easy to get split up in the downtown area, to get distracted and stuck somehow, and Oliver is starting to see that The Shadow’s drive through the busy streets was a well thought-out diversion. It was like he knew they were coming, like he was prepared.

Felicity’s voice is back in his ear.

“Arrow, a train will be crossing the tracks up ahead in a minute. At the speed you’re going you’re not going to make it across.”

Oliver can hear the train chugging closer and closer towards them; he can see its light seep through the leaves of the trees that line the tracks.

“Arrow, slow down. I’m not even sure if The Shadow will make it across.”

He can see that Felicity is wrong, that The Shadow is calmly driving towards the railroad crossing and Oliver knows that he will make it through in exactly the same way he made it through all of those greenlights.

“Arrow, what are you doing? Slow down!”

He knows that if he doesn’t speed up and get beside him they will lose him.

OLIVER!

He turns off the comm-link with a growl and revs up his speed.

 The Shadow’s van clears the tracks and for a split second he is sure he can follow it across.

He doesn’t.

The train plows through and he slides to a stop so close he feels something sharp and jagged slice through the upper arm of his jacket and his skin. It’s not long before Roy and Sara catch up with him, both of them looking at him wide-eyed and annoyed.

“Felicity is going to kill you,” Sara tells him and he doesn’t dare turn his comm-link back on.

*

Usually, when Oliver returns from a mission the first thing he sees is either Felicity’s bright and proud smile when a mission goes well or her concerned and sympathetic pout when things go south, and when he gets hurt he knows that he will be greeted with warm arms and a face full of blonde hair the second his feet clear the last step on the stairs. Oliver loves coming back from a mission, even if it doesn’t go well and he stumbles into the Foundry cut and bruised, he loves coming home to Felicity’s familiar, pretty face.

Except tonight he dreads it and when his foot clears the last step on the stairs and he is faced with Felicity’s very angry scowl he knows he’s in for it.

Sara, Roy, and Diggle seem to know that too because they race out of her way and basically huddle around the med bay.

When Felicity speaks her voice is low and he thinks it’s worse than her Loud Voice.

“I told you you weren’t going to make it across and yet you still tried to outrun that train even when it was right in front of you. Why?”

“I thought you were wrong.” He knows it’s the wrong thing to say but adrenaline is still pumping in his veins and he is still pissed this asshole got away, so he listens to the stupid voice in his head that tells him to keep going. “You weren’t there, Felicity, you didn’t see how this guy was driving. I knew that he was going to make it and I thought that if I caught up with him then I would too.”

“And then what, Oliver?” Her voice is steadily rising. “Sara and Roy were still behind you. It took seven minutes for that train to clear that crossing, even if you had managed to make it across you would have been completely on your own and we both know a lot can happen in seven minutes. Not that any of it matters since you were just as wrong as I was,” she scoffs. “You didn’t catch up with him and you still got hurt.”

His eyes follow her angry gaze to the bloody patch on his upper right arm where some stray piece of metal from the train seems to have sliced right through his leather jacket.

“It’s just a scratch.”

The cut isn’t dangerously deep and he knows he needs stitches, but it is not by any means the worst injury any of them has ever gotten.

“You need a tetanus shot,” she tells him shortly as she moves towards the med bay.

Oliver follows her while others scurry out of their way.

“No, I don’t, Felicity. Stop overreacting.”

“Yes, you do, Oliver. A dirty and probably rusty train cut you. You need a shot.”

“I’m not getting a shot, Felicity!”

Her ears turn red as she practically growls out, “What is your problem?

What’s yours?

“YOU TURNED OFF YOUR COMM-LINK!”

Her voice echoes in the subterranean space, bouncing off the glass and metal but failing to get past the sound of Oliver’s own heart pounding in his ears.

Now it’s his turn to growl.

You were talking too much. It was distracting.

For a split second Felicity looks like she has just been slapped, but the look is gone before he can react and a calm mask slides over face. Her movement is steady as she gathers her things and when she speaks her voice is strangely smooth and leaves them all feeling uneasy.

“I was just trying to keep you safe, but since I’m just a distraction I think it’s best if I just go home.”

 “What about the satellites?” Sara asks with a gasp. “The Shadow still has them. I thought they were your babies.”

To their shock, Felicity just shrugs as she heads for the stairs. “As important as they are to me, I really just wanted to catch the guy and save us a few hundred million in losses.  There are more important things to protect than some fancy satellites.”

Oliver silently watches her ascend the stairs as Diggle sends him a deadly glare and Roy quietly and worriedly asks, “A-Are we getting a divorce?”

An hour and half after the door closes behind Felicity, a very concerned Donna Smoak calls asking when her daughter is coming home and Oliver feels the ground slip out from under him.

*

Oliver can’t decide if the SCPD’s Headquarters is too loud or too quiet. The only thing he knows for sure is that this nagging feeling of sick déjà vu makes him want to throw up.

In front of him are two white boards – one holding crime scene photos and notes on The Shadow’s latest robbery at the QC warehouse, while the other holds a photo of Felicity’s smiling face and images of her rear-ended car left abandoned in a darkened back alley just outside the Glades.

It didn’t take long for everyone to put two and two together, but as far as Oliver is concerned, it is taking everyone far too long to get any solid leads and bring Felicity back to them.

It’s moments like this that he hates being Oliver Queen, hates his decision to take on a dual identity and a team and questions his decision to even leave the island in the first place. If he hadn’t walked into Felicity’s office that fateful day, if he had gone to someone else, if he hadn’t taken refuge in her car or extended an invitation to join his crusade, she would be safe and sound at home with her mother. He would either be dead or jumping across rooftops in a hood and a mask and not sitting as a useless billionaire CEO in a $400 cotton pullover waiting in bated breath for someone else to do his job for him and fail at it.

He notices a flash of shimmery gold in his peripheral and when he turns to it he watches a teary-eyed Donna tiredly rub her temple.

Oliver finds it hard to believe that just last night he had invited this woman into his home, into the house he had bought for her daughter, surrounded her with their friends and adopted family and assured her that her daughter would be taken care of.

“We’re gonna find her Donna,” Captain Lance had told her when they first came in two hours ago. “Felicity is a smart girl and you and I both know that she is stronger than she looks. Wherever she is, she is gonna make it out and she will come home.”

Two and half hours ago he had picked a ridiculous fight with her daughter and watched her walk out because he let a criminal get under his skin, because sometimes that little voice that has haunted him his whole life, the one that tells him he isn’t good enough, that he isn’t strong or fast or smart enough, gets too loud too ignore and he inevitably takes it out on himself unless someone gets in his way.

Watching Donna numbly chip the bright red nail polish off of her carefully manicured hands, Oliver wants to give her the same reassurance Lance had given her and tell her that he has a team of his own working on finding Felicity, but something in him tells him that it wouldn’t do her much good at this point.

He turns away from Donna and focuses his sight on Lance and Laurel talking animatedly in his office. He is so intent on trying to read their in an attempt to gather any morsel of information that he literally jumps out of his seat when his phone rings.

“We just finished up here at the warehouse,” Diggle tells him hurriedly. “Oliver, none of the microsatellites were taken. According to the inventory the only thing missing is an industrial computer.”

“Do we know what’s on the computer?”

“Your head of AS says that there’s nothing on it yet. Apparently, it’s the computer they were going to use next week to upload the program Felicity created to control the satellites. That’s why The Shadow took Felicity, because she has the program. Gary says she’s been carrying it around with her in that flash drive you gave her for your anniversary.”

Oliver knows exactly which one he’s talking about. He had just about pulled his hair out looking for the best present to give her and he found it in some far off corner of the internet – a two terabyte flash drive conspicuously disguised as a pretty pink tube of lipstick. He remembers how lightheaded he had felt when she opened it with a squeal and then kissed the corner of his mouth in thanks.

He also remembers how proud she was of herself for managing to attach a tracker to it.

*

Despite her splitting headache and the fact that Felicity is about ninety-eight percent sure she has a concussion, this is the most physically comfortable she has felt during a kidnapping.

On the other hand, her level of emotional and psychological comfort is a completely different story.

A little less than thirty minutes ago she found herself waking up in a bright, homey cabin with a headache from Hell, handcuffed to a steel table bolted to the floor, and blearily staring into the face of a man she hasn’t seen since she was six years old.

She remembers being this man’s darling little girl and having him wrapped lovingly around her finger. She remembers his hair being a dark brown instead of dull grey. She remembers that he smelled like old books, printer ink, and sweet cigarillo smoke. She thinks he might still be wearing the same cheap black eyeglasses he wore the day he left her and her mother.

“How are you feelin’ there, Princess?” He kindly asks her, his lips turning up in a smile she once thought she had imagined. “Do you want some water? Or do you have to tinkle?”

She just dumbly shakes her head as she stares up at him, desperately trying to come to terms with the fact that this man is actually standing in front of her.

He takes a seat in front of her and diplomatically clasps his hands on the table, the bright and friendly smile that has been on his face since she woke up still shining bright.

“I don’t think I could ever imagine you being this quiet, Princess. You’ve got to have a whole bunch of questions for me. Go ahead, shoot.”

He’s right; she does have a whole bunch of questions. A mountain of them, in fact. So many she doesn’t even know where to start. Why did he leave? Why didn’t he ever call or write? Why did he run her off the road and kidnap her?

Even without her glasses she can see a familiar beige metal box sitting in a corner of the room along with a few other metal boxes marked with the logos of a handful of corporations and decides that it would be easier to start with business.

“A-Are you The Shadow?”

Her voice is hoarse and her throat is dry. Maybe she should have taken him up on that water.

“The Shadow?” he says with a chuckle. “Oh man, I’m actually surprised the FBI had enough imagination to come up with that one. It is such a better nickname than the one your mother gave me. Do you remember what she used to call me?”

“The Calculator.”

“Yeah! Yeah, she called me The Calculator. Remember how I used to count all the time? I would count the tiles in the bathroom every morning and night and I’d count the number of times you’d run your brush through your hair? She’d say, ‘Noah, the tiles haven’t moved in eight hours. If you’re gonna count something, count cards.’ Remember how mad she got when I taught you how to do that?”

He leans close and for a moment it looks like he considers reaching across the table to take her one free hand.

“See, Felicity, the counting is the reason why I had to leave. It would have been selfish if I stayed. I did the calculations and I knew that if I didn’t leave first I would have destroyed you somehow. I was sick. Do you understand? OCD wasn’t really something people talked about back then, but now I’m on some medicine and my head is a little clearer.”

He finally reaches across the table and lovingly holds her thumb. His hand is clammy and cold and she wants to throw up.

“If… If your head is clearer, then why did you kidnap me? Why did you steal all of those things? What do you need them for?”

“Oh no, they’re not for me. No, I got them for a friend. He’s the reason I had to get you. I would have just knocked on your door or called or something if I thought you would actually give me the time of day, but I can imagine what terrible things your mother must’ve told you about me. And I’m pretty sure that Robin Hood impersonator you hang out with wouldn’t approve of me either. So, I had to do what I had to do.” He gently pats her hand. “I’m sorry, Princess; but you understand. Don’t you?”

“No, I don’t understand. Who’s your friend and what does he want with me? Where is he? Is he here?”

“Yeah, he’s right over there,” he tells her, casually pointing to a large monitor sitting on top a large black metal box in another far corner of the cabin.

“I don’t see him; all I see is the computer. Is he on Skype or something?”

“No, Princess. He is the computer.”

*

The scared and angry look on Donna’s face when he told her he had to go is still haunting Oliver’s vision even as he speeds down the steps into the Foundry.

“Tell me you got her location,” he demands and slams his fists against Felicity’s beloved workstation when the trio standing in front of her computers somberly shakes their heads.

“She put everything related to the satellite program on a separate computer and we don’t have the password for it,” Diggle explains. “Sara managed to figure out that it’s an eight digit numerical password, so we’re guessing it’s a date.”

Roy adds, “We tried everyone’s birthday and the day she graduated from college. We even tried your anniversary.”

“And then we got locked out for two minutes,” Sara finishes.

Oliver stares at the keyboard and thinks hard, he imagines a slender hand with bright blue painted nails speedily pressing the keys as a voice rambles off in his head.

He remembers the day he gave her the flash drive, remembers how her bright smile had turned adorably confused when he called it an anniversary present.

“When you tried our anniversary, did you try 10102012?”

The trio nods their heads.

“Try 02132013.”

Sara’s fingers flash across the number pad and in seconds the password prompt on the monitor disappears and is replaced by a nondescript purple desktop theme.

Diggle chuckles in tired amusement, “That’s the day you revealed yourself to her.”

“Our real anniversary.”

A sharp ping! rings out through the space and is immediately followed by Sara’s triumphant cry.

“I found her! She’s in a cabin in the woods about fifteen miles southwest of the city limits. I’ve sent the coordinates to our phones and to my dad’s. He should be able to meet us there,” she says, as they race to suit up and head out.

*

Felicity stares blankly at the man in front of her for a moment, desperately trying to understand what he has just told her while simultaneously trying to strategize a way out and away from him. She can feel the cylindrical edge of her favorite pink flash drive dig into her leg and hopes and prays that Oliver really remembers as much of what she says as he claims to.

She can tell by his watch that it has been almost three hours since he rear-ended her, knocked her out, and dragged her out of her car. She needs to buy the team as much time as she can so she’s going to do it by doing the thing she does the most – talk.

“What do you mean he is the computer?”

The man practically giggles in excitement. “Oh Princess, I mean just that – he is the computer.”

He keeps calling her ‘Princess’ and it pains her every time she hears him say it. She wants to make him stop. She wants to tell him that she hasn’t been anyone’s princess since he put her down for a nap one afternoon, walked out the door, and never came back.

“I found him late one night about a year ago. See, I was driving through Kansas when suddenly, out of nowhere, my car just stopped. When I got out to look at the engine I noticed these strange lights coming from a field. That’s where I found him. He was in this little black sphere in this crater and he spoke to me. He told me his story and asked for my help.”

 “So he’s an alien?”

“Yes. Well, actually, sort of.  His name is Brainiac. It’s short for Brain Interactive Construct. He explained that he was created by a great scientist on a far off planet. This planet, Krypton, was dying. The scientist created him to help find a way to save it before it destroyed itself, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time. Thankfully, my friend was able to download himself into a satellite and rocket himself away.

“Felicity, something happened when Krypton imploded, a doorway opened, a tear in the fabric of time space appeared and he fell through. Oh God, the things he has told me. The things he has seen. Worlds upon worlds, universes upon universes stacked up on top of one another. He told me all about you, about what you are doing, about what you will do. He told me about your vision for Watchtower and all of the great things that you and your friends will accomplish and he wants to help you.”

His eyes are impossibly wide and his voice is filled with wonder as he recounts his tale and she wonders how long it’s been since he has taken the medicine he is supposedly on.

“H-How is he going to help me?”

“Well, that’s why you’re here. He wants you to let him download himself into the Watchtower’s mainframe when it goes live so he can integrate itself with the code in your Pythia Program. Hehe, ‘Pythia Program’. You and your protégé really take that Delphic theme and go with it.”

“What? I don’t have a protégé.”

She’s trying to keep up with what seems to be the most absurd conversation she has ever had but she’s finding it difficult to do so because she just caught a flash of dark red through the kitchen window and she wants to make sure she makes a mental note to have Sara give Roy a refresher course in ninja-sneaking.

“You will. Brainiac has told me so.”

*

“I got a visual on her,” Roy quietly announces, slinking behind a large bush next to the cabin’s back porch.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure someone got a visual on you, too,” Lance quips into his own comm-link from behind the tree ten feet away from him.

Roy rolls his eyes and continues. “It’s one man. He’s got her handcuffed to the kitchen table in the middle of the room. They’re just talking. She looks a little banged up, but I think it might just be from when he ran her off the road. ”

“The front is clear,” Diggle says clearly and just as quietly. “I got a visual on the stolen goods. He seems to be working alone on this.”

Oliver takes a deep, steadying breath.

“All right, let’s do this.”

*

Felicity is very proud of herself for not jumping as high as her father did when the Arrow and Arsenal burst through the back door with their bows up.

She does, however, scream when her father reaches for the gun she never saw he had tucked into his pants and then manages a gasp when a green fletched arrow immediately cuts through the air directly into his raised arm and is speedily followed by a red fletched arrow that buries itself into his left thigh. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks about the happy sob that escapes her when she feels Oliver’s hands on her shoulders and hears him call Lance and the rest of the team in as Roy kicks the gun away and works to zip tie her father to the refrigerator door handle.

“Don’t hurt him too badly. Or, at least not more than you already have,” she pleads as Lance works to free her from the chair and Diggle and Sara make a quick sweep of the building before calling it clear. “His name is Noah Kuttler and he’s kind of my father.”

“Kind of?” he moans indignantly from the refrigerator door, grasping at his wounded leg with his good arm. “Oh, Princess, just tell them! Please, tell them what I told you!”

“Tell us what?” Oliver growls at him. “Why did you take all of these machines? What do you want with the satellite program?”

Noah looks up at him with a cold and angry stare, holding his chin up high even as he grits his teeth in pain.

“He’s sick,” Felicity answers. “He was talking about some alien friend from the planet Crouton who lives in that computer over there. He said that this Brainiac wanted me to do something for him.”

She feels more than hears Lance’s triumphant ‘Got it!’ when he finally gets the handcuffs unlocked. “Don’t worry, Sweetheart. I’ve got my men on their way; we’ll get him the help he needs. Both mentally and medically,” he assures her, giving Oliver a pointed look as he begins to lead her out of the room, dropping a quick kiss on her head.

With Roy busying himself with the mound of stolen computer parts and the sight of Felicity limping and half-leaning on Lance as she slowly makes her way out of the room becoming enough to distract Oliver, Noah manages to finally stretch his unharmed arm long enough to reach his ankle

Felicity can see and Diggle waiting in their wonderfully familiar van and Sara on her phone, presumably with Laurel. She turns back at the sound of Noah’s grunt and the click that immediately follows it, sees the small handgun flash in the soft kitchen light.

“DAD, GET DOWN!”

She shoves Lance onto the ground with everything she has and barely hears the POP! of the pistol or Noah’s cry as Oliver shoots another arrow into him, this time into his chest. She is surprised at the funny burning feeling in her right shoulder and briefly wonders why she is on the ground before everything around her turns to black.

*

It’s moments like this when Oliver is grateful to have been born a Queen.

After the ambulances came to collect both Felicity and her father he managed to change out of his leathers in record time and still meet Donna, Laurel, and a very angry Thea at the hospital. Thankfully, despite her anger at being left out of the loop, Thea had the presence of mind to drop her name once or a dozen times so Felicity could get the best possible care and they could get their own private waiting area while she is in surgery.

He’s grateful that Lance has never asked the Arrow or his crew to give a statement because he really doesn’t remember exactly what happened. He just remembers the flash of the gun and Felicity’s cry. He doesn’t remember putting an arrow in her father but he remembers the stricken look on Roy’s face when he rushed to her side while Lance got on his radio and called for help. He thinks he remembers Lance calling him by his name and telling him to leave before the area was swamped with cops and medics and Sara and Diggle dragging him and Roy away. He doesn't remember Diggle putting a familiar pink flash drive into his pants pocket.

He does remember wishing he had shot Noah Kuttler in the chest the first time.

It’s been two and half hours since Felicity and Noah were brought in and he can see that the sun is just now beginning to rise over Starling City and filter into the quiet waiting room. He can see that Roy and Donna have stopped sniffling and by the way Thea’s thumb is rubbing calm circles on Roy’s wrist that she is not asleep despite not having opened her eyes in almost twenty minutes. He can see the burgundy toe nail polish on Laurel’s feet as she finally kicks off her shoes and buries herself into her father’s side along with her sister; and he can see worried frown etched onto Digg’s face as he hurriedly texts with Lyla despite how pale and tired he clearly is because they have all agreed that there is no way Noah Kuttler is going anywhere but Lian Yu if he makes it out of surgery alive. They don't care what kind of massive fit Lex Luthor throws, The Calculator will go to the Super Max and Luthor can keep that black metal box of a computer.

He sees a flash of gold and watches as Donna slowly takes a sparkly and love-worn scrapbook out of her tote bag.

“I forgot I had this,” she half-whispers beside him. “I made this for her when she graduated college and moved out here so she could have a keepsake from home. She never took it with her though.”

He, Thea, and Roy look at the scrapbook in wonder as Donna quietly and slowly flips through the pages.

They marvel at the tiny hand and footprints and the lock of dark blonde baby hair and neither can’t help but smile at the sight of a slightly wide-mouthed little girl with light brown hair, green glasses, and a bright frilly floral dress holding a Beauty and the Beast lunch box over her head with an air of pride and glee only a four year old can manage.

They frown at the sight of a now familiar looking man with brown hair, cheap glasses, and Felicity’s ears. Donna chokes back a sob.

“I still can’t believe Noah would do all of this. He adored Felicity. He used carry her on his shoulders everywhere. He used read to her every night and play these silly computer games with her when she came home from school,” she quietly rambles. “Then again, I never thought he was the kind of person who would leave his whole family behind either.”

Oliver solemnly shakes his head. “He was sick, Donna. He is sick. He thought that you two would be better off without him, that he was protecting you.”

“No, he was protecting himself. He thought it would be selfish to stay but it was the wrong kind of selfish to push us away. He was always off doing his little calculations. He calculated what would happen if he stayed, but he never calculated what would happen to us if he left. He was my best friend. We were partners. I would have tried to help him if he had stayed. It hurt me when he left, but it just about destroyed Felicity. She had gone from this bright, happy, outgoing little girl to this frightened and insecure little thing.”

There is an old flame sparking behind her eyes now, fueled by unshed tears and histories left untold.

“She was so afraid of someone leaving her again, of losing someone else,” she continues. “Whenever I left the room I would have to tell her where I was going. Then, when we moved in with my sister and her husband, whenever someone would try to leave the house she would stop them and ask them where they were going and then take inventory of where everyone was. ‘Mommy, you’re going to work? Aunt Cheryl is in the kitchen and Uncle David is in the garage, right? Okay, Mommy, I’ll be here when you come back.’ She did that for years. A part of me is actually glad she outgrew it when she hit that Goth-y/teenage rebellion phase.”

 Donna flips the scrapbook to a picture of a frowning, black-haired, barely recognizable Felicity and Thea’s eyes grow impossibly wide while Roy looks like he’s suddenly on the verge of an existential crisis.

Oliver smiles softly at their reactions and places a comforting hand on Donna’s knee. “I think we’re all glad that Felicity is back to being her bright, happy, outgoing self.”

She takes his hand into hers, grasping his fingers tightly. Her voice is a whisper he struggles to hear, but the fire in her eyes sends her message loud and clear.

“You won’t abandon her, too, right? I’ll admit I was worried about her involvement with you, given your track record. But I’ve seen the way you look at her and you’ve given her this wonderful little family. Promise me you won't push her away, too.”

The day before yesterday, in between preparing the pot roast and cleaning up the house, he had taken out the small black velvet box he keeps hidden in his gym bag, stared at the emerald ring tucked carefully inside and practiced the words he hoped to say to the woman sitting beside him. He had wanted to tell her that her daughter is the most remarkable, most intelligent, kind, and loving person he has ever met and he wants to thank her for giving him his best friend. He wants to tell her that he most probably doesn’t deserve her daughter, but he will gladly spend the rest of his life trying to make her as happy as she has made him.

The day before yesterday he had had a whole speech prepared and now he can’t remember a single word of it.

“I promise,” he says with so much conviction it just about takes her breath away and she smiles.

“Good, now do us all a favor and tell her that when she wakes up.”

*

Felicity wakes up from surgery about six hours after being admitted.

The bullet had gone clean through her shoulder, thankfully missing any major organs and arteries and every single person in the waiting room finally felt like they could breathe when the doctor assured them that, after some physical therapy, Felicity was expected to make a full recovery.

Still, when Oliver is finally allowed to see her, the sight of her in her bed, pale, her hair a complete knotted mess, hooked up to about three different machines is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen because she is alive and awake and smiling at him like he is her favorite person in the whole wide world.

“There’s my fella!” she slurs, weakly wiggling the fingers on her good hand.

“And there’s my girl,” he chuckles as he takes her hand and is surprised by the strength by which she grasps his fingers. “How do you feel?”

“A little sore and also, maybe, a little high.” Her eyes are a little glazed but she sighs happily when he strokes her tangled mane with his free hand.

“I’m sorry about your dad.”

She shakes her just a little. “He stopped being my dad when he walked out the door. Captain Lance is my dad now. I decided. He cried.”

Oliver did hear the other man sniffling when they walked past each other in the hallway.

She seems very proud of her decision but then frowns when she hears the serious and heavy tone of his voice.

“Felicity, there’s something I want to tell you –“

“Oh God, Baby Bear Roy was right, you do want a divorce!” she groans, moving her head away from his warm hand and shutting her glassy eyes tight.

They don’t stay closed, however, when she feels both of hands gently cup her face and he looks her square in the eye with an intensity he usually saves for the Arrow.

“I would never divorce you.”

She hums, once again happy when he kisses her crown and leans his forehead against hers, their noses just barely brushing against one another.

“I’m so sorry for the way I acted before,” he tells her, his voice low and rumbly in a way that makes her chest feel tight in a really good way. “I was frustrated with the chase and I am so sorry I took it out on you. I know you were just trying to take care of me. I don’t think you talk too much and I definitely don’t think you’re a distraction. You keep me focused. You give me something to come home to and I promise I will always do my best to come back to you.”

“You really promise?”

“I do.”