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Raining Pitchforks

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With a groan, Felicity rolls onto her left side again.  The soft glow of her alarm clock informs her it’s two a.m. again, but there’s little she can do to help it.  Three long years, and she still can’t sleep when it’s raining.

It felt like it rained every day in Japan, coming down in floods for what felt like months at a time.  If her home had a tin roof, it would recreate the scenario:  hours spent in a dark room with only the sound of raindrops to keep her company.  There were times she could hear the sound of drips on metal even when it wasn’t raining—and not always while she was awake.  It haunted her dreams and nightmares until she thought she had succumbed to insanity.

At least this time, the sound of the rain isn’t just in her head.

A streak of lightning illuminates the whole room for a moment, followed shortly behind by a thunderclap.  Felicity bolts upright in bed at the sudden noise, heart pounding in her chest.  Her fists clench the blanket so tight that her hands shake.  With a sigh, she relaxes them, but the shaking doesn’t stop.

Growling under her breath, Felicity curses the adrenaline surge with a few choice words.  Despite her exhaustion, sleep isn’t going to be possible for her tonight.  Instead, she’ll be counting her breaths and staring at her alarm clock for something to do.  Maybe it will be boring enough this time that it puts her to sleep.  If not, it will just mean another morning of pretending everything is fine.

Maybe the sleep deprivation is making her imagine things, but she thinks Roy is starting to notice just how many sleepless nights she has.  She managed to hide it well enough when she had her bathroom full of cosmetics to herself at her mother’s house, but things are different now.  Sometimes Roy catches sight of her before those carefully applied layers of concealer are hiding the dark circles under her eyes.

Thankfully, Roy isn’t asking questions now.  He does try to give her space, but there will be a point where his concern overtakes his respect for her privacy.  At that point, Felicity will either have to come up with a clever lie, or tell him the truth.  Both seem equally distasteful.

Lights streak across her windows again, and Felicity forces her eyes closed, waiting for the inevitable clap of thunder that will follow.  When it doesn’t come, she opens her eyes again.  The light is too prolonged to be lightning, almost like headlights.

Frowning, she throws herself out of bed, pulling the blinds apart to peek through the window.  The glow from the headlight gives her the silhouette of a motorcycle, stationed in the middle of the puddle in her yard.  She snorts; his luck might actually be worse than hers.

Another streak of lighting drops from the sky, illuminating his soaked, gray hoodie and jeans.  He turns the ignition several times, but the bike does nothing more than groan.  It takes her a few moments to realize he’s stuck.

By the time the thunder echoes this time, she’s too distracted to hear it.

Shoving her glasses onto her face, she scrambles in the dark for any clothes strewn across her bedroom floor.  She picks up the first shirt, bra, and pair of jeans she can find and exchanges them for her pajamas at record speed.  She’s still pulling her shirt over her head as she takes long strides toward the shoe rack by the door.

Felicity stops only long enough to pull on her black rain boots, covered with multicolored polka dots on them.  She adjusts her ponytail before grabbing one of Roy’s hoodies from the coat rack, zipping it up as she pushes the front door open.  She pulls the hood over her head as she flies down the porch steps.

Her steps slow only as she navigates the partial lake her yard has become, wading up to the opposite side of the motorbike from him.  Instead of saying anything, Felicity grabs the handlebar on her side of the bike.  The fingers of her other hand overlap his as she reaches for the seat.  Oliver only looks up long enough to register her presence before he starts pushing the bike forward again.

They’ve barely begun when Felicity’s muscles start aching from the effort.  When the wind picks up, it blows a spray of rain into her face.  Frowning, she tucks her glasses into her hoodie in an effort to see better before she starts pushing again.

Her shoes sink deeper into the mud as she tries to force the bike forward, and she turns sideways so she can shove it forward with her shoulder.  Slowly, the wheels turn, moving toward the shed next to her house.  They both manage to lean it against the wall next to her seventies-model Beetle, panting for breath.

After a glance toward the locked back door, Felicity turns to Oliver, pointing toward the porch.  After a long look, the two of them break into a sprint at a same time.  The rain is cold and unforgiving, and her shoes sink too deep into the mud, making her steps awkward.

In her attempt to keep up with Oliver, Felicity’s feet tangle in the mud.  Before she can land in the muck, he catches her arm.  His hand slides down to hers, lacing their fingers together.  She smiles under the hood of her jacket; for once, having a partner has its advantages.

When they reach the front porch, the both stop under the awning to catch their breath.  It isn’t long before Felicity’s teeth start chattering, her clothes hanging from her like a lead weight.  Even through her rain boots, her feet are soaked and freezing, hands shaking from the chill.  When she pulls the red hood back, it’s to discover her hair is dripping, too.

One look at Oliver shows he isn’t in much better shape.  His probably-expensive shoes are caked in enough mud that she can’t tell what color they are.  When he leans forward with his hands on his knees, water drips off the end of his nose, from his hair, and down his chin.

A long moment passes, but finally, he rises and takes a step closer.  After meeting her eyes, his face breaks into a smile wide enough to warm even her dead heart.  They’ve been stomping around in worst thunderstorm this year, and yet he looks like a scene straight from The Notebook.  If her heart hadn’t shriveled up and died three years ago, it might have ached at the beauty of Oliver Queen.

Even now, it manages to skip a beat.

Shaking her head, she realizes that he’s standing on her porch again.  It was only a few weeks ago she found him in this same spot, working up the courage to knock.  She thought taking down Deadshot would be the last time she saw him, but he keeps coming back.  He had indicated he didn’t plan on letting her go, but now she's starting to believe it.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying to push him away, either.  When she woke up in his hideout after he had patched her up, Felicity realized Oliver was one of the few, truly good people in the world.  Though there are dark parts of him that are capable of becoming a nightmare, they’re buried deep under compassion.  Even broken and lost, Oliver Queen is far better than she’ll ever deserve.

He could be her salvation, but she would be his damnation.

That’s why she told him what kind of monster she is:  one who enjoys revenge, watching the men who destroyed her die at the end of her sword.  Instead of pushing her away, he showed her more kindness.  Despite the things she’s done, he offers her the same smile he did before.  She didn’t know how much she needed that until he gave it to her.

She knows she should let him go, before her darkness devours him, just as it has so many people since Japan.  He’ll walk away eventually, and losing him then might even have the power to rip her apart.  She should shut him out now, before it can really hurt.  It would be the safe choice.

Felicity is tired of making safe choices.

Oliver studies her for a long moment, smile fading when she doesn’t match it.  “I hope I didn’t wake you,” he says, breaking the roar of her thoughts.  “I was going to use the key and stay on your couch.  I can’t face going home right now, and if I stayed at the base…”  He trails off, but Felicity doesn’t need the rest of that sentence to understand.  Sometimes, when surrounded by her gear and her swords, it reminds her what she’s become.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember a time when she didn’t carry that weight on her shoulders.  On her worst days, her deepest fear isn’t dying, or being arrested:  it’s that she wouldn’t recognize happiness now if she felt it.

Though Felicity doubts she’ll be given the opportunity.  Monsters never get happy endings.  They get coffins instead.

A hand cups her shoulder with a feather-light touch, causing her eyes to snap up to Oliver’s.  His half-smile pulls her mind from its musings—a far better place for it to be.  “Are you okay?” he asks quietly.  The concern is etched into his features.  It’s been a lifetime since anyone other than Roy gave a damn about her.

Swallowing a bitter laugh, Felicity fights the urge to tell him she hasn’t been okay in three years.  She shakes her head, deciding to avoid the question.  “You didn’t wake me,” she assures him, pulling her wet glasses from her pocket and sliding them onto her face.  “I couldn’t sleep.”

Before he can ask questions, she motions to their very wet clothes.  “Let’s go warm up and get out of these wet clothes.”  She turns toward the door before she realizes the innuendo in her words.  Cringing, she turns back to Oliver, who watches her with a slight uptick of his lips.  “Not in the fun way.  I wasn’t hitting on you.”

As soon as she steps into the house, Felicity flips the light switch, shivering as hot air meets her wet clothes.  She vaguely hears the door close as Oliver enters behind her, but she’s too determined to strip out of her wet clothes.  As she kicks off her shoes, she unzips the borrowed hoodie and lets it fall to the ground.  Her jeans and shirt follow suit, until she’s standing in her underwear.

When she turns back to Oliver to say something, the words die in her throat.  Oliver’s hoodie and shoes have joined hers on the floor, his current focus on peeling off his soaked shirt.  Her breath catches as her eyes flick to his exposed abdomen.

His muscular build is hardly a revelation; she wouldn’t expect anything else from the Arrow.  But knowing it and seeing it are two very different things.  Though his scars are prominent, she barely notices them beyond the six-pack of abdominal muscles.  A vertical line of Chinese characters is tattooed on his left side, just above the V of his pelvic bones.

Felicity jumps as though she’s been hit with a cattle prod, pulling her eyes back to his face.  “Just stay here and drip on the tile,” she suggests.   “I’ll bring you the bag of clothes I stashed for you.”

His eyes meet hers long enough for him to nod, falling to the floor without so much as a glance downward.  Despite the fact he’s seen and touched more of her than anyone else in nearly four years, he still averts his eyes.  A smile plays on her lips.  She hasn’t thought of her body as anything more than a weapon for years, but the privacy is still welcome.

A fresh set of pajamas later, Felicity reaches for the top shelf of her closet, where Oliver’s duffel bag sits untouched.  She has to stand on her toes to reach it, barely pulling it out with the tips of her fingers.  When she carries it back to him, she’s careful not to let her eyes wander anywhere but his feet.  It’s been a long time since she felt a spark of attraction for anyone, and she’ll be damned if she allows it to happen with Oliver.

If there’s one thing consistent about Felicity’s life before and after Japan, it’s that her relationships are messy, complicated, and disappointing.  An innocent fling in college ended with him in prison, and her latest ex… well, there’s a reason she had to change her phone number.  After those experiences, she isn’t eager to experience relationships again.

It’s nestled somewhere between being stabbed and having her ribs broken on the list.

Dropping the bag at Oliver’s feet, Felicity turns away, rushing to her bedroom to clean up the clothes scattered around her floor.  While her wet clothes went into the washer as the next load, the items from her bedroom go into the bin in the corner of her laundry room.

Before finding Oliver again, Felicity stops in the doorway of Roy’s room, pushing the door open a crack so she can check on him.  He’s snoring away as expected, but some part of her needs to make sure he’s still safe.  Felicity smiles at his deep sleep, uninterrupted by the commotion of Oliver’s entrance.

Somehow she ended up becoming his guardian after everything that happened.  Her mother had been reluctant to parent him because he wasn’t blood, which left only Felicity to look after him.  He had taken her absence during Japan hard, hotwiring cars and picking pockets.  Their reunion had taken place during visitation hours in a juvenile facility.

Fortunately, there had only been one scare after that.  She had to pick him up at the police station once after a rookie officer had hauled Roy in without any proof.  Felicity had handled most of the interrogation until Detective Lance, who was working Juvenile Division then, had intervened and corrected the mistake.  Roy has been at home every night since—precisely where he belongs.

The washer starts, causing Felicity to jump.  She turns to find Oliver in the laundry room, closing the lid and now fully dressed in dry clothes.  With a few strides, she’s next to him, pushing him aside to make sure he hasn’t screwed up her appliances.

When she’s satisfied he hasn’t broken anything, she tilts her head to look up at him.  “Since when have you ever done laundry, Queen?” she teases.

The corner of his mouth quirks up.  “When I was in China,” he starts in a careful voice, “I lived with my handler and his family.”  His expression saddens at something far away—some tragedy from years ago that still plagues him.  “His wife insisted she wouldn’t be my maid.”

“She should have let you cook for them instead,” Felicity laughs.  “The breakfast you made after you stayed.”  She tilts her head to the side.  “And the udon you made last week was divine.  I would gladly do laundry and dishes as long as you cooked.”

“Tatsu was the one who taught me how to make udon,” he replies.  Instead of explaining further, he holds up the duffel bag as a change of subject.  “I’m not sure where you had this.”

Taking it from him, she motions behind her, to the hallway.  “I had it stored in the top of my closet, where it wouldn’t be bothered.”  She starts in that direction.  “Here, I’ll show you.”

Though Oliver follows her, he stops in the doorway to her bedroom.  Felicity continues to her closet, trying to lift it back on the shelf.  Even on the tips of her toes, she misses the shelf entirely.  Growling under her breath, she hops to push it onto the shelf, but it falls back into her hands.

Before she can try again, a hand falls on her shoulder.  “Let me,” Oliver offers, taking the duffel from her hands.  The extra six inches he has on her allows him to push the bag onto the shelf without even standing on his toes.

It creates a strange sort of longing in Felicity.  She can’t put a name to it, but she doubts she’d want to anyway.  This time, it isn’t romantic, but it consumes her and makes her feel hollow all at once.  Of the many things she’s given up to be Deathstroke, there’s only one that regularly bothers her.

Companionship.

Most of the time, the desire is absent, but small things remind her of what she’s given up.  Felicity is under no illusions that she’ll spend the rest of her life—-probably a short one—alone.  She knew that when she made her choices.  That’s enough for her on normal days, but sometimes the bitterness creeps into mind.  Seven months alone in a cell helped her find many things, but not an immunity to loneliness.

Deciding that her close proximity to Oliver isn’t a good idea right now, she drops onto the bed, crossing her legs underneath her.  A myriad of thoughts pass through her mind, but she lets the amiable silence linger between them.  Even with the storm outside, it’s a rare moment of peace.

After a few quiet moments, Oliver moves to stand next to where she sits.  He rubs circles on the side of his index finger with his thumb for a few heartbeats before sitting next to her.  Felicity bites back a smile; he’s finally learning that he can make himself comfortable at the house.

He opens his mouth to speak once, but closes it again.  Oliver hesitates several more times before his expression finally falls.  All the feelings he usually keeps bottled up show in his expression.  “Tommy knows,” he offers quietly.  His voice is soft and raw, telling Felicity all she needs to know about the encounter:  it’s raining pitchforks on Oliver, but Tommy Merlyn won’t be handing out an umbrella any time soon.

“I’m sorry,” is all she can think of to say.  It doesn’t seem like enough; Oliver only finds something interesting to stare at on her carpet.  “To be fair, though…”  His eyes meet hers again.  “It’s a lot to take in.”  Felicity waves a hand.  “I mean, I didn’t even know you, and I processed my way through a pint of mint chocolate chip that night.”  When the corners of his lips turn up, Felicity crosses her arms over her chest.  “I stress eat.”  That soft, breathy sound escapes him, somewhere between a sigh and a laugh, but he sobers too quickly for her liking.

She reaches for the hand he has resting on her mattress.  “My point is that you should give him some time to come to terms with this,” Felicity clarifies.  “Just because he reacted badly tonight doesn’t mean it’s always going to be like this.  If he has any sense at all, Tommy will realize you’re doing a service for this city, and that he should be proud to call you his friend.”

The smile that forms is so soft that she almost misses it.  “I think you might be a little biased,” he decides after a long moment, “but thank you.”  He opens his mouth as if to say more, but stops as a series of emotions flickers through his features.  With slow movements, he leans in, placing his hand on her upper arm.  Seconds later, his lips press against her temple.

It isn’t the first time he’s kissed her, but it still causes her to catch her breath like the very first one.  Since Japan, she’s flinched away from any form of contact, but Oliver is different.  For someone who is used to the darker side of human contact, he’s incredibly tactile.  When words fail him, he’s often eager to reach for her arm or shoulder instead.

Kisses, though, are rare.  Most often, his lips find their way to her temple.  Sometimes he’s bold enough to kiss her cheek instead, but never anywhere else.

There are times when Felicity wishes he’d be brave enough to kiss her on the lips.  That might be enough to get the residual attraction to him out of her system—and it might even be enough to push the loneliness aside for a few weeks.  As much as she’d like to test the theory herself, part of her is afraid it would only feed the addiction.  The last thing she needs is to develop… feelings for Oliver Queen.

Dismissing that urge, she shoves his chest instead, pushing him back until he’s lying on the bed.  “Get some sleep, Oliver,” she insists as she rolls onto her side, facing away from him.  At the same time she puts her glasses on the nightstand, she pulls the blankets over both of them.  “I can’t watch nature documentaries with you now.  I have to get up at six for work, so you can’t keep me up all night.”

Another breathy laugh leaves him, and she swears in Japanese at the accidental innuendo.  “I meant you can't keep me up all night by continuing to talk to me,” Felicity clarifies, rolling her eyes.  “Get your mind out of the gutter, Oliver.”

“If mine is in the gutter, it followed yours,” is his retort, a smile lingering in his voice.  “It feels like you proposition me every five minutes.”

Accidentally proposition you,” Felicity corrects.  “You’re nice to look at, Queen, but that’s where the fun ends for us.”  She sighs.  “The only significant other I have in my life is Deathstroke, and she makes a lot of demands on my time.”

“I know,” Oliver replies, shifting in the bed.  “If I thought you did it on purpose, I would have turned you down months ago.”  It’s his turn to sigh.  “I can barely juggle my family and the hood.  Starting a relationship now would just complicate things.”

She snorts.  “I thought you graded complexity on a curve.”

“Not when it comes to relationships,” Oliver replies with a chuckle.  “I’m capable of ruining those even when they are simple.”

Felicity says nothing.  That might be something they have in common:  her last relationship should have been perfect, but it still crashed and burned.  Instead of telling him that, she just adjusts her pillow.

“By the way, Felicity?” Oliver calls in a quiet voice, his breath against the edge of her ear.  He wraps an arm around the bottom of her ribcage, causing her to tense before leaning into the touch.  Maybe inviting him to share her bed was a better idea than she thought.

“Tomorrow is Saturday, and you don’t work weekends,” he whispers to her, as if sharing a great secret.  “You’ll have to find a better excuse.”

“I haven’t slept in forty-eight hours,” she tries this time, her voice dropping to a whisper.

“Me either,” he replies.  For a long moment, the only sound is the rain on the roof, but then he asks, “Do you ever have nightmares about hurting the people you love?”

Felicity turns over so that she can face him.  Oliver loosens his grip so she can, but he pulls her closer than ever when she’s done.  He smells like expensive cologne and the rainstorm outside.  Warmth radiates from him, just like it does from one of his smiles.  She’ll never understand why someone so gentle is forced to suffer such horrors.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Felicity assures him.  “You couldn’t hurt them on purpose if you wanted to.”  She reaches up to place her hand on his cheek.  “If anything ever happens and you do try, I’ll be there to stop you.”

She’s almost positive he kisses the top of her head.  “I might just hold you to that,” he answers after a long moment.

After pushing her cold toes between his ankles, Felicity threads her arm under his and over his side.  Buried in his arms, the same rain that kept her awake earlier now seems miles away.  If he can fight away her fears, the least she can do is offer the same for him.

“Sweet dreams, Oliver,” she finally mutters against his shirt.

His chin touches the top of her head before he whispers back, “Sleep well, Felicity.”

 


 

Roy slaps the snooze button on the alarm clock, rolling over with a groan.  Of all the times he has to go into the garage early, Saturday is the worst.  The extra money is nice, but it would be nicer if he could sleep in until noon.  Sighing, he wipes the sleep from his eyes.

It takes him a moment longer to realize the house is eerily quiet—no creaking of floorboards or spray of the shower to let him know Felicity is moving around.  He can’t remember the last time she wasn’t up and making those little, subtle noises; between having to get up at six for work and her insomnia, she’s always awake.  Maybe that means she’s finally sleeping again.

She hates to talk about it, but he knows she hasn’t been sleeping.  The dark circles that always seem present under her eyes only seem to be darkening, and no amount of makeup application can hide the way her eyelids droop.  Maybe she’s finally broken the cycle.

Sighing, Roy rises from his bed and throws on a T-shirt and jeans.  It isn’t often he gets the chance to do things for her, but today might be a good time to get breakfast from the little bistro down the street.

He moves to the doorway of the house, grabbing his keys of the key rack.  Roy turns to grab his hoodie from the coat rack on the other side, only to discover it isn’t where he left it.  God knows he wouldn’t leave it anywhere else; Felicity likes everything in its place and she’s chewed his ass more than once for leaving his stuff lying around the house.

Frowning, he turns toward the washer and dryer in the back.  Maybe Felicity washed it for him.  It wouldn’t be the first time she's done nice things like that for him.  The last time she worked late, she brought him dinner from the Mexican place over on Eighth that he loves and she hates.  It seems like every other day she’s fixing his computer.   Washing his hoodie would just be another nice thing on the list he needs to make up for.

Not that Felicity keeps score.  She wouldn’t give a damn if he didn’t do anything around the house.  She might try to hide it, but he knows she hates being alone.  There might not be a balancing scale between them, but Roy thinks it’s weighted a little heavy in his direction.

The dryer is full of an assortment of dark clothes and jeans, but he shoves one of her t-shirts out of the way to find a speck of red peeking through.  After tugging, his red hoodie pulls loose of the mess, attached to a gray hoodie that is not his.

He stares at it for a moment.  At first he thinks it might be Felicity’s, but it’s a men’s hoodie way too large for either of them.  It takes Roy a moment too long to remember Oliver’s increasingly common visits.  Maybe he left it and Felicity wore it.  She wouldn’t return it without washing it first.

Shrugging, he pulls on his hoodie and turns for the door again.  After patting his pockets, Roy realizes he left his wallet in his room.  He retrieves it before starting again, but drops it as he attempts to walk and zip his hoodie up at the same time.  It lands with a thud to the floor, and he glances to make sure it didn’t wake Felicity.  When he does, his eyebrows shoot up.

Instead of finding Felicity, he finds Felicity and a man.  The real trick is finding where one ends and the other begins.  She’s nestled so tightly against his chest that only her blonde hair is visible.  It takes Roy a second longer to realize the man is Oliver; he looks almost foreign without a frown or the usual tension in his shoulders.  Of course.  There’s no one else Felicity would trust enough to let into her bed.  Three years of her sleeping alone is enough to prove that.

At least Roy doesn’t have to wonder if something has happened between them.  Since she broke up with her ex three years ago, Felicity hasn’t shown any interest in trying again.  Instead, she’s thrown herself into being Deathstroke and slicing up bodies.  Roy can’t really blame her, after the way things ended.

Being single has left Felicity open to being badgered by Donna, though.  Felicity’s mother always wants to know if she’s seeing anyone, sometimes even trying to set Felicity up with a guy.  Despite the poking and prodding, Felicity hasn’t given in.  Roy doubts she ever will.

Still, it’s strange to see her with Oliver.  Felicity’s type has always been bookish, sweet, and expressive—three qualities that make her dates ultimately wrong for her.  Oliver couldn’t be less like that:  he isn’t bookish, he isn’t sweet, and Roy has seen brick walls more expressive than him.

Despite that, Roy has to admit he likes Oliver.  They started out on good terms after he saved Felicity’s life, but it’s more than that.  Felicity has been lonely and secretive since Japan, keeping things from even Roy, but it seems like she’s starting to open up to Oliver.

Though he doesn’t know Oliver as well, Felicity seems to be good for him, too.  The first time Roy met Oliver, he seemed a lot like Felicity was after she came home:  subdued, haunted, and maybe a little broken.  Now that he’s gotten comfortable with the two of them, he’s starting to show more of his personality:  bickering with Felicity, cracking jokes, and even flashing the occasional smile.

Felicity even seems to be lighter these days.  When she came back from Japan, Roy recognized that the girl he grew up with was gone.  The Felicity knows now is darker and has her demons, but those have become less obvious since Oliver walked into their lives.  Roy isn’t exactly a shrink, but he thinks that might mean she’s starting to heal.

He could have gone a lifetime without finding Felicity and Oliver in bed together, but Roy can’t find it in him to be too upset about the whole thing.  If it helps her sleep through the night, Oliver can stay over whenever he likes.

With a nod of his head, Roy whispers, “Good for you, Felicity.”

Turning, he heads for the front door again, sliding his wallet into his pocket.  Glancing at his phone, he decides that he’ll have to take the Beetle if he wants to make the bistro and drop off food again before work.  Hopefully Felicity will forgive him for an egg and cheese bagel with a hot cup of coffee.  Maybe he should pick up food for Oliver too.

Just this once, he won’t even have to pay Roy back for it.

Chapter Text

Felicity wakes up shivering, pulling the blankets tighter around her.  Even her long-sleeve shirt and fuzzy pajama pants don’t fight off the cold.  When did it get so cold?  She remembers going to bed warm and comfortable, with Oliver wrapped—

Her eyes fly open as she sits upright in bed.  Oliver.  When she glances around, there’s no sign of him, just some rumpled blankets on the other side of the bed.  Almost like he wasn’t even there.  It probably shouldn’t make her feel relieved, but waking up next to him probably would have sent her into a panic.  Even knowing that, a part of her would have liked to find out what it would be like to wake up in the arms of someone who gave a damn.

A rush of water starts suddenly, making her tense.  Felicity relaxes a moment later when she realizes it’s only the shower.  She sighs, shaking her head.  The storm might be over, but every nerve ending in her body feels like it’s on high alert.  Maybe she needs a cup of coffee and a few hours of writing code.  After she feels human again, she might even text Oliver.

Against her better judgment, Felicity throws back the blankets and rises to her feet.  She takes her glasses from the nightstand, rubbing at her eyes with her other hand as she moves toward the door.  After a few steps, she stumbles over something hard.

Sliding her glasses into place, Felicity frowns down at the object.  Her eyes widen immediately as she realizes it’s one of the shoes Oliver wore last night, now devoid of all mud.  He must have cleaned them.  More importantly, it means he hasn’t left yet.

Assuming he’s in the kitchen, she starts down the hallway.  Instead of finding Oliver there, Roy is at the bar, taking a wrapped sandwich out of a paper sack.  Two coffee cups with recycled paper wraps are next to it.  The moment the smell hits her, Felicity’s mouth starts watering.

She sits down at the bar next to him.  “Is that from—?”

“Bella Cucina, yeah,” Roy answers, with a partial smile.  “When you weren’t up, I thought I’d bring you breakfast.”  He slides a cup of coffee her way.  “Black coffee and…”  He slides one of the sandwiches her way.  “An egg and cheese bagel.”

“Roy Harper, I am not worthy of you,” Felicity declares, taking a sip of her coffee.  Perfection, as always.

Laughing, Roy answers, “I think you have it the wrong way around, Felicity.”  He motions to the paper sack, his smile slipping away.  “I picked up a vegetable omelet and a black, decaf coffee for Oliver.”  Shrugging, he adds, “He seems like a decaf kind of guy.”  His fingers drum across the table top.  “I haven’t seen him yet this morning.  Is he still asleep?”

Mentally, Felicity winces.  It would be easy to construe what happened as something it wasn’t.  “I think he’s in the shower,” she answers after a long moment, weighing her words.  “He woke up before I did.”  Waving her hands, she releases a loud breath.  “In case you’re worried about coming home to a sock on the door, Oliver and I didn’t have sex.”

Cringing, Roy replies, “I do not want to talk about your sex life, Felicity.  Now or ever.”  Shaking his head, he adds, “But I already knew that.”

Felicity’s eyebrows shoot up, and he jerks a thumb over his shoulder.  “I saw the puddle in the yard—must have been one hell of a storm last night.”  Roy crosses his arms.  “I’m just glad he made you comfortable enough to fall asleep.”

Her mouth opens, no words coming out.  She’s never told him—or anyone—about her thing with the rain.  He snorts at her expression.  “Please, Felicity,” Roy drawls with a roll of his eyes.  “I’ve been living with you for almost three years, and I pay attention.”  He lifts a shoulder.  “I figured you’d talk about it when you were ready.  I’m just glad you mentioned it to Oliver.”

Her lips press together.  So she didn’t tell Oliver, but there are more important things to worry about.  “Roy,” she sighs.  “I’m sorry if it seems like I trust Oliver more than you, but that’s not true.  It’s just—”

“Oliver has been through similar shit,” Roy finishes.  “You don’t have to worry about him judging you for what you say.”  He offers her a smile.  “You don’t have to worry about my feelings, Felicity.  I told you years ago that you should open up to someone about what happened to you.”  He crosses his arms.  “I never meant that it had to be me.”

“So we’re good?” she asks, just to be sure.

“Of course,” he replies instantly.  He glances over at the clock.  “I left my food in the car.  I need to take the Beetle and leave now if I want to get to work on time.”  He offers her a rare kiss on the forehead before turning away.  “See you tonight.”

“Have a good day at work,” she calls behind him.

After he leaves, Felicity blows out a breath.  She lifts herself off the stool before turning in the direction of the bathroom.  When she reaches the door, she knocks on it.  “Good morning, Oliver,” she calls in a quiet voice.

He opens the door.  Oliver is fully dressed in jeans and a gray sweater, though his feet are bare.  Because he’s standing so close, Felicity has to look up to meet his eyes.  “Good morning, Felicity.”  His smile is small, spreading across his face slowly.  “You look well-rested.”

She offers him a smirk.  “Best sleep I’ve had in two days,” is her answer.  Honestly, it’s the best night’s sleep she’s had since Japan, but Felicity isn’t sure how he’d respond to that.  If he told her that, she’d be running before he finished the sentence.

Her remark does the trick, making him release that breathy laugh.  “It’s the only sleep you’ve had in two days.”  His smile softens.  “Thank you for letting me stay.  I… needed the company last night.”

Felicity isn’t sure what to do with that, so she turns on her heel.  “Well, Roy bought Bella Cucina, and I’m eating mine before it goes cold.”  As she walks away, she calls over her shoulder, “There’s a veggie omelet with your name on it, if you want it.”

He isn’t far behind, dropping on one of the stools next to her.  She pulls the styrofoam plate from the paper bag, passing it to him.  She frowns when sliding the coffee his way.  “Roy also bought you decaf coffee.”  She makes a face.  “I thought I raised him better than that.  At least it’s black.”

Oliver takes a sip and somehow doesn’t cringe.  “I actually prefer decaf,” he says after a long moment.  Felicity might feel better if he’d stabbed her through the heart.  “Caffeine makes me jittery now.  I don’t like it.”

“I guess I can forgive you for that,” she decides after a long moment.  Shaking her head, she unwraps her bagel and bites into it.  Delicious.

Her words bring a smile to his face.  “You don’t drink decaf?” he asks, tilting his head to the side.

“Never,” Felicity declares.  “Paying for decaffeinated coffee is like paying a prostitute who only wants to cuddle.”  Oliver sputters, making her smile.  “Why spend the money if you aren’t going to get the full package?”

After a long moment, he finally looks at her, shaking his head with a smile.  “You have an interesting way of looking at things, Felicity,” is all he finally says.

She laughs.  “That sounds like a nice way of saying I’m weird,” she teases.

“Not weird,” he disagrees, shaking his head.  His eyes leave hers as he focuses on opening the styrofoam box with his omelet.  “You’re different—in a good way.”  He unwraps a plastic fork.  “I grew up around people who would only tell you what you wanted to hear.”  Only now does he stop to smile at her.  “It’s nice to meet someone honest.”

“To be fair,” she starts around a mouthful of food, just before swallowing, “I’m not usually this open with people.”

With a playful grin, he teases, “This is you being open?

Laughing, she shoves his shoulder.  “As open as I’m capable of being,” Felicity allows, matching his smile.  “You know about Deathstroke.  Even better, I can talk to you about Japan because you know what it’s like.”  She shrugs.  “I don’t have secrets from you.  I just have things I can't talk about yet.”

“I feel the same way,” Oliver says, after swallowing a bite of his omelet.  His expression falls.  “Tommy has been my best friend since we were kids, and he wouldn’t even let me try to explain.”  Sighing, he pushes a piece of his omelet around with his fork.  “He just called me a murderer and left.”

“Out there, it’s either them or us,” Felicity argues, shaking her head.  “If you didn’t kill them, they’d just kill you instead.”  She snorts.  “What the hell does he think you’re supposed to do?  Politely ask them to lay down their weapons so you can make a citizen’s arrest?”

To her surprise, Oliver laughs.  “I think his point is that I don’t have to be the Arrow,” he replies after a moment.  “He thinks that because I choose to be the Arrow, I also choose to be a murderer.”

She’s already shaking her head again by the time he finishes.  “He might as well ask you to stop breathing,” Felicity retorts, rolling her eyes.  Frowning, she turns her attention to the counter top, tracing a line of code with her index finger.  “I don’t know about you, but…  When I’m not in the field, I have too much time to think about everything that has happened since Japan:  what I’ve done, what I’ve become, what I’ve endured.”

Felicity laughs, but the sound is hollow.  “I might die in the field tomorrow, but at least that death will be quick.  If I gave up my swords, it would kill me slowly.  I’d die a little more every day.”

“I feel the same way,” Oliver replies.  “Sometimes it feels like the hood is the only thing keeping me sane.”  He sighs.  “I think I could explain that to Tommy, if he’d only listen to me.”  He blows out a breath, shoulders sagging as though all the fight has drained out of him.  “Any suggestions?”

Biting back a bitter laugh, Felicity shakes her head.  If Oliver is coming to her for advice on the subject, he must be desperate.  In a lighter tone, she suggests, “We could always build a time machine, go back in time, and prevent him from ever finding out.”

It might not be helpful, but at least it makes him chuckle.  “I’ll keep that open as an option,” Oliver replies with a smile.

Pushing the rest of his half-eaten food aside, he meets her eyes with a calculating expression.  Felicity swallows a little too hard; she might come to regret that look.  “Do you have any plans for today?” he asks after a long moment.

Tapping her fingers on the table, Felicity pretends to think about it.  “Let’s see…  Vacuuming, catching up on laundry, maybe writing some code just for fun.  Oh, and lunch by myself, of course.”  She shrugs.  “If I get really bored, I might paint my nails a different color.”  She glances down to her black fingernails, still perfect from when she repainted them Thursday.

“After the sun goes down, it’ll be the usual,” she continues with a wave of her hand.  “Organized crime, docks, swords.  Which concludes in washing a lot of blood that isn’t mine out of my clothes.”  She motions to Oliver.  “But if you have other suggestions, I’m flexible.  I can always do chores, paint my nails, and wreak havoc on the mob tomorrow.”

Something about that makes him smile, but it only lasts for a moment.  Rubbing his thumb against the side of his index finger, Oliver offers in a quiet voice, “I bought a new computer system for the base, since the last one was at least twenty years old.”  Felicity cringes at the thought of that poor museum piece he’s been abusing.  “If you’re interested in a little overtime, I would be glad to contract you—and Driscoll’s—to do it.”

Before she can say yes, he adds, “I did some research before I bought it.  I was torn between a Palmer model”—Felicity snorts, rolling her eyes—“and one from Kord Industries.”  He waves a hand.  “The one from Palmer Tech had better reviews, but then I remembered you used to work in R&D for Kord.”  He smiles.  “I thought you might know more about how to fix any problems it has.”

Patting his hand, Felicity answers with a smile, “Good idea.”  She crosses her arms.  “Though I’m a little insulted you’d think there would be flaws in my systems.”  After taking a long sip from her coffee, she explains, “Kord still uses most of the designs my father and I built.”

Finishing up the last of her bagel, she wads up the paper bag and throws it in the recycling.  “I have to get a shower and get dressed before I go.  Then I’ll be all yours for the rest of the day.”  She takes two steps before turning around and waving a hand.  “For computer stuff.  I wasn’t flirting with you.”

Oliver only looks at ease, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.  “I know you weren’t,” he assures her.  “Take all the time you need.  I’ll be here.“

After a quick shower, Felicity pulls her wet hair up in a messy bun, pulling on jeans and a blue t-shirt with text on it from the infamous blue screen of death.  She grabs her Deathstroke jacket before going back in the living room.

When she reaches it, Oliver is lacing up his shoes, his cell phone pressed between his ear and his shoulder.  “I’m sorry I scared you,” he says in a quiet voice, “but I was at the club all night.  There are some last minute changes I needed to make before the soft opening, and—”

Without saying a word, Felicity leans on the arm of the couch, next to where he’s sitting.  His mouth turns down in a scowl at what the speaker is saying, and he releases a deep breath through his nose.  “I don’t know why Tommy told you that, Mom,” he snaps, his voice turning hard at the edges.  “There isn’t a woman.”  Felicity points at herself with a smile,  throwing her hands up in question.  Oliver winks in reply.  More accurately, he adds, “I’m not seeing anyone right now.”

“I’ll be home tonight, okay?” he tries in a gentle tone.  It must not go over well because he hangs up quickly afterward.

As Oliver runs a hand down his face, Felicity pats his shoulder.  “It’s hard after you first come back,” she tries to reassure him.  “They don’t know how to act around you anymore, but they’re scared of losing you.”  She makes a face.  “It makes them clingy as hell and makes you want to drink.”

Instead of replying, Oliver only places his hand over hers.  Finally, he pulls away, rising to his feet and donning his brown leather jacket.  “Are you ready to leave?” he asks.

Taking the subject change for what it is, Felicity nods. “We’ll have to take your bike,” she says, pulling on the black, leather jacket.  “Roy had to take the Beetle to work.”  She grabs a black bag from the corner, by her box of spare computer parts.  She throws a few extra cables and spare parts in it, just in case she needs them.  “And we’ll need my tools.  I’ll probably modify some of the hardware to optimize it.”

“Whatever you need,” Oliver agrees, holding the front door open for her.

While she locks up the house, Oliver goes for his bike.  By the time she finishes, he’s already pushed it out of the shed.  When she passes him her bag, he places it in the storage compartment before offering her one of the two helmets.  While she’s still trying to adjust hers, he mounts the bike.

Felicity hesitates before climbing behind him.  Borrowing the bike to pick up civilian clothes from his base was one thing, but having to cling to him for several miles is another thing entirely.  Taking a deep breath, she zips up her jacket.

Using his shoulder for balance, she slides onto the bike.  Something stops her from wrapping her arms around him, though she knows it won’t bother him.  Making a hand motion he can’t see, she asks, “Is it okay if I…?”  Instead of finishing her sentence, Felicity slides a tentative hand on his side.

When he shifts, she can feel it under her fingers.  Reaching behind him, Oliver takes her hands, wrapping them around his middle.  “Like this,” he tells her in a soft voice, wrapping her arms tighter around him than she would have herself.  “Just hold on tight.  You don’t have to be gentle.”

Without thinking, she quips, “Are you saying you like it rough, Queen?”

It’s only after he tenses that she realizes the mistake.  Felicity’s face suddenly feels as though it’s on fire.  If there’s ever a time she doesn’t need her ability to make situations awkward, it’s with Oliver—eternally unavailable Oliver who already doesn’t know what to do with her innuendos.

She feels the rumble of his laugh before she hears it.  The sound is an octave too high, fluttery and nervous.  Immediately, she knows she has to make him do it again sometime, when she can actually see his face.  He sounds like he might even be blushing.

Oliver Queen, who has probably bedded half the female-under-thirty population of Starling City, is flustered by her sex joke.  Something about that gives her a strangely light feeling, causing her to smile wider than she has in years.

Instead of answering her question, he starts the bike.  Felicity means to call him out on it, but the bike jumps forward before she can.  A cry of surprise leaves her.  The rumble of a laugh in Oliver’s chest makes her think he might have done it on purpose.  Asshole.

Felicity can’t help but smile at his antics.  She’s never seen Oliver this… playful before.  Maybe the occasional joke, usually in reply to hers, but never would she have guessed he would try to startle her in retaliation for her teasing.  Maybe there are other parts of Oliver Queen she has yet to discover.

Not that she should be discovering them in the first place.  Another pang of guilt hits her, a reminder that she should have cut him loose after they took down Deadshot together.  She’s repaid the favors she owes him, so now there’s no excuse to keep him close.  That’s what she normally does:  cut out anyone who gets too close.

Not this time.

Shutting him out now wouldn’t just hurt her.  It would hurt Oliver, too, and she can’t bring herself to add any more misery to his life—even if it is for his own good.  He seems to enjoy her company, and she’s become fond of him, too.  Though she knows she’ll end up regretting this, it looks like they’re stuck together.

A hand falls over both of hers, starting Felicity out of her thoughts.  When she looks up, it’s to see a red light.  “Everything okay back there?” Oliver asks.  “It’s not like you to be quiet.”

“I’m always quiet when I’m planning murder,” Felicity replies.

He laughs, which makes her smile.  “I hope it isn’t mine.”

“Never,” she assures him.

The light changes then, and Oliver starts forward, weaving in and out of traffic.  He doesn’t slow until he reaches a parking lot in front of a sleek, dark building, the sign in front displaying Verdant.  Parts of the Queen steel factory still loom behind it, as a reminder of what it used to be.

Instead of parking up front, Oliver pulls around the building next to a side entrance.  After they both dismount, he parks the bike against the wall.  After she grabs her bag of tech supplies, Felicity finds him frowning.  Turning, she follows his gaze out to the side parking lot, where a silver Mercedes convertible sits.

“Tommy?” she asks, though she already knows the answer.

Instead of answering, he just heaves a sigh before turning his attention on his keys.  She expects him to use one on the door, but instead, Oliver twists a key from his key ring and offers it to her.  “I meant to give this to you earlier,” he explains.  “It’s a master, so it will open the main doors, but it also opens this one.”

Felicity takes it, eyes widening.  “The door from the alley that goes directly into base is still there and the code is the same, but more security will be around after we open.  It would be better if you only used that one in your gear.”

“Thank you,” is all she can manage to say, though it isn’t enough.  It nearly killed her to give him a key to her place last week, and he seemed to hesitate when giving her the access codes and the key to his home.

Pulling her keys from her pocket, she finds the silver keychain with an arrow nocked through a drawn bow, a green gemstone set into the shaft.  She slides the new key into place, next to the one she’s labeled with house.

When she turns back to Oliver, a slight smile graces his face.  Instead of saying anything, he pushes his keys back into his pockets and motions toward the door.  Felicity rolls her eyes before turning the new key into the lock and swinging the door open.

Felicity immediately turns to her right, toward a very familiar door.  On the keypad, she types the code 1411, and the red light on the lock turns green.  As she turns the handle, she glances back to Oliver, only to find him stopped in the hallway.  “Are you coming?” she asks.

Oliver runs a hand down his face.  “I should probably check in with Tommy,” he replies, sighing.  “You are welcome to get started on the computer system, if you want.”

Nodding, Felicity decides that he’d prefer deal with Tommy alone.  “I’ll be here if you need me,” she assures him.

With a sigh, she waits until she hears the door slam behind her, adjusting her bag over her shoulder.  After descending the stairs, she stops short as she sees the box on the floor.  The packaging is colorful and foreign, but the name of the system is not:  Kord Infinite X12.

“It’s been a while, my friend,” she mutters to it.

The last time she saw an Infinite X12 was three years ago in her R&D lab.  It may have started as her father’s project, but Felicity was the one who perfected it.  Between the two of them, they designed fourteen new patents for Kord on this system alone.  At the time, the price of assembly was too high to be cost-effective, and the MSRP would limit it to only the most specialized of buyers.  It seems things have changed.

Smiling, she starts opening the contents of the box, using her butterfly knife to cut through the packing tape.  After getting through a ton of styrofoam and plastic bags, she manages to place it on the computer desk, frowning again at the nineties-model monitor taking up most of the space on the desk.

“You should have been recycled ten years ago,” she tells it.

Before opening the box with the monitor, the sound of shouting above makes her turn.  Felicity rises to her feet, flicking open the butterfly knife again.  Quietly she ascends the stairs, until she’s even with the door.  It’s partially ajar, so she makes a mental note to tell Oliver he needs to fix that.

“You don’t give a damn about this place!” a new voice yells.  “This is just a front for you so you can kill people at night!”  Felicity frowns.  Tommy.  Though she knows he is Oliver’s best friend, a part of her wants to use him as a practice dummy for her throwing knives.  She slips her butterfly knife into her pocket before any accidents can happen.  “This place actually means something to me.  So if you won’t take care of it, I will.”

“Tommy, if you would just let me explain—” Oliver tries, his voice low and broken.

“Are you seriously trying to justify murder to me right now?” Tommy demands.  “I don’t want to hear it, Ollie.  There is no possible explanation for this that would change my mind.”  He snorts.  “You know, they told Mrs. Q that the Ollie they found might not be the same Ollie she lost.  I guess our Ollie died on that island.”  Felicity sits next to the wall so she won’t run out and strangle Tommy Merlyn.  “The one that came back is a monster.”

“Tommy,” Oliver tries again.  When his voice breaks, her heart breaks with it.  If she didn’t think it would upset Oliver, she’d make sure he had a visit from Deathstroke.

The sound of receding footsteps follows.

Oliver heaves a sigh worthy of Atlas.  For a long moment, there’s nothing but silence, until Felicity hears the sound of the keypad.  She reaches up for the door handle and swings it open.  “Your door doesn’t shut properly,” she tells him in greeting.  “You should probably get that fixed.”

He looks like he’s aged ten years in the last few minutes.  “How much of that did you hear?” he asks quietly.

“Enough to know that I’m nominating your best friend for Asshole of the Year,” Felicity replies flatly, crossing her arms.  The corner of Oliver’s mouth twitches as she rises to her feet.  “If you think he needs a little quality time with Deathstroke, I think I could arrange that.”

His expression hardens fast.  “Promise me you won’t hurt Tommy.”

Felicity holds her hands up.  “I wasn’t going to hurt him, Oliver,” she assures him.  “Maybe just… you know, scare him a little.  Wave a sword around while having a conversation.  But I’d never do that without your consent.”  She shrugs.  “Your family is your problem.”

It takes a few heartbeats, but his face finally softens.  “Thank you for trying to protect me, Felicity,” he says, placing his hand on her shoulder, “but I can handle my own battles.”

Biting down on her lip, Felicity refrains from telling him he hasn’t handled anything.  If today was anything to go by, all he’s done is listen while Tommy screams at him.  Maybe Deathstroke isn’t a good choice for handling this situation, but she has some other options.

If she can save Starling City from the evils of organized crime, she should be able to save Oliver from a few malicious remarks.

“I don’t like that look on your face,” he says to her suddenly.  Felicity tilts her head up to meet his eyes before throwing her best innocent expression:  eyes wide, pushing her bottom lip into a slight pout.  Oliver shakes his head before stepping closer.  “Promise me Tommy will never meet Deathstroke without my permission.”

“Cross my heart,” she assures him.  When he doesn’t look convinced, she adds, “I swear on my life, Oliver, that I won’t visit Tommy in the mask.”  She motions to him.  “More importantly, I’d swear it on your life.  Or Roy’s.”

When he finally nods, Felicity pats his shoulder.  “Come on.  Let’s talk about your excellent choice in computers.”

 


 

It’s Tuesday when Felicity has her first opportunity.  After two days of driving by Verdant, she manages to catch it when Oliver isn’t there and Tommy’s Mercedes is parked outside.  She has to cut through two lanes of traffic to make the turn, but the blaring horns are worth it.

When she pulls into the lot, it’s apparent that she won't fit in with this crowd.  All of the cars are newer models, most luxury brands, making her orange 1972 Volkswagen Beetle stick out more than it already does.  It may not be subtle, but at least she can always find her car in the parking lot.

After pulling her computer bag out of the back seat, Felicity pushes down on the door lock.  A few employees leaving for the night stare at her.  All of them are in black uniforms with silk shirts, while Felicity wears a leather jacket over her t-shirt.  It’s emblazoned with a gold emblem of crossed swords and Japanese characters, advertising Hanzo Steel with a slogan beneath it of, Got vermin to kill, need Japanese steel.  Maybe it’s a little on the nose, but she appreciates the parallel.

Ignoring the looks, she steps into the club, staring at the architecture.  Oliver must have picked a good interior designer.  High ceilings and industrial design make the space feel larger.  The slanted walls make the tables against the walls seem intimate, and the upstairs VIP section gives the allure of a mystery.

After a quick glance and a reminder to mention it to Oliver, her eyes focus on a dark-haired man behind the bar.  Under different circumstances, she might even think he’s attractive, but then she remembers the hate spewing from his mouth on Saturday.  Maybe she shouldn’t have promised Oliver she wouldn’t draw her swords on the asshole.

Tommy flirts with a brunette in business-casual dress, who leans toward him from the other side of the counter.  Felicity can only assume the woman is Laurel Lance, Tommy’s current girlfriend and Oliver’s ex.

As Felicity walks up to the counter, Tommy falls silent before motioning to the bar behind him.  “If you’re here to interview for the bartender position,” he greets her, “show me your best cocktail.”  He looks over her attire twice, but he doesn’t say anything.

She laughs.  “I know more about drinking cocktails than making them,” Felicity replies.  “I’m a friend of Oliver’s.”  Tommy’s eyebrows shoot up.  “Felicity Smoak.  He asked me to set up your wireless router and connect your computer systems.”

It’s more or less the truth.  She had every intention of helping Oliver with the technology aspects of his business, especially after he mentioned he needed the help.  He even agreed to let her come by and work on it.  Oliver just doesn’t know she was going to stop by today.

A flicker of irritation crosses Tommy’s features at the mention of Oliver, but he replaces it with curiosity.  Felicity’s smile widens, knowing that she has him exactly where she wants him:  thirsting for more information about her.  Slade Wilson taught her many things along the way, but the best advice he ever gave her was to make her targets want to talk.  Tommy has to ask questions now, and she can just lead him in the direction she wants.

All she has to do now is wait.

The reply comes from a different direction than she expects.  “I’m Laurel Lance,” she offers politely, though she studies Felicity in a way that screams trouble.  “Have we met before?  I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere, but I can’t quite place it.”

Laurel must be more observant than Felicity thought; not many people could pick up on those similarities from the press photos.  Four years ago, her hair had been dyed black and she had worn contacts.  Her own mother had to do a double-take to recognize Felicity after that.

After pretending to think about it, Felicity shakes her head.  “I don’t think so,” she replies, polishing it off with a blasé shrug.  “I must have one of those faces.”  No way in hell is she discussing Japan with a stranger.  Or anyone who isn’t Oliver, really.

“You said that Oliver hired you to do some computer work?” Tommy asks, and she can’t tell if he’s surprised about the contractor or the fact that she isn’t referring to him by his nickname.  “He’s never mentioned you before.”  The words aren’t said in malice.

Felicity barely refrains from mentioning that he hasn’t really been talking to Oliver in three days.  “I like to keep to myself,” is her reply, “and Oliver respects my privacy.”  Tommy’s head tilts to the side, studying her.  She motions between them.  “If you want to confirm I’m supposed to be here, I’d wait while you called him.”  He makes no move to do so, which makes her want to offer a parting shot:  “Or I could call, if you two still aren’t talking.”

His eyes widen before narrowing, studying her in a new light.  “No, that’s fine,” Tommy assures her, after a long pause.  “You’re, um, welcome to set up wherever you like, just as long as you leave room behind the bar for any aspiring bartenders.”

With a nod, Felicity takes her tablet from her bag, placing it next to the register.  Her bag falls at her feet as she types commands into the computer designed to work as the register.  Within seconds, she has the specifications of the computer, just to be sure her software works.

A text message tone interrupts her, and she reaches for her phone immediately.  Roy is special enough to have his own text alert tone.  Working late tonight at the garage, it reads.  Can I get a ride?  She rolls her eyes before answering, wondering why he bothers to ask.  Felicity quickly types back, I’m at Verdant.  Meet me here?  He sends her back a quick affirmative before she shoves her phone back into her pocket.

In two hours, they have building-wide wi-fi with private and guest options, and all of the club’s computers connect wirelessly to minimize cord clutter.  A venture to test signal strength brings her to the upper level with her tablet.  She can’t help but back away from the railing, even if the view is fantastic.  This level has VIP written all over it.

Footsteps approach behind her, causing Felicity to glance to her left.  Tommy Merlyn approaches her with a wide smile on his face, one that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.  Maybe it’s meant to be charming or to put her at ease, but it doesn’t work.  Instead, it just makes her angry all over again.

“Nice view, isn’t it?” he asks her.

Felicity snorts.  “You’ve had two hours to figure out how to start this conversation, and that’s what you go with?” she can’t help but ask.  His smile falters.  “If you want to ask me something, just ask it.  I’m not very good at playing games.”

She expects him to hesitate, but the smile softens immediately, into something more real.  “Fine, then,” he agrees easily.  “I’ll cut the bullshit.  How do you know Ollie?”  Judging by the way his eyebrows narrow, he’s trying to figure out just how much she knows.

If he’s trying to cut down on bullshit, Felicity decides she should do the same.  “Are you trying to ask me if I know about his big green secret or if we’re having sex?”  Tommy’s eyes go wide and he makes a strangled noise in his throat.  In a low voice, she assures him, “I know he's the Arrow.”  She returns to normal volume.  “And Oliver and I aren’t sleeping together.”  At least, not in the way Tommy would think.  “He’s a friend.  One of the only ones I have, actually.”

It takes Tommy several moments, but then his eyebrows narrow again.  “You know what he does every night?” he asks.  “And you don’t care?

“Do I care that he goes after the worst criminals in this city?” she rephrases for him.  “The ones the police can’t—or won’t—stop?”  Felicity pretends to think about it for a moment.  “This might surprise you, but no.  It doesn’t bother me at all that he’s a hero.”

The compliment surprises her just as much as it surprises Tommy.  She didn’t mean to call Oliver a hero, but now that she’s said it, the adjective just feels right.  Oliver would probably hate it.

Tommy stares at her as if she’s just grown a second head.  “He’s a murderer, Felicity,” he insists, even though she rolls her eyes.  “He kills people.  With arrows.”  He holds his hands up.  “Think of how insane that sounds.  Then realize that you’re justifying this.”

By the time he finishes, Felicity is already shaking her head.  “Oliver is bringing justice back to this city.  Starling has forgotten that the one-percenters can’t do whatever the hell they want without repercussions.  The Arrow reminds us of that—reminds this city of that.

“I don’t think you realize how incredible his actions are,” she continues, gaining momentum.  “Oliver fights a battle for the residents of the Glades every night.  He knows every night out there might be his last.  He knows that he’ll have to listen to everyone call him a murderer and a monster in the morning.  But he does it anyway because this is important to him.  What he does in this city matters.”

Crossing her arms, Felicity finishes, “The crime rate has significantly dropped because of his actions, yet you call him a menace.  Everyone cites his body count as a reason to hate him, but he only kills so he won’t be one of the deaths you hear about on the news.”  She jabs a finger at Tommy.  “This is a war, and in war there are always casualties.”

“He works with Deathstroke,” Tommy points out, as though that’s a strike against Oliver.

Felicity doesn’t flinch.  He doesn’t have to understand her motives.  “A mutually beneficial partnership,” she explains easily.  “Fighting a one-man war is hard.  Adding another just doubles the odds that they will both live to see another day.”

“He’s a monster,” Tommy insists.

Snorting, Felicity replies, “I don’t care what you think about Deathstroke.  I only care what you think about Oliver.”

I care what you think about Deathstroke,” a new voice interjects.  Tommy jumps as Felicity swivels toward Oliver.  She usually would have heard his approach and gone on high alert, but it seems like her senses have already become comfortable with him.  Felicity can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Moving toward her side, Oliver turns to Tommy, his posture rigid as though preparing for a fight.  It’s about time he gave Tommy an earful.  “You can think whatever you want about me,” Oliver starts, “but I won’t let you say anything about Deathstroke.  He’s the only one I can count on when I’m out there.”  Felicity feels a strange swell of emotions before burying it down deep.

Oliver turns to her next, with a neutral expression.  “If I knew you were coming tonight to set up the computers,” he tells her in a tone that makes her wince mentally, “I would have met you here.”  There’s a reprimand in there somewhere, one that reminds her that he doesn’t think he’s worth defending.

He might as well get used to hearing her defend him.  It isn’t going to stop.

“I know,” she answers with a lilt to her voice, just to let him know that’s why didn’t tell him.  She shrugs.  “It was a slow night at work, so I figured could set up your Internet router, since you need it for the grand opening next week.  I hope you didn’t mind me dropping in.”

He offers his version of a smile, one corner of his mouth lifting slightly.  “You have a key, Felicity,” he reminds her in a gentle tone.  Felicity watches Tommy’s eyebrows shoot up in her peripheral vision, which makes her bite back a smile.  “That’s an open invitation to stop by whenever you want.”

She smiles, but Oliver glances over to Tommy for a moment.  Finally, he sighs before starting, “The Royal Flush Gang has decided to make Starling their next stop.  I think we should make it their last.”  His tone is strong, but he still manages to leave a question hanging in the air between them.  “They bought some weapons from a gun smuggling ring and they nearly killed a police officer in today’s robbery.”

His mention of her two target types doesn’t escape her, but it isn’t necessary.  She can hardly say no after defending his actions in front of Tommy.

“Give me the details and I’ll see what I can do,” she promises.  His eyebrows furrow, suspicious because of the lack of resistance.  “There are three of these guys, right?  I can at least help you even the odds a little.”

After studying Tommy for a moment, Oliver replies in Mandarin, “Deathstroke and the Arrow only make two.  We’d need one more to even the odds.”

Smirking, Felicity replies in the same language, “I’m worth at least two men.”

Oliver releases a breathy, quiet laugh before switching back to English.  “I can’t argue with that,” he agrees, smiling.

“It’s great that you two can speak Chinese,” Tommy cuts in with a hint of frustration, “but you don’t have to hide the details from me.”  He turns to Oliver.  “I may not agree with what you’re doing, but we have too many years between us for me to turn you in.”

Felicity snorts.  “I doubt they’d believe the same guy who passed out when someone accidentally sent an icepick through their hand at yacht party has now graduated to violent murder.”  Oliver’s eyes widen in surprise, and she shrugs.  “If it’s on the Internet, I can find it.”  She nudges his shoulder.  “I guess you’ve always had a rocky history with boats.”

He snorts as she places a hand on his bicep.  “I should probably get back to the car,” Felicity tells him.  “Roy is—”  She stops short as she sees a teenager in a red hoodie below.  “Here.”  She motions between herself and her partner in crime.  “I’ll see you at eight tonight?” she suggests.  “Your place not mine.”

Wincing at her phrasing, Felicity corrects, “And that sounds like I’m asking you to have sex with me, but—”

With a soft chuckle, Oliver assures her, “I know, Felicity.”  The both share a smile.  “Take Roy home and try not to get into any trouble before eight.”

Rolling her eyes at him, Felicity states in a dry tone, “I don’t actively seek trouble Oliver.”  Though she tries to bite back on the smile, it manages to peek through anyway.  “I’m not the one who charges in with a bow to take on an army.”  She lets the fact that she does the same thing—but with different weapons—linger between them.

He grins before offering, “It’s better than using swords.”