Deadly Dances by Jess S.
Felicity Smoak's P.O.V.
Felicity kept typing, stubbornly ignoring the ex-soldier that was beating the training dummy just a few feet away. She'd keep this up all night, even though there really wasn't much more she could do in her search for Walter Steele—not without something to look for. But immersing herself in computer work that the other two people with access to this room couldn't really understand was the easiest way to ignore them.
"Felicity," Digg turned back to her again after he'd finished yet another workout set. "Just let me teach you a few things—"
"I already said 'no,' Digg," she cut in firmly, eyes still on the screen and fingers still flying over the keyboard.
"Why?" the ex-soldier finally demanded, annoyance leaking through his well chiseled patience.
"Because," Felicity stopped typing to finally look at him again. "You two have already said you aren't going to 'let me help in the field,' anyway." She bit the words out with an irritated frown.
It had been over a millennium since she actually lived among any Amazon nation, but the part of her that'd embraced and fought for that way of life for longer than any mortal ever lived, took tremendous umbrage at Oliver and Diggle's recent domineering decisions. Especially since she'd thought Oliver had accepted the idea that it was her life and therefore her choice; but whatever this flirting-friends thing they had going on was going to become, it apparently gave him the right to be even more protective then Digg already was. And the ex-soldier was more than a little protective.
She understood where they were coming from. That her brush with near-death in her first mission with them had reminded the pair that she could get hurt, or even killed, while working with them. And they didn't know, couldn't know, that that would've been her real death in the way that so many temporary deaths hadn't been in the past. That that was why the whole thing had shaken her so much.
But she couldn't see how her 'learning' self-defense would help any of them.
Not when she was more than capable of protecting herself, much more so than her new friends could realize. Yes, she'd let herself get rusty around mortals, but that was why she'd put herself through the more than a little painful experience of admitting to her oldest friend and teacher, yet again, that she needed help in the form of further training. Which she had, of course, but she wasn't entirely sure she'd made the right call in going to him so soon after the Dodger's arrest...
Ultimately though, that was only relevant here and now because in it was the very clearly defined difference between Methos and Oliver Queen or John Diggle. There were more than a few, of course, but when it came to training it was really what was known.
Oliver and Digg might be able to teach her a few tricks she didn't know. No matter how long she'd trained and fought herself, she'd learned long ago that the truly skilled fighters of any generation could always teach you something new. But neither one could do that when they were thinking of her as someone they had to teach basic self-defense to. It'd been millennia since she'd needed that.
But the biggest issue they couldn't help her with she couldn't explain, even though she knew Methos had rightly recognized it a few centuries back.
Felicitas had been a warrior. You didn't run around with warlords and conquerors as lovers without becoming one, not long-term, and you certainly didn't become the reigning queen of the Amazon nation for several decades without having more than a little martial skill.
But the longer she was on this Earth, the more immoral it seemed. Over the last few centuries, every time she'd run into one of the fools that followed The Game, it took every fiber of self-preservation she had to kill them if she couldn't talk them down. Taking the heads of headhunting Immortals was horrible enough; even without their Quickening zapping everything about them into her head after the fact.
It only made the idea of hurting—let alone killing—mortals, whose lives were already so short, so limited... so much harder to stomach.
She'd done it more than once since she'd come to this self-realization. Killed mortals who needed to die because they were a threat to someone she protected; the only real justification for killing a mortal in her mind. Half the time she couldn't even bring herself to use lethal force if she was only protecting herself, not if she knew in the back of her mind that the mortal didn't know they had to take her head to kill her.
It was one reason why she'd rather like the invention of firearms, actually, and handguns even more so—most mortals who wielded them as their weapon-of-choice didn't typically carry anything for decapitating their victims, too.
But whenever a stranger had threatened someone she loved, or liked, or even just has to protect because it was the right thing to do, she'd had to act.
The life blood of those mortals still weighted heavily on her heart. And not just staining her hands in her nightmares; no, centuries upon centuries of that blood meant she was drowning in it. So many mortal lives she'd decided to cut short, though sometimes it hadn't felt like she'd even had time to make that terrible decision. She had, of course. Her hands couldn't swing her sword without at least the subconscious command to do so. But it wasn't unusual for ages of training to take over in the moment.
At least when the cause was the damned Game she could justify it to herself. She'd spare a headhunter if she could, of course—to Methos' resigned disgust—but frequently once a duel with a headhunter had started it could end only one way. It was self-defense... and it was relief.
Relief. That was what nearly every Quickening she'd absorbed into herself finished with. A profound sense of relief—that it was over. So many of them, deep down, had hated what they'd become, what they thought they'd had to become because they could see no other way and thus couldn't let her talk them out of the fight that'd led to their final death.
Some of them weren't relieved. The truly evil ones she'd encountered—the ones with the sickeningly dark Quickenings that took days to really settle—were all rage and hate. Their very being a sort of dark chaos that she'd come to associate with exactly what evil was. But those sort of dark souls were very few and far between. Thankfully.
But Felicity had decided a very long time ago that she would always try her utmost to believe the best of everyone she could—because the alternative was unthinkable.
Methos might be able to go through eternity comfortable with the assumption that only a small handful of individuals worth knowing, if that, were born into each generation.
Felicity couldn't. She had to believe that most human beings, at their core, were good. Certainly everyone had their faults, but those flaws would be balanced out by better qualities as long as you looked hard enough. Though sometimes only as long as they let you look hard enough.
Judging by her experienced with headhunters, though, she had to assume that truly evil mortals were just as rare. That far too many—many, many, many—of the short lives she'd had to cut even shorter were just people trapped on bad paths they couldn't let themselves be talked off of. Looking back on how many people she had killed, even though she could say in almost every situation that she'd really had to, it was a painful thought. Which embodied the painful regrets, remorse, that would always haunt her. Would always need to be pushed back into that dark abyss at the back of her mind she liked to pretend—and could pretend, most of the time—wasn't there.
But she'd only just met Oliver Queen and John Diggle. Perhaps to the children of this age a few months acquaintance and the revelation of as big a secret as Oliver's heroic aspiration should engender complete trust, but Felicity was an Immortal. An ancient Immortal. In ancient times, trust sometimes took months, even years. More than lifetimes even, where some Immortals were concerned. Sometimes even more than death.
Sometimes she'd had to disappear from someone's short life without ever telling them the truth about herself. About Immortality. In the Dark Ages, when admitting to something like being unable to die might see you labeled a witch or a heretic, or both, and see you burnt at the stake while a morbid crowd gawked, she'd gone whole centuries without telling anyone she knew the truth.
So it'd be a while yet before she'd be comfortable considering telling Oliver Queen and John Diggle anything. Maybe she would, eventually. Once she knew them a lot better than she did now. But not yet.
"That's what this is about?" Digg was staring at her as he brought her rapid-fire thoughts back to the present conversation in time to watch him roll his eyes. "Felicity, refusing to let us teach you any self-defense isn't going to make either of us want you out in the field."
"Maybe not," Felicity shrugged as she turned back to her computer. "But if you can 'not let me' do something just because you don't want me to, I can return the favor."
Her feelings about killing aside, though, her past had another considerable effect on her not wanting to train with Digg or Oliver. That being the very simple fact that the ex-soldier and the billionaire that became a warrior—while supposedly stuck somewhere in the South China Sea—would realize very quickly that she was not untrained. That she had prior training.
Training that no I.T girl—who grew up in Las Vegas, got a scholarship to M.I.T and the job offer at Q.C soon after her graduation—could be expected to have. Sure, she could say she took some sort of classes as a kid, she even knew some gyms in Las Vegas that offered them to kids; had even taught at a few herself. But her skill set so far exceeded those of a 'black-belt' that'd never seen a battle field... she wasn't sure so simple an explanation could cut it with her new associates. Wasn't sure she could even try to pretend to be so much less skilled then she was, less skilled enough not to make them wonder...
So she'd said 'no' to self-defense lessons. Again, and again, and again. And now again.
Digg groaned, "So, what? If we agree that you might be able to help in the field, you'll let us train you?"
"I might, maybe," Felicity replied noncommittally, flashing him a smile as she spun back around in her chair. "You'd have a much better starting point, at least. For any and every future discussion. Of anything."
The ex-soldier shook his head, chuckling slightly. "Well, I'd sleep a lot easier knowing that you can handle yourself... at least a little bit." He shrugged when she arched an eyebrow at him.
Both of them turned to glance at the stairs as door at the top of them clanged close behind the third member of their team in his Hood-gear. Which, to Felicity's disgust, still did not involve a mask in the place of his grease-paint.
Really, the man knew that everyone in Starling City would recognize his face, and he thought the mere shadows provided by a hood—and the scruff of the five o'clock shadow he'd shave off before ever appearing in public as Oliver Queen—would keep him safe from recognition with the help of some silly (but supposedly strategically placed) paint smears?
"How'd it go?" Diggle asked the vigilante.
Oliver shrugged as he placed his bow back in its holders. "Badly for him."
Felicity cocked her head to the side, "Who's 'him'?" she asked with a frown, not liking that there was obviously something going on that she didn't know about. Something that they didn't tell her about because she might get in the way wanting to shadow the Hood, or some equally childish idea, no doubt.
"An assassin for hire with an affinity for knives," Oliver told her, his tone slightly reassuring to her as he told her that at least they hadn't kept this a secret because this was a target she would've disapproved of. No, this went back to the more recent argument of whether she was 'allowed' to help. "His name was Guillermo Barrera," he finished as he walked towards his side of the computer station she'd set up.
Felicity winced at the past-tense, "Was?"
Not so much because of her desire to believe the best in everyone. No, she wouldn't be on-board with Oliver's mission at all if that were the case. And since the whole 'reboot my system' thing, he had made a point of pointing out to her why he was going after someone... except for the times he hadn't, like tonight.
Only she probably wouldn't have argued with this one, anyway, so maybe this was just a timing thing. Or maybe it had something to do with her not being down here quite as much while the Princess of the Amazons was avoiding going home until Hippolyta finally put her foot down. Playing hostess to the princess had been enjoyable in some ways, but it'd also meant that she couldn't spend almost every moment she wasn't at work down here. So it wasn't too surprising she might've missed when the vigilante would've explained his rationale for his next target.
Not that much explaining should be required for an assassin. Yes, Felicity had met some good people who practiced that profession even if she herself never could, but the average—or even far above average—hitman that didn't confine themselves to any particular code of ethics were usually much harder to redeem in her mind.
No, that wasn't why she winced at all. Her wince had a lot to do with the term 'assassin.' She would've greatly preferred if he'd said hitman. Though the fact that Oliver knew said assassin's name reassured her a little bit. At least it told her that this probably wasn't a member of the League of Assassins. Probably. That was a party she didn't want a part in, at least not when she couldn't explain why the head of said League—who was really, really hard to kill—called her 'little sister' (even though she was both his teacher and his elder by a lot).
"So we can't ask him about his intended target?" Digg spoke up, frowning deeply as they watched his employer and partner cross a name off the list before he turned back to face them.
"No." Oliver confirmed. Then he pulled something out of his pocket and held it out to her. "Which is why I need you to hack his phone."
Felicity frowned at the phone that'd clearly seen better days. Seeing as its owner was headed to the city morgue, that shouldn't be surprising. Still, a part of her thought cell phones were among the most magnificent inventions ever—right after personal computers—so seeing one so abused hurt her soul a little bit.
"Barrera's world class," Oliver went on before she could accept or reject the assignment. "He kills high profile targets. And whatever job he was hired for isn't finished. We need to figure out who he was here to kill, and fast. They are probably still in danger..." he cocked his head to the side, studying her reaction as he asked, "Okay?"
"Yeah," Felicity nodded, accepting the device with a small smile for the quick explanation. "Good thing I already have a program for the time-consuming part."
When he frowned, she raised both eyebrows at him.
"What? Now you don't want me to go to this too?"
Oliver blinked at her, only then looking her over from her blow-dried hair to the dark blue dress that brought out her eyes and showed off her legs almost as well as the ridiculous heels she was wearing did. "Wow. You look nice."
"Thank you," Felicity nodded cordially, still smiling in bemusement as she went on, even as she turned a little towards her computer again to plug the phone in and get the program running. "I already called the restaurant to push the reservation back and sent Tommy a text from your cell phone, but you only have, like, twenty minutes to get ready. If we're still going?"
"Tommy..." Oliver thought about that for just half-a-second, then winced. "It's Tommy's birthday."
"February 27th, just like every other year," Felicity nodded, then winced herself. "Though you didn't really have a choice about missing the last five, of course."
Oliver frowned, "I thought it was at Laurel's—and Tommy's—place?"
"I think you asking if you could bring a date made them realize that that seemed a little weird for you," Felicity told him. "They made the reservation at Nicchi's for seven o'clock—eight, now."
Oliver winced, and she was pretty sure it was because of the new, and public, atmosphere rather than anything else she'd said.
"So? Are we still going? Or are you going? Or not?" Felicity focused on the computer screen as she prodded him, but she felt his gaze come back to her immediately.
"Yeah. Yeah, of course," Oliver confirmed quickly. "Just let me get changed." He sighed, "But we'll have to drive back to the mansion for—"
"Raisa already dropped the present off upstairs," Felicity told him. "I told her you were running late, so she drove it in. She's a really nice lady."
"Yeah," Oliver agreed, sounding only a little surprised. "Yeah, she is... Thank you, Felicity."
She turned to flash him a smile, trying to not feel too pleased with the outcome of this conversation. But it was hard when she'd been half afraid he was going to get wrapped up in Hood-stuff and decide to bail on both her and his best friend on said best friend's birthday. She was pleased to find the fears unfounded even as she could feel their other team member watching them silently as Oliver turned towards the shower and mini-locker room that'd only just been installed a few days ago.
"I'll be right out."
Felicity nodded, staying focused on her work while Oliver left; waiting for Digg to start talking again.
"So, you won't let me teach you self-defense 'cause you're mad at us, but you'll go on a date with Oliver?" the former solider asked her, keeping his tone impressively judgment-free as he walked around her desk to look over the screen at her. "You think that's really a good idea?"
"I don't know," Felicity answered the second question first and honestly, before shrugging. "And he asked me to come with him as a friend."
Digg's only response for that was a disbelieving snort.
She wasn't really sure, herself, where she wanted this thing with Oliver to go; but she was willing to see how it went.
And she certainly wasn't going to let John Diggle talk her out of it. Whether it was in some misguided attempt to protect them from each other (her from Oliver's sordid past and mercurial, mission-orientated moods now and Oliver from what could become a disaster their fledgling team couldn't recover from), or Digg just not wanting to have two members of their unnamed team paired off. Though she didn't really think John Diggle was that self-involved, she did think it might play at least a part in his disapproval.
And unfortunately, or fortunately depending how you looked at it, Oliver Queen did seem to be fitting more and more into the atypical mold that Methos called Felicity's 'type.' Even with all the additional complications that more intimate relationship might bring though, she'd never intentionally avoided love, and while the heartache of losing a loved one always hurt, she'd never regretted loving them.
For her, at least, there was no other way to survive eternity.