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Young Padawans

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Downtown Central is bustling with noontime energy, sunshine and good spirit reflected in people's faces. For being one the major cities, Central has an unexpectedly friendliness to its general demeanor. It retains a sense of community that places like Gotham or Metropolis have long forgotten, loose where Starling is uptight, and homey minus the Smallville rusticity. It’s nice, if you're looking for that kind of thing. Oliver adjusts his Ray-Bans. Central is a bit too bright for his tastes. 

He reaches the glass doors and keep them open for a woman carrying eight orders of coffee. She mumbles a thanks, does a double take, and opens her mouth.

“Good day,” Oliver smiles. He enters Jitters before she can ask.  

The cafe is as busy as the streets, staff crisscrossing tables occupied by patrons having coffee or a late lunch. A permeating scent of roasted beans float threw the spacious venue alongside a soft, nameless jazz number.  

Oliver pockets his sunglasses and checks his watch. Fifteen minutes till two. Raising his arms pulls at the fresh stitches, a twinge and reminder of why he is here. Damn metahumans. A man on his right stands to leave, opening a table for two. Oliver opts to secure a seat before getting in line—Barry will most likely be late—and starts walking, when he hears a familiar laugh.

Feet stop, eyes swirl, and focus with pinpoint accuracy on a window seat nearby. 

Two men are talking over coffee: one sitting while the other in a Jitters apron stands lazily with an elbow rested on the tabletop. Barry Allen is all smiles, eyes crinkled at whatever joke, quipping back something that gets lost in the noise. His body language toes the line of nervous and eager that Oliver knows so well. And the man basking in the attention is---

 

“Shit.”

 

It’s an accurate assessment of a situation entirely unanticipated.

Oliver keeps staring, gathering intel through observation and weighing the odds of a hasty exist versus an intervention, when the option is taken out of his hands. The security risk notices Oliver and, after his chiseled features morph from mild surprise to distaste, breaks his face into the biggest shit-eating grin.

This time, Oliver’s assessment is much more colorful, leaving a scandalized woman in his wake as he stalks over to the pair.

“Jordan.”

Barry startles and bangs his knee under the table. No sympathy there. It's unwise to let your guard down in public, whenever, where ever. Oliver would tsk at the younger hero if he was the teaching, caring type---which he isn't. What he is is the stabbing, punishing type, currently focused on Harold Jordan who wears a smile that's far too knowing to be amicable.  

“Oliver Queen. Fancy seeing you here.”

Stylishly messy hair and rolled-up shirt sleeves, Jordan nails the golden ratio of rough to charm. Confidence is smoothed over with an approachability that convinces people to strike up a conversation or accept a drink or two. Against Oliver's frigid aloofness that repels, Jordan is a burning sociability that engages, greedy for attention and an occasional brawl. There is no question what he's looking for right now. Cocky bastard. Oliver tries to keep his face schooled in some semblance of politeness instead of grabbing Jordan by the neck and dragging him outside. 

“I take it you two know each other,” says Oliver. He doesn't care that it sounds closer to an interrogation than a conversation starter.

Barry gives an awkward “Uh…”, taking liberty to include himself in the 'you', and steps into the line of fire. “Yeah, Hal works here.” He states the obvious like it answers everything. 

Oliver is unimpressed and makes it known with his eyebrows, to which Barry replies with a "He makes a mean latte?" 

Oliver is further unimpressed when Jordan nods, accepting both Barry's praise and logic.

“And Barry here is Jitters' loyalest of customers. My favorite.” Jordan supplies the statement with a wink. “And his sister is super hot … although she is taken and therefore off-limits.” He adds the last part when Barry playfully smacks his arm.

The two share a smile that is comfortable in their roles, a familiarity that suggests history, which Oliver wouldn’t question if he wasn't certain that Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are not childhood best friends or even college roommates. If they were, the fact would've been included in the files. This, whatever this is, is a recent development. 

Oliver’s ears are ringing with alarm bells when Barry asks “And you guys know each other, how?” There is a touch of wariness in his voice with an underlying What's wrong? aimed at Oliver.

The short answer is Everything. Everything is wrong with this coffee shop tableau. The only thing holding Oliver back is the severe lack of context. 

Interestingly enough, Jordan jumps in before Oliver can craft a reply. 

"I told you I used to be a test pilot, right? So a few years ago, there was this fancy cocktail party--"

He recounts an exaggerated tale about Ferris Air, Carol Ferris, two men fighting over a beautiful woman in an epic rivalry that sounds fit for the cinemas. Some of the details are true: Jordan did toss champagne in Oliver's face and Oliver did have a brief non-relationship with Carol when he was ‘billionaire playboy’ with no addendum.

It is a memory of Before, securely shut away in the box labeled Old History, until two months ago when none other than Jordan himself reminded Oliver of their acquaintance by knocking the Arrow out with one gigantic, green fist.

Oliver had wondered if he was concussed enough to hallucinate but, alas, Jordan was real and his ring constructs 100% tangible. An unpleasant exchange followed, about secret identities and unmasking people while they're unconscious, including petty barbs for 'stealing' someone's color without permission. The only agreement they reached that night was to stay out of each other's business with a heavily implied 'or else'. Green Lantern flew away, Arrow packed his bow, and that was the end of an extremely bad night.

Since then, Oliver learned that Harold Jordan was none other than the pilot that went missing at Ferris Air Testing Facility several years ago. Both parents deceased, his last known address was a cheap apartment in Coast City, followed by a trail of odd jobs and unpaid bills until he went up in a puff of smoke. There wasn't even a bank transaction that pointed to his whereabouts after Jordan seemingly ‘disappeared' from the face of the Earth. This did support the man's claim that he was some kind of intergalactic space police, but the more realistic assumption was that he was criminally adept at covering his tracks. Felicity can flail her arms all she likes; Oliver cared more about his sanity than their resident hacker's ego.

Hal Jordan was a mystery for sure, and yet merely amounted to a small drop in the bucket of abnormalities Oliver faced on a daily basis. When the man didn’t show in the next chase or the next, Oliver had assumed he’d seen the last of Green Lantern.

No such luck, apparently.

“And that's why we hate each other's guts. Now that you know, I should leave you to at it and get back to earning my keep.” It seems story time ended before Oliver finished his internal musings. Jordan ruffles Barry’s hair in jockish camaraderie. The brow raise Oliver gets is considerably less friendly. “Might as well ask for your order. Let me guess, black coffee, no cream or sugar?”

"You know me so well."

Jordan gives a conspiratory smirk and stalks off without a witty comeback. Seems he was more rattled than he let on. Oliver watches the retreating figure roll his shoulders and shed invisible weight. Either Jordan didn’t know Barry and Oliver knew each other, or he did and wanted to avoid the introduction. Probably the latter since he didn't ask why Oliver was here. A piece in the milk puzzle. 

Jordan provided another puzzle piece. The Carol backstory he spun was a convenient partial truth for Barry as well as Oliver: a word-less explanation of what's what. There were no hints or double-meanings slipped into the innocuous tale, bleaching out their costumed identities like unwanted stains. Barry doesn't know the Green Lantern, and Jordan intends to keep it that way.

But does Jordan know about the Flash? Is it mere coincidence that the two found each other over good coffee? 

Oliver doesn’t believe in coincidence. He doesn’t have the luxury.

There is a tentative laugh that’s closer to a cough.

“You’re the only person I know with tales in three different cities, Oliver.” Barry’s good humor is betrayed by the nervous twitch in his fingers.

Oliver sits in the opposite chair, shrugging away his silence. “Then you’re not in the right crowd. Speaking of—”

“Don’t.”

It's like getting a door slammed in the face. Oliver startles. What now? He watches slender fingers grip the mug once, twice, and then release with a sigh.

“I—I know what you’re going to say," Barry tells his coffee. He dons the rejected-puppy look even Diggle can't fight. "But it’s not like that. Hal doesn’t know, I won't tell him, and we're just friends. I’m being extra careful. You don't need to repeat yourself. I get it. Guys like us, right? And nothing has changed since I talked to Felicity so there really is nothing to discuss.”

“Felicity?”

Barry’s head snaps up. He takes in Oliver’s blank expression, eyes widening as it comes to some sort of realization, and then the fidgeting becomes a full-body frantic thing.

“Uh, um, you know what, nothing, it’s just, forget it. That's not what we're here to talk about so let's talk about what we're supposed to be talking about, you're busy, I'm busy, we both have people to save, and Mirror Master isn't going away on his own. Oh! Mirror Master is what Cisco calls your guy, Sam Scudder, right? If you guys have a different name, you gotta talk to Cisco about it but he can get really protective—”

“We just call him Scudder.”

It's Oliver's turn to cut Barry short. He needs to call Felicity the first chance he gets; but, first things first. Oliver is here for business—business of the vigilante kind.

 

For the past few months, someone has been raiding Starling City’s jewelry stores of their diamonds and pearls. A common crime for the police can handle, or so Oliver had thought, until he learned the perp was a metahuman and the profits were fueling a human trafficking ring.

The metahuman, Sam Scudder, was a criminal bestowed with the ability to travel through reflected surfaces who'd sold his services to the highest bidder—an offshoot gang branch from Blüdhaven.

Oliver had no trouble finding reasons to shoot arrows at Scudder’s feet.

But he did have trouble catching said feet. Scudder wasn't an assassin or a mirakuru solider; he was, however, extremely good at getting away. It became painfully apparent after several attempts, including the run-in with Green Lantern, that Arrow needed someone on the other side of the looking glass. Felicity traced Scudder back to Central City, at which point it was only natural for Oliver to place a call.

The plan was simple: locate Scudder—Mirror Master—'s Central City hideout, organize a two-front attack, lock him up, and then go back to deal with the benignly normal mobsters.

Once Jordan delivers the coffee, Oliver reiterates the barebones of their operation. All details have been discussed beforehand. Barry munches on a chocolate chip cookie, courtesy to Jordan, which he accepted with a happy blushed thanks. An unsaid apology wrapped in kind gesture, Barry eats the crumbs and absolves more sins than he knows. 

“Man, I thought Peekaboo was bad enough,” the kid shakes his head. “It’s like all the Ocean’s 11 abilities go to the thieving kind.”

“At least we lucked out on super-speed.” Oliver's remark receives a hundred-watt smile. Barry is excited as ever to be working with another costumed vigilante. If he knows that he’s being assessed, it doesn’t show.

Barry Allen is one of the rarer metahumans that does good with his ability. His character didn't change before or after the lightening strike: bright, awkward, caring, and sincere. He is also naive, inexperienced, bull-headed, and fast. These traits can be nuanced given time and proper guidance—or become warped beyond recognition in one fatal error. Playing hero is dangerous business, especially if you wear your heart on your sleeve. 

Oliver doesn’t plan on helping Barry. There are others better suited for the job. Instead, he makes idle talk over coffee and screens Barry’s words, body language, and facial expressions for any cracks or scars. Subscribing to a Flash sighting alert and having Felicity make what she calls ‘Barry updates’ are not signs of care or kindness. It’s vigilance. Diggle's comments about overbearing big brothers are inaccurate and really not that funny. 

Oliver Queen hates surprises on principle, and that is why he lingers after Barry leaves.

Jordan stands at the register, moving around the machines with seamless fluidity. His flirtations don’t slow him down and each order is accompanied with a wink and a smile. The tip jar is looking quite impressive.

Oliver gets another coffee to go, slips a note between the bills, and leaves Jitters without a backward glance.

 

 

****

 

 

“Oh my god, you met Hal!”

Felicity chitters excitedly and Oliver pinches his nose bridge, gesture unappreciated by its intended audience on the other side of the line.

He eyes the wallpaper best described as art deco on acid. It is a small room with nothing more than a bed and cheap furniture. The air has a constant dullness to it with a lingering smell of pot. Just breathing here feels like it's slowing Oliver’s braincells, not in a relaxing high but in a lethargy that's as resassuring as a prison bed. 

Oliver goes into the bathroom to find that the place doesn’t even have a mirror. How the guy managed to shave is a mystery. Former Scudder residence gets crossed off the list of Mirror Master’s escape routes. It would be so much easier to plant an electronic tracker but pointy 3-D objects don’t work well on 2-D reflections. Cisco might be up to the challenge of inter-dimensional weaponry.

“—so, what do you think of him? Barry says he’s nice but Barry says that about everybody.”

Time to break the news. “Felicity, it’s Jordan. Hal, short for Harold, Jordan.”

There is a brief silence.

“Oh… oh shit.”

Exactly. Oliver returns to the living room with the battered couch, littered with junk mail and beer cans. So much shit.

“What have you heard about ‘Hal’?”

This time the silence is pensive.

“Felicity, Barry thought I knew already, having heard from you. You’re betraying no one’s trust here. And since Hal is Jordan, we need to make sure that there are no hidden motives behind his friendly-barista act.”

“Right,” Felicity finally says. She sounds cautious. “From what I’ve heard, Hal started working at Jitters about a month after the particle-accelerator explosion. Barry got to know him through Iris once he woke up from his coma.” Felicity explains that most of their interactions happen at Jitters, conversation mundane and ridiculously tame. They swap gossip, favorite tv shows, and comic book updates. It's enough to wonder if it really is a coincidence. “And Barry has a crush on Hal.”  

Oliver blinks. “What?”

And then comes the tirade.

“Which is a great development after years and years of pining, and it sounds like Hal is interested too. He actually listened to and even commented on Barry’s lecture about the differences between Yetis and Bigfoots. But Barry keeps holding himself back because he thinks heroes can’t date and must follow the Jedi Code, no romantic attachments and individual bonds, after you apparently told him that which is, by the way, so not true, Jedi Council be damned!”

Felicity takes in a breath, and her voice warms. “Everyone deserves happiness…even heroes.”

The dilapidated couch is starting to look too inviting. Oliver decides to get out before he gives in to the urge. He shuts the door and walks across the corridor towards the stairs. It gives him time to process what Felicity just bombed him with.

"Barry is gay?"

"Bisexuality is a thing, you know." The condescending tone is laced with frustration. "As is saving the world while having a life."

Oliver feels a knot in his chest and blames it on the unstable staircase. 

"The apartment was a bust. Keep looking on your side."

He clicks off the phone but not before Felicity slips in "This actually makes things easier."

 

What is made easier and how, Oliver doesn't know.

 

****

 

"You know, don't you."

Jordan's smirk is all the confirmation Oliver needs.

They're sat at a bar counter and to everyone else they're just two men having a drink. The venue calling itself Saints 'n' Sinners was Jordan's choice, where Oliver sits now with a beer that's slowly losing its fizz.

His thoughts must have shown, as Jordan raises his hands in an universal gesture of chill-out. "You have got to be kidding me. First Carol, then the mirror thief, and now this? You need to stop stealing other people's chases and develop your own taste."

"What are you after?"

"Booze, cash, a place to crash," Jordan counts on his fingers and takes a swig from his bottle. He side-eyes Oliver and snorts. "Maybe some Netflix and chill? Unlike some people, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I'm a man of simple needs and want to actually enjoy living life, again, unlike some people. Isn't it obvious?" Flippant and cocky. The nerve of this man.

"You want to get maimed, if we're talking about what's obvious," Oliver says. His words are as blunt as his fists. What is obvious is that Jordan is an asshole who can imagine bullets into existence and knows who the Flash is. "I don't have time for games, Jordan." It comes out close to a snarl.

There's a beat, Time sucks in a breath, and everything halts. Seconds crawl down the back of Oliver's neck, little ants of tension that slowly grow in numbers as Jordan lets his emotion take over his face, profile accentuated into hard lines and sharp edges. The ring flares green like a warning light. 

"That's it, listen here you entitled fuckboy," Jordan growls, nonchalance foregone. "We've established that we stay out of each other's business, and how I live my life or who I become friends with strictly falls under that agreement. Who do you think you are, anyway? Just because you're loaded and dons a hoodie on occasion, it gives you the right to meddle, step all over people and judge them with your twisted sense of justice like some deranged crusader? I'm a Green Lantern, Barry is the Flash, so what? We're both big boys that can make our own decisions and, more specifically, Barry isn't yours." Jordan spits out venomously, grip getting tighter around his beer bottle, and this time it's not champagne but beer about to be thrown in Oliver's face. "And I'm not going to sit here and be vetted on my character so that I'm allowed to make his coffee. So go stick your bullshit and rusty arrows up your own and get the hell out of my face, Oliver Queen."

It's a good thing the bar has a football game, birthday party, and Iron Maiden playing simultaneously in the background. Had anyone heard that speech, it would've caused a twitter sensation with speculations on which Barry is beneath the red cowl. And this is why I'm here. Oliver lets his anger ice into glass shards.

"Jordan, I haven't the slightest bit of interest in you or your cheap lifestyle. Make all the coffee you like. Befriend as many customers as you please. Find someone you can call your own. I. Don't. Care." He makes a tight fist on the countertop, a gesture of controlled aggression and a promise of pain. "However, when your presence threatens the safety of others, people that have trusted their secrets with me and I with mine, I can't let it not be my business. Especially since I have no reason to trust you." Their eyes meet in a stalemate, explosion imminent. "So answer me, Harold Jordan, or you'll get something much deadlier than words in your face. What are you after?" 

They stare at each other, both searching for what they're reluctant to give, and Oliver almost decides on coercion when Jordan gives an explosive sigh. He slides a hand through his hair, shaking strands loose from their gelled confines, and mumbles something under his breath before taking a pull from his bottle.

"Alright, fine .... I kind of get where you're coming from."

Oliver blinks. What?

"What?"

"You're worried about Barry." Jordan shrugs. "Me too."

Detonation aborted, the air settles into something begrudgingly normal. It's uncomfortable, a sudden drop from an adrenaline high, and Oliver resorts to his tepid beer.

The other man shakes his head. "I'm not lying about being here to make an honest living and what not, although why I chose to do it here connects to my other job." Jordan lowers his voice. "That particle accelerator fiasco wasn't just an Earth thing. It attracted extraterrestrial interest. The nature of it varies, some think it's an opening for interplanetary alliance, crazies think they can use the meta-humans for their own evildoings, and others are curious at Earthlings like we're lab rats that learned a few tricks. I set up shop here to keep an eye out for abnormal activities and prevent any unwanted exposés."

Oliver is still hung up on the 'extraterrestrial interest' when a roar from the background, someone won at pool, almost drowns out: "I don't mean him any harm."

By this point, with Barry's smiles, Felicity's ramble, and Jordan's attitude, the statement comes as no surprise. It still takes Oliver a second to digest. Consonants and vowels wrap around him in a protective blanket, a name-less pronoun that represents something precious. Oliver recognizes this because he has pronouns of his own, little gems that require the utmost care and attention, and it is then that, for the first time, Oliver feels that maybe Harold Jordan can be trusted.

Beside him, Jordan signals the bartender for another bottle. He is back to being the self-assured pilot that Oliver knows from Before, mouthy and generally good humored, only with a comfortable slouch like he shed the last bit of armor he wore in front of Oliver.   

If what Jordan says is true, Oliver hangs on the flimsy lifeline the if provides, it makes a bizarre sort of sense. The particle accelerator freed the unknown from its theoretical confines in an uncontrolled bang; however the 'unknown' is in, dare he say it, Earth terms. If there are E.T.s out there watching, it makes sense that they'll flag the superhuman mutations as potential for ... whatever it is that aliens do. 

Oliver feels a headache. Who is he kidding, he has bought the story already. The impossible mechanics behind the Green Lantern suit alone is proof that there is intelligence out there, figuratively and literally lightyears ahead of anything scientists here have even dreamed of. 

The if snaps and breaks, throwing thoughts into a free-fall. Aliens are real, Mars Attacks is a possibility, and Jordan fights them for a living. Beer isn't the correct beverage right now. He needs whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey.

"Your turn."

Thirst for numbing amber is cut short by a cryptic prompt. New bottle in hand, Jordan swings it at Oliver's general direction, annoyingly free from imaginations of brain-exploding martians that can't stand American music. "I told you why I'm here. Why are you?" There is an underlying layer of something in the question, a faint flutter of unease, probing for more than returned faith but what Oliver can't exactly place. 

"I work with him when needs arise," Oliver replies. "And I care, because he saved my life."

The he is unquestioned. There might be no point in avoiding the they, implicating that the Flash is an operation rather than a one man show, but there is no harm in being cautious. Same line of reasoning leaves work unexplained. Jordan is merely asking for confirmation that they're sitting here in a raucous bar because they care about the same thing.

And Jordan is perceptive, something Oliver knew from years back. He is as brash as he is shrewd, a kind of street-smarts that has been further sharpened from his new line of occupation. Brown eyes dig between the lines and, seemingly satisfied, moves to take in the bar at large where people drink their worries into oblivion.

"Huh." Jordan chuckles, smile meant for whatever ghost occupying his mind. "I can see that happening."

This actually makes things easier.  

Felicity's words choose to resurface at that moment and Oliver, gathering his own evidence through visual cues, muses. 

M aybe it does. 

But he doesn't say anything. Instead, he leaves the bright noise behind him into the night for some hard liquor and thinking.

 

*****

 

Cisco pops his gum and licks off the remnants before he speaks. "Wow, okay, that sounds impossible. But crazy cool."

Oliver waits.

"I mean, a three dimensional object changing its basic composition and rearranging itself to penetrate a two dimensional target? The basis for that can build something to follow Mirror Master, a dimension-traveling machine you can use to enter comic books and play Bloody Mary pranks and maybe even alter-realities!"

Oliver waits some more.

"That is, indeed, an interesting prospect," a smooth voice interrupts Cisco's excited ramblings. Harrison Wells, as composed as ever, sits in his wheelchair like a king on a throne. "But I believe what Mr. Queen needs is something much simpler." He manages to broaden the adjective to describe the theoretical gadget as well as its intended user. That would be Oliver. "The device doesn't have to reach Mirror Master, it only needs to make him reachable for us."

"So we pull him out ... or make it impossible for him to stay inside," Caitlin thinks out loud. "Mirror Master genetically rearranges himself to merge with the reflected photons from the mirror surface and becomes an image. Cutting off any light source is a given but if we can disrupt the mirror surface itself, maybe something that produces the correct amount of energy that will excite the--"

Cisco instantly oohs. "Like a mirror taser! And shock him into corporeality! That's totally doable, or more like demi-possible, 80 or 75%. Barry can phase through objects by resonating with the object's frequency, so instead of sympathizing with the vibration we find a way to disrupt it and Mirror Master will be forced out of the mirror. It'll have to make contact with the surface, so a projectile, maybe an arrowhead that emits two different frequencies once it hits the target and--"

Oliver checks his watch. It's still early morning and, snide dig aside, the geek fest sounds promising. He stands outside the semi-circle of scientists in the STAR labs cortex where Barry Allen is yet to be--

"Morning guys! Oh, hey Oliver." The smile is accompanied with a cup of coffee. "What's going on?" Barry looks at the other three completely occupied with their 'simple' mirror taser.

"I may have excited them a bit," Oliver answers and Barry shakes his head, the go-to gesture Oliver finds himself resorting to when Felicity goes on her tangents.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, Oliver sees again how much Barry changed after getting his powers. Fashion sense remains the same, the usual sweater and jeans ensemble, but they now hug broader shoulders and a strong line of core muscle that makes Barry look even taller. The change isn't fundamental; the transformation merely unearthed what was beneath sedimented layers of self-doubt and insecurities, emboldening the light that was always there. Barry Allen chased the improbable, and kept running.

Like Mulder, hanging on to a belief that the truth is out there. Oliver sighs internally. He blames the pop culture reference on environmental factors, and goes along with it just because he can. Would that make me Skinner? Who would the cigarette-smoking mastermind be? What about Scully?

"I did a search on Scudder's records," Barry reports. He sips from the paper cup with a "Take it easy" and smiley face hastily scrawled on its side. Oliver finds the note weirdly satisfying, a sign that his newly forged trust isn't misplaced. Who would Scully be? The million dollar question is starting to look like a three dollar one with an extra shot of espresso.

"There are a few names that might know his whereabouts. I can go check them out, see if they know anything. You haven't found Mirror Master's hide-out yet?"

"No. And I'll do the checking out. That's what I'm here for."

Barry glances warily and Oliver huffs. "I won't be shooting arrows in broad daylight, Barry."

"I know. Just, try to keep the pain factor minimum?" 

Oliver nods in confirmation. The will to do what's ugly---Arrow's modus operandi. But it doesn't have to be a defining factor. If other people can believe, if they can see the light, maybe he can too, or at least shift closer to the white end of the spectrum.

"There's a website that might help."

It comes without preamble and Oliver sends a glance for Barry to continue.

"Cisco set it up after seeing Iris' blog and the amount of traffic it was getting. People talk, we obviously can't stop them, but making a platform lets us monitor what's being said. They're mostly internet-hate and conspiracy theories, anonymous users throwing crap at each other... but sometimes we get tip-offs."

Huh. "On your leads?"

Barry shakes his head. "Not really. But it has alerted us to smaller things that don't get reported. Like there was one time when someone found unusual loads of hair thrown out, and I mean three or four garbage bags full of hair, that led us to a metahuman who can grow hair on whim." Barry laughs. "We let that one go, she wasn't giving Santa beards to random people on the streets. I think she started a hair treatment business."

Oliver thinks to interject but Barry continues. "Sometimes though, we get reports that match a metahuman we're going after, like weird singe marks on the pavements, or a bar brawl where some guy broke a chair with an iron fist." He gives a noncommittal shrug. "We did get one person swearing he or she saw a guy run across a window in an empty street. It might help."

"I see."

Oliver asks for the link.

 

***

 

This time they sit at a place slightly upscale, bartenders wearing crisp white shirts that don't sport their favorite rock bands, and Oliver sips his gin and tonic while Jordan toys with the olive in his martini. It is a hotel bar, men and women milling around in varying fashion, some with evening plans and others just killing time. Tastefully located lights create ample shadows in an atmosphere of relaxed, dark purple.

Jordan takes a peanut and pops it in his mouth. "Is this a date?" 

Oliver snorts. "In your dreams."

"Then why am I drinking with you, again, and two nights in a row? Is this going to become a habit? Do I have to start asking you out for drinks every time I visit Starling too?"

"Don't worry. I have enough alcohol in my house to start my own bar, all of it much better quality than cheap beer."

That gets an exaggerated eye-roll and Oliver finds himself amused. Dear gods, are we bantering? Jordan doesn't seem to have any holdups on that front as he relaxes out of his pilot jacket and picks another peanut. "Well then, what do I owe the pleasure of seeing your smug, rich face this time?" The question has no bite. Damn it. We are bantering.

Introspection can wait though, because there is a reason Oliver asked to see Jordan tonight. He slides across a chicken-scratch note written on the side of a coffee sleeve. 

"It's you, isn't it?"

Jordan picks up the small piece of cardboard, discarding it on the table after a short perusal. "Sure. It probably is, whatever it is that you're insinuating. I have a tendency of getting into trouble and most things are my fault." 

"The one who's leaving tips on the website. It's you." Oliver doesn't ask and Jordan doesn't answer. They both know, anyway. A soft piano fills their silence, a woman laughs, and someone spills their drink with a series of 'I'm sorry's.

"I didn't know you could be subtle."

"I didn't know you could be so nosy."

They drink from their respective glasses and let everyone else do the talking.

"Look."

It's Jordan who caves.

"I like Barry. He's good, of course he's a hero, but I mean he is a genuinely good person, like someone who'd pick up a wallet full of cash and take it to the police station, or help old ladies cross the road and ask about their grandkids. It's who he is and he uses that to dictate the use of his powers." There is a brief pause during which Jordan organizes his thoughts and Oliver can sense the but coming. "He's fast. It's crazy, never seen anything like it, here or otherwise. And that kind of speed, that amount of power ... it's easy to get lost in it." A self-depreciating smile. "I just want to be there for him. And maybe that involves leaving comments on a website. Whatever. He needs someone watching his back--"

"And that's you?"

"And you." Jordan looks straight into Oliver's eyes. "And everyone else. I'm just adding one more ally in his corner." 

The alcohol is smooth, weak enough for a sober conversation but with a kick so you don't forget. Oliver lets it roll on his tongue and thinks.

"Do you know Harrison Wells?"

Another peanut leaves the dish and in to Jordan's mouth. "Yeah, the guy everyone hates but Barry worships." 

"I don't trust him."

Wells saved Barry's life and now takes the role of mentor, helping the Flash learn how to harness his speed. The man is beyond intelligent, avant-guard of his field even after getting knocked off the pedestal, and has an EQ that matches his IQ. Wells wields knowledge like a weapon, aiming at the weakest points. Oliver remembers how quickly the man figured out Arrow's identity. And how he warned Barry away from the vigilante based on moral grounds the man himself is dubious on. 

"You don't trust Wells." The conversation last night is enough for Jordan to understand what Oliver means by 'trust', although it seems to surprise him. "I thought Wells was part of the team."

"He is, and I could be wrong," Oliver allows. "But I warn you that if he finds out about the Green Lantern, it won't take long for him to find who's under the mask. And he will unmask you on his terms."

A bartender smiles and asks about their drinks. Jordan orders another vodka martini. He picks up the coffee sleeve and starts playing with it, flipping it again and again between his fingers. It doesn't stop when the martini arrives, the Jitters logo winking in and out of the lights. Oliver accepts his own drink, and waits.

"How did Barry take it with you?"

Again, Oliver feels a sense of satisfaction. Jordan isn't hesitant because he is worried about how the reveal will affect himself; he is worried about how it'll affect Barry and their relationship. It's understandable. Lying by omission can be as hurtful as straight-out lying. It will require a lot of explaining and, even then, doubt carries a lingering scent.

Too bad Oliver can't help. "He found out before the lightening."

Jordan scrunches his eyebrows in confusion. "How the hell did that happen?"

"I told you, he saved me. He didn't tell anyone, until Wells outed me to the rest of the team and then tried to convince Barry that I was a bad influence."

"I can definitely see the logic there," says Jordan, drinking to Oliver's eye roll. "Wait, Barry saved you before he got his powers? Is the guy for real? He'll probably get a statue and a museum by the time he retires."  

"I tried to kill him after he saved me. I've also shot him several times. Did and said things I regret." The truth is a mere skin away from the heart, knife tip dangerously close to nicking an artery. It's something Oliver would never do willingly but, as he said, there are things he regrets saying. He owes this to Barry, and another person who also believes. Mulder needs his Scully, after all. "And despite all that, Barry still helps the Arrow. He trusts me to have his back. If anyone can see the goodness in someone, it's Barry. Kid is forgiving to a fault."

Jordan stares into his martini glass with a half-hearted "Yeah".

Hero or no, everyone has skeletons in their closet. By the looks of it, Jordan might own a graveyard. Oliver can only vouch for Barry's character so he finishes the gin and tonic. Playing cupid really isn't his business.

Just like last night, Oliver leaves alone. He thinks, balances the odds, and then crafts a text on the cab. It goes off in a woosh to the recipient, probably still rattling old bones in a martini glass. 

Oliver doesn't know how Harold Jordan can make things easier for Barry Allen. But it will make catching a metahuman ridiculously easy.

As the car stops at a red light, his phone pings an affirmative.

Arrow smiles.

 

***

 

In the end, they didn't even need a mirror taser.

Some terse conversation with Scudder's friends revealed a warehouse that the guy used to stash his hauls. Apparently, Mirror Master was more sentimental about his old safehouse than his former apartment. Felicity got intel of the next scheduled heist and all they had to do was wait. The man didn't even try to fight when three heroes showed up at his doorstep, weapons ready and trained on his very three-dimensional body. He did yell "Overkill!"

An anticlimactic ending, comparatively speaking, but Cisco didn't seem to think so. He was currently gaping at Green Lantern floating above their lab computers, hands reached out like he wants to touch.

"Oh my god. Are you ... are you saying aliens are real?"

Jordan smirks, which invokes a yell, fist pump, and happy-dance. "I knew it! I so knew it! This is the best day of my life! That means your suit is actual alien-tech, right? How is it powered? The green orb, that's the energy? What is it made of? I saw it turn into a rocket-launcher, came out of that ring, how do you control it, can it be cut off from the ring, do you need to wear it for the powers to work, and that suit design, man, it's so sick!"

Behind Cisco, Caitlin eyes Green Lantern with a healthy amount of confusion and distrust. Her gaze flickers back and forth between Jordan and Wells, who is wearing a contemplative frown.  

Barry, however, is as excited as Cisco. The first thing he said when he met Green Lantern was "Oh my god are you Superman!?" to which Oliver busted a gut while Jordan sputtered out an offended "NO!" Even though his Superman theory got shot down, Barry looked like he won the lottery and was still grinning now with added fuel of his friend's excitement. Why they can be so accepting is something Oliver will never and doesn't even really want to understand.

While Jordan gleefully demonstrates what his ring can do, Oliver walks up to Barry and touches his shoulder. "You can trust him." He looks at Caitlin and then at Wells. At least Caitlin looks a little more at ease at the endorsement. Wells, though, is a different story.

"That's good enough for me." Barry's smile is blinding. "He helped us catch Mirror Master, he works as an intergalactic space police, he seems like a good guy. What's there not to trust?" He sends the question out to his team members, to which Caitlin sighs as if she has given up a small part of herself. Oliver can relate.

Deed is done, it's time to go back. Jordan will decide what to do about the dual identity. Not my business. Oliver opens his mouth in farewell, when a voice cuts in.

"You're Barry Allen."

Oh great.

Tension shoots up, building a precarious tower of shock, fear, and animosity. No one says a word as Green Lantern walks over and stops several feet from the gaping hero.

Oliver feels his hackles rise in automatic response and lands his gaze on Wells. Unlike Cisco and Caitlin who look frightened, Wells looks ready to stand in between Barry and Jordan, paralyzed or no. The furious clench of his teeth could be taken as protective or downright murderous.

Who is this man?

"You don't have to lie. Checking on all metahuman activity is kind of my duty. Part-time, at least. When I'm not flying around outer-space kicking ass."

Jordan looks undeterred by the fists Barry is unconsciously making, doesn't react to how the others are inching away, or even register Wells trying to eviscerate him with sheer will power. His entire focus is on Barry and Barry alone. Maybe he has nothing else to spare. It explains the tightness in his grin.

"Since I know you already, it's only fair that you know me."

Jordan makes a fist in front of his chest, the ring glows, and the costume dissolves.

Oliver has never wanted to face-palm so hard in his life. Next to him, Barry's mouth drops open, a shaky intake of breath, and he takes a step forward.

 

".... Hal?"

 

Jordan smiles tentatively, hands in his jeans pockets, posture at once defensive and vulnerable.

"You can yell at me over dinner?"

Barry blinks rapidly, still processing the revelation, his wide eyes tracing and retracing the hero now wearing familiar jeans and pilot jacket.

It takes several seconds of silence until an unbelieving laugh resounds in the cortex. Cisco and Caitlin look worriedly at Barry, who takes off his cowl. A multitude of emotion coalesce into a muddled frown, eyes sharp and demanding, as he faces Jordan---Green Lantern---for the first time. His cowel-whipped hair looks as tumultuous as his thoughts, fists still clenching and unclenching, bottled energy shaking for release.

Disbelief, anger, hurt, worry, suspicion... Oliver picks apart the pigments on Barry's face and soon finds what the overriding color is. Relief. Relief, that stems much deeper than realizing your potential threat is a known acquaintance, as if an unknown barrier is lifted and you're allowing yourself to hope. 

"... Your place, or mine?"

They smile, tentative and yet comfortable in their roles, like they've known each other for a lifetime.

Flash vs Green Lantern won't be happening tonight. Sure, there will be yelling and lots of questioning; but the verdict is clear.

Oliver leave them to it.

 

 

 

Several days later, after the human traffickers were put behind bars, Oliver is greeted by a surprisingly strong hug from Felicity.

"Welcome to the Dark Side!"