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Oliver has the decency to wait until the nurses have left the hospital room before ripping the IV out of his arm, holding pressure to it with the paper towel he took out of the bathroom earlier. The bleeding in his arm stops fairly quickly, and he sits there a moment longer, trying to figure out where the hell the ICU is. It's been a long time since he's been to Starling General, and he's certainly never been to ICU. He thinks it's probably going to start an uproar when they find him gone on rounds in two hours, but it can't be helped—he told them not to put him in an entirely different unit from her, but they thought he was hysterical and didn't listen.

While he waits for his arm to stop bleeding, he thinks about the way the doctors and nurses fretted around him, asking questions about his many injuries, about how he managed to get to Hong Kong in the first place. At that point, though, he wasn't in the mood to answer questions—not when they were ignoring his. It had occurred to him then that this was precisely why he never wanted to come back to Starling City—too many questions about where he'd been and his injuries.

Then that damned lightning bolt had set the forest on fire and she'd managed to get caught in it, and he'd decided that he wasn't going to watch anyone else die from gangrene and third degree burns.

Oliver shakes his head, making his way out of the room they gave him and following the signs to intensive care, thinking again how the hell he'd managed to get to this point. It had all started with the boat; his father had wanted to go to Beijing to check on some business interests, and the boat had seemed like an interesting option. Oliver had needed a break from Laurel—and some time with Sara—so he had decided to go on board with his father and the girl he was grooming to be his business protégé.

Until that point, Oliver had only heard the name Felicity Smoak, and he was surprised to see she was everything he thought she wasn't. At first he had taken her to have a superior attitude like the last one (Isabel, he vaguely remembers the name) and only wanting to share in the Queen family power—or screw around with his father; Oliver was never blind to Robert's faults—but then she had started to talk, and Oliver realized she was only trying to keep herself from saying all the things she was thinking (because when Felicity started talking, she started talking).

All it took was two seconds with her while Sara was on the deck to find out she was precisely all the things his father had said, while still managing to have a sunny personality and a deflated ego. She'd kicked his ass at blackjack (which was accompanied by a story about how she card-counted the Mirage out of the money that later paid for her college tuition at MIT, without being caught), and, for once, she'd treated him like an adult instead of the spoiled brat he was back then. For some reason, it drew him back, and, in one short week at sea, Felicity Smoak had become a friend.

And then the shipwreck had happened.

He can't bring himself to think about the events that pulled them both to Lian Yu, but he remembers the dread of knowing that both of them were going to starve on that goddamn island together—he didn't know how to save them, and Felicity wasn't exactly a survival expert, either. But she'd surprised him by taking up the mantle to bury his father's body, to take the book from his pocket and save it in her own overcoat. While Oliver had been mourning, Felicity had been the logical, rational one who took action, who was determined to keep them alive while Oliver had accepted his fate.

He finally finds the intensive care ward, and the glass windows streamline the process of finding her. He expects it to be bad, but, other than the morphine pump and the heart monitor, she seems to be doing as well as can be expected. Oliver breathes a sigh of relief; his fears had run away with him over the last few hours, and part of him had expected a ventilator and the like, even though he knows there is absolutely no reason for it.

She looks peacefully asleep, but as soon as he shuts the door behind him, her eyes fly open and her heart rate goes through the roof, the monitor beeping rapidly. Then her eyes land on him, and he hears the count slow as he pulls the blinds over the window closed. Her bed is the one furthest from the door, and he goes back to her, sitting on the bed next to her. His eyes fall on her wrapped left arm and fingers. "Hey," he says to her quietly, "how are you feeling?"

"Should you even be here?" she asks in a distant voice, her eyes glazing a little from the morphine. "And I’m feeling pretty shitty, actually—I'm hooked up to some machine like I'm a robot." She flops her hands around a little, and an odd, stilted voice she asks him, "What does this action signify?" Then she winks with a serious expression, before collapsing into a fit of giggles. "You probably don't understand that—we should watch that movie." She looks at him for a long moment. "And there are two of you, which means that I am seriously high." She looks over at the pump. "Morphine?"

He checks the labels for her, just to be sure. The IV fluids indicate painkillers and a whole host of drugs for infections. "Yeah, and a lot of antibiotics," he answers, fighting back a smile in spite of the circumstances. Part of it is giddy relief that she made it through a boat ride back to China, a critical care unit in Hong Kong, and a long flight back to Starling City, despite what they told him. The other half is due to her less-than-sober antics. "We made it back to Starling, and the doctors say you're going to be fine."

Suddenly the smile falls from her face. "I'm sorry, Oliver," she offers quietly. "I know you didn't want to come back here after everything that happened." Her hand falls on his, her expression surprisingly clear for someone who just stated how high she is. "But my arm thanks you." She wiggles her bandaged fingers. "Who knows, I might actually get to keep my fingers." It's supposed to be a joke, but Oliver doesn't exactly find it funny; they asked him about amputations in Hong Kong, and it brings back memories of him screaming at doctors in Mandarin for even suggesting it.

"Felicity, there wasn't any choice," he answers simply. "You were losing the fight with the infection." He doesn't tell her the parts about Hong Kong—how they had said she wouldn't survive the first night, how they had wanted to amputate her arm, how he demanded they send her on to Starling General.

When she had collapsed on the Lian Yu beach that morning, her fever ridiculously high even with the herbs, he knew that there were only two ways this would end. After all they'd endured in in the past five years, they had come to the mutual decision to stay away from society, to live on the island that was once their own Hell and now the only world they knew.

When Yao Fei had taken them in—after putting an arrow in Oliver and healing him—he had offered them a set of live birds with a single word in Mandarin that neither of them had understood. Felicity had been the one to wring the bird's neck, to learn how to use a bow first, to keep pushing on. Still buried deep in his mourning, Oliver had asked her why she kept fighting, how she kept moving forward in light of the circumstances.

Her answer was what finally set him in motion: Because I don't want to die here, Oliver. It was simple, an easy declaration that was as sobering as it was powerful. I think of going home, seeing my mother again, and it keeps me going. So when everything had gone wrong on the island for the very last time, he didn't know if she would make it out. There was never any thought about what to do—he knew he had to signal a ship, to get her off that godforsaken island.

He was not going to let her die on Lian Yu.

"So what's next?" she asks, pulling him from his reverie. He realizes it's just as well—he didn't need to dwell on that, either. "We're officially undead and all, and we're not going to be able to hide." She rolls her eyes. "Well, not zombie undead or resurrected undead, but we-were-never-really-dead-in-the-first-place undead."

Oliver offers the barest hint of a smile before sliding her over in the bed as gently as possible. He lies down in the small space next to her, his body naturally contouring to her own as she curls into him—something that often happened on cold nights on the island and their collective warmth kept them alive. Even though he could easily take the other bed, there's something comforting about this; on the island, feeling her against him had let each know the other was still alive, relatively safe, and within reach if something did happen.

"Now," he answers, almost absently, "I'll take first watch." As he tucks her injured arm under his own to help protect it, he thinks of the habit they'd developed on the island. Sleeping in shifts kept them both alive and as rested as possible, and now, Oliver has no idea how he'll ever be able to manage a full night's sleep again. It became their own variation of saying goodnight—neither wanted the finality of it. It was a subtle promise—a reminder that they would make it to the next morning.

He can feel Felicity smile against his chest as she murmurs the expected response: "Wake me at midnight."

 


 

Felicity awakens, not at midnight as promised, but just after the first touches of light grace the sky. Unsurprisingly, Oliver is still awake; she can tell by his breathing even before she opens her eyes. He's always had more trouble sleeping at night than she has, something he's always seen as some sort of weakness. Felicity personally thinks it makes him the more human of the two—no way in hell should she be able to sleep after all they've lived through.

But that's the way it's always been: she's the least burdened and he's the most sane.

"You didn't wake me at midnight," she chides him gently, her morphine haze starting to slip away. She can feel a dull throb in her arm—easily the least amount of pain she's felt in five years. But she's not complaining—Felicity and pain had a nice little chit-chat a few years back and they came to a mutual understanding.

Oliver's chuckle makes her open her eyes; his smiles are few and far between, and she isn't about to miss one of them. "I thought you could use the sleep," he answers. "You're the one hooked up to a machine." Even though he's trying to tease her, something dark slips into his expression—that familiar Felicity-I-almost-lost-you look.

Ignoring it, she retorts, "Only because you ripped your IV out." She pulls his arm up with her bandaged fingers, running her thumb across the distinctive set of marks. "Don't think I didn't see that, Queen."

Using his surname pulls a smile back on his features, as expected. "Why is it," he asks her slowly, "that every time you use my last name, it sounds like an insult?" He pulls her fingers away from his wrist, tucking her arm back under his to help protect the bandaging.

"It's because of the meaning," she explains, feeling her arm try to wave flippantly even though it's under his. "The queen-female-monarch and drama-queen things kind of makes it sound like I'm calling you a girl or overly dramatic. I always think overly dramatic, but dealer's choice." It earns her another chuckle, and then they settle into that familiar companionable silence again. After a long moment, she breaks it. "Oliver, what will we do?" She pauses before saying the words they're both thinking: "We don't belong in this world anymore."

He props his head on his elbow, considering the question with the amount of weight it deserves. "I still have my father's list," he answers carefully, seeming to methodically choose the words. "He wanted me to save this city with it, and I want to fulfill his dying wish." He studies her for a long moment, the hesitance written all over his features. "I'd like you to help me."

It's funny, she thinks, how they've never discussed it, but yet he still knows that she's staying in Starling City. No doubt her mother will try to convince her to come back to Vegas, but home is wherever Oliver is. For five years, it's been the two of them, no matter what. The thought of being separated from him would be like losing a limb, and no way is she going to pull him away from the sister that he's spent five years wondering about. God knows it's going to be hard enough in the coming months just to live in different buildings; she's not putting a long flight between them, too.

"Of course," she answers, mirroring his position by resting her head on her good arm. "My hacking skills haven't been used since Hong Kong, but I can be back up to speed in a few weeks." She doesn't know what else to say—Felicity isn't anxious to get back in the field. There are plenty of feelings that accompany that, and she's not ready to do anything more strenuous than field work.

Oliver hesitates with an odd expression—one of the few that she hasn't learned to read yet. "I don't just need your hacking skills," he answers slowly, and Felicity understands what he means. "I want you out in the field with me." He fixes her with too-intense eyes that make her breath catch for some reason she doesn't quite understand. "In whatever capacity you want to be there."

After blowing a long breath out through her mouth, Felicity answers quietly, "I can't kill anymore, Oliver." He opens his mouth to speak, but she holds out her hand to stop him. "No, let me finish," she insists, her voice stronger this time. "I'm not getting moralistic on you, but every time I kill, I see—" Her voice cracks, and no way is she going to let herself cry now, not after spending five years on the island with dry eyes. She shakes her head to clear it. "I'll help you in the field. I can incapacitate, but I'm not doing anything else. God knows I'm not judging you after all this—"

"Hey," he cuts her off gently, "I understand." One of the many things about Oliver is that he always seems to understand, and Felicity thinks he might spend almost as much time in her head as she does in his. Sometimes it scares her that anyone reads her so well, but in moments like these, she's grateful. "It's not going to be easy, and we'll need to protect ourselves," he continues quickly, pulling her thoughts away from darker subjects.

Grateful for the distraction, Felicity ponders that for a moment. "It shouldn't be too hard to get our hands on what we need—I can do some anonymous shopping, and there's a black market here in Starling." With a smile, she adds, "It's a good thing I saved my stock of weapons. All we need now are a few arrows."

Something about her reaction seems to give him pause. "It's going to be dangerous," he warns her again quietly. "If we start this, Felicity, it's going to be a war on all sides. The police will try to stop us, and the worst of Starling won't be threatened by us." He seems to swallow hard before adding, "And if they learn who we are, they will come after our families."

Felicity shrugs as lightly as possible, hoping her confidence will rub off on Oliver. "So we wear masks," she replies easily. "I'm never going to be an average citizen again, Oliver—not after what I've done." In fact, Felicity is fairly certain that if anyone did know what she'd done, they'd have her locked up in a prison or a mental institution for it. "So, if you're going to give me something to do besides watch soap operas all day, I'm in."

His smile doesn't quite reach his eyes, and she already knows why; sometimes Felicity thinks she spends more time in Oliver's head than her own. "Don't even think about it," she warns him. "You're not a monster—neither am I. We did what we had to in order to survive that place, Oliver. I'm not going to apologize for that." He looks away, and she places her bandaged hand against his jaw to bring his attention back to her. "You shouldn't, either. I did some horrible things in the past five years—things that will always haunt me—but I don't regret keeping us alive."

He pulls her back against him in a slow motion to press his lips against her forehead, a gesture that makes her thoughts react in a way she doesn't expect—in a way that makes her wonder just what their feelings are for one another. When they were on Lian Yu, there wasn't time to think about anything other than staying alive. Now, however, she's starting to wonder if friendship is the full extent of how they feel about one another.

He pulls away from her, sitting up suddenly. "I don't think it will be long before your mother's flight gets in," he changes the subject quickly. Felicity somehow manages to pull herself upright, even though the morphine's effect is wearing off and the dull throb in her left side is becoming a steady ache. "We should be prepared to meet our families."

Felicity rolls her eyes. "Clearly spoken by someone who has never met my mother before," she answers dryly. "It's sort of like being assaulted with a battering ram. In the nicest way possible, of course." Her feet touch the ground and she finds herself steady enough to stand, frowning when it pulls on the stand of IV bags. She shakes her arm violently against it. "I want this thing out of me—I'm not meeting my mother looking like a walking drugstore."

"That means you're going to lose your morphine drip," he replies, after a breathy laugh more seen than heard. "You're going to need that for third-degree burns—especially if you're going to be walking around."

"Could you get me a towel out of the bathroom?" she asks, completely ignoring his well-intentioned concern. She shot a bow after she broke her arm that first year—a few burns from hip to shoulder are like a papercut in comparison to that.

Oliver heaves a long-suffering sigh that tells her what he thinks about that, but they both know she'll rip out the IV whether or not he chooses to help her. So, like the wise man that he is, he ducks into the bathroom and walks out with a wad of paper towels, holding them out to her. Felicity pulls out the IV, and he immediately presses them to her wrist.

She takes control of applying pressure, and he studies her with an unreadable expression on his face. "Today is going to be the worst day," he says suddenly, and she knows he isn't talking about the pain of her injuries, but instead dealing with their families. Felicity has always liked to stay out of the public spotlight, and she knows the last thing Oliver wants is a trail of paparazzi following him everywhere. Maybe he enjoyed that in the past, but Oliver Queen is no longer the man she met on that boat—even though, she has to admit, she liked that Oliver Queen more than she thought she would..

"We'll be fine," she assures him with a confidence she doesn't quite feel. They've been through a whole lot worse, but now being back in Starling is as surreal as the island was for the first few weeks. While Felicity knows they'll adapt again, something tells her it won't be quite as easy to make this transition.

"We've been through worse," Oliver tries again, sounding like he's trying to convince himself. He also sounds like he isn't succeeding. But then again, Oliver has always been the one to hesitate over a difficult situation—Felicity is the one who charges in and does what needs to be done. While on the island, he was the one who helped her keep what little humanity she has left, but now, it's his turn to follow her lead.

She scoffs at his statement, though. "Again, clearly you haven't met my mother."

 


 

Oliver is almost relieved when Tommy makes the turn into the Queen Mansion drive—it’s been a nearly exhausting day of disguising himself as the man he was before the island, a version of himself that Oliver now hates. While he enjoys Tommy’s company, he’s ready to talk to Felicity about tonight’s plan to go after the first name on the list, Adam Hunt.

Though they both knew that starting early would lead to questions and the inevitable conclusion, but time is of the essence after losing five years. Because of that, Felicity suggested a misdirect later—one that he agreed would be the right choice. But, for now, they’ve set up a base of operations and they’re ready to make the first move as soon as the sun goes down.

That thought completely exits his mind when he sees the police car sitting in front of the house.

Tommy has barely stopped the car before Oliver is out of it, moving toward the house with intent. When he enters, Thea is the first person he sees. “Hey, what happened?” he asks her, placing his hand on her upper arm. “Are you okay?” He saw her with the drugs earlier—a problem he’ll deal with later—and he doesn’t want to be blind-sided with the idea of her being arrested.

Thea shakes her head. “Chill, Ollie—I’m fine,” she assures him, then her attitude turns more somber. “Felicity and her mom had some bad luck today, though—someone kidnapped them or something.” She shrugs. “They’re fine, but Donna has been crying a lot.” She studies Oliver a very long moment, as though she expects an answer out of him for her next statement: “Felicity’s taking it really well, though. Like, she’s probably in shock because she’s taking it too well.”

Oliver brushes past her, ignoring Tommy’s comment about the city going to crap as he enters the foyer. Dread seizes him when he sees Detective Lance, of all people, asking questions, but he focuses on the now-very-blonde Felicity. Her lip is split and her ankle is turning a dark shade of purple, but she seems to be just as relaxed as Thea said.

With everyone’s attention focused on Felicity, Donna, or Lance, Oliver walks over to Raisa first. “Could you get me an ice pack and a hand towel, please?” he murmurs quietly to her. She leaves with a sharp nod, and Oliver decides to make his presence known. Aware that once his attention is focused on Felicity it won’t leave her, he speaks to Donna first. “I heard what happened,” he says to her. “Are you all right?”

She sniffles a little and settles into the armchair, watching Felicity talk to Lance as she leans against one of the armrests on the sofa. “It was awful,” she answers Oliver’s question. “These men just came out of nowhere and shot me with something, and then I woke up in an abandoned building with Felicity standing over me.” She starts dabbing tears away again, and Oliver takes that as an opportunity to sit on the sofa cushion on Felicity’s other side.

“Hey,” he says to her quietly, noticing a bruise on her temple that he hadn’t before. Her leg brushes against his because he’s sitting so close, and he knows it’s probably raising alarm bells with everyone involved.

She immediately stops talking to turn to him. “Hey,” she answers with a smile, just as quietly. “This is what I get for trying to have a normal day.” She waves her hands. “We were supposed to be going back to the car, and I saw this guy get shot. So I turned, and there’s a team of men in ski masks. They hit Mom with some sort of tranq dart, and I started running before they tried to shoot me, too. One of them”—she makes a clicking sound with her teeth—”clocked me over the head, and I woke up in that building.”

She turns to Lance, as though she’s telling this part of the story for the first time, and her fingers unconsciously weave through Oliver’s. “They started asking me about Robert Queen.” Oliver isn’t the only one who tenses. “I was so out of it, I didn’t really even catch any of the words.” She takes a deep breath, her eyes flicking over to Oliver in some sort of warning before delivering the next line. “Then it went from a little crazy to unbelievable. There’s a huge crash, and this… guy in a green hood takes down two of them—without any weapons whatsoever. The third starts running, so… Hood Boy cuts the ties around my wrists and goes after him. By the time I called you guys, he was already gone and there were three bodies on the floor.”

Oliver has to admit; it’s a pretty good story. Not only does it give the police a false sighting of Oliver’s alter-ego while Oliver himself has a clear alibi, but it also explains away the fact that her zip-cuffs were cut—probably with one of Felicity’s many knives, since she always carries at least one.

“Sounds like a rough day,” Oliver comments when Lance turns his questions on Donna this time, and they both know he isn’t talking about her relatively minor injuries. He has little doubt that she had to kill those men to protect the knowledge of her abilities, and death has had a profound effect on her ever since Slade.

Raisa returns to him then, and he thanks her for the items, slipping his hand out of Felicity’s to focus on her injuries. Taking her chin in his left hand, he brushes her hair away with his right, gently pressing fingers against the bruise at her temple. They both know she only allows him to take care of her injuries for his own peace of mind, and he appreciates the gesture.

“It was,” Felicity answers with a dry humor in her tone, “but at least they waited until after I officially became a blonde.” With a roll of her eyes, she adds, “Thanks for noticing, by the way. You’re very observant—always pointing out those little things that oth—” He cuts her off by pressing the hand towel to her still-bleeding lip, making it difficult for her to speak.

“I’m not blind, Felicity,” he answers the unfinished thought, and for a moment he realizes how many ways he means that. Not only is he referring to her new haircolor, but also to the fact that she’s beautiful—and the fact he knows he has feelings for her that aren’t purely platonic. Some days it’s a little harder to push aside than others—it seems to be a little more difficult every day—but Felicity Smoak makes her own choices. He’ll let her make that leap when she’s ready—if she’s ever ready. “And you don’t need my approval.”

He pulls the towel away from her lip, letting his thumb slip across it as he ensures it isn’t still bleeding. It isn’t, and now that she can speak, it gives her the opportunity to keep chiding him. “And I don’t have to let you do this,” she retorts with a partial smile, motioning to her injuries. “But I let you because you’re my friend and it makes you feel better. See how that works?”

He chooses not to answer, to silently concede the argument he isn’t going to win anyway. “I need your ankle,” he says instead. He slides over on the sofa so that she has room to place her foot between them, but she turns and drapes both of her legs in his lap. Then she casually leans against the armrest with a taunting smile, a friendly challenge that makes him smile.

Oliver realizes that she’s been in a good mood all day, and he thinks it has something to do with their plans to deliver the first warning to Adam Hunt tonight. Mostly she’s slept in the past week they’ve been back, and, since her burns have healed well, he thinks she’s had difficulty adjusting back into normal life. He’s had trouble of his own, but she seems to be taking it worse than him.

Now that they have a mission plan, however, there seems to be a new sense of lightness to her features, a more playful edge to her smile. Her words from the night before come rushing back: I can’t be normal anymore—the island stole that from me. But I can use what I’ve learned to make this city into something better. Maybe she feels like she has a purpose now, and Oliver knows she isn’t the only one getting restless.

Never one to back away from a challenge, Oliver answers it by casually brushing her uninjured leg from his lap before wrapping the cold pack around her swollen ankle. She sits up in surprise as her heel hits the ground, then responds by nudging his leg with the toe of her shoe. (He notices for the first time that there’s a panda bear on the top of each, but he doesn’t ask why because he knows better.) “Watch yourself, Queen,” she warns him lowly, causing him to chuckle quietly.

Lance studies them a long moment before saying what Oliver knows everyone in the room is thinking. “You seem pretty calm for someone who just watched two guys get killed today, Miss Smoak,” he comments. Then he tilts his head to the side. “You sure you’re all right?”

The smile on her face fades slightly, and Oliver knows her head is probably in Lian Yu at the moment. So quietly Lance probably doesn’t hear it, she answers, “It’s not the first time I’ve seen someone die.” Louder, she continues, “If it makes you feel better, I threw up after I saw them." Oliver believes her statement—even if she didn't find them there, he knows how difficult killing has become for her.

"Actually, Miss Smoak," Lance answers somewhat tersely, even though he studies her with pitying eyes, "it does make me feel better." Knowing how she responds to pity, Oliver watches Felicity closely. Something flashes through her eyes—something dark and hardened that her pre-island persona wouldn't know about—and he presses down on her injured ankle just enough to catch her attention.

The look is immediately turned on Oliver instead, but he doesn't take offense because it relaxes almost immediately. Instead, he shakes his head minutely, showing her that this is neither the time or the place to correct Lance's mistake. After all, if he sees her as something fragile, he won't expect her to do what they intend to do tonight. Oliver hates the charade more than anyone, but sometimes it's necessary to look weak to stay strong.

They stay quiet for a long moment, Felicity answering Lance’s questions when asked and ignoring the looks he shoots the two of them. Then she catches his eye, raising an eyebrow in a silent question of, Are we still on tonight? Oliver answers with an eyebrow raise of his own, asking her, Do you feel like going after this? Her expression doesn’t change for a long moment, and Felicity crosses her arms with a blank expression before lifting her eyebrow again. I’m not going to let a little sprain stop me, she says with the action. Are we going tonight or not?

He answers with a single, sharp nod.

 


 

Felicity’s eyes are starting to water from the strain of staring at the too-bright screen in the darkness and her fingers ache from typing in the black leather gloves, but she ignores it. After all, she wanted to do this, and truthfully she hasn’t felt this good since she left the island. She knew that fighting for survival changed her, but never so much that she'd grow to want the thing she called Hell on the island. Her ankle throbs a little because it’s still swollen from yesterday, but it’s not stopping her from charging into the scene with Oliver.

Last night’s visit to Hunt had proved successful for reconnaissance purposes. He had stocked his guard with mercenaries, but they weren’t too much trouble to handle with their combined efforts. Felicity had wanted to give Hunt the demands to drop five million dollars in the account, but Oliver had prohibited it because of her limp. Instead, she ended up in a perch with the bow and an ice pack taped to her ankle, taking down three of the guards in a non-lethal manner. She decided to listen to Oliver’s advice just this once—after all, if she’s not at her best, she’s a liability in the field—but she wasn’t going to sit out on the opportunity to rob Hunt of his ill-gotten gains.

"We're running out of time," Oliver growls tersely in both her comm and a good fifty feet in front of her, taking down two of the mercenaries at once—one with an arrow, one with the bow itself. His voice under that synthesizer might take some getting used to; it sounds wrong, and she's having difficulty reconciling herself to it.

He has a tendency to get snappy when he's all business; Felicity knows that, but that doesn't mean she takes his irritation graciously. "Oh, is that what I was supposed to be doing?" Felicity answers sarcastically. "I'll get right on that after I finish this level of Angry Birds." Her voice sounds odd to her own ears, her synthesizer throwing several different variants of her tone at once to mask through confusion instead of direct coverage.

"Not. Helping." The words come in grunts between fighting the mercenaries Hunt hired, while dodging bullets and punches. One of them takes a very nicely executed kick, and the second gets a sharp elbow to the face—a move that Felicity used on the training mats in the lair earlier tonight. Something akin to pride flashes through her—he's definitely learning from her. Then again, they seem to trade styles and moves, complementing each other with combat like a well-oiled machine. She picked up some of his moves, too.

She decides not to even answer his comment—it would only slow her down to think about something other than hacking into the computer and keeping an eye on Oliver's fight if he needs help. It's slow progress that neither of them like, but panicking isn't the answer. A clap to the temple of one man bypassing Oliver's defense, however, seems like a good answer at the time, and he crumples immediately.

One of the many things she'll never admit to is the fact that she rather enjoys watching Oliver fight. Granted it's not near as enjoyable a sight as seeing him work that salmon ladder shirtless, but there's certainly something beautiful about the chaos of watching him in a fight. Green leather may let her ogle him as much, but she still appreciates the way it clings.

Then she remembers how he looked at her in her own suit. She hadn't thought it was anything special—much like his own, different in only a few details—but then his eyes had practically devoured her as she zipped up the clinging leather. She opted to make the transition to urban camouflage, picking black instead. It's a simple jacket and pants combo not unlike Oliver's, only she chose not to worry with a hood. Instead, she pulls her hair up into a knot at the back of her neck, her dark mask covering her eyes. As added protection, the exposed areas around her eyes are covered with a heavy black grease paint.

Her weaponry is a little different from Oliver's, too; his choice may be the bow, but it isn't hers. Instead of a quiver, Felicity carries sheaths for her throwing knives on her thighs, the two butterfly swords for close combat at her waist, and the single, four-feet-long odachi strapped to her back. She might not be delivering any killing blows with them, but they're certainly enough to put the fear of God into a few of those mercenaries.

One of them tries to sneak up on Oliver, but Felicity catches his movement out of the corner of her eye. After pulling a throwing knife from the sheath around her thigh, she flicks it almost absently at the would-be attacker, not bothering to watch it hit home. He falls with a grunt, catching Oliver's attention and earning herself a nod of gratitude.

The gratitude fades quickly, however. "We have four minutes until the police respond," he barks at her. "We need to finish now." It makes her tension rise to an almost panic level, and she hates it when she feels like her training is slipping.

"How about I put arrows in people," Felicity retorts, her tone sharp this time, "and you come over here and hack into an encrypted server?" She sighs as another idiot comes at her, making the mistake of thinking she can't see him at that angle. "I'd be doing better, though, if you would do…" In a fluid motion born of years of training, she slips one of her foot-long butterfly swords from its sheath and pins the man’s hand to the desk with it. Her teeth grind together when he screams. "Your damn," she continues the thought between gritted teeth, elbowing the mercenary in the face. "Job." With the word, she removes the sword and replaces it, kicking the man away from her desk.

A few keystrokes and a triumphant fist pump later, Felicity is able to inform Oliver, "We're in and set." He turns to her with a nod to let her know he heard, and she slides away from the computer, pulling the odachi loose as she does so.

Between the spray of bullets and the distance between them, it’s difficult to make her way to him, but Felicity uses the long sword to clear a path through the few remaining mercenaries. A few ricocheted bullets add to the difficulty, but she keeps moving. The long blade works to her advantage, allowing extra room between the shooters and herself. Years of practice means she’s also able to wield it one-handed when necessary, which one mercenary finds out firsthand when she takes him down with a slash of one butterfly sword.

Finally, she makes her way over to Oliver, pulling both of them behind a section of the wall that protrudes out to conveniently act as a shield from the gunfire. It gives them both a moment to catch their breath, even if the space is a little small to hold two people. Then she decides that close proximity isn’t her friend because it makes the movement far too intimate when Oliver tucks an errant strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “Are you all right?” he asks her quietly.

Something sears in her back, just above her hip, and then she remembers that ricochet from earlier that seemed like it was close. Maybe it wasn’t just close—maybe it actually hit. “Fine,” she assures him, sliding a hand behind her to check it. She can feel the hard surface of the bullet not far under the skin—it probably embedded in muscle, so she’ll be fine until they’re out of harm’s way.

In need of some separation between them before she does something stupid, Felicity pulls his hand away, using his wrist move him toward the building’s exit for a brief moment. "Come on, Tall-Green-and-Handsome,” she teases with a smile. “We need to make like Hunt's money and disappear without a trace."

The poor attempt at humor earns Felicity a chuckle from her fellow vigilante, but then Oliver sobers abruptly, stopping in the middle of the spray of bullets to tilt his head to the side. "You think I'm handsome?" he asks her, a small smile playing at his lips.

It's clear he's only teasing her, but Felicity feels her face burst into flame at the accusation. She should definitely keep her appreciation to herself, she decides, but at least he doesn’t get to see her blush under the mask. "I'm not blind, you know," she replies, leaving him to ponder the cryptic remark as one of her swords slices through a man who makes the mistake of crossing her path. He'll certainly live, but Felicity doubts he'll be using his left arm anytime soon.

The look on Oliver's face leaves her no doubt his next words will be taunting, but he doesn’t get the chance. Four police officers charge up the stairs, suddenly visible through the glass walls of Hunt’s office. Felicity slips the sword back into its sheath, deciding that it’s not going to do a lot of good against a fully-armed SWAT team.

“What now?” she asks him, letting Oliver take the lead this time. He’s spent the past five years slipping away from traps and out of prisons, and she knows when she’s out of her league. Give her three days to plan, and she could probably come up with a better one than Oliver, but he seems to work best in a pinch.

With a grim expression, he guides her back toward the building windows with a hand on her upper arm. “I have an idea,” he states, but it’s a warning that immediately sends off red flags in her head. It’s further cemented with the addition of, “You’re not going to like it.”

“I’m not going to like prison, either,” she replies dryly. “We either need to get out of here, or I need to take a moment and learn how to make a shank.” It earns her a look as he pulls an explosive arrow from the quiver, and she shrugs in response. “I’m not going anywhere without a weapon.”

He doesn’t even try to answer that, instead using the explosive arrow to blow the window open. It’s replaced with a second arrow, this one releasing a cable that he attaches to one of the office’s pillars. Dread makes her stomach drop, and sure enough, he fired toward the building where Tommy is holding their “back from the dead” party.

“Oh no,” she answers flatly. “I’m acrophobic—you know that.” She offers him a wave before turning back the other direction. “You can visit me in prison. I’m turning myself in, but if you bring computer stuff by, I’m sure I can still be technical support.”

Oliver catches her arm, trying to conceal a smile as he growls quietly, “Felicity.” All it takes is that one word for her know how ridiculous she’s being, but it’s called an irrational fear for a reason. He pulls her closer to him, both of them standing just in front of the drop. She looks down at the drop warily, but he turns her face to his with his other hand, trying to keep her mind off of it. “Do you think I’d let you jump alone?” It’s a low murmur, a promise carefully formed like a question.

“SCPD!” a voice that sounds much like Lance’s calls, and Oliver and Felicity turn toward the sound at the same time. Sure enough, Lance, his partner, and an entire SWAT team are moving in on them slowly. “Drop your weapons and put your hands above your head!” Felicity has to bite back a laugh; it’s more likely for the detective to put bullets in them than for them to surrender.

They’re standing so close that Lance probably doesn’t see the way Oliver pushes the bow into her hands. “I need a distraction,” he murmurs quietly, not offering any other explanation. She doesn’t need one—it’s easy enough to see what he’s planning. “On three.”

Felicity counts to three slowly in her head, letting Oliver turn toward the window first. In a quick series of movements, she pulls an explosive arrow from his quiver, firing it over the police officers’ heads. There’s a yell of alarm between them as sections of ceiling tile and dust cover them, just as Oliver’s arm catches her around the waist and jerks her forward.

Fighting the urge to scream obscenities at Oliver for doing that to her, Felicity instead wraps her arms around him and buries her face in his shoulder. There’s supposed to be something about the feeling of being free related with the jump and whatnot, but she decides it’s a complete lie—it’s terrifying. The window shatters when they go through it, and Oliver seems to apologize for pulling her out of a window by throwing himself into the next one.

The momentum sends them both reeling, the clip breaking at the end of the line due to the force of a fifty-story drop on a wire with tensile strength meant to carry one person at a time. She hits the ground forcefully, the motion jarring the bullet above her hip, and it isn’t long before another weight adds somewhat to hers. At first she thinks it’s the quiver or a piece of glass, but then she opens her eyes to Oliver hovering over her, his leg pressing down on one of hers and his hands splayed on either side of her to keep from falling on her.

Wanting to scramble away but having no energy left to do so, Felicity’s mouth does what her muscles can’t. “Buy me a drink first next time, Queen,” she hears herself say, and she bites down on her lip too late to stop the words.

Oliver doesn’t quite look at her as he rises in a fluid motion, but then holds out a hand in an offer. Felicity takes his hand, allowing him to pull her up. “Guess we should go rejoin the party,” she murmurs with a frown. Louder, she adds, “I can hack Hunt’s bank accounts through my phone, which will give us a nice little alibi again.” She looks up at the room, realizing it’s on the top floor of the building, and the room’s contents make her think it’s some sort of storage room. “Nice shot, Oliver—this definitely saved us a few awkward glances on the way back. It’s a little early for comic con, so that excuse will only fly for one week out of the year.” Absently, she adds, “Well, we always have Halloween, too.”

He hands her one of the bags they stored in the corner after changing out of their clothes at the party, frowning. “What’s a comic con?” he asks slowly, as though the words have no meaning to him and he’s leaving it up to her whether he should know or not.

“Not important,” she assures him as she removes her weaponry, sliding the knives and swords carefully into the bag, exchanging them for the simple balisong knife that stores nicely in the sheath she can wear under her clothes and shove into her pockets. Then her mask follows, and she reminds herself that the grease paint needs to come off later—probably as they’re making a run down the hallway.

Her jacket falls into the bag next, leaving Felicity in her black tank top and black leather pants. A stitch of pain again reminds her of the bullet, and she digs out the med kit she thought to pack in her duffel. “What is important, though,” she continues, “is that I caught a ricochet.” She slides off her tank top, trying desperately to ignore the way he looks back at her in only her bra—for the sake of her own sanity, she needs to forget that look. She holds out the forceps from her kit to him. “I think I’ll need help getting it out.”

Oliver hesitates before stepping closer in just the green leather pants, probably because she’s deviating from their routine. On the island—and even earlier tonight—they’ve had to change clothes in the same room, and they usually face away from each other and ignore each other until they’re both finished. Tonight, though, she can’t exactly ask him to pull out a bullet in that location after changing back into her dress.

He takes the forceps from her hand, his eyes focusing too hard on her own. He swallows when she turns, and Felicity braces herself for the pain against the table in front of her. After a few moments, though, it doesn’t come, and she realizes Oliver hasn’t moved from his place. Suddenly she remembers that scar that starts at her right shoulder and runs to her left hip, the one he’s probably seeing for the very first time.

It makes her lash out in a suddenly, self-conscious though she knows she has no reason to be. He’s never measured her worth by vanity or by the horror of some of her choices, and she knows this will be no exception. Still, it bothers her. “Oliver,” she says sharply, causing him tense for a second, “I don’t mean to be rude, but we need to be out there by the time the cops come. This isn’t the time for you to be shy.”

Oliver’s left hand suddenly braces against her shoulder, and then she feels the forceps dig in and come out with the bullet. He drops it into her bag, then takes the gauze patch she holds up and seals it over the wound. “This isn’t me being shy,” he answers her finally, and then chill bumps that have nothing to do with cold raise up across her back when she feels his mouth press against the top of her right shoulder blade. Against her skin, he murmurs, “This is me showing restraint.”

Felicity’s breath stutters out in a gasp as she realizes what he’s saying, finding herself both terrified and amazed by the simple declaration. It was easier just pretending it was a one-sided attraction, even though she truthfully knew better and didn’t want to admit to what she saw. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that she’s damaged far beyond repair—both physically and emotionally—and that this is a horrible idea in theory.

In perhaps a more amazing turn of events than the declaration, he simply pulls back from her after a moment, gently taking her hair out of its twist at the back of her neck in an attempt to offer her privacy. Then, he simply moves to the other side of the room and continues to change clothes, facing the opposite wall as before. It’s a silent message delivered just as efficiently as any Oliver has ever given her: this is her choice. The information was presented to her so that she could make a decision—and it’s clear that he’ll accept it either way, that it won’t change anything if she doesn’t want to pursue it.

For the first time since leaving the island, she doesn’t feel powerless.

A few moments later, she’s mostly dressed, his shirt is mostly buttoned, and the sirens in the background make them both tuck the back into their corner before running for the elevator. Felicity carries her heels with her, pulling on her peacoat to hide the fact that her dress isn’t zipped yet, and Oliver attempts to tuck in his shirt while pulling her along.

When the elevator doors close, Felicity drops her peacoat to the floor, frowning at Oliver’s open collar and the tie hanging around it. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she lets her shoes drop, too, before pulling his collar closed. The motion seems to startle him, but he allows it. As she pulls his tie better into place, Felicity also starts slightly when she feels Oliver’s hand at the back of her neck, brushing her hair to one side to do so. He latches the dress as she works on his tie, then her hands falter a moment when a hand trails down her back to the zipper, sliding it up at the same time she slides the tie’s knot up to his throat.

For a moment, all Felicity can do is meet his eyes, and then she realizes his arms have settled around his waist, carefully avoiding the bullet wound. Hesitantly, she rises on her toes, sliding her hand up to his jaw and snaking it around his neck. He only watches her, so still she wonders for a moment if he’s even breathing. The searing pain in her ankle draws her attention, but she doesn’t exactly care at this point. Knowing it’s either going to be the best decision or worst mistake she’s ever made, Felicity presses her mouth against his.

She expects gentle and careful since that seems to be the side Oliver displays toward her the most, but it’s nothing of the sort. The moment her mouth touches his, he pulls Felicity up into his arms, and she happily obliges him by locking her legs around his waist. He pushes her up against the wall of the elevator to help support her weight and it presses uncomfortably against the bullet wound for a moment. It’s almost an afterthought, though; at the same time, she finds that Oliver makes a particularly interesting sound when she draws his bottom lip into her mouth, something between a sigh and a growl, which is infinitely more fascinating. One of his hands stays under her to help her stay upright, but the other snakes up to her neck, cupping it and resting his thumb just in front of her ear. Her own hands remain fixed at the back of his head, pulling him into her.

The moment when they finally pull apart is marked by panting, both of them desperately trying to pull air into their lungs. She’s surprised to find herself actually dizzy—from the kiss itself or the lack of oxygen, she’ll never know. Then she notices the streaks of black across Oliver’s face, and she groans as she realizes what it is.

“I still have the grease paint over my eyes, don’t I?” she asks when she’s finally able to speak. The smile that tugs on the corners of his mouth is her answer, and she sighs before sliding into her shoes at the same time she scrounges through her the pockets of her coat for a makeup-removal wipe.

She decides to start with Oliver first, taking care of the residue of his green grease paint that he missed and the black that she smeared on him at some point. As soon as she’s done, he takes it from her and wipes her own away. Eyes closed, she says to him suddenly, “I can’t believe I kissed you for the first time while looking like a damn raccoon.”

“It won’t be the last time,” he assures her with a soft, breathy laugh, while passing the wipe over her eyelid. Then he circles her eyes, more gently than she would herself. “I plan on kissing you every time you give me the chance.” For effect, he presses his lips against her cheek, then once against the corner of her mouth when it curls up in a smile.

After a long moment, he hands the cloth back to her and she pockets it to throw away later. The next few minutes are used to take out her contacts and replace them with the glasses she wore in earlier, still stored in her coat in case of an event like before. When the elevator doors open, both of them look like respectable citizens again, and they slip into the party again as though they never left.

Oliver disappears into the crowd for a moment, returning quickly with a glass of a nice red wine that he offers her. Unsurprisingly, he has what distinctly looks like water for himself—they’d decided to limit themselves on alcohol, and he’d had that tequila shot for effect earlier. She takes it, studying him for a moment. “Thoughtful, but can I ask why you brought me this?” she asks before taking a sip.

She nearly chokes on it when he answers, “You told me to buy you a drink first.”