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Long Goodbye

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Chapter One “The Past Best Left Buried”

It was only a trick of the light, and Laurel should have been over it by now, but she couldn’t shake the image of her reflection in the computer monitor staring back at her with black eyes. It didn’t help that she had been thinking more on her time as a demon’s wardrobe. Unusual things had been happening around the city—supernatural things.

Everyone else thought it was another superpowered villain, but the brutality and strangeness of it made Laurel suspect something more sinister. She had a grotesque collection of Ruby’s memories, and they all screamed at her that this was something otherworldly.

The thought of going up against whatever this thing was sent chills down Laurel’s spine. She could be brave about so many other things, but when it came to demons, she would rather forget they existed. She would rather pretend the world was just a little safer than that.

But people were getting killed, and it would only get worse. The Winchesters were the only ones who could help.

Laurel sighed as she dialed Sam’s number from her office phone, hoping he was alive at the moment to come and help. His voicemail picked up and informed her that she should call another number. This went on for a while until Laurel got one that was actually attached to a human.

“Yeah?” Dean’s gruff voice came over the line.

Laurel had been hoping to get Sam. More sympathetic. Also more alive last time she checked. But it wasn’t like she could back out now.

“Hey, you don’t know me, but you may remember a demon who once possessed me,” Laurel said.

Dean didn’t miss a beat. “Ruby?”

“Wow, didn’t think my voice was that distinctive, but okay.”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“No. Stop being so grumpy all the time. I thought that was just her perspective.”

“Her? You’re Ruby one-point-oh?”

“My name is Laurel Lance. I was possessed by a demon named Ruby. I’ve been trying to forget about it, but something has come up. Something... in your wheelhouse.”

“How did you even get this number?”

“I called a bunch until I found one that worked. Are you interested or not?”

“How do I know this isn’t some kind of trap?”

Laurel sighed. “The demons are gone. I don’t know what happened to them, but I’ve been all me for years now. And I never would have called if I didn’t think it was important. Look, friends of mine could be in danger, and they don’t know what they’re getting into. I can’t just explain that I was once possessed and know witchcraft when I see it. They’d think I was nuts. If they don’t already.”

Dean grumbled something Laurel couldn’t hear before bringing the phone in range again. “Okay, what’s this job? Something about witches?”

“I’m not positive, but there have been several strange deaths in Starling City during the past week. Which I’m sure you can Google. It looks either demonic or magical in nature. You’re the expert. Just tell me you’ll look into it.”

“And what are you gonna do?”

“Try to keep anyone else from dying. Not that they’ll listen to me.”

~oOo~

“I didn’t even know she was alive,” Sam said with a guilty hitch in his voice as Dean drove down the highway.

“I’m guessing you were preoccupied,” Dean replied, keeping his eyes on the road.

“But I never even checked. I just assumed she was dead. Did she say how she survived?”

“Nope. Just that there’s a case, and she needs our help.” Dean fiddled absently with the radio dial.

“Could be a trap.”

“I figured that. We need to know what’s going on either way. She sounded legit, but I guess Ruby did too.”

“But it can’t be Ruby. She’s dead.” Sam said it almost as if to convince himself.

“That much we know. So, it probably is what she says it is.”

“When did you get so trusting?”

“I didn’t. I just don’t see what kind of game this could possibly be. If it was a trap, you’d think they’d use someone we actually liked.”

“Well, who knows. I mean, this Laurel person might be all right.”

“If she is, then why would it be a trap?”

“Right...”

“So, what did you find about this place?”

“Starling City? Nothing good. In the last three years they’ve had terrorist attacks, prison breaks, a masked vigilante.”

“Sounds like a bad movie.”

“That’s what I thought. But whoever this Laurel is, she was right about one thing: there have been six strange deaths in the last week. Some happened in the uglier parts of town, so they didn’t get much coverage, but one was a well-respected banker, and another was a soccer mom.”

“Any ideas what’s doing it?”

“The killings could be ritualistic, but they don’t share much in the papers, and I didn’t have time to hack the coroner’s office files.”

“We can work on that when we get there. How far apart were the killings?”

“It seemed random. There were two one day, none the next, one after that, and it goes on. No pattern.”

“Great, so someone else could die while we’re on our way there.”

“Someone could always die, Dean. We’re going anyway, so there’s no use worrying about it.”

“I never said it was useful.”

~oOo~

Felicity was getting a creepy feeling about this case. She didn’t want to think too hard about it. They had enough problems with mass murderers and metahumans without worrying about the supernatural. Statistically speaking, though, there should be some activity in a city this size; a ghost here, a vampire there. So far Felicity had seen none of that. It was one of the reasons she chose to stay in Starling City so long. It was safe.

Felicity actually laughed at that thought.

“What?” Oliver’s voice reminded her she wasn’t alone.

Felicity turned from her computers to see Oliver looking up at her from his work reorganizing the weapons cabinet.

“Oh, nothing,” she said. “A series of random, unconnected thoughts that ended up being funny, but which would take far too much time to explain.”

Oliver’s eyebrows quirked. “Okay... You find anything on our guy?”

Felicity sighed and rotated her chair back to face the computer. “It would help if he displayed any kind of pattern.”

“I’d say killing multiple people is a pattern.”

“Well, yes, but not always the same way, not always in the same area, and unevenly spaced apart in time. If we knew why he was doing it, maybe I could figure out who he is.”

“Sometimes it’s better not to know why,” Oliver said.

“When have we ever had that luxury.”

~oOo~

Laurel twisted her napkin in her lap as she stared at her untouched coffee and blueberry muffin. They should have been here by now. Why did those boys have to be so disorganized? Years had passed, but Laurel still felt like she knew them, those two scared, desperate kids. They had to have changed since then, but she was still expecting gangly, awkward Sam and overconfident, swaggering Dean.

Maybe they wouldn’t come at all. For all they knew, this could be a demon set up. Laurel laughed humorlessly at that thought and took a sip of her coffee. She checked her watch. Only half an hour before she had to be at work. She had told the Winchesters to meet her at the cafe down the street from the DA’s office, but Dean hadn’t actually said they would come. He said they’d think about it.

Laurel sighed and picked at the edge of her muffin. She knew she should eat it, but the turning in her stomach prevented her from taking that thought seriously. She had to start considering what would happen if Sam and Dean didn’t come. How was she supposed to handle this on her own? She wasn’t a hunter; she was a victim.

Laurel took a sharp breath and set her jaw. She had to stop thinking like that. That was the sort of mindset that had her drinking away her problems and blaming everyone else. Knowing that didn’t make it any easier to chase away the thoughts, however.

“Did you do something different with your hair?” Dean’s voice was deeper and gruffer, but Laurel recognized it immediately.

“No,” she said, looking up at him. “The blonde was Ruby’s idea.”

“What is it with demons and hair?” Dean sat down across from Laurel, followed by Sam, whose hair had also gotten much longer.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” Laurel said.

“You were right about the deaths,” Sam said. “It does look like our kind of thing.”

Laurel could almost feel herself deflating. “I was hoping to be wrong.”

“It’s good that you called us,” Dean said. “At least now we can find the son of a bitch.”

“I can’t stay long, but you have my number. I work in the DA’s office and my dad is chief of police, so if you need anything—”

“Coroner’s reports,” Sam said.

Laurel nodded. “I’ll make a call and have them for you on my lunch break. Meet me back here at one?”

“Sure,” Sam said. “We’ll do some looking around until then.”

“Thanks. Oh, and one more thing, I know how much you boys love your bars, but stay away from a club called Verdant in the Glades.”

“Run by witches?” Dean asked with a cheeky smile.

“More like people who will kill you if you look too suspicious. Which you always do.”

Dean looked offended. “I’m not suspicious.”

Sam shrugged. “Yeah, you kinda are.”

Laurel actually felt herself smiling as she walked away. She hadn’t often been able to see this side of the brothers through the black cloud of Ruby, but it was nice to know that some things didn’t change.

~oOo~

Felicity jumped when her phone rang and let out a controlled sigh before answering. “Hello?”

“Felicity? It’s Laurel. Can I ask you a favor?”

“Oh, are we favor friends now? Are we friends?” Felicity mentally kicked herself.

“What?” Yes, Laurel definitely heard that.

“What?” Felicity parroted quickly.

“Did you get the coroner’s reports for those murders?” Laurel asked.

“If you mean, did I hack into the county records and steal them then... yes. I hope the NSA isn’t listening to this call.”

“Focus, Felicity.”

“Why do you ask?”

“I was wondering if you could show them to me,” Laurel said with slight hesitation. “I might have a bit of a lead, but it’s not something I can explain over the phone.”

“O—kay, what exactly did you have in mind?”

“You know the cafe down the street from my office?”

“Yeah, they have good muffins.” Felicity’s stomach growled.

“Meet me there around one today. I’ll explain more then.”

Laurel hung up, and Felicity sat there at her desk in the Arrow Cave wondering what had prompted this new change. She had long been a bit nervous around Laurel because any time she was around, there seemed to be conflict. Maybe it was a coincidence. Except Felicity didn’t believe in those.

Turning her attention back to work, Felicity saved the coroner’s files to a flashdrive for Laurel as well as printing out copies. Any help they could get on this case couldn’t hurt. Felicity considered whether she should tell Oliver about meeting with Laurel, but he was out looking for bad guys to beat up or something, so she decided to just go and tell him later. Which would have to be after her shift at work.

Work. Felicity almost forgot about her new “job.” Public humiliation was more like it. She had to be there at two this afternoon, so her meeting with Laurel would have to be short, and she would have to put on her uniform before she went. This day just kept getting worse.

~oOo~

Dean stared longingly at the barely nibbled muffin on the table. Sam was saying something about where they should start looking for the killer, but Dean wasn’t really listening.

“Dean, did you hear me?” Sam spoke louder.

“Huh?” Dean said.

“I was saying we should check out the last crime scene. Did you remember to iron your suit?”

Dean scoffed. “Of course I did. I’m a professional.”

Sam got that amused little smirk on his face. “You were just gazing affectionately at a muffin.”

“We didn’t stop for breakfast.”

“Yes we did. Two hours ago.”

“That wasn’t breakfast. It was... pre-breakfast.”

Sam shook his head. “No such thing unless you’re a hobbit.”

“Hey, those guys had it figured out.”

“Whatever. Are we going?” Sam got up from his chair and straightened his jacket.

Dean took another look at Laurel’s muffin and decided to go for it, ignoring Sam’s disgusted stare as he devoured it in three bites.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Dean said.

~oOo~

Sam had experienced less eventful mornings, though he couldn’t remember when. Considering their main source of information, he had anticipated a much weirder case. But after visiting two of the crime scenes, they found none of the usual signs of supernatural activity.

“Maybe this is all a wild ghost chase,” Dean said as they left the second house.

“I don’t think she would have called us if it wasn’t serious,” Sam replied.

“How would you know? Maybe Ruby scrambled her brains or something.”

Sam shook his head. “I know what it’s like to be possessed, Dean, to have someone controlling you. That’s not something you want to relive. Laurel doesn’t want us here; she just didn’t have any other choice.”

“You got all that from a thirty second conversation?”

“Didn’t you see how nervous she was?”

“I thought maybe the coffee was bad.” Dean rested his arms on top of the car and looked across at Sam. “So what do you think? Keep looking around or head back?”

Sam checked his watch. “We have to meet Laurel soon anyway. Let’s just go back.”

Dean nodded, and they both got in the car. They were across town from their starting point, so it took a while to get back to the cafe. When they arrived, they could see Laurel sitting at the same table on the patio. Only this time, she had company. Sam could only see the woman’s blonde ponytail and the large folder she was handing Laurel as they approached.

“This the call you had to make?” Dean asked with that smile in his voice that said he was about to try to flirt with someone.

The woman turned her head, and Sam suddenly forgot about everything else. Laurel was talking, but he didn’t hear her. There in front of him, wearing the glasses she always hated because they made her look nerdy, was Jessica.

Sam tried to say her name, but nothing came out. He could only stare at the apparition and think that this was some kind of crazy dream.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean muttered under his breath. So he was seeing it too.

Jessica stood up. “I have to go,” she said. It was her voice. She was real.

“Jess,” Sam managed to say.

She looked back, but not at Sam. “Don’t mention any of this to Oliver,” she said to Laurel.

“Felicity—” Laurel said.

Jessica turned and left the restaurant. Sam started to follow her, but Dean grabbed his elbow and pulled him back.

“What the hell is going on here?” Dean directed the question at Laurel.

“That’s not your dead girlfriend, Sam,” she said, looking nervous. “That’s Felicity. She’s my friend. I think.”

“You think?” Dean asked.

“About the friend part. She can’t be Jessica.”

Sam still watched the way she had gone, holding the memory of her voice in his head, her smell as she passed by. “Yes she is,” he said.

~oOo~

Felicity wasn’t sure when she started running, but she almost ran past her car. She was going to be late for work. Although, right now, she really wanted to say screw them all. This couldn’t be happening. She wasn’t sitting in her car hyperventilating because Sam Winchester had just showed up in her life again. He wasn’t supposed to be here. That was all supposed to be over.

There had to be some practical way of dealing with this. Felicity just needed to calm down and think. She could handle that. But as she did, a flood of memories came rushing back to her.

It was the night after Halloween, and the smoke still burned in her lungs and stung her eyes. It had to be the smoke. Her deal with Brady—or whoever the demon possessing Brady was—had been very specific. Sam would believe she was dead. Forever. They could never see each other again. Part of Felicity was actually okay with that. She didn’t want to get pulled into this life again. She didn’t want to see monsters in every shadow and demons behind everyone’s eyes. But another part realized what she was giving up: Sam. Felicity had never meant to fall in love with him, and she certainly didn’t know about his past when they first met, but the signs began to pile up after a while. She should have gotten out on her own a long time ago, but she stayed, and she never really knew why.

Sooner or later this was bound to happen. Starling City couldn't be the only place on Earth exempt from supernatural forces. For so long, Felicity had convinced herself she didn't live in that world anymore, that the only demons were the metaphorical kind that everyone seemed to have enough of as it was.

Felicity started her car and pulled out into the street. She made the mistake of looking in her rear view mirror where she saw Sam alone on the sidewalk, staring out at nothing in particular.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two “Breaking and Entering”

Watching his brother about to fly to pieces, Dean knew he had to do something, but the only thing he could think to do was work the case. That wouldn’t help Sam now. Dean looked from his brother wandering up and down the sidewalk to the file folder in his hand.

“You have to talk to him,” Laurel said, coming to stand beside Dean.

Dean shook his head. “You don’t get it,” he replied. “I mean, I only met her once—twice if you count the djinn induced hallucination—but that was her. That was Jessica.”

“She can’t be,” Laurel argued. “She’s Felicity; I know her. And Jessica is kind of dead, isn’t she?”

“What, you never heard of anybody coming back?”

“But why? If someone brought her back, they’d have to have a reason. And Felicity has been here for years.”

Dean turned to face Laurel. “How long have you actually known her?”

“I don’t know. About two years, I guess. It was after Oliver came back.”

“That’s another thing: who is this Oliver person you keep talking about?”

“Oliver Queen?” Laurel raised her eyebrows as if to say it should be obvious. “Disappeared about seven years ago and then turned up again? You never heard of him?”

Dean shrugged. “Should I have?”

“It was a big deal. His family was worth billions until they lost their company.”

“Not really my kind of news.”

“Oh, I forgot. You’re more interested in twelve-headed alien babies or whatever.”

“Ghosts. I hunt ghosts. Not aliens.”

“Does it really make a difference?”

“Maybe. Because there are no aliens.”

“You sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“How do you know?”

Dean sighed. “Because if there were, I’m pretty sure my angel buddies would have said something.”

“Angels are real?” Laurel actually sounded hopeful at that thought. They were getting way off topic.

Even so, Dean hated to disappoint her. “Yeah. Some of them are okay. Most of them are assholes.”

“Oh.”

“We should get to work,” Dean said.

“Yeah, I have to get back to the office,” Laurel agreed, seemingly glad to have something else to focus on. “Listen, don’t let Sam do anything stupid, okay? At least until we find out why Felicity bears such a strong resemblance to Jessica.”

“Sure.” Dean nodded.

~oOo~

Sam dropped his bag on the bed and slumped down next to it. Dean was saying something as they walked into the hotel room, but Sam wasn’t listening. He couldn’t think. Every time he tried to form a coherent thought, the image of Jessica’s face, her glasses and pink lips, filled his mind. He thought of the last time he saw her, that night Dean showed up saying Dad was missing. Sam suddenly wished, as he had a thousand times before, that he hadn’t left. It had been a long time since he let himself think on all his regrets with Jessica. He thought of the ring he carried in his pocket for years after her death which was now buried in his sock drawer in the Men of Letters’ bunker. It had been so long since he’d even said her name.

“Sam? Sammy?” Dean’s voice intruded on Sam’s thoughts.

“Yeah?” Sam asked, staring up at the ceiling.

“You wanna go over this stuff, or... You know what? I’ll take care of it.”

Sam heard the noise of shuffling papers and Dean clicking his tongue. Sam told himself to get up, that he needed to work the case, help Dean. But he couldn’t make himself move. He was standing on the cafe patio. Jessica was there. Jessica was alive.

She left. She left him. She didn’t love him.

Sam shot upright and stumbled from the bed to the bathroom. He locked the door and leaned against it, trying to catch his breath. Trying to stop the tears from falling. He slid down to the floor and held his head in his hands.

For a long time, he stayed that like that, trying to find some explanation, some way this made sense. Maybe she just looked like Jessica. But then why wouldn’t she just deny it and explain who she was? Why did she run? What did he do to make her leave?

Sam got up off the floor and checked the mirror. He wiped his eyes, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

Dean was still working at the small table. He had the reports spread out and that focused quirk in his left eyebrow.

Sam grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

“Where you going?” Dean asked, standing behind Sam.

Sam sighed as his hand rested on the doorknob. “I have to find her,” he said.

“And then what?”

Sam turned to face Dean.

“I mean, I know you want to find out what’s going on, and so do I, but how are you gonna know where to look.”

Sam thought about it for a second. “I’ll ask Laurel.”

Dean shook his head. “She’s not going to tell you. She said ‘don’t let Sam do anything stupid.’ Pretty sure stalking your dead girlfriend counts as stupid.”

Sam felt like strangling something. “Dean, it’s Jessica.”

“I know. Okay? I know. And we’re gonna figure it out. But in the meantime, people are dying here, and that’s kind of our job, so...”

Sam nodded and let his hand fall from the doorknob. “Fine,” he said. “What do you know so far.”

Dean smiled like he’d won something. “Not a lot. There are some funny markings on the victims’ skin, though. Maybe some kind of cult or demon ritual?”

“Let me see.” Sam held out his hand, and Dean passed him a couple of pages. Sam looked over them carefully. “That’s strange.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Well, I’ve never seen these before. Have you?”

“Nope.”

“And we’ve seen a lot of markings. I mean, I should at least be able to tell what culture they come from, but I can’t find anything familiar. It’s not Enochian or ancient Sumerian or anything else I’ve seen.”

Dean whistled. “That’s something. Stumped even the super nerd.”

Sam ignored the jab and turned back to the pictures of the six victims. “If I had the library back home, maybe—”

Dean chuckled softly, as if enjoying a private joke.

“What?” Sam asked.

“Nothing. You just—you said home.”

Sam sighed. “It’s where we live.”

“Yeah, but you’re the one who made a big deal of not ever having a home and home being a person, and honestly, I was flattered, but—”

“You done?”

Dean shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

It was genius, really. Dean had managed to get Sam’s mind off Jessica for a split second. But as soon as Sam thought of it, he found himself staring back at the pages in his hands without really seeing.

Dean cleared his throat. Great.

“So,” he began, “was it home when you lived with Jessica?”

Sam looked up at his brother with an annoyed glare.

“It’s okay if it was,” Dean said quickly. “Or if it wasn’t. I’m just asking.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Sam tried very hard this time to study the photos in front of him, hoping Dean would drop the topic. Maybe they could try to actually get some work done.

~oOo~

2004~Palo Alto, California

The apartment building didn’t look like much, but they were poor college students, and to them it was practically a mansion.

“You sure about this?” Jessica—that was her name now—asked with a smile.

Sam’s arm rested heavily on her shoulders. “Absolutely,” he replied, smiling back at her.

The doorway was almost too small for both of them to walk through together, but they managed. Sam dropped his old green duffle bag on the floor and turned to face Jessica, keeping a hold of her hand.

“The floors creak,” she said, tilting her head.

Sam shrugged. “Adds character.”

“Crappy plumbing.”

“I can probably fix it.”

Jessica sighed. “Okay, but the place is going to be so empty because you have, like, no stuff.”

Sam smiled again. Or maybe he hadn’t ever stopped. “More room for your stuff,” he said.

He wasn’t backing out. All her friends said he would when it came down to it, but Jessica knew better. Sam was special. He loved her. He wanted this as much as she did. It wasn’t as if she had anything to worry about now. They had signed the rental agreement this morning. The place was theirs.

“There’s just one more thing,” Jessica said, letting go of Sam’s hand and moving toward the kitchen.

“What’s that?” he asked, following her.

“The stove actually works, so you have no more excuses for not cooking.”

“The fact that I suck at it doesn’t count?”

Jessica grinned. “Nope.”

Sam shook his head in amusement. “I hope you like ramen and mac and cheese.”

“Not like we can afford anything else.”

Sam crossed the linoleum floor with his noisy steps and stopped in front of Jessica. He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her forehead. “We’ll be fine,” he said.

Jessica hugged him, taking in his constant outdoorsy smell. She hadn’t felt this good, this safe in a long time.

That night, they sat on the wood floor of their empty living room, eating ramen and laughing about things they would never remember later.

~oOo~

Trying to focus on this drudgery they had the audacity to call “work” was impossible for Felicity. Why had she ever taken this so-called job? Well, there was the necessity of eating and paying rent, but Oliver would have let her camp out in the Arrow Cave. That was seeming like a nice alternative right now.

Felicity sighed after the twelfth tech support call in which she advised the customer to turn their computer off and on again. It was probably a good thing she didn’t have any more difficult calls, though. Her brain wasn’t prepared to deal with actual work right now. She didn’t know what she was going to do when she got back to the Arrow Cave later. Oliver would still need her help on the case. but her mind was occupied with Sam.

No matter how hard she tried, Felicity couldn’t get the image of his puppy-dog eyes out of her mind. Even though he was older, and his hair had gotten longer, Sam could still melt her heart with a look. She didn’t know what she would do if she saw him again. And now that he had seen her, he would definitely try to find her again. There was no escaping it.

Yes, Felicity was going to quit her job and move into the Arrow Cave. It was the only thing to do. She could hide there until Sam gave up and went away. It was a cowardly thought, and not one she would ever follow through on, but it was comforting for the moment.

When she finally got off work that night, Felicity realized another problem. She would have to face Oliver next. He would know something was up. Maybe Laurel had already talked to him. And what was Laurel doing with the Winchesters anyway?

Once again, Felicity sat in her car, thinking this was all too much. How was she supposed to deal with this? What did she tell Oliver about her past? Not the truth of course. She couldn’t handle that right now.

Eventually, Felicity managed to force herself to drive the distance between her fake work and real work. Oliver’s bike was in the alley, meaning he was in. He lived there; he was alway in.

Felicity steeled herself and headed inside. When she got downstairs, Oliver was looking at some maps on the computer. Felicity didn’t even bother getting annoyed that he was in her chair.

“You find anything new?” she asked numbly.

Oliver turned around in the chair. “No, but I think you have.” He turned back to the computer. “You’re tracking algorithm thing has been running since you left, and I think it might be giving us something.”

Felicity came over to get a closer look at the screen. There were a few red dots and green dots scattered around the city. “Looks like confetti,” she said.

“It’s a start. I can check out the most likely locations to find our guy, Might get lucky.”

Felicity didn’t realize she wasn't responding to Oliver until she found him staring at her with a confused expression.

“You all right?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah,” Felicity said, not very convincingly. “Just tired from work.”

Oliver wasn’t stupid, but he accepted the explanation for the moment.

“Okay,” he said. “Why don’t you go home and rest. I can get in some searching before I call it a night.”

“You don’t need any help?”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll call Roy if I need anything. Go home, Felicity.”

Felicity nodded and headed back for the stairs without another word.

“Hey, Felicity,” Oliver said.

She turned back to face him.

“If you want to talk about it...”

She shook her head. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said.

Oliver’s eyebrows knit in concentration or concern—Felicity wasn’t sure. “Take care of yourself,” he said before turning back to the computer.

~oOo~

Research was on Dean’s long list of things he didn’t like doing but did anyway because it was his job. Normally, he had Sam’s enthusiasm to carry him through, but not this time. Every line of the coroner’s notes was like trying to read Dante in Medieval Italian. Which Dean had attempted back in the days of dodging hellhounds.

“Wait a second,” Sam said as he flipped through the pages.

“What?” Dean asked, glad to have something to distract him from reading the same sentence a fifth time.

“The victims all had some kind of metallic residue on their skin—here.”

Sam showed Dean the page he was looking at, and Dean glanced over it. “Steel shavings?” he said.

“And...” Sam did a quick search on his laptop. “There are several steel factories in Starling, at least five of them abandoned, and—huh.”

“What?”

“One of them got turned into a nightclub called Verdant.”

“That’s the place Laurel said to stay away from.”

“Maybe whoever owns the place has something to do with these deaths. She did say they were dangerous people.”

“What’re the odds this case would lead us right where she told us not to go?”

Sam shrugged. “Maybe she was hinting at something.”

“Then why not just say it?”

“She seemed scared. What if she knows whoever owns the place?”

“Or she wants us to go there, and that’s why she told us not to.”

“But you’re going anyway.”

“I—how did you know that?”

“Because you’re you, Dean. Someone tells you not to, you’re gonna.”

“Not always.”

Sam gave Dean an incredulous look.

“Just most the time,” Dean amended. “You coming with me, or what?”

“Nah, I think I’ll stay here and try to figure out what these symbols mean. It’s gotta be related.”

Dean hesitated for a moment. “Okay,” he finally said. “Let me know if you find anything.”

Dean pulled on his jacket and headed out the door. He was glad to be out of that hotel room and doing something, but he hoped Sam’s research wasn’t an excuse to sneak out and find Jessica. He would find out soon enough.

The factory-turned-nightclub was on the other side of town, so it took Dean a while to find it. By the time he arrived, it was dark, and people were lined up outside. Bass-heavy music filled the air, making great cover for Dean’s footsteps as he sneaked back into the alley. It was about what you’d expect for an alley, but Dean found a doorway that was unlocked. Okay, it wasn’t unlocked, but Dean picked it easily.

He found himself in a dark hallway that led into a storeroom. Nothing there looked the least bit out of place. There were crates of alcohol, spare tables, boxes of napkins and toothpicks. But at the back of the room was another door with the words “Danger: Do Not Enter” written on it. There was a keypad next to the handle, which might have posed a problem, except Dean had experience in hotwiring this particular model.

When he made it through the door, there was a narrow metal staircase, going down into the darkness below. Dean risked taking out his flashlight to avoid falling to his death. He found that the door opened from the inside, so he he pulled it closed behind him.

The staircase vibrated slightly as Dean headed down. He was expecting mold and dust and a musty smell, but it was actually quite clean. The concrete floor below was strangely void of dirt. As Dean went further into the cavernous basement, he saw metal cabinets and tables all arranged around the center of the room. There were computers at one end, and a small potted plant. Next to that were more cabinets, and a glass case.

Dean lingered on the case which contained an empty mannequin. The door was cracked slightly, indicating someone had opened it recently.

Dean turned and scanned the rest of the room. There was another case across from the first one which had a red leather suit with a hood in it. Suddenly, Dean remembered Sam reading something about hooded vigilantes in Starling City, and he wondered if he had made a terrible mistake. Or maybe these masked guys were into something worse than shooting criminals with arrows.

A noise from above alerted Dean, and he turned to see a second, larger staircase at the other end of the room. He pulled his gun, but he barely caught a glimpse of a dark figure before pain exploded in his left shoulder. He dropped the gun and reached up to feel the shaft of an arrow coming out of him.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three “Friendly Fire”

Oliver swung over the railing and landed softly on the balls of his feet. The intruder was still standing, staring curiously at the arrow in his shoulder. Oliver had been expecting a little screaming or at least a pale look. But this guy just acted surprised.

As Oliver approached, the man looked up, this time with a stern glare. “You could have killed me,” he said, annoyed.

“If I had wanted you dead, you would be,” Oliver replied, keeping his voice low.

“You don’t like to kill people and leave funky symbols on them, do you?”

Oliver had to pause for a moment to be sure he heard right. “What?”

“‘Cause if not... this might all be a big misunderstanding.” The man faltered and looked like he might collapse. Getting shot had to be affecting him as much as he acted like it wasn’t.

“You’re looking for the killer?” Oliver asked.

“Exactly—ow.” The man grunted in pain and reached up to pull the arrow out of his shoulder.

“Leave it in,” Oliver said. “It’ll be worse if you pull it out.”

The man chuckled like that was some kind of joke. “You haven’t even bought me a drink yet,” he said.

“Who are you? Why are you here?”

“Steel—the why part anyway. All the victims had steel residue on their bodies. Like they had been in an abandoned factory? Like... this?”

“You didn’t answer my first question.”

“And I would... if I wasn’t bleeding to death.”

“You should go to the hospital.”

“You really want that? You’re supposed to be some kind of hero right? You just go around shooting everyone?”

“You broke in.”

“And I bet no one knows where this place is. Big secret, huh? So, how about you get this thing out of my arm, I tell you what I know, you tell me what you know, deal?”

Oliver sighed and wished he had just gone for the kill. He switched on the lights and waved toward an empty table. Now that he could see the man better, he was surprised at how normal he looked, aside from the gun on the floor. Oliver picked it up, running his thumb over the smooth pearl handle. It was a nice weapon. If you liked guns.

“What’s your name?” Oliver asked, going over to the cabinet with the medical supplies.

“Dean,” the man replied. “And I’m betting yours isn’t Arrow-guy.”

“It’s just ‘The Arrow.’”

“People call you that? ‘Hey, Arrow, how’s it going?’”

“For obvious reasons, I like to keep my identity a secret.”

“Right, you’re like Batman. I don’t really care. Technically, I’m dead, so it’s not like I can tell anyone.”

“I’ve been technically dead. Wasn’t a good experience.”

“Well, it’s better than having the FBI on your ass all the time.”

Oliver gave Dean another once over “Why did you say you were here?”

“The case,” Dean said. “People dying. I’m sort of a... investigator.”

“Why not leave it to the professionals?”

“I could ask you the same question. And while we’re on the subject, I am a professional. Just not in a legal sense.”

Oliver set the medical supplies on the table next to where Dean was sitting. He had a lot of practice removing arrows from flesh, but he got the feeling this one was going to be more difficult. He first removed his gloves and took out a syringe.

“What’s that?” Dean asked nervously.

“It’s to keep you from twitching,” Oliver said.

“Not a problem,” Dean replied, giving the needle a dirty look.

“You have an arrow in your shoulder, and you’re afraid of needles?”

“Not at all, I just don’t want any drugs. I’ve sewn up enough holes without ‘em.”

Everything this man said only served to make him more strange. “Fine,” Oliver agreed. “I’m going to remove the shaft first.”

He dabbed some alcohol over the wound and then took a pair of long, narrow tweezers and inserted them into it until he felt the head. Dean locked his jaw, and his eyes got watery, but he didn’t move. Once Oliver had a grip on the head he twisted the shaft and it came out quickly.

“Now for the hard part.”

“Yeah, ‘cause that was a breeze,” Dean said tensely.

“You could leave it in, but it might get infected.”

“No, take it out. Just get it over with.

Oliver got a bigger pair of tweezers that he could use to work the arrowhead out the same way it went in to avoid further damage.

“Is there any reason in particular that I should trust you?” Oliver asked as he went in again.

“I can’t think of any,” Dean replied. “And if I told you what I really do, you’d probably think I’m crazy.”

“I already think you’re crazy.”

“Well—ow—I’m a hunter—son of a bitch! Are you using a socket wrench?”

“Keep still,” Oliver said, working to hold his hand steady. “A hunter of what?”

“Let’s see, most recently? There was a vampire nest in Minnesota. And that angry ghost in Colorado. Oh, and that one time—ow!”

“Sorry.” Oliver adjusted his grip. “You are, in fact, crazy.”

“Thing is, I don’t know what I’m after this time. Can’t find any connection to these weird symbols.”

“I don’t think you get to use the word ‘weird.’”

“Says the man in a green suit and a mask.”

“I go after real criminals. You chase shadows.”

“You can’t chase shadows. Those things are freakin’ terrifying. No, you run into one, you get the hell outta town.”

Oliver glanced up at Dean curiously. “What are you talking about?”

“Shadow demons. Called daevas, I think. It’s been a while. Chased them off with a flashbang. Don’t ask me where my dad got that.”

Oliver finally managed to pull the arrowhead from Dean’s shoulder. “You’re serious,” he said, dropping it into a container and reaching for the suture thread and bandages.

“Pain can make people very talkative,” Dean replied, taking the things from Oliver.

As Oliver cleaned up the other supplies, Dean pulled off his jacket and shirt. That was when Oliver saw several small scars on Dean’s body. Nothing like his own, but enough to be significant. There was also a black star tattoo on his chest that looked like something you’d see in a movie about witches. However delusional this guy was, he was serious, and he had faced something dark. He just had that way about him. And Oliver couldn’t discount his encounter with John Constantine years ago. Maybe there was something to it.

Once Dean had sewn up and bandaged his wound he looked at his damaged clothing with scrutiny. “I can probably fix it,” he said.

“You’re really calm for a guy who got shot,” Oliver said as he crossed the room to put away the medical stuff.

“You get the flesh ripped from your bones a few times, and tell me a little arrow bothers you.”

Oliver couldn’t help the small smile that threatened the corner of his mouth. Dean’s words brought back so many memories. He handled pain a lot like Sara.

“What’s so funny, Legolas?”

“Nothing. You just... remind me of someone.”

“Someone crazy?”

“Maybe a little. Not as crazy as you.”

“Great.” Dean slid off the table, now dressed again. “So, are we on the same case, or what? I mean, believing in demons isn’t really a prerequisite for chasing down a psychopath, but I’m pretty sure it’s demons. Or some new wave of witchcraft.”

“You know, a serial killer is bad enough.”

“But you are going after him, aren’t you?”

Oliver sighed. “Yes. And I think you should leave.”

“Everyone always says that, but I never do.”

“Maybe it’s not everyone else.”

“Oh, it’s definitely them. You think people want to believe that evil is real? You think I want to spend my life hunting this crap?”

Oliver looked down and twisted his gloves in his hands. “Sometimes reality is worse than the nightmare,” he said.

~oOo~

How exactly he managed to team up with the Starling City vigilante was a bit fuzzy in Dean’s mind. He wondered if he had passed out briefly from the pain of being shot. He held it together all right, but inside he felt like screaming when that arrowhead came out. He still wasn’t feeling too great. But he had a job, and he had help—even though the guy thought he was nuts. How was he supposed to tell Sam about this?

Maybe he just didn’t tell Sam. The guy was busy enough driving himself crazy about Jessica. Until they really knew what was going on, Dean could keep his association with Robin Hood to himself. It didn’t actually seem like a good idea, but Dean had given up on things that seemed like good ideas.

They started off looking into the other abandoned factories that Sam had found. Arrow-boy beat Dean to the first location by a few minutes on his bike.

“You know, there’s a lot of room in the car,” Dean said, as he closed the door behind him.

The Arrow looked at him with what must have been a stern expression under the hood. “We’re not a team,” he said. “You just happen to be an unfortunate part of this investigation.”

Dean would have shrugged if his shoulder hadn’t felt like it was on fire. “You’ll be glad to have me when you start seeing black smoke.”

“What?”

“Never mind. You know this place?”

The Arrow nodded. “One of the many factories my—that were closed down a few years ago.”

Dean caught the slip, but he wasn’t sure what it meant. “So, let’s check it out,” he said.

“Where exactly did you get your intel?” the Arrow asked as they looked for a way inside.

“A little bird,” Dean replied.

“That’s reassuring.”

“Hey, you got your secrets. It’s kind of a long story anyway, and I’m not feeling nostalgic.”

Dean found a door that was chained shut with a padlock. He looked around for something to break it.

“How did you get into my building in the first place?” the Arrow asked, looking around as well.

“Hotwired the electronic lock,” Dean replied, digging through some old wooden pallets. “You’re gonna want to fix that.”

“My dislike for you is increasing.”

Dean finally found a loose board. “That’s okay,” he said with a smirk. “I have that effect on people.”

A well aimed blow at the old lock broke it open, and Dean removed the chain from the doors and pushed them open.

“After you, Arrow-man.”

The two of them entered the old factory, and Dean pulled out his flashlight again. Dust motes clouded the beam so thick he could barely see anything.

“No one’s been here for a long time,” the Arrow said.

“Could’ve used a different entrance,” Dean replied. “We should look around.”

“You’re very thorough.”

They walked further into the building, coming into a large open room filled with defunct factory equipment.

“The stone you leave unturned tends to be the one with the creepy-crawlies under it,” Dean said, keeping his eyes open for any movement in the shadows.

“Which raises another question.”

“Yeah?”

“How do you hunt demons with a Colt 1911?”

Dean glanced over at the other man before resuming his search, “That’s what the holy water and freakin’ twelve pages of Latin I got memorized are for. Plus the knife.”

“What knife?”

“The demon-killing knife. I know, sounds made up, but it works.”

“Then what’s the gun for?”

“Might slow ‘em down. Or it may not be a demon.”

“You really thought all this through.”

“I been doing this a while.”

They had reached the other end of the room, and the only disturbances in the dust were their own footprints.

“How long is a while?” the Arrow asked.

“Maybe if you give me something to call you instead of your lame superhero name, I’ll tell you.”

“Forget it.”

Dean shone his flashlight back the way they had come. “Guess you were right about this one,” he said. “No one’s been here in years, probably.”

“I’m usually right.”

“Then I can see I’ll dislike you as much as you dislike me.”

“At least we agree on something.”

~oOo~

With bleary eyes, Sam looked through the reports again, trying to catch something he missed, trying to make sense of this case. He ran his hands over his face, as if to burn away the fog that had settled over his brain since that afternoon at the cafe. He needed some way to take his mind off it, to refocus his energy, but he couldn’t seem to will himself to get up and clear his head.

It seemed as if Dean had been gone for hours, but Sam knew it wasn’t that long. The silence felt as if it were growing every second he was alone. He needed to get out, move around, listen to some background noise.

Sam finally launched himself out of the chair and headed for the door. Dean would have taken the car, but there was probably a coffee shop or something nearby. As he left the room and the cool night air hit his lungs, Sam didn’t feel much better, but at least he was moving.

He walked a few blocks, and came upon a burger joint that was still open. Sam realized he hadn’t eaten anything since before six a.m. as the smell made his stomach start to growl. The name of the place sounded like something Dean would like: Big Belly Burger. Sam wasn’t in the mood to be picky, though, so he went inside and order the first thing on the menu. The girl behind the counter was friendly, but Sam wasn’t paying a lot of attention.

When he sat down with his food, Sam tried to think of anything else but his present situation. He had looked at images of dead bodies—as well as the real thing—for so many years that it couldn’t spoil his appetite. But that didn’t mean he liked it.

And then there was Jessica. Even if she hadn’t been the one woman he’d ever really loved, this was still too much to ignore. Sam knew Dean must have been freaking out about it on the inside as well. People didn’t just come back without a price.

Sam pulled out his phone to see if he had any messages from Dean. Nothing. He stared for a while and thought about calling his brother to see how things were going. It had only been a little over an hour, but Dean could have run into trouble. It wasn’t unprecedented.

Setting down his cheeseburger and wiping his fingers, Sam hit Dean’s number. The phone rang a few times before Dean answered.

“Yeah?” came the gruff voice, sounding a bit hesitant.

“Hey, Dean. How’s it going?”

“Uh, you know. Nothing special. Something up?”

“No, I was just getting something to eat, and I... thought I check in.”

“Well, can’t talk now, Sammy.”

“Sure. See you later.”

Sam hung up the phone with a frown. Dean sounded weird, but if he had been in danger, he would have given a sign, used their safe word, something.

As he mindlessly chewed the rest of his food, Sam thought about what to do next. He really didn’t want to go back to the hotel and stare at the reports again. He could call Cas, but there was no telling where he would be and it might take him days to get there. But Sam realized he had another source of information much closer. It was long after work hours, so Sam called Laurel on the number she gave them. After a couple of rings, she picked up.

“Did you find something?” she asked without so much as a hello.

“Uh, no,” Sam replied. “I was actually wondering if you wanted to help me. Dean’s gone to check out some possible crime scenes, and I can’t make much sense of what happened to these people.”

“Dean left you alone?”

“Yes, I am an adult, you know.”

“Yeah, I mean, I know, but...”

“You think I’m going to try and find Jessica again. The thought crossed my mind.”

“Just so long as it didn’t stay there. Listen, I’m just finishing up some work, and there’s no one else here. You want to meet in my office? Might be a better workspace than a crappy motel room.”

“Sure.”

“And bring some food. I’m starving.”

Sam hung up, and for a second he had the eerie feeling he was talking to Ruby again. He never quite understood that demon’s attachment to french fries, but he got the feeling it was one Laurel might share, so he ordered some more food to go before leaving the restaurant and stopping by the hotel to get the reports before calling a taxi to get to Laurel’s office.

When he got to her office, Laurel was on the phone with someone, talking very sternly. Sam looked at the clock and got the feeling that whomever she was talking to didn’t like being bothered after hours.

Laurel turned her head as Sam walked in and eyed the bag on food in his hand. She quickly finished her conversation and hung up.

“Is that what I think it is?” she asked.

Sam handed over the bag. “Cheeseburger and fries? Yeah.”

Laurel opened the bag and inhaled intoxicating the scent of heart disease. “I might owe you my first born.”

Sam sat down a little uncomfortably across from her and set the coroner’s reports on her desk. “I’m good, thanks.”

Laurel looked up with a curious expression. “I was joking,” she said. “No more of that creepy stuff for me.”

“I know, I just...”

“Right.” Laurel pulled out the contents of the bag and gestured at the files. “You wanna fill me in?”

Sam sighed as he opened the first folder. “We determined that the victims all had steel residue on their skin, so Dean is checking out some abandoned factories in the area. But it’s these symbols that I can’t figure out.”

Sam slid one of the pictures over to Laurel. She had to set her cheeseburger aside for a moment to study it.

“I see what you mean,” she said. “It doesn’t look like anything I saw while I was... you know.”

“Yeah. That’s what worries me. It’s not demons or angels or anything I’ve run into before. I’m starting to think it might not be of our world.

“What? Dean said there were no such things as aliens.”

“No, not aliens. Other dimensions though. We don’t really know how many or what kind of creatures live there, but maybe something came through. It’s been known to happen.”

“But why kill people?” Laurel grabbed several fries and started eating them while her forehead creased.

“Might be some kind of ritual or sacrifice.” Sam rubbed his forehead. “But we really don’t know anything.”

“So, we gotta find out what these symbols mean. I take it you’ve already tried the usual searches?”

“Everything I could think of. Cas might know something.”

“Who?”

“Castiel—oh, you never met him. He’s... kind of an angel.”

“Kind of?” Laurel raised her eyebrows.

“He’s sort of grounded at the moment.”

“Grounded... so, can he help?”

“I’ll have Dean call him later.”

“You can’t call him? Do angels even have phones?”

“Cas does. But he’s more likely to respond to Dean.”

“So you did go all darkside after...”

Sam looked down at his hands and tried to find a way to talk about anything else. “Yeah,” he finally said. “But I got better. That’s not—they’re just... closer.”

“Dean is close to an angel? What does that mean?”

Sam looked up again. “He was never very good at making friends, but neither is Cas, so it kind of works out.”

“Earlier Dean said the angels weren’t all that great.”

“Cas is an exception.”

“But he doesn’t like you?”

“No, he... I’d just rather Dean call him.”

Laurel gave Sam a scrutinizing look. “So, what do we do until then?”

Sam looked at the papers spread across Laurel’s desk. They needed some kind of breakthrough, but there didn’t seem to be any more useful leads. They would have to wait and see what Dean came up with.

~oOo~

The third abandoned building that Oliver and Dean checked was different from the others. Someone had been there recently, as evidenced by the new locks and lack of dust covering everything. It could be innocent, of course. There was a sign outside saying someone had bought the building recently. Dean picked the lock to a side door, and they went inside. It looked much like the others, but cleaner.

Oliver and Dean took separate directions as they had in the last couple of places, covering ground more quickly. In spite of their obvious differences, they had worked efficiently together thus far. Oliver wasn’t anywhere near trusting Dean, but he saw that the man was serious about this case and would be quite challenging to get rid of.

There wasn’t much to see on Oliver’s side of the factory. Just more rusty machinery and a fair amount of dust in spite of the recent occupation. He was about to suggest they give up when Dean’s voice carried across the room.

“Hey, take a look at this,” he said, his voice sounding more tense than when Oliver pulled that arrow out of his shoulder.

“What is it?” Oliver asked, navigating around the old factory equipment to see what Dean was shining his flashlight on.

“Blood,” Dean said.

Oliver saw a few spots on the floor in the flashlight beam. It wasn’t much. “Maybe the new owner had a nosebleed,” he said.

Dean moved the flashlight up to the wall where a much larger splatter removed any doubt. “Dude’s got a big nose,” he said.

“Looks arterial,” Oliver said, stepping closer to the wall, careful not to touch anything. “The victims were bled dry. This could have been where it happened.”

“Should be a lot more blood.”

“Look at this line here.” Oliver pointed to a spot on the wall where the blood suddenly stopped.

Dean adjusted the flashlight to see what Oliver was talking about. “They put something down on the floor,” he said.

“Does that sound like a monster to you?”

“Well, depends on your definition of monster. Humans are the worst kind.”

“There’s something we can agree on.”

A noise near the door alerted both men. Someone was coming in.

“Back door,” Dean whispered, switching off his flashlight and moving with surprising silence toward the other exit.

Oliver followed quickly, glancing back to see if he could catch a glimpse of whoever was coming in, but it was too dark to see anything. With blood coating the walls, though, he doubted this was just a simple case of new ownership.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four “Secrets”

On a normal day, Sam would be about ready to go to bed by now. Even with the weird case and meeting Laurel again, he wasn’t really fazed. But Jessica—that was another story. He hadn’t said anything about the scene that afternoon outside the cafe, but Laurel kept giving him funny looks in between the last few bits of her burger and flipping absently through the coroner’s reports.

“You really think you’re gonna find anything we haven’t been over?” Sam asked.

Laurel closed the file folder. “I was just waiting for you to ask,” she replied.

Sam’s gaze shifted around the room. He knew he was being obvious, but he hadn’t expected her to bring it up.

“Have you ever been in love?” Sam asked, knowing it was an awkward question, but thinking it was the best way to start.

“Yes,” Laurel replied without hesitation. “Twice.”

“How’d it turn out?”

“Badly.”

“Yeah, I know how that goes. I’ve been in love once. There was this other time, but it was more of a convenience thing. I had a point.”

“Jessica. I know the story. You were in college together, life was great, and then the demons came and—” Laurel shrugged.

Sam appreciated her not going into the whole story. Laurel may have had a few things in common with Ruby, but she was actually sensitive.

“For just that one time in my life,” Sam said, “I had everything. I was the happiest I’ve ever been. I know a lot has changed since then, and I don’t even know if I’m the same person I was then, but... this just can’t be a random coincidence.”

Laurel shook her head. “I don’t think it is,” she said. “But I also don’t think that Felicity is Jessica. Maybe they’re related. Maybe... I don’t know.”

“How long have you known her?”

“A couple years. She’s too young to be Jessica, for one thing. She graduated from MIT in ‘09.”

“You know that? Or did she just tell you that?”

“I really don’t think Felicity would lie about her background. I mean, it’s not like it was all sunshine and roses. Oh, and she’s not naturally blonde.”

Sam shook his head. “Neither was Jessica.”

Laurel put up her hands. “I don’t know what’s real anymore. Normally I wouldn’t suggest this, but maybe we should do some digging.”

“What, like background checks?”

“I’m pretty sure Felicity would kill me if she found out, and knowing her, she would, but maybe we’ll find a connection.”

“I can probably find something on Jessica. I never really bothered before because there was no reason to.”

Laurel nodded and got up from her chair. “You can use one of the desks out here. Just don’t tell anyone I let you.”

“Seems like you make a habit of bending the rules,” Sam said, following her.

“It’s only a matter of time before I lose my job again.”

“Again?”

“Long story. You don’t get possessed by a demon and come out of it with no issues. I wasn’t handling things very well for a long time.”

Laurel signed into one of the computers in the main office area and pulled the chair out for Sam.

“Leave everything the way you found it,” she said. “I’ll let you know if there’s anything suspicious in Felicity’s background.”

“I’m sorry.” Sam turned as Laurel headed back to her office. “I don’t want to get between you and your friend.”

Laurel shrugged in that way that was meant to seem like she didn’t care, but in reality, she cared a lot. “I’m not even sure if we’re friends.”

Sam found himself smiling sadly. “I don’t know much about friendship, but from the way you talk about her... I’d say she could do a lot worse.”

Laurel smiled back. “Thanks,” she said. “I think if you really knew me, you wouldn’t say that, but thanks.”

She disappeared into her office, and Sam allowed himself to wonder what she meant for a few seconds before going back to the computer and starting a search for Jessica’s death records.

~oOo~

Dean was starting to feel the pain in his shoulder growing as he got back to the Arrow hideout. He knew he should probably change the dressing and get some rest, but he was actually making some progress now. Although, as they descended back down into the basement, Dean could tell that Mr. Robin Hood was not happy. He didn’t even have to look at the guy’s face which was still covered by a mask and a hood.

“You wanna explain to me why we ran away?” Arrow Guy asked

“I like to think of it as a strategic retreat,” Dean said. “At least until we know who we’re up against. It’s not like there was anywhere to hide and listen in on their nefarious plan.”

“Is this some kind of joke to you?”

“Hey, you wanna get yourself killed, be my guest. Not like I twisted your arm to get out of there.”

“You know, you really don’t strike me as the cautious type.”

“I’m not. But I’d like to know what I’m dealing with before it catches me sneaking around. Leads to a lot of awkward situations otherwise.”

“So far all we know is that it’s killing people and where it happened.”

“I think I’ll go back in the daytime. See if there’s something we missed.”

“Alone?”

“No. But it’s probably better for the guy in the mask to stay out of sight, don’t you think?”

“Then who’s going with you?”

“I have backup.”

“Backup?”

“It’s sort of a family business.”

Dean could imagine eyes rolling under the hood. “You really think bringing other people into this is going to be a good thing?”

“My brother and I work together. He’s already in it.”

“They why were you alone tonight?”

“Because he was having a bad day. Are you done questioning me? Because I might have some questions myself.”

“Go. I’ll find out what I can about the owner of that building.”

Dean started heading for the stairs when he turned back. “And you’ll get ahold of me how?”

“I have my ways.”

Dean nodded. “Great,” he muttered, mostly to himself. “Just like a masked superhero to be vague and foreboding.”

He headed up the stairs and back out into the alley where the car waited. As he pulled out onto the main street in the direction of the hotel, he wondered what exactly he was supposed to tell Sam about how he spend his night.

~oOo~

Laurel glared at her computer screen, willing it to tell her anything but what it was currently informing her of. Under normal circumstances, she would have considered Felicity’s conflicting birth records as a clerical error, but coupled with her three year stint off the radar right around the time Sam was at Stanford, it looked suspicious. If Felicity had been born in 1989 like she said, she would have only been 16 when Jessica died in 2005. However, it was a bit too convenient that the other birth records Laurel found listed Felicity as having been born in 1984. What seemed even more puzzling was why she would have bothered lying about her age even if she were hiding something. At least the story about growing up in Las Vegas with her mother seemed to be true. Though, whether she left at 13 or 18 was the question.

For a long moment, Laurel considered whether she should tell Sam what she found. It felt wrong just digging into Felicity’s past without telling her, never mind showing her findings to an apparent stranger. But if Sam was right...

Laurel rested her chin on her fist. She had been thinking a lot on the subject lately, but making the right decision always seemed so difficult. She was starting to understand why the people around her always seemed to let her down. It was just something people did; they made wrong decisions.

She sighed and closed out of the database before shutting down her computer and gathering up the files and food wrappers from her desk. She headed out into the main office where Sam was up to his metaphorical elbows in research.

“I think I might have found something,” Laurel said.

That got his attention. Sam turned his chair to face her. “What did you find?” he asked.

“Well, it may be nothing, but Felicity has two different birth records, one in 1989 and one in 1984.”

“The same year Jess was born.”

“Yeah, but why fake a birth certificate? Why would she want everyone to think she was younger?”

Sam shook his head. “I don’t know, but I’m running into some strange things as well.”

“Like what?”

“Like, Jessica didn’t exist except on paper until 2002. There’s a birth certificate and school records, but no parents, no family anywhere.”

“Did she ever tell you about her family?”

“Yeah, she said her parents lived in San Jose. Her dad was a dentist. She showed me pictures.”

“We really need to talk to Felicity. That’s the only way we’re gonna make sense of this.”

“You saw how well that went last time.” Sam turned back to face the computer, though Laurel could tell he wasn’t really reading anything.

“Maybe I can talk to her. She’s going to have to explain what happened this afternoon eventually.”

Sam tapped his fingers beside the mouse. “If you think she’ll listen to you.”

Laurel shrugged. “It’s worth a try. Come on. I’ll give you a ride back to your hotel.”

~oOo~

There was a loose floorboard in the closet in Felicity’s bedroom. It felt a bit cliche, but when she had found it, that was where she chose to hide the remnants of her old life. She wasn’t supposed to have anything. Brady—or the demon possessing Brady—had told her to start a new life and let go of everything from her time with Sam. But she had a few things leftover. Like the necklace she had been wearing the night she ran. He gave it to her for her birthday. And there were the pictures she had kept in her purse, the movie ticket stubs from the last show they went to see, a receipt for mac and cheese.

Felicity sat on her knees in the closet doorway, holding the ashes and bones of her former life in her hands. She always told herself she should through these things away, but she never worked up the determination to do it. It wasn’t as if she thought she would ever see Sam again, or even mention his name. But there was something undeniably right about the way she felt when she was with him. Even though she knew what he was, or maybe because of it. They had both been running away from the same thing.

Sniffing lightly, Felicity put the items back in the old shoebox and shoved it in the hole in the floor. She put the floorboard back in place and covered it with shoes so no one would notice it had been moved. Not that people usually looked in her closet, but she had learned to be careful over the years.

Felicity looked longingly over at her bed before standing and heading back toward the kitchen. There was no way she would be getting any sleep, though her body felt like it was slowly melting from exhaustion. She collected everything chocolate she could find in the cupboards as well as the ice cream from the freezer before going out into the living room and settling in on the couch. She turned on the TV, and the late night talk shows were playing. Since the only other options were infomercials, she decided to stick with that.

It was a pathetic way to pass the night, but when it came to avoiding her problems, this was Felicity’s usual strategy.

~oOo~

When Dean got back to the hotel room, Sam was nowhere to be seen. He thought back to their brief phone conversation and knew that Sam couldn’t still be out getting food after all this time.

“Dammit, Sammy,” Dean muttered as he called his brother. The phone only rang once before Sam picked up.

“Hey, Dean, you find something?”

“Yeah, an empty hotel room. Where the hell are you?”

“On my way back right now. Laurel was helping me do some research.”

“Oh,”

“Oh?”

“I just thought...”

“Yeah, I don’t really blame you. But seriously, did you find anything?”

“I’ll tell you about it when you get back.”

Dean set his phone down on the table by the door. Just what exactly was he supposed to tell Sam about his evening? Working with a masked stranger wasn’t exactly the most conventional way to go about things. Not that their work ever consisted of conventional anything.

~oOo~

Sam hung up the phone and looked across the car at Laurel. She acted like she hadn’t been listening in, but he knew she must have been.

“Hey, you think we could leave out our little side project when we talk to Dean?” he asked.

Laurel cast him a curious glance. “You really think that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t want him worrying about it. He’ll think I’m letting it get in the way of the case.”

“Are you?”

“No. If I was, I’d be finding out where she lives and talking to her myself.”

“Guess you’ve mellowed out in your old age.”

“Just don’t mention it to Dean. For now.”

“You know, keeping secrets from your brother only leads to trouble, right?”

“It’s not like that. I just don’t want to bother him with it.”

“And you’re afraid of how he’ll react. Sam, you’re forgetting that I know you. Ruby’s whole mission was to tear you two apart and drag you down with her.”

“Laurel... please, just don’t say anything. I’ll tell him when I actually know something.”

Laurel pulled her car into the motel parking lot and shut off the engine. “Fine,” she said. “I’m not going to lie to him, but I won’t bring it up.”

Sam sighed, relieved. “Thank you.”

~oOo~

There was a bit of a nostalgic feeling when the three of them stood in the hotel room together again. Dean knew he shouldn’t feel suspicious when he saw Sam and Laurel walk in together, but he couldn’t help remembering the way it was when Sam was around Ruby.

“We didn’t have much luck on our end,” Laurel said, as if there was nothing weird about this situation. “Sam said you might know someone who could help us out with those symbols.”

“Cas,” Sam said, in response to Dean’s confusion.

“Right,” Dean said. “I’ll call him later. He was on a field trip with Metatron last I heard.”

“The Transformer?” Laurel asked.

“That’s Megatron,” Sam said. “Metatron is an angel. Well, ‘angel’ might be a loose term.”

“He’s one of the bad ones? So, he is like the Transformer.”

“Hey, that actually makes sense,” Dean said.

“Why is your friend with him?”

“It’s a long story. Metatron took something, and Cas is trying to get it back. I’ll send him the files and see if he knows those symbols.”

“You said you found something else?” Sam said.

“Yeah.” Dean chose his words carefully. “When I was checking out the possible crime scenes, I think I found our killer’s hideout.” He spread the map of Starling City out on the table and pointed to one of the circled locations. “This one. There was blood on the wall, but it looked like there was something on the floor because it just stops about halfway down. I was thinking we should look around in the daylight.”

“Sounds good,” Laurel said. “I’ve got some leads to chase down in the morning, so you want to call me if there’s anything new?”

“Sure,” Sam said. “Hopefully we can stop this thing before there are more victims.”

Laurel crossed her arms and let out a sharp breath. “That is the idea,” she said. “I think we should all get some sleep. I get the feeling tomorrow is going to be a long day.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Five “God or Monster”

It was far too early in the morning for anyone to be banging on her door. Felicity woke with a jolt, finding that she had fallen asleep on the couch, half sitting up with the TV still on. She grabbed the remote and turned it off before getting up off the couch. She was still in yesterday’s clothes, and her hair was probably everywhere, but she went to the door anyway. It seemed that she didn’t care anymore.

It was a surprise—though perhaps it shouldn’t have been—to see Laurel standing on her doorstep.

“We need to talk,” Laurel said, ignoring Felicity’s disheveled state.

“We do?” Felicity asked, standing aside as Laurel came in.

“I know there’s something weird going on with you. How do you know Sam Winchester?”

Felicity stared at Laurel for a second, hoping she looked appropriately confused. “What are you talking about?”

“You ran off when he showed up, and he called you Jessica.”

“Maybe a better question is how you know this guy.” It was easy enough for Felicity to sound curious because she actually was. If Laurel knew Sam and Dean, this could be bad.

“I met him and his brother years ago, right after Oliver disappeared. But I’m starting to get the feeling you’ve known him longer.”

“I really don’t know what you mean.” Felicity started cleaning up the chocolate wrappers from last night, suddenly very aware of the mess in her living room.

“I did a little research last night, trying to see if there was any connection between you and Jessica Moore.”

“You’re digging into my past?” Felicity turned to face Laurel, suddenly angry, though she wasn’t entirely sure why.

“What there is of it. It’s not like I looked at anything that wasn’t public record. But you have two different birth records, and your existence seems to dissipate right around the time Jessica was a student at Stanford University and met Sam Winchester.”

“This is ridiculous. You had no right to do that.”

“I wouldn’t have if you had just explained yourself.”

“I have nothing to explain!”

“Then why did you run away?”

Felicity bit the inside of her mouth. She wasn’t prepared to talk about this with anyone, let alone Laurel. “Why are you doing this?” she asked in a faltering voice.

“I’m trying to help my friend,” Laurel said with conviction.

Felicity met her gaze. “Which friend?”

Laurel stared back into Felicity’s eyes. “I’m not sure yet.”

~oOo~

In the light of day, the old building looked much less sinister than it had the night before. Dean was still cautious as he approached the doorway he had used last night with the Arrow.

“You know, for a place that just got a new owner, it looks abandoned,” Sam said.

“That’s probably intentional,” Dean replied as he pushed open the door.

The layout inside wasn’t exactly as Dean remembered, but he was pretty sure they were going in the right direction. He recognized some of the support pillars and old machinery they passed. But when Dean came to the place he remembered all the bloodstains  being, there was nothing but a clean floor and walls.

“You sure this is the right place?” Sam asked.

Dean nodded slowly. “We heard someone coming,” he said. “They must have cleaned up.”

“You forgot to mention that—wait, who’s we?”

“What?”

“You said ‘we heard someone coming.’ Who’s we?”

“I meant I heard someone.”

“That’s a weird mistake to make.”

Dean thought of all the possible ways he could answer Sam. He could just tell him that he met the Starling City vigilante. Sam probably wouldn’t be bothered by it. But there was just something in Dean telling him that he shouldn’t say anything about it yet. It was a funny feeling, but he always did go with his gut.

“Sometimes...” Dean began, “I forget you’re not here when you... aren’t.”

Sam gave Dean a confused frown. “You’ve never told me that before.”

“It’s not like I spend a lot of time thinking about it.” Dean turned back to face the wall where he remembered all the blood being. “It was right there, all over the wall.”

“Did you look for EMF?”

Dean shook his head as he pulled the meter out of his pocket. “Didn’t have time.”

There were no readings as he waved the device around the room. Of course it couldn’t be that simple.

“No sulfur either?” Sam asked.

“I didn’t smell any.”

“I guess there wouldn’t be.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the symbols aren’t like anything we’ve ever seen, so I’m thinking whatever this is... it’s not anything we’ve run into before.”

“Which would be fine if we could find out anything about it.”

“Did you call Cas last night?”

“Yeah, he said he’d get here as soon as he can, but he’s still looking for his grace. Without it—”

“I know. Let’s just hope Metatron is motivated enough to give it to him.”

“‘Cause that’s gonna happen.”

“Hey, think positive, okay?”

“Right. But we can’t count on Cas to figure this one out right now. We need to know what we’re up against.”

Sam shrugged as if he weren’t particularly invested in what he was about to say. “Could be something that’s not from around here.”

“Around where?”

“This... dimension, or whatever. You know, like the fairies.”

“You think it’s fairies?”

“No, but something from another world. Maybe something we’ve never seen before. I don’t know. It could be anything.”

“So, even if it is from some other dimension, that doesn’t really help us.”

“Maybe we should look around. They might have missed something.”

Dean nodded and walked over to the wall where all the blood had been before. He knew it was impossible to completely remove blood stains, but he didn’t have the equipment to detect that. So, he would have to investigate the old fashioned way. At first glance, there was nothing out of the ordinary. From what Dean could see, they had done all too good a job cleaning up their mess.

He ran his hand along the wall, but it was just cold concrete. He looked along the edge of the floor and in the corners—nothing. Dean stood straight and looked around the room again. Sam was examining a small drain across the room. Might be something down there.

Dean turned his attention upward. There was another level up their, a series of long catwalks and a few rooms. If this was some kind of base of operations, there could be something up there. He started looking around for a staircase when Sam called him over.

“I think there might be something here,” he said.

Dean joined his brother in gazing at the small drain in the floor. “Yeah, something gross,” Dean said.

“If they cleaned up the blood, it would have gone down here.”

“And how far are you gonna have to reach into that thing to find any traces?”

“Why do I have to reach in?”

“It was your idea.”

Sam huffed and pulled out his pocket knife to unscrew the grate from the floor. It took a minute to get the drain open, and once he had, Sam hesitated to put his hand inside it. Even after all the creepy disgusting things they had gotten into, neither of them ever liked this part.

Sam finally steeled himself and gingerly reached inside the drain. He got a look of concentration and repulsion on his face as he went. When he pulled his hand out again there was blood mixed with something black and powdery.

“What the hell is that?” Dean asked.

Sam made a face before smelling it. “It’s...I have no idea.” He offered his hand to Dean.

Dean backed away with his hands up. “No thanks.”

“It doesn’t smell like anything I’ve ever even heard of. I can’t begin to guess what this is.”

“See if you can get a sample of it. Maybe Cas would know.”

“Good idea.”

“I’m gonna go look around up above.”

“I’ll come find you when I’m done.”

Dean headed back in the direction he had been going before to look for stairs. He opened a few doors along the way to find offices and storerooms and bathrooms all covered in dust. Nothing remotely suspicious there.

He finally found a metal staircase leading to the catwalk above. From the top, he could see over most of the floor below. The old machinery lay unused across the building, and Sam dutifully gathered samples from the drain. Dean noticed that the place he and the Arrow had found blood the night before was right in the center of the whole building. It might have be relevant to whatever they were dealing with, so Dean made a mental note and continued his exploration of the place.

~oOo~

After a few hours of mediocre sleep, Oliver was up again, working on Felicity’s computer to try to find out who bought the building where he and Dean found all that blood. At first all he could find was the name of a corporation called simply Aesir. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but Oliver couldn’t be sure where he had heard it before. He tried to find out who owned the company, but he had very little luck. Eventually, he decided to share his findings.

Dean answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

“This is your friend from last night.”

“Oh, yeah, I recognize the unique voice changer.”

“I found the company that bought that building. It’s called Aesir.”

“What, like the Norse gods?”

“That was all I could find. I’ll let you know if there’s anything else. Have you had any luck this morning?”

“Someone cleaned up that mess from last night, but we found something in the drain. Blood and a weird black powder.”

“What kind of powder?”

“I just said weird. It wasn’t anything we’ve run into before. but we’ll check it out.”

“Let me know if you find anything. Just come in the front door next time.”

“‘Cause giving me your phone number would be too easy. How did you get mine anyway?”

“You left your bluetooth on. Makes hacking a phone pretty easy when you’ve got the whole evening.”

“Son of a bitch.”

“Consider it payback for the hot wired security.”

“Fine. I have to go. Catch you later, Legolas.”

Oliver hung up and had to try very hard not to roll his eyes. This guy was just as crazy as Constantine—and possibly equally legitimate. What he said about Norse gods got Oliver thinking. Perhaps the name Aesir was a reference to something mystical. But there weren’t really mythological gods, were there? Oliver found himself hoping not. Even though he hadn’t really attended his ancient mythology class in college, he knew that the old gods wreaked a lot of havoc in the stories. That was something Starling City could do without.

~oOo~

Dean was starting to get a very bad feeling after the Arrow’s phone call. He knew that Odin and Baldur were dead as of five years ago, but there were other Norse gods who weren’t in attendance the night Lucifer killed Gabriel. Or it could be someone trying to summon a god, if that were even possible. It didn’t explain the symbols, though. Sam and Dean would have been able to find something if it had been related to any of the gods they had encountered before.

A quick sweep of the upper lever told Dean there was nothing of interest there, so he headed back down to find Sam. When he reached the main floor, the drain cover was back in place, and Sam was on his way toward the stairs.

“Find anything,” he asked.

“Just a name,” Dean said. “Aesir.”

“You mean...”

“Yeah, I thought we were done with those man-eating monsters.”

“But if the symbols were Norse, we would have recognized them, wouldn’t we?”

Dean shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe the name is just a coincidence.”

“When is it ever a coincidence.”

“Pretty much never.”

They started walking back toward the door. “Did Cas say he was coming?”

“Soon as he can,” Dean replied. “I’m starting to think he might be the only one who can help us.”

~oOo~

Following her surprise visit by Laurel, Felicity forced herself to get in the shower and get ready for work. She almost thought she would skip going down to the Arrow Cave first, even though she had the time. She just wasn’t feeling like talking to anyone. Except, Oliver was always the best person to talk to when she felt that way. He always knew how to listen, even when she didn’t really have anything to say.

Before she could convince herself otherwise, Felicity got in the car and headed over to the Cave. She tried to imagine it were any other day. She was just going to see Oliver. That was her favorite thing, the part that made this all worth it. Felicity realized that since Sam had showed up, she hadn’t even thought of Oliver. At least, not the way she used to. Not as the knight in shining armor come to rescue her from... what exactly? Her dull existence? Life had been anything but dull before she decided to make it that way. What if this was all just some attempt to replace the life she used to have?

No, that didn’t make any sense. Felicity got into this to help people. And she did. The Arrow was a force for good, and she loved being a part of that. It had nothing to do with who she used to be. Maybe that was what unsettled her now.

Pulling up in the alley, Felicity checked her visor mirror to be sure she looked presentable. She didn’t want Oliver asking a lot of questions she couldn’t answer right now. Once she was satisfied, she headed inside.

Oliver was at the computer desk again when Felicity entered, and he had about twelve hundred windows open on the screens.

“Why are we interested in Norse Mythology?” she asked noting the subject matter of his research.

Oliver swiveled the chair, turning to face her. “Something about the name of the company that bought the building where one of the murders happened.”

“I thought I was the only one allowed to use run ons.”

“That was actually a fragment.”

“Whatever. What’s the name?”

“Aesir. It’s another word for Norse gods.”

Felicity moved over the computer and glanced over the material. “Actually, I think it’s more complicated than that,” she said absently. “Why is the name so important?”

Oliver shifted in the chair next to Felicity before standing up. He was uncomfortable about something. “It just seemed odd,” he said. “I thought there might be a connection.”

“A connection to... actual Norse gods?”

“No, just—forget it.”

Felicity turned to face Oliver. “Something bothering you?”

“I could ask you the same thing. You don’t seem like yourself.”

“And shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, doing pushups instead of studying mythology?”

“Felicity...” Oliver did that thing with his hand he always did when he was frustrated but had to force himself to stop talking. He let out a sharp exhale. “What are we doing?”

“We’re... avoiding something. Which, you know, is perfectly fine, if there’s something you want to avoid, sometimes we have to avoid things that are distracting and otherwise... not helpful. Why are you staring at me?”

“I always stare at you when you do that.”

Felicity felt her face getting red. This was definitely not helpful either. She sat in her chair and turned to the computer. “Did you find anything on our killer?”

Oliver moved to stand beside Felicity, crossing his arms. “Other than that name, no. We’re still in the dark about most of this. I’m gonna see if Roy can help me do some more digging.”

“What about John?”

“He’s got enough on his hands right now.”

Felicity looked up over the top of her glasses. “You know, babies do sleep sometimes.”

“Not if you believe Dig.” Oliver smiled tentatively.

Felicity smiled back. “Guess we can handle this on our own, then.”

Oliver put his hand on her shoulder. “We always do.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Six “Mutual Deception”

Under the guise of making a food run, Dean headed back to the appropriately named club. The front door had been left unlocked, presumably for him since the place wasn’t open in the middle of the day. Inside, the lights were off, but Dean could see a large dance floor surrounded by small tables and a long bar at the opposite end. It wasn’t Dean’s kind of place. Not that he hadn’t been in a few clubs in his time, but he was more suited to the smalltown holes in the wall he usually frequented.

He headed toward the back, looking for a way downstairs. As he walked along the bar, he heard someone coming from the back. A door closed and the sound of an electronic lock told Dean all he needed to know. The man’s voice was unfamiliar, though he could imagine what it would sound like through a voice changer. The woman’s voice, however, was one Dean would always remember.

“I’ll try to stop by after work,” she was saying. “Assuming my soul is still intact.”

The man laughed at that comment, but stopped when he came around the corner and saw Dean leaning against the bar.

“Well, this is interesting,” Dean said. “You wanna introduce your friend?”

“Not particularly,” the man said.

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

Jessica or Felicity or whoever she was looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I was invited; what are you doing here?”

“You two know each other?” the man asked.

“No,” Jessica/Felicity said too quickly.

“‘Know’ might be a strong word for it,” Dean said. “Met once, yes. Twice if you count the hallucination, but you wouldn’t.”

“What is he talking about?” The man directed the question at Jessica.

“I have to go.”

“Felicity—”

She walked away, ignoring any attempts to make her stay and explain herself. Dean wasn’t going to bother chasing after her. Sooner or later, she’d have to come clean, and he wasn’t the one she owed the truth.

Dean turned back to the hoodless man. “While I’d love to tell you all about the time my brother’s girlfriend burned on the ceiling, I’m more interested in solving a few murders. And a first name.”

The man glared at him. “It’s not important.”

“Exactly. I don’t give a crap who you are. It’s not like I have anyone to tell.”

A breath followed by a sigh. “Oliver.”

“Oh, you’re Laurel’s friend. That’s why she said to stay away from here.”

“You know Laurel?”

“Again, that’s a strong word for it—and a long story. She’s the one who called us to help with the case.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Maybe because she knows demons when she sees their work. Ask her if you’re such good friends.”

“That might be a stretch.”

“Can we at least try to get some work done before more people die?”

The man—Oliver—waved for Dean to follow him downstairs. “I haven’t had much luck with the lead you gave me. What about that powdery stuff?”

“Still waiting for an expert to check it out,” Dean replied.

“An expert in what?”

“Anything we can’t figure out on our own.”

“You might try getting a sample to an actual scientist.”

“That’s why I brought this.” Dean took a small plastic bag from his pocket and handed it to Oliver as the reached the bottom of the stairs. “I couldn’t get much, but if my source falls through, maybe you can make something of it.”

Oliver held the bag up to the light. “Looks like gunpowder, only finer and... sticky.”

“I told you it was weird.”

Dean walked into the main area of the room, recalling the night before when he got shot in the shoulder. It was still bothering him, but he did his best not to show it.

“Are you going to tell me how you know Felicity?” Oliver asked walking over to one of the cabinets on the left side of the room.

“I know her as Jessica, but she’s supposed to be dead.”

Oliver gave Dean a perplexed frown. “That can’t be her.”

“Identical twins? You’d think one of them would have mentioned it.”

“Who was Jessica?”

“My brother’s girlfriend. She was killed by a demon.” Even though he wanted to know what was going on, Dean found that he didn’t like talking about this.

“You understand if I don’t believe you,” Oliver said.

“Sure,” Dean replied. “I wouldn’t believe me either.”

~oOo~

It took Dean an awfully long time to come back with lunch. With no new leads and nothing else to do, Sam went back to researching Jessica’s life. What he and Laurel had been able to dig up last night wasn’t much to go on, but he hated just sitting there. He felt bad prying into her life like this, but he had to know the truth. For ten years, he’d been going over that night in his head, wondering if things could have been different. If only he’d stayed. If only he’d never gone to college at all.

Sam sighed and ran his hands through his hair. This wasn’t helping. He just wished he could see her, to straighten this all out, to know why she left him like that.

It wasn’t anything new. Sam had been wondering those things for ten years. He always refused to admit it to himself or anyone else, but he’d never really let go of Jessica. Until now, he had always  believed his questions would forever go unanswered.

It only felt like a few minutes, but it was over an hour later when Dean returned with a pizza and a sixpack. Sam slammed the computer closed, and Dean made a face at him.

“There were lines,” Dean said. That was odd. Normally he’d make a joke about what Sam might have been doing.

“I wasn’t—” Sam stopped in the middle of his sentence. He didn’t need to say anything.

“Nothing new?” Dean asked, setting the food down on the table.

Sam wasn’t feeling very hungry, but he opened the box and pulled out a slice anyway, just to give himself something to do. “Nope,” he said before taking a large bite so he wouldn’t have to talk for a minute.

“Cas should be here soon.”

“Mmhmm.”

Sam was aware there was something they weren’t talking about, but Dean didn’t seem interested in pursuing it, which was just as well. Sam knew that meant his brother was hiding something too, but he couldn’t be bothered to speculate. It couldn’t have been any worse than Sam’s illicit research.

~oOo~

On a normal day—though who could say what was normal anymore—Castiel enjoyed a long drive down the interstate. Of course, things had changed lately. Even though Sam and Dean were both back to normal again, there was still a sense of dread hanging over them. Perhaps that was all their worry over Castiel himself. At least they wouldn’t have to bother about that anymore. He was back to himself—or as much himself as he would ever be again. The threat of imminent death had passed in any case.

Starling City was one of the few places Castiel hadn’t yet visited during his time on Earth. Nothing of note seemed to happen there in his experience. Dean had mentioned something about Ruby’s former vessel and Sam’s dead college girlfriend. So, it would be their usual sort of case. He found it odd that they wanted his help so badly since they usually managed on their own unless it concerned angels specifically, and it didn’t sound like that sort of thing. Perhaps, Castiel thought, they needed someone to supply them with information. Without Bobby or Kevin around anymore, it seemed he was the designated source of obscure knowledge. At least it gave him something useful to do.

Upon driving into the city, Castiel saw a statistically significant number of rundown buildings and homeless people on the streets. In spite of the lack of supernatural activity, this place seemed to be a fountain of human desolation. Castiel would not be surprised to find they were dealing with an uncommonly evil human as opposed to something demonic.

Yet, as he followed the street signs to the motel Dean directed him to, Castiel felt a strange sense—a presence of something old and verging on familiar. The feeling was gone as soon as it came, and upon pulling into the parking lot, Castiel put it out of his mind.

When he reached the door to Sam and Dean’s room, he felt a different sort of presence. Something was wrong with the brothers. Something far beneath the surface, and he doubted they were even aware of it.

Dean opened the door, looking cautiously optimistic. “Cas,” he said. “Are you... back?”

Castiel felt the corner of his mouth make that funny twitching it always did when he tried to smile. “I’m back,” he said.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven “Drinking Buddies”

For once, Laurel was off work by five and headed over to Verdant to check with Felicity about the case. However, she noticed there was no little red car parked in the alley—only Oliver's motorcycle. She thought about leaving, but he might know something that could help, so she decided to brave the potential awkwardness.

When she got inside, she was surprised to find Oliver sitting at the bar alone drinking his favorite vodka.

“I suppose it is five o'clock,” she said, setting her briefcase on the counter as she sat down.

Oliver looked at her with suspicion. “Didn't think I'd see you here for a while.”

Laurel remembered their last conversation where she had asked him to train her to fight and he refused. She had been angry, but she was over it now. More important concerns loomed over them.

“When people are dying, it's easy to forget about personal issues,” she said.

“Maybe for you.” Oliver took another drink from his glass. “How do you know Dean Winchester?”

Laurel almost choked. “What?”

“Alleged demon hunter, said you called him to come investigate the murders.” Oliver finally looked at Laurel with that accusing glare he had mastered.

Laurel thought carefully about her reply. Her first instinct was to get defensive, but that always led to arguments. “You wouldn't believe me,” she finally said.

“What do you know about Jessica?”

Oh, so that was it. Felicity. “Not much.” Laurel sighed. “She was Sam's college girlfriend. She was supposed to be dead long before I knew them.”

“Sam is the brother?”

“Yeah. How do you know them?”

“Dean broke into the foundry last night. I shot him with an arrow, and he told me he was here to catch a monster.”

“I know it probably all sounds crazy to you, but he's not lying.”

“I believe he's not lying. Whether he's crazy is still up in the air. Why would you call him?”

Laurel scratched her fingernails on the counter and focused on the flecks in the black surface. “I never told anyone because no one would believe it. Sometimes I wonder if I really did imagine it all, but then I remember the scars. It was real. Sam and Dean are the only people in the world who know the truth.”

“Laurel, what are you talking about? What truth?”

“I was possessed. Not in some metaphorical sense, but really, literally possessed by a demon. It was after the ship went down. I was so angry and lost. I left school for a while, and that's when she found me. I didn't know what was happening until it was too late. She had taken over.” Laurel felt the tears threatening to spill over, but she wouldn't give them the satisfaction.

“Who took over?” Oliver asked.

“Her name was Ruby. She was pretending to help Sam in order to turn him to their side. Even Dean started to trust her. I tried to warn them, but Ruby kept me quiet. It was like I was being strangled from inside for a year. I know this sounds insane, but demons are real. It's all real.”

Laurel finally looked at Oliver, expecting him to be wearing an incredulous expression, but to her surprise, he just looked sad.

“I know it's real, Laurel,” he said. “I've seen a few things I can't explain. I wasn't sure about all this demon stuff, but...”

As he looked into her eyes, Oliver seemed to notice something that made him stop talking. Instead, he reached over and gave Laurel a hug. It had been a long time since she felt like she might be safe, but the fact that Oliver believed her, that he only tried to comfort her instead of telling her she was crazy made her think she could be her old self again. The smell of alcohol made her wish for a drink, but she quickly suppressed it. She didn't have to go back to the darkness. Ruby didn't have to win.

~oOo~

Cas frowned at the pages of the coroner's report. He nearly always frowned, though, so Dean wasn't sure whether it was a bad sign or not. He had been looking at them for a long time in silence, and even Sam was starting to get a bit restless. Most of the pizza sat uneaten on the table. Dean thought about putting it in the refrigerator, but he didn't want to disturb the process.

After what seemed like hours, Cas finally set the files down and turned to the brothers. “It's very old,” he said. “Older than any human language. I haven't seen anything like it in millennia.”

“So you know what it is?” Sam asked.

“I know what it isn't, which is less helpful. I believe there is a book in your library which could help.”

“Great,” Dean said. “More time to waste.”

“If I could still fly...”

“Yeah, what's the deal with that?”

“Metatron's spell is still in place. None of the angels can fly until it's broken. Maybe not even then.”

“We can work on that later,” Sam promised. “Right now we need to get that book.”

“We could call Charlie,” Dean suggested. “She might be in the area, and she could look it up for us.”

“I didn't know you had any more living friends,” Cas said.

“Ouch.” Sam winced.

“Hey, we have friends,” Dean argued. “There's...”

“Jody,” Sam supplied.

“Right, and...”

“Garth?”

“Well, he's a werewolf, so he only counts for half.”

“We have three and a half friends, then, including you,” Sam said to Cas.

“I'm sure we're forgetting someone.”

Cas stood up from the table. “You should call your friend,” he said. “If I need to go to Kansas, I should hurry.”

Dean pulled out his phone. “Hey, Sam, why don't you show him the creepy black stuff?”

“Oh, right.” Sam got up and went to find the sample while Dean dialed Charlie's number.

She had let them know she was back from Oz a few weeks ago, but they hadn't been able to meet up with all the work they'd had lately. She was probably off hunting some vampires like Dean always told her not to.

On the fourth ring, Charlie answered. “This better be important,” she said.

Already, Dean had a bad feeling about this. “Six deaths in a week might be important.”

“Oh, you need me on a case?”

“Yeah, what did you think it was?”

“Nothing. I mean I thought maybe you needed me to Google something.”

“We can do that ourselves. We need you to go to the bunker if you’re close enough and find a book.”

“So, pre-Google.”

“Cas thinks it may be the key to figuring out what's been killing these people.”

“So, I find the book and bring it to you and we get to kill some monsters?”

“Or you could just call us.”

“She won't be able to read it,” Cas interrupted. “So, she'll have to bring it.”

“Hear that?” Dean asked.

“Loud and clear. What's the book, and where are you?”

Cas said something unintelligible which Dean assumed was the title of the book. Eventually, he just wrote it down, and Dean took a picture of the title and sent it to Charlie. Then he told her where to find them in Starling City, and she hurried off on her mission.

“She seems a little too happy about this,” Cas said after the phone call was over.

“She's just like that,” Sam said. “But she knows what she's doing.”

Dean frowned, still staring at his phone. “That doesn't mean I like the thought of her being here. It could be dangerous.”

“It's always dangerous,” Sam argued. “She'll be fine.”

~oOo~

A few years ago, the thought of leaving a convention for any reason seemed ludicrous to Charlie. And if it had been just a glorified Google search, she might have been a bit miffed at Sam and Dean for pulling her away from her fun, but this was a real case. Life since Oz had been a bit dull, even with a few hunting jobs here and there, so she was excited to be working with the boys again. Not to mention, happy to see them.

Sure, the long drive to Kansas was a bit tedious, but she blasted her music the whole way and imagined what it would be like once she got to Starling City. One road trip and a few hours searching the library later, and she was on her way with the mysterious book in hand. Cas had been right that she couldn't read even a little bit of it. Castiel. She couldn't wait to meet him after all the stories she'd heard.

The second leg of Charlie's journey was less exciting. She just wanted to be there already. It was getting late, and she should probably have stopped to sleep for a while, but she was too wired to rest. If the empty cans of energy drinks on the passenger seat were any indication, she wouldn't be sleeping for a few days.

Not for the first time, Charlie wondered how Sam and Dean did this all the time. How they drove for days on end, never getting tired of it. Of course, they had each other for company which may have made all the difference. Charlie was now thoroughly convinced that hunters should have partners. She'd have to look into that.

Even in the middle of the night, Starling City was lit up brightly. It sort of belied the fact that it was now considered one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Charlie navigated her way easily through the streets to find Sam and Dean's motel. It was a dump of course, but that meant there would be vacancies. She got herself a room near theirs and after dropping off her stuff, she checked to see if they were still up. The lights were still on, so she knocked on the door.

It wasn't Sam nor Dean who answered, but a man with dark hair wearing a trench coat. He was taller than she expected.

“You must be Cas,” Charlie said, hugging him before she realized he wouldn't know nearly as much about her as she knew about him. She pulled away and held out the book. “I got it.”

The terrified look in his eyes faded when he saw the dirty old volume. “Thank you,” he said, taking it from her. “You should come inside.”

The room looked the same as Charlie's except with two beds and a pizza box on the table.

“Did you save any for me?” she asked.

Dean turned in his chair to face her. “It's cold,” he said with a smile as he got up to give her a hug.

“I like it better that way.”

Sam came out of the bathroom with wet hair, smelling like hotel soap. “You made it,” he said as Charlie moved over to hug him too.

“I might be having a caffeine overdose, but what the heck?” she shrugged.

Sam smiled, but it wasn't his real smile. Something was up, and not just this weird case.

Castiel was already flipping through the book and frowning deeper with each page.

“Cas, what's the deal?” Dean asked.

Slowly, Cas closed the book and nodded. “It is what I feared,” he said. “We're dealing with a being far more powerful than any of us.”

“When has that ever stopped us before?”

“If it is who I think it is, we may finally be out of our depth.”

“Who is it, Cas?” Sam asked.

“An old enemy of the angels, one we thought was gone forever. Someone is trying to awaken him again. The humans call him Loki.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight “Mischief”

“Back up a second.” Dean couldn’t have heard that right. “Loki? Didn’t Gabriel ice him, I don’t know, eons ago?”

“No one actually knows what happened to Loki,” Cas explained. “For thousands of years, he was a constant source of trouble, and then he disappeared. We would still see some mischief from time to time but nothing as catastrophic as before. Some angels assumed he had mellowed out, but that was probably when Gabriel took his place.”

“Which means he had to do something with the real Loki,” Sam said. “Get him out of the way.”

“I thought he had killed him. But now I’m not so sure.”

“We are talking about the Loki?” Charlie asked, her eyes wide with excitement. She was enjoying this too much.

“If he’s here, this entire city is in danger,” Cas said solemnly.

“That doesn’t quite explain the weird deaths,” Sam said. “Why would he need to kill them?”

“Some kind of sacrifice?” Dean wondered.

“He may not be at full strength,” Cas agreed. “If that’s true, we need to find him now before he becomes too powerful.”

“We’ve fought bigger.”

“It’s not that I don’t think you can do the impossible, it’s just...”

“What, Cas?”

“How many people are going to die before you succeed? A being like Loki can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t kill for ideological reasons or spite. He does it because it’s fun. And when he gets bored, he starts making things worse and worse until the whole civilization crumbles. It amuses him.”

“Sounds like you’ve met this guy.”

“Not face to face, as you would say, but I was part of the army that went against him on multiple occasions. Most times, we lost.”

“How do angels lose wars?” Charlie asked.

“I have often asked myself that question. But you don’t see any Hittites or Mayans hanging around, do you?”

“That was Loki?” Sam seemed impressed.

“It was all Loki. And Starling City is already weak. I can sense the people are on the brink of despair. They have no hope.”

“Well, there’s Robin Hood,” Dean said.

Cas frowned. “What does a fairy tale character have to do with anything?”

“No, it’s—There’s a guy who goes around the city in a green hood, fighting crime with a bow and arrow.”

“That seems... inefficient.”

“Hey, don’t knock superheroes,” Charlie said. “I’ve read about this guy, and he sounds like the real deal.”

Dean considered bringing up his acquaintance with the Arrow now. He knew everyone would want to know why he hadn’t said anything before, and he didn’t have a good answer. At least, not one that didn’t include bringing up Sam’s little problem too. He’d save it for later if they needed any help in the archery department.

“Hey, Cas?” Sam said, seeming to be working something out in his head. “Would the hammer of Thor be an effective weapon against Loki?”

“That would require Thor himself to wield it,” Cas replied. “And the god of thunder never seemed interested in fighting the trickster unless it directly concerned him.”

Dean saw where Sam was going with this as he remembered the supernatural auction a few years back. “Don’t we just need someone worthy to lift the hammer?” he asked.

“That would be a rare individual. I doubt if any of us—”

Sam headed for the door in the middle of Cas’ reply, causing the angel to pause and stare in confusion. A moment later, Sam returned from the car, carrying an enormous war hammer. He set it on the table, and the wood creaked, threatening to splinter under the weight.

“We found it while you were still in Purgatory,” Sam told Cas. “It’s got quite the kick.”

“Dude, you kept that thing in the car all this time?” Dean asked, wondering where Sam had hidden it.

Cas gazed at Sam with a newfound awe, which seemed to only make Sam uncomfortable. “This could change everything,” he said.

~oOo~

The shadows seemed to take on a life all their own as Felicity headed from her car to her apartment that night. It had been a long time since she’d felt this paranoid, but she wasn’t sure her current mood counted as paranoia anymore. Everything she was trying to run from had come back to lurk in the corners of her mind. She couldn’t even let herself be happy at the memory of seeing Sam’s face, of hearing his voice. It wasn’t him so much as everything he represented that frightened her—everything she could never overcome to find her way back to loving him like she used to.

Felicity breathed a sigh of relief as she closed her door and locked the chain and deadbolt. The house was dark, but she felt marginally safe now. The only shadows that could hurt her in here were the ones she made herself.

Moving through the dark house, Felicity kicked off her shoes and dropped her purse in a chair. Standing on one foot, she rubbed the other until it didn’t ache quite so much. Switching feet, she rolled her shoulders and groaned as the stiffness resisted her.

With both feet back on the floor, Felicity headed to the kitchen. She switched on a light and searched the refrigerator for something she could reheat. Except she hadn’t cooked in days, so there were no leftovers. Messing with pots and pans would be too much work, but she was hungry after her long shift at work. After some digging around in the cupboards, Felicity ended up eating buttered toast and potato chip crumbs. She would have to go shopping soon.

Felicity turned off the kitchen light and headed toward her room in the dark. She should take a shower before bed, but she had a feeling once her bed was in sight, that wouldn’t be happening. She didn’t bother turning on the lights as she searched for her pajamas. Sleep seemed attainable right up to the moment she stubbed her toe on something hard in the middle of the floor. Fumbling around for the lamp, Felicity finally saw what got in her way—it was the loose floorboard from the closet. How had it gotten there? Maybe she forgot to put it back. But she seemed to remember doing exactly that. Looking into the closet, Felicity felt her stomach twist and her heart race. The closet had been cleared out, and the hole in the floor was empty. There was a rectangular impression in the dirt where the box had been, but it was gone now.

Someone took it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine “A Bit of Truth and Lies”

Felicity paced the floor of her bedroom, her heart racing faster and faster. Someone broke into her house. What if they were still there? No, the window was open. She was surprised she hadn’t noticed the cool air coming in before. Whoever it was knew what they were after. The horrible possibility that it might be Sam ran through her mind before she dismissed it. He would have tried to talk to her face to face. The fact that nothing else had been disturbed meant the burglar knew what he or she was looking for. Felicity had been so careful. No one knew her tendency to hide things under furniture and floorboards except her mother, and Donna Smoak had neither the subtlety nor the motivation to break into Felicity’s apartment. This all left her with only one conclusion: someone had been watching her.

Felicity hastily covered up the evidence of her hiding place, returning the boards and rearranging her shoes to hide the seams. She looked at the open window and shuddered. As much as she didn’t want to tell Oliver about Sam, she certainly wasn’t keen on going to sleep knowing someone was lurking out there. And maybe Oliver could help her find out who was watching her and make them stop.

Before she had time to fully think it through, Felicity had grabbed her phone and dialed Oliver. When it started ringing, she realized she didn’t know what she was going to tell him. Worse still, he decided to answer before she had time to formulate a story. He never answered on the first ring!

“Felicity?” Oliver seemed surprised to be hearing from her.

“Oliver, hi! Um... I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m calling you—you know, since it’s so late, and I really should be sleeping, which I would be—I mean, I’d really rather be—”

“Is something wrong?” Oliver interrupted.

“Wrong? Yes, actually. I think—well, I don’t think; I know—someone broke into my house.”

That wasn’t so hard.

“Are you serious?” Oliver sounded angry now. “Are you okay?”

“Me? No, I’m fine. They were gone when I got here. The window was open.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Since when do we call the police?” Actually, she didn’t even think of it.

“Okay, I’ll be right over.”

Felicity heard the line disconnect and flopped down on the bed. Her earlier thoughts about sleep were long forgotten. A persistent headache was settling in behind her eyes. It struck her that she was more annoyed than afraid right now. Oh, she was plenty scared. Just not as much as she might have been in the past.

The cold air from the open window forced her to get up and close it. As she turned the latch, she noticed a scrap of paper stuck in the hinge. She pulled it out and heard Oliver’s motorcycle coming down the street. She stuffed the paper in her pocket and went to let him inside. This time, she turned on all the lights as she went. She moved her shoes away from the door so they wouldn’t get tripped over and undid the locks. She could hear Oliver’s footsteps as he hurried up the sidewalk. She timed it just right so she opened the door as he reached the porch.

Oliver didn’t say anything. He just stepped inside and hugged Felicity. That was when she noticed her hands shaking and that her heart rate hadn’t slowed down.

“Are you okay?” he asked. She was sure he asked that before.

“I’m fine,” Felicity replied, her voice muffled by his shoulder, which was probably a good thing, since she didn’t sound very fine , even to her own ears.

Oliver was tense—and not just because he was always tense. His shoulders felt like bricks as Felicity let go and stepped back from him. She took a breath and composed herself.

“I found the bedroom window open,” she said, as matter of fact as she could. “There were some things out of place...”

“Anything stolen?” Oliver asked.

Felicity shook her head, unable to put a voice to her lie. “I don’t understand why...”

“Mind if I take a look?”

She had expected as much. Oliver would want to get to the bottom of this. While the thought of catching the burglar made Felicity very happy, the thought of telling Oliver what was taken did the exact opposite.

“Sure,” she said, rubbing her arms as she remembered the chill in her room. “I’ll make some coffee.”

This was going to be a long night.

~oOo~

Everyone finally went to bed, except Cas who said he wanted to look at the crime scene. After he left, Charlie went off to her room, and Dean went straight to sleep. But Sam couldn’t sleep. There was too much going on. Thoughts of Jessica still filled his mind, but there were new concerns. He wasn’t about to dismiss the dread in Cas’ eyes when he described Loki. And then there was the hammer. Sure, they could maybe defeat Loki with it, but what made Sam so worthy to wield it? And what if he stopped being worthy and doomed them all.

He just needed to focus. On his job, on saving people. He needed to forget about his selfish quest to uncover the truth about Felicity Smoak. It wasn’t relevant.

The more he tried to forget, however, the more Sam couldn’t get her out of his mind. He tossed and turned in the hotel bed for a while before finally getting up and going outside, so as not to disturb Dean.

The icy four a.m. air stung his lungs and made enormous puffs of steam as he exhaled. He walked down the sidewalk, not really sure of where he was going, but needing to go somewhere. It was a big city. He could get lost for a while, and maybe that would stave off the need to find Jessica a little while longer.

Something about not knowing where he was going, about the strangeness of the streets, comforted Sam. He could imagine he were somebody else, or nobody. He could imagine his life hadn’t turned out the way it had, that he was still living in California, married to Jessica with kids and a house and a dog. This was all just a long nightmare, someone else’s life. It would be over soon.

And all at once, Sam felt disgusted with himself. If Dean could hear what he was thinking, he’d be crushed. Not only that, but what about all the people that needed saving? Sam knew it was his job to be the one to save them. He didn’t get to have the nice life he always imagined. That didn’t stop him from wishing.

The lights began to fade away, and Sam realized he was going into a residential area now. He hadn’t meant to come so far, but he might as well keep going for a while. If he turned back now, he still wouldn’t be able to sleep.

Eventually he stopped at a rundown bus stop. The cold was beginning to sink into his skin, and he should get out of the wind for a while. He’d slept in bus stops before.The glass walls were cold and grimy, covered over with several layers  of graffiti. Sam put his feet up on the bench and leaned back. As exhaustion began to sweep over him, his last thought was how funny it was that he couldn’t sleep in a warm, relatively comfortable bed, but he was about to fall asleep in a bus shelter in a strange neighborhood.

~oOo~

Oliver had scoured the entire room, and aside from a few turned over shoes and dirt on the floor, he couldn’t tell anyone but Felicity had been there. Upon further questioning, she insisted nothing had been taken, and seemed annoyed that he kept asking. He had other questions which she would probably like even less.

Finally, they sat down in the living room with coffee cups and silence. Oliver knew he had to ask Felicity about the weirdness this afternoon. The thought that Dean or the mysterious Sam might have broken into Felicity’s house did cross his mind. He needed to be sure.

“I know you don’t want to tell me,” Oliver said at last.

“Then don’t ask,” Felicity replied, strangely blunt.

“I think I’ve been pretty understanding.” Oliver argued. “I don’t know what to believe because you haven’t given me anything to go on. You haven’t denied anything, but I find it hard to believe that you’re living under a false identity and you used to date a guy who hunts demons.”

Felicity choked on her coffee. “Is that what you’ve heard from your new friend?”

“He thinks you’re his brother’s dead girlfriend. And you never said you weren’t.”

“Oliver—”

“Felicity, whatever it is, you can tell me. We can work through this. If you changed your name to get away from him, I can protect you.”

“It’s not—No, I didn’t. I just... need you to trust me.” She had that pleading look in her eyes that he always succumbed to.

“You already know I do.”

“Then let me handle this for now.”

“Are you?” Oliver raised his eyebrows.

“What?”

He looked directly into Felicity’s eyes. “Handling it?”

~oOo~

A dream—or more like a memory—forced Sam awake just before dawn. He almost fell off the bench before he remembered where he was. And he wasn’t alone.

At the other end of the shelter there was a man with shaggy black and gray hair and a dirty brown coat. He was rubbing his hands together, and even in the dim light, Sam could see what looked like grease stains on them.

“You lost?” the man asked, not looking at Sam.

For a moment, Sam wasn’t sure how to reply. “Kind of,” he admitted.

“Not sure if I can help you. All depends on where you’re trying to go.”

The way he said it made Sam think he was talking about something other than which street lead where.

“Back to the city,” Sam said vaguely enough. He could find his way back from there.

The man finally looked at him with an incredulous quirk of one eyebrow. “You sure about that?”

Sam shook his head. “I’m not sure of anything.”

“What’s gonna make you sure?”

Sam thought about it for a good minute. He had known the answer all along. “The truth,” he said.

The man nodded. He was still listening. “Then go find it.”

Sam looked up at the street sign on the corner. He recognized the names because he had looked up an address nearby. He was only a few blocks from Jessica’s house. He stood, almost against his will. He shouldn’t go there. Everything about this was wrong.

“Thanks,” he said, glancing back at the man.

It was lighter now, and the man still rubbed the black stains on his hands. “No problem.”

~oOo~

After a long night filled with terror, lies, awkward questions, and half truths, Oliver left Felicity’s apartment. She stood in the doorway watching him drive away as the sun came up. She had a bit of time to sleep, but there was something else that occupied her thoughts now. As she went back inside, she reached into her pocket for the scrap of paper. It was a jagged piece torn from a lined notebook. One side was blank, but on the other side were two letters written neatly in blue pen, perpendicular to the lines.

N.S.

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten “Unfinished Business”

In spite of the warm sunlight, Sam couldn’t shake the nighttime chill. Sleeping on a street corner would do that to you. He should have been planning what he would say. He only had two blocks to think about it. However, his feet seemed to have other ideas. Before he really knew what was happening, he was standing across the street from Jessica’s apartment building. There were a few trees, so he wasn’t too conspicuous just standing there looking. He didn’t think she would appreciate company at six in the morning. She was always more of a night person. But the sight of a man leaving her place and Jessica standing in the doorway made Sam rethink everything.

Jessica watched the man go. From this distance, Sam couldn’t tell whether she was happy or not. Her arms were crossed, and as soon as the man got on his motorcycle and drove out of sight, Jessica went back inside.

Sam stood frozen on the sidewalk. Had she found someone else? Anything might have happened in the last ten years. What if she were married? No. There was no ring. Sam remembered that, though he wasn’t sure why he noticed. Maybe because in his dreams she always wore the ring he picked out for her but never got the chance to give her.

For a long time, Sam didn’t move. He had abandoned all thoughts of talking to Jessica now. He had never considered the possibility that she might be seeing someone because he had never considered the possibility that she was alive. He couldn’t talk to her, but he didn’t want to leave. He wanted her to come back to the door so he could see her standing there, alive and happy. Maybe that would be enough.

Sam’s thoughts were interrupted by his phone ringing. At first he thought it must have been Dean. It wasn’t until Cas’ gravelly voice came over the line that he realized it was too early for Dean to be up.

“Where are you?” Cas asked, sounding annoyed.

“I, uh, just went out for some air,” Sam said. “Where are you?”

“Standing outside a motel room looking suspicious so I don’t wake your brother up.” Cas’ snark seemed to be getting stronger.

“Is something wrong?”

“You’ve been missing for a few hours if that counts.”

There was something else, but Sam wasn’t going to press it. He told Cas where he was and that he’d be back soon.

“That’s miles away,” Cas said. “I’ll come get you.”

Sam was about to argue when the line disconnected. He sighed and leaned back against one of the trees, still watching Jessica’s house. He knew this could be his last chance to see her. He made up his mind that he was going to focus on the case from now on. She obviously didn’t want to talk to him. In the end, she might be better off without him. So, he stayed put, hoping to catch one more glimpse of her before he went back to living like she was dead.

~oOo~

Castiel had known since he arrived in Starling City that something was wrong with Sam. Something was usually wrong with Sam, but this was more than that. Over the years, Castiel had learned to sense the subtleties of the Winchester’s moods. He knew better when to ask questions and when to remain silent. This seemed like one of the latter times. Except for the fact that Sam went for a twelve mile walk in the middle of the night. That would have to be answered for.

“Who was it?” Castiel asked as he drove back to the motel.

“Who was what?” Sam asked, gazing out the window.

“You went to see someone. But you seem disappointed, so either you didn’t get to see them or the meeting wasn’t what you hoped.”

“I don’t know anyone in that neighborhood. I was just walking.”

“So you always stare forlornly at modest duplexes?”

Sam turned to look at Castiel who did his best to keep focused on the road. “What do you want me to say, Cas?”

“Only the truth.” Castiel said. “Your behavior is... worrisome.”

“You’re worried about me?” Sam’s tone was a little more than incredulous.

“I always worry about you and your brother.”

Sam was quiet for a moment. Then, “Figured the hammer of Thor might ease your mind.”

“You’re changing the subject.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not going back there.”

Castiel considered this statement, spoken with such forced conviction as if Sam were trying to convince himself.

“Unfinished business,” Castiel said, “will always find its way back, often at the most inconvenient times.”

Sam stared through the window again with a grave look in his eyes. “It’s not on me to finish it.”

~oOo~

Charlie showed up just as Dean was getting out of the shower. Sam still hadn’t returned, which was odd. Dean figured he was just out getting coffee or something.

“No way you both fit in there,” Charlie said as Dean came out of the bathroom.

“Sam went out before I got up,” Dean said.

Charlie frowned. “He must have gone with Cas then, since your car is still here.”

Dean shrugged. “Angels don’t sleep, you know.”

“Yeah, I’ve read the books.”

Dean resisted rolling his eyes. Those damn books! “I say we go find some breakfast without those losers,” he said.

“I’m game.” Charlie looked at the enormous hammer on the table. “Should we just leave this here?”

“Not like anyone can move it without being worthy. Which up to now is a one man club.”

“Guess you’re right.” Charlie headed for the door. “I’m thinking waffles.”

Dean grabbed his jacket and followed her outside. “You read my mind.” He pulled out his phone and dialed Laurel’s number.

“Who could you possibly be calling when there are waffles to be had?” Charlie asked impatiently.

Dean held up his hand to silence her. Laurel answered on the third ring.

“Any news?” she asked, sounding like she’d been awake for a while.

“Yeah, quite a bit, actually. You had breakfast?”

“Not unless a piece of toast an hour ago counts.”

“It doesn’t. Meet us at the diner around the corner from the motel.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Dean put his phone away and found Charlie staring at him inquisitively.

“Who are we inviting to breakfast and sharing information with?” She seemed to be implying a lot more than that.

“The one who turned us on to this case,” Dean said, starting down the sidewalk. “She was possessed by a demon for a while, so she knew something was up.”

Charlie fell in step beside Dean. “Was she in the books?” she asked excitedly.

Dean tried to think of the best way to put this. “The demon was,” he finally said.

“Which one? Meg? Lilith?”

“Ruby.”

Charlie stopped walking. “Ruby possessed a dead girl, Dean.”

“Not the first time.”

“But the books didn’t say anything about what happened to blonde Ruby after the hellhound incident.”

“We didn’t know either. You know the books don’t tell you everything.”

Dean shouldn’t have been so sharp with Charlie, but he didn’t like being reminded how much she knew of their lives.

They walked the rest of the way to the diner in silence. A few minutes after they were seated and got their coffee, Laurel showed up. She slid into the booth next to Charlie, seeming to not notice she was there until they were side by side.

“Hi,” Laurel said awkwardly. “I don’t know you.”

“Laurel, Charlie,” Dean said. “She helps us out now and then.”

“What, like Bobby?”

Dean grimaced at the memory. “Yeah, kinda.”

“Sorry you got possessed by a demon,” Charlie said. “That must suck.”

“It does. Where’s Sam?”

“He left before I got up,” Dean replied. “I think he must have gone with Cas. I texted him to let him know we were here.”

Laurel got a worried look in her eyes, but she didn’t say anything because their waitress appeared to take their order. It was waffles all around and a milkshake for Laurel instead of coffee.

“So, what did you find out about our killer?” Laurel asked when they were alone again.

“Cas thinks it’s Loki.”

Laurel stared blankly. “Okay...”

“We’ve dealt with a few gods before, but apparently, he’s one of the worst. But good for us, we found the hammer of Thor a few years ago, and Sam stashed it in the car.”

“I thought only Thor could use the hammer of Thor,” Laurel said. “Wasn’t there some special glove or whatever?”

Dean shrugged. “Sam used it once before, so he’s up to bat this time.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.”

“Yeah, and that’s just when life throws us a curveball.”

“Like Sam disappearing conveniently with his girlfriend in town?”

“Wait, what girlfriend?” Charlie asked. “I thought they were all dead?”

“You really think he’d go find her now?” Dean asked, ignoring Charlie’s question.

“He knows where she lives,” Laurel said. “And another thing—why didn’t you say you knew Oliver Queen?”

“Now I’m really confused,” Charlie lamented.

“Who says I do?” Dean asked.

“Well, Oliver for one,” Laurel answered. “He said you broke into his club and he shot you with an arrow.”

Charlie’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open, “Oliver Queen is the Arrow?”

“Shh!” Laurel exclaimed.

“Yes,” Dean said. “I met him when I was looking for the crime scene. And I’m fine by the way.” He rubbed his shoulder.

“Does Sam know?” Laurel asked.

“Why does it matter?”

Laurel sighed. “You two need to have a long talk. I’m not getting in the middle of this.”

“Are they keeping secrets again?” Charlie asked.

“When aren’t they?” Laurel responded.

The food arrived, and when the waitress had gone away again, Dean leaned forward and said in a low voice, “You think we could focus on the case for a while?”

“I think I’m focused on food.” Laurel picked up her fork and started digging into her waffles. “Case later.”

Charlie expressed her agreement by nodding with her mouth full. At least they all agreed on something.

~oOo~

Before going to meet Dean and Charlie, Sam and Cas stopped back at the motel so Sam could change clothes. As they walked up to the door of their room, Sam saw that it was open a crack. He knew Dean wouldn’t leave it that way and immediately reached for his gun. Beside him, Cas drew his angel blade.

Sam nudged the door open. It was dark inside with the curtains drawn, but he could see the figure of a man standing next to the table, gripping the handle of Thor’s hammer. He seemed surprised when they came in and jumped back, releasing the hammer and dropping something on the floor.

Sam took aim. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded.

Instead of replying, the man turned and ran toward the bathroom. There was no window to escape through. Sam and Cas rushed after him, and heard a crashing noise just before they burst through the door. Sam had forgotten about the skylight. Jagged glass still clung to the frame along with some bits of brown cloth from the intruder’s coat and a strangely familiar smell.

“Cas, is that...?”

“The substance you found at the crime scene? Yes. The molecular structure is identical.”

“Who was that guy?”

They went back out into the main room, and Cas switched on the lights. “I believe that was whoever has been helping Loki with these sacrifices. And he was after the hammer.”

Cas looked down at the small object the man had dropped. Sam reached down and picked it up. It was a leather glove, made for a large hand with ornate designs burned into the material similar to the symbols found on the bodies.

“Cas, what do you know about the legends of Thor’s glove?”

“Only that they are unsubstantiated. Until now.”

“But I was able to lift the hammer without it.”

Cas nodded, his brow furrowed in concentration. “It is strange,” he said. “When you used the hammer, what was it like? You said it had a... kick?”

“Yeah, it’s not something I’d want to add to my usual arsenal.”

“Perhaps the glove protects from that.” His frown deepened. “Or allows the unworthy to lift the hammer if they are wearing it.”

“Why would the guy just drop it then?”

“We seem to have startled him.”

“Anyone who can blast through a double-paned skylight isn’t going to be that easily startled.”

Cas shook his head. “This is all very troubling. We should call the others.”

Sam agreed. Dean, Charlie, and Laurel would want to know what had transpired. Then they would have to decide what they were going to do about it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven “Good at Finding People”

Dean kicked a piece of glass back toward the pile in the bathroom. Why did their presence always result in destroyed hotel rooms? And not even the fun kind. Sam and Cas had taken turns explaining what happened, though Dean noticed they left out the part about where they had been before returning here. Sam still held the glove in his hand like he was afraid to let go of it. All that and their description of the intruder raised more questions than it answered.

“You don’t think it was Loki?” Charlie asked, eyeing the glove suspiciously.

“He wouldn’t have run,” Cas replied. “I am becoming more convinced that Loki is trapped or powerless and this man is helping him.”

“Why would some dude just help an evil Norse god?” Dean asked.

“Many reasons. In exchange for power, perhaps. Most humans can’t jump through glass. Or Loki could be controlling him. We should hope for the latter because it may mean Loki’s hold on his minion is tenuous.”

“How come we don’t get to have minions?” Charlie muttered absently.

“We are the minions,” Laurel said. “In the best possible way,” she added when Dean glared at her.

“I guess I couple be a pretty good minion,” Charlie rambled on.

Dean felt their collective grasp on relevant information was slipping. “We need to plan our next move,” he said. “If Cas is right, maybe we can take out Loki before he gets strong. We just have to find him.”

“You might all hate me for this suggestion,” Laurel said, “but I know someone who is really good at finding people.”

“You mean the one Sam went to see this morning?” Cas said in a deliberate tone.

Dean didn’t really think about what his next words were going to be, but they were going to be loud. He didn’t get the chance to say anything though.

“I didn’t go see her,” Sam insisted, looking Dean in the eye. “I was in the neighborhood, but I didn’t.”

Dean turned to Cas. “You went with him?”

“I picked him up. But we are talking about the same person?” Cas glanced over at Laurel.

“Seems like it,” she said. “And since Dean is best buddies with the Arrow now, we’re not gonna be able to avoid getting their help.”

Dean could feel Sam’s incredulous glare without having to look. “Before you say anything—”

“No, I think I get to say something,” Sam interrupted. “When were you going to tell me about this?”

“When were you going to tell me you were sneaking around looking for Jessica? ‘Cause I think that’s a little more important, don’t you?”

“Except I didn’t even talk to her, Dean. And when you were gone so long, is that where you were? Hanging out with your superhero friend?”

Dean put up his hands defensively. “It’s not my fault you sent me to his secret lair. And while we’re on the subject, I don’t think having an extra source of information is a bad thing.”

Sam crossed his arms. “Then why wouldn’t you tell me about it?”

“You had enough to worry about.”

“So you wanted me to look for Jessica?”

“No, I just thought—”

“You thought you’d handle this one on your own because I’m too distracted?”

“I thought maybe you should be distracted. Maybe I should have let you go after her. And freaking out about the arrow thing didn’t have to be put on you.”

“Why would I freak out?”

Dean grimaced at having to explain himself. “I meant arrow like the sharp, pointy thing that got lodged in my shoulder a couple nights ago. Lately you’ve been kinda scary about those things.”

“He shot you?”

“Under the circumstances, I would have shot me too.”

“Is this about what happened while you were... not yourself?”

“Tell me you’ve moved on.” Dean raised his eyebrows, but Sam made no reply. “Tell me you’re sleeping. Tell me you look at the world like it’s full of sunshine and roses again.”

“Dean—”

“I should have told you, okay? But I wasn’t trying to cut you out or anything. It didn’t seem important at the time.”

“You got shot!”

“And I’m fine.” As if to contradict him, Dean felt a stab of pain in his shoulder forcing him to visibly flinch. “I think Laurel might be right though.”

“Oh, you remembered we’re here?” Laurel asked. She was now sitting at the edge of Dean’s bed next to Charlie while Cas still stood across the room. Laurel actually looked pleased about the whole situation.

“I’m not sure how well your friend is going to like it,” Dean said.

“Oliver doesn’t like anything, but I explained what happened to me. He knows you’re not crazy.”

“The jury’s still out on that,” Sam said dryly.

~oOo~

It was still early when Felicity left her house. That little scrap of paper spurred her into action much faster than she would previously have thought possible. She dressed practically—not exactly her favorite thing—eschewing her usual heels for flat shoes and favoring pants and a simple blouse over one of her many colorful dresses.

She needed to eat something first. Even though her stomach was doing nauseating flip-flops, she was sleep deprived and hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while. She stopped at the cafe with the good muffins and ordered two of them along with a large coffee. She sat down at a table and pulled out her laptop to begin the search she had always tried to avoid. Felicity was under no illusions that it would be easy. She was good at finding people, but there were those who were equally skilled at not being found.

After a few unsuccessful searches, Felicity gulped down some coffee and a few bites of muffin. She leaned back in her chair and stared at the computer screen, telling herself this was all just a long, horrible dream. As if to shatter that hopeful daydream, a man sat down across from and stared expectantly.

He looked disheveled with messy, dark hair and dingy clothes. His hands might have been dirty too, but Felicity wasn’t looking too close. She was more occupied with the blue eyes meeting her’s in a constant gaze.

“I was sure you’d figure it out eventually,” he said, having the decency to look a little sheepish.

“What are you doing here,” Felicity asked in a shaky voice, slamming her laptop closed.

“A job.”

“There—there are no jobs here. N-nothing that could interest you .”

“If you really think that, you’re not as smart as I always knew you were.”

“You knew nothing—know nothing—about me.”

He leaned forward, eyes all earnest. “Something bad is coming, Liss.”

“You need to go. You need to leave. Take the Winchesters with you.”

“Winchesters? What do you know about them?” It was insincere. He knew very well.

“Are you going to return what you stole from me?” Felicity asked.

“I meant to leave a note,” he confessed. “But then I reconsidered, and before I could really decide, you came home. Didn’t think you’d want to find me like that, so...”

“So you ran off with...” She wasn’t sure what to call those things. Memories?

“I needed to know what your relationship with Sam Winchester really was. It’s... important.”

“Why? Why is any of this your business? I’m trying to have a real life here, and you... all of you are going to ruin everything.”

“Better than the downfall of Western Civilization. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’m not the kind of person who can put one above the world.”

“No.” Felicity glared at him. “You’re not.”

“You need to quit your day job. If you want to live through this, that is.”

“I’m not sure how dangerous tech support really is.”

He shook his head. “That’s not your day job.”

“I don’t think you get to show up after all this time and tell me what to do.”

“You always wished I had protected you from all this. It’s the least I can do now.”

“The least you can do is leave town and never come back. Take the Winchesters and all the hunters, and get the hell out of Starling City. We don’t need you here.”

He looked at her sadly and didn’t speak for a long time. “I can’t do that,” he finally said, standing up. “It was... really good to see you, Felicity.”

As he walked away, she watched him. Her hands were shaking and her mouth was dry. She downed the rest of her coffee and got up from the table.

“So long, Dad,” she said to herself.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve “Allies”

It took some convincing to get Sam to agree to Laurel’s plan. The thought of all of them showing up and asking for Jessica’s help seemed destined to backfire. But he couldn’t deny the chance to get answers from her. It might be easier if he weren’t the one asking. And Dean’s connection to the Arrow would certainly make things a little easier. In the end, it was the words of the man at the bus stop that motivated Sam to go along with the others.

Laurel took her own car, and the rest of them piled into the Impala. There was plenty of room for Cas and Charlie in the backseat. Sam brought the hammer as well, and set it between himself and Dean as they drove. He kept the glove in his pocket just in case they needed it later.

The club where Dean found the Arrow hideout was abandoned in the daylight with only a motorcycle parked in the alley. Laurel led them inside through the front entrance which was oddly left unlocked. Sam would have thought someone so secretive would have been more careful, but maybe he was expecting company. Inside, they headed past the bar and into a dark hallway with a metal door at the end. Laurel went to the keypad and put in the code. The lock clicked open and she pulled on the door revealing a staircase. It was dimly lit, but there was something bright down below. They all clanked down the stairs, and Laurel called out to whomever was lurking down there.

“Don’t shoot anyone,” she said. “I’ve brought company.”

“What are they all doing here?” a strangely soft voice asked from somewhere above them.

Sam looked up to see a man hanging from a metal bar near the ceiling. His muscles strained, and sweat dripped down his body as he swung, suspended.

“Is this some kind of new torture device?” Dean asked, also gazing upward.

The man dropped the very long distance to the floor and landed on a training mat. “Gotta keep in shape,” he said, picking up a towel to dry the sweat from his face. “You know a phone call might have been nice.” This last part was directed at Laurel.

“Your secret is safe,” she said. “They don’t care who you are.”

He picked up his shirt and pulled it over his head. “That’s not exactly what concerns me.”

Sam might have been imagining things, but he thought he caught a suspicious glance in his direction. The fact that this was the same man he had seen leaving Jessica’s place didn’t endear them any further either.

“So you’re the brother?” The man didn’t look at Sam any longer.

It wasn’t the sort of question that needed to be answered, and Sam didn’t have anything to say anyway.

“Oliver, this is Sam,” Laurel said. “You already know Dean, and that’s Cas and Charlie.”

“How many siblings do you have?” Oliver asked Dean.

Dean made a show of looking around the room. “Living?” he asked.

“I see,” Cas said as if some kind of realization dawned on him. “It’s a metaphor.”

Meanwhile, Charlie had walked into the middle of the room and was gazing in awe at all the computers, ignoring the shelves of weapons and the mannequins with green and red suits on them. Sam had almost forgotten the Arrow was supposed to have a sidekick.

“Don’t touch that.” Oliver’s voice jolted Charlie back to reality, and she withdrew her hand from the nearest keyboard.

“That’s actually why we’re here,” Laurel said. “We thought Felicity could help us find the thing we’ve all been looking for.”

“And just what is this thing ?” Olive asked.

“All signs point to Loki,” Cas said nonchalantly. “He was last heard from thousands of years ago, and we all thought he was dead.”

“We?”

“The angels. Based on all the information we’ve gathered, Loki was somehow confined or relieved of his powers by Gabriel. But now that he’s dead...”

“Wait, you’re saying you’re an angel? And Gabriel, also an angel, is dead? How is that even possible?”

“It’s a very long story.” Cas looked a bit uncomfortable at having to explain himself. “We don’t have time for history lessons. Thankfully, Sam is able to use the hammer of Thor, so we just need to find Loki and put an end to this.”

“So, angels are real, and demons are real, but so are Norse gods?”

“I find it’s best to just go with it,” Charlie said, still eyeing the computers.

“Even if all this is true, I still don’t see why you’re here.”

“Felicity,” Laurel reminded him. “She could help us track down Loki.”

“You really think that’s a good idea?” He tried to keep it subtle, but Oliver gave Sam another look.

“I think people dying is more important than whatever’s going on with her.”

“She’s not here.”

Everyone noticed the way Oliver avoided Laurel’s argument, but no one said anything.

“You know, with this sort of equipment,” Charlie said tentatively, “I could do a lot of damage.”

“Damage being the key word,” Oliver said. “Don’t touch anything.”

Charlie crossed her arms as if to remove the temptation. “I only meant damage to the bad guys.”

Just then, something on the computer started beeping and a red light began to flash.

“I didn’t do it!” Charlie insisted.

Oliver rushed over and opened a screen with a grainy video feed. There were two shadowy figures in what looked like the abandoned factory they had investigated before.

“I set up cameras in case anyone came back,” Oliver said frowning at the footage. “I’ll get Felicity to clean this up later; it’s impossible to tell who they are.”

“I could totally help with that,” Charlie offered.

Oliver glared at her. “Laurel,” he said.

“Yeah?” Laurel replied.

“Keep an eye on her. We need to get over there.”

“When you say we...?” Dean asked.

“I mean anyone who knows their way around a weapon.” He looked at Cas. “Can angels fight?”

Cas seemed insulted at the question. “We are made to be warriors.”

“Good, ‘cause we’re gonna need it.” He pulled his green jacket off the mannequin before turning back to Laurel. “Call Roy and Diggle and tell them to meet us there. If there’s really something supernatural going on here, we’ll need all the help we can get.”

“You might just get your friends killed,” Sam said, finally joining the conversation. “You should let us handle this.”

Oliver looked at him directly. “Not in my city.”

~oOo~

“Is this thing on?” Charlie’s voice crackled over the earpieces.

“Don’t talk unless you have necessary information to share,” Oliver snapped as he sped down the street on his bike. It was mid-morning, which wasn’t an ideal time for the Arrow to be out, but it was better than being seen without his disguise.

He could hear the engine of Dean’s car behind him all the way to the old factory.

“Okay, pertinent information here,” Charlie said. “We’ve got two hostiles and one civilian. I think. The man and the woman seem about to do something very nasty to the old lady.”

“They’re doing another sacrifice?” Dean interjected.

Oliver was beginning to regret giving them all earpieces. “Dean, follow me to the main entrance,” he said. “The other two go around the back.”

“I should go in first,” Sam said. “If they’re trying to summon Loki, I’m the only one who can find him.”

“You see this Loki yet?” Oliver asked Charlie.

“No, just the three so far,” she admitted.

“Then we do it my way until things change.”

There was no further argument which Oliver saw as a relief. He hoped his backup would come soon because working with the crazies was starting to unnerve him. He couldn’t think about how it was Sam’s presence more than anything that bothered him. If it had all been nothing, Felicity would have just told him that, but her silence meant there had been something between them, and maybe there still was. Oliver wasn’t ready to let her go yet.

They arrived at the factory, and Oliver didn’t wait for the others as he headed for the door. Dean followed fast behind, though, and they went in together.

“Just a few more,” a woman’s voice was saying. It echoed in the empty building, and it was coming from the place they found blood a few nights before.

“The circle is finished,” a robotic male voice said.

Oliver imagined there was some kind of ritual to go with the sacrifice, and the thought of it made him want to shudder. But he needed his hands steady. He threaded an arrow on his bowstring, ready to draw. Dean held his gun out in front of him like it was attached to his hand.

“Give me the knife,” the woman said.

Oliver increased the speed of his steps as much as he dared while still staying silent. Dean matched his pace, and the came to a stop behind some machinery. Oliver pointed for Dean to go around the other side so they would split their enemies’ attention. Dean nodded and turned to go around.

Oliver drew back his bow and whirled around the corner. A mousy-looking man was holding an old woman down with one hand while he gave a long knife to a tall, blonde woman. The woman saw them, and before Oliver could fire a warning shot, she raised her hands and a blast of light blew them back.

Oliver landed hard on his back, and his bow skidded out of his hand. He looked over to see Dean in a similar situation on the floor. The woman lost no time in coming toward them, hands still raised. At first, she had looked like a normal person, but now Oliver was certain that she wasn’t human. Her eyes blazed—literally. She was going to kill them.

Another light blinded Oliver, but this one didn’t come from the woman. It was like blue lightning, and when it stopped crackling, the woman was on the floor at his feet. Oliver scrambled away to grab his weapon and saw Sam standing over the woman holding a giant warhammer, still smoldering.

Meanwhile, “Cas” knocked out the other man with a touch of his fingers and was helping the old lady to safety.

By the time Oliver and Dean had recovered, so had the woman. She faced Sam with hatred in her stare. He held the hammer out, looking terrified at what it might do. She seemed affected by that, and instead of attacking, she spun around in a whiff of smoke and disappeared.

For a long time, no one said anything. Sam breathed heavily and looked deathly pale. Whatever he had done with that hammer had weakened him. Maybe it wasn’t meant for humans to use. Whatever the case, Oliver found himself forced to accept that something entirely otherworldly was going on here, and he needed the help of these strange hunters whether he liked it or not.

~oOo~

When Felicity arrived at the cave to find someone else in her chair that wasn’t Oliver, she reconsidered her non-violence stance. Laurel stood beside the new girl looking nervous and eager and possibly hungry.

“Felicity,” she said. “We had a bit of an emergency. This is Charlie.”

Felicity narrowed her eyes at the redhead in her chair, wearing her earpiece.

Apparently, her disapproval was palpable because the girl got out of the chair and removed the earpiece quickly.

“You have an amazing setup here,” she said excitedly. “And I’d never—but they were going to kill the old lady and—please don’t be mad.”

“What old lady?” Felicity asked with a frown, focusing on the material concerns of the moment.

“Oliver put up cameras to catch the killer,” Laurel explained. “There were two of them, so everyone else went to stop them.”

“Everyone else?” Felicity wondered absently as she looked over the video footage.

“Sam and Dean and Castiel. I called Roy and Diggle, but they had a longer way to drive.”

The mention of the Winchesters might normally have upset Felicity, but she was too busy looking at her computer screen and knowing it must be a mistake. But as she watched the fight play out, there could be no mistake.

“Cas thinks they’re trying to summon Loki,” Charlie offered. “But they stopped whatever creepy sacrifice was going down for now.”

Felicity heard the information, but she wasn’t really listening. After the woman disappeared, Oliver and Dean tied up the man and seemed to be planning to take him somewhere.

“Are they coming back  here?” she asked, suddenly unable to hold in her apprehension.

“You can ask them.” Charlie pointed at the earpiece.

Felicity grabbed it and put it in her ear. “Oliver?”

“Felicity?” he sounded pleasantly surprised to hear her voice. “Where have you been?”

“Not important. What are you doing?”

“We’re on our way back. We’ve got to get this woman to a hospital and question the guy when he wakes up.”

“You’re bringing him here? Now?” Her heart sunk.

“Is that a problem?” She could hear the frown in his voice.

“Oliver, that’s—do you know who that is?”

“Should I?”

No. No, of course he shouldn’t? How could he. But there was no way she could escape explaining it now. “That’s my dad.”

This was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen “Endless Love”

Taking care of their prisoner with Sam wouldn’t have been Oliver’s first choice, but when Dean said that he and Cas would take the old lady to get checked out, it didn’t leave room for any disagreement. The whole way back to Verdant, Oliver couldn’t get Felicity’s words out of his head. Her father. How could that be possible? It only seemed to verify everything Dean had said about Jessica. Oliver still refused to believe it. Until Felicity told him the whole story, he couldn’t believe she was who they said.

When they got back, the man was semi-conscious but still out of it. Oliver didn’t want to know what Cas had done to him. The angel thing was just a bit too much with everything else that had happened today. It wasn’t even lunch time yet.

As they led the guy down the stairs, Oliver thought about how quiet Sam had been this whole time. A few hours seemed a long enough time to get to know Dean, whereas Sam kept his thoughts to himself unless absolutely necessary. Oliver found he wasn’t motivated enough to know Sam to bother asking a lot of questions just yet.

At the bottom of the stairs, they found Felicity standing in front of her chair with Charlie and Laurel standing on either side of her. They looked like they were about to go into battle—well, Charlie just looked confused.

Oliver wasn’t sure whether Felicity were looking at Sam or the man between them, but a quick glance at Sam made it clear where his focus was. The look in his eyes was so familiar to Oliver that he almost forgot to resent the implications.

Since no one else seemed likely to move a muscle, Oliver took it upon himself to take their prisoner to the cell at the back of the room. It got him out of the awkward situation for a moment at least. What he didn’t expect was for Felicity to follow him.

As Oliver laid the man down in the cell, Felicity stood in the door.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she said softly.

Seeing the man lying on the floor, he looked so innocent, so harmless. “Which part?” Oliver asked.

“He hates them.”

“Them?” Oliver turned to look at Felicity.

She suddenly seemed very small, looking off to the side. “Monsters,” she said with no small amount of embarrassment.

“He was a hunter?” Oliver came out of the cell and closed the door.

Felicity nodded, crossing her arms and gazing at the floor.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Because I wanted to pretend it wasn’t true.” She looked Oliver in the eye. There was no false shame or fear behind her words. It was just the plain truth. It had been a while since they talked like this.

“That’s why you left Sam?” Oliver realized it only as he said the words.

“Partly,” Felicity replied. “It was more complicated than that, but I knew what he was. I knew where it would lead.”

“He looks at you the way people used to look at me.”

Felicity was stunned speechless.

“Like you can’t possibly be standing in front of him,” Oliver continued. “Like he’s happier than he’s ever been to find you but in the worst kind of pain because he lost you before. All that time... how long was it?”

Felicity took a few seconds to regain her composure. “T-ten years ago.”

Oliver frowned. “Weren’t you just a kid ten years ago?”

She shook her head. “I’m older than I look. I wanted to start over. To erase all the time I spent being...”

“Jessica?”

Another nod.

“You have to tell him the truth of what happened.”

“Why? What good would it do?”

Oliver sighed. “Because he loves you. And he doesn’t seem like the kind of person you have to protect.”

Felicity looked back into the cell where her father was still lying on the floor. “That might not be true.”

~oOo~

Sam shuffled uncomfortably as Charlie replayed the video from the factory. First the woman knocked down Dean and Oliver and nearly killed them before Sam hit her with the hammer. It seemed like there was more lightning sparking all over the place than last time. It hurt more too. Sam had never felt it necessary to bring it up, but when he said the hammer had a kick, he meant it felt like getting an electric shock. A few years ago, it only stung a little. This time, the pain lingered. He could still feel a dull ache from his fingertips to his shoulder.

“So who is this crazy lady?” Laurel wondered aloud as Charlie played the video again.

“Maybe another god,” Sam said. “She had some kind of powers, but she was afraid of the hammer.”

Charlie paused the video. “Guess that means it’s time for me to do some research.”

“Or we could just ask,” Oliver interjected as he and Jessica returned to the main area. “Once our friend wakes up.”

Sam couldn’t help staring in their direction. The memory of watching Oliver leave Jessica’s apartment played over and over in his mind. He wished someone else would say something. For a moment, he wished this was all a dream, but quickly dismissed that idea. It was better for Jessica to be alive with someone else than gone forever. Knowing she was happy would be enough. Except she didn’t seem happy.

“Did—did you use the glove?” She finally looked at Sam.

For a second, he couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. She was speaking to him, looking him in the eye. Only when Laurel cleared her throat did Sam noticed he had been asked a question.

“The glove?” he repeated. “It’s right here.” He pulled it out of his pocket. “But I didn’t put it on.”

Jessica’s expression turned from nervous to irritated. “You used the hammer of Thor without the gauntlet? Do you want to lose your arm?”

Her scolding reminded him of the way she would get on him about burning the macaroni. “Uh, no? It’s not like I use it around the house.”

“At least you only used it once. The human body can’t withstand all that energy for a long period of time. At least... that’s what my dad always said.” Jessica turned nervous again.

“Why would he be helping her?” Sam couldn’t believe he was just going along with this like any other case.

Jessica shook her head. “I don’t know. He always searched for the hammer because he wanted to hunt down the old gods and destroy them. He was really clear on that.”

“If he’s a hunter, why wouldn’t he try to help us?”

“I don’t know.” Jessica’s voice rose. “This is all quite a surprise to me too. And I need to do something about your arm before the damage is irreversible. I might have the stuff for it at home.”

Nobody seemed to process the fact that Jessica had just suggested taking Sam to her house.

“I’ll stay here,” Oliver finally said. “Someone should be here when he wakes up.” He gestured back toward the cell.

“I should probably make an appearance at work,” Laurel said.

Charlie turned awkwardly in the chair. “I really have nowhere to be. And I do like research.”

Oliver sighed. “Fine. Just don’t make too much noise.”

“So Pandora is out?”

“What?”

“Never mind, I have headphones.”

Sam turned to Jessica again. “You want to drive? Dean has the car.”

“You shouldn’t do anything with that arm anyway.” She headed for the stairs, and he followed her.

For better or worse, Sam knew he was about to get some answers. She couldn’t have just fallen off the face of the Earth for ten years. And she wasn’t offering any explanation of the identical twin variety. Felicity was Jessica, or Jessica was Felicity. Either way, Sam was dreading the moment she told him she had moved on with Oliver, that she didn’t love him anymore. It struck him almost unexpectedly that he had never stopped loving her.

~oOo~

Oliver resorted to sharpening arrows as he waited for the prisoner to wake up. He had to keep thinking of him that way because he couldn’t fathom this guy being Felicity’s dad. And he didn’t know his name. It surprised Oliver how little he really knew about Felicity.

True to her word, Charlie stuck to listening to music with her big headphones. She did move around a lot which was weird. Felicity was much more focused. Oliver couldn’t wait until all of these people were out of his space. He couldn’t actually foresee that happening soon, but it was a day he looked forward to nonetheless.

A prohibited exclamation broke into Oliver’s thoughts, and he turned to see Charlie with her fists in the air cheering about something. As he approached the computer, he saw a profile on a Norse mythological figure named Sigyn.

“What’s this?” Oliver asked.

When Charlie didn’t respond, he realized she still had her headphones on and didn’t know he was there. He waved his hand in front of her face, causing her to jump and pull off the headphones.

“Huh? What?”

“I said, what is this?” Oliver repeated.

“Oh, this?” Charlie nodded at the screen. “This is just the loyal wife of Loki, and probably our mystery woman. It says she had this undying love for him or something. There’s not much on her, but we can ask the other guy about it when he comes to.”

We ?”

“Hey, I’m a hunter too.”

Oliver raised his eyebrows. He wasn’t convinced.

“What, you think just because I’m a girl, I can’t be a hunter?”

Olive shook his head. “It’s not because you’re a girl.”

“Small and nerdy?”

“Getting warmer.” Oliver walked off toward the cell without waiting for a response. He was anxious to question the prisoner now.

“You’re welcome!” Charlie called after him.

Oliver smiled to himself. She wasn’t so bad. He just didn’t like her doing Felicity’s job, and the sooner she left, the better.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen “Escape”

Cas waited in the car while Dean helped the old lady to the emergency room. She seemed okay, but it was better to be safe. All the way to the waiting room, she thanked him for saving her. Dean didn’t bother to mention that it was Sam who had saved them all with his little god of thunder routine. Dean hadn’t missed the way the woman fled in terror from the hammer. It gave him sense of optimism about all this for the first time since Laurel called them about the case.

When he finally managed to disentangle himself from the old lady’s declarations of everlasting gratitude and head back to the car, he had a moment to think about what might be happening elsewhere. He had volunteered himself and Cas to take care of the victim so that Sam might have a better chance at talking to Jessica alone. There were just too many people with their fingers in this case.

Cas was staring off into the distance as Dean got back in the car. Something in the overcast sky seemed to claim his attention, but there was nothing there.

“Cas, you’ve got your constipated face again,” Dean said.

“Angels don’t have bowel movements,” Cas replied absently.

“Exactly.”

Cas turned to face Dean. “Why are we here?” he asked.

“Is that a metaphysical question or...?”

“No, here. In this parking lot. As opposed to where everyone else is.”

“Someone had to look after that poor lady.”

“Yes, but you had another reason.”

Dean sighed. He had been hoping no one would notice. “Sam needs to get to the bottom of things with Jessica. I thought we’d give him some space.”

“Do you think Oliver Queen will give him ‘space’?”

“Robin Hood can be reasonable.” Dean started the car. “Guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

~oOo~

Only this morning, Sam was certain he’d never see the inside of Jessica’s apartment. Now he was standing in her kitchen, watching her dig through the cupboards for various herbs whose names he didn’t recognize.

“Jess—” he started to say.

“Don’t call me that. That’s not my name.” She didn’t look at him as she kept searching.

“So was it all a lie?” He couldn’t believe that, couldn’t even think it, but the words came out anyway, and he realized it was what he had been fearing all along.

She turned around, her tight ponytail whipping the side of her face, eyes wide. “Jessica was someone I invented to get away from my family. I thought I could escape. I thought...”

She turned around again and sorted through the little jars she had collected. Whatever she had been meaning to say, Sam almost didn’t want to know. Whatever they said to each other now would make it all final. He would know that she didn’t love him anymore or maybe that she never had. And worse, that she loved someone else.

As she started mixing the ingredients in a bowl, Jessica—Felicity glanced over at Sam. “You should roll up your sleeve,” she said. “As far as you can feel the effects.”

Since it still hurt up to his shoulder, Sam took off his plaid button down, and rolled up his t-shirt sleeve.

Felicity reached into another cupboard for some bandages and began spreading the mix of strange flakes and powders onto it. “If you wear this for a day or so, it should take care of any problems,” she said, bringing it over to him. “Just don’t use the hammer again until it feels better, and always use the glove.”

Sam pulled over a chair and sat down so she could more easily reach his arm. “How do you know so much about this stuff?” he asked.

“My dad was obsessed with Norse mythology,” she said, avoiding eye contact as she started wrapping. “He couldn’t talk about anything else. He taught me about the gods and their powers and how to deal with things like this.”

“Sounds like my dad but with... everything. Ghosts, demons, werewolves.” Sam tried not to think about the fact that Felicity’s fingers kept brushing against his skin as she bandaged his arm, but it was impossible not to.

“You wanted to escape too,” she said softly, still not looking at his face, engrossed in her work.

“Does that mean it was doomed from the start?” Sam asked. “Did—did you know?”

“Not at first.” Felicity shook her head. “Not until we moved in together. I started noticing things like the salt outside the windows. When Dean showed up...”

“Is that why you left? Because I went with him?”

She shook her head again but didn’t say anything.

“How? How did you pull it off? How are you still alive?”

“Brady.”

“He was a demon, I know. I found out later. He said he killed you.”

“That was the deal.”

It was as if the room suddenly got darker. “What deal?” Sam asked.

Felicity finally looked at him. “Not the kind you’re thinking. I trapped him. I promised to leave and never see you again, to let you think I was dead. It was the only way to keep him from killing me once he got out.”

“But I saw you...”

She was surprised by that. She didn’t know he had gone into the house. “It wasn’t me. I wasn’t in the house when the fire started.”

Sam stared off at nothing, and Felicity continued working on his arm. He had seen her burn on the ceiling just like his mother. He had seen the fear and agony in her eyes. Yet here she was, alive. There was only one more thing Sam needed to know.

He looked at her again “Are you happy?”

Felicity started and halted her progress. “What?”

“Are you happy? With your life, with... Oliver.”

She frowned. “Sam, I’m not—Oliver isn’t—Is that what bothers you the most about all this?”

Yes. But he didn’t say that. “I just want to know that you’re happy now. Then... then I can let it go.”

He was probably lying. He couldn’t imagine ever letting her go. He still loved her as much as he had the day he left Stanford.

Felicity finished bandaging his arm, but before she could move away, Sam caught hold of her wrist.

“Tell me everything’s okay,” he said. “Tell me you’re fine and life is great, and I’ll never bother you again. If you don’t want me around—”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s not that...”

“Then what?” Sam realized he was pleading now as he looked up at her, willing her to give him an answer that would let him let her go.

She met his gaze, steady for once, unafraid. “I wasn’t ready,” she said. “To see you again. All this time... I’ve had to tell myself you were never real, that it was all a dream because if I broke the deal, Brady would kill both you and me.”

Sam shook his head. “Brady is dead. All of that... it’s over.”

Felicity’s gaze softened. She twisted her arm in his grip so that she was now holding his hand. She pressed the other hand against the side of his face, brushing his hair aside. She wasn’t nervous or shaking, but he was. He was afraid she would let go, afraid she wouldn’t. Felicity didn’t give him the chance to speak again. She leaned down and kissed him firmly, making him forget whatever it was he had been going to say. Whatever lies they had told each other ten years ago, this wasn’t one of them.

Sam found himself standing and wrapping his arms around her, never letting their lips part. She ran her hands through his hair, leaning into him as if she couldn’t get close enough. Sam would wake up soon. All this would have been a dream, and he would regret that he let himself remember what it was like to be this happy.

~oOo~

A loud noise from the direction of the small holding cell alerted Oliver and Charlie. They both rushed toward it, and Oliver decided that the urgency of the situation outweighed his hesitance to involve Charlie in it.

When they reached the cell, their prisoner was rattling the bars with a wild look in his eyes. Even though he was rather short and quiet-looking under normal circumstances, he was downright scary like this.

“You have to let me out,” he insisted, spitting as he spoke. “It’s not safe! You have to let me out!”

“That’s not going to happen,” Oliver said, crossing his arms and acting like the sight didn’t bother him, mostly for Charlie’s benefit.

“You don’t understand,” the man pleaded. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Dangerous to let you roam free, maybe. You did almost kill someone today.”

“It’s not going to matter in a few days. He’s going to get out. She’ll have killed you all by then. Where’s the boy with the hammer? You need him.”

“You’re the one who left the glove in the hotel room?” Charlie asked, stepping forward before Oliver could stop her. “You weren’t trying to steal it?”

“Stealing... stealing is an interesting word. No. Sam. We need Sam. You go find Sam.” He directed the last command at Oliver.

“Sam is with your daughter,” Oliver said darkly. “She is your daughter, isn’t she?”

“Felicity? Yes, I told her to get out of town. I didn’t want her involved. It’s too dangerous.”

“So, are you undercover or something?” Charlie asked. “Is that why you were helping Queen Bitch?”

“No, no, you don’t understand. She’ll kill you. You have to let me go.”

As he finished his rant, the man pulled at the bars, and to Oliver’s astonishment, the metal bent under his grasp. He kept tearing at the cell until he had made a wide opening where the door used to be. Oliver reached for his bow, but he had left it on the rack. He resorted to the flechettes in his arm guards, but the darts bounced off the man’s skin as he stormed out of the cell.

Charlie stood frozen, right in the man’s path. Before Oliver could shout for her to move, the man had shoved her aside, sending her sliding across the floor into the wall with a loud thud. The man—or monster—ran past Oliver to the stairs. Oliver would have chased him, but Charlie wasn’t moving. He hurried over to her side and knelt beside her, cradling her head. There was a trickle of blood coming from her hairline and a bruise already forming. He checked her pulse—still alive. He needed to bring her back to consciousness quickly since she might have a concussion.

Just then, he heard footsteps on the stairs, and Dean and Cas appeared.

“What the hell is going on?” Dean demanded. When he saw Charlie, his expression changed from confusion and annoyance to fear.

“She’s alive,” Oliver reassured him. “But I think we need to make another trip to the hospital.”

Cas had been silent this whole time, but he looked at the torn up cell with an analytical glare. “It seems the prisoner has escaped,” he said flatly.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen “R & R”

Dean paced like a caged tiger. It seemed like a lot of emotion for what was probably a mild concussion. But Charlie was still getting checked out, and Oliver suspected that Dean wouldn’t be calm until he saw her up and about again. Though he had seem something of Dean’s loyalty to his brother, Oliver hadn’t expected this level of motherly worry over a friend, especially since there didn’t seem to be any romantic attraction between them.

Oliver wisely chose a chair in the waiting room as far from Dean as possible and said nothing. Cas stood against the wall closer to Dean. He didn’t say anything either, but he watched his friend with obvious concern. These people were weird.

In the silence, Oliver had time to think about the day’s events, realizing it all started with Felicity calling him about the break in. After he left her place, things had been quiet until Laurel brought the Winchesters and their friends to the foundry. A near death experience later, he had watched his friend—the one who was starting to feel like more than a friend—leave with her old boyfriend. Felicity may not have known at the time, but Oliver could see it. She was still in love with Sam and always would be.

Oliver was brought out of his thoughts when he saw Dean standing in front of him, arms crossed, jaw set. He looked ready to kill someone.

“What happened?” he asked, eerily calm.

Oliver knew no matter what he said, Dean wasn’t going to be happy. “They guy started ranting,” he began. “Something about how we had to let him go, that she was going to kill all of us. It sounded like he might have been working against her. Charlie tried to make sense of what he was saying, and eventually, he got so worked up he tore open the bars. I’ve never seen a normal human do something like that. Either he’s meta or he’s something else.”

“Where were you in all this?” Dean didn’t try to hide the accusing tone in his voice. “Why was Charlie even near that guy?”

“I was right next to her. I told her she should stay away, but aside from physically restraining her, there didn’t seem to be any options. I didn’t think there was any way he’d get out.”

“If he was one of them—”

“How was I to know that? Apparently they look just like us. Charlie thinks the woman we ran into is Sigyn, Loki’s wife.”

“That would explain a lot. So who’s the disappearing man?”

Oliver rubbed his face as if he could wipe away this entire conversation. He sighed. “If he’s Felicity’s father, how can he be one of them?”

“They can reproduce, you know,” Dean said crassly.

“But wouldn’t she be... I don’t know, different?”

“She’s not?”

“She’s smart, not super human.”

“The son of Prometheus was normal except for the dying every day.”

“You’ve met Prometheus?”

“And Odin and Zeus and freakin’ Vesta. The point is, she could be the kid of some god, and nobody would know.”

“She said he was a hunter. Why would he hunt his own kind?”

“It’s been known to happen.”

“When?”

Dean seemed about to say something, then paused. “I’m thinking...” he said.

Oliver tried very hard not to roll his eyes.

“Okay, there was this guy I knew—vampire—he killed a whole nest—well, I killed most of them, but he tracked them down.”

“Is there a point to all this?”

“Maybe one of the gods wants to take out the competition. Or get revenge. Or maybe he’s on our side, but I wouldn’t count on that.”

“Is everything supernatural evil?”

“If you’d asked me that ten years ago, I would have said yes. Now...” Dean looked over his shoulder to where Cas was still standing by the wall gazing off into space. “That’s my best friend, so you be the judge.”

Oliver considered the angel. He really didn’t look like a celestial being. And Dean’s assertion that they were best friends struck him as odd. “He seems more like your assistant,” Oliver said.

Dean was stunned silent, and Oliver could tell he touched a sensitive subject, but he wasn’t sure how. Before the abrupt end to the conversation could get awkward, Charlie appeared at the other end of the hallway with a nurse walking close beside her. She had a bandage around her forehead, and she looked a bit pale and shaky.

Dean ran straight to her, further solidifying Oliver’s perception that he cared a lot more about Charlie than he did about Cas.

“I’m fine,” Charlie insisted weakly, as she and Dean reached the waiting room.

Oliver stood and approached them along with Cas.

“She has a mild concussion,” the nurse said. “Take her home and let her rest. No driving or strenuous activity. And come back if you start to feel worse.”

Dean nodded to the nurse, letting her know he would take care of things, giving Oliver the chance to address Charlie.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have kept you away from him.”

Charlie huffed dismissively as the nurse walked away. “All part of the job,” she said. “We needed to find out what they were up to. I think Mr. Smoak is probably under cover.”

“Why don’t you let us worry about that?” Dean said, holding Charlie’s arm as if she couldn’t stand by herself.

“I just have to take it easy, Dean. I don’t have to stop working the case.”

Dean seemed about to argue, but Oliver interjected. “We should call Felicity. She can cover the research side of things and probably track down her father before someone else gets killed.

The mention of Felicity caused Dean to frown, but he didn’t argue. “We should go back to the motel so Charlie can relax.”

“Is it safe there,” Cas said, speaking for the first time since they left for the hospital.

“He’s right,” Oliver agreed. “If our potential double agent was there, Sigyn might know where you’re staying too.”

“But he brought us the glove,” Charlie said. “So he probably didn’t tell her.”

“And I don’t think hanging out in the Batcave is going to be a restful experience,” Dean said.

“My sister has a place in town,” Oliver said. “She’s been gone for a while, so it’s empty. It’s big enough for the four of you to stay there, though someone might have to sleep on the couch.”

Oliver wasn’t sure how Thea would feel about him offering up her apartment, since they hadn’t been on the best of terms, but he hoped she wouldn’t find out.

“I don’t sleep,” Cas said in a way that expressed his agreement with the plan. “I can put up some wards as well.”

“Fine,” Dean finally conceded. “Where is this place?”

Oliver allowed himself a small smile. “I’ll show you.”

~oOo~

Sam jolted awake, forgetting where he was. He looked around at the brightly colored living room and remembered sitting down on Felicity’s couch. He was starting to get used to that name. It suited her. He rubbed his face with his left hand, wondering how long he’d dozed off. When he saw Felicity coming back into the room with mugs of steaming tea, he knew it must only have been a few minutes.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, undoubtedly noticing his tired eyes.

“Nothing.” Sam ran his hand through his hair, and noticed that he was avoiding using his right because it felt all tingly. “Just tired.”

Felicity yawned in response as she stat next to him and handed him his tea. “I know the feeling.”

“You said your dad broke into your house—why would he do that?” Sam asked, trying to focus on anything but the beauty of the woman beside him and the way her knee leaned against his.

Felicity shook her head. “There’s something wrong with him. Something more than just being a hunter. He came to see me afterward. He wouldn’t give back what he took.”

“What did he take?”

Felicity looked embarrassed and hid her face behind her mug. “I may have had a few things—hidden under a floorboard, mind you—from before. From when I was Jessica.”

Sam felt his heart beating faster. “What things?”

“You know, things. Pictures and... Why are you looking at me like that?”

“It’s just—the way you made it sound. I thought you would’ve gotten rid of everything.”

“I told myself I should have. I don’t care much for the sort of sentimentality that can get you killed, but... the necklace you gave me for my birthday—I couldn’t give that up.”

For a moment Sam could reply. He lost everything she gave him in the fire. The only reminder he had was the ring. He wasn’t about to bring that up now. Before he could think of anything to say, his phone rang. He jumped slightly at the unexpected sound before looking to see that Dean was calling. He was probably getting worried.

Sam didn’t want his time with Felicity to end, but they were still on the job, so he answered the call. “Yeah?”

“Hey, you still with us?” Dean joked.

“What’s up?” he asked, not wanting to talk about the past hour just yet.

“Well, your girlfriend’s dad ripped open some steel bars and gave Charlie a concussion.”

“Is she okay?” Sam heard the first part, but it seemed insignificant compared to the wellbeing of their honorary sister.

“Yeah, she’s just gotta take it easy. Robin Hood says to tell Jessica-Felicity that we’re at his sister’s place. Bring the hammer.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen “Team?”

Though neither Sam nor Felicity wanted to leave the privacy of her apartment, there was the matter of saving the world at hand as well as concern about Charlie.

“So who is she, anyway?” Felicity asked as they headed back to her car.

“Uh...” Sam had to think back a ways to answer that question. “We met her on a job. She got ahold of some information that a very bad guy didn’t want her to have. She helped us on the case, and we helped her not get killed. Dean says she’s like the sister he never wanted.”

Felicity smiled faintly as she started the car. “Is that how you feel about her?”

Sam smiled back. “I don’t mind having a sister. It’s kind of nice sometimes.”

“I guess I can tolerate that as long as she stays away from my computers.”

“That might be a problem. And since when are you such a tech genius anyway?”

“Are you forgetting who taught you how to hack?”

Sam frowned. “It was that guy in our psychology class.”

“He was getting his information from an anonymous source online.”

“That was you?”

“I didn’t want you to know who I used to be, but I wanted you to get it right.”

“Guess I wasn’t the only one keeping secrets.”

“I never said you were.”

Felicity pulled into the parking garage of a high rise apartment building. It was a far cry from her humble duplex in the suburbs. They got out of the car and headed for the elevator.

“Thea’s place is on the top floor,” Felicity said as she hit the button. “I’ve never actually been there, but I have to know these things.”

“She’s Oliver’s sister? So where is she?”

“Corto Maltese. At least, that’s where she said she was going, and I haven’t picked up any signs to indicate otherwise.”

“You’ve kept tabs on her?”

“Well... she’s Oliver’s sister.”

They fell silent. Felicity had made it seem as if there were nothing between her and Oliver, but there had to be something. She obviously cared about him a lot. How far that went would certainly affect what happened with her and Sam.

They reached the apartment, and Felicity led the way inside. The place was huge and open. Far nicer than most places Sam had ever seen. Charlie was sitting on a couch with her legs up and a laptop casting a bluish light on her face. Something smelled delicious, and Sam knew Dean must be in the kitchen. Oliver was just coming down the stairs.

“No trouble getting here?” he asked Felicity.

“Should we have?” she replied.

“With your father and Sigyn on the loose, who knows?”

Felicity shook her head. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Just then, Cas came in from the direction of the kitchen. “I’m supposed to tell you that dinner is ready,” he said.

It was a welcome interruption. A night of no sleep and a day like today had left Sam feeling completely drained. Food would help. Especially if Dean were cooking.

Oliver helped Charlie up from the couch, and they all headed for the table. She started rattling off a bunch of information about Norse mythology that even Sam didn’t know. As they sat down around the table, Dean brought the food in.

“Whatever happened to taking it easy?” he asked as he passed plates around.

Charlie held up her hand in a mock Boy Scout salute. “I stayed on the couch the whole time.”

“And where have you two been this whole time?” Dean looked across the table at Sam and Felicity. As he did, he almost handed a plate to Cas before apparently remembering that angels don’t eat.

“Magical remedies take time,” Felicity said nonchalantly.

Oliver stared at her in what could be described as horror.

“Sure,” Dean replied, obviously not believing her.

“So, what do we actually know about who we’re up against?” Sam asked, trying to change the subject.

Charlie seemed about to answer him when Dean stopped her. “I’m declaring a half hour no case zone.” He gestured around the table. “Otherwise, nobody’s gonna eat.”

They all settled into the business of passing food around, but the fact that they couldn’t talk about the case meant that they would have to talk about something else eventually, and Sam wasn’t looking forward to that. He still wasn’t entirely sure where he and Felicity stood, and he didn’t think she was ready to talk about it with the others either. She still had to settle whatever it was between her and Oliver before anything else could happen.

Fortunately, Dean and Charlie started telling a significantly embellished story of how they first met, including everything from man-eating monsters to flirting lessons. Everyone had a good laugh amid the expressions of disbelief. Only Cas was quiet the whole time, but that wasn’t unusual.

~oOo~

In a not-so-clever ploy to have a moment alone, Felicity volunteered herself and Oliver to do the dishes. She knew Sam was dying to hear everything that Charlie had dug up on the case anyway. Felicity found that she cared less and less about the whole thing. That seemed to be her reaction to anything involving her father, hunting, the past...

Her efforts were noticed, of course, but no one tried to stop her from cleaning up or Oliver from following her into the kitchen. It was all part of the same area, but they were far enough away from the others to carry on a conversation. Felicity was thankful for how softly Oliver spoke most of the time.

“You weren’t just treating his injuries this afternoon,” Oliver said as he started loading plates in the dishwasher.

“We talked,” Felicity replied, searching for Tupperware for the leftovers. “You were right that Sam needed to know why I left. And it wasn’t because of anything he did. It was to keep us both alive.”

Oliver stopped and stared at Felicity. “What do you mean?”

“It’s a really long story, but what I did I did to protect him and myself. I thought I could never see him again, but... that threat is passed.”

“So you two are getting back together?” Even though he tried to hide it, there was a hint of disappointment in his voice.

Felicity had wondered for a while now whether Oliver had more than friendly feelings for her. She always assumed it to be impossible until recently. And if Sam hadn’t come back into her life, she would be thrilled to find that two years of girlish crushing hadn’t been in vain. But it had. Deep down she knew it would never have worked. Of course, who was to say it would work with Sam either?

“I don’t know,” she said. “I still love him. I guess that’s the important thing.”

Oliver nodded slowly. “That’s what you wanted to tell me.”

He took it for what it was: the kindest rejection she could manage. It was a declaration that there would never be anything romantic between them. At least there wouldn’t be any confusion now. But as Felicity finished putting away the food and cleaning the table, she felt more confused than ever. She had given up the one thing she had wanted for the last couple of years with no guarantee that she would get back what she had lost ten years ago. Sam clearly still had feelings for her, but what happened when the case was over? The illusion of her death had sent him off on a new part of his life that she never could have been a part of. If he had told her he was going to go back to hunting full time, she would have broken up with him then and there. But he didn’t; he said he’d be back. And he was. She was the one who left. Could he ever really forgive her for that, even knowing she had no choice?

Eventually, she left Oliver to finish with the dishes and joined the others in the living room where Charlie was explaining the complex relationships of Norse gods and why Sigyn was out to get them all. Sam and Dean listened as she rattled off names and connections, looking like a little girl all wrapped up in a blanket with her computer safely in her lap. She reminded Felicity a lot of herself, actually. Maybe they would get along okay. If she was like Sam’s sister, Felicity wanted to give her a chance.

~oOo~

Oliver was glad when Felicity left him alone. He needed some space to think. He hadn’t been sure about his feelings for her until someone showed up to get in the way. He had liked her for a long time but concluded that it was best not to get involved—best for her. Yet after his dubious profession of love and her wondering if he really meant it, he couldn’t ignore that there was something there. He even considered acting on it, but now that was out of the question. She was lost to him in that way forever. He had to accept it. He had to move on. She had loved Sam for more than ten years. Who was he to get in the way of that?

As he started the dishwasher and looked around to make sure everything was clean, he noticed Cas standing at the end of the counter. The guy still kind of gave him the creeps, and the fact that he looked eerily like John Constantine wasn’t helping.

“Does everyone who fights against demons wear a trenchcoat?” he asked.

Cas tilted his head inquisitively. “No, why?”

“Never mind. Did you need something?”

Cas thought for a moment, not saying anything. Oliver wondered if he’d forgotten the question. Finally he resumed eye contact. “There’s something troubling you,” he said. “Something other than the case.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Cas shook his head. “No, it’s not that either. Something deeper, beyond consciousness.”

This was getting seriously creepy. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means you are weighed down by a problem you may not know exists.”

“And what is that?”

Cas tilted his head again, took two steps forward, and touched Oliver’s forehead before he could stop him. The angel’s expression instantly changed to one of sympathy, if it could be called that.

“You miss your son,” he said with certainty.

For a very long few seconds, Oliver couldn’t say anything. To call his feelings disbelief would be to understate them dramatically. “What?” he finally asked.

“It’s been eight years since you saw him?”

Oliver took a step back, shaking his head. “I don’t have a son. I...”

Cas frowned, thinking harder. “He lives in Central City with his mother... Sandra?”

This couldn’t be right. It was some kind of trick. No one knew about Sandra except his mother, and she was dead.

“She... she lost the baby. I don’t have a son.”

Cas’ eyes widened. “No, Oliver. The child lived.”

“That’s... not possible. Is this some kind of joke?”

“I’m not very funny. Dean tries to teach me, but I don’t think it comes out right. Nevertheless, you have been longing for something for a long time—the child you lost.”

“No. No, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want...”

“You thought he was dead. You never really got over it.”

“You’re lying.”

“Most of the time I’m a terrible liar. Except that one time, which was a mistake.”

Oliver didn’t know what he was doing as he shook his head and walked away. He couldn’t deal with this right now. There was no way Cas could have known all that. And to say that his child was alive—no, he couldn’t be. This was some kind of sick joke. The sooner he got rid of these people, the better.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen “Starting Over”

The mood was tense that evening, but there hadn’t been a time since the start of this case that any of those present hadn’t felt at least a bit of tension. In the past few days, worlds had been turned upside down, if one were to believe the reactions of some of the group.

None of that changed the fact that they had to get their act together. They needed a plan of attack against Sigyn and possibly her questionably loyal assistant.

“We still don’t have enough information,” Felicity was saying. Part of her almost wanted it to stay that way because then she wouldn’t have to face whatever uncomfortable truth her father’s involvement would reveal. She sat perched on the end of the couch where Charlie was resting with her feet up and laptop in front of her.

“We know Sigyn doesn’t like the hammer,” she said. “Thor was the god of thunder, meaning he had some kind of electrical powers in his hammer. Sigyn used similar powers to attack Dean and Oliver, but they didn’t seem as strong. The fact that she ran means this thing can kill her.” Charlie looked over at Sam. “Guess that makes you our best shot.”

“Maybe our only shot,” Dean said. “There’s nothing we can do against her powers, unless she has some other weakness.”

“I can probably ward us against her, so she won’t be able to find us,” Felicity said. “But that wouldn’t help when we actually go up against her.”

“There’s gotta be some way to stop her from completely whatever ritual she’s doing to summon Loki,” Sam said. “If we can keep him from ever coming back, we can deal with Sigyn.”

“Unfortunately, pagan rituals aren’t exactly my forte,” Cas said. “I can sense that she’s close, but how to stop her remains a mystery.”

“We could really use Gabriel right now,” Dean said almost seeming to regret the words as soon as they came out of his mouth.

“I’ve wondered about the circumstances of his death, but if he were still alive, I think this would merit an appearance.”

“How can angels die?” Felicity wondered aloud.

Cas produced a long, silver knife from his sleeve. “This can kill an normal angel. Archangel blades can kill other archangels.”

“Would something like that work against a god?” Oliver asked, finally breaking his silence. He hadn’t said a word since he came back from the kitchen.

“It’s conceivable,” Cas said. “We should be ready in any case.”

Dean nodded and looked ready to leave. “I’ll go get the angel blades from the car.” He gestured to Felicity. “You take care of the warding. Then I think everyone should get some sleep.”

Oliver followed Dean to the door, but Felicity didn’t concern herself. She had noticed that the two of them seemed to get along, which was just as well. They could do with a little less conflict.

~oOo~

There was something tangibly comforting about the companionable silence in the elevator as Oliver and Dean rode down to the parking garage. In spite of their brief disagreements—which was perhaps an understatement—Oliver still found himself at ease in the other’s company.

He needed to get out of that place, and this was as good an excuse as any. As his mind began to clear, Oliver realized that he should talk to Diggle and Roy soon. He wasn’t sure what he planned on telling them. He almost thought he should leave them out of it entirely, but they might need help if things kept going the way they were.

When they reached the car, Dean went to the trunk and opened the compartment usually reserved for the spare tire. This one was full of weapons of every imaginable kind. Dean propped up the lid and took out several blades identical to Cas’.

“Where did you get all those?” Oliver asked, assuming angel blades weren’t available at monster hunting supply stores.

“We had a little apocalypse a few years back, you might have noticed,” Dean replied.

“A few years back I was stranded on an island, so no.”

Dean gave Oliver a curious glance as he closed the trunk. “Is that how you got so...” He waved the knives in Oliver’s direction.

“What do you mean? I’m very well adjusted.”

“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, Green Arrow.”

“It’s just the Arrow.”

“Green Arrow sounds cooler.”

“Sounds like a comic book.”

“Dude, your life is a comic book. Embrace it.”

Oliver thought back to what Cas said in the kitchen. He still doubted the truth of it, but it forced him to consider the possibility. “What if I don’t want my life to always be like this? Have you ever thought of... moving on?”

“Tried it,” Dean said dismissively. “Didn’t stick. Now if you can quit, do it. Don’t stay in this life if you have a chance to get out.”

Oliver shook his head. “I’m not sure I can either, but there has to be that possibility, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“It’s a freight train heading your way. Every time.”

“Then what’s the point? What do you fight for?”

“I fight because I help people. Not everyone, not all the time, but I save some people, and it matters to them.”

“You never want more? To save more than just a few people?”

“Did you miss the part about the apocalypse? Yeah, we stopped that, plus a few other universe-ending catastrophes. And, yeah, maybe we deserve a break, but that’s not how life works. No one says thank you, and in the end, we die anonymous—preferably in a blaze of glory, but we die just the same.”

“That’s... bleak.”

“I’m used to it. You’ve only been doing this a few years; I’ve been at it since I was four. I didn’t stand a chance at normal.”

Oliver thought about the boy who was supposed to have died. He’d be about eight now. Even if it were true, Oliver couldn’t be part of his life. No kid should have to live the childhood Dean described.

“I should go,” Oliver said, hoping the subject change wasn’t too abrupt. “I have some calls to make.”

He turned to leave, but Dean stopped him. “Here.” He held out one of the blades. “Just in case. Arrows won’t kill monsters, but this will.”

Oliver took the lightweight weapon and stared at it for a second. It looked like a normal knife, though the shape was more sword-like. There was no ethereal glow nor chorus of heavenly voices as he held it.

“Thanks,” he said.

With a nod, Dean turned back to go upstairs. Oliver watched him go for a moment, thinking about all he had said. He looked young, no older than Oliver himself, but it seemed that he had always lived the sort of hellish life that Oliver had only come to know as an adult. Not for the first time, Oliver wondered if there were any way to keep himself from continuing down that path, if there would be any happy ending for him. It seemed unlikely.

~oOo~

Felicity quickly made wards for all of them and placed some around the apartment as well. Charlie didn’t want to move from the couch, so Sam decided to just let her stay there. She fell asleep soon after Dean left, so Sam and Felicity went out onto the balcony, leaving Cas to supervise the invalid.

“We never quite finished our conversation earlier,” Sam said, leaning his elbows on the railing.

“There were some things in the way,” Felicity said, mirroring his posture.

From this vantage point, they could see much of the city, glowing in the damp evening. Sam was used to small town jobs most of the time, so this was a pleasant bit of variety. Sleeping in a place free of cockroaches would be a nice change as well.

“You mean Oliver?” Sam finally worked up the courage to ask.

“There was never really anything between us. Just the hope that there might be.” She twisted her hands and the city lights reflected off her blue nail polish. “It’s not that I forgot about you, but...”

“I know,” Sam said. “I never entirely moved on, but I did try. It always ended badly.”

“I don’t think either of us needs to justify our relationship choices during the last ten years. You thought I was dead, and I thought I could never see you again.”

“But a lot can change in ten years. You think it’s possible to just start over?”

“I think that depends on if we want to start over. And I think right now we’re both afraid to say we do because then something might happen to us and we’d lose each other again. I think we should wait.”

“Wait?”

“Yes. Until we deal with Sigyn and Loki. Until we find out what my dad is doing. Then we’ll know whether we can start over.”

Sam reached for Felicity’s hand, and she didn’t pull away. “If you’re still half the person I used to know...” he began, “then I will always love you. Whatever happens, you should know that.”

Felicity turned to look him in the eye. She seemed to be just on the edge of verbalizing something when there was a knock on the glass behind them. They turned to see Dean was back with the angel blades beckoning them inside. His earlier attempts to leave them alone together appeared to have been forgotten.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen “All Your Base Are Belong to Us”

Oliver sensed that he was not alone in spite of how alone he felt. The basement of the club was dark and silent until he flipped on the lights and descended the metal stairs. He saw the cell door lying twisted on the floor and the overturned shelves. He’d clean up later. Dig and Roy would show up any minute, and Oliver had to think of a rational explanation for all this. He had a feeling that “Norse gods” wouldn’t go over too well. Roy would probably accept whatever Oliver told him, but Dig was still having trouble accepting metahumans.

Looking around the room, Oliver caught a glimpse of something colorful on the computer desk. Felicity had left her sweater. He was trying not to think about her, but everything in this place reminded him of her from the potted plant to the computer servers. The worst part of it was thinking about how everything could have been different. If only he had realized sooner how perfect she was, if only he hadn’t been held back by his fear of what might happen. He remembered the first time he saw Felicity, so focused on her work with a red pen in her mouth.

Oliver shook the image from his mind. Even if he had told her how he felt sooner, it wouldn’t change the fact that Sam existed, and with him here, she would never think of anyone else. The thought of wishing for Sam to leave entered Oliver’s mind, but he soon banished it. He couldn’t want Felicity to get hurt no matter how much it hurt him to have lost her forever. If she could be happy, that would be enough. That had to be enough. Oliver would keep telling himself it was true until he began to believe it, and then maybe he would be able to move on.

He picked up the sweater. It still smelled like her. He draped it over the back of her chair so she would find it next time she was here.

The lights flickered, and Oliver frowned. The wiring down here was only a couple of years old. He turned away from the desk toward the stairs, but didn’t see anything. The flickering continued. He seemed to remember Dean mentioning something about ghosts and electrical interference, which Oliver had dismissed as superstition at the time. But everything had him on edge lately. He reached for the long blade Dean had given him, forcing himself not to go for the bow instead. He turned in a full circle, scanning the room carefully. Then the lights cut out completely.

Oliver raised his arms with the blade ready to strike, his heart racing as his eyes strained in the darkness. He could feel the electricity crackling in the air, causing the hair on his arms and the back of his neck to stand on end. Light flooded the basement again, and something knocked Oliver to the floor, sending the knife rolling across the concrete out of his reach. The woman—Sigyn—stood over him, her arched eyebrows knitting together in anger. He tried to get up, but she moved swiftly, placing a heavy boot in the middle of his chest. She was much stronger than she looked.

“Where is it?” she demanded.

“Where’s what?” Oliver choked under the weight of her gold-adorned shoes.

“The hammer, foolish mortal,” she spat. “What have you done with it.”

“I don’t have it. And I’m not telling you where it is.”

Sigyn bent down and grabbed the front of his shirt, while keeping her foot on his chest—she was very flexible.

“You will tell me, or you will die.”

“If you kill me, you’ll never know.”

Sigyn removed her foot and lifted Oliver off the floor and over her head. Her eyes flashed with light like she was going to fry him right there.

“Wait!” a male voice interrupted.

Sigyn turned, still holding Oliver. He could see Felicity’s father now standing behind her.

“What?” she growled.

“They might bring the hammer to trade for him.”

Oliver wanted to laugh. That wasn’t going to happen.

“Fine.” Sigyn dropped Oliver to the floor.

He tried to roll to avoid serious damage, but the landing still hurt. It took him a second to try to get to his feet, during which time he noted that all of his weapons were out of reach.

“Confine him somewhere and find a way to contact his allies,” Sigyn said.

The man looked apologetic as he approached Oliver. He didn’t look like he’d be able to overpower the younger man, but Oliver remembered his antics with the cell door. Sure enough, the man was able, with one hand, to force Oliver back into the cell. The fact that it didn’t have a door didn’t seem to bother him since he picked it up with his free hand along the way and put it back in place, bending the bars around to hold it up. The only way out would be with a blowtorch at this point.

“What are you?” Oliver asked quietly, glaring through the bars.

The man gave him a sad look and didn’t say anything as he turned to walk away.

Oliver was trapped, and Roy and Diggle were on their way here. He had to find a way to warn them before they came up against a goddess, but his phone was sitting on the desk where he’d left it when he moved Felicity’s sweater.

~oOo~

The radio silence since Sara was born had begun to bother John Diggle. Having a break from the constant danger to spend with his family was nice, but it worried him when he couldn’t keep an eye on Oliver. Just because Diggle wasn’t his bodyguard anymore didn’t mean he’d given up the responsibility that came with it.

But if Oliver was calling in the troops now, that meant something was really wrong. Roy met John outside the club, and they headed inside together.

“Did he say what this was about?” Roy asked.

“Something about the murders they’ve been investigating for the past couple weeks,” John replied as he entered the code into the panel by the door to the basement.

“Why wouldn’t he have called sooner?”

John was about to express his uncertainty on that question when the stairs began to shake and a bright light sone from below. He instinctively reached for his gun but couldn’t see a target.

“What the hell?” Roy exclaimed.

“Bring me the hammer!” a feminine voice shrieked.

The light faded somewhat, and they could see a woman in what looked like a Viking costume standing in the middle of the floor.

“Run!” Oliver’s voice came from further back in the basement where they couldn’t see. “Find Felicity!”

Confused would have been a mild description for how John and Roy felt. The woman raised her arms and let out another blast of light that knocked them back on the stairs. John got a few shots off, but the bullets bounced harmlessly off her armor.

“Get out, Dig! Now!”

Normally, John wouldn’t listen to such nonsense, but there was nothing they could do about this lady, and Felicity might know how to stop her. Plus it seemed like she was holding Oliver hostage in order to get some hammer.

Roy wasn’t nearly as convinced, and seemed ready to charge at the woman, but John grabbed his arm and pulled him back up the stairs.

“We need to find out what we’re dealing with,” John said. “Oliver’s alive, and once we know how to take down that—thing—we can get him out. So let’s find Felicity and get to the bottom of this.”

Roy seemed reluctant, but he followed John outside anyway. “What kind of metahuman was she?” he wondered aloud.

John shook his head. “I thought those things stuck to Central City. We don’t need more problems around here.”

“I’ll call Felicity. Maybe she knows.”

~oOo~

Working a normal day again felt weird for Laurel. She got a text from Oliver late in the day saying that they had all gone to Thea’s apartment. It took some digging to find the address, and she got off rather late anyway, so she didn’t arrive until after John and Roy, whose voices she could hear as soon as the elevator doors opened.

Approaching the door to the apartment, she caught bits of the content of the conversations. As expected, they weren’t taking to the idea of the supernatural with much enthusiasm.

“Norse gods? Really, Felicity?” John was saying as Laurel came in.

Felicity stood with Sam and Dean on either side of her while Charlie sat on the couch with a blanket around her and a bandage on her forehead. Castiel was standing by the window as if watching for danger.

“Where’s Oliver?” Laurel asked, noting his absence from the group.

“That’s what we were just talking about,” Roy said. “The crazy Viking lady has taken over the foundry, and Oliver’s down there.”

“Sigyn has him,” Felicity said. “She wants the hammer because it’s the only thing that can stop her.”

“And you expect us to believe all this?” John said. “The hammer of Thor?”

“It’s upstairs,” Sam said. “But we can’t give it to her.”

“Of course we can’t,” Dean said. “But we can take the fight to her with it.”

Felicity shook her head. “If Sam uses it again before his arm heals, he could be permanently injured or worse.”

“If she releases Loki, we’re all dead anyway.”

“Well we have to do something,” Laurel said. “Oliver probably doesn’t have a lot of time.”

“The angel blades might work.” Dean said. “But we’d have to get close enough to her, and that was a problem last time. But either way, you’re right. She only needs one more sacrifice.”

Dean didn’t say it, but Laurel could see in his eyes that he was afraid that sacrifice would be Oliver. And she found that she was too.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen “The Last Sacrifice”

For the past hour, Oliver had been wracking his brain to remember Felicity’s dad’s name. The man was sitting only a few feet away from the cell, sharpening a curved knife that looked like it belonged in a museum. He thought it might begin with an N.

In the meantime, Oliver took to observing the guy. He hadn’t said a word since he took up vigil over the prisoner. Oliver didn’t really expect him to. There was enough to note without talking. The man’s somewhat slumped posture told Oliver that he was under Sigyn’s thumb and didn’t want to be there. The slow, methodical sharpening of the blade indicated that he had done this before but wasn’t in a big hurry to do it again. The thought that Sigyn might be controlling him, forcing him to help her was still viable, though Oliver didn’t know what difference it made. The man had obviously been involved in the other killings so far, and that made him as guilty as she was.

Noah , Oliver suddenly remembered. That was his name. It had an ancient sound to it, almost foreign. Oliver sensed his time to act had come.

“Noah,” he said quietly so Sigyn wouldn’t hear.

The man looked up in surprise as if he had forgotten Oliver was there. He seemed like a different person the second he ceased sharpening his knife. His eyes widened in a sort of innocent expression Oliver didn’t think possible.

Moving to the edge of the cell, Oliver rested his hands on the bars. “I know you don’t want to do this,” he said. “She’s controlling you, isn’t she?”

Noah turned back to his knife. “I was lost a long time ago,” he said. “I’m not the one who needs saving here.”

“Nobody’s gonna get saved if Loki gets out.”

Noah nodded. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be you. There’s hardly any time left, and the Winchesters are eleventh hour sort of people.”

“You know them?”

“I knew their father—they’re better men than he was—I know their work. They’re the only hope now.”

“Why don’t you try to stop her? You’re strong.”

Noah shook his head. “I gave up my power,” he said. “The strength you see comes from her. I’m mortal on my own.”

“But you weren’t always? Does Felicity know?”

“Felicity knows nothing. She wasn’t supposed to. I wanted her away from all of this.”

“Nice job, there.”

“She always chooses the wrong friends: hunters and hackers and vigilantes.”

“Not like she had a positive influence to steer her towards normalcy. And if you’re like them—”

“I’m not like them.” Noah halted as if thinking over that statement. “Not in the ways it matters.”

“But you aren’t human,” Oliver said.

“I’ve lived as one for so long, sometimes I forget I’m not.”

“So Felicity is...”

“Half human, half Aesir. Why do you think she’s so much smarter than the rest of you?”

“That’s very condescending.”

“I only meant that she’s exceptional. It’s no reflection on you.”

“Is that all? I mean, she’s just smart, not...”

“No other powers that I’ve noticed. Not that you should concern yourself with that now. You are in something of a life or death situation.”

“My life isn’t that important. Her’s is.”

Noah frowned at Oliver, deep in thought again. “You believe you have nothing to live for. But our children are always worth fighting for.”

Oliver stared at him. “What?”

“I’ve done my research.”

“You made a mistake.”

“No, I haven’t.”

A loud noise interrupted their conversation, so Oliver didn’t have a chance to ask what Noah meant or get to the bottom of who he really was. There was a fight going on. Oliver could only hope Sam was able to handle the hammer against Sigyn.

~oOo~

“I still think this is a bad idea,” Diggle said as the group stood in the alley behind the nightclub.

Felicity was handing out small pouches of something to everyone. She called them “wards.” Something to help against the Viking lady. Seemed like a lot of nonsense to John.

However, the sight of a massive warhammer in Sam’s hands was making Diggle reconsider his thoughts on the paranormal forces they were supposedly up against. Sam also had a thick leather glove with ancient-looking designs all over it on his right hand. Felicity kept eyeing him with concern which he ignored.

Diggle still wasn’t sure what was going on between those two, but Felicity obviously had a history with this guy. That only served to make her friends more suspicious, though neither Roy nor Diggle said anything. They had enough on their plate trying to save Oliver.

“She knows we’re here,” Castiel said, staring off into the darkness.

Diggle wasn’t sure he believed the story about this guy being an angel, but he definitely wasn’t normal either.

A voice crackled through the earpieces they all wore. “I’ve hacked into the security system,” Charlie said. “Nothing should get in your way. Nothing electronic, anyway. Can’t promise mythological deities won’t be a problem.”

“Thanks, Charlie,” Dean said. “Okay, Sam’s got the back entrance. The rest of us will go in through the front to keep her occupied. Use the angel blades if you get close enough. They might not kill her, but they’ll do more than bullets or arrows.”

Roy twisted the shiny silver knife in his hands, seeming comfortable with the new weapon. “Got it,” he said. He was taking this a lot better than Diggle was.

Felicity stood next to Sam, holding her own knife. “I’m going with you,” she said.

Sam finally turned to her. “No,” he said. “If I can’t protect you—”

“This isn’t about protecting me. It’s about saving Oliver and stopping Sigyn from releasing Loki.”

“Jess—”

“What did I say about that name? This is more important than all of us. We have to stop her. If anyone needs protecting, it’s you. You’re the only one who can use the hammer.”

“She’s right,” Dean said, clearly surprising Sam. “You’re the one who needs to stay alive to the end of this.”

“I hate it when you do that,” Sam said.

“I know.” Dean smiled. “Not like any of us plan on dying here, but there’s always a risk. Someone should have your back if not me.”

Felicity smiled appreciatively at Dean.

Diggle was noticing a pattern. Everyone wanted to protect this Sam guy. Which was strange because he was the biggest one of all of them and seemed capable of handling himself.

“Are we going, or what?” Roy asked, bouncing impatiently on the balls of his feet.

Dean gestured for them to follow him. “Let’s go. Good luck, Sammy.”

They left Sam and Felicity in the alley as they went around to the front door. Diggle wasn’t happy about the idea of Felicity going in the building either, but he had noticed early on that his opinion wasn’t up for consideration among these people.

Dean and Castiel walked ahead with Diggle and Roy behind. Dean held his blade ready, but Castiel’s arms hung loosely at his sides with no weapon in sight. Inside, the lights were off, but they all knew the way to the basement stairs without help. When they reached the door, the lock was disabled thanks to Charlie. Diggle had begun to wonder whether she were a clone of Felicity by now.

Dean stopped and held up his arm. “Okay, Cas, you take the kid and go right.” He gestured at Diggle. “We’ll go left. Divide her attention.”

Diggle nodded. Seemed like a good plan.

They all headed down the wide metal stairs. Diggle remembered the last time they tried this and wasn’t looking forward to a rematch. They got farther this time before the Viking lady turned her attention on them. She raised her arms, and the blinding light started to emanate from her. Dean jumped the last few steps to the floor, and rolled to the side. Diggle ducked under the railing and went over the side to avoid the blast. He couldn’t see what Roy and Castiel were doing. It was enough trying to keep out of the crazy lady’s way.

Dean kept ahold of his knife and ran at the woman. She saw him coming and threw him back with a blast of light. He fell to the floor and the knife rolled out of his hand. Diggle crouched behind the stairs and watched for Dean to get up. He didn’t.

Sigyn raised her arms to blast him again. Diggle had just decided to rush her and hopefully save Dean when a flash of movement stopped him. Castiel had taken the opening. He had a knife in his hand now and he aimed it at her chest. She caught his arm, just before the blade cut into her skin. They struggled for a moment before another figure rushed in. Roy had sneaked in from behind and stabbed her in the side. The blade went through her armor, but she only seemed annoyed. She shoved Roy back halfway across the room. Castiel had got his arm free and went for another strike. Sigyn blocked him and pushed him back, though he didn’t lose his footing as the others had.

“It’s too late,” a strangely quiet voice interrupted the fight.

Diggle looked to see a man holding a knife at Oliver’s throat. What none of them had noticed before was that there was a strange circle full of symbols on the floor over which Oliver was standing.

“No!” Castiel shouted.

Diggle watched in horror as the man drew the blade across Oliver’s throat and blood began to pour over the floor.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty “God of Thunder”

Oliver had been in plenty of life or death situations before, plenty of times he thought he should have died. It seemed strange to him now that he should feel even more certain that his death was imminent. From the moment Noah pulled him out of the cell (after he ripped the door off again), Oliver knew he was going to die. And he wasn’t ready. So many times before, he’d been willing—almost eager—to give up his life. Not now. Now he wanted to live more than anything, and he wasn’t fully aware of why .

When Noah shoved him to his knees in the circle, Oliver actually tried to resist, not that it did any good. Noah took the curved knife in his weathered, stained hand. Oliver finally recognized the black substance under his fingernails was the same thing Dean had given him from the other crime scene. He had killed all those other people and cleaned up the mess. Now he was going to kill Oliver too, and Loki would get out, and it was all over.

Oliver would never get to meet his son.

As soon as the thought entered his mind, he couldn’t banish it. That was why he couldn’t die now. He had to find his son. Until this moment, he hadn’t even accepted that the boy existed, but now he knew as well as he knew he was going to die that there was a child out there in the world that belonged to him. Perhaps it was the way Cas screamed when Noah drew the knife over his throat that convinced Oliver the angel had been telling the truth.

Oliver’s vision blurred and he felt lightheaded. It hurt, certainly, but that wasn’t the main concern. His eyes slid closed, and the noise of the world around him seemed to fade into a muffle of underwater sounds. He felt a hand on his neck, closing over the wound and heard a gravelly voice calling his name.

Then he died.

~oOo~

As soon as the blood hit the floor, Castiel knew it was over. Of course, that didn’t mean he intended to give up. Doing the impossible was a habit he had picked up from the Winchesters. Hopefully.

Nevertheless, the floor beneath Oliver began to open and a green light poured out. Sigyn was distracted by the sight with a look of delight written on her features. Castiel took the opportunity to move past her toward Oliver. He might be able to stop the sacrifice from being completed, and perhaps weaken Loki’s return.

As if to back up Castiel’s plan, Sam appeared behind Noah and knocked him aside with the hammer. Behind him, Felicity looked confused and horrified at the whole thing.

Castiel caught Oliver before he fell to the floor and pulled him away from the circle. “Stop her!” Castiel nodded toward Sigyn who had focused on her enemies again.

Sam moved between Castiel and the goddess, giving the angel time to attempt a healing spell on Oliver. At his full strength, Castiel would have been able to heal Oliver easily, but he hadn’t been at full strength in a long time. He pressed his hand over the wound and chanted the words to the strongest spell he knew. It was still a longshot if Oliver had lost too much blood. It might be too late.

Castiel couldn’t feel a pulse anymore. Oliver wasn’t breathing.

“You can’t die, Oliver,” Castiel said quietly. “He needs you. Not now, but later he will. You have to live.”

~oOo~

It took less than a moment for Sam to take in the scene around him. Dean was unconscious and bleeding from his head and shoulder. Roy was picking himself up off the floor. Diggle was nowhere to be seen. Oh, and the floor was opening into a portal from wherever Loki had been locked up this whole time, and Sigyn was ready to kill someone. Sam raised the hammer toward her, but she didn’t look as frightened of it as she had before.

“You can’t win,” she spat. “He’s coming.” There was a sense of demented glee in her voice that didn’t bode well.

“Guess I’ll have to settle for crushing you, then,” Sam said with more bravado than he truly felt.

“Foolish mortal.” Sigyn raised her arms to blast him, but Sam blocked with the hammer.

With the gauntlet, Sam found that he could do much more with the hammer than before. Felicity had warned him to be careful, but this wasn’t really the time for caution. He twisted the hammer in his hands, sending Sigyn’s assault back toward her. She retreated a few steps toward the main staircase. That was when Sam caught a glimpse of Diggle hiding under the stairs. He had his gun pointed directly at Sigyn, so Sam thought he’d give him a clear shot. Ducking out of the way just in time, Sam saw the bullets ricochet off Sigyn’s armor. They couldn’t hurt her, but they did draw her attention. She turned in anger toward the irritation, giving Sam the opportunity to strike a more serious blow. She fell forward onto the stairs and Diggle moved from his hiding place to avoid her wrath. When she turned back to Sam, the side of her face was bloody, and she was breathing heavily.

Sigyn laughed, though it obviously pained her. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I would suffer—have suffered—worse for him. What your angel friends did. And you think you’re the hero. Ha!”

Sigyn collapsed, still breathing but weakened. Sam raised the hammer for a killing blow when something hit him from behind. He stumbled to the floor and the hammer rolled a few feet away. He twisted his body around and saw a familiar man standing over him.

It was Gabriel. Only it wasn’t. The face and body were the same, but his expression was nothing like the angel. His sinister glare seemed to bore into Sam’s soul.

“Loki,” he nearly choked on the name.

“So glad you recognized me,” he said in the same yet different voice as his angelic counterpart. “I thought that imposter may have corrupted my image.”

“He didn’t have a vessel?” Sam glanced toward the hammer. He needed to keep Loki busy enough to get ahold of it. “He was in your body?”

“Yes,” Loki replied with disgust. “Remind me to thank your devil for releasing my form.”

“We put him back in his cage,” Sam boasted. “Which is what we’re going to do with you.”

“I don’t think so.” Loki noticed the hammer and strode forward, grabbing Sam’s shirt, and pulling him up off the floor away from the weapon. “Last time it took an archangel and two gods to stop me. As of now you have... half a god.” He glanced at Noah who had recovered from Sam’s attack and was now standing against the wall watching them. “And he’s in my service now.”

Sam gripped Loki’s wrist with his gloved hand, finding that it was stronger than his other hand. “You’re forgetting the rest of us.”

Loki laughed. “A few lowly hunters, a poor excuse for an angel, and some petty street thugs?”

There was a gunshot, and Loki turned to see Diggle standing behind him, gun raised. “That’s offensive,” Diggle said flatly.

“So sorry,” Loki said patronizingly. “I meant infectious bacteria.” He flicked his wrist, and Diggle went flying backward into the computer desk.

Loki turned back to Sam. “I’m going to kill you now,” he said in an almost friendly voice. “It’s just that I can’t have anyone using that hammer, you see?”

“That’s going to be a problem,” Noah’s voice interrupted. He had picked up the hammer, and lightning crackled around the hilt.

“Put it down,” Loki commanded firmly.

Noah seemed to be struggling with whether to obey. “I didn’t want it to come to this,” he said, struggling to keep his tone even. “I sacrificed so much for you.”

“For me?” Loki snarled. “You imprisoned me. Trapped me in that hellish place without my power. Without even my wife to accompany me. You turned me over to those heavenly nightmares, you and your father. Now. Put. The. Hammer. Down.”

Noah’s hand loosened and contracted as the electricity continued to spark up his arm. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I can’t do that.”

Sam looked back at Loki, seeing fear in his eyes for the first time.

“No,” Loki said, his grip slackening on Sam’s shirt.

Sam took the chance to pull away, getting out of the line of fire between the two ancient beings. He was starting to realize just who Noah Smoak really was.

“You can’t beat me,” Loki said with false confidence. “You don’t have your power. It will kill you.”

“I don’t need to live to beat you,” Noah replied, raising the hammer and pointing it at Loki.

Before Loki could make a clever comeback, Noah twirled the hammer, sending a blast of lightning directly at him, short circuiting all the lights in the process. All Sam could see was the two gods fighting. Loki was quickly losing. Without warning, Sigyn jumped in front of Loki, catching a blast of lightning in the chest and falling to the floor in a heap of charred robes. Loki turned from the sight of his dead wife to Noah in fury. He dodged a blast of electricity from the hammer and pulled a sword from somewhere in his robes. He rushed at Noah swinging wildly. He struck a powerful hit, but in the process, Noah slammed the hammer into his head, sending him falling to the floor like a stone.

The lights flickered back on, and Noah fell to his knees, dropping the hammer at his side.

Sam looked around at the carnage. Only a few of them were still on their feet. Dean was finally waking up. Sam didn’t know if Oliver was alive or not. Cas and Felicity were with him. Loki and Sigyn were dead, and Noah was slowly on his way to joining them.

Sam rushed over to Felicity’s father, and helped him lie back on the floor. “It was you,” he said quietly. “You wanted me to have the hammer. Why?”

Noah smiled and coughed blood. “You deserve it more than I do. I... let him run rampant too long.”

“Loki wasn’t your fault.”

Noah shook his head. “I should have killed him centuries ago. Instead, I and my father helped Gabriel trap him. We foolishly thought it would be permanent.”

“Your father, Odin?” Sam asked. “I’m sorry about what happened to him.”

“Don’t be. We abused our power... we deserve to be destroyed. This... is Ragnarok.”

“The end of your world. Are you the last of the Aesir?”

“Yes... Sam.” Noah’s voice turned urgent.

“Yes?”

“Promise me...  promise me you will take care of my girl... She is... extraordinary.”

Sam nodded slowly. “She is. I won’t let anything happen to her.”

Noah nodded, and his eyes began to close. He was slipping away.

“Thor!” Sam called to him.

The man smiled at hearing his true name for probably the first time in hundreds of years. His tense body went slack in Sam’s arms, and he breathed his last.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-One “For a Pessimist I’m Pretty Optimistic”

While it was happening, the fight seemed to last an eternity to Felicity. She found herself frozen next to Oliver as she watched helplessly. When it was over, it seemed to have been only a moment. She felt herself moving across the floor. Oliver might be dying, but she was drawn toward her father and Sam. She came too late, though.

“Is he...” Felicity couldn’t finish her question.

Sam looked up at her with a haunted expression and nodded. He stood and moved around Noah’s body to her. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“No.” She knew what he meant. She wasn’t hurt, but he could see that. She wasn’t okay in any way that mattered.

Sam put his hand on her arm. “Loki was controlling him. He didn’t want to do any of those things...”

Felicity nodded, cutting him off. “I know. He was one of them.”

“He was better than any of the others. He loved you.”

Felicity turned away from Sam, still feeling his hand on her arm. Everything was wrong, but there wasn’t time. They might be able to save Oliver even if they couldn’t have saved her father.

By this time, Dean had already gone over to help Cas. Roy and Diggle were standing a few feet away, watching anxiously.

“We have to get him to a hospital,” Cas said in a defeated voice. “I’ve done all I can.”

“I’ll drive,” Felicity said.

Dean might have argued, but the recent head injury seemed to have subdued him. They all hurried out of the basement to Felicity’s car. Oliver had bled over that backseat far too many times. Cas stayed with him, and Sam got in the passenger seat while Dean, Roy, and Diggle took the Winchesters’ car.

An excess of experience in emergency situations had prepared Felicity for this. She was strangely calm as she drove through stoplights and wove in and out of traffic. A numbness had begun to spread through her body and mind, and she felt certain that if Oliver died, she would never regain feeling. She would fade into a shell of a person, alone and empty.

The hospital lights seemed to awaken something in her. It wasn’t hopeless yet. She pulled up outside the ER entrance, and Cas hurriedly pulled Oliver from the car. Sam helped carry him inside. He didn’t look alive, though Cas seemed to think he was. Oliver’s skin was pale and translucent. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, but there was a red line across his neck, creating a stark contrast to the white skin.

Inside, they quickly caught the attention of nurses, and Oliver was whisked away. The others arrived, and Diggle volunteered to fill out the paperwork, since he knew the most about Oliver. Sam and Dean exchanged a look only they could understand. Felicity could tell there was something they wanted to talk about, but wouldn’t do it in front of everyone else. And Sam didn’t seem likely to leave her side any time soon. He was trying to be comforting, but Felicity couldn’t be comforted. Not like this. Not in this sterile, crowded place where people could see her. She just had to keep being numb for a while.

~oOo~

Being intimately acquainted with the concept of a life flashing before one’s eyes, Oliver was surprised when he didn’t see visions of the past as he was dying. He knew he had lost consciousness, and was now in that indefinite space between life and death when he started seeing strange things. Strange because he’d never experienced them before. He was running down a residential street. It was morning, and the fresh air filled his lungs. As he passed by, people waved at him from their doorways or mailboxes. He wasn’t running from anything as he originally suspected. He was just running for the sake of it.

He stopped at a small house and went inside. There was a woman in the dining room, but her face was obscured. A thundering noise came down the stairs, and Oliver initially thought he was under attack and prepared to fight. But what came was a little boy with brown hair and big eyes.

“Dad!” he shouted, rushing at Oliver.

Oliver gasped, shooting up in bed as a sharp pain in his throat kept him from shouting out. Someone pushed down on his shoulders, and he realized where he was—a cool white room, doctors surrounded him.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood,” someone said. “Just try to relax.”

Oliver sunk back onto the bed. Whatever he had seen couldn’t be real, just his imagination after everything Cas and Noah had said to him. He was seeing what he wanted to see, an ideal life that was completely unattainable.

But he was alive. That was more than he expected. Whatever Cas had done worked. And if he were in the hospital, that meant they had won... or at least escaped. So, Oliver tried his best to stay calm and hope nothing worse would happen.

~oOo~

It didn’t take long for Laurel and Charlie to show up at the hospital. In spite of his headache, Dean managed to glare at them.

“You’re supposed to be resting,” he said to Charlie.

“Riding in the car is so strenuous,” she said, rolling her eyes at him. “Details, Dean, details!”

Dean sighed. “They said he’s starting to wake up. I guess that’s good news.”

“Can we see him?” Laurel asked, anxiously, though Dean noticed she tried to hide it.

“Probably soon.”

Laurel glanced across the room, and Dean followed her gaze to where Sam and Felicity were sitting. The two of them had been silent this whole time. Laurel seemed about to go over to them when one of the nurses came into the small waiting room they had been moved to.

“A couple of you can go see him now,” she said.

Laurel spoke before anyone else could. “Felicity, will you come with me?” She phrased it as a question, but Dean sensed something else behind the request.

Felicity paused before nodding and standing, pulling her hand away from Sam’s and leaving the room with Laurel and the nurse.

After watching them go, Dean got up and moved over to sit beside Sam. Diggle and Roy were over by the door. They hadn’t moved from that spot since they arrived here. It was too quiet in the room for a private conversation, but Dean got the feeling the other two weren’t listening. He had no idea where Cas and Charlie disappeared to, even though it had only happened a minute ago.

“You know we’re gonna have to clean up this mess?” Dean said, hoping to ease his way into the real conversation he wanted to have. Or rather, didn’t want to have.

“Yeah,” Sam replied distantly. “We should take the hammer back to Kansas. Keep it somewhere safe.”

“So, that guy really was Thor?”

Sam looked at his hands and didn’t answer right away. “We had to run into him eventually,” he said, trying a little too hard to sound disinterested.

“And he was Jess—Felicity’s father?”

“We’ve seen that before.”

“Yeah, but you weren’t dating the demi-god.”

“We’re not—she’s—” Sam sighed heavily. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now. We decided to talk about it when all this was over.”

“It’s never over, Sammy. Yeah, we won this time, but there’s always another job, another monster. I mean, you gotta decide which way you want to go here.”

Sam frowned. “Why does it have to be one way?”

“‘Cause I don’t think she’s looking for someone to be there half the time... and neither am I.” Dean avoided Sam’s gaze after that comment, knowing he wouldn’t like whatever the answer would be.

“What do you mean?” Sam knew perfectly well, but he was making Dean spell it out.

“We’ve tried this before. I have, anyway. It didn’t work then, and it’s not gonna work now. I can’t—You’re just gonna have to choose.”

“Dean—” Sam sounded like he was pleading.

“I don’t like it any more than you do. But this is Jess. You never would have come with me ten years ago if you knew she was alive.”

Sam didn’t reply for a while. Dean resisted the urge to look at him and try to guess what he was thinking. Either way, this was the end of something. Either way, Sam was losing something, and even if he chose to stay with Dean, the idea of his brother being unhappy was always going to bother Dean.

“We could both get out,” Sam said, seeming to know it wasn’t going to happen. “Maybe this is our chance.”

Dean’s resolve finally broke, and he looked at Sam, instantly regretting it. He saw the agonized hope in his brother’s eyes and wished he could confirm it, wished he could say that he would give up hunting too, that he’d stay and find the apple pie life he always failed to attain.

“I’m never getting out, Sammy,” Dean said, almost in a whisper. “I’m just not wired for anything else.”

~oOo~

Laurel held onto Felicity’s arm as they headed down the hallway. It was late enough that the place was eerily quiet all around. The nurse had disappeared around the corner, and Laurel was about to try to catch up when she felt resistance. Felicity stopped in the middle of the hallway and suddenly began crying. Laurel’s eyes widened as she turned to comfort her sort-of-friend.

“What is it?” Laurel asked, utterly confused at this reaction. “Oliver will be okay—you know him.”

Felicity shook her head and covered her face with her hands. “My dad is dead,” she said, and though muffled, Laurel understood her perfectly.

Laurel wrapped her arms around Felicity’s shoulders, holding her as tightly as she could. There was nothing to say. Laurel knew there was no way to ease this kind of pain. When she lost Sara and then Tommy, it took a long time to be even remotely okay. And it still hurt, though Sara had since returned.

It took a long time for Felicity to calm down and pull away from Laurel. “I’m sorry,” she said bitterly, wiping at her eyes.

“Don’t.” Laurel shook her head. “There’s nothing else to do about something like this.”

Felicity leaned against the wall. “I hadn’t seen him in years,” she said. “I told him to go away. Turns out he was some kind of god which makes me—I don’t know what. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.”

Laurel leaned next to her and crossed her arms. “Because we’re friends. Or something.”

Felicity turned to look at her. “Okay, but we’re going to have to work on our boundaries. No more secret investigations.”

Laurel laughed half-heartedly. “Promise,” she said. “Now let’s go see Oliver.”

They continued to his room and found his nurse already there checking up on things. She nodded to the two women as the entered. “He shouldn’t speak,” she said. “But you can stay for a few minutes to talk to him.”

Laurel and Felicity moved further into the small room together. Oliver ashen and looked somehow less than he usually did. His eyes were open, though, and he clearly saw them. He seemed a little surprised, whether at seeing them together or seeing them at all, there was no telling.

“You know you’re not allowed to scare us like that anymore,” Laurel said, trying to seem optimistic.

Oliver barely moved his head, which Laurel took as a nod. His mouth quirked in a small smile.

“All the humans are okay,” Felicity said, obviously trying not to let her emotions show. “Cas saved you before it was too late. The guys will probably be complaining about aches and pains for a while, but nothing serious. Dean was knocked unconscious, but apparently that happens a lot, so he can’t get much worse.”

Oliver smiled wider, though it wasn’t his full smile. That would hurt too much.

“I think they want you to rest,” Laurel said. “So we won’t stay too long. We just wanted you to know everybody’s all right.”

“Sam...” Oliver croaked, looking at Felicity.

She nodded. “Yeah, he’s okay. You just get some rest, and we can talk when you feel better.”

Out in the hallway again, Laurel watched as Felicity seemed to wilt. It was as if the brief and one-sided conversation had been a huge exertion.

“When’s the last time you slept?” Laurel asked, putting her arm around Felicity’s shoulders to support her.

“Don’t know,” Felicity mumbled. “A long time.”

“Come on.” Laurel led her down the hallway. “I think it’s time we all got some rest.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Two “Decisions, Decisions”

In the end, Roy and Diggle stayed at the hospital while Laurel took Felicity home and the Winchesters and Cas went back to the club to clean up the mess after dropping Charlie off at her hotel room. It was always a strange feeling when the danger had passed. There was still a sense of anxiety pervading everything. Sam found it difficult to focus on the task at hand and not worry about everyone else.

They took the bodies of the three Aesir out to a secluded place on the bay and gave them what passed for a Viking funeral on short notice. Sam briefly wondered if Felicity would want to be there, but then he reminded himself that the gruesome sight (and smell) of burning flesh wasn't normal to most people. He made a mental note to ask her later if she wanted to have some kind of memorial for her father.

It was nearly morning by the time they returned to the motel. As Sam and Dean headed for their room, Cas remained outside.

“You got somewhere to be?” Dean asked, seeming surprised.

Cas nodded slowly. “When the concern was urgent, I thought it best to suspend my search, but now—”

“It's okay, Cas,” Sam said. “Let us know if you need any help.”

“You really came through for us one this one,” Dean added. “We wouldn't've known what the hell we were doing without you.”

Sam thought the praise was odd, since Dean usually avoided anything remotely sentimental, but he let it pass. They were both tired, and all their problems—numerous as they ever were—could wait until lunchtime at least.

Cas said goodbye and headed for his car. Dean watched him go, and Sam watched Dean. A thought crossed his mind that perhaps Dean was starting to look for a replacement hunting partner.

~oOo~

Laurel should have expected this; Felicity was kind of loopy when she was tired. Once they reached her apartment and made it through the ordeal of searching for keys, Felicity seemed intent on falling down in the doorway. Laurel helped her to the bedroom, which took far too long, and barely managed to get her shoes off before Felicity was unconscious. Not wanting to wake her, Laurel dug around for a blanket and draped it over Felicity before shutting off the light and returning to the living room.

She checked her phone to find a message from Dean: “Clean up is done. Nice seeing you.”

Laurel frowned. Dean made it sound like they were leaving, which couldn't be true. For one thing, Charlie wasn't ready to travel yet. And Sam wasn't just going to skip town after reuniting with his long lost true love.

Maybe they just didn't plan on seeing Laurel again.

She sunk down onto the couch, not sure why that idea didn't sit well with her. It was understandable that they might not want to see her more than necessary, considering what bad memories her presence must have evoked. She had enough trouble facing them after trying to put the whole Ruby ordeal behind her. But that was the thing—she had. The memories were there, but she had moved on. Perhaps seeing the Winchesters again had been good for her after all. And perhaps that was why she didn't look forward to them leaving again.

But they always left. They did their job, had a few drinks, and hit the road. Same song, every time. Laurel wasn't stupid enough to think she could change that. Even if Sam stayed or came back from time to time, Dean wouldn't. Somehow, that bothered her, and she didn't know why.

Laurel let her head droop against the back of the couch. Maybe she would just close her eyes for a moment and collect her thoughts. Then she'd go home. Just a few minutes.

Before she knew it, Laurel was asleep.

~oOo~

After dozing off once or twice, Sam found that he couldn't stay asleep. His mind was too full of questions that needed answers. Worse still, he realized that he was the only one who could provide those answers. He laid awake listening to Dean's even breathing across the room. He wished he could fall asleep on command the way his brother did.

But Dean didn't have possibly the biggest decision of his life ahead of him. Okay, perhaps sacrificing himself to end the apocalypse was bigger than this, but Sam had never been faced with the choice between a normal life and being with his brother where the answer wasn't obvious. In college, it was the normal life. When Dean came back from Purgatory, it was his brother. There was still a tiny glimmer of hope inside Sam that they could both find peace; but for Dean, peace was killing monsters. Nothing was going to tear him away from that.

Sam didn't want that to be all his life amounted to. Sure it was a noble cause, but he'd died for it enough times already. If anyone were entitled to a break it was him and Dean. It wasn't a good enough reason though. Of course, Sam wouldn't even have entertained the thought if it were only about retiring from hunting. Nothing, short of this, could ever have induced him to leave it behind.

There it was. Felicity. Jessica. The one person who could make Sam question everything about who he was and what he wanted. He loved her, even now after so long believing she was dead. Ten years ago, he'd been planning to propose.

That thought, brought Sam back to the moment. Either way, he needed to go back to Kansas. He had to put the hammer somewhere safe, and if he wanted to come back to Felicity, he would need to dig out the ring.

The sun was fully up by the time Sam decided to leave the room. He didn't want to wake Dean from what little sleep he got, and he needed to see Felicity before he left town. Sam walked the same way he had a few nights before, back when he was equally confused but for different reasons. He knew it was a long walk, but Felicity was sleeping too, so he didn't want to arrive very early.

~oOo~

Laurel woke with a sore neck and looked at the time. It had only been a few hours, but she got the feeling the Winchesters would be waking up soon. Dean's four hours of sleep a night would eventually kill him of nothing else did, but at the moment, it was to Laurel's advantage. She wasn't worried about leaving Felicity still sleeping. The danger had passed for the moment. They would all be able to go back to their lives.

The idea of going back to the monotony of her own life caused Laurel to shudder as she got in her car and drove off. She tried to trace back her choices, to understand how she went from being a non-profit lawyer to a prosecutor, and why she ever thought that was a good idea. She used to love helping people, but now she only cared about winning cases. Or she told herself that was what she cared about. She was better than she had been a year ago, but she still hadn't made it back to her old self. There was something missing.

When she arrived at the motel, she was pleased to see the black Impala still in the parking lot. She headed up to Sam and Dean's door and knocked, hoping they really were up. As if to ease her concern, Dean answered the door almost immediately.

“Hey, did you get my message?” he asked, letting her inside.

“Yeah. Sounded like you were in a hurry to leave town,” Laurel replied, keeping her tone even.

Dean shrugged. “We stay too long, people start asking questions. And there's the hammer to deal with.”

Laurel looked around. “Sam's not here?”

“He was gone when I woke up. I'm guessing he took another long walk across town. He's got some things to work out.”

“Work out?” Laurel couldn't help behind annoyed at how casual Dean sounded.

“Yeah. You know.”

“Not really. You make it sound like...” She faltered, searching for the right words.

Dean almost seemed amused. “Like what?”

“I don't know, not a good thing.”

“It's none of my business.”

“He's your brother.”

“Yeah.” Dean nodded solemnly and went back to packing his bag, which Laurel must have interrupted when she arrived.

“I”m sorry. I know how much he means to you.” Laurel began pacing across the room. “But it's not as if he's dying. You'll still see him, even if he stays with her.”

Dean shook his head. “I wouldn't expect you to understand.”

“Then explain it to me! What do you have against falling in love? Don't you want them to be happy?”

Dean turned to face Laurel again with a confused expression. “Where's this coming from? Of course I want Sam to be happy. If he decides to stay here, I'm not going to stop him.”

Laurel really didn't know what had caused that outburst. She was starting to get a sense of what that “something missing” might be. But Dean? No, that really couldn't be. She realized she was staring and still hadn't replied.

“Uh, no. No, I didn't think you would. It's just...” Just what, Laurel? You don't even know what you're talking about. “What about you? What's stopping you from having the same thing?”

Okay, she really didn't know what she was talking about now or why she was standing so close to him. Dean's eyes widened in utter bewilderment, further solidifying the notion that this was insane. Laurel made a lot of bad decisions, and this wasn't even close to the worst, but it was definitely up there. Still, she didn't think twice as she leaned in and kissed Dean.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Three “More Than One Way”

The momentary shock passed, and Dean pulled away from Laurel, not entirely sure why. He stared at her for a few seconds, not saying anything, and she stared back. Then he looked away. There was something—off. He couldn't quite put words to it, but he knew all the same. Dean's expression of complex emotion was almost invariably violent, and that didn't seem to be the proper response in this situation.

“It's okay, I get it,” Laurel said, once the silence had lasted a little too long.

“You wanna explain it to me?” Dean replied, risking eye contact again.

“I know I must... remind you of things.”

Dean laughed which was probably the wrong thing, judging by Laurel's startled expression. “I wasn't even thinking about that,” he said. “Just...” He shook his head. “I'm not whatever it is you're looking for. Trust me.”

“What makes you think I'm looking for anything?”

“I know the look. There's this emptiness you're not sure how to fill, and I really hope you figure it out because I never have. I've got Sam, and that keeps me sane... ish. But the whole relationship thing... it's not in the cards for me.”

Laurel shook her head. “I didn't expect you to suddenly become boyfriend material or something.”

“Then you see why this wouldn't work?” Dean gestured from himself to Laurel.

“When you've been possessed by a demon and had friends die and come back to life, it's a little hard to connect with anyone normal, you know?”

“Finding true love or whatever isn't going to fix all your problems.”

“No, but it might make them easier to bear.” Laurel crossed her arms and looked at the door. “I'm sorry. I'm not asking you to change your mind. I should go.”

“Laurel.” Dean reached for her arm to stop her from leaving. “I don't hate you—you know that, right? Ruby was a long time ago. I just want you to know... I do see you.”

Laurel nodded, seeming to be holding something in that she wanted to say. “Thanks,” she mumbled before pulling away and leaving the room.

In Dean’s experience there was usually a lull between the end of a mission and further terrible things, but this one broke all the rules. Dean was about to lose his brother. Maybe that was a dramatic way of thinking about it, but that’s what was happening. And Dean was too preoccupied with that to even begin to understand what was going on with Laurel or what it meant for him. He couldn’t even wonder if he had feelings for her because he just didn’t do that. He didn’t get the girl—not for more than a night or an hour, anyway. And Laurel was different; he knew her.

It would have been logical of course: if Sam and Felicity got their happily-ever-after, why shouldn’t Dean try the same thing. That way he could be close to Sam. And a mission now and then wouldn’t hurt—much.

Dean shook his head and finished backing. He had told Sam there was no getting out of the hunting life for him, and he knew it was true. He had tried the whole domestic thing before and it blew up in his face. He didn’t like to think about it, but it reminded him of why he couldn’t even picture Laurel that way.

Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Dean looked around the room one more time. Sam had already taken his stuff, and all that was left was the broken glass in the batroom. He left some extra money on the table to help cover the damage. Of course, a place like this was probably used to that sort of thing.

After checking out and tossing his things in the trunk of the car, Dean saw Charlie coming out of her room across the parking lot. He hoped she wasn’t planning on driving all the way home yet. It struck him that he couldn’t remember where she was living now.

“Pretty sure this isn’t taking it easy,” Dean said as he approached the ugly yellow car.

Charlie gave him an innocent smile. “Oliver said I could stay in his sister’s place for a while.”

“When was this?”

“This morning. Guess he’s as bad about hospitals as the rest of us.”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “He’s out?”

“Yeah, and I get the feeling he’ll be back to fighting crime long before he’s ready. Maybe you should talk to him.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. I mean, you two have a lot in common.”

“What, exactly?”

“Well, you think you have to save everybody, for one.”

Dean crossed his arms and huffed, but offered no argument.

“Anyway, you know where I’ll be if you decide to stay in town a while.”

Dean shook his head. “We have to get the hammer back to the bunker. I don’t know what Sam is gonna do after that.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad,” Charlie said hopefully. “Sam could be happy, and you could—”

“I could what?” Dean asked, not harshly, but sincerely. “What is there for me here?”

Charlie bit the inside of her lip as if thinking very hard about how to answer Dean. “You know,” she started, “there is more than one way to save people.”

~oOo~

The morning chill was starting to wear off when Sam reached Felicity’s doorstep. He knew she hadn’t slept much in the past few days, so he still worried about waking her. But it would be weirder to just wait outside, so he knocked at waited.

It took a minute for Felicity to answer the door, but instead of the sleepy state Sam had expected, she was in the process of putting on her shoes.

“Oh, hey,” she said, letting her foot fall with a loud crack as her heel hit the wood floor.

“Hey,” Sam replied. “What... are you doing?”

Felicity moved back inside and reached for her other shoe. “The hospital called,” she said. “Oliver left this morning.”

“Is he okay?”

“Yes, I’m sure he’s perfectly fine ,” Felicity’s frustration was leaking out, and she didn’t seem interested in reining it in.

“So, you’re getting dressed to go yell at him?” Sam asked, raising his eyebrows.

Felicity stopped and looked up at him, her heels now making her less short but still far below eye level. She thought for a moment before replying. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“Is that in the job description?”

“The job—no, it’s just something I do sometimes. He listens to me—sometimes.”

“You really think you can convince him to go back?”

“No.”

“Then...?”

Felicity sighed and sat down on the arm of the couch. “Maybe I’m avoiding things,” she said. “It’s easier to try to make life normal again, to try to go back to the way things were.”

“Do you want to go back to the way things were?”

She looked at him again, defeat in her eyes. “I don’t think that’s possible.”

Sam moved to a chair across from her and sat also. “I came because I needed to ask you something,” he said. “I have to go back to Kansas, just for a few days, but I need to know if you want me to come back.”

Felicity’s eyes widened in surprise.

“And don’t say no unless you really mean it. Don’t say no because you think it’s for the greater good or something. I’ve given up enough for the greater good, so don’t tell me to leave unless it’s what you really want.”

Felicity stared at him in shock. “I didn’t think it was a question of whether I wanted you here,” she said. “I thought... with Dean and hunting and everything... is it what you really want?”

Sam’s gaze never wavered. “Of course I want to come back. It took years for me to even pretend to be okay without you. But I never really was. Something inside of me always wanted more than just saving everyone else. Not that I regret that or wish I had a different life. I know I’ve done a lot of good... some bad too. But I don’t think anyone should have to give up on having their own life to save everyone else’s.”

Felicity smiled softly. “If only I could convince all these masked vigilantes of that.”

“I’ve tried telling Dean, but he won’t listen. I know that if I stay, it’s going to hurt him. I wish there were some way to fix that.”

Felicity stood and crossed over to Sam she put her hand on the side of his face and stared into his eyes for a moment. Then she leaned her forehead against his. “I know it’s selfish,” she said quietly. “I know the world still needs you, but so do I. So come back to me.”

Sam rested his hands on her waist and pulled her closer to him. “I love you,” he whispered.

Felicity kissed him, softer this time, almost hesitant as she threaded her fingers through his hair. Their lips parted for a second as she replied, “I love you, Sam.”

This wouldn’t last. He had to leave. But he was coming back, and that was the important thing.

~oOo~

There were a few lights on as Dean entered the club through the front door. Oliver was sitting at the bar looking at something on a small laptop with a half empty glass next to his hand.

“I’d say something about the dangers of alcohol and pain meds, but who am I to talk?” Dean said, pulling up a stool next to Oliver.

The other man quickly closed the computer. “I haven’t taken anything,” he replied hoarsely.

“Yeah, but that stuff they give you in the hospital sticks around for a while. Another reason never to go there.”

“If I could avoid near death experiences, maybe that would be feasible.” Oliver reached behind the counter and took out another glass, handing it to Dean. “On the house.”

Dean poured himself a drink and gestured at the computer. “What were you so interested in there?”

Oliver looked like he didn’t want to answer as he finished his drink and poured another one. “I asked Charlie to look someone up for me. Something Cas said...”

“Cas?” Dean frowned. He hadn’t noticed Cas saying much of anything to Oliver.

“The other night in the kitchen... Charlie must have told you.”

Dean shook his head. “No, just that you were out of the hospital and letting her stay at your sister’s. Thanks for that, by the way.”

Oliver shook his head. “She earned it. Thea might kill me when she gets back, but at least we’d be talking.”

Dean gazed into his glass, not sure what to say to that. He hated to think of siblings being estranged, but it was none of his business. Neither was Oliver’s search, but he kept asking anyway.

“Who did you want Charlie to find?”

Oliver didn’t look at Dean. “Someone I used to know.”

“Because of something Cas said?”

“I thought he was mistaken. Or making it up. But he couldn’t have known...”

“Known what?”

“About Samantha, about the baby. Only my mother knew, and she’s dead.”

Dean nodded as the realization hit him. “You’ve got a kid?”

“I didn’t think so. She told me she lost it. He’s eight years old now.”

Dean could understand what Oliver was feeling to a certain extent. He tried not to think about it, but things kept happening to remind him of Lisa and Ben. He would have preferred fighting invincible Norse gods.

“He’s probably better off,” Oliver continued. “The life I have isn’t well suited to parenthood.”

Dean shook his head. “In the life you have—the life I have—sooner or later, everybody goes. They die or leave or you leave them.” He took a drink and mentally congratulated Oliver on the quality of his whiskey. “I got myself one thing I’ll never let go of. Unless—well, I always said I wanted Sammy to be happy.”

“He’s all you have,” Oliver said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah.” Dean laughed humorlessly. “If you think it was hard the first time...”

“I never realized how much I had. My sister is my only family, but I have friends. More than I thought.”

“And your kid. Man, don’t walk away from that.”

“I thought... for so long, I thought he was dead. I told myself to be okay with it because I wasn’t ready, but... I wasn’t. I fought it; I buried it. But it’s always been there.”

“Find him. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

“You have kids?”

Dean took another drink and sighed. “No,” he said. “I had... something close once. But I was too long in this life. I couldn’t be with them and be who I am at the same time.”

“How am I supposed to do that then?”

“Is this really who you are? Why are you really doing this? I hunt because it’s how I’ve always kept my family together. Being the Arrow— hasn’t that just torn your family apart?”

Oliver drained the rest of his drink, wincing as he swallowed. “I started because I wanted to make amends, for what my parents had done, for who I was before. It’s become something else since then. I don’t know if the city still needs me or if I just need to save something. Cas said my son would need me. Can he tell the future?”

Dean shrugged. “I still don’t really understand how they work. Maybe he could sense something in you. I wouldn’t ignore it.”

“You said he was your best friend.”

“Yeah?”

“You trust him?”

“Aside from that one time he tried to take over the world, yeah.”

“So if he tells me William needs me, he’s not just saying that in a general sense? The usual way kids need parents.”

“Cas isn’t sentimental. He means it literally. If he was still here, he could explain it, but I doubt it’d get any clearer.”

“So he’s always cryptic?”

“Kinda goes with the territory.”

Oliver stood and picked up the laptop. “I guess I have some things to think about.”

“Yeah, and maybe take it easy on the crime fighting for a few days.”

Oliver half smiled. “No promises,” he said, turning toward the stairs.

Dean figured as much.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Four “Home”

When Sam left Felicity’s apartment, the Impala was parked on the curb with Dean leaning against it. It was a usual enough sight, but what wasn’t usual was that Dean seemed deep in thought about something. Considering recent events, it shouldn’t have been surprising, but somehow, Sam expected Dean to act like nothing bothered him. Like he always did.

“You packed, so I’m assuming you’re still coming,” Dean said flatly. He looked Sam up and down, as if searching for something out of place.

“Yeah,” Sam said. “We still have some things to take care of.”

Dean nodded and pushed himself off the car, heading for the driver’s side. Sam didn’t ask what was on his mind because he already knew. They didn’t need to talk about it more. They had a long drive to worry about that, though Sam hoped they would just take turns sleeping.

As Sam settled into his seat, he wondered whether he could convince Dean to ask Charlie or Cas to move into the bunker. It was unlikely, but he promised himself to bring it up before he left again.

Dean scanned the radio for a minute before pulling out into the street. It was all deceptively normal. Their version of normal. CCR blared through the speakers, and Sam grumbled about not being able to sleep through all the noise. To which Dean only smirked and turned up the volume. But it was half-hearted routine. Sam could see that Dean’s smile didn’t reach his eyes, and the radio wasn’t actually as loud as it usually was.

And Sam couldn’t sleep. He stared out the window as the city passed and began to fade away. Soon enough they were on open highway, careening back to normalcy, but the faster they reached home, the faster Sam would leave again.

Sam leaned his head against the cool glass of the window and closed his eyes. He didn’t know how long he stayed like that, but eventually, he drifted off, too many sleepless nights finally catching up to him.

~oOo~

Halfway home, Dean stopped for gas and snacks. Sam was still sleeping fitfully in the passenger seat. He would wake up any minute if experience told Dean anything. After filling the tank, Dean headed inside for something to eat. He picked up some vaguely healthy looking granola bars for Sam since he got tired of chips and candy bars. It wasn’t like Dean to be that nice, and he knew it wouldn’t make a difference, but it was the same thing that motivated him to give Cas a verbal pat on the back the night before. He was tired of people leaving, but if they were going to do it anyway, he might as well let them know it mattered to him.

As he headed back for the car, he saw Sam standing next to the open passenger door stretching his legs.

“Hungry?” Dean asked, tossing him one of the granola bars without waiting for an answer.

Sam caught it. “Thanks,” he said, unwrapping it mechanically. “You want me to drive for a while?”

Dean shrugged. “I actually slept last night, so maybe not.”

Sam attempted to smile, failing miserably. “There’s a first.”

“Eat your rabbit food.” Dean slid into the driver’s seat again, dropping the bag on snacks next to him.

“So is something else bothering you?” Sam asked, as he also got in the car.

“Something else?” Dean asked, starting the engine.

“Usually you’re better at pretending to be okay with things you’re really not okay with.”

“Everything’s just kind of weird.” Dean looked both ways before pulling out onto the highway again, ignoring the snacks in the middle seat.

“Everything?”

“Just when the whole Jessica/Felicity thing stops being a surprise, something else comes along.”

“Are you trying to make me guess?”

“I’m still deciding if it was just a really strange dream.”

“I don’t think we really know what ‘strange’ is anymore.”

“You’re right, it’s probably nothing.”

“If you’re not going to tell me, can I go back to sleep?”

Dean changed the radio station. “Laurel kissed me.”

“What?”

“That’s it. That’s all that happened. Maybe it’s not that strange.”

“No, that’s—when was this?”

“This morning while you were saying your tearful farewells to your girlfriend.”

Sam paused, as if collecting his thoughts. “Why?”

“I don’t know, maybe she likes me. Or maybe she’s been so traumatized that she’s actually insane. I didn’t get around to asking.”

“So what happened?”

“Nothing happened. We were just talking and then...”

“Was it like a ‘nice seeing you, goodbye’ sort of thing?”

“No, it definitely wasn’t that.”

Sam sighed. “You’re not giving me much to go on here, man.”

“She’s probably confused. Or lonely. Or both.”

“Yeah, because every girl who ever kissed you was confused and lonely.”

“Probably.”

Sam groaned and leaned against the window. “I’m not in the mood to feed your dysfunctional sense of self worth right now. Laurel likes you. Great. Or not. Whatever. What do you plan on doing about it?”

Dean was shocked at the question, though he probably shouldn’t have been. “Nothing. I mean—it’s not like we’ll be seeing her again.”

“Not like you’ll be seeing her. If that’s the case, why are we even having this conversation?”

Dean shrugged. “Something to talk about.”

Something other than Sam leaving forever.

“And this is what’s been on your mind all day?” Sam asked.

“It’s not something you forget.”

“Except—yeah, Dean, you do. How many times has this happened before? End of a case, some girl kisses you? It’s not unheard of.”

Dean bristled at Sam’s characterization of their past experiences. “She’s not ‘some girl.’”

“Yeah, because she’s just like you.”

“Wait, what?” Dean looked over at Sam a little too long, thankful there wasn’t much traffic to worry about.

Sam started counting on his fingers. “Physically and emotionally traumatized, bit of a hero complex if you look close enough, in love with cheeseburgers...”

“That’s not even... No, what I meant was, we know her. She’s not just a stranger we saved from a monster.”

“So what’s your point?”

“My point is, when someone I actually know kisses me, I kinda have to wonder.”

“If she’s crazy or if you’re not as unlovable as you pretend to be.”

“Shut up.”

“What? You started this conversation.”

“Fine, I’m ending it now. Go back to sleep.”

“Whatever. Turn the radio down.”

Sam slid down in his seat to get comfortable, and Dean turned the music up louder. He caught Sam’s smile out of the corner of his eye but pretended he didn’t notice.

~oOo~

It was getting late by the time the Impala pulled into the bunker garage. The two brothers took their bags from the trunk, and Sam grabbed the hammer as well, thinking he would lock it somewhere in the vaults where no one would find it. Not that they usually had visitors, but it wouldn’t hurt to be careful. Though, he doubted if they would ever need the hammer again since all the Aesir were supposed to be dead. He couldn’t help thinking of Felicity trying to figure out how to mourn her father. He knew what it was like to have a messed up relationship with a parent and feel guilty about it when they were gone, even if it was mostly their fault.

After putting away the hammer and throwing his clothes in the laundry, Sam headed for his room and closed the door. Dean said something about making dinner, but Sam wasn’t really listening. He took a second to breathe and then pulled out his phone, dialing Felicity’s number.

“I was wondering when you’d call,” she said as she answered the phone.

“We just got back,” Sam replied.

“Sure you won’t tell me where this secret Kansas hideout is?”

“Yes. It’s better if fewer people know. How is everyone?”

Felicity sighed. “Fine so far. I was able to convince Oliver to rest for a while, and then I went over to check on Charlie. She’s enjoying all the space, and I’m afraid she might never leave. Which would be great, except Thea will come home eventually, and you really don’t want to be on the receiving end of that girl’s wrath.”

“Oliver never really talked about her much.”

“Yeah, well, that’s Oliver for you.” Felicity didn’t seem to want to continue that topic either. “Laurel called a little while ago and asked if I wanted to have dinner, so I’m just getting ready. I think she’s worried I’ll be pining into a carton of ice cream while you’re gone.”

“You mean you won’t?” Sam huffed in mock offence.

“I will be pinning on the inside,” she teased. “You still don’t know how long you’ll be?”

“A couple days at least. To get some things sorted out.”

“To get Dean sorted out, you mean?”

“How did you know.”

“It’s obvious how much you worry about him. Not as obvious as how much he worries about you, but he is the big brother, so that’s to be expected.”

“Yeah I guess.” Sam ran his hand over his face and sank down on the bed. “I wish there was some way to convince him to come back with me. You know, maybe Oliver needs another sidekick.”

“We don’t call Roy that.”

“Okay, sorry. What do you call him?”

“We haven’t figured that out yet, but I don’t think Dean is exactly qualified for the job. You have to be good at following orders, you know.”

“Actually, Dean’s great at that. Well, he was until he grew a backbone, and I guess that was a good thing.”

“Not everyone can be a superhero’s assistant. But maybe Oliver could use someone to fill in now and then. I bet the suit would fit Dean just fine.”

“He would never in a million years wear that. Well, he’d say he wouldn’t, but I’m pretty sure Charlie has pictures of him in a blonde wig from that LARPing convention a few years ago.”

Felicity sighed. “I wish I had time to hear the story. Laurel’s going to be here any minute.”

“Okay. I’ll save it for next time. Have a good time.”

“Thanks. You get some rest too, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Felicity laughed, and Sam tried to envision her smile from a thousand miles away. “I love you,” she said.

And it felt so natural to say it back. “Love you too.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Five “Leaving”

The underground hideout always looked clean for an underground hideout, but today it looked even more clean than usual. The blood stains had been scrubbed from the floor, and Felicity wondered how much time Sam and Dean had to spend bleaching everything. What drew her attention at the moment, though, was Oliver standing in the middle of the room with a duffle bag slung over his arm. The bandages on his neck did nothing to detract from his pale skin and shadowed eyes. He had been better the past few days, but Felicity still would have liked to see him resting.

“Are you going on a trip?” she asked warily, not sure she would like the answer.

Oliver looked down at his bag, wincing at the movement. “Yeah, I’m going to Central City for a while,” he said.

“To visit Barry?” Felicity was confused.

Oliver frowned as if he didn’t know what she was talking about. “Uh, yeah, I’ll probably stop in.”

“What inspired this little vacation?”

Oliver shrugged one shoulder. “Everyone keeps saying I should take it easy.”

Felicity moved closer to Oliver so they were standing an arm’s length apart. “There’s something you’re not telling me,” she said in a low voice.

Oliver met her gaze. “A lot of things. So many I can’t remember them all. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“Oliver, what are you talking about?”

He shook his head slightly. “I’m letting you go, Felicity. In more ways than one.” He handed her a large sealed envelope. “If Dean comes back with Sam, give him this. He’ll need something to do.”

Felicity looked at the unmarked surface of the package. “You’re not coming back,” Felicity concluded flatly.

“I almost died over there.” Oliver gestured without looking at the spot. “My original mission was over a long time ago. There are other people who can keep the city safe better than I can. I don’t want to die alone in a basement.”

“Oliver, you’re not alone.” Felicity reached out to touch his arm, but he stepped back.

“There’s something I have to do. I can’t explain it. I want you to trust me that I’ll be okay. And be happy, Felicity. You deserve it.”

He stepped around her and headed for the stairs. Felicity turned and watched him go, trying to think of something to say to make him stay and wondering if she should even try. Maybe he did need to get away for a while.

“This isn’t goodbye,” she said firmly as his foot hit the first stair. “We’ll see each other again.”

Oliver glanced back. He didn’t seem convinced, but he nodded anyway. “Take care of yourself, Felicity.”

His footsteps clanged on the metal stairs, and in another moment, he was gone.

Felicity sighed as she turned around to look at the room and rubbed her arms as if to stave off a chill. The envelope crinkled in her hand. What had Oliver meant about Dean?

~oOo~

After a few days of cleaning up the bunker and organizing the library, Sam realized he was out of excuses to prolong his departure. He had forwarded all his phone numbers and email addresses to Dean and a few other hunters they knew. He knew how hard it would be to actually retire from hunting, but he was going to do his best. Everything he could think of was done. Dean would be fine on his own.

That thought reminded Sam of why he didn’t quite want to leave: Dean on his own. No matter how many times Sam experienced the feeling of being impossibly torn between two thing he wanted, he would never know how to handle the separation.

The laundry was done. Sam was finished packing. He had taken the ring from his desk drawer and put it safely at the bottom of his duffle bag. The time had come to talk to Dean.

Sam left his bag on his bed, knowing the visual of him standing in the doorway ready to leave wouldn’t help make his points. Dean was in the library searching for monster sightings online. He was looking at an article about Bigfoot, so Sam didn’t think he was getting very far.

“So, I think I’ve covered everything,” Sam said conversationally. “You can keep the laptop here.”

Dean looked up at Sam with a complacent expression that hid everything he must have been feeling. “Guess you’ll have to get a new one the computer genius approves of,” he said, smiling stiffly.

It was true, but Sam didn’t think talking about Felicity right now would help. “You should come back with me,” he said. “There’s nothing pressing right now. Cas is off doing his thing, Charlie’s still in Starling City, so why not stay for a while?”

“Is this your way of telling me I should spend some quality time with Laurel? Because I figure you and Felicity won’t want company.” Dean was still smiling, but it didn’t reach the grimace in his eyes.

“Or you could hang out with Charlie. You both have head injuries you should be recovering from.”

“I’m fine.”

“Or Oliver. He seems to like you.”

“Sam, I don’t need your help making friends. I know you just want everything to be wrapped up with a big red bow, but the life you’re choosing isn’t mine.”

Sam deflated a bit and leaned against the door frame. “I’m not saying you should stay indefinitely. Just a few days or a week. It’s too sudden to—”

“What? Never see each other again? Don’t be dramatic, Sam.”

“I’m not.” Sam huffed. “You do have to come visit sometimes.”

Dean stood and nodded tersely. “Of course. I’ll come up for Christmas and birthdays and...” he trailed off.

“I know you hate this,” Sam said, cutting through the facade they’d both been maintaining. “But the world isn’t ending, and we can try to be happy. Even you.”

“I’ll be fine.” Dean shrugged, turning back to the table and closing the computer. “You should go. Find that happiness you keep talking about.”

“Just promise me you won’t sit around moping and drinking too much.”

Dean scoffed. “When do I do that?”

“All the time. You should invite Cas to stay or something.”

“Cas doesn’t stay . You know that.”

“Well, maybe he should.”

“Yeah, and I should stop making myself miserable, but we all know that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.”

“This is really doing nothing for my confidence in your ability to be ‘fine’ while I’m gone.”

Dean laughed, a bit more genuinely than the false smiles. “If you don’t hurry up, you’ll be getting there at midnight.”

Sam wasn’t sure how Dean knew he planned to leave today. He hadn’t said anything. But it must have been obvious since there was nothing left to do here.

“If I don’t hear from you soon, I’m coming back here, you got it?” Sam asked, raising his eyebrows.

Dean nodded. “Don’t worry about me. That’s my job, remember?”

This was as affectionate as they ever got, so Sam decided to accept the emotionally constipated farewell. He hugged his brother, feeling the reassuring hand slapping his back twice. Dean had to be okay. There just wasn’t any other option.

Sam went back to his room for his things and headed to the garage alone. It seemed strange to him that Dean wouldn’t see him off, but he wasn’t going to push it. They’d said what passed for goodbyes; no need to prolong it.

Standing in the eerily silent cavernous room, Sam regarded his vehicle options. He cast a sad glance toward the Impala, knowing it would be a while before he traveled with Dean again. He decided on one of the less conspicuous cars. Dean kept them all in good repair and drove them to town now and then, so they were all ready to go.

As he pulled out onto the road, Sam had to wonder if he were making a huge mistake. He thought back to his relationship with Amelia and what it had done to the brothers’ bond. But Felicity wasn’t Amelia. She was Jess. The first woman he really loved. He wasn’t choosing her over Dean in some petty sense. He was just choosing her over everything. Dean understood. He had to understand. This was Sam’s last chance at happiness before he got so jaded no one could get close to him. He hoped Dean hadn’t already passed that point, but he suspected his brother would never take the chance at leaving the hunting life behind. It wasn’t fair that all Dean had known since he was four years old was monsters and darkness. Sam had to believe there was hope. He just needed to find a way to get Dean away from hunting for a while to see the possibilities.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you want to delete these files?”

Laurel stared at her computer screen for a moment. Every document she had saved from her investigations was about to be erased. Well, not entirely, if Felicity were to be believed. But Laurel didn’t think any expert hackers would want access to her research into the paranormal. The hard drive was going to be wiped later anyway. They did that with all office computers when someone left.

Sighing, Laurel clicked the “yes” button, and her work was finished. She shut down the computer and looked over her desk. A few stray pens were all that remained of her time in the DA’s office. She had loved working there—some of the time. But she needed to move on now. It wasn’t what she was meant to do. She didn’t know exactly where she would go next, but she had some ideas.

As she picked up her things and headed for the door, Laurel noticed Sara waiting for her with a knowing look in her eyes.

“Having second thoughts?” she asked as they moved out into the hallway.

Laurel shook her head. “I’ll miss it, but it’s not where I belong.”

“Going back to fighting for the little guy?”

“Maybe. The little guy needs me more than the DA, anyway.”

Sara smiled as if she understood perfectly. “Hey, I think we’ve got some time to get dinner before the fitting?”

Laurel groaned. “I’m starving, but no way I’m trying on dresses after eating.”

“Maybe if you’d pace yourself...”

Laurel shook her head. “It’s not worth eating if you can’t enjoy it.”

Sara stopped in front of the break room. “Fine, let’s get a snack at least.”

Laurel eyed the vending machine. A few chips wouldn’t hurt. Of course, a few chips ended up being an entire bag, plus a few of Sara’s, but they were small bags, to be fair.

After that insufficient snack, they headed to the dress shop. It was hard to believe the wedding was only a couple of days away.

Even though Laurel and Sara were early, everyone else was already there. Laurel noticed the shiny black car parked by the curb and felt her heartbeat speed up. She knew he’d be here, but she hadn’t thought about how it would feel to see him again. She’d tried to forget about the last time they talked, about the kiss. But she couldn’t forget, and it was still left unresolved.

Sara opened the door of the shop, holding it for Laurel. “You okay?” she asked as they went in.

“Huh?” Laurel turned to her sister, having almost forgot she was there.

“You seem a little out of it.”

“Probably just hunger,” Laurel joked to cover up her nervousness.

They found the rest of the group in a back room with smaller fitting rooms all around. Felicity was buzzing around like a honeybee making sure everyone had what they needed. Sam and Dean were arguing about the proper way to tie a bowtie. Meanwhile Thea and Charlie were trying on hats and taking pictures of each other.

Thea had returned from Corto Maltese a few months after the Loki incident. She’d discovered her apartment was inhabited, and after some anger directed toward Oliver, she explained that she knew everything. Upon learning that Charlie was helping in the crime fighting/monster hunting business, Thea was glad of the company. She’d been hitting the streets with Roy and Diggle ever since. Laurel still didn’t know what all went on during Thea’s absence, but she’d been surprisingly okay since her return.

A loud sigh from Felicity drew everyone’s attention. “Cas is late,” she said grouchily.

“He’s sort of in the middle of a cosmic battle,” Dean said. “Give him a break.”

“Technically, we’re all early,” Sara said, eyeing Sam and Dean suspiciously.

Felicity closed her eyes and took a deep breath in and out. “It’s okay,” she said, probably to herself. “Everything is going to be okay.”

Sam forgot about the bowties and went over to put his arm around her shoulders. “ You wanted to plan it by yourself,” he said.

“Only to be sure there was no flannel or leather,” Felicity grumbled.

“Should we try on our dresses,” Laurel asked, trying to get Felicity focused on the moment again.

She nodded. “Yes, they’re over there.”

Laurel and Sara went over to the rack and picked up their bridesmaid dresses. It was somewhat understandable that Felicity had picked Sara as her maid of honor. They had worked together for nearly a year before Laurel even knew what was going on. And Charlie as a bridesmaid was a reasonable choice as well. She and Felicity had become close friends over the past year. But Laurel was a little unsure of her own place in this wedding party. She and Felicity were friends of course, but there was always a sliver of doubt in Laurel’s mind that none of her friends actually liked her, that she was just tagging along for the ride.

“So that’s Dean?” Sara asked, glancing over toward the others with narrowed eyes.

“Yeah,” Laurel replied, surprised at her sister’s distrust. “He sort of grows on you.”

“Hmm.” Sara didn’t say anymore but turned her attention to detaching her dress from the hanger.

Laurel would have had to be blind not to notice the way Sara always seemed a bit stiff around Sam since she returned to Starling City, and now the same would appear to be true of Dean. There hadn’t been any actual conflict as yet, nor had Sara mentioned why she didn’t like them. It was a mystery for another time.

Laurel took her own dress into the fitting room and tried it on. As she expected, it fit perfectly. Felicity had been ridiculously thorough in all her planning. This was their fifth fitting, so everything had better be perfect.

As she came back into the main area to show Felicity, Laurel almost ran into Dean as he walked past.

“Oh, sorry!” she said.

“No, you’re fine,” he replied, holding her elbow to keep her from falling over.

“Felicity would have killed me if I ripped this dress,” Laurel said in a hushed voice.

Dean looked her up and down. “Everything’s intact,” he said with a smile.

Laurel felt suddenly vulnerable under his gaze. She pulled her arm away and rubbed her hands together. “So, this must be weird for you.”

“Actually, I’ve been through this before, so I’m just glad Sam’s not under a love spell.”

“Wait, that actually happened?”

Dean looked about to laugh. “Yeah, this girl named Becky. It was... creepy.”

“Does Felicity know?”

Dean shrugged. “Sam probably told her.”

Laurel pressed her arms to her sides and clenched her hands in the silky material of her dress. “You know, it’s not really fair that you get to show up at the eleventh hour when the rest of us have had to be here the whole time.” It was kind of a joke, but she was hoping for some insight into why Dean hadn’t been back to visit in a year.

“There’s such a thing as a phone. And if you think tracking down an angel to get tuxedo measurements is easy—”

“Okay, okay. How is he, anyway?”

“Cas? He’s... Cas.”

“For knowing they guy so well, you certainly are vague.”

“You don’t explain Cas. He’ll be here soon anyway.”

“And what about you?”

Dean looked confused at the question. “What about me?”

“How have you been? Still hunting, I’m sure.”

“Yeah, not much change there. The world hasn’t been on the brink of destruction since Loki, so I’d call that a good year.”

“Maybe it’s your turn to settle down, then.”

Dean smiled stiffly, and Laurel wished she hadn’t said anything. It implied she was holding onto some childish crush, and obviously made him uncomfortable.

“I don’t think you’ve met my sister,” Laurel changed the subject as Sara came out of the dressing room as well.

“I swear it’s gonna take me an hour to get out of this thing,” she said, apparently not noticing Dean standing there.

“Sara, this is Dean,” Laurel said, hoping the introduction would remove some of the tension. No such luck.

Sara eyed Dean with the same suspicious look as before. “Yes, I thought so,” she replied.

Dean held out his hand, but Sara didn’t shake it. “I’ve heard of your work,” he said, forcing a smile.

Sara turned to Laurel. “Do you still want to get dinner before the party? I don’t think you’ll survive on horderves.”

“Yeah, let’s just get Felicity’s approval on these, and then we can go,” Laurel said. She wanted to invite Dean along with them, but Sara’s cold attitude toward him would make for an awkward meal.

~oOo~

Dean was relieved when Cas finally showed up and they could finish up at the shop and head back to Thea’s apartment for the “family” get together. Everything was exactly as he remembered it from a year ago from the wood floors to the brick walls and minimal decorations. Felicity’s mom was there, excited to meet everyone and a bit overly friendly. The exact opposite of Laurel’s dad, who was, if possible, more prickly than Sara had been earlier. Perhaps it just ran in the family.

Jody and the girls had come in from Sioux Falls, and Cas was there of course, so Dean didn’t feel entirely out of place with all these people. Felicity introduced them all to her new boss, Ray Palmer, who had bought out Oliver’s former company earlier that year and hired Felicity as the head of their technology division. She was happy; Sam was happy. That was the important thing.

As Dean looked around, he couldn’t help thinking of everyone who wasn’t there. Bobby was the first to come to mind. He would have loved to see Sam living happily ever after. Their parents, of course. Ellen and Jo. Kevin. Every other friend they’d made and lost. It wasn’t the right thing to be thinking about, but Dean had to keep the negatives in mind to avoid a worse outcome. If he let himself think too much about how happy everyone was, he might go over to the horderve table, pull Laurel away from her sister, and ask if she wanted to dance. There was dancing. Dean wasn’t particularly good at dancing, but the thought had crossed his mind.

He convinced himself this was all just the result of seeing Laurel after so long when their last meeting had been what it was. He’d see a lot of her this weekend, and then he’d get over it. It had been a year, and the questions still plagued him, but he was sure he’d get over it.

Later that evening, Dean found himself standing out on the balcony with a glass of expensive champagne, courtesy of Thea who had ungodly amounts of money and enjoyed spending it on her friends. It wasn’t long before Sam and Felicity came out to find him.

“You gonna be okay?” Sam asked.

It was weird to have this conversation with an audience. “Yeah, I’m fine,” Dean said. “I’ve managed to survive all by myself up till now; I don’t think a little ceremony is going to change that.”

“No, but it’s final,” Felicity said.

“And you haven’t exactly made a point of visiting,” Sam added.

Dean shrugged. “Figured you two would want your space. I mean, ten years is a lot to catch up on.”

“We’ve had enough space. You’ve got to promise you won’t stay away forever this time.”

Dean sighed. “I won’t stay away forever. But really, this town doesn’t even have a decent cheeseburger.”

“Oh, you should ask Laurel,” Felicity said. “She knows all the best places.”

Dean glared at Sam. “You told her?”

“She told me,” Felicity clarified. “It’s not like as cheeseburger is such a big commitment.”

“I really don’t need help getting a date.”

“Yes you do,” Sam said, leaving no room for argument.

“All that aside,” Felicity said, “Oliver wanted you to have this.”

She handed Dean a large envelope with no markings on it. “What is it?” Dean asked.

Felicity shook her head. “I don’t know. He just said to give it to you when you came back. Said you’d need something to do or something like that.”

Dean looked down at the envelope, trying to determine what it could be. “Where is he, anyway?”

“He’ll be here on Saturday for the wedding,” Felicity replied. “He’s been back and forth a few times with Thea being here again.”

“Did he... find what he was looking for.”

“He hasn’t told us what that is. I guess you’ll have to ask him when you see him.”

Dean tucked the envelope under his arm and nodded. “Well, it’s getting late, and I have a best man speech to write, so I’m gonna go back to the motel.”

“Don’t forget the rehearsal’s at six tomorrow,” Sam said.

“I’ll make sure Cas is on time,” Dean said with a smirk. “Don’t have too much fun without me.”

He left Sam and Felicity alone on the balcony and headed back through the apartment, saying goodnight to everyone as he went. Laurel caught up with him at the door.

“Hey, I’m sorry about earlier,” she said. “I would have invited you along to dinner, but—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Dean replied. “Your sister is a good judge of character.”

He didn’t wait for her response as he headed out into the hallway. Maybe it was a cruel thing to say, but Laurel would be better off if she didn’t give any more thought to Dean. He just had to last the weekend without flirting with her, and everything would be fine.

He returned to his motel room, the usual sort of place he stayed. Sam and Felicity had wanted him to stay with them, but that would have been awkward. All the way back, the unopened package sat in the passenger seat where Sam belonged. It seemed to be calling to him to find out what was inside. He waited until he had reached his room and sat down on the bed. Then he tore open the flap and poured out it’s contents. There were a few pages of writing along with some keys and electronic devices. He picked up the note and read:

Dean,

This is everything you will need to get started fighting a different sort of monster. It may not be what you want right now, but I can’t think of a better person to carry on in my absence. You understand the fight better than anyone. Of all the things you said to me before I left, I’ll always remember the question of whether the Arrow was really my identity the way hunting is yours. And I had to conclude that it wasn’t. The Arrow can be anybody with the will and the means to fight evil. A few archery lessons shouldn’t be that difficult for you.

I’m sure this comes as a shock, and you may not wish to accept the role. I understand. If that’s the case, please return these items to John Diggle. He’ll know what to do from there. In any case, good luck. And thank you for everything.

Oliver J. Queen

Dean looked over the other items in the pile. The voice changer. A key code to the hideout. The rest of the pages were instructions and lists of where to find everything he would need. Dean dropped the note and stood back from the bed, staring at the small collection of objects. This couldn’t be real. He wasn’t being recruited as some kind of superhero. He was just a hunter.

The more Dean thought about it, the more it all started to make sense. If Oliver were going to leave his legacy to anyone, who better than one experienced in saving the world and being alone? It was the choice that posed the least risk to those Oliver cared about.

Dean sighed and rubbed his face, then put everything back in the envelope and set it on the table. He wouldn’t decide now. He’d think about it over the weekend and make up his mind after the wedding. Then he would either give the package to Diggle or take a little trip to the Arrow cave.

The very thought of becoming a masked vigilante sent Dean’s mind whirling. It wasn’t much different from what he had always done, just more recognition. Some people actually liked the Arrow, which would be harder to get used to than the detractors for Dean. He was used to people thinking the worst about him.

As he turned out the lights and went to bed, Dean entirely forgot about his best man speech.