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Five Times Ellie Queen Had The Worst Timing In The World (and one time it was pretty perfect)

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For all that Oliver likes to cook, he's really not a fan of baking. It probably has something to do with him not having much of a sweet tooth - years on a deserted island without refined sugars makes most conventional desserts so saccharine, even long after his exile ended.

Baking isn't his first choice of ways to spend his time in the kitchen - really, cooking isn't either; his favorite option involves a certain blonde on the counter - but he hasn't had much choice in ways to entertain himself lately. Strict bedrest had been ordered for two weeks after a particularly nasty encounter with this year's villain-du-jour left his bad knee mangled. Two whole weeks of doing nothing but lying still, leaving him all sorts of time to think about all the things he could be doing if he could just move. But, now that those torturous fourteen days have finally given way to limited mobility with the use of a cane, he can finally do things. Some things, anyhow. He's still stuck at home.

And Oliver is bored.

He's watched everything of even marginal interest on Netflix. He knows far more about the City Council proposals on rezoning than he'd ever been interested in, even as the city's mayor. He's planned out meals for the entire week and prepped tonight's dinner - grouper wrapped in bacon with a side of roasted asparagus and a risotto that he takes far too much pride in, all things considered. So… yeah.

He's bored.

And, while he might not be all that thrilled with dessert, Felicity will be.

That makes it worthwhile.

Seeing his wife smile makes anything worthwhile.

His wife. They've been married ten months now and he still feels a thrill of giddiness every time he realizes she's actually his wife. He's actually her husband.

There were plenty of times over the years he never thought they'd get here. It's never been a question of love, not even from those first moments when they came together, but they haven't exactly taken the easy road through their relationship. Most of the fault for that lays at his feet, but she's not entirely blameless either. Still, they've gotten to this point because in spite of all the roadblocks in their way, in spite of his lies and her problems with trust, neither one of them has ever been willing to give up on the other. Not ever. And that, more than anything, is why he knows this is forever.

And it's why he's making mint chip brownies even though he won't eat them.

He is making them, that is, until the front door slams shut and heels click hurriedly across the floor. A bolt of alarm has him dropping the spoon on the second batch and spinning in time to see his wife sail into the kitchen. The perkiness she'd left with that morning is nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by a particularly green hue to her skin.

Oliver grabs his cane, taking a halted step towards her. "Felicity?" She ignores him, grabbing hold of the countertop and leaning over the stainless steel trash can. "Honey, are you okay?"

She groans something under her breath, holding up a finger, signaling for him to wait. She presses her forehead to the cool granite, her whole body clenching with what he's pretty sure are dry heaves.

He takes another step. "Felicity…"

She shakes her head, warding him off as she moans, "Oh god."

Her voice is strangled with misery, and he can't just stand there and watch her suffer. He can't. He's not sure what to do, but doing nothing is absolutely not an option. His feet are already moving before he can think twice, and he leans heavily on his cane as he closes in on her.

Oliver's free hand rests low on her back in what he means to be a soothing motion, but she instantly jolts away at this touch and glares up at him.

"You do not get to touch me right now, Oliver," she says, her tone bitter. And not just bitter, but angry. He frowns at her, because her level of indignation feels wholly unearned - he hasn't even done anything. "I'm like a solid 70-percent sold on the idea that that's how this happened in the first place, so no… No touching."

And that explains absolutely nothing. Oliver furrows his brow, trying to follow her, but he's lost. "What?" he asks.

"I threw up on Worthington's shoes," she says, her voice rising. "On his shoes. This was a really, really important board meeting and I completely upchucked this morning's waffles - which are way better going down than coming back up, by the way - all over his thousand dollar loafers. Chunks, Oliver, chunks all over his loafers. I'm pretty sure it lost us his vote."

"That's... " Oliver still isn't quite following. Is she sick? Is she getting the flu? Is she blaming him for food poisoning? He's at a loss, because she isn't acting sick, so he says the one thing he does know. "He'll vote our way."

Felicity snorts, raising an eyebrow at him. "He's a tool. I pretty much expect him to pat me on the head every time I speak."

"You're the CEO and a Queen," he reminds her, pride evident in his voice at the proclamation. "Worthington isn't bold enough to move against us. That's not his style. But I don't care about him, or the meeting, for that matter. Are you okay?"

She shakes her head again, her face crumpling adorably as she pushes herself up, leaning on her elbows. "I don't…" Her eyes drift over to the bowls and ingredients on the counter behind him. She pauses, and then she takes a deep breath, finally registering the smell of baking brownies in the air. Tears fill her eyes along with recognition when she looks back at him. "Are you making mint brownies for me?"

It all makes about as much sense to him as anything else she's done since she walked into the loft, and all Oliver can do is blink at her.

"Oliver," she continues, giving him a watery smile. "That's so sweet. You're the most thoughtful husband in the entire world and I can't believe I told you not to touch me. I don't even deserve you. I'm so, so sorry."

Her hand covers her mouth, and though she's considerably less green, he's a little afraid she's going to heave again. Instead, she lets out a bit of a sob, one that prefaces more tears filling her eyes, and just… what? What even is going on? Is she crying?

"Honey, it's fine," Oliver promises her. He touches her arm gently, a little afraid she might shift gears again and jerk away from him, but she doesn't. She just looks up at him and nods hard with watery eyes. Feeling a bit more confident she isn't going anywhere, his hand skims up the curve of her elbow. "Are you feeling okay?"

For a long moment, she doesn't respond. She just stares at him. The first few seconds are filled with genuine concern, and even a little humor that she's reacting so badly to a stomach bug… but then she continues to just stare. His concern slowly melts into a little bit of fear and then downright terror about what she's going to say. Because what if something is really wrong? What if she's sick? What if it's serious? Is she hiding something? How bad is it?

"My boobs are sore," she blurts.

Oliver's hand freezes on her arm. Uh…

He stares at his fingers as if to ensure that they are in no way touching her breasts at the moment.

"Oh… kay?" he asks, watching her warily.

It's not the response she wants.

"Oliver," she huffs with aggravation. She grabs his free hand and places it on her surprisingly firm breast, to which he has absolutely no clue how he's meant to respond. "I threw up on Worthington's shoes. I just cried over brownies. My boobs are as firm as coconuts. I think…" She stops, and her gulp is audible before she whispers, "I think maybe I'm pregnant."

It takes a full ten seconds for the word 'pregnant' to register, and when it does…

Oliver's jaw drops, his eyes going wide. His heart does some kind of crazy rhythm in his chest - some backward flip that makes him feel like it's going to leap right out - before it suddenly goes triple-time. But that's the only thing that moves; he just stands there, his hand still awkwardly holding onto her breast, staring at her.

"God, you're terrified," she says in a half-sob, half-laugh that's more than a little maniacal.

"That's…" he starts. It's a good, solid word, pronounced correctly and everything, which is surprising, because he doesn't actually have a processable thought in his head right now, so words seem like an impossible feat. "I… uh… Aren't you?"

Yeah, okay, so maybe not having words would have been better than having the wrong ones. Felicity's eyes narrow, her brows dropping in a deep frown at his innocent question. And really, it's a good question. But she clearly doesn't agree.

He's pretty sure his wife is about to hit him. His possibly pregnant wife is about to hit him.

Oh holy shit, he was not prepared for this. At all.

Felicity tries to take a step back, and the slight movement snaps him back into motion.

"No, Felicity, it's just..." he starts, moving his hand to settle back on the respectable space of her upper arm instead of her breast. Her very firm breast which, now that he's paying attention, definitely feels different. They had been feeling different. He'd chalked it up to hormones of the period variety, not the… pregnant-with-an-actual-child variety. "I'm not saying it would be bad. That's not it at all. I just… wasn't exactly prepared."

"And you think I was?" she demands, in a voice that actually squeaks with incredulity. She waves her arms, her voice getting louder, if it were possible. "I cried at an ad for Purina on the radio, Oliver. I cried about dog food and I threw up on a board member's shoes and you think I wanted to do that? You think…"

"Hey, come here," he interrupts, shuffling awkwardly with his cane until he can pull her into his arms. He winds his arms around her, tugging her into his chest firmly. She shoves her face into his shoulder, taking a deep breath, inhaling his scent and probably the smell of brownies and the fact that he used her body wash earlier because his ran out. When she exhales, she finally relaxes. Oliver rubs his hand up and down her back, digging his fingers into the tender muscles along her spine. She's even more tense than usual. He kisses her head as he says, "I love you, okay? We're gonna be fine. No matter what happens, we'll be fine."

It's a relief to feel her melt into his arms, even if she is more careful than usual about resting her weight against him. Her fingers grip onto the fabric of his shirt and she moves her head to tuck it beneath his chin. He pushes his free hand up her neck, pressing his fingers into her hair before stroking down the length of her spine.

A minute later, she finally mumbles into his henley, "Easy for you to say. You aren't the one who's gonna wind up looking like a whale who swallowed a beach ball."

The image hits him full on in his mind's eye and it takes his breath away. He wants it. He wants to see her body changing, see her growing with life - their child's life - inside her. It's a weird thing to think, but the idea of that happening with Felicity? A strange new yearning for just that burns in his chest. The idea of kids with her has always felt like a far-off dream. Their lives aren't exactly kid-friendly, far from it, but there's never been a doubt in his mind that he wants that for them. Eventually. He's not sure he knew how much until this instant though, with the possible reality of it hanging over their heads.

"You'll be beautiful," he says softly, reverently, meaning it so completely that his voice cracks. He holds her tighter, his hands tracing her gentle curves. "I can't even begin to explain how beautiful you'll be."

He feels her breath hitch against his chest before she backs off slightly to peer up at him. Her blue eyes are a mixture of wariness and hope, and it hits him right in the gut. They've barely broached the subject of kids, but he can see she wants this. In this instant, he knows it with absolute certainty. Despite the timing - he's hurt and they're fighting a network of criminals working to undermine all the good they've done; he's so very busy as the mayor and she's absorbed in the merger proposals at QC - she wants this. Now.

She'd only been terrified that he didn't.

That realization has him pulling her close again.

"Will?" she echoes. "I will be beautiful? You think I am? Pregnant, I mean? You think we're…"

"I think we should probably find out," he interrupts before she can spiral. His eyes skim down her form to her still-flat belly where his child may or may not be growing. The thought alone sends a thrill through him. "I think I really, really want to find out."

"So you want this?" she asks. "You really want this?" She grips his shirt with one hand, tugging on it, while the other finds one of his hands. She holds onto him like she's holding on for dear life. "You want me to be pregnant? For us to have a baby? Like now? Or… not now now, but in eight-months-or-so now?"

This morning he wouldn't have had an answer, wouldn't have known what answer she wanted to hear, but it's so clear to him now that it feels like it should have always been evident.

"Yes," he replies in a gravelly, hushed voice. "Yes, I do."

The relief that surges through her makes him grateful that he's holding onto her hand, offering her support, because he thinks she might honestly have fallen over if not for him and the kitchen counter.

"Really?" she asks in a hopeful little sob. "This is…" She lets out a short laugh. "It's the actual worst timing, Oliver. Okay, maybe not the worst. There was that time you went off and got stabbed by R'as and I thought you were dead for months… That was pretty much worse. Not that we were doing any baby-making activities at that point. Or, oh, that time when Darhk had me shot. That would have been a horrible time to be pregnant. Or-"

"Felicity."

Oliver silently curses his reliance on the cane because he really, really wants to touch her face right now, but she's got a death-grip on his free hand. He's always been better at expressing himself with actions rather than words, but he's limited right now, so he's going to have to find the right thing to say. When she looks up at him, her eyes shining with hope, the barely-contained happiness he can see burning so bright and beautiful makes his chest hurt…

He stares into her eyes, the words coming without a second thought.

"There's never a perfect moment for a baby," he says. "And… yes, it's going to take some adjustment if we're going to be… going to be parents." They both feel the weight of that simple statement. "But… I think it would be worth it. No, I know it would be worth it. And I want it. Now." His voice lowers to a whisper, one just for her ears as he says, "With you."

Felicity nods up at him, so fiercely quick that he thinks she's probably not even aware she's doing it.

"God," she says, "I want to kiss you right now but I have puke-breath."

Oliver huffs out a laugh, completely cutting through the seriousness of the moment. He leans forward and presses his lips to her brow.

"Why don't you go brush your teeth and I'll run up to the store…" he suggests, pulling back to look down at her. "Pick up a test?"

"Oh, no need," she answers. She steps back - gently, always making sure he's got his cane and isn't about to fall because she pulled back too fast - and picks up her purse where she'd dropped it. Without preamble, Felicity dumps the contents of her bag onto the counter. In a sea of small notepads, pens, lipsticks, the dayplanner she didn't use, her cell and tablet, sit at least five pregnancy tests. He - very wisely - restrains himself from laughing at the sight. "I stopped on the way home," she finishes.

"And…" He hesitates - because prudence around possibly-pregnant women is something he has barely any experience with at all - before asking, "You bought all of the tests they had?"

"They can be wrong, Oliver!" she insists. "I needed at least three for control and then what if one of those three gives us a different answer?"

"Okay," he replies, giving her a placating nod. He's always been a quick study, and he can read his wife better than anyone else on the planet. Now is neither the time to argue nor the time to tease her. She's never followed through with the threat of making him sleep on the couch, but there's a first time for everything and he's not about to push his luck.

"It's better to be prepared," Felicity points out, like he hasn't just agreed with her. "Do you really want to run out to the store when we have three tests with different results?"

He refrains from pointing out it's not actually possible for all three to tell them something different, and mentally pats himself on the back for exercising excellent judgement.

Oliver nods again with a soft, "Okay," before shifting slightly, just enough that he's pressed right up against the counter. He lets his cane rest along with him as he picks up one of the tests, squeezing her hand where he still holds it. "How about we see if that's even going to be an issue?"

Felicity blinks at him. "What?" she asks. That bitter edge from earlier is back and it's clear she's ready to launch into a tirade about the necessity of multiple pregnancy tests.

"Honey," Oliver says before she can. "Go pee on a stick. Please."

"Oh…" she breathes out. She looks at the test in his hand. "Right."

She doesn't move to take it though.

As much as she wants this - as much as they both do - that doesn't make it any less terrifying.

He suddenly realizes why she was so very focused on pregnancy tests. It was far easier than actually taking them.

"Do you want me to go with you?" he offers.

Her eyebrows shoot up. "And watch me pee?"

"I'm pretty sure I can stand it if you need me to hold your hand," he tells her.

"Oliver, when we got married you promised me we'd never be that couple that leaves the door open when they pee," she reminds him. "This is a sticking point for me."

"Felicity," he says, drawing her name out, bringing them back around to the point. He drops the test and, ignoring the way his hip digs into the drawer he's leaning into, cups her cheek. "Will you please go take those tests so I can find out if I'm gonna be a dad?"

Felicity sucks in a quick breath, her eyes widening at that word. Her mouth forms a little 'o' before splitting into the biggest smile he's ever seen. "A dad," she repeats. "We're gonna find out if you're going to be someone's daddy, if I'm gonna be a mom."

Hearing it from her lips has his own grin growing as he nods. "Yeah."

She nods, looking at the tests splayed on the counter, forcing his hand to fall from her cheek. Oliver finds his cane, maneuvering so he's standing on his own again as he plays with her fingers where they tangle with his.

"Okay," Felicity says. "Okay." When she looks back at him, there's a new tentativeness shading her eyes. "And… if they're negative?"

"If they're negative…" he starts, somewhat amazed at the words he realizes are about to come out of his mouth. "If they're negative, save the last two for next month."

"Really?" She searches his eyes. "Like really, really? We're really doing this? Like on purpose?"

"If we didn't already on accident," he replies. "If you want, that is."

"I want," she says with a smile. "I really want. Kind of a shocking amount, actually."

"Me too," he says, hoping his eyes tell her everything she needs to know. "So much."

"Okay," she agrees, nodding at him. "Okay, I'm gonna go pee on some sticks."

"Okay." He nods back. "I'm just gonna…" Count the seconds. "Set the timer."

"Okay," she echoes again, steeling herself.

The need to kiss her overwhelms the fact that she's recently been sick and he leans forward to peck her gently on the lips, lingering for a long moment before letting her go. The thrill that runs through him is bone-deep as they part. She gives him a little smile, her cheeks flushed and happy, before she gathers up the tests. With one last smile, she turns to the bathroom. He watches her go, images of their future so much more solid in his mind's eye than they had been just minutes before.

Wanting a family with her someday in an abstract way has been a notion in the back of his mind since well before they were even a couple. But now, as he watches her walk towards the possible confirmation of something so big and so life-changing, he has to bite his tongue to keep his excitement contained. Their someday might already be happening. His child might be growing inside of her at this very moment. He'd thought it would be terrifying, and it is. That's there, too - the idea of raising a child with the sort of ever-present threats that hang over their heads is blindingly scary. But hope overwhelms it, joy far surpassing it. The idea that he might be able to be a dad - with Felicity at his side, no less - leaves a pang of longing coiling in his gut so much stronger than he might have anticipated.

Three minutes. He has to wait three minutes.

He honestly isn't sure how he'll make it that long.

The oven gets shut off - he can't possibly concentrate on baking right now and the last thing they need is to accidentally burn down the loft - and the batter put in the fridge. He turns to the microwave to set the timer for the longest three minutes of his life when he hears Felicity's bare feet padding across the floor back toward him.

"Did you-" he starts. He stops when he sees her ashen face. His hand drops to his side as he takes in a stricken expression that he can't actually read, for once in his life. His heart sinks as much as it jumps up into his throat, his stomach clenching. "What-"

"You don't have to set the timer," she tells him, looking more than a little shell-shocked.

Oliver sucks in a quick breath, and the air almost feels like too much. He hobbles a few steps toward her, grateful, for once, that he has the cane to lean on because he's not sure his knees would keep him standing without it even if he weren't injured.

"Does that… Felicity, what does that mean?" he manages, his heart pounding so fiercely in his chest that it almost drowns out the buzz of white noise filling his ears.

"I just…" she starts, but it's like she stalls out. She shakes her head, laughing in a way that seems equal parts anxiety and frustration at her own inability to find words.

Words are sort of unnecessary, though, especially when she raises her hand. His gaze fixes on the little plastic sticks sitting on her shaking palm. All three are there, ready to be read… but he can't make out the results from where he stands. Oliver stumbles a few unsteady steps forward as she holds up the tests to him.

"It didn't need the three minutes," she tells him, her voice wavering and her eyes watery.

He knows what that means. Somewhere in his head he does, at least. There's only one way they don't have to wait the three minutes if she's holding the tests up. But he can't believe it until he hears it, until he sees it.

It's completely mindless, the way he hobbles toward her. He's putting too much weight on his knee - if he were thinking about that, he'd know it, but he isn't. He isn't thinking at all and he can't feel any pain and nothing matters but reaching her and the tests. His heart hammers too hard in his chest and his mind spins too fast for anything but the possibility of what she holds to sink in.

"Honey…" Oliver's voice breaks, sounding a little desperate because he has to hear her say it. He has to.

"By the time I even pulled the tests away there were already little plus signs on all of them," she confirms, her voice shaking as much as her hands. "I dunno what that means? I mean, obviously it means I'm pregnant, but that's like really fast. I expected three minutes to come to terms with the idea, you know? And I didn't get that. It was too fast. Why was it that fast? Does that mean I'm like super pregnant? Do I have too many hormones? Oh God, does that mean it's twins?"

She's gone from practically unable to speak to a full-on ramble that frankly doesn't make any sense at all. It only makes him want to hold her more than he already does. Bad idea or not, he drops his cane and manages the last few feet to her under his own power, eyes fixed on the positive tests. He vaguely hears her squeaks in protest about his ill-advised steps, but God he can't care about his knee right now. Not even a little.

He doesn't realize his eyes are watering until his cheeks are wet.

It's too much, and he chokes out an unintelligible sound as he reaches her. His knees buckle slightly, nearly giving out under the physical and emotional strain they're being put through, but he doesn't fall. No, he leans against her, holding her shoulder for support as his other hand settles low against her stomach, like maybe now that he knows he can feel the difference.

The instant he touches her, her protests fade away as she looks up at him.

"We're having a baby?" he asks, needing to hear the words again. He chokes on his next breath. "We're… I get to be someone's dad? Really?"

A pleased look spreads across her face. It's joy. It's so much joy. It lights up her entire face, a happiness so pure it almost brings him to his knees. He wonders if that's what people mean when they talk about how pregnant women glow because, God it floors him. She's more beautiful in this moment than ever before, and he loves her impossibly more than he ever has.

"Yeah," she confirms, biting into her lower lip for a second before releasing it. "Really." One of her hands settles against his over her stomach, lacing their fingers together. "We have a baby in there, Oliver. Our child."

"Oh my God," he breathes out before leaning in and kissing her with barely contained passion. She returns it readily with a tiny little moan, a breathless sound that he feels in his bones. The euphoria crashing through him translates into a whip of love and need that makes his hands shake, and he grips her tighter, but with so much restraint, like he's terrified he might break her.

In the end though, it's not her he should be concerned about breaking.

His knee gives out after a second and there's no world where he'd put the entirety of his weight on his pregnant wife's shoulder. With a muted grunt of pain that he barely feels, he sinks to the ground, putting his weight on his good knee - or better knee, as the case may be. He hears her breathy, "Oliver," but he shakes his head, whispering, "I'm okay, I'm so okay," before he presses his face to his wife's stomach.

Felicity's hand settles in his hair, and he feels her shaky breath, his head moving along with her as she sighs.

"Hi," he whispers against her belly. "Hi there…" He kisses it through the fabric of her shirt. Felicity giggles, her nails scraping over his scalp. She's so warm and perfect, holding the life of their child inside her. He never wants to move. Leaning on his one semi-good knee, Oliver grips her hips. "I love you, little one. We love you." Oliver kisses her stomach again before pulling back, just enough to smooth her shirt down before whispering, "Welcome to the world."

"Not for another eight months or so," Felicity points out, her voice husky with unshed tears. He smiles - those are eight months he so very much looks forward to. Resting his face against her again, Oliver sighs, nuzzling her as she cradles the back of his head. She leans into him, scratching along his head, making him shiver, before she fists his hair lightly for emphasis as she adds, "And he's gonna need your knee functional enough that you can carry him around, so maybe stop dropping your cane and putting weight on your leg."

"You think it's a boy?" he asks, looking up at her like she could possibly have an answer.

"I think," she says, "that it's about the size of a grain of rice with no way to tell at this point." She grins down at him, trailing her hand over his cheek with affection. There's a hint of wonder, of that beautiful joy, and love. So much love. "Do you want it to be a boy?"

"I don't care," he immediately replies, realizing as he says it that it's completely true. "Not at all. It doesn't matter to me. I just… God." He presses his face to her stomach again, kissing it, over and over, his voice breaking as he says, "Thank you."

He honestly can't process how this means so much to him, how very badly he wanted this without even really realizing it.

"Thank yourself, too, you know," Felicity points out cheekily. "You had a big part in this, mister."

"I'm going to have a big part in all of it," he promises. "Every step of the way. Anything and everything. Cravings, backrubs, footrubs. Diaper changes and three a.m. feedings and… I…" His mind blanks, because he really doesn't know exactly what pregnancy and raising an infant entails, but it doesn't matter. Because he's there. For all of it. Oliver looks up at her, winding his arms around her. "You know that, right?"

The insecurity in his voice isn't ill-placed. They've fought these demons before. And while they didn't exactly triumph the first time around, they did eventually beat them. She's still a girl whose father left and he's still a man who made the extremely hard choice to remove himself from his own son's life. But that was different. This is different. This is their child, who will grow up in this life, who won't have it thrust upon him a decade later. This is them, a couple who will fight tooth and nail for each other and their family.

And she knows that. The look on her face, soft and cherishing, is more than enough proof of that, but the smile and the little nod she gives in agreement settles the sudden quiet sense of desperation that'd been stewing in his stomach at the thought that maybe

"I know," Felicity confirms, stroking his cheek. "I know."

Her belief in him, their belief in each other, in spite of everything - or maybe because of it all - is grounding. Fortifying. It's all he's ever needed. It's all he will ever need. It's what's gotten them this far and what will carry them forward. It's what makes this whole new reality they're faced with so much more exciting than terrifying.

Despite the complications they'll undoubtedly face - the way the city only barely seems to survive thanks to their combined efforts to keep it afloat; the reality that she commands the business world while he's absorbed with politics; that this could undeniably have happened at a better time - he wouldn't change a thing for the world.

Chapter Text

"Nope. Nope nope nope. I veto this. Hard pass. No, thank you."

"I don't think you actually get a say in when-"

Oliver's voice is cut off by two things: a choked noise of disbelief from Diggle in the driver's seat and the hardest glare Oliver has ever received from his wife.

"It's my body, Oliver," Felicity snaps, her hands bracketing her swollen belly. "I get a say and I say no labor right now because I refuse to have this baby in the back of a bulletproof ARGUS van during a high speed cha- oh my god!"

Her entire body curls in on itself as another series of contractions rush through her. Pain swamps her and she stops breathing, her face twisting in a kind of agony he can barely begin to comprehend.

"Ooh!" she moans, drowning out his strained, "Easy, honey," as they hurtle down the street.

"Pretty sure that's not how it works, Felicity," Digg says in a conciliatory tone. It's quickly followed by a, "Hold on," right before he makes a hard left-hand turn, sending all of them careening to the side before the van rights itself again. The sound of squealing tires comes from behind them. Diggle glances in the mirror, a harsh, "Damn it," slipping out when he sees the cars keeping up.

Oliver doesn't have to look back to know that Diggle also sees the hint of the one-eyed face behind them.

What was supposed to be a quick recon had quickly derailed into the worst day ever. It'd started out so simple: a quiet morning of lounging in bed, celebrating a successful night of taking down a drug-trafficking ring with Oliver lying halfway down the bed, his fingers trailing over the baby bump while Felicity ate kale chips for breakfast. Things had quickly dissolved from his quiet chuckling at her laments about actually enjoying kale anything now to a harried call from Diggle.

Slade Wilson had escaped Lian Yu and was in Star City.

And he was looking for Oliver Queen and his very pregnant wife.

Oliver's memory of the words 'How's the girl in the glasses? What's her name… Felicity' on Slade's lips was something he'd long ago buried in his past. Because that's where it belonged - where Slade belonged - until he'd heard the very real concern in Digg's voice when he'd said:

"Slade Wilson escaped, Oliver. And he's here."

They'd reacted, the only way they knew how - retreat, plan and launch a full-frontal assault before he got anywhere near Felicity. Unfortunately, the only way they knew how involved Felicity being with them in the van to coordinate things over the comm, because the lair had been compromised yet again in the hits from the rogue vigilantes last week. It didn't help that Thea was still out of town helping Roy with something across the country, leaving just the three of them to face this alone.

Still, it should have been fine, because they'd done this on their own before, just the three of them. Except it hadn't been, because while Slade had physically disappeared from the world, his resources and hidden wealth hadn't, and the second he'd touched down in Star City, he'd come at them with everything he had in his arsenal.

And now…

Slade Wilson had gotten a hint of blood in the water when he'd seen the way Oliver had reacted when he'd mentioned Felicity. And now the entire ocean is swimming with it, because the girl in the glasses had not only married his nemesis, but she was also carrying his child.

To say Oliver was scared and pissed beyond words would be an understatement. And that was before Felicity started going into labor. There are enough risks in a hospital with a thousand contingency plans, but in a van and being chased by a man he'd once considered his brother but who was now hell-bent on eliminating the one thing he absolutely could not live without?

This is dangerous and terrifying and about as far from Felicity's very detailed birth plan as could exist, but none of that matters because their child has decided that now is the time to make a grand entrance into the world.

It's a little shocking, actually, how easy it is for everything else but his wife to disappear.

She's all that matters.

Always.

"Felicity," Oliver says, trying to keep her as stationary as possible as Diggle weaves his way through traffic, "you have to breathe."

"No," Felicity protests, shaking her head fiercely as the most recent wave of contractions passes. "No, see, because I've got another ten days. I have ten more days, and my bag is at home and my mom isn't here and we're in a van. A van, where there are no epidurals in sight and that is not a thing that I-"

Her words die in a pained scream as her body contorts in on itself again.

Oliver's never felt quite so helpless in his life, seeing this pain on his wife's face and unable to do absolutely anything about it.

He rubs her tense back, taking one of her hands in a tight grip as he says, "Breathe, honey."

She tries. She does. There's a hiss of air from between her clenched teeth and it's a victory all on its own… that is, before a flood of liquid gushing from between her legs quickly overshadows it.

"No," Felicity gasps, shaking her head as Oliver curses.

"John, we need to get to a doctor!" Oliver yells. "Her water just broke."

"No! That is not what just happened," Felicity denies, near sobbing. Keeping their tangled fingers against her tight stomach, she grapples at the leather of his suit with her other hand, shaking her head as if that simple act will make it all go away. "It can't be. Oliver…"

"I'm sorry," he says, meeting her watery eyes. They're wide and frantic and filled with fear. Needing to feel her skin against his, Oliver puts the tip of his finger between his teeth and yanks his glove off before cupping her cheek. "I'm so sorry, but this is happening. Right now, honey."

For a long, long second, Felicity just blinks at him, as if she didn't hear him correctly. When the words finally sink in though, she starts shaking her head again, a sob slipping past her lips. Whether it's terror or hormones is anyone's guess as that small sob is followed by a drawn-out whimper. She squeezes her eyes shut and falls against him, pressing her face into his shoulder as she starts crying.

Oliver rubs her back, scooting closer, whispering her name before he meets Diggle's eyes in the rearview mirror.

"Oliver…" Digg says in a cautious tone, already knowing what he's going to say.

"She can't have the baby in the back of a van without a doctor, John," Oliver says. Some part of him is very aware that they can't just stop, but the larger part doesn't care because it only cares about Felicity. "We need a hospital."

"You and I both know what happens if we stop right now," Digg replies. "We don't have the manpower to beat him and his goons."

The other man's calm, remarkably so, and it's fucking maddening. That feeling quadruples when Diggle suddenly whips them onto the freeway. He guns the engine, causing it to rev loudly, a very, very clear sign he has no plans to stop.

"Damn it, John-"

"Lyla's got her people on their way to help," Digg interrupts, meeting Oliver's eyes in the mirror again, "but they're a solid hour out."

"We don't have an hour!" Oliver snaps as Felicity's entire body spasms against him again, a shrill cry of pain erupting from deep in her chest. She grips his hand so hard the bones feel like they're turning to kindling. "Her contractions aren't even a minute apart."

"Then I suggest you deliver your child, Oliver," Digg tells him. All the blood drains from Oliver's face at that suggestion. "I'll keep us moving and safe, but you're gonna have to bring your kid into the world."

Him? Deliver the baby? He's suddenly a hundred times more aware of every single thing around him as he turns to look at Felicity, his mind desperately trying to wrap itself around that. His heart hammers in his chest as his lungs seize - with fear.

What if he does something wrong? What if he messes something up, what if something happens, what if…

Felicity whimpers, and that little sound is so laced with pain he can feel it. "Oliver… "

Her face is completely red now, covered in tears and sweat.

The sight of that - of his wife, the strongest person he knows - so utterly desperate and reliant on him, it snaps something into place for Oliver and suddenly there's no room for fear of the what-if's. Because they've had more what-if's than most people do in an entire lifetime, and they've triumphed. Even the times when everything went wrong, they found a way.

They can do this.

"Okay," Oliver whispers, trying to sound soothing, but it comes out on a cracked gasp. He clears his throat, taking a steadying breath before easing her back. "Okay, baby…" He moves until she's leaning back on the long cushioned bench. "There we go. Are you okay?"

It's a stupid question and they both know it. Felicity's only response is another pained whimper. She doesn't let go of his hand, not for a second. If anything, she holds it tighter as he leans over her, swaying with the movement of the van.

"It's going to be okay," he promises, as if sheer force of will could make that true. Her eyes snap open, finding his instantly. He braces himself on the seat, his other hand finding her cheek again as he stares at her, willing her to believe right along with him. "I've got you. Okay? I've got this."

"I'm so scared," she whispers, just before another contraction hits. Felicity cries out, her muscles locking up in pain, her head rocking back with the force of it.

Oliver makes soothing sounds as he brushes her hair away from her sweaty brow. "I know, I know," he says softly, leaning over to kiss her temple softly. "I know. But it's gonna be fine. Okay? We've been through worse than this."

"When?" she demands on a sob as the pain passes for a moment.

There are times. Most of them involve a lot of life or death, blood, pain of the not good kind… And now that he's thinking about it, this situation sort of does, too. Still, they have been through worse. He can think of more than a few off the top of his head, but they're the last thing in the world she needs to be thinking about right now.

She needs to focus on something good, something peaceful.

"Shh," Oliver urges, pressing his lips to her brow again. "Don't think about that right now. Think about… Think about Bali, that beach house where we fell asleep on the porch. Do you remember that?"

"Oliver," she moans, leaning her forehead against his.

"And you woke up," he continued, not even trying to fight the grin taking over his lips, "You rolled over, falling right off that swing. You had a bruise for a week."

Felicity chokes out a laugh, but it's pained and it does nothing to hide the agony creasing her brow. Oliver smoothes his hand over her forehead, erasing them the best he can. He knows it won't do much, but he still needs to try.

"We've got this, Felicity," he says. "You and me, we can do anything together, okay?"

It's not even a question. She nods fiercely as another contraction wracks her body. With a strangled cry, she tries to sit up, tries to curl in against the pain, but it's impossible. Oliver helps keep her up as much as he can, rubbing her lower back as Felicity grits her teeth, squeezing her eyes shut. He's fairly certain it does next to nothing for her, but at least it gives him something to do with his hands.

Of course, his hands are going to be very occupied in the near future.

He's the only one here who can actually deliver their child.

Oliver takes a shaky breath, wincing when she lets out another vicious cry right into his ear.

God, the contractions are so close.

As the contraction ends, Felicity whimpers helplessly at him as he helps her lean back again.

"Okay," he says. Oliver pulls off his remaining glove and yanks his hood back, ditching his mask. This is the farthest thing from ideal. He had fantastical visions of hospital rooms and wearing jeans or maybe even the hole-riddled sweats he'd teased Felicity about. It wasn't supposed to be like this, with her wearing her now-ruined dress and him covered in green leather while Diggle sped down the highway. Still, while he might not have any choice about delivering his child in his Green Arrow suit, he's not going to do it in a mask. The first time his baby sees him, it's going to see him. "Lie back a moment."

Felicity shifts with his help from where she's been half-lying, half-sitting - which can't possibly be helping her back - and reclines entirely against the seat. She props herself up on her elbows, fighting to even out her breathing as she watches him carefully. Oliver takes off her shoes and rucks up the skirt of her dress before peeling her ruined underwear off.

As he surveys her progress, she asks, "Do you have any idea what you're doing?"

The first thing he notices is that she's further along than she'd like to admit. There's no way they have time to wait for Lyla's people. He doubts there'd be time to make it to a hospital even if Slade weren't hot on their heels.

Keeping his voice as even as he can, he reminds her, "I watched all the same videos you did." He bends her knees up, draping one of her ankles over the back of the seat. When Diggle grunts out something that sounds an awful lot like, "Oh shit," before swerving, her legs tighten slightly for balance and he grips her wet thighs, keeping her still. Digg murmurs an apology, finding even ground again.

Oliver sits between her legs and she tries to prop herself up higher on her elbows to see him. He reads the desperation in her actions and moves so she can see him.

"Pretty sure all those videos did was prove how desperately I was going to want an epidural regardless of how big that needle is," Felicity says, her voice growing higher before she sucks in a deep breath, cringing as the next contraction winds up. "And, Oliver… they weren't wrong."

Her next breath is a high-pitched keen.

"Keep breathing," he tells her. He watches in some mixture of terror and awe as the contraction rolls through her, her body bearing down, trying to birth their child. He rubs her legs, keeping them up, letting her brace against him as she fights through the pain. "You're doing fine, honey, you're so strong. Just keep breathing. You've got this."

"I need drugs, Oliver," Felicity sobs as she gulps down air. "It hurts so much." She suddenly sits up, her voice rising with aggravation, "This is an ARGUS van. There have to be painkillers in here. Right?"

"Nothing that's safe for the baby, Felicity," Digg replies, his voice carrying from the front. "I'm sorry. But you can do this. I know you can. You're the strongest woman I know."

"Lyla's stronger," Felicity counters before sucking down a lungful of air as the next round of contractions start up.

"Dunno about that," Digg muses softly. "She had the epidural."

"What?" Felicity squeaks as Oliver snaps, "Not helping, John!"

"Sorry, sorry," Diggle says. Oliver doesn't miss the amusement coloring his tone before he turns serious. "It's gonna be bumpy for a second, hold on."

As the van sways slightly, highlighting Felicity's cries and Oliver's attempts at soothing her, Oliver asks, "How's, uh… how's the traffic?"

He's only asking because logic tells him to. His wife has his whole focus, but the reality of where they are and what's happening a couple dozen feet behind them isn't entirely lost on him. There's no good time for Slade to possibly overtake them, but now… now would be bad.

"We've lost them for now," Diggle advises. "I'll make sure it stays that way. You've got your hands full back there. Let me worry about the… traffic."

"Are you two suddenly afraid of saying his name or something?" Felicity demands, her voice surprisingly steady. "Slade's not Voldemort and if you're trying to talk in code, I know exactly what you're saying. I'm in labor, not an amnesiac…"

Oliver's pretty sure that last word is supposed to be 'amnesiac,' but she breaks it off in the middle, the word dying off in a sharp cry of pain as she falls back against the seat, her body clenching against her will.

Every time he'd imagined his child's birth, it had involved doctors and medicine and it'd been nowhere near this messy. Some of that is wishful thinking, some of it is ignorance, but either way, it wasn't supposed to be like this, not in his mind. Maybe she'd be cursing at him or maybe she'd break his hand or he'd get her ice chips or something.

Really though, he thinks maybe he should have figured it would be like this. Most of their big moments have been complicated by their mission or their pasts, separate and combined. He's not really sure why he'd expected this to be any different. But, now that the moment is here, he really wishes he'd paid a whole lot more attention to the doctors' roles in this whole thing.

Isn't he supposed to check how dilated she is? How exactly does he do that? He's got a thorough enough knowledge of anatomy to be certain he could find her cervix, but he's got absolutely no clue how to gauge how wide its stretched or how wide it's supposed to be. Ten centimeters sounds right, but he has no idea where he got that. He briefly considers Googling it, even though it would probably make Felicity panic a bit…

But suddenly he doesn't need to. Because they are well past that stage.

"Oh my god," he whispers in a rush of breath, ducking closer. "I think I can see his head."

"It's a boy?" Felicity asks, propping herself up on her elbows again as the contraction winds down.

"I can't actually tell that from the top of its head, honey," he points out.

"Well don't use genders then!" she snaps, her strained voice echoing through the cab. "And once you know, I want, like, a spoiler alert or something. After every damned time this baby played coy during ultrasounds, I feel like I deserve that at least."

"After this, you deserve anything and everything you want," Oliver agrees easily.

His words are drowned out as Felicity's body seizes again and his wife lets out an unearthly wail. More of the baby's head is visible than before and, while Oliver's equal parts fascinated and horrified by what his wife's body is able to do, his concern turns toward the immediate.

"John, is there a towel around here?" he asks urgently. "Purified water? Rubbing alcohol? Anything?"

"Oliver," Felicity moans as a contraction follows almost immediately on the heels of the last one. She cries out again, louder than before, so loud that Diggle has to yell back.

"Bottled water on the bottom shelf of the cabinet," he supplies. "Rubbing alcohol should be next to it." Oliver makes sure Felicity is secure for the moment before scrambling towards the shelving. "Not sure on towels, but I'd grab a q-tip to help clear the baby's nose. We don't have a suction bulb. And there's a needle and thread for stitches. Might need it if Felicity tears."

"Tears?" Felicity gasps between wails.

"Didn't cover that in lamaze class, huh?" Diggle asks with a wince. "Try not to think about it."

Despite Felicity's vocal shouts to the contrary, it's advice that Oliver has absolutely no issue with taking. He has way more immediate concerns and has no choice but to focus on the problems right in front of him.

Oliver ends up knocking over most of what's in the cabinet in his haste. He scoops up the bottled water and rubbing alcohol along with a box of q-tips before bolting back to Felicity. Dropping all of it unceremoniously, he rips off his quiver before shrugging off his jacket, leaving him bare-chested. Damn it, he could have at least worn a shirt underneath his suit - what was supposed to only be a recon mission had become so much more.

"What are you doing?" Felicity pants out.

"I don't have a towel, honey," he tells her, feeling a little desperate as he says it.

"You're going to catch the baby with your Green Arrow jacket?" she asks incredulously, trying to sit up again, but another contraction hits her, fiercer than before, and she cries out again.

God, he can see the entire crown of this kid's head as it tries to push its way free of her body.

The idea that his hands are steady enough to do anything, much less deliver his own child, is laughable. But, all things considered, he has the easy job here. He's never questioned that birthing a child would be incredibly difficult and painful, but he's also never quite imagined the level of effort and agony involved.

Propping his jacket up so it's ready, he says, "I don't really have much of a choice."

Felicity tries to choke out a laugh, but it quickly dies as she grits her teeth in pain.

"Actually, it's sorta… perfect," she gasps, the words coming out in fragments between contractions that have her huffing out pants of breath that seem like they take considerable effort. "When you think about it. Probably should've expected it, because…"

Another contraction has her screaming.

Part of him will always resent that he wasn't able to spend this moment focused on his wife, living out that picture that was in his head for the months leading up to this moment. But most of him… most of him will treasure this experience for what it is - terrifying, monumental, and so very them in every way.

"Oh… god, this is horrible!" Felicity yells.

"I need you to bear down and push, honey," Oliver says as he positions himself between her legs, ready to help their child free from her body. "You've nearly got the head out. You're almost done. Just a bit more."

"There's no way I could not push," she grits out between clenched teeth, red-faced with determination and exhaustion.

"Harder," he tells her, watching her whole body clench. She lets loose some otherworldly noise that's equal parts a scream and a sob. "Push, Felicity. Push."

"I am God damned pushing!" Felicity shouts at him on a growl.

"Deep breath," he counsels her, following his own instruction, glancing up at her. "One or two more like that and the head will be out. You're doing so great, baby. You're amazing."

"I absolutely am," she hisses before sucking in another breath and bearing down.

This time, there's substantial movement and Oliver watches with jittery wonder as their baby's head emerges entirely. He instantly moves, his hands supporting its little neck as it squirms about.

It's the most amazing thing he's ever felt.

"I have its head," Oliver tells her, well aware that the excitement in his voice makes him sound as much of a ball of nerves as he really is. The baby is slippery with amniotic fluid and he holds its neck with one hand while he pours some water over its little face with the other. It doesn't like that much and Oliver whispers an almost silent apology, but it's necessary for him to keep his grip. He wipes the water and fluid off its face as he looks up at Felicity. "You just have to push out the shoulders, honey. You're almost done."

"Is it okay?" Felicity asks in a near panic even as her body clenches again. "Ah… oh God, Oliver tell me the baby is-"

"Fine so far," he interrupts, his voice shaking. With excitement, love, fear, happiness, terror, all rolled into one. "Perfect, so perfect. I just need a couple more pushes and you can see for yourself."

That seems to give her the motivation she needs. Maybe it would have happened anyhow - it probably would have - but that's the story Oliver will tell in the years to come.

With a primal scream Felicity pulls her knees to her chest and half-sits up in the seat as she pushes with everything she has.

And their child spills out of her body into its father's waiting arms.

Leather is possibly the worst material in the world to clean anyone off with, but he does his best, wiping the gore of birth from his child's face and body as he pours more water over the baby to clear away the grime. He more feels than sees Felicity trying to move, but all his attention is on the bundle in his arms for the moment.

The baby thrashes in his arms, not quite pink-faced enough for his comfort level. Oliver pats its back for a second, fighting the very real urge to freak the hell out, all those fears he hadn't let take over a few minutes ago starting to creep back.

He holds his breath…

And then it lets loose the most beautiful wail he's ever heard in his life.

Oliver laughs, an incredulous sound as he stares at their baby, as he watches its little mouth open over and over again, a wild never-ending cry filling the van. A voice that sounds a lot like Digg's tells him to grab a q-tip and clear out its nose, and when he does, the screams are even louder.

"Is he okay?" Felicity asks, alarm coating her words as she tries to sit up. She doesn't have the energy to, though, especially as the contractions continue to work the afterbirth from her body. "Oliver, is he…?"

Oliver laughs again, looking in wonder from his child's face to his wife's.

"Spoiler alert?" he croaks. His wife nods, almost frantically. "She's fine, honey. She's beautiful."

"She?" Felicity asks on a sob. Her face crumples, tears instantly flooding her eyes as his words hit her. "It's a girl? We have a daughter?"

"We have a daughter," Oliver confirms as he pulls his leather jacket around the baby. "We have a daughter."

She opens her eyes, the ever-changing blue-grey of a newborn's gaze meets his and her little brow furrows with more expression than he'd realized a newborn could show. She's writhing, her mouth opening up again for another round of screams.

A feeling he's never felt in his life fills him.

She's perfect.

"Hey, sweetheart," he greets her, pulling her to his bare chest so that they're skin-to-skin. It seems to settle her some. "Hey there…"

She watches him curiously. Oliver cradles her close, wiping fluid off her face with his thumb. She's so tiny compared to his hand, so tiny. She wraps her tiny fingers around one of his, and he just… this is the moment he melts.

He was hers from the second he found out she was real, but this is what cements it.

This little gaze staring up at him so trustingly, so innocently. She's tinier than he ever could have imagined, more beautiful than he ever could have thought she'd be. There's a dusting of matted light-colored curls atop her head and a cute little pout to her lips as she smacks her toothless gums together, rooting about for her mother's breast.

He hasn't even cut the cord yet and he already knows he will never be the same again.

"She's perfect, Felicity… God, she's just…"

His voice breaks, which is just as well because he doesn't have any words to encompass the enormity of this moment.

"Congratulations, you two," Digg says from the driver's seat and Oliver can hear the joy in his friend's voice.

"I want to hold her," Felicity says. Some of her strength returns as she sits up, reaching for the baby in his arms. "I need to hold my daughter."

"Yeah," Oliver agrees, his voice uneven with emotion. He wipes a tear from his eye, leaving a smear of something behind. He nods to Felicity with a shaky grin. "Yeah, just let me… I need to cut the cord."

When he pauses to think about just how the hell he's going to do that, he realizes he doesn't have a damned clue. He pats his pockets and where he usually keeps his spare supplies...

Of all the times to not have a knife on him.

Undoubtedly there are scissors somewhere in the van, but he hadn't even thought to look for those before Felicity had really started pushing and now it's too late. He isn't about to go rooting around for something sharp with a newborn in his arms.

But that's okay.

He doesn't need scissors.

He already has something sharp.

This will be the part of the story that Felicity tells in the future: how Oliver didn't think twice before he pulled an arrow out of his quiver and severed the umbilical cord with it. It's fitting, she'll say, because their daughter had been The Green Arrow's child from the start and that's never a thing that's going to change.

He crawls up to sit next to Felicity as she sits up to meet him, both of them leaving an absolute mess in their wake. Oliver balances the baby on his knees and ties off the cord quickly before turning to Felicity.

Oliver carefully places her on his wife's nearly naked chest. He hadn't even noticed when Felicity had yanked her dress open, leaving the perfect spot for their daughter.

"Oh… oh, wow," Felicity chokes out in an almost whisper. She strokes the side of the baby's face as she nuzzles against her mother's collarbone in search of more skin. "Oh my God, Oliver, she's perfect. I… How is she so perfect?"

"She's you," he answers roughly, pressing his forehead to his wife's. "You were amazing. I can't even begin to tell you how incredible you were."

"Next time," she says, nodding for emphasis, "I demand an epidural." She narrows her eyes at him. "This is non-negotiable."

Oliver's pretty sure she hasn't even realized what she just said, but he sure as hell does.

There's a hundred and one reasons why they shouldn't have another child, why even this one is dangerous, if the madman currently chasing them is any indication. But he doesn't care. Because he's spent years ignoring the things he wants for himself and for his life, and the instant he and Felicity tried again, he left that behind. They'll make it work. They always do.

"Next time?" he repeats, a hopeful edge to his voice.

Felicity locks eyes with him for a moment. She runs her tongue over the ridge of her teeth before turning to stare at their daughter. Her fingers ghost over the baby's cheek as the newborn makes a little huff of noise and wriggles her face against the skin of Felicity's collarbone.

"Yeah…" she replies quietly. She presses the flap of her dress to the side, bringing her daughter to her breast. It takes a second, more than a second as Felicity and the newborn struggle with this new landscape. With a grumbled, "This is a learning curve I wasn't expecting," Felicity and their daughter line up. The baby finally latches on, making happy little grunts as she suckles. With a content sigh, Felicity looks up at Oliver. "Next time. But for now…" She turns back to their child. "For now I think I just want to enjoy this time."

Honestly, he couldn't agree more.

Chapter Text

"No, no, sweetie," Felicity says, scrambling off her chair to intercept her not-quite-six-month-old baby. She's taken to rolling off her mat and gurgling delightedly as her fingers explore the grooves in the metal floor, aka giving Felicity a mild heart attack every five minutes.

For a tiny blob of a human being who can't even crawl yet, Ellie is surprisingly agile and fast. It shouldn't be possible for her to move so damned quickly when her most efficient method of motion closely resembles an inchworm. But if there's one thing Ellie is, they've quickly learned, it's determined. Something like being physically incapable of crawling at this point isn't going to stop her if she's put her mind to reaching for something shiny, sharp or otherwise problematic.

She gets it from her father, Felicity is certain of this, and takes every opportunity to remind Oliver of it.

That in mind, the bunker is possibly the worst place in the world to have their infant and wow do they need a babysitter. No, no, they don't need a babysitter. That's a bad plan. Even if it didn't bother her to be away from her daughter so frequently - and it does - it's not like they can explain why both of their daughter's parents have to be gone during the day and at night.

Felicity swoops the little girl up, eliciting a happy squeal from her as she puts her back on her designated 'tummy time' mat in the center of the bunker. It's right behind Felicity's chair, so she can keep her close at hand, but also pay attention to the mission.

This is especially vital at the moment, considering Oliver, Diggle and Thea are out in the field.

"There we go," she says, grabbing a random toy and dropping it in reach of Ellie's pudgy little fingers. "That's better. Here, play with this until Mommy comes back, okay? Okay. Solid plan."

"Overwatch."

"I'm here, I'm here," Felicity replies, scrambling back to her chair. Her elbow rams into the top of it and it doesn't move - stupid lack of wheels on her stupid chair. It'd been the first thing to go, though, when they'd decided they could try both parenting and vigilante-ing. Their daughter's fingers really had no business being run over or getting caught in the weird plastic wheels. Baby-proofing a superhero lair is sort of a wildly impossible notion, but they'd figured out that much anyhow.

Felicity scans the screens before her, trying to reorient herself. They're all in the basement, and they're close to their target. Actually, she notes with a frown, they're right in front of it. And they're not moving.

"What…?" she starts.

"These doors are electronically locked," Oliver replies, agitation making the words come out in sharp jabs. "And electrified."

She has to bite her tongue to hold back a response he really doesn't deserve.

He's not frustrated with her, per se, and she knows it. They're both pretty exhausted these days, but still, curbing the attitude would be nice. Though she can admit she's only had a five-month old to contend with, not a small army of well-trained arms dealers who'd thought it'd be fun to take the police chief hostage.

Still.

"On it," Felicity says. The response is a little too clipped, but neither of them comment on it.

It's one of their first nights back. Like really back. Like she-needs-to-be-paying-attention-to-what-they're-doing-if-they-all-want-to-get-out-of-there-alive back. She'd had really good plans in place, step-by-step plans that had been all about reintegrating herself back into being at work - both works - at a manageable pace. The office had been easy, because her actual presence wasn't really needed in order to do her job most of the time. This, on the other hand, it isn't quite so simple.

That fact isn't helped by the way all of her plans have had to be thrown out the window because bad guys lack patience.

But with the police chief kidnapped and her soon-to-be stepfather out of town with her mother, Curtis off on a retreat with Paul, and both Artemis and Wild Dog lending a helping hand in Central City, they've basically been backed into a corner, forcing them to return fulltime to their evening jobs way ahead of schedule. All with a baby rolling around the bunker as her mother tries to make sure her father doesn't get killed.

Not a problem. It's fine. Everything is fine.

"I can do this," Felicity whispers, fingers flying over the keyboard as she hones in on the door's controls. "I can get you off."

"I hope so," Oliver replies on the other end. Had it been any other day, she might have thought he was teasing her, but it isn't any other day. It's now, and he sounds more annoyed than anything, which makes Felicity snap.

"Not you, Green Arrow. The electrified door. And at this rate, you're not going to be getting off anytime soon, and… and wow, that's so not appropriate right now." Felicity groans under her breath. "Just give me a second." A little movement out the corner of her eye has her head whipping over to see… "Ellie, not over there!"

Like the five-month-old could actually respond to her.

The mission instantly falls to the backburner as Felicity launches out of her chair again.

Ellie's little chubby fingers flirt with the edge of the raised riser in the center of the bunker and if she pulls herself over - crazy strong baby, why did she have to have Oliver's freakish strength? Playpens and cribs are useless with her parkour-prone infant - she will more than get hurt.

Felicity swoops Ellie up again, earning her another delighted gurgle. Her little limbs wiggle to and fro as Felicity runs back over to her computers, the sound of her bare feet slapping the floor highlighting Oliver's quiet, "Is she okay?"

His voice has softened, just enough for Felicity to stop gritting her teeth.

"She's fine," Felicity replies, sitting back down. She holds Ellie close, cradling her against her chest. She absently moves her hand to block the baby's fingers from grabbing her glasses to rip off her face. "I'm just glad I'm not wearing heels like I wanted to - and don't even start with me, Oliver, I don't want to hear it." The only response she gets is a quiet huff from him followed by a not-so-silent snicker from Thea and what is probably a very amused smile from Diggle. Holding Ellie at bay with one hand, she starts typing with the other. "We seriously need to baby-proof this place. Like stat."

"Stat?" Oliver repeats. She can hear the smile in his voice.

"You don't get to find that amusing," she says with probably way more force than is necessary but still.

"Sorry." Oliver shuffles on the other end, almost like he's bouncing in one place. "We need this door opened, Overwatch."

"You are not telling me anything I don't already know," Felicity replies. "Alright, let's…" Typing with one hand is next to impossible with a baby in her arms. "Hang on."

"Fe…"

He barely stops himself from saying her name and for reasons that involve a lot of no sleep and way too much stress all of a sudden, that pushes her over the edge.

"We are so having a talk when you get back here," she grits out before turning her attention to Ellie. Her voice softens for her daughter as she says, "Alright, baby girl, I need you to stay right here, okay? For just a minute. No rolling pin impersonations, okay? Just pretend you're a slug. Yay for make-believe!"

Felicity lowers her to the floor, turning her back on her stomach. Ellie instantly pushes up on all fours and tries to rock herself forwards, but Felicity sneaks her foot under her stomach, lifting her up off the floor slightly, stopping her attempt at forward motion. It also gets a happy giggle from the little girl.

It works.

With a happy noise, Felicity barely stops herself from throwing her fist in the air.

She can totally do this and help her team.

Repeating the foot motion over and over, Felicity turns back to her screens. Ten seconds later, she has the doors open and the electricity turned off. "There you go."

"That was…" Oliver pauses. She hears movement on the other side and she wonders if he's testing the door. The entire lack of him being electrified is a wonderful sign. "You're amazing."

"Compliments are nice, Green Arrow," Felicity says. "But they so do not get you off the hook for being so… pushy." He sighs on the other end, in what she knows is an apology. They're all on edge. They have every reason to be, especially Oliver, since it's his Chief of Police who's gotten kidnapped, the woman he'd fought the City Council to assign the job. Felicity knows that if anything happens to her, Oliver will blame himself more than anyone, and it's enough for her to sigh softly. It's her own version of an apology. "Get the Chief, Green Arrow, and then get your butt back here."

"On it."

The next few minutes are a bit of a blur.

Felicity's foot taps, bouncing Ellie and possibly tickling her in the process, but most of her attention is on the screens and the comm in her ear, listening to their progress. They're through the door and making their way deeper into the basement… a quick scuffle that's handled quickly…

Three minutes in, though, things go south.

Fast.

She's not sure how it happens, exactly, and even looking back later will tell her absolutely nothing other than confirming that they really, really need to get the bunker baby-proofed.

The shouts are her first indication, quickly followed by a splash of water and then shit really hits the fan.

Her screens come to life with warnings and as quickly as she'd hacked into the building's security system, she's shoved back out and the electricity securing the Chief is back on.

In a room full of water.

"Oh no, no, no!"

Felicity flips through screens and types in code as fast as she can in an attempt to regain access and get her family to safety. Thea gets out, and then Oliver with the Chief, but Diggle… Some part of her is aware that Ellie is still next to her, and it lets her put all her focus on what's currently happening, where her attention is really, really needed. Because Diggle gets shut in the room where the Chief had been held, and before Felicity can unlock the doors again, something triggers and the room starts filling with more water.

Where the hell is all of this water coming from?

Oliver's shouting in her ear, echoing Thea's alarmed calls for Diggle as they shoot arrows, trying to find a way into the room.

Panic floods Felicity and she's responding without a second thought, adrenaline surging through her as she fights the firewalls being thrown at her. Someone definitely knew what they were doing because the program is learning from each of her movements and protecting itself, which means she needs to find a way in that's permanent, at least long enough for Diggle to get out. Which she can do. She just needs a minute…

Things are going okay - as okay as they can go - when everything suddenly goes wrong.

Felicity manages to shut the power down at Evil Inc.'s headquarters again when all of a sudden her power goes down.

No, it's not her power - the lights stay on - but she's typing and nothing is responding.

"Oh crap, crap, crap," Felicity gasps, her fingers freezing. "What…?" She types, and when nothing happens again, she desperately mashes her hands on the keys but there's no response on her screens. "Oh crap, how is this even… this isn't…"

It suddenly hits her that there's no tiny warm body on her foot anymore.

Ellie.

Felicity whips around, but her daughter's not where she left her. Nope, she's gone, as gone as an infant on her own can be and that absolutely sends Felicity over the edge.

There's no crying or shouts of pain or anything weird or wrong except that her freaking child is missing.

"Ellie?" she calls out, shooting to her feet as Oliver yells on the other end, "The door, Felicity!"

Past the fact that he's just said her damned name, Felicity shakes her head, yelling back, "My computers are down!"

"What?"

"My computers aren't working," she replies urgently, her feet smacking the ground as she spins around, trying to find their daughter. The panic is quite different now because her daughter is missing. She's gone. "Oh God, and Ellie…"

"What?" Oliver replies, a frantic edge to his words. "Where's Ellie? What's wrong?"

"Digg!" Thea shouts in the background.

This night sucks, it sucks so bad, this night is going to go down in the book of suckiest nights ever, and…

And then it clicks.

Computer not working, tiny baby with alarmingly developing mobility who has a rather strong penchant for getting into things she has absolutely no business getting into…

Felicity drops to her knees, barely feeling the hard impact as she looks around. She spins in a quick circle, looking underneath all her desks, but there's no sign. She's about to launch herself up and over the edge of the riser to see if her daughter's finally pulled herself over one of the edges when her eyes catch sight of something white beneath her workstation.

And that's where she finds Ellie's little socked feet sticking out from behind a partition under her desk.

"Ellie!"

Felicity crawls over as fast as she can. She hears noise and lots of talking on the other side of the comm, but it's all background chatter because every single thing is focused on her daughter, on her little feet, on making sure she isn't hurt or electrocuted or God only knows. Her heart pounds, fear and horror and worry and guilt and a million other things racing through her head as Felicity grabs her, pulling her out…

Along with a whole trundle of wires gripped tight in the baby's fists and in her mouth.

Her mouth.

"Oh my God, did you chew through these wires?" Felicity asks, yanking them out of her mouth and hands. "Elizabeth Dearden Queen, I cannot believe you are chewing through my wires! We don't eat electronics!"

Ellie makes a very disagreeing noise as Felicity takes away her impromptu toy. The little girl angles to take them back, whining like she might be about to wail, but Felicity hauls her up instead, saying, "No, no, those aren't for you, those are so not for you." Her voice cracks with the realization of how very differently this could have turned out as she cradles Ellie against her chest. "Ellie, we don't eat electronics, we don't…"

She's okay though, she's perfectly fine. Her little fists grab at Felicity's shirt and necklace, the shiny metallic chain around her neck apparently enough to distract her baby from a full-on meltdown.

Felicity pulls her back, her eyes roaming all over her, but she's perfectly okay.

In fact, she looks pretty pleased with herself.

And she should. There's no way in the world she could have gotten into that much trouble by rolling. Which means she's crawling. Her daughter is crawling. Part of her is sad that both she and Oliver missed it, but a bigger part of her is just full-on terrified because oh dear God they aren't ready for this.

"Oh Ellie," she breathes again, shaking her head. "I'm going to… I'm going to tie you to a pole so you can't ever move, okay? You can't go anywhere, not ever."

Ellie gurgles happily in response, reaching for her mother's face as the faint sound of splashing registers over the comms.

Oh!

"John!" Felicity says sharply, her hand flying to the comm in her ear. She shoves it in, suddenly very aware that it's way too silent on the other end. "Someone talk to me. Is everyone okay?"

"We're fine, we're fine," Oliver replies. "Everyone's okay, including the Chief. And Spartan."

"Oh good." The relieved breath Felicity lets out is audible. She closes her eyes, pressing her forehead to Ellie's gently. Little fingers grasp at her face, grabbing stray strands of hair that had fallen from Felicity's ponytail. "I'm so sorry. Ellie got some of the wires at literally the worst possible time, and… Well, long story short, I'm rolling her into a blanket ball and she's not allowed to leave it ever. How did he get out?"

"A vent at the top of the room," Oliver replies. "The water got high enough that he jimmied it open before the electricity turned on."

"Oh, thank God," Felicity whispers. The reality that things could have gone so much worse makes her chest feel way too tight.

"Is everything okay over there?"

"Yes."

"Good." His own relief is evident in his tone. He sighs, and she can only imagine what it was like hearing her freaking out over the comms on top of trying to save Diggle. Felicity feels the sudden urge to hug and kiss the hell out of her husband. The absolute hell out of him. "Good."

"But," Felicity says, smiling because she doesn't have to force lightness into her tone. "Ellie's got a new trick to show you when you get back. It's a very, very frightening trick." He chuckles. "We really, really need to get this place baby-proofed."

"Stat," Oliver adds.

Felicity laughs, hugging Ellie. "Yes. Stat."

Chapter Text

It's still dark out. That's his first thought. His second thought is that it's quiet…

Blissfully quiet.

Oliver opens his eyes slowly. The room is still cloaked in night, a hint of sunlight barely starting to lift the shadows. His eyes find their alarm clock. The instant his brain process what he's seeing - it reads 4:58 a.m. - he lets out a little groan. Of happiness. It's early, way too damned early, but for the first time in what feels like months, he's up before Ellie.

He loves his daughter more than anything in the entire world, but it's hard to keep adoring her quite so much when she's developed the habit of waking them up by running into their room and throwing herself on the bed.

But not this time. Not today.

Oliver lifts his head, careful not to move too fast and inadvertently wake Felicity. He strains his ears, but only silence greets him. Their toddler's still asleep, or at the very least still in her room, which means it's just them.

It's glorious.

With a smile, he closes his eyes and falls back on the bed. He burrows back under the sheets, reaching for his wife. Oliver wraps himself around her, snuggling closer until he's flush against her. She's soft and warm and perfect. She smells like fresh laundry with hints of her body wash and Ellie's mango shampoo. He catches a bit of lingering maple syrup where it'd spilled at breakfast the day before.

She smells like home, like comfort, like happiness, and with a contented sigh, Oliver melts into her.

He can't remember the last time they'd had a moment like this. These days, the second their heads hit the pillows, they're out. It's gotten to the point where Oliver feels like he closes his eyes and opens them a second later only to find it's morning already and Ellie's staring down at him with those bright, happy, wakeful eyes of hers. Even in the rare moments where it's just him and Felicity - when they manage to take a few seconds for a kiss or a hug or a moment to talk - they're never really alone. Not anymore.

The gentle pull of sleep threatens to tug him back under, and he almost gives in. Felicity's warmth lulls him, pushing him deeper. His limbs grow heavy and his breaths even out, naturally falling in rhythm with hers.

Just a few more minutes…

He's missed this. He's missed his wife. He's missed lazy weekend mornings and spur of the moment love-making in the middle of their kitchen and late night talks that don't get cut short by their daughter's wails. Felicity's the best mother in the world, the best partner he can imagine, but he misses being able to just focus on them, to just focus on her. The scarce time they do get together is usually reserved for catching up on their day or Green Arrow business or quick sex that leads to falling into an exhausted heap immediately afterwards. He can run all night, shoot bad guys, fight until he can barely lift his arms, but nothing compares to life with an extremely active toddler underfoot.

Oliver wouldn't trade fatherhood for the world… but God, he's so glad his daughter's still asleep and not in here right now.

With a stretch that makes him moan, he presses his face into Felicity's hair, wrapping his arm more fully around her waist. Oliver tugs her closer, breathing her in, reveling in the sensation of her back against his bare chest.

She's wearing one of his t-shirts, and as he moves against her, he realizes it's ridden up around her middle.

Humming under his breath, Oliver's hand drops down, following the lush lines of her stomach. Her body's changed since she had Ellie; she holds her weight differently now and he loves it. He loves her new curves, loves how her clothes fit her now - her skirts and dresses hug her differently, highlighting her beautiful frame - and if there is one thing he regrets about the last few years it's that he hasn't taken enough time to explore her. To worship her. To re-memorize every single nook and cranny, to rediscover her body, to learn if childbirth changed a few more things.

Oliver's fingers ghost over her stomach, making her muscles twitch. He takes his time, touching her gently, his body starting to harden against hers. Sleep slowly fades into background as he wakes up more fully, all his attention on his wife.

He flattens his hand against her abdomen, savoring the feel of her soft skin against his palm.

Felicity sighs, the sound coming out more like a moan, but she doesn't wake. She shifts, though, moving closer to him, pressing her hips back into his, right against his growing hardness.

Oliver chokes out a gasp, his hips thrusting forward of their own volition against her ample backside. The movement has his erection slipping into the crease between her cheeks, sending a streak of sensation through him that takes his breath away. He does it again, and it feels even better.

"Felicity…" he whispers, pressing closer, wondering how far he'll have to go for her to wake. It sends a little thrill shooting through him. When was the last time he woke her up with his head between her legs?

It's been too damn long.

The house is still quiet and the room is dark, leaving them in their own little world, where all that matters is his wife in his arms, warm and content and… He could slip under the sheets, careful not to wake her up as he spreads her legs. He'd kiss a soft trail up her inner thigh, slowly rousing her before pushing her panties to the side…

Something that sounds suspiciously like a door opening has him stilling.

Oliver's eyes pop open and his head jerks up off the pillow.

He strains his ears, trying to listen for more.

All that greets him is silence though… that, and Felicity's soft, "She's asleep."

That makes him jump again.

He can practically hear her grinning at his reaction as she stretches, curling her face into her pillow. With a deep sigh, she settles back against him, but not before wiggling closer in a way that makes him hiss when she rubs right against him. His eyes shut again, his face falling against the back of her neck as he digs his fingers into her stomach.

The words, 'Don't stop,' are on the tip of his tongue, but he changes course mid-thought.

"I didn't know you were awake," Oliver whispers. He drops a kiss to the sensitive skin at the top of her spine. "I didn't mean to wake you up."

"Mm," Felicity moans, shaking her head. She lifts one of her legs, wrapping it back around his. She slips her hand under the sheets, her fingers interlacing with his where his hand rests on her stomach. It's clear she has zero intention of moving anytime soon as she says in a sleep-drugged voice, "You didn't. Well, you did. But not really. Ellie did."

Oliver's eyebrows fly up. He hadn't heard anything all night. "She did?"

Felicity nods. "She had a nightmare." That gets his attention - he remembers very, very vividly the last time she'd woken with a frightened scream echoing down the hallway. Before he can say anything, though, Felicity pats his hand, like she's reading his mind. She very well might be at this point. "'t's okay, we took care of it. We did a thorough search of the room, just like you showed her to. No lurking monsters. It was declared a monster-free zone and everything was good again."

"Good," he whispers. He presses his lips to the back of her shoulder, hugging her closer. The thought of his wife and daughter checking every single inch of Ellie's room warms his heart. The first time the toddler had woken up screaming in her room, it'd taken her more than a few minutes to calm down. It'd only been when they'd established a routine for checking her surroundings that she really leveled out. And it worked every time after that. Although there were some nights…"I'm surprised she didn't stay in here," Oliver adds.

"Oh…" Felicity replies with a nod. Her voice is growing huskier with each passing second, as it does whenever she's sleep-deprived. Oliver can tell her body's tempting her back to the land of dreams, and she's giving in. Felicity yawns before continuing, "She did. For a while, at least. She wasn't going to sleep without some cocoon action. She asked me to stay up and keep watch." That makes him snort. "So I did a little tweaking on that new code until she fell asleep and then I put her back in her bed. That was about two hours ago."

"What?" Oliver asks. "Why didn't you wake me, you have that board meeting later today."

Felicity shakes her head, rubbing her hand up his arm. "After last night? You were out like a rock. There was no waking you. Especially when Ellie fell asleep on top of you. You were both knocked out." The visual has him grinning; he can see it perfectly. "So…" She snuggles back against him, reminding him of another issue slowly rising between them. She isn't moving to start anything - or to continue it, rather - but the movement has him inhaling sharply anyway. "Trust me," she says, her voice fading. "She's asleep."

The sound of her sleepy voice has him heading towards resignation - he'd rather she sleep than wake her up for anything else right now, especially since she was up for most of the night with their daughter - but then she wiggles again.

And this time he knows it's just for him.

Oliver growls under his breath, his fingers digging into her stomach to pull her even closer, making her huff out a quiet chuckle.

She is tired, he can hear it in her voice… but she isn't going back to sleep.

That sends another little thrill through him. It's laced with a bone-deep need for his wife that coils at his center, making his muscles tighten with anticipation. She whispers his name, moving again, feeling him just as much as he's feeling her.

"God, Felicity," Oliver whispers, kissing her shoulder again. He slides his hand up her abdomen. "You feel so good…"

"You, too," she manages, the words coming out in a breathy sigh as he moves up her shirt - his shirt - until his fingers brush against the soft underside of her breasts. Her breath hitches, something he feels in the way her chest moves under his touch more than anything. "Don't stop…"

Oliver shakes his head in response and cups one of her breasts lightly, her nipple still soft and pliant… until his fingers brush over it.

The leg she has wrapped around him tightens, pulling him closer, a strangled gasp slipping past her lips. That sound is more than enough to heighten his own arousal - he loves the sounds she makes, and he wants to hear more. He needs to. It's been so long…

He pinches her nipple, earning him a short, shocked cry that has her instantly clamping her mouth shut when she realizes how loud she is. That doesn't stop her from arching into his touch, though, as her hand migrates towards him. She grasps his side, her fingertips brushing over the band of his boxers. When he rolls her hardening bud between his fingers, she digs her nails in, making him gasp, before she pushes her hand into his underwear. His cock swells at her touch, a surge of excitement making him thrust against her shallowly, just enough for some friction.

Oliver groans, hugging her closer, digging his face against the side of her neck. He palms her breast, squeezing it, earning him another breathy gasp.

"Oh God," Felicity whimpers, "Oliver…" She tries to turn around, tries to face him, but he keeps her still, his hand slipping back down her stomach. "Please… let me… I need you…"

That makes him groan, his body growing harder, but he doesn't let her turn. Not yet.

Felicity digs her nails into his hip, trying to urge him back, but he has other intentions.

His fingers tingle, his lips parting in a pant, as he grazes over her stomach before slipping across her bare pubic bone.

"Are you…?" he whispers, his hand sliding down further. She's not wearing any underwear. She's completely naked save for his shirt. He groans again, the words, "Oh God," slipping out as he cups her sex.

"Ooh!" Felicity keens, her back arching as he presses his fingers against her. She's already wet, her juices slipping between his fingers. He presses his hand closer, deeper, brushing over her slick little pearl and further down, pushing against her entrance. Her hips buck up against his hand with a harshly panted, "Don't stop."

He doesn't.

Oliver rubs her, running his hand up and down her wet cleft before finding her clit. Her hips jerk up and she grits her teeth to keep herself quiet. She gasps his name, her hips thrust up against his hand, and the movement has her rubbing right against his aching erection. He moans, his own hips thrusting against her as her grip on his hip tightens.

He picks up speed, pressing down harder, knowing exactly what to do to make her melt in his arms. He wants to take his time, to make her squirm and whimper and cry out for him, but he can't remember the last time they had more than a few minutes to themselves… and he just can't wait.

Neither can she.

With surprising agility considering it's still so early, Felicity pushes him back. He's not expecting it, releasing her long enough for her to turn onto her back and grab his face, pulling his lips to hers. The kiss is sloppy and wet and filled to the brim with the passion and love that burns between them.

Felicity moans against his lips, holding him close. She spreads her legs, urging him to keep going, and he doesn't disappoint. Oliver finds her wet clit again, picking up the same speed, not relenting for a second.

"Oliver," she gasps, her head falling back, her back arching with the pleasure he gives her. She spreads her legs wider, one hooking over his hip as she pulls the other up towards her chest, opening herself for him under the sheets. He takes complete advantage. Flattening his hand, he buries two fingers inside her, curling his fingers up as he presses his palm against her tender clit. "Ooh! Oh God!"

Their harsh breaths intermingle between them, dancing over each other's cheeks as he thrusts his fingers inside her. She holds his face tighter even as her head falls back against the pillow. She grips onto him like an anchor, biting her lip with concentration, her hips moving to meet him every inch of the way.

Oliver can't take his eyes off her, watching as she gets lost in her pleasure. He ignores the slow-growing burn in his wrist as he builds her up. She's stunning, so much so that it takes his breath away. Her skin is flush with arousal, her lips swollen from his kisses, small little burns from his beard littered over her chin and cheeks.

The sun is starting to rise, filling the room with a dusky glow that highlights everything about her.

"You are so beautiful," he whispers, his voice choked with awe. Her silken walls clench around his fingers at that as she whines his name. "I love you so much…"

"Yes…" She shudders, her walls tightening around him again, gasping, "Oliver…"

"So much," he continues. He kisses her lightly before peppering soft wet kisses down her jaw, to her neck. Felicity arches her neck, opening herself up to him, and he finds her pulse point. He sucks, probably a little too hard, hard enough to leave a mark, but neither of them care, not right now. The sensation has her clenching around his fingers again and he moves faster, rubbing the heel of his hand against her tender little bud. "Felicity…"

"I'm so…" she pants. "Please… God, don't stop, don't… please… I'm…"

She writhes under his touch, and he can feel how close she is… but it's not enough. She needs more.

Oliver suddenly pulls his fingers out of her, making her cry out. Her eyes fly open, angling to sit up to see what he's doing, but he doesn't let her. It's only long enough to shove her shirt up and out of the way, exposing her gorgeous breasts to his hungry eyes. Oliver leans over her, pushing his hand back between her legs. He doesn't give her an ounce of warning before he thrusts his fingers back inside her, adding a third one as he wraps his lips around a nipple.

Felicity cries out.

It doesn't take long after that.

Her back flies up off the bed as she thrusts into his hand. She scrapes her fingers over his scalp, her moans echoing through the room. He's about to pull back and tell her he loves hearing those sounds, but they don't want to be interrupted when she realizes the same thing. Felicity arches up, curling around him, shoving her face against the crown of his head to muffle her cries. It's erotic as hell, the feel of her hot pants mingling with her whimpers of pleasure as he pushes her higher and higher…

She's close - her thighs start trembling, her cries growing louder, her muscles tightening…

Oliver shoves his hand down right against her clit just as he sucks her nipple hard, pushing it up against the roof of his mouth. He curls his fingers and finds that one spot deep inside her…

The next noise she makes is barely a noise at all as she hits her peak - her entire body stiffens, her nails digging into his shoulder and neck where she clings to him, her voice falling silent. Her legs clamp around his arm, her thighs quaking, a shudder making her entire body quiver…

And then she breaks.

Felicity flies apart with a loud shout, the sound barely muffled against his scalp as she explodes around his fingers. Her inner walls clamp down on him, pulling him in deeper as she soaks his hand with her wetness. Her hips keep moving, riding the orgasm out as much as she can, her grip on him not lessening in the least.

It takes a moment for her to come back down. He keeps his fingers buried inside her, moving them gently, coaxing a few more aftershocks out of her. She nuzzles him, moaning - it's a sound that comes from deep in her chest, and it's so utterly sexy he nearly comes right then - before pushing her hand down the length of his body.

Without preamble, Felicity pushes her hand inside his boxers, finding his thick erection.

She wraps her hand around him, gripping him tightly, so tightly he sees stars.

"Oh… God," Oliver groans, falling against her. He shoves his face into her chest, her breasts swaying as she moves her wrist up and down, squeezing her hand at the very tip of his cock… "Felicity…"

He's going to come right there if she doesn't stop.

"Oliver," she whispers, in that husky, sleep-heavy voice that makes him even harder. "I want you inside me."

He nods rapidly, pressing his fingers deeper inside. The move has her groaning, her walls clenching around him…

But not yet.

No, he wants her to come again. He needs her to, because he knows the second he's inside her, he won't have the self-control to stop himself from pounding into her. That thought alone has his cock swelling with need. His hips move with more urgency to meet her hand, thrusting into her palm.

"Oliver… please…"

He almost gives in.

Almost.

Oliver sits up, pulling his hand free of her and gripping her wrist to yank her hand out of his boxers.

"Wait…" Felicity pushes herself up, shaking her head in disagreement. "I want…"

But she's still half-asleep. If there's one thing he can absolutely, one-hundred percent use to his advantage, it's that his wife is not a morning person. He's so much faster and he slips away from her, pushing the sheet up just enough to slip underneath it. He curses as his erection brushes over the mattress - his boxers are thin, so very thin, and he's feeling everything. Especially when her legs move, grazing him.

"Oliver… what…?"

He spreads her legs, tenting the sheet as he slips between her thighs.

"Oh God, you don't…" Felicity gasps, her hands flailing to find his head, but he's already leaving messy kisses along her inner thighs. He tastes the remnants of her first orgasm and he wants more.

He doesn't give her a moment's respite before his mouth is on her.

Felicity lets out a wild gasp, falling back on the bed, her hips arching up against him. Oliver grabs her hips, nailing her to the back down to the bed as his tongue flicks over her swollen clit.

She's so wet, soaking his chin, and she tastes good…

He groans, and the vibrations rocket through her.

"Oliver," she whimpers as she finds his face through the sheet. "Oliver… please, I don't… I can't…"

She tries to sit up, her hips jerking unevenly, but he doesn't give her the chance. She'd just woken up, and she'd just come so beautifully; he knows her limbs are lethargic, her mind still trying to catch up with him. There are times when he has to bite his tongue in aggravation to keep himself quiet when his wife's entire lack of being a morning person comes out, but then there are times like this where he loves it.

Oliver flattens his tongue, rubbing it right against her tender flesh.

Felicity whimpers, her sex clenching against his chin as he pushes her towards a second release. She falls back, surrendering to him, to the sensation filling her, her hands clamping over her mouth to keep herself quiet as he sucks on her. There's a new desperation to her whimpers as the air in the room grows hotter, matching the heat in her skin. It's positively stifling where he's buried under the sheets, but he doesn't care.

All he cares about is her, making her feel good.

He concentrates on the right side of her clit, rubbing his tongue against it in quick even movements that have her building quickly, just like he wants. The sun is rising, filling the room, alerting him to how much time is passing. They're in a race against the clock, and he wants to enjoy every bit of it. He wants to give her as much as he can, wants to see her in a puddle of pleasure.

"Aah!" Felicity shouts, the sound still way too loud even behind her hands as her thighs clamp around his head. He sucks harder and her hips thrust up as she catches the new wave of pleasure cresting inside her…

Before he can question the need that suddenly shoots through him, Oliver pulls back and crawls up her body.

Felicity chokes out his name on a gasp, knowing immediately what he's doing. She spreads herself for him, opening her arms. He pauses long enough to wipe his face with the back of his hand before settling over her. Oliver shoves his boxers down, just enough to free his length, and when it rubs against her wetness, slipping over her slick flesh, he shudders, wrapping her up in his arms. She curls her body around his, lifting her legs and Oliver pulls his hips back just enough.

He finds her entrance with the ease of years and years of practice, and thrusts home.

"Aah!" she cries before pressing her face into his neck, muffling the sound.

She's so warm, and she feels so good.

Oliver pulls out and thrusts back in, pushing his hips hard against hers. He grits his teeth, staving off his own pleasure, trying to concentrate on hers. He wants her to come again, he wants to feel her inner walls clamping down around him, sucking him in deeper. There's nothing else like it, the feeling of her losing control, urging him over the edge himself… With each thrust, he angles his hips to brush over her clit. He pushes himself up on his toes, towering over her as he moves.

It doesn't take much and thank God for that.

Felicity digs her nails into his shoulders, clinging to him for dear life. Her skin is damp and he distracts himself by pressing wet kisses to her temple and down her cheek, reaching her ear. They curl into each other, every inch of him focused on the pleasure he feels building…

Her cries are quieted in his neck but they suddenly spike when another orgasm rips through her and then she's coming again.

It's perfect.

"God, Felicity," Oliver moans, holding still for a second as she falls to pieces once more. Her inner walls clamp down around him, and he hisses, his hips jerking involuntarily. She's a trembling mess underneath him, whispering his name over and over. Her voice is uneven, shaking, babbling incoherently as she clings to him. He doesn't realize she's whispering, "I love you," over and over until he hears himself saying it back just as fervently.

It's only when she starts kissing his neck, her hands moving up into his hair, that he starts moving again. He hisses when he pulls out - she's so incredibly wet that moving is effortless.

He thrusts back in, finally letting himself go.

With a loud groan, Oliver wraps himself around her as much as he can, wanting to crawl right inside of her. He moves with deliberate purpose, losing himself in the feel of her body around his. Felicity whispers against his temple, cradling him in her arms, and the combination of her pleasure-laced voice whispering loving words, her warmth pressed around him, all of it pushes him higher.

He's so close, pleasure coiling at the base of his spine…

Their bedroom door suddenly swings open with a bang and a loud, happy, "Morning, Momma! Morning, Daddy!" rings through the air.

"Oh God," Felicity gasps. They both freeze, as if not moving will mean Ellie won't see them. It's the stupidest thing ever though because she definitely sees them. "Frak."

"You said she was asleep," Oliver whispers urgently.

"She was!" Felicity replies, her voice strangled.

When Ellie doesn't say anything, they both turn to look at her.

Never in his life will he ever be so grateful for their bed sheets as he is right then because they are, thank God, covering everything.

She's got her head tilted, her brow furrowed. "What are you guys doing?" she asks.

It's such a perfectly innocent question.

They've always been so damn good about Ellie never catching them. They were always very aware of their surroundings and knowing when they could and when they couldn't, because their daughter catching them having sex wasn't exactly high on their list of things they wanted to happen. They'd been so good about it.

"Hugging," Felicity blurts, pushing on Oliver's shoulders. He grits his teeth, stubbornly not wanting to leave her body just yet - for God's sake, his daughter's right there, what is wrong with him - but when she pushes again, he finally does. He slips out of her, and he more feels than hears Felicity's gasp at the sensation as he does. She scrambles to pull her shirt back down as she says, "Daddy's just giving Mommy a special hug, that's all."

Special hug.

Oliver barely keeps himself from snorting.

"Yep," he adds, his voice strained. He grimaces, covertly tugging his boxers back up and over his wet dick. It's still very hard and oh so sensitive. He'd been so close. "Just… hugging, sweetie. Just hugging." His voice drops as he adds, "Oh, what I wouldn't give for you to have waited a few more seconds."

Felicity nudges him with a little too much force.

"I want a special hug!" Ellie says, leaping onto the bed. Felicity manages to tug the sheet up to keep her naked lower half covered in time for Ellie to launch herself into her arms.

"So does Daddy," Oliver whispers, falling back on the bed. "Mommy's already had two."

"Oliver," Felicity hisses, whipping her hand out to smack his shoulder.

"What, it's true," he replies and she just shakes her head.

"Can I have two, too, Momma?" Ellie asks where she sits in her lap, staring at her mother with bright eyes.

Her eyes widen in mortification. "Uh…"

"And can Daddy, too?"

Felicity closes her eyes with a whispered, "Oh my God."

Oliver can't help but chuckle, both at the innocent question and Felicity's response. He covers his face with one hand, the other yanking the sheet out from around him. He knows now that Ellie's awake and up that she's ready to dive into her morning routine, which unfortunately doesn't include going back to her room so Mommy and Daddy can have some more quiet time. Even though he really, really wants that quiet time, he knows their daughter better than that. She's stubborn and precocious, just like her mother, and just as antsy and in need of movement as her father is. It's a combination that used to delight him, until he'd realized it meant he needed to match her nearly every step of the way to keep her out of trouble.

Still, he might not be able to finish making love to his wife this morning, but he needs to do something or he's going to go crazy.

Sitting up, Oliver's about to say he needs a moment when Felicity nudges him. He opens his eyes to find hers on the very evident tent in his boxers, the one that's wet and way too obvious. Thankfully Ellie's facing Felicity and he sits up, tugging the comforter over his lap. Even that slight movement has his eyes slipping shut as it settles over him. He has to clench his jaw to keep his gasp in.

Oh yes, he needs a moment.

Before he can say a single word though, Ellie's already firing off. "Can we make the rainbow-sprinkle pancakes again, Daddy? The star-shaped ones! The ones that look like firecrackers!"

"Because that's what you need," Felicity replies for him, tickling their daughter. "More sugar!"

Ellie falls over in a fit of giggles, and the movement makes the bed shake. He's sensitive enough that he feels all of it. But it's easier to push down this time as he watches his girls - Felicity's very flush for wonderful reasons, her hair a tangled mess. Ellie's isn't much better, her long wavy hair covering her bright blue Rascal the Raccoon pajamas.

"But I like sugar," Ellie says.

"Oh we know, Ellie-bug," Oliver says, grinning. To say she loves sugar is an understatement. They'd learned pretty quickly when and how to say no when she turned those dangerous blue eyes on them as she asked for ice cream 'just this once.' But still, when she did, it was memorable. And it was usually always because of Thea and Roy. Or Donna and Quentin. "But how about we make something else? How about you help me make some French toast?"

Ellie's voice is laced with excitement as she asks, "With powdered sugar?"

"I'm thinking Daddy needs to have a nice long chat with your Aunt Thea about why it's not very nice to feed boat-loads of sugar to her niece."

"Why?" Ellie asks with a childish innocence that makes him smile.

Oliver reaches over, patting Felicity's leg through the sheet before she can reply. "I think it was your stepfather this time actually. Pretty sure he does it to spite us."

"You," Felicity corrects. "He does it to spite you."

"Spitting is naughty," Ellie says, settling back against Felicity's pillow. She stretches her legs out, getting very comfortable where she lays with her mother. "And gross. Gramma says so."

"And she's very right," Felicity agrees. "It's very gross. And naughty."

"But my spit is really pretty when I eat rainbow sprinkles!" Ellie says. Felicity makes a face and Oliver covers his mouth to hide his laughter. "Remember, Daddy, I ate all the green ones and all my mouth was green! It lasted eight hundred years."

He definitely remembers and it makes him laugh harder. He still has the pictures of her wide-open mouth on his phone; she'd been so proud of her green teeth.

"And when exactly did you let our daughter eat a bunch of green sprinkles?" Felicity asks him.

"I wasn't s'posed to tell you," Ellie adds.

"Oh, is that so?"

"And on that note," Oliver interrupts. He ignores the way Felicity's eyes are narrowing at him and instead leans over to her. He purposefully kisses the top of Ellie's head before doing the same to Felicity, keeping the comforter pressed against him before he falls back. "How about you ladies head downstairs and I'll be down in a minute?" He winks at Ellie. "Maybe if you ask Mommy nicely enough, we can have strawberries on our French toast."

"I love strawberries!" Ellie exclaims.

"Don't think I'm forgetting about this anytime soon, mister," Felicity says as he climbs off the bed gingerly, instantly turning his back to them.

He winks at her over his shoulder. When Ellie adds, "Yeah, mister!" in her idea of a stern voice, it makes him laugh.

Oliver steps into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. He pauses, listening to the gentle rustle of the sheets outside and soft conversation between mother and daughter. Normally he'd be able to hear everything - all he has to do was tilt his head towards the door, lean a little closer. It's near impossible for those two to keep their voices down, but at this very moment, that's not really an option. Because while his erection had started to fade a little bit, that doesn't change the fact that he'd been very close to coming, and that he's suddenly very much alone...

With a perfectly good hand, the taste of his wife still on his tongue and the image of her cresting beneath him seared into his memory.

Groaning under his breath, he steps up to the sink, scrubbing his face before readjusting himself. Wrong move. His dick instantly grows harder, swelling under his touch and he wonders how quickly he can swing a shower and be downstairs. Just a few minutes, that's all it'd take. It's like he'd be starting from scratch, he'd just been about to…

The bathroom door opening behind him makes him jump and Oliver spins, ready to tell Ellie he needs a few minutes and she needs to knock before barging in. It's damn futile to keep track of the number of times she's walked in on him going to the bathroom or in the shower.

But it's not Ellie.

"Felicity, what…?"

She shakes her head, closing the door behind her, the sound of the television on in the background disappearing with a gentle click of the lock.

And then she's on him.

Felicity steps up, biting her bottom lip, her glasses now on - and holy God, she looks absolutely sinful right now. Her hair is everywhere, those tiny beard burns from his kisses decorating her chin, her skin a dusky pink with arousal, her eyes bright behind her glasses.

All of it topped off with his t-shirt that she's still wearing… and nothing else.

He can't bite back his needy whisper of her name.

"We…" Felicity starts, stepping into his space. Her hand cups him through his boxers and he moans. Her mouth covers his just in time before he gets too loud. She kisses him, as if they'd never stopped, and just like that his need and arousal comes back in a tidal wave that nearly knocks him on his feet. He falls back, colliding with the counter, taking her with him. Oliver wraps his arms around her, tugging her close, his hips jerking up into her hand where it's nestled between them. He kisses her with a ferocity that makes his toes tingle, one that makes her melt in his arms. After a moment, Felicity pulls back with a gasp, looking up at him from under her eyelashes. Her lips are swollen and his mind jumps to them wrapping around his hardness. "… are so going to talk about the green sprinkles."

He frowns in confusion. "What?"

Right. Sprinkles. Green… sprinkles…

Felicity smirks, getting obvious pleasure from his inability to understand what she's talking about, and then she's kissing him again.

Oliver returns it readily, slipping his tongue into her mouth, seeking hers out as he digs his fingers into her hips. Her fingers move against him, and he whimpers, pulling her closer.

God, if she doesn't stop, he's going to come and he really, really wants to be inside her… although the question of whether they have time for that is relevant.

"Yes," Felicity gasps against his lips, nodding. She lets him go, and his face falls, but she's not going anywhere. She spins them, keeping him close before she hops up on the counter. She spreads her legs, tugging him close with a whispered, "Inside me."

So he'd spoken all of that out loud. Apparently this is what happens when you live with someone for years and are around all of their quirky habits on a daily basis.

But right now, Oliver really doesn't care about that because Felicity's pulling her shirt up - his shirt; it could be a million years from now and he'd still be turned on to the point of pain at the sight of her in his clothes. Her thighs are damp from her orgasms, her sex wet and swollen. He groans, damn near ripping his boxers in his haste to get them off.

The second he's free of them, she grips his aching erection, guiding him towards her. He shuffles closer, his hands finding her hips. She angles back, both of them having more than enough practice on this very counter to know exactly what position is needed, and presses him against her entrance.

He thrusts deep inside her, filling her all over again.

Felicity gasps, her head falling back, her jaw dropping. Her hands fumble to hold onto him as he pulls out and thrusts back in, sliding into her effortlessly. Some part of him, somewhere, wants to make her come again, wants to chase that gorgeous feeling of her inner walls contracting around him, but he's too far gone, and she feels way, way too damn good.

And she knows it.

She wraps herself around him, one hand sliding into his hair, cupping the back of his head, urging him closer to her. His hips move faster, every bit of him focused on the feel of her around him as her lips find his ear. She whispers his name, urging him to come inside her, moans interlacing her words. It pushes him higher, soaring, and he barely keeps himself quiet by pressing his lips against her.

And then her breathing stutters, her voice hitching.

He holds her tighter, wanting to do more… but his pleasure's on him faster than he can react. The white hot burn at the base of his spine coils tightly, so tightly he nearly bites his tongue. Oliver buries his face in the warm curve of her neck, muffling his growing cries as he pounds into her. He's so close, the edge fast-approaching, chasing that delicious explosion…

Oliver comes with a rough shout, pressing his face as deep as he can against her throat, spilling into her, his orgasm shooting through him. He whimpers her name, over and over, clinging to her, holding on as he rides the wave of pleasure taking his breath away until he falls against her.

Their combined harsh breathing fills the room as they both come down.

He feels the gentle tug of her inner walls squeezing him rhythmically, making his hips jerk at the sensation, and he wonders if she came again.

Felicity moans with contentment, nuzzling his face.

"Better?" she whispers.

Oliver chuckles, and he feels the curve of her lips as she smiles against him. "Much. Much, much… much better." He pulls back just enough to give her a messy kiss. "I love you."

"Mm, love you, too."

And that's when they hear the rattling of the doorknob.

Oliver groans, dropping his head back into the hollow of her neck, falling against her again as Ellie asks them, "Can I come in?"

"You really need to teach your child patience," he whispers.

Felicity smacks his shoulder with a disbelieving laugh. "We both know she got her stubbornness from you."

"Ha!" he snorts.

"Oh my God," Felicity mutters, pushing on his shoulder just enough for him to turn and look back.

Ellie's little fingers are sticking through the bottom of the door, wiggling like she thinks if she can move just enough she'll magically appear on the other side.

"Ellie, go watch more television," Oliver calls through the door. "We'll be right out."

"But WordGirl's over!"

"Ellie."

"Okay," she huffs on the other side, and her fingers disappear. They hear her making her way back to the bed and the sound of her crawling up onto the mattress. Oliver turns back to his wife, ready to give her another kiss when Ellie yells, "But Winnie the Pooh is on and I don't like the kangaroos!"

"Yeah, that's definitely not me," Oliver says, kissing her just as Felicity chuckles.

Chapter Text

"It's too early for this. Isn't it too early for this?"

Oliver's wife is a bundle of nerves, which isn't entirely unusual these days. It's not just concern this time, though - agitation underlies every syllable. She taps her fingers against the back of his hand, shaking her head where she stares absently out the window. He can see the thoughts whirling through her mind as she answers herself.

"I don't think she's old enough," she murmurs as the limo pulls to a stop.

He's well aware that pregnancy brings out some of her quirks in full force, and her tendency to spiral into a babble is one of them. He learned a long time ago that sometimes those trains of thought go completely off the rails, and he doesn't always quite follow her trail of logic. But sometimes he does, like right now.

And he's right there with her.

"I didn't think so either." Oliver opens the door before Frank can, stepping out in one smooth motion - as smooth as he can, that is, considering the wear and tear he subjects himself to is starting to take longer and longer to heal from. He scans their surroundings, mentally checking off everything in sight before turning back to her. He offers Felicity a hand out of the car. "But apparently we're wrong."

She's big enough that she grudgingly accepts his aid.

Felicity's carrying their son right up front, and it's thrown her balance off since somewhere around her fourth month. She lets out an aggravated huff as he helps her out, having to pull herself up by gripping the side of the car. While she might occasionally bemoan her size and gripe about the inevitability of stretch marks, he quietly loves it. And he's sure it shows in the soft smile he feels on his face as he wraps his other arm around her waist, steadying her, his hand finding her stomach for a split second.

He does that a lot these days. Sometimes he just needs to touch her - usually her beautifully extended belly - just to make sure.

After those months where everything was so touch-and-go, after she'd spent six days in a coma with a head injury and an unknown poison in her system, after waking up with his own nightmares of what'd happened and watching his daughter do the same, after so much anxiety-ridden waiting on ultrasounds and amniocentesis results…

Having the evidence that his son is still here, right in front of him, it's… It's everything. That he's growing and thriving in spite of what happened, what he's already been through - and not even out of the womb yet…

Well, Oliver simply loves that. How could he not? And the way he shows that is with loving touches and soft words. With long embraces and happy smiles. With nights spent talking to his son while Ellie and her mother fall asleep, the little girl contorted between them so her feet press into his chin where his face is lined up with Felicity's stomach.

It's a miracle, and he damn well is going to touch that miracle and reassure himself that it really happened, as often as possible.

Felicity takes a moment to steady herself. Her grip on his hand is most definitely more than a gesture of affection as she wobbles on her high heels - the ridiculous high heels she insists on wearing while not-quite-eight-months pregnant. He'd made the mistake of suggesting she give them up exactly once. Considering how that'd gone down, he has the sense not to bring it up again. The temptation is still there, although he'd be lying if he didn't admit to loving the way she clings to him for support while pretending she doesn't need it.

He will always, always be there, and he loves that she knows that.

"I mean," Felicity continues, slightly more breathless than a moment ago as she releases her grip on him. She stretches, settling her palm against the swell of her stomach. Oliver's hand automatically drifts to the small of her back where he knows her muscles are over-taxed and hard as a rock. This pregnancy has been hard on both of them - not that Ellie's had been exactly easy either - but Nathaniel, he's… well, his son is a challenge. "What could she possibly have done? Drawn outside the lines?"

Oliver presses his thumb against a solid knot of muscles that's going to require a whole lot more attention than he can offer from the sidewalk in front of Queen Incorporated. "I don't think they call parent-teacher conferences for coloring outside the lines, honey," he says.

A quick blur from the corner of his eye has one hand freezing and the other moving to pull her closer as he looks back…

It's just Frank closing the door behind them. The driver offers him a warm smile, to which Oliver gives a small grateful nod.

"Well then what did she do?" Felicity demands. He meets her gaze, pressing his thumb into the knot again as she starts waving a hand around. "She's three, Oliver. And she's pretty much the best person in the world, so they can take their 'concerns' and shove them where the sun don't shine." That has him huffing out a chuckle, which seems to amp her up more. Her voice rises as she continues, "I'm serious, Oliver! I'm already offended that we're being called in and I don't even know why yet!"

He couldn't hide his smile even if he wanted to as his wife gets fiery and incensed on their daughter's behalf.

"This is ridiculous."

"I know, sweetheart," Oliver says, kissing her temple, letting his lips linger for a moment. It's a move that would usually placate her, at least enough for her to take a deep breath and reel some of the insanity in, but that isn't happening right now. She's in full-on hormonal Mama Bear mode today and as she leans into his lips with a little too much force, he's pretty sure there's nothing he can do to dial that back.

He almost feels bad for Ellie's teacher.

Almost.

"Our daughter is a goddamned angel," Felicity insists, her voice taking on a tone that's usually reserved for one place. She's going to go all CEO on this teacher, he realizes. He can already see it happening. Some of it is probably residual fight, since she'd been in the middle of a hostile and incredibly important meeting with Kord Industries when the daycare had called, but most of it is definitely extreme loyalty to their daughter. She isn't done. "And if this so-called 'teacher' doesn't know that, I think maybe we need to look for another daycare."

"Felicity, we literally own this daycare," Oliver reminds her. "It's QI's daycare. We own about seventy percent of the company, last I heard, and you're the CEO."

"Well, maybe I need to have a look at restructuring."

She says it with an aloofness that he knows she sometimes has at work, but never at home.

"Honey, you can't fire Ellie's preschool teacher," Oliver advises her quietly.

"I'm pretty sure you'll find I can," Felicity replies, with just enough snap that he almost believes her.

"No," he says, and it's the very worst thing to say. Her eyes widen, ire filling them - at him - and he instantly backpedals, holding a hand up in placation. "Ellie loves Miss Susan," he points out. "We were the ones that hired her after you interviewed possibly everyone in the tri-state area who was remotely qualified. She has a doctorate in early childhood development, a masters in childhood psychology and fourteen years of experience."

He leaves out that firing a preschool teacher for being concerned about their three-year-old is a surefire way to kill his reelection campaign. It's already off to a rocky start, he doesn't need the shove into a full-on collapse.

Felicity narrows her eyes, pointing at his face as she says, "That's dirty, using me against me." Poking him in the chest, she turns to make her way towards the office building. It doesn't escape either of their attention that she doesn't storm away from him - she doesn't stray far, keeping him at her side. He follows her lead, his hand still supporting her back. "And you'd think with all that experience that she'd recognize that Ellie is amazing and perfect and that it's totally okay to draw outside the lines." She gestures at him for emphasis. "Drawing outside the lines is a good thing, Oliver. It's a sign of creativity and intelligence."

"How about we see what this is actually about before you start calling HR," Oliver suggests, holding the door open for his wife. "Okay?" She damn near growls under her breath as she steps through the door. He follows, sidling up next to her again. He leans in so only she can hear as he adds, "And maybe keep in mind that she knew she was calling the CEO of the company she works for and the city's mayor for this conference. That had to be difficult for her."

He gets through to her with that. Some of the fight drains away, her shoulders falling slightly. She's too empathetic of a person to not see the truth behind his words. He wonders if she's remembering when she went to Walter all those years ago, with what she'd found out about the Tempest. It's likely, he decides, because she suddenly sighs, and nods with a barely audible, "Yeah."

As they slowly make their way through the lobby, she reaches for the hand resting on her back and twines their fingers together. He misses the feel of her spine against his fingertips, but the soft warmth of her hand is almost as good.

Oliver pulls their joined fingers up to his lips to kiss the inside of her wrist.

It earns him a soft little smile.

No one bats an eye at the display of affection. The QI lobby is filled with the typical post-lunchtime bustle of workers, but everyone's used to their presence at this point. And it's not like he's often not touching his wife when they're in each other's proximity. He'd been blatant before, but now, after everything that'd happened, he finds he's even more tactile, seeking out the reassurance of her skin, her warmth, most of the time without even realizing it until the moment's passed.

She isn't much better, closing the minimal distance between them and leaning over as much as she can without losing the precious little balance she has to rest her head against his shoulder.

He nods to a security guard - Nancy - who gives them an almost maternal smile as she buzzes them through.

"Stop worrying so much," he tells her as they make their way down the hall toward the company's daycare facilities.

That's at the core of his wife's indignation and he knows it. For both of them to be called during the middle of the workday - in the midst of incredibly important meetings at that - and be asked to come in as soon as possible? To be assured that Ellie is perfectly fine and it isn't an actual emergency? Well, that raises more than a few questions.

He's worried, too.

Felicity's shoulders stiffen. "We're parents, Oliver," she replies crisply. "Worrying is part of our job."

She's not wrong. Especially with lives like the ones they lead.

Oliver thought he'd understood fear and worry during his time on the island, when he'd been a pawn for Waller, when he'd turned to the Bratva after escaping her clutches. And that doesn't even touch on what he'd experienced when he'd gotten back to his city, when he'd taken on a mantle with a cost he knew absolutely nothing about.

None of that comes close to the constant gnawing concern and fear that comes along with having a child.

But that's not what she needs to hear right now, so he squeezes her fingers instead as the hallway gives way to the daycare section of QI.

The walls are made to look like Lego blocks, all primary-colored basic shapes that only break for displays of preschool-aged art behind glass. One of the things both of them had been clear about from the beginning was that Ellie was not to receive special treatment just because her mother owns the company that employs both her teachers and all of her classmates' parents. This means her drawings aren't the only pieces displayed on the walls, but it still makes up a good portion of it. Ellie loves to draw, after all, and she can definitely be a show-off.

Oliver knows his daughter is fine. He knows that. It would have been a very different phone call otherwise. There isn't any blood or mortal injury and she isn't missing - thank God. But still, when he catches sight of their three-year-old through the window into her classroom, the knot of worry that's been living in his stomach since he heard Miss Susan on the other side loosens.

He lets out a quick sigh of relief, and it's Felicity's turn to squeeze his hand. He hadn't been hiding it as well as he thought, apparently.

Ellie's fine. She's absolutely fine. She's not crying or hurt or sitting in the time-out chair. She's by herself at a small table, a neon green crayon in hand and a look of fierce determination wrinkling her brow as she chews on her upper lip.

The sight melts his heart. Ellie alone can do that to him. It's different with Felicity, different than it will be with Nate. He knows that. Because Ellie is his little girl, his baby, and their bond has always been unique. It's something he'd never realized he needed until he had it.

Before they reach the classroom door, Felicity asks, "Where are the other kids?"

Oliver starts at that, his eyes flying around the room. She's right. Ellie's the only child in class. It's just her and Miss Susan, who sits nearby with an unreadable expression on her face that doesn't sit right with Oliver. He doesn't care for it, really, especially because it's just them.

His eyes scan the room. Where the hell is everyone else?

The second Oliver pulls open the classroom door, Ellie's head shoots up.

Pure delighted glee covers her face as she cries out, "Daddy! Momma!" Ellie drops her crayon and rushes across the room, launching herself at Oliver's legs. She wraps herself around one of them with an excited, "You're here!"

Oliver instinctively scoops her up, pressing a kiss to her soft little cheek as Felicity runs her hand through Ellie's increasingly untamed mop of blonde curls.

"Hey, baby," he greets her. He looks around again, checking every nook and cranny in the room, but once again, he sees it's just them. It makes the fact that everything seems so normal all the stranger. He smiles at the toddler. "How's your day been?"

"It's okay," Ellie answers with a one-shouldered shrug. She purses her lips into the beginnings of a scowl. "Justin called me a liar and I didn't like that. I don't lie. Lying's naughty."

He's about to agree with her - lying is very naughty, and it's something they've harped on since the beginning - but a tremendous sigh from Miss Susan cuts him off. And dear God, Oliver wishes he could just call her Susan, but Ellie's constant chatter about Miss Susan has cemented that in his head. It leaves him feeling like he's the one being called to the principal's office all over again as both his and Felicity's eyes fly to the teacher. Her lips are pinched tightly as she watches Ellie with blatant concern.

"You have a very active and vibrant imagination, Ellie," Miss Susan tells her.

"It's not imagination!" Ellie says, her voice instantly spiking. She makes a tight little fist and throws it down, and Oliver's pretty sure she'd have hit it on a table if she could. Or at the very least she'd be stomping her foot if she were on solid ground instead of in his arms. The change in her is stark as she whips from happiness at seeing them to a heady bit of anger. "I don't lie, Miss Susan! Tell her, Daddy. Tell her I'm right. You shoot the bad guys and make it so they can't hurt people no more."

Oh. Dear. God.

Oliver's jaw drops and he freezes stock still. He stops breathing. He stops thinking. His stomach hollows out at the realization of what his daughter just said. At the very specific words she used. At the notion that she just said what he thinks she just said.

Judging by the strangled little noise that comes from Felicity and the way she suddenly digs her nails into his side, he thinks she's only faring slightly better.

After how many years of successfully concealing his dual identity, has it really just been outed on the playground?

He tries to speak - and by tries he means he tries to form words - but his lips are numb as he stares dumbly at Miss Susan.

"I drawed him a picture, even," Ellie says. Oliver's heart leaps into his throat, shocked eyes flying to hers. Oh God, that's so much worse. "It's of the bad man who hurt momma after you beated him. Remember, Daddy? I didn't have time to finish you yet," she continues, and some part of him wishes he had the ability to even shh her, but he doesn't even have that as she throws her hands up, illustrating her words. "You're standing on top of him and you're smiling, 'cause he's gone and he can't hurt us no more!"

He's completely and utterly speechless and for a split second, he's pretty sure the air's turned to something less like oxygen and more like quicksand that slowly fills his lungs. They've never lied to her, never. It was something both he and Felicity had agreed on from the very beginning - no more lies, not to each other and not to their children. And while they'd been careful not to say specific things around her and to make sure she didn't see anything overt, some bits and pieces still seeped through. Obviously.

Like the fact that her father is the Green Arrow.

"I drawed you for him, Daddy, because Justin didn't believe me that you beat the bad man!"

She's so proud. She's so exceedingly proud and he has absolutely no words to reply with, something she very quickly picks up on, because he doesn't do this; he doesn't hesitate like this. But he has to, because of where they are and who they are and what their daughter is saying in public - rather, drawing - and…

He watches the confusion happen, the puzzled look that washes over her features.

Ellie's brow furrows, her mouth turning into a little pout.

"I don't lie, Daddy," she says again. She grabs the collar of his jacket, tugging on it as she turns back to her teacher. "Tell Miss Susan. I don't lie. Tell her! I'm not lying. I'm not naughty. I'm not!"

"Uh…" he manages in a choked voice. He rubs her back and he hopes she doesn't feel him shaking.

How the hell is he going to explain this? There's nothing he can say. He can't possibly out himself as the Green Arrow to his daughter's preschool teacher. But he also can't say Ellie's lying or making things up, because she's not. He can't do that to her, and he won't. Especially not about this, not about something that's so big in their lives. But… oh God, he has no idea how to handle this. At all.

Oliver clears his throat, whispering, "Sweetheart…"

When he doesn't back her up after a second, Ellie's face shutters.

That absolutely guts him.

Amazingly, it's Miss Susan who sort of saves the day.

"Ellie, darling, I'd like to talk to your parents alone for a few minutes," her teacher says, smiling kindly, but still somewhat patronizingly at her. It sets Oliver a little on edge, despite himself. "Miss Denise knows you'll be joining the others on the playground. Why don't you head out there and we'll talk some more later."

Before the little girl can do anything, Felicity says, "C'mere, sweetie," as she takes her from his arms. She presses a loud kiss to her cheek, holding her awkwardly around her large stomach. "We love you lots and we can't wait to see your picture. But let's do it later. Go play with your friends. We'll come say goodbye before we head back to work, okay?"

It takes her a long moment to respond, but she finally does with a subdued, "Okay." She looks terribly perplexed by the whole thing. It disappears for a second when Felicity kisses her cheek again, but when Ellie looks at him again, it's back, that look tainted with a hint of distrust.

He almost grabs her back and tells Miss Susan everything.

Instead, Oliver forces out, "Have fun, Ellie-bug," as Felicity lowers her to the ground.

She gives them a barely perceptible nod before she scurries towards the door.

He can't escape the feeling that something just ruptured between them. And maybe it has. Because what happened with Malcolm, what he did to Felicity, it didn't just happen to Felicity and Nate, or to him, but to Ellie as well. And for a while, it felt like Oliver and Ellie against the world as they waited for days for Felicity to wake up. Their bond had been unique before that, but that had solidified it, shifted it onto another plane entirely.

But this… this is uncharted territory. He never imagined that Ellie would bring any of this with her to school, which he now realizes is incredibly dumb.

There's a very long moment of silence where Oliver can practically feel the weight of Miss Susan's stare burning a hole in the side of his head. He doesn't look at her though. He keeps his eyes on the path his daughter took.

He's the mayor. He wants that to bolster him… but it doesn't. He's the mayor and his wife is the CEO of the company this woman works for. They're incredibly powerful people, and yet he doesn't know the last time he felt quite so nervous about someone's judgment as he is of this just-past-middle-aged preschool teacher.

It's made worse because he's not sure if that's because of what their daughter's been drawing, or his lack of answers, or the fact that he's pretty sure he just betrayed his daughter's trust.

Felicity's hand snakes into his, and she squeezes it tightly. He holds on for dear life, wanting badly to turn to her and ask her what he's supposed to do now. But he can't, because Miss Susan is right there… and when he finally glances back at the teacher, he knows she didn't miss a single thing.

How did this day turn so upside down, so quickly?

"Why don't we have a seat?" Miss Susan offers, gesturing to a pair of too-small plastic chairs.

They don't look like they're comfortable for a three-year-old, much less a grown man of his size. Oliver privately thinks he might crush one if he sits on it; even more privately, he's certain Felicity would. Luckily for all of them, there's a few oversized bean bags right next to the chairs and he lowers himself down onto one awkwardly as Miss Susan takes a chair.

Felicity just hovers for a second.

"You think you can manage?" Oliver asks his wife, offering her his hand.

"I think I might pop the bean bag," she laments. "If that's a thing. Is that a thing? Pop is probably the wrong word." He has to wonder if she's babbling on purpose, because it lessens the tightness in his chest as she starts maneuvering herself to sit down. "And oh wow, would that be messy if I broke it. All those little plastic beads spilling out everywhere. They'd be finding them for months."

She eases down somehow, with Oliver's help, her maternity dress straining against her middle as she lowers herself. The bean bags have got to be more pregnant-lady-friendly than the terrible little chairs, but that doesn't make it any less awkward for her. She finally ends up falling back in one, making the pleather material groan, which in turn makes her huff. She's past the stage of being embarrassed, and he's pretty sure if the bag did pop as she described, she'd just land on the floor and say, 'This is as good a spot as any,' before urging the meeting to continue.

Felicity shifts, re-centering her weight repeatedly in an attempt to get anywhere near comfortable, but she obviously fails. She needs more support than the bean bag chair can offer.

"Hang on a second," Oliver says, sliding off of his so-called seat just enough so that he's pressed up against her. He curls one leg in front of himself and stretches the other one out next to her, urging her back so she can lean against his shoulder as a brace. His suit is going to be worse for wear from this, but it's a small price to pay, and one he really doesn't care about paying. With a satisfied sigh, Felicity relaxes - as much as she can - and he asks, "Better?"

"Much," she replies, settling one hand against the small of her back and the other atop of the swell of her stomach. Felicity smiles at him. It's tight, but he sees the gratitude shining through. "Thank you."

"Of course," he murmurs, just for her, kissing her temple.

With a steadying breath, Oliver looks back to Miss Susan, feeling a bit like he's awaiting a firing squad.

There isn't any judgment, though, when he finally faces her. There's only sadness, something he wasn't expecting. It makes him feel oddly better - maybe it's not that bad - although he doesn't know what to make of the peculiar look in her eye.

Miss Susan laces her fingers together in her lap, leveling them a look that suddenly has him right back on edge. "This is not going to be a comfortable conversation and I'm sorry for that," the teacher starts. Yeah, if he hadn't already been a little bit terrified, Oliver would be at this point. "I would never dream of broaching this topic, because it's not my place, but Ellie's recent behavior has been concerning."

Oliver can't escape the feeling that this is coming out of left field, because what behavior?

"What topic?" Felicity asks, every bit as wary as Oliver. "What recent behavior? Is this… is this because she said…" She lets out a short nervous laugh and mimics a gun with her fingers, which is a hysterical and terrible idea. "Because she said Oliver…"

Shoots bad people?

His stomach drops all over again and he barely keeps himself from making a noise at that.

"Mrs. Queen," Miss Susan says, looking thoroughly unsettled. "Trauma manifests itself very differently for different people. And while Ellie may not have been directly involved, I think it's obvious that what happened to you several months ago has affected her deeply."

White noise rushes through his ears. That hadn't even occurred to him. No, that's a lie. It had. He'd thought about it endlessly when Felicity had been unconscious, when they hadn't known if she was going to come back. He'd spent more time than he was comfortable admitting trying to prepare himself for a world where he had to tell their daughter why her mommy wasn't coming home to her…

But he'd never thought about after. Because she'd been so… fine.

Oliver feels rather than hears Felicity suck in a ragged breath and hold it. Without even thinking about it, Oliver's hand shoots out to touch her stomach. When his son kicks solidly back against his palm, it grounds him.

"The attack, you mean," Oliver clarifies, the words coming out in an unnatural croak. He swallows hard, as if he's trying to force the words away. "You think it… that it's still affecting her?"

"Yes," Miss Susan agrees. "Ellie is a bright, happy little girl and most of the time that's what I see." The phrase 'most of the time' is a rusty blade cutting through Oliver's chest. How could they have missed it? No, how could he have missed it? "But," the teacher continues, "I don't think she can make sense of what happened to her mother, or that her baby brother was in danger. She's three. She can't understand that, no matter how you try explaining it to her. So she copes in the best way she can."

Oliver nods, because it's all he can do. He tries to soak in her words. Because he knows they're true as well as important. There's no doubt Miss Susan knows what she's talking about; it's evident in her somber tone and the gentle way she tells them. She's thought about it, that much is obvious.

Has he been willfully ignoring it? How could he have been so blind?

"Mr. Queen," Miss Susan says, pulling his attention back to her. "It's evident that Ellie adores you. You have a tremendously strong relationship with her. And, like most little kids who have strong relationships with their fathers, you're her hero, the best man in the entire world in her eyes." Emotion clogs his throat. "So it's natural that she's cast you in this light, as her mother's savior. She's developed this role for you as a protector, and," she adds with a pursed smile, "she has cast you as someone the news outlets brand as a hero. Something tangible, something she can see. She needs that security, to know she's safe."

"She's my daughter," Oliver says, his voice deep with meaning, completely sidestepping the issue of her drawings. "I will always protect her."

Felicity's hand settles over his, their fingers threading together over her stomach. She's quiet; he told her what it was like, as best he could, while she was in her coma, but they both know there aren't words to capture it. She knows this is something he went through alone, and that this is something she can only be supportive to him about now. He's been keeping some of it from her, he realizes, because of the pregnancy and their busy lives. He hasn't wanted to overwhelm her more than she already is. It wasn't easy for her either, waking up after almost dying, swimming in fear for her unborn son. She'd woken up to her husband looking like death himself, their daughter curled up in his arms, time lost… only to learn about what Malcolm had tried to do, what he'd almost done, and that Ellie had seen all of it.

Some part of him wonders just how much they haven't been letting themselves talk about recently.

Oliver's grip on her tightens as he continues.

"I'm glad Ellie knows that," he reiterates. "She needs to know that she's safe. That I'll protect her. We're… we're public figures, with notoriety and money. There's never going to be a complete absence of danger. We're too high profile for that."

Miss Susan tilts her head in quiet agreement, but the somewhat pitying smile on her face tells him that she clearly thinks he's missing her point.

"You are correct," she says. "And if it were just drawings of you in a larger than life role and tales of you in a role of a protector, that would be fine. Though I would be concerned at how much news coverage she apparently watches because some images are most certainly influenced by the local press…"

But it's not just that.

"I'm concerned with the level of violence in her drawings," Miss Susan continues, the gravity in her voice echoing in the room. "And the stories she tells. It's cruelly unfair that a sweet little girl like Ellie has to be aware of how brutal and senseless this world can be, but there's nothing that can be done about it now. That awful man ensured that much. What we can do now, though, is help her cope with it. In a healthy way."

"Because of what happened to me…" Felicity starts, realization coloring her voice. "Because she… because she saw some of it?" Oliver has to clench his jaw at that, because Ellie more than saw some of it. His wife grips his hand tighter, her voice wavering as she says, "You think she needs therapy?"

The idea is obviously unsettling to Felicity - it's not the therapy itself, but the notion that Malcolm Merlyn might have left his mark in one last hateful way before Oliver had ended him for good.

Oliver presses a kiss to his wife's shoulder.

"Mrs. Queen," Miss Susan says. She takes a moment, licking her lips in obvious discomfort and looking down at her hands for a moment, gathering her thoughts before looking back up. "Forgive me for saying so, but after what you've been through… I think you all do."

An uneasy silence follows. It's only punctuated by a stuttered exhale from Felicity when she seems to remember how to breathe.

There's truth in her words. He's well aware of that. After everything they've been through - all of them - it's taken its toll. How many times had he been told he should talk to someone after he'd gotten back from the island? Dozens. Probably more. The ship going down and losing Sara that first time would have been reason enough, just like this is reason enough for them. Especially with Malcolm's attack hitting so close to home - his wife, the mother of his children, had almost died, and their daughter had been right there with him every step of the way.

But, just like before, it's not like he can divulge everything to some random therapist. None of them can, despite Ellie's obvious desire to work through what happened. Talking in half-truths and code words to keep his identity concealed would be useless. And he's pretty sure doctor-patient confidentiality doesn't extend to disclosing crimes, no matter how well intended they are.

Felicity's hand tightens around his and he kisses her shoulder again, knowing similar thoughts are going through her head and they aren't any more palatable to her than to him. There is nothing they wouldn't do for Ellie, but there isn't a nondisclosure agreement in this world that's binding enough for him to trust a therapist with his little girl. Despite all his money and all his power, the truth of what he does could cost him everything.

What if they thought him a dangerous or unfit parent? What if they thought both he and Felicity were? What if they lost Ellie? Lost Nate?

The thought of what that could mean for them has a wave of nausea slamming into him and he clenches his jaw. He doesn't realize he's squeezing Felicity's hand too tightly until she looks back at him. The second their eyes meet, he releases his grip on her, only to have her grab him back just as tightly. She's biting her lip, a haze of concern shining from her eyes.

And then she smiles, and the hand she places on his knee is reassuring.

We'll figure this out, she's telling him. We'll handle this, like we do everything else.

Together.

A solemn solidarity fills the space between them.

While Miss Susan can't possibly understand what their eyes are saying to each other, she can surely recognize the weight of it.

"I apologize for dragging you out of your meetings," she tells them. Felicity's head whips back around at that. She'd forgotten anyone else was in the room for a moment, he suspects, and given the reminder she's honed back in on Ellie's teacher. "After what happened, I thought it best this be addressed immediately. For Ellie's sake."

"Of course," Felicity says, a new vehemence ringing in her voice. "We appreciate it. Ellie always comes first."

A flash of approval colors Miss Susan's face and she gives a short, kindly nod before standing.

Oliver follows suit, offering Felicity a hand up. It's not easy and despite the fact that he basically lifts her up off the ground, she still has to exert a lot of effort to get herself back on her feet... especially in the heels she's wearing. He briefly wonders how the hell someone who doesn't routinely use a salmon ladder manages to help their pregnant wife in situations like this.

"If there's nothing else," the teacher says, clasping her hands in front of her in a clear sign of dismissal, "I'll let you two get back to your days."

"Actually…" Oliver says, his eyes darting to where Ellie's drawing sits a few tables away. "I was hoping we could take her art with us."

"Of course." Miss Susan nods. "I'll get the stack."

Felicity freezes mid-stretch, leaving her belly looking larger than usual. "Stack?"

"She's quite the prolific little artist," the teacher responds as she walks over to her desk. She rummages through a drawer until she pulls out a manilla envelope with Ellie's name written on it in sparkly purple crayon.

Miss Susan strides over to Felicity and hands her the folder, saying something else, but Oliver doesn't hear. His feet have taken him over to the table where Ellie had been sitting when they'd first arrived.

Her unfinished art stares up at him.

For all her love of drawing, Ellie isn't particularly skilled at it. Half the time he has no idea if she's made a kitten or a mermaid, but she's always so joyful about it. This picture is no different. Yes, just as Miss Susan had said, it has a stick figure with two large X's in place of the eyes and a scribble of red beneath his body that is obviously meant to be blood. But that's not the only thing it has. The half-finished attempt at drawing him as the Green Arrow has a tremendous smile on his face. There's a sun shining in the sky and lively flowers on the ground, and there's a happy kid, who is absolutely meant to be Ellie herself, with arms raised up in a cheer.

Is it morbid? Probably. For someone who doesn't live lives like theirs, anyhow. But Oliver sees past that in this picture. He sees joy, too, sees that his daughter isn't afraid despite what she's been through, and he thinks that maybe Miss Susan missed that part. Not that she could see it, he realizes, considering she doesn't live half her life under the cover of darkness, battling the ugliest parts of this city's evils.

Her intentions with Ellie are pure and well-meaning, but she doesn't have the full picture.

"I'd like to take her home early," Oliver says abruptly. He looks back at Miss Susan and Felicity, who'd been talking in quiet tones. They both fall silent at his words. "I want to spend some time with her."

"Of course," Miss Susan replies with a nod and a smile. "I think that's a wonderful idea. Why don't I just go get her?"

It's not really a question, so Oliver just smiles in response as she heads out to the playground.

Felicity raises an eyebrow at him, but it does nothing to diminish the small smile on her lips. "Don't you have more meetings today?"

He does, but it's just his own staff and they can wait. He shrugs, looking back at her drawing. "Like you said, Ellie always comes first." He picks it up and makes his way back to his wife. "And we both know our options are limited. There aren't many people she can talk to, but she can talk to us. And I want to make sure she knows that."

Emotion floods Felicity's face at that, and she nods, her smile growing.

"You are a good man, Oliver Queen," she says, "And a fantastic father. You know that?"

"Well…" He winks at her. "I've got an amazing wife and a pretty incredible daughter. They make it easy."

She huffs out an amused laugh, shaking her head affectionately at him in response just as Ellie barrels back into the room. There's dirt smudged on her cheek and a grin on her face. Her hair is an absolute mess and there are bark chips stuck to her legs.

"Wow," Felicity says. "Did you declare war on the playground? Was there a battle against nature in the ten minutes you were out there?"

"No," Ellie replies, as if what her mother just suggested is the most ridiculous thing ever. "I played. Silly Momma." That has Felicity mumbling something under her breath along the lines of, 'Oh right, silly me for wondering how you manage to get so dirty so fast,' as Ellie looks up at Oliver. Every inch of disquiet and unhappiness she'd had on her face when she'd left a few minutes ago is gone. In its place is a huge smile and bright, excited eyes. "Miss Susan said we get to have a family day! Can we go swimming, Daddy? Can we?"

"Maybe after ice cream," he tells her, because he's an absolute pushover, as his wife would say.

Felicity follows that up with a confirmatory snort, shaking her head at him. He knows it's not genuine - she probably wants ice cream as badly as Ellie does.

Ellie practically vibrates with newfound energy at the notion of a pending sugar rush and family swim time, and she squeals with delight as she hugs his leg tightly.

Oliver chuckles and he picks her up, pressing his lips to her dirty cheek. Her skin is so soft, the ever-present smell of her mango-scented shampoo drifting from her hair, and her smile is so very bright. Instantly, he knows he made the right call to take her home early. He loves this little girl so much and this kind of joy on her face is absolutely breathtaking. He will cancel any and all of his meetings if this is what he gets in return.

Outside the sliding glass door, Miss Susan waves her goodbye to them.

Felicity waves back as their little family heads out of the class, Ellie in Oliver's arms and Felicity at their side, her fingers tangled with Oliver's free hand.

They'll be okay, he realizes, because in spite of everything that's happened, in spite of everything that will happen, they are unwaveringly there for each other. And they always will be.

"We can get ice cream and swim?" Ellie asks excitedly, like she can't quite believe her luck.

Oliver nods. "It sounds like a good afternoon to me," he tells her. "But first, let's have a talk about what the word 'secret' means, shall we?"

Chapter Text

Oliver's had worse weeks.

Right after the Gambit sank. When his mother died. When Thea got run-through by R'as. When Felicity got shot. When they thought Diggle had been killed overseas. When he'd found his pregnant wife unconscious and bleeding from a head wound.

The weeks when they'd sent Ellie away to another time for her own safety. The mere thought of those endless nights still has a dim anxiety gripping his insides, even a year later.

He's had no shortage of bad weeks in his life. And while this week doesn't quite reach those levels, it's quickly climbing the ranks.

If it was just one thing - one moment of the complete mess the last week had been - that would be manageable.

But it's not.

It's losing his reelection campaign to a bitter piece of work whose sole platform seems to be undoing everything he's done in Star City and completely failing to save the 1,526 people who died in a building bombing on his watch, in his city.

It's arguing with Diggle about damn near everything right now, the stress of both Felicity and Lyla being out of town, leaving them with the night jobs they're more than failing at and a handful of children between them.

It's that Felicity's out of town because her mother's diagnosis grows bleaker by the day and that the lawsuit against QI has them holding onto the company by the edge of their fingertips and hearing the stress in his wife's voice any time they talk about any of this.

And, it's the unexpected visit from the adult version of his daughter.

Her arrival had immediately inspired the exact same feelings as the last time he'd seen her. He'd only just gotten his baby back and then she'd been there… warning them of imminent danger and telling them what was being doing to keep her younger self safe. It's not the same this time. The sense of urgency isn't there, but the terror welled before surges up this time, too.

There's a problem with the technology protecting them from Zoom. Again. That alone would have kept him up all night. Combine it with the cluster of everything else happening right now?

It's too much.

He's overwhelmed and exhausted, and God, he just wants a break. A vacation from reality. An escape. But running away doesn't solve anything. He learned that many years ago. It can't cure his mother-in-law or bring back those 1,526 people. It can't take the worry from his wife's voice and it certainly can't bring her home to him.

And it definitely can't keep his kids safe from a madman who tears holes in time.

Oliver feels helpless, like a failure. Each thing that goes wrong chips away at him, leaving him feeling so worn down that all he can manage to do is stay standing. It's like treading water. There's no end in sight and it's taking its toll.

Thankfully, the tachyon-detecting security cameras are working. Ellie checked them herself when she'd stopped by in their time earlier, which had helped put him a little at ease. But only a little. With Zoom an active threat yet again, there's nothing that can truly make him comfortable. Nothing short of killing the son of a bitch could really take the weight off his shoulders entirely, but that had made him feel better. Should Zoom start to rip his way through again - or anyone, really - he'll know.

God, he misses Felicity. She's been gone all of three days and he just wants his wife back in his arms. All of this would be so much more manageable with her here.

But she's not. And right now he has to call her and tell her that the 20-something year old version of their five-year-old daughter traveled back in time a couple of decades to warn them that they might be in danger.

Again.

On the long list of things he doesn't want to do right now, placing this call is at the top. The very last thing he wants is to add more to her plate. There's so much she's dealing with already.

With a groan, Oliver scrubs his face. But Nate's finally asleep, having cried himself out in an exhausted, teething mess, and Ellie's having a tea party with imaginary fairies in her room. It's not like he has a whole lot of windows of opportunity for private conversations these days. Though, now that he's out of the mayor's office, that might change a bit.

Still.

A heavy sigh slips past his lips before he grabs her tablet. It comes to life the instant he touches it and with a few swipes of his finger, he puts the call in.

It takes a few rings to connect, even though he'd texted her he'd be calling a few minutes ago. Each ring has his heart sinking further, his mind racing with the possibilities of why. None of them are good.

The second he sees her beautiful face on the other end, his entire being aches even more to hold her in his arms. Her eyes are puffy and red from crying, and her usually-slick ponytail is haphazard. An involuntary smile pulls at her lips, her shoulders falling in a sigh - like the mere sight of him is enough to make things better, even for a few seconds.

He knows the feeling.

When she whispers, "Hey you," it only highlights how much she's carrying on her shoulders and he wants nothing else but to not have to add to it.

"Hi," he says, smiling softly. It's the first smile away from the kids that feels real in days. "How are you doing?"

"Oh…" She pauses. Her voice is shaky and her eyes grow wet as she admits, "I've been better." It's right about now that he'd be pulling her against his chest, wrapping her up, doing everything he could to carry the burden with her. Felicity presses her hand to her forehead. "Mom is… she's my mom, you know? She's in denial and she's trying to focus on anything else. And I get she needs to process. I do. I get that. But the doctors say they need to start treatment now if she's going to have a fighting chance, and she's just so…" She presses her lips together tightly, tears filling her eyes. Oliver moves towards the tablet, like he can reach through it and help her, but he can't. Felicity blinks before anything can fall. "It's hard. That's all."

"I know it is," Oliver says. It's all he has. "Is she glad you're there, though? Are you glad you're there?"

"I needed to come," Felicity says with a nod. "For me and for her. And Quentin. I want to come home, though." Her voice cracking is the only thing that stops him from saying he wants her to come home, too. "They want to come home. They've been trying to figure out what's been going on with her for months now and I know they miss Star City, but the doctors here… They really are the best. I'd hire them right away and take them with us if their equipment came with them."

"Do you need us to come out there?" Oliver asks before thinking it through. The second he does, his shoulders drop. Because they can't leave. Not when he knows that whatever barrier that's been keeping them safe from Zoom might be malfunctioning. They need to stay here, in the security of their home with its cameras and sensors just in case.

"No," Felicity replies, shaking her head. She looks somewhere away from the tablet. "No, I don't want them to see Mom like this. She's weak and tired and they'd just exhaust her more." Her eyes find his again, a whole new brand of worry filling the gentle lines of her face as she asks, "They're okay?"

"Yeah." Oliver nods. "Nate's working on a tooth, though. He's been pretty crabby about it."

"Oh, poor baby." She touches the screen. "Both of you." That makes Oliver chuckle. Even he can hear how tired he sounds. "I miss them so much. And you," she adds, her voice softening. "I miss you."

"I miss you, too." For a second, Oliver lets his eyes close and he leans back into the sofa. His head falls back as he takes a bone-deep sigh. When he lets it out, he feels how exhausted he is through his entire body. He looks at her for a beat before saying, "It's been a bad week."

"I know," she replies. And she does. Felicity bites her lip a moment before continuing, "We knew you'd lose the election. But I'm so sorry anyhow."

"Yeah," he breathes, running his hand through his hair. That was bad enough, but then… "You heard about the stadium?"

Felicity doesn't have to reply with words at that - the way she returns his gaze tells him that she had heard.

"We tried," he whispers. His voice is strained, raw, and the truth of those two words makes him feel stripped bare. "Digg and I… and Thea, and Roy… But we thought it was at the concert hall, not that damn stadium. By the time we figured it out…"

"It's not your fault, Oliver," Felicity tells him softly. It doesn't help, not like he wants it to, because while he knows that's true on some level, it doesn't feel true. "You can't save everyone. You know that."

"That's what I said to John…" Oliver starts. When he doesn't continue right away, he can tell from the way Felicity's brow knits with concern and an old frustration that she's filling in the blanks. "We can't save everyone. But… two kids from Sara's class were at the game. And he just…" His voice trails off and he shakes his head at the memory. "It's gonna take some time."

Felicity sighs. "Oliver…"

She doesn't seem to know what else to say. Not that he expects her to, something they both know. There's nothing she really can say. Nothing can make this better… nothing will make any of this better. He still has to bring up Zoom. He has to. As much as he'd rather not, he learned the hard way many years ago not to keep things from his wife.

"Ellie stopped by," he says. "About an hour ago."

Felicity freezes, her eyes widening. She knows what he means without having to ask. While they'll always welcome their daughter - at any age, as strange as it might be - her visits from the future always bring bad news.

"What happened?" she asks, a stark panic filling the words.

"The systems she has in place, whatever they are… whatever's keeping him from getting in… They might not be working right."

Felicity stands abruptly, so abruptly that it takes him a second to understand where the hell she went, but then she's moving away from wherever she has her tablet propped. Moving away is a soft term, he realizes, as she half-runs to the generic dresser in her hotel room.

"What are you doing?" he asks as she yanks open one of the drawers.

"Packing," she replies, the word clipped. She pulls out an armful of clothes and tosses them onto the bed. "What does it look like?"

"Honey…"

"No," she suddenly says, standing up tall before she can pull out more. "No, you know what? Screw it." She grabs the clothes and shoves them back into the dresser half-haphazardly, leaving the drawer hanging open before turning back to the tablet. "The hotel can ship my stuff to me. I'll tip them really well…"

"Felicity…"

"Like too well even. I'll be at the airport in half an hour. I just have to say goodbye to my mom and Quentin. Shoes though." Her eyes dart around the room. When she doesn't find them where she thought they were, she pauses, looking lost before she starts looking around a little more frantically. "I need shoes."

"Felicity, we're fine…"

"No, Oliver!" she snaps, spinning back to the tablet abruptly. "That thing is trying to claw through the boundaries of the space-time continuum to kill my baby! That's the actual opposite of fine!"

"Ellie knows," Oliver replies, putting his hands up to calm her. "Grown-up Ellie, I mean. She knows. She's watching and so are both Barrys and I have the alarms set and Thea said she and Roy would be here soon and they'll stay until this gets resolved. Okay?"

Felicity stares at him, a pained look in her eyes. He hates that look. He hates that he put it there, even if it wasn't intentional.

"Nothing's happened," he reiterates. "I just wanted you to know."

"I'm her mother," Felicity says. She looks around the room again, like she has no idea where she is before dropping down on the edge of her mattress. "I'm her mother and last year we lost her for more than a month when this… this monster was after her. And he's still after her, nothing's really changed, and…"

She covers her heart with one hand, and he knows she's right back to those awful weeks when Ellie had been gone. When they hadn't known if she was okay, if she was safe, or if Zoom had found her. They hadn't known anything and it'd been…

Oliver bows his head for a second, gripping the tablet so hard he almost cracks it. He doesn't like thinking about that, although he absolutely does not deny Ellie when she wants to talk about her time there… talk about his mother and the fairy treehouse she'd never gotten to see here. It's the only thing that makes those weeks even slightly bearable.

"I need to see her," Felicity says. "I need to see my little girl. I need to hold her. So that I'm okay."

He more than understands that. Truth be told, there's very little Felicity can do against Zoom physically. They both know that. But the need to see Ellie - to hold her in her arms and stroke her hair and watch over her while she sleeps…

Well, that he gets.

"What about your mom?" Oliver asks, making her flinch. It's a not-so-gentle way to remind her of why she's all the way across the country in the first place.

"She already tried to get me to leave when the election results came in," Felicity says. "She's… she was very adamant." The words are vague, telling Oliver that adamant is a monumental understatement. He knows how bad the two Smoak women are when they're both going at it, and add to that the life-threatening factor of her disease and the high emotions because of that… "She'll understand. And it's Ellie. She gets it. And maybe if I point out how important the relationship is between a mother and her daughter, it'll sink in that I need her to take her treatments seriously… And wow, is that selfish of me or what?"

"It's your mom," he points out. That word has so much emphasis coming from him, in more than one way. Donna has become his mother, on so many levels; he's feeling the grief of her sickness, too. But that isn't all of it. The way he'd lost his own mother, and the regrets around that? It's not something he'll ever fully get over, in spite of the small amount of miraculous closure he'd been granted in the past. And, it's never something he'd wish on his wife. "You're allowed to be a little selfish about wanting her in your life."

"Thank you," Felicity whispers before letting out a weary sigh. "It still has to be her choice to get treatment, though."

"Yeah," he agrees. "It does. But for what it's worth, I think she will. She's too full of life to just give up."

That almost makes her smile. "I hope you're right," she replies.

Her voice is small, sounding more like a lost little girl than he'd expected. Despite himself, he hopes she does come home. Not just because he really needs to hold his wife in his arms after everything that's happened over the last week, but because she needs him, too.

After a beat, Felicity squares her shoulders and looks at him. "I'm still coming back."

It's like she's reading his mind. Often times, she might as well be.

"Okay," Oliver says readily, nodding. Even if he wanted to argue against it, he wasn't about to. "Let me know what time your flight gets in and we'll get you at the airport."

The thought of seeing them relatively soon has her brightening slightly, before the reality of how long it will take hits her. "I want to be back now," Felicity huffs, blowing a stray strand of hair away from her face in her frustration. "I want to hold my daughter and cuddle my baby boy and curl up in bed with you…" She raises her eyebrows and he already knows what she's going to ask. "You think Barry's up for a quick run?"

Oliver manages a chuckle, shaking his head. "I don't think Barry's a taxi service, honey."

"And he's focused there," she adds. Another thought hits her and she sits up taller. "He's watching out, though, right? Is Cisco monitoring for-"

"Everybody is on alert," Oliver interrupts. "We're doing everything we can. All of us, okay? We're gonna be okay."

He hopes with everything in him that that's true. And that she believes him. Truth be told, Ellie's arrival had scared the living hell out of him, making him doubt everything they'd managed to do in their effort to keep Zoom out. It's been one loss after another this week and he feels like he's barely hanging on by his fingertips at this point. But he needs to sound convincing for her sake, even if he can't quite take his own words to heart.

"We will," Felicity says, her voice fading a bit. "We will be okay." He wonders if she's saying it for the same reason he is, trying to soothe him as he's trying to reassure her. God, he can't wait for her to be back. He just wants to hold her. She looks at him, a new hope lighting her face. "Is Ellie asleep?"

"No. Just Nate. Ellie's in her room having a tea party."

A wistful look flies over her features - a tea party. It's so perfectly normal that it actually hurts, and that's something they can both agree on.

"Can I say hi?" There's a hint of anxiety under the words, and he knows she just needs to see her. He cannot wait for her to be home so they can both just breathe. It's so much easier when they have each other, right there. "I know I'll see her soon, but I just…"

"Of course," Oliver says, already standing up.

There's a hint of chastisement in his tone - because really, like she needs to ask - and it makes Felicity rolls her eyes slightly, which in turn makes him smile just a bit.

Ellie's room isn't far, just two doors down the hallway, and he's there before Felicity can say anything.

The pale tan color of the hallway gives way to the familiar bright blue of Ellie's room.

Hand-painted scenes of fairies and mermaids decorate her walls - something her Aunt Thea had commissioned - and her castle-like loft bed stands tall right in the center of the room. She's arranged her stuffed animals like subjects around the base, almost like they're standing guard. But that's not what draws Oliver's attention.

Ellie holds that distinction all her own where she's abandoned her tea party and has moved on to her books. She lies on her stomach on a plush rug that's covered with the alphabet, her little legs kicking in the air as she flips through pages of some story that features a duck who can't swim.

"Hey, Ellie-bug," Oliver says, pulling his daughter's attention to him. Her bright beautiful eyes find his, instantly lighting up at just the sight of him. It never fails to make his chest hurt just enough - with love and amazement. He smiles at her. "Mommy wanted to say hi."

She instantly drops the book with a happy, "Okay!" as she scrambles to sit up while Oliver closes in on her. She waves at the tablet as he settles down next to her, saying, "Hiya, Momma!"

"Hey, baby girl," Felicity replies. The longing in her voice makes Oliver's heart ache. "I miss you so much, kiddo."

"I miss you, too," Ellie says solemnly. She leans into Oliver, wrapping her arms around his legs as she adds, "Daddy's grumpy when you aren't here."

"Hey!" he protests.

"It's true, Daddy," she tells him, looking up at him, making her gold curls bounce. "You're like Oscar."

"Oscar the Grouch?" Felicity asks before laughing. His eyes immediately switch to his wife, his grin growing at the sight of her smiling face on the other side of the tablet. He'll take being called a grouch all day every day if it can make Felicity laugh like that right now. It's worth it.

"Yes," Ellie says, looking at the tablet again. "I miss you, too, Momma, but I'm not grouchy."

"I'm glad," Felicity says, her laughter dissolving into a longing smile.

"Are you coming home soon?" Ellie asks. "Is Gramma better yet?"

Felicity swallows hard at the question. This isn't an easy topic for anyone, but it's near impossible to explain to a five-year-old.

"The doctors are going to have to help Grandma for a while, sweetie," Felicity replies with a watery smile. "She's not better yet. But I am coming home."

"Well, hug Gramma first," Ellie advises with surprising intensity. "She says hugs are the best medicine."

That hits his wife hard. She bites her lip to keep her emotions at bay as she nods, saying, "She does. She does say that." This is harder for her than she wants to show her daughter. It's probably harder than she even wants to show him. The woman he loves with every ounce of his being has a longstanding tendency to lick her wounds in private. She's gotten better about that over the years, but this cuts her right to the bone, and he knows it has her falling back on old habits out of desperation. Some pain is too hard to share. Felicity tries to covertly wipe her eyes as she says, "I'll hug her before I come home and tell her it's from you, okay?"

"Okay." Ellie nods, satisfied. "Give Pop-Pop a hug, too. He probably needs one."

"Of course," Felicity says easily. Her eyes switch to Oliver's, and despite the topic, Oliver can see some of the weight's been lifted. "I should get going if I want to get back before midnight."

He nods. "We'll see you soon," Oliver assures her. And then he winks. "Try not to worry too much."

"Ha!" She laughs sharply, because it's obviously a request she will not be honoring. Instead, she wrinkles her nose at him and says, "Love you." She kisses her fingers, touching them to the screen.

"Love you, too," Oliver says, right before Ellie chimes in with, "Me, too, Momma!"

The connection ends without an additional goodbye and that hits him surprisingly hard.

Oliver sets the tablet down before letting out a heavy sigh. He drags his hand over his face, feeling exhausted down to his very bones.

For a split second, he almost forgets that it wasn't just his wife he was putting on a brave face for.

It's Ellie, too.

"I think you need a story, Daddy," Ellie says.

The words jolt him back to the moment, drawing him back to the present where he's sitting atop an alphabet rug next to his almost-kindergartner.

Oliver raises an amused eyebrow at her. "A story?" he repeats.

"Yeah," she says insistently. She crawls onto his lap with a determined air that reminds him so very much of her mother. Ellie leans over and grabs the book she'd abandoned before settling in again, pulling his arms in around her. "I'm gonna read it to you, 'k?"

Ellie's five. Her idea of reading is nowhere close to Oliver's, not yet anyway. Maybe a word here and there - she's a bright kid after all - but surely not a book. Still, he's read her this silly book about Webster the Unsuccessful Duckling so many times that she probably has it memorized by now.

"You need this story, Daddy," she says, looking up at him with wide blue eyes. They are eyes that can make him do absolutely anything, and he's pretty sure Ellie's a little too aware of that fact.

"Why's that, Ellie-bug?" Oliver asks, tucking her wild curls behind her ear, letting his fingers linger amongst the strands.

"'Cause you forgot," she replies.

"Forgot what?"

"That it's okay to fail 'cause that's just a chance to try again."

Oliver's hand stills at that. His fingers linger against the side of her face as he just stares at her for a moment.

It's so simple to her, so uncomplicated. Failing, in her world, means difficulty swimming or falling off her bike. It doesn't mean losing a job or watching people die because of a horrible, tragic mistake.

Still, simplistic though her perspective may be, it makes him pause.

Because she's not wrong.

"You're sad," she continues. "But that's okay, too. It's okay to be sad, just don't only be sad. You gotta remember the good stuff, too."

A lump forms in his throat and Oliver has to put extra effort to swallow around that as he marvels at his daughter.

His voice is a little thick as he asks, craving more of the little bits of her wisdom, "Like what?"

"Like… you're the best daddy in the whole wide world," she replies. His chest squeezes. "And that you make Momma smile bigger than anybody ever when you bring her coffee when we wake up. And that Nater-Tater-Bug stops crying when you blow raspberries on his belly." She shrugs, all nonchalance. "You know. The important stuff."

It's not the words that get to him, although those do impact him on a whole other level. No, it's that she believes them. That she doesn't doubt for a second that everything she's saying is absolutely true.

Oliver can lose the mayoral race and fail to save a thousand-plus people.

He can fight with Diggle and feel like a failure against an enemy he can't even find, much less beat.

But he's still Ellie's father, still the single most important person in her world. And, in spite of the danger they find in their everyday lives, she has never once felt like he's failed her.

"The important stuff…" he echoes.

"Yeah," she agrees, smiling up at him, her trust in him shining through.

The sight makes his heart lighter, makes it all just a bit more bearable. Her reminder is a gift he hadn't expected and it lessens the weight that's been dragging his soul down the last few days.

"You're right," Oliver says. He pulls her closer, pressing a kiss to her forehead. He lingers there, his eyes closing, breathing in his little girl's scent as she hums happily. "I love you, Ellie-bug."

"I love you, too, Daddy."

Ellie smiles so brightly when he pulls back to look at her and it takes his breath away.

There's nowhere else in the world he'd rather be than right here, in his daughter's room, sitting on the letter G with his five-year-old, about to read a book about a duck.

The important stuff indeed.