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Give All Your Secrets Away

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Captain Quentin Lance was a bit disappointed in himself right now. How could he have been so blind for so long? The signs were all there, mocking him for the longest time and he still failed to see it.


Well, it wasn't like he never suspected Oliver Queen to be Starling City’s vigilante before, because he had, at the very beginning. He even arrested the kid for this very reason a couple of weeks after the vigilante started dropping bodies around the city. But time had changed the relationship he had with the now self-titled “Arrow”.


After the events of the last couple of years, Lance was at a point where he didn’t want to know the Arrow’s identity. He once told Laurel that he didn’t want to know because then the Arrow would become a real person in his eyes, with a family and friends that cared about him. And it was true. He didn’t want to know. It didn’t mean he wasn’t curious about it from time to time.


But now he knew. He knew and he was disappointed that he had pushed the idea of Oliver Queen being the Arrow so far off of his mind that it took one tiny blonde genius for him to realize the truth.


Not that Ms. Smoak had told him anything. She would never do that. If there was something that Lance had learned about the Arrow was that he definitely had people who cared about him. And Ms. Smoak was one of those people.


He never understood why someone like Felicity Smoak would get involved in all of this, why she would get involved in this life. But right from the beginning, one thing was clear to Lance: the girl knew who the Arrow was. She knew and she believed in him so much to the point of risking herself to help him.


The signs were all there. Too many coincidences, too many people involved in this vigilante business as well as involved in some other way. Like that time that Queen had made Ms. Smoak his Executive Assistant seemingly out of nowhere.


Lance was a little bit confused at the time. He had no idea that the two of them even knew each other. Yes, Ms. Smoak worked for his family’s company, but Queen Consolidated had thousands of employees. Who goes from the I.T department to assistant to the CEO like that? There was more than a simple employer/employee connection there.


He then learned that apparently the kid and Ms. Smoak had been friends for some time. And that was something that confused him even more because the Oliver Queen he knew didn’t have any friends that were girls. But then he dismissed his thoughts about the subject, because… Well, stranger things had happened than Queen having a female friend. If the kid trusted Ms. Smoak enough to help him with his family’s company, then good for him that he had found a friend in her.


But then his dead daughter wasn’t so dead and she was also a vigilante, and apparently she had a thing with Queen again. And then she was helping the Arrow and the only thing she said about it was a sarcastic retort about how the two of them met in the vigilante club. And really, Lance should have seen it at the time. But everything was a mess, and he didn’t have the time to think about how the fact that Oliver Queen was the Arrow was practically slapping him in the face.


But now? To be honest, he wasn’t even surprised. It took him more than two years and to see firsthand the relationship between a very protective green hooded guy and a tiny blonde girl for things to click in his mind, but he wasn’t surprised when the puzzle’s pieces finally fell into place. Lance had to be part of two different scenarios involving Ms. Smoak being in danger to recognize what was in his subconscious for a long time, but now he had no doubt. Queen and the Arrow were one and the same.


And he definitely wasn’t doing things alone. Lance knew about Ms. Smoak’s involvement, obviously. But he always found it strange the relationship that Queen and Ms. Smoak had with Queen’s ex-bodyguard, Mr. Diggle. Again, it was more than an employer/employee kind of thing, especially now that Queen was in no position to pay for a bodyguard.


John Diggle wasn’t working for the kid anymore. But he was definitely working with him. Of course the relationship between the three of them seemed strange from the outside. Mr. Diggle was as in on the secret as Felicity Smoak was. They were a team. And again, Lance wasn’t even surprised. It all made a lot more sense now.


It took him a three month period between seeing Oliver Queen punching a wall because Ms. Smoak was at the wrong place at the wrong time and seeing the Arrow almost losing his mind because the girl got herself into trouble in a mission gone wrong for Lance to understand that the two were the same person, but now he couldn’t unsee it. It was impossible to unsee it when the big and scary Starling City vigilante turned into a big, pleased cat curled around the girl, just like Queen had, months prior.


It was also possible that he would never be able to forget the look on the kid’s face when they understood what was going on three months ago, on that Wednesday morning. It was the same reaction he saw months later in the Arrow’s face, even behind the hood and the mask. And this… This is exactly why he didn’t want to know.

Chapter Text

 

Oh, shit. She was going to be late. But really, they couldn’t blame her. Wednesday’s mornings were “breakfast with her boys” mornings, as she liked to call it. But last night had been a long one in the crime fighting business and she had so little sleep, and now she was going to be so late.

Her work at Queen Consolidated… Well, Palmer Technologies now, gave her a little bit of freedom and Felicity liked to make the most of it. It seemed that Ray Palmer didn’t care about her working hours as long as the projects she was working on were all on schedule. And it was better this way.

She had accepted the job offer only because it was really better than work at Tech Village, but Felicity was still a ball of rage about the way he used her to steal Queen Consolidated from under Oliver’s nose. She would do her job, yes, but without Palmer breathing down her neck, that was the deal. Maybe she could even make it easier for Oliver to get his company back if she was inside.

On the bright side, now she had more free time. Breakfast with Oliver and Dig had become a thing every Wednesday in the past months and she really cherished that little bit of time with them that wasn’t devoted to putting criminals behind bars, even more so now that Dig was so busy with Lyla and their little baby girl, and he wasn’t spending that much time in the Foundry anymore. He was still very much part of the team, but even Oliver encouraged him to spend more time with his family. When there was something really important going on, though, he was always there. Lyla understood better than anyone.

And the Foundry had been so full since Laurel was now in on their secret and Roy was a permanent fixture, being part of the team and all that. She didn’t mind, not really. Laurel was too busy to spend a lot of time down there and Felicity really loved Roy. But it wasn’t the same as when it was just the three of them. Sometimes she missed how it used to be, so every alone time the three of them could get was welcome.

She sent a text to the two of them telling them she would be a little bit late before closing her bathroom door to take the fastest shower ever. If there was one thing she hated was to leave Oliver and Dig waiting for her. She knew how Oliver would start to get antsy and imagine that something was wrong. He worried too much, but she couldn’t blame him. They had seen a lot of bad things happening in their line of work.

She would never condemn him for worry, not when she knew the feeling so well. It wasn't something that someone could control. She knew better than anyone what it felt like to worry that something was wrong because it was what she had to fight every night when Oliver, Dig and Roy were out in the streets.

Forty minutes later she was almost running into the coffee shop, her hair still wet from the shower forming her natural curls, and babbling apologies for being late. At least until she saw the amused look on Oliver’s face and Dig’s struggle to keep from laughing at her breathlessness.

“Shut up” she mumbled with red cheeks, elbowing Oliver in the ribs after sitting beside him in their usual corner booth.

And this was something else that had become a habit, something else that had changed in the past months. She always sat beside Oliver, and it always ended with his arm around her shoulders somehow. The two of them grew closer since that whole Slade debacle and with the emotional proximity also came the physical proximity, apparently.

She almost jumped out of her skin the first it happened, though. And no one could blame her. Up until that point, she wasn’t used to Oliver being the one to initiate any type of physical contact, not when it consisted of more than a hand on her shoulder or when there was no life or death situation. Now? Now it was weird when they weren’t touching somehow.

She had always felt that pull to him, it wasn't something new. But it seemed that now that Oliver had apparently decided that touching her was an okay thing to do, he had given her permission to do the same. Sometimes she wasn't even aware of it. She would catch herself touching him and would wonder how her hands ended up where they were. It wasn't a conscious thing.

Dig was always throwing amused, knowing glances at them because of it. He also seemed to like to point it out when the two of them were being especially flirty, which made her as red as a tomato every time. Roy had simply resorted to making gagging noises when they were being their flirty selves. He loved to pretend to be disgusted by the two of them and their wandering hands, but she caught the younger man smiling at them because of it more than once.

But just because they were closer now than they’ve ever been it wasn’t the same as being ready for the particular conversation the two of them were in need of having.

Well, maybe she was ready for it, but she also felt like Oliver wasn’t, not yet, and she would never push him like that. She was just happy that he was trying, that he was opening up a little bit, reaching for her in ways he never did before.

Deep down… Or not so deep to be honest, because it wasn’t all that hard to see… And now Felicity was even rambling in her own head. Anyway, she knew that what happened at the Queen Mansion wasn’t just for show, that it wasn’t just to fool Slade.

She had looked into Oliver’s eyes when he said he loved her and she believed in him. And he had never been able to convincingly lie to her. There was also the fact that when she tried to give him an out on the shores of Lian Yu, he didn’t take it. He could have agreed that it was all for show, could have set the record straight, but he didn’t.

So she could wait for him to be ready. She would give him time. For now, she would continue to be the friend he needed her to be and if Oliver’s arm around her shoulders was the reward for her patience… If wandering hands, soft touches and the intense looks were what she would get for now… Well, no one would hear her complaining about it.

 


 

If Captain Lance knew how his day was about to drastically change, he probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. Well, no. He would have anyway since it wasn’t often that Laurel had the time to have breakfast with her old man. But if there was one thing that Lance knew about Starling City was how everything could so easily go to hell in a matter of minutes.

They had a pleasant breakfast, which was kind of hard lately. Laurel had always been a very protective daughter, but since the city had been invaded by guys with super strength and he ended up in the hospital, she had been even more protective. She hadn’t even tried to hide her relief when he was promoted to Captain. She knew it was more of a bureaucratic job than anything and it meant he wasn’t going to be on the field as much anymore.

Now they were just wandering the city, talking about anything other than work, because if they started to talk about work, he would complain about not being on the streets and she would get mad because she thought he preferred to be put in danger. It wasn't that he preferred to be in danger, far from it, but he missed the adrenaline and being in the middle of the action. Being a cop was a part of him. Being Captain… It was more about politics.

Lance saw the three of them when they turned the street corner and something about the scene made him pause in the conversation he was having with Laurel. By now he knew the three of them were close, but knowing and actually seeing it were two different things. And of course Ms. Smoak would be the men’s center of attention.

She was walking between the two men, with her arms linked with both of them and talking animatedly about something. Mr. Diggle was looking at her with a soft smile on his face, full of affection and amusement. But that wasn’t what made Lance frown about the scene because he understood the man. It was hard not to be amused by her and even harder not to develop any kind of affection towards the girl.

No, what gave him pause was the way Queen was looking at her. From what Lance could see, she was talking their ears off and not really paying attention to the men walking with her, so she probably had no idea about the look the kid had on his face. He had never seen Oliver Queen look at a girl that way, certainly not when he was dating Laurel.

He was looking at the tiny blonde girl (because, really, she was tiny when she was between two big guys like Queen and Mr. Diggle and wearing sneakers instead of heels) like she was the moon and stars and the sun all at the same time. His soft smile carried a note of amusement like the other man, but the way he was looking at her was something else entirely.

“Dad?” Laurel called when he stopped talking mid-sentence and followed his line of sight to the three friends that were absently making their way through the busy street.

A strange look crossed Laurel’s face for a second, a look that Lance didn’t know how to interpret. He had absolutely no idea at this point that Laurel was as in on the whole “Oliver Queen is the Arrow” thing as Ms. Smoak and Mr. Diggle. That was something he only found out months later.

“Morning” Laurel greeted them when the three were close enough.

That made Ms. Smoak finally stop talking about whatever she was so animatedly telling the two men and pay attention to her surroundings. It was a good thing she had her arms linked with both of them because she would probably have been hit by a car otherwise, distracted as she was by whatever story she was telling them.

“Oh. Hi, Laurel. Captain Lance” the blonde greeted them with a blinding smile and her blue eyes sparkling behind her glasses. Well, apparently this was Felicity Smoak's default setting. That girl was always so full of life.

“I hope the three of you are not causing any trouble this soon in the morning” Lance couldn’t resist teasing the girl, seeing her eyes go as big as saucers in a matter of seconds.

"What? No” she squeaked, freeing her arms from the two men and wildly gesticulating around. "We're the least troublesome people you'll ever meet. Well, Dig and I are. Oliver was very troublesome in the past, I’ll give you that one. But he’s not anymore. He hasn't caused any trouble in a long time. He’s good now, I promise. Why would you think..."

"Felicity" her name and Queen's hand gently squeezing her shoulder was what stopped the words from tumbling uncontrollably from her mouth. He was smiling down at her with such affection that almost made Lance want to give them a minute. Or puke.  "He's kidding".

"Oh" she mumbled, with her cheeks turning a flaming shade of red. Poor thing was so embarrassed by her rambling.

"Thanks for defending my honor, though” Queen said in a teasing tone, making her cheeks turn even redder than they already were. It was clear that he found the situation way too amusing.

"I thought we agreed that you two would stop me before I could embarrass myself with my lack of brain-to-mouth filter" she grumbled, rolling her eyes at her amused friends.

Lance was impressed with Mr. Diggle’s capacity to hold in his laughter at this point. The man was almost shaking with the struggle to keep from laughing at his friend and Ms. Smoak noticed the way his eyes were shining with mirth and his lips were firmly pressed together.

"I hate the two of you" she shoved Mr. Diggle with both hands, without any result. He didn't move a step. It only made the amusement in his expression even more pronounced.

"No, you don't. You love us" Mr. Diggle answered without a flicker of doubt in his voice and the blonde girl shook her head with a resigned sigh and an affectionate smile, embarrassment long forgotten.

Mr. Diggle kissed the top of her head gently and she linked her arm with his again, resting her head on his gigantic bicep, while Queen looked at the two of them with a fond expression taking residence on his face. It wasn’t hard to see that they adored each other. The three of them seemed to have forgotten that they weren’t alone.

"Are they always like that?” Lance whispered to his daughter.

"I haven't seen them together a lot, I wouldn’t know" Laurel answered and the Captain saw the crease that formed between her eyes when Ms. Smoak pulled Queen by his shirt sleeve to link her free arm with his again.

Oh oh… The alarm bells went off in Lance’s head. He knew that look and he knew that crease between his daughter’s eyes. Jealousy. If she was jealous of the seemingly easy relationship the kid had with Mr. Diggle and Ms. Smoak or if it was specifically because it wasn't hard to see that Queen and the blonde girl were very close, Lance couldn't tell. But he knew he would have to remind his daughter again of the importance of leaving the past behind. Laurel and Queen had a messy history and Lance was firmly against her opening that can of worms again.

"As Felicity was so eloquently saying, we're not causing any trouble, Captain" Queen said when he suddenly seemed to remember about him and Laurel, and receiving an elbow to the ribs from the mentioned blonde that only made him smirk. "We had breakfast together and we were walking Felicity to the bank. No trouble at all”.

”It's not necessary. You guys will get bored waiting" the tone of her voice made Lance certain that it wasn't the first time that the subject was being discussed this morning.

"I think you just want some alone time with your admirer, Ralph, the cashier" poor kid was trying to sound so nonchalant about it and failing miserably. It was kind of funny, actually.

"He's cute" the blonde said with a shrug.

Lance would have believed that she was completely oblivious to the way that Queen seemed suddenly so tense if it wasn't for the mischievous look that he noticed crossing her eyes for a second there. The little minx knew exactly what she was doing. It almost made the Captain laugh out loud. That girl was really something else.

"Cute? He was ogling you like a piece of meat the last time, Felicity" Queen seemed disgusted just saying it and the scowl he had on his face made Ms. Smoak shake her head and roll her eyes at him.

"Don't worry, Oliver" she disentangled the arm that was linked with Mr. Diggle's to pat Queen on the chest, looking up at him with a glint in her eyes. "I'm sure the glare you sent his way made him run for the hills".

"I wasn't glaring" he denied vehemently and that was when Lance noticed that Queen was blushing. Okay. That was a first. In all of the time he knew the kid, Lance had never seen Oliver Queen blushing because of a girl.

"You were glaring" the smile Ms. Smoak had on her lips took out all of the bite on that statement. She shook her head affectionately at the man beside her and squeezed his arm. When he looked down at her, the blonde had the guts to send him a flirtatious look, batting her lashes and everything. "You’re still my favorite”.

And that's what did it. Mr. Diggle finally lost the battle against the laughter he was holding for the past couple of minutes. Lance couldn't tell if those two didn't notice they were being laughed at or if they just didn't care. Talk about being completely oblivious to anything that wasn't each other.

"Are you two kids done? Or do you need a moment alone? Because I told you guys already that I don't need to witness this" Mr. Diggle made a gesture indicating the two of them, with a smirk adorning his lips, and that’s what took his friends out of their bubble.

Lance couldn't decide which one had the best look on their faces at the moment. Queen had his jaw clenched tightly and he threw a glare at Mr. Diggle like he wanted to curse at his friend. Ms. Smoak on the other hand… She looked mortified. Her face was beet red and she was gaping like a fish out of water. Clearly, it wasn't the first time that they got lost in their own little world. It was also clear that it wasn't the first time that Mr. Diggle called them out on it.

"I'll... go. You know. The bank... Bills to pay and all that" Ms. Smoak mumbled, pointing in the general direction of Starling National, situated only a handful of buildings down from where they were. "Then I have to go home. And change... And work. Yeah... You don't have to wait for me".

"This reminds me I have a deposit to make. I’ll go with you” Laurel said, looking at her wrist clock to make sure she had the time. "Can you wait for me, Dad? I'll walk you to the precinct".

Lance agreed with the offer promptly. It was always nice to be able to spend a little more time with his daughter. Mr. Diggle also assured Ms. Smoak that they would wait for her regardless of her protests.

The moment the girls turned their backs and there was enough distance between them for Ms. Smoak not to hear anything, Queen sent a glare so cold in the direction of Mr. Diggle that it could probably freeze hell.

"You have to stop saying these things" Queen practically hissed at the other man, crossing his arms tightly across his chest. "You're making her uncomfortable".

"Or maybe it's time for you to man up, Oliver" Mr. Diggle clapped Queen on the back, completely unaffected by the cold look that the kid was throwing at him. "Stop holding back. It would save the three of us a lot of trouble".

Queen opened his mouth to retort more than once, but it came up empty each time. He only shifted from foot to foot and then uncrossed his arms, focusing his eyes on anything but Mr. Diggle’s knowing face. Then the kid sighed deeply, raising his eyes to his friend and the two stared at each other in a way that looked a lot like a silent conversation was passing between them.

It was in the middle of that staring contest happening in a busy sidewalk on a Wednesday morning that Captain Lance wished he had stayed in bed because that was when Starling City's penchant for bad things happening to good people attacked them again and Lance's surprisingly nice morning went straight to hell.

 

Chapter Text

 

Really, it shouldn't surprise him. His morning was too good to be true. And now Lance was regretting his choice of joke when he asked Ms. Smoak if they were causing any trouble around the city. Maybe he had jinxed it. "Trouble" seemed to be attracted to that girl like a moth to a flame.

Why things like these always had to happen to such good people was something Lance would never understand. One moment you're walking into a bank to simply pay your bills and in the next, you get caught in the middle of a bank robbery.

The Captain didn't even have the time to worry about his daughter when he received the call about the ongoing robbery before Laurel came running at them from a side door, out of breath and trying to explain to them that there was a robbery going on.

When the words "Felicity is inside" came out of her mouth, both Queen and Mr. Diggle went rigid. Queen, the poor guy, went white as a ghost, his eyes momentarily unfocused and Lance thought that maybe he would pass out or something. He had never seen such terror on the kid’s face. It was the fear of someone that had already lost too many people.

"Thank God you're out" Lance hugged his daughter tightly for a moment and then asked her exactly what happened.

"These guys took the guns out of nowhere and said it was a robbery. Felicity... Felicity just pulled me behind a counter in a corner. The second we were hidden she picked up her phone and found a way out" Laurel answered sounding completely flabbergasted by the other girl. "I don't know how she did it with only her phone. She found an emergency exit and told me where it was. And then she told me to take my heels off and run. I don’t think they saw me, but I swear I thought she was behind me".

The three men looked at Laurel's bare feet for a second and then at the shoes in her hands, hearing the fast approaching sirens in the distance. The police soon would be here and then it was going to become a circus. Yeah, just another Wednesday in Starling City. And Ms. Smoak was inside the bank. Wonderful.

Before Lance could let his imagination run rampant about what happened between the moment Ms. Smoak told Laurel to run and the moment his daughter reached the emergency exit to stop the other girl from getting out of the bank, they were surrounded by police cars.

Well, if the robbers had no idea the police was on the way before, the sirens were a very loud giveaway now.

Within minutes the police made a barrier, pushing all the curious civilians out of the perimeter, but Lance knew that this wasn’t the worst part. Very soon someone would tip the press, and then the circus would be complete.

Lance sent a look at the two men and his daughter, confused by the looks they were all giving each other, like the three of them were having a silent discussion, but he didn’t have the time to try to understand it right now.

“Laurel, how many people are inside?” his question took her out of the wordless conversation she was having with the two men. “Do you have any idea? How many robbers? Anything might help”.

“Three. Three men and they’re all armed. I don’t know how many people, Dad. Maybe 18 or 19, between clients and employees. I can’t be sure, I'm sorry” Laurel answered, with a focused expression on her face, trying to remember what she had seen when she was inside the bank.

"It's okay, honey. That's great, it helps a lot" Lance reassured her, squeezing her hand for a second.

He sent a quick glance at the other two men. They both looked worried out of their minds, but Queen seemed almost having trouble breathing properly, even if he was trying not to show how affected he was by the situation. It wasn’t like he could control his body’s reaction, though. He was still rigid and pale in a way he wasn’t before Ms. Smoak walked into that bank. Lance never thought that one day he would feel sorry for the kid, but apparently, that had changed.

Oliver Queen would never be his favorite person in the world, not after what he did to his daughters, but he really didn't deserve all of the shitty things that happened to him. He lost his father, spent five years stranded on an island, only to come back and lose his best friend, his company, his home, his mother... He was already punished enough for his sins. It didn't seem fair that this kind of things kept happening around him and with people he cared about.

"She's going to be okay" he said to the two men, in what he expected to be a reassuring tone. "I'll see what the plan is to deal with the situation. Hold on tight, both of you. I'll be right back".


 

The minute Lance stepped aside, Oliver relaxed slightly. Without the Captain looming around he could start to work on getting Felicity out of there, but Dig soon was throwing his plans under the bus before he could even open his mouth.

"You can't go in there, Oliver" Dig told him, with a serious expression crossing his face.

"Felicity is inside that bank with 3 armed men. You're out of your mind if you think I'm going to stay here and just watch" the fire in his eyes was daring anyone to disagree with him, so of course Diggle did it anyway.

"It's the middle of the morning, man. The Arrow doesn't operate in broad daylight for a reason. The hood and mask are not enough to hide you during the day. Anyone could easily recognize you" the ex-soldier tried to reason with his friend, but he could see it wasn't making a lot of difference. "And Captain Lance is here. You can't just suddenly disappear".

"He's right, Ollie. My father is not stupid, you know? If you vanish out of thin air only for the Arrow to show up later, he will know it's you. There will be no way around it" Laurel agreed with Diggle, talking in hushed tones to avoid people from overhearing them.

"I don't care. I'm not letting her there alone" Oliver was starting to lose his temper. Why were they even discussing this?

"Maybe you don't care, but Felicity would" Dig could see by the look on Oliver's face that he had hit a sensitive point. His friend had always listened to Felicity’s opinions before doing anything, even if he didn’t agree with it. "You know as well as I do that she would be livid with you if people found out you're the Arrow because you were careless, after everything we went through to make sure your identity is being kept under wraps".

Dig knew he was being a little dramatic because honestly, it seemed like half of Starling City knew Oliver was the Arrow, they had never tried that hard to hide his identity. But just because it felt that way to him, it didn’t mean it was actually true so they shouldn’t be plastering Oliver’s face in every media outlet out there, dressed as the Arrow in broad daylight. He would use what he could to make sure that wasn’t happening.

"Have you ever thought about what people learning that you're the Arrow would do to Felicity? And what about me? Half of this city knows we're close. It wouldn't take long for connections to be made" Dig was as worried about Felicity as Oliver was, but one of them had to be rational or things would get really ugly, really fast. Just because the police had dismantled the anti-vigilante task force, it didn’t mean that everybody in the city was in agreement with the Arrow’s methods. Particularly the criminals they were trying to keep out of the streets every night.

"And what am I supposed to do? You can't ask me to just leave her there! Not after..." he trailed off and by the look John gave him, the other man knew exactly the direction of his thoughts.

"Oliver, man... This is not Slade all over again. This is not a psychotic murderer holding a sword to her throat, hell bent on taking everything from you and making you suffer" Dig reminded him in a careful tone because he knew Slade Wilson was still a sore subject and he didn’t want to make things even worse.

"It's Felicity, John. How can you ask me to sit still and do nothing?" he wasn't even trying to hide the distress in his tone or in the way he ran his hand through his hair. Not trying to hide anything was a big tell where his worry levels were concerned. "After Slade... After this summer, how can you..."

Diggle could tell that Oliver was fighting with himself just by the way his muscles were coiled like a spring, ready to release. Oliver was fighting his instincts, fighting against the need to just do something, trying to listen to what he was saying and not go head first into the situation without giving a thought to the consequences. It was an evolution, in Diggle's opinion. It was also a damn good moment for this evolution to happen because things could get extremely messy if Oliver decided not to listen.

"Man, you two need to have a serious conversation about what happened with Slade and what happened this summer, with Brother Blood and everything. This thing is eating at you. But now is not the time for you to freak out about things that already happened" Dig was trying to remind his friend that this situation was completely unrelated to what had happened before. "This talk you need to have? It won't happen if you end up in jail, or worse. The guys we’re catching every night won't use stun guns on you if they find out who you are".

"So what you're telling me is to let the police deal with it?" Oliver asked with a pained sigh, rubbing his fingers together in that nervous twitch that Diggle knew so well.

"That's what I'm telling you. And once this is over, you take her home and stay with her, because we both know she'll insist that she's okay, but that will just be Felicity being Felicity and trying to keep us from worry about her" the ex-military answered his friend's question honestly.

Oliver huffed a laugh because that was so very Felicity. She was the strongest person he knew, but she also had a tendency to try to lick her wounds in private and get over things all by herself. It was a terrible trait, something the two of them had in common. Something he would love to not have in common because he knew how painful and lonely it could be. And pain and loneliness were two things he didn't want for her at all.

He once said that she could talk to him if she needed to tell someone about her day and he meant it. Maybe he was terrible at sharing, but he was good at listening. Well, at least when it came to listening to her. And apparently, that was something that Dig knew too.

"You're in love with her" Laurel’s voice reminded the two men that she was still there. "I thought it was just part of your crazy plan when she injected that psychopath with the serum, but you're actually in love with her”.

"Not now, Laurel" he answered with a tired sigh, running a hand through his already slightly mussed hair. He honestly forgot she was even there. And he wasn’t in the mood to deal with her now because he could feel it. He could feel it coming and he wasn’t wrong.

"I shouldn't be surprised. You've always had a thing for short skirts" Laurel forced a laugh and her judgmental tone made Oliver's blood boil, but her next words were even worse. "Was it the librarian look? This is what gets you now? Should I ask for some tips? Because she must be really good if you actually fell in love with her. I thought she was just another..."

"That’s enough, Laurel!" Oliver's answer came off sounding almost as threatening and as dark as his Arrow voice. His hold on his patience was very thin at this point. "I've heard a lot from you since I came back and I probably deserve most of the things you said to me since then, but this? This you don’t get to judge. You know nothing about the things I’ve been through or what we’ve been through together. She was there for me in the worst of times and when no one else was. And you know what? You don’t even know her!”

Laurel's only response was to send a cold glare his way and disappear from his sight before he could say anything else. He didn't care. He just knew that Laurel had no right whatsoever to talk about Felicity the way she did. No one had a right to talk about her like that, especially not someone that barely knew her and that got nothing but respect from Felicity every time they met. Laurel should at least have the decency to show her the same courtesy.

"Are you okay?" Dig asked when Oliver took a deep breath and shook his head in exasperation.

Diggle could tell that dealing with Laurel only served to make his friend exhausted. It was hard to imagine a day when the two actually were together. That relationship was tiring even for him that wasn't directly involved. He wasn’t Laurel Lance’s biggest fan and after the malicious insinuation about Felicity, of all people, Dig disliked her even more.

"I will be, once Felicity is out of this damn bank" the vigilante turned his back, following the same direction that Captain Lance had taken off to earlier. "Let's go find Lance".

Chapter Text

 

It was maddening. Lance thought he was actually going to lose his mind any second now. He was almost taking his handcuffs out of his pocket at this point and no one could blame him for it. Oliver Queen was always very good at driving him insane, but the pacing... It was making him seriously consider handcuff the kid to a chair.

Twenty minutes of unstoppable pacing. That's how long the kid had been walking a straight line, from one side of the control center inside the police truck to the other. He was nervous, that was very clear in his coiled muscles and the frown between his eyebrows. Lance could understand his restlessness, but if the kid didn't stop the pacing soon, he was going to have to take drastic measures.

"You’re going to make a hole on the floor if you keep going like this" Mr. Diggle was the one to voice what they were all probably thinking inside that truck. "And you're making me dizzy. I don't want to see my breakfast again, thank you very much".

Queen gave the other man a dirty look, but at least he stopped pacing, choosing to lean against the wall, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together in a nervous gesture. If you asked Lance, he would say Queen looked like a caged animal.

The kid being still in a single place didn’t last for long, though. The longer it took for the situation to be resolved, the longer Ms. Smoak was inside that bank, the more fidgety he got. When they failed, for the third time, to negotiate with the robbers the release of the hostages almost two whole hours later, that’s when he finally lost it.

The sound of flesh hitting metal echoed all around them when Queen punched the wall of the truck so hard he left an indentation in it. A perfect print of his fist could be seen on what Lance was pretty sure to be solid metal.

"Oliver..." Mr. Diggle's tone was a warning, probably trying to make his friend contain his temperament, but the kid was way past the point now.

"Two hours, John! It's been two hours and she's still in there! What good is this doing?" the tenuous hold he had on his control was slipping fast if the way he almost screamed at his friend was anything to go by.

Lance wasn’t really blaming him for it, but it didn’t mean he would stand this when there were people trying to work, when they were doing their best to solve the situation.

"You're not helping, Queen. Calm down" the Captain said, realizing pretty quickly that it was the wrong thing to say.

"Don't tell me to calm down! Do your damn job and get her out of there!" okay, now he was actually screaming.

"Okay, that's it. Take a walk, kid" Lance said, opening the door and gesturing for him to get out. "You need some fresh air".

The truck shook with the force Queen closed the door after him, giving the Captain one last murderous glance before getting out. Lance shook his head and sighed deeply, before turning his attention to Mr. Diggle.

"Do you have something to say too?" he asked the ex-military, in an annoyed tone.

"I'm quiet here" the other man put his hands in front of himself, in a placating gesture. "Just don't take it to heart. It's Felicity..."

It took another fifty minutes until something happened and the hostages started getting out of the bank. Something that Captain Lance couldn't for the life of him understand.

He had no idea where the robbers were or why they suddenly decided to free people. Nothing the police had done so far had worked, so saying he was confused was an understatement.

That only lasted until Felicity Smoak herself entered the police truck, dropping her purse carelessly on the floor by her side and saying she needed a computer right this moment. She seemed unscathed and very determined, so Lance just told them to give her what she wanted.

A couple of minutes, a fist pump and a loud "yes!" later, Ms. Smoak finally let herself be hugged by a clearly relieved Mr. Diggle.

"I'm okay, Dig" she sighed into his chest, but despite her words, she tightened her hold on him. "Have I ever told you that you give the best hugs?"

"Don't let Oliver hear you saying this. He likes being your favorite" he answered in a teasing tone, giving her a kiss on the top of the head.

"It's not the same. You're like my brother. Oliver is..." Ms. Smoak trailed off, apparently not finding the words to describe what she was trying to say.

"Not like your brother?" Mr. Diggle offered, giving her a knowing smile.

"So not my brother" she agreed, with a bashful smile and pink cheeks, shoving her face into her friend’s chest again. "I'm pathetic".

"You're not pathetic. Hopeless, maybe" the ex-military smirked, pinching her side good-naturedly. "But then again, you both are".

At this point, Lance was tired of waiting for the two to finish their conversation. He wanted some answers. They could talk about… Whatever this was later. They had all of the time in the world for it later.

"What the hell happened in there? What happened just now? You get out of a bank robbery and the first thing you do is ask for a computer?" the Captain asked, completely confused by the girl's actions.

Ms. Smoak finally pushed off of her friend's embrace and explained what had happened. Lance knew she was resourceful and a damn genius, but sometimes the fact that she was also very brave completely escaped his mind.

"When I noticed they were starting to get antsy, I thought that would end badly and offered to give them a route out if they agreed to release us" she explained, talking so fast that Lance had to focus solely on her not to miss anything. "They agreed, but only after they threatened to shoot me for talking so much. Not that it matters now. It mattered at the time, though. Being shot is a big “no” in my book. Not again, thank you very much. Anyway, when I found the emergency exit that Laurel used, I also realized that there is a tunnel under the bank that goes all the way from here to the south side of the city. That's what they used to escape".

"What about the computer you needed so much to use?" Lance asked, trying to form a clearer picture of what had happened and momentarily ignoring the fact that she just said she had been shot before.

"Oh, that. I put a tracker on them" she answered proudly, pointing to the computer screen to show him a little red dot blinking on a map. "They're on foot, carrying a lot of money. That was just really poor planning on their part if you ask me. You'll catch them easily. Just follow the tracker”.

Lance could only think about how the girl apparently carried trackers around inside her purse or something. That was probably occupational hazard for being a vigilante's tech expert. And he should have realized at the time that Mr. Diggle didn't look surprised at all about it. On the contrary, he looked very much like a proud older brother.

Ms. Smoak, though, seemed to be about to fall over any second now. If the Captain had to guess, he would say that the adrenaline was starting to wear off now that she didn't have any immediate concerns.

"Where's Oliver? Did he... He left?" Ms. Smoak asked her friend, looking around for a second, but it wasn't like the kid had a lot of places to hide in there.

"Of course not, Felicity. You know better than that" Mr. Diggle answered her with a pointed look. "Captain Lance kicked him out. He was driving everyone insane. I'll go get him. He's probably brooding somewhere close by".

"Sounds like the Oliver Queen I know" she smiled affectionately, shaking her head.

When Mr. Diggle went in search of their missing friend, Lance pushed her into a chair despite her protests that she was fine.

"So... Do you always carry trackers around everywhere you go?" he asked in almost a whisper to avoid any curious ears that could be paying attention to their conversation.

"I like to be prepared. You never know when you're going to need one" the blonde shrugged her shoulders like it was normal behavior for someone to carry trackers inside their purses. "After all, you do know who I work with".

"The fact that you were shot at some point has anything to do with who you work with?" Lance raised an eyebrow disapprovingly at her. Felicity Smoak was too good to be getting shot at, in his opinion.

"Oh, that. Uh, it might?" she looked like she was being scolded. When his disapproving look only intensified, she sighed deeply and gave him an annoyed one in return. "Don't look at me like that. It wasn't his fault. And you know what? I'm a big girl. I can choose..."

Their conversation was cut short by the door being thrown open and the Captain immediately knew who it was. The change in Ms. Smoak's demeanor was clear as day. She lit up like a Christmas tree. There was also the fact that a tiny "Oliver" escaped her mouth on a sigh.

"Felicity..." the relief was clear in the way the kid said her name like it was the most precious thing that had ever left his mouth. It was disgusting.

If you asked Lance who moved first, he wouldn't be able to tell you. One second Ms. Smoak was sitting in front of him, the next she was wrapped in the kid's arms.

She was so small compared to Queen. The girl barely reached his chin and Lance had proof in the form of a fist imprinted in solid metal of how strong Oliver Queen was, and yet, the gentleness in the way he was holding her was striking. Ms. Smoak, on the other hand, seemed like she was trying to squeeze the air right out of his lungs.

"Are you okay?” Queen asked, running his hands down her back, and then back to her shoulders and down her arms like he had to check and make sure there was nothing wrong.

"I'm okay, Oliver. Just... My head is hurting because I hit it, but I'm fine. Promise" she put some space between them to touch her forehead, close to her hairline, making a face when her fingers brushed against the sore spot.

"How did you hit your head?" the kid pushed her hand away to take a better look at the purple bruise that was forming.

"On the counter that Laurel and I hid under. I guess I miscalculated the height of it when I rose to run. It made me go blind for a second there. They saw me and I had to kiss goodbye to my chances of escaping" the girl whimpered softly when Queen touched the spot she had hit. "Ouch".

"That's quite the bump you have there, Felicity. How hard did you hit the counter?" he pushed her hair back, lifting her chin gently and taking her glasses off. He folded the glasses carefully and put it in his back pocket, before facing her again.

"Did I tell you that I went blind for a second? That's how hard I hit it" her hands wrapped around his forearms when he cupped her face. "But I'm not sure it was hard enough for you to be checking my pupils, Oliver. I don't think I have a concussion. What I do have is a headache. And a nasty bump".

"Your pupils are dilated and you’re shaking" the kid completely ignored what Ms. Smoak said.

"That has more to do with a healthy dose of fear and adrenaline than with the bump on my head. They threatened to shoot me and leave me bleeding somewhere, you know? And they had big guns. You can’t blame me for the shaking" the hysterical laugh that left her mouth was a big indicator to Lance that the adrenaline crash was coming soon.

Queen must have noticed it too, because he pulled her to him again and she shoved her face into his chest, holding onto him for dear life. He ran his hands through her back and gently through her blonde curls, trying to soothe the poor girl’s frayed nerves.

When Mr. Diggle stepped close to them and gave her a supportive squeeze of the shoulder while Queen whispered reassurances that she was safe now and that they wouldn't let anyone hurt her… That was when the Captain understood that those three meant the world to each other.

He knew they were close. It was easy to see that the three of them loved each other, but that was when he realized it was more than that. They were a family, a unit. It was clear in the way that Ms. Smoak seemed to trust them to keep her safe, in how the two men felt the need to promise her they would. And for some reason, Lance felt that they would keep that promise, no matter what.

It took some time and more whispered promises of safety, but they got to her eventually and Ms. Smoak was finally able to lose the death grip she had on the back of Queen’s shirt.

“I'm okay” she mumbled weakly, turning her head to give Mr. Diggle a watery smile.

If Lance wasn't there witnessing the whole thing happening, he would say that the way the tension left her body when she pressed her ear right over the kid’s heart was a thing out of a romance movie. His heartbeat seemed to calm her more than anything him or Mr. Diggle had said. Queen, on the other hand, looked nothing like the caged tiger he seemed before. He looked more like a big, pleased cat with the way he pressed his face into her hair. And now the Captain had to agree with the ex-soldier. Those two were hopeless.

Lance decided to give them some time and turned his back to talk to a cop that was using Ms. Smoak’s tracker to monitor the robbers.

“What is it?” the Captain asked when he saw the face the guy was making at the screen.

“No offense, Sir… But how do we know this thing works?” Officer Evans, Lance noticed his name, seemed very unsure about what he was looking at.

“That girl is a genius. If she says that's them on the screen, then it's them” he answered, ordering for Officer Evans to give the field team the coordinates.

“You put a tracker on them?” Queen asked her, overhearing Lance’s conversation with the officer.

“She did” Mr. Diggle confirmed, with a smirk adorning his lips.

Ms. Smoak shrugged her shoulders like it wasn't a big deal, but the pleased expression on her face told another story altogether.

“Of course you did” the kid huffed a laugh, but despite it, his eyes were shining with pride. “That's my girl”.

The fact that Queen didn't sound surprised about the tracker thing should have been an indicator to Lance about the kid’s nightly activities, but he got distracted by Ms. Smoak's pink cheeks and the way she turned her face back into Queen’s chest, hiding a bashful smile.

The girl seemed to forget for a second about the bruise on her head because she pushed her forehead right into the kid's chin when she turned into his chest and then whimpered in pain.

Queen cupped her cheek with his right hand again and tilted her face to take another look at the bump on her head, making a disgruntled face at the purple bruise, like if he glared at it with enough force of will, the thing would just disappear. The Captain was sure that the kid wasn't even aware that he was caressing her cheek with his thumb.

And then Queen lowered his head and gave her the most delicate kiss he could muster, right over the bruise, being careful not to hurt her even more. He had never seen Queen be so careful with someone, not if you weren't called Thea Queen.

Lance was one hundred percent sure that the muffled sound that escaped Ms. Smoak had nothing to do with pain this time, especially when she raised her eyes and gave the kid such an affectionate smile, whispering something that sounded a lot like “All better”.

Lance was also sure that those two were the most vomit inducing pair he had ever seen. And all Mr. Diggle seemed to be able to do was shake his head in amusement, throwing knowing looks at his friends.

When Ms. Smoak put her hand over the one that was still cupping her cheek, though, her expression changed so fast that the Captain almost got dizzy. She pulled the kid's hand away from her face, holding it between both of hers.

“Oliver…” his name escaped her lips on a sigh when she saw the way his knuckles were swollen. “What happened to your hand?”

“I'm okay, Felicity. Nothing's broken” he reassured her by giving her hands a squeeze.

“The way you know what a broken bone feels like is not as reassuring as you think it is. But that's not what I asked” despite her pointed look, her fingers were caressing his knuckles gently.

“He thought it was a good idea to punch a wall” Mr. Diggle answered for his friend, pointing to the mark he had made on said wall.

The air rushed out of her lungs when she saw what the ex-military was pointing at and realized that the kid had punched the wall so hard that his fist was imprinted on it.

“Are you out of your damn mind, Oliver?! You could have broken your hand!” she chastised him, in what Lance assumed was her “I'm so mad right now” voice. “No more punching walls! Punching walls is bad!”

The kid seemed more amused by her scolding than anything. At least until she slapped him and declared that she was being serious. Then he gave her a solemn look and promised not to punch any more walls unless they punched him first.

“You think you're so funny” the girl huffed, but it was clear that she was trying to contain a smile.

That's when Ms. Smoak swayed on her feet and all three of them raised their hands to hold her in place, but since Queen was the closest, he was the one to hold her up.

“Wow. I guess that's too much excitement for one day” she raised her right hand to her face and pressed her eyes with her thumb and forefinger for a second, before shaking her head slightly.

“You okay there, kid?” Lance asked, almost on the verge of calling a paramedic when he noticed how pale she looked all of a sudden.

“Yeah. I just… I'm a little dizzy” her answer made Mr. Diggle pull a chair for her, pushing her into it.

The ex-military crouched in front of her and took her face into his hands to make her look at him, just like Queen had done before.

“I think it might be a good idea to let a paramedic take a look at you, Felicity” he looked pretty sure that she had more than a bump on the head. “You said you went blind for a second when you hit your head. Are you sure you didn't pass out?”

“I'm sure” the answer would have been more convincing if she wasn’t as white as a ghost.

“Any headache or nausea?” Queen asked, stepping up behind her and squeezing her shoulders gently.

“Yes to a headache, no to nausea. Just some dizziness” Ms. Smoak sighed contentedly, slumping in the chair when the kid started to massage her shoulders. “You’re way too good at this. Why are you so good at this?”

“Will you let the paramedics take a look at your head?” Queen hadn’t lost the habit of answering one question with another, Lance noticed it.

“Oh, so that’s what you’re doing. You’re trying to distract me so I’ll say yes to whatever you ask” the girl accused him. “You’re very sneaky, Oliver Queen”.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about” he pressed a particularly tense spot on the back of her neck and Ms. Smoak melted into his hands. “I just want to make sure that you’re okay”.

“Yeah… Fine. As long as you let them take a look at your hand” she turned in the chair to give him a pointed look, making his hands fall away from her shoulders.

The kid huffed an incredulous laugh, turning to Mr. Diggle for support, but the other man only raised his hands and said “Don’t look at me” before Queen could even open his mouth. Lance was just learning that Mr. Diggle was a very wise man.

“So now you’re resorting to blackmail?” he raised an eyebrow in Ms. Smoak’s direction, his tone a mix of amusement and annoyance.

“No. Blackmail is such an ugly word. Let’s call it a compromise” her words were a little bit slurred and Lance could see by the concern in the kid’s face that he would agree to anything at this point, but then she went in for the kill. “I just want to make sure that you’re okay”.

The Captain was pretty sure that Ms. Smoak knew the kind of power she had over Queen and that she knew exactly how to use it to get what she wanted. Using his words against him was just one of those methods, it seemed. Lance was also sure that the puppy eyes she was throwing the kid were part of her arsenal. If she wasn’t still so pale, it would probably be a funny scene to witness.

“Whatever you want, Felicity” he agreed with a sigh. “Let’s go find someone to check you and then I’m taking you home”.

“I’ll call your boss and let him know why you’re skipping work” Mr. Diggle told the girl, helping her out of the chair, while Queen went to pick up her purse that was still carelessly on the floor. “I’ll drop by later to see how you’re doing”.

Apparently, Ms. Smoak knew that her friend dropping in to check on her was non-negotiable since she only mumbled “Okay” and then pulled him by the shirt to give him a kiss on the cheek. He took her glasses that Queen was holding out to him and put it back on her face, receiving a thankful smile in return.

She swayed slightly on her feet again and Queen was by her side in seconds, holding her up with his left arm around her waist.

"Are you okay? Can you walk?" he asked, making sure that she was steady before trying to take a step.

"Yeah, I think so" she tried another little step to make sure her legs would hold her up. It was clear that it was a challenge for her to keep upright, but she seemed determined to stay that way. "Just don't let me fall on my face and make a fool of myself".

"Never" the kid promised, kissing her temple and holding her closer to himself. "Hey, how about we stop to get some ice cream on the way after we deal with the paramedics?"

Lance could see that Queen was trying to please the girl even without Mr. Diggle's smirk and shake of the head. It worked, though, because the glint in her eyes could rival the one of a child on Christmas day.

"Mint chocolate chip ice cream?" her hopeful tone made Queen laugh, which in turn, made her smile affectionately at him.

"Mint chocolate chip" he agreed, squeezing her waist and making her move with him when he tried to take some more steps. "Maybe we could watch that show you like that you keep nagging me about".

"Favorite ice cream, favorite tv show..." Ms. Smoak shook her head in amusement, with a little laugh. "I don't know why I'm surprised since you have hordes of women throwing themselves at your feet most of the time, but you do know your way to a girl's heart, don't you?"

"I'm not interested in any other girl's heart, Felicity" the kid answered without any real thought to what he was saying.

And it was clear to the Captain that Queen didn't think it through because both the kid and Ms. Smoak seemed to freeze when they realized what he said. To be honest, when Lance shot a look at Mr. Diggle, he seemed to be in the same predicament. The three of them were a mix of surprise and incredulity. And then Mr. Diggle sighed impatiently and covered his face with his hand before he shot Queen a look that was clearly saying that he had the worst timing ever. Lance could almost hear the ex-military saying "Now, Oliver? Really?"

"Shit" Queen swore under his breath. "I'm... I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."

"It's okay, Oliver" her voice came out in a high-pitched tone, so she cleared her throat and tried again. "It's okay".

"Felicity..." her name came out of his mouth on a plea. Was he asking for help? Was he trying to explain himself? Lance was pretty sure not even the kid knew.

"Oliver. It's fine" Ms. Smoak squeezed the arm that was around her waist and turned to face him. "You pretend you didn't say it and I'll pretend I haven't heard anything. We'll talk about it when you're ready to talk about it. Okay?"

Queen seemed lost in his own head for a couple of seconds there, his vision focused on a point above the girl's head. Then he opened his mouth to say something, but she beat him to it.

"If you apologize again I'm gonna eat all of the ice cream by myself" she said before he could talk, clearly trying to lighten the mood.

He huffed a laugh and shook his head with a look of amazement in his eyes. In the Captain's opinion, if Queen was trying to avoid "talking about it", he should stop looking at Ms. Smoak the way he was doing right now because that look was pretty self-explanatory.

"I will never understand what the hell I did right to deserve you" his tone was so self-deprecating that it not only made Ms. Smoak upset but it also annoyed Mr. Diggle if the way the other man rolled his eyes was any indication.

"This is one of the problems, Oliver. You need to stop thinking that you don't deserve good things. Because you do" the girl eliminated the little of space that was still between them, wrapping her arms around him in such a natural manner that one would think they've been doing this for years, but the look on Queen's face told Lance otherwise. "Sometimes I wish you could see yourself the way I do. Then you would understand".

Lance was reminded of the big, pleased cat again when the kid curled himself around Ms. Smoak, smushing (really, there wasn’t another word for that) his face into her neck and breathed deeply.

It took her a couple of seconds to react, like she had to figure out first how to do it without spooking him. And it was probably true. From what he remembered, Queen had never been the touchy kind when it came to showing affection. That probably had something to do with the fact that he was a Queen. Robert Queen had been terrible at showing affection and while Moira loved her children fiercely, to show physical affection… That was something that Lance couldn’t remember happening a lot.

And after the time the kid was forced to spend away from civilization, the Captain imagined that this was something that only got worse. Unless you were tiny and blonde, and a literal ray of sunshine, he had realized with all of this robbery business. Queen seemed to have zero problems with holding her or with her holding him.

Still, Ms. Smoak moved slowly when she let her hands run up his back, rubbing the tension out of his muscles with a care that was telling. If it was easy to see before that Queen had more than friendly feelings for her, in that moment it was pretty clear that he wasn't alone in it.

"Someone promised me ice cream" she whispered, and her lips grazed his cheek when she turned her head to his side, but Queen couldn't be bothered to move.

The kid only turned his head slightly, making her giggle when his scruff tickled her. The sound of her giggles made him smile against her neck and then he was pulling her closer, if that was even possible with the way they were already plastered to one another.

"Oliver" Lance was pretty sure that Ms. Smoak was going for a scolding tone, but it was a weak attempt when she was smiling the way she was. "You're not sleeping on me, are you? You better not drool".

That made Queen laugh and he finally raised his head from the apparently very comfy place it had found on her neck. Even his eyes were smiling. They were shining in a way that Lance couldn't remember seeing in a long time. Not since the kid was sixteen and he and Merlyn were being their trouble maker selves.

Mr. Diggle chuckled and the Captain threw a glance his way. The other man had a fond expression on his face, mixed with a mischievous glint in his eyes that spoke of all of the teasing he was saving for later.

"No drool, I see" Ms. Smoak teased the kid when their eyes found each other again. "C'mon. I want to eat ridiculous amounts of ice cream, watch mindless tv shows and cuddle on the couch".

"Cuddle?" Queen tensed up all over again at her words, which only made her start rubbing his back again, even if she took a tiny step back to give him a little bit of space.

"I've realized you're very good at it and I've had a bad day so far". Mr. Diggle tried to hide his laugh with a cough, without a lot of success. The girl threw him a look that was clearly telling him to mind his own business, before turning her attention back to Queen. "You, mister, is on cuddle duty today".

The kid must have realized that the two of them had been "cuddling" practically since Ms. Smoak got out of that bank because he took a deep breath and relaxed his stance. He had promised ice cream and to watch her favorite show with her, after all. Lance felt like telling the kid that the cuddling part was just a given at this point, but there was no need. Queen tangled his fingers in one of her blonde, unruly curls and pulled slightly in a playful manner, giving her a small, but sincere smile.

"I can live with that" the mix between surprise and relief on the girl's face when he answered was a little bit heartbreaking if you asked the Captain. It was like she had already braced herself for a denial. "Let's find you a paramedic first, though. Are you still dizzy?"

"A little bit" Ms. Smoak let her hands fall at her sides reluctantly. It looked like she didn't want to stop touching the kid, but since he seemed more relaxed she was trying not to overstep any boundaries, trying not to push him. "My head hurts a lot, though".

Queen solved the touching problem for her since he was the one still curled around her like a cat. He only changed his grip on her, letting his right hand fall away from her back and stepping beside her, with his left arm around her waist like it had been before, holding her up.

"I'm not letting you fall on your face, remember?" he answered the curious glance she gave him when he didn't let go of her.

Lance only heard the girl replying with a mumbled "My hero" before they were out of the door, leaving Mr. Diggle behind to go find a paramedic. The other man didn't seem to mind, though. On the contrary, he looked more than happy to let them go without him, to give them some alone time.

"Now we're going somewhere" Mr. Diggle was thinking out loud, shaking his head in amusement, which made the Captain give him an incredulous look. "What? This is progress”.

"You call that progress? Because I thought Queen was going to have a heart attack when she mentioned cuddling" Lance wasn't able to avoid the snort that came out of him when he remembered the kid's face, like a deer caught in the headlights.

“It’s complicated. You can’t understand without the whole story. I get why they keep pulling back, but some time ago, Oliver would have run for the hills with even the idea of spending some alone time with Felicity and she would have let him, because they’re both scared shitless of ruining everything" the ex-military explained, his tone was a mix of annoyance and affection for his two friends. It was the tone of someone who had to watch this dance too many times. "So yeah, that is progress".

"I don't get what can be so complicated. I mean, it's clear as day that those two are..." Mr. Diggle interrupted him with a laugh, shaking his head in accordance to what Lance was saying.

"You're feeling it, aren't you? The urge to bash their heads together?" the other man was having way too much fun with it, in his opinion. "Welcome to my world, Captain".

And then Mr. Diggle was out of the door, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket to call Ms. Smoak's boss and leaving him a hell of a lot more aware of the ins and outs of Oliver Queen's love life than he ever needed to be. Or more than he ever wanted to be, for that matter.

Three months later, this weird, completely unnecessary conversation about Queen and Ms. Smoak's relationship would come back to his mind as part of his revelation about the kid's nightly activities. It was going to be part of Lance finally connecting the dots and then he would understand what the hell was so complicated about it.

Chapter Text

 

Lance sighed in frustration and threw the door to the back alley open. It was almost ten o’clock in the night. He should be heading home and not to dirty alleys behind the precinct to meet with masked vigilantes. Huh… They had a designated meeting spot, apparently. What the hell had his life become?

The call came ten minutes ago and now the Captain was regretting the fact that he had stayed late again. It was nothing more than a huffed “We need to talk. Meet me in 10”. No greetings, no goodbyes, nothing. Not that he was actually expecting niceties from the Arrow, but still… Would it kill him to say “hello” for once?

Imagine his surprise when he found not one, but two vigilantes waiting for him at the smelly and dirty alley. And one of them was his daughter, in her Canary attire that he would probably never get used to. The two were talking in hushed tones and it looked like Sara was trying to reason with the Arrow about something until the noise from his arrival interrupted them.

“Sara, baby. What are you doing in Starling? Why you didn’t tell me you were in the city?” the Captain pulled his daughter into a tight hug.

“I wasn’t. I was in Coast City, dealing with some League business. I got here three hours ago and I have to go back soon” she answered, pulling out of his embrace. Her expression was full of urgency, even behind her mask. “We need your help, Dad. Do you have any tech expert on call tonight?”

“Yeah, my best one is working tonight. But I’m pretty sure my best expert doesn’t even come close to Ms. Smoak” Lance told her, confused by why they would need a tech expert when the Arrow had the best one on his side.

He saw the Arrow go rigid at the mention of Ms. Smoak’s name, saw the way his gloved hands closed into tight fists and how every muscle in his body seemed ready for a fight.

“That’s the problem. We can’t ask for Felicity’s help when she’s the one we’re trying to find” Sara’s words got his attention away from the weird feeling of déjà vu he was having. “She’s missing, Dad. The Arrow called me because he knew I was in the area and I’m good with a computer. Unfortunately my good it’s not enough”.

So… Ms. Smoak was in trouble. Again. How did these things keep happening to that girl? Realizing that they gave him no explanation whatsoever to what had happened, Lance questioned exactly that. And his daughter let the Arrow explain how everything went so incredibly wrong when they were trying to get evidence on Devan Scott, a.k.a. gang leader/drug dealer/cold blooded murder/the biggest piece of trash to walk the city’s streets in the past couple of months. The guy the Arrow was trying to get was a big pain in Lance’s ass, someone he couldn’t arrest because they didn’t have any evidence.

The vigilante was visibly tense while explaining how Ms. Smoak couldn’t access the computer she needed to remotely, so they had to get to Scott’s place of “work” to do it. And then everything went downhill because apparently, Scott had been waiting for them. He somehow knew the Arrow was coming for him and he was ready for it. From the looks of it, he had a small army waiting for the vigilante.

“I told Arsenal to get her out while I was trying to hold them back, but there were too many of them. They got the drop on him. When I was able to get to them, he was bleeding on the floor and Felicity was gone” the voice modulator couldn’t hide his distress and it was only making his voice that much darker.

“How did you let she go with you when you know how dangerous Scott is?” the Captain wasn’t even trying to hide his disapproval of the whole thing. It was such an irresponsible thing to do.

“No one lets Felicity Smoak do anything, Captain Lance” the vigilante answered through gritted teeth, clearly aching to just do something. “I can argue with her as much as I want. In the end, she will always remind me that it's her life and her choice. The only thing I can do is try to keep her safe”.

“You’re doing such a good job at that, aren’t you?” the sarcasm in his voice made the Arrow flinch and avert his eyes, his jaw clenching tightly.

“Dad” Sara pulled him by the wrist, away from the caged animal that the vigilante resembled at the moment. “He’s already blaming himself enough. You don’t need to make things worse”.

“You can’t tell me that you don’t agree that it was irresponsible on his part” Lance argued with his daughter.

“He’s not lying when he says that no one lets Felicity do anything, you know? Irresponsible or not, it was her choice” she shrugged her shoulders, looking back at the Arrow for a second, before turning back to him again. “Her safety has always been his top priority, Dad. She’s too important to him. If she’s not here right now I assure you that it’s not because he didn’t do his best to keep her safe”.

The Captain sighed and decided to let it go for now. He didn’t need to like how the work the Arrow did seemed to put that poor girl in danger more times than he imagined, but they had more pressing matters to get to at the moment.

“What do you need?” he addressed both his daughter and the other man.

The vigilante was still tense. His whole body was coiled like a spring, ready to get into a fight, to move, to do something. It was clear that having to wait for things wasn’t his strong suit. His eyes, though… He was thanking him, Lance realized. He was thanking him for the help, without uttering a single word.

“We went back to Scott’s center of operations since I had no luck trying to trace cell phones and the like once I got to Starling. I wanted to be sure that the big guy here didn’t miss anything last night” Sara indicated her green hooded partner with a tilt of the head.

“I told you I didn’t” the Arrow grumbled in an annoyed tone.

“Yes, but aren’t you happy that I wanted to see it for myself? At least now we know Scott didn’t cut her into pieces and fed her to Starling City’s fishes like you told me he does to people” her tone of exasperation made Lance snort in amusement, then what she said actually got to him.

“Wait a second… Last night? She’s missing since last night?” the Captain turned accusing eyes at the Arrow.

“It was three-ish in the morning, actually. I’ve been trying to find her the whole day, but there’s not much I can do in the daylight, Captain. I did everything I could and when I ran out of options, I asked for your daughter’s help” the vigilante explained, sighing deeply in frustration. The voice modulator made it kind of creepy.

“Anyway…” Sara extended her open hand to the Arrow and he pulled a flash drive out of his jacket pocket, handing it to her. “He left a gift behind. The video is time-stamped so we know she’s okay, at least until an hour and a half ago. Scott knew the Arrow would go back there sooner or later, although, it probably would have been much later if I hadn't insisted. I figured we shouldn’t waste time with me trying to find anything that could give us a location in this video, so we came right here. What we need is an expert. I might be good with a computer, but I’m no Felicity Smoak”.

The Arrow huffed and mumbled something that sounded like “You don’t say”, which made his daughter roll her eyes at the man.

“Be nice. You did ask for my help, didn’t you?” she punched him in the arm and Lance realized that Sara was teasing the vigilante.

And that threw him for a loop. They looked very familiar with each other and that was something that the Captain wasn’t expecting. He had seen the two fighting together and in moments of crisis, when the only focus was the battle and what to do next. He had never realized that they knew each other well enough for teasing, especially because Sara was always coming and going. She had never stayed too long, so how the hell they seemed that familiar with each other? Was it the result of having each other’s backs while playing superhero?

There was something at the back of Lance’s mind trying to tell him the answer to that, a nagging feeling that he had to push away when the Arrow shifted impatiently from one foot to another and reminded them that they were wasting time standing there in the dirty alley when they still had to find where Ms. Smoak was being held captive.

"I'll see what I can do" the Captain took the flash drive from his daughter's hand. "Stay around".

"We're not going anywhere" the hooded vigilante assured him.

Lance gave him a nod, throwing the back door to the precinct open to go find his IT expert. He would help them. Mostly because he really liked Ms. Smoak and he didn't want anything to happen to her, but also because he knew that what Sara had told him was true. As much as he disliked how Ms. Smoak seemed to always be in danger, he knew that the girl's safety was one of the Arrow's priorities.

His demeanor was proof enough for Lance. The restlessness, the distress in his tone that not even the voice modulator could hide, the clenching fists and tight jaw, the way he seemed more pale than usual... And there was also the fact that he had asked for help. It was clear as day that Ms. Smoak was important to him.

The Captain tried to explain the situation to his IT expert, Tim, as best as he could. He knew Tim was trustworthy, so he wasn't really worried about the fact that after tonight, his IT expert would know that Ms. Smoak was part of the Arrow's team. Or that his Captain was also involved with the vigilante in a certain way. And it seemed that the green guy wasn't too worried about it either if he actually came ask for a random person's help.

It was harder to watch what was on that flash drive than Lance expected it to be. He loathed the fact that he was watching someone he was very fond of tied to a chair and gagged, being forced to listen to the things that Scott promised to do to her. The man was nasty and he seemed to feel great pleasure in describing in detail all of the things he was planning for Ms. Smoak.

"We'll leave something for your green friend to find" the man on screen took the gag off of her mouth. "And when he comes looking for you, I'll be ready for him. Again".

It was very clear that Ms. Smoak was trying to remain calm and not to show how scared she was. She was doing fine until Scott mentioned the Arrow. And Lance was also pretty sure that Scott was doing this all for show. The fact that he left this video for the vigilante to find told him that Scott was messing with the Arrow's mind, trying to play him.

Scott went on, telling her how he would kill the Arrow slowly and painfully for interfering with other people's "business", how he would do it right in front of her and then he would do the same to her. And that was when her demeanor changed.

It was like watching a completely different person from the scared girl that was gagged until minutes ago emerge from her body. Her eyes were full of pure hatred for the man in front of her. It was the very definition of "if looks could kill".

"Stay away from him" it was the first time that Lance heard that girl sound so threatening. He didn't even think she could sound like that.

The protectiveness was rolling off of her in waves, which was kind of ridiculous if you asked him because he was pretty sure the Arrow could take care of himself. At the same time, it also made sense, because the Captain imagined that doing what they did, they were used to protect each other. She had to make sure that he was coming back in one piece every night.

"She’s a bit of a hellcat, isn’t she?" Scott turned to the camera with a predatory smile on his face to address the Arrow, since the video was made for him. "I'll give you some time to come say goodbye before I throw her into Starling City's Bay. C'mon then, tell your boy where to find us, so I can get rid of him once and for all".

"Go to hell" Ms. Smoak gave the man an icy glare.

"You're no fun" Scott sighed exaggeratedly, coming towards the camera. The maniac glint in his eyes gave the Captain the shivers. "Maybe I'll keep you for a little longer after killing him, so I can teach you some manners".

And then the video was cut when Scott turned the camera off and Lance had to get away from the room while Tim worked on it because he didn’t think he could watch the thing again. If he already hated Devan Scott before for the crimes he was always evading from, now he hated the guy even more. But they also had a chance of finding the girl because of that flash drive. He was thankful that the asshole decided that messing with the Arrow's mind was a must.

Twenty minutes later, Tim was able to come up with an address somehow. When Tim tried to explain to him how he had been able to get the address, it all sounded like Greek to him, so Lance only wrote it down and thanked him, reminding the IT expert once again to keep what he had learned that night about Ms. Smoak’s involvement, and his own, with the Arrow to himself.

He went straight back to the alley, just to see his daughter sitting on the fire escape on the first floor of the neighbor building. It was one of the weirdest visions Lance ever had. The Canary, just sitting there and swinging her feet around like a child, waiting for him. Before he could even understand her moves, though, Sara was on the ground, landing like a cat in front of him.

"Where's the big guy?" the Captain asked when he saw no sign of the Arrow.

"Probably hitting things to get his frustration under control" she shrugged her shoulders like that was unimportant. "You've got something for us?"

"I have an address" he confirmed, waving the piece of paper where he wrote it down.

Sara pressed the comm unit on her ear, calling the Arrow back and seconds later, a grappling arrow was embedded on the wall and the vigilante was zip lining from the roof of a building.

"Where is she?" the Arrow asked as soon as his feet hit the ground.

"I'll get a team ready" the Captain said, giving him the address.

"I'm not waiting for you to get a team together" the vigilante turned his back on him, heading for his bike that was parked at the darkest corner of the alley.

"From what you told me, Scott had an army waiting for you the last time and he made it pretty clear that he'll be waiting for you this time too" Lance reminded him.

"Yeah, well... The Arrow didn't have me the last time. Don't worry, Dad. We've got it covered" Sara assured him, giving him a pat on the back.

"Your daughter is a small army all by herself, Captain" the green hooded guy answered, getting on the bike. "Scott only succeeded the last time because Arsenal is not as experienced as either of us".

"Okay, fine. But I'm going with you" his tone didn't leave room for arguments. "I'll get my car and meet you there".

"Knock yourself out" the Arrow started the bike, waiting for Sara.

His daughter got on the back of the vigilante's bike and took the helmet that he passed to her, while the Captain fished his car keys out of his pocket, checking his gun and handcuffs.

"If he touched one hair on her head, you'll be using these handcuffs on a dead body" the threat on the Arrow's voice gave him chills.

He knew exactly what the man was capable of. He still remembered how the Count got three arrows to the chest, even after the vigilante had already stopped with the killing and was trying "another way", per his own words. He had proved already that he would kill for Ms. Smoak.

The capacity the Arrow had for darkness was something that Lance knew the vigilante had been keeping under control for the whole of the last year, except for the Count incident. It seemed that he would let the darkness come out to play without a second thought when it came to the people he cared about.

The Captain had no doubt at all that the Arrow would keep his promise and kill Scott if he had harmed Ms. Smoak in any way. It didn't surprise him that the protectiveness went both ways with those two. He knew they were quite a team, but he also knew that high-stress situations always led to extreme emotions and those two lived in high-stress situations. It was expected that sooner or later that would result in an attachment.

The Arrow and Ms. Smoak were partners and friends, Lance knew that. But to stare down a known murderer and defy him when you were tied up and had no way to protect yourself, with no regard to your own life because said known killer threatened someone you cared about? It was more than friendship. To threaten to kill someone, in front of a police Captain, having every intent to follow through with it, because that person may have hurt someone you cared about? To have actually already killed someone that had hurt the person you cared about? "Friendship" would never cover that one, no matter which way he twisted it.

He was more than confused at the moment because Lance could swear that Ms. Smoak and Queen had something going on. From what Mr. Diggle had said three months ago, from what he'd seen that day at the bank robbery, he'd been one hundred percent sure that those two were in love with each other. But now... Well, now he wasn't so sure because it actually made sense for her and the Arrow to have something more than friendship going on. And he never thought that Ms. Smoak would lead a guy on if she wasn't interested. He didn’t think she seemed like the type.

That was another moment where the Captain should have realized what was right in front of him and he still missed it somehow. And fifteen minutes later, when he got to the location that Tim gave him, his daughter just laughed at him when he made a comment about how Ms. Smoak seemed to bring out the protectiveness in all of the men around her. First Queen, and then the Arrow.

"Someday, Dad... Someday you'll get it" Sara mumbled cryptically, giving the other vigilante that was walking in front of them and paying them no attention an amused look.

"Someday" came not even half an hour later.

Chapter Text

 

Lance was expecting problems. Of course he expected problems since Scott had promised to be waiting for the Arrow. Their biggest problem, though, was the sheer size of the industrial complex that the address that Tim gave him led them to. The place was massive. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. To their luck, either Scott was stupid or he really was aching for a fight with the Arrow, since his army of brutes was mostly concentrated around a relatively small part of the complex. It was a neon sign telling them "Hey, we're here".

So far they had come face to face with only some of Scott's men and the Arrow had dealt with them fast and silently. The Captain could barely keep up with the vigilante's moves when he was fighting. Before he could even try to do something to help, Scott's men were already unconscious on the floor. Not even Sara had to move a single muscle so far. His early assessment at the precinct's back alley that the Arrow was ready for a fight was being confirmed.

Of course things couldn't go their way for a lot longer, though.  Of course.

Someone spotted them and alerted someone else, that alerted someone else and... Yeah, it all went to hell very quickly. Before Lance could understand how things went to shit so fast, they were in the middle of an all-out war against Scott's hordes of men. And he wasn’t the only one with a gun.

The Arrow and Sara were very efficient at disarming the men before they could fire. There were some, though, that weren't on ground level. Lance had to take care of them, since the Arrow was a little busy to use his bow at that particular moment, at least to fire arrows with it. Lance noticed that the vigilante had other creative ways to use his bow. Mostly, he liked to bang people's faces with it.

The Captain also realized that what the Arrow had said about Sara being a small army all by herself wasn't even half of the truth. His daughter seemed to even have fun handling the men that thought that coming at her would be easier than to face the Arrow. At some point, Sara had nothing less than five men coming at her at the same time. In a matter of minutes, they were all unconscious on the floor and she turned her attention to her vigilante partner.

Lance had already seen the Arrow and Sara... And the Canary fighting together. He knew that it was a sight to behold, but he didn't think it would ever impress him less. It was like watching a perfectly choreographed dance. They knew each other's moves very well, they knew what the other was going to do before they did it and they moved like a unit. It was almost entrancing.

He really thought things were going their way when man after man started dropping to the floor. "Efficient" was only one way to describe the Arrow and the Canary fighting together. But then Sara got caught by surprise somehow when some giant (the guy was massive, like... almost Mr. Diggle's arms massive) caught her by the waist and threw her away from the fight. It took her no time at all to get up on her feet, but it was enough for the Arrow to get surrounded.

It was clear that the Arrow was their target and not her. The green hooded guy noticed it too because he blocked a punch at the same time that he huffed a "Go!" to Sara. His daughter hesitated, clearly wanting to get back to the fight and help her friend, but the other vigilante seemed to be doing just fine, so Sara used the men’s lack of interest in her to pull Lance by the wrist and slip away.

"C'mon, let's find her" Sara let go of his wrist to swing her bo-staff at a man that tried to block their path.

"What about the Arrow?" he asked, stepping over the guy that his daughter left stretched on the floor.

"He's gonna be okay" she dismissed his question, slipping into an old factory that had too many lights on to be abandoned. Scott really wasn't trying to hide. "This guy is cocky".

"Tell me about it" the Captain still remembered about the time they took Scott into questioning and he all but admitted to his every crime, only to remind them after that they had no proof.

And there they were. Ms. Smoak was still tied to the chair, the same way she had been when Scott filmed the video. She seemed tired, like her limbs wouldn't withstand to be in the same position for much longer. Scott was circling her like a predator circling his prey, waving a gun around and still making all kinds of nasty comments about all of the ways he could think about to kill the Arrow.

"Don't you ever get tired of talking?" Ms. Smoak sighed deeply, the exhaustion rolling off of her in waves like she just wanted a bit of silence. "I know this is kind of ironic coming from me, but really... Don't you get tired?"

Sara snickered at that, which attracted Scott's attention to their location. Not that his daughter was really trying to hide, Lance realized when she stepped into the relatively open area without any hesitance. Scott seemed frozen in place, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. His lack of reaction didn't last, though.

"And who are you?" the man asked, pointing his gun at Sara.

"I'm a friend of hers" she indicated Ms. Smoak with a nod of the head, keeping her eyes at the gun. "Are you okay, Felicity?"

"I need to move and sleep. I haven't slept in... I don't know how long. And I have a killer headache because this guy just won't stop talking, but I'm okay" the blonde girl answered, her eyes flowing from the gun to Sara. "What are you doing here?"

"I heard you got your pretty ass into a mess again so I came here to lend a hand" his daughter shrugged, and Lance had the impression that this was something that happened more times than he knew about. "You'll give us an ulcer one of these days, Felicity. If you miss me that much, you can just call. No need to do all that".

"I didn't know they form comedians in the League of Assassins" Ms. Smoak raised an eyebrow at Sara. "I do miss you. I just don't miss your terrible jokes".

"This is nice and all, but you're not exactly the person I was waiting for" Scott interrupted them, waving his gun at Sara. "The person I was waiting for is a little more... green".

"Oh, don't worry. He's a little held up at the moment, but he'll be here soon" in the blink of an eye, Sara was in Canary mode again. "You should be more worried about me, though".

"No offense, but you look like a dominatrix. It doesn't really scream “scary” to me" Scott circled the chair that Ms. Smoak was tied up to, coming closer. "You're kind of ruining my fun here, lady".

Lance scoffed at that and seemingly for the first time, Scott realized that he was also there.

"Captain! What brings you to my humble abode?" the man was crazy, Lance was sure of that.

"Let her go, Scott" his gun was aimed at the other man, even when he indicated Ms. Smoak with a nod.

"Are you friends with everybody in this city?" Scott asked the blonde girl, sighing in frustration.

"I'm a likable person" she shrugged and then whimpered in pain when the ropes tying her to the chair burned her wrists with the movement. "Could you maybe get me out of here now?"

"The one friend of yours I want to see is still not here, so no" the man answered, turning to give her an annoyed look. That was all it took.

"Wasn't talking to you" Ms. Smoak gave him a satisfied smile. In his annoyance, Scott forgot he was aiming his gun at Sara. "Oh man, that's going to hurt".

When Scott realized what was happening, it was already too late. He tried to shoot Sara, but his aim was off with the turn he had to make to face her again, and he only ended up hitting a wall. Sara's bo-staff hit the man's hand after that and sent the gun flying away from him.

Lance used the opportunity to get to Ms. Smoak. He dropped to his knees behind the chair, untying first her legs and then her hands. Both her wrists had abrasions from the rope and he was pretty sure that her ankles would also be bruised, even with her jeans protecting her skin from direct contact.

Ms. Smoak's legs were shaky from spending so much time in the same position, so the Captain wrapped an arm around her waist to help her stay upright. From up close it was hard to miss the bruise she had on her left cheek, but he was more worried about getting her out of there than to find out what had happened at the moment.

The sound of Sara's bo-staff hitting flesh had them both looking at the fight that was going on just a couple of feet away from them. Scott was a skilled fighter, it seemed. At least he was holding his own for a lot longer than any of his men did. It wasn't enough, though. Not against Sara.

His daughter blocked the man's attack with her bo-staff, using his momentum to pivot around him and kick him as hard as she could. She hit his back and Scott went flying against a concrete pillar, his head connecting with it with a sick thud. It wasn't enough to make him lose conscience, but it was enough to disorientate him.

That was all Sara needed. Her next hit threw him against the concrete pillar again and this time, when the back of his head hit it, he slumped against the pillar and stayed there. She eyed him for a couple of seconds to make sure he wouldn't be coming back up, but he seemed completely out of it, even if he was still conscious. Satisfied with the state of things for the moment, Sara turned her attention to them.

"How are you always getting into trouble?" Sara asked the other girl, resting her bo-staff over her shoulder and coming closer to them, shaking her head in disapproval.

"Pot, meet kettle" Ms. Smoak smiled at his daughter, before giving her hand a tight squeeze. "It's nice to see you. And thank you for saving my "pretty ass", I suppose".

"He would be insufferable if something happened to you. I was only looking out for my own sanity" the teasing in Sara's tone didn't have exactly the reaction she was aiming for.

"Where is he? Because Scott promised to do not very nice things to him and he had a lot of help from what I could see. Like, a lot" the nervousness in the girl's voice was apparent.

"He's fine, Felicity. I’ve heard him punching someone not even a minute ago. Relax, okay?" his daughter pressed the comm unit in her ear that was keeping her in contact with the Arrow. "Hey, I've got her".

The particular "twick" of an arrow being released permeated the open space, only for a shout of pain to be heard next. Apparently, Scott hadn't been as out of it as Sara thought. He had reached for the gun that was close to his slumped body, only to be hit by a green arrow that halted his movements and was now sticking out of his right shoulder.

"You should use those handcuffs now" the Arrow came out of the shadows, bow in hand.

Lance didn't think Scott would be able to do much in his current state, but better to be safe than sorry, so he followed the vigilante's suggestion and cuffed Scott tightly, making the man groan in pain. He paid him no attention and picked up the phone, calling for an ambulance. As much as he disliked Devan Scott, it wasn't like he could take the man in with an arrow piercing his shoulder.

The Captain could see the emotions flicking through the Arrow's eyes with each step he took. First, it was the anxiety and restlessness that Lance had already seen back at the precinct, then it all morphed into relief to see that Ms. Smoak was okay and the vigilante took a deep breath like he could get air into his lungs properly for the first time in hours. But then... Then he was close enough to see the bruise on her cheek and his eyes went dark.

"What happened?" he asked through gritted teeth, raising a gloved hand to her face.

"It's nothing. It's just a bruise" the blonde girl answered, her eyes closing of their own accord when the Arrow caressed her cheek softly with his thumb.

That man was a damn contradiction. He had such big potential for darkness (and the murderous look in his eyes at the moment was proof of that) and yet, he could be so gentle. The way he was stroking Ms. Smoak's cheek so carefully like he couldn't even imagine hurting her even more was completely opposite to the anger in his expression.

"Did he do this?" the vigilante hissed and his tone was so threatening that it sent a chill down Lance's spine.

"Have I ever told you that sometimes the voice modulator gives me the creeps?" Ms. Smoak was clearly trying to change the subject. "Because it does. Sometimes it's really hot, like when you go all breathy in my ear after a fight. That's just super hot. Honestly, it should be illegal. But other times, like right now, it's..."

"Felicity!" the hand that was caressing her cheek fell away from her face and he gave her a pointed look.

Lance had come back to stay close to the girl after cuffing Scott in case her legs were still shaky and she would need someone to hold her up, so he could almost feel the shudder that crossed her body at the vigilante's tone. The Captain knew she wasn’t scared of him. The Arrow would never hurt her. No. She was hesitating to tell him how she gained that bruise, Lance realized, because she knew what the man could do for her. Would do for her.

"He kept touching me. My arms, my hair. My face..." she took a step closer to her partner when she saw his eyes go even darker than before. "I... I bit him. He didn't like it very much".

He heard Sara swear, angry on her friend's behalf. And he saw the way the Arrow's jaw clenched tightly at her words, how his whole body went rigid with rage. The fury in his dark eyes was terrifying. In that moment, he looked very much like the killer he had been in that first year. Then he was on Scott and there was nothing the other man could do about it.

"The bitch bit me!" Scott tried to justify his act, but his crude words only served to make things even worse for himself.

The vigilante punched the other man so hard that his head whipped back against the concrete pillar. Then he crouched in front of Scott, took the arrow sticking out of his shoulder and twisted it inside the wound until the man was screaming in pain.

"How does it feel like to be the one restrained and not being able to protect yourself?" he shoved the arrow deeper, while rage radiated from every inch of his body. "I think I’ll pull this arrow out and leave you to bleed to death. You'll serve as an example for your kind. You come for her and I'm gonna kill all of you".

And then he twisted the arrow again, with much more pleasure than before and Scott's screams echoed through the open space of the old factory. Sara seemed unbothered by all of it, but when Lance took a step closer to try to stop the vigilante, she held him by the wrist, not letting him move. He knew that Scott was trash and that he deserved no mercy, but he was still a police Captain and he wasn't about to just watch while the Arrow killed someone.

"You get close to him right now and he's going to lash out. Even if it's not you that he wants to hurt" his daughter explained, with a bigger understanding of the situation than he would like for her to have.

Lance couldn't tell if Ms. Smoak didn't hear what Sara said or if she just didn't care, but he was inclined to believe it was the second option. He knew the Arrow wouldn’t hurt her, though. The girl approached the green hooded vigilante carefully when he started to pull the arrow out of Scott's shoulder very slowly, to cause him as much pain as possible. She kneeled down beside him, covering his forearm with her hand and the Arrow froze on the spot. His rage had reached such a point that even his breathing was irregular.

"That's enough" she whispered to him, pulling at his arm to make him release his hold on the arrow. "He's not worth it. It's just a bruise, it will heal".

The Arrow's whole body was vibrating with anger, the blue in his eyes almost impossible to discern with the way his pupils were blown out. Ms. Smoak kept the hand at his arm and raised the other one to his face, diving under the hood to cup his cheek and turn his face to her.

"Let it go" her thumb was stroking his cheek gently, just like he had done to her earlier. "I know how much this costs you. This man is not worth a piece of your soul. Please".

Lance didn't know if it was the vehemence in her voice, even if her words came out choked, the way she was looking at him or her gentle caress, but it worked. The vigilante let go of the arrow, hauling her up with him, away from Scott. The other man passed out from the pain seconds later.

Just then the Arrow seemed to realize that his gloved hands were covered in Scott's blood and that he had stained Ms. Smoak's shirt with it when they got up. He took his gloves off, letting them fall carelessly to the floor before pulling the girl to him like he couldn't even imagine touching her with blood on his hands.

He pulled her by the waist and she went willingly. Her eyes fell closed when the vigilante dipped his head, resting his forehead on hers. For a minute, that's all they did. They just stood there together in silence, the only movement being their synchronized breaths. Then Ms. Smoak's hand was on his face again, caressing his stubbled cheek lazily and the Arrow turned his face into her hand, kissing the bruise the rope had left on her wrist.

It was such an intimate scene that Lance almost felt like an intruder. And he was suddenly feeling ridiculous. He felt ridiculous because he could actually see how connected they were and he was feeling kind of sorry for Oliver Queen right now since the kid had clearly already lost this game.

Like most of all old fashioned epiphanies, though, there was always a moment that triggered said epiphanies. The Captain’s trigger was the Arrow choosing exactly the moment he had Oliver Queen on his mind to finally hug the girl. And it wasn't just a hug. It was a goddamn big cat curled around her, smushing his face into her neck and breathing deeply, in the exact same way he saw happening three months ago.

"Holy shit..." he whispered when the comprehension hit him like a kick to the face.

"It's Felicity" Mr. Diggle had told him months ago like it was expected for Queen to act irrationally when it came to the girl. "It's complicated. You can't understand without the whole story" the man had said, trying to explain without actually giving anything away.

And wow… He could see now why it was so damn complicated. Oliver Queen was the Arrow. He had actually been right when he accused the kid before. And Mr. Diggle knew about it, Lance realized. He knew why it was "complicated" and he knew "the whole story".

Sara knew too. His daughter knew who was behind the mask, with her "Someday, Dad" and all of that familiarity with the other vigilante. Familiarity that came from years of knowing each other and not just from having each other's backs while playing superhero.

Now Lance was double checking everything about the Arrow in his head and all of the signs that he had missed or ignored kept piling up in the "You're a fool" column because it was all there. So much evidence… And how had no one else put two and two together so far?

The Captain must have zoned out for a second, lost as he was in his own thoughts about Oliver Queen and the Arrow being the same person. Next thing he knew, the kid was whispering something into Ms. Smoak's neck that he couldn't quite make out, but the shit-eating grin on his daughter's face told him that her ninja like hearing could. And she seemed very pleased with whatever it was.

"If I knew this was what it would take..." Ms. Smoak answered his whispered words with a small laugh, before sobering up and pulling him away from his hidden spot on her neck to look him in the eyes. "I know. I've known for months".

Lance almost snorted at the confused look the kid gave her at her words. The almighty Arrow, looking like a lost puppy. If his enemies could see him now...

Ms. Smoak didn't seem to find it as amusing as the Captain did, though. The girl raised her right hand to his chest, resting it over his heart and smiling at him patiently.

"You're a terrible liar, Mr. My Coffee Shop Is In A Bad Neighborhood" the hint of amusement in her voice was hard to miss. "At least when it comes to lying to me. You seem to have no problems with anyone else".

"Maybe that's because I've never wanted to lie to you in the first place" he ran a finger over her bruised cheek gently, like he could heal it by touch alone. "Maybe you've always been way too good at seeing right through me".

"Maybe" the girl agreed, closing her eyes at his touch for a second and taking a deep breath. "The point is that you just can't lie to me. Then Slade happened and that night... I looked into your eyes that night and I believed you".

She seemed to get lost in her own mind for a while, remembering whatever moment it was that they were talking about. Her index finger was drawing mindless patterns on his chest and she only got back to the present when the vigilante put his hand over hers and squeezed it softly.

"It took me some time to realize that I believed you because you weren't lying, to begin with" Ms. Smoak huffed in exasperation with herself. "I'm supposed to have a very high IQ, you know? I’m supposed to be a genius and it took me weeks. That's just how much you confused me that night. Once I understood, though, it was just there. Everywhere, all of the time. I don't know how I didn't see it sooner, it seems so clear now".

The beautiful smile the girl had on her lips disappeared when she raised her eyes and saw the grimace of pain the kid had on his face.

"Don't you dare" she hissed in a low tone, her fist closing over his jacket tightly.

"My life is..." he whispered, avoiding her eyes.

"No" Ms. Smoak interrupted whatever he was about to say. "Don't you dare give me that "because of the life that I lead" crap again. I've heard it all before".

"Felicity..." his voice came out choked.

"I lead the same life you do" the blonde girl reminded him, with a ferocity that Lance only heard when she told Scott to stay the hell away from the Arrow. "I chose this life as much as you. If you want to find an excuse to make us both miserable, for whatever stupid reason you've made up in your mind, you'll have to find another one".

Sara snorted at that, but Lance seemed to be the only one to hear it. The kid and Ms. Smoak were too lost in their own little world to remember that they weren't alone. That seemed to happen frequently.

"It's dangerous. If someone finds out..." Queen shook his head, taking a deep breath. "They'll come after you".

"In case you've missed it, they're already coming after me" she cupped his face to bring his furtive eyes back to her. "Yes, it's dangerous. But that's just our lives. And you know what? I could die hit by a car tomorrow. You could die hit by a car tomorrow. And with the way you like to parkour through oncoming traffic, that's a scary possibility. The point is: it wouldn't hurt any less".

The sound of sirens getting closer was what finally popped their bubble. Ms. Smoak looked around for a second like it had actually escaped her mind where they were and that someone else was there. Her cheeks, or the one that wasn't purple with a bruise, reddened when her eyes landed on him and Sara.

The Captain shook his head in amusement at her embarrassment and only reminded Queen... The Arrow and his daughter that it was time for them to go and they both agreed. They didn't need more people than necessary to know about Ms. Smoak's involvement in this vigilante business.

"We'll finish this conversation later" Ms. Smoak assured the kid, not giving him any room for discussion. "We need to go. Unless I need to give a statement or something".

The girl turned to Lance for confirmation and he shook his head in agreement.

"You will, the only evidence we have to keep Scott in prison is... Well, you. We can’t use the video, it would give too much away. And we’ll have to tinker with the truth a little" the tiredness on the girl's face made him a little bit soft, though. "But we can do it tomorrow. He isn't going anywhere for the night anyway".

"I'll stop by the precinct first thing tomorrow" she gave him a thankful smile and then turned to her partner. "Are you with your bike? Because it's going to be problematic to fit three people in the Ducati".

Sara solved their problem by announcing that she wasn't going back with them and that she had to go back to Coast City. His daughter was the first to leave, after thankful words from the Arrow, a hug and whispered words to Ms. Smoak that made the hacker laugh, another hug for him and promises to stay in touch as much as possible.

Queen and the blonde girl left soon after Sara. Ms. Smoak reassured him again that she would stop by the precinct in the morning for them to decide what to do, the vigilante thanked him for the help (with words, what a progress) and then they were gone, leaving the Captain to deal with the mess with Scott.

Lance didn't even mind that it was late and that he should be home by now. The 300 cups of coffee that he would need to function in the next morning would be worth the knowledge he gained tonight.

Oliver Queen was the Arrow. He suspected it before. He just didn't have any idea that what would confirm his suspicions would be the fact that as Oliver Queen or as the Arrow, that kid didn't know how to hide that he was in love with Felicity Smoak.

Chapter Text

 

A month and a half after that night when Lance realized that it was Oliver Queen behind the Arrow's mask, Starling City's newest gossip seemed to be the kid's new girlfriend. Well, not new. What the gossip magazines seemed certain of was that now that there was no more Queen Consolidated to rain on his parade, Queen could finally make public his relationship with his former secretary, which most of the magazines affirmed that had been going on for a long time.

The kid wasn't a billionaire anymore, but that didn't seem to diminish people's need for gossip and the Queen name was still a good seller. The Captain snorted every time one of these magazines crossed his line of vision because if there was one thing he was one hundred percent sure was that the garbage they were printing could not be more wrong.

Lance passed the newsstand, entering the very busy coffee shop on a Friday morning. The place was packed, probably because everyone seemed to need a little boost of energy to get through one last day of work before they were free for the weekend, including vigilantes. The arrow shooting type and the computer hacking type of vigilantes.

Ms. Smoak was sitting at a corner booth, completely absorbed by something on her phone and ignoring the whispered words and the staring of a group of teenage girls that were sitting at the next booth. Queen was waiting in line to order their coffees, but still very aware of what was going on around him, if the way he turned to Lance and threw him a nod when he entered the coffee shop was any indication.

The Captain decided to wait for the line to die down a bit before he'd try to get his order in. It was early anyway, he had some time to kill before he had to be at the precinct. He sat at the booth Ms. Smoak was at, facing her and that was what got her attention away from her phone.

"Morning" Lance greeted her when she raised her eyes to him.

"Captain Lance" she smiled, putting her phone down. "To what to do I owe the pleasure?"

"Just waiting for the line to die down a bit. Do you mind if I keep you company in the meantime?" he asked, already knowing the answer since he was already sitting and she seemed okay with it.

"Of course not" Ms. Smoak indicated her phone, before storing it away in her jacket pocket. "I was just catching up on some morning news while Oliver gets our coffees".

The giggles coming from the teenage girls seemed to get her attention for the first time and Ms. Smoak only shook her head and rolled her eyes at the whispering and staring, but didn't give them any more than that.

"That doesn't bother you?" the Captain asked, throwing the girls an unimpressed look.

"I'm used to it" the blonde girl shrugged.

"Used to it? Aren't you two together for a month or so?" was it really enough time for her to get used to it? He remembered how long it took his own daughter to achieve this kind of "I don't give a damn" state of mind when Laurel dated the kid.

"Well, yes. But the gossip has been going since Oliver promoted me" he could almost hear the quotation marks when she said "promoted". "It was everywhere at QC and people weren't really discreet about it. I heard a lot of whispered comments about how I only got the job because Mr. Queen was certainly having a torrid office affair with his secretary".

She was on a roll and it didn't seem like she was going to stop anytime soon, so Lance didn't try to interrupt her. Apparently, she had some bottled up frustration about the topic.

"I wasn't even his secretary, you know? I ran that company more than he did, to be honest. And Executive Assistant is not the same as secretary. Never even got him coffee. Well, I did once but only because he had a terrible day" the girl was wildly gesticulating around and Lance was trying very hard not to laugh at her. "There was that one time he decided to try me about getting him coffee and I broke the damn machine. Violently, if I may add. It was very cathartic".

"I'm still trying to understand what that poor machine ever did to warrant your wrath" Queen put a cup of coffee in front of the girl and she immediately pulled it to her, taking a sip and humming in appreciation.

The kid shook his head in amusement at his girlfriend, then took one of the two cups he was still balancing on his hands and put it in front of Lance.

"Black, right? Figured if I was already in line..." Queen shrugged when the Captain raised his brows in a question.

"Thank you" Lance took a very small sip of the scorching liquid, not very keen on burning his tongue with it.

"Not the machine, Oliver. You on the other hand..." Ms. Smoak went back to the previous conversation when the kid sat beside her. "You were a very frustrating boss. But hey, now you are the one bringing me coffee, so... How's that working out for you, buddy?"

"Amazingly so far. You know what they say about keeping your girlfriend happy..." the suggestive raise of the eyebrow that Queen gave her wasn't even necessary for anyone to understand the innuendo.

"Oliver!" she elbowed him in the ribs, with a mortified look crossing her face. "I don't think Captain Lance needs to know".

"No, I really don't need to know. Nor do I want to, thank you very much" he didn't know if it was his answer or the grimace on his face that made the kid laugh, but there it was.

Queen was laughing in such a carefree manner that it seemed like he was sixteen again and had yet to go through all of the shit that life had thrown his way. Even his dimples were making an appearance at the moment.

Ms. Smoak looked completely enamored by the kid. She didn't have to say anything. The way she was looking at him and the smile on her lips was enough for everyone to see how stupidly in love she was.

"What?" Queen asked her with a smile still on his face when he saw the way his girlfriend was looking at him.

"Nothing, it's just... You've been laughing so much lately" that ridiculous, loving smile was still on her lips. "I love your laugh".

So apparently love wasn't just blind. Sometimes it was deaf too because that kid's laugh sounded like a nasty cackle in his opinion, but whatever. He could understand the sentiment. He couldn't imagine Queen having a lot of reasons to laugh in the last eight years.

"The Felicity Smoak effect" the kid kissed her temple softly, before pulling his ringing cell phone out of his pants pocket and taking a look at the screen to see who was calling. "It's John. I'll be right back".

When Queen got up and decided to get out of the coffee shop to take the call without all of the noise, the group of teenage girls in the next booth followed him out, giggling and poking each other. Ms. Smoak rolled her eyes so hard that Lance was scared for one minute there that her eyes would get permanently stuck at the back of her head.

"So, what is it like to be the Arrow's girlfriend?" Lance didn't know which one of them was more surprised with the question.

He didn't plan on letting them know that he knew. Plausible deniability and all of that if things ever went south. The question that came tumbling out of his mouth caught him completely unaware, but Ms. Smoak was the one that almost choked on her coffee, so he would say that she was more surprised by it than he was.

"What are you... I don't... I'm not..." a string of incoherent words left the girl's mouth, but then she took one look at his face, and at the pointed look he was giving her and breathed deeply. "You know. Okay, wow. Which one of your daughters do I have to use my loud voice on to remind them that it's not their secret to tell?"

That caught him by surprise more than the words that had left his mouth. He knew that Sara was in on the whole thing, but...

"Wait, no. Sara wouldn't tell you. She understands what's like to have a secret identity better than anyone" Ms. Smoak went on, almost talking to herself at this point. "So it was Laurel, right? I know you're her father, but it's not her secret to tell people".

"Okay, rewind. Laurel knows?" the incredulity was evident in his tone. Sara he could understand, but Laurel?

"If she didn't tell you, then who did?" it was clear the girl was worried that someone else knew and they weren't aware of it.

"You did" Lance whispered, not very keen on letting anyone else hear their conversation.

"I'm pretty sure I didn't, Captain. I would remember if I had told a cop that my boyfriend shoots arrows into bad people" she whispered back.

"Not like that. And I didn't mean you you. I meant the two of you. The way you act around each other, whether he's under that hood or not, is very telling" she seemed confused by what he was telling her, which only made the Captain roll his eyes. "Seriously? A blind man could see that you're in love with each other".

Lance could see the panic starting to build on her face and before he could calm her down, an uncontrollable torrent of words was falling from her mouth. She talked when she was nervous, he knew that.

"I know you don't approve of his methods. I mean... It got better once the killing stopped, but I can still hear the judgment sometimes when you two meet and he's under the hood. But he's doing good, Captain Lance. He's trying to help this city, trying to help people that need a lot of help. And maybe it doesn't change anything to you, but his heart is in the right place. He lost so much because of this life and he's still trying to do good anyway" the girl took a big gulp of air like she had just said all of that in a single breath (which she probably did), but then she just kept going. "He could have gone off the rails so many times. The Undertaking and Tommy... Tommy's death was so hard on him that he went back to that damn island. Did you know that the island's name literally means purgatory? "Irony" doesn't even cover it. And then his mom... He had to watch his own mother being killed, Captain. Slade Wilson killed her right in front of him and he wasn't able to do a single thing about it. He could have let that darkness he keeps at bay get the better of him, but he didn't. He's still trying to help a city that took so much from him because that's who he is. He has such a big heart and he's just... He's so good. I don't know..."

"Relax, Ms. Smoak" he had to interrupt her, otherwise her rambling would go on forever. "I've known since that night with Devan Scott, more than a month ago. Don't you think if I wanted to do something about it, I would have done it already? Or that we would at least be having this conversation at the station and not in the middle of a coffee shop?"

The girl took a look around, apparently remembering where they were and to make sure no one was listening in on their conversation. The coffee shop was still packed and still noisy, though. No one was paying them any attention and if they did, Lance was pretty sure they wouldn't be able to listen to what she had said. Rambling or no rambling, Ms. Smoak was still trying to protect the kid, even if she didn't realize it. She had whispered through her whole one-sided conversation.

"Calm down, okay? I'm not planning on throwing your boys into jail. Or you, for that matter" the Captain took a sip of his coffee before resuming his line of thought. "Like you said, he's trying to help. You all are. And you are actually helping. Criminality is down to a level that it hasn't been in years. I can see the results even if I don't always agree with the methods. As long as there are no bodies being dropped on my doorstep, I think I can live with that".

"My boys?" she was trying to pretend that she didn't know what he was talking about, but the girl wasn't fooling him.

Lance could understand her desire to not give anyone else away. He thought it was admirable how fierce she was when it came to taking care of her team, but he wasn't planning on turning back on them with the knowledge.

"I understand you're trying to protect your friends, but don't take me for a fool, Ms. Smoak" he raised an eyebrow at her, taking another sip of his coffee. "Mr. Diggle? It made sense when I figured everything else out. And the kid in red? The one you call Arsenal? It's Harper, isn't it? That jawline is kind of hard to miss. So yes, your boys. Two plus two equals four and all that. It's not rocket science".

"I told Oliver he should have gone with a full face mask for Roy" she mumbled more to herself than to him and then the girl shook her head with a sigh. "So... You know. Welcome to team Arrow, I suppose".

"Do you really call yourselves that?" the Captain snorted, making her smile for the first time since the kid left to take Mr. Diggle’s call.

"Just when Oliver isn't listening" she answered in a conspiratorial tone. "He doesn't like it very much. Roy loves to annoy him with it".

The Captain shook his head in amusement at her answer. In that moment, "Team Arrow" sounded much more like a family to him than a bunch of vigilantes fighting crime every night, which brought him to his next question.

"How did you get mixed up in all of this?" that was something he always wanted to know.

The question made a faraway look fill the girl's eyes and Lance didn't rush her. He could see that she was reminiscing about something and whatever it was, it was something that amused her immensely.

"I met Oliver three weeks after he came back" Ms. Smoak finally answered, with a smile adorning her lips. "He asked for my help with a laptop full of bullet holes. His excuse was that he spilled a latte on it and when I pointed out the bullet holes, he said his coffee shop was in a bad neighborhood".

That excuse was so outrageous that made Lance laugh out loud. It also reminded him of the night they went after Scott when Ms. Smoak told the kid he was a terrible liar. So that was what she was talking about. And he had to agree, that excuse was worse than terrible.

"I know, right?" the girl laughed too, shaking her head at the memory. "He kept coming back and his excuses got progressively worse. I knew he was lying to me and he knew I knew he was lying, but I've never asked. For some reason, I just trusted him right from the start. And he trusted me. Four months after I met him, I found him bleeding in the back seat of my car at QC's parking lot, dressed in green leather. He almost died that night".

"That was when Moira shot him?" the Captain did the math in his head, receiving a nod in confirmation. And then something else came to his mind. "There was a blood sample that was mysteriously ordered to be destroyed. Do you know anything about that?"

"I plead the fifth" Ms. Smoak gave him a shrug and took a sip of her coffee. "Anyway, after that night... I joined in because I wanted to find Walter Steele. I stayed after we found him because I knew we could do a lot of good and because... Because I knew Oliver needed me, he needed my help. The rest is history, as they say".

She seemed a little lost in thought after that, maybe remembering said history. After a couple of minutes, though, the girl shook her head and smiled, finishing her coffee and pushing the cup away. Lance just watched her for the time she was lost in her own head. From what he knew about Ms. Smoak, it was rare to catch her in a moment where she wasn't talking to her heart's content.

"Can I ask you something kind of personal?" the Captain inquired, pushing his own empty cup away from him and receiving a nod in agreement. "How did you convince him? He didn't look very keen on giving the two of you a chance that night, even if it's clear as day that he loves you".

His words made her laugh and throw the kid a look through the coffee shop window. Queen smiled at her when he caught her eyes and it looked like he was finally finishing his conversation.

"It was something your daughter said, actually. When we were saying goodbye that night, she told me that he couldn't tell me he loved me and then push me away. That I shouldn't let him and if he tried again, I should kiss him senseless" the girl shook her head in amusement, with a smile playing on her lips. "When we went back that night and I tried to talk to him about it again, he gave me the same excuses. So I followed Sara's advice. I kissed him senseless. And here we are".

"Should I send her a thank you card?" the kid was back, pocketing his phone and sitting beside his girlfriend.

"Yes, you should. She's a good friend" she rested her head on his shoulder, smiling when he wrapped his arm around her in response. And then she seemed to realize that he didn't sound surprised by the content of the conversation. "You knew. You knew that he knows".

"I suspected as much, yes. Remember how I told you last week that I wanted to talk to you about something and that I would once I was sure of it?" he was rubbing her arm in a soothing motion and when she gave him a nod to confirm that she knew what he was talking about, he turned back to Lance. "You called me kid".

"I've always called you kid" Lance answered, not understanding where he was going with this.

"Exactly. You've always called me kid" Queen let his eyes run through the coffee shop to be sure no one was eavesdropping on their conversation. "And you called me that the last time we met last week".

The Captain was about to say that he hadn't met Queen last week when he remembered that he, in fact, had an unplanned meeting with the Arrow one night. Sometimes he still had a difficult time thinking about the two as the same person. "Take care, kid" was what he had told the vigilante as the man in green shot a grappling arrow into a nearby building and disappeared into the night after dropping another lowlife into the Captain's hands.

"Huh... I guess I did" Lance mused, scratching his head. "I'll give myself a pat on the back for taking me more than a month to crack, though".

"I was almost sure of it since that night, but you didn't say anything. I wouldn't be the one to bring it up, for obvious reasons" the kid shrugged, disrupting Ms. Smoak's place of rest on his shoulder and she raised her head with a sigh, which in turn made him whisper a little "Sorry" and place a kiss on the top of her head.

"It's okay. Dig's going to be here soon anyway, I can't sleep on you. I just wish I didn't have to work today" the girl sighed again, like just the thought of it was making her tired. "I wish I could just go meet Walter with you and then spend the rest of the day drooling over Megan".

"How did Palmer react when you told him you were taking a baby into work with you, by the way?" the amusement in Queen's tone was impossible to miss.

"Who says I told him?" she raised an eyebrow at him, with a smirk playing on her lips. "I'm dying to see his face".

The kid laughed at her answer, shaking his head at his girlfriend's mischief. By the look on his face, Lance was betting that Ms. Smoak wasn't the only one dying to see her boss' face when she showed up to work with a baby on her hip.

"Megan is Mr. Diggle's daughter, right?" the Captain asked, just to be sure that he was following the conversation.

"Yeah, she's 6 months old and the cutest thing I've ever seen" the girl gushed over the baby, with the biggest smile on her face. "John has a short trip to make and Lyla is out of town, so we're taking care of her for the next couple of days".

"And you plan on doing... you know, the vigilanting thing while taking care of a baby?" Lance could notice the incredulity in his own tone, but it was kind of crazy to do what they did with a 6-month-old infant with them.

"We have it all set already, Captain. Only patrols for the next days, so Roy can do it by himself. If something comes up that requires our involvement, Felicity already set up a system at home, so she can stay with Megan and still help from there while I'm out with Roy" Queen explained calmly like they've had this conversation too many times before. Which they probably did while planning how to do it.

"Seems you have it all figured out" the Captain commented. Then he frowned when he remembered something from her file of when he had taken her into questioning the first time he suspected she worked with the vigilante and turned his attention to Ms. Smoak. "If I remember correctly, isn't Megan your middle name?"

The smile on her lips was even bigger than the one she had when she was gushing over the baby. Her whole face lit up with the question.

"If you ask John he'll say he just likes the name" she answered in a matter-of-fact tone, but then she was inclined in his direction and whispering like she was telling him a secret. "John is also a big fat liar".

"I bet he only named her after you so he would have the free babysitting whenever he wanted to" the kid teased her. His mouth was saying something, but his eyes were saying another, though. By the look he had on his face it was clear that he loved the fact that their friend had named his child after Ms. Smoak. "He knew you wouldn't be able to say no".

"Wait till they have a boy next and they name him Jonas. I bet you'll cry" the girl teased back, bumping his shoulder slightly with hers.

"Manly tears" he joked with a shrug, making his girlfriend laugh and shake her head in amusement at him

Mr. Diggle chose that moment to show up with his arms full of baby, and baby bags, and baby... everything, it seemed. Ms. Smoak jumped right out of her seat and almost fell all over her boyfriend in her haste to get out of the booth, making grabby hands at the baby in her friend's arms.

"Are you trying to help me or you're just interested in my daughter?" the teasing tone made the girl give him the side-eye.

"Why do you even ask?" Queen laughed, standing up to help his friend with the things he was carrying. "She would attach Megan to her hip if she could".

"I don't think Lyla would approve of Felicity stealing our daughter" Mr. Diggle said, passing her the baby anyway and greeting the Captain with a nod of the head.

"It's not stealing if she comes willingly" Ms. Smoak cooed at the baby in her arms. "Right, baby girl? You love being with me, don't you?"

The little girl squealed in her arms, waving her tiny arms around and babbling, which made Ms. Smoak smile at Mr. Diggle proudly.

"There's your answer" the hacker shrugged like the baby talk was all of the proof they needed.

"She likes being with you because you spoil her rotten, that's why" Mr. Diggle rolled his eyes, but his tone was warm, filled with affection.

"I'm afraid that's what godparents are for, Dig" Queen put the baby things down and clapped his friend on the back.

"Exactly. She's my goddaughter and I'm going to spoil her as much as I want" she gave her friend a defiant tone, lifting her chin up in challenge. "I don't even know why you're picking on me, to be honest. Oliver is worse than me".

"All lies. Don't believe a word she says" the kid rested a hand on the small of Ms. Smoak's back and kissed the baby on the cheek, making her squeal loudly, probably because of the feel of his scruff on her skin. "I don't think auntie Felicity wants us to tell your dad which one of us doesn't want to put you down even when you're sleeping, does she?"

"I don't think uncle Oliver wants us to tell your dad that he would be incriminating himself too with the answer to that question, does he?" the girl raised an eyebrow at her boyfriend, but Queen only gave her a shrug, trying to pretend he had no idea what she was talking about.

"Great. Now I know where I'll be taking her at three in the morning when she doesn't want to sleep in her crib" the ex-military sighed in exasperation. "May you remind me again why did I make the two of you her godparents when I knew what a terrible influence you would be?"

"Because you love us and we would be an influence either way, since we spend more time together than apart, so why not have the free babysitting?" Ms. Smoak posed it as a question, but Lance could tell that it wasn't the first time she was giving the man this answer, just by the mischievous look in her eyes.

"Oh yeah. The free babysitting, that was it" he teased her back, giving her a small laugh. And then he sobered up slightly. "Are you sure this is okay? You've never had her overnight before. I mean, Oliver hasn't even ever stayed alone with her. You're usually together and now..."

"It's fine, Dig. We'll take good care of her. We wouldn't have offered if we thought we couldn't do it" Ms. Smoak passed Megan to her boyfriend's arms so she could get closer to their friend and hold his hand, giving him a reassuring squeeze. "She's going to work with me while Oliver has his meeting with Walter. I only have some reports to read over, so I can keep an eye on her. Then Oliver is going to get us for lunch and he'll stay with her for the rest of the afternoon because I can't take her to a board meeting or an investors meeting. After that, I'm free for the rest of the weekend. And Oliver is great with her, you know he is. They're going to be okay alone for a couple of hours. We've talked about all of this already".

"I know we did. I just never spent so much time away from her" Mr. Diggle answered with a pained sigh. "I don't know how Lyla does it".

"You haven't seen a thing until they start to want to go to parties alone at night" the Captain shrugged. "I used to have hair. It started to fall when the girls hit their teenage years".

His comment made Queen and Ms. Smoak laugh, but Mr. Diggle didn't seem to find it as amusing as the couple did.

"Thank you, Captain Lance. I was already dreading the teenage years. You've just made it all so much better" his tone was dripping with sarcasm and it only made his friends laugh even harder. He gave them a calculating look and then decided to give them heart attacks, apparently. "We'll see who's going to be laughing when it's your turn. That child is going to have Queen blood in their veins. You two are screwed if he or she happens to follow in their father or aunt's footsteps".

It was quite comical the way Ms. Smoak's eyes went big as saucers or the way Queen's whole body tensed up with their friend's words, their laughter dying in both of their throats so suddenly. Mr. Diggle knew where to hit them. Lance could appreciate that talent.

Just for a moment there, the kid seemed to let his guard down. It was like he was envisioning it, seeing in his mind what that future looked like and the longing in his face was so clear. If the Captain could see it so easily, then of course that Ms. Smoak could see it too and that seemed to have sucked the air right out of her lungs for a second.

"Do you..." the girl shook her head, taking a deep breath. She tried again, her voice coming out in a soft whisper like she was afraid to break the moment if she spoke too loud. "Do you want children, Oliver?"

"Are we really having this conversation right now?" Queen gave her a nervous laugh, holding the baby in his arms closer to his chest like she could shield him from this talk.

"It doesn't have to be a conversation. It's just... It's just a question" her voice was shaking, her hands were shaking, her whole damn body was shaking. Lance couldn't decide which one of them looked more like a nervous wreck.

"I... I want whatever you want, Felicity" that was the biggest roundabout answer the Captain had ever heard and Ms. Smoak didn't seem very happy with it.

"That's not an answer, Oliver" she took Megan from his arms, passing the little girl to her father and then turning back to her boyfriend. "You always do whatever I want. Don't think I didn't notice it. If I ask you for something, you always do it. I realized that a long time ago, long before we were together. But this isn't just about what I want".

The girl said this didn't have to be a conversation, but it was looking very much like one. It would be something those two would do, wouldn't it? Having a conversation about wanting children or not in the middle of a crowded coffee shop? They couldn't do anything like a normal couple, could they?

"I… I don't…" Queen sighed so deeply that Lance thought that maybe he was trying to expel his lungs out. The kid ran his right hand through his hair in a nervous gesture that made Ms. Smoak take his hands between hers, giving him an encouraging smile. The Captain couldn't tell if it was her touch or her smile, but Queen's shoulders dropped, relaxing slightly. "I got a girl pregnant once. Her name was Samantha and we weren't even together. It was just one night. I was terrified because I just couldn't be a father. I couldn't be responsible for a tiny human being that would depend on me for everything when I was barely responsible for myself. Anyway, she lost the baby a couple of days after we found out, moved away from Starling and I've never seen her again. I was a lot younger and a lot more stupid than I am now when that happened".

"I'm glad you're older and less stupid now" the girl teased him, trying to lighten the mood and yet, it was clear that she was encouraging him to go on. One day Lance would understand how she could do that. She seemed to just know when he needed a respite to organize his thoughts. "No little Olivers running around in this world then?"

"No little Olivers" Queen agreed with a laugh.

"That you know of" Mr. Diggle's whisper wasn't as much of a whisper as he thought and it made Ms. Smoak shush him.

"I have always been very careful after that" the kid answered his friend's words anyway. "And well… Soon after that, I was stranded on an island, so… Since I came back, with the kind of life that I lead…"

"Uh, guys" Mr. Diggle's eyes went from the couple to Lance.

"He knows" Ms. Smoak answered with a dismissive move of the hand, never taking her eyes off of her boyfriend.

Lance only shrugged when the ex-military stared at him like he was trying to figure out when the Captain had find out their little secret and how.

"Since I came back, I never thought it was for me. I hadn't even planned to stay alive this long and I probably wouldn't be if it wasn't for you and Dig. So no, I didn't want children. Never thought I could" he wasn't done. Lance could see he wasn't, but in her haste to assure him that it was fine by her, Ms. Smoak just started talking.

"Okay. Fine. That's fine. It doesn't really change anything. We don't have to…" she was talking so fast that the Captain couldn't keep up. How did anyone, honestly? For all of her words, though, she didn't sound very convincing.

"Felicity" Queen cupped her face gently, smiling at her and effectively cutting the flow of words. "That changed the moment I saw you with Megan that first time we went to visit at the hospital after she was born. I could see it then. I can see it. I can see a little girl as beautiful as her mom, running behind me and asking me thousands of questions I'll never know the answer to because she's as smart as you, which means she's smarter than me. A little girl that looks at me just like you do, you know? Like I'm worth a damn and she'll fight anyone that says the contrary. A little piece of you and me that looks at me like… Like I'm her hero, but really, the only thing she wants is to be just like you when she grows up. I can see it all, Felicity".

For someone that couldn't stop talking until a couple of minutes ago, Ms. Smoak was deadly silent now, but the kid didn't seem worried by her lack of response. Lance realized he was giving her time to digest his words the moment she tipped forward, resting her head at the curve of his neck and exhaling a loud "Oh, God", in a tone that gave him the impression the girl was about to cry from relief. Her eyes did look a little (a lot) misty when she raised them to Queen's face.

"Does it matter that in my head it's a little boy that looks just like you and likes to parkour over the furniture from a really young age and drive me insane with worry just like his dad?" those traitor tears that Ms. Smoak was holding in just wouldn't stay in, apparently.

The Captain felt a little bit like an intruder when the kid caressed her cheeks with his thumbs, getting rid of the couple of tears that had escaped from her eyes. He felt even more like an intruder when the two of them kissed.

It wasn't anything scandalous, just lips touching. It was fairly chaste, to be honest. But something about the emotion behind it (especially when they rested their foreheads together after and just breathed in synchrony like that night after the whole Devan Scott debacle) made him feel like he shouldn't be witnessing it. But then again, it was their own fault that they decided to have a life altering conversation in the middle of a coffee shop. He just happened to be present.

"That was what you didn't want to tell me? Why?" the girl moved away from him slightly, so she could look up at him.

"It's too soon. Way too soon" Queen answered in a whisper before kissing her temple. "But someday".

"Someday" she agreed, giving her boyfriend the biggest smile Lance had ever seen on her face.

They were making a promise right there, Lance realized. To themselves and to each other. They were promising that they would find a way to make it work in the middle of their crazy lives. That they would find a way to give each other a family someday.

"I'm really glad you two left the days of pretending you didn't know where this was going behind, but we all are gonna be late if you decide to figure out something else about your future right now" Mr. Diggle teased his friends affectionately, raising his eyebrows at them when they untangled from each other.

"This is all your fault. You started it" the hacker accused him, taking the baby from his arms when he passed Megan to her.

"You’re welcome, by the way" the ex-military gave her a mischievous smile.

After that, it was all goodbyes and reassurances that "Yes, John. We know" and Mr. Diggle kissing his daughter goodbye for five minutes straight until Ms. Smoak slipped out of the door with Queen fast on her heels with his arms full of baby bags before Mr. Diggle could start kissing his little girl again.

The other man seemed like he didn't know what to do with himself for a second there and Lance could understand him. Then he shook himself out of it and turned back to him.

"So? What gave us away?" the Captain understood the question right away.

"They did" he motioned to the door the couple had stepped out of just minutes before. "They'll end up giving all of your secrets away if they're not more careful".

"Ha, I wondered how long it would take for someone to catch up. How long have you known?" the other man's tone was filled with curiosity.

"Since Devan Scott. That boy is quite protective of her" he answered honestly and Mr. Diggle agreed with a nod.

"Always has been. When she joined us he promised me, and himself I guess, that we could protect her. He takes that very seriously. It got worse with time, for obvious reasons, but he's always been very protective of her" the ex-military explained, like that was just a fact of life. Oliver takes care of Felicity and that's it. "We both are, to be honest. She's our girl".

"Well, keep it up. She's one of the good ones. The world needs more Felicitys and not less" the Captain took a look at his wrist clock. He should be going soon.

"She's the best" the other man agreed with an affectionate smile and not for the first time Lance could see that there was a lot of love involved in that friendship. "So… Sara thought it was best if I stayed behind at the whole Devan Scott business for fear that you would recognize me and those two idiots were what gave us away. I'll never let them live that one down".

The Captain snorted with amusement at Mr. Diggle's words because he had been witness to his teasing before and he could imagine how much he would mess with them because of it.

"How long do you think it will take them? Marriage? Kids?" Mr. Diggle followed him out of the coffee shop. "I give them two or three years for both".

It was time for Mr. Diggle to snort at his words.

"It's been not even two months and they're practically living together. I bet that boy has a ring picked out already and everything" the man seemed to be having fun with the speculation but Lance also knew that Mr. Diggle knew his friends way too well, so was it really speculation? "They'll be married in less than a year. Less than two for kids".

In the end, Mr. Diggle's only mistake was that Queen didn't pick out a ring. He gave Ms. Smoak his mother's when he asked her to marry him seven months into their relationship. Two months of engagement and they decided that they didn't need to wait anymore. Barely ten months after that night with Devan Scott, the two of them were married.

As for kids? Five months after their marriage Ms. Smoak found out she was pregnant. And Mr. Diggle was right again. Less than two years for kids. Plural. Because that was Oliver and Felicity, and Lance realized some time ago that they couldn't do anything halfway.

She had envisioned a little boy and he had envisioned a little girl, so of course they had both. At the same time.