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The Agent of Change

Chapter Text

Alright, so this preface is gonna be short since people more or less know what this story is. As for why I’m bringing it back? A few reasons.

A: I’m a stubborn ass who doesn’t give up on his stories, even if it means reworking them as needed.

B: I missed writing Supportive!Thea after writing QueenBitch!Thea in the Forgingverse.

C: I can’t really call the Forgingverse a ‘definitive version’ of anything if there’s no original version up. Besides, I get to practice writing things with this version where needed.

D: I’ve had a few people tell me they actually prefer this version to the Forgingverse.

E: I mainly stopped because I was struggling to come up with something but now I’m like that with all of my stories, so really, there’s no reason not to bring this back and continue working on it as much as I can, even if it takes forever to get a chapter out.

Re: the Stargirl bit: it’s only a partial crossover, not a full one, mainly in that I’m picturing the characters in question with the actors from Stargirl.

Now, there have been a number of changes to this story, the least of which is that I’m not going to break it into separate volumes like I did originally. The changes are as follows:

  • All errors in spelling, grammar, etc. have been corrected.
  • Continuity errors like Oliver ‘not knowing’ how to make his Season 5 outfit and then later doing exactly that have been corrected.
  • Similarly, errors like where James Holder was referred to as a tenement owner rather than as a C.E.O. of a corporation have been fixed.
  • Where terms like ‘darts’ and ‘bolts’ were misappropriately used, the proper term for Oliver’s mini-arrows, flechettes, is now used.
  • The League of Assassins no longer practices sexual slavery but is simply quite sexist and believes men are better at being assassins than women.
  • As a result of this, Tommy’s sexual deviancies are purely the result of his darker nature coming out to play rather than being instilled in him by the League.
  • Felicity Smoak is now properly listed as one of the victims of the Huntsman during his trial.
  • The Slabside Arc does not end in nearly so many deaths so that I can use those villains in later story arcs.
  • The 502 deaths thing is not done since that more or less said Oliver could never truly change anything, which strangled the creative options for this story.
  • As such, Oliver’s belief that there’s no place for a vigilante like him in the world anymore, based on the existence of such superheroes as Superman and The Flash is his sole reason for being despondent in the first half of Season 2.
  • After some consideration, Chapter Notes have been removed. Many of the Chapter Notes in the original stories were superfluous and didn’t really contribute anything meaningful, something I try to avoid, and it’d take too much time to go through every chapter and write new Chapter Notes that were more meaningful. I may on occasion write something clarifying at the end of the chapter but the dedicated Chapter Notes are a thing of the past.

That’s all. The first 156 chapters of this story will be the previously-posted story content. The 157th chapter (or 158th if one counts the preface like AO3 does) will be the beginning of new content. I will be posting ten chapters a day for fourteen days, then post Chapters 151-156 on Day 15, with Day 16 being when I begin posting new content.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen barely remembered dying. Those last few moments in the Bunker, with his daughter staring down at him through tear-filled eyes while Barry and Sara tried to maintain their composure behind her, had seemed to him to be as though he were watching them from another’s eyes. He hadn’t even felt himself slip away. Or had he died at all? His eyes were heavy, but he could feel the bed beneath him, hear the hum of an air conditioner (or heater) blowing air, air that he felt drifting across his bare arms. He could feel the hospital scrubs he was dressed in; was he at S.T.A.R. Labs? Had they won? Oliver forced his eyes to open, heavy as they were, and found himself in a vaguely familiar room. He pulled himself up into a sitting position, feeling sluggish, and looked around. He was in a hospital room, a private one at that, like the one that he had been in when he first returned to then-Starling City all those years ago. In fact, he was pretty sure this was that exact room.

Oliver stood, grimacing as his body protested the movement, and headed for the window. He wasn't feeling the same as he had before. He had become more in tune with his body during his time with the League and that had continued over the following years. As a result, he could instinctively tell he wasn't in the peak physical condition that he had been in while fighting off those Shadow Demons in the Crisis. How long had he been sleeping? Or would it be more accurate to say he had been in a coma?

Oliver stood at the window, taking in the view of his city, and he felt something cold and dark, akin to dread, begin to curdle in his stomach. The skyline wasn't the one he remembered from the last time he had been in Star City. For one, the 'twin towers' of Queen Consolidated and Merlyn Global dominated the skyline. For another, the Glades remained undisturbed by the Undertaking and the aftermath of the destruction of Damien Darhk's 'ark' that had destroyed so many lives when it blew courtesy of Lonnie Meacham, or Anarky as he preferred to be called.

This has to be a dream,  Oliver thought to himself. Or I'm trapped in my own personal hell dimension now that I've died. Oliver turned and entered the en suite bathroom, intending to splash some cold water on his face and see if that helped, only to stop in consternation when he found himself on the platform where he and Barry had first confronted Novu. The being in question was standing in the center of the platform. "What is this?" Oliver asked. "What have you done?"

"I have grown… fond of you in our time together, Oliver," Novu said, and Oliver refrained from giving a snort of disbelief, not wishing to anger the powerful being. He doubted that Novu was fond of anything, much less anyone. He saw himself as above those who lived in the 'mortal realm'. While what he had learned in Nanda Parbat had ultimately been about the Anti-Monitor (and wasn’t that a revelation, that the League of Assassins had been founded to keep the balance in order to keep the Anti-Monitor from destroying the world), Oliver had come to the realization that beings like Novu and his adversary did nothing without gaining something from it for themselves. But he doubted Novu would reveal what he gained from whatever he was doing here; that would be a mystery for Oliver himself to solve. "You have gone above and beyond in your duties to prepare for the Crisis, and your noble sacrifice on Earth-38 helped to galvanize those left behind. So, I have chosen to reward you with a chance few are ever given. I'm sure you've noticed when you are."

"The day I returned to Starling," Oliver said. "I thought the universe was a delicate piece of machinery, that one change required another. What's the price of this 'second chance' you've given me?"

"For the most part, the universe will take care of that itself," Novu replied. "The universe and time will fight back if you move to deal with too much, too fast. Your knowledge will become obsolete if you change things too much. You will also face opposition from Eobard Thawne, the Council of Time Masters, perhaps even from those you once called allies." The allusion to Barry or even the Legends was obvious, and Oliver wondered if he would have it in him to deal with those that he called allies if they tried to interfere in what he did, if he didn’t let things play out the same as they had.

"There's more to this than just wanting to reward me for a job well done," Oliver said after considering the Monitor’s statement. "Something else is driving this. What is it?"

"I have looked into the future after the Crisis," Novu replied. "I believed your death, and the sacrifice of The Flash, would force your allies to change, force them to see the truth: that their own selfish wants and desires, their constant changes to the timeline, had consequences for the universe. But nothing has changed. Your allies attempted to reverse your death, ultimately failing, and the wrong Barry Allen sacrificed himself. The Barry Allen you left behind continues, along with his team, to think that the universe will make exceptions for them, as they thought it should make an exception for you when they tried to bring you back. The Legends continue to time travel without regard for the impact it has on those around them. There is also the future of your city, and your children, to think about."

“You mean the future that we stopped,” Oliver tried to refute, thinking of that moment in the tunnels under Star City where he had stopped Mia, his adult daughter from the future, from killing Grant Wilson. According to what she, William, and Connor had told them, Grant would escape continually and become a cult icon to the disenfranchised of Star City. That eventually led to an uprising and a mutation of the word hero to refer to the likes of Grant Wilson and those who followed him rather than Oliver and those he had inspired to rise up. It had been a sickening revelation to be had.

No,” Novu replied, causing Oliver to feel sick to his stomach. “As your daughter warned you, Grant Wilson escaped from Blackgate Prison again and again. Your daughter, who remained trapped in the current time period, and the Canaries matched wits with him each time, but in the end, the Glades rose up and walled themselves off, bringing about the very future your team hoped to avoid. Your city was unable to rally behind your daughter, though she bore your mantle, just as it was unable to rally behind your sister Emiko after she began masquerading as the Green Arrow. The moment you revealed yourself, the perception of the public shifted. Suddenly, the Green Arrow wasn’t a folk hero who could be anyone. He was a man, he was someone known to them, and any who tried to take the identity would be scorned.” 

“You’re saying that it needs to be me that fights Grant, to keep the Glades from rising up,” Oliver said. 

I have seen many futures, Oliver, and in each one Grant Wilson is the one who inspires madness and brings about a dark age in your city,” Novu replied. “Only when you stand against him as the Green Arrow is the city kept safe.

"Alright, I get that part of this. But what do you expect me to do about what Barry’s team and the Legends are doing?" Oliver asked Novu. "I can't force Barry or Sara to never time travel or force their teams to not react as they do. They wouldn't listen to me, anyways, even if they knew that I'd been sent back in time and even if I chose to change things 'responsibly'."

"As Kara Danvers once told you, Oliver, the heroes of Earth-1 looked to you for an example," Novu replied, and there was no mistaking the cold tone in his voice. "Is it any wonder, then, that when you began to put your own wants and desires above the good of your city, the others did as you did? You put your desire to be seen as every bit the 'hero' you saw Barry as above the city you swore to protect." Oliver flinched back at the painful, but truthful, accusation, but Novu wasn't done.

"You put your need for validation and acclaim above doing what was right," Novu continued. "Is it any wonder, then, that Barry Allen, who had stopped himself from changing the timeline a mere one year earlier, chose to create Flashpoint? Is it any wonder that Sara Lance, Ray Palmer, and others decided to use their journeys through time to validate their own status as heroes?" Novu stepped forward. "You are the beginning of this age of heroes, Oliver Queen. But what will this age of heroes be? A band of selfish glory seekers whose only desire is their own gratification? Or will it be a band of selfless heroes, dedicated to protecting their cities and their world, no matter what the cost?" Novu raised another hand, and in a blinding flash of light, Oliver found himself standing in the bathroom of the hospital room.

Almost on automatic, Oliver turned on the faucet in the sink and splashed water on his face, before looking into the mirror. It was very odd, seeing a much younger face staring back at him. It was shocking, if he were being truthful, to see how much the stress of his seven-and-a-half years of being a vigilante, or hero if you wanted to use that term, had taken a toll on him. Oliver returned to bed to try and get some rest for the remainder of the night, tossing and turning as the Monitor's words haunted him, as did images of future battles to come and the last image he had of his daughter, staring down at him in grief.

*DC*

"You don't look well-rested, Oliver," Moira Queen observed as she and her son sat in the back of the Queen family's Bentley (one of them, at least). "Though, I guess I'm not surprised. Hospital beds aren't intended for comfort, even in private rooms like the one you were in."

"They certainly don't want people thinking of the hospital as a hotel," Oliver couldn't help but quip tiredly, giving a small smile and earning a chuckle from his mother. It was so good seeing her alive, even though he knew about the many things she had done to keep their family 'together' without anything compounding it. Thea. William. Emiko. His mother seemed to have a habit of hiding things about family members (or outright hiding said family members). Just like his family tended to have a habit of getting involved in nefarious schemes, no matter what universe they inhabited or how close-knit or dysfunctional they were. "Mom, before we go to the mansion, there's something I need to do."

"What is it, sweetheart?" Moira asked, though she suspected she knew the answer; she knew her son very well, after all, and there was only one thing he would want to do more than get back to the comfort of the mansion. Oliver confirmed her suspicions only moments later.

"I need to see Laurel, tell her the truth before the news," Oliver said. "I owe her that much." Not to mention he wasn't going to pretend Sara was dead when he knew she was alive. Instead, he had a different story he would tell Laurel, one that would keep hope alive for her, her father, and her mother until he could figure out a way to free Sara from the League of Assassins. And this time, if she decided to walk away from her family and friends because of one setback, Oliver would let her have it and reveal his own dark past, what he had done to that man in Russia, to try and prove to her that no one was beyond redemption. Well, almost no one, Oliver thought darkly as his mind touched upon Damien Darhk, Adrian Chase, and Ricardo Diaz.

Moira, unaware of the thoughts swirling in her son's mind though she had seen his face twist slightly, perhaps remembering the death of Sara, called up to the driver. "Take us to C.N.R.I., on Wells Street."

"Yes, ma'am," the driver replied.

"C.N.R.I.?" Oliver asked, playing the role of the man who had been lost at sea for five years and unaware of all the changes in the lives of his loved ones.

"Short for the City Necessary Resources Initiative," Moira replied. "It's a legal aid office in the Glades. Laurel turned down a rather profitable offer in San Francisco to remain in the city and help the less-fortunate." Moira's expression softened. "She reminds me very much of Rebecca." Her tone was almost wistful as she remembered the only woman that she had considered close to a 'best friend' and the work Rebecca had pioneered. Work that Rebecca's husband intended to see wiped from the map along with thousands of lives.

Oliver stayed silent, knowing what his mother was thinking about. The soonest he would be able to stop Merlyn was Christmas, and that was if things played out the same. He was going to do things differently this time around; the Monitor's words had affected him deeply. It was up to him to be an example for the heroes that would rise in the next few years, and this time he needed to show them the path he had found the balance of in his seven-year journey as a hero. The times where extreme measures were needed were few and far between. He would need to curb his darker impulses, those left over from his time as Al Sah-Him.

That was something that he would need to avoid, if he could; the League of Assassins was part of what kept the Anti-Monitor locked away, or so the implications had been from the journal of the first Ra’s al Ghul. They were servants of the balance of the universe, just like the Monitor was. He had to do his best to avoid coming into conflict with them, and if he did, finding a way to resolve that conflict without the League descending into anarchy and dissolving.

*DC*

Oliver had only rarely ventured into C.N.R.I. when it had been whole and open for business, but what he saw was as he remembered it. Lawyers and assistants dashing to and fro, or typing on computers (which reminded him, why hadn't C.N.R.I. digitized their client files?), some on the phone with clients, cops, and court officials. Oliver made his way through the swarm of humanity, having already picked out Laurel seated at her desk. As he approached, he noticed her brow was furrowed, a little crinkle between her eyes showing the depth of her concentration. It was a familiar pose; one he had seen in her time and again during their youth and during particular intense cases over the next four years before she was killed by Darhk. He had even seen it a couple of times in Earth-2’s Laurel during the missions she joined him on for the Monitor. 

Oliver swallowed the lump that swelled in his throat as his mind registered that for the first time in almost four years, he was seeing the real Laurel, the one he had known, the one he had grown up with, the one he had loved, the one he had avenged. She was here, she was alive, and even though she hated him right now, he knew that wouldn't last. This is what emboldened him to take those final few steps to close the distance between them. "Hello, Laurel," Oliver said softly, and her hand (in the midst of taking notes on the case file she was studying so intently) froze, her green eyes widening.

Laurel turned in her seat slowly, looking up to meet his gaze. He saw a brief shine of relief in those expressive green eyes of hers that was almost instantly washed away by shock and anguish, because she instinctively knew he was here with bad news. "I-Can we talk? Privately?"

"We have a couple of rooms for client consultation," Laurel said, her voice flat. "We can borrow one of those." She led the way, both of them ignoring the whispers and pointing fingers. Once ensconced in the room, Laurel turned to face Oliver. "I know why you're here, Ollie. You want to tell me she's dead."

"Actually, Laurel, I don't know if she is or not," Oliver replied, and Laurel drew in her chin in consternation. "After the Gambit went down, I did think she was gone. I'd seen her sucked out of the ship, and I couldn't find her anywhere in the storm. A year after I arrived on the island where I washed up, a ship arrived. Sara was onboard."

"What happened?" Laurel asked, swallowing the lump that formed in her throat.

"The ship belonged to a scientist who was trying to recreate some serum from the 1940s, and he was experimenting on everyone aboard the ship," Oliver replied. "The serum he was looking for was on the island I'd washed up on. Once he had it, he continued his experiments. The ship ended up sinking off the coast of the island, and I saw Sara sucked out into the ocean again." Oliver leaned against the table inside the room. "Laurel, when the Gambit went down, it was in the middle of a storm. Sara survived that. When the Amazo went down, it was in calm waters off the shores of the island. She might've survived that, drifted to another island on the wreckage from the Amazo. I just… I don't know. But I swore when I came back that I wouldn't lie to you ever again, even if the only thing I said to you was about what happened to her. You deserve that much, especially after what I did."

Laurel nodded, closing her eyes and not able to help the small thrill of anger and hope that shot through her. Anger because she had half-expected Oliver to be the same callous playboy that she remembered him being in the rage-filled haze she had lived in for the past five years and hope because it meant there was a chance her little sister was alive. Oh, don't get her wrong; she was angry as hell at both Ollie and Sara, but that didn't mean she wanted her sister to be dead; she was her sister, after all! "Thank you, Ollie," Laurel said now, her voice thick with emotion, "for coming to tell me this. I need some time to think, to process all this. I know where to find you if I have more questions."

Oliver nodded and turned to go. He stopped at the door and turned back. "You know," Oliver said thoughtfully, "I can't help but think the phonetics for C.N.R.I. would come out as 'Canary'. Seems to me she's always been with you, even if she wasn't here." Oliver smiled softly at Laurel's surprised expression. "Goodbye, Laurel." Oliver exited the room without another word, leaving a troubled ex-girlfriend to figure out how she felt about everything he had told her (and to inevitably share it with Quentin Lance, who would undoubtedly maintain his grudge for as long as he was steadily drinking).

*DC*

Oliver stood looking at himself in the full-length mirror, a towel wrapped around his waist; much like his reflection in the hospital bathroom mirror, it was odd seeing his younger body, without the wear and tear it had been through while fighting super-soldiers, metahumans, aliens, and Nazi doppelgangers, to name a few of the issues he had had to deal with over the years. Oliver smiled wryly to himself. If he hadn't been through all of that, he would never believe such things existed. For all that it was daunting to imagine going through it all again, Oliver had come to realize the gift that Novu had given him, whatever his ulterior motives might be, and he doubted it was just what Novu had told him; the Monitor was an onion.

Oliver blinked as the image of Novu as said vegetable flashed through his mind. He shook his head. Way too much time spent around Barry and Kara, he thought, deciding to shunt the blame for any such thoughts off onto his perpetually cheerful super-powered friends. Sobering, Oliver's hand drifted to his chest, which was absent a few extra scars he had picked up over the years, including the one from Ra's… the one that had been a constant reminder that he was on his second chance in life. He had joked about penicillin tea and being 'close' to dying… but the truth was he had died.

He remembered being somewhere warm, somewhere that felt safe, like home, and then he remembered waking up in that cabin with Maseo and Tatsu. Ra's had killed him. Even if he hadn't punctured Oliver's lung when he put that sword through his chest, he had crushed Oliver's windpipe and kicked him hundreds of feet down a cliffside. It would've taken a good ten to twenty feet of snow to soften that landing, and there had been only three feet of snow, if that, on the ledge where Oliver had landed. And if Oliver was honest with himself, the turn towards selfish wants and desires that the Monitor had accused him of following the path of had begun after he returned from his duel with Ra's.

"Third time's the charm," Oliver whispered to himself before turning away from the mirror and headed for his wardrobe. It was time to be Oliver Queen, billionaire scion, again.

*DC*

The dinner went about the same as last time, though this time Oliver took special note of his mother and stepfather's initial reluctance about him swinging by the company the next day. Interesting, considering how they had tried to press-gang him into a position in Queen Consolidated the very next week. Something Oliver might well accept this time, because if things went as they did the last time around (that is, if Merlyn escaped their confrontation at Christmas), then he intended for himself to be the one who replaced Walter as C.E.O., not his mother. As C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, Oliver would have the oversight of everything in the company… including Unidac Industries.

His meetings with Tommy and Thea had been as emotional, if not more so, than the previous timeline because of the last times he had seen them. The last time that he had seen Thea, she had been beginning to work with Talia al Ghul to create a new League, a League dedicated to heroism; it was strange to see Thea before she became a warrior, before she gained those scars from Athena. The last time he had seen Tommy was the dark version of his friend on Earth-2, before the Anti-Monitor had wiped that universe from existence. Seeing Tommy be vaporized by anti-matter had been like losing his friend all over again. That had been the third time he had seen Tommy Merlyn die, and he was intent on making sure he never had to see it again. 

As Oliver prepared to turn in, his mind drifted to tomorrow and the kidnapping that would unfold. He and his mother had had a lot of talks before and after her trial, and one of the things she had confessed to him was that the men who had kidnapped he and Tommy had been working for her, because she was afraid of what would happen if Malcolm ordered Oliver interrogated. That explained why the men had had no body-cams to record everything, as most professional outfits would've had. Because of this, Oliver would take a different tactic; and with any luck, since he wasn't going to go see Laurel at C.N.R.I. (as he had already done so), the bystander who had been killed would be spared.

This time, there would be no story of a hooded vigilante that saved him and Tommy. That had forced him to move up his plans. Now he had a chance to set up a solid base of operations, perhaps inside Queen Consolidated itself (like that used by the team while he and Felicity had been living their fantasy life after defeating Ra's until they'd created the Bunker). He also needed to work on a new arsenal of trick arrows. This time, he needed to do things differently. He needed to inspire as much as he brought justice. He didn't need to turn into the person he had in his first official year as Green Arrow; but he didn't need to be as brutal as he had been during his first and fifth years. Balance was the key, balance between the darkness and the light. The same balance he had found in the fight with Emiko and which he had fought with as he prepared for the Crisis.

Oliver laid back on the too-comfortable bed, closing his eyes, and hoped beyond hope he would not be haunted again by nightmares of a future that would, with any luck, become only a distant memory by the time he was done.

Chapter Text

Oliver smiled to himself as he circled around the back of the property, along the tree line, and headed back towards the Queen Mansion. Seeing the mansion whole and unburnt, seeing his mother and sister both alive and relatively unburdened (his sister more than his mother), and even seeing Walter and his mother's relationship had given him a feeling of peace he had been missing since he had left Felicity and Mia at the safehouse and begun his journey towards Crisis with Novu.

Of course, this was the first step in getting himself back into the peak condition he needed to be in to make full use of the training he had received from Ra's al Ghul. He would need that edge come Christmas, when he faced the Dark Archer, as he had started calling Merlyn's alter ego after the incident on Earth-2 where he had faced that Earth’s Dark Archer, Tommy Merlyn, before the Earth in question was destroyed by the anti-matter wave that the Anti-Monitor unleashed in his desire to destroy the multiverse. Again, he blamed too much time spent around Barry, Kara, Cisco, Felicity, and Curtis as the reasoning for his coming up with or accepting the use of 'cute nicknames' for his enemies.

The brisk October air brought a healthy flush to his cheeks as he entered the mansion through one of the back doors and headed for the kitchen (the family kitchen, that is, which allowed them a more intimate setting). He found his mother there, enjoying a morning cup of coffee while reading the newspaper on the counter, Walter Steele checking the documents in his briefcase to make sure everything was in order. "Morning," he greeted, leaning down to give his mother a quick peck on the cheek and receive one in return.

"Morning, sweetheart," Moira greeted her son.

"Good morning, Oliver," Walter said pleasantly. "You're quite chipper this morning."

"A morning run is just what I needed to wake up," Oliver said. "Well, almost. Where is the… ah. There it is." Moira and Walter exchanged amused looks as Oliver took his time to prepare his own cup of coffee and took a slow sip. "Five years of not having this makes you really enjoy it," Oliver said in his defense as he saw their amused looks. "Well, I know what I'm doing today. Tommy wants to show me the sights, make sure I'm familiar with the city again." Some of these early things were going to be so tedious, and this was one of them; after seven years of fighting a never-ending war against crime and corruption, Oliver knew the streets of Starling City better than anyone else. "What's on the agenda for you two?"

"I'm off to Queen Consolidated to finalize a few things before we break ground on the Applied Sciences center," Walter replied. "Some are wondering what the point of such a facility is with the goings-on in Central City. Harrison Wells and his Particle Accelerator will change the face of science."

"And I have a luncheon I have to attend," Moira informed her son.

"Well, I would say have fun, but I doubt the work of a C.E.O. or a society luncheon is all that fun," Oliver replied with a smirk.

"But they can be rewarding," Moira reminded her son, and he shrugged in response. If there was one thing he had learned over the years, it was the value of masks, and he had eventually learned that he often surprised people with the moves he made while in positions of leadership if he presented his typical playboy face to the world. He wanted that; it would ensure that should the worst happen, and Malcolm escaped him at Christmas, he could surprise Malcolm and Moira when he took over for Walter, assuming Ned Foster could be convinced to let him over Moira, who had remained recalcitrant on the matter until later on.

"Well, I should go get ready for the day," Oliver said, finishing his cup of coffee and leaving the family kitchen.

*DC*

The kidnapping went off without any deaths this time, which Oliver was glad for. It helped that he and Tommy had been taken in an underground garage downtown rather than down the street from C.N.R.I. in the Glades. Oliver had told the kidnappers that his father didn't make it off the boat, that the only thing he and his father had talked about was his dalliance with the Lance sisters and how that wouldn't end well. Oliver even added a warbling desire to not die to his pleading with the kidnappers, who knocked him and a slowly waking Tommy back out with a sedative and left them in a park, where they were found by the S.C.P.D.

Now they were back at the Queen Mansion, the police having just left after getting Oliver and Tommy's statements. Oliver stood from the couch and looked out across the grounds of the mansion; the sun was already low in the sky. "I guess I was wrong," Oliver said, causing Moira, Walter, and Tommy to look at him in confusion. "Corporate life clearly isn't as boring as I thought."

"What makes you think that, Oliver?" Walter asked.

"Those men wanted to know if Dad told me something," Oliver said. "Seems pretty obvious it was some kind of corporate thing. What else would Dad have secrets about?"

"Hmm, a fair point," Walter said with a nod. "I'll take a look at our files from five years ago, see if anything springs to mind and give that to the detectives. Should help their investigation." Moira was able to hide her discomfort from Walter and Tommy, but Oliver noted the flash of panic in her eyes. He said nothing and gave no reaction to what he had seen, knowing his mother was probably worried about something in the files from five years ago that pointed to the Undertaking. As much as he loved his mother, he knew it had taken the dramatic revelation that he was the vigilante and was going to confront Malcolm no matter what for her to turn against the man. She had probably hoped S.W.A.T. would take care of Malcolm and Oliver would be safe from having to confront his godfather. She was too scared of Malcolm for now to believe anyone could or would stand against him.

"While that might be the only time that I run the risk of something like this happening," Oliver said slowly, "perhaps I should look into getting a bodyguard."

"I think that's a wonderful idea," Moira said instantly. "I can get you a list to choose from by the end of the day and your choice can meet you first thing in the morning."

"Perhaps the day after next," Oliver replied. "I'd like the chance to completely vet my top choices." Moira nodded, looking pleased at her son's caution. If only she knew what her son had planned, she might not have looked quite so pleased.

*DC*

Just as seeing his younger body and lack of certain scars had been slightly disconcerting for Oliver, seeing this younger version of the man who would become his brother-in-arms in many ways as Spartan was disconcerting, especially as he knew they would have a long way to go before they reached that point again, if John was even open to working with Oliver once he realized the agenda for the day. After all, it had taken the John Diggle Oliver had known and bonded with several years to accept that their work existed in a gray area, much like A.R.G.U.S.

Arranging the meeting had been easy enough; the hellspawn (though if he were honest, he thought the term was rather tame for the woman in question) he was going to be speaking to would love a chance to further sink her claws into him. But Oliver knew he needed to do things differently this time, and there was only one organization for the time being that could provide the back-up he would need for Merlyn and, later, Slade. It just happened to be headed by a sociopathic She-Devil at the moment. Of course, there was always the question of whether said She-Devil was, in fact, a plant for the Ninth Circle considering that they had infiltrated as high up as a Deputy Director. Or, much as Oliver hated to think it, Waller had been the one to hold such infiltrations back. He would need to find out where on the totem pole Bennett was at this point in time. 

"John Diggle, I presume," Oliver said, walking forward with a hand outstretched. "Oliver Queen."

"Mr. Queen," Diggle replied with a nod. "If you're ready to go, sir, I'd like to get underway. We can get to know each other as we drive."

"Sounds fair to me," Oliver replied. He got in the back of the car, Diggle getting in the front, and the car made its way down the drive. Oliver waited until they were through the front gate to begin. "So, how much?"

"Sir?" Diggle asked confusedly.

"How much did my mother offer you to give her status updates on me?" Oliver asked, turning from where he had been looking out the window to meet Diggle's gaze via the rearview mirror.

"An extra two thousand dollars every week," Diggle finally said. "She wasn't happy when I told her no." He peered at Oliver through the rearview mirror. "How did you know?"

"My mother likes to pretend our family is perfect, but we're dysfunctional as hell," Oliver replied. "My sister is using drugs and engaging in riskier behavior, my mother pretends she doesn't manipulate things to her favor and pays off everyone that points out my sister's problems, and as for me… well, you're going to find that out soon enough." Oliver took a scrap of paper out of his jacket and passed it up to Diggle, who took it. "We need to be at that address by ten-thirty." The address was the A.R.G.U.S. safehouse where he had first met General Matthew Shrieve, the same safehouse he had stayed in (albeit briefly) while working for A.R.G.U.S. and, by association the general, against China White. "I do hope once you realize just who and what I am you'll still work with me. I'll answer your questions once this meeting is done."

"Alright," Diggle said slowly before putting the address into the GPS and focusing on the driving.

*DC*

It was 10:25 a.m. when the Bentley pulled up in front of the rundown building in the Glades. Diggle gave Oliver a doubtful look, wondering what kind of meeting he was going to attend (no doubt thinking the young billionaire was going to score some drugs himself). "Come along, John," Oliver said. "You'll get some answers inside. Don't worry. You've already been cleared to come in and keep your weapon." Diggle and Oliver exited the Bentley, entering the building. The inside of the building was more or less rundown as well, but Diggle's sharp eyes noticed there was no sign of the usual denizens of such a building, nor examples of the poverty that should be evident, such as piss puddles and stains of many kinds smeared on the walls. Oliver led the way (which rankled the bodyguard just a bit) up the stairs to the third level and approached a door guarded by two men in black ops uniforms, which had Diggle's eyes narrowing.

Oliver and Diggle entered the room after submitting to a search by the two men at the door. "You're clear," one of the A.R.G.U.S. agents (not that Diggle knew who he was yet) said, and Oliver nodded, entering the apartment with Diggle at his shoulder. Inside the room, Amanda Waller was sitting at the card table that had been erected, Lyla Michaels hovering over her shoulder. Both Diggle and Lyla froze as they saw one another, Diggle's gaze swiveling to Oliver's back as he approached the chair.

"Amanda," Oliver greeted, surprising Lyla (and Diggle noting the surprise on his ex-wife's face). Lyla had worked for Amanda Waller for a few years now, and she knew of no one who called her boss by her first name. They called her Waller, Director, Director Waller, The Wall, and occasionally Hell-Bitch, but she didn't know of anyone who used her first name the way Oliver Queen had just done.

"Oliver," Waller returned, her expression blank. While she was not a woman prone to fondness (she was quite proud of her ability to turn off her humanity), she would express to a certain degree of fondness for Oliver Queen, if only due to his skillset and that he had turned the tide against odds she would have given up as no win scenarios no less than five times that she knew of. Yes, she was aware of his actions in Russia; she had been preparing an A.R.G.U.S. response unit to the Kovar situation when she realized her asset (she still considered him one of hers even if he liked to pretend otherwise) was already dealing with it in his typical fashion, including fashioning himself unusual allies. The only thing of concern was that they had captured an image of Oliver with a woman who was flagged in their systems only as Talia. She was believed to have forged connections with powerful people in many countries, and Oliver's return to Starling City so soon after his encounter with this woman was troubling, to say the least.

"Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice," Oliver said, drawing on the lessons in diplomacy his father had drilled into him and which he had used to great effect as Mayor of Star City.

"I doubt you would reach out for a simple luncheon, Oliver," Waller replied.

Oliver reached into his jacket and pulled out the notebook containing the List, which he placed on the table between them. Waller took it and looked over the names listed there, her dark eyes narrowing. She certainly recalled this List; her agents had recovered everything of use from Lian Yu after the debacle with the Amazo and while they had given Oliver what he had needed to complete his mission in Hong Kong, they had gone over everything else with a fine tooth comb to glean every bit of information they could. The List had perplexed them, being a mixture of lawyers, doctors, businessmen, world-class hitmen, and arms dealers, among others. They couldn't understand the connection between these people, and if there was one thing Amanda Waller hated, it was not understanding something. She prided herself on being a woman who always had the upper hand. "What about this list, Oliver?" Waller finally asked.

"Every single person on the List is working for the same person who tried to murder my father by destroying the Queen's Gambit," Oliver replied. "They are turning the Glades in Starling into a cesspit of crime, where no good citizen would ever dare to tread. A criminal kingdom in the center of one of our metropolises. All so that this person, this terrorist, can destroy the Glades and everyone in it and those who they’ve forced into helping can avoid feeling guilty about wiping out thousands of lives."

Waller set the List down on the table. "You have a plan."

"I do," Oliver replied. "I intend to use my skills to go after these people, one at a time, and draw their backer into a confrontation. But I'm no fool, Director; I know I need a support network. And I already have a history with A.R.G.U.S." Diggle shot his new employer (and he didn't know how much longer the younger man would have that title) a troubled look, something Lyla noticed and tried not to roll her eyes in exasperation regarding. Johnny never had understood the world was more than black or white. "If I succeed, you get to point to an example of how someone with a unique set of skills can make a difference. If I fail, you get to point to an example as to why something like the Justice Society of America can never work in the modern era. Either way, you win and get backing for the Suicide Squad."

"And how do you know about that?" Waller asked, tone frigid, and Lyla winced. Heads were likely to literally role if Waller figured out who leaked the information.

"I have my ways," Oliver replied calmly, meeting Waller's gaze without flinching. He had dealt with far deadlier people than the Director of A.R.G.U.S.

Waller decided she would deal with the issue of the potential security breach later. "I can supply you with a finite amount of aid for the time being, Oliver," Waller replied. "I will forward the dossiers on those I can spare to you by day's end." What he had said, even if she wondered where he got his information, was true. This was a win-win situation for her, and she would be a fool to pass up such an opportunity to get her pet project off the ground. Even better if the one she held up as an example was already affiliated with A.R.G.U.S. "I'm sure you know that some of the names on your List are of interest to A.R.G.U.S."

"I know, Amanda, and I will do my best to capture them for you," Oliver replied.

The meeting ended there, with Oliver taking back the List and leaving with Diggle in tow. They had made it to the Bentley and driven a block before Diggle finally met his gaze. "I'll take that explanation now, sir," Diggle said.

"Five years ago, the Gambit sank into the depths during a storm thanks to a bomb that was put onboard," Oliver replied. "My father made it to the life raft with me and his bodyguard, David Hackett. He told me that he had failed this city and he wasn't the only one. He didn't tell me much more then, but I found a message from him that told me more, and a woman I met some months ago in Russia gave me the rest of the information I do have." Oliver met Diggle's gaze. "Have you ever heard of the League of Assassins?"

"Heard rumors about them in Afghanistan, thought the sheik who talked about them was smoking something strong," Diggle replied.

"Unfortunately, they're very real, and the person behind this madness was trained by them," Oliver replied. "I could try to do this on my own, but A.R.G.U.S. gives me some legitimacy if I need it. What I'm going to be doing, I'll be branded a vigilante for."

"So, what exactly is your plan?" Diggle asked. "Kill the people on the List? At least those you don't hand over to A.R.G.U.S.?" The disapproval was strong in Diggle's tone.

"No," Oliver replied. "I'm going to drag each and every one of these people into the light of day. If A.R.G.U.S. wants them, they can recruit them from their prison cells. I'm sure Waller would prefer that, anyways. She likes to pretend she's your savior when she recruits you."

"Speaking from personal experience, sir?" Diggle asked.

"Let's just say I learned the hard way that when Amanda Waller gets her claws in you, she never lets go," Oliver replied. "At least this way, I get more from her then passive protection." Oliver looked back out the window. "One day, I want to operate without the need for a government affiliation. I want to be able to help the people in this city without worrying about being brought in. But until that day comes… I have to settle for aid from the She-Devil." Oliver turned to Diggle. "I know enough about you from your file to know that you aren't A.R.G.U.S. material. I won't blame you if you choose not to continue in this position. I'm sure Waller will have an option to replace you within twenty-four hours."

"But?" Diggle asked.

"But I hope you stay," Oliver replied. "I think we could work well together, Mr. Diggle. But I won't lie to you. My work will occupy a very gray area, and if that's not something you can accept, I won't blame you. Think on it and give me an answer in twenty-four hours. I'll contact Waller and let her know to be ready to replace you, just in case."

"I'll consider it, sir," Diggle said, turning his attention back to the road.

Oliver, meanwhile, was sure that he was forgetting about something special from yesterday. The only thing he could think of was that he had originally visited Adam Hunt and demanded the forty-million-dollar transfer to the bank account he had set up. But he had already decided he wasn't going to start his crusade just yet. He needed all his ducks in a row before he started his crusade this time around. But still the thought was nagging at him. What was he forgetting?

*DC*

Adam Hunt stared hard at the man across the desk from him: Eric Gitter, the head of the City Necessary Resources Initiative and a man who was easily convinced to look the other way in exchange for lucrative offers. "I told you to take care of Miss Lance," Hunt said. "She's already filed a motion for Grell to be recused because I helped fund his campaign. What happened?"

"We're talking about an attorney who turned down a lucrative offer from a very influential firm in San Francisco to work at C.N.R.I. and help the less fortunate," Gitter replied. "Combine that with her connections with the Queen and Merlyn families, her father's position in the Major Case Unit, and the fact that the D.A.'s office is hoping to convince her to come work with them if C.N.R.I. ever closes its doors, and we're talking about someone who doesn't crack easily under pressure and who can't be bargained with or bought off. Her ethics are impeccable, making it impossible for me to frame her for an ethics violation. In short, there's nothing I can do aside from tell her she's taking too much on, which she duly ignores every time."

"Well, then, if you can't deal with it, I will," Hunt replied. "How many cases is she working on that could prove hazardous to her health?"

"Several," Gitter replied with a grimace, already seeing where Hunt was going with this. He mentally started considering who he would bring onboard at C.N.R.I. to replace Laurel from the pool of interns they currently had on staff. Considering Laurel's popularity in the office, he would probably lose a few more who weren't ready to lose their lives because of the cases they were involved in. The fact he was essentially condoning one of his brightest minds to a grisly death barely phased him. Laurel Lance wouldn't be the first lawyer whose death he'd be a party to. She'd already skated by a few times; it looked like her number was finally up. He wouldn't miss her; she was a pain in his ass.

"I want you there this time," Hunt told him, and Gitter looked at the man in consternation. "I know that C.N.R.I.'s days are numbered. You might be useful as part of our in-house counsel. But I need to know you can stomach the hard stuff." Hunt waved a dismissive hand and Gitter left the office, his mind troubled. It was one thing knowing some of the lawyers working under him had died; but to actually witness it? He didn't know how he felt about that. Then he recalled the arguments he had had with the opinionated young lawyer and his resolve hardened, as did a significant part of his anatomy at the thought of watching that pain in his ass get her reward.

Besides, there was no risk. Hunt and others that he took bribes from were protected from on high. There was no one in this city willing to take a stand; those who did ended up dead or gave up quick. Laurel was one of the few willing to keep taking a stand no matter how much frustration she faced, and she bolstered others. Without her, the work Hunt and others like him did could continue unimpeded.

It was a decidedly cheerful Eric Gitter that left Adam Hunt's building as evening descended while in the penthouse office, Adam Hunt made a fateful call, in more ways than one.

Chapter Text

Laurel Lance was winding down for the evening. Dressed in a comfortable pair of jeans and a light sweater, her shoes kicked off and her legs curled up under her, the 27-year-old lawyer sipped slowly at a cup of chamomile tea to relax from another stressful day at C.N.R.I. and in the courts. In addition to attempting to get the suit against Adam Hunt moved in front of another judge, one that wasn't in Hunt's pocket, she had had another discussion with Eric about her caseload and that she needed to not take so much on, spread herself too thin. Laurel knew for a fact that he didn't ride anyone as hard as he did her, and it made her suspicious. Her father always talked about cops trusting their gut; well, she was the daughter of a cop, and her gut told her something was very suspicious about her boss.

Laurel was also dealing with how she felt about Oliver's return from the dead and his belief Sara might be alive. For five years, she had believed both her little sister and her ex-boyfriend were dead, having died while sleeping together behind her back. The old, familiar anger surged in her at the thought, but she pushed that back down. If Oliver hadn't come to her and told her about Sara himself, she might think he was the uncaring bastard she had been picturing him as for the past five years, but there was no mistaking the regret and compassion in his voice the other day when he spoke to her at C.N.R.I.

He hadn't begged for her forgiveness; in fact, he had all but said he didn't deserve it. That was not the person she had pictured him as in the past five years; that was the man she had fallen in love with. Yes, he could be grandiose at times, and his eyes had wandered a bit too much, but he had been so sweet, so passionate, and she had seen the kind of man he could be if he just escaped the doubts he had about himself, doubts she knew had been instilled in him by his parents' expectations, something the two of them had talked about more than once.

A knock sounded at her door. Laurel rolled her eyes as she moved to stand up, setting her cup of tea on the coffee table between her couch and her television before making her way towards her front door. She was pretty sure this was Tommy; he had come around after his 'scare' with Oliver and those kidnappers and they had sat together and talked a bit. Laurel had known Tommy wanted something more that night, but she had been focused on getting her arguments prepared for why Judge Grell couldn't rule without bias in a case involving Adam Hunt, one of his financial backers. But tonight, she needed some help relaxing and it had been a little while since she and Tommy cut loose.

Laurel opened her door, only to almost immediately try to shove it closed again when she saw three men in black outfits and masks covering their faces in the hallway. Two of them men collided with the door, their heavier bodies easily overpowering the force of her slender frame. She was pushed back against the cabinet across from the door as it swung open, wincing as a dish broke under her right hand as she tried to steady herself, the jagged edges cutting into her palm. Then one of the men drove the butt of the rifle he was carrying into her stomach, and the air left her lungs in a whoosh as she collapsed to her knees, coughing. She felt a blinding pain in the back of her skull, and then there was nothing but blackness.

*DC*

Oliver finished his now-usual morning run, stopping by the family kitchen to get a cup of coffee before heading to the sitting room, where his family had gathered to watch the news. "Anything interesting happening?" he asked as entered.

"Seems to be business as usual, Oliver," Walter replied.

"Oh, dear God," Moira whispered, snatching the remote in her hand and upping the volume as Oliver turned to the television, freezing as he saw a picture of Laurel (a version of the very picture she had given him on the dock all those years ago) popped up on the screen.

"Attorney Laurel Lance was abducted from her apartment late last evening," the newscaster was saying. "No witnesses have come forward, and investigators are seeking any leads in the case. Miss Lance is the daughter of Detective Quentin Lance of the Major Case Unit of the S.C.P.D. and has gained notoriety while working at the City Necessary Resources Initiative in the Glades. Police are asking citizens for any information that could lead to Miss Lance's safe return."

The mug of coffee slipped from Oliver's grasp, landing on the carpet with a dull thunk and staining the carpet a dark brown, nearly black. Oliver's hand trembled for a moment, his mouth moving but no sound coming out. His breath had caught in his chest; why were his family looking at him like that? Why did something that looked like the fizz from soda seem to be surrounding them? Oliver barely noticed the pain in his knees as they met the floor, but he saw his mother and sister rushing the distance between them before blackness claimed him again.

*DC*

Quentin Lance ran a hand through his black hair, pacing up and down in the center of his living room, a bottle of whiskey clutched in his hand. He had been sent home and told that he was to stay away from the investigation into Laurel's abduction. Not that he would be of much use there, anyways; his mind was paralyzed with fear at the idea of losing his remaining daughter. Sara had been the baby of the family and thus cherished as 'the baby' of any family typically is, but she had taken after her mother in a lot of ways. Laurel… Laurel had taken after him. Oh, she still took after her mother when it came to matters of the heart, leaping into something without thinking of what might happen, but in the rest of her life she was methodical and reasoned. It was why she was so well-suited to her job as a lawyer (though Quentin admitted that Laurel had only taken that job because he refused to allow either of his daughters to follow him into his work as a cop); and it was also why she had been his rock for the past five years, always there when he felt lost.

He couldn't lose her, too. He looked down at the bottle in his hand. This won't help her, he thought to himself, and headed for the kitchen sink, pouring it out before he could argue himself out of it. Laurel had told him that Queen believed Sara was still alive out there, and combine that with the need his eldest had for him to have the sharpest mind possible… He flicked his coffee pot on, knowing he needed to sober up quick. Once that was done, he was going to head to Laurel's apartment, see what he could figure out from the scene. He would be damned if he was staying out of this when his daughter was in trouble. Frank could go fuck himself, and so could Nudocerdo.

*DC*

"Oliver, please, you need to rest, not be dashing about," Moira Queen pleaded with her son as he finished putting his tie on and began pulling on a dark suit coat. His bodyguard, John Diggle, was standing outside the doorway. "I know you're worried about Laurel, but there's nothing we can do."

Oliver snorted in disgust at that. His mother always had been a good actress. There was plenty they could do, but it would mean 'tarnishing' the good name of the Queen family and with her obsession regarding their image (hence her actions regarding Emiko, Samantha, and Thea), she would never agree to doing anything that did that. "Oh, there are things that can be done, alright," Oliver replied. "You're just unwilling to do it." Oliver met his mother's shocked gaze with his own hard one. "The past five years chipped away everything that I wasn't, and left only the person I am, the person Laurel always saw in me. I won't let her, or anyone else, be hurt or killed when I have the power to stop it." Oliver pulled on the overcoat and headed out the door. "Let's go, John."

"Yes, sir," Diggle said calmly, falling into step behind his employer and leaving a disturbed Moira Queen behind.

Moira stood in the center of her son's room, unsure exactly what had happened. Since his return, Oliver had been more or less quiet, aside from a couple of trips out into town the day before; the second trip, he had been heading to store the large trunk he had brought with him somewhere in the city. It had been the last thing he had done before sending Mr. Diggle home for the night. The man who had just left the room was very different from how her son had portrayed himself thus far, aside from his obvious continued affections for Laurel Lance. She mentally prepared herself not only for bailing him out after he got into trouble with the police, but also with finding a counselor for him when they received news of Laurel's fate.

That she could ask Malcolm Merlyn to look into this never even crossed the Queen matriarch's mind because, at the end of the day, her family was the most important thing to her, and Laurel Lance wasn't family, and she doubted Laurel and Oliver would ever return to the relationship they had once shared, so the chances Laurel would’ve eventually joined their family were practically non-existent.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn stood looking out at Starling City in his office, his mind troubled. He had heard the news about Laurel Lance on his way into the office. This wasn't the first abduction of this kind (that of a lawyer with a habit of getting involved in risky cases), but it was the first one that he had a personal connection to. He had met Laurel once or twice over the years, mainly at a birthday party for Tommy or Oliver. What he knew about her now came mainly because of his having Tommy followed whenever he ventured out, not that his son knew he was always protected wherever he went.

On the one hand, he could intervene as Al Sa-Her. Malcolm had had one of his agents look into Miss Lance's cases and the only person she was currently pursuing legal action against with the kind of ferocity that would inspire this kind of action was Adam Hunt, and by association, Judge Joseph Grell. Grell was useful, but he wasn't the only judge on the bench that Malcolm and his associates held sway with. He was just the one with the most to lose. Of course, Grell was a believer in mutually assured destruction; everyone he accepted bribes and favors from, he tried to dig up information on. Malcolm's dealings with Grell were through intermediaries, keeping him safe from Grell's methods of vengeance. Perhaps the most compelling reason for Malcolm to involve himself was Laurel's involvement with his son, Tommy.

Malcolm smiled to himself as he realized that despite their difficulties, Tommy was very much like him: handsome, charming, and head-over-heels in love with a woman who wanted desperately to help those she saw as the innocent and abused in the Glades. She had found a few cases that were quite real, and Malcolm had followed the progress in those cases with interest, nudging things along if necessary. He wasn't a monster; he wanted no innocents to be in the Glades when his vengeance was wrought, and Miss Lance was helping to assure that. With the monetary influx those people received from the cases they won, they had the ability to leave the Glades, even leave Starling City. Those that chose to stay in that crime-infested pit he could be assured were criminal vermin like the man who had murdered his wife.

Malcolm's smile faded as the other side of things came to mind. When he had left the League, he had sworn an oath to live by the League's Code of Conduct, and amongst those stringent laws was that he could not expose the League to the world. Even if he killed every last person holding Laurel Lance captive, that would still leave one witness who could describe him, give the police something to work with, and thus expose the League in a fashion: Laurel herself. There was also the fact that Hunt and Grell were both more useful in their current positions than dead, and Malcolm would have to kill both of them seeing as Grell would be a loose end that could expose some of the things Malcolm wanted kept quiet. Laurel's death could also prove beneficial to him; it would harden Tommy against the people in the Glades, perhaps force his wayward son to grow up and recognize the world was not something to party your way through.

Malcolm tilted his head, weighing the pro's and con's of the situation as he would any business proposal. In the end, it was an easy decision. There was only one advantage (and then barely that) to intervening and saving Laurel's life, and a number of advantages if he allowed her to die.

With his internal debate on the subject of Laurel Lance's fate decided, Malcolm returned to his desk and went over a business proposal that would have more of an impact on Starling City than the actions and life of one young attorney.

*DC*

Oliver sat in the back of the Bentley as it drove through the city, his mind caught up with memories of Laurel, before and after the island. Days of playing together with Tommy and Sara, the changes they went through at Berlanti Preparatory (which handled all grades on one sprawling campus), their college years. The way his and Laurel's relationship had begun and how she had encouraged him to seek his own path, to learn who he was. The moment he realized just how deeply she loved him and how much it scared him because he felt the same way for her but, like with Samantha, he didn't know how to handle that kind of thing and sabotaged himself. Coming back the first time, the way their friendship was slowly repaired, the feelings they had for one another surging just beneath the surface, them giving in to those feelings before the confrontation with Malcolm.

Then he had let his guilt over what happened to Tommy drive him and Laurel apart along with the fact he was once more going to be the city's resident vigilante and felt he was protecting her by not being with her. Laurel's downward spiral and Sara's return, their relationship that had ended up hurting Laurel further, and the argument between he and Laurel following the revelation of the relationship between he and Sara that had been a turning point in Laurel’s downward spiral. The Siege and their bitter exchange while Quentin laid in a coma had combined with Oliver's realization that his enemies would always seek those he loved and the only way to protect the love of his life was to make sure she wasn't so obviously that. Finally, he had settled for Felicity, in part because he could ignore her when he decided he was right in what he was doing, such as when he worked with Malcolm to bring down Ra's. In the end, he had learned to love Felicity as much as he had Laurel. 

But the one thing Oliver had never forgiven himself for, could never forgive himself for, was Laurel's death. He could've killed Darhk more than once before that night at Iron Heights, but he had wanted to believe he could be like Barry, could save his city in the same fashion. He had been fooling himself, and the woman he had loved for half of his life had paid the price for that. Worse, she had believed on her deathbed that while he was the love of her life, she was not the love of his. Watching her convulse on that table, the nurses and doctor shouting indistinct words (to him at least) as fear and horror flooded him, the outright despair that he drowned in as he left the room and the body of the woman he loved behind and collapsed in the hallway, and the speech he had given at her funeral, a funeral that should never have happened.

Oliver knew he was focusing a bit much on what she was to him, but he also remembered reading somewhere that just because someone is the love of your life doesn’t mean you end up with them. Some people find themselves incompatible with the love of their life and have to move on. His life had been incompatible with Laurel for a long time. 

"Sir-Oliver, do you have a plan in mind for today?" Diggle asked, watching the younger man with concern.

"I want to see Laurel's apartment," Oliver said. "Get a feel of what happened." He leaned forward and handed a scrap of paper with the address written on it. Laurel's apartment was unlisted, a compromise between the then-21-year-old Laurel and her overprotective cop father. He didn't want his young, vulnerable daughter living alone in an apartment that just anyone could get the address of. As a result, only Laurel's closest associates and her workplace had a record of her address. *2*

"Alright, sir," Diggle said, taking the piece of paper.

*DC*

Oliver had left Diggle outside in the Bentley. Mounting the familiar steps and entering the hallway leading to Laurel's apartment, Oliver was momentarily overcome with memories, again from before and after the island. He remembered coming here in what would've been a week's time to share ice cream with Laurel and get her advice about how to deal with her mother, how comfortable it had been to sit and talk. Taking a deep breath, he approached the door to Laurel's apartment. Police tape was crossed in front of it, and Oliver stood outside of the tape for a moment, examining what he could see. There was a dent in the door itself, and the cabinet behind the door looked as if something, or rather someone, had slammed into it.

Oliver slipped past the police tape, pulling a pair of leather gloves from his pocket and slipping them on. His days as a consultant for the S.C.P.D. working with Dinah had taught him an appreciation for not mucking up crime scenes. He crouched in front of the door and examined the dent. If he had to guess, it had been made by a heavy steel-toed boot smashing against it. Oliver moved to the cabinet, examining the broken glassware, and then stiffened slightly as he noticed a dried, dark red substance. Laurel had cut herself when she hit the cabinet, probably on some glassware as she braced herself, trying to keep from falling. Light glinted off of glassware bits under the edge of the cabinet.

Oliver turned and looked further into Laurel's apartment. It was relatively undisturbed. Her abduction had been quick and decisive, a professional crew, not a home invasion turned kidnapping that most people would think because of where Laurel chose to live; Oliver knew enough about the S.C.P.D., both now and in the future, to know they would never look into deeper reasonings without given proper motivation, and Oliver had no ability as of yet to force them to look deeper for connections. Oliver stepped further into Laurel's apartment and picked up a framed picture, a soft smile raising his lips as his eyes moistened. It was a picture of he, Laurel, and Sara from before the island. Sara had just graduated high school, if he remembered right, and he and Laurel had taken her out bowling. Sara had thrashed them both, but that was probably because they spent too much time shamelessly flirting with each other and distracting one another.

Oliver felt the change in the air before he heard the footsteps, heard the sharp intake of breath and the barely noticeable angry growl. He set the picture back on the hallway table it had been resting on and turned to face Quentin Lance. "Hello, Detective," Oliver said calmly.

"What the hell are you doing here, Queen? This is a crime scene, in case the tape didn't make that obvious for you," Quentin bit out.

"I couldn't sit in the Mansion and do nothing," Oliver said. "I guess I hoped I might see something or be able to do something. I know I shouldn't be here, Detective, but…" Oliver looked away. "I already lost Sara and my father. I can't lose Laurel, too, even if she hates me."

"Get outta here before I change my mind," Quentin said after a moment. Oliver nodded and ducked around the detective. He paused at the door and turned to the face the man. "What?" Quentin barked.

"Just… when Laurel moved in here, you insisted her address be unlisted for her safety," Oliver said. "Is that still the case?"

"Yeah," Quentin said, eyes narrowing. "It is."

"Who would know her address to give it to the men who did this, then?" Oliver asked. "Because nothing is missing, so it wasn't a robbery gone wrong."

"That's for me to worry about, Queen," Quentin said. "Get outta here."

Oliver left the apartment and a contemplative Detective Lance behind, already thinking of the answer to the very question he had posed to the detective. There were only a few people who knew Laurel's address, almost all of them were her limited circle of friends. The only exception was her workplace, C.N.R.I. Oliver entered the back of the Bentley, with an absent "Drive," issued to Diggle before he focused on using a memory retrieval technique Talia had taught him in Russia all those years ago (to him) to sort through his memories from C.N.R.I. in both timelines.

Soon enough, he found the connection, and wished he didn't. A man he vaguely recalled as being Laurel's boss had been meeting Hunt in the last timeline, and Hunt had been demanding he 'deal' with Laurel. That conversation had happened the night Oliver confronted the man in the previous timeline, a confrontation that never happened. Laurel would never have agreed to drop things with Hunt no matter how persuasive her boss tried to be, and that meant this was Hunt. Oliver now had his target; or rather, targets, because Gitter was the only one who could've given Hunt Laurel's address. They would be wanting to get rid of Laurel as quickly as possible and pin it on gang violence and the like. That could only mean she was being held in the Glades. It was time to look into the holdings Hunt had in the Glades, find out if there was an out of the way location that he would use to stash someone or perform an execution. "Take us back to the mansion, Dig," Oliver said.

Chapter Text

Oliver and Diggle entered the Queen Mansion, Oliver already intent on heading up to his bedroom and researching Adam Hunt's holdings as much as possible. Oliver took note of his mother talking with a man in a rather fancy suit. "Hey, Mom," Oliver called, waving a hand distractedly and heading up the stairs. He heard his mother call Diggle over, but ignored it; no doubt she wanted to try and convince him to take her offer. As it was, Oliver was ninety percent sure that today was Dig's last as his driver/bodyguard. The man had said not one word about Oliver's request he join him in the effort to clean up Starling City.

Oliver entered his bedroom, and almost instantly the hairs on the back of his neck raised before two men in white grabbed him by the arms, another man coming forward with a syringe filled with what had to be a sedative. "Don't struggle, Mr. Queen," the man said. Oliver's response to this was to kick the man in the jaw. The man howled, clutching his mouth as two orderlies (for that was what they were) who had been standing by moved forward. The four men wrestled Oliver, trapped as he was by the suit that he wore that just wasn't cut for fighting, to the ground.

The doctor Oliver had kicked in the jaw came forward, blood dribbling from his lips and staining his teeth. He plunged the needle into Oliver's neck and depressed the plunger, sending the sedative into Oliver's bloodstream. Oliver's struggles grew weaker over the next five minutes as the sedatives took effect, until finally he lay unmoving, his muscles relaxing. Standing in the doorway, watching with a look of misery but a firm belief in her mind that this was the only path forward, was Moira Queen.

*DC*

Unfortunately for those transporting Oliver to a psychiatric ward, he had spent the past five years being knocked out in a variety of ways and sedatives were among the many things he had built up a tolerance to (and it probably helped that the desperation he was feeling kept him from fully succumbing to the drugs). Oliver kept his eyes closed as he waited for strength to come back to his limbs. He was strapped in, a pair of cuffs on both his wrists and ankles. Opening his eyes barely a hair, Oliver could see one orderly and the doctor who had injected him in the back of what was no doubt a private ambulance.

One of the orderlies was probably with the man he had seen with his mother, following in a separate car, with the last two driving the ambulance. Oliver slowly dislocated his thumb, the pain barely a blip on the radar for him thanks to all the practice he had had due to Anatoli insisting he be prepared and forcing him to practice dislocating his thumbs while restrained for three solid weeks; now all he had to do was wait for the right moment to act.

That moment came when the doctor who had injected Oliver with the sedative stood slightly to reach over Oliver's prone form. Oliver slipped his hand out of the restraint and struck swiftly, a knife hand strike to the doctor's throat. The doctor gagged, falling back, even as Oliver turned on his side, nimble fingers undoing the opposing restraint. Oliver lurched up and lashed out with a right hook as the orderly moved to push him back down. The right hook sent the orderly spinning backwards. Oliver undid the restraints on one leg, elbowed the doctor in the nose as he tried to grapple Oliver back onto the stretcher, and undid the other leg cuff.

Oliver was forced to scoot forward on the stretcher and, as the orderly rose back onto his feet, Oliver's legs shot forward, catching the orderly full in the chest and throwing him against the ambulance doors with enough force to throw them wide open, sending the orderly flying out of the back of the ambulance and onto the hood of the car trailing it. The driver of the car struggled to maintain control of the vehicle before careening to the side, even as the ambulance pulled to a stop. Oliver exited the ambulance, smoothing his coat before turning and delivering a crushing blow to the knee of the doctor who had been in the ambulance with him. The doctor fell out of the ambulance and onto the asphalt, the syringe he had been holding breaking on impact.

The doctor that had been in the car following the ambulance stumbled out of the crashed car and fell back on the sidewalk. Oliver picked up the sounds of the ambulance doors opening and moved to face the driver first, once again deploying a knife-hand strike before knocking the driver out. Oliver turned on his heel, catching the upraised arm of the orderly-paramedic that had a syringe in hand. Oliver bashed the man's hand against the side of the ambulance until the syringe fell out of his hand. Oliver ducked the wild swing the man aimed at him before delivering an uppercut to the man's chin, sending him wheeling backwards. Oliver delivered a front kick to the man's solar plexus, followed up by a roundhouse kick to the head. The man dropped like a stone.

Oliver straightened his coat and made his way to the sidewalk, ignoring the rips along varying seams in his clothes and the people pointing their phones at him. He'd gotten used to it thanks to his time working with Dinah and the S.C.P.D. Right now, he needed to find gear more suitable for following Hunt tonight to wherever he was keeping Laurel and then rescuing her. That meant hitting up an A.R.G.U.S. supply cache; while he was there, he would need to get Waller to handle the situation his mother had put him in.

*DC*

Oliver trailed Hunt's limousine on a motorcycle, the helmet with tinted faceplate he wore keeping his features obscured from even casual passersby. He kept two car lengths behind Hunt's limousine at all times, looking for all the world like a motorist out for an evening drive. His riding jacket was lined with Kevlar, the tinted faceplate molded from bulletproof glass. Concealed on Oliver's body was an assortment of knives coated with a paralytic toxin to bring down Hunt's bodyguards and an A.R.G.U.S. standard-issue sidearm with mounted laser sight. If he couldn't have his gear, this was the next best thing. He had spent his time at the A.R.G.U.S. depot practicing his throwing knife skills, making sure they were up to par. It was a little different from throwing flechettes, but still the same principle. Now, all he had to do was wait for Hunt to lead him to Laurel.

The hardest part about all of this was that Oliver had been remembering that final night of Laurel's life in vivid detail during the time he had spent biding his time, using traffic cams to keep an eye on Hunt's building to make sure the bastard didn't leave work early. From the helplessness he had felt as Darhk buried his arrow in Laurel's right side, twisting it as blood filled her mouth and she choked for air to running with her in his arms, bridal style, to the van and Diggle driving like a madman to get to Starling General while Oliver told a semi-conscious Laurel over and over again to hang on. Her unconscious form, lips bloody, as he laid her on the table for the doctor to check over, the desperate return to the Bunker to change back into his civilian clothes and the race back to the hospital. Talking with her, learning that she still saw him as the love of her life, her asking him to make sure she wasn't the last Canary… and then that horrible moment when she started to convulse, watching as the doctor tried to resuscitate her, and the crushing darkness that seemed to encompass him as the doctor called, "Time of death, 11:59."

He would not lose her again; he would not watch the love of his life convulse and die again, not because of anything Adam Hunt or anyone else did, even though he knew that, in the end, he might never be able to live a normal life with her by his side. Because if what he had experienced and been shown by Novu had done anything, it had been to show him a simple truth: no matter what it was called, no matter who else might rise up to fight against criminality and corruption… his city would always need the Green Arrow.

*DC*

Laurel Lance had experienced fear from time to time in her life; no one's life was ever devoid of such feelings. But the fear she felt now, with her heart pumping rapidly as she was bound hand and foot in the trunk of a car, a gag pulling the corners of her mouth back painfully and her hair matted with sweat beneath the thick black hood that had been placed over her head was like nothing she had ever felt in her life. She had been held in a seedy, rundown tenement building somewhere in the Glades; there was nowhere else in the city such decay and filth was allowed to fester. She had been in a number of such buildings, in fact, while investigating Hunt for her case against him. The bastard probably found it poetic holding her in such a tenement.

Laurel hadn't been idle; she had tried to escape a couple of times, bound as she was. Both times, she had been struck several times with a stolen police baton and bound more tightly; she was sure her hands and feet were purple from the lack of circulation with how tight she had been tied up by the time Hunt's thugs had been given the order to move her. What crushed her worse than anything was the fact that no one had tried to come to her aid. No one had called the police. No one had tried to stop Hunt's men from beating her. No one had demanded to know what was going on when she was being dragged to and from the tenement. She had spent nearly three years working for the people of the Glades, getting justice for them, and no one cared. What had happened to the city she loved? What had happened to the people who cared for one another, who stood together in times of crisis?

Tears trickled out of her eyes and down her cheeks as she again thought of what her father must be going through and fearing what he would do when her body was found. She knew what was coming; she wasn't an idiot. Hunt had Grell and his lawyers to run interference, keep her father's colleagues busy for days on end. One missing attorney wasn't even a blip on the radar for the F.B.I. She had known when she decided to stay in Starling and fight the corruption choking the Glades that, one day, she might find herself in this position. That didn't mean having it finally happen was easy to accept. She wanted to live; she wanted to see her father, her mother, Tommy, even Oliver again. She wanted to wrap her arms around them and tell them how much she loved them. She wanted to relax in the evenings with the man she loved, and she was only a little surprised when the first face that came up in her mind was Oliver. More than anything, she wanted to raise a family in a safe and secure Starling City, one where her children wouldn't need to fear being taken by human traffickers, men demanding ransom, and pedophiles.

There was no sound of traffic now, and the creaking Laurel could hear sounded like the planks on a dock. Her heart pounded even faster than before; every so often the police dredged Orchid Bay and found bodies of people who had been tied to cement blocks. The water patrols never seemed to find the people responsible, no doubt being well-compensated to look the other way as the mob and the corrupt elite dealt with those causing them problems. As the car came to a stop, Laurel found herself almost paralyzed with fear. Footsteps could be heard walking around the car, and then the trunk opened. She could make out dim light before it was blocked by figures looming over her. Rough hands grabbed her under the arms and knees, hauling her out of the trunk. She struggled, kicking out with her bound, sock-clad feet and catching the man holding her knees in the chest. Unfortunately, the man was built like an oak and barely uttered a grunt.

Her legs were set down and the man who had been holding them took one arm while the man who had been holding her arms switched his grip, so he only held the opposing arm from the man who had been holding her legs. She struggled with all of her might as she was dragged along the dock, splinters from the dock sliding through the fabric of her socks and poking her toes and the soles of her feet. She was forced to her knees, still struggling, and the black bag was pulled away from her face. Her hair, dyed brown because she felt it would make people underestimate her less than her natural honey blonde, hung in wet strings plastered to her face as she glared up at Adam Hunt, only for her teary green eyes to widen as she saw the man standing next to the millionaire bottom-feeder: her boss, Eric Gitter.

"Eric!" Even muffled, her anguished shout could be made out. She had believed in Eric and his vision for C.N.R.I. That was one of the reasons she had chosen to work there instead of any number of law firms in Starling City geared towards helping the less-wealthy citizens. Gitter said nothing, just watched her with an oddly intent expression, as though he were excited about what was happening.

"Yes, Miss Lance," Hunt said calmly, smiling at her fear and outrage. "Mr. Gitter has been bought and paid for practically since the beginning. After all, what better way to trap the desperate than to give them hope that they can defeat the system? C.N.R.I. has served myself and my associates very well. But it's time is coming to an end, so you'll be the last young lawyer who loses their life in the fruitless attempt to… ah, what's that quaint phrase? Ah, yes, 'bring me to justice'." Hunt turned to his men. "Let's get this over with."

*DC*

Oliver had approached the end of the dock using the shadows to hide himself. Aside from Hunt and Gitter, there were a total of four other men on the docks, all of them trained bodyguards. Oliver's helmet was still on to conceal his identity for the time being, and he slipped a pair of knives coated with the paralytic derived from tetrodotoxin into his hands. Oliver threw the blades, one at a time, at the bodyguards, striking them in the arms. Cries of pain ripped from their throats at the unexpected attack, and the other two men pulled their weapons. Oliver, still in the shadows, unholstered his A.R.G.U.S. issue weapon and fired center-mass, striking both men in their standard Kevlar vests and sending them careening into Orchid Bay. The sound of the shots echoed across the water, which is precisely what Oliver had wanted.

Oliver stepped from the shadows, the dim light from the dock lamps mounted on posts above them glinting off the sleek black helmet he wore as he approached Hunt, Gitter, and the bound Laurel, whose sobs of fear slowly transformed to sobs of relief. Hunt and Gitter were frozen stiff at the appearance of Oliver's black-clad, seemingly faceless form wielding an advanced pistol. Oliver had taken the liberty of finding a voice modulator and activating it on his silent approach to the end of the dock so that when he spoke, it was in the harsh, modulated tones that the criminals of this city would soon come to fear. "Adam Hunt, Eric Gitter, you have failed this city," Oliver snarled, his harsh voice made harsher and more threatening by the modulator. "Back away from her. Now."

Neither Hunt nor Gitter were stupid enough to disobey a man pointing a gun at them, especially since two of their guards were barely treading water and the other two seemed to be slowly losing control over their bodies' functions. They backed away from Laurel as Oliver approached, his gun's laser sight right over Hunt's heart. He stopped beside Laurel and stooped down, one hand keeping the gun trained on Hunt while the other retrieved a military-issue knife kept in a sheath on the back of his waistband and cut the bindings around first Laurel's wrists, then her elbows. He set the knife down for her to cut herself free the rest of the way before returning to a standing position. "I want to know about Tempest, Hunt," Oliver said. He knew Malcolm would find a way to get to Hunt and he wanted the Dark Archer to feel dread when he learned about the mysterious figure who had taken Hunt down.

"T-Tempest?" Hunt asked nervously. "I-I don't know w-what-"

Oliver lowered his weapon slightly so the laser sight highlighted Hunt's kneecap and fired. Blood spattered the deck and Hunt screamed in agony as he fell onto his back on the dock, one hand clutching the bloody remnants of his knee. A.R.G.U.S. liked their weapons to pack a punch. "Tempest," Oliver repeated. "The criminal cabal that protects filth like you and ensures you maintain your wealth and power. Tell me what you know."

"I never met any of them, I swear!" Hunt screamed. "Some psycho in black leather would show up and threaten me, my daughter, everything I worked for! If I did what they told me to do, I was safe! That's all I know, I swear! I swear!" Hunt descended into little more than blubbering, and Oliver realized he wasn't going to get anything more out of the millionaire bottom-feeder.

He turned the laser sight on Gitter next. Predictably, the head of C.N.R.I. collapsed to his knees on his own. "Please," Gitter sobbed. "Don't kill me. All I did was take the money. That's all I did, I swear… That's all I did, I swear…"

"Bullshit!" came the fiery tones of an opinionated young lawyer, who ignored the flickers of pain from the slivers of wood stabbing the soles of her feet as she came to stand beside her black-clad rescuer. "You're the only person with access to personnel files at C.N.R.I.! You're the only person who could've given this bastard the information he needed to attack me in my own home!" Laurel strode forward just a little, ignoring Oliver's modulated call of caution, and gave Gitter a firm right hook with enough force that he fell sideways, catching himself with his hands and whimpering as slivers of wood embedded themselves into his palms.

"Feel better?" Oliver quipped.

"Hardly," Laurel scoffed, her eyes still flaming with something akin to hatred as she glowered at Hunt and Gitter. "I won't feel better until these two vultures are serving sentences at Iron Heights or Slabside!"

"Not even a judge as corrupt as Joseph Grell can ignore this," Oliver rumbled. "They'll get their reward."

*DC*

Laurel turned to face her mysterious rescuer, the relief at having been saved giving way to curiosity but, oddly enough, not fear. Whoever this man was, whatever his interest in Hunt and this 'Tempest', Laurel instinctively felt that she was safe with him, that he would never hurt her. She didn't understand why she felt this way, just that she did. "Who are you?" she asked.

"A friend," was the only reply she received. Her rescuer was busy intimidating Gitter further by moving the red laser sight onto various parts of his body, his attitude supremely unconcerned when it came to the moaning of Hunt. In the distance, sirens wailed, getting closer with every passing minute.

"Why did you help me?" The figure stood there, tilting his head as he looked at her. "There are hundreds of people who need help in this city. Did you help me just because I was on the news?" Still no answer. "Please, say something." The rumble of engines could be heard, the flashing lights atop police squad cars visible at the other end of the dock, dark-clad figures rushing down it. Her rescuer turned to look at the figures of the uniformed officers, looked down at the blubbering Hunt and gibbering Gitter, and then finally back at her.

"We'll meet again, Laurel," was all her rescuer said before holstering his weapon and surprising she and the two downed men by leaping into the bay, disappearing beneath the black surface as the police finally made it to the end of the pier.

*DC*

A half an hour later, Laurel was on a stretcher being wheeled into Starling General, her father rushing through the doors after her, having been called by Hilton from the scene at the docks to tell him Laurel was safe and on her way to the hospital. "Laurel, baby!" Quentin half-sobbed in relief as he saw his daughter, pale and a bit shaky but still alive, still breathing, laying on the stretcher as it was wheeled into a room. He was forced to wait outside as Laurel was given a hospital gown, her clothing placed in a plastic bag, and tucked into the hospital bed. Once he was cleared to go inside, Quentin didn't waste any time in pulling his daughter into a hug. She clung to him, the remaining anxiety, fear, and hopelessness she had felt while waiting to be killed by Hunt finally fleeing her body. Laurel soaked her father's shoulder with her tears of relief, Quentin's own tears soaking into his daughter's hair. "I'm right here, baby, I'm right here," Quentin said.

The two Lances held onto one another, each just basking in each other's presence, both having believed that they would never see each other again thanks to the corruption at work in their city. Throughout his search for his daughter, stonewalled as it had been by his superiors, Quentin's mind had been inundated with images of his daughter from the time she was a tiny babe sleeping soundly in his arms to just a few days ago, when a teary-eyed Laurel had been hugging him and telling him about Oliver's belief Sara might still be alive somewhere in the world. Their reunion was soon interrupted by Hilton and Pike, who needed to ask Laurel about her abduction and her mysterious rescuer.

Getting through the abduction was difficult, but her father's arm around her shoulders helped Laurel get through it. Talking about being held in the tenement, the fear, despair and hopelessness she had felt as she realized no one cared enough to call for help, and the realization while being transported to the docks that she didn't want to die but knowing it was inevitable was worse, and she had to stop more than once as her throat closed up. She could feel her father's body shuddering beside her as he wept for what she had gone through, no doubt blaming himself and she forced herself to remain strong, for both him and for herself. Finally, the topic turned to her rescuer.

"He was dressed all in black," Laurel said. "He kept his helmet on, and I don't think I've ever seen the model of gun he was using. It had a laser sight, and the way it tore into Hunt's knee… I've never seen a gun that powerful."

"The bullet was still lodged in Hunt's knee, we'll be running ballistics," Pike said. "Sounds like a special order. That'll make it easier to track." Pike's expression softened. "Take your time, Laurel," he said.

"He wanted to know about something he called Tempest," Laurel said. "He said they were some cabal that protected Hunt and other people like him."

"Sounds like he's insane," Quentin couldn't help but quip.

"That's just it, Daddy," Laurel said. "Hunt said he never spoke to this Tempest, but someone did threaten him and his daughter to do things for them."

"Was this before or after this helmet guy shot him?" Hilton asked.

"After," Laurel replied after a moment.

"Hunt was probably just saying whatever he felt would keep this guy from shooting him again, Laurel," Pike said kindly. After a moment, Laurel nodded. "Anything else?"

"No," Laurel said, her mind going to the mysterious figure telling her they would meet again. "He dived into the water when your guys pulled up."

"Thanks, Laurel," Hilton said, patting her shoulder. "You get better, ya hear?"

"I will," Laurel said, smiling. "Goodbye, Lucas." Hilton had been a part of her life since her teen years, when her father first made the Major Case Unit.

*DC*

Oliver entered the Queen Mansion in a pair of casual slacks and a sweater that he had liberated from the A.R.G.U.S. supply depot. Thea had been coming down the stairs and stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of her brother. Oliver waved at her and continued into the sitting room, where his mother and Walter were sitting by the fireplace. Both looked up in shock at seeing him, having heard about his escape from the private ambulance transporting him to Sherwood Acres, a private psychiatric hospital that catered to the elite from Starling City, Central City, and Coast City. "Evening," Oliver said evenly, pouring himself a neat bourbon and sipping it. "I'm sure Sherwood has told you they won't be admitting me after all, and neither will any other psychiatric facility you try to force me into."

"Yes, I'm curious as to how you managed that, Oliver," Moira said, Walter watching his wife and stepson with concern. He had personally thought Moira was overreacting to Oliver's attitude shift following Laurel's abduction.

"And you'll continue to be curious," Oliver replied. "Perhaps next time you'll think twice about interfering with my affairs. But on the off chance you don't… Well, let's just say there's a lot of skeletons in our family closet. Skeletons I will drag out into the light of day."

"This is why I called Sherwood," Moira said. "You've lost touch with reality, Oliver." Thea was at the doorway, looking between her mother and her brother in fright. She hadn't just heard about her mother had had her brother ambushed in his room earlier today; her friends had sent her a link to a YouTube video of her brother owning those who had been transporting him and escaping their custody. Her brother, who she remembered being so gentle and afraid of conflict (unless he was drunk and a paparazzi was around), had delivered what the comments section called punishing blows to his captors before walking away calmly, without a care in the world.

"Henry Goodwin," Oliver said calmly. The blood drained from Moira's face and the book she had been holding in her hand wavered before falling to the floor. "Still think I've lost touch with reality, Mom? Goodwin is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I know." Oliver smiled. "Now, I think the best idea would be for us to use some of our family's influence to speed up the resurrection process. After that, I believe I'll be searching for accommodations in the city. I've spent five years away from people. The last thing I want to do is become a secluded psychopath, living all the way out here, away from the people who make Starling City what it is." Oliver left without another word; Moira was still white with shock, Walter by her side with a look of concern and mounting suspicion on his face, and Thea leaning against the wall and wondering just what that island had turned her brother into. And who the hell was Henry Goodwin? 

Chapter Text

Dinah Laurel Lance stood in front of the gym and checked the address that her friend, Joanna de la Vega, had given to her when she talked about looking for somewhere to train up in self-defense. She had been thinking more Tae-Kwon-Do or something like that, but in the end, boxing would be a good place to start and it would be easier to master. Such were Laurel’s thoughts, anyways, as she entered the gym and looked around. She tapped a twitchy-looking Hispanic man who was pummeling a punching bag with an ugly look on his face on the shoulder. He turned. “What?” he asked snappishly. 

“Uh, I’m looking for the gym’s owner,” she said, feeling a little self-conscious as the man eyed her up and down. She could practically feel his contempt, as though he thought that she didn’t belong there. She raised her chin a bit, a defiant look in her green eyes, and he tilted his head, the slight widening of his eyes the only sign that her silent stand for her right to be here had impressed him. “A friend of mine referred me here.” 

“Ted’s over there,” the Hispanic guy said after a moment. “He’s a good guy. Not sure he’ll take you on. You’re clearly not from the Glades.” 

“No, but I do work here,” Laurel replied, before holding out her hand. “Laurel Lance. I work at C.N.R.I.” 

“Rene Ramirez,” her antagonistic greeter replied after a moment, shaking her hand. “Heard the guy running C.N.R.I. was a crooked bastard.” 

“Yeah,” Laurel replied. “He and Hunt were trying to kill me. If it hadn’t been for some guy who showed up and stopped them…” Laurel shivered. “I don’t ever want to be that helpless again.” 

Rene sighed. “Come on,” he said. “I’ll introduce you to Ted. I can’t fault anybody for wanting to keep themselves safe, especially if they’re brave enough to work in the Glades.” 

*DC*

Oliver Queen splashed cold water on his face from the bathroom tap and proceeded to dry his features with a nearby towel. Oliver exited the bathroom and entered his new bedroom, quickly dressing in the suit that he had laid out earlier. Oliver headed downstairs from the second floor of the loft (the same one that Thea had purchased with Merlyn’s blood fortune after returning from Corto Maltese) and went directly to the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee and adding the tiniest bit of cream and sugar. The past few days had been quite busy. The day following his rescue of Laurel, the Queen name and influence had been wielded to rush the hearing to officially bring him back from the dead and Oliver had sought out a realtor. Finding that the loft was available had made it the easy choice, and then it was just a matter of furnishing it. 

Finally, John Diggle had decided to stay on despite his reservations regarding Oliver’s alliance with Amanda Waller. Diggle was clear-headed enough to see Oliver had set up the situation so he got what he needed from Waller without any special strings attached and no matter which way things went, Waller would win something she dearly wanted. Diggle had admitted he didn’t know whether to be worried or impressed by how easily Oliver had played Waller. Oliver had asked him, rather grimly, if he really thought he had been the one playing Waller.  

Diggle hadn’t reported in for the day just yet, and so Oliver was alone with his thoughts of the events that had unfolded the day he had been forced to escape from the Sherwood Acres private ambulance. The incident with Laurel, Hunt, and Gitter had been a wake-up call for Oliver when it came to just how much an impact could be made on the timeline from even the simplest of choices. It had chilled his blood to realize that, had his plan proceeded as he intended in the last timeline and he hadn’t started immediately following the kidnapping, then Laurel would’ve been murdered by Hunt in the previous timeline and no one would have known who was responsible because she would’ve simply disappeared. The reality that the life of the woman he loved had been saved by the sheer coincidence of him moving up his plans and going after Hunt had had a sobering effect on the plans he had been setting in motion since his return to the past.

How many more little things could change if he kept on waiting to reveal the Green Arrow to Starling City? How many more lives had he impacted without knowing it? A memory of Curtis came to him, a memory from a time when they were struggling to come up with a way to get back in the fight against Darhk, who had decided to burn the entire world with him and his daughter still in it because of Ruve’s death at the hands of Anarky. “Look, living in Star City requires a special kind of tenacity. A sane person wouldn’t live here. It’s a fact that Paul likes to remind me of weekly. We were this close to leaving Star City last October. After three terrorist attacks, we were done. But then, the night before we were going to start packing, the Green Arrow popped up on our TV, and he reminded me that this city is worth saving, that my home-that my home was worth fighting for. That guy gave me inspiration. He gave me hope. And if he could give me hope then, why can’t he give it to others now?” 

Curtis had been referring to when Felicity had hijacked the emergency broadcast system for Oliver to address the city and declare his intention to pick up where the Arrow had left off as the Green Arrow. That had been the simplest thing he had ever done, a simple declaration of intent, but he knew it had inspired not only Curtis, but Jessica Danforth, who had decided to run for mayor before Darhk had hired the man who would become Anarky, Lonnie Meacham, to force her into backtracking. Oliver knew, from talking with Laurel later on, that his speech after the defeat of Brickwell when he returned from fighting Ra’s had likewise inspired others. Mere speeches had inspired hope in others, and his actions, he now knew, could’ve impacted any number of lives. 

Which reminded him… there was a whole host of people who he had helped when he had taken down Hunt the last time, people who hadn’t received the anonymous deposit in their bank account, taken from Hunt’s ill-gotten gains. Tonight, he would correct that. 

*DC*

Walter Steele was seated behind his desk when a young woman with hair streaked blonde and dark brown tied back in a ponytail opened the door halfway, knocking slightly on the glass to get his attention. “Mr. Steele?” she asked, looking like she wasn’t sure if she needed to be nervous or express confidence. “You asked to see me?” 

“Ah, yes, Miss Smoak, please, come in,” Walter replied. Felicity Smoak, whom he had hired personally shortly after her graduation from M.I.T., entered the office fully, letting the door slide shut behind her. “I called you here for two reasons. The first is that, as I’m sure you’re aware, Oliver has recently been returned to us. But he has spent five years away from all the advancements and needs a guide to help him acclimate to modern technology.” 

“I can do that,” Felicity said slowly. “What’s the second?” 

“I need you to go digging into our files from five years ago and flag anything that might have resulted in outside parties having a vested interest in anything Robert Queen might have told Oliver while en route to China,” Walter said. “Once you’ve compiled that listing, please deliver it to me. This must be done discreetly, Miss Smoak. I’m asking you because I know with a certainty that if there was anything like that, you weren’t involved in it.” 

“I’ll be careful, Mr. Steele,” Felicity promised. “And, uh, do I go to the Queen Mansion to talk to Mr. Queen or is he coming to see me or are we meeting for coffee? Not that I’m trying to hit on him! I mean, he’s Oliver Queen and I’m, well, me.” She flushed as Walter gave her a mild look of rebuke. She really needed to work on that damn brain-mouth filter thing! 

“Oliver has decided to move out of the Queen Mansion,” Walter finally said, writing out the address on a legal pad and ripping the sheet off, handing it to Felicity, who took it gingerly. “I suggest calling ahead. Oliver is… rather abrupt and does not take well to surprises.” 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Felicity promised and left after Walter waved off further conversation (or babbling in her case). 

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn stood looking out over Starling City from the penthouse office in his skyscraper, musing to himself over the events of a few nights ago. Laurel Lance’s death had been all but assured; everyone was well-paid to ignore the things Adam Hunt and other men like him did. It helped keep the animals under control and keep them corralled where he wanted them. The last thing he wanted was any of the criminal filth like the man who had killed his dear Rebecca branching out into the rest of the city. If a few lawyers had to die here or there, then so be it, so long as those with rotted morality stayed in their rightful place, that being ground beneath his heel and, once the Undertaking had cleansed the Glades of its corruption, being the foundation for the beautiful, pristine society that would replace their decadence. All had been going according to plan, but now something had changed. Someone had interfered, someone had pushed beyond their rightful place, someone had saved Laurel Lance’s life and ensnared Hunt and Gitter. 

The police were referring to the suspect as ‘the man in black’. The knives pulled from the bodyguards on the docks had been tested. It was an unknown derivative of tetrodotoxin that served as a fast-acting paralytic. Merlyn already had his own scientists working to reverse-engineer it, having secured one of the knives through his contacts in the Starling City Police Department. Such a toxin would certainly be useful for a man of his talents, especially if he wanted to keep certain individuals quiet and incapable of fighting back while he ensured they were no longer a problem. Their deaths would then be blamed on this ‘man in black’. It was rather ironic that this man could then take the blame for his own crimes as Al Sa-Her if he played his cards right. 

The second bit of evidence from the docks was more troubling, though. The bullet that had been put into Hunt’s knee had been run through the system only to come back with a warning that they were poking into classified material and the files on the investigation had been seized, presumably by the A.T.F. But something about all of this didn’t feel right to Merlyn. The A.T.F. generally dealt with militant cults or self-proclaimed militias alongside the F.B.I. Merlyn had reached out to his contacts from his days with the League of Assassins (he rarely used them since he wanted to keep Ra’s al Ghul from discovering just what he had been doing here for nearly twenty years) and discovered that it wasn’t the A.T.F. or the F.B.I. that had shut the investigation down and confiscated the evidence. 

It had been the so-called ‘think tank’, A.R.G.U.S. Merlyn had managed to stay below the radar of A.R.G.U.S. for years, no easy feat when you considered he had been slowly criminalizing the Glades and turning it into a cesspit of crime and despair where no good person would want to live. Even now, he was planning to further consolidate the criminality and corruption in the Glades ahead of the Undertaking by ensuring the shutdown of C.N.R.I. (the corruptive influence of Eric Gitter could actually be of use there); all he needed to do was take a luncheon and engage in some small talk with one of his long-time business associates, Simon Stagg during an upcoming trip to Central City where he would be making another donation to S.T.A.R. Labs and their Particle Accelerator project. 

Tempest would also be securing weapons for the gangs via Leo Mueller that would force the S.C.P.D. to shutter their precinct in the Glades due to being outgunned. After that, the only thing left to do would be to close Rebecca’s clinic and then there would be no more good people left in the Glades, and once that was done, he would need to visit Doug Miller as his alter ego. Miller was the head of Applied Sciences at Queen Consolidated and he would be the one to weaponize the Markov Device once Queen Consolidated had secured Unidac Industries. Everything was finally coming together, and now this! Some vigilante, a vigilante who had a powerful, covert government operation cleaning up what little mess he left that could trace back to him. 

Meanwhile, Merlyn had his own messes to clean up. Not only had Hunt been talking about the black-clad archer that threatened him to the police, but there was every chance the man had evidence in his system that could be damaging to Tempest. There was also the fact that the man in black had questioned Hunt about Tempest in front of Laurel Lance. If there was one thing to be said about that family, it was that they were tenacious. Quentin Lance was like a dog with a bone when he picked up a scent on an investigation, and his eldest daughter was no different. Dinah Lance, Quentin’s estranged wife, had been squandering her inheritance in a vain search for any signs of her daughter, Sara, despite having had five years of no hope. Even Sara Lance had been tenacious in her own way, partying her way through college and sleeping with everything on two legs by all accounts. Merlyn had decided he would monitor the situation with Quentin and Laurel Lance carefully; if they began to uncover evidence that pointed to Tempest, well… Merlyn had killed his own best friend. A drunken cop and his self-righteous daughter would hardly be difficult. 

“Mr. Merlyn,” his secretary said from the door. “Your ten o’clock is here.” 

“Thank you, Marie,” Merlyn replied, turning as a tall, wiry man with close-cropped black hair entered. “Mr. Drakon, thank you for coming to see me on such short notice. I have a job for you, one that requires a delicate touch, but will be quite rewarding if you pull it off.” Merlyn gestured to the chair in front of his desk, and Constantin Drakon sat down, Merlyn taking his own seat moments later. He despised having to send mercenaries like Drakon to do the dirty work, but if a surveillance camera caught his alter ego and Ra’s al Ghul found out about it, well… that would not be pleasant, for Merlyn or for Tommy, as the League’s code dictated that the entire bloodline of those who broke their code were subject to its archaic edicts. So, for his son, Merlyn would deal with the likes of Constantin Drakon. 

*DC*

Oliver entered the A.R.G.U.S. base that Waller had given him to make use of with Diggle trailing behind him and examining the area carefully. There was already another man waiting for them, someone Oliver had selected from the A.R.G.U.S. dossiers: Henry Fyff, a genius with computers and coding who A.R.G.U.S. had picked up because he couldn’t help but leave what passed for a dramatic signature while informing various government agencies of exactly what they had done wrong in their programming (and doing so in the most insulting, anti-establishment fashion possible). Henry had basically been an indentured servant to A.R.G.U.S. for almost seven years now, and if the way he was relaxing in the comfortable leather roller-chair perched behind the computers was any indication, Henry was very much enjoying not being directly under the thumb of Amanda Waller. 

“Mr. Fyff, glad to see you’re acclimating well to your new surroundings,” Oliver said, startling the dark-haired man, who jerked in shock at being spoken to so suddenly and caused his chair to roll back too fast, upending him with a startled yelp. Oliver quirked an eyebrow at this little twist and looked down at the man. “I really hope you’re a bit more security conscious in the future, Mr. Fyff. We may not be running this by the A.R.G.U.S. playbook, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore potential threats. We’re going to be upsetting some very powerful people, and if they trace us back here, they’re not going to be nice.” 

“No one is gonna trace us back here,” Fyff replied with confidence that bordered on arrogance. “The only way we get traced if you’re dumb enough to let yourself get tagged with some tracker.” Fyff’s eyes went to Diggle. “Who’s the living boulder?” 

“This is John Diggle,” Oliver introduced. “Dig, this is Henry Fyff. Our computer specialist… for now.” Oliver’s eyes narrowed. “Let me be clear about something, Mr. Fyff. If your ego causes you to underestimate a target, or you cause either myself or Mr. Diggle to come to harm through your arrogant assumptions that you are the only one who can do this job… I’ll send you back to Waller and inform her she needs to find someone better. Understood?” 

“Yes,” Fyff croaked out and wondering if Waller had just fucked him over yet again. How the hell had this become his life? Oh, right, he got himself caught because of his own ego and his need to show how much more intelligent he was than the government stooges that handled programming government systems. 

“Good,” Oliver said, shedding his suit jacket and turning to the mannequin where his uniform had been mounted. “Bring up everything you can on the building housing Hunt International. I have one last issue to deal with regarding Mr. Hunt before we move on to other problems in this city.” 

*DC*

The elevator doors slid closed behind Green Arrow as he entered the hallway leading to Adam Hunt’s office on the top floor of Hunt International. “I’m in,” Green Arrow informed Fyff and Diggle back at the safehouse. “No alarms so far.” 

“That’s because we’re not the first ones to get into the system,” Fyff said over the comms. “Someone else is already there, keeping the alarms from going off. You’ve got company, Green Arrow.” 

Understood,” Green Arrow replied, nocking a specific arrow and moving forward. He could see a single shadow moving about in Hunt’s office. Green Arrow fired the arrow through the glass, which cracked and shattered. The arrow landed at an angle and the device attached to the arrowhead activated. It was a sleeker version of an idea Felicity had proposed during the fight with H.I.V.E. when they were looking for more non-lethal options: a magnetic arrow that would strip their enemies of their weapons, leaving the Ghosts and anyone else it was used against to rely on their hand-to-hand skills. Green Arrow rushed through the door as a gun and several knives flew down and made a circle around the magnetic arrow before it deactivated (it had a short lifespan, just long enough to render the enemy weaponless). 

Constantin Drakon,” Green Arrow reflected as he took in the man’s appearance. He had committed to memory the name of every person he killed after swearing his oath in Tommy’s memory, something he had forgotten following his mother’s death and the downward spiral between the Siege and Sara’s murder. “I’ll give you one chance to leave.” 

“Sorry, pal, but I don’t abandon a job just cuz some nutbar in a green hood pops up,” Drakon replied, retrieving a pair of brass knuckles from his coat pockets, where the magnetic arrow wouldn’t have been able to pull them from (Drakon’s knives had been on his belt from the looks of things). “What are you supposed to be, some kinda Robin Hood?” 

Something like that,” Green Arrow replied, having long since reconciled with himself that yes, during his first year doing this, he had essentially been Robin Hood. Green Arrow fired his weapon, but Drakon was already moving, dodging the arrow that had been fired and never realizing the arrow in question was never intended for him. While Green Arrow moved to engage Drakon, Henry Fyff used the arrow to boost their connection to Hunt’s network and do what Green Arrow had instructed him to do: empty Hunt’s entire fortune into a specified bank account, from which they would transfer pre-determined amounts to those victimized by Hunt’s schemes over the past five years. 

Green Arrow dodged one of Drakon’s punches and blocked the second with his bow before launching a front kick, catching Drakon in the stomach and disorienting him for a moment. Green Arrow pressed his advantage, ducking into a roll as Drakon swung wildly and coming up into a kneeling position behind the mercenary, whom he fired a basic arrow at. The basic lethal arrow sliced its way through Drakon’s right calf and out between his shin-bones. Drakon couldn’t help the small cry of agony that the pain provoked and then Green Arrow kicked him in the back, sending him sprawling to the ground before firing a bola arrow, like those he had used on the bags the Royal Flush Gang had been carrying their haul in, to keep Drakon locked down. “How’s it coming?” Green Arrow asked via the comms.

“Already done, boss,” Fyff replied. 

Good,” Green Arrow replied. “Send an anonymous tip to the S.C.P.D. about an intruder at Hunt International. I’m on my way back.” Green Arrow listened to Fyff’s affirmative reply as he stepped past the prone, albeit struggling, Drakon and moved towards the shattered glass that had been the entrance to Hunt’s office. 

“Who the hell are you?” Drakon snarled from where he was pinned to the floor by the cords. 

The archer turned back, staring at him from beneath the hood that shadowed his features. “Green Arrow,” he replied and then turned back, returning to the elevator. Once the doors closed, he opened up the hatch in the roof of the elevator and made his way to the roof of the building itself. There, Green Arrow fired a zipline arrow down to a nearby roof and descended, using his bow to zipline down the cable. “There is one more thing we have to do before this night can end,” the Emerald Archer informed Fyff via the comms. 

“What?”

*DC*

Laurel Lance curled up on her couch, turning the television to the nightly news, a mug of hot cocoa cocooned in her hands. Today had been a day of changes; she had met Ted Grant and arranged for private, one-on-one lessons three times a week. C.N.R.I. was still reeling from the revelation of Eric’s corruption and there was an investigation into what cases had been compromised by the bastard. Finally, while it may not have been a big deal to others, Laurel had decided to dye her hair back to its original honey blonde rather than let it come back naturally. She had always told herself and everyone around her that she had dyed her hair brown because no one would take a blonde female attorney seriously and she wanted to be taken seriously; but, if she was being honest, she had also done it because Sara had gloried in the stereotypes of being blonde and Laurel had wanted to distance herself from her sister at the time. 

But something about what Oliver had said about C.N.R.I. and how it seemed Sara had always been with her had made her think and, after her experience at the docks, she realized she wanted to live a little and stop hiding who she was. Moreover, she wanted to beat smug bastards like Eric, Hunt, and all the rest in the courtroom and let them see they had been beaten by a woman who defied the stereotypes of blondes. She had chuckled as she realized Sara would’ve told her to go for it and rub it in their damn faces. 

Laurel’s thoughts were pulled from her reminiscing about the day when her television made an awful, high-pitched sound she recognized as the city’s emergency broadcast signal. She straightened, wondering what could’ve gone wrong now, and then pulled in her chin in consternation as the screen cleared and revealed a man standing in shadows, dressed in a green uniform with a hood covering his features, a quiver on his back and a bow clutched in one hand. “For too long, this city has lived in fear and darkness,” the mysterious archer on the screen said, and Laurel felt her breath catch in her throat, because she recognized that modulated voice. It was the man from the pier, the man who had saved her, but why was he dressed like that? “It is being ruled from the shadows by a criminal elite who do not care who they hurt, so long as they maintain their wealth and power. They do not care about the children who suffer for days without food. They do not care about those who die because of faulty wiring in their buildings. They do not care about those who suffer mentally, physically, and emotionally from the lives they are forced to lead because of these ‘chosen few’, these men and women who hold themselves above the law. These criminals who dare to name themselves upstanding citizens of Starling City. 

Yet in all this darkness, despair, and fear, there lives a spark of hope. I know there are people in this city who, like me, believe that while life is filled with darkness, that darkness can be defeated by the light. Hope is that light. Hope for a better tomorrow, a future where our children can play in our streets without fearing being kidnapped, where women can walk down our sidewalks without fearing assault, where families can grow and learn and make this city shine like a beacon of hope to the world. 

Tonight, I am declaring my intention to stand with these people, to fight for this city, to be the symbol of hope it needs in its darkest hour. If the police, the District Attorney, and the courts will not see justice done, I will. And to the architect of this age of darkness and despair, I say this: your Undertaking will fail. Your Tempest will be broken. And you will face justice for all the lives that you have destroyed in your madness. I am coming for you. I am the Green Arrow.” The archer fired an arrow, and the screen went black. 

Laurel numbly turned off her television and unsteadily set her mug down on the coffee table. She felt as though her mysterious savior, this Green Arrow, had reached deep down inside of her soul and given voice to the forbidden thoughts that had percolated within her for years as she fought against the crime and corruption only to be rebuffed again and again. Now she understood why Green Arrow had saved her on the docks. They were the same; they wanted the same things. They wanted to see their city saved, they wanted the people to hope and to live again instead of merely existing

She knew what her father would say. “You don’t need to go outside of the law to find justice.” But that old jingle of her dad’s seemed to fall flat after her experience on the docks with Hunt, Gitter, and the Green Arrow. She wanted that future the Green Arrow spoke of. Her terrifying experiences while held prisoner in the Glades by Hunt’s men had forced her to really think about the life she wanted. Yes, she wanted to help the people in Starling City, but she also wanted to have a life for herself, with a man that she loved and children that they both adored. But how could she grasp that future with both hands and bring it into being?

Chapter Text

Malcolm Merlyn stood in the ‘panic room’ in his office where he hid the gear that he made use of as Al Sa-Her, watching the broadcast interruption by the Green Arrow (now a video with numerous hits on YouTube) over and over, committing everything he could about the interloper to memory. His speech, the way he held himself, the flippant attitude with which he had addressed Malcolm as ‘the architect of this age of darkness and despair’… all of it needed to be examined, weighed, and considered as Malcolm assessed the threat level this ‘Green Arrow’ posed to the Undertaking. 

While the security system at Hunt International had been ‘down’, Malcolm’s agents had been keeping an eye on the brief fight between Drakon and this Green Arrow and provided Malcolm with a copy of the security recording. Green Arrow’s fighting style was reminiscent of the League of Assassins, but there were elements of other training in his style, enough that it was unique to this person. Unique was good, because it narrowed down the list of suspects. All Malcolm needed was to find someone who exhibited those same tactics, and he would have Green Arrow’s identity. Though the League training was worrisome, the elements of other training implied that this Green Arrow was a student of someone who had left the League. There had been others before Malcolm, including the founder of H.I.V.E. and Ra’s’ own eldest daughter, Talia al Ghul. Of the two, H.I.V.E. had more potential and Malcolm could even potentially convince the League to take care of the Green Arrow for him if he could prove he had ties to H.I.V.E. 

Green Arrow was a legitimate archer based on the surveillance feed Malcolm had obtained from Hunt International, but he was also dedicated to keeping those he took down alive, almost as though he were afraid to deliver the killing blow. Green Arrow was no doubt the same man the police called ‘the man in black’ (there was no way there were two interfering busybody vigilantes in this city without Malcolm knowing about it), and he had not only gone out of his way to keep Hunt, Gitter, and Hunt’s bodyguards alive (if maimed), but he had done the same to bring down Constantin Drakon non-lethally. He also depended a great deal on trick arrows to disorient, disarm, and bind his foes. 

Green Arrow’s flippant attitude suggested he was younger than 30. Only someone in their twenties with a zeal to change the world would address a foe as dangerous as Malcolm could be in so flippant a matter. The arrogance of youth and the belief in one’s own immortality was common in twenty-somethings, who not only took to the streets in massive protests but also tended to engage in risky behaviors. Green Arrow was atypical in that he had the backing of A.R.G.U.S. and had the training to be a threat to Malcolm’s plans, but he still had that arrogance and belief in his own immortality, the fearlessness with which twenty-somethings took on the world. 

The way Green Arrow held himself was that of someone who had seen far too much of the world’s darker side, something that should’ve turned him into someone like Malcolm, someone that could be pointed in the direction of the real rot in Starling City. This was another reason that the Green Arrow had to be in his twenties. By the time one hit their thirties, most realized that humanity was not inherently good at its core and reacted accordingly. Green Arrow, on the other hand, still believed in the inherent good of humanity if his little speech was any indication. There was also an almost regal air reminiscent of what Malcolm remembered of Ra’s in the way the Green Arrow held himself as he spoke. More evidence that Green Arrow had received training from either Damien Darhk or Talia al Ghul, both of which had been Heirs to the Demon at one time. 

Finally, there was the speech itself. It was well-spoken, perfect dictation and enunciation, suggesting this was someone who was used to public speaking and knew how to effectively use words as a weapon. More importantly, it suggested the Green Arrow had received a quality education during either high school or university. Again, the ease with which the vigilante spoke in such a public fashion pointed to Green Arrow most likely having been an activist at one point. Perhaps one of those eco-terrorists, and A.R.G.U.S. had snatched him up and turned him into an asset? 

But clearly, A.R.G.U.S. didn’t know about Malcolm’s role in all of this, because if they did, they wouldn’t be backing this vigilante. They would just snatch Malcolm up and interrogate him before shoving him in a deep dark hole somewhere. Which suggested that while Green Arrow knew who he was, or at least that the head of Tempest was a powerful figure in Starling City, he wasn’t sharing this intelligence with A.R.G.U.S. Almost as though it were the vigilante calling the shots and not A.R.G.U.S. Curious. 

All in all, the appearance of the Green Arrow had changed things, and Malcolm would admit to being thrilled despite the irritation the Green Arrow’s interference so far had caused. It had been a long time since Malcolm had had a foe against which to match wits and skills. With the Undertaking only months away, having a foe against which to struggle would occupy Malcolm’s time. Countering this Green Arrow would be interesting, and Malcolm would have to find a way to learn about who in the civilian world was seemingly helping Green Arrow’s cause. Anyone countering what Malcolm set in motion in secret was potentially involved.

*DC*

Oliver Queen stared at the phone in his hand, having listened to the message that had been left on his voicemail. Hearing Felicity’s voice again had been hard, especially when the first thing that came up was the image that he had in his mind’s eye of Felicity standing by and watching as Nyssa trained Mia to become the damaged soul that their daughter had turned into. Even if he had tried to set Mia on the right path during their time together, he knew how hard it could be to pull away from that training. But he had forced himself to remember that this Felicity was still the same, awkward, babbling woman he had met when he first came back, who still looked at the world through idealism rather than the cynicism of later years, cynicism she had gained because of her work with Oliver. 

The actual message was only mildly surprising. Walter had arranged for Felicity to be his tutor regarding modern technology and she had been calling to arrange a meeting between the two of them. Oliver knew that if this was the Felicity he had left behind with Mia, he would’ve brought her back into his crazy life, though not before they had words about what Felicity and Nyssa had done with Mia. But this wasn’t the Felicity he had fallen in love with and he had no desire to go through another seven years of what he and Felicity had gone through to reach a point where they had what they called a mutual respect. Which is to say, they ignored anything negative about their partner and refused to acknowledge any issues they had, like his issues at the time with Earth-2’s Laurel. It had taken working with that Laurel on his missions for The Monitor to help him see how similar she was to his Laurel. 

Speaking of the Laurel he had known and grown up with, she had been out of the hospital for a few days and Oliver had held off on visiting her so as not to crowd her. Oliver had decided that he was going to go see her later today, make sure she was okay. No doubt she would’ve heard from Quentin how Oliver had been poking around the scene of the abduction (and no doubt Quentin would’ve been as unflattering as he could be), so she would know he had been worried and looking into it. He had avoided going to the hospital (at least as Oliver Queen) because he knew she would be released soon, and Quentin would’ve been staying close by just in case someone tried something after nearly losing her. Oliver had done the same, to be honest; he had been perched on a building across from the hospital for a good part of the night that Laurel had stayed there, keeping an eye on Laurel’s hospital room and making sure no one did anything to the machines or the I.V. He knew he was being overly paranoid, but the last time he had seen Laurel in the hospital, she had died and a part of him couldn’t forget that. 

As to the situation with Felicity… he would inform her he had found someone else but thank her for her willingness to do this. That was the best he could do; he didn’t trust himself not to say something about her parenting skills if he was in her presence and that would either confuse her or let her figure out that he somehow had memories of the future. Felicity was the sort of person who would actually not dismiss that sort of theory. He would mourn the Felicity that he had known, but he wouldn’t put himself in a position to get close to this version of Felicity again. There had been far too much drama between them because of his methods and his willingness to do whatever was necessary. Even if he was abandoning some of those methods and no longer being willing to infiltrate groups like the Bratva and the League, when it came to those that he cared about being in danger, he knew his grip on his morality would slip. He had been very tempted to deal with Hunt and Gitter permanently on that dock. 

*DC*

Laurel Lance had experienced a gamut of emotions in the past few days. From the fear and terror of being kidnapped and held for twenty-four hours before nearly being sent to a watery grave to the relief of being rescued to the amazement that she had felt as she listened to the Green Arrow’s speech on television, she was beginning to feel emotionally drained. That wasn’t even counting her father’s overprotectiveness being kicked into high gear. She had had a police presence outside of her apartment since she returned home, and while normally she would’ve chafed under the security detail, she welcomed it for once because she still woke in the night with terror in her heart and being able to look out the window and see the police car sitting below was enough. Of course, that wasn’t the only sight that warmed her heart. She was sure she had spotted a green-clad figure on a rooftop opposite her building at least once. 

She had been wracking her brains trying to figure out if she knew who the Green Arrow was. That was the only possibility that explained why he had helped her, why he spoke her name so familiarly. Yet she knew no one in her life with the skills that the Green Arrow had displayed as his biker persona or that he presumably had with that bow of his. He definitely had a quality education like she did, so it was possible that he had attended Berlanti Preparatory with her or even an Ivy League school. She had briefly toyed with the idea that it might even be Oliver (he did have five years unaccounted for, after all), mainly because her father had told her about Oliver’s poking around the apartment and his off-hand comment about the fact that only Laurel’s family, close friends, and workplace knew where she lived thanks to the agreement between she and her father, an agreement that was still in place because she knew how dangerous Starling City could be and while she was no slouch in the self-defense department, she was still a single young woman living alone and she had been eyed appreciatively by disreputable types more than once during the course of her work at C.N.R.I.

There was also the fact that the man in black/the Green Arrow had come for her. There were plenty of lawyers who had fought against injustice, some even more prominently than she did. Why had he chosen to save her life if she was nobody to him? The way he had spoken, despite the voice modulator he was using, had suggested he had a familiarity with her. 

Despite this, she found she just couldn’t believe the man in black/the Green Arrow and Oliver Queen were the same person. Oliver was a good man, of that Laurel had no doubt. But she didn’t think he had it in him to so calmly shoot someone in the kneecap like the Green Arrow’s biker persona had done to Adam Hunt or mockingly trail the laser sight over vulnerable points of the body like he had done to Gitter. Oliver had come back from wherever he had been and kept to himself for the most part. The Green Arrow was someone who was deeply involved with Starling City, of that much Laurel was certain. The Green Arrow felt the city’s pain as though it were his own, and there simply wasn’t a way for that to be Oliver, who had spent five years on an island and had yet to experience the worst the city had to offer. 

She had heard of the incident at Hunt International and gotten calls from clients asking about a surprising bank balance. She had advised them to not tell anyone about it but make use of it, because they apparently had a guardian angel looking out for them. That night was the time she had seen the green-clad figure on the opposing rooftop. She hoped that one day the Green Arrow would speak to her again, as he had promised before dying into the bay to avoid entanglements with the police.  

Laurel knew that, as a lawyer, she shouldn’t be entertaining thoughts of becoming more deeply involved with the actions of a man who could only be considered a vigilante, taking the law into his own hands. But if the Green Arrow had been following the law, the last moments of her life would’ve been filled with terror as she slowly drowned in the depths of Starling Bay. Laurel couldn’t ignore that. She had always believed, like her father, that the law was sacred and that it needed to be protected. But what was the use of the law if it only protected men like Hunt and Gitter, and left the innocent defenseless against those with more wealth and power? 

Her training at Ted’s gym had opened her eyes to the level of suffering in the Glades, suffering that had at its heart an organization called Tempest, an organization headed by a singular individual that the Green Arrow had labeled the architect of this age of darkness and despair. Laurel’s lips quirked as she realized the Green Arrow had a flair for the dramatic. A modern-day Robin Hood, she thought to herself with a smirk as she finished getting ready for the day. It was her first official day back at C.N.R.I., the first day the legal aid office had been open since the investigation into Gitter had begun. 

*DC*

When Laurel arrived at C.N.R.I. she found most of her co-workers subdued, but they perked up a bit at seeing her. She smiled in greeting and said, “I know things have been hectic, everyone, but we need to pull it together. We can’t let what Eric was doing damage what we’re trying to do here.” 

“How do we come back from something like this?” Joanna asked her friend cautiously, knowing that out of all of them, Laurel would’ve been the one most affected by what Eric Gitter had done. Hell, if the rumor mill was true, Eric had been on the docks with Hunt waiting to see Laurel tied to a cement block and sent to the depths. Yet here she was, smiling and prepared to get back to it. “What Eric did is still being felt, Laurel.” 

“We come back from it by showing people we aren’t going to let what Eric did change who we are,” Laurel said. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I came to work here because someone reminded me that I became a lawyer to help people, not help those with power step on the throats of those without. What happened on the docks hasn’t broken me. It’s made my resolve even stronger. Joanna, how’s the prep for the Nocenti case going?” 

“Emily Nocenti is coming in today to talk to us,” Joanna said. “She might have some concerns about what happened with Eric and if that will affect her case.” 

“I’ve got a couple of people who have the same concerns,” one of the other lawyers said. 

“Send me their numbers and I’ll call and talk with them, make sure they know we’re still committed to getting justice for them,” Laurel said. “That goes for anyone who has clients who are concerned about how Eric’s corruption has impacted their cases.” Appreciative looks were shot towards Laurel while she headed for her desk. In between making calls to various clients to assure them that C.N.R.I. remained fully-committed to getting justice for them, Laurel was catching up on her own work and meeting with Emily Nocenti. As a result, she didn’t notice the talk that was going about the office until she got sideswiped with a whopper of a request by the rest of her co-workers. 

“You want me to what?” Laurel managed to croak out, staring at Joanna, who had been elected the spokesperson for the combined voice of the lawyers and legal aids working at C.N.R.I. 

“We want you to take over Eric’s position,” Joanna said softly. “What you did earlier, what you’ve been doing all day? We need people to see someone like that at the head of this office if it’s going to survive the fallout from what Eric did. You don’t need to answer now, but soon. Because there’s already talk of backers pulling out.”

“I’ll have an answer for you by tomorrow,” Laurel promised. In her heart, she already knew what the answer would be. But she needed to call in some favors when she did take the position, something she hated doing because it made her seem so political. But she would be remiss if she didn’t use her connection to some very powerful people to get the word out that C.N.R.I. remained strong despite the corruption Eric Gitter had infected it with.

*DC*

Oliver knocked on the door in front of him, feeling a sense of relief when it opened and Laurel was standing on the other side, her hair back to its natural honey blonde color and her green eyes alight with curiosity and a spark of surprise. “Ollie,” she said warmly, stepping back, silently inviting him inside. He stepped inside and she swung the door shut behind him before reaching out and pulling him into a hug, surprising him. He returned the hug, surprised at the tremors shaking Laurel’s slight frame, before they pulled apart. Laurel wiped the tears from the sides of her eyes. “Sorry,” she apologized. “I’ve been able to keep up a strong appearance, but everything has been kind of…” 

“It’s alright, Laurel,” Oliver said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I understand. What happened to you, what nearly did happen, is horrific and I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.” 

“There are times I just want to curl up,” Laurel admitted softly. “I just want to turtle up and forget this ever happened, but I can’t, because every time I close my eyes, every time I hear a knock at the door, I feel fear well up inside of me. I wake up screaming, dreaming I’m back on the docks and my feet are being secured to a cement block. Sometimes I don’t wake up until I hit the water in these nightmares. I hate this, Ollie. I hate feeling like this, feeling so helpless.” 

“I’m so sorry, Laurel,” Oliver whispered softly. “I wish I knew how to…” Oliver trailed off, thinking about his own experiences with helplessness, particularly when he was first on the island. “Maybe I can help,” he said quietly. Laurel looked up at him in surprise. “When I first got to the island, I met a man named Yao Fei. Our first meeting wasn’t great. He shot me with an arrow. Later, he healed me and started teaching me how to survive. A few weeks in, I was captured by mercenaries hunting for Yao Fei.” Oliver reached down and peeled the edge of his sweater upward, revealing his abs and the scars that crisscrossed his chest. Laurel’s hand went to her mouth at the sight. 

“They tortured me for information about Yao Fei,” Oliver continued, “but I wouldn’t give him up. Eventually, they were going to kill me, but Yao Fei rescued me. A few weeks later, he made sure I met a man named Slade Wilson. Slade helped me learn how to defend myself. But for weeks, I was dependent on someone else to survive, and I hated it. I hated being so weak.” Oliver reached behind him and pulled out his wallet, from which he retrieved a weathered photograph. He held it out to Laurel, who took it with trembling fingers. It was the photograph she had given him that day at the docks. “Yao Fei told me that I needed to forget about you if I was going to survive. But I didn’t forget, Laurel, because thinking about you, about my family, gave me the strength to go on. We draw strength from those around us, from those we love. It took me five hellish years to understand that. If you ever need someone to talk to or scream at or anything, you can come to me.”

“That was… really deep, Ollie,” Laurel said quietly. “Thank you. I needed to hear that. And I might take you up on your offer one day. But for now, I’ve got something I need to talk to you about.” 

“Oh?” Oliver asked. “Sara?” 

“No, not in the way you might think,” Laurel said quietly. “I went back to work at C.N.R.I. today. I decided after what happened at the docks that I wanted to live a little, like Sara did. It’s why I went back to my real hair color. I stopped being a blonde because Sara practically gloried in the stereotypes and I didn’t want to be painted with the same brush. But now I want to do what I do and do it as a blonde attorney, shove it in the face of bastards like Hunt. Pretty sure Sara would be all for that if she knew.” 

“I agree,” Oliver said, lips twitching as he realized that Sara would love her sister going after men like Hunt as a blonde attorney, bringing them down with the law the way Sara would bring them down with a bo staff. “But what does that have to do with me?” 

“After I finished up for the day, Joanna came to tell me that she and the others got talking after I told them to send me the names of clients who are concerned that what Eric did would affect their cases,” Laurel replied. “They want me to take over as the head of C.N.R.I. I’m going to do it, but something Hunt said when I was on the docks with him and Eric has been bothering me. He seemed to think C.N.R.I.’s days were coming to an end, like he knew something about our backers. I know this seems so political of me, but I was wondering…” 

“I’d be more than happy to make a donation to C.N.R.I. and throw a fundraiser, if necessary,” Oliver replied, putting a hand on Laurel’s knee. “But I think you’ll find that faith in C.N.R.I. is already bolstered when you’re announced as the new director.”

“Thanks, Ollie,” Laurel said, and Oliver didn’t ask which part she was thanking him for. The two sat and talked about old memories for another hour before Oliver left the apartment just shy of Quentin Lance coming over. The last thing Laurel needed was a tense discussion between the two most stubborn men in her life.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen watched Martin Somers’ declaration of innocence from the courthouse steps on the noonday news rather than in person as he had in the last timeline. It didn’t change the feeling of a slimy bastard trying to slip through the grip of justice. With a clearer head than last time, a part of Oliver wondered if pursuing Somers in the way that he did last time was a good idea, especially when it had led to the Triad attacking Laurel in her apartment. But, he reflected, if I don’t do it the way I did it last time, then I won’t know when, or if, the Triad are going to strike at Laurel. They may instead strike at Nocenti’s daughter, but without confronting Somers, I don’t know what path would lead to the most lives saved. 

It was times like these that made Oliver realize that Novu had chosen him for this for a reason. Oliver alone was willing to make the hard calls, including putting the woman he loved in danger in order to safeguard the most lives. But that didn’t mean Oliver didn’t hate himself any less for it. Especially after his decision to wait had nearly cost Laurel her life. It was times like these that also made him realize how woefully incompatible he was with Laurel, or Felicity for that matter. The man he was, the man he had been for over a decade, was the kind of man who could put those he cared about in danger by telling himself that he would be there to protect them.

Oliver’s mind drifted over the past couple of days. He had visited a couple of more people on the List, including Marcus Redman, who had done as he asked and given the pensioners their money back. So far, the plan to slowly draw Merlyn into a confrontation at Christmas was working out the way it had last time. Taking it slow had never been Oliver’s speed, but he knew that the more he changed things, the less his knowledge would be useful and the less he would have the chance to really make an impact. He needed to lull Merlyn into that confrontation at Christmas. Then he could bring down Tempest and it’s leader before the Undertaking’s final steps could be taken. 503 lives, including Tommy’s, rode on Oliver’s ability to lure Merlyn into that confrontation. He could not, would not, fail. 

*DC*

Laurel Lance had found that being the head of C.N.R.I. meant doing a lot of politicking and glad-handing. She really missed being down in the trenches working cases, but C.N.R.I. needed good press, especially after everything that had gone down with Eric and Hunt, and that was how she found herself on the set of Channel 52 News, dressed in a conservative gray pantsuit and white blouse, prepping for an interview with Susan Williams, Channel 52’s top reporter and a hard-hitter from all accounts. Luckily, Laurel’s reputation spoke for itself and so Williams was inclined to be more congenial with Laurel than she would with some of the wealthier members of Starling City. Laurel suffered through the final make-up checks, earning a commiserating smile from Susan, and then waited for the interview to begin. 

“Good afternoon, Starling City,” Susan began. “Susan Williams here with a guest many have wanted to hear from ever since tales of her harrowing ordeal made it to the news circuits. Laurel Lance is the new head of the City Necessary Resources Initiative, taking over for former director Eric Gitter after his involvement with Adam Hunt was discovered.” Susan turned to Laurel. “Would it be alright if I called you Laurel?” 

“Laurel’s fine, Miss Williams,” Laurel said calmly, centering herself with some of the techniques Ted had taught her in their sessions. 

“Susan, please,” Susan said with a smile. “The city has been abuzz with what happened to you last week. I don’t mean to pry, but can you share anything that happened with you there with us today?” 

“I can,” Laurel said. “I learned that the rot of corruption runs deeper in Starling than I ever believed, and it means my job at C.N.R.I. is that much more important. My colleagues and I are committed to getting justice for those who’ve been ignored or forgotten by a system that is bought and paid for more often than not. I myself am more committed than ever to seeing justice is done to men like Adam Hunt and Eric Gitter, those who prey on the people of our city like vampires, sucking the life from our streets.” 

“Bold words, and your record in court shows you have the conviction to stand by what you say,” Susan said. “Speaking of which, what can you tell us about the court case against Martin Somers?” 

“As I told the court in my opening arguments this morning, Martin Somers is aiding the Triad with bringing in the drugs that they flood our streets with,” Laurel replied. “Victor Nocenti is a hero who tried to bring that truth to light and paid the price for it. It’s only right that we get justice for him, and for all those that have become addicted to and died from the drugs Somers aids the Triad with bringing into our city.” 

*DC*

In a darkened room in a warehouse in the Glades, a single figure watched the interview of Laurel Lance as it ended, weighing the impact the lawyer’s public denunciation of their activities could have and considering all the options that were available for dealing with the issue. Bribery and occasionally intimidation had worked wonders for the Triad in the past when some lawyer got uppity, but thanks to the wide media coverage on this particular lawyer’s recent abduction and the reasons behind it as revealed by Adam Hunt and Eric Gitter, such methods were off the table. Laurel Lance was a crusader who would find the loose string and pull it until everything unraveled. That left only one course of action available. 

“Find her,” Xi Shan, the head of all Triad operations in Starling City, directed to Chien Na Wei, who was standing nearby, spinning her knives and waiting for direction. “Silence her.” Chien Na Wei gave a light bow of the head, acknowledging the command, and departed to begin preparing to carry out Xi Shan’s orders.

*DC*

Xi Shan wasn’t the only one who had seen Laurel’s interview and knew what it meant. Quentin Lance had made a beeline straight for Lieutenant Pike’s office. “Got a minute, Lieutenant?” he asked, and the urgency in his voice caused Pike to wave him inside without a second’s thought. Pike knew already that this had to be about Laurel. Only Quentin’s daughter and her safety evoked this kind of urgency in the detective, though one good thing that had come from her abduction, if anything could be counted as such, was that Quentin had stopped drinking and was attending meetings to sober up. “Look, did you see the interview with Laurel?” Quentin asked. 

“I didn’t have time,” Pike said apologetically. “Something come up we should know about?” 

“She outright stated the case against Martin Somers is connected to the Triad drug operation,” Quentin said, and Pike let out a low whistle. As good an attorney as Laurel was, she sometimes forgot to share pertinent details with her father or the police when it came to her cases, in part because she felt the police were a part of the problem for those cases that the D.A. chose not to pursue, and this was clearly one of those cases. “I know we just pulled the protection detail since there’s been no further threats on her life and that maybe I’m just being overprotective, but I want to put another detail on her, and on Joanna de la Vega and Emily Nocenti.” 

“They’ll have it,” Pike said. “If the commissioner decides to come down on someone, he can come down on me. I know how dangerous the Triad are.” 

*DC*

Laurel looked up from working on the paperwork that had accumulated during her interview as her father came in with three uniformed officers. A small part of her, the part that wanted to be independent of anyone’s protection, balked at the idea of having police protection again, and perhaps if she hadn’t been abducted, she would’ve vocalized this with a snide comment about it not working when she discovered boys. But she had been abducted and she now knew just how dangerous the city could be for someone as outspoken as her. She resigned herself to the possibility of having police protection on a frequent basis. “I know what you’re going to say, Dad,” Laurel said as Quentin came up to her desk with one of the officers, the other two breaking off to find Joanna and Emily no doubt. “I get why I need this.” 

“Thank you for not fighting me on this, Laurel,” Quentin said. “I’m not gonna say I’m happy about you going after people like Hunt and the Triad, people who will do whatever it takes to keep you quiet, but I know I can’t stop you. You’re too much like me to quit. But I can damn well make sure you’re safe, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I have to do at least that much.” 

“I know, Daddy,” Laurel said, moving around her desk and giving her father a quick hug. “I love you.” That was one of the changes of her abduction, Laurel reflected as she parted ways with her father and settled back in to continue her paperwork while the officer in charge of her security took up a position nearby, his fellow officers having already done the same for Emily, who would be leaving soon, and Joanna. Both of them were more willing to be affectionate and not so stingy with their emotions towards one another. A bad habit, she realized, that they had gotten into after her mother had left them to pursue her now not-so-wild theories that Sara might have lived. Which reminded Laurel, she still needed to call her mother and tell her what Oliver had told her. It was just difficult to call and speak to the woman who had all but abandoned her and her father. 

*DC*

Oliver smiled as he walked through the halls of Queen Consolidated again, listening to Walter speak of the renovation and modernization that the building had undergone in the past five years. One of the many regrets he had from the last timeline was that he hadn’t paid as much attention to Queen Consolidated as he should have, and that had led to the Board’s support of Isabel Rochev. Regardless of his activities as Green Arrow in this new timeline, he intended to be as responsible as he could be when it came to Queen Consolidated. He had thought a lot about his interactions with Ned Foster and realized that Ned had wanted him to take the position of C.E.O. after Walter’s disappearance, not his mother, but he had been so focused on his despair over his defeat at Malcolm’s hands that he hadn’t realized that and instead he and Thea had gotten his mother to come around. This time, if Ned had to ask for someone new to be the C.E.O., Oliver fully intended to accept the position. He knew that under normal circumstances, the amount of time spent working as C.E.O. wasn’t as much as he had had to deal with during his second year. That had been the result of Isabel Rochev’s meddling. Normally, Ned Foster, as Chief of Operations, would handle the day-to-day and bring the important stuff to Oliver, and Board meetings were never held almost daily. 

“Oliver, there was something else we wanted to talk to you about,” Walter said as they entered the older man’s office, gesturing for Oliver to take a seat. “As you know, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Robert Queen Applied Sciences Center is this week, and we were hoping to announce at that time that you were taking a leadership position in the company.” 

Oliver noted that it was Walter suggesting the idea this time rather than his mother. Clearly, Walter had been impressed with Oliver’s attitude since coming back and was moving forward with this idea despite objections. But he needed to be sure that this was a one hundred percent genuine offer. “Two questions. First, what happened to me being out of touch with reality and needing to be locked up in a padded cell?” 

“I regret what I did that day, Oliver,” Moira told her son, and surprise flitted across Oliver’s face as he registered the genuine regret and sorrow in her voice. “I know that you were just worried about Laurel and acting out because of your concern. I had just gotten you back and all I could think of was you crossing whoever had taken Laurel and ending up sharing her fate. I overreacted and I’m sorry for that.” 

“It’s alright, Mom,” Oliver said after reflecting back on that day and realizing he had been acting rather out of character as far as his family would’ve been concerned. “I accept your apology. I don’t want there to be hard feelings between us.” The tremulous smile Moira showed at this warmed Oliver’s heart. “Now, second question: what would you want me to do?” 

“We would like for you to take over as the head of Applied Sciences,” Walter replied. “Your duties will be primarily administrative, approving the budget for projects, deciding which projects get funding and which don’t, all very standard. This will give you a taste of what running the company is like. I’ll also be showing you the ropes and introducing you to the other department heads and the Board.” 

Oliver stood and looked out the window at the city. As the head of the Applied Sciences division of Queen Consolidated, Unidac Industries and the Markov device would fall under his purview. This was too good of an opportunity to waste. “When I came back, I decided I wanted to do more with my life,” Oliver said quietly. “I want to make Dad proud, honor his legacy in a way that matters.” He turned back to them, seeing his mother glowing with pride and Walter smiling gently. “I accept.”

“Oh, Oliver, that’s wonderful,” Moira said. “If you can, prepare a small statement for the groundbreaking. We don’t want to rush you into anything, but it might be good for there to be a statement from you.” 

“I’ll see if I can pull something together,” Oliver said quietly. 

*DC*

Felicity Smoak groaned as she opened her eyes, finding her hair falling into her eyes as the alarm clock blared. She blinked, realizing there was something different. The alarm blaring was one she hadn’t had for years because Oliver hadn’t been able to stand it when they moved in together in Ivy Town. Then the past few hours, from her perspective, came rushing back. Saying goodbye to Dinah, Roy, and Rene; taking Mia and William to see their father’s gravestone and giving them parting words; being sent to join Oliver by the Monitor. Now she was here, in what looked to be her old townhouse. Felicity pulled herself into a sitting position, shaking her head and trying to sort out her thoughts. Deciding to splash some cold water on her face and get to figuring out what the hell was going on, Felicity headed for her bathroom, only to stop in consternation as she entered her bathroom only to find herself on a large metal disc in what appeared to be space. Standing across from her was Mar-Novu. “Felicity Smoak, no doubt you are confused,” Novu said. 

“That’d be a fair assessment,” Felicity scoffed. “I thought you were sending me to be with Oliver?” 

And I have,” Mar-Novu replied. “In recognition of his service to me, despite his mistaken belief for a time that I was the enemy, I have given Oliver a second chance to be the hero he was destined to be. I returned him to the day he returned home to Starling City from Lian Yu. He has already learned the bite of changing even the smallest of things, but he could use a confidant. That is why I have brought you here. Even the strongest of minds can break without a source of comfort.” 

“So, I’m really in the past? When I was working I.T. at Queen Consolidated?” Felicity said, feeling a minor sense of dread at the thought. After so many years of being ‘the boss’ at Smoak Technologies, adjusting to being an underling again was going to be tiresome. 

Yes,” Novu replied. “It is up to you to learn everything you can about the changes Oliver has made and get him to confide in you. He will accept your comfort, though he may have something he wishes to speak to you about.” 

“What?” Felicity asked, confused. 

That is for Oliver himself to tell you,” Novu replied. “I brought you back on your day off so that you may assimilate more easily. This is all I will do for you, Felicity Smoak. Your fate, and Oliver’s, are now yours. Oliver will inform you of what challenges he may face in his new ventures.” A white light flooded Felicity’s senses and a moment later she was standing in her bathroom. She shook her head and went to the mirror, almost starting when she saw her face, decades younger than it had been the last time she had seen it in the mirror, staring back at her. 

“Frak, this is gonna take some getting used to,” Felicity muttered. “Alright, first things first: get ready for the day and then find out what Oliver’s been up to.” 

*DC*

Oliver had seen a recap of Laurel’s interview, including the revelation she had given about the case, and knew deep down that the Triad wasn’t going to let that slide. There would be no window of safety while Oliver put the fear of God into Martin Somers. Laurel had painted a target on her head for the Triad and they would be going after her as soon as possible. The problem Oliver saw was that the only way to truly safeguard her was to be in the apartment with her and he couldn’t do that as Green Arrow. He was going to have to risk exposing himself to Laurel as someone who could handle themselves in order to keep her safe. Perhaps he could even talk her into moving into the Queen Mansion, which was far more secure than either her apartment or his loft. He knew that his mother would help out if he pushed the issue; she had done it during the last timeline, when Edward Rasmus’ hitman was after Laurel and the boy who had witnessed the hitman killing his parents.

Oliver sent a text down to Diggle to tell him about what they would be doing that evening and headed in the direction of the bedroom, planning to be in the best possible wardrobe for fighting just in case it came down to that, when there was a light knock on the door. Oliver frowned, going through his mental list of potential visitors and coming up with none who would be here except maybe Thea coming to bug her older brother as all little sisters are destined to do. Oliver went to the door and opened it, only to blink and frown in consternation at the familiar blonde with her hair pulled back into a ponytail. “Miss Smoak, if I recall right,” he said calmly. “I believe I already told you that I found someone else to help me learn more about modern technology.” He began to close the door.

“Mia,” Felicity said, and Oliver froze in place, the door only partway closed. “Our daughter’s name. Mia.”

Oliver was silent as he swung the door back open. “Felicity?” he whispered in shock, and he saw her eyes warm with delight at the way he said it, and he realized it had been with an almost wondering tone. The next thing he knew, Felicity had flung her arms around his neck and her lips were pressed against his. Oliver automatically returned the kiss, his misgivings about Mia and her childhood falling away as he realized that he had his wife in his arms again and her lips were against his. The two leaned against the island counter, kissing softly and exploring each other’s younger faces with their hands.

But then reality returned, and Oliver remembered what he had been doing. “We can’t do this now,” he said, reluctantly pulling away from her. “I’m not sure if you saw, but Laurel gave a rather honest interview about Martin Somers and we both know the Triad isn’t going to take that lying down.”

“No, they won’t,” Felicity agreed, pulling away from her husband, who she hadn’t seen in twenty years. She could wait a little while longer. “Are you going in as Green Arrow or yourself? Cuz I saw this video of you escaping a private ambulance with some rather punishing moves.”

“That’s on the Internet?” Oliver asked uncomfortably. That would make things difficult if Malcolm ever saw it.

“Not anymore,” Felicity said with a soft smile. “I spent the day hunting down anything that could compromise you and scrubbing it. I have a few tricks these kids have never seen thanks to twenty years of being a tech mogul.”

“As always, Felicity, you are remarkable,” Oliver said. “I have to change. I’m going in as myself, to answer your question. It’s the best way to safeguard Laurel. If I go as a lookout, she could be dead before I get into the apartment.” Felicity nodded, seeing the reasoning behind that. “We do need to talk, but right now…”

“Is not a good time,” Felicity said. “And I hope this means I’m back in the fold.”

“We’ll talk about that, but I won’t outright say no,” Oliver said. “The guy I got from Waller is no you. I’ll call you and arrange a time to meet so we can talk about things.”

“Why does that make me nervous?” Felicity asked quietly as Oliver headed upstairs. She turned and walked out of the room, trying to figure out what Oliver could have to talk to her about that could interfere with their reunion. Or was it a matter of making it seem natural to his friends and family, including John Diggle, who had given her an odd look as she entered the building. Well, that was something she could work on while Oliver helped Laurel (and it was strange to think of her friend as alive and not be thinking of the Laurel from Earth-2 who had been the one she could turn to while Oliver was in prison).

*DC*

Oliver was lost in thought as the car pulled away from the curb. Felicity being here and remembering the future was, he decided, both a blessing and a complication. He knew that he could trust Felicity implicitly and he was beginning to realize he needed someone to talk to about all of this. But it was also a complication because of his thoughts regarding his worthiness to be in a relationship with either her or Laurel. He loved both women in his own way, and while he had decided he wasn’t going to pursue Laurel (she was already in enough danger just by being who she was and challenging the go-getters of Starling’s criminal and corrupt), he had also not planned on getting involved with Felicity because of the years it took to build the trust and respect they had had. But now she was here, the Felicity he had fallen in love with and married. Things were going to get awkward with Diggle if he quickly replaced Henry, but he knew Felicity was better and wouldn’t be such an arrogant little shit about it. Well, not anymore, he winced as he thought of her attitude while they were fighting H.I.V.E. and Chase. She had been more than a little arrogant and holier than thou during that time.

“So, let me see if I got this right,” Diggle said from the front. “You’re on your way to save your ex’s life but you’re having relations with the blonde girl I saw go up to and leave your apartment looking mussed?”

“It’s complicated,” Oliver said.

“Just don’t be surprised when it blows up in your face, sir,” Diggle said quietly.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen stepped onto the curb as Diggle opened the door for him, feeling the brisk October air on his skin, the light breeze that ruffled his short hair. Oliver turned to Dig. “Keep an eye out, the Triad will go after the cops first,” he said, giving the older man a look. Diggle nodded, showing he understood. He and the cops would be the first line of defense if the Triad came in through the front and Oliver was trusting him to keep the officers alive and fighting. Oliver nodded in return and entered Laurel’s apartment building, taking the steps quickly but not too quickly. He needed to approach this carefully, like he approached any change to the timeline. What was his intention here? Did he intend to capture Chien Na Wei, send a message with her back to Xi Shan, or something else? Oliver decided the first goal had to be, of course, safeguarding Laurel. Everything else after that was secondary.

Oliver walked down the familiar hallway and stopped outside of Laurel’s door, where he raised a hand and knocked. A few moments later, the door opened, though a bit more slowly than it used to, and he saw Laurel looking out with a guarded expression on her face, an expression that faded as a warm smile blossomed. “Ollie,” she said, opening the door wider. “Come on in.” Oliver stepped across the threshold, and Laurel closed the door. “What brings you by?”

“Thought I’d catch you up on what’s happening on my end of things,” Oliver said. “Seems only fair since your life is under a microscope right now thanks to your new job.” Laurel rubbed the back of her neck self-consciously. “For what it’s worth, I thought you did a fantastic job.”

“Thanks, Ollie,” Laurel said. “So, what is happening with you?”

“Well, I went to Queen Consolidated today to get a tour of the building and find out all the advancements that have been made,” Oliver said quietly as he took a seat on Laurel’s couch, Laurel sitting beside him with one leg curled under her as she watched him, green eyes alight with curiosity. “While I was there, Mom and Walter asked me about taking a leadership position in the company and announcing it at the groundbreaking this weekend for the Applied Sciences center.”

“And you’re having trouble deciding what to tell them,” Laurel said with a nod.

“No, actually, though I understand why you’d think that,” Oliver said quietly. “I said yes. I had a long time to think about what I’d do when I got back, if I got back. For so much of my life, I’ve been afraid of responsibility, afraid that if I worked for the company I’d turn out like my father, always stressing about the company and that I’d never have time for the family I wanted to build with-with you.” Oliver looked down, feeling doubly guilty because he was reminding Laurel of their past relationship and remembering her final words to him in the last timeline, and because he was purposely talking about their relationship when his wife from twenty years in the future was waiting to talk to him after all of this was done. As a result of this, he missed Laurel’s brief flush at the mention of their past relationship and her quick, but obvious, battle for control over her emotions. “But I want to do more, I want to be more than the playboy I used to be. And I want to honor my father. This is the best way I know how.”

“I think it’s very mature of you to want to take a position at Queen Consolidated even though you’re still struggling to reacclimate, Ollie,” Laurel said quietly, taking one of his hands in hers. For the first time in a while, he felt uncomfortable as he realized how close he and Laurel had been even when they weren’t together and half-wondering how Felicity would take this before deciding that until they sorted things out Felicity had no bearing on his choices regarding Laurel. “I think you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Oliver chuckled ruefully. “I think there’s a difference between being a partying playboy and being a respectable businessman,” he said. He met Laurel’s green eyes. “I know it may not mean much now, but I am sorry. For all of it. For all the other girls. I didn’t know how to tell you I wasn’t ready for what you wanted.”

“You weren’t the only one trying to show me that, Ollie,” Laurel said after a moment. “Dad even expressed a concern if you were ready. But I only wanted to see and hear in an echo chamber. But thank you. I’m sorry I didn’t listen the way I should have.”

Before either of them could say another word, the sound of gunfire echoed from outside. Both of them were on their feet, Oliver cocking his head to the side and, like the last time around, hearing the sound of footsteps on the fire escape. “There’s someone on the fire escape,” he said, taking Laurel by the shoulders and hurrying her towards her bedroom. “Whatever you hear, don’t come out until I tell you it’s clear,” Oliver said and pushed Laurel into her bedroom.

“Ollie, what-” Laurel’s question was cut off as he pulled the door shut and turned to face Chien Na Wei, aka China White, as she approached, twirling her blades.

You’re not going to touch her,” Oliver declared in Mandarin.

“Again, you interfere in our business, Mr. Queen,” China White replied in English, lips twisting into a smirk. “A hazardous venture.”

“What can I say?” Oliver asked as a sense of calm washed over him. “I’m a slow learner.”

“Then allow me to speed up your education,” China White replied. She lunged forward, slashing at Oliver with one of her knives. Oliver leaned back shot a forward kick in her direction, which she blocked with crossed arms. Even so, the force of the kick had her stumbling backwards, and Oliver moved forward, intent on driving China White away from where she could harm Laurel. China White fired a punch at Oliver, which he caught with an upraised arm and fired a left hook back at her. China White blocked the punch before bringing her knife down hard, driving it into Oliver’s left shoulder. Oliver gave a grunt of pain before shooting forward, his head smashing into China White’s face. She gave a cry of pain as blood gushed from her now-broken nose and stumbling back with a pained hiss.

Oliver pushed his advantage, delivering a roundhouse kick that deprived China White of her remaining knife. China White leaped forward in a roundhouse of her own, which caught Oliver on the side of the head. Stars exploded before his eyes and he was on his hands and knees, facing away from her. A slim forearm wrapped tightly around his throat and he felt China White putting pressure on the back of his neck, choking him. He stood and thrust the two of them backwards against the archway leading into the kitchen. China White’s grip on his neck loosened just a little, and he did it again and again, until finally her grip was broken. Oliver spun, aiming to deliver a kick at her midsection, but China White rolled off to the side and came up in a crouch.

“You’ve grown since we last fought, Mr. Queen,” China White said, wiping at the blood flowing from her nose and smearing it across her mouth. “It’s almost a pity you’ve chosen the path of the hero of the common folk. You could have made quite the name for yourself as a mercenary.”

“That life never interested me,” Oliver replied flatly. “Starling City is my home. I’ll always fight for it, even if I’m the only one.”

“And so, you protect those who would be your allies,” China White said. “I can see this contest is at an impasse. Until next time, Mr. Queen.” China White dived out the window and he could hear her scrambling up the fire escape. A burning sensation in his shoulder reminded him of the blade still lodged there. He moved towards Laurel’s bedroom and knocked softly. “Laurel, it’s Oliver,” he said. “You can come out now. You’re safe.”

The door opened in an instant, and Oliver registered the fact that Laurel had her shotgun primed and ready to fire. She lowered it at seeing him, her green eyes instantly going to the knife sticking out of his shoulder. “Oh, my God, Ollie! What happened?”

“That white-haired woman sure didn’t like my suggestion that she should leave,” Oliver quipped.

Laurel gave him a hard look. “You told me you’d never lie to me again, Ollie,” she said quietly. “I heard what she said. You’ve interfered in their affairs before. How?”

“That is a very long story, and we’re about to have company,” Oliver said, looking towards the door. Laurel looked up as Oliver’s bodyguard and the two officers that had been guarding her entered her apartment. Diggle was instantly at Oliver’s side, putting pressure on the wound and snapping at the officers to get an ambulance there A.S.A.P. “Glad you were able to help, John,” Oliver said drowsily.

“Stay awake, Oliver,” Diggle replied, slapping his employer and startling him. “You’ve lost a lot of blood. Stay awake, and I promise you can sleep all you want once we get you home. Got it?”

“Right, right,” Oliver said. “Blood loss, drowsiness, not a good combo…”

*DC*

“Ollie!” A brunette missile shot the distance between the door and the hospital bed on which Oliver was laying, bare-chested with a bandage wrapped around his shoulder, with such speed one could be forgiven for thinking that Thea Queen had somehow developed superpowers. “Mom is freaking out; the cops are saying you fought some crazy Chinese assassin? What were you thinking, you’re not Rambo! You-Wait…” Thea slowed, stepping back slightly and really looking at her brother for the first time, her hazel eyes drifting to the scars that littered his torso. “Ollie… what-what happened?”

“I’m no stranger to pain and injury, Speedy,” Oliver said quietly, holding out a hand. She took it, numbly sitting beside him. “My life for the past five years hasn’t been an easy one and its left me with a set of skills that come in handy sometimes. I didn’t even really notice the knife in my shoulder until the fight was over. And by then, well, the blood loss was making me woozy, so I didn’t really feel the full brunt of it. I’m still not since they’ve got me on painkillers. I’ll be feeling it tomorrow, though.”

Moira Queen entered the room, her face pale and Walter by her side. She breathed a small sigh of relief as she took in the sight of her son, whole but injured, and came to stand beside his bed. “Oliver, you have no idea how scared I was when we got the call from the hospital and Lieutenant Pike met us downstairs to tell us what happened,” Moira said quietly. “They’ll be going after the woman who did this to you soon; according to the police, the knife she left in you ties her to more than a dozen murders in the past year.”

“Then at least something good came from all of this,” Oliver said with a tired smile, knowing that even if they got White, that they wouldn’t hold her for long. A.R.G.U.S. had had custody of her following him capturing her two years ago when he had been in Starling for them, and yet she was back in action by the time he returned to Starling officially. “Did he say anything about how Laurel is?”

“Shaken,” Walter said. “I don’t doubt that having been attacked in her own home twice in the space of a week has hit her hard.”

“Oliver,” Moira began delicately, “I know how much Laurel means to you, but this is the second time she has angered powerful criminals and this time you were injured because of it. I think its best that you keep your distance from Laurel until she chooses to no longer pursue these cases that put her in such grave danger.”

“If I hadn’t been there tonight, Laurel would probably be dead,” Oliver said. “Maybe even those cops since I was lucid enough to hear them tell Detectives Lance and Hilton that if it weren’t for Dig, they wouldn’t have been aware of the approaching Triad gunmen. I won’t leave her to face danger alone. I owe it to Sara to keep her sister safe. And… I still love her.” That was the real issue, Oliver thought to himself as he saw his mother’s gaze soften and Thea’s lip tremble as they heard those words fall from his lips. He had never stopped loving Laurel; he had been able to finally process his grief enough to move on thanks to the Dominators, but that had never changed his true feelings for Laurel, even though she was dead and gone by that point. He had been able to be happy with Felicity, but he didn’t love her the same way he had loved, no, that he loved Laurel in. There was a depth to his love for Laurel that simply didn’t exist with Felicity. And that is why we could never work, even if we sort out this issue about Mia’s childhood, Oliver recognized grimly.

“Oliver, I think perhaps it’s time you see a therapist,” Moira said quietly. “I’ll look into someone suitable to helping someone who’s… been through what you have,” she said delicately, gesturing to his scarred torso. “In the meantime, we still have the groundbreaking this weekend to consider. Have you prepared your remarks.”

“I have a vague idea of what I want to say,” Oliver replied. He would go along with his mother’s request that he see a therapist, if only because it might help him work through some of the things that had made his friendships and other relationships so unhealthy at times. But he wasn’t going to give up his friendship with Laurel, and he knew that was what his mother would want from this. “I’ll have something ready by the time the groundbreaking happens, I promise.”

The Queens and Walter simply sat in the room, chatting for a little while, until Dr. Lamb came by to talk about discharging Oliver and to cover the prescriptions that he was giving Oliver for the pain that he was sure to feel once the hospital’s painkillers started wearing off.

*DC*

The next day was a slow one, since Oliver had to deal with the pain in his shoulder. He had sent a text to Laurel, saying that he needed a few days before she could get her answers about what happened. She had sent back a text that she understood and that was probably for the best, as her father was practically dogging her footsteps at the moment and the last thing that they needed was for him to overhear their conversation. Oliver had also dug up Felicity’s number and sent her a text to meet him later tonight unless she could get away from work with an excuse about helping him with technology.

As a result, he spent most of the day lounging around the loft, feeling anxious about everything that was racing through his mind, from what he needed to talk to Felicity about to what Laurel would want to know or have figured out. For all he knew, she had heard enough to figure out that he was fully-capable of being the Green Arrow. Oliver knew he needed to decide as to whether he would keep his promise to never lie to her again if she confronted him about that possibility. Could he put her in the kind of danger knowing his secret would put her in, even if he knew he would protect her until she could defend herself? He knew she had been going to Ted Grant’s gym a full two years ahead of schedule, and something told him that this was just the beginning. Once Laurel set her mind to something it consumed her in a way. He doubted she would stop with just one method of self-defense.

Diggle had been excused for the day since Oliver wasn’t going to be going out and about, so he had no forewarning before a timid knock sounded at the front door. Oliver stood from where he had been lounging on the sofa and strode over to the door, opening it to find Felicity standing there. Oliver stepped aside and swung the door open wider, and she stepped in. “It is so weird being back here,” Felicity said. “So many memories, but none of them have happened yet.”

“Some of them darker than others,” Oliver agreed, thinking of the time he had come home to find a smashed apartment and his little sister bleeding out on the floor after Ra’s had attacked her. “We need to talk, Felicity.”

“Well, those are four words no significant other wants to hear,” Felicity tried to quip, but the worry in her voice kept it from breaking the tension. “What do we need to talk about?”

“A few things,” Oliver said quietly. “But let’s start with Mia.”

“She grew up into a beautiful and strong young woman, Oliver,” Felicity said. “You would be proud of her.”

“I am, because I got the chance to meet her,” Oliver said, and Felicity started, her head snapping around to stare at Oliver in shock. “Novu brought her, William, and Connor to the present to help with my mission. I don’t know why, and I probably never will; but I got to meet our daughter. But there’s a problem.”

“What problem?” Felicity asked, mind whirring and trying to figure out what could be so concerning for her husband.

“She was too much like me,” Oliver said quietly. “The whole point to you living at the cabin with her was that she had a safe and normal childhood, away from the madness that was our lives in Star City. How could you have Nyssa train her to be a warrior? That wasn’t what I wanted for her. I wanted her safe, and happy, and living a normal life!” Oliver’s voice raised slightly at the end.

“Safe, happy, and normal is all well and good, Oliver, but you were gone,” Felicity began heatedly, “and I was left raising a baby with the threat of the Ninth Circle and every other enemy you’ve ever made hanging over my head. I reached out to Thea, but she refused to train Mia, believing, apparently rightly, that it isn’t what you would’ve wanted. So, I reached out to Nyssa, and while she was reluctant because of her own childhood, she saw that Mia needed to know how to defend herself. It never went overboard, Oliver. I swear, Nyssa never went overboard with the training. I was always watching to make sure.”

“And your vigilante work on the side?” Oliver asked. “I get it; there was a threat to Star City. But you were doing it secretly, while Mia was unaware of what was going on. What if she had never found out and this Galaxy had come calling? Did you ever think of the danger you were putting her in by doing what you were doing from the cabin?”

“Don’t you dare question my love for our daughter or my concern for her safety,” Felicity said. “I’m the one who spent twenty years educating and keeping her safe. You were the one who followed after a cosmic being and died as result.”

“Clearly, we’re not going to agree on how you raised Mia,” Oliver said after a moment of silence while he pushed down the hurt that he was feeling at Felicity throwing his sacrifice in his face. “I know that you’re thinking we can just pick up where we left off, do it right this time. But you have over twenty years, mentally, on me and we are now in a time where Laurel is alive.”

“What does Laurel have to do with anything?” Felicity asked, feeling a cold sense of dread form in her stomach. She had always doubted Oliver’s love for her over his care for Laurel; it was why she had hidden Black Siren’s existence from him when she discovered that a doppelganger of Laurel Lance was locked away in S.T.A.R. Labs.

“You remember the Dominators?” Oliver asked quietly. Felicity nodded slowly. “When they captured us, they trapped us in a perfect dream world, one that would keep its hold on us. In that dream world, I was going to marry Laurel; I was finally worthy of her, something I had never felt I was in real life while she was alive. It took all of my strength to leave that world behind and come back to fight the Dominators. It gave me a sense of closure regarding Laurel’s death, but it made one thing very clear: Dinah Laurel Lance is, and always will be, the love of my life. I did come to love you, Felicity, and a part of me always will. But the truth is that I love Laurel, and even if I can never be with her, I will always do what I can to make sure she lives a full and happy life instead of dying at age thirty, just as I will always do what I must to ensure this city is safe from the threats I know, and the threats yet to come, like Grant Wilson. I don’t have it in me to be the partner and husband that you deserve. I’m sorry.”

“I-I see,” Felicity said, tears welling up in her eyes. “I dedicated twenty years of my life to ensuring our daughter became the hero that the Monitor saw her becoming, twenty years to the thought of getting back to you, and you’re going to throw all that away, erase our daughter from existence, for Laurel? Do you have any idea how obsessed you sound? You had a family, you could have it again, but you are going to throw that away for a woman who you cheated on with her own sister!” Felicity wiped at her eyes. “Don’t worry about me exposing your secret or coming to work with you. I believe in what you’re doing, and I’ll keep your secret, but I can’t work with you for the same reasons as the last time this happened. Goodbye, Oliver.” Felicity turned and headed for the door. Oliver watched her go, knowing this was for the best, but still feeling a small part of his heart break as he knew he had hurt the woman he had called his wife for two years.

Oliver’s mind went over what Felicity had said and his mind stuck on one particular phrase. Erase our daughter from existence. He hadn’t really thought of it before, but by doing this, he was erasing his daughter from existence. Tears sprang to his eyes as he remembered bonding with Mia and learning all he could about her, which wasn’t easy because she took after him so much. He went to the fridge and got a beer, returning to the sofa. “I’m sorry, Mia,” he whispered quietly before he began drinking the beer. It was the first beer of the night, but it would not be the last.

*DC*

Dinah Laurel Lance sighed as she laid back on her father’s bed (her father had taken the couch) and tried to rest, even going so far as closing her eyes. But every time she did, the memory of Oliver hurrying her into her bedroom and hearing the words he exchanged with China White, the deadliest assassin the Triad had in Starling City, came flooding back. Oliver had interfered in the Triad’s affairs before according to what White had said. Laurel couldn’t have imagined Oliver interfering in the affairs of a criminal organization like the Triad before tonight, but she had seen the look on his face as he shut the door behind her. He had known exactly what he was getting into, exactly what he was exposing about himself, and he had trusted that she would keep it a secret and let him get away with calling himself lucky.

Her apartment was once more a crime scene, which was why she was staying with her father, who was doing his best to convince her that it was time to move. She supposed that now that she was the Director of C.N.R.I. she could afford it, but she had been living where she was for over five years. It was familiar and she knew what to expect; or at least she had known, before Adam Hunt sent goons to kidnap her and before China White tried to kill her. Maybe her father was right; maybe it was time to consider moving into a more secure building. She sighed and turned over on her side, one hand bracing the side of her face as she stared out her father’s window at the city. Somewhere out there, Oliver was recovering from a knife wound to the shoulder, a wound he had received defending her. Her father had been incredulous, but Laurel thought she had seen a glimmer of respect as he asked what ‘the punk’ had been thinking, taking on a Triad assassin.

Laurel once again felt a flash of guilt as she remembered Oliver’s woozy commentary, but the analytical part of her mind also considered what he had said. Oliver had never been one for medical knowledge, yet he had known that blood loss and drifting off was a bad idea. Or maybe that was just common sense even to a billionaire playboy. No, he also knows how to fight, Laurel reminded herself. And fight a Chinese assassin at that. You’ve seen the reports on what China White is supposed to be capable of. Ollie was never a fighter before that island. Something happened there that changed him.

And that was the issue at hand, really. Oliver Queen had changed from the playboy that she remembered and had loved into a serious, compassionate man who could fight a Triad assassin to a stand-still with a minor injury to show for it and who had shown himself to have an analytical mind of his own when he asked her father if the agreement was still in place. Just how much had that island changed her ex-boyfriend? Could it have changed him enough to become…

That’s just stupid, Laurel, she chided herself. If Ollie was the Green Arrow, he would’ve been guarding you that way, not putting himself in your apartment where you could figure him out. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the man in black and the Green Arrow aren’t the same person. Maybe… maybe Oliver is the man in black.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen entered the A.R.G.U.S. operations center that Amanda Waller had essentially leased to him for his operations, making a mental note that he should begin setting up a secondary base of operations soon, in case this place was ever compromised. Henry Fyff was going over data from one of the many hacks he had been performing for Oliver. John Diggle shadowed Oliver into the room. “Henry, bring up everything you have on the Triad’s operations here in Starling,” Oliver said, and Henry managed to only jump a little at the sound of the archer’s voice. He began doing as Oliver asked almost instantly, muttering under his breath something that was probably not very complimentary to Oliver, who ignored it despite hearing it quite clearly. He took pride in being ‘a fucking ninja’, after all.

Henry worked his magic with the computers, and soon Oliver was looking over the intel, filtered through A.R.G.U.S., that they had on the Triad and its holdings in Starling City. Oliver studied it, considering his options. The Triad wouldn’t stop coming for Laurel because they considered her a threat to their operations. So, either he needed to remove the power players and make them think twice about retaliating against Laurel for her remarks on television, or he needed to disrupt their operations in the city to the point that it would be more costly to them to be harried by the Green Arrow then to let Laurel speak her mind.

“Tonight is going to be very busy,” Oliver said, deciding on a course of action. He would rather deal with known quantities in Xi Shan and Chien Na Wei, which meant he would need to go after the Triad’s operations. “I’ll hit their people-smuggling operation first, then the narcotics ring.” Oliver turned to Diggle. “Keep an eye on things around here.” Oliver headed towards the stand where his suit and weapons were waiting.

*DC*

The Green Arrow scurried across the tops of cargo containers at the port controlled by the Triad via Martin Somers, keeping low with his bow held tightly in his grip and a hand holding position over his quiver, ready to draw and fire at a second’s notice. “G.A., eye in the sky says we’ve got about ten targets littered about fifty yards ahead, a mass of heat signatures inside a shipping container,” Henry said over the comms.

Understood,” Green Arrow replied softly, picking up the pace a little. He slowed as he approached the end of the fifty yards. There was a large open space between several containers, and ten Triad thugs were armed, some moving about the space in a patrol. Two patrols of two armed guards; two more stood guard in front of one container, likely the one that held the mass of heat signatures. The Triad partnered with human trafficking rings, sending the poor and disenfranchised of Starling out into the world for profit. Malcolm and his ilk turned a blind eye since they saw such people as being a drain on society in Starling. Finally, the last four were seated around a card table, playing poker. Green Arrow studied the patrol pattern for ten minutes, considering his options. He knew that this one wasn’t going to be as easy as fighting Constantin Drakon was. He was going to have to make use of more brutal measures.

Drawing an explosive arrow, Green Arrow primed it and then drew it back, firing it at the center of the card table. It exploded on impact, sending the four Triad thugs sprawling to the ground with budding first- and second-degree burns on their hands and faces. Green Arrow drew a lethal arrow and fired, the arrow piercing through the right shinbone of one of the container guardsmen. Another arrow saw his partner join him as the patrolling Triad converged on the source of the arrows. Green Arrow flipped over their heads as they raised their weapons, firing another explosive arrow at their feet as he landed and rolling away from the gunfire before the explosion threw the Triad against the container he had been standing on.

Green Arrow stood and fired bola arrows at the Triad on the ground. “Fyff, send an anonymous tip to Lieutenant Franklin Pike of the Major Case Unit,” Green Arrow said, knowing that with Quentin focused on keeping Laurel safe there was no way the detective would leave his daughter to investigate an anonymous tip. “Provide intel on what they’ll find. With any luck, one of these bastards will turn on Somers as well.” Green Arrow crossed the open space, ignoring the pained moans of the Triad, and knocked out the two that had been guarding the container and were struggling to reach their weapons again with his bow. Then he opened the container.

Inside, men, women, and children huddled together with a handful of buckets available to use for waste. The smell roiled Green Arrow’s stomach, but what made his stomach churn even worse was the looks of desolation which slowly turned to hope as they saw the figure that had lit up screens in the last week standing in the opening. “It’s alright,” Green Arrow said softly, kneeling so that he was at eye level with the huddled mass of people. “The police are on their way. You’re going to be alright.

“Thank you,” one man half-sobbed, holding his toddler daughter to him. “Thank you.”

Green Arrow nodded before standing and moving away from the container. It sickened him that something like this could happen in his city. “Change of plans,” he informed his partners via comms. “First, I’m gonna have a little chat with Mr. Somers myself.

“Cops will be there soon,” Fyff informed him.

This won’t take long…” Green Arrow headed off to the offices Somers ran his businesses from, fury racing in his veins. He was about to teach Martin Somers what it meant to bring this kind of sickness and suffering to his city.

Somers had two guards with him. Green Arrow activated a recording device on his belt before he fired a zipline arrow and zoomed across it on his bow, crashing through the window of the offices and firing arrows into the legs of Somers’ two guards, crippling them. He followed this up with knock-out blows with his bow before he drew and nocked another arrow, aiming it at Somers. “Martin Somers, you’ve failed this city,” Green Arrow snarled. “Hands on the desk.” Somers trembled with his hands in the air. Green Arrow drew the arrow back threateningly. “Now.” Somers put his hands on the desk, trembling. “You’re even more despicable than I thought,” Green Arrow sneered at the man. “What you did to Victor Nocenti is only the bottom of the barrel. You know what the Triad get up to out there and you do nothing. How many innocents have you watched be sent away from their homes and loved ones, never to see them again? How many!?

“I-I dunno,” Somers managed, terrified that this archer was going to feel the sudden urge to turn him into a pincushion. “Look, let me live, and I’ll confess to everything, I swear! I had the Triad kill Victor Nocenti! I’ve known about the people-smuggling operation, but they paid me well to keep quiet! It’s not like anyone cares about those wretches anyways!”

I care!” Green Arrow fired the arrow, which punched through Somers’ right hand, pinning him to the desk. Somers howled in pain, but before he could move his other hand to try and pull the arrow out, another arrow had joined the first, pinning his left hand to the desk. Green Arrow strode up and delivered a solid right hook to the sobbing man’s temple, knocking him out. He pulled the recording device off his belt and deactivated it, placing it lightly on Somers’ back. “Got what I needed from Somers,” he reported to Fyff and Dig. “Heading to the narcotics ring now.

*DC*

The warehouse where the Triad ran their narcotics operation out of was deep in the Glades, but it was lightly secured due to being well into Triad territory. Green Arrow infiltrated the warehouse from the roof and crept along a catwalk, looking down on the warehouse floor and finding each and every enemy. There were over a dozen, each of them patrolling between the stacks of crates containing the drug supply. Green Arrow activated his comms. “Fyff, can you deactivate the fire suppression system at this warehouse?"

“Sure can,” Fyff said. “Why?”

We’re too deep in Triad territory for the cops to come based on an anonymous tip,” Green Arrow replied softly. “So, I’m going to burn this supply instead. Link up to each arrow as I fire it, and when I give you the signal, blow it.

“Got it, G.A.,” Fyff replied.

Green Arrow crept along the catwalks overlooking the warehouse floor, firing explosive arrows into stacked crates, making sure to keep them out of sight of the patrolling Triad members. He had brought a plentiful supply of explosive arrows, knowing this was a possibility based on the intel that Henry had pulled up back at the A.R.G.U.S. safehouse. It took him almost a half an hour and two close calls of being spotted, but he had finished tagging the center crate in each stack with an explosive arrow. Green Arrow exited back to the roof.

Prime the explosives, give me a ten-count, then blow them,” Green Arrow ordered into the comms. He raced to the edge of the roof and fired a zipline arrow down to a building near to the alley where he had parked his bike. He had just arrived on the lower roof when explosions could be heard coming from inside of the warehouse. Green Arrow smirked in satisfaction. The Triad had lost a lot of profit tonight and would be recovering for months. Combine that with the confession he’d gotten from Somers, and Laurel should be safe.

*DC*

Oliver set his bow back on its mounted stand in the A.R.G.U.S. safehouse, unzipping the ‘jacket’ that was the top of his first uniform. He missed the later uniforms designed by Cisco, sans perhaps the sleeveless one since that had resulted in a tactical vulnerability that they had had to have Cisco deal with via the next iteration of the suit, which he had worn from after the capture of Zytle to his and Felicity’s departure from Star City to go to the cabin. Still, wearing the old ‘Hood’ uniform had its own charm. “Any reports coming into the police band about the warehouse?” Oliver asked.

“Yeah, reports came in from concerned citizens,” Fyff replied. “The fire department arrived and put out the blaze. The Triad had made themselves scarce, no witnesses to the fire, but there was enough left over for them to figure out this was the Triad’s main hub for narcotics and call in the police. A Detective Hall is leading the investigation.”

“Good,” Oliver said, vaguely recalling the last time that he had seen McKenna Hall. She had been in the hospital, her leg shattered by a shotgun blast from Helena Bertinelli. Speaking of, he needed to figure out when Helena started her spree because even if the Triad were weakened, they could still be a threat if Helena used them to try and bring down her father’s empire. “I know McKenna Hall. She’s a good person. Incorruptible. A bit like Laurel in that regard. She won’t be bought off by the Triad.”

“I gotta ask this, man,” Diggle said quietly. “Was tonight solely about keeping Laurel safe?”

“No,” Oliver said. “Though I understand why you might think that. While keeping her safe was one of the objectives, I was also intent on sending a message. For too long the Triad, the Bertinellis, the Bratva, all of them have profited from the suffering of others in this city. Have you seen the reports from the docks yet?”

“Yeah,” Diggle said, grimacing. “That made me sick.”

“Imagine being the one to see those people in such a situation,” Oliver replied quietly. “Believe me, Dig, everything I do is to make this city a better, safer place for everyone. Laurel has the same desires, same goals that I do, but she does it using the law. She’s gotten some harsh lessons as to what kind of corruption has taken hold in this city but she’s going to keep challenging that. And yes, I’m going to be there to help her, protect her, because I already watched Sara ‘die’ twice and I’ve suffered through nightmares of Laurel dying. I won’t let those nightmares become a reality. But never doubt my commitment to making this city a better place for everyone.”

“I understand, sir,” Diggle replied. “But if I ever feel like you’re slipping, I reserve the right to remind you.”

“That’s why you’re here, John,” Oliver replied with a small smile. “To be my conscience when I start to slip.” Diggle nodded in a satisfied sort of way, and Oliver headed off to change.

*DC*

Laurel Lance was going over files sent over from C.N.R.I. at her father’s coffee table, her father going over his own case files from work and both drinking a cup of coffee when there was a knock at the door. Laurel stiffened out of reflex, while Quentin stood, hand straying to his hip where his gun was resting. Quentin went to the door, looking out through the peephole, and relaxed as he recognized the person on the other side, Laurel relaxing upon seeing her father’s reaction. Quentin opened the door and gestured for Franklin Pike and Lucas Hilton to enter. “Frank, Lucas,” Quentin greeted with a small smile as his boss and partner entered the apartment. “What brings you by?”

“I wanted you two to hear it from me first,” Frank said quietly. “We, or rather I, got an anonymous tip that sent us to the docks that Martin Somers operates out of. What we found there is almost unconscionable, yet we saw it with our own eyes. We’re still trying to process it all.”

“Sit, sit,” Quentin said, taking a seat next to Laurel and putting an arm around her shoulder. Martin Somers was the reason she was having to live with round the clock police protection in the first place. “What happened, Frank?”

“The Triad were running a human smuggling operation out of those docks,” Frank replied. “There were fifty people, men, women, and children all packed tightly into a shipping container, afraid to come out until they saw us. The Triad had been knocked out or incapacitated, as had Somers and his two bodyguards. We even have a recorded confession from Somers that he had Victor Nocenti killed and knew all about the human smuggling. It’s a slam dunk case.”

“So, Laurel’s safe now, right?”

“We’re not sure, to be honest,” Frank replied. “I’d give it another twenty-four hours to be safe, Laurel,” he added kindly, looking at the young attorney, who nodded her assent. “The crux of the matter, though, is that the evidence points to one person being at the docks before us. The Green Arrow. Which means he sent the anonymous tip that led us there. He sent it to me, Quentin. I don’t understand why. And we just heard on our way over here that Narcotics is investigating a warehouse fire that’s right in the middle of Triad territory. Again, it appears the Green Arrow was on the scene.”

“How the hell is he getting this information?” Quentin asked, perplexed.

“That’s why we’re here,” Frank replied uncomfortably. “The Green Arrow’s speech mentioned a Tempest, the same as the man who saved Laurel. Laurel is the one who was prosecuting Martin Somers and threatened by the Triad, and now the Green Arrow delivers up a confession from Somers and cripples two of the Triad’s operations that’ll take them months to recover from and unable to threaten anyone seriously, according to the boys in Gangs. We have to ask Laurel if she knows who this man is, because he clearly knows her.”

“Laurel?” Quentin asked reluctantly.

“I don’t know who the Green Arrow is, and I’m not sure if he and the man in black are one and the same,” Laurel said. “I’ve not been contacted by anyone new. There’s no new guys in my life who might think to impress me this way. In fact, the last serious relationship I had was with Oliver, and he was a billionaire playboy.” She kept quiet on her thoughts that Oliver might be the man in black or the Green Arrow, or both if they were one and the same. She needed to know that for herself before she spoke such suspicions aloud, and in truth she doubted she would ever voice those suspicions to those who were trying to stop the Green Arrow. “All I know is that the Green Arrow, whether he’s the man in black or not, has done something the police couldn’t and the people in the Glades will be far safer as a result. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel like searching my memory for tiny details.”

“Laurel,” Quentin began.

“No, Dad,” Laurel said sharply. “I’ve nearly died twice in less than two weeks. The police were useless the first time and if Ollie hadn’t been there with his bodyguard the second time, those cops and me would both be dead. Rather than hunt him down, you should be looking to thank Green Arrow and maybe look into this Tempest, this Undertaking, instead of passing them off as conspiracy ravings. It’s clear the Green Arrow has information you don’t about Starling. I’ll side with anyone who will fight against the corruption, Daddy. I’m sorry, but I will.”

“We’ll go,” Lucas said uncomfortably, knowing this was the beginnings of another father-daughter row. Pike and he left as the two Lances looked at each other, eyes turning hard. That was the thing about the Lance family; they were opinionated and hard-liners about their opinions.

*DC*

Xi Shan waved a dismissive hand at the operative who had reported the loss of the warehouse, which had come only a short time after the loss of their human trafficking operation at the docks. China White was waiting nearby, twirling her blades as usual, but with a nervous energy this time. Xi Shan remained silent as he contemplated the loss in profits the Triad would see from these two operations. Without it, they couldn’t afford to pay most of their men, who would seek out employment with other Triad gangs across the country. Worse, they knew exactly who to blame for this and could do nothing directly against him.

The Green Arrow was Oliver Queen, an A.R.G.U.S. asset who appeared to be operating independently now but who still seemed to be receiving at the very least tacit approval and protection from A.R.G.U.S. China White had first encountered Queen three years ago in Hong Kong and he had been a thorn in their side even then. But this was beyond simply being a thorn in their side; this weakened their ability considerably. All this, because they had gone after the woman Queen had cheated on with her sister. “We should strike back against Queen,” China White said in Mandarin.

And have him decimate our operations further?” Xi Shan replied in kind. “Know when we are beaten, Chien.

But we could exact our vengeance on Queen and replenish our cash flow at the same time,” China White replied calmly.

Xi Shan turned to her, intrigued. “Explain,” he stated.

His sister,” China White replied. “Take her, her friends, hold them for ransom from their loving families. Return all but her. Her, we break in retribution.

Xi Shan considered the possibilities. The wealthy of Starling City would pay a King’s Ransom for their children. “Follow her,” he finally said. “Find where we can take the most of them.” China White bowed and departed, already knowing the best place to find Thea Queen was the club circuit.

*DC*

Sara Lance, or Taer Al-Sahfer as she was known in this place, was sparring with Nyssa al Ghul, her lover and (in the early days) protector, all while knowing the ever-watchful, ever-judging eyes of Ra’s al Ghul were watching her and every other sparring match in the main hall. When she had first met Ra’s and looked into his eyes, she had laughed because for once, here was a man who didn’t think of her as a potential conquest or as someone to force himself on; no, his only concern was whether she would be a worthy warrior. Yet she always felt there was something more to his dark gaze; not longing, as was the case in most men’s eyes when they lit upon her All-American Girl looks and curvy body. No, there was something just off about what Ra’s al Ghul saw when he looked at her, and Sara had no way of knowing exactly what it was that he did see, though she could guess. Ra’s was a man trapped in the past, where women were meant to be silent and paired with men. Her relationship with Nyssa was an affront to such a belief system and she suspected only the fact he had already lost one Heir with his ways kept him from making an example out of Sara, whatever it was he saw in her be damned.

The doors to the Great Hall opened, and Ra’s raised a hand, bringing the sparring to an end as Sarab entered the Great Hall. “My lord,” Sarab said, coming to the foot of the steps leading up to the throne upon which Ra’s sat and kneeling. “I bring tidings from our agents in America. There is… unsettling news out of Starling City.”

“Leave us,” Ra’s said loudly, eyes flickering to the sparring assassins. They began to trickle out one-by-one. “Taer Al-Sahfer, Nyssa, stay and listen.” Nyssa joined her father while Sara stood off to the side, looking at Sarab. What news could possibly be unsettling from Starling City? “What is this news you bring?”

“It will be easier to show you, my lord,” Sarab replied, retrieving a tablet from his satchel and activating it. Technology was a rare sight in Nanda Parbat. Sarab pulled up a downloaded video as Sara climbed up one step so she would have a better view, and then played it for the three in the room.

A man in a green, hooded uniform, wearing a quiver, and wielding a bow stood against an otherwise black background. Sara’s breath caught in her throat, because she recognized that hood. “For too long, this city has lived in fear and darkness. It is being ruled from the shadows by a criminal elite who do not care who they hurt, so long as they maintain their wealth and power. They do not care about the children who suffer for days without food. They do not care about those who die because of faulty wiring in their buildings. They do not care about those who suffer mentally, physically, and emotionally from the lives they are forced to lead because of these ‘chosen few’, these men and women who hold themselves above the law. These criminals who dare to name themselves upstanding citizens of Starling City. Yet in all this darkness, despair, and fear, there lives a spark of hope. I know there are people in this city who, like me, believe that while life is filled with darkness, that darkness can be defeated by the light. Hope is that light. Hope for a better tomorrow, a future where our children can play in our streets without fearing being kidnapped, where women can walk down our sidewalks without fearing assault, where families can grow and learn and make this city shine like a beacon of hope to the world. Tonight, I am declaring my intention to stand with these people, to fight for this city, to be the symbol of hope it needs in its darkest hour. If the police, the District Attorney, and the courts will not see justice done, I will. And to the architect of this age of darkness and despair, I say this: your Undertaking will fail. Your Tempest will be broken. And you will face justice for all the lives that you have destroyed in your madness. I am coming for you. I am the Green Arrow.” Sarab shut down the tablet to conserve its power and waited for the inevitable questioning.

“I fail to see the unsettling news,” Ra’s said calmly. “We have known Starling suffers from problems with corruption and criminality for many years.”

“The unsettling news, my lord, is that this news about this Green Arrow didn’t come from our agent in Starling City,” Sarab replied. “It came from Central City, and Coast City, and even from agents who saw it mentioned as far away as Gotham. But from our agent in Starling City, nothing has been said. In fact, the last thing we heard, the only thing we have heard for many years, is that your former Horseman is ‘making progress’. Yet never is the progress explained.”

“Speak your mind, Sarab,” Ra’s said.

“I believe I know who this Green Arrow is,” Sarab said. “I believe his name to be Oliver Queen. I knew Oliver. He was my friend and helped me avenge my son’s death. He wore a green hood like that once and was proficient with a bow and arrow. I double-checked with our agents and the news feeds do report that Oliver Queen has recently returned to Starling City.”

“I can back up Sarab’s assertion that this is Oliver,” Sara said, turning to face Ra’s. “That hood… Oliver was wearing it the last time I saw him, before Slade threw me out of the Amazo.”

“My former employer retrieved Oliver from the Amazo and forced him to become her agent,” Sarab supplied. “It is possible he is her agent even now. Oliver had in his possession a book with a list of names, people who had failed Starling City or been involved with the criminal element. He learned more about it during a mission to Starling before we parted ways. He was… quite disturbed at what was revealed and wouldn’t tell me what he had learned.”

Ra’s stroked his beard thoughtfully. “I believe it is time we took a closer look at what is happening in Starling City,” Ra’s mused. “Taer Al-Sahfer, you shall return to your home and learn all that you can about what Mr. Queen is fighting against. Find out why our agent in Starling has reported none of these events and seek out my former Horseman, Malcolm Merlyn, for intelligence on the city if need be.”

“Master, may we speak privately for a moment?” Sara asked, wincing as his gaze landed on her. After a moment, he nodded and waved dismissively at Nyssa and Sarab, the former of whom gave Sara a curious glance as she left. Once the doors had closed behind Sarab and Nyssa, Sara spoke again. “I-I don’t know if I’m the right person for this task, Master. Going to Starling will put me at risk of being discovered by others, including my family.”

“Yes, I know,” Ra’s said quietly, standing and descending the steps. He cupped her chin in his hand and forced her to meet his dark gaze. “I have known for some time now that you are never truly going to be one of us,” he said quietly. “Your compassionate heart will allow you only so much death before you will feel the need to break away. This provides us both an opportunity. For you, the chance to retake your former name and former life. For me, the chance to rid the League of one who is not truly committed to it without risking my daughter’s anger. But before you leave the League, you must provide one last service. Discover what we need to know about the events in Starling City.”

“Y-Yes, Master,” Sara managed, and departed after Ra’s motioned for her to do so.

Chapter Text

The Green Arrow was in the midst of a patrol in the Glades the night following his two-fold takedown of the Triad’s most lucrative businesses. So far, he had managed to stop three robberies in progress and saved the life of a little old lady crossing the street when an out of control truck came careening out of nowhere. Small stuff, but every bit as important as his battle against corruption. The little old lady had been very grateful, telling him she wished there were more people in Starling like him, people willing to put their lives on the line for the good of everyone and not just those in power. It was a testament to the extent of the corruption Merlyn had permeated the city with that the little old lady had been so effusive in her joy at being alive and someone helping another person without thought of reward.

A scream for help caught Green Arrow’s attention and he picked up his pace, racing across the rooftops in the direction of the scream, which had come from an alleyway two buildings over from where he had been. Crouching on the ledge of one of the buildings overlooking the alley, Green Arrow found himself looking down on a gang of thugs who were encircling a young woman dressed in a Big Belly Burger uniform. The intended victim was perhaps eighteen or nineteen with dark hair and eyes, porcelain-like skin tone, and right now her slight frame was trembling but there was a resignation to her expression, as if this had happened before or she had heard of it happening. Regardless, this ended now.

Green Arrow nocked an arrow, but before he could fire, another figure entered the alley, a figure dressed in a familiar red hoodie. Roy Harper leaped at the gang-banger closest to him, throwing a solid right hook. The gang-banger blocked it and jutted his head forward, headbutting Roy and splitting the younger man’s lip. Roy staggered but rallied and raised his fists, preparing to fight all the gang-bangers. “Go!” he shouted at the girl, who tried to run, only to be blocked by two of the gang-bangers.

Green Arrow shifted his aim, breathed, and fired. The green-tinted arrow shot down, making a light whistling noise as it split the air in its path, and sliced its way into the calf of one of the gang-bangers blocking the girl’s path. She took advantage of the man’s weakened state as he cried out in shock and pain and darted past him, the sound of her light footsteps retreating as she fled. Green Arrow leap-frogged down to the alley between the two fire escapes and landed in a crouch, rising as he faced the gang-bangers, who encircled him, save for the one who was focusing on Roy. “No one interferes with our fun, Greenie,” one of them sneered drunkenly and tried to strike Green Arrow with the bat he was carrying. Green Arrow blocked the bat with his bow and delivered a high kick to the drunken man’s jaw, sending him reeling backwards onto the alleyway floor. Green Arrow didn’t remain idle, diving into a series of strikes with his bow, his fists, and his legs to bring down the gang-bangers around him, the snapping of breaking bones filling the air as he disabled them. Soon, the only one left was the one beating on Roy, who appeared to be barely conscious, his face swollen. Green Arrow fired an arrow with a cable attached and yanked as soon as the arrowhead had lodged itself in the gang-banger’s shoulder. The gang-banger flew over his head as he ducked and landed on a dumpster.

Firing a bola arrow that kept the man contained, Green Arrow went to check on Roy and grimaced. His apprentice from another timeline had always been better at taking beatings rather than giving them in the early days, and it showed. Though it certainly proved that Roy Harper had the heart of a hero that he was trying to do things to stop what was happening in the Glades even without the training he later received from the vigilante that had been known at the time as the Arrow. That was what had impressed Green Arrow, all those years ago. Roy’s strength of will and his goodness of character, despite the hardships he faced in the Glades, had made him into a man who couldn’t sit by and watch the suffering of those around him without doing something about it.

Green Arrow was hesitant to change the timeline too much, but Roy needed medical attention and it would take a long time for the cops to arrive. And even if they did arrive, who knew if they would take Roy for an aggressor. He wouldn’t take Roy to his base, he decided, remembering that at this time, the Merlyn clinic was still active. Green Arrow pulled Roy onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry and headed off down the street. Luckily, the clinic was nearby; it was possible the girl had even run there for help.

As Green Arrow entered the doors of the clinic, he found that that was precisely the case. “Need some help here,” Green Arrow said as he took note of a cluster of volunteer doctors, including (to his surprise) Dr. Eliza Schwartz, the doctor who had called Laurel’s time of death and become the main doctor Team Arrow had seen when they needed medical attention. Dr. Schwartz was the first to respond, ignoring the oddity of having the city’s already-infamous vigilante appear. They had surmised he was nearby from their latest patient, who was being treated for shock over her near-assault.

“What do we have?” Dr. Schwartz asked calmly.

Took quite a beating to keep the gang-bangers off the girl,” Green Arrow said as two orderlies brought a gurney around. He laid Roy on it. “The ones responsible are all unconscious in the alley.” Green Arrow paused for a moment. “They may need medical attention as well, though they can always get it at Starling General after the cops do their jobs.

“We’ll take it from here,” Dr. Schwartz said with a nod. Green Arrow returned the nod and turned to go. “If I may ask?” Green Arrow turned to face her. “Why do you do what you do? Some might think you’re seeking glory with that announcement over the television.”

I do what I do because that is what the city needs,” Green Arrow said. “If I was in this for glory, I’d let my identity be known.” Green Arrow turned and walked out the door of the clinic before any further questions could be asked.

*DC*

Dinah Laurel Lance took a shaky breath as she walked into her apartment with her father by her side. The apartment had been cleaned up after the crime scene boys had done their job, so there was no sign of what had happened here, but Laurel could still remember everything from both her own kidnapping and from the assault by the Triad assassin that Oliver had fought. She could still remember Oliver, leaning against the wall outside of her bedroom door and his shoulder soaked in blood, mumbling about staying awake. Seeing one of her best friends from childhood in such a state, much less one she had dated and still loved despite what he had done, had been a shock to her system. She had known that doing what she did could be dangerous, especially when targeting men like Hunt and Somers, yet these events had really driven the point home for her.

“You okay, Laurel?” Quentin asked concernedly as he watched his daughter take in her apartment and breathe shakily. He had thought it might be too soon for her to come back, but a part of him thought that was just the overprotective father in him wanting to keep an eye on his little girl for a little while longer. “I know a lot’s happened here. It’s okay to be afraid.”

“That’s just it, Daddy,” Laurel said quietly. “I’m not afraid; at least, not completely. It’s more than fear. It’s anger. How the hell did these people get to be so powerful? How can they just do what they do with impunity? What happened to justice in this city? What happened to being safe in our own homes, to our children being able to play in the streets without us fearing they’ll disappear, to people helping each other!?

Quentin listened as his daughter raged quietly beside him, a deep feeling of guilt coming over him regarding a secret that he had kept from her all of these years. He guided her quietly to the couch, his subdued attitude causing Laurel to fall silent and worry over her father’s reaction to her words. Once they were both seated on the couch, Quentin looked at her. “Laurel,” Quentin began, “there’s an understanding between the police and organized crime. I don’t know who brokered it. But so long as they aren’t overt in their actions, the S.C.P.D. looks the other way. This goes right to the top, I think, to the commissioner himself. It’s why I’m in the M.C.U. I’d rather deal with people I hate and can actually go after than be strangled by invisible red tape that has nothing to do with being a cop.”

Laurel was silent as she took in what her father had said. “How long have you known about this?” she asked quietly.

“For years, Laurel, since you were in high school,” Quentin said.

“Why haven’t you said anything? Done anything?” Laurel demanded to know.

“Because of things like what’s been happening to you since you decided to start a one-woman war on Hunt, the Triad, and whoever else you’re thinking of challenging through C.N.R.I.!” Quentin replied heatedly. “I was trying to protect you, and Sara, and your mother! I still am trying to protect you and Dinah, even if she hates my guts for being what I am now! It wasn’t just losing Sara that drove me to the bottle, Laurel! It was losing her despite doing everything I could to protect her! And now you’re bringing the danger on yourself, and I can’t stop you, and I can’t lose you like I lost her! I can’t, Laurel! Please… just stop.”

Laurel’s eyes welled with tears and she placed a hand on her father’s cheek. “I can’t,” she said, her voice breaking. “This city needs to change. I can’t just forget what’s happened. I can’t stand by while innocent people suffer. It’s not who you raised me to be, Daddy. If I stop, if I ignore the people who are suffering, I might as well have died on that dock with Hunt. Because what you’re asking for me to do isn’t living, isn’t being who I am.” Laurel let out a quick, harsh sob, and Quentin pulled her into a hug.

“I know, baby,” Quentin said, closing his eyes. “I know. But I’m asking you to, anyways. I can’t lose you. I’ve already lost Sara. Don’t make me bury another daughter. I won’t last long after you’re gone, baby.”

“I’m sorry, Dad,” Laurel said quietly. “But I can’t do what you’re asking me to do, and you can’t protect me forever. But we both know I’m not alone in this fight. Trust him, Dad. I think he wants what’s best for this city.”

“He’s a vigilante, an anarchist,” Quentin rebuked. “All he’ll do is bring more darkness and despair to this city trying to fight these guys. He’s not the first to try and all it did was cause more strife in the Glades, Laurel. Stay away from the Green Arrow.”

“And if I don’t?” Laurel asked, wiping her eyes and meeting her father’s gaze defiantly. “What will you do? Arrest your own daughter? Would you rather see me in an orange jumpsuit, surrounded by the people I helped put away, than free and helping to put a stop to the corruption choking this city? I’m not going to be you, Dad. I’m not going to ignore what’s happening for my own safety. No matter who I have to work with. And if you can’t accept that, maybe it’s time for you to leave.”

Quentin looked at his daughter, shocked, and recognized his own stubbornness in the set of her jaw. Quentin swallowed and stood before leaving. He wouldn’t give up on convincing Laurel not to continue down this path, but for now it was probably best to let things cool.

*DC*

Oliver closed his eyes as the scalding hot water rained down on his naked form, soothing the bruises that were forming where the gang-bangers from last night had gotten in a few lucky hits. He raised his face to meet the water stream and ran one hand over it. Despite the fact he had been back for only a little over a week, it felt like he had spent a lifetime patrolling the streets. Then again, he had in another life so perhaps it was just remembrance of what had been that was haunting him. As he let the water soak into his sore muscles and loosen them up, Oliver thought over all of the changes that had been wrought by his actions.

Laurel was now the head of C.N.R.I. and had faced not one but two attempts on her life in a short span of time. That had to be doing something to her and Oliver didn’t know if he had the right to suggest to her that she seek counseling to deal with what had happened. God knows he wasn’t looking forward to his first session with Dr. Green later today. Oliver also doubted that Green Arrow’s involvement in Laurel’s life had endeared him to Quentin Lance any more than it had in the last timeline when he had been the Hood.

The Triad was all but wiped out. Oliver suspected that what remained of the Triad in Starling were already scattering to other cities, the more lucrative ones that didn’t have a vigilante acting as guardian over the streets. Still, Oliver wasn’t going to count out the Triad completely just yet until he got confirmation from his underworld contacts that China White and Xi Shan had left Starling altogether. Xi Shan, he simply didn’t know enough about to know if the man would cede Starling to his control without a fight, but China White had proved too often that she was a wily, cunning, and vengeful foe. More importantly, she knew that Oliver was Green Arrow. Oliver had been surprised in the previous timeline that she had never acted against him for what happened during their previous dances, but then, he had never crippled the Triad in the last timeline.

He was due to take up a position at Queen Consolidated as the head of the Applied Sciences division. If things went according to plan, then he would be in the perfect position to hold Merlyn’s Undertaking hostage once Unidac Industries was under his control. That was, of course, assuming he didn’t take Merlyn down come Christmas since the Unidac merger hadn’t been finished until shortly before he had confronted the Dodger during the last timeline. He was also poised to take control of Queen Consolidated if he needed to do so should the worst happen, and Walter was taken by Merlyn as he had been in the previous timeline. Oliver intended to be a far better C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated this time around if it came to that. He knew that the way things were set up, normally the C.O.O., Ned Foster, handled the day to day and the C.E.O. was needed solely for authorizations and board meetings. The number of board meetings during his first year as the Arrow had been unusual, Oliver had been told by Ned Foster, who suspected that Rochev had had something to do with it.

This was all on top of the patrols he performed as Green Arrow every night. His skills were sharpening back up to previous levels as he practiced the training he had been put through by Ra’s and prepared for the inevitable confrontation between himself and Malcolm Merlyn. He hadn’t given himself much time to unwind and relax, he realized, since he had gotten back. He had been almost constantly on the move, making one change or another, using his future knowledge or simply his future mindset regarding various aspects of the mission that he had set for himself. Oliver decided he was going to take the day and do just that, relax. Well, and perhaps work on the remarks his mother and Walter had suggested he have ready for the presentation tomorrow.

Ending his shower with some regret, Oliver wrapped a towel around his waist and exited the bathroom into his bedroom. He selected a simple outfit based on his intended plans (a t-shirt and sweats) and changed into them before heading downstairs to make himself some breakfast, only to stop as he saw that someone was waiting for him, two bodyguards watching over his shoulder as the intruder met Oliver’s shocked gaze calmly.

“Hello, Mr. Queen,” Xi Shan, head of the Starling City Triad, said calmly as though the two of them were meeting on the streets and were casually catching up. “We have much to discuss and very little time to do it in. Please, take a seat.”

Oliver did as requested, all while watching Xi Shan and his bodyguards for any signs of aggression. Aside from the tightening of their muscles indicating they didn’t like how close Oliver was to Xi Shan, the bodyguards did nothing. “Talk,” Oliver finally said.

“Before the day is out, the Triad will no longer be operating in Starling City,” Xi Shan said. “It has become too costly to operate here. You have made it so. But Chien Na Wei cannot accept the change in paradigm. She intends to kidnap your sister and her friends this evening at Club Poison.”

“Why tell me this?” Oliver asked.

“I am an honorable warrior, as you are,” Xi Shan replied. “Deal with her as you will.” Xi Shan stood. “Goodbye, Mr. Queen.” The former Triad boss left the apartment with his men in tow.

Well, there goes my plans for a relaxing day, Oliver thought dryly.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn drummed his fingers on his desk as he considered his options. He had discovered that an employee from Queen Consolidated, one Felicity Smoak, was digging into files from five years ago at the behest of Walter Steele. He knew that part of the problem through Moira, who was quite vocal that she could handle Walter if it came down to it and that the real threat came from this Miss Smoak. On the one hand, her past could always come back to haunt her and the police could take care of the problem for him, but all that would do would be to have Walter ask someone else to dig into things from five years ago. While there was nothing truly incriminating in files from Queen Consolidated five years ago, there might be enough to make someone suspicious about the charity that Tempest used to mask its activities, and that simply couldn’t be allowed.

Malcolm had brought up everything he could on Felicity Smoak. There was always the third option; he could attempt to indoctrinate Miss Smoak into his line of thinking. She wouldn’t be the first moralistic crusader that he had done this sort of thing to; but she would be the first one he didn’t have full access to. A few enterprising people here at Merlyn Global had discovered parts of his plan and it had taken some smooth talking and promises regarding the events to come after the Undertaking was complete to convince some of them. Others, he had simply made judicious use of threats against their family with his old League armor on. He despised the fact that he had to operate in the shadows as he did, but the League was the last complication he needed with the Undertaking only months away.

Unfortunately, the only way to indoctrinate Miss Smoak would be to kidnap and imprison her while he worked his magic, and, in all honesty, he didn’t think he could split his attention between Miss Smoak and the mysterious Green Arrow. Not with the threat Green Arrow posed to everything he had done to make sure the city, save the Glades, was safe from the criminal filth that poisoned the city with their very presence. So, indoctrination was out. So, too, was allowing the police to handle everything as that would not make Walter think twice about having someone investigate what was going on. He needed to send a message.

Malcolm’s lips twitched into a cold, cruel smile as he envisioned the perfect way to do exactly that. More importantly, he wouldn’t need to act himself and risk exposure. He knew of a very special killer who was always looking to make waves. He would have his agents contact this man and send him word to come to Starling. Perhaps the man could be of some use against other adversaries as well.

*DC*

Green Arrow had studied the layout of Max Fuller’s club, Poison, and knew where the best exit was to bring out inebriated teenagers for a quick getaway. As such, he was perched on the ledge of the rooftop looking down on the side alley, contemplating the fact that this was another event that had never happened in the previous timeline that had resulted in danger towards someone that he loved. How many more events might come about of his changes to the timeline if he kept on this course? And yet he had to continue, because if he left things to be exactly the same, then he would lose everything in the end regardless of what he did. Barry and the others might get some joy out of being a hero, Green Arrow thought grimly, but it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Especially in Starling City.

A van pulled up in the alleyway and Green Arrow prepared to launch a zipline arrow. He fired as men spilled from the van and slid down on his bow, landing between the discreet club entrance and the men waiting to receive the ‘packages’. Green Arrow’s eyes narrowed in anger as he recognized the men as members of the Starling chapter for the Bratva. For their part, these men had stiffened as they realized who was facing them. Kapushion. He was said to be the new Pakhan’s right-hand man, having helped Anatoli Knyazev secure his position as the new leader of the Bratva. “What are you doing working for the Triad bitch?” Green Arrow demanded to know in Russian.

“It was said to be good venture for both Triad and Bratva,” one of the men said bravely.

Yes, because it’s smart to kidnap the children of the Starling elite,” Green Arrow replied. “If you’re not out of here in one minute, I’ll just have to explain to Anatoli why I was forced to kill ten of his men in Starling. I’m sure he’ll understand when I tell him you were working with the enemy.” The men started backing away. “And tell Leonov I’ll be speaking to him soon enough,” Green Arrow added as the men clambered back into the van. There was a shout of assent before the van drove off. Green Arrow melted into the shadows, waiting for Chien Na Wei to appear with her henchmen, Thea, and Thea’s friends.

Soon enough, the doors opened and out spilled the very party Green Arrow was waiting for. Two Triad members had hold of Thea and each of her four friends, with China White in the lead. Green Arrow didn’t hesitate, firing an arrow at one of the men holding onto his sister. The arrow caught the man in the stomach, and he collapsed. It was a painful and almost certainly crippling, but not fatal, shot. Green Arrow continued to fire, striking down most of the Triad before they realized what was going on. “Go!” Green Arrow shouted at the inebriated teens, and most had their wits about them and ran.

China White managed to snatch Thea before she could make her escape and held her close, a blade held tightly to Thea’s throat in one hand while the other pressed down hard on the teenager’s mouth, keeping her silent. Thea’s hazel eyes were wide with terror, tears shining in her eyes. Green Arrow felt for his sister, knowing nothing had threatened her like this in her innocent life. She had never been in this kind of danger before, and in the last timeline hadn’t faced it until after the Undertaking, when the Hoods had abducted her with the intent to kill her for what Moira had done. “Let. Her. Go,” Green Arrow growled out. “This is between you and I, Chien.

“This is about more than just us, Mr. Queen,” China White replied, causing Thea’s eyes to widen and Green Arrow to feel a sense of resignation at China White’s casual reveal of his true identity. “You’ve changed the balance of power forever in this city. Do you think the Triad are the worst out there? You’ve no idea the depravities the others are capable of. Consider what happens here tonight just a taste of the pain and misery yet to come to this city, thanks to you.”

Before China White could make good on her promise, though, a metallic thunk sounded, and then a familiar shrieking sound filled the air. China White cringed at the sound, exposing her shoulder for just one moment, and Green Arrow took advantage, firing a shot. China White was spun around, Thea ducking under her arm and running to the emerald-clad form of her brother, who held her close as a black-clad woman in a blonde wig bashed China White across the face with a bo staff.

Green Arrow reluctantly took his arm away from his sister to fire a bola arrow, which wrapped China White up. He turned his attention back to his sister. “Speedy, are you okay?

“Ollie?” Thea whispered, reaching up and touching her brother’s face under the hood. “W-What’s going on? H-how are you h-h-him? Who was that woman?”

I’ll answer all your questions when I can, but right now, I need you to keep quiet to everyone about what she revealed to you,” Green Arrow said, kneeling down next to his sister so he could look her in the eyes. “What I’m doing is very dangerous, and I became Green Arrow to protect our family and-and others I care about.

“I-I won’t say anything,” Thea promised.

Good. Now call the cops. Get them to pick this scum up.” Green Arrow stood and approached the familiar form of the Canary. “Seems we have some things to discuss.” Green Arrow fired a grappling arrow and pulled the Canary close. “Sorry about this,” he said quietly and then they were pulled up onto the roof. Thea watched, wondering who the woman in black was and if her brother knew who she was under the wig and mask.

Something deep inside Thea broke at the thought of her brother fighting for his life every night, and she barely managed to dial 911 and report what was going on. She slid numbly to the ground, trying to reconcile the image of her brother with the intimidating figure that had appeared on screens all across Starling City. How was it possible? How could Ollie have become the Green Arrow?

Chapter Text

Green Arrow walked a few steps forward once both he and the Canary were on the roof and then turned to face the disguised Sara Lance. “Not that I don’t appreciate the help, but why intervene then? You’ve been following me since I left my apartment,” he said quietly. He had sensed someone following him and it had reminded him of when he was being trailed by members of the League of Assassins during his early days training in Nanda Parbat.

We have a lot to discuss and I doubted you’d be in a talkative mood if China White murdered your sister in front of you,” The Canary replied, her own voice disguised by a modulator, a precaution she hadn’t taken during the last timeline and which set Green Arrow on edge. Was this this timeline’s Sara, or the Sara from the future trying to get close to him before she erased his memory of the future? “Your announcement regarding this city has drawn many eyes and ears, some benign, others less so.

I wouldn’t consider the League of Assassins to be benign,” Green Arrow replied, circling the Canary, who matched him step for step.

How-?

I was trained by someone familiar with the League and their agents,” Green Arrow replied. “Now tell me, what brings one of Ra’s al Ghul’s tools to my city?

You spoke of someone behind the corruption and criminality,” The Canary said. “Who is it? The League can take care of it, if need be.

And then wipe out most of the city’s population for good measure to give Starling a chance to start fresh? No thanks,” Green Arrow replied. “We both know that Ra’s al Ghul is a madman who wouldn’t hesitate once he sees the depth of corruption present here.

Who are you to judge the League?

One who has gone to the extremes the League and their ilk deem necessary and realized that all it does is destroy the soul,” Green Arrow replied. “There is a storm coming, one that will see organizations that have lasted for centuries wiped clean. Be careful you’re not on the wrong side of history due to misguided loyalty.” Green Arrow turned and began walking away. As much as he cared for Sara, as far as he knew, at this point in time she was a loyal agent of Ra’s al Ghul and he wasn’t about to bring that bastard’s judgment down upon his city.

Wait,” The Canary said. Green Arrow continued walking forward, and he heard soft footsteps following him. “Ollie,” Sara’s familiar voice said, “wait. Please.”

Green Arrow turned to face The Canary as she pulled her wig and mask off in one stroke, revealing the blank features of Sara Lance. “We know each other, Ollie,” Sara said. “Do you really think I could do anything that would endanger my family? You? Tommy? Everyone I love lives in Starling.” That didn’t stop you from running to your timeship and away from everyone who loved you, Green Arrow couldn’t help but think bitterly. As much as he cared for Sara, her choices over the past few years (from his perspective) left much to be desired. He wondered if Sara would even mourn his passing in the future, should she have survived the Crisis. But to this Sara, he said nothing, simply watched her silently. “What do you want me to say?” Sara demanded to know.

What is your mission here, Sara?” Green Arrow finally asked.

“To ascertain why the one given stewardship of Starling City has said nothing of what’s going on here and to determine exactly what you meant in your message about an architect to this crime and corruption,” Sara said quietly. “He also gave me the option to take up my former life, so long as I perform this final mission for the League.”

I see,” Green Arrow mused as he mulled the words over. He had learned the hard way that dealings with Ra’s al Ghul were not black and white. The man may have appeared to be a cult leader living in a backwards society, but he was a far cry from that. He was well-educated and knew how to play with words the way children knew how to play with balloons. “Those were his exact words? That you could be released once you fulfilled this final mission?

“Yes,” Sara said.

Green Arrow closed his eyes, steeling himself for what he had to do. “Then I am sorry,” he said quietly, causing Sara to stiffen before she dropped her mask and wig, reaching behind her for he bo staff. “I can’t let you report back to the League, Sara. I won’t let Ra’s’ brand of justice be served here. I have things well in hand and I won’t risk the balance of power even further. Come quietly, please, for the sake of our friendship.

“You should know me better than that, Oliver,” Sara said, extending her bo staff.

Then I will do what I must,” Green Arrow replied, and with that he fired an explosive arrow. Sara deflected it with her bo staff, but it exploded on impact with said staff and disoriented her. Green Arrow quickly fired a bola arrow, wrapping The Canary up like he had once before in the previous timeline, and she toppled sideways onto the ground. “For what it’s worth, I’ll make sure you’re comfortable until this is all over,” Green Arrow said quietly as he stabbed her in her exposed chest with a tranquilizer arrow. Really, what had she been thinking giving her foes such an… ample target?

Sara let out a low, slow breath as the sedative did its work. Green Arrow closed his eyes in regret; that was another derivative of tetrodotoxin, fast-acting and it would put the subject into a low-level coma. It was the only arrow of its kind in his arsenal, one he had hoped he would never have to use; one he had prepared in case he ever had to face off with The Flash or the Legends. He hadn’t expected to have to use it on this timeline’s Sara.

Call A.R.G.U.S., tell them I need a special pick-up for-for the Pit,” Green Arrow said quietly.

“Roger that, G.A.,” came the subdued voice of Henry Fyff over the comms. He and Diggle had heard the entire confrontation and seen it through a keyhole satellite that A.R.G.U.S. had dedicated to Oliver’s endeavors. The Pit was A.R.G.U.S.’s secure wing, the place they would one day keep the members of the Suicide Squad.

Green Arrow simply waited on the roof for the A.R.G.U.S. chopper to arrive, all the while cursing himself for changing the timeline to the point that Ra’s was already taking an interest in things and wishing he could go back to a simpler time when it was just him versus the bad guys and he didn’t need to betray those he called his friends. He wondered how he was going to look Laurel in the eye now, knowing that her sister was so close to her and yet would be kept in that low-level coma until Merlyn was taken down. The right path is never easy, yet the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Green Arrow thought grimly as he waited. But even he knew this was just a temporary measure. When Sara failed to report in, another agent would be sent, and he would need to decide at that time whether he could make certain exceptions to his code.

*DC*

Oliver Queen’s suit was rumpled from the rushed change into his day clothes at the Bunker, as he had nicknamed the A.R.G.U.S. operations center that he operated out of, and the drive to the hospital. While he had been waiting for the A.R.G.U.S. chopper to arrive to take Sara to the Pit, his phone had been blowing up at the Bunker with messages from his mother about the attack on Thea and her friends and that he needed to get to the hospital. Oliver was already trying to decide what he would say to his mother for why he had been so late, because he refused to go with his old ‘co-ed situations’ excuse. Not only because in his mind he had been a married man but also because, in his mind, there was only one person he wanted to be caught in such a situation with again; but he couldn’t, because whether he liked it or not, Starling City would always need the Green Arrow and he could not be the husband that Laurel Lance deserved.

Oliver entered the hospital and quickly found out where Thea had been taken. Oliver arrived on the appropriate floor and found his mother and Walter there with Dr. Lamb, but to his surprise they weren’t the only ones there. Malcolm Merlyn and his son, Tommy, were also there. Tommy was the first one to spot Oliver. “Ollie, there you are!”

“Sorry, I had my phone turned off, I was trying to come up with some good remarks for tomorrow,” Oliver apologized to his mother, who nodded softly. “Is Thea alright?”

“She’s mostly shaken up by a rather traumatic experience,” Dr. Lamb said. “She did mention her attacker was China White, and the police believe this might have been retaliation for what you did the other night.” He tried to give the news to Oliver as gently as he could, but Oliver had already known this was revenge on him, though not for the reasons the public would ever know.

“What’s happened to China White now?” Oliver asked, looking at his mother.

“She and her thugs are in custody, and the Commissioner has promised to take a personal interest in this matter,” Malcolm said calmly, eyeing Oliver. He remembered how emotional the younger man had been before going on the Gambit. He should have been near tears at the idea of his little sister in danger, yet here he was, finding out what was going on calmly and with a sense of purpose. What happened to you, Oliver? Malcolm mused to himself. And did it make you a threat… or a potential asset?

Oliver noted Malcolm was studying him surreptitiously but chose not to give anything away, much as he wanted to. “That’s good,” Oliver said. His lips twitched. “Always good to have the top cop on the job.”

“Indeed,” Walter said with a nod. “You should go in and see her, Oliver. She’s been asking for you.”

Oliver nodded and entered the room, closing the door as much as he could. He walked slowly to the bed where his little sister was laying, her curls splayed out across the pillow, and he finally allowed himself to show some emotion. His hands trembled in both anger and sorrow as he sat on the edge of the bed, pulling Thea’s attention away from the view of the city. Her expression remained blank. “Thea,” Oliver said quietly, “I’m so sorry. I never thought she would come after you. I thought she would target me, and me alone.”

“How did she know?” Thea asked quietly. “How did she know and I didn’t?”

“China White and I have a long and complicated history,” Oliver replied just as quietly. “And you’ve never met my other side until tonight. How could you have known it was me?”

“Because you’re different, ever since you came back,” Thea said. “Looking back, it’s so obvious. How didn’t I see what was happening in front of me?”

“Because human beings are blessed with a remarkable capacity for self-deception,” Oliver finally said. “We see only that which we wish to see. You and Mom wanted to see the Oliver that you lost, if only more mature, and that’s what you see.” Oliver placed a hand on Thea’s shoulder. “Speedy, I know it’s hard, but you have got to keep this a secret. No one can know. Not Mom, Walter, not even Tommy. There’s too much at risk, just with what could happen to the people we care about.”

“You didn’t mention Laurel,” Thea said.

“Laurel’s smart and she wants the same things I do,” Oliver said quietly. “I suspect she and I are going to be doing a lot of work together. Speedy, please, promise me.”

“I promise,” Thea said. “But I need you to do something for me.”

“Anything,” Oliver replied.

“Train me,” Thea said, and Oliver rocked back in shock, having not expected this. “Train me to fight like you do. I-I never want to be so helpless and terrified again. Please, Ollie. Every time I close my eyes, I-I see her, I feel that knife on my neck. I can’t live with this terror. Please, Ollie.”

“I’ll do it,” Oliver said quietly, and leaned down to hug his little sister. She lurched up in bed and threw her arms around him, leaning her head into the crook of his shoulder and neck. He closed his eyes as her body shuddered with silent sobs, tears soaking his suit jacket. “It’s alright, Speedy, I’m right here. You’re gonna be fine,” he murmured, rubbing her back gently with one hand the way he had done when she was a child and upset about something.

*DC*

Oliver waved goodbye to Diggle as the man drove away and entered his apartment building, slowing his pace slightly as he spotted the familiar figure of Laurel Lance sitting in an armchair in the lobby, looking over a large file in her hand. Oliver turned and walked over to Laurel. “Finally ready for that talk?” Oliver asked quietly, and Laurel jerked slightly. She straightened the contents of the folder and stood.

“Ollie, I heard from Tommy about what happened to Thea,” Laurel said softly. “If tonight isn’t a good time, I understand. I wanted to make sure you’re doing alright.”

“No, not really, and the sooner we have this talk the better,” Oliver replied, and the two made their way to the elevator. Oliver pressed the button for his floor and leaned against the back of the elevator, leaning his head backwards and closing his eyes. “It’s been a long night,” Oliver said quietly at Laurel’s curious expression. “To be honest, after everything I’ve done tonight, talking with someone I care about isn’t that much of a struggle.” Laurel flushed slightly at his comment but smiled softly nonetheless, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder to tell him she was here if he needed to talk.

The two entered Oliver’s loft and took a seat on the couch with a couple of glasses of wine to help relax. It was odd for Oliver to see Laurel, his Laurel, drinking alcohol again when she had had to stick with water after her descent into alcoholism during his second year as a vigilante. “This is your show, Laurel,” Oliver finally said, his blue eyes meeting her green ones. “What is it that you want to know?”

“I feel like I’m going crazy here, Oliver,” Laurel said quietly. “You’ve changed so much, and suddenly the city seems rife with people who are willing to take a stand. The man in black, the Green Arrow… both have saved my life in one way or another, the Green Arrow by taking out the Triad’s operations. But the question that I keep asking myself is why? Why me? Who would consider me and what I’m trying to do so important?” Laurel blinked back tears as she remembered those desperate minutes alone in that trunk. “Ollie, you promised me that you would never lie to me again. I need you to fulfill that promise now. Are you the man who saved me from Hunt?”

Oliver was silent for a moment as he considered her question. He had known this was coming and, in the end, he knew she was trustworthy, just like Thea. “Yes,” he said quietly.

“Are you the Green Arrow?”

“Yes,” he said again, and Laurel let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding in. “You understand the danger this puts you in, knowing who I am and what I’m doing? If anyone learns my identity, you’re at risk just as much as Thea is. China White went after her tonight in order to get revenge.”

“I understand, Oliver,” Laurel said softly. “I’m willing to take the risk. The question is, are you willing to take the risk and let me into your world?”

Oliver was silent again as he considered what she said. The memory of her final moments in the hospital played before his eyes again but was almost immediately superseded by the many times it was Laurel who took on the criminal elite and it had been Oliver who was playing catch-up. “We both know that you and I are too similar for you to not get involved in my world, if only for your own safety,” Oliver finally said, meeting her green eyes. “You want the same things I want, to see our city come out of this age of darkness. You won’t stop pursuing cases against the corrupt any more than I’ll put down my bow. It’s who we are. Better to have you at my side rather than sneaking around behind my back.”

“Ollie, about your message to the city,” Laurel began.

“If you’re about to ask about who the architect is, don’t,” Oliver said sharply. “I don’t want to lie to you, Laurel, but I cannot, will not put you in danger by giving you that information. The person responsible for this is very powerful and controls Starling’s criminal underworld with an iron fist. I’m working on drawing this person into a confrontation so I can take them down, but it’s going to take some time.”

Laurel remained quiet as she listened to what Oliver was saying. “Alright,” she said quietly. “But Ollie, that wasn’t what I was going to ask you.” Surprise flashed across Oliver’s face. “In your message, you said you wanted a future where our children could play in the streets without fearing being taken. Did you mean that in general, or is it something you want for your own children one day?”

Oliver sighed. “I can’t think about stuff like that, Laurel,” he said. “Why?”

“Ollie, when Hunt had me and I thought that I was going to die, I thought about everything I still wanted to do with my life,” Laurel said, setting her empty wine glass aside and taking Oliver’s free hand in her own. “I thought about how I wanted to sit down in the comfort of my own home and curl up with the man that I loved. When I thought about that, there was only one person that came to mind. You.” Laurel scooted closer to Oliver as he watched her with a stoic expression that she might have believed meant he felt nothing, but his eyes spoke volumes. She placed a hand on his cheek. “Despite everything that’s happened, with the Gambit and Sara, your previous cheating… I love you, Oliver Queen.”

“I…” Oliver said, the words sticking in his throat. How could he give her what she wanted when he had so much more already on his plate? “I wish I could be what you need, Laurel,” Oliver finally said, cupping her chin with one hand. “I love you, more than you will probably ever know. But the mission I set for myself will never be over. There will always be someone who wishes to harm another; there will always be those who answer evil’s call. Because that is the horrible truth of the world, Laurel… evil never ends. It just changes forms, and because of what Starling City is, it will always be attracted here. Which means that no matter how much I want this, no matter how much I want us, I can’t give you what you need. You deserve someone who is utterly devoted to you… and Starling City will always need the Green Arrow.”

Laurel flushed at having Oliver reject her, even though he was doing it as kindly as he could. “I-I should go,” Laurel said. “I’ll come by if I need some help with a case.” She stood, going to the counter to grab the file she had been going over when he arrived. Laurel went to the door and turned back. “Is it that Starling City will always need the Green Arrow, or that you’re too afraid to let yourself have a life that you’ve chosen to close yourself off from everything good in your life?” she asked him. “Come find me when you can answer that. I’ll always be waiting for you, Ollie.” She opened the door and left, but not before he heard a choked sob, and he closed his eyes.

Oliver, you damned fool, why can’t you just admit what you want? He thought to himself.

Because, a sly voice that sounded like Malcolm Merlyn replied, you know that you will never be rid of us. We will always come back; we will always go after the ones you care for. Better to keep them at arm’s length then watch them die. Isn’t that right, Oliver?

Oliver chuckled mirthlessly at the fact he was now having conversations with voices in his head. His therapist would have a field day, if he ever made it to an appointment with her. He had ‘forgotten’ to go to the one that was scheduled for today. Cost of being focused on Xi Shan’s warning, he supposed. He knew his mother would eventually find out and make another appointment, one she would make sure he kept somehow. She wanted things to go back to normal, but Oliver knew things couldn’t go back to normal. Not after everything he had wrought on this city with the few changes he had made to the timeline.

*DC*

Oliver sat on the podium with his family, looking out at the crowd that had assembled. He had gotten used to public speaking as Mayor, so he wasn’t nearly as rattled by the turnout as he had been during the last timeline. “And now, to say a few words, the new head of Applied Sciences at Queen Consolidated, Mr. Oliver Queen,” Walter introduced at the podium, and Oliver stood, passing Walter as the man made his way back to his seat beside Moira. Oliver took his place at the podium, noting that both Tommy and Laurel were here, the latter surprising Oliver considering how they had parted ways last night.

“Good morning,” Oliver said into the microphone. “This is a bittersweet moment. We’re here today to break ground on the future home of Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences Division. From here, it is our hope that we will bring a new era to Starling City. Some ask why we would risk this when S.T.A.R. Labs and Harrison Wells are poised to change the world in the years to come. All of life is a risk. We never know when our world will drastically change, or when our lives will be forever altered by the unknown. I’m living proof that we never know what the next day will bring. It is better, by far, to risk it all in the hopes of changing things than to remain curled up, afraid to do what is necessary for survival. That is what all those years on the island taught me, and that is the kind of drive that I will bring to the table as Head of Applied Sciences. We will pursue all avenues of science vigorously and aggressively, in the hopes of making life easier on all mankind.”

Oliver stepped away from the podium to applause from those gathered. His mother stood and hugged him as he returned to his seat and Walter Steele retook his place at the podium, concluding the ceremony and performing the customary ‘breaking of the soil’ all ground-breaking ceremonies. Oliver looked out across the crowd and found Laurel, who was watching him. He couldn’t see it from here, but he was certain a frown was marring her features as she tried to figure him out. If he was so devoted to being Green Arrow, she was no doubt wondering, why was he taking a position in Queen Consolidated? How did that help him in his self-appointed mission? Questions she would no doubt ask him, questions he could never answer because of where those answers would lead the woman he loved.

Oliver really didn’t understand why Barry and Sara thought time travel was so fun or useful. All it seemed to be bringing to him was migraines and heartache.  

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen stood in front of the large window overlooking Starling City that came with his new office at Queen Consolidated, lost in thought. It was difficult to believe that it had been only two weeks since his return; the near-constant battle to keep things intact and keep those he cared about safe had taken its toll on the man, and he finally had a moment’s peace to simply think. The battle for Starling’s soul would be a long one, especially with how widespread the corruption was thanks to Merlyn and his cabal. Even after seven years, he hadn’t gotten rid of the corruption, though his half-sister hadn’t helped with the Ninth Circle supporting Ricardo Diaz’s rise to power. He knew they had been the ones to ‘frame’ him as the Green Arrow who had killed Cayden James’ son.

But as ominous as Malcolm Merlyn and his cabal were, there was a greater threat looming on the horizon. Sara wouldn’t be missed for too long; it had taken a grand total of three weeks for Nyssa to show up, and if that happened again, Oliver didn’t know what he was going to do. This Nyssa was not his ally and was devoted to her father’s cause. In some ways, Oliver would almost prefer if Ra’s sent his own men to discover Sara’s whereabouts since she was still technically a member of the League and had been serving a mission directly from Ra’s. Oliver sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Perhaps the only way to keep the League from making a move was to do the unthinkable: forge an alliance with Merlyn. It was that, or release Sara and hope that she was willing to work with him despite what he had done.

“I remember that look,” a soft voice said from the door to the office, and Oliver turned to see Felicity Smoak standing there. “I knocked, but I don’t think you heard me,” she said quietly. “Oliver, I know things between us aren’t the best, and I told you I wanted nothing to do with the fight since we can’t be together, but… I can’t help but ask what’s wrong.”

“The lesser of two evils,” Oliver replied, turning back to face the cityscape. He felt more than saw Felicity walk up beside him. “My little debut video? It made its way all the way to Nanda Parbat and caused enough of a stir that Ra’s sent Sara to investigate.”

“Frak,” Felicity whispered, remembering too vividly the last time that Ra’s had taken an interest in Starling City. “How do you know he sent her, though?”

“She was there when Thea was almost taken by China White,” Oliver replied. “We talked afterward. Ra’s made a condition of her release that she report back what she finds out. All I could think of is everything we’ve suffered through at the hands of Ra’s and his children. She’s in a low-level, medically-induced coma in the Pit at A.R.G.U.S. But that won’t stop the League indefinitely. We have three weeks, tops, before Nyssa or another assassin comes looking for Sara. If it’s just another assassin, I can do what I have to do to safeguard the city. But if it’s Nyssa…”

“Yeah, we don’t want to make Ra’s even more angry than he already is naturally,” Felicity mumbled, not realizing she had said ‘we’. Oliver did, and his lips quirked up. He had wondered if Felicity had been one hundred percent committed to leaving the mission behind. He had had his doubts considering she had spent plenty of time as Overwatch in secret while raising Mia. “What are you thinking?”

“There’s only two options, really,” Oliver said. “Either I wake Sara, hope she’s willing to work with me, and send a message back to Ra’s that I can handle the crime and corruption once I remove the source…”

“Or?” Felicity prompted after a few moments of silence.

“Or I align with Merlyn to safeguard Starling against our mutual adversary,” Oliver replied. “I want to do things differently this time, but I don’t know how committed Sara is to the League right now. I know around this time is when she had a mission that made her question things, but I don’t know if she’s gone on it yet, or ever will now that I’ve done what I did.” Oliver shook his head. “Either way, I risk the city being destroyed by a madman because I’ve exposed my hand. If I ever meet the Barry and Sara we knew, I’m going to shoot them on principle. Time travel is not some toy to be played with like a toddler.”

“Guess you’ve gotten a real crash course on that the past couple of weeks,” Felicity said softly. “I always thought it was kind of awesome. Time travel. But I did see what just the few changes you’ve made have spawned. I wonder if that’s just because of where we live or if it’s that extreme when Barry and Sara did it and we just don’t know because to us, that was how things always were.”

Oliver nodded in agreement. “Felicity, much as I appreciate your willingness to commiserate, was there a reason you stopped by?”

“I was wondering if you were still willing to let me work with you,” Felicity said after a moment. “I know what I said, but I was frustrated. I’d waited twenty years to be with you again, and I guess I built up the image of our reunion in my head. I know what you said, about us, and while it hurts, it isn’t the first time we’ve broken up. I’m not going to give up on us, but that can take a backseat.”

“Just keep the future comments to yourself, seeing as Dig knows nothing about that,” Oliver said after a moment. Felicity smiled softly and nodded before turning to leave. “I’ll send you a text about where to meet us tonight. In the meantime, I’ll call Waller, tell her to take the loaner she gave us back.”

“Uh, Waller?” Felicity asked.

“Yeah, that’s one of the things that’s different,” Oliver said quietly. “I’m using Waller’s need for an example of someone who gets the job done to get more backing from A.R.G.U.S. than what we got the last time, which was tacit protection. Until Cayden James, that is.” Felicity winced, well-aware of what her bungling with Cayden James had caused, in more ways than one. “Felicity, if you were in my position, which would you do? Wake up Sara, or risk aligning with Merlyn?”

“Wake up Sara,” Felicity said instantly. “We both know Merlyn will use anything he can against you once the threat from the League has passed. Sara might be angry, but she’ll understand protecting her family and friends from what Ra’s could do to this city.”

“Thank you,” Oliver said quietly. “It’s what I was thinking, as well. But you’ve been at this longer than I have, now, technically speaking.” Oliver turned back to the view of the city, feeling more relaxed, as Felicity departed.

*DC*

Oliver stood by silently as the A.R.G.U.S. techs removed the equipment from the room, having administered the antidote to the specialized tetrodotoxin that Oliver had dosed Sara with and wanting to be well away from the cell where she was lying in a yellow prison jumpsuit. There was nothing in the room that she could use as a weapon, but that didn’t really matter to trained assassins. Their very bodies were a weapon. It was now a matter of when Sara would wake up.

Within ten minutes of the techs leaving, Sara’s fingers and toes began to twitch, and slowly her eyelids lifted. She turned her head, and her eyes narrowed slightly as she saw him standing nearby. “You,” she snarled weakly.

“I’m sorry, Sara,” Oliver said genuinely. “I overreacted; just the thought of Ra’s al Ghul turning his attention to Starling terrifies me, especially with the amount of crime and corruption infesting the city. He may even decide that what’s being planned by the one responsible for it is for the best and offer his aid to them. So, I did what I felt I had to do to stop you from reporting to him. It was only afterwards I realized that all I’ve done is buy the city a few weeks. I’m sure eventually Ra’s would send someone else, and I would keep having to incapacitate them and lock them away somewhere that they couldn’t report to him. It’d be worse if he sent his daughter, because I doubt that he would take kindly to her being captured.”

“You might be surprised there, Oliver,” Sara said softly. “But why don’t we back up. What’s being planned? Who’s responsible for all of this?”

“The same person who put a bomb on the Queen’s Gambit five years ago to kill my father when he moved to stop their plan in its tracks,” Oliver said quietly, and Sara, who had pulled herself up into a sitting, cross-legged position, froze and her blue eyes shot to Oliver in shock and horror.

“Y-You mean everything we’ve gone through, everything we’ve done…”

“It was caused by someone that has Ra’s’ complete trust,” Oliver said. “Malcolm Merlyn was his Horseman once upon a time. He must have performed some sort of vital service to earn his freedom, and then he returned to Starling.” Over the course of the next half hour, Oliver laid it all out for Sara. Tempest, the attempts to force the criminal and corrupt into cleaning up the city, Merlyn’s decision to embark on a new Undertaking, his father’s decision to stop Merlyn’s plan in his tracks. “Now here we are, five years later, and from my understanding we have only months before Merlyn enacts his plan and wipes the Glades from the map,” Oliver finished up. “You know what kind of man Ra’s is, Sara. You’ve served under him for the past three years. Tell me honestly: do you believe he would stop Merlyn’s plan?”

“I-I don’t know, Oliver,” Sara said quietly. “If everything you’ve said is true, if Merlyn has made the city a den of crime and corruption, than he broke the League’s tenets and his life is forfeit. But it’s possible that the League would actually wait until his plan came to fruition before dealing with him. Or they may even seize control of his plan themselves and do what you fear.”

Oliver nodded. It had been what he had feared she would say. “Sara, I’m trusting you to report back to Ra’s and let him know I intend to deal with the crime and corruption not only as a way to draw Merlyn out, but also once I’ve captured or killed him. I won’t let the city become consumed by the iniquity Merlyn’s let spread like a plague. Your things will be returned to you and I’ll have a private jet take you directly back to Nanda Parbat.”

“Ra’s won’t accept my word for it, Oliver,” Sara said quietly. “At the end of the day, I’m a woman, and he sees me in that light. I hate to say it, but the only one he’ll listen to is you or Merlyn. Come back with me. We can be there and back in two days.”

Oliver was silent as he considered Sara’s proposal. A part of him whispered that if Sara was still indoctrinated, this could be a trap to leave his city defenseless. But on the other, he knew that his training would put Ra’s into a speculative mindset. Perhaps speculative enough to keep the man from killing him on sight. “Alright,” Oliver said quietly. “We’ll leave tonight. I’ll make the arrangements.” Sara nodded and Oliver turned, rapping twice on the door. It was opened by Lyla Michaels. “Make sure Sara receives all of her belongings and meets me by midafternoon,” Oliver said quietly, and Lyla nodded. She had no idea what it was Oliver and Sara had discussed, but she knew she was wary of her ex-husband’s new boss. She had never seen someone who not only commanded Waller’s complete attention but who spoke to her as though he were her equal. Any kind of man who could do that was dangerous, perhaps one of the most dangerous men alive. That was the only kind that intrigued her boss enough for her to give them the time of day.

*DC*

Oliver heard the timid knock on his front door and called, “It’s open.” Felicity Smoak entered the loft for the second time in this new timeline. “Felicity, thank you for coming. I’m afraid something’s come up and I’ll be out of town for a couple of days, at least. I’ll be bringing Dig up in a moment to introduce the two of you, and then he’ll take you to our A.R.G.U.S. operations center to let you familiarize yourself with the system or overhaul it if that’s what you prefer. But I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine with A.R.G.U.S.’s choice of equipment.”

“Where are you going?” Felicity asked nervously.

“Exactly where your tone suggests you’re already thinking of,” Oliver replied. “Sara claims Ra’s won’t take her word for it. Considering what we’ve seen of the man, and how he treated both Talia and Nyssa, I can’t say she’s wrong. I should be okay so long as I can let slip my training with Talia, even though that might just intrigue him all the more.”

“You didn’t just call me here to tell me that and introduce me to Dig,” Felicity said quietly. “What’s going on, Oliver?”

Oliver sighed. “I’ve removed the Triad from the equation completely. I’m worried about the fallout. I need you to get tabs on every branch of organized crime in Starling City and find out what’s going on, who’s taking over what, all of it. And I need you to find someone. Daniel Brickwell.”

“Why him?” Felicity asked.

“Because it’s time Rebecca Merlyn got justice,” Oliver said quietly. “Tommy deserves the peace of mind, at the very least.” He sent a quick text to Dig to come up. “And it’s a longshot, but maybe having his wife’s murderer behind bars will slate Merlyn’s bloodlust.” Felicity gave an indelicate snort at that. “Oh, and just a reminder: Dig doesn’t know about Merlyn or any of it. I’ve been keeping things vague while I build trust with him.”

“Got it,” Felicity said as a heavier knock sounded at the door, and Oliver called for Dig to come in.

*DC*

Nanda Parbat. The last time Oliver had been here in his memory, it had been a burnt-out husk. But this was Nanda Parbat at the height of its power, home to a legion of assassins who obeyed their master without question. Oliver knew the only thing that kept an arrow from piercing his heart right now was the presence of Sara at his side in her League gear. Oliver followed her through Nanda Parbat to the Great Hall, where Ra’s was in the midst of dealing with those who had failed to pass even the most minimal tests to become an acolyte of the League.

Oliver kept his face impassive as he watched the man bring down six men, his memory flashing back to the mountaintop duel and the way that Ra’s had broken him. Of all the enemies that Oliver had faced, Ra’s al Ghul was the only one who truly terrified him. Merlyn’s motivations had been understandable if monstrous; Slade’s had been ones of vengeance; Darhk was a madman who wanted to reshape the world in his own image; Talia, the true mastermind of his fifth year as Star City’s guardian archer, had been vengeance; Cayden James had been revenge, Diaz pure ambition; and Emiko had been vengeance.

But Ra’s… to Ra’s, destroying cities and corrupt societies was simply his duty. He gained no pleasure from it, derived no satisfaction beyond a job well done. A madman in his own right, but one whose goals and motives were never selfishly driven as others were. That was the most terrifying kind of foe there was for Oliver, because that was the kind of mentality he had always brought to the table.

Ra’s finished his workout and took note of Sara and Oliver standing in the doorway, waiting to be summoned. “Taer Al-Sahfer, you’ve returned, and with a guest,” Ra’s said, gesturing them forward. Sara and Oliver walked forward, and both knelt before the man, keeping their eyes averted. Sara had told him how he needed to act with deference towards Ra’s, and since this time Oliver was not intending to challenge the man, he knew his insolent routine from the previous timeline was not the best strategy. Besides, Talia had trained him what to do if he were ever approached by a member of the League or ended up in Nanda Parbat. “Who have you brought before me?” Ra’s asked Sara.

“Oliver Queen, my Master,” Sara replied, continuing to keep her eyes averted from Ra’s. “After hearing what he had to say, I felt it best you hear it from him directly.”

“Very well,” Ra’s said. “You may rise, Taer al Sahfer, and rejoin the ranks.” Sara rose gracefully and rejoined the ranks, standing beside Nyssa, and watching the kneeling form of her old friend and one-time lover with concern. She had gotten over her anger at what he had done on the flight over. Ra’s circled around Oliver. “You pay heed to the lessons Taer al Sahfer must’ve taught you well, Oliver Queen.”

“It was not Sara who taught me how to act towards the Demon’s Head,” Oliver replied, keeping his tone respectful and his head bowed, eyes focused on the ground. For his city, he would remain humble and respectful before the Demon’s Head. Anything less, and he might as well sign the death warrant for the entire population of Starling, something he was unwilling to do.

“Then who was it that taught you our ways, boy?” Ra’s asked calmly, going over the potential list and wondering if the archer before him had been trained by his old friend, Damien Darhk. If so, he would have to kill the boy as a matter of principle.

“She never told me her full name, but she called herself Talia,” Oliver replied, knowing this would set the cat amongst the mice, so to speak. The name rippled around the room; Ra’s examined the boy before him more closely now. His errant daughter did not train just any who crossed her path and considering she could not have had him for more than three years, the length of time Taer al Sahfer had been with them, he doubted it was by accident that she released him into a city that happened to be in the custody of one of his former Horsemen. Nyssa had looked stunned at hearing her older sister’s name, while those assassins who had been tasked with keeping tabs on Ra’s’ errant daughter felt fear because somehow, they had missed Talia training this student and Ra’s al Ghul didn’t tolerate failure.

“Talia, you say?” Ra’s finally said quietly. “She gifted you with a ‘graduation present’ of sorts, did she not?”

“The uniform I wear as the Green Arrow and the bow I use in my quest to bring justice to my city,” Oliver confirmed for Ra’s.

“When and where did you meet this Talia?” Ra’s questioned.

“This past January,” Oliver replied. “She rescued me from where I was being held in Russia and taught me how to control the darkness inside of me, how to channel it into a force for justice. She told me I was destined for greater things than playing gangster in Russia and trained me to become a weapon. She set me on the path that I have started down.”

“Which brings us to what you have come to tell us,” Ra’s said. “Speak, Oliver Queen, student of Talia al Ghul, and let us hear what has been hidden from us.”

And so, Oliver spoke. He told them of Merlyn’s history since leaving the League, Tempest, the List, the Undertaking, the Gambit, and what had happened in the five years that Merlyn had had to consolidate his power in Starling with no one to stand in his way. “I know from Talia what it is you would do,” Oliver began to conclude, “but as one warrior to another, I ask for clemency for my city. They are not responsible for the actions Merlyn has taken in his single-minded quest to avenge his wife’s death, the actions of a single man, upon thousands of innocents, innocents who suffer from poverty and despair as those he lifted up crush them under heel.”

Ra’s had listened to the boy’s explanation, expression impassive but his mood growing darker with each passing word. The reason his daughter had done as she had had become clear as the boy’s explanation continued. Talia had learned of Merlyn’s treachery and set her own student to do what had to be done, though it appeared that she had failed to impart certain lessons to this Oliver Queen. He seemed to be unwilling to take a life when justice demanded it. Or perhaps he had another reason for not doing so; the young often became entranced with codes of conduct, never understanding that justice was all that mattered. It was what had drawn Talia away, and what may yet pull Nyssa away from him.

Ra’s returned to his throne, looking down on the kneeling archer. Finally, he spoke. “This is the judgment of Ra’s al Ghul; listen carefully, boy, for it will be spoken but once. Malcolm Merlyn has betrayed the code of conduct he agreed to abide by; for this, he must be punished. Yet he has managed to protect himself by ingratiating himself in the public eye and seizing control of the criminal underworld away from it. You have asked for clemency for your city and the innocent caught in the trap that Merlyn has set for them. It is granted, on the condition that you bring Merlyn to justice. You must break the hold he has on your city, as benefactor and malefactor, and ensure that he can no longer use his resources to pervert the course of justice. Do these things, and the clemency you seek shall be granted for a season.”

“I thank you for your generosity,” Oliver said softly. “What is to become of Sara Lance, the one that you call Taer al Sahfer?”

“She has served her purpose,” Ra’s replied. “If she wishes it, she may take up her former life and name.”

“I do wish to do so, Master,” Sara said softly, and Ra’s motioned for her to join the still kneeling Oliver. She did so.

“Go with my blessing but be aware that the eye of Nanda Parbat is now watching Starling City closely,” Ra’s said. “You may rise, Oliver Queen, and return to your fight.”

Oliver and Sara departed, both knowing they were lucky to be given this chance and neither wanting to waste it.

*DC*

Once back in Starling City, Oliver brought Sara back to the loft, where she changed into her only set of civilian clothes. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to, Sara,” Oliver said quietly. “What will you do about Quentin and Laurel?”

“I don’t know, Oliver,” Sara said softly. “There’ve been plenty of times over the years that I’ve dreamt of coming home, of reuniting with my family. But my family is broken, and I’m the reason for that. How can I even face them, not only after what I did with you and the Gambit, but after what I’ve become? How could they not see the monster inside of me?”

“The thing about monsters is that if you try to pretend that they don’t exist, they’ll consume you from the inside,” Oliver said quietly. “I’m guessing right about now you’re thinking it would be better if you’re family remained thinking that you were dead, that it would be better if you left Starling behind and figured out who you are now.”

“Yeah,” Sara said quietly after a moment.

“That is selfish and cruel, Sara,” Oliver rebuked, and she recoiled in shock. “Do you think I don’t think the same thing every day? Sara, barely a month ago, I skinned a man alive for practice channeling my darkness, my monster, because he had information that I needed. There is nothing that you could have done for the League that I can’t top. You can’t fight the darkness by running from it, Sara. You have to confront it and accept that it’s a part of you. Otherwise, you’ll always be at war with yourself, always sabotage the relationships you have with those you love, and always be alone. That is not the way men or women were meant to live, Sara. You can only fight the darkness with hope. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that.” Oliver gestured out at the city. “Help me bring hope back to our city, Sara, and find hope for yourself again while you’re at it.”

Sara remained silent. Oliver sighed. “Well, I’m going to bed to get rid of this jetlag. If you’re still here when I wake up, I’ll know what choice you made.” Oliver retreated to his bedroom.

The next morning, when he came downstairs, the living room was empty except for a note resting on the couch. Oliver picked it up and unfolded it.

Ollie, it read, I wish I could believe in what you said last night, I really do. But the girl you remember died on Lian Yu. She was gang-raped by the survivors of the Amazo and left for dead. Something new was born when Nyssa found her, something dark, twisted, and ugly. Something that no one, not even my sister’s selfless heart or my father’s undying love could truly accept. There is no hope for something as dark and twisted as me, no matter what you think is possible. Don’t try to find me. You won’t. – Sara

Oliver sighed and let the note fall to the couch. “Damn it, Sara,” Oliver whispered.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen entered the A.R.G.U.S. operations center with John Diggle and Felicity Smoak at his side. Felicity gave a contented sigh at the familiarity of it all, earning an odd look from Diggle, the only one of the vaunted ‘Original Team Arrow’ who had not traversed time. Felicity went to the computers and immediately began bringing up all the information on the organized crime in Starling City that she had gathered and transferring it to the large plasma for Oliver to examine. “Any unusual activity beyond the typical skirmishes as they fight over new territory and the businesses left by the Triad?” Oliver asked as he examined the map of Starling that Felicity had mocked up, color-coded to each faction.

“Nothing so far, so that’s good,” Felicity said, getting the hidden message; Oliver was asking if there was any sign of Helena Bertinelli beginning her one-woman crusade to dismantle her father’s organization to weaken it for one of his rivals. Ironically, she had never actually done that since the Bertinellis remained a power in Star City for years to come, only capitulating to Diaz after the right pressures were applied. But even then, they had made a comeback after Diaz had been taken down for good. “And I got some intel on Daniel Brickwell. He’s currently the head of the Orchid Bay Butchers gang, carved out his own little fiefdom and is keeping the families out of his territory. Last person who tried to muscle in got their private parts cut off and mailed to the head of the crime family in question.”

“He’s certainly colorful,” Oliver said, tilting his head thoughtfully. “Continue to keep an eye on things for now. The Unidac auction is coming up and I doubt everyone who is going to be making a bid will be honest. Speaking of, I have somewhere to be tonight.”

“Oh?” Diggle asked from where he had been standing, observing the map Felicity had put together and letting his soldier’s mind fill in the details of what each group had at their disposal (information that Henry Fyff had gotten for them before his dismissal). “What is it and how is it connected to Unidac?”

“Only peripherally,” Oliver amended. “I’m going to be paying a visit to a fire inspector tonight. He accepted a bribe from James Holder to say that the fire alarms Holder installed in low-income housing in the Glades were up to code and not at all faulty. The truth is that the fire alarms were defective and Holder damn well knew it, he just didn’t think he should offer premium alarms to the poor district of the city. Too many died in those fires to let him get off scot free. It’s time we found out whether Kate Spencer is interested in justice or politics.”

“Those poor people,” Felicity whispered, not having been around the last time to hear why Oliver was going after James Holder. She wondered if he might decide to let Deadshot just do what he was hired for in that particular case if the D.A. still let Holder walk. “What’s the fire inspector’s name?”

“Jason Queller,” Oliver replied, and Felicity set to work finding out everything she could about the man in question.

*DC*

The Green Arrow moved silently through the shadowy office space in City Hall where the District Attorney’s offices were located. The A.D.A.’s had gone home for the night, leaving the D.A. herself working late. Jason Queller had given up the original arson report quickly enough, which Green Arrow had suspected would be the case. Men like Queller were weak-willed, weak-minded little cockroaches who fed off of the blood of the innocent. He had left Queller a little something to remember him by, just in case he ever got it into his head to accept another bribe.

Kate Spencer was bent over the file of her current case, the people vs James Holder, Green Arrow noted as he stopped in the doorway of the D.A.’s office. “Kate Spencer,” Green Arrow said quietly, entering the room and causing Kate to stand and back away from her desk. “District Attorney, loyal civil servant. But how loyal are you to the people who pay your salary?

“What do you want?” Kate demanded to know; she had already hit the silent alarm that signaled the building security that she was under threat. All she had to do was stall.

To give you a chance to prove yourself,” Green Arrow replied. “You’re currently pursuing a case against James Holder. But you’ve nothing to bring against him that can’t be dismissed as circumstantial.” Green Arrow placed the file he had been carrying on Kate’s desk and backed away. She slowly moved forward, opening it but not looking at it.

“What is this?” she asked.

The original, unaltered arson report from Jason Queller,” Green Arrow replied. “Call Queller to the stand and he’ll deliver everything that you need.

“And what if I don’t use this? If you compelled Queller in any way, it’s the fruit of the poisonous tree,” Spencer said.

If you choose not to use all the tools at your disposal, you will reveal that you are more interested in the power of your position than using that power to bring justice to those who deserve it,” Green Arrow replied. “If that’s the case, I will do all that I must to expose you for the corrupt, traitorous little bitch that you are.” Green Arrow turned and fired an explosive arrow at the window, blowing it out. “Nice trick with the silent alarm, but you’ll need to do better than that to catch me.” Green Arrow dived out of the window just as the security agents entered the room with guns drawn.

“Good thing I wasn’t in any real danger,” Kate said caustically, eyes narrowed at the two men. “He could’ve killed me a half dozen times in the time it took you to get here.”

*DC*

The next evening, Oliver sat in the middle of his couch and watched Susan Williams reporting from the courthouse for Channel 52. “The jury today came back with a verdict of not guilty as D.A. Kate Spencer closed her case against James Holder with no solid evidence against Mr. Holder in the matter of the fires that took the lives of over thirty people this past winter. Mr. Holder was clearly pleased with the verdict.” Oliver didn’t need to watch anymore and turned the television off in disgust. He knew damn well that some of her A.D.A.’s had accepted the evidence he provided on cases, so there was not a single reason for Kate Spencer to hold back using the evidence he had given her unless she was already beholden to someone to let Holder walk.

Oliver dug out his cell phone and sent Felicity a message to begin digging into Kate Spencer. This takedown, though, wouldn’t be in the courts of law, but the court of public opinion. As he put the phone away, there was a knock on his front door. Opening it, he found Laurel on the other side. “You said you wanted to talk to me?” Laurel asked, feeling a little self-conscious after their last conversation.

“Yes, please, come in,” Oliver said quietly, knowing what he was going to tell her was going to hurt Laurel, but he refused to cover for Sara and her selfish excesses any longer. He stepped aside and Laurel entered the apartment. “I know after our last talk, I’m not your favorite person, but something happened that you deserve to know about.” Oliver sat on the couch, Laurel joining him after a moment. “There’s no easy way to say this. Sara was in town a few days ago.”

“Sara? She was here? Why didn’t you tell me?” Laurel asked, hurt.

“It all happened very fast,” Oliver said quietly. “She was sent by her now-former employer to find out information about what I revealed in my little debut message. I ended up going back to her employer with her to plead for clemency for Starling.”

“Clemency? What do you mean?” Laurel demanded to know.

“Do you remember history class back in school? Specifically things like Rome’s fall, the burning of London, trade ships being plagued by rats, that sort of thing?” Laurel nodded slowly. “It’s a lie, or at least not the whole truth. Hidden in the annals of history is an organization that has dedicated itself to keeping the balance between good and evil, an organization that, when a society grows decadent, returns to restore the balance. That is who Sara fell in with. If they came here to deal with the matter, I don’t know if there would even be a dog left to wag it’s tail at them when they left.”

Laurel swallowed hard. She tried to picture her sister in that sort of organization and was having a hard time imagining it. “But you did get clemency for Starling?”

“For a season, which with this organization and the man who leads it could mean anything from a literal season of a few months to a few years while they focus on more dire matters,” Oliver said. “Afterwards, I brought Sara back here and let her stay the night. The next morning, she was gone, leaving behind this note.” Oliver pulled Sara’s note out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Laurel, who read it with tears trickling down her cheeks, staining them with runny mascara. “The important thing to take from this is that Sara is alive, and when she’s ready, she’ll come home.”

“Thank you, Ollie,” Laurel said softly. “Can I-Can I keep this?” Oliver nodded, and she slipped Sara’s letter into her purse. She wiped at her eyes with a handkerchief and then smiled tremulously at Oliver. “So, anything else I should know about? I heard a rumor that the Green Arrow was spotted swinging away from City Hall last night.”

“I was giving Kate Spencer a chance to prove she’s serving the people of Starling,” Oliver replied. “She’s made her choice; she’s chosen those in power over those she’s meant to serve. Now she’s going to pay for it where it counts. The D.A. serves at the pleasure of the mayor, and no mayor is going to want a D.A. who the public hates. It will bring his own ratings down.”

“You’re going to use the court of public opinion to bring her down?” Laurel asked with a quirked eyebrow. “That’s a new one.”

“Justice takes many forms,” Oliver replied with a smile, which faded as he remembered things were tense between them. “Laurel, I am sorry for breaking your heart the other night. I wish things were different.”

“If you think I’m going to give up on us, Oliver, you’re wrong,” Laurel said, giving him a look. “I know for a fact that you have to attend the Unidac auction with your family. I’m coming as your plus one.”

“Really?” Oliver said. “Laurel, I don’t want you to be a target, and when I make my move at Queen Consolidated, that is precisely what would happen.”

“Oliver, I’m involved with you either way,” Laurel replied. “You say you want to protect me. Well, hasn’t it occurred to you that the safest place for me is at your side instead of being pushed to the outskirts of your life, where I don’t have your supposed protection?” Oliver quirked an eyebrow at her. “Whether either of us like it or not, you are going to be in the news as both Oliver Queen and Green Arrow. Whichever enemies target me, corporate or criminal, are going to target me anyways because I’ll be the one prosecuting them. At least at your side, I’m more visible than I am now.”

“You’re the head of C.N.R.I. and one of the most stunning lawyers there,” Oliver returned. “You’re hardly a wallflower, Laurel.”

“Ollie, I want you to do something for me. I want you to ask yourself if pushing me away will really help or if you’re doing this because you’re afraid of what could happen between us. I know that’s why you pulled away, why you did what you did with Sara. I’m not going to push you into anything, Oliver. I lost you and my sister once already because I wasn’t willing to take it slow. Just think about it. Please.” Laurel stood, and Oliver nodded slowly to show that he would. “Be careful out there,” Laurel said quietly. “You’re still the best hope this city has seen in over a decade.” She left the loft and a contemplative Oliver Queen behind.

*DC*

Floyd Lawton, the assassin known to all criminal databases as Deadshot, lined up his sights on the target, James Holder. He paused in his endeavors as he sensed another presence join him on the roof. “Here I thought you targeted guys like this one,” he said quietly. He ducked as a green-tinted arrow flew over his head. He whirled to face the Green Arrow, only to hear a beeping sound at his feet. He looked down just as the flashbang arrow detonated. Lawton was blinded and his ears filled with a shrill ringing before he felt another arrow impact him in the chest, wrapping him up in cords. He barely heard the bowstring being drawn back again, barely heard the arrow that embedded itself in the concrete next to his head, but he definitely smelled the gas that filled his nostrils and sent him into a deep slumber.

Green Arrow tilted his head. “Sleeping gas arrow worked like a charm,” he reported in. “We’ll get a chance to try out the magnetic arrow once A.R.G.U.S. picks up the package.” Both he and Overwatch (as Felicity had quickly assumed her ‘old’ identity) had been careful not to let slip the identity or M.O. of the assassin they were targeting, not wanting Dig to go off half-cocked. With Lawton heading for A.R.G.U.S., they weren’t likely to have to worry about him again. Nor had they told Dig yet about what Green Arrow had planned for the second part of the night.

With time on his hands to think, Green Arrow’s mind turned to Laurel’s parting request earlier that evening. What she didn’t realize when she made that request was that Oliver had four years of memories to draw on regarding his attempts to push her away and keep her from being close to him. In the coming year, she had been kidnapped by Cyrus Vanch simply for being connected to the Hood. In his second year, the same had happened with Sebastian Blood kidnapping her and forcing a confrontation with the Arrow. Later that same year, Slade Wilson had kidnapped her with the intent of killing the woman Oliver loved. They had managed to stay that execution by tricking Slade into thinking Oliver had feelings for Felicity, but the moment Slade had realized it was a trick (when Felicity had stuck him with the cure), he had ordered his Mirakuru soldier to ‘kill her’. Seeing as the soldier had been holding onto Laurel, ready to snap her neck at a word from Slade, it was pretty obvious which ‘her’ Slade meant.

The next year had been where Oliver really pushed Laurel away. As a result, she had trained with Ted Grant and Nyssa al Ghul to become the Black Canary. Ted was a good man, but limited in fighting ability to boxing, and Oliver had defeated Nyssa every time they came into conflict. Laurel had asked Oliver to train her, but he had refused, knowing that if he trained her, they would grow close again, perhaps close enough that his enemies would use her against him. Then he had left the city in the hands of Laurel, Dig, and Thea before returning five months later to help with the fight against H.I.V.E. They had barely begun to repair their friendship, and perhaps move in the direction of something more, when Darhk had stolen her from Oliver and everyone else who’s life she had lit up. Green Arrow felt his throat tighten convulsively as he remembered her standing with the others as he dueled with Merlyn, standing by his side as Merlyn threatened him after Nyssa disbanded the League, being held with the rest of them by Darhk’s power when they went to save William… the way she had faced Darhk’s murderous intent, not showing her fear even though he could see it in her eyes as Darhk gave his bad guy monologue. Something dropped onto the back of his hand, and Green Arrow reached up to realize he was crying.

Green Arrow, you okay?” Overwatch asked.

Fine,” he said gruffly. “Just… old memories.” He focused back on the matter at hand, ignoring Overwatch’s muttered comment.

The answer to Laurel’s question was that no, trying to push her away and keep his distance hadn’t done anything to keep her safe. In fact, she had been safer when he kept her close. He had his answer; but could he follow through on it?

That would be a question he answered later; the whirring of helicopter blades was filling the air, and once that was done, James Holder was due a visit from the Emerald Archer.

*DC*

Green Arrow entered Holder’s penthouse residence a half-hour later. He had dealt with Holder’s security easy enough; all of them were knocked out with sprained wrists or ankles, just enough to keep them out of his way. Now it was time to do what he came here to do. He found Holder still celebrating the verdict with a glass of champagne out on the pool deck. “James Holder,” he snarled as he shattered the glass with an arrow to get Holder’s attention. “You’ve failed this city.

“W-What do you want? My security will-”

Do nothing,” Green Arrow replied as he threw a pair of pistols down between them. “How many died in those fires? How many!?

“I heard what you did to Queller,” Holder said. “I also know how you work. You provide all the evidence needed. Only it didn’t work in this case, did it? You’ve shown your resolve. It doesn’t match ours.”

Wrong,” Green Arrow replied and fired an arrow directly into Holder’s chest. It pierced his diaphragm and he stumbled backwards, gripping the shaft of the arrow and looking between it and the Green Arrow in shock. “When justice fails, I’ll always be there to restore the balance, Holder,” Green Arrow said softly. “There will be no happy ending for scum like you.” Green Arrow walked across the pool deck to the edge of the roof, turned to give Holder one last look, and then shot a grappling arrow to a higher building across the way. It was time to head back to the Bunker and face Diggle’s inevitable judgment.

*DC*

As predicted, Diggle’s expression was one of judgment as Oliver returned to the Bunker. Felicity was shooting the man nervous looks; it had finally sunk in for her that this wasn’t their Dig. This wasn’t the Dig who had been through hell with them. This was the Dig who hadn’t learned the world wasn’t just black and white. Oliver put his bow and quiver up before turning to face Diggle. “It’s not that I can’t see the judgment on your face, John,” Oliver said quietly. “It’s just that I don’t care why it’s there.”

“Oliver, this was not what I agreed to,” Diggle said.

“I told you that I operate in shades of gray,” Oliver replied. “What did you expect that to mean?”

“You’ve avoided killing all of this time, so I didn’t think that was part of it,” Diggle replied.

“Everyone else I’ve fought and taken down, we’ve made their criminal conduct too well-known for it to be swept under the rug,” Oliver replied. “I didn’t need to get justice for their victims because the courts were doing their job for once. That wasn’t the case here. I gave Kate Spencer everything that she needed to put Holder away. Instead, she let him walk. Felicity, any luck on finding out why?”

“Oh, there was a ‘donation’ to a charity that Miss Spencer oversees,” Felicity said, complete with sarcastic finger quotes. “It took a bit of work to dig that up, but I got it.”

“Good,” Oliver said. “Send it as an anonymous tip to Susan Williams at Channel 52 along with anything else you’ve dug up regarding Spencer’s flexible view of justice.” Felicity nodded, not questioning Oliver’s choice of reporter. Turning a hatchet job reporter like Susan Williams onto deserving targets tickled Felicity’s funny bone. Oliver turned back to Dig. “John, I’m not forcing you to be here. If this is something that you can’t commit to, I won’t hold it against you. Just remember who else is involved in all of this.”

“Yeah, A.R.G.U.S.,” Diggle said. “I get it. Keep my mouth shut about you if I leave, or Waller will make me disappear and find a patsy.” Diggle turned and headed for the elevator. Oliver sighed but didn’t stop him. He had come by motorcycle this evening so he could get home easily enough.

“So, now that he’s gone, want to talk about what got you worked up?” Felicity asked softly. “It’s not like you to break down in the field.”

“I had a few minutes to think about something Laurel said earlier this evening,” Oliver replied. “She asked me if pushing her away would really protect her or if I was protecting myself.”

“And?” Felicity asked, trying to keep her voice even as possible. Despite spending twenty years mourning Oliver and looking forward to their eventual reunion, she was still competing with Laurel for his affections. It burned just a little.

“That’s an answer that only Laurel deserves to hear,” Oliver said quietly. He headed to a small room set aside for him to change out of his uniform and back into his civilian clothes. Tonight, those were a pair of jeans, a light sweater, and his favored brown leather jacket.

*DC*

Oliver knocked on the door in front of him and waited for Laurel to come to the door. It wasn’t that late, and he knew from past experience that Laurel stayed up to close to one a.m. working on her case files; for all he knew she stayed up even later these days since she had to deal with the paperwork for C.N.R.I. as well as her own case files. Soft footsteps approached the door, and then the door swung open. Laurel’s lips quirked up into a soft smile. “I didn’t expect you so soon,” she said quietly. “You used to be a lot more stubborn about things, as I recall.”

“Yeah, well, I had some time to think tonight in between takedowns,” Oliver replied as he stepped into the apartment. Laurel closed the door behind him, and the two went to Laurel’s couch, where they sat down. “Before I say anything else, Laurel, I need to tell you that I confronted James Holder tonight. It wasn’t like my previous takedowns. He had his day in court and the evidence I provided the D.A. wasn’t used.”

“So, what did you do?” Laurel asked, feeling a lump form in her throat.

“I killed him,” Oliver said quietly. “It was quick, but it was the only way to get justice for the people he killed with his negligence. For the most part, I will do my best to make sure the people I take down face their day in court. But for those who get off despite being guilty, there’s another form of justice.”

“You realize what that will bring down on you?” Laurel asked softly.

“I can live with being hunted, Laurel,” Oliver replied just as softly. “Do you still want to hear my answer?”

“I do,” Laurel said quietly.

“The answer is no, I don’t think pushing you away will protect you,” Oliver revealed. “The truth is, it wasn’t about protecting you or protecting me. It was about protecting the city.”

“Protecting the city?” Laurel asked, brow furrowing in consternation. “I don’t understand, Ollie.”

“What’s going on now, with Tempest, the Undertaking, all of that? It started when a man lost the woman he loved to the crime in the Glades,” Oliver said quietly. “This man and I are mirror images of one another, more than either of us would like to admit. I give these criminals a second chance at redemption because I’m hoping to redeem myself. But if I lost you…” Oliver cupped Laurel’s chin, meeting her green gaze with his own blue one. “I would become the very thing I’m fighting to stop right now. I wouldn’t only stop pursuing a confrontation with this man to bring him to justice, I would approach him with an offer of alliance. If I lost you, I’d be losing a piece of my soul along with you and that would leave a man who would want nothing more than to see this city burn.”

Laurel took Oliver’s hand in her own. “Ollie, you’re too good of a man to mean that,” she said quietly. “I may not know anything about what you’ve done in the past that you feel you need redemption for, but I see a good man every time I hear what you’ve done as Green Arrow. You wouldn’t join this man, this dark reflection of yourself, even if I died. But I do believe you might lose your willingness to offer them a chance at redemption. That, Oliver, is what makes you more than a vigilante in my books. It’s what makes you a hero.”

“And what about Holder and those like him? Doesn’t that change how you look at me?” Oliver asked.

“No,” Laurel said softly. “You did what you could to make sure Holder faced justice through the proper channels. He wouldn’t have been able to be charged again unless we saw another winter of casualties like last time. You probably saved dozens of lives, Oliver, by taking him down. It all depends on who acquires the contracts to install fire alarms in those buildings now that he’s gone.” Laurel tilted her head. “Do you think the mere threat of someone taking me from you would be conceivable for Green Arrow to join this man you talk about?”

“What are you thinking?” Oliver asked.

“He can’t be doing this alone, whoever he is,” Laurel said quietly. “It would take more than one person to slowly poison the city like it has been. Would taking this man, and this man alone, down really stop what’s happening? Especially if those people Sara worked for are watching?” Oliver thought for a moment, then shook his head. “What if you pretended to be on his side because you thought I was threatened by everything going on?”

“I can’t,” Oliver said with a shake of his head. “As much as I’d like to, I can’t. Places like C.N.R.I. and the Merlyn clinic will be targeted for closure by the cabal that surrounds this man. I can’t do anything about the Merlyn clinic, but I can and will stop C.N.R.I. from being shut down. What you’re doing there is too important to risk for the sake of bringing down all of Tempest. I’ll find another way to find out who they are and bring them down.”

Laurel deflated but nodded. She agreed that C.N.R.I. was too important to let it be closed down. She decided to bring the conversation back to the original topic. “So, does all this mean you’re done running away from me?”

“I never could win an argument with you,” Oliver said with a sigh. Laurel smiled and leaned in to kiss him. He joined his lips to hers, and the two leaned back on the couch, once more basking in one another’s company.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen’s night may have taken a turn for the better, but the same couldn’t be said for others in Starling City.

Detective Quentin Lance crouched beside the body of James Holder, a man who had just been cleared of all charges stemming from the fires in the tenements he had installed fire alarms in the previous winter. Quentin hadn’t been the one to catch that case since it wasn’t really a Major Case issue, being relegated to Arson, but he had heard enough from the boys in that division to know that Holder was a Grade A sociopath who only cared for his profit margin. That Holder had been killed only hours after being cleared was only mildly surprising. It was the obvious identity of the killer that had Quentin’s mind working. “Two weeks this guy’s been taking down everyone from rapists to Adam Hunt, but now he puts an arrow in someone with lethal intent? What’s the motive?”

“Holder had been cleared of all charges, Quentin, and we both know double jeopardy applied,” Lucas Hilton, his partner of over a decade, replied. “Green Arrow hasn’t hidden that he’s dedicated to bringing criminals to what he perceives as justice. So far, we’ve found all the evidence necessary to convict laid out for us, even those gang-bangers who went after the waitress. But Holder’s different. Arson thought that Holder paid off the fire inspector, and the same inspector turned up in the hospital last night with an arrow through his hand, the same night that Green Arrow was spotted swinging away from City Hall and a security alert had gone through the building, triggered by the D.A.”

“Meaning he got ahold of the evidence and turned it over to the D.A., who didn’t use it because she’s more interested in playing favors than doing her job,” Quentin grumbled, having had more than a few of his cases thrown out because of the D.A.’s playing games with the rich and powerful. “So, he decided to take matters into his own hands. I get it, but that doesn’t change the fact this is murder.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Hilton agreed, “but this isn’t just about justice. Already the streets are talking about the Green Arrow like he’s some kind of hero, here to right the wrongs of the city. It doesn’t help that he’s done more to clean up the city in the past two weeks than the S.C.P.D. has in almost twenty years. Hell, he took down the entire Triad in practically one night.”

“So, we give him carte blanche to do this?” Quentin demanded to know, gesturing to the body in front of them. “The law is the law.”

“Too bad you’re the only Lance who thinks that these days,” Hilton said quietly, and Quentin felt his stomach clench as he was reminded of the current rift between him and his daughter. But Laurel couldn’t support the Green Arrow now that he had killed someone, could she? He refused to believe that she could, that her experiences had jaded her so completely that she would accept such an outcome. Not his daughter; not Laurel.

“Uniforms taking statements from the security team?” Quentin asked gruffly in order to change the subject.

“Yeah,” Hilton said quietly. “Which is an even bigger mystery. Why didn’t he cripple these guys to get to Holder?”

“A question we’ll ask him when we’ve got him in an interrogation room,” Quentin replied, walking towards the sliding door leading into the penthouse. He wanted to hear what the security team had to say himself.

*DC*

Warren Patel was not a man who took deception well. He had paid a generous sum to the assassin known as Deadshot, yet he had yet to receive confirmation that the first target had been dealt with. The worst part of all of this was that he couldn’t afford another assassin; he simply couldn’t compete with the likes of Queen Consolidated and Merlyn Global, which was why he had hired an assassin to take out the competition beyond those whose positions were more limited than his own.

The door to his hotel suite was broken down, splintering along the carved edges, and men in S.W.A.T. gear moved in, circling around him and forcing him to the ground. This could mean only one thing; his assassin had failed, been captured, and revealed his employer. A moment later, an African American woman with her hair in a bun and wearing shiny red high heels entered the room and stood in front of him, looking down her nose at him. “Hello, Mr. Patel,” the woman said coolly. “My name is Amanda Waller. You’ll be accompanying these gentlemen and I back to our field office, where you will answer all our questions about your involvement with the assassin known as Deadshot, including who suggested him to you and if they have any ties to the organization that calls itself H.I.V.E.”

Patel was hauled to his feet by the men and dragged behind the woman as she left his hotel suite. The men dragged him towards the roof access, and Patel knew in that instant that this must be a black operation. He was going somewhere that no one would hear from him again until he turned up, half-starved and raving about things no one would believe him about. All because he tried to give himself an edge regarding the Unidac auction in a few days.

*DC*

Felicity Smoak was not moping. She did not mope. She sometimes got a little sad, maybe just the teensiest bit depressed, but she did not mope. Or at least that’s what the tech genius of Original Team Arrow told herself as she sat in her apartment, missing even the townhouse she had started renting after she became Oliver’s E.A. and received a pay bump with it (Oliver’s way of apologizing for her being relegated to secretary, no doubt). But nope, she was stuck in the past when she rented a one-bedroom apartment in an unsecured building and she didn’t even have the comfort of her relationship with Oliver to salve the insult to injury.

She had gone from being the C.E.O. of Smoak Technologies, the undisputed queen of all things technology on the international level, as well as a hero in her own right as Overwatch to being a lowly I.T. worker at Queen Consolidated and the quirky tech working for Oliver, who didn’t have time for her anymore because his obsession with gorgeous Laurel had returned full force now that he was in a time where she was alive and kicking. Despite the fact she had mourned Laurel when she died, she had also been relieved, especially since she and Oliver weren’t together anymore. She hadn’t been able to resist the urge to look in on the team despite her decision to leave it back then, and she had seen how Oliver and Laurel were getting closer just in their daily sparring sessions. Laurel had visited Oliver every day that he was down there, and it was easy for a woman, at least, to see that she had been circling Oliver for more than just sparring. At the end of the day, the older woman had always had Oliver’s heart, and because of that, Felicity’s husband had never truly been hers until after the woman was dead. She didn’t know if she could deal with that for another four years, or however long it took before Laurel was killed again by one of Oliver’s enemies, and that was if she was willing to stick around and be a damn consolation prize.

Yes, Felicity Smoak did not mope. But she did ponder dark, forbidden thoughts that she would never have entertained before she embraced her own darkness with the help of Earth-2’s Laurel Lance, who she had admittedly gotten along with even better than she had the original. Maybe it was because Earth-2’s Laurel was decidedly not smitten with Oliver and he was equally disinterested in the doppelganger of his dead girlfriend. But did she dare do something that, if Oliver discovered it, would see herself end up on the receiving end of one of his arrows? But if she succeeded, then she would finally have her husband back after twenty years of mourning him. That was worth any sacrifice.

Even if that sacrifice was the oh-so-precious Laurel Lance.

*DC*

Laurel Lance shifted slightly, her green eyes opening as she realized she wasn’t laying in her bed. The warmth of the sun on the back of her head and the awkward position of her body told her that she had fallen asleep on her couch, her legs tucked under her. Her lips quirked up into a soft smile as she saw Oliver opposite her, still sleeping. When he was awake, he was always so intense, so serious, that it was hard to see the boy that she had fallen in love with in him sometimes. But here and now, with Oliver asleep beside her, his features relaxed and his blue eyes closed, she could see the shadow of that boy on his rugged features.

But the man that he had grown into thanks to his hardships was someone she was coming to love even more. His desire to bring justice back to the city, to help the people who were suffering because of the actions of the powerful and corrupt, his desire to help her in her own fight against those same forces… it made her certain that what she had always suspected was true: that deep inside the playboy that she had known beat the heart of a good man who felt deeply for their city. Everything she had seen and heard from him had told her that that was who he was now, and whatever happened to him couldn’t have forced him into being something that he wasn’t, only revealed the truth of who he was deep down.

Oliver’s eyes slowly blinked open, and Laurel found the brief flash of confusion in his eyes adorable. As recognition set in, Oliver pushed himself into a more suitable sitting position. “Sorry,” he said quietly. “Didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“We both fell asleep, Ollie,” Laurel replied. “But we had a lot to talk about.” Last night had been taken up with a long, hard discussion that needed to happen if their relationship was to work moving forward: namely, the fact that they hadn’t talked to each other five years ago when they should have. Oliver had told her about the pregnancy scare he had with Samantha Clayton, who had been a sister at the same sorority that Laurel had joined when she went to college. Laurel, in turn, had told Oliver that she and Tommy had been sleeping together off and on for the past two and a half years.

“Yeah, I guess we did,” Oliver said quietly. He looked out the window behind her. “Damn. I’m late for work.”

“So am I,” Laurel said. The two of them pushed off of the couch and stood. They came together for a quick kiss. “Will I be seeing you tonight?”

“Depends on what comes up,” Oliver replied. “I took care of an assassin before I went after Holder. He was actually targeting Holder, but that assassin wasn’t doing it because he cared about the people of this city. He was doing it for money.” The disgust in Oliver’s voice regarding that line of work was clear, and Laurel wondered where he had developed it; not that she minded it, since it helped to show that while he operated in a morally gray area, Oliver still had morals, far more than most vigilantes had. Again, that was what made her think of him as more of a hero.

“Well, good luck at Queen Consolidated,” Laurel said.

“Have a good day at C.N.R.I.,” Oliver returned before picking up his jacket from where he had placed it last night before heading the front door. He opened it, only to pause as he found a familiar, perpetually sour-faced detective on the other side, one hand raised to knock. “Detective,” Oliver greeted neutrally as he ducked around the surprised Quentin Lance, shrugging on his coat and ducking into the stairwell before Quentin could form a sentence.

Quentin stood there for a moment, dumbfounded. He knew it was impossible that he had seen who he had just seen, because there’s no way that his smart, intelligent daughter would take that billionaire scumbag back after everything he had put them through. Shaking himself, Quentin entered Laurel’s apartment, finding his daughter in her kitchen setting a pot of coffee to boil. “Ollie, hanging around for a cup of coffee is just going to make you more late than you already are,” Laurel said, turning around with a smile, a smile that faded as she saw her father standing there. “Dad, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Well, seems you were kinda distracted,” Quentin said. “Good time with Queen?”

“Dad,” Laurel groaned, turning back to face the coffee pot.

“Don’t ‘Dad’ me, Laurel,” Quentin snapped. “We still don’t know if Sara is alive or not, and that doesn’t change the fact that Queen took her on that boat. How you can take him back in any capacity after what he’s done to us…”

“By realizing that that island chipped away at everything that he wasn’t, leaving only the person he really is, the man I fell in love with,” Laurel replied, turning to face her father while retrieving her purse from where she’d tossed it. “And it’s not a question of if Sara is alive, Daddy.” She pulled out Sara’s note and handed it to Quentin, who took it and opened it. At first, there was nothing but suspicion on his face, but as he read the note, clearly written in his youngest’s hand, his resolve faltered. As he read of her experiences and her decision to leave Starling because she couldn’t face them, he broke down weeping. Laurel knelt beside her father and pulled him into a hug. He held tight to her, letting out five years of pent-up grief and despair as he finally learned his youngest daughter was still alive, but a broken shell of the girl that she used to be.

Laurel waited for her father’s sobs to subside before she said, “Sara went to Ollie when she was in Starling. He tried to get her to meet us. But she left in the middle of the night with just that note left behind. Sara isn’t ready to come home, Daddy, but she isn’t dead, and I somehow doubt she’s going to go along with you blaming Oliver for everything that’s happened. And to answer your unasked question, yes, we’re going to see if we can make things work this time. For one, we’re being open and honest with each other about our expectations. Something we never did before.” Laurel stood, her father following a moment later. “But I know Oliver wasn’t why you came here this morning.”

“I went looking for you at C.N.R.I., and when you weren’t there, I got worried that something had happened to you again,” Quentin said quietly.

“And why were you looking for me?” Laurel asked, though she had a sneaking suspicion about why already.

“Green Arrow,” Quentin replied. “He killed James Holder last night. He’s not just a vigilante anymore, he’s a murderer. I’m begging you, as your father and as a detective, don’t get any more involved with him than you already have. Don’t let him bring you further into his world. I don’t want to arrest my own daughter.”

Laurel was silent, then returned to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. “Your concern is noted,” she said tersely. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for work.”

Quentin sighed and left his daughter’s apartment. Why did they both have to be so stubborn?

*DC*

Oliver entered the office in a new suit, Diggle trailing behind him. Walter was waiting for him. “It doesn’t project an image of confidence for one of our top executives to be late, Oliver,” Walter said sharply.

“I know, I’m sorry, I had a late night talking with an old friend and fell asleep on their couch,” Oliver replied. “It won’t happen again.” Walter studied him for a moment, then nodded. “What’s on the agenda for today?”

“We’ll be having a luncheon with all the department heads catered by Table Salt, after which you will be meeting with each of the men and women who currently work in our Applied Sciences division, something I know you’ve been avoiding,” Walter said, giving his stepson a curious look.

Oliver grimaced but chose not to say anything. Dr. Doug Miller was the man he had taken the position of Head of Applied Sciences from and if he was anything like Henry Fyff and other geniuses Oliver knew, the man who was now only another employee in the division would be trying to humiliate Oliver while pretending he was educating him. It didn’t help that Miller was on the List, although now that Oliver thought about it, he didn’t remember confronting Miller. Then again, there were many on the List he never got the chance to confront before he abandoned that mission in the face of Tommy’s death and his promise to his best friend’s memory.

“Sounds good,” Oliver finally said, while promising himself to look into Doug Miller and find out why the man had been on the List in the first place. He trusted Felicity, but this was personal to him. This was an employee at his family’s company, his company, and that meant whatever Miller had done to earn membership on the List had to be something that might compromise the integrity of Queen Consolidated if it got out. As if that weren’t enough, a memory rose, unbidden, in his mind’s eye of when he asked Felicity to look into the Restons and what had driven them to a life of crime.

Maybe it was time to add a personal touch to some of these cases that hit close to home. Perhaps tonight would be spent focusing on learning all that he could about Miller and what had driven the Restons to their life of crime.

*DC*

Doug Miller was a brilliant scientist, but it swiftly became obvious once Oliver delved into his background that evening from the comfort of his own home that Miller was also a first-degree psychopath. Before he had come to have a respectable position at Queen Consolidated, Miller had had a lab in the Glades where he used desperate residents of the Glades in tests of his technologies. His primary focus was in the area of memory retrieval, but that could just as easily move to memory removal or manipulation, the latter of which he seemed to excel at. In fact, his victims were never willing to testify against him, believing the man had actually helped them despite the pain and suffering that he had inflicted on them.

Oliver had dug deeper and discovered a few off-the-books experiments Miller was running out of Queen Consolidated properties around the city. Oliver vowed to put a stop to this; it was sick and wrong of anyone to take advantage of those who were vulnerable to offered financial incentives. Each of the three off-the-books experiments was aimed at one of the three fields surrounding memories. Oliver could see the value of research for memory retrieval or suppression (the latter could be a useful aid to sufferers of P.T.S.D.), but he saw nothing that memory manipulation could help with.

As for the Restons and their situation, Oliver had focused on the specifics surrounding the closure of the steel factory and the decision to not give the workers their rightful severance packages. Those packages could not only have kept those families afloat while the breadwinners searched for gainful employment, they would have included references that could see them find work anywhere in the country with glowing recommendations from Queen Consolidated. Withholding those severance packages and the bright future they promised was criminally negligent at best in Oliver’s books. What he hadn’t expected was where that path would lead. He had expected it to lead to the Legal Department, but it didn’t; instead it led to the Finance Department and specifically to the office of the then Chief Financial Officer.

Walter Steele.

*DC*

Oliver found himself driving to the Queen Mansion and circling around to the back of the mansion, where his father’s memorial headstone still stood. He crouched in front of it. “It feels like a lifetime ago that you asked me to right your wrongs,” Oliver said quietly. “I suppose, in a way, it was. But the more I dig, the more I realize just how many wrongs there were. You had to know what Walter’s suggestion would do to all those people, all those families. You can’t hide behind the threat of Merlyn this time. I know the factory closing was before he unveiled his new plans. This was you, you and Walter.”

Oliver fell silent. After a few moments of silence, Oliver spoke again. “I thought I was being a good son. But now I understand… I’m your last pitiful hope for redemption. Well, I’m sorry, Robert. I’m not your redemption. I’ll fight for this city, for our family’s future, but not because of some promise you coerced out of me. I’ll do it, because it’s the right thing to do, and if I have to break our family to do it, I will. The only honor you’ll ever receive is your name on the Applied Sciences center.” Oliver stood and left his father’s headstone behind, feeling as though a burden were lifted from his shoulders, and in some ways it had been. Even during his seventh year as a vigilante/hero, it had had something to do with his father. He was finally leaving that behind.

*DC*

Oliver returned to his apartment with a pensive expression on his face. He shut the door softly behind him, moving to the counter and pouring himself a glass of wine. He tilted his head; there was something off in the apartment, something that didn’t belong. Oliver moved to set the wine glass down… then whirled and threw it at the black-clad attacker, who smashed it with a swing of their bat. At first surprised by this odd choice of weapon (he had gotten so used to his enemies using esoteric weapons like himself, up to and including swords, bows, staffs, and sais), Oliver still had the semblance to duck when his mysterious guest attacked. Oliver performed what could only be described as a twirl as he spun away from the second attack and ended up behind his attacker. There, he delivered a crushing kick to the back of the attacker’s right knee, driving him to the ground. A solid right hook to the back of the man’s head left him visibly woozy; a second strike of the same type knocked him out completely.

Oliver turned the attacker over and pulled up the ski mask that the attacker had been wearing and his expression darkened with a scowl. He recognized the man all too well; this man had been introduced to him as a ‘mechanic’ by Alexi Leonov in the last timeline and told that if he was lying about being Bratva that the mechanic would be sent to kill him and his family. Oliver sighed and dug out his cell phone. For once, time differences would be working in his favor. He selected Anatoli’s name on his list of contacts and waited. “Ah, Oliver Queen, my favorite American!” Anatoli greeted. “What has you calling so late in Starling City?”

“I’ve just been attacked in my home by a member of the Bratva,” Oliver replied, and Anatoli bit out an oath; he apparently had thought this foolishness was over. Everyone knew where Oliver stood in the organization. “Anatoli, I don’t want to make a move without your blessing, but this is the second time the Bratva have targeted me or a member of my family since I’ve returned to Starling. Leonov clearly has a desire to hurt me and he’ll keep throwing his men at this endeavor unless something is done.”

“Agreed,” Anatoli replied. “I will be on next plane to Starling City. We will deal with this matter together.”

“If you need accommodation while you’re in Starling, my loft is open to you,” Oliver replied.

“Thank you,” Anatoli said. “I will text you details of our itinerary.” Anatoli hung up then and Oliver looked down at the man on his floor. He supposed the only option he had at the moment was to call the police and play dumb as to why Russian muscle would want to attack him. He just hoped Quentin wasn’t the officer assigned to the case.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen finished giving his statement to Detective Marcus Wright, who had been assigned to his case. “And you’re certain you’ve never seen this man before?” Wright asked, double-checking.

“Absolutely,” Oliver lied without a trace of doubt or indecision in his features. “I would remember someone with that kind of face. It just screams ‘hired thug’.” Wright smirked and chuckled at the Queen scion’s snarky comment. Unlike Quentin Lance and Lucas Hilton, Wright had no history with the Queen scion and as a result, wasn’t judging him unduly. “So, who is he?”

“Dmitri Romanov, Russian muscle,” Wright said, looking at his notes. “Until now, all we’ve had are suspicions that he was involved in break-ins that resulted in beatings. Do you have any idea why he would be after you?”

“I can only think its connected to what happened when Tommy and I were kidnapped a few weeks ago,” Oliver replied. “As I told Walter afterward, it had to be connected to something Queen Consolidated was involved in five years ago based on the questions the kidnappers were asking.”

“We’ll look into it,” Wright promised, and wrapped up the interview. The crime scene technicians had already finished, and the uniforms had already dragged Romanov away, so it had just been him and Oliver. The door closed behind the detective and Oliver sighed quietly in relief. Anytime his, well, criminal life intersected with his everyday life and brought police attention to it, it was always a balancing act to make sure that the police saw precisely what he wanted them to see. In this case, a billionaire’s son looking to make something of himself and wondering if he made the right choice by joining the family business.

Oliver had nearly gone into the mansion tonight to confront Walter about what he had helped Robert do. Oliver knew, intellectually, that all Walter had done was provide the option to use a loophole and deny the workers their severance packages. It was Oliver’s father, Robert Queen, who had ultimately made that despicable choice. But in his heart of hearts, Oliver wasn’t sure he could completely absolve Walter of his part in this. Robert wouldn’t have even known about the option without Walter presenting it to him. So, the question became whether he chose to confront Walter and force the issue, and if he did, should he do it as Oliver, or as the Green Arrow?

That, he decided, was a decision to be reached once the current issue with the Bratva had been dealt with.

*DC*

Margo Harrington’s light blue eyes were clouded in part by the drugs she had taken before coming to the club tonight, her brown hair damp with perspiration from all of the dancing she had been doing. She was currently sipping on a margarita and wondering why Thea Queen, her best friend and main wing-woman for this kind of thing, had begged off coming with her tonight. It was unlike Thea to not want to spend some time shaking her ass at all the hot college guys that frequented Club Poison. Oh, well, her loss; Margo just hoped the Queen heiress hadn’t gotten it into her head that with her brother back it was time to go back to being Miss Prim and Proper. If she did, well, Margo had some rather incriminating photos on her cell phone that would change the Queen heiress’ mind in a heartbeat. She wouldn’t dare want Mommy Dearest or Dearly Damaged Big Brother to find out the truth of what she’d been up to all these years.

“Good evening, Miss,” a rich, accented voice said as a man who couldn’t have been much older than twenty-three or twenty-four sidled up to the bar she was resting at. “I must say, you look simply ravishing.”

Margo eyed the man in front of her speculatively. He wasn’t like most of the people in this place; his clothing was all clearly tailored to fit him and accentuate everything about him that made him one fine male specimen. His dark hair was cut short, his gray eyes sharp and piercing. She didn’t flinch as he cupped her chin. “Hmm, yes, a lady with refined tastes is what you are. Perhaps we can be of some assistance to one another. You see, I don’t get involved with just any girl, and it is clear you are not a woman who will simply fling herself at anything male. I have a place here in town that we can get to know each other in, if you’d like.”

“Sounds perfect,” Margo said, her more cynical side that was shouting this was a bad idea having long since been muted by her consumption of drugs and alcohol. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t remember ordering that margarita. Oh, well, it wouldn’t be the first time she had ordered a drink and not remembered it. “What are you waiting for? Let’s go.” She took the man’s arm and allowed him to lead her out of the club and towards a very nice car parked down a side street, away from prying eyes.

As a result, when Margo stumbled and her new friend had to pick her up bridal style to continue the journey, no one was around to notice the way his eyes flicked over her exposed calves and thighs, currently shaped by her dark nylons to accentuate her newly-developed curves, or the way he pinched the flesh of her left thigh between his thumb and forefinger and mused, “Oh, yes… that is very nice…”

*DC*

Oliver was up before the sunrise, showering and dressing in casual clothes (a dark t-shirt, jeans, and his favored leather jacket). Luckily, it was the weekend and he wouldn’t have to worry about going into the office. In addition to what he was going to be dealing with as far as the Bratva was concerned, he didn’t know if he could face Walter and not confront the man over what he had helped Robert do. Oliver had tracked down every single family that had been affected by what Robert had done with the steel factory, and aside from the Restons who had left town and become the Royal Flush Gang (not that the police or anyone but Oliver knew that), almost all of them were still in the Glades. Those that weren’t were in the cemetery, because they had been victims of the fires caused by James Holder’s faulty alarms.

Oliver had set a worm to track down each of those still alive and what their jobs now were. He hoped to have that information by the end of the day. That would help him further decide how he would approach Walter, whether as Green Arrow or as Oliver Queen, the troubled heir apparent of the Queen business empire. Now all he could do was wait for Anatoli to arrive; according to the itinerary he had sent Oliver by email last night, Anatoli and his delegation from Russia would be arriving in Starling this morning and coming directly to Oliver’s loft, from which they would be heading for the garage the Bratva operated out of at this point in time.

In the meantime, all Oliver could do was wait for Anatoli and his delegation to arrive. Then the real work would begin.

*DC*

Susan Williams was going over the research goldmine that she had been handed from an anonymous source. It was a clear-cut case of corruption that pointed to the District Attorney being bought and paid for by the wealthy, especially those who had earned their fortunes with ruthlessness bordering on, or entering into, criminality. While the sender was anonymous, Susan was sharp enough to read between the lines. This goldmine being sent to her just after the District Attorney failed to get a conviction against a man who had recently donated a generous sum to a charity that she oversaw could only have come from one source who would have a motive: the Green Arrow.

Starling City’s mysterious vigilante had proven to be a constant source of debate in Starling City. The wealthy and corrupt hated him; the poor and destitute loved him. His killing of James Holder had made him even more polarizing as the police were forced to issue a warrant for his arrest with a charge of murder. Green Arrow’s complete absence the previous night had been startling, and today’s segment would include a question put to the people of Starling City at every level that had been compiled the previous day, before they even knew that the Green Arrow would seem to disappear. The question being, did they want the Green Arrow to continue his one-man crusade, now knowing the lengths he was willing to go to?

*DC*

Laurel Lance turned on the television as she curled up on her couch with her morning coffee, turning to Channel 52 news. Susan Williams had sent her a message last night that she might find today’s segment on pressing issues facing Starling residents interesting. Laurel waited silently as the usual morning segments ran, and then, finally, Susan appeared on the screen. “Good morning, Starling City,” Susan said, perfectly poised as always. “Today, we address a burning issue that has faced Starling City for nearly three weeks now, and which has just skyrocketed to the tip of everyone’s tongues: what do we think of the Green Arrow, and do we want him to continue his crusade, knowing how far he is willing to go? We go directly to the source, the people of Starling City, to bring you the general feel of the city’s sentiment regarding the Green Arrow.”

Shock flooded Laurel’s system even as the first two people appeared on the screen, a young woman in a waitress uniform from Big Belly Burger and a young man in a red hoodie. “The cops don’t care about the Glades,” the young woman said. “I’ve been sexually assaulted three times, no matter how many times I’ve cried out for help and begged for them to stop. No one came to my rescue, not until him. Roy here tried to help me the same night. As long as there are good men like the Green Arrow and Roy who watch out for those of us who live and work in the Glades, I have hope that this city can become a better place. And from what I know of those who lost their lives because of what he did, James Holder got what he deserved.”

The young man in the red hoodie, Roy, spoke next. “Like Alisha said, the cops don’t care about the Glades. Crime, despair, corruption… it’s practically choking us. Green Arrow’s the first sign of hope we’ve had in decades from what other folk say. I say let him do what he wants and get rid of the filth.”

A man in a mechanic’s uniform appeared next. “Green Arrow? Eh, I don’t really care about what’s happening in the city. I’m doing my best to get out of this BEEP cesspit.”

A woman with two kids hanging off of her arms. “I used to worry about walking the streets at night because of the rough attitudes of men in this city,” the woman said. “Now the Green Arrow’s shown he’s got no patience for rapists, I feel safe for the first time in years.”

Walter Steele appeared on the screen. “I believe the Green Arrow is doing what he feels is necessary,” Walter said, “but he has chosen to do so from behind a mask, and now he has murdered a man which the courts have decreed to be innocent of his crimes. Is this what justice looks like now? Where our courts can be mocked by this faux Robin Hood who thinks he’s doing good? No. That cannot be what justice looks like or else we might as well stop working and just let this vigilante run roughshod over us all.”

Malcolm Merlyn was the next from the billionaire contingent. “My late wife believed strongly in helping the people of the Glades,” Malcolm said, meeting the camera directly with his gaze. “She gave her life for that belief. I can’t help but think that, if Green Arrow had been around twenty years ago, my wife might still be alive, and I would not have spent these past seventeen years mourning her.”

More people popped up to speak their opinion on the Green Arrow, but Laurel didn’t hear them. In her mind’s eye, she was turning over Malcolm Merlyn’s statement over and over in her head.

What’s going on now, with Tempest, the Undertaking, all of that? It started when a man lost the woman he loved to the crime in the Glades. Malcolm Merlyn had lost his wife to the crime in the Glades and spent the past seventeen years mourning her loss.

This man and I are mirror images of one another, more than either of us would like to admit. Rebecca Merlyn had worked tirelessly to provide much-needed medical services to the people of the Glades, the way Laurel worked tirelessly to provide much-needed legal aid services to those very same people. Malcolm and Oliver were both wealthy, charismatic, and deeply in love with Rebecca and Laurel, worrying over their safety.

The person responsible for this is very powerful and controls Starling’s criminal underworld with an iron fist. It would take someone with access to a vast fortune and allies with similar fortunes to keep the city’s criminals in line and force them to stay in the Glades instead of expanding outward.

But if I lost you… I would become the very thing I’m fighting to stop right now. I wouldn’t only stop pursuing a confrontation with this man to bring him to justice, I would approach him with an offer of alliance. If I lost you, I’d be losing a piece of my soul along with you and that would leave a man who would want nothing more than to see this city burn. Oliver would feel completely comfortable approaching his godfather, the man who understood his loss better than anyone, with an offer of alliance to see those he saw as responsible for her death burn.

It all fit. Malcolm Merlyn was behind the Undertaking. Malcolm Merlyn was the one who had turned the Glades into a cesspit, though for what reason she was still unclear. Malcolm Merlyn was the one person Oliver would forge an alliance with in order to exact vengeance for her death.

Malcolm Merlyn was behind all of the pain and suffering of the past five years.

Laurel stood, placing her coffee on the table in front of her and snatching up her jacket and keys. Oliver had some explaining to do.

*DC*

Oliver opened his door, expecting to greet Anatoli, only to find a tight-lipped Laurel on the other side.

“Laurel?” he asked in surprise.

“We need to talk, Ollie,” Laurel said, breezing past him into the room. “Did you know Channel 52 went around town asking people from all walks of life what they thought of the Green Arrow?”

“No, I didn’t,” Oliver said honestly. “What was the general consensus?”

“I’ll have to re-watch the segment when it hits YouTube,” Laurel said, tilting her head. “See, one of the people whose opinion was sought was Malcolm Merlyn.” Laurel stepped closer, looking up into his eyes with her green ones. “Tell me that I’m just making wild connections Ollie, because what Mr. Merlyn said… it makes me think he’s the one behind everything.”

Oliver took a deep breath and released it slowly. He had forgotten how quick and sharp Laurel could be when she set her mind to something; he should’ve known her mind was working on the problem of who could be behind the Undertaking this entire time. That Merlyn had given a soundbite about the Green Arrow should’ve surprised Oliver, but then the man had appeared supportive of the Hood in the previous timeline. Oliver met Laurel’s gaze and said, “You’re not making wild connections. Merlyn is the one I’m trying to draw into a confrontation. You have to keep quiet about this, Laurel. No one can know; not your father, not Tommy, not Thea, not my mother or Walter… Malcolm Merlyn is more than just a corrupt businessman. He’s a trained assassin, trained by the same people as Sara, and he will kill anyone who gets in his way. My father was his best friend, like Tommy’s mine, yet he didn’t hesitate to try and kill him.”

Laurel’s legs shook slightly with dread as she took in what Oliver was saying, the last line snagging her attention. “What do you mean, Oliver?”

“The Gambit didn’t sink because of an accident at sea, Laurel,” Oliver replied. “It was sabotage. I haven’t uncovered everything about what happened, but I know that much. I had a similar experience to the Gambit almost two years later and I recognized the similarities then.” He noted Laurel’s form trembling and guided her to the couch. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have unloaded all of that on you. I just figured since you know, it’s better if you know everything.”

“No, you’re right, I need to know that sort of thing,” Laurel said quietly. “If I had just assumed Merlyn was a corrupt businessman, I would have treated him like any other I’ve faced and told him straight out I knew what he did and that I was going to make him pay for it. I know that’s what I would’ve done because it took all of my focus to keep myself aimed at coming here and not diverting to the Merlyn Mansion.”

Oliver was on his feet in an instant. “Don’t ever do that, Laurel!” he all but shouted. “Merlyn wouldn’t even hesitate to crush your throat right there and then since he’s the only one who lives in the Mansion and he controls the city! You’d end up a cadaver in some out of the way Podunk town, and none of us would know what happened to you! Don’t ever risk your life by doing something like that; promise me, Laurel!”

“I promise,” Laurel whispered, shocked at how the mere mention of her confronting Merlyn had seen Oliver transform completely into someone else, someone dark and fierce that she didn’t recognize. What Laurel didn’t know was that she had seen the darker side of the Green Arrow, the side that recognized that sometimes the only way to get true justice was to walk up to the person responsible for all the suffering and misery and stab them in the heart, the side of him that had been the heir apparent to Ra’s al Ghul. “Ollie, I knew it was a bad idea and I didn’t do it. You don’t need to shout.”

“I’m sorry,” Oliver whispered as he sank back down to the seat. “The moment you said it, I felt like I was watching a glimpse of the future. Merlyn or someone working for him stabbing you or strangling you or any other number of things that they might do to get rid of the nosy lawyer poking into Merlyn’s business. You don’t have the training to deal with a man like Merlyn or those who work for him, Laurel. Leave him to me; he’ll get what’s coming to him. I promise.”

Laurel pulled him close and he wrapped his arms around her slender shoulders, doing to the same. The two of them held each other close, simply soaking in this time with one another, before there was another knock on the front door of the loft. Oliver reluctantly pulled away from Laurel and opened the door to find Anatoli and two other men from the Bratva in Russia on the other side. Despite the situation, Oliver smiled and greeted his friend. “Anatoli Knyazev,” he said, hugging the man.

“Oliver Queen, my brother,” Anatoli replied, returning the embrace. Oliver stepped aside and let them in. Laurel stood up at the sudden arrival of people she didn’t know. “Ah, and who is this?”

“Anatoli, this is Laurel Lance, Sara’s sister,” Oliver replied. “Laurel, this is Anatoli Knyazev. He was on the Amazo with Sara.”

Laurel stepped up and held out her hand, her expression softening with sympathy. “I get the impression the Amazo was a hell all its own,” she said compassionately. “I’m sorry you had to endure that.”

“If I had not, I would not have met Oliver,” Anatoli said. “Still, would love to have had more time with Ivo to express displeasure.” Anatoli’s eyes darkened for a moment at the remembrance of Anthony Ivo. “Now, much as I wish I could get to know you better, Oliver and I have pressing matter to attend to.”

“He’s right, Laurel,” Oliver said quietly. “Why don’t you swing by this evening?” Laurel nodded, and she left without another word, trusting that Oliver would tell her what he could when they were alone.

“Now, Oliver, tell us everything about this attack that happened, and the previous incident,” Anatoli said without a trace of his typical joviality after one of his bodyguards confirmed Laurel had gotten on the elevator.

*DC*

Oliver, Anatoli, and the two bodyguards, Alexei Volkoff and Dimitri Rascalov, entered the autobody shop that the Bratva operated out of at this point in time and immediately became the focus of the attention of every person present. Alexi Leonov looked as though he had swallowed a lemon, though in Oliver’s opinion he always looked like that. “Pakhan,” Alexi said in greeting. “Always nice to get a visit from the motherland.”

“Not so nice when you hear what I have to say, Leonov,” Anatoli replied frostily. “You have attacked my friend and his sister. Did you think you would get away with this?” A gesture from Anatoli had Volkoff and Rascalov moving forward, grabbing Alexi and dragging him to a work bench with a vice, which they forced his hand into and secured it. Anatoli picked up an aptly-named bow saw. Leonov shouted expletives and condemnations in Russian while everyone looked on. Oliver kept his face impassive even as Anatoli set the blade against Leonov’s exposed wrist and began to cut.

The expletives and condemnations soon transformed into wordless, muffled screams (muffled from Rascalov’s hand clenched over Leonov’s mouth) before, with a wet sucking sound, the hand separated from the rest of the body and fell into the pool of blood that had gathered below it. Leonov was left moaning weakly in agony as he continued to bleed out as Anatoli turned to face the remainder. “Oliver Queen is now in charge of this chapter of Bratva. If I must come back here a second time, I will not stop with Leonov. Change comes to Bratva. Be careful you do not get sucked into propeller of change.”

Anatoli made a gesture and Oliver followed him out with Volkoff and Rascalov bringing up the rear. Oliver doubted that he would be having any trouble from the Russians in Starling from this point forward, although he would need to broach the topic with Anatoli that things seemed to be piling up on his plate and he wasn’t sure that he had the time to put into running the Starling City chapter of the Bratva on top of being Green Arrow and running the Applied Sciences division of Queen Consolidated.

The responsibilities were piling up, as was the pressure on all sides. Somehow, he had to find the strength inside of him to do the impossible and juggle all of the responsibilities that had been handed to him. Because he knew Novu wanted him to do more than just change the timeline for his city’s benefit; he wanted him to change the timeline so that Barry and Sara were more responsible in their own actions, make the heroes who stood against the coming Crisis even stronger than they had been, even though he wouldn’t be able to do much as far as Kara and her associates were concerned until the ability to travel between Earths was available.

*DC*

Mar-Novu stood and observed the changing timelines, nodding to himself. Oliver was doing what he had hoped, strengthening his city and standing as a light against the darkness. Even his choice to kill James Holder would not be remembered in the grand scheme of things, and Oliver need only hold out until the Dominator invasion, at which point he could force the issue of a pardon for himself and any other vigilantes who had gone to extreme measures as a way the country could pay them back.

But, unfortunately, it appeared that the time was coming soon when Mar-Novu would have to intervene. The Flash and the Legends were aware of the changes happening to the timeline and were intending to come to the past to discover the source of those changes, and all those changes had centered around Oliver. Novu would not have his chosen agent stopped, especially by those who had all but signed that agent’s death certificate by their selfish antics.

Chapter Text

Oliver had returned to the loft with his Russian compatriots. He dug the bottle of vodka Anatoli had given him out of the freezer and poured four glasses of it. The four men picked up their glasses and raised them. “Prochnost,” Anatoli said, the four men clinking glasses and drinking. “Ah, much better,” Anatoli said. “Dealing with brothers like Leonov is always struggle. Have had to deal with others who resist change.”

“Speaking of, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to manage things here,” Oliver told his friend. “Between my work at Queen Consolidated and my night-time activities, I don’t have a lot of time to handle the business of running the Bratva’s activities here in Starling. I can handle things in the short-term, but long-term you might want to groom someone who can take over.”

“You must make time, Oliver,” Anatoli said heavily. “It pains me to force this upon you, knowing that you have much you already must carry. But only you will know what is best for Bratva in Starling City. This will let you make sure certain activities are not brought back.”

Oliver sighed and nodded slowly. “I’ll find the time,” he said quietly. In truth, he had a feeling one way or another he would end up being C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated by January, whether Walter was kidnapped or not. The man had ducked away from Queen Consolidated and his marriage with Moira as soon as he could after he had been rescued in the previous timeline, but the catalyst for all of that had been Moira’s involvement with the Undertaking. If Oliver exposed Merlyn at Christmas, and the plot to bring down the Glades at the same time, then it was likely Walter would leave.

If things went the same as last time, Walter would end up kidnapped, and Oliver had already positioned himself to take control of the company if need be. Once he was C.E.O., most of his duties could be delegated to the other officers of the company. He knew this from when his father had been C.E.O.; it was why he had been blindsided by the way the board had practically fawned over Rochev when she was co-C.E.O. Which reminded him; he would need to deal with that little problem before it could become one by making sure he held the majority shares. It would take some work, and quite a bit of blackmail which Russian muscle just might come in handy with, but it could be done long before Rochev became an issue.

Anatoli, unaware of the thoughts swirling through his friend’s head, nodded, pleased that Oliver was not fighting him on this. “You are making right decision, Oliver,” he told his friend. “But my work here is done. I cannot leave Moscow for long. There are still those who wish for return to days under Gregor. Knowing that I have you in my corner again will make them think twice.”

“Then I’m glad I can be of some help despite not being in Moscow,” Oliver said, raising his glass again. “To a better future.”

“Da,” Anatoli said, and the four clinked their glasses together. “Before I leave, though, I have warning: I read up on major players in Starling on plane. Was surprised to come across name I know. Malcolm Merlyn.”

“How do you know Malcolm?” Oliver asked in surprise.

“Met him, in Kovar’s office,” Anatoli replied. “Was Merlyn who supplied Kovar with information on Sarin gas. Also learned that he aided Kovar after you supposedly killed him. Been hunting Kovar ever since.”

“That is… unexpected news,” Oliver admitted. “I knew Merlyn was twisted and he has a horrifying plan for the Glades here in Starling… but I didn’t realize he was also involved in international terrorism. That makes my decision to go after him an easier one. And you don’t need to worry about Kovar. He tracked me down on Lian Yu. Remember the sleeper hold that mimics death I showed you?” Anatoli nodded, a grim smile on his face as he realized what Oliver was about to say. “I’m sure Kovar found it a novel experience to be fully aware of everything around him as he slowly became starved and dehydrated. That’s assuming the island’s wildlife didn’t help him along.”

“Could not have happened to better man,” Anatoli said. “Be very careful with Merlyn, Oliver. He is snake.”

“And I’m a mongoose,” Oliver dead-panned, earning a chuckle from Anatoli and his guards. Anatoli and his men left soon after, and Oliver returned the vodka to the freezer to keep it cold. He turned and found himself back on the platform in the middle of space, facing Novu. “What’s happened?” Oliver asked, knowing that Novu wouldn’t have brought him here just for a friendly chat.

“The Flash and the Legends have been taking note of the changes to the timeline,” Novu said. “As you might have guessed, they guard their ability to change the timeline at their whim jealously, unwilling to believe others could have a better understanding of this terrible power. If the changes continue, which I assume they will as you seem intent on making things right that you failed to do before, they will seek to return the timeline to match their own as much as possible.”

“I don’t suppose I can just wait for them to come to me and reason with them?” Oliver asked, feeling his stomach curdling in dread. At Novu’s shake of the head he knew he was right. “What is their plan?”

“They will not come to this time, Oliver,” Novu replied. “Right now, they’re not sure if someone is feeding you information about the future. Once they realize it is you who is changing things, they will go to the hospital while you sleep the night you returned to Starling and erase all of your memories, restoring the timeline to its, in their minds, proper order.”

“So, what are my options, since I’m not about to sit here and let them wipe away everything I’ve done and plan to do?” Oliver asked.

“There are two,” Novu replied. “In the first, you and I will confront them in the future when they prepare to journey back via the Waverider. I will give you the knowledge of all of the alternate timelines they’ve created to give you the chance to properly vent at what their actions have caused to happen to you. Then I will wipe them from existence.”

Oliver grimaced. On the one hand, a chance to confront Barry and Sara about their actions was tempting, but Oliver didn’t think he really had the right to do so when he was changing things to a greater degree, as even just those first few days where Laurel got kidnapped by Hunt and Gitter showed. He also had no desire to see his friends, regardless of how angry he was at them, wiped from existence by The Monitor. “What’s the other option?” he asked quietly.

“The other option is to destroy that timeline in its entirety,” Novu replied. “You are already on a path that will see the Legends and their original mission wiped from the timeline.” Oliver raised a curious eyebrow, but Novu ignored it as he continued, “That leaves The Flash. There is only one way to destroy this timeline, Oliver. You must kill Eobard Thawne in this time, before he has regained his speed, and you must do so soon. Within the next forty-eight hours, in fact. The Flash and the Legends will not hesitate to act, and I fear they are quickly concluding that it is Oliver Queen that is changing the timeline and not someone else, such as Thawne or another Speedster. You must make your choice, quickly.”

Oliver turned and looked out at the sea of stars twinkling all around him. This was yet another horrifying choice laid out before him, all because of time travel, and this time, there was no escaping a horrible outcome. Either way, his friends, his comrades-in-arms that he had fought aliens, Alternate Earth Nazis, the delusions of Deegan, and the beginning of the Crisis with would be wiped from existence. One choice left the future intact and gave him a chance to further mentor Barry, Sara, and every other hero from Earth-1 so that when those events began to play out, their foes faced a more confident (and competent) assembly of heroes; but that choice required him to confront his friends and comrades head-on and stand idly by as Mar-Novu wiped them from existence. Considering Novu’s scorn for his friends’ selfish antics, he doubted the man would make it a gentle erasure.

The other option would see the timeline he knew, the enemies he had knowledge of, wiped out completely. He would have no forewarning, no way to be certain that things would play out as they had before, and he couldn’t even be assured that those who had joined him in the ranks of vigilantes and heroes standing against the darkness would do so at the proper times. If he remembered right, the Crisis had originally taken place in 2024, and Barry had told him they had learned from Gideon and the Time Vault that he didn’t originally become The Flash until 2020. But this option meant he wouldn’t have to physically stand there and watch those he cared for be wiped from existence by the closest thing to a god that he had ever met (and successfully argued against).

“If I kill Thawne,” he said quietly, “does that mean the original timeline restored to a point? Barry not becoming The Flash until 2020, the Crisis not happening until 2024?”

“Yes,” Novu replied. “Without Thawne’s guidance, the scientists at work on the Particle Accelerator will have to go over the details manually and discover the errors Thawne had in place to ensure the creation of The Flash. As Thawne’s replacement will be Hartley Rathaway, an anti-social genius who has little patience for the quirks of others, it will take many more years than necessary to fulfill the dream Harrison Wells and Tess Morgan envisioned in the original timeline.”

“Which will also leave some of those who would have worked for Thawne or are currently working for him looking for new work,” Oliver mused, his mind going to a certain Hispanic tech genius who had a love of upgrading the suits worn by heroes and a genius with degrees in bio-engineering and psychology. The former, at least, was doubtfully willing to work with Rathaway from what Barry had told him since it had taken a time travel screw-up by Barry to bring Hartley around. But the question still gnawed at him; did he want to give up his foreknowledge and face the unknown with only his bow and his grit? The memory of his last stand against the shadow demons flashed through his mind and he smiled grimly. He had already proven he could and would stand against the unknown with just that. “I know what I have to do,” Oliver said quietly. “Send me back.” Novu nodded, and a moment later, Oliver was back in his apartment, standing by the refrigerator. A chiming from his phone signaled he had received a new text from someone.

Checking the phone, Oliver scoffed, “Typical.” The message was from John Diggle, confirming his decision to terminate his employment with Oliver due to irreconcilable differences. Oliver had guessed this would be the case, however, and prepared accordingly. He had purchased a Chevrolet Camaro, the newest model, with a dark green paint job and black racing stripe to drive around when he wasn’t using his motorcycle, such as if he had an outing with Laurel or Thea.

He dismissed the menu, selecting his contacts list and scrolling down to Laurel’s name. He selected it and hit the call icon before tapping the ‘speakerphone’ icon. The phone rang once, twice, then Laurel picked up. “Hey, Ollie,” she said warmly, albeit distractedly.

“Hey, Laurel, I hate to do this to you, but I’ve got to leave town for a couple of days and take care of some business,” Oliver told her. “In the meantime, I’ve got something you might want to look into.”

“What?” Laurel asked, her voice all business, instinctively knowing this had to do with Oliver’s activities and the ongoing battle against the wealthy and corrupt.

“Peter Declan is innocent and facing execution in a little over a week’s time,” Oliver said. “Go to him, find out his side of the story. We’ll talk more once I get back. Oh, and I’ll definitely be back in time for the auction. Do you need my help with getting a dress?”

“Considering I’ll be mingling with cutthroats who judge you with how you act, dress, speak, and look? Probably,” Laurel replied resignedly. “But don’t get any ideas about completely changing my wardrobe, Oliver Queen. And if you even think the word fishnets…”

“Too late,” Oliver replied with a grin, earning an exasperated groan. To be fair, that particular outfit had driven Oliver a bit mad and they had been rather late to Tommy’s Halloween party, at which he had given the two of them a knowing look and lecherous smirk. “I promise, I won’t be overhauling your wardrobe and I think we should keep the fishnets thing for special occasions.”

“You have a dirty mind, Mr. Queen,” Laurel informed him.

“Only when it comes to you, Miss Lance,” Oliver replied. “I’ll call you later, when I get to my destination. For now, I gotta pack.”

“One thing before you go,” Laurel said. “Is this about what we talked about this morning or Queen Consolidated business?”

“Neither,” Oliver replied. “There’s more than one corrupt businessman planning things that could have devastating consequences, Laurel. That’s all I can say for now.” He and Laurel said goodbye, and Walter re-opened his contacts list, this time selecting Walter’s name. “Walter, I have to go out of town for a couple of days. I’ll be back by the time we need to attend the auction.”

“Can it wait?” Walter asked. “Your mother intended to ask you to one of her dinner parties this evening, a first foray into the social sphere before your big debut since your return, as it were.”

“I’m afraid not,” Oliver replied. “It’s a bit of a time crunch, unfortunately. If this weren’t so important, I would give it a pass and come to the party tonight.”

“Oliver?” Walter’s voice had been replaced by his mother’s. “I distinctly recall how you were at these parties before. You need to be able to handle this with far more poise than you have in the past. I understand whatever this is seems very important to you, but I promise you, attending this dinner will be far more important in the long run than whatever it is your gallivanting off to do.”

Oliver was silent for a moment. It wasn’t like he could tell his mother that he needed to go to Central City and kill a madman from the 2100s who was posing as Dr. Harrison Wells because otherwise his friends from the future were going to erase his memory two weeks in the past and stop him from changing everything. His mother probably thought he was ducking away for a good romp in a motel bed somewhere, like he had in the past. His mother didn’t understand yet; there was only one woman for him, the woman he had just been talking with, the woman he had always loved, the woman he had had to say goodbye to in a dream world thrust upon him by cruel aliens.

“Oliver?” Moira prompted again.

“I suppose I can push my departure off until after the party,” Oliver finally said. “It means I might barely get back for the auction, though. Depends how long my business takes. But if I’m doing this, I’m bringing someone.”

“Very well,” Moira sighed. “Just make sure they’re not one of those airheaded models you and Thomas so favored. He’ll probably be bringing one himself since he and Malcolm are joining us tonight.” There was a hint of strain to Moira’s voice as she said Malcolm’s name, barely noticeable unless you had been trained as Oliver had been.

“I assure you, my guest will be of unimpeachable character,” Oliver said. “See you tonight, Mom.” He hung up after his mother’s distracted goodbye and began typing a quick text to Laurel. Change of plans. Mom’s forcing me to attend a dinner party to help me acclimate to the social scene again. Merlyn will be there. Care to join me? You’ll need to work on being in the same room with him a lot if we’re going to make this work. He sent the text off and headed up to his bedroom, dragging a duffel bag out of the closet and beginning to pack a few days’ worth of clothes into it.

His phone chimed, signaling a return text from Laurel. He picked his phone up and brought up the new message. I’ll go with you. I have to practice it anyways, for the fundraiser you want to throw C.N.R.I. Better to have a couple of entries into the social scene that aren’t the awkward, lovesick girl I used to be before that. Pick me up at 4 p.m. so we can go find an appropriate dress.

Oliver smiled. Tonight was going to be interesting to say the least. He returned to packing.

*DC*

Oliver’s Camaro pulled up in front of the mansion’s main entrance, and he got out, dressed in a finely-cut suit and tie. He handed the keys off the valet his mother and Walter had hired to park their guests’ cars and walked around to the passenger’s side, opening the door and offering his hand to the woman inside. Laurel’s slender hand slipped into his rough warrior’s hand and he guided her to her feet. She was clad in a sleeveless, black one-piece dress that swept down to her ankles, hiding the high heels she wore that gave her a few extra inches in height so as to not be completely dwarfed by Oliver, who she normally came up to the shoulder of and had to go up on her toes to give a kiss.

Her honey-blonde hair was pulled up in a business-like bun, exposing her slender neck and the eye-catching pearl necklace resting there. They were a part of a gift Oliver had given her two years before the Gambit, which she now knew coincided with his pregnancy scare. The other part of the gift she was also wearing tonight, a pair of tasteful diamond earrings. “I feel like such a fraud,” Laurel whispered to him as he led her towards the mansion’s front door. “This dress… the necklace, earrings… these people are going to know I don’t belong, they’ll know I’m just the daughter of a simple detective and the head of a non-profit legal aid office. Nowhere close to their league.”

“You are wrong, Laurel,” Oliver replied quietly. “You are so far out of their league. These people merely pretend to give a damn about the people when it’s in their best interests to appear so. When they talk of what’s best for Starling City, they really mean what’s best for them and their bottom line. When they look at you, they see everything that they pretend to be. Never forget that.” Oliver stopped, straightening and turning to look her in the eye. “Shall we, Miss Lance?”

“We shall, Mr. Queen,” she said, lips quirking into a soft smile. It also helped her to know that most of the people she was about to have to deal with for an evening were likely to be visited by a certain Emerald Archer at some point. That would help her in keeping the appropriate polite smile mask in place. The real hardship would be playing nice with the senior Merlyn if he directed his attention her way. Knowing what she did now, about what the man had done to her personally and what he could do if he ever discovered she was aware of this fact would be the main things keeping her from reacting to him, but she knew it would be a close call. Hopefully, Merlyn would focus more on Oliver than her, seeing as Oliver was his godson.

Oliver and Laurel entered the mansion and found Walter, Moira, and Thea waiting. Thea’s eyes widened at the sight of Laurel standing beside Oliver before a wide grin stretched across the girl’s features and she rushed forward, greeting both of them with a hug. “Hey, Speedy,” Laurel said with a smile. “It’s been a long time. Sorry I haven’t kept in touch.”

“Hey, I understood,” Thea said with a shrug. “I’m just glad you two could sort everything out.” She turned her attention to Oliver. “Don’t let her get away from you again, big bro. I don’t think you’ll survive losing her again.”

“That’s more true than you could possibly imagine, Thea,” Oliver said softly, looking at Laurel, and everyone present could see the raw emotion in his blue eyes. Laurel blushed slightly and moved forward to greet Moira and Walter.

“It’s good to see you again, Laurel,” Moira said, ignoring the fact that she had been telling Oliver only in the last week that he should stay the hell away from Laurel if she was going to be getting involved with cases against dangerous people like China White.

“Miss Lance,” Walter greeted with a nod. “It’s nice to see that you’re recovering from your ordeal.”

“Which one?” Laurel asked with a raised eyebrow. “Hunt or Chien Na Wei?” Walter looked uncomfortable, and Laurel’s expression softened. “I’m recovering from both, but I think I’d be a lot worse if I didn’t have Oliver in my life. He’s been a great friend.”

“Well, I know a thing or two about surviving a hellish experience…” Oliver said simply, trailing off as he was reminded not only of his years away from Starling City, but the battles he had waged in the future for the fate of his city, battles that may not occur in this new timeline considering his path forward. Don’t think about that now, Oliver told himself harshly. He needed to focus on getting through this dinner party without making a revealing comment to Merlyn or a scathing comment to Walter about the people he had helped Robert Queen cheat.

Oliver and Laurel were the last to arrive, and so the Queens and Laurel moved to enter the dining room. Tommy was looking in their direction with a blonde model and his eyes widened slightly at seeing them enter the room together before he shook his head with a rueful grin on his face, and rueful grin that both Oliver and Laurel realized in their own minds was probably hiding the hurt that he was feeling since neither of them had bothered to tell their best friend they were back together. The two exchanged a quick look to confirm with each other they would need to talk to him soon.

Dinner was well underway by the time the topic managed to roll around to the current hot topic in Starling City, the Green Arrow. This was a lot sooner than had happened in the previous timeline, in part because of how public the Green Arrow was; in comparison, the Hood had been a shadow, a myth that hardly anyone believed in. He had, Oliver realized, been like the Batman of Gotham until the Christmas confrontation with Merlyn’s alter ego. Inevitably, the comparison of Green Arrow to Robin Hood came up and Commissioner Nudocerdo couldn’t let that stand.

“The thing that people forget is that Robin Hood was a criminal,” Nudocerdo said, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Sherriff of Nottingham and Prince John had been corrupt and wealthy and lorded over the people who had nothing, like those seated around the table did over the people of Starling City. Oliver and Laurel’s hands were clasped below the table (they had finished their meals already) and both were trying their best not to imbibe too much alcohol.

“And stealing from the rich to give to the poor is really the job of the Democrats,” one of the other guests said, earning good-natured chuckles and a tightening of their grips from Oliver and Laurel, the latter of which hid the thinning of her lips by taking a sip of champagne. Oliver didn’t recognize him or his wife, which meant they must be ‘new money’ and looking to further ingratiate themselves with the power players of Starling City. He’d ask Felicity to look into them while he was gone, make sure that they weren’t anyone who should’ve been on the List.

“All joking aside, Commissioner,” Malcolm said, “crime is down for the first time in five years, and there can be no doubt as to the cause. The Green Arrow managed to take down the entire Triad in one night, and scuppered their last, desperate attempt to stay in power when they tried to kidnap Thea and her friends.”

“Yes, the Green Arrow seems to have had a chilling effect on the city’s criminals,” Walter said idly, far more noncommittal in this setting than he had been in his soundbite on this morning’s segment on the Green Arrow. Oliver had managed to watch the segment on YouTube and found that the overall feeling from the city was one of acceptance, despite his slaying of James Holder. That was probably what had the commissioner in such an agitated state and why he had reacted as he did about the Robin Hood comparison; those same people who were accepting Green Arrow as their salvation from the hardships of the past five or more years were also painting Nudocerdo as a modern-day Sherriff of Nottingham.

Malcolm was still smiling in amusement at how this topic seemed to be affecting the people around the table as he turned his gaze towards Oliver and Laurel, noticing both had slight, near-indiscernible smiles on their faces as they kept their gaze fixated on their plates or champagne flutes. Laurel, he understood, considering her apparent connection with the Green Arrow, a connection that he still needed to find the right way to exploit. But Oliver’s smile was disconcerting; did he know something the others around the table did not? Or was he simply thinking good thoughts of the man who had saved Laurel’s life twice now? Malcolm could certainly understand the latter, because he knew he would feel the same way if someone had saved his wife all those years ago the way Laurel had been saved. He decided to see if he could dig into his godson’s mind. “What are your thoughts, Oliver?” he asked, knowing better than to ask Laurel Lance’s opinion on the man who had championed her and those she, in turn, championed.

Oliver was conflicted at this request, even though he had half-expected it to come. Despite the fact this was 2012, he still had his 2019 mindset, and he had spent so long and fought so hard as Green Arrow that he couldn’t simply set aside all of his accomplishments in either timeline. Moreover, the comment from the ‘new money’ fellow about it being the job of the Democrats to give to the poor was just begging to be answered, in part because Oliver hated how ineffectual he had been as Mayor of Star City. He had run as an Independent so as to not get bogged down by expectations either way, and as a result he had had to fight tooth and nail for everything he wanted to get done, and half the time it was never done to his satisfaction. That atrocious gun control bill, which was such in name only, was a prime example of that, in his opinion. It had boiled down to maintaining the status quo while the city council bickered back and forth.

So it wasn’t Oliver Queen, broken survivor of five years in hell and secretive vigilante, who answered, but Oliver Queen, the hero who had led heroes from two Earths against a number of major threats (despite his attempts to foist the responsibility off on Barry during the Dominator crisis) and a one-time mayor of Star(ling) City.

“I think that it is a judgment against our city that it takes the actions of a masked vigilante to bring about justice for those who have been victimized by this criminal elite that seems to have run rampant in the city,” Oliver said, his voice strong and his tone forceful. “I think it is a judgment against the very people sitting around this table that, instead of asking how we can make our city a better place for all its citizens, we instead have a mocking comment about how it’s the job of the Democrats. I spent five years in hell, five years where I never knew what the next day would bring. I was beaten, I was tortured, and I was starved. I learned that there will always be those who seek to prosper from cruelty and glory in the power they get from stepping on the throats of those without power. I learned how to take that power back, and I promised myself that when I had the power to help, I would. And I will.” Oliver stood in the stunned silence that followed and held his hand out for Laurel. “I don’t expect most of you to come but be aware there will be a fundraiser for C.N.R.I. in a few weeks’ time to raise funds so that Miss Lance here and her associates can continue to work in their own way to bring justice back to Starling City, despite the S.C.P.D.’s undeniable corruption.” He turned to look at Laurel, ignoring the snarl that came from the Commissioner’s direction. “Shall we go?”

“Yes, I believe it’s time to leave,” Laurel said, rising smoothly from her seat. “Thank you for the dinner, Mrs. Queen; being here was very enlightening. But I’m afraid the air has grown rather foul.” Oliver and Laurel departed the dining room, leaving a group of diners who were stunned to a man and woman, aside from one.

Malcolm Merlyn hadn’t expected his godson to be so effusive or to reveal so much about what had happened to him. He could feel Tommy sitting beside him and didn’t have to look to know his son’s expression was shocked and horrified. Moira appeared near tears while Thea had run out of the room after her brother and his plus one. Malcolm, though, was considering the couple that had just left here. Together, they were a powerful match, perhaps enough to challenge the status quo he had enforced all these years, especially if the suspicions now percolating in his mind about what Oliver meant about doing what he could to help now that he had the power to panned out. He couldn’t leave anything to chance; he needed to get rid of one of them, and if his suspicions about Oliver were true, than his godson would be far more useful than the opinionated young attorney.

Once he was done here, he would need to contact the Huntsman. There was another target that needed to be dealt with; in comparison to Laurel Lance, Felicity Smoak wasn’t even a footnote and the only danger she truly posed was exposing evidence to Walter of things from five years ago, and Walter could be dealt with if need be. He had heard from Moira that Oliver would be leaving Starling City tonight on some unknown business. This was the perfect opportunity to get rid of Miss Lance.

Chapter Text

Oliver and Laurel stood outside the Queen Mansion, waiting for the valet to return with the Camaro; Thea had pursued them from the dining room and came to a stop behind them. “I’m coming with you,” Thea said, giving her brother a look when he turned around to face her with a raised eyebrow. “You can’t expect me to just sit by when I know you’ve gotta be hurting from what you just revealed in there, Ollie. Please… you were there for me when I needed it. Let me be there for you now.”

“Thea speaks for both of us, Ollie,” Laurel said softly. “I know you plan to leave town tonight for business, and you still can, but right now you’ve got to be hurting over what you told those people in there. Let the people who love you help you.”

Oliver sighed, lowering his head and giving a quick, sharp nod. He hadn’t meant to reveal what he had, but what was done was done. The valet pulled the Camaro up to the curb and Oliver held the door open for Laurel and Thea, the latter of whom climbed in the back of the car. Oliver circled around the car and had reached the driver’s side door when his mother appeared in the doorway of the mansion, distraught. “Oliver!” she called tremulously, but Oliver ignored the call from his mother and got into the Camaro, shifting gears quickly and pulling away from the mansion. He didn’t need to hear a lecture about how he had brought shame to the Queen name right now, especially when the ones who had really brought shame to the Queen name were herself and Robert.

Oliver’s hands were gripping the wheel tightly as memories that he had long-buried came to the surface with sudden, violent intensity. He tried to shove them down with his normal ruthlessness, but it was like something else was forcing those memories past his ruthless block. He could feel every single time Fyers’ men had beat at him in the cage in the ground, the beatings the guards on the Amazo had given him while he was there, the torture that Slade had put him through after he seized control of the Amazo, the torture that Reiter had put him through, and finally Kovar’s torturing him and injecting him with the Red Death. Oliver realized, almost too late, that the car was beginning to drift because of his trembling hands, and he corrected course before pulling to the side of the road, where he shifted into park and pulled his trembling hands away from the steering wheel.

“Ollie…” Thea whispered, her voice thick with emotion as she stared at her brother as the walls that he had built between himself and the rest of the world were torn down before their very eyes.

Laurel said nothing but leaned across the seat and pulled Oliver towards her, bringing his head to lay in her lap as she had so often in the past. “Shh, it’s okay, Ollie,” Laurel whispered, running her slender fingers through his bristly hair. “You’re home, you’re safe. Those people can’t hurt you anymore.” She had a horrible feeling she knew where some of Oliver’s experiences had happened; the things Sara had said in her letter let her know what kind of people had lived on the Amazo, the ship that Oliver and Anatoli had been imprisoned on for an unknown amount of time, but enough to leave Anatoli wishing he had had ‘more time’ with a man named Ivo, who Laurel assumed was the one in charge of the Amazo.

Thea reached over the seat and placed a hand on her brother’s shoulder, rubbing her thumb gently back and forth. Oliver reached desperately for his sister’s hand, gripping it tightly as he finally let loose the cries of anguish that he had held back for years. It ripped at both Thea and Laurel’s hearts to hear the man who fought so fearlessly for their city (not that they knew the other was aware of this yet) crying over events that happened sometime in the past five years.

The three of them sat there in the car, on the side of the road, for nearly ten minutes before Oliver managed to pull himself together. “Sorry,” he said gruffly, trying to rebuild his walls. “I just… I haven’t thought about that for a long time. I thought I’d managed to put it behind me. Guess burying it isn’t really dealing with…” Laurel’s hand joined Thea’s on his left shoulder, and she smiled softly, sadly. Oliver pulled himself into a sitting position and began to drive again. Oliver was slowly rebuilding his walls during the drive, using all of the training that Slade, Talia, and Ra’s had imparted upon him to do so. Soon, the lights of the city were surrounding them, and Oliver was pulling into the underground garage of the apartment building his loft was located in.

“So, uh, Ollie, does Laurel know about, you know, the other stuff?” Thea asked curiously, since she needed to know how open she could be about what she knew about her brother’s activities.

“I know he’s the Green Arrow, if that’s what you’re asking, Speedy,” Laurel said with a smile, reaching out and brushing her fingers tenderly across Oliver’s right cheek. He reached up, entwining his fingers with hers. “I always knew there was a good man buried beneath your brother’s swagger. It’s nice to be vindicated.”

“Sometimes, I don’t feel all that good,” Oliver whispered as he cut the engine and pulled the key from the ignition. He got out, Laurel opening her own door since they no longer had to put on a show for the elite of Starling City, pulling the seat forward so Thea could clamber out. The girl stumbled briefly due to the high heels she was wearing. Laurel caught her, giving the teenager an understanding smile. She had hated having to learn how to walk in high heels, but she had found that men who could look down on her due to her wearing flats wouldn’t see her as either an equal or someone to be concerned with, something she didn’t want considering what her goal at C.N.R.I. was.

“You are,” Laurel reaffirmed as she took his arm, Thea catching the other one and aiming a grin up at her brother when he looked down at her with an amused smile twitching at his lips. “I don’t know where you got the idea that you weren’t, but if I have to, I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure you know that you are a good man.”

Oliver, Laurel, and Thea entered the elevator and Oliver pressed the button for his floor. He knew that once they reached the loft, the two women in the elevator with him, the two most important women in his life, would want to talk to him about what had happened, but he also knew they wouldn’t pressure him into it. Thea was more cautious in how she approached him after he had explained his scars to her after she had been attacked by China White, and Laurel had always been a woman whose heart ruled her. The elevator dinged, and the door slid open. Oliver, Laurel, and Thea exited and headed for the loft. Oliver opened the door and led the two women into his loft, the first time for Thea, only for all three to stop in their tracks as they saw the person waiting for them.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Oliver demanded to know.

“The decision has been made, Oliver Queen,” Mar-Novu replied, and Oliver felt as if an ice cube had just slid down his spine.

“How long?” he asked quietly, confusing the two women with him.

“If Eobard Thawne is not dead by the stroke of midnight in two days’ time, everything you have fought for will cease to be,” Novu replied.

“I understand,” Oliver said. He would have words with Novu in private later about putting him in this position, since he didn’t know what he could tell his sister and, what was Laurel? Friend? Girlfriend? They had only just begun seeing each other in a romantic capacity again, and despite the fact they each knew what drove the other, they hadn’t really settled on the all-important question of what they called one another. Novu further complicated the matter by turning and disappearing in a column of black smoke and white light.

“Ollie,” Laurel said into the silence. “Who-what was that?”

Oliver sighed and nodded in the direction of the couch. The two women let him guide them to the couch, and he sat down. “That was Mar-Novu, or as he calls himself, The Monitor. He is the closest thing to a god I have ever met. He was the one that revealed all that I know to me.” It was technically true; Oliver wouldn’t know about everything that would’ve been coming and was still coming as far as Merlyn and Slade were concerned without Novu sending his spirit back into his younger body. “He recently informed me that there is a group who have decided my actions are a danger to their own wants and desires, a group that has the ability to travel through time. The only way to stop them is to completely destroy the timeline they exist in.”

“This sounds like something out of a science fiction movie,” Thea scoffed.

“It’s true, Speedy,” Oliver said, turning his head to smile sadly at his sister. “Novu showed me what laid in store for me if he hadn’t brought me into his service last year. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t lying earlier tonight, when I told you that what you said about losing Laurel was truer than you knew. I saw myself lose her in the worst way possible. I saw her die, and I was powerless to stop it. So, I do what Novu asks, when he asks. He leaves me to my own devices for the most part. But I learned the hard way that trying to fight him will only make things worse. So, I do what he says.”

“Who is Eobard Thawne?” Laurel asked.

“Eobard Thawne is a terrorist of sorts, and a time traveling one at that,” Oliver replied, hedging around the details that he knew from Barry. “He has access to technology far beyond what we have available to us today, but his ability to travel through time has been lost. He has used his advanced technology to steal another’s identity. He is integral to the timeline that the time travelers I mentioned occupy. Killing him will destroy that timeline.”

“Something tells me he didn’t take the identity of Joe Random,” Thea said nervously, seeing her brother was completely serious. A small part of her briefly wondered if her brother was insane, but then she remembered how that Novu guy had left them in the loft after delivering his cryptic message. That kind of made it clear that things that she would’ve thought impossible were in fact possible and even happening while she lived and breathed.

“No, he didn’t,” Oliver said quietly. “He has spent almost fifteen years working towards one goal: finding a way back to his own time. In order to do this, he took the identity of one of our world’s foremost scientists in order to bring the creation of that man’s most important scientific achievement forward by six years. He took the identity of Harrison Wells and has been secretly advancing the world’s technology to match what was needed to build the particle accelerator they’re building underneath S.T.A.R. Labs in Central City.”

“Novu told you all of this?” Laurel asked softly.

“He made sure that I knew what I needed to,” Oliver confirmed, again, not exactly lying since without Novu bringing his spirit back to his younger body he wouldn’t have known any of this. Maybe one day he would be able to share the truth with Thea and Laurel, but for now it was just too fantastical, and the only one who would be able to convince them of the truth was Novu, who would consider it a step too far concerning his involvement in Oliver’s chosen path. “So that’s what I have to do. I have to stop a group of self-righteous time travelers from unraveling everything I’m doing by killing the man who is integral to their timeline.”

“This is causing you a lot of pain, Ollie,” Laurel said softly. “There’s something you’re not telling us. What’s going on?”

“It’s very complicated, Laurel, and I don’t understand half of it myself,” Oliver replied, which was true. He honestly didn’t understand why Barry and Sara, who changed the timeline on a whim half the time to suit their own ends, would be against his changing the timeline the way he had been doing. What he was doing was nothing more than they had done, and he had done his best to correct the course of the timeline when it changed to fix the screw-ups he had made, which was, again, more than either of them were willing to do based on what he knew of their timeline hijinks. Which, unfortunately, was quite a lot. Over the past few hours since his last encounter with Novu, new knowledge had slowly leaked into Oliver’s mind, knowledge concerning alternate timelines that had come about because of Barry and the Legends’ meddling. “I should probably be going soon; I’ll drop you and Thea off at home before I leave town.”

“Ollie,” Laurel said firmly, “if you think that I’m going to let you face this decision without someone to help you through the emotional turmoil I can see this is causing, you don’t know me very well. You can take me home, long enough for me pack a bag to come with you to Central City.”

“Same here,” Thea said, and Oliver opened his mouth to object. “Ollie, we’ve barely talked since I found out about your night-time activities, and you still need to find time to train me like I asked. I just found out that you suffered through something no one should, and I can see that what you’ve been told to do by this Novu is ripping you up inside. Let us help…”

Oliver looked from Laurel to Thea and back again. Thanks to his future memories, he well-remembered just how stubborn these two could be and unlike the last time around, he was more open to bringing them into his world, because he had seen what happened when he tried to push them away. “Alright,” he said softly. “Let me change and get my bag.” Oliver headed for the staircase leading up to his bedroom, unable to help the soft smile that quirked at his lips. This was why he had to do what Novu told him; the bonds he was forming with Laurel and Thea were deeper than they had been even in the last timeline, and Oliver would do anything to maintain those bonds.

But it still didn’t make it any easier when he accepted that what he was doing was not only going to erase that timeline but also wipe out all the people he had saved from Earth-38, Supergirl, and Superman. Even though he had only met the latter twice, he had come to respect him, and while he and Kara had got off on the wrong foot, he had come to consider her a friend. Knowing he was going to destroy all those lives and the lives of two people he at least respected, not to mention all those he cared for, was like a weight wrapped around his soul, damning him to sink to the depths of hell.

*DC*

Since they were already in Starling, they went to Laurel’s first so that she could change into more comfortable clothing and pack a bag. She also left a message on her friend (and now subordinate) Joanna’s voicemail telling her she would be out for a day or two but to keep everyone working. It was when they pulled into the drive leading towards the Queen Mansion that Oliver began to tense again. He was sure the dinner party would’ve broken up by now, but there was always the chance some of the attendees had hung back for a private word with his mother, and even if that wasn’t the case, he knew his mother would probably want a word with him and he needed to get her okay for Thea to come with, though considering her general inaction regarding Thea at this point in time he didn’t see there being any trouble on that front. It was more what kind of conversation they would have regarding his and Laurel’s behavior earlier that concerned him.

He pulled the Camaro up to the front door, noting that only two cars remained from the dinner party guest list, and he recognized both of them. “Looks like the Merlyns are still here,” he said softly, and glanced over at Laurel, who nodded slightly to show she would keep herself under control. It was one thing to have a loose tongue in general aimed at the other guests, quite another to have one aimed directly at the senior Merlyn. Thea looked between them, confused, but decided she would ask them later what was up with Tommy and his dad that had them so nervous. The three of them got out and re-entered the mansion, two of them now clad in casual clothes (Oliver in his brown leather jacket, a light sweater, and jeans, Laurel in a pair of slim jeans, a striped long-sleeved t-shirt, jean jacket, and sneakers).

“Go upstairs and pack, Speedy,” Oliver said quietly, his keen hearing picking up the sounds of people talking in the sitting room, where at one time Slade Wilson had been waiting to greet him while worming his way into Moira’s confidences. Thea nodded and headed upstairs while Oliver and Laurel headed for the sitting room, deciding it was best to get this confrontation over with as soon as possible. When the two of them appeared in the doorway to the sitting room, all discussion faded as Moira, Walter, Malcolm, and Tommy quieted from discussing what was probably the aftermath of their departure.

“Oliver,” Moira said, looking relieved as she stood up. “Laurel. We were worried, the way you took off like that after what you said. Please, sit down.” Oliver and Laurel exchanged glances but took a seat on one of the couches. Moira, Walter, and Tommy sat down on the opposing couch while Malcolm sat in one of the armchairs, observing the situation with an impassive expression on his face for the time being. Oliver knew the man must be having some suspicions about him after that show he had put on at dinner, so he needed to do some damage control, and fast, before any plans solidified in Malcolm’s mind regarding what Oliver had said. “Oliver,” Moira began, but paused when Oliver held up a hand.

“Before you say anything, Mom, I need to say something,” Oliver said, and Moira nodded, settling back, with Walter putting his arm around her shoulders, rubbing her shoulder with his thumb. “I know the way I acted earlier was wrong. But after everything I’ve been through, I just couldn’t remain silent, especially with that one guy’s comment about how it’s the job of the Democrats to help people like those victimized by Adam Hunt and others like him. Who was he, anyways?”

“That was Thomas Wilkins, he and his wife recently moved to Starling,” Malcolm answered. “He has a rather high opinion of himself for someone who’s barely a millionaire. He’s very mum about how he built his fortune.”

“Thanks,” Oliver said with a nod to Malcolm. “Anyways, I wanted to apologize to you, Mom, for ruining your dinner party. I know it didn’t go as you probably wanted it to.”

“Oliver, do you really think I care about a ruined dinner party?” Moira asked, her expression and tone hurt. “Oliver, what you told us happened to you is… I can hardly believe what you said, and I was there! All I’ve been thinking of is what you said since you, Laurel, and Thea left! Oliver, I know this must feel terrifying, but you need to talk to Dr. Green about this.”

“I know,” Oliver whispered. “As to the rest of what I said… I want to clarify what I meant. A lot of my experiences in the past five years were at the hands of mercenaries hired by powerful people, people who were using their wealth for the wrong reasons. What I want to do is help the people in our city who desperately need it, like Laurel is doing at C.N.R.I. I thought I could donate some money to Rebecca’s clinic, maybe do a start-up fund for a homeless shelter or something to help those who are struggling get back on their feet.”

“I think that’s very noble of you, Oliver,” Malcolm said from his chair. “May I ask what exactly brought you to this conclusion?”

Oliver closed his eyes. There was only one thing that he could use to explain why he felt this way without making Malcolm’s suspicions worse, but he hadn’t intended for this confrontation to happen this way. He had hoped to talk to Walter on his own, or, at worst, confront him as Green Arrow. He opened his eyes again. “I’ve been doing some digging into the archives from five years ago,” he said. “I wanted to find out what could’ve happened to make someone angry enough to kidnap me and Tommy and question me about anything Robert might have told me before the Gambit sank.” There was a stir from the others in the room at the way Oliver had addressed his father. “I only found one thing that could’ve made people that angry. The steel mill, and what happened to the workers that were let go when it was shut down.”

“Ah,” Walter said into the silence that followed. “I see. I suppose you want to know if I purposely led your father to the conclusion he came to?”

“I want to believe the best in you, Walter,” Oliver said, meeting his stepfather’s gaze. “But I thought the best of Robert, too.”

“I assure you, Oliver, that I merely brought it to your father’s attention since he wanted to know all of his options,” Walter said. “I had no idea he would choose the path he did, and we had words after the fact, believe me. It was one of the few times where we raised voices with one another.”

Oliver kept his gaze on his stepfather for a moment before nodding. “Anyways, ever since I found that, I’ve wanted to do something. I tracked down every family I could that was affected. Some of them died in the fires at James Holder’s tenements over the past five years. Most of the rest are trying to eek out a living in the Glades, which probably isn’t easy with how rampant crime is there.”

“No, I suspect it isn’t,” Walter said. “What did you have in mind?”

“Like I said, I’d like to set up a homeless shelter, or something like that, to help people get back on their feet,” Oliver said, becoming more animated as he talked. “I thought we could partner up with the Merlyn clinic and C.N.R.I. and make it some kind of full-service project. I wanted to have a more structured presentation for you, Malcolm, and Laurel before I said anything, but it’s something that’s been on my mind since even before I found out what happened to the workers at the steel mill. I just… I need to do something to counter the darkness that I’ve lived with these past five years. I can’t just ignore the suffering of the innocent, and this would help them get a chance at a new life, maybe even help them get out of the Glades.” That last bit had been added for Merlyn’s benefit, since Oliver knew the man was of the opinion that the only ones who would stay in the Glades were those who gloried in the crime and corruption infesting the place, never mind that that crime and corruption was only so widespread because of his controlling the crime and corruption in the city.

“It is certainly an ambitious undertaking, and one that has to be done carefully, I feel,” Walter finally said. “We can talk more about this once you return from wherever your business is taking you. Speaking of, can I assume from Miss Lance’s presence that she is accompanying you?”

“After what I said at dinner, she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for me to be alone,” Oliver replied. “Thea has made the same decision. But I thought I’d at least ask Mom if it’s alright if she takes a couple of days off school. She’s being rather stubborn about this, though, so she might force the issue no matter what.”

“I suppose there is no harm in Thea taking a couple of days off school, especially if it’s to help you deal with what you revealed,” Moira said after a moment. “But there’s something that concerns me, Oliver. More than once, you’ve referred to your father as ‘Robert’ instead of ‘Dad’. Why is that?”

Oliver grimaced. He hadn’t realized he had been doing that. But he could tell from the grim expressions on Walter and Moira’s faces and the curious expressions on both Merlyns’ faces that he wasn’t going to get out of this. He instinctively gripped Laurel’s hand, and she squeezed it lightly, letting him know she was here for him, no matter what. “I lied when I came back,” he said quietly. “I said Robert went down with the Gambit. He didn’t. He and Dave Hackett survived and were on the life raft with me in the beginning.” Shock flitted across every face in the room. “The morning after the storm abated, Dad started talking crazy, about how he had failed the city and that I could survive this and make it home, make it better, right his wrongs. Then he pulled out a gun and shot Hackett. He told me to ‘Survive’, and then he shot himself in the head. I buried him on the island.”

“That is a… startling revelation, Oliver,” Walter said softly, feeling horrified for his stepson having to witness that. “But that doesn’t explain why you call him Robert.”

“Because he tried to foist a responsibility on me that wasn’t mine,” Oliver said. “He told me to right his wrongs, make things right, but he didn’t tell me what the hell I was supposed to be making right. The only thing I’ve found is the issue with the steel mill workers. But I’m not wanting to do something for those people because he asked me to right his wrongs; I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Too many of them already have died because of the inactions of the wealthy. I won’t sit by and watch another round of them die this winter.”

“Ollie, I’m ready,” Thea said as she entered the room, completely oblivious to what had been being discussed before she arrived. “Woah, the silence can practically be felt. What did I miss?”

“Nothing,” Oliver said, standing and smiling at his sister. “We should get on the road soon if we’re going to make it to Central City before morning.”

“What business do you have in Central City, Oliver?” Malcolm asked.

“Just checking on something Dad told me while we had a moment alone on the Gambit, a personal matter,” Oliver lied smoothly. “We should be back in time for the auction.”

“Ah, yes, about that, Oliver,” Walter said. “I think it best if you skip the auction; the Green Arrow is likely to become a topic of discussion there and we can’t have you voicing your opinion in such a public forum. Tonight’s indiscretion was contained and those present knew better than to judge you because of what you revealed; the same cannot be said for the large crowd that is sure to be there.”

Oliver was silent for a moment. It surprised him that Walter was the one who was putting so much stock on image rather than his mother, though he suppose living for five years under Merlyn’s thumb had mellowed his mother even further to his and his sister’s excesses. “If you’re that concerned about image, Walter, than perhaps you should consider renaming the Applied Sciences center,” he said finally. “If not, I’ll be at the auction.” He turned and headed for the door, effectively ending the discussion, with Laurel’s hand clasped in his own. Thea joined them in their departure.

*DC*

Later, in the solitude of his own home, Malcolm Merlyn considered everything that had been revealed tonight, both at the dinner party and the discussion afterward when Oliver, Laurel, and Thea had returned. He had jumped to a conclusion tonight, he realized, without gaining all the facts. He could only guess that having spent so long unopposed, he had felt it necessary to put a name and face to the one who opposed him, but he realized now that it couldn’t be Oliver. Whoever the Green Arrow was, he had a full, working knowledge of the Undertaking and the people who were aiding Malcolm in making his dream a reality; more importantly, he had the backing of A.R.G.U.S., and Oliver didn’t carry himself like a government agent.

No, he had jumped to conclusions and begun making hasty plans, and for that, he scolded himself harshly. He couldn’t be doing that, not with the danger that the Green Arrow represented always lurking. He needed to be cold and calculating; while Laurel Lance represented a potential vulnerability for the Green Arrow, removing her too soon might see a confrontation coming his way before he was ready. He needed more information on the Green Arrow before he went into a physical confrontation with the man. What he had seen of the man hinted at training reminiscent of the League, and the fact that the League had (to his knowledge) not sent a representative to investigate was disconcerting, as it implied that they were aware of Green Arrow’s affiliation and goals.

That thought frightened Malcolm more than anything, that Ra’s al Ghul knew what Green Arrow’s goals were, since it would likewise mean that Ra’s was aware of Malcolm’s inactions or, even worse, his plans for the Glades. Perhaps he should back Oliver’s plans for a full-service shelter, as it would show Ra’s he was doing everything he could do get the innocent out of the Glades before he unleashed his final judgment on them.

Worse still, if the League was aware of Green Arrow’s affiliations, he couldn’t set the vigilante up as an agent of H.I.V.E. After all, what better way to get rid of the nuisance than turn the League against him with a well-worded accusation.

“Who are you?” Malcolm snarled into the quiet of his home office, staring down at the image of Green Arrow swinging away from city hall that had been used to capture readers’ attention in the Daily Star.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen rolled over in bed and glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It was 1:00 p.m., and he had been asleep since roughly five or six a.m. It had taken a little longer than he had thought to get to Central City; he had become far too used to driving here on a bike, able to dodge in and out of traffic, or coming via one of Cisco’s breaches. Driving in the Camaro with Laurel and Thea had been entertaining, as the two kept up a lively commentary about the dinner party and how that had probably shaken the rich muckety-mucks for the first part of the trip. It was after this that Thea had asked them the question that strained things between the three.

“What’s wrong with the Merlyns?” Thea asked from her spot in the backseat. Oliver and Laurel shared a look before Oliver returned his attention to the road. “See? There you go again. You shared a look like that when Ollie said the Merlyns were still at the mansion. What’s wrong with them? Is it to do with-with Ollie’s night job?”

“Yes, Thea,” Oliver said after a moment. “It has to do with my work as Green Arrow. I can’t tell you anything. But I can tell you Tommy knows nothing of what I’m talking about. Malcolm, on the other hand, is a snake, one both Laurel and I have to watch ourselves around.”

“Is that why you told them the stuff you did?” Laurel asked. “To throw Merlyn off the scent?” Oliver nodded tersely. “Probably for the best. Much as I’d love to nail that bastard to the wall, I know it can’t happen. Not yet.”

“What is it that he’s done?” Thea persisted.

“Thea, I would love to tell you what’s going on, but as much as I love you, you’re still a teenager, and that means you’re impulsive,” Oliver said, glancing in the rear-view mirror to meet his sister’s hazel eyes. “The last thing I need is for you to accidentally let something slip to Tommy about his father, and I think we both know you would.” Thea grimaced guiltily. “You’ll know what it is about Merlyn that Laurel and I know eventually, Speedy. Everyone will.”

Oliver pulled himself into a sitting position in the hotel room he had booked for himself. Because of his nightmares, he hadn’t wanted either Thea or Laurel in the room with him and booked two rooms, a single and a double, the latter of which the women had shared, to their disappointment. He knew they would be looking for signs of trouble in him once they woke up, if they weren’t already awake. He grabbed his phone to check for any messages and found one from Laurel, saying that Thea was going to sleep a little longer and Laurel herself was going to go to Central City University, where her mother taught a course on ancient world mythology. The text had been sent not ten minutes ago, so Oliver got up and began getting dressed. He had somewhere he wanted to go, somewhere he needed to go.

*DC*

Laurel Lance entered her mother’s office at C.C.U. with a bit of nervousness, Sara’s letter to Oliver in her purse. She had her doubts that her father had told her mother about Sara’s return yet, probably hoping to wait until Sara was back in Starling permanently before he did. But her mother was running herself ragged on her search for Sara, and Laurel needed to at least try to give some kind of comfort to her mother. She hesitated in the doorway, seeing her mother hunched over her desk, grading papers. “My office hours are from two to four,” her mother said without looking up.

“I’m not one of your students, Mom,” Laurel said, and Dinah Drake Lance’s head shot up.

“Laurel,” she breathed out in amazement, standing and moving around her desk quicker than Laurel might have thought her mother capable of. She was pulling Laurel into a hug before the younger woman knew what was happening. “Oh, Laurel, I was so worried when I heard what happened to you on the news, but I didn’t know if I would be welcome in your life after leaving like I did.”

“It doesn’t matter how strained things are between us, you’re still my mom, and I’ll always need you in my life,” Laurel whispered, hugging her mother back and closing her eyes, breathing in her mother’s distinctive scent. “And I know I helped push you away by running to the law like Dad did. But I’ve had a rude awakening that sometimes, the law doesn’t mean justice. And justice is what I want to see happen.”

Dinah pulled away, holding her daughter at arm’s length and examining her. “Well, you seem to be pushing through what’s happened to you,” she said softly.

“That’s partly thanks to Oliver,” Laurel said, and Dinah blinked, surprised. “We sat down and had a serious discussion after the incident with China White since he got injured defending me. We established that the biggest problem that we had was that we didn’t communicate with each other and weren’t honest about the issues we were having. We’re trying to see if things will work if we’re honest. He’s changed because of what happened to him after the Gambit sank. He wants to help people, and even has an idea for a homeless shelter that he wants to work on with me, Walter Steele, and Malcolm Merlyn.”

“It sounds like he’s still the good man you thought he was,” Dinah said softly. “I hate to ask this, Laurel, but did Oliver say anything about what happened to Sara?”

“That’s why I’m here,” Laurel said softly. “Ollie had some things he needed to take care of here in Central City and I tagged along. Sara’s alive, Mom. She was in Starling City last week.” Dinah’s hand went to her mouth as she slowly sat down on the edge of her desk. Laurel opened her purse. “Oliver tried to convince her to come home, to let us know she was alive, but she left in the middle of the night, leaving this behind.” She withdrew the letter from Sara and handed it to Dinah, who read it silently, her eyes filling with tears.

“My poor baby,” Dinah finally whispered. “She’s out there, somewhere, hurting, but too afraid to come home.”

“Ollie thinks she will, eventually,” Laurel said softly. “He thinks she’s just nervous. She’s had a hard life the past five years. I only know some of it thanks to what Oliver’s told me that he knew about. I can’t imagine what else she’s been through to turn her into the woman who wrote that letter.”

“I hope Oliver’s right,” Dinah said softly. She looked up at her elder daughter. “I have to be here for my office hours, but maybe we could meet up this evening? Get dinner perhaps? I’d like to know more about what you’ve been doing in Starling City.”

“I’d like that,” Laurel said softly. “I’m staying at the Marriott with Oliver and Thea. You can probably catch me there any time after five p.m.”

“I’ll see you then,” Dinah promised, and the two women shared a hug before Laurel left, leaving the letter from her sister with her mother, who needed the tangible evidence that her youngest was alive more so than her father did.

*DC*

Oliver didn’t know why he was doing this to himself. Perhaps it was a case of masochism, or perhaps he just needed to see his friend one more time, even if the younger man never became his friend in the timeline that was sure to form once he went through with his dark intentions this evening. Whatever the reason, masochism or a need to see his friend one last time, Oliver had ensconced himself in CC Jitters with a consistent order of coffee, which he nursed, waiting for Barry Allen to make an appearance. Oliver was seated where he could see both entrances so that he wouldn’t miss the entrance of the young man that would one day be known as The Flash. What he didn’t expect was to see two people he recognized, and more importantly, see them together. Two women entered Jitters from the more lit entrance to the café, and it took a moment for Oliver to come to terms with what he was seeing.

The woman he recognized instantly was Dinah Drake, the woman that he had recruited to be the new Black Canary and succeed Laurel after the crushing experience of facing off with Earth-2’s Laurel Lance, aka the Black Siren, who had aligned with Prometheus and Talia al Ghul. The other woman he only vaguely recognized, and it took a moment for her identity to sink in since he had only seen her the once, in the final minutes before Palmer Technologies had ceased to exist as part of the Ninth Circle’s plots. This woman was Beatrice, the woman who had presumably assumed command of the Ninth Circle due to Emiko’s wavering loyalties and her siding with Oliver in that final confrontation. Beatrice had escaped that confrontation and Oliver had no idea what had happened to the Ninth Circle afterward but knew he had left Felicity and Mia in hiding to keep them safe from the Ninth Circle.

What the hell was Dinah doing with a member of the Ninth Circle? Had she been a traitor all along, working for Beatrice, who had clearly distrusted Emiko despite her rank at the time in the Ninth Circle? Was her name even Dinah Drake? As if from a distance, Oliver remembered the first outing he and Tommy had had with the Lance sisters at Berlanti Prep, which served every grade from elementary school to high school. Quentin had introduced himself to Robert and Moira and then introduced his wife as Dinah Drake Lance. How had he been so blind? A woman who just happened to have Laurel’s first name (which she hardly ever used to differentiate herself from her mother), who just happened to share her mother’s maiden name, becoming the new Black Canary? He knew the Ninth Circle was skilled; they had fooled Cayden James, one of the most intelligent men in the world, into thinking that the Green Arrow had killed his son through their agent, Ricardo Diaz. Considering how eager Felicity and Curtis were to fill the role of Black Canary after the confrontation with Black Siren, they might not have dug too deeply into Dinah’s background.

Another thought occurred to Oliver. He knew it wasn’t possible to become a police officer under a false name, as ‘Dinah’ had said she had to protect her family. But the record that Curtis had pulled up from C.C.P.D. had listed her name as Tina Boland. Oliver also thought of the dark future that had been wrought and realized that Tina had done nothing to stop what happened, and he could only assume it had been at the order of the Ninth Circle. Perhaps the Ninth Circle had been behind the corporation that his children had been fighting against in that dark future, Galaxy something, maybe even been behind the Deathstroke gang that J.J. Diggle had been the leader of.

Oliver resisted the urge to move seats and listen in on the two women, instead focusing on what he could make out over the din of the coffee shop. It sounded like Beatrice was urging Tina to work undercover, saying it would prove to be a good experience. Oliver couldn’t help but feel sick as he realized the Ninth Circle must have been planning on embedding the woman into his life and preparing their chosen asset accordingly this early on. Which could only mean they were planning to get rid of Laurel and play on Oliver’s grief over her death by hiding Tina under the name Dinah Drake. He hadn’t realized how deep his half-sister’s hatred for their father ran. Perhaps he had been wrong that she was redeemable. He had been thinking of approaching her since his return to this time, but perhaps it was best not to invite the poisonous snake into his embrace.

Beatrice and Tina left the coffee shop, allowing Oliver to relax slightly. It took another half-hour and a third cup of coffee, but eventually the two people he had been expecting showed up: Barry Allen and Iris West, who were laughing and joking about something from their college courses. Barry looked so carefree, despite the dark shadow of his father’s incarceration hanging over him, and Oliver grimaced as he realized there was a fifty-fifty chance that Eobard had not made any sort of recording revealing his role in Nora’s death yet in this timeline, but he couldn’t let The Flash and the Legends erase everything he had been working for. If it turned out Eobard hadn’t arranged for a confession to make its way to the police, he would find another way to free Henry Allen. He would coerce a confession from Eobard if he thought it would help, but Barry had told him that the District Attorney for Central City, Cecile Horton, had been a hard-ass who only mellowed once she got involved with Team Flash, so he doubted she would use a coerced confession to free Henry Allen.

Barry and Iris sat close to Oliver and began to discuss something a little more serious based on their expressions. “I’m just not sure I want to work at the precinct with Joe, Iris,” Barry was saying to his stepsister and eventual wife, and Oliver tried not to think too hard on that subject since it would do him little good to get involved in his friend’s love life when his own had ended up so twisted. “The main reason I want to work there is to help make sure nothing like what happened to my father happens again.”

“Barry…” Iris sighed. Oliver frowned; he had gotten the impression Iris always backed Barry up. But it appeared that hadn’t always been the case.

“I know, I know, you don’t believe me,” Barry said, bitterness tinging his voice. “No one does. But I know what I saw that night, Iris. My father did not kill my mother, and I don’t know if I could stomach working at the precinct that railroaded my father and didn’t even look for other suspects. I might just try to get a job at S.T.A.R. Labs or Mercury Labs, help in developing new crime scene technology. That would probably do more for my father than drowning myself in cases. I hear enough from Joe to know C.S.I.’s are overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. I don’t think I want to work in that kind of environment.”

Oliver was stunned; he had never realized this sort of bitterness existed inside of his friend, even with the glimpse he got when Rainbow Raider as Caitlin had called him ‘whammied’ Barry with his rage-inducing gaze. But he also knew already that his friend was destined for failure in being accepted at either S.T.A.R. Labs or Mercury Labs since he had ended up in the C.S.I. lab at the precinct where he worked with Joe West. Perhaps it was due to his own issues with Joe West, or perhaps because he still wanted a relationship with Barry, but Oliver leaned forward. “I don’t know about S.T.A.R. Labs or Mercury Labs, but Queen Consolidated is always looking for ambitious, sharp minds,” he said, drawing Iris and Barry’s attention.

Iris’ eyes widened as she recognized him. “Oliver Queen?” she said in disbelief. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, typical corporate shenanigans, seeing if I can poach any excellent young talent before Harrison Wells or Tina McGee get to them,” Oliver said with a smile. “I think wanting to develop new technology to help in crime scene investigation is not only an ambitious goal, but a vital one. I’d like you to consider taking a position under me in Applied Sciences at Queen Consolidated. I’m sorry, I just realized I butted into your conversation without an introduction, though the young lady has already provided an introduction for me. And the two of you are?”

“Iris West,” Iris said, before gesturing to Barry. “This is my best friend, Barry Allen.” Oliver leaned forward and shook each of their hands. “You’re really serious about asking Barry to come work at Queen Consolidated?”

“I am,” Oliver confirmed. “My father had an eye for talent, one of the few things I’m proud to have inherited from him. And I can tell simply from the way Mr. Allen here spoke that he would be driven to develop new crime scene technologies. I would rather have people working under me who are driven to develop technologies for the common good of mankind. Trust me,” he added grimly, “the Applied Sciences division is about to have a shake-up. Too many working under me are in it for their own egos. I’d rather have people like your friend working at Queen Consolidated.”

Barry was wide-eyed at the offer. “Uh, well, I don’t know what to say,” he said. “This is pretty sudden.”

“Say you’ll think about it,” Oliver replied with a shrug. “I don’t expect an answer now. I would understand if you would prefer somewhere in Central City to work. But if things don’t work out with S.T.A.R. and Mercury Labs, well, know you’ve got a guaranteed spot with me. I’ll fight the C.E.O. to approve your application if need be.”

“Why?” Barry asked. “You don’t even know me.”

“Like I said,” Oliver said quietly, “I have an eye for talent and I just know you’re going to be something special if given the chance to spread your wings.” Oliver took out one of the business cards he carried around with him at Walter’s request and handed it over to Barry. “Just think about it, Mr. Allen. You could help so many people by developing technologies that ensure the right people are put behind bars.” Oliver finished his coffee and stood. “You both have a good afternoon. I’m staying at the Marriott if you want to know more, Mr. Allen.”

Oliver strode out of Jitters, tossing the coffee cup in the garbage as he went. He had done what he could to make sure Barry had a bright future once he took care of Thawne; now all that was left to do was prepare for tonight. He had already decided acting as Green Arrow here would raise Merlyn’s suspicions all over again, so he would be making use of his disguise as the Man in Black, which he had retrieved from the Bunker after a quick stop there before leaving town with Laurel and Thea. He had also had to promise the two women he would give them a tour of his ‘night office’ when they returned to Starling.

*DC*

Oliver adjusted the black face-mask he was wearing to disguise his features as he waited inside of the impostor’s home for Eobard Thawne to return home for the night. A little-known fact about A.R.G.U.S. was that they had implanted an override into every alarm system used in the continental United States, which allowed them to perform the necessary assassinations. The override was embedded into the coding the alarm companies made use of and would force it to register as a system error that corrected itself, ensuring the alarm company didn’t swing by to check things out. Waller would have questions, Oliver knew, and he had every intention of exploiting Lyla’s connection to Mar-Novu in that regard, even if it meant throwing her under the bus.

In truth, Oliver was a little bitter regarding Lyla, because she had known the Crisis was coming for years and done nothing to prepare the heroes that she knew for it until Novu told her to. She was a mindless tool who obeyed her master’s call, whether that was Waller or Novu. So he felt no guilt in causing her problems with Waller, especially since the Crisis would be returned to its original place. This time, Oliver would prepare the heroes that rose up for the Crisis and make sure they knew what was coming, Novu’s thoughts on the matter be damned.

Oliver heard the sound of the front door opening, and the beeps as Thawne disarmed the alarm. A few moments later, he heard the clinking of glass on glass and music starting up. He moved from where he had been waiting, drawing the silenced, A.R.G.U.S.-issue pistol before rounding the corner and facing off with Thawne, who’s expression showed his shock for once as he was faced with a masked gunman. “If you want something special from me, you’re welcome to whatever you wish,” Thawne said. “I have no care for my belongings.”

Oliver didn’t say anything, instead firing the pistol three times, the bullets punching their way through Thawne’s body and piercing his lungs and diaphragm. Thawne was thrown back by the force of the bullets striking him and landed on his back, blood pooling and mixing with the brandy from the shattered glass that had landed to his side. “W-W-What-?” Thawne coughed.

It’s nothing personal, Eobard,” Oliver said, causing Thawne’s eyes to widen in horror and understanding. “Just making sure things cement the way that I want them to.

“W-Who…?” Thawne gargled out as blood filled his lungs.

You should be more worried about where you’re going than who I am, Eobard,” Oliver replied, raising his gun one more time. He wasn’t about to leave things to chance. He fired the pistol one last time, catching Thawne in the head, the back of which exploded outward, spattering the floor beneath it with chunks of skull and brain matter. Oliver left the house through the back door and ducked into the back alley between the houses where he had parked the Camaro. He got in, pulling his face-mask back as he started the car and pulled away. No one took notice of the Camaro driving away. Oliver let out a sigh. He had done as he had been asked. Eobard Thawne was dead, and his former allies in the future wouldn’t be able to erase his memories and restoring the timeline that once was since it now no longer existed.

*DC*

Oliver returned to the Marriott and made it to his hotel room without incident. As he entered it, though, he once more found himself on the platform in the midst of space, Novu standing before him. “Did I miss something?” Oliver asked.

“No,” Novu replied. “You have done what needed to be done. Neither The Flash nor the Legends will realize what has happened in time to do anything. I have summoned you here because from this point forward, I can give no more aid. I am as affected by the timeline as anything else. This is where we part ways, Oliver Queen. You now have full control of your own destiny once more.” The platform and expanse of space faded, and Oliver found himself standing in the middle of the hotel room he had booked for himself. One thought continued to cycle through his mind. His destiny was his again; he was no longer beholden to Novu or anyone else. He could finally be the hero his city needed and focus solely on his city.

I won’t waste this chance, Oliver thought to himself. I will make the most of this.

*DC*

Hadrian Wolcott smiled as he bit into the ample drumstick, cooked to perfection and covered in a savory honey barbecue sauce. He had expected the girl he had picked up in the bar to put up more of a fight when she realized what was happening. Instead she had all but surrendered after a brief attempt at fighting him failed when he had smacked her around a bit. After all, once she entered this building, she stopped being a person. She was just another slab of meat to be processed. For that was the dark nature of Hadrian Wolcott, the serial killer/hitman known to the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies as The Huntsman. He was a cannibal, independently wealthy, and he had a ‘processing facility’ in every major city.

As he ate, Wolcott turned his attention to the dossier on the victim-to-be that had brought him to this cesspit of a city. In all honestly, he wasn’t going to enjoy this one nearly as much as he normally would enjoy processing a curvy blonde. Felicity Smoak, age 23, an I.T. agent at Queen Consolidated, was the wrong kind of curvy blonde. Wolcott preferred to go after those who were curvy due to athletic achievements and the like, not curvy because they spent time sitting in an office chair staring aimlessly at a computer screen. But a job was a job, and you never knew when the man who ruled Starling City’s underworld would decide he needed the services of The Huntsman again. Better to satisfy the customer, even if he himself wouldn’t be all that satisfied.

Smoak only went to three places frequently enough to know that she was going to be there at a given time: Queen Consolidated, her home, and some kind of vacant office in the Glades district of Starling City. Queen Consolidated was too public, even with the underground parking garage. The vacant office appeared to be in the vicinity of where the Green Arrow emerged to do his hunting and Wolcott had no desire to get on Green Arrow’s radar by kidnapping a woman nearby. That left her apartment, in an unsecured building and easily accessed by anyone with a working knowledge of locks.

Tomorrow night, Felicity Smoak would come home and not be seen again.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen had just finished a shower, one that he had taken to try and rid himself of the dirty feeling he had had ever since he had killed Thawne and dressed in comfortable night clothes when there was a soft knock on the door of his room. Oliver opened it to find Laurel and Thea waiting on the other side. He stepped back, opening the door to allow his sister and girlfriend to enter. He and Laurel had had that discussion in the Camaro on the way to Central City and decided that since they knew so much about one another, it offered them the deep connection needed to properly be girlfriend and boyfriend. “I figured the two of you would show up,” he said quietly as he closed the door.

“Did you…” Laurel began, trailing off slightly.

Oliver nodded. “Eobard Thawne is dead,” Oliver confirmed. “I know that what I did was the right call, the only call, but it doesn’t erase the fact that I acted as an assassin. It was different from when I confronted Holder. I went after Holder for the sins he had committed against the people of Starling City. But Thawne… I killed him because of the people that were threatening to erase everything I had worked for, not for the crimes he had committed both in this time and in the future.” Oliver rubbed his hands together. “I feel as though there’s something dirty clinging to me and no matter how much I try, I can’t wash it off.”

“Ollie, you have bettered so many people’s lives, saved my life and numerous others with everything that you’ve done,” Laurel said softly, brushing her hand through Oliver’s bristly hair. “You are a hero, not an assassin. You do the things that no one else can or will, and you do it knowing you could be hunted by the very people you are fighting to keep safe. You are a good man, not a bad one. I love you, and you know I wouldn’t if you were this monster you seem to see yourself as.”

Oliver lowered his gaze, flushing slightly at the intensity of Laurel’s green gaze. He turned to look at Thea, his little Speedy, who smiled softly at him. “You’re my big brother, Ollie,” Thea said quietly. “I love you.”

Oliver leaned back on the couch. “Novu was waiting for me when I returned,” he said. “He informed me that the timeline has been altered, and more importantly, that my destiny is my own again. He will no longer call on me to do things, as he is obliged to the timeline as much as anyone else. It’s unusual, knowing that after so long serving him, I’m finally free to chart my own course again. All I know is, I want to be the man that brings Starling back from the pit of despair.”

“You will, Oliver,” Laurel said softly. “You’ll beat him. You’ll beat all of them.”

*DC*

Barry Allen didn’t know how he had ended up here since he had no connection to the man, but yet there was no denying the summons he had received to appear at the offices of Weatherby & Stone to attend the will reading of Dr. Harrison Wells, founder of S.T.A.R. Labs and one of Barry’s personal heroes. So here he was, dressed in the only suit he owned and feeling remarkably out-of-place since the only other attendees were a dark-haired man in glasses in a suit that was definitely grades above the one that Barry wore and a woman in a black dress with brown hair and eyes. Both seemed as surprised to see Barry, an unknown to them, present as he was to be here.

“Welcome,” said the lawyer at the head of the table. “My name is Greg Turk, and I’m an attorney here at Weatherby & Stone. The three of you were the only listed beneficiaries to the will of Harrison Wells. Now, just to be sure everyone’s here who should be here to satisfy protocol: Hartley Rathaway.” The man in glasses raised a hand. “Caitlin Snow.” The woman acknowledged her name with a nod. “And Barry Allen.”

“Here,” Barry said quietly.

“Excellent,” Turk replied. “Now we can get started.” The next couple of minutes were spent going over the opening parts of the will and establishing bequeaths to public foundations from Wells’ considerable fortune. Finally, they reached the personal bequeaths. “To Hartley Rathaway, I leave the deed and ownership of S.T.A.R. Labs, for I know he will be able to see my dream become a reality.” Turk handed over an envelope to Rathaway, who looked rather humbled by the bequeath, at least until a smirk came into being on his face. “To Caitlin Snow, I leave a grant that will refill every year to conduct her research without worries of finance until 2020.” The paperwork detailing the grant was provided to Caitlin, who took it with a light sniff of grief, the only sign of emotion she had shown in the entire meeting. “Finally, to Barry Allen, I leave the rest of my fortune, a letter, and a thumb drive containing a video of some import to his future. I suggest that he read the letter first, before watching the thumb drive.”

Barry was stunned by what he had been left by one of his personal heroes, a man he had never personally met but always admired. How did he merit such a bequeath from this man? Both Snow and Rathaway were likewise stunned and giving him curious looks, wondering the very same thing he was, no doubt. Barry accepted the information on his new bank account as well as the letter and thumb drive mentioned.

“Thank you all for coming,” Turk said, and dismissed them without a second glance. Barry left the room, ignoring the attempts by Rathaway to get his attention. His sole focus was on returning to his apartment and finding out exactly why he had ended up a beneficiary of Harrison Wells’ last will and testament when they had never before met. In the parking lot, Iris West was waiting in Joe’s car, having driven him here.

“So, what exactly did you get?” Iris asked curiously.

“The remainder of his fortune, this letter, and a thumb drive containing what he called a video of some import to my future,” Barry said quietly. “I don’t understand it at all, Iris. I’ve never even met the man. Why would he leave me the bulk of his fortune?”

“Maybe he tells you in that letter,” Iris suggested. “I’ll drive, Bar. You find out why Harrison Wells left what he did for you.” Barry nodded and opened the letter, pulling it out.

Barry Allen,

I’ve thought long and hard about what I would say here. How does one address a person who’s life they ruined but then followed along like a proud parent? It’s ironic, really, how I came to see you as a son after what I did to you.

No doubt you are confused about why I listed you as the primary beneficiary in my will. You will also no doubt be hurt when I tell you the reason why.

I am not going to apologize for what I did, Mr. Allen. I did what I did for my own reasons. But I recognize that I destroyed your life, and this letter along with the video on the thumb drive is my way of paying restitution to you.

Thirteen years ago, I was the one who broke into your house and murdered your mother, framing your father for my crime.

Barry felt as though he had forgotten how to breathe. The letter drifted to his lap and he pulled at the tie around his neck, loosening it. He remembered that night every night in his dreams. Ignoring Iris’ confused look, Barry read on, fury building in his mind.

Again, I do not apologize for this fact. At the time, my reasons were perfectly understandable, in my own mind. I used an experimental technology meant to disorient and confuse people, a military contract of mine, to simulate the lightning you and your father thought you saw that night, knowing that it would never be believed. I have provided the schematics for this project with this letter and they can be verified to the satisfaction of the courts by either Hartley Rathaway, the new owner of S.T.A.R. Labs, or Dr. Tina McGee, the owner and C.E.O. of Mercury Labs.

After your father was tried and convicted, I kept a close eye on you. I don’t know why I felt it necessary, but I did. I have watched you all these years, Barry. I have watched as you grew into a kind young man, despite the hardship that I foisted upon you to grow up as the son of a known murderer. I have watched your battle against bitterness towards the police department. I have watched your triumphs at science fairs all these years with a sort of fatherly pride and felt for you when you felt you had failed.

Because of what I did all those years ago, you will never be truly happy, Barry Allen. But perhaps you can do some good in the world by being independently wealthy. Your life is your own now. I knew of your plans to approach S.T.A.R. Labs and Mercury Labs for work and I had already set in motion an insurance policy that would keep you from working at either location, forcing you to become a C.S.I. Because as much as I care for you, Barry, I also have what some would perceive as an irrational hatred for you and everything you stand for and forcing you into a job that you would secretly hate with a passion, where your brilliance would be squandered, was the perfect vengeance in my eyes to sate my hatred of you.

I know you are confused as to how I could both care for you and hate you so passionately. It is a complicated reality, Barry Allen, in which we live.

The thumb drive I have provided in my will contains my full confession as to the events of the night of March 18, 2000. It will provide all the details necessary to see your father freed from prison. While Cecile Horton is a hard-ass in the realm of justice, she is also fair-minded and will not seek to brush this under the rug for the sake of appearances, which means you will not have to pursue this to higher courts.

Harrison Wells

Barry felt something drop onto the back of his hand and realized he was crying.

“Bar?” Iris asked softly, concerned.

“Take us to the precinct, Iris,” Barry said hoarsely. “We need to talk to your dad and Captain Singh. And the D.A.” Iris altered course without questioning this, knowing that Barry didn’t go to the precinct willingly because of his history with them. All the way there, she questioned herself silently what could bring Barry to do so, and the only thing that came to mind was the murder of his mother and his continual declaration of his father’s innocence.

When Joe West and David Singh read the letter that Harrison Wells had left Barry, they were shocked. When they saw the confession video which confirmed every single detail of the murder of Nora Allen, they were smart enough to realize the city was about to be hit with one hell of a shitstorm and that Henry Allen would have every right to sue the city for false imprisonment. Joe felt a little guilty for every time he had called Barry crazy, and even guiltier when he thought of the innocent man serving life in prison.

The District Attorney was summoned and before the day was out, the ball had started rolling to free Henry Allen after thirteen years of false imprisonment.

*DC*

Felicity Smoak closed her eyes before opening them again, hoping that what she thought she had seen upon waking up was just some nightmare. But no, it was very real. She was hanging upside down, a metal tub below her, and standing before her was the man she had spotted waiting for her in her apartment before she was hit with some kind of dart with tranquilizer in it, a wicked-looking curved knife in his hand. “W-What is this? W-Where am I?” Felicity managed to get out, shivering as she was from the frigid air in the room that she was hanging upside down in. She tried very hard not to think of why the room was refrigerated. “Y-You should let me go! Y-You don’t know w-who my f-f-friends are!”

“And nor do I care, Miss Smoak,” the man said. “I was hired to do a job, and I always finish a contract, even the ones I find… distasteful.” Felicity had a feeling that this was not a metaphor when the man flashed her a grin and she took note of the sharpened teeth. “You are, for me, the wrong kind of curvy blonde. But a contract is a contract. You should have left well enough alone. My client wants you processed like I do all my other victims, to make sure no one thinks to follow in your footsteps.” The man walked forward, stopping beside the metal bucket and Felicity’s hanging form. He stooped down and gripped her hair, pulling her head back to expose her throat. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have no desire to draw this out.”

“W-Wait, please I can-urkh!” Whatever Felicity had intended to say was lost to the four winds as her captor slashed his curved blade across her throat, slicing it open and pulling her head back further, allowing the severed artery to bleed out into the tub below her convulsing body.

The last remaining conscious thought of Felicity Smoak was Oliver.

*DC*

Oliver drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove the Camaro out of Central City, his thoughts clear of lingering doubts he had had about killing Eobard Thawne. The future was terrifying to him now because aside from Merlyn’s Undertaking and Slade’s systematic dismantling of everything Oliver held dear, there was no guarantee that anything would play out the way that he remembered. For all he knew, bringing Malcolm to justice at Christmas would see a whole new threat leveled against his city to take the place of the Undertaking, and he would have no warning since it had never happened before. But there was also something exciting about not knowing what the future would bring. The future was theirs to mold as they saw fit. All his life in the previous timeline, Oliver’s path had been molded by others. By his father’s dying wish, by Slade and Talia’s training, by Diggle and Felicity’s judgmental attitudes, by Slade’s vendetta, by Ra’s’ interest in him, by H.I.V.E.’s control over the city, by Adrian’s vendetta… the list went on and on.

Oliver had spent yesterday at a meet-and-greet with potential job seekers in the area of computers and applied sciences from Central City University, giving himself a cover for being in Central City that would click with what he had told Barry and Iris. He wished he could stick around to find out whether Barry’s father would be released from prison because of Wells’ will, but he couldn’t leave Starling City without its guardian archer for long, especially not with the ever-wrathful eye of Ra’s al Ghul fixed upon his city. He had managed to potentially poach Cisco Ramon, who was looking for work and had no actual degrees to his name, from either Mercury or S.T.A.R. Labs. Oliver hoped his pitch to Cisco had been enough to convince the man who had been the person to turn to for suit upgrades to join Queen Consolidated.

He had also met with a few people from S.T.A.R. Labs, mostly to offer his condolences for the death of Harrison Wells and gauge the atmosphere there. Suffice to say, most of them were hostile towards Oliver, believing he was trying to poach them, but he had hopes that once Hartley Rathaway was confirmed as the head researcher at S.T.A.R. Labs some of them would be intrigued by the opportunity to work elsewhere.

Of course, he needed to make room for the people in question, and that meant doing some pruning in the Applied Sciences division of Queen Consolidated. He had been up late last night reading up on all the current research projects, and half of them were vanity projects that were solely being done for the purpose of the project manager’s own self-gratification. Those projects would find themselves terminated. Queen Consolidated would not feed the egos of puffed-up popinjays like Douglas Miller, who only had one project that couldn’t be misused.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Laurel asked from the passenger’s seat.

“Just thinking about what lies ahead of us,” Oliver said. “The future was always so clear to me while I worked for Novu. Now, it’s like a dark road in the middle of the night, where you can barely see what’s in front of you. It frightens and exhilarates me.”

“Whatever it is that comes our way, we’ll face it, together,” Laurel said, reaching over and brushing her hand across Oliver’s right cheek. Oliver smiled softly at her before returning his gaze to the road and, in essence, the future.

*DC*

Oliver’s lips twitched as he felt more than saw his sister nearly bouncing as he, Thea, and Laurel stood in the elevator of the A.R.G.U.S. operations center that he used as his base of operations, waiting for the elevator to descend. Laurel was a bit calmer, but no less excited to see the nerve center of Oliver’s fight against criminality and corruption. As the doors opened, Oliver was only slightly surprised to see Amanda Waller and Lyla Michaels waiting for him. No doubt they had been watching Central City for his departure and come here immediately afterward. Waller gave the female duo with Oliver a cool glance before turning her attention to Oliver himself. “It appears we have much to discuss, Oliver.”

“I suspect you think so, Amanda,” Oliver replied. “But in truth we have very little to discuss. Who I bring into my world in this endeavor is my business. As to what happened in Central City? I was following orders from someone more powerful than you. If you want to know more about Mar-Novu, ask your right-hand woman. She’s his little lapdog.”

Waller stiffened at the name, stiffening even further at the mention of Lyla being involved with this being. She turned to her ‘right-hand woman’ and said, “We will be discussing this in great detail, Agent Michaels. I do not appreciate those with divided loyalties.”

“Yes, Director,” Lyla said softly, giving Oliver a curious glance. How had he known about her involvement with Novu and why had he seemed particularly bitter about it? A question she would have to ask him herself once she got through dealing with the quandary that he had put her in with Waller.

“So, what was it Novu told you, Mr. Queen?” Waller asked. “Why did you kill Harrison Wells?”

“Because according to Novu, a group of self-righteous time travelers were about to enact a plan that would see everything I have been and will be working towards destroyed,” Oliver replied. “The only way to stop them was to completely erase the timeline they inhabited. Harrison Wells, or the man who claimed to be Harrison Wells, was integral to that timeline. In truth, he was a time traveler from the 2100s who had assumed the identity of Wells after becoming trapped here.”

“Yes, that sounds like Novu’s handiwork,” Waller said, then smirked at Oliver’s raised eyebrows. “Yes, Oliver, I know Novu, as well. Why do you think I have taken such an interest in your work? Why do you think I take an interest in people like China White, Deadshot, and others? I know what’s coming as well as you and Agent Michaels seem to know. I assume that particular event has changed.”

“If the timeline had remained the same, it would have happened in 2019 due to the actions of the same group of time travelers,” Oliver replied evenly. “Now that the timeline has been altered, it will no longer happen until 2024. We have twelve years to prepare. I intend to make sure those who can fight in the light of day are ready for that battle, Director.”

“And I will handle those who fight in the shadows,” Waller replied. “Good day, Mr. Queen. Agent Michaels? It appears we have much to discuss.” Lyla nodded and accompanied the Director of A.R.G.U.S. out of the operations center.

Oliver turned to Thea and Laurel, who were looking curious. “I know that you have a lot of questions about what that was all about, but I can’t tell you without risking a whole lot more than your lives,” Oliver said. “Just know that the delay I mentioned is a very good thing.”

“I trust you, Ollie,” Laurel re-iterated. Thea nodded beside her. “Now, why don’t you give us a tour of your headquarters here.”

Oliver smiled softly and turned to do just that.

*DC*

Barry was smiling widely, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes as he watched his father walk out of the gates of Iron Heights prison with his meager belongings. Barry had borrowed Joe’s car at the man’s insistence and now moved forward, embracing his father for the first time in over a decade. Henry Allen returned the hug with fervor, closing his eyes letting tears stream down his cheeks as he held his son without guards standing over him for the first time in over a decade.

He knew the basics: Harrison Wells had been the one in his house that night, using an experimental technology designed for a military contract to disorient and confuse enemies to disrupt his and Barry’s senses and make them think they were seeing a lightning storm in their house that night. That Wells had apparently been watching his son all these years made Henry sick to his stomach, and he half-wished Wells were still alive so that he could break the Hippocratic oath just once in his life and express his anger at the man’s actions.

“It’s good to see you out of there, Dad,” Barry said quietly, pulling away from his father.

“I’m just glad you’re okay, Barry,” Henry said. “It’s gonna take me some time to adjust to being free again, and I’m not sure if I can handle living in the city for a long period of time. Especially not around people who believed the worst of me.”

“I get that,” Barry said. “Actually, there might be another option. I got a job offer in Starling City. I was thinking about taking it. Why don’t you come with me? You can study up on all the new advances in medicine and maybe take up helping people that way again.”

“Maybe,” Henry said. “I hear things in there,” he gestured back at Iron Heights, “that indicate things aren’t so good in Starling City. You sure you want to move there?”

“I do,” Barry said as they got in Joe’s car. “Wells, for whatever reason, left me the bulk of his fortune. I can afford a good place for the both of us to live until you’re on your feet. Also, the job offer I got was directly from the Head of Applied Sciences at Queen Consolidated, Oliver Queen. Whereas apparently Wells had initiated an insurance policy of some kind that would force me to take a job as a C.S.I. I want to help design technologies that help make sure the right people get put in prison, and I can do that at Queen Consolidated. I don’t want to be an overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated C.S.I. when I can do something to make sure what happened to you never happens again.”

Henry felt his heart swell with pride, and he put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I’m so proud of the man you’ve become, slugger,” Henry said quietly. “Let’s table talk of this for the time being. Right now, I’d like to have a first meal as a free man.”

“Sounds good to me,” Barry said with a smile and started the car.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen knocked on Walter’s door after waving off the protesting executive assistant. “Got a minute?” he asked Walter, ignoring the woman telling him he needed to make an appointment. Walter looked to be both amused and perturbed at the way Oliver was ignoring protocol and waved him in. Oliver entered the office while Walter’s E.A. returned to her desk. Oliver took a seat across from Walter, who gazed over the top of his conjoined hands to stare at his stepson.

“So, what is it that brings you by with such urgency that you chose to ignore the proper procedure?” Walter asked.

“There’s a matter we need to discuss regarding Applied Sciences,” Oliver replied. “And at the end of the day, the name on the building is Queen Consolidated, not Queen-Steele.” Walter flinched back as if struck. “I don’t like playing that card, Walter,” Oliver added softly, “but there are things that are happening inside this company, my family’s company, that make me uneasy and I am not going to just sit idly by. More and more, I’m getting an understanding of what it was my father meant when he asked me to right his wrongs. That doing so is the right thing to do makes it all the easier to fulfill his dying wish.”

Walter observed his stepson for a moment. He saw Robert Queen as his best friend, even though in Robert’s mind that title had belonged solely to Malcolm Merlyn, and so he was intrigued by what Oliver meant. Miss Smoak had not turned up for work today, but Walter assumed she was taking a sick day and had forgotten to call in. If Oliver had found out something that Miss Smoak had yet to find, it would be helpful. “Exactly what are you referring to, Oliver?” Walter asked.

“A few things,” Oliver replied. “For one, over half of the projects being developed under our Applied Sciences banner are vanity projects for the scientists involved and have nothing to do with making a profit for this company. The only ones that have the possibility of doing so are our military contracts, and while lucrative, those alone can’t sustain the viability of Applied Sciences for long. Doug Miller alone is running no less than three projects with Queen Consolidated funds and housing, and only one of those is viable but receives only minute attention from Miller. That is just the tip of the iceberg on the Applied Sciences front.” Oliver was silent for a moment. “You might have noticed Felicity Smoak hasn’t come to you with anything. I intercepted her and told her to report to me for the same reason I came in here without an appointment. At the end of the day, while I may not be the C.E.O., this is my company and the Queen family will be the ones to take the hit if something untoward occurs, not you.”

“Did she find something?” Walter asked.

“A withdrawal of 2.6 million dollars from one of our Vancouver subsidiaries,” Oliver replied. “It went to an LLC called Tempest, which seems to have produced no viable products. Felicity managed to track down an address connected to Tempest. I thought you might want to come along when I checked it out.”

“I would,” Walter said agreeably as a knock came at the door. A courier entered with a package and a clipboard.

“Walter Steele?” the courier asked.

“That’s me,” Walter said, standing.

The courier walked over and set the package on the table. Oliver, who’s senses had been sharpened over the past years, wrinkled his nose slightly. There was a faint odor coming from the box, and he felt his stomach lurch as he recognized the smell from when he had buried Robert on the island. “You have a package,” the courier said, unaware that the contents of the package had the odor of death. Only someone with the heightened senses Oliver had would have noticed such a thing. Walter, likewise, noticed nothing and signed for the package. Oliver grabbed the man before he could leave.

“Who sent this package?” Oliver asked.

“Some guy, sounded foreign. He paid be a hundred dollars on top of delivery fees to make this a priority delivery,” the courier said, shrugging off Oliver’s grip. “Can I go now?”

“Not until we open the package and find out just what’s inside,” Oliver replied. “Neither of you can smell it, but there’s a faint odor coming from that package and I suspect we’re going to need the police to come soon, and they’ll want to question you about the man who gave you the package.” He narrowed his eyes at the courier as he emphasized the word ‘you’. The courier looked uncomfortable but nodded. Walter opened the package as Oliver circled the desk, and then reared back, stumbling over to the side of his desk and vomiting, giving Oliver a clear line-of-sight to the package. His stomach lurched and it took all of his power not to cry out in horror at the sight that greeted him.

Felicity Smoak’s severed head lay in the box, glasses perched on her nose and one of a smaller breed of apple lodged firmly in her mouth. His stomach roiling, Oliver picked up the single card that was sitting atop Felicity’s hair and read the words printed on it.

Stop digging or the next one on the menu is your delicious little stepdaughter.

Oliver numbly dropped the card, which floated down to the ground. He pulled out his phone and dialed the police. “This is Oliver Queen calling from Queen Consolidated,” he said. “We’ve just received a package with one of our employee’s heads in it. We need the police here right now. A threat has also been issued towards my sister.” Walter, who had finished vomiting, spotted the card on the ground and picked it up, reading it quickly and paling.

Within half an hour, uniformed officers were questioning the courier about the circumstances surrounding the delivery while Detectives Lance and Hilton pulled Oliver and Walter aside. “So, what do you think the message meant about stop digging?” Quentin asked roughly, eyeing Oliver more than Walter, though it was the latter who was the recipient of the package and the one who answered the detective’s question.

“I tasked Miss Smoak with discovering anything that might have led to Oliver and Thomas Merlyn being kidnapped some weeks back,” Walter replied. “I only just learned today from Oliver that he had redirected her to report to him on anything she discovered.”

“And why did you do that?” Quentin asked, focusing the entirety of his attention on Oliver now.

“As I told Walter, at the end of the day, anything illegal connected to Queen Consolidated will fall down on my family’s shoulders,” Oliver replied. “I wanted to be the first to know so I could prepare my family for the fallout.”

“Did Miss Smoak find anything before she was killed?” Hilton asked.

“Yes, she did,” Oliver said. “She found out about a 2.6 million withdrawal from one of our Vancouver subsidiaries that went to a small LLC called Tempest before I left for Central City on my recent trip there.”

“And why exactly were you in Central City?” Hilton asked.

“I was checking up on a personal matter, and decided I wanted to see if I could recruit any scientific talent before Harrison Wells or Christina McGee could from C.C.U.,” Oliver replied. “I also may have made some low-level offers to employees from S.T.A.R. Labs while offering my condolences for the recent murder of Dr. Wells. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but I thought I’d make the offers.”

“You didn’t tell me that you did that, Oliver,” Walter said, surprised.

“I was going to tell you once we finished talking about the things that I’ve discovered about things here at Queen Consolidated,” Oliver replied. Walter nodded in reply.

“Did Miss Smoak uncover anything else?” Hilton asked, bringing the topic back to the matter at hand now that he was satisfied that Oliver’s trip to Central City had nothing to do with what was happening with Queen Consolidated and the mystery surrounding the murder of a minor employee at the firm; a minor employee who had been working under orders from the C.E.O. and the heir apparent to the family empire. Who was Felicity Smoak that she had engendered such trust?

“An address connected to Tempest,” Oliver replied. “Walter and I were actually planning to go investigate it when the package was delivered.”

“We’ll take that address,” Quentin said quickly.

Oliver smiled thinly. “No offense, Detective, but this address is connected to why Tommy and I were kidnapped and whatever my father was up to that was the catalyst for that,” he said. “I’m going to see the contents of this address for myself. I need to. But you are welcome to come along. In fact, I insist upon it.” Oliver had asked Felicity for any information he could give to Walter upon his return from Central City and she had told him about the building connected to Tempest that she had sent Walter to find. She had never been told by Walter what was inside it so whatever they were going to find would be a complete surprise.

Hilton intervened before his partner could dig himself a hole with one of the richest families in the city. “We can do that,” Hilton said, giving Quentin a firm look. Quentin scowled, but nodded in assent.

“No time like the present, gentlemen,” Walter said. “After all, I won’t be able to use my office while your men are examining everything, and I have no meetings for the rest of the day. One of the reasons I didn’t object too strongly to you just barging in,” he added dryly, giving Oliver a look. Oliver gave a shrug while Quentin rolled his eyes. That sounded like the punk, alright.

*DC*

The town car containing Oliver and Walter was trailed by the police sedan driven by Quentin and Hilton as it rolled into an empty lot outside of a warehouse on the edges of Starling City. Oliver and Walter exited the car, Walter’s driver and bodyguard examining their surroundings for any sign of threat. Quentin and Hilton exited their own car and the five men made their way to the only visible door into the warehouse, which had a code-lock keypad next to it. “Great,” Quentin grumbled. “We came all this way and we got no idea what the passcode is.”

“Don’t give up just yet, Detective,” Oliver replied. Quentin gave him a quirked eyebrow. “We know that this warehouse was purchased by Tempest, presumably with the funds that were invested in the LLC by Queen Consolidated almost five years ago. At that time, my mother was still acting-C.E.O. and if there’s one thing I know about my mother, it’s that she buries family secrets as far as she can. If this building is connected to what happened to the Queen’s Gambit, well, there are only two names that she would associate with it. Mine and my father’s.”

“And Sara’s,” Quentin snapped back.

“My mother didn’t appreciate Sara’s rambunctious nature,” Oliver returned. “She much preferred Laurel.” Quentin grumbled discontentedly but subsided as Oliver input first his name, then his father’s into the keypad. The passcode turned out to be ‘Robert’, and the five men entered the warehouse, the detectives and bodyguard moving forward first in order to sweep the inside. Oliver and Walter followed behind, and it was Oliver who found the light switches. He flipped them upwards, and lights began to flicker on. But it was the sight of what lay on the floor of the warehouse that sent both Quentin and Oliver to their knees while Walter gripped the railing as he swayed violently.

Laid out on the floor of the warehouse was the remnants of the Queen’s Gambit, and in the side of its hull was a hole, the metal surrounding it bent and twisted by heat and jutting outward, clear signs of an explosion from within being the principle reason for the Gambit sinking to the depths.

“Oh, my God,” Quentin managed to get out, and it was a testament to the impact of the situation that no one disagreed with him. Laid out before them was all the proof needed to reveal that the sinking of the Gambit had been no accident and it opened up a whole new can of worms surrounding Felicity Smoak’s murder and what Robert Queen had been connected to that had earned this fate for him, a fate that his son and Sara Lance had presumably shared. Quentin had to act as if his daughter was dead still, even though he knew she was alive, but afraid to come home. Knowing that his daughter had been the unwitting victim of a plot to murder Robert Queen and make it look like an act of nature was enough to raise a father’s ire. “What the hell was your old man involved in, Queen?”

“I don’t know,” Oliver lied softly, hating himself for it but knowing he could provide nothing for the man. But perhaps now Quentin Lance would be open to aid from the Green Arrow, assuming this case wasn’t taken out of his hands by the F.B.I., which considering the impact this would have on Starling City was not all that far-fetched an idea. Oliver just hoped that it was someone other than Samandra Watson who ended up taking point should the F.B.I. be brought in.

All Oliver knew was that he had just triggered a new ripple effect in the ever-growing pond of changes that were coming about as a result of his actions, and he didn’t know where these changes would lead. Facing the unknown with my grit and my bow, indeed, he thought grimly as he slowly stood, keeping a firm grip on the railing as he stared down at the Queen’s Gambit.

“You realize we’re going to have to question Mrs. Queen about this, right, gentlemen?” Hilton asked hoarsely, having been just as shocked as Quentin since he had been a part of Sara and Laurel’s lives since they were adolescents and Quentin was promoted into the Major Case Unit.

“Yes, I-I quite understand the need, detective,” Walter said. “But I think the first order of business should be securing this warehouse and its contents.”

“This is way above our paygrade,” Quentin said. “We’re going to need to call in the Feds.” It was obvious this wasn’t something Quentin wanted to do, but he knew he would have to recuse himself from this investigation anyways considering his deep, personal connection. “Just don’t give Moira a chance to flee.”

“We won’t say anything, Detective,” Oliver said. “You have our word.” Walter looked uncomfortable but nodded in agreement when Quentin and Hilton looked at him questioningly.

*DC*

Oliver had wrestled with what he should do despite his promise to Detective Lance. There was no doubt his mother was the one behind the retrieval of the Queen’s Gambit and it’s housing in Starling City. But she was also his mother, and this was going to destroy their family in so many ways. Oliver decided the best way to avoid giving his mother a heads-up was to go to the Bunker and begin going over Felicity’s files since he no longer had her to give him a report about things that she had found. He would also need to contact Waller and bring Henry Fyff back into play since Felicity was dead.

Felicity was dead. The words seemed to ring in his ears, reverberate in his skull. Felicity, a woman he had loved and been married to, a woman whom he had had a daughter with, was dead. If there was even the smallest chance his daughter with her would’ve still been born despite his current relationship with Laurel, it was gone now that Felicity had been murdered. He would need to use Fyff to piggyback on the investigation, which would be taken over by the F.B.I. since it was connected to the discovery of the warehouse and the Queen’s Gambit. He would never hear Felicity babble on inanely about some tech thing or other, never hear her mutter the word ‘frak’ as she dealt with a difficult issue.

Oliver pulled his motorcycle up in front of the empty building containing the entrance to the Bunker and got off his bike, placing his helmet on the handlebars. Oliver entered the building and took the elevator down, silently thinking about Felicity and what she had once meant to him. Oliver exited the elevator, noting idly that the equipment he had ordered through A.R.G.U.S. was now set up so he could begin the serious training of Laurel and Thea.

While he knew that, one day, they would wish to join him in his crusade, he intended to make sure they were ready for anything that came their way before he allowed them to join him in the field. He even had plans to contact John Constantine and see if he could arrange for his sister and girlfriend to receive the same protection against dark magic that he carried thanks to Constantine. That would keep them safe from Damien Darhk, especially now that Oliver understood how the protection worked. It was derived from the light of hope and love, and he knew that all three of them would have an easier time focusing on that power than he had had after years of darkness.

Oliver sat behind the bank of computers, feeling a sense of melancholy as he remembered the last time he had had to take over his own computer work after Felicity left the team and knowing that this wasn’t going to be like that, and opened the system with his personal override code, something Felicity, Dig, and Fyff had never known about since it was something that he arranged with Waller. Well, perhaps Fyff and Felicity had known; they were excellent programmers, after all, who familiarized themselves with their system. But they probably figured Oliver would never use the override code to find out what they had been up to. With a sigh, Oliver began to peruse what Felicity had been up to, from tracking gang activity to keeping an eye on Brickwell to- What the hell!?

Oliver leaned forward, scanning the files he was currently reading in disbelief and horror. There was a multitude of half-baked plans written out in the file, and schematics contained in them that Oliver recognized as the blueprints for Laurel’s building, her car, C.N.R.I., and even the courthouse. All of the notes were about the failings in security and how best to exploit them, ways to hack into Laurel’s car and make things appear to be an accident, even thoughts of draining funds from a really bad guy and hiring someone to kill Laurel. Felicity had been planning to kill Laurel, and there was no doubt as to the reason why. Jealousy.

This left Oliver feeling conflicted for a moment. Felicity had been working for him, but she had also been planning to murder the woman he loved and do it in such a way that it couldn’t be traced back to her. A small part of him thought maybe it was for the best her murderer got away, but only a small part, which was ruthlessly squashed after Oliver remembered the note that had come with Felicity’s apple-gagged head. This killer had threatened his sister if things kept going, and they had just opened a whole new can of worms.

Oliver logged into the A.R.G.U.S. mainframe and put in the search perimeters for the modus operandi of this killer. It pulled up multiple files, all related to the same man: a serial killer and hitman that the F.B.I. was tracking known as The Huntsman. A.R.G.U.S. had their own file because he had been initially considered as a potential member for Task Force X before they came to recognize that The Huntsman was too much of an alpha wolf to be made to accept Waller’s authority. Oliver downloaded everything he could find about The Huntsman and his methods from the A.R.G.U.S. servers. His sister was possibly under threat by The Huntsman, and Oliver would not leave his sister’s fate in the hands of the F.B.I., no matter who was brought in to handle the investigation.

*DC*

Alexandra Danvers looked up at a knock at the door of the F.B.I. field office in Seattle, Washington, where she was currently assigned. Her immediate superior, Thomas Weller, was standing in the doorway. “Agent Weller?” she asked curiously.

“Pack a bag, Danvers, you’re headed for Starling City with a team,” Weller replied. “The S.C.P.D. just uncovered evidence of a huge conspiracy and that serial killer you’ve been tracking is right in the middle of it, killed someone who was digging and got too close to a truth someone doesn’t want discovered.”

“The Huntsman?” Alex clarified, and Weller nodded. “I’ll be ready to go in less than an hour, depending on traffic.”

“Good to hear,” Weller said. “Meet the team at the airstrip.” Alex nodded and Weller left as Alex got up and began collecting her files on The Huntsman and everything he was connected to. She always had a go-bag ready at home in case she got an assignment like this, so the main thing she had to pack was her files on The Huntsman. She had been tracking him since she had run across his M.O. while studying Behavioral Analysis at Quantico. Her teacher had mentioned that The Huntsman was a puzzling case, as his targets varied due to the fact that he was both a serial killer and a hitman. The only other murderer with an M.O. this unique was Victor Zsasz in Gotham.

Zsasz was a monster, but he was nothing compared to The Huntsman. Zsasz had killed people for the mob and killed for his own pleasure, but the most that he did to his victims was put a bullet in them somewhere that would take a long, painful time to kill them. The Huntsman somehow managed to get his victims’ trust before abducting them; that was the only thing that made sense with the number of victims and the lack of a survivor. He earned their trust, which suggested he ingratiated himself into their lives somehow, as someone they saw socially or professionally. Then there was what he did to the women and girls that he abducted. The heads were the only things that were recovered, and that was only on the ones that he let them know about. Alex was certain that The Huntsman killed far more than he had let be known. She doubted even all of his hits were known unless those who hired him wanted the fate of their targets known to frighten others.

The apples in the mouths of severed heads and the notes left with them indicated what was done with the rest of the bodies, and that sickened Alex. She had met her share of monsters working for the F.B.I., but The Huntsman was on his own unique level. Bringing him to justice was more than just her job; it was her obsession. And now they knew where he was beginning to operate nearly from the beginning. The last they had known, he was in Gotham. What had brought him to Starling City so quickly? Normally he spent a few months in a city, and Alex doubted that he had been driven away by the rumors of a vigilante with a bat fetish in Gotham. The only thing that made sense was that someone very powerful and influential in the Starling City underworld had needed someone taken care of, someone who threatened to unravel everything, and they had spared no expense in getting the man who would send a message.

Alex would be the first to admit that a part of her had wanted to go to Starling City anyways to investigate the recent reports of a vigilante with a penchant for Robin Hood-like heroics taking the war against crime to a whole new level. She had especially wanted to do so after hearing that the Green Arrow had outright driven the Triad from Starling City. She would love to get a one-on-one with the Green Arrow, find out what made him tick… after arresting him, of course.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen opened the door of his apartment, not surprised in the least to find Laurel Lance standing on the other side of it, her gaze compassionate. “Guess your Dad told you what we found,” he said quietly, stepping aside to let her in. Laurel entered the apartment, Oliver closing the door behind her, and immediately drew Oliver into a hug, pulling him close to her. Oliver wrapped his arms around her slender torso, burying his face in her hair for a moment. Laurel reached up with one hand and stroked the back of his head. Oliver pulled away a moment later. “It was one thing to know the Gambit was sunk on purpose, another thing to see the proof of it laid out before me,” he said as he guided Laurel to the couch.

“Dad looked about ready to go looking for the nearest bottle of whiskey, but he decided he’s going to guard the warehouse until the F.B.I. takes custody of the case,” Laurel said quietly as they sat down. “He doesn’t want anything happening to the evidence.”

“Good,” Oliver said softly. He looked at his hands, which were folded in his lap.

Laurel reached out and cupped his bristly chin with one hand, turning his head up and to the right to face her. “Hey,” she said softly, “something’s bothering you. What is it?”

“My mother’s had the proof that the Gambit was sabotaged for almost as long as she’s been a part of Tempest,” Oliver said after a moment of wrestling with whether or not to confide in Laurel about his thoughts and feelings on the matter. “The Gambit along with her word about who had it sabotaged would be enough to send Merlyn on the run from the F.B.I. and even Interpol since the Gambit went down in international waters. She could have stopped the Undertaking years ago, could even stop it now, but I know she won’t, and I don’t know how to deal with that, Laurel.”

“You don’t have to work through it alone, Ollie,” Laurel said softly, wrapping an arm around his broad shoulders and leaning her head against his right shoulder. “I’m here. Thea’s here. You’re not alone anymore.”

Oliver said nothing but curled one arm around his girlfriend’s slender frame and pulled her closer. The two of them sat in silence, thinking about what impact this new twist would have on Malcolm Merlyn’s plans and worrying over what his reaction might be. Oliver knew better than Laurel just how vindictive and sadistic Merlyn was when it came to punishment of those who betrayed him, and worried for his mother’s safety once Merlyn learned she had salvaged the remains of the Queen’s Gambit and held it somewhere that could be discovered.

*DC*

Moira Queen sat miserably in the holding cell that she had been escorted to once she had been booked. At least she was alone and didn’t have to deal with derogatory comments or wolf-whistles from the kinds of men she had escaped dealings with when she left Suicide Slums at age eighteen. She had been informed that she would be held until the F.B.I. arrived to take over the investigation. Moira had spent most of her time here staring at her hands; her one phone call had been to Jean Loring, her attorney, but Jean wouldn’t be able to come until the morning, and she doubted that even when she could that Jean would be able to get her out of here. She could already see the potential charges. Obstruction and conspiracy were at the top of the list. Murder if they decided she had had something to do with the deaths of Robert, Dave Hackett, and the eight crewmen.

Moira had been at home, planning a social function, when the police had barged in with a warrant for her arrest. When she had demanded to know the charges, Quentin Lance had told her that Walter and Oliver had had a lead from the recently-murdered Felicity Smoak that had led them to the Queen’s Gambit and the warehouse she had purchased with the Tempest LLC. Moira had felt numb ever since, numb with the fear of what Malcolm would do when he learned of what she had done, and there was no doubt in her mind that he would find out. Malcolm had eyes and ears everywhere; it surprised her that he didn’t know about the Gambit and where it was stored; or perhaps he did know and had been allowing her this illusion of power over him all this time. That sounded like something Malcolm would do, let her think she had a modicum of control and then rip it away from her.

It didn’t matter now. There was no way of hiding the Queen’s Gambit from the authorities, no way for Malcolm to dispose of it without drawing attention, and that would anger him as much as if she herself had used the remains of the Gambit against him. He would find some way to exact vengeance on her unless she did something to lead the authorities away from Tempest and the Undertaking. But the only thing she could think of would see her children’s love for her turn to despair. But if they were dead, it wouldn’t matter how they felt about her. Yes. It was the only way. She had to protect her family, no matter the cost to her personally. Oliver and Thea had to be protected.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn seethed silently in his lair at Merlyn Global, glaring down at the phone he had just hung up. That had been Silas Cole, his contact with the S.C.P.D. since before his wife’s murder all those years ago; it had been Cole who had informed him of their suspect, Cole who had secreted him a gun from the evidence locker to use to bring down his wife’s killer. Cole had long been a supporter of Merlyn’s designs for the Glades, having served in the Glades precinct and knowing just how corrupt that part of the city had been even before Tempest first tried to clean it up. He was onboard with the Undertaking, would be the one to ensure that no evidence of the Markov devices were found. But now, everything was in jeopardy.

Moira Queen had salvaged the Queen’s Gambit in secret years ago and stored the remains in a warehouse on the edge of the city. Malcolm had known this for almost as long as the Gambit had been in the city. He had chosen to allow Moira this illusion of control, ready to crush her under heel should she get any bright ideas. She had been a dutiful soldier in his war against the corruption and criminality in the Glades, even reporting to him that Walter had tasked Felicity Smoak to find out anything she could about Queen Consolidated projects from five years ago that might explain why Oliver and Tommy had been kidnapped and interrogated a few weeks ago. Malcolm had tasked The Huntsman with getting rid of Smoak, but apparently the serial killer had taken his time and Smoak had managed to find something that she shared with Oliver prior to her otherwise timely demise. This had led Oliver, Walter Steele, and the police to the Queen’s Gambit.

Malcolm had been completely blindsided by the phone call from Silas Cole, and unfortunately Cole could do nothing. The discovery of the Gambit had shot like wildfire through the S.C.P.D. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were already sending a team to take over the investigation. Quentin Lance and a cadre of trusted officers were guarding the warehouse in the meantime, so there was no chance of moving the wreck before the F.B.I. seized control of the investigation.

Everything was spinning out of control. The Green Arrow was systematically targeting those on The List, the very people who were unknowingly aiding Merlyn by ensuring that none but criminals lived in the Glades, intent on seeing those same people brought to justice. The only reason those on The List didn’t expand was because Merlyn protected them, but he hadn’t been able to protect any of those the Green Arrow had set his sights on, because the vigilante managed to provide insurmountable evidence, giving the police and the district attorney’s office slam dunk cases. The one time that this hadn’t happened, when the purchasable District Attorney, Kate Spencer, had not used the Green Arrow’s evidence, Green Arrow had taken action himself and killed James Holder. Since then, Spencer had found herself under suspicion of corruption and bribery, and there was rumors that the mayor was planning to fire her if public sentiment swayed too heavily against her. The reason for all of this had been a report by Susan Williams at Channel 52, citing an anonymous source who had led them to the interesting accounts surrounding certain cases that the D.A. had ‘lost’. Merlyn suspected that the Green Arrow was involved in this, as well, using the court of public opinion to crucify the D.A. who had refused to play ball like her underlings.

Now the Queen’s Gambit had been discovered, in a warehouse belonging to an LLC cleverly named Tempest. No doubt Moira’s plan to bring down the organization if she and her daughter were ever killed. But now it had been revealed, and with the Green Arrow having announced the name of his organization during his debut speech, it wouldn’t take long for the sharp minds assigned to the team from the F.B.I. to begin questioning Moira about what Tempest was and how it was connected. He would need to find a way to remind her of what was at stake. The Undertaking was too important to fail now, mere months from completion. He could not, would not allow it.

*DC*

Alex Danvers leaned back the seat of the Gulfstream that they were being flown to Starling City in. It would take less than an hour to reach Starling City by air, whereas it would’ve taken three hours to reach it by the ground. A federal crime scene unit would be en route to Starling City as soon as they could the next morning to begin processing the Queen’s Gambit. Alex considered what they already knew.

Walter Steele had tasked a lowly I.T. agent, Felicity Smoak, with digging into the company’s projects five years ago to find anything that would indicate why Oliver Queen had been abducted and interrogated by persons unknown. Mr. Queen had at some point discovered the assignment from Mr. Steele and redirected all reports from Miss Smoak to him instead. Was there a power struggle between the current C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated and the heir apparent to the business empire? Something to discover, especially if it had a bearing on the investigation. Miss Smoak had, prior to Mr. Queen’s recent trip to Central City, informed him of the existence of the warehouse and the LLC known as Tempest.

Now, there was a big red question mark. Tempest was a name previously uttered by the Green Arrow in his debut message that had hijacked Starling City’s emergency broadcast system. Investigators were still trying to determine how he had done it and found nothing. But the existence of an LLC that just happened to have the name of what the Green Arrow inferred was an organization answering to someone who had masterminded the current state of affairs in Starling City was both troubling and exciting in Alex’s mind. It suggested that the Green Arrow had information that even law enforcement didn’t, information that pointed to a conspiracy on American soil surrounding the events going on in an American city. If this Tempest LLC was in any way connected to the group of the same name that the Green Arrow had mentioned in his debut speech, they would need to find out everything they could.

According to the reports forwarded to them by the S.C.P.D., Moira Queen was in custody awaiting their questioning; she had had her phone call and requested her lawyer, who would meet them in the morning at the precinct where Mrs. Queen was being held. Detective Quentin Lance, who had a personal connection to this due to his daughter Sara’s death in relation to the Queen’s Gambit, was guarding the site with a handful of trusted officers to ensure no one tampered with the evidence. Alex grimaced as she realized Lance would probably insist on being involved in the investigation in some capacity due to his daughter having been on the Gambit when it went down, and she was glad that the team’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Darius Trimble, would be the one dealing with the local LEO’s.

*DC*

Walter Steele sighed before taking a sip of the scotch on the rocks he had poured himself. By the time he had reached the Queen Mansion, the police had already come and taken his wife away. Walter supposed it was for the best that it had happened before Thea returned home. The girl was currently waiting for her brother to come pick her up, electing to stay with him while this crisis ran its course. Walter supposed that he couldn’t blame his stepdaughter for wanting to get away from the Mansion. It was full of memories of her broken family, memories that would be rightly stirred up by the discovery of the Queen’s Gambit.

Walter himself wasn’t sure how to handle the revelations of the day. The obvious evidence that the Queen’s Gambit had been deliberately sunk was burned into his mind, as was the knowledge that his wife had hidden this from him for their entire marriage. What else had she hidden from him? How deep did this conspiracy go? How many at Queen Consolidated were answering to his wife and not to him? Was Oliver even truly surprised at the discovery of the Gambit, or had he known and simply been acting the part of the distraught survivor? Walter hated himself for these thoughts, but there was no avoiding them.

Walter looked up as he heard footsteps approaching. A moment later, Oliver had entered the room. “Walter, how are you holding up?” Oliver asked.

“I don’t really know the answer to that question,” Walter admitted. “And you? I can’t imagine what we saw today was easy.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Oliver said. “I don’t know how things are going to be between Mom and I, even if she finds a way to talk herself out of this. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I imagine things are going to be a bit tense with the company because of this. I was wondering how we’re meant to proceed.”

“We proceed as though everything is normal, to ensure our investors don’t panic,” Walter said. “That means that tomorrow night, the two of us need to be at the Unidac auction.”

“Alright,” Oliver said with a nod. “What do you think are our odds of purchasing Unidac?”

“I would say we have a strong position, the only real threat is Kord Industries, but I believe we’ll persevere in the end,” Walter said. “You should probably get Thea to your apartment. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright.”

“Okay,” Oliver said dubiously. “Goodnight, Walter.”

“Goodnight, Oliver.” Walter watched the younger man go and then went outside, walking down the steps and leaning against the stone railing to look across the back of the grounds. They were so peaceful, as if nothing had changed, and yet, everything had. The world had shifted on its axis as far as Walter was concerned. The Gambit had been sabotaged. His wife had salvaged the yacht before she was ever his wife and hidden the truth of what happened from everyone for almost five years. The Gambit had been held in a warehouse belonging to an LLC that shared its name with the group that the Green Arrow mentioned. While Walter had no great love for vigilantes, he doubted that this was a coincidence and wondered what else his wife was involved in.

More importantly, what should he do about it? Should he be the stalwart husband and stand at her side, or should he seek justice for Robert’s demise, and cut ties with both Moira and the company in this crisis?

*DC*

Oliver woke up early the next morning, blinking up at the ceiling. Feeling something on his chest, he looked down to see that Laurel had draped her arm across his chest while they slept, Laurel having stayed over last night to help comfort Thea, who’s world had just been rocked by the discovery of the Queen’s Gambit, the same as theirs had been. Oliver turned his head to the side and studied the features of the woman he loved, marveling at the difference between her and the doppelganger from Earth-2. His Laurel’s features had always had a softness to them, a kindness that seemed to rest in her very skin. By contrast, Earth-2 Laurel’s harsh, angular features had been an easy way to tell that she wasn’t the Laurel he knew and loved. Her features fit her attitude towards life, harsh and unforgiving. But most of all, Oliver was struck by how young Laurel seemed in her sleep, face unmarred by the frown that occasionally furrowed her brow.

Oliver slowly moved Laurel’s arm off of his chest and swung his legs out of bed, standing and stretching before he got ready for the day. Thea was in the guest room, and both Thea and Laurel would be hungry soon. Oliver quickly showered and got dressed before heading downstairs to find what he could make for breakfast. He had just begun looking when there was an oddly timid knock on the front door of his apartment. Oliver, unsure who it could be, approached the door warily and opened it, relaxing as he found Tommy Merlyn on the other side of the door. “Hey, buddy,” Oliver said, stepping to the side. “Come on in.”

“Are we still buddies?” Tommy asked softly, hurt shining in his eyes as he stepped inside. Oliver frowned, giving him a curious look. Tommy shook his head. “First, I find out you and Laurel are back together when you walk into that dinner party together, and now I have to find out about the Queen’s Gambit and your mother from the morning news?”

“Oh,” Oliver said quietly. “I’m sorry, Tommy. I guess I’ve been so caught up in things that I keep forgetting to loop you in. Why don’t you join us for breakfast?” In truth, Oliver realized he had let his friendship with Tommy fall by the wayside because not only had Tommy died almost eight years ago by his reckoning, but he had seen two other versions of his best friend, both villains, die in that time. It was hard to remember that Tommy was alive.

“Us? And who’s cooking? Not Laurel, I hope,” Tommy said, giving a theatrical shudder as he remembered Laurel’s attempt to make pancakes one morning. The fire department had been called.

“Laurel, Thea, and I,” Oliver clarified. “Thea decided she wanted to stay with me while all of this plays out, and Laurel decided to stay and help comfort her. And I’ll be the one cooking.”

“So, instead of instant death it’ll be prolonged?” Tommy joked. Oliver rolled his eyes but smiled in spite of himself.

“I’ve found cooking comes easy to me,” Oliver said with a shrug. Not like he could tell Tommy that he learned to cook when he decided to become domesticated househusband after infiltrating the League of Assassins and stabbing their leader in his black heart following their duel atop the Starling Dam two and a half years from now and saying he had learned to cook in the five years he’d been away would raise other questions in his best friend.

“If you says so,” Tommy said dubiously. “So, anything else you’ve been up to that I should know about?”

“Let’s see, I went to Central City and recruited some new blood for Applied Sciences, maybe even poached a couple of people from S.T.A.R. Labs depending how they find their new chief scientist and shut down over half of the projects Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences division is running,” Oliver said, deciding on making blueberry pancakes since he had the ingredients for it. He slowly began to get things together. “Would you believe half of those projects weren’t even about making a profit, much less providing technology to make other people’s lives easier? No, they were vanity projects, stroking these arrogant bastards’ egos. They weren’t too happy when I told them I was cutting funding.”

“Look at you, the responsible businessman,” Tommy said teasingly. His smile faded as he added sourly, “Dad’s been asking me to take after your example and come work with him.”

“Maybe you should,” Oliver said, thinking that if Tommy was involved with his family’s company when Malcolm was brought to justice, he could at least salvage something from the wreckage. “I know it’s fun to ride around in fast cars and date lots of women, but Tommy, I lived that life five years ago and you know what I found when I was taken away from it?” Tommy shook his head. “I found that, in the end, it meant nothing. All the girls that I dated, all the cars that I drove, all of the times that I got into trouble with you and bought my way out of it with my family’s money and name? None of it meant anything. I had left no legacy for Thea or for anyone else I cared about. I would be forgotten in the annals of history, and you know what? I don’t want that. I don’t want the name Oliver Queen to be forgotten. I want it to mean something to future generations.” As Oliver had said all of this, he had begun mixing the batter for the pancakes from the instant batter mix he had on hand. He checked the consistency and found it to be appropriate. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bag of blueberries, half of which he poured into the batter. He set the bag aside and began mixing the berries into the batter. Once that was done, he returned the bag to the fridge.

“That was… really deep,” Tommy admitted. “I-I hadn’t really thought of it that way before. I’ll give what you’ve said some thought.” He chuckled humorlessly. “Dad’ll be pleased if I follow your example.”

“Not saying you have to be exactly like me, Tommy,” Oliver said. “Just… don’t let yourself be forgotten because you decided to party the best years of your life away.” Oliver took a moment deciding between bacon and sausages to accompany the pancakes and eggs he would fix and decided on bacon. He flicked on the coffee pot, knowing the smell of fresh coffee would lure Laurel and Thea to the kitchen. “And thank you.”

“For what?” Tommy asked.

“You haven’t pushed me on what I said at the dinner party, or on how I’m feeling about what’s going on with Mom and the Gambit,” Oliver said quietly.

“Figured that you’ll talk about it if you’re comfortable,” Tommy said with a shrug. “I’m not gonna push you, buddy.” The two men chatted quietly as two sets of soft footsteps came from upstairs and Laurel and Thea arrived at the base of the stairs. Both ladies were in bathrobes and moved to adjust their coverings at the sight of Tommy. “Hello, ladies,” Tommy greeted. “Looking chipper as ever this morning.”

Thea glowered at the man she would normally bestow a winning smile upon and growled, “Shut up. I haven’t had my coffee.” She moved to the coffee pot, where a mug sat waiting to be filled with sugar and creamer sitting nearby. Laurel merely glowered at Tommy to express her similar attitude.

Tommy whistled and side-eyed Oliver. “Tough crowd,” he stage-whispered.

“I will eviscerate you,” Thea growled as she finished mixing her coffee with copious amounts of sugar and creamer. She took a sip and let out a contented sigh. “Perfect.”

“Coffee addict,” Tommy shot at her.

“It’s not nice to make fun of an addiction,” Thea sulked at him while Laurel mixed her own cup, closing her eyes, mentally counting to three, and reminding herself that she shouldn’t murder one of her best friends because he was overly cheerful in the early hours of the morning.

Oliver cooked up breakfast amid some rather amusing conversations between the four of them and then served up each plate. Tommy took an experimental bite of his pancakes and blinked in surprise. “Wow, Ollie, these are great,” Tommy said enthusiastically. “Maybe you can give Laurel some lessons, so she doesn’t kill herself in her own kitchen?” Laurel shot Tommy a poisonous look that left the playboy of the group gulping and focusing on his food.

Oliver chuckled and said, “I don’t know if I would be a very good teacher, Tommy.”

“Besides, if he teaches me how to cook, you’d never taste the poison I slipped you,” Laurel said sweetly, which reminded Oliver rather horribly of the recording he had seen of Black Siren tormenting Felicity and Rory after the two had uncovered her secret following her escape from Barry’s pipeline prison. He shuddered along with Tommy at how scary Laurel can be when she’s barely waking up.

The amusing commentary was cut short as Oliver’s cell phone rang. Oliver answered, still smiling, and said, “Oliver Queen.” The other three noticed as his smile faded, and a haunted look came to his features. “I-I see. Thank you for calling, Officer. Yes, you too,” Oliver said mechanically, hanging up the phone and setting it on the island counter where the four of them had been eating.

“Ollie?” Thea asked nervously. “What is it?”

“That was the duty officer at the precinct where Mom is being held,” Oliver said softly. “They went to bring Mom to interrogation for the F.B.I. and found her hanging from the bars of her cell. They tried to revive her, but…”

“No,” Thea whimpered, Laurel moving to pull the teenager into a hug. “Please, Ollie… Please tell me they’re mistaken, that it’s not her. Please…”

“I’m sorry, Speedy,” Oliver said, his own eyes wet with tears. “Mom’s dead.”

Chapter Text

“Thank you, Tommy,” Malcolm Merlyn said after listening to his distraught son’s phone call. “Please give Oliver and Thea my condolences and tell them that if they need anything, my door is open to them.” His son gave an affirmative reply and hung up. Merlyn set his phone down on his desk and moved to the window looking out over Starling City. A new day was dawning, and with it dawned an unexpected degree of hope that his plans would be salvaged despite the current interference with the F.B.I. Moira Queen had taken her own life in prison last night, and with her died any possibility of the F.B.I. finding out the truth of Tempest and its plans for the Glades.

Malcolm said a silent prayer he learned in the League for Moira’s soul and took a moment to grieve for his friend, as he had grieved for Robert after confirmation came of the Gambit sinking to the depths, and then moved to his desk. There were other matters to take care of; Moira had handled her fumbling with grace and ensured nothing could lead back to him, and in the end, that was all that mattered. The mission, the Undertaking, had to continue.

Now there was a problem with the plan, however. Walter Steele was an incorruptible type and would be unwilling to bend to his will regarding Unidac Industries. Perhaps it was time that Walter was encouraged to part ways with Queen Consolidated, making way for a younger man who had much more to lose if he chose to defy Malcolm. And if Walter proved recalcitrant, well, there were solutions for that, too. For what came after the Unidac merger was finalized in a few months’ time, Malcolm needed someone in place at Queen Consolidated to ensure his plans proceeded, and Oliver would prove easier to manipulate than Walter. He had so much to lose; his lover, his sister…

Yes, while Oliver was useful where he was, he would be more useful as C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, especially if he could be convinced to return Doug Miller to his former status as head of Applied Sciences once the transfer of power was official. That would take some delicate wording, of course; he didn’t want to push Oliver too far, too fast. He wouldn’t be able to control whoever replaced Oliver with any degree of certainty, and that was if he wasn’t forced to swallow up Queen Consolidated as it spiraled downward with the loss of three successive C.E.O.s, two of them being murdered. Three, if Walter proved recalcitrant.

*DC*

Oliver signed the paperwork that he needed to so that his mother’s body could be transferred from the coroner’s office to the funeral parlor that his mother had pre-paid for services from, his expression wooden. This had thrown him for a loop, losing his mother now. He knew that things would change when he killed Eobard Thawne, that the world he knew no longer existed, but this was the first tangible proof of that, and it was proof that was rather jarring. His mother had given her life so Thea could live when Slade captured them. What would happen now that his mother was dead? Would Slade capture Laurel along with Thea and make him choose between the woman he loved and his little sister? Or would he simply gut Thea like a trout, as Rochev had once threatened Oliver with at the offices of Queen Consolidated after her takeover?

A woman he recognized as Alex Danvers stepped up from where she had been waiting. “Mr. Queen, I’m Special Agent Alex Danvers with the F.B.I.,” she said apologetically. “I’m so sorry for your loss, and I know this is a horrible time, but we do need you to come down to the precinct where we’ve set up and give a statement about what happened yesterday, both at Queen Consolidated and afterward, when you and Mr. Steele led Detectives Lance and Hilton to the warehouse.”

“I understand, Agent Danvers,” Oliver said quietly. “I have nothing pressing to attend to, so I can follow you back to the precinct.”

“That sounds good,” Alex said with a nod, and the two of them left the morgue, splitting up in the parking lot. Oliver got on his Ducati and pulled out of the parking lot, following Agent Danvers’ car while still processing what this early death for his mother meant. There were other things his mother had done that would no longer happen if things proceeded as they did last time. There would be no warning voice about the Undertaking, leading to no evacuation the night it happened. There would be no face to the Undertaking, which could lead to a violent uprising towards everyone within the Queen and Merlyn income brackets. There would be no one to warn the League of Merlyn’s continued existence, should the worst happen, and the bastard managed to somehow fake his death to avoid his just punishment. There would be no one to run against Sebastian Blood and nearly defeat him, which was one reason Slade had acted when he did.

Worse, there was no way now for the revelation of Thea’s parentage to come from his mother unless she had stuffed the paperwork away in a storage unit like she had the evidence of Emiko’s existence. In some ways, this was a relief, but Oliver wasn’t blind. He had seen the gooey eyes that Thea threw at Tommy, and his stomach churned at the thought that with Laurel no longer on the market, Tommy might be willing to entertain Thea’s feelings once she turned eighteen in a few months. He had to figure out a way to reveal their relationship so he could nip that in the bud before it became something all too real. Best he could do right now was play the threatening big brother card.

Oliver, not for the first time, wondered why the hell Barry and Sara thought that time travel was so cool and exciting. In his opinion, there was nothing fun, cool, or exciting about this. Horrifying, heart-wrenching, and nerve-wracking, on the other hand? Yes, to all three of them.

Nearly half an hour after leaving the morgue, Alex’s car and Oliver’s motorcycle pulled up in front of the precinct. Oliver dismounted and placed his helmet on the handlebars, following Agent Danvers into the precinct. “Ducati?” she questioned his mode of transport.

“Yup,” he said evenly.

“Nice,” Alex said appreciatively. She led Oliver to an empty interview room, the difference between it and an interrogation room being the lack of a one-way mirror for people to spy on you with. Oliver took a seat at the table and Alex sat across from him. “Alright, Mr. Queen, let’s start from the top. What made you think the package was suspicious?”

“After five years of trusting my senses to know when it was a good day to leave my shelter on the island, those senses are pretty sharp,” Oliver said. “I detected a faint odor of decay from the package and worried what we might find in there. I didn’t expect it to be Felicity’s head, or for it to have an apple in it like some sick joke.”

“Yes, the serial killer who killed Miss Smoak is known for this particular sick calling card,” Alex said quietly. “Now, did you inform Mr. Steele of the information Miss Smoak gave you before or after the package’s arrival?”

“Before,” Oliver replied. “We had just decided to go check it out later in the day when the package arrived.”

“I’ve listened to the recording of your report of what happened,” Alex said. “You sounded rather detached, but you speak of Miss Smoak familiarly. Were you… involved?”

“Are you asking if I was seeing Felicity on the side despite my relationship with Laurel Lance?” Oliver asked with a quirked eyebrow. “I’d expect that kind of question from Detective Lance, not the F.B.I. The short answer is no. Walter asked Felicity to help me familiarize myself with modern technology.” Oliver gave the agent a sarcastic smile. “I was stranded on an island with no technology for five years. It was kind of big news.”

Alex returned his sarcastic smile. “I must have missed that newsbyte. Or maybe your rescue just wasn’t important enough for Seattle news networks,” she said. She looked at her folder. “According to the reports of Detectives Lance and Hilton, you were the one to suggest that the passcode was related to you or your father. How could you have been sure if you didn’t know about the warehouse and what it contained?”

“Are you asking, without saying the words, if I knew ahead of time what we would find in there?” Oliver asked.

After a moment, Alex said, “Yes, I am. I find it highly suspicious that you knew the passcode, Mr. Queen.”

“It wouldn’t seem so suspicious if you had gotten to know my mother, Agent Danvers,” Oliver replied frostily. “My mother was a very complicated woman, but the one thing that mattered to her above all else was family, and at the time she set this LLC up, her mind would’ve been focused entirely on what it meant regarding my father and me. The only surprise for me is that it was my father’s name, considering their marital issues.”

“Marital issues?” Alex echoed questioningly.

Oliver shifted uncomfortably. He hadn’t meant to talk about that, but the cat was out of the bag now. “My father was not the most faithful of husbands,” he said delicately. “Many of his assistants over the years were also his lovers.”

“Something I hear the two of you have in common,” Alex said. “You did, after all, take Detective Lance’s younger daughter with you while dating her sister, a sister you are now seeing romantically again. Personally, I think she’s too forgiving. If I had a sister and someone did that to us, I’d castrate them.”

“Well, then perhaps it’s for the best that you have no sister,” Oliver sneered out. “Not that I would be interested in you, anyways. I have a pretty good detector, and you haven’t checked me out once. Maybe you pitch for the other team?”

“And if I do?” Alex said hotly.

“Then I suggest you turn your sexual frustrations towards finding a partner instead of cornering a man who has just lost his mother with unfounded accusations!”

The door to the interview room opened and another agent stepped in. “Danvers, a word, now. Mr. Queen, you’re free to go. I assure you that the next time one of us speaks to you, it will be with the utmost respect.”

“Thank you, Agent…” Oliver trailed off leadingly.

“Darius Trimble, Mr. Queen. I’m the Special Agent in Charge,” Trimble said.

“Thank you, Agent Trimble, and I wish you good luck in piecing together this mess. God knows would like some answers as to what happened five years ago,” Oliver said, standing and departing the room without another word. Trimble shut the door behind him and glowered at Alex.

“We are barely being tolerated here because this case is too big for local police to handle, and you’re letting your personal feelings for Mr. Queen’s life choices is not making this process any easier,” Trimble bit out at the young behavioral analyst. “You were sent here because of your expertise regarding the serial killer calling himself The Huntsman. You will exhaust yourself in pursuit of the killer, and only in pursuit of that. You will leave the investigation into the Queen’s Gambit to the rest of the team. Dismissed.”

Alex slowly got up and left the room, cheeks flaming red with shame and embarrassment. She hadn’t been ripped into like that since basic training at Quantico, and worse, she knew it was for damn good reasons. She had gone after Queen hard because of what she had read in the reports from Quentin Lance, who hadn’t been able to keep his personal bias against Queen out of his report. Even Hilton’s report had mentioned the circumstances surrounding Sara Lance being on the Queen’s Gambit when it was sabotaged. Instead, she would focus on the charge she had been given, hunting The Huntsman.

*DC*

Oliver entered his office at Queen Consolidated, hands still flexing as though he would like nothing more than to place them around Alex Danvers’ throat and not let go. He took deep, calming breaths as he moved to look out at the cityscape. He would rather not be here, but Walter had called him and told him they needed to show a united front for the Board and for their investors, and so he was here, trying to put on a political mask for the vultures picking over his mother’s proverbial carcass instead of at home with his sister, processing his grief. One thing he knew for sure was that he was going out tonight and he was going to find someone deserving to unleash his pent-up grief and anger on.

“Mr. Queen?” Oliver looked up as his Executive Assistant, a mousy woman named Gina Atkins, knocked timidly on the glass partition. “Mr. Steele left word for you to go to his office as soon as you came in.”

“Thank you, Gina,” Oliver said, taking a few calming breaths. “Tell Walter I’ll be up there shortly.” Gina nodded, and Oliver took a moment to grab a water bottle from the minifridge in his office. Uncapping the bottle, he downed several large gulps before returning the bottle to its place in the minifridge. He made his way to the elevators, suspecting his E.A. had already told Walter he was in a foul mood. Sure enough, when he got to Walter’s office, Walter was giving him a concerned look. “What?” Oliver asked briskly.

“Oliver, I know what I said, but if you’re struggling with everything that’s going on, I can assure the Board on my own, it’ll just take a few more minutes than it will with you present,” Walter said softly. “And you don’t need to come to the Unidac auction tonight. You need to be with Thea.”

“I’m already here, so we might as well get it over with,” Oliver said. “And it’s not you; one of the agents decided to take offense to how Sara ended up on the Gambit and accuse me of seeing Felicity on the side while seeing Laurel now.”

“Ah,” Walter said quietly. “How did that come up?”

“I may have mentioned something about Mom and Dad’s marital issues,” Oliver admitted. Walter grimaced, remembering more than one occasion where Robert had been sleeping with one of his assistants. “Look, let’s just get this dog-and-pony show over with, then I’m taking the rest of the day off to be with Thea. Tommy’s staying with her for now, but…”

“But she’ll need her brother to get through this,” Walter said evenly. “Alright, son. Let me walk you through what to expect…”

*DC*

Laurel Lance sat across from Peter Declan in an interview room at Iron Heights prison. She wanted to be back in Starling, to be there for Thea and Oliver during this horrifying time in their lives, but Oliver had quietly reminded her of the ticking clock on this man’s life. Even though Oliver believed the man was innocent, Laurel needed to hear the man’s story for herself before she decided to take this case, especially at this late hour where she couldn’t be sure any new evidence would be accepted. “A jury has found you guilty, Mr. Declan,” she began.

“The evidence was stacked against me,” Declan said, hands jerking emphatically, one hand holding tightly to the picture of his daughter, “but I didn’t kill my wife.” He placed the picture on the table between them, pointing at the little girl in the photo as he continued, “I didn’t take my daughter’s mother from her.”

“The murder weapon was a knife,” Laurel began methodically, “from your kitchen, with your prints on it. It was found, along with Camille’s blood, in the trunk of your car.” Declan got up, pacing the room as Laurel continued, “Your neighbors said they heard an argument that night.”

“We had a knockdown fight over Jason Brodeur,” Declan said, once more jerking one hand up and down emphatically. “Camille worked for him, and his company had been dumping toxic waste into the Glades.” Laurel kept her face impassive, but her gut jerked at this statement. She had seen plenty of documentaries about toxic waste being dumped at sea and contaminating the wildlife. What might toxic waste do to people if it were mixed into their drinking water due to oversaturation? “Camille told me that she had gone and told a supervisor about it. I was afraid for my family’s safety. And we argued. Very loudly, yes.

“Izzy started crying. So, Camille went and stayed in her room,” Declan said as he moved and took the seat across from Laurel again, who was finding nothing false about what Declan was saying, how he was acting. “In the morning I went to apologize, and, uh, and that’s when I found her.” Laurel leaned forward, watching Declan’s face, and more importantly his eyes, which had a tormented look about them, as the man continued, “So, I just grabbed Izzy, and I ran outside, and I called 911.” Declan leaned forward, meeting Laurel’s green eyes with desperation shining in his own. “I’m innocent, Miss Lance.”

After a long moment, Laurel said softly, “I believe you.”

*DC*

Oliver checked over his gear one last time. Fyff was back behind the computers, looking gratified at being away from Waller’s immediate presence again. He had asked no questions about what happened to his replacement or where John Diggle was; he had raised an eyebrow at the arrival of Laurel and Thea with Oliver and the way they went to the ‘training center’ but had said nothing. Oliver looked over at Laurel and Thea, his heart breaking slightly at the morose expression on his sister’s face. Losing a parent wasn’t easy; Oliver had had to deal with his grief over Robert’s death on his own while also struggling to survive. He was just glad he and Thea had Laurel and Tommy in their lives to help them. Grief was easier when you had someone to share it with.

Laurel had gone to see Declan earlier today and then got the information from her father about Matt Istook. Oliver was going to pay Istook a visit and then, once he got the file and delivered it back here, go on a patrol of the Glades, see if he couldn’t find some drug dealer or would-be rapist to pummel. “This shouldn’t take long,” Oliver said, turning to face Laurel and Thea. “Once I’ve dealt with Istook, got the file, and done some legwork in the Glades, I’ll be back here for our training session. Okay?”

“Sounds good,” Thea said, looking down at her feet. Laurel put an arm comfortingly around the girl’s shoulders.

Oliver turned and began to change into his gear.

*DC*

Finding Istook was easy. What was hard was not just letting the train hit the mewling bastard after he gave up the location of the file. The man was guilty of setting up a woman to be murdered, and the side of Green Arrow that had exulted in his training by the League of Assassins was howling for Istook’s death. But that was not the way to inspire others to be heroes, Green Arrow knew, and so he had let the man go at the last possible second, disappearing as the train shot by. He made his way swiftly to Istook’s office and retrieved the file before returning to the Bunker and giving it to Laurel, who set about familiarizing herself with the file.

With the Declan case moving forward with their possession of the file, Green Arrow took to the rooftops of the Glades and began his patrol, keeping his senses open for any sign of crime and waiting to hear if Fyff picked up something on police chatter. As he raced across the rooftops, he found himself itching for violence. He knew it was wrong; he knew he probably shouldn’t be out here with this desire in him, but he didn’t want to destroy his relationships with Thea, Laurel, and Tommy by lashing out. So, he would lash out at those who deserved it, those who preyed on the people of Starling City like a cancer preys on healthy cells.

Green Arrow heard a muffled scream come from the east, and instantly turned in that direction. He found himself looking down at another alleyway, and another waitress, this one from Al’s Bar & Grill. Four drunks had surrounded her. Green Arrow fired a zipline arrow and descended rapidly, knocking one of the men down in the process. He didn’t give the men in the alley a chance to react, surging forward and delivering a knife-hand attack to one man’s throat, which caused him to gag and then vomit. Green Arrow leaped back from the deluge and found the man he had knocked down, a bear of a man, had recovered his balance as the man wrapped his huge hairy arms around Green Arrow and lifted him up. Green Arrow thrashed in the man’s grip, but to break this sort of grip, he needed leverage, and the man wasn’t offering him any. His bow dropped to the ground as he moved his hands upward to try and pry one of the arms loose.

The man he had forced to vomit lumbered forward drunkenly, swinging at his head. Green Arrow ducked his head to the side, and the punch landed on the chin of the bear of a man holding him. Unfortunately, this did little to phase the man. The next punch from the drunk did land on Green Arrow, forcing his head to the side with its force. “Ooh, that hurt,” Green Arrow said sarcastically. “Maybe with a couple of more beers, you can actually lay waste to me.

“Sheddup, Greenie,” the drunk said thickly. He reared back, and Green Arrow thrust his legs forward, catching the man’s neck between his ankles. He twisted his torso, using the leverage he now had with his legs grounded in some way, and managed to force his way out of the bear of a man’s grip. Unfortunately, this meant he crashed to the ground and pulled the other drunk down on top of him. Green Arrow delivered a solid strike to the man’s temple and then threw him off, standing. He stood, snatching up his bow, and turned to face the bear of a man, firing a bola arrow that wrapped the bastard up like a Christmas present. Then he heard the sound of a pistol being cocked. He turned slowly.

The other two men were holding the waitress tight, one of them aiming a pistol at the shaking girl’s head. Up close, Green Arrow would put her to be about 21 or 22, the same age he had been when his yacht had sunk and he had begun his journey to become the man he was now. “Lose the bow, Green Bean, or I’ll blow this bitch’s brains all over the alley and fuck her corpse for the fun of it,” one of the men said roughly, earning a high-pitched wail from the girl.

Green Arrow gritted his teeth. He had run into this fight angry and stupid, and because of that, it was either give up his weapon, or let an innocent girl be shot. He could never do the latter, but if he did the former, they were both probably dead. He slowly began to lower his bow, struggling to think of a way that he could get himself and the girl out of this.

A metallic thunk sounded, and then another high-pitched wail was heard, this one coming from the device and piecing the eardrums of everyone in the alley. Both men holding the girl moved to grab their ears, and Green Arrow took the shot with one of his basic arrows, catching the pistol the man had been wielding and sending it skittering across the blacktop. Green Arrow wasted no time, surging forward and taking the fight to the man who’d been wielding the gun, beating him down with his bow, while the other man found his hands were full in dealing with the demonic blonde in black leather wielding a bo staff that had descended from a nearby fire escape. Green Arrow and the Canary made short work of the two would-be rapists, and the girl who had been cornered raced out of the alley with a shouted, “Thank you,” aimed behind her at the two.

Green Arrow, finished with beating his target silly, let the man drop and turned as The Canary dropped her target with a well-placed blow with her bow staff. “Thought you decided to leave town,” he said.

I did, but I heard the news and thought I should be here,” The Canary said. “You missed a spot.” Without looking back, Green Arrow delivered a backwards kick to a rising man’s skull, knocking him out again. “Shouldn’t there be a thank you for saving your ass somewhere in there?

Thanks,” Green Arrow said grudgingly. “Come on. We’ll go back to my base. We can talk more there.

Fine,” The Canary said shortly, unaware of the trap that the Green Arrow was springing on her.

*DC*

Oliver and Sara, his hood down and her wig and mask removed, entered the Bunker from the alley-side entrance that Oliver used to go out into the Glades, and Sara froze like a deer in the headlights when she saw Laurel sitting at a table, going over a rather thick file. Laurel, glancing up to check on Oliver and make sure he was okay, likewise froze as she spotted her younger sister. “Did I not mention that Laurel knows about me and was waiting back at my base?” Oliver asked in an innocent tone that fooled not one person in the Bunker. Thea, breaking briefly from her otherwise morose attitude, snickered at the glare Sara aimed at her brother’s back as he headed back to change.

“Sara,” Laurel said softly, standing and moving to face her little sister. Sara ducked her head down, as if ashamed to be in the same room as Laurel. The older sister approached the younger one, standing in front of her for a moment. Then Laurel grabbed Sara by the shoulders and pulled her into a warm, welcoming hug. Sara froze at first at the feel of her sister’s arms around her, then melted into her arms and hugged her back. Sara dug her face into her sister’s shoulder, closing her eyes and breathing in the scent of her sister’s perfume, a scent that brought tears of familiarity to her eyes. “It’s okay,” Laurel whispered, holding her sister close. “It’s fine. You’re home. You’re safe. You don’t need to be afraid, Sara. You’re home, you’re safe.”

Sara and Laurel were still caught in the midst of their bug when Oliver returned, now dressed in his own exercise gear. Oliver pulled Thea over to the training mats and began showing her the exercise using eskrima sticks. The solid thwack-thwack of the eskrima sticks beating against each other pulled Sara and Laurel’s attention from their reunion and to the training mats. Sara raised her eyebrows at the fact Oliver was teaching his little sister how to fight, while Laurel smiled softly at the sight, because there was a small, excited grin on Thea’s face. For the moment, at least, her mind was off of her mother’s suicide.

“Care to tell me what’s going on around here?” Sara asked Laurel.

“Sure,” Laurel said with a smile.

Chapter Text

While Oliver continued teaching Thea how to fight with the eskrima sticks, something that reminded Sara horribly of the training she had seen Oliver engage in with Slade on the island before that psychopath had turned on them, Laurel guided Sara to the table where she’d been working. “What’s all of this?” Sara asked, gesturing to the paperwork.

“A case Oliver brought me,” Laurel replied. “An innocent man is on death row, due to be executed in less than a week for the murder of his wife. But the evidence Oliver’s turned up indicates that Mrs. Declan was murdered because she was about to blow the whistle on Jason Brodeur. He’s been dumping toxic waste in the Glades, poisoning the people there.”

“What does this have to do with-” Sara began, but Laurel shook her head sharply, and Sara drew in her chin in consternation. “What?”

“We don’t talk about him around Thea, and I don’t know if Oliver’s little techie knows about that just yet either,” Laurel said. “I only know because I pieced it together from stuff Oliver’s said since he came back, both as himself and as Green Arrow.”

“Okay,” Sara said slowly. “But what does this have to do with him? Why doesn’t Oliver just confront the bastard and cut his head off?” It seemed pretty straight forward to Sara. Malcolm Merlyn was the mastermind behind everything wrong in Starling City.

“You’d have to ask Oliver,” Laurel said. “I’m not too happy about it myself, but Oliver refuses to move against him until certain circumstances are met. Oliver says that he’s drawing him into a trap by slowly dismantling his plans. We don’t know what kind of impact the Gambit being discovered, and Moira’s suicide, will have on everything, but Oliver’s intent on continuing to move forward with his plans.”

“I’ll definitely ask Oliver,” Sara said. “How’s Dad?”

“He’s doing better than he has been for a long time,” Laurel said honestly. “He spent most of the last five years at the bottom of a bottle, but he pulled himself out of it when I was kidnapped.”

“Kidnapped!?” Sara asked stridently. Oliver and Thea looked over in concern, but Laurel waved at them with a smile. Fyff was eyeing the blonde assassin in concern, wondering if he should play deaf.

“I guess Oliver never really got around to sharing the details of the past few weeks with you,” Laurel said dryly.

“I didn’t really give him a chance,” Sara said. “I know about what he’s facing, but I didn’t want to know any details, because I knew if I did, I would want to stay and I was afraid to do that after being with the League so long.”

Laurel filed away Sara’s comment about ‘the League’ to ask about later and said, “My ex-boss, Eric Gitter, was on the payroll of a man named Adam Hunt. I got too close to Hunt’s operations and he had me kidnapped. He’s done it before, based on what he said. You know that old trope about the mob and cement shoes?” Sara’s eyes widened. “Yeah. Similar concept, in that they were going to tie me to a cement block and throw me in Orchid Bay. I was on the docks, bound and gagged and facing my death, and then Oliver came out of nowhere. I didn’t know it was him, of course. He was wearing that suit,” she said, pointing at the suit in question. “He took out the bodyguards so quickly, Hunt and Gitter didn’t have a chance to react. Long story short, Hunt and Gitter are behind bars, and I’ve got Gitter’s old job as the head of C.N.R.I., a legal aid office helping the less-fortunate of our city.”

“Damn,” Sara said softly. “I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for you or Dad, going through that. Anything else I should know?”

“About a week later, the Triad tried to kill me because of an interview I gave Susan Williams,” Laurel said reluctantly. “Oliver took a knife to the shoulder from China White, but later on he pretty much destroyed the Triad’s operations in a single night.”

“She’s not wrong,” Fyff piped up from where he was sitting behind the computers. The Lance sisters turned in their seats to look at him. “Diggle, Mr. Queen’s bodyguard, actually asked him if it was just to safeguard you from the Triad. He said that while that was one of the goals, it was also to send a message to the rest of organized crime in the city that profited from peoples’ suffering and that everything he’s doing is to make the city a better safer place for everyone. He also said he was always going to be there for her since he’d already seen you die twice and had nightmares about it being Laurel.” Fyff stopped talking as he realized the Lance sisters were staring at him. “I have a really good memory,” he said sheepishly. “And Mr. Queen’s a bit of a mystery, so I remember everything he lets slip.”

“Huh,” Laurel said slowly. “I guess I should be flattered. I just hope Oliver won’t ever choose me over the city.” Oliver heard this and remembered a time when he had faced that choice, and he had chosen the city, stopping Slade’s army in the tunnel. He knew in his heart he would make the same choice again if he were forced to. He frowned as he realized that like with his mother, Felicity’s death had repercussions beyond the obvious. She had been integral to certain things, like getting the Mirakuru cure into Slade, and that wouldn’t happen now. “Thanks for the info, Henry.” She bestowed a small smile on the man before turning her attention back to Sara, who was staring at her. “What?”

“So, let me get this straight,” Sara said. “You get kidnapped by your ex-boss and the man who bought him and are nearly sent to a watery grave. You challenge the Triad on TV and get attacked in your apartment. Now, you’re going after a guy who had a woman murdered because she was going to blow the whistle on his toxic dumping in the Glades?” Laurel nodded. “Well, that explains why you and Ollie are drawn to each other,” Sara said sarcastically. “Neither of you have a sense of self-preservation. He throws himself into danger every night against bad guys, and you throw yourself into danger challenging the most powerful, corrupt players that you can find.”

“We work well together,” Oliver called over from where he was still sparring with Thea.

“Ollie’s right,” Laurel said. “We both want the same things, and we’re both willing to do whatever it takes to make sure justice is done for the victims of these people. This is about more than just taking down the person responsible for all of the darkness in this city; it’s about giving the city hope again, hope for a better tomorrow.”

Sara looked at her sister, then at Oliver, and wondered again if there was truly a place for her here.

Later, Laurel headed out, taking Thea with her, planning to drop her off at the loft. Sara had begged off staying the night on her sister’s couch, planning to head back to the clock tower. Fyff was currently tracking a man named Daniel Brickwell for Oliver, and Sara wondered what significance Brickwell had to the mission Oliver had set for himself. But now that Thea was gone, Sara had questions she needed answered. “Ollie, we need to talk,” she said seriously, catching his eye with hers.

Oliver nodded slowly, coming to join her at the now-clear table. “Henry, why don’t you join us?” he asked. “You’re going to need to know this now that you’re going to be here full-time. I was holding off on explanations to get an idea of whether Dig was going to stick around.”

“Guessing he decided not to,” Fyff said as he came to join the two.

“Dig sees things in black and white,” Oliver said. “Unfortunately, as much as I’d like it to be so, black and white isn’t how the world works. There are shades of gray that dictate how are lives are led.”

“So, why aren’t you just confronting Merlyn and killing him?” Sara asked.

“Because this is about more than just Malcolm Merlyn,” Oliver said. Fyff gasped as he heard their foe’s identity for the first time. Oliver glanced at Fyff for a moment before turning his attention back to Sara. “I know what you’re thinking. Cut off the head, and the body dies. But in this case, our foe is like the Greek hydra. I could kill Merlyn, only to face more serpents, some of which I might not even know the identity of, such as the other members of Tempest, his cabal of allies. I had hoped to use my mother to find out who the other members of Tempest are, since she was also a member since my father’s death, taking his place at Merlyn’s side.”

Oliver fell silent for a moment before continuing, “Starling City is dying, Sara. It is being poisoned by a criminal elite who don’t care who they hurt, so long as they maintain their wealth and power. Malcolm Merlyn may be the rotten tumor, but if you take the tumor out without cutting away the other tendrils, than the sickness will continue to spread. Tempest is every bit a cancerous tumor as Merlyn, and with him taken out, they would split among themselves, seeking to empower their own endeavors. Without discovering who they are, Starling City will never be truly free of the crime and corruption because the cancerous tumor would still exist, only it would’ve multiplied, like the heads of the Greek hydra. That is why I cannot take Merlyn down right away. I need to find out who the members of Tempest are, and I need to draw him into a confrontation where he feels confident that he’ll win. Confront him head-on, play my hand too early, and the city suffers for it.”

Sara was silent as she absorbed what Oliver had said. She understood where he was coming from. Malcolm’s cabal would continue their master’s work, or perhaps devolve into in-fighting, posturing for power. Either way, the people of Starling City would lose. “So, what now?”

“Now, you decide what you’re going to do,” Oliver said. “You can help me, or you can find your own way to bring hope back to Starling City. What happened earlier tonight happens every night somewhere in the Glades. The city could always use another defender in the darkness.”

“Maybe,” Sara said. “I’ll have to give it some thought. In the meantime, I’m gonna head back to my little hideaway.”

“Don’t be a stranger,” Oliver said as they stood. He circled the table and pulled her into a hug. She returned it. “I’m glad you’re back, Sara. Truly, I am.”

“Thanks,” she said softly. Oliver turned around. “Ollie?” He turned back around his expression curious. “I know things are serious between you and Laurel now, but do-do you ever think about what we talked about on the island?”

“Not really,” Oliver said softly. “I did when we first talked about it, but then you were dead, again, and I had to keep myself focused on reasons to stay alive. Seeing my family again, seeing Laurel again, making peace with her if I could. Maybe if Laurel and I weren’t involved, we could have tried to make something happen. But I am with her, and I don’t see that changing this time. But if it does, well…” Oliver shrugged, not really believing it would change, and Sara could tell. She nodded silently, and two headed for the elevator. Fyff, of course, lived in the Bunker.

*DC*

Walter Steele shot upright in bed, looking around wildly. Something had woken him up; something or someone was in the room with him. He could hear them breathing, soft as it was. “Who’s there?” he demanded to know. “If I shout, my security will be here in minutes.”

Even if I had left any of your security alive before entering the mansion, they would never have made it in time,” a harsh modulated voice said. A figure detached itself from the shadows. He was dressed all in black and wielded a bow and arrows, both black to match his outfit. Walter wondered briefly if the Green Arrow had changed up his uniform and other gear before feeling a thrill of fear go through him as he realized what the intruder had said. His security were dead if this man was to be believed. Moira had personally handled security, choosing former Special Forces soldiers almost exclusively.

“What do you want?” Walter asked.

For you to resign as C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated,” the archer said. “And before you speak, do remember that Cynthia has a lovely singing voice. It would be tragic if anything happened to change that.

Walter felt dread form in the pit of his stomach. Cynthia was his younger sister, his only family. “Why do you care who is in charge of Queen Consolidated?”

That is not your business, Mr. Steele,” the archer replied. “I am offering you the opportunity to live a full life, with your loved ones safe. All you must do is resign.

“I won’t,” Walter said resolutely. “Queen Consolidated needs stability to navigate this crisis and I will not leave it on Oliver’s shoulders to chart a course through these treacherous waters.”

You misunderstand your position, Mr. Steele,” the archer said. “This is not a negotiation. If you will not resign, than I will kill you and see your sister sold to human traffickers.

“I don’t believe you,” Walter said. “I will not submit to intimidation tactics from a man who hides his face.”

The archer was silent for a moment. Then, a moment later, Walter felt a stabbing pain as an arrow blossomed in his right ribcage, punching through and piercing his lung. This was followed up by another arrow, this one piercing his left ribcage and lung. Finally, a third arrow blossomed in his chest, piercing his diaphragm. Walter fell back on the bed, choking on blood as it flooded his throat, hands shakily scrabbling at the arrows embedded in his chest. “Poor Cynthia,” was the last thing Walter heard before darkness claimed him.

*DC*

Laurel was at C.N.R.I. early the next morning, holed up in her office as she prepared her case to present to the judge tomorrow (the earliest that Judge Moss would see her since it was about a case that had already run through its appeals) to provide Peter Declan a stay of execution. Oliver had expressed concerns as to whether Judge Moss would do so, citing that he heard she was a hard-liner that didn’t equate justice with the law. But Laurel had to do this by the book, and Judge Moss was still the judge on record for the Peter Declan case, which meant any motions had to be made to her. Laurel could only assume that Oliver was already making plans for if Moss proved unamenable (and she suspected those plans included searching for any signs of corruption in the judge to expose the way he had brought down the District Attorney). She looked up when she heard a knock at her door.

Standing in the doorway of her office was her father, looking uncomfortable. She waved him in. He glanced at the open file on her desk. “Hey, you look busy,” he said. “Is that the Declan case?” Laurel looked up at him, already suspecting what this visit was about. “You know, there was a funny development on that. Matt Istook, he, uh, filed a police report. He said the Green Arrow harassed him last night, tied him to the train rails. And that’s funny, because I gave my daughter Istook’s name.”

“Dad,” Laurel began.

“He’s a vigilante, and what’s more, he’s a murderer!” Quentin hissed. “He’s a damn criminal, and you working with him, that makes you an accessory.”

“I am trying to save an innocent man’s life,” Laurel said, standing and facing her father with a stubborn set to her jaw.

“No, you’re breaking the law,” Quentin said, standing as well.

“Well,” Laurel said softly, meeting her father’s gaze with a fierce glare in her green eyes, “I wouldn’t have to, if the police would have done their job right in the first place.”

Quentin worked his jaw for a moment. “I asked you how you got this case,” he said, “and you lied to me, straight to my face. I thought we didn’t do that to each other.” His jaw clenched for a moment as he swallowed down the anger he was feeling and got to the real reason he had come here. “Laurel, I’m not the only one making the connections,” Quentin said. “You’ve made no secret that you’re Declan’s lawyer now, and the Green Arrow harassing Istook last night lets others know you’re working with him. I can’t protect you if you keep working with him.”

“I don’t need your protection,” Laurel said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an argument to prep for Judge Moss.” Laurel returned to her desk. Quentin stared down at his daughter for a moment before turning on his heel and walking out, his heart aching because he knew where this was going, and he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

*DC*

Agent Darius Trimble looked down at the body that had been dumped in Mericle Plaza, three black arrows sticking out of it. Walter Steele had been someone they intended to question further seeing as he had been married to Moira Queen. Trimble didn’t like this one bit. First, Felicity Smoak, a lowly I.T. agent from Queen Consolidated, is murdered by one of the most prolific serial killers currently on the loose while searching for clues as to what had precipitated the kidnapping of Oliver Queen and Thomas Merlyn almost four weeks ago. Second, the Queen’s Gambit was discovered in a warehouse paid for by an LLC that Moira Queen had ‘invested’ Queen Consolidated funds in, an LLC that Smoak had uncovered before meeting her demise and informed Oliver Queen about, reporting to him over the C.E.O. of the company. Third, Moira Queen hangs herself in her cell rather than face questioning. Finally, Walter Steele is murdered and dumped in the Glades, in what could only be a mockery aimed at the Green Arrow.

There was something sinister at work in Starling City, and it stank of conspiracy. Someone didn’t want the F.B.I. to find out the truth about what had happened to the Queen’s Gambit and was systematically cutting off all sources of information as quickly as they sprang up. That the only person who seemed to have any knowledge of this conspiracy was a goddamned vigilante was galling, because there was no way the Green Arrow was going to just pop by the station and sit down for an interview.

“Someone has got a serious hatred for the Queen family,” Alex Danvers said from beside Trimble, voice subdued. “Robert Queen, Moira Queen, now Robert Steele. Should we consider putting a protective detail on the Queen siblings, sir?”

“Definitely,” Trimble said briskly. “I’ll go see Oliver Queen myself. I want you to go to Berlanti Preparatory and get Thea Queen. I want those two in protective custody before afternoon.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex said, turning and heading for her car. Trimble examined the dump site one last time before signaling C.S.U. to do their thing, heading for his own car. He really hoped Oliver Queen was strong enough to deal with this.

*DC*

Oliver looked up from the paperwork he was mulling over as his door opened and Agent Trimble entered, ignoring Gina’s protestations. “Mr. Queen, there’s been a serious development. I need you to come with me, now,” Trimble said. “Agent Danvers is already getting your sister. We’re placing the two of you in protective custody.”

“Agent Trimble, you can’t just barge in here and declare something like that,” Oliver said, standing and moving around the desk. “If this is as serious a development as you seem to think, I need to be here, to help Walter assure the board and our department heads.”

“I’m afraid Mr. Steele is the serious development,” Trimble said. “He was found in Mericle Plaza with three black arrows sticking out of his chest. It might just be a copycat of the Green Arrow, but there’s something about it that feels mocking, as though this was meant as a message for the Green Arrow as much as closing another avenue of investigation for my team.”

Oliver was silent for a moment before he turned and looked out at the city. Gina had gasped upon hearing the agent’s news and was making an odd mewling sound, trying desperately not to cry. “You think someone is targeting my family,” Oliver said flatly.

“I do,” Trimble said.

“Let me speak to Ned Foster, and then I’ll come with you,” Oliver said. “You can come with me to Ned’s office if you like.” Trimble nodded, and the two men left the office.

*DC*

“Ollie!” Thea cried, red-eyed and blotchy, as Oliver walked through the door of the F.B.I. safehouse they’d been taken to. “Please tell me this isn’t happening! Please tell me this is just some crazy nightmare I’m having and I’m gonna wake up and both Mom and Walter are gonna be fine!”

Oliver took his sister in his arms and held her close. “I wish I could, Speedy,” Oliver said. “But they’re sure.” He found it ironic that, in another lifetime, he would have lied to his mother and sister about an F.B.I. contact of Dig’s telling him that Walter was confirmed to be dead, and yet in this lifetime where Walter had yet to truly test Merlyn, he had been killed. But what was Merlyn’s aim in killing Walter now? The investigation was already in motion, stunted as it was by the deaths of Felicity and his mother. He couldn’t stop it from happening. And was Merlyn going to come for he and Thea next, get rid of all the loose ends, as it were?

“Why is this happening?” Thea sobbed. Oliver could say nothing, knowing the F.B.I. had to have the room under surveillance. He hoped Thea wouldn’t say anything that would put him in the hot seat, but he couldn’t be sure, compromised as her emotions were. “What did we do, Ollie? What did we do to deserve this?” Again, Oliver could say nothing, only comfort his sister as best he could while also wonder how this would impact his efforts to protect the city as Green Arrow. He had understood the hidden message in Walter’s murder from the Dark Archer. Not only was Walter a member of the one percent, the type of person Oliver was targeting as Green Arrow, but he was an innocent. The message was that so long as Green Arrow pursued his vendetta, the Dark Archer would threaten innocents, and knowing Merlyn, they would be random so as to keep Oliver from being able to save them.

Hours later, Thea was sleeping fitfully, while Oliver sat in an armchair, waiting for further news. There was a light knock on the door, then it opened, and Alex Danvers walked in. “How’s your sister?” Alex asked.

“What, you’re not recording our every word and every move?” Oliver asked with a raised eyebrow. Alex flushed. “Thought so,” Oliver murmured. “In short, this is getting to be one horrifying event after another for my sister. First, she’s targeted by China White because of the altercation I had with her in my girlfriend’s apartment a few weeks back. Then we lose our mother, then Walter. I had to stop comforting my sister to take a call from Ned Foster, the Chief of Operations for Queen Consolidated. QC stock was in freefall and the board is demanding that I take the position of C.E.O. to give our investors some reassurance. All in all, today is one shitty day for both my sister and I, and I really don’t want to tangle with you again over my life choices.”

“That was wrong of me, to go after you like that,” Alex said. “I’m sorry.” Oliver nodded, showing he accepted the apology. “This is only temporary. We don’t want this to interfere with your daily lives if there is no threat, so more than likely an agent will be assigned to you and your sister until we’re sure that there’s no threat against the two of you.”

“Thank you for telling me what to expect, Agent Danvers,” Oliver said. His phone buzzed. “Excuse me. Pretty sure this is my girlfriend.” Alex nodded and left the room. Oliver answered his phone, having seen the number and knowing it wasn’t actually Laurel calling. Why were the Bratva calling him now? “This isn’t the best time,” he said as he answered.

“We must meet, captain,” Leonov said on the other end. “There is threat to Bratva.” He ended the call. Oliver pocketed his phone. Dodging the F.B.I. to go meet with the Russian Bratva while the Dark Archer was potentially hunting for him and his sister? That was pretty much par for the course of his life these days. 

Chapter Text

Oliver had tossed and turned all night, haunted by the changes wrought on the timeline by the changes he had made, even unknowingly, and the next morning it was obvious that neither of the Queen siblings had slept well, both having bags under their eyes as they poked at the breakfast the F.B.I. had brought in from a nearby Denny’s (biscuits and gravy with a side of sausage). “What’s going to happen, Ollie?” Thea asked tentatively.

Oliver, who had been brooding over how to get away from the F.B.I. so that he could meet Alexi and the other members of the Bratva, looked up at his sister. “What do you mean, Speedy?”

“What’s going to happen to me?” The seventeen-year-old girl asked, looking very young and vulnerable as she looked at her brother beseechingly. “Mom and Walter are dead. I’m seventeen. Does this make you my guardian for the next few months?” Oliver’s brain stalled out at this question. He hadn’t even thought about the impact this would have on the matter of custody for his little sister, focused as he had been on the overall impact to what he remembered from the original timeline. By the time his mother had died in the last timeline, Thea was nineteen and had had a boyfriend who she had spent a good part of the summer living with at his home in the Glades, and when she came back after training with Malcolm she had purchased the loft and been the put-together sibling out of the two of them. But here and now, Thea was a seventeen-year-old girl who had just lost her mother and stepfather, and Oliver knew without even broaching the topic that emancipation wasn’t in the cards simply because of the emotional anguish his sister would be in for the coming weeks and months. She would need someone to keep an eye on her, make sure depression wasn’t overwhelming her “Ollie?” Thea asked worriedly.

“Sorry, Thea, you just made me realize there’s a lot more going on that I hadn’t considered,” Oliver said. “As far as I know, yes, this would make me your guardian, though we’d have to confirm it through the courts. I’m sure Laurel can help us out in that regard.” Thea nodded morosely. “With any luck, we’ll be able to resume our normal lives either today or tomorrow, albeit with an F.B.I. escort. You know if you need to talk, I’m here for you, right?”

“I don’t know that,” Thea said. “I mean, sure, you’re teaching me how to defend myself, but we don’t talk. You’re always so busy with-with stuff from Queen Consolidated.” The unspoken and your work as the Green Arrow hung in the air between the Queen siblings. “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, Ollie, but I could really use my brother right now.”

Oliver closed his eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I know it isn’t easy. And it’s not going to get much easier. The company needs me to be the C.E.O., give our shareholders some reassurance that the company will weather through this. There’s a lot that needs doing at Queen Consolidated.” Again, there was an unspoken message that his work as Green Arrow, when he could get away to handle it, would also take up a lot of time. “But I swear to you, Thea, I will make as much time as possible for you, even if it means I sleep less than I should. Nothing is more important to me than family.” Which means I need to decide what to do about Emiko, Oliver thought grimly as he reached a hand across the table and took Thea’s slender hand in his own rough one. “I’m here for you, Thea. I’m here for you.”

“Thanks, Ollie,” Thea said thickly, tears streaming down her cheeks as relief overwhelmed her. She had been scared of facing all of this alone; in hindsight, she knew she was being foolish. She would always have Oliver, and so long as they were together, she would also have Laurel.

There was a knock on the door before Agents Trimble and Danvers entered. “Good morning Mr. Queen, Miss Queen,” Agent Trimble said. “I’m sorry we had to keep you here overnight but we wanted to be careful, at least for the first twenty-four hours after Mr. Steele’s death, just in case someone planned to go after the two of you. While our agents saw no one suspicious hanging around, we’re still cautious and will be assigning an agent to each of you.”

Oliver quirked an eyebrow at this. “Who will be assigned to us?” he asked.

“Agent Teller will be trailing Miss Queen,” Trimble said, “while, despite your differences, I’ve decided to assign Agent Danvers to you since, aside from chasing the serial killer who targeted Miss Smoak, she has very few duties for the task force.”

“Task force?” Oliver echoed. This was new.

“Task force,” Trimble said with a nod. “I’ve been in contact with my superiors at both the Seattle field office and at Quantico. There is too much going on in Starling City that stinks of a conspiracy, and they’ve decided to create a special task force to delve into these matters. From Green Arrow to Tempest, it will be this task force’s job to uncover the truth. We’ll be receiving further agents this afternoon, flying in from Quantico.”

“That is… gratifying to hear,” Oliver said, his mind whirring as he tried to factor all of this in and apply it to his plans surrounding Merlyn and Tempest. “I, for one, will sleep better knowing so many people are taking an interest in what’s happening to my family. I just hope you find the answers that we all want.” Oliver turned to look at Alex. “I have to go to Queen Consolidated today to sign the contracts that will make me C.E.O., and then I have to hold a press conference afterwards. If someone were going to kill me, the conference would be an excellent opportunity.”

“I agree,” Alex said, her eyes narrowing suspiciously. How did he know that? A moment later, she felt foolish for her suspicions. A public event was the most obvious place for an assassination attempt, even a layman knew that thanks to it being popularized by television dramas and political thrillers. “I’ll make sure to have a couple of other agents tag along, just in case. We’ll coordinate with the security staff at Queen Consolidated.” Oliver nodded.

“Miss Queen, do you plan on going to school today?” Agent Trimble asked.

“No,” Thea said. “I was barely making it through after Mom died. I’m not going to be able to focus with everything that’s going on.” She looked at Oliver. “You’ll need to call and excuse me from classes until at least the funerals, Ollie.”

“I’m sure Headmaster Kreisberg will prove amenable,” Oliver said blandly. He didn’t particularly like the headmaster of Berlanti Preparatory, and not just because of the disciplinary issue. There was something slimy about the headmaster, the way he acted around some students, that rubbed Oliver the wrong way. Not for the first time, Oliver wondered if there was more to Kreisberg than met the eye. “I’ll call him on the way to work. Don’t worry, Speedy.” Oliver turned to the agents. “I assume this means that Thea is welcome to return to the loft?”

“She is, so long as she takes Agent Teller with her,” Trimble said.

*DC*

Oliver flexed his cramped right hand experimentally. Ned Foster gave him a sympathetic smile. “Your father did that whenever he had to sign a lot of paperwork in one go,” Ned said quietly as the two men left the office of the Chief of Operations and headed for the elevator bank, where they would head to the ground floor for the press conference. “I noticed you were carefully reading over the contracts. Worried about something?”

“Dad once told me the Board could be a pit of vipers if they smelled blood in the water,” Oliver said. “I wanted to make sure they hadn’t slipped something in that would let them seize control of Queen Consolidated from me.”

“It’s not like they could even if you did do something they didn’t agree with,” Ned said. “You have full control of your family’s stock now that your mother’s passed on, and I know you’ve been buying up stock that people sold off with your mother’s suicide and now Walter’s murder. Even without that stock, you’re the majority shareholder.” Oliver nodded, thinking that this was another drastic alteration to the timeline as a result of one simple stone thrown into the pond, that being the discovery of the Queen’s Gambit.

In the original timeline, his mother had held the controlling interest of QC stock until her arrest, at which point it had been put into escrow and sold off slowly, which had resulted in Isabel Rochev gaining the foothold that she had had. But here, his mother’s shares passed onto him, as stipulated in her will, which had went into effect as soon as she was declared dead. With it, he controlled Queen Consolidated without any potential for being pulled down, especially since he had made sure his C.E.O. contract didn’t include any stipulations from the Board that would allow them to seize control of the company from him.

Oliver gave a deep breath, releasing it slowly as the elevator descended towards the lobby. “You’re going to do fine, Oliver,” Ned said. Oliver nodded silently, mentally going over what he wanted to say as the numbers on the digital display inside of the elevator dwindled towards one. Barely a minute after leaving the top floors of Queen Consolidated, Oliver and Ned were stepping off of the elevator and into the lobby. Oliver focused his attention again on what he wanted to say, having learned to ignore the crowd of reporters during his time as Mayor of Star City. Oliver and Ned mounted the dais that had been set up, and Oliver stood off to the side as Ned took to the podium.

“Thank you all for coming here today,” Ned said. “Queen Consolidated has seen a moment of double tragedy in the past three days. We’ve seen the suicide of one former C.E.O. and the murder of another, in the midst of the discovery of the remains of the Queen’s Gambit, which according to the F.B.I. showed signs of sabotage, which leaves us with the inescapable reality that Robert Queen was also murdered. As a result of this, Queen Consolidated is in turmoil and our shareholders are wondering if they should pull out. I’m here today to introduce the new C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, though he needs no introduction. Taking his rightful place as the C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated is Mr. Oliver Queen, who has prepared a few remarks for this occasion.” Ned stepped back, allowing Oliver to step up to the podium. As he did so, he noticed a few familiar faces in the crowd behind the press corps. Tommy Merlyn and Laurel Lance were standing and watching, Tommy looking gobsmacked and Laurel beaming at him. He could barely make out Sara Lance, a Rockets cap pulled low over her face, standing near a potted fern. Nearer the back was Barry Allen and a man Oliver assumed must be Henry Allen; the younger of the two looked shocked. Oliver felt bolstered having so many of his friends present.  

“Thank you, Ned,” he said. “And as Ned said, thank you all for coming. Queen Consolidated is facing a dark and uncertain future. There can be no denying this. We have been informed my father was likely murdered; my mother has committed suicide, presumably to hide information surrounding that revelation; and my stepfather has just been murdered. Two successive C.E.O.s have been murdered and another has committed suicide rather than be questioned. Our shareholders are panicking. How can they know Queen Consolidated will be safe for them and their investments? I’m here today to answer that question. The answer is that there is no guarantee. The future is dark and uncertain, like a black road at midnight. Only by forging ahead will we discover what that future brings. But Queen Consolidated is not without beacons of hope. I have personally begun redirecting the efforts of our Applied Sciences Division to focus on the development of technologies that will help the most people. As C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, I intend to refocus the entirety of my family’s company towards helping the people of this city. It is why, as one of my first acts as C.E.O., I am intending to re-open the Queen Consolidated steel factory and bring desperately needed jobs to our community.” Whispers broke out at that and there were a few shouted questions that were indistinct. Oliver raised a hand for silence then pointed at one reporter, Susan Williams.

“Mr. Queen, your father once promised to the workers at the steel factory that it would never close, and yet he broke faith with them and did precisely that,” Susan said. “What assurances do the people of Starling City have that you will not break faith with them as your father once did?”

“Thank you for asking such a pertinent question, Miss Williams,” Oliver said. “And the short answer is that I am not my father. For five years, I lived day by day, never knowing if I would eat that day or if I would starve for a few days at a time. I suffered through harsh winters and the knowledge that nothing I had done would be remembered, or if it was, it would be as the childish playboy that the paparazzi loved to write stories about. What I can promise the people of Starling City is that I will fulfill my obligations to them. I am not my father. I want to see our city once more become the beacon of hope it was in my youth, a place where our children could play in the streets without the fear of vanishing, where women could walk down our streets and be comforted in the knowledge that they were safe. Economic stability brings with it social stability, and with social stability comes my vision for what this city could be. I will not betray the people of Starling City. But don’t take my word for it. Let my actions provide the proof of my intent. No more questions, please.” Oliver stepped away from the dais and nodded at a beaming Ned. This was precisely what Ned had hoped for and what Oliver had wanted to deliver: a statement of strength and hope for not only Queen Consolidated and it’s investors, but for the city he loved.

*DC*

Oliver entered the C.E.O.’s office, his office, slowly. The Executive Assistant had already packed away Walter’s things to be sent away to his next of kin, a sister named Cynthia if Walter remembered correctly, and took a moment to take it in. The last time he had been in this office as it’s true occupant, he had been talking about a matter of the board with Rochev and unknowingly signing away his status as C.E.O., playing right into the hands of Slade Wilson and losing the company his family had built over two generations. Not this time, Oliver thought to himself. This time, I will not destroy my family’s legacy but make it stronger.

Oliver was pulled from his thoughts at a light knock at the door. He turned and found two people waiting on the other side: Laurel and Barry, who were giving each other confused looks before turning to look at him. He waved them in. “It was nice to see you both downstairs,” Oliver said. “Laurel, this is Barry Allen, one of the people I recruited for Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences Division in Central City. Barry Allen, this is my girlfriend, Laurel Lance. She’s the head of C.N.R.I., a legal aid office providing legal counsel to those who live in the Glades.”

“Nice to meet you,” Laurel said, shaking Barry’s hand.

“You, too,” Barry said before turning to look at Oliver. “So, uh, that position still available?”

“I’m still in the midst of cleaning house in Applied Sciences, but yes, I want you as part of my team here at Queen Consolidated,” Oliver said. He waved his new Executive Assistant, Mark Snow, in. Snow, a balding, gangly man, entered. “Mark, please take Mr. Allen down to Applied Sciences and make sure he’s given a tour of the facilities he’ll be using until the new division headquarters is built.”

“Right away, Mr. Queen,” Mark said. “And you received a call from Malcolm Merlyn. He wants to arrange a meeting between the two of you at your earliest convenience.”

“I’ll give him a call,” Oliver said. “Thank you, Mark.” He turned to Barry. “Go with Mark, get a feel for the building and the people. And try not to let them intimidate you. If they do, just name-drop me and the fact I recruited you. Should keep the likes of Miller off your back knowing you’re a personal recruit of mine now that I control their paychecks.” Barry grinned at that and nodded, following Mark out of the office. Oliver turned and gathered Laurel in his arms, giving her a deep kiss, one hand brushing her cheek and coming to rest on her shoulder. He pulled away reluctantly.

“What was that for?” Laurel asked, looking flushed.

“I’ve been wanting to do that since last night,” Oliver said. “Didn’t realize how much our nightly sessions have meant to me until they were taken away. And I wanted to thank you for being here. I know you’ve got the argument with Moss coming up and need to be as prepared as possible. It means a lot to me that you took the time to come and support me.”

“You’re the man that I love, Ollie, of course I’m going to come and support you when you’re taking such a big step,” Laurel said, reaching up and tenderly brushing her left hand across his stubbled jaw. “What do you think Merlyn wanted?”

“It’s possible he just wants to offer me advice now that I’m the C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated and he has two decades of being such under his belt,” Oliver said. “He may just want to impart his wisdom on me since Tommy’s still trying to hold out on joining Merlyn Global. But it’s possible he has some other nefarious purpose in mind.” Oliver didn’t vocalize it, but he had his suspicions that Merlyn wanted to exert his control over Oliver and, through him, Queen Consolidated and it’s Applied Sciences division. This might even lead to Oliver gaining membership in Tempest itself, offering him unprecedented access to the true rot at the center of Starling City’s social elite. “Whatever it is, I can handle it.” Oliver turned and moved to the window, looking out at the city, Laurel joining him and threading one of her hands through his. “It’s ironic,” Oliver said softly. “Five years ago, I wanted nothing to do with the company and was doing my best to be someone that my father would never entrust with his legacy. And yet now here I am, the C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, intent on seeing the company through these treacherous waters.”

“You’ve grown up, Ollie,” Laurel said softly, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “We both have. We’re not who we were five years ago, either of us. I never expected to be the head of any kind of law office before I was thirty, yet I’m now the head of C.N.R.I. Our choices define who we are as much as our morality, and I think both your parents would be proud of the man you’ve become. You’re better than them, which would’ve meant the world for Moira, at least. She always wanted better for you and Thea.”

“I know,” Oliver said. “I should probably let you get back to work. You’ve got that appointment with Moss. I’ve already got Fyff digging into her.”

Laurel’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What are you up to, Ollie?”

“Just seeing about greasing the wheels of justice,” Oliver said smoothly. Laurel’s eyes narrowed further. Oliver simply smiled at his girlfriend. She shook her head at him and reminded herself that the system wasn’t perfect; everything she had been through recently had let her see that, especially her father telling her about the pact between the police and the organized crime syndicates. If whatever Oliver was up to with Fyff saw Peter Declan freed, or at least the execution stayed, than it was for the best. She smiled bitterly as she realized how different she was from how she had been only three weeks ago. “What is it, Laurel?” Oliver asked.

“Just thinking about whether I would’ve been as open to this three weeks ago as I am now,” Laurel said, shaking her head. “Things have really changed since you got back.” She gave his hand another squeeze, one last quick smile, and then she was heading for the door.

You have no idea, Oliver thought as he watched her leave his office, before turning back to the cityscape, his blue eyes drifting towards the dominating skyscraper that was Merlyn Global. What do you want with me, Merlyn?

*DC*

Judge Rachel Moss glanced suspiciously at her cell phone, which was ringing and the Caller ID read ‘Blocked’. After a moment, she answered. “Judge Moss,” she said briskly.

“Good afternoon, Judge Moss,” said a man’s voice in a pleasant tone. “You don’t know me, but I know quite a bit about you. I know how you’ve accepted bribes to look the other way on matters of public interest, matters that you certainly don’t want seeing the light of day. Like, for example, the fact that you are fully aware of Jason Brodeur’s dumping of toxic waste in the Glades. A little fact that you failed to acknowledge while serving as the trial judge for the case against Peter Declan. Which, incidentally, is what I’m calling to talk to you about. In less than an hour, Laurel Lance will be appearing before you with an appeal to stay Declan’s execution as a result of a report that has been uncovered, a file compiled by Camille Declan before her murder that details Brodeur’s illegal actions. You are going to accept this new evidence and stay the execution until it can be fully investigated by the Starling City Police Department.”

“And if I refuse?” Moss asked.

“Your corruption will be exposed,” the man on the other end of the line said smugly. “Your reputation will be in tatters, you probably won’t survive the scandal, and in the end, Peter Declan’s execution will be stayed anyways while the F.B.I., which have a strong presence in Starling at the moment, investigate evidence of corruption at the highest levels of the Starling City justice system. Either way, what my employer wants to happen will happen. But only one of these options offers you the chance to save yourself and your career. Choose wisely, Judge Moss.” A click signaled the end of the call, and Judge Moss was left in a quandary.

Did she save Brodeur or herself?

*DC*

Oliver ducked into the garage that served as the front for the Bratva after having used the window of opportunity where he wasn’t guarded at Queen Consolidated to slip away and found two of the men waiting for him. They fell into step behind him as he made his way to the lower level of the basement, where he found several other members of the Starling City chapter of the Bratva waiting for him. Over forty men sat around the room, and Leonov, now one-handed and ever-glowering, sat in the center like a fat and conniving spider, albeit one who had lost its venom thanks to the actions of Anatoli Knyazev. “What’s happening?” Oliver asked, wasting no time with pleasantries.

“One of our men was killed while speaking to lawyer about forming private security firm, one of suggestions Pakhan left behind,” Alexi said. “Danakov. Good man. Strong man. Not easily taken. Shot from behind by an automatic.”

Helena, Oliver thought to himself. With the Triad out of business, she would have to turn to the only other major crime family in the city. Next, she would target people from her father’s organization and then return to targeting the Bratva, slowly pitting the two crime syndicates against each other. “Any leads?” he asked aloud.

“None,” Alexi said. “We were hoping Kapushion could look into it. We cannot expand to legitimate enterprises if we are targeted.”

“I understand,” Oliver said. “You have my word that I’ll look into it. But why couldn’t you just tell me this over the phone?”

“Because you must remember we are a brotherhood, Mr. Queen,” Alexi sneered. “What affects us affects you. Sitting in that lofty tower, perhaps you forget your oaths. Poor choice when Pakhan has vouched for you so viciously.” He raised his stump of a wrist for emphasis. “You are involved in our world whether you wish to be or not. You wish us to do as you say? Then you must show us that you shall fight for us as you fight for the poor and the victimized.”

“Which reminds me,” Oliver said idly. “You’ve shut down all our operations tied to human trafficking?”

“Yes, as directed,” Alexi said sourly. He had pleasured himself with more than a few girls, helping to break them before sending them home to Russia to be further trained.

“Good,” Oliver said. “Begin dialing back our drug operations next; reach out to the street gangs and begin negotiating to off-load those operations to those more inclined towards them.” Alexi nodded sharply. “Anything else you need to discuss while I am here?” Oliver asked.

“No,” Alexi said. Oliver nodded and turned to leave. “I question, though,” Alexi said, forcing Oliver to turn around and meet his fierce, questioning gaze, “what will happen should you ever be forced to choose between Bratva and Kapushion? Will your oaths hold you? Or will I be directed to act against you from a betrayed Pakhan?”

“I guess we’ll see,” Oliver said softly, turning and leaving before Alexi could say another word. It wasn’t like he could say it would never happen. Anatoli hadn’t been able to keep up his promises of turning the Bratva around in the original timeline, and Oliver had been forced to choose between doing the right thing for Star City and his relationship with Anatoli. If he were ever forced into that situation again, he knew that his choice would be the same.

Queen Consolidated. The Bratva. A.R.G.U.S. The League of Assassins. Perhaps Tempest if what he thought Merlyn’s desires for arranging a meeting with him was about rang true. In the end, no matter his other commitments, the only thing that mattered was safeguarding his city. The city and his mission had to come first, above all other obligations.

Chapter Text

“So, Mr. Queen, where did you go?” Alex Danvers asked as Oliver stepped into his office, freezing in place as he saw her leaning against his desk. “You do remember I’m assigned to you for your protection, don’t you? We still don’t know if someone is going to target you and your sister.”

“Must’ve slipped my mind,” Oliver said blandly. “And I just went for a drive to clear my head.”

“A drive where?” Alex asked.

“I went to the Glades to take a look at the steel factory, get an idea of what I need to do to bring it back to life,” Oliver said. “It’s gonna take a lot of work. It’s in a serious state of disrepair and the entire building will have to be rewired.” He remembered how Tommy had bribed the city inspector to ignore the basement once Verdant opened and had used the excuse that the basement wasn’t up to code when Quentin and Hilton came calling; Oliver still regretted treating his friend with such suspicion as he had. “You could say I’m a bit more hands-on than my father was. I intend to visit every department of Queen Consolidated and familiarize myself with all of their work.”

“Right,” Alex said after a moment. “Well, just try to remember that I am here for your protection, Mr. Queen. I’ll be down in the lobby when you’re ready to head home.”

“Of course, Agent Danvers,” Oliver said smoothly, already figuring out the best way he could get out of the building. Alex scoffed and exited the office while Oliver sat down behind his desk, drumming his fingertips on its flat surface. Green Arrow had been off the streets since the night Sara returned, while he dealt with the aftermath of his mother’s suicide and now Walter’s murder. He needed to get back out there, make up for his screw-up the night Sara returned. He knew it was risky, with the F.B.I. in town and looking into Green Arrow with a new task force, but he couldn’t just sit by and let them handle things. This was his city, and he would be damned if he let people who weren’t invested in its future decide its fate.

Oliver checked his messages. There was a message from Malcolm, asking him to call him when he got a chance; that meant for now Merlyn was going to play the ‘mentor’ card. He wouldn’t be talking about the Undertaking and Tempest on an open line, especially since the F.B.I. were likely going to be monitoring any and all calls that Oliver received in case a threat came in. There was also a call from Dr. Anne Green, reminding Oliver that they had an appointment tomorrow morning and that he had already missed two appointments they had scheduled. Oliver grimaced, but considering how off his game he had been the other night, maybe it was time to fulfill what would now be his mother’s dying wish and get help in therapy. At least now he knew his secrets wouldn’t be shared with his mother, and through her with Malcolm. He hated himself for thinking it the moment after it crossed his mind, however true it was. She had been his mother!

Oliver picked up his phone and dialed Merlyn’s personal cell, the number of which he had provided in his message. It was time to at least get the ball rolling on things with Merlyn, however they ended up playing out. After a few rings, Merlyn picked up. “Oliver,” Merlyn greeted. “I’m glad you called. Let me begin by again offering my condolences for both Moira and Walter. They were good friends.”

“Thank you, Malcolm,” Oliver said pleasantly, keeping up the pretense that his godfather was not a murderous psychopath who had driven his mother to suicide and murdered his stepfather. “I assume you wanted to talk to me about something?”

“Yes, I wanted to offer my guidance as you step down this treacherous path,” Merlyn replied. “Being a C.E.O. has many dangers and pitfalls. Normally, your father or mother would’ve been there to guide you as you took these first steps. As your godfather, it’s my sworn duty to fill their shoes when they can’t be here.”

“I appreciate the offer, Malcolm, and I would be open to getting advice from a man with over twenty years of experience,” Oliver said.

“I caught the press conference earlier,” Malcolm said. “You have your father’s charisma and your mother’s way with words. Truly inspiring, Oliver. But do you truly think it wise to re-open the steel factory?”

“It won’t happen right away,” Oliver replied. “I went down there this afternoon; it was why I was out of the office when you called. I wanted to get an idea of what was needed. It’ll take months to bring the factory back up to code and ready to open for business. But just the promise of much-needed jobs can have an impact on people, I think. This city needs something to pull it back from the brink. Maybe it’s this, or maybe it’s something else. All I know is that I have to try to do something.” He allowed some of the frustration he was feeling to leak into his voice, letting Merlyn conclude he might be pliable and feeling dirty as he did it. Was this truly the best way to save Starling City? Play games with a psychopath like Malcolm Merlyn?

Malcolm was silent as he considered Oliver’s words, then said, “All I’m saying is it might be too ambitious a step for a newly-minted C.E.O. If this is truly what you wish to do, I’ll support you one hundred percent. It’s what your parents would’ve wanted. Feel free to call me any time that you need advice.”

“I will,” Oliver confirmed, and the two said their goodbyes. After hanging up, Oliver couldn’t help the shudder of revulsion that passed through him. In the past, he would’ve been able to handle that conversation without feeling this way. What had changed? Almost instantly, Oliver knew what had changed. He had. While he was still very much a man for whom the mission came first, he had found himself building a new family for himself here in the past, a family that included the woman that he loved and the sister that he cherished. He had also been building a reputation for himself, one that risked being tarnished if he continued to play games with Merlyn just to find out who the other members of Tempest were. Maybe it was time to dig into his memories again, see if he couldn’t find something that pointed to another member of Tempest, someone he could twist and exploit to discover the identities of the rest.

But that would have to come later. He needed to find out if Moss had capitulated to Fyff’s demands or if he was going to have to make a choice between going after Brodeur or going to Iron Heights to save the lives of Declan and Laurel. He couldn’t do both; he had barely made it in time to save Laurel and Declan the last time. If only there was a way to do both…

Oliver started. There was a way. There was someone else in Starling with the skills to intervene, someone who had learned to be a shadow, someone who had been trained to slip in and out of prisons without leaving a trace, only feared whispers. He had a stop to make before he hit his lair tonight. It was time to see about bringing Sara Lance down off of the fence in the war for Starling’s soul.

But first, he needed to call Laurel, find out the situation with Moss.

*DC*

As it turned out, Moss had capitulated and even done one better, moving Declan into protective custody at Iron Heights. The process would be a little slower than it had been in the previous timeline since they were taking this route, but in the end, the result would be the same, and Peter Declan would be a free man while Ankov went down for the murder of Camille Declan and Brodeur faced justice for dumping toxic chemicals in the Glades. Oliver had managed to once more slip away from Agent Danvers, knowing that this would probably be the last time she let him out of her sight at Queen Consolidated, and made his way to the Bunker. “Good work today with Moss, Henry,” Oliver congratulated Fyff as he entered the Bunker, moving to the stand where his uniform waited, shedding his suit jacket and undoing his tie. “Once Peter Declan is free and clear, send the intelligence we gathered on her to Agent Trimble. That should occupy his task force for a while.”

“We’re gonna get a reputation if we do that to every corrupt official,” Fyff warned.

“A good reputation,” Oliver returned. “The less corrupt officials on the bench, the better for Starling.” Oliver undid the cuffs of his shirt and began unbuttoning the front. “Now that the Brodeur issue is dealt with, it’s time to move forward on something I’ve been holding back on for far too long. Bring up all the intel we have on Daniel Brickwell’s location, it’s fortifications, and how many men he has with him. It’s time to get justice for Rebecca Merlyn.”

“On it, boss,” Fyff said as Oliver continued shedding his clothes and got dressed in his uniform. Oliver held off on choosing his arsenal of arrows until he knew what he would be facing. Zipping up the top half of his uniform, Oliver joined Fyff at the computers as the man pulled up the intel they had on Brick and his headquarters in the Glades. According to what they had, Brick was operating out of a warehouse in the Glades, and it was consistently guarded by roughly fifteen men with automatics.

Oliver went to his array of arrows and began selecting explosive arrows, bola arrows, and a handful of injection arrows. Sliding his chosen arsenal into his quiver and mounting a few flechettes on the bracer around his left forearm, Oliver pulled up his hood, turning to Fyff. “While I’m out, see if you can backtrack the person who shot Danakov to their hideout; find out their identity if you can.”

“Will do, boss,” Fyff said as Oliver headed out.  

*DC*

Laurel Lance sighed as she sank onto her couch, feeling older than her twenty-seven years. She had just come from the loft, where she had been visiting Thea, and where Alex Danvers had showed up just as she was leaving, looking steamed. Laurel assumed Oliver had given the agent the slip, and shook her head now, laughing softly. He wasn’t going to earn any friends with the F.B.I. if he kept giving them the slip, but she knew that for him, the city had to come first.

Laurel pulled her phone out of her pocket and checked for any messages. There was a text from Joanna, telling her that they had received confirmation that Peter Declan had been moved into protective custody. Jason Brodeur’s assets had been frozen for the duration of the investigation, leaving the man incapable of buying off the guards that were set to watch Declan. Laurel was happy that this was going so well, but she was very suspicious of the fact that Moss had caved. She had expected to have to argue a lot more with the judge and that maybe even that might not work, despite her hopes to the contrary. And yet, it had worked. The judge had granted protective custody to Declan and allowed the S.C.P.D. to open an investigation into the file and its contents, which would inevitably lead to Peter Declan’s freedom.

But despite the recent victories, Laurel felt there was something off about everything. She knew Oliver had had something to do with Moss capitulating, and she had a sneaking suspicion that blackmail was involved. While she had accepted a lot of what Oliver was doing, she drew the line at blackmail, and she was going to have to talk to him about it. She knew he wanted Green Arrow to be a symbol of hope, but if people found out Green Arrow was resorting to blackmail, she had to ask herself how many of them would be accepting of this. While Oliver had tried the same thing with the District Attorney, that hadn’t been one of Laurel’s cases; they hadn’t even been working together yet. This was the first time since they started working together that Oliver had done something so underhanded, and it made Laurel question just who her boyfriend was now.

There was a soft knock on the door of her apartment. Laurel stood and made her way to the door, opening it to find her sister on the other side, dressed in dark-toned street clothes. “Sara, come in,” she said softly, stepping to the side and pulling the door open wider. Sara stepped inside, and Laurel shut the door behind her. “What brings you by?”

“I needed to see you,” Sara said. “Right now, it’s just me where I’m living, and the solitude is getting to me. You and Ollie are the only ones who know I’m in Starling right now, and I really don’t want to see Ollie right now. I get this feeling he’s gonna keep trying to pull me into this crusade of his.”

“He has that effect,” Laurel said as the sisters took seats on the couch, each tucking one leg under the other. Laurel brushed a lock of her hair over her right ear, clearing it away from her eyes. “Truth is, he probably wants a partner who can be his equal in this. He’s training me and Thea, but I get the impression it’s just so we can defend ourselves if Merlyn ever tries anything. I doubt he wants us in the field with him.”

“Would you even want to do that if it was an option?” Sara asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I… don’t know,” Laurel said softly. “On the one hand, I want that future he spoke about in his message to the city, and I wonder if to get that future I’ll have to go beyond what I’m comfortable with. But on the other, I worry that I would lose myself if I stepped away from the bounds of the law so brazenly and became a vigilante myself.” Laurel scoffed to herself. “I don’t even know why I’m thinking about things like this. I’m not you or Oliver. I don’t know how to take on a dozen men armed with automatics and come out on top. I can barely handle intruders in my apartment.”

Sara was surprised at the degree of self-doubt her sister was struggling with. Laurel had always been so confident, so sure of herself in the past, that to see her doubting herself, even if it was something as wild as her ability to be a vigilante in comparison to Oliver or Sara, was startling. “There’s something else, isn’t there?” she said softly.

Laurel blinked in surprise; Sara didn’t used to be so intuitive. “The case we’ve been working on, Peter Declan,” Laurel began, “I had a meeting with the judge this afternoon and she did everything I wanted. She gave him protective custody, opened an investigation into the file, froze Brodeur’s assets while the investigation is ongoing…”

“So, what’s the problem?” Sara asked, puzzled. She would’ve thought Laurel would be thrilled for everything to be going right.

“I’m pretty sure Oliver blackmailed her,” Laurel said. “I know that technically he’s a criminal, but until now he’s only done things that help people in the long run. Even when he killed James Holder, he was doing it because otherwise more lives could’ve been lost. But this feels different to me; I feel like this victory is tainted somehow.”

Sara sighed. That was one of the biggest problems her older sister had. She was too much like their father. “Okay, let’s run this through,” Sara said. “Say Ollie did do what you think he did. Take that away. What happens?”

Laurel considered it for a moment. “Brodeur came in while I was talking to the judge. I would’ve confronted him, told him I would keep digging even if the judge refused to accept the new evidence.”

“Then?” Sara prompted.

“Brodeur would probably have Declan killed, probably me, too,” Laurel said, thinking it over. Brodeur would know she would be incensed her client was killed and make it her mission to bring him down. One thing her current high profile had made clear was that she was a crusader. He would know that, and plan accordingly. “Oliver would’ve had to beat a confession out of him.”

“So, in the end, does taking the high road benefit the innocent, or not?” Sara asked knowingly.

Laurel sighed. “I understand what you’re saying, Sara,” she said. “It’s just not what I expected when I started working with Oliver.” She shook her head, as if to clear her thoughts, and looked at her sister. “So, why is it you don’t want to help Ollie?”

Sara sighed. “For the past five years, my life hasn’t been my own,” she said. “My first year, I was a ‘research assistant’. My second year, I was caught between Ivo and Ollie. The past three years, I’ve been told to go and kill someone and expected to do so without asking questions. I’m not saying I don’t want to help people, Laurel. But I don’t know if Ollie’s crusade is the best way for me to help people. All I know in combat is how to kill, and Oliver’s crusade prohibits that. I don’t think I can change.”

“Sometimes the only thing that stands in the way of change is our own hubris,” Laurel said softly. “You’ve convinced yourself that you’re a monster. What if you started telling yourself something different? What if you started telling yourself that you could use the tools that made you into an assassin for better purposes? If you don’t feel like you can commit to Ollie’s crusade, don’t. There are other ways to help people. Every night he works on taking down someone who’s entrenched, he’s not able to patrol, and criminals take advantage of that. Maybe you can patrol the Glades, a different part every night, and make the people feel safe that way. Just think about it, Sara.”

“I will,” Sara promised.

Before either sister could say another word, there was a knock at the door. Sara froze where she sat, eyes wide like a deer caught in the headlights. Laurel made a snap decision. “The bedroom,” she said quietly but firmly. Sara nodded and moved into the bedroom, secreting herself out of sight as Laurel went to the door and answered it. “Dad,” she said in surprise. Since his visit to her office at C.N.R.I. yesterday, he had been avoiding her like the plague.

“Can I come in?” he asked uncomfortably.

“Sure,” Laurel said after a moment. She couldn’t really tell him now wasn’t a good time without an explanation. He would expect her to have one; and, in truth, she hoped being in the same vicinity as their father would help Sara come to terms with the fact that she was home, and that it was alright to come out of the shadows and live again, instead of hiding away wherever she was living. Laurel had this horrible thought that her sister was roughing it in the Glades while she slept in the safety of her own apartment, or at Ollie’s loft when she stayed the night with him. Laurel stepped aside, letting her father enter.

The two of them moved to the couch and sat down. Laurel saw Sara peering out from the shadows of her bedroom, soaking in the sight of their father. “What brings you by?” Laurel asked. “Cuz you made it pretty clear how you felt about what I’m doing.”

“I’m not here about that,” Quentin said, shaking his head. “Whatever happens with that is on your head. I’ve done what I can to discourage you from working with that lunatic. If you can’t see he’s leading you down a dangerous road, then I’ll just have to hope you come to your senses before the consequences catch up with you. I’m here about Sara.”

“What about her?” Laurel asked after a moment’s pause. She saw Sara step forward slightly, falter, and retreat back into the bedroom, ducking her head.

“Has Oliver said if she’s come back at all? I figure if she came back, she’d go see him since she’s not feeling like she can come see us,” Quentin said.

“Oliver hasn’t said anything about her,” Laurel could answer honestly. He had led Sara into the ‘trap’ of meeting her face-to-face at the Bunker, and they hadn’t talked about Sara and her situation since then. “I’m sure that wherever Sara is, she wants to come home, even if she’s afraid to. She might feel she can’t, that we’ll judge her for who she had to become while she was away. That’s what I got from the note she left with Ollie.” And from the conversations I’ve had with her, Laurel added silently in her head, hoping her father took the bait.

He did. “I’m not gonna judge Sara for surviving hell,” Quentin said. “She’s my daughter, Laurel, same as you, and whatever the two of you do, wherever your paths take you, you’ll always be my little girls. That’s never gonna change.”

Laurel watched as Sara hesitated before stepping forward, giving her a nod, clenching and unclenching her fists nervously. “Turn around,” Laurel told her father softly. Confusion flitted across his features, then surprise, and finally hope as he turned and stood to face his youngest daughter.

“S-Sara?” Quentin stuttered.

“It’s me, Dad,” Sara said quietly, moving forward. “It’s me. I’m here.” She stepped closer, and Quentin reached out to touch her, his hand brushing over her cheek, which was wet with the tears that had begun to stream down her face. “I’m-I’m home.”

“Yes, baby, you are,” Quentin said, taking Sara by the shoulders and pulling her into a bear hug, Sara burying her face in the cloth of his suit coat. “You are home.” Laurel sat by, smiling brilliantly as her father and sister reunited.

*DC*

The last of Brick’s guards grunted as he slipped into unconsciousness, slumping against Green Arrow as the vigilante applied pressure to the thug’s windpipe with his arm. Green Arrow let the man drop. He had been moving through the warehouse silently for the past twenty minutes, taking out Brick’s men one by one, and now the only one left standing was the budding crime lord himself. Green Arrow moved to the office in the center of the warehouse where Brick was going over his plans to expand his criminal empire. He fired an explosive arrow, sending the door of the office flying off its hinges and barreling through after it, nocking one of his basic arrows and whirling to face Brickwell.

“So, the interfering busybody decides to pay me a visit,” Brick sneered. Green Arrow was struck with the fact that the last time he had seen Brick had been during the riot Diaz had started at Slabside. From what he knew, he had died at someone’s hands during the riot, and been found in the morgue. Considering that was the only way out of the prison aside from the front gate and Stanley had escaped, Green Arrow could put two and two together. “What, no smart comment, Greenie?”

Daniel Brickwell,” Green Arrow said, “you have failed this city.

“Oh, come to give me a chance to atone for my crimes, have you?” Brick laughed. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t take you up on that offer.” He picked up his radio. “Gents, we have an intruder. Whichever one of you manages to kill him will be forgiven for letting him get this far.” Brick waited expectantly.

Green Arrow chuckled. “I’m afraid I spent the past twenty minutes knocking your men out and ensuring they won’t bother us,” he said. “This is a reckoning almost twenty years in the making, Brickwell.

“You’re telling me you’ve been waiting twenty years to get ahold of little old me?” Brick laughed. “You gotta get yourself a girl, mate.”

No,” Green Arrow said, “but without the crime you committed nineteen years ago, there would be no need for me.” With that cryptic statement, Green Arrow loosed his arrow, which flew straight and true, striking Brick in the shoulder. The man hissed in pain and Green Arrow surged forward, using his bow to bash Brick in the side of the head. Brick stumbled slightly, then recovered and thrust a meaty fist into Green Arrow’s side, driving the breath from the Emerald Archer’s body.

“I think you’ll find I’m a little harder to take down than that Chinese harlot,” Brick sneered and delivered another blow to the side of Green Arrow’s jaw and busting his lip open. Green Arrow spat blood from his mouth and struck back, delivering a bow-cut (an uppercut with his bow) to Brick’s chin, the brass knuckle grip giving the blow more of an impact. Green Arrow backed up, giving himself space from Brick, and delivered a swift kick to Brick’s sternum, driving Brick back, clutching his chest in pain. Green Arrow surged forward, pressing his advantage and delivering one, two, three blows to the side of Brick’s head with the brass knuckle grip. Blood trickled from the head wound that this created, staining the brass knuckle grip in the process. With Brick out of it for the moment, Green Arrow drew one of the injection arrows from his quiver and jammed it into the side of Brick’s neck, injecting him with the tranquilizer. After a few tense moments, Brick slumped forward.

Green Arrow double-checked that Brick had his weapon on him, setting it on the desk before using a bola arrow to tie the unconscious gangster to his chair. “Send a message to Pike, let him know where to find a little gift,” he ordered Fyff through the comms.

“Think he’ll take the bait?” Fyff asked.

Pike or Merlyn?” Green Arrow asked.

“Both. Either,” Fyff said.

We’ll see,” Green Arrow mused. “I’m heading back.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen had been in a meditative state for an hour, during which Henry Fyff had continued to piece together surveillance footage from across the city tracking Danakov’s shooter back to their point of origin. Oliver was searching his memories of everything to do with his parents and Merlyn that might have something to do with the Undertaking and Tempest, something he could use to discover the other members of Tempest and learn how deeply invested they were in the Undertaking. He took note of everything that stuck out in his memory, and finally a pattern began to emerge.

Frank Chen visiting the Queen Mansion with a few other people whose faces escaped him; Frank Chen talking with his father the day Laurel tried to talk to him about getting a place together like their friends had done; Frank Chen and his mother talking about something in low tones while he passed by them; his mother including Frank Chen’s name in the list of people Malcolm had killed in pursuit of his madness when she confessed on live television to being complicit in the Undertaking; Moira telling Oliver that she had reached out to Frank, as his father once had, and tried to have Merlyn killed, allowing Frank to take the fall later; Merlyn telling Oliver that it had been Frank Chen who betrayed his father and hired the Triad to place a bomb onboard the Queen’s Gambit.

Frank Chen was the link Oliver had been looking for; but Frank Chen was a Chinese national, and Oliver couldn’t travel to China without raising suspicion, especially since that had been what his father had been doing. But Frank Chen had been a close associate of both of his parents and Walter; it was likely he would come for at least Moira’s funeral, since Walter’s body was being returned to England to be buried by his remaining family.

Oliver pulled out of his meditation. He had the information he was looking for, though he hated that he was going to have to use his mother’s funeral as another step in his plan to destroy Merlyn’s plans for the Glades. “How’s your search going?” he asked Fyff, needing something to pull his attention away from the fact that he wouldn’t even be allowed to mourn his mother properly, even if he waited until afterward to pay a visit to Frank Chen and get all the intelligence on Tempest that he needed.

“I finished a little bit ago, figured you wouldn’t want to be interrupted,” Fyff said. “You won’t believe who was behind the attack.”

“Try me,” Oliver said dryly.

“A mafia princess, Helena Bertinelli,” Fyff replied. “What do you want done with the information?”

Oliver was silent for a moment. Laurel had told him about what her father had revealed, about the deal brokered between the police and organized crime, which meant that nothing would be done with the information if he turned it over to the police. But Oliver couldn’t intervene this time, either; there was just too much to do already, and as it was, once Helena discovered his connection to the Triad, which she was certain to do, than any progress he had made with her would be thrown out the window, just like in the previous timeline when his deep friendship with Tommy and especially Laurel had shattered her fledgling trust in him. “Put it on a flash drive,” Oliver said, turning back to his uniform. “It’s about time Agent Trimble and the Green Arrow had a face-to-face.”

*DC*

Darius Trimble sighed as he entered his hotel room at the Starling Marriott. He had just gotten done having a talk with Alex Danvers, who had waited at Oliver Queen’s loft for hours until it became obvious the man wasn’t coming home anytime soon and returned to the hotel. The young agent was asking to be given something else, anything else to do aside from babysitting Oliver Queen, especially since the man was ducking away from her without much trouble. As far as Danvers was concerned, if Oliver Queen was so arrogant as to think he didn’t need protection, let him walk around without it and learn the lesson the hard way. Maybe it would make him appreciate her efforts. Trimble had firmly told Danvers that she was the only one he could spare and that she would just have to find a happy balance with the Queen scion.

Trimble flicked the light switch into its upward ‘on’ position and moved further into the room, only to freeze upon spotting the figure in the room. He froze only for a moment. A second later, he had dropped what he had been carrying and cleared his gun from its holster, holding it on the figure of the Green Arrow. “Hands over your head, on your knees,” he demanded.

The Green Arrow chuckled. “That’s an amusing request, Agent Trimble,” the vigilante said. “Do you really think I’ll comply?

“If you don’t, I’ll shoot you,” Trimble said firmly.

No, you won’t,” Green Arrow said confidently. “Because you and I are after the same thing. Tempest. I thought it was time we talked.

“You can come down to the station, and we can talk all you want,” Trimble said firmly, keeping his gun trained on the vigilante, who had made no moves against him.

Police stations tend to be full of people I try to avoid,” Green Arrow said diplomatically. “I’m going to reach into a pouch and pull a flash drive out. Please do not shoot me.” Green Arrow reached slowly into a pouch around his waist, Trimble watching him carefully in case he tried at the last minute to pluck an arrow from the flechette and throw it at him, like he had seen him do on some security footage that had been recovered from one of the Green Arrow’s appearances. Green Arrow withdrew a flash drive, and then set it on the table, below a lamp and by the room phone.

“What is that?” Trimble said.

Evidence,” Green Arrow replied. “An olive branch. Do well with this, and I’ll provide more information on Tempest.

“What does this have to do with Tempest?” Trimble asked.

The man behind Tempest orchestrated a deal between organized crime in the city and the S.C.P.D.,” Green Arrow replied. “Organized crime sticks to the Glades, and in return, the S.C.P.D. don’t look too closely at their activities.

Trimble slowly lowered his weapon. “By rights, I should put a round in your leg and cuff you,” he said, “but there’s something about you that makes me pause. You aren’t like a normal vigilante, are you? Most of them are in this for the thrill. That’s not what you’re after.”

No, it isn’t,” Green Arrow replied softly. He moved to the window, and Trimble just watched as the vigilante climbed out through the window that he hadn’t realized was open. He heard the vigilante’s bow firing, and then silence. Trimble holstered his weapon and moved to pick up the flash drive, wondering in his mind what had stayed his hand. He should’ve put a round in Green Arrow’s leg, cuffed him, and dragged his ass down to the police station. He was an F.B.I. agent; he shouldn’t be working with a vigilante, even if the vigilante didn’t seem to operate in the same way most other vigilantes did.

This vigilante wasn’t obsessed with killing his targets like most other vigilantes, who tended to be tagged as mission-based serial killers. He worked with the police and lawyers, making sure they had all of the evidence needed to ensure a conviction. From the whispers they had heard around the station, he had offered information on James Holder to the District Attorney, who was now on the brink of facing charges of corruption and the mayor looking to wash his hands of her. The evidence had come from an anonymous tip to Channel 52’s Susan Williams. The biggest difference between Green Arrow and your average vigilante was that he had access to tech and resources beyond any normal vigilante, and he wasn’t looking to kill those he targeted, his actions with James Holder being the sole exception thus far.

What was his motivation? What was his purpose for doing all of this? Why did Green Arrow exist? These questions and more would come to trouble Darius Trimble throughout the night and the rest of his time in Starling City.

*DC*

Oliver entered the loft, closing the door softly behind him and finding his sister sleeping fitfully on the couch. Agent Teller had been downstairs and given him a nod, but other than that there had been no confrontation about his ditching of Agent Danvers at Queen Consolidated. Oliver went and pulled the blanket up over his sister’s torso, and her hazel eyes blinked open sleepily. “Ollie?” she asked, her voice scratchy from exhaustion.

“Yeah, Speedy,” Oliver said, taking a seat on the edge of the couch. Thea pulled her legs up under her as she rose into a sitting position, brushing her hair back away from her eyes. “Why aren’t you in bed?”

“Because we need to talk,” Thea said seriously. Oliver frowned, not sure what there was for them to talk about. “Ollie, all of this is getting so out of hand. You need to stop. The F.B.I. are investigating the Green Arrow. I-I’ve already lost Mom, and Dad, and Walter… we’ve almost lost Laurel twice… I can’t lose you, too, Ollie. I just can’t. Stop. Please stop. Stop being the Green Arrow. Stop going out at night. Just-Just be my brother!” Thea broke down as she said the last word, curling in on herself and soaking her knees with her tears.

Oliver remembered another time, in the future, where someone who’s life he was responsible for asked him to stop being the Green Arrow. He hadn’t been able to keep his word, just as he wouldn’t be able to do so now. He remembered very well what Novu had told him when he first returned to this time. “I have seen many futures, Oliver, and in each one Grant Wilson is the one who inspires madness and brings about a dark age in your city. Only when you stand against him as the Green Arrow is the city kept safe.

He, and he alone, could safeguard his city. He couldn’t abandon it as he had when he went to fight Ra’s, as he had when he left after defeating Ra’s, as he had when Watson’s investigation got too close and he had foisted the responsibility off on John Diggle. Oliver Queen was the Green Arrow, and the Green Arrow was Oliver Queen. The two were indivisible now. But how to get that across to his little sister, who wasn’t the strong, independent warrior he had left behind in 2019 but a scared teenage girl who had just lost so much of her family already?

Oliver scooted closer to his sister, reaching an arm around her, and pulling her close. She burrowed into his side, tears soaking his suit jacket. “I know that you’re worried about me, and I know you’re feeling like you’re alone in the world because of everything I have to do,” Oliver said quietly, his thumb running up and down soothingly on his sister’s shoulder. “I could do what you ask, abandon the mission I set for myself, turn over all the information I have to the F.B.I. But in doing that, I would deny who I am at my very core. I would deny this city the person it needs to shepherd it through the darkness on the horizon. I heard once that the night is darkest just before the dawn. I want to see dawn rise on our city again, Thea, and I cannot leave the fate of my city in the hands of those who are not invested in its future. Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow, and the Green Arrow is Oliver Queen. I wish I had the answer you’re looking for. But this is who I am now. I can’t deny that, no matter how hard it makes life for us.”

Thea stood abruptly, pulling away from Oliver and heading for the stairs. Oliver watched her go, saddened but not completely surprised. Thea was still only seventeen; she hadn’t seen the dark future Oliver had, hadn’t faced off with potent evils such as Ra’s al Ghul and Damien Darhk. Oliver had faced the greatest evil in the multiverse, had died at the hands of its minions, and that had polarized his view of the world. You couldn’t fight for a better future if you were divided, and Oliver Queen had always been divided from the Green Arrow, if only in his mind. But now he understood; he and the Green Arrow were one and the same. Oliver wished he could be the person his sister needed him to be, but the needs of Starling City came first. That was the price of being a hero.

With a sigh, Oliver stood and made his way to his own bedroom to get a few hours of sleep before his morning appointment with Dr. Green. Maybe he could find a way to talk about what had just happened with her. That should be safe enough and let him gauge the kind of person this Dr. Green was. Depending on how she handled what Oliver would frame as his sister struggling with his new position as C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, she could potentially be a potent ally. While he could always talk to Laurel, she was admittedly biased in his favor. An outside, objective perspective could only help him in the long run. But first he would have to make sure she was trustworthy. Luckily, he had a healthy reserve of ways to test people.

*DC*

Tommy Merlyn sighed as he left the apartment he had just been in, having come here from a party at Poison. He had been here before; he recognized the view of the city. But he didn’t remember the woman who he had come there with; she had just been one person in a long line of people that he had been with over the years. For all he knew this wasn’t even the second time he had been there; it was probably the fourth or fifth in reality. He had always attracted a specific type of woman.

Tommy got into his car and drove through the nearly-silent city. It was almost two a.m. and the city was sleeping, with only a few dozen people awake on each street, hunched behind the wheels of their cars the same as Tommy. The Merlyn scion drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he pulled to a stop at the red light. His mind drifted back to what he and Oliver had talked about, the morning that Oliver had received the call that his mother had killed herself in jail. He had been thinking about that conversation a lot lately. What would be his legacy when he died? A plethora of satisfied women who barely remembered his name but still went after him because he was rich and handsome? Being the disappointment in his father’s eye? What would be the mark he left on the world?

Oliver was certainly taking the opportunities he was being given, tragic as those circumstances had been. Tommy had been shocked when he went to the press conference at Laurel’s suggestion and learned that his best friend had just become the youngest C.E.O. in the city. He had been forcefully reminded of his best friend’s words the day they learned Moira was dead, that he didn’t want his legacy to be that of the playboy who punched a paparazzi and slept with Sara Lance while dating her sister. Oliver’s passion for this had surprised Tommy, but it had also gotten him thinking.

Tommy sighed. Tomorrow, he would go see his dad, ask about getting a job at Merlyn Global. Oliver was right; there needed to be more to life than partying their way through it. He could still have a good time and be a responsible adult, right?

*DC*

Oliver fixed breakfast for himself and a silent Thea the next morning, the girl nibbling on her toast and eggs but maintaining the silent treatment she had instituted last night. Oliver sighed. “Thea, at some point, you’re going to have to talk to me again,” Oliver said. “I know that what I said last night wasn’t what you wanted to hear, but at least I’m being honest with you. Doesn’t that earn me something?” Thea responded by kicking him in the shins beneath the counter.

Oliver showed no reaction and smiled thinly at his sister. “If you’re going to act like a child, I’m going to treat you like one,” he told her, though he didn’t tell her what he meant to keep her from countering what he had planned. It had worked, somewhat, for Malcolm in getting Tommy to grow up. He found it bitterly ironic he was taking parenting advice from the Dark Archer, considering the man was a self-proclaimed sociopath. “I have a therapy appointment this morning, and then I have to go into the office for a couple of hours to deal with paperwork. Do you want me to bring dinner tonight?” Silence. “Okay then. I’ll bring Chinese food.” Oliver turned his attention back to his own sunny-side up eggs and bacon.

“Why?” Thea asked suddenly.

Oliver set down the crispy rasher of bacon he had picked up, wiping the grease from his fingers on the napkin beside his plate. “Why, what?” he asked quietly.

“Why does it have to be you? Why can’t someone else do this? Why can’t Sara, since no one knows she’s alive and back in the city? No one would look twice at a dead woman,” Thea said. “But you’re so open and public now, Ollie, and you don’t hide your opinions. Someone, somewhere is gonna start connecting the dots between Oliver Queen and the Green Arrow. What if the person who does is someone who hates what you stand for?”

Oliver was silent for a moment. His sister’s fear was realistic, especially when you factored in what would’ve happened over the next seven years had the timeline remained intact. Every last one of his enemies had learned or always known that Oliver Queen was the Green Arrow, and they had all used that knowledge against him, targeting the people that he loved. Oliver had started his crusade over with the intent of keeping Green Arrow as a folk hero of sorts, one whose identity was never known. He knew how to disguise his identity now, so the only ones who he would have to fear were Slade, Ra’s, and Emiko (and through her Diaz), assuming he didn’t find a way to nip the last two in the bud. He had no intention of letting Merlyn or Darhk know his identity, and that was assuming he came into conflict with the latter. So long as the League remained strong under the leadership of Ra’s, Oliver doubted H.I.V.E. would move as blatantly as they had done while the League was under Merlyn’s custodianship.

Finally, Oliver spoke. “Sara’s made it clear by keeping her distance that she wants no part in my mission,” Oliver said, “and since her life hasn’t been her own in five years, I’m not inclined to force her to help. Thea, I can’t explain why I have to do this. It’s instinctual, right down to my bones, to fight for this city. I never thought when I started this that Mom and Walter would die, leaving you in my custody. I was sure they would always be there for you.” And he had. He had believed everything he did would keep his family safe from Malcolm’s actions until he confronted the bastard at Christmas. “But say I do as you ask. Say I stopped being Green Arrow, renounced my plans to revitalize Starling City through Queen Consolidated. What would happen then?”

Thea shook her head. “That doesn’t matter to me, Ollie.”

“It should matter,” Oliver said emphatically. “It should! This city is dying, Thea. It is being poisoned by a criminal elite who don’t care who they hurt, so long as they maintain their wealth and power. Someone needs to do something, and if it’s not gonna be the courts or the cops, then it’s going to be me. If I stop doing what I’m doing, then bottom-feeders like Adam Hunt will be emboldened and continue to victimize those who can’t defend themselves, those who are being targeted by a genocidal madman bent on getting vengeance for something that happened twenty years ago! I’m sorry that I can’t be the person you need me to be, Thea, but the past five years have taught me one thing: that the mission comes first, no matter how much we wish otherwise. The mission now is the battle for Starling’s soul, and I refuse to lose it to a genocidal madman!”

“I-I don’t even know who you are anymore,” Thea said, her voice cracking, and she once again fled to her bedroom, leaving her half-finished breakfast behind. Oliver pushed his own plate away, having lost his appetite. He needed to get ready for today anyways. As he stood, he received a text on his phone. Opening it, he smiled semi-bitterly. It was from Tommy, asking Oliver to wish him luck since he was going to ask Malcolm for a job. Oliver hoped that Tommy could be a stabilizing influence in his family’s company once Merlyn was taken down and his plans for the Glades exposed. Maybe that was putting too much on his friend’s shoulders; but it was what it was. Merlyn Global was going to be facing a refining fire in less than a year, one way or the other. The question was whether it would survive that fire or be burnt to ash.

*DC*

Oliver sat down across from the slender auburn-haired woman with kind green eyes. “So, I don’t really know how much help this is gonna be,” Oliver said. “I’m really a very private person, Dr. Green. But I figure I have to try, if only because Mom wanted me to get some help to deal with… everything.”

“Well, why don’t we start there, with your mother,” Dr. Green said gently. “I imagine the past few days have been very hard. I understand the funeral is tomorrow. How are you and your sister handling that?”

“It’s been hard,” Oliver admitted. “Especially because I’ve had to take on new responsibilities. My sister is scared that something will happen to me because of what I’m doing, and she actually asked me to stop, to let someone else take the risk. I don’t know how to explain to her that it has to be me. No one else can do what I can do; no one else cares enough to take the stands I will. I want to see this city become a better place for everyone, but especially for families. Even if it never happens for me, I want my sister to live in a city where she can walk down the street and not worry about being raped, where she can raise her children alongside her husband. I don’t know how to tell her this without being blunt.”

“Maybe that’s what’s needed in this case,” Dr. Green said. “Sometimes, when grief is twisting a person’s mind, the only thing that gets through is a swift, sharp shock to the system. You have to think about more than just yourself, and this is something you know. But your sister is still a teenage girl, and teenagers are especially self-centered, caught up as they are in their own little dramas. It takes something dramatic to shake them out of this.”

“I see,” Oliver said quietly. The truth was, he did see; he had been trying to protect his sister’s innocence by shielding her from what he was fighting against, by shielding her from the truth about Malcolm Merlyn and the desperate battle for Starling’s soul. That might have been fine when his mother was alive, but now he was his sister’s guardian, and she didn’t understand why he was so dedicated to protecting the people of Starling City. Maybe he needed to show her the world through his eyes so that she could. “You’ve given me something to think about, Dr. Green. Thank you.”

“What else do you want to talk about today, Oliver?” Dr. Green asked.

“I’m afraid of what it’ll mean to be C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated,” Oliver said, and this was true, as well as being a safe topic. The last time he had been C.E.O., he had been so terrible at it that the board had supported Rochev’s takeover. Even if that was no longer an option thanks to his being the majority shareholder, he had no desire to run his family’s company into the ground. “My parents were both business-minded people; so was Walter. They knew this world, they knew the players, the pitfalls and perils of the corporate world. My godfather has offered his help, but…” Oliver trailed off, knowing he couldn’t tell Dr. Green the true reason he didn’t want to accept Merlyn’s help.

“You want to make your own way, be your own man,” Dr. Green said softly, and Oliver looked at her, surprised. “You are not the only man I’ve had in my office who had expectations heaped upon him by those who loved him. The best advice I can give all of my patients, and which I will give to you, is this: be yourself.

“That’s all I ever try to be, Dr. Green,” Oliver said softly. “But sometimes I wonder if people can accept me for who I am now.”

“The only way to find that out, is to let them into your world,” Dr. Green replied softly.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen’s lips twitched as he found Alex Danvers waiting for him beside the car outside of Dr. Green’s office. “Good morning, Agent Danvers,” he said cheerfully. She gave him a withering look in return. “You know, you could just stop trying to follow me around,” he said, becoming serious. “The fact is, I’m a very private person, and I have things I like to do in my own time that I don’t want the F.B.I. knowing since whatever you know, some hacker with a lucky streak can find out. You’ll forgive me if I don’t have confidence in the F.B.I. to keep my secrets.” His lips twitched slightly as thought of the secrets he possessed; yes, he certainly didn’t trust the likes of the F.B.I. with the truth of his nature after dealing with Samandra Watson and her bullheaded vendetta against him, to the point that she had ignored the obvious corruption at work when it came to his being exposed.

“Mr. Queen, believe me, I would much rather be focusing my attention on finding the serial killer that killed Miss Smoak,” Alex said. “But Agent Trimble thinks you and your sister might be in danger from the person who murdered Walter Steele. That makes your safety one of our priorities, however inconvenient it might be for you personally. Now get in; I understand we have to spend a few hours at Queen Consolidated.”

“Yes, we do,” Oliver said, getting into the town car, Agent Danvers following behind him. Apparently, she was going to take the John Diggle approach to ensuring his safety now that he had ducked out on her twice in a row. Oh, this was going to be fun; it had been a while since he had been forced to really duck away from those intended to protect him. Or, he mused, he could always offer Agent Trimble the code that Waller had given him to use. It would identify him as a deep cover operative for an intelligence branch and keep the F.B.I. off his back. But if he used it, it would mean A.R.G.U.S. had an even deeper hold on him, and so far, Waller hadn’t done anything such as request his aid in an A.R.G.U.S. mission. But then, he would need A.R.G.U.S. help in abducting Frank Chen and holding him somewhere secure while he interrogated him regarding Tempest.

“If you’re planning how to duck away from me, I’m going to be keeping my eye on you, Mr. Queen,” Alex said, giving him a firm look. Oliver merely smiled at her in reply. Yes, as much as he hated to admit it, he was going to have to use his A.R.G.U.S. connection to get the F.B.I. off of his back. He would only be able to avoid Alex for so long; same with any other agent who was assigned to him. Eventually, the F.B.I. would want to know exactly what he was up to. He couldn’t operate the way he needed to if he was looking over his shoulder for the F.B.I. all the time.

“Ask your boss to meet us at Queen Consolidated,” Oliver said. No time like the present to deal with this. Alex raised an eyebrow but sent a text to Trimble. The rest of the journey to Queen Consolidated was spent in an uncomfortable silence. Once at Q.C., Oliver made his way to his new office for the second day in a row, finding Ned Foster waiting for him. “Ned, what’s on the agenda for today?” Oliver asked briskly as Alex took a seat in the outside lobby to wait for her boss, eyeing Oliver suspiciously through the glass partition.

“We need to go over the paperwork for the Unidac merger,” Ned said. “Walter’s last act as C.E.O. was to secure Unidac for our Applied Sciences division.”

“Ah,” Oliver said quietly. The two hunched over Oliver’s desk, going over the paperwork for the next hour before Darius Trimble arrived. Oliver sent Ned away and waved the F.B.I. agents inside the office.

“What’s this about, Mr. Queen?” Trimble asked.

“We need to talk about this issue we’re having with the protection detail,” Oliver said, having come up with a potentially better way of putting a stop into the unwanted intrusion into his and his sister’s lives without having to use the A.R.G.U.S. card. “Agent Trimble, how many of your people are Special Forces? Is Agent Danvers such? Is Agent Teller?”

“No,” Trimble asked, confused.

“Well, Walter Steele was protected by a dozen former Spec Ops soldiers, and he was still killed, and based on what I’ve heard through the rumor mill, so were the men who were protecting him,” Oliver said. “If the person who killed him and his security detail wanted my sister and I dead, they could’ve gotten to us already, even at the safehouse you took us to. Take your security detail off of us and put those agents to better use pursuing actual leads.”

“Mr. Queen, I understand that it might be frustrating, but what we’re doing is only with your best interests at heart,” Trimble said.

“And as I said, if the person who killed Walter wanted to kill Thea and I, they would have already killed us, along with Agents Danvers and Teller,” Oliver replied. “You’re wasting resources, Agent Trimble. Pull the detail, put your people on more important matters.” Or as best you can, Oliver mused, thinking of how the investigation they had originally been brought in to conduct had been stymied by Moira and then Walter’s deaths. “If I get the feeling that my sister and I are indeed under threat, I assure you, I’ll hire the best security firm in the city to keep us safe. But until such a time, I want our lives back.”

Trimble sighed. It had been a few days since they put the security detail on the Queen siblings, and there had been no sign of any threat to the pair. While he still felt there could be a threat, he couldn’t argue with Oliver’s deductions regarding the situation, either. “Very well, Mr. Queen,” Trimble said, “but on your own head be the consequences. Agent Danvers, you’ll accompany me back to the station. We could use your help on some recent intelligence we received.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex said, and the two F.B.I. agents exited Oliver’s office after saying their goodbyes. Oliver watched them go with a sense of relief. Finally, he could get back to work on keeping the city safe without looking over his shoulder. Oliver picked up his phone and hit the extension for Ned Foster so that he could call him back in and they could finish up the major paperwork for the day.

*DC*

“Can’t say I’m not relieved to no longer be babysitting that arrogant bastard,” Alex said plainly as she and Trimble drove back towards the police precinct they had based out of until they could arrange office space for their task force. “What do you want me to do now, sir?”

“I received a visit in my hotel room last night from the Green Arrow,” Trimble said, and Alex jerked in her seat, looking at her boss in shock as he continued to drive as though he had just casually mentioned that the sky was looking stormy. “According to him, the Starling City Police Department and organized crime in this city have an arrangement, and so a recent murder of a Bratva member will be shoved under the rug. Green Arrow pieced together security footage tracing the killer all the way back to their hideout and revealing their identity in the process.”

“Why did he come to you instead of taking care of whatever it is himself?” Alex asked curiously.

“He’s testing me,” Trimble said after a moment. “I think he wants to work with me to deal with Tempest. But he wants to make sure I can handle working with a vigilante, even if he’s like no vigilante the F.B.I. has dealt with before.” Alex agreed to that silently; based on what she’d researched about Green Arrow, he was more folk hero than mission-based serial killer, a modern-day Robin Hood, indeed. “I should have just tried to subdue him, brought him in and sweated him until he broke,” Trimble continued quietly, “but there was just something about him that gave me pause. I don’t know why I let him walk away, Danvers. But there’s something going on in this city, and if Green Arrow is willing to work with me to stop it… I can put my personal opinions aside. I know I’ll be reprimanded for working with a vigilante when all is said and done, but I get this feeling, like it’s the right thing to do.”

Alex was silent as they drove the rest of the way to the precinct, trying to wrap her head around what her boss had told her. The F.B.I. didn’t work with vigilantes; they hunted them down, caught them, and threw them in prison. What was Trimble thinking, accepting help from one, even if he was more folk hero than serial killer? Anything they dug up with a vigilante’s help could potentially be fruit of the poisonous tree.

Unfortunately, it seemed that just because she was done babysitting Queen it didn’t mean her troubles in this city were over. “So, who killed the Bratva member?” Alex asked finally.

Trimble’s lips twitched into a grim smile. “Helena Bertinelli, daughter of Frank Bertinelli, the local mafioso.”

“Shit,” Alex said after a moment. This could cause a mob war if they weren’t careful.

“Indeed,” Trimble said dryly.

*DC*

Oliver had tasked Henry Fyff the previous night with monitoring Frank Chen’s passport, which would let him know when the man entered the United States. It was evening, Oliver getting ready to leave Queen Consolidated for the operations center, when he received the call from Fyff. Chen had just arrived in Starling City and was taking up a hotel room at the local Marriott. Oliver pulled out his encrypted phone and selected Amanda Waller’s name from his list of contacts. “Oliver,” Waller greeted coolly as she picked up.

“Amanda, there’s a man with intimate knowledge of Tempest staying at the Starling Marriott,” Oliver said. “I need him picked up, discreetly, and taken to a secure location for me to interrogate when I get the chance. His name is Frank Chen.”

“I’ll handle it,” Waller replied. “In return, there is a favor I have to ask you. One of the people on your List is due to make an appearance in Starling City in the next week. Leo Mueller. I want him.”

“Alright,” Oliver said slowly, knowing better than to ask for the reasons why. “I’ll make sure and give you the heads-up when I catch him.” Waller said nothing in return, instead hanging up. “Such a charming woman,” Oliver muttered as he got into the elevator.

*DC*

Oliver had informed Alexi that he had found the person responsible for Danakov’s death and gotten the information into the hands of the F.B.I. Leonov wasn’t pleased that Oliver wasn’t going to give the name to the Bratva, but part of the changes Anatoli wanted to bring to the Bratva was a movement away from gangland retaliations, and Oliver knew this. So did Leonov, which was why, despite his rage at not being able to pursue the vendetta himself, he had subsided and accepted the ‘captain’s judgment’. Oliver knew he wasn’t doing himself any favors when it came to the Bratva, but they knew he was acting with the authority of the Pakhan, and that meant something, even as far removed from Russia as they were.

Oliver had also had a very tense, silent dinner with Thea before heading out again to continue his fight for Starling’s soul.

Now Oliver was at the Bunker, going over his plans for the evening. According to the tap that Fyff had into the S.C.P.D. systems, ballistics was being run on Brick’s weapon, though they wouldn’t get results for forty-eight hours due to a backlog with their C.S.I. division. Oliver was grateful, as it meant he could mourn his mother in peace and have a chance to interrogate Frank Chen before Malcolm learned that his wife’s murderer was in the S.C.P.D.’s custody. He had no idea how Malcolm would react to that. He hadn’t really been around the last time Malcolm discovered his wife’s murderer was still alive and walking free; he had only caught the tail end of it, and Malcolm had been very close to ending Brickwell’s life. It had only been his connection to Thea, or so Oliver had believed, that had Malcolm give up on his vengeance. But in the here and now, Merlyn was still committed to seeing his wife’s murder avenged.

Tomorrow night, he interrogated Frank Chen. The night after, he would have to be on the lookout for Malcolm’s likely explosive reaction to the discovery that his wife’s murderer was in custody. But tonight, it was going to be business as usual for the Green Arrow. There was another human trafficking ring at work in Starling City, under the direction of John Byrne. Flesh peddlers like Byrne raised Oliver’s ire like no other, and it would take a lot of restraint for him not to kill Byrne this time around. He had the last time, despite John Diggle’s protests.

“You sure you can handle this on your own, boss?” Fyff asked worriedly. There were over thirty men guarding the ‘stock’ with Byrne at the shipping warehouse that he operated out of. That was a lot more than Oliver had taken on previously.

Oliver was almost offended at the doubt in his tech specialist’s voice. “Of course, I can,” Oliver scoffed. “I’ve made a name for myself. This scum is superstitious, easily frightened. I’ve made Green Arrow into more than a man; I’ve made him into a boogeyman for men like this.”

“You know it’s scary when you talk about yourself in the third person, right?” Fyff asked.

“You’re not the first person to tell me that,” Oliver said, remembering the many times Felicity had complained about it.

“Okay, so long as you know it’s creepy, more power to you,” Fyff said, turning his attention to the computers. “I’ll keep monitoring the warehouse while you’re en route and update you on any changes.” Oliver nodded and moved to the mannequin where his uniform waited. It was time to get back to it.

*DC*

Green Arrow crouched on a catwalk, looking down at the warehouse floor. It was congested, like it had been in the last timeline, and the men were clustered in groups, some armed with automatics, others with bats. Green Arrow drew a magnetic arrow and fired it down into the center. The magnetic arrow activated, pulling the guns from the hands of those who had them, and Green Arrow fired a zipline arrow, sliding down it and landing on one man who crumpled beneath the weight of Starling City’s resident vigilante. The Green Arrow wasted no time, delivering a swift bow-cut to the chin of the next man in line, knocking him out, firing a bola arrow and tying up two other men for the price of one, before firing a sleeping gas arrow into a cluster of men who were staring at him, dumbfounded. The sleeping gas deployed from its chamber, and the men stumbled slightly before falling to the ground, unconscious.

Green Arrow moved forward, throwing a pair of taser flechettes at the next two men to come at him, striking them in the chest and sending them, convulsing, to the ground. Green Arrow blocked a blow from a bat-wielding thug and delivered a strike to the man’s solar plexus, paralyzing his breathing before delivering one, two, three strikes to his face with the brass-knuckle grip of his bow. Another bat-wielding thug got in a lucky hit on Green Arrow’s left elbow, causing him to grunt as his arm went numb before flooding with pain. Shunting the sensation off to the side with the pain mediation techniques Ra’s al Ghul had taught him in those weeks he had been re-educated as Al Sah-Him, Green Arrow delivered a high kick to the thug’s chin, sending him sprawling backward, blood dribbling from his split lip and eyes unfocused as Green Arrow stepped over his prone form.

Green Arrow fired another magnetic arrow, stripping those who had recovered their weapons of them once more before firing a sleeping gas arrow into their midst, knocking them out as he had the last grouping. This left only five men left between him and Byrne, who was hot-footing it for the stairs leading to the roof. Green Arrow surged forward, calling on his training from the League and delivering punishing blows to each of the five men, leaving them groaning and crippled behind him as he continued his pursuit of Byrne to the roof, finding the man running towards the fire escape. Green Arrow fired one of his basic arrows into Byrne’s left leg, piercing him through the knee joint and bringing him to the ground with a scream of pain.

John Byrne, you have failed this city!” Green Arrow snarled, hesitating for a moment over which specialty arrow to hit him with before wrapping him up like a package for the S.C.P.D. with a bola arrow, and hoping he didn’t come to regret the decision to let scum like this live. “Contact the S.C.P.D.,” Green Arrow directed Fyff over the comms.

Got it, boss,” Fyff replied.

*DC*

Oliver and Thea sat in the very front row of chairs at the graveside service for their mother, Laurel sitting beside Oliver and holding his hand. Quentin was sitting beside Laurel, looking uncomfortable. Tommy and Malcolm were the last to make up those sitting on the front row. Others present at the service included Commissioner Brian Nudocerdo, Mayor Thomas Altman, and other members of Starling City’s elite. Oliver was silent, thinking about how he had missed his mother’s funeral in the last timeline, so this was the first time he was given a chance to properly mourn her in both timelines. But there was so much about his mother he felt conflicted about, and he still didn’t know what he was supposed to do now. He was C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, the Green Arrow, Thea’s prospective guardian (Laurel had promised to help them with this), a captain in the Bratva trying to pull it away from criminality with the help of his friend the Pakhan, and all of it was beginning to get to him. Yet no one else could do what he was needed to do, so he would have to find some way to persevere.

It galled him to share the row with Malcolm Merlyn of all people, and he knew the time was coming when Malcolm would begin to pull Oliver into Tempest. Oliver had thought long and hard on this matter; on the one hand, he would hopefully be able to get all of the information about Tempest that he needed from Frank Chen when he interrogated the man tonight. He had been taken from his hotel room last night by an A.R.G.U.S. wetworks team and was being held in a secure location for Oliver to interrogate. But on the other hand, Merlyn had proven his resolve time and again, both in this timeline and the original. He had proven what he was capable of, proven that he would target those Oliver loved if Oliver betrayed him in his eyes. If Oliver moved against Merlyn, the people that he loved would suffer. He had already lost his mother and Walter; Thea, Laurel, and to some extent Sara were all he had left in the world, and he would safeguard, even if it meant smiling through his teeth at Merlyn while preparing for their inevitable confrontation.

Laurel could feel how tense Oliver was, and rubbed her thumb soothingly over the top of the hand she was clasping with her own. Oliver gave her a gentle squeeze in appreciation. The funeral service continued, and Oliver was caught up in memories of his mother, from the time he was a young boy to the last conversation they had had. She had been encouraging him to go to his scheduled appointment with Dr. Green. He had finally fulfilled what had become his mother’s dying wish yesterday, and it had felt good to talk about things that were bothering him with someone who had an unbiased view of the situation. It was too bad he couldn’t share a lot more with his therapist, since he could certainly use another perspective on some of his other troubles. But maybe one day he would be able to share the entire truth with Dr. Green.

*DC*

Oliver entered the cell where Frank Chen was hanging by his wrists from the ceiling, a black bag over his head and sound-dampening headphones blocking out all sound in the room, leaving the Chinese man in a state of constant fear, unaware of his surroundings or what was going on. Oliver could hear the man moaning but couldn’t bring himself to care. This man betrayed his father to his death, and had, along with Merlyn and Emiko, sentenced Oliver to five years of hell that made him believe he was a monster. It had taken Oliver a long time to come to grips with the fact that he wasn’t one, and even now he struggled with whether he was or not because of what he did to Kovar’s man in Russia, regardless of the man’s extensive crimes. Oliver had left Thea in the capable hands of Laurel Lance while he came here to interrogate Chen, and with the thought that this was to help protect the two most important women left in his life in his mind, Oliver removed the headphones and then pulled the black bag away from Chen’s head.

Chen blinked rapidly, his eyes adjusting to the dim lighting of his surroundings, and his gaze focused on Oliver, eyes widening. “Oliver?” he asked in surprise. “What is this? What’s going on?”

“Your sins are coming home to roost, Mr. Chen,” Oliver said quietly. “Five years ago, you had your friends in the Triad place a bomb on the Queen’s Gambit in an attempt to kill my father. He survived the attempt but later took his own life, but not before setting me on a course to bring justice to those who betrayed him. You are currently being held in an A.R.G.U.S. black site. A.R.G.U.S. is essentially the C.I.A. on steroids, a truly covert intelligence branch of the government. This site doesn’t exist, which means you don’t exist. I hope I’ve made your position clear, Mr. Chen.”

“What is it you want, Oliver?” Chen asked after a moment, voice filled with pain from his prolonged hanging by the wrists.

“You are going to tell me everything about Tempest,” Oliver said darkly. “Who are its members? Who are its closest allies? What resources does it control? How is it structured? Who handles what when it comes to the criminal filth you’ve been protecting all these years? Everything. And you are going to tell me now, or I’m going to twist and break you until you’re a drooling mess.”

As Frank Chen looked into the pitiless, shark-like eyes of Oliver Queen, he believed the threat issued by the newly-minted C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated. And so, he talked.

*DC*

Oliver entered the loft, looking around. Laurel was nowhere in sight. She had probably gone home once Thea went to bed seeing as Sara was staying with her while they prepared to bring her back to life in the courts. Laurel and Quentin had set the ball rolling yesterday, while Oliver had been dealing with the paperwork from the Unidac merger. Oliver settled on the couch for a moment, going over everything that he had learned about Tempest.

It’s membership was limited, according to Chen. Carl Ballard, who Oliver vaguely recalled the name of from when Dig had bugged Moira in the last timeline; Thaddeus Cable, a man who had already succeeded where Brickwell had failed and controlled most of the blue collar crime in the city; Wilhelmina Hollinger, a socialite and head of one of those ‘heritage’ status groups in Starling, tracking how long someone’s bloodline had been in Starling; and of course, Frank Chen and Malcolm Merlyn, now that the Queens were no longer members until Malcolm made his bid to force Oliver into service. They had added Councilwoman Emily Pollard and Councilman Gregory Kullens after Robert was killed. Oliver couldn’t say he was surprised at that in the least.

So now Oliver had the ‘who’, the ‘why’, and the ‘how’ of Tempest, which he could use to bring the rest of Malcolm’s cabal down either before or after bringing Merlyn to justice. The question was, did he move his plans to do just that up from the Christmas confrontation, get Merlyn out of the way? Or did he whittle away Malcolm’s support in a bid to do as Ra’s had all but ordered him to do and cut Merlyn’s criminal and legitimate ties? Oliver sighed, knowing that Merlyn’s reaction to Daniel Brickwell’s capture and the revelation of his role in Rebecca’s death would be a key element of whatever Oliver would need to do. Because as Oliver had already surmised, it was unlikely that Malcolm Merlyn would take the revelation his wife’s murderer was still alive and currently in the custody of the S.C.P.D. well. As for Frank Chen, the only member of Tempest Oliver had taken down thus far, he had outlived his usefulness and an A.R.G.U.S. agent had put a bullet in his head as Oliver left the safehouse.

Oliver stood and headed upstairs, deciding he would check on Thea before heading to bed himself. When he cracked her door open, he frowned. There was something off about the way she was huddled in her bed. Oliver opened the door more fully and slowly approached, reaching out and moving to touch Thea on her shoulder, only for his hand to depress deeper than would be allowed by a human body. Oliver stripped the blanket away from the bed, heart in his throat, and stared at the pillows that had been piled beneath the blankets. Oliver raced to Thea’s dresser and pulled drawer after drawer open, and found her clothes missing. “No, no, no,” he muttered to himself in a panic. He pulled out his cell phone and hit Laurel’s name in his contacts. Laurel had took Thea home with her; that had to be it.

Laurel picked up. “Ollie, do you know what time it is?” she asked drowsily.

“Laurel, please tell me Thea is with you,” Oliver begged.

“I left her at the loft,” Laurel said, sounding more alert. “Ollie, what’s happening?”

“I came home, and she had piled pillows under her blankets and her clothes are all gone,” Oliver said. “I’m going to go out to the mansion, make sure she didn’t just go home. But I’m worried, Laurel. Thea hasn’t been in a good place with everything that’s been happening.”

“Thea’s going to be fine, Ollie,” Laurel said, and Oliver could hear her opening her own dresser drawers. “I’ll meet you at the mansion. We’ll find her.”

“Thank you,” Oliver breathed out and hung up before hurrying from the loft. He had to find Thea; he just had to.

Chapter Text

Oliver pulled his Camaro up in front of the silent Queen Mansion, finding Laurel’s car already there with her and Sara leaning against it, both looking concerned as Oliver exited his car. “Did you call Henry, ask him to look into this?” Laurel asked Oliver, who stopped in his tracks, a stymied expression on his face.

“I didn’t even think of that,” Oliver muttered. “First, let’s just make sure she’s not here. Then I’ll call Henry and get him on this. I don’t want to use A.R.G.U.S. resources if it’s just a simple case of Thea being homesick.” Laurel nodded, and the three entered the mansion. Oliver headed for his sister’s bedroom while Laurel and Sara split up and looked around the rest of the mansion. When they met up back in the entrance hall of the mansion, none of them had found any sign of Thea, or that anyone had even been in the mansion since Walter’s death. Oliver took a seat on the stairs, closing his eyes. He was a terrible guardian; he hadn’t even really made it official yet and already he had lost Thea. He pulled out his encrypted phone and selected Fyff’s name from his contact list.

“Yeah, boss?” Fyff asked sleepily as he answered.

“Henry, Thea’s missing, I think she ran away,” Oliver said. “Can you use the computers at the Bunker, see if you can track her?”

“On it,” Fyff said, and hung up. Oliver didn’t take offense, knowing it was just the way Fyff was once he had an assignment.

“Ollie, we’ll find her,” Laurel said comfortingly, sitting down on the step beside him. Sara watched them, blue eyes concerned for Thea and worrying about what this was doing to Oliver. She knew what he had to do; she had been there when Ra’s had rendered his judgment. The city needed Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, to be strong and to fight against Malcolm Merlyn. But Oliver had lost his mother and now his sister was missing; combine that with all of the responsibilities that had been thrust on his shoulders and there could be a cost to it all. But she didn’t know how to alleviate that burden; she didn’t have the same passion for defending the people of Starling City, getting justice for them, that Oliver had. It would be just like the League if she tried to help him in his self-appointed mission. She needed to find something that was uniquely hers.

“I’m a terrible brother,” Oliver said quietly, thinking of not only Thea, but Emiko as well. When he had seen Beatrice and Tina in Central City, he had immediately leaped to the conclusion that Emiko had been planning to send Tina into his life all these years. But now that he thought about it, he realized how foolish that was. He didn’t even know if she was currently the leader of the Ninth Circle. From what he had found out in the future, becoming the leader of that group wasn’t easy, and as evidenced by how swiftly Beatrice had seized control of the Ninth Circle after Emiko turned on them, it was likely that even if Emiko was the leader at this point in time, her status as such wasn’t stable in the least. All Emiko had wanted was to be recognized, to be a part of their family. Oliver’s thoughts flashed back to the life raft and his father’s last wishes. There was more wrongs than just Robert’s sins against Starling City. There was what he had done to Emiko and her mother. But all Oliver had thought of when he saw Beatrice and Tina was that maybe his sister wasn’t redeemable after all. “I’m a terrible brother,” he said again, emphasizing the second-to-last word.

“You’re not,” Laurel told him, draping an arm around his shoulders and squeezing him comfortingly. “You love Thea and you’ve always wanted to protect her, especially from the darkness that’s choking the city. That isn’t a bad thing, Ollie. You’re not a bad brother. You just have other responsibilities, and you have to find a way to balance everything.”

“It’s not just Thea,” Oliver said, examining his hands and thinking of the blood that flowed beneath the skin, the blood that he still shared with two other people in this world. “I have another sister.” Laurel jerked slightly in place, staring at Oliver in shock, and Sara’s arms had unfolded as she joined Laurel in staring at him. “Her name is Emiko. Emiko Adachi. I’ve known about her for a while. I should’ve gone to see her, and her mother, but I haven’t, because I’m a coward. I didn’t want to rock the boat with my mother further than I already had. I’m a coward,” Oliver repeated in disgust.

“Hey, hey,” Laurel said, using both hands to turn Oliver’s head to face her. “You are not a coward. You go out every night and you face sometimes dozens of men in order to get justice for the people of this city. A coward wouldn’t do that; he would have been hiding away in this mansion since he got back to the city. You are no coward, Oliver Queen. You’re cautious. You don’t know how this Emiko will react to you showing up, do you?” Oliver shook his head after a moment of silence. “You’re not a coward or afraid, Ollie. You’re nervous, and that’s understandable. But you’ll find Thea. You’ll meet Emiko. You’ll do this, because that is who you are. Oliver Queen is a man who’s compassion knows no bounds. You’ll bring your family together again, Oliver, because to you, family is one of the most important things in the world.”

Oliver stared at Laurel, feeling a sense of peace settle into his chest. “Thank you for reminding me what I’m fighting for,” Oliver said quietly, taking one of Laurel’s hands in his own and intertwining their fingers. The two of them stared at one another, the world dropping away from them for a moment. Sara shifted uncomfortably on her feet at the visual evidence that Oliver and Laurel shared a bond that she would never have had with Ollie when it came right down to it. They truly were meant for each other; it was a bitter pill to swallow for someone who had thought of the promise she and Oliver had made to one another on Lian Yu, desperate as that promise had been since it encompassed their hope that they would one day make it home, something that seemed so distant to them at the time.

It was as she thought this that she realized she didn’t really have a place in Starling City. Once she was brought back to life officially, she would leave. Maybe she would move to Central City to be with her mother, who was supposed to be in town later today. Or maybe she would just travel for a while, try and find somewhere that she fit. Starling City wasn’t her home anymore; it hadn’t been for a long time.

The silence between the three was broken by the chime from Oliver’s phone, signaling Fyff had something. Oliver put the phone on speaker and said, “What did you find, Henry?”

“Okay, I tracked her to the train station, and I hacked into their system to find out what tickets were paid for in cash since the surveillance footage shows Thea paying in cash. There was only one ticket paid for in cash at that time. You’re not gonna like this, boss.”

“Just tell me,” Oliver said.

“She’s headed for Metropolis,” Fyff said. “Any idea why?”

“Our mother pulled herself out of Suicide Slums in Metropolis,” Oliver said numbly. “She must be trying to track down other members of our mother’s family because she doesn’t think I can take care of her. Thank you, Henry.” Oliver hung up, slipped his phone in his pocket, and then leaned forward, his head in his hands as he pictured Thea, alone and confused and desperate for someone to love her, falling prey to the kind of scum that populated places like Suicide Slums, and that was if she didn’t get snatched up by human traffickers.

Sara made a snap decision. “Ollie, I’ll go to Metropolis and keep an eye on Thea, see if I can’t get her to come back home. Good thing Laurel got us an early slot in court to bring me back officially today,” she added softly, smiling at her sister. “Otherwise we’d have to put that off. But I can get resurrected and then head out immediately.”

“Thank you, Sara,” Oliver said. “Whatever expenses you have, I’ll take care of. I’ll set up an expense account for you to use. It’s the least I can do while you’re helping me keep my sister safe.” Sara opened her mouth, presumably to object, and Oliver held up a hand. “This is not up for discussion. I am a billionaire and I take care of the people I care about. You’re still one of those people, Sara, and so is Thea. Deal with the fact that I’m paying for your expenses.”

Sara huffed, and Laurel laughed softly. That was a sign of the old Oliver, from before the Gambit. He was always insisting on paying for things for both sisters, saying stuff like, “What good is money if I can’t spend it on the people I love?” It was nice to see a shadow of the boy he used to be in the man that he had become.

Slowly, Oliver and the Lance sisters left the mansion, Oliver heading back to his loft to get ready for another day while the Lance sisters returned to Laurel’s apartment to get ready for Sara’s day in court.

*DC*

Oliver had set up the account for Sara and transferred a hefty sum into it. She would receive the card and checkbook attached to it via courier just as she was leaving the courthouse. Now, Oliver had another matter to attend to. He had looked into his half-sister, really taking a look at her. He hadn’t known she had a scientific background; she had a degree in Applied Sciences, and an idea began to form in Oliver’s mind. He wanted to show her that he wasn’t their father, that he wanted to be there for her, and he also needed someone he could trust to some degree to take over the position as the head of Applied Sciences here at Queen Consolidated since he had no plans to give the position back to the odious Doug Miller. Why not give the position to his sister, as a sign of good faith?

Oliver knew it would take time to break through her walls and pull her away from the Ninth Circle. Nothing worthwhile was ever easy; he knew it was risky, putting her in a position of authority and revealing to the world that Robert Queen had been unfaithful, but if he won Emiko over, he would have a strong ally here at Queen Consolidated other than Ned Foster and he might also have a partner in his fight for Starling’s soul, since it would take some time before Laurel and Roy, who he intended to approach soon, would be ready to join him in the field. Oliver pulled his keyboard into position and looked up the address for Kazumi Adachi, knowing from the time he had spent bonding with Emiko that she had stayed with her mother until the woman’s murder at Dante’s hands in 2018. Writing it out on a scrap of paper, Oliver left his office. “Tell Ned I’m going out on a recruiting mission,” he said to Mark, who nodded and continued working. Oliver shook his head at the man’s attention to his work and headed for the elevator. A sense of nervousness filled him as he stepped into the elevator.

Oliver knew that there was every chance Emiko would refuse the position out of anger at their father, but Oliver had a plan to convince her that this was something their father had wanted, even if it was a white lie. While Robert had not made any mention of Emiko directly on the raft, he had asked Oliver to right his wrongs, and what had been done to Emiko and Kazumi was wrong, even if it had been the result of his mother’s actions.

*DC*

Oliver straightened his jacket slightly out of nerves and then reached up, knocking on the door in front of him. He heard the sound of soft footsteps approaching the door, and then it swung open, revealing an older Japanese woman. “Ms. Adachi?” Oliver asked quietly.

“Yes,” the woman said, looking startled as she recognized the man on the other side of the door.

“My name is Oliver Queen,” Oliver said, introducing himself seeing as they had never officially met, even if the entire city knew who he was thanks to his press appearances of late. “I would like to discuss something with you and your daughter, if she’s home. It’s important.” He waited silently, knowing this would be the first hurdle in his effort to reunite his family to some degree.

Kazumi Adachi studied Oliver for a moment before saying, “Emiko is out on an errand. She’ll be back soon. Won’t you come in?” She stepped aside, allowing Oliver to enter.

“Thank you,” Oliver said as he stepped over the threshold and looked around. His attention was drawn to a picture on the table just inside the apartment. He moved forward, picking it up. Robert was in the picture, one arm around Kazumi and a hand on Emiko’s shoulder, the young girl in a Berlanti Prep uniform. Oliver vaguely recognized her from his own days at Berlanti Prep. She had always been there, just out of sight, for several years, and then she had vanished. He had always assumed that she had moved. But it appeared more likely, now, that without Robert paying her tuition she had been forced to attend public schools. Oliver knew where that edict would have come from: his mother. He set the picture down, conscious of Kazumi’s eyes on him, and followed her to the living room.

“Would you like anything to drink, Mr. Queen?” Kazumi asked.

“Just water would be fine, ma’am,” Oliver said respectfully. He had no idea that his picking up the photograph of his father with the Adachi women had stirred up unpleasant memories for Kazumi, who vividly recalled the time when Moira Dearden Queen had come to see her five years ago, while Emiko had been out, and informed her of Robert’s desire to provide for them, a desire that Moira was ensuring would never come to pass. Moira had coldly informed Kazumi that she would never allow Emiko to be acknowledged in any fashion and that she would ensure her husband’s ‘second family’ continued to suffer in squalor. For Oliver to come here and pick up the picture of Robert with her and Emiko as his mother had once done had Kazumi struggling, so she was grateful for the chance to duck away into the kitchen to compose herself while she fetched a glass of water for her ‘esteemed guest’.

She returned a few minutes later and handed the glass to Oliver. She took a seat on the couch, whereas he had taken a seat in the armchair that, unknowingly on his part, had been his father’s favorite to sit in when he visited Emiko. “Mr. Queen, I have to ask what brings you by?” Kazumi asked, trying to maintain a calm voice. She didn’t want Emiko to suffer any further heartbreak at the hands of the Queen family, the family she had so ardently wanted to recognize her. Emiko had longed to meet Oliver when they were younger, had even excitedly told Kazumi about the stuff Oliver got up to at Berlanti Prep while she had been there with him, but it had never happened. Emiko had faced so much heartbreak already from the Queens. Kazumi didn’t want her to face even more. “If you’re here to cause problems because of my affair with your father,” she began, but stopped as Oliver raised a hand.

“I’m not here to cause any problems, or to hurt you and Emiko, Ms. Adachi,” Oliver said. “I know you have no reason to trust me. I know what my mother did to you and Emiko after my father died. I know that she also made sure my father couldn’t support you and Emiko when she was younger. This was wrong of my mother to do, Ms. Adachi. I’m not here to further make your lives difficult. In fact, I’m here to do the opposite, if you’ll only give me the chance.”

Kazumi eyed him suspiciously but nodded in agreement after a moment. If the Queen scion was in fact fucking with her and her daughter, she would slap him silly, richest man in Starling or no. The two sat in an uncomfortable silence until the door opened. “Mom, I’m back, the store was out of milk,” Emiko said, carrying a bag of groceries, which she took to the kitchen without looking into the living room. She returned, entering the living room, saying, “I was thinking about… about…” Emiko trailed off as she recognized the man sitting in the living room with her mother. She was shocked to see him there; why was he here?

“Emiko, I’m sure you recognize our guest,” Kazumi said softly.

Oliver stood and offered his hand in greeting. “Hello, Emiko,” he said softly. After a moment, Emiko took his hand, and he shook it. “Why don’t you join us?” he said softly. “We have a lot to talk about.” Emiko slowly, silently took a seat beside her mother as Oliver returned to the armchair that their father had so favored when he would visit them. “Let’s just get this out in the open, shall we?” Oliver asked. “I know that Emiko is my sister. I’m here because family is the most important thing to me, and unlike my mother, I don’t believe in ignoring family because their existence is inconvenient. I’ve been working on building up my courage to come and see you both since I came back to Starling.”

“Why are you here, Mr. Queen?” Emiko said stiffly, even though hope was warring with her cynicism inside of her at hearing Oliver refer to her as family.

“Please, Emiko, call me Oliver,” he replied. “And like I said. You’re family, and family is important to me, no matter how it’s come about.” Oliver studied her for a moment. “I wish I had known about you when we were children,” he said softly. “It would have been nice to have a sister so close to me in age. I know it’s my mother’s fault. I’m sorry for all the pain and misery you’ve both suffered because of my parents. I know I can’t give you those years back, but I want to do something for both of you.”

“Like what?” Kazumi asked quizzically.

“I’ve looked into Emiko,” Oliver replied. “I understand she has a degree in Applied Sciences and business. I want her to put that degree to good use. With my taking the position of C.E.O., Applied Sciences is without a head. I would like to offer Emiko that position. Even if she refuses, I intend to see that you both receive the support my father wanted you to have, retroactive to the day that he died. You deserve so much better than you’ve received courtesy of my mother’s obsession with presenting the perfect nuclear family to the world.” Oliver leaned forward. “I would also like to offer you a position at Queen Consolidated again, Ms. Adachi. I understand if you would rather not, considering your history with my family, but the offer is there nonetheless.” Oliver leaned back. “Most importantly, I want to offer Emiko the chance to officially add Queen to her name. She is already a Queen in my books, but I’d like to make it official.”

“Why?” Emiko asked, overwhelmed. “Why are you doing this? Why would you? You could just ignore us even if you didn’t actively persecute us like your mother did. Why offer us everything we could ever hope for?” There had to be a catch; if there was anything she had realized in her dealings with her father and with Dante, who was as good as a father in his own way, it was that there was always a catch.

“Because you’re family,” Oliver said, emphasizing the last word. “And because it’s what our father wanted.” He leaned forward. “What I’m about to tell you is known to very few people. Our father made it off of the Queen’s Gambit with me and his bodyguard.”

“What?” Emiko choked. “Then why didn’t he come back with you?” Her father had survived the attempt by Malcolm Merlyn to kill him? The attempt Emiko had known about and kept quiet from him out of jealous spite over the man now sitting across from her?

“Because there wasn’t enough food and water for three men on the raft,” Oliver said quietly. “Dad’s final wish to me, before he killed his bodyguard and then himself, was for me to survive and to right his wrongs. I know that one of those wrongs he wanted made right was what happened with the both of you. I know you think there has to be some catch to this, that I must have some motive, but I truly only want the best for the both of you. As I said, the job offers are there if you are willing, but even if you refuse them, you will receive the money you should’ve been receiving for the past five years and will continue to receive it for as long as you both live.” Oliver stood. “I truly hope you’ll come and work with me, Emiko. I need people at Queen Consolidated I can trust, especially in Applied Sciences. But I understand if you can’t accept my offer.” He gave a low bow to the both of them, surprising the two at his knowledge of Japanese culture, and then turned and left the apartment.

*DC*

Laurel Lance sighed as she closed the door of her apartment behind her. Sara had received the paperwork, debit card, and checkbook attached to her new account just after they had brought her back to life, which had earned a scowl from her father, wanting to know what Oliver Queen was up to, giving his youngest an expense account like she was his mistress or something. Laurel and Sara hadn’t taken too kindly to Quentin’s implications that they were both in a relationship with Oliver, and Sara had let her father know about Thea’s running away to Metropolis and that she had offered to go after her since Oliver had responsibilities in Starling City that he couldn’t get away from, letting their father think she meant Oliver’s work as C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated.

Their mother had also been mildly upset that Sara was already leaving town and forced a promise from Sara that once Thea was safely back home that she would come and visit Dinah for a while in Central City. It appeared that there was little chance of Dinah moving back to Starling and the Lance family reuniting, something Laurel knew her father had hoped there was a chance for now that Sara was back in their lives. The truth was, even before Sara had died, there had been problems in her parents’ marriage, and horrible things had been said before Dinah divorced Quentin and moved to Central City, things that couldn’t just be ignored or taken back.

Laurel set her keys down on the hallway table and sat down on her couch, curling her legs beneath her and resting her head on one hand, closing her eyes for a moment. It had been a busy day at C.N.R.I., most of it centered around the Declan case. The police had investigated the file and pressed Matt Istook on its existence, and Istook had finally broken, confessing to helping set Camille Declan up to be murdered by Ankov, Brodeur’s bodyguard who doubled as his personal fixer. Ankov was in the wind while Brodeur was now facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder, and the process had begun to release Peter Declan from prison. He would be released tomorrow, and Laurel had plans to take him to meet his daughter, having already arranged it with the social worker responsible for Izzy.

Laurel straightened up as she reached for the remote, figuring she would catch the news highlights before she headed over to Oliver’s for dinner. He had texted her, insisting they needed a normal date night, and she had accepted. A moment later, something long and thin wrapped around her neck from behind and constricted, pressing down on her windpipe and restricting her airways. Her hands shot up to the thin cord wrapped around her throat, writhing in place, legs kicking out as her hands scraped against the skin of her neck, trying to find purchase beneath the cord cutting off her air supply. Black spots appeared in her vision as the cord was pulled tighter, and her wheezing breath came in short, sharp gasps if it came at all. Finally, Laurel slumped backward, unconscious, and the cord loosened. Her attacker stepped around the couch and hauled her unconscious form up into a fireman’s carry. He was going to enjoy this; yes, he was going to enjoy this very much.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen, a covered dish in his hands, walked up the steps of Laurel’s building, feeling a little disappointed. He had hoped to have a normal night in with his girlfriend before he had to go to work in the Glades as Green Arrow, some degree of normalcy in his wild, insane life, but it appeared Laurel had forgotten or, more likely, gotten caught up in her work for C.N.R.I. She had told him things were wrapping up with the Declan case and that both Ankov and Brodeur were facing conspiracy to commit murder charges, though the former was still in the wind according to Laurel. Oliver walked down the hallway towards Laurel’s apartment, slowing as he took in the worrying sight of the door cracked open.

Oliver moved forward cautiously, pushing the door open and setting the dish he had put together for Laurel on the cabinet just inside of the door. He moved into her apartment, looking around. Her coffee table was pushed forward, and the fabric of her couch was looking rumpled, as if there had been a struggle in the apartment. Not again, he groaned in his head. This was the third time in a month Laurel had been attacked in her apartment. It was time to talk to her about moving, whether it was getting a new place or moving in with him. But first, he needed to find her, and for that, he needed help. He pulled out his encrypted phone and hit Fyff’s contact number. “Henry,” he said when the man picked up. “Laurel’s been kidnapped. I need you to find out by who and see if you can track them through the city. I’m on my way.”

“On it, boss,” Fyff said, and Oliver turned to go, only to stop in his tracks, because standing in the doorway was Tommy Merlyn, who was looking at Oliver in consternation.

“Ollie, what’s going on?” Tommy asked confusedly. “Where’s Laurel? And who were you just talking to on the phone?”

Oliver sighed. “It looks like Laurel’s been kidnapped. Again.”

“What!?” Tommy shouted. “We need to call the police!”

“Tommy,” Oliver said calmly, putting a hand on his best friend’s shoulder, “I’m handling it. By the time the police can even begin processing the scene, I’ll have her back. It would be a waste of resources for them.”

“Ollie, you’re the C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated, not some superhero,” Tommy exclaimed. “How are you supposed to get Laurel back before the police could even help?”

Oliver studied his friend. He hadn’t done much with Tommy because his best friend had no idea what he had been doing for the past month and lying to him all the time had been trying enough the first time around. But maybe, since Oliver hadn’t killed anyone but James Holder, maybe Tommy could accept Green Arrow in a way that he never accepted The Hood. “Come with me,” Oliver said, exiting the apartment and closing the door behind him. Tommy slowly followed Oliver, trying to figure out what was going on with his best friend. They had hardly talked since Oliver had returned from the dead a month ago, and now he was acting like a completely different person than the man he had always considered his brother. Tommy got into Oliver’s Camaro at a gesture from Oliver, leaving his own Porsche waiting on the curb outside of Laurel’s apartment. The drive through the city and into the Glades was silent because Tommy didn’t know what to say; he still thought they should be calling the cops, but there was something that stopped him.

Oliver pulled up in front of the empty office space that served as the front for the Bunker. “Come on,” Oliver said quietly. “I need to show you something.” Oliver and Tommy got out of the Camaro and entered the office space. Oliver moved a panel aside and flipped a switch. Tommy jumped as the hidden elevator door opened.

“What the hell is this?” Tommy whispered as the two young men entered the elevator.

Oliver turned to his friend. “Something that very few people know about,” Oliver said. “Thea couldn’t handle it. I’m hoping you can, because I’ll need you to keep your cool, Tommy. This is going to be hard to take.” Tommy stared at his friend, afraid of what was about to be revealed, and wondering what he meant about Thea not being able to handle whatever it was Oliver was about to reveal to him. The elevator descended quickly, and then opened to reveal some kind of high-tech command center, where a single man with wild dark hair and a grungy appearance was sitting behind a bank of computers. “Henry, how’s that search coming?” Oliver asked, stepping into the room. Tommy followed, only to stop and stare at the uniform that was currently adorning a mannequin, the bow in its stand, and the numerous stands containing all kinds of arrows, every last one of them tinted green. He turned to stare at his friend’s back as Oliver approached the man, Henry.

“Found the bastard easily enough, it was Ankov. He doesn’t even try to hide from the surveillance cameras, or he doesn’t think anyone can track him that way,” Fyff said, eyeing the other billionaire scion who had entered with Oliver warily. “I’m tracking where he took her now. I’ll have a location soon, boss.”

“Good,” Oliver said, turning back to Tommy, who was staring at the uniform with a blank expression on his face. Oliver stepped up to his best friend. “I know this is a lot to take in all at once,” he said quietly. “I’ve been trying to find the right way to tell you, so that I wouldn’t have to hide all of this from you the way I have been. But there were other things I had to consider, and those things kept me from telling you the truth. I’m sorry that I’m springing this on you, Tommy. Truly, I am.”

Tommy opened his mouth a couple of times, trying to find the words he wanted to say, but found he couldn’t figure out the words that he wanted to say. He closed his mouth, staring at the uniform that had been made infamous in the past four weeks as the Green Arrow made his way through the criminal underworld, crippling the Triad, taking down human traffickers, beating up rapists, and in general making a nuisance of himself. He remembered the dinner party where Oliver had let taken offense to Thomas Wilkins’ comment, and the way he and Laurel had stood as a united front. That in itself startled Tommy, because it meant that Laurel knew. She knew that the man who had been their friend since they could count their age in single digits was now a vigilante waging a one-man war against crime and corruption in a city that seemed to feed off of those things the way a tic fed off of the body.

Tommy also realized why Oliver’s comments to the press at the conference where he accepted the position of C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated had sounded so familiar, as though he had heard those words before. He had heard them before, from a shadowy figure on the television screen that had declared his intention to be a symbol of hope against the darkness that plagued Starling City, to stand against crime, corruption, greed and tyranny. His best friend, his brother, was going out every night and risking his life for strangers who had never met him, many of whom probably saw Oliver as a part of the problem. What had made his best friend into this person who could throw himself into such danger for people who would happily kick him if he was on the ground in front of them? What had turned his friend into Robin Hood?

Oliver could tell his friend was struggling and wished he could do something to ease this transition for Tommy, but unfortunately there was little that he could do to help Tommy come to terms with this. He hadn’t been able to ease it for Thea or Laurel, either, and while Laurel had been able to handle it, Thea had proved incapable of it, something Oliver wished wasn’t true. He cursed China White for forcing his sister to confront the reality of her brother’s nature rather than allowing Thea to continue to live in ignorance until she was ready for such a burden of knowledge. He had hoped that being there for her would help her accept the truth, but it had turned out to not be enough. He remembered that Tommy, even though he believed Oliver was a serial killer, had never once gone to the police and turned him in, and so he knew his friend was strong enough. He just needed time to come to terms with this revelation.

Oliver moved to stand beside Fyff. “How’s it coming, Henry?” he said.

“They’re definitely in the Glades, less surveillance, but that just means I have to get crafty, using shops’ surveillance systems on occasion,” Fyff said. He eyed Tommy, who was still just standing there, looking at Oliver’s uniform and weaponry. “Think he’ll be able to handle it?” he asked quietly.

“I do,” Oliver said softly. “He just needs time to process, is all.” Fyff nodded. It wasn’t like he knew Tommy personally but considering Thea hadn’t been able to handle it in the end, he worried about how the boss would handle it if his best friend reacted badly to all of this.

A beeping came from the computer. Fyff double-checked everything. “Got them. There’s a tenement building. The Guggenheim Projects. It’s under the control of some Albanians. They’ve got ties to gun running and drugs. Some new thing called Vertigo.”

“I see,” Oliver said softly. He hadn’t realized that Vertigo was already on the streets. Then again, it would’ve taken time to gain the traction it had by the time Thea had succumbed to it in a few months’ time. It made sense that The Count had to make deals with the likes of these Albanians in the beginning. “Keep an eye on it, Henry. If they move, I want to know. See if you can’t get eyes inside the building, find a way to track Laurel and Ankov to wherever they are.”

“I’ll try, but no promises, projects like this don’t usually have any kind of surveillance,” Fyff said as Oliver moved to the mannequin, shedding his leather jacket before gripping the hem of his sweater and pulling it off in one smooth motion, exposing his bare torso and the scars that littered it to Tommy, including a couple of fresh injuries and the bruises from some of the lucky hits thugs had got in with baseball bats or fists. Tommy made a choking sort of noise. Oliver ignored it as he fell into the usual pattern, quickly transforming from Oliver Queen, billionaire C.E.O., into Green Arrow, Starling’s champion of the defenseless. Oliver turned to Tommy, hood and mask still down.

Tommy finally found his voice. “How?” he rasped. “How did you become… this?”

“By learning that there are people in this world who deal only in extremes, and it is naïve to think that anything less than extreme measures will stop them,” Oliver said. “People like those you and I grew up with need extreme examples to shake them out of apathy, and I couldn’t do that as Oliver Queen. As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored or destroyed. But as a symbol? I can be incorruptible; I can be everlasting.” Oliver turned and began selecting his arsenal of arrows to take with him, placing them in his quiver and mounting five flechettes on the bracer around his around his left forearm.

“Ollie, this is insane,” Tommy emphasized. “Starling’s been like this for decades. You think you can turn it around?”

Oliver strapped on his now-full quiver and snatched up his bow from its stand before turning to face his best friend. “I know I can,” he said, before reaching up and securing his mask in place and flipping his hood up. He spent a moment letting Tommy soak in the sight of him before turning and heading for the small garage just off the main room. Tommy watched him go, trying to wrap his head around the idea that Oliver was the Green Arrow.

*DC*

Green Arrow pulled up in front of the Guggenheim Projects and dismounted. “Anything to report?” he asked Fyff through the comms.

“Managed to track them to the third floor cuz of some illegal surveillance the Albanians put into place for their own operation,” Fyff replied.

Good,” Green Arrow replied. “That’ll make it easier.” He moved forward, gripping his bow and ignoring the whispers and pointing fingers. The tone of the whispers was awed and the expressions of those pointing fingers speculative, like they wondered what the Green Arrow was doing here. The Emerald Archer entered the projects and found himself confronted with a couple of Albanians. “This can go one of two ways,” Green Arrow informed the two silent men. “You and your men can decide to try and stop me, and I beat the hell out of everyone of you. Or you can let me do what I came here to do and leave in peace. A man named Ankov brought Laurel Lance to the third floor of this building. Let me get there peacefully and I promise not to interfere in your operation.” For now, Green Arrow added silently, knowing h would be back within 24 hours to clean out this den of scum. He just didn’t want to have to fight through a dozen or so men when Ankov could be doing terrible things to Laurel.

“Ankov paid us good money to keep you busy,” one Albanian said, raising his weapon.

Fair enough,” Green Arrow muttered before throwing a flechette into the Albanian’s median nerve, crippling his ability to pull the trigger. Green Arrow moved forward, delivering a knife-hand strike to the other Albanian’s throat causing him to gag reflexively and drop his own weapons. Green Arrow delivered one, two, three blows, striking the man in the stomach, the jaw, and finally the back of the head. The man collapsed to the ground, and Green Arrow moved to the man who’s median nerve he had severed with the flechette. He grabbed him by the collar and delivered three debilitating blows to the man’s skull, knocking him unconscious. Green Arrow stepped into the hallway, his blue eyes taking in the dozen or so thugs between him and the staircase to the higher levels.

He nocked an explosive arrow and sent it into the midst of a group of thugs; the arrowhead detonated, leaving the men wailing on the ground with second- and third-degree burns. Another arrow, this time a sleeping gas arrow, was nocked and fired into the midst of a cluster of men, who stumbled forward in an almost-drunken fashion as the gas took effect. A magnetic arrow stripped the next group of their weapons, followed by bola arrows to truss them up. Thugs rushed in from behind Green Arrow armed with bats, and Green Arrow blocked blows with his bow and delivered a punishing strike to the solar plexus of one man before dislocating his jaw with a solid right hook that was backed up by the brass-knuckle grip of his bow. Green Arrow delivered a backwards kick to one man’s groin, shot a bola arrow at another man as he rushed him, turned and delivered a knife-hand strike to another man’s throat before delivering a triple blow with bow against three men, twirling in place as he did so.

Green Arrow stepped passed the groaning pile of men and faced the final group. He gave them a cold, cruel smile and tilted his head to the side in a considering fashion. The men, all of whom were unarmed, took one look at the pile of men behind him, groaning with the occasional arrow sticking out of them, wrapped up in cord, burned, or just plain beaten down by Green Arrow’s superior hand-to-hand skills. They made the smart choice and broke away, heading into the rooms to either side and slamming the doors behind them. Green Arrow gave a dark chuckle and headed for the staircase. He loved it when thugs were smart and just gave up. It made his job so much easier.

Green Arrow made his way to the third floor without incident. “I’m on the third floor, which room is it?” he asked Fyff over the comms.

“Sixth door on your left,” Fyff replied. Green Arrow made his way to the door and kicked it in, nocking a basic arrow and entering the rundown apartment as Ankov grabbed Laurel from the moth-eaten mattress, her hands bound behind her back, and pulled her close, one hand gripping her chin and forcing her head up to expose her throat to the knife he pressed against it.

“Hold it right there, vigilante,” Ankov snarled. “One more step, and your precious lawyer friend will be arguing out of a new hole.”

“Shoot him!” Laurel rasped out. Ankov shook her head in his grip, earning a whimper from her.

“Shut up, bitch!” Ankov growled before turning his attention back to Green Arrow. “You and this interfering bitch cost me a lucrative contract. You don’t get to walk away from that.”

Funny,” Green Arrow said coldly. “I was going to say the same thing about you threatening Miss Lance.” Laurel’s green eyes widened at that. She had thought if Green Arrow did shoot Ankov it would be in the arm or something. But if he was going to do what she thought…

“Don’t kill him,” Laurel pleaded with Green Arrow. “Don’t sacrifice everything you’ve been fighting for to save me.”

Green Arrow was taken back to two other times people he cared about told him not to sacrifice the progress he had made to save them. First had been Felicity when The Count was threatening her at Queen Consolidated. The second had been Barry when Deegan had him during Elseworlds. Green Arrow closed his eyes, recalling his lessons with Yao Fei, and then opened his eyes. He adjusted his grip and his aim… and then loosed the arrow. It crossed the distance between he and Ankov, piercing Ankov’s forearm. The fixer screamed, his muscles betraying him, and Laurel used the temporary loss of strength in his grip to break free and run to Green Arrow, who fired a bola arrow and wrapped up Ankov. Green Arrow delivered one final, crushing blow to Ankov’s skull, knocking him out. “Contact the S.C.P.D., let them know where they can find Ankov,” he told Fyff. “Tell Tommy that Laurel’s safe.

“Will do, G.A.,” Fyff replied.

“Tommy?” Laurel asked confusedly.

He showed up at your place before I left, and I took him to the Bunker to show him why we didn’t need to call the cops,” Green Arrow replied as he cut Laurel’s bonds. He took her shoulders in both hands. “Are you alright?

“It’s not my first abduction,” Laurel tried to joke, but it fell flat at the tremor in her voice. Green Arrow pulled her into a hug, and she wrapped her arms around his torso, leaning her head against his chest and closing her eyes, listening to the steady beat of his heart. “Let’s go,” she said after a few minutes. “I’m guessing Tommy’s gonna have questions.”

Probably,” Green Arrow said, and the two left the rundown apartment.

*DC*

“Laurel!” Tommy exclaimed in relief as Laurel and Oliver, whose mask and hood were down now that they were back in the safety of the Bunker, entered. Oliver set his bow on its stand and swung his quiver down, returning the arrows he hadn’t used to their proper place. “Are you okay?” Tommy asked, fingers lightly touching the thin bruise circling around Laurel’s throat from where Ankov had strangled her with a cord to capture her.

“I’m fine, Tommy,” Laurel rasped. “Throat’s a little sore, but I’m alive, thanks to Ollie.”

“Right. Ollie,” Tommy said, looking at where his best friend was disappearing behind a screen to change. “I still can’t believe it. Any of it. Ollie being the Green Arrow, this place… that he put you in danger.”

“He didn’t put me in danger,” Laurel said defensively. “He’s done his best to keep me out of danger. He rescued me when no one else was willing to do what was needed to find me when I was kidnapped. He put himself in harm’s way to keep me safe from China White. He’s handled all the dangerous parts of the case we just worked, the Declan case. It was the cops who let Ankov slip away so that he could attack me in my apartment. And again, Ollie saved my life.”

“Laurel,” Tommy started, but stopped, knowing it was useless. He could tell that Laurel had completely fallen for Oliver’s ‘rebel with cause’ attitude as Green Arrow. He tried to tamp down on the jealousy he felt, reminding himself that Laurel had always chosen Oliver in the end. Theirs had never been a meaningful relationship. “I just don’t like seeing you hurt,” he finally said, feeling it was a bit lame to say something so obvious.

Laurel’s expression softened. “I know, Tommy,” she said, giving him a gentle hug. “Neither does Ollie. He’s been trying to teach me to defend myself the way he does, just in case.” Just in case your Dad decides to do something to me, Laurel finished in her head. She wondered if Oliver was going to tell Tommy about his father or if that was going to remain a secret. She wouldn’t blame Oliver if he chose not to reveal it, since Tommy was obviously having a hard time accepting Oliver was Green Arrow. She had taken two weeks of being suspicious before she had finally gotten confirmation from Oliver. Tommy was getting it all at once, kind of like Thea. She hoped he handled it better than Oliver’s sister had. She wondered how old his other sister, Emiko, was and if he had tried to reach out to her yet.

Oliver returned from behind the curtain. “Why don’t we go back to Laurel’s?” he said. “I did leave her the dish I had fixed up for her, and I’m sure she needs something after her experience.”

“Oh, we were supposed to have a date night tonight,” Laurel remembered, feeling disappointed. It seemed like all of her and Oliver’s ‘couple time’ was taken up in some way with his business as Green Arrow. Were they ever going to get a chance at normal relationship stuff?

“We’ll do it another time,” Oliver said. “I’m not gonna give up on normal couple stuff if I can help it, Laurel.” She smiled at him and at a nod from Tommy, the three headed for the elevator.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn, currently ensconced in his lair within Merlyn Global, stood looking down at the picture of he and Rebecca with eight-year-old Tommy. His thoughts were caught up in recent events.

He had had to abandon his plans to punish Walter’s sister for his defiance. The F.B.I. had contacted Scotland Yard and informed them of the circumstances of Walter’s demise, and Malcolm’s agents in England had revealed Scotland Yard was keeping an annoyingly close watch on Cynthia Steele. It was a small thing, but it still annoyed him. He was a man who liked to keep the promises of vengeance that he made, even to those who weren’t here to witness it. After all, that was the whole point of using Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences division to weaponize the Markov device when it was ready. A final revenge on Robert for his betrayal, destroying the company his family had painstakingly built over two generations and ruining the Queen name forevermore in Starling City while the name Merlyn soared to new heights as the saviors of Starling.

Things were going well on that front, of course. Oliver was proving amenable, if a bit idealistic with his desire to re-open the Queen steel factory. If the boy wanted to sink money into that only to lose all that money when the factory was destroyed along with the rest of the Glades, well, who was Malcolm to correct his foolish mistake? However, he had lost one of his pressures to use against Oliver for the time being. Thea had run away; Malcolm’s agents were trying to track her down again so that she could be used. In the meantime, Malcolm still had Laurel and, according to what his contacts in the courts had informed him about, likely the newly-resurrected Sara Lance as well.

So, Sara had survived the Gambit as well. She was made of stronger stuff than he had believed, then; he had thought her weak-willed and more interested in sleeping her way through life than anything else. She was the kind of clingy, whiny girls that Tommy seemed to accrue as lovers at an alarming rate. He shuddered at the possibility that, left unable to pursue Laurel, Tommy might pursue Sara and bring her into their family.

But Oliver had also revealed a potential new source of pressure to be used. He had visited a woman and her daughter today, a woman Malcolm recalled Robert having had relations with. The woman’s daughter was only a couple of years younger than Oliver, and there was no reason for Oliver to visit some random family unless there was a special connection… such as Robert’s love child. So, Oliver had another sibling which Malcolm could use as a pressure against the younger man. It was always so satisfying when those he planned to manipulate gave him the tools to do so. He had his men researching everything they could about the woman and her daughter, so that he had the information ready when he finally began to apply pressure to Oliver.

The biggest problem was, of course, the F.B.I. and their investigation into the Gambit and Walter’s murder. He would need to arrange for something that would give them closure on the matter. If they continued to pursue things after he gave them a potential way to close the case and move on, well… he would need to get creative, wouldn’t he?

The march towards the destruction of the Glades and the salvation of Starling City continued, regardless of the whims of others. The grand orchestra Malcolm was conducting was reaching its crescendo, and nothing could be allowed to stand in the way.

Chapter Text

Three hours after her rescue, Laurel was on the couch in the loft, her boyfriend’s arm wrapped around her. They had stopped by her apartment briefly to grab the dish Oliver had left there, but as soon as she had entered Laurel felt the anguish and desperation she had felt while being strangled from behind come flooding back, and she had told Oliver she couldn’t stay there. And so they had come to Oliver’s loft, Tommy following behind in his Porsche, and had been there ever since. “How do you think Tommy’s taking everything?” Laurel asked her boyfriend, shifting slightly to lean in closer to him and lay her head on his chest.

“I don’t know,” Oliver said honestly. Tommy’s reactions in both timelines were atypical of what he would have expected. In the original timeline, Tommy hadn’t asked the multitude of questions Oliver had expected, just asked if Oliver was ever going to tell him the truth. Now, in the new timeline, Tommy had said nothing. He had made sure Oliver and Laurel got to the loft safely and then left, saying he needed some air. “Tommy is a good man, though. I don’t think he’ll betray me. Not willingly. And it’s not like he’s close to Malcolm. His father won’t find out about Green Arrow from Tommy. Of that much, I’m sure.”

“I didn’t even think of that,” Laurel said. “I was more thinking about how he’s handling you doing what you do every night. God knows that even though I’ve seen you in action, I get worried knowing you’re out there.”

“Oh,” Oliver said softly. He was silent for a few moments, thinking over that aspect of it all, and said, “To be perfectly honest, Laurel, I haven’t thought about how people would feel about me throwing myself into danger in years. I’ve become so used to it, and I know how to handle myself. I’m sorry you’re so worried, but please know that I am always going to come back to you, pretty bird.”

“You haven’t called me that in years,” Laurel said softly, turning her head up to look at him. “Why now?”

“It felt right,” Oliver said, bestowing a gentle kiss on her forehead. It was a name that he had called her when they were younger because she was always darting around with bird-like grace, but he had fallen out of practice using it as their relationship grew strained. He ruthlessly shoved aside the remembrance of Earth-2’s Adrian Chase using his nickname for Laurel on the one that Oliver felt hadn’t truly earned the title of Black Canary, not in the way this Laurel had, fighting against odds stacked against her and discovering her own mission away from Sara’s initial methods.

“Well I missed it,” Laurel said, snuggling in closer to him, eyes drooping slightly. Oliver leaned his head against hers, eyes closing as well. The two lovers slowly dozed off, comforted by one another’s presence.

*DC*

Tommy Merlyn didn’t know how he felt. He had driven to a bluff a few miles outside of Starling City and was now looking out across the dark ocean, the moon shining down on him from above and lighting up the night. His best friend was the vigilante that had been causing problems for the wealthy and corrupt during the past month. His best friend was the Green Arrow, and he had set for himself an impossible task. Starling City was a cesspit and had been for years. It was more so now; like Tommy had told Oliver during their day out before those guys kidnapped them, the city had gone to crap since his disappearance. Yet Ollie thought he could fight the inevitable, bring the city back from the brink.

“What happened to you, man?” Tommy mumbled, picturing his best friend in his mind’s eye, dressed in the uniform of the Green Arrow and fighting dozens of faceless thugs armed with bats and automatics. “What madness makes you think you can change the way the city’s been for decades?” It was a fool’s errand, Tommy decided firmly. His best friend had set himself for a bitter, crushing failure, and worse, he was dragging Laurel along for the ride. He had even killed someone, and Tommy honestly didn’t know how he felt about that.

But the thing his mind kept circling back to beyond anything else was that image of his best friend fighting legions of faceless thugs in his never-ending war against crime and corruption in Starling City, until one lucky thug got in a hit and knocked his friend down. Then the scum would swarm, his best friend would be left a mutilated corpse, and the Glades would have claimed the life of another person that he loved. Two, if Laurel continued to follow Oliver into this madness. His best friends were both high-minded crusaders who couldn’t see that they were fighting a losing war. How could he get them to stop, to think?

No wonder Thea hadn’t been able to handle this, as Oliver claimed. She had just discovered her brother was throwing himself into danger for people who would never give a damn if he died doing it and would continue in their self-destructive ways as they had for decades. The crime and corruption in the Glades wasn’t new, it was just more open and obvious. Thea had lost both of her parents and her stepfather to people who had no morals, and now she was living with the constant knowledge that her brother was throwing himself into danger every night for people who didn’t deserve it. Tommy had noticed Thea wasn’t at the loft, but decided to wait to confront Oliver about that, even though his stomach churned at the thought that Thea might be in trouble. But that couldn’t be the case, otherwise Ollie would be a nervous wreck. Right? He couldn’t be so focused on his mad plan to save Starling City that he would ignore the impact on Thea to her detriment…

Tommy felt his stomach churn as he realized he wasn’t so certain that this Oliver wouldn’t put his mad plan over Thea, because Oliver had proven earlier tonight that the man Tommy thought he knew was a mask. Green Arrow was the one who had been rescued from that island; Oliver Queen was just a mask. His best friend was gone.

*DC*

It was morning at the loft, and Oliver was fixing breakfast for he and Laurel. This morning, it was waffles and sausage links. Laurel was sipping at her coffee. Oliver set a plate down in front of her before serving up a plate for himself. The two sat at the counter, eating slowly, savoring the time together. Finally, Oliver looked up at his girlfriend. “Would you consider moving in here on a permanent basis?” he asked. She looked up, green eyes blinking in surprise. He continued on, “I know it’s sudden, since we’ve only been dating again for a couple of weeks, but we’ve known each other for years and it’s not like we’re incompatible. And I really want you to be safe and this building isn’t as easy to get into…” Oliver trailed off as he noticed the amused expression on Laurel’s face. “What?” he asked self-consciously.

“Where did you learn to babble like that?” Laurel asked, and Oliver’s jaw dropped. He had been babbling, giving Felicity, Barry, Kara, Curtis, and Cisco a run for their money. Laurel reached across the counter and put a hand on Oliver’s. “Believe me, Ollie, nothing would make me happier than to move in with you, because it’s something I’ve wanted for years.”

“But?” Oliver said, knowing there was a ‘but’.

“But we’re still finding out who we are now,” Laurel said. “We’re not the same kids we were five years ago. As similar as we are, it shouldn’t be too long before we are moving in together. But I want it to feel right and doing so two weeks after we start dating again doesn’t feel right. But I assume you can give me a good reference for getting an apartment in this building?” she asked.

“Yeah, I can do that,” Oliver said with a nod. At least she would be close by. That was enough for him.

“Alright, I’ll make an appointment with the landlord and start making arrangements,” Laurel said. “In the meantime, I’ll probably be here more often while I get ready to move. I-I don’t feel comfortable going back to my apartment, being alone for hours on end in a building where I’ve been attacked three times.”

“You’re always welcome here, Laurel,” Oliver said, squeezing her hand gently. She smiled and turned back to her breakfast.

*DC*

A couple of hours later, Laurel had gone back to her apartment to get ready for work at C.N.R.I. and Oliver was checking his e-mail. He had received a message from Sara, telling him she had arrived in Metropolis and was searching for Thea. He was glad someone he trusted was looking for his sister and he knew Sara wouldn’t let anything happen to Thea. Oliver’s sister had been like a surrogate little sister for both of the Lance sisters. Oliver wished he could be there for Thea, but there was simply too much going on here in Starling for him to take days away to try and find Thea. Though he had every intention, once Sara found Thea and had her in hand, to cut Thea off. Cancel her credit cards, freeze her accounts, all of it. He had told Thea that if she acted like a child that he would treat her like one. She would be lucky if he allowed her the typical $100 allowance she was used to.

Oliver had called in to find out if there was any pressing matters that he needed to take care of as C.E.O. at Queen Consolidated today, and Ned Foster had informed him there wasn’t. So, he was getting ready to head to the Bunker, where Fyff would be working on tracking Leo Mueller. Even if he couldn’t go out just yet, he wanted to know where Mueller was. Having access to A.R.G.U.S. resources was nice, but Oliver was making plans to have the Applied Sciences division design their own satellite, one he could tap into as Green Arrow, so that he wouldn’t be as beholden to A.R.G.U.S. and Amanda Waller as much as he was now. Personally, he wanted to turn Mueller over to the S.C.P.D. or F.B.I., but a deal was a deal. Mueller would go to Waller, who would probably press him into service to provide her wetworks teams with black market weapons. Letting a man like Mueller go curdled Oliver’s gut, and he was asking himself he really could go through with this.

There was a knock at the door. Oliver moved from the counter where he had been checking his e-mail and opened the door to find Tommy on the other side. “Come on in, Tommy,” Oliver said, stepping back and swinging the door open to let his best friend enter. Tommy stepped inside and Oliver closed the door behind him. “Laurel told me something last night that I hadn’t thought of,” Oliver said. “She told me that one of your biggest concerns might be the danger I’m putting myself in. Is that something she’s right about?”

“Yeah,” Tommy said softly, turning to face Oliver. “But it’s really just a footnote. I drove out to the bluff we used to cliff-dive from. Remember it?” Oliver nodded. “I sat out there for hours, just thinking about all of this, going over it in my head. And there are things that I just don’t get.”

“Well, I’ll answer any questions you have,” Oliver said, feeling content that Tommy wasn’t acting like he had in the past timeline about all of this. “What do you want to know?”

“Why?” Tommy asked.

“Why what?” Oliver asked in return.

“Why would you do this?” Tommy asked. “What you’re doing is insane. You’re fighting for a city that will never change. You’re setting yourself up for a crushing failure, dragging Laurel along with you, and the both of you are so blinded by your desire to help people who don’t deserve it that you won’t see the truth. One of these days, Oliver, one of these faceless thugs you fight is gonna land a lucky blow, and then you’re going to die. If that wasn’t bad enough, you’re dragging Laurel into it, putting her in danger with this mad crusade of yours. I don’t want to see my best friends die for a losing cause.”

“It’s not a losing cause, Tommy,” Oliver said, his tone passionate. “The people in this city have just been so without hope, without a vision of a better future for themselves, that they’ve lost that spark of life that made this city great when we were children. They need something to give them that spark back again. The crime and corruption is choking the life out of this city, and someone needs to do something about it. The people need to see that life isn’t completely filled with darkness. The people need to see that there are those who are willing to fight for a brighter future and bring this city back from the brink of collapse!”

“And you’re going to bring it back from the brink all by yourself?” Tommy asked skeptically. “What does Thea think about this? Where is she, anyways?” Oliver faltered for the first time, and Tommy noticed. “What is it? Where’s Thea?” Tommy asked, feeling a sense of urgency that he couldn’t quite explain.

“Thea… needed something from me that I couldn’t give,” Oliver said reluctantly. He knew he was a terrible brother, and he knew Tommy was going to pounce on this. But he also knew that he was doing what was best for Starling City. The war for Starling’s soul couldn’t be abandoned, no matter how much it pained him to not be there for his sister when she needed him. “She needed me to be here for her. She asked me to stop being the Green Arrow. I couldn’t. She’s run away. We found out she went to Metropolis. Sara went after her.”

“Sara!” Tommy demanded. “What the hell? I thought she was dead!”

“No, she’s alive,” Oliver said. “Laurel handled resurrecting her yesterday. I gave her an expense account to use while she tracks down Thea and keeps an eye on her. Once Sara has Thea, I’m cutting Thea off. She’s acting like a child, and I’m going to treat her like one.”

“She is a kid!” Tommy shouted, and shocked Oliver by lashing out with a clumsy right hook. It barely phased Oliver, who turned back to face Tommy with a blank expression on his face. “She’s just a kid whose lost both of her parents and her stepfather and needed her brother to be there for her! Was your goddamn crusade so much more important than your sister’s well-being?”

“Believe me, Tommy, I wanted to be there for her, but there were other things I had to do,” Oliver said. “I’m Queen Consolidated’s C.E.O. and I’m fighting a war for Starling’s soul against corrupt and powerful people who don’t want to see the status quo changed. That requires a certain kind of tenacity, and unfortunately that mission comes at a cost. I don’t have much of a personal life, as you saw last night. I can’t be what Thea wants me to be. I have to put Starling above everything else.” Tommy tried again to punch Oliver, but this time Oliver blocked the punch. “Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself more than me,” Oliver added.

“You son of a bitch!” Tommy snarled. “Thea is your sister! You’ve just lost the rest of your family! You’re only priority should be her! Not the city and people who don’t deserve the sacrifices that you’re making for them!”

“Who are you to make that judgment?” Oliver asked in return. “I love this city. I love the people of this city. I am fighting for a better future for all of them. I wish it didn’t come at the cost of my relationship with Thea, but I can’t just ignore the suffering that goes on every night and sit at home holding Thea’s hand! I have to help as many people as possible, not just one girl!”

“I’d give anything to have a sister!” Tommy shouted at his friend. “I’d give anything to have had the family you did! Instead, all I have is my father, who looks at me in disgust and thinks I need to toughen up. And you’ll just put all that aside for the sake of people who wouldn’t even give you the time of day if you were bleeding out in the street!”

“There are still good people in this city! They just need to be reminded of who they are!” Oliver snapped back. “I didn’t survive five years of hell just to go back to being a playboy who coasted through life and ignored the suffering of other people! I can’t be the person you remember, Tommy! This was what Thea couldn’t accept; that I’m not the person I was when she was a child! I have to do what is best for the entire city!”

“And what about Laurel?” Tommy asked. Oliver frowned in confusion. “What happens when one of these psychos that you’re challenging tries to make you choose between Laurel and the people of this city? Which will you choose? The woman you love or the people who would sooner spit on you then lend a helping hand?”

“I’d find a way to do both,” Oliver said calmly, meeting his friend’s incredulous gaze with serious eyes. “I would find a way to help the people of this city and save Laurel.”

“You’re not some hero from a comic book, Oliver,” Tommy said caustically. “You’re just a man, a man with a bow and arrow. You can’t save this city. It doesn’t want to be saved.”

“If you really think that, Tommy, why are you still here?” Oliver asked. “Why don’t you ask your father to transfer you to another division of Merlyn Global, away from the city you think is a cesspit?”

“Maybe I will,” Tommy said. “But I know one thing. I’m not gonna depend on Sara Lance to be there for Thea when she’s struggling. I’m leaving for Metropolis. I’ll be there for Thea if you won’t.” Tommy turned on his heel and left the loft. Oliver watched him go, feeling something crystalize within him. He had never heard Tommy speak that way about the people of the city. He hadn’t acted like that before, had he? But then Oliver realized the major difference between this timeline and the last one. In the last timeline, Tommy had been desperate to impress Laurel, and had changed into a better man as a result. But that hadn’t been happening here, and because of that, he was faced with the ugly truth that his best friend was a part of the problem. He was a member of the elite who looked down their noses at the poor, the disenfranchised, the victimized, and sneered in disgust.

But the argument had also helped him realize something. He couldn’t continue to play favors with Amanda Waller. He could not, would not allow a monster like Leo Mueller to walk free, allowed to peddle his lethal merchandise so long as he provided A.R.G.U.S. wetworks teams with their weapons. That wasn’t who he was anymore; that wasn’t who the world needed Green Arrow to be. Oliver gathered up his jacket and headed out of the loft. If Waller wanted Mueller so badly, she could spring him from the custody of the S.C.P.D. or F.B.I. Mind, once he was in custody, he was burned anyways so he would be next to useless to Waller, especially if he started singing to the authorities in exchange for a lesser sentence.

*DC*

Talia al Ghul sat silently behind her desk as she listened to the report that her acolyte was giving her about recent events in Starling City. Having set her latest student to return to his home and begin cleaning it up, Talia had been expecting to hear of the hooded vigilante who was acting as judge, jury, and executioner, performing an act of true justice and replacing evil with death, as she had taught him, as her father had taught her. Instead, Oliver Queen was squandering the training that she had given him to play Robin Hood. He had only killed once, when the justice system had failed to convict using the evidence he provided. Everyone else, he had only done what was necessary to gather evidence to provide the police.

Worse still, he was not acting as a shadow in the dark, the way that she had trained him. He had hacked into the emergency alert system of Starling City to deliver a message of hope to the people who were victimized by the wealthy and corrupt of the city, and a message of warning to the one responsible for the state Starling City was in, her father’s former Horseman, Malcolm Merlyn. Oh, yes, she knew about the actions of her father’s ex-Horseman and that was why she had chosen Oliver Queen to exact justice against the man. Malcolm Merlyn was no longer an honorable warrior, but an international terrorist who had aided Konstantin Kovar in his bid to return Russia to its original oligarchy, something which Oliver had helped stop in its tracks. It puzzled Talia. In Russia, Oliver had done what was necessary, and gladly so. But now he insisted on playing the hero in the light of day and was unwilling to do all that was necessary and replace evil with death.

What had happened to her student, the one who had shown so much promise? This bore further consideration and potentially investigation. For now, she would keep an eye on the matter from afar. Perhaps this was merely a ruse from her student, to draw Merlyn into a false sense of security before he struck him down. Though she was curious as to how her student had divined that there was someone behind all of the horrible things happening in Starling City. He hadn’t seemed to clue into that during those months of instruction in Russia, and she had wanted him to learn this for himself, and thus had not revealed the full reason for her decision to teach him how to channel his darkness.

Yes. This bore further consideration and investigation. Something was off about her former student, and Talia would get to the bottom of it if things continued on as they were.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn looked up from his desk, where he was going over a business proposal from a Japanese company, as his son entered the room. Instantly, he knew that something was wrong. His son’s expression was disgusted, his eyes fiery. Malcolm had never seen his son like this before; indeed, he had been resigned to the fact that his son derived a hedonistic pleasure from his chosen lifestyle and had been pleasantly surprised when Tommy had opened up a discussion about coming to work at Merlyn Global. “Tommy, what’s going on?” Malcolm asked. “You look troubled.”

“I was just talking with Oliver,” Tommy said, his tone hardening as he spoke his best friend’s name, which intrigued Malcolm. Whenever Tommy had spoken of his best friend since Oliver’s return, it had been with a jovial tone. What could have possibly happened in one talk to create this schism between them? “Thea ran away.”

“What?” Malcolm asked, affecting a shocked look. “Where did she go? Not to the Glades, I hope.”

“No, Thea knows better than to go there,” Tommy said. “But she left the city. According to Ollie, she’s in Metropolis. He’s got Sara Lance of all people looking for her instead of going there himself. He’s so caught up in that vision for this city he talked about in his speech that he doesn’t care about Thea or what she’s going through after what happened to Mrs. Queen and Mr. Steele. He told me himself that the city has to come first, and he can’t just sit at home holding Thea’s hand! She’s just a kid who lost her mother! She needs someone to be there for her, not chasing a mad pipe dream that this city can be saved from what it’s become!”

Malcolm’s shocked expression was now genuine. Not only at the fact that Oliver had essentially abandoned his own sister in pursuit of his dream for a better future for Starling City, but also at the disgust with which Tommy spoke of Oliver wanting to save Starling City. Slowly, cautiously, Malcolm asked, “What do you mean about it being a pipe dream? Don’t you think the city is worth fighting for?”

“No,” Tommy said, shaking his head and shocking his father further. “Mom thought that the people in this city were worth helping, and they killed her for it. Laurel is driving herself to exhaustion providing legal aid to people who would walk all over her if she was bleeding out in the street, and now Ollie thinks that all the people in this city need is someone to show them that there’s a reason to hope, and he’s willing to forget about what his sister needs to do it. Well, I’m not going to leave Thea to suffer in silence. I’m leaving for Metropolis. If you still want me to be a part of the company, approve my transfer to our Metropolis branch. If not, I guess it’ll have to wait until I find Thea.”

“No, no, if that’s what you think is best, I’ll approve of it,” Malcolm said absently. “You’ll be the head of Special Projects in Metropolis. Mostly administrative, so it should give you plenty of time to find Thea and be there for her when you do. If you need any help, I know a few good P.I.’s in Metropolis.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Tommy said, and then he turned and walked out of his office. Malcolm turned and looked out over the city. His eyes lighted upon the nearby office building of Queen Consolidated. So, Oliver had his own plans to bring the city back from the brink. That was interesting; not for the first time, Malcolm wondered if Oliver’s plans had anything to do with a certain Emerald Archer, or if he was just seeing connections that weren’t there. But what troubled him was Tommy’s disconnect and apathy towards the city he had been born to. How could he not want to save the place he was born? Had Malcolm gone wrong somewhere in raising his son?

Chapter Text

Green Arrow watched from the rafters of the abandoned warehouse as Leo Mueller’s vehicle, carrying ‘samples’ of enough firepower to start World War III on the streets of Starling City, came to a stop below. Three black SUVs, belonging to an African American gang called the Niners, were pulling up twenty feet away from where Mueller’s transport stopped. Green Arrow nocked a magnetic arrow, preparing to strike. Mueller and his bodyguard stood at the back of their car, the trunk open and displaying the ‘sample merchandise’ as the gang-bangers, six of them, got out of their SUVs and moved forward cautiously.

Mueller’s bodyguard had an automatic weapon; the gang-bangers had nine millimeters sticking out of the fronts of their jeans, glorying in the stereotype. Green Arrow amused himself, briefly and grimly, with the thought of what would happen if the triggers got pulled when the guns were ripped from where they were ‘holstered’. As the gang-bangers came to a stop, Green Arrow drew back his bow and fired. The magnetic arrow landed in the space between the two groups, and he leaped down from the rafters as the magnetic arrow activated, ripping the weapons away from the gang-bangers and bodyguard. A single shot rang out and one of the bangers went down, screaming in agony as his hands went to his rather bloody groin. Green Arrow blinked; that had just been a private joke in his own head, he hadn’t thought it would actually happen.

Green Arrow pushed through his surprise that his joke had become strangely prophetic in nature and leaped into the midst of the bangers, delivering crippling blows with his legs and bow, tidying up with bola arrows. He fired a flashbang arrow to disorient the bodyguard as the man reached inside the trunk for one of the sample weapons and then hit him with a bola arrow. Mueller had tried to run, but found he had put himself in a corner, between his car and a stack of pallets. He turned to face Green Arrow, shouting in German. Green Arrow studied the man for a moment, and then made a decision. He drew one of his basic arrows and fired; the arrow struck Mueller in the heart, killing him instantly.

There were still people on the List who deserved death for their crimes and didn’t deserve a chance at redemption like he gave to most. Leo Mueller was one of those people.

*DC*

Alex Danvers and Darius Trimble stood on the step of the mansion where Frank Bertinelli lived with his daughter. They had had to wait for their own experts to verify the veracity of the recording the Green Arrow had hand-delivered to Trimble, but now the veracity of the recording was confirmed, and they could act on the information. Trimble rang the bell and turned to look at the younger agent. “Relax, Danvers,” Trimble said. “Mafiosos like Bertinelli pride themselves on being ‘civilized’. They’re not going to gun us down in their own home and then dissolve our bodies in the bathtub.” Alex shuddered at the imagery but clamped down on her nervousness and schooled her expression into a calm mask as the door to the manor opened to reveal a butler.

“Yes?” the butler asked.

“Agents Trimble and Danvers, F.B.I.,” Trimble said, pulling out his credentials and presenting them, Alex doing the same a moment later. The butler studied them and then stepped aside.

“I will inform Mr. Bertinelli of his most distinguished guests at once,” the butler said. “Martha will show you to the sitting room.” He gestured to a nearby maid, who stopped her dusting and gestured for the agents to follow her. Trimble and Alex followed the maid and took seats on the couch. A few minutes later, Frank Bertinelli entered the room followed by his daughter in a form-fitting purple dress and three men in suits. Two were obviously bodyguards, while the other Alex and Trimble recognized from the file that the Organized Crime Unit had let them peruse as Nick Salvati. Ostensibly Bertinelli’s head of security, Salvati was tagged as the enforcer of the crime family.

“I have to say, I was surprised when Alfredo informed me we had a couple of visitors from the F.B.I.,” Bertinelli said, portraying a somewhat jovial persona. “My understanding is you’re chasing after Green Arrow and some conspiracy surrounding the Queen family. I admit, I wanted the contracts to build the new Applied Sciences center for Queen Consolidated, but my lawyer hasn’t presented our case to Oliver Queen yet, and I’ve certainly received no visits from Green Arrow, or anyone associated with him. Which begs the question why you’re here now?”

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the recent murder of Ivan Danakov, a Russian who was looking to start a private security firm in Starling City?” Trimble asked. Alex, who was keeping an eye on Helena, noted the young woman’s hands close into fists for a moment before relaxing, no doubt confident that her father was going to get the blame, or Salvati since the man was the enforcer.

“I had heard about it, yes,” Bertinelli said blandly. “I pay attention to things like private security start-ups. Never know when a good one will crop up. The Russians are known for their seriousness, so I was keeping an eye on that one. But I don’t understand what about that brings you here.”

“An anonymous source managed to backtrack the shooter to their point of origin through traffic cameras and other surveillance,” Trimble said. “I’m afraid that the identity of the shooter is unmistakable.” He stood, turning his attention to Helena. “Helena Bertinelli, you’re under arrest for the murder of Ivan Danakov.”

“This is ridiculous,” Helena scoffed while Bertinelli and Salvati exchanged glances before their expressions became impassive. Helena turned to her father. “You don’t believe them, do you, Daddy?”

“Of course not, sweetheart,” Bertinelli said. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist you leave, agents. I will not have a member of my family harassed.”

“I’m afraid we won’t be leaving here without your daughter, Mr. Bertinelli,” Trimble said as Alex circled the coffee table, pulling Helena’s hands behind her and cuffing her. Trimble handed the necessary paperwork to Bertinelli. “As you can see, we have a warrant for her arrest.”

“Don’t touch me, you sycophant!” Helena snapped at Alex, who ignored her as she tightened the cuffs.

“I’ll have my daughter back here within the hour,” Bertinelli sneered. “Nick, call Gus. I assume you’re still operating out of the 16th Precinct?” he added, looking at Trimble, who nodded. “Then we’ll meet you there and get this matter settled.” He turned to his daughter. “Go with them for now, sweetheart, but don’t say a word. We’ll have you out of there in no time.” Helena nodded and allowed Alex to lead her out of the manor, Trimble trailing behind them. Bertinelli watched them go, scowling, and not just because the F.B.I. had marched in here without so much as a warning from their contacts in the S.C.P.D. If they did have proof, it meant his daughter had been up to something that he needed to figure out.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn studied the information one of his agents had sent him. Because of the rather nasty surprise that had come about because of the discovery of the Queen’s Gambit, Malcolm had decided he wanted to know about every little ‘secret’ Moira Queen had had. It turned out that her life was far more colorful than she had made it seem when she introduced herself to him and Robert all those years ago. She had purported that she was at Stanford with them on scholarship, but in fact the money had been stolen from the criminal kingpin of Metropolis, Morgan Edge; no doubt Edge would be interested to know what became of Moira Dearden, as rumor had it that Moira had left him something to remember her by, not to mention that her daughter was now in his sphere of influence. He had learned more about the second family Robert had had that Oliver had gone to visit, Kazumi and Emiko Adachi, but he now knew he needed to shy away from anything regarding them. He wondered if his godson realized his half-sister was a high-ranking member of the Ninth Circle, the organization that the Triad had purchased the bomb from to bring down the Queen’s Gambit.

There was something about the circumstances of Thea’s birth that made Malcolm suspicious, and he had tasked his agents tracking Thea, now centered in Metropolis thanks to Tommy letting him know where the wayward heiress had fled, to find a hair or something else that could be used to test DNA. For too long, Malcolm had taken Moira’s word for granted, but it was obvious now that the woman had been far more diabolical than she had presented to the world. He needed to know if she had lied to him all of these years; if so, well, if Oliver wasn’t up to taking care of his sister for the few months until she was eighteen, Malcolm could certainly try his hand at it, and try and make up for lost time. It was too late to fix things with his son.

Speaking of sons, Malcolm mused with a cruel smirk, his agents had uncovered the most interesting tidbit from Moira’s past beyond her origins. She had paid out two million dollars to a young woman named Samantha Clayton, a woman who had been a sorority sister to Laurel Lance and had left Starling City two years before the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit. A woman who had a six-year-old son who looked remarkably like a young Oliver Queen had when he was that age. Moira had always protected her family’s perfect image, and illegitimate children such as Emiko Adachi and this William Clayton were the top of the no-no list for such an image. Malcolm now had the ultimate leverage against Oliver should he need it, and as a result, he was in a rather exultant mood when the front desk phoned to inform him that he had a visitor: Lieutenant Franklin Pike of the Major Case Unit. “Send him up,” Malcolm said, feeling that there was nothing that could destroy the good mood he was in over things coming together in a way that benefited him most of all.

A few minutes later, Pike entered his office. “Lieutenant, welcome,” Malcolm said, giving the man his best corporate businessman smile as he circled around the desk and shook the lieutenant’s hand. “What brings you by?”

“Green Arrow,” Pike said, and Malcolm felt a brief thrill of fear. Had the vigilante delivered evidence to the police that implicated him or revealed a part of his scheme to save the city from itself? “A few nights ago, he gave us another anonymous tip, leading us to a warehouse where he had subdued Daniel Brickwell and his men. We’ve spent the past few days processing all of the evidence. Mr. Merlyn, among the items we processed was a pistol with a pearl-grip handle that Brickwell claims has been his personal weapon for twenty years. He’s very proud of the fact that everyone he’s killed, he’s done so with that weapon.”

“I’m afraid I’m confused, Lieutenant,” Malcolm said, and he truly was. What did some criminal’s signature weapon have to do with him?

“We ran ballistics to find out just how many murders Brickwell has to his name,” Pike said. “We got confirmation last night. The weapon Brickwell claims is his personal weapon for the past twenty years is, without a shred of doubt, the gun that killed your wife. We got him, Mr. Merlyn.”

“You… You got the man who murdered Rebecca?” Malcolm said, his mouth dry. This couldn’t be happening. He had killed the bastard who had ripped his heart out! He had gotten justice for his wife! There had to be some mistake. “You’re sure he didn’t just get the weapon from someone else and is rounding up how long he’s owned it?” Rebecca had been murdered nineteen years ago. If Brickwell was to be believed, that he had owned the weapon for twenty, then there could be no doubt.

“We’re sure,” Pike said. “We tracked down the gun shop where Brickwell purchased the weapon. The owner still had the records. I know that you’ve waited a long time to hear this news, Mr. Merlyn.”

“Can I see him?” Malcolm asked abruptly. Pike blinked. “I need to hear it from him for myself, lieutenant. I need to look in his eyes, I need to ask him why he did it.”

“Mr. Merlyn, I…” Pike said, trailing off as he saw the desperate look in Malcolm’s eyes. “I’ll see what I can do,” Pike said finally.

“Thank you, lieutenant,” Malcolm said. “Please let me know the instant that I can confront this man.” Pike nodded and left the office. No doubt he would have to run it up the chain of command, and Malcolm knew that Nudocerdo would bend over backwards to let him confront Brickwell. Why did that name sound familiar? Malcolm went around his desk and pulled open a drawer that contained his copy of the List. He searched through it and found the name Daniel Brickwell on it. He fell into his seat, feeling as though his blood was cooling in his veins. His wife’s murderer had been walking around for twenty years, and for almost eighteen of those years, he had been protecting the man. Malcolm felt ill, thinking of what Tommy would think if he ever learned the truth. Tommy. He didn’t know. He didn’t know that they had got his mother’s killer. Malcolm was tempted to call his son but stayed his hand. First, he would confirm for himself that Brickwell had murdered Rebecca. Then he would let Tommy know.

And then Al Sa-Her would finally have his revenge on the man who had given birth to him.

*DC*

Oliver Queen grimaced as he answered the phone as he got ready for his day at Queen Consolidated. “Hello, Amanda,” he said.

“I thought we had an agreement,” Waller said coolly. “We aided you in capturing and interrogating Frank Chen, and you were supposed to give me Leo Mueller.”

“Leo Mueller makes his fortune by selling military-grade weapons to street gangs and turning the streets of American cities into warzones,” Oliver replied. “He is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent lives and the ruination of some of our most iconic cities. He received his just reward. There are other gun-runners that you can twist to A.R.G.U.S. assets, Amanda. But if any of them show up in Starling, they’ll receive the same justice as Mueller. I will not see my city become a warzone just so you can obtain black market weapons.”

“You are treading a dangerous line, Mr. Queen,” Waller informed him, and then hung up. Oliver snorted at that and began tying his tie. He had to put in a few hours at Queen Consolidated, still.

He sighed when his phone rang again and picked it up. Seeing it was Henry Fyff, Oliver answered. “What is it, Henry?”

“Oh, shit, boss, you gotta get here, like now,” Fyff said.

“What is it? Did Waller send her goon squad to take everything or something for what I did to Mueller?” Oliver asked.

“What? No, no, I haven’t seen any A.R.G.U.S. agents,” Fyff replied. “You told me to keep an eye on things with Merlyn and Helena. Things went down this morning, boss, and there’s activity all across the city. The Italians and Russians are mobilizing, Merlyn’s calling in favors with Nudocerdo and has taken the day off from work, and it’s all one big clusterfuck, boss.”

Oliver felt his stomach clench. “What exactly are the Russians and Italians up to? And how is it connected to Helena?” Oliver asked, since the Merlyn aspect of this was obvious. The man had just found out that his wife’s murderer was in custody and he was unhinged because of it, acting on impulse, which was precisely what Oliver had been hoping for. It’d be an easy way to draw the Dark Archer into a confrontation without having to wait until Christmas and leave him to continue his machinations. But he hadn’t thought the F.B.I. would choose the same day to go after Helena, because he had known that would stir up the Russians and Italians.

“The Feds picked up Helena this morning, and they’ve made no mystery as to why,” Fyff said. “Obviously, the Russians and Italians are hearing from their people inside the S.C.P.D. and while the Russians are mobilizing to go after the woman who killed one of theirs, the Italians are mobilizing in preparation for a street war with the Russians.”

“Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Oliver snarled. “I’m heading to the Bratva, see if I can’t calm them down. Get things ready at the Bunker in case things go south.”

“Um, what do you mean by that, boss?” Fyff asked guardedly.

“If the Russians move against Helena, we might have to keep her safe at the Bunker until she can be safely transported,” Oliver said. He really didn’t want to expose the base of his operations to Helena Bertinelli or the two agents most likely to be guarding her, Trimble and Danvers, but there might be no choice. It would be the only place in the city that was safe. “I want the entire place sanitized, make sure there’s no sign of any personal effects, Henry. Not yours, not mine, not Laurel’s. We need to make it look sterile, like it can be moved at a moment’s notice.”

“I understand,” Fyff said soberly. Oliver hung up and grabbed his jacket, ignoring his haphazard tie. Appearance wasn’t important right now; time was of the essence. He needed to stop Alexi and the rest of the Bratva before this turned into a war zone and (he closed his eyes) he needed to arrange a meeting between himself as the head of the Starling City chapter with Frank Bertinelli. They needed to stop this from becoming a bloodbath, one way or another. If not… then his relationship with the Russians was at an end, because he would not stand by and watch as the city was torn apart by a mob war. Ironic that Helena’s arrest might trigger the very thing I was trying to avoid when I killed Mueller, he thought bitterly.

*DC*

Sara Lance rolled her eyes as she knocked on the door of the hotel room at the Metropolis Empire Hotel that Thea Queen had bribed the desk clerk to give her despite her being underage. Thea, like any spoiled girl, hadn’t even tried to hide her trail. Like most teenagers, she was convinced of her own invincibility and that not only would no one track her down, but that she wouldn’t be investigated if she went to a high-class hotel and rented a room while underage. All Sara had had to do was threaten the clerk who Thea bribed with a call to the M.P.D. and they were suddenly very attentive and helpful, even giving Sara a copy of the keycard to Thea’s room, but Sara would give the girl a chance to come quietly.

The door swung open, and Thea’s hazel eyes bugged out at the sight of Sara standing outside. She moved to shut the door, but Sara caught it with her hand and pushed her way inside, grabbing Thea by the upper arm and dragging the seventeen-year-old to her bed, which Sara threw her down on. “You, little miss, are a pain in the ass and a brat,” Sara said by way of morning greeting. “Do you have any idea how worried your brother is? He was going out of his mind with worry when he realized you were gone, and he about lost it when he realized that you were heading to Metropolis to visit Suicide Slums to try and find your mother’s family.” Which was true; Oliver internalized a lot of his reactions from what Sara could tell, and the numb voice he had spoken in was belied by the wild panic she had seen in his eyes.

“Like he actually cares,” Thea scoffed. “He’s too busy playing Robin Hood to care about me. If he really did, he would be here himself. He wouldn’t have sent his little sidepiece.”

Sara’s eyes narrowed and she resisted the urge to backhand Thea for the mouth she was giving her. She remembered very well that she had been an antagonistic little bitch herself when she was Thea’s age, and Laurel had had to bail her out of trouble more than once. “Your brother has responsibilities he can’t walk away from, something that an arrogant little brat like you has no understanding of,” Sara snapped back, unable to completely curb her anger at Thea’s belligerent attitude. “All of Starling is under threat if Oliver doesn’t stop what’s happening. Millions of lives are in the balance, but all that has to be put on hold because Thea Queen’s feelings are hurt! Heaven forbid you actually accept that your brother has grown up and that it’s about time you did, too!”

Before either of them could say another word, there was another knock at the door. Sara shot Thea a menacing glare that even the belligerent teenager understood meant ‘stay put’ and went to the door. She blinked in surprise, just as the man on the other side of the door did. After a moment, Sara relaxed. “Hey, Tommy,” she said. “Come to help me talk some sense into the Little Miss?”

“Not in the way you think, no,” Tommy said, pushing his way into the room and zeroing in on Thea. He moved to the bed and sat beside the girl, putting an arm around her shoulders. Thea leaned into his embrace, closing her eyes. “I came because Thea needs someone in her corner, someone who’ll put her first.”

“You came here for me?” Thea asked plaintively, looking at Tommy through watery eyes.

“You’re like my little sister, Speedy,” Tommy said, not knowing he was crushing the girl’s heart with those words. “And right now, you need a brother who’s going to put you first. I’m taking over as Head of Special Projects for Merlyn Global here in Metropolis. You can stay with me for as long as you need to, whether or not you decide to go back to Starling. I wouldn’t blame you if you chose to stay here.”

“Tommy, you’re talking about things you don’t understand,” Sara said.

Tommy huffed a scornful laugh. “Do you mean about you being alive but hardly anyone knowing? Or maybe about Ollie’s little hobby of firing arrows at people?” Sara flinched back in shock. “Yeah, I know about Oliver,” Tommy said. “And I know that he put his crazy plans over his own flesh-and-blood. I still remember when he and I swore to protect Thea with our very lives. He might’ve forgotten that in his arrogant belief that he can save Starling City all by his lonesome, but I haven’t. I made all the arrangements I needed to with my Dad in less than a day, but Ollie can’t spend thirty minutes with Thea every day to make sure she knows she’s loved? That’s bullshit, Sara, and you and I both know it.”

Sara grimaced but shook her head. “You still don’t have the full story, Tommy,” she said. “If you did, you’d know that what Oliver’s doing is probably the most important thing any of us will ever do with our lives. Starling City is in danger. Ollie is trying to save millions of lives.”

“Oh, right, the mythical ‘Tempest’ that the F.B.I. are investigating based on an LLC sharing the same name as a group Ollie mentioned in his little speech to the city,” Tommy scoffed. “Oliver is fighting a losing war, and he’s dragging Laurel into it. I won’t stay in Starling and watch my best friends die for people who wouldn’t help them if they were bleeding out in the street, and Thea doesn’t need to go back to a city where she’s ignored and forgotten while Oliver makes his grand gestures as C.E.O. and Green Arrow. You can go back to Starling and tell Oliver that Thea will be fine, Sara. She has family with her, even if it’s not by blood. Now get the hell outta here.”

Sara knew that there wasn’t much point to continuing the argument. But she also knew Oliver would kill her if she left his sister undefended in Metropolis. So she vowed to keep watch over Thea until such a time as Oliver called her away. She turned and left the hotel room, already planning to get a room for herself until she could find an apartment in the city.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen pulled his bike up in front of the autobody shop that served as a business front for the Starling chapter of the Bratva. Dismounting quickly, he left his helmet at a haphazard angle on the handlebars as he rushed into the autobody shop and headed down into the basement level, where Alexi was directing men to arm up. “I’m countermanding those orders!” Oliver shouted into the din, and the Bratva silenced as they turned to face the Captain that had been personally assigned charge of their chapter by the Pakhan. They could not directly ignore him, despite Leonov’s grumblings. “Alexi, what the hell do you think you’re doing? I told you to leave it to the authorities,” Oliver snarled as he marched up to the one-handed spider.

“This is way we have always handled things, Captain,” Alexi sneered the title. “You and Pakhan may think to change Bratva. You can slap new paint on walls, can make us look respectable, but this is who we are. The Bertinelli bitch must die for killing a brother. This is Bratva way, Mr. Queen. And even if it were not, Bertinelli is already marshaling his forces. We must be ready for attack.”

“Reach out to Bertinelli, arrange a meeting,” Oliver said calmly. “I’ll meet with Bertinelli myself and see if we can’t avoid a mob war. Because that’s what this comes to, Alexi, and I’m warning you now, if it does, I will be taking aim at Bratva and Bertinelli alike.” Oliver met Alexi’s defiant gaze with cold blue eyes. Alexi finally nodded. “Now, I’m going to stay right here to make sure you don’t try anything behind my back,” Oliver said. “Because you’ve proven you’re a weasel, Leonov, and this time, if you act contrary to my orders, it won’t be your hand that you lose.”

“I… understand, Captain,” Alexi said slowly. He barked an order in Russian for everyone to stand down. They did, rather reluctantly in Oliver’s opinion, and he kept himself vigilant while Alexi made the phone call to start getting the ball rolling. This was going to be a long day, and he was going to have to come up with some reason to explain his sudden absence from Queen Consolidated to Ned Foster. Maybe a sudden anxiety attack?

Oliver waited for almost an hour before Alexi approached him. “Mr. Bertinelli will meet us at Russo’s in one hour,” Alexi reported sourly. “I must insist on protection detail. You are Captain. You are target for Italians if they wish pre-emptive strike.”

“I understand, Alexi,” Oliver said, inclining his head. “Choose your men carefully. If we need to fight our way out, it should be with the best possible configuration.” Alexi inclined his head in return and went around the room, choosing men for the detail. They then changed into suits that were kept here in the underbelly of the garage and moved to an SUV with Oliver between them. Oliver was tense the entire time, simply because he had half a mind that they would knock him out and Alexi would take his place. But then reason broke through; Leonov would not wish to stick his neck out and take his place at this meeting. The one-handed spider had a self-preservation instinct that rivaled Merlyn’s, in Oliver’s opinion.

*DC*

The drive to Russo’s was done in silence, aside from Alexi briefly informing Oliver of what terms the Bratva would accept, which put Oliver in an awkward position from the start because there was no way Bertinelli was going to go for those terms.

Oliver was thinking of the last time he had been at Russo’s. It had been when he and Helena had stopped Nick Salvati from shaking down the owner. He never had found out what happened to the man and his daughter last time around, as focused as he had been on his mission. He would need to keep an eye on them this time, at least for a little while, make sure nothing happened to them. He was fighting for people like them, after all; the people typically caught in the crossfire.

Soon enough, the SUV pulled up to Russo’s, and Oliver’s security detail got out ahead of him, sweeping the area for any sign of spies or assassins. Once they were satisfied, Oliver was allowed out of the SUV. He stepped into the sunlight and fell in between the four men, Alexi leading the way into Russo’s. It was, as Oliver had suspected, empty of patrons. Frank Bertinelli was waiting with Nick Salvati and a security detail of his own, seated at a table. The Bratva fell back respectfully as Oliver stepped forward and took the seat across from Bertinelli.

Bertinelli’s eyebrows popped up before saying, “I’m afraid there must be some mistake. I’m here to meet a business associate, Mr. Queen, and while I would love to talk business with you sometime, I’m afraid I’m on a tight clock.”

“You’re here to meet the head of the Bratva in Starling City,” Oliver said. “You’re looking at him. I was appointed by the Pakhan himself to bring this chapter in line with his vision for what the Bratva could be, which is very different from the Bratva you’re used to.”

“I suppose that explains why there was even an offer to sort these troubles out through talks rather than through the Bratva’s preferred strong-arming,” Bertinelli said after a moment. “Though the fact that an American is now accepted as the leader of a Bratva chapter is intriguing. You called this meeting, Mr. Queen. What do you propose we do about this situation?”

“Your daughter has killed one of my men, and she killed him while he was beginning work to bring the Bratva into a legitimate enterprise,” Oliver said. “There is no disputing this fact, Mr. Bertinelli. Now, I am trying to control my people, keep them from doing anything rash regarding Helena. We both know what they would do to a woman who dared to kill one of them.”

“I suppose you have a point,” Bertinelli said with a grimace. He had already heard from Gus Sabatoni that the evidence was iron-clad. They would be lucky to get Helena off on bail and restricted to the manor via tracking bracelet. He hadn’t been able to arrange a private audience with his daughter yet to find out what the hell she had been thinking, killing a member of the Bratva like that and triggering a potential mob war, even if this lot were mostly uneducated brutes. “I do thank you for holding your people back. I will say that should anything happen to my daughter, any complacency will have vanish.”

“I understand,” Oliver said. “Now please understand my position. I cannot let this slide with no response. Your daughter killed one of my men. Something has to be done about that. The old response, of course, would be Helena being taken from police custody, gang-raped, and then her head cut off and sent to you as a warning not to cross the Bratva. I have no intentions of doing that. So that means that you and I need to come to terms that we both agree to.”

“I agree,” Bertinelli said. “I am open to a peaceful resolution, Oliver, if it can be reached.”

“Then let us begin,” Oliver said. “I’m afraid one thing I must insist on is that Helena is punished for killing one of mine. Whether that is by the courts or by you, I don’t really care. You can decide on that front.”

“I see,” Bertinelli said. “What else do you have in mind?”

“It’s my understanding that you currently own, through a subsidiary, a rather well-off porn studio,” Oliver said. “Since we cannot enter the private security business, as no one will hire those who cannot defend themselves, I feel compensation for that should take the form of ownership in a legitimate enterprise.”

“So far, I’m only hearing what you want from this exchange,” Bertinelli said. “Something I want, if I were to accept your terms, is the contracts to build the new Applied Sciences center for my construction company.”

“I can certainly see my way to having that happen,” Oliver said agreeably.

“Now, should I be the one to punish Helena, exactly how do you see that playing out?” Bertinelli asked.

“I’m trusting your judgment on that front,” Oliver said. “I know you wouldn’t want to renege on a deal where we both have something to gain. But it must be a punishment that will ensure she never again attempts to kill one of my men.”

“You do realize such a punishment would see my daughter permanently disfigured, don’t you?” Bertinelli asked. Queen couldn’t be unaware of this if he was involved with the brutes from the Bratva.

Oliver gave him a flat expression in return. “It’s disfigured but alive or raped, mutilated, and murdered,” Oliver said. “I know how this business works, Frank. Have you forgotten?”

“No, I haven’t,” Bertinelli said. “Just as I haven’t forgotten that Helena is my only daughter, my little princess. I’m sorry, Oliver, but I’m afraid we’ve reached an impasse unless you’re willing to reconsider Helena being punished.”

“I’m afraid I’m unable to acquiesce to your request,” Oliver said, feeling as if a stone had dropped into his stomach.

“Unfortunate,” Bertinelli said. “We will, of course, give you time to prepare. We’re civilized, after all.” Bertinelli stood, and exited, with his security detail following. Oliver sighed, closing his eyes.

“So, what now, Captain?” Alexi asked with a sneer.

*DC*

The journey back to the autobody shop was as silent as the journey to Russo’s had been. Oliver knew Alexi was planning his arguments for why the Bratva should strike pre-emptively, why they should arrange for Helena’s ‘release’ into their custody, and probably why Oliver was not the man to lead the Bratva in this endeavor because he didn’t have the stomach for this kind of conflict. Oliver, meanwhile, was trying to figure out how he was going to break away from the Bratva and get to the Bunker without them knocking him out and tying him up for the duration of this conflict with the Bertinellis.

“We must move first,” Alexi finally said as they exited the SUV inside the lower level of the autobody shop, which was suspiciously empty. “They will not show mercy. We must show none. You know this.”

“I know that if a war between the Bratva and Bertinellis happens, innocents are going to be caught in the crossfire,” Oliver said, facing Alexi. “I refuse to allow that to happen. If you must defend yourselves, do so. But if you move against the Bertinellis, if you seek out Helena to kill her, you will find me standing in your way, Leonov.”

“Let us see what Pakhan has to say,” Leonov sneered and pulled out his cell phone. He selected the contact that represented the bar that Anatoli used as his base of operations.

“Da,” said a voice on the other end.

It is Alexi,” Leonov said in Russian. “Wake the Pakhan. There is trouble in Starling, and the Captain is suffering from a weak stomach.” Oliver felt dread curdle in his stomach. Anatoli couldn’t afford to look weak in front of the Bratva while they were still transitioning towards legitimate enterprises. Oliver began to take stock of his position and how many men he would have to fight. If he didn’t have twelve years of experience, if one went by when he arrived on Lian Yu in the original timeline, he might be concerned. But he had faced dozens of men like the Bratva over the years and fought far worse enemies than a bunch of gangsters.

Finally, Anatoli came on the line. “What is happening?” he asked briskly, sounding rather awake for a man who must have been sleeping.

“It is simple, Pakhan,” Alexi said gloatingly. “The daughter of Bertinelli has killed one of our men. The Captain’s negotiations with Bertinelli failed. We are now at risk. The Captain wishes us to only defend. He has weak stomach.”

“Oliver?” Anatoli asked.

“I won’t allow innocents to be caught in the crossfire of a mob war, Anatoli,” Oliver said. “I know what you risked, to stand by me when you were here in Starling, and I’m sorry that I could not return the faith that you had in me. But I have to do what is best for my city.”

“You understand you face excommunication from Bratva, likely death at hands of brothers?” Anatoli asked carefully.

“I understand that I may have to fight my way out of here,” Oliver said. “If you don’t want the Bratva’s position weakened before the mob war begins, then I suggest you order Leonov and your other men to stand down and let me walk out of here. They can’t stop me, Anatoli.”

“I am sorry, Oliver, but I cannot do as you suggest,” Anatoli said. “Leonov, contain the Captain until I arrive with reinforcements. I shall see to this matter personally. Do what you must to cripple Bertinelli until reinforcements arrive.”

“It will be done as you ask, Pakhan,” Leonov said smugly and hung up the phone. “Now we break you,” Leonov told Oliver, eyes glinting in anticipation.

“No,” Oliver replied. “Now I break you.” He wasted no further time, turning and delivering a knife-hand strike to the nearest Russian’s throat. The man backed away, choking, and Oliver seized the wrench laying on a nearby worktable, turning and striking Leonov across the face with the wrench. The one-handed Russian fell to the ground, dazed and bloody. Oliver moved towards the stairs leading up to the main floor, Russians stepping into his way and arming themselves with chains, lead pipes, and pulling brass knuckles from out of pockets. There were six men who stood between him and the safety of the city. “You shouldn’t have sent any men away,” Oliver said quietly. “You would have needed them to stop me.” Oliver moved forward, ducking under the swing of a lead pipe by the first man, coming up and smashing the wrench he was wielding like a blade into the man’s chin, sending him stumbling back with a broken jaw.

Oliver stepped over the man, snatching up his lead pipe as he did so and then moved forward, becoming a whirlwind of pain and misery as far as the remaining five Russians were concerned. At the end of it, Oliver was standing at the bottom of the stairs, tossing the bloody wrench and pipe to the ground as he stared, with some regret, at the moaning, broken Russians. “I did warn you,” he said in Russian, and then went up the stairs, buttoning his jacket as he did so to hide the blood staining his white dress shirt. Arriving back at his bike, Oliver swung one leg over it, pulled his helmet on, and then started the bike, pulling away from the curb and heading deeper into the Glades, towards the Bunker. There was no stopping the mob war that was coming; it was too late for that now. But he could minimize the casualties. He had to. How, though? He couldn’t announce to the city that a mob war was about to occur. All that would do was cause mass panic and probably contribute to the casualty rate as a result.

What could he do?

*DC*

Oliver stopped his bike in front of the office that served as a front for the Bunker. He dismounted, hanging his helmet from the right handlebar and entered the office space, accessing the hidden elevator, and stepping inside, unbuttoning his suit jacket and letting the lapels move back to reveal the red bloodstains on his shirt. Oliver leaned back against the elevator wall, closing his eyes and preparing himself. For the next few days, perhaps even the next week or more, his time was going to be spent intervening and stopping the Bratva and Bertinelli crime families from killing too many innocents. He also knew that for the first time since he arrived in this time, he would have to act in the light of day. The attacks could come at any hour, any time of day, and he would need to be ready for them.

But there was also something else that needed to be done. Right now, the Starling City Police Department was shackled by their deal with organized crime. They couldn’t protect the people the way they needed to. Only one man in the city could rescind that deal, and that meant that Oliver, as Green Arrow, would need to speak to Malcolm Merlyn. He felt disgusted at the very thought, but the F.B.I. alone couldn’t handle this problem. The S.C.P.D. needed the freedom to act, and without Tempest rescinding the agreement between the police department and the crime families, they wouldn’t have that. Oliver opened his eyes as the elevator door opened and entered the Bunker. Henry Fyff was inside, and his eyes widened at the sight of the blood on his boss’s shirt. “What happened?” Fyff asked.

“The end of a relationship,” Oliver said grimly. “The Bratva are preparing for war, and so are the Bertinellis. I couldn’t stop it from coming to this thanks to Alexi Leonov’s hardline requirement that Helena be punished for her crime. We need to be ready, Henry. Monitor everything, because once this kicks off, the other crime families and gangs are going to leap into the fray, try and snatch up some territory while the Bratva and Bertinellis brutalize one another.” Oliver picked up one of the encrypted phones that he kept at the bunker and reached into his suit pocket, pulling out a crumpled card with Darius Trimble’s contact information on it. “I need to warn our federal friends and the S.C.P.D., and then I have to go see Malcolm Merlyn.”

“Why?” Fyff asked. “And do you mean as you or as Green Arrow?”

“If I go to him as Oliver Queen, he’ll want to know about how I got my information and if he learns about my time in Russia, he won’t stop digging until he finds out everything,” Oliver said. “There’s no choice but to go to him as Green Arrow and hope I can reason with him. And the reason I have to do this, Henry, is because Malcolm has to be the one who brokered the deal between the police department and the mob. He’s the only one who can unshackle the S.C.P.D.”

“You’re sure he’s the one responsible?” Fyff asked. “What if there’s another player in this that we don’t know about? Someone else who benefits from the lack of action between the mob and the police?”

“Who else could it be?” Oliver returned, typing the number for Trimble’s cell into the encrypted phone, which came with a modulator program to keep his voice from being recognized. He put the phone on speaker so Fyff could hear.

“Darius Trimble, F.B.I.,” said the agent’s voice.

“Agent Trimble, this is the Green Arrow,” Oliver said, trusting in his equipment to modulate his voice on the other end of the line. “There’s been a complication resulting from your arrest of Helena Bertinelli.”

“The Russians and Italians arming up and mobilizing? Yes, we’re aware of that,” the agent replied.

“What you don’t know is that the Bratva are going to get reinforcements from Russia, and that Anatoli Knyazev, the Pakhan of the Bratva, is going to oversee this personally,” Oliver replied. “This is going to escalate, and quickly, because once he realizes Knyazev is here, Bertinelli will call for reinforcements of his own, and before you know it, the city will be a warzone.”

“I see,” Trimble said after a moment. “We’ll take precautions, I assure you.”

“In the meantime, I’ll be seeing if I can’t unshackle the S.C.P.D. for the duration of this mob war,” Oliver said. “Good luck, Agent Trimble.”

“And to you,” the agent replied and then hung up. Oliver returned the phone to its charger.

“Um, boss?” Fyff said hesitantly. “I think something’s happening. There’s a lot of communication between the Bratva about Russo’s.”

“It’s a favored eatery of the Bertinellis and their soldiers,” Oliver said. He looked at the time. It was four p.m. “They’ll hit it by six,” he predicted. “They’ll want to maximize casualties. Anything coming from the Bertinellis?”

“No, but they could be deploying countermeasures to keep the Bratva from learning their plans,” Fyff replied. Oliver nodded, moving to stand in front of his suit. He remembered the confrontation with Tommy at the loft, how Tommy had said that one day, one of these thugs was going to get in a lucky shot. He smiled bitterly. If ever there was a time that that was going to happen, it was during a mob war, especially since he was using this suit; it wasn’t nearly as well-protected as his later suits had been. He really missed Cisco’s genius in this regard, even if the degreeless genius’s excitable attitude got on his nerves at times. He supposed he could work on upgrading the suit himself; he had put together Helena’s suit in the previous timeline, after all. It was simply an inopportune time to do so.

“So, I’m guessing you’ll be heading to Russo’s?” Fyff asked from behind him. Oliver turned to face his tech expert and nodded. “I’ll make sure you have as much help as possible from my end,” Fyff said, and headed back to the computers. Oliver turned to face his uniform again. Standing against the unknown with my grit and bow, indeed, he thought to himself. But first, he needed to know those who he cared about were safe. Tommy, Sara, and Thea were in Metropolis, and he would call to make sure they were going to stay there. But Laurel was here in Starling City, and what’s more, she worked in the Glades, and that was sure to be a hotbed of conflict once this got started. Not to mention that once Anatoli arrived, the Bratva may target her to get to Oliver.

Oliver dug his own phone out of his pocket and, after a moment of indecision, selected Tommy’s name. It rang four times before he finally picked up. “What do you want, Oliver?” Tommy asked.

“I don’t want to fight, Tommy,” Oliver said wearily. “Is Thea with you? Or Sara?”

“She’s with me,” Tommy said. “I don’t know where Sara is, and I don’t much care since she was so busy defending your crazy ideas. Why do you want to know where Thea is?”

“I just wanted to know she was safe,” Oliver said. “Tell me you’re going to stay there with her.”

“I am,” Tommy confirmed, his voice colored by confusion now. “What’s going on, Ollie?”

“Tommy, I need you to promise me that whatever you see on the news, whatever you hear, that you will keep Thea in Metropolis, that neither of you will come back to Starling,” Oliver said.

“Ollie… what is going on?” Tommy asked.

“A lot,” Oliver said. “I’ll be sending Laurel to Metropolis soon. She’ll represent you so you can take guardianship of Thea. You were right that Thea deserves someone who is unreservedly in her corner, and I can’t be that. Tell her that I’m sorry, and that I love her, but that I can’t be who she needs me to be. Please.”

“I will, Oliver,” Tommy said, keeping his tone serious. “But just tell me. What is going on? How bad is it?”

“Goodbye, Tommy,” Oliver said and hung up. Next, he dialed Sara, who picked up after one ring.

“Ollie, I found Thea, but Tommy showed up and now she’s staying with him. I’m staying in Metropolis to keep an eye on her, figured you’d want to know she was safe no matter what,” Sara said as soon as she picked up.

“Sara, don’t worry about Thea, I’m sending Laurel to Metropolis to represent Tommy so that he can take guardianship of Thea,” Oliver said. “It’s for the best. I just wanted to let you know that you don’t need to come back to Starling just because the job’s done. Use that expense account to travel the world if you like. I can afford it.”

“Ollie, that’s really generous, but I know when you’re lying,” Sara said. “Your voice hitches just a little. What’s going on?”

“Something big, something that I have to devote all my energy to, and I can’t be worried about those I care about being caught in the crossfire,” Oliver replied. “I’ll see if Laurel can’t talk your Dad into coming to Metropolis with her.”

Ollie,” Sara stressed, making it clear she wasn’t going to be put off the way Tommy had been. Oliver had a very nasty, very uncomplimentary thought about the Lance family and their stubborn streak while also feeling a sudden dread that he might not be able to convince Laurel to go to Metropolis. “What is going on? Don’t try to lie to me.”

“It’s nothing I’m not used to, just a little more than usual,” Oliver lied easily.

“Oliver…” Sara whispered.

“Just promise me that you’ll keep Thea, Tommy and Laurel safe if something happens,” Oliver said. “Not that I expect something to, but it pays to be cautious. Promise me, Sara.”

“I promise,” Sara said. “Ollie, I-”

“Goodbye, Sara,” Oliver said and hung up. Finally, he called Laurel.

“Hey, Ollie,” Laurel said as she picked up after the second ring. “I was thinking we could go out for dinner tonight. There’s a nice Italian place called Russo’s. Ever heard of it?”

“I was there this afternoon,” Oliver said. “But Russo’s is going to be very busy tonight. It would be better to wait until after you get back.”

“Back?” Laurel asked quizzically.

“I’ve decided to let Tommy have guardianship of Thea,” Oliver replied. “I was hoping you would go to Metropolis and handle representing him, make it official. I want someone I trust to do it, especially making sure Malcolm can’t do anything to reverse it. Maybe you could take your Dad, since Sara’s there, too.”

“I suppose I could,” Laurel said dubiously. “But what’s going on, Ollie?”

“Nothing too serious, I just want this done A.S.A.P.,” Oliver replied. “I’ll even throw in private fare to Metropolis on the Q.C. jet if you can leave tonight.”

“I can, but I dunno if I can talk my Dad into that so quickly,” Laurel said.

“If anyone can talk Quentin into doing something that he’s iffy about, it’s you, Laurel,” Oliver said. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Ollie,” Laurel said, sounding amused. “Will I be seeing you tonight?”

“I’m afraid not,” Oliver replied. “I have a busy schedule.”

“Good luck,” Laurel said, and ended the call.

Oliver quickly arranged for the Q.C. jet to fly Laurel and her father, if he went, to Metropolis at any time they arrived, and then shut off his phone. Altogether, it had taken fifteen minutes to make the necessary calls and arrange for the safety of everyone he loved who was still in Starling that he could actually get to leave. He unfortunately had no power to get Emiko and her mother out of town, so he would have to just hope for the best. Same with Barry and his father, since they were now living here.

Oliver turned his attention to his arsenal of arrows and began selecting what he would take into the field with him.

Chapter Text

Dinah Laurel Lance looked out at the skyline of Starling City as the plane ascended, looking over at the empty seat that she had hoped her father would be filling. But he had refused, hiding behind the fact that he wanted nothing beholding him to “that punk Queen,” but Laurel was no fool. Something was going on that required all hands to be on deck, and she was suspicious that this had to do with whatever Oliver was hiding from her. He had gotten very good at lying, but he had been pretty obvious in his desire to get her out of town A.S.A.P. But the reason for leaving was one Laurel was willing to take at face value. She and Oliver could talk about his overprotectiveness when she got back.

It would be good to see Thea and Tommy, though it would be bittersweet, knowing Oliver was giving up the guardianship of his sister to their best friend. She knew how much that had to be hurting Oliver, because regardless of how much time and energy he had to devote to the fight for Starling City, he loved his little sister, and Laurel knew it had hurt Oliver deeply that Thea had found she couldn’t handle his work as Green Arrow. Laurel could admit, if only to herself, that she sometimes worried about him more than she should, because he was just one man with a bow and a finite amount of arrows (most of them being what Oliver called trick arrows for non-lethal takedowns) going up against men who were wielding firearms, sometimes even automatics. She knew he had some way of disarming his enemies; she had seen the police reports about the ‘magnetic arrows’ that stripped bodyguards and thugs of their weapons. But what if one day he forgot to take magnetic arrows into the field? Or what if he couldn’t because he needed to pack a surplus of other kinds of arrows?

So, yes, Laurel understood where Thea was coming from, but she trusted Oliver’s promise that he would always come back to her. She closed her eyes and let the feelings that that memory brought with it flood through her. She had no idea how she had ended up here; she was the head of the City Necessary Resources Initiative and dating Oliver Queen, C.E.O. of Queen Consolidated and Starling City’s resident vigilante, Green Arrow. Barely a month ago, she had been a low-level associate at C.N.R.I. and the closest thing she had had to a relationship in five years had been her occasional romp in bed with Tommy. She had been very careful not to attach terms like relationship to their excursions in each other’s beds. In truth, she had felt a little guilty because she had seen he was beginning to develop feelings for her. But those were some of the only times that she had felt alive.

Then Oliver had returned and turned her life upside down while worming his way back into her heart by proving that he was the good man that she had always seen, beneath the veneer of the playboy scion.

Laurel sighed and leaned back in the comfortable, leathery airplane seat and closed her eyes, figuring she would catch a few hours of sleep while the plane made the journey to Metropolis; she could only hope her dreams weren’t filled with worrying nightmares about what her boyfriend was up to tonight that he didn’t want her to know about.

*DC*

Green Arrow crouched on the rooftop of a building overlooking Russo’s, bow ready, a zipline arrow ready to fire so he could intercede and keep the people inside Russo’s safe. He had seen the crowd surging into the restaurant and seen the sign proclaiming that tonight was Family Night. Green Arrow’s stomach curdled at the thought that the Bratva would attack a restaurant full of families with no guarantee that they would be killing people connected to the Bertinellis. Most of those Green Arrow had seen entering the restaurant tonight looked like your average everyday family living in this part of town. He had known the Bratva could be brutal, had even been as brutal during his time in Russia, but for him that was almost eight years ago, and he had grown and changed as a person in that time. Returning to that darkness, however briefly, with his daughter and son at his side in the lead-up to the Crisis had made him feel like he needed a shower, as had his recent dealings with the Russian mob and Bertinelli.

Green Arrow fired the zipline arrow as he noticed three black SUVs pulling into the one-way street leading to Russo’s. Sliding down with his bow, Green Arrow landed in a crouch in front of the restaurant. The SUVs pulled to a stop, and the shadow of a grin passed across Green Arrow’s features. The Bratva were predictable, at least. Doors opened and Bratva soldiers got out, and in the lead was the one-handed wonder, Alexi Leonov. “Turn back now and I’ll consider allowing you to live,” Green Arrow said, adjusting his grip on his bow, his free hand twitching slightly, palming the signaling device for the three explosive attachments he had placed in the road, directly under where the SUVs had stopped.

“I think not, Kapushion,” Leonov said. “Pakhan is most displeased with you. He is your friend no more, I think. He has asked us to bring you before him when he arrives.”

Anatoli will have to settle for disappointment, because I won’t be judged by the likes of him,” Green Arrow replied. He heard the doors of the restaurant open, a quiet gasp, and then the door hurriedly shutting. “Last chance, Leonov. Turn back.” In response, Alexi gave a signal, and his men moved forward with their weapons raised. “As you wish.” Green Arrow triggered the explosives.

The SUVs exploded into flaming hulks, the shockwave of the explosions sending the Russians standing near them flying, many with shrapnel buried in their bodies. Leonov himself had a piece of shrapnel buried under his right shoulder from behind, and he was trying in vain to push himself up into a sitting position. He looked up at Green Arrow. “This… changes… nothing, Kapushion,” Leonov managed between pained gasps. “This… is only… beginning.”

Yes, it’s the beginning,” Green Arrow agreed softly. He delivered a knock-out blow to Leonov’s head, and then used his finite amount of bola arrows to tie up the scattered Russians. He turned to check on the restaurant and saw several people staring back through the windows, most horrified at the sight of the Bratva, but more than a few staring at him in hope. He saw more than a few filming him with their phones. He fired a grappling arrow and ascended to the rooftop he had been perched on. The Bratva would take a while to lick their wounds, and the police would be at Russo’s soon since he had ordered Fyff to send the word to Agent Trimble as soon as he engaged the Bratva.

Now it was time to pay a visit to a man that he would rather end the life of, but who in this case held the power to save countless lives. The bitter irony wasn’t lost on Green Arrow. The man who could save hundreds of innocent lives by unshackling the police department was also planning to end thousands of innocent lives.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn was sitting in his office, watching the news report about the attack by what appeared to be the Bratva on an Italian restaurant, Russo’s. An attack, the news was reporting, that had been thwarted by the Green Arrow. It was ironic; he was owing a great deal to the Green Arrow of late. First, he captures the man who was looking to be the true culprit behind Rebecca’s murder, and now he defends dozens of potential innocents against the Bratva, who were stepping out of their place for some reason. Malcolm would have to dig into that, because he was certain they had had control of the gangs.

The sound of a foot scuffing the rug of his office startled Malcolm, and he looked up only to find the object of his musings staring back at him. “Well, now,” Malcolm said quietly, standing and moving around the desk to close the distance between them just in case this was an unfriendly visit by the city’s resident do-gooder, “this is certainly a surprise. The news is already reporting your work at Russo’s. What brings you from dealing with the Bratva to my office, I wonder?”

Your help,” Green Arrow replied coldly, and Malcolm couldn’t help the smirk that came to his features.

“What help can a simple businessman offer the Starling City vigilante?” Malcolm asked.

We both know you’re not just a simple businessman, Magician,” Green Arrow replied. “You are the former Horseman of Ra’s al Ghul. You are the leader of Tempest, an organization that at its heart is a conspiracy to destroy the Glades and everyone who lives there. To salve your conscience, you’ve consolidated crime in the Glades through the use of a book with a list of names, names like Adam Hunt and Martin Somers.

“You’ve done your homework,” Malcolm acknowledged. “So, what is it that you want? And why have you not come after me if you know all of this?”

You helped broker a deal between the S.C.P.D. and organized crime in this city,” Green Arrow replied. “I need you to give Nudocerdo permission to end that deal so that the S.C.P.D. isn’t shackled while they protect the people of this city.” Green Arrow refused to answer the second question Merlyn posed, as it would tilt the hand in Merlyn’s favor.

Malcolm studied the vigilante carefully. This was the first time he had seen him up close. He was definitely young; he moved young, and what skin Malcolm could see had a smoothness to it that only came with youth. Though that scruff he wore was familiar somehow, as though Malcolm had seen it before, very recently. A thought for another time, he decided. As to the matter at hand? On the one hand, Malcolm knew many of those who would die in the crossfire were those who wouldn’t be mourned in the long run. There was also the vigilante’s interference with Leo Mueller to consider, as that had scuppered Malcolm’s plans to further consolidate crime in the Glades and force the S.C.P.D. to shutter their precinct there. But on the other, he owed the vigilante for Brickwell and saving the innocent families at Russo’s.

“I’m afraid that I can’t help you,” Malcolm finally said, deciding his course of action. He still didn’t know for certain that Brickwell was the man who killed his wife (the police had yet to confirm his chance to confront the man), and those people at Russo’s had to know that it was a favored spot of the Bertinellis and their associates, making it a target for the other crime families and gangs who were trying to give the Bertinellis a black eye. At the end of the day, aiding his enemy did nothing for him.

Innocent people are going to die, Merlyn!” Green Arrow snarled.

“Then you had best get back out there and protect them, shouldn’t you?” Malcolm replied with a cruel smile. “All those people looking up at the sky in hope, hope that their savior will swing in from the rooftops and deliver them from evil. Such a quaint notion, and an outdated one. I would wish you luck, but in this case, I’m rooting for the mob to end your life.”

We’ll meet again, Merlyn,” Green Arrow responded, and then turned and left.

Malcolm leaned back in his seat, a cruel smirk still on his face. “Oh, I’m counting on it,” he murmured. While he would shed no tears if the vigilante met his end at the hands of the Bratva or Bertinellis, there was a part of him that hoped that Green Arrow survived this conflict. Because he truly wanted to find out which of them was the better archer.

*DC*

Oliver sighed as he set his bow on its stand. He had been so certain that Merlyn wouldn’t want to allow the Bratva and Bertinellis free reign. He had forgotten how cold and calculating Malcolm had been during his first year; losing Tommy and struggling to have a relationship with Thea had humanized Merlyn and made him more susceptible to aiding Oliver and his allies. But this was a Merlyn who hadn’t lost Tommy, and in fact now had him working for him at Merlyn Global, courtesy of Oliver’s urgings, allowing him to forge a connection with his son that would push Merlyn to ensure his plans went off without a hitch. More ripple effects of his changes to the timeline that he remembered.

Oliver turned to Fyff. “Keep digging into the Bratva and Bertinellis,” Oliver said. “I need to know where to hit them to cripple their activities, at least in the short term. Once Anatoli arrives with his reinforcements, and I expect that to be within the next twelve hours, it becomes all the harder to stop this conflict. In the meantime, I’ll catch a couple of hours of sleep and then go to Queen Consolidated, see if there’s anything in the purgatory of Applied Sciences that I can use to upgrade my suit, because I’ll need every edge I can get in this fight.”

“Already on it, G.A.,” Fyff said from his position behind the computers. Oliver replaced the arrows he had used up with new ones, set his quiver beside his bow, and then went to a spare cot that he had set up down here for when he needed to stay close by. He had a feeling that as things heated up between the Bertinellis and the Bratva that he would have few chances to sleep and would have to catch it where he could, especially since Green Arrow was going to have to make daylight appearances for the first time since his debut. “Oh, and the phone’s been ringing. I think Agent Trimble wants to get in contact.”

“And he’ll have to be disappointed,” Oliver said after a moment of indecision. “I’m not at his beck and call, and there’s more important things than calling him back going on.” Oliver stretched out on the cot, closing his eyes. “If something starts happening, wake me, but from a distance.”

*DC*

A couple of hours later, Oliver woke up from his sleep and sat up. “Anything happening?” he asked, his voice scratchy, and Fyff jumped at the sudden voice after two hours of silence beyond the beeping of the console he was working on.

“There’s been some rumblings in both camps, but no moves have been made,” Fyff replied. “Could be the Italians already called in reinforcements and are waiting before they hit back.”

“Could be,” Oliver agreed. “And what about our friends in law enforcement? Any rumblings there? What about Helena? Are they planning to move her?”

“The Feds are planning on taking her to the courthouse tomorrow for arraignment,” Fyff replied. “They’re arranging transport with the cops. Thing is, I’m picking up chatter that indicate the Russians, at least, know that this is going down.”

“They’ll try to take the convoy,” Oliver said confidently. “They want Helena to pay for Danakov, and if they can capture a mafia princess, torture and rape her before murdering her, it’ll make the entire chapter happy and send a message that the Italians are vulnerable. That’s not counting the fact that Anatoli is having to back their actions.” That still stung. Anatoli had been a good friend, but at the end of the day, Anatoli Knyazev was a gangster and Oliver was a hero trying to save his city from crime and corruption.

A far cry from when he had started out before, when he would use any means necessary to accomplish the mission. He mused over how his original self would take his actions in the here and now briefly. Considering how mission-focused he had been, he probably would have been beating himself up for sacrificing a tactical advantage like having underworld contacts for the sake of his morality. But he just couldn’t sacrifice everything he had done to be a better man, a better hero. He knew that there were some threats that were beyond the law and he would act accordingly there, but no more would he sacrifice his morality to achieve his goals. That wasn’t the kind of man who could inspire the heroes needed to face the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

*DC*

Thea Queen laid on her bed in the corporate apartments of Merlyn Global’s Metropolis location; Tommy was already working on finding a place to live in the city and had promised her that she would always have a room with him. But thoughts of Tommy, her one-sided crush, and living in Metropolis weren’t what was consuming her thoughts right now. No, what was consuming her thoughts was the YouTube video she had just watched for the third time. The video had been taken by a girl her age at Russo’s, an Italian restaurant in Starling City. It looked like the girl had been filming the outside of the restaurant out of boredom when a convoy of SUVs showed up. A moment later, Thea’s brother in his green hooded uniform dropped between the restaurant and the SUVs as men with guns poured out. Green Arrow had had an exchange with the mobsters (because who else wore suits and drove around in SUVs with automatics), and then the SUVs had exploded, injuring the mobsters and Green Arrow had tied them up after an exchange with a man on the ground who he knocked out.

The argument with Sara in her room at the Empire Hotel had gotten Thea’s blood boiling at the way Sara ripped her a new one, but it had also had her start thinking about what her brother had said, about the impact his crusade was having on other people. So, she had gotten out her phone and connected to YouTube, looking up ‘Green Arrow’. She had gotten lots of videos, uploaded by numerous users, all centered around her brother’s heroics. Him bringing a guy in a red hoodie into the Merlyn Clinic; him taking down some gang-bangers; vlogs by users talking about what Green Arrow and what he was doing in Starling City meant to them; even one vlog comparing Green Arrow to a vigilante in Gotham called Batman, and wasn’t that a shock, finding out her brother wasn’t alone in his theatricality. Thea wondered how Batman had avoided notice and thought her brother could take a page out of his book if he was going to do all this.

The overall impression Thea got was that people were happy about what Oliver was doing. They were happy that her brother was throwing himself into danger, happy that someone’s son, brother, and lover was risking his life for them. It was sick, Thea decided; it was sick that people could be happy about this sort of thing. Her brother wasn’t some mythical hero from a comic book; he was a human being. He bruised and bled, he suffered heartbreak and loss and he had to push all of that aside in order to be the person these people cheered on in YouTube videos. There were a few naysayers in the comments, hiding behind their anonymity, lambasting the Green Arrow and his interference in police matters, but beyond that, the overall impression Thea got was what she had just been thinking about: people being happy that her brother was throwing himself into danger, risking his life every night while they sat safe in their homes.

Thea shut down the YouTube app and tossed her phone lightly onto the nightstand. She didn’t get it; what the hell had happened to her brother in the past five years to turn him into Green Arrow? The Ollie she remembered from her childhood didn’t really care about helping other people. He avoided charity events, he teased Laurel about her desire to save the world, he didn’t even want to join Queen Consolidated and help provide much-needed jobs to Starling City. So how the hell had he become the man who willingly took the position of C.E.O., promised to bring much-needed jobs to Starling City, and all while doing that flung himself into danger and risked his life for people who he had never met? Tommy was right, her brother’s plans were insane, and everyone who encouraged him were going to be responsible when he died fighting for them, including the Lance sisters.

Thea felt torn. She loved her brother, but she was starting to hate the Green Arrow, because Green Arrow was taking her brother away from her. What was she supposed to do with those feelings?

*DC*

Frank Bertinelli paced his study as Nick Salvati watched on. “I want our own people keeping an eye on that convoy tomorrow,” Frank finally said, turning to Salvati. “The Bratva are going to try and get Helena, and I’m not about to trust the S.C.P.D. to protect my daughter. I don’t care if it’s obvious; I want my daughter protected.”

“And what about the position she’s put us in, sir?” Salvati asked.

“We can handle that once we have her back home,” Frank replied. “Keep her safe, Nick, or it’ll be your head on the chopping block.”

“I understand,” Salvati said. “I’ll have my best men tailing the convoy, assuming they even provide an escort beyond the F.B.I. agents, and spotters on every roof. The Russians won’t get Helena, Mr. Bertinelli.”

“See that they don’t,” Frank said. “And I want one of our people watching Queen Consolidated. We cut the head off the snake, we leave the Bratva writhing more than they already are.” His lips curled up in cruel amusement. “I’ll have to be sure and sell my Q.C. stock. They’re about to have quite the downturn.”

“Yes, sir,” Salvati said, and left to begin making the arrangements.

Frank turned and looked out at the darkened grounds of his estate. Here, in the privacy of his study, he had to ask the questions of himself that others were asking behind his back. Why had Helena killed that Bratva member? Had he gotten handsy with her somewhere else that Frank’s security hadn’t seen? Had she got it into her head that the Bratva were the ones who had killed Michael and she wanted revenge for the man she loved? Or was there something else in all of this? Was there something he didn’t know about his little girl? No, he decided. He knew his Helena. She wouldn’t do anything to risk their family’s livelihood without a good reason. Especially since they had been doing their best to stay legitimate in Starling City, avoid complications that could see the Pact made void. Which, he reflected, the current events were bound to do.

We can worry about that later, Frank thought to himself. First, he had to secure his daughter’s safety to and from the courthouse, and he had told Gus to do whatever he had to in order to get Helena home instead of locked away after her arraignment. The Bratva had people in every prison, and they would use their people to kill Helena if she were locked away. It was the one place where the Bertinellis didn’t have any sway, at least not at Iron Heights. They had some sway in Gotham or had had some sway before the Batman appeared on the scene. It was one of the reasons they had moved cities, to get away from that damned vigilante, and now there was another one here. What is this world coming to, freaks dressed up like bats and Robin Hood? Frank thought to himself as he sipped at the scotch that he had been nursing throughout his conversation with Salvati.

Though he supposed he should thank the Green Arrow. Some of his lieutenants had been at Russo’s with their families earlier tonight when the Bratva sent their goon squad in to massacre the place. If Green Arrow hadn’t intervened and crippled the team that the Bratva sent, leaving them for the police to pick up, then he could have lost good people. Still, the Green Arrow was the wild card in all of this. Aside from his crippling of the Triad and taking down a minor thug lord, Daniel Brickwell, Green Arrow had stuck to white collar criminals, not organized crime. There was no guarantee Green Arrow would stick to the Bratva. For all Frank knew, the vigilante would target both sides, trying to cripple them as he had the Triad to stop the conflict from spreading. But it was already too late for that. They had picked up chatter that the leader of the Bratva, the Pakhan, was on his way to Starling with reinforcements. Frank had hired every mercenary in the city in response and even sent out a call to an old friend, Carmine Falcone, to see if he would part ways with any of his men for a short time.

There hadn’t been a true mob war for decades. It wasn’t surprising that it would be the Russians, as brutish and short-sighted as they were, who would be the spark for this. They could have profited handsomely from the deal Queen presented, if they had only been willing to let go of the desire to see his daughter punished. Unfortunately for the Bratva, they didn’t understand that organized crime had changed with the times. This would be a quick, if brutal and bloody, war, and then the Bratva would hold no more sway. With the Triad already gone and the Bratva limping away in defeat, Starling City would belong to him.

Chapter Text

Having swung by his apartment building briefly to switch from his motorcycle to the Camaro so that he could carry whatever he found to upgrade his uniform, Oliver Queen pulled his car into a stall in the underground parking structure of Queen Consolidated. Due to the fact that the Bertinellis knew of his connection to the Bratva, Oliver was wearing the outfit that he had worn when he rescued Laurel and when he had killed Thawne, sans face mask. He was also carrying the A.R.G.U.S. issue sidearm out of pure paranoia. He exited his car, looking around carefully, finding nothing out of the ordinary, and headed for the elevator banks. Applied Sciences was housed on Levels 21-23 of Queen Consolidated, with their ‘purgatory’ of rejected projects housed on the 22nd level. It was to this floor Oliver was going in search of a way to upgrade his Green Arrow uniform. He suspected there would be abandoned military projects he could poach since the bean-counters in Washington didn’t go beyond certain prices.

Oliver exited the elevator on the 22nd floor and headed for the computer to search the Q.C. archives and find what was available. Oliver slowed as he approached the computer, because there was someone already there, someone he didn’t quite expect to see here. “Barry,” he said, and the slender young man jumped in his seat and turned around quickly. “What are you doing here this late?”

“Apparently, entry-level job for Applied Sciences is to look after the archives,” Barry said dryly. “That’s what Miller said, anyways.”

“Miller’s the temporary head of Applied Sciences,” Oliver said. “Don’t worry. I’m working on recruiting a new head who I hope will give you a chance to do what I recruited you for.” He gestured to the computer. “May I?”

“Sure,” Barry said, scooting off of the chair. Oliver took his place and typed in his C.E.O. credentials, accessing the files he wanted. “Military applications?” Barry murmured in confusion. Oliver grimaced. He should have sent Barry away, but then again, this was Barry. He wasn’t likely to betray Oliver if he already had a sense of hero worship aimed at Green Arrow. Considering he had admired the Hood/the Arrow, Oliver was sure Barry would admire Green Arrow even more since he rarely took a life. “Mr. Queen, what’s going on?”

“It’s complicated, Barry, and it’s Oliver,” the C.E.O. replied as he found a promising defunct project. The RQ-1141 Tactical Exosuit; designed to enhance the prowess of the soldier who wore it in combat, allowing them to move faster, hit harder, and take more damage. The price for a single unit was 2 million dollars, well above the ‘average price’ of a soldier’s life as far as the bean-counters in D.C. were concerned.

According to the files, the man who had designed this suit had been dismissed by Miller. Oliver would have to reach out to the designer, Jackson ‘Jax’ Briggs, and see if he couldn’t convince the man to come back, though perhaps to head-up his own division, one that would be dedicated to keep giving Oliver the edge he needed over the criminals of Starling City. He double-checked the location where the exosuit was stored and logged off before taking off in that direction. He could hear Barry following him, jogging slightly to keep up with Oliver’s quick pace, and Oliver was amused to hear the younger man already out-of-breath. He hadn’t heard him like this since before the Particle Accelerator made him into The Flash, which, he realized, was where they were now. Time travel; what a fucking headache.

Oliver used his C.E.O. credentials to override the storage unit where the exosuit was kept and pulled it out. He examined it carefully. “Oliver?” Barry asked nervously, both because of his boss’s request he use his name and the fact the man was absurdly interested in a defunct project. “What’s going on? Why are you so interested in this project? It wasn’t viable.”

“Not for the military, no,” Oliver agreed, running a hand over the chestplate, feeling the ridges of the interlocked armor plating. “But this is perfect for what I have in mind.”

“What exactly do you have in mind to do with a two-million-dollar suit?” Barry asked quizzically.

“Giving aid to his brutish friends in the Bratva, no doubt,” a man’s voice said from behind the two, and both Barry and Oliver whirled to find three men behind them, all dressed in the classic long coats of Italian mobsters, Oliver pulling his A.R.G.U.S. sidearm and aiming at the three men, who returned the favor with their Uzis.

“Could the three of you be any more cliché?” Oliver asked sardonically. Barry had his hands up, and he was looking terrified. “I mean, really, long coats, Uzis? What? Were carbines not available?”

“Your jokes hide your fear poorly, Mr. Queen,” said the same thug. “Mr. Bertinelli wishes to cut the head off the snake, as it were. I’m sure you understand.”

“I’ve cut my ties with the Bratva,” Oliver replied calmly. “I have no intention of purposely aiding them. I want nothing more than to stop this mob war before it can take too many innocent lives. You have one chance to walk away. I suggest you take it.”

“You are outnumbered and outgunned, Mr. Queen,” the thug said. “Why don’t you come quietly? We promise it will be quick, for both you and your friend.” Barry gulped at hearing that, all while his genius brain tried to make connections between what was being said. These guys were Italian mobsters and wanted to kill Mr. Queen for something to do with the Bratva, which Mr. Queen claimed to have no more ties to, implying he had had ties to the Russian mob before now. Mr. Queen also wanted to use the exosuit to stop a mob war from taking too many innocent lives. Who was his boss, really? Because he definitely wasn’t just a businessman who had seen a meteoric rise to the position of C.E.O. for his family company.

Oliver, meanwhile, was calculating the odds of he and Barry getting out of this as things stood. If he depended solely on the A.R.G.U.S. sidearm, than there was a good chance both he and Barry would end up getting shot. Which meant he needed to take the mobsters out at close range. He raised the gun in his hand, turning and placing it on the slab beside the exosuit before turning back and keeping his hands raised in as non-threatening a way as he possibly could. The mobsters relaxed slightly, though only Oliver’s trained eye could see it, and he had to resist the urge to smirk. So predictable; the target was unarmed, and therefore not a threat. These types of thugs never learned.

“Step forward, the both of you,” the thug ordered. Oliver and Barry, hands raised, did as they were told. Oliver knew to the nano-second when he had a window of opportunity. He delivered a knife-hand strike to the throat of the man who had been speaking, caught the Uzi as it fell from the man’s grasp as his hands went to his throat, and took out the other two thugs with the Uzi, shooting them in the head before rounding on the one he had got with the knife-hand strike and doing the same. Barry was shaking slightly at seeing all of this and looked more than a little green around the gills.

“Take a deep breath, Barry,” Oliver said calmly, putting a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Your first kidnap situation is never easy, especially if you’re the one it’s aimed at.”

“How do you know that?” Barry asked, looking at his boss, the man who had recruited him for Queen Consolidated. “Who are you?”

“Both good questions,” Oliver praised, “and I’ll answer them one day. For now, I need you to trust me, Barry; everything that I’m doing, I’m doing because it’s the right thing to do, even if certain people might not agree. I know you’ve suffered at the hands of an unfair justice system; the system in Starling City is worse, I’m afraid, because the police are shackled when it comes to men like this.” Oliver gestured to the dead mobsters. “Excuse me for a moment.” Oliver took out his encrypted cell phone and dialed A.R.G.U.S. Once the line was picked up, Oliver said, “Authentication code 1-18-18-15-23, codename Emerald,” Oliver said. “I need a clean-up crew on the 22nd floor of Queen Consolidated.”

“Understood, Agent Emerald,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “Please hold for the Director.” Oliver closed his eyes for a moment. The last thing he wanted was to speak to Amanda Waller, but he also knew the bitch would just track him down at the Bunker if he didn’t talk to her.

“Oliver,” Waller greeted coolly as she picked up at the other end. “Having a busy night, are we?”

“You could say that,” Oliver said. “What do you want, Amanda?”

“Only to reconfirm the details of our original deal,” Waller replied. “I will support your mission by providing you tacit protection so that you can accomplish your objective, and in return you provide an example for me to use to get Task Force X approved. I did not agree to renditioning prisoners for you and providing a clean-up crew without some compensation.”

“I may have something to adequately repay you,” Oliver replied, “something that may interest you. A scientist that formerly worked for my company developed a exosuit that allows the wearer to move faster, hit harder, and take more damage. I am going to be tracking the scientist down and bringing him back. I could see us contracting with A.R.G.U.S. for a finite set of these suits, to be used only by your most skilled assets, who can take advantage of their design.”

“What is the price per unit?” Waller asked briskly.

“Two million dollars, according to the records in my Applied Sciences division,” Oliver replied.

“I can approve that for a maximum of five suits,” Waller replied. “That is more than fair compensation for the aid A.R.G.U.S. is rendering beyond the borders of our original agreement. We have an accord, Oliver. I expect, should you be unable to convince the scientist to return to your employ, that you will provide us the details on his location so that we may offer him an alternative source of employment.”

“Of course,” Oliver replied while planning to make sure he convinced Briggs to return to work at Queen Consolidated since no one deserved one of Waller’s recruitment pitches. “Goodbye, Director.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Queen,” Waller replied and hung up.

Oliver turned to Barry, who was studying him. “What?” he asked.

“1-18-18-15-23 is the numerical equivalent of A-R-R-O-W,” Barry said softly. “Combine that with the codename, and I don’t need you to tell me what’s going on. You’re the Green Arrow.”

“I am,” Oliver said after a moment. “I’m not surprised you figured it out. You’re quite intelligent, Barry. What you don’t know is that I’m operating with the aid of a covert intelligence branch, the Director of which I was just speaking to. They’ll clean up this mess, but the two of us need to be gone when they get here. Help me pack up the exosuit, and then you should go home for the night. By the time you come in tomorrow morning, this will all be cleaned up.”

“Alright, Mr. Queen,” Barry said. The two men turned and headed back to the exosuit, Oliver picking up his gun and holstering it before they found boxes to pack the exosuit away in. And if either Barry or Fyff called this the Arrowsuit, he was going to strangle them. Slowly. With a length of string.

*DC*

Oliver returned to the Bunker with the new suit and set it up to begin tinting it a dark, metallic green with the same equipment he used to tint his arrows. Henry Fyff whistled at the sight of the suit after Oliver had assembled it. “Now that is a battle-suit,” Fyff said. “You’ll be able to handle the mobsters on both sides no problem with this, boss.”

“With any luck, it’ll be tinted and ready to go by the time the Bratva move to intercept Helena,” Oliver replied. “Any news on that front?”

“Yeah, and it’s not good,” Fyff said. “Merlyn’s definitely shackling the S.C.P.D. They’re providing a grand total of two squad cars to escort the government SUV that is gonna be carrying Helena to the courthouse. The Bratva are paying the bill for this. What’s the plan?”

“Find out the route the convoy is going to take,” Oliver said. “I want to analyze all the best points for ambush while the tinting settles. Get me that intel, Henry.”

“On it,” Fyff said, turning to his computers. For the next couple of hours, Fyff hacked into the S.C.P.D. and found everything he could on how, where, and when Helena Bertinelli was going to be transported to the courthouse for arraignment while Oliver worked on tinting his new uniform and attaching the hood to it, making a note to upgrade his hood to something that would be better-suited to this uniform. He could always keep the old uniform and hood in storage on the off-chance someone managed to destroy his new gear and he had to go old school. Maybe a spider-silk or nano-fiber hood?

Oliver set the tinting device aside and stepped back, admiring his work. The exosuit was now a dark, metallic green, and the hood lay limply around the neck of the exosuit. “Very nice,” he mused. “Now let’s just hope it performs. They never really got a chance to field test it.”

“So, we’re gonna be working out the kinks as we go, boss?” Fyff asked. “Got the info you wanted, by the way.”

“Yes, we are,” Oliver replied to Fyff’s question as he walked to stand behind Fyff. “What have we got, Henry?”

“The Bratva are definitely paying the cops to deliver Helena to them like a pig for slaughter,” Fyff replied. “The route to the courthouse is going to be going through one of the most congested streets in the city; good thing you’re going in on a bike, cuz you’re going to need that advantage.” Fyff pulled up the map of the route, and Oliver studied it, looking for the best place for the Bratva to intercept the convoy. It would have to be somewhere that the cops could easily abandon the government SUV to the Bratva, but somewhere that the SUV couldn’t get away as easily.

“Here,” Oliver said. “Markham and 25th. It’s the most congested part of the route, and it offers turn-offs that the squad cars can use to escape the Bratva ambush. There are multiple alleyways along this block that the Bratva can hide their vehicles in until the government SUV has passed, and then cut them off at a pre-arranged radio signal along with those ahead of the SUV.” 

“Won’t the cops have a trail car behind the SUV that could get trapped?” Fyff asked.

“Not if they turn off into an alleyway. The F.B.I. agents might not notice right away, and once the Bratva are in position…” Oliver trailed off, leaving that to Fyff’s imagination.

“Checkmate,” Fyff said with a shudder, while thinking that this was probably why Waller liked this guy enough to lease Fyff to him; he had the same warped way of seeing the world that she did, even if he was technically nicer about it.

“But that’s why we’re going to be there, to stop them.”

“We?” Fyff squeaked in terror.

“Relax, Henry, just a figure of speech,” Oliver said, and Fyff sagged in his seat, relieved that the boss didn’t want him to go out in the field. He was very happy where he was, thank you very much! “I’m gonna get another couple of hours. Let me know if something starts up in either camp.”

“Will do, boss,” Fyff said as Oliver moved to the cot and laid back on it, closing his eyes and thinking of his loved ones, safe in Metropolis.

*DC*

Dinah Laurel Lance yawned as she exited the plane, carrying her duffel bag, and found her sister waiting with a car, her lips twitching in amusement. “Ollie wanted you to get around town in style,” Sara teased, and Laurel’s lips twitched. “Come on,” Sara said, taking her sister’s bag and moving to the trunk of the car, which popped open. Sara put the bag in the trunk and shut it. “You’ve already got a room at the Empire Hotel. Again, Ollie wanted you to have the best experience possible.”

“That man is impossible,” Laurel muttered to her sister as the two climbed into the back of the Bentley, which pulled out of the private hangar where the plane had landed. “I forgot how grandiose he can be; he’s usually so down-to-Earth these days.”

“It’s Oliver,” Sara said with a shrug. “He’s always been larger than life. It’s one reason people love him.”

“Yeah,” Laurel said, leaning back in her seat, looking out at the sky, which was beginning to lighten as dawn approached. “How are Thea and Tommy?”

“Thea’s a whiny little brat and Tommy’s enabling her delusions of importance,” Sara said in her typical blunt fashion. Laurel blinked in surprise, looking at her sister with a raised eyebrow. “Sorry, but I’ve been dealing with those two alone the entire time I’ve been here, and they get on my nerves. Like what Ollie is doing is such a hardship on them. Ollie and I know what hardship really is, and every time I hear Thea complain about him not paying attention to her, I want to slap her across the mouth.”

“Do you think Ollie feels this way, and that’s why he’s doing this?” Laurel asked cautiously. She had thought Oliver was just trying to do what he thought was best for Thea, but what if he didn’t want to deal with raising his teenage sister since she would need him for a lot longer than the time it took for her to turn eighteen, since he was so busy with what he was up to?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case,” Sara replied honestly. “But… Ollie seems a lot more focused and put-together than I am. Probably helps that he had something to hold onto all these years.” She side-eyed her sister, who flushed at the reminder that Oliver had used the memory of her to keep going. But he had said the same thing about Thea, hadn’t he? And yet here he was, abandoning his sister to the custody of their best friend, who was equally dissatisfied with Oliver’s lifestyle these days. Would he abandon her, too, if he decided she was an inconvenience for his chosen path forward?

Sara noticed something cross her sister’s face. “What’s wrong, Laurel?” she asked.

“It’s stupid,” Laurel tried to deflect the question, but sadly for her, she wasn’t the only one in the car with the Lance family stubbornness streak.

“I’ve been listening to Thea whine about Ollie for almost 24 hours,” Sara replied. “There can’t be anything more stupid than listening to a teenager whine about how complicated their life is. Oh, the drama!” she added sarcastically. The Bentley’s driver choked down a laugh.

“It’s just… Ollie’s got so much he’s doing, and he said Thea helped him get through the past five years, too,” Laurel said. “I just can’t help but wonder if I’m next.”

Sara sighed. She understood why her sister had these doubts. Oliver had faltered in their relationship before, which had resulted in a pattern of on-again, off-again between her sister and Oliver for the four years they had been dating before the Gambit. “When Oliver and I were on Lian Yu together, we made a pact that we would see if we could work,” Sara said. Laurel stiffened. “It was wrong of me, but I asked him about it the night I got back to Starling. He told me he hadn’t even thought of it. You are the only woman in his life, Laurel. He only has eyes for you. Don’t think for a moment he’ll abandon you.”

Laurel relaxed, though she was annoyed at her sister for trying to poach her boyfriend right as soon as she got back. Deciding to find a safer topic to talk about, Laurel thought over what Sara had said about Thea. “How have you been listening to Thea for 24 hours if she’s been with Tommy?” Laurel asked suspiciously.

“Because I bugged her,” Sara said with a shrug. “You can finds all sorts of things for the right price, and Ollie’s expense account helped.”

“I don’t think Oliver meant for you to bug his sister using the money from that account,” Laurel replied. She thought it over for a moment. “Do I want to know what she’s been saying?”

“Probably not,” Sara said, faux-cheerfully. “If you did, you’d want to slap her, too.”

*DC*

Green Arrow drove through the streets of Starling City, knowing that his appearance in the daylight in an armored outfit was going to cause a stir but knowing there was nothing for it. Helena Bertinelli had been marked for death by the Bratva, and regardless of how their relationship had turned out in the previous timeline, Green Arrow had no desire to see Helena raped, mutilated, and murdered to satisfy the Russians’ bloodlust. As it was, he still had no idea what had happened to her during the last timeline; Chimera had had her mask as a trophy, as well as Rory’s. Oliver knew she had escaped from prison and continued her personal crusade to bring an end to her family’s criminal empire, but he hadn’t actually heard anything about her in years. For all he knew, Chimera had hunted her down years before he targeted Emiko and Green Arrow.

The Starling City vigilante weaved in and out of traffic, listening to Fyff’s updates as he approached Markham and 25th, where the ambush was going to take place. They had confirmed that when Bratva SUVs had moved into position in alleyways an hour ago, and that had left Green Arrow with precious little time to break in the new suit and get used to drawing back his bow with the enhanced strength the suit provided. He was unable to use his flechettes this go around, as the bracers they were mounted on simply didn’t fit around the bracers for the suit, something he would have to address at some point as the flechettes provided him an additional arsenal to what he carried in his quiver.

Green Arrow pulled onto Markham and 23rd and saw the convoy ahead of him, coming up on the light for Markham and 24th. Green Arrow revved his engine, accelerating to catch up, and watched as the follow car peeled off to the left, heading away from the inevitable ambush. Green Arrow saw the Bratva SUVs pulling out behind and in front of the government one, even as the front patrol car peeled away at high speeds. Green Arrow gunned the engine, arriving on the scene as the Bratva poured out of the SUVs. The Bratva surrounded the government SUV, aiming their weapons at the windows, and then Anatoli Knyazev stepped out of one of the SUVs. People abandoned their cars and the sidewalk, hiding behind whatever cover they could find as Green Arrow arrived on the scene, leaping off of his motorcycle, flipping over the Bratva as they were brought low by his motorcycle sliding into them, and landed in a crouch on the roof of the government SUV, bow at the ready and an arrow nocked and ready to fire as he met Anatoli’s gaze. “Turn back, Anatoli,” Green Arrow growled to the man he wished he could call his friend. “This is your only warning.

“I see you have moved on from leather, Kapushion,” Anatoli said carefully. “But your armor will not save you. You are outnumbered. Let us take woman, and we leave. No harm comes to people. That is what you want, yes? For there to be no harm to people of city? I am offering way, Kapushion. Take it.”

I know what your people plan to do Miss Bertinelli,” Green Arrow replied. “I won’t stand for it, not in my city.” Then he loosed the flashbang arrow he had nocked at the largest group of Bratva, turning and loosing a second, and then a third, of the same type of arrow. At the same time, mafiosos seemed to crawl out of the woodwork, and Green Arrow almost groaned at the fact they had carbines. He fired an explosive arrow into the closest group of Bertinelli men, sending them flying backwards. He turned and fired another explosive arrow at the nearest Bratva SUV, specifically to its underside. The explosion lifted the SUV up and over on its side, leaving a hole in the Bratva’s defenses.

The F.B.I. agent driving the SUV didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth and tore out of the location, Green Arrow keeping himself low, depending on the magnetic option for his boots to keep him atop the SUV. He watched as Bertinellis and Bratva scrambled for their cars, ignoring one another, for the prize was on the move. Green Arrow nocked another arrow, ready and waiting. The chase was on, and it was up to him to make sure Helena Bertinelli got to the courthouse alive. Fate loved it’s bitter ironies, he mused as he thought of the last time that he and Helena had been at a courthouse together. That had been an ambush as well, albeit one planned by the F.B.I. with the help of Frank Bertinelli.

Green Arrow fired off a sleeping gas arrow, which broke through the windshield of the lead Bratva SUV where it detonated. The SUV jerked hard to the left and was upended, rolling over and coming to a stop, a battered heap of a vehicle, wheels spinning in the air. The other three Bratva SUVs pulled around, the six Bertinelli sedans following behind. Green Arrow gritted his teeth as he saw a Bertinelli lean out of the window of the lead sedan, aiming their carbine. Green Arrow loosed a basic arrow and it cut through the man’s forearm. He heard the inarticulate yell of pained rage as the man ducked back into the SUV, his carbine clattering to the street. Green Arrow saw the Bertinellis sedans fall back, out of range of his bow. The Bratva SUVs, on the other hand, continued to move forward, gaining ground.

Green Arrow loosed another sleeping gas arrow, but the lead Bratva SUV swerved to avoid it and it glanced off of the hood of the following SUV, clattering uselessly to the street, where it detonated. Green Arrow didn’t allow this to deter him, adjusting his body to turn with the SUV he was mounted on as it swerved in and out of traffic, racing for the courthouse. He hearkened back to his early lessons with Yao Fei, could almost hear the Chinese man’s admonition of “Everything, breathe,” and nocked another arrow. He fired the basic arrow, causing the SUV to swerve away from it, and immediately nocked and fired a flashbang arrow, which punched through the windshield of the SUV and detonated. Once more, the SUV swerved hard to one side and flipped over, rolling end over end, and being left with its wheels spinning.

There were two more SUVs left, and one of them carried Anatoli, who must be seething at Green Arrow’s interference. At least he knew the man who was now likely his former friend was going to keep his identity secret, even if he didn’t keep their history secret. Otherwise Anatoli would have called him by name rather than Kapushion. The two SUVs pulled back, clearly considering their options, and Green Arrow waited with bated breath, watching the SUVs carefully. Finally, they peeled away, and Green Arrow allowed himself a moment to relax. He would stick around until they got to the courthouse. As corrupt as Nudocerdo was, even he couldn’t ignore an assault by not one but two crime families on an F.B.I. transport. The S.C.P.D. would have to act now, regardless of Merlyn’s machinations, or else fall under federal investigation themselves, and more federal interference was the last thing that either Merlyn or Nudocerdo wanted.

Green Arrow remained perched on the roof of the SUV throughout the entire journey to the courthouse, where the SUV pulled to a stop. People on the sidewalk pointed at Green Arrow, whispering to one another, and more than a few pulled out their phones, snapping photos of Green Arrow in his new, armored outfit. Deciding the Bratva weren’t going to try anything now, Green Arrow fired a grappling arrow and swung away, ascending towards the roof of the building opposite the courthouse as the doors to the SUV opened and Agents Trimble and Danvers stepped out, looking around cautiously and catching a glimpse of Green Arrow before he disappeared from view.

“How the hell did he stay perched on the roof all that time?” Alex asked Trimble as she pulled Helena from the SUV.

“How does he do anything that he does?” Trimble replied grumpily. “The man is an enigma.”

Chapter Text

Green Arrow returned to the Bunker, wheeling his Ducati into the garage as it closed behind him. He returned to the central ‘command center’. “I have to say, I like this suit,” Oliver said appreciatively as he lowered his mask and hood before putting his bow up on the stand and placing his quiver on the ground beside it. He flexed his hands. “There’s a couple of times the past few years I could’ve used something like this,” he added, thinking of the Dominators and the Crisis. Both of those situations, he would have given anything for an edge like this. He would have to find out what other gems were hiding in the purgatory of Applied Sciences that could be used in his war on crime. “How are things with the Bratva and Bertinellis, Henry?”

“Complicated,” Fyff replied. “The Bratva seem to be unsure how to handle your new appearance, and the Bertinellis are confused as to why you were protecting Helena but also firing on them when they tried to help fight the Bratva. Meanwhile, social media is blowing up with #GreenArrowsNewSuit. People are wondering where you got it.”

“Let them wonder,” Oliver said. He picked up his personal phone, turning it on. He took a moment to prepare himself before he selected Laurel’s name from his contacts.

“Hey, Ollie,” Laurel said distractedly as she picked up. “I’m in the middle of prepping for the guardianship case. Tommy’s got it all arranged so we just gotta go there and handle it. He was surprised to find out you were cutting Thea off until she shows a more mature attitude. I don’t think he expected you to take it that far.”

“I’m sure Thea was ecstatic,” Oliver said dryly, earning a humorless chuckle from his girlfriend, indicating that Thea had probably thrown a fit at hearing she had been cut off and her credit cards cancelled. “I wasn’t really calling for an update, though. I just wanted to hear your voice.” He took a seat on the cot, running a hand through his bristly hair.

“How are you?” Laurel asked seriously.

“I’ve had better days, but I don’t see this thing ending anytime soon,” Oliver replied. “Just… please stay in Metropolis until I tell you it’s safe to come home.”

“Ollie, why won’t you tell me what’s going on? If it’s as big as I think, I’m going to find out from the news anyways,” Laurel said. “Wouldn’t you rather it came from you instead of a jaded reporter who can only speculate as to your motivations?”

Well, when she puts it that way… Oliver mused to himself. “It’s a mob war,” he said, and heard Laurel’s breath hitch on the other end. “Helena Bertinelli killed a member of the Bratva, who are out for blood. Both the Bratva and Bertinellis are mobilizing. I just got back from defending the government SUV that was transporting Helena to the courthouse from the Bratva.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone for nearly a minute as Laurel digested this news. Finally, she said, “You’re telling me that you’re going up against the Russian and Italian mobs, and you went out in the daytime as well? Oh, Ollie…”

“I’m fine, Laurel,” Oliver said. “Better than fine, in fact. You could say I got an upgrade as far as my suit is concerned. I can handle the Russian and Italian mobs. Don’t worry.”

“I can’t help but worry, Ollie,” Laurel replied. “You’re the man I love, and you’re putting yourself in greater danger than you have since you started. The idea of you going up against the mafias scares me.”

“I’ll be fine,” Oliver repeated. “I wouldn’t be if I had to worry about you. So, please, no matter what you see or hear on the news, don’t come back to Starling until this over.”

“I-I don’t know if I can promise that, Oliver,” Laurel said. “It’s going to be hard, staying here while knowing you’re in danger beyond what I’ve seen you fight.”

“Believe me, Laurel, this isn’t the worst enemy I could face,” Oliver replied, thinking of Mirakuru soldiers, the League of Assassins, H.I.V.E., the Dominators, Earth-X Nazis, and the Anti-Monitor’s Shadow Demons. “And there’s another element to this. If you come back to Starling, the Bratva could use you against me.” He grimaced. He had never told Laurel about Anatoli in either timeline. This wasn’t going to go well.

“I don’t see how,” Laurel said, confusion coloring her voice.

“Anatoli Knyazev is the Pakhan of the Bratva,” Oliver replied. “He knows what you mean to me, and he will use that to try and force me to do things for him.”

“Anatoli- the man I met at your loft?” Laurel asked in disbelief. “He’s a Russian gangster?”

“There’s a lot I haven’t told you about the past five years, Laurel,” Oliver said softly. “Last year, I was in Russia. I was there to kill a man named Konstantin Kovar. The only way to get close to him was to join the Bratva. Anatoli helped me do it, and in the process, I ended up making him the Pakhan. He promised to turn the Bratva around. Unfortunately, too many are stuck in the old way of doing things and he can’t appear weak if he wants them to follow his lead. So, he will use whatever means necessary to bring me back under control. Please, stay in Metropolis, Laurel. Don’t give Anatoli leverage against me.”

“Alright, Ollie,” Laurel said softly, though Oliver thought there was a bit of an edge to her voice that indicated she was suppressing her anger at being lied to. “But once this crisis is over, you and I are going to sit down and talk about what happened to you the past five years. I don’t want to get sideswiped by a piece of your past like this again.”

“I promise we’ll talk,” Oliver replied, and he meant it. He saw Fyff waving at him. “I’ve got to go, Laurel. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Ollie,” Laurel said softly, and Oliver hung up.

He stood and went to stand behind Fyff. “What have we got, Henry?” Oliver asked.

“That bug you planted at the Bratva headquarters is coming in loud and clear,” Fyff replied. Oliver had placed the bug after the incident with Leonov where Anatoli cut off his hand in order to keep an eye on the Bratva here in Starling. “Sounds like your old friend is furious with what you did.” He typed in a command, and the audio from the bug came through the speakers on the computer.

“…and I want it found now!” Anatoli was saying. “I don’t care how far we must dig, where we must go, I want leverage on Oliver Queen! He is key to this conflict; you saw what he can do. We must have that on our side, not fighting us.”

“All those he is close to are gone, Pakhan,” Alexi Leonov’s slimy voice replied, and Oliver scowled at the fact that the spider had somehow scurried away from justice after the incident at Russo’s. What was it going to take to get rid of that miserable cockroach? “He will have made sure they are protected, wherever they are.”

“No man can protect everything he cherishes, not even Oliver Queen,” Anatoli replied coldly. “There is leverage somewhere, we must find it. Seek out aid wherever you must. Dig into Queen’s life. Find vulnerability and pounce.”

“As you say, Pakhan,” Alexi replied.

“And scan this place for bugs,” Anatoli said. “Oliver Queen is no fool. He will have wanted to keep eye on you after last time I was here.”

Fyff shut down the audio. “Sounds like we won’t have our tap into the Bratva for much longer, boss. You sure there’s nothing they can find to use against you?”

“Laurel, Thea, Sara, and Tommy are all in Metropolis,” Oliver replied. “Sara is more than a match for the Bratva and can keep the others safe from them. Emiko is unknown to Anatoli or anyone else.” And no one knows about William and Samantha now that Mom is dead, Oliver added silently to himself. He hadn’t even given that information to Waller, knowing the woman would use it against him at a later date if he did.  This time around, William would grow up safe, happy, and completely ignorant of his father and the dark world that Oliver inhabited. “I’m going to get a half hour’s nap.”

“Will that be enough, boss?” Fyff asked.

“It’ll have to be,” was Oliver’s reply.

*DC*

Dinah Laurel Lance had been trying to get back into preparation for her case to transfer guardianship of Thea to Tommy, but her mind kept going back to her conversation with Oliver and the revelations he had dropped on her.

I just wanted to hear your voice.

It’s a mob war.

Anatoli Knyazev is the Pakhan of the Bratva.

Don’t give Anatoli leverage over me.

“Ollie, what have you gotten yourself into?” Laurel whispered to herself.

“What’s going on?” Sara’s voice asked, causing Laurel to jump and twist in her seat. Sara was leaning against the door jam, eyebrows raised. “How’s Ollie doing?”

“Not good, if our talk was anything to go by,” Laurel replied. “I found out why he wanted us all out of Starling.”

“Do tell,” Sara said, coming and sitting on the edge of the bed, where Laurel had been sitting cross-legged, going over her file.

“There’s a mob war going on,” Laurel replied, and Sara’s eyes widened. “Oliver’s fighting both the Bratva and the Bertinellis, and he’s doing it alone. He says he got an ‘upgrade’ for his suit, but Sara, I’m scared. He’s just one man. If we lose him, we lose Starling… and I lose the man that I love.” The last was said softly, as though Laurel didn’t want to voice such a selfish thought.

“I know,” Sara said softly, remembering Ra’s al Ghul’s decree. If Oliver died, Starling City would face a Cleansing by the League of Assassins, and there was every chance no one would walk away from that. Oliver was fighting a one-man war against forces that wanted nothing more than to keep Starling rooted in decadence and criminality. “But we have to trust Oliver knows what he’s doing, Laurel. He isn’t the same spoiled playboy he was five years ago. He’s changed; we’ve both seen that.”

“But what if Green Arrow isn’t enough?” Laurel asked plaintively.

Sara’s mind flashed back to her youth, all the good times she had had with Laurel, Oliver, and Tommy, tagging along with them despite being two years their junior, and the hijinks they got up to. Now, so much was different. Oliver was fighting to save Starling City as Green Arrow, and Laurel was doing the same in the courts. Tommy believed they were insane, and so did Thea based on her comments that Sara had heard. Sara herself believed Oliver was doing the right thing, and yet she was hesitating when it came to helping him in the fight for their home. What was holding her back?

Fear, she realized. She was afraid that if she helped him, if she went out as the Canary, she would sink back into the abyss that had clawed away at her soul the past three years. An image flashed through her mind of Oliver laying on the ground, bow broken in two, his face bruised and bloodied, as a shadowy archer stood over him. In that moment, Sara knew that she couldn’t stay on the fence anymore.

“Then he’ll have to accept help, even if he doesn’t want it,” Sara said. Laurel looked at her sister in confusion. “I’ve been trying to ignore it all, Laurel, but I do have the skills to help Oliver, to fight against the crime and corruption. I didn’t want to feel forced into doing it, so I’ve taken every chance to get away from Starling. But I don’t want to see Ollie die, either. If you ask me, I’ll do it. I’ll go back and help him.”

“As much as I would like to do that, Sara, I won’t put that burden on you,” Laurel said, taking her sister’s hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. Sara relaxed slightly, because she had been unsure despite her words if she could go through with it. “Besides, I think Oliver is only not worrying about us because you’re here. He knows you would never let anything happen to me or Thea and Tommy, no matter how much they’re annoying you.” Sara acknowledged this with a nod. “I know we’ll just have to trust Oliver. It’s just difficult, sitting here and knowing that he’s alone in the fight.” Laurel looked down, thinking of the training she was getting from Oliver and from Ted. If only she had been doing it longer, she could be out there helping Oliver fight for their city. She didn’t want to keep sitting by and waiting for the man she loved to get struck down by a lucky blow. She wanted to be there to make sure that blow never landed. Laurel looked back up. “Teach me.”

“What?” Sara asked in confusion.

“Teach me to fight like you do,” Laurel replied. “Ollie is showing me what he can, but even he admits there are some things beyond his ability to teach because he’s not a woman. Teach me how to fight, Sara. Teach me how to be like you.”

“Laurel, you don’t understand what you’re asking,” Sara said, shaking her head. “I was trained how to kill, not how to disarm and knock out the way Oliver does. He’s somehow found the balance between being a hero and being a killer. I haven’t yet. If I teach you, I could hurt you if I get too lost in what I’m doing.”

“I don’t believe that,” Laurel said. “I think you’re a lot stronger than you think. I think that you can teach me, and that you can find that balance yourself. You just need to want to.” Laurel squeezed her sister’s hand again. “Teach me. Please.”

Sara looked at her older sister for a long moment. Finally, she gave a shake of her head. “No, Laurel,” she said. “I won’t risk hurting you.” She stood and left the room, and a perturbed Laurel, behind. What was she going to have to do to reach her sister and get it through Sara’s head that she trusted her? That she knew Sara wouldn’t hurt her on accident?

*DC*

“G.A.,” Fyff called, causing Oliver to sit up on the cot and stand before moving to stand behind him.

“What’s happening, Henry?” Oliver asked.

“The Bertinellis are pissed at the fact that the Bratva tried to snatch Helena,” Fyff replied. “I managed to get into Bertinelli’s home network and I’m using the microphone from his own laptop to listen in on him. He wants to hit the Bratva’s drug operations. Guess they hadn’t shut those down yet.”

“The Bratva run their drug operation out of a tenement building,” Oliver said. “The Bertinellis won’t differentiate their targets. They’re out for blood, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process.” Oliver went to his quiver, picking it up and swinging it around his torso before picking up his bow with one hand while the other brought his mask back into place and flipped his hood up before activating his voice modulator. “Keep me updated on the way,” Green Arrow said.

“Will do,” Fyff said soberly as the armored vigilante entered the garage and mounted his bike.

*DC*

Green Arrow pulled to a stop at the tenement building that the Russians ran their drug operations out of almost at the same time that the Bertinellis pulled up to it in sedans. Green Arrow dismounted and rushed towards the front of the tenement building, putting himself in between the Bertinellis and the dozens of innocents who had nothing to do with the Russians’ drug operations. “Turn back now,” Green Arrow said as the men approached, once again repressing a groan at their stereotypical mafioso manner of dress and armament, though this time his groan was partly because even with the new suit, he would have to dodge those carbines. He could take more damage, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be bruised to hell for it afterward.

“You saved Miss Bertinelli from the Bratva,” said the lead mobster. “Why do you now stand in defense of them?”

Not them,” Green Arrow replied. “The innocents that would be caught in the crossfire, just like Russo’s.” A few of the men stirred at that. Green Arrow noticed this and pressed his advantage, hoping to turn away at least a few of the men. “Yes, there are innocent families in this tenement building, families who have nothing to do with the Bratva’s actions, just as your families had nothing to do with Helena’s actions. But if you do this, if you attempt to push passed me and kill any who get in your way, then I will have no choice but to stop you like I stopped the Bratva.

“We saw what happened that night,” another man said sneeringly, aiming his weapon at Green Arrow. “You were prepared for them, took them all out with a trick. But there’s no trick this time, vigilante. Your bow and fancy suit won’t save you from our guns.”

You think so?” Green Arrow replied softly. He tightened his grip on his bow, counting the number of men present. There were ten total; not the worst odds he had ever faced, but it was the first real test of his new suit since all he had done previously was leap onto the roof of an SUV and keep himself perched there with a magnetic seal from his suit while firing off arrows at the chasing Bratva. This was going to be different; it was time to see how the RQ-1141 held up in true combat conditions. Green Arrow didn’t wait for the man to respond, instead nocking and firing a magnetic arrow, which activated and stripped the men of their carbines.

Green Arrow leaped forward, delivering a quick strike to the chest of the closest man, causing him to stumble. Green Arrow delivered a kick to the back of one man’s knee, and the sharp crack that echoed through the courtyard of the tenement building was nearly drowned out by the howl of pain that came from the man in question. Green Arrow didn’t slow, delivering a series of quick blows to the ribs of the man he had first struck, driving the breath from his body and cracking his ribs before delivering a quick right hook with the brass-knuckle grip of his bow, and the man collapsed, dazed with a bloody jaw. A quickly-fired bola arrow took him out of the fight for good. Green Arrow leaped forward, catching the arm of the next man to take a swing at him and pulled hard. There was a light pop and the man let out a grunt of pain as his shoulder dislocated. Green Arrow delivered a quick, decisive blow to the man’s temple, putting him out of the fight for good.

One of the men landed a lucky blow to the back of Green Arrow’s relatively unprotected head, and the Emerald Archer stumbled slightly, emboldening the Bertinellis. They moved in quickly, grabbing his arms and pulling them taut, exposing his chest. The man who had told him he was no match for their guns moved forward now and delivered three quick strikes to Green Arrow’s face, leaving his nose bleeding profusely along with a split lip. Green Arrow shook his head to clear it and then struck with his leg, delivering a measured high kick to the man who had been punching him. The man was flung backwards, arms cartwheeling, before he landed on his back.

Green Arrow gripped the collars of the men holding his arms and then pulled them inwards. They were thrown off-balance by this unexpected form of attack, and Green Arrow was able to twist out of their grips as a result. Green Arrow tucked into a roll and then sprung to his feet, turning and firing a flashbang arrow before turning away and blocking an attempt to club him with one of the carbines. He gripped the weapon in both hands and wrestled it from the thug’s hands before delivering his own strike with its butt, knocking the man out of the fight. Green Arrow flung himself at the two recovering from the flashbang arrow, delivering three quick strikes each to their chins, discombobulating them. Green Arrow brought their heads together with a crack and let them drop bonelessly to the ground.

Five down, five left.

The man whose leg Green Arrow had broken had managed to crawl to one of the carbines and grabbed it and was even now firing it in Green Arrow’s direction. The bullets impacted the armored outfit, causing sparks to fly, and Green Arrow was forced to fire a bola arrow blindly. The attack stopped, and he looked to find that the man’s arms were bound to the ground along with the carbine he had been wielding. Green Arrow moved quickly and delivered a crushing kick to the man’s skull, taking him out of the fight. Green Arrow turned and fired a second magnetic arrow, once more stripping the remaining men of their weapons, this time making sure the guns weren’t easily retrieved. Green Arrow dived into their midst, delivering a strike to the ribs here, a knife-hand strike to the neck there, a couple of successive strikes to the solar plexus for this one, and a triple-headbutt for the last man.

The one who got hit by the triple-headbutt collapsed, face bloody, and Green Arrow delivered a quick left hook to his right temple, knocking him out of the fight. He fired a bola arrow at the man who was briefly paralyzed by the strikes to his solar plexus, and then delivered a crippling blow to the back of another man’s knee before delivering three quick strikes to the back of the downed man’s head.

The man who he had hit with a knife-hand strike had recovered and was coming at him. Green Arrow delivered a quick hard strike to the diaphragm, causing the Bertinelli man to expel his breath in one harsh whoosh of air, and then a second strike to the neck to paralyze the windpipe. The man grabbed at his neck, choking, and Green Arrow grabbed him by the collar, pulling him close. “Listen to me very carefully, you son of a bitch,” Green Arrow said. “I am allowing you to go to deliver a message to Bertinelli. Any attacks that threaten the lives of innocents will be met with force, and I don’t care who it is who’s doing it. Bratva or Bertinelli, I will break them as surely as I have broken your men. Nod if you understand.” The man nodded frantically. “Good. Now get out of here.” Green Arrow shoved the man away from him. The man fell back on his ass and scrambled away on his hands and feet before getting to his feet and racing for the nearest sedan. “What happened to the Bratva that attacked Russo’s?” Green Arrow asked.

“They were released within an hour of being arrested because some fancy lawyer pointed out that a vigilante had attacked them and they hadn’t actually done anything wrong,” Fyff reported. Green Arrow snorted in disgust before turning to observe the Bertinelli men he had laid out. If he left them here, helpless, the Bratva would kill them; but if he had the S.C.P.D. come get them, they would be back in Bertinellis service in under an hour. Well, those that could walk, at any rate. Green Arrow grimaced, because this was the sort of morally gray area that he used to excel in making decisions with. The old him would just kill these men. They had been a threat to his city, probably had numerous crimes to their name, and technically, they would probably be dead even before the S.C.P.D. got here if he went that route, because the Bratva had to have seen this whole thing.

In the end, Green Arrow acknowledged that he couldn’t control what other people did; he could only control his own actions. He had sent his message to Bertinelli and stopped a massacre of innocent civilians. But mobsters killing mobsters wasn’t something he was going to concern himself with. He turned and headed for his bike, knowing he was consigning nine men to death and finding himself oddly troubled by it.

Chapter Text

Dinah Laurel Lance stood as directed by the judge. “Your Honor, Dinah Laurel Lance, representing Mr. Oliver Queen, the current guardian of Miss Thea Queen, his sister,” Laurel said. “It is Mr. Queen’s wish to transfer custody of his sister to Mr. Thomas Merlyn. Miss Queen has expressed a disconnect with her brother over the past two weeks since the death of their mother, as Mr. Queen is caught up in the business of running Queen Consolidated, pursuing therapy for his years of trauma after being lost at sea five years ago, and simply re-establishing his life. Mr. Queen feels that he cannot give Miss Queen the love and care that she deserves, and recognizes that Mr. Merlyn, who has been like a brother to them both over the years, is more suited to being there for Miss Queen in the way that she requires.”

The judge looked over his glasses at Laurel, his gaze stern. “And where, may I ask, is Mr. Queen? Should he not be here to tell us, in his own words, why he has chosen to abandon his own flesh and blood?”

“Mr. Queen regrets that he is unable to get away from Starling City, but the rigors of running a multi-billion dollar business empire are among the reasons stated for his inability to act as a guardian for Miss Queen,” Laurel replied uneasily, knowing this would do Oliver no favors in the eyes of either the judge or Tommy and Thea. “He has sent a prepared statement along for your perusal, Your Honor.”

“Very well,” the judge said, gesturing for it, and Laurel took the prepared letter, sealed in an envelope so that no one was aware of its contents before it made it into the hands of the judge, out of her briefcase and handed it to the bailiff, who took it to the judge. The judge opened the letter and took it out, perusing it carefully. His eyes flickered to Tommy and Thea for a moment in surprise before returning to the letter, and Laurel’s uneasiness intensified. What had Oliver told the judge about Tommy and Thea that had him so surprised? What was there to be surprised about? Tommy had been a part of Oliver’s life since they were babies. Finally, the judge set the letter down, removing his glasses and cleaning them for a moment. A stalling tactic Laurel recognized from judges in Starling that had just been given troubling information that turned a case on its head.

The judge returned his glasses to their proper place and met Laurel’s gaze. “Miss Lance, did Mr. Queen inform you of the contents of the letter that you provided me?”

“No, Your Honor,” Laurel said, still feeling uneasy and now adding confusion to that uneasiness. “He only said that it would clear up any confusion as to why Mr. Merlyn was his choice of guardian for Miss Queen.”

“I see,” the judge said. “This is… troubling. Mr. Merlyn, did Mr. Queen ever tell you why he was having you take charge of Miss Queen?”

“No, Your Honor,” Tommy replied. “I tried to get him to tell me what was going on, but he refused to share the details.”

“This is an ugly mess,” the judge declared. “In his letter, Mr. Queen has revealed a truth that his father shared with him before his death aboard the Queen’s Gambit. According to Mr. Queen, his father informed him that Miss Queen was not, in fact, the daughter of Moira and Robert Queen, but the result of a brief affair between Moira Queen and Malcolm Merlyn.” Thea’s wordless yelp of shock and dismay saw the judge give her a compassionate look. “I do not understand why your brother would choose not to share this with you, Miss Queen, but combined with his general lack of care in not even deigning to show up to this hearing, I am inclined to grant the transfer of guardianship. But before I do, I want to hear from Mr. Merlyn about how he feels about this new revelation and if it has changed his opinion.”

“It has not,” Tommy said determinedly, and Thea looked over at him, shock and hope warring in her features. “I’ve always seen Thea as a little sister, Your Honor. To know she actually is, and to know Ollie has hidden that from me for four weeks? I wish I could say I’m surprised, but the Oliver Queen that now lives in Starling City is not the Oliver Queen that I knew, Your Honor. He is secretive and he doesn’t seem to care who he hurts in how he acts. He couldn’t even bring himself to come to Metropolis to look for Thea when she ran away, instead sending someone who, to my knowledge, has no experience tracking people down. I, on the other hand, came here as soon as I could after finding out Thea had run away, with my- our father giving me contacts in Metropolis to find Thea. To find out now that I really am her brother explains why I’ve always felt so protective of her, and I promise that I will continue to do what I have to do in order to do that.”

“And what will you do as far as providing for Miss Queen, as Mr. Queen has indicated he intends to cut his sister off due to her immature decision to run away to Metropolis?” the judge asked.

“I am just as wealthy as Oliver, am gainfully employed in my father’s company, and will provide Thea with a safe and happy home for as long as she needs it, whether that’s months or years,” Tommy replied.

“And what of discipline, Mr. Merlyn? Miss Queen is nearly an adult, and you are not yet thirty. How will you keep Miss Queen from running roughshod over you, as Mr. Queen claims in his letter his sister had been doing over the past few years with her mother and stepfather?” Thea’s face burned with anger and shame at the reminder of her years of drug use.

“If Thea does something that I consider to be wrong, I will punish her for it,” Tommy said. “I will ground her, take away whatever privileges she has, restrict her movements. The one thing I will not do, though, is strike her for any reason.”

The judge examined Tommy silently for a moment before taking his glasses off. “This is an unusual situation,” he said. “We have a young woman with two half-brothers. One has custody but refuses the responsibility because of other responsibilities and his own personal difficulties, while the other is fully willing but has no practical parenting experience. Miss Queen, as you are seventeen and will only need a guardian for a few months, your word carries some weight here. Which brother do you wish to live with?”

“Tommy,” Thea said. “He came here for me even before he knew I was his sister, and we can figure out what that means if I stay with him. Ollie’s made it clear where I stand in his life.”

The judge nodded. “Very well. Transfer of custody is approved. I understand Miss Lance has all the necessary paperwork, so all you’ll need is to sign and file those with our offices here, Mr. Merlyn.”

“Understood, Your Honor,” Tommy said. The three Starling City residents (though Laurel supposed that wasn’t true of Tommy and Thea anymore) stood and left the courtroom. “So, did Oliver tell you what was so important?” Tommy asked Laurel.

“Not here, Tommy,” Laurel replied, knowing that neither Tommy nor Thea would be quiet if she told them that Oliver was caught in the middle of a mob war. Hell, she was still pissed that he hadn’t told her what was happening, just rushed her onto his family’s plane and sent her to Metropolis. She hadn’t said anything when they were on the phone because that wasn’t what Oliver needed right now, the distraction of an angry girlfriend. But once this was over, she was going to have words with him about sending her away. Hadn’t they already had this discussion? She was safer at his side, not pushed away and hidden in a closet like some delicate china figurine.

Tommy didn’t respond to Laurel’s refusal to answer, and the three continued to the offices where they would sign the transfer of custody papers and make Tommy Thea’s official guardian. Laurel was trying to wrap her head around the fact that Tommy and Thea were also brother and sister and wondered why Oliver had kept this from them for so long. Then she realized it was because he hadn’t expected his mother to die and leave his sister’s custody up in the air. In the end, he had made sure she ended up with someone who would support her, because God knew that Malcolm Merlyn wasn’t worth being called a parent, even if you ignored the fact that he was a psychopath bent on destroying the Glades for what happened to his wife.

*DC*

Malcolm Merlyn was surprised to hear from Lieutenant Pike that he had arranged a meeting between Malcolm and Daniel Brickwell, but he had leaped at the chance. It was time to find out for certain whether Daniel Brickwell was the one who had murdered his wife and set him on the path to Nanda Parbat and the development of his quest for vengeance against all those who had stood by and watched as his wife bled out into the streets, begging for aid, the way Malcolm had heard her beg in the voicemail message she had left him. Malcolm entered the 16th Precinct, where Brickwell was being held, and noted there was quite a bit of activity. “What’s going on?” he asked Lieutenant Pike.

“Green Arrow,” Pike said. “He’s coming out in the daylight now. Has the F.B.I. scratching their heads, especially since he’s got some kind of armor he’s wearing. Heard one of them muttering about how he’s like no vigilante the F.B.I. has ever chased.”

“Interesting,” Malcolm mused. He hadn’t expected the Green Arrow to begin performing his heroics in the light of day but stick to crippling the Bratva and Bertinellis at night. This was an unexpected and troubling development. If Green Arrow was willing and able to strike in the daylight, then there was certainly something unusual about the vigilante. Even the one that had cropped up in the Glades for a little over a year some time back, leaving thugs bleeding and broken from severe beatings, had stuck to the shadows and fighting at night.

“Alright, you’ll have five minutes,” Pike said. “That’s all the Commissioner can allow. Brickwell’s restrained, but we advise you to keep your distance all the same.”

“Understood, Lieutenant,” Malcolm said, and entered the holding room. Brickwell was handcuffed to the table, and he looked up as Malcolm entered. For a moment, Malcolm just studied the man. He was shaven-headed, and his skin had a rough, unattractive quality to it. He was dressed in an expensive suit that belied his obviously humble beginnings, and he sneered as he met Malcolm’s gaze.

“What you looking at? You’re no cop. You’re dressed too expensive for any but dirty cops, and I know all the boys on the take and you ain’t one,” Brickwell sneered.

“You’re very proud of your criminal nature,” Malcolm observed as he stepped closer to the table. “They tell me that you’re quite proud of your achievements, even brag about how everyone you’ve killed, you killed with the gun found in your possession. I have an interest in that weapon, Mr. Brickwell.”

“What interest you got in my piece?” Brickwell demanded to know.

“Because the police ballistics report ties it to the murder of my wife,” Malcolm said, pulling a smaller version of the picture he kept in his lair out of his wallet and placing it on the table. “If you’re so proud of your accomplishments, then tell me: did you kill her? And if you did, why? I’ve waited almost twenty years for the answer to this question, Mr. Brickwell.”

Brickwell blinked, frowning. “Almost twenty years…” he muttered to himself. He peered at the photograph. “Yeah, I remember her,” he said after a moment, leaning back and giving a self-satisfied, lecherous smirk at Malcolm. “You never forget your first, Mr. Fancy Pants. I remember that pretty little brunette, alright. She begged me not to do her, whimpering about her loving husband and her baby boy and how they needed her! I grabbed her, shoved my gun into her gut, and pulled the trigger. I watched the pain fill those pretty eyes of hers, the despair of knowing that she was dead. I stood there and watched as she called someone, only to die whimpering, all alone.”

“You didn’t tell me why you did it,” Malcolm managed to get out after a moment.

“Oh, yeah,” Brickwell said off-handedly. “It was nothin’. She was my initiation into the Orchid Bay Butchers.”

“You-You killed my wife to get into a gang?” Malcolm asked, backing up in part to keep himself from leaping at the smug bastard and beating him to a pulp. It wouldn’t do for the police to see his true nature. It would make it harder to hide who was truly responsible for this man’s much-assured death if he gave them suspicions about him before he was ready to strike.

“I killed her because she was weak!” Brickwell laughed. Malcolm’s hands curled into fists. Brickwell noticed and barked another laugh. “Whatcha gonna do, Mr. Fancy Pants? Beat me? In the middle of the police station? Go ahead. My lawyer will get me released because these bastards let you. Go on, hit me. I dare you!”

Malcolm gave a shaky breath and then turned and walked out of the room, returning the picture to his wallet. Pike stepped out of the observation room and met Malcolm. “I’m sorry, Mr. Merlyn,” he said. “I’m sure that that wasn’t easy. But if it helps, you got more out of him than we did. We’ll nail him to the wall for what he did. Your wife will get justice, Mr. Merlyn.”

“I know she will,” Malcolm said, shaking Pike’s hand. “Thank you for allowing me this indulgence, Lieutenant. I won’t forget it.” Malcolm left, ignoring the hubbub surrounding Green Arrow from detectives and agents alike. The vigilante meant nothing at the moment; all that mattered was returning home and calling Tommy, letting him know what had happened. Rebecca’s murderer was in custody. Once he had told his son that his mother’s killer was going to face justice, Malcolm could begin planning how to take his revenge. There were so many ways, ranging from storming this precinct in full archery leathers to ambushing the convoy to simply paying off the warden at Iron Heights to let Malcolm slip through the surveillance and end the life of the man responsible for nineteen years of grief and misery.

Though now that he thought about it, he had forgotten to ask Brickwell why he had looked curious about the number of years specified. Well, he could always ask Brickwell that the next time they met, right before he removed his voice box.

*DC*

“G.A., we got a new way of listening in on the Bratva,” Henry Fyff said, bringing Oliver over from where he had been restocking his quiver. He had had to go from one attack from the Bertinellis on the Bratva holdings to the next, depleting his stock of arrows in the process. He had been forced to return to the Bunker out of necessity. “The Bertinellis are backing off for the time being. They want to wait for their reinforcements. Sounds like they’re getting some ‘specialists’ from Gotham tied to the Falcone crime family.”

“That’s not good,” Oliver said grimly, and not just because he suspected that meant the likes of Victor Zsasz, assuming the man wasn’t currently locked away in Arkham Asylum. If any ‘special’ criminals from Gotham City were coming to Starling, then it was possible that the Batman would follow, and that could potentially mean a clash of methods between he and Gotham’s Dark Knight, depending on what measures the Batman was willing to take. He knew who it was under the mask, of course; it had been simple to figure out even before Kate Kane revealed herself at the beginning of the Crisis on Earth-38. Both Bruce Wayne and Batman had vanished from Gotham three years before the Elseworlds incident, which would’ve coincided with the death of Ra’s al Ghul at Oliver’s hands. Oliver briefly mused over whether there was any connection between Batman’s disappearance and Ra’s’ death before focusing on the matter at hand. “You said you found a new way to listen in on the Bratva?”

“Yeah,” Fyff said, grinning. “Sent a string of emails with malware attached. More than a few opened it, including your buddy Alexi.” Oliver smirked at that. No doubt Leonov was having a hard time of it with only one hand. “Anyways, we got ears inside the Bratva again, and just in time. Looks like Helena Bertinelli was granted bail, and her father’s arranged one hell of an escort home. Some are pushing for an attack on the convoy, but Knyazev is refusing, saying it would be suicide to attack them so openly. He wants to whittle them down the way the Bertinellis have been trying to do to the Bratva. He’s had his men scouting out different locations as well as keeping an ear out for what you’ve been up to.” Fyff brought up a map of Starling City and brought up three points of interest.

“What’ve we got?” Oliver asked.

“So, Target A is Bertinelli Construction’s latest site,” Fyff replied. “They want to strike right before everyone goes home for the day, maximize casualties.”

“And the others?” Oliver asked.

“Target B is the Bertinelli weapons depot,” Fyff replied. “It’s in the warehouse district. A lot of guards, and not a lot of people around except the homeless who live in some of the rundown buildings there.” Fyff brought up the third target. “Target C is… boss, you’re really not going to like this.”

“Tell me, Henry,” Oliver said, his stomach twisting, because he recognized the building from all the time he had spent there.

“Lot of Bertinelli’s crew send their kids to Berlanti Preparatory,” Fyff said. “They all go to and from school on the same bus along with a bunch of other kids.” Fyff was looking ill. “Boss, please tell me…”

“We’re going to help the kids,” Oliver said, putting an armored hand on Fyff’s shoulder. “Anatoli should know better than to bring children into this.” He shook his head. How had the man who had told him that Oliver was reminding him of Anthony Ivo and Slade Wilson mere weeks ago decided that taking a bus full of children and either holding them to ransom or outright killing them was a good idea? Because that had to be the idea. Turn Bertinelli’s men against him by threatening their own children, get Bertinelli’s men to bring Helena to them of their own volition. Oliver snatched up the encrypted phone. “We’ll send the F.B.I. to the construction site.”

“Shouldn’t you send them to the weapons depot as well?” Fyff asked.

“In that case, it’s mobsters killing mobsters,” Oliver replied. “Let them wipe each other out.” Fyff nodded in response as Oliver dialed Trimble’s number.

“Green Arrow?” Trimble questioned as he picked up.

“I’ve kept the Bertinelli’s from doing anything stupid for the time being, but the Bratva are planning three simultaneous attacks,” Oliver said. “I can handle one, but I need you to handle one of the others.”

“Why one? Why not both or all three?” Trimble asked.

“It would spread your available agents too thin,” Oliver replied. “The third target is a weapons depot. It’ll be mobsters killing mobsters with few, if any, innocents to be caught in the crossfire. The target I need you to focus on is Bertinelli Construction’s most recent project. They plan to hit at the same time as the other target.”

“Which is?” Trimble asked after telling someone to find out what Bertinelli’s most recent construction site was.

“A bus from Berlanti Preparatory,” Oliver replied, and Trimble swore. “I’m going to make sure those children aren’t harmed, Agent Trimble. Knyazev has crossed a line with this one.”

“You expect something different from a gangster?” Trimble asked. Oliver didn’t answer, because he had had high hopes for Anatoli turning the Bratva around. But it appeared something dark and twisted had always existed within his friend, and now that dark, twisted thing had come out to play. “I’m telling the S.C.P.D. about the bus. This is too important to leave it to a vigilante. And tell me where that depot is.”

Oliver sighed and turned to the computer, checking his facts, before giving the details to the agent. “Good luck, Agent Trimble,” Oliver said.

*DC*

Laurel was in her hotel room when there was a knock at the door. She stood, going to it, and checked outside first to see who it was, smiling softly when she recognized her visitors. She opened the door. “Tommy, Thea, come in,” she said, stepping back and swinging the door wide open.

“Is Sara here?” Tommy asked cautiously. He didn’t really like the new Sara. She thought she had the right to judge him for not understanding Oliver’s insanity and felt compelled, almost, to attack him for his beliefs.

“She’s out getting food at a Thai place a few blocks away,” Laurel said. “Truth is, I think she’s getting antsy. Oliver gave her the option to use the expense account he gave her to travel, see the world on his dime. I think she’s gonna take him up on the offer.” The three took seats on the couch and chair that came with the room. “What brings you by?”

“I’d like an answer to the question you refused to answer at the courthouse,” Tommy said. “I brought Thea with me because Oliver’s still her brother, and she deserves to know what he’s keeping from her.”

Laurel sighed; on the one hand, she wanted to tell Tommy, to talk to someone about her worries other than Sara, who was fully in support of Oliver’s mission even if she was on the fence about helping, but not at the expense of Thea learning the truth. “I’m sorry, but if you’re going to insist that Thea hear it, I can’t tell you,” Laurel said. “Oliver doesn’t want Thea to know certain things.”

“Like what’s wrong with our father?” Tommy asked. Laurel jerked in place before staring hard at Thea, who refused to look ashamed at telling Tommy the sensitive information. “Yeah, Thea told me something’s up with my Dad that has you and Ollie looking at him like he’s an enemy.”

“Yes, like what’s going on with Malcolm,” Laurel said finally. “And no, I’m not going to tell you what that is. You want to know? You’ll have to get your answers from Oliver.”

“Like he would tell me,” Tommy scoffed. “I kept trying to get him to tell me what’s going on, but he just kept saying it wasn’t anything to worry about and that he wanted me to take custody of Thea.”

“You’ll just have to trust that Ollie knows what he’s doing,” Laurel said, though for the first time, she was beginning to doubt her own words. Oliver had kept a huge secret from Tommy and Thea. Even if he didn’t want to risk Malcolm finding out before the guardianship was secured, he should have given Tommy and Thea warning; or her, for that matter. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for Thea, because while she still had one parent alive, that parent was going to have to face justice for his plans for Starling City.

Before Tommy could say anything, his phone rang. He pulled it out and looked at it. “Well, look who it is,” he said, holding up his phone and showing that it was Malcolm calling. He answered it, holding it to his ear. “Hey, Dad.” A silence. Then… “What did you say?” Tommy asked hoarsely, earning worried looks from both Thea and Laurel. “They’re sure it’s him? You’re sure it’s him?” Silence as Malcolm answered Tommy’s questions. “But how did they finally catch him after all this time?” Silence, but whatever Malcolm was saying affected Tommy deeply, because he met Laurel’s eyes with raw emotion shining in his eyes. “Thanks, Dad,” Tommy said. “I’ll be here if you need to-to talk. Bye.” Tommy hung up the phone.

“Tommy, what happened?” Laurel asked, worried that something had happened to Oliver.

“Oliver captured a guy named Daniel Brickwell a few nights ago,” Tommy said. “They ran ballistics on his gun. Dad confronted him with the information, wanting to know it was true, and Brickwell confirmed it.” Tommy looked up at Laurel. “Daniel Brickwell killed my mother. And Ollie caught him.”

“Oh, my God, Tommy,” Laurel breathed, standing from her chair and moving to the couch, sitting next to him and putting her arm around his shoulders. Thea took his hand, squeezing it, and tears leaked from Tommy’s eyes as it really hit him. His mother’s killer was in custody because his vigilante best friend had captured him. This felt different as a result. This had a personal impact on him. His mother’s killer was in custody. Ollie had used his skills to track down the man who murdered Rebecca Merlyn nineteen years ago and ensured he would face justice.

Now the question was, was this enough for him to forget his problems with his best friend being a vigilante?  

Chapter Text

Green Arrow weaved in and out of traffic, ducking through traffic lights and around garbage trucks as he raced towards Berlanti Preparatory. As much as he hated to admit it, there was no way he was going to make it to Berlanti Prep in time to catch the bus coming all the way from the Glades; he was going to have to pick the bus up on the go. “Anything to report?” he asked Fyff over the radios.

“Just some really weird comments about the bus driver,” Fyff said. “I’m running a background search on the guy now, just in case there’s something funny about him.”

Good work,” Green Arrow praised. “What’s the response from S.C.P.D.?

“Like you expected, nothing,” Fyff said. “They told Trimble they’d take care of it, but they haven’t even sent a warning to the school, and you remember what happened when we tried it earlier.” Green Arrow grimaced. They had tried to send a message about a threat to the students to the security office, but the security office had just called the police to confirm if the threat was viable and been assured that it wasn’t, that they had received the same message and had determined that it was a prank. Green Arrow couldn’t believe the amount of corruption in the S.C.P.D., that they would so blatantly disregard a threat to children. He had known they were corrupt, but not to this degree since they had accepted the evidence he provided, as had the A.D.A.’s who got the cases attached to his aid. He was going to have to think long and hard about whether he should deal with Nudocerdo himself. The last time around, the bastard had been killed by Mirakuru soldiers.

And, of course, all they have to do is point out the information came from a vigilante to explain why they didn’t take it seriously,” Green Arrow growled out. “Keep me updated on that bus driver issue. Green Arrow, out.” Green Arrow cut the comms and continued on his way. It was a long way from the Glades to Berlanti Preparatory.

Almost twenty minutes later, Fyff was back on the comms. “Shit, G.A., we got a problem,” Fyff said. “That bus driver owes money to the Russians and they’re calling in their marker. He’s gonna deliver those kids to the Russians.”

Damn it,” Green Arrow bit out and accelerated. He was only a few minutes away from the school now. “Where’s the bus now?

“It’s already pulled away from the school,” Fyff said soberly. “I’m tracking the G.P.S.”

Where is it now?

“Heading down Percy Avenue,” Fyff replied. Green Arrow diverted his motorcycle onto the street with the most direct route to Percy Avenue, ignoring the annoyed honks and shouted expletives from motorists. Getting to that bus and stopping those kids from becoming pawns in Anatoli’s war with Frank Bertinelli was the important thing, not a few pissed off car drivers. “Still on Percy Avenue, should’ve turned off onto 112th,” Fyff reported. “I’m trying to burrow my way into one of the kids’ phones, just in case we need to track them. Hard to do that while the target is on the move, though.”

We’re not going to have to track them down,” Green Arrow snarled, unwilling to accept the possibility that he wouldn’t get there in time. The very idea he could fail, that Anatoli’s men would get their hands on those kids, sent a thrill of panic through him which he cracked down hard on. I will not lose my focus, or those kids, he told himself violently.

“Bus is turning off into what looks like a meat-packing plant,” Fyff said. “Checking ownership records…” A tense minute of silence followed. “Russian-owned. Probably calling in favors with our local Russian community.”

How far out am I?” Green Arrow asked.

“You’re still ten minutes away, boss,” Fyff said. “Even at top speed, they might be gone before you get there. I’ve managed to get into the phone of one of the kids, though, since they’re in one place for longer than a minute. Uploaded some malware onto an app kids like to use when they’re bored and had to hope for the best. We’ll be able to track them, boss.”

Good,” Green Arrow said wearily. Damn it, he thought to himself, his mind going to how frightened those children must be. Damn you, Anatoli! Damn you!

Five minutes later, Fyff was back on the line. “G.A., one of those refrigerated trucks just pulled out of the meat-packing plant, and the signal from the kid’s phone is onboard.”

They couldn’t fit all the children from that bus onto one refrigerated truck,” Green Arrow said softly. “Run a heat signature scan of the building.

“On it,” Fyff said. A minute later he said, “Looks like about five adults standing guard over nearly twenty others in one section of the plant. Probably armed with automatics. What’s the plan?”

Keep tracking the truck, and I’ll pick up the trail,” Green Arrow replied. He couldn’t leave any child in danger; not after he had put his own child in danger in the previous timeline by putting himself into William’s life. “Give me directions to the meat-packing plant.

“Sending the details to your bike’s G.P.S. now, boss,” Fyff replied. Green Arrow followed the coordinates, cutting the engine and coasting to a stop outside of the meat-packing plant. He dismounted, examining the building for an entry point. He fired a grappling arrow to take him to the roof. He found an open skylight that looked down at the factory floor. He dropped down onto a catwalk inside and began creeping around, searching for where the children were being held. The workers for the meat-packing plant were fidgety, nervous; he could tell by how they were extra-careful when cutting meat into strips to package, their hands shaking slightly. They knew they were being party to something fundamentally wrong.

Green Arrow found that one section of the production floor had been sectioned off, and this was where the Bratva were holding twenty of the students. Green Arrow observed the scene for a moment. A few of the older students, those around fourteen or fifteen, were keeping the younger ones close to them. A couple of boys of about sixteen were eying the closest Russian with looks that made Green Arrow uneasy. He remembered all too well how volatile teenage boys can be, especially under pressure. Green Arrow calculated his moves quickly. There were five Bratva soldiers guarding the students, but he doubted these five were the only Bratva in the entire facility. They would want to keep the students contained, and there was every chance a few would slip passed the five guards. Green Arrow would have to lead the students out of the plant himself.

“G.A., the refrigerated truck is heading for the Glades,” Fyff said in low tones, as though he were right there and trying to keep the Russians from overhearing.

Understood,” Green Arrow breathed out. He nocked a magnetic arrow and fired it into the ground off to the side of the Bratva. The arrow activated, stripping the Bratva of their assault rifles. Green Arrow dropped down from the ceiling and delivered quick, brutal strikes to the face of one of the Bratva, then tossed him aside with a sneered, “Pathetic.” He turned his attention to the remaining four. “You know who I am,” he said quietly. “You know what I can do to you. You have one chance to leave peacefully.

We will not, Hood!” One Russian spat in his mother tongue and launched himself at Green Arrow. Green Arrow delivered a punch to his throat, causing him to gag, then a series of quick, hard-hitting blows to his ribs before a final left hook to the jaw. The man collapsed, and Green Arrow pinned him to the ground with a bola arrow. He tilted his head at the remaining three consideringly. The three men attacked as one, intending to take Green Arrow down with overwhelming force. Green Arrow dodged a tackle from one man and tripped him up, sending him to fall flat on his face, delivered a knife-hand strike to the throat of the man coming at him from the left and then followed it up with a bow-cut, sending him sprawling backwards. Green Arrow turned and blocked the attempt to strike the back of his head with a length of pipe via his bow, holding the improvised weapon up and away from him. He jutted his head forward, hearing the crack as the man’s nose broke, and then again.

The Russian proved to be adept at dealing with head injuries, however, and Green Arrow had to back away slightly as the Russian freed his weapon from the intersecting with Green Arrow’s bow and came at him again, this time swinging from the side. Green Arrow blocked with his bow again and delivered a straight kick to the Russian’s stomach, aware that the other two Russians were recovering from his attacks. Green Arrow knew he didn’t have a choice. These guys were tougher than your run of the mill thugs; Anatoli had known he wouldn’t be able to leave the kids in danger and had assigned some of his best men to provide a window of escape for the refrigerated truck. Green Arrow pulled one of his basic arrows from his quiver and then stabbed the Russian in the heart with it. The Russian grunted, blood bubbling up in his mouth, and stared at Green Arrow in surprised bewilderment before collapsing backward, the arrow still in Green Arrow’s hand, dripping with blood.

Green Arrow didn’t let himself think as he moved to the Russian that was staggering to his feet. He struck with his arrow like a dagger, cutting into the man’s carotid artery and then ripping the arrow out again. The man’s hands went to his neck, blood trickling between the cracks of his fingers at a rapid rate as he collapsed to his knees, the kids shying away from him and the blood seeping from both him and the other Russian. Green Arrow turned his attention to the last man, who turned and tried to flee. Green Arrow nocked the arrow and loosed it, the arrow flying straight and true and landing on target in the man’s skull. He collapsed, body shuddering. Green Arrow closed his eyes for a moment before he turned to face the students. “It’s alright,” he said softly. “You’re safe now. I can lead you out. But I need you to trust me. Can you do that?” The students all looked at one another before nodding slowly, silently. “Alright,” Green Arrow said. “Let’s go.

Green Arrow led the way through the meat-packing plant, the workers stepping away from where they were working and watching the procession in silent fear. They knew what the Bratva were capable of, and yet one man had come in and taken out five of them. Who was the Green Arrow? That was the thought that was percolating in the minds of the workers as the vigilante led the students out of the meat-packing plant and onto the sidewalk. Green Arrow moved out into the road, stopping a four-door car in its path. The driver exited the car. “What’s the big idea?” he demanded to know. “I could’ve hit you!”

These kids need help,” Green Arrow replied, gesturing to the students. The driver looked at the kids and his eyes widened at their frightened, huddled appearance. “They were kidnapped by the Bratva and held in this meat-packing plant. I need someone to stay with them until the cops arrive. Some of their friends were taken from here. I have to go after the rest of the kidnappers. Can I trust you to be here for them?

“Y-Yeah,” the man stuttered out. He had watched the vigilante’s speech on T.V., heard about his actions over the past four weeks and especially in the last couple of days. “I can do that for you, man. Go on. Help those kids. I’ll keep these ones safe. You got my word.” The man added to this by reaching into his glove compartment and pulling out a pistol. “Anyone tries to take these kids gets a bullet,” the man promised.

Thank you,” Green Arrow said and mounted his bike. He peeled away from the curb. “Where’s the truck now?” he demanded to know.

“Ah, it’s in the Glades, but there’s something wrong with the signal on the phone, it keeps dropping,” Fyff said. “Best I can do is narrow it down to the industrial district.”

Green Arrow’s eyes narrowed. “Around Schmidt and 11th?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Fyff said, surprised. “How did you know?”

Because that’s where the steel factory is,” Green Arrow said. “Knyazev is trying to make this personal.

“Way you’re sounding, he’s succeeded,” Fyff said. Green Arrow said nothing but diverted his bike’s course back in the direction of the Glades. Anatoli had made a mistake in choosing the steel factory as the place where he would hold the kids of the Bertinelli soldiers and lieutenants. He had given Green Arrow the homefield advantage, and the vigilante wasn’t going to waste it.

*DC*

Green Arrow crouched on a beam above the ground floor of the steel factory. There were ten students huddled together, guarded by ten men, all with automatic assault rifles. If these men were anything like the ones at the meat-packing plant, then Green Arrow wouldn’t be able to hold back. He would have to strike, fast, hard, and deadly in order to save the students. He took note of the positions of the Russians. There were two each guarding the ‘four sides’ of where the students were being held and two roaming guards. The roaming guards were wild cards that needed to be taken out of the equation, but he wasn’t in a position where he could strike both. He would need to move locations until he could. Green Arrow crept along the rafters of the steel mill, the grace and balance he had learned from both Talia and Ra’s coming in handy here.

Green Arrow reached a point where he could strike both roaming guards, but it was somewhere that he would have no cover. He would have to strike and then race along the rafters to find cover while the rest of the Bratva searched for him. After that, he would have to strike quickly to deal with them before they turned their weapons on the students. Green Arrow nocked and fired a basic arrow at one guard, then the other, striking them both in the ribs. They collapsed, gripping the shaft of the arrow as Green Arrow moved to a location with more cover. Green Arrow watched as the two guards each moved to check on the fallen men and grinned viciously. They were setting themselves up so nicely, and he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Green Arrow fired off a pair of explosive arrows at both groups, which detonated and sent the men sprawling to the ground, wailing, with second- and third-degree burns on their legs and forearms. Green Arrow fired a sleeping gas arrow in between two more guards as he raced along the rafters and it detonated, enveloping the two Bratva soldiers in a cloud of sleeping gas. They coughed and staggered before falling to the ground. That left two guards remaining, and Green Arrow dropped down, delivering a strike with his bow to the backs of their heads before they knew he was behind them. The men stiffened but did not fall. Green Arrow fired a magnetic arrow into the ground, and their weapons were stripped from them even as they turned to face him.

Green Arrow leaped forward, delivering quick, decisive blows to the torso of one man before catching him in a reverse headlock that he used as leverage to break the man’s neck. Green Arrow turned and fired a sleeping gas arrow into the chest of the other man. The gas released and enveloped the man’s head in a cloud of gas. Green Arrow watched as the man collapsed, the arrow still sticking out of his chest. It wasn’t buried deep; none of Oliver’s trick arrows were sharpened to deadly points, just sharp enough to stick in the ground or people’s flesh as needed.

Green Arrow turned to the kids, all of whom had parents in the Bertinelli crime family. He knelt down so he was at their eye level. “It’s alright, you’re safe, and we’ll get you to your parents,” Green Arrow said softly. He activated his comms. “Contact Trimble, let him know where the other kids are. I’m going to stay close by, make sure they get home safe.

“Got it, boss,” Fyff said.

*DC*

Oliver set his bow on its stand, slinging his quiver from around his torso and setting it down. “Anything else from the Bratva or Bertinellis, Henry?” Oliver asked, trying not to let the heaviness of his eyes get to him. He had been up for over twenty-four hours with only a few ‘power naps’ while waiting for the next move by the Russian or Italian mobs.

“No, boss,” Fyff said.

“Why do you call me that?” Oliver asked. “It’s always ‘boss’ or ‘G.A.’. You can use my name when we’re here, Henry. It’s only over the comms you need to be careful.”

“Just doesn’t seem right, calling you by your name,” Fyff replied with a shrug. “And I’m kinda used to calling the shot-caller boss. Just it’s usually been Waller or one of her underlings. You’re not exactly like them, but she did loan me out to you, so…” he trailed off leadingly.

“I see,” Oliver said. “Keep an eye on things. I’m going to try and get some sleep. Remember, wake me from a distance if something happens.”

“Will do,” Fyff replied, and Oliver went to the cot, laying down and closing his eyes, only to fall into nightmares about an exploding island and a sneering villain holding his son in a headlock, ready to break the boy’s neck at a moment’s notice.

*DC*

SAC Darius Trimble watched the reunion between the families with a small smile on his face. These types of moments made being an F.B.I. agent worth it. He knew many of these people were on the payroll of Frank Bertinelli as enforcers and the like, but at their heart they were also parents who deeply loved their children and were happy to see them safe. The only thing that troubled Trimble was that this moment had not come about because of a joint effort between the F.B.I. and the S.C.P.D., but because of the intervention of a vigilante. A vigilante that had been interfering in the affairs of the Bratva and Bertinellis alike and was unlikely to stop until this mob war was done.

A war that the S.C.P.D. was content to ignore. They had decided that the word of the vigilante wasn’t good enough and hadn’t even sent a squad car to provide security at Berlanti Preparatory in case the Bratva took the direct approach. They had allayed the fears of security officers at Berlanti Prep, telling them it was a prank call and not to worry. What disgusted Trimble was that, for all intents and purposes, they were in the right to have ignored it since the tip came from a criminal, and there was every chance that he had been lying. But now the S.C.P.D. was going to get a black eye, because the Green Arrow had been acting very openly in the past twenty-four hours, enough to make one hell of a story for the nightly news. Trimble could already see the way this was going to play out. The S.C.P.D. were going to walk away from this with a black eye and a reputation for being unwilling to act because of the potential the source was wrong, while Green Arrow was going to continue to catapult into cult status as far as his reputation went.

The tip-off that Green Arrow had given Trimble about the construction site attack, which he had acted on with his agents, had played out exactly as the vigilante had said. Bratva soldiers had tried to attack the site, but the F.B.I. had been ready for them and beaten them back. Trimble kept his phone ready at all times, knowing the Green Arrow may call him at any time with more news about the Bratva-Bertinelli war and how it was going to effect the citizens. What bothered Trimble was that he was okay with working with the vigilante; he should be doing this as a ploy to get the vigilante to trust him, so he could bring him in without violence, but in truth he was doing it because he felt it was the right thing to do.

What was happening? When did vigilantes become the ones who were doing the right thing while the police stood by and did nothing? Trimble was very troubled by the lack of action on the part of the S.C.P.D. and was preparing a report for his superiors to suggest they look closely at the S.C.P.D. He didn’t believe Green Arrow’s assertion that someone had cut a deal between organized crime and the S.C.P.D. Conspiracy or not, no one had that much power in the criminal underworld. It couldn’t be possible, and Trimble had to believe that. Because if it was true, then it was entirely possible that the future of fighting crime lay not in the hands of law enforcement, but in the hands of vigilantes like Green Arrow. And that idea was like a poison in the veins, something that Trimble just couldn’t accept, no matter how willing he was to accept the aid of a vigilante.

*DC*

Anatoli Knyazev stood on the rooftop of the garage that the Bratva in Starling was headquartered out of, two bodyguards keeping an eye on the street in case the Bertinellis made a try for their boss and Alexi Leonov standing nearby. Anatoli was digesting the reports that he had received over the past fifteen hours since his arrival in Starling City. Now they were constantly on the watch, wondering if and where the Green Arrow would strike at their holdings. There was a sense of nervousness in the air, for Green Arrow had killed several of their men this afternoon in retaliation for their kidnapping the children of Bertinelli soldiers and lieutenants.

It was hard, knowing that he and the man he had called brother and fought alongside only a few short weeks ago were now enemies. But something had changed in Oliver, something different than the sickness that had invaded his mind in Russia, where he had believed that a piece of cloth could separate his two identities. Now he went out of his way to avoid dealing death, as though he feared slipping into the monster he had become. On the one hand, Anatoli was happy about this, because it meant that the honorable man that he remembered from Lian Yu still existed in his friend and that the monster who was more like Anthony Ivo or Slade Wilson wasn’t in full control.

But with this aversion to dealing death came a sense of self-righteousness, a way of looking down on his brothers that angered Anatoli, because Oliver Queen was no better than he or any other member of the Bratva. He had gone through the entire initiation process. He had killed for them. For him to turn on his brothers and set himself above them, looking down on them as though he were superior to them, it galled Anatoli and he understood Alexi’s disgust with Oliver now, if this was what Oliver had been doing the entire time he had been back in Starling City.

Perhaps his plans to improve Bratva were foolish, especially without a strong ally such as Oliver to aid in that regard. If so, then he would have to prove he was worthy of his title by punishing those who betrayed him, ensuring justice was had for the man they had lost in this city to the hands of Helena Bertinelli, and ensure that Oliver Queen knew that he could be reached, no matter how long it took to achieve that goal. If he had to delve into the practices that he had promised to take the Bratva away from, so be it.

He had set the brothers in Metropolis to watch those Oliver cared for there, find any weaknesses they could exploit, gaps in their defenses. Once they knew where and when to strike, they could choose who would be used as leverage to bring Oliver Queen to heel.

Chapter Text

Laurel and Sara Lance were in the former’s hotel room, handling slices of pizza from the local Domino’s that they had ordered as they used Laurel’s laptop to tune into Channel 52 news since they couldn’t get it via the hotel room’s T.V. The opening jingle for the news hour emanated from the laptop and then Susan Williams was on the screen. “Tonight’s top story, Green Arrow and what appears to be nothing short of a mob war spilling out onto our streets,” Susan said, and despite already knowing what was happening in Starling, Laurel and Sara both felt uneasy, knowing that their boyfriend and friend, respectively, was in the middle of it all. “It all began this morning with an attempt by what appears to be the Bratva to abduct Helena Bertinelli from the F.B.I. transport taking her to the courthouse for arraignment. Miss Bertinelli stands accused of killing a Russian man who may or may not have had ties to the Russian mob.

“Green Arrow arrived on the scene mere moments after the F.B.I. transport found itself trapped and had a terse exchange with who our sources have now confirmed is Anatoli Knyazev, the new Pakhan of the Russian Bratva. Our sources within both the Starling City Police Department and the F.B.I. indicate that law enforcement have no idea why Knyazev is taking such a keen interest in this situation. Green Arrow effected an escape route for the F.B.I. transport and stayed perched on the roof during the ensuing chase, protecting the transport from the Bratva and protecting civilians from crossfire from the Italian mafia.” Video footage from a cell phone camera was shown and excited exclamations from the owner of the cell phone were bleeped out as Green Arrow overturned an SUV with what appeared to be a flashbang arrow fired through the SUV’s windshield.

“Jesus,” Sara breathed. It was one thing to imagine what Oliver was doing, a whole different thing to see it. And… “What the hell is he wearing?”

“He said he got an upgrade for his suit,” Laurel said faintly.

Susan Williams was back on the screen. “Green Arrow surfaced again in a series of daytime appearances, taking on what appeared to be Italian mafiosos attacking various buildings owned or operated by Russian-born citizens. In each case, Green Arrow disabled th