Hope is a Four Letter Word

 

By JTrevizo

 

 

Rating – M for violence, language…

 

Spoiler: All Arrow seasons through 2x23 "Unthinkable".

 

Disclaimer: Arrow belongs to DC, CW, Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television.

 

Relationships: Oliver/Felicity, Diggle/Lyla, Roy/Thea

 

Summary: After five years of protecting Starling City, Oliver has finally realized that he can be happy and be a hero. But at what price?

 

Hi all. Okay, if you have an author alert, you are right now going "WTF?". Yes, I retired. Yes I said no more fanfic. I figured 17 years was more than enough. Then CW has to green light the best DC Superhero TV show in decades and now I'm not just hooked, but have a new OTP! So, when that happens creativity starts and well, damn… Just to be clear, this may be my first Arrow story but FAR from my first fanfic. Now let's get to the story…

 

 

Chapter 1*: The Wedding of Oliver Queen

 

         

          For the last ten years, Oliver Queen has found himself in his fair share of stressful situations. Two years on an island fighting daily for his life, then another three doing things that he would like to forget for the likes of ARGUS. Those years have been followed by another five years after he returned home where he's fought every villain and evil doer that attempted to destroy Starling City. Yet in all of those years, he doesn't think he's ever felt this terrified…

          In less than twenty minutes, he'll be a married man.

          His eyes scan the grand expanse of the backyard of his finally restored family home - Queen Mansion. He recalls the first party thrown here following his return from the dead: go-go cages, flashing lights, loud music, flowing liquor and dozens of dancing girls filled the expanse around the pool and surrounding grassy areas, while today he sees tasteful white chairs being occupied by a small group of guests entertained by the lyrical sounds of the string quartet, floral arrangements in bursts of color covering the floral arches behind and in front of him and lining the rows of chairs along the pure white walkway.

          He never thought he'd have this day after returning home. His mission came first, his desires were secondary. And, when he thought that his mission would only lead to his death, it made sense not to want something like this. Happiness, a wife, family, love… Yet here he is, after realizing that everything he'd been through had led him here. If he'd never been on the Queen's Gambit, he wouldn't have grown up, become the man that he is today. Still, if he was honest, standing here, minutes away from being married, is bittersweet in so many ways. His father's sacrifice for his son nearly ten years ago had allowed him to become the man who returned to Starling City, and his mother, for all her flaws, hadn't lived to see the hero that he'd become in the days and years following her death. Standing in the shadow of their restored family home, wrested back from bankruptcy, makes him miss them all the more today of all days.

          Still, he knows that his emotions were in overdrive for more than just the ache at the people missing from his life. The prospect of the next chapter of his life is overwhelming, filled with so many good things that make him the man he is today. And the most important one should be walking onto the white carpet leading to the floral arch he's standing beside even now.

          "You okay, man?"

          Oliver's head turns to face his best man, teammate and friend John Diggle, where he stands beside him, dressed in a basic black tuxedo and offers a lopsided grin.

          "No."

          Dig gives him a look, prompting the younger man to continue. In the five years they've been a lot of things to one another – employer/employee, partners, and then friends. Today they are groom and best man, a reversal from nearly two years ago when Dig and Lyla decided to try marriage yet again, following the birth of their son, Michael Jonas Diggle. Oliver still can't help smiling when he recalls being informed of Mike's middle name. He'd tried to ask them to change it, told them that it was an honor he didn't feel he deserved, but Dig had just said it made sense considering he was going to be a god-father.

          At the continuing stare, Oliver sighs and barely stops himself from running a hand over his short hair or groomed five o'clock shadow along his jawline.

          "I'm anxious... and nervous and scared as hell. I'm thinking that I should have put my foot down and insisted on eloping… we could have gone to Vegas, except for the obvious reasons."

          Dig can't help the bark of laughter that erupts from him with his friend's admission. While the general populace of Starling City had no idea that their favorite billionaire (and soon to be former playboy) was actually the green hooded archer that patrolled the streets and did his best to keep the citizens safe, those that had joined him in his crusade knew that he'd faced so many more dangerous things than getting married. That the idea of him scared was humorous to say the least.

          "And Thea would have had a fit if she hadn't been able to continue to mend fences with you and plan all this. Please say you aren't considering bailing because I don't think I can take Thea's fury at you ruining today," tosses in Roy Harper, having leaned in to eavesdrop on the conversation.

          "If he bails, Thea's not the only one who would kill him," reminds Dig, causing Roy to laugh and Oliver to sigh as he shakes his head.

          This small wedding on the lawn of the Queen's family residence had been the compromise between the lavish affair Starling City expected from the restored Queen family and the maybe dozen or so friends and family they'd have preferred. However, Thea, in her infinite wisdom of all things social, had insisted they have a large enough event that would allow for the invite of key investors of Queen Consolidated. Seeing the notorious playboy CEO finally settling down would give them a feeling of confidence in the continued resurgence of the company. The fact that his bride to be had agreed with Thea's plan hadn't helped.

          Still, the people in attendance aren't all social climbers and millionaire investors. The entire Lance clan had shown up – now Captain Quentin Lance escorted a once again single Dinah, Laurel, and even Sara had come, bringing along Nyssa in what had probably been a bit of shock to her mother. Walter Steele is there, having been touched by the invitation and graciously agreed, since he is technically all the family Oliver and Thea have left. And then there are the friends forged in battle. Barry Allen and his girlfriend, Iris West, have taken a set of seats near the back, along with S.T.A.R. Labs employees Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow. The later had been instrumental in keeping Starling City from becoming a crater, while Barry had been instrumental in saving Oliver's life.

          Suddenly the music changes, the string quartet beginning to play the piece selected for the entrance of the bridal party, pulling Oliver out of his thoughts, and he focuses all his attention on the arch of flowers near the patio of the house.

          Thea is first, looking lovely in the floor length mint green colored strapless dress, carrying a bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers and some other kind of white flowers in her hand. She gives Oliver a grin before her eyes cut over to where Roy stands as she makes her way to her place opposite the men. Since her return following her decision to leave Starling City with Malcolm Merlyn, she and Roy had renewed their relationship and Oliver reluctantly expects an engagement in the next year.

          Lyla is next, being Dig's counterpart in the wedding party. There had been a discussion on having Michael be ring bearer, but Dig and Lyla had decided to leave him with their nanny instead of hauling a possibly cranky toddler around a wedding. Dig gives her a quick once over with a smirk as she walks past them, dressed in the same pale green colored dress as Thea is wearing.

          Then the bridal march began and Oliver looks away from his sister and his best friend's wife and stares expectantly down the aisle. He takes a deep breath to steady himself as he prepares for his bride to round the floral archway, but, when she steps into view, he finds it stuck in his chest as his heart stops.

          As is trademark Felicity Smoak, she'd gone against tradition, which won't surprise anyone who knows her. While she had pretty much tossed a lot of the rules, she'd insisted on a few traditions, including not letting him see her wedding dress. And now, watching her walk towards him in it, he knows why. The dress, her dress was… it is green.

          Or at least it is partially green. The emerald green strapless top ruches into a wide rhinestone a-line waist, then the fabric continues to cling to her curves until it falls open to one side in a floral spray with a ruffle of the same bright green color over a pure white lace skirting below her knees that dusts along the aisle as she walks towards him.

          She'd also tossed the tradition of a veil, instead styling her hair down but to one side. Oliver smiles as he recalled staring at her with that same hairstyle years back, but she'd worn a red dress that night and he'd been oblivious to the emotions that were beginning to build between them back then.

          Today, though, he knows how he feels about the woman walking towards him. With a huge exhale he lets out that breath and feels his heart speed up at that fact that after nearly five years of working together, supporting one another, three years after saying "I love you" under the guise of a lie, and two since he'd been worn down enough to admit to her and himself that he couldn't keep away from the person that made him a better man anymore, he is finally marrying his girl.

          Before he can recognize it, she is standing before him and his heart threatens to burst. Reaching out to take her hand, Felicity hands Lyla her bouquet and then turns to give Oliver a bright smile as she slides her hand into his. Oliver guides her to his side, his mouth turned up into a grin, before they turn towards Starling City's Judge Marcus Gray, who Oliver and Felicity had agreed on as a perfectly good compromise considering Felicity's Jewish upbringing.

          The tall, lanky, gray haired man looks between the two before adjusting his glasses, making both bride and groom smother smiles at the memory of more than a few times when Felicity had adjusted her own set of glasses in the course of explaining something to Oliver.

          "We're gathered here today to join this man and this woman in the state of marriage…"

          Felicity and Oliver stand, holding hands tightly, eyes having drifted from the officiate before them and locking with one another. They hear the drone of the judge's voice in the haze of happiness surrounding them, as they lose track of the words being spoken. It is only when they hear a question finally being posed that they break from their trance.

          "If anyone can show just cause why these two may not be lawfully married, speak now or forever hold your peace," states Judge Gray as he briefly scan the assembly.

          Felicity rolls her eyes as Oliver grimaces slightly. Considering more than a few of Oliver's exes, including Sara and Laurel, are in attendance, as well as Felicity's near flame Barry, Dig had sworn to give the attending guests a death glare worthy of the Arrow to keep them silent and in their seats. And Thea had been adamant that no one and nothing was keeping her from getting a sister in law that she had become quite fond of as well.

          When there isn't a word spoken, Judge Gray nods and begins to pick up where he left off when suddenly the patio doors to the house burst open and the sound of automatic gunfire rips through the air. The guests begin to scream as what has to be at least a dozen men, all dressed in black tactical clothing and balaclavas, storm through the yard. Scared for their lives, some of the guests start to try to run, and the men simply begin firing into the crowd, prompting people to drop to the ground, hiding under chairs and huddling together in fear.

          In that first assault, the bridal party all sees Barry fall as a bullet struck him, causing Iris to push him to the ground as Cisco and Caitlin help her try and stop the bleeding while others scream and moan from their own wounds.

          Quentin looks towards Oliver before glancing to his daughters. He desperately wants to take out his service revolver and try and whittle down these thugs, and knows his girls would be more than willing to fight along with him, as would Nyssa, but he could immediately tell that these men have no qualms about continuing to shoot innocent people. Standing and trying to take them on wouldn't just get him killed, but anyone around him. Frustrated, he kneels with Dinah as he sees Sara, Nyssa and Laurel look between themselves, him and the bridal party, searching for some kind of opportunity to fight.

          "Where the hell is the security?" growls Oliver towards Dig as he shoves Felicity behind him while the men continue to approach the bridal party.

          "I think we're on our own," replies Dig as he watches the military precision of the team before them. There are some very rich and important people in attendance, but none of the men are searching through the guests. They are taking flanking positions…

          Another set of gunfire sounds, prompting the wedding party to duck, the floral archway above their heads exploding into a shower of petals as Judge Gray falls backwards, a pool of dark red blood beginning to expand from beneath his head.

          "Lyla, you and Thea okay over there?" Dig calls out, even as he holds Roy down beside him as the younger man had tried to get up and move to Thea.

          "I got winged, but am okay. Thea's fine," she calls back, prompting Dig to give Roy a dark glance, causing him to settle slightly. He then sees the black on black stain of where a bullet has cut through Roy's thigh and wonders if any of them are going to get out of this alive.

          "Any ideas boss?" asks Dig quietly as six of the twelve men who've burst into the wedding have moved to stand before them, machine guns and pistols pointed towards them as the leader motions for them to stand up.

          "Stay calm," replies Oliver thickly as he stands up, bringing Felicity up with him as Dig and Roy slowly stand as well, forming a human wall in front of them, and Lyla presses Thea back a bit behind her.

          "Mr. Queen," speaks one of the men, the one with the pistol who stands right in front of Dig and Roy that seems to be the leader, "this can go very easy or very hard. It all depends on you."

          The AR-15 in his hands pointing at Oliver says he means business. Behind him, the other five keep their weapons pointed at the wedding party. In the guest seating area, which is filled with injured, dead or hiding guests the remaining six men flank both sides. There isn't a good way to fight their way out of this without significantly more bloodshed and Oliver refuses to let any more people die because of him.

          "What do you want? Money? I can pay whatever you want if you let me," Oliver begins, his right hand holding Felicity's securely as he continues to shield her.

          "I see you are willing to be reasonable. Wonderful," says the man with what seems to be a deep East Asian accent, prompting Dig and Lyla to think of Afghan deserts. "However, I doubt you have the amount we require in your pocket, so I'm afraid that, for the moment, I need to take some collateral."

          "Fine, take me," Oliver offers, taking a step forward even as Felicity tightens her grip on his hand, unwilling to let him go.

          "Ah, but that's a problem. How would you get us our money if you can't meet with your bankers or lawyers? No… we need a different 'hostage', so if you'll step aside and let us 'borrow' your blushing bride, then we can do business."

          The dark look that settles over Oliver's face belongs under the hood he wears at night. There is no way they are leaving with Felicity. He feels more than sees Dig and Roy shift beside him. Years of instinct within Team Arrow tells him that, if there is a moment that they can overcome the gunmen before them, it has to be now.

          "Now," cries Dig, rushing the leader who stands before them, surprising him.

          As his hands grapple with the pistol, knowing that a punch would leave him vulnerable to being shot, Dig struggles to force the man to drop the weapon. Beside him, he can tell Roy had launched himself at another of the gunmen, the surprise allowing the younger man to strike the man.

          Oliver has broken Felicity's grip and charges two more of the men, going for the rifles he knows are the threat. Another of the gunmen finds himself being engaged by Lyla as Thea runs to Felicity, who has started to retreat a few steps from the fight before them.

          Once the six gunmen confronting the bridal party have been attacked, Quentin sees their only opening, and he calls out to his family, "Laurel, get your mom out of here! Sara, Nyssa, I'm going to help them!"

          Pulling his service revolver, Quentin stands quickly and fires at the first of the gunmen guarding the left side of the seating, and catches him squarely in the chest, putting him down before he turns towards the two gunmen closest to the action. Behind him, he can hear Laurel grab up Dinah and rush for the side of the mansion while Sara and Nyssa move to engage the other three gunmen who are now running towards the front of the assembly and the fight going on.

          But hand to hand and one lone handgun are no match for men with machine guns, and the sounds of fighting are quickly drowned out by the sound of gunfire. Felicity shrieks in astonishment and fear and Thea screams as Roy is shot nearly point blank in the chest and crashes to the ground. Then Dig crumples after being shot twice in the torso. Moments later, Lyla is prone on the grass after her leg buckles under her after being shot as well, and, in the chaos of the crowd, Quentin, Sara and Nyssa are all running from gunfire.

          "Oliver!" screams Felicity as she watches him take a bullet to the stomach and another to his left knee, the same one Roy damaged years back, causing him to drop to the ground, his right knee and arms holding him up as he looks at the men before him, weapons trained at him.

          Two more gunmen shove past the leader who stands over Oliver now and grab Felicity by her arms, pulling her from Thea's grasp. Oliver shoves himself up, forcing himself to disconnect from the burning pain in his abdomen and knee to try and stop them from taking Felicity.

          With a last desperate cry, he charges the leader, only to have the butt of the man's pistol slam into the back of his head.

          "We'll be in touch soon Mr. Queen," says the leader as Oliver finds himself succumbing to the blackness of unconsciousness, the last sound he hears is that of Felicity screaming his name.

          -end chapter 1-

         

 *Chapter 2*: Bleeding Wounds and Broken Hearts

 

The first thing Oliver is aware of is beeping. The repetitive, steady sound seems recognizable and doesn't startle him. Then more distinct tones reach his ears - people talking and moving and machines humming. Automatically, he takes in a deep breath, trying to center himself, and immediately recognizes the dulled signs of pain that signals recent injuries. He tries to think even though his brain feels muddled, which probably means he's on pain meds or he has a concussion. He tries to remember what mission he'd been on that had gotten him hurt when it suddenly all comes crashing back to him and his eyes snap open, fear filing them even as one word forces its way through his cracked lips, "Felicity!"

          He's pushing himself up in the hospital bed before he can process where he is or that he has an IV, wires and oxygen hooked up to him. Immediately, an arm shoots out from his left side and forces him back against the bed. His eyes jump to the man's face and he exhales loudly as he recognizes Dig beside him.

          "Slow down and sit back or you'll rip your stitches," says Dig, his eyes saying more than his words and Oliver tries to swallow but can't seem to get his body to work to accomplish this simple action.

          "Dig… is…she...?" he asks immediately, his heart rate starting to escalate, causing the monitor beside the bed to beep faster.

          "I don't know," Dig replies sadly, the concern for the woman he considers like a little sister evident in his voice even as he lays his hand on his friend's shoulder in sympathetic understanding, "but we have every reason to believe she's okay. They want money Oliver, not revenge."

          Oliver takes a deep breath, then another, trying to get his heart rate down before the nursing staff see the spike and race in. He needs to reign in his emotions even as thoughts of Felicity, ransoms and the attack at the wedding fill his brain. He shuts his eyes, concentrating on pushing all those thoughts and feelings to the back of his mind so he can look at this just like any mission. When he finally feels a bit more centered, he registers a twinge of pain in his stomach and recalls the gunshots. He slowly sits up and looks down, rubbing his hand across his lower abdomen, feeling a raised area that is more than likely bandages under the blanket and hospital gown. Searching farther, he notes his right leg slightly elevated under the covers, looking much too bulky to be normal. Reaching down with a slight wince at the pull on his midsection, he grabs the sheet and pulls it away, sighing as he sees the knee immobilized with a brace.

          "They had to replace it. After the damage you took with Roy, the abuse you've put on it since and then getting shot, there wasn't anything left to repair," Dig states, answering Oliver's unspoken question. "Your head's okay, a minor bump considering everything. The stomach wound was probably more worrisome. Cut through your intestines, so they patched them up. Figure a few more scars won't matter much, right?"

          Oliver nods before crashing back against the bed. During the attack, he'd only just felt the burn of the gunshots in his adrenaline rush to protect Felicity, and he'd been trying to rally when he'd been hit in the head. His hand moves up and runs across the back of his head, registering the lump back there. He's not in the best shape, but he'll have to make do.

          "Do we know anything about these guys? Something that we can use to figure out who or what we're dealing with? Why they targeted me and the wedding?"

          "I'm guessing they might be Taliban, al Qaeda, or another terrorist sub-faction. The Southeast Asian accents and the precision military tactics all scream that they're highly trained and coordinated. And based on what the leader said to you, this looks to be solely motivated by money to fund their activities."

          "But why target the wedding? It was so public…" begins Oliver, thinking that, if they'd just wanted money that they could have attempted to kidnap him, Felicity or even Thea at any time. Why wait for the wedding?

          "There's been so much press on the wedding, they had to have decided it would be a perfect opportunity. They knew exactly where you and everyone working for you would be. And with how the media has been talking up Queen Consolidated being back on track, doing better than ever, and that you'd gotten the mansion back… You're back to being billionaire Oliver Queen once more, and a huge payday for a determined terrorist group."

          Dig had analyzed the whole thing over and over in his head since he'd woken up. The collateral damage at the wedding was minor compared to the usual result of a Jihadist bomber intent on destruction, so if the purpose of the attack was a body count, they'd failed. That only left the most obvious answer, which was ransom, just like the leader of the group had said. The very calculated plan of taking Felicity as collateral while leaving Oliver behind to get the funds they wanted clearly showed that they had done this before.

          "So now that I've got my money and legacy back, they decide to take it from me. And when would be a better time to strike than on the happiest day of our lives, right?"

          Dig nods sympathetically, feeling for the man before him that had his happiness torn away from him minutes before saying "I do".

          "Have we gotten any demands?" Oliver questions, concern again for Felicity's safety taking over.

          "Your phone hasn't rung yet. It's been nearly twenty four hours since the attack but they haven't called. All any of us can conclude is they've been waiting on you to be conscious to start negotiations, which means they're smart, probably keeping tabs on your condition, possibly with a contact on the inside or access to the hospital's network, solely focused on their goal of getting the ransom."

          Oliver closes his eyes even as he clenches his fists, trying to keep from thinking of Felicity alone with these men for a day, unaware if he is even alive. He swallows hard, thinking of how he had spent countless days and nights fighting his feelings for Felicity all in the name of keeping her safe. His enemies, both from before and after he donned the hood in Starling City, had made him afraid that being with her would put a target on her back.

          It was only after he'd been faced with the impossible task of taking down Slade that he'd had begun to realize that she already was in danger and that wasn't going to change. The difference between her just being his partner in their nightly activities, his former Executive Assistant and one of the only people he trusted and respected had already put her in dangerous territory. To have a romantic relationship with her was the final piece to the puzzle, and, starting that night, it had become harder and harder to use the threat to her safety as an excuse to keep pushing her away...

          When they'd stood in his family home, desperate for a way to stop Slade's destruction of the city, he'd told her that he loved her and asked if she understood. He knew that he'd made her question the validity of his words when he pressed the injection arrowhead into her hand and she realized what he was asking her to do. But, when she'd tried to get him to deny it later as they stood on the beach of Lian Yu, he had skirted the conversation, never saying outright that he'd meant every word he'd said that night, because he was still afraid of what that would mean for them.

          Yet in the months and years that followed, the line he'd drawn between them began to fade and the reason for having it there in the first place crumbled. The need to say the words and have her realize he meant them, the desire to kiss her, touch more than a shoulder or arm or cheek became too much, and the wall between them had disintegrated, starting them down the path that had led them to yesterday…

          But now, she's in peril again, not because of the Arrow, but, like that first day back after The Undertaking, because of Oliver Queen. The ringleader had stated very clearly that he wanted money, and, while he is still concerned that these men could change their minds, Oliver knows that he will do whatever he has to in order to get her back. There's no other choice to make.

          "Has the FBI been called?" Oliver asks, suddenly worried that the Feds getting involved could complicate things if the Arrow team have to mount a rescue mission. SCPD hunting him was one thing, the FBI was another.

          "SCPD called them in right after the first responders arrived at the wedding… I, Oliver… the scene at the mansion was pretty bad…"

          The look on Dig's face makes Oliver pull up short. Only now does he realize that, when he woke up, Dig was the only one there and he cringes internally as he realizes that he has been so concerned for Felicity and trying to figure out who took her that he didn't even take a second to ask Dig he and everyone else is, and to find out if anyone didn't make it. He immediately looks at Dig, eyes scanning over the larger man, taking in the sling holding his friend's left arm bent to his chest, but he keeps searching for stiff movements or other signs of serious injury that he can't see as he asks, "I'm sorry Dig, I didn't… are you okay?"

          "Yeah. The bullet that hit my torso missed everything vital so they patched it up pretty quick. The shoulder is another through and through. Hence the sling," Dig notes as he levers the wounded appendage up, reminding both of them that, even wounded, Dig is a soldier. "No worse than a bad night with you on patrol."

          Oliver fights a smirk and huffs out a gruff laugh before he realizes that there isn't anyone else in the room with them. His concern for his family, his team creeps up on him quickly as Dig looks towards the door to the room briefly, prompting Oliver to push, "and Thea, Roy… what about everyone else?"

          "Most of us woke up here," Dig states, looking around at the walls of the hospital room that Oliver is in. "Starling General was the closest trauma center to the mansion. Lyla had a shoulder graze, which would have been minor, but she caught a bullet in her lower leg and it chipped the bone. Once they patched her up, I sent her home to be with Michael."

          Oliver nods, understanding Dig's need to protect his family. If roles were reversed...

          "Thea and the others?" asks Oliver, his throat tightening once again.

          "Roy's in serious condition, he took a bullet straight in the chest. He got lucky that he didn't bleed out on the way to the hospital. They repaired a punctured lung and nicked aorta and believe he'll pull through. Thea came away without a scratch; she's been splitting her time between your room and Roy's."

          At the news that Thea's okay and Lyla and Roy are on the mend, Oliver lets out a tremulous breath. But that's only the bridal party… "Everyone else?"

          "Barry got lucky, no serious damage, and Iris and the guys from S.T.A.R. Labs are fine, as is Mr. Steele, Laurel and her mom. Quentin got a bit beat up, as did Sara. Nyssa took a bullet to the back to keep them safe. She's in stable condition… I guess the bullet just missed her spine."

          Oliver nods, knowing they got very lucky that both the team as well as those closest to them didn't take any losses. But, when he looks up at Dig's frowning face, he realizes that the streak of luck is about to come to an end.

          "SCPD totals the dead at ten, injured over thirty. Six of the dead were the security we had out front. They just mowed through them in their intent to get to the wedding."

          "My God," breathes Oliver, running a hand across his face. Before he can say another word, there's a knock at the door. "Come in."

          It pushes open and, instead of Thea or the medical staff, Oliver is surprised to see Quentin Lance step inside. The man has a bruised face, an impressive shiner and a split lip. At the interruption, Dig moves to the doorway and gives Oliver a slight nod to let him know he's stepping out, giving Quentin and Oliver a chance to talk. Dig acknowledges Quentin wordlessly as they pass each other, the door closing behind Dig as he leaves.

          "Oliver," says Quentin even as he moves forward, extending a hand.

          "Captain Lance. I see you got roughed up," Oliver replies as he takes the man's hand in his and shakes it briefly in greeting.

          "It could have been a lot worse. Me and mine got out pretty clean. It seems that the guys that shot up your wedding were much more interested in you."

          Oliver's eyes darken a bit at Quentin's tone of voice, which is more than a little accusing. Considering this happened on his property during his wedding, the man probably has every right to feel that way. The woman Sara loves could have died protecting the Lances, and, from what Dig already said, Quentin and Sara didn't come away unscathed. The fact that he was the target of the attack, and that other people had been put in harm's way, had died meant a lot of the blame did lay on his shoulders.

          "Any word on Felicity?" Quentin asks, his tone changing from accusing to worried.

          "Not yet," Oliver replies, his voice rough as he forces the words out.

          Quentin nods and looks saddened by the news, which isn't all that surprising to Oliver. Ever since the day Quentin questioned Felicity about her involvement with the Hood, the older man had begun to like her, which over time had grown into genuine caring, which Oliver could completely understand. When faced with Felicity Megan Smoak being in your life, how could you not end up caring for her?

          "The Feds are working with SCPD on this. They're checking the no-fly list, trying to locate if these guys came into the country in the last six months. I guess the FBI is hoping that, if they figure out who the attackers are, they'll be able to help you get Felicity back safely once you've been contacted. I kinda pulled a few strings and got tasked as the SCPD liaison for the Feds so I'll do everything I can to keep you updated and in the loop until we get Ms. Smoak home."

          Oliver simply stares at Quentin, stunned that the man who had hated him for so many valid reasons had done this…

          "Thank you."

          Quentin nods and begins to open his mouth to speak again when the hospital room door flies open, revealing Thea Queen, eyes swollen and tear streaks still visible on her distraught face followed by Dig. She sees Oliver awake in his bed and rushes past Quentin to throw her arms around her brother.

          "Ollie!" she cries out even as Oliver wraps her in his embrace, wincing just a bit as she rams into him, his stomach aching at the sudden movement.

          "I was so worried about you. They had to take you in for surgery and they had Roy in too and I was so scared and torn worrying about both of you…" she quickly says, her voice muffled as she presses her face into his chest.

          "I'm okay, Speedy. Just a bit beat up, but I'll be fine. Dig says Roy's in serious condition?"

          She nods even as her eyes start to water up and she pushes back from Oliver's grasp so she can swipe her hand against her face. "They got him here in time, according to the doctor. He lost a lot of blood and he's on a ventilator to help him breathe, because of the damage to his lung, but they say, given time, that he'll be okay."

          "Then you need to focus on that, okay?" Oliver tells her, his voice serious as he reaches to catch her hand in his, squeezing tightly.

          "I know, and now you're awake and that's great, but, Ollie, I'm afraid for Felicity. The FBI hasn't gotten a call and your phone hasn't rung," she nearly stammers even as she fishes out his cell phone from her pants pocket and holds it out to him, "I mean, if they haven't contacted them or us… do you think…"

          Oliver looks at her, seeing the fear in her eyes for the woman that she knows her brother loves and that she's come to think of as a sister. He looks away to see similar looks of concern plastered on Dig and Quentin's faces and has to take a deep breath, letting it out harshly through his nose as he forces himself not to show just how afraid he is too.

          However, he loves Felicity too much to lose her now.

          "It's going to be okay, Speedy. We're going to get her back. No matter what it takes, Felicity is coming home."

          -end chapter 2-

         

 *Chapter 3*: Of Hostages and Heroes

 

          Felicity wakes up to the feeling of rough canvas against her cheek. Her hands move to the material she's laying on and recognize the hard sensation of stretched fabric. Her fuzzy brain wonders if she fell asleep on the cot that Oliver keeps in the lair. Then her wrist brushes against satin and beading and her eyes widen in recognition.

          She launches herself up from the cot she's sprawled on and feels a bit dizzy even as she forces herself to look around and she sees that she's in a plain white room that she doesn't recognize.

          Crap, she thinks to herself.

          Her eyes feel like they've been coated in sand and she scrubs her hands over her face and rubs her fingers against her closed eyelids for what seems like forever. Her contacts itch, even though she'd put in her long wear ones, thinking it might be a while until she wanted to have her glasses.

          She unconsciously lets out an audible sigh as she realizes that all those plans for a Bermuda honeymoon with sunglasses, sunhats, drinks and bathing suits are now out of the cards. Not only did the wedding not happen, but she's the prisoner of some military group looking for a payday from Oliver.

          She opens her eyes and stands up carefully, her head feeling heavy on her neck. Slowly, she looks down over herself. She's still in her wedding dress, which she figured out when she'd woken up, and is actually relieved when she sees that the dress doesn't seem ripped or damaged. She loves this dress and would really be pissed off if they'd torn or ruined it!

          Felicity finds that, the longer she stays upright, the better her head feels, and she wonders if they drugged her or if she got hit in the head. She does her best to scan over her arms before rubbing her hands over her neck, searching for a sore spot where a needle mark could be before moving on to feel her skull, finding no lumps or painful areas. When she doesn't find anything, she guesses that perhaps they used chloroform to knock her out. It would make sense considering that they had to know that she wasn't going to go willingly with them.

          As her mind clears and she works to remember what happened, panic starts to bubble up within her. Her heart starts to slam harder in her chest as images from the wedding come back to her and dread begins to fill her. There had been so much gunfire and she recalls seeing Dig and Roy fall during the scuffles with the masked men and gunshots… She thought Lyla had gone down too but Thea running over to her and grabbing her hand had drawn her attention away from her matron of honor. Then she'd ended up singularly focused on Oliver as he'd done everything in his power to keep her and his sister safe from the men who'd attacked them.

          The last thing she remembered clearly was being yanked away from Thea, screaming for Oliver even as she'd watched him fall to the ground after being hit by the leader of the masked gunmen. They'd dragged her through the carnage of the wedding and the mansion and then shoved her in a huge black SUV that was parked outside the front door. Inside the panel van, she remembered that she yanked one arm free and jabbed an elbow into the chest of one of the men holding her and then her head had been wrenched to one side, and then everything went dark.

          Her eyes slam shut as recalls the look on Oliver's face right before he'd fallen; anger, fear and frustration filling his eyes even as he kept fighting. She'd already been afraid when he'd been shot twice, and he was still struggling with the gunmen, blood seeping through his tux, but watching him fall had scared her horribly. He's her Oliver, the Arrow. The man that laughs at pain and doesn't let little things like getting shot or stabbed keep him from completing the mission. So having him fall and not get up... She swallows thickly at the thought but she knows in her heart that he's alive. But besides the fact that she knows he's survived worse, the men that kidnapped her needed him in one piece to get them their ransom money, which is why they'd taken her and not him.

          And she's also reasonably sure that she'd know if something truly bad had happened to him… if he was… dead…

          Felicity shakes her head, dislodging the dark thoughts but also aggravating her still scattered mind, forcing her to sit back down on the plain, military looking cot. She rubs her temples, trying to get her brain to fire on all cylinders and to focus on what she can figure out in the here and now of her situation. She can either start freaking out or she can use her intellect to try and find a way out of this mess or at least determine where she is, so if she can get a chance, she can somehow tip off Oliver.

          Slowly, she opens her eyes and she looks at herself once more, taking a more detailed assessment. She's beyond relieved that she doesn't feel any kind of pain or injury of any kind other than some aches in her wrists and arms. She notes some dark bruising around her biceps and realizes that it's where she'd been grabbed when the men hauled her away. The light reddish marks around her wrists that look to be from zip ties. She expects that they did that after she was out and they must have cut them after they'd moved her here.

          She looks up at the door opposite her and recalls suddenly that she has no idea of where exactly "here" is.

          Narrowing her eyes, she stands up and heads to the door opposite her, her hand flying to the handle of the door. She wrenches the handle and it barely moves in her hand; she isn't surprised to find it locked. What would be the point of having a prisoner if you left the door open? She examines the knob more closely - it's a handle style door knob with a flat nickel finish. It has no key hole or any screws, which means she's not going to be able to pick it or otherwise crack the casing open to get the knob off. Her eyes move to the door frame and she notes that the hinges aren't on this side, so that means knocking the pins loose as an escape option is out.

          With a frustrated sigh, she turns away and really starts to catalog the room carefully. There's nothing much in the room itself other than the cot and there are no windows or what could even be boarded over windows, so she guesses that she's in a room that is possibly either inside a warehouse or other industrial building or it could be an interior room of a residential location. She presses a finger to the wall next to the door and notes that the white painted walls aren't fresh, so she knows this place wasn't built or set up in the last twenty four hours… whomever took her has been planning this for a while.

          That thought makes sense; they were way too prepared to have not been planning for a while. If it was her sending Dig, Roy and Oliver out on a mission, she would have taken all the precautions as early as possible. Which means that this place has to have been leased or bought a while ago, which means a paper trail. If she was in the lair, she'd be looking for recent purchases, leases or even building permits to areas…

          She stops suddenly, realizing that she was just assuming she is still in Starling City. She has no idea how long she's been out. It could have been hours, maybe even a day, and who knows how far they have taken her from her home, from Oliver.

          Her hands fly to her face as she feels herself start to fall apart, realizing that she could be anywhere, and that, even though the men that took her said they wanted her as collateral, there's a possibility that they were lying and that, even if he pays them what they want, she might not make it back to Oliver. She fights hyperventilating at the thought and forces herself to put it behind her… she will get home, somehow.

          She blindly walks a few steps to where the cot is and sits heavily, her head falling farther in her hands as she lets herself panic a bit. This was not how this was supposed to go.

          It had been hard to even get to this point with Oliver. Every little bump in the road - any real or perceived threat to her life because of his alter ego and her support of that job - had made him try and step back from them. She'd done everything she could to keep him from running once he'd finally realized he couldn't keep hiding the truth from her or himself on how he felt.

          Of course, she'd had her own roadblocks too, and it had been hard to let herself believe him and let him past the walls she'd put up after Russia, Sara and the "I love you" and everything that came after until they'd both succumbed to the inevitable.

          A harsh chuckle breaks past her lips as she thinks of her ramble on the beach at Lian Yu following that declaration and how she'd called them unthinkable. How wrong she was in her denial.

          God, all she wants to go home and wrap her arms around him right now.

          Suddenly, she hears the door knob start to turn and she jumps up, anxious of what will be on the other side of the door. Heck, for all she knows, it could be Oliver, Dig and Roy to the rescue…

          The door opens and instead of a rescue party, a man with caramel colored skin, slicked back hair and a neatly trimmed beard walks in, wearing a suit and tie. Her eyes widen, shocked at how civilized the man looks. He closes the door behind him and stares at her before giving her a small grin.

          "Ms. Smoak, I'm glad to see you awake and well. You have my apologies for this... inconvenience," says the man, and she immediately recognizes his voice as the leader of the gunmen.

          "I want to know if they're alright," she demands, not acknowledging his words as she finds herself more angry than afraid now.

          If he's surprised that her first words aren't a question about where she is or a demand to let her out, he doesn't show it. He just looks at her calmly.

          "Your fiance is alive, as are most of the wedding party and guests. However not everyone was so… lucky. I would recommend you focus on your own continued well being right now."

          The veiled threat doesn't go unrecognized, but she's too furious right now to care, so she takes a step forward, using every ounce of righteous outrage within her as she replies, "You need me alive if you want your money."

          "True," he replies as he slides his eyes up and down her in a manner that makes Felicity's skin crawl, "however I did not say you would return to Mr. Queen… intact."

          Felicity's breath catches in her chest as she tries to keep her mind from generating all the horrific things that single word could imply. She knows she's afraid and this would be the perfect moment for a nervous ramble but she needs to try and be calm. She keeps her lips pressed tightly together even as she tries her best to stare him down.

          After a long minute he gives a smile and a chuckle that make her shudder before he lifts his arm, bringing up a plastic bag.

          "I've taken the liberty of bringing you some things to make your stay a bit more… comfortable. I doubt you want to ruin your lovely gown by wearing it until we resolve matters with your fiance. And I'm sure you are hungry."

          At that he hands her the bag. She takes it, automatically looking inside where she finds a set of basic blue medical scrubs, a pair of hospital socks, two bottles of water and some energy bars. She brings the bag up to hold it protectively against her chest. He hasn't moved and she suddenly worries that he might be expecting her to change in front of him. He raises a brow and smirks before taking a step towards her, making her step backwards, her legs hitting the cot behind her.

          "I'll be taking my leave to let you get changed, but, before I do, I'll need that," he says, pointing to Felicity's hand.

          She looks down and realizes he's looking at her engagement ring. The custom ring Oliver gave her has a two karat, emerald cut diamond flanked by two one karat, triangle cut emeralds set in a platinum band. She had never asked him how much it was worth, knowing that if he'd told her and she'd argued the cost of it, he would have simply shrugged and told her money was no object when it came to her.

          Now though, she finds herself wondering what it's worth since this… mercenary seems interested in taking it from her.

          "Why?"

          "Consider it a down payment on your continued well being until we begin the process of negotiations with your fiance."

          Frowning, she holds the bag tighter to her chest with her arms even as she pulls the ring from her hand and drops it in the man's waiting palm. He wraps his hand around the ring and smiles.

          "I'll be back in a while. It will give you a chance to change and eat. As you can see… you have some… facilities for anything else you might need to do."

          His eyes flick to the covered bucket that she'd barely noticed before and realizes that it's her toilet, and she noticeably balks. He gives her a wide smile that makes her feel dirty before he steps to the door, turns the handle and leaves. There's an audible click as something outside locks and then silence.

          She drops the bag on the cot and fishes out the clothes. She slips the shirt on over her head and then steps into the pants and pulls them up under her skirt, carefully hiking them so not even a single sliver of skin shows. Once covered by the scrubs, she reaches under the shirt to unzip her dress and it pools at her feet on the bare concrete of the room's floor. Bending down, she picks it up and carefully folds it, setting it at the foot of the cot.

          Sitting beside her dress, she slips the socks on, her mind recognizing belatedly that she must have lost her heels at the house or even in the van. She frowns but figures, if she can't find them, replacing a pair of $100 white satin heels isn't the end of the world. Once the socks are on her feet, she realizes that they were cold, pressed to the concrete and shakes her head, realizing how such a small thing hadn't even penetrated her mind considering everything else.

          She dives back into the bag to pull out a bottle of water, opens it and takes a long drink. Again, she'd been so focused she hadn't realized how thirsty she was. Her hand digs back into the bag and pulls out a protein bar. She's a little surprised to note that it's chocolate, and, when she flips it over, she notes that there's no nut products or warnings included. That means they did their homework before taking her. What good would she be to them dead from an allergic reaction?

          When she's done with half the bottle of water and the whole protein bar, she puts the empty wrapper and the bottle back in the bag and sets them aside. Her eyes study the room again, looking for any clue or vulnerability. She's been a member of Team Arrow long enough to know that one small piece of information can be the thing that makes or breaks a mission.

          She has no concept of time but, before she realizes it, the door opens once again and the same man returns. Standing, she watches as he pulls a generic looking, basic blocky cell phone from his jacket pocket and begins pressing buttons. A second later ,he lifts the phone to his ear and, a few more moments later, a smile creeps across his face that reminds her of Malcom Merlyn; it's a smile that sugarcoats a core of evil.

          "Mr. Queen. I hope I'm not bothering you while you're recuperating."

          Felicity feels her heart leap in her throat as she realizes that Oliver's on the other end of the line, and suddenly she can hear his voice even across the few feet separating her and her captor. Instantly she feels relief, knowing he's alive and the little voice in her head that had told her he might not be is silenced viciously. She knows that Oliver's more than likely shouting, and guesses that he's in full-on 'hood' mode.

          "She's right here," says her captor, looking at her. "No harm has come to her… as of yet. I'll let you speak with her for a moment."

          He pulls the phone from his ear and holds it out flat as he presses a button turning on the speakerphone option. Immediately Oliver's voice fills the space.

          "Felicity?!"

          A rush of love and happiness fills her bones at hearing him say her name.

          "Oliver! I'm okay. Are you alright? Dig and the others?"

          She hears in his voice the moment his fear turns to worry tinged with hope. "We're okay. Don't worry about us. I'll take care of everything and you'll be home soon."

          "I love you," she barely gets out before the man turns the speaker off and pulls the phone back to his ear. She wants nothing more than to grab it back from him so she can hear Oliver's voice again but she forces herself to stay still, not sure what kind of retribution the action would garner from the man before her.

          She can hear Oliver yelling again even though the phone is muffled against the man's ear once more. She shudders a bit as the man laughs lightly, the sound almost menacing. "Now now, Mr. Queen. I thought you were going to be reasonable. The price for your fiance's safe return is 250 million dollars. Now I am aware that this is quite a large sum, so I will give you forty eight hours to procure it. I'll call you in twenty four to make sure you're on track to securing it in the timeframe allotted."

          He moves the phone away and she can still hear Oliver's angry voice before the man disconnects the call. Smiling, he slides it back into his jacket pocket before he moves back to the door, his head turning to Felicity as he gives her a polite nod.

          "Thank you for your cooperation. We'll make sure that you continue to be fed, and I have no doubt that, when we call back tomorrow, your fiance will want to hear your voice again, so I will look forward to seeing you then."

          He lays a hand on the door handle, and Felicity considers rushing the door as he exits. She slides her foot ever so slightly towards him as he turns the handle and cracks the door open a bit. Then he looks away for a second, through the open space between the door and door frame, and she moves a bit closer. His head whips around and looks at her, a sympathetic expression crossing his face that startles her.

          "Oh, I forgot… I have a guest for you."

          He swings the door open all the way and her eyes widen even as her mouth falls open and her heart drops. Standing on the other side of the door, Slade Wilson stands and smiles at her.

          -end chapter 3-

         

 *Chapter 4*: Bait and Switch

 

          Felicity can't help but simply stare as Slade walks into the room, the other man leaving and closing the door behind him. Her brilliant mind is running in circles as she tries to comprehend what she's seeing.

          "Oliver's Felicity. It's a pleasure to see you again," he offers in a congenial tone, his Australian accent as thick as ever.

          Slade looks at her, his single eye assessing her even as she watches him carefully. He's dressed in a dark tailored suit, not the armor that she's had the misfortune of seeing him wear each time they crossed paths before. In a way, it scares her more, because she can't see the weapons on him when he's dressed like this. And she worries that it's not a good thing.

          But her head is busy trying to figure out how exactly Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke, is here, wherever here is, and why he's here.

          "How?" she blurts out, her mouth saying what she's thinking before consulting with her brain.

          He gives her a smile as he moves towards her, and she unconsciously moves away. She'd like to think that, in the nearly five years she's worked with Oliver, she's gotten braver, but, like The Count, she still sees Slade Wilson in her nightmares. And now that nightmare is very real and stalking towards her in the small room that she's caged in.

          "No hello, no how have you been? Such poor manners, Ms. Smoak."

          Felicity fights the disbelieving look that she wants to give him, but knows she doesn't quite succeed when he laughs low and disturbing, prompting memories of a blade against her throat to resurface.

          "I believe you met my new friends? I was very fortunate. I was languishing in that hellhole your 'fiance' dropped me in, when an al Qaeda terrorist cell made landfall, looking for a new base of operations in the China sea. They happened on ARGUS' little resort and found me. And I was more than happy to offer my services to them in exchange for passage off that rock."

          She stays silent as she warily watches him, listening to how he speaks of his last meeting with Oliver and his time in the prison on Lian Yu. She can't help but be afraid of this man, who had been locked up in ARGUS' supermax in no small part because of her. He paces in front of her, looking her over as he speaks. She knows the shock is showing on her face. How can it not… Waller never said a word about him breaking out.

          "So, you're surprised to see me then?"

          Felicity's lower lip has caught in her teeth as she forces herself to not blurt or ramble anything. Slade laughs again and reaches a hand out towards her, his fingertips coming precariously close to the ends of her hair before she flinches backwards and he laughs. She hadn't realized that she'd let him get that close to her, and she rushes to move several more feet away from him.

          "Let me guess, ARGUS forgot to send you a memo I was out, huh?"

          When Felicity refuses to reply yet again, Slade only laughs once more, stepping back and tugging on his tie, straightening it, and seemingly comfortable with what she's starting to feel is a cat and mouse game, with her as the squeaky rodent.

          "What do you want?" she finally forces out, her hands balling into fists beside her, fighting to keep her voice level even as her arms shake.

          Slade's eye widens slightly and he gives her a malicious grin and a look that makes Felicity's blood run cold.

          "Oh ho, you don't know! So the kid didn't tell you about our talk when he stuffed me in that cage? How unsurprising. He was doing a lot of hiding things from you back then," Slade says in a confiding tone.

          Felicity's eyes narrow and her head tilts ever so slightly, the action an unconscious one as she tries to see if he's lying. With Oliver she almost always knew if he was pulling a fast one on her. The fact that he couldn't come up with a cover story to save his life was one part of it. The other was that somehow he had problems not telling her the truth. So the idea that Oliver had lied to her for the last three years about Slade seemed improbable.

          Of course, lies of omission… that is another thing altogether.

          "You seem confused. You see, while he thought that he'd somehow transcended his killer ways by leaving me alive, it left me with a great opportunity to revise my original plans. I promised him as he shut me up in that dungeon that I'd be back. And I keep my promises."

          Slade turns his back on her for a moment as he lets his hand scrub over the goatee that he continues to sport. For a second, Felicity wonders if maybe she could make a run for the door before he could catch her, but he swings back around to pin her with his gaze, his face twisting up with anger.

          "You see, I had a lot of time to sit and think after he stashed me away. I know that he set up that little declaration in the Queen Manor for my benefit. He set me up to take the bait so you were in the perfect place to stab me with that injection of the cure. But see, the thing was, I watched the video feeds that night. I saw his face when he told you why he wanted you to stay there, that I'd taken the wrong woman and that he loved you."

          Felicity eyes narrow slightly as she waits for Slade to get to whatever point he's trying to make.

          "I knew he wasn't lying when I saw his face. It's why I took the bait, so to speak," Slade explains with a growl. "But at the time… you didn't realize it, did you? He took you off guard, and then made you think it was all a ploy. But in reality, he wasn't lying to you that night."

          Her face must tell him that she hadn't known as he stalks towards her, her heart beating double time as she fights down her urge to flee even as several memories bombard her at once as he gets closer. But she's backed herself into a wall and she's overwhelmed by Slade's nearness, his words and her own swirling thoughts causing her to freeze in place.

          She'll remember to her dying day the shock she felt that turned to resignation when Oliver had told her he loved her at the same time as he pressed the cure into her hands, giving her the tool she needed to be the hero Starling City needed that night. That memory is quickly followed by the one of being held against Slade's chest, the feel of his sword pressed against her neck as she waited for Oliver and the signal to strike even as fear laced her bones.

          After that, things had been a big blur until that moment on the beach on Lian Yu when she'd tried to make sense of what still didn't make sense to her. And Oliver hadn't exactly been forthcoming with an answer that day. It hadn't been until a year later that Oliver had confessed the truth of his words that night, but at the time, no, she hadn't known.

          "A year? It took him a lot longer to wise up and tell you the truth than I would have given the kid the patience for," says Slade, making Felicity cringe in embarrassment as she realizes that she said the last of her thoughts aloud. "So you two had the long courtship, the slow burn so to speak. All the better for me. While you were figuring it all out, I had the time I needed to plan out in much more detail and see through my promise to him..."

          Slade doesn't finish his statement; he doesn't have to. Felicity knows what that original promise was… to kill the woman Oliver loves.

          Felicity feels like someone punched her in the chest and her mouth goes dry as she finally puts together the puzzle pieces. Now she understands why the kidnappers attacked the wedding. It was to hit Oliver where and when it would hurt him the most…

          But what she realizes suddenly is that Slade's wishes are counter to the goals of the kidnappers. They will only get their money if she's returned alive, and Slade wants her dead. They must not know, because she can't imagine they would have agreed to his plans to kill her.

          "So the kidnapping and ransom?" she finally says, trying to pull from him how much his partners are aware of his true plans.

          "Ah, yes… You see, my new friends are exactly who they say they are. They needed a large payday to continue funding their terrorist activities, and I had just the perfect billionaire to point them to."

          "You helped strip Oliver of his money. When he locked you up on Lian Yu in ARGUS' supermax, he didn't have anything. Why would these guys believe you when you told them to come after us? I mean, yes, sure, he's Oliver Queen and all but he took a long time getting his money and house and company back which you wouldn't have known about in a cell, and they should have known but…" Felicity says, her fear finally getting the better of her as she rambles on her train of thought before Slade's laughter cuts her off.

          "You are still so very delightful. I continue to be impressed by you," he says with a smirk and reaches a hand towards her face again, making her jerk her head away from him.

          "Well, you weren't all that impressed when I stabbed you in the neck, were you?" she spits out with more venom than she'd intended.

          She instantly knows that she's made a mistake when Slade's face turns dark and his eye glares at her with a hatred that she had only seen directed at Oliver. She's not sure that she likes being on the receiving end of that look.

          "Oh, on the contrary. I was more than impressed that I had underestimated not only Oliver but you as well. I'd thought you a damsel in distress, when you are a fighter. It was an error that I do not plan on repeating."

          Felicity stares at him, her arms wrapping across her and around her waist in a protective manner. He's realized that she's dangerous in her own way, which means that she needs to be careful around him. But she still is confused on whether or not the demand for the ransom is real, and if she's actually going to be let go...

          "So you want me dead, but your friends only get their money if I'm alive. How does that work?"

          "I'm going to let my new friends do exactly as we've agreed. They will bargain with Oliver and get their money. And when he comes for you… I will be waiting."

          He turns for the door, not caring that he's putting his back to her. He knows that she's not a threat in this circumstance.

          "You know he's going to stop you. He did it last time and he will again. And then Waller will find a different prison to drop you in, for good this time," Felicity states with every ounce of belief that she has in Oliver and her team.

          Slade pauses at the door, and she watches with rapt horror as his hand settles on the metal door handle and then grips it tightly, bending the metal. That kind of strength… it's Mirakuru strength. Her eyes blink rapidly as she tries to process what she's seeing. She stabbed him with the cure. She knows that. It's fact. But, somehow, he's found some Mirakuru or something and he's back to being super-powered. And now that she thinks on it, she wonders if that was what Slade offered up for his freedom. Besides promising to deliver them a billionaire who'd pay them handsomely for the return of his fiance, what terrorist movement wouldn't want to turn their holy warriors into super soldiers?

          And Oliver will have no idea...

          "I certainly expect him to try, my dear Felicity, and I am so very looking forward to it."

          With that, he slams and locks the door and Felicity lets herself slide down the wall that she's closest to. She realizes now that, not only is she's in a lot more trouble than she thought, but that, if the team, if Oliver isn't prepared, they might not walk away from this alive.

          - end ch 4 -

         

 *Chapter 5*: Marshalling the Forces

 

          The second Oliver loses the phone connection with the kidnappers and Felicity, he finds himself swearing under his breath in Russian, "Blyad'," before he forces himself to focus on what's important - getting Felicity back however he has to.

          Mind now going into mission mode, he realizes that his first priority has to be getting out of the hospital.

          "Dig, find my doctor and get him in here. I need to get out of here now."

          "You up to that?" asks his friend and partner in crime-fighting.

          "If necessary, I will take more than the recommended dosage of pain meds to be able to move, but yes. I've survived worse. And I need to start making calls to the lawyers who handle the Queen Family Trust to start liquidating whatever I can to get that money."

          "I'll get the doctor, and then it'll be up to you to sweet talk your way out of here," Dig replies before he heads out of the hospital room, which leaves Oliver alone, his thoughts all centered on what steps he needs to take to get Felicity back.

          The next six hours saw Oliver fighting with every doctor, nurse and administrator that Starling General could throw at him in their attempt to keep him there. He'd barely been out of surgery for twenty-four hours and the idea that he wanted to be released had not sat well with anyone other than Oliver and Dig. It takes him executing an "Against Medical Advice" form, threatening legal action and promising to work with his own family physician off-site to finally get him out the door.

          Signing the last form, Oliver gives a satisfied grin even as his attending physician sighs and turns to leave.

          "I'll get the car. And stow these too," Dig says, indicating the set of crutches leaning against the wall.

          Oliver grimaces at the thought of needing them, but, once he starts self-medicating, he'll just toss them aside and push through any pain. What with the replacement joint, his knee's probably better than before, he just needs it to heal faster. Which means he'll need some herbs on top of the pharmaceuticals.

          Once Dig leaves, Oliver swings his legs off the bed, hand pressing against the stitches in his abdomen to stabilize it. He fights a small hiss of pain and knows he'll need Dig to bandage his middle tightly once they're back at the mansion to help deal with the ache.

          Reaching to the end of the hospital bed, he grabs the pair of loose cargo pants that Dig was wise enough to bring so he can pull them up over the knee brace. Just as he's about to try and figure the logistics of getting them on with both the pain in his abdomen from the surgery and the unmoving knee, the door swings open, his sister appearing in the entryway.

          "You're leaving? How the hell did you convince them to let you out of here, Ollie?"

          "Let's see, threatening legal action seemed to be the most effective, and I kinda mentioned my fiance had been kidnapped and I needed to get home to pay her ransom," Oliver tosses back with a slightly irritated voice. He looks down at his pants and then up once more to see the hurt expression on her face. He should know better than to act like this with her. The days of her leaving with Malcom might be in the past, but the trust and honesty issues still lie beneath the surface with their relationship.

          "Hey," Oliver says quickly, reaching out a hand to her which she rushes to take. "Everything's gonna be okay. The kidnappers called and I spoke with Felicity and, while they're asking for a lot of money, I am sure I can swing it without us losing the house or the company."

          At his words, Thea's eyes widen. She's been spending most of her time with Roy since he finally woke up twelve hours earlier, but her near sister-in-law's well-being is important to her too.

          "You heard from them? You spoke to her? She's okay?" she asks, her voice quiet and emotional.

          "Yeah. It was brief, but…"

          Oliver fights down the lump that has suddenly appeared in his throat as he recalls that moment when he heard her say his name across the line. Part of him had been terrified that, if Felicity left with the terrorists, he'd never see or hear from her again. The fact that the kidnappers are being true to their word probably shouldn't surprise him, considering their stated goal, but the hard lessons he's learned with the island, with Slade, Fyers, Waller… he has a lot more reason to be sceptical than to be trusting.

          "You heard her voice so you know she's alive. That's good news, Ollie. It's what you need to focus on," Thea points out and he nods, acknowledging the wisdom of her words.

          Of course, he doesn't tell her that it's all that he's truly concentrating on… and that he's willing to go to any lengths to achieve that. Lengths that even after all these years she doesn't fully realize.

          "Dig said Roy's awake," Oliver says, looking to redirect the conversation.

          "Yeah. The nurses here are all being cool with me staying here with him. I know you'd probably be happier if I was sleeping at his place or at the mansion, but…"

          "I get it, Speedy. If it was Felicity…"

          Thea nods, knowing her brother does get it. The years she's watched him and Felicity together has convinced her that what they have is the real deal. Seeing him here without her, concerned for her safety, just drives that home for her even more.

          "Dig's gonna be here to get me so I can head back to the mansion and start working to get the money together for when the kidnappers call again tomorrow. And I kinda need…" he trails off, his eyes looking to the pants he was going to put on which are still gripped in one hand and his bare legs and knee brace where they hang off the side of the bed.

          "Oh! Yeah, sorry. I'll… I'll just go now. You'll call me and let me know when they let her go, right?"

          "Of course," he replies as Thea gives his hand one last reassuring squeeze before letting it go and moving to the door.

          As she slips out, Dig appears in the doorway, his eyes humorously taking in the still gown-clad billionaire and shaking his head as he realizes his friend's dilemma.

          "You know I don't get paid enough for this, right?" he says as he moves to take the pants from Oliver's hands and shakes them out, having dispensed with his sling earlier in the day, and puts the opening by Oliver's feet so he can guide the fabric up his legs and over the brace.

          "I'll make it up to you. Once Felicity is home, you and Lyla should plan a getaway. I'll pay and I know Felicity and I would love to take care of our godson while you enjoy some couple time."

          "Don't think I won't consider that. But let's get you out of here and her home first, okay?"

          Oliver nods and he pushes off the bed carefully to put his feet on the floor, using Dig's bicep for stability until he's in place. Taking the pants from Dig, he slips them up over his hips, over the boxer briefs and under the gown before he zips them up and starts to pull the gown away.

          Oliver grits his teeth as he throws the t-shirt on over his head, the stitches pulling a bit. Once he's dressed, he's shoving his feet in the loafers that Dig was kind enough to bring rather than shoes with laces and is moving to the door. As he opens it, one of the nursing staff, a pretty red-head who had been extra attentive to the famous billionaire is there with a wheelchair, and he sighs.

          "Hospital policy, Mr. Queen."

          He gives an acknowledging sound and sits down. Then the woman is pushing him through the corridors, Dig a step behind them. An elevator ride to the lobby and towards the back where Dig's got the car to avoid the press gets them to the back exit where Dig thanks the woman before Oliver's nearly lunging out of the chair and rushing to get in the back seat of the Bentley. Dig gives the nurse a smile and shrug before he heads to the driver's side of the vehicle.

          Once in the car, Dig turns to look at Oliver, the stress and worry about Felicity's well-being slipping through the cracks of his mask now that he's in the car and away from possible prying eyes. Seeing it lets Dig know that his friend is doing his best to hold onto any shred of control even as its been taken from him.

          "You hanging in there?" Dig asks as he starts up the vehicle and heads onto the roadway.

          Oliver nods absentmindedly, not really recognizing the question even as his mind is preoccupied with bank accounts, Felicity's welfare and the desire to fire off a quiver full of arrows into the men who took her.

          He knows his lawyers and bankers and the FBI will tell him he needs to be patient but he can't. The part of him that has been stabbed, shot, burned; that has done things no human being should ever do tells him that the only way to guarantee Felicity's safe return is to retrieve her with deadly force. And it's hard to ignore that voice. Listening to it kept him alive for the last ten years.

          "I want to go to the lair," he says suddenly and Dig glances up to the rear view mirror to see the fury that now has settled over Oliver's features.

          "I know. But it can't be right now. With you getting cut loose, there's a bunch of people that will be at the mansion waiting on you. Your lawyer already agreed to meet you in an hour to start the paperwork to free up the ransom money, but I'm pretty sure from what I heard from Lance that the FBI will be at the house by the time we get there. You need to deal with them first. Once you do your 'I want you to leave' thing with them and talk to your lawyer, we'll start making 'alternative' plans to find Felicity."

          "Alright. Also, I need you call Sara and ask her if she can come by. I know she's concerned about Nyssa, but…"

          "We can use all the help we can get?"

          Oliver nods, his eyes looking out the window as they get closer to the house. As they drive past the gates, he finds himself wishing Felicity was in the seat next to him, like she normally is. The longing to be able to see her, touch her, kiss her hits him in that moment like a freight train and he slams his eyes closed as he forces himself to breathe.

          The car stops and then Dig is taking the crutches from the trunk before opening the door to help Oliver out of the vehicle. Oliver has barely gotten his arms over the crutches when a pair of large black SUV's, their door panels emblazoned with the FBI logo, pull in behind them.

          "I hate when you're right," mutters Oliver as he fights his way to the front door, leaving Dig to deal with the Feds.

          Oliver finds the front door open, Raisa standing there looking pained, and he swallows hard to keep from letting all of his emotions show through. He needs to focus and letting Raisa comfort him is not going to help. He nods politely as he pushes past her, headed to the couch in the main living room, sitting down even as he tosses the crutches to the side.

          "Mr. Queen, I'm Special Agent Kris Veaco. I'm sorry to hear about your fiance, but the bureau is committed to assisting however it can," says the attractive yet business like Hispanic woman in the dark suit that greets him. In the entryway Oliver can hear the other agents that have arrived with her, intent on setting up their operation at the mansion.

          "Agent Veaco, I appreciate the bureau's assistance but I don't want it."

          Her eyebrows raise and her arms cross over her chest at his words but Oliver's too immersed in his plan to get rid of her to care that she's angry. Behind her,Oliver can see Dig smirking and he rolls his eyes briefly before returning his attention to the woman before him.

          "I can assume that means you've been contacted by the kidnappers then?" she asks, ignoring Oliver's previous statement.

          "I have. And I have no interest in possibly complicating my fiance's return with the FBI wanting to monitor my calls or track my movements."

          "Do you have a way to get the money they're demanding?"

          "Yes. So, unless you have a warrant to bug my home or otherwise camp out in my residence, I will ask you to leave."

          "We can help you, Mr. Queen," Agent Veaco says pleadingly, hoping to change his mind.

          "And I am telling you that I don't want your help. If you have other avenues of investigation you want to follow to catch these terrorists, that's up to you. But you will not be doing that from my home and endangering the life of my fiance. Are we clear?" Oliver says, putting just a little growl into the last sentence, causing Dig to move behind the couch and press a hand on his shoulder.

          "Crystal. I'll show myself out then."

          Oliver and Dig watch her stalk to the door and then hear it close. With a sigh, Oliver lets his head fall back against the sofa as his eyes close.

          "Did you need anything before the lawyer gets here?"

          "No. Just… call Sara. Have her go to the lair and start using the computers to see if she can identify the terrorist group. Once the searches are running, maybe we'll need to call in some favors…"

          Dig realizes that the favor more than likely will include contacting Amanda Waller and seeing what A.R.G.U.S. knows, and, while he rather dislikes getting into bed, so to speak, with Waller, she might just have the best information available, especially since they're down one IT hacker extraordinaire right now.

          With that thought, Dig pulls his cell phone out and starts to dial just as Raisa appears at the doorway to the living room.

          "Mr. Oliver. Mr. Lanning is here to see you."

          Oliver takes a deep, calming breath as the older man in the pinstripe suit comes in, carrying a briefcase. The man moves to offer his hand, which Oliver takes and shakes briefly before Lanning sits on the couch opposite him and sets his briefcase down on the large coffee table.

          "I was so sorry to hear about Felicity, Oliver. The firm and the company are just devastated. I understand how much you need, but I need to warn you now that the stock isn't what it was two days ago, but we'll make do," Lanning says as he opens the briefcase and starts pulling out papers.

          "I appreciate that, Stephen, but, even if I have to sell the house and the company to get her back, I will."

          "I understand. However, I think we can avoid that. I've brought a series of proposals for you to review. There's six options to come up with the $250 million in as painless a way possible," Lanning replies, handing Oliver a sheet of paper with the list he's worked up. "I'll tell you that I'd recommend the first option on this list as the most painless way to get the money you need. You won't have any issues with Queen Consolidated stock and the house is protected."

          As he reviews all the options, Oliver sees that some of the other choices include the proposed sale of a variety of properties he owns as well as the liquidation of a chunk of QC stock. He can see why those options with the property sales would be less financial risk and would get him the money, but he's immediately discounted them.

          "Everything you have here except the first option seem complicated. We don't have a lot of time," Oliver reminds the man.

          "I know. Those options would be tight. The only easy and fast way to do this is to follow my first option, which would force you to entirely empty out three offshore accounts, along with a larger stock sale. You'll still have control of the company, but…"

          "Do it," Oliver states authoritatively, halting the other man's words. "I need to have the full amount free and clear tomorrow morning before they call again. I can't be concerned about escrow on any of the properties being delayed."

          Frowning, Lanning takes the paper back from Oliver before searching through his briefcase. He takes four sets of papers from it and passes them to Oliver with a pen. Carefully, Oliver takes them and leans across the table. He feels his stitches again and reminds himself that he needs to get them taken care of soon. Flipping through the pages, he signs and initials until everything is complete. After passing back the stack he carefully sits back against the cushions as Lanning notarizes all the signatures.

          "I'll take these back to the office and get this started. I'll have a new account for you first thing in the morning for you to use in the transfer. And again, I'm sorry about all of this."

          "Thank you, Stephen. I'll expect your call in the morning."

          With that, the man closes his briefcase and stands, heading out. Dig pauses at the doorway then comes back in and levels a questioning look at his friend. Oliver shrugs and starts to get up.

          "Where are you going?"

          "I need to have you wrap my abdomen. The stitches are pulling and I can't worry about popping one with all this going on."

          "You want to tackle the stairs or do it here?" Dig asks, not even challenging his stubborn boss.

          "Upstairs. And I'll need you to give me the pain killers that I know you got from the hospital. When we go to the lair, I'll crush up some herbs to aid the healing process," Oliver says even as he moves to sit up from the couch, grabbing the crutches and heading to the staircase.

          "You realize that, if we go to the lair tonight, there won't be anything you can do, right?"

          Oliver gives him a deadly glare as they reach the foot of the stairs but, after a moment, glances away. It's the truth and Oliver knows it, even if he doesn't like it.

          "I still want to see what we can find, and I need the herbs."

          Dig nods and takes the crutches from Oliver, the younger man using the banister to aid him up the staircase. Once they reach the landing, Oliver's back on the crutches and moving as quickly as he can towards the door to his room. It's only as he turns the knob and pushes it open that he's confronted with the reminder that yesterday was his wedding day and last night was supposed to be his wedding night.

          The bed is strewn with rose petals and there're vases of roses along with candles all around the room. At the sight, Oliver's rocked back on his heels and comes to a sudden stop, his eyes slamming shut hard. This had to be Felicity's handiwork and she probably hadn't told the staff or Dig or else they'd have tidied the place before he'd gotten back.

          "Shit, Oliver, I…" Dig begins, seeing the room and the obvious pain that it causes his friend.

          "I know… you know Felicity… always wanting to surprise me," Oliver replies, his voice tight with sudden, unshed tears.

          "You have like a hundred rooms, we can…"

          "No. Just… pull back the covers and leave them on the floor. Raisa can deal with it in the morning. The rest can stay…"

          With that Oliver swallows heavily even as he lets the crutches drop to the floor as he forces himself to walk to the bed as best as he can with the knee brace. He welcomes the physical pain, using it to block the emotional tidal wave that the room is threatening to overwhelm him with.

          Dig rushes past him and yanks the top cover off the bed, letting everything pool at the foot. Then Oliver sinks heavily on the end of the bed, his head hanging even as his eyes close and he tries not to breathe in the scent of flowers mixed with the smell of Felicity that clings to their room.

          Oliver knows Dig is watching him, waiting to see if this is the moment that he breaks, and he knows the other man only wants to help, but it makes him only ache more. He needs Felicity here. She's the one who fixes him, makes him better, keeps him from falling apart. She's the one who believes in him.

          And she's not there.

          He's a second away from standing up with a roar and sweeping his hands across the nearest surface, destroying anything in his path when his phone rings. Both he and Dig pull up suddenly, fearful that the kidnappers are calling early when Oliver realizes it isn't his phone, but the Arrow's. Which means that Captain Lance has been in contact with the Feds and knows about the ransom. Taking a deep breath, he thumbs open the phone, connecting the call, even as the voice modulator kicks in.

          "Captain Lance."

          "I understand Ms. Smoak's captors have contacted Oliver Queen with a ransom demand," Lance says in a no-nonsense manner that speaks again to how much he cares for Felicity and makes Oliver's chest hurt in a very painful way.

          "Yes, I'm aware."

          "I know he'll pay them, but… she's been a good ally of yours for so long, I just wondered if…"

          Oliver's eyes slide up to Dig's and the other man can see the tears that start to threaten the lashes. He has no idea what Lance is telling Oliver but he knows that it might just be the tipping point.

          "I was going to get involved?" Oliver replies, and, even with the voice modulator, he wonders if Lance can hear the fear and love in his voice.

          There is a long silence before Quentin speaks again. "Well, yes."

          "I can assure you, no matter what happens with the ransom they've asked of Queen, I'll make sure Ms. Smoak comes home in one piece."

          "That's good to know. If you need anything from me…"

          "The FBI is a bit of a constraint, Captain. If they were to somehow be kept focused away from any masked heroes in Starling City and their activities, that would be for the best."

          "I'll do what I can. And I know I don't have to tell you that I am certain Ms. Smoak knows you're going to make sure she gets home."

          With that, Lance hangs up and Oliver lets the arm holding the phone drop limply to his side. He looks up to Dig, Quentin's words having shattered the last of his control, and the first of many tears break loose and slide down his face as he finally lets himself feel the absence of the woman he loves.

          -end ch 5-

                    

 *Chapter 6*: Monsters Rising From the Deep

 

          Oliver wakes to the sound of knocking on the door to his bedroom. He groans and rubs his hands over his face even as his head starts to clear. Then the last thirty-six hours all rush at him at once and he's throwing the covers aside and jumping up to get to the door, moving as best he can with the damn knee brace on.

          Swinging the wooden door open, he's not surprised to find Dig on the other side, cup of coffee from the Queen kitchen in hand. Oliver gives him a tight smile before taking it from him.

          "Did you get any sleep last night?" Dig asks worriedly as he walks into the room, looking over the mess of bedsheets and the comforter still bunched on the floor at the foot of the bed.

          Oliver takes a large gulp of the coffee, glad that its not scalding hot, as he turns away from Dig, not answering the other man as he looks for his phone on the bedside table. Dig continues to follow him and he snatches up the phone, thumbing the screen open and looking for a message from Lanning. There's nothing yet and. when he looks at the clock on the phone. he realizes it's just seven in the morning.

          "Lanning get the funds cleared yet?" Dig questions, glancing at the phone in Oliver's hand.

          "Not yet. He's probably waiting until the market opens this morning to complete the stock sale. We've still got… another four hours before I should be receiving their next call," Oliver replies, his voice thick with emotion at the realization that in just over twenty four hours from now he can have Felicity back in his arms where she belongs. "When they do call, I think we need to be in the lair, trying to see if we can pinpoint where it's coming from."

          "You think they're going to try and get the money but not give us Felicity back?"

          "I'm just… I want to be prepared for any eventuality. I'm more than willing to just pay them to get her back, but, if they try to double cross us, I need to be able to suit up and find her. You get that, right?"

          Dig nods and watches Oliver take another long swallow of the coffee. He can see the dark smudges under his friend's eyes and knows that, besides the physical pain, the last thirty-six hours have taken a toll on him emotionally.

          After Oliver's breakdown the night before, Dig had been there for his friend. He knew that Oliver knew he had his back and would help do whatever it took to make sure they got Felicity back. Then he'd insisted on having Raisa make Oliver some food while he re-bandaged and wrapped his abdomen. Dig had then watched Oliver eat something and then take the pain meds that he'd been sent home with. Once Oliver came out of the bathroom in his t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants and settled into bed had Dig taken his leave for the night.

          This morning though, he's wondering if he should have added a couple of sleeping pills to the meds he'd demanded Oliver take the night before.

          "You never answered my question. Did you get any sleep at all last night?"

          Oliver's shoulders slump slightly and he deliberately shoves the phone into his sweat pants' pocket before wrapping both hands around the coffee and looking at Dig.

          "Some. I know I had to have slept since I had nightmares. So, yeah…"

          Dig frowns, realizing that he should have expected this and had been so concerned about Felicity and things at home that he'd missed it. He swears under his breath and moves to rest a hand on Oliver's shoulder.

          "Look, I get it. But you talked with them and her yesterday; you know she's okay… we just have to hang on a little longer and then she'll be home."

          Nodding, Oliver finishes his coffee and sets the cup aside. Today, CEO Oliver Queen would have been on his honeymoon so there's no business to attend to. But he does need to get dressed.

          "Give me twenty minutes to clean up and get dressed. I'll meet you downstairs at the car."

          "You good to get dressed?"

          "The pain's a lot less since I took the medication last night. Once I get the herbs at the lair in me, I'll be better off, and I can dose up on the good stuff if I need to as well."

          Dig rolls his eyes but doesn't disagree. He turns and heads to the door of the bedroom, closing it behind him. As soon as the door closes, Oliver heads to the bathroom. He does his business and then turns to the sink. He can't shower with the brace or bandages, so he settles for a wet cloth bath and his deodorant. The short, spiky haircut he has along with the day old beard don't need much more than a quick splash of water and then he's brushing his teeth and heading to the closet.

          A suit is overkill today, but he needs to look somewhat professional. Throwing the doors to the walk-in closet open, Oliver swallows hard as he sees Felicity's half of the closet full of her dresses and cute little shoes and grips the wood briefly before he gets himself back under control. Last night was hard, and he'd let himself get overwhelmed and feel everything he'd been clamping down within him, but today he needed to get back to wielding the iron control over his emotions if he wanted to get through the next day and a half.

          Choosing khaki slacks and a pale blue button-down shirt, he tosses them on top of the sheets before snatching up socks and underwear and his favorite boots. He sits on the bed and changes clothes, bending and stretching carefully so he can get the clothes on without popping stitches or jostling his healing knee. Oliver somehow gets the boots tied and exhales loudly, trying to remember how the hell he had gotten into his boots and leathers back when Roy had busted his knee, and recalls with a small, bittersweet grin the memory of Felicity helping him, eyes screwed shut as she guided his feet and legs into his pants.

          Taking a deep breath as the recollection makes his heart pang, he shoves up from the bed, snatching up his phone and the Arrow phone as well and slides them into his pockets as he heads for his door. When he gets to the staircase, he grips the bannister tightly and slowly makes his way down the stairs. His knee feels okay, but he doesn't need to push it, so he doesn't.

          Almost the second his feet hit the hardwood of the entryway, Raisa appears with a travel cup full of yogurt, fruit and granola with a spoon sticking up out of the top along with another travel mug that smells of coffee.

          "Be careful, Mr. Oliver," she says with a sad sounding sigh, and he recognizes the unspoken request to bring Felicity home in the simple phrase. Without a second thought, he reaches over and hugs her briefly before releasing her to take the food and drink from her.

          "I will. Everything will be okay, Raisa. I promise. She'll be home soon."

          Raisa nods as Oliver turns to the door and finds Dig already in the driver's seat. Oliver climbs in the back and buckles up, sliding the coffee and yogurt into the cup holders. He looks up to see Dig's eyes in the rear-view mirror and gives him a knowing look and a slight nod.

          "Lair?"

          "Yes."

          Dig turns over the engine and then they're on the road. It's a short enough drive from the mansion to the outskirts of Starling City. As they drive, Oliver lets his mind drift a bit as they pass the edges of Starling City's upper residential district, huge houses and manicured gardens flashing by. It had taken them six months to get the whole mess with Stellmoor International and Isabel resolved. Once Oliver had been reinstated as CEO of Queen Consolidated, there had been more than a few issues that the team had to address at the company. Among them had been repairs and rebuilding of all of the QC buildings and businesses within the Starling City limits.

          When they'd begun reviewing the substantial list of repairs, Oliver's brilliant partner in crime had come up with the perfect solution for not just dealing with the needs of their day job, but also their night job location situation. And it was only fair, considering it had been her idea to blow the building up in the first place...

          As Dig pulls the car up to the gates of the rebuilt QC Applied Sciences building, Oliver can't help but smile at the memory of how Team Arrow's lair had been reimagined within his own company's building. While rebuilding the lair at Verdant would have been preferable and a lot easier, it had been compromised, and everyone had agreed that it wasn't wise to go back to the Foundry for a third time. It was just courting bad luck again. There had been a brief discussion about maybe moving to Oliver's 'back up' lair permanently, but it had been vetoed rather loudly and steadfastly by Felicity, and no one was willing to argue the point with her. So, as soon as they'd gotten QC back, she'd suggested adding a basement level into the blueprints on the site of the Applied Sciences division for a new lair, and it had made a lot of sense. Not only were they able to set up servers and lab equipment without anyone being the wiser once Felicity 'erased' the basement level from the public records and the servers at every company they'd hired to do the renovation work, a triple coded keypad and badge scanner allowed them to secure the area from anyone not authorized to access it.

          And it was the perfect location to give all of them deniable plausibility to be on the site at any time, day or night. Who wouldn't expect the CEO, his bodyguard and head of security and his new head of the Applied Sciences IT Division to go in and out of the building at will? When the team's relationship with Roy had been repaired, he'd been given a contractor badge and he was able to come and go from the building as well.

          Once Dig parks, he and Oliver get out and head to the side door, one that goes directly to the lair which sits directly under the main floor of the new Applied Sciences division. Dig swipes his badge and keys in his code to pop the door open.

          Dig pushes the door open and holds it as Oliver heads to the staircase. Oliver hears the door latch shut behind them as he slowly trundles down the stairs. At the base, he presses the button that turns on the power, lighting up the huge space.

          Felicity took the best aspects of the original lair and her renovations after the Undertaking when she had the place built. There's a large section that encompases the workout and equipment area: mats, archery range, weapons cases and equipment… and the salmon ladder, which is still in eyeline of Felicity's computer station that delineates the border between the two areas, the other half including the lab and medical facilities. At the far end, bathrooms with showers, a small kitchen and a single 'break room' with a cabinet mounted to the wall filled with cots and bedding inside, awaiting emergency situations.

          And, along the wall closest to the door, stand four glass cases instead of one.

          Oliver's green uniform is in the first glass case, closest to the door. Beside it is Roy's nearly matching outfit -jacket in a dark red, pants in black. The third case has the Canary costume, which hasn't been worn in a while. And in the last case there's a modified version of Oliver and Roy's gear with a jacket in a midnight blue. It has holsters rather than a quiver and knives rather than darts, but it's clear in looking at it that it belongs to the same team as the other uniforms on display beside it.

          After years of putting on Oliver's hood to cover for him, Felicity had put her foot down once the new lair was complete that the 'black driver' get his own, real secret identity, especially now that he had a family to protect, and Dig and Oliver had agreed.

          Moving to Felicity's work area, Dig pulls up the cameras and starts the searches running, feeding in every little piece of information and scrap of video footage that he has, to see if they could get lucky with some real intel on these terrorists who had Felicity. Oliver continues past him to the medical area, locating his herbs and taking a bunch in his hand, shoving them in his mouth as he uses the lukewarm coffee he'd brought from the car to wash them down, ignoring the taste that he's gotten used to over the years.

          "What time was Sara coming by?" he asks as he shuffles to the medical cart to check the supply of pain medication, looking over bottles and syringes set up in neat rows.

          "In the next hour. I texted her before we left the estate so she could take care of anything she needed to before coming over. I know she's been splitting her time between her family and the hospital and probably running low on rest too."

          Oliver nods, knowing that Dig probably didn't get that, but he's too busy holding up a bottle of Tramadol in his hand as he decides that he probably could use the extra pain relief and shoves a syringe in the top, drawing out a only semi-measured amount before shoving the needle into his thigh above the knee brace and pushing down the plunger.

          Once Oliver drops the used syringe in the medical waste bin and the partially full bottle of narcotic in the medicine locker, he looks up to see Dig's knowing gaze and stares back. He needs to be on his game, and right now he's injured and limping. He doesn't have time for it. His first step towards the computer station feels a bit better, and, by the time he's sitting next to Dig, he's wondering what the hell he'd do without his herbs and modern medicine.

          "Do we have anything yet?"

          "No. We don't really have a lot to work with," Dig points out, showing Oliver all the searches he has running - NSA and FAA no-fly lists and alerts, CIA chatter logs, Starling City traffic cameras along with Felicity's back door access to the SCPD's incident and CSI lab reports. As of yet, they have nothing that gives them a terrorist group name, pictures or location.

          With both Oliver and Dig injured, they're limited on how they can blow off steam as they wait for Sara to arrive, unless one of the programs indicates a hit or for the kidnappers to call before she shows. They both gravitate to the weapons lockers and, while Dig cleans his guns, Oliver starts looking over his arrow supply.

          When the door above them beeps loudly, they know Sara has arrived.

          Sara walks down the stairs, her eyes taking in the lair as if she hasn't seen it before, but it has been a while. She'd come back to town when the team had needed her with Malcom Merlyn, but had left once two years ago.

          "I still can't believe Felicity got you to agree to build your secret hideout under your own company's office building," she says with a smirk, glad to see Oliver in one piece as she hits the floor of the lair. Then she moves across the space to hug him tightly, and Oliver returns the comforting embrace as she whispers, "We'll get her back, Ollie."

          "Well it's a lot better than that hole in the wall Oliver was hiding out in before," Dig remarks with a grin, standing up as Sara releases Oliver to give the other man a hug as well.

          "Still, it kinda feels weird having to be a QC contractor to get into a super secret hero base of operations," she remarks, holding up the security pass on the lanyard around her neck. "Like you've gone corporate legit or something."

          Dig laughs and Oliver fights the grin that wants to split his face. Instead, he focuses on the dark bruise along Sara's jawline and the small cuts along her brow that he knows she got fighting with the terrorists at the wedding. His throat goes dry and he swallows hard before he reaches over and grabs her hand tightly.

          "How's Nyssa?"

          Sara gives him a tight smile and squeezes his hand back. The person she loves is going to be fine and she's been at her bedside for the last two days. Oliver, however, doesn't have that same comfort, and she slides her eyes to Dig briefly, seeing the understanding there before she focuses on Oliver once more.

          "She's good. She'll be out of the hospital soon and, once she gets back to Nanda Parbat, they'll fix anything still needing to heal."

          "I'm glad she's going to be okay. I…"

          Before Oliver can finish, his phone rings, and his hand drops hers as he digs in his pocket to see that it is his personal line, and that the number is blocked. His heart jumps in his chest as he quickly swipes his phone open and connects the call before the second ring ends.

          "Hello?"

          "Mr. Queen," the voice begins and Oliver quickly points to Dig as he switches the call to speakerphone even as Dig runs to start the trace. "I assume you're feeling better now that you've been released from the hospital. I'm sure the familiar scenery of your home is a comfort to you."

          Oliver tenses at that, realizing that Dig was right and the kidnappers have been getting information from the hospital. But that seems to be the limit of their knowledge as it sounds like they think he's still at the mansion.

          "I've got your money. Now I want to speak with Felicity."

          The man hums on the other end of the line like he's considering it and it's all Oliver can do not to squeeze the phone in his hand too hard and crack the plastic casing. Sara lays a hand on his wrist, doing her best to remind him that he needs to keep his temper in check.

          Just before Oliver speaks up to remind him that he will get nothing if anything happens to his fiance, the phone line seems to disconnect for a second before the voice he longs to hear fills the lair, "Oliver?"

          "Felicity! How are you doing? Are they treating you well?" Oliver asks rapid fire, eyes glued to the phone screen as if he could see her face through the device, his eyes watching the call time, hoping that Felicity can stay on the line long enough for Dig to get a trace.

          "I'm okay. I just… I keep thinking about the first time you said you loved me and if I understood. I hope you understand what that night meant…"

          Dig and Sara look at each other, their faces displaying confused looks as they turn to Oliver who seems stunned. But he realizes he needs to keep speaking to her, to try and figure out what she's trying to tell him with this strange, out of the blue comment.

          "I do… I love you," Oliver replies, his heart full even as his mind feels jumbled.

          "I love you too…" Felicity says, her voice sounding strained, and then she quickly adds, as almost an afterthought, "Oh, and tell Roy he can get back what he lost that night too, although he'll probably need those anger management classes again."

          The non sequitur throws everyone, and then a sudden quiet yelp is heard from Felicity as the lead kidnapper yells, "Enough!" just before the speakerphone disconnects.

          "Felicity! Felicity! What did you do to her?" yells Oliver, concerned that the sound of pain he heard her make was some kind of retribution for something she was trying to tell them. Oliver, Dig and Sara all stand closer together as the sole voice of the kidnapper is all they can hear now.

          "Your fiance is alive, just be prepared to give us our money. In twenty-three hours I will call back and tell you where to bring the money."

          Before Oliver can say another word, the call ends and they all look at one another. Oliver's face is a mix of anger and confusion while Dig and Sara stare at him with stunned expressions.

          "Dig, did you get anything?" Oliver asks quietly, fearing the worst.

          "Nothing," Dig replies sadly as he looks over and sees the flashing "No match found" message flashing on the computer screen before he looks back to Oliver. "Okay, we didn't get her location, but I'm not the only one here thinking that Felicity just tried to tell us something with that weird conversation, right?"

          "The first part was pretty clear," Oliver says, making Sara look his way even as Dig sighs.

          "When was the first time you said that you loved her?" Sara asks.

          "The night we captured Slade in Starling City."

          Sara catches her breath as she realizes just when Felicity was referring to. But why she was pointing out that moment…

          "I meant what I said to her that night, but, at the time, Felicity didn't know that. She thought I was saying that I loved her to set up Slade. I asked her if she understood when I passed her the injection arrowhead to take him down."

          "But why would she reference that night in a call when she's being held by terrorists wanting a ransom?" asks Sara, more than a bit confused.

          A sudden, horrible thought hits Oliver, making him sway on his feet before he lets himself crash into Felicity's chair. Dig moves to his side immediately, hand on his friend's shoulder, thinking perhaps the abdominal injury has ruptured but, when Oliver looks up at him, it's not pain but terror that he sees in the younger man's eyes.

          "Dig, call Waller. I need to know that Slade is still in lock up," Oliver says, his voice flat and disbelieving, causing Dig to flinch involuntarily.

          "You don't think…" begins Dig, even as he's pulling away, hand reaching for his cell phone.

          "Yeah… I do. Why else would she mention that night? Remind me what I asked her to understand? I set her out for bait to get Slade, for him to come and take her. Everything about that night was about him."

          Dig steps away, dialing Waller. In the three years since he and Lyla had held Amanda at gunpoint, their professional relationship, while not exactly adversarial, has not become friendly, but it is decidedly better than the one Waller has with Oliver. As Dig speaks quietly into his phone, Sara moves to stand beside Oliver's right side.

          "You think Felicity was trying to tell you something about Slade?" begins Sara before they hear a loud 'fuck' that comes from Dig's direction.

          "Oliver," Dig says, anger evident in his tone as he quickly joins them "Amanda admitted that four months ago they started having problems with the prison at Lian Yu. They were getting strange messages and perfunctory reports from the guards there. When they finally decided to send some people there last week to check it out, they found that only one guard was still alive and he was being held by a few of the men who took over the place just to communicate with A.R.G.U.S. so no one would suspect that the prison had been attacked. Oliver… Waller confirmed it; all the prisoners are gone, including Slade."

          "Shàngdì gāisǐ", Oliver swears in Mandarin even as his fist slams into Felicity's desk.

          -end chapter 5-

         

 *Chapter 7*: What Was Once Lost

 

          "God damn it is right, Ollie," says Sara, slightly under her breath, as she slides to sit on the edge of the desk beside him.

          Slade's free.

          Dig and Sara glance at one another before turning their attention to Oliver. His head rests on the fist he'd just slammed into Felicity's desk and they both know that his fear for Felicity has increased exponentially now that he knows Slade is loose. The real question is how exactly he's involved.

          "Do you think Felicity learned about him escaping Lian Yu from the terrorists? Or… are you thinking he's somehow involved?" questions Dig, trying to pull Oliver from his pain and guilt and back into strategy mode.

          Dig's words cause Oliver's head to rise slowly as he turns in the chair to regard the two people that he trusts like few others. The moment that Felicity had reminded him of Slade and that night he'd used her as bait set his emotions in a turmoil. Now, realizing her words were a warning, he knows that his one-time friend must have something to do with this or Felicity wouldn't have said anything until she was safe and back with him.

          "I can't believe that this is a coincidence. Waller only learning that Slade was missing a week before the kidnappers attack the wedding and take Felicity. No, this is trademark Slade Wilson…"

          "So… he's there? You think Felicity saw him? That he's behind this?"

          "I am sure of it. I can't imagine she'd go to such lengths to get us the message now if it wasn't vital to her well being, and ours. It just makes too much sense..."

          Both Dig and Sara watch Oliver, the expressions on his face giving away everything he's feeling. The fear, the anger, the helplessness and guilt all war for prominence on his face. When the anger gives way to determination, they know that Oliver's done what he has to; compartmentalized everything but the mission once more. Which is good, as they still have another mystery to solve.

          "Okay, so we figured out that the I love you bit Felicity said was a warning about Slade. But what the heck was the rest of that about Roy?" questions Sara.

          "I have no idea. …" tosses out Dig, trying to to make sense of Felicity's strange comment about Roy as well.

          "It has to tie in with her other message," remarks Oliver, his eyes closing as he rubs his hands over his head, scrubbing his hair and face roughly.

          "I wasn't there for all of that night. I know he went out there with all of us, got his mask and fought with us. The only other thing I recall was that Thea left him, but they're together now," muses Sara before she adds, "And anger management classes?"

          Oliver pulls his hands from his face as his eyes widen and he swings his gaze to Sara, causing her to catch her breath. Both of them have distinct memories of Slade following his injection with the Mirakuru on the island. The mood swings, the anger, the rage all escalated in the subsequent weeks, culminating in the man that had attacked Starling City.

          "The cure," states Oliver, looking to Dig now, knowing that his partner will recall the agonizing decision they'd made in the clocktower.

          "Roy had issues before, but the majority of his anger issues happened after he was injected with Mirakuru. We tested the cure on him that night," explains Dig, since Sara wasn't there when they'd used the potentially lethal Mirakuru cure on Roy.

          "So you think Felicity…" replies Sara, trying to wrap her head around the reason for Felicity's mysterious statement again before a painful sounding roar leaves Oliver's lips as he stands, his fists clenching at his sides.

          "I think she's talking about there being more Mirakuru," says Oliver, his chest constricting painfully as he fights not to hyperventilate, panic seeping into his bones at this turn of events.

          Dig's eyebrows raise and he looks distraught at the suggestion Oliver's proposing, "But there is no more Mirakuru. We dosed everyone with the cure that night. Roy, Slade and his soldiers," he replies, his voice adamant.

          "If Slade's there, and involved, why else would she say it if not to tell us that he has the serum again? The idea that Roy 'could get back what he lost' - that's the strength from the Mirakuru," Oliver asserts, more sure of his hypothesis as the moments pass. He knows Felicity almost better than himself. He knows that she wouldn't provide them with a clue like this unless it was not only critical but true.

          "Maybe it was to reinforce the Slade connection?" tries Sara, hoping against hope that perhaps Oliver misunderstood his partner and fiance's meaning.

          "But why bring in Roy? And suggest he could get back something that he lost? She could have just as easily mentioned something else about Slade, like the visit to the mansion with my family, or Thea's kidnapping. Both of those things could have worked without the Mirakuru connection."

          "Oliver, with Slade, Roy and the others all cured, there's no one to get blood from to make the formula again," points out Dig, albeit not as forcefully as before.

          "Slade used his blood as well as Roy's to create the serum the last time. If he had some blood stored from before the night of the attack on the city and was only just now able to get to it to synthesize a new batch of Mirakuru, he'd have what he needed to get his strength and healing back," Oliver says finally, playing his ace; the memory of seeing Roy hooked up to the machine in the warehouse, his blood being used to create Mirakuru to fuel Slade's army, still haunts him some nights.

          Sara and Dig both go stock still. The idea that Slade could have stored his own blood before the assault on Starling City that night, and only now, that he'd been freed from Lian Yu could he go back and reengineer a Mirakuru serum…

          "Oh my God," starts Dig, his mind assessing everything that's happened in the last few days as he comes up with a truly terrifying realization, "did we take down or really injure any of the terrorists that attacked the wedding?"

          "No, we didn't. There were bodies, but none were the gunmen," Sara acknowledges, shock showing on her face now as she recognizes where Dig's going with this.

          "I remember it felt like punching a wall. I just thought I was imagining it, but…" Oliver adds, his tone filled with dread as he sees matching looks of horror on Sara and Dig's faces. "So Slade gets in bed with these guys and asks them to do him a favor… kidnap Felicity…."

          "And in exchange, he juices them up," Dig replies before swearing, "Shit. If Felicity hadn't said anything…"

          "We'd be going into this blind," confirms Oliver. No matter what the circumstances, his partner was always watching over 'her' team...

          "Do you think they realized what she was telling us?" Sara questions, concern for her friend evident in her voice.

          Oliver throat works' convulsively as he tries to swallow the lump that's lodged itself there as he recalls the yelp Felicity gave when the kidnapper had cut her off. He fights to not think of what kind of repercussions she might face at the hands of a Mirakuru-enhanced Slade or any of the terrorists if they figure out what information she'd been able to relay to them.

          "I don't know. Maybe. But the kidnappers have to know that they can't hurt her if they want their money. Slade, however…" Oliver starts, but falters as memories of watching Slade hold Felicity to him, sword blade poised at her throat, roll through him, making him shake before he pushes the image away forcefully.

          "Look, she's given us a lot of information that we need to act on," says Dig as he moves to clasp Oliver's shoulder in his large hand. Oliver looks up and recognizes the concern for Felicity in Dig's eyes. A look that he knows is mirrored in Sara's as she moves to stand with them.

          "Call Cisco at STAR Labs. See if he and Caitlin still have the formula for the cure. I know that they couldn't make more before, but maybe now…" Oliver suggests, then remembers some random discussion one day with Felicity after the attack on Starling City. At the time, Felicity had hypothesized that, if Cisco could have had more time, they probably could reverse engineer the Mirakuru from the remnants in the bloodstream of a formerly infected person.

          Which meant…

          "Tell Cisco and Caitlin they need to go to Starling General and take Roy's blood. They can use it, whatever notes they already had on the cure when they had the Mirakuru sample and make an new batch."

          "Didn't Felicity say that Cisco needed the Mirakuru to make more cure before?" asks Dig, surprised at Oliver's directive.

          "That was before. They've had time to play with the formula, and, if what Felicity suggested about reverse engineering was anywhere near valid, and you and I know that she's always right Dig, then using Roy's blood could be just what they need to do it!"

          "Okay," agrees Dig as he turns and calls Cisco. He'd heard that he and Caitlin, along with Iris and Barry, had headed home to Central City after they spoke with the police during the investigation into the attack at the wedding. Now though he'd have to hope that they'd be able to turn around and quickly come back.

          As the phone rings, Dig stifles a laugh at the idea that two of the people who are friends and colleagues with the fastest man on the planet couldn't get to Starling City quickly.

          "What can I do, Ollie?" asks Sara as Dig starts speaking to Cisco.

          "Call Barry. Tell him what we know and ask him to be on call. I think we're going to need his help," says Oliver, as he feels his phone vibrate as a text comes through. Knowing that the kidnappers haven't ever used that method of communication, he delays reaching for it.

          "What about the League?" questions Sara. "With Nyssa and myself here…"

          "There's no way they could get here in time. I suspect that in twenty two hours, when the deadline is up and the terrorists working with Slade give me the time and place for the exchange that everything will happen way too fast. We have to rely on the allies we have here and now."

          Nodding, Sara fishes out her cell phone and scrolls through her contacts, finding the listing for Barry Allen. Felicity had inputted into her phone directory during her last visit to Starling City when Thea had thrown her and Oliver a surprise engagement party. Felicity had said that she wanted to be sure that, if anything ever happened to the team, Sara knew who else she could reach out to for help. Then she'd introduced her to the mild mannered man from Central City, who had looked like he was just out of high school, and recalled one of Oliver's more colorful rants about the young man that had made him question just what his feelings were for his blond IT girl.

          With Dig and Sara both occupied with their own calls, Oliver searches his pocket and pulls out his cell phone, finding a text notification on the screen. Opening it, he sees that Lanning has completed the stock sale and the $250 million is now in an account at Starling National Bank. All he needs to do is say the word and Walter will sign off on the withdrawal and Lanning will have the cash delivered to him at the mansion.

          Fingers of ice thread through Oliver's limbs as he sends back instructions to have Walter clear the funds and have the money packed up in cases for delivery at the mansion before the end of the business day. If he has the money in hand, ready to turn over to the kidnappers he's hoping that perhaps he can convince them to honor their agreement and return Felicity to him..

          Once the text is sent, Oliver knows that they're running out of time. The kidnappers have one last call, which will give him the location and time of the meet, but he can't help but replay Felicity's words, and ponder the true meaning behind them…

          When he'd locked Slade up on Lian Yu, he had thought that he'd buried another threat to Felicity's safety… The Count, Slade, Malcom… the list continued to grow even as he kept locking them away. It wasn't until he realized that they'd never be safe that he'd allowed himself to admit that keeping away from Felicity for her own well-being was a paradox. As long as Felicity was alive, Oliver would be afraid for her life, and staying away from her forever was impossible.

          So he'd broken down and decided that he could be with someone he could truly care about.

          He'd finally crossed that line and spent the last two years building a live, loving this remarkable woman - his partner and friend. And just when he'd thought he was going to get that impossible 'happily ever after' Slade had struck. He'd had three years, stuck in his cell, waiting until now, this perfect moment, to get his true revenge. He'd figured out that, while Oliver had used Felicity as "bait" all those years ago, he did truly love her. So he'd plotted and, only now that losing Felicity would truly, completely devastate him, Slade had acted.

          Oliver folds in on himself, his hands cradling his head as he leans forward onto his legs. Unless he can get the cure, unless he and Team Arrow and Barry can stop Slade and his allies, he really could lose Felicity.

          And if that happens, he won't survive.

          -end chapter 7-

         

         

 *Chapter 8*: Staring Down the Beast

         

          "What did you tell them?" screams the man, his eyes narrowing.

          "I didn't say anything! I don't know anything!" Felicity swears, doing her best to let her fear of this man cover for her lying.

          Her kidnapper swiftly moves and, before she knows it he's slapping her hard across the face. She's dazed for a second before she scrambles backwards across her small bedroom sized cell, her back hitting cool concrete before she realizes she's moved that far. The force of the hit she's taken lets Felicity know now that Slade has traded the secret to his strength with these terrorists. She had suspicions after seeing Slade crush the door handle, his super-powers restored once more, but now they're confirmed as she watches her kidnapper glare at her, his eyes wild, looking so like Slade's during his more insane moments years past.

          The man in front of her had mostly been engaging and calm when dealing with her and Oliver. Now all that reasonable behavior is wiped away in a second as the Mirakuru rage takes its place, and she finds herself very afraid.

          "You were speaking code! You will tell me what you told him!" he spits out, his hands clenching and unclenching beside him.

          Felicity does her best to ignore the leaden weight that has suddenly appeared in her stomach as she faces him down. She had known that the phrases she chose to say could possibly be recognized as code; that they were rather bizarre in a lot of ways, but she'd also known that she had to take the chance. The second she'd gotten the second message out she'd realized that she might have pushed too far. Now she knows that she has.

          "You were giving them information! I want to know what you said!"

          "You heard me! I didn't say anything; I don't even know where we are or anything that would help them find me!"

          "You mentioned a man's name, not your fiance's… why was that so important?" he all but growls at her as he closes in on her, caging her between the wall and his body.

          "I've spent the last god knows how many hours locked up in this tiny room with nothing to do but think. Roy's had problems, and I thought I figured a way to help him; I wanted them to know and pass it on just in case you don't honor your agreement!" she insists, this time her anger and frustration getting the best of her, the emotions bleeding into her words.

          Her outburst earns her another slap, this one snapping her neck to the side, her temple smashing into the wall painfully. She raises her hands to her head reflexively, the pain radiating from her skull causing her eyes to water. When she feels wetness on her left palm, which is pressing against her mouth along with a sting of pain, she pulls back her hand to see red mar her flesh and realizes he's split her lip and maybe worse. Felicity prods at her teeth, looking to see if any are loose - she really hates the dentist and getting fake teeth would really suck when the angry kidnapper grabs her upper left arm roughly and shakes her, jerking her up to meet his eyes.

          "You're lying!"

          "I'm not… really, I'm not… I, please, you're hurting me," Felicity begs, her eyes screwing up as tears cascade down her cheeks as she turns on every bad acting skill she's honed in the last four years to evoke a sense of pity from the man to persuade him to let her go.

          For a moment he seems horrified, and she wonders what she looks like; if maybe she's gushing blood or has a black eye or something. Whatever it is, it makes the guy drop his hand from her and back up a few steps, and then more, giving Felicity space once again as he now stands against the wall opposite from her.

          She breathes deeply, even as she pushes away from the wall, feeling a bit safer. Her face and head hurt like nobody's business but she can focus past it. Kinda.

          However her slight movement towards him has reignited the crazy in her captor and his face changes from concern to anger once again.

          "You're trying to deceive me. You're going to tell me what you told Mr. Queen, or I'll…"

          Felicity has only a split second to recognize the bunch of the man's shoulders before she throws up her hands and arms, and does what Dig and Oliver have drilled into her - defend herself at all costs. Then he's launching himself at her and Felicity steps into his charge and ducks under his grappling arms. She plants her right shoulder in his solar plexus and, using his momentum, levers him up and over her back, sending him slamming into the wall behind her with a sickening thud.

          Taking advantage of the sudden turn of events, she's instantly moving to the door. Her hand grabs the damaged handle and turns, and she smiles as it unlatches. She's hurrying, hearing the sound of the man's feet moving on the floor and knows he's headed for her, that she probably only has like a two second head start on him when she throws the door open. She just needs to figure out some way to get out; if she can just sneak through the building or find a computer or phone…

          But before she can even finish those thoughts and step over the threshold of the doorway, her escape is cut off by Slade's massive bulk.

          Her mouth falls open in a gasp as he swiftly reaches forward and grips her right wrist, clamping down tightly to the point of pain. She lets out a strangled scream as she feels bones begin to crack as he bends her wrist at an unnatural angle, forcing her to bend at the knee to try and alleviate the pain.

          "Ms. Smoak, you aren't leaving us already, are you?" he says in a congenial sounding drawl even as he looks down on her with menace.

          "Mr. Wilson, I'm sorry, I…" begins the kidnapper he rushes over to grab Felicity's shoulders with his Mirakuru enhanced strength, making her yelp as his fingers dig into her flesh.

          "It's not your fault, Azeem," Slade says pleasantly while he releases Felicity's wrist, which she immediately tucks protectively to her chest even as she tries ineffectually to claw at the hand on her shoulders with her other hand. "The first time Ms. Smoak and I had the opportunity to… spend any time together, I underestimated her as well. And paid dearly for it. As you have had that same lesson, I will expect that you will be more careful of her in the future. As it is, your deadline will be up soon, and then you and your faction will be very rich men."

          "We do everything in the name of Allah. Wealth is only a tool to smite the infadels," Azeem states even as he lifts Felicity into a standing position with a force that makes her bones grind together before he releases his grip on her.

          Slade doesn't reply but watches Felicity instead. When he finds whatever it is he's been looking for, he grins and reaches over to trace an index finger over her face, running it over bruised and bloodied skin, making her wince.

          "So, Ms. Smoak, what had you selecting to leave the hospitality of your accommodations so soon? I should hope that Azeem hasn't been too… rough with you."

          The suggested malice in Slade's voice washes over her like ice water and she finds herself involuntarily shuddering at the images that it provokes. It isn't the first time she's been held by a man who hated Oliver and had threatened more than just physical violence on her. When she'd been taken captive by The Count however, she wasn't the same person she is now. And her relationship with Oliver was vastly different. Then, seeing her hurt had upset him; now, she knows it will set him into a rage. One that few men would survive.

          But that's just physically harming her - threatening to strike her or shoot her. But she's sure that the underlying implication of Slade's words is way more dangerous than just that. It… it makes her think he was actually suggesting that this man would actually assault her in more than just a… physical manner.

          The idea makes her stomach roll within her, and she somehow tries to make herself smaller in Azeem's grasp. She knows that she'd fight, but the strength the Mirakuru gives Slade and Azeem isn't something she can overcome. If, god forbid, they were to… force themselves on her, she would be devastated, but she could survive it with the support of Oliver and the team. But once Oliver learned of it, these men would be facing The Hood in truth once again, and she'd be hard pressed to want to stop him from torturing them before murdering them.

          Felicity nervously watches Slade's face, looking for any sign that he will order Azeem to take such action or make a move towards her himself, but nothing happens. Her body shakes even as she fights to keep her mouth sealed shut and not let her fear overwhelm her. She just has to get through this and wait for Oliver. Because she know he'll get her home.

          "She was speaking in code, Mr. Wilson," Azeem interjects suddenly, breaking Felicity's train of thought and she flinches visibly in Azeem's grasp.

          She'd been hoping that Slade wouldn't find out because, while Azeem might suspect her words meant something, if Slade was to hear them, she's certain he'd recognize her words for the warnings they were.

          "Code?" Slade asks, his tone of voice curious.

          "She spoke to Mr. Queen strangely, recalling past events and asking him to pass on messages to others. It seemed suspicious, so I assumed she was attempting to pass him information in code."

          "Ah, well I would not be surprised at the resourcefulness of Ms. Smoak."

          When Slade doesn't ask anything further, Felicity lets loose a silent sigh of relief.

          "But, even though she doesn't know where she is and cannot relay to them her location, we should make some additional plans. Just in case," says Slade with a wide grin that Felicity doesn't like at all. "Ms. Smoak, we'll leave you to yourself for the moment, but, rest assured, we'll be back very soon to get you ready to see Oliver once again."

          "You have no intention of letting me live, Slade, just admit it," snaps Felicity, her fear suddenly gone as her righteous indignation on behalf of Oliver and the suffering he's taken because of Slade's crazy vendetta against him overwhelms her. "Azeem, you should know you're in bed with a man who doesn't care about you getting your money, he just wants to hurt Oliver, and he's using you to do it!"

          The anger that rapidly appears on Slade's face should scare Felicity, but her blood is boiling. This man has done so much to try and destroy Oliver that she now finds herself ready to poke the bear.

          "Do not trifle with me, Ms. Smoak," Slade spits as his hand shoots out to wrap around her throat, her eyes to widen at the action. "I will not let you undermine my plans. If you continue like this, I can guarantee that, instead of your beloved seeing you alive before he receives his justly deserved reward for his actions, he'll be finding your very well used body instead."

          Momentarily forgetting that her right wrist is in agony, Felicity's fingers start to claw at Slade's hand. She can feel her chest aching for air as his grip tightens around her windpipe. When the very edges of her vision start to go dark, she starts to panic that he'll really kill her now. Then, just as suddenly as the attack began, Slade releases her throat, and she crumples to the floor, coughing violently, her left hand rubbing at the abraded flesh of her neck.

          "I recommend that, before we return, you change back to that stunning wedding dress of yours. Don't want to leave that behind. And I know Oliver so liked seeing you in it at your interrupted nuptials. We'll be back very soon."

          Slade turns to the door and opens it, his eye pinned to where she's working on getting her breath back on the cold cement. Azeem quickly moves to join him, and the door shuts and locks behind them, leaving Felicity alone once more.

          She closes her eyes now that there's no one to see and lets the pain and emotional toll hit her, deep wracking sobs breaking from her as tears stream down her cheeks. Her brain feels overwhelmed from agony on top of the threats from Slade and she can't help but wonder what end game plan Slade has in store for her and Oliver.

          The fact that he wants her back in her wedding gown before they meet with Oliver again doesn't escape her.

          She'd planned to have the happiest day of her life in that dress and she'll be damned if Slade kills her in it just to destroy Oliver.

          Slowly Felicity eases herself up off the floor and she moves to the cot where the dress lays. Carefully sitting, she ignores it for now and looks to her most recent bag of supplies. Azeem had brought her another couple of water bottles and, this time, lemon protein bars when he'd arrived to call Oliver. She knows, she needs to tend her wounds, but there's not much here to work with. She contemplates jury rigging a brace for her wrist from the soft plastic of a crushed water bottle and the plastic bag but isn't sure she can tie it in place with just one hand, so she discards the idea. And without a mirror she can't really tell the damage to her head or face, but a light probing of her fingers against her teeth and cheekbone reveal nothing loose or broken.

          However she's pretty sure that she's rocking a minor concussion at the least.

          For right now, she can eat something and stay hydrated, because, when the time comes, she's going to be ready to act. The days of being the damsel in distress are long over. Between Dig, Oliver and Sara (when she was in town) training her to take care of herself, she isn't defenseless. If she can escape Slade, that would mean that Oliver and the tea wouldn't be focused on rescuing her and fighting Slade and his men.

          And she's bet her entire collection of Blu Ray DVDs that Azeem will try and doublecross Oliver. Slade has a plan and handing her back to Oliver isn't it.

          Chewing the protein bar slowly, she considers how this could go down. She knows that people were shot, that Oliver had ended up in the hospital, so how effective her team will be, she has no idea. But she has to trust that she gave them enough information to be ready and make a plan to get her out.

          It's just up to her to stay alive and help them however she can once she can.

          Fainting from hunger won't help.

          When she finishes the food, she washes it down with half a water bottle and tosses both into her 'trash bag' near the makeshift toilet. She's had to use it a few times since she got here and hated each time. But bodily functions aren't something she can ignore, and so she goes over and does her business, grimacing once she's done.

          Only then does she turn back to her cot and her wedding dress. Since she has no way to tell time, the last thing she wants to do is not be ready when they get back. The idea of them stripping her and redressing her makes her gag, and she refuses to let them degrade her any further than they have if she can help it.

          Careful of the shooting pain in her wrist and shoulders and the buzzing feeling in her head, she slips the dress back on over her scrubs. As soon as the skirt is covering her legs, she slides the pants off, kicking them off to the side. Next she does her best to secure the bodice of the dress under the scrubs top, zipping it up as much as she can with her good hand before pulling the loose top up and over her head, wincing at the jostling of her injuried body as she does so. She looks down at herself and sees the beginnings of bruises on her shoulders, and notes the matching one on her right wrist. Felicity figures that her throat and face probably look worse and she's kinda relieved that she can't see them.

          Of course once Oliver does… she's glad she won't be the one facing his blazing fury.

          Dressed, fed and ready to go, she finds herself now playing a waiting game. Sitting on the cot is comfortable, but the throbbing pain in her shoulders and wrist keeps her from shutting her eyes and resting no matter how much she'd love to lie down. Instead she settles on folding her legs up onto the cot, her slipper covered feet sitting on the blanket as she leans forward to rest against her knees, her arms loosely wrapping around her legs.

          When the sound of the door knob rattling startles her, she realizes that she had fallen asleep. Felicity jolts up, eyes focusing on the door as it opens, revealing Slade and Azeem. She's gotten used to them coming in with food or water for the call to Oliver but this time they've come bearing something less pleasant - several lengths of rope, a piece of scarf-like cloth and a metal chair.

          Instantly she knows what they plan to do with the items and she can't help the wash of anxiety and hope that war within her. She knows, no matter what, she'll be seeing Oliver soon now.

          "Ms. Smoak. If you would be so kind as to take a seat?" Azeem asks politely, as if he was asking her to sit at a fancy restaurant rather than submit to being tied up.

          Standing slowly, Felicity straightens and walks towards Azeem and Slade, and then sits in the chair, her back pressing straight and flat against the cool metal. Laying her arms along the rests, she watches Slade watch her as Azeem ties down her hands and feet.

          "I know you're afraid, yet you walk straight into danger for him, don't you?" Slade says quietly, tracking Azeem's progress even as Felicity stays stone still, making no attempt to move or escape. Like she'd done when he'd come for her three years ago. Ready to sacrifice herself for the man she loved. "You really are too good for him, Ms. Smoak. However I assure you that, where you go, Oliver will follow you shortly."

          Felicity fights back the lump that jumps into her throat as she imagines just that - Slade killing her like he had murdered Moira and Oliver having to watch that before Slade runs him through. But she reminds herself that Oliver is not alone and that she believes in him. He will save her, and himself, from this madman before her.

          "I'm going to enjoy watching Oliver throw you back into that cell on Lian Yu. Maybe this time I'll convince ARGUS to cement over the hatch," she remarks with a touch of venom in her voice and she's pleased when she sees a flicker of fear cross Slade's face before he schools it.

          "Gag her."

          Azeem roughly sticks the cloth in her mouth and ties it behind her head, and Felicity has flashbacks to lying on the floor in her office at QC after Helena had coerced her to hack the FBI database at crossbow point before tying her up and leaving her there. That time Oliver had shown up to rescue her and she trusted that he'd be there again.

          Immobilized, Felicity can only sit and watch as Slade nods to Azeem before reaching to her and resting both hands on her knees, leaning into her space, his mouth only centimeters from hers. Instinctively she rears her head back as much as she can, and Slade laughs, "Let's call your intended, shall we?"

          At Slade's words, Azeem pulls out his cell phone and dials, immediately setting the phone to speaker. It barely rings before Oliver's voice cuts through the small room.

          "Mr. Queen," says Azeem, his eyes staring at Felicity's seated and bound form. "Before we get to business, I want to inform you that your fiance has been… uncooperative as of late. I tell you this so you are not surprised when you see her next."

          Felicity's eyes narrow at Azeem, anger at his callous words disguised as caring concern making her want to punch the man, or get her hands on a computer and distribute his image to every single law enforcement agency so he can never do a single thing ever again. She knows he's doing this to provoke Oliver and she hates that Slade knows how much knowing Felicity has been hurt will kill him. With her gagged, she can't even speak to reassure him...

          "She was supposed to be unharmed!" yells Oliver, and she can hear the rage in his voice even through the phone.

          "Her well being was entirely up to her. She decided to break the rules and needed to be punished. However she's alive and in one piece. Do you want that to change?"

          "No," says Oliver quickly, his tone now deadly serious.

          "I expected not. Your fiance has agreed to behave until we can reunite you with her. To that end, you stated in our last call that you had our money ready to deliver?"

          "Yes. I have your cash."

          "Wonderful. Then you, alone, will come at 8pm tonight with the money to this address - 12 Masonry Street."

          "I want to speak with her."

          Azeem looks to Slade, who shakes his head no. Felicity isn't surprised. With Slade's end game nearing, keeping Oliver from hearing her voice will add to the stress that he's feeling. She can only hope that he's understood her warnings and is taking steps to prepare.

          "Ah, well, Ms. Smoak is indisposed at the moment so that will not be possible, Mr. Queen. However I can assure you that she is looking forward to seeing you in six hours."

          "You know if she's not there, you get nothing."

          "I am quite aware of that, Mr. Queen. But this is simply business for us, and we have no desire to break our contract with you. I do look forward to seeing you this evening."

          With that, Azeem cuts the call off, Felicity staring daggers at the man before her eyes slide over to Slade, who is now smiling widely.

          "Now then, Ms. Smoak. Let's get you ready to meet your fiance," Azeem says as he slides the phone into a jacket pocket, only to pull out a syringe. Popping the cap off the needle, he grins as he moves towards her.

          -end ch 8-

         

 *Chapter 9*: Secrets, Lies and Plans

 

          As the call from the kidnappers disconnects, Oliver jumps to his feet, fury radiating off him as he nearly hurls his phone across the expanse of his bedroom. The idea that these men, Mirakuru enhanced terrorists, would touch Felicity, let alone call him and tell him they've done it makes his blood boil. And he hadn't even been able to speak with her to verify that she is okay. That she hasn't been...

          "You don't think they…" starts an angry Dig, who moves to stand beside Oliver, knowing that his own concern for Felicity pales in comparison to Oliver's.

          "They want their money, so no, they're not stupid enough to kill her. But they're flexing their muscles, showing me that they can do what they want, that they can hurt her and still get paid… "

          "They gave you the meet location though. That means they plan to give Felicity back," points out Dig, hoping to calm the younger man with that fact even as he tries to do the same for himself.

          "We need to go to the lair. I need everyone there to build a secondary strategy. I'm hoping they're going to hand her over if I pay them," says Oliver, looking across his bedroom at the two large duffle bags full of cash that Lanning had delivered under armed guard, "but I don't trust that Slade hasn't convinced them to change the plan. I'm going to call Sara and see if she can join us there. Call Roy, let him know what's going on."

          Both men grab their phones and make their calls, Dig wandering outside into the hallway while Oliver stays in his room, speaking to Sara. When Dig raps lightly on the door frame to signal that he's done, Oliver's already off the phone and grabbing the first of the two bags of cash. Without a word, Dig joins him, moving to take both away from him, ignoring Oliver's pointed look to the other man's still injured shoulder.

          In seconds Dig has both bags in hand and is headed out the doorway as Oliver negotiates down the stairs. His reconstructed knee is still bothering continual activity, self medicating and his island herbs have been like rehab and have worked to reduce the ache. Outside he watches Dig stash the bags in the trunk before they climb into the Bentley and drive to the lair.

          Using the more discreet side door entrance, Dig hauls the two large duffle bags down the stairs, Oliver following behind him as quickly as he can. Dropping the bags near Felicity's workstation, Dig falls into the chair and pulls up the programs they've been running, looking for any new information before they have to craft a plan of attack. Oliver grabs up the vial of Tramadol and a syringe from the med cart and measures out a non-approved dosage. Without flinching, he injects the painkiller into his thigh above his knee and tosses the used syringe in the medical waste bin before rubbing the injection site, forcing the medicine into his bloodstream faster.

          He knows that, either way things go down today, he's going to need to be as close to one hundred percent as he can be. Walking over to the computers, Oliver looks across the screens, finding nothing of use before catching Dig's gaze. With a tight smile, Oliver grips Dig's shoulder and nods.

          "You know I can call Lyla to help too," Dig remarks, eyes fixed on Oliver's face, which is a mask of control.

          "Michael's your priority. I don't want both of you in harm's way tonight. As it is, I'd rather you sit this out too, but I know you won't."

          "Hell no I won't, and I'm glad I don't have to explain that to you. She's our girl and we'll both find a way to get her home."

          Oliver fights the half smirk at Dig's words but fails, sighing a bit at his friend's loyalty. He's just about to sit and review their next steps when the door to the lair beeps, prompting them both to look up, finding Sara and Nyssa coming down the stairs.

          "You okay?" Oliver asks as he greets Nyssa. The assassin looking none the worse for wear even though Oliver knows she nearly lost her ability to walk.

          "I will be fine. I am well enough to assist you with Deathstroke once more. However this time I suggest you take a more permanent approach to the situation," Nyssa remarks and Oliver can only incline his head in agreement.

          "Any news?" Sara questions, breaking the direction of Oliver's dark thoughts and he reaches over to catch and grip the hand she had begun to stretch out towards him.

          "Just the last call from the kidnappers. I wasn't able to speak to Felicity though."

          Sara and Nyssa trade a charged glance. Knowing that Slade Wilson is involved in Felicity's kidnapping and his need to destroy Oliver by taking away the person that means the most to him, the fact that the kidnappers hadn't let Oliver speak with Felicity raises red flags with them. Sara can tell that Oliver is doing his best to not consider that possibility.

          "You stated the mercenaries wish to be paid. You are using that as your logic for Felicity's continued well being?" questioned Nyssa.

          "Yes. They know they won't get the ransom if she's dead. They seem very focused on getting their money, so as long as Slade doesn't double cross them…" begins Oliver, before being interrupted as the door beeps again, prompting everyone to direct their attention to the basement's doorway.

          Dig's eyebrows shoot up as the door opens, surprised at the arrival of their final team member. He'd called Roy's phone and, at first, had gotten Thea. She'd asked about the ransom and Dig had supplied the basic information and asked to speak to Roy. Dig had explained to Roy the situation, but Dig hadn't expected the young man to be able to join them, especially with Thea watching over him so protectively following his shooting and surgery.

          When Thea walks down the steps behind Roy, Dig realizes just exactly how the younger man had been able to check out of the hospital without a fight with his girlfriend. He sighs and rubs a hand over his head before turning to Oliver, seeing the fury on his face at the realization that his baby sister has been brought into the world that he'd fought for five years to keep her away from.

          "Oliver," Dig begins quietly even as the younger man's stormy eyes slide from Roy to land on his sister, who's looking around the lair in surprise and awe.

          "Roy," growls Oliver, moving across the lair as quickly as his knee will allow him, the displeasure in his voice apparent to everyone.

          "She wasn't letting me leave without explaining and I wasn't not going to be here to help get Felicity back. If you have a problem with this, we can hit each other later. But really, Oliver, you should have told her ages ago."

          Before Oliver can open his mouth to yell at Roy, Thea steps between them, causing her brother to look down at her, only to find her staring at him with a mixture of pride and anger on her face.

          "Roy told me everything. I get why you were trying to keep it from me, but when I came back after leaving with Merlyn, you should have told me then," Thea states, her eyes narrowing in disapproval.

          "I didn't want you involved."

          "Yeah, well what you want sucks. I'm here and helping you get my future sister-in-law back. So deal with it."

          Around the siblings, the muffled sound of laughter erupts, and Oliver swings his gaze at the others, finding Dig smirking, Sara covering her mouth, Nyssa looking elsewhere and Roy smiling smugly. Knowing when he's outnumbered, Oliver sighs and lays a gentle hand on Thea's shoulder.

          "Okay. But we're going to talk about this later," capitulates Oliver before throwing a glare at Roy.

          "You bet we will," replies Thea as she surveys the room with a low whistle. "Nice digs. So, what are we doing?"

          "Finding a way to guarantee Felicity's safe return," Oliver begins, pulling his attention from Thea to his teammate, "Roy, did Cisco…"

          "Yeah. He came to the hospital and took some blood. He said he'd call when they were ready to go."

          "And how about you? Are you okay enough to go out there?"

          "I'm going. I'm just as stubborn as you are, and I've had three years of learning to ignore pain and push through it, just like you," Roy notes, pointedly staring at Oliver's knee, the right pant leg of his khakis bulking over the knee brace.

          "So, back to coming up with a plan," redirects Dig, deciding to bring the focus back onto the urgent matter at hand - rescuing their friend.

          "STAR Labs created a cure for the Mirakuru, the substance Slade Wilson had in his system three years ago," Oliver adds for Thea's benefit, "and while they don't have a sample of the serum anymore, Felicity had suggested that they could reverse engineer a sample from the remnants of a formerly 'infected' person's blood. Which is why we had them get Roy's."

          "Do you have any idea how long that will take? It's not like we have days," remarks Sara as she perches on one of the lab tables, Nyssa sitting in a chair beside her.

          "When Cisco took my blood, he made it sound like not only were they going to work around the clock but that they had notes and things from last time. And he said that Felicity had given them her thoughts on the formula after the attack on Starling that would help," Roy says, looking to Oliver with a small smile.

          Oliver feels the corner of his mouth tick up at the thought that his brilliant IT girl, partner and fiance had made sure to cover her bases if they ever had to deal with this. She hadn't just brought it up to him, but had already contacted STAR with her theories.

          "Okay, so once we have the cure, what then?" Dig asks, well aware that the cure was only a small part of what they needed to ensure they got Felicity back.

          "The kidnappers called and gave me a location and time for the ransom to be delivered. It's a factory on the outskirts of the Glades. We have three hours until the meet, and, while they didn't say come alone, it was implied," explains Oliver.

          "What about SCPD or the feds?" asks Thea, interjecting from her spot beside Roy.

          "Captain Lance and I, well, the Arrow, have an understanding. He's keeping the police investigation and the FBI away from us. And I already told Agent Veaco I had no use for the bureau," explains Oliver.

          A buzz from Oliver's phone draws him up short and he pulls the device from his pocket to see a text from Barry Allen reading simply, "open up". "Dig, open the main door…"

          Dig turns and keys in the code to unlock the secured entrance, and, the moment it buzzes open, a red blur flies through it, down the staircase and skids to a halt before the assembled team. Standing before them, dressed in his full costume with a steel briefcase, stands Central City's resident superhero - Flash.

          "Speedy delivery from STAR Labs," says Barry, holding the briefcase in his grasp out to Oliver.

          Oliver quickly takes the case from Barry's hands and pops the latches. The case falls open revealing vials and clear plastic bullets full of a blue liquid that he recognizes. He looks up to Dig with a smile before directing the grateful look to Barry.

          "Thank you."

          "So, any news on Felicity?" Barry asks, his voice raw and worried.

          "We're supposed to make the trade tonight at 8pm," replies Oliver, his hands gripping the case tightly.

          "You want me to stay around? I can help," Barry offers, glancing from Oliver to Dig and then to the others surrounding him.

          Oliver looks to Dig, then the rest of the team. He'd already considered asking for help, and now it was here and being offered without request or expectation.

          "I'd appreciate that, Barry. Really. Since I know stealth isn't really your thing, maybe you can wait here until we need you?"

          "Sure. Heck, I could go back to Central City and be back in minutes," he replies with a big grin, causing those who were in the know to smile even as Thea stands beside Roy with a stunned look on her face. "So, how are you getting Felicity back?"

          "I'm going to meet the kidnappers with the cash in a few hours, alone, as Oliver Queen," Oliver starts, rolling his eyes when he could feel the repressed laughter as he refers to himself in the third person, "while Dig runs search and disable protocols with the team on the building to locate Felicity. Either I hand them the cash and walk out of the building with her, or the team finds her and extricates her. Whatever it takes, she gets out. Is that understood?"

          Silent nods fill his vision line as Team Arrow agrees. "Barry, I'll need you as backup if for any reason we need to evacuate quickly. So I'll have Dig give you a comm unit so we can call you in. That work for you?"

          "Sure."

          "Okay, for everyone else - Sara, we have the blueprints for the building at 12 Masonry Street, so can you start reviewing those for entrances, exits, rooms, stairwells, etc. Dig, start loading up the bullets into any handgun clips we have, then start putting together the gear to go. Roy, you need to make injection arrows, like last time. Have Nyssa help you fill and mount them on whatever shafts we have loose. Once everyone's done, we'll go over assignments on the building infiltration."

          "What about me, Ollie?" questions Thea as Roy immediately grabs the vials of liquid from the case to fill arrowheads with Nyssa. "How can I help?"

          "Speedy, I'm going to ask you to do the hardest thing I can. I'm going to need you to stay here and wait for us."

          "But…"

          "But I need you safe and I know you aren't going to go home," Oliver tells her and receives one of her patented 'of course not, I'm not stupid' looks in return, making him grin. "Besides, you can keep Barry company."

          "That sounds like fun. I can tell you how I found out about your brother's secret identity and how I figured out he was in love with Felicity…" Barry interjects, causing Oliver to glare and Thea to grin happily.

          "Oh, that sounds like fun," Thea says brightly, before pressing her hands on her brother's biceps, "Ollie, I get that you want me safe, and I understand me staying put, but…"

          "It's just hard, knowing Roy's going out there, and me…"

          "Yeah."

          "Look, I know it sounds like I'm not letting you do anything, but… usually Felicity's here, on the comms, keeping us all on point. I'm not expecting you to do that. I know from first hand experience that you're going to have the hardest job of them all. Felicity always complains that she hates waiting here for us, knowing what we're doing or facing out there and not being able to help. Knowing you're here, safe and waiting for us to get back with Felicity means a lot to me. Can you do that for me?"

          "Sure, Ollie. I'll be waiting with the red speedster here. But you better hurry up and rescue your girl because it sounds like Barry's got a lot of dirt on you and I have no problem getting him to tell me all of the embarrassing stories," Thea replies with a smile before launching herself into Oliver's arms, hugging him to her. "Just be careful and bring my boyfriend and your future wife home, okay?"

          "Okay," answers Oliver, holding Thea tightly to him briefly before pulling away. Then he switches to mission mode, his face taking on a serious look and his body straightens as he bellows, "Alright, we've got two hours to finish prepping, and then everyone needs to suit up."

          With that Oliver moves to the glass case holding his costume, reaching up to grab the jacket and hood.

          -end ch 9-

                    

 *Chapter 10*: Brothers, Bullets & Blades

 

          When the members of the team finish their tasks, they gather to join Sara, Barry and Thea at the computer station, the map of the factory already displayed.

          "Any cameras?" asks Dig, moving to lean over Sara's right shoulder as she sits in Felicity's chair in front of the computers while Oliver stands at her left.

          "No," Sara replies sadly, "we're going in pretty blind. Even the surrounding two blocks seem to be devoid of any business security cameras."

          "Sounds like they planned their location perfectly," offers Nyssa.

          "Slade was always one for doing thorough reconnaissance…" remarks Oliver with a grimace.

          "There looks to be multiple doors and levels in the building," says Roy, pointing at but not touching the monitors, having been smacked more than once by Felicity for getting fingerprints on her screens.

          "Which is why we need to plan a strategic incursion into the building," replies Dig as he sizes up their forces and the structure they're infiltrating. "With Oliver on the main floor, engaging who knows how many terrorists, and the added issue of Felicity, we need to have all our bases covered."

          "Any thoughts?" questions Sara.

          "I'm gonna take the south corner, come in via the window on the third floor from the connecting building and set up a view line for the center of the main floor, here," Dig suggests, poking at the location with a finger, "Sara, you and Nyssa should take the lower level, entering from the east - that way you can sweep the floor without needing backup. Roy, I'm gonna have you come in the skylight in the western corner and clear the upper corridors."

          "But we're hoping we don't have to do any of this, right?" interjects Thea, her lips thinning as she frowns.

          "If we get really lucky, I give them the ransom and I get Felicity and leave," replies Oliver, looking at his sister with an expression of sadness, "but I don't think this will be that easy, and we need to go in with a plan."

          "Okay, then let's get going," Oliver says as he stands staring at the blueprints intently, since he's the one member of the field team that doesn't need to suit up.

          While the rest of the team goes to pull their costumes and weapons from their respective places and then quickly move to the back rooms to change, Oliver steps beside Barry and Thea at the computer station. When Thea slips in beside him, her hand lays on his forearm, eliciting his attention.

          "Ollie?"

          Oliver swallows hard at her tone of voice, so like that of Felicity when she sends him out on a particularly tough mission. He lets the memories swamp him for a second, his eyes closing before he opens them to look to his sister once more, forcing a smile as he covers her hands with one of his.

          "I'll be careful, Speedy, I promise."

          Thea rolls her eyes at him before pulling her hand from under his and smacking him upside the head, causing Oliver to startle as she smiles at him. "I was going to say, go, get her back, arrow them or whatever you need to."

          Oliver reaches over and hugs her tightly to him. He can't believe his luck that, just when he needs a voice of reason, Roy's spectacularly bad decision-making has brought him that. Maybe he'll actually have to thank him for finally ignoring his dictate on keeping Thea out of the secret.

          Turning from Thea, Oliver reviews his team and allies as they gather at the foot of the stairs. Sara's dressed in her Canary costume, her metal bo staff in hand, along with the duffle bag that Oliver packed with his own Arrow costume and weapons inside. Beside her, Nyssa is garbed in her League clothing, her own bow held at the ready.

          Roy exits the bathroom, suited up in his red hood, the dark leather of the jacket almost matching with Barry's costume. His mask hangs around his neck. He walks to Thea, his gloved hands catching her face between them before pulling her to him to kiss her softly.

          Oliver turns away, both to give his sister and her boyfriend some privacy, but also to force himself to not think of the many, many times he'd done the same with Felicity before heading out on a mission or a night's patrol.

          "Hopefully, we won't be calling and instead will see you soon with Felicity," says Oliver as he reaches out to shake Barry's hand.

          "No problem. Figure saving Team Arrow members is part of my job now, right?" replies Barry with a grin. "Besides, I need to catch up the new team member on the dynamic around here."

          Oliver rolls his eyes, knowing that Thea being caught up on the Team Arrow 'dynamic' is Barry-speak for telling her all the gossip she's missed. All this time she'd believed that he and Felicity had met and fallen in love due to their time together at QC. Once the full story reveals itself, he wonders if maybe his sister will now have a new respect for just what Felicity really means to him.

          "Dig?" calls out Oliver, glancing back to the 'living quarters' where Dig had been changing.

          "Yeah, all set," says Dig, walking out to join everyone, a black duffle bag with his gear over his shoulder.

          Smiling, Oliver reaches over to clasp a hand on his friend's opposite shoulder. Dig's uniform - the midnight blue leather and Kevlar jacket, the black reinforced pants and the basic mask - reminds Oliver that he really couldn't do what he does without his team. And, of all his team, his 'black driver' is the one person, besides Felicity, that he trusts more than anything.

          "Pack up and let's go," directs Oliver as he grabs up the two bags of cash and hauls them up the staircase.

          Quickly, the extended Team Arrow heads up the stairs, exiting into the night. Oliver opens the trunk to his car and drops the money in it. He'll be the most visible member of the team, going in as himself, so the Bentley makes the most sense. And, if he can get Felicity out with just the ransom payment, then he'll want to get her home in comfort.

          Roy and Dig place their gear in Dig's SUV, which Lyla had dropped off earlier in preparation for the mission. Sara and Nyssa load Oliver's Arrow gear on Nyssa's motorcycle, and then prepare to head out.

          Once Oliver turns over the Bentley and speeds towards the meeting place, the rest of the team follow, taking separate paths to be sure no one will see them accompanying Oliver Queen. The last thing they need is to find that Slade is keeping tabs on Oliver and is able to see the invading force coming.

          Less than fifteen minutes later, Oliver parks the Bentley at the identified location, the abandoned factory looming dark and foreboding in the late evening air, the weather almost crisp. He climbs out of the vehicle and shuts the door behind him, moving to the trunk of the car to remove the large military green duffle bags. Hauling them out, he slams the trunk closed and then reaches down to pick them up. He begins to methodically walk towards the main entrance of the building, doing his best to be calm even though inside he's desperate to see Felicity, while the rest of Team Arrow quickly close in from their predetermined approaches.

          "Team will be in position in thirty seconds," says Dig over the comms, letting Oliver know through the micro transmitter he's secreted in his ear to the point it is invisible that he's a go to enter the building.

          "I'm here," yells Oliver as he walks through the factory door, his voice meant for the kidnappers as well as his team, who he knows are probably inside the factory by now, watching and waiting.

          Silence greets him, and he feels his fear creep through his limbs. If Slade is going to double cross him, this is where it will happen.

          "Mr. Queen."

          Oliver's eyes swing to the sound, straining in the limited light to find the source of the voice. Suddenly he's hit with bright light, focused solely on him, and he slams his eyes shut since both hands are full of straps that he doesn't dare release. Oliver squints and lets his eyes adjust to the light and he sees a well-dressed man of Middle Eastern or East Indian decent sitting in one of two folding metal chairs in front of a plasma TV screen standing on a wooden table.

          But no Felicity.

          "Where is she?" Oliver demands, striding quickly towards the man.

          "Safe, for now."

          "I'm not giving you any money without seeing her."

          "Ah, but you will get to see her," insists the kidnapper as he holds up a plastic remote.

          "This is Guardian. Smoak is not with the leader. We need to execute the search and rescue plan. Fan out through the building and search for her while Queen deals with the leader," says Dig over the comms, a pair of military grade all-environment binoculars in his hands. "Expect the other terrorists to be armed and in strategic positions. Confirm - Arsenal?"

          "Got it," says Roy from his position on the catwalk on the western side of the building, dark red hood covering his spiky hair.

          "Canary?"

          "Confirmed, Guardian. Nyssa's with me entering in the east doorway. We'll begin the ground floor sweep around Queen's position. We also have Arrow's gear, ready to go," replies Sara.

          "Flash, are you tied in to the comm?"

          "I am, Guardian. Waiting on a signal from Arrow."

          Dig trains his binoculars back to where Oliver stands, focused on the man before him. Dig knows Oliver recognizes the voice of the man as the person who had taken Felicity from the wedding and has been contacting him since he woke in the hospital. He's presumably the leader of the terrorist group and Slade's ally.

          "I wouldn't expect you to make payment without proof of life, Mr. Queen. So you will have it," says the terrorist, smiling.

          With a press of a button on the remote in his hands, the television snaps to life, and on the screen is an image of a seated Felicity. Oliver's eyes zero in on her as he moves instinctively toward her, even though it is only a video feed of the woman he loves. He looks closely at her, taking in the ropes binding her to the chair, the gag in her mouth and the injuries littering her body. The furious growl that rises up from him rips the air even as he drops the handles of the bags and blindly turns and launches himself at the lead kidnapper, fists forming at his sides before he registers the action.

          He gets one punch in, sending the kidnapper backwards in his chair before the man swiftly stands and strikes him back. Oliver feels the Mirakuru fueled blow as he flies back a few feet to land hard on the concrete, his abdomen protesting the abuse.

          "Guardian, I have two bogies at my twelve o'clock. Can you confirm Mirakuru protocol?" questions Roy as he watches the two man patrol move along the far wall of the factory.

          Dig checks Oliver's position and sees the terrorist leader strike Oliver, sending him flying. He immediately recognizes the enhanced strength and knows that Felicity was right. Of course, he'd known that she was right all along, but still…

          "Confirmed. Use the arrowheads first before fully engaging. Canary, any targets on the main floor?"

          "Four targets identified. Initiating Mirakuru protocol and engaging," replies Sara quickly.

          As Oliver's hands lever him up immediately, the pain in his stomach ignored, he hears his team and knows they are engaging the enemy. He stands, knowing that his job has to be keeping his head and distracting the lead kidnapper in any way that he can so that he doesn't realize that his fellow terrorists are being neutralized by Team Arrow.

          "Do you want her alive or dead, Mr. Queen?" questions the man before him, brushing his hands over the lapels of his jacket in a bored manner, as if he hadn't just threatened to kill a billionaire's fiancé.

          "Alive," growls Oliver.

          "Then you should keep your hands to yourself. Now, the money?"

          "Here."

          Oliver waves to the two bags settled on the floor near them and the kidnapper steps towards his prize.

          "It's all there," Oliver says, even as the terrorist unzips each bag in turn, his hands sifting through the bundles of cash, looking at the embedded watermarks and security strips as he flips through the bundles, verifying the money is genuine.

          "I'm sure it is, Mr. Queen, but I am a thorough man."

          "So I noticed," says Oliver, doing his best to keep the man talking. "You laid waste to my security when you attacked my wedding, and you planned the ransom of my fiancé down to the last detail. I still haven't figured out who you bribed to know when I woke up at the hospital."

          "There are many people that need money Mr. Queen. I suspect that being rich makes you unaware what one would do to gain it."

          As the kidnapper continues to count the cash, Roy, Sara and Nyssa engage the terrorists they find, effectively deploying their supply of Mirakuru cure and their weapons, with Nyssa more often than not using deadly force. The element of surprise works in their favor, allowing them to silently take down any terrorists they come across as they search the building.

          While the others are focused on taking down the other terrorists, Dig puts his binoculars away and pulls a sniper rifle to bear on Oliver and the man in charge on the main floor. With no updates from the team, who are keeping radio silence while they fight, Dig has to hope that one of them will soon find a door with Felicity behind it.

          "If you had come looking for money from me three years ago, you would have found me just as desperate as the people you were dealing with to get your intelligence," remarks Oliver, remembering the dark days following the loss of Queen Consolidated, Verdant, the foundry… his home.

          "Yes, but now you're back to being Starling City's golden son, company saved and back on top," replies the leader, giving Oliver a satisfied, smug grin as he simply counts the money.

          Dig notes that all through Oliver's dialog with the man, he never says a word about Felicity's whereabouts, even though he now has his ransom. Years of situational awareness in the military tells him that there's something bad going on here.

          "Arsenal, Canary, do you have Smoak?" questions Dig in a rush when the terrorist starts to move towards the door.

          "Negative, Guardian. She is not in the building on the main floor," states Sara as she watches Nyssa put an arrow through the eyes of the last of the terrorist who they'd encountered.

          "Nothing on the upper levels either," replies Roy as he exits the last room on the second floor having already swept the third.

          "Oliver, she's not here," states Dig quietly across the comm, knowing that these four words are not what Oliver wants to hear.

          "You have your money. Now where's my fiancé?" Oliver demands, his hands curling into fists once more.

          "Ah, well, a friend of yours said you needed to work out an arrangement with him as well. So you'll need to deal with him if you want her back," announces the lead kidnapper, pulling a gun from a waistband holster at his spine that had been covered by his suit jacket and points it at Oliver as he begins to make his way towards the main exit, dragging the two duffle bags behind him one-handed.

          The double cross has happened, just like they feared that it would.

          "You aren't leaving with that money without giving me Felicity," growls Oliver just before the man shoots at him. Oliver dives to the floor, rolls forward and then tackles the man around the waist, sending them crashing into the concrete floor.

          They scramble across the floor, and Oliver releases one hand from the man, shoving it into the pocket of his khakis for the syringe with the Mirakuru cure. The other hand pulls the man's jacket collar, dragging him closer, trying to get the syringe close enough to strike with it when the terrorist slams the butt of his pistol into Oliver's head, forcing Oliver to sprawl on the ground, the syringe spinning from his hand.

          "While my friend had wanted you to suffer, I really have no desire to see that. We have our money, so you are now dispensable."

          Aiming the pistol at Oliver's head, he starts to pull back on the trigger before three consecutive shots hit him center mass. The man's shot goes wide as he falls to the cement, blood beginning to pool beneath him as Dig stands from his vantage point, his rifle loaded with Mirakuru cure bullets sliding back over his shoulder. Oliver hurriedly gets his feet under him just enough to kneel next to the downed terrorist, pressing his hands on his chest, trying to slow the bleeding long enough to get a single answer from the dying man.

          "Where is she?" screams Oliver even as the man's eyes fall closed as he lies on the concrete floor of the factory, his body starting to still.

          When Oliver shakes him, his eyes open slightly his pupils glazed over and his mouth opens slightly, a river of blood pouring out as his eyes shut and he shudders and stops breathing. Oliver shakes him harder and incoherently screams in his rage when he realizes that he's dead, and he now has no way to find out where Felicity is.

          He can't lose her… he can't.

          Then Dig is there, grabbing Oliver by the shoulders and shaking him. "We know that Slade has her. Don't give up. We'll find her. You saw her, she's alive."

          Oliver nods, standing and turning, looking at the huge space as his team steps out of the darkness into the light. Dig kneels, searching the head kidnapper's body, looking for any clue, yet finding nothing on the man except for Felicity's engagement ring. Swallowing hard, he palms it and stands, slowly making his way towards Oliver.

          "Did you find anything?" Oliver questions his team, who have swarmed around him, faces downcast.

          "Just bad guys. All of the offices or closets were empty," says Roy dejectedly as Sara and Nyssa nod silently.

          "Damn it!"

          "Oliver," says Dig quietly, and Oliver's head swings away from the others. Dig stretches out his hand and Oliver sees the light above them glint off something.

          He recognizes the diamond and emerald ring in Dig's palm. He's only seen it separated from Felicity after he'd put it on her finger when she slept or washed her hands. She complained that she didn't want to roll on top of it and end up with a square shape pressed into her cheek or have it slip off and fall down the drain. Now seeing it without her makes Oliver panic a little, and he takes it carefully, gripping it tightly, the gemstones and band cutting hard into his hand.

          "Look, so there were twelve terrorists here, which was the number that had been at the wedding. That means there aren’t any still with Felicity, wherever she is," Dig remarks, even as Oliver's attention wanes, fear and defeat taking up residence in his heart as he realizes that she's still in danger and now he has no contact with the people who took her.

          Oliver turns back to the TV and stares at it, realizing that it is still showing the image of Felicity tied to the chair. He concentrates on the area she's in, which is plain concrete and nothing more. It could be anywhere. If Felicity was on the other end of his comm, at the lair, he'd know she could probably track the signal, but they're limited without her...

          He can see the way that she breathes, fast and shallow, and worry spikes in his chest that she's in pain or frightened. Then a figure moves from off-screen and Oliver swears his heart stops as he watches Slade, dressed in his battle armor, sword in hand, walk into the picture. Behind him, the others stare at the sudden appearance of Slade Wilson.

          "So kid, let me guess, my friends and you had a falling out?" says Slade, making everyone jump as they hadn't been aware that the feed had sound.

          "Slade," breathes Oliver, his voice a deadly combination of anger and resolve.

          When Felicity's eyes widen and glance around the space as Slade laughs, Oliver suddenly realizes that Slade's turned on the sound where he and Felicity are and they can hear him now. Oliver grips the edge of the television as he studies the casing and the table that it's on, looking for a microphone, but then stops when he sees Slade lay his sword on Felicity's shoulder in a near mirror of that night three years ago.

          "Hey there, brother! Good to hear your voice again. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. Your lovely bride would be thrilled to see you, just like I would."

          "Where Slade?" yells Oliver, his hands clenching around the monitor.

          "You remember where we met last in your beautiful city… we'll be waiting there for you."

          "Felicity!" Oliver yells just as the picture cuts off and his fist slams down hard, cracking the plastic housing of the television set.

          "Where are they?" asks Sara.

          "The refinery. It's where he held Felicity and Laurel last time. He wants to replay what happened last time and he's got the upper hand since Felicity doesn't have the cure…"

          "Okay, we'll all mount up and take Slade on…" says Sara, reaching for the bag with Oliver's gear which she'd dropped to the floor before he cuts her off.

          "No, no one's fighting Slade but me…," answers Oliver, stunning everyone.

          "No," growls Roy, stepping forward and getting into Oliver's face. "I owe Slade. I didn't get a chance to pay him back last time. And if this goes south, Felicity would kill me for letting you tackle Slade alone."

          "Kid's right," complains Dig, moving to stand beside Roy, his arms crossing over his chest. "I signed on to keep you from throwing your life away and I'm still going to do that. You taking on Slade alone is suicide."

          "I'm not. Barry?" Oliver calls out over the open comm, and then there's a sudden streak of red and Barry is standing with them, his frown visible. When Oliver had asked him to stay at the lair in case they needed him, he'd hoped that they wouldn't...

          "Oliver…" starts Barry, looking at Oliver with a worried look.

          "You're going to come with me to the refinery, but all you're going to do is grab Felicity and take her back to the lair. Nothing else."

          "So you're really going to take on Slade alone?" questions Barry, surprised.

          "No, he's not," replies Roy again, his hands gripping his bow tightly.

          "Oliver," starts Dig, hoping to change his friend's mind before the man in question holds up a hand to stop any further objections.

          "Dig, Felicity is the first priority. And you all got a look at her on the TV monitor. She's hurt and I need you," Oliver says, placing his hand on Dig's chest, "to be at the lair and waiting to take care of her when Barry brings her back. Sara, I need you to call your dad and have him and the FBI come and pick these men up. Let him know that if any of them are alive and can still talk, the feds should interrogate them as quickly as possible, just in case there's more to all this. Nyssa should stay here with you while you wait for the SCPD to arrive."

          "Which means you're taking me with you as back up," states Roy, his tone brooking no argument.

          "You think I want Thea up my ass because you got yourself killed?" snaps Oliver.

          "Well, Thea's going to be pissed off if I let you rescue Felicity alone. And I'm going to get reamed by Felicity if something happens to you because I wasn't there to back you up," Roy raises his voice.

          There's a silent battle of wills as they stare at one another. Finally Oliver realizes that he owes Roy for more than a few things. He does deserve to face Slade after having been injected with the Mirakuru and then used like a guinea pig to create the Mirakuru soldiers that had laid waste to their city. But besides that, he knows that Roy is right. Both Thea and Felicity would murder him for being so foolhardy as to go in alone. Dig has a job, so do Sara and Nyssa… Roy is the best choice for backup and the person who most deserved a chance to take on Slade.

          "Alright, you can come, but you are not to engage Slade until Felicity is safe. Do you understand?"

          Roy nods his head, his eyes dark beneath the hood.

          "Oliver, what about Slade?" asks Sara and Oliver's eyes swing to the woman beside her. The memory of Nyssa's words that night three years back crystallize in his mind, and his understanding and acceptance of that fundamental truth reflects in his ocean blue gaze.

          "I'm going to do what I should have done last time. There's a time to be a hero and a time to be a killer. And this time, I need to be both."

          With that, Oliver steps over, takes the bag with his gear from Sara's hands and unzips the top, reaching in and pulling out his green jacket and hood.

          -end ch 10-

         

 *Chapter 11*: Cards on the Table

 

          Oliver and Roy make their way across town, taking Sara and Nyssa's bikes. They pull up to the refinery, parking the vehicles on the semi-paved space between the main refinery and the holding tanks along the railroad line.

          "Where are we going?" asks Roy as he takes in the huge facility.

          "I'm going in the door to the right. You need to go around to the back entrance, cut through the facility on the second level - I recall seeing a catwalk there last time - and wait for my signal. You do not engage until Barry leaves with Felicity, right?"

          "Got it, boss," Roy states, immediately heading off at a run to his entrance point.

          "Guardian, we're going in," Oliver says over the coms. "Have Flash ready for my word. He'll only have seconds."

          "Understood, Arrow. I have imaging on Arsenal heading to the secondary entry now. Flash is on deck, ready to go," replies Dig, back at the lair sitting at Felicity's desk running the electronic surveillance and coordinating with Sara and Nyssa off site, while Barry waits to join Oliver, Thea watching and praying that everything goes as her brother expects.

          The second Oliver pulls the door open, the dark, steamy corridor mocks him. He nocks an arrow, the bow held low, but ready to raise and fire at a moments notice. Deja vu hits him hard. He remembers walking this same path, heading to Slade three years past. But that time, when Slade held Felicity, she had the cure and the upper hand. This time, she's his only hostage..

          Oliver steps around the silent hallways, missing Slade's taunting voice. It had helped him find Slade last time, as well as gauge his level of insanity. Now, the silence scares him.

          Still, his memory helps guide him back to the same location, and he steps into the open space, the pipes surrounding this small area. Oliver's heart stutters to a halt in his chest as he sees Felicity, dressed in her wedding gown, hands zip tied in front of her and Slade's arm wrapped around her throat. Slade's other arm hangs loose at his side, an automatic pistol in his grip. Instinct has him whipping up his bow, his eyes sighting along the arrow as he puts Slade in his crosshairs.

          "So good to see you, brother," says Slade with a grin, his eyebrow raising over his eyepatch.

          "Slade," breathes Oliver as he slowly lowers his bow, the readied arrow directed to the floor as his need to protect Felicity overrides his desire to destroy Slade.

          "I see you have better sense than to keep pointing that at me while I have her here," Slade says, yanking Felicity closer to his chest, Felicity biting back a yelp when the movement jars all her injuries, the sound piercing Oliver more effectively than any weapon could.

          "Felicity," Oliver says, his wrecked tone belying his outward appearance of control.

          "Oliver," Felicity starts, but cuts off, her hands clawing at Slade's arm as he tightens his choke hold, making her struggle for air.

          "Enough, Slade!" yells Oliver, panic evident in his voice.

          The desperate plea from Oliver makes Slade laugh, but he easies the pressure off Felicity's throat. When she takes in a deep, coughing breath, Oliver finds he can breathe better as well. His eyes swing from Felicity's face to Slade's smirking expression, the man shaking his head in astonishment.

          "I knew you weren't lying all those years ago. She wasn't so sure, but she went along with it, didn't she?"

          Oliver knows exactly what Slade is getting at, but refuses to rise to the bait. He needs to give Roy time to get into position. Then he could get Felicity to safety and finish this once and for all.

          "Yet you finally fessed up. You admitted to her what I knew back then - that you loved her. More than you loved the Lance sisters. Shado may have died for one of them, but you'd destroy anyone and anything for her," Slade remarks, raising the hand with the gun and running the cool metal of the barrel over her cheek. "My ally, The Count found that out the hard way."

          Felicity's eyes widen at Slade's admission. Both she and Oliver had suspicions that Slade had been the 'mysterious benefactor' who The Count had alluded to that night at Queen Consolidated, but despite all her digging, she'd never been able to connect them. Now though it made so much sense; Slade using others to chip away at Oliver - The Count, Isabel, Blood…

          "I took down all of your allies, Slade. Then and now. And I'll finish you this time too," growls out Oliver, more determined than ever to make sure Slade can never come back to hurt those he loves.

          "You tried to kill me before and failed, then you got soft and let me live. Do you really think you have what it takes now to end me?"

          "I let you live last time because I needed to prove that I could be better than you trained me to be. That I could be a better man. If you saw that as weakness, that's your own folly."

          "I'd say I know exactly what weakness looks like, kid, and it's wrapped up in pretty satin and lace," says Slade, the gun now pressing against Felicity's temple, who bites her lip to keep herself from moving or calling out at the sensation. She simply keeps her gaze locked on Oliver, knowing that they'd find a way out of this. She trusts that he has a plan.

          "Arrow," says Roy's voice quietly over the comm link, "I'm in position. Waiting on your mark."

          Oliver lets his eyes close briefly as he takes a deep, centering breath. When he lets it out, his shoulders straighten and his eyes open to catch Felicity's, all the love he has for her visible within them before they turn hard and his attention swings to Slade.

          "You're right. She's my weakness. By being with her, I leave myself open for attack, for pain. But I realized something when you murdered my mother and tried to destroy everything I loved Slade. She's also my greatest strength. I wouldn't be the man I am today if it wasn't for her. And if not having her with me meant I'd end up like you - jaded, bitter, lonely, then I'll take the chance of losing her, because I'd be lost anyway without her."

          Slade's face goes dark with anger as Felicity's eyes begin to water at the outpouring of the heartfelt feelings from the man she loves. The gun scrapes across her temple hard as Slade turns the weapon on Oliver, his hand minutely shaking in anger.

          "I love you," Oliver tells Felicity, his eyes focused on the gun pointed at him, looking for and finally seeing his opening, calling out, "now!"

          Oliver quickly raises his bow and fires the still nocked arrow at Slade's feet. The impact surprises Slade and he stumbles back, his grip loosening on Felicity even as a sudden burst of wind fills the room following a streak of red.

          The Flash has arrived.

          Already off balance with the surprise of Oliver's ineffective attack, the near-hurricane gust of wind makes Slade stagger, his arm coming up to shield his eyes from the whipping debris, the pistol still in his hand. Oliver had lowered his head, his hood blocking the majority of the gusts assaulting them as he pressed his back against a set of the steel pipes for balance. Barry grabs Felicity, yanking her out of Slade's lax grip and he's gone in an instant, racing her to the lair, leaving Roy and Oliver to deal with Slade.

          It takes Felicity a few moments to register that she's stopped moving and that her hair is being pushed back by Dig. Her eyes water and then she swallows hard, emotions getting the better of her as she realizes that Barry just whisked her away from Slade and to the safety of the team.

          "Dig?" she gets out before the man envelops her in a massive hug and then he releases her and whips out a folding knife, quickly cutting her restraints. The movement causes tendrils of fire to engulf her left wrist and she bites back a scream. Dig leads her carefully to the med table, directing her to sit.

          "What hurts, Felicity?" he asks as he hauls over the cart with the supplies though she stands beside the table rather than getting on it as he'd indicated.

          "It doesn't matter. I need to know what's happening with Oliver and Slade," she demands, moving to brush past him and to her computer station, intent on patching into the comms.

          "Oliver and Roy have this. You were the priority," replies Dig as he looks to Barry and the two of them bodily pick her up and sit her on the metal table, aggravating her injuries in the process.

          "I don't care if Oliver told you to tie me down to keep me from going back to help him! I need to hear and see what's happening," she says in her loud voice, her feet starting to swing off the table before Dig catches her left wrist, causing her to hiss in pain.

          "You need to get checked out. Right now you can't do anything. Sara just got back and will help Thea monitor what's going on," explains Dig as he starts splinting her left wrist.

          Felicity's eyes go wide as suddenly Thea is right there, wrapping her arms around her shoulders and hugging her, causing Felicity to belatedly realize that Oliver's sister is there, in the lair. She accepts the embrace, stunned into silence while Dig finishes tending her wrist.

          "Roy told me everything, and then your friend Barry told me some more. Seems you've been spending your nights with my brother for a lot longer than I realized," teases Thea, making Felicity sputter and then blush at the implications of her future sister-in-law's words.

          "Okay, enough girly bonding. Here," says Sara, breaking up the hug and bringing Felicity a comm unit. Gratefully, Felicity takes it from her and immediately attaches it, the sounds of fighting filling her ear as Sara continues talking to her. "You can listen but let Dig fix you up."

          She nods, dividing her attention between directing Dig to her wounded head and Oliver and Slade taunting one another between blows.

          Dig checks for a concussion, his fingers grazing carefully over the wounds from several violent impacts. Since she's conscious, talking and aware, he suspects a minor concussion, but can't do much for her.

          "Did you want something else to wear?" Thea asks when Dig murmurs an all clear, letting Felicity get off the med table. Felicity promptly gravitates to the command center of the lair - her desk, where Sara sits, trying to get a visual on the fight, and Barry and Nyssa already standing around the computer.

          "No," Felicity says, distracted by a sudden grunt that she recognizes as Oliver, and she finds Dig behind her, a hand laying on her shoulder comfortingly. While they can't see him, at least they can hear and piece together what's going on.

          And it doesn't sound good.

          What the team in the lair can't see is that Slade has Oliver around the throat with both hands, his Mirakuru enhanced strength keeping Oliver from being able to break the grip, even though he's pulling at Slade's fingers with all his might. Suddenly Roy jumps from the shadows and onto Slade's back, his left arm slinging around Slade's throat as his right hand rears back and he jams a injection tip arrow right below Slade's Adam's apple, the blue liquid cure flooding into Slade's body.

          Slade roars, feeling the liquid burn as it seeps through his veins, recognizing the feeling of the cure once more, his strength ebbing. He slams his head backwards, cracking the younger man's nose and loosening his grip, sending Roy flying to to the cement.

          Slade's distraction and the quickly fading strength of Slade's grip allows Oliver to ball up his fists, bringing them down in a powerful hammering motion, breaking Slade's hold on his throat. Once free, Oliver scrambles back and snatches up his bow. As Slade rears up, he reaches for his blade, his pistol already lost across the refinery floor, and levels it at Oliver, who has been joined by Roy, the two archers facing the swordsman.

          Slade's Mirakuru advantage is gone now, and it is two against one. But Slade's not done yet.

          The silver blade slices the air before either of them see Slade move. Oliver launches himself to the right but the tip catches Roy's quiver strap, cutting it into two pieces, sending the quiver to the floor. Hearing it crash to the floor, Oliver leaps up, slamming his fist, wrapped around the grip of his bow, into Slade's jaw, knocking the man's head back. Slade steadies himself and drives the sword forward, catching Oliver in a glancing blow, the razor sharp edge cutting through the leather of Oliver's jacket and biting into the flesh of his side.

          Roy whips out a set of darts from his leg sheath and flings them at Slade's head, forcing the man to duck and pull the blade from Oliver's side. Immediately, Roy is beside his mentor and teammate, glancing quickly at the bleeding wound before Slade recovers.

          "Your boy wonder here doesn't seem to know when to stay out of things that aren't his business," states Slade as he attacks, his sword directed at Roy, who backpedals, but can't avoid the strike, the blade slicing through part of Roy's hood, a line of red blooming on his cheek.

          "Get out of here," growls Oliver as he interposes himself between Roy and Slade, the two grappling over Slade's sword.

          "I'm not leaving," yells Roy, swinging his bow, hitting Slade in the side even as Oliver twists his hands, yanking the blade from Slade's grasp and sending it across the room.

          Slade launches himself at Oliver, slamming into him hard, sending them both to the unyielding cement. The impact drives the breath out of Oliver, his head cracking painfully on the solid concrete as Slade punches him in the face. Then Roy tackles Slade, giving Oliver a breather as the two roll over and over across the ground before a sickening crunch fills the room along with a unintelligible scream when Slade slams his knee into Roy's right forearm, sending blinding pain through the limb, and Roy stays down even as Slade stands to face Oliver, sword back in hand once more.

          "You can't win, kid," says Slade with a low, menacing voice as he stalks towards Oliver. "I'm going to kill the boy first, then go find your pretty little girl and finish her. I'm not playing around any longer. You've surprised me twice now, and I've come to realize that you've learned more since we last met than I'd expected. And I'm done with waiting to end you!"

          "You know what else I learned after your last visit to destroy me, Slade - what I can and can't live without. You waited to come back until you knew that losing Felicity would wreck me. And I know if I let you live this time, you'll always find a way to come back and threaten what I love."

          They stare at one another for a long moment before Slade runs at Oliver, sword to his right and swinging towards Oliver, who blocks it with his bow, before spinning around and behind Slade. Oliver whips his bow around Slade's throat, Slade trying to yank the weapon from Oliver's grip one-handed, the other hand ineffectually swiping at Oliver with the sword. As he feels his air being cut off, Slade drops the sword to free both hands and gets the leverage that he needs. He pulls the weapon back enough to gulp in one big breath before reaching further back, grabbing Oliver by the shoulders flipping him up and over him.

          Slamming to the ground, Oliver realizes he's landed on Slade's sword and curls his fust around the hilt beneath him, and, when Slade races towards him, looking to capitalize on Oliver's prone form, he rolls over, sword extended upwards and spears him with his own blade in a cruel parody of the night Slade had run his mother through.

          Slade's mouth opens and closes, words trying to escape as blood runs down his armor, soaking the chain mail of his torso and legs. With a final, brutal shove, Oliver buries the blade further in Slade's gut, letting the man's momentum take him to the ground. Once Slade's body is lying beside him, Oliver lets go of the blade and slowly gets to his knees, stretching out a hand to look for a pulse at the man's neck, only to find nothing.

          He lets go of a deep, wrenching sigh as he looks up to see Roy move towards him, right forearm looking worse for wear.

          "He's dead?" questions Roy and Oliver nods before letting his head hang as the overwhelming emotions hit him. Before everything, Slade had been his friend, and now he was truly dead at his hand.

          "Oliver?"

          Oliver's head pops up as Felicity's voice comes through the comm in his ear, her voice worried but hopeful, having heard Roy's question.

          "Felicity," he answers with both a smile and a heavy heart.

          "You okay?" she asks, and he can hear the ten different meanings behind that one simple question and he loves her all the more for all of them.

          "Yeah. Slade's dead. Roy and I are a bit banged up but it's over."

          "Then come home," she says and Oliver closes his eyes and sags a bit against Roy. Days of pain, of worry, fear and adrenaline all are coming to a head and he doesn't even realize he hasn't replied to her when he hears Roy say, "We're on our way."

          They leave Slade's dead body on the floor of the refinery. The team will deal with it later.

          Roy's busted up arm will keep him from taking a bike back. With Oliver exhausted, Roy leaves his teammate sitting against one of the bikes while he goes and looks for a car to steal. After ten minutes, he returns behind the wheel of a dented up blue Ford pick up. Oliver gives his protege a look of reproach but climbs in anyhow, laying his bow across the gun rack that sits in the rear window where Roy had already deposited his own. Shaking his head as he fights a smile, Oliver leans back as Roy drives them back to QC Applied Sciences/lair.

          When the door code alarm goes off, everyone looks up to see the two come down the stairs, the toll of battle evident on their bodies and faces. The instant they come in the door, Thea and Felicity are up and moving, Roy letting go of Oliver at the bottom of the stairs so the other man can wrap his arms around his fiance while he can embrace Thea.

          Oliver finds himself falling into Felicity's embrace, the comfort and love he finds there better at healing him than any doctor or medicine. His arms tighten around her and she winces under his hands, prompting him to pull back, finally really looking her over.

          "You okay?" Oliver asks, seeing the splint on Felicity's left wrist and the bruising across her face.

          "Dig took care of me. Now we need to take care of you," she says before lightly kissing him on the lips, retreating before they get too caught up in the moment and forget everything around them, like friends, teammates and getting Oliver patched up.

          The moment Felicity pulls back, Dig joins them, the trio standing together briefly before Dig guides Oliver to the med table, Thea hauling Roy along behind them. Felicity takes Oliver's bow and quiver, putting them aside as Oliver unzips his jacket, letting it hang open. Dig sees the exhaustion on his friend's face and decides to just cut the shirt, which is bloody across the stomach and the right side of his ribs. Grabbing a pair of scissors from the kit, he slips them under the hem and cuts upward, exposing Oliver's chest in seconds.

          "You ripped the stitches," sighs Dig as he looks over Oliver's abdomen and then sees the deep cut along Oliver's side, prompting him to force the man back flat on the table. "And you got cut too. Guess it will be two sets of stitches. Nyssa, could you give me a hand?"

          Felicity moves to the head of the table when Oliver's hand immediately reaches up to catch hers, gripping it tightly. While Dig and Nyssa stitch up Oliver, Sara sits Roy down in Felicity's chair where she checks him over, finding the cut over his right cheekbone doesn't need stitches. She has Thea apply antibiotic cream to it before taping gauze on it while she tests the injury to his right forearm, deciding it needs x-rays and they'll have to go to the emergency room for that. Which means another cover story...

          Once Dig and Nyssa have the sutures in and bandaged up, Dig lets Oliver sit up. On his face, bruises are starting to bloom and Felicity presses a gentle hand on the uninjured side of his face.

          "You should be okay for now. Rest and time will take care of everything," says Dig with wry grin, knowing that he's really talking more about Felicity being back than Oliver's physical injuries.

          "Thanks Dig,"says Felicity on behalf of both of them. Felicity smiles at their friend and finds herself engulfed in a hug by her fiance. Dig says quietly so only she can hear, "We were worried. He was worried."

          She nods, knowing exactly what Dig means. The fear of losing her had always been a sore spot with Oliver in letting himself love her, letting her in. And when they'd finally gotten past it, it had been momentous for their relationship. Now, with Slade's kidnapping of her, those old emotions are bound to play havoc with Oliver's irrational fears. It is better to nip this in the bud now before it could get worse. With that mental resolution, Felicity pulls away from Dig and grabs Oliver's hand, forcing his eyes to lock with hers.

          "For better or worse, right?" she says softly, the underlying steel of her tone clear to the man before her.

          Oliver nods his agreement, his throat threatening to close up as he understands what she's doing. He recalls the words he'd said to Slade tonight - how he'd be lost without her in his life, and that having her for however long they had was better than not having her at all. They can't let this incident stop them from loving each other, living their lives. Because, once they do, they'd lose everything. Suddenly he recalls something and turns to look around the room.

          "Sara, where's my bag?"

          Sara locates the bag and brings it over, his civilian clothes now taking up the space inside that his Arrow gear had before. She drops it on the end of the table, unzipping it for him. With the hand not still entwined with Felicity's, he digs through his clothes until he finds the hard shape he's looking for.

          "Speaking of which…" he starts with a smile as he pulls out Felicity's engagement ring and sees her eyes light up, tears starting to form on her lashes.

          "I thought that was gone forever…" she replies, her voice filled with unshed tears.

          "Dig found it on the lead kidnapper earlier. I wasn't sure how he got it, but," Oliver begins, then takes her left hand in his, positioning the ring at her ring finger, "I wanted it back on your hand as soon as I had you back."

          The ring slides home and Felicity fights the tears before letting Oliver haul her tight into his embrace.

          She's finally back where she belongs.

          - end ch 11 -

         

 *Chapter 12*: It Will Be You By My Side

 

          It takes several attempts at calling their names and finally a loud clearing of Dig's throat to break up the Felicity and Oliver's embrace. When Felicity pulls back, she's blushing slightly, but Oliver's hands are still firmly attached to her hips, his reluctance to stop touching her now that he has her back obvious to all.

          "I'm gonna head for Central City," says Barry before stepping to Felicity's side and kissing her cheek, earning him a semi-serious glare from Oliver as he does.

          "Thank you," replies Felicity, speaking for both her and Oliver.

          "No problem. Always happy to help out, and Iris and I will be waiting to hear about a new wedding date," he answers before disappearing in a red blur.

          With Barry's departure, the atmosphere in the lair changes. The weariness on everyone's faces starts to seep into their bodies as the adrenaline begins to wane, and they become more aware of the fact that some of them still need medical attention.

          "I need to take Roy to the ER," states Thea, stepping away from her boyfriend long enough to wrap her arms around both Oliver and Felicity. Awkwardly, the three hug and Roy appears behind Thea, his good arm reaching out to rest a hand on Felicity's shoulder, making her look up and smile at him.

          "You guys should go home. Once we get me fixed up, we'll come back to the mansion… just so you know we're safe and all," Roy offers, and Oliver releases both of the women in his arms and thrusts his hand out to Roy who reaches quickly to take it and shake it firmly.

          "Thank you, Roy. For everything," Oliver murmurs, pulling his gaze from the younger man to his sister, and then to his fiance before looking at Roy once more, the deeper meaning of his words left unspoken.

          "I couldn't let anything happen to her," says Roy with a smirk, nodding his head to Felicity, "she's the brains of this operation."

          With that, there's a round of guffaws and chuckles and even Oliver smiles, acknowledging the truth in Roy's spoken words and the unspoken implication that, without Felicity, there'd be no Oliver, not anymore. Then Roy has his arm around Thea and nudges her to the stairs. As they begin the climb, Thea turns and yells over her shoulder, "and don't think I've forgotten about that talk, mister!"

          Oliver sighs and watches them as they exit the lair. Then Sara and Nyssa are there, hugging Felicity. With the danger over, they can be more demonstrative of their feelings, and Felicity hugs them back gratefully.

          "We'll call my dad and direct him to get Slade's body at the refinery. With all the ends tied up, the whole investigation should be over once you two follow up with him," explains Sara.

          "What did you tell your dad about the bodies at the factory?" asks Oliver.

          "I may have said that The Arrow and his team didn't trust that the kidnappers were going to give Oliver Queen back his fiance, so they'd staked out the location for the meet. Then, when the double cross went down, 'Team Arrow' had taken down the terrorists. I did tell him that your bodyguard was the one who shot the head kidnapper to protect his boss, since I figured they could get a warrant for Dig's gun and we wouldn't want the story to fall apart if they checked that."

          "Good thinking," comments Dig, moving to join them. "You know that Lance and that woman from the FBI will be wanting to speak with both of you first thing tomorrow."

          "I know," replies Oliver, glancing at Felicity briefly, worried about her having to relate to the authorities the details that he had yet to hear from her about what she had been through.

          "Do you have a story that they actually will believe ready?" questions Dig, making Felicity smugly grin at him, and Oliver pulls her closer to him, pointedly ignoring the backhanded criticism of his poor choices of excuses in the past.

          "I figured that I'd say that, after the failed ransom and them trying to kill me, the Arrow had shown up and told me to go home and he'd contact me when he had Felicity. Then he dropped her off at the mansion?"

          "Too public," notes Felicity, knowing that would put Raisa and the other staff in a perilous position. "He would have saved me and then called you to get me at the refinery. You and Dig would have driven there to pick me up."

          "That works. She always has better cover stories than you," adds Dig. Oliver rolls his eyes then looks down at Felicity, his desire to discuss cover stories and meetings with Lance and the FBI waning under his increasing need to take the woman he loves home.

          As Felicity wraps her arms back around Oliver, Sara recognizes the beginnings of the two falling back into their own little world once more, and knows it's time to end things. Besides, she and Nyssa still have things to do tonight.

          "We're going to head out and then you two should get going," says Sara, looking pointedly at them and Oliver nods tiredly, his injuries and lack of sleep finally catching up with him.

          "You're right. Thank you both, again," replies Oliver and Felicity smiles her thanks at the two women but stays tucked into Oliver.

          Nyssa nods and Sara smiles back before they head to the stairs, intent on returning the vehicle that Roy boosted to the refinery and retrieve their bikes before calling Quentin. Once the door closes behind them, Dig turns to his partners and looks them over, seeing the exhaustion coming over them, but beneath that, the need to reconnect. Something that he knows they need to do privately.

          "Come on, you need to change before I can drive you two home," says Dig, indicating to Oliver's green leathers.

          At that, Oliver pulls out the bare minimum of clothing he needs from the duffle bag - shoes, pants and shirt - and, with Felicity's help, changes out of his Arrow gear and back into his civilian outfit. Once he's presentable, Dig directs them to the stairs before grabbing up the two bags full of cash and follows them. Felicity guides Oliver up the steps and to the car, helping him inside before climbing in after him. As soon as she's seated, Oliver has an arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to him even as his other hand rests on her leg; he needs the tactile reminder that she's beside him. Dig gets behind the wheel and then they're on the road.

          When the car stops after what seems like seconds but was in reality closer to fifteen minutes, Felicity's head raises from where she'd laid it on Oliver's shoulder, seeing the familiar front door before them. The sound of the vehicle arriving and pulling to a stop has the front door opening and Raisa's form appearing like magic. Seeing her there to greet them makes Oliver smile and he nudges Felicity to get out, exiting the car a half step behind her.

          "Mr. Oliver, Ms. Felicity," Raisa says, happiness evident in her voice as she holds the doors open for the two to enter the house, Dig trailing behind them, bags in hand to place in the most secure spot.

          "I promised you I'd bring her home, Raisa," states Oliver quietly, causing the woman to smile behind the tears that she's let flow as she presses a hand to Oliver's cheek before shifting to do the same for Felicity. In the years since Oliver and Felicity had become a couple, they'd had Raisa as a firm supporter of their relationship, the woman being very direct about how she could see that Felicity made Oliver a better, happier man.

          "So you did, Mr. Oliver. I will let you rest now and I will be sure to have breakfast for you both in the morning."

          With that, she turns to leave them in the foyer, Dig still standing there, bags in hand. Oliver takes in the other man's indecision, knowing that his friend was a little reluctant to just leave $250 million dollars lying around, even in the well-guarded and secure location of the mansion.

          "Just put it in the living room. I'll text Lanning and Walter in the morning to get it deposited back in the my accounts," states Oliver, seeing Dig's face relax as he swiftly heads towards the living room to drop off the bags. When he returns, Oliver and Felicity are already gravitating to the stairs.

          "All taken care of. I'll set the alarms and let the guard know I'm gone for the night. I'll give your love to Michael and Lyla," states Dig, smiling at the two of them.

          "Good night, Dig. We'll see you tomorrow," replies Oliver. Dig nods, watching Oliver lead Felicity up the stairs before he arms the security alarm and closes the door behind him.

          Slowly, Felicity and Oliver make their way up the stairs and then down the hall to their bedroom. Pausing at the door, Oliver closes his eyes briefly, remembering that horrible night less than three days ago when he'd walked into the room alone, the images of candles and rose petals assaulting his thoughts.

          Felicity's gentle hand on his cheek, pressing into his more than day old stubble pulls him from the memory and he opens his eyes to see the love within the sky blue of her gaze.

          "Oliver?" she asks softly, worry creasing her brow. He doesn't answer her, but instead reaches for the doorknob and turns it, pushing the door open.

          Once the door opens, Felicity looks inside and sees that the candles that she'd had set up for their wedding night are all still in place. Her heart seizes in her chest a bit and she lets out a soft gasp as she realizes that the surprise she'd planned that night had ended up being a painful reminder to Oliver of her absence. Stepping inside, she takes in the room, realizing that Raisa had cleaned up but left the candles in place, and she turns to see Oliver follow her, closing the door behind them.

          "I need to not try and surprise you, don't I," she asks somewhat sadly, wishing that she'd told him before so the sight wouldn't have been a shock to him.

          "It was… hard to see it, but… it wouldn't have mattered. Coming in here that first night after you'd been taken. It would have wrecked me no matter what," Oliver replies as he walks to her, his arms wrapping around her from behind, Felicity sinking back into him instinctively.

          "I can't even imagine how you got through it," she says, her hands falling over his where they rest against her abdomen, the left clunky in its brace, "I'm guessing that I need to thank Dig, right?"

          Oliver doesn't reply, but he doesn't have to. She knows him better than anyone, and she can imagine a distraught Oliver staring at the room, desperate, angry and afraid, missing her and wanting nothing more than to have her back. Of course, she felt a lot of those same things herself while Slade and Azeem had held her captive.

          "Dig forced me to not lose hope, pushed me to stay focused. And each time the kidnapper called and I got to hear your voice… it kept me going. I knew that I had to treat it like a mission - to search for a way to find you or pay the ransom - just to keep me from falling apart."<

          She turns in his arms then, her hands reaching up to cup his jaw, palms pressing into the longer than usual scruff that she knows was a result of him neglecting himself while she was gone and sees the lingering pain in his ocean blue gaze. She swallows hard before pulling his head down to hers, their foreheads meeting as Oliver nearly crushes her to him.

          "I'm just glad you're safe; that you got my message," she quietly remarks, the images of Slade slaughtering Oliver right in front of her because she hadn't been able to tell him about the Mirakuru or Slades role in her kidnapping swirl through her brain once more as Oliver holds her tightly.

          At her words, Oliver's head raises, his observant eyes seeing the remnants of the fear that she had felt having not only been kidnapped, but knowing others had been hurt because of her. He knew that, when she'd given him the clues to her kidnapping, she had screamed before the phone had cut off, and he'd seen the bruises on her face, neck and shoulders, the injured hand…

          "Did… did Slade do this because of…" he asks, gently holding up her splinted wrist in the palm of his hand, his imagination now kicking in once more as to how she'd been injured, and wonders if there are more injuries he had yet to see.

          "Does it matter, really?" she says simply, hoping to avoid the subject but one look at the pained expression on his face reminds her that they promised to be honest with one another, and right now, he needs the truth more than a comforting lie.

          "The lead kidnapper, Azeem, figured out that I was giving you guys information, and he… roughed me up some to get me to explain. I did what you and Dig trained me to do and then tried to make a run for it," Felicity tells him honestly, seeing how his face falls at her admission.

          Her hands twist in his grasp, twining her fingers with his. She won't tell him exactly how scary it was for her, but she knows he needs to know what happened to her. It is the only way that they'll get past it.

          "So, Azeem did this?" Oliver questions, running his thumb across the soft skin of her hand above the brace.

          "No. Slade did. He caught me trying to escape, and well, Mirakuru strength versus wrist equals..."

          Oliver's eyes darken, and he forces himself to not clench his hands in his anger, as he still holds hers carefully within his grasp. The thought that Slade had hurt her, frightened her… he is almost glad he'd ended the man.

          "Hey," Felicity calls out, bringing his attention back to her once more. "I'm okay. Nothing that won't heal. Just like with you. I mean, come on, I am like dozens of scars behind you, so don't get all broody over me getting roughed up one time!"

          "I just… I wish I could have protected you from that," he tells her quietly, his voice choking up and Felicity does what she does best - she makes him forgive himself.

          "Nope, you don't get to take the blame. You were my hero, just like you always have been. We're here, we're safe again, and we have the rest of our lives still ahead of us. And that wedding night still to look forward to, with all that married sex..."

          The words are out of her mouth before her brain catches up and the lascivious smile that appears on Oliver's face makes her grin and blush, her hands coming to her face, dragging his along with them. Instead of letting her hide though, Oliver releases her so he can push her hands away, moving to caress and then hold her face between them tenderly.

          "And I am very much looking forward to all that married sex as well, but for tonight I think we just need to sleep. Tomorrow, we'll deal with making our statements for the police and then we can worry about everything else after that."

          "I'll hold you to that," she replies before everything they've been through, the separation, the anxiety hits them both and Oliver's pulling her face up to meet his lowering head and their lips meet and fuse. Soft and gentle is quickly replaced by passionate and reaffirming. It's only when they both realize that if they keep this up any longer, clothes will be shed and sleep will be the last thing they'll want to do.

          "Sleep?" Felicity questions breathlessly when they finally pull apart, and Oliver nods, still working to get his breathing and heart rate back to normal.

          Oliver walks to the dresser, pulling Felicity behind him. Releasing her hands, he opens the drawers and pulls out a pair of her favorite comfy pajamas and hands them to her, then moves on to get a pair of sweats for himself. Carefully, he strips down to his boxer briefs and lays his discarded clothes on the dresser to launder later and clamors into the sweats, careful of his still healing knee. He turns around to find Felicity still standing there in her dress, the pajamas clutched in her hands. He starts towards her with a questioning look before she jolts back to the present almost nervously, and then turns around, pulling her hair away from her back with one hand.

          "Unzip me?" she asks quietly and he takes in a deep breath, fighting back the wish to be taking off her wedding dress under different circumstances. When he has the zipper down, Felicity steps carefully out of the dress and then slides on the pants and then slips her arms into the sleeves of her top, turning towards Oliver as she buttons up the front.

          His eyes rake over her, a smile gracing his face before his gaze sweeps over and past her and to the rumpled gown that she's carelessly left on the floor, which is very much not like Felicity and his smile falters. He looks back up at her and she sighs as she looks down on it as well, memories of waking up wearing it locked in her 'cell' and then when Slade held her, gun to her head intent on killing her and Oliver. She'd been so looking forward to marrying Oliver in this gown, the 'perfect' dress, but now the sight of it…

          Bending over, she picks up the garment and walks to one of the overstuffed chairs near the fireplace and lays it over the back. When she swings around to see the disappointed expression on Oliver's face, she swiftly comes to his side and takes his hands in hers.

          "I'll get it dry cleaned, and then… we'll see how I feel about it," she offers before pulling Oliver to the bed. "Besides, I don't need a fancy dress to marry you. I'd marry you naked…"

          The second verbal gaffe of the night brings a smile to both of their faces and Oliver releases her hands to pull back the covers of the bed that he so desperately wants to share with her after three nights alone. She climbs in and he follows, pulling the covers up and over them before stretching an arm to the remote for the lights and turning them off, leaving them in the semi-dark room, the only illumination now leaking around the curtains at the bay window.

          In the dark, they settle into the comfortable familiarity of the bed and one another, spooning together as Oliver's arms wrap around her.

          "I love you," Oliver tells her, his voice filled with the depth of sincerity of his feelings for her, making her shiver against him, even under the blankets.

          "I love you too," Felicity whispers, her hands holding his tightly before pulling one up to her lips and placing a soft kiss on his palm.

          "And, just so you know, I'm all for getting married naked. It would cut out a few steps on our wedding night," he whispers in her ear, his lips grazing her earlobe and the industrial piercing there as he pulls her more tightly against him and he can feel the chuckle ripple through her at his words before she sighs and settles into him.

          He smiles and leans into her as he closes his eyes, feeling content finally, and it isn't long before they both drift off, secure in the arms of the one they love.

          - end ch 12 -

 

 *Chapter 13*: Best Laid Plans

 

          The insistent knocking on the door is what wakes Oliver, and he startles a bit at the sound. Then warmth and breathing and blond hair break into his senses and he realizes that he's safe in his own bed with Felicity curled beside him. Smiling, he presses a light kiss to Felicity's cheek, making her squirm but not wake before he carefully slides from the bed and heads to the door.

          Opening it, he's unsurprised to find Thea there, dressed for the day, grinning happily.

          "Hey, Speedy," he says quietly as he steps into the hallway and closes the door to let Felicity continue to sleep.

          Before the door is fully shut, Thea literally launches herself into him, arms wrapping around his neck. He returns the hug until she pulls back, evaluating him with a look before smiling at him once more.

          "Morning, Ollie. How are you guys?"

          "I think I slept more last night than the last three," he admits honestly.

          "Not surprising," she remarks with a smirk, and Oliver fights back an exasperated sigh, "I figured you'd want to know that Roy's forearm was a clean break and they put a cast on last night. Since he's not all 'juiced up' anymore, I made him take the pain meds they gave him, so he's down for the count still."

          "So you came looking for the nearly married man who has been separated from his fiancé for three days instead?" questions Oliver, giving her a dubious look, making Thea wince a bit but hold her ground.

          "Yeah, probably not my wisest idea, but… okay, so maybe I saw that it was after nine and Raisa was holding breakfast until you woke up and Mr. Diggle is already here and dealing with holding off the police and the Feds, so I broke down and decided to venture into your private domain, hoping not to catch you guys 'reconnecting'."

          Oliver sighs and he rubs a hand over his head and down to his neck. He had no idea that it was so late, but, considering he's wounded, recovering from his earlier injuries and working on his sleep debt, he's not surprised. And considering Felicity isn't in the best shape either, her normal 'early to rise' behavior hadn't kicked in to get them moving today.

          "Which really means you're hungry and you want us up to get fed. Let Raisa know we'll be down soon and, if you can ask Dig to keep doing what he's doing with the Feds, we'd appreciate it."

          Thea smiles and hugs him briefly once more before heading towards the staircase and the main level, leaving Oliver behind. Turning, he opens the door and finds Felicity shifted in her sleep, her left hand, encased in the brace, clutching his pillow to her face. He can't help the little grin that breaks out as he watches her and slowly makes his way to the bed. Sitting on the edge, he reaches over and pries the fluffy item from her grip, causing her to grumble in protest.

          If he had coffee he knows that would be a sure-fire way of waking her up, but, in lieu of that, leaning over and kissing her soundly on the lips will have to do. And it's his preferred method of waking her anyway…

          It only takes a few moments before the feeling of Oliver's lips on hers brings Felicity from mostly asleep to very awake, and her body turns under the covers as her arms move to search for him. When her eyes finally open and she takes in sleep-rumpled Oliver, she feels her heart stutter in her chest, thoughts of how they could have lost this filling her mind and causing her to pull back ever so slightly.

          Oliver breaks the kiss and studies her, and sees the remnants of sadness and fear on her face and understands them. He'd been feeling like that for days. But he had an outlet for dealing with it - planning her rescue. For Felicity, the experience, as she'd explained to him the night before, had been much different. And he'd had the suspicion when she'd told him those things last night that she'd glossed over a few things for his own sanity.

          "Thea says Raisa's waiting on us for breakfast, and that the Feds and SCPD are here to see us."

          "Oh, yeah, not surprising. Can I take a quick shower before we go down? I've kind of been without and feel ick," she states, her right hand wiping across her collarbone and down her cloth covered arm before she lays it over her encased left wrist. With that simple action, Oliver can tell she's also wanting to wash the memory of the feel of Slade's hands off of her too, for which he can't blame her.

          "You going to shower with that brace on?" Oliver asks, and she looks down at the offending medical device and frowns. She knows that it's keeping her from doing anything stupid and hurting herself more, but it's bulky and annoying and she can't touch Oliver how she'd like and...

          A gruff laugh pulls her head up and she sees the smoldering desire and humor in Oliver's expression and she sighs as her head lolls backward.

          "Out loud?"

          "Yeah. And I agree with you, one hundred percent. But you need to have that brace on if you want it to heal."

          "Says the man with the new surgical stitches in his knee. Where's the brace for that?"

          Oliver gives her a glare that she laughs at because she knows it isn't at all menacing or real. He loves her for a lot of reasons and calling him out on his hypocrisy and stubbornness are only two of them.

          "In the bag I left at the lair. Trying to suit up with it on… well you remember last time."

          She nods, recalling the last time he'd been forced to wear the brace and the insanity of shoving the green leather over his knee. Grabbing his hand in hers, she squeezes briefly before letting go and reaches for the covers, whipping them back so she can slide out of bed.

          "Okay, so shower, food, Feds," she says as she stands and then pads across the carpet to the bathroom, pausing at the door and looking back towards him, a small, mischievous grin on her face, "you coming? I might need help washing my hair and scrubbing my back."

          She doesn't have to ask twice before Oliver is up and moving. Felicity takes off the brace and leaves it on the counter by the sink before carefully slipping out of her pajamas, even as Oliver strips and starts the water in the shower. Normally, showering together would lead to a bout of hot sex and being very late for work on a weekday morning, but today is very different.

          Once they're both under the hot water, Oliver's attention is pulled away from erotic thoughts of Felicity pinned against the tile and is instead directed to all the bruises he saw the night before, and some he hadn't seen yet. As he carefully washes her skin with her preferred floral scented bath wash, he looks carefully at each one - a fairly large one on her face, the ones on her shoulders, a purpling one under her chin and across the front of her neck, a dark one around her left wrist where he can see fingermarks, and then some more scattered across her hips, thighs and calves. His hands trace those and he looks up in confusion and fear, wondering if she'd fought off a sexual assault and not said anything to him, when her hands reach up and cup his stubble covered cheeks, bringing his eyes up to meet hers.

          "I woke up in the room they held me in with those starting to form. They sort of dumped me in their getaway van without too much concern to my comfort when they took me from the wedding. Considering everything else, they actually don't even hurt. They look pretty nasty though. Which sucks since I like short skirts, but damn it, I was kidnapped, I think I can walk around with bruises without anyone giving them a second look," Felicity states rather emphatically, causing Oliver to grin at her very Felicity reaction to the purple and black marks along her legs.

          "Let's wash your hair so you can start drying it, since you'll take forever and I still need to clean up," says Oliver, studiously ignoring the part of him that simply wants to hike her up his body and kiss her senseless because they both are healing and, if he starts, they won't stop anytime soon.

          As he's washing and rinsing her hair, Oliver sees a new set of injuries, and forces his fingers not to clench in her golden locks. Angry red marks against the right side of her scalp under her hairline. He gently touches them, wondering how she got them and her hands shoot up to grip his wrists lightly.

          "You okay?" he asks, his voice low and filled with renewed concern.

          "Slight concussion. Head meeting concrete wall will do that to you. Dig cleared me last night," she replies dismissively as she lovingly runs her fingers along the fine bones of Oliver's wrists before releasing them. "I need to get out of here so you can finish."

          Pulling away from his hands, she turns slightly, smiling, and leans up to tempt him into a kiss. He doesn't resist and catches her lips quickly but for too brief a time before she pulls back and slips out the shower door. With a desperate sigh, he lets his head fall back against the wall of the shower, wondering how long he's going to be able to keep his hands off her before he goes mad.

          While Felicity dries her hair, Oliver finishes showering and then grabs some clothes from the closet and quickly dresses. With her hair pulled back in her trademark ponytail, she grabs some underclothes and a comfortable dress with cap sleeves that cover her shoulders from the closet. Pulling them on, she makes her way back to the dual vanity, watching him in the mirror as he trims up the uncontrolled stubble-turning-into-beard while she cleans up some of the bruising on her face and neck with makeup. Their eyes meet in the mirror and she gives him a happy smile that he returns.

          They head downstairs, Oliver's hand staying attached to Felicity's lower back, the need to touch her still strong. He guides them straight to the kitchen where they find Raisa has laid out breakfast on the large marble island. Thea is already sitting at a stool at the breakfast nook, munching on toast and eggs when they arrive. As they start to move to join her, Dig walks in, looking less than pleased, and Oliver feels his own blood pressure rise at the sight of their friend's agitation.

          "Mr. Queen, you have guests in the living room. I explained that you weren't up yet but they seemed rather… insistent on staying," he states in a manner that tells Oliver and Felicity that he fully expects that he's being observed and is doing his best to be professional.

          Oliver nods and fills a plate even as Raisa fixes him and Felicity cups of coffee. He's not surprised that the Feds have no interest in boundaries. With food and coffee in hand, Oliver turns and follows Dig into the living room, knowing Felicity will catch up.

          In the living room, Captain Lance is sitting, with his own cup of coffee, next to Agent Veaco in a pair of armchairs. The woman sits straight in her seat, cell phone in hand as she seems to be texting someone, more than likely her boss at the FBI offices. When Dig walks back in, she quickly shoves the phone away, directing her gaze past him and landing on Oliver.

          "You'll excuse us if we eat while you question us," remarks Oliver as he settles down on the opposite facing sofa with a plate of fruit, eggs, bacon and toast, his coffee cup underneath the plate.

          "Understood. I doubt you were eating much," replies Captain Lance as his eyes light up, his mouth tugging up into a grin as he sees Felicity walk in, coffee mug already to her lips while she carefully balances a bowl of fruit in the other.

          "You would not believe me if I told you, Detective… I mean Captain," remarks Felicity as she reluctantly pulls the coffee cup away and she moves to sit beside Oliver, who has stuffed a piece of bacon in his mouth.

          "I know you both have had a rather, difficult last few days, but, to close the investigation, we need to get your statements on the events of the last few days," Agent Veaco says directly, and Felicity looks over the woman who reminds her a bit of Officer McKenna.

          "The kidnappers were in contact with me regularly," starts Oliver, giving Felicity a chance to eat before she has to start her statement. "While they didn't explicitly forbid my working with the FBI or local authorities, I've been educated by experts in the matter of hostage negotiation. Keeping to instructions and making payment is always best. I was called yesterday afternoon and given a time and location for the exchange. I arrived with the money and met with the man who seemed to be the leader of the terrorists holding Felicity. When I found out that Felicity was not there, I realized that they were going to take the money and I had no guarantee that they'd release her."

          "So the man didn't offer to give you her location?" asks Captain Lance, concerned at the idea that Felicity could have remained in the hands of her captors even though Oliver had done everything right.

          "No and, when I tried to get him to reveal Felicity's location, he attacked me. We fought, and then I was on the ground, and he had a gun on me, his finger on the trigger, ready to fire, when Dig shot him and saved me," Oliver states succinctly, keeping to the plan they'd put together the night before.

          "Were you aware if there were any other terrorists at the meet site?" asks Agent Veaco.

          "No. I was only on the main floor of the factory, where they told me to come to, and I only saw one other person. Dig?" Oliver says, looking over his shoulder at where Dig is standing behind the sofa.

          "I couldn't do any kind of recon before the meet, and I was focused on protecting your back, so I never saw any others…" replies Dig, being honest as he didn't see the terrorists that the other members of the team took on inside the factory.

          "It seems that the other eleven terrorists were on site at the factory but were neutralized by one or more persons." Agent Veaco lets her words hang in the room, looking between Oliver and Diggle, expecting some reaction, finding only confused and surprised expressions. She then turns her attention to Felicity. "So, Ms. Smoak, do you know where you were held or anything that might be of assistance in tracking any of your kidnappers' allies?"

          "I never knew where I was. I only had interactions with the lead kidnapper, who I learned was named Azeem, and Slade Wilson. In my limited conversations with both of them, it seemed as if Azeem was persuaded by Slade to kidnap me. As for Slade Wilson… I got from him that his decision to target me and the Queen family was… personal," Felicity explains, Oliver's hand moving to cover hers as she unconsciously twists hers in her lap.

          "So Slade Wilson, a known international terrorist and the man behind the destruction of Starling City three years ago, admitted to you that he was the real person behind your kidnapping?" asks Agent Veaco, her eyebrows raising slightly.

          "Yes. He was working with the kidnappers, the terrorists. He told them they could get a lot of money by kidnapping me. I know that everything that happened in Starling City three years ago had to do with him, and I guess he felt the Queen family somehow did something to offend him …" Felicity semi-rambled, glossing over the fact that she knew the true reason Slade had targeted her, but keeping enough facts to help the story sound true.

          "So, could that 'offense' be tied to why he murdered Moira Queen?" questions Agent Veaco, causing Oliver's throat to close up for a second before Felicity grips his hand in hers.

          "I don't know the details about that. I wasn't… with Oliver at the time so I can't speculate exactly what relationship Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Queen could have had that might have led to her death."

          "But it was well known that Mrs. Queen had turned on Malcom Merlyn before the man made earthquakes that leveled half of Starling City four years ago," Veaco comments, leaving the insinuation open.

          Oliver knows the woman is fishing for dirt on his family, but he can't explain that Slade was after him and not his mother, as it will open up more questions that not only can't he answer but would put the team in jeopardy if they were even asked.

          "I think I can speak for both my fiancé and myself when I say that Mr. Wilson seemed to have aligned himself with some unsavory people and innocent bystanders ended up dying because of his actions. Anything my mother might have known about that died with her," Oliver says with a twitch in his jaw, his fingers lacing with Felicity's.

          "So do you have any information about the vigilante called The Arrow or his associates, and why they made an effort to rescue you?" questions Veaco, switching subjects and making Captain Lance smirk, his eyes catching the look that crosses the blond's face, and leans back, waiting for the defense that he knows is coming.

          "You mean Starling City's hero?" Felicity asks, eyes narrowing. Behind her, Dig fights a grin while Captain Lance practically rolls his eyes, knowing that The Arrow's IT girl would defend the man to her last breath. "Helping people is kinda what he does, Agent. He showed up at the refinery where Slade had taken me instead of to where the other kidnappers were meeting with Oliver, and they fought. When it was over, Oliver and Dig showed up and took me home."

          "And how did you know where to find her, Mr. Queen?" asks Veaco.

          "After the terrorists had double crossed me, I was frantically trying to figure out someone who could help when I received a call from The Arrow. He said he'd located Felicity and gave me an address. When Dig and I arrived, she was there with him and when I saw her… well I didn't ask any further questions. One minute he was there, the next he was gone. I didn't even get to thank him," Oliver remarks, his eyes almost challenging Agent Veaco to question him on his version of events.

          "Well, with Mr. Wilson and all his associates dealt with, and your fiancé returned, there doesn't seem to be any avenue for further investigation, so the FBI will be closing the case."

          Following her pronouncement, Agent Veaco moves to rise and Captain Lance stands as well but instead of following the federal agent to leave, he pauses, looking to Felicity and Oliver with a quizzical expression, "So, you guys going to reschedule? Dinah's kinda curious, as is Laurel."

          Felicity and Oliver look to one another. There's still a lot that they need to discuss in terms of that, especially following Felicity's issues with her wedding dress the night before. With the late wake up call and the Feds, there hadn't been any time to talk about plans, and Felicity's frozen expression prompts Oliver to jump in.

          "We're still a bit shell shocked. I'm sure once we figure it out we'll let everyone know," answers Oliver, and Lance nods in understanding.

          "We'll look forward to it. Anyhow, I'm really glad everything worked out okay," replies Quentin, smiling now and forcing a small grin from Felicity.

          "Let me show you out, Captain Lance, Agent Veaco," Oliver says, standing up with Felicity as he steps towards them to show to the door, Dig right behind him.

          Instead, Lance steps away and goes to hug Felicity, whispering quietly to her, "I'm glad our mutual friend found you."

          Pulling back, she nods at him before he finally turns to join Oliver, Dig and Agent Veaco. When Oliver returns alone a few minutes later, he finds Felicity back on the sofa with her hands in her lap. Her head pops up when she realizes that he's there despite his stealth and he sees the interior conflict written on her face. He knows that Quentin's innocent question has brought up a looming issue.

          "He did bring up a valid point." Oliver says carefully, moving to sit beside her once more. "What are we going to do about rescheduling the wedding?"

          "I don't know."

          The quiet, undecided answer bothers Oliver more than he'd like. He knows that she's having more issues with rescheduling the wedding than he is, and, in reality, he's not surprised. In the wake of the attack, Oliver woke up with all his friends and family, excluding Felicity, while she'd spent three days alone with Slade and her kidnappers, cut off from him except for the necessitated 'proof of life' phone calls.

          The idea of planning everything again, getting married so soon after the kidnapping in the gardens… he can see why she might be hesitant.

          But, if he's learned anything since the first time he watched Slade hold Felicity hostage, and been reminded again last night, there were no guarantees in life. And he wants to be sure that he doesn't lose a single minute that he could have had with his wife and partner.

          So, he needs another option...

          "Well," begins Oliver, "do we really need a big wedding?"

          She looks at him, her head tilting to the side and he grins all the more. That questioning expression brings with it memories of pink blouses, fuchsia lipstick, red pens. And his chest feels full to bursting with the love that it provokes within him.

          "We could just get your dress dry cleaned…" the dubious look she gives him at that suggestion ends that part of the conversation, "Or you could get a new one. I can just wear one of my suits… the charcoal one you love… and, well, we could just go to the courthouse and do it."

          Her eyes widen at the implications of his words. "Elope?"

          "I doubt Thea or Dig would forgive us if we didn't tell them, so we'd have pretty much have to take the whole team with us, but..."

          The idea of just having a small group of people, ones they trust and love, with them when they do this is beyond appealing to Felicity and her face lights up once more at the prospect of getting married. For Oliver, the ceremony of a wedding is secondary to him compared to that of putting this whole thing behind them and getting on with their lives. He reaches over to gently take her hands, his thumb brushing over the brilliant emerald that is back on her hand once more.

          "I love you and I want to be married to you. I don't need two hundred people we don't know, musicians or cake or an elaborate five course meal. I just want to be able to recite some truly inadequate vows about how much I love you and add a new ring to match this one here," he says, tapping her engagement ring lightly, "so what do you say?"

          "I say that I think that's the best idea I've heard in ages," answers Felicity as she throws her arms around his neck, his arms wrapping around her back and holding her to him, then her organized mind is kicking into play as she pulls back, her lower lip in her teeth as she starts thinking about logistics. "How soon do you think we could do this? I need to go through my closet and see if I have a dress that I can use. I don't want to buy another one and I'm not sure what I have that…"

          "Dress?" comes Thea's voice from the kitchen and Felicity and Oliver sigh, unsurprised that his sister can hone in on the subject of clothes with laser-like focus.

          Before either of them know it, Thea is there, hands clapped together with a bright smile along with Dig, who has a cup of coffee in his hands. The two converge on the couple on the couch and Thea lands on the end of the sofa arm, pinning her brother and soon to be sister-in-law with a stern gaze.

          "Yes. Dress. Mine got… ruined and Oliver and I have decided that we just want to get married. No fanfare, no press, no pressure. So I need something to wear, and I don't want to go buy another wedding dress…"

          "What about that pretty cream and gold cocktail dress you wore for the engagement party?" Thea asks, and Felicity's eyes light up at the thought, as do Oliver's. The sleeveless, lace overlay, knee length dress with its gold shimmer and subtle silhouette was stunning to him the first time she'd come down the stairs in it nearly a year ago, and he's pretty certain that he'd been just as excited to take it off her as he had been to see her in it.

          "That's perfect. Now we just need to make an appointment at City Hall," Felicity says excitedly.

          "For when?" asks Oliver, as he pulls out his cell phone, fingers ready to dial.

          "Do you think tomorrow morning would be too soon?" Felicity questions back, and Oliver's smile broadens.

          "I really don't care. Everyone can clear their schedules if they want to come. I'm calling the mayor's office and seeing about getting this set up. How does ten tomorrow morning sound?"

          Felicity nods and smiles nervously even as Thea squeals and lunges at Felicity, grabbing her in a brief hug before racing off to wake up Roy with the news, as Dig smiles and shakes his head, reaching into his own jacket to get his cell phone and call his wife.

          The next twenty four hours are a flurry of activity, from getting clothes out, contacting people, making arrangements not just for the impromptu make-up wedding, but to getting the ransom back into the Queen accounts, dealing with the insurance policy on the wedding and rescheduling the honeymoon for a bit later in the year. That last thing was something that both Felicity and Oliver had agreed on readily. While they might want to go on that trip, they really needed to be healed up to engage in all the 'activities' the vacation would offer them.

          So at ten am the following morning a small party of thirteen: Oliver and Felicity, Roy and Thea, Lyla, Dig and little Michael, Quentin, Laurel, Dinah and Sara Lance, along with Nyssa and Walter, stood outside the office of the mayor, waiting for his assistant to call them in.

          "We should have done this the first time," Oliver whispers in her ear as he pulls his now blushing bride tightly into his chest, her green painted fingernails splaying across his chest.

          "You're right," she says quietly back.

          The doors behind them open and a sturdy older woman with platinum hair and a dark tailored suit greets them. "The Mayor's ready for you."

          Oliver ushers Felicity inside, her arm looped in his. Their party follows behind and fills in the ornate room full of dark woods and a plush Oriental rug beneath their feet. The Mayor gets up from his desk and moves to greet Oliver, reaching out a hand to shake.

          "Oliver, I'm glad to have the chance to help out," he says, catching Oliver's hand and giving it a brief grip before releasing it and addressing the whole gathering. "So, I know you have everything ready, did you want to do anything specific… personal vows?"

          "Nope, just short, sweet and get us married before something else happens," replies Felicity, causing the attending guests and family to laugh.

          "Okay then. Let's get started with the short, basic version, then, yes? If you would," the Mayor started, directing Felicity and Oliver to stand before him, the rest of their party arranged behind them. "Dearly beloved, we're gathered here…"

          As the Mayor begins the ceremony, Felicity's eyes catch and hold with Oliver's, her ears hearing but her brain not registering the words as her mind starts to drift. She stares at him, seeing the remnants of the bruising still on his face from his fight with Slade. If she ever questioned just what Oliver would be willing to go through for her, not like she didn't know - The Count was dead because he'd threatened her - the proof was right there on his face, and back in his bank accounts. She still can't believe that they'd expected Oliver to pay a quarter of a billion dollars to get her back. Not that she cares about the money. All she wants is this man she loves more than anything in her life and in their bed every night after a long day of work and after-hours work and...

          "Ms. Smoak?" questions the Mayor, causing Felicity to jerk her head towards him, eyes blinking furiously as her wayward thoughts of green leather and their bedroom fall.

          "What? Huh, oh, sorry, yeah kinda stopped paying attention there…" she stumbles, a flush covering her cheeks that tells Oliver just where her mind might have been and causing him to smirk.

          "I asked if you took Oliver as your husband," the Mayor asks with a smile.

          She bites her lip and winces as she looks at Oliver, who is barely covering a laugh with a smirk.

          "Oh, yes, I do," Felicity says, almost breathless.

          The wedding party laughs at that, and the judge continues, "and do you, Oliver, take this easily distracted woman as your wife?"

          "I do," Oliver says, the sincerity and love for her dripping from each word.

          "Rings?"

          Dig steps forward, handing Felicity and Oliver each other's rings. Without further prompting, Oliver takes the matching wedding band slides it home, the metal rings tapping together lightly. Then Felicity is lining up the platinum band with the inset triangle/arrow shaped emerald on Oliver's finger and pushes it up his finger until it can go no farther and she looks up to see the brilliant smile on Oliver's face that she remembers from that first time when he asked her out. The one that lets her know just how much she means to him, and she swallows hard, fighting not to cry at the emotions coursing through her in this moment.

          "Well then, by the power vested in me by virtue of my office as Mayor of Starling City, I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Queen," announces the Mayor, before adding, "You probably want to kiss the bride before she gets distracted again."

          "I think I can handle that," says Oliver with a smirk as he pulls Felicity to him and leans in to kiss her, their lips meeting and fusing as her arms wrap around his neck, sealing them together.

          Applause and hoots of congratulation fill the room and Dig's loud clearing of his throat finally breaks up the newlyweds, who turn to their friends and family, finding happy smiles and tears. Oliver shakes hands and hugs people as Felicity hugs and kisses others until everyone has properly greeted the married couple. Behind them, the Mayor has signed the wedding license that Thea had been sure to give his assistant and Felicity and Oliver are prompted by the woman to sign it as well so she can send it to the registrar's office for them.

          Once the paperwork is done, Oliver is reaching for his bride's hand, lifting the brace covered appendage and kissing her knuckles by her rings. She'd wanted to not wear it today but the glare she'd gotten from Oliver had ended the discussion. His later reminder that, if she was good about not stressing the injury, the quicker it would heal and the earlier she could chuck the thing permanently had helped ease the sting. Of course, Felicity had demanded that Oliver wear his knee brace if she had to wear her wrist splint, so his normally smooth pant legs had a slight bump at the knee on one leg.

          The group leaves the Mayor's office, voices raised in happy chatter before stopping at the staircase to descend to the main level of City Hall and to their respective vehicles and responsibilities.

          "So, what now? Your honeymoon travel plans probably would need tweaking?" questions Captain Lance, his arms around Laurel and Dinah, who stand on either side of him, Sara and Nyssa close by her family.

          "You could take the company jet… you only missed a few days of the trip and I'm sure the hotel still has your reservation," comments Thea, with Roy behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist.

          "The honeymoon travel and hotel was all insured. Felicity made sure that we bought the policy, just in case we had a… work emergency," Oliver states as he looks at her once more, love reflected in his eyes as he kisses her fingers, then her palm of the hand he's been holding.

          "Of course she did," replies Dig, giving Lyla a knowing look as she leans into him, Michael perched on her hip as Dig holds his family close.

          "Then are you going now or not?" questions Walter, who had volunteered to keep an eye on QC business for them while they were gone.

          "I know you offered to cover for us…" Felicity begins, looking from Walter to her Arrow family, the words meaning different things to them, as Sara had agreed to stay while they were gone to help Dig and Roy keep the streets safe, however...

          "But we are kinda beat up. Wouldn't be much fun," adds Oliver, giving his wife a look that leaves exactly nothing to the imagination and makes most of the people in the room feel like they're intruding on something they'd rather not be witness to.

          "We're going to wait and reschedule later in the fall. Take some time to heal up. Besides, I hate this thing," complains Felicity, pointing to her brace. "Getting it wet or getting sand in it would suck, and I really want a full range of motion for my hands if we're doing anything super fun or bendy or… oh, 3, 2…"

          Without letting her finish, Oliver reaches over and cups Felicity's face and is kissing her hard and insistent, cutting off her inappropriate ramble before everyone hears too much about her plans for their honeymoon and he loses his restraint and drags her home to consummate this marriage right this second.

          They have the rest of their lives now… he could wait… at least an hour.

          -end ch 13-

                    

 *Chapter 14*: Forever and a Day

 

          It had ended up being six weeks, as both Oliver and Felicity healed, cleared their QC workload and ended a local crime spree led by the Triad, before they could head out for their delayed honeymoon.

          Dig had promised that he, Roy and Thea (filling in at the computers for Felicity) would be perfectly fine, and, if anything came up, they'd call Barry for backup, so they shouldn't worry about Starling City and have a good time.

          With that final push, they finally make their way to Bermuda.

          "It's a lot more… sunny than I expected," says Felicity as they walk hand-in-hand through the baking warmth from the terminal to the town car that Oliver had hired to drive them to the hotel from the bustling small airport.

          "I think that's due to the sun being out. I know sometimes we don't see much of it between our day and night jobs," jokes Oliver, her carry-on bag with her tablet and phone secure in his other hand. There had been a great debate about leaving her tech behind for their week long vacation, but he'd folded under her glare at the idea of being totally disconnected and her rather compelling argument that they had no way to be reached if all hell broke loose at home and they needed to cut things short, backup or not.

          Sliding inside the back seat of the luxury sedan, Felicity waits for Oliver to slip her bag to the floor by their feet before he climbs in beside her, catching her hand again. His eyes shine and that smile she loves appears when his thumb rubs over her engagement and wedding rings before he pulls her hand up and places a kiss on the back of it. As the car pulls away from the airport he lays his other hand on her knee, just below the hiked up hem of her pale green floral dress. His fingers lazily draw patterns on her bare skin, causing her blood pressure to climb as the tendrils of desire roiled within her with each movement.

          They'd been good… well, kinda good throughout the flight here. Since they were taking commercial transportation, there was no attempt at joining the 'mile high club', but any time their skin brushed up against one another, it just made it very clear that they both wanted and needed to get to their hotel so they could start their honeymoon.

          Now, with Oliver inching his fingers further up Felicity's thigh, she knows that, once they are in their room, there is going to be no leaving until they are sated or they have to head back to Starling City. And Felicity knows that between the two of them, his need for her, especially after the kidnapping has been insatiable.

          Her hand falls to cover his, stopping his progress before he drags her gauzy skirt up too high and the driver gets a show he hadn't paid for. She'd be giving him back as good as she got if they were in Starling City with Dig driving or in the lair, but being in public where anyone could be looking for a revealing picture of Oliver and her, she tried to keep the naughty PDAs to a minimum.

          "You really don't plan on seeing much of the beach or anything, do you, Mr. Queen?" Felicity suddenly remarks, realizing that he is now looking at her like a starving man seeing a banquet before him.

          "Probably not. I think we'll have more than enough to entertain us… in the hotel," Oliver replies as he moves his hand to wrap around her waist, pulling her closer to him until she's nearly in his lap.

          Felicity swallows hard at the desire that she can see starkly reflected in his eyes and reminds herself that she can ravage and be ravaged by this man as soon as they are alone, and licks her suddenly dry lips at the thought, prompting a quiet, guttural growl from her still new husband, who just tightens his grip on her hip, the feeling of his fingertips digging into her skin sending a thrill through her.

          "You need to not do that, or I'm going to forget there's no partition in this car," he whispers in her ear, his breath hot against her flesh and she bites her lower lip to keep from moaning at the feel of his touch, his scent so close to her and the way his words drive her crazy.

          They can't get to the hotel quick enough… for either of them.

          Finally, mercifully the car pulls into the drive at the Rosewood Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa, the exterior all cream and white modern architecture. Oliver slides out of the car and helps Felicity, his hand now moving to guide her inside, his palm pressed against the cut out back of her dress and laying flat on her bare skin. As they head towards the doors, the driver moves to meet the porter who is coming to get their bags from the trunk. Handing the young man the bag with Felicity's electronics gets Oliver a little glare, but then he's brushing his fingers in circles on her bare back, making her brain short circuit as he leads her inside the lobby and to the check-in desk.

          "You have a reservation for Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Queen," states Oliver, making Felicity roll her eyes. She's hyphenated her name for professional reasons, but Oliver seems to take delight in leaving out her maiden name at any chance he has to call her Mrs. Queen.

          "Yes, sir. The penthouse suite. Marco will take your bags up, if you'll follow him," says the neatly dressed and overly tanned girl at the counter before handing him the electronic key cards for the room. "We hope you enjoy your stay."

          Oliver nods and takes the key and slides it into the jacket pocket of his dove gray suit before he presses his hand flat again against his wife's naked back and urges her towards the elevators behind the porter with their luggage. They file into the small elevator, and Felicity's thoughts fill with memories of having pulled the emergency stop on the executive elevator at QC when they were dating as the doors close. Oliver steps even closer to her when they start to ascend, a smirk covering his face when his eyes catch hers and the blush creeps across her face at the recollection. He grasps her other hand with his, his thumb rubbing over the palm and making her take in a deep stuttering breath to try and center herself.

          When the doors finally open, they're greeted by the same clean white walls extending down a ten foot hallway, the floor covered with plush sand colored carpet and a set of double rosewood doors directly in front of them. The porter immediately heads down the hallway, with Oliver and Felicity a few steps behind. Before either of them can get to the doorway, the porter opens it for them, heading inside to put down their bags. Just as Felicity is about to walk in, Oliver reaches down and swiftly lifts her into his arms in a bridal carry, causing her to let out a stunned yelp as her arms automatically wrap around his neck.

          "Carrying me over the threshold? Really?" she gasps out, surprise and disbelief coloring her words.

          "I didn't get to do it when we got married. Bum knee and all," replies Oliver sincerely with a pointed look that has equal measures of humor and sadness within.

          "And the other times you've had to carry me like this haven't exactly been positive," she adds, memories of waking up in his arms, head pounding as Oliver carried her on the night that Slade attacked Starling City rising up within her.

          "All the better to make new, good memories," he answers, his eyes darkening with want as he steps inside the stunningly furnished suite, which he ignores in favor of the sight in his arms, causing Felicity's heart to skip a few beats at the raw look of desire in his gaze. "You want to pay the man so he can leave?"

          Felicity quickly shoves a hand into her purse and pulls out some bills to give to the young man, who smiles and closes the door behind him hurriedly. Alone in their room, Felicity settles into Oliver's arms, realizing that he isn't planning on putting her down any time soon, and she's perfectly alright with that, especially with how he seems to have a plan in mind, which she sincerely hopes includes having his way with her right now.

          "So, since you booked the suite and all, we don't need the tour," Oliver comments distractedly, carrying her through the white walled suite, past the yellow cream upholstered furniture, the glass patio windows with the view of nothing but their personal outdoor pool and then just ocean, sand and sky. "We'll be getting to everything in due time."

          Felicity's fingers grip into his jacket at the picture his words are painting in her head and, before she can say anything stupid or inappropriate about whether he has a checklist in mind for everywhere he wants to make love to her, he turns and walks them into the bedroom. The room is dominated by a huge California King four poster bed in the same rosewood, hung with white gauzy hangings and covered by pale sea blue and white bed linens. Against one wall, she can see the open door leading to the massive master bath that she knows has the Jacuzzi tub that looked like it could sit four linebackers along with the enclosed shower with its steam jets and twenty spray settings.

          But they're not going anywhere near there, as Oliver makes a beeline to the bed. Obviously the first destination in their week of honeymoon sex debauchery is the most predictable one.

          "Well, this is just… wow. You know a girl could get used to this kind of irresponsible luxury, Mr. Queen," Felicity attempts to joke before Oliver sits her on the high mattress. She runs a hand on the cool comforter, watching him kneel before her, slipping off her strappy sandals, his grin ear to ear as his fingers play along her skin, sending jolts of electricity up her limbs as she realizes that they are now finally, truly alone.

          As Oliver tosses her shoes somewhere behind him, she can see the lust for her in his eyes and it forces a quiet gasp from her lips as his hands work their way up and down her calves. This isn't the first time they've been together since they got married, but it is their honeymoon, and she can immediately tell that her husband plans to take advantage of every second of their time away from responsibility to feed the passion between them that frankly they don't get to explore as much as they want to, what with the time suck and exhaustion from company running and city saving and everything...

          When his hands suddenly stop moving, Felicity realizes the last statement must have slipped past her filter and had been said out loud. She bites her lower lip and Oliver slips a hand up to tenderly ease the flesh from her teeth, his eyes shining with love, as well as understanding

          "I know. We could always stay longer than we planned..." Oliver says softly, the open-ended suggestion hanging there, his voice layered with desire as well as reluctant honesty. If she wanted to stay a month, two, even a year, he'd figure out a way to put aside the guilt he'd have for not taking care of the company or Starling City just to make her happy, to give them the happiness they deserve, even for just a little while.

          Then Felicity giggles, the sound turning into laughter for a few moments before she quickly sobers and reaches down to press the palm of her hand against his stubbled cheek, a tender smile across her face.

          "That's cute, but we're barely going to be able to go a week before you start worrying about needing to Arrow some bad guy bent on destroying the city and I decide my tablet and phone don't offer me enough of a computer fix," she replies with a note of disbelief to her voice, knowing that neither of them could just up and quit their crime fighting ways. "I will not be responsible for my actions if I have to deal with broody, guilty Oliver Queen here while Dig and Roy and Thea mess with my babies at home. I'm already stressed enough thinking about the cache clearing I'm going to have to do when I get back to be sure I don't have a slow processor or overwhelmed RAM…"

          Oliver gives her a calculated, awed shake of his head, his throat tightening on him as he takes in her words and the depth of the meaning within them; she loves him and that includes the man who wears the hood, not despite him. She is his partner, in more ways than one, and his mission is their mission - always. The smile that appears on his face makes Felicity's heart expand in her chest. He slowly stands, his body nearly rubbing against hers as he leverages himself up and then over her, causing her to move further backwards onto the bed.

          "Then I guess we'll just have to make the most of the time we have," remarks Oliver, that smirk she loves appearing on his face just before he leans in and captures her lips with his, the immediate feeling of love and desire for her coming from this man hitting her like a freight train before she's kissing him back just as passionately.

          Felicity's hands whip to his shoulders, her hands gripping into the layers of cloth there. The part of her brain not occupied by the feeling of Oliver's mouth and tongue dancing with hers drives her to claw at the fabric, needing to get to his bare skin. His attention diverts to finding the zipper on her dress and lets her get her fingers under the collar of his jacket, shoving it down, but the garment catches on his elbows and stills his hands.

          "Take this off," she says breathily, and Oliver leans back to let her hurriedly unbutton his crisp white dress shirt before she pushes the jacket and shirt off him together, sending both items to the floor behind him.

          With his chest now bare, Felicity runs her hands over his skin, fingertips distinguishing but uncaring of the difference in texture between unmarked or marked skin; it's all the same to her and, since the first time she got to touch him like this and she dismissed his scars as just skin, Oliver had felt himself fall that much further in love with her.

          As Felicity's hands roam over him, Oliver's lips land on her exposed neck and her head falls back on a groan as he finally gets the zipper of her dress down. His hands slip under the sweetheart neckline of the dress and pull it down, the cap sleeves dragging over her already heated skin, and Felicity vaguely registers the action, distractedly helping him guide it off her arms, directing the material to pool at her waist.

          Oliver eases back to look at her and his throat reflexively tightens again as he swallows heavily at the stunning sight of her nearly naked in front of him, his hardening cock twitching within the confining fabric of his clothes. The dark green silk bra is one that Oliver has seen before, but, every time he learns that she's wearing it, he can't help the possessive feeling that fills him and finds himself completely turned on. And of course she had to wear it today. His hand comes up to cup her breast through the fabric, making her moan in appreciation, her hands shifting from his back to cradle his jaw in her palms, fingers caressing his face.

          "I thought you might appreciate them, considering everything," she says with a sly grin, and he knows that she knows what the sight of the undergarments do to him. And that the bra is part of a matching set.

          "I do," he replies before moving his hands to the center clasp between her breasts and popping the it.

          Without a second's pause, his hands push the silky fabric away, exposing her to his view. His head falls forward, mouth kissing along her collarbone before traveling lower to cover the center of one breast, his tongue lithely lashing her stiff nipple, causing her hands to grip his shoulders and neck as she moans louder at the action. They've been together for two years like this now but the passion between them is still unbridled.

          With one hand wrapped around her back, holding her to him, Oliver lets the other caress her other breast, thumb and forefinger playing with the hardened nub with as much skill as he draws his bowstring. When his mouth finally releases her breast, Oliver licks a long line to her neck, placing a delicate kiss on her lips before pulling away. Her eyes open and catch with his, the love and lust exposed there making her already speeding heart beat faster. His hands coast down her sides and his tongue unconsciously wets his lips, his throat working convulsively as he looks at her - hair mussed and face flushed, eyes bright and blown. He will never tire of the sight of her like this, with him, because of him...

          "I love you. I will never know what I did to deserve you," he says softly, his hands grasping hers as she reaches for him to pull him back to her.

          "You let me love you," she replies simply, and the look in Oliver's eyes at the declaration makes her gasp quietly.

          Oliver then slides to the floor once more, his knees hitting the carpet as he pulls Felicity's bare legs towards him, her hips sliding across the bed linens. His fingers slip up her thighs and pull her dress and the delicate dark green silk underwear from her, dragging the articles of clothing down and off before he lifts her calves up and situates them on his bare shoulders as his head swiftly dips to her apex, his mouth and tongue immediately finding her wet, heated core.

          "Ooh, god," moans Felicity as his lips and tongue cover and lap at her center. "That, you…"

          Felicity feels the roughness of his stubble against her inner thighs even as Oliver's mouth and tongue do delicious, mind blowing things to her body. Her fingers clutch at his head and short, spiky hair even as one of his hands grips her thigh, holding her to him. The other hand slides between her legs and when his mouth eases away from her center he pushes two deft fingers into her before his tongue slips up to flicker over her clit in time with his thrusting fingers.

          Felicity's back bows off the bed, a garbled scream catching in her throat as her hands fly to the sheets and her fingers dig in as her whole world centers on what this man, her husband and love of her life, is doing to her. Another few forceful movements of his fingers within her, the pads of his fingertips curling to brush along that elusive spot inside her and his lips closing over and pulling on her clit are enough to send her over the edge, her vision graying out at the intensity of her climax as her inner walls ripple around his still sheathed fingers.

          Oliver pulls his hands and mouth from her center and scrambles to his feet, his eyes locked on his wife, who lies panting on the bed, eyes closed and fists bunched in the bed linens. The sight of her, flushed from the orgasm that he just gave her makes him harder than he had been before, and he swiftly reaches for his belt, whipping it open and undoing his pants. Shucking them along with his boxers, socks and shoes, Oliver moves to lay on the bed beside Felicity, his bare front pressing up against her naked side as he places a gentle hand on her cheek as she opens her eyes and stares at him, pupils blown and mouth gaping open.

          "Wow. This honeymoon sex is almost better than married sex," she blurts out and Oliver stifles a laugh, but can't suppress the smile that blooms on his face.

          "I'm sure we can top it, since we're just getting started," he suggests in a low, seductive tone as he runs his hand over her flushed chest, brushing briefly over her breasts before dipping between her thighs and causing her body to arch against his touch as his deft fingers slide within the heated wetness pooled there.

          Her eyes lock with his and she lets go of her death grip of the comforter to touch his chest, palm pressing momentarily over his heart, and then she breaks his gaze to drag her eyes appreciatively over his body. Her attention is caught by his straining erection and her fingers lightly brush up and down the hard, hot column, forcing a hiss from Oliver's lips.

          "I'm game if you're up to it," she adds, her voice teasing as she grips his length and then she leans up to kiss him, his mouth opening to meet her passion while he rolls over her, their bodies coming flush together.

          Felicity instinctively shifts her hips, widening the space between her thighs to accommodate his body. As he holds himself up on his arms, he lets his lower half press into her, causing them both to groan at the feelings generated by the intimate contact.

          Depending on their mood, their lovemaking has been equal turns tender and loving and hard and fast. Today, as she feels the hard length of his cock nudge her center insistently, his need to be with her, within and surrounded by her - completely connected in this intimate, mind-blowing way, she knows that Oliver's patience is gone. Having spent the long hours on the flight here, in the car and getting to the room with the build up to this moment, on top of the postponement of their honeymoon following the emotional impact of her kidnapping and the fight with Slade, he wants to be with her, inside her right now just as badly as she wants him there. With a shift of her hips, the tip of his erection slips through her folds, and he pushes into her slick heat in one quick, forceful thrust.

          The feeling of finally being surrounded by her wet, warm passage forces a string of swear words in several languages along with her name from Oliver's lips, and, beneath him, Felicity bites back her own exclamation at the truly incomparable sense of being filled by this man who holds her heart.

          After a few moments to center himself, Oliver slowly eases his hips and cock backward, just to the edge of near withdrawal before swiftly resheathing himself, drawing a gasp from her. Her hands move from where she'd held him to her across his lower back to his neck and shoulders. But Oliver shifts his weight to his knees and legs so he can lift his hands from the mattress to catch hers, raising them over her head as their fingers intertwine and then he lets his weight distribute between his knees and hands as he presses into her once more. The friction the action causes making Felicity buck up against him, a needy moan slipping from her lips, making Oliver grin. He snaps his hips back and then forward quickly, repeating the action over and over in rapid succession, making their hand grip tighten.

          Felicity can feel her second orgasm rushing up on her, and, the way Oliver's cock is pistoning into her, his eyes nearly black as they watch her, his breath coming in pants at his need to bring them both over the edge drives him harder, she knows he's even closer than she is. She hooks her legs across his back, locking her ankles at the small of his back, and shifting her pelvis up, letting him slide just that millimeter deeper into her, and she feels the shockwaves start.

          Oliver feels how her small adjustment has changed his angle of penetration and her sudden gasp at the new position tells him she's close. He leans his head down to catch her lips with his in a hot, sloppy kiss that matches his rapidly slipping control as he teeters on the edge of his own climax. Pulling away, he lets his teeth graze her earlobe before he whispers, voice low and wrecked in his desire, "Come for me, Felicity."

          It only takes his words and two more hard, erratic thrusts before she breaks apart in his arms, her fingers digging into his almost painfully as his name bursts from her lips in a near wail, along with a few swear words of her own, all in English.

          As her orgasm washes through her, her internal walls clench around Oliver's erection and, with a desperate thrust, Oliver follows her into oblivion, her name a growl bursting up from his chest. His hips stutter as he completes and then begin to slow, gradually coming to a stop, his body spent. He lets his forehead fall forward, landing on hers, the two of them caught up in the moment of this connection they share, the love between them more than either thought possible.

          It's only when his arms tremble ever so slightly that Felicity breaks the grip of their hands and reaches up to caress his whiskered jaw, pressing a brief kiss on his lips before putting her hands on his chest and pushing up. Reluctantly pulling out of her, Oliver rolls over and collapses on the mattress beside Felicity, the sheets and bed cover beneath them a tangled mess.

          "Whoa… okay, so yeah, honeymoon sex is awesome," blurts out Felicity in a breathless exhale.

          "It is," Oliver replies, his voice filled with all the love and happiness the woman beside him engenders in him. She sighs and throws a hand over her mouth before she laughs at her inability to keep her brain to mouth filter from working, especially following mind blowing sex.

          She turns her head to look at him, his eyes now partially returned to normal, though the color of his ocean blues looks stormy in his post-coital endorphin rush and she beams at him. The blinding smile he sends back to her does nothing to help slow down her still rapid pulse, and she can't help but reach out to tangle her hand in his, their fingers playing with one another. That simple touch starts building the desire between them anew, and she can feel the stirrings of want in her body once more. And from the look of his slowly hardening cock, she can tell he's nowhere near done with her.

          "So, the Olympic sized bathtub next?" asks Felicity with a wink, watching his eyes widen for a second before they grow dark once more with want.

          "Absolutely. Then the pool, and the couch and then..." he replies with a smirk before rolling over her and kissing her soundly, the silken feel of her heated skin beneath him causing him to groan low in his chest before he sweeps his arms under her and lifts her up, a squeal coming from her lips as he stands and walks them both into the bathroom.

          They had a week to have sex everywhere in their room… at least twice, and, with all the surfaces available to them, he knows they need to get started now if they have any chance of doing just that.

          And he is not about to fail.

          -end-

          Okay, so that's it. I hope you all enjoyed. Thanks again for joining me on the ride!

          Ms. J.