A/N: Ok, and here's the next update! I'm thinking around 23 or 24 chapters before I call it a story and take a bit of a break from this series while I plan the sequel out and work on this one-shot that has somehow turned into my version of season 3 featuring Ray Palmer and Olicity (it won't fit with what's actually going to happen, obviously, but I'm really excited about it! I have this whole backstory for Ray planned out and I've never been this in to developing a side character before… I'm also really excited about my plans for Laurel- and yes I realize that probably turns some people off of it because I don't just write her out like I did in this, but it's something I've always wanted for her and I'm excited to make it happen).
Much to his chagrin, the moment they manage to escape to his room, Felicity heads straight for the bathroom to change. It's probably a good thing (that dress is far too distracting for its own good), but he still mourns the loss of opportunity to remove it himself. He doesn't even want to think about the fact that it actually belongs to his sister.
When she emerges in her pyjamas, hair secured in a side-braid and his sweater half-zipped over her tank top, she looks just as beautiful as she did moments ago. He's sure she sees the way he swallows just a tad too hard at the sight of her but can't find it within himself to regret that. They're past the point of him trying to pretend he isn't affected by her. He's pretty sure she gets a bit of a thrill from the knowledge that she can drive him mad.
He's taken the time she's been gone to discard the stifling suit he wore to dinner, leaving him in pyjama bottoms and a grey undershirt. Judging by the look in her eye, she's just as keenly aware of his body as he is of hers, and he wonders if that factors into her decision to drop onto the opposite end of the couch, throwing her feet up in his lap lightheartedly. He chooses not to comment, lightly gripping her ankles and absentmindedly running his thumb over her skin.
"I take it you want to talk," she finally says into the silence. How she can read him so well, he'll never understand, but he nods regardless. Her eyes flick away from him as she presses her lips together before nodding along slowly. "I figured when I saw you on the couch."
So she's noticed the couch's strange affiliation with them taking a step back as well. Before dinner things got a little intense, and he knows that if she were any closer, he wouldn't be able to keep his hands away from her long enough to have this conversation. His control slips further and further away with each day, and he's sure that he'll cave soon. It's the natural next step, one he's sure his mother and sister (and probably Diggle and Sara, but he'd rather not think about that) assume they've already taken. Like with everything else concerning Felicity, though, he gets the feeling that this is vastly different from his previous attempts at relationships. So much of their intimacy comes from emotional and mental connection that taking the physical step seems somehow more important than all of the previous times he's done it. He feels pressure to make sure it's right, not just some heat of the moment thing to satisfy their baser desires. He's surprised to find it matters to him how it happens. It never has before.
He studies her for a moment longer, trying to shake his thoughts from clouding his goal, before speaking. "I just want to know how you're doing."
"I'm… dealing," she answers, sighing heavily. Her fingers find the edge of his sweater and begin twisting the fabric every which way to occupy themselves. "It was… unexpected, hearing him say that he did it because he loves me. Totally twisted logic, but to spend all this time thinking it was because he didn't…" She pauses, turning her face to the ceiling briefly in the search for her next words. "I don't know what to do with that. What if he's lying? What if it's all an act designed to lure me in? But then what if it isn't? What if he's being honest? I mean, he's still doing awful things and he's still involved with Isabel, and he has no intention of stopping either of those things, so does it even matter?
"The man I met with… he isn't my father. The man who was my father disappeared a long time ago." Another pause. "I lied tonight, when I said he died when I was in university. He died long before that." Her voice catches but she powers through. "But then I try to look at him and see only what he's done and I can't. I see his face and I want to hate him but I'm too confused to understand what I feel. He's done terrible things and he'll keep doing them, but when he looks at me and tells me he only wants what's best for me… I believe him, even if our definitions of the word clash to the extreme. I know we need to stop him, but beyond that… I'm lost."
She looks it, he thinks, as he leans across the couch to brush away the stray tears that have escaped her tenuous hold on composure. Felicity closes her eyes and leans into his touch so he leaves his hand on her cheek, hoping it's enough to lend her the strength she's lacking.
"Sometimes there's no easy answer," he finally says, thinking back to the five years he spent away. "It's rarely black and white."
She huffs out a short laugh. "It would be so much easier if it were."
Oliver silently agrees with her. Life would be easier if everything were cut and dry, but then he probably wouldn't be the man he is today. If Felicity hadn't shown him the grey area in the first place, he would have lived his entire life in the black.
"He said I was like him," she tells him suddenly, pulling away from his hand. He lets it drop to her shoulder and glide down her arm. "He said that his death made me embrace who I truly am, that I'd do anything given the right circumstances, just like him."
"He's wrong," he immediately objects.
Felicity's eyes fly to his, the panic in them clear. "There's no way you can know that. Ever since he died I've been afraid of letting myself become like him. Obviously, it was because I knew, given the chance, I would do it. I would become my father if I gave into the darkness he pushed on me. It's always been there, waiting to be let inside. Once I give myself to it… There's no going back. He knows it, and he can see it starting. He can see the darkness he's brought back into my life, the shadows I've fought so hard against these past six years. It's why he can see himself in me."
"Felicity," he interrupts gently, sliding along the couch until he's close enough to take her face in his palms. Her knees are now bent over his thighs, her toes twisting nervously down into the couch cushion where he was seated moments before. "Anyone is capable of anything, but that doesn't always have to be a bad thing. You are not like him. Letting the memories in and using sparring as an outlet… That doesn't mean you're tainting yourself. You're still you, the woman who can find the light in even the darkest of people and situations. You can look at your father and see past the things he's done to the decent man you remember from pieces of memories years ago. You are capable of anything, but that doesn't mean you're like your father. It means you're the exact opposite."
It's no secret he's terrible with words, but by the time he's finished, Felicity's eyes are glistening with what he hopes are happier tears. As though on cue, she breaks out into a watery smile and leans forward to close the distance between them. It's a slow, deep kiss, meant to convey the gratitude she seemingly can't put into words. Once they break apart, she wraps her arms tightly around him and buries her face in his neck. Turning his head, he presses soft kisses into her hair, once more overcome with love for the woman who's brought more light into his life than anyone else.
"Ya tebya lyub-lyu, sol-nyshka moyo," he whispers into her hair, tightening his arms around her shoulders.
Her hands rub his back lightly as she asks into his neck, her breath tickling his skin, "What does that mean?"
It's the second time he's said it, and the second time she's asked. This time, the words are falling from his lips before he can stop them. "I love you."
So much for not rushing things. His heart is in his throat as he waits for a reaction, anything to indicate exactly how far past the line he's gone.
He breathes a sigh of relief when her arms tighten around his waist. She presses her lips to his neck, his jaw, and finally his own lips before she pulls back and gives him a blinding smile. "I love you, too."
She doesn't comment on the fact that it's only a partial translation. Those three words are the only ones that truly matter. The rest can wait.
With Oliver in a board meeting that's running late and Diggle out with Lyla for the night, Felicity finds herself alone in the foundry for the first time in a while. Ever since this mess started, there has always been at least one of her men in the basement with her. The silence surrounding her in their absence is rather refreshing. Aside from the potential for Isabel to breach the QC database, it's a slow night for crime, and she intends to use that to her advantage.
Her father was her first tutor in all things computer-related, meaning he was the one who introduced her to the wonders of hacking. Of course, she's worked with various other… influences over the years, but her basic habits were passed along from the man who raised her. If she stands a chance at catching him off guard, she needs to work on diversifying her approach. He'll be expecting three quarters of her knee-jerk reactions, possibly more than that if he's been watching her as long as she suspects.
In order to get the upper hand, she's decided to try her luck with some of the Russians she made contact with in her earlier pursuit of the Ghost. Hopefully, they'll drop some hints about what his strategies are so she can start working on counter-attacks in advance. Cracking her knuckles, she settles in for a long night of re-education.
She's so engrossed in her monitors, trading information and methods with various online "acquaintances" in multiple countries, that she doesn't notice the comings and goings of her teammates. It's been a long time since she's lost herself in the digital underground and she's missed it more than she realized. Not since college has she interacted in such an anonymous manner. There's just something about the idea that, somewhere in Russia and China and New Zealand, there are three other people sitting at monitors trying to outmanoeuvre her. They're failing, but they're putting up a valiant effort. It gives her a surge of confidence she's been lacking lately, what with her revelations concerning her father throwing her off balance.
Finally, she calls it a night when she realizes just how stiff her neck is. She isn't used to sitting in one place for this long. Usually her Arrow-related hacking permits breaks and distractions, most often in the form of Diggle or Oliver asking questions or bringing food. Looking to her left, she sees a Tupperware container resting on the desk. Frowning, she steps over to it, pausing to get accustomed to the shift in position from her seat.
"Ollie dropped that off a few hours ago. We tried to get your attention but…" Sara's voice startles her from trying to puzzle out the appearance of the food.
"Sara!" She exclaims, hand clutching her chest. "I didn't know you were…"
"Here? I know," Sara smiles gently. "You were a bit lost in your own world."
Felicity rubs the back of her neck a bit awkwardly, feeling self-conscious that Sara's probably been here for hours while she's been oblivious. Obviously she isn't doing any better with the constant vigilance Diggle's drilling into her.
"What were you doing?" The other blonde asks curiously, untwisting the cap on a water bottle and taking a swig.
"Just… practicing. It's been awhile since I've really faced a challenge. That was actually part of the reason I signed on to the Arrow mission in the first place, but there's a big difference between hacking the FBI and trying to best an actual person," she answers, before cringing. "I didn't mean for that to sound arrogant."
Sara shrugs. "Don't apologize for speaking the truth about your skill. If you aren't confident, you lose some of your edge."
Her lips twitch without meaning to and she moves to lift the lid on the container, stomach rumbling loudly when she sees the contents.
"Wow. Ollie's mac and cheese. He must really like you," Sara teases, peering into the container over her shoulder.
Felicity lets out a laugh of surprise at Sara's tone, not expecting the comment. Sara has been so serious since she's come back into the picture that Felicity finds herself revelling in the opportunity to hear and see her let go of her tough exterior even for a second. It reminds her of the Oliver she first met in that cubicle, longing to smile but not really recalling how. And when the humour does break through the surface, at first it seems tentative, almost foreign, like riding a bike after years of avoiding it for fear of falling.
Rummaging in a drawer in the med bay, Felicity secures two plastic forks and passes one to Sara in silent invitation. She hesitates, but reaches out to accept the fork and pulls up a chair across from Felicity at the table.
"Do I want to know why you guys keep forks in a drawer filled with gauze?" She asks, stabbing a few pieces of macaroni.
Spearing her own bite, Felicity shrugs. "We eat down here a lot. It seemed like a good idea, and we don't exactly have a lot of drawer space."
"Fair enough," Sara concedes, eyes sweeping the foundry walls. "It's… You guys have a good thing set up here."
"We like to think so," Felicity responds, her eyes moving around the room as well. Eventually, they make their way back to where Sara is focused on the tabletop. "You know… If you ever want out…"
Sara's head jerks up, eyes suddenly guarded. "I can't leave the League."
"There has to be a-"
"There isn't," Sara cuts her off, voice soft and sad. "I didn't have anything of value to bargain with like your father. All I had was my soul and they took it gladly. There's no getting it back now. Once we find the Ghost, I must return to Nanda Parbat."
Dismayed, she searches for something, anything to say. All she comes up with is a stuttered, "Well… After this long… There has to be something good, some light in all the dark." She catches the miniscule uptick of the other woman's lips and smiles encouragingly. "Or maybe someone."
"Nyssa. She's the one who found me, the one who convinced Ra's to give me shelter and train me. She's the reason I survived."
It's the closest she'll get to an admission from Sara, she knows, and to her credit she thinks she controls the surprise pretty well. Of course, she knew Nyssa and Sara were close based on her previous references to the other assassin, but she wasn't sure until this moment that the connection runs deeper than friendship.
"See?" She finally says, smiling brightly. "There's a silver lining in every situation."
It takes a second, but Sara's lips twitch in a returning smile, her eyes filled with the same awed disbelief from her apartment. "Ollie's lucky he found you. I don't think he'd survive without someone there to remind him to bask in the sunlight every now and again."
Not knowing what to say, Felicity jabs her fork into the container once more. Silence falls between them, though it isn't awkward. Eventually, Felicity remembers what she's wanted to ask Sara for quite some time, and swallows her bite of pasta to finally put the question out there.
"This is random… But do you speak Russian, by any chance?" She inquires, trying for casual and failing.
"I may have picked up a few words and phrases in my travels. I'm not fluent, but I get by." Sara's eyes take on a mischievous glint and she raises an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
She can already feel her face heating, briefly wondering if this is going too far. Is she crossing a line talking to Sara about this? There's obviously a reason he hasn't told her, but she did warn him she'd ask Sara if he didn't translate… Throwing caution to the wind, she blurts out, "I was wondering if you could tell me what something means. It's… well, I don't know what it is. Maybe a description or a comparison? It's…" She pauses, trying to wrap her tongue around the unfamiliar language. In the end, she probably butchers the words, but the fact that she gets anything resembling them to come out in the first place is a triumph in her books. "Sol-nyshka moyo?"
The other woman ponders the words for a moment, a look of deep concentration etched on her face. After half a minute, a slow smile stretches across her face and Felicity thinks this past hour is probably the most she's ever seen Sara Lance smile the whole time she's known her. She looks… younger when she lets the expression take residence on her face. It's almost as though she hasn't gone to Hell and stayed there, though her eyes tell a different story. Right now, it's muted, but if you know to look for it, it's there.
"It's a term of endearment," Sara explains, "Well, that's the closest thing I can think to describe it. It means 'my sun'."
Felicity is pretty sure her heart melts just a bit at that.
She feels out of place, entering the mansion alone and in the middle of the night, but she has no desire to be anywhere Oliver isn't and she's pretty sure he'd go ballistic if he awoke in the morning to find out she'd stayed the night in her apartment alone. Leaving her to find her own way back here was a pretty big step for him since the start of his overprotective streak and it would be unnecessarily mean to push her luck.
"And just where have you been all night?"
Felicity freezes with her hand on the knob to Oliver's room, eyes slamming shut at being caught sneaking in. This is a whole new level of uncomfortable. At least it's just Thea and not Moira, but still. Reluctantly, she turns to face the brunette, who is standing in the perfect imitation of her mother when she was caught sneaking back in from the only high school party she'd ever attended (the next morning, her father had found out and forbade her to leave the house for anything aside from school for three months. He then proceeded to both drop her off and pick her up from school for those three months.).
"This isn't what it looks like," she immediately blurts out. She was never very good under pressure. In retrospect, she should have prepared a lie for this very situation on her way over here.
"And what does it look like, exactly?" Thea asks, eyebrow raised.
Felicity hesitates. "I'm… not sure. But whatever you're thinking, this is totally not that."
The girl studies her for a solid minute, almost to the point of making her squirm under her intense gaze, before she cracks a smile. "Relax, Felicity. Ollie told me you were working late. I was just messing with you."
Felicity exhales in relief, shoulders slumping with the release of tension.
And then, because the situation isn't weird enough, Thea keeps talking. "I see the way my brother looks at you, even before you two got together, and I see the way you look at him. I fully trust that I will never have to worry about infidelity on either of your parts." She must look perplexed because Thea grins and elaborates. "You're the first serious, long-term one Ollie's brought home in a long time. You're good for him. If he ever did anything to screw it up, I would totally kick him out and keep you around."
She blames her exhaustion for the tears that spring to her eyes at Thea's proclamation. The brunette looks startled and hurries to fix what she thinks she's broken. "Hey, no, I didn't mean… Ollie would never actually…"
"No," Felicity interrupts, shaking her head, "It's not that. It's just… I'm an only child and I never had many friends. I guess I'm just… not used to mattering to people."
Thea's eyes fill with sadness then, and Felicity thinks maybe she's chosen the wrong words. She didn't mean to come off as a pathetic, lonely woman with no self-esteem.
"I, uh, just meant that… I…" She stutters, trying to avoid becoming an object of pity.
"You've felt isolated for so long that you've forgotten what it feels like to be cared for?" Thea supplies.
Felicity blinks, meeting the younger girl's eye and understanding at once. Thea gets it. She went through the same thing after losing Oliver and Robert. She's heard the stories, the whispers that Moira shut herself away after the Gambit went down. Oliver himself filled in a lot of the blanks about Thea's struggles with drugs and trying to feel better when her entire world was ripped apart. Of course she would empathize with the feeling of isolation.
She nods mutely, not trusting herself to speak. Sure, she's been a member of Team Arrow for over two years now, but beyond her mother, she's always kept a very firm wall between herself and the rest of the world. After her father's decree that anyone who wasn't himself or her mother was unsafe for her to associate with, she was left with friends she only saw at school, and eventually they drifted apart. She ended up finishing high school pretty much alone, one of the many nameless faces crossing the stage at the ceremony who wouldn't be attending the reception afterward and who wouldn't be missed for a moment. Once her father 'died', she kept her walls firmly in place, this time to avoid anyone from hurting her the way he did. Aside from her mother, she didn't trust anyone to stay, didn't trust anyone to care. Until now.
Now, she has Oliver, Diggle, and apparently Thea. Even Sara to an extent. Despite her best efforts to keep herself from getting too attached, she has. Just like with Oliver and Diggle, she knows Thea won't leave. There's something about the Queens that she trusts inherently, and she can't bring herself to doubt that.
Instead of saying any of that, she spares Thea an explanation of her messed up psyche and settles for, "Thank you."
Thea shrugs it off, lightening the mood instantly. "Hey, I figure one day you'll be my sister-in-law so I may as well get a head start on all the sisterly duties, right?"
Felicity blinks again at the confident tone of Thea's voice. Honestly, she's never thought that far ahead, or even thought something like marriage would be in a future for her and Oliver. She loves him, yes, and he loves her, but marriage? Was that even possible with the lives they led? Did it even make sense?
By the time she wraps her head around the idea and subsequently dismisses it as too soon to be stressing about, Thea has disappeared into her room, leaving Felicity alone in the hall. Sighing wearily, she turns back and enters the room, eagerly anticipating sleep. It's nearing four in the morning, and as she pulls on her pyjamas her mind briefly flits to why exactly Thea was still even awake, but she's too tired to care at this point.
She sighs in delight as she slips beneath the covers of what has become her side of Oliver's bed. Surprisingly enough, he's remained sleeping for the duration of her bedtime routine (which tonight just consisted of changing and brushing her teeth), but when her weight dips onto the mattress, he shifts. With the exception of his nightmares, Oliver usually doesn't move during the night, so the action startles her. At first, she assumes he's awake, but when she turns toward him, she's met with his still-closed eyes. It only takes her a split second of confusion before his arms reach out, finding her waist and tugging her toward him in his sleep. She can't stop the small smile that breaks onto her face as she settles in her usual place at his side, one arm splayed across his waist with both of his wrapped around her securely. As she drifts off to sleep, she's sure she catches a deep sigh of contentment falling from his lips and her smile widens.
The first thing she's aware of is the bright stream of sunlight piercing her eyelids. It's more insistent than she's used to, brighter, and she scrunches her face in confusion. Usually the room is much darker when the alarm goes off.
Shifting slightly, she feels the warmth of Oliver's chest still beneath her head, his abs beneath her arm, and sighs contentedly. For a moment, she forgets her disorientation and merely snuggles closer to the warmth he emits, eliciting a chuckle from the man beneath her.
"What time is it?" She mumbles, refusing to move.
His hand runs lightly up and down her arm as he answers, "Almost ten."
That gets her attention. She jolts upright in the bed, gasping and spinning to grab her phone. One click of a button proves his statement correct. Felicity can't even remember the last time she slept past seven. Usually she's at…
"QC!" She exclaims, looking down at him in alarm. "Isabel! The database! Why did you let me sleep?"
"Everything's fine, Felicity," he assures her, lips tugging slightly in a grin. "If anything had gone wrong I would have woken you up. What time did you even get back?"
She cringes. "Late. Or early, depending how you look at it." She checks her phone again, stomach dropping when she sees the e-mails she'll need to respond to. "We are insanely late. We should-"
"We are not doing anything," Oliver insists. "The CEO and his EA are taking a day off."
She shoots him a look that she's sure tells him exactly what she thinks of that idea. "Because that sends a good message."
He shrugs, looking far too carefree for the situation. "You shouldn't care so much about what people think."
"It's not about what people think." She rolls her eyes, turning her attention back to the bedside table, switching out her phone for her tablet. She can feel herself giving in and sighs. "Fine. If we're playing hooky from QC I should at least set up-"
Felicity freezes mid-sentence, staring at the subject line of the third message from the top. It looks like run-of-the-mill spam, but she can tell immediately it's from her father. Memories from years ago, ones she cites as proof her father was a decent man at one point, flood her mind without warning and she drops the tablet onto the bed.
"Felicity?" Oliver's voice sounds far away, and she barely registers him sitting up beside her. "What's going on?"
Flashes of her childhood assault her all at once as she remembers the day they came up with her code name. It was one of the first things he told her about being a hacker: every good one has a name. She'd thought it was all fun and games, choosing a silly name to use on the web so no one would know who she really was, but he took it very seriously. He told her that the name she chose would follow her online for the rest of her life (a bit dramatic looking back), so she had to choose carefully. When she asked him what his was, he'd smiled and told her Apollo. Of course, she was too young to fully understand at the time, so he'd explained that the name held symbolic significance. Apollo was the patron of Delphi, an oracular god who established the Temple of Apollo, which housed the Pythia, or Oracle of Delphi. Apollo was said to have inspired the prophecies made by each Pythia.
After some thought, Felicity chose to call herself Pythia. When her father asked why, she told him that it was so that she'd always remember who taught her what she knew. She wouldn't admit it at the time, but she also liked the idea of being likened to an oracle. Her eleven year old mind thought it was cool.
Now, as she relays the story to Oliver, she thinks it's probably something she probably got from her father. After all, the man named himself after a god.
Sighing, she clicks on the email link and tilts it so Oliver can see. His chin is resting on her shoulder, his arms wrapped around her waist to pull her back against his chest while she was talking.
"Vacation in Greece?" He murmurs. She can tell he's trying to connect the dots but not succeeding. After all, if it were obvious to everyone, her father wouldn't have sent it.
She leans her head against his as she explains. "Apollo's temple was in Delphi, Greece. It's a message from my father. He wants to meet. Today, according to the date the contest closes."
He doesn't question how she knows, doesn't ask if she's sure that's what it means. He only nods, presses a kiss to her shoulder, and says, "If you're sure."
She meets him at her apartment with Sara once again, the other blonde waiting down the hall this time to give them more privacy. She can't go with Oliver or Digg, not until she knows what this is about, and if Sara's too close he won't be candid enough for her to get what she needs. He's not stupid; regardless of Sara's inability to take him down herself, he knows her loyalty lies with the League. He won't open up, not if she's within earshot, and Felicity needs him to be as unguarded as possible. She's gotten Isabel to slip, now she just needs her father to tell her when it's happening so she can be prepared. In truth, she expected it to happen within a couple of days of her handing them over, so the fact that there hasn't been a peep from him is making her nervous. It's a fine line she's been walking, and tonight could very well bring it all crashing down. Whatever her father wants, it can't be good, but she's resolved to use the situation to her advantage as much as possible.
He looks much the same as the last time she saw him, sitting on her couch like he belongs there, his sandy hair neatly combed and his dark-rimmed glasses ever-so-slightly askew on his face. In her memory, it's always the glasses that make her remember her father. They're a piece of imperfection on an otherwise smooth, cold exterior; a window into the warm, welcoming soul beneath.
"Why did you change your name to the Ghost?" She asks suddenly, surprising herself. The purpose of this meeting was supposed to be determined by him, given he called for it, but she's overwhelmed by a desire to know.
He blinks, turning his head to look at her standing hesitantly by the door. "I didn't," he says simply, rubbing his palms slowly against each other and turning to stare at them as he continues, voice soft with honesty. "Apollo didn't exist anymore. I became nothing more than a shadow, so they called me the Ghost."
She nods after a second, accepting the answer and taking a few steps into the room. She leaves a respectable distance between them, wary of getting too close. He may look like her father right now, but she can't be too sure he'll stay that way. As much as it kills her, she can't trust him like a daughter should trust her father.
"Why did you stop calling yourself Pythia?" He shoots back.
It takes her a moment to decide how best to answer that question. She hadn't stopped hacking when her father died, so she can't use that as an excuse. Instead, she decides on the truth, since he did her the same courtesy. Of course, he could just be a really good actor, but there's something about the way he said the words, the way he wouldn't look her in the eye. First and foremost, her father was a cowardly man, preferring to hide from the reality of his problems, and she's glad to see that hasn't changed. Though, he's sitting here right now, so maybe he's taken some steps in the right direction since he left.
"You were always about knowledge and control, and you used your technological skills to get both," she finally tells him. "I wanted to connect with you, and being Pythia was one of the only ways I knew to do that. Once you were gone, I didn't need her anymore. I didn't want to be all about power and control, so I distanced myself from the name."
"And what about now? What do you call yourself?"
Felicity's gaze shifts to the window, surveying the lights of the city as she sinks down on the other end of the couch and answers. "I don't need a name. What I do for the Arrow isn't something I want recognition for. I don't leave a name or a calling card, and I certainly don't need people to attach me to him. The only important thing is that the criminals pay. They don't need to know every person who had a hand in it."
Her answer seems to displease him, if the twist of his lips is anything to go by. "And yet you're willing to leave all that behind?"
She sucks in a breath. "I didn't say that."
"You gave Isabel the codes. Am I wrong in assuming that means you've chosen a side?"
It surprises her that he's jumped to that conclusion. She expected him to call her out and tell her he can see right through her, yet he seems to want her to choose him badly enough to ignore her utter repulsion of the idea. Or maybe she's been better at controlling her gut reactions than she thought. She doesn't think so, though. Try as she might, she's never been quite able to muster the Felicity she shows Isabel behind closed doors. Perhaps it's because she doesn't expect to fool her father for a second, or maybe she's just too exhausted with trying to hold herself together in his presence to worry about trying to lie to him on top of it all. Either way, his confidence that she's chosen him is startling.
"I know you, Flick," he ploughs on, reaching out to catch her hand. She resists the urge to pull away. "Maybe you didn't realize it at the time, but when you gave those codes to Isabel, you made a choice. It might take you a bit to see it, but you made the right one."
She takes a shaky breath, mind reeling. Play along. Play along. "Did I?"
"Of course you did. The Oliver Queens of the world will come and go, but I'll always be your father. You, me, and Isabel. We'll be a family, like we were meant to."
"Then why haven't you done it yet?" She challenges, turning to face him. "Why haven't you destroyed the database and set it all in motion?"
"I just need a bit more time to get our identities in place. We won't just be hiding from the rest of the world. They need to fool the League as well. They need to be perfect," he tells her, almost muttering to himself near the end. He scrubs his hands through his hair before looking back up at her. "I'm so glad you saw reason, Flick. Now all I need to do is convince…"
Her eyes widen. "Have you not told Isabel yet?"
"She'll understand," he responds, though it seems more like he's trying to convince himself of that fact.
Felicity rears back. "She's not going to just go along with this. She's got a good thing going with the Russians. Why would she give that up?"
"Because she loves me!" He fires back. "We're family, and you do anything for family. I certainly did for her. I found her father, joined the League, left you… I helped her do all of this!" He exclaims, flinging his arms out widely. "I helped her with the Undertaking! I stood by her when she joined in on her father's scheme to disrupt the Chinese economy with Edward Fyers!"
"You what?!" Felicity exclaims, the name catching her attention immediately. She's heard Oliver talk about Fyers in connection to his first year on the island, none of it good. She can't even imagine her father being involved with him. The man she knew would never… But he's not that man anymore. He was rarely the man with the crooked glasses, and she needs to stop trying to convince herself those brief flickers of him can be extrapolated to the entire man.
"That was how she planned for me to fake my death," he explains, voice softening as he calms down. "I was supposed to be on the plane Fyers shot down, except he never did. I'm told we have Oliver Queen to thank for that."
"You were… you were involved in that?" She's pretty sure she's about to be sick. Her father was in on the plot with Fyers. Her father knew the man who'd put Oliver through so much pain and suffering. Suddenly unable to sit near him, she rises and puts the entire room between them, hands pressed flat against her stomach in an attempt to settle it.
"I didn't want to be. I tried to tell her how wrong it was, but she wouldn't listen. And when her father failed… she was convinced she could do it better. She hatched this plan, choosing Queen Consolidated as the company she'd use as her flagship. It was supposed to lead the turn-around after the Russians bought up controlling interest in each company we decimated, eventually making Russia the new economic powerhouse. She said it would be an ironic sort of justice, using the Queen name to succeed where it had torn her father down before. So I helped her work out the details, starting with gaining Oliver Queen's trust. When we met during your business trip to Russia, she said she was on the right track, but by the time I got back to Starling things had taken a bit of a turn. She was afraid of failing, of the consequences she'd face if she dropped the ball after pushing the scheme through. Her father hadn't wanted to try again so soon after his failure when she first brought it to him, but we took care of it… If she were to fail after all that... She'd be done for."
"You helped her kill her father," she clarifies, unable to even muster shock anymore. This is getting out of control. She never expected confessions of this magnitude when she came here. She never imagined…
"It was what she wanted. He didn't believe in her, not the way I did. She deserved better, and I knew it would make her happy," her father says, voice imploring her to understand. "I just want you both happy and safe."
"So, naturally, you became an accessory to murder and an international assassin," she snaps. She's a good actress given proper preparation, but there's only so much she can push beneath the surface. As much as it would help the mission, she can't act like she's alright with any of this. Any doubts she may have harboured about her father's commitment to Isabel's cause are long gone. If he's willing to participate in all of this, and sit here justifying it to her as acts of love, he's further gone than she thought. There's no redemption from this. If her father hasn't lost himself to the darkness, then he's certainly lost himself to the delusions. She's not sure which is worse.
"Flick, don't-" He pleads, rising half out of his seat as he registers the look on her face.
She recoils even though he's nowhere near her. "Don't touch me. Don't ever call me that again. Don't even look at me again."
He stares at her, eyes wide in surprise and she laughs bitterly.
"You know, I thought that maybe there was something of the man you used to be left inside. I thought maybe I could justify you doing any of this, but I can't. I can't excuse this. I'm done."
"I told Oliver I wasn't sure where I stood with you," she keeps talking as though he hadn't interrupted, turning her head to the ceiling in an attempt to hold onto her composure. "I was so confused. When I thought about you leaving, what you're doing with Isabel, it was easy to hate you, but then I'd look at you and your stupid glasses and I'd remember the man who told me the story of Apollo while we took apart the computer. I'd remember the man who shared a secret smile with me when Mom came home and ranted and raved at us for destroying every electronic the house had to offer. I'd remember when you were my dad, not the overbearing man who forced his ideals on me. Those rare moments of connection between us, they made me think that maybe, just maybe, that man was still somewhere inside you. But he's not, is he?
"You aren't my dad, and you never can be again, because Isabel took you from me." She holds up a hand to stop his denial. "It's true. When you got involved with her, you started losing yourself piece by piece, whether it was to the Undertaking, the League of Assassins, the Russian mob, or all three. You aren't the man I remember; you haven't been for a very long time, and I'm naïve for thinking you could be again one day."
"I never stopped being your dad," he argues. "I wasn't being overbearing for the sake of it! The world is a dangerous place, and Isabel showed me exactly how dangerous it can be. She made me see that you needed to be able to protect yourself, and that, if it came down to it, I couldn't save you like a father should. I needed to be better for you and for her. I couldn't waste my life drinking and I wasn't getting anywhere teaching myself to fight. I needed help." He throws his hands in the air in an exasperated motion. "God, how many times do I have to say it? I left because I love you and I want to protect you. I wasn't ready before, but I am now. Why do you think I'm doing this? Why do you think I let you find Isabel on that footage in the hotel? I wanted you to uncover all of this, to find me. I wanted to be a family again, Flick, because I'll always-"
"Don't!" She cries, tears threatening to spill over. After a couple of calming breaths, she continues in an even tone, finger pointing threateningly in his direction. "Let me make this clear. There is no choice to make. What you are doing is wrong and I'm going to stop you."
Her father stands in stunned silence for a full thirty seconds before she sees the mask come down over his face. For second, he almost looks heartbroken before the cold exterior slams into place. The man draws himself up to his full height and squares his jaw.
"Have it your way. Just know that I won't be pulling any punches."
"Neither will I," she retorts, ice in her voice. Without waiting for a reaction, she brushes past him and out the door. She ignores Sara's confused expression in favor of the elevator button, abandoning the contraption for the stairs when it takes too long to get her away from the man who used to be her father.
She didn't think it would hurt so much, admitting to herself that there's nothing redeeming about the man. After all, she's spent the past six years telling herself exactly that. But to see proof of it… A sob escapes her lips on a gasp and there's not enough air in the car Sara has at some point ushered her in to. She can't remember anything past bolting down the stairs in her building. Her breath is coming in sharp gasps that won't fill her lungs and her head is spinning and her brain is whirling and she can't-
"Felicity! Felicity, hey, look at me." Oliver's voice is trying to break through the haze and all she can think is where did he come from? Last she remembers they were still driving, but apparently they've stopped. Oliver's eyes are directly in front of hers, clouded in worry, and his hands are framing her face. Hands that Edward Fyers probably tied behind his back to torture him.
Just like that, her stomach finally rebels against everything she's learned tonight and she rips herself from Oliver's gentle grasp to vomit on the street. Luckily, they haven't quite made it inside Verdant yet. As she empties the contents of her stomach, all she can think is that her father, the man who makes up half of her genetic material, helped to hire Edward Fyers, the man who tortured Oliver. Oliver, who is currently holding her hair behind her head and rubbing soothing circles on her back and telling her it's going to be alright. He has no idea. Nothing is ever going to be alright again, not after she tells him. He's going to pull away from her the instant the words leave her lips, because how can he not? Her father is indirectly responsible for his first hellish year on that island. For all she knows, he called Fyers up himself and arranged it all as the middle man.
"Don't," she manages to finally rasp out once she straightens. She tugs herself from his grip, putting space between them as she moves to stand closer to Diggle. All three of them are studying her with concern she knows she doesn't deserve. "Don't touch me, please. I don't- I can't-" She stutters around it, trying not to break down again at the utterly lost and hurt look in Oliver's eyes. He doesn't understand, but he will. "My father and Isabel hired Edward Fyers to shoot down that plane six years ago."
Everything goes still. Even the city seems to freeze around them as they digest the information. Sara's eyes widen, Diggle's slam shut, but Oliver's… They glaze over like they usually do when he's retreating to the island in his mind. Her words have taken him back to whatever torture Fyers put him through, whatever torture her father enabled.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers into the silence, her voice breaking. A single tear spills over, streaking down her cheek. She has no right to cry; she's not the one who's been wronged here, but her heart is aching for the pain she's caused Oliver with her revelation.
A heavy hand lands on her shoulder and she glances behind her to see John standing closer than before. "Why are you sorry?" He asks.
"I had no idea he was capable of something like that. He's not innocent, but what he's done goes so far past what I thought…"
"This isn't your fault," Diggle tells her with so much conviction that she believes him. "You are not your father."
She lowers her gaze to where her fingers are twisting nervously. What he's saying makes sense, but her mind is working on overdrive and she can't shut it off.
"He's right," Oliver speaks up. Her eyes fly to his, glad he's managed to pull himself out of the past. He closes the distance she put between them in three strides, but doesn't reach out to touch her. "You are not your father. You aren't responsible for his actions, and you aren't responsible for what Fyers did."
Diggle and Sara have somehow melted into the background, perhaps retreating to the basement to give them a moment. Wherever they've gone, the alley is now empty save for her and Oliver.
"I know that in theory…" She admits, avoiding his eyes again. "I… I don't want you to look at me and see him. I don't want you to associate me with what happened to you, and I guess I'm just afraid that-"
"Felicity," he cuts her off gently, tilting her chin up to meet her eyes, "I would never think of the island when I look at you. Nothing you can say or tell me will ever change that."
She breathes a sigh of relief. On some level, she knows the very notion of Oliver blaming her for her father's actions is highly ridiculous, but she can't help it. The five years he was lost are undoubtedly the worst of his life, and if she in any way brings a reminder of that… She would understand him wanting to distance himself from it.
Instead of doing that, though, he pulls her closer, presses a soft kiss to her forehead, and wrap his arms tightly around her, telling her without words that her father won't come between them. She returns the hug, relaxing against him and taking his support.
"I'll be here until you're not," he murmurs against her hair.
The words sound so bizarre that she laughs, the sound muffled by his shirt, and pulls back to look him properly in the eye. "I'm not going anywhere."
Later, when they've all reconvened in the foundry, Felicity's alarm sounds. The four of them look up from where they've been sitting at the table going over what they're going to send to Lance, Felicity immediately bee-lining for her monitors. After a few clicks and taps of the keyboard, she bites her lip and turns back to face her three companions.
"He's breached the firewall."
A/N: Ok, and we'll leave you there with that nice little cliffhanger. So, the next chapter will be all about her online battle with her father and the struggle for Queen Consolidated. Before canon debunked it, I always thought that Isabel was the legs seen during the Fyers stuff. I had planned for that to be a larger revelation, but a lot of things about my plan for Isabel, Felicity, and her father changed from my original intentions, so that really wasn't fitting as a big revelation the way I wanted it to. Instead, it serves as the final straw in Felicity's hope that her father is a decent man beneath all the terrible things he's done.