AN: Well, this has been quite a journey, and I'm pleased to be able to finish before next week's episodes ruins what I've written. For another few days at least, this is my own personal canon.
Thank you to everyone who's come with me on this journey, your comments have inspired me and warmed my lil fangirl heart :D
And it's good to see that Flamer is still with us. Even when people hate my work, they apparently can't resist it, so I must be doing something very right. I'm addictive! This is literal crack-fic that you just can't stop reading! (for some reason, I heard that last line in William Shatner's voice, with his staccato speech pattern. #Random #Weird).
Nearly done with the action, repercussions still to come.
So, here we go, final chapter and a little epilogue. I have a few notes at the end which I suggest anyone who is unhappy reads, just explaining my understanding of these characters and why things turned out this way.
Bruce Wayne's private jet was more than a rich man's toy, designed for the military, it put speed and stealth ahead of comfort, and it had them landing in Dallas in under two hours. The stealth technology kept them off the radar, while the vectored thrusters allowed for a vertical take-off and landing, negating the need for a runway.
Felicity guided them as close to the GPS signal as she could. When she found another two GPS signals in the same immediate area, also registered to burner phones, they knew they had the right location. Felicity told them that it was an abandoned farmhouse, about thirty miles from the nearest town and barely habitable.
They landed the jet behind a ridge and hiked the rest of the way, using the trees as cover.
"We're in place," Oliver told Felicity.
"Got it. Cell towers are down so they can't call out."
"We're up," Oliver said to Bruce. Both men had a glint in their eyes, one that said they were looking forward to the ensuing fight.
Unfortunately, the fight didn't last long and the kidnappers were quickly subdued. The first, guarding the perimeter of the house, was taken down using tranquiliser dart. As soon as he was out, they moved inside, which was made considerably easier than it might have been, thanks to Bruce's thermal imaging binoculars. The children were in an upstairs room, while the other two kidnappers were in the kitchen, sitting at a makeshift table. The element of surprise ensured they were subdued in under a minute. After having their burner phones taken, all three captors were then zip ties to post with the least amount of rot, where they would stay until Felicity alerted the local police.
The children were thrilled, not only to have been rescued, but by superheroes no less. They looked underfed and unwashed but otherwise, unharmed.
Once back in the jet, Bruce gave them a lollypop which knocked them out, much to Oliver's ire.
"You don't drug kids!" he yelled when he realised what had happened.
"You do when it's in their best interests. They can't go back to their parents yet and they won't be happy being kept away, essentially held prisoner again. In the long run, this is kinder."
Oliver dropped it since he couldn't counter act the drug's effects, even if he had wanted to. Instead, he focused on ending this as soon as possible.
"How long till we're back at the warehouse outside of Starling?" Oliver asked.
Oliver got the burner phones out. "They're secured with a pin code."
"Felicity will be able to break it."
"I'm sure she will," Oliver agreed.
They sat in stony silence, until Bruce broke it.
"I get that you have feelings for her, and I get why. What I don't get, is why you won't act on them."
"You see nothing wrong with knocking children out, of course you wouldn't get it."
"Oliver, she loves you. I know you pretend to be clueless but you aren't that clueless."
Oliver didn't answer and Bruce gave up. Silence reigned for a few long minutes.
"I'm no good for someone like her," he finally admitted. "She deserves better."
"Someone like me?" Bruce looked over at him, a smile on his lips.
"You weren't exactly what I had in mind."
"What then, white picket fences, 2.4 children and a golden retriever?"
"Something like that."
Bruce shook his head. "You made the mistake of thinking that because she isn't like us, she's normal, but Felicity is far from normal."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying the girl is probably the most intelligent person you'll ever meet, she's got smarts up the wazoo and she was never going to be happy as a housewife to some corporate suit."
"You're saying you can make her happy?" Oliver asked.
"I don't know, but I intend to do my best, for as long as she'll have me."
"That's just it though, how long will she have you? How long would she have either of us?"
"That's a fair point, but I don't intend to do this forever, Oliver."
"So what, one day you'll just quit?"
"One day, yes. I donned this suit not only to beat the crap out of the guys who are robbing Americans of their spirit, I did it to be a symbol of hope, to inspire people to take their own stand, in whatever ways they can. The Bat can be anyone, so could the Arrow. We aren't Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne to the people of America, we're their next door neighbours, their teachers, their co-workers. We're everyman and if we can do it, they can do it too."
"You've given this a lot of thought."
"You haven't," Bruce said with a smile. "I get it, I do, you're like a soldier who's come back from a war zone, running from what you saw, what you did, and still fighting a war, just a different kind now, but you haven't given yourself time to stop and think. One day, you won't be able to fight anymore; you'll be dead or probably wishing you were, and what happens then? Who do the people look to then?"
"Do they? Or will you have inspired them to stand up and take their power back, to fight for what they believe in? People call us a lot of things, heroes, vigilantes, mercenaries, criminals but to most, we're figureheads. We're fighting for them and if we will fight for them, maybe they'll consider themselves worthy enough to fight for themselves."
"Where do you pick up this crap?" Oliver asked, but his tone was light.
"I might have spent a little time in a monastery on my travels. They taught me that just as important as learning to fight, is understanding why we fight. Plus, they build those monasteries in the coolest places."
Both men smiled.
"We're here," Bruce told him and gently set the jet down on the tarmac.
They each carried a child out with them, and Oliver wasn't a bit sorry when Felicity chastised Bruce for drugging them. Bruce couldn't properly argue back either, since they were both dressed in their hero costumes.
"Where are Queen and Wayne?" General Lane asked.
"They're keeping an eye on the kidnappers until we're done. Besides, there are only four seats on the jet."
They carried the children inside and laid them on cots, where the soldiers had slept overnight.
After he laid the boy down, Felicity and Diggle checked them over for other injuries but aside from a little malnourishment, they seemed fine.
Felicity kept looking up at them, clearly wanting to say something but with Lane in the room, she couldn't speak freely.
When they were satisfied that the children were unharmed, Oliver handed her the confiscated cell phones.
"Can you do anything with these?" he asked, his voice deepened by the technology he used to alter it.
"I can try."
The phones turned out to be the break that they needed. Each cell phone had only dialled one number, also a burner phone, but that cell phone had called a number of others around the country, and they had called only a few others.
With a little more hacking, Felicity had a list of locations and text messages that had been sent between the burner phones, and the soldiers set about transcribing the voice calls.
The picture that emerged was of an uneven web, scattered around the country congregating on the larger based that had taken delivery of one or more EMP devices.
Felicity explained the pins she had placed in a map to everyone present. Each pin was someone with a cell phone and their location.
"Which one is Isabel Rochev?" Oliver asked.
"She's not on there." Felicity answered.
"Because she's gone back to her native Russia, although she's still coordinating everything from the burner cell she has with her."
"Plausible deniability," Bruce said. "She wasn't anywhere near when this happened and even if the phone is traced, there's no paper trail to link it to her."
"Maybe not," Felicity said with a smile. "But unfortunately, in the interest of minimising costs, she got a very middle of the road handset, one which came with preinstalled apps, like a video app, one that I can hack."
She passed the vigilantes her tablet, which had an image of an ear.
"Press play," she urged.
"No, we stick to the plan, I don't care how uneasy you feel. We've been working on this for months and I will not let your nerves stop us."
That was Isabel's voice, no question but in case there was ever any doubt, when she ended the call, she moved it from her ear so she could see witch button to press, and the camera caught a perfect angle of her face.
"Even with all this," General Lane said sounding weary. "Russia has no extradition treaty with the United States."
Oliver and Bruce shared a look.
"We'll get her back," they said in unison.
"How are we coming with transcribing the telephone conversations?" The general yelled to the troops at the next table.
"Nearly done, general. Once we run voice recognition, we'll have enough on these guys to make sure they never see the light of day again."
General Lane nodded his understanding.
Felicity spoke up next.
"Given all the information we have, and the fact that nothing is likely to tempt Isabel back to the States until she knows she's in the clear, I say we forgo the plan to pretend the attack worked, and use the GPS locations to move in and arrest these creeps."
"I'm inclined to agree with that assessment," General Lane said. He didn't exactly smile at her, Felicity thought his facial muscles probably weren't built for it, but he was generally a little less brusk with her than with the men. "Can you keep a track of the GPS signals?" he asked her.
"I'll upload a live feed to a secure website that you and your troops can access."
"I'd appreciate it." He nodded at her.
"Then if you'll excuse us, General, we have a terrorist to bring home." Oliver and Bruce left the room.
Felicity soon learned that when motivated, the military moved with speed and efficiency that impressed even her, and less than six hours after the last phone call had been transcribed, teams moved in on twelve locations around the country, arresting in excess of forty people.
Even more surprising, was the secrecy with which this was accomplished; not a single headline appeared online, on the TV or in print media, although Felicity conceded that this was helped by the fact that HIVE planned to fire missiles to cripple the powerless bases, which required them to be in rather remote locations.
What was also surprising, was that once the arrests were made, there were one or two well-known names linked to the scheme, other businessmen in HIVE, probably participating so that they could cash in on the panic, and drop in share prices which always followed such events.
Soldiers were also dispatched to arrest the kidnappers, who were still tied up in the house they had kept the children in.
Having a mobile command unit as part of the convoy, the General was able to coordinate everything from the hanger on the edge of Starling City, and once the dust had settled and he was alone with Diggle and Felicity, he assured her that she and her friend's names would be kept out of the documents.
"Well Bruce, maybe, but since the machines are covered in Queen Consolidated logo's how exactly can you keep Oliver out of this?"
The general cocked his head to the side.
"Please, give me some credit, young lady. I might not be as smart or tech savvy as you, but I am a trained soldier and I can recognise people by the way they hold themselves and interact."
The general looked to Diggle, who nodded that it was possible. When hunting terrorists, you didn't just look as a face, because those could be disguised or hidden.
"So you aren't going to turn them in?" Felicity asked.
"Before all this, I might have, and you too; hacking into the NSA?" he gaveher a stern look. "Now I can see you all play a vital role. Acting outside of the law is not something I can publically condone but privately, I can say that it's sometimes the only way. As long as you and your friends remain on the right side, I won't tell a soul."
Felicity smiled her thanks and with a nod at Diggle, the General left the room.
"How long do you think, before we hear from them?" She looked over to the people from the glades, who couldn't be allowed to leave until Isabel was in custody.
Diggle checked his watch. "Going by the time they made to Texas, I'd say they're there already. I'm sure they'll call as soon as they're back in the air."
Felicity nodded, and tried not to think of everything that could go wrong.
"They should have taken Roy and Sara with them," she said, spotting them among the Glades group. Oliver had wanted them on hand in case they were needed, but he hadn't wanted to endanger their identities any more than necessary, so they blended in, pretending to have been hired, like the others.
"Roy is still too unpredictable right now, and when operating illegally on foreign soil, you don't need that headache," Diggle reminded her of their earlier discissions.
"Well Sara then. I mean, she's like Ninja Barbie."
Dig smiled at the name. "And if Roy was the only one left, how long do you think it would be until he blew his cover?"
Felicity sighed, seeing the logic in his words, but her worry making her wish she didn't.
Isabel was surprised when she saw the reflection behind her but by the time she turned around, she had schooled her features into a neutral expression, carefully keeping her gaze away from the arrow which pointed at her heart. She leaned back against the desk and surreptitiously, pressed the silent alarm just below the edge.
"You're early," she told him.
"Your plan didn't work, we found the timers and deactivated the devices."
For a brief moment, rage flickered in her eyes. "And here I thought you had come for round two. We are in Russia again."
The bow twitched and she smiled.
"Please, Oliver, you think I don't know that it's you under that hood?"
"I don't care what you think, or what you think you know."
"You should, because as soon as I get home, I'll tell anyone who will listen."
"It'll be worth it to see you in prison, where you belong."
"That's not where I belong, Oliver, and we both know it."
When Oliver didn't twitch, Isabel smiled. "She didn't tell you, did she? Your Mom, I mean."
"She told me."
"Did she?" her smile widened. "Did she tell you that I was pregnant with your brother? Did she tell you that she made Robert force me have an abortion?"
Oliver couldn't stop the soft gasp that escaped his lips.
"I have no reason to lie, Oliver. This house," she gestured around her. "This was my parents' house, my adopted parents, the Dribbins. They made me sleep in the basement and wait on them hand and foot. I buried them, their children, their servants and their friends in the back yard, ten years ago. I can see the graves from the window; I like that view. I bought this house from their estate. If I'm willing to admit to arranging nine murders, why would I lie about my son?"
Oliver made no reply.
"Queen Consolidated should have been mine, I was Roberts equal, far more than she was, and he loved me. I was the love of his life."
"Men will say a lot to get a woman into bed."
"Maybe, but he was telling the truth." She pouted playfully. "I can see you don't want to believe me, but it's true. The only reason he wouldn't leave her, was because of you. He made me have an abortion, kill my baby, because of you, because no matter how unworthy, you were his heir."
Her words were no longer playful, and Oliver's grip on his bow was wavering with these new revelations.
"Together, Robert and I could have ruled the world, then our son would've inherited our empire."
"No, just driven to reclaim what was rightfully mine, any way I could."
"Robert Queen was never yours."
"I still have his letters, the ones where he tells me how special I am, how much I mean to him, how sorry he is that we can't be together properly. But none of that matters now; I have reclaimed what is mine and if I can't have you arrested for Treason, I'll have you killed instead."
She pressed the hidden alarm button.
"I knew you were coming from the moment the kidnappers didn't call in on schedule, I've just been waiting since then, and I have to thank you for not making me wait too long." She gave him a chilling smile. "I've pressed a silent alarm, so my guards will be here any minute now. They were under orders to let you through, but to come when I pressed this."
"Try a third time," Oliver suggested. "They say the third time's a charm."
The rage returned as she realised he had bested her.
"You cut the alarm, very clever. They'll still be here before you can enact whatever your plan is. They're highly trained former KGB operatives, you don't stand a chance against them. It's over, Oliver. Put the bow down and I'll make your death quick."
To her surprise and pleasure, he lowered his bow and removed the arrow.
"You're sharper than I gave you credit for." She smiled.
Oliver ignored her and looked over her shoulder.
"All clear?" he asked, and Isabel turned, shocked to see the Bat standing behind her, having entered silently through the window behind her.
"All thirty security personnel are secured," Bruce answered. "They won't last long out in the elements though, so we'll radio the authorities once we're in the air.
"You aren't supposed to be here," Isabel told the Bat. "You aren't welcome here!"
"I'm not welcome a lot of places, Ma'am, but it hasn't stopped me yet."
"NO! You can't be here!" she turned to Oliver. "You're not supposed to have help! This is wrong, this is all wrong! My men were supposed to capture you!"
"Your men just weren't good enough," Oliver answered.
"No, this is not happening!" What was the bat doing here? Yes, he had broken into the HIVE facility in Starling and had managed to escape, but Oliver was a loner, just as the Bat seemed to be. She had never stopped to consider that they might work together. Who was he, and why was he here? He didn't belong here!
"Maybe you believe that your will is law and if you wanted it badly enough, reality will snap to your wishes," Bruce said. "Or maybe a lifetime of hating has finally driven you insane. Either way, lady, you're coming with us, the only question is, are we doing this the easy way, or the hard way?"
With a primordial scream, she launched herself at the Bat, fingers clawed to scratch his eyes out.
His hand came up and he fired a tazer at her, hitting her in the chest and sending her reeling to the floor before she could reach him.
She tried to curl into a ball. She knew she was beaten but she had to protect the only thing left that mattered, Robert Jr. She had been denied the right to bear his child so she was doing the next best thing, bearing his grandchild. Just three months old, not big enough to show yet, but she knew he was there, and she took comfort in his presence. She was doing this as much for him as for herself.
The battle was lost but the war was just beginning. She would be back, she would reclaim what Oliver had stolen from her and with his son at her side, they would lay waste to him and rule the Queen empire together; the love of Robert Queen's life and his grandson, they were the true heirs, the worthy heirs.
That was her last thought as she allowed unconsciousness to claim her.
Oliver pushed his hood back as he approached the unconscious Isabel.
"Is she smiling?" he asked Bruce.
"If she is, she won't be when she wakes up. The guards won't be out for much longer, we should go before they wake up."
Bruce zip tied her ankles and wrists, then bent to pick her up, slinging her over his shoulder and Oliver didn't argue.
How had he worked beside her for the last four months and not seen her insanity?
The flight back to Starling was mostly silent and Oliver sat in the rear of the small jet, next to Isabel, as he brooded over what he had learned, that she had been pregnant with his brother. He didn't know how to feel about that and honestly, he didn't even want to think about it. It meant that not only had be slept with his father's lover, he had slept with his half-brother's mother. The fact that the baby hadn't been born did nothing to help his unease.
And there was the fact that his mother had kept yet another secret from him. How big was her part in the abortion? His father could have used her as an excuse, a reason to justify his insistence, Moira could have been in the dark about that. The problem with hearing the same story from two liars, was that both sides could be false.
Did he have other half siblings out there? Ones that hadn't said anything to Robert about being pregnant?
He knew that he would come to terms with this eventually, he had no choice but to.
He also hoped that one day, there would be no more secrets in his father's closet, any Queen closet. He recognised the hypocrisy in his hope, because he lied every day, and he hated to every day. Maybe one day, he wouldn't need to lie any more, maybe one day, he could build his own family, with someone who knew every side of him and every secret he kept from others.
He looked to Bruce in the pilot's seat, and realised that he might have lost his chance to do that with Felicity.
Bruce was a good man, and he respected her and trusted her, things that it had taken Oliver many months to do. Now he realised that he had missed his opportunity, he could do something about it, he could ask her to pick him, but he couldn't do that to her. She was happy, and she deserved to be happy. He was selfish, but not selfish enough to take that from her, not when he couldn't promise to be better for her than Bruce.
So he would sit back and live with whatever choice she made, even if that choice took her away from him.
Bruce and Oliver had Isabel sandwiched between them as they exited the jet. Her feet had been freed but her hands were still secured behind her back.
Waiting for them was Lane, Diggle, Felicity and two of Lane's soldiers.
"Home so soon?" Felicity snapped, her smile was smug.
General Lane smiled at Isabel as they approached. "I trust you had a nice, if short, vacation," he sneered.
Isabel stood impassively between the heroes. There was no point in trying to fight, not yet. She would play along, watching and waiting, until the opportunity presented itself. She wouldn't fight her way out, that was beneath her. No, Isabel would bargain her way to freedom. She knew many secrets that men in power either wanted kept hidden, or wanted access to, and she would sell her secrets to the person who could promise her freedom.
Unfortunately, few people would care that Oliver was the Arrow and in fact, the news might even help repair some of the damage his mother has done, turning him from Oliver Queen, son of a murderess, into Oliver Queen, hero.
That was not acceptable.
"Take her into custody," Lane ordered, and the soldiers flanking him stepped forward to do just that.
Once they were out of earshot, the Arrow stepped closer to the general.
"General, Miss Rochev knows some… sensitive information about me and-"
"Your secret's safe." Felicity assured him. "And no, I didn't tell him, he guessed."
Oliver nodded his understanding, thinking that if any more people discovered who he was, he might as well go public with his identity.
"You're hurt," Felicity noticed a tear in the Arrow's suit and began looking for others on both of them.
"Isabel was well protected, but it's Just scrapes and bruises," Bruce assured her. "We're fine."
Felicity wanted to check for herself but while the General knew their secret, the other military and civilians here didn't and of she was overfamiliar with them, someone would figure out who they were, especially Bruce.
Somehow she resisted the urge to patch them up and kiss Bruce. It would be far easier to continue to resist if she wasn't here though.
"Well, if this is really over," Felicity said. "I should get to a bank, so we can pay the Glades helpers and send them home."
"Good idea." Oliver agreed.
"I'll go with you," Dig said, following her.
"Well, that seems like a good few day's work to me," Lane said, holding his hand out first to Bruce, then Oliver. "Thank you for your help, Gentlemen."
"Our pleasure, General."
"Thank you, General."
"Well, I'd better see about getting the heck out of here. The sooner I can ship Isabel off to Guantanamo, the easier I'll rest."
Oliver and Bruce could sympathise with that sentiment.
"Just one question before I go, where did you get all these military trucks?"
Oliver smiled. "Of everything that's happened, that's what you wonder?"
"It's the little things that bug the most," Lane argued.
"Wayne Enterprises used to make weapons and equipment for the Military. We chose not to continue with that and mothballed our vehicles. Luckily for us, the design of some hasn't changed in over two decades."
Lane smiled. "Very enterprising of you."
"It's there in the name," Bruce teased.
Malcolm Merlyn kicked the desk to smithereens when he learned that not only had their plan been thwarted, Isabel had been captured. She had been his partner in this, in everything, acting as the figurehead of HIVE, so that he might remain in the shadows, pulling strings from the grave.
It was an unlikely pairing, to be sure, but they seemed to have the same goals; money, power and destroying the Queens, Isabel for revenge on Robert, he for revenge on Moira and Oliver.
Her arrest would also mean the loss of his companies, specifically the divisions of Merlyn Global that one of her subsidiaries had bought, since the government would undoubtedly seize all her assets.
Getting her out of Jail wouldn't change that either and besides, failure should be punished. He would rescue her one day, when he needed skills again.
For now, he got the top of the steps and turned around for his last glimpse of America. He didn't know when he would be back, but he would. Starling City owed him and once he had recalculated, he would collect that debt.
For now, he turned and entered the jet. The Cayman Islands weren't a bad place to lie low for a while and of course, what was left of his money was there.
He would recover from this setback and learn to thrive again, as he always did.
Felicity was glad to be home and thanks to so little sleep, she collapsed into bed at 9am and slept through to 7pm.
Not long after waking up, Oliver knocked on her door.
"Hey," she answered with a smile.
"How are you?"
"I'm good, thanks. I slept most of the day. You?"
"You fought your way through dozens of guards earlier-"
"It wasn't dozens."
"-and I saw Diggle patch you up, so I know you're hurt."
"I've had far worse. Can I come in?"
"Sure," she opened the door wide and they settled in the living room.
"You know what I'm going to ask, don't you?" he said.
"You want to know if I'm going back to Starling with Bruce."
"I don't know, I wish I did. He hasn't asked yet but if he does, I don't know how to answer."
"Don't feel guilty," he told her. "We'll miss you, I'll miss you but whatever your decision, we'll go on, I promise."
Felicity was touched by his words. Oliver had hauled her away from a job that she loved, because it suited his needs. To hear him putting the needs of someone else first, was quite a change. He was growing and she hoped, maturing.
"Can I tell you my decision later?" she asked.
Oliver was silent for a moment.
She must have looked hurt because he continued.
"I only mean that, you shouldn't have to justify anything to me. I you say you're going, I'll do anything to keep you here, and that isn't fair to you. If you want to go, go, no hard feelings. If you want to stay, I'll see you in the office tomorrow morning."
Felicity reached over and squeezed his hand. "Thank you for making this choice easier on me."
"You're welcome." He gave her one of his warm smiles, the sincere one he used on the few occasions that he was genuinely happy and relaxed.
"I'd better go," he told her. He bent to hiss her forehead as he left but he purposely didn't say goodbye, that felt a little like tempting fate.
Felicity fetched a pint of ice cream from her freezer, popped Game of Thrones into the DVD player, and planned to stress eat her way to a solution.
Before she had taken her forth mouthful, there came another knock at the door, this time it was Bruce. Although they hadn't made plans, she'd been expecting him to come.
"How are you?" he asked. Was that every heroes opening line, she wondered. Did they teach it in vigilante training school?
"I'm good, thanks. Want to come in?"
She led the second vigilante tonight into her living room and sat beside him on the couch, her body angled towards his.
"You're leaving, aren't you?" she guessed.
"Tomorrow morning. I've already been missed and although I don't have much to do with the day to day running, I've missed far too many board meetings recently, and people are starting to ask questions. I can't afford that."
"I understand," she smiled. She had a ringside seat for watching a different vigilante juggle his heroic responsibilities with his business ones.
"You've come to ask me to go with you, right?"
"I don't know, Bruce, we haven't even known each other for a week, I can't just-"
He cut off her words with a finger over her lips.
"I know it's a big ask; I'm not just asking you to take a new job, I'm asking you to uproot your life and move to another city, and that's not the kind of choice you can make on the spur of the moment. For now, I'm just asking you to consider it. Take your time; days, weeks, months, however long you need, I'll wait as long as it takes for you to become the Smoaky to my Bandit."
She smiled. "That's really sweet, but unfair to you. I can't ask you to wait forever so one way or another, I'll have an answer for you tomorrow, even if it's just asking for more time."
Bruce nodded. "If that's what you want, you'll have it."
Felicity steeled herself for her next statement, afraid of his reaction.
"I actually have a present for you," she said. "I don't know if it'll help you with the healing process, or hinder it, but you might have noticed, I have a tendency to be curious and sometimes I poke my nose places it isn't wanted and get shot down. I hope this isn't one of those times."
Bruce nodded his understanding but didn't reply.
"Well, I've had spiders hunting for information for days now and the research is done and it's about you, so I can't really keep to from you, that would be unfair so I thought-"
Bruce captured her hands. "It's okay, just tell me."
Felicity took a deep breath, then removed one of her hands from his and reached into her pocket, with something clutched in her fist when she withdrew it.
"After you told me how the Scarecrow and… Julie died, I thought that insulin overdose was quite a unique signature for murder and I began to look into similar cases."
She had also discovered that 0209, the code for his RV, was the date of Julie's death, not her birth as Felicity had originally suspected. Not that it made much difference.
"There are twenty one other unsolved murders using the same method in the United States," Bruce answered immediately, further confirming her suspicions.
"Yeah, and probably some that weren't noticed; not all medical examiners are good."
"Thank you, but I already know all this."
"I'm betting what you don't know, is that globally, I've found another forty eight cases of murder using insulin. Interpol even has a file on it, although they missed thirteen cases, and I probably missed some too so…"
She was rambling again so she took a deep breath, in, and out, before carrying on.
"I found a case in Thailand where they brought a man in for questioning who was discovered at the scene. It was just bad luck, really, the police were there questioning people about an unrelated incident and walked into the office to find a dead man, and someone kneeling over him. He said he'd just walked in and discovered him on the floor but they brought him in for questioning anyway. They had to let him go because they didn't know if it was murder or natural causes, and there were no signs of a struggle. It took a few days to get the results of the autopsy and when they went to arrest him, they discovered that he had skipped town, never to be seen again. The name he gave was false but I was able to get a picture from their files. Running that through facial recognition, I came up with a name, Paul Moses, a former wet work operative for the CIA. Their files list him as dead, but if it's not him in the pictures, it's his twin. I don't know where he is now, but everything I've been able to find on the other murders and on him, is on this."
She opened her fist to show him a flash drive.
Bruce gulped as he looked at it. A part of her hoped he would tell her to keep it, that he had bigger fish to fry at home, that he was over her death, that he would stay with Felicity, but he didn't. He took the flashdrive from her upraised palm and looked at it, as though it contained a message from God himself. She could see the pain and grief in his eyes, probably still as fresh as the day he lost her.
Then after a few moments, he placed the drive in his pocket.
"Thank you," he said.
Felicity felt too choked up to reply, so she just smiled.
Bruce noticed that she was upset and pulled her into his arms, kissing the top of her head.
"It's not your fault," she assured him. It was just her bad luck that she had to fall for men with serious emotional problems, or men who were struck by lightning, or men who were still in love with their dead ex.
She leaned into him and breathed his scent in, trying to get her emotions under control.
When she pulled away, she smiled at him.
"So, did you have any plans for tonight?"
"I was hoping to spend it with a beautiful blonde," he told her.
"Well, I'm not really dressed for entertaining but if you don't mind, I have a pint of rapidly melting ice cream I could use a hand with."
"Best offer I've had all day," he assured her.
When Felicity turned over in bed, Bruce was gone, and the diffused light coming through the ajar bedroom door, told her that he was probably in the living room.
She pulled her robe on and padded barefoot down the short hallway to peer into her living room. Sitting on her couch was Bruce, her laptop balanced on his knees, the falshdrive plugged into the USB port.
She didn't blame him for wanting to see what was on there for himself, and she didn't feel as if he had gone behind her back, he had probably been unable to sleep and curiosity had got the better of him.
She did feel hurt though.
He hadn't noticed her approach, so she left as quietly as she had come, slipping under the coveres and pulling them tightly around her.
Felicity awoke early after a terrible night's sleep, not only because she was waiting to see when Bruce would return to bed (another two hours) but because of the choice she had to make. Oliver or Bruce.
It wasn't a relationship choice, because neither man was in a position to make a commitment to her, not the kind she would want.
Bruce couldn't properly commit until he had come to terms with Julie's death, and Oliver was still repeating his past mistakes, and dealing with the consequences.
But she knew who she was choosing, as painful at that choice might be, it was the only one she could live with.
She slipped from the bed, leaving Bruce sleeping, and took a shower before getting ready for the day.
She took her time putting her makeup on, concealing the dark smudges under her eyes and using it as a mask, a polished veneer that she could hide behind.
She heard Bruce moving around as she went to put the coffee on, and sat at the kitchen table to wait for him. She considered making breakfast but felt too nauseous to contemplate food yet. When Bruce joined her, hair still damp from the shower, she was on her second cup. He greeted her with a kiss, which she reciprocated, bittersweet as it was.
"When are you going?" she asked as he poured himself a coffee.
"Alfred's coming in about half an hour."
"And you're leaving straight away?"
"Might as well," he said. "Have you given any thought to my offer? I know I said it was open ended, and it is, but I'm hoping you'll leave me with a reason to be optimistic."
"I can't leave, Bruce, not yet. After everything with Isabel, the government will take control of her shares and QC is going to be in turmoil for some time, I'm sure. I can't leave Oliver to deal with that alone."
"So, what happens now?" he asked.
"I don't know," she answered honestly, taking a sip of her cooling coffee.
Bruce nodded. "If I ask you a question, will you answer honestly?"
"I promise." She had a feeling that she wasn't going to like the question, but he had been honest with her when she had asked, so she owed it to him.
"Do you love him?"
How could she lie? Tears pricked her eyes as she replied, "Yes."
Bruce nodded, taking the news better than she had expected. "Do you love me?"
Although her tears spilled over, she found a smile for him. "Yes."
Bruce rubbed the back of his neck and let out a long puff of air. "So where does that leave us?"
"You're choosing Oliver?" he asked.
"No, Bruce. I'm choosing me. I gave you that flashdrive because I couldn't keep it from you but also, to see if you were over her. You aren't. The fact is, neither you nor Oliver are ready for a relationship, and I deserve more than being a consolation prize."
"You know that isn't how I see you?" he reached across the table and took her hand.
"I don't know how you see me, but I do know you're still in love with Julie. And I get it and I'm not angry or anything, you loved her and that's beautiful… but she's gone now and I don't think you've faced that. You've run away, buried the pain but until you deal with it, it will corrode any relationship you try to have. Maybe finding her killer will give you what you need to allow yourself to grieve properly, and start to heal."
Her tears fell harder as she spoke because as painful as this was, it must be more so for him. He got up from the table and pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly. She received as much comfort as she gave him and when they leaned back, she put her hands on his cheeks and brought his head down, so their foreheads were pressed together.
"No matter what happens in the future, Bruce, I want you to know that I will always be your friend, you just have to pick up a phone and I'll come running."
He smiled and wrapped his arms around her waist, holding her tightly against him.
"What if that's not enough?"
"For now, it has to be. I'm not saying 'never', Bruce, I'm just saying, 'not right now'. I hope one day, you'll understand why I have to do this."
"Oh, Smoaky, I do understand it, I even admire it… I just don't like it."
They both smiled.
"So now what?" he asked.
"You go back to your life, and I go back to mine, and in a few weeks or a few months, when this isn't quite so painful for either of us, I'll call you, see if maybe you want to catch a show, just as friends. Or you'll call me to tell me that Paul Moses is in custody, or a grave. Then… then we see if life has a second chance for us."
He pulled her to him, crushing her with the strength of his hug, as if trying to prove how much he cared about her.
She held on just as tightly.
When he finally pulled away, he had tears shining in his eyes as he gazed down at her.
"I'll come back for you."
"No," she placed a finger over his lips. "No promises, please. I won't even ask you to look after yourself because I know you'll take dangerous risks. Just, maybe promise me that you'll try to come back in one piece?"
"I'll do my best, scouts honour."
"Thank you," she smiled, knowing it was the best he could offer her. "Well, you'd better go. Alfred must be waiting for you."
"He's been outside your door for about ten minutes." Bruce informed her. He stole one last kiss, a kiss that left her swooning and breathless, a kiss to remember, and that killed the pain of this parting, just for a little while, then he went to let Alfred into the apartment.
Alfred followed Bruce into the kitchen.
Bruce came up to Felicity again, placing a tender kiss on her lips. "Goodbye, Felicity."
She followed him to the kitchen doorway, where she enveloped Alfred in a hug, which he evidently hadn't been expecting, as it took him a moment to hug her back.
"It's been a pleasure, Miss Felicity," he assured her, his voice a little raspy.
"And you, Alfred." Felicity released him and stepped back. "Look after him," she pleaded.
"I will do everything in my power, you have my word."
She nodded her understanding.
"Will you accompany us to the car?" Alfred asked. "We can drop you anywhere."
"Thank you but no, I need a minute."
She watched as he and Alfred headed to her door. She didn't know if she wanted Bruce to turn back or not but as he put his hand on the door handle, he did.
He gave her a sort of half-smile, one that even in such a short space of time, she had grown to love.
"This isn't over, Smoaky," he assured her in a deep and sure voice.
"It better not be."
She managed to hold her tears in check until the door closed, then as they fell, she made her way to the kitchen table and sat down. She wasn't one to wallow, but she had found that a little indulgence in sadness helped it to pass more quickly. Besides, she didn't want to run into him on her way out. Saying goodbye once was hard enough, she wasn't sure that she could do it again.
Oliver's morning was dragging on painfully slowly. He had arisen early, even for him, and each minute since had passed with an aching slowness. He walked around his apartment a few times, trying to familiarise himself with his new home, but his thoughts were too chaotic to allow him to pay his surrounding much mind.
The drive to QC was quiet and eventless. He stopped at the usual coffee shop and ordered their coffees and some attractive vanilla cupcakes. And a chocolate muffin. The pecan cookies looked too tempting to refuse too, then he realised that she was allergic to nuts. She liked this place so much because rather than the catch all "may contain nuts" that so many bakers used, they took great care here to ensure that the cakes and treats labelled as nut free, were. They even had colour coded equipment in the kitchen, to ensure that the same trays and utensils weren't used for nut and nut-free goods.
Then again, she had said she was allergic to peanuts, so was all nuts or only peanuts that she reacted to? He's have to ask but for now, no pecan cookies. He tried not to tap his toe as he waited for everything to be boxed up. Back at the car, he passed Diggle his coffee, then sat back and waited patiently as every single red light in Starling City conspired against him.
When they arrived at QC, Oliver half expected the press to be waiting for him, having caught wind of Isabel's arrest, but they hadn't. His morning would be filled with meetings with lawyers, federal agents and god only knew who else, but at least the share price wouldn't drop immediately, which was an additional headache that he didn't need right now.
He could feel his heart race as he stepped into the executive elevator, wondering if he would find Felicity at her desk, as he normally did.
How would be feel if she was there? How much worse would today be if she wasn't by his side?
He watched the indicator as it counted up the floors, and he wondered why his office had to be at the top? If he worked on the first floor, he would already know her choice by now.
Finally be herd the 'ping' that signalled they had arrived at the correct floor. The doors opened but Oliver couldn't bring himself to step out, afraid to know if she had made her choice, in case she hadn't chosen him. As the doors began to close, Diggle stepped forward and used his arm to keep them from shutting.
Diggle's words were the push he needed, and no amount of waiting was going to change the outcome, so he might as well know now.
He stepped out into the elevator foyer and turned to look through the glass doors to his office and her desk.
She wasn't there.
The sensation that's flooded through him was akin to vertigo, as though the floor had tilted beneath his feet and he was falling.
Diggle rested a hand on his shoulder, and Oliver wondered how much he knew. Oliver hadn't said anything to him, but Diggle was perceptive, he had to know that her not being here was a sign of something significant.
"Come on, Oliver, we've got a long day ahead of us."
Somehow Oliver found the will to put one foot in front of the other and made it through to his desk. Suddenly he thought he understood why his father had always kept a bottle of scotch in his desk, a quick shot would make today a hell of a lot easier.
Instead, all he has was a coffee and four vanilla cupcakes, with cute, sparkly pale yellow frosting. He realised that he'd left the box of chocolate muffins down in the car but then, it didn't really matter if Felicity wasn't here to give them to.
He sat there for a moment, wondering where to begin.
"You okay, man?" Diggle asked him.
He turned his computer on and took a deep breath.
"I will be. Can you call HR and tell them I'll need an-"
The clack of Isabel's heels stopped him short and he closed his eyes, pressing his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose as he willed her to go away.
But wasn't Isabel in custody? And didn't her shoes sound a little more high pitched? He daren't hope and his eyes remained closed as the click of the shoes came closer.
"Seriously? Today of all days, you decide to forego my coffee?"
He tried to stifle the grin, since he was sure it would be so wide as to make him look just a teensy but maniacal, but he couldn't stop the smile as he opened his eyes.
"Relax Felicity, it's right here," he said, plucking hers from the cup holder, which had been blocked from her view by his computer screen.
The smile she gave him was sad and needing to cheer her up, he held the cupcakes out to her as well, which caused her to burst into tears.
Diggle looked at him, asking if he had this, or if he wanted Dig to take this one. He gestured for Diggle to leave, he'd handle this.
"Hey," he said, putting the coffee and cakes down and coming around the desk. "What's wrong?"
"You were nice to me! You're not supposed to be nice to me."
"Because I'm feeling emotional and people being nice makes me cry. You have to be mean, or at least stern, I can handle that."
"Sorry." He had no intention of being stern or mean. Instead he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.
"No, we have meetings and I can't go to meetings with mascara running down my face. I've already fixed it twice this morning!"
"The meetings will wait until you've fixed it a third time," he assured her, his voice soft and soothing, his hand gently rubbing her back. He felt himself relax as he inhaled the scent of her shampoo, as if that was his final clue that she was really here and this was more than just wishful thinking.
"You aren't here to say goodbye, right?" he checked? "Because that's just mean and then I might cry."
Felicity leaned back and swiped at her eyes, smiling. "No."
He dropped one hand from around her and reached for the cupcakes, handing them to her, then he reached back for her coffee and guided her over to the couches, Felicity didn't sit down though.
"We should get to work, I think today is going to be a very long day."
The phone on her desk began to ring but it wasn't loud and Oliver found it easy to ignore.
"No, we're going to sit here and talk until you feel better and only when we're ready, will today begin."
"I'm pretty sure a small army of federal agents are waiting down in reception."
"And they will stay there, being fed and watered on the company dime, until I answer that phone. Even if they try, no way is Diggle letting anyone in here without permission, Trust me, we'll be fine."
She smiled again and sat down, while he opened the cupcake box, holding the temptation under her nose.
"I'll get fat," she said, taking one. "Not all of us work out like the Terminator."
"But the brain burns more calories than muscle anyway." He didn't know that was true, but it sounded like it could be.
She laughed again, and took a bite of the cupcake.
"Oh man, that is good cake," she sighed.
"So, do you want to talk about it?"
Felicity looked into his eyes, her merriment fading.
"You don't have to."
"No, I just…"
"Did you say no because of me? Because all I want, is for you to be happy."
"No, Oliver, my life and choices do not revolve around you." She said it with humour but she also meant it. "Turns out that people who become vigilantes all have serious issues in their past, and Bruce has one he needs to deal with."
"How did you leave things?"
"We didn't burn any bridges and hopefully in a few weeks, it won't hurt to call him and catch up; we're still friends."
"Is that all you are?" he asked.
"Is that all we are?" she countered.
She silenced him by stuffing a cupcake in his mouth. "See, it's a loaded question."
"Okay," he agreed, rather inelegantly around a mouthful of cupcake. "I won't pry."
"Good. And you have a bit of frosting right," she pointed to his cheek, "there."
He wiped the corner of his mouth. "Better."
He tried again and when he failed a third time, she wiped it away with her index finger, which she promptly popped into her own mouth. When he looked askance, she shrugged.
"What? It's too good to waste."
Although he wouldn't admit it, he evidently agreed, polishing the rest of his cupcake off in two more bites.
"Men," she rolled her eyes. "You have to savour it, not devour it like you haven't eaten in three weeks."
"What if you haven't eaten in three weeks?"
"Then, and only then, is it allowable to scarf a cupcake."
They shared a smile.
"So, ready to face a day of legalese and tedium?" he asked her.
"You make it sound so appealing," she teased. "But yeah, let's get this show on the road."
Oliver sat forward and began to clear up the cupcake wrappers, box and cardboard coffee cups, while Felicity got up to collect her tablet for the meetings. She paused at the door to his office and turned back.
He looked up after dumping everything in the trash.
"It's just a cupcake."
"No, I mean, thanks for not making this weird, and thanks for being a good friend."
Oliver walked over to her and put his hands on her shoulders, looking into her eyes as he willed her to believe him. "Whatever happens, I will always be your friend, Felicity."
He watched as she went to her desk and answered the phone.
"Oliver Queen's office … How many of them are there? … Can you please call Samson's and put in an order for lunch for eight, we'll also need morning and afternoon tea, coffee and snacks … Thanks Emma, send them up."
Oliver didn't know what the future held for them, and there was a good chance that he may have missed his shot with her. Whether things worked out with her and Bruce or not though, he intended to become the man that she seemed so sure he could be.
And maybe by the time he was worthy of her, she would still be single; lord knew, he was due some good luck.
"Let's be blunt, Mr Queen, your company has now been directly involved in two terrorist attacks."
"One attack, one foiled attempt." Oliver corrected.
"Perhaps but the fact remains, we don't trust you."
"So what, you're just going to hang onto Isabel's shares?"
"Until a better solution can be found, yes."
"How do you expect the company to trade when half the shares are owned by faceless bureaucrats, who need everything sighed in triplicate and can't make a decision without holding a senate hearing?"
"Right now, Mr Queen, the health of your business doesn't bother us in the slightest."
Oliver sighed as he remembered that day, that whole week really, when the business was taken over by suits and the IRS, crawling over every file and every accounting detail. Luckily, he had never used company funds for his Arrow business, that money had come from his trust fund only, and he didn't need to account to anyone for how he spent that.
Now, four weeks on, the business was barely treading water.
The official line was that they had received an IRS audit. There was no official line on Isabel's disappearance; flight records showed her returning to Russia, and the government were quite content to conveniently forget that the Bat and the Arrow had ever returned her. Even the Russians didn't seem to know her fate, so people speculated. Some said she had been killed by the KGB, others by a bitter businessman, whose company she had taken over and destroyed. Some preferred a happier tale and said that she had eloped, as unlikely as that was.
The business world however, didn't like change, and her absence translated into a reluctance to broker new deals with QC, although they didn't break existing contracts.
Oliver had spent the last four weeks putting out fires and reassuring investors and business partners during the day, and the evenings, arrowing as many bad guys as he could.
Felicity seemed okay, if a little melancholy at times.
They all had a bad feeling about HIVE. They had taken Isabel down but had no idea how large the organisation was, who else was involved and indeed, if anyone had stepped into her shoes. Hell, they didn't even know what had happened to Isabel; General Lane either couldn't or wouldn't tell them what had become of her.
The only good news he'd had recently, was that Laurel was improving, and she'd been allowed home for two family meals so far, and was going home for a whole night on Friday. She wasn't a prisoner there, but the rehab facility strongly believed in slowly reintroducing their patients back into their lives. It's easy to get and stay clean in a rehab facility, where patients had no temptation or responsibilities, but it was rather more difficult for the newly clean and sober to stay that way once they returned to their real lives, and their old problems resurfaced. Not to mention that most homes had alcohol in them and even if they didn't, there was not a shortage of shops and bars selling alcohol. Laurel had only been sober for only 5 weeks and as Sara explained to him, that sometimes wasn't enough time for a person to learn how to handle their demons.
"We have a delivery," Felicity said, pulling from his revere, and he looked up to see Diggle wheeling a dolly loaded with small wooden crates, like the one he used to keep his bow in. Felicity walked alongside Dig, carrying a thick manila envelope.
"I haven't ordered anything," Oliver said, coming around the desk. Diggle put the brakes on the dolly and handed Oliver a crowbar.
"You mind if I…?" Felicity waved the envelope.
"No." Oliver was more interested in the crates. "Has this been through security?" Oliver asked.
"It has. No signs of toxins or explosives, but they couldn't x-ray the crates."
"Why not, too big?"
"No, they're lined with something like lead."
Intrigued, Oliver used the crowbar to open the top crate, half expecting a nasty surprise. Once the lid was lose, he pulled it off and pulled out a handful of the packing straw, then the first smaller, wooden box.
Inside were arrow tips. He opened the next box, which held something that resembles a small grenade, only there was a hole through the centre.
"What is all this?" he asked Diggle.
"I don't know, man, but someone knows your secret."
"It's from Bruce," Felicity spoke up, her eyes skimming a letter as she spoke. "He says Alfred has modified some of his gadgets for you to attach to arrows. He's sent you diamond tipped arrows, which will cut through almost anything if fired with enough force. EMP arrow tips, modified and miniaturised versions of what Isabel was making. Flash-bang grenades, which are used to disorientate and subdue an opponent, acid arrow heads, which can eat through most metals and a sonic arrow, which is strong enough to shatter glass and painful enough to subdue, but won't shatter eardrums. There's also rods of a new, lightweight titanium alloy, which he says you might want to use for your arrow shafts. Finally he's sent you four bolts of a new microfiber which acts as a super thin Kevlar-like lining."
"What's the rest of that?" Oliver asked, noting that she was holding a sheaf of papers.
"I don't know, I'm still on his covering letter. He says… Oh my god!"
Oliver and Diggle both approached her.
"He's bought the other half of your company," she looked up at Oliver, unsure if this would be good news or bad news. His expression gave nothing away though, so she went back to the letter, scanning the contents. "He pulled every string he has in Washington, using his unblemished history, his families generations of philanthropy and his desire not to see thousands of workers out of jobs etcetera etcetera … as long as we submit to yearly inspections and audits, the feds will leave us alone."
She looked up, shocked and pleased.
"Better him than the feds," Diggle said.
Oliver looked stunned. "How does he expect this to work?"
She continued skimming. "He says that the contract allows you to buy back a portion of his share each year, until Queen Consolidated is once again, a family business." Felicity read on. "'I will appoint an agent to act in my interest and they will have full power of attorney over my shares in Queen Consolidated and voting rights. If she will accept, I enclose all necessary legal documents to enable Ms Felicity Megan Smoak to take on that role'…" She looked up, shocked. "He didn't tell me he was going to do this, I swear."
"Any other surprises?" Oliver asked.
Felicity looked back to the letter. "He, uh, he wants me to take on the role of Chief Operations Officer, with the salary and bonuses commensurate to such a position, and he wants to appoint John Diggle to Chairman, so he can mediate any disagreements." She had to smile at that last part. "His salary is also to be increased to reflect this new role."
"It isn't enough we fight crime, now we have to look after his interests? How are we supposed to find the time to do all this?" Diggle asked.
"The role of chairman will give you much less work that you have now," Felicity explained. "It's more of a figurehead position. If I can find Oliver and I good executive assistants, then our role is more of an overseer, the actual work will be done by underlings, we just have to approve it and sign off on various things. With the computer programs I've already written to facilitate Oliver's work, we should all have more time for Arrow work, not less. Not to mention, no Feds looking over our shoulders every day"
"Anything else?" Oliver asked.
Felicity checked. "The rest seems to be the contracts."
"So this isn't final then?"
"Oh no, Bruce has bought half your company from the government. The only thing left to sign is the documents giving me power to oversee his interest, Dig's appointment to chairman, and his agreement to let you buy back your company in stages."
Oliver didn't quite know how to feel about this. Sure, he liked and respected Bruce, and having him as a business partner was far preferable to Isabel or the government. Having the Wayne name attached would also inspire more confidence in the company. Still, QC was his baby and despite himself, he was a little resentful at not being consulted.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing to an unopened C4 envelope.
"That's a letter for me," Felicity explained. "A personal one."
Oliver nodded and although the curiosity was killing him, he didn't question it any further.
"I'd better call legal then," Oliver said, returning to his desk. "They should go over everything before you sign."
Felicity nodded. "Right." She folded the small envelope and put it in her pocket, clearly intending to wait until she was alone to read the contents.
With a fortifying glass of wine in hand, Felicity sat on her couch and opened Bruce's letter.
I'm not sure how to word this, or even of what I want to say,' the letter began. 'I'm in Australia as I write this, following a lead on Moses.'
She knew that, she'd been following sightings of the Bat on the internet, so she knew exactly where he had been.
'I didn't realise how completely I had buried my feelings until now, when I've been forced to face them.'
'Ouch,' she thought, taking a long sip of wine before continuing.
'My feelings for you haven't changed but you were right, and I can't commit properly, not until I've caught her killer and this is over. You deserve more than I can give right now.
I don't know how much longer this will go on, Moses is a slippery customer, but even if I can't give you everything you need at the moment, I hope that the next time I'm in the States, you'll agree to have dinner with me, as a friend.
I also hope that you realise that my buying QC and asking you to oversee my interest, is a sign of my faith in you, and my desire to make things easier for you and your team, not at attempt to increase your workload to make my life easier, or to steal Oliver's company.
If you need anything, work related, Oliver related or personal, please don't hesitate to call Alfred. He told me that you had already called to see that he was all right. His stiff upper lip won't allow him to tell you how touching he finds your consideration, but he cares for you and would do anything for you, as do and would I.
I never was very good at letter writing but hearing your voice would be too painful at the moment, so it seems like the best way. If you want to reply, Alfred will make sure the letter reaches me, one way or the other.
Your friend and pen-pal,
Felicity set the letter down and sipped her wine as she contemplated its contents. She didn't know how successful his hunt would be but she had faith in him.
She didn't know what he future held for her but with friends like Oliver and Bruce, she knew had no right to feel sorry for herself.
She was a lucky woman and if her eyes stung with sadness occasionally, it only to served to remind her to enjoy the good times when they came.
Read below for two plot outlines for who Felicity ends up with.
AN: Okay, so I knew I was never going to please everyone, some of you wanted Oliver/Felicity, some Bruce/Felicity, so with this ending, I've probably pleased no one. As I said earlier, I let the characters drive me, they tell me what to do, I just write it. I hope I've made Felicity's reasoning clear in the story but if not, I'm going to try and explain why, to me at least, this is a happy ending.
Oliver slept with sisters, again, within less than a year of each other, while the sister he betrayed first time around is clearly in pain and on a downward spiral. I don't think that's a man that Felicity would respect, and she couldn't be with someone that she doesn't respect. She has too much self-esteem to become a notch in his bedpost and right now, he doesn't have the maturity to value a good relationship (unless it's platonic) and I would fully expect him to have a few mishaps or relapses over the next few months. He's growing and changing, but change doesn't happen overnight.
Felicity is the kind of person who forgives and forgets (or at least, doesn't hold grudges) but she won't allow herself to be used as Oliver's practice relationship or rebound girl. She is the real deal, and she'll wait for him to be ready.
As for Oliver, I think he's finally growing up, finally realising that sexual relationships are about more than good sex and although he's finally awoken to his feelings for Felicity, he doesn't want to break her heart, and he has enough insight into himself not to push for more until he's ready to commit properly, and she's ready to accept that he has changed.
As far as Bruce goes, he does love Felicity, he just loves someone else too and until he deals with Julie's loss, Felicity will forever live in her shadow, never feeling good enough because the dead are only remembered for their strengths, not their faults. Dating widowers (they weren't married, but there's no word for a bereaved boyfriend) is hard enough but when the grief is still raw, festering just below the surface, it's almost impossible to have a healthy relationship. Not only are you compared to an unrealistic, idealised vision of a lost love, widowers often feel guilty for moving on and loving someone else, as if they are committing adultery and betraying the woman they loved. Even although it's not logical to feel that way (when are emptions ever logical) this can breed resentment of the new partner.
Felicity has come to realise that she doesn't need a man in her life in order to feel whole; she's an accomplished woman in her own right and she'd rather be single, than settle for a relationship that isn't right.
As she said to Bruce, she's not saying never, she just saying, not right now. Oliver realises that 'right now' isn't their time either.
What Felicity does now have, is two very good friends, who both appreciate and value her and for the moment, that's more than enough.
I think this ending is empowering, because we get to see that Felicity isn't someone who will settle for second best, or Mr Almost-Right or even worse, Mr Wrong. She knows she's worth more than that and when she does choose someone, it will be because she loves, trusts and respects them, not because she needs them.
I don't have time to write these endings but if someone wants to run with the ideas, feel free to write a sequel, or use your own plot in writing a sequel (and please link me to it, I'd love to read it).
Ending 1 – Bruce/Felicity
After hunting Paul Moses for six months, Bruce finds and imprisons him. He wanders for a time, seeking advice and solace on the way, trying to come to terms with Julie's death.
Final returning to Gotham, he isn't ready to move on but he and Felicity see each other as friends, which slowly grows into more.
Ending 2 – Oliver/Felicity
After hunting Paul Moses for a year, Bruce finds him and when Moses taunts him about his inability to save Julie, Bruce kills him. Eaten up with grief at having given into vengeance, rather than pursuing justice, he runs from himself, fighting crime all over the world, trying to make up for taking a life and betraying his own ideals, frequently endangering his own life in a series of unnecessary and dangerous risks. His self-hatred takes him on a downward spiral, drinking, gambling, womanising and refusing all offers of help or counselling.
Felicity tracks him as best she can but when she goes to talk some sense into him, he repeatedly pushes Felicity away, trying to hurt her in order to make her leave him alone.
Oliver has been proving that he can be a better man and his friendship with Felicity deepens as a result. He comforts her when she worries about Bruce, and councils her when Bruce hurts her. Slowly they reach new levels of trust and when he finally asks her out on a date, in honour of the anniversary when they first met, she accepts.
Bruce finally comes within a hairs breath of getting himself killed and only the Arrow's intervention saves him. Having reached rock bottom, he grudgingly accepts help, most of which comes from Oliver and Alfred, both of whom know what it's like to kill.
Bruce learns to live with his guilt and although sorry that he missed his opportunity with Felicity, he can't begrudge her happiness with Oliver and they remain friends.