A/N: This fic diverges from canon around 2x10, and Roy is never injected with the Mirakuru in this 'verse. Title from "World So Cold" by 12 Stones.
Warnings: Violence, some language, mild sexual content.
Roughly, Slade shoves her head to the side, exposing the bare skin of her neck. Felicity screams as the syringe in his hand inches closer and closer.
"And if he does still care, he'll be too busy trying to save you. Too focused on trying to fix you. You'll go from an asset to a liability. And we both know you don't want that. My advice to you, Ms. Smoak, is to hope for death."
The needle pierces her skin, and the Mirakuru floods Felicity's veins, filling her limbs with a thick heat that she can't escape, though she twists and whimpers as the blaze slowly spreads through her body. It claws at her throat, and the light makes her eyes burn, so she shuts them to keep it out. Wetness trickles down her face, but the liquid is too think to be tears so it must be -
Her brain explodes in agony as her heart races in her chest. Muscles flex and tense of their own accord and it hurts so damn much - Oliver!
Oliver's not going to save you.
She doesn't know if the words are in her head or if someone's spoken them aloud, but the kernel of truth in them - Oliver's not going to save her; by now it's too late for her to be saved - sinks in slowly, and it hurts more than the rest of the pain put together.
The voice saying her name is Oliver's, but she doesn't know if it's real. She feels oddly weightless, and somehow far away, like her soul isn't in her body anymore. It occurs to her that maybe she's dying and maybe it isn't so bad. It's rather easy, actually, to let herself slip away.
"Felicity!" This is Oliver's voice, laced with panic and terror, and this time she knows it's real. "Stay with me."
Oliver came for her. Oliver's here. The knowledge fills her with an unbelievable amount of peace. She won't be dying alone.
There's an ache in her chest, a steady pressure every few seconds. His voice surrounds her, and he sounds so, so frightened. She's never heard him so frightened before.
"Stay with me, Felicity!"
And then -
She gasps, sucking in air like she's been years without it. Her lungs ache; sharp pricks of pain dart along her ribcage.
When she opens her eyes, the face staring down at her is no more than a blur, but she sees the hood and the mask and green, so much green, that it is unmistakably Oliver hovering above her.
He mutters something in Russian, and then drops his forehead to hers. His breath is hot against her face, and his eyes are closed. She tries to form words but her mouth is so very dry.
"Here." Dig's arms are around her, and suddenly both he and Oliver are helping her sit up. One of them slips the end of a straw into her mouth, and Felicity sips slowly, savoring every drop. When she finally pushes it aside, Oliver's arms are around her instantly, holding her close. He buries his face in her neck.
When she looks past him, she can see that they've brought her back to the lair, and it's a bizarre combination of Oliver's arms and the foundry's walls that make her feel somewhat secure again.
"Vy khorosho," he says, over and over again in Russian. You're okay.
Over Oliver's shoulder, Felicity catches Diggle's eye. This is a side of Oliver she has never seen before. She's never known Oliver to be this worried about her, this frantic.
"Slade injected you with Mirakuru," John says. "We thought for a while we were gonna lose you."
"What did he say to you?" Oliver asks, but Felicity is silent.
"He had to have told you why he was doing what he was doing," John says.
"I think that he thought it would kill me," she says softly, finally, her words filling some sort of empty space in her chest, "I think he thought I wasn't strong enough."
"But he was wrong," Oliver says. "It didn't kill you."
Not yet. Felicity thinks, unable to ignore the monstrous ache of power and rage that's been steadily swelling in her chest. It hasn't killed me yet.
When she goes to the bathroom, something like the undead stares back at her from the mirror. Blood is caked down her face from where her eyes bled. Dark circles from her mascara surround her eyes. Her lipstick is gone, and her lips look abnormally pale.
A cursory examination of her body reveals no cuts, no bruises, and no broken bones. Apart from a sick twisting of her stomach and a vile ache in her head, nothing appears to be wrong with her. Even though her wrists are also caked with blood from when she struggled against the ropes Slade used to tie her to the chair, there's none of the rope burn that should be there.
She remembers Oliver talking about how the Mirakuru gave those injected with it near-miraculous hearing abilities. Is that why she feels invincible? Like nothing can or will ever hurt her again?
After she emerges from the bathroom, her face scrubbed clean of makeup and blood, she asks Oliver, "What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing," he says, but his hesitation is palpable. His voice is low and detached. His hands ghost along the curves of her shoulders, hovering over her skin but never touching it.
She wishes he would touch her. It would make her feel so much less broken, so much less like Slade's already managed to leave her tarnished in Oliver's sight.
But he turns away from her, and Felicity's tears are hot as they roll down her cheeks.
Felicity has a difficult time sleeping that night. She tosses and turns, and when she does manage to drift off, she dreams of slicing open Slade's neck, watching his blood gush down his shirt as he looks at her and realizes that she is the one who's done it.
She wakes up screaming.
The increase in agility gives her an edge she's never had before, and it only takes a few training sessions with Dig for her to start actually using the move's he's taught her against him. Felicity may still have less training, but she's stronger than she was before, and Diggle hasn't gotten used to that yet.
During their fifth session, she knocks him flat on his back with one blow. Her hands clamp over her mouth to cover her gasp as she takes a few steps backwards. She's never been able to do that before.
"Oh, god, Dig, are you okay?"
John pushes himself up off of the training mat and nods his head. "Yeah, just a little surprised. Nice one."
Felicity reaches out to help him up, and shocks herself by actually being able to pull him up. Suddenly she's grateful that Oliver's not there to see it.
The distance between her and Oliver has been growing larger. It's happened slowly, but it hasn't surprised Felicity at all. The Mirakuru has always terrified Oliver, particularly since the revelation that Slade is not only alive but also insane.
Diggle's noticed Oliver's abrupt coldness towards her, she's sure, but he hasn't chosen to comment on it - at least, not in her presence.
Meanwhile, there's a steadily increasing knot of rage constantly burning beneath her chest, and for the past few nights, her nightmares aren't about killing Slade anymore.
They're about killing Oliver. That's not something she can confess to Diggle. And Oliver won't sit still long enough to listen to her or how she's feeling. He keeps brushing her off like she's nothing more than a buzzing fly, reducing her to another tool to gain information.
The hardest part is that he's the one she wants to talk to the most. She wants him to stop looking at her like she's been...violated. Corrupted.
She needs help. And she needs it from someone who isn't Oliver or Diggle.
Felicity climbs the stairs of the clock tower slowly. She has a Tazer in her purse, but she doesn't want to use it. Besides, her reflexes might be better, but it's entirely possible that they're still not better than the person she's come here to see.
The top room of the tower is dark, the only light coming in from the translucent face of the clock. The hands cast eerie shadows on the floor.
"What are you doing here, Felicity?" The voice is female, sultry. Felicity whirls around in the direction of the sound, her curls bouncing around her shoulders.
"I need your help," Felicity says.
Sara Lance steps into the dim light. Her staff is in her right hand, and she's wearing her Canary mask.
"Why would you need my help?"
Felicity spends the next two weeks skipping out on her nightly activities with the Arrow.
(Oliver does not call. He does not text to ask where she is. At Queen Consolidated, he doesn't say anything to her directly. They're at the point where he's barely communicating with her through anything other than text and email. She followed his cues and does the same.)
Instead of the foundry, Felicity spends her nights in the clock tower with Sara and Sin. Sara trains her to fight using ever resource at her disposal. Sin makes snarky remarks and refuses to share her snacks.
Sara teaches her a different kind of strength. Felicity's always been emotionally strong, very in tune with how she feels and why she feels it. She's always been a happy person, but this rage - rage so pure and undiluted - is not something she's used to feeling all the time, every second of every day.
Sara teaches her how to control it: how to let the anger loose, let it curl through her veins and then slip through her skin with every exhale of breath.
"It tries to change you," she tells Felicity. "Tries to corrupt everything you are, burn down your soul and take control of the ash that remains. Oliver watched it happen with Slade. He tried to stop it; we both did."
They're sitting on a set of scaffolding in the tower, legs hanging off of the side. Sara's posture is slanted, at ease. Felicity sits with her legs crossed and her back straight, tense. Her body is sore, and her skin is damp with sweat. "That's why he's keeping me at a distance? Why he's refusing to tell me anything?"
Sara looks away. It's as much of an agreement as Felicity thinks she's likely to get.
"It's killing me," Felicity continues. "It doesn't matter how in control I am. If Oliver doesn't trust me anymore, Slade's already won."
"Oliver does trust you," Sara says, "He doesn't trust the Mirakuru."
"What's the difference?
Sara's long silence does not make Felicity feel any better. Finally, she says, "I studied the reports. I knew what it did; I knew what it was going to do to Slade. The reality of it was so much worse than anything I could have imagined."
"What's going to happen to me?" Felicity asks.
Sara's eyes flick up and down Felicity's body. Felicity knows the changes in her physique have ceased to be inconspicuous. Her muscles are more defined; her abs nearly as cut as Oliver's; and she knows what little flab she had before has evaporated almost completely. None of this is through any concentrated effort. She's been learning fighting techniques, not trying to build up muscle.
Sara shakes her head. "I don't know."
If circumstances were different, Felicity was sure she would have appreciated the honesty.
"You might just have to deal with the rage. You might start deforming in other ways. I don't know. Slade's deformation was all mental. He fell into this pit of anger and grief and pain; his first experience after the injection was the death of the woman he loved."
She doesn't have to continue; Felicity is easily able to follow her train of thought. Felicity woke up to Oliver's arms surrounding her. Felicity woke up to safety; Slade woke up to tragedy.
"I'm told it helps," Sara says, "If you keep focused on people you care about when the rage surges. Do you have someone you can think of when that happens? Try to use person that you care about the most."
Felicity doesn't answer. She doesn't talk about her family; she doesn't talk about the deadbeat dad that left when she was four and the mom who never cared enough to show up to her college graduation.
The person Felicity used care about the most was Oliver. Now so much of her rage is focused on Oliver, she doesn't think it'll translate properly. She does technically have Diggle in her life, but he doesn't exactly inspire the person you care about the most type of feelings.
The person she cares about the most is treating her like she's some kind of monster, and because she's so angry with him, she can't use her feelings for him to stop herself from becoming one.
For just a second, the anger subsides, leaving behind a sick, swelling ache in her chest.
After she calls in sick at QC three days in a row, Oliver shows up at her front door.
The instant she lays eyes on him, rage curdles inside her. It's anger at Oliver for ignoring her, for letting her fight this all on her own, for calling himself her friend and abandoning her when she needed him the most. But none of these sentiments make it past her lips. For once in her life, words completely escape her. She literally stands and stares at him.
Oliver doesn't seem to have anything to say either, but eventually he says, "How are you?"
"What do you want from me, Oliver?" Felicity asks. "You ignore me for weeks and then you just show up out of the blue asking how I am?"
"Slade's disappeared, I can't find him, and I thought you could - "
She holds up a hand to tell him to stop talking. "You just want me back at the lair."
"I need you - "
"I needed you." She doesn't normally yell, but now she is. It's a sorrowful, emotionally heavy sound. Half of it is a sob. "I needed you and you weren't there. I was so scared Oliver. So terrified. You said we were partners. Why weren't you there?"
Anguish falls over his face. He moves toward her then, one hand reaching out to touch her -
Without thinking, she strikes him across the cheek, hard and fast.
It leaves a bruise.
Felicity returns to Verdant three days later. Her fury toward Oliver hasn't subsided, but she also doesn't want anything bad to happen to him while she's not there. So she goes to the lair and sits at her computers, listening to Oliver over the comms, back to being the voice in his ear. It's almost like the time before Felicity was injected with the Mirakuru, but there's an edge to his voice now.
She doesn't look at him after he returns to the lair, keeping her eyes on her screens and her fingers occupied on her keyboard. After a few moments, Oliver comes up to her and leans against the desk beside her. He's almost sitting on the surface, but not quite. His legs are crossed, his arms are braced on either side of his body, and he's in her personal space more than usual. The green jacket and mask have been shed, but the leather pants remain.
"Hey," he says, softly, in that gentle tone she knows he uses when he's trying not to spook her. "I'm sorry, Felicity."
"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I should have been."
"You have no idea how alone I've felt. How much I hated you. How badly I wanted to -" she cuts herself off then, vivid images of a dying Oliver filling her mind.
"How much you wanted to what, Felicity?"
She squeezes her eyes shut, dreading the words about to leave her mouth. "Kill you. Or Slade. Or both of you, I didn't even know."
She still doesn't, but he doesn't need to know that.
"That was the Mirakuru," Oliver says softly. "That wasn't you."
"How do you know?"
Everything about Oliver softens in an instant: his stance, his eyes, and his voice. "Because I know you, Felicity. And that's not you."
"What if it is?"
His sigh is just a touch exasperated, but his hands settle on her shoulders, thumbs rubbing circles into the skin exposed by her blouse. "It's not. Trust me."
I did, that horrible part of her thinks, and you abandoned me.
His words aren't entirely enough, but they satisfy for now. Tenderly, Felicity touches the bruise beneath his eye. He doesn't flinch. "I'm sorry I hit you."
"It's nothing," Oliver says.
The man comes at her from behind, while she's leaving Verdant. His arms lock around her throat, and Felicity doesn't so much react as she attacks. In an instant, training kicks in, and her elbow is connecting with his solar plexus.
She writhes out of his arms and spins around. Without a thought, her hands go to either side of his head, and she twists.
There's a sick snap, and the man falls to the ground, leaving Felicity staring down at his dead body in horror. A few seconds later, Oliver's hands are on her shoulders, pulling her back and away.
She lashes out at him, but he knows how to stop her, knows how to take her down without hurting her or letting her hurt him.
She screams at him to let her go, but he doesn't listen. Her name echoes against the brick walls of the alley.
"Felicity!" His hands are on either side of her face, his eyes boring into hers. "Felicity."
Her knees give, but he catches her before she can fall.
"I killed him," she cries. Then, in a softer half-whisper: "I killed him."
"He was gonna hurt you, Felicity." There was no choice to make, remains remembered but unspoken.
She shakes her head, frantic.
"He was going to kill you." Oliver repeats.
I should have let him, the darkest part of her whispers into the stillness. It would have been better if I had let him.
"Are you okay?" Oliver asks when he drops her off at her apartment.
"No," Felicity says. "I don't think I am."
His eyes evade hers, but one of his hands finds her arm, squeezing gently. "Do you want me to stay?"
"Yes," she says, and the word is barely a breath, but Oliver steps inside and shuts the door behind him. Then he takes her in his arms again and presses his lips to her forehead.
"I'm scared I'm gonna lose you," she cries against his chest. It's the first time she's let that fear escape out into the open, and as soon as she has she wishes she could take it back. He doesn't need to know that. Theirs is not a relationship of belonging with the other; Felicity knows this.
Oliver pulls away then, one hand going to her cheek as he gently tilts her face up to look at him. "Hey. You're not gonna lose me, Felicity."
She doesn't say, I already have.
The police find the thug's body with a green arrow pinning a note to his chest. He was going to kill her. I had to.
The thug is added to the list of the Vigilante's kills.
But Felicity knows that his blood is on her hands.
Felicity understands why Oliver and Sara like the salmon ladder. There's something about the rhythm and exertion that calms the mind. It's a great exercise when one is angry.
And lately, Felicity's been angry a lot.
The direction of this anger has finally begun to move away from Oliver though. It's now firmly fixed on Slade, and Felicity finds that she's okay with that. He's an acceptable target. He did this to her, him and his damned Mirakuru.
Felicity wants to kill him. She wants to slit his throat and watch the blood drip down his chest. She wants to punch him and hurt him and make him bleed, beat him up until he's a bloody mess, wound him until he doesn't want to live anymore.
When she reaches the top of the ladder, and she knows that a shirtless Oliver is standing below her, so she lets go. He catches her with strong, steady arms, and she wraps her arms around his neck as he slowly lowers her so her feet touch the ground. She's sweaty and her body aches from its exertion, but she can't find the energy to care.
Besides, Oliver's looking down at her like he wants to devour her, and she's never seen him gaze at her with such unconcealed want. He always looked at her with these incredibly soft expressions, always treated her with softness and gentleness. This look is somewhat reminiscent of that. The - dare Felicity call it love? - is still there, but there's a desire in his eyes that was never there before this moment.
When he bends down to kiss her, she stays very still. Her eyes don't close until his lips meet hers. She wonders if he's afraid she'll hit him again. Slowly, Felicity opens her mouth to him, and as she does, one of his arms bands around her waist, pulling her tightly against him.
And then, as if this has all been nothing but a dream and it's finally time for her to wake up, Felicity feels her body respond. She presses against him even more firmly, reaches a hand up to brush the backs of her fingers across his cheek.
He makes this low noise in the back of his throat and grabs at the thin material of her tank top, pushing it up and out of the way. His hands are hot against her skin, and she thinks she could burst from the force of the emotions building inside her.
It feels like the Mirakuru but it's not. It's the Mirakuru's direct opposite. For the first time Felicity understands what Sara said when she told her to focus on the one person she cared about over all others. It's like the weight of rage around her has been lifted. She feels like she could fly. When Oliver lightly nips at her lower lip, she feels like she's going to fly apart. She digs her nails into his shoulders, and he moans into her mouth, reaching down to lift one of her legs and wrap it around his hips.
His lips leave hers and press kisses along her shoulder. Hiding her face in his neck, Felicity rocks her hips against him. Her head is spinning, lost in lust and want and everything Oliver.
The door at the top of the stairs slams loudly as Diggle enters, and they instantly pull apart, breathing heavily.
"Ah, so blondie lived, did she?"
Even over the comms, Slade's voice sends a chill down Felicity's spine. The implication in his words doesn't escape her: he meant for her to die. That was his intention. That she survived the fire in her veins and became stronger because of it rather than in spite of it was never his plan.
For reasons Felicity doesn't completely understand, that makes her feel superior somehow, like she won. He meant to take her down, made to make Oliver face her death or her destruction.
"She's stronger than you thought," Oliver says. The voice modifier he uses as the hood adds to the intensity to his words.
Felicity can't see them, doesn't know exactly what they're doing, but she's hacking into the cameras of the building as she listens to their conversation, so it won't be a mystery much longer. She's called John to go back up Oliver, but he's still twenty minutes out. Felicity knows all too well that Oliver could be dead in twenty minutes.
"What are you going to do when she finally turns against you, Oliver?"
"It's not going to happen."
"Oh, it'll happen. You just have to give it time. "
When the video comes up, Oliver's standing a good ten yards away from Slade, bow drawn and arrow ready. Slade has a long sword in either hand.
"Oliver, wait for Diggle," she pleads softly, knowing he won't listen to her unless he wants to do so.
With careful, precise steps, Slade moves toward Oliver. Everything about him is menacing.
Oliver looses at arrow at him; Slade dodges it easily and leaps at Oliver.
Felicity watches the ensuing fight with her heart pounding and her stomach plummeting to her knees. Oliver loses the bow not long after the brawl starts, but he manages to wrestle away one of Slade's swords. The sharp clanging of the weapons striking each other comes through Oliver's comm.
Everything happens so fast, Felicity has a difficult time following it. She does know that Slade has trained far longer with the broadswords than Oliver has. Oliver seems to be compensating well for that though, because by the way they're going back and forth, Felicity thinks they look evenly matched. Still, the way the both use the entire room and its contents as weapons makes the fight look cutthroat and desperate. They're wholeheartedly trying to kill each other.
It makes Felicity's stomach turn, her frayed nerves causing her to bite down firmly on he lower lip until she tastes blood. She mutes Oliver's side of the audio and yells at Diggle to hurry.
It ends suddenly. One moment they're grappling with each other, arms above their heads, and the next moment Oliver's body is skidding across the floor and slamming into the wall. Slade follows at a run, lifting one of the broadswords and plunging it through Oliver's thigh.
Through the earpiece, Felicity can hear Oliver screaming.
Bending down and yanking Oliver's hood off, Slade spits in his face.
"Be grateful, kid. Next time I will take out your eye."
"You should be in a hospital," Felicity yells as Dig drags a bleeding Oliver down the foundry stairs.
You should be dead, she doesn't say.
"He looks worse," Oliver says gruffly, but Felicity's too busy helping John hoist him up onto the table to reply. Besides, she's seen the footage. She knows that's not true. Slade won this round easily. Oliver is bleeding in front of her and not pale and lifeless on that cement floor because Slade wanted to let Oliver go.
Felicity spends the next hour helping Diggle patch up Oliver. She cuts away Oliver's pants, sets up an IV drip and digs out a few pints of Oliver's blood to counteract the blood loss he's suffered.
Oliver stays conscious throughout it all, biting down hard on the piece of plastic Diggle makes him place between his teeth.
The only things they can be grateful for are that the sword missed both arteries and bone. Felicity wonders if that was intentional. Slade's not ready to kill Oliver yet, but he doesn't want him too injured for their final altercation.
Finally, Oliver passes out from the pain, and Felicity leaves to wash his blood off of her hands.
When she gets a trace on Slade's secondary location, Oliver isn't in the foundry. He's out patrolling, and Felicity has only a few seconds to make a decision about what to do.
Oliver isn't ready to face Slade yet. He's hurting too much, though he'll never admit it. Felicity still catches him limping when he thinks she's not paying any attention.
Besides, Slade is going to kill him this time. Felicity can't let that happen, not when it's in her power to stop it.
Her eyes scan the weapons surrounding her. Oliver has his bow with him, but there are still plenty of dangerous things to choose from.
Felicity takes what she needs and leaves the foundry before Oliver can return.
It's entirely possible she's going to her death. Part of her wants it. Perhaps she's become more like Oliver in that way. She understands the selfishness of it. She'd rather die than watch him die. If she's gone, she doesn't have to deal with the aftermath. If Oliver dies, she'll be wrecked.
If she dies, will Oliver be wrecked instead? Felicity doesn't know, and she knows she'll never find out.
When she arrives at his penthouse, Slade's waiting for her. He sits behind his desk, fingers folded together in front of his mouth. "You lived. How very unlucky for you."
Felicity doesn't reply. She's changed out of her dress and into a pair of black yoga pants and a formfitting long-sleeved top. It doesn't look quite as intimidating or sexy as Sara and Oliver's leather getup, but she's comfortable and she can move.
"Well," Slade says, "I suppose you've never been one of the lucky ones. Especially in love. Poor pathetic little dear, sick with love, craving the affections of Oliver Queen."
She keeps her silence. Every minute Slade spends talking is another she can use to get the upper hand. Slade's hands play with the knife on his desk. Felicity stands alert, ready to dodge the blade if needed.
"You were supposed to die for him," Slade continues. "You were supposed to die and it was supposed to break him. Form the moment he pulled you into this it was always going to end in your death. You know that, don't you? You were always just another casualty in Oliver Queen's war - a war that you could never understand. Did he make you feel special? Did he tell you that you were remarkable, Miss Smoak?"
He throws the blade as he spits out the last word, but Felicity's new reflexes are so sharp that it feels like it comes at her in slow motion. There's a crack as the knife embeds itself in the wall behind her.
Felicity steps forward as Slade slowly circles the desk.
"You're so wrong," she says. It's the first time she's spoken since she entered the room. "I'm not a casualty. I'm like Oliver. I'm a survivor. You might know Oliver because you lived in the same crucible that created him. But you have no idea what kind of crucible created me."
And she attacks.
"I lived," Felicity says, "How very unlucky for you."
She plunges Slade's own sword into his chest and watches the life drain from his eyes.
Three hours later, Felicity quietly sits on a metal table in the foundry, letting Oliver tend to her injuries. When he finishes binding the last wound, she leans forward, grabbing him by fistfuls of his shirt and pulling him down until his lips crash against hers.
"I still love you," he tells her after, when her head rests against his naked chest, the steady beat of his heart keeping time with her own. "I know he thought this would turn me against you, but you have to know, Felicity. I never stopped loving you. I couldn't lose you. I can't lose you."
The deep emotion in his voice crashes over her like a breaking wave, and Felicity lets herself get swept away, lost in it, consumed by him.
"Hey," she says, fighting sleep with every slow caress of Oliver's hands on her back. "You're not going to lose me, Oliver."
His hands are suddenly still against her skin, and she tips her head back to look up at him.