"Personally, I'd rather suck up my pride and call Felicity." Roy retorted as they ran down the dark alleyway.
"Roy has a point, Oliver." Diggle said.
Oliver stubbornly ignored them and focused on getting far away from the museum. In his defense, it did take a lot of focus: his… a… perspective had changed dramatically in the last ten minutes, as had a number of other things. Oliver figured he had enough to worry about at the moment.
"You know," Diggle panted, "We'll eventually have to cross a street, and then someone will see us—" "
And then we'll end up in foster care." Roy finished, a hint of fear creeping into his voice. "Which would suck. Trust me."
Groaning in annoyance, Oliver came to a stop in front of a dumpster, the other two following suit. "Okay, fine." Roy mumbled something about Oliver being a big baby as the vigilante pulled the Bluetooth from his jacket pocket. There was a familiar beep before he tapped it.
"He just turned on the voice thingy!" Roy whispered as he huddled next to Diggle.
They were on the move. It was the only thing that had kept Felicity from freaking out as she stared at the monitors.
Everything had been routine as she guided them through the museum, hacking various security measures as they went. They were supposed to stop a heist. The thieves in question weren't even that dangerous. But not long after they engaged did communications suddenly cut off; a full twenty seconds of radio silence ticked by before they started moving. Still, none of them would answer her. She could only assume that the thieves got away and her guys were injured, considering how slow they were going.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Oliver call her name.
"Are you okay? What happened in there—?" "
We need you to come get us," Felicity frowned, realizing how odd his voice sounded. She recognized the voice changer, but it was just… off.
"Are any of you hurt?" He sighed. "No, but there was a mishap. We need a ride."
"Does it have to do with why your voice sounds so—?" "
Just. Get. Here."
Her hands wrung the steering wheel as she neared the alleyway. What had Oliver meant by mishap? Determined to remain calm, Felicity reminded herself as long as none of them were dying, she shouldn't worry.
The headlights illuminated the filthy alley as she stepped out of her still-running car. As far as she could tell, she was alone.
"Guys?" She knew she wasn't in the wrong place; her phone wasn't lying. Then she heard just barely audible whispering from behind the dumpster. "Why are you hiding from me?"
Suddenly a little red something-or-other appeared from behind the rusty dumpster and ran towards her. She yelped when it hugged her. Stunned, she patted his red-hooded head, which only came to her waist.
"You're such a baby, Roy!" said a child's voice. Its owner emerged out of hiding and into the lights from the car. This one was a green version of the first. "Get off of her!"
"Shut up! It's really cold out here and she's warm!" The little red one finally looked up at her: big blue eyes, flawless freckles, and a button nose. "Can we go home now?"
"Roy?" she breathed in astonishment. Then her gaze shifted to the grumpy little green one. "Oliver?"
He hung his head, making it impossible to see his face at all.
"He's just embarrassed." explained Roy, his arms still around her.
A third one who had to be Diggle came out slowly, assessing her response. "You okay, Felicity?"
The three little boys gasped in unison and covered their ears out of pure instinct. After a second, they realized how strange that was.
"We're not sure what happened," Diggle began, "We got knocked out somehow and woke up like this. We barely made it out of the museum."
"Uh-huh," Felicity replied numbly.
Oliver was already heading towards the car. "I'll drive."
"What? No!" she blurted, snapping out of it.
"Then finish freaking out and get us out of here."
After several minutes of arguing and rule-setting, they headed to her place. The ride to her apartment had been mercifully quiet, save for the occasional yawn. It was when they entered her building that things got interesting.
Mrs. Chalupnik was in the lobby, wrapped up in her magenta coat and ready to head out. There was no way for Felicity to hide the three boys before her neighbor saw them.
"Hey, what's with Huey, Dewey, and Louie?" the older woman said, eyeing the children with an amused smirk on her face. She crouched down to look them in the eye, paying the most attention to Roy and Oliver. "You two must be eager for Halloween."
"They are," Felicity answered, thankful is was October. "They so are. They worked so hard on those costumes and demanded to wear them."
Mrs. Chalupnik stood up. "How did you get saddled with these little gremlins?"
"I'm their aunt." blurted Felicity, likely influenced by her initial comment. "It's a really long story. I'm going to be looking after them for a few days."
"Oh," her neighbor said delightedly, casting a brief, confused look in Diggle's direction. "Well, don't give your aunt a hard time then, boys."
"We won't," answered Diggle, still holding Felicity's hand.
Mrs. Chalupnik smiled. "What's your name, sweet pea?"
"Johnny," Diggle replied.
"And you, green bean?"
"Dewey," Oliver said with a fake, adorable smile, the kind that usually hides murderous intent.
"And I'm Jefferson Sledgehammer!" Roy announced heroically, placing his fists on his waist.
The lobby was painfully quiet for a moment.
"I shouldn't have given him sugar," Felicity finally said, grabbing Roy's hand and gesturing for Oliver to follow. "I should really get them to bed! Good night!"
Despite his drooping eyelids and frequent yawns, Oliver did not willingly go to sleep.
"Felicity, I may have the body of a six year old and a craving for Fruity Pebbles, but I'm still a grown man!" Oliver bellyached. "I'll go to sleep when I want to!"
Diggle blew a raspberry in protest of his argument. "This is probably the last time we'll ever have a good excuse to go to bed at ten o'clock. Quit ruining it!"
Roy chose to stay out of it; he was apparently far too busy perusing Felicity's bookshelf in search of a suitable bedtime story.
"Oliver, I can understand why you're frustrated, but you're still six years old right now and I can tell you're exhausted." Felicity said, trying to treat him like an adult.
"No, I—"His rebuttal was cut off by an enormous yawn. "I'm not tired."
"Are too, green bean!" quipped Diggle.
"Diggle, go get three sweatshirts from my drawer for you guys to change into." As Diggle obeyed, Roy came toddling up holding the only picture book from her shelf.
"Felicity can you read this one?"
She felt a small lump in her throat as Guess How Much I Love You was shoved in her face. It was the same book she'd always demand at bedtime when she was little and held most of the happy memories she had of her parents. She'd forgotten she even had it.
"Is it your favorite?" Felicity asked, ignoring Oliver's eye roll.
"I've never read it, but there're bunnies on the cover. I like bunnies."
"Okay, sweetie," she said, barely able to handle the freckly cherub. "But you three have to get ready first."
"Okie-dokie, Smoaky!" Roy said, grabbing Oliver's arm and pulling him back to Felicity's room. Roy still seemed to have his strength, so there wasn't much choice but to comply.
"What was that?" Oliver whispered in annoyance as he closed the door behind them.
"I don't even know," replied Roy as Diggle tossed them their sweatshirts. "I can't turn it off! From the moment she showed up I've been compelled to be as cute as possible!"
"Yeah, we've noticed." commented Diggle, who was already in his pale blue sweatshirt.
"You barely talk to her when she's around, but suddenly you want to be her pet kitten." murmured Oliver.
The boys changed in tense silence for the next few seconds, then: "I don't want her to get rid of us," Roy blurted quietly as he pulled on his heather-gray sweatshirt.
It took the other boys a moment to realize what he meant.
"Is this related to the foster care comment you said earlier?" asked Diggle.
Roy shrugged. "I guess so. I got bounced around a lot when I was a kid. It's stupid, but I think that anxiety is back. And I'm feeling starved for some motherly affection, too. My mom was pretty negligent."
"Even with as cute as you were?" Diggle said, trying to cheer him up.
"She did a lot of drugs." Roy replied quickly before leaving the room.
Oliver and Diggle exchanged a glance before following him.
"Shotgun!" They heard Roy say as he climbed into Felicity's crossed legs on the couch. She chuckled and waved the other boys over. When the two were at her sides and Roy was snuggled in her lap, she began to read.
When it was over and Oliver was insisting that no, he just had something in his eye, she demanded they take the bed. After they crawled in and settled who got which pillow, Felicity kissed Roy on the forehead. He seemed to be begging for one, and the resulting smile was confirmation.
"I want one!" Diggle exclaimed, raising his hand. She leaned over to reach his place in the middle.
When she glanced at Oliver, he glared back. His glare wasn't nearly as scary as it used to be, so it didn't deter her from walking over to his side and giving him a good-night kiss like the others.
"Nighty-night, boys," Felicity said sweetly before turning off the light and closing the door.
"I bet Oliver's blushing," Diggle whispered with a snigger. Roy tried to stifle a giggle as Oliver hissed at them to shut up.