"Why does it smell like a distillery in here?"
Oliver and Diggle both look up from the folding table, which is completely empty except for a bottle of Maker's, two shot glasses, and two empty mugs.
"F'lissee." Oliver closes his eyes, and she can see him mentally tapping backspace. "Fah-liss-it-tee."
"I knew who you meant the first time," she says, setting her purse down on her desk. She frowns at Diggle, who is sitting with his usual imperturbable calm, raising an eyebrow at Oliver. "Digg. It was your night to watch him."
Diggle's eyes slide over to her a little too slowly. "I see him," he says, then lifts a lazy hand to point vaguely across the table. "He's right there."
"Both of you?" She steps up between them and looms. She's not as good at it as they are, but they're seated and she's in three inch heels. She can manage an intermediate level loom. "Guys, we're supposed to be planning the mission at the gala tomorrow night. This is a workplace. For work! There is an actual bar literally steps away, and stop touching my hair, Oliver."
Diggle cracks a smile.
"Siddown," Oliver advises, putting his hand back on the table and patting the space next to him. "You like whiskey?"
"No. Yes. That is, no to the sitting, yes to the whiskey. I mean I like it, I don't mean, 'Please pour me some.'"
Too late. Oliver slides her his shot glass.
"Your mouth has been all over that," she objects. "And someone has to be the DD here."
Digg's eyebrows do eloquent things. "We drivin' somewhere?"
"At present, you are driving me crazy."
"You could drive us to Costa Rica," Oliver says, with rather more enthusiasm than he has previously shown for anything except pull-ups, Laurel, and shooting people.
Felicity decides it's best not to dignify that with a response. As a distraction, she purses her lips and says, "You left your little tea machine a complete mess, by the way. I'll just clean that up, shall I?"
Unfortunately drunk Oliver requires Costa Rica more than he requires dignity. "We decided. We're all going. Lyla says..." The sentence gets away from him. He tries again. "Lyla says - "
"She says she wants the complete opposite of Russia," Digg supplies. Then he snaps his fingers. "Antithesis. That was the word. We need the antithesis of Russia."
"But not the beach." Oliver rolls the cap of the Makers' bottle across his knuckles, and how does he still have that kind of fine motor coordination? "Fuck beaches."
She blinks at him. "You do realize that the rest of Costa Rica is jungle and mountains, which is not dissimilar to - you know what? No. I will not be arguing with any drunk people tonight." She holds out her hands. "I will be collecting your keys - yes, I'm serious, you too, Digg - and I will be over at my desk. Doing work things. Professionally. For work."
With a jingle, they dutifully hold out their key rings. She snatches them both. The second she turns her back, both of them snort into an eruption of what can only be called giggles. It's so surreal she has to turn back around.
"Someone tell me what's going on!"
They're slumped over their elbows on the table, making helpless little high-pitched noises. It's ridiculous. It's adorable. She's laughing along with them before she even realizes what she's doing, because adorable.
"You took our keys," Diggle gasps.
Shaking with laughter, Oliver sights along his pointed finger across the table at Digg, and there are actual, honest-to-god tears in his eyes. "You took his keys."
Diggle lets himself collapse onto the table. His shot glass skitters away and shatters on the floor. "Oh, shit," he wheezes, and laughs harder. He's making the table legs squeak against the concrete floor. "I broke it."
Oliver has to wipe his face on his shirt.
Felicity gives up.
An hour later, her boys explain to her with perfect self-possession and no slurring whatsoever that one particular species of Oliver's magical island herbs seems to combat the effects of alcohol.
"Of course it does," she sighs. "Those herbs are more magical than Disney World. And you were testing this on yourselves… why?"
Oliver says, "You know how our next plan hinges on Oliver Queen getting incredibly drunk at the gala, but the Arrow will need to be able to walk a straight line?"
"Yeah," Digg says on a shrug.
Felicity never, ever, until the day she dies, understands what was so funny that night.
The credits roll. Felicity waits until the little bonus scene is over – hay un amigo en mi – then she turns off the TV, and her living room goes dark.
She uncurls from her end of the sofa, and her back cracks when she arches it. At her feet, the popcorn bowl shifts, and a few unpopped kernels disappear into the cushions. She'll vacuum them out later.
On the other end of the sofa, Oliver swipes at his face.
"Hey," she says, leaning toward him.
He sniffles. Somehow it sounds angry.
"Everyone who has a soul cries at the end of Toy Story 3," she says gently. "I'm only immune because I've seen it five times, and it got me the first three. Aren't you glad you have a soul?"
One more swipe. When he turns to her, he's perfectly composed again. "You're telling me this lost the Best Picture award to The King's Speech?"
She rolls her eyes. "I know, right?"
"It's all right, I'm not going to hurt – "
Oliver cries out over the comm., and Felicity bites down hard on her lower lip. She has to do a slow countdown from three, give him a chance to handle things and maybe catch his breath. That's the rule.
Three. Two. One.
"I'm okay." He's a big fat liar, because the next thing out of his mouth is a string of curse words in three different languages.
After another three count, Digg says, "What happened?"
"She pepper sprayed me." Even through the voice changer, he sounds indignant.
It would not be nice to laugh. "Who?" Felicity says instead.
"Some girl," he snaps. "I came around the corner and ran right into her. She's gone now." Felicity hears another hiss of pain. "Fuck."
"I'm nearby," Digg says over the comm.. "I'll pick you up."
Three minutes later, both men come down the steps of the foundry. Oliver pushes his hood back, and Digg directs him with a hand on his shoulder. He must not be able to see much.
"Oh, Oliver," Felicity says, wincing in sympathy. "Come here, let me have a look." She has a sudsy mix of water and detergent waiting in a wide-mouthed bucket, and she sits him down with the bucket on his knees. His eyes are horribly red and streaming freely, and his nose is running like Niagara. She reaches for the domino mask. "Here, let's get this off you."
He stops her hands halfway to his face. "It'll burn your fingers."
She snaps the wrists of her latex gloves, which he evidently can't see. "I'm covered. Come on, let me."
As she peels it off carefully, Digg comes to stand behind her. "The mask actually protected you from a lot of the spray," he says. "You didn't get the full dose."
"It'll do," Oliver growls.
"Head in the bucket," Felicity orders. "Stay immersed as long as you can, as many times as you need to. Don't try to scrub it off until the oil has had time to degrade."
He dunks his head half a dozen times before the burning starts to subside. Then she has him lay his head back on the table behind him, and she flushes his eyes with her contact solution. "Is that helping? Does it feel any better?"
"Yeah, it's helping," he sighs. "Don't stop, please."
"Big, bad vigilante," Digg says, shaking his head, "taken out by a kid with pepper spray."
The stopping power of Oliver's glare is somewhat lessened by his puffy eyes and messy face. "You will pay for that remark later."
"You must have scared that girl pretty bad," Felicity says, toweling at the saline that's running down his cheeks, "I mean, for her to spray you like that."
He's still glaring at Digg. "Yes, I am extremely scary."
She laughs ruefully. "Poor Oliver. Can't catch a break."
Almost absently, leaning back and closing his eyes, Oliver murmurs, "I wouldn't say that."
Of course they would find him here.
Diggle parks at a respectful distance, and he opens Felicity's door for her. Her first instinct is to go straight to Oliver, who is taking the last few steps to the grave with far less than his usual grace. One arm is in a sling, one ankle is wrapped in an Ace bandage, and she knows exactly how many squares of gauze are taped down under his clothes, because she put them there herself. He sinks to his knees in front of the headstone, and he looks pretty wobbly on the way down.
But Digg gestures to her, just barely, and he leans against the Bentley. He needn't say more. She takes up a post beside him.
"He can't seriously believe that Tommy would have blamed him for this," she grumbles.
"It wouldn't be the stupidest thing he's ever convinced himself of," Digg says, and though his shoulders don't move, the twitch of his eyebrows constitute a shrug.
"I don't understand why he takes it to heart when psychotic domestic terrorists call him names. Malcolm Merlyn's moral high ground was a ditch."
Digg just looks at her.
"It was the Grand Canyon," she revises. "It was the Marianas Trench."
"I don't think it was Merlyn who got under his skin."
Moira was knocked unconscious before fists and arrows started flying, but Thea saw everything. She watched her brother and her biological father fight to the death, both moving with impossible speed, precision, and brutality. She must have heard the snap of Oliver's arm breaking. She definitely saw him shove a fireplace poker into Merlyn's right eye and out the back of his skull. Then she watched him do the other eye for good measure.
"Who are you?" Thea whispered in horror, and she flinched when Oliver tried to touch her.
Roy talked her down. Oliver hasn't been home to face her for the last thirty hours.
"Oliver is not a murderer."
Measured and even, Digg says, "I don't believe he is."
That's a maddeningly half-assed endorsement from someone who's supposed to have his back. "I helped him kill some of those people," she points out, because she knows how much both men dislike the idea of blood on her hands. "If he wants to self-flagellate, he'll have to flagellate me too."
She could have phrased that better, and she's grateful that he leaves it alone. He just bows his head for a moment, then looks her in the eyes the way Oliver does sometimes – so intense she wants to take a step back.
"I volunteered for the Army," he says very deliberately. "There were other things I could have done, other paths I could have chosen, but I picked up a rifle of my own free will. Oliver has billions in personal wealth, powerful connections, and he's a household name. He could have righted his father's wrongs in a hundred other ways. But he picked up a bow. Why do you think that is?"
She doesn't step back. "They say we sleep sound in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf."
His expression doesn't change. "We were willing to kill."
"Killing isn't murder," she says stubbornly.
He breathes in, slow and careful. "Sometimes we enjoyed it."
"Still doesn't make it – "
Digg doesn't say her name like that very often. Oliver does it all the time, with incredible versatility of meaning. Talk to me. Please stop talking. Help. I don't need your help. Come here. Leave me alone. Sometimes, with his hand on her shoulder, it means, Everything's going to be ok. Her name has power when he says it.
When Digg says it too, apparently. Felicity falls silent.
"Of course Merlyn needed an arrow in his head. He was a second away from killing Moira and taking Thea God knows where. I'm sure Oliver would do it again, and I'm sure Tommy Merlyn would have understood."
Felicity looks at Oliver kneeling in the grass, slowly pulling up trespassing dandelions and tossing them aside. "But here we are."
"He's a killer," Digg says, "trying to be a good man. Sometimes you have to… take stock."
Felicity looks up at him, and she wonders where he goes, after he's done violence on our behalf. Is there some other headstone, on some other peaceful patch of green lawn, where he seeks absolution? Is there a pew or a park bench? Or is it someplace quiet and sacred in his head, into which she'll likely never be invited?
He gives her a nudge. "Now."
Oliver is getting painfully to his feet, and she arrives at his side just in time to help him up. Well done, Digg.
"I'm… tired," Oliver says, which for him is the equivalent of, I want to collapse and not get up for several days. "Let's go home."
She says his name with her hand on his shoulder. Then, plainly and without preamble, "You're a good person."
She knows, when he bends his head close enough to breathe her air, that he is not going to kiss her. That's not what this is. Instead he presses his forehead to hers, closes his eyes, and tangles their fingers together.
He doesn't let go when they walk to the car. Diggle says not a word, but he keeps watch over them in the rearview all the way home.
When Felicity comes to, the first thing she does is spit up in Oliver's mouth. Warm salt water splashes over them both. She comes up clawing at him, panicky and gasping.
He rolls her swiftly onto her hands and knees, and his hand is light on her back while she coughs and retches and attempts to hack up both lungs and possibly her diaphragm. "Get it up," he keeps muttering. "That's it, get it all up."
When she can't even gag anymore, she's left cold and sopping wet, kneeling on the dock. Her chest feels like one giant bruise.
"Did we win?" she asks Oliver. Or tries to. A raspy grunting noise comes out instead, and it hurts.
"Shhh." His fingers come to rest on the back of her neck. Under his hand, she lets herself sink down and just lay there for a minute. The planks are warm against her cheek, with pinpricks of extra heat where the nail heads lie flush with the wood.
She finally manages to croak out one word: "Happened?"
"You weren't breathing," Oliver says from somewhere above her. His voice is thick and choked. "For a really long time. You weren't breathing."
Painfully, she rolls onto her side. His face is wet.
Actually, all of him is wet. Not only did she just douse him in brackish puke, but he's dripping from head to toe as if he dived in. Her favorite of his Italian suits is probably ruined.
But some of the wet is tears. He seems unaware, but those are definitely tears streaming down his face. A little snot too, if she's honest.
"You're ok," he says, petting her shoulder, and she suspects it's more for him than for her. "You're ok."
She reaches up weakly and cradles his cheek in her hand.
Yeah, she's ok.
They're in a sleepy tangle in her too-small double bed, and Sunday morning is only just beginning to turn the sky pink. With heavy-lidded eyes Oliver smiles at her and says, "You gonna love me forever? Or just for right now?"
He does this to her sometimes. Drowsy or drunk or concussed, he comes out with something so vulnerably sentimental that she doesn't recognize him for a moment. Perhaps Felicity should not respond with, "Well, I'm not gonna live forever."
Oliver harrumphs, which is hard to ignore with her ear pressed right up against his chest. Clearly something more is called for. "I'll love you as long as you'll let me," she says. "Possibly longer, if I'm feeling obstinate."
"If you're feeling obstinate."
She's needy, so she has to make him say it. "Do you want me to love you forever?"
She takes a moment to unclench all the silly little muscles in her throat and to blink very thoroughly. "Can you settle for til I die?"
"Yeah, I think that would be okay."
And it is okay.
That afternoon, she gets a fragment of poem stuck in her head. Just a few lines; she can't remember the rest. There is a strong wall about me to protect me: It is built of the words you have said to me. For three days, she rolls every pretty syllable over her tongue, savoring it. All the wishes of my mind know your name, And the white desires of my heart They are acquainted with you.
Google gives her the whole poem, and she has the damn thing memorized soon. It echoes in her head while she drives to work, when she hands Oliver a file, when her attention wanders in a meeting. To pry it out, she nicks a clean piece of paper from the printer and slowly, carefully traps the poem there in ink.
The next morning, Oliver takes her to breakfast at her favorite cafe, and as they sit waiting for coffee, she pulls the page out of her purse. Then she holds it out to him while looking in the complete opposite direction.
"What is this?"
"It's a poem," she tells a nearby chair.
"Did you write it?"
"Mary Carolyn Davies. Died penniless and unknown sometime in the thirties."
She counts the fronds on a decorative fern while he reads it.
"I like it," he says quietly, and she dares to look at him again. The corners of his mouth are tight, but you couldn't call it a smile. He folds the page up small and tucks it into his wallet.
The food comes. She steals his hash browns, and he munches the apples from her fruit salad. After the last bite of her spinach and feta omelet, she bites her lip and says, "Was it too much?"
"No, it wasn't." She's heard the same tone of voice before when he was being polite about her cooking. But she's also heard it when he was perfectly sincere. Hard man to read, Oliver Queen, even after you've been sleeping with him for a year.
"Then what was it?"
He takes his time, figuring out how to say what he means. On the subject of feelings, he often sounds careful and unnatural, stepping deliberately from word to word as if he might lose his footing. "I want to be that for you. I.. I like knowing that's how you feel about me."
"I hoped you would."
He looks right at her, says very quietly, "Almost made me cry."
She smiles, rolls her eyes. "No, it didn't."
He just looks at her.
She shakes her head. "Oliver, don't make fun."
He shrugs, and the check arrives.
They drive home through one of Starling's capricious summer storms. In the gray gloom of the car, with rain hammering loud and heavy on the roof, she puts her hand over his on the gear shift and says, "You weren't kidding about the poem?"
"No." Gentler than she's ever heard him. "I wasn't kidding."