Chapter: 66 - Removal of Outdated Software
Word Count: 3342

Notes:

My dear audience,

It kind of seems fitting that today I'm posting the new chapter from a strange city that I'm going to spend the next four years of my life in. Just as one chapter of my life is coming to a close, so is the behemoth of a story I've been posting every Thursday for a very long time.

As we draw to an end, I want to thank all of you for taking this journey with me for the past eighteen months. It's truly been a pleasure sharing this story with you all, and I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Your responses have been kind, have helped me press on through good times and bad. I can't tell you what it means that you've stuck with me for so long to see this through to its completion.

So thanks, friends, for everything. Maybe I'll see you with a sequel one day, but only time will tell.

With love,

Masque


Thirty minutes after the second aftershock, Felicity decides that it might finally be over. At least the building isn't threatening to shake apart anymore, even if it does look like a war zone. Once she had enough sense to react, she had ducked under the computer desk to avoid the carnage of the earthquake. It seems to have served her well; somehow, she wasn't even injured in the chaos.

As she crawls out from under it, it's to find that her computers weren't so lucky. While they survived the initial earthquake, the aftershocks had knocked loose enough of the ceiling to cover them in dust and debris. The monitor on the middle one has toppled over, and the one to the left has a huge spiderweb-like crack across the screen that makes her soul hurt. The power seems to have gone out, and all that saves her from being stuck in the dark is the emergency lighting. The only thing that seems to be undamaged is the giant, green Box of Island Things-rather disheartening in light of the circumstances.

Slowly she rises to her feet, ignoring the dust on her clothes and in her hair, to take a better look at her surroundings. The staircase that leads into the club is doing its best impersonation of a pretzel, and the medical toolbox is lying on its side. Felicity moves over to it, shoving some of the medical supplies into her purse in case anyone needs them. God knows they're going to need a lot of them.

Only then does she turn to the second entrance, and she stops short when she finds a chunk of concrete blocking her path. The door is unlocked, she knows-the locks are set to automatically turn off when there's no power, for reasons exactly like this one-but it doesn't help if she can't get to the door. Tentatively, she tries to move one of the smaller pieces, only to find it impossible to budge. Of course it couldn't be this easy-and of course phone service has to be down all over the Glades.

"Felicity!" a voice calls through the door, and she jumps.

Fortunately, though, she knows that voice, and she breathes a sigh of relief at the sound of it. "Diggle? I'm here!" she yells back, hoping he can hear her. "There's a huge slab of concrete blocking the door-I can't get out." After a moment of hesitating, she asks the question she needs to know the answer to: "What did you do with..." Her voice cracks, and she tries to find another way to phrase it. "With Oliver?"

"I tried to tell you after everything happened, but the comm link went down after we lost the wireless signal," Diggle answers. "Oliver is in the back of the van-and he's alive, Felicity." For a second, she thinks she hears him wrong, but he continues. "We need to get him to a hospital as soon as possible, but he's conscious and he'll make it."

As soon as the thought Oliver is alive registers, Felicity mutters a quick, "Oh, thank God." Then she carefully makes her way back to the bathroom, to where his clothes are scattered across the floor. They're covered in dust and a little frayed, but they'll work better than sending him into the hospital in his Arrow gear. As she turns back toward the staircase, a thought occurs to her. "John, did you grab his bow? And the quiver? Please say yes."

"Of course," he answers after a long moment. "I didn't know if there could be prints on it." Then another short pause. "Why?"

Even though she knows he can't see it, Felicity smiles. "Because I have a plan to get me out of here," she explains. "Oliver always has explosive arrows in his quiver. I bet you could knock this concrete loose with one of those."

Diggle is quiet for a long moment on the other side of the door. "I have the bow and quiver," he finally answers. "Only problem is, you have to fire one of those to activate it. I don't know about you, Felicity, but my archery skills are a little rusty."

The blonde closes her eyes, thinking of all the times she's seen Oliver shoot, all the things she's picked up over her tenure with Team Arrow. "There should be a notch on the bow-slip the arrow in place and pull back on the draw until the light turns green," she suggests after a long moment. "The fletching should be even with your chin when you line up your shot. Take a deep breath. When you exhale, release the draw."

It's silent for a moment, but then finally Diggle answers. "Alright. Attempt number one." Then, after a slight pause, he adds, "You might want to take a step back from the door."

Seconds after she does as he asks, the door burst inward with the force of an explosion. The concrete slabs shift slightly, chunks of them falling to the floor below. Felicity studies it for a moment before deciding that she might be able to attempt the staircase now. "We good or do I need to try again?" Diggle asks her.

"We're good," Felicity assures him. "I think I can crawl through this mess." Before she starts, she pushes the bag across the slabs, to where she can see Digg's shoes peeking through. "Grab the bag-I have medical supplies and Oliver's clothes. I didn't think it would be a good idea for him to show up at a hospital in the green hood-not with the cops out to get him."

The bag disappears through the hole, and Felicity tries to follow it as Diggle replies, "Probably a good idea." When she manages to poke her head out of the other end, the ex-military man offers her a hand that she gladly takes. Then he takes a moment to examine her. "You okay?"

Felicity nods, realizing too late that she forgot her jacket in the lair. She rubs at her bare arms, deciding that it isn't worth it to go back for it. Brushing some of the loose strands of her ponytail away from her face, she finally answers, "Sprained my wrist when I ducked under the table. But I'm better now that I know you two are safe." She takes a few strides forward. "Come on-let's get him to a hospital before 'safe' fades away again."

She follows him to the van, pulling open the back doors. She expects something terrible after that goodbye: blood everywhere, Oliver unconscious with a rag taped to a gaping wound. Instead, he's sitting up with his feet resting on the toolkit of medical supplies. His hood is back and his mask is hanging around his neck. One hand holds a towel in place over his chest, but the other is in his lap, his thumb rubbing the side of his index finger.

His head immediately swivels when the doors open, and the relief on his face is so raw that her breath catches. Even though she knows she should probably try to start helping him into street clothes, Felicity can't help but cup his face in her hands. Somehow a strangled sob comes out, and and she irritates herself when she has to stop to wipe away tears. Only now does she decide to cry-after she's lost him and found him again.

Stupid hormones.

Oliver doesn't say anything because he doesn't have to. Instead, he pulls her hands away from her face, replacing them with his own. After a moment, he pulls her hair loose from the ponytail that is barely holding anyway, and then Felicity feels his thumbs against her jaw. They both know that they nearly lost each other, but neither one has any interest in talking about it.

Fortunately, Diggle has the good sense to pull them back on track. From the driver's seat, he calls, "Felicity, do you think you can put him in civilian clothes while we're on the road?" After a quiet laugh, he adds, "From experience, I can tell you that leather fits like a glove."

Jolting into action at the reminder, Felicity starts pulling clothes out of the bag. "Fortunately for me," she answers, distracted, "I've had some experience with that." Only when she hears Oliver's quiet chuckle does she realize what she said. "And no one here needed to know that."

"Some of us already did," Oliver answers quietly. His voice is rough with disuse and sluggish with exhaustion, but he still smiles through it. Then he drags the zipper on his jacket down as she throws him the blue button-down shirt. While he holds pressure to the wound, she helps him slip his arms out of it and into the proper shirt.

A thought occurs to her, one she doesn't like: "This shirt doesn't have any holes in it, Oliver. No one will buy that you were... whatever we're saying you were. Impaled, maybe? I'm thinking that matches your wounds." She studies it for a moment. "I really hope you don't like that shirt because we probably need to cut some holes in it."

It doesn't even seem to faze him, either because he can always afford to buy another one or he's hurting too bad to care. "Fine," he assures her. "My knife is in the inside pocket of the jacket-cut a circle, not a slash. Both sides."

After retrieving the knife, Felicity does as he asks before scurrying to help him into the rest of his civilian clothes. Only then does she find the strength to voice her thoughts. "I thought you were... gone, Oliver." Even now she can't bear to say it, to think about the way they nearly lost it all.

He pulls her against him, his free hand curling around her waist until she's leaning against his good shoulder. Then he finds something very interesting about the dark upholstery across from him, refusing to look at her. "I had to do something," Oliver answers evenly. "He was going to kill my family after he finished with me. So when I saw that arrow on the ground..." His mouth snaps shut abruptly.

It takes Felicity a moment to put it together, but slowly the realization comes. He did this to himself, slid that arrow through his shoulder so that he could stop Malcolm Merlyn. She doesn't know how she feels about that; while Felicity admires the way he always places his family above himself (and the city, too), she doesn't like how he sees himself as disposable, just another pawn in a great game of chess.

Oliver Queen is many things, but not disposable. Not to her.

When he finally realizes she isn't going to answer his statement, he admits slowly, "I didn't have a choice-Malcolm was going to destroy this city for some twisted version of revenge." So quietly she barely hears it, he adds, "I don't know how I'm going to face Tommy after this."

"You won't," Felicity assures him. Then she places her hand atop the one on her hip as emphasis for what she says next: "But we will."


When Oliver awakens, his first insinct is to bolt upright, but a hand presses against his shoulder to stop him from moving. Under different circumstances, he might actually try to break it, but the touch isn't foreign or even unwelcome.

"Take it easy," Felicity warns in a low voice. "We told them you were at my place when the building collapsed and a piece of the frame caught you." Her voice breaks once as she continues, "They said you were lucky-it barely missed your heart." She sobers, though, when she adds, "I called Thea after you got out of surgery-she's on her way here now."

Only then does Oliver attempt to open his eyes. At first his surroundings are blurry-probably the after-effects of the anesthesia, he realizes-but then the sterile, white room comes into proper focus. When he tries to speak, his mouth is dry, one of the things he despises about anesthesia.

He'd tried to tell them not to bother with it, but they wouldn't listen. Already the hospitals were starting to fill, and he knew it was only a matter of time until they ran out of supplies and medicine. They tried to push him through the line because he's Oliver Queen, of course, but that one he'd been able to fight. After all, the kid that Digg and Felicity helped to haul into the building had part of her intestines hanging out, and her injury was much more life-threatening than his. He reminds himself to check in on the girl later-Felicity would want to know how she's doing.

Vaguely he remembers her introducing herself as Sin.

Dismissing the thought for now, he turns to look at the woman beside him, closing his eyes tightly when everything starts to spin. "Where's the control for the bed? I'd like to sit up."

Her hand is replaced by a rectangular, bulky remote. "Glad to see you have your priorities in order," Felicity teases him. "First sitting up, then talking to your girlfriend about how you're feeling after some doctor put sixty stitches into you."

He doesn't answer, of course; there's no way he can explain it to her without sounding paranoid and damaged. It's just that lying down in a weakened state prevents him from seeing the entirety of his hospital room, makes it more difficult to watch for any threats that might appear.

Oliver might have left the island, but he doesn't think that the island will ever leave him.

As soon as he has the bed at a height more suited to his need to know his surroundings, Oliver places a hand to the back of Felicity's neck, pulling her over so that he can kiss her. It's something simple that he's been wanting to do since the van, to remind himself that they made it through the Undertaking, even if it didn't end the way they'd hoped.

Something takes over the kiss that he meant to be chaste; maybe it's the passion that never seems to get old, or perhaps it's just the panic of nearly losing one another. Either way, they manage to cling to one another, even if Felicity is careful not to let her hands touch the fresh wound on his shoulder.

After breaking away, she smiles at him. "Not that I'm complaining," she starts, a little breathless, "but what was that for?"

Felicity jumps as a voice from the hallway adds, "Other than making innocent bystanders want to puke." They both turn at the voice, especially as they recognize the breathy laugh that follows. The girl from before, Sin, is pale and looks exhausted in her wheelchair, but it's the woman behind her that draws Oliver's attention.

Her hair is pulled under a Starling Rockets cap and her clothes are baggy and nondescript. At first glance, someone would probably peg her as a teenage boy, but Oliver has known Sara Lance too long not to recognize her presence. It's the small things: the way she stands, the way her head swivels to take in her surroundings, the way her hands clench at every small noise.

The dark-haired girl throws a thumb over her shoulder at Sara. "I told her that Study Group Barbie with purple lipstick and a huge dude in a nice suit helped me into the hospital," she explains her presence, "and she seemed to think I could find you here. I wanted to say thanks for not leaving me outside to rot." Her eyes flicker to Oliver for a moment. "Especially when he didn't look much better than I did."

Felicity shrugs, taking the reluctant gratitude with a smile. "We were glad to help," she answers simply. "Even more so if we'd known you were a friend of Sara's." Both visitors start at the information, and Oliver isn't quite sure why they're surprised. Of course Felicity notices it, too, and she aims her question at the other blonde in the room. "How much does she know, Sara?"

"All the things that matter," Sara answers evenly. In a turn of events, she levels a knowing look at Oliver. "How much do you want her to know?"

He answers it by turning to Sin and stating simply, "Felicity is tech support for the Arrow-that's how she knows Sara." He hears the IT expert mutter something that sounds like worst kept secret in Starling City under her breath, and he can't fight back the smile that results. In a rare bout of honesty, he also decides to add, perhaps a little smugly, "She also happens to be dating him."

The light dawns pretty fast for someone who is probably waking up from major abdominal surgery. "Anyone ever tell you it's creepy when you talk about yourself in the third person like that?" Sin asks him.

"All the damn time," Diggle replies from the doorway. He gives the girl a nod. "Glad to see you're doing okay." Then he offers a brief nod of respect to the Canary before turning back to the girl. "Guess this means you're part of Team Arrow now, too."

Oliver is exhausted, in pain, and trying to recover from surgery, but he still finds it in him to answer, "We don't call it that." He can't help it; the name is wrong. If the team had a name, it shouldn't be named after him. He's just a part-a very small part in the grand scheme of things. Felicity is his analytical guide who works him through the facts. Diggle is the emotional driving force who reminds him of his purpose. Sara is the one who can diffuse any situation with ease. Even Roy serves his part, gathering information and listening to word on the streets in the Glades. It might have been his concept, but it's long since evolved past what he meant this crusade to be.

Felicity rolls her eyes at his comment. "He's touchy about the name," she explains to Sin, "but he's slowly warming up to the idea." Oliver opens his mouth to protest, but she cuts right over the top of him. "But he's stubborn, so we might still be having this conversation next year. Hopefully it won't involve a hospital."

"You don't call it Team Arrow," another voice corrects from the doorway, and it makes Oliver's stomach drop. Tommy. "But the rest of us do, Ollie. You might as well admit defeat." He steps through the crowd to his friend's bedside. "Glad you made it through all right, buddy. I heard the doctor say that an inch could have meant no more green arrows in bad guys."

"Tommy, I-" Oliver tries, but his best friend cuts him off.

The look on his face immediately says that he doesn't want to talk about it, and Oliver understands; his past is filled with things he doesn't want to discuss, either. "If it had to be you or him," Tommy answers, "I'm glad it was him." A sigh of relief leaves Oliver. Tommy isn't angry about what he's done. They'll need to talk about it later, of course, but for right now, it's all that matters.

Oliver knows the moment between the team isn't going to last. Eventually, Sara will have to disappear out a side exit, taking Sin back to her room before she does. Tommy will go check on Laurel, and Diggle will want to see his nephew and sister-in-law to make sure they're okay after the quake. Even Felicity will slip away from him at some point-even though he knows she'll always return to him-to go eat, to call her mother, to answer a probing call from Detective Lance. But, at least for now, they're together, relatively unharmed and safe.

And, for right now, it's enough.


Playlist:

"Radioactive" - Pentatonix & Lindsey Stirling

"Uncharted" - Sara Bareilles

"Weightless" - All Time Low

"Centuries" - Fall Out Boy

"Beautiful Times" - Owl City feat. Lindsey Stirling

You might have questions about what I'm planning next, now that TA is done. The honest to God answer is that I don't know. I have several stories started that I'd love to explore over the next few months, as well as some universes I'd love to return to. The Monsters in the Mirror and The Drug in Me is You universes have been calling me back over the last few weeks, but we'll see. I hope to see you all when I post the next bout of insanity! ;)