A/N: There are two options when writing Ray Palmer into a story. I ended up deciding to use the characterization I did because of what thisstory needed.
Shado's space inside Division is intentionally set-apart. She's taken great pains to differentiate it from the rest of the facility. It's carpeted. Comfy. Home-like, or at least, as close as Shado can get it to an atmosphere the majority of Division recruits associate with home.
Shado glances up as the door opens and Felicity Smoak steps inside.
Felicity looks uneasy. She stands right inside the doorway, wringing her hands. Shado catches a glimpse of dark green nail polish and smiles. The gift—technically a reward for good behavior, a carrot rather than a stick—was her idea. She remembers the chipped remains of a dark blue polish on Felicity's nails the first day they met, quite a while after she'd been brought into Division.
It was a small trinket, and it's still a small trinket, but Shado knows how much small gestures piled one on top of the other build up into valuable loyalty.
And she needs loyalty for what is coming.
Not that she wants to purchase it; she wants to earn it. This, she knows, is Malcolm's problem. He sees manipulations, pieces on a chess board, pawns to play with and control.
Shado sees people to help; she always has.
"Sit down," she tells Felicity, gesturing to the sofa across from Shado's usual armchair. "I made coffee."
Felicity raises her eyebrows.
"I prefer tea, it's true," Shado says, setting a tray down on the low table between them."But I don't think tea is your beverage of choice, and I know they don't let the recruits have coffee. It's a perk of graduation. I imagine you miss it."
"So much," Felicity says, taking the cup gratefully.
Shado sits down and waits to take a sip of her tea until Felicity has tried her coffee. Felicity sighs and relaxes visibly, and Shado smiles. "I expect you're concerned about why I've called you here. You don't need to be."
"I'm just not usually…" Felicity pauses to bit her lip. "I'm not treated like the other recruits. I guess I thought that also meant I got to skip out on the counseling, or whatever."
"You think Barry and I don't talk?"
"I make Barry milkshakes," Shado says, and she's pleased when Felicity looks up at her in surprise, an actual smile on her lips. She likes the kid. Good. She'll like that Shado cares about him as well.
"In truth," Shado tells her. "This conversation has been long overdue. Tommy's taken care of some of that responsibility for me, but at the end of the day, I'm still the one who has to declare you mentally fit for field work."
Shado notes the way Felicity's mouth falls open, the way her hands tighten around the coffee cup. "There's an operation that requires someone with your expertise."
"The last time I went into the field—it wasn't even the field, really, but it's the same difference—it didn't exactly end well."
"That's why we're talking now. I don't want to send you off blindly. This isn't a test. It's not a trick and it's not a game. I give you my word. I will never lie to you, Felicity."
Felicity tips her head to one side, and Shado watches as she processes what she's just been told. After a moment, Felicity says, "Why should I believe you?"
There's no bite to it, no malice, just curiosity. Shado can respect that. "I have given you few reasons to, and unfortunately, trust is something earned slowly and shattered quickly. You should know that your trust is very important to me, Felicity. If you give it to me, I will not shatter it."
"What's the operation?"
Shado smiles and hands over a computer tablet. "The picture on the screen is Ray Palmer. He's the CEO of Palmer Technologies. We have reason to believe that his company is in the process of creating something very dangerous."
"Something like what?" Felicity asks.
"When you and Barry hacked into PT's mainframe last week, we found it listed among his DOD Contracts. It's called Project Lilac. We're concerned that he's not just planning on selling it to the defence department."
"So where do I come in?" Felicity asks.
"Palmer Technologies has a very important Gala coming up. If Mr. Palmer sticks to his usual pattern, he'll spend thousands to ensure that his arm candy for the evening is to his liking."
"And I'm—" Felicity presses her lips together, but doesn't take her eyes off of the tablet's screen. "I'm someone that's to his liking?"
"He was given a catalogue of models—all Division agents—and he picked you. It was a stroke of luck, really." The very idea turns Shado's stomach, but ultimately it wasn't her call. "We think he was mostly attracted to the educational background we've fabricated. MIT, class of '09."
Felicity leans ever-so-slightly backwards, creating the tiniest bit of distance. "I don't feel very lucky."
"You want to prove your worth to this organization—to Malcolm, to Tommy, to me. This is a very good way to do that. We need you to provide a distraction for Mr. Palmer while a secondary asset takes care of destroying the weapon."
Felicity sets the tablet down on the coffee table between them. "Who is the secondary asset?"
"That hasn't been decided yet." Shado stands to her feet. "What we do need to decide today, is what you would feel comfortable wearing."
"I-I get to pick?" Felicity asks.
"You do." Shado moves to the rack of dresses she's assembled. Felicity likes bold color, and bold colors like her. For this operation to work, Felicity needs to be comfortable. She needs to feel comfortable, pretty, desirable. If that means letting her pick her dress, Shado's going to let her pick her dress.
It's an excellent selection. There are some stunning blue pieces, one absolutely divine gold one, and one very teasing black number with cutouts everywhere. Shado hopes Felicity can find something she likes.
Felicity looks through the dresses slowly. She skims her fingers along the length of each dress as she examines it, rubbing the material between her fingers.
"Would you like to choose one or two to try on?" Shado asks. She gestures to a changing screen behind the rack of dresses. "You can change back there."
Felicity takes the short gold dress, a floor-length pink one, and the black one. Shado wanders to the other side of the room to look at the selection of accessories she's pulled together. "Palmer is tall, so we're going to want you in heels, but how high of a heel you want is up to you. You're still going to need to be able to move easily, just in case something goes wrong."
Felicity steps out from behind the screen wearing the pink dress. "How likely is it that something will go wrong?"
"Not likely at all," Shado says. She passes Felicity a pair of matching shoes. "This is fairly run-of-the-mill, and you'll have the full strength of Division behind you." She gently brushes her fingers against Felicity's wrist. "You won't be on your own this time. I promise."
Shado doesn't think Felicity believes her; she doesn't blame her.
"Can I ask you a question?" Felicity says after the shoes are on her feet.
"Of course," Shado replies.
"Why are you here? You're nothing like this place."
Shado falters for a second, unsure how to answer that. "Maybe I'm not like this place," she says finally. "But maybe that's also exactly why I'm here."
Felicity's fingers clench against the material near her thigh. She stands, silent, studying Shado carefully.
It occurs to Shado then that it just might be possible to dangerously underestimate Felicity Smoak. Clearing her throat, Shado says: "Try the black one next."
It's Division's early silent hours when Tommy returns from a last minute Raven Mission. Malcolm's choice asset fell through—sprained ankle and a black eye from a prior operation—so he pulled in Tommy as a pinch-hitter. Not that Tommy is complaining. Getting out of Division for however brief a time is preferable at this point.
It just makes coming back into Division's arms feel like an even deeper descent into hell.
When the elevator doors open into a nearly-deserted Operations room, Shado is waiting for him. Her arms are crossed over her chest, and her lips are down-turned ever so slightly.
It's her eyes that are sad.
"You're disappointed in me." Tommy says, moving right past her.
"You could have told him no," Shado tells him, jogging just a bit to catch up with him as he strides past several computer stations and makes the turn into the adjoining hallway. "He gave you the option."
"I needed to get out of here."
"I got you out of here. This was unnecessary, Thomas."
Her use of his full name makes the back of his neck prickle. He turns sharply on his heel, and she's so close behind him she jerks to a stop. Her lips are pressed in a thin line.
"You got me in here."
Tommy moves closer into her space, but she won't step back. "Did you think I didn't know that?"
She closes her eyes for a beat, lips trembling. "Division is all about saving lives that the system was just going to throw away. I merely saved a life that your father was going to throw away."
"Well," Tommy tells her bitterly. "You shouldn't have."
"Tommy," she whispers, reaching out. Her hand freezes a breath from his chest.
"At least he's getting some good use out of me. Not too many other assets want to get down on their knees." She opens her mouth to say something, but he cuts her off. "I'm going to go shower. I can still smell him on me."
He tosses her a flash drive before he starts to walk away. "Here's the information Malcolm was so desperate for."
"The Lilac Operation is tomorrow," Shado calls out after him. "Are you up for quarterbacking that?"
Tommy stops, but doesn't turn around. Lilac. That's Palmer. That's Felicity. "Yes."
Shado is uncertain of his ability to handle a mission of this type right now, and he knows it.
"It's in your city," Shado reminds him. "With your girl."
"Not my city," Tommy tells her. "Certainly not my girl."
"More yours than mine," she says, and he's not sure which one she means. He doesn't take the time to ask. He keeps moving.
She doesn't call out for him again.
The shower he takes doesn't wash enough away, but he can't smell his companion's cologne anymore, so that's something.
A quick glance at the clock tells him it's nearly four—a mere six hours before he needs to meet with Felicity to go over the last few pertinent operation details—but he's still got adrenaline humming in his veins, so he grabs his tablet and pulls up the file on Raymond Palmer.
He paces as he reads.
Dead wife. Multi-billion dollar tech company. Numerous degrees and patents and awards. Tommy files those descriptors away as rich, brilliant, and lonely.
Shado was likely right in thinking Palmer picked Felicity for her intellect. Which means he doesn't need her to be suave or graceful or seductive—though that will help—he needs her to be genuine and smart and funny.
Which are all things that she is.
She'll just also be nervous. He knows her well enough now to know this about her. He'll need to stay calm, stay steady. She'll take her cues from him, so he has to be unshakable.
Which means lots of time to prep.
Tommy turns his analysis to the covert parts of the mission. Sin will be going into the lab after Felicity helps her pass through the retina scan. Sin is going to destroy the prototype drone and all the blueprints. Felicity is going to keep Ray distracted and get his retinal scan. Barry can easily guide Sin out and in, with Tommy right there for support in case anything goes wrong.
But he'll be the one walking Felicity through her part of the mission, so he and Barry are going to have to work together effectively for this all to go off without a hitch.
Tommy looks at the clock again.
A little over five hours until he has to meet with Felicity. He falls back onto his mattress and closes his eyes.
Except all his brain keeps doing is replaying the events of his evening in glorious technicolor, whether he wants it to or not.
It's better than thinking about other things. It's better than thinking about Oliver.
Everything is better than thinking about Oliver right now.
When he wakes, it's from a fitful sleep that finally ends with the shrill sounds of his alarm clock. He splashes cold water on his face, manages to swallow down a few bites of a granola bar, and decides to find Barry before he finds Felicity.
Finding Barry is the same as finding Felicity these days anyway. Usually, the two of them are attached at the hip. Tommy's not at all surprised to hear both of their voices as he descends the staircase.
He stops to listen.
"—don't like it," Barry is saying.
"I don't like it either," Felicity agrees. "But what other choice do I have."
There's a pause, then Felicity again: "Have they ever made you?"
"No," Barry stammers out. "They haven't. But you're really... and I'm not—pretty! I'm not as pretty as you are. You're really… I see why he picked you."
Another quiet moment. Tommy wonders what they look like. Are they standing? Sitting? He has this image in his head of them sitting side by side at their desks, working, carrying on this awkward excuse for a conversation while each staring at their screens, sneaking careful glances at the other.
"I'll be with you the whole time," Barry says. "You don't have to be nervous. Well, not with you, but inside you—inside your ear. My voice. Inside your ear."
"Thank you," Felicity says, clearly cutting off any further descent. "That does help."
"And you'll have Tommy," Barry continues. "He does these all the time."
Another pause, and Tommy can't tell if this one is longer than the others or if it just feels that way to him.
"He does?" Felicity asks, a higher-than-normal pitch to her voice. "I wouldn't have thought that."
"You didn't hear it from me then," Barry says, bless his heart.
Tommy decides that's as good enough a time as any to finish coming down the stairs and round the corner. He was right. They were sitting at their desks. Barry's hand is on Felicity's knee, and Felicity has one of her hands resting over his.
They jump apart as soon as he makes his presence known.
"Felicity," Tommy says. He quickly clears his throat. "Let's talk. Barry, can you give us the room?"
Barry nods. "Come find me if any of these searches pan out," he tells Felicity.
Tommy waits until he hears Barry's footsteps reach the top of the stairs followed by the sound of the door shutting behind him. "Shado briefed you?" he asks Felicity.
Slowly, she nods as she stands to her feet. "She did."
"Good. This shouldn't be too terrible." He tries not to choke on the lie. "I'll be on the comms with you the whole time."
"I'm not good at this, Tommy. Give me firewalls to crack or codes to write, but seduction?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he cups her shoulders with his hands, ignoring the uncomfortable squelch in his stomach. "You're not seducing anybody. You're maybe going to do a bit of harmless flirting while Sin gets what we're after, but you won't be doing anything more. We're not… we're not asking you to sleep with him, and if he does anything that makes you uncomfortable, I will get you out. Understand me?"
Her eyebrows furrow, and she nods her head very, very slowly. "I understand."
"You give me the word, and you are out of there, I don't care what my fath—Malcolm. I don't care what Malcolm says. I will not let him hurt you."
Shado wasn't around for his first Raven Operation. She was on an overseas mission, and Tommy's Op had been last minute, taking advantage of a target's sudden vulnerability.
No one was there to tell him they would get him out if he'd changed his mind. Not that Tommy had changed his mind. He hadn't quite understood the significance of what he was signed up for, but that hadn't stopped him from following through.
He doesn't blame her for feeling out of her depth. He remembers that feeling well. It's not gonna go away anytime soon.
He watches as the worry slowly fades from Felicity's face. He wonders if he's really made her feel better, or if she's pretending. Her ability to pretend is alarmingly good. Hopefully that will protect her.
Felicity keeps her arms wrapped around her midsection as she says, "Thank you."
Tommy isn't sure he deserves thanks for not being quite as much of a bastard as his father is, but he nods in silent acknowledgement anyway, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Let's get you ready to go," he says.
Ray Palmer's limo arrives exactly at six forty-five. Felicity has been ready and waiting in the lobby of her hotel since six fifteen. It's done very little to calm her anxiousness. Keeping up a steady conversation with Barry on the comms unit is the only thing that keeps her sane during her half-hour wait.
She does not want to do this.
She especially does not want to do this without knowing that Oliver has her back. She hasn't heard from him since Malcolm announced his death to Division. Nevertheless, she sent him all the details about this operation as soon as she could; he's just wasn't logged into the system at the time. Plus, she's been run ragged over the last week. When she wasn't eating or sleeping, she was working on the Black Boxes with Barry, and when she wasn't doing that, she was with Shado prepping for this operation.
"I can't do this," she whispers, then shakes her head. "I can do this; I can do this; I can do this."
"You're doing great," Barry says. "And we'll be with you the whole time. Promise."
"Felicity," Tommy says, and his tone is very businesslike. "He's here."
Her stomach rolls. Her throat goes dry. With a trembling hand, Felicity picks up the pair of sunglasses on the end table beside her, carefully unfolds them, and slides them on."Stand up," Tommy tells her. "Keep yourself relaxed. Calm. You can do this. When he gets close enough, step towards him and run a hand down his arm. Make eye contact. Let it linger. Keep touching him."
Ray Palmer greets her with a smile on his face. It's happy and goofy, and it makes Felicity's stomach sort of clench.
"Breathe easy," Tommy tells her. "Keep listening to me. Good."
It's Tommy's voice that keeps her relaxed enough to smile, that keeps her hands from shaking as she touches Ray, and her gaze steady as she stares into his eyes.
"Hi," he says appreciatively. "You are… incredible."
"Duck your head." Tommy's words are quick and following them is almost instinct. "Glance back up. Play it coy."
"I got you something." Ray says, holding out a slim black box. "Just for the night. Turn around."
Felicity doesn't even get a chance to look at the necklace before he puts it on her, but it feels solid and heavy around her neck.
Less like jewelry, more like a leash and collar.
Ray puts a hand on her back as they walk to the limo.
"Put the glasses in your right hand," Tommy says. "Behind your back. Loose grip. Pick up in three… two… one."
Sin walks past them into the hotel. Felicity doesn't take her eyes off of Ray as the sunglasses slip through her fingers.
"Meghan," Ray says. "Is that your real name?"
"Smile," Tommy instructs through her earbud. "Laugh. Ask him if he really wants to know."
"Not really," Ray tells her, like they're sharing a secret. He helps her into the vehicle and closes her door.
"Good," Tommy says. "I'm going to get you through this, alright? Just keep listening to me."
So she does. When they arrive at the gala and have to mingle, Tommy walks her around every verbal faux pas landmine. He suggests good questions for her to ask Ray, recommends good answers to give when Ray returns the favor, and talks just enough to make her feel like—even though she's here and he's in a van outside—he's doing all this with her. She's not alone.
The nice thing about the gold dress she picked is that her back is mostly covered. Ray's hand frequently lands on the small of her back, but there's a layer of material between his skin and hers.
Ray slips off to get her another drink, and Felicity hears Tommy exhale. "You're doing really well, Felicity."
"Thanks," she says. "How's Sin?"
"She's inside," Tommy says. "The glasses worked like a dream. You keep focusing on you."
"Tommy," Barry says suddenly, right as Ray comes back. "We've got a problem; Sin says it's—"
The audio feed goes silent, and Felicity realizes Barry must have muted their side of the conversation. She doesn't know if that makes it more distracting or less.
Ray passes her a champagne flute. "Everything okay?" he asks, at the same time Barry's voice is back and saying: "Everything is okay. I'm still here."
What would Tommy tell her to say?
"Everything's fine," she waves a hand dismissively. "I just, uh, got lost in thought for a second."
"Just focus on Ray. I'll tell you if anything changes." Barry tells her.
Still grinning, Ray says, "Well, we should find our seats."
"Right," Felicity agrees, probably too quickly. "That would be good."
His hand inches lower on her back than she would normally be comfortable with, but she feels helpless to stop him.
"Felicity," Tommy says, and he sounds less collected than he did five minutes ago. "I need you to excuse yourself to go to the restroom, okay? Stay calm and casual. Touch his arm, and give it a light squeeze when you tell him you'll be right back."
"Not that I'm not grateful for the reprieve," she says as soon as she steps out into the hall and heads for the bathroom. "But what's wrong?"
"Just a small hiccup." She can sense the stress in Tommy's tone even as she double and triple checks that the restroom is empty. "Sin got to the prototype, but it looks like there's a hard copy of the plans in Ray's office. There's probably data on his personal computer system as well."
"So why can't she get them? The glasses should still work, right?"
"It's protected by higher security," Barry supplies. "We're not prepared to deal with it tonight."
"Getting the prototype does nothing if we can't also get the plans, Felicity."
She takes a deep breath. "What do you need me to do?"
"Get Ray to take you up to his office. Whatever it takes. Shado gave you a USB drive, right? You can use that to get the copy of the plans."
"And what do I do with him once I'm up there? I can't just steal the plans with him right there in the room with me."
"Trust me," Tommy says. "You can do this, Felicity. Just keep listening to me."
Pausing with her hand on the door handle, Felicity takes one more moment to collect herself. "Just keep talking."
"You got it."
Felicity opens the bathroom door, mind so set on how to get to Ray's office that she's not paying as much attention to her surroundings.
So when a hand clamps firmly over her mouth and a strong arm wraps around her waist and tugs her back, she flails for a moment. Her scream is muffled beneath the stranger's hand, but she's sure Tommy and Barry can hear it. The man spins her, pressing against her so her back is against the wall, and he's looming over her. He's wearing a mask, so she can't see his face.
Adrenaline hits hard. Felicity draws her leg up to knee him between the legs, but he deflects it easily, the hand not over her mouth going to her ear to yank out her earbud. He drops it on the ground, kicks it a few feet down the hall, and says, "I'm not going to hurt you, Felicity."
That she wants to cry with relief is something that should probably be attributed to just how frazzled her nerves have been during this whole operation and the fact that apparently a teeny-tiny part of her worried that he really truly was dead.
"You scared me half to death," she whispers harshly. "Was that necessary?"
"It's better for both of us if Division doesn't know I'm alive."
"Glad about that, by the way—the whole part where you're alive, that is," Felicity says. "You got my message?"
He nods. "You're right. Division can't get their hands on this."
"They don't want to get their hands on it. They want to destroy it."
"That's what they told you," Oliver says.
"Yes," Felicity says. "That's what Tommy told me."
She can't see his face through the mask, but she can see his eyes. And his eyes are telling her that what she just said stung. They only have a few seconds though. There's no time for this.
"I have to go," she tells him. "Something went wrong, and now I'm the one who has to get into Palmer's office and destroy the blueprints."
"You don't have to do this." He sounds worried.
"Yes. I do," Felicity says. "Now tell me what my counter mission is."
"Get the plans. I'll find you after so you can pass them to me. Tell Division you destroyed them."
She nods. She needs to go get her earbud back. She needs to tell Tommy she's okay before he starts to worry. All she wants to do is stay right here with Oliver.
He cups her face with one hand, and the gaze he fixes on her is so concerned, so intense, that it steals her breath for a moment.
"I need to check in," she whispers.
"Go," Oliver says. "If anything happens—"
"I know," Felicity says quickly. "You've got my back."
She finds the earbud easily, slipping it into her ear. When she turns back to look at Oliver, he's gone.
"Tommy?" Felicity says softly.
"Felicity?" It's Barry who sounds so relieved. "Tommy, I've got Felicity."
"Felicity? What the hell happened?" This time it is Tommy. She can feel the irritation and anger and fear in his voice, but there's no time to dwell on it.
"I tripped," she answers quickly. "Lost the earbud temporarily. I'm so sorry."
"Felicity, I know you're nervous, but I need to know: can you finish this mission?"
"Yes," she says firmly. "I can do this."
"Good girl. Make your way back inside."
Dinner is being served as Felicity slides back into her seat. As Tommy instructs her, she smiles at Ray, contributes to the table-wide conversation, and picks at her food.
"Alright, we need to move this along; Felicity, put your hand on his knee."
"What?" she says, making it seem like she didn't quite catch what Ray has just said. (In fairness, she didn't, though that was Tommy's fault.)
"Put your hand on his knee, Felicity. You don't have to look at him while you do it, but you need to do it."
She obeys, feeling more and more tangled in her own marionette strings.
"Alright. Wait for him to make eye contact with you. If he does, suggest getting out of there. If he doesn't, start inching your hand up his thigh."
He doesn't make eye contact. He keeps his gaze on the man to his left; Felicity can't spare the concentration to follow their conversation.
She slides her hand no more than an inch up his thigh.
"Squeeze," Tommy says, "Very lightly, keep it flirty. Repeat if he still doesn't look at you."
It takes her lightly running her nails up and down his thigh before Ray finally turns to look at her.
"We should get out of here," she leans over to whisper to him after Tommy tells her what to say.
"Couldn't agree more," he replies.
He kisses her once they're in his private elevator. His hands cup her face, and his body presses her against the back wall, keeping her in place. Keeping her immobile. Felicity doesn't know if it's the quick rise of the elevator car or his tongue in her mouth that makes her stomach flip uncomfortably.
She doesn't so much kiss back as she does stand there and take it, closing her eyes and tipping her head a bit. She reaches up to take a hold of his wrists, but that's more to casually keep his hands from wandering.
When the elevator stops, he pulls her out into the hallway, and then kisses her against the wall for another minute.
"We need to hurry this up, Felicity." Tommy's voice in her ear is even more disconcerting when Ray's mouth is on hers. "Get him to take you to his office."
"Hey," Felicity says to Ray when she can finally breathe again. "As much as I'm enjoying this, can we take it somewhere a little more private?"
"Draw one finger down his tie," Tommy instructs.
She does, and Ray's breath catches. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, just give me one minute."
Felicity memorizes his PIN when he punches it in and watches carefully as he scans in an ID badge, as well as his thumbprint and retina. Hopefully with this much security on his office, Ray will be the type who feels comfortable not putting important things in a safe.
"Wow," she says softly, as Ray ushers her inside. "This is really something."
It's not an act. The room is large and there are at least three long tables absolutely covered with technological equipment.
"My actual office," Ray tells her, "Is through that door. But it's pretty dull. A couple of chairs and a couch and a desk. This—" he makes a grand sweeping gesture to the room— "This is where all the magic happens."
"It does look magical," Felicity says.
She thinks he might have kissed her again at that moment, but her eye is caught by a shiny piece of tech on the table in front of her, and Ray is suddenly talking a mile a minute about what it does. He's distracted and excited, so Felicity starts looking around for anything that could be connected to the Lilac Project.
Maybe she can just sneak it out under his nose.
Ray's prattling on about this propulsion device and the problems he's having getting it to work, and Felicity forces herself to focus again on what he's saying. Something about not enough power and a lack of precision.
He starts rubbing the backs of his fingers against her arm, and suddenly Felicity's very convinced that there's no real way to get out of here without finishing what she started.
A bubble of anxiety rises in her chest. But she reminds herself that Tommy wouldn't have let her go up here if there wasn't a plan for getting her out.
Oh, hell. She hopes that isn't his plan.
"Felicity?" Tommy again. "Do you see them?"
There's an art stand and a flat filing cabinet. Felicity assumes that any hard copies in existence would be there. Ray also has a pretty decent computer set up, possibly with it's own internal network, so if there are any electronic copies that must be where they are.
"Uh-huh," she says slowly, to both Ray and Tommy.
"Alright, Felicity," Tommy says. "I need you to get Ray out of the way. Tell him everything here is amazing, and ask if there's any chance his real office has a fully-stocked bar?"
She has to frame the question with a coy smile and a touch to the back of his hand.
Ray winks at her. "Of course it does, babe. What can I get you?"
She draws a blank for a moment, thinking of red wine, but Tommy comes to her rescue. "Dry martini?"
He kisses her cheek. "Sure thing, sweetheart."
"Tommy," Felicity says under her breath as soon as Ray's out the door. "What exactly is my exit here? Because I am treading water right now, and I hate feeling like I'm gonna drown."
"Felicity, listen to me. I am working on it." Tommy's starting to sound as on-edge as she feels. "I will get you through this, okay?"
Nausea curls in her stomach. She doesn't believe him.
Her brain kicks into overdrive. There are too many thoughts in her head, too many diverging right in front of her for her to focus on just one, just the one she needs to get out of this.
And she doesn't want Tommy. She wants Oliver.
What would Oliver tell her to do?
Oliver would tell her to be smart. Oliver would tell her to use whatever was around her. Oliver would—
Felicity looks down at the gauntlet in her hand.
She's more of a software gal, really. Better at code than at wires. Still, she's not ignorant of what she's looking at, not unaware of how it works or how it fits together.
What did Ray say he was having problems with? Propulsion and accuracy?
It was too powerful and not accurate enough.
Well, she thinks, neither of those are problems if what she has in mind works. She's going to have to move quickly once it's done.
She removes her communications unit from her ear and puts it in her purse.
There's a screwdriver on the workbench, and Felicity uses it to pry open the control panel on the gauntlet so she can see how it works. As she quickly categorizes the intricate workings of various wires and components, she accidentally stumbles upon the explanation for why Ray can't fine-tune the controls. That won't help her, though, so she leaves it be.
She's frantically twisting two wires together when she hears Ray coming back. For a moment, panic skewers through her, but then the leads are connected and the gauntlet is powering up. It sputters once, then twice.
Ray appears in the doorway with drinks in his hand the exact moment Felicity lets go of the gauntlet. It zooms out of her hand, and while Ray was right about the accuracy being off, it ends up not mattering. The contraption strikes him right between the eyes, and Felicity lets out a very real shriek as he stumbles backwards. Both of the glasses shatter when they hit the floor, spilling liquid everywhere, and Ray falls.
Felicity doesn't take the time to check and see if he's still conscious. She starts with the computer, plugging in the USB drive hidden in her lipstick tube and begins copying any files earmarked as belonging to the Lilac Project. While the transfer is happening, she turns her attention to finding the physical copies, yanking open drawers of the metal cabinet and sifting through pages of blueprints. What she's looking for is in the third drawer down. Felicity rolls it up, tucks it underneath her arm, and then slides her earbud back in her ear.
"I have them," she tells Tommy, carefully stepping over the mess of glass and liquor on the floor and stooping down besides Ray. She breathes out a sigh when she puts her fingers to Ray's neck and finds a pulse. "Ray's unconscious. If I stay, I can make it look like an accident. If I go, I can get out of here."
"Burn the blueprints and get downstairs," Tommy says. "We can't risk that your cover hasn't been blown."
She thoroughly deletes the relevant files from Ray's computer system, grabs the USB stick from the computer, and slips it into her purse. Her hands are shaking and her heart is racing as she briskly leaves Ray's workshop and heads towards the elevator. She presses the down button anxiously, expecting any minute that alarms will start blaring or that Ray will stumble out into the hallway.
The elevator doors open, and Felicity forces herself to take deep, calming breaths as she hits the button for the lobby. As the elevator begins to move, Felicity pulls out the blueprints and quickly examines them. She's not sure what she's looking for. She knows Division having access to drone technology cannot possibly be a good thing, but what on earth could Malcolm be planning with it? Division is supposed to operate under the radar, off the books. They're supposed to be undetectable, untraceable.
Huge explosions from drone missiles don't seem particularly untraceable to Felicity. They seem violent and deadly. And depending on how many drones Palmer Tech is planning on making, depending on how much intelligence Malcolm could find on world leaders and where they are, depending on how cloaked these drones are…
Malcolm could metaphorically point a gun at the whole world and hold it hostage.
Oliver finds her the moment she's stepped out of the elevator. His mask is gone, and she all but runs into his arms. Leaning back, he lifts her just enough for her feet to rise off of the ground as he drags her a few yards down the hall and behind a pillar so they'll be mostly hidden from sight. She seeks as much comfort as she can from the embrace, not wanting it to end but knowing that is has to at some point.
When Felicity pulls away, she puts a finger to her lips, then points to her ear. Oliver nods as she passes him the papers. There are a million things she wants to say to him, but none that she can. There's no time. Instead she tips her face up and lets him kiss her. Wrapping her fingers around the material of his jacket, she vows to remember only this kiss from tonight. This is the one that is real. This is the one that matters.
Oliver only has one free hand, and he uses it to cup her cheek. His other arm bands around her waist, holding her tightly to him.
It takes every ounce of willpower Felicity possesses to tear her mouth away from his.
Soon, Oliver's eyes promise her. Soon.
Go, she mouths. She lightly touches her fingers to her lips. Oliver backs away, and Felicity takes a step as if to follow him before she catches herself.
Oliver's eyes dart to something—someone—behind her, and his face pales.
Tommy stands several yards down the hall, jaw clenched, eyes misty, gun trained on Oliver.
Felicity glances back and forth between them. Oliver stands still, unmoving. He doesn't go for his gun. He doesn't tell Tommy to lower his weapon. He doesn't say or do anything. He just stands there.
Felicity recognizes the look on his face. He looks destroyed. Like the fact that he and Tommy are standing on opposite sides of a gun just finally sunk in and it's a soul-crushing realization.
It's heart-wrenching for Felicity. She doesn't know what they're going to do, but she's standing between two of the most important people in her life and hoping against hope that they don't kill each other.
And then Tommy lowers the gun.
Felicity exhales the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She glances from Tommy back to Oliver, but Oliver's already gone.
Tommy's breathing heavily, shoulders rising and falling even as he slides his gun back into its holster. She's hesitant as she moves towards him.
When he looks at her, his eyes are dark. He takes a quick, almost menacing step into her personal space, reaching for her arm, and she flinches, jerking backwards.
He looks like she slapped him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Felicity?" he asks in a low, harsh tone.
She squares her shoulders, secure in the certainty that he's not going to lay a hand on her. He's not going to hurt her. He's not a monster. He's not his father. "The right thing," she tells him, feeling the conviction bleeding through her words as she speaks.
Tommy runs a hand through his hair. "This is fire that you're playing with. You are going to get yourself killed, Felicity. Or worse. And I can't just stand by and let..."
He takes a deep breath. "We need to go. Now. This isn't the place for this conversation."
Tommy's hand on her back feels oppressive as he escorts her out of the building and into the waiting van. She climbs through the sliding door into the back while Tommy hops into the passenger seat.
Barry's there waiting for her with liquorice and a quick hug. She hands him the USB drive with unsteady hands. It's his job to check that everything is there before the files are erased. Felicity watches carefully as he works.
She sits in silence for the first fifteen minutes of the drive back to Division. She's trembling, and she hates it.
Carefully, Barry wraps a scratchy blanket around her shoulders. "It's over, Felicity," he tells her softly, with a sad smile. "You're okay."
Even as she nods her agreement, Felicity knows he's wrong. It's not over.
It's just beginning.
Tommy finds himself completely unable to say a single word to Felicity during the entire trip back to Division. He's still reeling. The words Oliver's not dead have been echoing in his head since that moment in the hallway.
And Felicity was—
He cuts off that thought. Nothing good can come from this knowledge.
Shado meets them when the elevator doors open onto the trainee floor.
"Barry," Tommy says, feeling like a stranger in his own body. "Walk Felicity back to her room."
Barry blinks in surprise, "But don't you want to debrief her?"
Tommy very intentionally doesn't look at Felicity. "No, I want her back in her room. It's four in the morning. Shado can debrief her tomorrow."
In silence, Tommy and Shado watch Barry and Felicity start down the hall.
Shado puts a hand on Tommy's arm. "What happened?"
"She did what she had to do," Tommy answers. Tense, he pinches the bridge of his nose.
"Fight me," Shado says.
Tommy glances down at his suit. "I'm not dressed—"
Impatient, Shado grabs his jacket and slides it off of his shoulders. She tosses it over a training dummy. "Fight. Me." She repeats. "You're angry. You're tense, and you're of no use to anyone emotionally compromised. Let some aggression out."
"I'm not sparring with you just to let out aggression," he snaps, and that's when her fist flies at his face.
He catches her fist in his hand and for a minute satisfaction flows through him before she uses her leg to sweep his feet out from under him and sends him crashing onto the mat behind him.
Tommy drags air back into his lungs slowly, groaning as he sits up. Shado's standing in front of him, hand held out in a silent offer to help him up. He ignores it. He's not pissed at her, he's just pissed. From the variety of emotions he gets to choose from, anger is the easiest. It's the simplest.
He is not physically fighting her while he's angry. He is not that person. He is not that kind of man.
She goes at him again, but this time he is ready. He deflects, backing up so they're more fully on the mats. If she's gonna push this, he isn't going to run the risk that she falls on the concrete floor and not on padding.
They fight like it's a conversation. She pushes, he deflects, and she keeps pushing. He should rightly be exhausted, but there's enough unused adrenaline, enough unspoken emotion, enough anger and hurt and pain to keep him moving through his exhaustion. When he lashes out at her it's with strength; when she deflects him, it's with gentle precision.
She uses all of his pressure points against him. "Get offensive," she tells him after she throws him to the floor again. "Stop reacting. Start making decisions."
"I'm not going to hurt you."
Shado looks him right in the eyes. "You won't."
He takes a swing at her, and she dodges. "Good. Again."
He does. Again. And again. And again and again and again until they both fall over from practically blissful exhaustion.
"Are you going to tell me what happened?" Shado asks, breathless. She's lying on the mat beside him, both of them staring up at the ceiling.
It's Division's quiet hours. She's revealed the signal jammer that will keep any unfriendly ears from listening. They're safe. He's safe.
He hears her let out a long, slow breath. A glance over at her reveals her clearly processing that information. "And you're angry with him for being alive? Or at Malcolm for telling you he was dead."
At Felicity for—
He squelches that thought. He has to protect her. And protecting her from this—from her brilliantly stupid self—means he can't even risk saying the words out loud.
Felicity doesn't deserve what will happen to her if Malcolm finds out. No matter what she's done with Oliver, for Oliver—and hell, the image of her kissing him will just not go away—she doesn't deserve the hell Malcolm will throw her into.
"He doesn't know what he's doing," Tommy says finally. "He doesn't… he's going to get himself killed for real, and I don't think he cares."
"Have you considered the possibility," Shado's tone is careful, measured, like everything about her, "That part of why Oliver is doing this is you? That Oliver wants to destroy Division for you?"
"I don't even know if Oliver knew I was alive when he started this," Tommy tells her.
"How did he look when you saw him?" Shado asks. "Was he looking at a ghost?"
Tommy slowly shakes his head. "I was the only one looking at a ghost." He clenches his fist, letting his nails bite into his skin. He thinks of Felicity's betrayal, of the way Oliver looked at him in that hallway. He can feel the gun in his hands, feel the weight of it. Pulling the weapon was instinct. Oliver is Division Enemy Number One. He is supposed to be shot on sight.
But those thoughts are Malcolm, not Tommy.
You don't point a gun at anything you don't intend to destroy.
And Tommy doesn't want to destroy Oliver. Not an Oliver who is alive and breathing.
Tommy's world feels just a little less suffocating with the knowledge that Oliver is still in it.
Sin is silent as two Division goons escort her into Malcolm Merlyn's office.
Or rather, the ninth circle of hell, she thinks. That she's been summoned here is either incredibly good or horrifically bad.
"Cindy," Malcolm says with a smile as she enters. "Good work on this latest mission. I'm very impressed."
Sin bristles at his constant refusal to use her real name. But impressed means 'not dead' so she holds her tongue. "Thank you," she says instead.
"Do you have what I asked for?"
Sin pulls out a flash drive, sets it down on Malcolm's desk, and slides it over to him with her forefinger.
"And my son believes this was destroyed?"
She nods. She doesn't like deceiving Tommy, but disobeying Malcolm is a worse option.
Sin really hopes this is just a loyalty test. Will she follow Malcolm over her mentor?
"Excellent," Malcolm says with a smile that makes Sin's stomach swerve. "This won't be forgotten, Cindy. You can count on it."