Okay, this is it, guys. Finally, the last chapter. I know some of you might not agree, but I think it's time to wrap this up. I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it and reading your awesome reviews. All your support throughout those last few weeks was just amazing and I cannot thank you enough.
As always I'd like to thank everybody who took the time to review. Some of you were there from chapter one and that's just the biggest compliment ever. All my love and kudos for dealing with my writing to: NorthernLights25, Errine23, foxxandbeanz, ldjkitten, salazarjasam, Jessimicah, sakura-blossom62, Horsebot3000, CaRiNeSs, ReaderKas, lizb1813, cruzstar, TygTag, onetreefan, farmgirl1964, kenyancougar, KillingMEsoftly, Jen, Mysou13, shellybeee, LillyD11, michellemaldonado, snr3231, ByteMeGeekette and LachesisBenton.
THANK YOU ALL! Much love, Jules.
17. A dead man still breathing
Awareness came slowly. Bit by bit he was pulled out of the blackness, out of unconsciousness and back to the here and now. And right here, right now he was laying somewhere rather uncomfortable, but there was a pillow under his head and a blanket draped over him. He had most definitely woken up in worse situations. He took a moment to do a mental inventory and came to the pleasing conclusion that not only was he still alive, but also that all of his limbs were still attached to his body. His eyelids seemed strangely heavy, but he forced them to open.
John Diggle greeted him with a smile. "I guess you didn't die again. Cool, huh?"
That sentence would forever haunt him.
Oliver felt too groggy to come up with a good comeback. Forcing his tongue to move needed much effort and he didn't want to waste it. He used it for the most important question. "Where's Felicity?"
"Back with Waller, trying to convince her that she isn't a legendary hacker – at least not the legendary hacker Waller's believing her to be." Seeing all the unspoken questions in his best friend's face, John added, "Roy's with her, don't worry. We've got it all under control; she's safe." Slowly, Oliver nodded and then he swallowed. Interpreting his action correctly, Diggle reached for a water bottle. "Here, let me help you." He steadied Oliver's back who winced at the movement. His shoulder, his ribs, his leg – everything hurt horribly. Oliver was glad when he could lie back down. He felt like he should get up, get next door and see for himself that Felicity was okay, but he knew that no matter how much he wished, he couldn't do that.
"I'm sorry, man." John said now, "We were so late, but taking out A.R.G.U.S' men was more difficult than we had anticipated."
"How did you find us?"
"After you and Felicity went missing and were nowhere to be found I contacted A.R.G.U.S. for help, but they told me you were both on assignment. Lyla tried to find out more and came up empty handed. All of it seemed very fishy to us. In the end Lyla managed to get us at least the location of this island. But when Roy and I arrived here, Waller had already lost you and she didn't want us to go out and search for you, so she locked us up. Thank God, Lyla got worried and sent Deadshot after us, who not only got his headbomb disarmed, but apparently also a huge dose of her pregnancy hormones…" He sighed. "I'm sorry it took us so long."
"Well, it's been three eventful weeks."
"Four," John corrected and clarified, "you've been missing four weeks."
"I don't want Felicity around Amanda."
John Diggle smiled, "don't worry, Oliver. Felicity can handle Amanda." He leaned a little closer to the man laying on the cot and whispered, "Amanda believed Felicity to be a hacker called Oracle, but as far as I understood this Oracle knows about the supercomputer out there, which was why Amanda dumped you two here. She was sure Felicity would go directly to the bunker and seek help and shelter here." Sighing Diggle leaned back in his chair, "If you ask me that whole plan is all kinds of crazy. But it's not as bad as trying to force Felicity to reveal her secret identity by shooting you."
Oliver looked at Diggle. That was all a bit much to take in – and much to consider. Was it even possible that Felicity wa-
"I asked her," John Diggle had always been worryingly good at reading Oliver's mind, "and she in return asked me how she should've kept up a secret hacker persona when she was basically working two jobs last year, being your EA by day and personal researcher by night? I thought that was a good point."
It was. But Oliver was still sure that Felicity knew something about this Oracle. Not that it mattered to Oliver right now. All he really wanted was to see her and make sure that she was really okay and then he wanted to leave the horrible island.
"As soon as we can move you, we're heading home."
Hearing Diggle's statement, indescribable relief pushed through Oliver. He closed his eyes in an effort to keep the emotions inside. He felt a hand squeezing his lower arm and opened his eyes again to meet the knowing glance of the person he had first trusted with his ultimate secret. "I know, man," John Diggle said now, "can't imagine what the last month was like for you."
Oliver nodded, before he dared a smile, "It did have its upsides."
Now Diggle smirked, too. "I figured. I promised to get Felicity once you woke up." Adding another comforting pad on his arm, his friend got up.
Not even a minute later, Felicity rushed into the room. He tried to lift his upper body, but it hurt so badly that he fell back to the cot he was resting on. "Hi," she said softly and sank down on the chair Diggle had previously occupied. "Never do that again!" She touched her lips to his, carefully, as if afraid she would hurt him.
"I promise to try to avoid that in the future," he whispered.
"Please do." She cradled his hand in hers. "I'm just glad that you're okay. And that nobody got hurt. When John and Roy arrived things got really tense. Guns pointing everywhere. That could've gone really wrong. And apparently Floyd Lawton's escaped – that didn't help to improve Ms. Waller's mood, which was already pretty low, because those Germans apparently managed to outsmart A.R.G.U.S.' sensors. Sensory issues, if that isn't a code name for inside job I don't know what is…" She noticed Oliver smiling at her and caught herself, "Sorry, I'm just really relieved that you're okay and..." She smiled the most wonderful honest smile. "Oliver, we're going home."
Going home took a twelve-hour flight. It were twelve hours Oliver spent looking at Felicity while she slept. That actually wasn't the worst way to spend half a day.
She was able to stretch out in this private A.R.G.U.S. plane that was all champagne-colored leather and constantly smiling stewardesses. Roy and Diggle also caught a few hours of sleep, but Oliver couldn't close his eyes. Too many things were on his mind – plus now that the medication had worn off he was in constant pain, his leg was throbbing like crazy and the ache was too there for him to tune it out. Felicity had been right when she had said that maybe they should give him another day to rest, but the idea of staying on this god-forsaken island only one moment longer seemed utterly wrong to Oliver. He wanted to go back home, he wanted Felicity to go back home, to end this horrible episode.
There were some things he had decided he needed to do once he was back home. Apart from giving his leg time to heal as he had promised Felicity. He needed to get a new lair and make sure that Amanda Waller couldn't find out. Felicity had already said that she needed to upgrade the computers and the firewall now that A.R.G.U.S. had taken possession of the supercomputer.
Amanda wasn't pleased how this operation had gone down, Oliver knew that. The whole confrontation in that bunker had been a mess, and Waller most definitely hadn't gotten what she had wanted to gain. All she had gotten was the knowledge that information A.R.G.U.S. had obtained and considered highly classified had somehow ended up in the hands of some low-life mercenaries. The only logical conclusion for the Germans showing up on that island knowing that Oliver and Felicity were there to look for a supercomputer was a mole within A.R.G.U.S. That had to freak Waller out. It was the only explanation why those guys had been able to hide their presence so completely. And that was the only explanation why Waller hadn't pressured Felicity more into giving up Oracle or getting her more information on the super hacker. They were lucky that Waller had bigger problems right now. Plus: She most likely considered herself doing them a favor – and Amanda was a person to always collect. So, a new lair, a better hideout with secure technology was a very important thing he needed to take care of once he was on his feet again.
The last month seemed surreal – even for him, a guy who had experienced more surrealism become twisted reality than any given person should. Still, being on the island had been like being in a parallel universe.
As he watched Felicity sleep so peacefully something she had said to him down in the bunker popped up in his head. Back then he hadn't really thought about it, because he had been too aggravated, but now it repeated itself over and over in his head: "Who knows if we had admitted certain things, if we hadn't been stuck here with nowhere to go."
Oliver knew. He knew that he wouldn't have admitted anything if they hadn't ended up on that island.
But now that he had, he wasn't willing to take it back. He would turn his second stay on an island into something positive, he wouldn't give up on her. Because when he had thought he would bleed out on the cement floor under ground, he hadn't mourned his death, he had mourned the life he never had, the future he would never have with Felicity.
He had so many regrets in his life, he had made so many wrong decision, but admitting his love to Felicity wasn't one of them. There was no way that he would turn her into another regret. This here was his second chance and he would take it.
Felicity slept until it was time to land. Oliver woke her up with a kiss and ignored the glance he knew John and Roy shared behind his back. The sun was about to set when they finally set down in Starling City. Getting down the gangway with his leg was more painful than he liked to admit. He had made it down and took a steadying breath when Felicity moved next to him. She seemed uncharacteristically shy as she said, "I think you should stay with me until your leg is better. You will never manage to get down the stairs to the Foundry."
Her suggestion made him happy. "I'd like that," he admitted, "but can we stop by the Foundry? I'd like to get some clean clothes."
A happy smile was his reward. "Sure."
It took them one hour until they finally reached Felicity's townhouse. As soon as Oliver entered it, he felt at home. It was cozy; it felt like a warm, a peaceful place to be. It was different from Queen mansion in every way it could be and he meant that in the most positive way possible. Color greeted him as he had expected. He sank down on the couch and couldn't believe that he felt instantly relaxed. Felicity stood by the door and watched him with a smile on her face. "Please, make yourself at home."
He felt caught. "I apologize, I-"
"No," she interrupted. "I really mean it: make yourself at home. I want to take a shower, get the island off me. That might take some time, because I want to make myself pretty for you."
"Felicity," he looked at her, "you're always pretty."
"You say that with a straight face after you spent one month with me on an island?" There was amusement in her voice, as if she didn't take him seriously.
But he was serious. It was visible on his face and audible in his voice as he said, "You are very beautiful. Always."
She blushed. It was an unfamiliar sight that caused Oliver to smile. Felicity hesitated for a moment before she took a step closer to him. "I was really worried that this would be a 'what happens on the island stays on the island'-situation."
Carefully, he looked at her, "You feared that I'd back out and take it back?"
Slowly, she nodded. "Yes, I'm glad that you didn't try to."
"Try to?" he repeated, amused.
"I wouldn't have let you, because I have a say in this, too. And... I know on that island we were more open with each other than we normally are, but I meant everything I said."
"I did, too." He saw her smile and gestured for her to come to him, because he honestly couldn't get up from his couch and on his leg. "And I think we should try and be more open from now on. I think after we managed to get through the last month we'll get through anything."
She smirked. "That's probably true." She leaned down and kissed him.
When their lips parted again, he brought his hand up to her cheek and made her stay close to him. "You are the best thing that happened to me, Felicity. And I know we don't exchange numbers, but I want you to know that you are the one for me."
Happiness shone in her eyes, ultimate joy. Seeing that made his heart dance. She needed a moment to collect herself, before she said, "So, we'll be more open with each other off the island now, too?" She nodded, "I have to tell you: That works for me."
He chuckled. "That's good to know." They kissed again.
Now it was Felicity staying close and whispering. "Oliver, on the island you said that you wanted to be better for me, but you don't have to be. You can't be. You can only be yourself and that's perfect, because that's the man I love." She kissed him again, sent him a smile full of love and then she straightened up. "Okay, and now I'll take a shower."
Oliver stopped her after two steps. "I know it wasn't in your top two return food, but how do you feel about me ordering pizza?"
"Perfect, do that. No onions and, please, no fish! I don't think I'll ever be able to enjoy fish again!"
He chuckled and watched as she left the room. He knew that the last month would catch up with them, with her. Once the comatose sleep caused by extreme exhaustion was done with the nightmares would start. It had been like that for Oliver after he had returned home the first time. He expected them again – for himself and for Felicity. They still hadn't discussed the fact that she had aimed a gun at a guy and had shot him – in the leg, just like Oliver had been shot in the leg. Oliver was pretty sure that she hadn't realized that yet, but he knew that she would, it would be a painful realization. The aftermath of what they had gone through was still ahead of them. It wouldn't be as bad as last time, it hadn't been five hellish years after all, but one month in Hell was enough to leave some marks – and two fresh scars on Oliver. But he knew that they would work through it together. Later, probably already later tonight, he was ready to deal with that, to take her fears away and help her through anything. But for now he would order pizza and cuddle with her on her couch, he would enjoy a peaceful evening with his girlfriend, he would dare to just be relaxed and happy tonight.
Because he was home.