AN: well folks, here we are. After nine months of hard work, we've come to the end of this particular journey. A lot of love, and time, and frustration went into this one. Thank you to everyone who has read, and reviewed, and favorited, and followed this story (and everyone who does so in the future). Your support means the world to me. I hope you enjoy this last chapter, and I look forward to our next adventure together.
"Anyway," Sara was saying, "by the time we got there, the place was a zoo."
"We'd made a plan to break in after dark," Lyla added. "Which was obviously blown to hell."
Felicity laughed and settled farther into Oliver's side. Her neck was still sore from the manhandling she'd endured, but she lowered it slowly until it rested on his shoulder. Seconds later, Felicity felt Oliver's cheek come to rest against the crown of her head; the hand resting on her waist tightened.
"So you just decided to run in, guns blazing?" Roy asked.
"Basically," Nyssa retorted dryly.
"You sound disgruntled," Thea observed. She sat down on Oliver's other side and curled her legs up beneath her.
"I do not enjoy spectator sports," Nyssa said.
This time Felicity wasn't the only one to laugh. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the chorus of laughter from so many people warmed the room in a way that the sunlight streaming through the windows couldn't. On the couch across from Felicity, Donna was smiling the way she had before Angelo De Luca reappeared in their lives.
That reunion had been full of squealing and tears. The squealing had been on Donna's part, of course, but the tears had been surprising in that they hadn't come only from Donna and Felicity. Thea had been crying when Felicity finally wrestled her way out of her mother's arms; at first, the blonde had felt terrible upon realizing that it was probably like a knife in Thea's heart to see a mother and daughter reunited. While that had undoubtedly been part of it, the larger part of it had come as quite the surprise to Felicity.
"I didn't know," Thea had explained as she'd hugged Felicity tightly. "I had no idea that you were in danger. I was so awful to you, and you must have been scared out of your mind. I'm sorry, Felicity."
"I forgave you a long time ago, Thea," Felicity had assured her.
Thea had cleared her throat and released the other woman, stepping away and standing tall as she brushed hastily at the tears on her cheeks. "Well," she'd announced loudly. "I think you fit in perfectly. Fake wife or not."
Everyone had laughed then, too.
"Alright kids, it's been fun," Diggle started, drawing Felicity out of her memories. "But I think it's time for the missus and me to head home."
"What?" Roy deadpanned. "It's only seven a.m."
"And we've been up all night," Lyla retorted.
The assembled group went about untangling themselves and rising from the couches so that they could move toward the door as one big unit. The procession was unreal to Felicity, who had been isolated and alone just a few short months ago; seeing everyone together now didn't make all the terrible things she'd endured worth it, but it did make the memory of those things hurt less. People were not prizes, but these people and their presence in her life were gifts.
This was her family, and there was nothing fake about it.
Digg and Lyla knew that they wouldn't make it out of the house without a hug from Felicity, and so didn't try. Sara and Nyssa were the next to leave, and the former crushed Felicity to her before leaving with a big smile and casual wave; Nyssa simply inclined her head and offered a small smirk.
Roy was the next one to head for the door. Felicity was less sure about his departure, but she could do nothing more than what she'd already done to let him know that he was welcome to stay in the mansion with them.
She tried anyway. "Are you sure you don't want to stay?"
Roy smiled. "Stop worrying, would you? I've learned my lesson. There's someone out there I need to find and make sure she doesn't make my mistakes."
"Girlfriend?" Thea queried.
Something in the way the girl asked made Felicity take notice, though she didn't draw attention to the moment.
Roy eyed Thea in a way that made Felicity think he'd noticed it as well. "Little sister," he clarified. "Or the closest thing I have to one, anyway." Then he looked at Felicity, and hesitated only a moment before hugging her. "Maybe I'll bring her around sometime."
"You better," Felicity warned. "Or I'll track you down. I still owe you lunch, anyway."
"Yeah you do."
She stood in the doorway and watched everyone disappear down the road, Oliver on one side and Thea and Donna on the other, and decided that family really was what you made it, after all.
"What do we do now?" Thea asked when the door was closed and the four of them had turned to head up the stairs.
"What do you mean?" Donna countered.
"Well, I don't know about you two, but Ollie can't sit still for more than ten minutes. There's no way he's going to be content as a business man."
"Felicity has a worrying need to stick her fingers in too many pies as well."
"Hey!" the blonde protested. "I don't like this ganging up thing you two are doing. Stop it."
"Well, they're not wrong," Oliver offered.
Felicity groaned. "What's wrong with the quiet life? A beach, a hammock, some cocktails … is that too much to ask?"
"Pick a beach and we'll go," Oliver said. "Whenever you want. But this city needs help, and without the Bratva connections I'm going to have to get creative."
"We're going to have to get creative," Felicity corrected.
"Creative how?" Thea prodded.
Everyone was quiet as they pondered the question. Then, with a half smile that spoke of something larger brewing, Felicity said, "what about that suit of yours?"
"What suit?" Donna and Thea said in unison.
Oliver studied his wife. "What about it?"
"Well, it hid your identity pretty well. You were standing right in front of me and I barely recognized you."
"What suit?" Thea repeated.
"So … what? You think he should take to the streets as some kind of … vigilante?" Donna challenged.
Felicity shrugged. "The idea needs some ironing out, obviously, but it could work. No one ever tied you to the Bratva."
"Except you," Oliver pointed out.
His wife grinned. "Except me."
"I think I liked it better when you two were pretending," Thea groused. Then, continuing, "is this what we've come to, now? From the mafia to vigilantism? You really think that'll work?"
"I think we need to do something," Oliver replied. "This is our city, Thea, and it needs help."
Thea stopped them in the middle of the hall and stared hard at her brother. "If we do this, are you going to shut me out again?"
"Even when things get hard and you feel like you need to protect me?"
Oliver paused. His expression clearly showed the internal struggle he was experiencing, and Thea's face fell.
"Even then," Oliver said finally.
"And I'll be sure to remind him he said that," Felicity said quickly. "So, what do you say?"
"Swiss Family Vigilante, here we come," Thea exclaimed.
"Don't call it that," Oliver hurried to correct.
"We're going to need some kind of name," his sister protested.
Sensing that the siblings were about to launch into an argument that would likely have no quick resolution, Felicity fell back until she was in step with her mother. Donna was quick to wrap an arm around her daughter's shoulders and press a kiss against her forehead.
"It's crazy, right?" Felicity whispered. "This is crazy."
"Life is crazy, sweetie."
"But this is something out of a novel. I mean, if you'd told me six months ago this would happen, I would have laughed and had your head examined."
Donna grinned. Ahead of them, Oliver and Thea were still bickering over whether or not their new venture needed some kind of title or code name. Thea's suggestions were getting more outrageous by the second.
"The surprise is the best part of being alive, baby. You never know what'll happen; you just never know."
Felicity wrapped her arms around her mom's middle and squeezed. The action pressed the band of the wedding ring into the skin of her finger, and the reminder of it made her smile. Sometimes, life got things wrong: the people who should have loved you, didn't, and the things you hoped for never came to pass; but that didn't mean that no one loved you, or that hope should be abandoned.
Because sometimes the right came in the middle of all the wrong; and sometimes, life got things ridiculously, overwhelmingly right.
Those, Felicity decided, were the best surprises of all.