Who Once Was Lost Is Found Again

Title: Who Once Was Lost Is Found again.

Disclaimer: We own nothing from DC Comics or the television series Arrow and are not making money from this fic.

Summary: Follows Forging Ahead. Relationships are reformed, forged, and strengthened.

Warning(s): Mild D/s with temporary regression to childlike state; spanking using hand and implement. Also mentions of torture and violence.

Authors: BlackFox12 and Hope1iz

It had been a couple of weeks and everyone had adjusted, or at least seemed to, when it happened. One of their missions went south.

"Damnit...I've been spotted!" Floyd said with some irritation. "I'll have to move." Five minutes later, his voice came over the comms again, a lot more nervously. "Uh...guys? They've surrounded me!"

Oliver didn't even give it any thought. He was already heading toward the man. "On my way, Deadshot..." he said firmly.

Diggle had already been moving the moment Floyd had indicated he was in trouble. "Oliver, I'm in the best position to help," he said. "The only way you're gonna get to him is if you wade right in the middle of them."

Slade had heard the first part of Floyd's comment... but every bit of communication after that, he was getting with a lot of static. Even with his experience, he was only getting about one word in every three... if that.

"Your comm's not working either?" Thea asked. She was less tense around Slade than she had been... helped by the fact that Oliver seemed to be thriving with his big brother back in the picture. They'd all noticed that the amount of chances Oliver had taken had gone right down.

"I think we must be approaching a dead zone." Slade was given very little chance to expand on that, as he was then moving Thea into a darkened area... having spotted a couple of thugs about to run into them.

"I'm in the best position to get there fast!" Oliver argued, just as he began to wade in; just like Diggle had said he'd have to do.

Deadshot, meanwhile, instead of trying to fight his way through the weakest of them and get away decided that he was going to take them all on. Oliver coming from the other direction only encouraged his decision to not run when he had the chance and should have run.

Soon, both men were back to back and taking on a group of opponents that they would have been hard pressed to defeat even if Spartan, Deathstroke and Speedy were all beside them. Since the other three weren't in sight yet, it was just the two of them and they were in danger of being overwhelmed.

Felicity, watching on the cams, nearly screeched into the comms. "WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING? You heard Spartan! He was on his way and in a better position! You've just drawn all the bad guys straight to you! And why didn't you run, Deadshot? You had a chance to get away from them! You've got another group of ten coming from your left!" Muttering to herself, she attempted to get a stronger signal to the comms so that Slade and Thea could be reconnected...hoping that if they heard what was going on, Slade would either give Oliver an order that would keep the younger man from doing what he apparently was dead set on doing, or he and Thea would be able to somehow get to where the other men were and help.

Diggle could hear Felicity's voice over the comms and he very quickly abandoned stealth in favor of heading towards his brothers as fast as possible. He could hear Slade and Thea over the comms... but it was quite clear they couldn't hear him; or at least couldn't hear everything. In case they were getting some of the words, he informed them of what was going on... phrasing in different ways and with different amounts of words.

Diggle's way of communicating was getting through and Slade touched Thea's arm, signaling to her they were heading to her brother and Deadshot. Waiting only long enough for a nod from the young woman, he was heading in the direction the words he could hear was indicating... Thea close on his heels.

Deadshot laughed mirthlessly. "This doesn't seem to have been such a good idea, after all..." he growled, as he knocked out another opponent and then twisted out of the way of a second one who was about to hit him over the head with a metal pipe.

"I hate it when I give Spartan the ability to say 'I told you so'." Oliver sighed, taking out two opponents with one arrow.

"Yeah, well I'm going to make sure he knows every single thing you two did so that he can say 'I told you so' and say it loudly and often!" Felicity griped.

Deadshot winced. "Hate it when Overwatch is ticked off a bit more..." He grimaced.

Diggle hadn't wasted any breath in responding to what he could hear over the comms, but it didn't take long before he was wading into the fray... desperate fear for both Oliver and Floyd driving him to take out at least two of the thugs before any of them could register his presence. Still, it was a relief when he could abruptly hear Slade and Thea over the comms... and glimpsed the two approaching from the other direction.

Slade was quick to take out one of the thugs targeting his little brother, quickly working his way to Oliver's side while making sure Thea was as well-protected as she could be. While that was sometimes a point of contention... Thea didn't waste time arguing, seeing that her big brother and the rest of the team were in danger of being overwhelmed.

Oliver wasn't terribly happy seeing Thea joining in the fray- he would have preferred his baby sister to stay safely out of the middle of his mess- but he wisely didn't say anything to her. Instead, he adjusted his stance and position so that he was able to fight while protecting the rest of the team as well...taking out one of the enemy that was about to shoot Diggle in the back before twisting around and ducking under the swing of a machete. It wasn't easy, but with all five of them there, they soon had incapacitated everyone coming after them. If there were any other combatants in the building, they'd run when they realized they would lose. "Did we get what we came for?" Oliver asked tersely, adrenaline still high and guilt starting to seep into his conscience.

"Yes. You got what you came for..." Felicity snarked over the comms, obviously upset and irritated at Oliver.

"Good!" Oliver snarked back, not appreciating her tone...or the fact said tone would draw Slade's attention to the fact that someone, most likely Oliver, had upset the young woman. "Let's get out of here, then..." He turned and stalked toward the exit of the building, heading for his bike.

"Well...alright then..." Deadshot drawled, before giving Diggle an uncertain look (he knew he'd likely landed himself in trouble when he'd chosen to fight instead of extricating himself from the mess when he had a chance). Not having his own vehicle yet, he turned and walked for the exit, heading for the van that Diggle always drove.

Diggle hung back enough to grasp Slade's arm, preventing the other man from immediately following his brother. "You're going to want to talk to him," he said, motioning tersely towards Oliver's retreating figure. "I'll take Thea back with me and Floyd... get her home and then have my own discussion with him."

Slade didn't need to ask any questions. Oliver wasn't a good liar at the best of times... less so when Slade was involved. "Thanks. I'm sure one of us can come by and retrieve the bike later..." He quickly went after Oliver, catching up with his brother in several quick strides. "Come on, little brother. You're coming back with me."

Oliver blinked in surprise at Slade's words, unable to keep from glancing back over his shoulder at the rest of the team to see if they'd heard him. "What about my bike?" he asked in a rather subdued voice, not wanting to draw attention to them and also not wanting to be confrontational with his brother, especially not when he already was feeling guilty about his actions.

"I'll come and collect it later... or Diggle will." Slade placed his hand on Oliver's shoulder and squeezed gently, his thumb lightly stroking the back of his little brother's neck. "The important thing right now is to take you home." His voice was low enough not to carry... and he kept in constant physical contact with Oliver, needing to reassure his brother.

Alone with his brother, Oliver fell immediately into an obedient mindset. The gentle touch just reinforced it. "Yessir..." Oliver said softly. "Diggle was upset at me..." he continued.

"I could tell." Slade led his little brother to his own car, guiding him in before sitting in the driver's seat. "What happened, kid? Why were you and Deadshot caught alone against so many of them?" His voice was low... but there was a heavy note of worry and fear that he couldn't quite let go of.

Oliver grimaced at the tone in his brother's voice. Guilt that he was the one to cause such worry and fear for both his brothers...and his sister and Felicity too, really...speared through him and showed clearly on his face. He didn't attempt to hide it, though. "I'm not sure how Deadshot ended up surrounded; I didn't see that. But I deliberately waded into the group to help him, even though I knew we'd be outnumbered. I ended up getting the attention of a bunch of the others, though and made it worse. Diggle was in a better position to help without putting himself in danger or drawing other mercs to the location and told me so...told me to not do what I did. I ignored him. S'why he was upset..." Oliver's voice had fallen to a whisper by the end of his explanation and he couldn't face his brother.

Slade held back a sigh and freed one hand to rest it on Oliver's knee, squeezing gently. "I think you know where you went wrong, little brother. You have to always trust the team... trust your family. You aren't on your own... it's not even just the two of us having to fight back to back." Even though most of his attention was on the road, he'd been checking his little brother over constantly since the fighting had finished. "I need you to tell me if you find any injuries," he added.

"I don't think I was wounded...just a few places where I'll bruise and a split lip...I can taste blood." Oliver sighed softly then relaxed at the hand on his knee. Even if he was in big trouble for his actions, Slade was still his big brother and cared. "I know I should trust my team...my family...it wasn't even really about not trusting him. It was me not wanting to let him tell me what to do, even though he had a really good reason to do so." Oliver's voice was coated with shame.

Slade gave another squeeze to his little brother's knee and then gently gripped Oliver's hand, needing to constantly touch him as much for his own sake as Oliver's. "That's something we need to work on. Sometimes another person is going to be better placed than you to help out. Pointing it out doesn't mean they're trying to take control from you."

"I...I know that in my head..." Oliver said hesitantly. "My pride got in the way. If it'd been you telling me not to go, I would have stopped immediately and thought nothing of it..." Oliver winced. "John wasn't trying to order me around. He was trying to keep me safe; same as I would have done for him if our positions had been reversed. It's just-" his voice dropped into a hesitant whisper, "I want to obey you and have you be in charge of me. But I don't want what we have with anyone else and I guess, even though that's not what John was trying to do...I reacted like it was what he was trying to do." The admission was hard to make and Oliver hunched his shoulders, looking at his lap, completely ashamed of himself by that point.

Slade squeezed his hand gently. "Our relationship is more of a unique one, kid. It fulfills a need we both have... but that need's only with each other. There isn't a chance you'd fall into that with anyone else, because you get that need entirely fulfilled from me." He didn't point out his long absence... and that Oliver had never been submissive to anyone else in that time.

"I know..." Oliver's voice was soft. "...I do know that. I don't know why I reacted like I don't know it..." There was a hint of frustration in his voice; he was frustrated at himself.

"I was away from you for a long time. Even when I was around physically, I was absent emotionally," Slade said... though it was something of a relief that, under the Mirakuru's influence, he hadn't warped that part of their relationship... hadn't abused his baby brother to that extent. "Being nervous... even being scared... is natural. It's not that different to when we were on the island and you were fighting that need."

Oliver finally looked up, his brother's understanding helping him to feel a little better about himself, even if he still felt guilty. "So...I guess I just have to remind myself that not everyone telling me what to do is looking to control me and I should probably at least pay attention to what they say before I decide to ignore them?" He winced at the uncertainty in his voice. He was pretty sure that was something he needed to learn.

Slade nodded. "That's exactly it, kid. Just like you'd expect them to pay attention to you if you were trying to stop them putting themselves in danger. I don't think having me repeat every bit of advice would be very feasible." He spoke with a small trace of humour in his voice... trying to encourage his little brother.

Oliver let out a tiny snort of amusement at that. "They'd probably all get really irritated with you if you did that..." he teased slightly, then swallowed. "...I was really naughty, wasn't I?" It wasn't exactly a rhetorical question, even though Oliver knew the answer. For some reason, it helped to have his brother confirm what he knew.

"You were naughty, yes." There was something of a sense of relief that Oliver wasn't trying to call himself bad... Slade hated himself for the fact that that had been the mindset his baby brother had slipped into so much. He parked the car outside the apartment building and got out, stepping round to guide Oliver from the vehicle as well, hand gently squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck.

Oliver slumped against his brother, the guiding hand at his neck allowing him to relax and let go...let his brother be in charge; the aches and pains from being beaten by twenty men made him weary and unwilling to try and 'hide' what was happening. "I'm sorry..." he said in a tiny voice. He knew what being naughty meant and while there was a part of him that needed the physical demonstration of Slade being in control, the act itself allowing Oliver to just let go and be...the other part of him really hated being spanked. Apologizing had never gotten him out of an earned punishment before, however and he knew, deep down, he wouldn't want it to.

"I know, kid." Slade's voice was gentle and reassuring as he guided his little brother into the building and into his apartment. "And you're due a spanking, but it's not going to change anything between us. I won't ever let you go."

Oliver relaxed that tiny bit more at his brother's words, letting his head fall onto Slade's shoulder. "Should I get cleaned up first?" he asked quietly. He was pretty sure he didn't have any wounds. Of course, he couldn't see everywhere; and really needed to strip down to do a more thorough search of himself, but Slade more than likely would want him taking care of his health first, so he felt he should ask.

Slade nodded. "I'd rather make sure there aren't any more serious wounds I haven't seen. We'll go into the bathroom and I can look over you properly." He gently stroked Oliver's hair and neck. There was no question that he would be checking over his little brother.

"Yessir..." Oliver easily agreed. As far as he could see, it was better to have Slade check him over than to just check himself, as Slade was more likely to catch something that Oliver might ignore as unimportant or just couldn't see. Arguing over who should check him out would be pointless. Once they were fully in the apartment, Oliver headed to the bath, stripping as he went. His level of trust in his brother was absolute and he saw no reason to put on false modesty or embarrassment. He did pause to put the dirty clothing in a hamper, instead of leaving it lie on the floor, though.

Slade quickly followed his little brother to the bathroom, retrieving the first aid kit as he went. Even if there were just bruises and cuts, he wanted to make sure everything was treated. Inside the bathroom, he didn't waste any time in checking his little brother thoroughly and carefully.

Oliver held still, prepared to do whatever he was told to do. If he ended up needing medical care because of his actions, as much as he hated being fussed over and made to take medicine and rest and other things that would help him get well, he would do what he was told. It was his own actions that had put him in this position, after all.

Slade was as gentle and careful as possible, making sure every cut was treated and every bruise was seen to. He moved Oliver physically... not roughly, but keeping control and making it clear Oliver wasn't the one making the decisions here. Finally, he was done. "You don't need stitches anywhere... and you're probably going to be a bit stiff tomorrow, but there's nothing serious. You were very lucky."

"Yessir..." Oliver's voice was very subdued; the very fact that Slade had been in complete physical control over him, taking care of him, caused him to fall into the emotional space that he wouldn't argue with anything his brother said or did. His trust in Slade was complete.

Slade placed his hand gently on the nape of his little brother's neck and squeezed lightly. He'd already decided there was no point in having Oliver get dressed. Any pants would have to come down anyway... and there was no need for modesty between them. "Let's go and deal with this, little brother." He led Oliver out of the bathroom and into the bedroom.

"Yessir..." Oliver's voice went even softer if possible, his guilty conscience and the fact that he never felt capable of arguing with his brother when he knew how wrong he was contributing to his inability to make his voice work higher than a whisper. He didn't ask about getting dressed. He just followed meekly, staring at the ground.

Sitting on the bed, Slade drew Oliver gently across his knees, drawing his little brother in close to his stomach and resting a hand gently on Oliver's bare bottom. "I want to be sure you understand, little brother, so what am I spanking you for?"

Oliver closed his eyes tightly and drew in a shaky breath, a mixture of confused feelings coursing through him. He felt safe and loved; he always felt safe and loved when Slade had hold of him. He felt vulnerable and childish, which he also always felt when he was bare over his brother's lap (especially when Slade put his hand on his bare bottom to hold him in place right before he began smacking). He felt guilty that his actions had necessitated his brother take him in hand again. He felt guilty for what he'd put Diggle through. He felt needy...he needed Slade to punish him and help him deal with the guilt and help him be able to handle his feelings better and not be so naughty and...and... he took a deep breath and tried to focus. Why was he being spanked? "Be...because I ignored John's warnings that he was in a better position to help Floyd and that I should stay where I was because it was too dangerous for me to go help. I ignored him and made things worse by drawing the attention of all the other mercenaries...which put me and Floyd in even more danger. If I had listened, he could have helped Floyd without drawing in more opponents and he wouldn't have been in danger doing it. A...and after I ignored him and got stuck in the middle of all the bad guys, when an opportunity to run and get away from them happened, I ignored it and kept fighting...making it necessary for John and Thea and you to come rescue both of us..." His voice was a whisper by the end.

Slade gently rubbed his little brother's bottom while Oliver was speaking. "You were very naughty, kid. You know I would have expected you to keep yourself safe." He brought his hand down in the first hard smack at the crest of Oliver's backside. "Knowing that Diggle was in a better position to help, you should have let him step in." He landed a matching swat on the other side. "You were very lucky not to get hurt." He settled into a pattern of smacks, going down to Oliver's mid-thighs before he paused to gently rub the lightly pink skin. "I could have lost you again, little brother." His voice sounded a little choked. "You have no right to take yourself away from me."

Oliver whimpered at his brother's words, whining at the first hard smack. By the second smack, he was sniffling along with the whimpers. "I know...I know I was very naughty." He choked back a sob as the spanking began in earnest. It wasn't until his brother stopped smacking and began to rub his bottom again...telling him he had no right to take himself away in that tone of voice that Oliver gave up holding the tears back. He began to softly sob and apologize. "I'm sorry! So, so sorry! Was naughty...bad! Don't wanna take myself away...I don't wanna..."

"Not bad," Slade corrected firmly. "You are not bad, little brother. You were naughty and disobedient... and you scared me." He landed a second full circuit of swats and then resumed rubbing his little brother's bottom. "You scared me because I love you. Because living my life without you is impossible." He let his other hand settle at the nape of Oliver's neck... knowing how distressed his little brother was.

"I love you toooo..." Oliver sobbed. "...Was too naughty and disobedient...so sorry..."

Slade gently stroked over his brother's bottom, squeezing the back of his neck. "I know, little brother. And I forgive you. No matter what."

Only Slade's grip on his neck and the comfort he offered by rubbing his bottom kept Oliver from being despondent. His brother said he forgave him, though and he completely believed his brother. He continued to cry, feeling more like a child, like a little boy, the longer he lay over his brother's knee.

Slade kept his hand on the back of Oliver's neck, squeezing gently, even as he began a third circuit of swats, a little harder than the previous two. Resuming the gentle rubbing, he spoke in a quiet voice. "You don't need me to tell you to listen to your team... your friends... your family. You know that they're there for you; and you owe them more respect than you showed today."

The harder swats were more than Oliver thought he could stand and he began squirming uncontrollably; only Slade's hand on his neck held him in place. Slade's words broke through despite the squirming and he began to sob loudly. "I know...you're right...I was wrong...so wrong and bad and naughty and bad and...and...I'm soooorry!" Oliver went limp, just sobbing.

Slade closed his eye, pain lancing through him at his little brother's insistence he was bad. He didn't waste any time in gathering his baby brother into his arms, hugging him tight with his hand gently squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck. "You aren't bad, little brother," he reiterated, his voice quiet but intense.

"B...bu...but I am!" Oliver sobbed as he gripped Slade as tightly as he was able. "I treat my fam...family horribly!" Oliver hid his face against Slade's shoulder, unable to face him.

Stroking his little brother's hair and the back of his neck, Slade began to rock him gently. "You made a mistake, kid. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. You don't treat your family horribly. You just need to remember to listen and not dismiss concerns out of hand."

"B...but I c...aan't stop my..myself..." Oliver's cries were slightly softer as the comforting words and touch Slade offered continued. "I don't wanna be bad..." he said, in a tiny hopelessness that he couldn't shake. "...Just don't think about how naughty I'm being till it's too late and I've been very, very naughty..." He took a deep, shivery breath, pressing closer to Slade, his head against his brother's chest, then released it in a shudder and closed his eyes tightly.

He still felt horrible for not only ignoring John...his brother...but his actions had put everyone in danger. If any of them had died because they'd come to rescue him... He shuddered again and released a tiny, guilt filled moan, but managed to keep from sobbing again.

Slade continued the gentle stroking, his arms tight around his baby brother. It still hurt to hear how convinced Oliver was that he was bad... how deep the effects that everything that had happened still ran. He kept touching... kept stroking... over Oliver, trying to center his brother and focus him; trying to provide some measure of healing. "Making mistakes doesn't make you bad," he said softly. "I know you're used to acting alone... you want to be the only one to take the chances, so the others don't get hurt. And it stops you thinking about the bigger picture, because it's hard to pull yourself from a situation you're too close to. But your heart is in the right place. I'm proud of you... I'm proud of my little brother. Even when you're naughty, it doesn't put even a dent in what I feel about you."

Oliver continued to snuggle close, still quietly crying, but no longer sobbing. He was obviously listening to Slade's words. "You're proud of me?" His voice was so tiny and uncertain and full of hope that it embarrassed him and he hid his face against his brother's chest again. "I don't wanna be naughty...disappoints you...wanna be your good boy..." he whispered. "So sorry was naughty..." His voice was still filled with guilt. Oliver felt guilt for a great many things, though- some of them not even his fault or responsibility- and he'd resigned himself to never completely getting rid of it.

Slade's arms were as tight around his baby brother as they could possibly get without hurting Oliver. All he wanted was to heal him... stop him hurting so much. "I am proud of you," he whispered. "You are my good boy." Stroking his hair and neck and kissing the top of his head, he continued, voice low but intense with emotion, "When I spank you, it means you've been punished for what happened. You're forgiven and you're still loved. So you don't need to carry around that weight of guilt, because your naughtiness has been dealt with."

Oliver whimpered softly at the words. It was difficult to let go of the guilt he constantly carried around, but he believed Slade. He believed he was forgiven and loved. It was hard to reconcile the two situations and trying only confused him. It's one of the reasons he let Slade have control; he knew, no matter what happened, Slade would do what was best for him. Oliver honestly couldn't say he would do what was the best for himself- and had proven enough times he wouldn't that his entire family was more at ease having Slade there to influence him than having him under his own influence.

His crying finally calmed enough that he was only sniffling infrequently, but he was still pressed close to his brother tightly, needing the physical contact to center him. "Sorry I was so naughty..." he repeated softly, in an almost childlike voice. He was drained, emotionally and physically.

"I forgive you." Slade's response was automatic... his arms tight enough around his brother's body to shelter and protect Oliver. He stroked his brother's hair, neck and back as he held Oliver tightly against himself. "I love you," he added... repeated... willing to voice his feelings as many times as Oliver needed to hear it. "You are important." His voice was a soft whisper in his baby brother's ear.

"I love you..." Oliver's voice retained the childish quality and he nuzzled against his brother like said child, craving the attention and comfort and needing help keeping his own feelings of guilt and low self-worth at bay.

Slade kept up the gentle, comforting touch... knowing his little brother responded better when he knew Slade had him. To that end, Slade voiced words he normally showed through his actions. "You're mine, little brother... and I'm yours. Nothing is going to change that. I promise you."

"For always? Never apart again?" His voice was still childlike, but the questions really sounded more like statements, the tone calm and believing.

"Always." Slade's voice was intense... filled with sincerity. "I'm with you for good, little brother."

Oliver snuggled for a bit longer, but a feeling of unease still wouldn't leave him. Pulling back from his brother with a tiny, frustrated huff, he stood and, before Slade could ask what was wrong, he'd turned and put himself bottom up over Slade's lap. "Help me...?" he asked hesitantly.

Slade might not have been exactly sure what his baby brother was doing... but he couldn't help but respond to the obvious need. As soon as Oliver placed himself over his lap, he let one hand settle at the nape of his neck, the other resting on his brother's bare bottom and beginning to rub gently.

"Y..you've got me? I'm yours?" Oliver's whisper was nervous, having a hard time accepting that not only was his need accepted by Slade, but his brother would assist.

"I have you. I always will," Slade promised, his hand gently rubbing over Oliver's back and bottom. "You are mine," he reiterated, squeezing the back of his brother's neck.

Oliver found himself relaxing at the comforting and possessive touch. "I'm yours..."

Slade squeezed the back of Oliver's neck again, even as he continued the gentle though possessive rubbing. "I won't ever let you go," he promised. "No matter what."

Oliver relaxed further, the sense of guilt he couldn't let go of easing a bit. "So when I'm naughty, you take care of me...I don't get away with it..." His voice was soft and accepting. If his brother took care of it...wouldn't let him get away with anything...then maybe he could let go of the guilt; or at least not let it affect him. If he was truly guilty, his brother would handle it.

"You don't," Slade replied, still gently rubbing. "When you're naughty, you'll go over my knee. You'll get spanked. You'll be forgiven. And throughout it all, I will never stop loving you. I will never let you go."

"That makes me feel safe..." Oliver admitted. "I feel a little better now..." He wiggled his bottom a little and arched up so his neck pressed more firmly into his brother's hand. "Why do I still feel guilty?" he asked with a sigh.

Slade couldn't do anything other than respond, pressing down gently on Oliver's neck... not hard enough to hurt, but to hold him and demonstrate his own control over his little brother. He continued to gently rub Oliver's bottom as he spoke, though he put a little bit more pressure behind the rubbing. "You take on too much blame for things out of your control, little brother. I was blind to the pain you were in before... I'm not now. I'm the one you can lean on and I won't falter or let you fall."

Oliver slumped at the words. He believed Slade. As difficult as it was, he just had to let go and let his brother be in charge. "Okay..." he whispered, closing his eyes and just focusing on his brother.

"I love you." Slade didn't think Oliver would ever fully understand how he'd saved him... how low Slade could have sunk if Oliver hadn't accepted him back into his life. Or how his baby brother had been what had pulled him from the darkness. Touching his brother... holding him... fulfilled a need Slade had as much as it fulfilled Oliver's own need. "You've done a lot that's good, kid. Including giving me another chance to be your big brother and take care of you."

"I love you...had to give you another chance...need you too much..." His voice slowly softened. Oliver was relaxed to the point of needing Slade to take care of him. He'd be asleep with little to no encouragement.

Slade moved back on the bed enough to make sure his little brother was fully supported, hand at Oliver's neck while his other continued the gentle stroking and rubbing. "I've got you, little brother." His voice was low... reassuring. He could have moved Oliver... and probably would once his baby brother was asleep... but there was an intimacy in this position that helped soothe some of his own guilt and hurt... knowing his brother trusted him so completely.

And Oliver did trust his older brother, completely. After being shifted so that his body was more fully supported, it was only several more minutes before the security he felt from the grip on his neck and the comfort he felt from his bottom being rubbed (the sting from the spanking was nearly completely gone) enabled him to fall into a peaceful sleep.

Slade, not wanting his little brother to get cold while he slept, picked up one of the blankets and spread it carefully over Oliver, even while he kept in contact with his little brother and settled both hands on him once more. It would take him a while to fall asleep, but that was okay. Holding onto his little brother felt better than anything else could have.

Diggle sighed and then looked at Thea, who was looking at the other team members curiously. "You're riding back with me and Floyd." He waited for her agreement and then made his way to the van, joining Deadshot.

Floyd had moved to the middle seat of the van, leaving the front seat for Thea; ostensibly to be a gentleman, but more so because he thought maybe John would hold off on questioning him and telling him what a screw-up he'd been in front of her, if she was sitting there next to him and easily seen.

Diggle climbed into the van, turning to look Floyd over as Thea climbed in as well. "Did you get hurt?" There was nothing but concern in his voice... but at the same time, he was expecting Floyd to be honest.

Floyd glanced at Diggle and shook his head. "I don't have any wounds that I know of. I'll be pretty bruised in a few hours..."

"Yeah..." Diggle sighed, but didn't say anything else as he drove back to Thea's apartment, using that time to try and calm down from the fear he'd felt the moment he realized the situation Floyd and Oliver had been in.

Thea got out of the van with a quiet goodbye, not voicing whatever was on her mind, and headed inside... planning to call Felicity and find out exactly what had gone down. Judging by the other woman's comments over the comms, it sounded like things had run far from smooth.

Diggle waited until Thea was safely inside her apartment and then started the van up, driving to Floyd's apartment. He didn't immediately say anything, wanting to take a few minutes to calm down from the memories of seeing both Floyd and Oliver in so much danger. When he did speak, it wasn't to scold or admonish. "When we're inside your apartment, I want to make sure there aren't any more serious wounds you haven't registered."

Floyd sighed. "Alright. That would be a good idea. I'm not going to argue about it..." He paused and swallowed. "Am I in trouble with you? I noticed you were frustrated with Oliver for coming to help me..."

"Not for coming to help you," Diggle corrected. "For doing so when he was in a bad position and ended up drawing more of the thugs to both of you. I was coming for you the moment you said you were surrounded." The phrasing worried him... as if Floyd thought he was expendable; as if he wasn't important enough to keep alive and unhurt.

Floyd thought about that a moment before nodding. "Yeah...okay. I can see why that would upset you. Doesn't answer my question, though...am I in trouble with you?" Floyd hoped John wouldn't ask him if he thought he should be. He didn't want to lie to the other man, but if he answered a question like that honestly- that yes, he did think he should be- John would want to know why. Floyd wasn't sure how much of the situation John had seen before he needed help; he'd been surrounded because he'd gotten distracted and not paid attention. However, that wasn't as bad as his refusal to run from the group of mercs when he'd had an opening to do so. Instead, he'd waded further into the group and continued fighting.

"You're in trouble for not taking the chance to run," Diggle replied seriously. "You had an opening. You could have taken it." He took a deep breath. "Instead... well, I thought I might get there too late. You understand? Your life isn't worthless. And you shouldn't have stayed in a situation so dangerous. Although... how did you get surrounded?" he asked outright.

Floyd was feeling pretty guilty by the time John finished telling him that his life wasn't worthless and couldn't hide the wince at the final question. Sighing, he gave the other man a very sheepish, highly embarrassed look. "I got distracted. Stopped paying attention. I...I'm not used to working on a team; the fact that your team is actually just as mouthy as the squad surprised me and I found myself listening more closely than I should have in an attempt to learn some things so I could maybe...I dunno...fit in." He ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "Too dang old to be worried about fitting in anywhere...not a freakin teenager, so I really shouldn't have let it distract me like that." His voice was soft and filled with self-loathing.

"You shouldn't have been distracted... but I disagree that you shouldn't try to fit in; that you shouldn't want to fit in," Diggle said. "If all I wanted was extra muscle... I wouldn't have chosen to nab you from the squad. I wouldn't be taking you to task for putting yourself in danger. And I wouldn't be watching your movements in the mirror for any sign of pain from wounds I can't see," he added... having been paying as much as attention to Floyd as he had kept his eyes on the road.

Floyd jerked up at that last bit, having not caught on to the fact Diggle was watching him. He hadn't been trying to keep a handle on the pain for the reason that he didn't figure anyone would notice him shifting and grimacing in pain. "I...ok...?" He sounded unsure. "I think I was wounded...I just can't tell where, because everywhere hurts." He sighed, glancing in the rear view mirror so Diggle could see his eyes.

Diggle pulled up outside Floyd's apartment building as he spoke. "Yeah... that's why I'm going to check you over." He grabbed his first aid kit. "Give me a second... I'll help you out. Don't want you to put any more strain on your wounds..." He got out of the van and moved round to Floyd's side, opening the door and helping the other man out.

It was hard, sitting still...obeying Diggle...and not getting out of the van on his own volition. Floyd still did it, though. John was right; until they knew where and exactly how wounded he was, he should be careful. There was no reason to try and brave it through when they were safe and there was no need to fight or put on a show for anyone else. "Thanks," he said, wincing again as he put pressure on his left foot. Now that the adrenaline had worn off and he'd sat still for the ride back, he was realizing that he might have sprained an ankle.

Diggle noticed the wince and wasted no time in draping Floyd's arm over his shoulders, supporting as much of the other man's weight as he could, before guiding him into the apartment building. "You got your key?" he asked.

"Yeah..." Floyd somehow shifted enough to pull his key out of his pocket, even as he leaned on John more heavily. "Right here...got a spare made for you that I left inside on the table," he admitted, somewhat sheepishly. "Figured if you were serious about being responsible for me, it'd prolly be a good idea..." He muttered the last.

Diggle took the key. "It is a good idea," he agreed, not adding that he was glad Floyd trusted him enough to take that initiative. He kept on supporting the other man as he unlocked the door to the apartment and helped Floyd inside.

Floyd relaxed at John's words, relieved that the other man didn't think his overture was odd. "I actually feel a bit better that you have a way to get in...if something happened...I'm not used to having someone at my back that I can trust not to screw me over if it benefits them more. I trust you."

"That means a lot," Diggle said honestly. "I'll make sure never to give you a reason to think that trust is misplaced." Looking around the apartment, he asked, "Where do you feel most comfortable?"

"My first-aid kit is in my bathroom...have to go through my bedroom to get to it..." Floyd shrugged. "We can go in there."

Diggle nodded and headed into the bedroom with Floyd. "If you sit on the bed, I'll grab the first aid kit." While he had his own with him, he didn't want to chance running out if Floyd was more injured... and he also wasn't sure if their kits might contain different items.

Floyd sat on the bed and leaned over to take off his boots, then carefully stripped down to his boxers. He was pretty sure he had a few cuts that needed treatment. Once done, he sat on the bed again.

By then, Diggle returned with the second first aid kit. Aware of the other man's limping, he started off with the foot he knew was injured... making sure it was nothing more than a sprain and strapping it so it could be kept as still as possible. He checked every part of Floyd's body for cuts and bruises, quietly asking the other man to change position when there was a part of his body Diggle couldn't see easily.

Floyd cooperated as much as he was able, not balking or arguing against anything John told him to do. "Do I need stitches anywhere?" he asked curiously.

"You've got cuts and bruises, but nothing deep enough to require stitches," Diggle replied, finishing his examination. "You were lucky the only serious wound was your sprained ankle..."

"Yeah...I should have been more...careful," Floyd agreed. "Thanks for helping me..."

"You should have been more mindful of your safety," Diggle corrected. "Next time you have the opportunity to get yourself out of danger, I want you to take it. I'll come and back you up any time... but if I'm not there and you can get to safety... you need to."

Floyd blinked then nodded. "Yeah...that might be more difficult to do. Until you came and got me...I didn't really have any reason to want to get out of these missions alive. Waller wasn't going to let me have anything to do with my little girl...didn't think I deserved her anyway...so..." He shrugged, figuring that Diggle would read between the lines. They may have been called suicide squad because of their missions, but at least part of them also didn't really care if they lived or not.

"That's not the situation here, with me," Diggle said. "You might not be used to caring about your safety... but I'm going to be picking up the slack there. I'm not going to keep you from your daughter. Fact is, I'm going to keep encouraging you to be back in her life, because she's going to need you." He paused a moment and then said, "Not thinking about your own safety is going to get you punished... is going to get you spanked... until it becomes second nature to think of it as a priority along with everything else."

Floyd looked at Diggle, really focused on him. Seeing the sincerity in John's eyes made the decision to not argue or fight easy. "Okay. I deserve it. What do I need to do?"

"We're going to do it the same as last time... only this time, I'll sit on the bed instead of a chair," Diggle said. "And I'm going to make sure your ankle's supported with a pillow."

Floyd sighed in resignation. "Taking care of me even when you're teaching me a lesson..." he muttered in soft amusement, giving Diggle a tiny smirk.

"Taking care of you is something I'm gonna keep doing." Diggle picked up one of the pillows and sat on the bed, then gently took hold of Floyd's hand and guided the other man across his lap, settling the pillow in place to support his ankle.

It was slightly awkward adjusting, but Diggle knew what he was doing and soon, Deadshot was settled over his lap, as comfortable as it was possible to be (knowing what was going to happen). "Thanks, man...for caring..."

"It'll be good if you're able to get used to it... and care about your own safety as much as I do." Diggle patted his back gently and then bared him, before bringing his hand down in the first firm swat at the crest of Floyd's backside.

"Can't promise..." Floyd's voice came out high pitched as he attempted not to make too big a fuss about the swat; it stung more than he'd expected. "Can't promise, but I'll try..."

"Trying's a start." Diggle settled quickly into a rhythm of swats, going down to Floyd's thighs before he started over from the top. The smacks were hard, but not anything like full strength. "We'll work on it becoming instinctual," he added, partway through the second circuit.

"Yes, sir..." Floyd couldn't keep the tiny hiss of pain out of his tone and the deference was thin...but it was there. Half-way through the second circuit, he began to squirm.

Diggle tightened his grip on Floyd, making sure the other man wouldn't squirm enough to aggravate his injuries further, and began a third circuit of swats, going a bit harder and faster. "I'm worried that you seem to think you're expendable... that it doesn't matter if you get hurt. It does matter and you aren't expendable. You're not gonna be left alone against an enemy. I'm not gonna abandon you to get injured. The missions are nowhere near as important as your life." He began to concentrate more swats to Floyd's sit spots.

Floyd didn't know why, but the combination of John's words, indicating his life mattered...that he mattered, along with the stinging swats to his backside, made him feel younger than he had in a very long time. Younger and emotional. And he believed the other man...something he hadn't been able to do with too many people. Despite himself, tears formed in his eyes and then slid down his cheeks. "I...I understand..." he grunted out, unable to hide the effects the spanking was having and giving up trying. "I believe you..." he choked out. "...Don't be mad at me; I'm trying to...to remember..." he finally said, in a tiny sob. It wasn't a big sob and no others followed, but it was definitely a sob.

"I'm not mad at you," Diggle promised, his hand falling a little bit harder and a little bit faster. "I just want you to take your life as seriously as I do. Being responsible for you isn't just about making sure you operate in acceptable parameters, or that you don't go off the grid. It's about taking care of you if you're injured... having your back if you're in a dangerous situation. Being your friend."

Floyd slumped at the promise of friendship. He'd had way too few of those and for Diggle to be offering with no ulterior motives broke the last of his resistance. "I...I want that..." he admitted, voice thick with tears. He wiped frantically at his eyes so that he could see, but didn't hide the fact he was crying.

Diggle brought the spanking to a stop and carefully replaced Floyd's clothing, then helped the other man into a sitting position, hugging him... offering the comfort, while making sure he wasn't putting any weight on his ankle.

Deadshot wasn't sure what to do with his arms at first, but he quickly wrapped them around John and hugged back once he realized that Diggle wasn't just offering a few seconds of token comfort. Swallowing hard, he let his head drop onto the other man's shoulder and said, in a tear roughened voice, "I'll do my best to not behave in a way that makes you have to do that again..."

Diggle tightened his embrace. "Even if you do, it's not the end of the world. Even if I have to spank you again, it's not gonna change anything. I'm not gonna give up on you or decide it's too much work to keep you alive and unhurt... happy."

Floyd just nodded, tightening his own arms in response. "Thank you..." he said quietly. Finally stepping back, he gave a sheepish look up at Diggle. "I'm guessing I'm benched until my ankle heals...I'll just get whatever I need and put it close to me, so I don't have to get up too much. Maybe it will heal faster..." He sighed, frustrated at himself and the fact he was wounded.

"You know... Lilah's been talking about inviting you round," Diggle said. "You don't have to stay here while your ankle heals. You can come and stay in our apartment." Particularly because he didn't want to abandon Floyd... but he didn't want to leave Lilah and Sara, either, so he thought having them all in the same apartment was a good compromise.

"You'd really invite me to be around your wife and little girl?" Floyd's voice was incredulous. "Knowing what I've done in the past? What I am?" He noticeably didn't turn Diggle's offer down. It was more like he couldn't understand that the offer had been made in the first place.

Diggle squeezed his shoulder gently. "You made mistakes, but you're not a bad person. You trust me... I trust you. You have a place in my life and I'm not going to keep you away from the other people who are important to me."

"If you're sure Lilah won't mind...I don't want to cause problems..." Floyd finally said, after a moment of regaining his composure at Diggle's words of faith in him. "...It would be nice to not be alone..."

"She won't," Diggle replied honestly. "She knows I brought you out of the squad... and she trusts me. If you tell me what you think you might need, I'll get a bag packed for you."

Floyd nodded quickly, giving a quick, brief, list of items. He didn't need a lot, just enough clothes to last a few days and basic toiletries. Beyond that, he had a book he was reading- but he suspected that being in a house with other people, he wouldn't be left to his own devices too long and might actually have real conversations.

Diggle didn't waste any time in packing the things Floyd indicated he needed. He then sent a quick text to Lilah, letting her know he was on his way with the other man, before retrieving the spare key that had been cut for him and then returning to Floyd's side, so he could help him back to the car.

Floyd found himself leaning on Diggle a lot more the further they went. "Guess it's a good thing you wanted me to come with you..." he admitted, chagrined. "Seems to be harder and harder to walk the more I need to use my foot..."

"You'll be able to rest it once we're at my place," Diggle promised, helping Floyd into the van before he got in the driver's seat and began driving to the apartment he and Lilah shared... not that it was far from Floyd's. Diggle had made sure the other man was close to him.

"Thanks, man..." Floyd finally said, relaxing back into the seat while John drove. "I owe you...more than I'll ever be able to repay..."

"I'm not worried about you repaying me," Diggle replied. "I'm doing all this because I care about you and like you... not because I expect you to owe me anything." He parked the van outside his apartment building and got out, moving round to help Floyd out of the van.

"I know. That's what makes it even more...remarkable. I've had very few people in my adult life that have felt that way or treated me that way..." Floyd admitted quietly. "You're a good man."

Diggle draped Floyd's arm around his shoulders and guided him into the apartment. "So are you," he said simply, as they reached his apartment and he used his free hand to unlock the door.

"Maybe I can be..." Floyd agreed with a smile. "...Now that I have someone in my corner."

Diggle returned the smile, as he led the other man inside and glanced around for Lilah.

Lilah walked in, carrying the baby and smiling at both men. "Daddy's here..." she cooed to the infant, gently handing Diggle his child; then, without being asked, wrapped an arm around Floyd's waist and helped him to the nearby couch. "I'm glad you agreed to come. If John hadn't been able to convince you, I would have had to come kidnap you," she said cheerfully.

Floyd blinked, glancing at Diggle with wide-eyes, as if to ask if she was serious.

Diggle smiled at Floyd, holding his daughter with a hand cupped gently under her head. "I told you she wanted you to come as well."

"Yeah...you did." Floyd laughed, genuinely happy then smiled at baby Sara, making funny faces at her, his smile growing as she laughed. He thought staying here while he recuperated wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

Diggle smiled, clearly relaxed and happy, and brought Sara over to Floyd so he could hold her... hoping to continue encouraging the other man that he deserved to see his own daughter.

Slade had ended up gently tucking Oliver into bed, careful not to wake his brother, but he stayed close by, stroking Oliver's hair or his cheek... just touching his little brother... as he checked in with contacts, trying not to think about what he'd lost; and instead focus on the fact he'd gained his little brother back.

Oliver slept for only a short while before waking up with a gasp and then sitting up entirely too quickly, whimpering the moment he was upright and on his bottom. He was too busy glancing around with a worried look on his face to pay much attention to his own reactions, though. "Slade...?"

"I'm here, kid." Slade was quick to wrap an arm around his brother and draw him in close, stroking his hair and the back of his neck as he pulled him into his lap.

Oliver immediately wrapped his arms around his brother in a death grip, burying his face against Slade's neck and taking deep breaths to calm himself. He was still slightly disoriented, but then he was always disoriented upon waking; his new apartment didn't feel like home in the least, so it was hard to adjust.

Slade wrapped his arms tight around his little brother, continuing the gentle stroking over his hair and neck. "I've got you," he whispered in Oliver's ear. "You're with me... you're safe. I'm here. I love you." He wasn't sure what had disturbed his brother... but knowing how much pain was in Oliver's past, he knew it would be something that hurt. He couldn't protect his baby brother from the nightmares... but his arms were tight like a shield around Oliver's body, as if he could protect him from everything else... and not fail him the same way he had his son.

Oliver shivered, snuggling close, the blanket having fallen when he woke up so upset. "I...I was alone again...having to do what Waller ordered..." Oliver couldn't keep the guilt or pain out of his voice and pressed as close as possible. "I never want to leave you..."

Slade could feel his brother shivering, but although he wanted to warm him, he couldn't let go of Oliver even with one arm... not hearing how hurt and upset his baby brother was. "I'm not going to leave you... I'm not going to let you leave me." He gently squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck. "You aren't alone, little brother. You'll never be alone again." He'd already been thinking about their living situation... and Oliver's obvious hurt and upset only made him more convinced that his idea would be helpful for both of them. "I know you need me, kid... I need you too. I think it would be better for both of us if you were to move in with me."

"Really? I wouldn't have to leave you?" Oliver looked up at the suggestion, his face hopeful.

"You wouldn't. Not ever," Slade promised. "When we were on the island, keeping you close was a comfort to me as well." He gently stroked his brother's cheek as he continued, "I know you need me in different ways at different times... but you still need me. And if you're here with me, it means that you won't ever have to wait for me to reach your side."

Oliver relaxed, pressing his cheek into Slade's hand. "Okay...I want to...when?" He spoke rapidly, as if he was afraid Slade would change his mind. His brother was right. Oliver did need him. And when he needed him most, it almost always occurred when they weren't near each other...which often, if not always, resulted in Oliver acting up.

Slade continued the gentle stroking, even as he said, "As soon as it's feasible, we can pick up what you need from your old apartment. Move it here. There's a second bedroom here... if you do get to a point you need a little bit of space. I don't need to add you to the lease... even when I first acquired this apartment, when the Mirakuru was still strong, I think there was an unconscious part of me that wanted you with me... even if the rest of my mind was lost to rage."

Oliver bit his lip and gave Slade a tiny smile. "That makes me feel good..." he admitted, not commenting on Slade's remark of him having the room if he ever decided he needed space. It was fairly obvious that space was the last thing he wanted or needed at the moment and it would be ridiculous to try and claim otherwise. "I don't have much to move..." he said softly.

"Then we should be able to get you moved in within a day." Slade gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "You've always been an important part of my life, little brother," he added. "I regret... so much... that I was fixated on hurting you for so long. But having you close... helps me a great deal."

Oliver gave Slade a smile, his eyes watering up. "Sorry...I shouldn't be crying. I'm not upset..." he said, with a hint of embarrassment he was. It was still hard sometimes to reconcile his need with who he was with everyone else. He couldn't stop from thinking there was something wrong with him; the fact that not only did he want Slade in control of him, but that he got so emotionally young and needy and weak whenever it was just him and his brother. Slade had been right, though; he didn't have that need or response to anyone else. And the fact was, he did need it. He needed not to be the one in charge. He needed someone to be accountable to on those occasions when he wasn't terribly responsible, at least with his own life. He needed Slade.

And his brother was finally back and doing everything possible to make sure he was there for him. It must be why he kept getting this itch under his skin, an urge to go and do things he knew would get him in trouble. Testing his brother's resolve. Swallowing, Oliver decided to test him in a different way. "I want to go out and do something naughty..." he said in a near whisper, not looking up to face his brother, but tensing up uncertainly, not sure how Slade would handle the admission.

Slade's thumb lightly stroked the back of Oliver's neck. He wasn't surprised by the admission. When they'd been on the island, Oliver had tested him on more than one occasion and Slade had held firm. He took the fact his little brother was voicing his want as a good sign. "Well, little brother, wanting to go out and do something naughty probably means you need help settling back down." His voice was mild and gentle... at the same time, there was a firm undercurrent to it. He wasn't going to bend. He wasn't going to break. "I think it's a sign you need to go back over my knee." Not for a punishment spanking... but if his little brother needed help settling, Slade thought Oliver needed to give up the control to him.

"Do I have to?" Oliver asked, with a tiny wince and an uncertain voice. He really didn't want another spanking- he was still sore from the first one- but he trusted his brother and as much as he wanted to push, he wanted to be pulled back into line just as much. Needed to know his brother had control of everything so he didn't need to worry about it. If 'everything' was in actuality himself; well then, he needed to know his brother had control over him. He needed to give up that control. He just wasn't sure he was able to and needed help.

"Yeah, kid. I'm afraid so." Slade was fairly certain he was reading his little brother well and could see what Oliver's true need was. Gently squeezing the nape of his neck, he guided Oliver carefully across his knees, staying in the middle of the bed so his brother's whole body would be supported.

Oliver whimpered slightly, but noticeably didn't fight as his brother positioned him and actually relaxed once he was in place. Already, the knowledge that his brother was taking charge was easing some of the anxiety he'd been feeling and easing some of the desire he'd had to sneak off and patrol and do other things that Slade wouldn't have been happy about. "I'm sorry..." he said in a tiny voice, embarrassed that his neediness and inability to just accept his brother's love and care was causing extra work and problems for Slade.

Settling one hand at the nape of Oliver's neck, Slade gently rubbed his little brother's back and bottom with his other hand. "You never have to apologise for telling me what you need, little brother. It makes me happy that you trust me enough to be able to."

Oliver slumped a little further, focusing on the affection. "I do trust you, Slade...Just wish I wasn't such a problem for you..." he said softly, in a sad voice.

"You aren't a problem," Slade promised, continuing the gentle affection. "When I became your big brother... when I spanked you the first time... I promised myself I would always fulfill your needs. It doesn't matter if it seems silly or impossible to you, kid. I love you. I failed you before... and you'll always carry the scars of my failure... but I won't ever again." Although still intense, his voice had dropped to a whisper by the last.

At hearing those words and sensing the underlying guilt that he knew his brother still carried, even if he pushed it down so he could take care of Oliver, Oliver threw one hand behind him so that he could squeeze his older brother's hand. "You didn't fail...you just lost your way for a bit, but you didn't fail. I'm only alive because of you..."

Slade held tight to his little brother's hand. "Every time I see the marks left because of me... it makes me more determined to make sure you never doubt how much I love you... how grateful I am that you've forgiven me, even though I don't deserve it. I won't ever hurt you again," he promised, squeezing his baby brother's hand. "I won't ever leave you. I can't. You pulled me out of the darkness. You've given me a reason to live... to hope. So don't ever feel ashamed for what you need... because there is nothing I wouldn't do for you."

Oliver swallowed hard, relaxing even further. His brother had him. That's all he needed to remember. When the need to push and do things to make sure of that happened, he just needed to be honest and let his brother show him that he had him. He was grateful he hadn't acted out on his impulses. "It's like an itch, Slade...I just get this urge to sneak out and stop bad guys by myself without telling anyone, just to prove I can...and to see if...if you'll stop me..." He sighed, embarrassed. "Before you came back, I woulda gone. Then John and Felicity and Thea would be ticked off at me for taking dangerous chances...but the urge is still there. Even though I know you wouldn't like it. Even though I know it isn't necessary. Even though I know you have me..." His voice fell to a whisper at the last.

Slade continued to gently rub his little brother's back and bottom while Oliver was speaking. "It's like I said before, kid. You're constantly battling yourself. You can't help but think there's something wrong with you. You've reverted back to the mindset you were in when I first took charge of you... when you first gave me that control." The rubbing of Oliver's bottom became light taps, with a slightly harder one every few. "You know I have you... but under the surface, you still have doubts. I was gone for a long time. It's not a surprise that, now I'm back, you're pushing at the boundaries... pushing to make sure you really have your big brother back."

"I don't like fighting myself..." Oliver winced as his voice came out whiney and he was certain, if Slade looked at his face, his brother would find a pout. The tapping had got his attention and he found himself anticipating when the 'harder' tap would occur, tensing up slightly in preparation, noticeably not attempting to move out of the way.

Slade completed two full circuits of the light swats with the harder ones interspersed. When he began a third circuit, the lighter taps became the slightly harder ones, with taps that were close to lighter swats being given every third or fourth time. "I know you don't like fighting yourself, kid. I don't like seeing you fighting yourself. But I'm going to step in each and every time. I'm going to give you what you need... whether it's physical demonstration of my control, or a safe space to let go... or anything in between."

Oliver whimpered slightly as the strength increased, the lighter swats stinging. It made him feel...safe. Cared about. Watched over. It didn't matter how many times he told himself he should be adult and handle things on his own without saddling Slade with his issues; the fact that Slade was willing to step in was such a relief that he had to admit to himself, it was exactly what he wanted. His brother taking control and holding him accountable. Making him listen...obey...be good...whatever form the words took, it all pointed to one thing. Oliver wanted Slade in charge of him; and Slade physically demonstrating he was able to be in charge of him, no matter how much Oliver might fight himself- because it wasn't really Slade he was fighting anymore. Even so...Oliver suddenly tried to squirm free and escape Slade's grip, feeling like maybe Slade wouldn't be able to hold him in place if he made an attempt to get away.

Slade had been prepared for any kind of reaction, so Oliver's squirming wasn't a surprise. Squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck, Slade pulled him in tighter against his stomach, letting a slightly harder swat fall to get Oliver's attention. "No, kid. I'm not letting you go."

Oliver let out a very tiny yelp at the harder swat, arching slightly so his neck was more firmly in his brother's grip, then let himself relax and lie pliant over his brother's knee again. "Yessir..." he mumbled. "...'m yours. Belong with you...belong to you..." he whispered, before wriggling just a tiny bit, the sting having built up enough that he had to acknowledge it somehow.

"You are mine." Slade responded to his brother's need, firming his grip on Oliver's neck while making sure he wasn't causing him pain. "That isn't going to change, no matter what you do to push me... to test me... you won't change anything." He was still delivering the light swats, but paused periodically to gently rub Oliver's bottom.

Oliver felt a sense of relief so strong that he went weak and tears formed in his eyes before he was able to regain control over his senses. "Love you, big brother...love you and...and need you in control..." he finally admitted out loud, the act of saying it making it harder for him to deny to himself that it was what he needed and wanted. He moaned softly at the gentleness interspersed with the sting from the swats...feeling more and more out of control as it went on, but feeling more and more safe as he realized his brother had him, so he didn't need to be in control.

"I know, little brother. And you don't have to be ashamed, or scared, or worried... because I have that control. And I will stay in control. You won't wrest it back from me." The swats increased very slightly in force, Slade pausing after every third or fourth to rub his brother's bottom for a few seconds before he resumed the light smacks.

Oliver whimpered again softly, but didn't move, letting the light smacks heat his bottom up slowly. "...Wh...why do I want you to spank me so much?" He sounded confused, but wasn't making any effort to stop Slade. "It's...I don't understand how it makes me feel so safe and wanted and...and good. Confusing..." he mumbled, before arching his back a little bit so that his bottom raised up higher and made a better target.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck, even while his other hand continued to gently smack his brother's bottom, covering every inch each time he started a new circuit. "It's another way of giving up control to me, kid. You need me to demonstrate that... you need me to take you in hand." Oliver's shifting exposed his sit spots better and Slade landed some light smacks there, before pausing to gently rub the warm bottom.

"I...I do need that..." Oliver whispered, still thinking he should be ashamed at the fact he was so willing and wanting to just hand over all control to his brother. But it was what it was; and he was tired of fighting himself and pretending he didn't need it. "Will...will I be able to feel it still? Tomorrow?" He closed his eyes so he could focus more fully on the 'punishment' his bottom was receiving.

"Do you need to?" Slade continued rubbing a moment or two longer and then resumed the smacking, slightly harder still, even though the swats of a normal punishment were usually much harder. He included every part of Oliver's bottom, from the crest down to mid-thigh... both in the smacks and in the rubbing when he paused to do that.

"I...I want to..." Oliver admitted with a blush. "It'll remind me...when I'm having to be in control and responsible and can't let anyone see me weak...it'll remind me that I'm yours and I don't have to pretend with you..."

"You never have to," Slade promised. "You don't have to be strong with me. You can lean on me when you need to and I will always be there to hold you up." He could feel the warmth from his little brother's bottom when he rubbed it and see it was a uniform pink by this point... but in response to his little brother's need, Slade began smacking again. While the swats weren't particularly hard, they couldn't be called light either and he knew, when he let them land on Oliver's sit spots and thighs, the effects would probably cross the line from 'just stinging'.

Oliver let out a tiny gasp as the swats increased in strength and moaned softly, but didn't try and get away. He just kept his eyes closed and focused on the slight pain that was building up on his bottom and thighs. "...Thank you, Slade..." His voice sounded light, as if he was having difficulty forcing breath through his lungs and he quivered a few times, but never pulled away. He needed his brother to remind him like this. Needed to feel his brother's control. He whimpered softly, shifting slightly yet again so that he could reach out and hold onto his brother, even if it was to grasp tightly at Slade's shirt.

"I love you, little brother." Slade moved to allow Oliver to hold onto him, but his hand didn't pause or slow the smacks. "No matter what... I will always give you what you need." He rubbed gently over Oliver's bottom and thighs for a few seconds then started again from the crest of his backside, once again going a bit harder and this time a fraction faster.

Oliver clenched his hand around Slade's shirt, groaning softly as the pace quickened and the swats became harder. It had gone beyond slightly painful and was now painful. He had to work hard at holding himself still, his body's natural inclination to try and twist and move away from the source of the pain. He didn't want it to stop, though- not yet- and so he forced himself to hold still, closing his eyes even more tightly as tears began to form behind his eyelids and he clenched the muscles of his bottom. "...Love you...need...need to feel you in control, even...even when others are there...when I have to be strong...need to feel you have me..." He whimpered.

Slade couldn't help but respond to his baby brother's need. "Other people being around isn't going to stop me being in control of you," he promised, the smacks now quite a bit harder than the light taps he had originally been giving his brother. He rubbed Oliver's bottom as he said, "I'm always going to have you. It doesn't matter if we're here alone or in public. I will always have you." He resumed smacking his brother's bottom.

Oliver believed his brother, but didn't say anything. He'd reached the point where talking was too difficult. All he could do was breathe and try to keep still so his brother's hand had an easy target. His bottom felt hot and while he couldn't see, he thought it must be close to a scarlet color by now. Taking a shivery breath then letting it out again in a gasp, he tried not to cry. He'd asked for this. He wasn't going to start sobbing when he was being given what he'd wanted...needed...no matter how much it hurt.

Slade's hand came to a stop and he began to gently rub Oliver's bottom. He was fairly certain Oliver was at the point he needed to be and he lightly squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "I love you, little brother. And any time you need me to show that love... no matter what form it takes... I will always be what you need." He rubbed a few more moments and then shifted Oliver onto his lap instead of over, wrapping his arms around his little brother in a tight embrace.

Oliver whimpered as he found himself sitting up on his brother's lap and blinked his eyes, letting the tears fall. He didn't mind Slade knowing or seeing how he had been affected. He shifted slightly, wincing at the burn he could feel whenever he moved, but then gave Slade a bashful smile. "Thank you..." he whispered, wrapping his arms around Slade's shoulders and holding on tight. "I'll be able to feel everything tomorrow..." He was pleased about the fact.

Slade held Oliver tight to him, stroking the nape of his neck and pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "I love you. And even when I'm not holding you like this... don't ever forget how much you mean to me. Even when there are other people around, it doesn't change our relationship or what I feel about you."

Oliver hummed in contentment as his neck was rubbed and he felt the kiss. "I won't forget...I won't..." he said quietly, snuggling as much as he could. The tears had stopped nearly immediately, even if his bottom still hurt. He was too happy and feeling too safe, cared about and loved. "I hate that I have to go to work tomorrow...Will you be alright? What will you do?" he asked curiously, continuing to snuggle.

Slade continued to stroke his hair and neck. "I'll only be a phone call away, little brother," he promised, arms tight around Oliver. "I've been volunteering at the hospital... visiting patients who don't have anyone; working with people who are struggling with missing limbs and similar," he said. "That's where I'll be while you're working."

"Really?!" Oliver leaned back far enough to look in his brother's eyes. "When did you start doing that? That's great!" He was excited that his older brother had found something that he seemed to like doing. "They're lucky to have you..." he said with conviction, before leaning forward and snuggling close again.

Slade smiled, his little brother's faith and conviction in him making him feel good. "It's only been for a few days... I can't make up for those I hurt while I was under the mirakuru's influence, but by volunteering in the hospital... I hope I can make a difference in other people's lives."

"I know you will!" Oliver said emphatically. He put his head on Slade's shoulder. "I'll need to borrow some clothes for tomorrow...until I can go home and pack..."

Slade gently stroked his hair. "Help yourself." He wasn't just talking about clothes, either. Anything in his apartment was available for Oliver to use. "After your work day's finished, we can both go back to your old apartment... pick up everything you have..."

"Yessir." Oliver paused. "I think I'm going to be better off with you..." he admitted bashfully. "Thank you..."

"It'll be better for me, too," Slade said honestly. "Having you close to me... that feels right." He gently squeezed the back of his brother's neck.

Oliver felt his stomach drop at the words and the affectionate squeezing. He'd already been feeling childish; the spanking, snuggling and being close to his brother and under his control leaving him feeling young and vulnerable. Now he didn't even want to move without being directed by Slade. "Hungry..." he said softly.

Slade freed one hand from his brother so he could pick up the dropped blanket, wrapping it carefully and snugly round his brother. "After we've eaten, I'll find you one of my nightshirts to wear." He carefully stood Oliver up and then stood himself, keeping in close contact with his little brother as he guided him through to the kitchen.

Oliver trailed after his brother, the blanket tight around him. He continued to follow as Slade got food out, ready and willing to help if given direction.

Knowing Oliver was willing to help, Slade had him chopping vegetables to make with a pasta. The food didn't take long and Slade quickly had it in two bowls. He took a seat and then gently tugged Oliver down to sit on his lap, guessing his little brother would feel better for the closeness.

Oliver couldn't stop the whimper as he sat down, but the peaceful, grateful smile and quick kiss on Slade's cheek would let the older man know he wasn't upset and could handle the pain. He slumped down slightly so he was able to lean into his brother a little easier and waited for Slade to tell him to eat.

Slade's concern spiked at the whimper. While he did relax at the evidence the pain wasn't too much to handle, it still did worry him that maybe he hadn't met his baby brother's need in the right way. Needing to take care of Oliver, he kissed his brother's head and then reached for the spoon so he could start feeding him. "I love you, little brother."

"Love you too." Oliver smiled again, not saying anything when Slade decided to feed him. It helped his brother, to be able to take care of him as much as possible...and Oliver had to admit, even if only to himself, that Slade taking care of him eased something inside of him that was always questioning his own worth. He mattered and wasn't worthless, or Slade wouldn't bother. Opening his mouth obediently, he felt himself falling even further into a dependent, needy mindset...and it didn't bother him at all. He let go of the remainder of what little control he was trying to retain and let Slade have full charge of him. Whatever Slade wanted or decided, Oliver would do.

Slade closed his eye for a second, his hand settled on Oliver's waist to hold his little brother close against him. He continued to feed Oliver, keeping his baby brother as close as humanly possible... because Oliver's dependence on him helped to heal the wounds that still festered beneath the surface. Once again, he felt humbled by his brother's trust in him. Once more, he vowed to himself that he would never do anything to betray that trust. Not again. He would never let his brother get hurt... Oliver would always have his big brother and not the stranger who had hurt him.

Slade had kept his little brother close to him, Oliver's weight a warm, comforting one in the darkness as they slept. Neither had had nightmares and when his baby brother had left the next morning, Slade had been able to tell he'd had enough sleep.

By now, Slade was a familiar figure at the hospital. There wasn't anyone there who knew what he'd been... the monstrous things he'd done... and along with taking care of his brother, sitting in with patients who didn't have anyone and working with those who were trying to cope with missing limbs made him feel worthwhile... that eventually, he might be deserving of forgiveness.

One of the nurses caught his attention as he was finishing off a session with an army veteran who'd lost one of his legs and was struggling with phantom pains and working with a prosthetic. "Mr. Wilson, I noticed you've been sitting in with patients who don't have any visitors. There's a young man in a coma... a John Doe. No one's claimed him, but his doctor thinks it might help if someone sat with him... even if it was just reading. Many coma patients when they've woken have said they've heard people speaking to them."

"Of course..." Slade followed the nurse into the room... but it wasn't until he focused fully on the young man hooked up to life support that his heart skipped a beat.

"Is something the matter?" the nurse asked.

"Excuse me a moment. I need to make a call." It was hard not to show his shock, but Slade managed a quick, almost-smile before he quickly left the room and headed out of the hospital. Standing on the steps outside, he held his cell phone and dialled his little brother's number.

Oliver was in the middle of a meeting with Lance, trying to keep the older man connected to the group in some way in the hopes that it would help slow the downward spiral he could see the man was in because of Laurel's death and Sara's disappearance. He blinked when his phone vibrated in his pocket. When he saw who was calling, he gave a crooked smile at Lance. "Excuse me for a moment, please."

At Lance's impatient shrug and waving of hands toward his phone, he smiled again and answered. "Hello?"

"Hey, kid. I don't want you to worry... no one's hurt. But I need you to come to the hospital." Slade's voice was calm, but he didn't want to tell his little brother this news over the phone. "There's something you need to see."

Oliver, despite his brother's admonition not to worry, couldn't stop the spike of panic that shot through him and sent his adrenaline soaring. It took him a few seconds to calm himself enough that he could answer without being obvious about the fact that he'd immediately panicked before he'd been able to listen to his brother. "...Where at? Are you sure everything's all right? No one was hurt at all?"

"No one's hurt. Don't worry," Slade repeated, his voice as reassuring as he could make it. "I'm just outside the hospital. This is something you're going to want to see in person."

"Yeah...ok...I'm with Detective Lance right now. Just let me say goodbye to him and I'll head your way..." Oliver agreed.

"Be careful." Slade's admonishment was gentle, but he didn't want to risk Oliver taking chances because he was worrying. "I'll see you soon, little brother. I love you."

"Love you too..." Oliver had no embarrassment at all responding to the words, even though Lance was listening in. After hanging up, he turned toward the detective and smiled crookedly. "I'm afraid I will need to cut our meeting a bit short. My brother has discovered something at the hospital that I need to see..."

"Your brother?" Lance quirked an eyebrow skeptically. "Last I heard, Thea was a girl and was your only sibling..." He began to gather his belongings together and stood. "...Well, you'll have to introduce me at some point. I've got an interview with the police department and the possibility of having my badge reinstated. It'd be nice to be a detective again..."

Oliver nodded and clasped Lance on the shoulder. "Good luck with that. If they're too foolish to give you another chance, you know we could always use your help..." At Lance's nod, Oliver smiled again and quickly left the other man, heading to his bike. It didn't take him long at all to reach the hospital and soon he was walking into the entrance, glancing around for his brother.

Slade hadn't left the entrance, but had requested the file on the coma patient and had been skim-reading it while waiting for Oliver. As soon as his brother came into view, he walked over and gently placed a hand on Oliver's shoulder, squeezing lightly. "There's a coma patient... he was brought in the night the Glades were levelled, but no one came to claim him. I think it might be because his friends and family thought he was dead..." As he was speaking, Slade guided Oliver into the room, staying close enough to his brother that his presence could be felt. He knew this was going to be a shock.

Oliver followed where his brother directed, listening to his words with some bit of confusion. Why would Slade have called him about a coma victim? Did Slade think Oliver might know the person? He turned and looked at the patient as soon as Slade had led him close enough to do so...and felt his heart stutter before it sped up, beating rapidly. "Tommy..." he whispered, slowly moving to stand by the bed and holding a hand out hesitantly, afraid to touch his best friend because he had an irrational idea that Tommy would disappear if he actually touched him. "...How?" His voice came out higher than normal and he took a deep, shivering breath as he tried to control the tears that were suddenly spilling from his eyes and clogging his nose. He reached back blindly for his brother's hand, needing the emotional support, but not wanting to turn away from Tommy...still having difficulty believing his own eyes.

Slade didn't hesitate, taking Oliver's hand and moving so he was stood just at his little brother's shoulder, close enough to be felt. "In a situation as bad as the one in the Glades... it's not too much of a surprise someone would fall through the cracks." His voice was a mere breath in Oliver's ear, close enough that he could whisper to him... his words personal to his brother. "I asked for the file... there's no evidence of brain damage. His doctor thinks the problem might be psychological more than physical."

Oliver swallowed, leaning back into his brother. "He...I think he found out his father was responsible for everything, right before he saved Laurel's life and lost his own...or at least, we thought he'd lost it..." His voice was a husky whisper. Having Slade at his back gave him the courage needed to reach forward the rest of the way and take Tommy's hand in his own. "Hey, Tommy... You were really brave that night...I'm sorry we didn't know you'd made it...that you were still here with us. I'd have visited you before now if I had. I'm not going to leave you alone anymore, though; and Thea...when she finds out, you'll be lucky if she doesn't camp out beside your bed..."

Slade let his hand rest gently on Oliver's hip, wanting to provide the physical and emotional support even though there was a chance someone else might walk in. His little brother's needs came first. "Keep talking to him," he encouraged gently. "The nurse said there was evidence people in comas could hear other people speaking in the room with them."

Oliver didn't care if the whole world saw Slade's possessive but very comforting touches. Between the hand at his hip; his brother at his back talking gently into his ear; and the slight soreness he could still feel that reminded him his brother was in control, Oliver was able to draw himself up and get a handle on his emotions so that he could focus on helping Tommy. "A lot's happened, Tommy...you'd have a hard time believing some of the stuff I have to tell you..." His voice was clear and soft. "...I've got my big brother back! He's with me now. He's actually the one that found you and let me know you were still alive..." Oliver kept speaking, gently holding Tommy's hand. He didn't tell Tommy anything deep or possibly traumatic. Some things, like Laurel's death, needed to be explained when Tommy was awake and able to deal with the emotion that might arise from it. But he did talk about his big brother. He prattled on about Slade and how Slade had saved him and pretty much every little thing that popped into his head about Slade and the relationship he had with the older man...frequently interjecting how Tommy would like Slade and how much he wanted to introduce the two of them. About the only thing he didn't tell Tommy was how Slade handled him...but that was mostly because they were in a public place with an open door that led to a busy hallway, not because he was ashamed to tell his best friend that he'd found exactly what he'd needed so desperately.

Slade didn't stray from his little brother's side, hand resting gently on Oliver's hip while his other continued to hold and stroke Oliver's other hand. In many ways, it was hard to hear Oliver talking about him. It reminded him of how much his brother had hurt because of him. But his little brother was safe... with him... safe from the monstrosity caused by the mirakuru. Slade knew the cost of the drug... and his resolve firmed in his mind that he would never allow the drug to be used. If there were any traces of it left, he would seek it out and destroy it. No matter what.

As Oliver talked, the monitor hooked up to Tommy showed patterns changing in his heart and brain waves. It could have been a reflex, but Tommy's fingers twitched in Oliver's hand.

Oliver blinked. "Tommy...you can hear me, can't you..." His voice was soft due to being in a hospital, but he also sounded very excited and likely would have been climbing out of his own skin, had Slade not had a firm hand on him. "I felt you squeeze my hand, Tommy...can you do it again? Can you wake up? Come back to us?" He barely dared to believe all it had taken was a known and friendly voice to bring Tommy out of the coma he'd been in for several years... but stranger things had happened. Oliver knew, as he'd witnessed them personally...and if his talking to Tommy had been all that was needed for the other man to awaken, he'd talk till he was hoarse.

The twitch came again... this time almost like pressure and stayed for a bit longer, even though the touch was very weak. Beneath his eyelids, Tommy's eyes were moving... as if he was trying to open them.

"There's a call button above the bed." Slade's voice was a murmur in his baby brother's ear.

Oliver blinked at the gently spoken information and glanced toward the call button. Keeping hold of Tommy's hand, he reluctantly let go of his big brother's hand and shifted away from Slade so that he could call the nurse. The sudden chill from not having his brother directly behind him was surprising and he couldn't help but shiver; he hoped he never lost Slade again- he suspected the experience would kill him. Giving Slade a sheepish, tiny smile, Oliver returned his gaze to Tommy. "Just keep trying, Tommy...I can feel you trying to come back to us...I'm getting the doctor. I'm not leaving you. Just keep trying..." he encouraged gently.

Slade shifted, enough so he could allow his arm to brush against Oliver's, but not make it obvious that he was giving his brother the support he needed.

The same nurse who had first alerted Slade to Tommy entered the room. "Is there a problem?" Her smile was polite, but there was a sense of urgency as she moved over to the bedside, checking Tommy's vitals.

"He's gripping my hand!" Oliver blurted. "He started squeezing it when I was talking to him..."

The nurse looked at Tommy, noticing the way his fingers flexed and the movement under his eyelids. "It might just be a reflex." Her voice was gentle, as she didn't want to give any false hope. "But it's just as possible he is responding. Your brother mentioned the two of you were friends... no one's come to see him until now. So I'm sure he does recognise your voice."

Slade's hand had settled on Oliver's arm while the nurse was speaking. Squeezing his brother's shoulder didn't feel intimate enough... letting his hand rest at the nape of Oliver's neck would likely cause his brother to fall into the much more vulnerable mindset. He wanted to rest his hand on his brother's hip again... but didn't want to embarrass Oliver. "Realising you're no longer alone is a very powerful feeling," he murmured.

Oliver stepped back against Slade, close enough he was barely brushing against the older man from shoulder to backside. It wouldn't draw anyone's attention unless they were watching very closely, but he could feel his brother's body heat and it helped focus him. "Should I keep talking to him?" he asked hopefully.

Stepping round to Tommy's other side, the nurse nodded, attention on the young patient, rather than on the brothers. "Talking will help. I'm sure he will hear you... and there are good signs already. He'll know he has a friend here."

Slade took a small step closer to his brother, just enough to press that little bit closer, responding automatically to whatever need Oliver was showing at any time.

That extra half inch of his brother moving closer calmed Oliver the rest of the way and he nodded at the nurse. "You hear that, Tommy?" he continued. "The nurse says there are good signs...you just need to keep pushing through the fog. Come home to me. Come home to your friends and family..."

Tommy's hand tensed in Oliver's and his eyelids began to twitch. The grip was weak, but it was still a very definite grip. His body was shifting, as if he was trying to roll towards Oliver.

"Did you see that?" Oliver glanced at the nurse excitedly. "He moved, right? I didn't just imagine it? C'mon, Tommy...I'm here. We're waiting for you, buddy!" Oliver encouraged his best friend hopefully.

Slade shifted enough to allow Oliver to move nearer to Tommy, while still staying in physical contact with his little brother.

Tommy's face scrunched into a grimace before his eyes began to open... but slowly, as if he'd forgotten how to use his muscles after so long.

"I'll get the doctor." The nurse quickly left the room; not quite a run, but definitely at a fast speed.

Oliver kept hold of Tommy's hand, squeezing it firmly. "C'mon, Tommy. Come home to us..." he said softly. He couldn't help but shift so that his back was pressed to his older brother again, the pressure helping him keep himself centered and focused when what he really wanted to do was yell at Tommy to wake up- hurry and wake up- even though he knew logically that being louder wouldn't help.

Slade could hear and tell the mixed emotions Oliver was feeling and he placed his hand on the hip furthest from the door, squeezing gently, silently letting his little brother know he wasn't alone... that he had the support.

It seemed to take an age, but Tommy's eyes finally opened fully and he blinked once... twice... awareness slowly creeping in.

"Tommy?" Oliver said hesitantly, uncertainly. What if his brother couldn't remember anything? What if he didn't recognize Oliver? They'd only been reconnected a few short months when Tommy had been 'killed' by the accident; and if Oliver had changed over five years of being presumed dead when he was on the island (and other places), he'd changed almost as much in the years since Tommy had been injured. He was grateful for Slade's grip on him. He needed to know his brother was there and had him and the physical reminder helped him stay in control of himself.

Tommy's eyes focused on Oliver. Confusion flashed across his face for a second before it settled in recognition. "Ollie..." His voice came out a hoarse croak; barely audible. His hand flexed, but the muscles were too weak for him to do anything.

Oliver slumped back into Slade, the relief palatable. "Tommy...you're going to be okay...the doctor is on his way..." He smiled at his friend and squeezed his hand again tightly. "...You've been asleep a long time, so don't try to move too much yet. Let the doctor make sure you're all right..." His voice came out more firmly and authoritative than he'd planned and he would have winced at the bossiness, but he was too worried about Tommy to back down, so he didn't apologize.

Slade gently squeezed Oliver's waist, holding his brother close, though as the doctor came into the hospital room, he adjusted so it wasn't immediately obvious how much he was supporting his baby brother.

The doctor was quick to take charge, moving to Tommy's side and beginning to check him. He reiterated Oliver's own words of not moving too much or too quickly.

Tommy was looking around, trying to get up even despite the doctor's orders. "Laurel?" His voice came out a hoarse croak and he swallowed. His next words came out sounding more human. "Where is she?"

Oliver opened his mouth, words and the air in his lungs suddenly failing him. Finally, his own body's need for oxygen caused him to draw in a long, shuddering breath, but he still couldn't say anything, as he was suddenly blinking back tears. How could he tell Tommy that his fiancé had been killed? He'd hoped for more time to prepare Tommy and ease him into what had occurred while he was unconscious. He hadn't been given that time, though, because now he had to choose: lie to Tommy and make excuses for Laurel, so that he could brace Tommy for the truth later? Or tell him the truth immediately and hope that his recovery wasn't set back? He looked helplessly at the doctor, as if to ask if bad news would harm his friend, then looked pleadingly at Slade, wordlessly asking for some direction on how to handle the situation.

Slade brushed his hand reassuringly over Oliver's hip and then signed to his little brother: 'No matter how painful it is, being honest is always better.' He couldn't help but wonder if things could have been different... better... if he'd heard what had happened to Shado from Oliver. Having lived in the darkness for so long, he knew the damage and pain secrets and lies could cause. A pained expression passed over his face and he gripped Oliver's hand for a second, needing to feel his brother.

The doctor, sensing this was a sensitive topic, gave Oliver time to gather himself by asking Tommy questions and checking his reflexes... as well as directing the nurse to bring some water and something light for the young man to have instead of the nutrients from the IV drip.

Squeezing Slade's hand and briefly nodding to show he understood, Oliver took several deep breaths before looking at Tommy again. "Tommy...you've been asleep a long time," he began hesitantly. "A lot has happened since you saved Laurel's life and went into a coma..."

Slade didn't move from his place at Oliver's back. No matter how difficult it was to remember his crimes against his brother, Oliver came first. Slade would always put Oliver's needs before his own. He kept close enough to ensure Oliver could feel him... would know he had Slade's support and care.

Tommy stared at Oliver. "Is she... what happened?" he asked, a very real note of fear in his voice. Oliver's actions made him scared he knew the answer already.

"There was a man...Damian Darhk... he... what he had in mind made the 'Undertaking' look like pre-schoolers' play time... he killed her. Because she stood up to him and fought beside me for the city...for the world." Oliver's voice broke. "She died a hero...they have a statue of her at the harbor..." He swallowed hard, not fighting the tears that ran down his face. "I'm sorry, Tommy..."

Tommy stared at Oliver, a broken, hopeless look coming over his face. While he wasn't crying outright, it was obvious the tears weren't far off. "She was... the only one who actually believed in me. Who didn't think I was a screw-up..."

Slade heard his baby brother's voice break and he rested his hand on Oliver's shoulder, thumb gently stroking the back of his brother's neck... though he addressed Tommy. "That isn't true. Oliver believes wholeheartedly in you." He knew that was the case. Oliver had called Tommy back... had had faith his friend would find a way back to him... had called him a hero...

Tommy blinked and focused on Slade, a slightly perplexed look on his face. "I feel like I should know who you are..."

At that point, the nurse returned as the doctor began removing the IV drip, carrying a hospital tray with a plastic cup of water and a small amount of light food. "You'll find that you're quite hungry, but don't eat too fast," she cautioned. "When you're finished and we're certain you'll keep it down, I'll get you some more."

Oliver glanced at the nurse. "Slade's right, Tommy...I believe in you. You were a large part of why I changed my method of doing things...before Slade re-entered my life."

Tommy glanced at the doctor and nurse, assuming they didn't know Oliver's secret, even though he guessed Slade probably did. "You'll have to tell me about it..." His voice was subdued, though, as he picked at the food, grief edging at the back of his mind and turning his stomach sour.

"You get well enough to get outta this place and I will throw a dinner party with everyone so you can ask any question you'd like..." Oliver said emphatically, in an attempt to encourage Tommy not to let grief overwhelm him. "Until then, I'm going to let everyone know you're alive and in need of visitors to help keep boredom at bay..." Oliver's smile was teasing, although he was serious about telling the others.

The smile that touched Tommy's lips was very faint, but still sincere. "How's Speedy?" he asked softly.

Oliver relaxed, able to answer that question easily. He began talking again, telling Tommy about everyone that was still with them.

It was a week later and Oliver was pacing, two ties in his hand, as he tried to choose between them. The party he was throwing for Tommy would begin in an hour and he was starting to wonder if it was a good idea having everyone Tommy had ever known come to the club and welcome him back. "Should have done a small dinner party. This is going to be overwhelming..." he worried.

Slade stepped over to his little brother, gently squeezing the nape of his neck. "Relax, kid," he murmured softly. "If you keep worrying, you're just going to make yourself sick." He took one of the ties from Oliver and began to put it on his little brother. "Tommy's recovered a lot faster than he could have done. If it gets too overwhelming for him, I'm sure you can make sure he has a few minutes to himself."

Oliver stopped pacing, the hand at his neck calming him instantly. When Slade began to put his tie on for him, the feeling of peace only grew. He wasn't sure what it said about him that having the older man's hands around his neck, attaching what was essentially a noose, made him so calm and relaxed. He didn't give it much thought, though, just going with it and letting Slade see how easily he was able to be calmed by the simple actions.

"You're right," he finally answered. "I'll help him. So will everyone else. It will be okay..." His voice was soft.

"It will be." Slade finished fastening the tie and then gently stroked his brother's cheek, hand falling to lightly rest on Oliver's hip. Putting the tie on had made him remember other times when his hands had been around his little brother's neck... how hurt and betrayed by him Oliver had been. It was hard to keep reminding himself that his brother forgave him... had let him back into his life and trusted Slade to be what he needed.

Oliver looked into Slade's face and gave a crooked grin. "Whatever has you looking like that...stop thinking of it. I'm okay...you've got me..." Oliver shifted forward to hug his brother tightly.

Slade wrapped his arms around his brother just as tight in return, taking a deep breath and letting the feel of his little brother calm the pain that was still so raw. "I love you." He stroked Oliver's hair and the nape of his neck.

"I love you too..." Oliver's grip tightened as he tried to think of something that might help his brother, if only for a little while. Slade was always saying that he needed Oliver as much as Oliver needed him. Maybe...

"Please spank me..." Oliver blurted in a tiny, soft, yet clear voice. "It...it helps me calm down and feel less out of control and overwhelmed and...I...maybe if I'm over your knee and you're in control..." He didn't continue. He'd made the request. Now it was completely in his brother's hands if he actually felt his brother's hands.

Slade had always tried to make it clear to his little brother that Oliver didn't need to feel ashamed of his need... that Slade wanted him to feel safe enough to put voice to anything, no matter how silly it seemed to his baby brother. Slade's embrace tightened a fraction around Oliver. "Okay, kid." His voice was soft, but didn't waver. He held Oliver tight a few more seconds and then led him over to the bed, hand shifting to the back of his neck and squeezing gently.

Oliver had made the request as much for Slade's benefit as his own, but he had to admit he was already calming down, just knowing Slade was going to take care of him. "Thank you," he said softly, as he let his brother lead him.

Slade gently squeezed his little brother's neck again and took a seat on the bed, guiding Oliver across his lap. He'd given it some thought... but although this spanking wasn't actually for punishment, he'd always had his brother bare for a spanking. Even ones that weren't actually going to be painful. "I love you, little brother." He positioned Oliver and then bared him and gently pushed his shirt up out of the way, taking a few moments to gently rub over his brother's back and bottom... every inch of exposed skin, really.

Oliver didn't think he'd ever understand how he wasn't embarrassed at being half naked with his brother petting him like a favorite kitten...or puppy...(he supposed the way he followed Slade around literally asking for the affection made him more puppyish). The fact was that he not only wasn't embarrassed, but the minute Slade began rubbing, what few nerves he had left (and there weren't many once Slade took hold of his neck) disappeared. Completely. All he was able to feel was loved, cared about, protected and a sense of belonging that he only ever had when Slade showed him whose he was. He let out a tiny, happy, satisfied sigh...that, for all its quietness, was still audible to Slade.

"Love you too..." he said quietly, his voice bordering on childish; not quite over the line yet, because he knew he had to go out and be adult and in charge the moment they left the apartment in a few minutes and it would be more difficult to be that way if he let himself completely fall into dependence.

Slade continued the gentle stroking and rubbing a few more moments and then began to gently pat Oliver's backside. The pats were mild... couldn't even really be called swats... but Slade followed the same pattern he always did when spanking, working his way from the crest of his brother's bottom down to mid-thigh and every inch of skin in between.

"You've got me? When we go to the party and I have to be grown-up and in charge...you've still got me?" Oliver asked hesitantly, needing to hear.

"I've got you, kid," Slade promised. "I always will. No matter where we are... I promise that I won't ever take a step back. You are everything to me, little brother." He began a second circuit of the patting... this time, though, there was a slightly 'harder' pat every couple of times.

"Good...I don't ever want to be where you don't have me anymore..." Oliver said. "I belong with you..." He relaxed a bit more, shifting so it would be easier for Slade to smack.

Slade kept very careful control, even as he put a little bit more pressure behind the pats... still not really swatting, but a little harder than before. He paused to gently rub Oliver's bottom. "You belong with me... to me... and I'm going to keep you where you belong," he promised, leaving unsaid what he'd reiterated before; that he belonged to Oliver as much as his brother belonged to him.

"That makes me happy..." Oliver admitted, closing his eyes and letting out a tiny noise that almost sounded like a purr, though he'd deny it if anyone said anything.

Slade resumed the gentle almost-swats, once again giving one that was a fraction 'harder' every so often. "If I can make you happy... that will be worth everything," he said honestly. "Because you've given me a reason to live... to hope."

"This makes me happy," Oliver admitted, with a blush that covered his entire body.

Slade paused to once again gently rub his brother's back and bottom, his other hand settling at the nape of Oliver's neck and gently squeezing. "I belong to you, little brother, as much as you belong to me. You never have to be scared of losing me... because I'm always going to hold on tight to you."

"That...brings relief." Oliver sighed again, softly. "As long as you have me and I have you...I can face anything." He shifted again, slightly, but didn't attempt to get up. As always, Slade was in charge of when a session over his lap ended. Slade was in charge of how sore his bottom would be at the end. Slade was in charge, period.

Slade rubbed gently a few more moments... just taking advantage of the closeness and feel of his baby brother and letting Oliver be the one to soothe the pain lurking beneath the surface. He then gently replaced his brother's clothing, before helping him up and into a tight embrace.

Oliver gripped his brother tightly, hiding his face against the older man's neck. "Thank you..." he whispered. "I think I can face the party now..." Squeezing his brother one last time, he carefully stood back, tucked his shirt in, straightened his tie and smiled at his brother. "How do I look?" His grin was impishly infectious.

"You look... confident. Happy," Slade added, reaching out to stroke his brother's cheek as he stood. Smiling, he added, "Like my little brother."

Oliver's grin grew at the last. "Are you ready to welcome my best friend back home, big brother?"

Slade gently squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck. "I'm ready whenever you are, kid."

Oliver grinned again, grabbing his sport coat and the keys to Slade's car from the table, dangling them in the air teasingly. "I'm driiiiiving..."

Slade snaked an arm around Oliver's waist, tugging his brother in close against his side for a second or two. "You'd better let me drive home again later." Although he was teasing... he was aware of Oliver's old reputation and didn't want to risk his brother driving even slightly over the legal alcohol limit.

Oliver narrowed his eyes suspiciously, though he was smiling. "Why do I get the feeling my reputation has preceded me?" He chuckled. "But...all right. I'll give you the keys when we get there." Standing in his brother's arms for a few seconds more, Oliver opened the door and headed out.

Slade was likely regretting letting Oliver drive, considering they arrived to the party venue a good ten minutes faster than the GPS said they should.

Slade wasn't a stranger to driving fast... but considering those were normally in situations it was required, he didn't think he was wrong to be concerned. As soon as Oliver had parked the car, he rested a hand on his little brother's knee. "I think we'd better have a talk about road safety later, kid."

Oliver blinked, then bit his lip and blushed, forcing himself to keep looking his brother in the eye, even though he knew the fact he felt guilty was clear on his face and would let Slade know he knew better. "Yessir..." he said, with a sigh and a slump to his shoulders, before giving a tentative smile and handing Slade the car keys. Biting his lower lip once more and looking like a naughty five-year-old, he quickly got out of the car. By the time he'd joined Slade on the other side of the car, he'd schooled his features so that no one around could see that anything had occurred.

On the other side of the car, even though he knew his little brother needed to be in the more adult mindset, Slade gently squeezed his brother's shoulder, using that touch to let his brother know Slade wasn't angry and still loved him. He then waited for Oliver to take the lead.

The gentle reminder was all Oliver needed to straighten up instead of looking like he'd lost his best friend. Giving his brother a grateful smile, he clasped Slade's shoulder once, before turning and heading into the club.

Lance had arrived not more than five minutes ahead of Oliver and was standing close to the door uncertainly. "Not sure why I'm here..." he said huskily. "He was friends with Sara and Laurel. I was just the annoying adult that got in the way of everyone's fun..."

Oliver reached over and squeezed Lance's arm. "Every confused kid needs an annoying adult in their lives..." His tone was teasing, but his eyes were serious.

Lance glanced behind Oliver at Slade. "I see yours is following you..." His own voice was teasing and he nodded at Slade.

Oliver laughed in surprise, a genuine smile of mirth on his face before he looked across the room. "Tommy!" He quickly moved toward his friend.

Lance stood back, next to Slade. "Not sure what you did, but I never saw him this at peace since returning from the island...it's the main reason I didn't turn you in when I realized who you were..." His voice was low so that only Slade heard.

"Hey!" Tommy bumped shoulders with Oliver, looking happy... even though he was still a bit tired; something he found really strange, considering he'd been asleep for so long. But the doctors said that was normal... and that he might find himself tiring more than he used to, at least for a while. "You having a drink?" He held a glass out to Oliver.

Slade hung back, but his eye followed Oliver's path... watching his brother's back and making sure there was no sign of emotional or physical distress. But he heard Lance and addressed the other man. "Before I came back here... before I reconnected with him again... I would have been in agreement with you that I should be turned in. I still am," he said honestly. "But Oliver needs me. And his needs come first. Always."

"Can't let you drink alone, can I?" Oliver grinned and took the glass. He had every intention of nursing the drink and not having more than one, so didn't see it as a big deal.

Lance's eyebrow went up at that declaration, letting his own gaze fall on Oliver and Tommy. "Like I said. Haven't seen the kid looking this at peace since he returned. If you get turned in, it won't be by me." He held up his glass of soda in a silent promise. "He listens to you. You don't seem to realize how rare that is...Oliver listening to someone. If you ever feel up to sharing how you managed such a thing, I'd like to know how you did it."

"I noticed your big brother hasn't taken his eye off you once." Tommy didn't sound annoyed... maybe more wistful. He actually liked Slade. The older man had worked with him on strengthening his body after how long he'd been in a coma... and Tommy had had plenty of opportunity to see Slade and Oliver interacting with each other.

Thea had come over to join her brothers at that point, in time to hear Tommy's comment. "Slade's the only one Ollie actually listens to." She gave Tommy a quick hug. "It's good to see you out of the hospital."

"I gave him what he needed... when he desperately needed it," Slade answered. "I not only protected him. I gave him boundaries I enforced." Something he knew Oliver had been sorely lacking in before. "He's my brother." The last words were barely audible. It still hurt... so much... to remember what he'd done.

Oliver smiled at Tommy. "It is very good to have you out of the hospital," he agreed, choosing not to comment on his not listening to anyone else.

"On the island...before you were poisoned by that Mirakuru..." Lance commented. "Now that the poison is gone, he's got his brother back. You still protect him?" he asked curiously. He wanted to ask about boundaries and enforcing them, but thought that might be too personal.

Tommy smiled. "It's good to be back..." He looked slightly downcast, remembering Laurel wasn't there... why she couldn't be there.

Trying to stop Tommy from giving in to the grief, Thea gave him a gentle nudge with one elbow. "Did you get a chance to talk to everyone yet? Or are you still doing the rounds?"

Slade nodded. "With everything I have. I can take care of protecting him physically..." But it was harder to protect Oliver emotionally, even though he hadn't noticed many nightmares since moving Oliver into his apartment.

"Have you talked to Lance? I think he was anxious to speak with you..." Oliver added. He knew Lance had wanted to talk with Tommy. Tommy was the last connection to Laurel before everything had gone so wrong.

"But protecting them from the mental and emotional...from themselves...is more difficult." Lance smiled crookedly. "If it helps, I think you must be helping him at least somewhat with those things."

Tommy looked a bit hesitant. "I know we should talk... I know there are things we need to talk about, I guess..." But it was hard to make himself go up to the older man, knowing that Lance had disapproved of him for a long time. He wasn't even sure Lance liked him. "Besides, he's talking to Slade right now."

Smiling didn't really come easy to Slade, even though it was more natural around Oliver. He looked close to it, though. "Before I lost myself, Oliver was much more settled... but he's been away from my influence so long, there are still some conflicts. But it helps to know you've seen him change for the better," he added.

Oliver glanced at Lance and Slade. "You know how much Lance hated me when I first got back. He's actually become a big help to me and if I dare say...a friend. Just saying..." He didn't elaborate, figuring Tommy would figure it out on his own.

Lance's eyes widened noticeably. "He was more settled on the island?" Lance knew that's where the two men had met. "Because I know damn well, settled is the last thing anyone would have called Oliver before he disappeared for five years..." Lance didn't bother saying what they would have called Oliver. He was sure Slade could figure it out.

"I suppose..." Tommy still sounded a bit unsure, though. It was strange to see how things had changed with all of them. Lance and Oliver being friends was just one of the things that was different.

"Not at first... but by the time I was infected with the mirakuru, our relationship had evolved enough to the point he had structure and guidance and was comfortable with how things were," Slade replied. "It took a while to get to that stage."

Oliver grabbed another drink, needing something to keep him from badgering his friend. He didn't always have to be in charge of everyone else and he needed to let Tommy decide what to do on his own. He almost tossed the drink down his throat before grabbing a third drink. "So...what can I do to help you adjust? Get used to things?" he asked.

Lance eyed Slade. "I always told my daughters to stay away from him before he disappeared. I hated that Laurel was dating him. Thought he was irresponsible and conceited and seriously needed to be taught respect and manners. Then he comes back and he's respectful and has manners, but seems so weighed down- and reckless. And this last year was so bad... I added hopeless into the mix. Then you show up again and it's like a switch got turned on. I don't know what you did exactly, but whatever it is? I hope you keep it up. I think this is the first time in a long time I haven't worried the kid had a death wish..."

Tommy looked slightly surprised at the way Oliver was suddenly downing drinks, but he didn't comment on it. After all, he was used to both of them getting so drunk, they barely remembered the night before. "I figure you can keep me updated. I mean... I missed a hell of a lot. Not just Laurel. Everything."

Slade had focused on Lance while they were talking, not immediately noticing how much Oliver was taking to drink. "Now that my mind is my own... I'm here to stay," he said honestly. "With him. No matter what."

Oliver hadn't intended on drinking so much, but the talk of Laurel had reignited the guilt he'd felt about her and what had occurred. It was too easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior with Tommy...an effort to remember simpler, more innocent times, before life had become so complicated. It might take a lot more to get him drunk now- his time with the Bratva had ensured that- but it was still possible to get drunk. Especially when he was mixing types of alcohol; not spacing anything out, or counting drinks.

Lance, remembering Oliver and Tommy from before the island, and having been a father with a rebellious daughter in Sara, had been watching the younger men, even as he was listening to Slade. "Is a strong alcohol tolerance something he learned?" he asked curiously, keeping any disapproval he might have out of his voice. "Because if I've not counted wrong, he's had five different drinks in the last twenty minutes..."

Slade's attention immediately snapped to his little brother, in time to see Oliver downing his current drink. "Excuse me a moment." He didn't intend to embarrass Oliver... but he reached his brother's side in a few quick strides. Placing a hand on Oliver's shoulder, he leaned in to murmur in his brother's ear, "I think you've had enough to drink right now." He kept his body angled in such a way that it didn't look like he was trying to take control... at least to a casual observer.

By this time, Oliver had drunk enough alcohol to loosen any inhibitions he might have had, as well as remove his ability to listen to good advice, even if he was still functioning fairly normally. He wrinkled his nose almost petulantly and snorted. "I'm fine...I've drunk way more than this before..." His voice was slightly louder than he'd intended, drawing the attention of more than a few nearby people. When he noticed them looking, he stopped talking. It didn't stop him from snagging another glass from a passing waiter, not even checking to see what it was he had grabbed.

Lance moved closer to the group and glanced at Tommy. "You doing okay, kid?" he whispered, so only Tommy could hear.

Slade didn't hesitate. His hand closed around Oliver's wrist and he plucked the glass from his little brother's hand. "No, kid." His voice was low enough to only carry to his brother's ears, but there was a note of warning in it.

Tommy hesitantly glanced at Lance, it being somewhat difficult to tear his eyes from his best friend and said friend's older brother. "I..." He didn't know how to answer that. Anything he might have been going through paled in comparison to what the older man was. "I'm really sorry... about Laurel. Maybe if I hadn't been in a coma..." His voice trailed off and he stared at the full glass in his hand. If it hadn't been for Oliver being stopped by Slade, he would have drained it by now.

Oliver couldn't say what came over him, other than a need to test his brother's resolve in a situation that wasn't (yet anyway) life threatening. "Uh...yes. I'm old enough..." he grumbled, reaching out and grabbing another drink from yet another waiter.

Lance gently took the glass from Tommy and handed it to a passing waitress. "Thanks, kid...but it wasn't your fault. And considering we'd all thought you'd died saving Laurel's life...you have nothing to apologize for. I do think perhaps you should drink soda...with me...you're still on some rather strong medication and I'd hate to see you end up in the hospital with complications because of a bad reaction..." His voice was soft...concerned...and a bit parental despite himself. He tried not to watch as Oliver reacted like a spoiled, drunken rich brat; the kid hadn't behaved that way since returning home from the island...at least not in front of friends and family.

Slade hadn't really wanted to cause a scene, but he took the other drink from Oliver's hand and set it down, then let his hand rest on the back of his brother's neck, squeezing gently. "I think we'd better go outside." But this was very much the last chance he was giving Oliver to not get embarrassed in front of everyone in the club.

Tommy didn't fight Lance taking the drink from him, even though he was a bit confused about why the older man seemed to actively care. "Okay." His own agreement confused him. Then again, apart from cancelling his accounts, his father had never actively made an effort to be a father... and he wasn't used to someone actively stopping him from doing something.

Oliver stilled for a moment at Slade's hand on his neck then sighed loudly. "Fine..." he mumbled, stepping away from the group- and Slade's hand- before glancing at Tommy. "Be right back..." he said jauntily then began walking toward the exit. He grabbed another drink just before disappearing through the door.

Lance blinked at that, his eyebrows shooting upward.

Slade wasted no time in heading out of the door after Oliver, quickly moving to his brother's side as soon as they were outside. For the third time, he took the drink from his little brother's hand and then placed his hand on the back of Oliver's neck once more. "You are very close to me taking you home and putting you over my knee, little brother," he warned... keeping his voice low, but not as low as it could have been, considering no one else was outside at that moment.

Oliver really couldn't say what had come over him. He'd thought he'd been handling everything fine- his brother helping him adjust- but for some reason, being with Tommy in the party...and missing Laurel so much it was a physical pain...it just seemed too much and all he wanted was to get drunk. Let things be like they had been before everything had changed so irrevocably and Oliver's arrogance and pride had killed or hurt his friends and family. "I'm not doing anything wrong!" he argued, pulling way once more, even though the feel of Slade's hand on his neck was actually comforting and he wanted to move closer. "You can't stop me from drinking!" He grabbed at the drink Slade had taken.

Lance, wondering if he needed to offer to drive Thea and Tommy home- since they'd been drinking and he was fairly certain they'd planned to catch a ride with Slade and Oliver- excused himself so he could go ask if his help was needed. He walked out just in time to see Oliver making a grab for the drink in Slade's hand and knock it out of the older man's hand onto the concrete.

Slade's back was to the club entrance... even so, under normal circumstances, he would have instantly been aware that someone else was outside with them. But all of his attention was on his baby brother. Oliver was pushing and Slade needed to pull him back fast. Grabbing Oliver, he pulled him close and swatted him... not at full strength, but enough to get his attention. He hoped.

Oliver yelped, giving Slade a petulant and childish glare before reason caught up with him and he realized exactly what he was doing. Then an ashamed and repentant look, mixed with a hint of nervousness, crossed his face. He glanced at the ground, where the broken glass was, then at where he and Slade were pressed tightly together from Slade pulling him in to get under control. He couldn't look his brother in the eye and blushed darkly; more from shame at his own actions, than Slade needing to swat some sense into him through his backside. Hesitantly, he moved even closer and let his head drop onto Slade's shoulder. He didn't apologize, not sure what to say, but he was grateful his brother still had hold of him. He could feel Slade's other hand hovering over his bottom, waiting to swat again if needed, but he didn't try and pull away. If he deserved a spanking, that's what he deserved. He hated upsetting his brother, though.

Lance stood silent, uncertain if he should step in or slip back inside. But he knew he couldn't let this go without the other men knowing he'd seen. Clearing his throat, he walked the rest of the way out. "Always figured what you needed was an adult willing to care enough to make you behave..." he said gruffly, pushing his own embarrassment down at having walked into such a personal moment. "Glad you finally got one. You seem so much happier." He turned to look at Slade. "I was coming to ask if you needed me to take Thea and Tommy home..."

Slade knew that, if he apologized... whether to Lance or to Oliver, for not making sure they were completely alone, it would give his little brother completely the wrong impression. In a way, it might have been a good thing that Lance had seen... as it made it clear to Oliver Slade wouldn't back down, even when there were other people to see. He gently stroked the back of Oliver's neck, his other hand coming to rest on his brother's lower back... almost, but not quite, on his bottom. "I think it'll be best if I take my little brother home," he said quietly to Lance. "If you take Thea and Tommy home... it'll at least give you a chance to talk to him."

Oliver's face was scarlet at discovering Lance had seen; but to his surprise, it wasn't because Lance now knew Slade spanked him. It was because his behavior had warranted a spanking. After all the times Oliver had offered encouragement to the other man not to give in to his alcoholism- many times chiding him- he'd gone and been drinking so irresponsibly. "I'm sorry..." he started out, but had no clue how to finish.

Lance glanced at Oliver. "It's ok, kid. There's been a lot going on. Your brother will take care of it. I'll go let Tommy and Thea know I'm taking them home when they're ready..."

"Wait!" Oliver turned pleading eyes toward Slade. "Can I say goodbye before we leave?" he whispered.

Slade nodded, his hand moving to his brother's shoulder. "But as soon as you've said goodbye, we're going home." His voice was calm and mild and he kept touching his brother... trying to show Oliver that he might be in trouble, but it didn't change anything about how Slade felt about him.

"Yessir..." Oliver nodded, not caring that Lance saw him giving all control to his brother. Lance had been an authority and father figure in his life in the past, even if Oliver hadn't listened, so having the other man see him this way didn't bother him like he thought it might. Swallowing and turning, he straightened up and fixed his clothing, before heading in to say goodbye to the others.

Lance followed quietly behind.

Noting that Thea and Tommy were with each other, Oliver quickly walked over. "Hey, guys...I'm going to be heading home now. Had a bit too much to drink and it just seems like a good idea..."

Lance stepped up. "I can take both of you home."

Slade stood at Oliver's shoulder. "I'll be driving Oliver home," he said quietly... just to make sure neither of them would worry about Oliver going home on his own. He probably didn't need to say that, but it helped as a reminder to his little brother.

"Okay..." Thea glanced at her brother and Slade, almost suspiciously, but didn't voice what was going through her mind.

"Um sure..." Tommy looked at Lance. "Did you want to go now?" He didn't want to admit it, but he was beginning to feel a little wiped.

Lance took a closer look at Tommy and made the decision quickly. "I think so...it's late and you're still recovering." His voice was firm and he was prepared to insist if either kid argued.

"I can let the rest of the guests know and settle out the account," Felicity offered, having walked up by that point.

"Come on, kid." Slade's voice was low enough to only carry to Oliver's ears, but still firm.

"I can help out." Diggle had wandered over by then, in time to hear Lance directing Tommy. He'd noticed Slade taking Oliver outside, but didn't voice any comments... even though he was fairly certain he knew what was going to happen between the two men.

Oliver, knowing he was already in trouble, followed Slade without argument.

Lance nodded. "Thanks, John, Felicity." He motioned for Thea and Tommy to follow him.

Slade's hand settled gently on the nape of his brother's neck as he guided him outside, squeezing lightly, and headed towards his car.

Oliver got into the passenger side without argument or really saying much of anything. He knew he was in trouble. Asking for a spanking so that he could feel his brother was in control and that he was safe was one thing. Actually being in trouble meant he'd disappointed his brother. That bothered him deeply. "I'm sorry..." he said, in a small voice.

"I know, kid." Slade got into the driver's seat with a quiet sigh. "Drinking one or even two glasses wouldn't have been a problem... you had five glasses in twenty minutes, kid. Lance saw you down them while we were talking."

Oliver blinked owlishly. "I hadn't really been paying attention to how many..." He bit his lip and looked at his hands that were folded on his lap. "I haven't drunk like that since before the island...even though I can hold my liquor better than most, I usually space it out better..."

Slade freed one hand from the wheel so he could place it on Oliver's, squeezing gently. "I don't think it was just about getting drunk, little brother. I know you've been affected by what's happened... and there's a lot of emotional pain that'll take a while to heal from. I'm not angry with you. And I still love you," he promised. "No matter what."

Oliver visibly relaxed at the words. "I disappointed you, though..." he said, in a semi-statement, semi-question.

"I know you're better than the way you acted," Slade said. "I also know it's still an adjustment... to having me back in your life in the right way. I didn't know you before the island... but Lance said to me as well that you were much more at peace."

"He noticed?" Oliver blinked. "He's...he's right. I just didn't realize it was so obvious...he must think I'm such a screw up now..." He sighed, letting his head fall back against the headrest.

Slade gripped his hand tight. "No, kid. He understands the same way I do... that you have a lot going on; a lot of pain that's still tormenting you. Which means there will be times you backslide. The point you were at before the mirakuru had hold of me took a while to get to. And then I was gone long enough for you to become used to not having boundaries... to not having someone to step in and stop you when you can't pull yourself back."

"And now I have you back...you'll pull me back when I can't stop myself..." Oliver whispered.

"Always," Slade promised, squeezing his hand. "You have me... you won't lose me... and I won't let go of you," he reiterated, parking outside their apartment building.

Smiling crookedly, Oliver waited till Slade got out of the car before sighing softly and getting out himself, waiting for Slade to walk around and take hold of him before going inside.

Slade stepped round and gently grasped the nape of Oliver's neck, squeezing lightly and drawing his little brother against his side as he guided his little brother into the apartment building.

"How much trouble am I in?" Oliver whispered, regret in his voice.

Slade hugged him tightly. "You're in quite a bit of trouble, kid," he said, voice gentle, "considering the reckless driving before we even got inside..."

"Oh!" Oliver winced. He'd forgotten about that with the whole obnoxious drinking behavior. He didn't pull away, though; and soon, they were in the apartment, Oliver standing in the middle of the living room waiting for instructions.

Slade held his brother close for a few moments longer, wanting to be sure Oliver still knew he was loved, no matter what. He then guided his little brother through to the bedroom, squeezing the back of his neck.

Oliver slumped as Slade led him into the bedroom. He wasn't worried or scared; the hand at his neck helped him focus and remember his brother's love and affection for him. Still...he'd earned himself another spanking. It was hard at his age to realize he was still screwing up so much. Getting a spanking because he wanted it was a far cry from getting one because he'd earned it. Earning it did not make him feel good at all.

Slade could feel the hopelessness in his little brother. He kept touching Oliver... stroking his hair and neck. "I love you," he whispered. "I have you... you're still mine. It hasn't changed." He took a seat on the bed and gently guided his brother across his knees, moving back to make sure Oliver's entire body was supported on the bed.

"I know..." Oliver whimpered as he was positioned. "I love you too. I'm not afraid of that..."

Slade settled his brother and then proceeded to bare him... though, just as he had with the earlier requested spanking, he pushed Oliver's shirt up out of the way as well, rubbing gently over his little brother's back and bottom. "I know, kid. It upsets you that you're about to be punished. Not because of the pain, but because of how you feel."

"I feel guilty...and foolish...and...I don't like disappointing you..." Oliver admitted quietly. "It's...it's different when you're punishing me..." He sighed and slumped over his brother's lap, relaxing at the gentle rubbing. "I like feeling that you're in control and have me, though," he admitted. "I like feeling like I'm yours..."

"You are mine," Slade promised, continuing the gentle rubbing and stroking. "And I'm yours. Whether I'm spanking you for punishment... or because you need or want me to... that will always be true."

"I was really...naughty..." Oliver winced, the word causing him to feel childish. The position he was in already effectively did that. He knew it wouldn't be long till he was no longer reacting like the adult he was.

"You were naughty. But you were also hurting. And when you're hurting, you need to lean on me and let me help you deal with that pain. Before it gets to this point." Slade rubbed a moment or two longer and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in a firm swat at the crest of Oliver's bottom before repeating it.

"I...I try to remember..." Oliver hitched out a tight breath. "I got too used to not going to anyone for help when I was hurting...it's hard to remember..."

"I know, little brother. I'm not angry with you for not remembering. I just want to help you heal. I need to take care of you. I need you." Slade wasn't ashamed of telling his brother how he felt... not if it would help Oliver know where he could lean. Completing one full circuit of the swats, he paused to gently rub his brother's bottom. "You're too hard on yourself when you make a mistake. I wasn't going to leave you alone, little brother. I will never leave you alone to hurt."

Oliver couldn't help letting out a tiny cry at the words. Slade needed to take care of him as much as he needed Slade's care...why did he never think of the easiest thing when he was trying to decide what to do? His heart wanted him to go to Slade constantly for help and guidance, but he was so sure if he let anyone else see how he reacted to his brother (beyond Diggle; and he was pretty sure Lance now knew), it would make things too difficult for both of them. But then he went and did stupid things like he'd done tonight because, in his attempt to not listen to his heart, he also ignored his common sense, since the two were so closely tied.

And even after all that, Slade promised never to leave...to be there for him. "I'm sorry..." he finally whimpered, as the stinging swats (or at least the first round) stopped and his brother rubbed his bottom. He felt himself begin sliding down that slope where he lost all control of himself and had to give it to Slade. The touch was comforting, but it was also possessive and reminded Oliver who he was meant to rely on and obey. He hadn't done a very good job of that tonight. He knew the hand that was comforting at this second would soon be causing a stinging hurt again; and it was his own fault for forgetting.

"I know, little brother. You're at war with yourself." Slade kept his voice calm, even though it hurt to see how much Oliver was fighting his own needs and tearing himself apart. He rubbed a second or two more and then began a second circuit of swats before he resumed the gentle rubbing. "Your first instinct has to be to come to me. I know that's a scary prospect, especially when there are other people around. But we both know that you're much happier... so much more at peace... when you stop fighting and let me be in control."

"But then Thea and Felicity will know and...I'm afraid they'll think differently about me if they know..." Oliver admitted through tears. The sting in his backside had changed to a burning heat; there was never any doubt, when Slade punished Oliver, that it was a punishment. It didn't just cement Slade's position in Oliver's life and his control, but it hurt. Slade never let anything be painful unless Oliver needed to learn a lesson.

Oliver let out another tiny sob, beginning to cry harder and more vocally. The pain in his bottom was not as hurtful as the pain his own fears and guilt was causing, but it did enable him to feel free to express the pain from his fear and guilt. He would have kept it all buried inside if Slade hadn't been blistering his backside and giving him an excuse to cry.

Slade moved his hand to the nape of his little brother's neck, squeezing gently, as he started a third circuit of swats, this time going a fraction harder and faster before pausing to gently rub Oliver's heated bottom. "Maybe they will, kid. But that doesn't mean it'll be a bad way of seeing you differently. I know they've worried about your past recklessness; that the guilt and hurt you feel will cause you to get yourself hurt, because you think you deserve it. I step in so you don't have to try and punish yourself."

Oliver relaxed and slumped over his brother's lap as Slade held his neck. He was never able to remain distant and stiff when Slade held his neck, the action always bringing a peaceful, safe feeling of being loved and cared about. When the third circuit started, he twitched, wriggled a few short moments and then threw his hand back in a belated effort to stop the smacking, even though he knew his brother was the one who would decide when he'd had enough. Eyes widening, he yanked his hand back again when he realized what he'd just done, then began to sob. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry...you decide, not me...you control...you do!" He held himself unnaturally still, afraid he might throw his hand back again and he really didn't want to fight his brother on this. He knew he'd never feel right until he'd given up and let Slade take over. It was just so hard sometimes, even if he knew it would help him feel better in the long run.

Slade couldn't help but wince. Even though he'd never actually punished his baby brother more for trying to block, he understood why Oliver's reactions upset him so much. Gently squeezing the nape of his brother's neck, he spoke in a soft voice. "Give me your hand." He thought holding it would help his brother feel better... like he hadn't tried to wrest back control.

Still sobbing, Oliver slowly reached back and gave his hand to Slade, not sure exactly what would happen, but feeling like he deserved to be punished somehow for 'fighting' his brother the way he had, even if it had only been for a second and he'd immediately stopped.

Slade immediately laced his fingers through Oliver's, holding his brother's hand tightly and pinning it against his back. "You aren't in trouble for trying to block, kid, but to make sure it doesn't happen again, I'm going to keep hold of your hand until we're done." He rubbed his brother's lower back gently and then began smacking once again, focusing more swats to Oliver's sit spots and thighs.

Oliver took a shuddering breath and held tightly to his brother's hand. When the smacks to his sit spots and thighs started, he couldn't help but begin to wriggle and kick his legs, but as soon as he realized his brother's hand was unerring and he couldn't get away- he was going to be spanked no matter what he did- it was like a switch finally went on in his head and he went limp; his sobbing quieted to soft whimpers, moans and sniffles; and the kicking and wriggling slowed to tiny twitches. He was lethargic, just accepting of what his brother gave, focusing on his brother holding his hand and smacking his bared backside. He'd been so very naughty, trying to retake control he'd given to Slade. But Slade wouldn't let him do that. Wouldn't let him be naughty. Would save him from himself...

"...Lo...lo...love you..." he whispered, in a tear filled and quivery voice. It was obvious he'd given up fighting and was accepting everything now; that he was welcoming the correction.

Slade brought the spanking to a stop, beginning to gently rub Oliver's back, bottom and thighs. "I love you, little brother. No matter what happens... no matter how naughty you are... you could never make me stop," he promised.

Oliver just lay limp over his brother's lap, taking in deep, shivering breaths as his crying slowed more, the comfort and the position easing him into a very pliable state. As vulnerable and childish as he felt when being punished, he also felt inordinately safe and loved and he didn't want to get up and break the calm that he was experiencing. "I was very naughty..." he whispered in a tiny voice, but didn't move or otherwise try and do anything. Slade was in charge and as long as Slade wanted him over his lap where he could control and comfort him, Oliver was content to stay there.

Slade decided against moving his little brother immediately, instead continuing to gently rub Oliver's back and bottom. "You were very naughty... but you're not now," he said. "You've been punished and now you're my good boy."

"Wanna always be your good boy..." Oliver mumbled, still holding tightly to his brother's hand, even as the rest of his body went even more limp and lethargic. He didn't understand how his brother's rather possessive comfort always made him feel so safe and loved...and needy. He needed more of it- didn't want it to stop- the more he felt like he belonged...the less afraid and guilty he felt. Especially since he knew Slade would handle any backsliding behavior.

"You are, little brother. Spanking wipes the slate clean and you don't stay naughty." Slade stroked Oliver's hand along with his back and bottom, just gently rubbing over the bared skin and feeling so fortunate not to have lost his baby brother. Being able to hold Oliver like this... be in control and comfort him... helped with the pain that lingered... the agony of knowing his brother's needs hadn't been met and he'd spent so long in emotional pain that Slade had only added to. "My good baby brother... my good boy..." he breathed out, gently stroking.

Oliver sniffled once more, letting his eyes fall into a half-closed state as he just accepted the affection, being calmed more and more until he couldn't have moved even if he had wanted to. Any lingering pain from the punishment was gone, even though he was still sensitive and it wouldn't take much to reignite it if necessary; and all he could feel was comfort. "...Yours..." he whispered in agreement. At this point in time, he couldn't imagine why he fought his instinct...his need...to just do what Slade said without argument. It seemed so foolish now.

Slade continued to stroke and rub gently, Oliver's bottom and thighs still warm from the spanking even though he knew the pain had likely faded. "Mine. No matter what. You will always be mine," he promised, gently squeezing one thigh.

Oliver sniffled again, his eyes closing the rest of the way, knowing that Slade would take care of him. Slade always took care of him. Oliver might have fought himself regarding his needs... but the one thing he never fought was his trust and belief in Slade.

"I love you." Slade's voice was a whisper, intense with emotion. His brother's trust in him... Oliver's submission... still filled him with awe. There was very little Slade had been given more important than his baby brother's trust... and as he continued to gently stroke and soothe, the possessiveness clear even while he comforted... he felt a tiny bit of what was broken in him beginning to heal. "I owe you everything, little brother." He had to voice it... had to continually tell Oliver how much he'd saved him.

Oliver smiled crookedly hearing the words. "Owe you everything too..." His own whisper was clear, if a bit muffled by sleepiness and need; need that Slade was meeting. The possessiveness didn't bother him in the least- he liked it, because it made him feel like he mattered.

Slade didn't want to move his baby brother from over his lap... at least not yet. Able to tell how close to falling asleep Oliver was, he stroked with a little bit more pressure behind it, over Oliver's back and down his legs, adjusting his baby brother enough to make it easier to stroke and rub.

Oliver let out a tiny sound that was part happy groan and part purr. If he'd been more awake, he would have been embarrassed at it, but his brother was effectively putting him to sleep, his limbs becoming looser and more and more pliant until finally, he was asleep. Slade would have to either wake him up or take care of him.

For a few moments, Slade just let his little brother lay asleep across his knees. As soon as he was certain his baby brother was deeply enough asleep to not wake, he planned to make him comfortable and then tuck him into bed. Holding his brother close and tight felt good... felt right. Taking care of him eased the pain Slade knew he deserved.

Tommy had been quiet as Lance drove to Thea's apartment. He smiled and hugged his little sister, uttering a soft goodbye... but then, as soon as he was left alone with Lance, he felt his nerves. The older man didn't seem to blame him... but Tommy knew he'd never approved of Laurel dating him and was fairly certain Lance would have rather Laurel been the one in the hospital, not him.

Lance could sense the moment Tommy began to get nervous. He wasn't entirely sure what was causing it, though; as far as he knew, he hadn't done anything to upset the younger man. "Are you in pain?" he finally asked, worried that maybe the nerves were because Tommy's pain medicine had worn off and he wasn't sure if he should take more or not. Lance could understand a fear like that; being an alcoholic, he had to avoid drinking anything or risk falling back into old patterns. The pain medicine Tommy was on was very highly controlled and if Tommy misused it even a little, the risk for addiction was strong. Lance was debating offering to handle the medicine for the younger man to be certain that didn't happen- if that's why Tommy was nervous, anyway. He felt a responsibility for the younger man that he hadn't expected to feel; most likely because Tommy had been in a coma because he'd saved Laurel's life. Lance had been given three more years with his daughter because of the younger man. He wanted to help.

Surprised at the question, Tommy responded instinctually... which was actually to tell the truth. "A little bit... I can handle it, though." He winced at the evidence that he wanted to tell Lance what was wrong... which he couldn't do. The older man was just taking him home, after all. He might have stopped Tommy from drinking, but Tommy was intelligent enough to know it was because Lance didn't want someone else falling into the same habits he had.

"No need to 'handle it', kid...the doctors prescribed the pain medicine for a reason. Namely, you won't get the sleep you need if you are in too much pain. Are you afraid of taking it when you don't really need it?" Lance asked quietly.

Tommy opened his mouth to protest that he was fine... that he could tell what his body did and didn't need and didn't need to be helped... even if he wanted help. What came out was much more honest than he would have liked. "If it's not... too bad. I don't want to take it... I can't..." His voice trailed off. He couldn't lose control. He couldn't risk becoming addicted. Any number of responses fit.

Lance nodded, almost to himself. "Would it help you if you weren't the one in charge of the medicine? I could keep it for you. I'm fairly observant. I think I'd be able to tell when you are in mild pain that you can 'soldier' through, or when you are in more severe pain that you should take the medicine. Eventually, your doctor is going to want to wean you off of it too, so I can help with that..." His offer was calm and was devoid of any type of inflection either for or against what he was saying. He wanted Tommy to be able to make the decision without being too influenced by him. But he did want to make the offer to help.

Tommy looked at Lance in surprise, not sure if the older man was making the offer because he felt like he had to, as a responsible adult... or if he really thought Tommy could use the help. And Tommy didn't want to look too deeply at his own emotions about that. "I'm sure you must have better things to do than babysit me." The words could have been seen as offensive... the tone actually contained far more deference than Tommy had ever extended to an authority figure before.

Lance looked at Tommy, his smile chagrined. "Kid...I haven't got anything at the moment beyond helping Oliver and the rest of his little gang. You'd be doing me a favor letting me 'babysit' you. Give me something that means something...maybe the drink won't look so appealing..." he muttered under his breath.

"Oh." Tommy was quiet for a second or two. "I'm not always too good at doing what I'm told... kinda like Oliver, before Slade showed up, I guess." He'd seen how much better his best friend looked, with Slade taking him in hand even if Tommy didn't exactly know how it was done. Once again, there was that wistful note in his voice that he hated. He'd done well enough without his father acting like a father... he shouldn't read anything in what Lance was offering.

"I remember..." Lance's voice was gently teasing, though; not recriminatory. "How bout I help you with the medicine...if you find it isn't working out, you can talk to me about it later and we'll figure out some other way to help you. You look tired, though, kid. Which means that you either aren't sleeping because of pain, in which case you need to take your medicine... or there's something else bothering you that you need help with. Not sleeping isn't good and I'm not gonna stand by and watch you relapse if I can do something about it. You came close to being my son; and while it didn't actually become legal...I can't help feel like you're family."

Tommy's first inclination was to agree... to let the older man take control. Especially when Lance called him family. But it was a scary prospect, even though he wanted it... wanted it desperately. "I'm sleeping enough." His response was automatic... a defense; a lie. Every other time someone had picked up on something to do with his health, he'd brushed them off in the same way and they'd let it go. He didn't want to look too closely at what he hoped Lance would do...

Lance snorted. "Don't lie, kid. Others may buy it, but I had two teenage daughters who were friends with two wild boys..." His voice was wry and his gaze was stern and knowing; not only because Oliver and Tommy were the two 'wild boys' that Sara and Laurel were friends with, but also because he wanted Tommy to realize he wouldn't be able to fool Lance.

Tommy swallowed. "I was... asleep too long. Missed out on too much." He didn't voice that there was a part of him that was afraid he wouldn't wake up... that when he did sleep, he set his alarm to every hour, just to prove to himself that he could wake up.

Lance shot a quick glance at the younger man, but didn't comment. He knew there was more to it than that, but he wanted to actually be facing Tommy when they had this discussion. Not be watching the road. "Where are you staying now?" he asked instead, wondering if he shouldn't offer to have the younger man move into his house with him. Now that both his daughters were gone and his wife had left again; well, the house was just really too big for one person.

"One of the cheaper apartment buildings..." Tommy directed Lance... it wasn't in the best part of Starling City, but to be honest, Tommy wasn't really able to afford much, even with financial help from his friends.

Lance frowned when he was given the address. It really wasn't a safe part of town. His protective instincts kicked in. "Are you locked into a rental agreement?"

Tommy shook his head. "Just on a month-by-month lease."

"Move in with me..." Lance found himself saying, before he'd thought of a better way to ask. He pulled into a parking space and prepared to help Tommy up to his apartment. "I'm in a better part of town and the house is really too big for just one person..." he added, figuring if he pointed out it would help him somewhat too, Tommy wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Tommy shot Lance a startled look... but underneath the surprise was the little boy who'd desperately wanted his father... or even a parent... to actually be there for him. He was ashamed at how much he wanted what Lance was offering. "I'm really not a good roommate... I think you'll get sick of me before the month's out."

"You could get sick of me just as easily..." Lance pointed out. "We could give it a try and if you feel it isn't working out for you, you can always find another apartment. By then, you'll have been able to get a job and earn some money and have more options available."

Tommy hesitated... but he was tired; tired of fighting; tired of trying to pretend nothing had changed... sick of trying to act like he didn't need anyone. "Okay." His agreement was quiet, but he was still resolved. "I... I'd like that," he admitted.

"Good! Good..." Lance smiled as they stopped outside Tommy's apartment door. Giving his next words just a tiny bit more thought, he asked, "How bout you pack a bag and come with me tonight? We can move the rest of your stuff out tomorrow..." He'd feel much better if the kid wasn't alone in this neighborhood when he was still recovering.

Tommy unlocked the door, wincing just a little... though he wasn't sure if that was from the pain of his healing injury, or from how much he wanted to be close to the other man... which had to make him all kinds of pathetic. He had to keep reminding himself that Lance wanted to help because he was a good man who could probably still see what a screwed-up kid Tommy had been. "Okay." His response was a whisper... because he didn't want to let the older man see how much the offer had meant to him.

Lance smiled, visibly relieved. "Good. Just point out what you want tonight and I'll pack it. We can come back for the rest tomorrow." He quickly grabbed a bag and waited for Tommy to respond.

Tommy didn't really need much. Most of his belongings had been either repossessed or destroyed while he'd been in the coma. All he asked Lance to pack was a change of clothes, toiletries and sleepwear.

Soon, Lance had Tommy all bundled up in the car again and heading for his house. "I've got a guest room..." he began hesitantly. "...But Laurel's old room is actually bigger and has a nicer view and...well...I think she'd want you there; if you won't feel uncomfortable or if it won't bring too many memories..." he said hesitantly. "We can change it to suit your taste. It's up to you, though...her room is right across from mine. The guest room is actually on the first floor, so it would give you a bit more privacy."

"I... think I'd like that," Tommy admitted, a bit shyly. "If it wouldn't be... I don't know... too weird for you." The thought of using Laurel's old room felt good. The thought of being opposite Lance's? He didn't want to examine that too closely.

"If I thought it would be too weird or minded, I wouldn't have offered..." Lance pointed out reasonably. "...I'm actually happy you're okay with it. Until you're back to one-hundred percent, or as close as you can get, I prefer to keep you nearby anyway."

"I'm not sure I can get into that much trouble staying with you..." Tommy's tone was slightly teasing, but there was still a note of gratitude in it. Even if Lance was only offering because of Laurel... it felt good to have him at least act like he cared.

"There will be no getting into trouble while staying with me!" Lance's smile was teasing, but the firm and serious tone of his voice indicated that he meant what he said. "You'll be taking care of yourself and what you can't take care of, I will. I do have one request. It shouldn't be an issue while you're on medication, since you shouldn't be drinking while you're on it anyway, but when the doctor finally clears you and you don't need to take any medications, if you can avoid bringing alcohol into the house..." Lance's voice was slightly shamed that he even had to mention it, but he'd managed to stay sober the last couple of weeks and was determined he'd remain sober in honor of Laurel and because people needed him.

Tommy quickly nodded. "Of course." Truthfully, even though he had drunk a little at the party, he hadn't drunk nearly to the level Oliver had... even though their limitations were different, Oliver had been much more out of control than Tommy had felt close to being. "I don't think... it didn't really do anything for me," he admitted, not sure how to say that alcohol no longer seemed like the escape it had been.

Lance pulled into his driveway, turning to look at the younger man. "Before, you mean? Or at the party? Just wondering how much of your drinking ten years ago was because of wanting to fit in with Oliver..." he said calmly.

Tommy squirmed a little at the question. "There... wasn't really much else Oliver wanted to do," he admitted. "I guess it was just easier in the end..." He wondered if Oliver's acting out had been because his parents hadn't bothered to set the rules and boundaries... just like Tommy's own father hadn't. One week of seeing Slade with his best friend and Tommy could see, beyond any doubt, that Oliver had the guidance and structure he'd obviously needed.

Lance nodded. He wanted to comment on the fact that what Oliver wanted was for someone to step in and not let him drink; he'd been underage, after all, for a large portion of the 'partying' years. But the other young man wasn't here to defend himself and Lance didn't feel right discussing him with Tommy, even if he wanted to point out the fact. "I suspect if he'd been given some different options, he would have been interested. But that's neither here nor there. If you don't want to drink when you're out with Oliver, then tell him. I get the feeling he doesn't like drinking all that much anymore himself, despite what he may have acted like tonight. It might be easier to give in to him, but if it's one thing I've learned, giving in because it is easy isn't fair to you or the person you're giving in to..." He'd opened the door by this point and was carrying Tommy's bag upstairs to Laurel's room; although he'd have to start thinking of it as Tommy's room. He stopped just inside and waited for Tommy to enter. "You can change it however you want; make it more to your taste. I'll leave you to get changed for bed and will be back in about fifteen minutes with some water and your medicine. If you need me before then, yell."

Tommy followed the older man obediently, wanting to let Lance step in and take charge. But as soon as he was stood inside the door, he found himself balking... his want warring with his fear. "I really don't need any medication. I can do without it just fine... at least for tonight."

Lance gave Tommy a disbelieving look. "Kid...no offense, but you look like you got run over by a truck and then the driver reversed and hit you again. You were clenching your teeth the entire time you were walking up the stairs and there is a tense look on your face. On top of that, you have shadows under your eyes indicating you haven't been sleeping well. You need the medicine. I'll bring it by in fifteen minutes. Get ready." His tone brooked no argument. As far as he was concerned, Tommy needed the meds...Tommy was going to take the meds. He wondered briefly if he'd need to insist...possibly take a more stern and authoritarian approach if Tommy still refused- his memory of seeing Slade swat Oliver still fresh in his mind- but he didn't want to scare the kid off.

There was still a big part of Tommy that wanted to just give in... that wanted to agree to do what Lance directed. The rest of him was still scared by that... scared of letting himself believe when there was very little evidence it was anything other than a sense of duty. "Really. I'm fine. I've been taking the meds... I can skip out for one night."

Lance frowned. "It's not an option, kid. I'm not letting you be in pain all night, not getting the sleep you need to heal correctly, possibly causing yourself further injury because your body is tense from pain. Especially when it isn't necessary and you have what you need to prevent that from happening." His voice was stern. "I suggest you not argue about it any further, because it isn't negotiable. If you argue, I'll just employ different means of convincing you and you'll still end up taking them." He wasn't kidding. He was just waiting for Tommy to ask what other means, so he could explain exactly what he'd do if Tommy was too stubborn to do what was best for him.

Tommy was a bit surprised by Lance's insistence, but he had no idea what the man meant by 'other means'. "Like what?" he asked tentatively, not sure he wanted to go down this route... but unable to give in.

Lance looked at Tommy, his face completely serious. He wanted the kid to know he wasn't joking. He'd been turning over what he'd seen outside the club between Oliver and Slade, noting how much more at ease and secure the younger man seemed and he'd been wondering if Tommy wouldn't benefit from the same thing. Listening to the kid argue about not taking the medicine that would help him sleep (which would allow him to heal better) and which would help ease the tenseness in his body (which would also allow him to heal better), he was pretty sure someone needed to step in with the kid. He may not have approved of Tommy and Laurel's relationship initially, but he was willing to admit he might have been wrong. Tommy wasn't a lost cause; he just needed someone to care enough and Lance saw no reason why he shouldn't be that person to care. He decided to go with what he'd been feeling and answered, "I'll turn you over my knee, bare your bottom and spank you for taking unnecessary chances with your health. And then after, I'll give you the chance to take the medicine again. I doubt it would take more than one trip over my knee to convince you that you need to take your health seriously, but if it took more than one, I'm able and willing to do it as many times as needed. You're too important to risk."

Tommy flinched then tried to mask the pain that came across his face at the sudden movement. He opened his mouth, intending to accuse Lance of joking... or make some other snarky comment that hid how he really felt. What came out was much different. "Why?"

Lance blinked at that. "Why what? Why would I choose to spank you for deliberately doing something that could make your health worse? Why do I think you're important enough to step in and insist you do what is best for your health? Help me out, kid...I'm not exactly a mind reader..." He gave a crooked smile.

"Both?" Tommy couldn't help the questioning note in his voice. "My dad never... I mean... I don't understand..." His voice was growing more shaky. "I know I act like one... but I'm not actually a child."

Lance snorted softly at Tommy's remark about acting like a child. "You've actually grown up a lot... but you were engaged to my daughter- my child- and you are the same age she was, so I have to admit, it is hard to not think of you in terms of being a child sometimes. She was always going to be my little girl and...well..." He shrugged, not wanting to embarrass the younger man by implying he'd always be his little boy, since he really had no right to think of Tommy in those terms. Still... "You were important to Laurel, son. And while I may not have agreed with her decision to marry you at the time, I had three more years with her I wouldn't have had because of you. I found myself wishing that you'd survived, not only because it would have made her happy, but because I finally saw what she saw in you. And now that I know you did survive...I have every intention of making sure you thrive. Not only because that's what Laurel would have wanted, but because it's what I want as well. As for choosing to spank you? Because I've recently been reminded of how effective it is for convincing stubborn young men to do what is best. It won't do lasting harm to you. It will be memorable. And it will show you that I'm not kidding about what I will and won't allow; in this instance at least, I am in charge."

"...I don't want to take the medicine..." Tommy was self-aware enough to realize he was likely pushing... testing... just like a child. That knowledge and self-awareness made him blush. It also stopped him from asking what other stubborn young man Lance was referring to; even if Tommy thought it might be Oliver.

Lance narrowed his eyes and watched Tommy closely. "That your last answer?" he asked quietly. He suspected the younger man was testing him...testing his resolve...and he'd have to follow through on his promise earlier than he'd hoped to have to. That was fine, though. He was more than willing to prove to Tommy that he meant what he said and that the younger man mattered to him.

Tommy swallowed, the blush darkening, but he couldn't help himself. "Y...yes. I don't... I don't need it. The pain isn't that bad." His voice had dropped to a low whisper, the look on his face young and helpless.

"Very well..." Lance gave a brief nod then walked over to Tommy and gently, but firmly, took his arm and led him to the bed. Sitting down, he carefully tugged the younger man over his lap and then quickly bared him. Holding Tommy close so that he wouldn't fall on the floor and reinjure himself, Lance left his hand on the small of the kid's back, gently rubbing. "When it comes to your health and taking care of yourself, necessary medications and rest are not optional. I realize you don't want to take the pain medicine, but not taking it will prevent you from receiving the rest you need; and therefore it is necessary. You are not allowed to refuse something that will keep you healthy any more than you are allowed to do something that could harm you. I am appointing myself your guardian and plan to stick by you and protect you and make sure you remain healthy, so any time you do anything or refuse to do something with the result that you become hurt or unhealthy? You will end up in this position. Understand?"

Tommy felt so lost, he didn't even struggle when Lance led him. It didn't even occur to him to try and fight. When he found himself across Lance's lap, he couldn't help but let out a whimper, blushing even deeper at the sound that escaped. Not sure where to put his hands, he curled both in the blankets, only then realizing Lance needed an answer. "Yes sir..." The words slipped out without conscious thought.

"Good boy." Lance rubbed Tommy's back for a few moments more, then raised his hand up and let it fall with a firm smack. He quickly fell into a rhythm, although there was no set pattern to where the swats would land. He just continued smacking until all of Tommy's backside and upper thighs were a uniform, light pink color. He then placed his hand on Tommy's back again. "I know your father never did much to keep you under control when you were younger; and unfortunately, that didn't give you a lot of experience in learning to control yourself. But I'm serious about protecting you, even if from your own actions. I care about you...at first because Laurel loved you and you were a connection to my daughter, but you've grown on me in the last few weeks and now I care about you, all because of you." Raising his hand up, he began a second circuit of smacks, using the same strength and rhythm; still letting the smacks fall randomly so Tommy couldn't predict where they'd land.

Tommy had no frame of reference for how to react to a spanking... and no real reason to try and tough it out. The closest he'd come to real pain was when he'd gone searching for his best friend, only to be kidnapped instead. He didn't try to 'brave it out' or act stoically... twisting and squirming in reaction to the smacks, though he didn't attempt to get away. Lance's words brought the first tears to his eyes and when he began the second circuit, Tommy couldn't help but throw his hand back... terrified of giving in to the spanking... of giving in to the older man... and finding it was a lie.

Lance only paused long enough to take Tommy's hand in his and move it to the small of his back before resuming the spanking. By the end of the second circuit, Tommy's bottom was a rosy color, bordering on red. Lance gently ran his hand over the chastised skin, feeling the heat rising from it, soothing it slightly as he thought about what to say next. "I realize it might be difficult for you to believe me- I never showed an interest in being more than the disapproving father of your fiancé- but a lot has happened in the last three years, kid...and you are important. And I do care. And if I have to prove my care of you by spanking you every night until you believe me and stop fighting me when I try to take care of you? I will. I really hope you don't push me into doing that, because I'd much rather have quiet evenings talking and just hanging out, but if it's necessary, I will do this every night if needed. I care about you. And I want you to be safe and healthy and pain free. Got it?" He didn't wait for an answer that time, just beginning a third circuit of smacks; this time, they were harder and faster. Combined with the randomness of where they landed, it was impossible to predict where or when his hand would fall.

Tommy's stomach clenched and he couldn't stop the whimper at the soothing, comforting touch... even though it made him feel young and childish; helpless and needy. Lance's words only added to his confusion... but he was desperate to believe in them... to believe there was someone who would look after him and take care of him. The harder smacks brought more tears to his eyes and he began to sob.

Hearing the sound that indicated the punishment had got through to his young charge, Lance carefully raised his knee slightly so that Tommy's sit spots would be more exposed, then landed three stinging swats to each side before ending the spanking. "You're mine now, kid. I'm going to take care of you whether you want me to or not."

Tommy began to sob harder, going limp over Lance's lap. It wasn't just because of the spanking, even though that was painful enough. "Y-yours?" There was a questioning, hopeful note in his voice.

Lance carefully righted Tommy's clothing then pulled him upright so he was sitting on Lance's lap. "Yes. Mine. Even though you weren't actually able to marry my daughter, the fact that you'd planned to and almost died saving her life makes you as much my son as if you had made it legal. As far as I'm concerned, anyway." He hugged Tommy tightly, rubbing his hand up and down his back gently.

Tommy hesitantly wrapped his own arms around Lance, closing his eyes and unable to stifle a whimper as he hid his face against Lance's shoulder. "Sorry..." he whispered. "I don't... my dad would never have done that."

"I know..." Lance whispered, kissing the top of Tommy's head and just snuggling him in an attempt to comfort. He didn't say that he seriously thought Malcolm Merlyn needed to be spanked himself.

Tommy took a deep breath and slumped against Lance, his weariness catching up with him. He was in pain... but although the spanking had hurt, it wasn't unbearable. The emotions were strong, though, and he was still confused... even though he wanted this desperately.

"C'mon, kid. Let's get you into some pajamas and then you get into bed while I go get that water and pain medicine," Lance urged gently. "I'll stay with you until you fall asleep."

"Okay." Tommy was through fighting... at least for the time being. He obediently extricated himself from Lance's lap.

Helping Tommy stand and making certain his bag was easily accessed so that he didn't have to expend too much energy to get his things, Lance left the room long enough to get a glass of water and a dose of Tommy's pain medication. By the time he returned, Tommy was in his pajamas. Handing the younger man the tablets and glass, Lance waited for the kid to take his medicine so that he could help him into the bed.

Tommy obediently took the medicine and then let himself get helped into bed. He settled in with a quiet sigh, still feeling young... although it wasn't as scary a feeling as it could have been.

"You aren't alone, kid. You are cared about..." was all Lance said, as he settled in the chair next to the bed and began to gently card his fingers through Tommy's hair in a bid to help the younger man fall asleep.

Tommy closed his eyes, leaning into the touch. He was close to sleep, otherwise he would never have voiced what was on his mind. "Wish... you were my dad..."

Lance smiled gently. "Me too, kid...me too..." he whispered.

Tommy's smile was peaceful as he relaxed, shifting towards Lance as he slipped into sleep, his face clear of pain.

Oliver had been asleep for two hours at most when the dreams began. Slade was still affected by the Mirakuru and his hatred of Oliver was strong and violent. He'd captured Oliver and was torturing him. Oliver couldn't help but whimper in imagined pain. "No...please...I'm sorry...please don't...Slade...I'm sorry...I didn't mean to...please..."

As soon as it became clear that Oliver was having a bad dream, Slade had reached out to touch him... to comfort him. But before he could, he deciphered what Oliver was crying in his sleep. Pain, vicious like a stab to the heart, lanced through him and he shifted away from his brother, so the contact of his body pressed against Oliver's wouldn't scare him. Bracing himself for any kind of reaction, Slade touched his shoulder. "Kid... you're dreaming." His voice was soft, but hoarse with pain. He was a monster who'd tortured his baby brother, who'd looked to him for protection. The guilt was never going to fully go away, but it flared up and hurt.

Oliver woke at the sound of his brother's voice. It only took him a few seconds to realize Slade was further away than he wanted and he reached out toward the older man with a tiny whimper. His dream was forgotten, but the fear was still with him...and he wanted his brother to hold him.

Slade closed his eye, but responded automatically, moving into his brother's space and wrapping his arms tight around Oliver, pulling him into his lap. He had to fight not to let his guilt and pain show, wanting to only focus on his baby brother. He stroked Oliver's hair and tried not to let the tears he felt so close fall.

Oliver let out a tiny sob as he was brought onto his brother's lap, the sting from his punishment reminding him how naughty he'd been. He wasn't emotionally aware enough not to react like a child, so he just gripped Slade tightly and snuggled as close as humanly possible. "Slade..." he whimpered, in a scared, needy tone as he tried to get even closer yet.

The fact that Oliver was turning to him for comfort didn't soothe the guilt and pain Slade felt every time he remembered how much he'd hurt his baby brother. Slade knew he'd contributed as much as everything else to the nightmares and guilt Oliver now suffered from. More than anything, he wished he'd been strong enough to hold onto his love for his little brother... not to hurt him or the people around him. His arms were tight around Oliver, holding him as close as it was possible to. "I love you, little brother." Holding Oliver... being there for him... reaffirming his love. It was the only way Slade could think of to even slightly make amends for the monster who'd tormented the person he should have given everything to protect.

Slade's tight grip and gentle words soothed Oliver and soon he was sound asleep again, in his brother's arms. While Slade wasn't able to forgive himself, Oliver had forgiven him nearly immediately. All he cared about was that his brother was there and had him and was protecting him and giving comfort. Even if he'd been more emotionally aware and acting his age, he wouldn't have felt anything but deep love and affection for his brother. As far as Oliver was concerned, everything Slade had done was because Oliver had messed up and needed to give Slade the Mirakuru to save his brother's life because Oliver had messed up. The Mirakuru had influenced Slade's actions, so anything bad that had happened was Oliver's fault. He didn't blame Slade at all. Not being emotionally aware, he didn't think of any of that. He just thought in terms of Slade had him and was holding him and that's what he wanted and needed, so everything was right in his world.

The pain was deep and vicious, but Oliver's warm weight was like a soothing balm. With his brother asleep in his arms, Slade took a deep breath, tears beginning to slip out of his eye... tears he held back when Oliver was aware and awake, because Slade's pain was a burden his baby brother didn't need to carry. He stroked Oliver's hair, watching his baby brother's sleeping face. He didn't want to let him go, because when Oliver wasn't safe in his arms, the guilt grew to overwhelming levels. Oliver was the only thing that kept him together... that gave him hope. His love for Oliver was deep, intense and fiercely protective.

Oliver continued to snuggle in his sleep. As long as Slade held him, the nightmares didn't return. As a result, when morning came, he'd got plenty of sleep. He slowly came awake, wriggling and stretching quietly, letting out a tiny hiss and wincing as his bottom chafed. "I gotta stop being so naughty..." he mumbled in a pouty tone, but he wasn't upset and was actually smiling, so he was obviously teasing his brother gently and hoping to get a smile from Slade.

It was harder to smile. Slade hadn't really slept, not wanting to risk Oliver waking from another nightmare and him not there to soothe the pain. Slade started to reach out to his brother then hesitated, remembering the cries that had been like daggers to his heart. "No more nightmares?" he whispered.

"No, sir..." Oliver said softly, snuggling a little more. "You kept them away... Did you sleep at all?" His voice sounded guilty. He hated the thought that his own weakness would inconvenience his brother and make it so Slade didn't get rest.

"I didn't want you to wake up without me immediately there to comfort you." Slade stroked Oliver's hair. "It wasn't your fault, little brother. I caused you so much pain, all I want is to help you heal..."

"It wasn't your fault either..." Oliver protested, even as he shifted so Slade could 'pet' him more easily. He wished he knew of some way to help Slade not feel guilt over what he'd done under Mirakuru's influence. It wasn't like he'd chosen to take the drug. The results that happened after couldn't be blamed on him when he hadn't made that choice.

"I should have been able to protect you from the monster I became." Slade closed his eye, continuing to stroke over his baby brother's hair, back and neck. "I should have protected you from the pain of your big brother hurting you... physically and emotionally." He didn't know what he would have done if Oliver hadn't accepted him back into his life...

"I deserved to be hurt...it was my fault you were even in that position..." Oliver whispered. He would have said more, but at that moment, his cell phone rang. Sighing, he glared balefully at the bedside table where it was innocently sitting. He didn't want to get up and answer it, but if it was an emergency... Of course, Slade might be able to reach it without either of them having to move... He bit his lip and gave his brother an expectant look.

Slade's hand settled out the nape of Oliver's neck, squeezing gently, even as he reached across to pick up the phone, so his brother didn't have to move. Checking the display, he answered. "Lance... it's Slade speaking."

"'Morning. I was calling to find out if you and Oliver would like to come over to my place later this morning. Stay for lunch. I know Tommy has a lot of questions, but he's still recovering, so if he could stay at home and rest and have everyone else come to him, it would be best." Lance was directly to the point.

"Tommy's staying with you?" Slade asked. He stroked Oliver's arm to get his attention and signed to him what Lance had just said.

"We decided last night that he'd be better off moving into my house with me. His apartment wasn't in a terribly good area and until he's recovered one-hundred percent, I just didn't feel right having him be by himself. This way, I can be there if he needs me." Lance didn't hide anything; saw no reason to pretend he hadn't been worried about the younger man.

"I'm sure it'll be good for him." Slade left unsaid that he was sure it would be good for Lance too. He waited for Oliver to say what he wanted to do... because while he was sure his little brother would agree, he didn't want to just decide for both of them in that kind of situation.

"What time do they want us to come over?" Oliver whispered to his brother, obviously interested in going, but not wanting to interrupt whatever conversation was going on.

'Later this morning. Stay for lunch,' Slade signed to his brother. 'Tommy is staying with Lance for the time being.'

Oliver quickly nodded. "Ask if they need us to bring anything..." he said in a whisper again.

Slade nodded. "Would you like us to bring anything?" he asked Lance.

"Well, I'm not drinking obviously...and Tommy isn't allowed until he's completely cleared by his doctor...so I don't have anything in the house to drink if you want to bring soda or juice or something like that..." Lance didn't say who wasn't allowing Tommy to drink. They could assume it was the doctor for all he cared.

"We'll pick up some drinks," Slade said, deciding he'd mention to Oliver after disconnecting the call that they'd be taking non-alcoholic. While he knew his little brother wouldn't have a problem, he didn't want Lance to feel uncomfortable.

"Thank you. We'll see you in about two hours, then?" Lance asked.

"We'll be there," Slade replied, before disconnecting and then gently squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck. "Tommy isn't going to be drinking either, so we'll be taking non-alcoholic drinks with us."

"I'm surprised I'd even have the option after last night," Oliver admitted quietly.

"Kid... the problems were with you drinking too much too quickly and for the wrong reasons," Slade said. "One glass wouldn't be a problem unless you kept on and showed me you have a problem with control when it comes to alcohol."

Oliver bit his lip and nodded. "I used to..." he admitted. "Before the island, I had no control at all. Not because I was an alcoholic...but because I just didn't see any reason to control myself..." He faintly smiled. "I don't usually drink like that anymore. I don't know what was wrong with me last night." He sighed.

"I'm sure being around Tommy... remembering Laurel... opened all sorts of hurts that you thought were closed." Slade stroked Oliver's cheek. "That might be why you had a nightmare last night... considering how much pain you've experienced." Slade tried, but there was still a heavy note of guilt in his voice.

Oliver heard the guilt in his brother's voice, but really didn't know what he could do about it. When Slade had first returned and they'd made the initial beginnings to getting their relationship back the way it had been before Mirakuru, Oliver felt capable of helping his brother. He hadn't quite reached the point where every action in regards to Slade was one of submission. Now? A few short weeks later? The only time he didn't submit quickly was when he was feeling a need to push. Pushing didn't necessarily translate into being able to help his brother, though. Oliver didn't think he'd be able to help Slade now; he was too much Slade's 'baby' brother now and it wouldn't feel right. And even if he could bring himself to do what he thought Slade probably needed, he doubted his doing it would help his brother. It hurt, knowing Slade needed help and he was incapable of providing it.

Swallowing and looking at the ground, he nodded. "I can't help but feel like her dying was my fault. Tommy not having her here now is my fault. Tommy being hurt in the first place was my fault..." He ran a hand through his hair nervously. "I just...I wanted something to be familiar to him and my drinking excessively and acting like an idiot? That was familiar at one time, so... It wasn't really thought out that well, if at all."

Slade continued to gently stroke his little brother's cheek, tugging him in close to himself so he could stroke his neck, hair and back too. "Familiar doesn't necessarily mean good," he said gently. "It didn't really look like Tommy was drinking anyway." He didn't voice his suspicions that Lance had put his foot down in regards to Tommy drinking. "It's not a bad thing that both of you are different. It just means learning about each other again."

"What if he doesn't like the new version of me...?" Oliver whispered, unable to keep from snuggling close to his brother.

Slade kissed the top of his brother's head, even as he continued the gentle stroking and touches. "It's very easy to like you... to love you."

"You're just saying that cuz you already do..." Oliver mumbled in amusement. "...But thanks." He snuggled a bit more, reluctant to step away and have the affection stop. He'd discovered, to his embarrassment, that since Slade's return, his need for physical contact and affection had increased so much that if Slade was anywhere nearby, his first inclination was to move close enough that Slade could touch him. It was baffling when he thought about the fact that he'd pretty much pulled away from people as much as possible and avoided too much affection after he'd lost Slade. Not that he pulled away completely, but he didn't search affection out. Now? If Slade was there, Oliver was searching him out.

Slade was as reluctant to stop the affection as his little brother. Just being close to Oliver was a comfort and he gently rubbed over the bare skin of Oliver's back, stroking under his little brother's pajama top. The skin to skin contact was as much a comfort to him as it was to his little brother. "I'm saying it because you saved me... because I owe you more than I could ever put into words," he whispered in his baby brother's ear. "Without you... I wouldn't have anything."

Oliver let out a tiny sigh, leaning into Slade. "We need each other. Pretty evident..." He smiled crookedly. "...If we don't get going, we could be standing here cuddling all day..." He laughed.

Slade tightened his embrace a moment and then gently released Oliver. "If you want to shower first, I'll find what we have to drink that's non-alcoholic."

"Yessir..." Oliver smiled at his brother, giving him another hug before heading into shower.

It hadn't taken long for both of them to get ready and Slade had found a twelve-pack of soda to take with them. Soon, they were on their way. Oliver glanced at his brother as Slade maneuvered the car through the streets of Starling. He hadn't even asked to drive. After the way he'd driven the night before, he was pretty certain Slade would say no. It didn't stop him from asking about the future, though. "When do you think you'll trust me to drive again?" he asked curiously.

"I trust you, kid," Slade answered instantly. "But I think your emotions are still high and too conflicted right now. I'd rather wait until you're feeling a bit more settled before you drive again." He left unsaid that it would be with him in the car... just so Oliver was reminded of safety with his big brother there.

Oliver turned to look at Slade, then nodded to himself. "Yeah. Okay. That makes sense..." he said, in an easy going manner. If anyone else had tried to curtail his activities by telling him he wasn't allowed to drive until they felt he was 'more settled', he would have picked a fight with them. Slade doing it just made him feel cared about; and he knew he'd brought it on himself by the way he'd driven recklessly before.

Slade freed one hand so he could gently squeeze his little brother's knee. "I love you, little brother. I want to make sure you're as safe as possible... that you stay safe."

"I know..." Oliver frowned slightly, hesitantly saying, "...I just hope..." He sighed. "...Well, being Arrow isn't all that safe, but I can't stop being Arrow, so..." He bit his lip and put his hand over Slade's uncertainly.

Slade turned his hand over to gently grasp his brother's. "I know how important being the Arrow is to you and I would never expect you to stop. But there are still ways to make yourself safe doing that."

"Like not going out solo without telling anyone else what I'm doing?" Oliver asked quietly.

"Like that," Slade agreed. "You have a team... friends to back you up. You have me. There's no reason to do a solo mission."

Oliver could think of at least one reason to go solo, if he was protecting the others, but he didn't vocalize the thought. Instead, he chirped out, "We're here already?" as Slade pulled up to the house.

"Yeah." Slade gently squeezed his little brother's hand and then let go so he could park and get out of the car, waiting for his brother to join him before heading to knock on the door.

Oliver trailed his brother up to the front door.

Lance opened the door quickly after Slade knocked. "C'mon in..." He stepped back so they could enter. "Tommy's in the living room and so are all the snacks, if you want to head that way." He smiled.

"We brought some soda." Slade held up the drinks, allowing his brother to walk inside first. "Do you want me to put them in the fridge?" He hadn't really thought about his lack of sleep... even though he didn't sound very different, it was showing in his face and the way he moved.

"Yeah...lemme show you where it is. Oliver, Tommy's waiting for you if you want to head through." Lance smiled and motioned Slade to follow him. The look he gave the other man was watchful; he could tell something wasn't quite right, even if he didn't know what was wrong.

Slade gently squeezed his brother's shoulder, telling him to go ahead without words as he turned to follow Lance.

Oliver quickly disappeared down the hall into the family room where he and Tommy began a loud conversation on which Star Wars movie was better...or at least that's what it sounded like to Lance. Shaking his head he quickly took Slade through the dining room and into the kitchen where he pointed out the fridge. "So...you okay? Because you look like nothing is okay..." he asked calmly, although a hint of worry was in his tone.

Slade took the amount of time to put the sodas in the fridge to decide to lay what was wrong out on the table... even if it wasn't the whole story. "Oliver had a nightmare last night. About me." He didn't think it was necessary to mention exactly what had occurred... certainly not that he knew because Oliver slept with him at night.

"About when you hated him and wanted to hurt him?" Lance didn't see any reason to sugar coat what had happened. As much as Oliver and everyone else had decided to forgive Slade's actions, since he'd been heavily influenced by the drug he hadn't chosen to take, the fact was he'd hurt a lot of people and it had affected Oliver. The fact the kid was doing so much better now that Slade was better went without saying, but he doubted Slade was looking at that part of the situation. Lance understood guilt; and it didn't always take all the information into account before forming.

It was strange, but Slade actually preferred the blunt way Lance put it. As much as he appreciated and needed his little brother's forgiveness, the fact remained he had done everything in his power to hurt Oliver. That he hadn't succeeded wasn't down to him being strong enough to fight his way back, but because Oliver had to turn to others for help, was only another wound to his soul. "I didn't ask him what it was about... but I can make an educated guess it was of that time." He sighed. "After... I couldn't sleep." Again, he left unsaid that he hadn't wanted to sleep in case his little brother had dreamed again and needed comfort. His face was shadowed... haunted by guilt and pain that had strengthened.

"Guilt makes it difficult to sleep," Lance agreed, leaning back against the cabinet. "I still wake up in a cold sweat at night, thinking that it's my fault Laurel was targeted and killed. If I hadn't allowed Darhk to blackmail me, he wouldn't have got so strong. Then, when I turned on him, he might not have hurt her as badly." He glanced at Slade. "All I can do us promise myself not to be put in a position like that again. Do my best. That's all you can really do." He watched Slade to see what the other man did in response to his words.

"You can't control what someone else does," Slade said quietly. "But it was my hands that tried to kill my little brother... my mind that planned and plotted to bring him down and destroy him." His voice faltered, just a little, but he pushed on. "My voice... that blamed him for things out of his control; that let him think I hated him; that added to the pain I still see... every day... every time I look at him."

"I know for a fact he views things differently." Lance's voice was assured and calm. He didn't try and convince Slade; he knew the guilt was something Slade would have to work his way through. "I'll do what I can to help," he found himself offering, to his surprise.

"I'm not sure there's much that can help," Slade admitted quietly. "I'm trying to protect him from seeing my pain... but it's difficult." He sighed, feeling hopeless to figure out a way to stop the guilt.

"If Oliver were focusing on the guilt he feels...not letting it go...what would you do?" Lance asked curiously.

Slade hesitated, not sure he should be discussing how he handled his baby brother without Oliver there. Then again, it wasn't as if Lance hadn't seen already. "I'd help him... I'd spank him," he admitted.

"Maybe that's what you need. A big brother to help you." Lance's voice was clear and free of inflection, not wanting to influence Slade one way or the other, but willing to help all the same.

Surprised, Slade looked at Lance, trying to see if the other man truly meant what he said. "You'd be that?" His voice was uncertain, but contained a trace of hope all the same.

"Way I see it...we need you...cuz without you, Oliver goes off the rails. You need someone too, though and out of everyone, I'm probably the one who understands most where you're coming from. And God help me, I like you. So yes. I'll be that. If you want." Lance kept his gaze on Slade to see his reaction.

Slade wasn't used to needing anyone, apart from his brother, but Oliver needed him just as much, even if it was in a different way. But he'd never had anyone to be that for him. And he'd focused so much on his little brother's needs, his own had been discarded somewhere back on the island. Long before the mirakuru had twisted him into something unrecognisable. "Yes." His voice was quiet, but certain. "I do want that."

"We can take care of things here, if you want. The boys are too focused on the game to come looking for us, I think." Lance paused. "Or we can go out back into my work shed. I'll tell them I'm showing you something and we'll be right back, so they don't come looking. Which would you prefer?"

Slade thought about that. "The work shed might be better." While he didn't really care if Oliver found out about what happened (he didn't want Oliver to assume it was something to be ashamed of... or that his big brother was exempt from the same rules he was expected to follow), he also didn't want either of the kids to walk in on it and cause all kinds of awkward.

"Follow me, then..." Lance nodded, heading down the hall to the back door. He stuck his head into the room where Tommy and Oliver were long enough to announce, "I'm showing Slade my workshop. We'll be back in twenty minutes or so. Save some snacks for us!" His voice was stern but teasing. At Tommy's nod, he continued, expecting Slade would follow.

Slade checked automatically to make sure Oliver was happy and didn't immediately need him and then followed Lance, finding the situation a little surreal. Apart from submitting to his baby brother, Slade couldn't remember being in this position.

Soon, they were in the shed and Lance had to ask himself what he was thinking. Slade wasn't a son to him...he did like the man and could easily see him as a brother, but still. Slade was as dominant and in control as Lance was. The fact he was ready and willing to submit to this, though? Was proof he needed someone to step in and help. It didn't feel right taking him over his knee and baring him, though. Not exactly. He glanced at Slade. "I'm going to give you a few choices this time; and it will be the last time those choices are offered, because I'm really big on consistency with discipline. Do you feel more comfortable going over my knee or leaning over the table? And are you more comfortable with me using my hand on the bare, or my belt over your trousers? Normally, I wouldn't ask...but I don't think you need someone taking over and parenting you; just holding you accountable."

Slade didn't really have to think about it. Yes, he'd gone over his little brother's knee without any protection, but that vulnerability had been easy with Oliver. It wasn't the same thing with Lance and he appreciated the choice. "I'll be more comfortable leaning over the table clothed," he said honestly.

Lance nodded, not surprised since that's what he would have chosen if their positions were reversed. "No need to put it off any longer, then," he said, in a matter-of-fact tone, directing Slade to the work table in question before removing his belt and doubling it over, holding the buckle in his hand. He put his free hand against the small of Slade's back, pushing him down gently and moving just to the back and side of him. Reaching up slightly, he squeezed Slade's shoulder. "You've already been forgiven by everyone you hurt. You just need to forgive yourself." He then moved his hand back down to Slade's back to help keep him in place, raised the belt up and let it fall with a decisive snap. He was glad they'd come out to the shed, as the sound echoed through the building.

Slade's emotions had been close to the surface since his little brother had had that nightmare. The mirakuru had dulled every emotion except unnatural rage and hatred. Slade hadn't been able to understand why Oliver had become the target, unless it was a simple case of trying to drive out the biggest weakness. On the island, that had been Oliver... even though his baby brother was also his source of strength. The same was true now. The mirakuru itself wasn't sentient... Slade driven by its effects was.

The snap of the belt was loud and scattered the thoughts crowding his mind. Slade took a deep breath to stop himself from voicing a reaction, recognising... on some level... that he wanted it to be harsh.

Lance quickly fell into a pattern, raising the belt and then letting it snap down in a fairly rapid pace. He didn't make it overly hard; the intention was to punish hard enough for long enough that Slade would feel as if he'd been punished enough without damaging him.

Slade breathed deep, trying to hold in his reactions... not really deliberately, but it was hard to let himself be vulnerable to the other man, even though he was grateful for what Lance was doing. It was hard to separate himself from the monster triggered by the mirakuru... the monster that had not only hurt his baby brother, but the other person who'd needed his protection.

Lance started a second circuit at the same fast pace and strength. "You think you're a monster because of what you did while influenced by the Mirakuru. I know no amount of arguing will convince you differently and maybe we shouldn't try...although that just means Oliver is going to be feeling his guilt even more keenly, since he was the one to give you the drug in the first place. But maybe that's best too. I don't know. It isn't like I don't have enough of my own guilt to carry around for my own bad decisions. What I do know is that the guilt is pointless if you don't use it. Use it to make better decisions. Use it to help your family make better decisions. Use it to be better. If you can do that...then it isn't pointless."

Slade couldn't hold in a quiet groan as Lance began a second circuit, wincing as the belt began to land on areas that had already received attention. When he responded, his voice was strained. "I wasn't... strong enough to keep my promises. Not to Oliver... not to... not to Joe..." His voice hitched. He hadn't allowed himself to think about his son... hadn't allowed himself to grieve; hadn't thought past the self-loathing caused by his part in Joe's death.

Lance winced at that, knowing the guilt that tormented a person from promises not kept. Still. "Did ya try? When you were in your right mind and able to think clearly...did you try to keep them?"

Slade closed his eye, tears beginning to threaten. "I... tried. Tried to protect him... them." His voice dropped to a barely-heard whisper. "I couldn't protect... either of them from me."

Lance felt a flare of sympathy, but suspected that wasn't what Slade wanted or needed. He began a third circuit, speeding up the pace and increasing the strength in his swing slightly. "You tried. That's all anyone can do. Try your best and pray it's enough. You're human, Slade. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things still go badly...still go wrong."

Slade's fingers clenched on the work table and a couple of tears tracked their way down his cheeks. "It... wasn't enough." His voice broke. "Oliver's forgiven me. He forgave me... almost straight away. Because he needs me... needs me more than anyone's ever needed me." He couldn't carry on speaking; his emotions were too high... but his little brother's quick forgiveness had only proved just how much Slade's actions had damaged Oliver and how much Slade's loss had hurt him.

"Oliver forgave you because if he couldn't find it in his heart to forgive you, he'd never be able to forgive himself...or accept anyone else forgiving him." Lance's tone was knowing and certain of himself. "You aren't the only one who has hurt those who love and depend on them and you certainly aren't the only one who has broken promises. I'm not saying the kid doesn't need you completely...but Oliver had to forgive you if he wanted to have hope that he would be forgiven. The fact you came back and gave him a chance to forgive you has helped him more than any other thing you could have done to make things up to him." During his speaking, Lance had continued the belting, although he slowed down enough that it would enable Slade to listen.

Slade's breath out was a shudder... almost a sob. "I just... want to heal him. I don't know how to do that, but I need to find a way... to make up for everything... for abandoning him. For not being there." More tears began to slip out of his eyes. He felt guilt for the other people he'd hurt. Of course he did. But it was strongest in regards to Oliver. "I refused to see before; to see how much he hurt. Now I can't see anything else," he whispered.

Lance slowed even more, the strikes more to emphasize his words than to punish. "You are healing him. Anyone who has spent any time with him in the last five years can see how much more calm and at peace he is. You are healing him. Seeing how much he hurt is useful...it helps you focus to help him more. But you have to also see how you are healing him."

Slade was quiet, listening to Lance's words. The confirmation that he was helping his little brother helped. The tears were still slipping out of his eyes, but the words were helping him to realise that, no matter his crimes, being with Oliver was helping his little brother. "It's difficult to forgive myself," he admitted, voice strained and heavy with tears. "If it wasn't for Oliver... I would have returned myself to prison long ago." Or worse.

"I know. You may never be able to forgive yourself. As long as you remember that those you wronged have forgiven you...and that they need you..." Lance didn't say anymore, figuring his meaning was clear. As long as Slade didn't take himself away from Oliver again...he'd have to live with not forgiving himself and accept that Oliver's forgiveness was enough. Lance stopped the belting and carefully replaced his belt around his waist before reaching up and squeezing Slade's shoulder in a sign of caring. "You aren't alone either..." he added.

Slade took a moment or two to compose himself... and feel the caring in the hand that squeezed his shoulder... then carefully stood up. "Thank you." His voice was soft, but still sincere.

"Any time..." Lance smiled crookedly. "Us protectors have to stick together." He wasn't joking.

Slade managed a slight, sincere smile. "I think it's good you've got Tommy staying here, for both of you."

"Yeah. I think you're right." Lance smiled back. "How bout we go join the trouble magnets now?" He wrapped an arm around Slade's shoulder for a brief moment, patting him on the back, before leading him out and back to the house.

Tommy glanced over as Lance led Slade outside, then cast a glance at Oliver. Something had been on his mind since the night before, when Lance had spanked him... and he found his face growing a bit hot when he was thinking about it. "Can I ask you something? Something personal?" He shifted slightly in his seat, able to still feel a bit of soreness from the spanking.

Oliver glanced at his friend and shifted to face him, unable to stop his own wince from feeling where he'd been so thoroughly punished for his behaviour the night before. "Yeah...go ahead..." he said quietly, dread pooling in his stomach at the numerous questions Tommy might ask that the answer would leave his friend furious with him and possibly not want anything to do with him again.

Tommy wouldn't have read anything into the wince if he himself hadn't been feeling the effects from the night before. "Does Slade spank you?" The question came out in a rush and Tommy winced again. He hadn't quite meant to ask it so bluntly.

Oliver blinked. He'd been working himself up into a panic, imagining the worst possible question that Tommy could ask and then... "Yes." His voice and tone were calm, matter of fact and accepting. Slanting his head, he looked at Tommy curiously. "Have I been squirming too much? I mean...why would you ask that?"

Tommy shook his head. "No. I mean... a little, but I think I saw cause... well, Lance spanked me last night... and he said he'd been reminded it worked on stubborn young men. You were the only person, apart from me, I could think he might mean."

"He could've meant himself! When he was younger!" Oliver pouted, but it was a teasing pour and his eyes were laughing.

Tommy's smile was a bit hesitant, as he was still bothered by something. "I don't really know what to think about it," he admitted. "I mean... it's really obvious that Slade loves you. The moment you're in the room, it's like you become the centre of his world. I'm still not really sure Lance likes me..." And it was really embarrassing to think about what he'd admitted to the other man.

"Ah..." Oliver turned serious quickly. "And you're wondering if you should have allowed him to spank you." Oliver paused. "The first time Slade spanked me, I was positive he didn't like me. I kept messing everything up...I almost got caught I don't know how many times and he had to save me...I thought if he didn't hate me, he'd be very glad to see me walking away from him when we finally got off the island."

"What convinced you otherwise?" While the situation with Tommy and Lance was different, Tommy hoped that understanding how it affected his best friend would help him to... if not outright understand his feelings... at least accept them. Preferably without having to ask Lance outright, because if he didn't know, it likely meant there was something wrong with him.

"I realized I needed him; needed him to be in charge and hold me accountable, even if he didn't like me. Because without him, I couldn't learn what I needed to survive and I'd never make it home." He'd needed him for a bit more than just that, but he didn't think Tommy would understand exactly how in control Oliver needed Slade to be, so he didn't elaborate further. "Eventually, I realized he did care about and like me. If he was gruff or stern, it was because I'd scared him and almost got killed, not because he didn't like me."

"But I don't know how to tell," Tommy admitted quietly. "Even Thea... I know she doesn't like him - not that she's gone into any details about the history with him - but she knows Slade is there for you because he wants to be, not because he feels obligated..."

"Tommy..." Oliver looked at his friend with a very serious look. "Do you honestly believe Lance would be there for you if he really didn't want to be? Yes, you were engaged to Laurel, but you never actually married. He has no obligation to be anything more than civil to you. I mean, your father is still alive, even if he hasn't put in an appearance yet. And you have Thea and me, so you aren't alone. He wants to help you. And yeah...maybe he doesn't seem like he likes you that much. But to be fair, he doesn't really know you. And seeing you reminds him of Laurel, so it has to be difficult for him. Just...give him some time. Give yourself some time. I bet before you know it, you'll wonder how you ever thought he didn't like you."

"Maybe..." Tommy sighed. "I just... I don't even know if my father knows I'm alive. Or even cares if he does. Lance disapproved of me... at least that was something." Looking away, he muttered, "I swear there's gotta be something wrong with me..."

"I can't comment on your father...he claims to care, but then he does completely selfish things that hurt his children. Lance disapproved because he loves his daughters and let's face it...we were completely irresponsible. You've changed. I'm sure he'll realize. The fact he wants to give you a chance and help you is a good sign," Oliver stated.

Tommy nodded. "I guess..." He paused. "I didn't really think about it until you were drinking so much yesterday and I realised... it was so out of character for you now."

Oliver blushed darkly. "Yeah. That...that wasn't the best thing I could have done." Oliver sighed. "I'm not sure what I was thinking..."

Tommy shrugged. "It looks like Slade has you in hand... when you came back from the island, you changed. But I've noticed you changed again since I woke up. It's like you're more at peace."

Oliver blinked at the way Tommy worded his statement then chuckled slightly. "Yeah. You're right. He...he keeps me from going off the rails. Either with irresponsible behaviour or overly reckless behaviour. And I am at peace. Things make sense and...I feel like I can handle whatever is thrown at me now. Probably because I'm not trying to take it all on alone." He shrugged faintly and blushed.

"I'm glad." Tommy cleared his throat. "Things were really strained between us before I fell into a coma, but you're still my best friend," he admitted quietly. "I think you're the only one who could have pulled me back. I'm relieved you're not trying to do everything on your own."

"I've missed you so much, Tommy..." Oliver swallowed hard then gave a tiny smile. "I think we're about to have company again..." He tried to wipe surreptitiously at his eyes, not wanting anyone to see that he'd started crying, but he was pretty sure Tommy saw and he knew Slade would notice.

Lance had led Slade back from the shed and into the kitchen, where they'd grabbed enough drinks for everyone, and then led Slade into the room where the younger men were. He'd caught Oliver wiping his eyes just as he walked in the door, but didn't say anything. He knew Slade would take care of it if something were wrong.

Slade wasn't prepared to embarrass Oliver, even if it was just Lance and Tommy in the room with them, but neither was he prepared to ignore any signs of distress his baby brother was in. He was able to hide his wince as he sat next to Oliver fairly well, but was quick to wrap his arm around Oliver's shoulders. "You doing okay, kid?" he whispered.

"Yeah..." Oliver smiled at his brother, leaning into him automatically before remembering he was trying to appear 'more adult' around other people. Then he decided that he didn't care anymore. He wasn't the Arrow right now. He was Oliver. And things had just been so hectic lately, he needed his brother. He figured Tommy and Lance would understand.

It was automatic to tighten his arm around Oliver, responding to his baby brother leaning into him. Slade was happy just to be able to touch and hold him... he was perfectly happy to let Oliver set the tone when they were around other people.

Tommy relaxed, seeing more evidence of how much better Oliver was with Slade. He wasn't sure what to say... or how to hide his wistful feelings... so he grabbed one of the sodas and drank some, so it would be something of a shield.

Lance reached over and squeezed Tommy's shoulder before patting him on the back. There wasn't quite enough room to sit next to the younger man, but he chose a seat as close to him as he was able, stretching out so that his leg leaned unobtrusively against Tommy's leg. If the kid wanted more room, he'd shift and Lance would take the hint. If he didn't move? Well...Lance would just have to make certain he didn't 'leave him alone to his thoughts' too often. Patting his back, squeezing his arm; just reminding him in general that he wasn't alone. Lance really couldn't understand Malcolm Merlyn. If his Laurel suddenly came back from the dead, he'd be by her side as soon and as often as she'd allow. He made certain to smile at Tommy, so that Tommy would realize his physical contact was deliberate.

"What are we watching?" Oliver asked out of nowhere, suddenly realizing he hadn't a clue what was on the television. He and Tommy really hadn't been paying attention to it before. He let himself slump down a little more so that he was slouched against his brother; not cuddling exactly (he wasn't so far into a childish mood that he'd do that in front of everyone), but spreading out like a guy who was completely at ease and comfortable with the people he was with and not caring if he put space between them or not.

The physical contact made Tommy feel better than he'd expected it to and he relaxed, noticeably not pulling away even as he glanced at the television. "Some kind of sports? I don't know... I wasn't really paying attention," he admitted.

Slade gently patted Oliver's arm. "I'm sure we can put something else on." He'd missed out on a lot while on the island... more when his only concern had been his vendetta against his brother. But Oliver was warm and solid against his side; and Lance stepping in had given him enough focus to feel like he could sit down with his baby brother and talk about the mirakuru enough to give them both a chance to heal.

"Why don't you pick something, Tommy? You've missed out on several years of entertainment after all..." Oliver smiled.

"Okay." Tommy picked up the remote and clicked through until he found a channel beginning a more recent movie. Checking the faces of the others to make sure they were all okay with it, he left it playing.

It was later when Slade and Oliver said goodbye to Lance and Tommy. Slade could see that Tommy, although a bit tired and still in some pain, was clearly happy to have Oliver there... and Oliver was just as happy to be with his best friend. Slade resolved to talk to Lance about bringing Oliver over again soon.

In the car, Slade paused to gather his thoughts and then placed a hand on his baby brother's knee, squeezing gently. "I'd like us to talk when we get home, kid."

Oliver blinked, biting his lip and glancing at Slade. "I...I wasn't naughty, was I? I tried to be good!" He couldn't remember having done anything he shouldn't have, although he supposed that one moment of rough-housing with Tommy hadn't been all that well advised...but both of them had stopped immediately when Lance had said to stop, so... He swallowed, hoping he didn't sound as nervous as he felt. He hated doing things he shouldn't when he wasn't aware of it.

"No, little brother." Slade gripped Oliver's hand, squeezing gently. "You weren't naughty. You were very good," he promised. "This is a conversation that... I think we should have, even if it might be emotional and difficult."

Oliver nodded, squeezing Slade's hand back. He had to admit the seriousness of Slade's voice, and the way he foreshadowed that it might be difficult, worried him. He began trying to mentally prepare himself, trying to make himself able to handle whatever it was like the adult he actually was instead of the needy child he often acted like when he was alone with Slade. Something this serious, he thought maybe Slade needed him to be in control of himself, since it seemed as if this was going to be a difficult conversation for Slade and it would be harder if he had to worry about Oliver's responses. "Okay..." he finally said quietly.

"Kid... don't worry about trying to react in a certain way," Slade said softly, stroking over Oliver's hand. "I don't want you to feel like I'm expecting you to handle things in any way other than what's right for you." He kept hold of his baby brother's hand even as he parked outside their apartment building.

"I...I'll try..." Oliver said with a crooked smile. He had to admit he wasn't sure what the best way for him to handle the conversation would be; and likely wouldn't until he found out what they'd be talking about. It was very easy to say he could react as he normally would: just listening closely and then taking whatever direction or instruction Slade gave and obeying. But it was also possible that whatever the discussion was about, he'd feel the need to pull back and be in control of himself so that he could help his big brother, even if Slade didn't want him to.

Slade let go of his brother, only for as long as it took to get out of the car and move round to wrap his arm around Oliver's shoulders, squeezing his little brother gently to himself as he guided Oliver into the building and to their apartment.

Once they were safely inside the apartment and away from prying eyes, Oliver wrapped both his arms around Slade and cuddled. He'd felt the urge a couple of times while with Lance and Tommy, but while he didn't mind them seeing him being affectionate with Slade, he didn't want them to see him regressing so far emotionally, so he'd refrained. No one was here to see and he wanted to be held. The fact his brother had something serious to discuss only made the need greater. "What do you want to talk about?" he asked softly.

Slade wrapped his arms around his little brother in a hug that was just as tight, Oliver's warmth a comfort to him. He pressed a kiss to his little brother's head and then guided him through to the living area, sitting down and gently tugging Oliver down to sit on his lap. "I keep turning over and over in my mind... why the mirakuru caused me to target so much of my anger onto you," he began, his arms still tight around his baby brother.

Oliver curled up on his brother's lap, making himself as small as possible and snuggling close. When he heard Slade's words, he bit his lip uncertainly. "It was because I hurt you first..." he said, in a tiny voice that was filled with shame and certainty.

"No, kid. That didn't have anything to do with it." Slade gently stroked the nape of his little brother's neck. "The mirakuru targeted my weakest points and either strengthened or healed them. On the island and now, you're both my weakest point and my source of strength. But the only thing it could see... was the weakness."

Oliver swallowed at the words, cuddling that much closer and took a deep breath, the gentle stroking of his neck calming him slightly. "The Mirakuru saw me as a weakness and tried to strengthen you or heal you against me? I don't mean to be a weakness..." he whispered, not certain exactly how he was a weakness and so unable to figure out a way to stop being one.

"It considered my love for you a weakness and tried to warp it into something that wasn't." Slade pressed a kiss to Oliver's head. "Because, even when I was dying, my only thought was of you; to protect you. But you aren't my weakness, little brother. You're who I fight for. You pulled me out of the darkness. You gave me my life back. There is nothing I have been given more important than your love... your trust... your forgiveness."

"But you were still hurt because of me..." Oliver said quietly. It wasn't that he doubted Slade's words. He didn't, at all. But he couldn't help feeling that maybe if Slade didn't care about him so much that he considered Oliver's life more important than his own...it was confusing. The Mirakuru took that feeling of caring and love and twisted it. Oliver wasn't stupid, though. He knew it could have been so much worse. Yes, Slade had hurt him. Had left permanent scars on his body that would remind them both of what the drug had done to his brother and what it had taken from both of them. But he could have hurt him worse. He had no doubt of that. Somehow, despite everything, Slade had retained enough of himself to keep from going too far. "You kept me alive...even if the Mirakuru made you think that your feelings were a weakness, you kept me alive. You could have just killed me and eliminated the weakness..." He wasn't entirely sure what he was trying to say. He did know he wanted Slade to realize that he'd kept some small measure of control despite everything; kept some small measure of himself. He hadn't been completely lost or hopeless and it was the fact he had kept some small part of himself that Oliver had been able to help him.

Slade closed his eye, gently stroking over Oliver's hair, neck and back, rubbing under his shirt to have the skin-on-skin contact. "If I'd killed you... and come back to myself... my life wouldn't have been worth living," he whispered in his baby brother's ear. "You are everything. When I hold you like this... even when you're over my knee... every time I touch you, it helps it stop hurting a little. When you're in my arms, I can protect you and keep you safe."

"When you're holding me...even if I'm over your knee being punished...I feel safer than I do at any other time. Safe enough to let go and just be..." Oliver sighed, putting his head on his brother's shoulder. "Even when the Mirakuru had you, part of me recognized that you wouldn't kill me and I felt safe physically, even if I didn't feel emotionally safe."

Slade gently stroked his little brother's hair, his arms tight around Oliver. "My love for you was buried deep, but it was always there. Even though it was twisted into something dark... if it wasn't still there, it wouldn't have resurfaced when I came back to myself."

"I think Tommy knew how I feel with you...even if he doesn't know the exact circumstance..." Oliver smiled. "Sorry I was a brat last night."

Slade gently threaded his fingers through his little brother's hair. "You were trying to deal with a lot of conflicted emotions, little brother. You weren't being a brat."

"I kinda was, though...even with my trying to deal with stuff. But I was never afraid...even being ba...being naughty...I knew you'd take care of me." Oliver snuggled more."I wish I knew how to help you as much as you help me."

Slade continued to gently stroke and rub his little brother's hair, back and neck. "You do, kid. You help me to heal. You've given me your unconditional love and trust... you've let me into your life. You've helped me. More than you know."

"Is...is there something else you need to talk to me about?" Oliver asked quietly.

Slade leaned his head against his little brother's, gently squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck. "Just this... if there's ever anything you need to talk to me about, I want you to. No matter what it is. No matter how you might think it'll make me feel."

Reassured that there was nothing he needed to worry about, Oliver let go of the control he was maintaining over himself and his emotions, letting himself drop quickly into a mindset of belonging to Slade and letting Slade take care of him. "Yessir..." he mumbled, nuzzling into his brother like a kitten.

Slade gently stroked Oliver's hair, neck and back... every part of his little brother's body he could get to. "I love you." His voice was a soft murmur in Oliver's ear, but still intense with emotion.

Oliver hadn't been tired...or at least he hadn't thought he was. Sitting on his brother's lap, being held, he found himself very lethargic. All he wanted was to be held, petted, cuddled. It took more energy than it should have just to kick off his shoes. He needed the connection...needed to feel that he was Slade's and that everything was ok...but didn't know how to voice it and wasn't sure how to make their connection even more than it already was anyway. So he held more tightly and trusted his brother to know what to do.

Slade didn't so much as loosen his hold on his baby brother, hand stroking Oliver's bare skin under his shirt... cuddling him as close as he could possibly get. He adjusted his baby brother enough to make the contact easier... not roughly, but definitely possssively.

Oliver sighed softly. Something about feeling his brother's hand on his skin instead of through material calmed him so much. It was probably why they recommended so much skin-on-skin contact between parents and newborns. He just felt so much more connected and that helped ease any worry he had about letting his brother be in charge. Not that there was much worry left...he'd pretty much given up worrying about his need to submit to Slade long ago.

Slade's other hand settled at the nape of Oliver's neck, gently squeezing, as he continued to stroke and rub over his baby brother's back. The contact put truth to what he'd told Oliver... that holding onto his brother helped him a lot more than anything else could have done. "You're mine, kid." The words were a murmur in Oliver's ear, but despite their softness, they were still intense. "No matter what happens... I'm not ever going to let you go again."

This time, Oliver let out an incomprehensible murmur, but the tone was pleased and the fact he wiggled around so that Slade could pet more of him and he could hold onto his brother more tightly indicated that he hadn't been complaining at the possessiveness.

Slade leaned back on the sofa, pulling his baby brother with him to make sure Oliver's body was as supported as possible. Throughout the moving, he stroked and rubbed over his brother's whole back, keeping Oliver as close to himself as possible as he stroked the bare skin.

Oliver didn't fight the maneuvering and soon found himself half laying on top of his brother, his head still on Slade's shoulder and his face hidden against the older man's neck. He wiggled a little bit again in response to the petting before settling down. He wanted more. He couldn't put into words what he wanted more of. But he just wanted...more.

Slade put a little bit more pressure behind the rubbing and stroking, gently squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck while his other hand rubbed low enough to reach his brother's bottom, stroking everywhere he could reach.

Oliver squirmed a bit. "More..." he finally whispered. "...Yours." He tightened his embrace, almost to a point where Slade would have to literally take care of him if he became anymore lethargic and 'needy'.

Slade pressed a kiss to his baby brother's head, not sure what Oliver was asking for, but willing to do and be whatever his brother needed. He gently patted his brother's bottom, considering whether Oliver needed Slade to physically undress him.

Oliver was as close to purring as a human was able to get, shifting yet again so that Slade could reach his bottom more easily. He whimpered slightly because he wasn't sure what he wanted or needed; he only knew he wanted to give Slade control over whatever it was.

Slade stroked and rubbed a few more seconds, then gently moved Oliver. Remembering his little brother's comments about how even being over Slade's knee made him feel safe... and knowing he could spank for comfort as well as punishment... Slade gently moved his baby brother in position over his knee... though he was prepared to shift his baby brother back if it wasn't meeting Oliver's needs.

Oliver easily went where his brother positioned him, not upset or worried in the least when he found himself draped over Slade's lap. The only hesitation he showed was when he tried to figure out where to put his hands; he ended up putting them behind his back so Slade could hold them in place. Otherwise, he was pliant and relaxed.

Slade grasped his little brother's hands gently, adjusting Oliver enough to be sure his brother was comfortable. He then pushed Oliver's shirt up and out of the way, his pants down and out of the way, so he could rub and stroke over all of Oliver's bare skin, from his neck down to his legs.

Oliver let out tiny- not quite moans- but little noises that indicated he was happy. This was better than a massage. It felt good, yes... but a massage didn't help him feel like he was safe, protected and belonged like having his brother rubbing him did. He hadn't been wrong. Slade knew what he needed.

The little happy sounds from his brother were enough to help Slade confirm that he was handling Oliver's needs correctly. He stroked over every inch of his brother's neck, back, bottom and legs. The control helped him... being close to his brother and fulfilling his needs helped even more.

Oliver closed his eyes and just focused on his brother and what he was doing. He never did quite understand how just giving control to Slade like this, accepting whatever his brother decided to give him, always helped him feel more secure. Any other time, he was in complete control; but he always felt like he was walking a razor's edge and would fall...would fail...if just the wrong thing happened. With Slade- giving up and giving in to Slade- he didn't feel like he was balancing on a ledge. He felt like he could handle anything because his brother was there helping ease the burden, if not taking it from him completely. The feeling of belonging to Slade wasn't one he'd willingly give up. "...Yours..." he whispered, sounding almost drugged because of how he'd just let go and let Slade be in control.

"Mine." Slade's voice was low, but there was a possessive note to it. Oliver did belong with him... to him. It worked both ways, of course. Slade belonged to Oliver as much as his little brother belonged to him. He continued the gentle rubbing and stroking, putting a bit more pressure behind the touches. "You're safe. With me. I have you."

Oliver smiled at the possessive tone. "...Feels safe..." he agreed in his own quiet voice. "...Need to be yours..." he admitted even more quietly, moaning slightly at the pressure, but not trying to move away, actually trying to move closer.

"You are, little brother," Slade promised, relieved that was a promise he knew he could keep. Responding to the shifting, he tugged his baby brother closer against him, adjusting Oliver to make it easier to stroke and rub... gently patting his bottom.

"Am I...messed up? Cuz I like when you...spank me?" Oliver asked hesitantly. As much as he'd given in to his need to let Slade be in control, every so often, he still wondered if something was wrong with him for wanting to give all control to Slade and not only be corrected and punished by him, but...settled by him...this way.

"No, kid," Slade replied, still gently patting Oliver's bottom. "You have needs. It isn't anything to be ashamed of or worried about."

"Okay..." Oliver let himself relax a bit more, focusing on the gentle patting...the tingly feeling it left behind; not quite a sting, but leaving a tiny itch that only eased when the next smack landed, each smack reminding him that he belonged to Slade...making him feel safe and wanted and owned.

"I love you, little brother." Slade continued the gentle pats down to Oliver's thighs and then started over again... still at the same gentle pace and force. "You are everything important to me. Everything I'll fight for... my hope and my strength."

"I love you too...so much!" Oliver said emphatically, wiggling slightly as the tingly feeling built up enough that it did start to sting.

Slade paused the mild smacks to gently rub his little brother's bottom and his lower back. "When I hold onto you, it soothes some of the pain I still carry around inside," he said, wanting Oliver to know how important he was.

"I'm glad...cuz when you hold onto me, it...it helps me not feel so bad about all the ways I messed up..." he admitted quietly. He sniffled just as quietly; not exactly crying, but the feeling of being loved and valued, along with the rubbing, was overwhelming him and he knew it wouldn't take much for him to start crying.

Slade continued the gentle rubbing. "You're my good boy," he said, hoping that if he voiced the words enough times, Oliver would be able to heal more fully... that he might start to believe it at times he wasn't in a vulnerable mindset. He resumed the gentle pats to his baby brother's bottom.

"Always want to be your good boy..." Oliver mumbled, arching his back slightly so his bottom raised enough to let Slade get his sit spots easier. If he could 'feel' his brother's love and 'control' even when he wasn't over Slade's knee, it would help him. He knew it would.

Slade responded, directing a few gentle pats to each sit spot before he began rubbing again. By now, his baby brother's bottom was slightly warm and Slade could feel that when he stroked Oliver's bare bottom and thighs. "You are, little brother. Temporary naughtiness doesn't change that."

Oliver mewled softly, the words as well as the rubbing increasing the feeling of contentment he had at being under his brother's hand. He could feel the heat from his own skin and welcomed the soreness he knew would be there later; a reminder that he was his brother's and his brother had everything, including him, under control.

Slade continued rubbing gently a few more moments and then resumed the light, gentle pats, not increasing the force any even though he knew his brother would be a bit more sensitive.

Oliver just continued to let out tiny mewling purrs and moans. He hadn't moved his hands from behind his back at all, the added 'control' Slade had over him by holding them against his back helping him focus and 'give in' the way he really needed to but struggled with sometimes.

Slade kept hold of his little brother's hands, gently stroking over them even as he focused once more on Oliver's sit spots, gently patting and pausing periodically to rub Oliver's warming bottom.

Oliver whimpered slightly, his bottom finally heating to a point where the sting was beginning to hurt...but in a good way. He shifted his bottom, trying to reposition himself; his body trying to get away from the smacking, even if emotionally, he wanted it to continue.

Slade paused, gently pulling his little brother tighter against his stomach... though he didn't immediately resume the gentle smacks, his hand gently rubbing Oliver's warm bottom and down over his thighs.

Oliver blushed at the audible sigh he gave when Slade pulled him closer and rubbed some more. He was positive if his bottom wasn't already red from the smacking, it'd be red because of his blushing. It was impossible not to sigh, though...the rubbing felt so comfortingly good on his heated bottom.

Slade continued the gentle rubbing and stroking, unable to do anything but respond to his little brother's needs. "My baby brother... my good boy," he reiterated, wanting to make it clear there was nothing wrong with Oliver's needs. He gently squeezed one of Oliver's thighs.

Oliver whimpered again and quickly nodded. "Uh huh...yours...always..." He sniffled, the feeling of being loved making him more emotional. It was hard not to beg for more; but it was Slade's decision to make. Slade made all decisions on what was best for Oliver, especially when Oliver had reached the point emotionally that he currently was at. Slade would do what was best.

Slade let his hand rest gently on Oliver's bottom, rubbing the warm skin soothingly, even while his other hand held onto his brother's. "I love you, little brother. I have you. I'm never going to let go. Even if having to stay in control with other people can be scary... I will always be there for you to hold onto and lean on."

Oliver felt himself relaxing at the words. "It's...it's easier staying in control in public...when I know you'll take over when we're home..." he admitted softly, tears sliding down his face despite the fact he actually was happy.

Slade resumed the gentle rubbing over Oliver's whole back, legs, bottom, neck... stroking and soothing, encouraging his baby brother to relax further. "I won't let you go." His words were a promise. "I will always take care of you, little brother."

"That makes me happy..." Oliver said softly, not ashamed to admit how much he wanted and needed his brother to take care of him. "I am happy when you have hold of me and don't let go, whatever way you have hold of me. I...I even like when you have hold of me to punish me for naughtiness, even though I'm not much fond of being punished. I don't like disappointing you..."

Slade didn't stop or even pause the gentle, comforting stroking and rubbing. "I don't stay disappointed, kid. The vast majority of the time, I'm proud of you. But I'll still hold onto you, no matter what happens. You're my good boy most of the time. When you're naughty, I'll take you over my knee, bare your bottom and spank you. But I'll forgive you. I won't stop loving you. I'll always be happy to have you with me."

Oliver blushed slightly, Slade's description of what he'd do if he was naughty making him feel childish. But it also made him feel good and warm inside. "I love you..." he said quietly, relaxing further, not wanting the gentle touches to stop.

Slade made no attempt to move his brother, only adjusting Oliver enough so he could better move his shirt and pants out of the way to expose as much of his baby brother's skin as possible to the gentle rubbing and stroking. "I love you too, little brother. More than I could ever put into words."

"Clothes get in the way..." Oliver complained in a pouting tone of voice, wiggling slightly in an effort to help Slade move them. He glanced over his shoulder, the look in his eye seemingly asking a question or pleading for Slade to take care of it.

It was impossible for Slade to ignore pleas or requests from his brother and he very carefully removed the clothes entirely, leaving his little brother completed naked across his lap.

Oliver was surprised, though he really shouldn't have been, how quickly his ability to keep any part of himself, to himself, disappeared once he was naked. His brother being fully clothed, being the one to undress him, the fact that he was vulnerable and fully dependent on Slade to take care of him and not hurt him; it was the last thing needed to prove once and for all who was in charge. Oliver's emotions were all over the place and his ability to not react to them plummeted. He was an open book to Slade, laying over his brother's lap, completely relaxed and accepting of whatever Slade decided to do; whimpering quietly, a few tears escaping and running down his face (though they were tears from the emotional upheaval and not because he was scared or upset).

Slade's concern spiked at the sound of the whimpering and the tears he could see. He resumed the gentle rubbing over Oliver's bare skin, speaking in a quiet, soothing voice. "It's okay, little brother. I've got you. You're with me and I'm not going to let you go..."

Oliver relaxed further at the words and the tears quickly dried up as Slade soothed the emotions that were running rampant. "You've got me..." Oliver repeated, his voice small and relieved. "I'm yours..." He whispered the last. "I love you, Slade..."

"I love you." Slade's voice was intense with emotion as his hand stroked over every part of his little brother's body. "I've got you. You're mine. You never have to be scared or worried or upset. I will take care of you. I won't allow you to ever be hurt again."

Oliver stayed where he was, completely relaxed, just accepting his brother's attention. The gentle possessiveness was soothing. All he wanted was to obey his brother; be petted and soothed by him; be taken care of. Whatever Slade decided to do, whatever he told Oliver to do, Oliver would go along with and do. He was at peace with himself and his need.

The End