Second Chances

Giving Up vs. Giving Up

Title: Giving Up vs. Giving Up

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

Summary: Fourth in the Second Chances series. Hiding things for any reason is a problem.

Warning(s): Mild D/s with temporary regression to childlike state; usage of non-common thermometer; spanking with hand and implement; mentions of drug use or past drug use; mouth soaping and corner time; violence.

Authors: BlackFox12 and Hope1iz

The voice was on a different frequency... faint, barely there; but it was as if someone had tapped into only Slade's comm. The rest of the group were ahead of him, on the mission... but the voices on the comm were so familiar, it left Slade unfocused and lagging behind the rest of the group.

He was alone when the knife came at him. The only warning he had was the whistle through the air. It was enough and Slade threw himself to one side, feeling the brush of the dagger as its blade pierced through the sleeve of his shirt.

The next moment, a figure was on him. Slade fought back, enough to drive the person back and give him a chance to see who he was facing off against... a young man; about Oliver's age, though now that Slade had his brother back, there weren't nearly as many similarities between them as he'd once seen.

"Remember me?" the man hissed, before throwing himself at Slade once more.

The man was favoring his leg. Slade could have gone for his weakest point... but he didn't. All he could do was focus on defending himself. And even that had nothing to do with him, only the knowledge that Oliver needed him to stay alive kept him fighting to defend himself.

Oliver had been near the front of the group, but when they'd reached the area where he'd expected to see the opponent of the week, there was no one there. Turning, he went to ask Slade if they had somehow announced themselves; he was pretty sure they hadn't, but if they had, Slade would have a look on his face that would mean extra training for all of them when they returned to the lair. The problem was Slade wasn't there. Frowning, he looked at John. "When did Slade stay back?" he asked, his worry notching up a peg as he could see no reason for Slade to separate from the group without telling anyone.

Diggle frowned. "He didn't say he was staying back." He glanced at Thea, who shrugged and shook her head. Diggle immediately turned to go back the way they'd come. "If he'd been taken out, we would have known." But Slade wouldn't have gone without a word. Diggle was certain of that.

Oliver nodded, turning to follow Diggle when he noticed the safe in the room. It was well hidden; he'd only noticed it because the slight indentation in the wall caught the light and his eye at just the right moment. This might explain what the group (who were supposed to have been here) were up to. Nodding at Thea, he motioned for her and Deadshot to go after Diggle, indicating he would be behind them. Then, after they had all left, he'd quickly gone to the safe and put a tiny charge on it, stepping back so that the safe door could be popped open. When he saw what was inside, his eyes turned grim. Quickly stuffing the vials into his quiver, he rushed out to catch up with the others; hopefully before they realized he'd delayed following them.

Slade was completely unfocused. He couldn't get into the headspace needed to take the younger man out... wasn't even sure he should. He always felt guilt about the evil he'd done, but for the most part, he was able to push it away. Faced with someone he'd hurt, though? The reminder was vivid and painful. He was blocking most of the blows... but some of them were getting through.

Deadshot had noticed Slade's reaction- or lack there-of- immediately and had quickly jumped into the fray, knocking the younger man to the side. He began to fight with the kid, not sure if he should render the kid unconscious or not. He was pretty certain he shouldn't kill the boy, but if push came to shove, he'd do so. He was too busy fighting to notice that Oliver was just arriving back to the group when he began the tussle.

Diggle had also noticed, but Deadshot had leaped in without thought and Slade was clearly unfocused. Diggle aimed his gun, but cursed when he couldn't get off a shot. Not without risking hitting one or the other.

Thea stopped next to Diggle, glancing at him and then quickly towards Oliver as her brother arrived.

Oliver, noting Deadshot handling whoever had attacked Slade, immediately moved to his brother's side and pulled him further away from the fight. "Slade? Slade? You okay? What happened?" Oliver's hands were rubbing over Slade's arms and chest, trying to determine if there were any wounds and also trying to draw Slade back from whatever memory he'd fallen into.

Deadshot had noticed Diggle was trying to aim by this time and threw himself down and to the side so that the target would be wide open.

"No..." Slade's voice was soft, but the protest was still obvious.

Diggle heard it. At the last moment, he switched the gun for a dart-gun and fired, taking the attacker down and knocking him out cold. He took a picture of the guy's face; sent it to Felicity. "Can you run this guy through facial recognition? Find out if he was spotted with anyone else?" With the state Slade was so obviously in, he didn't know what answers the man would immediately be able to give them.

Oliver was finding it hard to concentrate on anything but Slade at the moment, worry for his brother overcoming all else. Glancing at Diggle, he said quietly, "I'm going to get him home... can you take care of our mystery guest there? Let me know what Felicity finds out?" He didn't give any further directions, knowing that Diggle would take care of things; most likely calling in his wife to take the guy prisoner.

Deadshot just raised an eyebrow. He understood Oliver's worry over Slade, though, so didn't say anything.

Diggle nodded. "Sure, man. If you need anything, just call." His glance towards Slade was sympathetic and worried. Slade had quickly become a needed part of the team, especially in light of his ability to pull Oliver back whenever the younger man was inclined to go off the rails. But freed from the effects of the drug, Slade had proved himself to be trustworthy and as protective of the people Oliver cared about as Oliver himself. Diggle's worry had skyrocketed, as he was fairly certain Slade had been catapulted so deep inside his own mind, Oliver might be the only one able to bring him out. He called Lilah.

"Thank you, John." Oliver nodded at his friend, then took Slade by the arm and carefully led him out of the building and to Slade's car. Deadshot could ride his bike back to headquarters.

It had been a long drive; Slade was so quiet and withdrawn, Oliver didn't know what to do. By the time he had parked the car and they were upstairs in the apartment, he was so anxious, he was planning to go out and start hunting down answers as soon as he had got Slade comfortable.

It took the entire journey to the apartment for Slade to regain control of his own mind and reactions. Throughout the whole journey, he'd stared with unseeing eyes at the comm in his hands... remembering the voices that had drawn him away from the group. The voices he'd known were false and yet had still pushed inside the wounded places in his heart and mind.

As they reached the apartment, Slade was coming back to himself enough to notice Oliver was growing anxious. And he felt ashamed that he was worrying his brother... so much so, he pushed the guilt and pain to the back of his mind. He had to take care of the family he had left. He had to protect his baby brother from the monster Slade was terrified still resided deep inside.

Wordlessly, Slade wrapped his arms tightly around his brother. His body shuddered, but he held on like Oliver was his lifeline; which, truth be told, he was.

Oliver wrapped his own arms around Slade immediately, but didn't immediately relax like he normally would. He felt like Slade needed him to remain adult and aware, so that Slade didn't have to worry about either of those things. "If...why don't you sit down and I'll fix you a drink?" he asked hoarsely. He gave a quick glance toward his quiver that he'd dropped just beside the door. At some point, he'd have to hide the vials he'd found, but that would wait until Slade was feeling better.

Slade took a deep breath, not letting go of Oliver. His voice was a soft whisper in his baby brother's ear. "Kid... I don't need a drink. I need to hold onto you. You're the only..." He broke off, not having the strength to finish what he was saying.

"'ve got me..." Oliver hurried to calm Slade, his grip tightening. "Were you hurt?" he asked, with his own worry noticeable.

"Some bruises... nothing serious." Slade took a deep breath, his arms tight around Oliver as he drew strength from the warmth of his little brother. His hand shifted to Oliver's neck, pausing when his fingers encountered the feel of the hood. But he needed the contact and gently removed the hood so he could settle his hand in its usual place.

Oliver found himself sinking into his brother's arms, despite his intentions to not just dump all responsibility for himself onto Slade. The contact between hand and neck, no barriers, immediately caused him to lose just enough control that remaining in control would be very difficult. It would have frustrated him, except he could see how much it helped Slade; and that was ultimately what he was after, right? Helping Slade. It eased his worry that he was being selfish accepting the affection that he wanted and needed, knowing Slade was benefiting too. If that little bit helped his brother, maybe a little more wouldn't hurt? Carefully, Oliver shifted closer still, moving until his head was under Slade's chin like a little kid. He nuzzled against his brother's chest like a little kid, too...not satisfied completely with the result, but at a loss as to what to do to make it better so that he could see it helping Slade.

Slade exhaled slowly, gently squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck. Taking care of his little brother helped... helped him focus past the guilt and hurt. Knowing that Oliver trusted him, even though he'd had no reason to after everything that had happened. Slade tightened his embrace, but it wasn't quite enough. There were still barriers between them... but while he had a fairly good idea of what could help his frame of mind, he wasn't certain Oliver would be comfortable, even though there was no modesty between them. He let his hand shift under Oliver's shirt, just to have the skin-on-skin contact that he knew calmed both of them.

Oliver relaxed even more, letting out a tiny sigh at the contact, wiggling just a little to try and loosen his shirt so it could move easily and whining a tiny bit when it didn't work. He didn't want to let go of Slade to tug the shirt into place, but he didn't like that it was a barrier either.

Slade kept his hand rubbing gently over Oliver's bare back and neck, even as he used his other hand to begin removing the shirt from his little brother. He was very careful to make sure doing so wasn't causing his brother discomfort, looking at Oliver's face and eyes to read him as well as he'd always been able to.

Oliver glanced up at Slade, giving the older man a crooked smile and shifting again, just enough, so that he could easily move Oliver where and when he wanted. Whenever he didn't need to move his hands for Slade to continue caring for him, Oliver was gently holding or rubbing at his brother's arms and shoulders; much like a toddler learning his parent's form, memorizing everything about Slade.

A lot of the tension went out of Slade, both at being able to care for his little brother and at the constant contact. His sense of self-loathing was strong a lot of the time; it was only with Oliver that he felt able to heal. "I love you, kid." His voice was hoarse with emotion. Oliver knew he was loved... but Slade wasn't ashamed of voicing his feelings. He continued to undress his baby brother; just as if Oliver was as young physically as he was emotionally under Slade's hands.

"I love you too..." Oliver continued to try and keep contact with his own hands, even when Slade couldn't touch him directly because of undressing him. He knew if anyone else had even attempted to do what Slade was doing, Oliver would have done physical bodily harm to them; he didn't like being vulnerable, even if it was with someone he cared about and trusted. Except with Slade. With Slade, all he wanted was to be vulnerable; let the other man be in control and direct him, protect him, take care of him... he'd never fully understood the need and he likely never would understand it. But it was there and he'd learned long ago to just go with it and accept it. It was much easier that way. Less stressful. Less upsetting to both himself and his brother.

Oliver didn't know how long it took; time didn't really matter once the door to the apartment closed and he gave up control, but soon he was standing naked in front of Slade, waiting for his brother to take hold of him and tell him what to do. It didn't feel wrong. It felt more right than anything else ever felt in Oliver's life and by the time they'd reached that point, Oliver was as relaxed as it was possible to be and still be awake. He hummed lightly to himself, his hands running over Slade's shoulders again before sliding down the older man's chest to grasp onto Slade's shirt. He wanted to be held, but he was now to the point he wouldn't do anything without Slade indicating he could or should.

Slade didn't hesitate, his arms wrapping around Oliver in a kind of quiet desperation that showed in the way his hands trembled with his grip on his little brother. He needed to hold onto Oliver; needed to take care of him as much as his little brother needed to be taken care of. He kissed the top of his little brother's head. "Are you hungry?" he asked softly.

Oliver paused for a few seconds to give it thought, then nodded. "Yessir..." He snuggled a little more, waiting for Slade to tell him what to do.

Slade held his brother close a few more moments and then guided Oliver through to the kitchen, keeping in contact with his brother even while he began preparing food for both of them.

Oliver stayed as close to his brother as was safe to do so, considering his lack of clothing and the fact that Slade was cooking for them both. He felt no shame in his lack of clothes or the fact that his brother was fully dressed. The imbalance of 'power' helped him feel his position in his brother's life more fully and actually made him feel good; feel safe and loved.

It wasn't long before Slade had the food prepared. Guiding his little brother to the table, he placed the two plates down and then sat, gently guiding Oliver down to sit on his lap, hand resting gently on Oliver's hip. He had to touch his little brother. He couldn't do anything else.

Oliver didn't resist, sitting on his brother's lap like it was the only place in the room to sit. He leaned back so that his back was pressed against Slade's chest and waited for the indication that he should either start feeding himself, or eating whatever Slade fed to him. He wasn't certain which way his brother would want to go this time and while he was very close to the edge of falling into a space where he needed Slade to take care of him in almost every way, he was still in control of himself enough that he wanted what would help his brother the most.

Slade gently stroked his little brother's hair and the nape of his neck, then picked up the spoon and began to feed Oliver. "Thank you." His voice was a mere whisper in his baby brother's ear, but the note of gratitude was as clear as if he'd shouted. "Without you... I'd be beyond hope."

At Slade's decision to feed him, Oliver let himself relax the rest of the way. Slade was now in complete control and if Oliver 'disobeyed' him, it would be more because he wanted attention and not because he actively disagreed. At the moment, he was too much in the 'need' frame of mind to disagree about much of anything. As long as he had Slade's attention, he was content. Opening his mouth, he began to eat.

Slade kissed his little brother's head, continuing to feed Oliver. His other hand stroked gently over his brother's hip. He was so supremely grateful for Oliver's trust... but he still couldn't let go of the guilt and fear. Where he held onto his little brother, his fingers trembled. He was scared letting go of Oliver would cause his little brother to disappear from his life again. No matter how illogical it was... no matter how much he felt he deserved it... he couldn't stand the thought of being parted from his baby brother.

Oliver turned confused eyes onto Slade, able to sense his fear and worry, but unable to figure out why the older man was feeling that way. He was willing to do whatever necessary to help his brother, if he could only figure out how or what to do. Taking care of him seemed to help best, so he continued to eat until all the food on his plate was gone, pointedly looking at Slade's plate to make sure the older man ate as well.

"Do you need to check me over?" he whispered quietly. He didn't feel ill and he hadn't fought like Slade had, but if it helped Slade, he'd undergo an examination with no complaints. The fact that it helped calm him to have his brother be so protective went without saying.

Slade had made sure he ate as well. No matter how he felt emotionally, he knew his little brother needed to know Slade was taking care of himself as much as Oliver. He reached up and gently stroked Oliver's hair, his other arm wrapping around his waist to draw his brother in closer... tighter. "I need to hold onto you," he whispered, voice low and intense. "It helps... knowing I can protect you. Knowing that you trust me enough to take care of you."

Unable to voice any other questions- he was too far into the emotional state he always fell into when alone with his brother- Oliver just pressed his ear to Slade's chest and snuggled close. "I love you..." he said softly, in a whisper."...Forever."

Slade closed his eye, pressing his little brother closer; as close as it was possible to hold onto Oliver. "If I didn't have you, I wouldn't have anything," he whispered, stroking his brother's hair and over his neck and back. "You saved me... you continue to save me." His own guilt would have destroyed him long ago if Oliver hadn't forgiven him; hadn't accepted him back into his life and trusted him so completely.

Oliver wanted to protest the words...he didn't think it was good that without him, Slade felt like he'd have nothing...but he didn't say anything, choosing instead to nuzzle into his brother like a kitten and just make sure he didn't break the contact his brother needed- that he needed- at all.

Deciding that the kitchen chair wasn't that comfortable for cuddling, Slade carefully helped his little brother up and then stood, still keeping in contact with Oliver, guiding his brother through to the living area so they could cuddle more comfortably on the couch.

Oliver waited until Slade was sat on the couch comfortably before he crawled onto his brother's lap. He somehow managed to situate himself so that he was plastered to Slade from his head, tucked up under Slade's chin, to his feet that he'd tangled between Slade's ankle's. He was practically lying on his brother, but the position comforted him. It allowed Slade easy access to squeeze, cuddle, caress; however the older man felt necessary.

Slade wrapped his arms tightly around Oliver, stroking his little brother's hair, neck and back. It was a comfort to him as much as Oliver to hold his baby brother close; to feel able to protect him and to feel how much Oliver trusted and depended on him. He knew what had happened that night had probably scared his little brother and he wanted to reassure him. "I'm not going anywhere, kid." His voice was a mere breath in Oliver's ear as he continued to touch and stroke.

"You weren't fighting back..." Oliver murmured into Slade's chest, shivering slightly. "You weren't fighting back and he wanted to kill you..."

Slade took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, aware of how distressed it must have made his little brother to see. He stroked Oliver's hair and gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "I was... unfocused. I let the memories take too tight a hold. I'm sorry, little brother. I fought to defend myself, because I would never do something that would risk taking me away from you. I know how much you need me."

"I do need you..." Oliver admitted with a tiny whine, not caring how childish it made him sound. With Slade, he was almost always childish emotionally. "I was worried..." This time, the whiny tone sounded slightly accusatory; Oliver was having a hard time figuring out how Slade could have let memories take such a tight hold that he'd let himself be beaten up. He'd not even done that when he'd been under the influence of Mirakuru and hallucinating. He could also recognize, though, that part of his tone was a childish attempt to get Slade to get stern with him and show that he was still in charge; that whatever had distracted him before wasn't distracting him now.

"I know, kid." Slade's voice carried a regretful note, but was also clear and serious. "I was taken by surprise and the guilt was strong. But I promise it won't happen again. Now that I know it's a possibility I'll face someone I hurt in the past, I can be better prepared for it. I promise you will never have to experience life without your big brother again."

Oliver thought about that for a few moments, before nodding reluctantly. " long as you promise..." He snuggled some more. There was a feeling of agitation just under the surface, but he wasn't sure why he felt that way or what to do about it. It seemed a bit counter-productive to pick a fight with Slade; especially when Slade was apologetic and understanding of how scared Oliver had been. It would be churlish. And Slade was alright- he was home with Oliver and safe- so there was no reason to be upset any longer. He wasn't sure what his problem was (he conveniently ignored the fact that he had vials of Mirakuru hidden in his quiver that no one else knew about).

"Do I have to take a bath tonight?" he asked out of nowhere, hoping that Slade would say yes so that he'd have a reason (however flimsy) to argue with his brother. Ok. Maybe he was still a bit upset and confused at Slade's actions earlier and wasn't quite able to let them go. It was stupid. He knew it was stupid. It didn't stop him, though.

Slade ran his fingers gently through Oliver's hair as he considered the way to respond... the way Oliver needed him to respond. It occurred to him that the question wasn't about whether Oliver needed a bath or not; rather, about feeling settled and that everything was right between them. "Let's leave the question of a bath to one side for now, kid." He moved his brother, gently and carefully, adjusting Oliver until his brother was lying across his knees.

Oliver's quick intake of breath was the only response Slade got as he put Oliver into place. Swallowing hard, Oliver closed his eyes, slightly tense as he waited for Slade to respond the way Oliver needed him to respond; the way Oliver knew Slade needed to respond. It might not make everything that had happened on their mission alright again, but it would help. Oliver knew it would. He bit his lip and waited uncertainly.

Slade adjusted Oliver's position slightly, but didn't immediately start swatting. This wasn't a punishment spanking. It was about healing and helping both of them. Slade began to gently rub and stroke over his little brother's neck, back, bottom and legs, taking his time.

Oliver slowly relaxed, the tenseness leaving him with each caress. Soon, he was letting out tiny mewling sounds like a kitten and wriggled slightly as the need to feel his brother's control became stronger.

Slade gently pulled Oliver closer against his stomach, one hand continuing the gentle stroking while his other began to gently smack Oliver's backside; not particularly hard, but not the light pats he'd given before, either.

Oliver couldn't help the tiny meeping sound that escaped when the smacking began. It wasn't hard enough to truly be considered a spanking, but it certainly wasn't the soothing love pats that Slade sometimes gave him to calm. He was grateful for that; he didn't want soothing. He wanted authoritative...strong...he wanted to feel who was in charge. Still... he squirmed at the sting.

Slade completed two full circuits of the smacks and then paused, gently rubbing Oliver's bottom. "I know what happened today scared you, kid. But what happened today doesn't change anything between us. It doesn't change our relationship. And it doesn't change that you are mine."

"I'm yours..." Oliver repeated obediently, a hesitant but somehow still fervent tone in his voice. "...Always..." he added, for his own benefit. It had truly unsettled him seeing Slade so uncharacteristically meek and withdrawn.

Slade knew how much what had happened had distressed his baby brother. He also knew Oliver needed him to step in and take control; needed his big brother as much as Slade needed him. Transferring his hand to Oliver's neck, Slade squeezed his nape gently, even while he started smacking his brother's backside again.

The combination of neck hold and smacking quickly focused Oliver on the very important fact that his brother had him; his brother was in control; and his brother was making his position and power over Oliver very clear. The remaining tension in Oliver's body- the remaining discontent- drained from him and a lethargic, almost drowsy feeling took over. Oliver's attention was completely on Slade's hands; the one holding him gently in place by the scruff of the neck and the other causing his bottom to sting...and he was content. Relieved. Happy. Sniffling slightly, he closed his eyes as tears pooled in his eyes, the tension that couldn't drain from him by relaxing his muscles exiting through his tear-ducts. "...Yours..." he repeated softly, in an accepting and completely submissive voice.

"Mine," Slade reiterated, firming his grip on his baby brother's neck while his other hand used just a little bit more force as it smacked. He still wasn't going as hard as he would for a punishment spanking, but he knew his little brother needed to feel safe... loved... under control. He knew Oliver had been feeling lost and distressed; and no matter how Slade felt personally, Oliver's needs came first. Always.

At the harder force, the tears pooling in Oliver's eyes began to slide down his face and he whimpered softly; but he didn't try to get away and actually shifted slightly so his bottom made a better target. The rest of the room was a blur. He could hear nothing except the sound of Slade's hand as it connected to bare skin; see nothing because his eyes were tightly closed; feel nothing but the grip of his brother's fingers around his neck and the palm of his brother's hand as it landed unerringly on his bottom. He felt safe, secure, exactly where he belonged and the distress slowly eased. "I would die if you died..." he finally said in a tiny voice, able to admit what had been bothering him all day, but that he hadn't felt able to say until he felt more secure.

"Even at my lowest points, you have been what's kept me from giving in to despair." Slade's voice was soft, but filled with sincerity and emotion. "I won't die... I won't allow myself to die... because you are the most important person in my life. Because you've seen me as the worst person I could ever be... and not even that kept you from me. I love you. Even when that love was twisted into something vile, you were still always at the forefront of my mind."

"I love you..." Oliver sniffled between whimpers. "Need you, big brother..."

"I know, little brother," Slade said. "And I desperately need you." He gently squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck, gently rubbing his brother's warm bottom before he resumed smacking; still at the same force, but a fraction faster now.

"Oooow! Slaaade!" Oliver sobbed. "I'll be good! I will! I'm your good boy..." he cried out a little more softly, the sting having finally built up to where it was painful. He stopped short of begging his brother to stop spanking. That was his brother's decision to make, not his. He couldn't stop himself from wriggling, though.

Slade brought the spanking to a stop, taking a few moments to gently rub Oliver's bottom before he brought his little brother up into his arms. "You are my good boy," he whispered in Oliver's ear. "I love you. You are so important to me."

Oliver quickly wrapped his arms around Slade and held on like an octopus. "Love much..."

Slade cuddled Oliver tightly, gently squeezing the nape of his neck. "You are my world, kid," he whispered. "I owe you everything."

"Wanna be next to you tonight..." Oliver said quietly. It was his usual place to be, but he felt the need to say so anyway.

"I'm not going to let you be anywhere else," Slade promised. He always felt better with his little brother next to him... in his arms. It was as much a comfort to him as he knew it was to Oliver.

At hearing the words, nearly an order, Oliver smiled in relief and just snuggled.

Slade pressed a kiss to his little brother's head. "I think maybe you do need a bath before we go to sleep," he said mildly.

Oliver pouted. "Aw...I wasn't being serious when I asked that...was just being a brat..."

"You need me to take control." Slade stroked his hair. "With that as well, I think."

Oliver looked down, but didn't protest the words. In fact, he agreed. "Need you in control for everything..." he admitted.

Slade kissed his head again. "So you will be having a bath." His voice was mild, but still serious. Given the fear his little brother had shown, he knew Oliver would feel better knowing Slade was in control.

"Yessir..." Oliver mumbled and reluctantly stood up. It wasn't that he was against bathing- he liked a good hot soak like most people- it was that he didn't want to be away from Slade for any reason.

Slade stood with him, wrapping his arm around Oliver's shoulders, having a good idea where his little brother's reluctance came from. "I'm not going to leave your side, kid," he said softly.

Oliver's obvious reluctance visibly disappeared at those words. He'd got so used to Slade watching over him in every situation that the idea of not being alone while bathing was welcome. "Yessir..." he said, relief and happiness clear in his tone.

Slade kissed his little brother's cheek, holding Oliver close against his side as he guided him into the bathroom. Most of the time, he would let Oliver bathe himself in private, even at his most vulnerable. Right now, Slade knew how much what had happened had affected his baby brother. Oliver needed him in control.

Oliver followed Slade easily, then stood and waited for further direction. Part of him thought he should step forward and at least take care of himself in this way; he normally did, after all. The other part of him needed to know Slade was back in full control and willing to be in charge of everything to do with Oliver, including things Oliver could do himself.

Slade squeezed his little brother gently, and then began to run the bath, quietly asking his little brother to make sure the water was at the right temperature so he wasn't uncomfortable.

Testing the water, Oliver nodded. "It's good..." he said quietly. This was a fairly new development in Slade taking care of him, so talking was difficult. He was afraid maybe he was expecting too much from his brother.

Slade gently squeezed his little brother's hand and then helped Oliver climb into the bath. It wasn't so much of a surprise how easy it was to continue taking care of his baby brother. Slade was entirely focused on Oliver and anticipating his needs, so his brother wouldn't feel distressed or upset.

Oliver relaxed in the water, the fact Slade found it so easy to help him easing his worry immediately. "Feels good," he admitted, the water's heat easing muscle aches he'd been ignoring.

"You may not have been fighting so much today, but you have been training hard." As he spoke, Slade picked up the washcloth and began to gently wash his little brother.

"Yeah...have to be ready for anything..." Oliver admitted.

"You're doing good, kid." Slade gently encouraged his little brother to lean forward so he could wash his back. "I'm proud of you, little brother."

Oliver blushed at the compliment, feeling his entire body heat. It made him happy, though; that Slade thought he was doing well. "Thanks..." he said softly. "I want to make you proud..."

"You do little brother." Slade continued to gently wash Oliver, moving his little brother to make it easier to do so. "I have always been proud of you."

Oliver got drowsier the longer he sat in the water, his brother's gentleness easing him further to a boneless fugue. He felt no shame as his brother washed him, though he felt younger the more Slade washed.

Slade finished washing Oliver's hair and then retrieved his little brother's towel. He carefully helped Oliver out of the bath and then wrapped the towel around him to dry him off.

Oliver shivered as he left the warm water and stood in the cool air, but he didn't complain. He knew Slade would take care of him.

Slade made sure the towel was wrapped snugly around his little brother as he dried Oliver off, gently stroking his brother's hair, arms and neck; just touching him as he dried his little brother.

"What do you wanna do next?" Oliver asked quietly. He was still worried about Slade; although having Slade take care of him like this had eased some of the worry, he knew that there was still something wrong and he wasn't certain he was able to help with it. But he would do what he could.

Slade gently stroked his little brother's hair. He would have asked Oliver if there was anything he'd like to do, but he knew making decisions while in this state was hard on his little brother. "We could get a blanket; curl up on the couch together." He paused, not sure if the suggestion in his mind was one that his little brother would be happy with.

"I'd like that..." Oliver smiled crookedly and moved closer to his brother.

Slade smiled, wrapping his arm around his little brother's shoulders and guiding him back through to the living area, snagging a blanket on the way.

Oliver waited for Slade to sit down on the couch before quickly sitting on his brother's lap and snuggling.

Slade wrapped his arms around Oliver, hugging his little brother tight and draping the blanket over him so he'd be warm and comfortable. "I love you, little brother." His voice was quiet... but seeing the young man from his past had shaken him. It had reminded him of the darker times, when his only focus had been on hurting his little brother. He'd never forgotten how much Oliver had suffered at his hands, but right now, his arms were tight and protective around Oliver, hugging him as close as possible.

"I love you..." Oliver responded, cuddling as close as possible and feeling the last dregs of his control slip as Slade held him so tightly. The comforting position and warmth soon lulled him to sleep.

The rest of the evening and night had passed without incident... or at least not much. Slade and Oliver had dressed and were now making their way to the base. Slade was driving, making sure to be careful doing so... even if there was quite a bit of emotional turmoil he was still experiencing.

"Just outta curiosity, when will you allow me to drive again?" Oliver asked impishly. He wasn't upset that he wasn't allowed, not really; giving Slade control over his life in that way made the fact he had so much responsibility elsewhere easier to handle. He just wished he knew what to do to help Slade.

"Well, kid, why don't you drive us home after today?" Slade suggested, a smile teasing at his mouth in response to his little brother's tone of voice.

"Alright!" Oliver's grin widened. "I'll be sure to drive the speed limit!" he teased.

"I trust you to." Of course, if Oliver didn't, they'd have a conversation; but Slade trusted his brother, even if Oliver's emotions had been high before.

Oliver's smile was less teasing and more bashful at those words. Soon, they were back at the lair to talk over plans with everyone else. Oliver pulled his quiver from the back seat. He'd need to move the Mirakuru to a safer spot as soon as he had a moment.

Slade got out of the car, moving enough so he was close to his brother, even if he wasn't actually touching Oliver. Feeling his little brother so close to him helped a great deal.

Diggle looked up as the two men walked into the lair. "Everything okay?" He looked at Slade with a hint of worry.

Slade nodded. "I didn't have a chance to ask... what happened with the mission last night?" That wasn't what he really wanted to ask, but he couldn't figure out what to say about the kid.

"We got the intel we needed. Lilah is questioning the kid that attacked you..." Diggle nodded.

"Is he saying anything?" Slade asked, figuring they needed to know if the kid... Ian... was working with anyone.

Felicity shook her head. "If he is, Lilah hasn't let us know yet."

"It may take a few days to get anything concrete," Deadshot added.

"In the meantime, have we finished analysing the information that we found?" Oliver asked.

Thea glanced at Felicity and Diggle, making sure they were okay with her speaking up, before saying, "There wasn't a whole lot we found. Just rumors of another drug beginning to circulate. Worse than Vertigo."

Oliver's mind immediately went to the Mirakuru he'd hidden in his quiver and made another mental note to hide it in the lair before they went out again, before asking, "Any clues as to what the drug is or what it does?"

Thea shrugged. "Only that it seems to be highly addictive. There's really not a lot of information. I'm guessing someone tipped the dealers off we might be coming for them."

Deadshot shook his head. "Which means, until we start running into the addicted, we won't know exactly what to expect...?"

"Which only means we need to be prepared for anything," Slade said. "Whatever the drug is, the signs of someone being on it will likely be similar to known drugs. Dilated pupils. Withdrawal symptoms... hands shaking; sickness... if we can't find the dealers, maybe we can find the users." He glanced at Oliver, but didn't give any orders, expecting his brother to direct any searches they could do. Here in the lair and on missions, Slade would only step in and take control if there was a real need to.

"Slade's right. We keep an eye out for increases of symptoms from drug use...find the users...maybe we can get information from them on suppliers..." Oliver said assuredly. "Felicity, monitor hospitals and reports to police. The rest of us will take turns patrolling the areas where drug use is more prevalent."

"It might also be effective to act in our identities," Slade said; although he still had to be careful about when and where he showed himself. "Even someone high on drugs is likely to panic if they see the Arrow. But someone just looking to score a hit?"

"We've both been known to use drugs in the past," Thea said; a little reluctantly, because she still had trouble trusting Slade.

Oliver nodded, giving a sheepish look around to everyone. "She's right. We might actually be able to use that, though...if Thea and I act like we're using again..." This time, he didn't say it in quite as commanding a tone. This was something a bit riskier, since it involved their real identities and he wanted honest opinions, not just agreements and questions about who would do what.

"I don't think I like that idea..." Felicity hedged. "If something goes wrong, it paints a target on both of you..."

"I can do it," Slade said. "It would mean neither of you have to risk yourselves... and even if someone knows who I am, enough happened the last time I was here that it wouldn't raise so many suspicions."

"It would put a target on you with the law..." Oliver frowned.

"Kid... I have a target on me anyway with the law," Slade pointed out. "But we can get away with it right now because Detective Lance is the only one who knows I'm here."

"Which he may not be, if you go under cover the way you're suggesting..." Oliver argued.

"Someone going undercover is going to be the best way of getting to the source of this drug." Slade's voice was mild and he didn't push the idea of him going undercover. If it did turn out he became a target to the law, there was the strong risk he'd be taken away from his little brother. Knowing how much Oliver needed him, Slade would make sure he stuck around.

"So maybe it doesn't have to be one of us," Thea suggested. "We could target a known user to keep track of... maybe plant a bug on him or her."

"That seems easiest to me..." Deadshot agreed with Thea.

Slade nodded, glancing at his little brother to read Oliver's face and see what he thought.

Oliver slanted his head. "Yeah. Alright..."

"So one of us needs to take care of that, while the others patrol?" Thea glanced at everyone, wondering if they had any ideas about who they could put the tracker on.

"I'll take care of it. I have someone in mind. Been trying to help the guy get clean since I got back and he keeps getting hooked on the newest biggest craze. He'll get hooked on this sooner than later, so not only will we get information quickly, I'll be able to get him help before he's nearly dying this time..." Oliver mumbled.

"Who is it?" Slade asked, wondering if it was something he could help his brother with; at the very least be a support for Oliver, especially considering his own experiences with Mirakuru.

"He's never given me his real name, but he goes by the nickname of Beetle." Oliver gave a faint shrug.

Slade nodded. "Once we've got the new drug off the streets, do you want me to talk to him? Considering I know what it's like to be addicted to a dangerous substance..." His voice was calm and matter-of-fact; or it would sound so to everyone who didn't know him and know the guilt that still haunted him.

"To be honest, Thea's the one least likely to spook him. He's always scared of me and you're scarier..." Oliver grinned to take any sting out of his words. "...And you aren't the only one with experience in that area..." Oliver admitted matter-of-factly, not sure how the others, especially Slade, would take it.

Slade wasn't really surprised by that, since he'd heard about Oliver's reputation before his little brother had been stranded on the island, even if he didn't know all of the details. "Even so, if you need my help in any way, you only have to ask."

"Of course..." Oliver smiled. "I'm counting on it." His voice was confident and fond.

"Do you want me to plant the tracker?" Thea asked her brother. While she expected Oliver would insist on being there in case anything happened, she figured it was easier if his contact only saw her.

"Yes. I think I and Slade will be watching from nearby, just in case..." Oliver answered firmly, before looking toward Slade for confirmation.

Slade nodded. "I can keep watch from the ground." It was hard not to direct Oliver about what to do, but he trusted his little brother to do the safest thing.

"I'll take high point. Diggle...if you and Deadshot stand by in the van, we should be covered..." Oliver was matter of fact and confident, but still waited to see if anyone objected.

No one objected and it didn't take long before everyone bar Felicity was leaving the lair and getting in position, ready for the meeting.

About an hour later, everyone was in position and Thea was making her way toward Beetle. Oliver felt a bit antsy at the fact it was his sister putting herself out like this instead of him; but it hadn't been a lie that Beetle was less likely to run or be suspicious if it was Thea he saw. In the interests of being a better team player, Oliver had forced himself to do the sensible thing instead of what his big brother instincts were telling him to do. It did nothing for his nerves, but Thea had actually smiled proudly at him instead of frowning in irritation, so he told himself he'd done the right thing. It was times like this he wished he didn't have so much responsibility, though. Until Thea was safe back with the group, his nerves were going to be strung tight.

Slade had positioned himself in such a way that not only did he have a clear view of what Thea was doing, but that Oliver had a clear view of him. That way, if anything did happen to go wrong, he'd have a better chance of signalling to Oliver; and hopefully stop his little brother doing something he shouldn't.

"Well that went better than I expected it would, given all the discussion of who would be least likely to spook him..." Felicity snarked with a grin, as the group trooped back into the lair. "The tracker and bug are both working perfectly, I might add. So who wants to meet up with Tommy and Lance for lunch? Tommy called five minutes ago and asked if we were interested."

"Well, we'll be meeting Lilah for lunch." Diggle indicated himself and Deadshot. Actually, it would be Lilah and baby Sara... but still. It would also give them an opportunity to talk about what needed to be done with the kid.

Slade didn't say anything, but glanced at Oliver. While he expected his little brother would accept the invitation, he wanted to wait and be sure before saying anything.

"I don't see a reason why not," Oliver smiled crookedly. "Tommy likely has some more questions about what's happened in the time he was unconscious."

Felicity looked at Thea and Slade. "You two coming as well?"

Thea nodded. "It'll be nice to spend time with my other brother as well."

"I will..." But Slade glanced at Oliver, making sure his brother was okay with him coming. Even if it was the guilt from his past taking hold, he wouldn't have blamed his little brother if Oliver did want some space.

Oliver's smile was genuine when Thea and Slade both agreed. The fact his brother wanted to spend time with Oliver's friends and family meant a lot to him. "Great! Let's get going then...quick shower and a change of clothes and I'll be ready." He'd move the Mirakuru to a new hiding spot while getting ready.

Thea nodded and headed to the lair's exit. "I'll meet you outside," she said to the rest of them.

Oliver had quickly grabbed a change of clothes and headed to the shower, making certain no one was watching him when he moved the vials of Mirakuru into his locker, hiding it under a sweater that he seldom wore. He hated hiding things from his family and friends- it was especially difficult to hide it from Slade- but he was afraid it would be difficult if they found out about it. Better to keep it hidden.

Slade hadn't taken long to clean up and change his clothes. He then made his way out of the lair, hanging back a little until his little brother appeared.

Everything taken care of the way he wanted, Oliver quickly headed out to meet his brother. "Let's go up and collect Thea and Felicity and head over..." he said unnecessarily.

Slade nodded, reaching out to place a hand on his little brother's shoulder and squeezing gently. The physical contact helped in a way very few things did. "Okay, kid." He headed towards the exit, sticking close to Oliver.

Oliver smiled at Slade, pushing his worry down so the older man wouldn't notice and start worrying himself. He could tell something was wrong with his brother, but Slade obviously didn't want him to know or worry. Soon, they were with the women and on their way to meet Tommy and Lance.

Tommy finished putting the last of the drinks out, unable to hold back a grimace of pain. It was frustrating how quickly he was growing weak, even though he thought he should probably be at full strength by now. Trying to hide the twinges of pain, he headed into the kitchen to collect some more food.

Lance came in, hands full of dishes of food. "You okay?" he asked with a hint of worry, noting how peaked Tommy looked.

Tommy nodded. "I'm fine. Just... I'm still not used to how quickly I'm getting tired." For a moment, he thought about admitting the pain he was in. But he could work through it. It wasn't at an unbearable level.

"Don't try and be Superman, kid. If you hurt, let me know. I might be able to help." Lance's tone was conversational and not suspicious, but the look in his eye was knowing. He had experience pretending he wasn't in pain when he was, so he wasn't going to scold or berate Tommy for being the same way. Of course, now that he'd told the kid not to be that way, if it continued, he'd have plenty to say.

"I don't..." Tommy hesitated, not quite able to continue insisting he wasn't hurting when he was. Instead, he said, "I can deal with the pain. It's not as bad as it has been."

"Alright. I'll trust you to know what you can handle." It was unspoken that if Tommy broke that trust, Lance would become Papa Bear and insist on taking care of Tommy.

Tommy picked up a couple of plates of food, then thought better of it and put one of them down. "I missed a lot... are there any sore subjects I should know not to bring up?"

Lance blinked and gave the question serious thought. "Anything that should be avoided isn't likely something you would ask about, I don't think..." He frowned. "I can't think of anything right off-hand anyway."

Tommy nodded. "I just don't want to upset anyone..."

"We all know you are still learning what you missed. If you do accidentally say something that brings up bad memories, they'll understand." Lance smiled and turned to carry his items into the dining room. "With the way this group avoids facing their issues, it might even be good for them..." he muttered under his breath, once he wasn't facing Tommy.

Tommy heard the muttered comment, but didn't really know how to respond to that. Instead, as he carried his own plate to the dining room, he said, a slight questioning tone to his voice, "I remember there was a lot of conflict still between you and Oliver before I... ended up in a coma."

"We've...come to an understanding of sorts. We agree to disagree sometimes. As long as his intentions remain good and he tries to handle things in a way that lets the law handle things- or at least the end result- as much as possible..." Lance shrugged faintly. If Oliver was still killing his targets, Lance would think differently; but the younger man was trying not to be judge, jury and executioner any longer. Lance appreciated that.

"That's good," Tommy said. "I mean... I'm living with you. It would be awkward if there were conflicts between you and my best friend." He blushed, because 'you' had nearly become 'my father'.

Lance smiled, not commenting on the slight pausing catch of words. "We have reason to want to get along." His look made it clear what or who the 'reason' was. Just then, the doorbell rang. "You want to let them in?"

Tommy nodded, carefully putting the plate he was carrying down and heading into the hallway, not moving too fast, even though he was looking forward to seeing the others. He did his best to hide the slight hint of pain as he opened the door.

Felicity gave Tommy a huge grin and stepped forward to carefully hug him.

Oliver stood by the door, waiting for Thea to enter so he could follow her.

Tommy hugged Felicity and then Thea in turn, grinning when he spotted Oliver and then Slade behind his best friend. "Come on in... there's plenty of food."

"Smells good..." Oliver smiled.

Soon they were all in the dining room.

Tommy was happy and relaxed; pleased his favourite people were around him. He kept the conversation fairly light-hearted, answering Slade's questions about how his physiotherapy was going and chatting with Thea about the club.

Lance watched his son, a proud look in his eyes. Every so often, he'd shoot Slade a look, though. He felt something was off with the older man.

Slade was observant enough to realise Lance was glancing at him, but he made no sign that he knew, his attention primarily on his brother and on making sure Tommy wasn't straining himself too much. While Lance was responsible for the youngster, Slade had had experience coming back from wounds that should have killed him.

As the meal began to draw to a close, Slade stood to help clear the plates, noticing that Tommy seemed like he was beginning to flag.

Oliver had also noticed his friend becoming fatigued and, glancing toward Lance, to be certain it was alright, motioned to Tommy. "Why don't you take me out and show us that item you've been working on in the shed?"

"Yes! I'd like to see it!" Felicity popped in.

Lance was happy to have an excuse to send Tommy out that wouldn't embarrass or hurt the younger man's pride. "You four go on and go that," he said to Tommy. "Slade and I can handle clean-up. It will give us time to gossip about you kids." He smirked to show he was teasing.

Tommy glanced a bit hesitantly at Lance, but since the older man was actively encouraging him to go, he nodded, turning towards the others with a grin. "Yeah, okay..." He stood up.

Thea was quick to move to Tommy's side, so she could support him if he needed to lean at all. "You know where we'll be if you need us..." She included Slade along with Lance.

"We'll be fine. You kids have fun..." Lance grin was fondly paternal as he looked at the youngest four.

Oliver blinked at having been included in the paternal smile, but didn't comment. Instead, he smiled back, almost shyly, before grinning at Slade and beginning to usher the others out.

Once Slade was the only one with him, Lance hit straight to the point. "Something's bothering you..."

Slade didn't even try to deny it. "I saw someone from my past... when the Mirakuru was still strong. I was unprepared... barely able to defend myself, let alone fight back," he admitted, his voice low.

Lance blinked at that. "Are you alright now? You weren't injured and just hiding it, were you?" His voice was concerned and while he didn't mean to sound suspicious, he'd had enough experience with stubborn people hiding their injuries to need to ask.

Slade shook his head. "No. There were bruises... nothing serious. I wouldn't hold myself to a different standard than I would Oliver," he said seriously.

"Good..." Lance slanted his head as he began washing dishes. "You're still shaken up about it, though..." he said. It wasn't really a question. He could tell Slade was still affected.

Slade gave a slight sigh. "I should have known it was possible... but I..." He took a deep breath. "It made me remember..."

"And it caused all the self-loathing to return..." Lance commented.

"I scared Oliver," Slade admitted. "The guy who went after me... just a kid, really... I hurt him. The rage took over because he reminded me of Oliver. And that was all I could see yesterday. All I could remember. I couldn't fight back. Because I'd already hurt him and I couldn't do it again. Even to keep myself alive and healthy for my little brother."

"So you let the kid hurt you in some attempt at self-punishment?" Lance didn't really need to ask, but he wanted to confirm before he said or did anything further.

"Partly, I think... partly because I couldn't bring myself to hurt him. Not again," Slade admitted.

"I can't imagine that went over well with Oliver, you allowing yourself to be beaten like that. How did you explain it to him? Since I know you'd never want him to do the same thing." Lance finished washing the dishes and turned to watch Slade closely. He needed to figure out the mind-set of his friend; his brother. Was Slade's actions an aberration, or was there a risk of him allowing something like that to happen again?

"I told him I was taken by surprise," Slade replied. "And that I'd be better prepared for it next time." He hesitated. "I didn't tell him my history with the kid. I didn't want to hurt him... and I didn't want to remind him of that time," he admitted.

Lance nodded. "Is it going to continue to be a problem?" His voice was soft and concerned and fully expecting the truth.

"I don't know," Slade admitted in a low voice. He'd had to voice more certainty with his little brother, but he couldn't be certain.

"I'll have to make certain you remember not to let it be a problem, then..." Lance said, with more self-assurance than he actually felt.

Slade just nodded in understanding, not attempting to argue or protest.

Lance glanced out the window toward the shed. The light was still on, so he was confident that they had a bit more time before the others returned. Without another word, he began to remove his belt, giving Slade a serious look and a nod. "Lean on the counter."

Slade took a slow, deep breath and obeyed, letting his hands rest on the counter as he fixed his eyes on a point on the wall.

Lance doubled the belt over, tucking the buckle safely into his hand. Moving closer, he placed his other hand on Slade's back in a comforting gesture. "I'm not spanking you because you feel guilty. That's something that will likely be with you for a while and you'll need to come to terms with it in your own time. I'm not punishing you for not wanting to hurt the kid, either...but not wanting to hurt the kid doesn't translate into you standing still and letting him hurt you either. If you can't fight for whatever reason, then you escape and get away. That's non-negotiable. You do not just stand in place and let someone harm you, maybe even attempt to kill you, in some misguided attempt to make up for whatever you feel guilty for. It isn't acceptable; even if it was shock that originally caused you not to move, once the shock wore off, you should have retreated. You are important, Slade. And not just to Oliver." Lance moved his hand to Slade's shoulder and squeezed gently, before shifting it back down to his back to hold him in place. Raising the belt up, he let it fall with a decisive snap, not saying anything else. He'd said what he needed to say.

Slade breathed deep, clenching his hands into fists on the counter. He didn't say anything to Lance's words. He knew the other man was right.

Lance continued to lift and lower the belt methodically, making certain to cover every inch of Slade's backside down to mid-thigh. He didn't bring the belt down in an especially hard manner; even with jeans on, he knew that the belt hurt without putting extra force into it and the point wasn't to hurt his brother. It was to remind him and help him remember that his life was important. He paused for a short moment after letting the belt land on Slade's thighs, giving his brother time to say something if he needed to. When no words were forthcoming, he began over at the top.

Slade did his best not to react and stay still and accept the punishment, but when Lance started over, he couldn't hold back his gasps. He didn't speak. He understood why Lance was belting him. And he understood what he needed to do next time. It was just so hard to, "...Stop hating myself for what I've done." It was only then he realised he'd finished his thought verbally.

Lance paused at the words, continuing on at a slower pace as he thought about how to voice his concerns. "I...I understand hating yourself for things you've done; when your actions have hurt those you care about. But hating yourself isn't really productive..." He hesitated, the belt hitting a fraction less hard. "...I don't have any easy answers, kid... Just know that Oliver doesn't hate you. None of the team hates you. I don't hate you. Maybe you can think about why that is and it might help you accept yourself a little better. Guilt is hard enough without adding self-loathing into the mix..." His tone was worried.

Some tears escaped Slade's eyes. He didn't try to stop them, although they weren't audible. "I never used to..." he whispered his voice low and filled with guilt and pain. "I did bad things before. I disconnected from those. They didn't define me. But I didn't hurt people who depended on me... who looked up to me... who trusted me."

Lance winced at that. "No...and it's the connection with those you hurt that causes the most guilt. That won't change. But you can't let that guilt cause you to act against yourself in ways that will hurt those you care about even more. You know Oliver would be devastated if you let yourself die without a fight. He'd wonder if somehow he was responsible. Those of us who don't rely on you quite so heavily as Oliver does would still hurt enough that we'd question ourselves and wonder if we could have changed anything. Instead of letting the guilt cause you to let yourself be hurt, let it direct you into ways to help those you hurt. Make up for your actions that way. It's a lot more productive and won't cause any more pain..." He let a few more snaps of the belt fall before he had to stop. He'd made his point. Anymore wasn't going to help Slade understand any better and he didn't want to harm the younger man.

Slade took a deep breath, slowly unclenching his fists and blinking away the tears that lingered. "I know I can't risk taking myself away... I know how it'll affect Oliver and everyone else. But I can't remove myself from the monster very easily."

"Not a monster, kid. A seriously messed up man, due to a drug that was administered without consent, who is working on putting his life back together again. You'd never hold Oliver's actions over his head if they were done because of the influence of something he'd not chosen to be influenced by. Give yourself the same courtesy." Lance smiled faintly.

Slade turned so he could face Lance fully. "You're right. I wouldn't hold Oliver to that standard." He hesitated. "It's hard... Oliver's one of the only family I have now and I hurt him badly. Most of the time, I can focus on his need for me more than what I did to him. But I don't know how to protect him from my darkness..."

"Seems to me the best way to protect him from it is to shine a light on it so he can see exactly what you're dealing with..." Lance shrugged. "Of course, that would mean trusting the kid not to do something stupid in an attempt to save you from maybe you're not entirely wrong to keep it from him. Still..."

"Oliver needs me to be strong," Slade said. While it was true Oliver was perhaps one of the only people Slade could be vulnerable in front of... he was also aware of how much his baby brother needed him.

Lance eyed Slade. "'ve said that..." He sighed, giving up on convincing Slade to share his burden with Oliver. Even if Oliver was more responsible now and in charge for most of the 'missions' the team went on, it was obvious- at least to Lance- that Slade was correct in his assessment that Oliver needed him to be strong. Maybe knowing what Slade was going through would make things bad for Oliver. "If you can't let Oliver see it, though, then you need to let someone see it. And since I already know...I think maybe you and I should have one night a week where we can hang out just the two of us and you can stop pretending like everything is all hunky dory, for at least an hour or so."

Slade nodded, somewhat surprised by how relieved he was by the offer. "I suspect Oliver is going to want to spend time with Tommy... we can make coming over here a regular thing. Or they can be at my apartment... once Tommy's sufficiently recovered."

"We can alternate once Tommy is back to full health..." Lance easily agreed. "Between times, if you need to talk or need me for anything, I fully expect a phone-call. Capiche?"

"Understood," Slade replied, a note of relief in his voice.

"Good. I think the kids are returning..." Lance glanced out the window to see the four younger members walking toward the house. "You going to be okay?"

Slade nodded. "Having the responsibility for Oliver... it helps. I can be what he needs, because he's what I need."

"I'm sure there's a lot to you two that I don't and might not ever understand...but I can see that you are good for each other. If you need me, though..." Lance nodded, giving a smile before the door opened and Oliver trooped in, leading the other three.

Slade's smile was warm as he looked at his little brother, the traces of guilt and hurt now less of a haunted shadow in his eyes. If they'd been alone, he wouldn't have hesitated in wrapping his arms around Oliver and holding on tight. As it was, he contented himself with just watching.

"That's some awesome project Tommy has out there. You should see it..." Oliver grinned at Slade, relaxed and calmly happy in a way that he only seemed to be when surrounded by his family and friends.

"You'll have to show it to me," Slade said, including both his brother and his brother's best friend in his comment.

Tommy smiled. "I'll make sure you see it when there's time. I mean, unless you're not busy now?" He glanced at Lance, knowing that if the older man vetoed anything, he wouldn't argue.

"Now's good for me, it that's alright with both of you..." Oliver glanced at Lance, not wanting to step on the other man's toes, since it was obvious he now had a very large influence on Tommy and what the younger man would or wouldn't do. He didn't look at Slade, knowing if the time wasn't right, his brother would let him know; and it had been Slade who originally suggested Tommy show them anyway. Oliver was proud of how much progress his best friend had made and wanted Tommy to show it off.

Slade nodded. "I have time, if you two aren't busy." He glanced at Lance, aware that the other man would say if he didn't think Tommy was up to it, but giving an 'out' in case Lance wanted to say they were busy, rather than that he didn't think Tommy was up to it.

Lance glanced at Tommy, taking in the younger man's appearance. Since Tommy appeared to still be alert and not flagging, he gave a brisk nod. "We can go now. You can show me what improvements you've made since I last went in to see." He smiled, gently taking Tommy by the arm so that he could help the younger man, although for all appearances, he was just letting Tommy lead him back out to the shed.

Slade glanced at his little brother, not wanting to make Oliver feel like he had to go with them... even though Slade felt better when Oliver was within his sight. He did step closer to his little brother, enough so that his body barely brushed his brother's... but he hoped enough to provide some extra reassurance, if it was needed.

Oliver just grinned at Slade, shifting so he was slightly behind the older man; a position he found himself taking more and more in public when he didn't need to project an 'in charge' demeanour. His own way of admitting to Slade that Slade was still in charge, still leading him, even if they were pretending otherwise where everyone else could see.

Felicity's eyes narrowed slightly as she noted Oliver's actions, but she didn't say anything and followed Lance and Tommy back out to the shed.

Thea followed behind, a thoughtful look on her face. It was obvious that there was a closer relationship between Oliver and Slade than either man had admitted to. It was just as obvious that her brother needed the older man in a big way. None of them had missed the amount of chances Oliver was taking going right down. And none of them had missed the way Slade was able to pull Oliver back when her brother was too weighed down with pain from the past to pull himself back. She wanted to trust him... but then something happened to remind them of the drug and how it had controlled the man. And while he didn't talk about it, it hadn't taken them long at all to realise Slade's son and ex-wife had been killed in a shoot-out...

Tommy was oblivious to the thoughts going through his sister's mind, leaning on Lance as he headed back out to the shed, eyes bright with excitement.

"I'll let you explain the project..." Oliver grinned at his best friend, before glancing at his sister and ex-girlfriend, indicating they should do the same. He looked at Slade. "You're really going to be impressed."

Tommy grinned at Oliver in return and then began explaining to Slade, who was listening intently and moving closer so he could look properly.

The rest of the day had been very busy, even if nothing of import had been done. Oliver had been pleased to see how Tommy was recovering and at the obvious connection that his best friend and Lance had formed. He'd also been happy to see the connection between Tommy and Thea growing closer. His baby sister needed her other brother just as much as she needed Oliver and the fact Tommy accepted the relationship so easily and happily was of the good. Needless to say, Oliver was tired, though. It was late into the night by the time he and Slade returned home and as he walked into the apartment, Oliver's shoulders slumped wearily. Toeing off his boots and socks, he stood in the foyer in his bare feet, not able to make himself move forward or do anything else, because making a decision on what to do next would require thinking and he was just too tired to focus on any one thing.

Slade followed his little brother into the apartment and immediately saw the way Oliver slumped and the weariness that overcame his brother. Without hesitation, Slade let his hand shift to the hood covering his brother; removing it so he could settle his hand in its usual place at the nape of Oliver's neck.

If Oliver hadn't been so unfocused, he would have been embarrassed at the tiny little whimper he released at Slade's touch; and the fact that his whole body canted toward the older man in a submissive way without Slade having to say or do anything to encourage the response beyond touching his neck.

Slade didn't really hesitate past that point. Just seeing how his brother shifted towards him made him wonder if Oliver needed Slade to react the way he had the previous night. Gently squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck, Slade began to carefully remove Oliver's shirt; checking to make sure his baby brother was comfortable with that control being taken from him.

Oliver didn't protest, relaxing when it became obvious his brother was fully in charge again. Instead, much like a child, he let himself be pliant and moved whichever way Slade directed so that he could be undressed.

Slade kept in contact where he could, touching his little brother even as he undressed Oliver. Once the clothes were fully removed, he drew Oliver in close, hugging him as tight as he'd wanted to while they were at Lance's.

As soon as he was naked, Oliver had wasted no time in wrapping his arms around Slade's waist and pressing his ear to the older man's chest, his head tucked under Slade's chin and snuggling as close as humanly possible. He didn't speak, but the tiny hums of childlike contentment were obvious enough that he didn't really need to.

Slade pressed a kiss to the top of Oliver's head, still holding his little brother as he guided him through to the living area. If Oliver was hungry, Slade knew he'd let him know; until then, he was just going to hold onto his brother.

The longer Slade held him, the younger Oliver felt. Young and safe and secure. He let himself be led to the living room and as soon as Slade had sat, Oliver was curling up on his lap in an attempt to get even more contact. "Love you..." he said, in a quiet, tiny voice.

"I love you." Slade gently stroked Oliver's hair and the nape of his neck. "I'm not going to let go of you, little brother. You're mine. You belong with me." Even with the Mirakuru driving him into a twisted version of himself, Slade knew that desire to keep Oliver with him had still been there.

Oliver snuggled more. "Yours..." he agreed in a sleepy, almost drugged voice that indicated he was more focused on Slade's hands and voice than actual words. He hadn't taken any illicit substances, but he wasn't able to focus or think clearly because of how far he'd sunk into needing to rely on Slade for everything.

Slade tightened his embrace; not enough to hurt, but enough to indicate his little brother would need to use a lot of force if he wanted to get free... not that Slade expected Oliver would want that. "Tell me when you start feeling hungry and I'll feed you," he directed the words closer to an order than anything else.

"Y'sir..." Oliver sighed softly, the tight, secure grip making him feel safe and loved, rather than overwhelmed. He snuggled in his brother's arms- he didn't know how long- when the first twinges of hunger finally broke through his fugue. "'m hungry now..." he whispered.

"Okay, kid." Slade loosened his grip to allow them both to stand, though he still kept in physical contact with his little brother. He guided Oliver through to the kitchen, still keeping him close.

Oliver followed along meekly, leaning on Slade without qualm and even letting his head fall to the older man's shoulder. He felt like a very young child by this point, but it didn't bother him. Anyone else, it would have bothered him deeply, but Slade was different. Slade was allowed to see him vulnerable and young...was allowed to treat him as such and take control. No one else could, but Slade had that right.

Slade kept touching his little brother, whether it was stroking Oliver's cheek or squeezing the nape of his neck, while he began preparing the food. Being responsible for his little brother calmed and relaxed him. It helped him to have someone who depended on him so much. "I'm glad I have you," he whispered.

"I'm glad you have me..." Oliver admitted, with a bashful smile.

Slade smiled, thumb gently stroking the back of Oliver's neck, before he began to put the food onto plates.

Oliver stood as close to Slade as he could without hindering his movement, ready to help at a moment's notice if Slade indicated he should.

Slade put the plates on the table and then gently guided his little brother down to sit on his lap, wrapping his arm around Oliver's waist to pull him close.

Oliver didn't even attempt to sit on a chair by himself, nor did he attempt to take the fork to feed himself. While it hadn't become routine yet, Slade had held him on his lap and fed him enough times by now Oliver knew what was expected and what to expect. He patiently waited for his brother to give him the first bite.

Settling his baby brother in place, Slade picked up the fork and began feeding Oliver, gently stroking his hip.

Oliver ate obediently, not talking. It wasn't that he and Slade couldn't talk...they talked plenty when outside the apartment, or with other people. The last few days, though, they'd both been adjusting to this new dynamic to how they related to each other and talking didn't feel right yet...or, to be more precise, Oliver knew if he said anything in this fully dependent and obedient mind set, he'd spill the beans about finding those vials of Mirakuru and upset his brother. Since he didn't feel capable of keeping a secret, he felt more comfortable staying quiet. Slade didn't seem to mind.

Even while feeding Oliver (and making sure he ate, too), Slade kept in constant contact with his little brother, stroking his hip or squeezing the nape of his neck. The physical contact calmed and settled him as much as it did Oliver. When he spoke, it was a quiet whisper in his little brother's ear. "Would you like me to read to you?" He voiced the thought that had been in his mind since the previous evening, when the dynamic between them had evolved again.

Oliver blinked, looking quickly at Slade. It was obvious Slade meant the question and Oliver found himself grinning. "I'd like that...please?" He bit his lip bashfully.

Slade kissed his little brother's head. "As soon as you're ready, we can make some cocoa," he suggested. "Settle on the sofa with a blanket and cuddle while I read to you."

Oliver grinned. "Can it have whipped cream on top? And a cinnamon stick?"

"Whatever you want." Slade gently squeezed Oliver's hip and then helped him to stand, standing up himself once his little brother was on his feet.

"K..." Oliver said, so softly it was almost a whisper. He let Slade lead him wherever needed so they could get the cocoa.

Slade kept touching his little brother as he made the cocoa, just as he had while cooking, and then led his little brother back through to the living room, with the drinks and a blanket.

When they reached the couch, Oliver waited for Slade to sit, then crawled onto his brother's lap and snuggled close, letting Slade pull the blanket over him. He knew he could ask Slade to turn the heat up, or dress him in something, but it was more comforting to let his brother warm him by holding him close with the blanket. Putting his head on Slade's shoulder, he asked curiously, "What story are you going to read me?"

Slade didn't waste any time pulling Oliver close, settling the blanket around his little brother and making sure Oliver was comfortable. "This one," he answered softly, holding up the book he'd picked up.

"I haven't read that since I was a kid..." Oliver's smile was fond as he reminisced. "I remember I liked it a lot, though..."

Slade smiled and stroked his hair gently. "If there are any books you like the look of, we can get them for another time." Settling his brother, he hugged Oliver close and began reading.

Oliver felt so safe and content; and Slade's voice always had had the ability to soothe was no surprise to him when his eyes began to flutter closed, despite his attempt not to fall asleep, or that there were seconds where he blanked out before snapping his eyes open and trying to pay closer attention. Much like the child he so often felt Iike in his brother's arms, Oliver was fighting sleep. He began to squirm minutely in an attempt not to lose the battle. He was too big to be carried to bed like a baby!

It wasn't a surprise to Slade, either, when his little brother began to lose the battle with sleep. He continued reading, but to stop Oliver from battling his body's needs, he began to gently stroke his little brother's hair, back, the nape of his neck... stroking and rubbing Oliver's bare skin under the blanket to get him to relax and stop fighting sleep.

Oliver let out a whimpering huff, knowing exactly what Slade was doing, but unable to fight against it. As much as he wanted to remain awake, the gentle caressing took him over the edge into complete relaxed submission. Soon, he was sound asleep, drooling on Slade's shoulder. He'd have been bright red if he realized it.

Slade waited until he was certain his little brother was asleep before he set the book down, looking at his baby brother's peaceful face. Once more, he felt awed by the huge amount of trust Oliver had placed in him. He might not always feel worthy of the responsibility, but there was no question he felt supremely lucky to have it... supremely lucky that he hadn't destroyed their relationship and that he'd been given a second chance not to screw things up again. "Never again." His whisper was low, but the words were a promise. "I won't ever allow you to be hurt again." Oliver wouldn't be able to hear him, except perhaps in the deepest parts of his subconscious, but that didn't matter. Every time Slade reinforced the promise, it drove home how much he'd been given back.

Oliver didn't wake up at the words, but it was obvious some part of him heard the words, because he snuggled closer and gave Slade a tiny smile in his sleep.

Slade didn't move; made no attempt to let go of his brother or move Oliver through to the bedroom. He likely would later, but for the time being, he was perfectly content just to hold on tight to his little brother, where he could be sure of protecting him from anything that might cause him harm.

When Oliver was next aware of his surroundings, light was pouring in through the bedroom window and he was wrapped around Slade like a needy toddler. Blinking his eyes, he gave his brother an abashed look; not saying anything in case Slade was still asleep.

Slade had woken up with dawn's light, but as his little brother had still been asleep, he hadn't moved to extricate himself from Oliver or attempt to wake him up. He gently stroked his little brother's hair. "Morning, kid."

Oliver blushed. "Morning...sorry...didn't mean to fall asleep...make you carry me..." he whispered.

"Kid... I don't mind taking care of you. I like taking care of you," Slade said. "No matter what form that care takes."

Oliver snuggled closer yet. "I like it too..." he admitted softly.

Slade kissed the top of his head, tightening his embrace around his little brother. "And it helps me feel a little better about all the time I wasn't there." Or worse.

"Some of that time, I'm glad you didn't see...I...did a lot of shady things..." Oliver sighed.

"A lot happened to you; on the island and after it, even if I don't know everything," Slade said. "I wish I'd been there for you... you have no idea how much." Maybe he wouldn't have been able to stop it, but he could have been there.

"I think you might have been ashamed..." Oliver looked down.

Slade stroked his hair. "I wouldn't ever be ashamed of you, kid. I love you. Even though I spent a long time as a monster... you've been one of the good things in my life."

"If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be" Oliver shrugged and pressed closer.

Slade closed his eye, trying to push away the memories of how much his little brother had suffered at his hands. "I love you, kid. You've saved me in more than one way."

"I don't know how my being so needy could have saved you, but I'm just glad you're here..." Oliver whispered.

Slade gently stroked his hair. "You were what pulled me out of the darkness once the Mirakuru was no longer a driving force. The fact you need me helps me feel that maybe, eventually, I have a chance to make up for everything I did..." Stroking Oliver's cheek, he added, "For hurting you especially. I need you. Just because my need for you is different to your need for me, it doesn't make it any less strong."

Oliver grinned impishly. "We'd have a bit of a problem if you needed me the same way I need you..." he teased slightly, blushing because he knew, in the relationship, he was the one that was most needy.

Slade's thumb gently stroked his cheek. "Well, luckily for both of us, the needs are different; but both equally as intense. Don't ever feel ashamed or embarrassed, little brother. Without you, it would nearly be impossible for me to face everything."

"I feel the same...I hope you know that..." Oliver said quietly, slanting his head so that his face pressed against Slade's hand. "I don't know how I held it together before you came back and got me..."

"It's clear to me now that you were hurting a lot while I was still twisted by the Mirakuru," Slade said softly, still stroking Oliver's cheek and using his other arm to pull his little brother in closer and tighter. "I won't ever add to that pain again, kid. You are my priority. You are my world. We're not on the island anymore, but how I feel about you hasn't changed," he promised. "I will still protect you... take care of you... fulfil your needs..."

Oliver just wrapped his arms tightly around his brother and held on, hiding his face against Slade's chest. There wasn't anything he could say in the face of such a declaration. He believed Slade. He would do everything in his power to help and protect his brother as well. "What are the plans for today?" he finally asked quietly, wondering how long they had before he had to get dressed and head out to face the rest of the world.

Slade stroked Oliver's hair gently, his brother's weight warm and solid and comforting, "Vigilante wise, there's not a lot we can do until we have a lead about the drugs," he said quietly. "As for the rest... it depends on what you'd like to do." He squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck, stroking gently over his back... just touching and holding onto his little brother.

Oliver melted into his brother. He'd never known how affection starved he was until his brother had begun to care for him. His own stand-off nature kept most people at arms-length; and even those who he allowed to get close didn't just hold him for the sake of holding him. "Don't think I'm meeting any of the others until after two o'clock..." he murmured, even as he shifted so he was more draped over his brother; not quite over his lap, because he was still being held, but close enough it would take only a minute adjustment to be in position.

Slade didn't miss his little brother's shifting, always alert to Oliver's needs and wants, even when his brother didn't voice them aloud. He settled Oliver so his brother was draped over his lap, gently stroking and rubbing every inch of his little brother's neck, back, bottom and legs.

Oliver slumped over his brother's lap. There was always some small part of him that thought he shouldn't need this... shouldn't need to feel Slade's control and ability to take charge over him in such a physical way...but he did. He'd learned on the island it was better for him if he didn't fight his need; he was less likely to do something foolish and earn a real punishment if he just admitted he needed Slade to handle him. Lately, he'd needed his brother to handle him quite a bit. He was reluctant to admit part of the reason was his fear that Slade would disappear from his life again (possibly because of something outside of Slade's control) and the thought had him being clingy and needy.

Slade continued to gently stroke and rub, pulling Oliver close until his little brother was pressed against his stomach. He began to concentrate more of the rubbing to his little brother's bottom, gently patting each cheek in turn.

Oliver reached down and grasped his brother's ankle, squeezing gently. He let out a tiny whimper as the patting began; not out of pain or fear, but it was the only way he could vocalize that Slade was giving him what he needed. Words were hard to form.

The pats started out very gentle, but after going over Oliver's whole bottom twice, Slade put a little bit more force behind the pats. He also shifted his brother forward, so his sit spots were exposed and could receive the same attention.

Oliver closed his eyes, feeling himself relaxing over Slade's knee; the stronger the swats became, the more relaxed he felt. It was odd and he never really understood himself, because he knew if he were actually being punished, he would not be relaxing; he'd be holding himself stiff and trying not to break down. He knew anytime Slade spanked him, it always came from a position of caring and love, so the only difference he could figure was that he didn't have a crushing guilt he needed to acknowledge or confess. Still...the constant smacking was beginning to have a lingering effect and he couldn't help but start to squirm minutely the longer the attention went on.

Slade paused to begin gently rubbing his little brother's bottom and thighs, soothing the faint warmth he could already feel and not wanting to push Oliver too hard or too much. "I love you, little brother." His voice was soft, but warmed through with the strength of his emotion.

Oliver blinked at the words, abashed to realize he'd teared up. "I love you too..." he responded firmly if quietly, not bothering to try and hide the fact that he'd got emotional. He squirmed a little bit more, but not to get away. The more affection and attention Slade gave him, the more he wanted, but he didn't know exactly what he wanted or how; just that he needed something.

Slade wrapped his arm around Oliver's waist, drawing his little brother against his stomach and effectively 'trapping' him. He continued to rub and stroke, using more pressure behind the touch and then sliding his hand up Oliver's back so he could squeeze the nape of his little brother's neck.

Oliver let out a tiny sigh as he was held so closely, he could no longer move. Instead of upsetting him or making him even more antsy, the action had the result of calming him so that he was able to hold still for his brother, the security of his position easing that agitation he'd felt building up. It didn't mean he didn't still need; but he was able to handle it now and actually focus on the feeling so he could figure out what he actually wanted or needed. Finally able to focus, it didn't take him long to realize and he blushed darkly before asking, in an almost hesitant voice, "...Can...can you make sure... make sure I'm reminded...whenever I sit down today? Reminded I'm yours...?" His voice dropped to a whisper. As often as Slade had told him not to feel ashamed of his needs, he still had a hard time believing that he wasn't a bit strange for wanting to be under Slade's control in this way, or for wanting the physical aspects of that control. He still asked, though, because he knew the way he was feeling, he needed to be reminded as often as possible, or he'd do something he shouldn't. He wasn't certain why he knew this (although he suspected it might have something to do with what he was hiding), but he knew it and he knew he didn't want to get into trouble. He'd rather have a sore bottom but a guilt free heart than to have a guilty conscience that could only be cured by a very sore bottom.

Slade had kept up the gentle rubbing while Oliver talked. When his little brother finished his request, Slade let his hand rub back down Oliver's back and towards his bottom. "Whatever you need, little brother," he said, his voice soft. "You don't ever need to hold back with me." He rubbed Oliver's bottom a little bit more and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in a smack that was harder than the previous swats he'd been giving out, even though he wasn't using anything like full force.

Oliver let out a tiny yip as the first harder swat fell, blushing even more darkly at the sound he'd made; not a yelp, but sounding like a tiny puppy. His grip on Slade's ankle grew stronger as he settled again, only shifting enough that his bottom was easy to reach. He wasn't surprised at the warm feeling Slade's acceptance of him gave him, the sting reinforcing the knowledge that Slade would take care of him in whatever way he needed without ridicule. He let his head fall so that his face was pressed against Slade's leg and he shifted his grip so that he was hugging onto his brother, not just holding his ankle.

Slade tightened his grip on his little brother, settling quickly into a pattern of swats; all at the same force, but going down to Oliver's thighs before starting over from the top again. His other hand continued gently stroking over Oliver's back and legs, squeezing the nape of his neck gently.

Oliver was close to being lost in his own head, focused on the feeling of belonging and safety he had while in his brother's grip. The only sounds he made were soft, almost murmuring whines when a swat landed on a particularly sensitive area. His grip on Slade's leg tightened and he rubbed his cheek against him blindly, his eyes glassy.

Slade swatted, not using any more force, but pausing periodically to gently rub Oliver's bottom and thighs, his other hand firming its grip on his little brother's neck without causing him pain. "I love you, kid. You are my whole world."

Oliver shivered slightly. "I love you too..." His voice was warm, if a bit shaky.

Slade was careful to watch his little brother's reactions, resuming the light smacks and gentle stroking. "I'm happy you trust me enough to be what you need," he said, his voice quiet but no less intense.

"I trust you with everything I am..." Oliver was confident in his words, even if his voice sounded more young and needy than he would have liked for such an important comment.

"I know, little brother," Slade replied softly, squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck and then gently stroking over his hip.

Oliver closed his eyes as Slade continued the possessive affection. "...Yours..." he mumbled, boneless and unwilling to move until Slade told him to.

"Mine," Slade agreed. "Always. I'll never be taken from you. You'll never be taken from me."

"They'd have to fight me to take me 'way..." Oliver mumbled with a hint of amusement, though he meant every word.

"They'd have to fight me," Slade said, his own voice completely serious. "I didn't have you for so long. Now, I promise I will never let you go."

Oliver pressed his face to Slade's leg again, unable to smile at the older man from his position, but wanting to somehow let him know that the words meant a lot to him.

Slade stroked his little brother's back, his arm tightening around Oliver's waist. "No matter what happens. You are my priority. I love you and even when we're around other people, it's not going to change anything."

"Sometimes I wish I could be like this all the time..." Oliver admitted with a tiny sigh. He didn't always wish that...overall, he was happy with his life and if he gave over all control, even when outside of the apartment, it would make it difficult to do what he considered his job. But sometimes, he wished he could just give up everything to Slade's control all the time and not have to worry.

"You don't need it all the time," Slade pointed out gently. "But when you do need it... I will fulfil all of your needs, little brother. Even when you need me in different ways at different times. No matter what happens."

"As awful as it was, I think being stranded on Lian Yu was the best thing that could have happened to me..." Oliver hugged his brother's leg again tightly.

"It was good for me," Slade admitted. "Having you there. You kept me human. Sane. Even when..." He hesitated, but had to continue. "Even when the Mirakuru took control... I believe I was able to fight the effects as long as I did because of you. I was always going to get lost to it, but it was ultimately you who saved me. And I want you to know... even when I didn't act like it... I heard it. I heard what you said to me. And it gave me the strength I needed to come back into your life; the fact you called me brother... that you tried to appeal to the man who was lost, even after what I'd done to you."

"I had to keep trying. You are my brother..." Oliver said emphatically. "You're my brother and protector and teacher and... well, I'm only alive because of you and I couldn't not try to get you back..."

"The same is true of me, kid," Slade said. "I'd lost all hope before you came along. And when you gave me the Mirakuru, you did save me. It turned me into a monster, but I would have died without it. And I know you feel responsible, but you have to remember that I gave you permission to use it. Because I knew I was going to die anyway and I knew I couldn't leave you if there was any way I could keep protecting you and taking care of you."

Oliver didn't say anything about that. He had doubts about Slade's ability to give permission for anything at that point in time, considering the man was on death's door from blood loss. He fully blamed himself for making the decision to give Slade the Mirakuru; even if Slade had objected, Oliver would have given it to him and Slade had been in no condition to stop him. He'd been too selfish to let the older man go. But he also knew Slade would never accept that view of things and he didn't want to argue, so he said nothing. "Do you have to be anywhere before two o'clock?" he asked instead, surreptitiously looking at his watch. It was barely past eight in the morning, so if Slade didn't have anywhere to be, he could spend the entire morning begging his brother's attention.

Slade gently stroked Oliver's lower back and squeezed the nape of his neck. "I don't have anywhere I need to be, kid. I can devote the entire morning to you."

Oliver grinned. "That makes me happy...I don't want to be let go..." he admitted softly. If he had his way, he'd spend the entire morning either being cuddled on his brother's lap or laying over Slade's knee being smacked. As long as he had some form of contact with Slade, maybe it would chase away the tiny nagging fear that he'd lose the older man. A fear he couldn't voice to Slade, because if he voiced it, it might come true.

"I'll keep hold of you as long as you need me to... as long as you want me to," Slade promised. "I need to hold onto you, because it helps me as much as it does you. I know I can protect you and take care of you. I know that, when you're safe with me, you can't be hurt... whether by another person or through pain in your past."

Oliver responded by hugging Slade's leg again. "Need to hold onto you too...can't lose you again..." he whispered. Wiggling slightly, he said, in an impish tone, "...Bottom's getting cold..."

Slade's smile was fond and he stroked down Oliver's back, beginning to gently pat his little brother's bottom once more. When he spoke, his voice was warm with affection. "I'm happy you feel able to voice your need to me, little brother. Don't ever feel ashamed of doing so."

Oliver sighed happily. "You make it easy to accept myself..."

"I've accepted everything about you, kid." As he spoke, Slade continued the gentle pats. "Every need you have is just that. A need. As your brother, who takes care of you and loves you, I would never ridicule your needs. Or refuse to fulfil them."

"I know...that's why I...why I'm not afraid to let you know about them...why I can accept myself..." Oliver bit his lip, not sure if he was just talking in circles or not. He wiggled a little more, unconsciously 'following' his brother's hand, as if reluctant to not be touched even for the few seconds in between pats. "Still dunno why you spanking me makes me feel safe, loved and relaxed, though..." he mumbled. "...Would think being hugged would do the same thing..."

Noticing the movement, Slade used his other hand to gently stroke and rub Oliver's back, so that, even though he was continuing the light pats, he was still touching his little brother. "Spanking you... even just having you over my knee... means I'm more in control," he pointed out. "I can cuddle you on my lap, but it's not controlling in the same way." As if to emphasise his words, the pats became a little stronger.

Oliver took a deep breath and nuzzled against Slade's leg. "You're''s knowing you have control of me that makes the difference. Before, I never wanted to let anyone have any control over me, but I need you to have it... I don't know if I'll ever understand myself, but as long as I have you with me, it doesn't really matter, I guess..." he said quietly.

"If it scares you or worries you, kid, we can sit and talk it through," Slade said, the pats more like light swats; very little force behind them, but repetitive. "Even if it's just to establish code words, in case you feel yourself slipping and need help, but we're around other people."

"I...I don't think I'm scared...I know I'm not scared of you, at least. Maybe a little scared at myself and how much I need what you give me..." Oliver winced. "...Even though you accept me as I am and I can tell you what I need, there's still part of me that wonders if there's something wrong with me for wanting or needing it..." he admitted hesitantly. "That there's something wrong with me for liking you to be in control of me and...liking...everything..." He blushed. "...And...sometimes when we're in public, part of me wishes you could control me there too. But that would open up a whole can of worms I don't think I ever want maybe a code word would be a good idea?"

Slade paused again to gently rub Oliver's bottom and thighs while they talked. "There isn't anything wrong with you, kid. I haven't had this kind of relationship before you, but I'm aware there are people who have similar needs and who are with people who meet those needs. You aren't the only one who needs someone in that way. But when we're in public, I'm happy for you to set the tone... all I want is to be at your side; with you, where I belong. And if you think a code word would help you feel more comfortable when it isn't just us... I would do anything to help you feel better."

"So...a code word to let you know that I'm feeling out of control and need your help?" Oliver asked quietly. "Or to at least let you know that you need to get me home and over your knee as soon as possible before I do something to really get into trouble?" This time, his voice was slightly teasing, for all the seriousness of the question. Oliver knew himself enough to know that the possibility of doing something stupid was highest when he was feeling out of control.

"If, emotionally, you feel like you could differentiate, perhaps you could use one if the feeling's milder and can wait until we can leave in a natural fashion and another for if you need me to take you home straight away," Slade suggested.

Oliver nodded against Slade's leg before answering verbally, "Something like that, yes..." He carefully pushed up against the floor so he could look over his shoulder into his brother's face. "I...I know me. At some point, I am going to do something stupid because I feel out of control. I...I don't like disappointing you and doing something stupid always disappoints you..." He gave a chagrined smile, before attempting a sly glance toward his bottom; curious as to how red it might be, since he'd been in position for a bit longer than normal. He just couldn't help himself.

"Kid... I'm very rarely disappointed in you," Slade said seriously. "The majority of the time, I'm proud of you. Being disappointed doesn't last long, especially when I know how much you take it to heart when something happens." He squeezed one of Oliver's thighs gently. While he'd had his brother over his lap for longer than normal, he'd spent as much time rubbing and stroking as smacking, so Oliver's bottom was still only pink.

"Even rarely disappointed is more than I ever want to have happen..." Oliver admitted with a sigh, letting himself relax till he was draped over Slade's lap again.

Slade resumed patting, a little bit stronger again. "I know you try hard, kid. Just because there are setbacks sometimes, it doesn't mean you're bad."

"...Just very naughty..." Oliver's lips quirked at the distinction.

"Yes, but never bad. You are not bad," Slade promised, his voice firm, his hand acting to emphasise what he was saying.

"...Not bad...just sometimes...sometimes your naughty boy..." Oliver closed his eyes and gripped Slade's leg more tightly as he felt Slade's hand emphasize his words.

"Exactly, little brother," Slade replied firmly. "But for every time you're my naughty boy, there are a hundred times you're my good boy."

"I like being your boy either way..." Oliver grinned shyly and blushed.

"I like it too," Slade replied honestly. "I have never been more thankful for anything than when you accepted me back into your life and gave me another chance."

"I'm thankful I was able to accept you back...I thought you dead for too long..." Oliver sighed and wriggled slightly.

Slade let his hand move to the nape of Oliver's neck, squeezing gently as he resumed the light smacks of his little brother's backside. He kept his other hand in place, even as he gently smacked for two circuits and then paused to rub lightly.

And as usual, the combination of Slade gently scruffing him and the continuous smacks put Oliver into the frame of mind he'd been wanting; that of being fully controlled and protected. The smacks might have been light, but Slade had been taking care of him for a bit longer than usual and so it didn't take much for his bottom to begin stinging. By the time Slade began rubbing again, Oliver was biting his lip so that he wouldn't moan or whimper.

Slade rubbed gently for a few more moments, over his little brother's back and legs as well, and then resumed the light smacks, still at the same force; though he slowed them down, rubbing his little brother's warm bottom after each smack.

Oliver couldn't help himself, beginning to wriggle with each smack, pushing his bottom into Slade's hand when it was being rubbed. Eventually, the rubbing wasn't doing much to alleviate the sting, though; his backside becoming more and more sensitive the longer Slade handled him.

Slade shifted Oliver enough so he could lightly swat his sit spots, careful not to go too hard, even though he knew his little brother was becoming more sensitive to the spanking.

Oliver let out a tiny little huff of air when his sit spots were targeted and then it was impossible to keep quiet. Tiny little moans and whimpers escaped his lips, even as he began to squirm more rigorously, depending on Slade to hold him.

Slade kept his arm firmly around Oliver's waist, his little brother tight against his stomach. When Oliver began to squirm with more vigour, Slade stopped the smacking, resuming the gentle rubbing.

Oliver took a few slow deep breaths to calm himself before groaning slightly. "Sorry..." he apologized weakly. His bottom still stung. He was fairly sure he'd feel it every time he sat for at least the afternoon, if not the evening. But it was up to Slade when he'd had enough. If Oliver had his way, it'd continue till he couldn't sit at all for a few days. Oliver realized that probably wasn't healthy.

"You're not in trouble, kid," Slade said, rubbing a few more moments. "There's no need to apologise." He held Oliver against his body a moment or two longer... just feeling the warm, solid weight of his little brother... and then gently moved his little brother onto his lap instead of over, hugging him tight.

Oliver snuggled close, tucking his head under Slade's chin. "Thank you..," he said in a voice roughened by his tenuous control of his emotions.

Slade kissed the top of his little brother's head, tightening his embrace around Oliver. "I love you, little brother. I always will," he promised.

It was after two in the afternoon and Oliver was at city hall, submitting for a permit for the club, when he glanced over and noticed him. Sebastian Blood. It was all Oliver could do not to go after the other man, but he managed to refrain...the sting on his backside reminding him that attacking Blood would be frowned on by many people, including his brother. He ground his teeth when Blood came over to him.

"I didn't realize. I didn't know what Wilson's true endgame was, or I would never have enlisted his help to clean up the city. I honestly believed I was doing the right thing to help..." Sebastian said quietly, taking advantage of the public location to say his piece where Oliver couldn't attack him or run off.

"And using me? Hurting me? Pretending we were friends?" Oliver asked stiffly.

"I didn't know it was you I was hurting until the end...not like you let everyone in on your secret. By the time I found out, it was too late to stop events. I didn't want to hurt you or your family..." Sebastian's protest was weak, though...he didn't figure Oliver would believe him, so why put effort into convincing the other man? "I've heard rumors that that drug is back, though. If I hear any more, I'll let you know...if you can stomach my presence long enough to get information."

"Yeah. Okay. You can leave messages for me at the club." Oliver was brusque, but he wouldn't turn away a potential source of information. And he knew Sebastian was right about one thing. By the time Sebastian knew that it was Oliver he was hurting, it was too late to put a stop to things. Plus...he'd like to know how Blood had survived. Oliver had been positive the other man had been killed.

Oliver watched as Blood disappeared, before quickly leaving himself and going to the lair. Diggle was the only one there that Oliver could see, so he had no problem saying, "Sebastian Blood is alive. And back in town."

Surprised, Diggle glanced at his brother, immediately checking to make sure Oliver wasn't hurt; at least not physically. He couldn't imagine Oliver wasn't affected emotionally. "Are you okay?" he asked anyway, figuring there wasn't an immediate danger, as Oliver would be acting rather than talking.

"Yeah...I'm getting used to dead people actually being alive..." Oliver snarked, with dark amusement.

"Have you told Slade yet?" Diggle figured there was a good chance Oliver hadn't, as he couldn't imagine the older man would have left Oliver's side with that knowledge. But he felt the need to ask anyway.

Slade had entered the club not long after Oliver and had arrived in the hideout in time to hear his little brother's declaration; something that surprised him, but at the same time... Blood was still alive? Slade knew the man hadn't been a 'good' person, but his was one of many deaths Slade had been responsible for that he now regretted... that he hated himself for. He knew Oliver hadn't told him Sebastian was alive, but he hung back to hear his little brother's response.

"No..." Oliver hesitated, a slight hint of guilt in his tone. "I don't want to upset him. He already takes on so much guilt for what happened then and while knowing Blood is alive may help get rid of some of that...there's just as high a chance of him focusing on all the other stuff and feeling guilty again and I don't want him to feel bad..." He glanced at Diggle. "You think that's the wrong move?" It said something about Slade's influence since returning that Oliver even asked. At one time, he would have not only not told, but he wouldn't have cared for anyone else's opinion and would have insisted they go along with him.

Oliver asking his opinion wasn't something Diggle had been used to before, but Diggle had seen the effects on Oliver since Slade had come back into his life and begun taking control. He gave the question some serious thought. "He's going to find out, unless Blood decides to take off again... which I assume would be unlikely. It's better to hear it from you than from someone who can't support him."

Oliver grimaced at the idea of Blood running into Slade. That wouldn't go down well. It would be even worse if Slade found out Oliver had known and didn't tell him. "Think I can get rid of Blood without anyone noticing?" Oliver asked jokingly; though the tone in his voice suggested he wasn't entirely against the idea. Blood may have not realized it was Oliver he was hurting, but his actions had hurt a lot of innocent people, too and the man was still trying to make excuses.

At that point, Slade decided he'd heard enough. Joking or not, they didn't need Oliver considering taking someone out. And while he hadn't felt the same way about Sebastian as he did Oliver, considering his relationship with his little brother was more unique, there was a part of him that felt protective of the other man. Before Diggle could respond, Slade stepped forward and into his little brother's personal space, though he didn't do anything more than gently squeeze Oliver's shoulder. "You don't need to be reminded to look for another way other than killing," he said quietly.

Oliver turned sheepish eyes toward his brother. "No. I don't. How much did you hear?" he asked in resignation; he knew he was going to tell Slade now, but if the other man already knew, why repeat himself?

"I heard you say Sebastian Blood is still alive," Slade replied. "If you said anything before that, I didn't hear it."

"No...That's pretty much the entire conversation..." Oliver blushed, realizing that Slade must have heard him debating not telling him the news. He gave Slade a sideways look, to see if the older man was upset at the fact he'd even considered it.

Slade gently squeezed his little brother's shoulder. "I know why you were reluctant to tell me," he said gently.

Oliver visibly relaxed, smiling at Slade. "Yeah...well...Digg's right. It wouldn't have worked that well. Especially if Blood sticks around."

"You should know... he might have considered the vigilante his enemy, but he thought of you, of Oliver, as his friend," Slade said, pushing aside his own admittedly mixed feelings about the situation to try and address further pain he was sure Blood's emergence had caused his little brother. "And I was the one who made you a target to him, kid. I'm not saying he didn't go about things the wrong way... but I also know, even without the Mirakuru as a driving force, how easy it is to make mistakes."

Oliver nodded slightly. He knew what Slade said was truth, but it was hard to let go of the sense of betrayal he'd felt when he'd learned Sebastian was working with Slade and those who were spreading Mirakuru through the city. Even if it was due to misguided ideas of the best methods to save the city. "I know you're right. I don't know if I can let it go..." he admitted with a sigh.

Slade's thumb gently stroked the nape of his little brother's neck. "I understand, kid. But if it wasn't for me, he wouldn't have had access to the Mirakuru and perhaps would have chosen another way," he said gently. "I'm not telling you how to feel... just asking you to consider if he proves to have changed."

"If he shows an effort to change..." Oliver's agreement to give him a chance was more through tone and body language than words. It was obvious he was doubtful of Blood's ability to do things differently- the man hadn't seemed all that remorseful about how he'd done things before- but Oliver was willing to admit he could be wrong.

Slade nodded, indicating that he was proud of his little brother in the way he pressed closer against his little brother's side and his fingers put a light pressure on the back of Oliver's neck; not enough to push him into a submissive mind-set, but enough to indicate Slade thought he was doing the right thing.

Diggle didn't say anything, but glanced at the report they had from the tracking device. So far, Oliver's contact hadn't found his way to the new drug.

"I guess it's just a sit and wait game right now?" Oliver asked Diggle. "I was thinking I should help Thea with the club if her bouncers called in sick. That way, I can be close if anything comes up and you can get me right away."

Diggle nodded. "We might not get a hit tonight... but if we do, we'll need to move fast."

"Great! Then I'll head upstairs. Text me if something comes up..." Oliver nodded and smiled at Diggle, before turning and asking Slade, "You have plans?"

"I was thinking about taking a short time to patrol," Slade answered. "I know there's not a lot we can do about the drug, but maybe there'll be people talking about it and I can get some intel that way."

"Great. Make sure and call us if anything happens..." Oliver said.

Slade nodded. "Same with you, kid. I'm only a phone call away." He glanced at Diggle, making sure the other man understood the comment was meant for him as well.

Diggle nodded. "Yeah. Got it." He smiled at both of them.

Oliver grinned, gave a wave, and then headed upstairs to find Thea.

Slade checked to make sure his tracker was in place (he didn't anticipate there being any trouble, but it never hurt to be careful) and then left the club.

Sebastian glanced around the seedy bar he'd ended up in. He hadn't lied to Oliver; he had heard rumors of Mirakuru being back in the city. Maybe if he got more information, his ex-friend would give him a chance to make things right. So far, all the answers he'd got pointed to the sole vials of the poison having been taken by some unknown person, though. The original possessors no longer had it.

Slade wasn't really sure what brought him to that bar in particular. He'd overheard some comments about a dealer setting up base and figured it was worth checking out. After texting a quick message to Diggle about where he was going, he headed inside the bar... pausing when he noticed Blood there. Knowing the other man was alive and seeing it were two very different things.

Sebastian hadn't seen Slade come in, involved in the conversation, trying to get more information on the Mirakuru.

Slade knew he could probably turn around and walk back out, before Sebastian could see him. He didn't have to speak to the other man. No one would know he'd effectively turned tail and run; except for himself, of course. But running was the coward's way out... and Slade knew facing his past would be the only way he could beat down the guilt. If he didn't, then the next time he was forced into a fight with someone he'd hurt, he might not be strong enough to fight back... keep himself alive so his little brother wasn't lost without him.

Slade's movement towards Sebastian was casual to anyone but the keenest observer. He had no idea if Sebastian knew he was in Starling City... but hoped the other man would see he wasn't a threat.

Sebastian may not have seen Slade come in, but he did notice the movement headed his direction from the corner of his eyes. Glancing up, he made eye contact with Slade and froze, going pale.

There was no point pretending he hadn't been seen, or walking away. Holding eye contact with Sebastian, Slade mouthed the words, 'I'm not going to hurt you. I want to talk.'

Swallowing hard, Sebastian nodded, dismissing himself from the man he was currently questioning. The man obviously didn't know anything and though he was afraid of what Slade might do to him, he was more worried about possibly angering the other man if he ignored the request to talk. He stood and made his way to an empty booth, expecting that Slade would follow.

Slade waited for Sebastian to sit and then slid in opposite the other man, placing his hands flat on the table to indicate he was unarmed. "I'm not the same man you knew before," he started right out by saying. "I was cured of the Mirakuru. It gave me back my mind... made me myself again."

"Doesn't mean you don't still want me dead..." Sebastian retorted, with a humorless smile.

"I don't," Slade replied plainly. "If you do anything that hurts or threatens Oliver? Then we'll have a problem."

"I won't...I wouldn't have before, except..." He grimaced. He wasn't sure what he would have done before if he'd known Oliver and the green arrow were the same person. He'd never wanted to hurt Oliver, though.

"I know," Slade said. "But Oliver was hurt a lot during that time. Not just by you... but at least he knew I would never have hurt him if it hadn't been for the Mirakuru. He knew me before the drug took hold."

"Whereas with me, I was friends with him as Oliver while working behind his back and also trying to kill his alter ego. He'll never trust me again." Sebastian sounded bleakly resigned.

"Broken trust is hard to get back, but not impossible," Slade said. "But if you can prove you've changed... that things are different... you might be able to heal your relationship and gain that trust back."

"Yeah, well...I won't push myself on him. I'll do what I need to prove I've changed to myself...the city. If he notices and decides I'm worth the risk, then great..." Sebastian's smile was grim. "I tried to tell Oliver, but he didn't really want to listen. I've heard rumors of Mirakuru being back and on the street. I've been asking around, but can't seem to get any concrete answers yet. If I hear something, you want me to call you?"

Slade nodded, a concerned look passing over his face. Had any of the others heard anything about the drug being Mirakuru? "I'll give you my number," he said. "But you can still leave messages at the club." He hesitated. "But don't do anything reckless in your attempts to prove yourself. You won't prove anything if you end up in the hospital."

"Yeah. I'm nothing if not self-protective..." Sebastian's smile was a bit self-mocking. "I'll be careful."

Slade nodded. "Good. I'll also let Oliver know that we've talked," he added.

"Yeah. Okay. He...he didn't seem to want to listen when I told him earlier, so I'm glad you found me." Sebastian smiled crookedly. "I should probably head out before anyone else gets suspicious why I'm here so long..." Sighing, he stood and turned toward the door. "Take care of yourself, Wilson..." he said over his shoulder as he left.

Oliver was not having a good day. Sebastian's comments earlier that morning hadn't just set him on edge because he didn't trust the other man and hadn't been sure how to tell Slade he was around (or if he should). It had put him on edge because Sebastian knew about the vials of Mirakuru. If Slade found out about them, it might send the older man into a depression Oliver couldn't get him out of; and Oliver wasn't about to lose his older brother to the same damn drug if he could help it. The problem was, vials of said drug were hidden in the lair. The chances of anyone else finding them accidentally were really high. He needed to figure out another place to hide them, really, but until he figured it out, they'd need to stay where he'd put them.

On top of that, he was beginning to feel not so well physically. He didn't have a fever or anything- yet- but he knew if he didn't go home, get some sleep and take care of whatever was coming his way...he'd be sick by the next night at the latest. This would make moving the Mirakuru even more difficult because Slade would go into Papa Bear mode and getting away so he wouldn't be seen would be impossible. He did his best to hide his agitation from the others.

Slade didn't linger long after his meeting with Sebastian, finishing up his patrol quite quickly and then heading back to the club. There was no question that he'd tell Oliver about his meeting with Sebastian; and about Sebastian's information regarding the resurgence of the Mirakuru. As soon as he was inside the club, he was making a beeline towards his little brother. Talking with Sebastian had made him want to seek out Oliver. Even without holding him, or even touching him, being close to Oliver helped him feel settled and less like a monster.

Oliver saw Slade approaching and gave him a friendly smile. He was currently leaning against a wall in the club...watching two possible trouble makers. "It's sad. Once upon a time, I would have been the one being watched by bouncers..." he said, as soon as Slade was within range of his voice. "How did I end up being responsible?" he said with a dramatic shiver, his grin turning impish as he glanced at his brother.

Slade stopped when he was close enough that he was just barely brushing against Oliver's side with his own. "You grew up." The note in his voice was fond... his expression affectionate as he placed a hand on his little brother's shoulder, squeezing gently.

"Not without a lot of help..." Oliver chuckled, remembering how and who had played the largest part of him 'growing up'. "I fought it the whole way..."

"But you came a long way." Slade's voice was proud.

"Thanks to you..." Oliver bumped shoulders with Slade. "Last call was fifteen minutes ago, so we should be able to leave as soon as the last patrons leave."

Slade nodded. "I'll talk to you once it's quietened down." He kept his hand resting gently on his brother's shoulder, just needing to touch Oliver.

"You found something out?" Oliver's voice was quiet.

"I spoke to Sebastian," Slade answered.

Oliver couldn't stop the flinch. He imagined that Slade would attribute it to his being leery of Sebastian, though. "What did he say?" His voice was curious.

"He said he thought the new drug that's around is Mirakuru," Slade answered, trying not to let himself be affected by it... after all, his little brother had been affected as much as himself by its effects.

"Did he offer any proof?" Oliver glanced at Slade to see how he was handling the information. "What gave him that idea?"

Slade gently nudged Oliver's shoulder, trying to be reassuring. "He told me he's looking for information. He did say he wants to show he's changed. Even if you don't feel able to trust him right now, if he can get information..." He frowned. "The Mirakuru is a curse. If it is in use... I'd rather see it destroyed than anyone else take it."

"Did he seem confident of finding any more information?" Oliver asked quietly.

"It's hard to say," Slade replied. "We haven't found much... but our personas are becoming well known. It's possible he can move in circles we don't have access to."

Oliver smiled, although the knowledge that Sebastian might hear about the hood taking the vials worried him. He could only hope he didn't run into anyone who actually knew that information. If there were more vials out there that Oliver didn't currently possess, it would be good to find out, so Oliver couldn't very easily insist Sebastian stay out of it. He really should find a safer place to store the vials, though.

Realizing he'd just been smiling oddly and not speaking for entirely too many seconds past what normal conversation allowed for, Oliver shook his head and said ruefully, "I'm going to have a hard time getting used to him being on my side..."

Slade nodded. "For what it's worth, he seems to regret hurting you. I know it's hard to trust... and I know you can trust me, because under the influence of the Mirakuru, I was completely different and how I acted then wasn't how I would act now. But you know you've changed. It's possible he has too."

"Yeah. Okay..." Oliver sighed. "The last of the customers are heading home. Let me help Thea with clean-up and we can go home too..."

"I'll help with the clean-up as well," Slade offered.

It didn't take them long to clean up and soon, Slade and Oliver were in their way home again, after a detour to drop Thea off. Oliver was feeling a little worse and knew he should tell his brother that he thought he was getting sick...Oliver knew there were a lot of things he should be telling his brother...but he ignored how he felt in favor of acting like nothing was wrong, afraid that if he started telling Slade anything, he'd spill about the vials of Mirakuru. "Think I'm going to stick close to the lair tomorrow and train..." he said softly, as they walked into the apartment. He automatically stopped just inside and to the side of the door, toeing his shoes and socks off and then waiting for his brother.

Slade closed the door and then immediately stepped over to his little brother. It was becoming habit now and he reached out to unbutton Oliver's shirt. He still glanced at his little brother's face to make sure... but it was done without hesitation.

Oliver just gave Slade a tired smile and held still while he was undressed. It was becoming habit to let his brother take control immediately upon entering the apartment.

Slade didn't take long to undress his little brother, moving his hand to the nape of Oliver's neck and squeezing gently. "Are you hungry?" he asked softly.

"No, sir...ate at the club..." Oliver answered quietly. He leaned into Slade's grip, automatically dropping into a biddable submissive mind-set.

Slade brought his brother in closer, wrapping his arms tight around Oliver. "We'll go into the living room and cuddle on the sofa," he said softly.

"Okay." Oliver smiled happily and followed his brother's direction easily, letting Slade lead him into the living room.

Keeping hold of his little brother, Slade sat down on the sofa and gently settled Oliver on his lap, hugging him close.

Oliver wiggled a little; not because his bottom hurt, but because he remembered earlier that day and the memory made him feel young and in need of attention. He snuggled close, hiding his face against Slade's shoulder.

Slade kissed the top of Oliver's head and gently squeezed the nape of his neck. "I love you, little brother." His voice was a quiet murmur in Oliver's ear.

"Love you too..." Oliver sighed in contentment. Slade's hand on his neck kept him grounded and focused, enabling him to relax and rest.

Slade gently stroked his little brother's hair and back. "Do you feel like taking a bath, kid?" he asked, feeling the need to take care of his little brother in a more personal way.

"Uh huh..." Oliver agreed with a tiny nod, too far into his needier mind-set to form more adult conversation.

Slade held his little brother close for a few more moments and then stood, keeping his brother close as he guided Oliver through to the bathroom.

Oliver continued to snuggle, the feeling of his brother holding him helping him to feel safe and secure.

As he ran the bath, Slade kept in constant contact with Oliver; stroking his hair, or his cheek, or squeezing the nape of his neck.

Oliver just watched his brother wordlessly, looking to determine Slade's state of mind. "'member the first time you gave me a bath..." he mumbled, his eyes taking on a faraway look as he thought of that time.

Slade's thumb gently stroked his cheek. "Taking care of you... it makes me feel good, too, kid," he murmured.

"On the island...? I think you were tempted to hold me under water and put me out of your misery..." Oliver grinned in amusement.

Slade's own smile was filled with fond affection. "No, kid. You wormed your way into my defences really quickly. I would never have wanted to get rid of you."

"I was a complete brat..." Oliver smiled sheepishly as he got into the bath. "I hated the cold water...and I still thought I needed to take care of myself and not be a burden or you'd send me away..."

"You were a brat," Slade agreed, picking up the washcloth to wash his brother. "But I would still never have wanted to lose you. Even then."

"I know that forgave a lot..." Oliver leaned forward and wrapped his arms around his knees.

"Kid..." Slade began to gently wash his back. "You forgave me just as much."

"Maybe..." Oliver whispered, not mentally able to argue with his brother when Slade was in control, but unable to stop believing that anything Slade had done under Mirakuru's influence was at least half his own fault for giving Slade the drug and then leaving him for dead with no one to help.

Slade continued to wash him gently, moving his little brother when he needed to. "If you hadn't given me the Mirakuru, kid, I wouldn't be here now," he whispered, able to tell what was troubling his little brother. "I wouldn't be in your life..." And maybe Oliver would have ended up dead by now. Slade didn't put voice to that, but he kept touching his little brother... reminding himself he had Oliver; that Oliver loved him and did forgive him.

Oliver just relaxed and let his brother take care of him. "I know..." Oliver really did know that...and he wouldn't have done anything differently if he'd known what would happen, because the only alternative he'd ever been able to come up with was letting his brother die; and that was never going to be an option. Still, it wasn't easy knowing what his brother had done because of the drug and knowing that, for a long time, Slade would have rather died than have done those things. The fact his brother still carried guilt about his past actions when under the drug's influence made Oliver's own guilt about what he'd put Slade through impossible to overcome. It was why he'd decided to hide the Mirakuru he'd found, really. Because he didn't want Slade reminded of what had happened and to begin feeling guilty again. If he could spare Slade that, he'd do whatever it took; even if it would get him into big trouble should Slade ever find out.

"I've got you, kid," Slade whispered, beginning to carefully wash his little brother's hair. "I love you." He finished washing Oliver and then helped his little brother out of the bath, wrapping a towel around him to dry him off.

"You always do..." Oliver admitted with a crooked smile. From the moment Slade had caught Oliver in the plane and decided to work with him instead of killing him, the older man had protected Oliver. When Oliver finally admitted what he needed, that had deepened into something Oliver had never experienced before and never would again, he was sure. The one constant was that Slade always had him. That Slade loved him. "Love you too..." he said quietly.

Slade continued to gently dry his little brother, making sure Oliver was completely dried off before putting the towel aside and bringing Oliver in close so he could lead his brother back through to the living room.

Oliver meekly followed his brother into the living room. He'd debated asking if they could go straight to bed- he was more tired than he should be- but it would take too much effort and he knew Slade would get him there eventually anyway. As soon as Slade was sat on the couch, Oliver crawled onto his lap like a toddler wanting a story and a cuddle; since he wanted both, it was a good comparison.

Slade settled his brother comfortably on his lap, stroking Oliver's hair as he picked up the new book he'd bought during the day so he could read it to his little brother, his free hand stroking Oliver's neck, back and hair.

Oliver snuggled against Slade, the cadence of the older man's voice quickly lulling him to sleep. Even if he'd desperately needed more of his brother's attention, his eyes and body just wouldn't cooperate. It was a peaceful was usual when he was safe and protected in his brother's arms.

Putting the book aside, Slade held his brother tight in his arms, watching Oliver's face as he stroked his little brother's hair, feeling supremely lucky to have him. Just touching Oliver or even just being near him helped... and taking care of his little brother was better than anything.

When Oliver awoke, he blearily went into the bathroom to take a shower. He felt worse, if possible, and like he was becoming feverish. It wouldn't be easy to hide from Slade for long; he needed to get out of the apartment. To that end, he quickly texted Thea and Tommy for a 'sibling brunch' - his treat- then got dressed before Slade had a chance to get suspicious.

"Thea wants to have brunch with Tommy and me...spur of the I have to go now to get there in time...I'll see you later tonight!" he yelled, as he nearly ran out the front door. Hopefully Slade would attribute his odd behavior to being late.

Slade frowned, but figured his little brother was acting strangely because he'd slept later than intended. "Okay, kid," he replied, his voice carrying enough to be heard. "If you need me at any point, call."

Oliver had arrived and got a nice table at Thea's favorite Bistro in record time. He sat with his back to the wall, watching the door, and waited for his sister and her other brother- his best friend- to arrive.

Thea and Tommy arrived together, Thea talking to Tommy about some of the newer features she had planned for the club. Thea took the seat next to Oliver automatically, while Tommy sat casually opposite his sister and best friend.

The waiter had come over immediately for drink orders but as soon as he'd stepped away, Oliver leaned forward. "So...when are you going to start working at the club? Our sister is amazingly persuasive," he teased.

Tommy grinned, but responded, "I have to wait until the doctor clears me."

"And Detective Lance, too?" Thea's voice carried a faint teasing note, but underneath that was relief. Tommy seemed to be thriving under the older man's care. Markedly similar to how Oliver was thriving under Slade's care...

Oliver grinned at Thea's words. "Something tells me one has even more decision making power on that than the other," he snorted. "Not that I can talk..."

"Considering Slade only has to say 'jump' and you ask how far or high..." Thea's response was spoken without irritation, though... because it was true she'd been worried about her brother ever since he came back from the island and demonstrated just how damaged he really was. She was seeing more changes in Oliver now that seemed to be for the better.

"Yeah...yeah..." Oliver was grinning, though. He couldn't deny that he was happier and more settled than before Slade had returned.

"He seems good for you." Tommy's voice only held a slight hint of curiosity, resigned to the fact none of them would go into detail about whatever problem there was between Slade and nearly all of the others bar Oliver and Lance. Admittedly, things seemed to be on a more even keel now; but Tommy wasn't nearly as unobservant as he expected the others thought. And when they'd visited him and Lance, it had seemed like Slade had been troubled about something.

"That's what we keep being told," Thea murmured.

Oliver gave Thea a sharp glance at her words, but didn't say anything else. He knew it would take a lot of time and effort before the others would forgive Slade the way he had. None of them had the relationship with him that Oliver did. "He is. Same way Lance is for you..." That was the closest Oliver would come to admitting how their relationship went.

Tommy held back the questions he wanted to ask, instead saying, "You both still drinking the same? I'll go up and order." It was uncomfortable, seeing the wariness of everyone else with Slade and wondering what the other man had done to alienate them, considering he'd been nothing but calm and patient when it came to helping Tommy out.

"Yes...please..." Oliver smiled; waiting till Tommy had stood and gone to the bar before turning to Thea. "So, apparently Sebastian is back in town and determined to help us find out about it those drugs."

Thea frowned. "He was working with Slade. Do you trust him, too?" She watched Oliver's face carefully, trying to tell.

"Not... not yet..." Oliver admitted. "He wasn't drugged when he turned against me. It's harder to believe he won't do it again. At the same time, he didn't actually realize it was me until it was too late, so..." He feebly shrugged.

"Did Felicity tell you what she found out about the guy who attacked Slade?" Thea asked, glancing at the bar to make sure Tommy was occupied with ordering and wouldn't hear them.

"Not yet...what did she find out?" Oliver looked a bit worried.

"He was a potential ASIS recruit," Thea answered. "Slade broke his leg during a training session... broke it badly enough that it's always going to be damaged." She looked at her brother. "His name's Ian; and you must have seen there's a slight similarity to how you look. Enough that Slade probably snapped because of it."

"Slade damaged him before the Mirakuru was fully out of his system. I can see why the kid would carry a grudge..." Oliver avoided the whole fact of the kid looking similar to him. It still hurt how much the Mirakuru had warped his brother's feelings toward him.

"He's not the only one," Thea pointed out. "How can you be so sure he's trustworthy, Ollie? He wanted you to suffer before... this could be an elaborate ploy to hurt you even more." While that did worry her a bit, she didn't truly believe it... but it was concerning to see just how much her brother now relied on the older man. Thea wasn't sure he would survive emotionally if Slade turned on him.

"Because when the Mirakuru didn't have hold of him, he devoted himself to keeping me safe and alive. To teaching me so I could keep myself safe and alive. He went beyond anything he needed to do... I'd be dead if it weren't for him, Thea. Many times over, since his training kept me alive in a lot of other situations since returning home." Oliver's look to his sister was serious.

Thea sighed. "Ollie... I've seen how different you are since he came back. I think we all have. But I'm really worried about what will happen to you if Slade ends up out of the picture again."

"I'll survive. I did it before..." Ollie defended himself. "Haven't I been leading you all okay?"

"You barely survived," Thea said. "And you actually listen and take on board what we say now. You didn't before."

"You think that will stop if Slade gets taken from me?" Oliver asked curiously. "I somehow doubt Diggle or Lance would let me get away with that, even if Slade wasn't there anymore. And since I know Slade wouldn't leave without very good reason..."

"I think that he's a big part of how you've changed now," Thea replied. "I don't know what would happen if he's not in the picture... hopefully, we won't have to find out. Hopefully, his past won't have as much of an effect as it did before."

"I won't let it..." Oliver said firmly, smiling as he saw Tommy returning with the drinks. "You get the bartender's number?" he asked his friend. "She was smiling really big at you..."

"I thought about it..." But Tommy was still torn up about Laurel. He set the drinks down and sat with his sister and best friend once more.

Oliver saw the look in Tommy's eye and smiled sympathetically. "In due time..." he said quietly, reaching out and squeezing Tommy's shoulder.

Thea gently squeezed Tommy's hand, but began drawing both of her brothers into a conversation about the club, moving the topic to something a bit easier.

Sebastian had hoped he'd find out more information. He hadn't expected to find out what he had, though. He had a moment's hesitation; did he really want to risk angering Slade with the rumors going around? In the end, though, he knew it was up to the other man if he believed the rumors and what to do about them. So he dialled the number he'd been given and waited for Slade to pick up.

Slade picked up almost immediately. "Slade Wilson here."

"Blood here...I have some information...well rumors since I haven't been able to prove it...but I'm fairly certain my source isn't lying..." Sebastian got to the point.

"What's the information?" Slade asked.

Sebastian hesitated, looking around to make certain he was alone before answering. "Rumor is there are only four vials of the drug; the description fits that of the Mirakuru. But they are saying it isn't on the streets anymore. They say the green arrow found its hiding place during one of his raids and he took it."

Slade's first instinct was to deny it; to claim Oliver wouldn't keep something of that importance from him. But the words died on his lips as he remembered overhearing Oliver's reluctance to tell him Sebastian lived. Slade was desperate to protect his little brother. It wasn't a stretch to consider Oliver felt that same desperation. "You're certain your source is trustworthy?" he asked instead.

"The guy wanted the vials for himself and was certain enough that he says he's going to skin the Arrow alive and torture the information out of him to get the vials back. Even if the source is wrong, he believes he's either way, Oliver has a target on his back now." Sebastian's voice was resigned and worried.

"I need you to send me all the information you have on the guy." Slade did his best to hide his worry, but his little brother was, once again, in danger... and Slade quickly sent a message to Oliver to ask where he was.

"I'll send it right over," Sebastian promised, before the call ended.

Oliver, Tommy and Thea had returned to the club to hang out and so that Thea could do inventory. Tommy was helping her and Oliver had taken the opportunity to slip downstairs to the lair to retrieve the vials of Mirakuru, unable to shake the sense of unease he had at it being hidden where everyone else might find it. He hadn't wanted to be questioned about what he was carrying, so he'd gone into the restroom and hidden the vials on his body in an area that wouldn't be easily spotted by a casual observer and wasn't in danger of breaking if he found himself in a fight (even if his opponent fought dirty). He just had to get home before Slade so that he could remove the drug and hide it in the ceiling.

Which he might actually be able to do if he left right now and then returned to the club immediately. Going upstairs, he smiled at Thea and Tommy. "I left something important at home, so I need to go get it, but I'll be back before the club opens..." he said, wincing when his voice cracked and he started coughing. He was definitely sick...even felt a bit warm.

He glanced down at his phone and noticed Slade had sent him a message that he needed to answer. Not wanting to lie, but also not wanting to tell Slade where he was going because he needed his brother to not go to the apartment till the Mirakuru was hidden, he decided not to answer. If it was an emergency, Slade would call. Or call one of the others.

Thea gave a worried frown. "Maybe you'd better take the night off, Ollie. You sound like you might need it. I can call one of the others to come and help out..."

"Or I can," Tommy offered. He didn't plan to drink, so he figured there wouldn't be a problem with him sticking around at the club. Lance would probably guess he was with his siblings anyway.

Oliver bit his lip. He knew Thea was right; and given everything going on, he should take her up on the offer. Still... "You're right. I'll stay home, but if you need me, I want you to call..." he reluctantly agreed.

Grabbing his jacket, he was walking out the door when his phone rang. He glanced down to see who it was and cringed. He was only fifteen minutes from home. He didn't want to lie about where he was, so if he could just wait till he was home to answer, then he'd have time to hide the vials before Slade got home. Part of him felt guilty doing it, but he promised himself to call right back as soon as the vials were hidden and pushed the guilt down.

Slade's concern spiked when Oliver didn't answer, but it didn't become full-fledged worry. He headed back to the apartment and tried calling his brother. If Oliver didn't answer then? Slade would start looking.

Slade's concern deepened as there was no answer from Oliver. He sent a message to Diggle and Thea, asking if either of them knew where Oliver was, and it didn't take long to get a response back from Oliver's sister, letting Slade know he was on his way back to the apartment.

Checking the time, Slade decided to give his little brother twenty minutes to get back to the apartment.

Oliver really knew better than to speed; even if he was trying to rush home to take care of things before Slade returned. He knew better, but he still did it. And, of course, one of Starling City's finest clocked him doing 50 in a 30 zone. By the time the officer had looked up his license, written a ticket and finally sent him on his way, it took him 30 minutes to get home instead of the expected 15.

Jumping out of the car and locking it, he ran up the stairs to the apartment so he could hide the vials; in such a hurry, he didn't even look to see if Slade's car was parked in its space or not.

Slade had been preparing to leave the apartment when he heard the sound of footsteps just outside. He opened the door and quickly tugged his brother inside. "Are you hurt? Being chased?" he demanded, beginning to check Oliver for injuries.

Oliver jerked back, his eyes wide. "No! I'm fine! Nothing's wrong at all!" he blurted, in an attempt to deflect Slade's concern. "Why are you home already?" he couldn't stop himself from asking in his own worried tone; partly because it was still early and he couldn't see any reason for Slade to be at home (and trying to reach him so frequently) if there wasn't something wrong...and partly because he had the vials of Mirakuru on him and had no clue how he was going to get them into the ceiling like he'd planned if Slade was in the apartment. He'd hear something, if nothing else, and that would be it...he'd know about the drugs and get all down on himself again and Oliver really didn't want that to happen.

If Slade hadn't been suspicious already, his little brother's evasive actions would have alerted him to the fact. "I've been trying to get hold of you, kid. Sebastian called me and indicated you might be in danger."

"Oh...I was fine..." Oliver flinched with a guilty glance at his phone. He really should have answered.

"If you were fine, kid, you would have sent me a message. Or picked up the phone," Slade replied. "What are you hiding?" He stepped closer to Oliver, reaching out to gently squeeze the nape of his little brother's neck. "The Mirakuru?"

"Wh..." Oliver blinked and pulled away from his brother, too anxious about the secret he was hiding to think about the fact he was behaving totally out of character. "What? What are you talking about? Why would you ask that? I got a ticket...that's all!" He shoved the ticket toward his brother in an attempt to distract him. He'd rather be scolded for driving too fast than have the vials discovered. "I...I need to go change. Clean up a bit..." he backed up again and tried to slip around Slade.

Slade wrapped both his arms around Oliver and pulled his brother in close against him. He began to thoroughly search his brother, now certain he was right in his assumption. "Sebastian told me there was word the Arrow had taken the vials of Mirakuru... apparently, this guy is so certain of it, he plans to capture you and torture you for their whereabouts. It's why I was trying to get hold of you. I was scared you might have been tracked down."

"Slade...No! What are you doing? No one got me! I'm fine..." Oliver squirmed in an attempt to get away. Currently, Slade's search would find nothing; the only way he'd find the vials would be if he stripped Oliver and searched him invasively. Oliver was really hoping he could convince his brother that wasn't necessary. "Look...I'm sorry. I should have responded to your texts and phone calls. I expected to be home sooner and planned to call you back! And how does Sebastian know this guy wasn't making stuff up!?"

Slade tightened his grip on his little brother. "I'd like to believe you, little brother, but you're not a good liar. And an even worse one where I'm concerned. Sebastian sent me the information on this guy. He's a real piece of work. And you're top on his hit list." As he was speaking, Slade began to strip his little brother.

Oliver began to squirm ineffectively against Slade. Even under normal circumstances, it would have been difficult- every instinct he had was urging him to capitulate and submit- but he currently was feeling extremely guilty along with the urge to give in and he was most definitely ill. He'd been feeling warm for the last several hours and was fairly certain he had a fever. He knew Slade would realize that the moment he touched skin for longer than a few seconds and it caused him to struggle even more, though the attempt was feeble due to a sudden lack of energy caused by the illness. "Not lying...!" Oliver nearly whined, not able to look Slade in the eye because that's exactly what he was doing.

Slade noticed immediately that Oliver's struggles had lost a lot of their power... and he didn't think it was just because his little brother was giving in to him. Slade tugged Oliver in closer and placed a hand on his forehead to check for a temperature.

"Stooop!" This time, Oliver did whine. All his carefully laid plans to protect Slade were falling apart right in front of him and he couldn't stop it from happening. And the fact he felt very guilty was not helping.

Slade moved his hand down Oliver's back, swatting his little brother's backside. It wasn't especially hard; he was aiming for the shock to stop Oliver struggling.

Usually, such a warning would have worked. Unfortunately, Oliver knew what Slade would find if he continued his search and his fear of his older brother's disappointment and inevitable guilt spurred him to continue struggling, even if he was in no position or shape to make much headway. To his shame, his eyes teared up at the swat...his guilt warring with his need to protect Slade.

Slade squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck, sliding his hand under Oliver's shirt so he could touch his little brother's bare skin. He used his other hand to continue undressing his little brother, now completely certain Oliver was hiding the Mirakuru.

By this time, Oliver's struggle was more that of a tired and thwarted toddler than that of a capable adult. He'd push Slade's hand away in one direction while Slade continued to do what he intended with the other hand. His thinking was too muddled to do much else between his instinct to give in to Slade and the guilt he felt at having lied, hidden things and in general doing everything he knew he wasn't supposed to. And by now, his head hurt from the fever, so thinking wasn't really working well anyway. Somehow, before he knew it and despite his efforts, all of Slade's practice the week before paid off and instead of standing in front of his brother in his clothes, he was standing in front of his brother in a pile of his clothes.

Throwing his hands in front of himself was less a move for modesty and more to try and make sure the vials hadn't shifted during the struggle. The fever and exertion had led to him sweating and the tape he'd used to attach them to the inner crease of his upper thigh wasn't made to withstand sweat.

His little brother moving his hands in front of himself indicated to Slade the probable location of the vials. He gently moved Oliver's hands so he could check and confirm his suspicions.

Oliver's whole body turned red; not in embarrassment at how familiar his brother was getting- his brother knew every inch of him better than Oliver even knew himself- but in shame that he'd even attempted to hide something from his brother like this. He was mentally kicking himself and asking how he'd thought he could ever get away with it and felt very foolish for having even tried. He didn't even try to cover himself again, or even to fight his brother's searching hands away, having realized it was a lost battle and it was time to concede defeat and surrender. To show as much, he shifted so that he wasn't pressing his legs together tightly as a barrier and widened his stance, giving his brother access to the vials without Slade having to use force to reach them. Slade was going to get the vials anyway. Oliver may as well make it as painless as possible for himself.

Slade used one hand to retrieve the vials, while the other kept in constant contact with his little brother. He removed the tape carefully; not because he wanted to protect the Mirakuru (he planned to burn it as soon as he could), but because he didn't want to risk any part of his little brother's body coming into contact with the vile substance. "How long?"

Oliver blinked in honest confusion. Maybe if he didn't have a fever, he'd have figured out what his brother was asking, but he wasn't feeling completely well and the stress of the last few days was finally catching up to him. "How long, what?" he asked in a hesitant whisper, afraid Slade would believe he was deliberately being evasive again.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "How long have you been hiding them for?" he clarified.

Closing his eyes and focusing on the gentle squeezing of his neck and not the fact his brother was removing illicit drugs from off his body, Oliver swallowed. "Since that guy attacked you..." he admitted. "I had them in my quiver for a few days, then moved them to the lair and was moving them again today; was going to put them in the ceiling..." he admitted, his voice cracking slightly and he couldn't stop the cough.

Slade put the vials to one side and wrapped both arms around his little brother, leading Oliver through to the bathroom and the medicine cabinet. He kept a tight hold as he opened it up and took out the fever medication, touching Oliver's chin to encourage him to open his mouth.

"Unghuh..." Oliver frowned and clamped his mouth shut. He hated taking medication of any sort. It made him sleepy and unable to do anything but rely on Slade to take care of him; while he didn't mind that when it was a voluntary submission to allow Slade the control, he hated when he didn't have a choice in doing so because of outside influences beyond he and his brother. Plus...he felt like he deserved to feel bad and be sick after all the lies and hiding things, though he'd never willingly admit that to Slade.

"Kid, you're sick. You need the medication." Slade's voice was firm and carried a warning note. Oliver's health was one thing he would never budge on.

"No!" Oliver would have blushed at how much like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum he sounded. He was too busy trying to turn his face away so that Slade couldn't somehow get medicine into his mouth despite himself. "...'m fine. S'jus a cold!" he mumbled, through clenched teeth and barely opened lips.

Slade put the medicine to one side, so he wouldn't spill any of it, and bent Oliver forward slightly so he could smack his little brother's bottom; not willing to fight on his little brother's health, but not prepared to give in to him either.

"Slaaaade..." Oliver whined, not fighting the position and wiggling slightly at the small sting, but not wanting to give in either. "...I'm alright! Don't need medicine... That's for fever! I don't have a fever!" Oliver knew that was a blatant lie, but if he admitted to having a fever, then he'd have to admit he was sick and he just didn't want to do that. There was no way for Slade to prove he had a fever, since Oliver could claim the reason he felt hot to Slade was because Slade's hands were cold.

Slade sighed. "Okay, kid. We'll do it this way." He retrieved the medicine and collected the thermometer, guiding his little brother through to the living room and over his lap.

Oliver had been too busy keeping his face averted so that Slade couldn't sneak medicine into his mouth to notice what his brother had gathered. He didn't fight when Slade pulled him into the living room or put him over his lap. He'd expected he'd end up getting a spanking, so it didn't surprise him; and he told himself that if Slade was spanking him, then he must have convinced the older man that he wasn't sick. He only whined a little as he went over Slade's knee, the position making his head hurt just a little bit more.

Slade settled his little brother in place, gently squeezing the nape of his neck and rubbing his bottom. "I'm not going to keep fighting you on this, kid. I know you're sick, but if you need me to prove, beyond any shadow of doubt, that you have a fever... I've told you I will always give you what you need." He used the thermometer.

Oliver had listened closely to what his brother was saying, but it took him longer than he wanted to admit to realize what his brother was doing. By the time he thought to struggle, the thermometer was already in place. "Noooo..." he whimpered, his stomach sinking at the feeling of complete dependence he had on his brother. At the feeling of complete loss of control that he now had; his brother had complete control over the situation. He reached back with his hand, as if to try and remove the tiny instrument, but in reality, he was just scared and needed to hold on to his know that Slade wasn't very upset with him for pushing him so hard that he felt he had no choice but to take such complete control.

Slade took hold of Oliver's hand, squeezing it gently as he continued to rub and stroke his little brother's hair, neck, back, bottom, legs... all over, trying to calm and settle him. "I love you, little brother. Being that naughty doesn't change how I feel about you," he promised.

Oliver immediately began to relax as his brother took his hand, the combination of gentle rubbing and stroking with the firm grip on his hand helping him to calm down and not be so afraid. "I was very naughty..." he admitted, in a tiny, childish voice. He knew what the reasons for his actions had been and they had been good reasons, but the actions themselves weren't good and he knew that. He could have handled things in a much better way, he had to admit to himself. He wiggled a tiny bit, stilling when the movement caused the thermometer to shift and remind him exactly how far out of control he'd gotten. He blushed darkly. "...Was very very naughty..." he whispered, his shame clear in his voice.

"You were," Slade agreed. "But it changes nothing between us. It doesn't change how I feel about you. Nothing could ever do that." He continued to gently rub his little brother's back and bottom. "But I need to know why, kid." Because it would affect how he handled the situation. "Did you hide the vials because you wanted to protect me? Or because you were scared I'd take it again?"

Oliver swallowed. "I didn't want you to hurt anymore...I found them and put them in my quiver...and all I could think of was how guilty you felt about everything that happened when you took it and I didn't want to remind you of that...and then that guy attacked you and you didn't fight back and I was positive I'd made the right decision..." He sniffled softly. "...And then the longer I had them, the more I realized maybe I'd made a mistake, but I didn't know how to tell you without hurting you and I just...I made the wrong call. I always make the wrong call when I don't let anyone else know what's going on, so I should have known it was wrong when I had to hide it from everyone..." His voice got tinier and more childlike. "...I should have known, but instead I kept being naughty..." It was a testament to how much influence Slade had gained over Oliver that he didn't refer to himself as bad. While he knew he'd handled things wrong, he wasn't letting his actions cause him to feel he was worthless. Slade's constant physical affection and attention helped a great deal with that as well.

Slade closed his eye, continuing to gently rub and stroke his little brother's bare skin. "You should have known, kid. It's all spiralled out of control and I need to figure out how to keep you safe, because I can't lose you. I need to keep you with me and safe... so as well as you getting spanked, you're going to be grounded."

"I'm sorry..." Oliver's voice caught and it was all he could do to not start bawling. He felt so vulnerable and young over his brother's knee, especially with his brother taking his temperature, and he hadn't wanted to cause more problems for his brother, but he had. The guilt from that alone was enough to bring him to tears, so added on to the vulnerable state he was in and the fact he wasn't feeling well and he was doing good not to break down. He wouldn't cry about being spanked or grounded; he fully believed he deserved to be punished thoroughly for his actions. "...I'm sorry..." he repeated. He'd given up trying to sound strong, in control or adult shortly after going over Slade's knee... but with the final apology, his voice took on the most needy, apologetic, regretful tone; he had obviously given up what little bit of control over himself he'd managed to retain and was putting himself completely in Slade's hands.

"I know, kid." Slade stroked Oliver's lower back as he gently removed the thermometer. "You definitely have a fever. I'm going to sit you on my lap and you're going to take the medication. Then I'm going to put you to bed... tuck you in..."

"Y'sir..." Oliver sniffled again, swallowing back tears. He didn't move on his own at all; even though he could feel that the thermometer was no longer breeching him, he was reluctant to do anything without Slade's approval first. He'd already done enough to earn his brother's disapproval. All he wanted was to go back to being Slade's 'good boy'.

Slade gently moved Oliver so his little brother was sitting on his lap and poured the medication out onto the spoon, touching his little brother's mouth to encourage him to open it so Slade could feed him the medicine.

All the fight had drained out of Oliver by this point. He obediently opened his mouth, swallowing the medicine with only a slight grimace at the taste. Sniffling again, he let his head drop onto Slade's shoulder, seemingly sapped of all his energy. "...So sorry..." he mumbled again, needing Slade to understand that he hadn't meant to be so horrible. He hated having a punishment hang over his head and wished his brother could just turn him over and blister his bottom right away, but he was having such a hard time keeping his eyes open, he suspected he'd be waiting to receive his come-uppance. Slade wouldn't punish him until he was in a frame of mind to be able to learn from it. It wasn't about pain with was about understanding and remembering. No matter how much pain Oliver felt he might deserve, Slade was the one who decided.

Slade kissed his little brother's head. "I know, kid. I love you," he whispered. "Come on. I'll read to you until you fall asleep." He rubbed Oliver's hip and helped his little brother up, keeping in close contact with him as he led him through to the bedroom.

Oliver stumbled slightly as they began to move, leaning more heavily on Slade as they went into the bedroom. He didn't fight as Slade got him into the bed and under the covers, although he did shiver slightly, the cool air chilling his feverish skin.

Slade retrieved an extra blanket, tucking his brother into the bed and settling next to Oliver. He picked up one of the books and opened it to begin reading.

Oliver snuggled tightly against Slade, needing to feel his brother's closeness and feel that Slade wasn't angry at him for his actions. It was hard for him to not believe Slade was angry- he'd done so many wrong things- but he was afraid to ask and find out that the older man was angry. All he could do was press close and snuggle and hope that, if Slade didn't push him away, it meant Slade wasn't angry.

Slade wrapped his arms around his little brother, drawing Oliver in close and kissing his head. "I love you, kid," he said reassuringly, tightening his embrace.

"Love you more..." he said, with a sniffle and a tiny bit of an impish tone. Nuzzling against his brother's chest, Oliver closed his eyes and listened to the rich timbre of Slade's voice as the older man read to him. Something about listening to his brother always made him feel safe and secure and loved.

Slade kept hold of his little brother while he continued reading. He stroked Oliver's hair and cheek... just touching him... keeping him close generally.

Slade's constant touching comforted Oliver and he soon fell asleep in his brother's arms.

Putting the book aside, Slade just held onto his little brother, watching his little brother's sleeping face. Once more, he felt the fierce, overprotective sense of love and relief that he hadn't lost Oliver.

Lance looked at his watch and then at the front door again. Sighing, he paced and tried to decide what to do. If this had occurred with either Laurel or Sara when they were teenagers, he would have known what to do. If Tommy was a teenager, he would have known what to do. As it was, he knew what he wanted to do; but he also knew Tommy was an adult who was out with his younger half-sister and it wasn't even really that late yet. Still... Tommy wasn't home yet, it was ten o'clock at night and the younger man hadn't said anything about being out late. Pulling out his cell phone, he dialled the number that he'd already memorized.

It hadn't occurred to Tommy to let Lance know he was going to be out late. It wasn't that he wanted the other man to worry; he just didn't even consider Lance would. But when he heard his phone, he pulled it out and answered. "Hey."

"Hey, kid. Not that I want to rain on your parade or anything, but it's kinda late. Just wanted to make sure everything was okay..." Lance said, after a second's deliberation. He didn't want to start out chiding Tommy for not calling when he decided to stay out late; the kid probably hadn't even realized Lance would want that. At the same time, a gentle reminder that it was late- and someone not with Tommy had noticed- might cause the kid to think about calling in the future. Or at least make it so that Tommy wasn't blindsided when Lance made it clear he expected Tommy to call when he was staying out late.

"Oh." Tommy blinked. "Oliver wasn't very well. I said I'd stay at the club since he was heading home. Sorry... I didn't think about calling." He sounded sheepish, but there was an apologetic note in his voice.

Lance's smile could be heard in his voice. "It's okay. I figured you were still with your sister, or you would have called and let me know of a change in plans..." he said calmly, although his words were more of an indication of what he expected Tommy to do, since he'd had no reason to believe Tommy would do so otherwise. "Just...from now on, if you think you'll be out later than what is usually closing time for most places, give me a call. That way, I won't accidently embarrass you by calling in some old favors trying to make sure you aren't hurt or worse...since I tend to assume the worst case scenario if not given better options. Hazards of being a police officer and a father..." He didn't say that he looked on Tommy like a son, but the fact he was worried and wanted him to call home like he would have done if Laurel or Sara were around likely gave that information away without him having to say anything.

"Yeah, okay," Tommy agreed. "I'll make sure I remember next time. Have you eaten? Want me to pick up some takeout on the way back? I'm not going to be drinking, so driving won't be an issue."

"I ate around seven o' I'm good, thanks. But if you haven't eaten, I want you to get at least something light to eat before driving home. That last bit of medication you're on affects your blood sugar levels, so we don't want you to have problems because of that..." Lance said seriously, parental concern seeping into his voice. "And call me before you leave to head back, so that I'll have some idea when to expect you in?"

"I should be okay," Tommy answered. "Thea insisted I sit down and eat something before work. And I'm taking it easy, too... not that anyone would let me do any different." The last was muttered under his breath, but he didn't sound unhappy or irritated about it. "I will call," he added.

"Good boy. I'll wait for you to get home then. Have fun..." Lance said fondly.

"Yeah... if you need me back earlier, just call." There was a happier note in Tommy's voice. He hadn't thought to call Lance to say he was going to be late, but it made him feel good that the other man had cared enough to find out where he was.

"I will, son. Be careful..." Lance smiled into the phone before hanging up.

Oliver woke up disoriented and lay still for a few moments, trying to remember what was going on. He slowly remembered what had occurred and realized that he must have woke up because the medicine had worn off. He was still feeling worn and achy and he felt hot, even though he was fairly certain that the room wasn't as stifling as he thought it was. Slade was sitting beside him, silently reading, and before the older man could ask him how he was or make a move to feel his forehead, Oliver had shifted himself enough that he could lay over his brother's lap, eyes half-closed.

Slade let his hand gently rest on his little brother's lower back, rubbing and stroking. "You're going to need to take more medicine, kid." His voice was gentle, warmed through with love and affection.

Oliver didn't respond in words, just gave a whiny little huff and buried his face against his arms. He wasn't better, but he'd had just enough sleep to make him cranky and want to test Slade's patience...or maybe not his patience, but his resolve. "Fever's gone...jus tired..." he muttered finally. Not that he really knew if the fever was gone or not. He was just hoping it was gone. He hated being sick.

Slade moved his hand a little lower, gently patting his little brother's bottom. "I need to make sure of that, little brother. If the fever's not gone, refusing to take the medication will make you sick for longer." He reached out to pick up the thermometer once more.

Oliver just sighed softly, not arguing and in fact hitched his bottom up a tiny bit higher so that Slade could do what was necessary without too much effort. As humbling as having his temperature taken in that way was, Oliver had to admit to himself that it put him in the position he most felt comfortable: in his brother's grip with his brother being in complete control. There was no way to deny it.

Slade used the thermometer, and then began gently patting his little brother's bottom again; not hard, but demonstrating his control over his little brother... and the fact he wasn't going to let Oliver go. No matter what.

Oliver just wiggled a tiny bit, the small intrusion a comfort by this point; it was just another sign that his brother loved him and would do whatever was necessary to keep him safe and well. The gentle pats reinforced the feeling and to his chagrin, Oliver began sniffling. The feeling of safety, concerned love and belonging was overwhelming. He tried not to move too much, knowing the thermometer would do its job better if he held still and didn't cause his temperature to rise by moving too much.

Slade gently patted and rubbed his little brother's bottom as he waited for the time to be up. He kept his hand in place on Oliver's backside as he withdrew the thermometer and checked it. "You definitely still have a temperature, little brother."

"Drats..." Oliver muttered, then winced and blushed at the fact he'd actually used the word 'drats' to convey displeasure. "I gotta take more medicine?" he asked plaintively, although he already knew the answer. He stayed in place, not wanting to dislodge Slade's hand, the possessiveness calming and comforting him as much as his brother using the thermometer had.

"I'm afraid so, kid." Rubbing Oliver's bottom, Slade added, "But you can go back over my knee once you've taken it."

Oliver giggle snorted at that, reluctantly shifting so he was sitting on Slade's lap instead of draped over it. "I must be one sad little boy...wanting to be over your knee all the time instead of wanting to avoid it..." He smiled crookedly.

Slade poured out the fever medicine, cupping his little brother's neck, thumb gently stroking his cheek as he fed it to Oliver. "I think you want to avoid it when you're actually in trouble."

Oliver obediently swallowed the medicine, his head slanting toward his brother's thumb as he sought the affection. Giving a bashful smile, he agreed quietly, "Y'sir...but that's only cuz it hurts when you're disappointed in me. When it's cuz you're reminding me that I'm yours and I'm safe and loved, the sting feels good..." He blushed at the admittance.

Slade's hand cupped his little brother's cheek, gently stroking, always willing to give his little brother as much affection as he could. "You're always safe and loved, little brother," he whispered. "Even when you're in trouble."

"I know..." Oliver said softly. "...I just really hate disappointing you...knowing you have to punish me because I'm makes it feel different...makes it hurt, even though I know you love me and I'm safe and you aren't harming me..."

Slade kissed the top of his head. "I know why you did it, kid. Why you hid them from me. I know you were trying to protect me... but lying to me and hiding things from me isn't the same as protecting me. That comes from doing what you do already. Showing that you trust me to take care of you... letting me take care of you. It helps, more than anything else could, because your trust helps me see myself as the man. Not the monster," he whispered in Oliver's ear, still gently stroking his little brother's cheek.

Oliver leaned into his brother, snuggling. "I'm sorry I was so naughty. I really did want to protect you...jus went about it all wrong..." He sighed sadly. "Am I grounded for a really long time?" he asked hesitantly. While he knew Slade wouldn't spank him until he was physically well, the grounding was an entirely different matter and he couldn't help but wonder how much of his free time was going to be taken. While Oliver kept control of himself when outside the apartment, that didn't prohibit Slade from requiring he return to the apartment early every night; or not leave at all if it wasn't necessary. Both of those options put him firmly back into his brother's control for a large portion of the day; as it should be, Oliver was beginning to feel.

Slade's arms were tight around his little brother, just touching and stroking Oliver. "I'll judge the length of time based on your behaviour," he answered. "I'm not going to say you're not allowed to do anything... but anything you do want to do, you need to check in with me."

"Yessir..." Oliver agreed easily. "I can ask before I leave in the morning if I'm allowed to do something or not...but if it comes up when I'm out...I..." He hesitated. "Maybe I should just ask in front of everyone...Lance and Diggle already know you're in charge. Maybe it's time the others did too..."

"Kid..." Slade squeezed the nape of his neck gently. "You don't need to let the others know our relationship. If I don't agree you're allowed to do something, I can let you know without any of them needing to."

"I'm not ashamed..." Oliver said softly, afraid that's what Slade thought about his normal reticence in telling the others.

"Neither am I, little brother," Slade replied immediately. "But our relationship is personal to us. Even Diggle and Lance don't know everything about it."

Oliver nodded, visibly relaxing and laying his head on his brother's shoulder again. "They prolly wouldn't understand. They might think you were using or abusing me somehow...or they'd think it was somehow sexual and it was a game or something... I'm not sure which would be worse, but I don't want them to think either of those things..."

Slade kissed his head. "As long as you trust me to give you what you need... as long as you know I would die before I ever hurt you again... the others don't need to know anything more than you're comfortable with them knowing."

Oliver snuggled some more. "I love you..." he said quietly. "I love you and I need you to take care of me and guide me and be exactly what you are...And I might not deliberately tell the others, but if they find out, I won't be upset about it..." He hugged his brother tightly and leaned up to kiss the bottom of Slade's chin before shifting around again so he was over his brother's knee again.

Slade wrapped his arm around his little brother's waist, drawing Oliver in close against his stomach. "I love you, little brother. So much more than I could put into words." He began to gently rub and stroke his little brother's back and bottom, squeezing the nape of his neck.

Oliver smiled, his eyes closing as the medicine and the possessive comfort that always eased him lulled him to sleep again.

Slade kept his little brother over his lap for a few minutes, planning to move him once he was certain Oliver was too deeply asleep to wake.

When Oliver next woke, he found himself curled up tightly against his brother's side. He felt hot and cold at the same time, which made him think maybe the fever was worse. He didn't want to wake his brother to take his temperature again, but knew he probably should. If he wasn't getting better or if the temperature was worse, Slade would either need to do something more drastic to get the fever down, or take him to the hospital. Or maybe it was just his imagination due to feeling bad and it wasn't any worse than before? Better to find out than guess...

"Slade...?" He whimpered.

Slade woke as soon as his little brother made the sound. He was immediately aware, reaching out to stroke Oliver's forehead and check if he felt any warmer, while his other hand reached for the thermometer.

Oliver shivered again, pressing into his brother's hand. "Can't stop shivering..." he chattered, his teeth deciding to agree with his words.

Slade picked up the blanket and wrapped it around his little brother, settling Oliver so he could easily take his brother's temperature, but keep the blanket wrapped around him.

Oliver moaned softly, his body aching. Whatever he'd caught had finally decided to hit him full force. He barely noticed when Slade rearranged him to lay over his lap again, though he did notice when his brother's hand moved to his bottom. "Coooold..." he whined, referring to his brother's fingers.

Not wanting to make his little brother more uncomfortable, Slade rubbed his hand on the blanket to warm it up a little so he could take Oliver's temperature.

Oliver sniffled and blindly reached to grasp onto his brother and tried to relax so Slade could take his temperature. He was only mildly successful; the tiny instrument was a bit more uncomfortable than it usually was, even if it didn't hurt. Oliver ached too much elsewhere to complain about it, though. He just let out a tiny hiss and whimpered, but didn't say anything otherwise.

Slade gently stroked his little brother through the blanket, not wanting to make Oliver cold by using the skin to skin contact. When the time was up, he carefully withdrew the thermometer. "Your temperature hasn't gone up, little brother. You might be colder because the blanket fell off you. I'll turn up the heating and get you into some pajamas."

Oliver sniffled and didn't argue, although he was clearly reluctant to move from Slade; as if afraid that the older man would disappear if they weren't touching. He didn't ask about more medicine; if he needed it, Slade would make sure he took it.

Slade gently moved Oliver onto his lap so he could feed his little brother the medicine. "I'll get you some water to drink when I turn up the heating," he said softly.

"Y'sir," Oliver whispered, then opened his mouth like a baby bird so Slade could medicate him.

Slade fed him the medicine, stroking his cheek. "Good boy," he praised softly. "I want you to lie down, kid, while I get you some pyjamas and water... but I'm not going anywhere," he promised.

Oliver whimpered at the thought of Slade even stepping away, but he obeyed, shifting to lie on the bed, burying his face in Slade's pillow.

Slade stood slowly, reaching out to gently stroke Oliver's hair. "I'll only be in the next room," he whispered, leaning over to press a kiss to his little brother's head before he stepped out. He turned the heating up, got a cup of water and returned to retrieve a pair of pyjamas, all within the space of a minute. Setting the water down, he reached out to help his little brother into the pyjamas.

Oliver couldn't stop shivering. This wasn't some run of the mill virus, he was only realizing too late. He'd had this particular illness before, on the island. There, Slade had taken care of him too. As soon as Slade had dressed him, Oliver latched onto his brother, snuggling close again. "...Was wrong..." he muttered miserably."...Thought I wasn't really sick and I'm really, really sick... stupid mosquitoes..."

Slade wrapped his arms tight around his brother, his concern deepening as he considered whether his baby brother needed to go to hospital or not. Kissing the top of Oliver's head, he whispered, "If your fever doesn't start coming down, I'll have to try giving you a cold bath." And if that didn't work, he would be taking his little brother to hospital.

"Sorry..." Oliver whimpered into his brother's chest. "...Don't mean to be such a bother..." If he'd not ignored how he felt all day long and actually paid attention to what was happening in his body, he might have realized what was happening. Might have realized he was having a potential relapse of the Malaria Slade had needed to nurse him through on the island. "...Don't wanna go to hospital...mebbe Cait will come?" Oliver didn't think about the fact that Caitlyn Snow wasn't an actual doctor and that patching up cuts and bruises was a lot different than treating Malaria with proper medication.

Slade tightened his embrace. "You aren't a bother, little brother. And she's good with cuts and bruises... less so with something like malaria. I know you don't want to go to the hospital, but I'm going to do anything to keep you safe. Even if that means taking you to get the proper medication."

"Least I'm not contagious...Tommy doesn't need to worry..." Oliver said softly, snuggling close and not arguing about the hospital. Slade was in charge- was in control of Oliver and everything to do with him- and Slade would make certain the best thing was done. Oliver wouldn't argue, not when everything his brother did was because of love for him.

Slade kissed Oliver's head and cuddled him close. "I'd like you to drink some water... or at least try," he said gently.

"...'k..." Oliver agreed, while continuing to cuddle close.

Slade kept a gentle hold of his little brother, reaching for the cup and encouraging Oliver to drink.

Oliver took slow sips but drank steadily. He was thirstier than he realized and it was difficult not to guzzle the water. If Slade hadn't been in control of the cup, he would have.

Slade was careful to make sure Oliver didn't drink too fast, not wanting his little brother to choke or make himself sick. "Good boy," he praised gently.

Oliver always felt a warm glow inside when his brother praised him...always. A tiny little grin formed on his mouth as he thought about the man who was at the center of his life. He wanted some way to show Slade what his care meant to him. Snuggling close again, he shivered. "Love you..."

Slade stroked his little brother's hair, making sure the blanket was tucked snugly around Oliver. "I love you, kid. You are my world. No matter what happens... I will always be glad to have you in my life," he promised.

"Even though I'm nuthin but trouble..." Oliver smiled impishly.

Slade kissed his head. "You aren't trouble, little brother. You saved me. I owe you everything."

"Back at ya..." Oliver snuggled some more and closed his eyes. Dressed, bundled in a blanket and held by his brother; the chills were finally abating. He didn't know for how long.

Slade stroked his hair and back, squeezing the nape of his neck. "Go to sleep, kid. I've got you."

"I know, always have me..." Oliver said quietly, his voice filled with all the love and affection he felt for his brother.

Slade raised his eyebrows at the nickname, but it was a nice feeling and he gently stroked his little brother's hair, settling him comfortably on his lap and kissing his head. "And I'll always look after you and take care of you. I promise."

Oliver slept peacefully for about four hours...and then the medicine wore off again. He began to whimper and thrash around, hair sweaty and body clammy as fever started climbing again.

Slade had been dozing lightly, so when his little brother began whimpering and moving, he was immediately awake and alert. He hesitated, wavering between trying to get his little brother's temperature down himself and taking Oliver to the hospital, but after a few moments, he stood from the bed, lifting Oliver into his arms.

Oliver weakly grasped onto his brother's shirt, his head lolling onto Slade's shoulder.

Slade's hold on his little brother was tight and secure as he carried Oliver through to the bathroom and began running a bath for him.

"Slade..." Oliver whimpered softly, his hands shifting restlessly over his brother's chest.

"I'm here, kid. I'm not going anywhere," Slade promised. He tested the temperature to make sure it was cool, but not unbearably so.

Oliver just quivered and pressed closer, heat radiating off his skin.

Slade carefully removed the blanket and pyjamas from his little brother. It took only a moment for him to decide to climb into the bath with Oliver. As he had the first time the fever had hit his little brother, he wanted to make sure Oliver knew he wasn't alone; and he knew the contact was a comfort to them both.

Oliver began to squirm as the cooling water touched his over-heated skin. "...Too cold..." He shivered and began to cry. The water really wasn't that cold, but to overly sensitive skin, it felt like ice.

Slade winced, unable to help feeling like a horrible person, even though he knew he needed to get Oliver's temperature down somehow. "I know, little brother," he whispered, hugging Oliver tight to himself. "But this is the last thing I can try before taking you to the hospital." The crying was like daggers to his heart. If it wasn't for the knowledge he needed to get Oliver's temperature down somehow, he would have got his little brother out of the bath there and then.

Oliver finally gave up struggling when he realized Slade had too good a grip on him and wasn't budging, holding him in the water even when Oliver was trying to climb out. Once he gave up struggling, he resorted to pressing as close to his brother as he could get. The water still felt painfully cold to him, but the fact Slade held him so close helped him be able to calm down. Soon, he was just shivering in Slade's arms, whimpering softly, the tears streaming down his face, but not begging to be let out. Slade wouldn't hurt him if it wasn't necessary. He knew that.

Slade rocked his little brother gently in his arms, speaking soft, soothing words to him in more than one language. It was nearly as hard on him as it was on Oliver, doing this. It reminded him all too vividly of being the monster that had tormented his baby brother. "Just a few moments longer," he whispered in Oliver's ear. "Then I can cuddle you on the bed... you'll feel better." He had to hope that, otherwise he'd caused his little brother suffering without helping him.

Oliver slowly calmed...the water doing its job and cooling his body down to a less dangerous level. He couldn't help but let out a soft sigh and nuzzle against Slade again, his body loosening up as he wore himself out and began to fight sleep. By this point, Oliver was too weary to care if he had a fever still or not; he was completely reliant on Slade to keep track of such things.

Slade kissed his head. "I love you." It troubled him that Oliver had been so upset; he had to keep voicing his feelings for his little brother... worry that Oliver would start seeing him as the monster tormenting him. He waited a moment or two longer and then began to help his little brother out of the bath so he could dry him off.

"...Know..." Oliver mumbled into his brother's chest. "...Love you too..." He tried to help Slade help him; he was really too big to be acting like a limp noodle and making Slade do all the hard work of lifting, drying and whatever else needed doing. Unfortunately, he felt like a limp noodle. He didn't feel quite so hot, but he didn't know if that was because of the cold water he'd been in or if it was because the fever had gone down. All he knew was that he had no energy. All he could do was hold still while Slade took care of him and try not to make things too difficult.

Slade didn't waste any time drying his little brother off, retrieving a pair of clean, dry pyjamas that he could dress Oliver in before helping his baby brother back through to the bedroom.

Oliver followed Slade's direction like a well-trained pup, leaning against his brother listlessly.

Slade settled his little brother on the bed, wrapping him up in the blanket and hugging him close. "I'm sorry, kid," he murmured in Oliver's ear.

Oliver blinked. "Not your fault..." he said, in a tiny voice. "Shoulda told you immediately. You prolly woulda known it wasn't just a cold..."

Slade stroked his hair, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "For having to put you in the bath," he whispered. "I was trying to help you... I would never hurt you again, little brother." Hearing Oliver crying because of him had hurt like a knife.

"I know...I knew...I'm sorry I wasn't brave for you...I know you were doing what you needed to help me..." Oliver sniffled, close to tears again that he'd made Slade feel bad about helping him.

Slade tightened his embrace. "You are brave, little brother. You're sick and you were upset because your emotions are high and you have a fever." He gently stroked the nape of Oliver's neck. "It hurt because I remembered how much you've already suffered. You are my whole world. And I'm glad that I'm here... glad that I can help you after I failed you so much already."

Oliver closed his eyes and snuggled closer at the stroking of his neck. "Need you...need you to do wuz nessary ...Not brave nuff to do myself..." he whispered.

"You're brave enough to let me help you," Slade whispered, squeezing the nape of his neck. "You're brave enough to trust me... to let me in... and I'm always going to be grateful to you for that."

"Jus like I'm graful you wanna takare me..." Oliver nuzzled against his brother, unable to keep his eyes open.

Slade kissed his head. "Go to sleep, little brother. I love you and I'll watch over you."

"Luv you too..." Oliver was quickly out like a light.

Slade held his brother close, unable to let go of him immediately... though he was already thinking about asking a doctor to come by the apartment and looking at his little brother.

While Oliver's body felt considerably cooler after the bath, he was obviously still chilled and ached. Every few seconds, his body would shiver from head to toe and he'd moan softly in pain.

Slade gently freed one arm from his little brother so he could take out his cell phone and dial Lance's number, hoping the other man would still be awake.

Lance picked up on the second ring, his life as a policeman causing him to always be in a state of awareness even while asleep. "Yeah? What's wrong?" he asked, worried, knowing that Slade would only call this time of night if it was serious.

"Oliver's sick," Slade answered. "He had malaria on the island and I think it's cropping up again. I think a doctor needs to see him, but I found out there's someone out to get him. I'm not sure which doctor I can trust."

"I'll call Tommy's doctor. I trust him and he's done wonders for Tommy..." Lance quickly offered. "I'm assuming you'll need him to come to the apartment..."

"Thank you." Slade hesitated, but even though he didn't plan to tell Lance Oliver was effectively grounded (it wasn't fair to discuss his little brother's consequences without Oliver's knowledge), he was aware of the danger Oliver was now in. "There's a guy gunning for the Arrow. If I forward the information on him to you, can you see if he has any priors? Anyone he might get hold of and bring here?"

"Yeah. I can do that. Send it over. I'll call the doctor now..." Lance agreed quickly.

"Thanks." Slade accessed the information Sebastian had sent him, forwarding it to Lance.

Lance was as good as his word, immediately calling Tommy's physician and giving him the relevant information and getting a promise that he would make a house call immediately.

He then logged into the SCPD and began to do a search on the man who threatened Oliver.

Relieved that Lance was helping seek out information and that a doctor was on his way, Slade moved enough so he wouldn't have to fully extricate himself from Oliver when the doctor arrived. He still kept in physical contact with his little brother, stroking his hair and cheek.

It was about forty minutes later when a knock sounded through the apartment. Oliver shifted with a tiny groan, but didn't open his eyes.

Slade pressed a kiss to his little brother's head and went to answer the door, though he was on his guard and prepared for anything.

Tommy's doctor was stood on the other side, his bag in hand. He looked at Slade as the door was opened. "Detective Lance says that Mr. Queen is very ill and you believe it is a relapse of malaria he had while on that island years ago. I've brought the necessary items to take a blood sample and test to see if you are correct. If you are, I have both types of medication and will just need to determine which strain of malaria it is..." The doctor waited to be invited into the apartment.

Slade nodded and took a step back. "Thank you for coming. Please do come in." He waited for the doctor to enter the apartment and then closed the door before leading the man through to his little brother.

The doctor took out a syringe and empty vial for blood, and then glanced at Slade. "If you wouldn't mind holding him still. If he moves at the wrong moment, it could be messy and painful for him..."

Slade didn't hesitate, moving to his little brother's side and reaching out to hold onto Oliver. He whispered softly and reassuringly to Oliver in Chinese, though he was really only reiterating that he was there; that he loved Oliver; that this would be uncomfortable, but ultimately help his baby brother feel better.

The doctor was quick and efficient and soon, he was running some quick tests on Oliver's blood. While he waited for the results to come through, he began to examine the younger man. "Have you given him anything other than fever medication and how much has he been drinking?" he asked Slade, as he listened to Oliver's heart and breathing.

"He's drunk some water, but he's mostly been sleeping," Slade answered. "I've not given him anything other than the medication, though I did run a cool bath to try and get his temperature down to safer levels."

"You've done good to keep the fever down. See if you can get some broth into him...and he likely needs to replace electrolytes if he has been sweating from fever, so Gatorade or some other sports drink would be a good idea. And the test has just confirmed that this is a Malaria relapse. I will write out a prescription for antibiotics and an anti-parasitical. Make sure he takes all of the prescription...even if he starts feeling better." The doctor was precise in his instructions as he gave Slade the prescription, along with two bottles of medication. "If his symptoms worsen, take him to the hospital. I realize you are trying to protect him by keeping him here, but if the medications don't work and he gets worse, it could lead to organ failure."

Slade nodded. "I'll keep watch over him; and if necessary, I will take him to the hospital." It was something of a relief that he now knew for certain what was wrong with Oliver... but that didn't mean he was going to relax his watch over his little brother.

"Call me again around noon tomorrow and let me know how he's doing. The fever should break by then. If it doesn't, I'll get you a stronger fever medication." The doctor quickly packed his bag and walked to the door. "Here is my card. In case you have need of any other house calls." He handed the item over before nodding and leaving Slade alone with his brother in the apartment again.

Slade thanked the man before he left and then locked the door, returning to Oliver's side. He gently stroked his little brother's cheek to try and wake him.

Oliver opened bleary eyes and pressed into his brother's hand. "Sla...?"

"Hey, kid." Slade stroked his hair gently. "I've got some medication for you to take. I need you to try and take some broth, too." His voice was soft; his hand gentle as he touched his little brother softly and reassuringly.

"Ok, sir..." Oliver's voice was sleep heavy and he sounded entirely too young and innocent for all the trouble he gave to Slade. His voice was also heavy with Oliver's love, affection and trust in his big brother. He obediently sat up, using his brother's voice and hand as a guide since he was still bleary eyed from illness.

Slade helped his little brother to sit up, putting a pillow behind Oliver's back to support him and cupping his hand at the nape of Oliver's neck, feeding him first the medicine and then the broth he'd made up. He was careful not to force his little brother if it seemed like Oliver might be sick; and he kept in constant physical contact with him.

"Dunno what I'd do without you..." Oliver whispered, with a weak smile at his brother. He let out a tiny sigh, letting his head fall back against Slade's hand.

Slade pressed a kiss to his little brother's head. "You'll never have to find out again, little brother," he promised. "I'm proud of you for taking the medicine and the broth... I want you to try drinking a bit of Gatorade now."

Oliver's smile grew a little at his brother's words and he obediently opened his mouth for the liquid. Anytime he could make his brother proud, he was eager to do it.

"Good boy," Slade murmured, helping his little brother drink the Gatorade, gently squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck.

Oliver drank the entire glass, and then slumped against Slade tiredly. The illness and the medicine sapped his strength.

Slade put the glass down and then crawled onto the bed so he could cuddle his little brother and keep him close.

"...Such a baby..." Oliver whispered, even as he snuggled as close to Slade as possible. "...Your baby..." He snorted, as if amused, then started coughing. "...Sorry..." he mumbled, abashed.

Slade wrapped his arms tight around his little brother. "Don't apologise," he whispered. "And you're right. You are mine. There's nothing wrong with you or how you're responding to me. You will always be mine," he promised.

"...Always..." Oliver agreed, before falling asleep.

Lance glanced across the table at Tommy. "You get enough to eat?" he asked, as he noticed that the pancakes he'd made had been polished off. "I can make you some more if you're still hungry..." He was pleased that Tommy's appetite was so strong. It was another indication that the younger man was healing and becoming stronger.

Tommy nodded with a quick grin. "I'm full now, thanks. Makes a nice change not to struggle to eat because everything going into my stomach made it ache."

Lance smiled at that. "I'm glad it wasn't a struggle. What plans do you have today? Oh...I should probably tell you that Oliver won't be available for a few days at least. Slade called me last night to get your doctor's number. Seems Oliver is having a relapse of Malaria that he'd contracted on that damn island..."

Immediately concerned, Tommy frowned. "I'll pass a message onto Thea about it... I'm guessing he's not in a good enough shape for visitors? But at least he's got Slade," he added.

"Slade was very worried, so I'm guessing you're right about visitors. I'm sure he'll let us know when it is safe to come over," Lance responded. "Thea will likely take it better from you. She'd want to see with her own eyes if Slade told her." Lance's smile was wry.

"Yeah... I noticed that she doesn't seem to trust him," Tommy commented, unable to help the note of curiosity in his voice as he added, "But you don't have a problem with him."

"He...hurt Oliver and Thea badly. Oliver has forgiven him, because Slade wasn't in complete control of himself when it occurred and regrets everything he did. I think Oliver blames himself for what happened to cause Slade to do what he did. Thea...I don't think she holds the same view as Oliver that Oliver caused it to happen- I know Slade doesn't- so it makes it more difficult for her to forgive and forget. She's trying, though." Lance smiled. "He didn't personally hurt me, so it was easier for me to give him a chance. My instincts tell me he's a good man; and he's straightened Oliver out, which I never thought I'd live to yeah. I trust him."

Tommy nodded. "I've not seen any other side to him, so I can't really judge. But it seems like Ollie's the centre of his whole world and that... well... neither of us had much authority in our parents." He shrugged, blushing slightly as he added, "He even said Slade was good for him the same way you're good for me."

"I don't like speaking ill of the dead...but Oliver's parents didn't really parent so much. They tended to let him do whatever he wanted, as long as it stayed out of the news and didn't embarrass them. I won't even comment on what your own dad did..." Lance reached over and squeezed Tommy's shoulder. "I'm just glad you let me step in and father you. With Laurel and Sara both..." He swallowed hard. "Well, I needed you as much as you needed me. Maybe more..."

"It's nice," Tommy admitted quietly, slanting a little towards Lance's hand. "I didn't realise... how much I needed a parent, not just someone who would buy off all my problems."

"We needed each other..." Lance smiled, rubbing the shoulder he'd squeezed. "So...plans for today?" He grinned.

"I don't have any specific plans..." Tommy's look and tone of voice were hopeful.

"I was thinking of a movie..." Lance gave Tommy a questioning look. "We could get a late lunch after..."

Tommy smiled. "I'd like that."

"Great...we can head over and see what's showing after we finish breakfast and clean-up..." Lance grinned, before patting Tommy's shoulder again and focusing on his pancakes.

Tommy finished his drink and then stood to clear his plate and utensils.

Lance finished his pancakes shortly after and stood to help with the clean-up.

Diggle's phone went off while he was with his wife, baby Sara and Deadshot. He checked the message with a concerned frown. "Oliver's sick. He's had a relapse of malaria."

Floyd blinked. "Huh...tend to forget he lived on an island for a while. He in the hospital?"

Lilah frowned slightly at that. "I somehow doubt Oliver would willingly go to a hospital. Slade taking care of him, then?" She glanced at her husband.

"Yeah, Slade's got him at their apartment," Diggle answered. "It sounds like he had a doctor round, though."

Floyd shook his head. "Kid's hard-headed. Slade's gonna have his work cut out for him..." He chuckled slightly.

Lilah rolled her eyes. "Like any of you men aren't hard-headed when it comes to taking care of yourself."...'It's just a scratch. I'll wash it at home; no need for a doctor'..." she said, in a false-bass voice. "Meanwhile, I'm worried that the bullet is still in you and it isn't a clean through and through..." She smirked at her husband and raised an eyebrow, as if to dare him to contradict her.

Chuckling, Diggle leaned over to kiss her. "I'm normally good at telling when it's a clean through and through and when I've still got the bullet where it shouldn't be."

"Uh huh..." She kissed him back. "...That I can believe. Don't particularly care for your efforts to pull one over my eyes and pretend it isn't as bad as it is, though...especially when I'm the one that needs to stitch you up!"

Deadshot laughed. "Guess this means I can't claim it's just a flesh wound if I ever get shot..." His smile was impish.

"That's definitely not allowed," Diggle agreed with the other man's statement. "Of course, you could try to claim that. You'd still be getting thoroughly checked over."

Floyd raised an eyebrow at that, but didn't argue, instead turning to face Lilah. "Is that fair? Seems to be a bit of a double-standard...?" His tone wasn't offended, though; more amused and a little resigned. He knew his position in the 'family' and as the 'one in charge'; Deadshot knew Diggle had every right to make such demands of him.

"Considering I thoroughly check him out every night to be sure he isn't trying to pull a fast one on me, I'd say it's fair..." Lilah smiled coyly.

"Yeah, injuries are always going to be taken seriously," Diggle said. "No matter what happens, safety is always important."

"Yes, sir..." Floyd agreed easily, smiling. "Might take some getting used to..." he said, remembering how his safety and the safety of the other members of the 'Skwad', as Harley liked to call them, hadn't been a priority with Amanda Waller. Flagg had been a bit more concerned about things, but he wasn't in charge ultimately. Having Diggle...and about his well-being was still a novel thing.

"It doesn't matter how long it takes to get used to; it's not going to change," Diggle promised.

"So that's one thing I don't need to worry about changing unexpectedly and surprising me later. Good to know..." Deadshot nodded. "May I hold my 'niece' now?" He grinned impishly, a relaxed and happy twinkle in his eye as he glanced at the baby.

"Of course." Diggle's tone of voice was easy and natural as he carried the baby over to Deadshot and gave him Sara to hold.

Deadshot took the baby carefully and gently cradled her in his arms, rocking slightly from side to side. "Hey, princess..." His grin turned sappy as the baby grinned up at him and made happy gurgling sounds. "...Yeah. You're just the sweetest angel, aren't you? I'm going to do everything I can to make sure you stay safe for your mama and daddy... They've done so much for me and I know you are the most important being in their lives..." He gave a sideways glance toward Lilah and Diggle, before continuing, in an impish tone, "...And when you're a teenager and driving your daddy bonkers because he's such a worry-wart, you can come commiserate to me, cuz your 'ole Uncle Floyd will understand completely!"

Diggle laughed outright; though there was a big part of him that was relieved Deadshot had accepted he would be sticking around for a good long while. "Yes. I'm sure you will." Turning a little more serious, he added, "Speaking of fathers and daughters... have you given any more thought to making contact with Zoe?"

Floyd sobered up quickly at the question. "I...I can't do that to her...she's done so well without me there and I don't want to cause upheaval in her life again. Especially not when I have a target on my back from before...I have no doubt certain parties would use her against me..." He was obviously depressed and sad at the decision.

"Floyd..." Diggle stepped closer to the other man, placing a hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently. "It's your call, but I think your daughter needs to have you in her life."

"John is right..." Lilah put in her own opinion, though she kept it soft and concerned. "If someone wants to use her against you, they'll do it whether you are in her life or not. And speaking from experience...she'd much rather have you in her life than not..." She gave him a sad smile.

Deadshot swallowed hard. "I...I guess I should at least give her the choice..." He hesitated. "...She's old enough to know the risks..."

Diggle smiled warmly and reassuringly at him. "The people keeping tabs on her will continue to do so, no matter what happens. And I'm sure you'll make her happy by being in her life."

"I...Is there a way to contact her that doesn't put a target on her...from the few people who may not make a connection between us?" He tried to sound calm...brave...but his concern and fear for his daughter were obvious in his eyes, if not his voice.

"Prepaid cell phone might be the best option," Diggle replied. "Alternatively... we can set up a meeting in a safe, private place."

"I...If I'm going to do this, I want to see her..." Floyd whispered. "As least that way, if she decides she never wants to see me again, I'll have one last memory of her..."

"Then that's what we'll do," Diggle promised. He glanced at his wife. "We can send a message to one of the people keeping tabs on Zoe and ask them to bring her to a secure location," he suggested.

"We could bring her here..." Lilah suggested. "I've done everything possible to make certain our apartment is off of anyone's radar and if we are careful when picking her up not to be followed..."

Diggle nodded. "I'm fine with that, as soon as we can figure out a day and a time."

Floyd couldn't help but give the two a grateful smile. "Thank you...This..." He swallowed hard. "I didn't think I'd ever be in a position to be able to see her again...not safely..."

Lilah's smile was sad and fond. "That's what family does for each other." Standing up, she walked over and gently took Sara from his arms. "And now it's time for this little one's nap. I'll leave you two to work out the time...just let me know and I can get the details for the actual trip." With one last smile at her husband and unofficial brother-in-law, she took the baby back into the nursery and left the two men alone.

Diggle smiled affectionately at his wife and daughter, and then looked at Floyd. "When's good for you?" he asked.

"Any time you think is best..." Floyd said, still having a hard time believing they were actually going to do this. "I'm in your custody pretty much anyway, since I'm laying low and all..." He grinned crookedly. He didn't mind hiding so much and the restrictions weren't really all that restrictive. Still, he figured John would have a better idea of the best time as far as not causing problems for anyone else. "I know she has school, so sometime on the weekend would probably give us more time..."

"How about this Saturday?" Diggle suggested. "We can arrange it for the morning... that gives you quite a bit of time to spend with her."

"I..I'd like that." Floyd swallowed again. "Thank you, man...I...You're too good to me..." he finally said, in a soft voice.

"I want you to be happy," Diggle replied sincerely. "Like I said before... you aren't just hired muscle. Or expendable. You're my friend. And I want you to feel able to see your daughter. I know how important she is to you."

Deadshot nodded his head briskly, looking down because he was afraid, if he looked up at his friend, he'd start crying. Swallowing again, he said hoarsely, "Thanks for that.'s been a while since I had a friend willing to stand by me and help out like this..."

Diggle squeezed his shoulder gently. "You've got Lilah on your side, too... a whole group of us to back you up." Even though Slade was looking after a sick Oliver, he knew they'd help if they could.

Floyd looked up at that and nodded, before giving Diggle a smile. "You wouldn't happen to know what kinds of things a preteen girl might like, would you?" He chuckled slightly. "Might want to have some things on hand to do..."

"We could pick up a couple of board games," Diggle suggested. "Apart from that... it's gonna depend on what sort of things she likes."

Floyd looked stumped. "I haven't seen her in so long...I don't know what she likes. She used to like dolls..." he said hesitantly. "...But I somehow think she outgrew them while I was in jail..." He sounded sad.

"Think of this as an opportunity to get to know her again," Diggle said. "You can find out what she likes now."

"Yeah...If she wants to get to know me..." Floyd said nervously.

"I'm sure she will," Diggle replied reassuringly.

"I hope so..." Floyd slumped back into the couch.

Diggle sat next to him. "Whatever happens... you will have my full support," he promised.

"Thank you." Floyd's voice was gruff. "I...I think there's a game on. Wanna watch?"

Diggle smiled. "Sure." He picked up the remote and turned the television on.

It had been a couple of days since the doctor's visit and Oliver beginning medication. The fever had finally broken a day after he began the antibiotics and he was actually feeling pretty good, if a bit tired. He was feeling good enough for his conscience to start bothering him and he couldn't help but wonder when Slade would deem him well enough to begin scolding him for his actions.

Biting his lip, he hesitantly glanced toward his brother. Slade hadn't left his side since he'd become ill. Clearing his throat, he nervously asked, "May I take a shower?"

Slade reached out to gently stroke his hair. "I'd prefer it if you take a bath, kid. I know you're feeling better, but I'd rather not risk you slipping and falling if you get a sudden onset of weakness."

"Yessir..." Oliver quickly agreed, before slowly getting out of bed. He wasn't certain what he was moving so slowly for, other than the fact he didn't want to worry Slade any more than he already had and taking his time seemed like a good idea. Soon, he was in the bathroom and running himself a bath.

Slade headed out of the bedroom and moved to the kitchen, to start preparing some light breakfast for his little brother. Before they ate, he planned to burn the Mirakuru with his little brother there to witness it.

Oliver quickly washed himself, rinsing off thoroughly. By the time he was done, all the sweat he'd accumulated due to fever was gone and he felt more like his normal self. Carefully getting out of the tub and drying off, he looked at the discarded pajamas. He didn't want to put them on again, so picked them up and put them into the hamper. Of course, now he had to decide if he should dress or not. He'd no doubt he'd be spending the day inside the apartment again, so there was no need to worry about readying himself for outside. Still...he and his brother had formed a routine of sorts and it had been drastically disrupted and now Oliver wasn't sure what to do. Grabbing some clothing and holding it up to his chest, he slowly walked into the kitchen, giving Slade an uncertain look, needing his brother to help him figure out where they went from there.

Slade responded immediately to his little brother's uncertain look, stepping to Oliver's side and gently squeezing the nape of his neck. "You should leave the clothes off," he said. "We won't be leaving the apartment unless there's an emergency." His voice was gentle, but the words were still an order.

Oliver visibly relaxed at the evidence that his brother was planning to continue on as they'd been for the last week. The possessive grip on his neck eased a fear he hadn't even been aware of harboring and he gave Slade a grateful smile. "Yessir..." he whispered and took the clothing back to put away. It didn't take long and soon, he was back in the kitchen, not wanting to get in the way, but wanting to be near his brother as well.

Slade turned the heat down and gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck again. "Now that you're recovering, I want to burn the Mirakuru with you able to see it and know that it's gone."

Oliver blinked at that information. "I...yeah. Okay..." He smiled crookedly. He'd only hidden the Mirakuru because he'd been afraid seeing it would upset Slade. He wasn't certain if burning it was for his benefit or for his brother's, but he wasn't going to argue the actions. He'd be happy to see that the drug would not be usable to anyone else ever again.

Slade stroked his little brother's hair. "I left them in a box in the living room. I couldn't care less if they break, but I don't want to risk it coming into contact with either of us." He frowned. "It disturbs me that you had the vials taped directly to your skin."

Oliver winced at the frown and at the implications Slade's words made him think about. He hadn't even thought about any danger to himself when hiding the vials, only that he didn't want them to be found easily and they needed to be protected if he was attacked. "I...that wasn't the best way I could have handled things..." he admitted reluctantly, but didn't pull away. His gaze fell to his feet, though.

"No, it wasn't," Slade agreed. "I'll accept you were just starting to get sick and that you weren't thinking clearly, but you still shouldn't have put yourself at risk like that. If they'd broken..." He took a deep breath. "I know what it's like, little brother. I would never want you to go through what I did."

"...Didn't even think about them possibly breaking..." Oliver said quietly. "...Just didn't want you to see them..." He winced again, knowing that that didn't sound very good either. He wanted to tell Slade why he felt the need to keep them hidden, but didn't want to be making excuses for what he was beginning to realize was a very wrong thing to have done.

"I know," Slade replied. "But you put yourself at risk. Not just where you put them, but taking them in the first place. You kept them hidden... and you lied to me when I knew something was up. Because of that, little brother, you'll be getting more than one spanking."

Oliver's eyes widened at that and his gaze shot up so that he was actually looking into his brother's eyes. "...Wha...?" He swallowed hard, not finishing the question because it was fairly explanatory and, despite his actions of the past week, he wasn't an idiot. " many?" he asked, his voice catching. He didn't even think to argue against it. He had put himself at risk, which he knew was against the rules of their family and would always result in a spanking. And despite not wanting to acknowledge it, he had lied...which, to Oliver's way of thinking, was even worse. If Slade couldn't trust him, it would destroy everything. Blinking his eyes, he found himself fighting sudden tears at the fact that he'd lied to his big brother. He hadn't even thought when he did it either.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his neck. "I'm going to give you three spankings, spaced a day apart. So the first spanking is going to be today... the second the day after tomorrow. The third... you get the idea."

Oliver swallowed again, and then nodded. "I...I know I deserve it..." he whispered, a dejected and completely shamed tone in his voice. He needed the consequences, if he was being honest with himself. If he'd managed to hide the Mirakuru from Slade and his brother had never found out, Oliver knew himself well enough to know the guilt would have caused him to do something else equally foolish and dangerous, if not more so. And he most likely would have started pulling away from his brother because he would have felt like he didn't deserve Slade's love, care or affection. Slade catching him was the best possible outcome after he'd made the decision to hide things. Still...realizing he deserved and needed consequences didn't mean he was looking forward to them.

Slade brought his brother closer and pressed a kiss to Oliver's forehead. "We'll burn the Mirakuru and then eat breakfast... and then we'll take care of the first spanking if you feel up to it."

"Yessir..." Oliver said quietly, looking back down at his feet, before shifting closer to Slade; seeking reassurance that even though he'd messed up badly, his brother understood and forgave him.

Slade hugged Oliver tight to himself and then guided him through to the living room, so he could retrieve the box with the vials. He did take the lid off, just to make sure his little brother knew that the Mirakuru was there.

" don't seem very upset..." Oliver mumbled. Since part of the reason he'd hidden it was, he did not want his brother to feel upset or bad about it being around, it was a bit frustrating to realize his actions probably did more to upset his brother than to help him.

"I already feel guilty about what I did under the influence of the Mirakuru, kid," Slade said. "The fact it's resurged is concerning, but I'm more worried about how you've been affected by it. I planned to destroy the Mirakuru before now, but I didn't want to do that without you witnessing it. I don't want there to be any doubt that it's gone."

"I...I just didn't want you to be more upset when you found out it was back again..." Oliver whispered. "I didn't want it for myself... I wasn't afraid you'd take it again either..." He swallowed. "I didn't think I'd been affected by it..."

"The Mirakuru played a big part in our relationship fracturing," Slade said. "It affects both of us."

"I..." Oliver swallowed. He couldn't say it was his fault. Slade wouldn't hear it. Still, Oliver knew that the only reason the Mirakuru had fractured their relationship was because Oliver had chosen to dose Slade with it against everyone's warnings. The fact he'd do it again because the only other alternative was Slade dying didn't matter. It was still his fault. But saying so would only upset Slade and Oliver didn't want to do that.

Slade took the vials of Mirakuru out of the box and put them on the fireplace, lighting it and stepping back to watch them burn. "I know you feel responsible, little brother. But I wasn't strong enough to protect you from myself. I was concerned with the wrong person." He wrapped his arms tight around Oliver once more. "I loved Shado, but how I felt about her didn't touch on my feelings for you."

Oliver watched the Mirakuru burn and felt himself relaxing. His brother taking charge of what happened to the drug...the fact that he didn't seem to be slipping into a guilt filled depression at seeing it...was a relief. It made Oliver realize again that he had taken the wrong course of action, despite his good intentions. "I loved Shado too..." he said softly. "If I'd been able to, I'd have given her the Mirakuru as well and then...I would have been responsible for ruining two people's lives and not just yours..." He winced, knowing that Slade would disagree, but he was beyond hiding how responsible he felt by now. Now that the truth about what he'd been doing was out in the open, it felt too difficult to not just blurt out everything he was thinking and feeling in regards to himself and the drug.

"Being warned about something is different to seeing it for yourself," Slade said quietly. "I know you were desperate to save me, kid. My guilt isn't tied to your attempts to save me... it's tied to the knowledge I should have kept hold of my love for you." Tightening his embrace, he added, "The worst part is that... I didn't care. Your words registered inside, but on the surface, I acted as if I didn't hear you." Stroking his hair, he added softly, "The Mirakuru didn't give me the hallucinations of who I loved the most. It made me feel like I'd failed her... while the person I failed the most stood in front of me, begging me to hear him."

"You didn't fail either of us, though..." Oliver said quietly. "It was all the Mirakuru. I never blamed you for not hearing me...I didn't think you could hear me because of the drug. I wanted so badly to help you and I couldn't do anything..." He sighed.

Slade stroked his hair gently. "I lost so much because of the Mirakuru... I can't tell you how much it's worth that I didn't lose you. After everything I did to you..." He took a deep breath and tightened his embrace. "You've suffered because I blamed you for things out of your control; things I wouldn't have blamed you for in my right mind. I'll tell you as many times as you need to hear it, kid... none of it was your fault."

"...Was more my fault than yours, though..." Oliver muttered, even as he pressed closer to Slade and snuggled close. The guilt he still felt about what had happened was obvious. The added guilt of his most recent actions just made the weight of guilt heavier.

Slade squeezed the nape of his neck. "You were scared. Before Shado, it was just you and me." He stroked Oliver's cheek. "If our situations had been reversed... Kid, then and now, I would give anything to keep you safe. You are my whole world." His hand stilled on the brand his little brother carried... the brand he'd put there. "Your forgiveness and your love means everything."

Oliver slumped at the words, feeling alternately happy and relieved and weighed down by guilt. What he'd done had the potential to hurt his brother deeply. Maybe it had and Slade was just hiding it well. "I do love you..." he said softly. "...And I'm sorry. I...I hope you can forgive me..."

"Kid..." Slade tightened his embrace. "After everything you've forgiven me for... there is nothing I wouldn't forgive you for. That doesn't mean you won't be punished, but it's not going to stop me loving you or wanting to hold onto you... so tight... so close... so nothing can hurt you again."

Oliver couldn't help smiling at the words. "I like being held like that... don't like being punished so much; means I disappointed you and it never feels like I've paid as much as I should..." he admitted.

"By the time we're done, I think you'll feel punished enough," Slade said softly. He kept his arms tight around his brother as he led Oliver into the kitchen, so he could feed him breakfast.

Oliver didn't comment on that- he had a hard time believing it, since he felt so much guilt- and instead meekly followed his brother into the kitchen.

Slade plated up the food and then sat down, encouraging his little brother to sit on his lap.

Oliver quickly obeyed, settling in place easily and leaning back against his brother so that he was semi-cradled in Slade's grip; it made it easier for his brother to feed him, even if it made him feel very young. The fact was that he preferred to feel Slade being in complete control, even if it made him feel very young. It was a comfort that Slade was giving that to him.

Wrapping his arm around Oliver's waist, Slade gently stroked his hip as he began to feed his little brother. "I love you," he whispered, kissing the back of Oliver's head.

Oliver opened his mouth and obediently ate whatever Slade held out to him; the possessive touching, the almost paternal care in feeding him...everything added up to making him feel safe, secure and valued. "I love you too..." he whispered back.

Slade continued to feed his little brother, also making sure he ate as well. He kept touching Oliver... just keeping in physical contact with him... needing to feel him.

Oliver ate as much as he was able, his illness having caused his appetite to diminish and it still wasn't back to normal. Once he'd had enough, he just sat quietly on his brother's lap while Slade finished. He closed his eyes and relished in how close they were; the feel of his brother's arm around him, his hand gentle and possessive. He concentrated on the feel of his brother's thighs under him and thought of the fact that soon his position would be changed and they would be supporting him in a different way. He swallowed hard and slumped back against his brother.

Slade kept his little brother close and then, once they were both finished, he helped Oliver to stand and guided him back into the living room.

Biting his lip, Oliver found the floor to be very interesting by this point. He knew what was coming. He knew he deserved it. He needed it to happen. He just couldn't face his brother, knowing that he'd brought it on himself by his own foolish actions. He felt childish and...more than naughty.

Slade settled on the couch and gently guided his little brother across his lap, settling him in place with an arm wrapped around his waist and drawing him tight against his stomach.

Oliver sniffled and only barely managed to stop a whimper, although the tiny whine in the back of his throat still snuck through. He didn't try and get away, letting himself be positioned and then holding on tightly to his brother's ankle.

Slade squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck, gently stroking his back and then lifting his hand, bringing it down in the first hard smack.

Oliver's quick intake of breath was the only acknowledgement he let escape at the swat. He was afraid if he allowed himself to vocalize, he'd begin bawling immediately and he didn't want to make things any more difficult for his brother than they already were. Not when he'd brought this on himself.

Slade completed a full circuit of swats and then paused, rubbing Oliver's bottom and thighs. "You don't need me to tell you that hiding the Mirakuru was wrong. I know you were trying to protect me, but that wasn't the right way to go about it."

"Nosir...was very wrong of me..." Oliver quickly agreed, his voice strained with his effort to not cry or voice the discomfort the spanking had caused. It had stung and while his brother was rubbing out some of the sting, it wasn't really disappearing and the rubbing was actually making his bottom more sensitive. Or maybe it was just the fact that he'd disappointed his brother and knew it that made everything seem so much more.

Slade rubbed a moment or two longer and then resumed the spanking, completing a second circuit before he paused once more to rub his little brother's bottom, feeling the slight heat coming from it and seeing the rosy colour. "You put yourself in danger, little brother. Not just from the Mirakuru vials, but also from the person who believed they belonged to him. If I hadn't found out, he could have got to you before I was able to protect you."

Oliver blinked at that. He vaguely recalled Slade mentioning something of the sort to Lance when he was ill, but it had slipped to the far recesses of his memory. " did he know it was me?" he asked in confusion. Only a few people knew that Oliver Queen was the Green Arrow. Oliver turned a slightly more dark red color when he realized how strained his voice sounded; it was obvious he was fighting his reactions to the spanking and he wasn't very happy about the fact it was obvious.

"He knew it was the Arrow, kid," Slade replied. "Not necessarily that it was you, but it still put you in danger. I've contacted Lance and passed on what I have on the guy... but if you had told me about the vials earlier, we could have dealt with that." He resumed swatting, this time going a bit harder and faster.

Oliver couldn't help the tiny gasp that escaped at the harder and faster swats. "I didn't think there would be a problem with hiding them!" he couldn't help but whine.

Slade tightened his hold on his little brother, beginning to focus more swats to Oliver's sit spots and thighs. "You put yourself in danger and you lied to me. Neither of those are acceptable, kid."

Oliver winced, the guilt over having done those two very unacceptable things weighing him down. "Nossir..shouldn't a done that..." he agreed with a shaky voice, as he tensed his entire body in an attempt not to squirm or throw his hand back.

"I need to be able to trust you, little brother," Slade said seriously. "And I need you to trust me. I have to protect you... It isn't your job to protect me. You have to trust that I will make sure you never lose me."

"B...but...I don't want you to be sad, or worried about me, or feel guilty about what happened..." Oliver's voice was strained with his efforts not to cry, the thought of Slade not being able to trust him cutting in a way he wasn't expecting. His brother's disappointment was difficult enough without the thought of Slade not being able to trust him. It made the -by now- very painful swats impossible to ignore and he began to squirm despite his efforts to hold still.

"I know," Slade replied. "But you strapped the Mirakuru to your own leg, where it could have broken and affected you if the vials had been hit wrong. And I'm never not going to worry about you, kid. You're my world."

Oliver whined, not having an argument for why he'd done something so dangerous. "I'm soooooorry. I was wrong to do that...I know I was! Was very, very n...n...nau..." Oliver swallowed and cringed as the first tears finally escaped his eyes. By this point, every smack was resulting in him trying to wiggle his bottom out of range. Throwing his hand back over his bottom, he couldn't bring himself to say he was naughty. Saying that would lead to him admitting he was wrong about everything he'd done, which would lead to surrender, which would lead to forgiveness. He'd hurt his brother again. He didn't deserve forgiveness.

"You were very naughty." Slade moved Oliver's hand out of the way, holding it against the small of his back. Continuing to swat, though he was careful not to use his full strength, he continued, "And it changes nothing. It doesn't change how I feel about you. It doesn't change that you're mine. That you will always be mine."

Oliver blinked at the reminder. "I'm yours," he whispered. He repeated, a little louder, "I'm yours..." And then connections were made in his head that he was embarrassed and ashamed not to have thought of before. He was Slade's; it wasn't just wrong of him to put his life in danger or lie to his brother. He had no right to do so. "I'm yours!" he let out with a breathy gasp. "I...I'm sorry! I was naughty! I was so very naughty and wrong and disobedient and awful!" he choked out. "I'm sorry!" He began to cry loudly, finally able to admit he was wrong but still not quite able to submit fully, a tiny part of him afraid to let go. After lying and hiding things, did he really deserve for his brother to catch him?

"I know little brother." Slade moved his hand up to squeeze the nape of his little brother's neck, while his other hand continued to smack, shifting Oliver forward enough to make it easier to get to his sit spots. "I know you're sorry. I still love you. I've never stopped."

As always, the gentle possessive grip on his neck put him into a frame of mind where he needed to give in and let his brother control. By now, he was fighting his own needs more than he was fighting his brother. He believed Slade, though...believed that he was loved...and finally, his fear that he didn't deserve to be caught and kept was overcome by his need to give Slade the chance to do so if the older man planned to. With one very visible shudder and a heartbroken sob because he knew how badly he'd messed up- how he could have destroyed everything- Oliver went limp, submitting to the correction by becoming pliable and accepting. Slade would be free to correct him in any way he felt necessary and Oliver wouldn't so much as tense up his nose.

"I love you," Slade reiterated, slowing down the smacks but still allowing his hand to fall. "No matter what happens... no matter how naughty you are... you are worth everything to me, little brother. I won't let you go. I promise."

" you too..." Oliver managed to voice between tears. He let the hand that he'd kept at the small of his back, even after Slade had let go and grasped his neck, drop down and grasped onto his brother's leg in a gentle but still needy grip. He felt every smack keenly, but didn't try and move away or escape, instead welcoming the sting of punishment and accepting that he deserved it completely. It allowed him to let go of a little of the guilt he felt, while at the same time reminding him and helping him feel that Slade was in complete control of everything.

It was hard, considering how much he just wanted to hold onto his little brother, but Slade forced himself to complete a last circuit of swats, finishing with a final flurry to Oliver's sit spots and thighs. He then wasted no time in gathering his little brother into his arms, hugging him close and tight to himself.

Oliver let out a tiny whimper as his bottom made contact with Slade's lap, but he didn't flinch away. Instead, he threw his arms around his brother and held on tightly, as if afraid that he'd be let go. He continued to cry in deep sobs, but it was more to do with his fear at possibly having ruined his relationship with his brother than the pain from being punished. He welcomed the pain, feeling that it was the least of what he deserved for his actions.

Slade tightened his embrace, moving back so he could support the entirety of his little brother's weight. He pressed a kiss to Oliver's head and stroked the nape of his neck, gently squeezing it. "I've got you, little brother," he whispered. "I'm never going to let you go."

Oliver didn't know how long he cried. By the time the tears abated, his face was hot, his eyes burned, his throat ached and the sting in his bottom had eased enough that it only flared up when he shifted and brushed against the highly sensitive skin. As long as he sat still, it was only a very dull ache. Unfortunately for Oliver, he wasn't able to sit still and so he was letting out tiny whimpers of discomfort nearly every other minute. He didn't want to let go of his brother, though and he knew he'd deserved every swat, so he didn't say anything about being in pain and he didn't attempt to get up and ease the pressure off of his bottom. His brother's grip on his neck was a comfort.

Slade wrapped his arms tight around his little brother, rocking him gently and settling him so as little weight as possible was on his bottom. "I've got you, kid. I'm never letting go. I love you," he kept repeating, squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck.

Oliver shivered, continuing to hold tightly and letting out tiny whimpers when he couldn't help but brush his bottom against his brother's lap. "Love you so so sorry..." he said repentantly. He went to hug Slade more tightly and couldn't stop the moan when his feet tangled up and he landed fully on his bottom; he hid his face against Slade's shoulder, ashamed to be 'complaining' about it hurting when he knew deep down that he had deserved so much more than Slade had given him.

"Kid, why don't you lay back over?" Slade suggested, stroking his hair gently. "I can still hold onto you that way... and you won't put any weight on your bottom."

Oliver gave Slade a grateful look and obeyed immediately, carefully standing and then laying back over his brother's lap so that he could be comforted without adding pain into the situation. He sniffled softly. "Sorry for being a baby...can normally handle it better..." he said, ashamed of himself.

"You aren't a baby, little brother." Slade wrapped one arm around his little brother to draw Oliver tight against him, while his other hand gently stroked over Oliver's shoulders and back. "This was particularly emotional for you."

Oliver relaxed against his brother. "Maybe...I can't understand why else it would seem to hurt so much more. I...I thought being punished would help me feel less guilty and feel better, but I still feel horrible about what I did..." he admitted, in a small voice.

Slade ran his fingers through Oliver's hair and gently squeezed the nape of his neck. "You feel guilty because you know lying to me isn't tolerated. It has no place in our relationship. But I've forgiven you, little brother. I know your heart was in the right place."

"I shouldn't a lied..." Oliver agreed sadly. "Shouldn't a hid things and done things I knew you'd not want me too..." He let himself further relax over his brother's lap and tried not to move too much. "...Hurts...dunno if I can take two more..." he whispered hesitantly. "...Afraid I'll fight and disappoint you." It was hard to admit.

Slade continued to gently stroke and rub his little brother's neck, shoulders and back. "Spanking isn't about hurting you unbearably, kid, or pushing you past what you can take. If it's too much, we'll figure out a different way."

"'re in decide, not me..." Oliver said, in a small, uncertain voice. The only different way he could think of that would punish him was if Slade ignored him and that would be torture. He'd rather be in pain.

"I am, kid," Slade agreed. "I'm in control... but that doesn't mean you have to suffer through something you don't feel you can take. You've had too much of that already." This position meant Slade could see, in vivid detail, the brand he was responsible for. It was ironic. When he'd been under the influence of the Mirakuru, he'd branded his little brother to 'remind' Oliver of Shado. Now? Every time he saw it, it was a vivid reminder of what he'd done... how he'd failed to protect Oliver.

"But...I was really naughty..." Oliver's voice became even smaller and quieter, if possible, his worry clear. Was Slade going to punish him by making him be alone for a while? Yeah...he could probably handle it, maybe. Under normal circumstances, he would miss his brother if he couldn't be with him for a long period of time, but he'd be ok. If it was done as a punishment, though, Oliver didn't think he would handle it well at all.

Slade could hear the worry in his little brother's voice and without needing Oliver to voice his fears, he thought he had a pretty good idea of what was worrying him. "We spent too long apart already, little brother. I'm not going to punish you by withdrawing, whether physically or emotionally." Being apart from his little brother had been painful enough when he'd come out of the withdrawal symptoms in prison. Gently stroking Oliver's back, he thought for a few moments. "Okay, kid. Here's what's going to happen. The next two spankings aren't going to be as bad as this one; they're just going to serve as reminders. Today... and the next couple of days... you're going to have a bit of time to stand in the corner and think. I won't leave you alone. I'll still be in the room. Finally..." He hesitated, but lying was not okay and he needed his little brother to have consequences that he would remember the next time he was tempted to lie to Slade. "I'm going to wash your mouth out for lying to me."

Oliver found a tension he hadn't realized he was holding drain from him as his brother explained what would happen. Once he was reassured that Slade wasn't going to leave him- even for a little bit- as a form of punishment, he was able to focus on what Slade had decided would happen and think about it. The 'reminder' spankings, he felt like he could for the rest? "Yessir..." he whispered. "...That's more than fair. I...You've never..." He blushed. The corner time and mouth washing seemed like punishments for a child. Then again, he tended to act like a child with his brother, especially when he was in trouble, so it was appropriate. "...How?" he finally asked. "...When?"

Slade spoke with a reassuring note to his voice, continuing to gently stroke and rub his little brother's back. "As soon as you're up to it, kid, we'll take care of the mouth washing and the corner time today... for the next two days, the corner time will be before the reminder spankings."

Oliver took a quivering breath, sniffling again before carefully pushing himself back up and off of his brother's lap. "Yessir...I...can we do it now? Get it over with? After..." He blushed faintly. "...After, I think I'll prolly need to be held some more..." he admitted, in a whisper.

Slade kissed his cheek. "Of course, little brother." He stood and wrapped his arm around Oliver, guiding him through to the bathroom while still keeping a tight hold on him.

For everything Oliver had experienced in his young life, he'd never had his mouth washed out. He couldn't help but be nervous. He obediently went where Slade led, though and didn't argue.

Slade led him into the bathroom and picked up the soap. Squeezing his little brother gently, he said, "Open your mouth."

Giving his brother a sorrowful and fully repentant look, Oliver obeyed and opened his mouth wide to make it easy for Slade. He knew better than to lie- ever- so he was fully accepting of the consequences.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck and put the bar of soap in Oliver's mouth.

Oliver closed his eyes, tears trickling down his cheeks. He leaned into his brother's touch and carefully closed his mouth to hold the soap in place.

Slade kept his little brother close, so Oliver could feel his presence. He left the soap for a minute and then touched Oliver's chin to indicate he could open his mouth again.

Oliver quickly opened his mouth again. Just the short time it had been in place had caused his mouth to water and suds to form and cover his tongue and fill the crevices of his mouth.

Slade quickly removed the soap and used his grip on the back of Oliver's neck to move him closer to the sink. "You can rinse," he said gently.

Oliver carefully began to rinse, doing so slowly because he was crying again and didn't want to swallow or inhale the suds. Something about the soap had made him feel younger than he normally did with his brother and the knowledge that he was in trouble for lying had made it even more difficult.

Slade pressed nearer to his little brother, so Oliver would know he was there. He let his hand gently stroke Oliver's hip.

Once he was rinsed enough to talk without fear of swallowing soap, Oliver gasped out, "I'm sorry..." in the tiniest, most childlike voice he'd ever used, his need to be certain he was forgiven obvious. The entire time he'd stood, unable to talk, he'd done nothing but think of his actions and the more he thought of them, the more horrible he felt for what he'd done.

Slade wrapped his arms tightly around his little brother, though he was careful not to prevent Oliver from rinsing more if he needed to. "I forgive you," he whispered in his little brother's ear. "I love you. No matter what, I will never stop."

Oliver's need for affection was greater than his need to remove the soapy taste he knew he deserved and he pressed as close as possible to his brother, snuggling. He very visibly relaxed at Slade's words. "Love you..." he whispered.

Slade cuddled his little brother close and tight, pressing a kiss to the top of Oliver's head. "You're my whole world, kid... No matter what, I won't ever let you go," he promised.

Sniffling once more, Oliver reluctantly pulled back and gave his brother a teary smile. Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he asked softly, "Where...which corner...?"

"I'll take you." Slade wrapped his arm around his little brother's shoulders, guiding him back into the living room and gently leading him to one of the corners. Once there, he stepped back so he was no longer in physical contact with Oliver... but still close enough for his presence to be felt.

Oliver hadn't thought he could feel any more childish than when he'd had his mouth washed out...but he'd been wrong. Staring at the corner of the wall took what little fight remained out of him (and there'd been so little, he hadn't even realized it was there.) His lower lip began to tremble and he slumped down dejectedly, though he didn't actually cry this time. He wasn't scared and he knew he could handle it. He just couldn't figure out why he'd thought doing what he'd done would ever be a good idea. He was not in a good place emotionally and his desire to just run to his brother and crawl onto his lap and hide his face and snuggle wasstronger than he thought it should be, considering he was being punished.

He hoped that he wouldn't have to leave the apartment during the days when he was being punished. He wasn't certain he could hold himself together and actually make good decisions, as helpless and needy as he was feeling. Diggle and Lance might understand, but Felicity and Thea not so much. It was a situation he'd rather not have to face.

Slade didn't move from his spot where he was only a few centimetres from his little brother. He could tell Oliver was affected emotionally, but as much as he wanted to just wrap his arms tight around his little brother... he had to stay consistent. He was only going to leave Oliver there for ten minutes; but he knew that ten minutes would feel like forever to both of them.

Oliver tried to hold still. It seemed that shifting around and wiggling wouldn't be allowed, even if Slade hadn't said so. He just wasn't able to do it and after only two minutes, he began shifting from foot to foot, though he did keep his nose pressed to the corner.

Slade didn't speak, but he stepped forward; close enough that he was lightly brushing against Oliver's back... just enough that they were in contact with each other.

As soon as he felt Slade behind him, Oliver stilled...just his brother's presence enough to calm him. He swallowed hard and tried to focus on why he was standing in the corner like a naughty toddler. Somehow, 'Slade loved him enough not to spank him again' wasn't what he thought he was supposed to learn from this exercise...but that's all he could think about. His brother changed how he'd be punished because he knew Oliver was afraid and couldn't handle it. If Slade ever started feeling guilty about what he'd done under Mirakuru's influence in the future, Oliver could point to this exact moment and remind him he wasn't that person.

Slade was still and quiet as he waited for the ten minutes to be up. As soon as they were, he was quick to pull his little brother back into his arms and hug him tightly to himself... as tight as he'd told Oliver he would earlier.

Oliver twisted around so he could hold onto Slade just as tightly, giving in to the need he'd had to hide his face against the older man and snuggle. He didn't care if it seemed childish. He was Slade's and he wanted to be held.

Slade tightened his embrace, kissing the top of his little brother's head. "I've got you," he murmured. "I love you. You're mine."

"Always..." Oliver agreed quickly, just holding on. "Can...can we stay home tomorrow?" He tried to sound confident, but everything had caught up to him and he just sounded tired and needy.

"Of course," Slade replied, tightening his embrace and gently squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck.

"Can ..." Oliver paused, turning pink. "...Can I rub my bottom?" he asked in a whisper. He knew it was meant to sting, so he wouldn't do anything to alleviate it unless given permission. He'd considered asking Slade to rub the sting out, but was afraid that would be too forward.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "Yeah, kid. Or, if it helps, we can settle back on the couch the same way we were before..." He paused, not outright offering to rub the sting out, but the suggestion was still in his tone.

Oliver nodded quickly. "Uhhuh...please?" He would have winced at the begging tone in his voice, but the need to be under his brother's care and control the rest of the night was too strong. He nuzzled Slade's chest a little bit before stepping back enough that they could walk.

Slade led his little brother back to the couch and took a seat, gently guiding Oliver back into place.

Oliver sniffled and whimpered slightly as he lay over his brother's lap, but once in place, he calmed immediately. The sense of comfort from the familiar position and the fact his brother had him set him at ease and he was immediately pliant for Slade to move as needed.

Slade wrapped an arm around his little brother's waist to draw Oliver in close to himself. He began to gently rub over Oliver's neck, shoulder, back, bottom, thighs... just gently touching and stroking.

The gentleness eased him even more. Yes, his bottom still stung horribly- he never wanted to do anything to deserve such a hard spanking ever again- but that was secondary to the unease and discord he'd felt emotionally because of the fact he'd disappointed his brother. Despite Slade's words to the contrary, he couldn't help but worry that he'd broken trust between them and things would be different. Slade wasn't treating him differently, however and the fact that he was so consistently caring for him, despite what Oliver had done, helped him realize that he hadn't lost his brother again. Slade had forgiven him. "Love you..." he whispered and let his eyes close so that he could just focus on the sensation of the comforting touch.

Slade closed his eye, as always affected strongly by the amount of trust his little brother placed in him, even though Slade never felt he deserved it. He continued the gentle touch, needing to comfort Oliver as much as his little brother needed to be comforted. "I love you," he whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion. If he didn't have Oliver... Slade knew he would have fallen into despair long ago.

Oliver didn't know how long he lay there; long enough to become drowsy and a little bit hungry. He blinked when his stomach growled, shifting slightly so he could look up at his brother with a sheepish smile. "Maybe we can eat dinner and then I think I'm ready for bed...this whole week has been" He couldn't think of a word that fit, but he felt completely drained, both physically and emotionally.

"It's been difficult," Slade agreed. "But we'll get through this, little brother." He carefully helped Oliver up from his lap, drawing him into a quick but tight embrace before leading him through to the kitchen.

"I'm...I'm just so grateful and glad I didn't ruin everything between us..." Oliver admitted softly. "I can't fathom what I'd do if you went away again because I was foolish."

"Kid... I would never ever leave you," Slade promised, wrapping his arms around Oliver once more in a tight embrace. "You are my whole world," he whispered. "Without you, the despair would have taken over."

Oliver gripped onto his brother tightly and closed his eyes. "Promise?" he asked in a tiny voice, feeling stupid that he needed even more reassurance, but needing it just the same.

"I promise." Slade kissed the top of his little brother's head. "I love you. Being apart from you when I came back to myself was torture." He gently squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck. "I couldn't ever leave you."

Oliver smiled and snuggled. "Can I help do anything?" he finally asked, not sure if Slade would want to give him some chores, or if he'd want him to sit quietly and wait for dinner.

"Why don't you mix some cheese sauce?" Slade suggested. "I'll take care of chopping the vegetables."

"Ok..." Oliver smiled again and pulled away to begin gathering ingredients for the sauce. He felt so much more at ease...lighter... Leaning over he gave his brother a quick kiss on the cheek, then went into the kitchen.

Slade collected the vegetables and pasta and then joined his little brother, sticking as close to Oliver as it was safe to do so.

Working together helped things move quickly and soon it was time to sit down to eat. Oliver gave the table chair a nervous look.

"Come on, kid." Slade gently encouraged his little brother to sit on his lap at the table.

Biting his lip, Oliver hesitantly sat on his brother's lap, and then waited to be fed. He was feeling so needy; he didn't even consider feeding himself.

Slade settled his hand on his little brother's hip and began feeding Oliver, gently stroking his hip.

Oliver obediently ate what he was given, making sure that he didn't hinder his brother from also eating.

Slade ate his own food as well, but stayed in close physical contact with his little brother, stroking his hip or squeezing the nape of his neck.

Once they were finished, Oliver carefully stood and began to help with clean-up. He was obviously worn out, though.

"Time for bed, kid." Slade gently took the items from his little brother's hands and set them down.

Oliver blinked, about to argue, wanting to help, but when he couldn't stop the huge yawn that escaped him, he gave a sheepish grin instead and obediently headed back to the bath to brush his teeth before heading into the bedroom. He didn't get into bed yet, waiting for Slade to come in and indicate what he should do instead.

Slade came through to the bedroom, having got changed for bed, and stepped over. He settled on the bed and simply held his arms out to his little brother.

That was all the invitation Oliver needed. He quickly crawled into bed and snuggled up against his brother. Within seconds, he was asleep.

Holding onto his little brother was the best feeling in the world... at least that was the thought that went through Slade's mind as he tightened his embrace around Oliver. It didn't take him long to fall asleep, cuddling his baby brother.

Floyd had got up early to make breakfast for Diggle and his family. He wanted to pay them back in some way for everything they'd done for him.

Diggle slept until Sara woke and began crying. "I'll get her," he said softly to his wife, before heading into their baby's room and picking her up. "There's a good girl," he murmured, rocking her gently in his arms.

Floyd had heard Sara and retrieved a bottle from the refrigerator, warming it before bringing it to the nursery. He smiled at Diggle and held the bottle up where it could be seen if Diggle wanted it. "How's Princess Sara?" He cooed at the baby.

Diggle smiled and stepped over to take the bottle from the other man, beginning to feed his daughter. "You're up early," he commented.

"Couldn't sleep. Figured I'd get a head start on breakfast..." Floyd smiled.

Diggle nodded. "You wanna take her for a few minutes? If there's anything cooking, I can keep an eye on it."

Floyd's grin grew and his eyes brightened noticeably. "Yeah? I'd like that..." He moved closer, a bit nervous but eager to hold his niece.

Diggle carefully handed her over. "Did you think of anything you might need for seeing Zoe?"

"To be honest...the biggest obstacle we're going to have is the fact that officially, I'm supposed to be in jail...How am I going to get to see her without having all of the city's and or state's police force showing up outside her door?" Floyd grimaced.

"We've got that covered," Diggle said. "She'll be brought here... no one need know the reason why. You aren't the only one who's supposed to be in jail, either," he pointed out.

"You've taken care of everything...I'm grateful, really...just can't help but be nervous. It's hard enough knowing that I'm putting you and Lilah in danger if I'm found... Knowing that I could put Zoe and baby Sara in danger... if anything happened to these kids because of me, I'd never forgive myself..." Floyd admitted.

"We've taken every precaution," Diggle replied reassuringly. "Everyone will be as safe as possible. I promise."

"Good. I...I don't want you putting you or your family in danger because of me..." Floyd said quietly. "...I know you've decided that you're responsible for me and are all big brother now and everything...but I really couldn't handle if you or the others were hurt because of trying to help me..." Floyd grimaced before giving Diggle a weak smile. "I'm not worth that..."

Diggle reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. "You're worth a lot more than you think, Floyd. Not only to me... but the others, too. I'm not gonna stop trying to help you."

"I'm not going to ask you to stop..." Floyd chuckled softly, giving a sheepish grin. "I'm too selfish for that. careful. Right?"

Diggle nodded. "Always." A slightly more teasing note slipped into his voice as he added, "I don't know what you'd do without me there to stop you."

"Get myself captured by another Amanda Waller, knowing my luck..." Floyd snorted.

"Well, no one's gonna get their hands on you while I'm there to stop it," Diggle promised.

"As long as you're here, I likely won't be doing anything that puts me at risk of being captured like that...not without very good reason, anyway..." Floyd laughed softly.

"Good reason or not, you'd better not be doing anything that puts you at risk," Diggle said seriously.

Floyd nodded. "If I have a good reason, I'd run it by you first..." he admitted. "...In case you didn't think it was a good reason. Otherwise...I'd deserve whatever I got." He winced faintly, knowing that if that ever happened and he wasn't injured in the process, Diggle would most certainly 'give' him something.

Diggle nodded. "You aren't expendable and while there is risk in what we do... there's a difference between going in with backup and going alone. I'm not Waller. I don't want a trained monkey."

"I know. I'd be your monkey if you asked, though..." Floyd's grin was serious, if a trifle impish. "...I owe you my life. Figure you'd take care of me either way..."

"Yeah, but you're my little brother... as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to change you. I just don't want you to wind up hurt." Or worse, which Diggle didn't need to add out loud.

Floyd swallowed and looked down, before looking back up with an affectionate grin. "Yeah... just don't want my big brother hurt either..."

"I'll make sure I'm around to get on your case for a good long while." The words were teasing, but Diggle's tone was completely serious.

"Good. I need that..." Floyd's voice was completely serious. "I'll, uh...just go finish breakfast now..." He smiled down at the baby, who had fallen asleep in his arms while they were talking.

Diggle smiled. "I'll come help."

Carefully putting Sara back into her crib, Floyd led his brother back out into the kitchen where they could finish making breakfast.

When Oliver woke the next morning, he was surprised at how rested he felt. He hadn't realized how deeply his guilt was affecting him until Slade had addressed his actions and helped to alleviate it. Of course, spending the entire night snuggled close to his brother had aided in his sleep, he was sure. Slowly, he let his senses hone in on what was around him, making sure that it was just he and Slade in the apartment, before opening his eyes.

Slade had woken about the same time as his little brother, but just lay there, gently stroking Oliver's hair or his cheek. "Morning, kid," he said softly, once his little brother had come to.

"Mornin', Koro..." Oliver grinned impishly up at his brother before reluctantly extricating himself and getting up. He winced slightly as he shifted, but didn't otherwise show any discomfort from the punishment the previous day. "What's the plan for today?" he asked quietly. Normally, he'd make his own plans to go out and work...but he'd been grounded and as far as he was concerned, that meant Slade would be giving him directions on what to do until that was no longer the case. Since he didn't have an actual job that he needed to go to, he might end up staying in the apartment all day if his brother deemed that best.

"Breakfast first." Slade sat up and reached out to stroke his little brother's cheek. "We'll be staying in the apartment today, barring any emergencies." He didn't bring up the 'reminder' spanking and corner time. He'd judge when Oliver would handle it best based on his little brother's reactions.

"Yessir..." Oliver nodded in acknowledgement. He wasn't surprised that Slade would want him to stay home and it didn't bother him. What did surprise him was the fact he wasn't bothered. Then again, the thought of being at home with his brother and in his brother's care without having to deal with outside influences was a relief.

Slade got up, drawing his little brother close against his side to guide him into the kitchen so he could start on breakfast.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked quietly. He was perfectly happy to help with making breakfast, although his brother tended to not let him near the stove lately...most likely due to there being a bit more risk, since he wasn't wearing anything. He could always get dressed so that he could help, but he didn't want to do anything unless Slade indicated he should.

"Just stay where I can see you," Slade answered, holding his little brother's hand into the kitchen... as if Oliver really was a child.

"Yessir..." Oliver said even more quietly, following along without argument. The hand-holding had been unexpected and had the result of making him feel young and childish. Considering how young and childish he already felt due to being punished and the fact that he'd given Slade complete control over him, he didn't know how it could make him feel even more so, but it did.

Slade released his little brother once they were in the kitchen, just so he could start cooking their breakfast.

Oliver didn't want to sit- his bottom was still tender- so he stood to the side and out of the way of his brother and any potentially painful problems that could arise from being too close to the stove.

Slade cooked while sticking close to his little brother; at least as close as it was safe to. "Once I have the information on this guy who's after the Arrow, I'll figure out a better way of keeping you safe, kid."

Oliver sighed. "It shouldn't be necessary...I wasn't careful enough...otherwise he wouldn't have figured it out."

Slade reached out and gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "You were trying to work alone, kid. You aren't alone. As long as I have breath... you won't ever be alone again."

"I know..." Oliver sighed again and gave Slade a crooked smile. "...I was really naughty. know how to deal with me when I'm naughty and you know how to take care of me, so...I'm not scared. Even if maybe I should be...I'm not worried about that guy. You'll stop him."

"I'll protect you," Slade promised. "I won't let anything happen to you. Never again." He finished cooking and began to plate up the food.

"I believe you..." Oliver said softly. "You'll protect me even from myself..." He smiled crookedly again, reaching back and rubbing his bottom without thinking.

Slade put the plates on the table and moved back over so he could take Oliver's hand and lead his brother over to the table. "Whatever it takes, little brother. I'm never going to let you suffer again." He took a seat and guided Oliver down onto his lap.

It was easier to sit still after a good night's rest. While he was still tender, the discomfort was more that of a mild ache than a burning sting, so Oliver was able to hold still and not make any pained noises. Leaning into his brother, he waited for Slade to feed him.

Slade rested his hand on his little brother's hip, stroking gently, as he began feeding Oliver.

"Are we staying in all day today?" Oliver asked quietly, in between mouthfuls of breakfast.

Slade nodded. "Yeah, kid. We'll be spending the whole day here together." He ate his own breakfast as well, gently stroking and squeezing his little brother.

"Can...can you read to me?" Oliver asked hesitantly. While he had adjusted to his and Slade's relationship dynamics- accepting that his brother was in complete control and that, because of that fact alone, Oliver tended to feel very young and in some cases act childish- sometimes it occurred to him just how young and childish he was acting and part of him withdrew, feeling like he should act more his age. Asking Slade to read to him was one of those moments.

Slade kissed the back of his head. "Of course, little brother." His tone was calm, reassuring and accepting. He would never deny his little brother anything. "I'll do anything for you." His voice was a low murmur in Oliver's ear.

"You don't think I'm being too much of a baby?" Oliver blushed, taking another bite of food as it was fed to him.

"No, kid." Slade gently stroked his hip, continuing to feed him as he added, "You shouldn't ever worry about needing or wanting something from me. You've given me someone to take care of... someone who's given my life meaning at times when I've been in very dark places. I have to take care of you. I have to look after you... protect you... make you happy. I owe you everything, little brother."

"It doesn't bother you that I'm...I could still take care of me and I act my age...instead of..." Oliver shrugged faintly, not sure how to voice his worry that there was something wrong with him for letting Slade take care of him as if he were a toddler. "You do almost everything for me..." he added, in an uncertain whisper. It actually unnerved him a little bit how much he allowed Slade to do for him; how much he needed his brother to step in and control everything in his life when in the apartment.

Slade ran his hand gently through his little brother's hair. "Nothing about what you need bothers me, kid. It would bother me more if you tried to change yourself out of a misguided worry that you shouldn't need. I know it's scary for you, but when you give up the control to me it means you no longer have this huge weight on your shoulders." He touched his little brother there, just to indicate his point. "You take on too much, kid. Alone with me... you don't have to be the strong one. I'll be there to catch you. I'll be there for you to lean on." He let his hand move to Oliver's hip, stroking gently. "It bothers me you had to go for so long without me there for you. I'm glad I have the chance to do right by you now, little brother."

Oliver listened to his brother's words and relaxed. "Ok..." he finally said, deciding that if it really didn't bother Slade, then he wasn't going to let himself worry about it. If he needed to act his age when alone with his brother, Slade would let him know. He took the last bite of food from his plate as Slade fed it to him, then waited patiently for his brother to finish his own plate.

Slade finished his own food and then helped his little brother up, guiding him through to the living room and retrieving one of the books he'd bought so he could read to Oliver.

Oliver hovered near his brother, not sure if they'd be reading in the living room or going back to the bedroom. Whichever way Slade went, Oliver was prepared to follow like a puppy.

Reaching out, Slade took Oliver's hand and led him over to the couch, taking a seat and gently pulling his little brother onto his lap.

Oliver didn't waste any time snuggling into his brother and putting his head on Slade's shoulder. "Thank you..." he said quietly, hoping Slade realized it was for everything his brother did for him and not just reading too him.

Slade kissed his head. "I love you." He began reading, stroking Oliver's hair, neck, back and bottom while doing so.

Oliver couldn't help himself. As soon as Slade began the gentle affection, he squirmed and shifted until he was practically lounging on his brother so that Slade had easy access. The only reason he wasn't just draped over his brother's lap was because he enjoyed reading along with Slade; and because he had his ear against his brother's chest and was listening to his heartbeat. It was soothing.

Slade continued to read, even as he continued the gentle stroking and caressing, moving back on the couch enough to make sure his little brother was supported.

Oliver really wasn't used to a life of inactivity. Ever since getting off of the island, it had been one thing after another keeping him busy and active, sometimes with great hardship. Even on the island, he and Slade had been constantly busy with the work of survival. Staying in the apartment with his brother and not having anything to do but obey and rest was a novelty. Oliver was surprised how sleepy he became and hoped it wasn't because he was still ill.

Able to tell his little brother was getting sleepy, Slade continued the rubbing and stroking, putting a little more pressure behind it.

Nuzzling against his brother, Oliver tried for a brief moment to stay awake, but it was impossible. Finally giving up, he shifted so that he was lying on his stomach with his head on Slade's lap. Within moments, he was asleep.

Slade stopped reading and let his hand settle on Oliver's head, gently stroking his hair. "I love you." His voice was soft, as he didn't want to risk waking his little brother.

Oliver snuggled closer to his brother in his sleep, feeling a bit chilly.

Slade reached over to retrieve the blanket, settling it over his little brother.

Settling down at his brother's quick care of him, Oliver continued to sleep...a tiny smile on his face.

Slade didn't try to move his little brother, just idly stroking his hair or his cheek. With his little brother safe in his arms, he could relax fully.

Oliver had been more tired than either he or Slade expected, the Malaria having taken a lot out of him. Nearly an hour had gone by and he was still sound asleep, leaving Slade with the choice of either being trapped under him until he finally woke, moving him to the bedroom so that he could do something else while waiting for him to wake, or waking him with the knowledge that he needed to be able to sleep later that night. It wasn't like they couldn't go to bed early if needed.

Deciding that it wouldn't be a good idea for his little brother's sleeping pattern to be completely reversed... they weren't on the island anymore, so didn't need to catch rest when they could... Slade gently squeezed his little brother's shoulder through the blanket. "Time to wake up, little brother."

Oliver let out a tiny whine; he never had been one to wake immediately or willingly when he was safe and not on his guard for threat...and he never felt safer than when he was with Slade, so it took more than a few seconds for him to blink blearily and shift to get up. The only reason he did was because Slade told him to.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his brother's neck. "I know, kid. But if I'd let you sleep much longer, you wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight."

Oliver sighed. "You're right, of course..." He smiled crookedly and sat up the rest of the way, pulling the blanket tight around himself.

Running his fingers gently through Oliver's hair, Slade asked softly, "Do you want some cocoa?"

"Yes please!" Oliver quickly answered, then blushed at how excited he'd sounded. He really did become like a young child when alone with his brother.

Standing, Slade held his hand out to take hold of his little brother's. "If you're still cold, I'll turn up the heating."

Oliver smiled crookedly. "Won't that make you hot?" he asked, as he took his brother's hand to be led.

Slade held his brother's hand as they walked into the kitchen. "It won't be unbearable. And you are my priority, kid. I want to make sure you're as comfortable as you can be."

"Maybe...a little bit warmer...if it won't bother you..." Oliver said softly.

"It won't," Slade promised, turning up the heating so his little brother would be comfortable.

Oliver smiled gratefully. "Thank you..." he said quietly.

"I'll do anything for you, little brother." Slade kissed his forehead and then stepped over to the stove so he could begin making the cocoa.

"I want to do something for you..." Oliver said, keeping out of the way.

"Kid..." Slade's look was fond and loving. "You do a lot for me."

"Giving you a reason for target practice doesn't count." Oliver's smile was wry.

"Giving me a reason to carry on does." Slade began to pour out two mugs of cocoa.

"Yeah...well..." Oliver glanced down. "If you weren't here, I wouldn't be either. You're the only reason I'm still alive. Heaven knows I woulda got myself killed within a few days of being on that island if you hadn't stepped in... prolly here too, since I'm always doing dumb stuff lately..."

Slade stepped closer to his little brother, squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck and using that grip to tug him into a tight embrace. "You're not always doing dumb stuff, kid. You didn't think a decision through, but you were trying to do the right thing. But you've given me so much, little brother. The only reason I'm not crippled by guilt is because of you."

Oliver hugged back tightly and gave a tiny smile to his brother. He didn't comment on the fact he carried around as much guilt, if not more, than Slade. Most of the guilt he carried came from events starting when he'd left his older brother for dead with an arrow in his eye. Every moment after that time until Slade returned, he'd had at least one big event (if not more) nearly every year in every location where he'd made a decision that cost innocent people their lives; and his motives didn't make one bit of difference in helping assuage the guilt. Slade taking him back...becoming his big brother again...had helped immensely with the guilt he'd felt in regards to leaving Slade for dead and everything that had happened because of that. It hadn't helped as much with the rest of the guilt. Oliver had told his brother a lot of what happened, at least in brief detail. He wondered if he confessed every deed in extreme detail, if it would help...or if Slade might be able to help him. He didn't want to see disgust or disappointment in his brother's eyes, though and a lot of what he'd done would cause that. "I'm glad I can do at least that much for you..." was all he said.

Slade tightened his embrace. "You do that much and a whole lot more," he whispered. "You're my entire world, kid. Accepting me back into your life... when you had no reason to trust or believe in me... I can't fully explain to you how much that has meant to me."

"I couldn't do anything other than that..." Oliver admitted. "...I need you too much."

"I know." Slade stroked his cheek. "And I need you just as much. And I'm never going to leave your side again. I'm going to be here always."

Oliver nodded, leaning into Slade's hand. It surprised him how relieved Slade saying so made him; he hadn't thought he still harbored any doubts about Slade remaining with him, but the verbal reassurance calmed him down.

Slade kissed his forehead and then moved to pick up their mugs. He passed one to Oliver, so he had a hand free to hold onto his little brother's.

Oliver gratefully took the mug with his dominant hand, holding out his non-dominant hand to Slade. He'd got used to being led around and held onto like a child, so any time his brother was able to hold onto him, he was ready to be held onto. Gently blowing over the rim of the cup, he took a sip of the hot drink. "S'good..." He smiled.

Slade smiled, squeezing his little brother's hand gently. "I'm glad. I love you." He led his little brother through to the living room.

Oliver meekly followed. Something about being alone with his brother- his brother completely in charge- left him feeling too young and needy to be anything but pliant and meek. Especially after having been spanked. Even though he'd been spanked the day before, he still felt it enough for the effects to still be there.

Slade sat down on the couch and drew his little brother onto his lap, settling him close and snug against his chest.

Oliver managed to avoid whimpering when he sat down on his brother's lap, but he did squirm a small bit until he found a comfortable position. He put his head on his brother's shoulder, every so often sitting up just enough to take a sip of the cocoa Slade had made.

Slade gently stroked his little brother's hair, neck and back, holding him close. "I love you," he whispered in Oliver's ear.

"I know. I love you too..." Oliver said softly, leaning over and kissing his brother's cheek.

Slade gently ran his fingers through his little brother's hair. "I know you weren't a saint when I wasn't around, kid. But if you ever need to talk to me about what happened... I will always listen. I won't judge or be disappointed in you."

Oliver's smile was sad. "It was worse than that...I think you would have been ashamed of me. The you that trained me and protected me and took me as family...Who you are again would be ashamed of me..." He sniffled, feeling guilt at how he'd completely lost himself after Slade had 'died'.

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "I could never be ashamed of you," he whispered. "Even if you've done bad things, I know it's because you didn't have a choice; or felt like you didn't in the moment. I've done bad things too, kid. Even without the Mirakuru... before it... I did things I wish I could have done differently."

"I lost myself when you died...when I thought you'd died...when I thought I'd killed you." Oliver swallowed. "I wasn't the boy who got shipwrecked on the island, but I wasn't the man you'd trained me to be either. I became a monster. I was a monster..." he whispered.

Slade stroked his little brother's neck. "Kid... I kept tabs on you when I realised you'd escaped the island. I might have been twisted, but I can tell you... you are not a monster. You've never been a monster."

"Feel like one..." Oliver whispered. He glanced down, unable to meet his brother's eyes.

"You had to survive." Slade continued the gentle, comforting touch, even as he said, "I'm relieved you did, because it would have been devastating to lose you. I thought the Mirakuru had worked its way out of my system before. But I still didn't remember what you meant to me. Now that I do... losing you would have been a blow I couldn't recover from."

"I didn't have to do what I did to survive..." Oliver said hoarsely. "That was vengeance. Trying to right my father's wrongs in a way that was killing my soul...I just didn't realize it."

Slade cupped his cheek, thumb gently stroking. "You've realised now, little brother. You've changed how you deal with things. You've changed. It's been hard for me to see past the pain I've caused you, but Lance in particular has reassured me you are healing. I know you were changing how you dealt with things before I came back to you... now I am back, it doesn't matter what you tell me or how you act. I love you completely and unconditionally."

Oliver finally looked up at that. It was obvious he still felt guilt and regret from the way he'd handled things before. "You'll help me do better?" His voice was tiny.

"Always," Slade promised. "No matter what happens."

Swallowing, Oliver gave a decisive nod. "Ok..." he said, his voice more sure and secure; he obviously believed his brother.

Slade continued stroking his cheek. "I love you. Don't ever worry about leaning on me; taking support from me. There is nothing I want to do more than take care of you."

"I still feel like there's something wrong with me. That I want you to take care of me the way I do. I'm more afraid of if you didn't, though..." Oliver admitted softly.

"There's nothing wrong with you," Slade replied reassuringly. "You just need me in a different way. You don't have to be strong with me. On the island, you worried then too... but I think it was easier to accept when it was just the two of us and you didn't need to worry about how to act with other people."

"On the island, it was easier, because I knew if I didn't rely on you and let you be in charge, I was pretty much dead...I didn't know enough to survive on my own..." Oliver snorted quietly. "I guess I didn't realize I'd need you to take care of me that way when I wasn't in danger anymore and theoretically should be able to take care of myself. I dunno..." Oliver sighed softly. "I...I know there's nothing wrong with me, just still feels like there is. Like I should be trying harder to not need you. But when I think of going back to how it was before you came scares me. Cuz I really wasn't in a good place then and I know I'd be the same. You're my anchor..."

Slade gently squeezed the nape of his neck. "You aren't the only person with this type of need, kid. You're strong and in control with everyone and everything else in your life. And maybe you're in a better place now because you need to let me be in control... to make it easier for you to be in control the rest of the time."

Oliver relaxed at the squeeze. "I...I know you're right. I just overthink everything sometimes. Makes up for all the other times I don't think at all, maybe?" he joked feebly, before turning into his brother and snuggling against him.

Slade tightened his arms around his little brother. "Don't ever worry. I've got you," he whispered in his ear.

" do..." Oliver agreed quietly, relaxing as he allowed himself to realize that as well.

Slade pressed a kiss to the top of his brother's head. "I promise, little brother, that I won't ever leave your side or let myself get taken away from you. I won't ever allow you to be hurt again."

"I believe you..." Oliver smiled as he continued to snuggle.

Gently stroking his hair, Slade spoke softly. "When you're ready, we'll take care of today's corner-time and reminder spanking."

"Dunno if I'll ever be 'ready'," Oliver admitted sadly. "...But I don't like it hanging over my head either..."

If he was honest, Slade didn't like it either. But he knew he had to stay consistent with his little brother; and Oliver needed the boundaries and consequences set for him. Gently squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck, he helped Oliver to stand and guided him over to the same corner as before.

Oliver's shoulders slumped as he was led to the corner, immediately thinking about what he'd done to deserve being put there. It made him feel young and small and out of control and he immediately teared up, to his embarrassment. "I'm sorry..." he sniffled, in a whisper.

"I know, kid." Slade let his hand linger on Oliver's shoulder a second before stepping back so they were no longer in physical contact.

Oliver closed his eyes and thought about why he was standing where he was and the more he thought, the more dejected he became. He'd done all the wrong things and it amazed him that Slade was willing to forgive him, because he didn't think he deserved it. His shoulders slumped further and he wrapped his arms tightly around his middle.

Slade couldn't leave him any longer than ten minutes, the same as he had the day before. He wrapped his arms around his little brother to draw him back out of the corner.

Oliver shivered; the feeling of smallness and being out of control making him need his big brother more than ever. As soon as Slade had hold of him again, he was twisting around to snuggle close, hiding his face against Slade's shoulder.

Slade held his little brother tighter to himself, hugging Oliver close for a few more minutes before he began to guide his brother back over to the sofa.

Oliver knew what was coming and couldn't help but whimper, although he didn't pull away. He knew he deserved everything he was getting. He couldn't be brave, though. All he could do was lean on his brother and trust that Slade would stop when he'd had enough.

Slade took a seat and gently guided his little brother across his lap, settling Oliver in place. He didn't immediately start swatting, taking a few moments to rub and stroke over his little brother's back and bottom.

Oliver took a quivery breath and reached down to hold onto Slade's ankle. He wasn't going to beg not to be spanked, especially not when this was just a reminder and not a full blown spanking. Still, he was still so tender and sensitive from the spanking he had been given that he wasn't certain how long he could hold still before he started crying and wiggling around. "I...if I can't be good for you, I'm sorry in advance..." he whispered.

"Don't feel bad, kid," Slade murmured, gently squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck. "You react however you need to. I won't let go of you." The rubbing became light, gentle pats of Oliver's bottom and thighs; hardly even mild swats.

Oliver closed his eyes, focusing on the hand at his neck. When the patting began, it didn't hurt exactly; but it wasn't comfortable like it normally would be. Oddly, it was still a comfort. Slade's consistency was soothing and Oliver felt himself submitting almost immediately, his body going lax. "Sorry was so naughty," he whispered.

Slade continued the gentle patting, not increasing the force any. He knew his little brother was still sore and he didn't want to do anything more than a reminder. "You were naughty, little brother. But you're not anymore. You're my good boy," he soothed.

"Not good at all..." Oliver sniffled. "Lied and hid and...and...did everything wrong..." He slumped in dejection and quietly began to cry. The guilt for what he'd done was still strong and thinking on his actions didn't just remind him of what not to let the guilt he still harbored rise to the surface.

"You're being punished for it, little brother," Slade reminded him. "It means you don't need to hold onto your guilt." He still didn't put anymore force behind the pats, but he kept Oliver close against his stomach, his other hand squeezing Oliver's neck or stroking his back.

"...Being punished for being naughty..." Oliver repeated, as if trying to convince himself that he could let go of his guilt. "...So sorry..." He quivered. The pats may not have changed in force, but the discomfort was now painful; it hadn't taken long for the results of the spanking to be felt again. He forced himself to remain limp and pliant over his brother's knee, however. He didn't want to fight Slade even a tiny bit.

Slade paused to begin gently rubbing his little brother's bottom and thighs. "I know you're sorry, little brother. I know you feel guilty. But you're mine. I'm never going to stop loving you. I will always forgive you. We'll take care of the punishment, but I will always keep you close to me."

It was the gentleness that undid him. He couldn't understand how Slade could forgive him lying and hiding things, especially not about the Mirakuru, when he knew how important it was to be truthful with his brother. It wasn't like he hadn't learned this particular lesson on Lian Yu. And yet his brother was being gentle and forgiving. Oliver sniffled once more, and then choked on a sob that turned into many more sobs. Soon, he was limp and crying like his heart was breaking.

Slade wasted no time in gathering his little brother into his arms on his lap. It hurt his own heart to listen to the force of Oliver's sobs and he rocked him gently, stroking his hair and squeezing the nape of his neck.

Oliver just pressed as closely as he could and gripped the front of Slade's shirt tightly. He didn't know why he was so upset- the reminder wasn't nearly as painful as the spanking the day before- and he didn't know why he was having such a hard time letting go of the guilt. No...actually, he knew why he couldn't let go of the guilt. It was because he knew he could have destroyed everything because of lying and hiding things. If Slade hadn't already found out about the Mirakuru and had found out by accidently finding it in the apartment...or the man who wanted to hurt Oliver got to him and it came out then...Oliver could have destroyed his relationship with his brother. He deserved to suffer. He couldn't stop crying.

Concern growing as Oliver continued to cry, Slade continued to rock him and stroke his hair and back, settling his hand at the nape of his little brother's neck and squeezing gently. "I've got you, kid. I'm never going to risk losing you again, even with something like this," he whispered. "You're my whole world."

"I...I don't...don't deserve you..." Oliver wailed. In direct contrast to his words, he snuggled closer, as if afraid Slade would believe him and pull away.

Slade only tightened his embrace, pressing a kiss to the top of his little brother's head. "That's not true, kid," he murmured into Oliver's hair. "You've always deserved someone to take care of you... look after you... fulfil your needs. I count myself lucky that I'm the one you trust to do that."

"You're the only one I trust to do that..." Oliver's voice was small and hesitant as his sobbing slowly eased into sporadic sniffles. He still had trouble accepting himself and his needs...especially when he'd earned himself a spanking. He was an adult. He should be able to be responsible for himself and not need. He didn't say as much. Slade had proven that belief wrong enough times that Oliver didn't want to voice it, but he couldn't help feeling it. Especially when he'd been naughty. "I'm...I'm your naughty boy..." He sniffled.

"You are mine," Slade stated, his voice low and intense. He stroked Oliver's hair and kissed his forehead. "And I belong to you just as much, little brother. I'm yours as much as you're mine."

"I don't spank you when you're naughty..." Oliver said with a pout, but the tone of his voice made it obvious he was trying to tease...trying to calm down and let go of the guilt like Slade wanted him to. He couldn't help but snort after the words were said; as if Slade ever did anything 'naughty' where he'd need to be spanked. Even if he did, Oliver knew he'd not be the one to handle it. He'd taken care of his brother once since Slade had returned to him, but it was before he'd fully fallen back into their relationship and was still retaining his independence from the older man. Now, he was too dependent on Slade to be able to take charge over his brother in that manner ever again. It just wouldn't work.

Slade gently stroked his little brother's cheek. "That doesn't mean I don't get held accountable, kid. And when I do anything... I always take you and your feelings into account. Every decision I make. Every moment I pick up a weapon or head out on a mission."

"I'm sorry I didn't do that...I should have..." Oliver admitted sadly.

Slade cupped his cheek, drawing his little brother in closer and tighter. "You kept the Mirakuru from me because you were trying to protect me, kid. It was a mistake to hide it and lie about it, but your heart was in the right place. I know I scared you when I was attacked."

"Being scared doesn't mean I get to do the wrong thing..." Oliver looked down, but pressed his face into his brother's hand. "If it did, you wouldn't need to spank me for naughtiness..."

"No, but it does make your actions understandable." Slade's thumb gently stroked his cheek.

Oliver couldn't help but smile at those words. It was comforting, knowing that his brother understood why he'd done what he did. His biggest fear about Slade finding out had been that his brother wouldn't understand and would think the worst. "I love you..." He wrapped his arms around his brother and let his head fall back onto Slade's shoulder.

Slade stroked his little brother's hair, pressing a kiss to Oliver's head. "I love you so much," he whispered. "My whole world is you, little brother. You are more important to me than anything."

"That's...that's kinda scary..." Oliver admitted. "...Means I have to be a lot more careful..."

"Kid, you've always had to be careful," Slade pointed out. "I'm not the only one it would devastate if something happened to you."

Oliver's face turned red and he looked up sheepishly. "Yeah. I just...didn't always remember I had to be careful. You remind me I do..."

Slade's thumb stroked his cheek gently. "I know you carry around a lot of guilt, but when that guilt gets too strong, that's when I can step in. Whether it's to hold you through the nightmares or to hold you accountable... whatever it takes. Now I'm back, I can take care of you properly, little brother."

Smiling gratefully, Oliver just nodded. There didn't need to be anymore said. He trusted Slade and he knew his brother would take care of him however needed. He was safe.

"We might want to discuss how much to tell the rest of the team," Slade said softly. "They'll need to be on guard against the man who wants to target the Arrow."

"They'll want to know why...what I did to get his attention..." Oliver sounded nervous.

"It's up to you how much you tell them," Slade replied. "But I think it's best to tell them as much as you can safely do so."

"I'm...I'm tired of hiding things..." Oliver admitted hesitantly. "They should know what I did...what I took. It was dangerous; not just for me." He sighed and looked down in shame. "I didn't even think about how it could be dangerous for everyone else, just myself and I didn't care about it being dangerous for me..."

Slade stroked his cheek. "If you tell them about the Mirakuru... and why you are now in danger... you won't have to explain too much about why you're staying here outside of any emergencies."

"They can assume it is to keep me safe instead of that you're punishing me like I deserve?" Oliver glanced up with a hopeful look and a slight blush. Slade had told him numerous times it was up to Oliver if the rest of the group knew how big a role Slade played in his life, but Oliver still couldn't help but look to the older man for guidance when it came to his secrets. It was becoming more and more difficult to make such decisions on his own; at least when it was just him and Slade in their home and he wasn't outside in public needing to take on the mantel of his responsibilities again.

"Kid, it's about both anyway," Slade pointed out gently. "Even if I hadn't grounded you, I'd still be keeping you close to make sure you stay safe. But the others don't need to know about the punishment part."

Oliver blinked at that, realizing what his brother said was true and he'd already known that. Blushing more darkly, he nodded. "Yeah. Okay..." He hesitated. "Do I need to be the one to tell them?" His voice was small...tiny...younger than his years.

Slade tightened his embrace. "If you want me to be the one to tell them, kid, I will. But I know that at least two people won't want to just take my word for it."

"Yeah..." Oliver sighed heavily. "...I'll tell Thea and Felicity...and the others. I'll have them put me on speaker phone or something and tell them and then if they have questions, you can answer them? Maybe?" He looked hopefully at his brother.

Slade nodded. "Of course, kid. Whatever makes it easier for you."

"Thank you." Oliver's voice was subdued. It meant a lot to him that Slade was willing to help dig him out of the mess he'd made all on his own.

Slade kissed his forehead. "I'll do anything for you, little brother," he whispered.

"I know..." Oliver snuggled close. "It means a lot..."

Slade tightened his embrace. "I love you," he said softly.

"I love you too..." Oliver sighed softly. He was reluctant to move away from his brother, but he knew he should probably call the others sooner rather than later.

Guessing the source of his little brother's reluctance, Slade said gently, "After you call, we can spend the rest of the day cuddling."

"Ok." Oliver's voice was muffled against his brother's chest. Sighing again, he slowly stepped away from Slade and went to find his phone, dialling Diggle's number and hoping they were all together so he wouldn't have to explain more than once. When he heard the phone start ringing, he put it on speaker so Slade could also hear.

Slade held his arm out to his little brother; not pulling him onto his lap, but to indicate the comfort was there if Oliver needed the contact.

Diggle answered after only two rings, voice filled with concern. "Hey, man. How are you feeling?"

"Hey, John..." Oliver smiled as he heard his friend's voice. "...I'm feeling a lot better, thanks. Are you with everyone else? I need to tell everyone something..."

"Yeah, I've put you in speakerphone," Diggle replied. "Has something else happened?"

Oliver quickly checked to make sure he was still on speakerphone before continuing, "I've got you on speakerphone too; Slade is with me. And nothing has happened exactly, but Slade found out that I'm in danger from one of the perps whose warehouse we raided the other night, so I'm going to be hiding out at home for a few days until things calm down; or until Slade figures out where the threat is coming from and we can take care of it..." He glanced at Slade, hoping what he'd just said wasn't a lie. He didn't want to be housebound indefinitely.

"I've sent Lance the information I have on the guy," Slade added in. "He's going to get back to me with anything else on the guy, including people he might have working with him and weapons he might have access to."

"Why is he gunning for you, Ollie?" Thea's voice asked.

"I...uh..." Oliver gave Slade a sheepishly hesitant look before continuing reluctantly. "The last raid we went on, I found some Mirakuru...I removed it from the premises so that it could be got rid of and taken off the street. He's not happy about that..."

"What?" Concern flared in Diggle's voice. "The Mirakuru's on the loose again?"

Slade cleared his throat. "All the rumours say there were just two vials. They've been burned." He glanced at Oliver, to allow his brother to reassure the group.

"All the vials I found were destroyed and as far as we've been able to determine, there weren't any others, just the ones I found..." Oliver corroborated. "Now that we know there was still some out there, though, we can keep our ears open in case it shows up again somewhere else. I don't think it will, but I didn't think these vials would be there either..."

"Did anyone get a hit on your contact at all?" Diggle asked Oliver. "If there is more of it out there, do you think he's the one most likely to lead us to it?"

"Possibly? To be honest, I don't know. We found and destroyed the last batch, so if there is still some out there, my guess is whoever has it will be laying very low..." Oliver sighed.

"While you're lying low, maybe we can increase patrols," Diggle suggested.

Slade touched his little brother's arm to get Oliver's attention and signed to him: 'Hacking might be useful.'

Oliver nodded, immediately latching onto his brother's suggestion. He was at home under his brother's care; it was easier not to take charge than it would be at the lair. "That sounds good...also, maybe Felicity can find some information hacking into their systems?"

Felicity piped in, "Point me which direction and I'll do that..."

Slade continued to sign, not wanting to cause any conflicts by sounding like he was telling Oliver what to do: "There might be traces of the trail deeper into the web. If she can safely go into the dark web that will be where any remaining Mirakuru is being sold or talked about."

"I think we should check into where Slade was being held, too," Diggle said. "While the cure did work, it's possible some of the Mirakuru lingered long enough for someone to take samples."

Oliver nodded. "Felicity...can you go to the dark web? That's where you'd likely be to find what you are looking for as far as Mirakuru being sold or talked about..."

"Can I...?" Felicity huffed. "Of course I can! Can I go to the dark web, he asks..." she muttered under her breath, seemingly offended that Oliver even had to ask if she was able.

Oliver winced and gave Slade a sheepish look, but didn't say anything else to Felicity. Instead, he asked John, "Who would have known to look where he was held? Anyone who might have known where to look...well, they'd be more than regular drug dealers...and if that's the case, I'm not the only one that needs to watch my back..."

"Unless it was one of the guards holding him," Diggle said. "It's unlikely, but it's possible. They may still have taken blood samples that could be compromised."

"It might be worth looking into," Slade commented.

"Worth looking into...but be careful!" Oliver admonished.

"Don't worry," Diggle responded. "I'll look into it, but if I find anything, I'll make sure everyone else knows about it."

"Good... is there anything else everyone needs to know...?" Oliver asked.

"Are you really recovering, Ollie?" Thea asked, her voice filled with concern.

"Yeah...I'm doing a lot better, Speedy..." Oliver's smile could be heard in his voice.

"Okay, but if you need us, you'll let us know, right?" Thea asked.

"I will and if I can't, I'm sure Slade will..." Oliver promised.

"Of course," Slade replied.

"Do you need one of us to swing by with anything?" Diggle asked.

"I think we have everything we need..." Oliver glanced at Slade to be certain.

Slade nodded his agreement. "Only really to have any relevant information passed onto us."

"Which we will make sure to do..." Felicity piped up.

"And that's about it." Slade glanced at his little brother, though, in case there was anything his little brother might need or want.

Oliver smiled. "That's it, guys...thanks. And be safe..." he said, before hanging up.

Slade rested a hand gently on his little brother's shoulder. "That wasn't hard," he commented gently.

Oliver nodded. "It went easier than I thought it would..." he said softly.

Slade drew his little brother back into his arms. "They're warned now, so you don't have to worry."

Oliver easily went back to his brother, letting himself lean on him and snuggling again. "It's hard not to worry. I know Diggle will be careful, but Felicity and Thea weren't trained to be as observant as we are and both of them tend to think that they are sneakier than they really are..." He sighed.

Slade wrapped his arms tightly around his little brother. "You have to trust them to take care of each other. They've got Deadshot, too."

"They do..." Oliver agreed. "...Still...they're headstrong and I'm not too certain they'd listen to him if he objected to anything they came up with. Diggle might have a shot at convincing them, but even that's not a given. I have a difficult time convincing them if they decide they really want to do something..." He sounded frustrated, before he added sheepishly. "Thea is entirely too much like me and Felicity... well..." He shrugged slightly.

Slade nodded. "If it makes you feel better, you can send a message to Diggle and let him know it's okay to contact you if he needs your help convincing them of anything," he suggested.

"Maybe I should..." Oliver reluctantly pulled away, so that he could pick up his phone and send the quick message to Diggle. "It would be easier if..." He gave a crooked smile and shook his head. "...Well, if Walter were still here. Thea at least looked on him like a father and he had quite a bit of sway over her actions. Not sure Felicity could be swayed by anyone once she gets her mind on something, but she'd be less likely to go off half-cocked if everyone else was being careful. She's normally more responsible anyway..." He pushed send on the message and then put his phone down, moving back into his brother's embrace.

Slade wrapped his arms around his little brother once more. "Do you have any way of getting in touch with him?" he asked softly. "If you think he might come back... might be able to help..." He stroked Oliver's hair gently, second nature to try and comfort his little brother.

Oliver's phone vibrated with the acknowledgement from Diggle.

"I have a phone number...I just...after mom died and everything that happened...I didn't feel right calling on him like that. His life was put into danger and turmoil through no fault of his own and almost entirely the fault of my family..." Oliver sighed. "...But if Thea needs him, that doesn't matter really; and I know he cared about her. He's certainly better for her than Malcolm Merlyn would be..." Oliver grimaced.

Slade continued the gentle, comforting touch. "Kid, all you need to do is reach out to him. Let it be his decision. But I can tell you honestly, as someone in the position of being responsible for you, that coming back into your life was the best thing I could possibly do."

"So it should be his choice..." Oliver eyed his brother sideways.

"I think you should reach out to him," Slade replied. "I had no hesitation breaking out of prison and coming for you when I knew how much you needed another protector. But without being aware of that... I would have kept myself from you. No matter how much I ached to be close to you."

Oliver turned enough so he could look fully into his brother's eyes, and then nodded. "Yeah. Okay. I'll call him..." He looked down at his watch. "Unless he's in Hong Kong, he should be having lunch soon. If he's in Hong Kong, I'll be waking him up and scaring him half to death, because my calling him at any time, let alone that time of night, won't be expected to be good news..." He winced. "I think I should explain about us in person, though..."

"Unless you have his schedule to hand, I think you should call him now," Slade said. "He'll likely feel better to know what's going on, no matter the decision he makes." His hand gently stroked Oliver's cheek. While the guilt wasn't crippling enough to cause him to withdraw... he was all too aware of just who was responsible for Moira Queen's death, with or without the Mirakuru as a driving force.

Oliver pressed his face into his brother's hand and closed his eyes. "Yeah...okay..." he whispered, before taking a deep breath and dialling the phone.

"...Hello? Walter? ...It's Oliver Queen... nothing horrible has happened, but...I'd rather give details in person, but Thea needs, she's not wounded or sick. But she could...I can't be what she needs..." He sounded defeated. "...She needs a father. One that isn't a mass murdering psycho that only cares about himself and her if it's convenient..." The last was muttered with a hint of anger, as he thought about Merlyn's machinations using his own daughter and setting her up to be a killer.

Slade's arms tightened around his little brother, unable to help but respond to the emotions he could hear coming from Oliver. While he didn't speak, his hand kept slowly rubbing and stroking... providing as much comfort and affection as he could.

Oliver pressed against his brother gratefully and then suddenly went slack with relief. "...Thank means a lot..." The relief and gratitude in his voice was palpable. "...Do you still have a place..? ...You do. That's perfect. I'll see you tomorrow when you arrive? Yes...I'll wait for your call. Thank you..." He hung up the phone and snuggled into Slade. "He's coming. Says he can manage his company just fine from Starling as easily as where he currently is, so he'll stay as long as he's needed..."

Slade pressed a kiss to his little brother's head. "You see, kid? It was worth calling him and letting him know he was needed."

Oliver nodded. "I wouldn't have done it if it weren't for you..." he admitted sheepishly."...Knowing how much I need you and realizing I can't be that for Thea and she needs someone... I wouldn't have been able to admit that before."

"You can now. You can do what's right for her." Slade moved his hand to the nape of Oliver's neck, squeezing gently. "You're going to want to forewarn him about me."

Oliver nodded, slumping against his brother a little more. "Yessir..." He let his head drop onto Slade's shoulder. "...I think he'll understand. He forgave mom and she did some really questionable things that led to people dying...even if he couldn't go back with her, he forgave her, so I think he'll understand..."

Slade gently stroked the nape of his little brother's neck. "Even so, it's best if he hears it from you first. If you think he's likely to trust your judgement when it comes to me." He knew Thea and Felicity still struggled.

Oliver just nodded. "Yessir..." he said softly. He knew his brother was right and he wasn't going to argue about it, even if he wasn't certain how he would broach the subject with Walter when the time came. With Thea and Felicity, it had been slightly easier; Diggle had found out and was able to convince them everything was alright before he'd actually had to face them. Although, maybe that was part of the problem with them struggling now. The way they'd found out hadn't been directly from him. He sighed and slumped against his brother.

"You don't need to worry about it right now, kid," Slade said softly. "For the rest of today, you can just relax and let me take care of you. You don't need to worry about anything."

Oliver snuggled closer, nuzzling against his brother's shoulder. "Okay..." he whispered, more than willing to let Slade take over and not have to make any decisions.

"If you're not too hungry yet, I think maybe you should have a bath," Slade said, still gently stroking Oliver's hair and the nape of his neck, squeezing gently.

"I'm not hungry yet..." Oliver said quietly, stepping back and looking up to give Slade an almost shy smile. Biting his lip, he waited for Slade to dismiss him so he could obey his brother's decision.

Slade reached out to gently squeeze the nape of his little brother's neck. "Would you like to bathe alone?" He carefully watched Oliver's face to read his little brother's reactions.

Oliver blinked owlishly at the question. Under normal circumstances, he likely would have said yes; even with his brother taking control over him whenever they were alone and at home, he still handled personal grooming himself unless sick. These weren't normal circumstances, though. He was being punished for making very dangerous decisions that he shouldn't have made and while he was attempting to be adult and handle things that he needed to handle, he was very close to the line of not being adult at all and just letting Slade take control over everything. In fact, he felt safer and more secure letting Slade take care of anything he didn't absolutely need to take care of himself.

It was confusing, really; he felt like he should take care of himself...he was a big boy- an adult- and didn't have any physical ailment that should mean he couldn't bathe himself...but part of him still wanted Slade to take care of him. He bit his lip as he realized part of the reason he wanted that was because part of him was still afraid he'd crossed the line and that he'd somehow damaged his relationship with his brother. As long as Slade was taking care of him, he could push that fear out of the way and ignore it. He wondered if that was something he needed to confess, but didn't know how to say anything.

Slade drew him in closer, kissing his forehead. "Don't ever worry about voicing what you need," he reiterated in a soft voice. "No matter how insecure you feel. No matter how much you think you shouldn't... there's nothing wrong with you. You aren't the only one to need in that way."

"I...I just...I'm still afraid I messed everything up..." Oliver winced and looked at the floor. "...So 'm afraid to do things I'd normally do on my own...would rather you do them, or help me...cuz...cuz it helps it feel less like I messed everything up..." he admitted, his voice cracking slightly at the end.

Slade wrapped his arms tight around his little brother, whispering in Oliver's ear, "You haven't messed anything up, little brother. I have no problem stepping in and taking control with everything, but whether I do or not has no bearing on our relationship. You haven't changed things between us. I would never drop you or turn my back on you. Ever. No matter what happens or how 'naughty' you are. Because you'll never stop being mine." He tightened his embrace, unable to help his silent cursing of the Mirakuru that had wounded so much of his little brother. He couldn't help but feel that a lot of Oliver's fear was tied into that time and he gently squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck as he reiterated his promise. "You are never going to lose me again."

Oliver just wrapped his arms around Slade in return and held on tightly. "...Love you..." he whispered."...And...and need you to take care of me..." His whisper dropped fractionally lower, his embarrassment at his need obvious even if he was trying to not be embarrassed. Slade had said his needs weren't wrong. Still. He should be able to take care of himself.

Slade merely pressed a kiss to the side of his head. "I love you." He then took Oliver's hand so he could lead his little brother into the bathroom.

"You'd have to, to put up with all the crazy I give you..." Oliver muttered, before giving a quirky grin. He obediently went wherever Slade led and waited patiently for orders.

"It's not 'putting up' with it, kid," Slade said, his voice serious, as he began running the bath. "For however much you feel you owe me... I owe you just as much. That you've been able to forgive me for the monstrous things I did to you. When I came back into your life, I told you it didn't matter if no one else trusted me, because you were the only one who mattered. And that's still true. Because you are everything." His voice was warm with affection and love as he added, "And I have a friend in Detective Lance... thanks to you."

Oliver's eyes widened. "Uh oh... I hope he hasn't been telling you what a brat I was as a kid..." he said, semi-jokingly. If anyone knew Oliver as well as Slade, it would have to be Lance; who'd watched Oliver grow up and knew the tricks that he could get up to if not watched closely.

"Just as a kid?" Slade's voice was gently teasing as he reached out and squeezed the nape of his little brother's neck. "I only met you as an adult, or near enough, kid. I like learning about you before I knew you. Even if the things I learn about are things that would earn you a trip over my knee if you did them now." He helped his little brother into the bath.

Oliver sunk into the water with a tiny sigh then gave Slade a ruefully honest look. "Pretty much everything I did from age twelve to when I landed on the island with you would get me over your knee if I did it now..." he admitted. "I...didn't have a lot of boundaries..."

Slade picked up the washcloth and began cleaning his little brother. "You needed someone to give you those boundaries, little brother. It means so much to me that you've allowed me to be that for you."

Oliver let Slade shift him wherever needed as his brother cleaned him. "I did need someone to give me boundaries. You were the first one who actually did..." he said, a bit sadly. "Mom and dad didn't seem to know what to do with me. Lance probably would have, but he had his hands full with Sara and was also too busy trying to make sure I didn't corrupt his little girl..." He snorted. " saw immediately I was out of control and stopped me...and I wanted so badly to be stopped, I couldn't not allow you to be that for me."

Slade continued to gently wash his little brother, moving Oliver as he needed to. "I saw someone who needed me when I needed someone. From the very first moment I saw I could save you and train you... I cared about you. I would do anything to keep you safe." Once more, his eyes were drawn to the brand and he gently touched his little brother's shoulder. "I wish I could have done more."

"You saved me from myself and kept me alive when I couldn't help myself...You did more than you think..." Oliver said softly, reaching up and covering Slade's hand with his own, covering the brand. "I know you see that brand and think of how you hurt me..." he said hesitantly, biting his lip."...I won't lie and say it didn't hurt...but when I see it, reminds me of how I need to listen to you...because when I don't, bad things happen and you could end up getting hurt just as easily as me, trying to save me. You would never have been wounded badly enough to need a miracle need Mirakuru...if I hadn't disregarded your orders and gone off on my own..." He blinked his eyes, surprised to find them full of tears.

Slade closed his eye, moving so he could wrap his arm around his little brother's shoulders, not caring it got his shirt sleeve wet in the process. "You thought you were doing the right thing, kid." His voice was a soft whisper in Oliver's ear. "You were the driving force... even when I was wounded and fighting for my life, it was you who remained my focus. When you were taken... not getting you back wasn't an option. I needed you then. I need you now, because you've given me everything and saved me in more than one way."

" were hurt because of me...When I see it...I'm reminded of that..." Oliver bit his lip. "...I've decided I'd rather think of it as a good thing instead of bad... it reminds me even when my bottom isn't stinging from my being naughty... I'm yours...I have to be careful..."

"Every time I see it, I reiterate my promise to protect you and never allow you to be hurt again." Slade's voice was soft, but still intense. "I pushed even more guilt on you at that time; guilt I would give everything to stop you suffering from now. I can't forget the pain I put you through at that time, but I can promise you'll never experience it again. Either physically or emotionally. It's why I could never leave you, little brother. Because I won't ever abandon you to pain or guilt again. The Mirakuru twisted my words so the promises I voiced were vile ones that would have done nothing but hurt you. The promises I make now are ones I won't ever break."

"I believe you..." Oliver smiled crookedly before shifting carefully, not wanting to splash his brother with the cooling water.

Slade finished by carefully washing his little brother's hair and then helped Oliver out of the bath, wrapping a towel around him to dry him off. "I know you carry around a lot of guilt, little brother. I want you to keep in mind to tell me when it gets overwhelming, so I can help you."

"I always feel guilty, Koro..." Oliver tried for light-hearted teasing, but it sounded more serious than he'd intended. "The only thing that might even come close to helping is if you spanked me every night for the rest of my life, but I don't think either of us really wants that to happen..." He snorted.

Slade gently stroked his cheek. "I don't think you need to be spanked that often, kid. Maybe occasionally, when the guilt grows to completely overwhelming levels. But I think talking to me about your guilt will help. I know you think I'll be ashamed of you, but I kept tabs on you when I knew you survived. I know a lot of what you did. And I wasn't a saint, either. I killed people before the Mirakuru and having good reasons doesn't necessarily change the fact I found it hard to live with myself at times. I know what it's like."

Oliver swallowed and glanced into his brother's face before nodding. "Yessir...I...I'll try. If anyone understands, I know you will..." he replied quietly.

Slade kissed his forehead. "Nothing will change how I feel about you. I promise."

"And my feelings won't change either..." Oliver promised.

Taking his little brother's hand, Slade let him back into the living room and sat down, settling Oliver back onto his lap. "I know, kid," he said softly. "You're the one who needs the most reassurance." He cupped Oliver's cheek, to keep his brother looking at his face.

Oliver bit his lip, his eyes turning downward as he found it difficult to look his brother in the eye. "I'm sorry I'm such a coward," he whispered. "I shouldn't be so afraid that you'll disappear again...I know you'd never leave if you had a choice..."

"You aren't a coward." Slade's thumb gently stroked his cheek. "I was gone emotionally for a long time. Physically, too. It's understandable to be worried something might happen again, no matter what you try and tell yourself."

Oliver finally looked up. "I don't like being scared of losing you," he admitted. "I shouldn't be afraid of that..."

"You're afraid of it because it did happen," Slade said gently. "I managed to fight my way back to you, but it was a long process; and during that time, you had to deal with the thought of having killed me. Then of me trying to hurt and kill you. Even when I was locked away, you had no way of knowing I was coming back to myself and to you. As far as you were concerned, I was still lost to you."

Oliver just nodded and sniffled at the words. He knew Slade was right. He just felt so out of control of his emotions and it was hard. He'd had to be stronger than he'd thought possible for so long that he didn't know how to truly let go anymore. Having Slade home helped...but so much of his worry was connected to Slade, it also made things more difficult. "Help me..." he finally pleaded in a whisper, his fear clear.

Slade kissed his little brother's forehead, thumb gently stroking the nape of Oliver's neck. He didn't plan to spank his little brother, but he knew holding Oliver over his knee, in full control, helped his little brother. He began to gently move his little brother into position, touching and stroking to reassure him.

Oliver shivered as he was moved into place, taking a quivering breath. Just the position of being over Slade's knee sent his resistance plummeting, putting him in a frame of mind to just obey his brother and let Slade be in charge. He felt entirely too young and childish and vulnerable to be in control himself when he was over his brother's knee and the knowledge that his brother was in complete control of whatever happened was a relief. Moaning softly, he folded his arms in front of himself on the sofa and lay his head down before going completely limp. It was embarrassing that the only way he could truly relax and give up the rigid control he kept over himself and everything to do with himself was if Slade put him over his knee; his entire body turned pink from the shame that he wasn't able to let go when he needed to, when he should. So many of the mistakes he made wouldn't be made if he was able to let go and allow the others to help him, let the others be in charge occasionally so he didn't have to be. He was grateful Slade understood and was willing and able to step in.

"Sorry I'm so messed up..." he whispered sadly.

"You aren't messed up, kid. You're damaged and deeply affected by what's been done to you... what you've been forced to do." Slade began to gently rub and stroke his little brother's neck, back, bottom and legs, adjusting Oliver's position to make the touching easier and also to demonstrate his control over his little brother.

Oliver whimpered again slightly as he was shifted, but didn't fight. The demonstration of who was in control just helped push him that much further into letting go. He knew he needed to not so rigidly hold onto control of everything; he couldn't control every aspect of his life or what happened and trying to was slowly tearing him up inside. Slade wasn't giving him a choice and that alone allowed him to relax. The gentle rubbing slowly worked to ease his worry. He let out a tiny whine when Slade's hands rubbed over his sore bottom, but he didn't move or shift away. He was sensitive and sore, but the affection still felt good and the possessiveness let him sink just that small bit further into submitting.

Slade knew his little brother was still sore, the pink marks making that clear along with the faint warmth that still lingered. He turned the rubbing gentler when he stroked Oliver's bottom, but still kept it up over his little brother's entire body. "I've got you, little brother," he murmured. "I'm not going to let you go. You don't need to hold on so tight or so strong. I'm right here. You're safe when I've got hold of you. You're safe when I touch you. You're safe even when I put you over my knee."

Oliver relaxed even further at the words, surprised when tears pooled in his eyes but doing nothing to stop them from falling down his face. "...Feel safe..." he admitted quietly, his voice catching."...Only feel safe when you have me..." He sniffled again, biting his lip, but didn't try and hide his face.

"Even when I don't physically have hold of you, I still have you," Slade promised, continuing the gentle touching and stroking. "Even when we're around other people, you're still mine. You were mine on the island. You're mine now. No matter what happens."

"'m need to be good for you..." Oliver mumbled softly, not sure how to say what he was feeling. Slade's possessiveness felt good. Knowing he belonged to his brother felt good. Knowing that, even if that belonging didn't mean he was a slave, he was still meant to obey his brother, follow him... felt good. Knowing Slade was in control of everything, was in charge... "...Feels good..." he finally whispered.

"It feels good to me, too," Slade replied. "To be able to hold you and keep you close. To protect you. You make me feel better about myself."

"...I'm a mess..." Oliver slurred quickly. "...Need you protecting me. Need to belong you..." Oliver sniffled again and shook his head, still not sure if he was explaining himself right. His emotions were all over the place and he was more than a little confused, but by this point, he didn't care. He just needed to express somehow and hope Slade understood.

"You do little brother. I know you're confused and you feel like there's something wrong with you, but I promise you there isn't. I've got you. I'm going to keep hold of you. And you do belong to me." Slade continued to gently rub and stroke his little brother's body.

Oliver let out a tiny, relieved sigh. If he belonged to Slade, then that meant... "...You make all decisions 'bout me? In charge of me?"

"Yeah, kid. I make all the decisions about you. I'm completely in charge of you," Slade promised. "You never have to worry."

Oliver slumped, the promise allowing him to give up any resistance he was feeling and submit completely, at least for that moment in time. He knew his insecurities would hang him up again at some point, but for this particular moment, he felt peace. "Yours..." he said drowsily, the gentle petting putting him in a very pliant and obedient mood.

"Mine," Slade agreed, not stopping the gentle stroking and rubbing. "Always. I could never let you go again."

Oliver lost track of time, his entire focus on Slade and what his brother was he had complete control of everything. The more he focused on his brother, the more pliant and submissive he became.

Slade didn't speak, just kept up the gentle touching, moving his brother when he needed to and putting a bit more pressure behind the rubbing.

Oliver shivered slightly. The rubbing had finally caused him to reach a level of sensitivity that he felt like he was floating. He whimpered faintly, but didn't move.

"Good boy." Slade's voice was a mere breath, warm with love and care and affection. "My good boy." He rubbed gently between Oliver's shoulder blades, squeezing the nape of his little brother's neck.

Oliver whimpered again, shivering. He wasn't able to say anything, but the faint blush to his skin let Slade know he had heard and the tiny smile on his face let him know that the words made him happy.

It didn't bother Slade that Oliver didn't say anything. He could read his baby brother's reactions and could tell Oliver wasn't uncomfortable or unhappy. He continued gently stroking and rubbing. "I love you. So much more than I could ever put into words. That is never going to change," he promised.

Oliver blinked and finally was able to force his body to respond enough that he could reach back to hold his brother's hand. "...'ove you..." he said back, sounding almost drugged because of the state he was in.

Slade was quick to take his little brother's hand, gripping tight, though he didn't use too much strength. It was automatic to be gentle with Oliver when they weren't training or in fear of their lives. "I've got you. I'll always catch you," he promised.

Oliver squeezed back to acknowledge the words, still feeling like his body and head weren't attached and having difficulty speaking. He'd never felt like this before when he wasn't drugged; it was a bit unnerving.

Slade's thumb gently stroked over the back of his brother's hand, while his other hand continued to rub and stroke over Oliver's entire body. "No matter what happens," he whispered. "I won't let myself get taken from you."

Oliver squeezed his hand again. Part of him wanted to pull himself out of the dreamy fugue his brother's attention had put him in; he'd never allowed himself to relax so fully before, always keeping some small part of himself tense and aware in case something went wrong. He trusted Slade, though, and his brother had claimed him. Had promised to protect and care for him in whatever way needed, including from himself, and he wanted that. The only way to fully get what his brother had promised was to let go completely. So he didn't fight whatever came over him. He didn't try and pull himself back 'awake' and aware. He hadn't realized how much he'd craved the affection, physical and mental, until he had it and he allowed it to wash over him and submerge him completely. It wasn't that he was incapable of immediately jumping aware if something happened and Slade needed him; he was aware enough to be able to do that. It was that the need to do that wasn't there and Slade had him and everything was safe and warm and the ache he'd buried deep when he'd thought he'd lost his brother was finally being eased. The sound he made was almost a purr.

Slade didn't let go of his little brother. His one hand held to Oliver's, while his other kept in constant contact with his brother, rubbing and stroking and not moving away even for a second. He spoke softly and soothingly, but didn't stick to just one language. He reiterated his love and that Oliver belonged to him in whatever words came to mind, whether they were in Chinese, Russian, English...

Oliver responded to any comments or questions quietly but quickly, in whatever language Slade used. He was giving away more secrets on himself that he'd kept close; even after Slade had returned to him and they'd reconnected, he hadn't told his brother exactly what he'd learned in the intervening years (even if Slade likely knew, since he'd apparently been watching him from afar). The fact that Oliver was fluent in Chinese, Russian and a few other languages likely wasn't a surprise to Slade, but Oliver had never admitted it. He was all but admitting it now.

Slade didn't push, but each word and each touch was a gentle encouragement to get his little brother talking. Not because Slade wanted him to remember and be hurt... but because he knew the memories were already there, but Oliver kept them deep inside, where they would cause the most damage. In this headspace, he was drawing them out in the hopes of drawing the pain out of his little brother, using the knowledge he already had to encourage Oliver to voice what he didn't already know.

Oliver's level of trust by this point was so high that he didn't even stop to reconsider what he was admitting to his brother. He belonged to Slade and because of that, Slade had every right to know everything, no matter how small- at least that was how he felt in that moment. And so he talked, telling of the lies he'd told to get ahead; of the men he'd killed and the reasons why; of the mistakes he'd made in trusting the wrong people; of the promises he'd made and broken, even if he hadn't wanted to break them; of the frightening things he'd discovered and learned and tried to ignore unless they came knocking on his door (such as Damien Darhk and that blasted statue). He told of it all, good and bad. When it was good, his happiness at the memory was obvious; when it was bad, his shame and guilt that he still carried was also obvious. He hid nothing.

Slade didn't judge or condemn. His touching and caressing remained gentle; his voice encouraging and filled with affection whenever he spoke. He responded to the pain his little brother experienced, squeezing the nape of Oliver's neck to affirm his control and that his little brother belonged to him. That he loved him. He wasn't ashamed or angry... only aching with how much he could tell Oliver was still hurting and desperate to take that pain away.

It was that total acceptance that loosened what remained of Oliver's tongue. As he realized that his brother didn't feel less of him because of his confessions, he continued to make them, including more detail and how he felt so horrible because of his actions. It was cathartic, confessing and knowing that it wouldn't change anything- Slade would still want him; would still protect him and keep him close. He didn't even realize he was crying, also a catharsis, just continued to talk at his brother's gentle urging; telling everything that had occurred since his brother had last had him in hand and how it made him feel. If he also included a few things he'd done before Slade ever met him, he wasn't aware of it- he was baring his soul to the one person who he knew wouldn't turn his trust against him or who wouldn't have their own worldview destroyed by his words.

Slade didn't let go or pull away from his little brother. He voiced acceptance and love... affection and understanding... throughout the whole time Oliver was confessing. The only thing that troubled him was hearing how much pain his little brother had been carrying with him. It hurt to know how much pain his little brother had experienced, even before being stranded on the island. He held on and stroked, reiterating over and over again. "I have you. You're mine. I'm never going to let you go."

Eventually, Oliver's words slowed and his voice quieted. He'd confessed everything he could remember. Not that he wouldn't confess other things in the future if he remembered them, but he'd told his brother so much about himself and his actions that he felt empty inside. He'd let it all go...and now his voice was hoarse and he was tired. Slumping slightly, he went silent for a moment and just focused on his brother caressing him. Eventually, he knew he'd have to actually talk to Slade about everything he'd confessed...but right now, it was enough that he'd told his brother. Slade knew how broken he was now...and yet his brother was still with him and promising never to let go. "...Love you..." he whispered, not able to think of anything else to say that could tell Slade how he felt any better.

Slade leaned down, wrapping his arms around Oliver in a tight hug while still keeping him over his lap. "I love you. No matter what happens, it won't fail to be true. Thank you, little brother, for trusting me enough to tell me," he whispered, his voice hoarse with the love and affection he felt.

"Thank you...for not hating me..." Oliver said, in a tiny voice.

"I could never hate you," Slade whispered in his little brother's ear. "You're my whole world. I would never feel anything but love and affection for you. Or want to do anything other than take care of you." There was the faintest trace of sadness in his voice, though, as he remembered how much he'd hurt his little brother when he'd told Oliver he hated him; when he acted as if that was the only emotion he felt towards someone he'd give everything to protect and keep safe.

Oliver remembered a time when his brother had felt the opposite and was grateful that was no longer true. He'd blamed himself for his brother's hate- felt he deserved it really- so it was still a little hard now to believe he didn't deserve hate. "I don't deserve you..." He sniffled.

Slade gently stroked his little brother's hair and squeezed the nape of his neck. "You do, kid. You deserve to be looked after and taken care of. Loved completely and unconditionally, no matter what. I won't ever stop being grateful that you took me back and gave me another chance."

Oliver didn't say anything to that...just letting out a tiny sigh as his neck was squeezed. Closing his eyes again, he settled, weariness overcoming him. He was close to sleep, the affection calming him down completely.

Slade continued the gentle affection, stroking his brother's back and settling his hand at the nape of Oliver's neck. He knew his brother was close to falling asleep and didn't try to stop him. He did whisper, "I love you."

Oliver smiled at the words...and seconds later was asleep, smile still firmly in place.

Slade reached out to pick up the blanket, carefully settling it over his little brother so he stayed warm.

Oliver didn't even twitch at the movement, his trust of Slade so complete and the sense of everything being alright and safe bone deep. He hadn't been this unburdened since he was a young child.

Slade didn't try to move his little brother. He was supremely grateful to be trusted so much; Oliver had revealed everything... because now that it was all out in the open, he could help his baby brother to begin healing. Holding Oliver... protecting him... was the best thing he could possibly do.

Felicity looked at her watch and then moved into line to buy herself a tall macchiato. She was a bit early to meet Thea and figured she could get a drink and then grab them both a table. She was looking forward to a girls' night out. And comparing notes on all the changes they had been going on lately. She was definitely looking forward to that.

Thea got to the cafe a bit earlier than she needed to, but spotted Felicity already waiting in line. She walked over to join the other woman.

Felicity smiled at the younger girl. "You as frustrated at Oliver as I am?" she asked, when Thea was close enough.

"Probably," Thea admitted. "I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm more surprised he told us the truth, if I'm completely honest."

"Yeah...somehow get the feeling he wasn't given a choice..." Felicity groused.

"You 'heard' Slade too?" Thea asked knowingly.

"Oh yeah..." Felicity snorted. "...The amount of influence that man has on your brother is staggering. Luckily, it has been for the far..."

Thea nodded. "I've seen the amount of chances Ollie has been taking have gone right down. It's not like I didn't see the effects the Mirakuru had and how it twisted Roy, so I can believe the man we're seeing now is a good one."

Felicity nodded. "...That's true. Mirakuru can change a person for the worse, so it is very probable that Slade was a good man before and is again now. Still. It's hard to see how influential he is when I know Oliver would never have let us influence him in that manner."

"He wouldn't have let anyone influence him before he was stranded on that island, either," Thea said. "But he's indicated he owes Slade his life. There seems to be a lot that's complicated in their relationship."

"I somehow get the feeling, complicated is an understatement..." Felicity huffed. "Doesn't it bother you that Slade has so much more influence on him than even his sister and gir..." She winced. "...Ex-girlfriend? I mean, I understand me...we broke up. But you're family..."

"I never had any influence... not over Ollie, not over our mother," Thea replied. "It doesn't bother me as much as maybe it could... mostly because he's not been taking the chances he has. Even with finding the Mirakuru, we both know he wouldn't have told any of us if it had been up to him."

"'re right. I guess I should be thankful to Slade..." Felicity sighed.

"It's hard to fully trust him, but I know Ollie does completely." Thea hesitated. "And I trust how much Slade cares about him. It's not like it isn't clear Ollie would defer to him completely if Slade decided he was best placed in charge."

"That's what I'm afraid of..." Felicity paid for both drinks and walked to an empty table. "If he did that, I can easily see Oliver rolling over and showing his tummy. And expecting us to as well."

Thea followed and sat down. "I don't get the feeling he would do that," she commented. "He's never tried to step in and override Ollie. Give advice? Sure. But he didn't even push about going undercover when Ollie indicated the idea upset him."

"You're a lot more trusting than I am...which is odd. I would have thought I'd be talking you into giving him a chance, not the other way around..." Felicity snorted softly, with a wry grin.

"Before I saw him, I didn't think Diggle could be right. That the difference is so obvious, you can see it barely without him saying anything." Thea shrugged. "And Ollie doesn't just listen to Slade. He listens to all of us, which he wouldn't have done before."

"Yeah. That makes me nervous most of all...want to check and see if it really is Ollie and not a doppelgänger..." Felicity joked.

Thea smiled. "I have noticed Diggle seems to trust Slade," she commented. "I think he saw something maybe we haven't."

"Well...if Diggle trusts him..." Felicity agreed with a sigh.

"Even if Ollie's judgement can't be trusted, at least Diggle's can be," Thea commented. "And Slade made sure he rested while he was sick."

Felicity laughed softly. "Slade would be excited to know you trust him."

Thea looked at her. "But now there's a whole other problem. What happens if there's a repeat of that guy who attacked him?"

"We have to hope his response is better if it happens again. The last time was just painful..." Felicity sighed.

Thea nodded. "I don't particularly want to know what would happen to Ollie if Slade got himself killed. Or taken away in any other way."

"I don't either..." Felicity's voice was subdued.

"He seems to think he'd cope, but I saw his 'coping'," Thea said. She sighed. "If nothing else... I can at least recognise parts of Ollie that he lost and just put on as an act when he came back."

"At least you knew him before. I didn't meet him until after he came back; when he's putting on an act, I can't always tell..." Felicity sounded sad.

"He cares about us. That isn't an act," Thea said with certainty.

"No. That's the one thing I believe." Felicity smiled again as she finished her drink. "Wanna go see a movie? Oliver likely isn't going to be getting out of his apartment any time soon and Diggle seems to be busy with baby Sara and Lilah and Floyd..."

Thea finished her own drink and nodded. "Sounds good to me."

Felicity grinned as she stood to throw away her trash. "There's a Rom-com out that I would never be able to convince any of the other guys to go to- you interested?"

Thea smiled. "Sounds perfect."

"Great. I think the next showing is in an hour, so that gives us time to get to the theatre, buy tickets and snacks and find a seat." Felicity grinned and walked toward the exit.

Thea walked to join her.

Oliver moaned softly as he woke up, groggy and a bit disoriented. He hadn't expected to fall asleep like he had and had ended up sleeping through the night without waking, so he was a bit confused as to where he was.

Slade had carried his little brother through to the bedroom, settling Oliver in close next to him. He woke as his little brother did, reaching out to gently stroke his cheek. "Morning, kid." His voice was warmed through with affection.

Oliver blinked, pressing his cheek into his brother's hand. "...Morning..." he said, in a sleep clogged voice, before clearing his throat and then blushing as he remembered the night before.

Slade's thumb gently stroked Oliver's cheek. "Is something bothering you?" he asked, noticing the blush and figuring they'd continue as they'd started last night - talking.

" really..." Oliver bit his lip, his eyes darting away from facing his brother. "I just...I told you everything..." he whispered, obviously ashamed at what he'd done in the past and now trying to reconcile that shame with the fact that his brother now knew the worst of him.

"I encouraged you to." Slade brought his brother in close for a tight hug. "You've seen me at my worst and haven't changed how you feel about me. Believe nothing could change how I feel about you."

"I know..." Oliver snuggled closer into the hug. "I know your feelings won't change...I just...I never wanted you to know how far I'd fallen. How much I'd done that...that you never would have approved of or allowed...that would have gotten me into big trouble...I'm...I'm ashamed of myself..." he admitted sadly.

Slade kissed his head. "Everyone makes mistakes, kid. You don't deserve to carry that kind of pain around with you. I'm glad you told me."

Oliver smiled crookedly, relaxing noticeably at the kiss. "...I'm glad I did too...even if I'm ashamed for you to that you do, I feel a lot more at ease..."

Slade gently stroked his hair. "I'm glad. I know you've carried around a lot of pain. If I can lessen that... even a little... it will be worth it."

"You're too good for me..." Oliver said softly.

"I love you," Slade said simply, tightening his embrace.

"I know..." Oliver responded. "...I love you too...You're still too good to me..." He grinned self-consciously.

Slade squeezed the nape of Oliver's neck, thumb gently stroking his cheek. "I couldn't treat you any differently, kid. You're my whole world."

"If it weren't for you, I'd be completely off the rails by now..." Oliver admitted. "I wouldn't have let anyone else have any say in anything and I've messed up so many times..."

"You're not the only one who's made mistakes, little brother." Slade continued the gentle touch. "But you have me now. You won't lose me," he promised.

Oliver just nodded, snuggling closer. Part of him wanted to ask if they were going to finish the last of his punishment right away or wait... but he was afraid to find out what the answer would be and couldn't honestly decide for himself what he hoped the answer would be.

"Are you hungry?" Slade asked softly, running his hand over Oliver's hair and down his back.

Oliver had to think about it...he hadn't really had much of an appetite since getting into trouble with his brother, especially not when he'd just got over being sick as well. "I could eat, if you want me to..." he finally said. He wasn't really hungry, but he knew a lot of that was just because he still felt guilty and the guilt was killing his desire to eat.

"I'd like you to try," Slade replied seriously.

"Yessir..." Oliver quickly agreed, shifting so he could get out of bed and obey his brother, as soon as Slade indicated he was ready for him to do so.

Slade kissed his forehead and then got out of bed, holding his hand out so he could take his little brother's and lead him into the kitchen.

Oliver quickly took his brother's hand and followed him. He stood out of the way, feeling a bit useless, but not sure he'd be allowed to help if he wasn't dressed appropriately...or dressed at all, really. He flushed, not feeling embarrassed about his lack of clothing, but feeling how much more vulnerable it made him and how much more out of control it made him feel.

Slade didn't take long plating up the food and then, once it was on the table, he sat and guided his little brother down onto his lap.

Oliver easily sat on his brother's lap and snuggled back. It was hard to admit how much he needed to be taken care of, especially when it made him feel so childish and out of control. But he couldn't deny that he needed Slade.

Slade wrapped his arm around Oliver, drawing him tight against his chest and letting his hand rest on his little brother's stomach, fingers gently yet possessively stroking his baby brother's hip. He began to feed Oliver.

Oliver ate everything that Slade gave to him, surprised that he was able to eat as much as he had. He hadn't thought he was hungry. He wasn't certain how Slade knew how much to feed him either, unless that's why he'd kept his hand on Oliver's stomach while eating? He wouldn't be surprised if his brother had some secret ninja way of finding out things just by touch.

Slade made sure he ate along with his little brother and then, once Oliver was finished, he kissed the back of his head. "Good boy," he murmured. "My good boy."

Oliver relaxed as a feeling of warmth spread through him at the praise. He knew a lot of people would think he was crazy, liking the possessive words and tone. But he did. He liked how it made him feel to know that Slade considered him his. He shifted in his brother's arms just enough to wrap his own arms around his older brother and hold on.

Slade responded by tightening his own arms around his little brother, pressing a kiss to the top of Oliver's head. "I love you. So much."

Oliver didn't need to respond verbally. He felt that the fact he had given himself completely over to his brother's care and control told Slade how much he trusted and loved his brother. Still... "I'm sorry I was so naughty..." he whispered. He knew today was the last day when he would be punished for his misdeed and he wanted- needed- Slade to know that he was repentant.

"I know, kid." Slade stroked his hair, squeezing the nape of his neck. "I also know you'll do better next time. You made a mistake, but it isn't the end of the world. It's not going to damage our relationship."

"I know..." Oliver couldn't stop himself from sniffling, which caused him to blush because he wasn't even over Slade's knee yet and he was already close to crying. "I just don't like disappointing you...knowing I've misbehaved badly enough to deserve being punished..."

Slade kept gently stroking and rubbing, keeping the skin to skin contact with his little brother. "Most of the time, I'm proud of you. You shouldn't have hidden the vials and you shouldn't have lied to me. But when you've been punished, that's it. It doesn't continue to hang over your head."

Oliver sniffled again and snuggled as close as possible. "...I know you don't bring it up again...I still feel guilty..." he admitted sadly.

"You don't need to," Slade whispered in his ear. "I've forgiven you already."

"I can't help it..." Oliver sighed. "I keep telling myself you forgive me...and then I think I don't deserve to be forgiven and continue to feel guilty. I dunno what's wrong with me..." He huffed.

"It's because you've taken on so much guilt," Slade said gently. "I know you struggle to let go of it." He placed his hand gently on his little brother's chest, over his heart. "You carry a lot guilt for a lot of things that aren't your fault."

"Some of them are my fault..." Oliver protested weakly.

"Not all of them. Not even most of them," Slade replied. "You can't take on responsibility for choices other people have made. And there were times it wouldn't have mattered what choice you made, since you were put in a position where any choice had a cost." He gently stroked his little brother's cheek.

"I can't?" Oliver winced at how hopeful he sounded, as if looking for permission to let go of his self-imposed responsibility for everything wrong that had ever happened in his life or sphere of influence.

"You can't," Slade reiterated. "You are not to blame. You're a good person, kid. A hero. You told me I was responsible for you becoming one, but it was always there inside you."

"You helped me see it in myself..." Oliver smiled crookedly, unwilling to let Slade underplay the important role he had in forming who Oliver had become.

Slade pulled him closer. "And I'm thankful for having that opportunity. You paid too much attention to what I said to you while under the influence of the Mirakuru. Listen to me now. You've done a lot that's good. More than what was bad."

"I want to be good..." Oliver said quietly. "...Don't want to do bad things..."

"You are good." Slade kissed his forehead. "You are a hero."

Oliver let his head drop onto his brother's shoulder. "And when I don't do good things and am naughty, you take care of it..." he mumbled, knowing that he still had one more 'reminder' coming to him. He didn't even notice that he wasn't referring to himself as being bad anymore; Slade had got through to him and he no longer felt himself bad...although he frequently felt 'naughty' and just that word alone made him feel childish and vulnerable, but as long as Slade was with him, he was able to handle it.

"Exactly, little brother." Slade stroked his hair and squeezed the nape of his neck. "And then you're my good boy again."

Oliver couldn't help but smile at that. Even if the words made him feel like a child, they also made him feel safe and secure. His brother had everything, including him, under control and he didn't need to be worried. "Thanks, Koro..." He snuggled just that tiny bit closer.

Slade smiled gently. While the sensation of guilt still managed to flare up and hurt him at the signs of how much his baby brother trusted him now and he remembered how much he'd hurt Oliver in the past, he couldn't deny that Oliver's trust healed as much as it hurt. "I love you. No matter what, it's not going to change. No matter what, I won't be ashamed of you," he promised.

Oliver nodded, relaxing at the words. His brother's opinion mattered a lot to him, so for Slade to say that he wasn't ashamed eased some of the worry and guilt Oliver felt about his past actions.

Slade tightened his embrace. "When you're up to it, we'll take care of the final part of your punishment," he said gently.

Oliver couldn't help but wince at the words, but he didn't pull away from his brother. Sighing softly, he said, "I want to get it out of the way..."

"Okay, kid." Slade helped his little brother off his lap and then took Oliver's hand to guide him into the living room.

Oliver trailed along behind his brother, not fighting in the least, but obviously a bit reluctant. As anxious as he was to get the last of his punishment behind him, he couldn't honestly say that he wanted to be punished. He knew he deserved it, though. As soon as they were in the living room and Slade had sat on the couch, Oliver moved to lie over his brother's knee.

Slade didn't waste any time in wrapping his arm around Oliver's waist, drawing his little brother tight against his stomach. Like the day before, he began gently patting his little brother's bottom.

Normally, the gentle patting wouldn't have hurt in the least and would have been a comfort. Now, while it was still comforting since it indicated his position in Slade's life and that Slade would be consistent with him and had him in hand, it was painful. The first spanking had been the worst that Oliver had ever received from his brother- for good reason, he knew- so while the gentle patting wouldn't normally cause any discomfort at all, against an overly sensitive and slightly bruised bottom, it felt like he was receiving a regular spanking. Choking back a whimper, Oliver reached down to brace himself against the floor in an attempt not to immediately throw his hand back to protect his backside.

Slade continued the patting for two circuits and then paused to gently rub his little brother's bottom. "You don't need me to tell you what you did that was wrong, kid. You know you shouldn't have taken the vials of Mirakuru and hidden them. You know you shouldn't have lied to me when I asked you about them."

And those words were all it took for Oliver to lose control. "I know..." he sobbed out, as he slumped over his brother's lap."...I'm sorry! I was so terribly naughty and wrong and I'm sorry!"

Slade continued to gently rub his little brother's bottom, his other hand gently squeezing Oliver's neck. "I know you're sorry, little brother. I know you'll remember next time and be honest. The Mirakuru surfacing did have the potential to send me into a deep depression. Do you know why it didn't?"

Oliver stopped sobbing long enough to choke out a trembling, "...No?"

"Because of you, little brother," Slade said. "You've given me the strength to begin healing. You need me. I would never take myself away from you, whether due to despair. Or even back to prison. You give me strength."

"I do!" Oliver began sobbing again. "...Need you so much...can't not have you with me..." he admitted brokenly, still slightly afraid his actions may cause his brother to give up on him and leave.

Slade stroked his lower back. "You forgave me. You help me see past my monstrous actions. I won't ever leave you. I love you. You are my whole world. I owe you everything..."

"So sorry..." Oliver continued to cry.

Slade leaned down to wrap his arms tightly around his little brother. "I forgive you. I love you," he reiterated. "Back on the island, you pushed into my heart. You've always been there, little brother. You've saved me. More than once. You've given me everything important."

"You forgive me?" Oliver asked with a shaky breath and tried to calm down.

"Always," Slade promised. "I will always forgive you. You never have to worry."

Oliver shivered at the promise, but managed to calm his sobbing to quiet sniffles. He didn't move from his position over Slade's knee. His brother was in charge and he'd only do what Slade said.

Slade gathered his little brother in his arms, hugging Oliver tightly to himself. "You're mine and I'm never going to let you go," he whispered.

"Good...don't wanna be let go..." Oliver mumbled against his brother's chest, snuggling close.

Slade kissed his head, tightening his embrace. "Never," he promised.

Oliver snuggled close a few moments more before asking, in a tiny, almost childish tone, "Do I need to stand in the corner now?"

"I think we'll leave the corner time now," Slade said gently. "I think you already understand what you did was wrong and what you need to do next time."

"Yessir..." Oliver whispered in relief. He hadn't wanted to face separating from his brother, feeling too needy and clingy and wanting to stay in his arms.

Slade stroked his little brother's hair. "I love you."

"Love you too..." Oliver whispered, continuing to snuggle. At the rate he was going, he wasn't going to be fit to leave the apartment for the rest of the week; he felt too emotionally drained and out of control.

Slade tightened his embrace, continuing the gentle, comforting touch. "I think we should discuss code words, little brother."

Oliver nodded before asking quizzically, sounding a little confused, "Did you find something we need to decipher?" If they'd talked about the subject previously, his state of mind wasn't allowing him to remember.

"Not that kind of code, kid." Slade stroked his cheek gently. "Do you remember we talked about how to let me know you need me to take control when we're in public?"

Oliver slanted his head as he thought, then quickly nodded his head. "Yessir...cuz sometimes it's really hard..." he admitted, almost shyly.

Slade continued to stroke his cheek and gently squeeze the nape of his little brother's neck. "Given what happened, I think it would help to figure out a code word for when you need me to step in... take control... get you home. Over my knee, if necessary." Though spoken with a small trace of humour, he was still serious.

Oliver blushed faintly, but didn't disagree. " we need just one word so you know I need you? Or do you think we need a few words so you know if I just need you to be in control, if you need to take me home, or if...if I need you to put me over your knee as quickly as possible?" There was a small hint of humor in his own voice, but it was obvious he expected the last suggestion to be an actual possibility. Sometimes the only thing that helped him to focus, feel safe and not go off the rails was Slade putting him over his knee.

"It depends on if you feel you can differentiate or not," Slade replied seriously. "When I know you need me, I expect I can figure out in what way if you can't voice the difference. But it entirely depends on what you feel will work best."

"I...sometimes I can't tell what I maybe just one word and you do what you think is best?" Oliver glanced up at his brother hesitantly.

Slade nodded. "That's fine, little brother. Whatever you need."

Oliver tried to think of a word or phrase that wouldn't be obvious but would be easy to remember. He was having difficulty coming up with something, though; at least coming up with something that might not be said in normal conversation. Finally, he bit his lip and swallowed, giving his brother a nervous look. The phrase he'd thought of would only be said in a normal conversation if he was close to needing Slade anyway, so chances of him saying it at the wrong time wouldn't happen. "I... if I say 'I miss Shado' ... " He left it unsaid that it meant he needed Slade. He never talked about the island with anyone or about those who had died there. If he mentioned the woman who'd become so close to him and Slade, it would only be because he wasn't feeling in control of himself.

Slade stroked his hair and kissed his forehead. "I'll know you need me to step in," he said softly.

Oliver let out a tiny, quivery sigh and relaxed in his brother's arms. "Yeah...that...that'll help a lot..." he admitted softly.

"I would do anything to help you," Slade promised. "No matter what."

"I know..." Oliver smiled before leaning up and kissing his brother on the cheek. "...You love me..." His tone was a bit more impish, but the pleased and content look in his eye and the fact he snuggled even closer to Slade showed that the feeling was mutual. "I'm lucky to have you..."

Slade smiled, stroking his brother's hair. "And that is entirely mutual," he said. "I'm as lucky to have you as you are to have me."

Oliver smiled again, relaxing in his brother's arms. For the moment, he didn't have to think or worry about anything else. It was a good feeling and a good place to be.

The End