The arrow through his chest was one of only a few things which had ever really surprised him in his life. Up until then he had had the upper hand in this fight with Oliver Queen, who had turned out to be The Hood, much to his surprise. And now Malcolm Merlyn was forced to realize that he had underestimated the kid. Badly.

Apparently Oliver was willing to sacrifice himself just to take him down. Malcolm had held him in a choke hold from behind, slowly pressing the air out of him. He had been so sure of himself, that he even took the time to give a final speech.

"Don't struggle. It's over. There was never any doubt in the outcome. Don't worry. Your mother and sister will be joining you in death."

It sounded flat even to his ears. For months now he had imagined how this last, final fight would go, and now it was here it was almost ā€“ anticlimactic. It had been too easy to overwhelm The Hood, and that he now knew it was Oliver did not make any difference.

In a few seconds everything would have been over, when he suddenly, and very unexpectedly, felt fire explode in his chest. Oliver had picked up a stray arrow which was lying around on the ground, and stabbed it right through his own, and subsequently Malcolm's, chest.

Malcolm had to let go of him and heavily fell down on his back, groaning, coughing, gasping for air. Only dimly he heard Oliver talk to him. He struggled to get up on his knees again but a blow from Oliver's fist to his chin sent him backwards once more. Still, he was not giving up easily.

He had to play his last card well.

"It's over", Oliver stated.

"If I've learned anything as a successful business man, it'sā€¦" He needed to stop for a second, to cough up blood which was filling his lungs. He wouldn't last much longer like this, but he wanted to see Oliver's face when he realized the truth.

"ā€¦ redundancy."

Getting these words out had taken almost more strength than he was able to give. He couldn't get enough air in anymore; he could hear his lungs wheezing. He felt himself weakening. He took the last measure that was left, something he had learned during his years in Nanda Parbat. It was hard, almost impossible, to concentrate with the fire burning in his chest and even harder to keep the groans to himself, but he managed to slow down his heartbeat enough to be barely noticeable and stopped breathing entirely so he was able to fool Oliver when he felt for a pulse.

Then the other man suddenly was gone, no doubt trying to save what could not be saved, and Malcolm allowed himself a quiet moan. Damn, that really hurt. It had been a while since he had lost that much blood. He would not be able to get out of this one without any help. He could feel his lung had been hit and his throat was filling with blood. He pressed the secret button that would call his last remaining ally. Then he just fell back and waited. There wasn't anything else he could do.

He woke up in a dirty hospital bed, in a room with several other moaning men. He found that he had been stripped and dressed in some frayed hospital gown. This definitely wasn't the private room he had woken up in last time. That had been only a few months ago and he really should stop making a habit out of it.

Apparently they had stitched him up while he had been unconscious, and he wore an oxygen mask to help him breathe. He hadn't realized how good it felt to have fresh oxygen in his lungs. He looked around the room and his eyes finally found Steve, who hurried over and explained in a hushed voice:

"We're in a small hospital near the Glades. With the police looking for you, I couldn't risk bringing you anywhere else. These people here were so busy with treating the injured, they haven't heard yet about what's exactly going on, so we should be safe for now. Also ā€“ no offense, sir, but you don't look like your usual self right now. I doubt anyone would recognize you like that. But still, we need to move out of here as soon as you are able to."

Malcolm nodded as a sign he had understood and then thought about his options. Apparently Oliver had intended to kill him with a stab right through his heart. Luckily, Malcolm was one of those few people whose organs were mirrored in his body, so his heart was on the right side, not at the left. It was a well-kept secret and he intended to keep it that way. Too bad he would need to kill the nice Indian doctor, who hurried over at this moment and who apparently did not speak any English at all. He actually had done a really good job on him. The other people in the hospital beds clearly were victims of the riots in the Glades. Scum, that's all those people were, and they had just proven it again. Malcolm did not feel any sorrow towards them.

So, the good doctor as well as the other patients needed to go, and Malcolm also would need to find someone who looked like him, so they would be able to present a corpse to the police. Because for the world Malcolm Merlyn - rich businessman, charming party guest and winner of the annual Humanitarian Award - was now dead.

The Dark Archer, however, would live on, his hate stronger than ever.

The End