A/N: Thank you so much for all the awesome reviews! Hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think.
Felicity was one hour into a detailed research session when a chime from the security monitors caught her attention. One of the motion activated cameras attached to Verdant's exterior had gone off. When she pulled the feed up on the screen she saw two people at the front door of the club, at ten in the morning, on a Saturday.
Her brows drew together in confusion as she zoomed in to get a better look. All deliveries were made around back, there was nothing scheduled for the day that she was aware of, and these two didn't look like they were there to apply for a job.
The woman had long dark hair, was dressed professionally, and drummed impatient fingers on her crossed arm as she spoke to the man next to her. He was tall, wearing a suit and tie, and because Felicity had installed top of the line cameras it was obvious he was not bad to look at.
They were looking around the door frame, standing back to peer around the windows when the woman caught sight of the camera. She elbowed the man in the side and gave a little wave to the lens, flashing her partner a quick smile. Whatever she said made him give her a long suffering look and nod his head.
When the woman waved again Felicity realized with a jolt she'd been sitting there just watching them. She was on her feet and halfway up the stairs before she stopped and wondered if she should mention it to Oliver and Digg who were in the back training.
With a shake of her head she continued on. The people at the door were probably just lost, she'd send them on their way and be back at her desk before the boys even knew she'd been missing.
When she reached the club she could hear pounding. Apparently whoever they were they hadn't been content to wait quietly.
Her heels echoed across the empty dance floor. Muted sunlight lit up the space, making it look altogether different than it did at night. A thread of apprehension went through her as she approached the door and the pounding continued. She hoped she wouldn't regret her decision as she pulled the floor locks and threw the deadbolt.
The man turned expectantly as she opened the door. The woman had her phone up to her ear and had stepped a few feet away.
"I told you Chief, this place looks like a war zone! Reconstruction is apparently a foreign concept to these people because the place looks like it was just nuked and left for dead." the woman said into her phone as she looked up and saw Felicity. She gave her a tight smile and held up one finger.
Felicity turned to the man instead. "Can I help you?"
"Hi, sorry to stop by unannounced." he said with a charming smile and blue eyes that twinkled behind dark rimmed glasses. "I'm Clark Kent, from the Daily Planet-" the woman dropped her phone back in her bag and rushed over, moving in front of him and sticking her hand out. "And I'm Lois Lane." Felicity went to shake it automatically and then stopped, curling her fingers back into her palm. After her experience a two weeks ago she wasn't about to shake hands with a stranger.
"Sorry, I'm a germophobe" Felicity said by way of explanation.
The woman named Lois merely brushed her off with a wave of her hand. "Hi, so we're here on assignment, looking at the reconstruction of the Glades. We have reason to believe..." she didn't get a chance to finish. A sharp noise from down the street reverberated under the metal awning of the club's entrance. It could have been a car backfire, or a noise from nearby construction, or a gun shot.
Clark obviously thought it had been the latter. In a move so fast Felicity swore she saw nothing Clark was suddenly behind Lois, crowding her in towards the doorway with his hands at her waist.
Lois looked at him with wide eyes and the beginning of a grimace. Felicity looked at him curiously. When his eyes met hers he gave her a sheepish grin and pushed his glasses up his nose before stepping back. "Sorry, I guess I stumbled." he said unconvincingly
"No problem, Smallville, just keep your feet underneath yourself and we'll be just fine." Lois said, her voice slightly strained.
His eyes cut over Lois and just for a second Felicity saw something cross his expression that looked familiar. She tilted her head and considered him for a moment before it hit her with stunning clarity.
Mouth dry, and heart pounding she stepped back into the club and pulled the door open wide. "You, uh...you two should come inside."
She saw them exchange a worried glance, and as they passed her she noted his height and the breadth of shoulders that wasn't exactly hidden beneath his suit jacket.
When she relocked the doors she turned an appraising eye on them; him especially. "Thank you for knocking this time. It took me hours to reset my system after your last visit."
Lois gave a small gasp. Clark merely looked to the floor and shook his head. When he raised his eyes she knew without a doubt she was looking at Superman. "Sorry Ms. Smoak, perhaps we can arrange a special entrance for the future."
"I'm afraid that's not my call to make. I'm just the sidekick."
"I think you're more than that." he countered and she felt her cheeks flush,
"How'd you figure it out?" Lois asked after a moment of silence, there was something in her tone that Felicity couldn't quite place.
"Uh when Sup... um...well, when he was here before Oliv...Green... Crap!" she cut herself off and rubbed a hand over her forehead before continuing. "Something was said and, it was just for a second, but a look crossed his face. I saw that same look just now when he thought you were in danger."
Felicity gave a little shrug and looked at them. Some of the tension fell from Lois's shoulders. "Clark told me you work with Green Arrow, it's Felicity, right?" she said confidently, now that the pretenses were over Lois wasn't going to pull any punches.
"That's right." Felicity confirmed, now wishing she'd brought Oliver up here with her. She had no idea how he wanted to handle this.
"Then welcome to the 'Almost killed by the Luthor's club'. We have meetings the third Wednesday of every month, the coffee sucks, but the food's great." Lois said with a comically large smile, obviously trying to bring some levity to the situation.
Felicity let out a short laugh and tried to cover it up. "I take it that means you've been on the receiving end then?"
"More than once." Lois confirmed, Clark moved half a step closer and she gave him a private smile meant only for him. There was no doubt they were together. Felicity saw the sparkle of an engagement ring on Lois's hand, which sent her mind whirling. Superman had a fiance. He had a life. He had a job, and wore a tie, and glasses. The glasses probably weren't necessary though. But he seemed to have built two separate lives that worked for him. She wondered how he'd managed to do that so well.
"So, we are here for a story, that's true. But we'd also like to talk to Mr. Queen." Clark said
Felicity swallowed hard and shut her eyes tight. She should have definitely brought Oliver up here with her.
"Mr. Kent," she began, wondering if that's how she should address him, but she knew Oliver didn't like being called 'Green Arrow' unless he was wearing the suit and even then it was only out of necessity.
"Clark, please." he insisted and she nodded
"Clark, you have to understand, Oliver is an extremely private person. You showing up the way you did last time with no notice, and now again, even though you knocked... which is very much appreciated, like I said... but, anyways, he's not exactly used to working with others. I mean he's got me, and Digg, but I mean others like...you, and him. And I know there are more but we're keeping it local for now. Well, except for the whole going to Metropolis to put an arrow in that guy thing. But that was strictly one off, I promise. If he hadn't of tried to kill me Oliver would have never done that." both Lois and Clark's eyes had gradually widened as she talked until they were outright gaping at her. She shut her mouth tight and clasped her hands in front of her waiting for one of them to speak.
"Wow. You sure you don't have any superpowers because that was impressive." Lois said first and then smacked a hand across Clark's chest, "And you said I talk a lot, Smallville."
Clark gave Lois a look and turned back to Felicity. "I understand your concerns, and his. Trust me, I'm no stranger to keeping half my life private. But we have information regarding Luthor Corp and the reason Green Arrow came to Metropolis."
A shiver went through her at the mention, and she appreciated that he didn't say the reason directly. She'd found she could talk about it herself, but if Oliver or Digg brought it up she was on the fast track to a panic attack.
She took a deep breath and set her shoulders before making a decision. "Alright, you'd better follow me then."
She hesitated one last time before she punched in her code and pushed open the door.
"Welcome to our lair." she said, "It's not much, but it's home."
As the reached the bottom she stepped to the side and watched as Lois looked around. There was an appreciative gleam in her eye. "Reminds me of Watchtower." she said to Clark who gave her a small nod.
"They're in the back, training." she said, pointing to where you could already hear the sounds of the wooden judo sticks striking each other. Great. Oliver was amped up on endorphins, and a good, long workout. She had a feeling she was about to seriously regret her decision to bring them down.
Two steps towards the training room she stopped and turned around to see them on her heels. "Um, why don't you just stay here for right now and let me break the news first. That might be the safest option for everyone."
Clark nodded, and Lois continued to look around, cutting her eyes over where Oliver's suit stood in the case and then to the table where the arrows in production were kept. As she began to wander over Felicity called out. "Don't touch anything. Please." Lois held her hands up and gave Felicity an innocent expression that she somehow didn't trust.
Felicity slid the door open to the training room and stepped inside, making to shut the door behind her, something she didn't typically do.
Oliver finished up the next set of moves and then gave her his attention, "Hey, did you find something?" he said, panting slightly. You'd think she'd get over the sight of him shirtless and sweaty, but she never did.
"Um, well, you could say that." she said, trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice.
Oliver and Digg had made their way over to grab towels and bottles of water. Digg easily caught the stick Oliver tossed his way and put them away.
As Oliver approached her she wondered how she was going to tell him. When he was in front of her he was looking at her strangely. "What's wrong?" he asked, fingers reaching out to stroke along her forearm.
She held his eyes as she talked, "Do you trust me?"
"Of course," he answered immediately "But you're starting to worry me."
"I need you to trust me, and trust my judgement, and promise not to yell too loud when I tell you. Ok?" she bit her lip and looked up at him over the edge of her glasses.
Digg came up behind Oliver and she hoped he didn't react poorly as well.
"Felicity..." Oliver said low, almost a growl. She took a deep breath and decided to just dive in.
"Superman is back. But he's not here as Superman, he's here as his Oliver type person, except his name isn't Oliver, obviously, that would be weird. His name is Clark. Clark Kent and he's here with his partner, and fiance, or maybe they're married I didn't ask. Her name's Lois Lane, the reporter from the Daily Planet. I'm sure you've heard of her. I figured out Clark was Superman, but I don't think he meant for me to. He seemed pretty surprised I did, and they said they have information about Luthor Corp, and...how mad are you?"
Oliver's face had steadily grown harder as she'd relayed her information. The silence in the room was deafening.
Slowly, and methodically Oliver handed the towel and water to Digg who had jumped to attention as soon as she'd started talking. Then Oliver leveled her with a look that froze her in place. "There are two people in my lair. Two people who know my identity. Two people who are reporters."
She gave him a nervous smile and nodded, "But you know his identity so it's kind of a fair trade." she said quickly.
The rumble that emerged from Oliver's chest made her think he didn't agree. Then he was brushing past her and heading out of the room.
"Oliver!" she called and rushed to catch up, just managing to grab hold of his bicep as he opened the door and stepped out. Her feet were moving as fast as they could in her heels and skirt.
He came to a halt six feet from their visitors. Lois hastily dropped an arrow she'd been fiddling with and gave an apologetic shrug. Clark stood at ease, attempting to not look imposing which was almost impossible.
The tension rolling off of Oliver was almost palpable. Neither of them said a word. It was Lois's long whistle of appreciation as she caught sight of both Oliver and Digg that broke the silence.
Clark hesitated a beat and then slid his eyes to her in amazement. "What?" she said and waggled her ring finger at him, "This doesn't say I can't look, honey."
He seemed to suppress a sigh and then faced Oliver, "Mr. Queen, I apologize for coming without calling, but we have information."
"Mr. Kent, I'm more concerned about why you thought you could just walk in here with your friend without telling us who you were." Oliver said bitingly
"Oliver, I'm sure they weren't trying to trick us." Felicity said quickly, although she had to agree it was a bit suspicious.
"How'd they get in?" Oliver asked, clearly expecting her to say they'd just appeared.
"They knocked on the door." she answered immediately
"Oh, so you do have manners then. Your little trick last time took her hours to fix." Oliver spat
Clark ran a hand through his dark hair and looked towards Felicity, "I've already apologized to Felicity for that."
"First names? How cozy." Oliver said sardonically, stepping forward another step so her hand fell off his arm. "If you recall she wasn't exactly well when that happened. The last thing she needed to worry about was redoing something that hadn't been broken until you showed up. And she wasn't well because some psychopath from YOUR city decided to come here and kill her!" he roared and took another step forward.
Felicity jumped at his words and was grateful when Digg came to flank her, his unspoken support was comforting.
"And if I recall you took care of that problem by coming to MY city and killing a man in cold blood." Clark bit back, for the first time showing something other than a stoic face.
"You're damn straight, and I'd do it again." Oliver said immediately
"Then we may have a problem, Mr. Queen. Because I don't kill people."
"Well we can't all be boy scouts, can we." Oliver retorted with a sneer, causing Lois to step forward.
"Hey, Growly Green Giant, you don't get to judge him. The rules he lives by are necessary. You really want to consider what someone with his powers would do if they didn't have any. Trust me, you don't want to find out!" Lois was almost toe to toe with Oliver
"And you want me to believe that if you were killed, he'd stand by and do the right thing? The just thing? I have a hard time believing that."
"He would. He has." her eyes flashed as she faced off against him.
"And you, if it was him that was hurt instead?" Oliver pushed,
"No, I know I'd kill them. In a heartbeat. Lucky for the world, I'm not him." she said without hesitation.
Felicity put a hand on Oliver's chest and pushed him backwards, slipping into the spot she'd made him vacate.
"Look, this isn't getting us anywhere. You said you had information." Felicity said, focusing on Lois.
The reporter gave her a grateful look before getting to the point. "We've done some digging. The man who came to Starling City, doesn't exist according to Luthor Corp." Lois informed them.
"We know. He doesn't exist anywhere. His identity has been wiped, or it was an alias to begin with. But there isn't any record of him working for Luthor Corp, or being the one who was supposed to come to the symposium that day." Felicity added, and Lois nodded her agreement.
"The vice president who was supposed to attend received an authentic looking email telling him it had been canceled." Lois provided and Felicity shook her head slowly, they hadn't learned that information.
"So Luthor Corp has plausible deniability if their involvement is ever questioned, of course." Felicity pinched the bridge of her nose under her glasses and sighed heavily.
"Ok, I suppose none of that is surprising. But why was I the target? I've been searching for some sort of connection between myself and Luthor, some reason why he'd focus on me but I've come up with nothing." Lois gave her a look like she'd just said the stupidest thing ever and Felicity continued on quickly, "I mean, obviously there's him," she said waving her hand behind her to indicate Oliver, "but I'm very, very careful about covering my tracks. What if this isn't about Green Arrow? What if it's about the Queen's?"
Lois shot Clark a look.
"What?" Felicity asked perceptively, knowing there was something they weren't sharing.
"Lex doesn't exactly hold back when it comes to those that put on a cape or mask. His interest goes beyond obsession. If he's targeting you I'd say it's for the obvious reason."
Felicity's breath hitched as fear and guilt swept over her. If she'd somehow brought attention to herself, and by default Oliver, she'd never forgive herself.
Lois reached out to touch her arm and Digg and Oliver were in between them immediately.
"Whoa! Call off your guard dogs, sister, I'm not going to hurt you." Lois said quickly, hands up in surrender.
But Felicity could feel the fluttery beginnings of a panic attack. She needed things to just stop for a minute before she lost it. Somehow, in all of this, she'd never considered how much of a liability she was to Oliver.
"I just...I need..." she couldn't even finish the sentence. Oliver spun his head to look at her in concern, hands already reaching for her but she backed up further. "I need a minute." she managed to choke out and headed for the training room.
She shut her eyes tight when he called her name and held one hand up to hold him off, hoping he'd listen.
She leaned against the door after it closed behind her and shut her eyes tight, the first few tears leaking out against her will.
She kicked her heels off and began pacing the edge of the sparring mat, her arms wrapped around her middle attempting to stop her thoughts from taking over and failing miserably.
Oliver needed her, she knew that, but did Green Arrow? Were things better when she was just a friend, just a partner? If she was being singled out as a way to get to the hero then maybe she wasn't as much help as she thought.
"You've just about got yourself convinced he'd be better off without you, am I right?" a voice said behind her.
Felicity spun to see Lois standing by the door.
"Did you draw the short straw?" Felicity asked, wiping her face quickly as the other woman approached.
"I volunteered. Seeing as I was the only one in the room with experience in this area." Lois said with a knowing smile.
"I'm surprised they let you back here." Felicity said honestly.
Lois let out a small snort of agreement, "Yeah, you're a lucky girl with those two Rottweilers at your command."
"They're not..." Felicity began but Lois cut her off.
"Please. You're got them wrapped around your little finger. Quite the sight too, little blonde thing with her Greek gods for backup. Seriously though, how do you concentrate? Do they walk around here like that all the time?" Lois asked in all seriousness as she settled down on the weight bench.
Felicity threw her a look, "You're with Superman." said incredulously.
Lois tilted her head in acknowledgement, "True, but he'll always be my dorky farm boy first. And besides, he doesn't have to work out, so I kind of miss out on all of this." she said with a look around the training room. "Please tell me you've got a hidden camera in here." she whispered conspiratorially and Felicity felt her cheeks flush.
There was a long silence between them until Lois spoke, "So, care to share with the class what sent you back here in a pink and yellow frenzy?"
Felicity studied the woman she'd known barely half a hour. Something told her she could trust her, but she wasn't totally sure.
"Can I take a crack at it?" Lois asked, and at Felicity's nod she continued, "You think you're holding him back. That you're going to keep him from fulfilling what he's capable of. That with you around he'll be more prone to feeling instead of thinking. I mean, look what happened when you were attacked. He exposed himself outside his city. Now other people are showing up and asking questions." Felicity was frozen as Lois spoke because it was everything that had been going through her mind since she'd run.
"You don't want to make him lose focus. You want him to be able to do what he was meant to do, and you think you're just going to get in the way. What is your happiness compared to saving this city? And you've been here for awhile right? Working, and helping, and doing your part. So you think maybe you should just go back to that because it would be better for him." Lois paused and leveled her with a look she couldn't turn from. "Am I close?"
In shock Felicity let her numb feet move her to the bench where she sank down next to Lois.
"How...how could you know all of that?"
"Been there, done that, got the t-shirt." Lois replied, "Felicity, I cancelled our wedding the night before because I thought I was hurting Clark more than helping him."
"Wedding? So you're married then?" Felicity asked
Lois let out a laugh, "Depends on who you ask. We had the wedding, haven't exactly made it to the marriage part." Felicity turned her head and gave her a questioning look. "Long story. It was sort of...crashed."
"So how did you get past it? Because if someone is already using me to get to Oliver I can't live with that." Felicity said in a rush.
"People are always going to seek out weak spots." Lois said solemnly and Felicity flinched at her words.
"I'm Clark's weakness. I know that. So does he. But I'm also his strength. He can do what he does because I'm right next to him, helping him. Now, I'm not saying that's not a hard lesson to learn, because it is. And I'm not saying that I haven't been threatened, kidnapped, shot at, and thrown off of rooftops because of my place in his life. But I've also been there for him, kept his secret, protected him, put him back together when he fell apart, and loved him because that's what it takes. It's a balance. And once you accept both sides you'll be fine. If you can't..."
"You make it sound simple." Felicity said with a shake of her head. What Lois said made sense, but...she wasn't sure she was there yet with Oliver.
"It is the simplest thing in the world, and also the most difficult." Lois gave an unapologetic shrug.
Felicity leaned forward over her bent knees and rested her forehead in her hands.
"You have to stop blaming yourself for being targeted. It's not that you weren't smart enough, or clever enough, or aware enough. It happened. Get pissed at who did it, but not at yourself. You're not helping him or you if you think that way." Lois advised
"We're big on guilt here at Team Hood." Felicity said sardonically.
"Him too!" Lois exclaimed, "I swear it's like a required trait for these guys, always with the brooding." she bumped her shoulder into Felicity's, "And that's what you're there for. To knock him upside his head and talk sense in to him. And that's why I came back here, to do the same with you. Passing the torch and all that. Next superhero we find, you give the pep talk."
Felicity found herself smiling. She liked Lois, and it was a relief to be able to talk to someone who understood.
"Thanks, really. I appreciate it." Felicity said genuinely.
Lois wiped her hands on her thighs and pushed herself up, "No need to thank me. It's all part of what I signed on for. Now, how about you say we go and put mister tall, buff, and broody out of his misery. He's probably pacing a hole in the floor."
Lois was already halfway to the door before Felicity had gotten to her feet. By the time she'd paused to pick up her shoes the door was open and Oliver had practically bowled Lois over in his rush to get in.
"Felicity! Are you alright?" he asked, coming straight for her, not even letting her finish putting her final shoe on before pulling her into his chest.
"I'm alright." she assured him, "Just a small crisis of confidence. Nothing a good talking to didn't sort out."
He drew back to look at her, worry still creasing his forehead, "Confidence in what?"
"In myself." she admitted. He looked at her in confusion. "I was...I am worried that Luthor is coming after me to get to you. And that he won't be the last one. If something happened to you because of me...I wouldn't be able to live with myself."
He studied her for a moment before he replied, "And how do you think I'd feel if you weren't in my life anymore? Because I know. I had to face that reality all too recently, and I know for certain that I'd rather have you with me than not at all."
She couldn't stop the grin from spreading across her face. "That's pretty much what Lois told me. Just needed a different perspective I guess."
"She said that?" he asked
"Apparently it's not exactly easy being with someone who does what you do. There's a lot more to it than I had considered." her fingers played with the fabric of his shirt, as she let her gaze fall.
His finger came up and lifted her chin, "Not having second thoughts, I hope."
"No," she said immediately giving him a soft smile. "But it was nice to talk to someone who got it, you know."
The familiar flash of guilt crossed his face and she raised a hand to smooth over his cheek. "Stop. We've been over this. What happened wasn't your fault. And it wasn't my fault. But doing what we do is a choice and...there are things that go along with that, good and bad things. Apparently we can't have one without the other, it's in the handbook.
Since her attack things had been slowly getting back to a new normal. It had taken her over a week to feel like herself again, and even now she could feel some aftereffects from her ordeal.
She and Oliver weren't public, and they'd been deftly deflecting that particular subject. Content for now to keep their relationship to the lair or one of their homes it hadn't become an issue.
She gave him a small smile and brushed a kiss over his lips. "I'm better now." she told him.
His eyes grew intense as he stared at her, and she wished she knew what he was thinking. When he slid one hand up between her shoulder blades and clamped the other on her hip to pull her in closer she had an idea. His mouth slanted over hers, insistent and purposeful. The long slow swoops of her stomach she felt every time he kissed her hadn't gone away.
She knew she probably had a slightly dazed expression on her face when he pulled back, and the smug look he gave her let her know she was right.
"Think you're so impressive do you?" she said breathlessly, and the smug look grew to a down right lascivious one.
"I'd be happy to show you impressive." he half growled, making a shiver of anticipation go down her back.
She patted a hand to his chest and moved to step backwards, "Later," she promised.
He let her use his arm as balance as she slipped on her last shoe and then made their way out of the room.
Clark and Lois were talking quietly while Digg sat off to the side, his eyes never leaving them.
Nothing was said about Felicity's disappearance, for which she was grateful.
"I'm sorry we don't have any more information for you." Clark said quietly,
"We'll keep looking." Felicity responded, her tone sure.
"It's only a guess, but...knowing Lex's history, what happened here with Malcolm Merlyn was sure to catch his attention. Knowing him he probably admired Merlyn's actions. Hell he was probably jealous he didn't think of something like that himself. There doesn't seem to be any connection right now between Luthor and Merlyn, but I wouldn't be surprised if one came up." Lois suggested
A thought crossed Felicity's mind, something she'd look in to as soon as she could. Maybe there was a connection they hadn't thought of.
"Well, we really do have a story to do. Thanks for not..." Lois mimed letting go an arrow from an imaginary bow, "Anyways, if we find anything else we'll let you know." Lois's phone was in her hand and Felicity grabbed it on impulse.
A few quick taps and she handed it back to the surprised reporter. "There, next time you're in town you can just send a text."
Lois gave her a smile. "Thanks, we will."
"I'll walk you out." Digg said from the shadows, his tone clearly indicating it was time for them to go.
Lois said goodbye, but Oliver stood stony faced as they exited.
Felicity slapped a hand across his chest as she walked by him on her way to her desk. "You could have been polite."
"I'm not the one who came in here uninvited." he retorted.
"Technically I did invite them." she reminded him as she turned in her seat and began typing.
He grumbled something under his breath and then came to stand behind her. "What are you looking up?"
"Something Lois said gave me an idea. Merlyn Global's being sold off piecemeal, right? Well, I want to take a closer look at exactly who's buying all the pieces." Felicity told him, already distracted by what was in front of her.
She had a bad feeling she wasn't going to like what she discovered.