A/N: Angsty plot bunny attacked me, what can I say? Though I do need to make it known that I truly do not believe Mama Smoak will be as horribly devious as I've portrayed her in this story.


Because right there, forehead pressed against her temple, nose buried in her hair as he begged for her to live, that was the only part that still smelled like her. There was a faint trace of her shampoo, almost gone, almost erased by the hospital and death, but there was still something left and he'd be damned if he'd give up now.




Don't do this.

Don't leave me.

Fight, dammit.




It took Roy and Digg both to drag him out, their own eyes blurred with tears as Meredith Smoak stood by her daughter's bedside and batted wet lashes at a nurse who was looking with more sympathy at the trio of men who hadn't left the hospital in a week than the woman who waltzed in that morning claiming next of kin.

Oliver had roared when she'd told the doctors to turn off the machines. Begged and pleaded and offered his fortune but she'd stared at him with an imperious expression. It was the look of a woman who had learned how to thrive in a desert, in a place where night never ended, and sharks found a home on dry land. She'd handled richer men than him, more desperate men than him for years and had become numb to their words.

Felicity's life insurance policy was a sure thing. The pleas of a drowning man were not.

Meri Smoak always bet on a sure thing.

The door was shut firmly behind them and he tried to shrug out of the hold but quickly found it was the only thing keeping him up. He staggered as far as the opposite wall and slid to the bottom in a heap not understanding how it had all gone wrong.

A low, hollow moan left his chest along with what remained of his soul when the harsh beep of the flat line pierced the air.

The former soldier stood still as a rock, hands clenched so tight the skin around his knuckles looked like it might burst. It was the only outward sign he was breaking.

The kid from the Glades punched a hole in the wall and kicked a chair down the hall before he too found his legs wouldn't hold him any longer.

Oliver swore he'd hear the sound of her heart ceasing to beat for the rest of his life. It would be his constant companion, his albatross, his eternal penance for not doing the one thing he always said he would do.

It rang in his head as he stared blankly at the wall across from him as if he could somehow see through it and still see her. He didn't want to remember her like that though. Not with machines breathing for her, and too many tubes running into her veins. He shut his eyes tight and saw her in her chair, blonde ponytail swaying as she spun to face him, face bright with new information, lips moving a mile a minute.

He could still hear the alarm.

So he stayed, not sure he'd ever leave.

And the three stood sentry even though their watch had ended.

When he was suddenly grabbed under his arms and hauled to his feet he tried to fight but he couldn't. Giant paws for hands bracketed his face and he blinked his eyes repeatedly because there was no reason he should be seeing a smile.

The door was open again. Nurses moving through. He recognized the machine that had been used to breathe for her being rolled out and he almost went down again if it hadn't been for another set of hands at his back.

Three steps in he still couldn't bring himself to look at her. He didn't know why he was in there. He didn't know why they were doing this to him but he was too broken to stop it.

Her mother was silent for once. Tucked into a corner like she could somehow become invisible even though her multicolored swing coat could be seen from half a mile away.

It took him far too long to realize the long beep of death had been replaced with the slow, repetitive blips of a beating heart.

When he did his eyes flew up, daring to hope.

The tube was gone, a simple nasal cannula in its place.

Dead people didn't need nasal cannulas some distant part of his brain supplied and he stumbled forward two more steps.

Her eyes were slits and shining through them was blue. The bluest blue he'd ever seen and he thought she was gorgeous.

Two fingers lifted, only a inch but it was enough and it was like she'd summoned him to her side.

He found that spot behind her ear again, the place where he could still smell her shampoo and he told her thank you.