A/N: The long promised reunion fic. Post 3x09. Enjoy! And please let me know what you think!
For seven weeks Felicity had stayed silent. Going through the motions, helping the team, even showing up to work. Because it was what was expected. It was what was needed. But on the inside she was screaming.
For seven weeks she'd spent her sleepless nights looking for the impossible.
Logically she knew he was gone. She'd felt it. Something intangible, and amorphous, unquantifiable in a way that she could not understand. But she'd known he was gone.
So she couldn't explain why she'd spend hours at the foundry every night after the rest had left searching for a ghost.
To be fair it didn't start that way. She began by tracking the League. Nyssa specifically. It took long hours, searches that ended in more dead ends than new avenues but eventually she had a fairly accurate picture of her history for the past several month, including the time before and after Oliver's death.
That's when she went deeper, learning everything she could about the League, about their leader. The urban legends Digg remembered hearing in the desert to the folklore and myths of the Tibetan people who lived closest to Nanda Parbat.
Gradually the pieces fell together. The whispers of Ra's al Ghul's real age. The secret, 'magical' potions that kept him alive. She filtered through the lore and the supernatural and found the facts. Evidence of hidden caves with strange chemical concentrations not found anywhere else on earth in various locations around the globe.
One of course in Nanda Parbat.
One near where Oliver had dueled the Demon.
Without any actual samples from the waters found in these caves she couldn't make any definite findings, but the stories that came from both areas were eerily similar.
Injured animals who had wandered in and came back out whole. A group of long past inhabitants who had lived well beyond their years. The lengths they'd gone to to protect these areas and keep them secret were long and storied and with the exception of the quiet legends exceedingly effective.
The stories from Nanda Parbat however, were the most telling. The hushed ones that spoke of the Demon fifty years earlier. Sixty years. Some that even said a hundred. The stories that were told late at night and never written down because the same man in those stories still ruled in the present.
They said he'd enter the cave an old man and emerge once again in his prime, strong, and lethal as ever.
When those tales began to multiply Felicity stopped chasing a ghost and started believing in miracles. Because if she had ever believed in one thing, it was that Oliver Queen was a survivor.
She didn't dare voice it out loud. That would make it real. It would make it possible and while she was quite willing to drive herself mad she refused to bring the others down with her. They were doing their best, struggling without their leader but trying to push through and find their way.
It was a chance capture that turned the tide. One of ARGUS's satellites uploaded new images and she dutifully scoured through them, not noticing the time stamp until after she'd spotted two figures in the blindingly white snow near where he'd died.
Zooming in as far as she could it was difficult to make out too many details, but the League outfits were distinctive and the black stood out starkly. What made her heart seize in her chest was that this particular member of the League looked to be carrying a body over his shoulder.
Thirty seconds later she felt light headed as her hands slipped from the keyboard. The photos were taken only hours after Oliver would have reached the top of the mountain.
When the shaking subsided she printed off the pictures and added them to the growing pile of research she'd accumulated. The loud, logical side of her brain told her it might not be Oliver at all. A quieter side told her if it was him it was most likely his body being moved and nothing more. But as she pulled up the images and compared them to the location of the cave a swell of hope rose within her. Because according to what she was looking at, the League member carrying the body was on a straight path trajectory for the mythical caves.
She hacked into every other satellite she could find that covered that area of the world, including one from Palmer Technologies, and one from Wayne Enterprises, but the only images she got were of a frozen, barren wasteland showing no activity anywhere near the caves.
Felicity had known it was a long shot. Satellite imagery was ideally used to show long term projects that were stationary, or things like troop deployment and amassment, it was only pure luck that one had been passing overhead the day of the duel.
But something was pushing her, something that kept directing her back to that cave. And late one night without worried, prying eyes watching her she placed an overnight order for a down parka and snow boots.
She waited three more days, collecting more data, more evidence, until she felt she had enough and when Roy had left for the evening she turned to Digg.
"You finally ready to tell me what you've been doing?" he asked without censure, but she flushed anyways because she should have known he'd taken notice.
He lifted one massive shoulder in a lopsided shrug and came to join her on her side of the desk, "You've been a shell of yourself. Until the past week. Something changed. Something caught your attention," he explained, "Not to mention you've been watching Roy and I like a hawk every night and keep asking us if we're ready to go home. Subtlety is not your strong suit."
"You're going to think I'm crazy," she said quickly, blowing out a quick breath as she ran one hand over her hair.
With a small shake of her head she reached for the folder where she'd kept the hard copies of all her research and handed it to him. "I think there's a chance Oliver might still be alive."
He remained silent, taking the folder and opening it without saying a word. For ten long minutes she waited as he sifted through what she'd discovered, face impassive and giving away nothing.
When he was done he closed the folder and tucked it under his arm as he crossed them over his chest and waited.
"I know what you're going to say. That there is nothing in there that supports him surviving. I know that. And there's absolutely no empirical evidence to suggest that this idea of magical caves with life renewing properties even exists. I am well aware of how insane it sounds. But-"
"I've never left a brother behind before, and I don't intend on doing it now."
She froze, as his words registered with her, "Wait...what?"
"You're right, nothing in here proves he's alive, but either way...we need to bring him home. And you need to know for sure. We all do."
Her throat clogged with tears she couldn't swallow down so instead of speaking she chose to launch herself at him to show her gratitude.
"We'll bring him home, either way, we'll bring him home," he whispered into her hair and held her tighter.
It took her less than six hours to finish making the arrangements. Roy was left to manage the city and Felicity had asked to borrow Ray's plane which held every possible item she thought they might need, including a coffin.
She'd turned around when that had been loaded on the tarmac, shutting her eyes tight and whispering a small plea that when they returned it would still be empty.
Then they were taxiing down the runway with Digg at the controls, and she stared out the window with the knowledge that she could have answers she couldn't ignore by the time the sun set.
As far as she'd been able to tell the League had left the area. It wasn't a place they used regularly and there had been no movement spotted near the caves for days. She felt as secure as she could that they'd be safe, but Digg wasn't taking any chances and had left prepared.
After they'd landed in the nearest town and swapped the plane for a helicopter he'd been loaned through Lyla they were only a short flight and a somewhat difficult climb from discovering if everything she'd found had meant anything.
Her parka was snow white, better to blend in with their surroundings and the special gloves she bought let her still use her tablet while keeping her fingers protected from the elements. The weather wasn't bad when Digg had placed the chopper on a flat but rocky area a mile from the caves however, the weather service had shown a front moving in that could make leaving precarious.
"You sure you're ready for this?" he asked as she finished adjusting her hat and scarf before pulling the fur lined hood up around her head.
He strapped on a thigh holster, and checked his gun before securing it as he waited for her to respond.
"No," she answered honestly, "If he's really gone...I'll never be ready for that. And if these supposedly healing pools exist...I don't know. Metahumans affected by the explosion I can almost make sense of. A sort of sped up version of evolution, but this…"
"Yeah," he agreed, with a thin smile she tried to return.
She slid her hands down her front, patting at her puffy jacket to make sure everything was buttoned and zipped before she grabbed her tablet and pulled up their location.
"Alright, let's see if these caves really are there." she said with a shaky voice and if he noticed she intentionally had left off saying anything about Oliver he didn't mention it.
There was still several hours of daylight left and the sun was out, although filtered by a fine layer of clouds. A brisk wind cut across the exposed cliff face they had to trudge over but it wasn't so heavy it kicked up the snow.
A mile hike hadn't seemed so bad when she'd marked it on the map, but after five minutes of trudging through the deep, powdery snow her heart was pounding in exertion and tiny rivulets of sweat were running down her back.
Digg shot her a knowing grin, "It's harder than it looks, walk behind me," he instructed and she fell back with an irritated huff, but she had to admit walking in the tracks he made was much easier.
When they reached a rocky cliff face he looked up and then back at her, "It's not that steep, and it looks like there's a decent path cut into the side, but stay as close as you can to the wall and don't look down."
She gulped once before unzipping her coat far enough to tuck the tablet inside, wanting both hands free.
Unlike when they were on Lian Yu the first time she paid close attention to exactly where Digg placed his feet. With one hand running along the granite wall they moved slowly and carefully and as tempted as she was she never once looked down.
Her legs felt like jelly when they reached an area that reminded her of old European cities, with small winding alleyways that led in various directions except these were cut from the stone and disappeared into darkness.
"Where to?" Digg asked as she pulled the tablet back out and zoomed in.
"It's not exactly pinned on google maps," she muttered under her breath, "We're in the right location. Everything I found pointed to this spot, but it is considered a magical and hidden cave for a reason. There's still every chance it doesn't really exist."
"No going off on you own, and stay quiet. If there is someone here we don't want to let them know we're coming."
She mimed locking her lips and throwing away the key before she tucked the tablet away again.
Digg chose the first path to the right and she followed, sometimes not being able to see anything beyond his broad back when the space became too close and tight.
It was the third path when Digg's fist came up in one swift move, silently telling her to halt that she thought maybe she couldn't handle whatever they found, that it had all been a terrible mistake.
"Stay here. Don't follow me." he ordered, voice like steel and she could only nod over the lump in her throat.
He disappeared around a corner as white noise filled her head. She had to lean against a snowy outcrop as her knees went weak and every terrible thought filtered through her mind.
It was several long minutes before he returned, but his gait was lose and while he had his gun out it was held down by his side.
"What was it?"
"A dead goat," he replied immediately, but he didn't holster his weapon and she stepped forward, brows drawing together in confusion.
"Okay...was it an especially disgusting dead goat? Is that why you didn't want me to see it?"
He shook his head a little, eyes cutting back the way he came, then searching the space around them. "No, but it had been butchered."
It took her a minute to pick up on what he meant, "Oh. OH!" she cried, "How recently?" because a butchered goat meant people and that could either be good or bad for them.
"Day or two. Not long."
"So...he...I mean someone. Someone is here," she said quickly, mentally cursing herself for the hope that had risen within her.
"It looks like there's been human activity, yes," Digg confirmed and she blew out one long breath to center herself.
"You're not going to like this, but I want you to stay here." he said evenly as he reached down and pulled the smaller handgun from his ankle. He'd pressed it into her hand before she even realized what he was doing. "It could be a League member who has nothing to do with this or...it could be something else entirely. If I don't come back in an hour or you hear anything you run back to the chopper and use the emergency beacon to contact Lyla."
"Digg…" she began but he cut her off with a look. For a split second she saw the pain and fear he'd been hiding all these weeks after losing Oliver. He couldn't lose her too.
"Okay," she agreed, nodding once as he let out a sigh of relief and tugged her forward to press a kiss to the top of her hooded head.
"Stay safe," she murmured and then he was gone, slipping silently through the rocks as if he'd never been there.
In the end it didn't even take twenty minutes. She heard him coming and she froze, gun held with both hands in front of her but pointed down. She was trembling so bad she didn't trust that it wouldn't go off accidentally.
But the Digg she saw emerge was one she hadn't seen in a long time. His eyes sparkled with joy he couldn't hide, face split in a wide grin that had her stumbling forward before he said a single word.
"Felicity…" it told her everything and with a soft cry she pushed past him, following the footsteps he'd left until they turned right, seemingly straight into the rock face. She turned to look at him in confusion.
"Feel to the right," he directed and she slid her palm flat against the cold stone. Where it looked like it continued she could feel it end, head whipping up in shock as she felt empty space next to and behind it.
As she stepped forward only inches from the wall she could see it, the way the granite had fit so seamlessly together from afar, but up close there was at least two feet between the front and the back, a space wide enough for a person to pass as they wound down into a dark tunnel.
"Here," he passed her a small flashlight and took the gun from her but didn't say another word and she made the exchange immediately.
Heart pounding she followed the path, just enough space for her to walk upright, but knowing that Digg would have to bend over to avoid hitting his head. She also knew that whatever waited for her on the other end wasn't a threat or he would have never have let her go first.
A dull light at the far end of the tunnel began to grow brighter and she paused to take it in.
The tunnel opened up to an expansive cavern that seemed to stretch on for miles underneath the mountains, and as far as she knew it did. An alcove off to the left grew brightly with a flickering fire and she could see what looked like a makeshift camping set up. There was a thin bed roll set to the side, a few supplies including some food and a satellite phone she noted. A tarp hung from the stone ceiling, falling all the way to the ground and somehow she knew that Oliver was behind it.
She blinked and a man appeared. Tall, Asian, with the stance of a trained fighter. He was dressed all in black but she barely spared him a glance. Digg had let her in here. If he didn't think the man was a threat, she didn't either.
"Is he…" she started before her mouth dried up and she couldn't speak, shoving the hood off her head as she waited for his response.
"He may not be the Oliver Queen you know." the man replied ominously but she just shook her head.
"I don't care. He's alive though? Right there? Alive and not dead? Because that is all that matters."
"He's still recovering. He sleeps most of the day and when he's awake he can become violent,"
She started forward but Digg grabbed her by the upper arm and wouldn't let her go.
"Digg!" her voice was high and desperate as she looked at him with wounded, pleading eyes.
"She will be safe." the stranger said.
"How do you know?" Digg asked.
"Because the only word he has said in seven weeks has been her name."
With that she tore herself away and rushed forward, clutching the edge of the tarp to pull it back in one swift motion not knowing how she'd react when she saw what lay behind it.
Everything slowed down, her senses somehow heightened and yet dulled at the same time. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dark space, at first not seeing anything but a human shaped lump laying underneath a dark blanket.
Her feet took her even closer until her shins the metal frame of the cot, her eyes flying to the top to find him.
It was Oliver.
Alive. Breathing. With a beard and color in his face. Not the horrible images that she'd seen in her nightmares.
She let out a shaky, ragged breath as her knees gave way. She didn't blink as she sunk down slowly, fingers too numb and tingly from shock to obey her orders to reach out, to touch him, to make any contact because Oliver was alive and the hell she'd lived through was coming to an end.
With blurry eyes she watched as he swallowed, hands twitching over the blanket that covered him. When his brow furrowed, and his head began to turn in distress she moved without thought to give him comfort.
His fingers wrapped around hers and she gasped, never expecting to feel his touch again.
Her eyes locked onto that point of contact and for the longest time she just stared, studying his fingers, his knuckles, the fine hairs across the back that caught the fire light and the way her chipped dark blue nail polish looked almost black.
It didn't seem like it was his hand holding hers because she had gone for so long believing it could never happen. But it was. He was alive. And ever so slowly she brought her other hand up to wrap around his wrist, thumb pressing over his pulse point and when she felt the thrum of his heart beat rushing steadily through his veins she finally allowed herself to believe it was true.
She didn't look away when she heard Digg enter the space, knees popping slightly as he crouched next to her. But she felt the long exhale he let out and her first tears fell when she saw his large hand lay over Oliver's chest, pausing before patting once. That same hand covered both of theirs and squeezed so hard she felt her bones protest as they were pushed into Oliver's, but she didn't care. It meant they were all alive and together again.
"You did it," he whispered as he rose to his feet. She couldn't reply, she just held onto Oliver tighter and dipped her head once.
She didn't know how long she sat there drinking him in, re-memorizing everything about him. Digg talked by the fire with the man she now knew was called Maseo but beyond that she tuned them out. Right then she didn't want to know how it had happened, just that it had.
At some point she tugged the blanket down, searching for signs of the wounds that he'd suffered but finding nothing but the scars and marks he'd carried with him before he left. His skin was warm and alive beneath her questing fingers and she couldn't seem to keep herself from touching him, needing the physical reminder that she hadn't lost him.
However, Maseo's words from earlier about how he might not be the same kept creeping in and she kept pointedly ignoring them. Oliver had died, she'd known that in her soul. But something had also kept driving her to find him, something she still didn't understand. Whatever had saved him may have done so at a cost.
Her eyes had grown heavier and heavier, and as much as she fought her exhaustion the weeks of poor sleep and the fallout from the adrenaline surge she'd had earlier caught up with her. She didn't notice as her head fell lower and lower until it came to rest against his middle, their hands still joined.
Quiet fingers running gently over her temple and through her hair is what brought her back. She blinked lazily, unwilling to fully wake until her memory caught up, eyes springing open as she remembered.
Immediately she saw him, same familiar blue eyes she never thought she'd see again looking back at her. As her heart pounded in her chest he kept up his slow, steady touch.
All the pain and grief she'd suffered fell away, leaving her raw but healing. And when his fingers tripped over the edge of her glasses to trail down the side of her face she took a shuddering breath and smiled.
His hand ghosted back up, knuckles tracing the curve of her cheek, "Hey,"
"I lost you."
For a second she felt overwhelmed, tears filling her eyes and she had to shut them tight while she lay her hand over his heart to feel it beating. His thumb brushed away the moisture that leaked out, but when she opened her eyes the love shining back at her made the breath catch in her throat.
"You found me," he said, voice stronger.
"You can run to the ends of the earth, Oliver Queen, and I will always find you."
With that she found herself being pulled into his arms and she went willingly, knees still on the hard rocky ground as wrapped himself around her.
It was everything she'd wanted and needed and had been so afraid she'd never have again. She didn't even know she'd started sobbing until she heard his soft words in her ear and the brush of his lips against her forehead.
When she'd calmed some he hitched her higher until she gave up all pretense and brought her legs up to rest alongside his. Her head rested above his heart hands in constant motion as if she had to continually touch him to make sure he wasn't leaving again.
She still wore her parka, but even through the bulky fabric she could feel the weight of his palm, and how his fingers clutched her hip.
For months before it had all gone to hell they'd barely touched, but now that had been erased, legs were entwined, arms overlapped, like two pieces of a puzzle that had found their way home.
"For the longest time, when I first woke up I didn't know who I was, but I knew you." he said quietly, "Your face, your voice...I never forgot you."
"I love you," she said suddenly and they both froze before she carefully pushed herself up so she could look at him. "I love you," she repeated, "I love you. I love you."
Her hand came up to cup his jaw, "One for each time I should have said it back. I'm sorry."
He mirrored her action and drew her closer, their lips meeting in a kiss that was both desperate and slow.
When they parted she tucked her head solidly beneath his chin and finally took a full breath. As long held tension seeped away her body molded to his. He shifted on the narrow cot, neither of them wanting her to leave and neither of them caring that Digg and Maseo sat only a few feet away.
He told her what little he remembered, and what he'd been told. She filled him in on her research and the mystery surrounding the caves, how she'd found the satellite images of what she now knew had to have been Maseo carrying him to the cave. Her throat had grown tight then, knowing he'd technically been dead at the time.
"He said you were different, that you'd changed," she said quietly, pulse quickening as she awaited his reply.
She felt his chin brush the top of her head as he shook his head, "I don't remember a lot. There was pain and...anger. I do remember that. But somehow whenever it got bad I'd see your face and I knew your name, I knew who you were. I knew you were safe even if I wasn't."
Her arms tightened around him, heart full as she pressed a kiss to his neck.
"I love you," he whispered into her hair, and she let out a watery half laugh.
"Trying to one up me?"
"I did say it first," he replied and instead of feeling guilty she just felt loved. She'd tried to deny it for so long, unsure and unable to open herself up to loss again. Except she'd still lost him and it had still destroyed her and it now all seemed so pointless. The waiting and denying had been for nothing and she had no intention of wasting any more time.
"I love you," she murmured into his skin, humming contentedly as he skimmed a hand over her hair before he tugged her hood back up and arranged the thin blanket over both of them.
"Stay with me?" he asked unnecessarily.