Author's Note: A gift for callistawolf. Many thanks, and internet hugs and cookies, to my beloved Mind-Twin for cheering me on, hand holding, and beta-ing. Quick FYI on the story itself, I don't think the depictions of violence are overtly graphic, nothing you wouldn't see on the show, but there is some, just so you're aware.

Central City Picture News



By Iris West-Allen

August 4, 2031 was a day intended to celebrate a modern marvel, the next great technological revolution, instead it turned calamitous when Merlyn Global's long awaited Overwatch program went live to disastrous results. The fully automated system, which Founder and CEO, Malcolm Merlyn insisted during his press conference late last night met and exceeded all previous tests; including multiple runs of un-populated trains along their high-speed line between Central and Star City, failed catastrophically during its maiden populated run yesterday afternoon. Of the six hundred passengers aboard the two trains running in parallel from Central to Star City five hundred and three have been confirmed dead. Among them Merlyn Global's Vice President and heir-apparent Thomas Merlyn, who fostered the Overwatch program from an idea brought to him by a low-level employee to the multi-billion, near multi-decade endeavor on which the entire company had become staked.

Director of Merlyn Global's Applied Sciences Division and Lead Designer of Overwatch, Felicity Smoak, who explained the complexities of what they were set to achieve – "a fully automated system that has the capabilities to make the logical and not so logical leaps of the human mind, at millisecond intervals, that can be easily retrofitted to run overtaxed, human operated systems such as air traffic control" – before christening the Central City train is in critical condition at Central City Hospital and a Merlyn Global insider shared that until Smoak is able to review the data herself, it may be impossible to determine the cause behind yesterday's tragic failure.

Twelve year old Oliver Queen angrily heaved his e-reader across his hospital room unable to take in any more content about the catastrophe that had struck his family, three of the confirmed 503 fatalities. He was supposed to be on one of the trains with his parents and baby sister yesterday and had thrown a fit when his burst appendix cost him the trip. His mother had been one of a handful of Merlyn Global employees who had won tickets for their families to participate in the inaugural ride. He'd been the envy of his classmates and excited about shaking the hand of the pretty blonde he had only seen at company picnics from afar.

It had been roughly four years ago, shortly after his eighth birthday, when he first caught sight of Felicity Smoak. Even now Oliver could picture her; her head thrown back, a musical laughter rolling forth from her, bright blue eyes dancing with humor as a wide smile spread across her face. The sunlight had shimmered off her golden tresses making it easy for an impressionable young boy to see her as an angel. He had tugged his father down to him and whispered that he was going to grow up and marry her, because that's what you did with angels, at least according to his father. He had heard the story many times about how his dad had captured the heart of an angel when his mother had agreed to become his wife.

His father had chuckled and squeezed him tight, telling him good-naturedly that by the time he was grown up enough to be a husband she'd be his grandma's age and undoubtedly married to someone else. His young face had twisted in denial, Oliver had never doubted his father before, but he knew with all the certainty of his eight year-old heart that she would wait for him.

He hadn't worked up the nerve to talk to her at that picnic or any other, but he had convinced himself that the celebratory party planned for after the train rides would be the perfect place for them to be properly introduced. The launch of Overwatch was everything that every single employee at Merlyn Global had been working towards, his mother included, and she had been so excited for Felicity because it had been her creation.

The physical pain radiating along his side felt like nothing compared to the loss of his family. That sat heavy on chest, making each beat of his heart difficult because it felt compressed under the weight of the sadness he felt. As well as disillusionment. Felicity had been his angel, he'd been certain of it, but now she was responsible for his parents' deaths … for Thea's. Though it hurt, Oliver curled into himself at the thought of his baby sister.

He'd been meant to protect her, his father told him so the first time he placed the squirming little mass she had been into his arms. Once her hazel eyes landed on him Thea had stilled as she gazed up at him. That was all it had taken for his mother's growing bump to become real to him. And getting lost in her eyes was all Oliver needed to love her completely and since that moment being her big brother was his greatest joy.

Tears clogged Oliver's eyes as he thought of the weight of her in his arms, not the feather-light weight he held that first day, but the solid toddler bundled he'd held just two days before. Thea would never look up at him with complete trust and love again and knowing that caused a deep, cavernous emptiness to spread within him.

Nothing filled it, though grief seemed to echo throughout him as hours turned into days and days into weeks and then finally Slade Wilson came into his life. Like Oliver, Slade lost his world that sultry August day and his virulent hatred for all technology, particularly for Overwatch and its creator Felicity Smoak, and the rage it inspired filled up what had been hollowed out.







WEIGHT: 117lbs



















Endless battles had weathered the man standing before him, leaving scars both physical – his missing left eye being the most evident – and psychological, though there wasn't a solider under Slade Wilson's command that hadn't been wounded in some capacity by the war they'd been fighting. A war he feared humanity was going to be on the losing side of now that MG's robotic soldiers loaded with the Overwatch program were in mass production, something they'd been fighting for years to prevent. The cybernetic machines never tired and were damn near impossible to put down.

His home which had already been reduced to near uninhabitable rubble made up of crumbling structures folding in on themselves and a tangle of streets that were impassable if not traversed on foot with pockets of the city consumed by fires burning unchecked and a greasy, unnatural silvery sheen that had settled over the bay's water like a thin layer of ice. Star City and its populace was dying, slowly and painfully, choking on acidic air and starving as the soil beneath their feet cracked and dried into lifeless dust. Oliver couldn't help but feel that he was abandoning his brothers in arms when they needed him most.

The mission – to end the war – was one that Slade had been training him for since the day he had first claimed him, but the manner in which it was to be done felt too fantastical. Still if—when, he corrected himself, when he was successful this dismal colorless world that was their life would never come to fruition.

Pipedream or not, Slade was certain and Oliver was never one to overtly question his mentor. He followed his orders, suicide mission or not. By taking this leap, leaving the current field of battle, he could potentially save billions of lives. That possibility was the only thing that allowed him to stomach the thought of abandoning his makeshift family.

Slade's large, strong hand clamped hard over his shoulder. The heat of his palm bled through thin robe he wore, but the touch provided him no comfort, and soon even the flimsy piece of material would be discarded. Nothing, he had been told, would be able to travel through time with him. Oliver couldn't help the bitterness he tasted in his mouth knowing that the fading and tattered photograph of his family would be denied him. He had the image memorized and could easily picture the contours of their faces when he closed his eyes, but for most of his life after – his life, like so many others, had be split between before Overwatch and after – cupping it between his hands had been his only comfort.

His eyes drifted from Slade over to McKenna. As a solider the dark haired beauty was his most trusted ally, as a person she was his closet friend, and as a woman she was who he had sought solace in. There were times when he had felt guilty that he couldn't offer her deeper feelings, but his heart had gone cold long before meeting her and McKenna Hall, bless her, was not one for sappy, overwrought sentiment. She had no use for it and was quite content with their friends with benefits relationship. Her dusty skin glowed in the drum barrel firelight and her dark eyes warmed when his lighter ones met them. She patted her uniform pocket assuring him that the precious cargo he entrusted to her was safe.

He gave her a gentle nod, one of thanks and goodbye before looking back to man who had stood as his surrogate father. Slade's fingers dug into his shoulder, his single eye narrowed and neared black, as his gaze bored into him. "Whatever it takes, Kid. Get it done," he ordered, his voice harsh with determination, thickening his Australian accent.

His tone, the fierceness of his conviction radiated from him and burned into Oliver's memory. This was the man to whom he owed his life … his after life and he would not fail him, his compatriots, or his family. He, Oliver Jonas Queen, would save the future.


There are certain things that she loves most about her adopted home. First and foremost it was not Vegas with its endless dry heat and blinding neon lights that did not shine bright enough to hide the seedier side of her hometown. Everything that made Las Vegas a fun place for tourist is what made calling it home difficult. Things there were transient, as her father leaving her and her mother, reinforced. The only sure thing, other than death and taxes, in her young life had been her mother's unwavering love and their inability to connect beyond the familial bond because they were just so different. Even after she had shed her Goth visage few would suspect Donna Smoak of being her mother, even sharing a last name and now blonde hair, as she begun dying hers.

That was another perk of Starling City. It was near, by flight means, but not close enough to make quick driven visits feasible. Meaning most of the mother/daughter time she shared with her mom was done via their weekly calls and sporadic texts. Felicity loved her mother, truly she did, but she had never really understood her. So it was a bit of a relief that they each only traveled to the other's city once a year. Her visits to Vegas were always scheduled around Hanukkah, which oddly enough was the only time she didn't mind the city. Somehow the town's extreme commercialization kept the holiday season from feeling like it was one big Hallmark push for the perfect family holiday; an ideal that never truly existed outside the cheesy holiday movies for which she had a weakness.

Her mother liked to visit around her birthday, celebrating together as they always had with a failed Donna Smoak attempt at baking; hence why Felicity always found herself blowing out a candle in an ice cream sundae instead of a traditional birthday cake. Good thing she liked ice cream – if there was a Church of Mint Chocolate Chip she might be tempted to convert – and the crazy combinations of flavors and toppings they had put together over her birthdays.

In the roughly two years since moving to Starling to take the job at Merlyn Global, Felicity had carved out a nice little life for herself. She was moving up the ranks of the IT department in which she worked, earning praise and extra work from her supervisor, which allowed her to tackle more advanced and complex system and security problems and not just verifying if a machine was in fact turned on or being responsible for cleaning up viruses from downloaded porn. After three months of that Felicity had been ready to chuck it all in and ask for work at her favorite place in the city, Big Belly Burger, if she'd gotten one more mind-numbing service call. Luckily a late night working on one her own little endeavors allowed her to be present for a hacking attempt and her thwarting it had finally made an impression.

Since she loved what she did, work never felt like that and the additional hours meant more than just extra dollars in her bank account. She had always loved having a sense of accomplishment – from taking apart and rebuilding her first computer, to earning a good grade, hell even the burn after an hour on an elliptical – having a purpose, even if it was small goal like getting in five hours on a dreaded piece of exercise equipment so she could treat herself to a Big Belly Buster with extra onions, tater tots and caramel pretzel milkshake at her favorite burger joint at the end of the work week.

Some Fridays her usual booth at the burgeoning franchise, they had three locations in Starling and were set to open their first Central City location before the end of the year, was filled with a few of her fellow IT specialists from MG or her unexpected circle of 'fabulous' friends, as she thought of them, that she'd made within the last six months of joining the high-end gym near MG. Felicity had gone in for their free week trial, fully expecting never to darken their doors again after her first awkward visit. She ended up babbling at one of the owners, not that she'd known it at the time, Sara Lance. The petite blonde had a curvy, muscular form that she'd envied and upon turning an embarrassing shade of red after having to countdown to stop her lack of brain to mouth filter Sara had declared, "You're cute."

Sara and her partner in all things, Nyssa, took an inexplicable shine to her and Felicity found the couple a strange mixture of fierce with their Amazonian like builds and adorable because how they softened around each other. A little over a month into their friendship, while hosting a pizza and movie Saturday night at her apartment, she had declared Sara her platonic soulmate because she was as much a pop-culture nerd as she was; thankfully Nyssa had taken that filter slip with amusement and wry comment about what that made her. The raven-haired beauty liked to read about pretty much everything under the sun and they often found themselves in discussions about the strangest topics, which Felicity absolutely loved because it tested the bounds of her obscure knowledge. "My other platonic soulmate?" she'd offered with a crooked smile.

"You do know that whole soulmate concept is that there is one perfect person for you, don't you Blondie?" Roy Harper remarked. He was Felicity's favorite personal trainer at the gym and she often thought of the handsome young man as Sara and Nyssa's almost adopted son since one of their life missions seemed to be keeping him out of trouble. No easy feat since they first met him when Sara's dad had arrested Roy for stealing from Nanda Parbat's locker rooms. Instead of pressing charges the duo had decided to set (and scare) him straight. The recounted tales of how many times either Sara or Nyssa put him on his ass during training never failed to amuse her, particularly when Roy was around to make a grumpy face and accuse the women of being sneaky cheats. It would only take a raised eyebrow for him throw up his hands and quickly backtrack, causing them to smirk and him to grumble about women and getting a complex.

Behind his indifferent and chiseled model looks was a lost, lonely boy who had more to offer the world then his tough-guy persona. Felicity enjoyed the somewhat goofy personality he allowed to seep out when he joined her and Sara in their pop-culture discussions. There was good heart beneath the layers of self-protection he built up and they all adored the man emerging from beneath them.

It had been another few weeks before she'd gotten a formal introduction to Sara's sister Laurel, who she felt like she knew by the amused and loving way Sara spoke of her, at a charity wine tasting. Knowing of her love for the beverage, particularly reds, Nyssa had suggested Sara take her as her plus one to the event to raise money for the SCPD's Widows and Children Fund. It was a new event hosted and sponsored by Laurel's boyfriend, Tommy Merlyn, which was how Felicity met her boss's boss's boss's son. At least she thought she had the right number of bosses in there, but she'd been a little buzzed and tad star struck when Sara introduced her to the couple, who looked like they should be gracing the cover of GQ Magazine and not standing before her, listening to her lack of brain to mouth filter. When she finally wound down, Laurel's green eyes had been wide and Tommy chuckled, "I can see why you decided to keep her."

After months of being friendly with the twosome Felicity still found herself slightly agape upon first seeing the gorgeous couple each time their paths crossed. Was it any wonder she thought of them as her fabulous friends in her head? They were all so pretty and charming and it might still feel like a bit of mystery as to why they liked her if they all weren't so genuinely nice.

Still as much as she adored her two groups of friends, there were days like today, after a long and tiring work week where decompressing alone with the latest issue of Wired and no worry of her tots being stolen was exactly what she needed. Hence why Felicity sat alone in her booth at Big Belly, feeling completely safe in the environment which had become all but a second home, in her casual Friday wardrobe - the highlight of which was her favorite pair panda flats - sipping from her milkshake lost in her reading.

Her silent revelry left her completely unaware of the two very different sets of eyes upon her, studying her every move. There was a pair of rich brown eyes that seemed to extrude warmth, as well as, a set of piercing blue eyes, cold with hatred. They watched her, both figures waiting to make their move.

Those icy eyes found that the lights were too bright, the buzz of conversation too loud and cheerful, the smells of cooking food and flowery perfumes clashed and overwhelmed his olfactory senses; this world, clueless of what laid ahead of them, surrounded him and made Oliver feel even more disoriented than his trip through time had. Arriving naked and alone in the middle of night had been disconcerting enough, but stealing a paper along with some ill-fitting clothes and trinkets to hock for cash, and seeing Star City referred to as Starling – knowing the history Oliver was aware that the name change was three years from happening – and the date: Friday, October 12, 2012. It knocked the breath from him.

It really had worked. He had traveled through time.

As the world awoke around him and he watched people go about their lives in peace and quiet, comparatively to the war torn world he'd come from, the reality of the situation sunk in. He was in 2012, a time when his parents were alive, granted his mother was sixteen and his father nineteen, but knowing that Oliver could not help the itch he felt to seek them out. The need to find them and hold them once again his arms was so strong that it made his heart ache. It couldn't happen, he knew. His father had grown up an Army brat and would not move here until after the city had changed names and his mother would not arrive from Ivy Town until she came to attend SCU.

The pulsing, vibrant city felt foreign and Oliver had trouble situating himself amongst the towering high-rises that still stood proud and tall and the pedestrian and vehicular traffic clogging the streets. He remembered this from his youth, the hustle and bustle of normal everyday life, and experiencing it once again made him queasy.

It was after midday when he finally managed to get himself to Merlyn Global on a pinched motorcycle. It was the one place he was certain to find Felicity Smoak. The records of her life were a closely guarded secret that even Slade's most dedicated mole could not gain access to, so he'd been instructed to find her where she worked, follow her and end her without getting caught. Not that it would matter if the justice system searched him out for his crime. He would willingly accept any punishment they'd choose to press upon him because nothing they could do to him would compare to the hell he'd been raised in.

Watching the sunlight glint off the glass monument to those he reviled most, the breezy fall afternoon drifted into evening and still his target had not appeared. Oliver silently cursed McKenna for talking Slade out of an explosive attack large enough to bring down the entire empirical structure. "This is about saving lives, Ollie," she'd argued directly to him, bypassing their commander since he would be the man on the ground enacting the plan they decided upon. She called him by his infrequently used nickname – the one he told her only his family had used – to drive home her point. "It wouldn't just be killing innocents, but every one of their descendants. You'd be no better than her." His gut had clenched at the vitriol in McKenna's tone when she spat out that last word and he abhorred the thought of such derision being directed at him.

Though he hadn't blanched when Slade had made the suggestion, Oliver agreed wholeheartedly with McKenna's analysis. This was about stopping a monstrous event that spun out into an all war on humanity. He had to be better than the enemy for their victory to be truly meaningful. Though the interminable wait made him compromise with himself, if an innocent life came between him and completing the mission – the mission came first.

Finally, as dusk began to settle over the city and the street lights – actual working street lights he marveled – blinked on, his target finally emerged from the Merlyn Global parking structure, her golden hair drawing his attention like a heat-seeking missile.

Oliver followed the cute little red car through the downtown streets and watched as the towering buildings shrunk to smaller, swat commercial structures and brownstones, the business district melding into a more residential section of the city. He was familiar with the area, known still as the Glades, and he watched his mark park her tiny car in a lot where a neon sign blazed Big Belly Burger.

As she walked from the parking lot into the restaurant he assessed the younger version of the women he'd seen so many years ago, so many years into her future. She seemed different and it wasn't only because her face lacked the soft lines of age that had made a home there. In his youth Felicity Smoak had seemed larger than life, but now, as she unwrapped a turquoise scarf from around her neck and settled at a table she seemed ordinary. Just another person on the street that you might notice because of the bright colors she draped herself in, but who would be forgotten about once other things clouded your thoughts.

Wearily, Oliver made his way across the street and into the restaurant, settling in at table with a view of both the entrance and Felicity. The food he ate while keeping an eye on her, rich beef not cut with another questionable protein and strong, full fledged coffee that hadn't been made from grounds undoubtedly used ten times before they were discarded sat heavily in his stomach. The forgotten sensation of a stretched full belly and becoming memorized by the movements of his target's dark colored nails blinded him to the danger that was in the restaurant with him. A threat that was just as busy analyzing him as much as their mutual objective.

Sensors catalogued the Caucasian male who'd taken an avid interest in his charge. Blue eyes, light brunette hair, six feet one inch tall with an estimated weight based off of his height and other bodily measurements in conjunction with his solid muscular definition of 182 pounds. His breathing pattern was different than the other inhabitants of restaurant, shallower, his heart rate elevated and the minute ticks of his facial muscles indicated anxiety.

The last data update Curtis Holt had provided before sending him on this mission had included brief dossiers on the leadership the Deathstroke Brigade. That information had been fed into his facial recognition capabilities allowing him to identify the suspected threat as Oliver Queen, second in command under Slade Wilson. Though contents of the file was limited it allowed him to ascertain that Queen was well-trained, considered extremely lethal with excellent tactical thinking capabilities, and a tendency to be volatile which was a flaw that could be used against him.

While his re-enhanced design demanded that human life not be forfeit, it did contain exception programming, two such exceptions were Slade Wilson and Malcolm Merlyn. They were to be executed on sight as long it did not prevent his primary protocol: the protection of Felicity Smoak. Other members of either man's army were subjected to a case-by-case analysis, sparing their lives was the optimal outcome, but lethal force could be applied if necessary.

Diggle, as he had become used to being called, did not have enough data yet to accurately formulate his conclusion, one that only Felicity could supersede, but he had concluded one certainty. If Felicity Smoak wanted to survive, she would have to come with him.

He could hear the soft sound of her humming as he approached her. The tune was unfamiliar to him. Music, like so many things, had become a rarely indulged creature comfort; reduced to soulful laments over the graves of their fallen comrades or rowdy victory celebration sing-alongs. Music was not a simple everyday occurrence that filled the air in such an absentminded manner.

It was tempting to just stop and listen, but the shadowy stretch of street he'd followed her to in the sleepy residential section of the city was an ideal place to make his move. His target - it made what he was about to do easier to think of her as such rather than that long ago beauty who had enchanted him - was distracted, standing between her car door and its body, rummaging through her purse for a misplaced item.

The melodic, breezy tone of her voice indicated that she was not annoyed about having to undertake a search. Her relaxed stance told Oliver that she felt safe here and it seemed that she had no sense of self-preservation because her intense focus on her objective made her unaware of his presence.

It wasn't until he had one of his hands clamped down on her throat that she let loose a soft "Eep," which he quickly stifled as he jerked her towards him. Oliver had every intention of bracing her against his body, giving himself an easy angle at which to snap her neck, but the sudden quiet left in the absence of her humming caused his ears to ring with the harsh sounds of their breathing and his own blood coursing speedily through his veins fueled by adrenaline. It was enough to make him to pause, which allowed him to feel the wild beat of her pulse at her throat and the soft curves of her body connecting with the hard planes of his own.

His fingers continued to dig into her, the fading citrusy scent emanating from her soft skin filling his lungs, as his short nails cut half-moons into the delicate column of neck, undoubtedly leaving bruises in their wake. And even with the amount of pressure he was applying she managed to release a pained whimper that sliced through all the defenses he had built up over the years.

Just a twist was needed, he knew, one sharp forceful flick and it would be over... he had killed before, up close and brutally, and in doing so chipped away another piece of his diminishing soul. It had been necessary, just as taking her life was – a disastrous future would be adverted, millions saved. Thea alive.

Oliver squeezed tighter as he thought of his sister which prompted the woman in his arms to finally begin to struggle as the need for air assaulted her. Slade had whispered in his ear about the chance of drawing this moment out, of forcing her to suffer as they had - because of her. In his darker moments he had indulged the possibility, but what little humanity he had managed to cling to over the years rebelled against the notion, turning his stomach.

"A violent act cannot change the future for the better." McKenna had said that to him once. They had been deep into their cups, drinking to celebrate not only their hard fought victory, but that they both made it through the battle alive.

It had felt like such an odd sentiment for her to express. They were soldiers fighting a war, using violence to bend the future towards the vision Slade had created in their minds. She hadn't given him time to remark on her unexpected sentiment. Instead McKenna had chuckled darkly, chucking her nearly empty bottle of booze, before stating, "I'm drunk." It was a statement of fact that had not prevented her from launching herself at him, all teeth and greedy hands.

Needs of the flesh had wiped the comment from his mind at the time, but it came flooding back when he wrapped his large, calloused hand around Felicity Smoak's neck. The violent act she was responsible for setting in motion had destroyed the world and yet, the hour or so he'd spent watching her, Oliver had felt like that awestruck eight-year-old again.

His hesitation held earth shattering consequences. Even with all his training and the walls he had built around his heart there was something about her. Some ineffable quality that was intrinsic to Felicity Smoak that made it impossible for him to see her as the target that he needed to eliminate.

Perhaps he was the one with faulty wiring. Oliver had that sardonic splint second thought as he felt the sudden and brutal smack of an open palm against his head, driving his temple into the roof of the ridiculous car Felicity drove. The shock of it had him releasing her and spots dancing before his eyes. Crumpling to the ground he saw a mocha skinned figure hold her upright as she sucked in much needed oxygen.

Even in the dim moonlight he could make out the tears that had pooled in her expressive eyes. A bulky frame stepped between them, allowing him to fully take in her savoir and upon recognizing what he was Oliver cursed, "Fuck!"

A D-1000 was in 2012 with him, apparently acting as her guard dog. His thoughts quickly skittered over his own failure and how its presence in this time was even remotely possible, as the cyborg drew back its arm, poised to attack.

"No! Wait," Felicity wheezed, her hand circling the robot's wide bicep. The machine paused and looked back at her and his addled mind actually thought that it was conveying confusion by the way its head tilted. "He's down. You don't need to hurt him anymore."

"He will kill you," the D-1000 stated. There was no argumentative lilt to its voice just a rich impassive baritone.

"No," she denied with a shake of his head. Where the machine was dull imitation of life she pulsated with dazzling intensity, the juxtaposition did not sit well with him, but Oliver couldn't allow himself to contemplate it.

Instead he countered, "Yes I will." It was a promise driven by his need to make up for his previous blunder. It earned him a frown from Felicity and unsympathetic analysis from the machine.

An emotionless voice it replied, "My mission is to protect Felicity Smoak."

"And mine is to kill her. I won't stop until I do." In retrospect his words were ill-timed. He was hoisted up by the cyborg and the last thing Oliver heard before being knocked unconscious was Felicity begging that he'd not be harmed.

Why she would care about one life now and not the 503 that had bled into millions later was something he could not fathom once the darkness claimed him.

Mysteries were meant to be solved. Felicity had firmly believed that, but that had been before her evening of decompressing ended in assault. Not that her night was anywhere near concluding with her curled in bed adorned in her favorite pajamas reading the latest JD Robb novel. Who needed a futuristic police lieutenant to solve murders when she had her own time traveling cyborg – his term – to prevent them? Well more specifically hers.

It had to be shock or pure imagination – she could be dreaming right? – that lead her to be standing in an abandon warehouse with a man bound to a chair. The ache she felt in her throat as she swallowed air made the reality she was in impossible to deny. A stranger, a very handsome stranger, had attacked her … had been intent on killing her and would have followed through if not for her cybernetic champion. And that was weird enough to have her pinch herself discreetly as her self-declared protector made the area secure. Diggle, she reminded herself.

It was all a bit fuzzy in mind, being attacked, being rescued, and the calm explanation of what Diggle was when he prevented her from running from him. It all felt distant to Felicity, like it had happened to someone else. She had watched numbly as Diggle – who felt like a giant compared to her five feet five inches – stuffed her unconscious assailant into her car, his muscular frame dwarfing it, before he somehow gotten her settled and strapped in the front seat.

Diggle's wide shoulders had brushed against her as he drove them away from her home and into the unknown. As they traversed the streets of Starling she had rambled about what to call him, which earned her a recitation of his model and serial number. "I'm not calling you D-1000," she snapped.

He had been unflappable and replied, "Curtis took to calling me Diggle."

"Diggle?" she questioned, her brows drawing together as she tested the name by saying it again under her breath. "Diggle." It was a tad unusual, but Felicity found that she liked it. There was something comforting about having a name to call him by and that sense of relief had her thoughts skipping towards the name he dropped. "Who's Curtis?" she inquired.

"Your protégé." She started at his response, thrown completely by the idea that she had an apprentice. Granted she had felt a bit like a rock star graduating MIT with a Master's degree at the age of nineteen after having come in second at the National Information Technology Competition. Felicity had intended to make a name for herself using her skills, but hoping and planning for that had not prepared her for the knowledge that she must have achieved her goal. Otherwise how had she landed herself her very own minion? Had she called him that? she wondered, because after seeing Despicable Me she had very much wanted her own set of minions.

Maybe she had one now. A very broad shouldered, attractive minion who just so happened to be a machine from the future. Felicity was still having trouble accepting that so she quizzed him about the future.

Sounds were the first things he noticed upon regaining consciousness, hushed voices – one male and one female – and a steady drip of water. Pain and discomfort followed. Oliver shifted slightly and the resistance that met him alerted him to his bindings. He blinked his eyes open, but the harsh light made his throbbing head ache more and he quickly shuttered them again.

He kept them closed as he concentrated the conversation happening in the room with him as he tested the ties imprisoning him. Oliver had to bite his tongue as he heard the machine relay information about Overwatch, calling it an assistive and protective system, because he did not want to give his captor any indication that he was awake and trying to escape. But he finally had to speak up after it glossed over tragedy that spun everything out of control and how Felicity, her future self, believed it had been sabotage.

Oliver spat its word back at them bitterly, drawing their attention to him, "Sabotage." He slit his eyes open and peered at them with distaste. His lip curled into a snarl, a clear visual indicator of how he felt as he continued, "Felicity Smoak went into hiding after the accident. She didn't care."

"I did so," Felicity protested automatically before her brow furled. Even with being an avid viewer of Doctor Who she was having trouble with her tenses. She had not cared yet, she couldn't have, because for her it hadn't happened. It was twenty-freaking-twelve and the notion of Overwatch – and having a name for something she'd just begun to tinker with her mind was strange – was a brand new and barely formed thought. "Or will."

Diggle's hand settled on her shoulder and he squeezed it gently in support. "You do." His tone never changed, his voice was always even and vaguely monotone, but still she found a comfort in it. In the smooth, handsome face that had yet to flinch in horror at her babble or beam with amusement or frown with disapproval – did he feel those things, Felicity wondered. He said that he had environmental sensors but did knowing the temperature mean he understood what hot or cold actually felt like? Or was it all just data? Maybe it was his kind brown eyes, which felt so much more human than Oliver's – Diggle had given her his name earlier during his rundown – frosty blue orbs, but just thinking that made her sad. Diggle was amazing and not just because he was a future technological marvel, as she was slowly coming to accept, but because he'd sensed her distressed and acted as a friend would and not as some cybernetic robot. "It took you nearly three years, but you went over millions of lines of code yourself."

"And what, you think that proves something?" Oliver asked; bring their attention back to him, which admittedly wasn't his smartest move. Diggle and Felicity had seemed lost in their moment together and very likely to stay that way, but he'd been testing the limits of his bindings since he'd awoken and they weren't giving. The machine had tied him well, leaving him no escape, except perhaps to convince them to release him. Though the thought of playing nice to manipulate his release turned his stomach Oliver remembered his promise. Slade's words were all but inked on his flesh, "Whatever it takes, Kid. Get it done." And he would. For Slade, for the future, and most importantly for Thea – her one real chance for a long and happy life was Felicity Smoak's death.

"No, but her murder does," Diggle replied. Felicity paled at that bit of knowledge and Oliver himself felt an icy prickle on his neck as her breathing stopped and her cornflower eyes went wide in fear as she glanced between them.

Hating that a sense of jubilation hadn't filled him at the news he glibly remarked, "Haven't been successful yet."

Felicity shuddered at his dark wishful tone. That someone wanted her dead, actually eagerly anticipated ending her life was a sensation she could have lived her whole life without. "You won't be," Diggle stated and again his matter-of-fact tone eased her apprehension. His next sentence unfortunately sent her heart jack-hammering once again. "Felicity Smoak will live until she is murdered on the 20th of January 2034."

"Lies!" Oliver shouted. His ire had him once again struggling against his binds, the thick rope bit into his skin, drawing blood. "She's alive in 2047, leading her master race of creations against the human resistance."

Her voice sounded small to her own ears when she asked, "Which is it Diggle? Am I alive or dead? A creator or murder?"

"Dead and you're a creator. My creator," he expounded, his face adorned with his neutral expression. "And the politeness you wished me to be programmed with dictates that I should apologize to you."

"The killing machine is going to apologize," Oliver scoffed as his face contorted in angered disbelief. Felicity frowned her disapproval at him. The beading blood along his wrists no longer making her feel sorry for him, well at least his tone made her feel not quite as bad for his physical discomfort.

"For what?" she asked Diggle.

"For murdering you."


He had not acted quickly enough. They had known about the D-1000 but it had supposedly been theoretical, at least a fully functional model had been, which is why one busting into Felicity's hidden workspace had thrown Curtis so completely. Stunning him so much that his usual energy level, which had him bouncing as he worked, evaporated and he stood stalk still.

The way the machine, a work of art really, pursued his mentor through her command center as he had jokingly named the space gave Curtis little doubt about its mission. Nor could he try to invalidate her findings any longer. That Overwatch had been compromised was hard enough to accept, but that someone deliberately corrupted the code and caused a horrific accident … it had been unthinkable.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, after years of meticulous sleuthing, Felicity had finally found the culprit. It stung more than he could articulate, which is why he fought so hard to deny it. They had been betrayed by people inside of Merlyn Global - by Malcolm Merlyn himself. Five hundred and three lives lost, including his own son, and the man showed no real remorse.

Obviously he was a psychopath. He had to be to send the next-gen Overwatch prototype after its creator. Felicity ducked and weaved, yelling for him to protect her findings. The need to provide an explanation had been driving her relentlessly since she'd awoken battered but healing in the hospital after the crash.

After all the lives lost, the growing unrest and violent clashes between police forces and Slade Wilson's so called brigade, Curtis valued life over truth, particularly if that life was Felicity Smoak. She had seen his potential from a young age and provided funding for his education. He hadn't been her only discovery, but their interests had been so similar and their personalities complimentary that they had just clicked. Even before he finished college she had brought him into the MG fold and onto the Overwatch project.

She was more than idol to epitomize or a boss to be grateful for, Felicity was first and foremost his friend, hence why he discarded her requested course of action and worked out a plan to disable the D-1000 once he was finally able to force himself to move again.

He hadn't been fast enough in frying the machine's circuits and in doing so he took out Felicity's setup in the process, destroying the proof of the misdeeds she unearthed. He'd been seconds too late. The cyborg's hand had already pierced her chest, slamming into her heart, ending her life.

Around him equipment sparked and sizzled, so much so, he could actually smell the electricity in the air. But Curtis felt cold as he raced to her fallen body, which devoid of its usual animation seemed so much smaller.

The drop to his knees was painful, but not nearly as devastating as the loss of his friend. "Felicity," he said her name and shook her shoulder as if waking her was still a possibility.

Tears blurred his vision and his breathing became ragged and shallow. He whimpered out her name again as his head dropped to her shoulder. "Please," he begged, though Curtis wasn't certain what he was pleading for … for Felicity not to be dead, to have been fast enough, for none of this to have happened.

He was unsure of how long he stayed curled over her body, grief and self-recrimination pouring out from him. It was her voice in his head, "Things to do Curtis. Mysteries to be solved," that finally had him lifting his head, his eyes red rimmed and cheeks stained from his tears, to face what would happen next.

Felicity had been right; Merlyn with the help of Brie Larvan – picturing the smug robotics expert made Curtis flush with anger – had caused a catastrophe that ultimately led them all here. The evidence Felicity had painstakingly uncovered had been destroyed in his desperate attempt to save her meaning that both sides would stay locked in battle. Her pursuit had taken too long and now Merlyn was a heroic figure battling the fanatical Wilson who took life indiscriminately and blamed her for it. She had allowed herself to get bogged down in the quest for answers, the need to give the grieving a reason why, and her silence had made her the enemy. Not to mention the perfect scapegoat for both sides.

If he had any hope of setting things right, of seeing to it that both Merlyn and Wilson lost their power and that his friend's good name was restored he needed for Felicity Smoak to be alive. Curtis choked back a sob at that thought and purposely put physical distance between himself and her lifeless body, though he could not pull his dark eyes from her. That of course was an impossibility, but no one other than him knew that and he could keep it that way. Felicity, the greatest mind and kindest heart he'd ever encountered, could be alive to the rest the world, but a virtual ghost.

That much he'd be able to pull off himself, but infiltrating either side was beyond him. His tie to Felicity would make him suspect, but if Curtis dared to trust, as he himself had been trusted by his mentor he could get eyes and ears deep inside both camps. Getting in with Merlyn would certainly be easier. Ray Palmer was already a trusted engineer who had worked on the D-1000 and managed to slow its development. Not enough apparently in the end, but he could be trusted to go further.

Finding a way into the so called resistance was another matter. The danger alone it presented required a mentality few possessed and they'd have to be a capable solider to make it up the ranks, someone who could live with doing the wrong thing for the right reason. It was a lot to ask of anyone and Curtis could only think of a single person with the gumption and wherewithal to see it through, sadly ARGUS's leader Lyla Michaels was too high profile a person to see it through personally. On the other hand, he recalled a conversation he'd overheard between her and Felicity about a favored young pupil, McKenna Hall. She just might do.


He could still feel the tingle of electricity coursing through his flesh from his earlier travel through time. It heightened his senses and made the coarse ropes against his skin bite at his abused dermis all the more, even though the bandages the machine had placed over his wounds. With an accessing eye he surveyed the D-1000 and Felicity Smoak; the later had been pacing a small path across the cavernous room, muttering to herself as she chewed on her painted the nails. The dark purple had begun to chip and it appeared to Oliver that she had yet to notice the growing imperfection.

He could not make out her words, her voice was too low, but the whisper he heard of it was soothing, only because it meant that he was not alone and at the mercy of a killing machine.

Felicity spun when she reached the table Diggle was standing at, an array of weapons covered it, and he was meticulously cleaning his arsenal. The pointy ends of the knives were too much like needles, which she hated, in her mind so she slowed her pace as she walked away from him, not eager to be confronted with the sight of them again.

Her options felt limited. Time traveling robot that will supposedly kill her in the future versus time traveling solider who wanted to kill her now – either way Felicity knew she was screwed and had zero opportunity to properly freak out about it. Diggle never slept and if her preliminary calculations were correct attempting to overload his system would require more power than she had access to in the rundown warehouse she found herself in. It could also trip a citywide failure and the chaos that would ensue from that was too reminiscent of the stark future described to her, the one Oliver was blaming on her.

He had been silent since Diggle's confession, allowing the machine to tend his wounds without additional sour commentary. He might have been willing to help her escape, though that seemed like a longshot, but once they had she would be lucky if anyone found her dead body; she had little doubt that Oliver would kill her at his first opportunity. Supposedly dead in 2047 felt much different to her than staring down certain death here and now.

That thought caused her stomach to twist and the greasy deliciousness she had eaten earlier rebelled against the stress induced acid. Felicity ran to the far wall to retch in private. She leaned over and placed one of hands on the cold exposed brick to brace herself. Her disheveled ponytail fell against her left cheek and she did her best to keep it from her mouth as she heaved.

Felicity hadn't heard any footsteps, so when she felt a hand on the small of her back, she tensed momentarily. Then another hand stroked her hair back from her face, though the contents of her stomach were now on the floor in front of her, her body continued to rebel. As Diggle held her hair and started to rub her back, she relaxed ever so slightly. It took a few minutes of deep breaths and desperate swallows with her forehead pressed against the cool brick for the attack to end.

Oliver observed Felicity straightening her stance and as she did so the machine broke his comforting contact, at least that is what he assumed had been its intention, which confused him. Its mission was to protect her, not coddle her. And it didn't seem possible that a machine could and would offer emotional support. It stepped back from her, but Felicity ended its retreat by grabbing onto its wrist as she turned towards it. Her face was ashen; her blue eyes popping out brighter from behind her two-toned frames because of it, but a small, genuine smile touched her lips as she looked at the machine. "Thank you Diggle."

The D-1000 appraised her and Oliver wondered if it could discern the gratitude in her voice before it nodded. With that motion Felicity released the machine and it turned and went back to work on its weapons with nothing further said between them.

The moment of kindness between them puzzled and maddened him. Evil should be easily detectable. It shouldn't mask itself behind beauty or false humanity as it did with the visages of Felicity and the machine she called Diggle. Witnessing their interaction shouldn't have affected him, but having seen it Oliver found that he had to remind himself that creator and creation had ended the world before them. To save it, to rescue Thea, he had to change the future.

Slade had drilled only one definite way to make that happen into him – kill Felicity Smoak. He couldn't allow some long ago childish crush or a flickering of humanity from a machine to question his resolve, because the most dangerous question he could pose was if there was another way to save the future.


"Harbinger," static fizzed over the message as the video became inundated with zig-zag lines. It stalled momentarily before the color leeched away. The weary face of the fierce brunette pixelated, black and white squares dissolved her strong features into a homogeneous blob. There was a lag time when the video picked up again, what once had been bow shaped lips mouthed words before the audio carried over the line.

"Wilson successfully commandeered S.T.A.R. Labs Wells Device and its lead engineer, Cisco Ramon, and under duress he's made it functional."

"I did my best to extract him, figured keeping that tech from Wilson would be worth blowing my cover for, but the kid got it operational before I could devise a safe exit strategy."

There was another break in the feed. Snow-like interference blurred the image and the audio pitched high, a steady whine masking all other sound.

When the picture snapped back it was crisp and clear, though still colorless, and the audio was properly synced. "The only thing working in our favor is that Wilson isn't making the trip. Either he thinks the machine won't work or he's after younger legs to see it through, which is why he's sending Queen. Damn fool," she said with a shake of her head, the first hint of emotion offered," has been willing to sacrifice his life for Wilson for as long as I've known him."

The sound dropped again, as a series of color bars splayed across the black and white image. The audio came back in degrees, getting progressively louder as a yellow tint settled over the video. The image was a vibrant hue when the volume maxed out at its top level.

"As reported previously given the right inducement I think Queen could be open to other methods of altering things, but if his initial attempt to take out Overwatch isn't prevented ... well, no need stating the obvious."

"Alert 'Rific that he has 72 hours to setup counter measures. Updated information has been encoded into this message."

"Har—" the woman's tone which had remained flat and informative finally broke. "Lyla, God I hope you're right about this because this should not be our future."

There was a pause, before the message ended with a stoic, "Freelancer out."


They weren't killing each other. Felicity was about eighty-five percent certain of that fact. Diggle swore not to use lethal force on Oliver and if the long, tense awkward weekend spent in the rundown warehouse had proven anything to her, it was that Diggle kept his word. As well as an unwavering gaze upon Oliver when he was free from his bonds to handle the necessities of the human body. It couldn't have been comfortable being locked into a position for hours on end, but Oliver managed to eat, sleep, and look decidedly calm given the fact that he was prisoner.

After their initial confrontation he had stayed mulishly quiet until making a roundabout request to use the makeshift bathroom Diggle had jerry-rigged. His language had been crude, but she had heard the need in his tone.

"I really don't want Diggle to have to hurt you again, so please don't try any funny business, just answer nature's call and ..." his raised brows made her bite her lower lip which ended her ramping up babble abruptly.

The next morning when she had been preparing to make a food run – because extra strength coffee was needed after a night of physical and emotional blows and a handful of hours of lackluster sleep on an uncomfortable cot – he had warned Diggle that she wouldn't come back. He wasn't wrong exactly, she was tempted to disappear; the desire having formed in her the moment she heard about the unbearable future for which she was responsible; but running would get her nowhere. Plus, she wanted to prove Oliver wrong, even if it was partially due to pique.

A ten minute discussion, one that went in circles because Diggle hesitated to leave her unprotected, but he could not leave Oliver unobserved, and they could not trust him to be taken out in public, yet – all of which had happened without coffee and had nearly been her undoing. She finally unleashed her 'Loud Voice' as Roy termed it, basically ordering Diggle to stay and watch Oliver while she went out, with the compromise that if she wasn't back in a half-hour to come look for her.

She had taken a few minutes to setup her cell phone to be tracked on Diggle's laptop – and they were so going to have to talk about how he obtained his supplies – "For your peace of mind," she told him, which earned a derisive laugh from Oliver. Ignoring him she kept her gaze on Diggle and said, "Thirty starting now."

Oliver appeared genuinely surprised when she returned, with five minutes to spare, carrying more food than the two of them needed and at least a gallon of hot coffee for herself. His suspicious nature led him to eating lukewarm food, having to watch her partake before he would consider it. That had really hit a nerve because he'd been acting as if she had personally murdered 503 people and would happily cut his heart out with a spoon – and she really needed to stop watching every version of Robin Hood ever made, every chance she got – instead of an invention of hers malfunctioning. Which actually kind of hurt worse since she had always been consciousness in her work.

Not that the blinking cursor she had been staring at for the last two hours proved that fact about her. She had needed some semblance of normal back in her life after having spent a weekend in bizarro-land where she was basically Captain Tripps, the epidemic responsible for bringing down the world; so she had insisted on going into work at Merlyn Global like it was any other Monday morning. However, since walking into the building Felicity had been unable to shake the feeling that she was employed by Evil, Incorporated and instead of following her usual routine she'd been sitting at her desk, her coffee having gone cold, as she senselessly stared at her computer screen as the events of last forty-eight hours played on a loop in her mind.

A knock at her door startled her, as did the warm voice of Tommy Merlyn; he greeted her good morning with cheerful smile as she turned in her chair. His pleasant demeanor faltered upon taking her in and Felicity puzzled over his sudden and unexpected appearance. A throat clearing alerted her to the man standing behind her friend and she followed the line of the dark, expertly tailored suit up to find the pinched face of Malcolm Merlyn.

She jolted at seeing him in her doorway, as far Felicity knew, he had never stepped foot on this floor. At least not in all the time she had worked for MG. Realization dawned then. It was Tommy's first day in an official capacity at Merlyn Global. It had been all she and her Fabulous Friends had talked about last week, and one of the reasons she had taken her meal at Big Belly alone Friday night, because she had craved some time off from work.

Tommy had promised to stop by on his walkthrough tour of the company. "Have to shine a light on our hidden talent," he'd said over their Hump Day drinks get-together. She had beamed at the time, excited about getting on the CEO's radar, but now, after learning what she would do at MG and what she suspected of Merlyn Senior Felicity felt her gut twist. The future her time travelling visitors had painted for her over the interminable weekend was not just some nebulous possibility. It was beginning. Now.

And she couldn't let it. She had to stop it and – "I quit," Felicity found herself saying as she pushed herself to her feet, her announcement caused Tommy's grey eyes to bug out and Malcolm to focus in on her with annoyance. His harsh appraising glare caused her skin to prickle with discomfort and she felt like a specimen he was studying under a microscope.

"Felicity," Tommy said her name, confusion marring his handsome face and concern coloring his voice.

"Not because of Tommy," she expounded because she didn't want his father to think that his son's mere appearance would drive employees away, especially one that was supposed to be his friend, though she had no idea if Senior was aware of their relationship. "The quitting I mean. I'm not leaving Merlyn Global because Tommy's decided to join the company. In fact, I've been supportive since he mentioned it last month. I think he'll be great," Felicity said this with certainty tinged with pride, "do wonderful things for the company and its employees. If anything I'm quitting because of you Mr. Merlyn."

Sky blue eyes narrowed at that statement and Felicity felt her cheeks flush as her rambling words finally caught up with her. "Ummm," she drew out the sound momentarily while both Merlyn men looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. "Maybe I should just leave and come back for my personal effects later," she offered, her shoulders drooping as she internally harangued herself for how she handled the situation.

"Tommy you should help your friend," the way Malcolm stressed the word made it clear that he did not approve of label, "pack, see her out and then report back to my office." His tone was empirical, his directions final and before either of them could respond he left her small office.

Once he was gone Tommy stepped forward, his hands landing gently on her shoulders before he gave them a supportive squeeze as he studied her. "Smoaky," the use of his nickname for her made her heart clench, "is everything all right?" he asked.

Felicity fought back the tears she could feel forming. There was no way she could answer yes to that question, could she? She had just ruined her career prospects and possibly one, if not all, of her Fabulous friendship and even if she did change the future, how could she be certain it was for the better? Was this like the new school Star Trek and they were now in alternate timeline or like Back to the Future meaning she would find the warehouse empty of Diggle and Oliver when she returned.

She took a shaky breath and reminded herself of billions of lives being saved and managed to shake her head in affirmation, because that was a good thing. It didn't appear that Tommy believed her, so she forced a smiled and said, "Absolutely."

Tommy tucked his chin as he tried to determine if he should believe her not. "I haven't done something wrong?" he questioned dropping his hands. He shuffled his feet anxiously as he put some space between them and added, "Sara will kill me if I've chased you away."

A laugh, genuine and tension relieving, escaped her. "Of course not," she replied, her heart warming with the knowledge that while she may have screwed her financials along with her career, she wouldn't be losing what mattered most.

"I flubbed the whole notice thing, I know," she said, an authentic smile touching her lips and drawing a return one from him. "I was – what is beyond nervous? – whatever that is, it's me, because I moved to Starling to work for MG and I was really excited about being able to work with you Tommy. Not that a lowly IT tech would work work with you," Felicity said with a wave of her hand. "And honestly, I'd forgotten about it until you popped in and that made me feel guilty for wanting to leave."

"Just as long as you're not leaving because of me," he managed to edge into her babble, which had reassured him based on the way his stiff stance had eased as the words tumbled out of her mouth.

"Never," she assured him. "In fact, you're the only reason I considered staying after I got offered my dream job." The lie came easily and unexpectedly. Felicity knew she would have to find a way to have it all fall apart on her later, but right now soothing Tommy helped her.

"Hey," he said giving her a quick one arm hug, "you definitely should not feel guilty for following your dreams." With things settled between them Tommy spun her so they were both facing her sleek desktop which had a few personal and funky knickknacks placed across. "Let's get packing."

They chatted as she found an empty paper box to put her things in and he confided that he could have used her to be his 'Girl Friday' when his father handed over the reins of Applied Sciences to him in a few months. Felicity felt a ghostly sense of deja vu at his off-hand remark and she couldn't help the feeling that she truly had avoided great catastrophe, no matter what she'd find at the warehouse later. "You'll do great," she assured Tommy and offered the name Dan Garrett to be his 'Guy Friday.'

The sense of relief at finding Diggle and Oliver right where she left them settled the turmoil that had been rolling through her since Tommy had hip-checked her out of the MG elevator and into the parking garage, his grin wide as he teasingly whisper-shouted, "Bon voyage!" Her hands were full so she hadn't been able to return his wave, but she offered a cheerful, "Good luck and good riddance," with a wink.

The second she'd been alone among the cars her heart had sunk as the chance of facing whatever happened next alone. Not that she would lose her Fabulous friends, of that she was certain, though without the daily grind of MG business she wasn't so sure about her group of IT pals who had watched her leave with mouths agape; which had been slightly better than seeing the angered, disappointed look on her boss's face. Felicity knew she had people to stand by her, but she realized what she wanted most were people she wouldn't have to lie to about why she had tanked the life she had loved.

She had enough trouble accepting the truth herself, convincing others – well ending up in a mental institution was not high on her list of things to do in life and it was likely outcome should she confess her motives. "Thank Google," she sighed coming to a standstill as she took in her boys. It felt strange to consider them such, but since they were still here with her Felicity felt a responsibility towards them. No matter what programming Diggle had there was no way he could mask his less than human status long-term without assistance (one trip through metal detector could wreak havoc) and Oliver had no clue how to live in a relatively peaceful 2012.

"You're back earlier than anticipated," Diggle remarked as he studied her. Felicity noted that he paused whatever task he'd been performing with his laptop and across the room Oliver scowled at them, but she noticed … not concern, but curiosity in his crystal gaze.

As grateful as she was for them in the moment, Felicity knew she couldn't live the rest of her life – however long that maybe now – with them all at odds. They had to work together. She hadn't realized that she expressed that sentiment out loud until Oliver scoffed at her.

She crossed her arms over her chest and did her best to glower at him, when she got no response from that action Felicity threw up her arms in frustration. "I'm back early because I quit Merlyn Global today." The news caused Oliver to blanch in surprise and she felt a tug of satisfaction for inspiring something other than aversion from him.

"I can't guarantee that the future has changed with that action alone, but I plan on making certain that it does. And I can do that with or without you," she warned. "I can disappear without a trace and go so deep off the grid that neither of you will ever be able to find me."

There was slightly fluttering in Diggle's eyes, a whirl almost, and Felicity figured he'd begun calculating the probability of her statement. "I rather protect the future with your help. Technology can be a force for good," she stated, her eyes meeting Oliver's with that statement. He looked wary but beneath that skepticism she saw hope. "I want to prove that you Oliver," she continued taking a step towards him.

"I am going to create Overwatch," she declared, "without any cheating by taking a look under Diggle's hood so to speak and I want you to play devil's advocate. Hold me to no shortcuts. There will be no repeats of the future," she promised. "No sabotage. We'll do it right. We will build a better future together."

He had been incredulous at first, unready to put is trust into the mother of the future's destruction. If Oliver hadn't known better he would have said her cybernetic manservant had the same misgivings, not about Felicity, but him. Even after he had been released from his bonds he never doubted that his every movement was tracked by the machine.

The first few days the human/cyborg duo worked to relieve terrorists, drug dealers and human traffickers of their ill-gotten gains, emptying their accounts and delivering evidence to various law enforcement agencies – every move made anonymously and untraceable – and he found that he could not fault Felicity's logic for their targeting methods. The future would undoubtedly be better with monsters like that weakened or made powerless.

Once their funds were settled Felicity had painstakingly built him an identity to live under in 2012, using graphic programs to create images of him as a child and teenager, crafting him an online history of family money and tragedy; one that led to the creation of the Hawke Foundation, setup to help refugees of war and victims of those they had stolen from. They had spent weeks arguing purpose and researching hires for his organization while he learned about the more recent past and memorized his new personal history. He had begrudgingly allowed Felicity to include pieces of his true life because he found that actually relished the opportunity to speak about his family again, particularly now that there was a chance they could be alive and well and theoretically he could live to see it for himself.

Five months after arriving 2012 he was setup in a Starling City penthouse, mechanical bodyguard always on duty, and officially opening the doors of the Hawke Foundation after an intensive round the clock rehab of an of a derelict old bank building in the heart of the struggling Glades neighborhood. The four-story Queen Anne structure housed Felicity's workspace and his own office on the top floor, while the three levels below them had six different offshoots which had their own specialized focuses – most of the lower level space was dedicated to the organization they founded to revitalize the Glades – and their internal legal team which after much back and forth was headed by Felicity's good friend, Laurel Lance.

In the months that followed Oliver found himself falling into a life he never could have anticipated with people, like Tommy Merlyn, he would have sworn he'd rather die before befriending them. Still with each new day, even with Felicity hard at work on Overwatch when one of the charities wasn't in need of her skills, he could not help but think that Slade had been wrong – there had been a better way to change the future, one he never would have thought possible if his enemies hadn't showed it to him.

Which is how he found himself on cool May evening in 2013, after a night surrounded by his new brothers in arms raising money to continue their endeavors, kissing Felicity Smoak. Her lips were so much softer than he'd been imagining and the feel of her body pressed against his own was the headiest experience of his life. He didn't want the taste of her to leave his lips, but the need for air finally drove him to pull back. "Oliver," she sighed his name as their mouths parted and nothing had ever sounded so sweet to his ears as the passionate longing he heard in her voice. Her eyes fluttered open; the sparking blue orbs had deepened to irresistible hue of indigo and Felicity gazed at him buoyantly, a warm smile spreading across her face.

"The future is not set," he whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion. "And because of you, I can face it for the first time with a sense of hope. I was a zealot, Felicity, a ruthless killer," he confessed even though she knew that, had experienced the violence he was capable of first hand. That she hadn't held it against him, had in fact found a way to forgive and befriend him – that she could look at him as she did now with belief that he was a good man whom she regarded with such genuine affection – it astounded and humbled Oliver. He might never feel worthy of what she offered him so freely, but he could no longer deny his feelings, emotions that had rooted in a young boy and allowed him defy the cold sense of mission that Slade had all but ingrained in him. "If I can learn to value what I was brought up to hate, then maybe everyone can."

"Maybe," he said cupping her cheek and thrilled at the way she leaned into his touch, "we're not just preventing a tragedy, but building a better world."