December 4, 2013, evening:

He's running late. Of course he's running late – sometimes Barry feels like he's never managed to be on time for anything in his life though he knows, statistically speaking, that that can't be true. That doesn't change the fact that it's raining, and he didn't bring an umbrella, and he's running late.

(Technically, technically, Barry's not late. Because he wasn't invited. No one knows he's coming. But he'd caught wind of the unusual robbery at one of Queen Consolidated's warehouses as he'd been working into the early hours of the morning on some basic lab work and, well. It's worth the ten-hour train ride. For something like this, it's worth it. Barry doesn't want to miss it.)

Luckily, he's not too late. True, the SCPD have already set up shop at the scene and started investigating the crime, but their own CSI's have just gotten started and nobody minds too much when Barry flashes his badge (alright, official CCPD employee identification card) and sets up his equipment. They seem to be waiting for the detective assigned to the case to get started.

(The Queens are some of the most influential people in Star City, even after the miniquake caused by Malcolm Merlyn and Moira Queen and only barely stopped by the combined efforts of the Green Arrow and Superman – that means big money and probably a lot of donations. Barry wouldn't doubt it if this robbery was moved to the top of this list as soon as the local captain heard whose warehouse it was. Then again, two people are dead too. That tends to motivate cops, or at least the honest ones.)

Detective Andre Blair, tall and stern, frowns down at Barry's ID but lets him stay. Barry breathes a sigh of relief. This isn't his first time butting into a crime scene where he technically doesn't belong, but he knows the trick by now: act like he's supposed to be there. His ID is legit, his work sound, and most people don't want to deal with bothering to double check his reasoning for being there, especially since they're not the ones who have to worry about paying him. (Anyway, his reason would, itself, be a good reason. If it were actually true.)

He's interrupted in his analysis of the crime scene by the appearance of Oliver Queen himself, and what he means by interrupted is that he stops to stare in astonishment as the billionaire walks into his warehouse behind a gruff looking ex-military guy (Barry hangs out around cops all day; he knows the type) and a blonde-haired woman in heels and a dress. Barry doesn't think he's ever seen a billionaire in real life.

Obviously this is Queen's warehouse and his company that was robbed, but still. Billionaire. In front of him. It takes him a moment to come back to himself and realize what they're saying. His mind goes from blanking out over Queen's appearance to no, no, no, that's all wrong. He speaks before he can stop himself.

"Actually it was only one guy," he says, feet carrying him forward. You're supposed to be unobtrusive. Out of the way, he chides himself. No one was supposed to have reason to question why he's there. But it's too late now and he can't exactly just let them solve a crime wrong. The victims deserve justice.

He starts babbling before he can second guess himself, something about being late and his train and his cab and the app on his phone – he doesn't really know, words spilling out of his mouth, stumbling over each other. He doesn't try to stop himself though. It's not an act – he really is that nervous – but he's realized that people are less likely to press him for an explanation if they think he's going to babble his way through it. (He tries to focus on Detective Blair but his eyes keep shifting to Oliver Queen. Billionaire. Pretty much a local celebrity. Barry's never met a celebrity. Does this count? He can't wait to tell Iris.)

"This is Barry Allen, from the crime scene investigation unit in Central City. They're working a similar case and decided to offer some assistance," Blair says calmly with only the slightest undercurrent of a warning in his tone.

(Barry's pretty sure he knows what that warning means. It is not, thankfully, I don't believe your story, but rather, Get your shit together and act like a professional. He's heard it from more than one cop before and he holds back a wince. His first impression was right. Blair is very no-nonsense.)

The gruff ex-military guy next to Queen frowns at him contemplatively, slightly judging. "You think one guy managed to rip this door open?"

Barry knows it sounds implausible but, this is a world where Superman exists and weird fear drugs terrorize Gotham every other month and the ocean can rise up and destroy an oil rig off the coast of Japan – and only that oil rig. Not to mention, this is Star City. And even if all the rumors and theories floating around the internet are completely baseless, and Green Arrow is just a guy with a bow (which is what Barry thinks, though he can't be certain), this is still a city that almost suffered through a man-made earthquake. Half a year ago, that would have been the stuff of science fiction.

But not everyone has as much information on the weird and out-of-the-ordinary as Barry does. Not everyone knows about those things that he just listed off in his mind. The four people in front of him are going to want a better explanation than that. Luckily, Barry has science on his side.

"One very strong guy, yeah," he says, still stuttering and nervous (he's not supposed to be here!) but certain of his facts. "Uh, it takes about, uh, 1,250 foot-pounds of torque to break someone's neck. You see the marks on the guard's neck? The bruising pattern suggests the killer used only one hand." Gruff guy's eyes seem less judging at the information, but Blair's and Queen's are still mostly blank. Barry's mouth jumps ahead of his brain again, directing his next words at Oliver Queen. "I'm guessing you don't know how hard it is to break someone's neck."

(Really?! he chides himself. Those are your first words to the first billionaire you ever meet?)

"Hmm?" Queen asks, blinking at him as if he doesn't understand the question at first, or maybe just wasn't paying attention. "Oh, no. No idea."

He doesn't seem rattled – or disgusted – by the idea though, so at least Barry hasn't totally screwed up the encounter.

The SCPD's own crime scene tech – cyber division, actually, Barry thinks – pokes his head into the group from behind. "Uh, we're going to need a list of the entire inventory here to figure out exactly what was stolen," he says, directing his not-quite-a-question towards Queen and his two companions rather than Detective Blair.

But Barry's already had a decent look around and his brain jumps on that too. "Actually, I think I know what was stolen," he blurts out. He starts rambling about centrifuges as he leads them over to the empty space where one once sat, mouth spitting out all the information that's been running through his brain the last half-hour or so.

Blair nods once, studying the base that was left behind, then looks up at Barry. "Since you seem to know what you're doing, why don't you tell us what a centrifuge is – and why someone might want one."

Barry doesn't get a chance to answer. The woman who came in with Oliver Queen – wearing smart, black-rimmed, rectangular glasses and a salmon dress that nicely highlights her figure under her coat (what? Barry can look, can't he? It's not like he's actually told Iris how he feels, or that he has any real hopes there) – speaks up instead.

"It separates liquids," she says quickly. "The centripetal acceleration causes denser substances to separate out along the radial direction."

Barry nods in agreement. "The lighter objects move to the top," he finishes for her, revising his opinion of Queen's entourage. Scientist, not secretary. (Which, yeah, makes sense that Queen would bring a security expert and scientist to a crime scene at a warehouse holding scientific equipment.)

As the other three men absorb the information the woman turns to look at him. "What did you say your name was again?"

"Barry. Allen."

She grins at him. "Felicity. Smoak."

Felicity. It's a nice name. Barry grins back. He likes it when people understand his explanations and he doesn't run into too many people in his line of work who can do the explaining for him. (Even with only a year under his belt at the crime lab, Barry's already learned that most people's brains don't work as fast as his.)

Blair interrupts their awkward introduction, ignoring the way the two of them are grinning at each other. "And why, exactly, would someone steal a centrifuge?"

A good point. A very, very good point that Barry hadn't actually considered yet. He'd been focusing more on how and who and what and when than on why. "Oh, um, I'm… I'm not really sure," he stutters, mind scrambling to come up with ideas as he runs through everything he knows about centrifuges and their uses. "Most applications are scientific or industrial. I have one – a much smaller one – in the crime lab back home. I'm sure you guys do too. But, um…" he shrugs hopelessly. Crap. Way to make a terrible impression. Why can't his brain just think sometimes?

Felicity Smoak, luckily, is just as smart as she'd first sounded and swoops in before the silence can get too awkward. "Centrifuges are used to separate liquids," she reiterates, "any liquids. It's possible, I guess, technically speaking, that they could be using it to manufacture drugs? Not that I know anything about making drugs," she adds quickly, glancing over at the detective as though he might use her random babbling to arrest her, "or even if there are any that need a centrifuge but… well I doubt they're separating soil samples or nuclear isotopes."

The thought triggers something in Barry's brain – finally, something useful to contribute to the conversation. "The Kord 2BX-900 isn't certified for nuclear materials anyway," he adds in quickly. "But… centrifuges aren't exactly regulated equipment. It's not hard to buy one – a smaller one at least. If someone wanted a centrifuge this big…" Barry doesn't know anything about the manufacture of street drugs either. He has no clue if a centrifuge would make the production of heroin or cocaine or even Star City's vice of Vertigo go any faster. But if someone is intending to use the industrial size centrifuge for drug production then, well, that's a lot of drugs.

Blair looks intrigued by the idea but he circles back around to their earlier topic. "What other evidence do you have to support your theory that there was only one thief?"

"Oh," Barry half-jumps, hurrying around to the other side of the stand where the centrifuge had once sat. He points out what he'd seen earlier. "See the cracks in the concrete, heading toward the door. There's only one set of footprints. One guy. One very strong guy." And then, just so they don't think he's placing all his eggs in one basket, or that he's trying to take over their investigation, he quickly speaks again before anyone else can comment. "It's just a theory. One backed by a lot of evidence." Why did he have to say that last bit? You idiot, he tells himself. So much for making sure he didn't piss anyone off.

But Barry believes in what he's saying. He can't think of a single other explanation that would fit the facts as he's presented them. (This is why he's here, to study the strange nature of this crime and try to convince people that the impossible isn't nearly as impossible as they think it is.)

"Detective," Oliver Queen calls out into the silence, already half turned away like he's ready to leave. "I'd like to be kept updated on the investigation. Ms. Smoak already has access to the building's systems and security footage and I'm authorizing Mr. Rowley to have free reign. I know the SCPD has a job to do but I'd like to keep this as in-house as possible."

The detective studies the billionaire for a moment, clearly not as impressed upon meeting him as Barry is. (Maybe he's already met him before?) After a moment, he nods. "This is your property, Mr. Queen, your people have full access." Blair doesn't seem pleased by the concession – Barry knows that cops hate people butting into their crime scenes – but Barry's still focusing on the fact that's he's met Oliver Queen, seen him up close and in person. (His eyes are really blue.)

"Thank you," Queen replies sincerely, before turning to Felicity and his head of security. "If you need anything from me –"

"I'll ask," the head of security says gruffly, striding away from Oliver to follow after Blair as he leaves the group. He doesn't seem very impressed by the billionaire either, but then again, he works for him. He's probably met him before for sure. (Or, since he seems like the ex-military/cop type, maybe he's just not impressed by Oliver Queen's drinking and partying habits. Barry knows Joe isn't.)

Off to the side, and trying to pretend he's studying the centrifuge's base, Barry doesn't hear whatever Felicity and Oliver talk about next, but he sees them out of the corner of his eye enough to know that they have a quick discussion before Queen leaves the warehouse. He isn't the only one. Blair's been talking to his people and, true to the billionaire's wishes, most of the SCPD members on the property file out shortly after the property owner. Some seem indifferent to their new orders and only a few look irritated.

Barry is very, very glad when Blair doesn't ask him to leave, though the man does approach him with an order.

"I'm letting you stay on the condition that you don't go back to Central City and immediately tell your whole precinct what happened here. Your captain's fine, but if Queen wants to keep this quiet we'll keep it quiet, understand?" He's still clearly upset about taking orders from someone who isn't police but he's firm in his decision too.

Barry nods quickly and manages not to babble. "Of course, sir," he promises. Given that he's not even supposed to be here, and that no one from the CCPD knows he is, keeping whatever he discovers during the course of the investigation a secret shouldn't be a problem.

When he turns back to the broken base in front of him, Felicity Smoak is waiting next to it.

"Hi," she says.

"Hi," Barry returns stupidly. They'd already exchanged greetings – what is he doing?

Felicity seems equally as embarrassed. They both blush and grin at each other sheepishly.

"I guess we should, uh, get to work," Barry offers, still sounding quite stupid.

"Yeah, that, uh, yes. That is what we should be doing." Felicity tucks a stray hair behind her ear, grinning nervously (and adorably). She straightens. "What do you usually start with?"

Truthfully, Barry finds out pretty quickly that Felicity doesn't know that much about forensics, even if she does know more than most computer scientists Barry knows. She certainly seems to understand how a police investigation works (though most of America seems to think they do too, after watching CSI and Law and Order and the two-dozen other crime shows out there). But the actual detailed forensics of it? Not so much.

He's not even really sure why she, an IT expert, out of everyone else at Queen Consolidated, is the one assisting him. (He briefly entertains the idea that it's because she's, well, friendlier with the CEO than most people – he's not an idiot, he knows Oliver Queen's reputation – but Felicity doesn't seem like that kind of woman and Barry's not the kind to really believe something like that unless he has evidence.)

Still, she's smart, and she picks up quickly on what Barry's doing and what she can do to help. Most of the SCPD clears out behind Queen, leaving only Blair and Kelton with Felicity and Rowley. Apparently, if Queen wants low-key, he gets low-key. (Barry still can't get over the fact that he met a billionaire.)

Though the (probable) centrifuge seems to be the only thing stolen, they can't judge a crime scene based solely on a first look. Barry leaves the SCPD tech to analyze what they already know – the door, the footsteps, the broken base – and starts to canvas the rest of the warehouse on his own, without the other techs he usually has at his back. Felicity follows in his footsteps though, helping him with her access into Queen Consolidated's database and her knowledge of what the company does, while Blair and Rowley do a search of the perimeter.

As soon as Felicity gets access to a full list of the warehouse's contents – which doesn't take long, given that she's got the CEO's and head of security's permissions on top of her crazy fast computer skills – Barry adds cataloguing the inventory to their search of the interior (which is going to take a while, if he's the only one doing it…). So far at least, though, nothing seems to be out of place, besides what they've already noticed.

And yeah, the centrifuge missing is exactly what he'd thought it was. Score one for Barry Allen!

December 7, 2013, early morning:

It takes Barry a couple days to process all the evidence, mostly on his own. He spends his off hours in a cheap motel room, fending off Iris' texts as he wonders when his captain (or worse, Joe) is going to cotton on to the reason for his absence. So far, it doesn't seem as if the SCPD has had any reason to contact the CCPD about his credentials, which at least buys him a little more time.

Working with Felicity is fun though, and he'd met Oliver Queen, and, on top of all that, Barry's finally gotten the chance to work a case in which something not quite human has taken place.

There's Superman, of course, and that Batman in Gotham City that some people still aren't sure exists, but as far as Barry's personal encounters with the supernatural (or the alien) go… Well, not a single case he's left Central City to investigate has turned out to mean anything. But this… this is proof that it's not just aliens out there, not just Superman or the weird rumors coming from Gotham every now and again.

Barry's found a crime committed by someone with enhanced strength, he's almost sure of it and that means… Well, after that, someone with enhanced speed can't be that farfetched, can it? Just the sheer possibility makes all the risks of the trip to Star City worth it.

He focuses as much as he can on the strength needed to lift such a heavy centrifuge – to snap a neck with one hand. And when he's not working on the case, he's making theories about why and how and who, anything he can think of, any idea that crosses his mind.

Anything to find his mother's killer.

But he doesn't forget about the actual police work either, and it doesn't take him too long for him to realize there's sugar in the boot prints of the murderer and thief. It's possible that he spilled a bit on his kitchen floor and stepped in it, but the amount Barry finds suggests that there's a lot of it on his shoes, enough that it's still there despite how many steps that he might have taken since stepping in the sugar, and enough that he must have stepped in a lot. There's still the possibility that it's a false lead, but there's always that possibility, and when Barry asks for access to the recent crimes the SCPD has on file, he quickly notices the truck stolen from a local sugar warehouse.

Big enough to hold a centrifuge for sure. He doesn't hesitate to pass along the information. It's not relevant to the real reason he's in Star City, but Barry would never hold off on solving a crime for his own personal reasons.

December 8, 2013, morning:

Barry's still working with Felicity again the next day, but Rowley's not there anymore and the SCPD are analyzing what they've found back at their labs (in the case of the tech Barry'd worked with) and following up on any possible leads (in the case of Blair). Now that they've got a bit of time, while some of the data is being analyzed and they're mostly just working through theories and checking for anything that they might have missed, Barry admits he lets himself get distracted a bit. (Really though, these questions have been running through his mind since he first started working with Felicity. It's practically a miracle he's held out until now.)

"What's it like, working for Oliver Queen?" he can't help but ask.

"It's exhausting," Felicity answers honestly before she freezes, blushing. "Not, not like that," she's quick to correct, though Barry's mind doesn't jump to what she thinks she was implying until after her hasty correction. "I just mean I'm with him every night!"

And Barry… well, Barry's not ashamed to admit that he slumps a little. He's got a massive crush on his best friend since childhood, sure, but it's a crush he's not sure he'll ever muster up the courage to do anything about. Felicity's smart and pretty and fun to talk to and… He's got a bit of a crush on her too, if he's being honest.

Billionaires, of course, are much more attractive to any girl. Barry should have known he wasn't much competition.

"Ah," he says, trying not to let his disappointment show. He hadn't taken Felicity to be Oliver's type, despite her looks, but he hadn't considered whether or not Oliver Queen was Felicity's type. "I didn't realize you two were…"

"Oh, no," Felicity quickly says, still flustered as she tries to correct her words. "That was just, my brain…" she grimaces. "Oliver and I work together. And I do a lot of work for him – five years without a computer and he's still learning how to use a smart phone – but that's it. There's nothing else between us."

She looks slightly uneasy with her answer, but that's understandable given how embarrassed she seems to be at the misunderstanding and anyway, Barry's more focused on the fact that she's not romantically involved with the billionaire. He still has a chance. (Maybe.)

"Anyway," Felicity continues, still blushing slightly as she holds up an evidence bag. "We got new evidence."

It's an arrow in the bag, one of the Green Arrow's smaller flechettes that he keeps on his arm. It's crumpled, and covered with something that looks like blood, but Barry would recognize it anywhere. He's certainly seen enough pictures, since the Arrow first made his appearance. He gapes, as Felicity continues talking.

"The vigilante managed to track down the thief who stole the centrifuge," she says calmly, like it's no big deal that the Green Arrow is involved in the same case as them. "He didn't manage to apprehend the guy, but he passed along a blood sample to the SCPD."

Barry manages to reign in his excitement enough to focus on the fact that he's got new evidence in his investigation again. "Why aren't the police analyzing it then?" he asks. He knows Queen had wanted to keep the investigation small, but the SCPD is still technically in charge of this investigation. (Will Star City's vigilante task force be taking away the crime from Blair, now that the Green Arrow's gotten involved?)

"Oliver has a lot of connections," Felicity replies, still talking casually as if none of what she's saying is anything remotely unusual. "And Queen Consolidated has the equipment."

Barry glances around the lab they're currently using. It's not the best organized lab he's ever seen – really, nitric acid next to hydrazine and permanganates on top of acetone? – but there's no denying that it has absolutely stellar equipment. "Yeah, they do," he agrees. "They need to work on their lab safety though."

Felicity only holds up her hands in response, grinning. "Not my lab," she defends. "I tend to stick with computers."

Barry grins back at her, amused. If it had been her lab he would have been a bit, well… Lab safety isn't really something to joke about. But it isn't, so he doesn't feel the need to say anything further. He definitely doesn't want to ruin… whatever it is that is between them, by scolding her about a lab that she probably hasn't even seen before today.

After a beat of silence passes between them, she clears her throat. "Shall we?"

Barry almost blushes again at her question, wondering if he should have used that moment of silence to ask her out, but it's too late now. Besides, he's still excited at working a case for Oliver Queen, with evidence from the Green Arrow, in a situation that might just prove the existence of the superhuman.

"Of course," he agrees happily, and they get to work.

Barry's experiences in Star City have been absolutely amazing and nothing at all like he was expecting. Not only has he met Oliver Queen, billionaire, but he's gotten the chance to meet and work with Felicity Smoak, a stunningly brilliant woman with an infectious smile. He's gotten to work the same case as Green Arrow, the vigilante he's been tracking since the man's debut. And he's found proof of the impossible, proof that there are unexplainable people out there, capable of unexplainable things, beyond just Superman. He's never doubted his father's innocence – he knows what he saw that night – but it's still so relieving to have an example of the impossible in front of him, not just seen through a TV screen as Superman flies away from his latest miraculous feat.

The case isn't really over, but the initial crime scene is as analyzed as it's going to be. He's pointed the police toward a potential suspect, even if he has no idea of who that suspect is (because, strange as it seems, the theft of the truck from the sugar company is definitely linked to the theft of the centrifuge), and he's proven that there was ketamine in the thief's blood, another way to track him. (Which, weird, but this is a man with super strength, so Barry doesn't discount the possibility that the ketamine plays a role he couldn't possibly imagine.)

The case isn't really over but Barry's already missed three days of work for it – he's worked weekends for it (and he's not even getting paid, though it's worth it in this case) and if he doesn't catch a train tonight he's not going to make it back to Central City in time for work on Monday. Besides, the case might not be over, but, for now at least, the forensic part of the case is finished. Now it's up to the techs and the detectives (and the Green Arrow, and Barry's still thrilled that he got to work the same case as the famed vigilante) to track down their suspects and bring them in. There's really no point in him sticking around and if he stays any longer he's sure to get found out anyway.

There's still the bad guy to catch and Barry… Barry would love to stick around for that – there's so much he wants to know about the criminal with superhuman strength – but just having proof of the existence is… It's enough. It's more than he'd started to think he'd ever get. Besides, he's evaluated the crime scene to the best of his abilities. The rest of the investigation isn't something he'd participate in, and he knows how long tracking down a criminal can actually take. There may be other crime scenes in the future, other aspects to the case before the criminal is finally apprehended, but he doesn't have that kind of time. He'll request access to the case files, once things actually get wrapped up, and that should hopefully tell him all he needs to know about the criminal with superhuman strength.

He's done, essentially. At least, if he wants to keep his job in Central City. He'll check in on the case as he can, and maybe pay another visit to Star City at its conclusion, but it's time for him to head home.

Barry reaches that decision at about four in the afternoon, after he and Felicity have gone their separate ways with the results of their blood analysis, spends the next hour wrapping up his case files and submitting his report, goes out for a quick dinner of fast food, and returns to his hotel room to pack up. Then he catches a glimpse of some of his notes and he has an idea and…

Barry loses track of time easily. It's a bad habit of his. By the time he pulls himself back to the present, finally finishes packing, and gets himself to the train station, it's past midnight and the trains aren't running anymore.

"It left ten minutes ago," the attendant tells him, just about packing up himself.

"Of course it did." Because why could Barry ever be on time for anything? "When is the next one?"

"In the morning." There's no wiggle room in the attendant's voice, nothing Barry can say to get himself a ticket. It's not that he's missed some arbitrary deadline this time, or that the train is booked: the trains simply don't run this late at night. He can't argue or bargain his way out of this one.

Fortunately – or unfortunately, however you want to look at it – Barry is all too used to being late. And what's one more day anyway? He'll catch the first train in the morning and hopefully still be back before his captain, or anyone else, notices.

Of course, he's already checked out of his hotel room. And if he leaves the station, he'll undoubtedly just be late again in the morning, and he doesn't want to deal with that at the moment. He takes a seat on the nearest bench instead, resigned, and slumps over, wondering if he should risk falling asleep on the hard bench.

Then he feels a sharp pinprick in his neck, like a bug bite or something, only much stronger. His hand moves to the site almost of its own accord, and Barry is just aware enough of the dart he feels there before his vision starts to fade and his limbs go heavy. His eyes widen, but the sedative coursing through his veins doesn't give him enough time to panic.

The world goes dark.

December 9, 2013, early hours of the morning:

It takes a moment for the world to come back to Barry. His neck aches and his mouth feels dry and the last thing he remembers he was in the train station, wasn't he? And then… and then…

Barry blinks, trying to remember, trying to make sense of what he's seeing. There's someone in front of him, tall and broad and solid. His gaze flickers around the man, frowning. Wherever he is it's gotta be underground or something, because the walls and floor and ceiling are all made of concrete, without a window to be seen. Barry thinks absently that he should be worried about that, that he should be worried about waking in a strange place without any idea of how he got there, but whatever is affecting his memory (or was he just unconscious?) is also muting his emotions. He can't quite muster up panic just yet.

Instead, he looks around. There's a strange silver mannikin to his right, enclosed in a glass case and empty of whatever clothing it was made to display. To his left there's another display case, a bow proudly centered above racks and racks of green-tipped arrows. Something in Barry's mind flickers at that, some sort of recognition, but he's still too out of it to put the pieces together until his gaze moves back to the center of the room.

Felicity's standing between the display of arrows in the center, and Barry's gaze rests on her for a moment on its way to the center, but what's right in front of him catches his eye so much more easily. Solid boots. Green leather pants. Barry's gaze moves along the body stretched out in front of him on a medical table on wheels, taking in every detail, absorbing every fact, until he reaches the face. His mind stutters.

Even given where he is (where he must be), even given his mind's confusion as it continues to wake, he'd expected the face of the man on the table to be covered. It's not.

It's Oliver Queen.

Oliver Queen, unconscious in front of him with Felicity Smoak standing to one side and another man standing to the other.

Oliver Queen, in green leather, with a bow and arrows in a display case just beyond his feet.

Oliver Queen, in front of Barry who was just unconscious, Barry who is now in a concrete box filled with weapons and computers and, and… and anything anyone could possibly need if one was a vigilante who stalked the streets at night saving lives.

Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow.

Barry's eyes are as wide as they can be.

Off to the side, Felicity moves forward, slow and hesitant but with eyes that are filled with a fiery determination. "Please save my friend," she pleads, earnest and desperate and sincere.

Barry's gaze flickers back to her, brain slow to process her words – and it's not because of whatever sedative he was given this time. It's because Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow. But then he processes her words – "save my friend" – and he processes the fact that Oliver Queen (the Green Arrow) is still lying unconscious in front of him.

It doesn't matter that the man in front of him is Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy. It doesn't matter that Star City's hero is laying right there. It doesn't matter if this is real, or if Oliver Queen just likes to wear convincingly realistic costumes (in a convincingly realistic lair) in his spare time.

There's a man lying unconscious in front of him, and he's not responding to anything about the situation. Barry shoots forward, full of nerves and confusion and uncertainty. Oliver starts seizing though, and Felicity and the other man are talking, and Barry… "I – I…" He can barely get the words out. "I usually only work on dead people."

"Barry!" Felicity snaps at him, and Barry's mind snaps into focus.

He's no doctor, but he's learnt enough about the different ways people can die during his stint as a CSI. He knows more about human biology than most people. Right now, all he needs to focus on is abating the symptoms. He doesn't have to know how, only what. What could be happening inside Oliver Queen's body to make him react the way he is at the moment?

Diagnoses run through Barry's mind, whittling themselves down as the symptoms present themselves. "Start chest compressions," he says quickly, reading the monitors, trying to remember. Then: there are medical supplies laid out. He flicks a penlight over Oliver's eyes, draws blood from his arm. "Got it," he says, pleased by the easy diagnosis and frightened at the same time. "He's suffering from intravenous coagulation. His blood is unnaturally clotting. It's like maple syrup." Not the best comparison and not the best time for it, but Barry's mouth seems to be running even faster than his brain, if that's even possible.

Someone is dying right in front of him, and that's enough of an issue in and of itself without bringing the man's identity into the question.

"You can save him, right?" Felicity asks, speaking just as quickly, full of worry.

Barry glances around wildly, still taking everything in, still absorbing his surroundings, what he has to work with. He spots what he'd thought he'd seen earlier in a matter of seconds after Felicity's question. "Lucky you guys have a rat problem," he says in reply, and that's entirely the wrong thing to say in this sort of circumstance but Barry's already rushing for the warfarin, knowing what he has to do to save this man's life even if he's never done anything like this before.

"Are you kidding?!" the other man exclaims, poised over Oliver's chest, pushing life into his friend's (presumably?) lungs. "That'll kill him!"

"He dies if I don't," Barry returns, frantic and determined. He knows what it looks like, but he also knows what he's doing.

The man – Oliver Queen's bodyguard, he thinks? – looks over at Felicity. "Felicity…"

She hesitates, looks over at Barry. "Do it!" she decides, looking at Oliver again.

"Just the right amount of this stuff will thin his blood enough to get it circulating again," Barry clarifies, injecting it into the IV that's already set up.

It almost doesn't work. Almost isn't enough – too little? Too late? Barry couldn't say. Oliver Queen almost crashes right in front of him and only the bodyguard's frantic efforts keep him from slipping away.

Time after that passes strangely. The man's name is John Diggle. He's known about Oliver for a year now. Felicity says she's worked with him since the beginning of the year. They don't really talk about much else. Felicity is noticeably restless in her worry, flitting from task to task – finishing putting away the Green Arrow's quiver, resorting the medical supplies they'd gotten out to tend to Oliver, fussing around on the computer a bit. Even when she's focused on one task she's not quite still, frequently glancing back toward Oliver, or smoothing her palms against her thighs, or adjusting her glasses.

Diggle, on the other hand, is tense in his worry. Motionless and alert. He stands more or less by Oliver's side even as the hours drag by (and fly past).

Barry, for his part, is still mostly processing things. Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow. Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow. When he actually considers it… Well, even then it doesn't seem that plausible.

Oliver had returned home about the same time the Arrow had first appeared, true, but that's about the only connection Barry can think of off the top of his head. He knows who Oliver is, of course, but only tangentially, from second or third hand sources. The Queens are not nearly as big a deal in Central City as they are in Star City. Oliver spent five years alone on an island, but he's still been in the news for loud parties and multiple girlfriends. That's… that's about the extent of what Barry knows about Oliver Queen.

About the Arrow, though… Well Barry's been following him since pretty close to his debut. He knows nearly as much as the SCPD about what the hero is capable of, if not more. He's aware of the sheer physicality that goes into a good deal of what the Green Arrow does. He knows the statistics of how many people he's saved, how many corrupt white-collar criminals he's taken down.

He knows that a few people have been considered as potentially being the man under the hood, but that only one was ever arrested for it: Oliver Queen. But Queen had been let go for multiple reasons, one of them being that the hero had been seen across town while Oliver had been on house arrest. And Barry knows that Oliver and the Green Arrow have been seen in different parts of town on the same night on other occasions as well. He'd entertained his own theories, but he'd long since dismissed Oliver as a potential candidate. (If he hadn't, he would have been that much more flustered when he'd met the man the other day.)

He'd been wrong, apparently. And now the Green Arrow is directly in front of him.

Now's he's almost just watched the Green Arrow die. Might still, if he'd diagnosed things wrong, if there's something else going on inside Oliver's body that he isn't aware of. He'd handled the symptoms, not the cause, after all.

The thought pulls Barry from the haphazard contemplation and dazed stupor he's been in since first waking up. (Probably partially an effect of whatever tranquilizer he was dosed with, he can admit, coupled with the little sleep he's gotten while in Star City.)

"What, exactly, happened?" he finds himself asking abruptly.

Probably a little too abruptly, given the way Felicity flinches and Mr. Diggle tenses even further. Their medical equipment is good – it's downright fantastic, actually, given they're not actually at a hospital – but he's not a doctor and this isn't a hospital.

"I mean, with… with the Arrow," he quickly clarifies, unable to bring himself to say Oliver's name. (It's still so surreal, that he knows who the Green Arrow is.) "What if he has, like, internal bleeding or something. I mean? I'm pretty sure I stopped the blood clotting issue, but I'm not a doctor. Something else could be wrong, or…" Or he doesn't know what else, exactly. He's rambling, nervous and desperately not wanting to watch a man die (today or any other day, hero or not).

"He was in a fight," Mr. Diggle says shortly, though Barry's pretty sure he's just tense at the Arrow's near death experience, not at Barry specifically. "We don't know who with. He would have been fine –" that's probably an exaggeration? Maybe? "– except he accidentally got injected with an unknown drug."

"So long as his breathing and heartbeat remain steady," Felicity chimes in, with an uncertain look at Mr. Diggle despite her words, "he should be fine here."

There are visible red marks on Oliver's chest – the Green Arrow's chest – that will probably settle into bruises. There are even faint red marks around his neck that may or may not bruise. He was grabbed by the throat, Barry realizes, by someone strong.

With the thought, so many things click into place in his mind. There'd been so many thoughts whirring through Barry's mind, so many revelations and interactions to put into context, that he hadn't even realized…

But he'd already known, hadn't he? The Green Arrow was working the same case as he was. Oliver Queen was working the same case as he was, which shines an entirely different light on the first time Barry had met him. And it means that the man who almost killed the Green Arrow is the same man who'd stolen the centrifuge from Queen Industries and snapped the guards' necks with one hand. In that case, Oliver got off very, very lucky.

Except, no, Barry revises his opinion again. He's read the case files. Luck isn't necessary when someone has that much skill. Oliver was lucky, perhaps, that the man hadn't snapped his neck after he'd been knocked unconscious, but even though Barry hadn't seen the fight he's willing to chalk everything else up to sheer skill. The Green Arrow wouldn't as survived as long as he has otherwise.

Barry's eyes go back to the mark around Oliver's neck. "It looks like he got grabbed by the throat," he says, stupidly, carelessly, callously.

Felicity winces. Mr. Diggle gives him a sharp look.

"No, I just, I mean, if he wasn't wearing gloves," Barry says quickly, attempting to put his thought process into words, "then I might be able to grab a fingerprint."

Mr. Diggle's look lightens up, turning contemplative.

"Really?" Felicity asks. She seems happy at the prospect of a distraction – she'd been running out of things to do, from the looks of it.

"Humans have a lot of oil on their fingertips. Natural oils," Barry answers. "Do you have anything I could use…"

"Here." Mr. Diggle hands him something that could work.

Felicity watches for a moment, but she doesn't seem to like look at Oliver splayed out on the table unconscious, and she and Mr. Diggle have been working on something for the case for a little while, muttering quietly to each other, so she looks away as Barry studies Oliver's neck, trying to find the best place to position the adhesive.

He doesn't see what comes next. One moment he's peeling the adhesive off Oliver's neck, the next the Green Arrow has surged forward, instantly awake, hand tight around Barry's throat.

He can't breathe. He can't breathe and Oliver is squeezing and there's a look in the man's eyes like he doesn't even know who Barry is, like he's not even really seeing him.

Barry tries to say something, raises his hand to tug futilely at the grip around his throat, but it's pointless. Oliver's grip is unforgiving, the man half curled in on himself, half off the table. Barry tries to speak again, glances over at Diggle and Felicity at the computers, trying to get their attention. Luckily, they're both quick to notice their partner's movements.

Mr. Diggle hurries forward, tugging at the arm currently attached to Barry's throat. "Oliver, let him go."

He doesn't seem to be trying that hard, Barry muses absently, almost nonsensically, gasping for air now rather than from any feeble attempt to talk. But it doesn't seem to matter how strong Mr. Diggle is. At his words Oliver lets go, blinking, confusion falling over his face.

That's all Barry notices for a moment as he stumbles away, almost falling onto the stool he'd woken up on, coughing and trying to regain his breath.

Oliver says something in the background, Felicity replies. Something about a blood coagulant. And Barry's pretty sure that Oliver had asked what was going on.

He's leaning on the stool now, practically sitting on it. One hand rubs absently at his throat. But he can understand the Green Arrow's confusion. "You would have stroked out," he manages to say, needing a moment to clear his throat as he stands again, "but fortunately you had a very effective blood thinner handy. Warfarin. Better known as rat poison." Shouldn't have said that – why did you say that? Barry'd wince at his own words if he could, but Mr. Diggle picks up where he left off.

"Kid saved your life, Oliver," the bodyguard says.

Oliver Queen doesn't look exactly like he knows what's going on. No, that's the wrong way to phrase things. He looks like he's overwhelmed by what's going on, like it's too much to process at once. He almost just died. Barry can't really blame him for that. He's bent over, nothing like the legendary vigilante Barry's been picturing in his mind, nothing like the solid but surprisingly quiet CEO he'd run into at the crime scene.

Barry's just about caught his breath by now, though his throat still aches. He's not sure Oliver's had enough time to recover though. (He'd almost died. Barry's seen plenty of death, but he's never watched anyone die before. Never seen anyone come as close as Oliver Queen had only a few hours ago.)

"This is the part in a lifesaving emergency where you thank the person that did the lifesaving," Felicity says, still from on the other side of the table, behind Oliver. Her words are harsh and biting, but Barry'd seen the way she'd been worrying. He doesn't know her enough to say for certain, but he doesn't really think she's mad at Oliver.

Or maybe she is. She's certainly glaring hard enough as Oliver, still bracing himself against the table, shifts slightly to look her in the eyes. "You told him who I am," he replies, low and tense, almost too quiet for Barry to hear.

Yeah, he's definitely still processing things. And Barry… Barry's been around cops half his life, worked with them for the past year. He's been interested in the Green Arrow since his debut and done all kinds of research into what might drive a man to do such things. (Yeah, he's wondered about the green, but he's done his best to consider the Arrow's backstory too. The trauma that might be involved.)

Oliver Queen spent five years alone, and he returned with more hand-to-hand combat skills than most war vets. He'd returned without letting anyone onto that fact, choosing instead to hide his identity and fight the crime on Star City's streets.

"Yeah, I did," Felicity says strongly, meeting Oliver's gaze. She doesn't sound sorry.

Which, yeah, Barry'd saved Oliver's life – Oliver definitely shouldn't be blaming Felicity for that – but… He can't pretend to understand what Oliver Queen went through to turn him into the man Barry can see now. All he knows is that Oliver definitely wasn't alone on that island. (He can see the man's scars, scattered across his chest. This isn't the first time Oliver Queen's been near death. Barry would place money on that, and he's never been much of a gambler.)

Oliver still seems to be processing things, tense – with pain or anger, Barry couldn't have said. After a moment he shakes his head, throwing Mr. Diggle a look. "Watch him," he bites out, bitter or maybe just, Barry thinks again, still in pain.

His blood's thinned out enough to get him upright and walking, but that doesn't mean there won't be complications from whatever else the drug he'd been injected with might have been doing to his system, and it doesn't mean that Barry gave him the proper dosage. Near enough, clearly (and thank goodness for that), but not necessarily what would have been ideal.

"Where are you going?" Felicity half snaps, as Oliver turns away and stalks toward the bathroom in the corner.

Oliver doesn't answer, and when Barry meets Mr. Diggle's gaze as the door shuts behind the hero it takes him a moment to realize what Oliver had meant. Barry's the one the bodyguard is supposed to be watching.

Not that he's scared of Mr. Diggle – especially not after what Oliver had just done, in comparison, and how Diggle had been quick to pull him off Barry – but Barry raises his hands slightly and sits back down on the stool. No matter how eager he is to get a proper look around, now that Oliver Queen isn't lying unconscious in front of him, he's not about to touch anything.

Barry tries to imagine what it would be like, if he had a secret he kept from all but two people in the world (or maybe a few more, what does he know?) and then Iris or Joe just blurted it out to someone else. Of course, it's thanks to Barry at all – thanks to Felicity and Mr. Diggle – that Oliver's even still alive to be irritated. You just saved someone's life, Barry's thoughts remind him yet again. And not just anyone – you saved the Green Arrow's life.

He's still absorbing that fact. Still reeling from almost getting strangled with one hand while Oliver was barely aware of his surroundings. He'd always known the Green Arrow was good – strong and skilled – but seeing it in action, having it directed at him…

Barry's brain can't settle down enough to pick an emotion. Awe? Pride? Fear? Anger? But he can't entirely forget that the Green Arrow doesn't trust him, that Oliver had told his bodyguard to keep an eye on him.

Again, he's not necessarily scared of Mr. Diggle, but he's wary enough of the situation to refrain from bursting out the myriad questions flowing through his mind.

Eventually – Barry still isn't sure how much time is passing, is still a bit disconnected, especially because he has no idea what time it is – Oliver leaves the bathroom, jacket zipped up once more, shoulders straight. If he's still in pain (which, he must be, right, after what he just went through?) it doesn't show on his face.

Barry doesn't notice him right away, too busy looking around, but Oliver steps right up to the medical table, eyes only for him. (He looks every inch the impressive vigilante now, intensity radiating off him, especially because Barry knows he can't be nearly as recovered as the looks to be.)

"I don't trust you," the hero grits out, and Barry can't blame him for that however much he wishes that Oliver knew he would never give away his secret. (He is also, he has to admit, a little wary, leaning back, swallowing as Oliver speaks. The Green Arrow doesn't trust him, which means… well it means anything's on the table, doesn't it?)

"I do," Felicity blurts out from just behind Oliver, before Barry can respond.

Oliver's gaze doesn't even flicker her way. "If it had been up to me, you wouldn't be here," he continues. "How do I know you won't go straight to the police when you leave here?"

Barry is the police (more or less), but even his scrambled brain knows enough not to bring that up. He shakes his head quickly, empathically, desperate to answer, eager to let the hero know he'd never put him at risk, even if he's realizing exactly how intimidating Oliver Queen can be in person, when he's awake. "I… I won't," he manages to get out. "I wouldn't do that."

He wouldn't. Never.

Oliver pushes aside the table he'd been laying on only moments ago, taking a step forward. Despite himself, Barry leans back even further, only managing to realize what he's doing and straighten again at the last second. Oliver is intimidating, no matter how impressive he might also be.

"How do I know that?" Oliver repeats, tone harsh and demanding.

Barry's resolve strengthens. Yeah, Oliver's intimidating, but he's not lying. He respects this man in front of him, respects him immensely, and even if he'd only found out the Green Arrow's identity only a few hours ago, he's not about to betray that trust. He wouldn't if the man under the hood had been anyone else, and he won't just because it's Oliver Queen. He stands. Takes a tiny step forward. He needs Oliver to know he means this.

"I won't," he vows. "I promise."

Oliver studies him for a moment, eyes meeting his, gaze scrutinizing, before he turns back to Mr. Diggle. "Did he see anything?"

Mr. Diggle shakes his head. "We tranq'ed him."

"He saved your life," Felicity interrupts, still clearly irritated by Oliver's reaction. "How is this any different from when your mother shot you and you came to me for help?"

Horror sweeps through Barry at the question, though it's not directed at him. "Your mother shot you?" he can't help but ask. His words are ignored – Felicity's still talking.

"Or when you brought Digg down here when he was poisoned with curare?"

Barry'd just been thinking again about the trauma the Green Arrow must have gone through to become the man he is today. He'd just been wondering about what had happened to Oliver Queen on that island to turn him from a playboy into a hero. But to hear that his own mother shot him…

Barry tries to picture his mother shooting him. That his memories of her are faded by time stings, as always, but his brain still rebels at the very idea. He tries to imagine his father shooting him, or Joe, or even Iris. He can't. Of course, Oliver must have been in costume at the time, but even so, how can someone just brush aside something like that?

"The difference is," Oliver replies, low and fierce, "that I did my homework on both of you."

He's staring at Barry when he growls out his words. Paranoia – constantly feeling on edge, constantly being on guard. It's one of the symptoms of PTSD. Not that that means anything, not that Barry's a doctor of any sort, or that he can make any judgements after speaking to Oliver for less than five minutes, but…

Still, Oliver's alive because his friends came to Barry. (They chose him, out of everyone in Star City.) And Barry's trustworthy, even if Oliver's having trouble believing it.

He shakes his head. "I won't tell anyone," he promises yet again. "But… if they hadn't brought me here, you'd be dead right now. Maybe you should think of that." So far, he's focused on nothing but Barry since he'd woken up. Barry can't understand that. Sure, maybe there's a (small) risk that his secret might get out now, but he'd almost died. He hasn't once asked after his own health. (His mother had shot him. Barry doesn't know what to think.)

Oliver turns away from him, expression resolute and unaltered. "That man that I fought in the bunker," he says, still pointedly ignoring the issue of his own near-death experience, "he has what he needs to mass produce the serum from the island. And we have to stop him."

Barry has a hundred more questions based on those two sentences alone, but he pushes them aside for the moment. That's an issue he can help with, and he's not about to turn down another opportunity to help the Green Arrow, whether the man appreciates it or not. (How can he not even care that he'd almost died? How much must he have gone through, for this to seem normal to him?)

"He touched your skin when he grabbed your neck," he tells the archer, refocusing. "I was able to absorb the residual oils from his skin, which, when added to a gel-based polymer, might be able to recreate his fingerprint." There, that was short and sweet, wasn't it, a good description without going into too much detail? Without asking the thousand questions on the tip of his tongue?

"Do that then," Oliver bites out in Barry's general direction. He's still and stiff and tense for a moment, then he sweeps out of the room without another word said.

AN: Long Author's Note ahead:

1: Welcome to new readers. If you're not interest in Oliver Queen, you don't need to read the first two fics in this series to follow along - all you need to know is that this is an AU wherein Supergirl's (and therefore Superman's) Earth is also Earth-1.

2: To old readers who are following along with Part 2 of this series, this does get a bit ahead, timeline wise, of where we are there, so, bonus for you! You'll see Team Arrow's POV of these scenes when I post the next chapter for Stronger Together.

3: I want readers of both series to be able to follow along with the timeline, so each chapter will continue to be posted "in real time". i.e., if the chapter starts on Dec 4th, I post it Dec. 4th.

4: I will not be marking this as a crossover, even though it will have plenty of interaction with characters from the other shows (notably Arrow, for now).

5: The timing of the TV series is a little unclear, so I've changed a few things up for the Flash. He meets Oliver Queen and the OTA in the beginning of December, but I'm pushing back the accelerator explosion until January. I'll get a few chapters in before then, but then we'll see some major time skips as Barry spends nine months in a coma.

6: On that note, I really don't like the way the Flash handles metahumans overall (as in, every single one they run across is evil except for Barry, up to the point where the moment Cisco gets powers he wonders if he's going to be evil. You're telling me not a single innocent person was affected by the accelerator explosion?). Just a note. It shouldn't change the story much, but I thought I'd give everyone a heads up.

7: Finally, the next chapter for this will be pick up where we left off, and be posted Dec. 9th. Feel free to ask me any questions if you're curious, my tumblr is the same as my AO3 name, if you don't want to ask in a comment.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think!