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The Shouldn'ts, The Impossibles, The Won'ts

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It’s quiet when Oliver walks into the Foundry again, Dig and Roy still busy making final preparations in the city while Felicity hurriedly hacks into systems all over the world, pointing satellites where she needs them so that she’ll always be able to find him, see him, know he’s alive.

He’s early, though. He has to be. She's supposed to have more time.

Her stomach rolls with anxiety, acid building up and unsettling her as she tries to take a calming breath. It’s an exercise in pointlessness, because there’s no calming down for this, not really. But she breathes in and then out anyway, the way the yoga lady on tv is always telling her to, matching the length of her exhales to the length of her inhales. It doesn’t help. Her pulse is still jumping in her throat and her mind is still racing, the way it has since Oliver first told them he was leaving. The way she’s sure it will until the moment he comes back.

He keeps saying that he won't.

But Oliver’s ridiculous on a good day and when he thinks he’s doing something for the greater good, forget it. He can be as maudlin as he wants to be though, because she knows there’s no if about his returning. Oliver will come back. He has to.

Felicity feels his eyes on her and it takes a lot to not turn and look at him, to not turn and beg him to reconsider. It’s what he’s expecting, she’s sure, but if she were to ask him to stay and he were to go anyway? Well, she’s not sure she could take it. It’s probably better to not find out how thoroughly Oliver Queen can break her heart a second time.

Her fingers keep flying over the keyboard, half her mind focused on covering up her tracks and the other half wondering what Oliver must think about no one having told him not to go. Roy and Dig expressed concern, wondering if it was smart to do as the League demanded or if there was a better way, but netiher said he was making a mistake. Instead they’d shot her looks, waiting for her to make a case for why this was a terrible idea, but she had just stood there in silence. Inside she was throwing a tantrum that would have made a three year old proud, but all she’d been able to do in that moment was watch and wait, nodding when he told them that, smart or not, he didn’t have a choice.

She’d been expecting those words. The thing about Oliver was that he never thought he had one. For such an agressive man, he could really be terribly passive, at least when it came to saving himself. It was one of the more frustrating things about him. But this time he was right, if only because you could never have a choice if you refused to make one. Last year he’d been willing to hand himself over in order to defeat Slade, but she and Dig had done what was necessary to put a stop to that nonsense. A small voice in her head whispers that Oliver isn’t really going to go this time either. She and Dig just have to talk for a few minutes, sort it all out between them. They can save him from himself again now, too. Dig just needs to get back.

Oliver steps up behind her and it’s surprising how loud he’s being. Usually he’s so quiet she has a hard time knowing where he is in the foundry, but he’s shuffling his feet on the concrete a little and shifting around almost nervously. She can hear the rustle of his clothing as he stands there. “Felicity,” he says, his voice soft and breathy, her name a rough whisper full of longing, love and missed opportunity. It really sort of pisses her off, the way he gets all that in there, because she’s not sure he has the right to say her name like that. Not anymore. Her hands still over the keys, but she keeps looking straight ahead. If she turns around now she’s either going to scream at him or burst into tears and neither outcome seems like a good one. Oliver can just stand there and wait. She lets her eyes dart to the drawer the tranq gun is stored inside and takes another breath, in and out, finding the sight of it reassuring. As soon as Dig returns they’ll figure out a plan. Maybe she’ll be the one that shoots Oliver this time.

Or maybe she won’t have to. There's still time for something to change. Anything could happen. It was what Shel Silverstein had said and Felicity, as a child, had believed those words when her mom would whisper them to her before bed. Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. It's true. Ra’s al Ghul could have a heart attack. He could get hit by a car. He could bang his head on something and get amnesia. Nyssa too.

“Double amnesia would be good,” she mumbles to herself. It’s not probable, but it’s possible. She’s a good person and she’s got good karma stored up. The universe could totally do her a solid. Her computer beeps and she focuses back on the screen, processing the information before her. She’s backed out of all the systems she’d snuck into, leaving herself little pathways to hack back into when she needs to see what’s going on in the mountains of Nadar Parbat. It’s not enough though. The satellites aren’t going to give the details she’ll want and they’re slow and not always going to be in the positions she needs in order to keep him safe. Plus they’re not weaponized. A voice in her head that sounds suspiciously like her mother starts telling her just how much jail time she’ll receive if she hacks into the Air Force and takes over a drone. It’s risky. Very risky.

“Felicity.” Oliver’s voice is firmer and he rests a hand on her shoulder as the last syllable of her name leaves his lips.

She practically jumps out of her chair at the touch. “What?” she asks sharply, springing to her feet and turning to face him as she steps out of his reach.

Oliver tilts his head and suddenly she’s back standing in a hallway with him and Dig at QC, holding a syringe and stammering about noticing or not noticing the things he puts in his body. There’s a pang of sympathy for that girl, the one who hadn’t quite figured out what she’d gotten herself into. If she could go back and warn herself, she would. Maybe. Unless it was, like, a fixed point in time. She wasn’t exactly sure how she would know, because Doctor Who didn’t really go into specific details about what made something fixed or not, but the important thing was that you didn’t mess with them. Maybe their meeting was fixed. Not destined, but fixed, immovable and impervious to fate. In a million worlds they would always find each other. She wonders if somewhere out there in a parallel universe they're living a happier story.

Oliver moves closer to her and adjusts the ridiculously small duffle bag on his shoulder. Seriously, the size of it is insane. If she were abandoning her entire life and running off to join a bunch of psychopaths, she’d have packed a giant suitcase and, like, a trunk. He wasn’t seriously only going to Nadar Parbat with one bag, was he?

“I have to go now," he tells her, ducking his head and then taking a deep breath. Her heart stutters when he lifts his eyes back to hers. They're soft and shining and she can see the hesitation, the desperation for her to say or do something.

Three months ago she’d have melted, but what can he possibly expect her to do now? Is she supposed to run at him, fling her arms around his neck and declare her undying love? He’s leaving. He’s leaving when he promised her he wouldn’t. She wasn’t supposed to ever lose him, at least not by choice. And it is a choice. He can deny it all he wants, but not staying and fighting means he’s choosing to let them go- no. To let her go. Again.

“Have a safe trip,” she says, proud that her voice stays level. He watches her, those soft eyes hardening as they size her up. He’s waiting for her to crack, to tip her hand, but she’s not going to. They can stand there in silence until Dig comes back for all she cares.

“It’s cold in Nandar Parbat,” she blurts, the words jumping out before she can stop them. She bites her tongue inside her mouth, furious that she hasn’t even made it ten seconds. Or that she hasn’t said something that matters. Who cares about the weather, anyway?

Well, she sort of does. She’s been checking the forecast for that area and there’ve been several snow storms in the past week, with more expected in the next few days. Oliver doesn't have a coat that she can see and he's only wearing light pants and a cashmere sweater. Starling City doesn’t really ever get that cold, but Oliver should be more prepared for things like this. Nothing he's wearing is going to keep him warm.

“I hope you packed a heavy coat or at least some thicker sweaters. And a scarf. That bag doesn’t look like it holds much. Do you have gloves?” The words are out again before she realizes and she shakes her head. “Traitor mouth,” she whispers.

The corners of Oliver’s lips twitch up. “I’m all set,” he says, taking another step towards her, his eyes running over her face.

“Sara wore light weight clothing, so I always thought Nandar Parbat would be tropical, like hot and humid, like a rainforest or a jungle. But it’s not. At least not according to The Weather Channel. I can’t imagine her flinging those sticks around in a puffer jacket, though.”

Oliver shrugs before reaching out and gently curling his hand around hers. She watches the way their fingers twine together. “We only have a few minutes.”

"That's not even enough time for a quickie," she murmurs, because it's not. Or maybe it is, but it's not enough time for a good one and- oh, for the love of god! Her eyes fly up and she blanches, her free hand smacking over her mouth to stop anything else from coming out. She shakes her head, groaning in embarrassment as an all too rare smile spreads across Oliver's face. If he weren't about to rip her soul out and stomp on it, she'd take a moment to appreciate the view.

He squeezes her hand, looking at her like she’s something delightful, but then the mood shifts. His thumb strokes over her knuckles and he shakes his head, his eyes falling away from her. “Felicity…I’m sorry.”

“You seem to be sorry about a lot of things these days.”

“I am.”

“Maybe that means you should change things up. Maybe being sorry is a sign that you should stay here and fight. With Diggle and Roy. And me.”

He shakes his head. “I don’t want to argue about this.”

“Then we shouldn’t talk. Because all I want to do right now is yell at you."

“Felicity-“

“Don’t Felicity, me. If there’s nothing I can say to change your mind, then why are we talking? You should just go.”

Oliver’s back stiffens, but then his shoulders slump in resignation. He looks older than she’s used to, the lines around his eyes suddenly deeper, and she wonders what he’ll look like the next time she sees him. If there is a next time.

There will be, she tells herself. There has to be.

He sighs and then steps forward, pressing a kiss to her forehead, and it takes everything in her power to not fall apart, to not throw her arms around him and beg him to stay. When he pulls back he places a hand on her shoulder. “I know you’re mad, but everything I’ve done, everything I’m doing is to keep you safe. Do you understand?”

Her eyes grow wide, the memory of him asking her that question the previous spring flashing through her mind and her heart races. For a second she thinks she’s missed a clue, that somehow he’s told her the way to save him and that she’s going to let him down this time by not getting what he means. But then she realizes that she’s wrong. There’s no magical serum, no last minute ace up his sleeve. It's just a poor choice of words. He’s going. And he’s not coming back.

This time she has to force the words out. “You should go."

Oliver doesn’t say anything, just lets his hand drop from her shoulder before he walks to the stairs. He hesitates when he reaches the first step. “I was wrong,” he says, suddenly turning back to face her. “I told you that I didn’t know how to be the Arrow and to also be myself. I just assumed I had to keep being the Arrow. I didn’t think I had a choice, but I did. I should have chosen you. I should have given this up and been with you.”

“Then choose me now.”

“Felicity, I am.”

“No. No you’re not.” She’s walking towards him before she even realizes. “What you never got was that I didn’t want you to give up being the Arrow, Oliver. You are the Arrow. He’s part of you, he’s not separate.”

“He’s a monster.”

“No, he's not,” she says, stopping directly in front of him. “I wouldn’t love him if he was.”

And just like that it’s out there. The secret she’s been keeping from him for two years, the feeling she’s kept so close for fear it would cost her everything. Oliver’s eyes are wide and he swallows hard. “You wouldn’t?”

She stands in front of him and smiles sadly. “No, I wouldn’t. But I do. And I feel that way because he’s you, Oliver. And I love you. All of you.”

Oliver’s lips are against hers instantly, his hands running over her body as he kisses her fiercely. It’s different than the kiss at the hospital, more desperate, his hands rough and then firm on her waist as he yanks her closer. Felicity moans in the back of her throat, or at least that's what she means to do. Suddenly she’s sobbing and his mouth leaves hers as he wraps his arms around her. She grabs fistfuls of that stupid sweater, clutching him against her as her heart shatters in her chest. “Promise you’ll come back to me.”

His lips brush against her ear as he shakes his head. “You told me not to dangle maybes.”

She pulls back a little, looking up at him. “I don’t care what I told you,” she says softly, sniffling. “Promise you’ll come back.”

He cups her face in his hand, his thumb wiping away her tears. “I can’t do that to you. I don’t want you to wait for me. I want you to live your life, be happy. Ray is a good man-”

Felicity pushes on his chest. “No. Don’t. Don’t do this.”

“Felicity, there might not be any coming back for me. I hope that there is, but you shouldn’t count on that. You need to let me go.”

“No,” she says gently, pressing up on her toes and brushing her lips against his. “If you won’t promise to come back, then I promise to come get you.” Oliver tries to move away, but she slides a hand onto the back of his neck and holds him in place. “I don’t care if Ra’s al Ghul is the devil himself,” she says firmly. “He doesn’t get to keep you. And when we defeat him and Dig, Roy, and I get you back home, you and I are going on another date. You’re going to put on a nice suit and I’m going to buy a new dress and we’re going to eat good food and drink wine and then, when you go to leave after kissing me goodnight on my doorstep, I’m going to laugh and pull you inside. And then I’m going to rock your world, Oliver Queen. Repeatedly. No maybes about it. I promise.”

She kisses him this time, softly, sweetly, savoring the feel of his body against her own before pushing him away. “Ok, now go.”

Oliver shakes his head and smiles. “You don’t have to sound so eager about it.”

“The sooner you leave, the sooner I get you back.”

“Okay.” He brushes his lips against her forehead and she swallows hard, knowing this is it. He’s really going.

The door opens at the top of the stairs and then Dig is clearing his throat. “Sorry to interrupt,” he says as he makes his way down to them. “We’ve got to go.”

Oliver pulls back, his eyes searching hers. “Felicity, I lo-“

She shakes her head. “Tell me next time.”

“No,” Oliver says gently, taking her face in his hands. “I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to risk you not knowing. Felicity, I love you.”

Her eyes well with tears, but she smiles. “Then come back to me.”

His eyes darken before he squeezes them shut and her heart skips a beat. “Oliver, no matter what happens, you fight, okay? You think about me and know that I believe in you. You don’t give up. Not ever. Because I won’t.”

He opens his eyes again. “Tell me you’ll come back, Oliver."

He nods once. “I promise.”

***