Chapter 12: In The Crosshairs

~o.O.o~

Bella caught the bo-staff from Oliver in her hand and held it for a minute to test its balance. Weapons like this she wasn’t as familiar with as her company was more into modern technology but she had for some time considered working in some older style of training because guns after all, do run out of bullets.

Rotating it in with her wrists, she stretched out her arms as she worked to get comfortable with it. “Can’t I just have a bow and some arrows?” she asked, looking back at him.

“No, not right now,” Oliver smiled at her. “Widen your stance, get grounded to the floor.”

“That sounds a lot like last night, except we were both in bed,” she commented as she did as she was told with a smile. Her tone remained rather flirty as she blinked innocently at him. “Now what would you like me to do?”

“Have you ever worked with this before?” He asked, still ignoring her remarks. She was drunk, he was going to teach her how to focus at a later date.

Bella shrugged as she began to spin the staff rapidly in her hands. While she wasn’t particularly skilled with it, she had played with something similar and was able to perform a couple of tricks from her gymnastic days as a child. “I still prefer the bow, or something sharper…

“Yes, and because you say that, we’re going to use this.” Oliver grinned, impressed by what she was already doing. “Okay, so you have the twirling down, what do you think you’d need to block an incoming blow?” He had put one end of his staff on the ground and was casually leaning against it.

“Why don’t you come at me and see?” she said as she took a step back, holding herself up in a defensive position that was more instinctual, but could also be attributed to her other training over the years.

“Did you get some martial arts training?” Oliver said as he straightened up and idly started to make figure eight moves with the staff. “Because the way you’re standing now, is spot on.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “He really is an idiot,” she muttered to herself, before answering fully. “Minimal. I told you that I’ve participated in some training that I’ve had my people take part in. I couldn’t be there for all of it but I did what I could.”

Oliver nodded and decided to just come at her without holding back. He knew that she was probably capable of a lot, she sure thought so and it was slightly annoying. It was almost as if she was too perfect for him. He walked towards her and delivered the first blow which she deflected with ease, before he turned away from her and swiped her legs, causing her to fall flat on her back. He then struck again but stopped an inch before impacting on her torso.

Bella saw the attack coming while she was on her back and had her staff in her hand as she swung it along the floor until it made contact with the back of his legs, bringing him to his knees beside her. Rolling, she threw her own knee up to his stomach and threw her elbow into his ribs before pushing his back to the mat and climbing on top of him and straddling his hips. “I said I’d get you under me,” she breathed out, leaning down to drop a kiss on the corner of his mouth before pushing herself up and picking up her staff, waiting for him to recover.

He pushed himself up from the floor with half a flip and kicked his staff off the floor before catching it. “Staff only, missy,” he warned her.

“I actually thought that was kinda hot,” Felicity murmured from the side as everyone had been watching silently. Laurel nodded in her own agreement, but Sara only stared with an unreadable expression.

He delivered another blow which Bella deflected with her staff, turned away from her and hit her again, and again, until she missed a beat and he had her on the floor again, this time not stopping for the blow to her stomach.

“Bastard,” she coughed through the impact as she waited out the breath before getting back up and stretched out the muscle. Lifting her shirt to inspect the area, she nodded in confirmation to herself that there indeed would be zero bruising developing as she expected. “Getting the wind knocked out of you sucks. Again.”

Oliver grinned as he took a defensive stance. “Try to hit me. Staff only.”

Bella glared at him as she squared her shoulders and stepped into an attack form. “With pleasure. I’ll be sure to draw you an ice bath,” she smarted as she stepped forward, swinging the staff rapidly as he deflected, but her smaller frame was able to move slightly faster underneath one of those deflections to get a blow to his ribs. It was all that she needed to get a quick succession in until she had him backed to the edge of the work out area, before she relented.

He lifted his staff horizontally and pushed her backwards, then rolled out of her swing range. “Don’t stop on my account,” he grinned as he was squatting on the ground with the staff in front of him, looking up to her. He seemed not to be affected by the workout at all, this wasn’t a workout, this was playing.

Breathing heavy from her attack, she was beginning to feel spent. “Yeah well, some of us require a break as we don’t run around town playing superhero at night.”

“Here, have some water,” Laurel said as she handed Bella a bottle of water.

Taking it gratefully, Bella finished it in no time as she kept her eyes on Oliver, almost as if she was waiting for another attack. It was a part of one of her lectures she remembered that continued to be ingrained in her about always being aware of your opponent. As much as it was a mock-fight, she was still on edge.

“Oh, easy, you don’t want your stomach to cramp up,” Laurel said shocked as she looked at the empty bottle.

“Sara, you want to have a go?” Oliver said as he straightened himself up and spun the staff in his hands. He made a mental note of teaching Bella some endurance training, because that fight had been childsplay.

“Oh, hell yes,” Sara said as she discarded her jacket and took another bo-staff from the rack as she started to circle around Oliver.

“Alright, this is going to be boring,” Felicity said as she turned back to her computer.

Diggle chuckled as he playfully elbowed Bella in her side. “You did good,” he smiled at her.

She smiled at him as she watched the two begin to fight, though reluctantly. “Yeah, perhaps. I know I can’t get hurt, but I still am nowhere near as skilled as them. I can’t barely even breathe there for awhile,” she whispered, running a hand over her stomach.

“Don’t compare yourself to others, Bella. Sara and Oliver have had their own experiences that have made them into the people they are now. Even I get out of breath eventually when Oliver barely seems to have broken a sweat,” Diggle said encouragingly. “You know how I keep up with him? Cardio. Lots of cardio and running, breathing exercises. If you want, I could teach you, train with you, since you’ve got someone capable of running the business in your office anyway.”

Bella looked at him thoughtfully as she considered it. In truth, as she had nurtured the security business for so long, she had actually been considering taking a step back for some time. That was why she had been slowly setting Derek up for more public roles since even before they left Seattle. Of course, she would still have to discuss that with her father but she was sure he would support her regardless.

“I think I’ll take you up on that. I had been considering other options for awhile now. I do have a lot that would have to be arranged, but I can do a lot of my work from home. I’m sure you’re familiar with the estate?” she grinned.

“Yes ma’am, I’m more than familiar with the estate,” Diggle stated with a smile on his face. “It’s huge, you can start an orphanage on it if you want to.”

“Don’t tempt me. Considering everything I’ve had my fingers in – that might just end up being my next project,” she laughed. “Only Charlie would really try to shoot me. Then there would be another person we’d have to explain shit to that I’d really rather keep ignorant of everything.”

“I like your father already,” Diggle chuckled. “He sounds a lot like Detective Lance, in that aspect. He’s been threatening Oliver a lot of times over the years for Oliver’s interaction with his girls.” He looked at Oliver and Sara’s sparring, both giving it their all and not giving in. “If they’re still like this in ten minutes, I’ll step in as a referee, we need Oliver awake and moving tonight.”

Bella sighed in agreement but for an entirely different reason. “Yes, so would I.”

“Eureka,” Felicity said excitedly as she looked at her screen. “Finally. Thank you gods of the superfast internet and supercomputers.”

Looking over her shoulder, Bella raised and eyebrow. “What kind of sacrifice did you make Robin?”

“Oh, just my soul, but that’s okay,” she shrugged. “I finally got into Cullen’s bank account.”

The name was enough to get a huff of disgust out of her as she turned back to watching Oliver. “Tell me how much did that jackass put on my head so that I know how painful I’ll make his death when I have him in my hands.”

“Ah, well, that I can’t truly say as there are several big withdrawals made from that account, it could be anywhere between ten thousand to a hundred thousand.”

Nodding slowly, Bella didn’t say anything as castration wasn’t painful enough to begin torture with. “Oliver?” she called out. “Did you pick up any good methods of inflicting pain on Lian Yu?”

Sara and Oliver both lost focus when Bella called out to him, allowing Oliver to quickly recover and threw Sara on the floor and not carefully either. “Plenty,” he responded as he walked off the mat, knowing that Sara wouldn’t come after her. He was sweaty and breathing heavily but otherwise still walking upright.

“Good. We’re going to need those skills on Edward’s father,” she announced as she gave him a hard look.

“Whatever you say, Babs,” he smiled at her as he took a towel to dry himself off. “Did you hear from Roy yet, Felicity?”

“Nah, he’d call if something changed.”

“Call him back to here. It’s no use to stake out the place. We’ll lure him to the mansion instead.”

“Fun times,” Bella muttered as a shudder ran through her, knowing she’ll have to deal with another storm, real or not.

“You, Felicity and Laurel stay here where you’re safe,” Oliver said as he gently caressed her cheek. “Sara will be pretending to be you.”

She looked back at her cousin skeptically, then up at at him. “Right. Like Peter will believe that if he’s been watching me for this long. First, she has a drastically different gait in her walk than I do. She looks absolutely nothing like me, even if she were to put on a darker wig. Secondly, I have a routine when I come home alone that he would know and if she fucks even one part, then this whole idea is blown. He doesn’t know that you’re the Arrow. Just come back with me as Oliver, with your suit in the bag. I’m sure that’s what you were doing anyway two nights ago anyway.”

“Yes, and who will be with you when I’m out there?”

“Smith & Wesson, Winchester, and Sig Sauer,” she replied with her usual duh look at him. “You’ve met Dean already. Twice.”

“Nice,” Diggle grinned. “You name your guns.”

She merely gave him a cheeky wink. “You should see Charlie’s entire collection. You’d cream your pants Alfred. When we start on that agreement, I’ll show you it one day.”

“What agreement?” Oliver said confused.

“Normal people stuff.” Diggle said with a straight face. “You’re not to know because you’re not normal.”

Bella patted him on the chest reassuringly. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I don’t do dates so Alfred and I won’t be going anywhere together for you to be jealous.”

Oliver rolled his eyes at her and pulled off his soaking shirt. “I’m going to take a shower.”

Her attention perked at that. “Great! Want to conserve some water?”

“This shower isn’t big enough for two people,” he said, sticking out her tongue to her before lightly kissing her lips. “I’ll be out in a few minutes.” He gathered a clean set of casual clothes and headed towards the small bathroom.

“I would have found a way to make it work,” she muttered as she walked away to start getting her things together, ignoring the looks the others were giving her. Looking around, she frowned. “Where’d that pompous asshole put my Jack?”

“No idea,” Felicity said innocently.

Bella’s head snapped over to the girl and narrowed her eyes. “Bullshit.”

“You’re not getting it back,” Felicity said. “Maybe after tonight, but not before that.”

She pursed her lips as she stared her down as she contemplated her options. Slowly grinning, she nodded. “That’s fine. I have a new bottle of Absinthe at home!”

“And you just told Oliver to come home with you,” Felicity pointed out. “With his arrows.”

“And the man is hot in that costume. Maybe I can convince him to strip for me,” she mused thoughtfully as she pulled her jacket on after she found it.

“Alright,” Oliver said as he exited the bathroom, dressed in his comfortable clothes. “Here’s what I’m going to do; I’m going home with Bella,” he smiled as he put an arm around her. “Then I’ll put up some surveillance cameras in the woods surrounding the house so that Felicity can monitor them from here, also some hidden motion detectors. We stay in contact at all times and at sundown, I want Diggle, Sara and Roy in the woods with me. And it’s going to be hard,” he said as he looked at Bella. “But I want this guy alive. He can be hurt, but I want him alive.” Oliver then let go of Bella and walked to the box with mobile surveillance technology. “I want Laurel to bring this box up in an hour or two, in case he’s casing the mansion, I don’t want him to get spooked when I start dragging too much in at the same time. I want this in the house so that Bella has access to our cameras as well, in tandem of her own system.”

“Sounds like a plan,” she agreed as she looked over his equipment before eyeing him up with it. “Let’s get going so that I can take a shower and change into clean clothes.”

“Yeah, let me pack my stuff,” Oliver said as he took the duffel bag he used the previous day and put his new Arrow suit in it with his bow and a full quiver of arrows and another one with trick arrows; the ones with the cameras and motion detectors.

Bella ran her hand over the leather of the suit as she looked at it thoughtfully. “So…If I were to join this little band of misfits – do I get my own superhero costume too?”

“If you want.” Oliver said with an entertaining look on his face.

“What?” Sara said confused. “Why would you need one? You were barely able to keep up with Ollie and it’s not like you’re able to go out in the field with us.”

Bella turned her icy glare onto her as she straightened her back. “You have no idea what you are talking about. And I would recommend that you stop calling him Ollie for the sake of my sanity.”

“Let it go, Sara,” Laurel said as she gently pat her sister on her back. “Ollie has a new leading lady.”

“But you just called him Ollie and she didn’t say anything,” she argued, returning her cousin’s glare.

“Because I don’t want him. I’ve moved on.”

Sara scoffed. “So what? Are they really together now? I thought that was just tabloid rumor and this was all show.”

Diggle sighed as he looked at Oliver and Bella making an exit with Oliver practically pulling Bella along because she probably wanted to say something and it’d escalate. No bother with saying goodbye either, which was fine, Diggle wouldn’t want to be in Oliver’s shoes right now either. “If you can’t stop behaving like a petty high schooler, then please refrain from speaking again until you’re able to handle this in a mature manner. He’s moved on, deal with it. Sara, you know you two were nothing more than friends with benefits.”

Laurel could only look at her sister with disappointment as she shook her head before going to help Felicity with getting the rest of the needed equipment together to bring to Bella’s. Occasionally she would look at her sister and she could see the disbelief and realization that during this last trip away, a lot had changed and she would have to learn to accept it as she had to accept the changes that happened in the five years that everyone believed she was dead.

“You’re still her family but she’s admitted to me that what you did with Oliver back then hurt,” she shared eventually, once they found themselves alone. “It may have only been a few days, but Ollie has shown to her that he wasn’t the same person she believed him to be when she moved back. You, unfortunately, only confirmed her fears for you when you glued yourself to him despite him obviously not being okay with it anymore. You need to give her time. You two may not be as close as you once were, but she may as least grow to be more civil with you and not try to look for ways to want to take off your head.”

Sara scowled. “He’ll only end up hurting her, you know that, right?”

She only laughed in response. “Bella will only hurt him back just as much if he did. She can take care of herself. Perhaps you should look into our dear cousin’s public life a little more before you say anything else. And – for the record. I actually was the one pushing the two of them together. So watch it.” Walking away, she went back over by Felicity to calm down as she pulled out her cell phone to send Oliver a warning text about Sara just so that he had an idea of what to expect.

~o.O.o~

Oliver grinned at her as they arrived at her house. “How about you carry my bag inside? I have a surprise for you in the trunk of the car.” He had already quickly looked around as they were driving up the driveway, but so far, it looked all clear. He was going to work fast to get all the extra security sorted and then spend an hour or two just with Bella, doing absolutely nothing – or something, it depended on her mood.

Bella looked at him curiously as she took his bag. “Sure. Just don’t take too long. I’ll be upstairs if you can’t find me. I’ll leave the back door unlocked for you,” she said as she gave him a kiss before heading inside.

Beginning her routine of checking all the doors and windows on the main floor, it was difficult to leave the one open for him as she walked away from it. Carrying his bag upstairs to her room, she smiled as she pulled out a new nightie she had seen and glad she purchased but not worn for anyone before. Deciding to take only a fast shower as she wasn’t sure how long Oliver would be, she hurried so that she could blow dry her hair as soon as she was out. Even though this was technically a job for everyone, she felt they still needed to put on the act to make it look real. So why not go all the way?

Once dressed, she pulled her robe on in time as she made her way out of the bathroom, where she looked around her room. She took one of her candles and lit it in hopes that it might help her nerves, but also gives a bit of a romantic feeling for them. Passing by the window, she peered outside but couldn’t see anything in the skies yet, but she knew that meant nothing with someone that could bring weather from nowhere.

Oliver lifted the crate of wine out of the trunk and locked his car before walking into the mansion and closed the door. He set the wine down on the kitchen counter and grabbed one bottle to open it and allow it to breathe. He then walked up the stairs to see where Bella was and found her in her bedroom. “Hello, gorgeous,” he smiled at her, holding up two glasses and an opened bottle of wine. “Look what I have.”

“Mmm, my wine,” she smiled as she turned to look back at him. “How in the world were you able to find it so quickly?”

“I have my contacts,” he grinned as he set the items down on her dresser and softly kissed her. “I’ll come back shortly to have a glass with you, but I need to set up the arrows first, okay?”

“No problem. I’ll be waiting here for you,” she replied with a smile as she bit on her lower lip. “I might even have a little surprise for you as well when you come back.”

“Oh, I can’t wait,” he said as he softly kissed her before he grabbed his bag and took it to a room opposite of the house with a quick exit to the woodlands surrounding the house. He quickly changed into his suit and secured his quiver with trick arrows after putting a few regular arrows in there as well; you could never anticipate a fight and he was making sure that he had at least some ammunition. “Opening the window now,” he said before opening it and jumped out of it, landing on his feet but rolled himself away from the house and started running for the trees.

It took him 30 minutes to find the right spots to get the surveillance arrows in preferable places and angles and then made his way back to the house. He shot an arrow into the roof and hoisted himself up to come back through the window and closed it. “I’m back,” he said as he walked into the bedroom.

Bella smiled back as she looked at him, having just finished lighting another candle. Pulling at the sash of her robe, she slowly pulled the fabric off of her, letting it fall to the floor. “Welcome back,” she said as she slowly walked up to him.

Her purple nightie looked incredible on her and he swallowed hard. “Christ, Bella…” he said huskily. “You’re… ” he couldn’t find the words, his mind was blown and that was not a good idea. “I… uhm…” He put his bow on the floor and got rid of the quiver after noting that she had closed the curtains. He was glad when his phone started to go off, because he needed to refocus. “Oliver Queen,” he said after picking up the phone.

It’s up and running, Oliver.” Felicity’s voice sounded. “Laurel is already on her way because I think I saw some movement outside. It could be a deer but… you know…”

“Got it,” he said with a nod and picked up his gear. “Where?”

South,”

“Thanks, I’ll be switching to the earbud now.” He hung up and then looked at Bella. “Sorry,” he apologized before kissing her. “We’ll finish this later. Laurel will come soon with the equipment.”

Bella sighed as she nodded. “Of course,” she replied easily, although she was reluctant. “Understandable. Just make sure you come back because I do intend on getting some use out of this eventually.”

“Out of that? Oh most definitely,” Oliver smirked and kissed her again before running back to the room he had disappeared from just half an hour ago and did the same routine. He was going hunting.

Grumbling, she went to change into a pair of sweats as she learned that her cousin was coming sooner than anticipated. “He’ll have more than just that one to deal with in the future now,” she mumbled, making her way downstairs to wait, but not before making a detour to pull out her favorite in house sidekick, Dean. “Waste of perfectly good lingerie and a bottle of wine for a night that was supposed to be played as bait. I’ll choke this Peter asshole myself if I cross him first.”

He tried to move through the woods as quiet as possible, but with all the branches and leaves on the floor, every step sounded as if a bomb was about to go off and with Peter being able to direct his bolts of lightning quite accurately. Oliver was doubtful that they were going to get him tonight, they needed to lure him out to some place less… dense. The trees also made it hard for him to see Peter before Peter could see him, again, the sound would alert Peter to his presence. “Talk to me, Felicity,” he said softly as he hid behind a big tree.

I don’t know!”

Even though he didn’t fancy being out all night and hunt the guy down, he was going to have to. He pushed the image of Bella in that incredibly hot nightie out of his mind to settle his body and mind and tried to focus. He could do this. He continued to zigzag through the woods, occasionally getting slapped in the face by some low hanging branches. There were simply too many places where Peter could hide. “At least tell me if Roy and Diggle are on their way.”

We were, Oliver, but we’re having some trouble getting through traffic. There’s been a big accident on our way over,” Diggle’s voice sounded in his ear.

You have two choices. I can send out Sara or you can use Bella,” Felicity said, closing her eyes and praying that he wouldn’t jump on her.

“No to Sara and certainly no to Bella,” Oliver replied with a grunt.

He wouldn’t need to know it’s her. Um – Laurel and I may have jumped the gun on hoping that she’d agree on joining the team…”

“No, Felicity. Bella’s no use to me if she freaks out during the storm that he’ll unleash.” He jumped over a small stream of water and winced when the twig he landed on made a lot of noise for such a small thing.

Weren’t you helping her with that problem though?” She asked innocently, confused. “You need someone and she’s able to do more than Laurel can until the guys get there.”

“Look, we can argue and argue over this but even I am having difficulties right now to move through the forest without getting detected because of all the damn twigs. End of discussion,” he said as he ducked because Peter had seen him first. Growling, he shot a few arrows in the direction he hoped was right and rolled out of its path.

Then head back to the house to wait Oliver. You can’t handle this one by yourself -“

“I KNOW!” He said as he zigzagged back through the trees before getting knocked to the floor because Peter had managed to dislodge a big branch from a tree and it fell on top of him.

Felicity found him on the camera but she also saw something new she didn’t recognize on the property from when he lived there previously. “Oliver! Ahead about thirty yards looks to be something of a storm drain. It looks new and I’m pulling up the satellite images of the property to see where it leads, but it may give you some cover if you can make it.”

“Yeah, hold on,” he said as he got back to his feet and started to run again while he tried to loosen some of the tension in his back. He was fortunate that that branch hadn’t hit his head. He spotted the storm drain and slid into it. “I’m in.”

You should be safe there for awhile. I am having trouble finding where it leads to. Whenever I try to zoom in on the satellite, the image pixelates and distorts. It’s gotta be Bella’s doing because I’ve only seen government level technology do this.”

“Call her on my phone and ask. And see if Laurel has arrived,” he demanded and sat down on his hunches against the wall.

Laurel’s inside.”

“Good,” Oliver said with a nod. “Go and ask Bella about the storm drain.”

Felicity nodded even though he couldn’t see her. She had muted his end of the call but the more she learned from Bella, the more was both in awe and feared the woman. Getting back on the conversation with Oliver she sounded much more relieved. “Do you have any light? There should be a tunnel large enough that you can fit through that will lead you back to the basement of the main house.”

“Yes, Felicity, I shall get the light out of one of my million pockets,” Oliver remarked before getting to his feet and used the wall as his guide. “What is this, exactly?” He asked as he followed the tunnel down and around before going back into a straight line.

“An emergency exit. Something out of the underground railroad type thing. Bella said she had other plans for the house but that she’d rather discuss those with you about. She was relieved though that you were near there, that I was even able to see enough to notice it, not that she was happy about it. She said that it is a part of her paranoia, that you’d understand. I don’t get it.”

“Yeah, I do, thanks Felicity.” He put himself on mute and continued to slowly and carefully walk through the tunnel until he reached a solid, locked door. He gently knocked on the door and hoped that Bella was waiting for him on the other side.

After Felicity’s call, Bella and Laurel made their way down to the basement. While she worked on pulling the door open, forgetting about how reinforced it was, her cousin had taken to looking around. “Fucking shit,” she muttered, fighting to get the door open quicker when she heard him knock. “Yeah, yeah. I hear you.”

It took a couple minutes but Bella got it open and she was a dirty, sweaty mess. She didn’t care as soon as she saw Oliver though, pulling him into a hug, holding him tight. “Okay, new rule. Everyone goes out in pairs with this fucker around,” she whispered, even if only he heard.

“I’m okay,” he whispered as he put his arms around her and held her close. “I’m fine. Nice tunnel you have there, Miss Sassypants.”

“Saved your smart ass Captain Tightpants,” she replied. “Come on. Looks like it’s going to be a slumber party tonight.”

“Ah, well, there’s enough wine to go around,” he said as he put an arm around her and started to accompany her up the stairs out of the basement. “Do you mind if I change in something more comfortable?” he said, winking at her.

“Of course,” Bella replied with a relieved smile. “You know where my bedroom is.”

He sprinted up the stairs and closed the window he had gotten outside through before walking to Bella’s bedroom and changed his clothes. However, just as she had her gun downstairs, he was going to take his bow and arrows downstairs as well. He was bummed that he hadn’t been able to catch Peter – yet, and was already thinking of new ways to draw him out. Maybe have the paper announce some public event she was going to attend so he’d try to attack there, Oliver wasn’t quite sure yet. All he knew was that he smelled slightly singed right now and he could use a good glass of wine to drown away his frustration.

Bella had started getting extra linen out as she started to pile blankets and pillows up in the television room. “When Ollie brings his ass back down, you can go dig through my clothes for something to sleep in. I doubt that office suit will be very comfortable,” she smiled.

“Thanks,” Laurel smiled at her. “I’m sorry that you’ll have to suffer through more of this, I know it mustn’t be easy.”

She was about to answer but the sound of the front unlocking and opening reached Bella’s ears, making her jump and grab her gun. “Stay here and down,” she said as she slipped her shoes off and quietly made her way through the hallway, hiding behind corners to see who dared to try to enter the house unannounced.

“Dad?” she asked at seeing Charlie setting his bags on the floor. “What are you doing home?”

“I figured I’d come home early anyway. Don’t want my girl to be all alone when all the circus is going around her,” Charlie said with a smile and hugged her. “Hey kiddo.”

She hugged him back, happy to have him back but the timing couldn’t be any worse as she caught Oliver coming down the stairs carrying his bow and arrows. Her eyes widened at him, expressing her panic and lack of knowledge of the man’s plans, and how it would affect things now.

“So uhm, Bells, whose cars are in front of the driveway?”

“Hi cousin Charlie!” Laurel greeted from the family room with a big smile on her face and waved.

Oliver quickly turned and moved back up the stairs to hide his bow and arrows in his bag before making his way down again. Oh, he was afraid of Charlie Swan, for some reason. He did remember him, making a fuss in the hallway when Oliver was younger, storming out after Oliver’s mother had asked him something. “Hello, Mr. Swan,” Oliver greeted him as he walked down the stairs, deciding to be bold and just face the music.

Charlie pulled back from Bella as he turned to face the reason for his early return from his trip. “Oliver. What are you doing here – in your pajamas?” he questioned, mustache twitching underneath his stare.

“I don’t -” Oliver looked at his clothes, aware that he was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt and he was walking around on barefeet. He then pointed to the family room. “Slumber party, like old times.”

“Two more are actually on their way – a couple of Oliver’s friends from the club that I’m helping with. One of them offered to help train me as well when I mentioned that I was considering taking up some more active hobbies,” Bella added, glancing over at Oliver, hoping that he might be able to get the message to Diggle.

Oliver smiled at Charlie and quickly moved to the family room to get to his phone that Laurel held out for him knowingly. COME HERE NOW, he sent to Roy.

Peter?

NO, worse. Bella’s father.

“Well, Bells, I don’t know if this party is such a good idea with the weather brewing outside,” he muttered to her.

“I know Dad. I’ve – been dealing with it. Ollie’s been a great help actually,” she told him. “It’s been storming here almost every night since you’ve left and the last couple nights he’s stayed with me…It hasn’t been as bad.”

“He what? Oliver Queen! Get your ass here! Right now!” Charlie said as he turned around to look into the family room.

Bella’s hands flew to her hair in a panic as she looked over at Laurel, not knowing what to do. It was her father after all. “Dad! Seriously! He didn’t do anything but talk to me during the storms! Okay he held me the first night but I don’t really remember what happened… He helped me!”

“You don’t remember what happened? Bella, come on, you know what that means. Oliver, get your ass here!”

“I fell asleep! During the storm I fell asleep!” she yelled at her father.

Oliver made his way over to Bella and Charlie. “Mr. Swan, nothing happened, I swear,” he said as he put his arm around Bella to comfort her. “And with all due respect sir, that’s no way to talk to your grown up daughter who invited her friends over to watch a movie to take her mind off the storm outside.”

Bella sighed as she leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder as she closed her eyes. “He’s only trying to protect me as well Ollie,” she said. “He doesn’t talk like this, not regularly like you might be thinking. He read the same papers as I did before coming here.”

Charlie wasn’t liking what he was hearing, and what he was seeing wasn’t much better but he couldn’t deny that whatever the two had from when they were children that had made his mother nervous was still obviously going just as strong now that they were adults. He looked upon them with resignation, already giving up on the argument. “Is there something going on between the two of you that I should know about or do I have to wait to find out some announcement in the news?”

“Actually, the news broke it before we even considered it,” Oliver said with a nod. “I know that I don’t have the best track record when it comes to dating women or that my personality isn’t all that great but that was in the past, Mr. Swan. I changed. Laurel can attest to that if you don’t want to believe me.”

Scratching his jaw, the older man eyed them for a moment. He knew Bella never forgave easily. Hell, he couldn’t remember a time she actually did and if she was capable of seeing past the faults of the boy, perhaps he could too. It would only mean that she believed that he really had changed from the way everyone remembered him to be. Of course he knew he was once a good kid, but that was before he and Bella left Starling City.

“Then let’s hope the two of you don’t become as self reliant on one another as you did as children,” he said nodding towards them. “Lord knows what a headache you two were. Moira Queen absolutely hated it and did everything she could to keep you apart.”

“Excuse me?” Oliver said confused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” What was he on about? He barely remembered Bella from his childhood, well he remembered were some vague impressions and not a lot of them were with her in detail in them.

Charlie sighed as he headed into the kitchen to get a beer before breaking the story of why they really left their hometown when he found something more appalling than his daughter with the local hotshot. “What’s that crate of expensive wine doing here?!”