01: Misdirection

~o.O.o~

Bella had been planning on stopping for coffee for herself on her way home from work; visiting her usual coffee shop, but when she walked in, she found herself frozen in place as she could do nothing but stare at the man in front of her that seemed to have been on his way out. So many thoughts crossed her mind in the moment: what to say, what not to say, if he knew the truth now that his mother was gone. Perhaps that was the reason behind his visit to Central City.

No. When he noticed her, he seemed as genuinely surprised by her presence as she was by his. “Oliver,” she breathed out, blinking at him as she was unable to formulate any other words beside his name. Still, she couldn’t believe she actually was seeing him and in that, she felt a tornado of complex and conflicting emotions.

Oliver did not expect this. He was usually great at anticipating things but this was far down his list. The world was a huge place, Central City was a huge place and the last time he had heard or seen her, it was at least nine or ten years ago. “Isabella, hi,” he said, feeling a small smile appear on his face. Even after all these years, she was still beautiful. “How are you?”

“I – I’m good,” she replied slightly wide eyed as her heart raced. Swallowing against her nerves, she smiled but her eyes picked up movement behind him. A couple of pairs of curious eyes were watching them and she couldn’t help but feel like she was under a microscope. “Are – are you in town for long?”

“Well, uhm… actually I was -” Oliver slightly stammered before he heard someone clear her throat behind him and looked over his shoulder, seeing Felicity and Barry taking a seat at the table and pretending not to look and listen to him. Turning back to her, he resumed what he wanted to say. “I should be leaving Central City today, but it seems that I have a couple more hours. Would you… uhm… would you like to go somewhere to talk? I’m sorry I never… after…”

Bella grimaced as she tucked her hair behind her ear. Looking down and avoiding him for a moment, she tried to think of something to respond to him with when he asked to go somewhere else to speak. Bringing up the past was something she wasn’t altogether ready for either. “It’s alright Oliver. I understand. And I’m sorry to hear about your mother. I – know that she loved you very much,” she answered softly.

He had not expected her to bring up his mother either. For all of her mistakes, he did know that she loved him. Oliver nodded and smiled. “Yes, she did.” Bella obviously didn’t want to talk about the past, which was fine with him. To be completely honest with himself, he had to admit that seeing her was hurting his heart; she was the one who got away so many years ago and he had only himself to blame for it. Then again, everybody left. And he used to be a douche. He still was a douche.

She looked back up at him, wishing that she could give him so much more but she had made promises years ago that were to protect not only herself, but their son. Biting her lip, she was tempted to tell him the truth and she opened her mouth to say so but the words failed her again. Instead, she chickened out. “I really should be going. It was good to see you. You look good,” she said honestly, her eyes looking him over briefly, but not in a way that many other women might have. She was just looking to see that he was indeed okay, but she still narrowed her eyes with concern when they reached his again at seeing something missing there.

“So do you,” he smiled at her, his smile not actually reaching his eyes this time. She was doing it again, just like they were younger, her eyes were scanning him, almost like a human CT machine. She used to always be right, he really didn’t envy the person in her life right now, unable to tell lies because she’d know. Somehow, she’d know. He wouldn’t be surprised if she was a nurse or something similar, helping people. But it was the past. And he had just run into it.

“Perhaps we might run into one another again if you are in town again,” Bella smiled hesitantly, closing her eyes as she knew she shouldn’t have given him an invitation such as that because of her promise to his mother. However, it did nothing to stop her feelings for him after nearly eight years. “It was good to see you Oliver.”

“You promise?” He smiled at her. He hated himself that his head immediately went into overdrive; by using her as an excuse to visit Central City – and Barry – he could keep an eye on Dr. Wells. That guy gave him the creeps as something was off about him. “It was good to see you too.”

His eagerness was endearing and she found herself agreeing with a nod. She bowed her head as she passed by him so that she could get her coffee and hot chocolate for Connor. Making her way to the counter, she grinned at Iris who greeted her and gave her order as she called home, trying not to think about her run in with her son’s father.

“Ready?” Felicity asked as she joined Oliver, sipping her coffee.

“Yeah,” he said with a nod.

“Who was that?”

“Someone I used to know,” he replied as he followed Felicity out of the coffee shop, glancing at Bella through the glass as he walked off. He had always felt guilty over the entire situation – well, ever since he’d become aware of his own behavior during his years away from home and he knew that it hadn’t been fair towards Laurel when he cheated on her. Not once, but twice. And to think that he used to believe that he was in love with Laurel… He couldn’t explain it. He did know that despite the brief period that he was with Bella, he hadn’t ever felt the same with anyone else. Not ever. Maybe with Shado, but he wasn’t sure. Not that he hadn’t felt anything for them but it was always as if something had been missing.

He was going to find an excuse to come back to Central City soon. Or maybe not, the excitement of running into her was still running through his veins and he’d probably think it was a bad idea when he’d come to his senses. He had just informed Barry that guys like them never ended up with the girl, and that was right. Oliver’s life was too crazy and dangerous for any kind of relationship but he had to talk to Bella. Just to tell her that he was really sorry that she had lost their baby and that she moved away. Because she could have gone to school in Starling City and she and him could have been happy. Eventually.

Or maybe that was just his excitement and his past feelings playing up.

~o.O.o~

It’d been several weeks since Bella had run into Oliver and she hadn’t seen him around town since. While she was disappointed, she also felt a sense of relief. Picking up her son from school, she decided to take him to the park instead of straight home since it was the weekend. As she watched the boy run down the stairs of his school, she could not help but see so much of his father in him as she had seen recently.

As he eagerly shared his stories, she listened with a smile as she held him closely to her while walking to the playground. Once they reached the heart of the activity, Connor wasted no time in shedding his schoolbag and took off for the jungle gym leaving her holding his bag and shaking her head.

Making her way over to sit on an empty bench, she watched on, losing herself in her thoughts about the past. Remembering the last time she had seen Moira Queen and it’s result. It pained her to lie to Oliver, to tell him that she’d lost the baby, because as terrified as she was to become a mother, she knew she couldn’t terminate the pregnancy as his mother originally wanted her to do. Instead, rather than avoid a messy battle with the Queens she knew she’d never win, she accepted the woman’s other offer and returned back to Central City with two million dollars and a broken heart.

When she heard the news that Oliver Queen was missing, presumed dead, from a boating accident, she had received a couriered envelope from a lawyer in Starling City with a check for another million dollars. When she received that, Bella cried for a week.

The memories saddened her as she wished that Oliver could have been there to watch Connor grow up. As terrified as he was when she told him of his impending fatherhood, she heard the disappointment in his voice when she made the call that she’d lost it. Now with the possibility of him frequenting Central City more, she wasn’t sure how he would react if he discovered the truth.

~o.O.o~

He had kept his suspicions to himself about Doctor Wells after he had voiced his concern to Felicity weeks ago at S.T.A.R. Labs. Oliver usually had a good judge of people and there was simply something off about that guy. He kept it to himself because the rest of his team was very impressed by Barry’s team and so was he; Caitlin and Cisco were amazing. Doctor Wells, however, was not. How did he figure out that Oliver was the Arrow? Granted, the amount of people knowing about his secret identity had received a growth spurt and that was something Oliver didn’t like, but it was his own fault. But he also knew that none of those people would have said anything, including Barry even though the kid was really bad at keeping secrets.

Fortunate for him, Oliver was quite alright with a computer himself; before Felicity, he handled most things on his own. It was just that she was faster at getting results that he wanted and spent nights where he had nothing to do or where he wasn’t patrolling the streets in the basement and scouring databases for Doctor Wells – making sure to thoroughly delete his activities from the computer for when Felicity arrived.

The man was a mystery. It was frustrating how little was known about the man and how little could be found using computers. There were slight mentions about him losing his wife in 2000, around the time that Barry lost his mother, but that was it. Lucky for Oliver, he had received a phone call from Detective West, reluctantly asking him – The Arrow – for assistance with apprehending a gang of youths that were terrorizing Central City while Barry was busy with his Flashy business as the youths were proving to be hazardous for the cops of Central City with at least half of the responding officers injured.

Normally Oliver wouldn’t do this, but the mystery that was Wells intrigued him and it also gave him another chance with Barry, teaching him some more, and maybe… well, that would just be a bit strange to run into Bella again. He had thought about looking her up on the computer, just like he was researching Wells, but he didn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to her. She left after she lost the baby and when she called to inform him, he wasn’t even able to say that if she ever needed anything she’d just call because she had hung up on him. It had been her choice. So looking her up in various databases was just a big no.

He liked the drive to Central City on his motor bike. Sure, it took almost the entire day but he just loved his motor bike, it freed him, in a way. It was a close to a nine hour drive, but that was okay, he appreciated the solitude and the speed that it brought him. He decided to check up on that abandoned barn he, Felicity and Diggle stayed at the last time and liked that it was still a perfect hiding place.

After stashing his stuff, he hopped back on the motorbike and went into town for a coffee and supplies.

“Mr. Queen!” Iris greeted him with a big smile on her face as he walked into CCJitters. “Does Barry know you’re here?”

“Not yet,” Oliver returned the smile and gestured to the coffee machine. “I figured I’d get some coffee first, it’s been a long drive.”

“I know just the thing for you then,” she replied as she set about to get him a fresh order. “For here or to go?”

“To go, please,” Oliver answered as he fumbled his wallet out of his pocket. “I have somewhere to be.”

Iris waved him off. “Don’t worry about it today. Are you going to see Barry?”

“Oh, thanks!” Oliver smiled and put the money away again. “Yeah, later I will. I have some business to attend to first.” He then took a deep breath and mentally smacked himself. “How are you, Iris? Are you and Eddie still good?”

She nodded with a shrug. “We’re good. Things were tense for a little while but we are… Okay now. Tell Barry that he should come around more. I miss my friend. Actually we have trivia night here tonight if you can convince him to come. You two can be on my team!”

“Oh, I don’t know, Iris. I’m not really into-”

“Great! That’s settled then!” Iris smiled widely and handed him his coffee. “Off you go to your meeting and we’ll see you tonight.”

He could not help but to stare at her in absolute horror before realizing what he was doing and skulked off. Oliver knew that he would never be able to live going to a trivia night down. Felicity and Diggle were going to have a field day when they’d find out. Oliver wouldn’t tell them, but he knew that Barry definitely would.

Oliver had planned to meet up with Joe in the park as Oliver needed to know what he was supposed to do and since it was day, he wasn’t going to walk into the police station as himself or dressed up. He still had some time to kill as he sipped his coffee and got his phone out to send a message to Barry. I’m in town. Iris wants you and me to come to trivia night at the coffee shop tonight.

Awesome! You didn’t tell me you were coming, anything I can help you with?

Nope. Just business.

Liar.

Oliver snorted as he put his phone away and sat down on a bench, waiting for Joe to show up.

With a sigh, the older man had joined him, his own coffee cup in hand. Detective West avoided meeting Oliver’s eyes at first before letting out a grunt. “I’d like to say is nice to see you back in Central City, but you know how I feel about your form of justice even if I can understand it to a degree.”

“You called me, remember?” Oliver mused as he sipped his coffee. “What can I do for you, detective?”

“I know I called you!” he whined, grimacing. Handing over a police file, he kept his eyes on the playground in the distance. “I’d have asked Barry to look into this but with my partner gunning for him, he needs to keep his head down for awhile.”

“I know,” Oliver said as he looked through the police file. There were names and descriptions of at least twenty identified males belonging to some group. “These guys are causing you trouble? Why?”

“Wells identified them as metahumans. I don’t know what their abilities are but they seem to be similar to one another. No one has been able to get close enough yet to see. Cameras don’t show them either. Like they just vanish.”

“You do realize that it’s going to take me a bit longer than that red menace, right?”

Joe rubbed his eyes tiredly. “What do you want Queen?”

“Nothing, I’m just telling you that it might take me a bit longer. First, I have to track them and then take them out one by one or something, I don’t know,” he replied as he kept flipping through the police report. “I mean… I’m good but to go up against twenty of those… meta humans is a bit too much all at once.”

“The gang task force should handle this but knowing what they are, that they are escalating in their thefts… I understand you are one human. I do. I am thinking about Barry here as well. That’s why I called you. ”

The suspected leader of the gang was one Jacob Black and Oliver couldn’t help but to notice one name affiliated with him Isabella Swan. Groaning, Oliver rubbed his eyes and sighed as he read that she was his ex-girlfriend and worried that she might have gotten into trouble.

“Something wrong?”

“No, not at all,” Oliver sighed as he closed the file. “Can I keep this?”

“Sure. It’s a copy, ” Joe said as he eyed him with concern. “Look, I may not like your methods but if you need anything, let me know. Or if you want someone to talk to.”

“Thanks,” he said with a nod. “I’ll probably have one of these for you tonight.” Oliver got to his feet and shook Joe’s hand. “Good to see you again, detective.”

“Oliver? ” Joe said as he stood and took his hand, holding firm for a moment. “Be careful and keep your head straight. ”

Oliver blinked at that remark for a moment and nodded before letting go of the man’s hand and walked away. There were multiple things bothering him about the police file about these people. The most important one being Bella’s involvement or non-involvement in this, the other it being twenty people – that the police knew of – and being super powered.

He was going to need help but he left his team in Starling City because they could handle things from there and would call him if they needed him and he really didn’t want to go and bother the people at S.T.A.R. labs because Joe was right, Barry needed to lay low for a while and he would have loved to dig in as soon as he could.

Stuffing the file in his bag, he made his way to the supermarket to buy supplies and texted Felicity to overnight him some of his specialty arrows as he had a feeling that he was going to need them. If it was true what Joe said about them disappearing in thin air he was going to need arrows that would stop them from doing so, or at least try to. He kept racking his brain about getting more information and it finally hit him when he came back to his hideout. The Arrow was going to pay a visit to Bella and get the information he needed.

~o.O.o~

Bella had been home working with the television going in the background when the news came in, announcing a local break in at one of the banks in town. She watched as they aired some security footage, recognizing a few of the faces. Shaking her head, she pulled her coat on and took off for downtown where the group had taken to hanging out the last she remembered.

At finding Jacob right away, she went up to him and punched him in the face with a heavy right hook. “You are a fucking idiot! When are you going to learn?!” she screamed, pissed off and hurt.

Jacob laughed at her as he rubbed his jaw. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, babe, but wow, you do know how to get a guy in the mood,” he said as he put his arm around her and pulled her close.

She shoved him away, using her extra ability to help her along. “I know you were behind that bank robbery today. News flash jackass, if you want my son’s money then you need to do a better job. You won’t get your grubby paws on it. I don’t know how this thing changed you but you stay away from us. This is your only warning Jacob.”

“Why would I want your son’s money when we’ve made more in the last two weeks than what’s probably in that account?” He grinned and grabbed her arm. “I could buy you that trip to the Caribbean you wanted so bad now.”

“Go to hell, “Bella hissed before she spat in his face.

Oliver had followed Bella from a distance, wondering where she was going and hoped for a good place for the Arrow to talk to her, but he was surprised to find her going straight to the group of youths who were causing trouble in the city. His heart sank, was she one of them? She surprised him when she hit her boyfriend in the face and Oliver got angry when the guy grabbed her by the arm when she wanted to go away. So maybe she was not involved. She just knew the players.

Even though she could clearly take care of herself, Oliver decided to step in and get her out before things got out of hand. He jumped down from where he was hiding and shot a flash bang arrow into the area, temporarily blinding everyone. He hit Jacob Black in the stomach making him let go of Bella and pulled her out of there as he ran, hopefully to a safe place.

Squirming against the stranger’s hold, Bella pushed her shield out so that it forced him to lose his grip on her until she fell to the ground. Turning to look at her kidnapper she huffed. “Who are you?”

He didn’t know what had happened but he felt some sort of push without someone actually pushing him away and had to let go of Bella, temporarily losing his footing but he remained his balance. He switched on his voice distortion device as he spoke. “Does it matter? What were you doing with those guys?”

She eyed him like he was an idiot. “What does it matter? I was handling it! If it wasn’t for me they would have been trying to rob banks last year. I’m surprised they waited this long.”

He clenched his fist around his bow and tried not to use the same tone of voice she had just used on him. “If you knew about what they were up to, why not go to the cops? Do you have something to do with them?”

Bella raised an eyebrow. “And tell them what? That my shape shifting asshole ex boyfriend that wants my child’s trust is breaking into banks? Right, like anyone will believe me. Asshole.”

She had a kid, that was good, he supposed. At least she soldiered on with her life after leaving him for being an asshole. “Shapeshifting? Into what?” He managed to get out, keeping half an eye on her as he tried to keep her from staring him right in the face.

“What does it matter? I’m dealing with it,” she repeated evenly as she turned to start heading back toward the group she was taken from. “I’ll take care of it. I have to.”

He gently took her arm and pulled her back. “Either you’re going to go home, now, or I will hand you over to the police. I’m sure they will love having their hands on an accomplice and a willing one at that. I’m not sure your child would love to see its mother behind bars, though.”

Bella narrowed her eyes and pushed him away with her shield roughly without moving a muscle. “Surely you understand how that would be a bad idea.”

She was one of them, wasn’t she? She got caught in the explosion and something changed within her. Her stubbornness was still alive and kicking, he realized and knew that this was going to be hard. “Go home.”

“Go to hell,” she said as she threw pushed him back again, keeping him away from her. She didn’t want to hurt him and it was clear on her face. “It’s my fault he’s so angry. Let me fix it.”

“He and his gang injured almost half the police force, they don’t need a woman’s touch, they need prison. Go home.” He almost added ‘Bella’ to that sentence and nearly gave himself away. This was bad and frustrating.

She scoffed and shook her head, wanting to scream out. “Their prison can’t hold them. They’ll walk out looking like a prison guard or a little fucking rat. I don’t know anywhere capable of holding them so I have to try to remind them of how they used to be. Before this mess.”

“I might have a place to take them to, that will contain them, but you have to let this go. You have done enough. The police might get involved and if they see you, they will arrest you for knowing what these guys are up to.” Oliver spoke calmly. “Please, go home.”

Bella hesitated as she knew he was right. “I just don’t want him hurt. We might not be together any more but he was there for me when my son was born. It’s bad enough that his father couldn’t be there for him but Jacob was the closest thing he had until last year. You will make sure that he will be okay?”

Oliver gritted his teeth. Most of the gang would have hit the ground running already once they figured out what was going on and he had promised West that he would deliver at least one to him… or maybe he’d even bring them to S.T.A.R. labs if Bella was telling the truth. “Yes. What can they shift into?” That was such a bizarre question, Central City was bizarre. The whole city was mental, compared to Starling City where there were- nope, Starling City was just as mental, just different.

She was annoyed by the question as she moved to sit on a nearby piece of debris. “Animals mostly. For whatever reason, other human forms drain them faster so they avoid it. That’s why they get out so fast. No one looks for mice in the walls.”

“So… I’m better off calling animal control or the exterminator?” Oliver quipped as he finally relaxed his stance as she did.

Bella rolled her eyes. “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re an asshole?”

“Yes. Thank you for your information, Miss Swan. I will handle it from here. Go home to your son.”

She froze as she heard her name. Her shield shot out to pin him against the closest wall as she stalked up to him. “How do you know my name?”

The air got knocked out of him as she threw him against the wall. “Police file,” he grunted. “I followed you from your home because I wanted to talk to you about them…” She was definitely one of Barry’s metahumans. “And that’s why I want you to go home because I believe you’re innocent but the police have you on file for being acquainted to at least one of the members.”

“I’m not one of them,” she said. “I told you that I’ve been working to stop them. They aren’t human anymore. Neither am I. Are you?”

“I know what you said, but you asked how I knew your name and I told you,” Oliver wanted to grab Bella by the shoulders and rattle her, to knock some sense into her but he couldn’t. “You’re still human, Miss Swan. You were just caught in the fall out of the explosion and it changed you. You seem to be a stable young woman, which is a nice change because most of the other special people I have been dealing with so far, aren’t.”

She eyed him with curiosity and confusion. “There are others? You have to bring me to meet them!”

“I could bring you into contact with someone who knows more about this stuff than I do, if you’d like.” She was probably scared out of her mind because of the change that happened and unlike Barry, she probably didn’t have anyone to talk to about this. He could imagine that there were more scared metas out there. And one glance over to the overpass told him that the gang had dissipated, so there was nothing else for him to do that night.

Bella followed his line of sight. “What?”

“They’re gone.” Oliver said as he looked back at her. “Would you like me to get you into contact with someone who knows more about your kind of stuff than I do?”

“I’d appreciate it, but what about them being gone that has you bummed out Robin Hood?”

“I promised a friendly cop to deliver at least one of them tonight,” Oliver mused as he grabbed his phone and texted Barry. I have a scared metahuman here, care to answer some questions?

We don’t do counseling.

You should. Come find me. NOW. “My friend is on his way, by the way.”

Bella nodded in understanding. “Then take Paul. His anger management issues makes him only able to hold form the shortest amount of time. He tends to hang out around the club downtown.”

“Thank…” Oliver blinked as a fully kitted out Barry skidded to a halt next to them. “… you. Miss Swan, this is… well… I don’t know if you’ve read the papers lately… but he’s one of you.”

“You didn’t mention she was cute!”

“Shut it, Flash,” Oliver replied with a grunt and looked back at Bella. “Thank you for your help tonight, Miss Swan, I’d better go.”

Crossing her arms, Bella eyed the two. “My son has more maturity than this idiot and you’re leaving me with him?”

“He has a serious mode too,” Oliver said with a shrug. “I don’t know much about what you’re going through,” he pointed at Barry. “He does. I might check up on you two later after I’ve picked up this Paul.”

She looked back the newcomer warily. “You promise Robin?”

“I mean, you could stay, O- Arrow, if she doesn’t want to be left alone with me,” Barry said with a shrug. “I don’t mind, maybe you’ll learn something too. I mean, who wouldn’t feel safer with a grumpy guy in a green hood with sharp arrows than with a guy who’s just super fast?”

Oliver glared at Barry before looking back at Bella and sighed. “I’ll stay.” If only it was to see her pull the same stunt on Barry that she did on him earlier. He found it hard to be around her. He felt as if he was slipping up all the time and he figured that she knew that something was off, or something. It hurt to be around her. She had made her choice so many years ago by leaving and she had been more than in her right to do so. He just couldn’t help but feeling pulled into her vortex again, her energy, her entire being, it just felt good to him.

Nodding slightly, she felt relieved. “He’ll be there for several hours, don’t worry. If not, then I will personally take you to his apartment.”

Oliver nodded quietly.

“So, what do you want to know? What are you scared of? You do know that you have nothing to be scared of, right? What can you do?” Barry started to ramble and Oliver fought the need to facepalm. “Oh! Sorry, what’s your name?”

Bella sighed as she looked over at the other man as she pushed the kid back hard with her shield, slamming him into the gravel roughly. “Isabella.”

“Ooff! Impressive!” Barry grinned as he got to his feet. “Nice to meet you, Isabe-.” Barry looked over to Oliver. He had overheard the conversation he had had with a woman when Oliver went back to Starling City, as had Felicity, but both had the decency not to bring it up but… was this the same woman? “Isabella,” he finished as Oliver simply glared at him. He did that well, glaring. “What can I help you with?”

“What happened to me?” she asked first. “Is my son going to be affected?”

“Ah. Well… Remember that time where S.T.A.R. labs switched on that particle accelerator to provide clean energy, amongst other things, for Central City? It exploded and sent out a shockwave of anti-matter, dark energy and x-elements, and there was some rain and lightning…”

“Get to the point Sonic.”

“Long story short, it changed some parts of your molecular make up. With me, it made me super fast as I’m always running late – I’m still running late but that’s beside the point, others can control the weather because they were up in the air when it happened or we’ve had a case of someone being able to make clones of himself… But you have nothing to worry about, you seem to be in good health and not nuts.”

Bella paled as she tried to remember what she was doing when the lab exploded. She remembered many fights and shielding her son from Jacobs angry screaming about his father’s ghost. “Could abilities develop later if they haven’t yet?”

“It’s possible, but we could run tests on both you and your son back at the lab and see if he’s affected. Not all people caught in the blast were affected, thank God, otherwise I’d be really, really busy right now.”

She nodded but wasn’t sure if she wanted her son exposed to something like that.

“A vial of blood will do if you’re not sure. There’s a lot of things we can do with just one vial of blood,” Barry smiled at her. “We have been itching for people like you to come clean with their ability just to help us out doing our research on how things evolve or maybe even create a cure for the most dangerous metahumans out there.”

Shaking her head, Bella stepped away. “Not now. Let me help Robin and think some more please,” she whispered.

“Okay,” Barry said with a nod. “Completely understandable, this is scary stuff.” He then looked at Oliver, who had a pained expression on his face. “What?”

“Thank you, Flash,” Oliver muttered. He could see that Bella was scared and he wanted to walk up to her and take her into his arms and tell her that everything was going to be alright but that was impossible without blowing his cover. How on earth could he still have feelings for her after all these years? She dumped him because she couldn’t deal with the miscarriage or whatever. No, he had been an asshole. It was weird enough that she seemed to trust the Arrow right now.

“Can I help you with your case?”

“No, go home and stay out of trouble.”

“You sound like them.”

“I know.”

Barry grumbled and smiled at Bella. “Nice to meet you, Isabella. If you ever do wish to get into contact with me, I have a friend working at the police station. His name is Detective West. He knows how to get in touch with me.”

She nodded again, feeling uneasy as she made her way closer to her would be kidnapper. She didn’t speak until the Flash was gone, taking a deep breath. “Let’s get this over with. My son is home with my father so he’s…”

“How about I escort you home and I’ll take care of Paul myself? It’s been a difficult evening for you, Miss Swan.” Oliver said after a moment. Charlie Swan. The man who needed to be feared. “You should get some rest.”

“… Fine. I’m fine. Jacob sounded like they had something and I know those boys enough to be able to pick up on their lies. You don’t. ”

“All I’m going to do is snatch him and deliver him. He’s in the file. What happens after that is not up to me,” Oliver said. “Now, should I be able to pick up your boyfriend one of these days, you’re more than welcome to tag along so you can use him as a punching bag for being an asshole. Go home to your son.”

“I just said…”

“I know what you said,” Oliver said frustrated. “And you should listen to me. You might have this fancy shield thing going on but I do not need your help catching them. Should there be police, they might pick you up and I don’t want that to happen, Bella. Go home. You’re a mother, it’s important that you’re there for your kid and not behind bars. Go to your son.” He realized too late that he had slipped up.

She walked up to him slowly, shaking her head in disbelief. “No. No… Oliver?”

He couldn’t do this. Having an anti-Flash task force or not, Barry was going to do this. He’d be done within the night and it would be done and dusted. Oliver had slipped up and he was obviously lacking. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep and the nine hour drive to get to Central City in the first place but he couldn’t do this.

However, she came closer and closer to him and he stood frozen, nailed to the floor. He wasn’t able to move. His head yelled ‘run’ but his body was not listening. He couldn’t lie to her, he just couldn’t even though she deserved it for… no, she didn’t deserve it, she did what she thought was best for herself all those years ago.

Bella stared at him, picturing the man she’d fallen for and run into most recently under the mask and hood. She wanted to cry and punch him. He knew now she had a child, but if he realized the boy was his own… “Seems we both have our secrets,” she murmured, her voice cracking as she held back her emotions. “You can take me home now.”

Oliver nodded as he quietly walked next to her as she started to walk in the direction they had come from earlier. He wasn’t quite sure what to say now, or what to do, apart from tasking Barry with this case even if that meant getting slack from West and Wells. He was usually alright when something involved people he knew and cared about but there were just so many unresolved feelings, emotions and thoughts between him and Bella that it made it impossible for him to see what was more important. It almost seemed like a relapse of some sort because he could have gone straight for one of the gang members instead of making sure she was alright. He should have. “I’m sorry.”

Glancing over at him, she wasn’t sure what he was apologizing for. Had his mother told him about their child and he decided to not get involved, seeing as he didn’t react when she mentioned him repeatedly. Or for something else entirely? Her curiosity got the better of her as her anger quickly left her. “What for?”

He took a deep breath and shrugged. “Everything, I suppose. For not coming clean about who I was tonight, for being an asshole, for being the asshole that drove you out of Starling, for not trying to find you when you left… For you to be the other woman… For… Everything.”

Unable to resist looking at him, Bella spun around and moved so that she was in his space and she trapped him in her shield to keep him by her so that she could study him closer. She was filled with some level of mixed terror and hope at the honesty he shared in that he had wished to chase her down. “You – didn’t drive me out of Starling City, Oliver. Don’t believe for a moment that it was you. I had to make decisions for what was best at the time,” she said, having had rehearsed those words carefully for years in case she had indeed run into him before he disappeared. “While I wasn’t happy to be the other woman, I know that you hadn’t intended for what happened to go as far as it did, nor did our feelings. I believed you would have done the honorable thing to decide between us, however difficult it would be, and though one of us would have ended up hurt, it would have been the right thing to end it. Don’t second guess it. People meet and feelings change all the time. I have no doubt that you are a different man from back then so forgive and forget.”

He thought about her words for a moment and nodded slowly. It was obvious that she’d moved on and there he was having issues with himself. He had tried to forgive himself for what happened but he always failed to do so. He was an asshole and a scared one at that back then and realized that nothing had really changed. “Are you happy?” he eventually asked.

“I am happy with my son and my dad,” she said after a long silence, trying to decide on an answer. Saying otherwise would be a blatant lie. Smiling sadly up at him as she gently released her shield around him, she lowered her eyes down to his suit. “They are all I need.”

“Good,” Oliver managed to say and managed a small smile. “What kind of work do you do?”

Bella smiled slightly, relieved for the change of topic. “I write childrens’ books mostly. It doesn’t bring in millions, but I make enough that we live comfortably,” she explained. “They actually have been pretty successful so I can’t complain.”

“Oh, that’s great,” he replied, genuinely happy for her. “I’m glad you’re doing well for yourself!”

She only nodded as they reached the main road, but looking around and considering the time, she realized that it was late and there was little chance of anyone being out now. “Are you going to be alright out like this? If you are seen…?”

“Still got the hood on my head, don’t I? It’s the day that I need to avoid walking around in, but this is fine. Just the Arrow escorting a woman safely to her home. He’s done crazier things.”

“I’m sure,” she commented as she eyed the bow before looking back up at him as they continued walking. “How have you been – really? Are you, um, still with…?”

“She wisened up… I suppose that I have hurt her too many times one way or the other. But it’s alright, we’re still friends. We simply weren’t right for each other even though for a long time I thought that she was. And I suppose I’m okay, secretly happy that I wasn’t able to buy back my dad’s company so I can focus on more important things.”

“Like playing Robin Hood?” Bella teased with a smile, trying to mask the pain she felt at his words that he had believed that the girl he’d been with might had been the one, meaning he would have left her eight years ago anyway. Blinking her eyes to hide the tears, she quickly turned away so that he didn’t catch her reaction. “So how long are you in town this time?”

“I might leave the animal wrangling to The Flash and head home tomorrow or the day after that. I realize that I’m not exactly at my best and that can be dangerous,” Oliver said as he wished he could shove his hands into some pockets because he wanted to put an arm around Bella to tell her that it was okay, although he wasn’t quite sure why she was silently crying. “Why are you crying?” stupid question really, he had felt the tears burn behind his eyes for a while now but he was glad that the mask made it almost impossible to cry.

“It’s nothing. We’re almost back,” she replied quietly, looking up at the buildings for their location. “If you want to take off I’ll be good the rest of the way.”

“I’ll leave once you walk through that door,” Oliver said and shook his head. “I wouldn’t be much of an escort if I started to slack with the last few meters.”

“I could just shove you back and take off and you wouldn’t be able to get me as well.”

“Yeah,” he tried not to sound hurt. “You don’t need to have a shield for doing that. Goodnight, Bella.”

She looked back at him, heartbreak in her eyes. “Goodnight Oliver,” she replied before she turned the corner from his sight.