09: Working it Out

Oliver had made sure that their Thanksgiving dinner was something everyone would love. He never planned something like this before; either he skipped it (the last few years) or his mother would organise it with careful planning and their maid. He had done his research on the internet for a couple of days while he was sidelined and he hoped he had made it the way Bella had wanted it.

While he had cheated a little on the groceries by not picking it up himself but instead to have it delivered, he was confident that there were things that all of them could cook without burning anything. He made sure he was at the house when it got delivered and was looking at his handy work, boxes taking over the kitchen and he made sure that everything was accounted for as he put it all away for later.

In the end, he realized that the only thing missing was his sister Thea, and that royally sucked.

Oliver was feeling a lot better and he was glad about that. No more occasional shakes and he had even started to work out a little again. Everyone was telling him to take his time and that they had things under control – which they had – and he had obeyed. He actually liked the time off, his team was a well-oiled machine all thanks to his friends who were more than capable.

He was enjoying a well deserved beer after stashing away all the groceries in the kitchen and waited for Bella to come home from work.

Charlie walked in the door first, eagerly dropping his briefcase at the door and yanking his tie off as he made his way to the kitchen. Pausing in the doorway, he grunted as he found his daughter’s boyfriend before making his way to the get himself a drink. “Don’t you have a place of your own now? You don’t actually live here anymore you know.”

“I know I don’t,” Oliver greeted him. “But I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, I had to be here for all the cooking stuff to arrive. Unless you wanted the turkey to spoil on the porch.”

The man grimaced. “Yeah – let’s not let the place burn down if Bells is in charge of the kitchen.”

“She’s not allowed to do anything but the chopping,” Oliver grinned as he took a swig of his beer.

“I don’t understand. She can make a damn good lasagna but anything else we have to call the fire department on. There is something wrong with that girl.”

“Are you sure it was lasagna and not her version of tomato soup?”

“No. She can do lasagna. She never made it for you?” Charlie asked, his mustache twitching in amusement. “Just wait. You’ll be asking if she’s been abducted by aliens or something. I assure you.”

“I’ll ask her to make it one time,” he said slowly nodding. “But Felicity and Laurel are going to help Bella with the dinner tomorrow. I’m not allowed to set foot in the kitchen only to get something to drink or grab a snack. I trust Felicity. I think she’s a decent cook.”

“Laurel however… Bella is still rather furious with all of you after the slumber party you all had here. Other than beer, you know this holiday is going to be a dry dinner,” the older man noted. “She may not comment but…ehh…I can’t say that I disagree.”

Oliver shrugged. “I don’t think it’s Laurel we should be worried about. She’s adapted a healthy lifestyle now, has other things to do when she feels like she should drink, but yes, that slumber party was a little slip up on all of our parts, but trust me, I kept an eye on Laurel to make sure she stayed sober after that.”

Charlie watched him as he took a sip of his beer. His favorite Vitamin R that Bella shipped in regularly for him, smiling slightly at her consideration. However, there was something that bothered him in the way the boy spoke. “Who is it that you think we should worry about?”

“I don’t know… has Bella always been a frustrated drinker?”

“Aw hell…What’s going on?” he asked with a sigh, looking defeated. “She’s never been one to turn to the bottle like Quentin – I know about his issues mind you. But she’s been known to have a few bad nights. How bad has it gotten that it has you concerned?”

Oliver shrugged. “I just see a pattern emerging. It started when the Cullens started calling her more frequently and started to pull pranks, but we can’t do anything about it because it’s mainly harmless or without any substantial evidence. Then minor things set her off. Last time I distracted her instead.”

“Yes, yes. I know well enough about the charity night. They never should have showed their faces. After that encounter, I’m sure we all needed something to settle our nerves but I can see your point. Just do what you can. I know this upcoming dinner is going to be stressful enough as she still isn’t talking with Sara,” he shared with a raised eyebrow.

“I’ll talk to Sara, she’s coming back tonight and she’s bringing her girlfriend, or friend, or whatever they are. Tomorrow will be fine. We have Steve coming to run interference and then there’s Felicity and Roy…” He looked at the dining table. “I think we need an extra table.”

“Steve? McGinty? Bella’s friend Steve? Why the hell would he be coming? I thought things were good with you two,” Charlie looked confused. “I mean there were rumors when they were in China but I ignored them…”

“No Steve and Laurel are together…” Oliver blinked at what Charlie said after that. “China? What rumors?”

“They worked together in the field,” Charlie explained. “I thought she told you this already.”

“Yeah, they always worked together. She would have told me if it had meant something, it’s not like she knows of all the others I’ve been with before her. Just the important ones. Just like Bella’s important ones.”

He shook his head and scratched his jaw. “Like I said, it was only rumors. If nothing happened, then nothing happened. If there was, I’m sure she would have said something considering her issues with you and Sara.”

“Exactly.” Oliver took another swig of his beer. “I don’t care, really. She’s with me and that’s all that matters.”

“Hm…Hmmm…” Charlie hummed as he narrowed his eyes on him. “Right. Well, I was going to order a pizza and watch the game. You’re welcome to stay or whatever.”

“Thanks. I’m waiting for Bella to arrive, I might take her to Alfredo’s tonight if she’s feeling up for it.”

“You do know that the girls are going to have to be up at the asscrack of dawn to start their cooking?”

“Don’t worry,” he smiled at Charlie. “I’ll have her home before midnight. Or we’ll just order in, want some too?”

“I’m sick of that place. Get me Chinese.”

“Just a couple of months, Charlie. But sure, we’ll get some Chinese too.” Oliver laughed as he finished his beer and put his bottle away.

~o.O.o~

Sure, the girls were up at the crack of dawn the following morning, but so was he, not being able to sleep with Bella bouncing off the bed and the girls chattering away in the kitchen. He got dressed in his work out gear and decided to go out for a run around the property, but not before he had a coffee.

In the half an hour that the girls were in the kitchen, they managed to create a warzone. There were bowls everywhere, chopping boards, pots and pans and produce and he hoped they had a system to it because to him it looked like one gigantic mess. “Morning,” he said as he stood in the opening of the kitchen. “I’m not entering the kitchen.”

Bella glared at him from across the room as she pointed her knife at him. “Of course you’re not. What do you want?” she asked as she watched her cousin out of the corner of her eye who’d stayed cautiously silent around her since her arrival.

“Coffee?”

“See Dad. There’s a to-go box out in the dining room set up for you guys,” she replied.

“But that’s not the same,” Oliver said with a pout.

“Tough,” Laurel said as she pointed away from the kitchen. “Go.”

Sighing, he nodded. “I’m going for a run around the property. Or two. Or three. Won’t be that long.”

“Go check out the stables!” Bella suggested with a teasing smile, tapping the flat side of her knife against her cheek.

“Now or after my run?” He asked curiously.

“Whichever you prefer,” she shrugged.

“Okay. See you girls in a bit,” he smiled before turning around and headed out the door.

She waited until he was out of earshot before snorting. “He’ll be gone for at least a couple hours.”

“What did you do?” Felicity grinned. “Surprise him with a dart that knocks him out?”

“I upgraded the stables,” she blinked innocently, making her way over to pick up her tablet to check the security cameras to wait for when he arrived. “We just wait and see. Looks like he’s going for his run first. So what’s next in the meanwhile? Should I get the biscuits started?”

“Chop this up and then you can start mixing the batter for dessert!” Felicity squeaked as she pushed some vegetables in her arms. “No oven for you, missy. That’s why you’re on that end of the island and we’re on this end.”

Bella pouted as she resumed her position. “It was only one time,” she muttered as she chopped angrily.

“It only takes one time,” Felicity snorted.

“Am I missing something here?” Laurel looked at her cousin and her friend. “I know that Bella can’t cook for shit but did she do something?”

“Ummm…” Felicity stalled, faltering under her friend’s glare.

“You know Bella,” Sara spoke kindly. “She can even make water burn. No doubt Oliver’s worried about her setting fire to the kitchen.”

“I know how to use cyanide with finesse,” she smiled sweetly as she whacked the carrot extra hard she was working on.

“Seriously? I’m trying here, Bella, what else do you want me to do? I already apologized for jumping in his arms like that and flirting with him.”

“I would flirt with Oliver if he gave me the chance,” Nyssa said as she handed her lover another bowl. She wasn’t good in the kitchen either, but she was there for moral support.

Bella’s eyes flashed with fury as she looked over at the woman. “He’s taken,” she snapped as she shoved the knife into the wood block.

“So am I,” Nyssa smiled kindly as she approached Bella with a sultry look on her face. She ran her fingers up Bella’s back and looked at her. “You are so pretty.”

Pursing her lips, the woman did not care for being approached in such a manner. It wasn’t as if she was opposed to women. She found them attractive as well, it was that she made her feelings quite clear and she reached up, grabbing her wrist with a small smile before bending it back. “Do not try that again. You are in my house. I am not interested in whatever it is you are selling.”

“Oh, feisty, I can see what Oliver sees in you,” Nyssa said approvingly, not blinking as her wrist got bent. She had endured more pain than that, it was nothing.

“Nyssa, back off,” Sara chided her. “She’s not in the mood.” She put her utensils down and looked at Bella. “Do you want us to leave so we won’t ruin your perfect idea of Thanksgiving?”

Bella considered it and looked at her as she drew in a breath before shaking her head slightly. “Dad and Gordon want you here too,” she muttered.

“Then man the fuck up, Bella. Yes, I’ve screwed Oliver and I screwed with Oliver and the last time happened before I knew you were in the picture. I’m not interested in him like that anymore.”

She narrowed her eyes on her cousin and sneered. “For how long this time? He said no and you persisted. That is where my issues lie, Sara,” she said and pushed the woman’s girlfriend away from her to get some space.

Sara shrugged. “I’m used to Oliver saying ‘no’. But I learned that if you don’t push through that no of his, you don’t get anywhere with him. So my apologies, Bella, for throwing myself at him. Are you done?”

She shrugged and moved to resume her chopping duties silently, the most that she would able to compromise in the situation. At least she hadn’t walked out or thrown the thing at her family member.

“I think she’s done,” Felicity smiled, having been frozen in the corner of the kitchen, unsure of how everything was going to end.

“Yeah, right now I feel like we’re sitting ducks here with three girls knowing their knife skills,” Laurel said with a nod.

“Yeah but Bella has-”

“Shut up, Felicity,” Sara cut her off sharply with a shake of her head. “Don’t.”

Bella glanced up at her, narrowing her eyes slightly before letting out a breath and nodding slightly. It was a small truce that she would have to concede to. Looking over to the tablet when she caught movement, she smiled slightly. “There’s movement,” she shared quietly.

“Okay I need to know what you did to the stables!” Felicity cried.

She handed over the tablet where her friend could watch the man explore the area and see the changes she made.

“Oh my god, you built him a man cave,” Felicity said, her jaw dropping to the floor.

“Well, no. It’s my gym too,” she frowned.

“The Arrow cave is a man cave too, and we all like using it too,” Felicity said with a snort. “Wait, is that the newest technological advanced computer in that corner? That’s a beast! Oh, I’m so jealous, can I play with it?”

“Well if things go as I want, the backup location is going to be equally mine. Trust me. And yes. You never let me touch your computer. So I have my own,” she said sticking her tongue out at her. “I know how to use it quite well.”

“The computer or your tongue?” Laurel grinned as she looked over Felicity’s shoulder.

“You’d have to ask Oliver for clarification,” Bella smirked, eyeing her saucily.

Laurel stuck out her tongue to her cousin and turned around to open the fridge. “Oliver got a thawed turkey. I never worked with thawed turkey before. Always frozen, I told him to get frozen turkey!”

“You have to thaw the turkey before you cook it dumbass. Otherwise we won’t be eating until midnight.”

“Anyone know how to do the turkey?” Laurel asked with a small voice.

“Yes.” Felicity said as she closed the fridge with her ass. “Later. First all of this.”

Oliver ran back into the house and smiled widely at Bella. “I love you,” he said goofily. “That is brilliant. If you need me, I’ll be there.”

“You didn’t have to run all the way back here to say that,” Bella replied as she held up her tablet to show him that they’d been watching him the entire time. “But I love you, too.”

“Good to know you’re watching,” he said with a wink before jumping into the kitchen, quickly kissing her and running out again before he’d be stabbed by everyone.

“Is Oliver on drugs?” Nyssa wondered out loud. “What happened? His behaviour is so unusual.”

“Bella got his mind out of constant warrior mode,” Felicity explained, looking out the kitchen to make sure Charlie didn’t hear it, but the man had fallen asleep on the couch again.

“Felicity.” Sara warned her and shook her head. “No.”

“What now? I understood the other one but everyone in here knows who he is,” she whispered back.

“Except for Charlie. Or my dad.”

“Who are passed out on the couch right now,” Felicity pointed out.

“Information tends to get absorbed while sleeping through the subconscious,” Nyssa replied.

Bella poured herself a glass of wine and shrugged. “If we keep our voices low, they shouldn’t hear across the house. They are two rooms away.”

“You are not drinking wine this early in the morning, missy,” Laurel said as she snagged the bottle and the glass away and emptied the glass in the sink. “No.”

“What the fuck? You don’t have a psychotic ex-boyfriend and family after you,” she snapped.

“No, I don’t, but that’s not the reason to start drinking your pain away, especially this early in the morning in a house where you installed your own security hard- and software and where you’re safe. So quit the whining and don’t drink,” She said forcefully. “It’s not healthy.”

Bella huffed as she turned away. “I’m not allowed to work out my stress. I’m not allowed to drink. I’m not allowed to work the hours I used to. What am I allowed to do then?” she asked in an eerily quiet voice. “Because it seems that there is a whole lot that I can’t do.”

“Sweetheart, if you want to work out to work through your anxiety and stress, go for it. Just don’t overdo it. You’ve been managing it fine for the last few months,” Laurel said with a sigh. “If Ollie or Diggle object, send them over to me. Just don’t drink your pain away.”

Felicity bit her lip, wanting to object because she witnessed how bad Bella got when she goes as hard as she wants, with the way she is talking. “Laurel…You haven’t seen how bad it got. Why…”

“Yeah well, I’d rather have her pass out from exhaustion than have her pass out from alcohol and in need of a new liver if she continues drinking like this.”

“Where is Roy and Steve? I thought they were supposed to be here to keep the guys entertained,” she asked, searching for any distraction she could get as she went to the coffee pot to start a fresh brew since it seemed that would be all she would get for her vices.

“They had a late call out,” Felicity replied with a shrug. “I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

“I’m hungry,” she said as she looked back at them. “Biscuits and gravy? I can make them while you’re handling everything else.”

“No! Have a carrot.”

Laurel had enough of the back and forth between the two and even Sara had started to grow suspicious. “Okay that is enough. What the hell is going on and why won’t you let Bella do more? There is something else beyond her ability to cook. We’re here to supervise the food so spill!”

“Oliver said I’m not allowed to touch the oven anymore since I tried to bake for us,” Bella shrugged, peering at her nails with a smile, trying not to laugh.

“What happened?” Laurel asked curiously.

“I almost set the house on fire?” Felicity held back a snort as she shook her head, covering her mouth. “It was an accident. It was just one time.”

“Yeah you said something like that earlier…”

“Was it buns?” Sara smirked playfully. “In the oven?”

Unable to stop herself, Felicity burst out crying with her laughter. Bella shrugged. “The man thought I was pregnant. I freaked out when he asked me and the damn things were charcoal by the time I remembered. Like hell I’m pregnant. I just wanted some buns. I mean his are great but I wanted some to eat.”

Both Laurel and Sara were laughing now too, with Nyssa looking slightly confused being unfamiliar with most wordplays. “I don’t see why he thought you were pregnant when you told him about the buns in the oven.”

“It’s a phrase used when referring to someone being pregnant,” Laurel explained as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “She was baking buns…in the oven. He must have thought she was trying to telling him she was pregnant. Oh my god…How did he take it?”

Bella frowned as she looked over at Felicity uncomfortably. “I don’t know…We didn’t talk about it.”

“Oliver scolded me for upsetting you when I first heard of this,” Felicity said as she handed Bella some dough to work with. “I think he’s fine with whatever. He said it was too early anyway and he wanted to talk about it when you were ready.”

“Wait, Oliver said that? He didn’t throw a hissy fit?” Laurel blinked and then looked at Bella. “Good on you for your influence on him!”

“Ladies!” Oliver’s voice sounded from the tablet. “Did you know that the monitor goes both ways? I can actually hear you in here!”

“I forgot about that,” Bella murmured as she looked up towards it thoughtfully.

Felicity moved to pick up the device and smiled. “Well tough on your ears for dropping eaves. You can obviously see we weren’t paying attention to you. You can continue minding your own while we help Bella bake some lady buns of her own.”

“I can’t see anything, Felicity, I’m talking to a camera,” Oliver rolled his eyes at it. “You ladies play nice or else I’ll come back in and play referee.”

“No need. The cousins are all behaving themselves. Even Nyssa is getting along with Bella now! Isn’t that great?! Bella’s making herself some coffee while she works on her – whatever she’s making. You just play with those toys and stay away from that computer. I want to check it out later if Bella lets me.”

Bella snorted out a mumbled response that sounded something close to a ‘Yeah right…’ from across the room but Oliver nodded slowly. “Alright… If you’re sure… Just drop that previous conversation topic. It doesn’t concern you. It’s private.”

His response got Bella curious and had her looking up confused. She didn’t have the chance to say anything on it as Charlie had walked in, mumbling something about beer and going straight to the beer and pulled out a slice of cold pizza with it.

“No beer!” Laurel grabbed the bottle and put it back in the fridge. “It’s not even 10 am!”

“You can’t have cold pizza without beer,” he argued.

“Then have a sandwich instead,” she said, putting her hands in her side. “Besides, don’t you have a survival kit out there? Get out of our kitchen.”

He made a face at the thought of eating an MRE. “You eat that shit. Give me my R and pizza and I’ll be out of your hair.”

“No.” She pulled the pizza out of the fridge, put it in Charlie’s hands and pushed him out of the kitchen. “Out. And I’m calling Steve. We need him to wrangle the old guys.”

“So will I!” Charlie agreed as he shuffled his way back to the lounge, grumbling about hormonal women.

Bella smiled as she threw the dough on the cookie pan. “He will win. When he comes back in here, he’ll have a beer in his hands.”

“Oh, he won’t, I’m already calling, I’ll be talking to Steve first.” Laurel smirked.

“We’ll see about that,” she muttered.

Half an hour later, Steve arrived through the kitchen door carrying a few six packs of beer. “Morning, ladies, don’t worry about me, just passing through.”

“Keep calm and carry on,” Bella saluted, not once looking up from her disaster that she was working on. She was hungry and the messy biscuits and gravy she made may not look like much but it passed for grub. “Come get some chow after your delivery.”

“Looks tasty, well done boss,” he said with a grin and walked through the kitchen. “Mr. Swan! Special delivery!”

Laurel blinked at the exchange and looked at Bella. “What the fuck just happened? I told him no.”

Bella continued to eat, unperturbed. “I told you he would get his beer.”

“And you let Steve just march in and bring it to Uncle?”

“Guy code. I don’t get involved and I said nothing to Steve myself so keep that in mind. I was right here with you the entire time so get over yourself.”

“She told you already. You don’t eat cold pizza without a good beer,” Sara said with a nod as she hopped on the counter and sat down. “Stop being so controlling, Laurel, it’s beyond your control.”

Steve returned to the kitchen and rubbed his hands together happily. “So where’s the chow? I’ll be out of your way in a jiffy.”

Bella pointed over to the counter with her fork. “Be careful of the she-bitch that is your girlfriend. She may bite today. I think she’s PMSing personally so I don’t think you’re getting laid tonight.”

“Damn,” he said as he grabbed a biscuit and dunked it in gravy before stuffing his mouth. “Oh, boss, this is delicious.”

The rest of the girls looked at him like he lost his mind. “Whaaa?” they started to question.

“You know what it misses?” He said as he eyed the gravy. “Ketchup. No… wait… barbeque sauce. No! Hot sauce!”

“I’m surrounded by freaks,” Laurel muttered.

“Just girls who think they’re men, honey,” Felicity gently pat Laurel on her head. “Just let it happen.”

“Got some moo juice?” he asked with a smile, mouthful of biscuit.

Felicity opened the fridge and handed Steve the milk carton. “Let me get you a-” she sighed when she saw him drink straight from the carton. “Glass… never mind. Men are pigs.”

Bella looked up at the commotion. “Hey Steve? You wanna run to the stables for me? Oliver went there earlier and got lost. Can you make sure he didn’t drop dead or something? Just keep him company. There should be drinks in there. Bring him some food.”

Steve grinned as he grabbed a tray and started to put random things on there, including some of Bella’s biscuits and gravy. Sure, they were a health hazard, but they were edible. If he and Oliver would get rid of them before dinner, nobody would get hurt. “Make us some rabbit food for lunch, will you woman?” He kissed Laurel’s cheek before walking out of the kitchen with goodies.

“I have $100 that he walks into the stables with his hands empty,” Bella announced randomly, surprising the girls.

“Nah, he’ll share with Oliver,” Sara said with a big smile. “But you’re on.” She placed her wallet on the kitchen island.

Setting the tablet on the counter as they had begun to clean up with the turkey in the oven, she let it run and with audio. She waited, simply knowing both men as well as she did. Especially the one that left.

“Hey man,” Steve said as he entered the stables and whistled in awe. “Wow. This is awesome!”

“Hey,” Oliver looked at the man who carried in a tray that looked virtually empty. “Whatcha got there?”

“Oh! One of Bella’s famous biscuits with gravy. The last one. You have to try it.”

“Hell no. She tried to set the house on fire the last time. I’m not starting on that story.”

“These were made under supervision and they’re not bad since I added hot sauce to the gravy.”

“I don’t trust you.”

Steve shrugged, dunked the biscuit in the gravy and took a bite. “See?” he said with a full mouth. “Still standing. Want the rest?”

“How fast did you ask for something to drink to clear the paste?”

“Be supportive of your girl’s cooking, Oliver,” Steve said as he grabbed the carton of milk and downed it.

“How much was on that tray when you left the house?”

“A mountain,” he said with a shrug.

“You dumped it,” Oliver laughed.

“Of course. The ducks need food too.”

“I wonder who’s losing their wallet.”

“Huh?” Steve asked confused.

Oliver looked up to the camera and waved. “Bella won, who lost?”

“Sara,” Bella chimed over the speaker as she pulled the girl’s wallet over and removed the cash. “$100. Movies tomorrow?”

“Sweet!” He handed Steve a bottle of beer and grinned. “Yes. Definitely.”

“You two are fucked up and made for one another,” the man blinked in shock as he took the drink. “You bet against your friends and family.”

“I don’t do bets,” Oliver said with a smirk as he sat back down again on the comfortable couch before motioning to the recliner. “That one’s all yours.”

Falling back into the seat, Steve ran a hand over his face tiredly. It was not even noon and he was exhausted. “This is going to be one long day.”

“It already has been,” Oliver toasted him with his drink. “Ran into some trouble last night?”

“Nah, nothing we couldn’t handle. But you have to show your face sooner or later. At least for the morale of the citizens.”

“I will. I’m doing better. I ran two laps around the property today and I’ve road tested the archery lane that Bella’s put in in this place. No shakes.”

“That’s good. You know if you want someone to work out with, just give me a call. I’m always free now that the boss isn’t sending me all over the place. Mr. Swan doesn’t call me as much but he knows that I never really reported to him,” Steve shrugged.

“We could always formally hire you from Swan Security to take care of Verdant. You’ll keep your income and we’ll put some money back into the company because we’re hiring you.”

“Sounds good, a legit way for me not to show my face around the office all the time,” he said with a grin. “However, I don’t mind swinging back and forth, I can still get you things.”

Oliver nodded as he relaxed on the couch and pointed at the TV. “Your boss is amazing.”

“Yep.”

~o.O.o~

Bella sat confused at the table as she stared at her water glass. “I’m still trying to picture Nyssa doing dishes from the stories I’ve heard about this woman. I am having a hard time here. Why can’t I go take pictures again?”

“Because you like to take pictures of everything. What if your phone gets hacked?” Felicity snorted as she took a sip of her cola.

“The only one I can think of that would even dare attempt something as idiotic is you,” she replied. “Don’t do it again. You won’t get rid of that photo.”

“Please,” she huffed. “There are far more better hackers out there who do it for money to sell to the media. You won’t even know you’re hacked. So I keep trying to hack your phone to make sure you have it secured properly.”

“I also know that you’ve been worming into Oliver’s phone to make sure that the photo isn’t there either.”

“What photo?” Felicity said innocently as she checked her own phone, pulling up the photo in question. “This one?”

“Is it on that disc you dropped off in my safe Bella?” Charlie asked, looking green in the face. “I don’t need to know what you kids do in your private time but for the love of your parents, please – keep your clothes on when Bella has a camera in her hand.”

Bella smiled at her friend, cocking her head to the side playfully. “Which one did you see Dad?”

“I saw too much of Felicity, that’s what. And of Laurel and Steve in a bathroom.”

“Ew.” Oliver shuddered. “We really need to get those remodeled.”

“You really have cameras in the bathroom? You know that’s illegal! What kind of pervert are you?” Felicity squealed.

“Just my cellphone and it’s called blackmail. It’s fun! Notice who’s strangely quiet at the table?” she grinned as she looked over at the two who were swallowing their drinks just so they didn’t have to talk.

“Just so you know, I know the way to the safe and I know my way around it,” Steve muttered in his drink.

“She probably has copies. Copies of the copies,” Laurel whispered back.

Sara watched and listened with a morbid fascination. “So, just to understand. The lesson at the end of the day is don’t fuck with Bella?”

“Yep.” Felicity nodded so fast, Oliver was surprised her head was still attached to her body.

“Interesting…” she smiled. “I have to wonder what else she has on everyone else. I mean all she has on me really is Oliver but that’s a given, but for all of you to cross her in some way has me curious.”

Oliver smirked at that remark. “You think that that’s all she has on you.”

She raised an eyebrow. “What does she have?”

“I’m not saying anything.”

“That’s not fair. Obviously the others know what she’s holding over them,” she frowned.

“Okay fine. It’s your mortification,” he said with a shrug and grinned. “I happened to find documented proof of your little… hiccup you ran into during your time on the ship.”

Sara scowled as she narrowed her eyes on him, glancing at Bella as she ignored the conversation. “What are you talking about? How would she know anything?”

“Because I told her just about everything that happened in those years.”

Blinking she shrugged. “So? That’s fine. But what blackmail is this you claim? This was years ago.”

“Your marriage to the Russian.”

“You’re lying,” she glared at him.

“Before we blew up the ship I found some papers,” Oliver said with a shrug. “Some survived the water.”

“Wait, Sara’s married?” Laurel blinked.

“No!” Sara whined. “Of course not! I did it just so that he would look after me and wouldn’t kill me instead! And it doesn’t matter because the crazy asshole is dead.”

Bella sat back and looked up, hearing the water stop. “I want ice cream.”

“You are the most random person ever,” Charlie blinked at his daughter, still processing what he learned about his niece.

She looked unfazed by the comment and stared at Sara as she nodded. “Time for dessert? Want to go help Nyssa with it?”

“Yeah, I’m going,” Sara sighed as she got up and headed to the kitchen. “I fucking hate you, Oliver.”

Once she was gone, Bella reached out and played with the napkin on the table. She wasn’t upset, but she kept her tone serious. “Now that everyone has an idea of what I have on them, I am okay with easing up on the games. I will lay off of her – some. That particular situation was not something I would like to see anyone in, even my bitch of a cousin. I just don’t want anyone discussing that particular piece of information after this again.”

“It won’t leave the walls of this house. Promise.” Felicity said, with Laurel eagerly nodding.

Oliver smiled proudly at Bella. This was good, maybe they could have a relaxed Christmas with the entire family as well. That would be amazing. He wouldn’t want to host balls like his mother did, but to have them all over for Christmas would be great. And no fighting or sniping or whatever. Yes. This was going to be awesome. “Well said, Bella.”