Times Like These

Chapter 28

When the dreams did come it wasn’t Nate she shot over and over again. Since she’d woken up on the plane safe in Oliver’s arms she’d done whatever she could not to think about what had happened in the motel room. But when she finally shut her eyes to rest her subconscious made itself known.

Terrible images plagued her. She was on that bed again staring up, except instead of Nate it was her family and friends and each time she didn’t stop, she still shot them.

She could feel the weight of the gun in her hand, hear the retort of the bullet leaving the chamber, smell the sharp mixture of blood and gunpowder in the air. No matter how hard she fought she still pulled the trigger each and every time.

Like she was trapped in her body with no control over her own actions it replayed, cycling through her parents. Always her mother first, wide blue eyes frozen open in shock so much like Nate’s had been. Her father with his hands outstretched as if he could somehow stop her. They didn’t threaten her, didn’t hold a knife above her heart, but she was still forced to watch as she killed them.

Her own screams echoed in her head and she didn’t know if she was making any sound. She knew she was in the motel room but everything beyond the ones who mattered most to her was grey and blurred, as if the details of the space weren’t important. The images of her parents faded away only to be replaced by Digg.

She fought as hard as she could, shaking her head, yelling 'no’ until her throat should have been burning. It felt too real. Some distant part of her mind knew it hadn’t happened like that but none of that seemed to make a difference. Her heart twisted, stomach churning as she looked up at Digg. He stood stoic, only his eyes betraying any emotion as she watched him fall over and over again.

When Digg became transparent and wavey around the edges she knew who would be next. A numbness settled over her but somehow she watched her arm raise and level the gun at Oliver.

He was the only one who spoke. His face was wrenched in horrible disbelief, “Felicity, why? I trusted you.” he pleaded, not understanding why she was hurting him, “I loved you! Don’t do this!”

But each time she fired, the sound of the shot was drowned out by her hysteria.

Oliver staggered backwards, hands clutched to his chest as blood spilled over his fingers, mouth gaping. “You’re a killer!”

His face flickered, like a special effect in a movie, morphing into Nate’s face and then back again to Oliver.

She woke up screaming his name, blinking furiously as she tried to see in the darkened room. For a long moment she didn’t know if she was awake. She was once again laying in a bed, looking up at Oliver as he leaned over her. She was certain her arm was going to raise and she was going to watch him die by her own hand once more.

His mouth was moving, eyes intense and focused on nothing but her and like a great sucking vacuum she snapped out of the last traces of her nightmare and knew she was awake and in Oliver’s bed, and that he was very much alive.

“Felicity! You’re safe! It was just a bad dream,” he said for what she assumed was not the first time. He held her wrists, crossed over her middle as he straddled her hips. The shirt she wore was rucked up past her waist, her lack of underwear of no concern as she stared at him in shock.

He was alive. She hadn’t killed him. It had only been a dream.

“Oh god! Oliver…I…” tears streamed down the sides of her face, trickling behind her ears as they disappeared into her hair, “I killed you! I killed everyone!” she choked out, still able to see her mother’s stricken face as she lay dying.

The grip he had on her wrists was strong but not bruising and she wondered if she’d been striking out in her sleep. He let go of one arm and then the other, hands moving up to cup her face as his thumbs did their best to dam the flow of her tears.

“You didn’t kill me, I’m right here. It was a nightmare,” his voice was somehow calm and she shut her eyes tight and let the words surround her, but it was a mistake. She was immediately assaulted by the images of her not only her dreams but her reality. The spray of Monroe’s blood across Nate’s face, the way he’d calmly told her she was going to die, the manic sightless eyes that held a knife over her heart and would have plunged it through skin and bone with no hesitation if she hadn’t fired the gun. It all came back to the look of total surprise Nate had as he’d dropped the knife and fell backwards, like he didn’t think she had it in her.

She shook her head back and forth, as she fought to see Oliver clearly but failed. Her vision was so blurred with tears that refused to stop it was like trying to see through leaded glass. In the low light of the still dark room she could just discern his outline but no details. “I did though! I killed my parents! I watched my mother die, and Digg! I killed Digg and then-” she did choke that time, hardly able to speak over the sobs that were fighting to break free, “Then you were there and I couldn’t stop myself. I shot you Oliver. I shot you just like I shot Nate. You called me a killer and you were right!”

At that she fell apart, only vaguely aware as Oliver shifted them both, gathering her to his chest. He turned and sat back against the headboard with her pulled into his lap. His arms wrapped around her almost painfully as he held her tight.

Shame, guilt, and fear rolled through her and she let them. For the first time she was honestly facing what she’d done and it frightened her more than anything she’d ever experienced. She knew now what she could do, what she was capable of and it rocked her, leaving her feeling like everything that made her the person she had been had been stripped away. All that was left was a husk of a shell; empty and hollow, more void than substance.

Violence had never been her way, she’d always tried to talk her way out of a situation or just walk away. The training she’d received from Digg was more to try and protect herself and get free than to do any real damage.

She knew she bore some responsibility for what Oliver did. She gave him information, told him where to go, created technology that allowed him to track down and stop those they went up against and sometimes that ended in people being hurt and even killed. But she had never directly been the one with blood on her hands. It was a distinction that she now felt acutely in her soul, a gnawing, relentless ache that had her in its grasp and refused to release her.

How was she supposed to go forward knowing what she had done? She’d killed a man. Her cousin. Her family. If she could do that…

A deep shudder wracked her entire body and Oliver only held her closer, his hand stroking reassuringly over her hair as he whispered lost words she couldn’t hear. She didn’t deserve his comfort. She’d done something terrible, something unforgivable.

Chest heaving, her breaths too shallow she struggled to move from his hold. “No! No! Let me go! I’m no good, Oliver. I killed him! I killed him and I could kill you and Digg and everyone I love and I can’t-”

His arms loosened, sending a pang through her she couldn’t understand, but she took the opportunity and scrambled from the bed, stumbling a few steps away, one hand covering her mouth to try and stem the sobs she couldn’t seem to stop, the other dragging tangled hair from her face.

She made it only five feet from the bed before she froze, not knowing what to do next. Her mind buzzed with images and thoughts. Flashes of her shooting Nate, only to be replaced by the sight of Oliver looking down at her with tears in his eyes when he realized she wasn’t dead. It left her confused and rattled. Her heart thudded so hard against her ribs she thought they might break and she found herself pressing a fist against her sternum as if she could stop it from happening.

A low light was turned on behind her and she whirled with a gasp to see Oliver sitting on the edge of the bed, brows knitted together looking more worried than she’d ever seen him.

When he rose to his feet she let out a half-garbled noise and backed up, hand coming out to keep him away. “No! I’m just going to hurt you. I need to leave.” her words sounded frantic and half mad even to her but it was the only thing that made sense just then. “I need to go. I…” without another word she turned the other way and started for the closet.

She should have known he wasn’t going to just let her go, but there was nothing in her head just then beyond getting out, leaving, doing whatever she had to do to keep him safe. When he caught her about the waist with one strong arm she fought back, fists flailing, feet kicking until he captured both her wrists and secured them to her chest.

With him wrapped around her from behind she couldn’t move, her breath coming in desperate pants until she was starting to see stars and she couldn’t draw enough air to scream anymore protests.

“Felicity, you have to calm down or you’re going to hurt yourself,” he said forcefully,

“Let me go. You have to let me go,” her voice was pitiful now, weak and breathless and she sagged against his arms, no longer able to feel her legs under her,

“I’m never letting you go.” the conviction with which he spoke burned through her, making her heart flip and she physically shook her head because she couldn’t hear that.

She opened her mouth to protest, to repeat again what she’d already said but all that came out was a small cry.

“Do you think I’m a killer?” he asked, a lower octave than she’d ever heard from him before,

Immediately she shook her head again, “No,” she managed to gasp out,

“I’ve killed people to save you, Felicity, to save Thea, to save Diggle, to save myself. I’ve killed for revenge, and for justice, and for mercy, and sometimes because I didn’t have a choice. But I’ve never killed anyone because I wanted to, or because I enjoyed it. That’s what a killer is. What you did was self-defense. It was your life or his. Period. And in a split second decision you chose yourself, and no one will fault you for that, especially not me.”

“But-”

“No!” she felt the force of the one word as it traveled through his chest and hers, “You are still you. Yes, you ended someone’s life, but you didn’t have a choice. You are not a bad person. You are still the same remarkable woman who has saved my life a thousand times over.”

There was a long beat of silence where she tried to understand what he was saying.

“Did he give you a choice?”

“No,” tears dripped from the end of her nose and splashed on Oliver’s forearm. She watched them roll across his skin one after the other until there were so many she had to squeeze her eyes shut and stop looking.

“Tell me what happened,”

She gasped and tried to turn but he held her in place, and her pulse began to rise again.

“Tell me,”

It took her two attempts to actually force the words out, “I tried to talk to him. I tried to talk him out of it. But he said he had to kill me and then himself for it to all be over, to finally put Jenny to rest,” a tremor ran through Oliver and she unknowingly burrowed closer to him, “He didn’t care though and that’s when I knew for certain what he was going to do. And…”

“What did you do?” he asked gently,

“I…” she gulped as she remembered, “I told him I wasn’t going to let him put me down like that, that I was going to fight. So I did. I ran and I fought,”

He was suddenly letting go of her wrists and turning her so she faced him, once again he wiped her wet face and then tilted her chin up until she met his eyes, “Why did you fight?”

There was an intensity in him she’d never witnessed before and she could feel the way he almost vibrated as he stared down at her, “Why did you fight, Felicity?”

He said it like it was the most important question he’d ever ask her.

Time hung suspended between them, neither of them breathing or blinking and then the answer erupted from her throat, louder and more forceful than she thought possible.

“Because I didn’t want to die!”

His mouth covered hers so quick and so desperate their lips weren’t even lined up properly but he didn’t seem to care. The kiss was bruising and almost brutal but it stoked a fire within her that had been absent and she welcomed it.

Like a rubber band being snapped she became aware of everything. Her ears felt like they popped and she could hear the sounds of her half pants and a low moan from Oliver. The warmth of his skin could be felt under her fingers, and tingles of electricity shot across her skin as he touched her.

His hands were everywhere, her hair, the nape of her neck, grasping her hip and then sliding under the shirt all the way up her back as his tongue stroked hot over hers. Each new touch brought her back more and more.

All the horrible thoughts and images that had plagued her were being burned away, her last words echoing in her head. She wanted to live. She chose to live. And right then she needed to feel alive.

A switch had been flipped inside her and she had a new purpose. She needed Oliver. She needed him to prove to her she was still alive, that what defined her hadn’t died when she killed Nate, and she needed proof that Oliver was alive as well.

Blinding need almost consumed her. She wanted him, all of him. Around her, inside her, touching every part of her and making her feel everything.

She dragged her mouth from his, nipping teeth over his jaw and down his throat as her hands pushed into his chest, fingers spread wide so she could feel as much of him at once as was possible.

Small whimpers and the high catch of her breath were the only sounds she was capable of making as his palm spanned her ribcage and moved north, covering her breast as she surged onto her toes. A burst of white hot electricity shot straight to her center, her nails digging into his pectoral muscles at the sensation.

She sucked the hollow of his throat as he pinched and pulled on her nipple, his head falling to the side to give her better access, the low groan he emitted sending a rush of power through her.

“God, Oliver…I need you,” she gasped into him, raising her good arm up to wrap around the back of his neck and draw him in even closer. “I need you, please,” the other hand ran across the edge of his waistband before she dipped under the elastic and grasped his hard length.

He hissed her name through his teeth, his hips pushing into her as she stroked him. It was beyond desperation, beyond reason. She wanted him to take her shirt off, to move to the bed, or the floor, or the couch, the location didn’t matter. All that mattered was how alive he made her feel.

“Oliver, please,” she cried, the pulsing flow of blood to her center making her lift one leg and wrap it around his thigh, anything that could give her the contact she had to have.

When his hand dropped to cover her wrist, and still her movements she thought he was too close, and she grinned, looking up at him through her lashes. His eyes were shut tight, jaw clenched as he brought her hand up to lay against his chest.

“Felicity, ” he bit out, so low and gravelly it made her heart skip a beat, “we can’t. Not like this. Not now,”

She barely heard what he said, shaking her head, “You don’t mean that. You want this too, I know you do. I felt it,” she said letting her voice drop low on purpose. She tried to slip her hand out from under his but he held on tight and pulled back so he could look at her better,

“No. You’re too upset, this isn’t right.”

She stilled like she’d been doused with cold water and looked at him in shock, foot landing back on the floor with a jolt, “No, you…I need you. I need to feel something good!”

Brows so knitted together he looked like he was in pain he leaned over her, “It’s not right, not like this,”

A wave of anger overtook her, hot and fast, filling her veins and making her try and push back from his hold, “So he gets this too?” she spat, as Oliver flinched, “He’s in my head, and I can’t shake him, but for a few minutes I was able to forget. I just want to forget and feel something else but you can’t do that for me?”

“Felicity-” his soft tone only infuriated her more,

“I just need you to fuck me!” she exploded, chest heaving as her breath was out of her control,

His hand clamped onto her shoulders, only just avoiding her wound as his darkened eyes bore into her, “And that is exactly why I’m not!”

She twisted, trying to get away but all it did was send a flare of pain down her arm.

“I am not going to let our first time be like this. I thought I lost you, Felicity. I saw you on that bed and I thought you were dead! I thought that once again I had been too late, that my failures had led to another person I love being taken from me. I spent a week expecting every phone call to be the one that told me they had found your body! And I am still not sure I believe you’re here right now.” he didn’t try to hide anything from her, every ounce of pain and anguish he’d experience was on full display for her to see, “So I will not let that monster ruin anything else, and if we did this right now you would regret it for the rest of your life and so would I.”

They stood, silently facing each other across a divide that Nate had created, hearts pounding, breaths labored. When his words hit her she felt like she’d been punched in the gut. All the air left her lungs and she collapsed forward, careful hands catching her as guilt, and embarrassment, and anger all fought within her.

“Oh god, Oliver…” she mumbled into him, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,”

He only had a few seconds to run a comforting hand over her head before her stomach rolled, bile rising in her throat so swift she didn’t have time to say a word as she spun and headed for the bathroom.

She felt him behind her but didn’t look as she pushed open the door to the bathroom and then the door to the smaller room where the toilet was. The marble floor was cold beneath her knees as she fell, one hand catching her descent on the wall just before Oliver had her around the waist.

Her empty stomach heaved, causing painful spasms to tear through her abdomen as her body tried to expel food that wasn’t there. Oliver gathered her hair with one hand anyways and she rested her cheek on the cold seat until it passed.

She shivered as her clammy skin cooled, the nausea finally abating only to leave her shaking and weak. Hair brushed her face as Oliver let it go, his broad palm rubbing soothing circles on her back.

When he spoke his words echoed in the small space, seeming much louder than they were. Or maybe it was because of what he said.

“I love you,”

She was sure her heart stopped. Moving slowly in case she’d heard wrong she lifted her head and turned until her knees were pressed against his leg.

He sat with his back against the wall, one arm propped on his bent leg, the other now resting on her waist. But his eyes told her everything she needed to know. He’d said it and he meant it.

“I love you,” she replied, voice much clearer than she expected,

“Good,” there was just the slightest quiver of his lip and she couldn’t fight the smile that cracked her face,

He answered by reaching for her and pulling her onto his lap. She didn’t resist, curling into him readily so she could feel the warmth of his skin under her. They were quiet as he ran fingers through her hair. She traced absent patterns across his chest and finally with a half a laugh realized they were still on the floor in front of the toilet.

“You’re quite the romantic, Mr. Queen,” She’d said it before she knew what she was doing. It was the first 'normal’ thing she’d said since she’d been taken.

When his hand stilled for a second she knew he’d recognized it as well, “I aim to please,” he replied throatily,

Felicity pulled back and looked at him in shock, “Did you just make a corny archery joke?”

“You get one,” he said, but she heard the trace of lightness in his tone and it made tears prick her eyes as she laid her head back down and pressed her face into his neck.

His lips brushed her forehead, and then his hand was cupping her cheek as he leaned down to kiss her. She turned her head at the last second, his stubble scraping over her jaw instead.

“Hey,” he said softly, tilting her chin up again in a second attempt to kiss her,

“Oliver, I just got sick, let me brush my teeth,” she protested,

He sighed and let his hand fall to her stomach, “You didn’t technically get sick because you haven’t eaten anything,” there was only the smallest amount of reproach in his tone.

“I still had my head in the toilet. I need to brush my teeth,”

With a small snort of resignation he slipped his arms under her and rose to his feet in one smooth move, not giving her a chance to climb to her feet.

“I can walk, you know,”

“I know,” was all he said as he strode back into where the sinks were.

He set her down carefully, letting her body slide against his, tugging the shirt down as he did but a lick of heat still shot up her spine as he brushed over her bare hip. She let her hands rest low on his waist, remembering how frantic she’d been to have him earlier. That need had calmed and she knew he had been right. It hadn’t been driven by love or passion. She didn’t want their first time to be an attempt to banish ghosts, neither of them deserved that.

She pressed a quick kiss to the center of his chest and turned around already reaching to open the drawer where she’d kept her toothbrush when her eyes caught the mirror and she saw herself for the first time since she’d left the motel.

At first all she could see was her too pale face, the dark circles under her eyes, and her abnormally colorless lips. The cheap makeup she’d been forced to use was long gone except for a few smudges of eyeliner that had been smeared and streaked by too many tears.

When she took in the entire image it was her hair she couldn’t look away from. The darkened locks were all she could see. Everything in the room narrowed down to only that. She could no longer see Oliver behind her or the counter before her. Her hair was wrong and she needed it to be fixed.

His hand on her shoulder as he turned her back towards him, sharply saying her name made her jump and then blink rapidly. “Felicity! What’s wrong?”

Her heart beat in triple time as panic started to swirl in her chest. She shut her eyes and forced herself to take long, controlled breaths. She didn’t want to do this again but her nerves were suddenly on edge and she knew it wouldn’t take much to send her over the precipice.

“My hair. I need to fix my hair,”

He sucked in a harsh breath and she felt his hands hovering on either side of her head like he wanted to touch her hair but wasn’t sure if he should.

“Okay, we’ll get you an appointment soon. I’m sure Thea can-”

“No. Now. I need it fixed now,” she cut him off quickly, unable to explain why she couldn’t wait.

He hesitated and she opened her eyes to see him looking more unsure than she’d ever seen him look before.

“It’s three in the morning…I don't…”

Panicked flutterings made her breath catch and she clasped a hand low on her throat as a strangled noise came out against her own volition. The rising bubble of hysteria was making her chest flush and causing her to break out in a cold sweat, “Oliver…I need it fixed. I can’t have it anymore. I need it gone.”

She turned in his arms and braced her hands on the counter, staring at the hair that was so wrong. Even though she hadn’t been awake and she didn’t remember she could somehow feel Nate’s hands on her, dyeing her hair, rinsing it out…It made her shudder in revulsion.

“Okay, come on. You’re not staying in here,” he declared, taking her by the wrist and pulling her from the mirror.

She followed him into the bedroom all the way back to the bed with the crumpled sheets still twisted and piled in a knot against the footboard. He guided her to sit on the mattress as he picked up his phone and began to type out a text.

“Maybe Digg can get one of the housestaff to make a run.” he said with his head still down, “We’ll figure something out,” when he looked up the determination on his face reminded her of when he was about to go out on a mission.

She reached out and twined her fingers with his, a tight lipped smile of appreciation on her face.

It hadn’t been thirty seconds after Oliver had hit send when there was a quiet knock on the door.

“Come in,” he called and the door opened to reveal Digg,

His eyes went straight to Felicity, taking her in from head to toe, like he had to be sure she was still there in one piece. A swell of emotion filled her chest and her immediate need to fix her hair was temporarily forgotten as she found herself letting go of Oliver’s hand and crossing the room as quick as she could to meet him halfway.

Digg’s arms opened as she approached and she gave him a watery smile as she wrapped herself as best she could around him.

“Hey girl, rough night?” he said holding her tight,

She just nodded, not able to speak over the lump in her throat, wondering if he’d been able to hear her screams. The whole house probably had.

“It’ll never go away completely, but it’ll get better. I promise.”

“Promise?” she mumbled against his shirt,

“Have I ever lied to you?”

“Never,” she answered immediately,

“Then trust me. You’ll come through this. You’re not alone,”

“I never was,”

She felt his exhale cross her forehead as she looked up through blurry eyes to see him trying to hide his emotions and failing.

“No, you never were,” he whispered into her hair before hugging her for another minute and then loosening his hold so she could step back.

Digg looked to Oliver who had come forward to join them, before turning back to her. “I made some calls from the plane, thought you might want to take care of this as soon as possible.” he said as he reached out and gently tugged a lock of her hair, “There should be supplies under the sink,”

As she gaped at Digg in astonishment Oliver wrapped his arm around her shoulders and tugged her into his side, “Thank you,” he said simply, but she heard so much more in his tone.

Digg lifted one shoulder in a half shrug but they all knew how much his actions meant.

“Need anything else?” he asked quietly and she hastily shook her head, “Okay then, get some sleep tonight. Both of you,” he said with a pointed look before he left the room.

As the door clicked shut Oliver turned to pull her into him again, “I wouldn’t have made it through this without him,” he admitted, and she blew a long breath through pursed lips because she believed that. She didn’t want to imagine what Digg had gone through to keep Oliver somewhat sane and functioning.

“Come on, let’s do this, and get you back in bed, Digg’s orders.” he gave her a half rakish grin and she couldn’t help but smile in return.

She was fine until they were in the bathroom again and she was caught by her reflection.

Oliver followed her gaze and took her by the elbow until the side of her leg brushed the edge of the tub. “Sit here, I’ll find it, okay,”

She watched as he opened two cabinets before he found what Digg had called ahead for. Oliver pulled out a plastic shopping bag and began taking box after box of hair dye out. There were at least a dozen, all different brands and shades of blonde.

Both hands came up to cover her mouth in shock as she stared at the variety sitting on the counter.

Oliver looked affected as well and took his time throwing the bag away before he came back and knelt in front of her. “Do you know which one?”

His hand rubbed small circles on her bare knee as she considered her choices.

It had been years since she used boxed dye. Going to a salon was one of the few personal priorities she’d kept since joining on with Oliver, but when she had been a poor college student she hadn’t been above doing it herself. However, staring at the boxes reminded her of finding the one Nate had left in her bathroom and a cold shiver of fear rolled down her back.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said quickly and looked away, “Any of them,”

“Okay,”

She expected him to just grab the closest one but he rose and stood in front of them, picking up one box and then another before putting it down and selecting yet a third. A fresh wave of tears came unbidden as she realized he was trying to find the best match.

When he’d chosen one and set it to the side he packed the rest up and placed them back in the cabinet, out of sight.

“Do you need help or…”

She got to her feet and padded to his side, hand trembling as she picked up the dye. He’d done well, if was almost an exact match. She knew it would be hard to cover everything by herself, but it would be enough where she’d be able to look at herself without being reminded of what had happened. There would be plenty of other things that would do that she was certain.

With a wince she gave her left arm an experimental raise to see if she’d be able to use it but she had to stop before her elbow got to ninety degrees with a stifled cry of pain.

Oliver lowered her arm and took the box from her, “Just give me a second,”

A minute later he was rolling in the chair from the desk, “Sit,” he ordered and didn’t wait to see if she listened as he hastily tore open the box.

For almost ten minutes she sat, legs crossed in the seat, fiddling with the tails of the too large shirt and tracing the already healing cuts along her forearm as he read the directions at least five times.

“It says to do a skin test and let it wait for twenty four hours…” he looked stricken, as if he’d somehow failed her and her heart ached for him because she knew he was willing to do whatever he could to make her better.

“We can skip that, it’s okay,” she assured him and the release of his shoulders as he slumped forward showed her how worried he had been that he wouldn’t be able to fix this for her immediately.

“You don’t have to do this,” she began, “I can probably do it with one hand,” her guilt at having to rely on him so much had surged to the surface.

He turned with a bottle in each hand, ready to mix the two solutions, no mask in place, “I can do it. If you want me to,”

At her nod he got back to work. It took him almost twice as long as it would have taken her but she didn’t say a word. He did an admirable job, only needing occasional direction from her. The fumes from the chemicals made her blanch and remember waking up in the motel and realizing what Nate had done. She forced herself to keep her eyes open, watching Oliver as he moved around her. His presence was the constant reminder that she wasn’t there anymore, she had made it out.

He was gentle, carefully parting her hair and working the color through, making sure every strand was coated. His focus was intense and she wondered if he didn’t need this as much as she did. He hadn’t shied away from touching her hair or avoided looking at her, but it had to have been a shock when he’d first seen her and the light brown where bright blonde should have been.

When the bottle was empty he stripped off the too tight gloves and gave her an appraising look and a nervous tick of his lips.

He cleared his throat and picked up the instructions again, “Says to wait twenty minutes,”

“Some of its been on there longer than that, we don’t have to wait that long,” she told him and he nodded.

Neither of them spoke as he cleaned up. Her eyes grew heavier as she waited not even knowing when she started to fall asleep.

Oliver softly saying her name made her jerk upright, wide eyes darting around until she saw him leaning over her, “Hey, it’s okay, it’s just me,”

She clamped a hard hand on his arm and waited for her heart to slow down. “Sorry, I…”

One hand stroked over her cheek, “Don’t apologize,”

He helped her up, holding on to her as she swayed slightly, a heavy weariness weighing her down.

“I’m so tired,” she said quietly, causing him to let out a huff through his nose, no doubt thinking they should have waited until later to do her hair.

“Can you help me rinse it out?” she asked, with a nod towards the giant shower, not noticing for several beats how his hand had tightened at her waist.

Her cheeks flushed when her brain caught up with her mouth, but he wouldn’t let her feel self-conscious. “Let’s finish this, okay?” he walked her over to the shower and reached in to turn it on.

Her fingers found the buttons of the shirt but didn’t seem to want to cooperate. Oliver’s hands covered hers and then took over, working each one free until the shirt hung open down her front.

She slid her good arm out first and let him tug the left sleeve slowly off until she stood before him naked.

The shirt fell to the floor and he didn’t hide the drop of his eyes. Her breaths came in shallow little bursts as he came even closer until they were pressed together. She sighed at the contact.

Oliver cupped her face in his hands, smiling down at her, “You’re gorgeous, and I will have you Felicity Smoak.” he declared, instantly sending swirls of heat through her belly, “But you’re going to get better first,”

Before she could reply he was leaning in for a kiss and she just got a hand up in time to lay a finger over his lips, “I still haven’t brushed my teeth,” she reminded him,

“I don’t care,” he countered, eyes flashing dangerously for a second and when her hand fell away he placed a soft kiss to her lips that made her want more.

With a heavy swallow she turned and grabbed the handle of the shower door, trying to keep everything hidden as she heard the distinctive sound of Oliver stripping off his pants behind her.

“I probably look like a drowned cat,” she said quickly. Her hair slicked full of dye, pale skin, and slightly thinner frame couldn’t have been that attractive of a sight.

As she opened the door he was right there, leaning in to drop a kiss to her shoulder, making her shiver, “Drowned cats are my favorite,”

She stepped inside with a small shake of her head, her traitorous thoughts constantly telling her she should turn around because he was naked and in the shower only inches from her.

When she did turn he lifted his eyebrows as if he was surprised she’d waited that long, but she met his eyes and mimicked his actions from earlier when he hadn’t tried to hide looking at her.

Her eyes flicked back to his and her suddenly dry mouth betrayed her. “I really need to get better soon,” she blurted out,

Oliver grinned and stepped closer, walking her backwards until the warm spray was hitting her side. She watched as his eyes went from light blue to a darker hue, “I agree,”

After that there wasn’t much talking. He took care to keep her bandaged arm out of the water as much as possible. With the water flowing over her head and his strong fingers massaging the dye out she felt herself getting sleepier and sleepier.

Her eyes had long fell shut and she let herself lean against him, being directed one way and then another as he removed every physical trace of her ordeal. Silent tears leaked unseen down her cheeks when he washed her body as well, taking care with the scrapes and bruises she’d amassed. He had knelt down to reach her shins when suddenly he let out a shuddering breath and wrapped his arms around her, head coming to rest against her belly.

Felicity let out a soft 'oh’ of surprise before she dropped her hands to his head and quietly ran her fingers through his wet hair and over the tight muscles in his neck. She hoped at some point he could share what had happened while she was gone. She didn’t know if she was ready to hear it right then, or if he was ready to tell her, but one day they might be.

His lips brushed her skin and then he was standing, hands running up her body as he did, leaving small sparks of heat in their wake. A hum of approval vibrated in her chest and she swayed sleepily, enjoying the way his thumb was rubbing a circular pattern on her hip.

“Give me a minute and we’ll be done,” he said quietly,

She watched unabashedly as he washed himself, having to curl her fingers into her palm to keep from reaching out in an attempt to help.

Soon enough he was finished, and flicking the water off. He held his hand out to her in invitation and she took it, waiting as he reached out and grabbed a towel.

He made sure she was dry and covered before he got one for himself and then they were standing in front of the mirror again, except this time the real Felicity was staring back.

A trembling hand reached up and touched the newly colored locks. Even though it was still wet she could tell it would be close to how she had it before. Not perfect, but definitely good enough.

“Thank you,” she mouthed, unable to look away from his gaze in the reflection. Oliver just pressed himself closer and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, dropping his head to her neck, his fuller than usual stubble making her squirm.

They stood like that for a long moment before he returned to his full height and looked at her again in the mirror. “Come on, you need to get back in bed,”

He towed her to the closet first where he pulled another one of his dress shirts off a hanger.

Once again she let him slip it on her and do up the buttons, it somehow felt like when she helped him with his mask before he left on a mission. The shirt was a sort of armor that couldn’t block out all attacks but gave her more peace of mind than anything.

When he’d donned a pair of boxer briefs he looked at her with a soft expression, “Better?” he asked, hand coasting over her head as he stepped in front of her,

“Better,” she confirmed, leaning into his touch with a quiet sigh,

Fingers trailed over her arm where the bandage was, “Pain?”

She shook her head, “Not bad,”

He grabbed her fingertips and tugged her with him as they left the closet. She stood back as he straightened the covers and then climbed into the bed immediately. As soon as Oliver was next to her she lay her head on his chest right atop his Bratva tattoo, able to hear the strong beat of his heart beneath her ear.

One arm wrapped around her back, the other holding securely to her hip making her feel safe and warm.

“What if I have that dream again?” she asked in a shaky voice,

He held her tighter and kissed her forehead, “Then we’ll get rid of it,”

His unspoken 'together’ is what made her shut her eyes and finally fall back asleep.


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