Times Like These

Chapter 31

Somehow Felicity managed to not completely fall apart. She could feel Oliver at her back, hands at her waist and she knew he must be talking to her but she couldn’t exactly make out the words. Moving too quickly and too conspicuously she flipped the envelope over and clutched it to her stomach, covering the address, although by the look in Moira’s eyes she had already seen from where it had been delivered.

Felicity froze not knowing what to do next although she knew she was unwilling to read potentially life altering results in the middle of the foyer.

“Oliver, do you think you’ll be down for lunch or should I speak to the kitchen about having a tray sent up?” Moira asked evenly, though her gaze never left Felicity,

With a stifled gasp that was louder than she would have preferred, Felicity felt her body sink back the few remaining inches that had separated her and Oliver. He must have picked up on his mother’s cues because his reply was almost immediate even if his voice was strained.

“I think a tray might be best,”

“Then I’ll see that it’s done,” Moira said with a forced smile. She gave Felicity a supportive look and then headed towards the interior of the house.

The trip back to his room was a blur. She didn’t remember walking up the stairs, or down the hall. The next thing she knew was sitting on the couch in his room with Oliver crouched in front of her looking grave.

“Breathe,” he said and she took in a gulping inhale of air, lungs burning. She hadn’t even realized she’d been holding her breath. His hands clamped over hers, the envelope crushed beneath both their grasps now but he never looked down at it. “Whatever it says, we’ll deal with it.”

It was the steady strength of his voice that made her take another breath, and then another, each one more even than the one before.

“Okay,” she said quietly as he slipped his hands off hers but left them resting lightly on her thighs, thumbs rubbing short comforting paths as he patiently waited.

Felicity dropped her gaze downwards and had to force one hand to let go, smoothing out the wrinkles in the envelope as best she could before she reached up and adjusted her glasses. Her eyes flicked to Oliver who just stared back, all the support and love she needed just then being sent to her with his look alone.

The sound of the envelope tearing open was loud and muffled at the same time. The pounding rush of blood in her her head making her ears almost throb with the force. As she slid out the single folded piece of paper she suddenly couldn’t bring herself to look at Oliver. The information inside could change everything. But as she drew it out with shaking hands she found herself paused with her thumb inside the fold, unable to open it.

With the tension growing she finally raised wet eyes and held the paper out towards him.

“Please,”

He blanched, unable to hide his shock or his fear for half a second and then he was taking it from her and standing. He didn’t move away, still so close his pants brushed her bare shins, but she shivered all the same.

She heard him clear his throat and watched him shift his weight, the hand that dangled at his side going through the unconscious motions of feeling a bow string between his fingers. When his hand opened up she took the unspoken invitation and grabbed it with both of hers. He squeezed tight and then she he shook open the paper.

There was a long beat of silence where neither of them breathed, her fear rising with each passing second.

“I don’t…I don’t know what all of this means. It’s just strings of letters and numbers and percentages and-” he growled, causing her stomach to drop before he cut himself off, “Wait…” he pulled his hand away and her head flew up to see him opening the final fold. He was silent as he read and then a smile broke his face.

“There’s a note…you’re fine. Everything is fine,” the tremble in his voice couldn’t be hidden, “You’re a little anemic and dehydrated but…everything else was negative.”

“Oh-”

They just stared at each other until Oliver slowly sank down next to her and handed her the paper as if he knew she’d need to see the truth for herself.

She felt his hand warm on her back as she took the results and skimmed over the form. He was right, everything was in normal ranges or had negative next to it. The only abnormalities were confirmed in the typed note she found at the bottom followed by Dr. Anderson’s signature. She once again recommended food and fluids and rest but assured Felicity the sedative had no residual side effects and she had nothing else to worry about.

Neither of them seemed to expect the half laugh, half sob that burst from behind her lips. The paper fell forgotten to the floor as Oliver’s arms wrapped tight around her, his broad shoulders blocking out the rest of the world until all she could see was the blurred image of the shirt she was pressed against, all she could feel was his solid strength under her palms as she clutched his arms, and all she could smell was the faint trace of leather as she breathed him in.

She hadn’t realized how much waiting to know the results of the blood work had been affecting her until she’d felt the weight lifting. The relief left her numb but in a good way. As Oliver’s hand stroked over her head she let out another shuddering breath and burrowed closer into his chest.

There would be nothing following her now. No unknowns and nothing so unspeakable she’d had to check the tests off on a form instead of verbalizing them. Yes, she still had miles to go before she recovered but the peace of mind she’d received through that one piece of paper meant she could take her first true step forward.

She let one long controlled breath move past her lips, sinking further into Oliver as she did, feeling a knot beneath her breastbone loosen. The silence that surrounded them wasn’t oppressive, if anything it was comforting and as she lay there with the strong thrum of his heart beneath her ear and his hand combing through her hair she hoped this was the first of many steps forward for them.

At some point she curled her legs up on the couch and shifted her position against Oliver, one hand lightly gripping his shirt while the other lay loose over his thigh. She was drowsy and only half aware when he propped his feet on the table and settled back into the couch.

She woke up to Oliver shifting underneath her, his quiet voice shushing her as he tried to slide a pillow under her head as he stood. She blinked at him confused, pushing loose hair out of her face and adjusting her glasses as she attempted to sit up.

“It’s just the tray, go back to sleep if you want,” he said with a soft smile, turning to head to the door at the repeated knock.

By the time he came back she was perched on the edge of the couch, smoothing wrinkles out of her skirt and wiping a hand down the side of her face in hopes there weren’t marks from where she’d been laying against him.

“You didn’t have to get up,” he said as he sat the tray down,

“Is it really lunch already?” her voice was slightly rough from sleep and she cleared her throat as she eyed the food he’d just uncovered suspiciously.

Her stomach however, could only be described as tratorious. Just as she was about to open her mouth and claim she wasn’t that hungry a loud grumble could be heard. Her cheeks went pink as Oliver’s lips twitched in response.

“I guess I could eat a little something,” she replied with as much dignity as she could, taking a piece of buttered toast that was somehow still warm.

He didn’t say a word, but his mouth was still tilted upwards and his eyes lighter than she’d seen them. She could feel his gaze on her as she slowly ate the toast, taking her time even though she had to admit she actually did feel like eating.

After she’d finished one perfectly cut triangle she gratefully accepted the cup of coffee Oliver had poured for her and gave a significant look between him and the food that was now growing cold.

The first sip made her hum appreciatively. She hadn’t had coffee since she’d been taken. A flash of memory struck her; when she’d ordered a cup at the diner only to have Nate stop her. With a sharp jerk of her head to the side she shook it off and squelched the panic that was trying to rise up.

Her eyes flew open to see Oliver frozen, plate in one hand the other outstretched as he watched her carefully. With hands that only shook a tiny bit she gave him a tremulous smile and took another sip. “Sorry, it’s just been awhile since I had coffee,”

His face fell for half a second before he recovered. Blinking twice he filled his plate and passed her another piece of toast and some fruit, their fingers skimming as she took it from him, chest swelling in gratitude that he was allowing her the time to work through her demons and somehow knowing she didn’t need his intervention just then, only his silent support.

Nothing else was said and she ate more than she thought she could. Oliver emptied two plates until there was nothing left on the tray and she wondered how little he’d eaten while she’d been gone.

The test results had seemed to bring an ease to both of them that hadn’t been there earlier. His shoulders weren’t so tight, his back not as stiff. She found herself able to look around the room and notice things she’d hadn’t been able to mere hours before, her breaths somehow easier.

But now that they were finished eating, she found herself unsure of what to say, once again flattening the fabric of her skirt as she fiddled with the hem until he reached over and covered both her hands with one of his.

“Stop worrying,” he murmured, standing before she could say a word and drawing her to her feet next to him. His fingers traced along her brow, skipping over the side of her glasses to trail down her cheek until his palm opened up and cupped the soft skin beneath her ear. Her breath hitched as she turned into his touch, “You should rest,”

She opened her mouth in protest but he was staring back with one eyebrow already lifted in anticipation, “Rest,” he repeated with more force, but still that quiet, intense tone she’d only ever heard him use with her,

The fear was still there. It lurked in his eyes, far in the back where he thought he could hide it but she saw. It would fade, she knew, but this experience would follow them both for a long time. Just when she’d think they’d put it past them, just when she hadn’t thought of it in months something would come along to remind them and this particular fear would be there.

“Okay,” she agreed, “But I’m going to change if that’s alright.” her eyes lifted to his, “There’s not a dinner or anything later…” the sudden thought of having to sit through a formal meal with the Queen’s filled her with apprehension. She wasn’t ready for that yet.

Oliver’s other hand came up to lay against the other side of her face, “No, no dinner, nothing you don’t feel up to,”

With an exhale of relief she leaned into him before pulling herself forward to give him a lingering hug.

She was halfway to the closet before it struck her how much more calm she felt. The night before the thought of Oliver leaving her in the bedroom alone had paralyzed her with fear and she’d insisted she go with him, but now she felt safe there and sure enough to go change on her own. However, she was certain that sense of security wouldn’t extend outside the very solid doors of his room, just the idea of leaving without him sent a small shiver down her spine.

With her fingers on the handle she turned to see him still standing where she’d left him, hands in his pockets, but with a look of pride in his eyes. He recognized the shift and her newfound ability even if it was just a small step.

She threw him a quick smile and tried to walk through the door before she fully had it open, causing her to stumble forward half a step and let out a huff of irritation. She was rolling her eyes his direction, smile now wide enough to show teeth cracking her face as she stepped back and tried the handle again. Just as she stepped through she saw him pinch the bridge of his nose and duck his head, her heart flipping at his reaction to her doing something so normal.

The door shut behind her with a soft click, smile slow to fade from her face as she pulled off her shoes and sat them on the shelf. Oliver’s dress shirt beckoned to her once again and she felt no qualms about wearing it even if it was only midday.

She had just untucked her blouse and had started on the buttons when a low buzz came from pocket. Brows drawing together she fumbled in the folds of her skirt, unable to pull the phone out until the third ring.

The caller i.d said 'Mom’ and a wave of fierce need washed over her as she answered the call without pause.

“Mom!” she cried, high and wavery before she could press her lips into a tight line in a weak attempt to keep herself calm.

There was a shaky exhale on the other end, “Oh Felicity, I’m so glad you answered. I know you’ve been busy this week with that merger. I was so worried I wasn’t going to get ahold of you and…" she cut herself off and Felicity felt her heart clench,

"It’s good to hear from you,” she blurted out, no where near sounding normal, but her mother didn’t seem to notice.

The quiet from her mom should have been the first thing to resonate, but she was too happy and relieved and comforted by hearing her voice that nothing else seemed to be getting through.

When Oliver pushed the door open and stepped inside with a hollow, stricken look on his face she thought something terrible had happened. Felicity froze for a long moment, unable to think of anything that could be making him look like that. And then it hit her; she knew why her mother was calling.

“Darling, I have terrible news. Nate’s dead,”

The world tilted crazily for a second, her body going numb as a high pitched buzz filled her ears. She wasn’t aware as Oliver caught her under the arms, or how the phone almost fell from her suddenly toneless fingers. Her family had been told about Nate, they’d been told he was dead, but they had no idea that she was the one who had killed him.

With a snap her senses returned to her leaving her disoriented as she looked around to find herself now sitting on the large ottoman, half propped against Oliver. He held the phone now and looked as if he was about to talk to her mother. It was the tinny, distant call of her name from the device that made her stretch out a trembling hand and take it from him.

“Felicity!”

“I’m here, Mom, sorry…I” she didn’t know how she got the words out, guilt swamped over her in a tidal wave and she actually felt herself sway under the weight of it. Oliver’s hand slid down her arm to wrap around her waist and she knew if he hadn’t been there she would have been in a heap on the floor.

“I know it’s a shock, especially after everything…I thought maybe the F.B.I would have contacted you as well. It’s such a terrible thing. Dan is devastated…I’ve never heard him like that before. They told him there was some sort of altercation at a motel…he didn’t say where." her mother had the tendency to continue talking in moments of high emotion, a trait Felicity had come by honestly, ”I know the boy was troubled and he hurt you and I can’t forgive that but…he was still my nephew.“ the breath snagged in Felicity’s chest, snarled and jagged, making her feel like she was trying to breathe through knives, the serrated kind that caught and tore. She brought a hand up to cover her mouth to keep the desperate moans at bay that fought to escape.

”It’s just such a shame. I’ll be over at your aunt and uncle’s today. Diane just keeps going on about how all of this is her fault…it’s an awful thing all around. Anyways darling, I don’t know anything about a memorial service or funeral it’s just too soon and I’m sure everyone would understand if you don’t come, I certainly do, but you do what you think is best.“

It was too much.

With a gasping almost animalistic cry she let her hand fall, unable to respond. The thought of going to the funeral of the man she had killed was more than she could handle just then.

As tiny white sparks danced in her vision and the pressure in her chest grew she didn’t hear Oliver end the call with her mother, or feel his hands on her face as he knelt in front of her. The last thing she remembered was him telling her she needed to breathe, but he sounded very far away.

She came to with a foggy head, disoriented and confused until she blinked open heavy swollen eyes to see a wide expanse of dark blue stretched out before her.

Oliver’s bed. She didn’t remember how she got there. She did remember the phone call with her mother and the guilt and grief that had overwhelmed her.

She lay on her side, the space next to her empty, but she had an unobstructed view of the room and could hear the shower going through the open bathroom door.

A pang made her heart clench as she recalled her mother’s words, how she’d felt sympathy for Nate and his parents. It made Felicity angry. It hurt to hear her mother say she’d be providing comfort to her brother. Felicity knew it wasn’t rational, she knew that if her mother knew the truth she’d be by her side in a second and if anything the phone call had only strengthened her resolve to not tell them what had happened. But it didn’t mean it still didn’t sting.

However, as soon as that feeling had settled within her it was quickly suppressed by the guilt she couldn’t shake. She was the one responsible for her uncle’s devastation, she’d taken away his son. Regardless of what Nate had done they still loved him and he was gone now because of her.

Lost in a swirl of ever darkening thoughts she didn’t notice when the shower shut off or when Oliver emerged from the bathroom. It took his voice breaking the silence for her to come back to the present.

"Hey, you’re awake,” he said quietly as he approached the bed,

When she didn’t reply he climbed in and rolled to face her, propped up on one elbow. “How do you feel?” he reached out with gentle fingers to push a lock of hair behind her ear and for the first time she noticed she was back in his dress shirt.

She let out a shuddering breath and curled herself into a smaller ball, “Sad, angry, guilty, confused…” she began and then trailed off, knowing there were a hundred more emotions she could list and not even begin to scratch the surface.

Her eyes fell shut as he brushed away a tear she didn’t even know had fallen.

“That’s normal,” he assured her,

“I killed him,” she said quickly, eyes opening to see Oliver looking at her with nothing but concern and love and guilt of his own,

“I killed,”

Because that’s really what it all condensed down to. She’d taken a life.

Oliver swallowed hard, eyes never leaving hers. His fingers ran down her arm to her hand where he drew it out from beneath the pillow so he could twine her fingers with his. “The first time I killed, it wasn’t a person, it was a bird.” his voice was quiet but more serious than she’d ever heard him. His thumb stroked over her knuckles as he paused and she realized he’d never told anyone this before.

“Yao Fei had caught the bird and trapped it… left it in a cage next to me. He’d just point to it and say one word in Mandarin. I had no idea what he meant, I assumed he was saying bird or food. I was…I was starving and he knew it but he wouldn’t share his food with me. He’d just point at the bird and repeat the word. Finally he mimed breaking the birds neck and…I was horrified.” he gave her a small self deprecating smile and squeezed her hand, “I had never done anything like that before, the closest I’d ever come was fishing and even then there had been someone to take care of that for us,” his eyes dropped for a second as a flare of shame cut across his face at the person he’d been before the island and it was her turn tighten her grip and let him know he wasn’t that spoiled kid anymore.

“I was so hungry though and I knew I had to do it, I didn’t have a choice. Before I did it though I told the bird I was sorry.” his head tilted to the side slightly and she could see the remorse he still held for a bird he’d killed years ago. “After that was when I found out that Yao Fei could actually speak English, and the word he’d been saying, it didn’t mean food or bird.” he stopped and held her gaze, as her heart began to beat in triple time, “It meant survive,”

“I had to kill that bird so I could survive. Yao Fei was teaching me how to keep myself alive and also teaching me to understand that killing for survival was something I had to learn to live with.”

“What you did…it was survival, you had no choice. You can still feel bad about it, you can still wish there had been another way, but you can’t second guess it. Because then you’re saying you choose his life over yours and…god, Felicity I’m so glad you didn’t,”

He looked at her so earnestly, so intently, the weight of his words and the strength of his gaze seemed to bore straight into her soul.

“I’m glad too,” she said haltingly, “but I feel like I shouldn’t be because…he’s my cousin and my mom said my uncle’s devastated and…that’s because of me,”

Before she could blink Oliver had moved back and captured her face in his hands. “No,” he said forcefully, “It’s because of him. He put this in motion. He did this to you. This is not your fault,”

His voice broke and through a glaze of tears she saw him slide his hand along her jaw before tangling in her hair to draw her towards him.

“Okay,” she whispered into his chest, palms pressed over his heart as he rubbed small circles into her scalp, “Okay,”

It was a difficult thing for her to accept and to rationalize but the experience Oliver had shared struck a chord within her and she felt some of the burden she’d placed on her heat lifting.

“I might need you to remind me of that…like at least a hundred times,” she mumbled into his warm skin with a light chuckle,

“I can do that,”

With a small sniff she shifted closer to him, threading one leg between his as she placed a lingering kiss over his Bratva tattoo and found a comfortable spot for her head.

The quiet was comforting and she found herself growing tired once again. Instead of being agitated at losing more time to sleep she accepted it, knowing her body needed a chance to recover. She was ready to move forward, and healing was the first step.

Just before she fell asleep she heard him whisper one word in Mandarin, and she knew what it meant.

For the next two days she felt like she was slowly waking up from a dream. Felicity slept more than she had since before college and no matter when or how she woke Oliver was never far from her side. She still had nightmares but nothing as plaguing as that first night back.

She’d also started to venture out of the room, and had discovered a secluded patio that had an excellent view of the gardens. Oliver sent for trays of drink or food anytime she sat still longer than a few minutes and after the first couple times she’d just give him a long suffering look and a mouthed thank you.

But she had noticed as wonderful and supportive and solid as Oliver had been he was starting to get antsy. Anytime her thoughts strayed to the office or the lair she’d shoved them aside, not ready to think about that yet, but she knew Oliver wasn’t used to inactivity.

The afternoon of her third full day back he couldn’t even sit as they waited for lunch to be brought outside. He paced a path on the finely manicured strip of grass that separated the slate tiles from a low stone wall.

“Oliver…” she waited a beat and called his name again, a small smirk crossing her face as he jerked his head towards her with a short 'hmm’, “Find Digg and go pummel the crap out of each other in the gym, please, for both our sakes.”

He stood frozen, eyes narrowed in confusion as if he didn’t comprehend what she’d just asked of him. When it did he shook his head and closed the distance between them in three long strides, dropping to one knee at her side.

“No, I’m…I’m sorry, I’m fine, and I’m not leaving you alone,” he said so earnestly she felt the hot sting of tears behind her eyes,

She raised a hand and cupped his cheek, “Oliver, you’re going to have to eventually,” she’d meant it to be light but the stricken, almost terrified look that crossed his face made her regret it immediately.

His eyes were fixated on the ground, hands fisted at his sides. Quickly she moved to the edge of the chair, as her other hand came to rest against the side of his neck. “Look at me,” she implored, applying pressure under his chin until he lifted his head, “I’m safe here, nothing is going to happen to me.”

They both needed this. As much as she loved him, and as safe as he made her feel she knew there was a tipping point where they could become too dependent upon each other. She’d felt an irrational flash of fear that morning when Oliver had spent longer than usual getting dressed and it had left her on edge, but not because she hadn’t been near him. Instead she’d been wondering how they were going to function when they re-entered the real world. This was much a test for herself more than anything.

Oliver didn’t look convinced though, he dropped a hand on her knee and rubbed it soothingly, “If you’re not ready-”

“I might never be ready, but as much as I love you we can’t hide here forever. We have to do this…baby steps. You down in the gym and me out here. And you can’t tell me Digg won’t have security moved around once he knows.” she lifted a brow and gave him a knowing look,

He let out a long sigh and let his head drop forward to rest against her collarbone. With soft fingers she stroked the back of his neck, ducking her head to press a kiss to his hair.

“Figured I’d find you out here. Thought you could use a little girl time, that is if I could drag my brother away…whoa!” Thea’s voice could be heard through the open door, and Felicity looked up to see her paused on the top step, “Sorry…didn’t want to interrupt, I’ll just…”

“No!” Felicity cried out as Oliver raised his head, eyes boring into hers asking her without words if she was sure, if she felt safe, if she could handle this. She stroked one hand over his face, giving him a private smile in response. “Actually, your brother was about to go get a workout in and I would love the company,”

Thea’s brows raised into her hairline but she didn’t say a word.

Felicity looked back at Oliver who still seemed reluctant to leave, “See, and now I won’t be alone.”

He blew a half frustrated breath through pursed lips before his eyes softened, fingers trailing over the fading bruises on her face. “An hour. No more,” he conceded, just before he rose to his feet, leaning in at the same time to plant a bruising kiss to her mouth. She gasped in surprise and he took advantage by snaking his tongue in to slide against hers, sending a shot of heat to her center.

She was still breathless and a little light headed when he stepped away, turning towards his sister who was pretending not to watch them. Thea cocked her head to the side and gave him an exasperated look which he returned. “Not a word, Speedy. How many times have I walked in on you and the kid?”

Her mouth snapped shut at that, and Felicity caught his wry grin as he headed for the door. Just before he stepped inside he turned to meet her gaze and she felt her heart swell with the overwhelming emotion she saw in him.

One long blink and when she opened her eyes he was gone. Felicity clapped her hands together and sat up straighter suddenly feeling vulnerable and alone even though Thea was with her.

Thankfully the younger Queen had inherited her mother’s ability to read a room and moved forward without hesitation, “Now that your shadows gone, how about we get to the important stuff, like a manicure.” she waved a small zippered bag she held, her voice a touch too bright, but Felicity appreciated the effort.

She let out a shaky laugh and nodded, “I think that sounds perfect,” a quick glance at her hands showed mostly missing polish and uneven nails that hadn’t been touched since before she’d been taken.

Thea sat down and got right to work, chatting about innocuous things that didn’t need much in the way of response for which Felicity was grateful. It took time before she stopped cutting her eyes to the door every two seconds looking for Oliver. When a black suited security agent came into view on the other side of the garden she almost jumped out of her skin.

The other girl noticed her reaction and turned her head away from where she’d been filing Felicity’s nails, noticing the agent with a small snort through her nose. “Figures,” she muttered as she went back to what she was doing. There was a short beat of silence before she spoke again. “He loves you…my brother I mean, not Paul over there, although he is one of the nicer ones.”

“I uh…I love him too,”

“I always wondered why he brought you in as his EA,” but before Felicity could reply she kept on going, “And then one day I stopped in for something, lunch maybe, and you two were in the conference room…I just watched you. You were…easy with each other. He was lighter.” she put the file down and clutched Felicity’s fingers as she looked up, “The brother I had before the island is gone, but this new one…the one I get to see more and more of when he’s around you, I like him a lot.”

Words were stacked up in her throat and all Felicity could do was squeeze Thea’s fingers tighter as she fought back tears.

Forty minutes later they were both holding cups with the pads of their fingers while their nails dried. The bright fuschia Thea had brought out for her to use had made Felicity smile. “You look like a girl who likes color,” she’d stated as Felicity had nodded emphatically.

As certain as she had sounded before she’d sent Oliver away it had taken her some time to feel at ease. But after spending time with Thea and sipping tea, and eating the majority of a plate of tiny cookies she realized with a start she actually felt comfortable.

However, that feeling quickly vanished, replaced by guilt. Guilt for enjoying her time with Thea when the funeral for Nate was to be the next day. Guilt for doing something as frivolous as painting her nails when Oliver had been so obviously struggling to leave her alone. Guilt for keeping him from the office. Guilt for keeping him from the lair. She’d known Digg had put the hood on the night before just to be seen but it had made her nervous to know he was out there without backup because Oliver was with her.

With a clatter she sat her cup down heavily in the saucer. She could feel Thea’s stare as she tried to get control.

“Hey, you okay?”

Felicity started, drawing her hands into her lap, twisting the hem of her skirt as she tried to think of something to say that could sound convincing.

“I know guilt face when I see it. Usually in the mirror, but Roy’s got a pretty good one too.” she said lightly as she reached over and laid a gentle hand over Felicity’s, “You were gone for eight days…why do you think you should be all better after being home for three.”

And just like that all the tension that had been trying to overtake her faded away like it had never been there. The simple words struck her hard and all she could do was reach over and cover Thea’s hand with her own, giving her a grateful smile of thanks.

That was how Moira found them, the sound of her heels announcing her presence before either woman had turned to look her direction.

“There you two are.” she said by way of greeting as she made her way towards them in a striking grey business suit,

“Thought you were going to be at the office until late,” Thea said as she slowly sat back,

“As did I until the finance department had to cancel.” Moira replied with her hands spread wide, “Oliver can meet with them next week, if he’s back in that is.” she hadn’t said it with a trace of accusation but Felicity immediately stiffened.

“Don’t!” Thea snapped, pointing one long finger Felicity’s direction and giving her a hard look.

Moira lifted an inquisitive brow Thea’s direction but didn’t ask any questions. “Since we’re all in tonight I thought it might be nice to have dinner together,” she was looking at both Felicity and Thea, but Felicity knew it was addressed entirely to her, “You’re looking so much better, dear, but if you’re not up to it I completely understand,”

Felicity swallowed hard and adjusted her glasses before she shot a look at Thea who was mouthing 'please’ and nodding in encouragement. Then the words were coming out of her mouth before she was entirely sure of what she was saying, “I think…that sounds great Mrs. Queen, we’ll be there,”

Her cheeks went pink at the realization that she’s just accepted a dinner invitation for her and Oliver together.

“Excellent, I’ll tell the chef. Enjoy the rest of your tea,” and then she had pivoted on one very expensive heel and headed back into the house.

“Don’t feel bad about the office. Seriously. Mom’s got it covered for now. When you and Ollie are ready to go back it’ll still be there. No rush.”

“Yeah…it’s just…I feel like everyone is upending their lives because of me and…”

“You’re worth upending lives for,”

It was Oliver that had spoke. Her head whipped to the right to see him leaning in the doorway and she wondered how long he’d been there. Regardless, the sight of him with one shoulder propped against the brick, hands in his pocket as he looked at her like he never wanted to stop sent a thrill straight through her and she felt her pulse quicken.

She couldn’t seem to look away, and even from a distance she could see his eyes darken.

“Your girlfriend roped us all into family dinner tonight, by the way. We’re going to have to do some training,” Thea said sardonically as Oliver finally pushed off the wall and approached,

“I ran into Mom in the kitchen, she said Felicity thought it was a good idea,” he may have been talking to Thea, but Felicity knew he was really double checking to make sure she was okay with going to dinner that night,

“I do think it’s a good idea,”

“Then so do I,” he replied with a smile, finally at her side. His hand cupped her shoulder for a moment then slid around to stroke the back of her neck making her shiver,

“Ugh. You two are almost sickening sweet.”

“Speedy…” Oliver said warningly,

“Alright, alright!” she said, holding her hands up in mock surrender, “She’ll figure it out for herself real quick,”

With that Thea gathered her things and leaned down to hug Felicity, “See you at dinner. Wear a flak jacket,”

“Speedy!”

“Just kidding!” she backed away slowly with a quick grin that looked very much like her brothers,

Once his sister was gone Oliver’s attention was back on Felicity and she must have had a worried look on her face, “Don’t listen to her, she’s just trying to cause trouble,”

“I know…I had a nice time with her,” she said almost timidly, beginning to feel bad again at admitting she’d enjoyed her time alone with Thea.

But his response was genuine, “Good, I’m glad…I…” a guilty look of his own couldn’t be hidden, “Digg and I had a good workout,”

A laugh burst from her lips as she rose to her feet and wrapped her arms around his middle, “We’re idiots, both feeling bad for having a good time while we were apart.”

He exhaled loudly and held her tight, “Yeah,”

“You sure you’re okay though?” he asked, not moving to let her go,

“There were some rough moments but…Thea’s great, I’m glad I got to spend time with her,”

“Me too,”

“So…dinner…with everyone,” he drew out slowly, hands coasting up and down her ribcage as she lowered herself to her heels and pulled back to look at him, “You sure you’re ready for that?”

“Oliver, if you had asked me weeks ago if I was ready to have dinner with your family I would have told you no,” she replied with a small lift of her lips,

“You know what I mean,” he returned with a short sigh,

“Baby steps, right?

He didn’t say a word, just let out an even longer sigh and wrapped his arm around her as he turned, walking them back towards the house.

As they made the long trek back to his room she tried not think about what she’d committed them to.


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