Chapter 3

AN – I think I've been remiss about this on this story and my other ongoing Arrow story so pls let me say this now with enthusiasm and gratitude: THANK YOU! I am always just giddy to see that people are actually checking out my stories! The reviews are absolutely priceless and yes, I do check the faves/ follows for warm fuzzies too! I also love that you guys encourage me to disregard such terms as "oneshot" and "complete"! :)

DISCLAIMER: No infringement intended as Arrow and all characters belong to others!

Oliver continued to adjust to his new life and as he relaxed into the rhythm of it he was able to gain some respite from the sensory overload. He also found he could learn to focus better through the distractions…and Felicity became his favorite focus to perfect this skill.

Anyone could see her bright clothes, pink lipstick or even her intelligence and humor so Oliver focused on finding out what others missed. Anyone could note Felicity bites her bottom lip when uncertain but most wouldn't realize how she also curls her toes inside her shoes at the same time. Not everyone would notice her rambling was always preceded by a deep breath that she holds just a second longer than normal. Oliver noted all of these things and more.

He focused on her to block out the white noise of the office. He focused on her when they were in the lair and nerves were on edge about a mission. He focused on her when she joined them in the field for a mission.

He learned to read her mood based solely on her voice as when he was on a mission it was only her voice in his ears that could distract or focus him. He still couldn't figure out how she managed to do both so skillfully.

He learned to read her smiles – polite, patient, fake, happy and even angry.

He learned to read her eyes – he found he liked when they lingered on his chest or abs or any part of his body while he trained. He knew the feel them searching him for injury after each mission or measuring his mood after each QC meeting.

He learned to read her walk – confident stride more times than not but sometimes hesitant, unsure and sometimes even angry.

He learned to interpret the looks and exchanges between her and Diggle. Oliver knew he brought them together but he also acknowledged that just has he found a new rhythm for his life that they both had done the same. At times he was jealous of the ease of their relationship but he was still glad they had one another and that they both stayed with him.

On this particular night, Diggle and Felicity were bantering easily over the comms. Diggle was outside to monitor guest and vendor activity even though no trouble was expected. Felicity was inside the gala with him and clearly she was bored as she continued to ramble to Diggle about the event's fashion statements. Oliver doubted Diggle followed the conversation any better than he did but he noticed the man never tried to discourage or interrupt Felicity.

Oliver himself found comfort in her voice in his ear as he no longer enjoyed the society functions he still needed to participate in to maintain his cover. Again, he felt like he was on sensory overload – the music was too loud and yet he could still hear loud laughter and the high pitched clinking of champagne glasses, the sea of brightly colored dresses seemed to be a distorted clash of an abstract painting, the stench of richly cooked meats did not blend well with the equally rich perfumes and colognes of the guests. Oliver was feeling pressured from every side and was working to maintain his calm façade when Felicity approached. He realized he had somehow missed the last part of the conversation as her look clearly prompted him to reply.

Issuing a gentle sigh, she tugged lightly on his arm and spoke in her polite official tone, "Mr. Queen, I need to provide a quick update on the numbers we have been waiting on. Could we please step outside with me?" Oliver quickly latched on to the excuse and with a quick apology to the group around him left with Felicity on his arm.

Oliver approached the edge of the balcony and tried to relax his clenched jaw even as he tried to tamp down his raging senses. He could feel Felicity just behind him as she continued to scan the ballroom for any new dangers. The dangers tonight are dressed in tuxedos and dresses but Oliver has long known they are no less dangerous so he appreciates Felicity's concern even if it's overdone.

He knows Felicity thinks she's shielding him by interrupting and dragging him to the balcony for peace but now his newly honed skill of focusing on her engages fully and directs his attention accordingly. Instead of enjoying the cool respite of the relatively quiet night air and he hears the rustle of her dress as she shifts her weight from foot to foot, he notes her elevated breathing as she mumbles under her breath and he can even hear the whisper of the hair she rarely wears down as she flicks it impatiently. She still wears no perfume but her entire being seems to be speaking to him and for once, Oliver gives in and listens. It can't hurt to listen, to feel for just a moment – to let down my guard. He takes a couple deep breaths as he places his hands on the balcony railing and closes his eyes. He opens his senses to her, to the call of his instincts to know her now.

With that single thought in mind, Oliver turns to face her and easily places his hands at her hips to steady her. He hides a smile as she is clearly startled her both by his sudden turn and their close proximity. He really thought he could listen for just a moment, that he had conditioned himself to accept Felicity inside his personal space. He quickly understood he couldn't afford to get distracted by her in the office or at night so he had already been fighting this battle and he had foolishly thought he had won.

This night though was different though – this night he was on edge, tense and more in need of her than ever. This night the darkness and Felicity combined together to offer a tempting new sensation and the long held desire to know Felicity's taste was something he could no longer deny.

It's only in the darkness of night that he allows his senses free reign and embraces the rush of the impressions. It's only at night that he fully trusts and acts on his instincts. As Oliver stares into Felicity's eyes he realizes that he should have known not to be out at night alone with Felicity without at least one mask in place. He acknowledges this even as he pulls her to him roughly for full body contact before he lowers his head to meet her lips. Despite the pull of his instincts and the demand to know Felicity, the kiss wasn't rough…it was tender, exploratory, teasing…until Diggle's voice over the comms pulls them back.

"Nice night, huh? Perhaps you two should move it back inside before there's more gossip. Not to mention one Thea Queen is about to make an entrance." Diggle ended on a chuckle. His position as back-up outside had allowed the perfect vantage point to see the kiss shared by his friends. While he had no objection to a union between them he didn't think now was the appropriate place for the Arrow and his IT partner to get it on.

At that very moment, Thea appeared in the doorway asking for Oliver's help. Oliver met her gaze briefly before returning his eyes to Felicity. She had kept her eyes on him despite the growing blush on her cheeks. Oliver couldn't help the grin as he realized he now knew Felicity's taste and it was simply Felicity: light, bright and irresistible. His grin grew a little wider as he tightened his grip on her hips and winked at her.

He knew flight was her best choice but Oliver was just beginning to realize how willing he was to fight for her.

AN2 – Ok, surely we can all agree this is really COMPLETE now, right?! :)