A/N: Apologies for the delay in posting. For some reason, this one took me a while to get through… and I'm honestly not sure that I like it. But, it is what it is. The next chapter will hopefully come a little easier.
Not Another Mistake
When she looked up again, Sara was gone, leaving her alone with Digg and Oliver who were suddenly looking at her expectantly. Her eyes met Oliver's and she was unable to look away. The silence that surrounded them was deafening.
Oliver cast a glance at Digg and she watched as some unspoken conversation took place between them. Digg crossed the lair until he stood just in front of her. His hand found her uninjured shoulder, squeezing gently, and she smiled in an attempt to assure him that she really was okay. He gave her a short nod and then he was gone, too. She was alone with Oliver.
He moved toward her.
"You alright?" he asked, his voice taking on that gentle tone that he seemed to reserve specifically for her, "Digg mentioned that maybe you were feeling a little left out."
She gaped at him, anger flaring inside of her because John Diggle had gone and opened his big mouth. She should never have said anything in the first place. And she hadn't really, but John know her well enough to know what was really bothering her.
"No. No, I just –" she tried to think of something to say that wouldn't sound pathetic or needy but the drugs that Digg had given her were limiting her ability to think clearly, "It's just that I – I'm used to be your girl. Well, not your girl but just, you know, your girl. I know it sounds like the same word but it means something different in my head."
Oliver smiled, his warm hand coming up to brush back the hair that had come loose from her ponytail. When his fingers skimmed her jaw and settled on the side of her neck, she felt some of the tension she'd been holding on to melt away. She leaned into his touch, unable to stop the contented sound that escaped her.
"You will always be my girl, Felicity."
She blinked up at him. The conviction in his tone surprised her. She couldn't be sure exactly what it meant and her head was too jumbled to try to figure it out.
"Come on, I'll take you home."
She nodded, taking his hand as he helped her down. She swayed and Oliver's arm wound around her waist to steady her. Not for the first time she noticed the clean and somewhat spicy scent that clung to him. His body was warm and solid against hers as the moved slowly to the door and his nearness set her heart racing. She worried her lip between her teeth and forced her mind to focus on something other than the way that she fit at his side.
When she stumbled slightly, Oliver's arm tightened around her.
"Remind me to tell Digg that, if you need them again, only one of those aspirin."
She laughed, "I like two. Two is good."
He shook his head but he was grinning as he held the passenger door of his car open for her. As soon as it was closed, she rested her head against the cool window. Her eyes slipped closed again, exhaustion setting in as the stress of the day suddenly washed over her.
"You scared the hell out of me today."
She lifted her head and shifted in her seat so that she could face him. He never averted his gaze as he drove, his eyes locked on the road ahead of them, but she watched his hands flex as they gripped the steering wheel a little too tightly. She opened her mouth to assure him yet again that she was fine but the words wouldn't come. The ache in her shoulder was minimal but it was there nonetheless and every bone in her body suddenly felt as if it were made of lead. The adrenaline spike that she'd felt early was gone. She was quickly crashing.
"I thought – I thought that I was going to lose you tonight."
His confession surprised her slightly. She knew that it wasn't easy for him to admit when he was worried or afraid. He wore a mask of confidence, of fearlessness, even in the face of his greatest adversaries, so for him to admit that her actions had frightened him, she knew that it was a difficult thing for him to say.
"I'm sorry. It's just that … My role in all of this is tech support, you know? I'm here because I'm good at what I do. My systems are supposed to be top-notch. They're supposed to be un-hackable - which yes, I know, it's not a real word - but that's how I built them. No one should be able to get in but somehow he did and it made me feel… it made me feel like I hadn't done my job. Like I wasn't good enough," she bit her tongue to stem the flow of words that wanted to continue.
Oliver reached across the center console and gripped one of her hands in his own. She turned her palm up and wound their fingers together.
"Felicity, you are so much more than tech support," he told her, his voice thick with some unidentifiable emotion, "I've said this to you before and I want you to believe me. I cannot do what I do without you. You keep me going, Felicity, you help me find my way when sometimes all I want to do is get lost. It's your belief in me that keeps me grounded. If you weren't here… if you weren't here, I wouldn't be who I am. I'd probably still be a killer. Or still on that God forsaken island. You have this unshakeable faith in me, faith that what we're doing is the right thing, that I'm a good man, and I don't know that I deserve it but it's that faith that I need to get through all of this."
There were tears in her eyes and she had to blink them away. His words caused warmth to bloom in her chest and spread outward, like the roots of a tree into the earth, taking hold of her soul and refusing to let go. She couldn't help but fall in love with him a little more as each moment passed between them. She wasn't sure if it was an affect of the drug that she'd been given or if it was just him, but her emotions were going haywire. She loved him, she had for a long time.
She squeezed his fingers where they were entwined on her thigh, his thumb stroking across her knuckles soothingly. There was so much that needed to be said, so much that they still needed to discuss, but she knew that tonight wouldn't be the right time. Her drug addled brain could only handle so much and she was certain that she'd already reached her limit. They still hadn't actually talked about what he'd meant about wanting things to change. She had a feeling she knew by the way that he was trying to open up to her, the way he held her hand and the way he'd touched her face. Not for the first time she had seen the concern in his eyes as he'd looked at her but it had been different this time. He hadn't tried to hide it from her. He had let her see his fear, his worry. He was changing right before her eyes and she had only just realized it.
He parked in the lot beside her building and came around to her door to help her out. With his arm securely around her waist, he led her inside. The silence between them stretched on as they rode the elevator to her floor and walked the length of the hallway to her apartment.
"Thank you," she said softly, keys clutched in her hand, "For bringing me home. And – and for coming to get me tonight."
He watched her for a long moment before his hand came up to the side of her face. She leaned into his touch again, just as she had in the foundry, and Oliver smiled.
"I will always come for you, Felicity. I told you, I can't lose you."
He bent to brush his lips gently across her forehead, the action sending a chill down her spine, before he extricated her keys from her grasp and opened the door. He ushered her inside, waiting as she lost her shoes in the entryway, and followed her through the small apartment toward her bedroom. She stopped at the door and turned to him.
"You don't have to stay."
He shrugged, "I know. I just wanted to make sure you made it home okay."
"Well, I'm here now," she told him, gesturing around uncomfortably, "So, yeah, safe and sound. You can go. I'll see you at work."
For a second she was sure he was going to argue but he seemed to settle on letting her have the final say.
"I'll talk to you tomorrow. But you're not coming into the office. Don't argue. Trust me, you're shoulder is going to feel a lot worse in the morning. Just call Digg or me if you need something but you should stay home and rest."
She nodded. She knew that arguing would be pointless. He was right. Her shoulder was going to hurt in the morning and just the idea of sitting at her desk for hours trying to type with one hand made her cringe.
His lips brushed her forehead again, lingering a little longer than necessary, and then he was gone and she was alone with thoughts of Oliver Queen swirling around inside of her head. As usual.