Here we are, friends. The end of this story. Or the beginning of something new. I never know, at moments like these. I owe continued gratitude to latbfan, whose glorious stories All I Want for Christmas and How Was Your Day? have bravely made room for a slashy Slade/Oliver past. (I can't imagine that you aren't reading them by now, but if you aren't, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR.) There is a nod here to her characterization of Felicity in this chapter – hers is, I maintain, the absolutely most perfect and wonderful in the entire Arrow universe, actual show included. Thanks also to CreepingMuse, extraordinary writer of the Sleepy Hollow fic She and He and fic-quiet Arrow analyst, who has provided much-needed perspective on this show, these characters, writing, and life.
His lips first, just his lips.
"It's over, Oliver. You've got nothing, not your family. Your friends. Not your little team. You've lost everyone. It's just me and you."
"It's always been me and you, Slade."
Hidden in shadow, his breath sounded the same. God, it sounded exactly the same.
I couldn't focus on prepping with Sara. Target practice was a joke and getting worse. I was increasingly useless, just when I had to be ready to take the freighter.
Because I needed to tell him. Finally. I needed to say every true thing I had been too weak to say. Until I did, I was going to keep fucking everything up.
Frozen, bow taut, I stared silently at the target while Sara sorted and stashed equipment across the fuselage. "Would you please get out of here? I can't think with all that noise," she said, grinning at me over her shoulder.
I found Slade crouched beside a tree, reassembling a gun. He heard me long before I could see him, but he let me come. And I didn't force him to look at me, just stood behind him and spoke through my teeth. "I did this to you," I told him after several shallow, tight breaths. "I didn't know what the mirakuru would do – I shouldn't have offered it like a lifeline."
Maybe he was listening. Not that I said what really mattered. The mirakuru was the least of my sins, the easiest to admit. Anticipating the release of the real truth my body tensed against itself, fists clenching, throat closing. The familiar paralysis set in.
I tried to clear my throat. I shook my hands like I was trying to flick my fingers off. "Slade. I want. I." I couldn't imagine getting any words out.
Inside my head, I admitted and begged and pledged and bled. But between us, where it mattered, there was only silence. Eventually he jumped to his feet, shoved his gun in his waistband, and walked away.
Then his hand, still warm from sleep, on my forearm. The weight of it, the width of it, is pure relief.
"Absolutely not. I refuse." Felicity crossed her arms across her chest, jutting her chin out with the improbable fierceness I love. And rely on.
"You can't refuse. I'm your boss. Was your boss." She reared her head back, ready with a torrent of argument, but to keep them both alive I couldn't let her win. "He knows about you now, both of you. You have to get as far away from here as you can. You have to make it look like you've given up on me."
"I'm not going anywhere," Diggle countered, glaring at me from behind Felicity.
"This isn't." I clenched and unclenched my jaw. "This isn't up for discussion. I have to do it alone."
"Alone? No. Okay, yes, in the field I may be more of a liability than an asset, and I may or may not be having mini PTSD flashbacks of bombs and shrapnel and you saving me, again, but you need us. So there will be no firing. I mean, I'd like to see you try to dismantle my system." Felicity feathered her fingers over her keyboard, petting it like a cat. "You can't fire us. We're backing you up, with or without your permission. I mean, stealthily. Well, and Digg -"
"We're in," he interrupted.
"But, yeah, you couldn't get rid of us, even if you actually wanted to."
I didn't deserve their allegiance. But I knew how lucky I was to have it. "When did you get so stubborn?"
My fingers in his hair, again. His lips open; my eyes close. One of us whimpers.
I fell to my knees and gathered him up. His head rolled against my left bicep. The leather strap of his eye patch pulled at my skin. As he writhed there, two poisons fighting inside him, I cradled his heavy body in my lap. He wasn't dead. Yet.
I brushed his gray hair from his forehead, slick now with sweat. My breath hitched in my throat but I managed to lift his eye patch. I had to see it. Both his eyes were closed but what was missing was unmistakable: his right eyelid fell, concave, into the hole I left him with.
I let the patch settle back in place. "Stay with me. Please."
His eye fluttered open, then closed again. He panted, grimacing. I laid my palm on his sternum, as if my touch could calm him. Ridiculous. But I had found words that meant something, even if he couldn't hear them.
And once I found them, there were more. The right words finally tumbled out of me.
"I loved you, Slade. I loved you on the island. I was wrong not to tell you."
Did his breath come smoother, slower?
"I loved you when we were alone, I loved you when Shado came. Me and Shado was a mistake, it was habit. It was me being the way I always was, lazy and careless. And I've wanted to tell you I'm sorry ever since."
His fingers tensed into a claw.
"Finally touching you again, Slade, I can't – if this is it, it's enough. I missed you, maybe it doesn't matter, but I did. I've never missed anyone the way I missed you. Do you have any idea how I've missed you since you changed, since you hated me? God, since you came back? You hurt me, you tried to ruin my life, but I know it's my fault. I deserved it. What I did to you was so much worse. And through all of it, I still loved you every fucking second."
He was always his most arrogant when he was winning. And I was obviously losing, standing alone, with no bow, no hood. But the moment he swaggered into the light, I threw my hidden dart – loaded, my only one - at his heart.
He clutched at it. His knees buckled. His entire body bowed, taut, and he fell to the ground.
Would it kill him? Would the mirakuru neutralize its effects?
Would it work?
I cradle his head, his hair soft on my palm, and hold his lips to mine.
I fell silent again. His struggle grew quieter until his body was soft. I carried him through room after room until I found a bed.
There was a time I would have unbuttoned his shirt, eased it off his shoulders. Reverently removed his pants, his shoes and socks, smoothing his legs down into the bed. Wrapped him in cool sheets, and then wrapped myself around him.
But I didn't have the right. Not after everything. Even sitting beside him, keeping this vigil, was more than I deserved.
"He's not dead," I told Felicity over the phone.
"Yay," she cheered, in a bright whisper. "And neither are you. Yay again! So, is he fixed?"
"I'll know when he wakes up."
Hours became a night.
His eyes blazed with hungry mischief when he stuck a finger through my belt loop and pulled my hips to his. He chuckled once, low in his throat, and bypassed my lips – ready, always ready - in favor of the hollow of my neck. He bent his knees and slid his body down to position his jaw just under mine. He sucked and pushed, his wide hands vices on my hips, and I was hard in an instant.
It was like that. And I ruined it.
"I hate sleeping with this thing," is the first thing he says. He tugs his eye patch off and tosses it across the bed.
He flexes his fingers, clenches them slowly, deliberately into a fist. He pushes himself up, rolling his head on his neck. It takes forever. Then he turns to me, both eyes open. One a hole.
I cough a startled laugh. "Are you…?"
He breathes deeply, like he used to. "I feel different."
There's color in his cheeks. I can't close my mouth.
Slowly, he fingers the bloody hole I made in his shirt. "You shot me," he remembers.
Is he okay? He might be. He seems somehow lighter.
"I feel different."
I nod, equal parts amazed and terrified. "Yeah. How, different?" I hazard.
"Better." He stretches an arm, then his neck. "Much better."
He unbuttons his shirt, peels it off, then pulls his t-shirt off. Over his heart, where the dart landed, blooms a mottled, deep purple scar, petaled and round like a gruesome rose. "I'm sorry," I hiss.
It's too much. I can't breathe. If he's not cured, this will really be it. I will have lost absolutely everything. "Slade. Are you?" I swallow a mouthful of sour spit. "Are you better?"
"What did you do?" he asks, and I can't read him anymore. It has been far too long since he was himself. Since I was myself.
"It was an antidote," I attempt to explain. He drops his head and traces the huge scar on his chest. "I had to try. Did it work?"
He's quiet for a moment. And then, "I heard you."
No, it's impossible. He must mean something else, some other time. There is no way I could be lucky enough that he heard me while he was in the throes of being poisoned and is, at the same time, also miraculously cured. There is no way I get everything I want.
But then he lifts his head. "Come here," he says.
His lips first, just his lips. Then his hand, still warm from sleep, on my forearm. The weight of it, the width of it, is pure relief. My fingers in his hair, again. His lips open; my eyes close. One of us whimpers. I cradle his head, his hair soft on my palm, and hold his lips to mine.
I lower him back onto his pillow, sharply aware that he may not be entirely whole yet, may not even be telling me the truth. I'm aware but I'm reckless, too. I recklessly suck his tongue into my mouth, recklessly slide my hand along his bare chest, over the latest wound I gave him, still sickeningly hot. I slide it further, over his ribs, over the smooth scar from the gash I tore in him and sewed up again. His body ruthlessly tells our story.
"There you are," I breathe against his mouth. He rolls me under him and I remember everything, his weight on me, his arms enclosing us. "You heard me," I marvel.
His smirk is back, glorious as ever. "It's a little foggy. You may have to repeat some of it."
My laugh sounds like a sigh. Or a sob. He hovers above my lips, confirming that it is me and it is him. And then we are back again, melting into each other.
Our clothes are off quickly, cooperatively, like it used to be. He kicks the sheets to the foot of the bed, far out of the way. He's so much larger, more real like this, how I've remembered him. I kiss along his jaw, lick and lave his neck, down to the place it is widest, where my palm wants to rest. I want to dip further, to take a nipple between my teeth, but he pulls at my chin, he needs my lips again. We are both so desperate for each other, laughing and whimpering and grunting for more.
He presses his lips and his insistent jaw into my chest, into the hollow under my ribs, my belly. I let my fingers thread through his thick hair, let them lie lightly there as he licks the tip of my cock. I murmur his name, I murmur need and hope and apology. "Shhh," he whispers, lifting his head. "Shhh."
With his tongue, he draws spirals up and down before he takes me completely in his mouth. One long, sucking stroke and then he buries his face against my thigh, kissing and licking down the crease while he cups my ass in his hands. He tilts me up just enough but instead of a hard, wide finger it's his tongue I feel pressing inside, turning my guts to velvet.
He winds patient circles there but I'm impatient. I grab at his shoulders, try to pull him up. "Come back," I beg, and there he is, kneeling between my thighs. There's no smirk on his face now, nothing but that decadent delirium I remember from the best days on the island, when it was just us, when we knew exactly how to fuck each other and we took our time. His eyelids fall closed as he pushes inside me but I can't stop watching him. I have missed him so much.
"This all doesn't mean everything is perfect," he warns me, tracing a scar on my shoulder. A scar he gave me. "It's not. But."
I turn my head. We're nose to nose. "But?"
"But saving me is a good start."