On May 2, 2015, Felicity almost dies (again), and Oliver almost dies (they've stopped counting), and then he kisses her (that's a new one). It may be a little weird that only the last thing leaves her knees wobbly.
"I brought the Pontet Canet you wanted to try," he says hoarsely, standing at the threshold of her apartment with her lipstick smudged across his mouth.
She stares at him. She's on a three second time lag, still feeling the warmth of his hand in her hair, the pressure of his belt buckle against her belly, and the texture of his chapped lips. That was not what she expected when she answered the door.
"Felicity," he says uncertainly.
"Come in," she blurts out, stepping out of the way on legs she doesn't quite trust. "Sorry, come in. There's a corkscrew on the coffee table. There's an empty bottle there too, but it's from last night, I haven't started drinking yet tonight, which makes me sound like I have a problem, doesn't it? I didn't kill the whole bottle in one – "
He smiles at her with just his eyes, which is all she needs these days to shift her motor mouth into a lower gear.
"I'll get us some glasses," she says.
When she returns from the kitchen, Oliver is on her sofa working the cork free. She sits down next to him, leaving enough room for a Great Dane to curl up between them. He pours two generous servings. The moment he sets down the bottle, he has another coughing fit.
She puts a useless hand on his back. "You ok?"
He nods. The sharp hack deepens into a horrible, wet, chesty cough before it finally passes. As if it hadn't happened, Oliver raises his glass to her in a silent toast and takes a sip.
Felicity takes a deep whiff of the French red before she tries it. It's not her new favorite, but it is lovely. The night after the earthquake, Oliver showed up with a bottle of Lafite Rothschild. He has never spent that kind of money on a single bottle since, but he has maintained a steady supply of damn good wine.
"You know, I've been all about the Spanish reds lately, but maybe I'll go on a Bordeaux kick. There's an online subscription to a wine-tasting – "
"I thought I was going to lose you today," Oliver says. His voice is still wrecked and raspy.
Felicity sinks back into the sofa. She wants that look off his face. "For a minute there, I was a little worried myself."
She doesn't get nearly as much of a smile as she was hoping for, but it's something. "I'm sorry we didn't get there sooner."
"Don't apologize." She narrows the distance between them—maybe enough now for a Cocker spaniel. "You are not allowed to apologize for the manner in which you saved my life, okay?"
He lays a hand on her shoulder, thumb tracing her collarbone, and he just looks at her. The man is an ice-veined liar. When he goes all blue eyes and blazing sincerity like this, the effect is so strong it's difficult to look him in the face.
"So that was a friendly, glad-we're-alive kiss?" she asks her wine glass.
"I am very, very," and wow, can he skew a word sideways into italics harder than anyone she knows, "glad you're alive. But no."
"It didn't feel friendly. Not that it was hostile, I mean, you observed all the proper tongue and teeth etiquette. But my other friends don't kiss me like that." She blinks. "Or at all."
His hand slides down her arm. "May I do it again?"
He may. For a long time. Until she melts onto his chest like honey on a warm scone. His arm around her waist keeps her from melting all the way onto the floor. He smells like freshly showered Oliver, and she knows that smell, leaning in close at her laptop in their common purpose. His mouth is minty (he was planning to kiss her when he came here, wasn't he?) and she likes this mingling of sweet familiarity and tart newness.
Then he has to stop and cough.
"I'm sorry, I should get off of you and let you breathe," she says, trying to sit up.
He pulls her back down onto his chest and tucks her head under his chin. If he insists, she's not going to argue. In fact, she's going to nestle closer.
"I've wanted to do that for a long time," he says.
She smiles. "You sound even growlier and rumblier with my ear on your chest."
He laughs, which is super rumbly. His arms, wrapping her up tight, make her brave.
"I love you," she says without fanfare, "and I think you're wonderful, regardless of how you feel about me."
He stops breathing. No coughs are forthcoming. But she's not scared of the silence that follows, not even for a second. She leaps, he catches her; that is the nature of the universe. So she waits patiently until he says, choked and a bit wet, "Thank you." Oliver is excellent at thank-yous; he performs them solemnly as holy rites. This one is no different.
It's not, "I love you too." It's not even a cop-out like, "Ditto." In every movie she's ever seen or book she's ever read, "Thank you" is the kiss of death. But he's squeezing her so tightly (her ear is squished right against his heart, tha-dump, tha-dump) that she hears the feeling instead of the words. Thank you for loving me. It's more than I deserve.
She sighs down deeper into him, which he maybe mistakes for disappointment, because suddenly he's holding her up to look in her eyes. "You know how I feel about you. Don't you?"
"Yeah," she whispers.
In the dark hours of the morning, the Arrow showed up unarmed at Ra's al Ghul's front door in exchange for his IT girl. He waited until she was safe at John's side, then he willingly walked into a small, windowless room with a reinforced steel door. There was nothing in that room but an inclined table, a rag, and a bucket of water.
What was his plan going in there? Felicity demanded as John hustled her into the car.
His plan was to get you out of there, he replied, mouth set in a tight line. He floored the gas pedal and hauled ass for sunrise.
"Yeah, you told me this morning."
One day she'll need the words. Tonight she sniffles on his shirt for a little while, then she falls asleep on his chest. She doesn't dream.
John indulges in exactly one knowing smile the next night in the foundry. Then they have a cell of recently leaderless assassins to mop up, and Felicity is on the phone with Officer Lance most of the evening trying to find a way to get law enforcement involved but not, you know, too involved, "which is kind of like trying to get pregnant, but not too pregnant, because they are the police, Oliver. They are professionally nosy!"
Sara warms a chocolate-filled croissant for her, which helps a little bit. "Don't yell at him. I'm sure he'll make it up to you later," she says with a wink, which does not help at all.
That hellish week finally ends on a rooftop. Felicity has all four of their voices in her ear – Sara, John, Roy, and Oliver – and she hears every blow and grunt and warning and command. Later she sees SCPD photos of what John did to the last assassin's face. The police are baffled by the murder of this John Doe, and on the news "the beating death of an unidentified man at Norcombe and Fulton Street" barely rates a mention.
"I didn't beat him to death," John says, arms folded. "It was the fall that killed him."
Felicity hugs him, and for the first time since they sped away and left Oliver in that little room, the tension goes out of his shoulders.
Roy comes downstairs with a bar rag pressed to his arm. "I popped some stitches," he tells John. "Can you…"
"Yeah." Before he lets her go, John kisses the top of Felicity's head. "I've got you."
It's amazing how much doesn't change after that. Team Arrow the well-oiled machine and Team Executive, the less well-oiled but basically functional machine, both chug away as they've done for two years.
It's amazing how much does change.
"He smiles now," Thea says, sitting in the armchair across from Felicity's desk, waiting for Oliver to get out of a meeting. "He smiled at Roy yesterday."
"I've been putting uppers in his coffee," Felicity explains.
"As if you make him coffee," Thea scoffs. "Seriously, has he met someone?"
Felicity does not have to feign surprise at this question. "I guess you'll have to ask him."
Ten hours later, shirtless on her kitchen table with Oliver standing between her knees, Felicity asks, "Are we a secret?"
He straightens, regarding her seriously. "No. We're just none of anyone's business."
"Are we Thea's business? Before she took you to lunch, she asked me if you'd met someone. She's allowed to know about your life, right? At least the part of it that doesn't happen in green leather?"
"It's fine if you told her," he says, going back in for her neck.
"No!" She writhes away from his mouth, because that spot under her ear is ticklish, damn it. "You tell her. She's your sister. Talk to your family, you crazy man."
"Not really thinking about them right now, Felicity." If he can't raise a hickey on her neck, apparently his Plan B is to suck on her earlobe until she shivers. Well done, sir.
"Ok, but – "
Kisses are his new favorite way of shutting her up.
Two days later, Felicity receives an absolutely ginormous Edible Arrangement at her desk, and she nearly snacks herself sick on strawberries and pineapple. For making him smile, the note says. How about lunch next Tuesday?
She introduces Thea to Big Belly Burger, and Thea introduces her to some of Oliver's more embarrassing childhood pictures. Really, it's win-win.
She doesn't realize how much has changed until the next time someone almost kills her.
This was supposed to be an easy one, in and out. The gunman isn't even aiming for her. He's trying to put a slug in the Arrow, shooting blindly through cubicles in hopes of a lucky hit. A stray round punches through two walls into the vice president's office. The pain slams Felicity to the floor.
John and Oliver both bellow her name. Even over the comm, Oliver's voice scares her.
"I'm ok!" she yells as John hits his knees next to her. She sits up, and he checks her over, fast and methodical. "Am I ok?"
He examines her bloody upper arm. "It's just a graze."
"Get her out of here," Oliver growls.
"You're using your murder voice," she cautions.
"Come on, let's get you fixed up," John says, pulling her to her feet. She closes out all the windows she's opened on the V.P.'s computer, destroys evidence of her presence, and shuts the whole thing down before she follows him out.
Back at the foundry, John helps her onto the exam table, where her feet dangle and she lets her ballet flats fall off. He cuts off her sleeve and washes away the blood. The cut looks almost like a burn, three and a half inches from one freckle to another. She can't help but notice how much gentler John is with her than with Oliver, Roy, or Sara when he cleans it out and smoothes on a butterfly bandage.
The door squeals open and slams shut. Oliver is barely down the steps when he announces, "No more field work."
"Did you kill him?" Felicity says.
He doesn't break his stride. "No."
"Are we any closer to finding out who hired him?" says John, folding his arms.
"Yes, we got a name," Oliver replies, stalking right past him. He throws his hood back, rips off his domino mask, and looms over Felicity. "No more field work."
He has eight inches and sixty pounds on her, and someone else's blood is still drying on his face in spatters. But she glares right back at him, steely and patient, and says, "Is that an order? Because that sounded like an order. John, would you call that an order?"
"Hey, things go wrong sometimes," John says calmly. "It was just a graze. We got what we were after, and everybody came home safe."
"Six inches to the right," Oliver snarls, "and it would have been toe tags instead of band-aids."
"We're in a dangerous line of work," Felicity says, sliding awkwardly off the exam table to step right up to him. "You take those kinds of risks every day. Who are you to tell me that I can't?"
If she were not a hundred percent, rock solid certain that this man would never, ever hurt her, the look on his face would be really frightening right now. "It's different with you, and you know it!"
"Oliver, I can handle it."
He's an ice-veined liar, but just occasionally he says something so startlingly sincere, it knocks her back on her heels. She lets the exam table prop her up. He takes a step back, fists clenching uselessly at his sides. He takes a couple of deep breaths, briefly consulting the ceiling for guidance.
"I'll be upstairs having a drink," John says quietly. He only pauses to lay a hand on Oliver's shoulder. It's like he's grounded a charge; some of the tension fizzles out.
When the door closes behind John, Felicity tries to make everything better all at once: the whole mess fixed in one breath. "I'm fine. Really, I am. I mean, the pain isn't fun, but that's only because grazes affect a layer of tissue that's very nerve-rich, so it hurts out of proportion to the actual damage. John says it'll heal up fast, and I'll be good as new. You regularly shrug off much worse than this, and we actually accomplished what we went in there to do, so – "
"It's different," he repeats, and he's not scary-looking at all now.
"Oliver," she sighs. "Listen to me."
He looks her right in the eyes, giving her the full and impressive weight of his attention. She's never met anyone else with such disciplined, total focus that he can make her feel like her next words are the only thing happening in the entire universe.
"If I can follow John out of a building where I'm pretty sure they're about to torture and kill you," she says quietly, stepping close and reaching for his hands, "then you can handle this."
He bypasses her hands and wraps her up in his arms. "Ok," he murmurs. Then his mouth is pressed close to her hair, so of his next three syllables, all she catches are vague vowel sounds and a v. She pulls a Han Solo anyway.