A/N: Ok, I know I have a lot of other things I should be working on right now… but this will not get out of my head. Be warned: this is depressing. There is a character death. I kind of hate myself for writing this, just a little bit. It is a strong T, briefly, but if you think it needs to go to M just let me know and I'll change it. All of that said, please read it!

The repetition of dialogue at the beginning is supposed to signify the words replaying and echoing in her head, not that they were actually repeated that many times.

Disclaimer: I don't own Arrow. The lyrics to Broken aren't mine either, sadly.

In the Pain (there is healing)

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain, there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

-Broken, Lifehouse

There's no way out. He can't save them both, and he isn't going to try. Her breathing is erratic as this realization hits her square in the face. Or maybe it was Slade. She can't be sure. Either way, tears gather in her eyes. She can't cry. She won't. But she looks to her left and she does.

"Oliver…" She tries again, her voice calm and controlled despite the growing pit of despair in her stomach. "You can't just give up."

"I have to." His voice breaks on the words. If he didn't have his hood up she's sure there would be tears visible on his cheeks.

"No! You can't let this bastard win!"

"I'm sorry."

"You can't just give up!"

"I have to."


"I'm sorry."

"You can't just give up!"

"I'm sorry."


Felicity jolts awake, breathing heavily. She's sitting upright on her couch, hand pressed to her chest in an attempt to calm her heart's erratic beating. For a brief moment, she's lucky enough to forget what happened. The blissful ignorance of waking clouds her mind for a split second before the banging brings her back to awareness. It wasn't just in her nightmare; there's someone at her door.

She opens it to find him slumped against the side of the frame, eyes just as haunted as she's sure hers are. The faint odour of whisky taints the air around him, but it's likely nothing compared to the stench of alcohol permeating her townhouse. No matter how much she drank the images wouldn't leave her head, so at some point she stopped. She must have finally passed out from the combination of alcohol and adrenaline crash, but the world still spins around her as she looks back at the ground as quickly as she'd looked up.

"What are you doing here?" She asks, her voice dull and hoarse. She won't look back up at him. She can't.

"I came to check on you," he responds in a voice just as hoarse, not bothering to hide the raw undercurrent of pain. Usually, it would compel her to look at him, offer him comfort, but she has none to give. "You left without saying anything."

She lifts the arm not holding the door out from her side. "Well, here am I. Four limbs, ten fingers, ten toes. You can go," she tells him, making to close the door. She wants to be alone.

His hand hits against it, stopping it in its tracks.

"Oliver… just go. Be with Sara," she pleads. She doesn't have the effort for this, for him. Not tonight. She's not sure if she'll ever have the effort again.

He makes a strangled sound that might have been a growl on another day. "You're more important."

It's enough to make the rage coiled in the pit of her stomach lash out. She snaps her eyes to meet his, and he jerks back when he catches sight of her expression. "Yeah, I got that," she bites out caustically.

The acid in her voice surprises him, but he regains his footing after a few seconds, squaring his jaw. "Felicity-"

"Don't. Don't you dare say a word. Just leave. I can't… I can't be around you right now." Her voice catches and she turns away to try to focus on anything except the man in front of her.

This time, when she tries to close the door, her lets her.

Saying she's prepared for what Slade has planned and actually being prepared are two very different things. She realizes this now, waking up in the non-descript, white-walled room. It isn't as desolate and void of hope as she imagined, but it definitely isn't a five star hotel. The last thing she can remember is going to bed, so someone must have gotten into her house at some point. Anxiety flits briefly through her mind as she hopes Digg is alright.

Until this moment, she'd been able to convince herself that she'd remain on the outside of this one. Oliver was more focused on pushing Sara and Laurel away, which helped her feel more secure in her assumption that Slade would target them, or Thea, before looking her way. Apparently, they were both wrong.

There's no way out that she can see. It seems all there is to do is wait. Oliver will come.

He's still outside her door in the morning. She heard him turn and slide down to her porch after she shut him out last night, but she'd assumed he'd eventually get up and go back to his girlfriend. She's the one he should be with right now. Yet as she opens her front door to get the paper (if she doesn't, the crotchety old man who delivers them will call the city and then they'll call her, asking if she'd like to cancel her subscription), she finds him slumped over against it. He nearly falls back against her legs, but manages to catch himself in time. He's on his feet before she can blink, eyes wide and pleading.

She takes a brief second to catalogue his disheveled appearance, the bags under his eyes giving away the very lack of sleep that's making her feel like a zombie. She knows she looks a mess herself, dressed in pajama pants and an oversized sweater, but she doesn't have it in her to care. Just as he opens his mouth to say something, she tears her eyes away, bends to retrieve the paper, and walks resolutely back into the house, closing him out once more. The sound of his knocking, softer than last night, follows her to the kitchen, but she ignores it. Last night is still too fresh. She can't hear whatever it is he wants to say to her. She can't listen to his excuses and apologies. There aren't enough words in the world to fix this.

He arrives right on schedule. Slade is busy posturing and proclaiming victory when the Black Canary approaches from behind. He doesn't even see her coming before she's on him, but he compensates for that rather quickly. The man can move. He's balancing both Sara and Oliver with little trouble. Roy probably would have been helpful, but he's preoccupied with Slade's lackeys several floors below.

Sara is the first one to fall when Slade sends her flying into the side of the building. The sickening crunch makes Felicity cringe as she watches the blonde crumple to the ground. Oliver stays focused, though she sees the tightening of his jaw as he battles on. He's getting worried. She feels the pit of anxiety in her stomach start to flutter as Slade gains the upper hand. Her faith in her ability to escape this alive rested on Oliver and Sara being able to take Slade down, but she's now realizing how foolish that hope was. The man has super strength, for crying out loud.

She glances to her left, panic finally filling her as she realizes that she may actually die tonight.

She tries everything to get her mind off it. Television doesn't hold her interest, and she can't even stomach trying the computer. She even gets so desperate as to dig out her old attempts at knitting. Her grandmother tried to teach her when she was a teenager, but it wasn't successful.

No matter what she does, though, the images keep creeping back, the sounds keep echoing through her mind. She can't make herself forget like she desperately needs to. She can't even sleep to pass the time. Every time she tries, the same nightmares play on a loop.


She draws in a gasp of air that stutters halfway through. She's too shocked to react at first, her brain moving sluggishly to keep up with what just happened.

She sits listlessly on the couch, trying not to let herself drift back to sleep. Despite her protests, her eyelids start to droop.

Close your eyes.

She jolts back to awareness, eyes flying open. No, sleeping isn't an option.

She hates the waiting. It's the worst part. She wishes Slade would just get on with it already. It would be much more effective if he didn't give the team time to plan.

Sighing, she flops down on the cot provided for her. It's not very comfortable, but it could be worse. Maybe sleeping will take her mind off her situation. She hates being trapped without any way to help. Slade stripped her of all electronics and her shoes, which held the tracking chip she jokingly installed in every single pair of hers, Oliver's, Digg's, and even Sara's and Roy's shoes. Digg had laughed at her when she made the request, but turned over every single pair of his shoes. She hadn't expected him to, but once he did, they all did, so she was left with no choice. Could have been useful at this point, though.

But no, she is the definition of damsel in distress right now. All she can do is pace and sleep and stare at the ceiling while she waits for Oliver to fix this. And he will fix this. He has to.

He's still outside her door when night falls; she can hear him breathing. He breaks the silence only to occasionally call out her name, as though if he says it enough she'll change her mind and let him in. She won't, and she wonders how long it will take him to get that. Slade won, and there's nothing either of them can do but move on. The man may be dead, but he lives on in each of them. The end of his life didn't erase his actions during it. All it did was leave them with no one to punish.

Two days later, she can hear murmured voices outside the door, one Oliver's, the other female. Great. Sara's here. She doesn't actively try to eavesdrop, but she can still hear them through the door. Vaguely, she wonders if it's intentional, but she finds that she doesn't care one way or another.

"Ollie, you can't just camp out here until she opens the door."

He says nothing.

"Ollie, come on. She needs some space. You have to eat. You have to sleep."

She thinks it's strange, the rush of gratitude she feels toward Sara Lance in that moment. She understands.

"I have to see Felicity," is all he says in return. His voice is flat, lifeless. It would break her heart if it weren't already broken.

"Ollie, just give her a few days. She's been through a lot."

"She shouldn't be alone." God, he's stubborn.

She hears Sara sigh. "Why don't you give us a second? Let me talk to her. I understand where she's at right now, Ollie. I've been there."

He must give her a strange look, because Felicity hears Sara's deep intake of breath.

"Look, I know you're hurting, and I know you didn't mean for any of this to happen but it did. A choice was made. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right, but you had to make a choice. You have to live with the decision, but she… she has to live with being the decision."

"Give it up, kid. You're beaten," Slade pants out, laughing breathlessly. "It's time to do what you came here for. It's time to choose."

"I- I won't," Oliver gasps, his breath laboured. He's dropped to his knees on the cement in exhaustion. "K-Kill me, Slade. It's what you want. N-No one else h-has to die."

Slade is shaking his head. "That's not how this works and you know it."

She knows how this is going to end now. She trusted him to have a plan, but his plan failed. Slade's right; he is beaten; they are beaten. One man has managed to defeat a team of five. With the help of a few super-soldiers, but the specifics aren't important. None of it is important because Oliver's staying down. He isn't getting to his feet like he should, like she expects.

The thought is enough to anger her. "Oliver. Get up. Fight."

He raises his hooded head a fraction of an inch to meet her eyes. She can tell just by looking at him that he won't do as she says.

"Oliver…" She tries again, her voice calm and controlled despite the growing pit of despair in her stomach. "You can't just give up."

"I have to." His voice breaks on the words. If he didn't have his hood up she's sure there would be tears visible on his cheeks.

"No! You can't let this bastard win!"

"I'm sorry." With those words, he turns away from her to look up at Slade. It's time to choose.

The sound of footsteps retreating gets her attention from where it's been focused on her wall. They're too heavy to belong to Sara. Felicity stands and moves cautiously to the door, unable to resist the urge to watch him walk away from her, if only to see him one last time. Through the window, she sees the slumped shoulders on his retreating form and almost feels the stirring of some kind of emotion in the pit of her stomach. She pushes it away, though. She can't preoccupy herself with his pain when she's too full of her own.

The knock this time is softer, as is Sara's voice when she calls out to her. It isn't like Oliver's, and Felicity finds herself turning the lock because of it. Maybe Sara can help; maybe she can understand in a way Oliver never will.

Sara gives her a tight smile devoid of happiness. "Can I come in?"

Wordlessly, Felicity steps back, catching sight of Oliver's dejected form on the sidewalk as she does. She refuses to let her eyes linger, closing the door firmly behind her.

In truth, she's never been more confused about her emotions in her life. Part of her wants to reach out, wants to help him, but a larger part of her can't. Every time she looks at him she remembers… She stops that train of thought before it can leave the station, squeezing her eyes shut against it.

Close your eyes.

Her eyelids snap back open and she moves purposefully toward the kitchen, needing something to do with her hands. It's easier to just shut it all off and not feel anything except anger.

"I won't claim to know exactly what you're going through," Sara starts, voice gentle, "But I know some of it. Being the choice isn't easy."

"It should have been me," she mumbles, wiping the spotless counter down with a cloth.

"If the situation were reversed, would you want-"

"The answer to your question is no," Felicity cuts her off, "But that doesn't make it any easier."

They're silent for a few more minutes before Felicity finally stops trying to find things to do. Bracing her hands on the counter in front of her, she raises her head to look at the other blonde. Her eyes are calm, patient. She's waiting her out.

"How do you live with it?" She finally whispers. Tears are once again burning her eyes but she blinks them back.

Sara's eyes fill with empathy and she gives her a sad smile. "Take it one day at a time. You find a way to deal with it and slowly start feeling grateful for the second chance you got. I… I keep Shado with me. I didn't know her, but I don't forget her. I feel like I owe it to her to live, you know? You can't lose yourself in the grief forever, Felicity."

"I don't think I'm going to get through this," she admits, her voice barely audible.

"You will," Sara assures her, laying her hand over Felicity's on the counter. "You're stronger than you think. Start by letting the people who love you help pick up the pieces. You can do this, just not alone."

Felicity shakes her head. "I don't think I can look at him. Every time I do…"

"Don't blame him for this. It wasn't his fault," Sara urges.

Felicity hears the words, knows on some level that they're true, but can't bring herself to nod. Part of her is still convinced this is a dream. The part that isn't needs somewhere to focus her anger. She needs someone to blame, and Slade is dead. She needs a living target to make sense of all of this, and Oliver is so conveniently primed for it. It's unfair, she knows, but the whole situation is unfair and nonsensical.

"Slade pulled that trigger, Felicity."

Her anger flares, eyes snapping up to Sara's viciously. "But Oliver pointed the gun!"

"Time to make a choice, kid. Who's it going to be?" Slade asks, swiveling the gun from one to the other.

"They don't deserve this, Slade."

"Neither did Shado."

The next voice that adds to the dialogue isn't Oliver's, Slade's, or Felicity's. "Oliver. It's ok. Save Felicity."

She regrets the words immediately, clapping her hand over her mouth and spinning to look anywhere but at Sara. She can't believe she just said that. Fresh tears prick her eyes at her sheer callousness. She may be angry, but she never intended to be cruel.

For her part, Sara remains silent, allowing Felicity a moment to collect herself. "You know that's not true. You don't believe it for a second. You're angry, and you need someone to blame. I get it, but Ollie isn't that person. He didn't ask for this to happen, and it wasn't just his choice."

"I- I didn't-" Felicity stutters as Sara makes her way to the door.

Sara stops with her hand on the knob, turning back to her. "You know, Slade was so sure this would break the two of you. Ollie said he agreed, but some small part of him must have had hope that he was wrong, because I've never seen him so broken. I know what shattered hope looks like, and that's all I see when I look at him now. I've never really seen a lot of hope in him in the first place, but whatever small piece he had disappeared the second you shut him out. Just remember, he lost someone, too. You need each other."

When Sara leaves, Felicity slides down the cupboard, tears finally escaping when she hits the ground.

Slade laughs maniacally. "Do you honestly think she's going to be able to forgive you for this?"

Felicity's brain is starting to lag behind everything that's happening. What is Slade saying? What's going on?

Oliver grits his teeth, but Felicity's attention is drawn to where Sara has started twitching against the brick just behind him. She's moving too slowly, though. She won't be alert enough to do anyone any good at this point.

"She's never going to be able to look at you again without remembering what happened here tonight. Wouldn't it just be better to put her out of her misery?"

When she's re-emptied her tear ducts, she stands and busies herself with making supper. She has no idea what time it is, but it's probably been more than twenty-four hours since she last ate. She may not be hungry, but her body needs food if it's going to keep surviving. Sara was right about one thing: as much as she doesn't want to, she has to keep on living. That, and she needs something to distract herself. Sara's words are eating away at her anger, chipping and cracking the shell it's formed around her grief. Anger is safe. She needs to stay angry if she's going to keep functioning. She needs to stay angry if she's going to keep Oliver out.

He's still sitting on her porch, having resumed his vigil once Sara departed. She heard the woman trying to convince him to go with her, but he remained behind. It seems that Sara has reached the end of her rope where Oliver is concerned, not that she can blame her. She knows she wouldn't react well to her boyfriend camping out on another woman's porch, no matter what went down beforehand. She heard what Sara said to him before she left, even though she tried not to.

"Sara, I-" His voice sounds truly lost.

"I understand, Ollie. I'm not the one you need, and that's okay."

She's not sure how she ended up back in the foundry, but she does know that she doesn't want to be here. It seems cold, empty; she can't remember why she ever felt at home in this basement. She's standing by her computers, watching without really seeing. Oliver is staring at her, wiping the left side of her face gently with a wash cloth, but she doesn't look back. She can't look at him while he cleans the blood off her face. Her thoughts are disjointed and it almost feels as though she isn't really present. It's like she's detached from her body and she doesn't like it.

When he finishes, tearing his eyes from her to go change, she ascends the stairs. She needs to get away, to distance herself from it all. She doesn't feel guilty about leaving him behind without a word.

When she finishes with the food, she realizes she's subconsciously made enough for two. Sighing, she turns her head toward the door, back to the food. The image of Oliver sitting outside, likely starving himself to death, stirs whatever humanity is left in the deep recesses of her mind, and she crosses the room before she can debate about it. She doesn't stay in the doorway, opting instead to just pull it open and leave it hanging there as she heads back to the kitchen. It's an invitation, but a wary one.

His face looks appropriately cautious as he steps into the kitchen. Wordlessly, she holds out a plate to him.

"Do you want me to go back out to the porch?" He asks, his voice thick.

She considers for a second, recognizing the out he's giving her, but finally shakes her head. Being in the same room is helping, even if she can't look at him.

"Felicity-" He starts, but she raises her hand to cut him off. She may not want him to starve, but she can't have this conversation right now. She's not sure if she can ever have it.

"Can we just eat in silence?" She asks tiredly.

He nods, deciding to take what he can get.

It's time. She hears the footsteps before the door opens and she knows. Her wait is over.

The man on the other side of the barrier is wearing some form of battle suit with two swords at his back. One of his eyes is covered by an eyepatch. He must be Slade.

"Come along, dear. It's time for you to join the party."

She walks obediently in front of him after he binds her hands together, seeing no chance for escape.

Felicity is rather proud of herself for holding it together as well as she has thus far. That ends when they reach their destination and she spots her companion.

He takes her plate from her when she's done and heads to the sink to wash the dishes.

"You don't have to-" She starts.

"I want to."

She doesn't raise another protest, instead choosing to stare out the window while the sound of clanking china fills the house. When he's finished, he returns to sit across from her, eyes drinking her in. She tries to ignore it, the feeling of his eyes on her, but she can't.

"You haven't been sleeping," he observes.

She says nothing. She's afraid that if she starts she won't stop.

He sighs, ducking his head momentarily before returning his piercing gaze to her. "Felicity, please. Talk to me. Let me help you."

She scoffs. "You want to talk?" Her hands slap against the table to propel herself to her feet. The anger is back, and she welcomes it. To Hell with not being ready; she just wants to get this over with. "Fine. Let's talk."

"Felicity, I'm-"

"No," she snaps. "Don't you dare tell me you're sorry. Don't apologize, don't tell me you wish it had been different, don't give me empty platitudes. It's not different, and it's not going to be. No matter how you wrap it up, John's still dead!"

"Digg," she breathes out, panic hitting her full in the face. This isn't how it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be Laurel, or Sara, not him.

He turns his head at the sound of her voice, eyes closing in resignation.

"What- how-?" Her brain won't catch up.

Slade laughs. "I have to thank you for making my job easier. Pretty convenient, you two in the same place."

Oliver's eyes flare with anger as he stands. "Yes, John is dead. You're not the only one who lost him, Felicity!"

"You think I don't know that? You think I don't spend every waking moment I'm not seeing his face thinking about all the people he's never going to see again?! It's all I think about. He's gone and I'm still here because you two made a bilateral decision about my life and there's nothing I can do about it!" She's yelling now, surpassing her Loud Voice by miles. She doesn't think she's ever reached this volume before.

Digg looks far calmer for every second she allows her panic to grow. "Oliver. It's ok. Save Felicity."

"Wh-What?" She stumbles over the word, her breathing frantic. She might be having a panic attack, but it doesn't matter. She could be dead soon anyways. "John, no. Don't."

"Remember what you promised me, man," Digg continues, ignoring Felicity's confused protests, "what we promised each other, when we brought her in."

Felicity's head swivels between her two partners at lightning speed, trying to understand the silent conversation taking place. "What's going on? What are you talking about? John!"

Oliver gives the other man the smallest of nods and turns back to Slade.

"We didn't just make a choice, Felicity!" Oliver shouts back, advancing on her. She takes two involuntary steps back. "We made-" His voice breaks, and when he continues, it's softer. His eyes are focused on the ground. "We made a promise to each other when we brought you into this. We said we'd always protect you."

She feels like he just slapped her. "So this is your version of protecting me, then?"

"You're here, aren't you?" His eyes are focused on hers once again, but she can't handle the hurricane of emotion swirling within the blue depths. She looks away.

"Because the two of you decided that for some reason my life is more important than his!" She cries, throwing her arms out to the side. "But it's not, Oliver! My life is not more important than his and you made it more important and I don't know if I can forgive you for that!"

She's definitely panicking. John is steadily meeting her gaze, Oliver is glaring at Slade, and Slade is chuckling darkly.

"So the choice is made then."

"The choice is made," Diggle replies, voice soft.

"What? No! No, it's not! John!" She shouts in desperation, head still swivelling. "Oliver!"

Digg inhales deeply, giving her a half-smile. "You'll be ok, Felicity."

"No!" The word breaks on a sob as the reality finally hits her. John is going to die for her. Oliver is going to let him.

"Close your eyes, Felicity."

"John is dead," she tells him, her voice resuming its dull quality, "and I know you're sorry and I know you're hurt and I know it's not fair, but every time I look at you I see him and I just can't… I need space, Oliver. I can't be around you."

He steps closer, so close she can feel the tension radiating from his chest. "I won't leave you alone to deal with this."

She throws her head back in exasperation, the anger starting to prick at the edges of her vision again. Her emotions are on overdrive, switching back and forth so fast it's a wonder she doesn't have whiplash. "After the Undertaking I gave you your space! Five months of it! And you won't even leave me the hell alone for a few days!"

"Because I can't! I can't abandon you! I can't let you down like I did him! He'd never forgive me, Felicity, and I know I'd never forgive myself."

"Why? Because I'm important to you?" She snaps. It's cruel, but she can't stop the words from escaping.

"Yes!" He shouts, taking another step closer. She tries to back up but hits a wall. "Because you're important to me! You're the most important person in my life and I don't know how to live without you and John knew that!"

"Wh-what?" She chokes out. Tears are streaming freely down her cheeks now. She doesn't even try to stop them.

"Close your eyes. You don't want to see this," he tells her softly.

"What- John-" Her brain is whirling so fast she can't keep up, can't process what he's saying or what's happening. This can't be real.



She draws in a gasp of air that stutters halfway through as John Diggle drops to the cement, dead.

She swallows, unable to think of anything to say to that. It certainly wasn't the response she was expecting.

His voice is stronger when he continues, her silence giving him more confidence. "You're important to both of us, and neither of us could live with ourselves if we let you die."

"But you think we can live with ourselves?" Her voice is dripping acid. "You think I can live with the fact that he's dead because of me?"

"He's not dead because of you."

"I'm the one standing here, Oliver! It was a choice between him and me and I'm standing here!" Her voice is breaking but she holds onto her anger all the same. She can't let it go. They played God with her life and they had no right.

"Yes, you are!" He roars, eliminating all semblance of personal space between them. He towers over her and she gulps. "You're standing here and it makes me even worse than you think I am because I'm glad! My friend is dead and I'm looking at you right now and part of me is relieved that it wasn't you! I-"

She can't hear anything over the blood rushing in her ears. One second ago, John was kneeling beside her, eyes boring into hers, and now he's gone.

Close your eyes.

She can't. She can't close her eyes, she can't move her head, she can't say anything. Her breath is coming in sharp gasps coupled with strangled sobs but she barely notices. Just like she barely registers the shout of despair coming from Oliver or the roar of pain from Slade.

She doesn't notice when the Australian's body falls behind her, sword sticking out from his chest where Roy stabbed him, too late to save John. She doesn't notice when Sara moves gingerly to help the kid deal with the body of the man who took so much from all of them. She doesn't even notice when Oliver closes the distance between them in three large strides and yanks her to her feet. His arms wrap too tightly around her, but she's too numb to care. He's whispering something to her, and she's sure he's crying, but it's all just white noise. She doesn't hug him back. She doesn't even acknowledge him.

All she can do is stand limply in his arms.

All she can see is John's body lying to their left and his blood on the pavement, slowly pooling around his head.

The left side of her face feels wet, and she realizes it must be blood. John's blood. The thought is enough to force a reaction as she wrenches herself from Oliver's arms to vomit. He holds her hair back.

His voice cuts out. He's standing so close to her, his body pinning hers to the wall, that when his head bows it lands on her shoulder. Felicity can feel the moisture seeping through her shirt from his tears and the final strand of fight abandons her. She can't hate him for this. It isn't his fault. He's just as broken as she is.

"I can't lose you," he finally murmurs into the skin of her neck. His voice is thick with tears and she can't push him away. She doesn't want to.

Taking a deep, shaky breath, she brings her arms up to wrap around his shoulders. The fingers of one hand comb through his hair soothingly and she presses her lips to the top of his head.

"You won't," she whispers back.

His head raises, blue meeting blue. She reaches out automatically to brush the moisture from his cheeks. There's no trace of anger in either of their expressions for the first time since he knocked on her door. Not much time has passed; it feels like forever and the blink of an eye all at once and she doesn't know when she will ever feel normal again. But Sara was right. They need each other. She can't do this alone, and neither can he.

She isn't sure who moves first, but suddenly they're kissing. Her arms are winding around his neck and his are banding around her waist. It isn't a kiss born purely of desire or love or anything simple. It's a need to forget, and the realization that they can help each other do that, even for a second. It's an understanding of mutual grief and comfort, an assurance that, even though John is dead, they are both very much alive. It's not soft, slow, and romantic, but it's not hot and passionate either. In fact, it's rough and rushed and borders on desperate, but neither of them care. Their clothes are hitting the floor and their tongues are warring for dominance and they just want to feel something normal again. Sex is normal.

It happens so fast that neither of them can consider the ramifications. Usually both so rational and controlled, they're throwing the book out the window. He's lifting her up and she's wrapping her legs around his waist and he's pushing her back against the wall. Her nails are digging into his back, likely leaving scratches, and he's biting her neck so hard it's a wonder he doesn't draw blood, but neither of them notice. They don't even make it to her bedroom, compromising for her living room couch.

When it's over, they both lay panting, bodies pressed together. His face hovers over hers, their lips barely touching as what just happened registers with both of them. For a split second, they're able to forget why it happened in the first place, but awareness returns all too soon.

He moves first, sitting up and putting some distance between them as they redress. The tension in the room is almost as thick as before and she can feel the first stirrings of something close to regret in her gut. What did they just do?

"You should go," she finally tells him, breaking the silence stretching between them. She can't look at him, but it's for a different reason this time. She doesn't want to see the expression on his face, doesn't want to see the regret and pity there. She doesn't need him to actually say the words; they're already echoing in her head. He'll tell her it was a mistake, and it was. He'll tell her that it can never happen again, and it can't.

She sees him nod in her peripheral vision, and he's out the door before she can collect herself. Strange, how all he wanted mere hours ago was for her to open the door, and now he can't wait to close it.

She secludes herself in her bedroom for three days, only emerging for food. He hasn't come back, but she has a number of missed calls and unanswered texts from him to prove he isn't completely avoiding her. She's avoiding him, though.

What happened was a mistake; that much she knows. As good as it felt to release the pent up tension and gain that small moment of blissful ignorance, it was wrong. John is dead and she and Oliver decide the best way to deal with that is to fuck each other? How fucked up is that?

If he were here, Digg would be the very definition of disappointed. She could just imagine the look on his face. Tears pool in her eyes at the thought and she tries to clamp down on her brain. Diggle isn't here. He's not here to give her that look that says he expected more from her, from both of them. She'll never see that look again.

It was easier to deal with this when she was mad at Oliver.

He shows up on the fifth day. She considers ignoring his soft rap at the door, but knows she can't ignore him forever.

He looks much the same as he did the last time he was here. His eyes are still rimmed in red, the dark circles more pronounced. Her breath catches a little at the sight of him, but not in the good, butterflies kind of way. She isn't sure the butterflies will ever come back, and not just for Oliver. They tore a hole in her stomach trying to escape, and though it remains ripped wide open for them to return, she doesn't expect them to. There's too much sadness inside her for them to survive.

Somehow they wind up wrapped around each other once more, this time in her bed. He doesn't leave immediately after, and she doesn't kick him out. After four days of solitude, having human connection actually feels good, so good that she pushes down the guilt gnawing at her stomach. Instead, she turns into his chest and he tightens his arms around her and they pretend nothing exists outside her bedroom door.

It becomes something of a habit. He shows up at her door with increasing frequency and she stands aside to let him in. They don't waste time pretending he's there for anything else.

Each time he stays longer and she feels less guilty. Eventually they start talking. It's halting, broken sentences at first, slowly working their way up to more. She doesn't yell at him or accuse him of making the choice again. She knows how unfair it was to do it in the first place, and making him feel guilty for making her feel guilty isn't going to help either one of them. She's still mad at him, and John, for taking the choice away from her, but telling him that isn't going to help. It will only make things worse. She's convinced that time will start to mend the betrayal she feels, just as it's allowing her to look at Oliver and see just Oliver.

Sara leaves town a month later, following Laurel to Coast City. Oliver doesn't show up that night, and she knows it's because of the guilt. They never talked about how he and Sara officially ended things, or when. It could have been outside her door that first night, or it could have been in the days following; she's not sure. Just another thing in a long list to feel guilty about.

With her and John gone, it leaves the two of them and Roy. The kid is all for giving them their space, but Felicity can see it in his eyes when they run into each other in public. He's torn up about the way it went down, too, but he wants to keep going. There was a time when she thought she'd never be unwilling to head down the foundry, but now she can't even stomach the thought of it. She isn't ready, and isn't sure she'll ever be.

"Would you ever consider… going back?" She asks tentatively. They're lying in her bed once again, limbs tangled with limbs wrapped in sheets. Her fingers absently draw patterns on his naked chest while his trace a path down her arm and back again. It's become a strange, unspoken ritual of theirs. Happier people might call it cuddling, but they aren't happier people.

He stiffens, but is silent for a beat longer than she expects. "No."

She's prepared for the answer, knew it was coming, but there's a hint of doubt already in his tone that she thinks might make her job easier. "You should."

She can feel him shaking his head. "I can't."

They're silent for a few minutes before she feels his intake of breath under her ear.

"Would you?" He murmurs.

"No," she answers, her voice thick. He doesn't try to change her mind, just tightens his arms around her and tells her to go to sleep. He never tells her to close her eyes, and she's grateful for that.

Five months after the death of John Diggle, Oliver shows up at her door, but instead of inviting him inside, she tells him to get in her car. He looks surprised for a second before dutifully following her to the Mini Cooper. It's not that they haven't gone out in the past five months, but he likely doesn't expect her to want to tonight of all nights. But tonight she feels ok in a way she hasn't in months, and she wants to take advantage of that.

She won't tell him where they're going, so he resigns himself to sitting back and trusting her. When the buildings on the street become increasingly run down, though, his posture straightens.

"No," he snaps, eyes wild with anger.

"Yes," she argues, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the road.

He breathes deeply. "I thought you said you wouldn't go back."

"I changed my mind," she tells him simply. "I needed some space, but I think it's time."

He refuses to get out of the car, so she does the only thing she can think of: she parks three blocks away and gets out to start walking.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" He hisses, maneuvering his body to block hers. Success.

"Going to the foundry," she tells him. Her arms are crossed in front of her chest in a challenge.



He sighs, running a hand through his hair. "Get back in the car."

"No. I didn't think I'd ever be able to stomach the idea of going back down there, but for the first time in months I feel like I should. I owe it to John to keep living. We owe it to him to keep living," she parrots Sara's words at him. For the first time since the other blonde said them, Felicity believes them. She does owe it to John to keep living, and this was a huge part of her life. She can't shut herself away and lose herself in the grief forever, and neither can Oliver. They need each other, but they also need this.

Oliver grits his teeth. "In order to keep living we need to be alive."

So that's what it's about. She reaches up to touch his cheek, not backing down when he flinches. "We can't be truly alive if we don't live."

He frowns at her words. "We don't need this to live."

"Yes we do."

He has to know she's right. She can see the war in his eyes as he tries to deny it. They need the purpose this mission gave them; without it they're floundering. Doing it without Digg will be hard, but they'll get through it.

"I swore I'd protect you," he whispers. His eyes flit around, never landing on any one thing for long as they fill with tears. "I made a promise, but I've proven time and time again that I can't keep you safe in this life."

The smile on her face is sad as she brings his gaze down to hers with the other hand on his cheek. "You don't have to make any promises. It's my life and I'm choosing this. It was my decision before to stick around, and it's my decision now."

He looks lost and vulnerable and her heart is aching. "I can't lose you."

Reaching up, she wraps her arms around his neck firmly. It takes a moment for him to return the gesture, but when he does she whispers in his ear, "You won't."

It takes some more convincing, but she finally manages to at least get him to go inside with her. She won't admit it, because she's trying to be the strong one here, but she needs him with her. She can't face the basement alone, not after the last time she was down here. So when she holds out her hand and he threads his fingers through hers, she breathes a sigh of relief.

It takes another few months to get him to put on the hood, but they're making progress. She didn't realize how much getting back down here would help. The emptiness she'd been feeling for so long wasn't just because of John.

She wasn't aware of it happening, but somewhere along the way she started feeling better, like life is worth living after all. Not only does she owe it to John, but she wants to. She can look in a mirror and hold her own gaze now. She can smile without feeling guilty about it.

They've formed a new trio, and while Roy will never take John's place, the three of them work well together. It's different, but not in a bad way.

Another thing that's good-different: sometimes she and Oliver just lie in bed (fully clothed) wrapped in each other's arms now. They don't need the physical release to give them peace any longer, though that's not saying they don't enjoy it. They've somehow become more than they started out as, not just an attempt to deal with their grief anymore. They need each other in new, different ways.

"I love you." He murmurs the words into her hair one night while their pajama-clad legs are tangled together. They've been mostly silent thus far, preferring to just soak in each other's presence.

The words come as a shock, and she raises her head to look at him. The fingers that were playing with her hair still but remain tangled in the blonde tresses. His eyes are earnest and her lips part a little in surprise. She can honestly say she didn't see this coming. Oliver has never been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, and she never expected him to. If anything, she expected him to acknowledge the words coming from her own lips in that silent way he does. She never expected him to voice them aloud, let alone first.

It's taking her too long to wrap her head around it and she can see him backtracking. "I love you, too," she assures, smiling softly.

When he captures her lips with his, Felicity feels the full force fluttering of wings in her stomach and smiles into the kiss, knowing she's going to be ok, that they're going to be ok.

A/N: Ok, wow, that ran away from me really fast. I always think I'm going to write short little one-shots and then 8000 words later… Anyways, I definitely can't see the show going there, but the plot bunny attacked and it wouldn't leave me alone. Those things are vicious. I always encourage reviews because, well, I'm curious what you thought. I'm not totally sure how I feel about everything that went down, especially all the healing bits because I really was planning to just leave it all depressing and angsty after that first time they had sex… but I decided that was cruel and I couldn't bring myself to do it. So, we got a bit of a disjointed, time-jumpy look at how they put themselves back together after. Also, in my head, Oliver and Sara were over that night on the porch, I just didn't really know how to make them have that conversation. It didn't really fit anywhere. Thoughts? Hatred for killing Digg? I'll take anything but rotten fruit.