A/N: Thank you so much for all of your lovely feedback! I loved reading each and every review! So, this chapter. It took on a life of its own. I hope you enjoy it!
Felicity trudged up the stairway, one large tote bag filled with bath accessories thrown over her shoulder and a large box marked "fall boots" in her arms. Lydia waited for her at the doorway, keeping the door open as Felicity walked past her and grumbled, "Remind me to never help someone move again."
"Well, since I'm the only person I care about you helping – and you already are – I will gladly remind you! Except, of course, if Larry and I move to a larger apartment."
Felicity dropped the box on the floor and shot Lydia a look.
"Which will not be for a very long time," Lydia assured her. "And, not to be nit picky, but could you be a little more careful with the boxes?"
"They're boots, Lyd. It's not like they're going to break."
"Yes, but some of the other ones have breakable things in them."
Felicity shook her head, walking out of the apartment and down the stairs back to the moving truck that still was more than half full. She thought to herself – not for the first time – that she should have gotten Oliver to help. But, things had been weird between them since the night she went home with Mike. He went back to the couch, and he started going for morning runs again. They were hardly ever in the house at the same time, save for nights, and then he wasn't particularly chatty. He was cordial, of course, because if Oliver was anything he was polite, but it was a stilted politeness that she'd seen him use on socialites at benefits. It wasn't how he acted with her.
Except, now it was apparently.
"So, you were telling me that Oliver was acting weird," Lydia prompted, following Felicity out to the truck. She picked up a box and rested it heavily on her hip as she waited for Felicity to continue.
"Yeah, it's just…" she trailed off, pulling forward a box that was labeled as frog figurines. "I can't believe you brought these all with you."
"I have to," Lydia said. "Larry still thinks I love frogs, remember?"
Felicity snorted, lifting the box and heading back toward the apartment. Back when Lydia and Larry were first dating he'd gone to one of Lydia's friends for help with a one month anniversary gift. The friend, wanting to be funny, said that Lydia had a thing for frogs, which prompted Larry to buy Lydia a small frog figurine for the anniversary. Lydia, not wanting to hurt his feelings, pretended to love it. Since then, she got some sort of frog figurine from Larry at every major holiday.
"You know, you could just tell him."
"He'd be mortified," Lydia said. "Besides, they're not that bad. I don't love them, but sometimes you have to go along with things you don't love for someone you do love."
Felicity considered that as her and Lydia brought the boxes into the apartment. Maybe she was right. When you loved someone you made sacrifices. And sometimes that meant collecting frog figurines that you didn't like.
"So, come on, out with the Oliver stuff. I want the full story."
"I don't even know what the story is."
Lydia gave her a look.
"You know the story. I know the story, and I'm not even living there. Sit on the couch." She gestured toward the plush leather couch. "I'm giving us a ten minute break to hear this story."
"It's like something shifted between us," Felicity said, sitting down and propping her feet up on the coffee table. Lydia promptly pushed her feet off.
"Well, yeah. That happens when you sleep with someone else."
"We didn't sleep together," Felicity said. "We were just in the same bed."
"Yeah, I don't understand why you do that. You had two hot guys in bed and you didn't sleep with either."
"It's not like that with Oliver and I," Felicity said for what felt like the eightieth time. "And Mike…I don't know…it didn't feel right."
"Maybe it's because your heart was in another bed?" Lydia said leadingly.
"No," Felicity said immediately, shaking her head.
"Come on, you don't spend every night in bed with someone unless you have feelings for them. Sure, one time after a night of drinking – totally normal. Weeks on end? You like him."
"I don't like him," Felicity said. It sounded so juvenile. You liked your chemistry partner in high school. You liked the guy you chatted with in the produce section at the grocery store. You didn't like someone like Oliver. Not after everything they'd been through.
"Okay, you don't like him," Lydia relented. "But you're more than friends. At least admit that. You have some sort of quasi-feelings for him."
"Fine," Felicity relented "Maybe I have some sort of quasi-feelings for him. We've been through a lot together."
"That's vague," Lydia deadpanned.
"He's really been there for me. I don't have many friends in Starling. He's been a good one."
"Well, then maybe you should talk to him. Ask him what he thinks is going on."
Felicity shook her head. "Oliver doesn't talk. It's not his thing."
"It's not his thing?" Lydia repeated, shaking her head. "Well, you tell him to make it his thing. Otherwise, you guys are going to lose each other. I'm serious. I've seen good friendships go like this. I don't want that to happen to you two."
"What if…" Felicity trailed off, swallowing hard. "What if we can't get past it? Whatever's happened?"
"At least you'll have tried," Lydia said after a moment. "If you don't, you'll regret it."
Lydia's cell phone rang and she pulled it from her pocket, murmuring that it wouldn't be a long call before clicking into it. Felicity listened casually, catching a time and Lydia saying, "Yes, I will be there. Thank you."
After Lydia hung up Felicity asked, "Who was that?"
Lydia paused for a moment before saying, "It was Dr. Martin's office. He's downtown, I think."
"Yeah," Felicity said, nodding. "He's only a few blocks down from Queen Consolidated."
Felicity knew he was a fertility specialist, but waited for Lydia to bring it up. Sure enough, after another beat Lydia spoke.
"Larry and I have been trying for almost half a year now. And, obviously, we haven't had much luck. We just want to…hear what our options are, you know?"
"That makes sense," Felicity said. Lydia didn't respond and Felicity reached over and squeezed Lydia's knee reassuringly. "Why don't we get back to those boxes?"
Felicity came home to find Oliver at the kitchen table, his laptop open in front of him. He was engrossed in whatever he was looking at, and offered her a casual greeting without his eyes leaving the screen. She took off her coat and hung it up in the front closet. As she walked into the kitchen to make some dinner, she tentatively asked, "What are you looking at?"
Her hand stilled on the refrigerator handle. He didn't offer any more information, but she supposed she didn't need any. After catching her breath she glanced over her shoulder and asked, "How's it looking?"
"Pretty good. I called up a place and scheduled a tour for tomorrow."
"Already?" she asked, pulling open the refrigerator door. She stared at the various leftovers in the refrigerator, having no idea which to choose. Her previously grumbling stomach had stilled, and nothing looked appetizing. She settled on some left over pizza.
"Don't you think that's a little quick?" she asked, stepping over to the counter and settling her back against it.
"No. I've been here a few months now. The dojo isn't great money, but it's enough for me to get by."
"You're not looking in bad areas, right?" she pressed. "Because, I know you can take care of yourself and all of that, but some things are dangerous even to you."
"I'm not looking at bad areas," he said. "I'm actually looking at places by the dojo. It would cut down my commute and –"
"Why would you live by the dojo? That job is temporary."
Oliver shot her an irritated look. "I know the job is temporary. If you let me finish I would've said that I also really like the area. It's nice and has a lot of cool places."
"I think you're rushing things," Felicity held stubbornly, peeling back the foil on the plate of pizza and plucking a piece from the top, eating it cold. "You can't jump at the first place that looks good. This sort of thing requires research. And time. A lot of time."
Oliver shook his head. "You do realize, Felicity, that I was always going to move out? This – what we have – it's temporary. It was always meant to be temporary. Especially now…"
"Now what?" she shot back, feeling her cheeks flush. So much of what he said bothered her. The tone. The insinuation that she was making more of their living arrangement than was really there. But all of that was difficult to bring up. That last part, though, was just asking for it.
"You're dating someone. I assume you want him in your apartment at some point."
"Don't bring him into this," she argued heatedly. "He has nothing to do with this."
"I'm not trying to start an argument here," Oliver returned, his voice raising in spite of his intentions to not start an argument. She didn't know how they ended up here, yelling at each other. She came home, hoping to smooth things over, and this happened.
"I'm just looking at the facts here. You have a boyfriend now. It doesn't make sense for me to be living here if I can be somewhere else. And I can be. I'm trying to help you out."
"I don't want you to leave!" she yelled. It was only after she said it that she realized exactly what she had yelled and her eyes widened. He didn't say anything, staring at her from the kitchen table, and she watched him nervously as he stood up and slowly walked toward her. He stopped directly in front of her, planting his hands on the counter behind her. She was caught between his arms, a place that she found herself equally thrilled and terrified to be in. He was no closer to her than he'd been all those nights before, but this felt different.
She waited for him to say something, but he never did. Instead he brought his hands up to her face and leaned forward, covering her mouth with his. It was entirely unexpected, and yet strangely familiar. She leaned into the kiss more out of instinct than anything else, one hand curling around the edge of the counter and the other finding its way to the back of his neck. When he sucked on her bottom lip she let go of the counter, threading her fingers in his hair as she pressed against him, all reason and soundness of mind lost. She couldn't track his hands, or hers, but before she knew it he'd taken a hold of her waist and hoisted her up onto the counter.
Her legs snaked around his waist and she pulled him closer, digging her heels into the small of his back. His mouth moved down to her neck and he sucked the sensitive skin there as she slipped her hands under his shirt, exploring the skin she found there. She could feel the raised skin of his scars against her fingers. He nipped at her neck and her stomach curled at the sensation of his rough tongue lapping at the mark.
"Oliver," she sighed, shifting restlessly on the counter as his hand slipped between her legs. His fingers brushed against her panties and she jerked backwards, her elbow ramming into the coffee machine. With pain spreading through her elbow, she came suddenly and rudely to her senses.
"Oliver," she said, pulling away from his mouth, which was now lavishing attention to the curve of her neck. It felt amazing, which made it even more difficult to say what came out next. "Oliver, stop."
He didn't hear her, and she pushed at him.
"What is it?" he said, eyes searching hers.
"We can't do this," she said, wishing that her voice didn't sound as breathless as it did.
She didn't say why, but the reason was obvious.
"He'll never know you," Oliver said. "Not really. He can't."
"I know that," Felicity said, reaching up and smoothing her hair back. It was a nervous tick, and she knew he noticed. She shook her head. "I know."
Oliver looked like he was going to say more, but then he shook his head, stepping back away from her. She wanted to reach out for him, but knew she had no right.
"I'm going to stay at the foundry tonight," Oliver said.
"Oliver, don't," she said, stepping toward him.
"I can't stay here now," he said. "We both know that."
She didn't know what was worse, the fact that he felt he had to leave or that he was probably right.
"I'm sorry," she murmured.
He didn't respond, brushing past her to the door. She stayed in the kitchen, eyes trained on the floor as she waited for it. The door closing. Another person out of her life – but this time because of her. When it slammed shut she closed her eyes, wondering when everything had gotten so fucked up.
Lydia was halfway through a re-run of Chopped when there was a knock on her door. Larry, sitting beside her on the couch, lazily glanced toward her and said, "It's your turn."
"Excuse me, who moved us almost entirely into our apartment this afternoon?" she said pointedly.
Larry considered that for a moment and then said, "It's my turn."
"That sounds more like it."
"At least pause the episode," Larry said, rising from the couch. "You know how much I hate missing Alex Guarnaschelli zingers."
"They are a thing a beauty," Lydia agreed, reaching forward and grabbing the remote from the coffee table, pausing the show.
Larry opened the door, finding Felicity there with a pink nose and tissues clutched in her hand.
"Hi Larry. Can I talk to Lydia?" she asked.
Lydia turned around on the couch and after taking in her friend's appearance said, "We'll have to finish this episode later. Felicity, bedroom. Now. I'll be right there."
Felicity headed to the bedroom and Lydia walked into the kitchen, giving her husband's cheek a quick peck when he passed him. She grabbed a recently opened bottle of Merlot and two glasses. Felicity was sitting on her bed when she walked in, picking at the fray edges of her sweatshirt.
"What happened?" Lydia asked, sitting opposite her and uncorking the bottle. She poured Felicity a large glass and handed it to her.
"Well, Oliver and I argued. Then we made out on my kitchen counter. I freaked. And now he's sleeping at work." She sniffed, wiping at her nose with the sleeve of her sweatshirt. "God, I made a mess. A really big mess."
"Okay," Lydia said decisively, nodding. "You just threw a lot at me, so…give me a minute to get my bearings. You guys argued?"
"He's looking for apartments. I just sort of…I don't know…I flipped. I kept telling him it was too soon. But, it's not too soon. Not even remotely. He's been staying at my place for months. And, he started saying stuff about how he was doing it for me. How Mike changed things."
"And then you started aggressively making out?"
"I don't know if I'd call it aggressive."
"You were on a kitchen counter," Lydia deadpanned. "That's aggressive making out. Anyway, give me the transition."
"I told him I didn't want him to leave. Yelled it, actually. And then he just came over to me and…bam."
"Bam," Lydia repeated, nodding. "Bam, indeed. So, how was it?"
"So not the point," Felicity said wearily, taking a large gulp of wine.
"Fair enough," Lydia conceded. "So, you freaked. Define freak."
"I told him to stop."
Lydia narrowed her eyes. "That doesn't really sound like freaking out. I mean, things were moving fast. It's okay for you to want to take a step back."
"It was more than that. I think he saw it as me choosing Mike over him."
"Was it that?"
"No," Felicity said, shaking her head. "I mean, I don't know. Maybe? I didn't mean it like that. I just…I didn't want something to happen when I was technically still with someone."
"So, you did want something to happen? Finally, you are making sense."
"I guess I did," Felicity said. She remembered Oliver's mouth on her neck. "Okay, I definitely did. But…it's complicated."
"How? He likes you. You like him. That's pretty uncomplicated."
When it was put that way, it did seem pretty uncomplicated. Whenever she thought of her and Oliver, she put in all the other stuff. But maybe she didn't need to. She'd never even considered that as an option before, but when she did everything became startlingly clear.
"I need to go," Felicity said suddenly.
Lydia grinned, clasping her hands in front of her chest. "Please tell me you are going to him."
Felicity flashed her a smile and leaned forward, kissing her quickly on the cheek. "I'll call you tomorrow. Sorry for interrupting your Thursday night Chopped."
"So worth it for this. Good luck!"
Oliver attacked the salmon bars with a vengeance, trying to forget the taste of her skin and how it had felt to hear her murmur his name with his hand between her legs. Usually the salmon bars could rid his mind of everything. He needed complete focus to not end up on his ass, but tonight even that wasn't working. His focus pulled, he ended up falling to the padded mat and angrily threw the bar. It hit the wall directly beside Felicity when she walked in.
She froze, large bag thrown over her shoulder, and murmured, "Well, that could have ended badly."
"I'm sorry," he stammered. "I didn't know…" he trailed off, knowing that thinking he was alone wasn't a valid reason to throw a steel rod around the foundry. There were a lot of inanimate things – expensive inanimate things – his little outburst could have damaged. "What are you doing here?"
"The thought of you sleeping alone at the foundry was sort of depressing," she said, walking toward him. "And creepy. I always thought this place had a sort of ghost-comes-out-at-night feel. So, I'm here to keep you company."
"I don't need company," he returned tightly. "And frankly, I don't want it."
"I thought you'd say that," she said, reaching into her bag. She pulled out a bag of Milano cookies – his favorite. "I came prepared."
"Look, I know you don't want me here. And that a bag of cookies won't change what happened, but it's a start."
She moved over to the mat and sat down, reaching into her bag and pulling out a sleeping bag and pillow. Oliver watched her unroll it and pull at the corners so that it laid flat. As she fluffed the pillow she murmured, "I'm breaking up with Mike tomorrow."
"Yes, I am." She stilled her work on the sleeping bag and he noticed then that her hands were shaking. She looked up at him. "That's a good thing, right? I mean, do you think that's a good thing?"
"On what?" she asked tentatively.
"Why you're doing it."
She knew he'd ask her this, but it didn't make answering any easier. How could she tell him everything she was feeling? There was so much happening in her mind – so many reasons and justifications – she could barely comprehend them. All she knew was she made her choice.
"You," she finally said. "I'm doing it because of you."
She tried to read his expression after, but his face was a mask of neutrality. Her fingers itched to touch him, to draw something from his skin, but she kept her hands firmly on her lap.
"Please say something," she murmured. "The silence is sort of freaking me out."
Oliver, ever a man of few words, stayed true to his character and reached down for her, pulling her up to her feet. He wrapped his arms around her waist and murmured, "I'm really glad you brought me those cookies."
Two people really weren't supposed to fit in the sleeping bag, but they made due. It was a good thing they didn't mind being close, because it ended up being unavoidable. Their bodies were pressed tight, her leg hitched up over his and his arm around her shoulders. Her cheek rested on his chest, his heart beat – her new favorite sound – steady beneath her. He started moving his leg, a few jerks and then full on shaking, and she said, "Your foot's asleep again, isn't it?"
"Maybe I can…" she tried to shift a bit to give him more room and ended up scratching his leg with her toenail.
"Have you not clipped your toenails in years or something? They're like talons."
"They're not that long," she argued lightly. "It was just the angle."
He smirked. "Next time we're at the grocery store, I'm buying you nail clippers."
She went to hit his arm, but her elbow got caught up in the sleeping bag. She made a strangled noise and fought with the sleeping bag before working her way up to a seated position, the bag pooled at her waist. Oliver laid his hand on her leg.
"Why don't we just go back to your apartment?" he said, sitting up next to her.
"I thought this would be romantic," she said. "You know, sharing a sleeping bag and all that?"
"A bed is also romantic. I'd even go so far as to say it's more romantic than a sleeping bag."
She grinned slightly. "You would, huh?"
He leaned over and kissed her. "Let's go home."
Home. She liked the sound of that. "Yeah. Let's go home."
A/N: It got so schmoopy. I definitely did not plan on the kiss. Or them getting together. But the writing muses had other ideas. Hope you enjoyed this! Give me your thoughts!