A/N: I often use musical inspiration to write, and my chosen song for this bit was Vermillion, pt II by Slipknot. Translations are in the end note ;)


Chapter 2

When she woke again, she was curled up against Oliver's chest and he was carrying her up the porch steps to her apartment.

"Your knee," she protested, trying to extricate herself from his arms.

"It's fine," he argued, lowering her down, but he kept his arm around her. "Your keys?"

She fished through her little evening bag and handed it to him when she couldn't make her fingers pluck them free. His frown deepened, but he fished them out and opened the door for her. She made it all of three steps before she faltered and would have fallen again if Oliver hadn't been hovering. Thankfully he was there to catch her before she went down, and despite her assurances that she was fine, he wouldn't let her go.

Oliver sat her down on the couch and knelt down to slip off her high heels, "You're sure you don't want to go to the hospital? Have you had any vomiting?"

"Positive," she made a face, "and only once."

If possible, his expression got even grimmer, "I'm taking you to a doctor first thing tomorrow morning. Sooner if you get worse."

She rolled her eyes, "Fine." She knew he was right about seeing a doctor, but she couldn't stomach the thought of sitting in an emergency room all evening after the night she'd had.

She let him help her into her bedroom when it became obvious that her balance was still shaky. He kept one hand on her elbow while she gathered a T-shirt and yoga pants to change into. She wanted out of her dress, spattered with vomit and grime from her fall and out of her make-up, smeared raccoon-like beneath her eyes. She definitely wanted the sticky blood matting her hair washed away and all of the bobby pins taken out. She wanted to wash the whole damn night away, and then she'd pretend it never happened.

"You can go now."

"No."

"I need to change clothes," she argued, "And I'm so not doing that with you in here."

"I'm not leaving you alone, Felicity, not when you could fall; I'll turn around while you change."

She wanted to argue, but a wave of nausea washed over her. Maybe he had a point. "Okay, but no peeking. Not that you'd peek at me, I mean. I'm not calling you a peeping Tom. Just that I don't want you-"

"Felicity."

She gripped the edge of the dresser as her stomach roiled, a wave of dizziness washing through her. She drew in a deep breath and let it pass. If she hacked again, she had the feeling Oliver would pick her up over his shoulder and drag her to the E.R., and where she'd fantasized about the first bit, the end destination wasn't part of her fantasy. She shimmied out of her dress, trying to hurry before she had another dizzy spell, but then the lace got caught on her earring. "Ow!"

Oliver half-turned, seemed to remember he wasn't supposed to look and turned back. "You alright?"

"Fine. Just caught up a little bit."

Her dress was up around her shoulders, her dangly gold and rhinestone earring tangled inside the fuchsia lace, pulling on her earlobe painfully. She wriggled and shifted, but all she did was make it worse. She was caught fast and she wouldn't get free without help. She was standing in her bedroom wearing a nearly invisible black lace thong and matching push-up bra (hey, she wanted to feel pretty) with her new dress rucked up around her neck. With Oliver.

"Worst. Night. Ever. And let me tell you, I've had some bad nights. I'm stuck. My earring is caught and I can't get my dress off."

Oliver chuckled as he turned to face her, "It's not the first time I've seen- "he swallowed hard, cleared his throat, "Um. I'll just get this."

His face got that strange blank look he wore sometimes as he worked to free the dangly earring from the delicate lace. She was too busy dying of embarrassment to worry about Oliver. Her nerves got the best of her, and as usual, that meant her mouth ran off without consulting her brain.

"This is really not how I imagined this. Not that I imagined being half naked in my underwear with you. I mean, I hadn't ever imagined we'd be naked together like this. Stopping. Done talking."

"Thank-you," he replied, his voice tight.

After a few tense minutes he gave up on untangling the earring and instead removed it from her earlobe, and then gently lifted the dress over Felicity's head before turning back around. She pulled her other clothes on, anxious to get out of her bedroom. "Okay. You're safe."

"нисколько," he muttered.

"What?" she asked. It sounded like a curse to her.

"Let's take care of that head wound, and then I'll get you into bed." He snapped his mouth shut, realization dawning at the double entendre.

Felicity quirked an eyebrow, "No fun, is it?" she teased.

Oliver shook his head ruefully, but he gave her one of his rare true smiles. He took her elbow to steady her and led her into her bathroom, "Let's get you cleaned up. "

He placed her little stool in front of the sink, helped her to sit, and then pushed her hair away from where she'd struck her head against the concrete. He pulled out a few of the hair pins that secured the top of her hair in an intricate pile, his fingers gentle as he probed the edges of the wound. She closed her eyes, his body was so near she could feel the warmth of his skin. As bad as her head hurt, and it felt like the mother of all migraines, she could close her eyes and go to sleep wedged between the cool tile of her bathroom counter and Oliver's soft touch, his breath warm against her cheek as he inspected the damage.

"Stay with me, Felicity. Just a little longer and I'll let you sleep."

She tried to tell him she understood, but it came out like "Mmmpff." She did manage to open her eyes, so that was something.

"This is going to sting," he warned as he proceeded to clean out the abrasion and then disinfect it.

She clenched her teeth and managed not to make too much noise as he worked, "Being shot is worse," she commented.

"Yeah," Oliver agreed.

He took a careful look at her, "Definitely a minor concussion, you should be fine. No long term effects, but you should be scanned anyway, just in case. I'll take you in the morning."

Felicity smiled, "Diggle said I was irreplaceable. What good would I be without my brains? I'd be placeable."

Oliver snorted, "Diggle was right, and I'm sure your brains are fine. You'll probably have a bad headache tomorrow. Maybe memory loss, some dizziness and vertigo."

"Oh, I pick memory loss! My date! Can I forget that part?"

A corner of Oliver's lips lifted, "I don't think it works quite like that."

He stayed near her as she washed off the remains of her make-up and eased the rest of the pins out of her hair. He settled her in her bed under the blankets and squeezed her hand, "I'll be in to check on you in a couple of hours. For what it's worth, I'm sorry you had such a bad date."

"Wait. You can't fit on my couch. I have a big bed, just lay down here. I know you're not a perv like Jason Gropes-A-Lot."

"Jason?"

"My date. Ex-date. Who gropes. A lot."

Oliver's jaw clenched, "What was his last name again?"

Felicity smiled, "Oh, no you don't. Stop changing the subject. Bed."

"Felicity, I don't think that's a good idea. I can sleep on the floor, I've slept in worse places."

"Why not? I can barely keep my eyes open. I won't even know you're there."

"Because… It's just… I-"

"See, no reason. You need your rest, Oliver. You look exhausted. Have you been sleeping at all? Please. You're taking care of me, let me at least do this."

He sighed, but slipped off his shoes in climbed in next to her. She smiled at him and closed her eyes, "Thank-you."

"Yeah," he answered softly.

"I meant for taking care of me. Not used to that. It's nice."

An inscrutable expression crossed his face, but he just nodded at her. She closed her eyes, satisfied that he'd listened to her and would maybe get some sleep for once. His mother's death weighed on him harder than he'd like to admit to anyone, least of all himself. He seemed determined to torture himself for it. She could at least make sure he didn't spend a restless night sleeping on her floor or trying to cram his ginormous frame into her love seat. It was a king sized bed. How bad could it be?

They'd started out with a full two feet between them on the bed, but when she next regained consciousness, she was curled up tightly against Oliver, her head resting on his chest. His arm encircled her, his thumb tracing small circles on her skin. His eyes were closed, all the hard lines of his face softened and relaxed. Thinking it was a dream, she draped her arm across his torso and snuggled closer. He froze, muscles tense under her, dragging Felicity out of her cocoon of slumber. She registered that her body was flush against him, she was cuddling with Oliver, but she couldn't make herself push him away, as much as she knew she should, and he didn't push her away either. Warm, safe, content, she let sleep pull her back under.

"Felicity. Felicity, wake up. Hey. Hey!"

She murmured and tried to sink back into sleep.

"Damn it, please. I knew I should have made you go to the hospital tonight. Felicity!"

She cracked open her eyes, "Mmm?" Once she saw the panic in his face she struggled to wake, "I'm awake. See? It's okay, Oliver." She covered her face with her hand, "Ugh. But more sleep. Please."

He pressed his lips together, "You need to talk to me first. It took you a while to wake up. How's your head?"

"Hurts, now that I'm awake again," she glared at him, then shifted on the mattress, missing his soothing warmth. She glanced over at him, "Can I go back to sleep?"

He frowned, "Do you feel okay other than your head? Look at me. It's important that you tell me if you start feeling worse."

Felicity blinked slowly, trying to make her fuzzy thoughts focus, "I feel the same. Sleepy. Headache. Big headache. Dizzy. Embarrassed. Angry. Sad. Mostly sleepy. And nauseated."

He turned on the lamp, making her wince against the onslaught of brightness. Who thought such a little bulb could put out the same number of lumens as a supernova? He tilted her chin up, looking into her eyes once more. After a moment, he turned the lamp off again.

"Okay. You can sleep now."

She tried to get comfortable again, but her head pounded, and she was so drowsy but she couldn't fall asleep. She shifted, twisted and turned, each movement making the aching in her skull that much worse. That was enough. She'd had it. She'd had a horrible day, she felt terrible, and she just wanted to sleep. A tear fell. She dashed it away and turned her back to Oliver.

"Felicity? What is it?"

"I don't feel so good," she answered, her voice trembling.

His brow furrowed, "Worse now?"

"No. No worse, I just want to sleep and I can't. I was sleeping so well before you made me wake up." It was so hard to think clearly, her thoughts as lethargic as her body, she just knew she wanted to feel better, "Sorry. I don't know why I'm..." she waved her hands, at a loss for words.

"Concussions can mess with your emotions. It'll pass. Can I get you something? Water?"

"I need my pillow." She molded her body against his and laid her head on his chest, daring him with a bleary glare to argue. "You're really comfy and I want to sleep. I know you don't think of me like that. Don't worry, what happens in concussion, stays in concussion," she slurred.

"Я не могу перестать думать о тебе как этот" he murmured, but draped his arm over her once again.

Russian again. One of these days she was going to plug him into a translate app. "I don't speak Russian. Can you try Latin? I speak Latin. For SATs, not for, you know, conversation."

Oliver sighed, but relaxed underneath her, "Go to sleep, Felicity."

Lulled by his presence, she finally did.

"Felicity. Felicity, you need to wake up for me again, just for a minute."

She blinked up at him blearily, "Oliver?"

"Yeah. Last time, okay?"

She sat upright for him again as he asked her a few simple questions: age, full name, year she graduated M.I.T. She answered, even if her mind did still seem to be moving slower than normal.

"Yay. Passed the pop quiz. Do I get a prize?"

Oliver gave a soft laugh. His eyes dropped to her lips and back to her eyes again, his lips parted. She may have a head injury, but the way he was looking at her wasn't exactly like partners looked at each other. His jaw firmed and he looked away, and when he looked back at her, all traces of the moment were gone from his clear blue gaze, "Yes. You get to go back to sleep and I won't disturb you again until morning."

"Hey, Oliver? Can I ask you something?"

"Hmm?"

"Why did you tell me you loved me? You didn't have to say that. It was enough for Slade. The first part… wrong woman part."

His eyes widened. She'd caught him fully by surprise. She could see him searching for a way out of the question. Probably bad timing to ask, but her filter was working worse than usual and it just kind of slipped out. She genuinely didn't understand, and like any mystery, she wanted the answer.

"I don't know. I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. That wasn't fair."

She peered up at him, "Wasn't fair, or it wasn't true?"

He sighed, "I-"

"I just want to understand," she gave him a small smile, blinking back the tears rising in her eyes. How could he look at her like that and expect her to ignore it? "Never mind. Don't answer. Concussion."

He shook his head, "No. What I said… I'm sorry. I had no right to say those words to you, not like that. Felicity, I was telling the truth when I said you deserve someone better, and I wish I-" he stopped and shook his head, "I need you. I need you as my partner and my friend, and I won't risk losing you." Oliver's face, open and vulnerable, begged for her acceptance, for her understanding.

She understood what he said, but she struggled to understand what he wasn't saying. He hadn't answered her question. Not really. He wasn't ready to, maybe not even to himself. She wanted to call him an idiot.

Instead she just nodded, "It's okay, Oliver. You said it yourself, I'll always be your girl."

His face fell for a second before his guard came back up. She didn't think it was how he wanted things either, but that's how he'd decided they were going to be.

She smiled, and if it was bitter, then maybe she had a reason for it, but the fact remained that Oliver was her friend, and she wasn't going to risk losing him either. Maybe things would be different someday.

She lay down again, turned on her side away from him and closed her eyes, "Good night, Oliver."

"Night, Felicity."

She replayed the night in her head. The no good, rotten, horrible, very bad date, Oliver taking care of her, the feeling of Oliver holding her closely, the look on his face when he told her he loved her, the look on his face when he told her he couldn't be with someone he could really care about. Her composure crumbled. She tried to stay silent as the tears fell, but it was too much all in one day. She swallowed it down, but not well enough to fool Oliver.

He leaned over her, his hand on her shoulder, "Felicity?"

"I think you should go," she pushed against him, but he didn't budge.

"Why are you crying? Not because of me?" he begged, his voice soft.

She couldn't answer.

His breath hitched, "Yes," he whispered. "I meant it, and I owe you the truth. Can't lie to you."

She turned to look up at him, his face so serious in the pale light, "But it doesn't change things, does it?"

"No."

She nodded, gave him a sad smile. She understood. He was still an idiot, but she understood.

After a moment he lay down again and pulled her against him. He kissed her forehead, "I never wanted to hurt you. I can't hurt you. I can't-"

"Shh. I know, Oliver. I understand. Just sleep, okay?"

"Yeah."

Felicity stretched, wincing as she registered throbbing pain inside her skull. She let out a scream as she realized she wasn't alone in her bed.

Oliver came awake with a start, his eyes wild before they cleared and focused on her. "You okay?"

She shook her head, "Ow." She put her hand to her head, wincing. "No. Horrible headache. What happened? Why are you in my bed? How am I in my bed?"

"What do you remember?"

"Date. Bad date," she made a face. "I fell. That's about it. That's kinda scary."

Oliver gave a short humorless laugh, "Short answer, I took you home, you changed clothes and then went to sleep. I'll fill you in on the way to the E.R."

"Did you stay the night with me? I mean sleep over…" she squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. "What I mean, not what I said. Can we get coffee on the way?"

"Yes, and definitely."

She narrowed her eyes and studied him. She'd gotten pretty well versed in studying Oliver Queen, and he was wearing his sad face. Had she yelled at him or something?

"Everything okay, Oliver?"

He nodded and smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes, "Yeah. Long night. I'm just glad you're okay."

"Thanks for staying with me."

He nodded, "Of course."

END


A/N: Oh, I know. Angsty, wasn't it? What can I say, that's where these two are in my mind. Concussions wreak havoc on your emotions, and poor Oliver bore the brunt of it this time around. I think it was good for him. Thanks for reading, and comments are love. :-D Please feed my muse.

Russian translations:

нисколько : Not at all

Я не могу перестать думать о тебе как этот : I can't stop thinking about you like that