Accepting The Love We Deserve

Rating: K

Synopsis: Just like everyone else, Felicity Smoak has insecurities. Most of the time they lie dormant, buried under years of successful repression. But some nights they return in her dreams and overwhelm her.

Pairing: Oliver & Felicity

Characters: Oliver & Felicity

Season/Episode: Post Season 2

Category: Friendship/Love

Disclaimer: (the usual, don't own, idea was mine though)

AN: It's been a while since I've written something fluffy. This hit me after a few days of battling with my own insecurities. Hope you like it!

Sleep had never really been a problem for Felicity. Most nights, she'd get a good six to eight hours, depending on how long she was at the lair. But then there were nights like tonight, where she'd wake up in a cold sweat, her mind and heart racing with images from her distant or not so distant past. They usually abated when she got up for a glass of water, but not tonight.

Insecurities from her time spent in Vegas, things her mother and others had told her, things that managed to remain in her subconscious only to come out in dreams, that was what haunted her right now. Felicity's life had changed drastically in the last two years and she'd become a far more independent and confident woman, but as with all things burned into memory, there were still some issues she had trouble overcoming.

One of those issues had been whether or not she was strong enough. That one had reared its ugly head not too long ago. Would she be strong enough to face down Slade Wilson and inject him with the cure? For a moment, Felicity thought she wouldn't. As the crazed madman spat hurtful things at Oliver over their respective earpieces, the one thing that stuck with her was that he'd insinuated was that she was weak.

A rush of childhood memories had come flooding back at that moment, assaulting her mind with images of being laughed at in the schoolyard because she couldn't get all the way across the monkey bars, her father saying his last goodbye and her crying uncontrollably for several days straight as her mother told her to suck it up, other conversations with that horrid woman calling her weak because she didn't fight back while being insulted.

Felicity knew she was stronger than that, stronger than people took her for. Just because she was five-foot-four and maybe a hundred and ten pounds didn't mean she was weak. On the contrary, her strength of character far outweighed her physical strength, and that's how she usually won her battles. But tonight that strength went down the toilet the moment she woke up from a vicious nightmare.

It started in the Queen mansion, just like the night she'd faced down Slade Wilson. She and Oliver were standing toe to toe, and he'd uttered those three words that made her heart stop: "I love you." Then he'd pressed the syringe into her hand and added, "Do you understand?" Again, it was a ruse to help them gain the upper hand against Slade, but it was what happened afterwards that had her bolting upright in her bed.

Everything had gone as planned and they were back on the island again, only this time instead of keeping her feelings at bay as she had that day, Felicity asked him, flat out, "Did you mean it?" Oliver had looked away, unable to make eye contact, and her heart fell into her shoes.

"I'm sorry, Felicity," he'd said, his tone forlorn and apologetic. When he finally met her eyes, she'd seen the truth behind his statement. "I needed to make him think it was the truth. I never wanted to lead you on. I didn't mean it. I still love Laurel."

That was when Felicity realized she was weak because she felt too much. Her heart broke, shattering into a million little pieces that would never fit together the same again because in truth, she loved him with all her heart. And when he'd said those three little words, she'd believe him. His eyes didn't lie in that moment. Oliver had spoken the truth. But why was her subconscious telling her she wasn't good enough for him? Strong enough for him? Slade had mentioned he had a thing for "strong women." Apparently, she wasn't one of them.

Maybe it stemmed from her first boyfriend in high school: Marty Masterson. He'd been the only guy friend she'd had at the time, so when he'd asked her out one sunny September day during their senior year, Felicity had immediately said yes. They went out a few days, spent an inordinate amount of time together, and then he asked her to homecoming.

That night, he broke her heart in the back seat of his car. They'd had a phenomenal time at the dance, laughing and enjoying themselves like teenagers should. But after they'd left, he'd taken her down a secluded road where she thought they'd just make out. Only Marty wanted more, much more, and she wasn't about to give it to him.

"Come on, baby," he'd cooed in her ear as his hand coasted up and down whatever bare skin her dress exposed. "I love you. Don't you love me back?"

"Marty, it's too soon," Felicity had replied, trying to push him back, but he was relentless.

"No one's ever gonna love you like I love you," he'd shot back, his lips falling to her neck as his fingers tried to pull down one of the straps of her dress.

"Marty, no. I'm not ready for this," she finally put her foot down, which only served to piss him off.

"What the hell, Felicity? I asked you out, I've paid for several meals, and I bought you flowers. The least you could do is put out," he spat. He'd called her several names after that, threatened violence even, but she'd remained steadfast in her resolve. That was when he'd kicked her out of the car, forcing her to walk back to the main road in hopes of hitching a ride with a stranger.

His final words would haunt her for the rest of her life. "No wonder nobody loves you. You're nothing but a weak little cunt in a pretty pink dress." That was when he drove off in a cloud of dust.

It was pure luck that one of her other friends had been passing that way and had spotted her. From that point on, Felicity had remained guarded around most men. Walter had been the first she'd dropped her guard around, because he treated her with respect, but it wasn't until Oliver that she'd begun to trust them again, yet even he had his moments. His reaction to Barry Allen and her subsequent absence to spend time with him as he lay in a coma in Central City was a shining example that even he could be an ass sometimes.

It didn't negate all the warmth and kindness he'd shown her, though. Whatever he did to piss her off or make her feel left out, Oliver would make up for it in spades with sincere apologies and friendly gestures. Unfortunately, when he and Sara decided to rekindle their relationship, Felicity's feelings of inadequacy seemed to return with a vengeance, especially when William Tockman got in her head and nearly caused her to second guess everything she knew.

Even then, Oliver was there, after Sara had sewn up the bullet wound, letting her know she was still important to the team, still important to him. "You will always be my girl," he'd said. Replaying those words always made her heart flutter in her chest, but right now, she was still too riled up over her dream for them to make a dent.

Instead, her mind chose to focus on all the negative things that had happened over the course of the last few months: Oliver telling her to get her head out of Central City and basically blaming her for being unable to stop a mad bomber on the loose in Starling, Moira saying Oliver would hate her if she told him the truth about Thea's father, her initial failure to stop Tockman…

Stuck in an endless negative feedback loop of all her failures, Felicity sank into the couch in the living room, curling her knees up to her chest, and buried her face in the soft fleece of her blue nesting doll pajama pants. Tears pooled at the corners of her eyes until they seeped down her cheeks forming wet spots where the landed. It wasn't long before her shoulders started to shake with the intensity of her sobs.

Yes, it was good to let it out, but why did it have to hurt so much when she did? Felicity only hoped she could stay quiet enough so her new roommate wouldn't hear her and come down to make sure she was okay. Ever since Oliver had moved into her spare bedroom after losing the mansion and the company (he promised he'd go as soon as he had a stable job and his own place), he'd been nothing but kind and courteous, even going as far as picking up groceries when they were running low or fixing things that she'd never had time to fix due to their hectic work schedules.

Felicity had been quick to find a new job. With the SCPD having lost their resident IT specialist in Slade's attack on the city, Detective Lance had specifically asked her to join his precinct. She'd hesitated at first, but Oliver had been adamant that she take the job, citing that not only would she have a steady paycheck until he got Queen Consolidated back, she'd also be helping him with their second job. It would make it easier to contact him with information, especially since Lance wouldn't have to slip away to make a phone call.

Things had settled into a routine since then, with both of them easily finding their place in the other's life. It barely took a week before everything just fell perfectly into place. This sudden nightmare was a deviation from that routine, and it was the deviations that tended to wake Oliver in the middle of the night. Felicity had seen it happen once so far, when she'd accidentally forgotten to put her phone on silent one night and the stream of updates that beeped from it sent him running into her room to check on her. That had been an eye opening experience.

Seeing the wild look in his eyes had her holding her hands out in front of her as if trying to soothe a panther. He'd immediately calmed down when he saw she wasn't in danger, then had gone back to sleep without further incident. Tonight, Felicity hoped that being downstairs in the living room would provide enough space between her and his super human hearing.

Tears continued to spill down her cheeks like a river. No matter what she tried, Felicity couldn't stop them. All the terrible things she remembered from her childhood combined with all the horrible things she'd been through in the past two years. They fed off one another, causing her to spiral deeper into her personal circle of hell until a hand on her shoulder startled her back into the present.

When Felicity looked up, she found Oliver standing behind her. Upon seeing the tears that ran down her cheeks, the questioning gaze in his azure eyes turned to worry. He immediately stepped around the couch and kneeled in front of her. "Hey," he whispered, his hand reaching out to cup her face. "What's wrong?"

Felicity shook her head. "Don't wanna talk about it," she mumbled before her head fell back to her knees.

Sighing, Oliver stood up and took a seat beside her. His arms wrapped around her shoulders, pulling Felicity into the warmth of his embrace. "You don't have to," he murmured against the top of her head before pressing a soft kiss to her hair.

This unsolicited show of comfort and support made her cry even harder. Felicity buried her head in his shoulder, her sobs muffled by the soft grey cotton t-shirt he wore. Just when she thought Oliver couldn't get any sweeter, he hooked one arm under her knees and brought them up over his lap. It was easier for him to hold her that way and put a lot less stress on her back, she realized.

Wrapping one arm around his neck as the other grabbed a fistful of his shirt, Felicity sank into him with ease. Oliver cradled her against his chest so her head fell into the crook of his neck. His hand splayed across the small of her back, pressing her ever closer. "If you need me, I'm right here," he whispered. "I'm not going anywhere."

The silence enveloped them and Felicity couldn't help but wonder if his words from that fateful day had been true. Did he love her? Ever since the day they'd met, she'd been able to sniff out all Oliver's lies, but when he told her he loved her with such conviction and sincerity, that couldn't have been a lie. Could it? Had he finally gotten that good at deceiving her? But their relationship was built on mutual trust. How could it have been a lie? If Oliver didn't mean it, then why was he being so warm towards her?

All the questions, all the doubts, all the insecurities, they were driving Felicity crazy. She didn't know how much more of this she could take. Her heart was already in a fragile state that night and being held so close by the man who perpetuated her confusion wasn't helping. But she was so warm in his arms and so tired from all the crying that her body refused to move. Instead, it made her hold on tighter, seeking out the comfort she was subconsciously desperate for.

Felicity didn't fight the sleep that suddenly weighed down her eyelids. The soft caress of Oliver's fingers up and down her spine only served to relax her more. Her last waking memory was his hand brushing tears off her face and his lips pressing against her forehead. She drifted off moments later, her body finding safety in those strong arms.

When her breathing slowed and evened out, Oliver gently stood from the couch, making sure the precious cargo in his arms didn't awaken. He could tell from the bags under her eyes that Felicity hadn't slept much that night. Hearing her cry out in her sleep had awoken him. When she'd padded out of her room and down the stairs, he'd stayed put even though his body screamed to get up and check on her. It wasn't until close to half an hour later when she hadn't returned to her room that he went down to investigate.

Oliver had expected to find her asleep on the couch, but seeing her curled up with her head tucked into her knees made him cautious. His hand was on her shoulder before he could stop himself from reaching out to her. The tears staining her face when she looked up at him caused his heart to clench, and he was kneeling in front of her moments later, hoping to get to the bottom of her distress.

But Felicity refused to talk about it. It hurt, but he understood. After all, he was still reluctant to talk about the island, so what right did he have to push her? Instead, he'd wrapped her in his arms and held her as she continued to cry up until her body had gone limp and she'd fallen asleep on his shoulder.

Now, as he carried her up the stairs towards her room, he couldn't help but wonder what had upset her so much. Normally Felicity was the happy one on their team. She brought the sunshine that illuminated their gloomy existence. She was the heart and soul of the team, it's strength and guiding light. If it wasn't for her, Oliver figured he'd already be dead by now. She'd save him more times than he could count on his fingers. It was her light that kept him grounded, sane. What had facilitated this sudden onslaught of tears?

He had an inkling, and it hurt his heart just thinking about it: those three powerful words he'd softly uttered in the mansion all those weeks ago. They had planned their ruse together, agreeing upon what they each needed to say, but those words had rushed out of Oliver's mouth before he could stop them. Part of him realized it was because he was afraid he might never get the chance to tell her again if any part of the plan went wrong, while the other part just wanted to make sure Slade would believe them.

Oliver was now left dealing with the consequences of his actions. Yes, Felicity had done a good job trying to convince him otherwise while they were on the island dropping the madman off in his new slice of hell, but he could see she had been trying to hide her hurt behind a wavering smile. He wanted to tell her then, say them again, let her know that Laurel was no longer the love of his life and that she was, but he'd chickened out. At least he hadn't denied it. That was probably his only saving grace.

Still, seeing Felicity beat herself up over it made him realize he needed to own up to his feelings, no matter how scared he was of being with someone he really care about. Oliver had already drawn her into the dangerous aspects of his life. Hell, he'd even done the unthinkable and put her out as bait for a sociopath. And she'd done it all, no questions asked.

Yes, he loved her. More to the point, he was in love with her. Those feelings had been growing inside his heart from the day they met. It just took a little while to finally realize and accept them. Now that he had, Oliver knew it was time to do something about it.

Pushing open the door to her room with his foot, he carried Felicity to her bed and laid her out on the cool, purple cotton sheets before pulling the blanket over her shoulders and tucking her in. He leaned down, his lips pressing to her temple for several long moments before he pulled back to gaze down at her sleeping form. She was finally at peace, her body relaxed, the tears on her cheeks nothing more than a memory.

Oliver sighed. Part of him told him to leave and head back to his room, that there was plenty of time to talk about things in the morning, but the bigger part, the one that belonged to his heart, told him to lay down beside her and wrap her in his arms just in case she had another nightmare.

For the first time since he'd returned from the island, Oliver chose to side with his heart. He slipped under the covers on the opposite side of the bed then draped an arm over her waist. What he hadn't expected was for her to roll over and curl into his chest. His body stiffened for a moment, waiting to see if Felicity had awoken again, but her slow, even breaths told him she was still fast asleep.

With a soft sigh, he wrapped his body around her tiny frame, making sure her head was tucked beneath his chin before relaxing against her warmth. Oliver closed his eyes and pressed one more lingering kiss to her forehead. "I love you," he breathed into her hair as his hand came to rest against her cheek.

"Love you too," Felicity murmured in her sleep and he froze. That was the last thing Oliver expected to hear. He didn't dare move, just waited to see if she'd wake up, but she hadn't. Her eyes remained closed, her breaths slow and even. He finally relaxed again with a smile upturning his lips. Moments later, he too was fast asleep.

The blaring alarm beside her bed awoke Felicity later that morning. Still exhausted from the crying fit she'd had at three that morning, her body barely registered the reason for all the unexpected warmth that surrounded her. But when she tried to reach out to shut the beeping off, she found herself trapped. She began to panic until another arm reached out and fumbled around her nightstand until the incessant noise stopped.

Gazing up, Felicity found she wasn't alone in her bed. Oliver was wrapped around her, his arms circling her waist and keeping her pressed to his chest. Their eyes met and a dopey smile crawled onto his lips. "Good morning," he rasped, his voice deep and gravelly with sleep.

Something in her chest stirred, making her heart flutter wildly. How did Oliver have the effect on her? As Felicity stared back at him, his hand trailed up her arm until it reached her face. His palm came to rest against her jaw as his thumb brushed along the apple of her cheek. When she hadn't said anything for several moments, his brows furrowed and a frown appeared on his lips. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"Huh?" Felicity squeaked before realizing she'd been mute this whole time. "Yeah, fine. Uh, good morning," she finally replied, her brain still trying to wrap around the fact that Oliver Queen was laying in her bed, his body pressed dangerously close to hers. Then he smiled again, his azure eyes bright in the pale sunshine that filtered through her windows.

Felicity had to force herself to break his gaze because she was quickly beginning to get lost in it. "Oliver, why are you in my bed?" she asked, her eyes flicking up to his as she waited for an answer.

"I didn't want you to be alone last night," he confessed.

Truth, Felicity's mind told her. His eyes didn't lie. It seemed like this early hour was his truth serum. "Oliver, last night, did you tell me you loved me?" she continued her questioning. Somewhere in her subconscious, she could have sworn she'd heard him utter those words last night, but she couldn't be too sure if she'd been imagining it or not.

That dopey smile widened. "I did," he whispered, his hand now filtering through her hair until it came to rest against the back of her neck.

Felicity swallowed hard. She hadn't expected that answer. At first she thought she'd dreamt it, but seeing the way Oliver looked at her now, she couldn't stop herself from asking, "Did you mean it?"

"Did you mean it?" he turned the question on her.

"What?" Felicity replied, her brows furrowing in confusion. "Did I mean what?"

It was Oliver's turn to look confused. "Last night, you told me you loved me too," he said softly. The smile on his face began to fade as he stared at her.

Felicity's mouth dropped. Oh, shit… It wasn't a dream. Not only had he confessed his feelings to her, but she'd apparently done the same. Her eyes went wide as saucers, her heart thundering in her chest. "Do you love me, Felicity?" he asked, his eyes soft, his expression unreadable.

"I… I…" she stuttered. "I asked you first." She wasn't about to confess her feelings until he'd given his answer. There was no point in having her heart broken if it wasn't necessary, even if it still did end up breaking.

Oliver sighed as the smile returned to his lips. His hand cupped the back of her neck, thumb stroking across her jaw as those bright azure eyes stared back at her. For the second time that morning, she found herself lost in those gorgeous blue pools. How could she not? She could see straight into the depths of his soul through those eyes because at that moment, he'd left it unguarded and open for her to see.

"I love you, Felicity Smoak," he finally whispered. "I meant it when I said it the first time. I meant it when I said it last night. And I mean it now. I love you."

Tears welled in her eyes again, only this time they were tears of joy. "Really?" Felicity whimpered. She couldn't control her weeping at that point as Oliver nodded his head. When his hands came up to wipe away her tears, she replied, "I love you, too."

Before she knew it, her head was tipped back until their lips aligned and then he was kissing her. It was slow, delicate, exploratory in nature, and didn't last very long. He pulled back too soon for her liking, as if to gauge her response. When the smile crept onto her lips, Oliver had his answer. Soon, it was Felicity pulling him in for another kiss, their lips slowly moving against one another.

They continued kissing for an inordinate amount of time, too wrapped up in each other to look at the clock. It wasn't until the phone on Felicity's nightstand began to buzz with her second alarm that she realized it was time to get up and head to work. But that task was proving much harder than anticipated when she had a very eager and very determined Oliver Queen laying in her bed, kissing her senseless.

"I need to get up and go to work," Felicity moaned against his mouth before pressing her lips a little harder against his.

"Take the day off," he whispered, his fingers now tracing patterns against the exposed skin of her back where her tank top had ridden up. "I'm sure Lance will understand if it has to do with… Arrow business."

She couldn't help herself and giggled. "Oliver, I can't justify making out with you all day as Arrow business," Felicity replied, but she couldn't resist one more kiss. "Detective Lance is gonna want some kind of proof."

"And we'll give it to him," he said, his mouth finding her neck this time and sucking a line of kisses from her ear to her collarbone. "Tonight, after I've spent all day showing you how much I love you." He pushed down the strap of her tank top as his mouth moved to her shoulder.

Felicity paused for a moment, her body ceasing to wiggle beneath his as she contemplated what he meant. When Oliver's head lifted from where he'd been trailing kisses down her arm, their eyes met and she couldn't help but ask, "Why do you love me?"

That dopey grin returned to his lips as he gazed back at her with the most adoring look she'd ever seen. Forget Marty Masterson, forget all the guys she'd dated at MIT, forget Barry Allen; no one had ever looked at her quite like Oliver Queen looked at her, with such warmth and reverence that it made her heart swell in her chest.

"Because," he whispered, kissing his way back up her arm, "you're smart and you're beautiful and you've never allowed me to get away with anything." He punctuated each word with a gentle kiss upon her skin until he reached her neck again. "You bring sunshine back into my life. You accept me for who I am. Your strength and your courage make me want to be a better person..."

Before she knew it, Felicity was crying again, her eyes brimming with tears as she stared down at him. Oliver's hands came up to frame her face, his fingers swiping beneath her eyes to wipe away the moisture that gathered there. "You make my life worth living," he finished.

Then his lips were on hers again and all thoughts of work ceased to exist. Felicity kissed back with fervor, her arms wrapping around his neck and holding him close. Whatever fears or insecurities she'd had up to this point were nothing but a distant memory. Knowing Oliver saw her strengths much like she'd always seen his made all those things invalid. She was the strong, confident woman she knew herself to be. Having him validate it was just an added bonus.