AN: I don't really know what this is. It sprang from me spending the last 48 hours painting obsessively and listening to a lot of really good music. I'm sort of in a lyrical haze and that resulted in me writing Oliver's journey to admitting his feelings for Felicity. It's basically Oliver angsting all over the place until he just gives up.

Title from I Followed Fires by Matthew and the Atlas. Lyrics included, in order: More by Tyrone Wells, Agape by Bear's Den, Sea Breeze by Tyrone Wells, Don't You Give Up On Me by Milo Greene, War Rages On by Alex Clare, This Moment Now by Tyrone Wells, Come To Me by Goo Goo Dolls.

This world may crumble into the ocean

It could all end tonight

I undermine you then try to find you

My only source of life

I'm breathing, I am breathing

I know there's something more

Than what we're living for

It keeps him up at night. A lot of things do. People he's lost, people he's failed, ghosts dancing through his mind until sleep is a distant memory. The low flicker of a television screen and a shot of whiskey the only things that will persuade him to close his eyes.

But this, this plagues him. She plagues him. Her innocence, her sweetness, her never-ending good-ness. Because he can see his darkness, his swirling depths of torture and pain and misery, he can see it all encroaching on her light. Not yet. Not for a long time. Because she's strong and stubborn and she'll fight it.

But it's there, at the forefront of his mind, when the shadows grow longer and the sun sinks behind the horizon. Her face, with blood across her brow and smudges of blue dusking her pale skin, hurt in ways she never should be. But it's her eyes that break him, the sorrow and the resignation. The pain that's stamped out the last burning embers of her joy, her vitality. He wakes up in a cold sweat, every time. Hand dragging down his face, heart beating out of synch in his chest, the coldness of the room seeping into his bones.

He remembers that first day, walking into her office with a bullet-ridden laptop and a bad lie. He remembers her smile, the way her lips were painted pink, a shade or two darker than her shirt. The way her head canted to the side as she surveyed him, sharp eyes dancing with disbelief. She was so full of light. He was like a moth to her flame, unable to stay away, drawn back, time and again with more excuses and more lies. He could have gone to someone else, there are others in Starling with her capabilities. But he wanted her. He wanted to harvest a little of her spirit, something pure and untainted by his world, and apply it like a balm to his fractured heart. And he did, because he's selfish and he couldn't stay away from her, right from that first moment.

And now, over the months and years that passed since that day in her office, she's saved him and healed him and warmed him in more ways than he could ever have anticipated. She's the light at the end of the tunnel, when violence surrounds him and all he can see is death and destruction, she's there, like a beacon of hope, in bright colors with pretty lips and sparkling eyes. He goes home to her, lets her patch his wounds, steady fingers soothing his body while accidental words soothe his soul.

So it's no wonder he can't sleep, when every time he does, he's met with the image of her vivacity being extinguished like a cigarette under an enemy's boot.

He doesn't want to wreck her. He doesn't want to break her.

So he keeps as much distance as he can. Forces himself not to take that final step he so yearns to. Because everything he touches ends up consumed by his darkness. Everyone he touches, breaks. And he won't let that happen to her.

Please don't dissipate

Yeah I know that I have got it so wrong

I'm reaching out

To touch you now

But baby I'm clutching at straws

For I'm so scared of losing you

And I don't know what I can do about it

I don't want to know who I am without you

It's a few more months of brutality later, that he faces the very imminent reality that he might have to learn to live without her.

It's a dark night, a starless, rainy sky, an empty road. And it's desolate. Because she's at the center of it, lying on the ground like a crumpled up piece of paper, a bright red dress stained redder.

Some days he's not sure he even has a heart anymore, or if he does, he wonders if it works the way it's supposed to. But here and now he knows it's there, because he can feel it breaking.

He cradles her in his arms, soft flesh against hard, calloused fingers against silky skin. Bloodshed surrounds them, people have been destroyed, killed. For her, because they dared touch her, they dared try to put out her light.

She's slipping through his fingers faster than he can fathom, like sand in an hourglass, counting down until his world stops. And all he can think, the mantra that's running circles in his mind; is why couldn't he have stayed away? Why did he drag her into this world of his, why didn't he turn his back on her, the second he saw what a beautiful enigma she was? Is.

She's not gone yet. She'll never really be gone.

She's saying something, pale lips moving slowly in the cold air. He presses his forehead to hers, feels her soft breath against his face as she whispers.

"It's okay. It's okay. It's okay." She repeats the words over and over, and he wants to scream at her to stop, because it's not okay. None of it is okay. The world is shattering around him and he doesn't know how to make it stop. He doesn't know how to be… Anything, without her there to guide him. He doesn't want to know what he'll become, when his last little piece of hope, dissipates before his eyes.

He thinks he might love her. Like really, really love her.

She doesn't die. Because she's a fighter and luck seems to be on their side. And her light doesn't go out. She's all bright eyes and loopy smiles, just a day later. He considers it then, pushing her away, properly this time. For good. Sending her off to some far distant place on the other side of the country, where she'll be out of reach and out of danger. But he doesn't, he can't. Because he doesn't want to know who he is without her.

To my surprise, oh,

She took my heart with one look in her eye

To a place that feels like home

The fragrance that she leaves hangs in the air

Soft like a whisper, she's calling me to her

There are days when the darkness takes a back burner. Those are his favorites. Days when she smiles at him like he's something worth loving, when music from her computer fills the lair, as she likes to call it. (He calls it home.)

She sings along to a song he vaguely recognizes, unaffected by the violence that surrounds her as he and Diggle train. And it's simple and easy, on those days. The way he wishes it could be all the time. With her close to him, whole and happy.

His eyes drift to her more often than they used to. Drawn to her face like magnets, he drinks her in. The soft curve of her cheek, the flutter of her eyelashes behind her glasses, the freckles that adorn her nose, the delicious fullness of her cherry lips. He doesn't let his eyes wander lower, to the graceful arch of her neck, the dips of her collarbone, begging to be tasted, or the soft expanse of skin that trails lower, tantalizingly hidden by her dresses. No, he doesn't let his eyes, or mind, wander to that.

Months have passed since that night he almost lost her, and even more since the mansion and Slade, when those words slipped from his lips, dripping with honesty that only she couldn't hear.

He's long since acknowledged what he feels for her. The foreign, cloying sensation in his heart whenever she's close. He's in love with her. Properly in love with her, the sort of in love that makes you want to jump off a bridge or scream at the top of your lungs because it hurts. It hurts because she's it for him. He's sure of it. She's his missing piece, that thing that people search for, sing songs, and write books about. She's the one that he'd give everything he had to, a ring one day and a wedding, and they'd have babies and their house would be filled with the sound of their laughter. If he were someone else. If he were someone better. If he deserved any of it, he'd kiss her right now. Walk over to her chair, spin it around, tangle his fingers in her hair, tip her face to his, and kiss her with everything he has.

He doesn't. He settles for watching her from the corner of his eye as he spars with John. And when he gets knocked to the ground and his friend gives him a knowing look, he can't bring himself to care. He's pretty sure it's all so obvious to everyone but her.

I'll go, I'll go, I'll go wherever you go

And I will never leave without letting you know

Don't you give up on me

Don't you give up on me

('Cause you're all I got)

"She'll leave one day, you know."

He looks up, eyes settling on Diggle's across the room. Felicity's not there, and the whole building feels colder without her in it.

"She'll get married, have kids, and you won't be the most important person in her life anymore."

His brows furrow and he lets himself feel the hurt for a second. It's nothing he doesn't already know, nothing he's not prepared himself for. But it burns just to think about. His finger scratches at his thumb until the skin is raw.

"I know."

"Do you?"

He wants to say yes. He wants to look confident and sure, he wants to meet Digg's eyes and say he's fine with it. He knows that she isn't his to keep forever. That she won't always be there, that she won't always look at him like the stars that shine. But he can't. Because he wants her to. He wants her to stay with him forever. He wants her to never leave his side, to never stop fighting for him. With him.

"If you just told her…"

"You know I can't do that." His voice is scratchy and rough. Emotion balled in his throat.

"Why? Because you think you'll hurt her? Maybe you should trust yourself. If you don't want to hurt her, then don't. Be with her." They've had this conversation before, and they'll have it again, many times.

But he's not ready yet. So he leaves, striding out of the room with a dark frown and fisted hands.

He thinks though, that maybe, one day, he might be ready. He might be able to take that step, to kiss her, and tell her he loves her, has for so long. One day, they might have a future.

He just hopes she doesn't give up, not yet. Because he thinks… He thinks he might be close.

War Rages On

You'll be on my side

Through it all

When darkness comes

You are like a burning light

Through it all

It's not the first time he's been tortured. And it probably won't the last.

He closes his eyes, the pain drifting to the back of his consciousness as he thinks of her. The way her hair curls around her shoulders, the way she bites her lip when she's nervous, the way she waves her hands around when she talks.

There's blood and agony and hopelessness surrounding him. But only with his eyes open, can he feel any of it. So he keeps them closed, and lets her shield him. And she does, even though she's far away. She protects him, distracting him with her vibrance until his world goes black.

He wakes to her face hovering over his, tears streaking down her cheeks and he smiles, even though it hurts. His whole body hurts. But it doesn't matter, because she's there when his eyes are closed, and she's there when they're open.

And for now, that's enough. It's enough that she's there, that she's beside him, in whatever capacity it is.

Her soft fingers are patching him up, healing him, and her voice is a gentle balm, washing over him like a summer day.

So good to feel this way

Can't find the words to say

But I'll show you how

All my life

I've waited for this moment now

There's nothing I'd rather do

Than be here right with you

There's no catastrophe, no big, inciting incident. He just wakes up one morning, with dreams of her still clinging to his consciousness. And he knows.

He drives to her house at seven a.m. on a warm spring morning, and there she is. Pajamas and messy hair and sleepy eyes. There she is and all he can do is smile, because he's ready. He's afraid, and there's still a part of him that worries about the outcome, worries that it's no use and it'll end with two broken people and hearts that can't be fixed. But he doesn't care anymore.

He kisses her, tasting her mint toothpaste, relishing in her softness. He kisses her and his heart breathes a sigh of relief. The iron fist that gripped it for so long, releasing its hold, because she's there and she's kissing him back and God does he love her.

She's warm and her hands are small and delicate as they fist into his shirt, her hair tickles his cheek and her pliant body presses against his. She's everything. He wants all of her, as much as he can get. He wants to drown in her, until he doesn't know which way is up. He wants to love her with every inch of his heart (he already does) he wants to kiss her every day for the rest of their days, because she's everything.

She doesn't ask for words, for explanations. But he gives them later, when he's curbed a little of his hunger for her, when he's tasted every inch of her skin and lost himself in her, for hours on end. Then he tells her. Golden curls spread out across his chest, the comforting weight of her body sprawled over his. He tells her and she cries and tells him too.

It's not going to be easy. And he's not sure they'll make it. The odds probably aren't in their favor. But he hopes they will. Because there's never going to be another Felicity. There'll never be anyone after her.

He falls asleep with her in his arms, and wakes hours later, rested and comfortable in a way he hasn't been in years. He wakes to her smiling face and he thinks that maybe, maybe everything really will be okay.

You be sweet and I'll be grateful

Cover me with kisses dear

Lighten up the atmosphere

Keep me warm inside our bed

I got dreams of you all through my head

Fortuneteller said I'd be free

And that's the day you came to me