In Safe Hands
Oliver awoke with a shout, stared down at his shaking hands, expecting to see Felicity's blood still staining them. His chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath, cold sweat trickled down his back. He passed a hand over his face, relieved that it was just another bad dream. After that one, he was pretty certain he wouldn't be getting back to sleep anytime soon.
He was no stranger to nightmares. They rode him hard since his first night on the island, and he'd not had a long stretch of reprieve since. God knows he had enough fodder to last him years without a repeat, but it was always the same few that haunted him. Some were just the sensations of being cold, hungry, or the torture. Some were more specific, Shado's death, Yao Fei's, his mother's death, Tommy's. Lately, they'd changed. There was a new player. Felicity. She had died in a hundred different ways, and for each one, he had tried to save her and failed. There was one other common factor, aside from her death. Each time, it was his fault. Every scenario was directly linked to a choice, a decision, or a trap that Oliver had laid.
Oliver was not the most self-aware person, but even he couldn't ignore what all these dreams meant, or why they'd started. It had all begun with a very sharp sword at Felicity's neck. That and the sure knowledge that even a slight failure or misstep with Slade meant her death. He couldn't face the thought in the light of day, so it haunted him here, in his dreams. When he'd thought the unthinkable, conceived of a plan that Slade would never, ever anticipate, he had half-way hoped she would tell him no. She didn't, of course. He'd given her an out when he asked her if she understood, but she didn't take it. Felicity was too strong for that. He knew she would be all in. If only he'd knew the toll it would take on his sanity, he might not have tried it. Too late. He'd made his choice, and now he had to deal with the consequences. He'd earned them.
"Oliver?" Felicity inquired softly, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Fine," he lied.
She stood in the doorway of her bedroom, clad in an oversize T-shirt and panda-patterned pajama shorts. Her hair was free from the confines of the ponytail she typically wore. Strange to see her without her glasses. They'd been broken earlier in the evening, but she assured him she had a spare pair. Pointless to wear them now anyway, again, thanks to her involvement in his life.
She gave him that look that said she wasn't buying his "fine." Not at all, not even a little bit. A neat trick considering she clearly couldn't see him well.
She made her way carefully to the chair opposite him and sat, then cocked an eyebrow. He wondered if he'd woken her. He'd stayed over to keep an eye on her. Ironic that she was watching out for him instead. Then again, Felicity always watched out for him. He liked to think he did the same, and if she wasn't aware of what it cost him in the process, then that was better for them both. The price was getting harder to pay with each day he spent with her, but he couldn't conceive of being without her. She was worth it, he told himself. If he told her what was in his heart, he'd hurt her like he hurt all the women he'd loved. It was easier to deal with when he had a buffer like Diggle or Roy in the room. It was easier to focus on the job instead of how he'd spoken a little too much truth for comfort in his family's deserted mansion when he'd told her he loved her. Dangerous, being alone with her.
"I don't mean to pry, but sometimes when you tell people about what you're dreaming, it helps."
He shook his head, denying it. "How's your vision?" he asked to change the subject.
She wrinkled her nose, "Still blurry. It's better in the dark. The pain is much better. Remind me to avoid psychopaths wielding arc welders in the future."
He smiled despite himself, "That would probably be for the best. I'm glad you're feeling better."
Felicity closed her eyes, "Yeah, except for the not sleeping. Couldn't sleep. Sleep and I have parted company. It's now official. I heard you thrashing around out here and wanted to make sure you were okay. Are you okay? You've been acting kind of weird. Weirder than normal."
"Nightmares," he confessed. Maybe there was some truth to her statement that talking about it would help. It was worth a try, and here in the dark alone with Felicity, it seemed easier somehow. "They've been bad lately, and I'm not sleeping well either. They'll pass. They always do."
"I'm sure sleeping on my sofa isn't helping matters. Are you sure you don't want to go to bed with me?"
He swallowed hard, the image in his head way too clear, her body soft and pliant under his hands, imagining her soft sighs as he buried himself inside of her. Would she dig her nails in as he made her cry out? Would she say his name? Oliver… he was always Oliver to her. He focused on her face, acutely aware that she wouldn't be able to see him staring. He let his eyes linger on her lips, soft and free from her usual brightly colored lipstick. He wondered what it would be like to kiss her, just once. He'd come close so many times. If he let himself have one taste, he'd be finished. There would be no backing down after that, no pushing her away.
He closed his eyes, remembering her words when she'd gone undercover in the casino. She'd said it felt really good having him inside her. Would she say things like that to him? Would she be as talkative in bed as she was out of it? He smiled as he saw her mortified expression as she realized what she'd just said. He had enough trouble keeping thoughts like that out of his brain without her little slips to make it worse, but he couldn't help but be amused by them.
"I didn't mean sleep with me like with me, with me. I mean like on the other side of the bed. Just on the same mattress."
He felt his smile grow wider, "I've slept in worse places."
"Hey, speaking of which… you're broke, you're homeless, and we lost the foundry. Where have you been sleeping? Not in the other, other, Arrow cave? That place has rats and roaches. Ew."
"Again, I've slept in worse."
"Oliver, I have a spare room. I can clear out some of the clothes. I'm just using it as a closet. I think I may even have an air mattress somewhere. Stay here."
"Felicity, I can't."
"Yes Oliver, you can. I have the room, and you need a place to live until you get your family's company back. You left me a million dollars when you disappeared to Lian Yu. I think I can return the favor."
Oliver raised a finger, "No. You used most of that in the foundry upgrades. That doesn't count. "
"And for this place. Trust me, it counts. It's only temporary. Oliver, it's okay to let your friends help you."
He felt emotion overwhelming him, tightening his chest, closing his throat, moisture rising in his eyes. He nodded, then realized Felicity couldn't see him. Good. He didn't want her to see him like this. He looked at her as he wanted to, open with love shining in his eyes. If only things were different. If only loving her didn't paint a bull's-eye over her heart. If only he wasn't terrified of what would happen if it didn't work. He loved her, and that was irrevocably true, but he needed her even more. If he screwed it up, if he got involved with her and it went to shit like his relationships unfailingly did, he'd lose her forever. He couldn't take that risk. His heart didn't listen to reason, though, and Oliver had never been good with restraint where women were concerned.
"Temporary," he agreed before he realized he was doing it, "and I'll pay rent."
Felicity rolled her eyes, "Don't be ridiculous. Can you cook though? 'Cause I don't cook."
Oliver smiled, "I make a mean roasted pheasant."
Felicity laughed, "Good, because I couldn't cook a bowl of cereal right now."
"Go back to bed, Felicity. I'm fine."
Oliver was a light sleeper. Even now, he never truly relaxed. Any unfamiliar noise would wake him, so when he heard Felicity's mattress creak, he was instantly on alert. Having identified the noise, he'd placed it in the ignore category and had almost dropped off again when he heard her cry out in pain. Heart hammering in his chest, he sprinted through her bedroom door. He cast his eyes around the room for her. Finding it empty, his eyes fixed on the closed bathroom door.
"Oliver! I'm in here!"
He tried the door, found it locked, and without a moment's hesitation, threw his large frame against the door and broke it open. Felicity was lying on the floor, protectively cradling her arm against her chest. His eyes widened as he took in the growing scarlet stain on her shirt. He dropped to his knees beside her, gathering her to him.
"I fell. Uh, there's a lot of blood." Her face went ghostly pale.
"Don't look at it." Oliver ripped a towel off the bar and pressed it against the open laceration on her arm steadily oozing a stream of dark red blood.
"Those are my good towels," Felicity complained.
He shot her an exasperated look, but if she felt well enough to complain that was a good sign. He took in the disaster that had been Felicity's tidy bathroom, trying to piece together what happened. Shards of broken mirror littered the floor as well as every flat surface. The gold frame that had held the mirror was hung-up on the edge of the countertop instead of in its home on the wall.
"I tripped," she explained.
Oliver hummed his acknowledgement, more concerned about the bleeding than the cause. "This is deep," he murmured as he pulled the towel away to inspect her injury. She was barefoot. He'd have to carry her out.
Felicity gulped, her blue eyes brimming with tears, "I couldn't see, and I fell. I tripped on the carpet."
"Shh, it's okay. Let me get you out of here, we'll get that cleaned up and you can go back to bed. Can you hold this?" he asked, pressing her free hand over the towel, "I need to get you out of here. There's glass everywhere."
He gathered her up in his arms, careful not to jostle her. He inhaled the scent of her hair, unable to help himself. Ignoring the residual twinge of pain in his knee, he carried her into her little cheery kitchen and eased her onto the chair.
"Easy. Let me see it," he asked.
Felicity let him take her arm, her eyes widened suddenly, "Oliver, you're bleeding."
He looked at the trail of blood he'd tracked into her kitchen, and then down at his bare feet. He hadn't noticed.
"Just a few scratches. I'll clean it up once we get you taken care of."
Thankfully the bleeding had stopped, and it didn't look as if she'd need stitches. She hissed as he cleaned and bandaged the cut, but didn't cry out. She was getting entirely too comfortable with pain for his liking.
"Oliver. I'm a big girl. Stop making pensive noises. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I live my life as I want it, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, okay?"
Oliver sighed, "I am not okay with it, no. I told Dig when I brought you into this that I'd protect you, and I haven't done a very good job at it."
"You have. You do."
He scoffed, but didn't choose to argue, "There. Next time you need to get up, call me. I'll help you get there in one piece, alright?"
"Oliver?" Felicity asked in a small voice.
"Please, just for tonight? Can you sleep in my room?"
He couldn't tell her no. Looking into those soft unfocused blue eyes, so trusting… so sure of him and his ability to protect her, how could he say no?
"Never mind. It was a stupid thing to ask. I 'm just really tired; I'm not thinking clearly. I keep having these nightmares and my brain won't shut off! I just-"
He thought he had most of the blood out of her carpet, but like the blood stains he'd left in her mini, he expected that she didn't care as much as she pretended. It didn't take him long to clean up his feet. None of the scratches had been deep, and he barely felt them anyway. Calluses protected the soles, but he'd gotten a few pieces of glass stuck in the soft sides of his feet and a couple shallow lacerations. He gently cracked open the door to her room; he may have a chance to change his mind if she was already asleep. She lay in her bed, eyes closed but still awake. She patted the bed beside her. He bit his lip, but climbed into the opposite side, lying on top of the covers to preserve another barrier between them. He thought he'd lie awake for hours, but the day caught up with him, and once Felicity was safely asleep, he drifted off.
Hours later, Felicity cried out, under the grip of a nightmare. He enfolded her in his arms, unable to do anything else. She turned her face into his chest and wrapped her arms around him. He closed his eyes, savoring the touch. It was his fault she couldn't sleep, his fault she had nightmares, the least he could do was to help her fight them back. She calmed, sinking back into a more restful slumber. He started to disengage, but her arms tightened around him and she snuggled closer against his side. Her body pressed flush against his, her scent surrounding him, his body reacted, betraying his attraction. She shifted, wedged her thigh between his and rested her head on his chest. Air slammed out of his lungs as her thigh edged northward, finally coming to rest pressed against his crotch. He bit back a whimper as he looked down, her shirt had ridden up, exposing part of her midriff. He was glad he'd chosen to keep his shirt on. If he didn't have two layers between them, her soft breasts against his chest might drive him fully insane. He closed his eyes, resigning himself to a long night.
Oliver burrowed deeper into the bed, soft and safe and warm. He remembered when he slept like this every day. Contentment spread warmth through his chest, a smile on his face, he pulled the woman in his arms closer, nuzzled her neck and pressed a soft kiss to her jaw. She stiffened, her resistance cutting through the bliss in his sleep-fogged brain. He opened his eyes to meet Felicity's wide open stare. He came to himself, realized every part of his body was wrapped around Felicity's. His hand rested on her hip, lower than was usually considered a friendly touch.
"Oh, god. Felicity… I'm…"
She laughed nervously, "You were asleep. I get it. And it's morning, so that explains why you look like you're so happy to see me."
Oliver squeezed his eyes shut and shifted backwards, unsure how to fix this. He settled on a quick exit to the restroom and then ended up in her kitchen making breakfast, hoping it would go in the category of things we don't talk about. He'd kissed her. How was he supposed to explain that away? Knowing Felicity… he sighed. It had been nice, waking up with her. More than nice. It'd been heaven, but heaven wasn't for the likes of him.
A/N: This started as a flash fic, but it wanted to keep going. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue it. I think it could be finished as is. Anyway, please tell me what you thought. Comments feed my needy muse.