At first, Felicity was not sure if the sound was just an echo of the storm raking havoc in Starling City or her imagination of a human moan of displeasure.
She was absorbed in her Outlander book, while the wind and thunder made the outside world look like a cataclysm. The lights had gone out one hour ago and she had to read under the reading light Diggle gave her a few weeks back.
Oliver had dragged himself towards his bed after a monumental day of failed meetings in QC and a good beating in one dark alley of the city. Felicity had gone just ten minutes after him, and had just put the covers over her body when the light suddenly disappeared, letting her immersed in a state of darkness. She had perked her ears to hear anything from Oliver's bedroom, but apparently he was already asleep, so, using her book-light, she restarted where she had left of the last night.
She was reaching a particularly daunting part when the moan echoed, making her doubt her own ears. She put the book down and perked her ears and there it was, once again, the half struggled groan of pain. She jumped from her cozy bed and ran towards her door, opening it ajar and crossing the few steps between her door and Oliver's bed in seconds, without worrying about the closed door and the darkness in the house.
Of course she had thought about the possibility of him having nightmares. Everything that he told them and especially not told them about his five years away would be a field day for a shrink to poke into his brain. She had mused over the hypothesis of PTSD especially when she started working with him, but now, after two years, she realized those thoughts left her mind a long time ago. She hadn't let herself think of Oliver as less than a man ready to sacrifice himself for an entire city, as a hero, for a long time. The thoughts that he could be weak and powerless against any enemy were foreign ones, not even when Slade's shadow was stronger than ever, did she ever let herself believe that they couldn't win, that he couldn't win.
And now, seeing him writhing in his bed, the covers on the floor, his forehead shining with sweat under the lightning, her heart squeezed painfully. He was a brave man reduced to a whimpering child under the domain of his past demons.
Felicity approached him slowly, knowing how dangerous it could be to wake someone under such powerful control of a dream. She extended her hand slowly, her fingers quivering in anticipation, until she could feel his hot skin under her digits.
"Oliver…" she whispered, feeling his body rolling around.
The darkness was too oppressive and Felicity felt like an iron fist was pressing her rib-cage.
And then his eyes opened suddenly, he grabbed her wrist and brought her body down, his arms snaking around her frame and pulling her against his body.
"Felicity…" he whispered against her hair, while she felt her heart almost jump from her chest in its furious beating.
She could feel the adrenaline in her veins and for a millisecond she was afraid he hadn't recognized her and would hurt her in his daze of fear. And then he whispered her name and she felt herself calm down under the power of his arms.
"I'm sorry…" he said and Felicity chuckled.
"I should be the one saying that…" Felicity replied, and felt his arms fall away from her body, letting her kneel in his bed, beside his chest.
"But I was the one manhandling you, scaring you and waking you up…" Oliver said.
"Well, I was awake and you just surprised me…" Felicity chose to forget that millisecond of fear, ashamed that she could believe that Oliver would ever hurt her.
"The light went out…" Oliver said.
Ah, so he was awake after all… just damn silent…
"Yes, for an hour now… The storm is still strong…" Felicity turned her head around towards the window. Even if it was closed, the ranging winds and rain were clearly present in their furious beating.
Oliver sighed and pulled himself against the headboard. They stood like that, Felicity kneeling and he sitting, for a long time, in silence.
Felicity was wondering if he would ever speak again, when the sound of the rustling covers echoed.
"Come here, you're shivering…" Oliver said, feeling the tremors running through her body.
Felicity couldn't deny that she was freezing. Under her covers, she was warm enough that she didn't thought about her slim pajamas, but now, in the cold of the room, she was freezing. However, getting under the covers with Oliver Queen was another thing altogether.
"Look, if you don't feel at ease, I can go over the covers." Oliver said, surprising her.
"What? No! I was just thinking that I was freezing and I would make you cold by consequence…" Felicity lied easily, but then, the darkness helped hiding her flaming cheeks.
"Get under the covers…" Oliver sighed and Felicity closed her eyes for a moment, a quick succession of images that would make a nun blush running through her mind.
"I imagined you saying that under different circumstances…" she said, trying to alleviate the tension and she felt Oliver's frame rock with his chuckles.
After a few seconds, she felt Oliver's warm sip into her skin and the tremors stopped. She was counting the seconds of this second silence period when Oliver spoke suddenly.
"It was the storm…" he said. "Storms are not a good thing for me. They make me remember of things I had rather forget… They make me feel weak…" his voice was harsh and Felicity realized he was angry with himself.
"Hey, it's not your fault. Everyone is afraid of something… that doesn't make you weak, it makes you human. Fear is a good thing, it gives you limits…" Felicity replied, her hand searching his and finding it in the darkness. She grabbed his fingers and interlocked hers with his.
"But fear can be paralyzing, fear can root you to a place, stopping yourself from fighting for your life. What then? How can you work around that?" Oliver asked and Felicity sighed.
"Well, I'm not a specialist myself, but for what I learned during these last two years, fear and strength are incredible interlocked. You can't have one without the other. Strength without fear is reckless and fear without strength is cowardice. You have to keep a balance of the two that keeps you returning to me every time…" she said softly, none of them choosing to notice the use of me in that sentence.
"Thank you…" Oliver breathed, his lips touching Felicity's temple.
"I will always be here, Oliver…" Felicity replied, her arms surrounding his frame and hugging him.
His bedside lamp's light appeared suddenly and Felicity winked at the sudden brightness.
"Oh… the light is back…" she said softly and Oliver hummed against her shoulder.
None of them stepped back from the embrace until a deep thunder rumbled over them and they jumped, letting go of each other.
"What do you say about a movie night? My tablet is fully charged… just in case the light goes out again…" Felicity suggested with a smile and Oliver nodded.
She ran to her bedroom to grab her tablet, while musing about the strange happenings of the last half an hour.
Oliver Queen still suffered from his past demons, storms were still a dark subject for him, but what Felicity retained more clearly from that night was how, when he grabbed her, he didn't make a move to hurt her, like she thought he could do.
He protected her, like always, and Felicity felt that that knowledge was enough to illuminate her entire being even if the lights of all city disappeared.