They were three hours into the investor gala when she pulled away from Ray's side and faked an excuse to the ladies room. In reality she had the beginnings of a headache, her feet hurt, and she felt guilty for being away from her night job. She also really wanted to check the progress of a new project they'd been working on.
The executive level of Queen Consolidated was teeming with well dressed guests and she nodded politely to a number of people as her daringly high stilettos clicked across the marble floor.
Instead of slipping down the hallway to the rest rooms she continued on, the crowd thinning as she approached her office and sighed in relief when she saw it empty.
Moving quicker she made her way through the now quiet space and sat her beaded clutch on the edge of her desk as she walked around and debated whether to sit or not. The gown she wore wrinkled easily and with a distracted huff she pushed the chair out of the way and bent over her keyboard to log in.
"I should have known I'd find you here."
Her head shot up guiltily to see Ray striding through the door, lips curled in a smile.
"Sorry, I just really wanted to check on the progress. R&D said it was going well, but-"
He stepped behind her to wrap an arm around her waist as he lowered his chin to her shoulder, "I've been trying to figure out a way to get out of there to do the same for the past hour. So thanks for the excuse."
"You're very welcome," she returned with a grin.
Their relationship was still relatively new. She was certain she'd worked for Ray for almost three months before he actually looked up from his tablet long enough to realize she was a woman and not just a brain. He asked her to be his plus one to an event very much like the one they were at that night where he'd been strictly professional. After that there was an occasional lunch and then one dinner date where he'd kissed her sweetly at her door and told her goodnight.
She was attracted to him. She was definitely attracted to how he was attracted to her and how he had no qualms in letting her know. But try as she might she couldn't help but compare him to how she felt about Oliver. And each time she was left with the knowledge that there was no comparison.
However, she still had to try. Things with Oliver were better. They were different of course, every interaction punctuated with them both aware of what was constantly being left unsaid, but they were getting back to how things had been or at least as close as they could get.
With Ray at her back she shook herself out of her reverie and pulled up the data they'd been waiting on. As her screens came to life she focused on the one in the middle, fingers flying as she went through the new information.
"Oh god," Ray exclaimed.
"Hmmm?" she hummed, still distracted.
"The Arrow's been killed," he replied, lifting one hand to point to the screen on her right.
Ice washed through her veins at his words and she froze, body going numb as all the air left her lungs.
The live local news report had been left on from earlier and as her eyes slid over she saw distorted helicopter footage from the docks. Spotlights swooped dizzily, but it was the words crawling across the bottom of the screen that made her pitch forward, spots dancing crazily in front of her eyes.
'Arrow killed by police'
She didn't feel Ray catch her waist or how he pulled her hair out of her face to see her. Her scalp tingled and she felt so light she thought she might float away.
"No!" it was torn from her throat, ragged and raw and once she started she couldn't stop, "No no no NO!"
Some distant part of her brain knew that she shouldn't be showing so much emotion in front of him, that she should be hiding it better, but she couldn't. Her eyes blurred with tears that refused to fall and the ache in the center of her chest throbbed slow and deep. She wondered if it was actually her heart not knowing how to beat any longer.
"Felicity!" Ray's shout caused her head to jerk up and she managed to half turn, leaning heavily on her desk to see his concerned face.
"What is wrong? Do you know him?" he asked incredulously.
But before she could answer a flash of red appeared in her peripheral vision and she whipped her head to the side to see Roy, grave faced as he hesitated by the door.
"Nooooo….." it was drawn from her soul, as the only thought running through her head was that he was there to tell her Oliver was dead.
She didn't know that she'd pushed away from Ray or was taking shaky, stilted steps towards Roy who hurried to meet her halfway. His arms came up automatically when she reached him as she clung to his hoodie, unable to ask the question.
Carefully he took her face in his hands to stop her silent protest and made her meet his eyes, "He's still alive," he murmured so only she could hear and she collapsed forward with a sob.
For a long moment he just held her, hand stroking over her perfectly styled hair until another presence joined them.
"Felicity, what the hell is going on? Are you okay? Who is this?"
Without turning to look she addressed him, "Just please give me a minute, Ray." and then put beseeching eyes on Roy who drew her further away.
"It's bad though. Digg got him back to the foundry but it's not good."
"What happened?" she hissed against his chest.
"Rogue cop. Caught him in the side with his arm raised, right where-"
"Where there isn't any kevlar. Oh god."
She felt sick and weak and she barely noticed as Roy half guided, half carried her past Ray to the couch behind them.
"Why didn't you call?" she asked fiercely, "This was supposed to go down tomorrow."
"Felicity…" Roy shifted closer from where he kneeled in front of her and threw a wary look at Ray, keeping his voice as low as possible, "We did call. We've been calling all night. The bust got moved up because there was movement. Lance notified us hours ago."
"No," she said shaking her head violently, "No. I've had my phone with me. If you had called I would have known!"
Suddenly with a purpose she flew to her feet and stalked for her clutch, trying to ignore Ray's questioning stares. Flipping open the clasp she reached inside but didn't find her phone. Trying again all she felt was a tube of lipstick, a compact, a small knife, and an extra usb drive.
"No! Where is it? Where's my phone?" she had just dumped the meager contents onto her desk when Ray stepped forward, her missing phone held in his palm.
"I'm sorry. You've been so stressed lately and talking about how you hadn't had a night off...I slipped it out of your bag and put it on mute...I…"
She saw red. All the worry and grief and desolation she felt was shoved to the side as pure rage filled her. It brought her shoulders back, her head up, and in a second she was in Ray's face, "How dare you! You had no right! No right!" she was shaking she was so angry and a quick glance down at her phone showed fifteen missed calls and almost as many text messages.
"If he dies because of this-"
"Felicity!" Roy said sharply and she caught herself before she could say too much. Grabbing her bag she whirled on her heel, Roy's hand coming out to grab hers.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know," Ray began,
"No! You can't do this! You can't just make decisions like this for me. I have responsibilities beyond this job and if-" the words got stuck in her throat as more tears filled her vision.
"Felicity, what's going on with you and the Arrow?"
"You don't get to ask me that question!" she gritted out between her teeth and then she and Roy were heading for the elevators.
Once the doors shut she slumped against the wall, knees like jelly as she leaned her head back and tried to take a deep breath.
"Lose the heels," Roy said unexpectedly and she looked over to see him gesturing towards her feet. "The heels, lose them. You can barely walk as it is, I doubt being on six inch stilts is helping."
"Oh," she breathed, using his arm for balance as she leaned over to slip them off, not protesting when he took them from her and then pulled her into his side.
"Is he...is it…"
"Broken ribs from where the bullet went in, partially collapsed lung, but Digg got the bullet out and he's breathing on his own."
The 'for now' went unsaid and she let out a shuddering breath just as the elevator doors opened and deposited them in the lobby.
She didn't blink as they walked through. There were several party attendees around who gave her surprising looks but she paid them no mind.
Once they were in the car she clung to her phone like a lifeline as Roy sped through the streets of Starling, heading for the Glades as quick as he could. She pulled up her missed calls; one from Lance, five from Diggle, and another eight from Roy with increasingly longer voicemails attached to them that she didn't listen to.
The last one however, made her breath catch. One call from Oliver. The final one, with a three second message.
Fingers shaking so bad she could hardly control them she pushed play.
'Felicity...I need you,"
That was it. He didn't sound angry, just rushed and a little frustrated. It was the way he said her name though, how his voice always seemed to drop an octave and a new timbre found its way in.
Over and over she played it on repeat, phone resting in her lap as she stared at it as if in a trance.
He'd called her. He'd needed her. And she'd failed.
She didn't know how many times she played the message until finally Roy reached over and turned it off.
"That's enough. Don't do this to yourself," he said roughly, covering her hand with his where it had fisted in the fabric of her dress.
"I should have been there! I should have known! Maybe if I was there then this wouldn't have happened!"
"You don't know that."
"I know," he said softly, squeezing her hand and she clung to him desperately as he drove the last few miles to the club.
The car hadn't come to a complete stop when she was out, dashing across the cold asphalt in her bare feet as she raced for the door. Somehow she entered the code in one try and then she was racing down the metal stairs, one hand clutching the rail, the other barely remembering to hold her trailing skirts out of the way.
She saw him on the table immediately, Digg at his side watching the monitors closely. It didn't escape her notice that the crash cart was already pulled next to him and her hand came up to shakily cover her mouth as her feet slowed and she felt all the blood rush from her head.
She never felt Roy take her numb fingers to guide her forward, or noticed how Digg moved to the other side as she approached. Her entire focus was on the man on the table. The one who was far too pale and who she loved with all her heart.
The world fell away and all that existed was Oliver. She didn't see the bright lights, or Laurel at the foot of the table, or feel the chair Digg pushed up behind her shaking knees. A trembling hand with dark red nails entered her field of vision and then they made contact, just barely resting on the skin above his still beating heat.
What had been cold was shocked with a burst of electricity. A surge that made her gasp as her knees gave out and she slumped into the seat. Her eyes were locked on the two bandages that stood out stark and white, one along his ribcage, the other the right side of his chest. No one needed to tell her that if it had happened on his left he'd have been dead instantly.
Slowly, she flattened her hand until her palm covered most of his Bratva tattoo and she stared at the tiny flutter of pulse in the hollow of his throat and the matching thud she could feel. She was careful of the leads that were stuck to him, monitoring his vitals and when she finally took a second to look she also saw a bag of blood and a bag of fluids being pumped into him.
He sighed and stepped behind her, hand resting on her shoulder and she let a few of her vertebrates release, allowing her to sink back into him and draw from his strength.
"He crashed twice. Lung sounds on the right aren't too bad, but there's a chance he's bleeding internally."
She knew he wouldn't sugarcoat it for her, that he'd just give her the facts, but it didn't mean she didn't feel it like a punch in the gut.
With silent tears dripping off the end of her nose she grasped his hand with her free one, immediately noticing his gloves were still on. Not saying a word she methodically undid the closure at the wrist and pulled the blood stiffened leather from each finger until she could wrap her fingers around his cool ones.
"This is my fault,"
"It is. I should have been here." she said in a flat, dead voice,
"Palmer took your phone and turned it off. That's not your fault," Roy said from the other side of the table but she didn't look up.
"Doesn't matter. I should have looked for it earlier. I should have noticed!"
"Felicity, you're entitled to a night off. No one blames you. Oliver doesn't blame you." Digg said carefully but she still flinched, shifting in her seat and adjusting her hold on him. She knew she didn't deserve to be sitting there, but she couldn't get herself to let go.
"We don't get nights off. That's not how this works."
The lair was silent except for the beep of the monitors until a swell of emotion filled her chest so quick and fast it took her breath away. She tipped forward a guttural moan leaving her lips, eyes blurring with hot tears that wouldn't stop as she was wracked with sobs.
"Why does it hurt so much?" she pressed their joined hands to her breastbone as if the pressure on the outside could do away with what was attempting to crack through her ribcage from the inside.
"Because you're in love with him,"
It was Laurel who spoke.
Felicity had forgotten she was there, and with great effort turned until she could see her. She hadn't moved, still stood in the same spot with her arms wrapped around her waist. She stared at Oliver in worry and concern, eyes reddened, but her voice had been kind.
"And he's in love with you." she continued and Felicity just nodded before slowly pivoting her head back to look at the man who despite how hard she tried still had a hold over her heart.
"Sometimes thats not enough," she said sadly.
Digg's hand tightened on her shoulder once in quiet support and then she felt him move away, a chill running up her spine from the loss of warmth but it was quickly replaced by Roy dropping a grey hoodie over her shoulders before he too gave her some space.
She knew they weren't far, that Digg wouldn't leave Oliver when he was that critical, but as she heard the sound of Laurel's heels getting fainter she knew they'd given her as much privacy as they could.
For hours she sat by his side as her mind whirled through every scenario she could imagine, good and bad, but mostly bad.
It was approaching two in the morning when a rough scraping sound caught her attention and she looked up to see Roy dragging the bed she'd bought for Oliver out of the shadows.
"He's holding his own. You look like you're about to collapse. Get some rest." Digg said as he came up to disconnect the empty bag of blood and check Oliver's vitals.
"I'm fine," she protested hoarsely, earning her a raised eyebrow.
Roy continued to move the bed until it lay parallel to the table, giving her a tight smile as he walked away.
"I think he's made it through the worst, but you can't sit there all night. I'm not telling you to leave his side," he said carefully, nodding to how close the bed was, "but you're no good to anyone if you're exhausted. And despite what you may think, he's going to need you."
She shook her head, "I doubt that. I let him down tonight. He needed me and…"
Digg scrubbed a hard hand over his face and moved closer, "He lost a lot of blood real fast. When I got him to the van I wasn't sure he was going to make it back here. He was half conscious, barely able to speak. But it didn't matter because the only thing he was saying was your name."
Tears clogged her throat and the knot that was her heart twisted.
"Oliver...Oliver needs to understand that to do what we do he has to embrace every side. The good and the bad. You may be his biggest weakness, but you're also his biggest strength. And I think maybe he's starting to get that."
When his hand slipped under her elbow and tugged gently she didn't resist. Her fingers squeezed Oliver's hand one more time before she let Digg guide her to the bed. His hand brushed over her head once as she laid down, Oliver within her line of sight the entire time.
She didn't sleep, but she tried to rest. His scent was still on the pillow and on the hoodie wrapped around her and she knew if she shut her eyes she'd imagine it was his arms she was in and that was too much to bear.
But she must have fallen asleep at some point because the basement came back into focus and the first thing she saw were blue eyes staring at her.
She clambered to her feet so quick the world spun, but it only took two steps until she was clutching the metal of the table, heart beating wildly.
"Oliver...I'm so sorry-" she began, but the feel of his fingers trying to wrap around her wrist cut her off as her head ducked to take in the sight of his thumb moving slowly over her pulse point.
When she looked back up his brows were drawing together and she saw him tense before he attempted to sit up.
"No! Lay down, what do you think you're doing?" her hands pressed on his shoulders and he sank back with no resistance, a pained grunt escaping his lips.
One hand slid down to brush over the first bandage and then curl around the one along his ribs, the spot where the bullet had entered as she leaned over him.
She waited as he breathed in and out through his nose until he was on top of the pain and then she was trapped once again by his gaze.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there. I didn't know. You know I would have been here. I would have never-"
"I know," he whispered in a gravelly voice that couldn't hide how much he was hurting.
For a long moment they were silent but an entire conversation was exchanged between two pairs of blue eyes. She saw his regret, and the fear that he'd lost her forever. All she could remember was how she'd felt when she thought he was gone. Whether they were together or not hadn't changed the devastation she'd experienced.
The back of her free hand brushed across his cheek, the rough scrape of too long stubble rubbing over her knuckles and they both froze when he reached up and trapped it there.
"You scared me," she mumbled, her tongue feeling like it was too thick in her mouth.
"Scared me too," he admitted, thumb keeping a steady rhythm over the back of her hand, "Just wanted to see you again."
She let out a stifled sob, biting her lip to keep from crying aloud.
"I didn't want to die down here."
"Oh god!" she reeled back, hand clamping over her mouth as she blinked rapidly but couldn't stop the tears from falling.
He followed her, grimacing as he pushed up on one elbow and tried to reach for her with his right hand but stopped when the monitors began to blare.
"Oliver, stop!" she ordered, just managing to slip her hand behind his head as he collapsed on to the table and Digg hurried over. "Don't try to move."
"Need you to understand," he murmured, eyes trying to slip shut and she looked at Digg in horror.
"He's okay, just too soon for him to try and get up," he assured her, but she saw him motion to Roy to get another bag of blood and her stomach twisted.
"...'licity…" his voice was slurred now, as she moved her hand to cup his jaw, "...understand…"
"I do. I understand." she almost choked on the words, but his response was immediate.
"Good," he breathed out, the crease between his brows easing as his eyes slid shut again.
"Oliver…" she pleaded but he didn't move.
"He needs the rest," Digg said, and she nodded without taking her eyes off of Oliver.
Two hours later she sat perched on the side of the bed where he now lay. His blood pressure had stabilized and Digg had let him up long enough to get to the bed. She hadn't thought twice before pulling up the skirts of her gown and curling her legs under her, pressed into his side.
His arm rested along her lap, fingers absently stroking her hip through the thin material. "This is a good look on you," he said with a small smile, giving the hoodie a quick tug.
"It's all the rage this season," she returned, reaching out for the hundredth time to smooth the tape over his wound.
"I didn't know how to be me and the Arrow. I thought I had to keep it separate."
She just shook her head, because she'd never seen it as something that could be separated.
"It doesn't work that way though."
"No...you're as much one as the other," she agreed, fingers slipping from the bandage down to trail across his middle, "That's who I fell in love with."
The admission made them both freeze. She felt his abs go tight as her hand curled against him and she was certain her heart had stopped beating.
Their eyes held and she saw him laid bare, more vulnerable and hopeful than she'd ever seen him.
"What about…" his eyes dropped to her gown, the question unfinished.
"I'm where I'm supposed to be," her voice was strong and sure and nothing was more beautiful than watching the realization wash over his face.
His hand tightened at her hip, making a bolt of desire shoot through her.
"I really want to kiss you right now," he said with a slow curl of his lips that made her heart flip.
When she felt the shift of muscle under her hand as if he were going to try and sit up she moved forward, laying one finger over his lips, "Don't even think about it," she warned just before she replaced her finger with her mouth, making sure she didn't put any pressure on him. It was short and chaste but it still took her breath away and he was panting when she pulled back.
"We should probably save that for when you have full use of both your lungs," she quipped shakily as he reluctantly nodded in agreement.
But when his eyes darkened, thumb swirling around her hip bone, she felt that familiar swoop low in her belly, "Good thing I heal fast."
"That's good. Very good. I'm a fan of fast healing."
When she saw his eyes droop and how he was fighting it she brushed light touches along his temple, "Rest. I'm not going anywhere."
With that he shifted his hips to the right even though it made him pale and his jaw tighten in pain.
The invitation was clear and despite knowing better she couldn't resist. In an instant she was laying next to him, head pressed above his heart as his arm curled around her.
His lips brushed her forehead and she shifted closer, chuckling softly under her breath.
"What's so funny?" he murmured into her hairline.
"I should have bought you a bigger bed."