"Do you think scars can be erogenous?"
Felicity had thought about this probably for longer than she cared to admit. They had spent the best part of a week (it had been a week, or at least she estimated it to be – she'd been blissfully oblivious to the passing days melting into each other, to what was going on in Starling, to anything and everything, in fact, that wasn't Oliver) in their hotel room. They had ordered room service and cheap wine and induled in the slow, languid exploration of each other's bodies.
Oliver's was like a map, and already, Felicity had memorised it. She had traced every scar and tattoo and muscle, over and over, with her fingertips and her lips and her tongue. She had learnt his responses and sensitive spots, the changing hues of his skin, the precise pattern of his breathing. But just because she now knew exactly where each of the imperfections of his body were located didn't mean she understood them. It was like when Oliver would gasp in Russian when he was close to climaxing – she knew why, sort of, but she couldn't comprehend the foreign words he uttered.
Most of his scars were foreign, too, and that meant Felicity still had that barrier of translation. And yet once again, she found herself touching the thick lines that covered his back, even today still an angry shade of pink, feeling the heat rise within her as she did so.
He turned towards her now, catching her free hand and kissing her knuckles. "Someone told me once that anything can be erogenous if you want it to be."
"Do I even want to know who told you that?" she said, tilting her head to one side a little.
Oliver laughed. "You'll probably be pleased to know that that is the only thing I can remember about her. I was pretty drunk at the time – I can't even remember her name, actually."
She just shook her head, pretending to look disapproving but failing when he met her eyes and smiled – she couldn't stop herself smiling back. Then she reached out, touching the scar on his bicep. "I remember patching this one up," she said. "It was when the Count had me in Queen Consolidated – after he shot you."
"Kind of hard to forget," he said softly.
Felicity shifted guilty. "Yeah, I guess you breaking your whole no killing thing is something you'll remember forever."
"I didn't mean that," Oliver said, "although I didn't see it as breaking my vows. Not when your life was at stake."
She looked up at him gratefully, squeezing his hand. "What did you mean, then?"
He chuckled. "I think – I know, now – that it was in that moment I was sure I loved you."
She was taken aback at that. "It was?"
"I probably wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, not even myself, but I remember, in that split second when the Count was about to hurt you, or worse, how scared I was at the thought of losing you."
Her hand went up to cup his cheek. "I'm right here," she reminded him, and she felt his jaw move beneath her palm as he smiled.
"I know you are."
Her hand slid down, then, from his cheek and down his neck, until it was resting on his chest. She ran her thumb against the scar there, reaching down to kiss it. "I remember this one too," she said. "I thought you were going to bleed to death in my car."
"You tried to keep me talking."
"I was trying to keep you conscious. When you passed out, I remember thinking you might have actually died."
"I'm sorry," he said, but she shook her head.
"I know this sounds crazy, but I'm glad things happened the way they did. If you hadn't been shot, you wouldn't have come to me for help and I might never have known you were the Arrow."
"You would have," Oliver said. She raised her eyebrows. "I planned on telling you eventually. I figured you would put two and two together and confront me about it, and when you did, I would tell you."
"You sound so surprised," he observed, and he sounded faintly amused as he ran his thumb lazily down the side of her face.
"I just didn't think you trusted me that early on, that's all. Or anyone."
"You were always the exception to that. Even back then."
Felicity smiled. "Good to know. I like that one even more now. Not that I'm trying to – you know, romanticise your pain or anything. Like, I don't think you're hot because you have scars, if that makes sense, or that you deserve sympathy because they're there. Because you don't. I mean that they remind me of the man you are… the man I love – and that you are who you are in spite of the experiences you had to go through, not because of them." She looked up at him and kissed him gently on his lips.
Moments later, he pulled away and she felt the rasp of his stubble rub against her skin as he lowered his mouth to her neck, eyelashes fluttering on the delicate skin just below her chin. "I love you too," he said, and she could feel the curve of his smile on a particularly sensitive spot on her neck. Felicity sighed contentedly as Oliver reached up to kiss up the side of her jaw, along the edge of her cheek and then her lips, and she moaned when he caught her top lip gently with his teeth.
She was surprised, therefore, when they surfaced from their kiss and he fixed her with an almost unreadable expression – like he was thinking hard, deliberating about something in his head. For what felt like forever, he just regarded her silently. "Do you want to know what those experiences were?" he asked at last.
"You don't have to tell me –" she began immediately, but Oliver shook his head.
"I know I don't have to. I want to. There's so much you still don't know about me, Felicity, and… I want you," he said carefully, "to know all of me. That includes the things that happened to me while I was on the island – the things I haven't told a single person since I got back."
"Well, it's not like you've told me nothing. I do know some things."
"You told me about how this scar," Felicity said, her fingers grazing the exact spot on his left side, "came from being shot with an arrow when you first got to the island."
"Yeah. God, I remember how much that one hurt."
"But the person who shot you…" She paused, unsure if the name that came into her head was the right one.
"Yao Fei," Oliver supplied, and Felicity nodded.
"He was a good guy, right?"
"He was. He was a fugitive, a prisoner on the island, and he ended up double- and triple-crossing the bad guys to save me."
"So that's where you got the idea from," Felicity said without thinking. And she'd only meant it as a joke, a lighthearted aside that they could both laugh off, but as soon as she saw his face fall, she knew he had taken her words to heart.
"Felicity, I –"
"You apologised already," she interrupted, placing her finger on his lips.
"And I will probably continue to for the rest of our lives," he said sincerely, and the remorse she could see in his eyes made something within her break.
"You told me… I remember you saying that you couldn't trust anyone on the island."
"I did," he said, and he closed his eyes. Felicity could feel him shudder and she instinctively stretched her arm as far as it would go across his chest, gripping his arm soothingly. "And I had good reason not to. I was tortured for Yao Fei's whereabouts by a man in a mask called… Billy Wintergreen. He cut me with a sword, over and over, for so long that I thought…"
Oliver trailed off, and his eyes were still closed. Felicity squeezed his arm, and she felt him take a breath before continuing, "I thought… I was sure I was going to die, and that was pretty much the only thing that kept me from giving up his location. I think it was then that I realised the only way I could survive was to fight to die."
"But you didn't," she tried to assure him.
"I survived," he agreed, and he opened his eyes now. They were their usual warm blue, but she could see they were becoming watery. "And Yao Fei rescued me, and I found another way now… but for days, weeks, maybe, every time I went to sleep, all I could think about was that mask. And about what he did to me. And I was still left with these." Oliver looked down at his chest and gestured to the longest scars that ran from the middle of his torso all the way down to his abdomen.
"Have you ever told anyone this?" she breathed.
"Bits of it," he admitted. "When Lance arrested me for being the Arrow the first time, he asked about the scars during my polygraph, and I told him the truth – that I had been tortured. And Laurel was there when I was taking the polygraph, so she knew as much as Lance. But I've – I've never really talked about it with anyone. Not properly."
"I'm glad you told me," said Felicity, and she wasn't sure why, but she found herself lowering her head to kiss the longest one. The tissue had long since healed, but she could see his skin was darkened. She trailed kisses down the path his torturer's sword had taken eight years ago, and she marvelled at the tautness of his flesh, the way the muscles in his abdomen contracted every time he sucked in a breath at the touch of her lips and the flick of her tongue.
Felicity looked up, meeting Oliver's eyes, and a moment later, she felt him pulling her towards him, his hand brushing against her breast as he kissed her.
"You're beautiful," she breathed, and when she saw his expression was one of disbelief, she leaned up to kiss his forehead and his nose and then his lips. "Really. And I don't just mean you're handsome, because that's just stating the obvious," Felicity added, and Oliver laughed, then, his eyes sparkling with the smile that permeated his whole face.
"Honestly. You could have given him up. It wasn't like you really knew him, and from what you've said, I doubt you trusted him. So you could have told them what they wanted to know – which I'm guessing is the closest equivalent to buying your way out of trouble – but you didn't. You put someone else first. You were a hero even back then. And I can see," she said, and once again, her hand splayed on muscles of his abdomen, "that after eight years, that hasn't changed."
Oliver's mouth opened and closed several times, as though he wanted to say something but couldn't. Eventually, he managed to murmur "Thank you" before kissing her slowly, expertly coaxing open her mouth with his tongue until she was left gasping.
"You're welcome," she replied after a minute, still breathless, smiling back, and her hand was already wandering to his thigh. Oliver groaned at that, and she pushed at his chest so he was lying on his back and she was at his side, wrapping her hand around his erection. He rocked his hips before he reached forward, grabbing her shoulders so he could kiss her, and the whole time Felicity's hand and fingers and thumb were still at work, touching, stroking, caressing.
And then she could feel the prickle of his scruff on her shoulder and his grip on her free arm grow tighter, and he mouthed her name, muffled and coupled with a loud groan as he came in her hand. Felicity smiled – she may have gotten used to seeing him lose control like that (and it was certainly true if the last week was anything to go by), but she would never get enough of that look on his face as he gazed up at her, slightly dazed from his orgasm but still with a smile on his lips and in his eyes and flushed cheeks that bore no sign of the pain she had seen just minutes before.
His hand was on her cheek as he kissed her softly, as she wiped her hand down on her thigh. It occurred to her, mid-kiss, that this was perhaps as good a time as any to tell him about her scars – the ones she hadn't talked about with anyone in years.
He had clearly detected the sudden change in her expression, though, because a moment later, he asked (his forehead still leaning against hers), "You okay?"
"Yeah," she said quickly, not wanting to worry him, but he still looked concerned.
"What is it?"
"I was just thinking," she said, and she felt encouraged when he nodded expectantly. "Just… there are things you don't know about me too."
"Five years ago, after… everything that happened while I was in college, I guess you could say I went through a bit of a rough patch."
Oliver shrugged. "That's understandable."
"Only, my way of dealing with that was –" She halted, again unsure if she should continue when she felt an unexpected lump in her throat.
"Hey," he said gently, tucking her hair behind her ear and cupping her cheek, "whatever it is, you don't have to tell me if it upsets you."
His touch was calming and soothed her, enough for her to be able to speak again. "I know I don't have to. I want to," she said firmly. She raised her left leg a little, pointing to the faint criss-cross of thin scars, almost invisible and hidden on the inside of her thigh near her knee. "The thing is, I have scars too. I never did it enough times for them to be obvious, and you probably haven't noticed, but –"
"I did, actually," Oliver interjected unexpectedly, and she looked up at him, her mouth slightly open in disbelief.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
He shook his head. "There's nothing to say. Or ask. Not really. I figured you would tell me if – and only if – you wanted to. And if I never knew why you had them, that was okay too."
She sighed, not even bothering to hide how ashamed she felt. "Yeah. I self-harmed a few times. I blamed myself for my boyfriend committing suicide while in prison for a crime I was responsible for." She let out a chuckle but it came out as a scoff. "It's funny. I remember you, John and Sara comparing your bullet wounds, talking about grenades and swords and arrows, and I… all I had were razors. My own razors. But I never said that, because you guys were fighting for your lives, and me – I was just depressed. Or grieving. Or both. I did it to myself. And I figured you should know all of me too. That includes the parts that are messed up… even if that means you think less of me."
"I don't often get to say this," said Oliver slowly, "and believe me, I don't like saying it, but you could not be more wrong, Felicity."
She realised now that her cheeks were wet, and she closed her eyes, sighing when she could feel the roughness of Oliver's fingertips on her face, brushing them away.
"You're not messed up," he told her. "You never were. Look at me." His words came out not as a command but as a plea, and moments later, she found it in herself to open her eyes so they met his. "You went through a rough time and blamed yourself even though you weren't responsible." She opened her mouth as if to argue with him, but he continued, "You convinced yourself that it was your fault because you cared about him. That's not a bad thing.
"And don't think for one second that you telling me this makes me think any less of you. Especially because… because in your own way, you were probably fighting for your life too."
She couldn't help but smile when he said that, and with the backs of her hands, she wiped her tears away from her cheeks. "I was lucky, though. Soon after I graduated, I moved to Starling to work at QC, and it helped. Fresh start, and all that."
"So you never… you know…" Oliver sounded a little hesitant, and she knew was he was thinking.
"Got help?" she said. He nodded, looking a little sheepish for asking. "No. Not really. My mom sent me to a shrink - not because of, well, that, but with the whole boyfriend committing suicide thing."
"Did it help?"
"Not really. And the… self-harm -" (she felt weird, saying the words aloud, but her heart felt a little lighter too) " - like I said, I didn't do it enough times for me to see it as a 'problem', really, and I swore I would never talk about to anyone - not to my mom, not to a doctor, anyone."
He chuckled. "I'm honoured to be the exception."
"How did I get to be so lucky?" she mused, sighing, more to herself than anything, but it just made Oliver laugh more.
"I believe you agreed to help some guy whose coffee shop was in a bad neighbourhood."
"It was so obvious that you were lying, but I should have realised it was also obvious that you are so not a latte person," Felicity teased.
"If you were so sure I was lying, why did you help me?" His tone was curious as he settled more comfortably against the pillows, propping himself up on his elbow.
She shrugged. "I don't know. I just… humoured you, I guess, and I figured you seemed like a good person. And, obviously, I always thought you were cute, even before I met you, so there's that."
"So that's why you asked for my number."
Felicity burst out laughing, because she still was unused to the blatant flirtation and jokes she realised Oliver was prone to when they were in private. "You wish," she said playfully, and she sat up in the bed at the same time as him, leaning her back against the headboard as he kissed her, shuffling until he was on top of her. The bed creaked a little with their movement, and she let out a long breath, revelling in his warm weight (she had learned in the past week that it was, indeed, all muscle).
And then Oliver reached down and parted her thighs, kissing her briefly on the mouth before he lowered his head to press a kiss just below her belly button, while he parted the trail of hair below her navel with his fingers.
"Lie back," he murmured, and she obeyed wordlessly, her back sliding down against the headboard, helped by Oliver's arms which were suddenly hooked around her knees. He had moved down with her, so he was lying on his front, positioned between her legs. Felicity was watching him carefully, and the way he gazed right back at her made all the worry that had welled up in her just minutes ago melt away, to her relief. He lowered his gaze to her left thigh, rubbing at that patch of skin that she had ruined so long ago, but she felt soothed by his calming circular motions, as well as the tell-tale leakage of moisture that trickled down her inner thigh when he cupped her from the backs of her thighs, hoisting her legs over his shoulders and flicking his tongue around her entrance. She thrust towards his mouth involuntarily, back arched, fingers scrabbling at the sheets for something to clench onto while his tongue was at work.
Oliver tortuously gentle and deliberately slow. He was teasing her, that much was obvious, hitting that spot for what felt like mere seconds before moving away – to the point that Felicity had bite down on her lip to stop herself from screaming.
Thankfully, it died in her throat, but she again found herself rocking her hips against him, at once revelling in the pleasurable ache that was tightening like a knot inside her and craving its release and undoing. "Oliver," she pleaded, her voice a croaky whisper, but she knew he heard her because at that moment, he withdrew a little and she could feel the upturning of his lips against her entrance. And then his tongue was inside her once more, his grip on her thighs tightening and sending shocks of pleasure down to her core. He didn't stop or slow until she came, body shuddering and with a cry that reverberated around the room – or, at least, it felt like that to Felicity, as she breathed slowly, wiping away the sweat that had formed on her forehead.
She turned on her side, and Oliver joined her, moving so his eyes were level with hers before he kissed her cheek and down her jaw. "Thank you," he breathed.
Felicity caught his hand in hers, pressing a kiss on his palm. "For what?" she asked.
"For letting me know all of you."