Sunlight poured through a tiny gap in the curtains in Felicity's room, making Oliver automatically shield his eyes with his hand. He turned on his side, feeling the sun on his bare back, and even now, he revelled in the fact that Felicity was nestled to his chest. Every few seconds, he could feel the soft kiss of her breath on his skin, the tiniest shift as her limbs moved in her sleep, tangled with his, reaffirming for him that this was not a dream. This was not the distant, tortuous fantasy his mind had entertained for months, now – it was real. She was real.
She was here, with him, and Oliver tried his best to hold on to that. Her sleeping presence alone was enough to help banish the dream he had just surfaced from, and his hold on Felicity grew tighter. He could not stop himself from pressing a kiss on the top of her head. Immediately, though, he felt bad when she started stirring at the touch of his lips. He watched as her eyelids began to flicker, one hand still touching her hair.
Felicity yawned. "Morning," she said, smiling sleepily, her eyes half-open but her hand steady as she stroked his cheek.
"Sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's okay." Felicity tilted her head to one side, regarding him warmly. "I had a lovely dream."
Oliver tried to smile, hoping the unease from his nightmare wasn't showing on his face. "You did? What happened?"
"Well, after you basically asked me to run away with you in front of everyone – including our exes – we got back to my place and had sex on my kitchen counter because you couldn't figure out where my room was."
Shaking his head, he couldn't help but chuckle. He had missed this – missed her, so much. "Was it a vivid dream?" he asked lightly, and his words only made her smile grow wider.
"Mm hmm," she murmured, running her thumb down his jaw, and he closed his eyes at her touch. "Very. In fact, if I didn't know any better, it might have actually happened."
A moment later, he felt her lips on his. Oliver welcomed the distraction of her kiss, but already, his mind's eye was once again conjuring up the remnants of his dream. Felicity seemed to notice, too, because when she moved away, her smile had faded a little.
"Are you okay?"
It took him a good few seconds to reply. "Yeah."
"Having second thoughts?" Felicity asked, and her tone was carefully light, the smile still fixed on her lips as if this was a throwaway question of no importance, but her eyes said otherwise. "Not that I would blame you if you did – I mean, we were both kind of sleep-deprived and tired, and you had only been shot at several times and nearly stabbed to death by one of the most dangerous men on the planet, and I had somehow been able to do something even scarier than jump out of a plane when I put on the ATOM suit, so I understand if you –"
"Felicity," Oliver interrupted, "believe me, I meant what I said. I love you, and I still want to… run away with you." He reached down, running his hand down her wrist until he was holding her hand, and she squeezed it in response, letting out a long breath she probably didn't even realise she was holding in relief.
"Good," she said, "because I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to let you go again."
"That's not going to happen," he assured her, leaning down to kiss her nose, and the weight on his heart eased a little when she laughed at his gesture. And then, though he wasn't sure exactly why, he decided to tell her. "I… had a bad dream, actually."
"About?" She looked worried, her beautiful grey eyes alert now and filled with far more concern and love than Oliver thought he could ever deserve. "Oliver?"
"When I… joined the League, Ra's gave me this – drug."
Felicity sighed. "I know. Nyssa told us he used it to brainwash you. I did wonder why it didn't affect you, actually."
"It did affect me. Badly. I was in an empty room on my own for days, chained to the floor, and it was… Felicity, it was literally like being locked inside my own head."
Her face fell. "Oh God, Oliver…"
"And then… I was hallucinating, but I just knew it wasn't real."
"What did you see?" she asked softly.
Unbidden, the image of Diggle on his knees, chained and insisting that he had been held prisoner by the League swam to the forefront of Oliver's mind. "I saw Diggle," he said at last, shuddering at the memory. "Maseo brought him to me, saying he had tried to break into Nanda Parbat to rescue me. Ra's told me later that I saw some kind of… representation of my conscience, and I guess that person was –" He halted, unable to complete his sentence, and Felicity shifted a little against the pillows, her arm curling around his bare waist. Her touch calmed him, making it easier for him to continue speaking. "Ra's said it was my job to take care of the problem, and I knew that meant killing him. But I also knew that, chances were, this wasn't Diggle. So I said… I said I wouldn't kill an unarmed man."
"So you could see if it was really John," Felicity said, nodding. "Makes sense."
"Yeah. It was obvious just from the way he held his sword that it wasn't him," Oliver continued, "but whoever it was, I… killed him. I knew it was a test from Ra's and that I would gain his trust by doing it, and I did it. But now, Felicity, every time I close my eyes, all I can think about is… the fact that I killed this man, whoever he was, in cold blood."
"It wasn't in cold blood," she reasoned. "Technically, he was armed."
Oliver closed his eyes, shaking his head. "I still killed him, though. And I don't know why – it didn't seem as bad at the time because I didn't think I was going to have to live with my guilty conscience."
"Because of the whole thing with you planning on dying." He sensed her shoulders stiffening when she said that.
"Yeah." It was now that he realised a lump had formed in his throat, and his next words came out even more haltingly than before. "And after I realised how much I had hurt Diggle by what I did to Lyla – to Sara – I just… part of me wonders if maybe I'm just as bad as Ra's."
"No," Felicity said firmly. "You're nothing like him. And I'm glad he's dead. I don't care if saying that makes me a bad person –"
"There is nothing in the world that could make you a bad person," Oliver said automatically.
"And I love you for saying that," she replied, the beginnings of a smile on her lips, "but you need to realise I think exactly the same about you."
It took a few seconds for that to sink in, and judging by the look on her face, his disbelief was evident. "Y-you do?"
"You've made mistakes." She shifted a little, moving so her leg was wrapped around his and her hand was comforting on his chest. "God knows, there are a lot of things you could have done differently. But I know for a fact that nothing you've done – nothing – was done by a bad person. Everything you did was with good intentions, to try and save the city. To save us."
"Diggle doesn't see it that way."
"He just needs time," she said. Oliver must not have looked convinced, because she then added, "Really. I know he'll forgive you eventually."
"You know, I got Maseo to stay there with Sara until he heard you come in," he said. "For whatever that's worth."
Almost absentmindedly, she rubbed slow circles around the Bratva tattoo on his chest. The motions were as soothing as her words were, and he ran his hand up her back in response as she spoke again. "You didn't say."
"It still doesn't excuse what I did."
"You want my advice?" said Felicity. He nodded. "If you want John to forgive you… you might want to try forgiving yourself first."
And suddenly, it was like they were back in Felicity's office in Palmer Technologies and she was giving him coffee and telling him to fight to live his dream, not to die, all over again. He supposed he should be used to it by now, but even today, it did not cease to amaze him that somehow, she always knew exactly what to say to him.
"I love you," he breathed, and he kissed her forehead, loving the radiance in her smile as she looked up at him.
"I know," she replied cheerfully, and both of them laughed at the same time. She leaned over him, apparently unaware of her bare breasts squashing against his body in the process, reaching for her phone, which he guessed was somewhere on the floor. Finally, she found it and picked it up, resuming her previous position and leaning against the pillows while she rested her head on his shoulder. "Oh, frack. My mom's been trying to call me all night."
Oliver glanced at her screen. "Eighteen missed calls."
"And seven texts," Felicity added. "My mom doesn't even know how to text."
"She probably heard about the bioweapon on the news."
"Last time she heard about something in the news, she flew over," she said, looking worried, and already, Oliver could hear the dialling tone.
Thankfully, a look of relief washed over Felicity's face almost immediately. "Hey, Mom," she said, and when he heard her mother's shrill response (now he knew why Felicity talked so fast), Oliver moved away from her a little, allowing her privacy if she wanted it. But Felicity shook her head, a faint smile on her lips, scooting towards him and burying her face in his shoulder. "Yeah, sorry I didn't get your calls. I was kind of… busy last night," she said, clearly struggling to get a word in edgeways, and the almost mischievous look she flashed at him when she said that made his heart soar.
He dipped his head down to kiss her neck, delighting in the giggle that escaped her lips as she spoke. "The police took care of it, seriously. No, I don't need to go to hospital. I promise I'm fine. What?" She laughed out loud this time. "Yes, Oliver knows I love him."
At this, he looked up, looking at her questioningly. For some reason, it had never occurred to him that she would have told her mother about him, but it made him smile anyway.
"Oh, come on, Mom – I'm not telling youthat," she said, and he could tell she was trying to sound annoyed but was failing, if the widening smile on her face was anything to go by. Then she rolled her eyes, shaking her head with exasperation. "Sure. Whatever you say. Pancakes? Sure. Yeah. I love you too."
She hung up the phone. "Apparently, I have to make you breakfast."
Oliver laughed. "I didn't realise you had told her about… us."
"I didn't," she admitted. "She figured it out for herself. She said she knew since the moment she met you."
"But I literally met her for, like –"
"– ten seconds, yeah. Somehow, she knew."
"Well, she's definitely perceptive," he murmured.
"And wildly overestimating my abilities to make anything for breakfast that isn't coffee," Felicity added. "Although you're welcome to try if you want pancakes."
He smiled. "I might take you up on that, actually. I can't remember the last time I got to make breakfast for someone." He thought for a moment. "Or if I ever did."
"You okay?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, and this time his answer felt truthful. He knew he had a long way to go – secrets to tell, questions to answer, sins to confess. But he also knew that he had the woman he loved by his side the whole time, and that was more than enough for him. "Yeah, I'm good."