Oliver had always hated the cold. More so since he'd come back from the island but somehow he always found himself standing out in the cold. He stood on the balcony outside the hotel room he was sharing with Felicity, wearing only pyjama bottoms. His chest was covered in goose bumps. But it was ok. The cold was his friend in one way.
It kept him awake.
He hated sleeping now. Sleeping meant dreams. Dreams meant nightmares. Nightmares meant remembering. He'd rather not sleep. Felicity had looked at him like he was insane when he said he was going outside for a while but hadn't questioned it. That was three hours ago.
A glance inside informed him that she was asleep, curled up in the king sized bed surrounded by the throw pillows she'd jokingly thrown at him when they'd arrived. He'd laughed at her poor aim, mentally noting to correct her technique at a later date. Then they'd got down to business. They were staying overnight so they didn't raise suspicion. People just didn't check in for twenty minutes at a five star hotel. Not even Oliver Queen did that. They'd needed the room so she could hack into the computer of a high-ranking Starling City mobster in the room next door, who, in her words, had better computer security than the FBI, and which could only be hacked within a certain distance of his computer for reasons Oliver didn't completely understand. But he trusted Felicity. She'd gotten the information he needed. She deserved the respite of sleep.
He wondered if he did.
Oliver exhaled loudly, the sound of the defeated. He hung his head, leaning on the balcony rail and let his body arch forward into a curved position. These were the times he doubted himself, doubted his ability to complete his mission. Crossing names of the list seemed like an endless task but he had to do it. It was the reason he survived.
The sliding glass door behind him rattled slightly as it opened. Apparently Felicity wasn't asleep anymore. He straightened, glancing over his shoulder at her. He gave her a small smile.
"Hi." She ambled over, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. She wrapped a fluffy hotel robe tightly across her midsection and leant against the railing. Without her glasses, the buildings in the skyline looked like dark blobs dotted with white light.
"I didn't mean to wake you." Oliver glanced sideways at her, noting her red eyes. A slither of guilt snaked through his stomach. It was three am and she had to be at work at nine am. Most people would be asleep in their own beds, not crashing at hotels at the bequest of a criminal vigilante.
She shrugged, running a hand through the mass of blond curls framing her face. . "You didn't. Not really. Bad dreams." Her tone was nonchalant but there was heaviness to it.
"It's not your fault." She turned slightly, looking up at him, a small smile lighting her face. "Unless you're going to make my supervisor run through the halls cospaying Smeagol. Then you can pay for my department's therapy."
Oliver smiled. "I won't." He could tell she wasn't being honest but he wasn't going to call her out. She probably didn't want to make him feel guilty. She was always more considerate of his feelings than others. Some of them probably forgot that he had them. Sometimes he forgot.
"Good." She closed her eyes, stifling a yawn with her hand. She was clearly exhausted.
"You should go back to bed."
"I will if you will." Her eyes flew open. She blushed. "I did not mean that in a dirty way."
"I figured as much." She never did, not with him. He tried not to chuckle at her embarrassed blush. Briefly, he wondered how she'd lasted through high school with her foot-in-mouth disease. "I'll stay out here a bit longer." He felt like wallowing in self-pity a little longer. And sleep was almost impossible these days.
"Five minutes longer or 'till sunrise longer?" There was an edge to her voice that made Oliver realise she was going to make a stand on this issue. It had only taken two weeks for him to be able to recognise the tone. He was getting quite used to it. "Even vigilantes need sleep."
She flinched at his curt tone. She bit her lip. Fiddling with the sleeve of the robe, Felicity's eyes darted up to his then back out to the city streets lit by empty towers burning light bulbs. "I like to know what I'm getting myself into. I like to know stuff."
He had a feeling this wasn't an aimless ramble. She had a target and he was pretty sure that it was him. "Which is very useful, but-"
"Did you know that a common side effect of trauma is insomnia? Because I didn't. Not until now." Felicity gestured emphatically. She could've been referring to finding him shot in the backseat of her car, being attached to a bomb by a malignant Brit, or being tied up by his psych-ex girlfriend. "I can't imagine how I'd cope with anything else."
Like you have.
The words were silent but he heard them like she'd shouted it while slapping his face. He was surprised by the subtlety of her tactics. He'd wondered if she'd ever broach this topic. She'd been thinking about it. He knew that. She'd seen his scars. She was curious by nature; she would want to know about their making. Oliver looked out over the city, his grip on the metal railings sliding as his palms dampened. She didn't use the exact words but he knew she was concerned about his mental stability. He didn't like those questions. He didn't like many questions to be fair, but those had answers he didn't like as well.
Felicity glanced up, unnerved by his silence. She didn't know if she'd crossed a line or not but she figured that boundaries were pretty blurred when she was the secret IT support for the billionaire playboy vigilante son of your boss and was technically her boss in name.
He stayed silent. His jaw tightened.
"Oliver?" Her voice quivered hesitantly. She wondered if she'd gone too far.
"You should go back to bed." He used the polite, borderline standoffish tone that he used with most people. He was shutting her out. It seemed to be default setting. A form of repression that she knew wasn't healthy. He knew it too but it was the only way he knew how to cope. She didn't deserve to have to deal with his issues as well as his secret. Felicity deserved better than that.
"No." She wasn't sure exactly what she and Oliver were but she would like to think that she would help anyone if they needed it. And Oliver needed help. He just wouldn't admit it. So she would make him.
"Fine." Oliver stared out blankly at the city he was trying to save. He could tell by the sag in her shoulders that she would fall asleep soon. He would catch her when she fell and carry her back to bed when she couldn't argue with him anymore. It was his best option.
One minute passed in cold silence.
Oliver resisted the urge to glance at her.
A police siren tore through the air.
Felicity wrapped her arms around her waist, trying not to shiver.
The stars shone in the cloudless sky.
Oliver looked at her. Her nose and cheeks were pink from the cold. "You should go inside. It's cold out here." Her stubbornness wouldn't get her sick on his watch. Diggle would kill him.
"I'm fine." She raised her chin and looked pointedly away from him. Then she glanced at him, smiling softly. "I like that song." She hummed a bar of 'Baby it's cold outside.'
He bit back a smile. "Felicity." His tone was warning.
"I'll go to bed when you do. You need to sleep." She wondered if he slept more than an hour or two a night. It wasn't healthy.
"So do you." He pointed out with the eloquence of a small child.
"Yep." She nodded in agreement, tone chipper. Felicity looked up at him, eyes smiling as they took in his confused expression.
He hadn't expected her to agree with him. She spent so much time trying to prove herself capable; it was rare for her to admit that he right when they disagreed. "Then why aren't you?"
"When I go to work tomorrow so sleep deprived that I make a mistake and my assbut supervisor fires me and I can't pay my rent, you'll be responsible. So you should just go to sleep so everyone is happy."
His lips quirked at her logic. He bit back the smile. She was trying to guilt him into going to sleep.
"And now you know my diabolical plan so you will accept the inevitable." She smiled brightly, proud of her plan.
"I don't think diabolical plans count on their target being a good person."
"But you are. So, did it work?" The earnestness and eagerness in her voice broke his defences.
He chuckled, shaking his head. "Felicity, stop. I'm fine."
"No, people who are fine sleep at night." She had him with that one. It was the simplest truths that were often the hardest hitting.
He fixed her with the glare that he'd learnt at age five made everyone do what he wanted.
"I'll go to bed when you do." Apparently his glare had lost its effects. She returned it with one of equal vehemence.
Oliver stared at her, standing in front of him in an oversize hotel robe, a foot smaller than him and silently cursed her stubbornness. She wasn't going to give in. Ordinarily, he'd admire such bravado but it was working against him. She would stand out in the cold for the rest of the night just to make him sleep. He would have to compromise. Diggle would kill him if he let her stay out like this. And even he could grudgingly admit, she was probably right. He should try to sleep. He just didn't like it. And he would never tell her that she was right about this. "Fine."
"Really?" She straightened, blinking almost comically at his sudden 180. His stubbornness was almost as strong as his right hook. Even Diggle had trouble persuading him when he got like this.
"Yes." He pushed himself off the railing and let the momentum guide him into couple of steps backwards. "Get inside before you catch pneumonia and Diggle shoots me with my own arrows." Oliver opened the door and waved for her to go through.
"You can't catch pneumonia from being cold." Felicity brushed past him. "It's a bacterial infection."
"I'll take your word for it." He strode over to the couch. It was small but he could fit, barely. He'd have a back ache in the morning but he'd slept on worse.
"What are you doing?" She stared at him as though he was doing something wrong.
"What you wanted. Going to sleep." Oliver's brow furrowed in confusion. He was doing what she'd asked. He'd lie down and stare at the ceiling for a few hours, wallow some more, and then get up and go about his day.
"A, you're too big for that. B, you're probably going to ninja your way back outside the second I go to sleep." She ambled to the bed, shrugging off the robe and draping it across the chair near the bed. She looked at him over her shoulder like she expected him to duck outside the next chance he got. "We can share."
He looked at her dubiously. He hadn't actually thought of tricking her but it was a viable idea. "Felicity."
"You could fit a football team in this bed and have room for a couple of cheerleaders. And it's not like we're going to do anything." Her hands went to her hips. She was adamant. "It's just sharing a bed."
"Okay." He walked over to her. Maybe he'd gotten too soft since he got back but that couch wasn't very appealing. And he was starting to realise that she could be more stubborn than him. He decided not to ever leave his sister alone with her, ever. That could be too much trouble, even for him. "Has someone ever told you that you'd be good at world domination?"
"What do you think I'm helping you for? It's all practice." She rolled her eyes and she climbed into bed. She pulled the covers up high, pulling them tightly over her body. Sleeping in the same bed as friends she'd gone to high school with was nowhere near as awkward as sleeping in the same bed as Oliver Queen. She shouldn't be nervous. She'd done it before. It was just sharing a bed. It was just Oliver. Except everyone with a pulse could tell there was nothing just about Oliver. She'd consciously decided the night after he'd told her his secret that she would treat him no differently than any of her other friends even though he was a six foot Adonis with a reputation for being a sex god and a messiah complex that would probably get him killed at some time soon. She'd be his friend, his helper. Nothing more. But it wasn't like he'd ever see her as anything more than that. She was Felicity. He was Oliver Queen. They were like chocolate and Brussels sprouts.
"On or off?"
"Hmm?" She looked up, zoning back into where she was to look at Oliver. He stood by the light switch, hand poised over it. "Off, unless you want it on."
He flicked it off and padded over to the bed in the darkness, footsteps silent on the carpet. She felt the dip in the bed as he sat, felt the mattress shift as he lay down. "Goodnight Felicity."
Oliver stared blankly at the ceiling. Even after eight months he wasn't used to not seeing the stars every night. He rolled onto his side, facing the curled up lump that was Felicity. He could barely see her head over the blanket she'd pulled over herself. There was just a mop of blonde curls on the pillow next to him.
He closed his eyes for a moment. He could hear her steady breathing. For a moment, he pretended that it was Laurel next to him. That they were married and this was a weekend away from the monotony of normal life. She'd still be the lawyer championing the poor; he'd be the nightclub owner without the double life. They would be happy. Oliver opened his eyes, angry at himself. It was fair of him to pretend that. It wasn't fair to Laurel or Felicity.
He looked past Felicity, out the open window where he could barely make out the pin pricks of light dotting the sky that past for stars in the city. He missed the stars. The island was hell but he could see the stars. They shone brighter out there, like the universe was trying to show him that it wasn't entirely bad. Wilson had taught him to use the stars as a navigational tool. But it was useless here. The stars were different in the northern hemisphere. Everything was different.
The blanket covering his legs was suddenly pulled to his left. The cold raised goose bumps on his now uncovered leg. He looked down to see Felicity had somehow managed to pull the blanket loose from where it had been neatly tucked under the mattress and had most of it tangled around her legs.. He tugged gently, trying to get the blanket back but not wanting to wake her. Apparently she hated the cold as much as he did. But she was a blanket hog.
He grabbed a handful of the blanket and pulled. She rolled with the blanket. He narrowly avoided getting a mouthful of hair as she ended up within a foot of him. She stirred slightly and he froze. She tossed and turned for a few seconds, the blanket loosening around her. Oliver used the opportunity to tug part of the blanket back over to his side of the bed. Now that they were closer, he didn't have to pull as hard. Letting go the blanket, he rolled the bottom corner around his leg to use as a weight so she couldn't pull it way again.
Oliver settled back down, a small smile on his lips. He should have known she wouldn't be the type to sleep still. He wondered if she would start sleep talking. He could feel her roll over again, the blanket pulling taught over his legs but it didn't move. She was so close he could feel her body heat. Her hair tickled his shoulder. He wondered if he should move away, to keep a respectable distance between them. He knew she was aware of his reputation. What he didn't know was what she thought of it. But he was comfortable. And warm. And the little voice in his head told him to relax. It was fine. It was only a bed.
And Oliver fell asleep.