Title: You don't need to wonder if love will make us stronger (There's nothing love can't do)
Category: Arrow
Genre: Angst/Romance
Ship: Oliver/Felicity
Rating: NC-17/Explicit
For: dhfreak (Mel)
Warning(s): Character Death (kind of…), Violence, Explicit Sex
Word Count: 8,591
Summary: "You can't save them… You're not a hero; you're a killer. Death follows you like a shadow… And it will consume her."

You don't need to wonder if love will make us stronger (There's nothing love can't do)

Oliver was training; the only sound filling the arrow cave was his heavy breathing and the click-clack of nimble fingers on a keyboard. It was soothing. The world he'd returned to from the island was sometimes too loud for his liking, draining on his senses as every available inch of silence was filled with noise. He felt peace here, focusing on his craft, on strengthening himself and honing his abilities. There was comfort in knowing that it was only him and her; the rest of the world and its many complicated issues faded away for a while.

His hands loosened a little on the bar he'd been doing pull-ups on as he started swinging his legs forward and then backward, his abdominal muscles stretching and tightening the higher he pushed himself. On an upward swing, he let go, flipping mid-air, and landed in a crouch.

"Tens across the board," Felicity told him shooting a finger gun at him when he looked over. "You show real pizazz."

His lips curled at the corners with a helpless smile as he stood up and brushed off his hands. "I'm not sure 'pizazz' is the word most people use to describe me."

She shrugged, leaning back in her seat as she readjusted her square glasses. "Obviously they don't know you well enough to see it. It's okay…" She sighed with a feigned air of drama. "I'll just have to enjoy it by my lonesome."

He ducked his head as his smile threatened to widen and started unwinding the wrapping on his hands. "Are you almost done?" he wondered, nodding his head to her computers.

"Done is so final… I prefer to think of it as a temporary separation." She patted the top of her computer screen lovingly. "Let's face it. I won't leave them for long."

His eyebrow raised with amusement. "Should I be concerned about your relationship with your computers?"

"Sadly, computers haven't quite reached the point where they would make having a flesh and blood partner obsolete."

He cocked his head at her reply, waiting for her brain to catch up.

"Uh… Not—Not that I would trade you in for computer. I'm pretty sure being electrocuted would put a damper on any fun bedroom times…" She winced. "Again, not that electrocution is the only reason I would rather sleep with you than a computer. Because I happen to like you, a lot, in a totally different way than I do my computers."


"Shut up?" She nodded, making a zipper motion across her mouth.

He shook his head. "Call me vain, but I'm not worried you'll replace me."

She stared up at him a moment and then 'unzipped' her lips. "I'm not sure if it's vain if it's true."

He smiled, both at her answer and her theatrics. Circling her desk, he tossed his rags into a garbage can, grabbed a bottle of water, and searched out a t-shirt from his bag. "Did you find anything?"

Spinning in her seat, she watched him as he downed half the bottle of water and shrugged the shirt over his head, her gaze falling appreciatively to the play of muscles as he moved. Tapping her lips, she raised her eyes to meet his and answered, "Uh-huh… I found who you're looking for; he'll be back in Starling, mmm… next Tuesday. Plus, I dug up a few dark, juicy secrets that I'm sure will make all your arrowing worth it."

"Arrowing," he repeated, lips twitching.

"Well, I was going to mimic the 'You have failed this city' growl, but then I get that weird tickle in my throat…" She frowned. "I don't know how you do it, really. Hey, maybe your next business venture can be with a lozenge company."

He laughed under his breath and walked back to her. "I'll keep that in mind… You ready to head home?"

"Mm-hmm." She spun her chair back around and drummed her hands on her desk. "Just gimme a second to shut it all down." She waved over her head briefly. "Hey, can you grab my jacket? I hung it up… It's over… that way…" she said, distracted as she tapped away at her computer. "I hope it's not still wet. It was raining and I didn't bring my umbrella. I tried to hold a newspaper over my head, but then I got distracted. They had a picture of the Hood on the front. You should probably keep an eye on that; they're starting to get better at defining some of your more recognizable characteristics." She stood from her chair, pushing it back slightly, and finally turned off the screens. "I mean, I might be biased, but your jaw is kind of distracting. There's square and then there's what you have going on…"

Oliver grinned to himself, grabbing her jacket off the hook on the wall and folding it over his arm. He noticed it was still a little damp as he walked back and frowned. "You should let Diggle pick you up from work. It's dangerous, especially at night. And he can drive closer to the club without it looking suspicious, so that's less time spent running around in the rain. Then we can take pneumonia off our long list of enemies."

She snorted, turning around and dipping her arms back into the sleeves as he held her jacket up to help her into it. "Oliver, you can't save me from everything."

Tugging her ponytail free of her coat, he smoothed the fabric over her shoulders and turned her around to face him. "I can try," he said seriously, before tying the belt of her jacket at her waist and using it to draw her closer to him.

As their hips met, she leaned back, her hands on his biceps to steady herself. She tipped her chin up, a faint, understanding smile playing over her lips. "Bad weather can't have the 'fear of God' put into them, remember? And I don't want to put him out; he has enough on his plate." Her hands moved to his chest and rubbed soothingly. "I'll remember my umbrella, okay? It's TARDIS blue, so I'm a little bummed I even forgot it…"

"And I'll have a parking slot opened closer to the club, just for you."

She grinned. "Compromise, Mr. Queen… Is that what I'm hearing right now? No growly demands or ultimatums?" She raised a hand and pressed the back to his forehead. "Maybe you're the one who's getting sick…"

He laughed, his hands settling on her waist. "I think I've learned my lesson when it comes to issuing you ultimatums."

"Ah…" She nodded. "You mean how I don't like being told what to do?"

"Yes, that. You're one of the few people in Starling City who isn't intimidated by me."

"Hmm, well that might have something to do with seeing you with bedhead in the morning… Hard to think of you as scary when I've seen you looking like a sleepy teddy bear."

He snorted, slightly incredulous at her description. "Teddy bear, really? I think the Hood would be offended."

"Definitely offended," she agreed, her eyes wide for emphasis. "I may have to make it up to him."

Oliver nodded, his hands sliding lower on her hips, fingers spreading out as he squeezed. "He does seem to have a fragile ego…"

"Very true."

He leaned down, his forehead touching hers. "He doesn't give in easily. You may have to spend the whole night apologizing."

Her hands slid up around his neck, brightly colored nails dragging through his hair. "It might even spill over into tomorrow… Good thing I don't have work."

"That… sounds like great timing."

She quirked an eyebrow. "It's almost like my boss's handsome and charming step-son arranged to give me an extra day off."

"Both the Hood and I appreciate his ingenuity then."

She laughed, her head falling back, and he paused for a moment, enjoying the ringing sound as it filled his sanctuary. That was one noise he didn't mind hearing. Even her rambling was comforting. While the constant racket of the city could be overwhelming sometimes, Felicity was a welcomed storm of sound.

"Let's go home," she murmured, turning her head and leaning up to give him a long, encouraging kiss. Her lips were smooth and warm, her teeth lightly scraping over his bottom lip before she followed it with her tongue. When she pulled back, she had to reach up and fix her askew glasses, an action that never failed to make him smile.

His hand slid around to the small of her back as he moved to stand beside her. They'd only taken a few steps when she threw a hand up. "My bag," she said, turning on her heel and walking back to her desk, reaching under it to grab up her purse and sling it over her shoulder. "Okay, good to go." She took his hand as it reached for hers, tangling their fingers. "Hey, we should order Chinese. It'll probably get there the same time we do."



"No nuts. Allergy," he finished for her, knowingly.

"Right, super-memory."

"Felicity, we've been together almost a year. It's hard to forget something that important."

"Plus it'd be hard to avenge a nut allergy…" she mused, climbing the stairs that led into Verdant.

He cast a look at her, his brow raised.

She held up her free hand in surrender, turning back to him as he closed and locked the door, leading her through the hallway and into the main club, climbing down the stairs to the main floor, buffed to a bright shine. Her heels clacked on the floor, echoing in the empty space as they cut across the dance floor toward a side exit. "I'm just saying… You have a propensity for revenge. Your current life goals and my side job of IT girl to the Hood kind of prove that."

He sighed, squeezing her hand and turning to look at her. "Well, I don't plan on needing to avenge you…"

She smiled gently and leaned over, bumping his shoulder with hers. "Preparing is caring."

He frowned darkly. "Why are we talking about this?"

"Because it's important."

"Five minutes ago, going home to Chinese food was important."

"Nooo… That was just our plan for tonight. Also, you left out the all-night sex, which was a huge selling point…"

He laughed under his breath.

"And anyway, I'm talking long-term… We live dangerous lives, remember?"

He ushered her through the exit door before telling her, "No, I live a dangerous life. You are supposed to be safely tucked away behind a computer."

Felicity sighed, looking back at him over her shoulder as she climbed down the stairs to the wet street leading to the parking lot. "Oliver, how many missions have I convinced you to take me on?"

His lips pursed. "Too many."

"Right, and how many times have I been attacked?"

He grunted, his shoulders tensing. "Again, too many."

"At last count, I think it was around four… Five if you include that kid that shot me with a water gun at the park."

"I don't think he's someone we have to worry about in future."

"You never know." She shook her head. "Early childhood violence is a sign of future behavior!"

He raised an eyebrow down at her.

"Fine." She waved a hand through the air. "But if in ten years that kid pops up as our bad guy of the week, you can fully expect to hear me say 'I told you so,' with gusto."

He suddenly paused in his steps and turned to look at her, his head cocked curiously. "You think we'll still be here in ten years?"

"You don't?"

He shrugged, his brow furrowing. "I was hoping to be done the list a lot sooner than that."

She chewed her lip. "At the rate you're going? Yes, you'll totally be done it."

He watched her, waiting for her to continue.

She took a deep breath before telling him, "All I'm saying is this city needs a hero, and you've already proven to be exactly that."

He sighed, turning his gaze away. "Felicity, this whole thing was supposed to be to clean up the mess my dad and everybody on that list had a hand in…"

"Yes, and you're doing that. But the mess they started had consequences that went past just what they did to get them on that list. Other people were affected and some of them didn't make the best choices after. They might not be on your list, but they still need to be stopped…" She tugged on the front of his shirt. "It's for a good cause; it's still saving the city."

"So what does that mean? That I just keep wearing the hood? Forever?"

"I don't know…" She shrugged one shoulder. "For however long it takes, I guess…"

He stared at her searchingly. "And you plan to be there? Ten years from now? You're still fighting this fight?"

She smiled gently then. "I think what you're really asking is if I'm still next to you…"

He licked his lips, watching her thoughtfully. "And if I am?"

She squeezed his hand as she started walking backwards, tugging him along with her. "You're going to have a lot of Felicity Smoak brand word-vomit to put up with in your future."

He grinned, a swooping sensation in his chest; that sounded like a future he liked.

He followed after her, falling into step, and asked her how her day was.

It happened in a split-second. One minute they were walking to the car and he was enjoying the way her fingers fit between his, listening to her excited chatter, and the next there was a swish, a thunk, and a stuttered cry. The arrow pierced her from behind, sliding straight through to stick out her chest. Her body was thrust forward, arched up from the momentum. At first, all he could do was stare as time just stopped. He could see her blood dripping off the sharpened arrowhead; it spread out from the wound and soaked her lime green jacket. Her brow furrowed, her mouth curled down in a frown, as she dropped her gaze to the arrow skewering her.

The noise that left him was somewhere between terror and rage; it echoed around him but somehow sounded distant in his ears. She started falling, her knees giving out, and he caught her around the waist, sliding to the ground as he cradled her in his arms, careful not to disturb the fletching and shaft sticking out her back. He fumbled to get his phone out to call for an ambulance while she struggled to breathe, gasping and choking.

"Hold on," he ordered, even as his heart lurched in his chest. The whole front of her jacket was soaked in red. If he removed the arrow, it would only get worse. If he staunched the front, there was still the back. He couldn't think straight. He couldn't separate himself from the fear and panic to do anything useful.

She reached for him, her fingers wet with her own blood, and gripped the front of his shirt, twisting it up in her palm. Her mouth was moving but there were no words. And he knew… He'd seen death so many times before that he could see the shadows creeping up on her; the icy grip of bony fingers twining around her soul and offering no apologies.

Footsteps echoed on the pavement; the slap of rubber soles against wet cement. Oliver went still, listening as they came closer and closer.

There was a part of him, a self-loathing, exhausted part, that almost wanted to hear the string of a bow pulling back, an arrow come to end him too. Maybe it was enough. Maybe he had done enough, killed enough, saved enough… In that moment, he would willingly close his eyes and let it come.

His gaze fell to Felicity as he felt her hand on his face. Her fingers were shaking as she lightly traced the tips down his face, from his forehead to his chin. It was familiar; something she'd done a thousand times when they were lying in bed together. But this time it hurt, this time it made his throat burn with emotion. Her hand fell, her formerly smiling lips trembled as her head tipped back, and her eyes drooped to half-mast; the fight for air was lost.

Oliver felt his heart break. It splintered as the phone fell from his grip and his hands cupped her face. He wanted to shake her, to wake her up, to force life back into her. Instead, he traced her lips, where no breath parted them, and her bright pink lipstick smeared under his thumb. Tears stung him, spilling down his cheeks as he closed his eyes, leaning down to rest his forehead against hers. His fingers slid into her soft hair, gripping it tight.

"A casualty of war," a growl called, echoing around him.

Oliver gritted his teeth and raised his head, searching out his adversary.

A large figure stepped into the spotlight the street lamp provided, dressed head to toe in green leather and sporting a hood.

"She was innocent," he spat back.

"Something you should have remembered… After all, it's your fault she's here."

His lip curled in a snarl. "I'm not the one who killed her."

Suddenly, the man was right in front of him, kneeling on the pavement. "Aren't you?"

Oliver stared at the face beneath the hood. At his face. His eyes with green paint surrounding them. His bow, his arrow; it was him who killed her. Her blood was on his hands. He turned his head to look down at Felicity, still and lifeless, only to see her eyes shoot open. She croaked out a confused, "Why?"

His heart clenched in his chest. His brow furrowed, confusion and fear and self-hatred flooding him. "No. I—I wouldn't hurt her." He looked back to himself, to the Hood.

"Why?" he demanded, his head cocked, eyes narrowed. "Because you love her?" His lip curled. "How many people that you love have been hurt? Think of them all, your friends, you family… Being close to you makes them targets. And being close to them makes you weak."

He swallowed tightly and shook his head.

"Face it…" The Hood rose, looming over him. "You can't save them… You're not a hero; you're a killer. Death follows you like a shadow… And it will consume her."

Oliver's eyes fell for just a moment, but when he looked back up, the Hood was gone.

The only sound to be heard was an arrow leaving a bow, slicing quick through the air, intent on him.

He jolted up in bed, panting, sweating, his eyes wide as he looked around the dark room, searching for an enemy, for himself, hidden somewhere, poised to kill. His gaze darted everywhere, but there was nothing, no one, just furniture, computer equipment, and a pair of slippers haphazardly left near the closet.

The bedroom door creaked open then, grabbing his attention, and he leapt off the bed, rushing it, his body colliding with a much smaller one in the process, slamming it against the door until it shut behind them. His hand found a slender throat and squeezed.

"Midnight snacks… were never this… deadly… before," came a choked reply.

His grip immediately loosened and he blinked wildly, focusing as he set eyes on the riot of curly blonde hair. Felicity peered up at him, her eyes squinted without her glasses. Releasing her throat completely, he took a large step back, bumping into the oak hope chest at the end of her bed as he went. Silently, he stared at her, his stomach tied in knots and a pressure weighing heavy on his heart. She was breathing; she was alive and flushed, and wearing an oversized Fellowship of the Ring t-shirt.

Rubbing her neck, she let out a cough and raised an eyebrow up at him. "You know, you didn't react this violently when I climbed out of bed… Not exactly reassuring…"

His breathing had picked up as he continued to stare at her, his eyes burning and his hands trembling until he curled them into fists. It was a dream, a nightmare, but for a moment there, he really thought he'd lost her… That he'd killed her.

"Hey, are you okay?" She reached a hand toward him, letting it land on his chest. "I'm not mad about the 50 Shades of Choking thing, okay? I know you get nervous when you're sleeping. No eyes on your enemies. That's why I usually stay in bed; don't want to startle you and your bow-finger..." She shrugged. "But then I was hungry and I kept thinking about that box of crackers in the cupboard and I just bought cream cheese. And I know they say cravings only last fifteen minutes, but I swear at least twenty went by before I gave in, which is practically a record, so… yay me." She waved imaginary pom-poms in the air.

He smiled faintly; her rambling was actually having a calming effect. He reached up, his finger cradling her elbow, and gave it a tug, drawing her closer to him. His hands were still shaking as he slid them up her back.

"Oliver?" she worried.

He shook his head and bent, tucking his face into the crook of her neck. For a moment, he just breathed her in; there was citrus from her shampoo, jasmine from her body wash, and a woodsier scent on her shirt that was distinctly him. His arms wound around her waist tightly as he kissed her neck where his fingers had been, nuzzling and suckling the soft skin he'd been so close to bruising.

"Not—Not that I'm complaining, exactly, but… this feels an awful lot like avoidance," she muttered, even as she lifted up onto her tiptoes, pressing closer to his exploring mouth. "We should probably… definitely… talk about… about whatever's, um… both-bothering y—" Her sentence was cut off as his hands slid lower, cupped the back of her thighs, and hiked her up into the air, her legs hitched on his hips as he turned and walked them back to the bed.

He met her eyes as he slid her shirt up her back slowly, callused palms dragging over her soft skin. She shivered, her legs squeezing around him, and licked her lips.

"Okay… Okay, you're getting better at those distraction techniques. But I really think—" Despite what she was saying, she ducked her head through the neck of her shirt and slipped her arms free before wrapping them back around his neck as he tossed her shirt away. "I— I mean you're obviously upset about something and I think we should probably resolve it. Right?"

He ducked his head down, rubbing the stubble of his chin atop her upper chest, closing his eyes as her fingers buried in his hair and tugged, a tiny gasp escaping her. His knees hit the edge of her bed and he bent, dropping her atop the mattress. She bounced a little and raised her head.

As she opened her mouth, he shook his head. "After."

Her lips pursed in argument.

"I promise."

With that, his hands found the edges of her underwear, covered in brightly colored polka-dots. They were so very Felicity that they made the corners of his lips curl up. He gave them a strong tug and slid the fabric down her legs, his fingers trailing over her skin before he dropped them to the floor behind him.

"After… After's good," she murmured, resting her head back against the bed, biting down on her lip.

He started at her toes, her nails painted a bright fuschia; his fingers spread out over the tops of her feet and slid up up up, circling her delicate ankles, higher, kneading the backs of her calves, further to lightly tease the backs of her knees and under the slope of her thighs. His hands skated up the sides to smooth down to her hips, fanning out over her stomach as he dropped to his knees next to the bed and kissed his way down her inner-thigh. He could feel her shaking, the anticipation making her shiver under his lips as they moved slowly, sucking and nibbling a winding path toward her slit.

"Oliver," she breathed as he turned his head and rasped his whiskered cheek against her sensitive skin. One of her hands covered his, squeezing his fingers, and he slid it upward, letting the tips gently drag against her until, finally, his palm curled around her breast. His thumb drew circles around her nipple, starting large and growing ever smaller, like an invisible target.

Her fingers skittered down, circling his wrist briefly, before gliding lower, following the sinewy lines of tensed muscles. It wasn't until his mouth settled over her pussy and his tongue had delved between the wet heat of her slit that her fingers curled, nails digging into his skin. He lived for that sensation, for the noise she made, a guttural cry from the back of her throat, and the thrust of her hips up to meet his lips, his licking tongue. He pressed his hand down on her stomach to keep her steady as his teeth grazed over her folds with each sucking kiss, his tongue flicking up against her clit.

Felicity was always verbal; even when people weren't around, she liked to talk aloud. She was no different here, except nothing she said made coherent sense. It was just strings of words and noises, getting louder and louder until finally… He sunk two fingers into her and curled them, thrusting deep and quick as his tongue swirled around her clit and his other hand plucked at her nipple. She just about screamed his name, covering her mouth with her free hand to muffle it, the other hand scratching his arm.

Raising his head, he licked his wet lips, watching as she fell back against the bed, her chest heaving, eyes half-closed in bliss, smiling widely. He stood from the floor and shoved his pajama pants down his legs, reaching for his bedside table to grab out one of the condoms before he climbed onto the bed, dropping it on the mattress within easy reach. Kneeling between her legs, he kissed his way up her stomach, feeling it rise and fall quickly still with her labored breath. Her hands found the back of his neck, cradling his head as he nuzzled her breasts, dragging his nose over either nipple before he sucked them between his lips and released them with a pop. He slid his arms around and under her, lifting her up off the bed a few inches as he licked up her neck and kissed behind her ear.

When his lips finally found hers, they were needy, firm and seeking as they slanted together. He could still remember her, the way her chest stopped moving, how limply she laid in his arms. His hands curled around her shoulders and squeezed, painfully tight, drawing her close until every inch of her warm, soft body was pressed to his. She hummed against his lips, her hands sliding down to either side of his face, thumbs stroking over his cheeks.

Her lips fell wide as she panted his name questioningly, but he wasn't ready to talk. He just needed her. Needed to feel her, all of her, to reassure himself that it was real, she was real, she was okay. He ducked his head down, forehead pressed to her chest, and slid his hands down the lengths of her arms, squeezing and kneading as he went. He turned his head and kissed along the curve of her breast, lightly nibbling across her soft skin until his lips were wrapped around her pebbled pink nipple, teasing it with his tongue and teeth.

Her hips rocked against him, her knees hiked high on his sides. She grabbed the condom and pushed at his shoulder for him to sit back. She sat up and reached down, stroking his shaft with two hands, her thumb circling the head of his cock. He jerked forward, grunting under his breath, and reached his hand up to cup the back of her neck, squeezing. Tearing open the condom, she rolled it down the length of him before letting her hands stray. Her knuckles dragged across his inner thighs teasingly before sliding higher, thumbs rubbing along his hip bones. Already on edge, he took both her hands in one of his and, pressed her back against the bed, and pinned her hands above her head. Ducking his head down to kiss her, he readjusted his hips and slid home, deep and hard, buried inside her to the hilt.

Her mouth fell open on a gasp and his tongue teased the roof of her mouth, flicking the back of her teeth. His pace was quick and hard, hips grinding against hers as he pressed deep inside her, until all he could feel was the warm, tight heat of her squeezing around him. He slid his hand between them and pressed his thumb against her clit, rubbing and circling until her hips stuttered against his own. She came with a shout, her whole body arching up against him. He slowed his hips, watching her come down, feeling her clench down hard, her body vibrating.

When she fell back to the bed, he started again, and she jerked one of her hands free, burying it behind his neck, wet with sweat and tense with the coiled heat low in his belly. She lifted one of her legs higher and he slid a hand down and around it, teasing the underside of her thigh, dragging his fingers up and down until he felt it tighten and squeeze around him. Since she didn't have the strength to turn him over like he so easily could her, this was usually her sign that she wanted to be on top. Oliver usually acquiesced; he liked watching her take charge, her hair a riot of curls falling down her back, her hands digging into his chest as she moved herself on him. But he knew she'd slow things down, make him focus, look her in the eye, connect, and he wasn't sure he could.

He kept thinking about that moment when she was gone, when his Hood-self told him it was his fault, when the light fled her eyes, and it made everything ache. Even now, having her close, it made him want to curl up and cry. Oliver had known vulnerability, he'd known weakness, and he hated it. He hated that part of him that was still scared to lose people, because it meant they were all the more likely to be used against him. If he didn't care, no one would think to use them. But he did care. Even as he tried so hard to detach, to separate from those feelings, knowing full well they would only bring more misery, he still cared.

He loved Felicity. Not from the very beginning, when he was still stuck on Laurel, pining for a memory that would never truly satisfy him. Not even after he and Laurel gave it a shot and failed. It took time. Time for him to let go of a dream and focus on reality. And then Felicity was standing there, with no shade pulled over her eyes, fully aware of who he was and what he did and accepting it for what it was. She was the voice of reason, the Jiminy Cricket that made him second guess where he would put an arrow on whatever name on the list he decided to cross off that day. That wasn't to say he didn't kill, and she didn't expect that he never would, but she like to remind him of all the facts, to make sure he was fully aware of who he was going after and whether they were worth death or a chance at reform.

But it wasn't just what she did for the Hood that attracted him to her. It was Felicity in general. The light she brought into the world, the knowledge, the quirky rambling, the random facts, the brightly colored wardrobe, the love of all things BBC, the sci-fi geek that she proudly showed off, and the smile that never failed to make him feel lighter somehow… The concern, empathy, and faith she showed in him as a person and not just a vigilante. She didn't just see the Hood or the billionaire or the fragile psyche that returned from the island. She saw it all and something else too. There was no question that she knew him; the good, the bad, the in-between. And she loved him still.

Her hands cradled his face, thumbs stroking over his cheeks, and he closed his eyes, sighing softly.

He turned them over, his head falling back against the pillows, and he buried a hand in her hair, relaxing as she kissed down his chest. Her lips smoothed down every gruesome scar; pink, puckered flesh that carried a story she'd long memorized. He'd filled it all in for her in pieces, as they lay wrapped together in bed, the room pitch black, not a feature discernible, just his voice filling the silence as he told her snapshot moments spent on the island. She never interrupted; a feat he wasn't sure she could accomplish until that first time. She was a good listener, never pressuring him for more, simply holding him tightly, and whispering, not sorry but, thank you. Thank you for sharing, for trusting her, for trying not to bottle it up. It took time getting there, but there was no one he trusted more with that part of him.

His hands slid over her thighs as she slid down his shaft, clenching around him, her hands on his chest, nails dug into his skin. He opened his eyes just to watch her. Flushed skin and arched back, her hair falling in a tangle of blonde curls. Sweat beaded on her, dripping down between her breasts. She rocked against him slowly, twisting her hips in a circle, and tipped her head back, her lips parted as she drew herself up off him until only the tip was still buried inside her and then brought herself down hard. He grunted, his hands finding her hips, and he squeezed, urging her to do it again. She bit her lip, smiling, and repeated the process, starting out slow and teasing. His toes curled; the anticipation made him impatient. He slid his hand between them and curled his finger against her clit.

She let out a muffled noise and reached for his hand, trying to stop him. He caught her hand and turned it up, pressing it against her breast and curving his own around it, using his thumb over hers to strum her nipple. His other hand was still buried at her slit, circling and rubbing her clit until she sped up her movements. She scratched her nails against his ribs, dragging them down his side as she rode him, hot and tight and grinding herself down hard.

Gritting his teeth, he pressed his head back against the pillows, dug his heels in, and flipped her back over. She was tightening around him, just on the edge, and he quickened the pace of his hips, hiking her thighs up high on his sides as he fucked her. His mouth found hers, a sloppy slant of panting lips, and he felt it start at the base of his spine before it ricocheted out and consumed him. He ducked his head into her shoulder, his hips stuttering, and closed his eyes tight as she shouted his name, rippling around his shaft.

He was still moving inside her, slow and shallow as he came down, his skin stuck to hers, slick with sweat. He licked her neck and kissed down her jaw until his lips were hovering over hers. She was having trouble catching her breath and tiny aftershocks were still making her twitch and clench around him. He could feel her whole body relaxing under him, loose and satisfied.

He turned over, gathered his strength, and managed to climb onto his shaky legs to get rid of the condom and clean up before joining her again. He laid down beside her, his head pillowed on his arm, and half-smiled as she turned over and mimicked him. She let her eyes wash over him for a long moment before she reached up and let her fingers trace down his face, starting at his forehead and ending at his chin. His heart thudded in his chest, his throat closed, and he gritted his teeth against it.

"No more avoiding," she told him.

"It was nothing." He shook his head. "Just a bad dream. It was stupid."

She frowned. "A bad dream with me in it…? Gee, that's encouraging."

He sighed, staring at her. "It started out normal; we were going home, we were going to order Chinese, enjoy a night in…" His throat tightened. "And then things went wrong."

She waited, but he didn't elaborate. "I'm going to need a little more to go on than 'wrong,' because there's a lot that I can think of that could fit that description…"

"It doesn't matter." His gaze hardened. "I won't let it happen." He sat up, his body tense. "I'll have to make some changes, that's all. I've lost focus; I can't be too careful."

"Before you go G.I. Joe on me here, can you lay out the specifics of this dream?" She nudged him with her knee. "There's not a whole lot that shakes you up… Although your complaints about junk food have been duly noted… and ignored."

Brooding, he continued to sit, glaring out into the dark expanse of her bedroom.

Sighing, she turned her arm up, resting her head against her hand. "Did I die?"

He went still, his eyes falling to the blanket.

"I did, didn't I?" she murmured.

He swallowed thickly.

"Was it at least a heroic death? I mean, I took a bad guy out with me, right?"

"It's not funny." He turned to face her, his expression drawn. "You didn't just die. I killed you."

Her brow furrowed as she let out a humorless laugh. "Oliver, you would never—"

"I did. You were killed by an arrow, by my arrow… You died in my arms and the Hood came out, told me it was my fault you died. I was looking your killer in the eye, and it was my face staring back."

Her gaze dropped briefly. "It was a dream… It was your subconscious, that's all… You're projecting your fear of losing the people you care about. The Hood wasn't you, it was a manifestation of your fear… You think that if we get hurt, it's because of what you're doing."

"Because it will be," he reminded loudly. "The chances of you getting hurt, of you dying, are astronomical… And it's all because of me."

"No, it's not." She shook her head. "I made a choice, to work with you, to help you get justice, and I stand by it."

He laughed darkly. "People say that, they hold tight to their convictions when their life isn't being threatened, but I promise you, when you're that close to death, you'll wish you'd done things differently."

"You want me to agree, to tell you that you're right, and you push us all away, but I won't do it."

Solemnly, he admitted, "I know…." He dragged a hand down his face and struggled with what he wanted and what he knew to be right. Separation, disconnection, it might just save her life. But leaving Felicity had never been an option before now. Eventually, having to pretend it didn't hurt when she left him, sure. Pushing her away before she realized she couldn't handle him, imperfect and fractured as he was, was the last thing he wanted to do. Even in his nightmare, he'd reveled in the idea that she would be there with him ten years into the future. But the odds of her living that long grew worse the longer they were together.

"I'd still be in trouble… You need me, my IT skills, so don't gloss over that in favor of your martyr act."

His jaw flexed.

"It was a dream, Oliver." She sat up, reaching for him, and turned him to face her by his chin. "I get it. I get that you're scared and you blame yourself, sometimes for things that aren't even your fault, but I'm not one of those things. I won't be added to your list of mistakes. Not if I die and not if I live."

She stared at him searchingly. "I walked into this, eyes wide open, and I won't walk away now. This is a package deal. Maybe I do die, maybe it's because I work with you or maybe it's because I stepped off the curb at the wrong time and someone runs a red light. Frankly, traffic related deaths in Starlight City are a little high, but that's a conversation for another time. My point is, there are no guarantees here… But I do know that as long as I'm alive, you have me. Running IT, occasionally rocking a way too expensive dress for undercover jobs, slowly convincing your mother that I'm nota complete idiot who can't stop talking, and here, by your side, in whatever capacity that happens to fit…"

She chewed her lip. "I don't want to be presumptuous and say I'll be here forever…" She motioned between them, "Especially since I know your commitment issues of ye olde. But I do know that I'm not going to just abandon you if we happen to mutually break each other's hearts. I mean, I might avoid you for a while and drown myself in ice cream and Doctor Who marathons, but I'll still be there to track down whoever you need. I wouldn't put the mission at risk, not for anything." She frowned. "And that's not to say I expect us to break up either, because I actually think we're in a really good place. You know, minus your current guilt issues that are making you question we should continue being together. Excluding that, I think we fit really well, kind of balance each other out even. You've got all that broody, dark, stoic vengeance thing, and I'm, well, me, so…"

"You make it sound cut and dry when it's not…" He shook his head, turning to look at her. "I've lost too much."

Her brow furrowed. "And you think pushing me away is going to make it better?"

"I think it could save your life in the long run."

"Oliver, I've been attacked four times." She paused. "Well, if you don't include—"

"The kid in the park who shot you with the water gun," he finished knowingly, "and I don't."

"The point is, all four times I either saved myself or you or Diggle showed up and saved me."

"Even cats only have nine lives, Felicity."

"So I've got five left. Personally, I think I can stretch them out."

He frowned at her again.

"Okay, okay, no more joking…" She rolled her eyes. "Forgive me for trying to loosen you up."

"We're talking about your life here!"

"Exactly…" She smiled faintly. "Oliver, it's my life. Which means, I get to make choices. I get to decide if I want to be in a relationship with someone who plays vigilante at night, careless billionaire for the public, and my overprotective, broody boyfriend the rest of the time." Her brows hiked. "I know you're freaked out, but it was a nightmare, and you can't let it control you. You can't let the fear control you."

He paused, his brow furrowed. Maybe that was the root of it. Either it was a fear of losing them that propelled him to push them away or that encouraged him to do better, make the city better, destroying whatever might cause them harm before it had a chance. Fear could either be a catalyst or a tool. Before, he'd always considered it a weakness; it kept him from making the hard decisions. It was better to pre-empt a strike than to bow down and wait for it to happen.

"You're getting that serious Arrow face again…" she noticed.

He inhaled deeply, letting it out on a heavy sigh. "Do you remember what I said when I asked you out?"

"Felicity, did you just spam my email with dancing cat gifs?" she said, mimicking his voice.

His lips twitched and he nodded shortly. "After that…"

"Mm… Well, I rambled for a bit about trying to cheer you up and what better way than with cats, and then you tried not to smile, like usual, annnd… Yes! You said something about how sharing a bottle of wine with your favorite IT girl would brighten your day a lot more than cats ever could. I disagreed, of course, until I realize you were asking for a date…" She shrugged. "Genius, but not great at taking social cues… or picking up on flirting, apparently."

He stared at her, smiling faintly. "You brighten my life," he said quietly. "You've been there after one of the darkest periods, and I haven't always been all there, mentally. I've struggled and I've made some very questionable decisions. You've stepped in, talked me down, and you've helped me, in ways far beyond just the technical details…" He swallowed tightly. "Felicity, you scare away the shadows. And I don't want to lose you…" His chin trembled as he murmured, "I don't want to be the reason that light gets snuffed out."

"You won't be." She reached for him, climbing into his lap and cradling his face. "Oliver, whatever happens, I will always know that you did everything you could… You have to trust me, trust that I know what I'm doing, that I'm fully capable of making this choice on my own." She swiped her thumbs under his eyes, wiping away the tears before they could fall, and leaned in, resting her forehead against his. "Trust me."

He cupped a hand behind her neck, squeezing gently, and closed his eyes.

Her hands slid over his back, soothingly rubbing in circles. Kissing down his face, she pressed her face against his neck and held him, rocking him slowly, just an inch back and forth. His arm banded around her waist tightly, but the longer they sat together, with her comforting him as she was, he loosened his grip and his eyes began to droop. She could feel it as he struggled to stay awake and she leaned him back toward the pillows. He didn't let her go as he laid on his side, his eyes at half-mast as he watched her.

"I love you," he mumbled.

She smiled gently, reaching up to scrub her fingers down the whiskers of his jaw. "I know." She slid her fingers higher and traced the arch of his eyebrow with her thumb. "Go to sleep… We'll talk about it more tomorrow."

He tried to keep his eyes open, on her, but it was one of the few battles he lost.

For a moment, he feared a repeat of his nightmare, of having to watch her die again, going through that turmoil, that fear that it wasn't a dream at all. But he didn't dream of arrows or hoods or losing her.

Instead he dreamt of the future, ten years into it.

He was in the bright green yard of the Queen mansion, the tall stone structure a familiar sight. Birds were bouncing around the branches of the trees, singing a melodic song. A cool breeze rustled by and he caught the scent of jasmine and citrus. His head swiveled toward the familiar scent and he saw Felicity walking toward him, alive, well, and as bright as ever. She smiled, her pink lipstick making her mouth pop. But that wasn't what held his eye; instead, it was the little boy at her side, holding her hand, with his eyes and his mother's curly blond hair. He had a toy bow slung over his shoulder and a crooked grin that resembled Oliver's at his age.

"Dad!" he cried and ran across the yard, leaping into the air, expecting Oliver to catch him, which he did, without pause.

Felicity reached them then, tucking an unruly curl behind her ear, showing off a wedding band on her right ring finger that he knew matched his own. "I tried to hold him off, but if you're out of sight for longer than ten minutes, he gets fidgety. Personally, I think he gets that from you, because I have the patience of a saint."

"I think any of your employees in the IT department would agree that's questionable."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine, anything that doesn't have to do with technology and I have the patience of a saint."

"I'm not sure that's how patience works."

"Don't poke holes."

He smiled and slid an arm around her waist, tugging her against his side as he started walking them back toward the mansion.

"Did you talk to grandpa?" his son wondered, casting a look over his shoulder toward the headstones in the distance.

Oliver nodded at him. "I did."

"What'd he say?"

"It's mostly a one-sided conversation. But I think if he could talk, he would tell me…. He was happy for me." He turned to look at Felicity, his expression soft and sincere. "And proud of the family I made."

She rested her head against his shoulder and he pressed a kiss to her hair, closing his eyes. He let himself relax, indulging in the moment, and turned his head to take in his son, who was eager to talk about his first day of kindergarten.

The rest of his dream was spent learning that Felicity's babbling gene was hereditary.

When he woke up, the sun was just starting to rise; there were no birds singing, but he could hear the beginnings of traffic outside her window. He found himself longing for the serenity of the yard, of the family his mind created. Turning over, he pulled Felicity close and buried his face in her hair. He held onto her tighter for a different reason than before. When he'd fallen asleep, he'd still felt the fear of losing her, but now, he only knew the strength of having her.

There would be close calls; he couldn't control the universe. She would train more with Diggle, prepare herself for any eventuality, but there were no guarantees. He only knew that he wanted her in his life, for as long as humanly possible, and she was right. She made a choice, and it was him and their mission to save Starling City and right his father's wrongs. He couldn't predict what would happen, but he could be ready.

And if, ten years into the future, the life he'd dreamt of came true, then all the fear, pain and uncertainty would be worth it. He would just have to wait and see; in the meantime, he wondered how Felicity felt about moving in together.