Author's note: Hey guys! I really hope you enjoy this fic. I've worked hard on it, and I want you to love it. Please review, and let me know what you think. I'm eager for your opinions.
Disclaimer: Arrow and its characters are the property of DC comics and The CW. This story is for entertainment purposes only. I do not own Oliver Queen, though, how awesome would that be?
Three months... Three long, exhausting, excruciatingly painful months.
Felicity sat with her back flush against the concrete wall, her knees bent, bare feet flat against the training mat, her glasses tossed carelessly beside her. She'd like to say that she had no idea what brought her here, what had drawn her into the Foundry at this ridiculous hour. She'd like to say she had no idea why she found herself sitting on the training mats, a half-empty bottle of 100 proof rum dangling between her raised knees as she tried to blend in with her surroundings. Sure, she'd like to say that.
But Felicity Smoak was no liar.
Her phone beeped beside her, its half-hearted attempt to convince her to pick it up, just this once, and respond to the incessant trill of her ringtone.
"Nope," she informed her normally well loved piece of technology "Not gonna happen."
She clicked the phone off before raising the bottle to her lips. She'd been sitting there for what felt like days, but she knew it to be only a few hours. As the contents of her bottle had begun to dwindle, so had the pain that had lodged itself firmly in her chest. The knot of terror that seemed to be tied around her heart felt just a little looser with every sip of the deep amber liquid. The tears had stopped falling after a few sips and her hands had finally stopped shaking long enough for her to send a text to John, letting him know that she was alive.
Alive was the only word she felt confident using at that point. She wasn't okay and she most definitely wasn't fine, but she had to let John know she was still alive and kicking so that he wouldn't come looking for her. Or worse, send Oliver.
She knew he had the best intention; Wanting to look out for her, to keep her safe, but seeing Oliver tonight would only add to the drunken swirl of emotional bullshit she was currently trying to drown.
She tipped the bottle back again, savoring the burn as it settled low in her belly. She let her head fall back against the wall, trying to focus on the warmth that spread through her limbs instead of the crawling she felt when her traitorous brain conjured the memory of Count Crazy-ass playing with the ends of her hair, trailing his fingers over her skin, or leaning in close to whisper threats against her ear.
She shuddered, gripping the bottle tighter and once again raising it to her lips. The tears she thought had long dried up once more pricked behind her eyes. Her vision swam, distorting the comforting view she had of the mostly dark, empty Foundry. Her head thudded against the wall painfully though she paid it no mind. Once the tears started again she was lost to her surroundings. Drops of her pain scorched down her cheeks, dampening the blonde hair hanging limply around her face. She bit her lip hard, trying to distract her mind from the dangerous memories it insisted on going over and over.
She tasted blood long before her brain realized that her body was sending pain signals. She lifted the bottle, wincing slightly as the rum stung in her torn lip. She'd take physical pain over this emotional torture any day of the week.
The sound of her name ringing out through the silence made her jump, banging her head against the wall in the process.
"Shit," he growled between clenched teeth, stalking forward. "Are you okay?"
"Oliver, what are you doing here?" she whined, hoping that the slur to her speech was due to alcohol and not some form of brain damage from repeatedly bouncing her head off the wall.
"I should be asking you that. Do you have any idea what time it is?" he asked, crossing the mats to sit beside her.
She shook her head quickly, regretting the action when her brain felt like it was sloshing around inside her skull. She put a hand out to steady herself, grasping his knee for support. Oliver pressed his hand across her back trying to help her find her equilibrium. The dwindling bottle of hard liquor had not gone unnoticed by him. He yanked it from between her knees, smirking when she whimpered.
He took a long draught before handing the bottle back to the mystified blonde beside him. She eyed him speculatively then followed his lead.
"I'm onto you, Queen." she informed him, swiping the back of her hand across her mouth before waving her pointer finger in his face and poking him lightly on the nose.
The corner of his mouth twitched with amusement as he took in the state of her. He'd never seen Felicity so much as tipsy before, much less the state of inebriation she currently seemed to be enjoying.
"How's that, Smoak?" he inquired, snagging the bottle from her before she could protest.
"Digg sent you to find me and you're going to make me go home like the good little IT girl I'm supposed to be." she slurred, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
"Digg didn't send me." he told her. "I came because you haven't answered my calls and I was worried about you."
"But you're still going to make me go home."
"Not yet." he promised, handing her back the bottle.
She could see the hesitation in his eyes a beat before he shuttered them. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked quietly.
"What am I supposed to say, Oliver?" she begged, the softness of his tone bringing the tears back to her eyes. "Do you want me to say that I'm fine? I'm perfectly happy, my life is all rainbows and unicorns? Not a thing could possibly be wrong, which is why I'm sitting in the Arrow Cave, alone, drowning myself in rum like some kind of crazy blonde pirate, wishing that the floor would just open up and swallow me?"
"I want you to tell me the truth." he sighed, laying his hand over hers where it rested on her knee.
She bolted up from the mat, leaving the bottle in her stead. Her feet began pacing before her mind thought to tell them to. His eyes followed her movements but he waited for her to get where she was trying to be.
"The truth?" she finally laughed, humorlessly and without any of her usual sparkle. "The truth is that I feel like I died three months ago, Oliver! I feel like that night was the end of my life and now I'm stuck in this purgatory, somewhere between death and wishing I was dead. I feel like I'm drowning all the time and sometimes it hurts so much that I can't breathe!"
Her words were coming fast with no halting breaths in between. Her hand was clasped around her throat, her nails biting into the delicate skin there. Her chest was heaving, struggling to find any trace of oxygen though Oliver knew there was none to be found.
"I feel like no matter what I do, he's there. He's watching, just waiting for me to slip up so he can finish what he started. I can't sleep, I can't eat, and I can't breathe! I never feel safe, I never feel like I did before... before... before..."
Oliver watched as she she struggled for air, her knees giving out beneath her. Her tiny frame sank to the mat, her hands pushing into her hair as the sobs ripped from her throat. He was beside her in an instant, not even realizing he had moved. His arms snaked around her pulling her shaking body against his solid chest. At once he realized how much weight she had lost over the last three months. Her body was normally lithe and well formed. She had curves and softness, her body innately feminine. But as he held her, he could feel the bones of her spine and ribs beneath his hands. He could feel the sharpness of her hips bones as they dug into his flesh.
A powerful sadness gripped his heart as he came to understand just how much she had truly been suffering. How had he let it, let her get this bad? A sudden wave of shame cloaked him forcing him to hold her tighter.
"Felicity." he whispered, knowing she'd hear him through her sobs, her ear pressed against his chest.
She lifted her head a fraction but refused to meet his eyes.
"The Count is dead." he reminded her gently. "He can't hurt you or anyone else, ever again."
"I know!" she moaned, pulling out of his grasp.
He didn't stop to think about how empty his arms suddenly felt.
"I know that he's dead. I know that you put those arrows in him to save me. But Oliver, don't you get it?" she plead for him to understand what she was trying to impart. "You broke your vow to Tommy, you broke your vow to yourself. And for what? Me? Do you see what I am?" She gestured at herself, waving a hand negligently down her body.
"I'm nothing anymore. I'm just a shell. This was all for nothing. You broke your vow for nothing!" she sobbed.
Oliver shot to his feet, his legs quickly eating up the distance between them. "Don't you dare!" he growled, his hands framing her tear-streaked face, forcing her to meet his eyes. "Don't, for a second, think that I regret what I did or that it was somehow your fault. I told you then and I'll tell you now: He had you, Felicity, and he was going to hurt you. There was no choice to make!" His eyes bored into hers, begging her to understand that given the choice a thousand times over he'd always make the same call.
Her watery gaze flickered between his imploring eyes and the steely set of his mouth. He stroked his thumb over the sharp edge of her cheekbone, once again regretting how much he'd let her slip away. Felicity finally closed her eyes, leaning into his touch. He let her collapse into his chest, his arms tightening around her.
"We'll get through this, Felicity, I swear. I'll help you in every way that I possibly can." he vowed, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head.
For a long moment, the only sound in the Foundry was the soft sniffles coming from the delicate woman he was trying to hold together.
Straightening, Felicity seemed to find a new reserve of strength. She left the encirclement of Oliver's arms, searching out the bottle she'd left on the mat. She found her glasses first, slipping them on before she grabbed up the bottle. She raised it to her mouth, forgetting the split in her lip until the sting of the rum reminded her, making her wince.
"What happened to your lip?" Oliver asked, his tone dangerous.
She shook her head feeling like she had already shared too much of her pain for one night.
"Felicity." he growled.
"It's nothing. Honestly. I bit it." she told him, rolling her eyes. As she did, the room around her rolled with them, making her wobble unsteadily.
He was beside her moving so quickly she hadn't seen him close the distance. Suddenly, his hand was tilting her chin up the rough pad of his thumb gently running over her bottom lip. She winced again causing his eyes to darken.
"Come on." he ordered, taking her hand in his and pulling her toward the stairs.
She followed dutifully behind him, concentrating on not stumbling over her own feet. He led her up the stairs and into the softly lit emptiness that was Verdant on a Monday night.
"What time is it?" she wondered aloud.
"Almost 4 AM." he informed her, tugging her along behind him.
As they reached the bar Felicity squealed in surprise when Oliver rounded on her, his hands dropping to her waist and lifting her before placing her firmly on the bar.
"Don't move." he told her in a tone not meant to be argued with.
Felicity nodded, gripping the edge of the bar to keep herself upright.
Oliver disappeared behind her, reemerging seconds later with a glass full of ice and a white towel. He moved back around to stand in front of her, setting the glass down beside her hip. She grinned at him lopsidedly, tilting her head slightly.
He couldn't help but grin back, shaking his head in reluctant amusement. He took a few ice cubes from the glass, wrapped them in the towel, and stepped forward to press them to her bottom lip where her teeth had torn through. The angle was awkward, so he nudged her knee with his ribs asking her to part them so he could stand in-between.
Felicity did as he silently asked without hesitation. As he slid between her thighs she couldn't stop the way her breath hitched and her legs tightened around his ribs.
Oliver's eyes leapt from her mouth to her eyes, one eyebrow arching in surprise.
Felicity was normally so careful and reserved in the way she touched him. She was deliberate when she reached for him, always for comfort or reassurance. It sometimes felt like she was waiting for him to reprimand her or reject her touch. He wondered if she ever thought that maybe he craved it as much as she did.
Felicity blushed before lifting her hand to replace his on the makeshift ice pack. She was surprised when he didn't immediately step back from between her legs, instead opting to rest his hands on either side of her jean-clad thighs. She'd never know if it was his touch or the alcohol that made the words leave her mouth.
"This?" she began, waving a hand from his heart to hers. "This is an eventuality."
Oliver froze. His first instinct was to deny her words. To step out of her grasp and let the shadow of pain slide over her face at his rejection. He knew damn well the feelings she had for him. He saw it everyday, in the way she talked to him or interacted, so different from the way she was with Diggle. Worse, she knew that he knew. He suspected it was why she was more careful with him than anyone else. She had an easy intimacy with Digg, a strictly platonic but affectionate camaraderie. She could touch Digg, press kisses to his cheek, let him wrap her in a casual hug, and it was all so... easy.
He knew she was trying to protect herself, to keep her heart from being broken. However, another part of him knew that she kept herself carefully distant to protect him. Felicity knew that he wasn't ready for any kind of relationship or entanglement, and she respected it. Knowing the reasons behind it still didn't do a damn thing to stop the jealousy he felt when he observed her with Digg.
He considered throwing up the walls, backing away now before things got treacherous. But something in her eyes wouldn't allow it. There was no doubt in their watery blue depths. There was no hesitation, no fear. It simply was. Oliver decided to take the risk and share one open, honest moment with the woman before him. After all, what was the point in denying what they both apparently knew?
"I know." he admitted, his eyes never leaving hers.
Felicity wasn't sure she heard correctly. The booze must be muddling her hearing as well as her brain. "You know?" she repeated incredulously.
He simply stared at her, his mouth set in a determined line.
"How long have you known?" she asked, unable to stop the question since he had opened the honesty flood-gate.
"Since the moment you told me that if I wasn't leaving, neither were you." He smiled, remembering the determined glint in her eye as she argued with him. She had risked her life to stay, to fight up to the last second, as Malcolm Merlyn's plan to decimate The Glades had unfolded around them.
"That was like... eight months ago." she breathed, unable to find the strength for her voice.
Oliver stayed silent, watching the thoughts and emotions swirl in her eyes.
"You never said... You always... I... Wow." she sputtered.
"It doesn't change anything, Felicity. It can't. I'm still not in a place where I can be with someone..." he took a deep breath, jumping in with both feet, "Someone I love. I want to be, I just don't know if I ever will."
Felicity grinned then, her smile brighter than he'd seen in months. "Oliver Queen..." she said softly, her tongue caressing his name, "You just said you love me."
"I never said I didn't." He replied, a smile tugging at his mouth again.
"But, loving and being in love are different things." she stated. There was no accusation or bitterness to her tone, it was just the facts as she saw them.
"Yes, they are different. Though, one doesn't necessarily negate the other." he told her, asking her to understand as his thumb reached up to ghost over her cheek. "I won't... I can't ever lose you, Felicity. And right now, this is how this has to be." he said, mimicking her gesture from his heart to hers.
She was quiet for a long moment, his words echoing around in her head. She was desperately trying to see things the way he was seeing them. He loved her, could fall in love with her if given the chance. He couldn't stand the thought of losing her, and for the time being what they had was enough for him.
Was it enough for her? Was this weird place between friends and lovers enough for her to hold onto? Was it enough to make her willing to wait for her own knight in leather armor, no matter how long that might take?
Oliver's eyebrows shot up, his jaw falling open in evident surprise. "Okay?" he asked, unsure of what it was she was accepting.
"Okay, Oliver." She nodded, her palm finding his heart as she leaned into him. "You love me and the idea of losing me scares the hell out of you. You're not ready to take the risk with your heart, or mine. Or my life, for that matter. I can respect that. You need time and I've got all the time in the world."
Oliver stared at her, shock playing clearly over his features. He was in complete awe of the woman he saw. With all of the pain she was in, all of the fear that plagued her life, she could still accept him for what he was: Broken.
"I can't ask you to make that choice." he replied thickly, swallowing hard against the lump in his throat.
"You're not asking." she said simply, but sincerely. "I'm a grown woman, Oliver. This is my choice to make and I'm making it."
Through all of her own issues, she somehow managed to focus on him and what he needed, rather than her own needs. She made him a priority in her life, in her world, and somewhere along the way he had done the same. He was amazed to realize that this tiny blonde hurricane had become his own personal safe harbor. She was a wrecking ball of the very best kind, breaking through his carefully constructed walls and hitting him where it counted.
"You are remarkable." he breathed, the warmth of the words washing over her skin.
"Thank you for remarking on it." She smirked, a bit of sparkle returning to her eyes.
She took a deep breath, debating with herself for a beat before deciding that she could risk it this once in order to take back a little bit of control. She leaned forward, closing the infinitesimal distance between them, and pressed a kiss against his lips. She lingered only briefly before pulling away.
"What was that for?" he asked, surprised again by her touch.
"Something to hold onto." She grinned.
Oliver's chest tightened at her words, for the first time fully accepting that he wanted something to hold onto. Though, if he was holding on then he was holding on for dear life.
Throwing caution to the wind, he sank his hands into her hair, pulling her lips down to his. He slanted his lips under hers, desperate to pour everything he had into her, to give her something, even a fraction of what she gave to him.
That was the first time Felicity tasted thunder.