title: the world is on fire (and no one can save me but you)
category: arrow
genre: romance/drama
ship: felicity/oliver
rating: Teen
inspiration: picture (source) - check my Tumblr or Livejournal to see the image.
word count: 2,117
summary: "Sometimes I think it was easier before, because I didn't have anything to lose. And now all I can think about is coming home and holding you and it shouldn't, but it terrifies me…"

the world is on fire (and no one can save me but you)
-1/1-

It was a close call tonight. If he'd moved left instead of right, he would have bled out in a grungy alley in the worst part of the Glades. She'd asked him not to go out. Digg had the night off, he couldn't have his back. She was on comm.'s but Verdant left her too far away to be of any help if something went sideways. He told her he'd be fine. He was always fine. Even between bullets and knives and self-inflicted arrow wounds, he was always fine. He always survived.

The fight happened quickly. He intercepted a mugger wielding a knife and before he knew it, he was just barely avoiding the serrated edge bent on putting him down. The man was untrained, but he was desperate, and desperate men were sometimes far worse.

She always worried when he fought.

Her frantic, "Oliver!?" made his gut clench.

After reassuring her he was okay, he dropped the unconscious mugger off near the police station and told her he'd be back soon.

"Go home, Felicity," he'd ordered.

She'd sighed, in that irritated way of hers she used when he made demands she didn't agree with, but she listened.

The truth was, physically he was all right. Better than most nights, when he returned with scrapes that needed the sting of antiseptic and bandages wrapped over them. Mentally was a different matter. But some would argue he hadn't been mentally fit in a long time.

When he returned to the foundry, he tried to work off the lingering panic that still thrummed through his blood. He worked out on the salmon ladder and emptied a bottle of tennis balls while he put his bow to good use, but the feeling didn't fade like he wanted it to. There was a time when fear did not play as large a part in his life. When he'd become so familiar with it that he welcomed death. And for a long time, even after he'd returned from the island, he didn't fear what others could do to him. What could they possibly do that he hadn't already been through? His body bore the scars of his many mistakes. What was one more?

But death meant leaving completely. It meant giving in to that persistent darkness that shadowed his every step. It meant leaving the family he'd only recently rebuilt, the team that stood for so much more than he ever could have imagined, and… her.

When he left the foundry, he'd traded his leathers in for jeans and a plain white t-shirt, dragging a jacket on to keep out the chill in the air. He crossed the city on his bike, winding in and out of traffic, taking shortcuts down alleyways, until he was finally parked by her apartment. He wasted no time scaling her building with the help of the fire escape. Her window was closed, but unlocked. His mouth settled in a firm line. He always told her not to do that, but she never listened.

"How will you get in?" she replied simply.

He didn't know if he should be offended that she thought a small lock could keep him out, or happy that she went out of her way to make it easier for him to get in.

He slid the window up silently and climbed inside her bedroom. Her door was open, but her apartment was quiet and dark. He was familiar enough with the layout of her bedroom that it wasn't hard to maneuver around. Without a sound, he moved to stand by her bedside. She was asleep; not surprising given the hour. The street lamps painted her face as her head rested on a pillow she'd bunched up with her arm wrapped around it.

He stared down at her a long moment, seeming so innocent in a world full of chaos and death. Thanks to her after-hours job, she knew more than her hopeful eyes would tell. He often wondered how she managed to keep her faith, but when he asked, she only smiled, looking indulgent and sad and, somehow, even more hopeful. And then she would take his hand and lead him away. It was one of few questions she didn't answer with a long ramble, instead using her fingers dragging over the planes of his face and her eyelashes dancing over his skin as she pressed kisses down his chest to make her point. Somehow, her answer was still just as loud as if she were talking.

You. You give me hope. You make me believe.

Sometimes he wanted to tell her not to, that he wasn't worth it, that he could never live up to those dreams of heroism. But then her hand would lay flat on his heart and he'd traced the length of her fingers with his, he'd kiss her shoulder and her cheek and hug her to him as they sat on the couch in the foundry, wearing nothing but each other. And he'd decide he was a selfish man who wouldn't tell her to stop for fear that she might actually listen, and he would lose her.

He reached for her when she let out a tiny, muffled noise, mumbling something about red pandas. He dragged the tip of his forefinger over her soft cheek until he reached her hair and then his fingers stretched out to stroke through silky blonde strands, his thumb rubbing over the shell of her ear. Her head moved, leaning into his touch, and he wondered how telling it was that she so innocently leaned into his touch rather than startle at it. She didn't expect an attack or an intruder, as if even subconsciously she understood it was him.

Her brow furrowed as the weight of his hand lingered. "Mm… Oliver?" she hummed, her eyes still closed.

"Go back to sleep," he said quietly. "It's late."

Tiredly, she lifted a hand and found his, tangling their fingers. "Come to bed."

He swallowed tightly, a ball of emotion going down hard.

She pulled his hand down and kissed his knuckles before she turned over and wiggled across the bed to the other side, leaving the side she had been occupying open. She knew he preferred laying closer to the window, more in an effort to block her if anybody tried to come through it than anything.

Without a word, he stripped off his jacket, kicked his shoes away, and removed his t-shirt and jeans. He crawled into the familiar comfort of her bed and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her back until she was spooned up against his chest. She hummed happily and covered his hand over her stomach, her fingers stroking his wrist. He kissed behind her ear before he nuzzled into her neck and relaxed.

"Were you hurt?" she wondered, that sleepy tone still present.

"No more than usual."

She squeezed his wrist. "But it was close?"

His lips turned up faintly at the corner. Somehow, she always knew.

"It could've been… but it wasn't." He kissed her shoulder. "Go to sleep, we'll talk about it tomorrow."

"You mean you'll sneak out before dawn, so your mom won't ask questions, and then you'll use the excuse of being at QC when I bring it up, and later, at the foundry, you'll say there are more important things…" She turned her head a little. "I'm on to you, Oliver Queen."

"I think you always were. You're just getting better at calling me on it."

She let out a faint scoff. "I'm too sleepy to ramble… or make a not-so-subtle pass at you."

"What about a really obvious one?" he asked, scraping his teeth over her earlobe and tugging.

"You've very good at distracting me," she sighed.

"It's something I pride myself on." He slid a hand down her stomach and between her legs, cupping her through her plain, cotton underwear.

"You realize I can have sex with you pretty much any time, right?" She rolled over onto her back and raised an eyebrow at him. "Now, tell me what's really bugging you… Because it has to be something. Usually I'm the one who gets worried when you have a close call."

He sighed, sliding his hand back up her stomach, his thumb rubbing circles around her navel absently. His brow furrowed as he stared down at the blue TARDIS on her pajama shirt. It had ridden up to just under her breasts, leaving a lot of bare skin for him to explore, which he would much rather be doing than having this conversation. But Felicity didn't let these things go, and as much as he didn't like how hard it was to express himself, he appreciated that she never stopped trying.

"Regular mugger, nothing special, average height and build… He's got a knife on him, probably something he picked up at a pawn shop…" He shook his head slightly. "He's desperate. He's ready to attack anybody. And he's going to, so I get in the middle. He starts swiping at me, and that's not new. I've had more knives shoved in my face than I like to remember… When I keep leaning out of reach, he starts jabbing instead. And there was a moment, just a split second, when he nearly got me. And I know if I didn't move in the right direction at the right time, he would've stabbed me..." He paused, clearing his voice of emotion before he continued. "It was fine. I disarmed him, knocked him out, dropped him off close enough for the police to pick him up." He spread his hand out flat on her stomach. "Just another night patrolling."

Humming, she stared up at him. "But something was different… Something made you feel different when he almost stabbed you." She covered his hand with her own, her thumb running over the hills of his knuckles, rubbing between the valleys. "You were scared."

He folded his lips and sighed, his eyebrow raised. "I don't get scared."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of."

He cast his eyes away.

"Oliver, you've gone through some terrible things, and maybe you get used to them, maybe you don't have the same fears as people who haven't been tortured. But that doesn't mean fear goes away entirely. Sometimes it just manifests differently… Besides, fear isn't always bad. It's designed as a warning, to keep you from doing things that can and will hurt you in some way."

He looked down at her, she was squinting a little without her glasses, her make-up long gone and her hair spread out around her on the pillow. "I wasn't scared that he'd kill me. I'm not afraid of dying… I'm afraid of not being here. That I won't see Thea graduate from college or get married or hear her call me 'Ollie' again…" He swallowed thickly. "I moved at the right second, but if I didn't, I wouldn't see you again… And that scares me more than anything."

Her fingers folded around his hand and squeezed. "Oliver…" she whispered, like speaking too loudly would break the spell of his words.

"I love you." He released her hand so he could cup her face, his thumb stroking over the curve of her cheek. "Sometimes I think it was easier before, because I didn't have anything to lose. And now all I can think about is coming home and holding you and it shouldn't, but it terrifies me…" He smiled humorlessly. "Because I know I can lose it, and with my track record, I probably will."

She shook her head. "You moved," she told him. And with a smile full of hope and trust, she stretched up and kissed him, just a soft, passing press of lips. "You'll always move." Her hand curled around his neck, stroking lightly, and kept him close as she laid back down, their foreheads ghosting over each other. She traced the planes of his face, from the heavy line of his brow down the slope of his nose, over the arch of his cheek to the edge of his lips. She dragged her fingers down his chin, scratching lightly, and slid her hand down, down, down until it settled over his heart. "You're here, Oliver. You're always going to be right here, with me."

He hadn't realized his eyes were closed until he felt her finger tap his chest and he opened them to see her staring at him seriously. With a faint curl of his lips, he murmured, "Promise me."

And while she couldn't, while no one really could, she tipped her head and, with her lips brushing his, whispered, "I promise."

He believed her.

[End.]