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Almost True

Chapter Text

Of Wood and Gold

She held his hand
and lead him
back to the beginning.

He stopped in front of the dark brown wooden door and hesitated. He didn’t have a key to this new front door. He had only been given the address by the ARGUS agents who had escorted him to freedom from Slabside. Oliver looked at the grain and colour, committing to memory the small scratch by the peephole and the colour of the doorhandle and lock. Brass. They had to be brass or some alloy to hold the greenish patina they had. It was a solid oak door with a small inlaid leaded glass strip that ran completely around its perimeter. Just barely discernible were tiny led lights behind the glass. The door must glow when they were lit up.

He wasn’t sure if he should ring the bell or knock. A familiar punch of anxiety hit him in the stomach, low and cold, and a small voice in the back of his head was growing louder as it screamed: RUN!

But he held his ground, fighting the impulse to flee until he knew for certain if she would let him in. It took some effort, but he raised his arm, formed a fist, and knocked. Sweat prickled along his brow, a thin line of it running along his cheek and down his neck, but he didn’t raise his hand to wipe it away. It was a testament to the anxiety that was coursing through him as he waited for Felicity or William to answer the door.

The sound of soft footfalls slipped past the door frame. He closed his eyes and called up a distant memory of a small weekend trip they had taken just after getting married in the field. A small cabin in the mountains. A log fire. Felicity in her sheepskin slippers and very little else. They had been happy there. Convinced that their lives together formed a tapestry of their own creation, one they controlled.

A soft click of the lock and the slow turn of the door handle brought him back to where he was: standing in front of the door to the home Felicity and William had made their own. He rubbed his hands on his thighs, they had grown clammy as he waited what felt like an eternity for the door to open.

But it did and there she was, still in her pajamas, coffee mug in hand. Her hair was down, wavy now that it had grown so long, still damp from her shower. They stood in silence, locked onto one another’s eyes. Her lips moved, soundlessly, like an incantation being uttered for ears other than his, and colour rose in her cheeks.

“Hey,” he said quietly.

She blinked several times in rapid succession and then stepped aside, allowing him to enter. Stepping past her without so much as a small touch, fingertips running over skin, delicate, light, a soft butterfly kiss of skin on skin, felt alien and immoral. The need to feel her heart beat, smell her hair, was a physical need within him. It was what sustained him those long months in Slabside. The knowledge of her was enough but here she was and the distance, though so small, felt like a universe wide divide.

He walked into the condo and took it in. It was sleek but warm. It had curves and hard edges. Stainless steel, glass, and velvet. It was earthy and modern. The living room was graceful, smooth. The kitchen was high tech, full of gadgets and tools for someone who could cook. The tv was elegantly placed, out of the way but highly visible from all corners of the open space. It was as pure a reflection of their connection as anything he could ever envision.

“I like it,” he said softly, turning to face her, “It feels…lived in.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly, still maintaining her distance, “I thought it might be nice to not have so much concrete visible. It could get cold in our other spaces.”
“It reminds me of Ivy Town,” he said with a small smile.

When she looked away, his heart fell. Maybe he had been wrong to come here so soon. Maybe he should have given her and William more time but the need to see them both had propelled him to land on her doorstep, meagre possessions in hand, hoping for something other than this gaping wound that still existed between them.

“I wanted to give William a home, a place of peace and safety,” she said quietly, putting her coffee mug down, her hand shaking just a tiny bit, betraying her nervousness.

“You have done so much for him,” he started before his voice failed him and he looked away, blinking back tears.
“I’d do anything for him, Oliver, he’s your son,” she said plainly.

He nodded, knowing and hearing the truth in her words, “Is William here?”

“No, he’s gone to school already. We…we weren’t sure if you were going to be coming home today or tomorrow,” she explained, sadness breathed in every word. He felt cocooned in sorrow the longer they stayed apart.
“I was going to call ahead but…,” he held out his hands to show he had no phone or means to communicate with her.
“It’s ok,” she said quickly, “It’s ok. I’ll get you a new phone. One that is encrypted.”

Oliver looked at her, the morning sun was streaming in from skylights above them, illuminating her in soft golden light. She was radiant even in her pajamas. The need to touch her was like breathing. It was a biological imperative, like breathing or eating, but still he waited where he was, looking for a sign from her that it would ok to just reach for her hand.

“Oliver…,” she whispered and reached for him, tears freely falling down her cheeks.

He was beside her in a flash, wrapping her in his arms, using his body to pull her tight to him. He reveled in the heat of her body pressed against his, the smell of freshly washed hair and the way her heart beat against his chest. She clung to him, silently crying, until she wasn’t.

Felicity slipped from his embrace and crossed the room on shaking legs to retrieve a box of Kleenex. He smiled at her as she blowed her nose and quietly regained her composure. They had a lot to talk about but this silent battle happening between them, the need to touch, be touched and the need for autonomy and agency, was like waiting for a house of cards to either float away on the wind or defy logic and stand for an eternity.

“Let’s sit,” she said.

He looked around helplessly, unsure of what he should do or choose. Should he sit on the couch? Or the large chair by the window? Maybe at the dining room table? He felt a surge of panic and did what Yao Fei had taught him to do in moments like this. He concentrated on his breathing, counting slowly down from one hundred until the world regained its definition and shape.

“Oliver?” she asked, concerned, “Are you ok?”
“I…I don’t know where to sit,” he finally said, his voice small and hollow to his ears.
“Come,” she said, real sorrow infused her voice, “Sit with me.”

She sat down on the couch, not at the end but halfway to the centre of its velvet soft expanse and waited for him to join her. He sank into it, appreciating her sense of style, and a sigh escaped his lips. He hadn’t been aware of the breath he’d been holding in while lost in the fear that even sitting next to him was more than she could bear.

“This is a hell of a couch,” he said sheepishly.
“I wanted something plush but functional. No more leather in the living room,” she said with a gentle smile.
“The kitchen seems…,” he paused, searching for the right word.
“Completely out of my league?” she finished for him.
“Yeah,” he laughed quietly, carefully.
“I didn’t design it for me,” she said softly, slipping her hand into his.

It was like a hurricane blew through him, blasting away the last vestiges of the prison that had consumed the last six months of his life. Nothing about this was going to be easy but the slow courtship they were now in felt like a dance where only they could hear the music. But hear it they could, it swirled around them, guiding their movements, slowly drawing them closer and closer together.

“I wasn’t sure if I should come here,” he said quietly but honestly, “I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome.”
“Oliver…,” she said with real tenderness in her voice, “There is no other place I would want you to go. Things…things won’t be easy for the next little while. I won’t lie to you about that. But this is your home. Our home. If you still want that.”

He looked at her, surprised and shocked, his heart struggling not to break as he witnessed the pain in her eyes.

“Felicity,” her name felt luxurious rolling off his tongue, “I can’t imagine a world or condo or house without you in it. I could think of only this, of you and William, for six long months. You are what kept me focused on surviving.”
“And you did,” she whispered, shifting on the couch towards him, “You survived. You LIVED.”
“I did,” he nodded, “and now I’m here.”
“You are. We are,” she said, “but things must be different, Oliver. You cannot rip my life apart, William’s life apart, like that ever again. I love you. I will always love you…but I can’t survive that again. It almost killed me, literally and figuratively. You do not have that right. We are partners, equal and honest, or we aren’t.”

Her words hit him as hard as fists. He knew, deep in his bones, when he made the decision to turn himself in as he did, that he had burned through any other chance he might have with her to make that kind of mistake again. He had to earn his redemption, his forgiveness, from her, one small act of mercy at a time.

“You retreated, Oliver, you left me and became that man you thought you had left behind on Lian Yu,” she said simply, “Somehow, some way, you need to find a way to let go of him, not to forget him, but to forgive yourself for that simple act of surviving when your father decided not to.”

It was like she had reached into his subconscious with her bare hands and ripped is mind in half to find this one thing he had never spoken aloud. She knew him better than anyone and sometimes that included himself. It was one of the reasons he loved her beyond all reason.

“I don’t know how I would survive without you, Felicity,” he said simply, feeling naked under her gaze.
“Not well, is my guess,” she said, smiling, her eyes lighting up for the first time since he arrived.
He chuckled and nodded in agreement. She was undoubtedly correct given his attempts in the past. He felt her other hand come to rest overtop of their clasped ones. The warmth of her hands slowly bringing him back to life. He had withered in his mind and heart being so far from her but now, just being near her, he felt his body responding. The air tasted sweet and he wanted to take as many deep breaths as he could.

“I’d be dead without you. Whether in body or spirit. I don’t know who I’d be, but I don’t think I would like the man I’d have become without you in my life.”
“Continue,” she said with a gentle nudge.

There was a push in his chest as his heart expanded. Their walls were slowly falling, one brick at a time, yet all he wanted to do was bow his head and weep for the joy of loving her. He needed to find a way to tell her, to share with her, just how much this meant to him.

“What is it?” she asked, slipping one arm though his, linking them together.
“I love you, Felicity, I just love you,” he said, suddenly unable to look her in the eyes.

The gentle sweep of her thumb over his cheeks betrayed the tears that had slipped unnoticed from his eyes. He tried to clamp down, to cap the well, but it was too late. They flowed out of him, surging like the tide, all the regret, sorrow and fear he’d lived with while separated from his family followed them. It was cathartic and necessary, an act of contrition. He was seeking forgiveness but knew it was too much to ask from her just yet.

Her arms, small but strong, wound around his neck, pulled his head down to her shoulder. She cradled him, rubbed his back, kissed the top of his head until his tears ceased to flow. He could hear her sniffling and reached for the Kleenex, offered it up to her in supplication. Her weary laugh floated down to him and it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.

“Oliver,” her voice was thick and low from crying, “I love you, please know that but we have work to do. Good and hard work. Ok?”
“Ok,” he agreed, happiness slowly taking root in his heart, “I’ve missed you.”

She stayed silent, still slowly rubbing his back, unconsciously rocking them in a slow, gentle rhythm. His eyes fluttered closed and he felt himself relax for the first time in months. It took effort to stay awake, so he sat up, moving away from her just enough to give her space and enough to wake him up.

“I’ve missed you, too,” she said so softly he wasn’t sure he heard her, “I tried not to think about the what ifs, the maybes. I didn’t want to build up hope, to grab hold of a wish that might not have any chance of coming true. But I missed you with every part of me, everyday.”

Oliver leaned down and pressed his forehead to hers, eyes closed, and breathed her in. Step by small step, they were making their way back to each other, he ached for her and was so afraid of fucking it up. He knew she wouldn’t end their marriage for a misstep honestly made but the fragility of their reunion had left him shaken.

“Here,” she said softly, “I have something for you.”

He looked at her quizzically and then down at the hand she had opened between them. In the centre of her palm was his wedding ring. A range of emotions flowed through him, none of them staying for long until finally only elation was left. With shaking hands, he took hold of hers and kissed the inside of her wrists. Her skin was so soft and delicate, he was afraid his beard would leave scratches and cuts.

“Where’s yours?” he asked in a daze, his mind racing from one thing to the next.
“Right here,” she whispered, reaching back to a bowl on the table behind them, “I knew you would be home sometime today and wanted to have them ready.”

Taking his hand in hers, she slipped his ring back on his finger. It shone so bright in the morning light, reflecting the sun’s rays off the walls and steel surfaces. Taking her ring from her, he repeated the action, helping it take its rightful place. He’d never seen anything so wondrous as the gold band on her slender finger.

“Never leave me like that again, Oliver, ever,” she said with quiet ferocity, “Never, ever make that kind of decision for me, for us, again.”
“Never again,” he said but knew it was a tenuous promise. Their lives were too complicated for promises of that kind of finality.
“Come with me,” she said, “One last thing.”

Oliver followed her without question into a small half bathroom. Laid out on the counter were all the tools he would need to shave his beard: small scissors to trim it down, clippers and an electric razor to finish the job. Finally, a cloth to warm up to open his pores and ease the tightness of his skin. He laughed when he saw it all lined up and ready to go.

“You aren’t a fan of it?” he asked, scratching under his chin.
“If it were any longer, you could name it.”
“Stay and help?” he asked as he began the trimming of his beard.
“Of course,” she said with a smile.

The next fifteen minutes were the most normal ones he’d had in what felt like decades. They talked and laughed. She updated him on William’s adjustment to his new school, how she found the condo, how she bought it and what she was doing to earn money now.
He was so proud to hear of how she had re-created herself as CEO of her own company, Smoak Technologies. She was going to change the world through sheer force of will and nothing on this planet could persuade him she would do otherwise.

“Better?” he asked as he pulled the warm towel away from his face.
“Insanely better,” she said in agreement, “Oliver?”
“Hmmm?” he was checking his neck and face for stragglers.
“I really want to kiss you,” she said low in a husky voice.
“That is what I’ve been waiting to here since I walked through that door,” he said, his voice naked with desire.
“There was no way I was going to kiss you or let you kiss me with that woodland creature on your face,” she said firmly with a shake of her head.

He shook his head and cupped her face between his hands. He studied her face, noticing the new scars from her fight with Diaz, the slight weariness around her eyes and the openness that she now looked at him with. He could see his Felicity emerging. She was metamorphosizing to be sure, but she was still his Felicity under it all.

“You are so beautiful,” he murmured.

He pressed his lips to hers in what he had meant to only be a small, delicate kiss. A kiss of greeting to reintroduce themselves to each other. One meant to bridge the gap between them after so long a separation. But Felicity had other things in mind. As soon as his lips met hers, she pulled him to her and kissed him with a fierceness that shattered the last of the walls they had so carefully constructed around their hearts to survive what they thought would be decades without each other.

“I’ve missed you,” she murmured against his lips, “I’ve missed you every day and night for six months.”
“Shhh,” he whispered.

Her lips parted under the pressure of his against hers and he felt silkiness of her tongue against his. Her legs wrapped around his waist and fireworks went off behind his eyelids. His hands went into her hair, then down her back, he wanted to feel her skin again but not here in this strange bathroom. Not after so long apart.

“Felicity,” he said with a hint of humour in his voice, “I have no idea where our bedroom is.”
“Follow me,” she said quietly, taking his hand in hers, slipping past him.

It wasn’t far, but it was down a hallway where the only bedroom was theirs. He smiled at that. William was a teenager who needed his privacy, but they also needed theirs. Now more than ever.

It was a lovely room. Large with a lot of windows and a small balcony just for them. The bed was another Felicity creation: king sized with enough pillows to supply four more beds and still have some to spare. It was feminine but had enough masculine touches to keep him happy. Truth be told, he would have slept on a bed of rocks if she asked him to and called it heaven.

“You do love your bedrooms,” he said, glancing up at the ceiling, “And you found somewhere with skylights.”
“So we can see the stars on clear nights,” she smiled, moving into his arms again.
“Felicity are you sure?” he asked, concerned that maybe they were moving too fast, that maybe this was something primal, an urge that they both needed to scratch but not what they needed.
“I’ve never been so sure of anything before in my life,” she breathed across the sensitive skin on his neck.

Her hands moved up under his shirt, pulling it up off his body. He completed the action because of their height difference and missed seeing her initial search for new scars on his torso. Finding them, she gently kissed each one, traced them with the tip of her finger or tongue. She committed the shape of his new agony to memory, giving thanks for his survival and honoured the sacrifice he made without consultation, even if it was for her and William.

She searched his arms, his back, slowly at first and then faster, in a fevered rush. When she got to his hands, she slowed down, examining each finger, front and back. Then she knelt up on the bed so that she was closer to eye level with him, and kissed each new scar on his face, circling back round to his lips where she kissed him, long and deep, until they both had to come up for air.
They didn’t speak during her slow examination, but their bodies spoke to each other. It was all about finding their rhythm, the one that united their hearts and minds as one. He had been searching so long for her and would fight an army comprised of a million Adrian Chases if it meant being with her. In this life time or the next.

“I am still angry with you, Oliver,” she said as he undressed her, “but I love you so much.”
“I know you are still unhappy with me, angry with me,” he said, kissing her neck below her ear, “But we can talk about that later. Deal?”
“Deal,” she whispered, pressing her body against his.

He laid her back on the bed with the intention of easing into making love to her, but she looked at him and said quietly, “Don’t wait, Oliver. Please. Don’t wait.”

He laid down beside her, deliberately ignoring her request, and pushed her hair out of her face, feeling the silky strands as they fell away. He wanted to be sure and looking into her eyes, he saw that she was. There was no doubt, no hesitancy, no fear. All he saw was love, desire and naked lust.

“It felt like we were courting earlier,” he said with a smile.
“I thought I was seducing you,” she said with a wink.
“Uh, Felicity, you need to look up what that word means as I don’t think you quite understand it,” he laughed quietly. Truth be told, she could seduce him with a wink or shrug of her shoulders.
“Shush,” she admonished, “You know you thought it was sexy.”
“You could wear a potato sack and boxes on your feet and you would be the sexiest woman alive.”
Felicity moved to straddle him, rising up above him, and whispered, “I love you. Now show me.”

He needed no more convincing. He could feel the heat of her body, that she was ready for him, and watched as she grasped his hard cock and guided it into her body. They both let out a deep, satisfied sigh as she sank down its length, burying it in her body. Her eyes were closed but he watched her. How she moved her hips, the way her chest heaved as her breathing grew more intense and primal.

He loved the way she felt, so wet and hot wrapped around him, and did everything he could to make this last. He slowed his breathing, he used the power of his body to flip them over. On top was where he could control his body for her. The tenderness of her heart, the way she loved so intensely, it all radiated out of her. She was the sun at the centre of his galaxy, what he revolved around no matter where he was in their shared universe.

“God, Oliver,” she panted, “You are amazing.”

Her back arched off the bed and he felt the powerful contractions of the muscles inside her, how they tightened around him in a hard embrace before shifting to what could only be described as something that felt like an earthquake. She rumbled and shook and cried out his name with each fresh climax that took her. She was trembling, damp with sweat, but still her hips moved, coaxing his to do the same.

In one elegant move, the kind made possible only due to his conditioning, he moved so that he was sitting in the middle of the bed with her across his lap. This was one of their favourite positions. They had total access to each other’s bodies and either one could take control of the moment. Right now, he had it and the pleasure she was taking from his body was pure ecstasy.

Oliver loved her body. The way she had been working out had helped her develop muscles in her arms, legs and she had a six pack of abs forming. He smiled as he watched her try and control her own body and kissed her hard, long, with enough greedy lust to push her into another orgasm that threatened to burn him alive.

“Let go,” she half whispered, half moaned, “let go, Oliver.”

She kissed him, sucked his bottom lip, ran her tongue under his top lip, pulled his tongue into her mouth and stroked it with her own. Her hips slammed into his and he felt his cock twitch inside her, it throbbed, and his pelvis ached from keeping his body under control. She whispered in his ear again, telling him that she loved him, that this could work if they trusted one another.

He gripped her hips and thrust into her with long, hard strokes. He felt beyond alive. He felt her heart connect to his, he heard that song that would haunt him in his dreams in his cell, the one he first heard in Nanda Parbat. It had taken him months to sort through all that had happened in that one night. All the love, and trust, and fierce drive to survive if only for her, and underneath it all was a song so gentle and soft, he had almost missed it. The universe sang through her to him and he had yet to hear the chorus.

With a quiet groan, he came, pouring himself deep inside her, feeling like a volcano was rumbling to life, hot and alive. She had found his mouth again and this time kissed him gently, tasting him, guiding him through his ecstasy with love and desire.

“Lie down with me,” she whispered in his ear.

She grabbed their old green, woolen blanket and covered them, and snuggled into his side, resting her head on his chest. It was such a natural fit and so natural to do, all he needed to do was open his arms and she was there, one hand in his to keep the connection between their bodies.

“When will William be home?” he asked softly, watching the gossamer thin clouds pass by overhead.
“Around three,” she answered drowsily.
“Don’t you have anything to do?”
“I cleared my calendar,” she said with a small laugh and kissed his chest, “I figured this would happen.”
“I am so glad it did,” he said in utter thankfulness.
“There was no way I could work, not today,” she said quietly.
“I am so sorry, Felicity,” he said in a sudden rush. The need to say the words outweighed any sense of caution he felt earlier. He needed her to know.
“You need to trust me, Oliver, you need to trust that I am capable of taking care of myself, of William, of you. Just like I trust you. No more secret deals. No more secrets,” she said, her voice serious with flint slicing through each word, “But I know your PTSD will always be that voice in your head, screaming for you to run.”
“When I was standing outside the door, that voice was so loud…,” he said softly, amazed that she knew but not completely surprised. She understood who he was underneath all the fractures and layers of hurt, grief, and regret. His heart ached but it was healing. He only hoped that in time, so would hers.
“We need to get you some clothes,” she said, sitting up. The blanket fell away from her, revealing her inch by inch, “and a key to that door.”

He reached across and lightly trailed his fingertips, made rough from all the fights he had in prison, down her chest. He traced both of her nipples until each was hard and she shivered under his touch. His breathing grew shorter as she laced their hands together.

“Come with me,” she whispered, her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkling bright.

Wordlessly, he followed her as she pulled him off the bed. All he could see was the outline of her body as she led them through a doorway into a bright sunlit room, She was ethereal as she past from the diffused light of the bedroom into the bright room beyond. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light. When they did, he saw the large, glass enclosed shower stall with rainfall shower heads and low stone bench.

Nestled against the wall, under lightly frosted glass windows, was a soaker tub built for two. He walked the perimeter of the room. She had picked well with the materials of stone, deep green ceramic tile with flecks of gold that caught the light and held it. The walls bloomed with colour and light. An overhead skylight was the source of the light and he stood under it, bathed in its brilliance.

“Take a look,” she said softly, pointed towards the wall behind him.

He turned and saw that she had managed to get a gas fireplace installed. He had to laugh. This was something they had talked about in Positano. How a fireplace in the bathroom, while the height of luxury, would be perfect for winter, when the rains and wind came.

“There is one in the bedroom, too,” she said with a soft smile.
“You thought of everything,” he murmured.
“This is home, Oliver,” she said insistently, taking his hand in hers, “If there is anything you want to add or take away or change, we can do it. By no means is anything permanent. I want you to feel like you own this space, too.”
“So far, it’s perfect,” he whispered, cupping her face between his hands. He looked into her eyes, a mismatched blue with a swirl of gold and green at the centre. Her eyes were galaxies, each with their own gravitational pull, but under their gaze he was defenseless.
“Let’s shower. You smell like Slabside. Musty and wrong,” there was concern in her voice. Fear that the smell had attached itself too closely to his mind.
“You just had one,” he murmured, his thumbs traced the outline of her lips as he spoke.
“Well, I think I need another one,” she smiled and waited for his kiss, accepted with grace and quiet passion.
“Come on,” he said, breaking away as his body began to betray him, “It looks amazing.”

Her laugh was shaky, but she led him into the stall and turned on the water. It was hot in seconds, something he was grateful for as it provided a distraction for them both. This was a ritual he had trained himself to not think about while he was in prison.

They bathed together after making love. No matter the season, they would tumble into a bathtub or shower stall and let the hot water rinse them clean. Somewhere along the line, they had taken to washing each other and this morning was no different. He used a loofa and her favourite body wash, the one she brought in specially from Bali, but he soon was using just his hands to explore her body. His hand pushed between her legs, stroking her clit until her legs tightened around his hand and she gasped as her body jerked back hard against his.

“Turn the water off,” she gasped and broke free from his embrace.

He watched her leave the shower on unsteady legs and his eyes traced the pattern of scars on her back. Remnants of a violent night not so long ago. She wrapped a towel around her and left the bathroom, he did the same, watching her carefully as something felt slightly off.

“Are you ok?” he asked cautiously. She had her back to him as she studied the control panel on the fireplace. Her hands were shaking so hard she couldn’t hit the buttons to turn it on.
“I…that shower,” she stammered, her voice thick with tears and so much anxiety it rendered him speechless.
“Felicity,” he managed to say, reaching for her, “I don’t understand…”
“For so many weeks, I had nightmares,” she managed to say through great, gulping sobs, her back still to him, “that the one place you would be the most vulnerable would be when you were showering. That someone or a gang of someones would attack you there. I would wake up drenched in sweat and sobbing, Oliver, wondering if that was the day John was going to walk into wherever the hell I was working and tell me you were dead.”

He was paralysed as he listened to her. He had been attacked in the shower. He had fought a gang of inmates, naked, and almost won. But it was also the day he thought Diaz had killed her. He almost had to laugh at the way their fears had mingled, even at such a distance. He wouldn’t tell her of that attack, not yet, but it was her visit that day that had convinced him to stop trying to be someone he wasn’t. He had looked his wife in the eyes and saw her pain, her anger and her conviction to stand up for what was right and fight for them.

“Being in there with you…,” she stopped and looked at him in helplessness and true fear.
What had once been their sanctuary was now a place she would associate with the fear of death, his death, and there was nothing he could do to take that fear away. Not yet.

Not yet, he thought, as he watched a small river of water run down her patterned back.
Not yet, he thought, fighting the urge to reach for her.
Not yet, he thought, his eyes sliding down her body, loving her from a distance.

“I’m sorry,” she said with a self-conscious laugh, “I don’t know what that was.”
“That was you sharing with me how it felt to not know…anything…about me for months,” he admitted, guilt and sadness coursing through him, “That was you being honest with me about what you went through because of me.”

It was at this moment that his legs gave out and he stumbled to the edge of the bed, sitting down hard. He had been prepared, he thought, for almost anything but not this. Never this. That a place of such seductive energy and bliss had been compromised by nightmares of violence and death. He had taken this from them both. A side effect of unilateral decision making.

The bed shifted as she sat down beside him. Carefully, she slipped her arm, warm and damp still from the shower, around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. Her free hand sought his and held on tight. He knew she was doing what she did best and without thought for herself, providing comfort in a time of intense emotional pain, and it ripped a hole in his soul. A wound so innocently delivered.

Still he remained silent. He had no idea what to say, rendered mute by the agony she had carried in her heart, alone. He had cast her out of his life, their life, he had pushed her so far from himself in the effort to keep her safe that he had delivered pain and hurt instead. And through it all, she had waited for news of his death.

“Oliver?” she asked softly, “Please, say something. Anything.”
“I went to Slabside to keep you safe but in the end, all I did was cause harm. It was me you should have been protected from, not Diaz,” he whispered as the shame he felt overwhelmed him.
“No. Oliver, no. You are wrong about that,” she said forcefully, gripping his hand tighter in hers. She held up their joined hands, and turned them so he could see their rings, “These are proof that no matter what, we are united. We are partners. Equals and when we are in tune, we are unstoppable. I love you, Oliver. I love YOU.”
“But..,” he gestured helplessly at the bathroom and the shower beyond.
“But nothing. That,” she said, pointing at the bathroom as well, “that will eventually get back to being what it should be, what we need it to be. But we have to face this hurt together for us both to heal and for me to forgive.”

He looked at her tear stained face and saw the determination in her eyes. Despite himself, and the shame he felt for doing to her the one thing he had promised he would never do again, he smiled in relief. But he also understood the root of her hurt in this instance. If he had died, he would have been cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. He would have been lost to her forever. If she had died, he would have to carry her death with him until he breathed his last breath. Never being able to rid himself of the decay, no funeral, no obituary, no condolences.

“That darkness you carry inside you,” she whispered, “When are you going to stop talking to it?”
“I’m trying,” was all he could say.
“I know, I know…”

He wanted to tell her that she was the missing piece to his life, that being in proximity to her was like flying too close to the sun, but he bathed in her light, letting it fill the cracks and seams his soul wore like armor, where the scar tissue was too thin to cover. When he looked at her, he knew in his heart that everything they had been through were trials or burdens, they were plot points in the story of them. They were how they became equals despite all his attempts to sabotage it.

Instead, he brought her hand up to his lips and kissed her ring finger. Honouring her trust and willingness to but her faith in him, in the love they shared. She stood up and cupped his face, making him look at her. She was searching for something in his eyes, the set of his expression, the way he looked back at her.

Felicity smiled gently and kissed him with a tenderness that ripped through him, tearing away the last of his fear of being here with her, shaking the foundation underneath them and forming something new, stronger and bold.

“Wow…” he breathed, unsure of what to say or do,
“Wow, indeed,” she murmured, dropping her towel to the ground.

Leaning forward just a little bit, he was able to kiss the centre of her chest, where the muscles joined in a defined ridge, and breathed a hot path up her neck. She gripped his arms, her chest heaving. Even during the way they were baring their souls to each other, the chemistry ignited between them, sparks flying with every touch.

She climbed onto his lap and held him. He could feel her heart beat through her chest, so steady and strong, and brought his head up, searching for her lips. The moment they met, time stood still and they surrendered themselves to each other.

This was love, he thought, as he gently eased inside her. No matter how deep the hurt, they would always find each other beneath the pain, pulling the other up into the light. He turned them over so that she was under him, safe and protected by his body. He rocked his hips slowly, languorously, with careful passion, until she dug her nails into his back and squeezed down hard around him, causing him to gasp in delirious joy.

This is love, he thought, as they lay, drowsy and content in their warm bedroom high atop the city. He pulled her close under the heavy blanket and thought about all the ways she had managed to scale his walls, to peel back the masks he wore to hide his true self, how she had become his lighthouse when he was lost in the fog of his past.

He looked at her and knew that she believed him when he said he was sorry, but that forgiveness was still something he had to earn. He made her a promise, whispered while he was still moving deep inside her, that he would tell her the truth no matter the cost. As he looked at her now, her eyes half closed, a small smile playing across her lips, he sadly knew it was almost the truth.