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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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2
Of Fire and Blood

He was lost
Somewhere just beyond her reach
Traversing the Universe.

Felicity sat at the end of the large bed, legs curled up tight to her chest, wrapped in the heavy woolen blanket that she had made sure always accompanied her, no matter the location she lived in. It was a reminder of the past, but it wrapped her in memories on days she felt herself unmoored from the present. She studied her husband as he slept, probably for the first time in six months. His breathing was steady and deep. She felt intrusive, like a spy in her own home, but she needed to see the peace slowly erase the damage that relatively short time apart had done to him.

He was leaner. Stronger. He hadn’t been skipping any workouts, she thought as she followed the hard ridges of muscles that ran down his arms. They were how he meditated and kept his mind from fracturing under the weight of his intimate betrayal of their vows to one another.

A surge of love and pain pushed at her chest and her heart beat a little heavier for it. The love she had for him was endless, but she was battered and bruised by it. Again. Quickly, she wiped away the tear that had spilled down her cheek. If he awoke, she didn’t want him to see her crying. She would have had to find the words to explain why and it would destroy him when she did.

They could survive this, she knew it in her bones, but he would need to see her, really see her, and listen to what she was saying without making excuses for his actions. Oliver desperately wanted her forgiveness but to his great credit, and one that only deepened her love for him, he hadn’t yet asked.

She let her thoughts drift back to the night before. When William had returned home, he and Oliver had locked themselves away in his room for hours. She had paced and paced, wondering how their conversation was going, hoping they were working out how to be family again. When the door opened, and Oliver rejoined her in the living room, his cheeks still wet with tears, he smiled at her. A genuine smile that lit up his eyes.

Will had followed him out and crossed the room to give her a hug before heading to the fridge to forage for food.

“William thinks I owe you more than just an apology,” Oliver said in a quiet, conspiratorial voice.
“How so?” she asked as he slowly approached her.
“You are his hero,” he said simply, edging closer, “If not for you, there would be no us, no family, nothing at all. Diaz would have killed you both. He loves you, Felicity, and you have done more for him than I can ever thank you for.”

She looked up at him, seeing the tears form in his starlight blue eyes, and felt the weight of his guilt and the intensity of his gratitude. It was enough for now, enough to get them through the day and into the next. With her company up and running, she decided to ease out of the day to day running of it for the time being, giving herself a couple of days to reconnect to her husband, to help him reconnect to the world, his son, her.

As he slept, she could hear his nightmares as they roiled and screamed under the surface of his skin. He didn’t lash out, he didn’t wake up in a cold sweat, pulling her with him back to wakefulness bit she could feel them, see them. They escaped his mind and clung to the shadows of the room, oily and foul, leaving a residue that haunted her.

She heard the soft closing of the front door as William left for school and wondered if he was ok. The night had ended quietly for the three of them. They had talked as a family. Beginning the long road to recovery together and had found the right words to communicate with each other. She felt such a profound relief to see William and his father speaking honestly, from the heart, and felt honoured when they included her in their dialogue.

The impact she had had on William during their five months alone was deeper than she realized. He had found his voice, courage, and ability to stand his ground respectfully but fiercely and she could not be more proud of the young man he was becoming. He wasn’t her son by blood but by love.

Exhaustion, emotional and physical, had pushed them all to an early night in bed. She and Oliver had no sooner crawled into bed when sleep rose up and claimed them both. For her, it had been one of empty darkness and for the first time in months, she truly slept.

The sun streaming in from above had awoken her. Fumbling for the remote control beside her, she hit the button that coloured the glass, dimming it until the room darkened once more. Oliver mumbled something about her hair smelling like lemongrass, turned over, and slipped back into a deep, soundless sleep.

She smiled at him and stopped herself from reaching to caress his face. He looked so young and unencumbered by the choices made for and by him, all of them leaving so much damage in their wake. With a heavy sigh, she slipped out of bed and went in search of food, just something to tide her over until he awoke.

The condo felt warmer, lighter. Like it was embracing them all, allowing them to find the right environment to heal in peace.
She had slipped on one of Oliver’s old hoodies and headed out to the kitchen. Finding a bag of nectarines, Felicity quickly cut one up and headed back to their bedroom. This was how she found herself wrapped in the green woolen blanket. She sat carefully on the end of the bed, hoping she wouldn’t wake him, and ate the sweet fruit with her fingers.

Not so long ago, she would have rejoiced at being able to spend an entire day in bed with Oliver. During their sabbatical three long years ago, they had done that in Bali, Positano, in a log cabin in the American Southwest and a mountain cabin after they were married by Diggle in the field. Her skin warmed as she remembered losing hours to pure ecstasy with him, because of him.

“I love you, Oliver Queen,” she whispered, a hitch in her voice as she watched his eyelids flutter.
“Hmmmm…,” he hummed, rolling onto his back to begin his slow climb out of sleep.
“Nothing,” she said softly, “Just talking to myself.”
“Come here,” he quietly called to her in that soft, gentle voice no one else would ever hear.

Shrugging off the blanket and putting the finished bowl of nectarines on her bedside table, Felicity slipped under the covers to rejoin him. His body was a furnace, pouring off heat in waves, and she gratefully nestled into his waiting arms.

“You slept well, didn’t you?” she asked as she tenderly traced one of his many scars with her fingertips.
“I did,” he sighed, “I had this reoccurring dream when I was in Slabside. You and William running from Diaz on Lian Yu. You were protecting Will, letting him escape, but Diaz…he caught you and shot you. I would wake up before the kill shot. Every single night for six months, I had that nightmare.”
“Did you have it last night?” she asked carefully, running through what he had just told her and the trauma of it on his psyche. It was an added layer of healing but for later, when they were better practiced at forgiving.
“No, I think I dreamed of you in a field. I remember smelling…lemongrass,” he said with a deep chuckle, his voice still carrying the remnants of sleep.
“You were mumbling something about my hair smelling like it before you woke up,” she smiled, leaving a soft kiss on the scar left by Ra’s Al Ghul’s blade.
“I still talk in my sleep?” he asked, running his fingers through her hair.
“A little bit, here and there,” she admitted, “It depends on what’s happening. On what is causing you pain or distress.”

She glanced up at Oliver and saw that he was studying the ceiling, thoughtfully but seriously. His PTSD was a topic they very rarely ventured into directly. If they did, it was through a circuitous route. They would hover near it, only touching on it when necessary. By asking about his dreams and nightmares, they were indirectly speaking about the impact of the events of his life, the PTSD and the psychological scars they had left behind.

“I want you to be free from suffering, Oliver,” she whispered, “For yourself, not me.”

He looked down at her, surprise and sadness in his eyes, and said, “It’s going to take a bit more time. I know that isn’t fair to you or to William…”
“Time doesn’t matter, Oliver. All your effort and work…it has meaning to me because I can see how far you’ve come.”
“Since that day with the latte covered computer?” he chuckled.
“That was one of the worst cover stories you have ever come up with,” she groaned in mock horror, “I am so glad you got smart and brought me in.”

“I thought it was better than then Vertigo one,” he said with a yawn.
“That one was special,” she chuckled, running her hand over his abdomen, feeling the ridges of his muscles tighten and jump under her warm hand, “but I mean it, Oliver, I see the way you have worked, I see you doing the right thing, even when you think no one notices or when doing the wrong thing would be so much easier. I see the kindness of your heart, how deeply you feel…even when you don’t expect any kindness in return. I see…you.”

“Felicity…,” he whispered, falling silent as words failed him.
“But I can also see when you are hiding things from me. I knew you were doing something you knew I would argue against, I knew, and you continued to hide the truth from me,” she said simply with no judgment in her voice, “We need to figure out how to never let that happen again.”
“I thought about that a lot,” he said somewhat sardonically.
“I should hope so,” she said with a soft poke into his side.

“It’s about control,” he started hesitantly, as though afraid of the words forming and demanding to be heard, “When I think I can’t protect you and William, when I feel that slipping away from me, I panic. I remember all the times in the past where people close to me have died so I pull you close and then…”
“You cast me, us, away,” she finished for him.

“I do. I get so lost in my own hurt, that I don’t see yours,” he said quietly, his fingers twirling strands of her hair and letting them go, over and over, it calmed him and relaxed her.
“So why would you turn yourself in knowing the harm it would do to me, to your son?” she asked, “And I don’t want to hear that is was to protect us. There were other ways for us to find and neutralize Diaz but you didn’t even try to talk to me. So why? Knowing the hurt you would leave behind?”

Oliver sat up, pulling the duvet up with him. The room was warm but she still shivered. Maybe she had pushed too hard, too fast and he was retreating behind his armoured walls. She turned over and waited. Watching the way the muscles on his back moved and shifted as he thought through what she was really asking.

She wanted him to dig past the way he would react on instinct. Past the layers of control and anxiety and get to the root of it all. This didn’t start on Lian Yu. It grew and flourished on that island. She knew it just by knowing him but he refused to look deeper than the need to keep her safe, to keep William alive and with one parent to raise him.

“I don’t know that I have an answer for you, Felicity,” he said quietly, picking at a loose thread on the duvet, “At least not yet.”
It would have to do, she thought, for now. It was enough that she asked him to start thinking about it. The truth she was looking for laid over top of his heart, but it was his to share, not hers to take.
“It’s ok, Oliver,” she said, reaching to run her palm down the centre of his back, “One step at a time.”

He turned to look at her, a small smile on his lips, and laid back down beside her, his head on her belly.
“Your head…is it all muscle?” she asked, gasping for air.
“Too heavy for you?” he chuckled.
“Too dense.”

In a blink of an eye, he was hovering above her, his eyes shining, a beaming smile full of fun and relief. He lowered his head so that his lips were a mere inch from hers and said, “Good morning.”

She smiled and nuzzled his nose, almost daring him to kiss her, before saying softly, “Good morning.”

His tender kiss was a welcomed one, but she became keenly aware of his body laying flush against the length of hers. They had not bothered to put on any pajamas before falling into bed the night before and it might become a problem unless one of them got up.
When he pulled back, she felt a pang of disappointment, but then he traced the line of her jaw with a fingertip. Felicity felt like she was holding her breath, waiting for him to decide if the morning would begin now or later. His eyes darkened and the colour rose in his cheeks.

“William has gone to school?” he murmured.
“Yes, I heard him leave an hour ago,” she whispered. She reached between them and gently took his stiffening cock in her hand, feeling the weight of it as she stroked him, encouraging him to a state of hardness, of readiness.
“Turn on your side,” he said quietly, but kissed her first. She handed herself over to him, surrendered to him, and kissed him back with equal passion.

“You taste like nectarines or peaches,” he mused.
“You snooze, you lose, Mister,” she laughed as he rubbed his newly acquired scruff against her neck.

She squirmed away, laughing at the ticklish sensation, and wound up facing away from him. He pulled her back to him, pressing his chest against her, pinning her to him with just one strong arm. He moved her hair out of the way and kissed her neck, his breath blowing hot over the tender pulse point under her ear.

“Hmmmm…I like your good mornings,” she hummed.
“I dreamt of you in other ways while in Slabside. I would fall asleep trying to remember the feel of your lips, the way you feel here,” he murmured, sliding his cock between her legs, “I had to, to keep me sane.”
“I hope you didn’t think those thoughts in the shower,” she said, her voice husky and low. Her concentration blown by the way he felt, moving slowly against her without entering her body.
“Luckily, I managed to not do that,” he chuckled.

Oliver slipped his hand down her body, lingering over faded bruises and old scars, before coming to rest between her legs. His fingers were long and sure, stroking her until she moaned and reached back to run her hand over his closely cropped head. She was looking forward to his hair growing back, so that she could have something to hold onto.

“Oliver, we have all day,” she said, the words tumbling out in the right order only through sheer force of will.
“I missed you, Felicity, I missed you…,” he hummed into her neck as he slowly thrust inside her.

She kept her legs together, increasing the tension and friction of their movements. They didn’t often land in this position because of their need to see each other from start to finish, but when they did, it was intensely personal and sublimely erotic. He had full control of her pleasure this way, guiding her the entire journey. It was her way of saying she trusted him, completely, body and soul.

They could talk for hours about the past six months, but it was here, in their shared bed, where they found healing on a spiritual, as well as emotional, level. This morning, he was languid in his movements, unhurried and gentle. He massaged her breasts and held her close, murmuring in her ear so softly all she could hear was the song of his voice.

Stars exploded behind her eyes when his hand pushed between her legs once again. Her hips slammed back against his, trying to get him to move faster, harder, instead of the hypnotic pace they were united in. She gripped his hands, one above her head, the other between his legs, and buried her face in her pillow and let the heat in her pelvis rumble through her body.

Oliver was gasping for breath behind her, trying so hard to keep them united in ecstasy but it was all for nothing. She curled forward and shuddered. Wave after wave of ecstasy rushed over her. She could hear herself crying out his name, telling him that she loved him, but it was like she was underwater, drowning in his love for her.

There was so much wreckage around them, from actions taken or not, from decisions made and ignored, but through it all what guided her was the call of his heart. Somehow it had been written on her bones. She knew it in her sleep, in the quiet moments before dawn when the thick blanket of silence lay heaviest over their world. It was loud and clear, always calling her home.

Now, as he cradled her, his voice was quiet and it washed over her as she gave herself over to yet another tidal wave of ecstasy. It stretched her consciousness just enough for her to see the way to forgiveness. He had work to do beyond the physical, but she knew he could do it. The call of his heart was clearer, stronger than ever before, and she had no option but to listen.

With a final, soul shaking thrust, she felt his cock swell and throb deep inside her. It was familiar, deeply intimate, and if love could take real physical form right then it would have taken on the size and shape of a supernova, burning all traces of doubt from her mind. She would forgive him in time, but she would love him now.

“Felicity?” he whispered in her ear.
“Marry me?” he asked with a wink.

Carefully, she turned to face him. They were both still breathless, damp with hard earned sweat, and studied his face. His eyes were clear, bright and blue, so beautifully blue. She remembered the day, a few short weeks ago, when she realized that the colour of the sky in her dreams was the same as his eyes and she had wept. The pain of missing him eclipsed the anger of how he had chosen to leave.

“Yes, I’ll marry you again and again,” she said softly, smiling as tears welled up in her eyes.
“Hey,” he said, tender concern in his voice, “What is it?”
“It’s ok…but…,” she reassured him, “Oliver…tell me.”

He laid back on the bed and stared at her. His eyes betrayed him for only a moment, seeming to flatten out behind a wall that had no business being built, before softening in understanding. They could go no further until he could open the secret door in his mind and walk through it.

“Can I make us some coffee and breakfast first?” he asked, wiping her tears away.
“Yes, please,” she smiled.

She watched him cross to the bathroom, gloriously naked, his muscles rippling under his skin, and get partially dressed. He was strangely silent as he left for the kitchen. It might have been the trepidation of discovering a new playground, she thought with a chuckle, or the fear of finally taking down the last line of defense between them. Either way, she figured she had at least twenty minutes to shower before he got back.

She did love the bathroom design she had settled on. It was masculine and feminine, strong and comforting, like the rest of the condo and she hoped that soon this room would be theirs again. A room without the shadows of guilt, shame and remorse clinging to them.

The enticing aroma of coffee wafted in through the steam in the shower, pulling her out of her thoughts and into the room. She quickly toweled off and slipped on tshirt and yoga pants. She didn’t care what food he had made; the coffee was what she really wanted. Oliver made the best coffee she had ever tasted and she had missed it almost as much as she had missed him.

“Oh how I have longed for this moment,” she sighed.
“My coffee?” he asked with a laugh, handing her a large, steaming mug.
“Yes,” she sighed, taking a long sip, savouring the rich flavour, “I had to work as a Barista for a bit but the coffee I made was never as good as this.”
“I…I’m sorry that you had to do that,” he said quietly, refusing to meet her eyes.
“It was part of the fiction,” she shrugged as casually as she could, “I needed to work, to keep up appearances, and it was as good a job as anything else.”

“You did look good with the pink hair,” he smiled, looking up at her but quickly looking away.
“Oliver,” she said, keeping her voice light but firm, “look at me.”

She waited, hands at the ready to raise his head if necessary, for him to look at her and to listen. He could be stubborn when he wanted to be, but when she requested something of him, he did it. With a deep breath, he looked at her. She saw the struggle going on in him, his eyes were cloudy, dark, stormy and a grey she associated with thunderstorms.

Good, she thought, she wanted him to be wrestling with the demons he lived with, it would mean his answers would be honest if he was too busy grappling with them to hide from her.

They had once again gotten comfortable in bed where it was warm and familiar, but it was also where they had no choice but to be completely honest with each other. Long ago, in a bed not much bigger than the one they were in now, they had promised one another to never hide the truth, personal or otherwise, from each other.

It had been a difficult promise to negotiate with Oliver. He held onto the idea that secrets could keep her safe, that by shielding her from the worst of his past, of himself, he was keeping her from harm. Systematically, she had proven him wrong until all he could do was laugh and beg for mercy. He had eventually agreed with her, humming his acquiescence into her kiss, taking refuge in her body until he understood the way she trusted him.

“You know it’s fear that undercuts my sense of logic and perspective,” he said slowly, searching for the right words, “I thought I had no choice. That turning myself in would keep you and William safe. It was all I could think about, the only thing that…mattered to me.” He paused here, collecting his thoughts to not repeat himself. “In everyone’s life there is one thing that will break them beyond all repair. For me, almost from the moment I met you, what would destroy all that I am is the loss of you. I would never, ever recover, Felicity.”

He had taken hold of one of her hands as he spoke, holding them loosely in his own. She hadn’t noticed him even moving as he spoke. The pressure of his words, the absence of shadows, deep and forbidding, had her pinned. She was rivetted by what was about to come.
Slowly, so not to startle her, he raised her hand and put it over his heart. “You changed me. You changed this, and I never want to go back to being that man who left Lian Yu. But he still lurks in me and is the reason that I make some of the terrible decisions that I do.”

“Some?” she asked teasingly.
“Ok,” he chuckled, “All. It’s a primal instinct but I know, I know I close off, I keep pulling you close but at the same time…I box you out because I want to do what is right…what my mother and father failed to do for me.” It was like a lightning bolt had landed in the room, illuminating every corner and crevasse. “I know that when I cast you away from me, it’s because I think I know better, that I have the answers to keep you safe. I know how selfish it makes me, how unreasonable it is because I am taking away your freedom and drastically altering your life.”

“You ripped it apart,” she said sadly.

“When my father took me on that trip, I think part of him knew something would happen. I think he understood my being left alone on land might mean Merlyn going after me instead, so he took me with him. It was his way of protecting me but he never told me. Not until the gun was at his head and the list in my hand.” Oliver’s voice had grown serious, quiet, and she had to lean forward to hear him. “My family dealt in secrets. Their own and others. They built a labyrinth of lies around me, hiding things big and small. But I got used to it, it was…my life.”

He reached back and put his coffee mug on his bedside table, then took hers to do the same. He sat up, drawing her up with him, helping her sit next to him. Felicity could feel the tension in his body, he was like a coiled spring, ready to let go at any moment. He was finally drawing the parallel from his past to their present.

“William was the biggest one of all. That was…that was something,” she chuckled. She never liked Moira, but she respected Oliver’s devotion to his mother, even now. “That hurt, I know.”
“It did. But I forgave her, I understood her motives,” he said softly, “She was a complicated woman. And Dad…he was a complicated man. They kept secrets in that big house, trying to protect each other and the family.” He stopped and attempted to organize his thoughts. “I pushed all of that out of my mind though, I kept it locked in a separate space so that I could deal with the world around me, with the danger, the violence, and…the loneliness of the mission. And then there was you.”

“Thank goodness for me,” she said, slipping her hand back into his, anchoring him so he could continue.

“I understand, Felicity,” he said softly, “I understand the pain I left behind and I am so sorry. I trust you, I do, but I don’t trust the people around us besides John.”

“Oliver, when you do things like turn yourself in or reveal your identity to the FBI and the world, you aren’t actually thinking about me or William,” she said flatly, “I know you think you are but in the end you are thinking about yourself and keeping what you love safe for yourself. You never once gave any thought to what I might be able to do or how it would affect me to lose you. I told you, I told you what my greatest fear was and you did it anyways. You left me alone, with your son, to live a life I never wanted. A life I hated.”

He was silent, compliant. He took her words, their meaning, like a beaten man. She struggled between feeling so much love for him, her heart felt close to bursting, and being angry enough to melt the glass in the windows with its heat. It didn’t feel good to tell him that, to finally lay out the damage left in the wake of his decisions.

“I asked you, last night, to never do that to me again, or to William. I asked you to promise me to treat me like an equal, like a partner. You said you would,” she said softly, “But the only way I can trust that you will is if you believe it, too.”
“I do. Or I think I do,” he said more truthfully, “I want to believe I can be that man. That I can finally step out of the shadows of my mother and father, of Lian Yu, of the Hood…and be the man you see.” He was fidgeting, betraying his nervousness. “I want to be worthy of you, of this.”

She didn’t say anything. Words for once had failed her. Instead, she reached for his left hand and brought it to rest on her heart and let him feel the warmth of her body and the way her heart was beating in her chest. She wanted him to connect to her physically since the ability to speak had fled her.

“Felicity,” he said quietly, “your happiness means so much to me, almost more than my own. I can promise to be a better man, but I think it’s more important that I try to be one.”

“It’s not that I want you to be better, Oliver, I love you, it’s that I want you to be true to the good man I know you are, the one I see. Once you accepted being Green Arrow as not being a separate identity but very much part of who you are, you looked lighter, happier. Then you became mayor and another layer of who you are was revealed and it was so beautiful to watch you grow into that role for yourself, not your mother, the city or me. But then you retreated, you kept secrets from me when I was the last one you should have hid anything from,” she said as tenderly as she could. He stared past her, still somehow lost to himself and her. She brought his hand up to her lips and kissed his palm. “Come back to me.”

There was part of him still locked away in Slabside. The part of him that would cast her out again was still in there, waiting to be released. But it felt cruel to push him more on it now, to ask him for something he couldn’t give. He had promised her what he could, and she almost believed him. She believed he understood the impulse he was following, one instilled in him since he was a youth by parents who were wealthy, smart and far too overprotective.

“When I die, will I be able to say that my life held meaning? That it had clear purpose and that I left something positive behind me?” he asked suddenly.
“Oliver! Where is that coming from?” she asked, concerned and worried.
“When I was in prison, I had some time to reflect on my legacy. But unless I know who I am, unless I know what life it is I am supposed to lead, how can even begin to answer that question,” he said with genuine despair in his voice. “Will anything positive come from this life that I will be able to say I did without help from you?”

It broke her heart. Everyone, no matter their age or circumstance, wrestled with that question. It was not one she could answer for him, nor for herself. She had reflected on the same thing and had come to a troubling conclusion on one aspect. One legacy they could both share in the creation of was children but her gut seized in terror at the thought.

What if he did the exact same thing and left her alone with a baby? Or pregnant? What would she have done with a newborn when Diaz had attacked her? The simple thought of it was almost too much for her. She needed to trust him but she wouldn’t know for sure until something happened that would push him to need to protect her.

Not yet, she thought, hoping her face hadn’t betrayed her fear.
Not yet, she thought, watching the weight of the existential crisis slowly ease off his shoulders.
Not yet, she thought, waiting for the right words to come.

“Oliver, for almost twelve years you have lived from one mission to the next. You gave up so much of your life to live your father’s mission and then your mother’s legacy with being mayor of this city. I want you to live for you. Not me, not William. You,” she said earnestly, finally seeing her way through this part of their reunion, “If anyone ever deserved a real chance to discover what they want their life to mean, it’s you.”

“I am so glad I married you,” he said with a weak wink.
“You should be gladder that I didn’t make you sleep on the couch last night,” she retorted.

He laughed and pulled her into a warm embrace. She loved the way his arms felt around her. This is where she felt safest, the most protected. Not in Witness Protection, not in ARGUS, but here in his arms, listening to his heart beat.

“Oliver, if you ever want to protect me again, just do this,” she murmured.
“Deal,” he whispered, kissing the top of her head.
“I’d do anything for you, if you’d let me,” she said with a sigh.
“I know but somethings I have to do on my own.”
“Just tell me, ok? Don’t shut me out, no matter how hard it is to tell me, just tell me,” she implored.

“I will,” he said, and she believed him this time. His voice was clear, strong and resonant.

Felicity sat up and shifted around so she could look into his eyes. They were tired, weary, from the long conversation, but clear and blue, so beautifully blue. Taking her hands in hers, she held them and took in the new scars on his hands and arms. Slabside had not been easy but he had fought his way out. He had fought for himself and she could not be more proud of him.

“Ask me,” she said softly, returning her gaze to meet his.
“Ask you what?” he asked, confused by her question.
“You know. Ask me.”

His mouth opened and closed. He looked at her, his eyes questioning and imploring her all at once. She nodded and waited. The answer might not be the complete one he was looking for but it would be the start of something they could build on.

“You know I have wanted to ask you for forgiveness since I walked through the front door. But can you? Is that even possible?” he asked, his voice wavering only a tiny bit.
“Yes, in time, completely, yes. Right now, the door is open but only because you opened it and I know the next few weeks might be hard, but I have never been prouder of you even though I have never been angrier,” she said firmly, not breaking eye contact with him through it all, “My life is empty without you in it, Oliver.”

Oliver smiled and leaned forward, he rested his forehead against hers and said quietly, “I know there are pieces of me missing, but they are slowly filling up.”
“Because you are letting me,” she murmured.
“I love you, Felicity,” he whispered. His breath was hot on her skin, burning away the last of her resolve.

When they were close like this, it took effort to focus on speaking or thinking beyond the next breath. The energy that flowed between them was endless. Even when she had been unconscious because of the bullet wounds, she had felt him and known when he wasn’t beside her, she could feel him in her dreams, in every breath she took.

He was all the way in her heart, her mind and soul, but there were moments when the way her body needed him more than all three of them combined. Sometimes, sex was simply sex, borne out of desire and longing. Sometimes it was fast and hard, leaving them covered in sweat and bruises, but then there were the times when it wasn’t simple lust that propelled them.

The build up of energy between them would spark and crackle, like lightning, and she struggled against diving into that electric stream in search of him. It was a universal need between them and nothing could stop them from flying towards it, their own secret sky, because it was the foundation their love was built on.

Looking into his eyes now, she could hear the call of his heart, and reached up, placing her hand on the back of his neck. His skin was hot under her hand, his pulse so strong it made her arm tingle and shake to its tempo. For the moment they simply sat, locked together, skin on skin, breathing in a shared rhythm, finding one another once again.

“We should maybe call John this morning,” she murmured.
“We should. I’d like that,” he whispered, moving closer to her.
“Aren’t you tired?” she smiled, feeling his lips brush against hers, a fleeting touch, light and soft.
“After six months away from you,” he said softly, “I don’t think I will be getting tired for a very long time. How about you?” His mouth hovered above hers, so close the were sharing the same breath.
“Oliver, sometimes I couldn’t breathe but for the want of you,” she said softly, goosebumps breaking out over her body, “For six long months…”

Finally, his mouth was on hers, and she fell into the kiss, body and soul. His arms went around her and she was pulled into his orbit. It was the only place where her mind was quiet, where she felt an almost mystical sense of peace. The taste of him, the feel of his skin, the heat of his body, it was all she needed to feel anchored to this world and the next. He was her soul mate, best friend, and the truest love she would ever know.

“I will never tire of you, of this, of us,” she murmured as he kissed her neck, his hands finding purchase in her hair, “I am just really thankful for the birth control we use.” She felt his soft chuckle rumble over her skin like thunder.

He was tender with her, treating her with a delicate hand that was hypnotic, mesmerizing. Felicity lost track of time and drifted out of her body. She watched the muscles in Oliver’s body flex and move as he traveled the length of her body, undressing her as he went. She was compliant, allowing him to reveal herself to him, like a flower unfolding to the sun.

When he trailed the tip of his tongue across her clit before pushing into her, she came rushing back to her body. There was a roaring in her ears, the sound of her blood rushing through a roadmap of veins and arteries, and a brilliant flash of white light behind her closed eyes until she was in sync with him.

It was her version of paradise to run her hands over his head, his body, to feel every inch of him lying flush against her. But when he slipped low, murmuring his love, she would close her eyes and let her body experience the way he was choosing to love and honour her. This time, it was an act of supplication, contrition and a plea for forgiveness.

She felt tears start to form and slip out the corners of her eyes. She wanted to forgive him for everything, to let go of the hurt, anger and heart shattering betrayal of the past six months. It was all so close to the surface, ready to bubble out but she knew couldn’t until he was able to share the complete truth. The hurt ran deep and they both needed time to heal but for now, with his lips around her pulsing clit, she put all of that aside and focused on him, on them.

He kept her on the precipice, leading her to the edge of oblivion, but not letting her take that final step. It was like floating on ecstasy while not being able to completely give herself over to it. Felicity felt the mattress shift and the weight of his body on hers, his lips on her neck, his voice in her ear, so low that only her body heard it.

The delicate tension, the way her body would tighten around his cock when he pushed into her, caused her body to jerk hard against his. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her up off the mattress, trying to merge them one cell at a time, as he rolled his hips, rocking their bodies to a slow tempo. She clung to him and whispered in his ear that he was home.

He pressed his forehead to hers and she felt his tears wash over her face. She kissed him, memorizing the way his tongue felt, the softness of his lips, the way he joined her in making that final step and fell headlong off the precipice he had kept them on for what felt like hours. The earth shook under them, a gentle vibration that rattled their bones in a seismic shift. It dislodged something fundamental from between them, a remnant of pain no longer wanted or recognized, and they clung to one another, finding their footing on the new earth beneath their feet.

She wasn’t sure how they quickly they would move forward but the loneliness that had caked itself to their hearts like river mud over the last six months had finally fallen away. Oliver was home. His heart had returned and was opened to hers, finally finishing its long journey from Lian Yu through Slabside to her. She almost believed he would keep his promises to her and William, but she knew he wasn’t quite there yet. As she laid in his arms, watching the shadows move across the walls, she knew his heart was hers but his words were only almost true.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Of Time and Water

He promised to never leave her.
With what, she asked.
My voice. My life. My heart, he answered.


The next few days helped establish a routine for Oliver. He cooked, ran, worked out, spent time with his son and wife. Things were fragile. There was a new brittleness in his relationship with William that was taking time to soften. With Felicity, things were in flux and he couldn’t quite grasp the way to tame it. He was struggling and his attempts to hide that from her was starting to leak out in his dreams and nightmares.

By the end of the fourth night, he was starting to crack. Felicity had gone back to her routine at Smoak Tech, William was back at school and beginning to settle in, but he was aimless. He was no longer Mayor of Star City, he was unable to suit up as the Green Arrow at the firm request of John and Felicity but he had no idea what to do with his time. He needed purpose, structure, something to orient his life around.

Until he could suit up again, he was drifting from one day to the next. He was lonely without his family during the day, and wired for action at night while they slept. He wasn’t sure he could continue like this for much longer without lashing out in some way, conscious or unconscious.

On their fifth night together, Oliver suggested that they have a family movie night. He would make pizza and wings for dinner and kettle corn later in the night. It was a Friday night and the weekend was going to be his and Felicity’s first couple of days in the new bunker, so it was the best night for them to sit and eat as a family. The bunker still needed some attention from her on the tech side, but it was almost ready for use. Then he could get back to the business of being Green Arrow and finding out who the new threat was to Star City who was trying to sabotage his life.

He had everything timed. The pizza was baking, the wings were cooking and William had selected a movie on Netflix. They got everything ready with cutlery, napkins and plates and waited for Felicity. When the food was ready, she was nowhere to be seen He texted her to see when she might be coming to join them, and her reply had been one word: Soon.

The pizza was out and cut, the wings tossed in sauce and in bowls so they went ahead and started eating without her. When his phone buzzed, he felt a flash of anxiety and his eyes visibly twitched. William looked at him with caution and concern and watched as he looked at the message Felicity had sent.

Oliver felt a stillness come over him as he read the text. She was going to be later than she thought and they should go on without her. He knew he shouldn’t be angry, she did have a new business to get up and running, but it was a deviation from a routine that he desperately needed and it had happened without his input or opinion.

William asked if everything was ok and Oliver lied to his son, telling him everything was fine and that they should enjoy the evening. He could tell William knew he wasn’t being truthful but accepted the lie and went back to watching Thor Ragnarok. It was a nice night regardless and with William heading off to join his mother’s family for a week, a much needed bonding time.

It was shortly after midnight when she called. William had just gone to bed and he had just finished cleaning the kitchen. In the quiet of the condo, the sound of his phone ringing was loud and abrasive. He answered it quickly, just to stop it from ringing a second time.

“Hey,” she said, sounding weary to his ears.
“Hey,” he said back, trying to keep his own voice under control, “Where are you?”
“Still at the office,” she answered hesitantly.

Oliver took a moment to take a deep breath before he spoke next. He had to in order to calm the surge of raw anger that exploded in his mind. “When do you think you will be home?”

“Soon,” she volunteered softly.
“You said that five hours ago,” he said as calmly as he could.
“I know, I really wanted to be there but if I can get things operating a little smoother here, I won’t have to be here quite so often,” she explained, “I’ll be able to work from home or the bunker.”
“Look, I am almost ready to come home. I have one or two more things to sign off on and then I’m on my way home. Will you be up?” she asked carefully.
“I should be,” he said quietly.
“Love you,” she said, her voice sad and strangely lonely.
“You, too,” he managed to say before hitting the End button in a panic of guilt and regret. He had no right to make her feel anything other than loved and cherished after the bullshit stunt he pulled six months ago but he felt strangely let down. Like she didn’t want to be here in the home she had created.

Defeated by his own self-sabotage, he retreated to their bedroom and got ready for bed. He knew that soon for her could mean an hour from now or more. Instead of sitting and waiting, he decided to stick to his routine and get ready for bed. That meant showering, shaving and brushing his teeth. He felt comforted by the actions, calmer and ready to face the rest of the night.

Crawling into bed, he didn’t anticipate being able to sleep until she got home. He needed to be awake so that they could at least say good night but within minutes, his eyes grew heavy and he faded into a dark, dreamless sleep.

It was like his body was saving him from making more mistakes. He slept so deeply for the first few hours that he missed Felicity coming home, having a shower and gently easing into bed with him. She kept to her side of the bed, keeping her presence a secret from him. It wasn’t until he turned over that he discovered she was home.

She was facing away from him, buried under the duvet. He tentatively reached out and twirled a lock of her hair around his finger, letting it fall away of its own accord. He wanted to wake her up, to make her face him, just so he could see her face, nothing more. The need was so great, he felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest.

As carefully as he could, he slipped out of bed, put on his sweats and a hoodie and left their room for the kitchen. He went in search of something that could provide the comfort he was craving. Hot chocolate, though sugary and sweet, was just what he wanted. Specifically, he wanted Raisa’s hot chocolate. She used chili in hers, adding a little kick at the end of each milky mouthful. As a child, he would beg her for it from the first day of fall to the last day of winter. It was decadent and let him feel embraced and loved.

He was so absorbed in making it at on the stove, the old fashioned way, that he didn't hear her pad quietly into the kitchen. He only became aware that she was standing in the doorway watching when he caught her reflection in the stainless steel oven door.

“Got enough to share?” she asked quietly.
“I do. Grab us some mugs?”

Wordlessly, she reached for their mugs in the cabinet above the sink. They were old and chipped but they were from the very first bunker and held so many memories and meaning for them both, that she had kept them safe. She waited patiently as he carefully poured the aromatic mixture equally into each.

“Living room?” he asked after rinsing the pot and making sure the stove was turned off.
“I turned the fireplace on our bedroom. Might be nice to curl up on the love seat in front of it?” she asked more than suggested, carefully keeping her eyes averted.
“Sounds perfect,” he said, feeling the ache in his chest that they were back to this hesitant courtship dance.

He followed her back to their bedroom, taking in her sleep tousled hair, and the way the scent of her body wash floated after her. Despite the distance, manufactured or real, he still loved her more than anyone in his life or lifetime. Nothing could ever change that.

“So are we going to talk about what’s bothering you?” she asked, soft and unsure. He could see the way her heart was aching by the set of her shoulders and the way she avoided his eyes. It was unlike her to not pin him with a stare that contained galaxies.

“’s just me, Felicity, I am struggling,” he admitted.
“So you aren’t angry that I missed dinner?” she asked, finally looking at him overtop of her mug, “This hot chocolate is amazing by the way.”
“It’s Raisa’s recipe. She used to make it for me as a kid, when my parents were away or out late,” he said quietly, “And no, I’m not angry that you missed dinner.”
“Then what is it, Oliver? You are so tense, I could bounce a quarter off of your abs. I mean, I could probably do that anyways but now…,” she trailed off, watching him closely.

“I feel aimless. Purposeless. I have nothing to do that means anything,” frustration punching through his careful facade. He didn’t mean for that to happen, but his voice betrayed his inner struggle.
“Are you angry that John and I asked you to wait at being Green Arrow for the next little while?” she asked, turning towards him.
“Not angry, just...confused. And maybe just a little bit disappointed,” he admitted.

“We aren’t, I’m not, asking you to not put the suit on again, just to wait a bit. Let the media frenzy around your release, die down. Ease back into it with me,” she said softly, shifting closer to him, “I don’t want to lose you to, or because of, that life ever again.”
“I know, Felicity,” he said, taking a deep breath and trying to relax his shoulders and back, “But I need something of value to do. I feel...lost.”
“Oh, love, I am so sorry,” she said sadly, putting her mug down so she could clasp his hands in hers, “I never want you to feel like this. In a few hours we will be able to check out the new bunker, we can work down there together. We can get the place up and running, together. We can even bring William down when it’s ready.”

“William is going to his grandparent’s beach house this weekend and will be there for the rest of the week with his cousins,” he said quietly, “I think he planned it.”
“I think so, too. He is a perceptive kid.”
“Are we that distant?” he asked, trying not to drown under the surging feelings of loneliness and panic. He needed to be sure they weren’t losing one another in an effort to remain connected.
“No, I think we are finding our way back to one another though,” she said quietly, moving closer still, “Thankfully, we love one another enough to fill the universe.”

Oliver looked at her then, taking in the dark circles under her eyes and how pale she looked, and felt the sting of guilt. He had been so focused on himself for the past week that he had failed to see how hard she had been working and how the balancing act between work and home had drained her.

His hot chocolate finished, he put the mug down and opened his arms to her. “Come here,” he murmured.

Felicity shifted into his embrace, curled up next to him with a deep, contented sigh. They had been so busy the last five nights, that they hadn’t been able to relax with one another, alone, and that was slowly causing cracks in the wounds they were still trying to heal.

“Would you be upset if I suggested that after William leaves, we just...spend the day together? Alone?” he ventured, feeling he had nothing left to lose.
“I would love that more than anything,” she sighed, “You should text John and tell him we’ll see him Monday.”
“Monday?” he said confused, “Tomorrow is Saturday.”

Felicity remained silent and waited for him to work it out. When he did, he let out a small laugh and hugged her close. His wife was always surprising him.

“I think,” she said, stifling a yawn, “that we are going to need a couple of days. When you first came back, that was the biggest hurdle, but I know this week has not been easy and we should really figure out what to do next that doesn’t involve you only being a superhero.”
“Vigilante,” he corrected her absentmindedly.
“Oliver, you are my superhero. Take the compliment,” she laughed quietly.
“Ok, ok, ‘superhero’,” he reluctantly agreed.
“Let’s go to bed,” she murmured drowsily, “I am beyond tired.”

Standing up together, he hugged her tight, feeling the softness, the curves of her body. If they both weren’t asleep on their feet he would kiss her, seducing her out of her clothes and into bed. But that could wait until William was gone.

“Thanks for waking up,” he said, tenderly kissing the top of her head.
“Thank Raisa for me for that hot chocolate,” she yawned.
“Brat,” he chuckled and led them to their bed. He smiled as she moved towards him and they settled into a position that would let them be comfortable and they could finally relax into sleep.

And sleep they did. Both alarms were blaring, shattering the calm in the room and making them both jolt awake. Oliver turned his off and reached across to do the same for Felicity’s. She was blinking hard, trying to wake up. He had seen her looking this confused before, when they had worked themselves to the bone trying to track down Diaz.

“Go back to sleep,” he whispered, pulling her back in bed.
“But what about the dynamite?” she asked, her eyes closed, “It’s time to put them in the oven. Make sure to watch out for bees.”

Oliver has to stifle his laughter. She was still asleep, even though she had sat up with the intention of getting up to do God knows what. He shushed her, smoothing her hair back, laid her back down and waited until she was completely still before getting out of bed. Whatever she was dreaming about, he thought that it sounded a bit like her cooking.

The condo was quiet but he could hear the sound of running water. William was up and getting ready for his week away. He had spent a lot of the week with his son, talking through how he felt when Oliver made his fateful decision. They had reconnected enough for William to tell him that he needed to talk to Felicity, not to apologize but to figure out their future because he needed them both. Oliver had been both touched and humbled. His son had grown up while he was away and he had only Felicity to thank.

He got busy and made them breakfast. Waffles with blueberries and maple syrup for William and coffee and a protein shake for himself. He would go for a run while Felicity slept, it would help him burn off some of his excess energy and hungry enough to eat when she was up.

William was in good humour before he left. He loved spending time with his cousins and the beach house was a misnomer if ever Oliver had heard one. It was an enormous house on Orca Island that had been in Samantha’s father’s family for generations. William had his own room that overlooked the Salish Sea facing west. The pictures he had shown them were spectacular and he was glad that William was developing a relationship with Samantha’s family that was all his own.

After watching William pull away with his grandparents, Oliver set out on a long run that took him from their condo, located on the east harbour of Star City, around where part of the Glades once stood and back again. He was doing a bit of recon at the same time, getting a feel for the city and the criminal elements at work within it.

He ran for almost two hours, never pausing or stopping to catch his breath. It felt good to run at close to full speed, to not be in a cell, surrounded by men who wanted to kill him. It felt good not to fight anymore, to not hurt physically. It was early enough that the fog had yet to burn away and the sound of ship horns could be heard echoing in the air over the harbour and no one was up who could recognize him.

Star City could be beautiful and this cloudy, foggy fall morning was one of those times where the vibrant reds and oranges of the leaves against the dark brown tree trunks and thunderous grey skies made it something otherworldly. The city was a postcard come to life and he was so happy to be out of prison now, before the cold, rainy weather settled in and winter took hold of the city.

The streets were quiet and his footfalls echoed off the fog shrouded buildings as he made his way home. He was starting to get hungry and the damp air made him chilly even as he ran. He hoped that Felicity was still in bed asleep. She had been working late into the night and waking up early in the morning the past five days and deserved to rest. His blood ran hot as he thought about her and was looking forward to some time alone in the condo with only her.

Quietly, he entered their home and made his way back to their bedroom and listened carefully for the sound of the shower or her voice. The room was still dark and she was still asleep, so he picked up some clean clothes and headed into shower.

One day soon, he hoped that this space would be a place of peace for them again. That she could move past the block in her mind and heart where the shower was concerned. He hoped the same for himself as well. He was unable to stand in the stall with his back facing the shower stall door. It made his skin crawl to take his eyes off of it or what could be coming through it should he look away.

His stomach began to growl as he was toweling off and he thought about the waffle mix in the fridge. He had run far and long enough to warrant eating the entire batch but knew he better save some for Felicity lest he forfeit any right he had to life. He was mentally going over his checklist for breakfast as he silently left the bedroom. It was close to 10am but she was still deeply asleep, buried under the duvet.

The kitchen was a masterpiece. As he waited for the waffle maker to heat up, he took a look around the space and smiled. She had thought of everything. There were two warming drawers, a proofing drawer for the bread he kept saying he would make, a gas stove, stacked ovens, dishwasher and enough gadgets to fill his burgeoning chef’s heart with joy. It was her gift to him and he marveled once again at the kindness in her heart.

With the coffee brewing, he began to make them waffles with bananas, strawberries and maple syrup. He found a tray and loaded it up with plates, napkins, cutlery and mugs. The coffee he transferred to a charafe, along with cream and sugar. Looking at the the spread of food, he felt pretty good about how much he had made, picked it all up and headed back to their bedroom.

“Hey, Felicity,” he called softly, “time to wake up.”
“Hmmmwhat?” she mumbled, burying her head further under the covers.
“Wake up,” he laughed, “I brought food.”
“What kind?” came her muffled voice.
“Waffles and coffee.”

He watched as she shifted under the duvet. First the top of her tousled blonde hair appeared, followed by an eye, her nose and finally an arm that pushed down the covers. She sat up, swayed slightly, but looked up at him and smiled.

“It smells amazing,” she said, swinging her legs out of the bed and stretching her arms up to the sky.

Oliver crossed over to the love seat by the still working gas fireplace and waited for her. She had wandered into the bathroom to use it and brush her teeth. She came out looking awake but still sleepy. He was worried she wasn’t finding enough time to rest and recover her strength from their latest battle. She paused by their bed to play with a remote control and the skylights slowly began to let in more light, flooding the room with a diffuse morning glow.

“So you went out for a run, I see,” she commented as she sat down and waited while he handed her the plate with her waffle and fruit on it. She was more interested in the coffee to start but soon dug in.

“I did. I got up to see William off and then headed out. It felt good to,” he said quietly.
“I bet it did,” she said with a soft smile, “I am sorry I missed saying goodbye to William and spending the evening with you both. I lost track of time.” She kept her eyes down, as though afraid of looking him in the eyes.
“It’s ok, Felicity,” he said as casually as he could despite feeling uneasy about the topic, “William understood.”

She looked at him thoughtfully as she ate her breakfast. He couldn’t tell if she believed him or not but she seemed to accept what he was saying for the moment.

“That waffle was amazing,” she sighed, “Thank you.”
“My pleasure,” he smiled.
“So what should we do today?” she asked, sitting back to enjoy her coffee.
“I don’t know. Maybe talk about how to get back into the groove? Go for a walk?” he suggested and just like that, the sky opened up above them and the rain began to fall in thick, heavy raindrops.
“Well, I guess that takes care of that,” she laughed, “How about we go over the final specs for the bunker. Give John a call and tell him he has a day off to spend with his family.”
“Sounds good,” he said, sitting back to watch the rain fall against the sky lights.

She shifted and turned sideways to look at him before asking softly, “What is it, Oliver?”
“Nothing, love,” he said reassuringly, taking hold of one of her hands, “Just thinking about what William and I have been talking about this week.”
“And what’s that?”
“That we owe it to each other to really be honest with each other,” he said, slowly relaxing in front of the heat of the fireplace.
“I thought we were,” she said, her voice betraying her with its stiffness.
“We are and we aren’t.”
“What does that mean?” she asked carefully.

“You’ve been at work more than you’ve been home and I am worried about that, about you,” he admitted, “We haven’t really had a conversation since I got home and...and I feel like I am just barely keeping my head above water.”

“That isn’t fair, Oliver,” she said, “I couldn’t not be at the office this week when I needed to hire an actual team to do the work of the company. I have investors that I am responsible to as well as myself.” She was trying to keep her hurt and anger controled but Oliver could feel her mounting frustration with him.

“I am not saying that I expected you here with me the entire week but I can’t deny that I needed you,” he said, trying to find the right words to keep the situation from running wildly out of control, “I don’t know what to do, Felicity.”

She had curled up, almost in a defensive position, with her knees drawn up to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. She watched him for a moment and gathered her thoughts before speaking.

“I’m here now, so let’s figure this out, ok? I know you want to suit up again, but we need to figure out the playing field and how we are going to manage this now that everyone knows who you are because it means they will know who I am, who your son is, that is a big, big thing, Oliver,” she said seriously, “And I know I haven’t been here much this week and that was by design to give you and William time to reconnect with each other. But I also needed time to reclaim my life and that meant creating some distance from home.”

She was absolutely correct in wanting to be able to reconnect to her life without him. She had given up so much time to William, to finding Diaz, to fighting back in ways he couldn’t, and she all she was asking for was time for herself. It wasn’t much and yet all he was thinking about what himself.

That brittleness he had felt earlier came flooding back. This wasn’t what he wanted or what he intended. He couldn’t shove it down and hide from it, this unnameable fear was punching at him from the inside, hollowing him out when he should be finding ways to fill the emptiness in his heart, to earning her forgiveness.

“I know you had to give up everything because of me and I want you to have everything. The company, everything. I am just trying to find us again,” he said with a sigh feeling like he was continually letting her down and failing at every turn.
“I even lost John,” she said sadly.
“Now that I know isn’t true,” he said quickly. John and Felicity may have not agreed on the best path forward but she didn’t lose him, “You and John both had the same goal.”

“He refused to be my partner in solving the Diaz problem. He wasn’t willing to do what needed to be done. I had to find help in the FBI, with Agent Watson, because my friends turned their backs on me when I needed them the most, Oliver. I had to find another way to get you out of prison because they wouldn’t help,” she said matter-of-factly.

She got up with that statement and crossed the room to find clothes to wear. He could feel the crackle of anger in the air as she moved. It was sparking off of her, tiny bursts of lightning that singed the air and lit up the dark corners of the room. He remained seated and watched her. When she was ready, she would turn around and talk to him, he had to believe that now more than ever.

“I’ll be right back, I need to shower,” she said without facing him and left him sitting there, alone, in their room.

He waited until he heard the water start running before cleaning up their breakfast plates, cutlery and mugs. There was nothing left for him to do and he wasn’t sure she wanted him sitting waiting for her when she was done in the shower, so he left for the kitchen, to clean up and take something out for dinner.

If there was one thing he loved, it was a clean kitchen. It didn’t take long for him to clean it though, and from a distance he could hear the shower still running. He hoped she was working through what she needed to and maybe they could start a conversation that was long overdue.

In the meantime, he called John to let him know things had changed. He heard the unmistakable relief in his friend’s voice when he was told to take the weekend off and be with his family. He wanted to think it was the gift of free time that had changed John’s tone of voice but something in his gut told him it was something else. That maybe Felicity wasn’t so far off in her conclusion that her friendship with John had been irrevocably damaged.

Sitting down in the livingroom, Oliver watched the rain as it hit the floor to ceiling windows behind the dining room table. The sky and the sea were both a roiling, dark grey. The wind was picking up and the waves crashing against the seawall below were violent and large. He was glad William was out of town, on the other side of the mountains where the weather was warm and clear.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The weather matched the mood in the house; foreboding and laden with sorrow. The first few days had been better than he had any right to hope for. Felicity was angry but she was still the Felicity he had fallen in love with: caring, kind, passionate, brilliant, sexy, generous and so loving his entire body felt healed simply being next to her.

Then, on his third night home, John had called to invite them all to dinner with Lyla, JJ and himself. Without thinking, he had accepted the invite. It never crossed his mind to ask Felicity or William to see if they had other plans or ideas for dinner. Will had been ok with it but he caught the strange look in Felicity’s eyes when she reluctantly said ok.

The dinner went on without a hitch. He had enjoyed spending sometime with John and had tried not to notice how Felicity had kept quiet for a majority of the evening, thinking it was so he could catch up with his best friend. At the end of the night, he had asked her if she was ok and she blamed her low energy on a headache.

The next day, she spent close to eighteen hours at her new office.

“Hey, did you call John?” she asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“I did.”

He watched as she crossed the living room to turn on the fireplace that bisected the living area. It was a square shaped charcoal grey and glass unit and it delivered immediate heat to the large open area. It could have been romantic if she had chosen to sit next to him on the couch but she opted to sit across from him in a large overstuffed chair.

“He ok with not going to the new bunker?” she asked, her voice clipped and harder than he’d heard it in a long time.
“He is, he is going to spend some time with his family,” he answered, narrowing his eyes at her.
“Good. Maybe we should go over the specs anyways? See if there are things that need changing before the infrastructure goes in?” she asked.
“Later,” he said softly.
“Later? Do you have something else you wanted to do?” she asked, confused.
“Not me, us,” he answered and held a hand out to her.

She hesitated, looking from his eyes to his hand, and just when he was about to give up hope, she reached back. Relief flooded through his body as she came to sit next to him. Her skin was still warm from her shower and her hair hung in loose, damp waves past her shoulders. He missed her long pink extensions but she was stunning nonetheless. Pulling a blanket off the back of couch, she wrapped it around her shoulders and leaned back into the soft cushions.

“Thank you for breakfast,” she said quietly after a few silent minutes.
“You’ve already thanked me. By eating them,” he said softly.
“Well, they were really good.”

“I think you might have been right about John,” he admitted carefully.
“How so?” she asked, her voice deliberately neutral. He felt her body shift and grow tense. They were slowly edging into dangerous territory and he knew it.
“I think you two might have drifted too far apart,” he said, turning to face her, “I think maybe the last couple of years have been more than either of you could have possibly held together. I haven’t exactly made it easy for either of you.”

He watched a tear slide slowly down her cheek and had to physically stop himself from reaching out to wipe it away. Instead, he waited for her to let out what was keeping her away from him. Felicity wiped away the tear on her own and took a deep breath.

“I felt so betrayed by him, Oliver. I don’t think I can forgive him yet. Maybe not for a long time,” she said, a hitch in her voice, “and the dinner this week just scraped me raw. Watching him, Lyla, and JJ, knowing that they didn’t have to make the same sacrifices William and I did because of your decision and then...him not helping to catch Diaz when he could have...Oliver, I have been so angry.” She was clenching her fists, trying so hard not to seethe with rage.

“I couldn’t have asked him to help, Felicity.”
“I know. And yet you both expected me to sit idly by and do nothing,” she all but spat, “Did you know the first night you were gone, no one came to see me? No one. I was abandoned to a no name hotel room with William, alone. It was like I ceased to exist.”

“I didn’t know that, Felicity, I...I didn’t know,” he’d had no idea that happened. He had assumed Diggle had stayed with her and William or had spent some time with them before they left for their new city and home. That they had been left alone, completely alone without anyone to support them as they moved, made him instantly angry and deeply hurt on her behalf.

“I never saw John until Diaz attacked us in our supposedly protected safe house. He even knew my new name, Oliver, he knew exactly who I was. William had to run for help because no one was there, Oliver, they were outside but not paying attention. I am still so angry about that, about John’s willingness to cast us out, about you leaving me...I lost everything, Oliver, everything…,” her voice broke, betraying the hurt and anguish that still hovered so close to the surface, and she buried her head in her hands.

He sat, frozen and still, not knowing what he should do. He knew things had been going to smoothly, that there was bound to be a bump in the road, but this was something even he couldn’t have predicted. Knowing, that on the worst night of her life, she had been deserted by their friends, caused the colour to drain from his life.

“I fought tooth and nail, Oliver, tooth and nail to get you back. Your freedom was all I was fighting for, so that we could be together as a family. That first morning, where I woke up alone, the first thing I did was reach for you,” she said, her voice drifting between past and present, “I longed for you, Oliver. Feeling that empty space where you should have been, even in that strange bed, it broke me. I’ve lost you before, but that felt different, permanent. And what hurt more was that you did it. It was you.” Tears flowed freely down her cheeks but she was looking at him, almost begging him to say something, anything.

What could he say? He couldn’t go back and change the decision he made but he owed it to her, to his son, to make sure they were never alone again. That no matter what, he wouldn’t abandon them but he had no idea how to get her to believe that after all the trauma he’d caused.

But he understood what she meant when she talked about the pain of waking up alone. That first morning he woke up on the cot, to the sound of a nightstick clanging on the bars, the breath from his body left in a rush. He felt hollow, made of cracked glass, ready to shatter at the softest touch.

“All I can do is live by my word moving forward. I can’t...I can’t go back and change what I did, Felicity,” he said, unfocused as past and present crashed together, merging in front of his eyes, “What do you want me to do? I will go if you ask me to but I want to stay. I would follow you to the end of the Universe but I won’t ask you to do the same.”

“Oliver…,” her voice broke and she sat in silence staring at him, her eyes wide and full of terror.

This time he didn’t wait for her, he pulled her to him and held her as tight as he dared. He knew he was stumbling his way through this but causing her more anguish was not what he intended at all. He was angry with himself for this. She had moved heaven and earth to get him out of Slabside, putting her own life in danger as a result, so the last thing he should do was create more harm.

“I’m sorry. I am so so sorry,” he whispered.
“I don’t want you to go, Oliver. I don’t want you to leave,” she was gripping his shirt in her fists, her body rigid in his arms, “I fought everyone, John, our supposed friend, the team, the FBI, to get you out. You matter more than anyone, Oliver, and I can’t lose you. I won’t.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he could feel a lump rising in his throat when her body started to shake, “I just don’t know what to do.”

“Just let me be angry and sad. Let me work. Let me cry or laugh. But please, don’t leave,” she whispered as her tears wet his shirt, “I can’t go from finally having all of you to none of you.”

He nodded and held her until her tears stopped falling and she relaxed in his embrace, “There is no way that will happen, Felicity. You know you are stuck with me in this life and the next.”

“And the one after that,” she sniffed.
“I should hope so,” he murmured, thinking about what she was telling him, “I guess I shouldn’t accept any dinner invites from John and Lyla for a while?”
“You can for you and William,” she said, “but not for me. Not for a while.”

The wind lashed at their windows and the sky flashed with lightning. Thunder rumbled and roared over the water towards them, rattling the pictures on their walls. He was glad they had the fireplace on when the lights blinked and then went out.

“I think we are in for a hell of a storm,” she said, “Are you ok?”
Oliver smiled. Trust her to think about him in the unnatural darkness and not herself.

“I am, with you I always am,” he said, kissing the top of her head.

He thought about what she had said as they watched lightning fork and flash across the black clouds, how she had fought all of their friends for his freedom, to catch Diaz and reclaim her life. How all she needed was for him to let her be angry, sad, happy, and to reclaim her space and life. She needed his support, his love, his attention but not all at once or all the time. He knew from experience how lost they could get in each other when all they did was focus on the other.

“I don’t think I have been this tired in a long time,” she said wearily.
“Did you sleep when I was in Slabside?” he asked, distracted by the size of the waves that were traveling into the Star City harbour. There must be a hurricane coming that neither of them paid any attention to.
“Not often,” she admitted, “When I closed my eyes, all I could see was you. All I thought about was just getting through the day, the night and trying to keep William from losing his mind. And you.”
“Sounds like my days and nights. We were both in prison because of me,” he said sadly.
“But we are free now.”
“Because of you,” he said, pulling her tighter to him still.
“Oliver, you are crushing me,” she laughed.

The sound of her laugh, still so rare, brightened the darkness of the day. He loved the way it moved the cells of his body. How it breathed oxygen into his blood. It was warm and infectious. If there was one sound that let him know all was right with the world, it was her laugh.

“It feels like we have been up for hours,” he commented, loosening his arms from around her, cautiously letting her sit up to pull her blanket over them both. He was ready to wrap her in a hug again should she drift too far from him. It was an irrational fear that he knew was unfounded but it was deeply rooted, keeping him off balance.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, sitting up, “I really need to blow my nose.”

He had to stop himself from following her to the bathroom with her. He silently chided himself for being so panicked by her need for self-care. Instead, he focused on his breathing and watching the sky from the darkened living room. A few short years ago, a storm of this magnitude would have sent him into a tailspin. Now, because of her, he was able to ride it out and even take pleasure in witnessing the force of nature on the other side of the windows.

“I think we need some music,” she said, breaking through his revere, “And luckily, I have battery operated speakers for my phone.”

In true Felicity style, she selected a playlist that was full of melancholic love songs. It was perfect. She circled around the couch and held out her hands.

“Come on,” she said softly, “We haven’t danced together since our reception.”
“You know I am not much of a dancer, Felicity,” he said in mock sadness, taking her hands in his.
“Hush,” she admonished, “What could be more romantic than dancing as thunder rolls in from across the sea?”

He smiled as he stood up and fell into step with her. She wound one arm around his waist and leaned against his chest, her head resting just below his, while he brought their clasped hands up to rest on his chest, above his heart. The music wound around them and carried them around the room.

“We should do this more often,” she sighed.
“I never want you to feel alone or abandoned ever again,” he said softly, “I am in this with you.” He felt her relax even more into him as bodies found the spaces that would welcome the other.

She looked up at him, her eyes dark and stormy, a reflection of the sky, and all he saw was the promise of forever in them. He brought his free hand up to tuck strands of her hair back behind her ear, his thumb delicately sweeping past her bottom lip, and caught the flush that rose up her neck to her cheeks, even in the dim light.

“I won’t ask you to promise me that, Oliver, I am going to put my faith in you instead,” she said softly, her gaze locked onto his, “But I am still going to be angry with you from time to time. I need you to trust that I love you but I need to be allowed to be as angry as I need to be. A lot of issues came up for me when you left, Oliver. I lost track of myself in the anguish of losing you.”

All he could do was nod. He had ripped her world to shreds in the misguided attempt at keeping her and William safe. The very last thing he would ever do again would be to make a decision of that magnitude without her wise council to guide him.

The distant rumble of thunder rattled the windows as it rolled across the city. As lightning flashed, he kissed her, tentatively, softly and full of feeling. Her hand reflexively tightened on his back and she sighed, kissing him back with the same tenderness.

“Has it really been five days since you’ve kissed me?” she asked, her voice warm and teasing.
“It has and it has been torture,” he smiled, realizing how careful they had been around one another for the past week. To the point where contact between them was avoided.
“I’ve missed it. I’ve missed you,” she said softly, reaching for him, “Even though I’ve been really cross with you.”

“Well, if you being cross with me means we slow dance around this beautiful home you’ve made for our family,” he murmured, feeling butterflies in the pit of his stomach as she traced a scar on his arm, “I might risk your wrath a couple of times a year.”
“Oliver, Oliver, Oliver…,” she shook her head and sighed, “I think you meant month.”
“Hey now,” he admonished, “let me at least pretend I can keep it together more often than that.”

Their clasped hands were still united over his heart and he hoped she could feel the love that rested between them. He felt her rise up on her toes and leaned down, meeting her halfway, to kiss her again. Only this time there was no hesitancy on either of their parts. It was a deep, quietly passionate kiss. Subtly inviting her to a more intimate embrace, one no one else could ever share with him.

“It’s before noon, Mr. Queen,” she smiled.
“Then we have all day,” he whispered against her lips.

“Remember that day in Bali, when we only got out of bed to dive in the pool to cool off, eat or use the bathroom?” she asked, still swaying with him to the slow, gentle music.
“I do. It was so hot that day, even the thought of going out in the sun seemed like a suicide mission,” he mused, remembering the intense heat of the island, the way the air smelled so sweet and floral.

“We did the same thing in that cabin last November. Only it was the cold that kept us under the covers and in front of that amazing fire,” she reminisced, her free hand traveling down his back. His breath caught in his throat when he felt the warmth of her palm on the fire scarred skin of his lower back.

“I remember a night in Positano when that storm came over the sea,” he said low and deep, “and we stayed in that ancient room where our bed was for two days.”
“That was a beautiful trip,” she whispered, “with just the two of us. We might not be able to return to that but we can build on the memories, experiences...just no more lies or secrets. But if there is something you aren’t ready to tell me yet, that’s ok. Just don’t wait too long.”

Felicity never begged, she never pleaded. All she ever did was ask and lead by example. She was determined to make him her equal in this and now, maybe for the first time, he felt equal to the task. If she believed in him, that should be all that he needed. He would need to push hard, to deal with the pain and trauma in his mind and heart, but first he needed to be the shoulder she leaned on as she dealt with her own.

Looking into her eyes, a deep azure blue that surrounded gold and green swirls around her pupils, he saw the openness in them. The willingness to wait for him while he discovered the ability in himself to rejoin her in the present.

“Let’s build,” was all he said and was rewarded with a smile that finally reached her eyes, “I’ve missed how you smile.”
“I’ve smiled since you’ve been home,” she said, somewhat confused.
“Not since we went to John and Lyla’s,” he said quietly, not wanting to upset her but needing to find a way to address it with her, “And I understand why. I asked John to help me when I went to prison, instead of working with you, and he let you down after Diaz attacked you.”
“John and I will address that one day but...I’m not ready to. Not yet,” she said firmly.

“Ok, ok,” he said, pressing his forehead to hers, “I am still sorry I ignored my gut feeling on that dinner, though, I knew something was wrong but tried to gloss over it. I was pretending everything was fine...I can be a bit stubborn that way.”
“True but I still love you,” she chuckled quietly and moved her head so she could find his lips as the lightning flashed.
“Lucky, lucky me,” he murmured with a smile and kissed her back with reckless abandon. It was something close to passion but there was an urgency behind the way their bodies where responding to each other, an urgency that became a deafening demand.

Felicity ran her hand under the waistband of his sweatpants and dragged her fingernails across the tender, unmarked flesh below his burn scars. The sensation traveled across his skin like static electricity, sparks flew from her fingertips. She opened her eyes and looked at him, as if to ask if what she was doing was ok.

There was a long pile deep shag rug in front of the fireplace. It was soft and made to be lain on, so Oliver laid down and pulled her with him. She laughed but followed him, letting him position himself so that he was looking down at her. He sensed they wouldn’t remain in this position for long, but it allowed him to strip her of her clothes and begin exploring her soft skin with his lips, hands and tongue.

“I love this rug,” he murmured as he kissed her neck and stroked her clit with one hand, he slipped two fingers inside her, pulsing them forward at a languid, gentle pace. He loved how she felt, like molten liquid, and the scent of her was like something close to heaven.

“I’ll admit, I envisioned something like this happening on it,” she said, her voice drifting in and out of focus. She was tracing his scars as he licked and sucked first one nipple then the other until they were hard. Her hands tightened on his arms and her breathing was growing fast and shallow.

“Sneaky,” he chuckled and sat up so that he could remove his shirt.

Before he could stop her, she sat up and swung her legs over his, so that she was sitting facing him. She was holding his face in her hands, studying him, like she was relearning his face with its new marks, bruises and scars. He could have easily flipped her back over, taking back control but he didn’t. He waited. This was for her.

And she didn’t disappoint. She kissed him, running her tongue along the underside of his top lip, sucked his bottom lip, and deepened the kiss until his body flushed with heat. She tugged at his pants, encouraging him to take them off. He slipped them off his hips but before he could kick them off his legs, she had reached behind her and grasped his cock, stroking him until he gasped.

“Five days is too long,” she murmured as he kissed the centre of her chest.
“Five hours is sometimes too long,” he complained in breathless jest. Her touch had been enough to ignite a fire in his pelvis, his cock growing harder and more erect with each firm stroke.
“Well, let’s make sure today doesn’t push that timeline out of whack,” she whispered against his lips, “Unless you are worried about being too tired.”

Before he could answer, she slowly sank down the length of his hard cock, burying him inside her so deep that he all he could feel was her silky wet heat. He almost protested. He had wanted to switch their positions, to lay her back on the luxurious rug, and pay homage to her body with his hands and mouth. Oliver had wanted to taste her, to feel her on his face and tongue, to feel her body quiver and shudder against him.

There would be more than enough time for that later, he thought and instead laid back in order to watch her. She was illuminated by the fire, the reflection of the flames licking across her body, when he reached up for her, trying to find her in the shifting light. Her legs were hooked over his thighs, and she began to thrust hard against him, when his hands found her.

It was like finding his anchor, the rock that he would cling to in the darkest part of the night, and he felt his heart reach out for hers. Not like when he had come home and they had sought to reconnect, this time it was different. More intimate. It was like he was holding his heart to hers and asking her to stay with him forever. To really explore the boundless limits of love and find their way to end of time as one.

“You are so beautiful,” he panted, “My God, Felicity…”

Her hips changed course and moved slowly, sinuously, not giving him a moment to think. He closed his eyes and lost himself to her. He saw glimpses of Slabside and the grey of that world. The last vestiges of the soul crushing loneliness that he had imprisoned himself in finally loosened its grip on his heart when he felt her hands on his face.

“Look at me,” she whispered, her fingertips, light as air, as they trailed down his face.

He opened his eyes to a world ablaze with colour. The gold of her hair, her flashing blue eyes, the way colour shifted in the firelight. She held the darkness at bay even when they were both surrounded by it. She somehow contained the power of the universe within her gaze and he felt whole, complete under it. Oliver knew he would lay down his life to stop her from experiencing pain ever again. Even if it meant he came apart at the seams, her life would not suffer for his.

“I would have burned the world to ash to free you,” she whispered, her voice low and deep, “I let go of friendships and blazed through the resources of the FBI, I hacked Interpol and ARGUS...I would have walked over broken glass barefoot to get you out.”
Oliver sat up, seeking her lips, but she continued talking between kisses, “I laid awake night after night, staring into the dark, searching for you. I felt like I was conjuring you up from memory, grieving you...and I am so glad you are back.”

She leaned back and let him take over, allowing him to wrap one arm around her waist and effortlessly flip them so that she was now underneath him, her legs wrapped high around his waist. It would have been so easy to push her to her climax, completely taking her pleasure in his hands but he tried to restrain himself, feeling that being greedy with her body wasn’t what the moment called for.

“I have never wanted to be anywhere else,” he gasped, feeling her body clenching hard around his cock, “If you had burned the world to ash, I would have rebuilt it for you.”

She pulled him down into a deep kiss and her hips met his with force. He could feel his resistance fading with each silky hot thrust. Her body shuddered and shook, an earthquake of love and lust, and it was all he could do to hold on as her orgasm swept through her, rattling his bones.

There were no adequate words to describe how it felt to be loved by Felicity or how it felt when she let him love her in this way. It filled his heart to bursting, until he couldn’t breathe, and all he wanted to do was hurry them both to the next occasion where he was allowed to worship her, his hands on her body, his cock buried inside her. There was nothing in this universe that could equal this feeling for him.

“Don’t stop, Oliver,” she whispered, her voice fractured by ecstasy, “Please…”

He couldn’t even if the world was collapsing around them. He pushed himself to his knees so that he could witness her pleasure unfold in front of him. There was a deep flush that started in the centre of her chest, ran up her neck and spread across her cheeks. It was beautiful to watch, especially as the lightning forked across the sky and the fire warmed the air around them.

When her back arched off the rug, her hands gripping it tight, and she cried out for him, he scooped her up, held her tight while she climaxed again, a wild, rolling wave that swept him away with it. There was an undercurrent of rawness between them, a primal urge that seemed to be tearing their hearts and minds. The gentleness of truly, intimately reconnecting could come later. Right now, they needed the other and it was the perfect way to start again.

With delicious intent, she tightened around him, squeezing his cock with the powerful muscles of her lower body and thighs. He groaned, buried his face in her hair, and felt how he thickened and throbbed before flooding her, deep inside, with a series of powerful thrusts. With his body shaking, he laid her back down, their bodies still joined, and wondered if they had found their way back to one another once again.

Quietly, she stroked his face and pulled his gaze back to hers. There were wet tracks of silently shed tears on her cheeks but before he could react she laid a finger across his lips and shook her head. Whatever needed to be said, needed to be said by her.

“I’m ok,” she said softly, her voice thick with tears, “I’m sorry if I made you feel like I wanted you to leave. When you were gone, my heart went with you. I could feel you some nights, as keenly as if you were beside me. But I kept so much bottled up because I knew if I let it out, if I started to cry or scream, I wouldn’t be able to stop. When you aren’t here, I feel so lost…so know this, Oliver, wherever you go, I go. From now on, no excuses, not anymore.”

He smiled at her, knowing that this wasn’t a promise, it was simply a statement of fact, and it was one he welcomed.

“I can’t imagine anything that I would welcome more. Now,” he said, propping himself up on his elbow, “Can I reach for the blanket and a cushion or two?”
“Please do,” she smiled.

They spent the morning laying on the rug, waiting for the storm to pass. Oliver slowly began to tell her about Slabside, about the fights, the violence, the way he had to rethink how to survive where he was at a disadvantage both physically and emotionally. She listened in silence, not asking questions, simply listening to his stories, finding her way through the horror of his daily routine. He decided not to sugar coat it, to lay bare the reality he lived in for her and William.

When he told her about the fight in the shower, the one that happened as she fought Diaz, about hearing that she had supposedly been killed, he described losing the will to leave. How darkness descended on his heart and mind and all the life left his body. When she came to see him in Slabside, alive and ready to fight, it is what had saved him.

Felicity propped herself up and looked at him, her eyes bright with unshed tears. She gently ran her hand over his cheeks, wiping away his own, and whispered, “Never underestimate my drive to survive and to make sure you do, too. I won’t lose you again.”

He hugged her close and next to the warm fire, they drifted off as the thunder crashed and the the lightning blasted through the rain. It rattled the windows but went unnoticed in the quiet space they had carved out of time and space for themselves.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Of Space and Air

She reached across the Universe
Searching for his hand
and felt his heart instead.

She dreamed she was falling. The air whistled past her ears and her heart rate increased, beating out a staccato rhythm in her chest. She had no idea of up or down or even where she was. As she tumbled through space, she caught sight of the moon, full and bright, of the galaxy as seen from far, far above. It didn’t make sense.

In the distance, she could hear the sound of metal on metal. CLANG CLANG CLANG. Over and over. It made no sense, as she fell headlong through space, that she would hear anything at all. But at regular intervals the loud, abrasive sound would ring out - CLANG CLANG CLANG. It was getting louder, more insistent until it was continuous, pushing her to the limits of her sanity.

It grew so loud that she could feel it hitting her body. When she thought she was going to scream, both it and her falling stopped. She was floating in the vast nothingness of space. Darkness was closing in around her, pressing in on all sides, filling her vision, freezing the breath in her lungs. She felt frenzied and battered. When she opened her mouth to call out, nothing happened. Her voice was gone. It was like suffocating but there was no air, just the infinite reach of the void of space.

Felicity awoke with a start, gasping and panting, clawing at her throat as the remnants of her nightmare faded from her mind. Sitting up, she tried to calm her racing heart and catch her breath but she still felt the squeeze of darkness around her throat. If she couldn’t unlock her mind and body, and get her lungs to cooperate, she was sure she was going to pass out or choke.

Wildly, she reached for Oliver only to find the space beside her on the rug warm but empty. The scream that was rising up was competing with the tightness in her throat. The room grew dim and began to spin when two blue eyes filled her vision. Eyes she recognized and loved. With every ounce of will power she had, she focused on them.

“Felicity!” came Oliver’s voice, loud and clear through the darkness, “Hold my hand and count with me…”

Feeling his roughened hands clasped tight over her own helped break the hold her nightmare had on her. Air flooded her lungs and she almost wept for the joy of being able to breathe. Oliver was counting down from ten, slowly, in a calm, soothing voice, it was his way of focusing her attention on something other than her own terror. It was a trick he’d learned from Yao Fe and one he had shown her how to do if his nightmares gripped him in the night.

“I’m ok,” she said, between breaths, “I’m ok.”

Even though she hated when he did it, he scooped her up and carried her to sit with him on the couch, the blanket still wrapped around her naked body. She didn’t mind this time, her legs felt watery, non-existent, and she could no more fight against his incredible strength than she could fight the sun from rising or setting each day. He held her to him, gently rubbing her back, and waited while her breathing returned to normal.

“When you’re ready, tell me,” he whispered.
“I don’t know where to begin,” she whispered, not trusting her voice.
“Wherever you want to,” he said quietly. She heard the colourless notes of despair in his voice, not knowing how to ease the fear he was feeling without ignoring her own.

“Is the storm still happening?” she asked, a calculated distraction that allowed her to think.
“It broke a little while ago, but our power still hasn’t come back on,” he murmured, “I lit a few of the candles but not the fancy ones.”
“You could have lit those, too,” she chuckled softly, pushing her body closer to his, trying to warm herself. The air was colder further away from the fireplace.
“I didn’t want to risk your wrath,” he teased lightly.

Felicity looked around the condo and was comforted by the soft candle light. The day was still so dark, with distant flashes of lightning still flashing across the distant horizon, but the candles held the darkness at bay in the room they were in.

“I was falling through space,” she began quietly, “Just falling and falling. I couldn’t breathe or move. But I could hear this metal hitting metal...over and over and over. It was so loud and then it stopped.”
“Is that what woke you up?” he asked.
“ was the way space was pushing into me. I couldn’t see or hear or breathe...I thought I was dying.”

His strong arms tightened around her, warding off the terror of her dream, and he kissed the top of her head. She traced the mottled skin where his Bratva tattoo used to be with the lightest of touches, her fingertips raised goosebumps on his skin. Of all his scars and burns, this was the one she felt the deepest in her own skin. The regret and guilt she felt over not finding where Adrian Chase had been holding him prisoner still woke her up in a cold sweat at night.

“What do you think caused the nightmare?” he asked carefully, slowly dipping his toe into her mental space.
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly, “I really don’t know. Whatever it was, I am hoping my subconscious has let go of it forever. was awful.”
“How about I make us a snack?” he asked, his voice neutral and flat.
“Should we open the fridge if the power is going to be off for a while?” she asked, looking up at him to see what his expression he had as she didn’t trust his voice. He was far too good at hiding his thoughts when he needed to.

What she saw, even though it only lasted for the blink of an eye, was a troubled sadness. She knew him well enough to know that he was blaming himself. That somehow her nightmare was a byproduct of his abandonment of her, or from the details of his stay in Slabside. She didn’t know what was true or what the trigger was, but it was a dream she had had in slightly different variations from the day he left until now. This time, it was far more intense, louder, denser.

Felicity reached for one of his hands and entwined their fingers, kissed his scarred knuckles, one at a time and became intensely aware of their current state of nakedness. She knew she had a choice: to remain seated on his lap, feeling the heat of his skin, or to get up and get that snack he had mentioned.

“So...a snack...what can we scrounge up?” she asked as nonchalantly as she could.
“I think there is some salsa in the fridge. I know we have chips, what with a teenager in the house,” he answered, softly kissing her hand.
“Should we get dressed?” she asked, slowly losing focus. His lips were soft and warm and if she didn’t get up now, she knew all hope would be lost.
“That might be a good idea,” he chuckled.
“Where...are our clothes?” she laughed, looking around the room.

Oliver stood up and let her down to the floor, but instead of dropping the blanket, he pulled it tighter around her, keeping her covered and warm.

“How about you stay here? I’ll get what we need,” he said, his voice subdued.
“You really don’t want me in the kitchen do you?” she said as she watched him slip his pants back on, “I’m not going to burn anything if the power is off.”
“ once burned water.”
“I thought we agreed to never speak of that again,” she admonished.
“You agreed, I merely decided to wait until the time was right to remind you,” he said as he left her standing, jaw dropped and staring after him.

Shaking her head, she located her clothes and put them on and then rewrapped herself in the blanket. On a whim, she turned off the lights that had been left on when the power went out. She liked the candle light and how the fireplace was illuminating their new home. It reminded her of the cabin they spent a blissful weekend in after their wedding reception. It had snowed, heavy and deep, dampening all the sound around them. They had remained in bed for close to 48 hours. It had been intense but so worth it.

“I found bottled water, the salsa and the chips,” he said, “The fridge is staying nice and cold.”
“I am so thirsty, thank you,” she sighed, taking the water and drinking half the bottle.
Oliver shook his head and set the tray he had put together on the coffee table. Felicity looked at it and then at him. He was still arranging things in discrete units, all sectioned off like on a prison tray. It made her sad on one level but it was a conflicted sadness. He wouldn’t be locked in that cage in his mind if he had included her, worked with her, and together they had tracked Diaz down. Yet thinking that made her feel guilty and ashamed.

Nothing she was feeling felt real or authentic. She deeply, deeply loved him, but was still angry and hurt. She wanted to help him heal from the psychological wounds of incarceration, but needed him help her heal from her own. She need to pull him close, but found herself wanting to get away. She was telling him one thing but feeling the exact opposite. It was exhausting.

As if sensing her mood, he finished his mouthful of chips and salsa and turned to look at her, his eyes pinning her in a stare. “I can feel you thinking, Felicity.”
“I think that loudly?” she tried to joke.
“I’m burning calories feeling you think,” he teased.
“I was looking at how you portioned off the tray,” she said, muted and sad, “It’s like you are still in Slabside.”

Oliver looked at his handiwork and his shoulders tightened. She had hit a nerve, one that she suspected he didn’t even know was there to be hit. When he placed his hands on his knees, she thought he was going to get up and leave the room. It was his tell. When he was ready to flee, to box her out, he would pause like this and then go. It was hurtful but it was his way of coping with an emotional confrontation he wasn’t ready for.

But he was full of surprises. Instead, he sat back and stared blankly out of the window beyond the fireplace. Just when she was beginning to feel guilty for pointing it out he let out a long sigh and said, “I never noticed.”

Instinctively, she reached out and ran her hand down his arm, comforting him as he sorted through how he was still somehow still in that cell, in that prison, so far out to sea. It was a delicate balancing act for them both. This push pull of their desire to love and be loved by the other. It felt right to comfort him but at the same time, she resented having to do it at all. The bite of tears stung her eyes but she kept her hand where it was.

“You know that picture on the shelf by the tv?” he asked, pointing towards the one of her and William smiling at the camera in his outstretched arm, “I held onto that picture in my cell. Every morning and every night. Whenever I was in it, that picture was in my hands.”
“I kept one on my bedside table when I was Erin and we were in protective custody,” she said quietly.
“You did?” he asked, surprised.
“I did. I knew you had one so…”

He relaxed and closed his eyes. She could see the struggle on his face, with how taut his body had become, and she waited. There were no words of comfort she could offer him that would ring true. Not now, not after all they had slowly been confessing to feeling and thinking. That picture had connected them as surely as their hearts but it didn’t diminish the impact of his physical and emotional abandonment.

“Why are you still willing to be married to me?” he asked suddenly, panic entering his voice for the first time.

She was taken aback but she also didn’t have an immediate answer and she refused to lie to him. The only thing she could do was be honest with him and see if she could collect the pieces if the fractures and fault lines in their relationship failed to hold.

“I have been in love with you for years, Oliver, and when I proposed to you I meant it when I said that losing you was my greatest fear in life. When we got married, I thought you understood that only trust could lie between us. No untruths, no secrets, no hidden deals. It was my belief that you felt that way, too,” she started slowly, “I love you, Oliver, I truly love you but I did wonder if that was enough.”
“What...what does that mean?” He was keeping his eyes down and away from looking into hers. She knew it was a strategic move on his part, his way of avoiding the full impact of what he was hearing.
“You broke something fundamental between us six months ago. It is going to take time to heal that and I will admit, I almost left this week. Not to divorce you but to rage in private so that I could remain married to you.”

He sat stock still. He was barely breathing and it was ripping her heart to shreds but it was something they needed to talk about if there was any hope for them at all.

“Oliver,” she said softly, “it shouldn’t come as a surprise.”
“It doesn’t but it is still tough to hear.”

She looked at Oliver. His large frame sunk into the cushions, concealing just how powerfully built he was, and she wanted to tell him what she saw when she looked at him. That he was handsome, sexy, gentle, sensual, kind and giving. That sitting next to him was like sitting next to the Sun. He lit her world, every dark corner and crevasse, and she wanted to touch him, to feel and taste his skin. But there were times when she felt a bit like Icarus when she flew too close to him, her heart melted in his withering heat.

Sometimes loving him meant getting burned. The question for her now was this one time too many? Was being in love with him enough to find forgiveness, true forgiveness, for the the way he cast her out or was it one injury too many? She didn’t have the answer to that question yet and the way it was stretching them both, fracturing them further, wasn’t fair to him or her.

“Love means forgiveness, Oliver, and I love you but you left wreckage in place of trust. We have to find a way to rebuild that, and find a way for me to trust you with everything again. I want to,” she said, desperation and despair competing in her voice, “and I know I said I would put my faith in you but then...then we went to John’s and I felt throw into that abandonment and rage all over again.”

“He was only doing what I asked him to, Felicity,” he was trying to deflect the blame back onto himself but she shook her head.
“No, Oliver, his actions went so beyond anything you asked him to do. What would have made it all so much easier would have been if he had been my friend in all those months William and I were in protective custody, but he wasn’t. He treated me like a caseload. He treated William like a caseload.”

Her hands were shaking as she spoke, her skin growing hot, and line of sweat broke out on her forehead. Without changing his position, Oliver took her hands in one of his and held them. She wanted to pull away but the calmness that came over her stopped her. Even now, when she was wrestling with the hurt and sadness of a life turned end over end, he was able to cut through it all and find her.

“I don’t make my best decisions when I am terrified,” he admitted wryly, “and I was convinced that unless I gave up my freedom, Diaz wouldn’t stop unless he killed both you and William. It was going to be his ultimate revenge. Not to kill William but to kill you. He knew that killing you would kill me.”
“But he didn’t stop, Oliver. He still tried and he almost succeeded.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Felicity was trying to find a path through this minefield. Oliver knew he was in the wrong, no matter the intentions he went into the agreement with the FBI with, the ultimate result had harmed them both. He was covered with healing wounds, some from fights involving fists, some from fights involving weapons. He had subjected himself to unrelenting violence all to keep her and William safe.

What got him fighting back was her. Through the mind numbing routine and the fog of chaos in his mind, what got him centred and back to being true to his identity, was her. She felt the weight of that, the soul churning truth of it, in every cell of her body.

“You know, for five months, I lived in fear. Fear of being found. Fear of William being hurt. Fear of not being able to fight back or fighting back and being hurt. But the worst was the loneliness. The heart stopping loneliness of missing you,” she whispered, “And that made me so angry, Oliver. That my greatest and worst fear had come true. It left me breathless and beaten. I felt like I was standing on uneven legs, unable to differentiate between past, present and future. I was submerged in despair.”

He said nothing because there was nothing to say to that. No apology would ring true withoug true understanding of the psychological damage of abandonment. That was the problem. Only actions could move them forward but she wasn’t sure if she trusted either of them to weather another storm like the one they just experienced ever again. She turned to look at him, pulling his face up so that he met her eyes, and she searched for the man she knew, the man she married, the only man she would love with like this, to see if he was still in there.

“I don’t think we can have a new beginning,” she said carefully, still searching for the pieces of him she knew must still be there. She could almost feel him again. “But I think, I hope, we can mend the hurt and live in the present.”

He blinked several times in succession, as though she was standing in front of a bright light and he was attempting to find her.

“Do you think we really can?” he asked in a neutral voice.
“I want to believe we can but there will be new ground rules moving forward. There have to be,” she said gently, “And not just for you, but for me as well. I shouldn’t have been so distant and absent this week. That wasn’t fair to you or William, even if I was telling myself it was for you both to reconnect. It meant that after that first day of it being you and I alone before Will got home from school, we haven’t spent any time together.”
“And when we could have, I had us over at John’s,” he said with humourless laugh.
“I could have said no but I didn’t. I went and took it out on both of us. I didn’t want to be at the office twelve or eighteen hours a day, I just couldn’t face being home.”

Felicity sank back into the voluminous couch, rested her head on the cushion behind her and studied her husband. They were going to have ups and downs, days when the trust was thin between them, but the love they shared needed to be the foundation they stood on. She was starting to believe that they could.

Behind them, there were a series of soft clicks and beeps as the power came back on in the condo. She was glad she had turned off the lights to avoid the harsh reveal of the way this day had worn them both down.

“You are so beautiful,” she murmured, reaching to run her fingertips down his face, “I might be inconsistent some days as I work through this all, but never doubt how much I love you.”
“I don’t,” he sighed, leaning into her touch, “Not now, not ever.”

The sky had opened up again, the rain falling in thick sheets, obscuring the view of the harbour. Felicity almost smiled at the way the day mirrored the emotions they were slowly working through. The air in the condo was heavy, laden with sadness and regret, but she felt the heat of anger slowly loosening its hold on her heart.

“Rainy days always make me sleepy,” she said with a yawn, “It feels like the sun has been swallowed whole by this storm.”
“It does. Will you be ok for a few minutes?” he asked.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she chuckled softly, “But I might fall asleep if you are away too long.”
“I’ll be sure to wake you,” he said and then he was gone, headed back towards their bedroom.

She watched him walk slowly down the hallway, not turning on any lights as he went. A minute after he disappeared from view, she saw the flicker of a candle being lit and the sound of running water. He, too, was avoiding the light. He only did things like this when he was out of sorts. He’d already showered this morning, after his run, and they had slept only an hour or so after their frantic lovemaking in front of the fireplace.

Looking around the living room, Felicity watched as three candles sputtered and died. Only one remained lit, casting its ghostly glow around the room, deepening the shadows in the corners. Feeling spooked, she got up and lit one of the larger, more decorative candles housed in a metal lantern. The glass panes magnified the light but she still felt haunted by the last hour. Instinctively, she went in search of Oliver.

He was still in the shower, the steam billowing out in the cool air of their bedroom. His one candle was flickering in the currents created by the hot water and she could just barely see the outline of his body through the glass doors of the stall.

Taking a deep breath, she stripped down, leaving her clothes in a heap on the floor, and walked into the warm, humid room. She waited for him to lift his head and see her but in the meantime, she took an inventory of the damage on his body. There was a new barely healed stab wound on his side, slashes on his arms and legs, large faded bruises on his ribs and arms, scabs of older cuts on his chest and face. New stories had been stamped on his flesh, ones she had yet to learn.

Her chest felt tight as she took in the amount of damage he had sustained. It looked like he had been through a war. Felicity wasn’t sure if she should stay, feeling strangely naked and revealed the longer he kept his head down. He rubbed his hands over his scalp, his hair so short still, but he looked up and froze when he saw her standing on in the bathroom, watching him from a respectful distance.

Before she could change her mind, she stepped into the shower and joined him under the hot, falling water. She didn’t say anything, instead she laced their fingers together, bringing his hands to her lips. She didn’t look up at him but she could feel his eyes on her, watching every move she made. Releasing his hands, she traced his new stab wound, now almost completely healed, the slash scars on his forearms from defending himself against one or more attacks, and gently pressed her lips to a series of faded bruises. There were faint knuckle marks, faded yellow and brown, in his skin.

His chest rose and fell as she made her way across his body. Finally, after placing his right hand over her heart, she looked into his eyes and said, “Never take this for granted again. Don’t promise me, don’t make any statements you can never unsay. Look inside yourself and find your way to the answer, Oliver, but this time I can’t make that journey with you. You need to do that for yourself first and then for our family.”

And then she felt it. It was like a new circuit had opened up between them, she could feel its current humming over her skin. She hoped that he could feel it, too. His lips moved but no words passed over them. With his hand still resting on her breast, he reached with his left to turn off the shower. In the silence, she could hear his breathing, deep and steady.

“You will wait? Even if I fuck up?” he asked quietly, honestly.
“Yes, because I don’t expect that journey to be easy,” she answered, feeling the electricity between them increase.
“I love you, just so much,” he murmured, his voice cracking along the edges. He moved his hands to her face, cradling it gently, and held her gaze.
“Towel?” she asked with a smile.
“Towel,” he agreed, returning her smile.

It wasn’t their normal ritual but it didn’t matter. In the flickering candle light, she had decided sharing her life with him, as difficult and challenging as it was going to be, was better than not sharing it at all. He was going to have to work hard, he might mess up and she might have flashes of anger and moments of distrust, but he was her soulmate and she had no intention on giving up now.

There was more they needed to talk through, issues large and small, but the call of his body and heart was more than she could ignore. He wrapped her in a towel and turned away to dry himself off, giving her an opportunity to study his back. He had more battle scars on his shoulders and bruises above the burns on his lower back. She stepped close behind him and ran the tips of her fingers over the worst of them and tenderly kissed them, each in turn.

He frozen in place, unable to move his body and she touched him. She slipped two fingers between his hips and towel and tugged, letting it fall to the floor. Encircling his waist with her arms as best she could, she pressed her forehead into his back and her body against his. She felt his hands cover hers and they stood in the cooling air of the bathroom and just breathed.

Oliver turned around in her embrace and pulled her into a probing, deep kiss. If he hadn’t already done so, he could have swept her off her feet with just the feel of his tongue finding hers and his hands in her hair. Breaking free, felt him pulling her back into the bedroom and to their bed. On the way there, he turned the fireplace back on to ward of the chill caused by the damp, steamy air from the bathroom.

The way the light caught him, rolling across his skin in various wavelengths, causing him to look filled with the light itself, was mesmerizing. Sometimes watching him was all she needed to feel the rush of wet heat between her legs and this afternoon, in darkness of the storm, was no different. She was longing to touch him, to feel his skin on hers.

“Come here,” he beckoned from the end of the bed.

Smiling, she crossed to him, and stepped between his legs. His hands ran down her arms, her hips and then up her back. When he kissed the centre of her chest, her nipples grew hard, lifting upwards, and she cupped his face, searching for his lips.

Standing up, he turned them around and helped her to lay back on the bed. His lips found her neck when he said, “You are the most important thing in the Universe to me.”

Her voice deserted her, so she put her body in his hands. Allowing him free reign to do what he wanted. She closed her eyes and waited, feeling the roughness of his hands on her legs, the scrape of his stubble and the softness of his lips on her chest and abdomen. She felt weightless, like she was floating free above the bed, lost to the tenderness of his tongue on her clit and the intensity of his fingers, two of which had slipped inside her, pulsing forward, finding that one sensitive spot that his cock always missed.

They would have to take their moments of happiness when they could find them, she thought as his hands found her breasts and his tongue licked a circular pattern over her increasingly sensitive clit. Nothing about their lives would ever be simple. Oliver was an archaeological dig, she would uncover one layer full of artefacts and the skeletons of men who had dared challenge his mortality or those he loved, and underneath it all, more layers waited for discovery.

Even now, as she ran her hands over his head and lost herself to the pressure and tension of his mouth on her, Oliver could still surprise her in ways both good and bad. Her thoughts faded to grey when he gently pulsed his fingers to the same rhythm he was sucking on her clit. Her orgasm exploded, over taking her completely. It wasn’t a gentle rolling sensation, like when he moved deep inside her, this time it ripped through her body. Her hips rocked up off the bed and she cried out for him.

She was still shuddering as he kissed and licked his way up her body. She grabbed his face and kissed him, not caring that his lips were still wet and hot from her. His cock was rigid and hard, nestled between her legs, and she moaned as he eased himself inside her. Stars burst behind her eyes and she clung to him, trying to get as close to him as possible.

Oliver wrapped his arms around her, supporting his large frame on his knees, kept his weight off of her and slowly moved his hips. Felicity placed her hand over his heart, looking for him, for the frayed ends of their connection and felt the spreading heat in her pelvis. She might still be wrestling with her anger for how he boxed her out, but her body would always betray her when it came to him.

The neverending desire that existed between them was explosive, volcanic. It was elemental, something that had sparked her to back into living again after she had buried herself in school and work, trying to outrun her father and her past. But the lost months, when he was locked away from her, had been stolen from them both and all she would ever want because of that was more time.

More chances to experience firsts with him. More of him. More time for them to love each other. He was her favourite person in the universe, the only one she wanted to know through thick or thin. The bigger questions and truths would wait until later, the answers would come but only after they finally reconnected.

Her body jerked and shuddered hard against his before relaxing into the climax that pushed her mind apart. She felt the rush of wet heat between their bodies and pulled her legs up high, so that her knees were higher than his hips, and felt the way he was so slowly thrusting inside her before pulling almost all the way out. It was keeping her in a state of ecstasy so long, she lost track of reality and time.

His breathing was laboured but controlled as he lifted her up, their bodies still locked together, so that they were sitting on the edge of the bed. He was so strong that it only took a gentle push backwards for them to wind up in the middle of the bed. Felicity smiled and leaned in to kiss him, gently at first but it became deeper, passionate. He sucked on her tongue and bottom lip, pulling her back into a state of sensual euphoria.

Taking advantage of how she was on top of him, she moved her hips up and down in an undulating, circular pattern. She sheathed him in her body, ground down on his hips, moving slowly and purposefully as she could never once taking her eyes off of his.

His pupils were blown wide, only a thin ring of brilliant blue in the golden light of the fire could be seen. Oliver’s face was flushed and a thin line of sweat ran down the centre of this chest. His breathing was getting deeper, faster, a flush rose up his chest and neck. She moved her legs together, bearing down on his cock in a tight squeeze and pulsed around him.

When his head fell forward, his chest heaving, she moved just a tiny bit faster. His hands moved to her hips, gripped them hard, trying to get her to move harder. She complied, knowing that the increased tension and tempo would cause them both to climax fast and hard but she didn’t care.

“I love you, Oliver,” she whispered in his ear, her heart feeling blown wide and full, “I will always, always love you.”

In response, he wrapped both his arms around her, anchoring their bodies together. She felt his cock throb and swell as she continued to control their joined rhythm. She kissed him just as he came with a rumbling groan, pulsing hot deep inside her. She thought he was gasping for breath until she felt the hot splash of tears on her shoulder.

“Hey, babe, what is it?” she asked in concern.
“You know,” was all he could say.

Felicity pulled the duvet up around them and held him close, rubbing his back to calm his heart. She did know, but more than that, she understood. He was trying so hard to not let the guilt he felt for abandoning her scab over to form a barrier between them as he came to grips with the turbulent, violent past he had yet to truly let go of even as it lead him to make one bad decision after another.

She would never know anyone as brave as him, as selfless or a loving, but he was haunted by the ghosts of his family, the men who died by his hand and bow, and all the friends who signed on to his mission only to get burned. They crowded around her, always just out of earshot or disappearing around corners witnessed from the corner of her eyes. It was their presence that could derail him so fast, it left her breathless and in agony as a result.

Carefully, he turned them on their sides and laid back on the bed, their bodies entwined and still joined. He remained silent but focused on her. Felicity wasn’t sure what was going to happen next so she waited wondering if he would be able to put into words what he was so clearly wrestling with.

“Oliver,” she said quietly, “tell me.”
“I don’t know if I can. At least not yet,” he said softly,, “I love you. More each day but...I struggle with feeling worthy of it. Of you. I don’t want to make any mistakes but…”
“We all make mistakes, Oliver, the trick is to learn from them. You take four steps forward, three steps back, so slowly but surely I know something is sinking in,” she teased gently.
“So you’ll stay?” he asked, his voice small and quiet.
“Yes,” she said, looking him in the eyes, pinning him with her stare, “and I want you to stay, too. But we have work to do.”
“We do,” he said, relief pouring out of him, “What made you come into the shower with me?” He had pulled her closer, tucking her head under his chin.
“I was worried about you,” she admitted, “I was also struggling with myself and how I was feeling and treating you. I thought for a minute that maybe you didn’t believe me when I said that I love you.”

He was silent, contemplative. Felicity knew he was finally hearing her.

“Oliver, my heart is yours, and I think yours is mine. I can feel it even when you try to hide it from me,” she said tenderly.
“I feel like a monster sometimes, like I will never outrun my past or the memories I don’t know if I can ever share,” he admitted, “but just when I think I am shattered, broken, you show up and hold me together.”
“I’m glad I joined you in the shower,” she whispered, feeling the immediacy of that damage. She knew how fast he could fall to the ghosts in his mind.
“I gotta admit, that was sexy as hell how you just appeared,” he chuckled.
“Well, I can’t argue with that,” she laughed.
“Let’s spend the rest of the afternoon right here,” he sighed.
“Grab a blanket?” she asked, feeling the way his body was warming up.

Using his long reach, Oliver was able to grab the wool blanket at the end of the bed and pull it over them without having to get up. She had opened the skylights earlier so they were able to watch flashes of lightning crisscross the sky. If the storm wasn’t moving from overhead, she was more than happy to hunker down and wait it out in his arms.

“There is something I wanted to ask you,” he said carefully, twirling a strand of her hair around his finger over and over again.
“What’s that?” she asked, drowsily. Whenever he played with her hair, she relaxed and sometimes would fall asleep mid-sentence.
“We missed our first anniversary, and I was thinking maybe we could go somewhere, just the two of us, for a few days.”

She put her chin on his chest and looked at him. He was smiling just a little bit, his eyes twinkling. It was a good idea. This was a bit of a break right now but they were accessible to anyone who might need them. The one thing that concerned her was if they went somewhere too isolated and William needed them.

“Where do you have in mind?” she asked flirtatiously.
“How about that cabin we went to last year?”
“Yes,” she said quickly, “I loved that place. We should call them now to see if it’s available.” She was halfway out of bed before she heard his laugh. “What? What’s so funny?”
“I’ve already booked it,” he smiled.
“You sneak!” she laughed and launched herself at him.
“I wanted to surprise you!” he exclaimed, catching her easily in his arms, “I just couldn’t find the right moment to tell you!”

She rewarded him with a sound kiss on the cheek and said, “I love surprises. Now let me up. I need to pee.”

His laugh followed her into the bathroom. She took a moment to think as she cleaned up after using the bathroom, the bidet she had installed was her favourite thing in the room, especially after any kind of sex. She wasn’t worried about being away with him, she was worried that they would fall back into a pattern of talking but not listening, hearing by not understanding. She decided that she had to trust that they would continue moving forward no matter the location.

“So when do we go?” she asked, crawling back into bed to join him under the covers.
“Tomorrow morning,” he murmured, his lips on her bare shoulder.
“For how long?” she asked. She wanted to refocus on them but he was intent on focusing on her.
“Three days,” he said before kissing her neck, her face, her lips.
“Shouldn’t we pack?” she whispered.
“Nah,” he smiled, “We can do that later.”
“God, Oliver,” she was trying to focus on words but the softness of his lips on hers was overwhelming, “Are you trying to wear me out?”
“I am hoping we can shower later but we need to work up a sweat first,” he said as he pulled her over top of him.
“I think you are right.”

Pushing herself up, she moved down his body. She spent time kissing his new scars, finding the story of Slabside to be one of such despair that she was surprised he had made it out at all. His cock twitched against her, slowly growing hard. She licked the entire length of the shaft and gently rolled her tongue around the head and then back down. She repeated this until he moaned, the muscles in his legs jumping with each sweep of her tongue.

That was her cue to take as much of his cock in her mouth that she could. She stroked, sucked and licked him until he was rigidly hard. His hands found her arms and he pulled her back up and crushed her lips in a hard, passionate kiss. As his tongue explored her mouth, she reached between them and guided him into her body.

Her body tensed and tightened around him, but then loosened as she began to thrust hard against him. There was no gentleness this time, no drawing out of the moment, this was all about pleasure, both his and hers. She felt a spreading heat and then her hips slammed against his as she came so much quicker than she expected. There was no build up, no delicate balance of ecstasy and emotion, she simply let it happen as it needed to.

“God, Felicity,” he panted, looking up at her, “You are so beautiful.”
“Can you see me?” she asked, her lips next to his ear, “Can you finally see me?”
“Yes, god, yes,” he murmured as he turned his head to find her lips, kissing her with growing desperation.

When he sat up this time, it wasn’t to let her straddle his lap so that they could move as one. This time he flipped them over and took command of both their bodies. When he pushed himself to his knees, balancing her on his thighs, she looked up at him and saw lightning flash in his eyes. She felt exposed but worshipped. When his thumb stroked her clit in time with his hard thrusts inside her, her body curled forward, tight as a coiled spring, rising off the mattress towards him.

He applied more pressure, almost daring her not to come, but her body had other ideas. Somehow, she managed to raise herself completely up, using all of her strength to pull herself up and into his arms. She pressed her forehead to his just as the fire in her pelvis uncoiled. Her orgasm flowed over her, a tsunami that rolled on and on, over her entire body until all her muscles went limp.

With a series of uneven, deep thrusts, Oliver buried himself inside her, his hips coming to a halt, as he came in a long fiery stream. His cock throbbed and jerk as he poured himself inside her. She loved the way it felt, familiar and alive, and tried to focus on the way it felt to commit it to memory.

She felt herself begin to tremble, from exertion or exhaustion, she couldn’t tell. Oliver held her tight, unwilling to let her go. When the tears came this time, it was from the relief of finally taking a step forward and not remaining locked to the past.

Maybe, she thought as they laid back down, maybe forgiveness would be easier now that love was so clearly the foundation they were committed to. He kissed her softly, not saying a word. Sometimes he surprised her by knowing without asking that she was really ok, that not all of her tears were ones of sorrow.

Sleep pulled them both under as thunder rolled across the bay. Felicity’s last thought was about the prospect of three days in a mountain cabin with Oliver with nothing to do but breathe.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Impacts and Wounds

She watched him reach up
to the galaxies
that only he could see.


“Should we stop for food on the way up?” she called to him from their bedroom.
“It’s taken care of!” he called back. He waited patiently by the door, their bags ready to go. She was looking for her portable battery and extra charger for her tablet and phone in their bedroom. While she did promise to limit her time on them, he understood completely that she had responsibilities that didn’t end just because of their impromptu trip.

“What do you mean taken care of?” she asked suspiciously.
“It’s a full service rental, Felicity.”
“When did you find time to do all of that? You were basically JUST released,” she said as she pulled on her jacket.
“Well, I had some spare time when you were at work,” he said dryly.
“Do you want more spare time or…?”

He laughed at her empty threat, tossed her purse to her and picked up their bags. “Come on, let’s get going.”
“Did you call Will last night?” she asked as she set the alarm on their security system.
“I facetimed him just after you went to bed. He is having a blast. His words,” he replied from the hallway.
“I’m glad. He might need us but he also needs his freedom.”
“Do you want to stop for coffee on the way out to the cabin or stop just before we get there?”
“Just before we get there,” she answered as they stepped into the elevator, “I know how you hate to stop for pit stops.”
“Felicity, you drink coffees larger than you and then I have to stop every five miles.”

She rolled her eyes at him and hit the button for the parking garage. He might have been exaggerating just a bit but it was a three hour drive up to the cabin and while they were leaving early, the sun had yet to clear the horizon, she would have made it a four hour drive if she got a coffee first. Luckily, there was an excellent coffee house a couple of miles before the cut off road to the cabin so they could grab what they needed then.

“It is ridiculously early,” she grumbled from the passenger seat.
“You snooze -”
“Oliver,” she warned.
“You -”
“I’m warning you.”
“I hate you.”

Oliver laughed all the way out of the garage. Felicity was not a good early riser but did it when she had to. He suspected she would be asleep before they left city limits and, just as he predicted, she was out before they hit the highway. Thankfully, she had started the song playlist once they hit Main Street, giving him a distraction.

The drive was peaceful and allowed him time to think about his first week out of Slabside and the injuries, seen and unseen, that he had brought with him. He had yet to tell her about Level Two. His fists tightened on the Jeep’s steering wheel and his chest constricted. It was not a place he wanted to revisit yet but he would need to and he would need to being her with him so she could understand his entire experience.

He had almost sacrificed his life to find Diaz so he could keep her and William safe. She just didn’t realize the lengths he had gone to. When he thought about it, it left him cold and feeling slightly nauseous. Thankfully, the highway demanded his attention. The sky was overcast, the clouds heavy and threatening rain or snow, and the road was wet from overnight rain.

Their conversations the day before had been difficult. Felicity had been brutally honest with him. For a brief moment, he thought she as preparing to tell him that she was leaving, that she had spent the week deciding it was time to go. He had been paralysed. Emotionally and physically, paralysed and unable to even comprehend a life lived without her in it.

Something she said kept tumbling around and around his mind.

“Love means forgiveness, Oliver, and I love you but you left wreckage in place of trust. We have to find a way to rebuild that, and find a way for me to trust you with everything again.”

She hadn’t forgiven him, at least not completely, but he felt like maybe the worst was behind them. Felicity had an unfathomable capacity for forgiveness and now, feeling connected to her once again, he hoped that this small get away would help her figure out how it would even be possible for him to fully earn her trust again. He could only hope the wreckage could be navigated.

“Are we there yet?” she asked sleepily, her eyes still closed.
“In another hour we will be,” he answered, amused by her ability to find sleep where she needed it.
“Don’t forget coffee,” she muttered and slipped back to sleep.

Oliver laughed quietly and refocused on the road. There was hardly any traffic, thanks to it being so early on a weekday, but the sky was attempting to reach back down to earth. The weather was supposed to be clear and bright but the weather had shifted overnight and now he was worried that it might bring an early snowstorm.
It didn’t take long to reach the small coffee shop but he was pleasantly surprised to see that small grocery store had opened up next to it. He had just pulled into the parking lot when Felicity woke up again and sighed with delight when she saw the sign advertising the daily special: a large Americano and chocolate biscotti.

“We made good time,” she yawned.
“How would you know?” he laughed, “You slept the entire way!”
“Listen, you woke me up at 5:45am. You are incredibly lucky I didn’t punch you.”
“I was going to wake you up at 5:30am, so count your lucky stars,” he chuckled, leaning over to kiss her cheek before she could say a rebuttal, “How about you grab a couple Americanos and biscotti and I’ll duck into that grocery store?”
“I thought all the food was pre-ordered,” she said as she stretched in the Jeep’s large seat.
“I did but I had a few extra ideas.”
“Not kale, I hope,” she muttered under her breath.
“Would I do that to you?”

The withering look she shot him would have melted glass.

He watched her head into the coffee shop, laughing at how she refused to look at him, and then headed in to check on what kind of food was available in the grocery store. He was surprised at the selection of fresh produce, cheeses, breads and meat there was in such a small space.

The owner had a radio on behind the counter, tuned in to a local station, and they were warning their listeners to be ready for a possible snowstorm with accumulations of snow up to three feet with drifts building up to six. Luckily, the temperature would warm up following this and the melt would be quick. Oliver loved snow but not that much.

Taking the warning seriously, Oliver loaded up on coffee, cream, bread, cheese, fruit, a few exotic spreads and other food they could eat without cooking. He also bought a bottle of champagne just because. He got back to the Jeep in time to see Felicity transfer his Americano into his travel mug. He didn’t really want one but he knew better than to think she wouldn’t want to look after him in some way.

“Ready?” he asked, coming up behind her to give her a quick hug.
“Ready,” she said, “I love this coffee shop. Everything is made in house. You have got to try the Biscotti.”
“You know how I feel about sugar, Felicity,” he said, eating the biscuit in two large bites.
“Apparently, the same as I do,” she laughed.

The drive up to the cabin was a short one. The turn off was a mile up the highway and from there it was only ten minutes down a bumpy gravel road, through tall fir trees. The Sitka spruce competed with the Douglas and Lodgepole pine trees for forest supremacy but it was the Western hemlock and Western white pine trees that Oliver loved best. They hugged the road, towering above them. He felt sheltered by them, protected, but he could still see the sky.

They stepped out of the Jeep, into air fragrant with the scent of the trees, just as the first snowflakes began to fall. They were wet and heavy, signalling a typical snowstorm in the coastal mountains. He loved this time of year, the abruptness of the weather changes and the crisp, freshness of the air.

“Are we prepared for a snowstorm?” she asked as she helped pull the bags out of the back fo the Jeep.
“We are, I picked up a few extra supplies just in case.”
“Including coffee?”
“Decaf,” he deadpanned, dodging a hip check from her.

The cabin was an A-framed thing of wonder. It was essentially one large room with an enormous stone fireplace in the centre. On one side was a small but fully equipped kitchen and livingroom with a wall of windows that looked out over part of the forest and a small outbuilding for firewood and their garbage, and the valley in front of them. On the other was king sized bed with a sitting area in front of floor to ceiling windows that only overlooked an Alpine valley. The bathroom was located off the bedroom and was beyond anything either of them could ever imagine.

“It’s chilly in here, how about I start the fire and you start brunch,” she offered, “Unless you are dreaming about the bathroom and that copper tub.”
“Aren’t you?” he asked, incredulously.
“You are so weird,” she laughed and went to build the fire.

Unpacking could wait in favour of food and a chance to relax in front of the fire. The cupboards were stocked with canned and jarred goods that the owners provided free of charge. If they got snowed in, they would survive nicely. He put away the groceries he had bought and started making their brunch. A cheese and onion frittata with spinach salad. He knew better than to think she would tolerate kale on a three day holiday.

“We should go for a walk after brunch,” he suggested, “You brought your hiking boots, right?”
“I did but if the snow gets worse…”
“Always looking for a way out, aren’t you?” he teased.
“Just make us food and save the chatter,” she admonished with a laugh as she got the fire started.

With preparations done, Oliver put the egg dish in the oven and set the timer. It wouldn’t take long and in the meantime, they could relax and and finish their coffee. To that end, he went in search of his wife and found her sitting on one of the lounger style chairs, like mini couches really, in front of the enormous windows, lost in thought.

“Here ya go,” he said softly, handing her coffee mug to her.
“Thank you,” she smiled up at him before taking a long sip of it.
“We don’t have to go on a walk after brunch,” he said.
“What would we do instead?” she asked.
“Well, after that long drive, we could check out the tub,” he suggested casually.
“You just wanted to come up to use that tub, didn’t you?” she said in mock accusation.
“Not JUST to use it,” he laughed as she rolled her eyes.
“Come and help me find the plates and cutlery,” he said and reached for her hand.

Felicity stopped to dig out her phone and set up her speakers so they could listen to music as they ate. She set it to play quietly, but he heard Billie Holiday singing softly from the livingroom. She always did have the best taste and ideas when it came to music. It fit the mood. The cloud ceiling was low, making it dark outside and in, and the snow was now coming down in gusting swirls as the wind picked up.

“I think we will be staying in,” he mused as he gave her a plate with a slice of the frittata on it and a generous helping of salad.
“Oh thank God,” she said, “I mean, I like hiking but not in the snow.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“You really are feeling frisky aren’t you?”
“Frisky?” he laughed, “No, just in a good mood.”

She looked at him, her gaze serious, and said, “It is nice to see.”
“Eat your salad,” he said, deflecting her attention away from him.

It wasn’t that he was shy, it was that he was uncomfortable under her close scrutiny. Being free and happy, after only six months, felt absurdly selfish to him. There were men in Slabside who had been there for decades. How could he celebrate his freedom knowing that? Knowing that he had put several of those men in there to die?

It felt dishonest and cruel. Yet, as he watched her enjoy their shared meal and listened to her discuss her ideas for her company, he felt his heart grow close to bursting. He would never regret coming home to her or William.

“So, now what?” she asked as she cleared away the remains of the food.
“Movie?” he asked.
“You pick it….this time.”

Clapping his hands together, Oliver headed towards the DVD collection beside the tv. He found one he knew would make her groan and plunked it in. “Come on! I’ve found the best movie in the whole bunch.”
“It had better not be Die Hard,” she muttered as she joined him on the couch.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t do that to you,” he chuckled, putting his arm around her, “It’s Die Hard 2.”

When she tried to get up, he pulled her back to the couch, refusing to let her go.

“I hate you for this,” she groaned.
“No you don’t! And we need to watch we can watch Die Hard 3.”

Felicity let fly with a string of insults that made him blush even as they turned the air blue.

“When you talk to me like that, I gotta say, it does something to me,” he whispered in her ear.
“Stop!” she laughed but once she was done, she settled in to watch the movie with him.

The credits rolled and his eyes slowly started to slide shut. He was struggling to keep awake but the heat of the fire, the warmth of her body, and comforting food they had shared, soon conspired to wear down his defenses.

He dreamed he was sitting alone in a field. He could see from one horizon to the other. The curve of the earth distorted the light only a bit and the sky above him was a brilliant, endless blue. He could hear crickets, starlings, the cry of a hawk, and the soft sound of the wind blowing ceaselessly over the tall grass that surrounded him.

There was no other sound, no clang of metal on metal, no shouts and cries of men locked away behind bars. He could hear his own heartbeat, echoing in his head, and the sound of his lungs filling with air was music to his ears. He had been holding his breath for six months and now, he could finally let it go.

Standing up, he stretched his arms to the sky, reaching up to work the kinks out of his back until he felt loose, limber and ready for whatever life had in store for him. But he was alone, no Felicity, no William, no one, just him. A flash of sadness blew past him, an anxiousness that was causing his heart to race just a bit and a sweat to break out on his forehead.

He needed to find them but all he could see was endless green and blue. Clouds were forming, distant and white, a demarcation line on the horizon, and the wind was starting to howl across the meadow. He wasn’t cold though, the wind was warm on his skin and he held his face up to the sun, reveling in the heat. Instinctively he knew, where the clouds were forming would be where he would find Felicity.


It was a sound that made his skin crawl. Every morning, no matter what, the guards would hit the bars of his cell.


Even if he was already awake and sitting up, one of them would come and hit the bars with a metal nightstick.


Always in groups of three: CLANG CLANG CLANG WAKE UP INMATE

It was always the same and he would freeze, his heart and mind gripped in a mind numbing anxiety that wormed past all his defenses. It lived somewhere in there still, waiting to sneak out. It was instinct now to run from it, to flee in terror from the immediacy of it, the rawness of it.


Oliver flew away over the field, running as fast as he could, crashing through the high grass with a care for the damage it was doing to his shins or the holes he might fall in, sight unseen. None of that mattered, he needed to get away from that sound even though he knew that is was inescapable.


The voice boomed, rolling across the open fields, bouncing off the sky and back to the earth, making it impossible for him to get out from under it. If he could find a structure to get into, somewhere to hide, he could get it to stop ringing in his ears. The horizon was where he needed to be, somewhere where the earth rounded away from the sky, letting sound flow over his head and away into the atmosphere. He would be able to figure out a plan once he got there, he could find Felicity, and escape this hell.

The sound came again, seemingly from right over head, and he collapsed to the ground, his hands clapped over his ears. It was unending, over and over WAKE UP INMATE, until the scream that he had swallowed for six months finally came bursting out of him.

He howled in rage, loneliness, frustration and helplessness.

Oliver awoke with a start. His heart was hammering in his chest so loud it was echoing in his body. Loud and insistent. Wildly, he looked beside him, thinking Felicity was next to him but the couch was empty. For a minute, he wasn’t even sure where he was, he had been expecting to see himself back in the cell that had been his home by choice.

“Felicity?” he called out, his voice warbling just a enough to belay his fear.

Hearing nothing, he got up on shaking legs and went in search of her. She wasn’t in the kitchen behind him or out by the log outbuilding getting firewood from what he could see. The snow had shifted from heavy, wet flakes to blowing, drifting snow. The Jeep was buried up to the top of its wheel wells and it was quiet, so quiet outside.

Somewhere in the forest a raven chuckled, a branch cracked and broke under the weight of accumulated snow and tumbled to the cushioned forest floor. It was eery. He wasn’t used to this kind of buffered silence. It made finding Felicity even more imperative for his sanity.

The raven called again as he walked through the bedroom, he saw the fire had a new log laid on top, and found Felicity, asleep on one of the oversized lounge chairs. Her tablet was in her hand, a cold mug of coffee beside her, and she had found a thick, wool blanket to curl up under.

With a smile, he carefully slipped under the blanket with her, and watched the blizzard through the enormous windows. It was a view he would gladly come home to everyday for the rest of his life if he could. He watched a large raven fly from tree top to tree top as it tried to find shelter from the storm.

“Hey,” she murmured, moving over to give him more room beside her.
“Hey,” he said softly, “I’m guessing I slept through the movie.”
“You did but I watched we never have to watch it again.”

He laughed at her misguided belief that he would never watch it with her again. It was something he would do if he ever wanted to drive her nuts in the future. She had subjected him to so many romantic comedies and terrifying horror movies, he felt it was only fair.

“This is some storm,” he commented as a gust of wind temporarily blotted out the valley and sky. It was getting darker by the minute as the storm settled overtop of them.
“It is. I’m glad you stopped for extra supplies and we decided to use the Jeep,” she said. She shifted her body so that they were spooned together, facing the windows and the storm. “I’m hoping that we get to see some wildlife. I was looking forward to finally seeing a bear.”
“They are most likely in hibernation or close to it. But you do not want to come face to face with a grizzly...not now,” he cautioned. Grizzlies were not to be messed with at all, he thought. They were lethal no matter what time of year they were encountered.

The log on the fire cracked and hissed as it began to burn, sending a wave of heat out through the cabin. It was a marvel of architecture. The one fireplace was able to generate enough sustained heat to keep the entire structure heated was a testament to the way it had been constructed. There were baseboard heaters but they hadn’t yet turned them on, relying on the stone structure to keep them warm, and he doubted they would use them at all. Between their own body heat and the fireplace, they would be just fine.

“If it stops snowing tonight, we should go and check out the mountain,” she suggested, “maybe build a snowman.”
“Build a snowman?” he laughed, “I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”
“WHAT?” she exclaimed, turning to look at him in dismay, “We are going to build one. Tomorrow. After breakfast.”
“Ok, ok,” he said, holding his hands in the air, surrendering to her decision.
“But right now, I just want to stay here,” she said quietly, pulling the blanket up to her chin.

He was more than happy to comply. He thought he would get restless, that residual anxiety still coursing through his body, but the calm of the cabin and the soft silence of the snow had combined to relax him completely.

“What were you dreaming about earlier?” she asked, concerned and curious about his inner world.
“Did I yell?” he asked, deflecting for the moment, to see what she heard.
“You were restless. I was going to sit on the couch with you were so tense. It was like you were ready to spring up and just run for as long and as far as you could,” she said, her voice distant as she cast her memory back to remember it for him,

He had wrapped his arm around her and felt her muscles tense and relax. She wasn’t telling him the entire story but not out of an sense of maliciousness. She was concerned, he could feel that as he held her, but she wanted him to reveal what it was on his own.

“I was in a field. It was beautiful. Just tall green grass, clear blue sky. There were birds singing, was unbelievably alive and peaceful. But I could hear something...a sound...that I heard twice a day in Slabside. The guards would wake us up by hitting the bars on the doors with a metal baton, three times, and yell at us to wake up. At night, they would do it at lights out,” he felt like the words were strangling him, that scream beginning to build again in his throat, “As I stood in the field, that sound started. The yelling started. I ran, Felicity, I ran towards one of the horizons.”
“What was on the horizon?” she asked gently.
“You,” was all he said, his eyes following the swirling clouds of snow outside the window.

Oliver thought about that belief in his dream, that the horizon he had chosen was where she was even though he couldn’t see her. It was a universal truth for him that when he couldn’t see her, he could still find her. So long as they both drew breath in this world, they would always find the other. He knew her heart, her mind and her spirit. They would call to him in the next life, he was absolutely sure of it.

“But that sound...I was howling in frustration when I woke up. Even when I was in Level 2, if I heard that sound or a guard yelling at us to wake up, I wanted to scream,” he explained. He was playing with her hair, rolling strands around his fingers, trying to keep his heart calm.
“We need to talk about Level 2,” she said firmly but gently.
“Not yet,” he whispered, his skin crawled at the mere mention of that place. He had gone there deliberately and still bore the psychic scars from it.
“Ok, we can wait until you are ready,” she reassured him, her hands finding his under the blanket.

Felicity sighed in contentment. They were warm and together, facing a storm that for once wasn’t due to their relationship or his decisions. It felt like the beginning of a new natural state for them, one filled with all the things he had put in jeopardy by going to Slabside.

“What time is it?” he asked, “It is impossible to tell with the cloud cover so low and dense.”
“It’s…,” she paused to check her tablet, “a little after three o’clock.”
“It feels closer to dinner time.”
“Well…,” she said, pausing to let her grumbling stomach do the speaking for her.
“How about a snack instead.” he suggested, “Dinner can come later.”
“Ice cream?” she asked.
“Of course. But I found something new to try. Come on,” he said getting up.
“My curiosity is piqued,” she teased.

He enjoyed surprising her and the bourbon and honey ice cream he had found should do the trick. He made sure to ask for peanut brittle to top it with, knowing it was one of her favourites. They way she finished her bowlful, he was not wrong. She gave him a kiss that tasted like bourbon and headed to the bathroom.

On a whim, he looked out the window above the sink towards the Jeep but could barely see it. The snow had drifted over top of its roof as well as up over the small deck that faced the road. It wasn’t cold though so the snow was dense and heavy, not the dry snow of true winter. If he was right, as soon as the sun came out, the snow would melt fairly quickly.

“Hey, Oliver?” she called from the bathroom.
“Yeah?” he answered.
“Come here!”

Curious, he followed her voice to the bathroom. It was the only separate room in the cabin but it, too, faced the valley that the bedroom and livingroom faced. He wondered what she wanted him for and then he heard the running water.

“Felicity, what are you doing?” he asked as he opened the door.
“You have got to see this,” was all she said.

The owners had renovated. A lot. They had installed a new tub in the corner of the room, level with the windows that provided an uninterrupted view of the forest to the left of it and the valley in front. The new shower stall was glass and they had installed a stone bench along the wall, away from the rainfall showerhead. They had also built in a small gas fireplace to keep the room warm and softly lit, like it was now.

The day was giving way to night but the light outside was still the cool silver blue that only a sun hidden by clouds and snow could produce. Inside the bathroom, with the fireplace going, it was warm and golden. Felicity was running the water, filling the large tub with hot water. He looked at her, curious, and waited for more.

“I think we should buy this place,” she said suddenly.
“Really?” He was surprised at her suggestion but it sparked a certain excitement. A cabin. He actually very much liked the idea.
“Yeah. We could renovate the log cabin that stores the firewood for Will and build a separate structure for the firewood, garbage and any recycling we would have she said, a ghost of a smile on her lips, like she was lost in a memory of what could be.

Oliver crossed the space between them and sat on the tub’s edge. Taking her hand in his, he said softly, “Let’s do it.”
“You think so?” she asked, hopeful but disbelieving all at once.
“Yes. This place is perfect for us.”
“I’ll make some inquiries,” she said softly, “Now come on, get undressed. I’m not getting in this tub alone.”
“You drive a hard bargain, Felicity,” he sighed as he undressed himself.

She laughed as she watched him. He was in the tub before she turned off the water, set the temperature and the jets to keep the hot water moving. Oliver had fallen in love with taking baths with her when they had escaped on their round the world tour. From Positano to Bali, they had embarked on trip to discover each other and the relationship they were slowly building together. Every location had ended up with them in a bathtub built for two.

“If only for this view alone, we need to buy this place,” he whistled softly. The snow was tapering off, now falling softly, revealing the valley beyond the windows. It was picturesque and perfect.
“Not the tub?” she teased as she eased herself into water beside him.
“Hush,” he chuckled and pulled her in front of him so her back was to him and she was sitting on his lap. The slowly moving water, which fizzed and bubbled on the surface, gently buffered her against his chest.

Her hair was up in a messy bun, with wisps of shorter, curly hair trailing down her neck. Next to her hair being down, this was one of his favourite styles on her. The naturalness of it suited her and sealed the deal for them buying the cabin. He would forever tie this moment to the decision to buy it. Plus, he thought wistfully, when they had children of their own, this would be a perfect place to retreat to as a family.

“I am just happy there is a dedicated satellite hook up. It is safe and secure,” she said, “It would make working from here a breeze.”
“Listen,” he said matter-of-factly, “I can only say yes so much.”
“Stop,” she laughed, nudging him in the ribs, “I am just saying. Plus, I think this is a safe place for you, for us. We can work through what is still between us and not bring it home.”
“I agree,” he said softly. She was right. This could be a place of healing for them both.

He ran his hands down her arms, watching them float on top of the moving water. She had scented it with something delicately floral and earthy. It reminded him of a shop she had taken him to in Pompeii where they made perfumes based on ancient formulas. She had bought perfume and wore it still to this day.

“Is what I am smelling from Pompeii?” he asked, his lips next to her ear.
“It is. I paid a fortune in shipping charges to get it,” she chuckled, laying her head back on his shoulder.
“It smells wonderful,” he murmured and pulled her close to him.
“Here,” she said, reaching for a loofa and a small bottle, “You know the drill.”

Laughing, he took the the items from her and put a small amount of the gel from the bottle on the loofa. It was scented much like the oil in the water. Tenderly, he washed her back. Her scars had lost the angry, red puckered ridges and had faded to a delicate pink, smooth and flattened out. He watched the soapy bubbles flow past them, it reminded him of water running over and past rocks in a stream.

Their scars bound them together as sure as the rings on their fingers. She wore clothes that showed them, without a care as to what people might think or see and he loved her fiercely for it. He traced them with his fingertips as she flexed forward to reveal more of her back. Slipping one arm around her waist, he pulled her back just enough for him to lay a lingering kiss on the scar on her shoulder. It was the first bullet wound she sustained, the first scar on her body.

“Hmmm,” she hummed, “That tingles.”
“In a good way, I hope,” he murmured softly. He let go of the loofa, letting it float on the currents in the tub, and used his hands to lather the body wash over her arms, her breast and down her body. Oliver loved the new firmness in her abdomen, the way her arms had toned up so that her muscles were effortlessly on display.

“Your turn,” she said drowsily and pushed herself off of his lap, giving him room to move forward. She slipped behind him and got the loofa ready.
“I hope the sky clears at some point. Imagine the stars…,” he said in wonderment. Seeing the sky lit up with trillions of stars was one of his favourite things, especially now with Felicity.
“Me, too,” she sighed.

He was about to comment on the telescope in the living room, camouflaged by plants and flanked by books, when he felt her fingertips on the arrow brand on his back. She was tenderly tracing the grooves within its border. Next she traveled down his back to the exit wound left by Ra’s Al Ghul’s blade. She lade the flat of her hand on the shark bite, dipping her fingers into the long healed wounds left by its teeth.

Oliver closed his eyes and focused on what she was doing, the path she was taking with how she paid homage to him. The scars on his arms, his shoulders, the burn scars on his lower back, the bullet wounds and grazes, all of them were honoured as she prodded and gently massaged the damage done to him.

It was as though she was trying to heal him, to give him the space to do what he needed to do so that they could get to healing the open wounds between them. When she kissed the centre of his back, he stopped breathing. Every cell in his body began to vibrate. Something fundamental shifted in him, changed shape. He felt renewed, like pieces of his soul he thought lost forever were finally coming back to rejoin the others.

She blew life into him with a simple kiss.

“I don’t think we should leave here,” he said quietly, “This is should be our home.”
“Eventually,” she murmured, her hands still moving over his skin.

He sighed when her fingers brushed past his cock. She didn’t linger, all she did was graze the shaft and continued back up his taut belly. It was dizzying. When she would touch one area, his mind was still processing the place she had caressed last. From his hips to his shoulder to his back to his arms. Oliver was almost at the point where he was going to beg her to stop when her hand dipped low and she grasped his stiffening penis in her hand and stroked him, firmly and slow.

“Felicity…,” he said in warning. They were dangerously close to the point of no return and he needed her to make a choice.
“I know what I’m doing, Oliver,” she answered and moved out from behind him. With her back to his chest, she settled against him, pushing his erect cock against him. “Did you think I was going to waste the tub and this view?”
“You are a sneaky one,” he chuckled. He leaned his forehead against the back of her head and breathed her in. His hands moved over her body, feeling the suppleness of her muscles, the way she welcomed his touch. When she turned to face him, he reached up and pulled the pin out of her hair that was keeping it up. Her hair tumbled down to her shoulders in loose waves, catching and holding the light in the room.

“Oliver,” she said softly, “there is no other place I would rather be than here with you. I can’t imagine this life without you.”
“Never again,” he murmured, his eyes on her lips, “I will never leave you ever again.”

Felicity raised his head so that she could see his eyes. It felt like she was entering his mind, heart and soul. He was laid bare, with no ability to hide. She cupped his face, stroking his lips with her thumbs, and said in a voice just above a whisper, “Your heart is mine and mine is yours. Even if we are separated by time or space, we will always, always, always find each other.”

Her hands slid slowly down his neck and over his shoulders, her right hand settled over his heart, her fingertips tracing the rounded ridges of scar tissue left by Adrian Chase’s mini blowtorch. His muscles twitched. He still felt so much shame for how the scar happened, that he had been unable to free himself. Some days, when his mind was quiet, the ghost of that memory would roar into life, tearing his mind apart.

“We are alive when we are together, Oliver, truly alive,” she murmured, drifting closer and closer to his lips, “There is no war to fight here, no siege to defend me from. Here we can find each other again.”
“We will,” he said softly as he pulled her closer, “I trust us.”

Felicity closed the distance between them and kissed him with such tenderness he forgot to breathe. Her lips were satiny soft against his and her tongue was like velvet as it explored his mouth. There was more than just an undercurrent of desire in her kiss. It started soft and intimate but shifted as the heat between them grew.

It was a distraction for him though. He didn’t feel her reach between them and guided his cock into her body. He broke from the kiss to look at her in wonder. Making love to her in water was different, more intense. There was no wild thrusting, big movements or changing of positions. Instead, he had to hand over all control to her.

The wet heat of her was still there but it was different, welcoming but less slippery. She was tighter around him, hotter, and when she ground against him in a circular, sinuous way that was deeply intimate, sensual, it was enough to push him to the edge of ecstasy.

She rolled her hips against his, her gaze locked onto his, and he saw flashes of light come from her eyes. The swirls of gold around her pupils collected the firelight and shined it back on him. The deep blue of her eyes contained galaxies and through them he had found a universe of love within her.

“I love you, Felicity,” he gasped, feeling her body tightened and pulse around him, “Only you.”
“I will only ever love you, Oliver,” she whispered, “You were worth the wait.”

He smiled and leaned in to kiss her again, before saying, “I would have waited a dozen lifetimes for you if need be.”
“It’s a good thing I came along when I did,” she smiled and returned his kiss.

She gripped the back of his neck and tried to keep them focused on the slow, deliberate movements of her body in check. He could feel the way she was pulsing around his cock. It was a deep, powerful muscular contraction, one that was enough to trigger the release of the fire in his pelvis. It roared through his body, burned through his resistance.

Her breathing was laboured and ragged. He looked at her, his vision growing hazy, and what he saw left him in awe. The light outside had grown into a dark, silvery blue. It was slowly losing the battle with golden light inside. The border between the two had found her, framing her in such a way that she looked made of alabaster and bronze.

“You should see you right now,” he said in a voice full of wonder and love, “I am so lucky…”
“You certainly are,” she answered back in a low, deep voice, “I should marry you again.”

He was laughing when she clenched down hard around him and cried out. Her orgasm was a sustained one, it rolled over them both, rumbling the earth under them, and slowly, it repeated again and again. He held her close and let his own come causing his cock to throb and twitch deep inside her. Her name was on his lips as he poured himself out, emptied out in a long, hard stream. She filled his vision, his heart and his world.

There was something he would never admit to her about just how deep his love was for her. He loved William, and would love any children they would have together, but he could not survive if she were to disappear forever. Her death would cause his own.

They were tied together, heart and soul. Remaining locked together, staring into each other’s eyes, he knew the lengths she went to in order to free him. He understood the choices she made and strangely, he was proud of her taking the route she took. She was impossibly brave, braver than he ever had or could be, and it only added to the completeness of how he loved her.

They clung to one another, lost to the rhythms of their bodies, the water gently lapping against them. She was still quivering around him, small shudders of exquisite ecstasy that held her consciousness hovering just outside her body. It was joyous and primal.

“I never want to have none of you again, Oliver. I need all of you. Do you understand?” she asked in a voice that held the agony of his betrayal but also all of the love she had for him.
“I do,” he said, “I do and I will try.”
“We have to take the happy moments when we can,” she murmured, “They will carry us through the dark times.”

She put her head on his shoulder and tightened her embrace. In his mind, he imagined that she was trying to rewrite his DNA, to remove the stain of trauma from the cells that made his body whole. Her love flooded the spaces between the atoms and buffered him as he stretched his consciousness thin trying to heal.

The water quietly foamed and fizzled around them, still hot and soothing. He closed his eyes and listened to the way the wind was blowing the heavy snow against the cabin. It was calming to hear things that were gentle, less metallic. His attention shifted from what was around them to her. To the way she was pressed so tightly against him, the soft feel of her breath on his skin, the intimate way she kept his softened cock in her body. He couldn’t feel any tension in her body, just a deep connection that gave him hope for the future.

“Should we get out?” he asked. He kissed her shoulder, her neck, and cheek. Her skin was silky smooth under his lips.
“Not yet,” she hummed, “The water feels so good.”
“Hmmm?” she answered, pulling back so that she could look him in the eyes.
“If you keep doing what you are doing…,” he half warned, half begged her to stop what she was doing. She was using her strong, pelvic muscles to massage his cock in her body. It was mesmerizing.
“I know what I’m about, Oliver,” she teased, a flush crossing her cheeks, “and I know you.”
“When we were separated,” Oliver began, hedging away from saying Slabside for the moment, “I kept that picture of you and William close, every night. I looked at it, touched it, every time I was in my cell. It was like a talisman, it kept me grounded, focused.”

She was studying him and then she kissed him with a tenderness that cleared away the last of doubt in his heart.

“I ached for you. Every night,” he whispered against her lips, “I would dream of you.”
“I never forgot the way your hands felt on my skin,” she whispered back, “Or the sound of your voice. I missed you, Oliver, I missed you, all of you.”

The daylight finally lost its hold and the valley below was blanketed by darkness, which flowed up the mountainside and over the cabin. The only light was from the small fireplace in the bathroom and the dim glow from the larger on in the centre of the cabin. Steam was rising from the surface of the water and they were both relaxed in its current.

“There is nothing I won’t do for you,” he said, tears threatened to form as she caressed his face.
“Let’s get out,” she murmured. She was still using the strong muscles in her pelvic floor to massage his cock and now, much to his surprise, his body was responding.

Standing up, he pulled her legs up around his waist and carefully stepped out of the tub. She kept her eyes locked on his, making no move to have him put her down, all the while she continued to pull and stroke his cock with her body. She wound her arms around his neck and pulled their bodies closer together.

“We need to dry off, Felicity,” he chuckled.
“No, we don’t,” she admonished and then silenced him with a deep, passionate kiss.
“God, I love you,” he whispered, breathless and humbled, against her parted lips. The heat of the fire was drying them off but the space between their bodies was still damp. It didn’t bother him, his focus was on her.

He left the close confines of the bathroom and stepped into the bedroom. The large pine log she has laid on the fire earlier was fully engulfed in flames, heat poured off of it in waves. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her, lost to the intensity of her gaze.

“Uh uh,” she said with a shake of her head, “Your turn.”
“It won’t take long,” he gasped as she squeezed down around him.
“Just so long as you are gentle,” she breathed across his lips.
“Always,” he smiled.

His cock was now hard and locked, buried deep inside her. It took him only a second to flip them so that she was on her back in the middle of the bed. Slowly, he pulled out of her and then thrust back in just as slow. She gripped his shoulders and left herself in his hands.

“I know what you sacrificed to free me,” he whispered as he pinned her hips to the bed with his own, “I can’t promise we won’t have to make sacrifices in the future, but I will make this one up to you.”
“ me,” she said, her voice imploring him even as she grew breathless.

He rolled his hips slowly against hers. There were no large movements, just a motion that felt like ocean waves. Reaching down, he pulled her legs up high around his waist and pushed further into her body while he pulled his own knees up, helping to angle her hips up off the bed. Her grip on his arms momentarily relaxed and then she gasped.

“God, Oliver…,” she said as she pulled his head down to kiss him, “Let’s do this for three days.”
“I am only one man,” he chuckled against her lips, teasing her lips apart with his tongue.

From there, they lost themselves to the rising need of their bodies. She placed a hand on the back of his neck and one on his face, keeping her eyes locked to his. They had made love in so many different ways and places but every once in awhile, something would happen between them that elevated the intimacy they shared into something new. As he moved their bodies, he felt the creation of just such a new moment forming between them.

As her eyes filled his vision, he felt as though some vital part of their beings had reconnected and merged. It was as though the cornerstone of their relationship was being relaid. Intimacy between them was easy but this was something different, far more intense and charged with emotion. His anxiety quieted down and his mind finally stilled.

He watched a flush creep up her neck and spread to her cheeks, her breathing grew rapid, and the way she held onto him increased in intensity. He wrapped one arm around her and increased the tempo of how he rocked their bodies together. She pushed against him, hard and tight, and she shuddered, clenching down on his cock in a rhythmic pulse. It felt otherworldly.

Every sensation, small thrust and sigh from her felt filled with new hope, promises and beginnings. Her orgasm was long, sustained and powerful. It was a force of nature that commanded his body, stripped him of his control with seductive grace. He joined her in a state of ecstasy, thrusting hard into her as he came in a hot, flooding stream. Felicity kissed his cheeks, forehead and finally his lips.

“Shhh,” she soothed, her voice cracking, “Don’t cry, Oliver, please.”
“I didn’t realize,” he laughed in spite of himself but felt a wave of emotion, one of love, sadness, regret and an unwavering belief that his wife would not only help him see the way back to her but that she would change the world for the better. She had taken his hand and walked him out of the wilderness of his mind and she had stayed.

She sought out his mouth again and kissed him with loving tenderness. He tasted the salt of his tears on her lips and tongue but there was no sorrow carried on it. He wasn’t crying out of sadness but relief, of knowing her heart once again.

Carefully, he moved off of her and laid down on the bed, pulling the afghan at the foot of the bed up and over them. It wasn’t a heavy blanket but the fire was still large and hot, keeping the chill out of the air. They laid in each other’s arms, quiet and calm, listening to the wind as it picked up outside, lashing the side of the cabin that faced away from the valley.

He was still acclimating to her kindness, her fierceness, the intensity of her love. If he had spent anymore time in Slabside, he feared that he would have been lost to his own darkness, maybe too far gone for her to find him.

“Oliver,” she said softly, resting her chin on his chest, “never doubt that I won’t find you. You will never, ever be lost to me.”

It never failed, he thought as he looked down at her, she could always read his mind when he was deep in doubt.

“You always know just what to say,” he smiled, marveling at how her eyes captured the light in the room and reflected it back at him.
“Well, I have to bolster you so that you make us dinner,” she teased gently.
“It’s still early, love,” he laughed.
“We are going to need our energy!”
“Felicity, I think I am tapped out.”
“Hardly,” she grumbled and got up to head back into the bathroom.

A few minutes later, she called, “Oliver? The water is still hot.”

He didn’t need to be told twice. This time, they simply bathed and talked about what to do in the morning if the snow didn’t taper off. She was insistent they they were going out into the snow to make snowpeople and snow angels. Having grown up in the desert, any excuse to get out in the snow was a good one for her.

At the Queen Mansion, when it snowed, the nannies would take him and Thea out to the garden where they would watch the snow when it fell but then whisk them back inside for hot chocolate and cookies. It was idyllic but not engaging. He would get bored and wander off to the attic where he could play in peace.

In their own ways, they had lonely childhoods. The main difference was that hers was in poverty and his was in unimaginable wealth. He had listened to her stories and quietly spoke a promise to the universe that their children would never have to want for love or shelter. They may never possess the wealth that his parents did at their height, but he was determined to provide in some way to keep them happy and comfortable.

“So what’s for dinner?” she asked innocently as she dried off.
“Macaroni and cheese,” he answered casually.
“You have got to be kidding me.”

He laughed at her disbelief. She knew better but he wasn’t going to tell her and spoil the surprise he had in store for her. The owners had stocked the fridge with everything they would need and more. Including her absolute favourite: strawberries and whipped cream.

“Don’t worry,” he reassured her, kissing her soundly on the cheek, “I’ll make sure the cheese powder is completely mixed in.”

If looks could kill, there would be no breath left in his body or skin to cover his skeleton. She swore at him under her breath as she brushed her hair. Macaroni and cheese, even the gourmet version he had made a few times for William and himself, had not gone over well with her. It was one of the only foods she refused to eat. There was a story there but she had yet to tell him. He suspected it had to do with her childhood but he’d decided to wait for her to tell him why instead of prying it out of her.

He was going to make them a pizza of his own creation and a pear, candied walnut and gorgonzola spinach salad. As she grumbled at him, he left to make it. The oven needed to heat up and the ingredients prepared for the buffalo mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Genoa salami pizza.

Felicity laid a large log on the fire, put on a movie, another one of her rom coms, and opened the wine. He sighed in defeat. It was going to be a very long night if the movie that started up was any indication. If there was a God, the wine would work its wonders and put her to sleep with enough time for him to put in a movie he wanted to watch.

Dessert was, as he expected, a huge success. He was certain that if he turned his back for even a moment, she would have snatched the whipped cream tub and ate every last bit. She did manage to dip her fingers into it and licked them clean, one at a time, while staring into his eyes. He had frozen in place as she deliberately sucked the whipped cream off of her fingertips.

The movies were forgotten, their dinner plates left on the kitchen counter and in the sink. He had picked her up and carried her back their bed. The sex was frantic and energetic. She had made him kneel on the bed behind her at one point, the sound of their bodies meeting had filled the cabin, before sitting up to allow his hands to roam over her body. He had stroked her clit as he thrust into her hard and deep, making her come more times then either of them could count.

By the end, they were both drenched in sweat and exhausted. The wine and sugar had combined into a heady mix but had been unable to quench the insatiable desire they had for each other. They had been so gentle with each other earlier in the afternoon. Tenderly making love as a way to reconnect. But after dinner, after the wine, they had been frantic to touch, taste and explore each other.

“That….was amazing,” she said simply.
“It was something,” he said in a voice that was distant even to his ears.
“We are going to do that again. Tomorrow.” She was distractedly running her fingers over his scarred hands, counting the new scars and feeling for healed fractures and breaks.
“Tomorrow? Not in an hour?” he teased.
“Oh Oliver. You are not a young man anymore,” she said with a sad shake of her head.

Barry Allen might be the world’s fastest man due to his meta abilities, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Oliver’s muscular strength and speed. Before Felicity knew what was happening, he had her pinned under the length of his body and was nuzzling her neck with his beard stubble. She was laughing but swearing a blue streak. When she cried “Uncle!”, he relented and rolled off of her.

“I will never forgive you for that,” she gasped, “I think you flattened me.”
“That’ll learn you,” was all he said.
“What will learn you,” she said as she got up and headed to bathroom to clean up, “is doing our dinner dishes while I do some work.”

It wasn’t late but he was ready for bed by the time he was done cleaning up the kitchen. He was still locked in the prison routine of lights out by ten o’clock, up at six. He glanced at the sitting area off the bedroom and saw Felicity busily typing on her tablet, her phone by her side. Quietly, he settled onto the chair next to hers, laid back and closed his eyes.

The soft tapping of her fingers on the table,t and the way the frozen pellets and snow was hitting the windows next to him, lulled him into a somnolent state. His dreams and reality mixed and merged into a confusing repeating cycle of guards yelling and gentle tapping on the pillow under his head.

“Oliver…babe….wake up.”

At first, he wasn’t sure if the voice he was hearing was real. The hand on his thigh was warm and this he was sure was real. He opened his eyes to the darkened room. Felicity had turned off the lights and was sitting next to him on his lounger. Concern radiated from her. He covered her hand with his own in reassurance that he was ok.

“I am still on prison time,” he said quietly.
“Well, it is almost eleven. Come on,” she said as she stood up, “Go get ready for bed.”
“I see you have your pajamas on already,” he commented, taking in her shorts and tshirt.
“You have been dozing for about an hour. Now go,” she smiled.

Oliver stretched in his seat but got up and headed into the bathroom to get ready for bed. It was such a normal thing to do and he treasured every moment of it. The privacy and freedom to just be human again. By the time he was done, Felicity was in bed already. Her tablet and phone were charging off in the sitting area, their faint glow slowly fading as they powered down.

“The fires should hold until morning, right?” she asked sleepily.
“I’ll throw a small log on otherwise, I think it’ll burn to low,” he decided after looking at it.

The fire stoked and replenished, Oliver crawled into bed with Felicity. It only took a minute for them to adjust their positions so that she was curved into his body. Sleep came for them fast in the warm cabin. It was a dark, dreamless sleep that lasted for hours.

Oliver woke up at one point only to find Felicity had turned towards him, her head on his chest. Her breathing was deep and regular. He played with her hair, winding strands of it around his fingers, gently putting himself back to sleep. She sighed deeply and looked up at him, her eyes half open, and smiled.

He had no idea what time it was but he guessed a number of hours had passed by based on the how low the fire was burning. He was going to get up and feed it another small log when he felt her kiss the new scar on his torso from where he had deliberately stabbed himself. She wasn’t saying a word. All she was doing was exploring his body, looking for new scars and wounds to heal.

She was methodical, patient. He closed his eyes and welcomed the tender kisses, the gentle touches and only reached for her when he felt the warm splash of her tears on his skin. They held on tight to one another and let the tears come. He felt they had finally crossed to the other side of the divide between them, drawing the edges together and erasing the chasm that had threatened to engulf them.

Without a word, Felicity sat up and removed the tshirt she had on and straddled his hips and moved against him. Pushing his pajama bottoms down, he freed his cock, hard already just from a few gentle motions of her hips, moved her shorts aside and thrust slowly inside her.

They made love in a haze of tears and whispered promises. It wasn’t the first time they had awoken in the middle of the night and searched each other out, knowing the other was waiting for just this exquisite pleasure. Now it was like they were making up for lost time, trying to find a balance of love, lust and desire in the midst of trying to find redemption and forgiveness.

He couldn’t remember when her orgasm over took her or when his shattered his heart and mind. What he did remember was how they clung to each other afterwards, how she wept, and how sleep claimed them again with such ruthlessness, that when they awoke hours later, they hadn’t moved from their intimate embrace. Whatever the day might bring, Oliver hoped it would end this way again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

The Wreckage

He looked out across the sky
Finding her drifting
towards the unknown


Felicity stretched in bed and opened her eyes. It was early but Oliver was already up. She felt his pillow, it still felt warm to the touch, so he hadn’t left the bed all that long ago. The enticing aroma of brewing coffee, eggs and toast drifted to her and she smiled. After several desperate attempts to cook for herself and William when Oliver was imprisoned, Felicity had given up completely. William had taken over but was no substitute for his father’s culinary skills.

Getting out of bed seemed like Herculean task after the many ways they had explored their bodies and limits the day before. It was like when they first left Star City. They had exhausted each other, everyday for the first month. It had been rapturous, divinely erotic, like nothing she had ever experienced. The cabin was working that kind of magic on them and she was curious to see if it they could reach that same intensity again.

“You’re awake,” he said softly as he came into the bedroom. He crossed over to the bed and leaned down to give her a sweet, soft kiss. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” she smiled, “So what’s for breakfast?”
“Get up and find out,” he said and pulled her up.
“Ok! Ok!” she laughed, “I need to get dressed. I’ll be out in a minute.”

With a loud, smacking kiss, he let her go and left to finish cooking. Felicity watched him leave and felt the spark of heat in her blood flare into life. The way he moved had always entranced her. Despite the way he was built, he was so solid and strong, he moved with a fluid grace that took her breath away. Even now, so many years later, it was a joy to watch him.

“Remember, we are going to build snowpeople after breakfast,” she said as she helped herself to a slice of toast with homemade blackberry jam.
“It’s still snowing,” he protested.

Felicity paused to look outside at the snow shrouded world beyond the windows. It was magical. Snow was falling softly and it hung on branches, thick and heavy, pulling them down to earth. The wind was blowing gently, pushing loose snow against the cabin, the log out building and trees. The Jeep was covered almost completely and she could see small tracks in the snow from squirrels, rabbits and deer.

The conditions outside were perfect for playing in the snow even though the sun was hidden behind dense, white clouds. She wanted to get out as quickly as she could.

“Come on,” she said eagerly, “Let’s eat up and get outside.”
“I didn’t pack any mitts or scarves,” he said too casually, “We should dress properly if we are going out in the snow.”
“Oliver, look at the cedar chest by the door,” she said and pointed to it, “I checked. We are fine. There are even boots in there.”
“Oh,” he said, defeated, “I guess I am beaten.”
“Yup. Now eat up. It’ll be fun!”

Oliver looked at her balefully, disbelieving her assertion. She grew up in Nevada where snow was hard to come by so any chance she had to get out and enjoy it brought nothing but joy. Digging through the cedar chest, she found mitts and scarves for both of them and then went back to find clothes to wear.

“We are going to get soaked,” Oliver complained, “The snow is dry but we aren’t exactly dressing for a day outdoors.”
“Oh shush,” she admonished, “and come get your mitts.”

Felicity was out the door first. She stood for a moment and looked up at the sky. The snow was falling so gently, so softly, but when it landed on her face, it collected in her eyelashes and melted on her skin. It was as close to perfect as she imagined it would be.

Reluctantly, Oliver joined her and together they discovered the pure joy of building a snowman, woman and, on his insistence, snow children and a dog. Once they were complete, they stood back to appreciate their handiwork.

“Oliver, the snowlady is a bit...lopsided,” she chuckled. They had tried to build her as close to anatomically correct as possible but one breast was definitely bigger than the other.
“You made ‘em,” he said with a shrug.
“Nice. Blaming me as per usual,” she grumbled goodnaturedly.
“I think buying this place would be a good idea. Summer will be beautiful, spring will be amazing, fall will be spectacular and we are seeing winter,” he said as he watched her fix the bosom of the snowlady.
“William will love it,” she said, “He likes fishing, which I don’t get, but he likes it and there is a stream that runs through the property. I did some checking last night before I fell asleep while I was in the sitting room.”
“I don’t understand the fishing. He must have picked it up from his grandfather. Just imagine our children up here,” he said wistfully.

Felicity was glad that she was facing away from him. She knew panic and fear must have crossed her face, making her look like a frightened deer. He had been laying hints about wanting to start a family since his release. It felt reactionary and rushed. She needed to be sure in her heart that he would never do what he did ever again and as much as she loved him, as much as she wanted to have children with him, she didn’t trust him. There was something she couldn’t put her finger on, but once she had it figured out, then she could begin to find her way back to trusting him with her heart and life again.

The fear of abandonment, so deeply rooted in her DNA, kept her locked in a cycle of wanting so badly to have her own family she could taste and feel it, but she was also terrified that she would be left alone to raise their children. She loved Oliver more than life itself but the wound of abandonment was still too fresh and every so often the pain of it would rear up and she would retreat behind it, gasping in pain.

She remained silent and focused on the task in front of her. Oliver had wandered off to checkout the log outbuilding and how much firewood they had. The fireplace was efficient but they were going through a lot of wood now that the weather had turned. She paused to watch him walking through the high drifts and her heart ached. She loved him and knew deep down he would be the selfless father to their children that their own fathers had never been to them. Tears pricked at her eyes and she quickly wiped them away. If he saw, she would have to explain why and she couldn’t do that to him. Not yet.

She turned away and looked out over the valley. The distant mountains were shrouded in mist and clouds. There was more snow on the way. Maybe a lot of snow. With any luck, the sun would fight its way through the clouds and start to melt the huge drifts that surrounded them. The road, from what she could see, was completely impassable. If it snowed any more, they might be looking at being here a little longer than they expected.

The snow was beginning to fall in thicker waves, swirling around her as the wind gusted. She was lost in watching the different shapes land and melt on her mitts when something happened that for just a moment, short circuited her brain. She couldn’t sort it out. It was as though she was coated in ice.

Bit by bit, it registered. Oliver had taken advantage of her distractedness to sneak up on her and dump an armload of snow down the back of her sweater. It had shocked her so badly, she had literally stopped thinking.

“Oliver. I. Am. Going. To. KILL YOU!” she yelled while trying to get the snow out of her clothes. It was so cold, so absolutely freezing cold, that it was creating a layer of ice on her back.
“You’ll have to catch me first,” he laughed and took off running.

She was about to chase after him when something caused him to lose his footing and he fell, sprawling face first in the snow. Quickly, she pounced and loaded handful after handful of snow down his sweater and, because she had the advantage, down the back of his pants. He bellowed and turned, throwing her off his back. She was laughing so hard, she failed to protect herself from his retaliation. The fiery icy cold of the snow down the front of her pants shocked her into silence. Oliver’s laugh echoed off the snow laden trees.

“Oh my God, Oliver,” she gasped, “I am so cold!”
“Oops?” he laughed and helped her up.

As best they could, they brushed and shook the snow out of their clothes. It was melting fast against their skin, soaking through the layers they had on. Felicity was laughing at how he was swearing while removing chunks of ice and snow from the back of his pants. She was trying to deal with the ton of snow he had deposited down the front of hers.

“We need to get inside and build the fire up,” she said, “It is going to take all day and night for our clothes to dry.”
“I need to warm up. This was worse than my first night on Lian Yu.”
“Oh good Lord, Oliver, man up,” she said with a roll of her eyes. In answer, Oliver scooped her up in a fireman’s carry and marched her inside.

All of their clothes, from their socks to their underwear, were soaked clean through. They stripped down in the kitchen to wring out any excess water and then began draping things on the backs of the kitchen chairs and hung them wherever they could. Oliver had cleaned out the fireplace and relaid it with fresh logs that were only just beginning to catch so the air was chilly in the cabin.

“Come on,” he said, pulling her by the hand towards the bathroom, “Let’s get in the shower. The gas fireplace will heat the room up faster than the fireplace out here.”

She didn’t protest as she was starting to shiver. Oliver started the shower off cooler than normal because of how cold their skin was from the snow. They needed to warm up gradually, adjusting to the change in temperature. Gratefully, she stood under the showerhead and let the water warm her skin.

Strong hands began to massage her scalp. Oliver was washing her hair, gently but firmly. It relaxed her entire body when he did this. She had teased him that he had missed his true calling. The money he could make being a masseuse would have been enough to pay for the cabin plus all the holidays they could ever want.

“Don’t think I am going to let you get away with giving me hypothermia,” she said softly.
“You are terrifying when you threaten me in your sex voice.”
“MY WHAT?” she exclaimed.

He was laughing too hard to answer her. She exited the shower, wrapped herself in a giant towel and sat on the wooden bench in front of the fireplace. It did warm up the room efficiently and she was grateful for the steady heat.

“You know, I don’t know if I have any lounging around clothes,” she said, “I tried to pack light on your suggestion.”
“We can crawl back into bed,” he suggested as he wrapped a towel around his waist.
“Oliver,” she said, nailing him with a hard stare, “You are cut off.”

He froze where he was standing and looked at her with a mix of fear and shock crossing his face. “Felicity,” he said softly, “did I hurt you last night?”

Quickly, she got up and crossed over to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. “No, you didn’t. Not one bit. I am referring to your punishment for dumping a valley’s worth of snow down my pants.”

She was rewarded with a brilliant smile and kiss to the forehead. “I was worried for a second but I will say, it was worth it,” he said as he walked out of the bathroom, unaware of the daggers she was throwing at him with her eyes.

Hunting through her clothes, she found a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt that would keep her warm in the cabin while her one good pair of wool socks and sweatpants dried. Oliver had on similar attire but he had remembered to bring slippers. The cabin had beautiful pine floors and thick flokati rugs but there were still phantom drafts that seemed to find their way in and over her toes when the wind blew.

She settled on the chair closest to the windows in the sitting area and looked out over the valley. There was a small space, just in front of the window, that she could see a small rock garden being created in it with maybe a low bench or some kind of seating. In summer time, the view would be unparalleled.

A mug of coffee appeared in front of her and Oliver’s comforting weight eased down beside her on the chair. It was the perfect way to end the morning just to sit under a warm blanket, coffee in hand, watching a new storm come raging down the furthest mountains, aimed right for them.

“I’ll dash out and get a few more logs for the fire in a bit,” he said quietly, “I think we are in for another night of howling winds and snow.”
“It would be romantic if we didn’t need to leave in two days,” she chuckled.
“I think we better call the owners and William’s grandparents. Just to make contingency plans.”
“I think so, too.”

They lapsed back onto silence and watched the coming storm. The clouds were low, dark and roiling. Felicity let her mind drift back to a memory, one she had tried to lock down over the course of her lifetime, but every so often it came screaming to the top of her mind. There was no avoiding it now. Too many threads in her life were coming apart and rejoining, causing knots and frays in way she viewed the tapestry that was the backdrop of her world.

She had been six years old and one winter, her dad had promised her and her mom that they would spend Hanukkah in the mountains. They would play in the snow, maybe ski or snowshoe, and they would have a real tree, not a store bought plastic one. She remembered asking her mom about it every day, driving her nuts in the process, and had learned how to countdown towards something exciting and magical.

But they never went. The day before she had been told they would be leaving, her dad vanished, leaving her and her mom to fend for themselves for weeks on end. She had cried for days, vacillating between hating her father and missing him, wanting to be in the mountains playing in the snow and wanting presents under a real tree, even though they it was a Christmas tree decorated with Menorahs. Her six year old self had been devastated by the lies her father told. Nothing her mother did made her feel any better. The deep, slicing pain of his betrayal would never heal as it was repeated in other ways, small and large, until he was gone from their lives for good.

It was part of the reason behind her reluctance to even begin discussing children or starting a family with Oliver. His betrayal of their vows had left her breathless and hollowed out. She needed to get her feet under her, to firmly grasp who they were now before taking that huge step forward in their lives together. In a way, she wanted more time to be alone with him before sharing the rest of their lives with children in need of raising.

“Can you hand me my tablet?” she said suddenly while putting her coffee mug down, “I want to check a couple things.”
“Like what?” he asked. He had to reach for it as it was still plugged in and resting on the floor under the table between the chairs.
“Like if the owners have answered my questions and if William has emailed.”
“I honestly don’t know which one I want you to check first.”
“Oh I am so telling William that when I need brownie points,” she muttered under her breath as she powered the tablet up.
“You will never need those,” he sighed as he got up, “If I know one thing for certain in this life it’s that my son adores you.”

She smiled as he left to venture outside to take out the garbage and get more firewood. There was no jealousy or hurt in him regarding how his son felt about her. For six months, she and William had built a relationship separate from the one they had been building as a family. It was impossible to ignore. They had to rely on each other as they had no one else.

The snow was beginning to blow in now, in thicker and thicker waves as the wind blew up the mountainside from the valley below. Oliver ran from the log structure back to the cabin, stomping his feet as he came in. He stacked the cordwood next to the fireplace to dry out and warm up. They couldn’t use frozen wood out here as the sap in the pine logs would create a fire hazard by exploding.

“Felicity, you are not going to believe what I discovered out back,” he said as he slipped back under the blanket with her. He had brought the cold of the wind and snow in with him but he smelled like the forest, earthy and alive.

“What did you find?” she asked as she scrolled through her emails. The owners had replied to inquiry about the cabin. Her heart raced as she opened it and read that they were, indeed, interested in selling the cabin and the land it was on and her offer was acceptable to them. “Oliver...the cabin is ours.”
“You’re kidding,” he said in disbelief.
“I...I’m not…,” she turned to look at him, a smile bursting out of her, “After the storm, we’ll do all the legal bits but...this is ours.”

Oliver took the tablet from her hands and carefully put it on the table beside them. He was smiling so big and bright, he was glowing in the quiet light of the cabin. He wrapped her in a hug, his arms easily encircling her and he even used his legs. She laughed at his childlike glee at the prospect of owning a cabin in the mountains. It would be a lot of work, but it would become a home for them and William.

“Just think of all the fun we'll have here,” he said, “Our kids will love winters here.”

She must have frozen in place just long enough for him to feel it.

“What?” he asked, “Is everything ok?”
“Yes, of course,” she said, clinging to him tighter, trying to convince them both that everything was fine, but he didn’t believe her.
“No, it’s not. What is it?” he asked, sitting up so that they were facing each other.

Felicity took a deep breath and sat up. She could feel a surge of panic rising from the soles of her feet but she had nowhere to hide. It was going to be difficult to do, she knew that, but they had to work through it if their marriage was going to survive.

“Before...before you went to Slabside, we did a lot of talking about the possibility of starting a family,” she began carefully, “and I know we talked about starting it after I got Smoak Tech up and running but…”
“But Slabside,” he said quietly.
“Yes, but Slabside,” she nodded, “ brought up a lot for me, Oliver.”

They sat in silence, Felicity looking at him while he looked out the window. He needed to hear her doubts but she was loath to voice them. Watching his face, how he was biting the inside of his bottom lip, how his eyes were relentlessly scanning the distant horizon, she could feel the oily residue of self loathing coming off of him in waves.

“Oliver, look at me. I’m not going to continue speaking if you won’t,” she said softly but firmly.

It took him a minute but he turned to face her. He had brought his knees up and was using his legs as a barrier between them. She squinted at his obvious defensive posture and decided to break through it as only she could. Slowly, so as to not startle him, she reached for his hands and held on, making him drop his knees. She scooted closer to him, feeling slightly resentful that she was making the effort to make him comfortable before ripping her own heart apart to talk about why starting a family was something that terrified her.

“You know what my father did to my mother and I before she took us away from him. know how that shaped my life before I met you. I poured myself into school, hacking, all of it. Then Connor went to prison because of me, I was lead to believe he had killed himself, and I turned my life around and went to work at your dad’s company,” she knew this was ancient history but she needed to start the conversation with a clear view of the past.

“When I was six years old, my dad promised me that we would go to the mountains for Hanukkah. For weeks that is all we talked about. We were going to have a tree, a real tree, even though it is a Christmassy thing, with presents and everything. He told me how we would play in the snow, build snowmen, make snow angels, have a snowball fight...he built this amazing, winter wonderland in my imagination and then, a day before we were to go...he vanished. For weeks. He was just...gone,” she said quietly, her six year old heart breaking all over again, “My mom cried and cried and cried. I remember sobbing myself to sleep until long after New Year’s Eve. And we were so poor, Oliver. With him gone, my mom had to work overtime which meant I was left with neighbours and babysitters. And sometimes, no food.”

Oliver was now holding her hands. The look in his eyes told her he was listening but more importantly, he was feeling her words. With the past firmly described and given weight, she took a deep breath and got ready to dive into the wounds left by a father who had loved her but never enough to stay.

“We ate Kraft Dinner and Cheese for a month. Sometimes, we had tuna for sandwiches, but never much more,” she said sadly, “It was a hard time for us but we survived. When dad came back, he had money. He had new clothes. He had a tan. But our bills got paid and the cupboards got filled.”
“Felicity, I am so sorry,” he said, grieving with her.
“Oliver, he left wreckage behind him. I was lost under it for years after we left him for the last time. Those wounds have never gone away completely though.”
“How do you mean?” he asked, moving closer to her.
“When you made your decision, when you made the choice to leave me and William, you broke our vows. You took away all of our Hanukkahs and Christmases. You left me with an uncertain future and with a child to raise who wasn’t mine, even though I love him, we barely knew each other,” her voice was starting to shake with each word, “and all I could think was what if you had left us and I was pregnant or had a baby already. What if I was left to deal with the wreckage you had left in your wake with a family to protect that included not only William but a child of ours?”

Oliver sat back as though pushed but he kept hold of her hands. What she was going to say next might change that, but he needed to hear the words from her.

“Before you left, I wanted to start our family, Oliver. I wanted to begin that chapter of our lives together, with William as well, it…,” here she stumbled, but she took a deep breath and continued, “It would have laid to rest my childhood once and for all. I have watched you grow into being a good father. I know you will be a wonderful father if we ever have children.”
“If?” he asked, his voice tight.
“I cried every night, Oliver. For you, about you, for us. When I think about having a child with you, my heart breaks even as it fills with hope. I love you but...I am terrified you are going to leave me again and I...I can’t…,” and here her voice didn’t just break, it dissolved. She was trying so hard to keep the tears at bay but they slipped out, rolling down her cheeks in a steady stream.

Oliver reached out and wiped them away, his own eyes shining bright with unshed tears, but he remained silent. He knew she had more to say and was willing to wait until she was ready to continue.

“I’d like this to be a conversation, Oliver,” she said with a weak smile.
“Will...will you ever want to?” he asked hesitantly, “Will a child with me ever be in the cards?”
“Oliver...I want to say yes, I do, but I live with this fear inside me now. The same kind of fear that my dad left and I don’t want to be my mother. I am terrified of losing you to the ghosts that live in your mind and it is exhausting,” she said softly.

“ think I am acting like your father,” he said simply.
“My father was...not a good man. He is trying to be better but he is basically a supervillain. Oliver, you are not my father. You just happened to do something that mimicked my past. He was not a good father. You are.”
“I want a family with you. More than I want anything else in this world,” he said quietly, “What...what can I do?”
“I don’t know. Give me time? Let me trust you again,” she said simply, “But you can’t ever go again, Oliver. Your days of sacrificing yourself for me or anyone else like that are over.”

He lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them both. “If I falter…”
“I will remind you,” she said quietly.
“What are we going to do, Felicity? Everytime I think we are closer to finding each other…”
“But we are Oliver. We are. This isn’t two step forwards, three steps back. This is how we find one another. We have a mountain to climb together,” she insisted.

He smiled at her, even though his eyes held a decade of sadness in them, and said in his gentlest voice, “You know I am going to fuck up.”
“I do,” she smiled, wishing she could ease the sadness in his heart, “but now we both know that you won’t be able to run from me or yourself ever again.”
“That doesn’t address the bigger issue,” he was venturing into the topic carefully.
“I know. I am trying to put it into the right words...We can build a future, We are building a future,” she said, imploring him to believe in her, “But we can’t jump right back in to where we were six months ago. We lost so much time, Oliver, we need to go slow.”

He stood up and pulled her to her feet, and walked her out into the living room. While they talked, the storm had settled in above them, the wind lashing the walls of the cabin, whistling through unseen cracks. She made a note to have new insulation added to the list of things to deduct from the cost of the property.

“We should add another log to the fire, just to keep it going,” she suggested.
“In a minute,” he said softly.
“Where are you taking me? This place is only so big…,” she was curious what he was up to.
“Just...come with me,” he chuckled.

He led her to his backpack, emptied of clothes and hanging by the door. Unzipping an outside pocket, he reached in, withdrew a USB memory stick and handed it to her.

“This is a copy of everything that happened to me in Level 2,” he said, his voice betraying his vulnerability, “I want you to go through it but not today.”
“Thank you, Oliver,” she said sincerely. This was humbling in its way. He was trusting her with something so large, so insidious, that it had almost stripped his identity away and for a time, had taken him from her.
“I won’t make you any promises but know that a life with you is all that matters to me.”
“What about William?” she asked, confused by what he was saying.
“I love my son,” he said honestly, “I would do anything for him but he has family beyond us now. He will always have somewhere to go. I can’t see my life without you.”

She knew exactly what he was saying. It wasn’t that he loved her more and his son less. It was that their love was different, it was shared, it was theirs. He would give his life for her and for William but if hers was taken, or if she left, he would follow her into the void. She would do the same for him. She would follow his heart’s song to their next life together because without him, her life would lose all colour and meaning.

Closing her fist around the memory stick, she nodded and then pulled him into her arms. They stood, locked in a silent embrace, for several minutes until the draft on her bare feet became too much.

“Oliver? My feet are freezing,” she complained softly.
“Well, we can’t have that,” he said and picked her up.

He walked past the couch and headed back for the sitting area. After leaving her on her lounge chair, he built up the fire, cleaned out some of the ashes and made sure it was centred under the chimney. This place would be a lovely retreat for them all, she thought.

“ never told me what you found in the log outbuilding,” she said, remembering his excitement from earlier, “What did you find?”
“You will not believe it,” he said, disbelief in his voice, as he crawled back under the blanket with her, “They renovated in that, too. There is a sauna in it now.”
“You are kidding me.”
“Nope,” he said with a small laugh, “It is dependent on fire to create the heat. I’ll have to look at how much wood it will need.”
“Tomorrow,” she said with a smile.
“What about today?”
“Look outside.”

She waited while he did and laughed at his expression. They were in the middle of a true blizzard. The valley had disappeared from view, not even the trees that lined the property could be seen. They were locked in and there was no place she would rather be.

“We should have lunch,” she suggested hopefully, “Something hot.”
“We have soup,” he said, stretching his body beside her, “and really good bread.”
“Let’s eat!” she said, her stomach started to rumble at the thought of food.

Lunch was good. Almost too good. She wanted to lick her bowl clean but knew she would never live the shame of it down. While he cleaned up, she wandered back to check her emails and see if Will had called or texted. The combination of good food and the heat in the cabin was slowly working its magic and putting her to sleep.

The chair she was on wasn’t big enough for the two of them to stretch out on, and she hoped he would come find her when he was done, so she made her way onto the bed. With a soft sigh, she closed her eyes and relaxed. The conversation wasn’t as hard as she had thought it was going to be but she knew there would be more as he pieced through all the information she had dumped on him.

Oliver was a smart, intuitive man but he was also the strongest one she knew, mentally and physically. He had been knocked down by so many people that didn’t care about how badly they hurt him or if he fell. Yet he always managed to rise up to stand another day, showing her just how beautiful his heart was. It made him unstoppable. Whatever was on that memory stick, no matter how vicious and cruel, had been unable to break him. It had bolstered him and brought him home.

The mattress shifted under his weight and his arm snaked around her waist.

“I need to ask you something,” he said in a voice just above a whisper.
“Anything,” she said.
“If I am ever doing anything that makes you think about your dad and how he treated you when you were growing up, will you tell me immediately?” he asked. She could feel his heart beating through his chest and he was trying to not breathe too deeply or fast, but he was filled with anxiety even asking her.
“I will,” she murmured, turning around to face him, “Now that you are here, I will.”
“Thank you. I know I don’t have any right to ask,” he said quietly.
“You’re wrong,” she said forcefully, “We are in a partnership, Oliver. A real partnership. You have equal rights to mine.”

He studied her for a minute and smiled, “We’re ok?”
“We’re ok,” she reassured him and kissed his chest. She turned over and settled into him. The snow was drifting up the window now. “We should turn on a few of the baseboard heaters. Just to keep the windows from getting too cold.”
“Do you want to get up and do it?” he asked, trying and failing to keep the chuckle out of his voice.
“Later,” she murmured, her eyes slowly closing, “I’m warm and cozy now.”

Oliver kissed her shoulder and snuggled under the blankets with her. They didn’t exactly hike a mountain but the cold weather, the food, the warmth of the fireplace and cabin combined to knock them both out. She loved naps with him. If it could be an Olympic sport, they would be champions.

“Oliver?” she asked quietly.
“Let’s build a snowfort.”
“How about a pillow fort inside instead?” he countered.
“In front of the windows?”
“We can have dinner inside it.”
“Perfect,” she mumbled as she fell asleep.

Felicity opened her eyes and felt a warm, ocean breeze gently cross her body. The light in the room she was in was soft, a diffused white that made everything soft and ethereal. It wasn’t the cabin or their home in Star City. The room felt ancient. The walls and floors were from an older structure, they reminded her of the room she and Oliver had shared that night so long ago before he gave his life over to the Demon.

Nanda Parbat. It had to be. She got up from the bed she was resting on crossed to the stone balcony. She expected to see a dusty valley, jagged mountain peaks and torches lighting the way. But what greeted her was the vastness of the Mediterranean Ocean. Her mind had opened the vault of Positano.

Looking back at the bed, she expected to see Oliver, asleep, and sprawled over his half of the bed. He had slept naked the entire trip, usually just covered by a thin sheet in the humid air, but her bed was empty. She couldn’t tell if he had been there at all.

Slipping on a nightgown, a thin, flimsy thing that barely covered her breasts, it was meant to be part of a sexy lingerie set, but she hadn’t even had a chance to show it to him. The sex in Positano had been frequent, intense, insanely erotic and so good. Seduction wasn’t something either of them needed to do to the other. Clothing was optional once they were indoors and she had learned to enjoy her body, to appreciate how he enjoyed it. It had been a bit of a revelation to finally understand what it meant to be adored.

The lemon tree on the patio beside the kitchen was full of fruit and the smell that would waft in the open windows was fresh and citrusy. Right now, it filled the entire villa. She wandered through it, from the ancient bedroom to the more modern livingroom, kitchen and pergola, and searched for her husband.

Felicity Smoak.”

She froze in place. That couldn’t be.

“I always knew you and I would meet one day. I just thought it would be under...different circumstances.”

Slowly, her hands clenched into fists, she turned to face the source of the voice. He was by far the most dangerous adversary they had ever faced but he had controlled his fate to the very end when he pulled the trigger of the gun he held to his head.

Adrian Chase. Prometheus. He had murdered his own wife for no other reason than he could. He had tried to destroy Oliver by systematically breaking his mind and then his heart. Oliver, for all his ticks and idiosyncrasies, had used the power of his mind to heal the fractures in his soul. He had amazed her with his strength after Lian Yu.

“What do you want?” she asked through clenched teeth.
“Nothing,” he smiled at her, all teeth and malice and death, “I just thought it was time you and I hung out. Got to know each other.”
“I have no desire to know you,” she said, beginning to seethe with rage.
“Don’t you? Don’t you want to know what I know about your husband? About why he is lying to you and won’t ever hold up his end of the bargain?” he taunted as he straightened the crease in his pants.
“Get out of my head.”
“You think it is that easy?” he laughed, “I’m in Oliver’s head when he is awake. It is nothing for me to be here now.”

Turning on her heel, Felicity left the room. If he was going to stick to her subconscious like glue, she could find her way out of it. The bedroom might just be the one place he couldn’t reach.

“Felllllicity,” he called in a singsong voice, “Did you really think changing rooms would get rid of me? That the bedroom would be some sort of sanctuary?” He laughed at her but not maliciously. Adrian was genuinely enjoying himself.

“I just want you go,” she said firmly, standing her ground.
“No, you don’t,” he said jovially, “You want to know what I know. You want to know what I found in Oliver while he was chained, like the animal he is, in my basement.”
“You tortured him. You burned a tattoo out of his flesh. He didn’t reveal any truths to you,” she said, her voice raising with each word.

Adrian laughed and sat down on the chaise lounge by the bed. “Oliver revealed himself to me, more than he will ever reveal himself to you.”
“He told me everything, Adrian, he told me what he said to you about the killing, the choices he made as the Hood, the Arrow and now as the Green Arrow. He told me it all,” she said calmly. Oliver had told her things that she knew cut him to the bone. He had opened those wounds and allowed her to see inside him. It had humbled her in the moment and it humbled her now.

“Did he tell you how, of all the people in his life at that time, his son, his sister, the only one that broke him, that ripped his resolve away, was when I targeted you?” he asked, malice and hate dripping from every word.
“He didn’t need to,” she admitted. She knew that Oliver would cease to exist if she died. His son had people to take care of him, and Oliver would be destroyed if anything happened to him, but if she were killed or taken away, he would be unable to function properly. They were so connected, that if he died, her heart would stop as well. She loved him with all that she was and all that she had.

“He may have, but you are still afraid that there is a part of him that you haven’t been able to touch and help heal,” he was sneering at her, contempt flowing out of him, “that holds all the darkness in his life and that it will unleash itself on him and on you. Destroying everything you’ve built and worked so hard to create.”

Felicity turned away from him and stepped out onto the balcony. He was right. But it wasn’t about anything he had done to Oliver, it was about what Level 2 had done to him and she had the answer sitting next to her tablet in the cabin.

“You can’t run from it, Felicity,” he called out to her, “His trauma is in your DNA now! He will never share with you the darkest parts of his soul with you like he did with me. You will always be the one he loves best but he will never trust you. Is it any wonder you don’t want to have children with him?”

There was fog rolling in over bay and pushing up the cliffside. She could smell the salt air mixing with the citrus scent of the lemon trees that surrounded the villa. It was dazzingly beautiful but all she could think was that Adrian Chase was still causing problems in their subconscious but he was wrong. She did want to have children with Oliver but on their terms and when the time was right.

“Go on now,” he cajoled, “Wake up and pretend everything is fine. Pretend that your marriage is built on solid ground. I’ll be here when you are ready to admit you are wrong.”

A scream of rage and frustration was building in her throat. Not a day went by that she felt anything other than satisfaction that he had ended his own life. It had been his intention all along and he had used his last words to taunt Oliver about her death on Lian Yu. She hated him. She despised him. That howl pushed hard to be heard so she looked up to the sky and opened her mouth....

She woke up gasping. Her subconscious was kicking her ass on purpose and she wasn’t happy that Adrian Chase was the way it chose to do so. Oliver was still asleep behind her, breathing deep and even, but she needed him awake. She had to confront this nightmare head on, no waiting until after dinner when they were relaxed and thinking only of sleep or sex.

“Hmmmm,” he hummed, “You’re awake.”
“I am,” she said quietly.
“You are coiled tight. What is it?” he asked, his voice revealing his snap to attention.
“Just...just a bad dream,” she admitted quietly.
“Can you tell me about it?” he asked as he gently rubbed her arm.

Could she tell him that Adrian Chase had snuck out from behind the veil to taunt her? Felicity felt a surge of panic and wildly searched the room for an excuse to leave the warm comfort of his arms. She woke up needing to but now wasn’t sure if she could.

“I need to pee,” she mumbled, “I’ll be right back.” And with that, she scrambled to escape and headed to the bathroom on shaking legs.

The sudden quiet and warmth in the room felt oppressive. Not even the bank of windows that overlooked the winter wonderland just outside the cabin brought her any cheer. She felt trapped. Alone. Desperate for Oliver but terrified of needing him only to find him gone.

Taking deep breaths, she calmed her nerves and splashed water on her face. Using tricks taught to her by Oliver, she brought her mind under control and stilled her body. She finished up her reason for coming in, brushed her hair and stepped quietly out into the bedroom. Oliver had gotten up and was tending the fireplace, his broad, strong back to her.

He was still, the fireplace poker in his hands, his head turned towards the fire but she was sure his eyes were focused far, far away. She knew Oliver well enough to read his body and know he was more than just distracted, he was locked away inside his mind, trying to reach a conclusion about her actions just now. It filled her with a guilty sorrow to be the cause of his distress.

“Hey,” she called softly, “it’s chilly. I’ll turn on the heaters for a bit.”
“Hmmm?” he was startled by her voice, a slight movement of his shoulders betrayed him. Felicity felt the sadness coming off of him in waves. “Ok, I forgot we were going to do that.”
“It’s ok,” she said with forced cheer, “You are a master Fire Tender and that is better than an electric heater.”

The windows were cold and frosting up around the edges, so she set it a medium setting and hoped it would help. Looking into the glass, she caught sight of Oliver’s reflection. His face was almost blank. He wasn’t looking at her, he was looking through her. They couldn’t go on like this, not for another minute. Taking a deep breath, she stood up and turned to her husband.

“Ok, I’ll tell you,” she said simply, “But over here, where we can watch the snow.”

Without a word, Oliver got up from his spot on the hearth and crossed the small space but he hesitated on the last step. She almost thought he was going to bolt out of the room. His instinct to run was written all over his body but he sat down beside her and allowed her to cover them with a blanket.

“Oliver,” she said calmly but sternly, “Take a deep breath and join me. Here.” She took his hand and placed it over her heart, trying to get him to stay mentally, emotionally and physically.

Oliver closed his eyes and relaxed. He nodded and said, “Ok, I’m ok.”

Felicity kissed his cheek and made him sit so that his head rested on her chest. If she was going to tell him about the dream, she wanted him to be listening to her heart.

“Adrian Chase came for a visit,” she said softly and felt his body tense up just as she thought it would. She pushed her hand under the blanket and rubbed his back, allowing him a moment to collect himself for what was to come. “He was not a welcomed guest.”
“That I can believe,” he said dryly.
“He was an awful, awful man,” she murmured while watching a large snowflake fall gently to the ground, “I have no sympathies for him and I’m glad he’s gone. I’m only sorry WIlliam was there to witness it.”
“I am, too, he didn’t see it but he heard it.”
“He’s strong, though, just like his dad,” she held him tight as she said that, letting him know she believed it. “One day, we should talk about it, let him know he come to us if he has nightmares.”
“I agree. He has talked to me about Lian Yu but never about the boat.” Oliver snuggled closer to her, like he was trying to merge into her body.

“So...Adrian Chase…,” she began, “He had a bit of a message for me.”
“Nothing good, I suppose.”
“No, nothing good. He was giving voice to something I have been wrestling with,” she said softly, “When you went to Slabside, I was terrified I would lose you forever. Not due to the incarceration but because part of me still believes there is a part of you that you have never shown me, one you will keep secret from me forever. It holds the darkest memories, the darkest moments, it holds everything that you despise about yourself and I am terrified it will unleash itself on you, on me….” her voice was barely above a whisper, “If that happened, I know I would lose you forever.”
“Felicity,” his voice imploring her, “that part of me doesn’t exist.”
“But it does. It’s the same part that lead you to give up your freedom,” she said sadly, “You were doing it for William, for me, for everyone you thought deserved it. It breaks my heart but that is the part of you that terrifies me. It’s why I can’t commit to having a child with you right now. I have to be sure that you never keep any secret from me ever again.”
“How? How can I do that?” he asked.
“I don’t know, I think you just have to show me,” she said, “I need you to know that this isn’t a ‘no’, it’s an ‘eventually but not right now’, ok?”
“I know, I know,” he said reassuredly, “But Adrian…”
“It was like my subconscious was out to get me,” she chuckled.
“I’ll say. I’m sorry you dream about him,” he said softly.
“I love you, Oliver, you know I do. This was just my brain working out some of the finer details and admitting to myself what it is that is stopping me.”

Oliver pushed himself up so that he could see her, his eyes searching her face and boring deep into her eyes. He looked so young and vulnerable it broke her heart. “Oliver, I’m not going anywhere. OK?”

“Ok,” he said softly and tenderly brushed a stray hair off her face. The winter light, the palest of icy blue, was illuminating his from the side. He looked otherworldly and so beautiful, her heart ached just looking at him.

“Come here,” she said in a low, soft voice.
“Are you sure?” he asked, a delicate flush rising up his neck.
“Don’t make me ask twice,” she said with a wink.

Sometimes when they kissed, she could feel her heart expand, reaching out for his. Other times, her body would greedily hunger for his touch, but now with her hand still resting on his heart, there was a tenderness she was looking for, that same vulnerability in his kiss that was just on his face. She needed to feel what he so often hid behind a mask of stone.

His lips yielded to hers, soft and welcoming, but there was a hesitancy that vibrated through him. Love and fear competing in such a simple, intimate kiss. She pulled back and cupped his face, looking deep into his eyes and smiled.

“Oliver Queen, I am going to seduce you now,” she hummed low in her throat.
“It won’t take much,” he smiled.
“Pretend to be surprised,” she murmured and leaned in to kiss him, deeply, with love and desire, and pressed her body against his.
“This chaise isn’t going to do the trick,” he whispered as her lips found a pulse point under his left ear. She heard the involuntary breath he took and smiled.
“You should be shorter,” she teased.
“Not a chance,” he chuckled and picked her up as he stood up.
“I thought I was seducing you,” she laughed softly, pushing her hands up under his shirt.
“All you have to do is blink and I am yours,” he said, his voice serious, “Never forget that.”
“I won’t,” she said softly, lifting her arms as he took her tshirt off, “One thing I know, Oliver Queen, is that I am yours and you are mine.”
“In this lifetime…”
“And the next,” she finished for him, looking up to see his face, so she could see his eyes.

He laid her on her back on the bed and kissed her again, this time eagerly, greedily, and she welcomed the heat under the need they continually had for one another. Sometimes it was almost too much, the way they needed to love one another this way, but right now she didn’t care. His hands on her body, his tongue exploring her mouth, pushed all hesitation aside.

“I’m glad you didn’t put your panties back on,” he whispered, one hand slipping between her legs, stroking her until stars appeared behind his head as she looked at him.
“Oh God, Oliver,” she gasped, “I was supposed to seduce you.”
“You tried,” he said, kissing her neck, “and failed.” He continued kissing down her body, his hand staying between her legs, sliding his fingers inside her and flexing them forward.

She let go of him and let her body fall into the bed. He was exploring her, like he used to in the early days of their relationship, with his lips, hands, and tongue. It was dizzying. He licked and sucked her nipples until they were both as hard as pebbles, he kissed the delicate skin along her pelvis, the inside of her thighs.

His scruff rasped behind his lips, creating dueling sensations of rough and soft, causing her to take deep, shuddering breaths. When he finally rolled his tongue around her clit, it was almost one sensation too much. Her toes curled and she moaned, softly, and ran her hands over his head, encouraging him with her body.

This was pure heaven for her. When he was focused on her pleasure and so capable of providing it. The texture of his tongue, the way he could suck and lick her to the point of no return, it all combined into something so erotic and intimate that she felt they had no choice when it came to this. They were made for each other and the hard times, though they might lessen over time, could never sever the connection between their hearts and souls.

She was hovering on the edge of ecstasy, struggling to keep her mind present, when he moved up her body. She felt the soft, wet kisses on her stomach, her breasts, and neck. She welcomed his kiss, musky and earthy, she could taste them both as she sucked his tongue into her mouth. A level of desperate need was brewing now, she could feel the hardness of his cock against her leg and smiled.

“What?” he asked with a smile.
“Take your pants off,” she whispered and laughed at the speed he moved to remove them.

He laid down, pressing into the entire length of her body, and stared into her eyes. It was only a moment, taken just to connect them again, but within it she felt their universe expand. In a single shared breath, she saw into him, saw that tiny hidden piece that he carried so carefully, and knew they could mend that wound together.

“Oliver Queen,” she murmured between kisses, “I love you.”

Something in her voice pulled his attention to her. Maybe it was the tone of her voice, the way she spoke his name into existence, whatever it was, he knew. He understood her sincerity and that the truth was finally winning out. She loved him, body and soul.

Still staring into her eyes, he pushed into her one inch at a time until he was fully sheathed inside her. They both breathed in sync, before moving in an undulating, sinuous movement. It was like nothing she had ever felt before. Her body had tightened around him initially, creating a friction that set her blood on fire, but then relaxed to accommodate him. It was familiar but still something her body needed like air.

Keeping one leg long, she wrapped the other around his waist, increasing the tension around his cock as he thrust slow and deep. He kept the tempo deliberately almost somnolent. It was luxurious. He reached down, slid his hand under her thigh, helped move her bent leg even higher and she gasped. He was hitting that special spot inside her that normally only his fingers could find. The head of his cock stroked it until her back arched off the bed and she cried out. Her orgasm rocking through her body, rumbling the earth beneath them.

“Don’t stop,” she whispered as she kissed him, “Please, don’t stop.”

He remained silent and instead let his body do the talking for him. This was the part she loved, when all of his resolve melted away and he became vulnerable and beautifully whole. She stilled her hips and let him find the rhythm he needed. It was faster, slightly harder and she felt her body responding to it. Felicity closed eyes, she focused on the hardness of his cock, the way it felt moving deep inside her, how she was able to still squeeze down around him.

“God, Felicity,” he growled into her neck, his lips finding the sensitive skin under her ear, “I’ll never not want you.” His cock thickened and throbbed as she pulsed around him, her orgasm gaining strength with each body shuddering thrust.

Distantly, she heard herself cry out and she wrapped herself around him as tightly as she could as he joined her, pouring himself into her in a series of uneven strokes. His arms slipped around her and he held her like she was made of gossamer or fine china. If it were possible, she would love to stay like this forever. Locked together in a world of their creation. Oliver turned his head, his lips finding hers, and kissed her with so much love and tenderness, she wanted him again. She wanted to feel the strength of his body held in check as he helped her find the ecstasy that only they shared.

“Don’t think this gets you off the hook for putting snow down my pants,” she murmured against his lips.
“You are going to exhaust me,” he sighed.
“That’s the plan,” she smiled.

Oliver covered them with a blanket and they laid together in silence, listening to the wind and watching the snow continue to fall. The system had stalled overhead and they were slowly being snowed in. Felicity was almost glad. A couple of extra days in this quiet space might actually help heal the wounds left after six months apart.

“I can feel you thinking,” he said softly. He was gently running his fingers through her hair, an action that relaxed her and helped her focus on what he was saying.
“I was thinking it wouldn’t be so bad to be snowed in for a couple of extra days,” she murmured, turning her head to kiss his chest, an inch above one of his new stab wound scars.
“You won’t get sick of me?” he teased.
“Oliver,” she said, resting her chin on his chest, “I would gladly be stuck here forever with you. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful.”

He looked down at her and smiled. The hesitant sorrow in his eyes was slowly losing its hold. She saw the Oliver who believed in the future, who believed in the good man he really was, in the woman she was, and in the glorious possibilities of them finally united. If she could reach in and help re-weave the tapestry of their lives together around his heart once again, she would leave her doubts behind once and for all.

“Will you give me time to let go of Slabside?” he asked quietly, “I don’t know how I can do it without you.”
“Of course I will,” she said, “I can see you more clearly now.”
“It was like my life was silent before you. Like I needed you to fill up my world with colour, light and sound,” he mused softly.
“You really need to start writing,” she said seriously, “Sometimes you say things that...that fill me with so much love...I wonder sometimes who you are talking about.”
“Never doubt that I am talking about you,” he said firmly, “You’ve awakened the poet in me.”
“Just don’t get all sloppy with me,” she said with a lighthearted poke to his ribs, “I’ll rat you out if you do.”
“You wouldn’t dare…,” he said, a subtle threat in his voice.
“Try me.”

In a blink of an eye, Oliver spun her around and was running his scruff up and down her naked back. She hollered threats and swore at him until she was begging for mercy. His soft lips replaced the hard bristles of his beard and she sighed, feeling her body warm to his again.

“Come,” he said quietly, getting up from the warmth of their bed, “let’s get cleaned up and figure out our survival plan.”
“Hmmmm...just don’t put on any underwear,” she murmured.
“Felicity Smoak,” he said in false coquettishness, “I am only human.”
“Excuses, excuses,” she sighed as she followed him into the bathroom.

After a quick rinse in the shower, they found their clothes and cuddled up under a blanket on the couch. She selected Raiders of the Lost Ark, a choice he approved of, and they spent the rest of the afternoon watching it. Felicity let her mind wander back to her dream and felt the door close on Adrian Chase just a little bit more.

The truth was on that memory stick and once she saw what it was, she would know what to do. Oliver was still unable to put into words what he experienced but she was closer to the truth of it now than ever before. They would find their way together and one day, when the time was right, they could have the conversation again about starting a family.

Until then, she was content to explore the limits of their bodies in a secluded cabin in the mountains. It wasn’t a distraction, it was a need. As the credits rolled, she slipped her hand under his shirt and memorized the new chapters of his life carved into his skin. She had no idea what the night would bring but for the moment, all she needed was the way his skin felt under her fingertips.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7


She could read him
in the darkness
as though he were made of light.


Felicity was back on her chaise lounge, working on her tablet, while he cleaned up their dinner plates. It had been a simple one, roasted chicken breasts with a rice dish Raisa used to make him when he was a kid, but it produced more used utensils and pots than his more complex creations. He could hear her moving around and muttering to herself, something about an algorithm, and chuckled to himself. When she was focused, the world faded away until he would have to snap his fingers directly in front of her face for her to hear or see him.

The reprieve gave him a chance to thoroughly process what they had talked about earlier. Oliver understood that he had deeply hurt her by cutting her out of his decision to turn himself in. By not consulting with her, by deliberately lying to her again, he had broken the promise held in the vows he had spoken and committed to.

What he hadn’t been prepared for was her choice to put starting a family on hold. He covered his shock well, but it had broken his heart and added the shame he felt for letting her down so profoundly. He couldn’t fault her though. It hadn’t even occurred to him that he could have been leaving her to protect more than just William and herself. His hands shook as he washed the remaining dishes. The cold finger of fear had wormed its way into him at the thought of her saying no and meaning it.

He loved her so ardently, so absolutely, that having children with her seemed like a given. He had taken it for granted and gambled on its assumed universal truth for them both. He still had hope but the fear was there, an icy, viscous sensation that was spreading throughout his body and mind. His instinct in these moments used to be to run. To submerge himself in the violence he courted and wore like a second skin.

He looked outside, into the dying light, and watched the snow fall in large, soft flakes. It was like a late winter storm, but far too early. It was signalling a long, snowy season. His thoughts drifted to what she told him of her father and the small details of her childhood that she was slowly revealing. His deliberate sabotage had reopened painful memories and he had suffered in her eyes as a result.

“Oliver?” she called softly.
“Hmmm?” he responded, turning around to face her.
“You were miles away. Are you ok?” she asked, her brow creased in concern.
“I am,” he smiled, “What’s up?”
“Come here,” she beckoned and disappeared behind the fireplace.

Curious, he followed her to see what she was up to. When he rounded the corner of the large, stone fireplace, he saw that she had been busy building the pillow and blanket fort they had spoken of earlier. Somehow, without him hearing, she had moved the tv into the bedroom area and created the intimate theatre he had envisioned.

“You sneaky little minx!” he exclaimed.
“You like?” she asked.
“I love,” he answered and wrapped her in a hug.
“You need to see inside,” she teased.

Needing no further encouragement, he got down on the floor and crawled in. He had built these as a child, sometimes with Tommy, sometimes alone, but he remembered the comforting peace he found inside them. This time, it felt unexpectedly different. He sat in the centre of it, his chest constricted and he grew short of breath. When a line of sweat broke out across his brow, he knew what was happening but was powerless to stop it.

All he knew was that he had to get out and fast even as his mind sunk into the murky depths of a panic attack. The blanket above his head felt as though it weighed more than the combined weight of all the galaxies in the universe. He was panting and had to push down a howl of agony. When he broke free, he took deep, gulping breaths, trying to flood his body with oxygen.

“OLIVER!” she yelled, fear screaming out through her voice.

He stopped and looked at her. Calm immediately descended over him but then he saw the destruction he had wrought on something so lovingly created. His panic attack had completely dismantled her fort but what alarmed him the most, was the way she was holding her arm. A large, angry red mark was splashed across her bicep.

“Felicity,” he said, his voice breaking, “what have I done?”
“Nothing, Oliver, nothing,” she said, trying to reassure them both with her assertion, “You had a panic attack. I didn’t think...I never realized…”
“Neither did I,” he said sadly, “I can’t go into a confined space…”
“Ok, go sit down. I’ll take care of this, it won’t take long,” she was deliberately keeping her distance, still holding her arm.
“No, first you are going to let me look at what I have done to your arm,” he tried to sound comforting but both his voice and legs were shaking hard enough to rattle his bones. Taking a faltering step, he sat down on the chaise closest to the windows. He needed to see the sky, even if it was shrouded in darkness and clouds.

With a sigh, she stepped over to him on careful feet. There was a reluctance in her body language that was ripping holes in his heart. This was a step back to where he was four years ago when he was coming to terms with his violence saturated life.

“What did I do?” he asked softly.
“It was when you were struggling to get free of the blanket. You were flailing and I was too close,” she whispered.
“I am so sorry,” he said, looking up at her, beseeching her for forgiveness.
“It’s ok,” she said quietly, cupping his face in her small hands, “I am fine and it was an accident.”

With a gentleness he didn’t know could exist, she leaned down and kissed him. He felt ashamed to be the recipient of so much love after hurting her. It had been unintentional, but he still inflicted harm. It froze him in place while at the same time made him want to run as far away as he could in order to protect her from his new level of PTSD.

“We need to get some ice on it so it doesn’t swell,” he said in a voice full of sad regret.
“Look at me,” she said firmly.

He did, blinking away tears as he looked into her eyes.

“You brought this panic with you from Slabside,” she said, imploring him to listen to her, “You didn’t know or even think it possible. We will deal with this together. Ok?”
“I love you,” he whispered. He was in awe of her, of her capacity to forgive when she felt it was earned and necessary.
“I know,” she smiled, “Now can we get some ice on my arm?”

Wordlessly, he took her by the hand and walked her to the kitchen. There was a bag of frozen peas in the freezer that he wrapped in a towel and gently pressed to the red mark on her arm. He could see it would bruise but maybe he could minimize it with ice.

It was as he secured the bag to her arm that he felt her eyes on him. He was avoiding looking at her but the intensity of gaze pulled his eyes to hers and in them he saw a flash of vulnerability and trust that took his breath away.

“Oh Felicity,” he murmured and as tenderly as he could, he cupped her face and kissed her.
“Hmmmm…,” she hummed, “I feel better already.”
“Let me clean up. You sit by the fire and relax,” he said, “No back talk. Pick a movie and I’ll bring the tv back in.”
“Yes, sir,” she smiled.
“Stop it,” he laughed.

It didn’t take long to return the pillows and blankets to the bed and put the chairs back in their proper place. Luckily, the tv was on a stand that moved. He stopped before wheeling it back and looked out the windows, trying to search out the distant horizon but all he saw was his reflection. He was coiled tight, his shoulders were up near his ears and his face looked rigid. He couldn’t go out into the living room looking like this, not now.

Closing his eyes, he pulled his focus inwards, finding the calm underneath the surge of self loathing. He practiced a trick Yao Fei had showed him. He put his right hand on his belly and his left on the small of his back and centred his consciousness and breath on his hands. He took a deep breath, slowly let it out, and then repeated it seven more times.

His heart slowed, his entire body relaxed, and he opened his eyes to a calmer reflection.

“So what are we watching?” he asked as he repositioned the tv.
“You will love it.”
“Oh no…,” he said, turning to look at her, “…”
“You know it. Get ready to cry.”
“Not...The Notebook…,” he looked at her in despair.
“Sit,” she said, pointing at the spot on the couch next to her.
“Fine. I guess I owe you,” he said with a sigh, “How is your arm?”
“It feels fine,” she said softly, “It was more the shock of it. You didn’t hit me with your full strength.”
“Still,” he said, thinking about all the ways that moment could have done wrong.

Felicity carefully removed the bag of peas from her arm and inspected the injury. It wasn’t as bad as either of them thought it would be. He was relieved to see that the area of bruising was going to be small, much smaller than the red mark that had originally almost encircled her arm.

“See?” she said, “It will be fine.”
“I am still so, so, sorry,” he said.
“Shush,” she shook her head, refusing to listen to his apology, “Oliver, you had a panic attack. Nothing more. You would never, ever purposely hurt me.”
“I wish I could say the same for you,” he sighed, “Turn on the movie.”

She was laughing as she turned on the DVD player and hit play. He was ready to suffer through whatever it was she had selected, even if it was The Notebook, but the opening music alerted him to it being something different. Then he recognized it. It wasn’t Die Hard but it was still not at all what he expected.

“You really want to watch this with me again?” he asked.
“Well, you know what they say…’sometimes you win, sometimes you lose’...,” she said softly, kissing his cheek.
“...and sometimes it rains,” they finished in unison.

The movie she had selected was Bull Durham and he felt he could cry simply out of joyful relief. They had soft conversations in the slow moments and enjoyed watching as the two leads explored their sexuality in uniquely erotic ways. He was particularly fond of the bathtub scene.

“You are getting ideas, aren’t you?” she teased.
“Never,” he chuckled and pulled her close. The fire was burning low and he could hear the wind whistling past the cabin. It was growing colder but at least the snow had stopped falling. He could only hope the sun would burst from behind the clouds so they could at least see the brilliance of the landscape that surrounded them.

“Do you ever wonder what our lives would have turned out like if we met, say, in a coffee shop? Far away from Star City?” she asked suddenly.
“You mean if I hadn’t got on the boat with Sara?”
“Yes, if we met on our own terms instead of you creating the worst cover stories in the history of cover stories in order to come and see me,” she said in mock seriousness.
“I was coming to you for help,” he said in his own defense.
“So you say,” she said with casual dismissiveness.

He poked her in the ribs, knowing she would jump, and laughed at her shocked yelp. He had thought about what his life would have looked like had they met and managed to avoid the life they were leading now. Without a doubt, they would have found each other, they would have fallen in love and they would have gotten married. He knew this in his heart and soul. They were meant for each other in this life. It went without saying that the emptiness of their lives without the other would have compelled them to search until the other was found.

She was the flame he circled around, the light that illuminated his world. Without her steady patience and love, he would have lost the thread of his life’s story. So he knew they would have found each other and all others would have simply ceased to matter. Laurel was never going to be the woman he loved or stayed with. She had been convenient but not desired. He’d felt guilty about that after he returned from Lian Yu. He had assigned her so much importance but in the end, she was a symbol of something he never truly wanted or needed and now he knew she never would have been enough.

When he met Felicity, he discovered someone who saw through his bullshit and would accept no lies from him at any point in their relationship. He grew to depend on that strength of character, that deliberate way she would pin him with a stare and challenge him to lie to her, knowing she wouldn’t believe a word out of his mouth. He grew to love her over the course of two years and was still awed by her unwavering faith in him when he needed it the most.

“Your thinking is drowning out the movie,” she said.
“Stop it,” he chuckled.
“We should make some tea and have a conversation about why you had that panic attack,” she said softly.
“After I build up the fire,” he said in agreement.
“It is getting chilly.”
“Boil the kettle?” he asked as he got up.
“You trust me to boil the water?” she asked, disbelieving.
“Not really,” he muttered and dodged the bag of peas thrown at his head and caught it before it hit the ground. “Your aim is not good, my love.”
“Harumph,” she snorted and headed to the kitchen. He tossed the peas after her and was shocked she caught them before then hit the ground.

He took his time with the fire, carefully scraping out the ashes that had accumulated over the course of the day. If they were really buying the cabin, he would look at getting cedar logs as well as pine. There was something about the scent of cedar as it burned that calmed him regardless of whatever turmoil the day had wrought.

With the fire lit and slowly building, he watched the flames lick up the pine logs. They were larger ones and should last through most of the night and the heat they gave off was blistering the longer he sat on the hearth.

“Oliver?” she called softly, “The tea is ready.”

Giving his head a shake, he got up and joined her on the couch. She had turned the lights off and was searching for matches to light the candles on a low stone ledge under the large living room windows. It was intimate and warm. He couldn’t help but feel the pangs of guilt when thinking about how they had missed out on this when he was incarcerated.

“What kind of tea?” he asked.
“Chamomile and honey.”
“Perfect, thank you,” he said, taking the proffered mug from her hands.
“So what was it, Oliver? Was it the feeling of being confined?” she asked carefully.

He thought about what she was asking. On the surface it was a question about what triggered the panic attack, but underneath was a deeper probe about the long term effects of the psychological torture he had been subjected to. He didn’t have a clear answer for her other than something glib and superficial which she would reject immediately.

Understanding what he had happened to him in Level 2 was going to be the only way she could comprehend what happened to him and why he was reacting to things the way he was. She was waiting patiently while he pieced through his response in his head. To say he loved her for being willing to wait would have been an understatement.

“When I was in Level 2,” he began slowly, “I was injected with a drug that was supposed to suppress my identity. I fought as hard as I could against it.”
“And you won. You beat the doctor at his own game,” she said softly.
“Yes, but...Felicity it took everything in me not to give in to the relentlessness of the legacy of my father. He used William to try and weaken me, to find his way in to my mind to dismantle it from within but…”
“He chose the wrong way in,” he said simply and knew she would understand.
“You’ve never responded to a small space like that before, though. We’ve slept in smaller tents when we’ve gone camping. Did something specific happen?” she asked more pointedly.

The memory was locked away. Oliver closed his eyes and breathed through the rise in panic that surged as he reached for it, trying to grasp even just a hint as to what it really was. Felicity laid a gentle hand on his arm, giving him something to focus on other that the tilting labyrinth in his mind.

“Give me a few days,” he murmured, “I can’t get to it just yet.”
“Ok,” she said gently, “Take whatever time you need.”
“What if I can’t ever reach it?” he asked.
“Then we figure out how to help you heal enough so that you can,” she said simply, “because you can’t live with that kind of crippling fear laying in wait to destroy you.”

Oliver looked at her and felt that same, familiar sense of awe. She was so adept at stripping away all doubt and leaving behind a foundation composed of trust and love. Even now, as she struggled to come to terms with what he did, all the decisions he made without her, she was still willing to stand with him and help him truly find himself again. He needed to honour that, honour her, from this point forward without deceit. He could no longer isolate himself in order to protect her. There were new scars on their relationship, on their marriage, but in time they would fade. He believed that now and was willing to put in the work to make it happen.

“I don’t know what I would do without you, Felicity,” he said in complete honesty.
“Me, neither. I’m assuming you would be dressed in rags and living in a box under a bridge,” she teased.
“You wound me. I would have a shopping cart and a tarp.”

Her laugh rang out, filling the cabin with its ebullient sound, it pushed on his body as well, creating a buffer between them and the memory that was slowly shredding his mind. There were certain things that happened in Slabside that he would never tell her. Not the external experiences, she could see those plainly on his body, but the internal ones, the things that helped him survive the attacks, the pain, the torture. He had kept the memory of her, all of her, held tight in the centre of his mind. When he felt all was lost, he would fall into orbit around her, remembering her laugh, the way she would sigh as they made love, the rapid fire way she would speak when she was onto something big.

The Doctor in Level 2 had tried using William to break him and failed. The reality was that had he used Felicity against him, he’d have succeeded. It wasn’t that he loved her more than William, it was that her existence made his life possible. She had provided the spark of life in him he thought long since extinguished by Lian Yu, Hong Kong and Russia.

“What are we going to do about John?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know. I am still...disappointed in him. In all of them,” she said sadly. She fell silent and reached for her phone. With a few quick taps, music flooded the cabin. As always, she had a playlist for every occasion. This time Wilco joined them as they sat lost in thought, each trying to communicate with the other as best they could.

“We need to talk to them,” he countered, “One at a time.”
“Maybe. But I had to beg them to help and they wouldn’t. I had to work with Not Laurel and Anatoly in order to get anything at all to help free you,” she said bitterly, “Our supposed friends and they abandoned us both.”

Oliver gently wrapped his arm around her, taking care not to touch her bruised arm. He could feel her hurt and anger rolling off her in waves. He had been profoundly disappointed in his former team. Felicity and William had languished for months in isolation and then, even with her life on the line, they had all tried to talk her out of trying to do what they all should have been doing all along: finding Diaz.

Hearing of how she had gone to such dark lengths to find a way to free him, he had been humbled, shocked, filled with pride and a deep, unrelenting sadness. Her world view was forever altered all due to him. She had forever been altered because of him.

“You are thinking. I can feel it,” she said with genuine tenderness.
“I was thinking about how you went about trying to free me. The lengths you were willing to go to and what that did to you,” he said, distracted by the softness of her hand on his arm and by the song that now came on. It gave him an idea.
“I would do anything for you, Oliver, even when I am so angry all I want to do is yell at you,” she said reassuringly.
“Come on,” he said, standing up.
“Why?” she asked, looking up at him quizzically.
“Just stand up!” he laughed, offering his hands.

Shaking her head, she put her hands in his and let him pull her to her feet. The sweeping introduction to At Last by Etta James had just finished, so his timing was perfect. With one hand on the small of her back and the other cradling her right hand over his heart, he stepped them into the gentle rhythm of the song.

He loved dancing with her and the way she molded her body to his, leaving no room for doubt. Felicity was smiling up at him, not taking her eyes off of his. He had to be careful in the dim light but he managed to slow dance with her through the entire cabin.

“This is quite romantic, Mr. Queen,” she smiled up at him, her voice soft like a caress against his skin.
“There was no way I could let that song go to waste,” he murmured.
“I am so glad you didn’t,” she sighed and laid her head on his chest, “What time is it?”
“A little after ten, I think.”
“It feels later than that,” she murmured.
“Let’s check your arm,” he was trying to be strong and he hoped his voice wouldn’t give him away.
“Ok,” she said, her voice vulnerable but trusting.

He guided her to the fireplace, where the light was strongest, and moved her sleeve out of the way. The red mark had faded completely and all that was left was a small, dark mark about half an inch long and even smaller across.

“You look relieved,” she said.
“I thought I had broken your arm at first,” his voice shook ever so slightly as he continued to examine the bruise, avoiding her eyes.
“Oh, Oliver,” she said, her voice spoke for her heart, trembling just enough for him to hear.

He felt her hand on the back of his neck, pulling his head down, and the soft press of her lips to his forehead, cheeks and lips. It wasn’t fair of him to put his burden on her after everything but she would insist on it, making him know it was part of the deal of marriage.

“We sure get lazy when we are out of Star City,” she mused.
“We do and it is perfectly lovely,” he smiled, resting his head against hers.
“Tomorrow, we should see how badly the road is blocked.”
“If the sun comes out, it should clear itself up in a matter of hours,” he commented quietly.
“I checked the weather and I don’t think you will get your wish,” she said as she turned her head. He felt the pressure of her lips on his neck.
“More snow?” he asked, his voice a low rumble.
“More snow,” she confirmed. Her breath blew hot across his skin as she spoke.

He was almost overjoyed at the prospect of another day in the cabin with her. They had six months to catch up on, to talk through, new layers to their relationship and each other to discover. Gauging the smile that crossed her face, she was feeling much the same way.

“You know,” he said with a slow smile, “it is still early.”
“Do you want to watch another movie?” she asked slyly.
“Die Hard!” he exclaimed and held her tight when she tried to escape his arms.

Silencing her protestations with a kiss, she clung to him and hummed into his lips.

“We are going to need to get curtains,” she said breathlessly, “and hope that William remembers to knock.”

Oliver laughed and hugged her. She wasn’t wrong though. They both had a habit of walking around naked when they were together. Felicity slept naked regularly and when they were intimate, they often left the lights on. Secretly, he hoped they would come up here alone for a while first, just to renovate and figure out a plan for how to make it family friendly.

“We should have a sauna tomorrow night,” she suggested, “Unless the space is too small.”
“I checked it out and I think I’ll be ok. It has a window and is roomy enough for four or five people,” he murmured. He was focused on her hands and how she had pushed then under his shirt. She trailed her nails gently over the skin above his burn scars and he shivered in anticipation. Felicity knew exactly what she was doing.
“You realize that we are dancing and there is no music, right?” she asked as he kissed her neck.
“I am slowly dancing us out of the living room,” he whispered close to her ear.

It had gone unnoticed by her but they were now out of the living room and in the bedroom area.
“I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to not want you,” he murmured.
“I hope you never find out,” she said and then pulled him into a kiss that was wild and raw. It was a demanding kiss, not one he could shrink away from. Instead, he threw himself at her mercy.

“Oliver,” she whispered, “never forget this.” She placed his hand on her heart and held it there, making him feel the strength of its rhythm.
“I just wish I had something to offer you,” he said quietly.
“But you do, never, ever think otherwise,” she murmured, her eyes on his lips, “What you offer me is beyond measure.”
“Even when you are angry and want to yell at me?”
“Especially then,” she smiled.

Oliver knew he should feel emboldened by her confidence in who he was, but he wanted to have children with her and her decision to hold off on starting a family was devastating. It was not something he would ever force her into doing or a decision he would manipulate her into making. It had to be of her own free will to agree to starting a family with him.

“What?” she asked, catching the shift in his mood.
“Nothing,” he said with a shake of his head.
“Oliver,” her eyes narrowed as she spoke, “What?”

Instead of answering her, he took her by the hand and led her back to the couch. This wasn’t a conversation for the bedroom. The candles were sputtering on the stone ledge, bouncing their light around the room, a cold draft had found its way in and was causing their flames to dance.

“I was thinking about what you said about not wanting to have children yet and why,” he said quietly. He pulled a blanket over their legs and feet. The draft was low, hugging the floor. He could feel it creeping up his legs.

“And what was your conclusion?” she asked carefully. Her voice was structured, not leaving even an errant inflection to chance.
“I respect you and your decision. I understand why. It would mean leaving too much to chance, I get that, especially right now,” he reached for her hands as he spoke, feeling her fingers lace through his own, “We lost six months and I know what that means.”
“Tell me,” she said simply. It was a request but also a challenge. He was being challenged to open his heart to her, to tell her the truth, to finally connect to her pain in a way that removed all doubt from her mind.

“I love you, Felicity. More and more each day. There is nothing I won’t do for you. But sometimes that blinds me, it narrows my vision so tightly that I lose sight of you,” he could feel something loosening in his chest, like he was finally able to take a deep breath. “But you don’t need me. Not like that. Especially if I am taking away your right to decide for yourself what your future, your life, is going to look like or be.”

Felicity shifted so that she was sitting sideway, facing him. Her hands were still in his, her thumbs stroking the scarred knuckles of his ring finger. She wasn’t prompting him, she was only waiting for him finish what he needed to say.

“I want us to be partners, equal partners, and I know that means I need to remember that I am your equal. I sometimes forget that,” he said with a self-deprecating smile.
“You do,” she agreed with a smile, “but you are.”
“I panic, Felicity. I panic and lose all reason. It’s like I am hyperventilating all the time but I don’t turn to you for help because I know you will talk me through it and away from my instinct to push you as far away as possible so that you won’t be hurt because of me,” he said in a rush. His skin felt clammy, prickly and hot. “And the more I really think about it, the more I listen to you, the more I see the pattern that I have lived in for the last decade.”

He felt her hand on the side of his face as she turned his face towards her. She traced the shape of his face with her fingertips, studying the new scars that he had brought home with him. She still wasn’t speaking. She was waiting for the whole story to come out as he saw it. She was waiting for him to find his way through it all. No matter the heartbreak, she would wait for him.

“What I didn’t think about, or refused to think about, was that our time apart was going to be this difficult to erase. That it would take away one of the things I held onto while I was in Slabside,” he said, his voice carrying heat and regret. “I would close my eyes and see us. An us greater than three. And it right.”

She took a deep breath and he was sure she would say something but instead, she waited. Her patience was superhuman at this point because he could feel the words forming under her skin. Felicity, when she wanted to, could silence a room with her intelligence but her silence held even more gravitas.

“The life we lead...I don’t know that we will ever be safe enough to have children but...I am willing to wait until you are ready,” he said in a quiet, firm voice, “No matter how long it takes, no matter what you need to ask of me.”
“I know starting a family with me is important to you, Oliver,” she said slowly, measuring the weight of each word as they crossed her tongue, “but let’s reclaim the six months we lost first.”
“We will, but Felicity...we still haven’t talked about how you went about freeing me. You almost pulled the trigger on Diaz. I can’t ask you to never go in the field, I know better than that now, but let me be the physical force in the future, ok?” he asked seriously, “I am so proud of you but let me be the warrior. I’ll follow whatever plan you have, I’ll ask how high when you say jump, just let me do what I do best while you do what you do best. We are unstoppable together.”

She regarded him for a moment and nodded. “I wouldn’t have had to do half of what I did had our old team not have abandoned me. It leaves me so angry I am breathless when I think about John…”
“I know. I was so focused on getting back to our old routine, I glossed over that entire situation. I sometimes have blinders on where you two are concerned,” he smiled sadly. It was a situation that required a delicate hand but not yet. Not until she was ready.
“Oliver,” she said, holding his hands tighter in hers, “we deserve our life. A life free from continual sacrifice. Tell me you know that.”

In his heart of hearts, he understood what she was asking. It was more than just about them living in domestic bliss, it was about finding the space to let go of the mission and begin their lives as husband and wife, parents, as lovers and always, as best friends.

“There is nothing I want more,” he admitted, “And I know when that day arrives, we will be ready for it.”
“Until it does, I don’t know that I can say yes to starting a family,” she said softly.
“I can’t pretend that I know what to do with that,” he sighed.
“I know, love, I do,” she murmured softly, “I almost lost you, all of you, and I can’t…”

Oliver pulled her to him as she stumbled over the words. A tear rolled down her cheek, catching the fading candlelight, and he gently wiped it away with his thumb. He knew she was struggling and, for all of her strength, sometimes she needed to lean on him.

“I was so relieved when you walked out of Slabside, Oliver, I can’t even begin to describe the absolute joy I felt even though I wanted to knock your head off your shoulders,” she said quietly.

He couldn’t stop the laugh that burst out of him. It was the balance of how fiercely she loved him that he would never, ever be able to get away with anything with her. With his mom and dad, the balance was never equal between them. They kept secrets from each other the entirety of their marriage. Oliver made a promise to himself that he would not do that to her. Not ever again.

“It’s not funny!” she laughed.
“After what you did to Diaz, I have no doubt that you will do just that if I ever cross you again.”
“Oliver, I am serious,” she said with a firm poke in his ribs.
“OW!” he laughed.
“Stop laughing!”

But he couldn’t. It was stress relief for them both after a series of very difficult conversations. All he wanted now was to hold her and just let some of the tension go. He was wiping away tears from laughing when he felt her lips on his.

It surprised him but then he leaned into it, meeting the passion in her kiss, instantly feeling the rise in heat between their bodies. She swung around so that she could straddle his lap, pinning him to the couch. Her tongue pushed into his mouth and her hands pulled his shirt up, lifting it up off his body.

She paused to look at him, running her hands over his chest, shoulders and down his arms, taking her time as she explored his skin.

“I love your skin,” she whispered.
“Really? It is so...marked,” he said softly, watching her hands travel over his body.
“No, not marked. It tells a story, your story,” she lowered her head to kiss the scar over his heart, “It showed me so much more than you were able to tell me in the early days. Every mark, every scar, was a chapter I needed to read.”
“Felicity,” he pressed his forehead to hers, “I was numb to life before I met you.”
“But one bullet hole ridden lap top later…,” she teased gently, her lips on the knife scars on his chest.
“You were a revelation,” he said, wonder and awe mixing in his voice. She had blown his world apart with her intelligence, wit and bravery. She was ferocious, kind, loving and full of warrior spirit. Yao would have compared her to Mulan or Fu Hao and he would have been right to do so.

She kissed his neck, sucking gently on the pulse point under his left ear before kissing him again. A deep, soulful kiss that held more meaning than any spoken word. As carefully as he could, he stood up using his immense strength and slowly let her down. She was muscular now but still featherlight in his arms. It was easy to move her where he needed her.

“You would think we’d be too tired to do this,” she chuckled.
“I could be in a coma and I’d wake up if you kissed me,” he murmured against her lips.
“A coma? You must love me a lot,” she smiled.
“A whole lot,” he said and kissed her again, “But we could just go to sleep.”
“Not a chance. I didn’t take your shirt off for nothing,” she muttered, trying to hide her smile.

He laughed softly and let her push his pants down over his hips. Her breath was fast and hot across his skin, the soft flick of her tongue across a scar on his chest ignited the fire in his blood. Oliver let his mind drift, scattering his thoughts across their universe until he could touch the edges of his consciousness.

Felicity pushed him gently with her finger in the centre of his chest and he sat back down on the couch. Looking up at her, he dove into her eyes, knowing that they were bottomless. She straddled his lap again and began moving her hips, grinding against him until he gripped them and kissed her breasts, her neck, any part of her he could reach. When he finally kissed her, it was greedy and layered, he wanted her tongue in his mouth, he needed to feel her sharing his breath.

He slipped his hands under her leggings and over the smooth skin of her hips. “Take these off,” he murmured against her lips.

Standing up, Felicity slipped her leggings down off her hips and let them fall to the floor. Next, she removed her shirt and stood there, framed by the fire, and held his gaze. Tentatively, he reached out and with his fingertips, traced the outline of her breasts, nipples, the shape of her arms and round curves of her shoulders. He carefully felt the way her chest rose and fell with each deep breath. Moving steadily downward, he slipped his hands between her legs, feeling the smoothness of her inner thigh and the earthy wet heat of her.

“Come here,” he whispered.
“No,” she shook her head and stepped away from him, “Come with me.”

She walked away from him and into the bedroom. He stood up on shaking legs and followed her. His cock was painfully erect and he felt dizzy just from wanting her. She went past the bed and led him to the sitting area. He watched the way light from the candles flowed over her body, it’s molten glow clung to her curves, rounding her sharp edges, softened her outline and made her almost opaque. Oliver nearly reached out to touch her but stopped his hand mid rise, afraid it would travel through her body, disrupting her on a cellular level.

“Sit down,” she whispered, indicating the chaise closest to the window and he did as she requested. “It will be more comfortable than the couch.”
“We could make love on broken glass and I would be comfortable.”
“You are a strange, strange man, Oliver Queen,” she chuckled as she straddled his lap, “but I believe you.” She carefully grasped his cock, held it in place, and sunk down its hard length. He gasped at the intensity of the heat of her body and the initial resistance it made before welcoming him in.

“Felicity,” he said, his voice low in his throat, “no more reaching for yesterday. Let’s move forward. Together.”
“As equals,” she whispered as she moved slowly in a sinuous, circular pattern, “Only as equals.”

Oliver nodded, incapable of speech. Their world had shrunk to just the two of them and all that mattered was the moment they were in. Everyday with her was precious and he would waste one ever again. But he feared that one day she would look at him and think she settled. It was the quiet voice in the back of his mind, the one he had yet to tame, that still screamed into life when he least expected it to.

While he was incarcerated, he had ached for her. His heart had been heavy and full of sorrow whenever he thought about what she must have been going through. He missed his son and her with a completeness that at first had kept him paralysed. Until she came to see him that one day, the day he thought he had lost her, and her resilience and bravery had ignited him back to life.

At first he was furious at Diaz, at himself, at ARGUS and the team for allowing the attack to happen in the first place. It had driven her to such extremes that she had almost extinguished what made her the most unique and beautiful person he had ever known.

Once the anger faded, he had been driven by a single minded purpose to find out all that he could about where Diaz was in order to end his incarceration. He had thought the team was helping her and his shock and despair at finding out they had left her alone to face an uncertain future had filled him with rage.

“Oliver,” she said breathlessly, “we need to stop apologizing for all of our yesterdays. Let’s do this right. In the now.”
“You are my favourite memory and my favourite tomorrow,” he said softly.
“I love you, my erstwhile poet,” she murmured and kissed him.

Still buried deep inside her body, he pulled her legs high, stood up and walked them to the bed. He wasn’t sure Felicity noticed, she was still slowly moving her hips up and down the length of his cock. It was luscious, satiny hot, and with each thrust he could feel his self control slipping away.

“You really want to be on top don’t you?” she teased. She angled her head so she could kiss the muscular hollow above his collar bone.
“You have no idea…,” he murmured, deep in his throat and gently laid her on her back, their bodies still intimately joined.

Slowly, he pulled out of her, his cock shining wet in the golden light and waited while Felicity pushed herself to the centre of the bed, trying to give him room. He reached out to stop her and simply stared at her. She was glowing, a deep flush rising from her chest and up her neck.

“What?” she asked softly, curious and patient.
“I just love to look at you,” he said quietly, slowly kneeling on the bed at her feet. She had her knees up, slightly parted, waiting for him.

Smiling, he gently ran his hands down the inside of her thighs. Her breathing deepened as he slowly pushed her legs apart. He wanted to thrust inside her, hard and fast, but he slowed himself, reined his impulses in, and began to kiss her, exploring her skin starting at her knees. He could smell her, so earthy and sweet, and purposefully ran his fingers through the hot, wet length of her sex, opening her for his mouth and tongue.

She let out a long, breathy sigh as he rolled his tongue around her clit. He feasted on her, drinking her in, and sucked in gentle, alternating pressures. When he slipped two fingers inside her, her body twitched and she reached down to grasp his head. Oliver decided to push her hard and fast. He was relentless until he felt her curl up off the bed. Then he sucked on her clit hard while flexing his fingers forward to stroke the tender, hidden spot inside her.

“Oh...God…,” she gasped. Her thighs tightened around his head. He knew what this meant and continued what he was doing, stroking her clit with his tongue, until her hips rocketed up off the bed.

The intensity of her orgasm was like a summer storm. It started soft, like distant thunder over the ocean, until it roared over them both. But he didn’t stop. He kept her lost in the storm, stroking her with his fingers as he slowly rose up and moved up her body, trailing wet kisses from her navel to her throat. Without moving his hand, he thrust his throbbing hard cock inside her, remaining motionless until there was a lull in the storm.

Her eyes opened, unfocused, blown wide with desire, and she pulled him into a passionate kiss. The way it felt, to push inside her as she was in the middle of an extended orgasm, it was indescribable. She pulled his cock into her, pulsing hard around him. When he rolled his hips, she clung to him, stretched her legs down long underneath him, increasing the tension and pressure around his cock and he felt the deep, muscular contraction as she came again.

“Don’t stop,” she panted, “Don’t stop…”

From his knees, he used the momentum of her orgasm to carry him along. All pretense of taking things slow vanished as they both tried to take control of the pace and rhythm but he used the leverage he had and held her hips hard to his. She wrapped her legs around his waist and held on, the fire in his blood was roaring through his body as he felt the throbbing begin low in his pelvis.

Looking down at her, he saw the flush in her cheeks and rapid rise and fall of her chest as she gasped for breath. She opened her eyes and then time stopped. There was no judgment in her eyes, no sadness, only a deep, soul connecting love. It stopped his heart in his chest. The last six months were beginning to fade as they talked their way through it all and his reward was the way she welcomed him back into her orbit. They were slowly getting closer to who they really were and reaching for the future that they both wanted so badly to share together.

The muscles in his abdomen tightened and his cock throbbed hard, twitching and he came, erupting inside her with a raw, primal groan. His entire body felt electrified. Her lips on his neck caused him to shudder, the intensity of a simple kiss overloaded his system until he almost begged her to stop.

Instead, he carefully pulled his still throbbing cock out of her and laid down beside her on the bed. They laid facing one another, silent and relaxed, a thin sheen of sweat covered her skin. He tenderly traced her face with his fingertips, trailing down her arm until he got to her hand. Raising it up to his lips, he tasted the saltiness of her skin and smelled that heady, earthy scent of her that he would recognize anywhere.

“You are staggeringly, stupefyingly beautiful,” he said softly.
“I hope we can do that again,” she smiled, moving closer to him, seeking his heat as she cooled down in the cool cabin air. The fire had burned low quicker than he thought it would but he wasn’t sure his legs could hold his body weight up long enough for him to lay a new log.
“I am going to need at least an hour,” he yawned.
“An hour?” she exclaimed, disbelieving him.

Oliver laughed and rolled them up in the duvet to ward off the chill. She settled comfortably next to him, her head on his chest, her right arm around his waist. He used to tease her about being insatiable with her always wanting him to be ready to go again immediately after they made love. In the early days, he would use his fingers to make her cum again and she would stroke and suck his cock until it was hard, sometimes much sooner than he ever thought possible. It had been a game for them, to see how long they could go before one of them begged the other to stop.

“We should get cleaned up. I am a sweaty mess,” she sighed. Out of comfort and habit, she traced his scars, reading him like Braille.
“Uh uh,” he shook his head, “I know a trap when I see one.”
“Oliver, you need to trust me, remember?” she said in mock seriousness.
“I trust you with my life,” he said softly, “but not in the shower.”

She laughed and kissed his chest, settling back down against him. He was hyper aware of the way she was breathing, the feel of her skin on his, the gentle way she caressed the damage on his body, never judging how the wounds were earned, only doing her best to heal the part of him that felt he deserved them. He had loved the way she never made him feel shame or regret about his scars long before he had been ready to admit he loved her.

She was always able to show him that there was more to him than he was willing to accept. Until one day he was able to see a hint of the man she saw, and his heart felt close to bursting in his chest just for the love of her. From that moment on, he knew he would never love anyone the way he loved her. She was it.

Looking down at her, he said, “Come on, let’s get cleaned up.”
“Should we build up the fire out here? It is getting chilly,” she said as she sat up. The duvet fell away from her, revealing her breasts to the golden light. Unthinking, he reached out and cupped one, trailing his thumb across the nipple, circling it until it was hard.
“Hmmm,” she hummed, taking hold of his hand and raising it to her lips, “You sexy, sly dog.”

He smiled at her and watched her as she got up and headed to the bathroom. He opted to relay the fire before joining her. He didn’t want to build it too high just yet but the room was getting cold and the wind outside was still howling. There was frost on the kitchen window which meant the temperature was dropping and they were in for a very cold night.

“Oliver?” she called softly from the bathroom doorway, “come here.”

He could hear the shower running and saw the steam as the cold air and hot water met at the threshold. Felicity was leaning against the door frame, still naked, waiting for him. Every now and then, it hit him that she was walking, running, standing. That the bullet that had severed part of her spinal cord was unable to to keep her down. It filled him with joy to watch her like this, so vibrantly alive.

Smiling, she reached a hand out towards him and waited. Closing the fireplace gate, he got up and walked towards her, unable to take his eyes off of her.

“You should see you,” she breathed softly as he got closer.
“What do you mean?” he asked, feeling somewhat bashful.
“I love you for so many reasons,” she said quietly, looking up at him, still standing in place, “Your strength, your kindness, your occasional wit but sometimes I look at you, the physical you, and you take my breath away.”
“Occasional wit?” he asked pointedly.
“Out of all of that, you only heard ‘occasional wit’?” she laughed, hugging him close.
“Well, I heard you think I’m sexy…,” he said with a salacious wink.
“Come on before the hot water runs out,” she said with an exaggerated sigh.

Hand in hand, they walked into the shower. It was the perfect temperature. He stood under it, with his eyes closed until he felt her hands on his back. Felicity pressed herself against his back and wrapped her her arms around him. They stood like that, under the hot, falling water, swaying slightly to their own rhythm.

“Felicity,” he said turning around to face her, cupping her face in his hands, “you deserve clarity, even if I have to walk through fire to find it. You deserve more happiness than I think I can give you but I am so willing to try. You deserve respect and trust without having to ask for it. You deserve happiness without having to search for it and love...the love that should be yours without having to settle for less than it being freely shared.”
“Oliver,” she said, a tear running down her face, joining the spray from the shower head high above them, “I deserve you.”

There were no words left for him to say, she had taken all he offered and breathed life into heart once again. Leaning down, he hovered close to her mouth, feeling the heat of her breath on his lips, and with a soft smile, he kissed her. Tenderly at first, but then it grew into something more powerful. Her arms looped around his neck as she pressed tight against him. He felt his body respond to the pressure and had to chuckle.

She smiled up at him and said, “So much for needing an hour.”

Oliver reached behind him and turned the water off. There was no way they could finish what they both so earnestly wanted to start in this particular shower. They stumbled out of the bathroom and somehow managed to wind up on one of the chaise lounges. She was astride him, stroking his cock hard while he sucked first one nipple and then the other. He loved her breasts, how they fit so easily in the palms of his hands, and the delicate smallness of her nipples.

Without even pausing to allow him a chance to catch his breath, she thrust down hard on him, wasting no time in taking control of his body. Oliver closed his eyes and focused on how their bodies joined, the way she could switch from gentle and sweet to passionate and raw. When he opened his eyes, he was confused at first. It looked like she has a halo surrounding her head.

But then he saw the silvery glint of moonlight on the snow. The sky had cleared at last, meaning it was cold outside, but they were in for a beautiful night and day tomorrow. Those thoughts fled when she leaned down to kiss him. When her tongue slipped past his lips and into his mouth, he stopped thinking about anything but her altogether.

Earlier, they had made love as a way to reconnect and forgive, to understand one another again. Now, it was all about pleasure. Pure, unadulterated pleasure. He slipped a hand between her legs and stroked her clit in time with her thrusts. Her eyes flew open and she gasped at the sensation. She was trembling, her thighs tightening around him and he watched her slowly let go. He suspected, as he watched the flush rise up her chest, that they both needed this to finish fast.

Gripping his hand to keep it in place, she came in a flood over his fingers and cock. Her back arched and the cold light of the moon illuminated the newly developed muscles in her abdomen. He could see the way they tensed as propelled herself, using his body, through one orgasm and into another. The way it felt was enough to trigger his own. He was sure there was nothing quite like it in all the universe. Later, when they crawled into bed, he made her face away from him so that they could watch the moon travel across the sky.

They talked quietly about William, if they should buy a house, about her company and finally about the dreams they had for each other. When she told him that he deserved to live free from the weight of the shadows of his past, that he was no longer alone, he finally saw the light at the end of the long tunnel that had kept them so far apart.

He closed his eyes as sleep reached out for him, listening to the soft sound of her breathing as it deepened. The last thought he had before the inky dreamless depths welcomed him was that at the other end of the tunnel, she would still be waiting for him. When he was ready to unshackle himself once and for all, he knew she would reach out to help him those last few feet to cross the threshold out of the darkness he clung onto so that he could finally join her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8


He prowled the edges
of the universe
unwilling to leave her side.


Felicity awoke a few hours later with a start. It was early or late, depending on your perspective, but something felt wrong. She reached behind her, searching for Oliver, and found his side of the bed to be empty. The sheets now cool to the touch. Sitting up, she squinted, trying to find him in the dim light. Her glasses were in the living room, if her memory served her correct, but she spotted him on the chaise lounge closest to the window. A blanket covered him but he appeared to be awake.

“Did I wake you?” he asked softly without turning from the window.
“ least not directly,” she replied, her curiosity increasing. “Why are you over there?”
“I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.”

His voice was strangely flat. It was a red flag for Felicity. Something was wrong, or had gone wrong, and she now had to figure it out. When they went to bed, they were fine, relaxed and headed towards a good place together. He must have had a nightmare, something that propelled him out of bed.

“Oliver, what is it?”
“It’s ok, love, go back to sleep,” he said softly.

Ignoring him, she reached for the afghan at the end of the bed, wrapped it around herself and got up. Padding across the cold knotted pine floor, she joined him on the chaise, purposefully sitting at the end so he would have to see her. Normally, she would give him the space and time he needed to open up to her but not now. Not after six months of absence, of loneliness that bordered on soul crushing permanence, and not after the last day and a half. He needed to keep his end of the bargain up.

“Nope. Not good enough, Oliver,” she said firmly, “What’s going on?”

Oliver smiled in defeat and opened his arms to her. She moved easily into them and settled against his chest. His heart was beating so slowly, like he had been meditating. That was another red flag. If he got up, in the middle of the night, and was meditating, then something had gone sideways. She just couldn’t pin it down. Not yet.

“You were dreaming. Loudly,” he said softly.
“What was I saying?” she asked, “I have no memory of dreaming, so you will have to provide the details.”
“You were asking me to stop...hurting you. To stop ripping our lives apart. To come home from the version of Lian Yu I still have in my mind, the one I retreat to when I think I am being forced to do the unthinkable,” he said quietly. He was running his fingers through her hair, twisting the strands around his fingers and letting them unwind, over and over.
“I said all that?” she sputtered, taken aback by things she uttered when asleep.
“It took about fifteen minutes for you get it all out, but yeah, you said it,” he said with a sad chuckle.

Felicity turned around to face him, marveling at the way the firelight poured itself around the muscles on his arms, feeling safe and protected against the wind and cold outside. He looked tired but distant, like he was rolling her words over and over in his mind.

“Those were the topics of our conversations last night, I’m not surprised I was still processing,” she said soothingly, “My greatest fear in life is losing you and I thought I had.”
“I know,” he said, refocusing on her, “It was the comment about Lian Yu that got me. It was more a light bulb moment than anything but you are right. It’s what I still do, after all these years, and it got me thinking.”
“Is that why you got up? To think?” she asked quietly.
“Well, that and I wanted to rebuild the fire,” he said with small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“What else?” she asked with a nudge of her shoulder to his chest, “I can see there is something else.”
“You said something else...that I wasn’t expecting,” he admitted, “It was harder to hear than anything else.”
“What, Oliver? What did I say?” she was beginning to grow alarmed at both the sadness in his voice and the sudden reticence.
“It was a mumble more than anything...but you said something like ‘we can call her Maya’ and then that was it, you stopped speaking and I guess stopped dreaming,” he said, his eyes shining in the dim light.
“Maya…,” Felicity said in confusion.
“I think you were referring to...our daughter,” he said, his voice trembling just a little bit.

There wasn’t much she could say to ease the burden of regret he was carrying at the moment but it did explain why he had exiled himself to the chaise. She had dreamt of an as yet uncreated daughter, it had slipped free from her subconscious and was overheard by him. She couldn’t take any of it back but maybe she could help ease the tension.

“Oliver, I did say I am not ready yet. Not that I would never be ready. I just need time to...feel safe. I need to trust you as freely and readily as I did when we got married,” she explained quietly, “And maybe we’ll never be there again but maybe we will be stronger. I need you to understand that I’m not punishing you. I am trying. I really am.”
“I know,” he murmured, kissing her forehead, “I was just not expecting to hear that.”

They laid on the chaise, her with her head on his shoulder while he looked out the windows to the silvery landscape beyond, and let the warmth of their bodies and room lull them into a near somnolent state. There was nothing she could say that could heal this one particular rift between them. It would take time and only time to do that.

“Let’s go back to bed,” she murmured sleepily, “this isn’t as comfortable as I want it to be and I am tired.”
“Ok,” he yawned, “I am ready to get back to sleep.”

They both got up and that is when she realized they were both still very naked.

“We need to remember to wear pajamas in the future,” she commented as she watched him walk back to the bed. The way his muscles moved when he walked was one of the sexiest things she had ever seen.
“Maybe,” he chuckled as he crawled back into bed.
“I love your body but let’s not scar William any more than he already is,” she laughed.
“And here I was gonna make out with you until we were ready to fall asleep,” he sighed.
“You are a terrible tease,” she said with a yawn.

Dropping the blanket she had wrapped around herself, Felicity crawled into bed, feeling his eyes on her. She knew the effect her body had on him, just like he knew the effect his body had on her. She was too tired to initiate any intimacy but that didn’t matter. Sometimes it was just the thrill of knowing that she craved.

Without a word, they found the spaces where they were most comfortable and slept straight through to morning. It was a strange feeling to wake up naturally and feel refreshed and not buried under a mountain of worry and stress.

When she finally opened her eyes, what she saw first was a dazzling, brilliant blue through the windows in the sitting area. The light was blinding as it bounced off of the snow, which was so crisp and white. Felicity sat up and took a deep breath. The storm had finally ended by the looks of things and hopefully the sun would hopefully be warm enough to start melting the snow on the road.

She knew without looking that Oliver was already up. The smell of coffee from the kitchen pulled her out of bed. She wrapped the discarded blanket around her and made her way out to join him. Her clothes were scattered throughout the cabin from both the snow adventure and their evening entertainment.

“Good morning,” he said warmly, leaning down to give her a quick kiss.
“Good morning,” she said. His lips were warm and gentle and just for a moment felt a flutter of butterflies in her stomach. She smiled up at him, slipping one arm around his waist as she reached for her mug of coffee. “So what’s the plan today?”
“I think we need to call the owners and see if they can clear the road after a heavy snowfall and to make preparations for an extra day or two here,” he said as he served up her breakfast of oatmeal with bananas, maple syrup, toasted walnuts and almond milk.
“I’ll get in touch with William’s grandparents,” she said, “Just to make plans if we need to.”
“Thank you,” he said, relieved at her taking on that particular task. There was still so much tension between Oliver and William’s grandparents. She hoped that one day they could all sit down and talk about the loss of Samantha but it was going to take a lot of time for the bad feelings to come to an end.

She gave him a quick squeeze and made her way to the kitchen table to eat her breakfast. He had made all her favourites so far and, almond milk aside, no one made oatmeal the way Oliver did. It was always perfect, no matter where they were or what kind of oats he used. It filled her up and warmed her from the inside out.

“Be sure to dress warm,” she said to him as he sat opposite her, “Clear skies can mean cold weather.”
“Yes, dear.”
“You did not just say that to me,” she said with a forced groan.
“You take such good care of me,” he said conciliatorily, and patted her hand in the process, “but sometimes it is just a target I can’t help but aim for.”
“Brat,” she laughed.
“Ok, I am ready to get moving,” he said, getting up to find his heavy sweater and insulated snow pants, now dry from their fun in the snow. “I’ll call as I walk.”
“You are going to go for a weird snow run, aren’t you?”

Felicity was still laughing as he grabbed his phone, and put on his hiking shoes. She was glad he was going to train because it meant he was getting back to a normal routine. He had come out of Slabside leaner and stronger but also more primal. Like he had tapped into something ancient and cruel. By running outside, working out in less brutal surroundings, he was freeing up the part of him that enjoyed the physical routine and wasn’t just preoccupying his mind to prevent himself from going stir crazy.

She wandered through the livingroom and picked up all her clothes, both shed the night before and those draped over the backs of chairs so they would dry, and considered the day ahead. He would most likely be gone for an hour at the very least which would give her time to get some work done. She reached to pick up her phone when she saw the flash drive Oliver had given to her the day before.

Crossing to the window by the door, Felicity watched Oliver begin his run down the road and away from the cabin. She had forgotten about the drive but now, with him gone for at least an hour, she had time to look and read. She had time to discover what had happened to him in Level 2.

Pouring a fresh cup of coffee, Felicity put on her warm sweatpants and hoodie, grabbed the blanket from the bedroom and retreated to the chaise lounge by the windows. She looked out over the valley, blanketed in freshly fallen snow, and was dazzled by what she saw. It was like something out of a movie or in a painting. In the summertime, it would be green and lush. She hoped it would be carpeted with wildflowers and tall grasses. Like something out of an Alpine fairytale.

Smiling, she got comfortable and plugged the drive into her tablet and opened the files. She read through the doctor’s notes and shivered. The man was evil. The things he had done to the prisoners, what he had planned to do to Oliver, had been rapidly approaching Mengele territory. By shutting down Level 2, lives had been saved and a sick man was stopped.

A shadow passed over the window and she glanced up just in time to see an eagle glide over the treetops. It had just disappeared from view when she heard its call. When the raven in the tall Sitka spruce next to the outbuilding answered, she smiled. The cabin was a good place. It would be a retreat from the world, a safe place for them all.

The rest of the drive was videos. She loaded them up to play sequentially and sat back, mentally trying to prepare herself for what she could only imagine was on them. One minute into the first recording of Oliver being tortured and she knew nothing could have prepared her for watching the attempt to mentally undo him by a monster.

There were hours of recordings of just Oliver being verbally manipulated, emotionally beaten and psychologically tortured. Drugs were used in the recordings she watched. But through it all Oliver prevailed. He pretended to be beaten, he meditated to stay strong, and in the end he outwitted Dr. Parker, that she knew, but witnessing it was something different.

He had purposefully had himself sent to Level 2 in order to meet the mythical Demon. He had willingly allowed himself to be subjected to experimental drugs to get a shred of information about Diaz. She watched him relive his father’s suicide only to enact his own from the place of trauma so deep in his mind that she had long since realized it would never heal.

And that was part of the problem for her, something she was always trying to guard against but then times like this would rear its head and she was left staggered and breathless. How could she commit having a child when his trauma was written on his DNA? He would never be free of Lian Yu, of his father’s legacy, of the suffocating reach of everyone and everything that had stepped on his heart and and crushed his soul.

But then she watched one recording that she was sure Oliver wouldn’t remember. He was clearly extremely drugged. His speech was slurred, his eyes rolling in their sockets, and he was unbound, defenseless against the way he was being interrogated and systematically stripped of his identity.

All she could see was how hard he was fighting to stay present and using her name as a mantra. Over and over, in a voice so quiet she had to strain to hear it, he said her name: Felicity Megan Smoak. Dr. Parker couldn’t break through the wall Oliver had constructed around himself. He had used her name, the memory of her, to protect himself when he was at his weakest.

He had stared at the doctor with unseeing eyes and recited the vows he said that day in the park. After an injection, he had bellowed in agony and then told the the doctor about the day they met, the moment he fell in love with her, their first kiss. But in the end, he said her name over and over, both laying the foundation and building the wall that he would hide behind for the rest of their sessions.

With a shaking hand, she turned her tablet off, buried her face in her hands and cried. She wept for the strength of his mind, the deep and pure way he loved her and the ruthless way he retained his sanity despite all the ways the doctor had tried to break him down.

“Felicity? Hey,” his voice, so full of fear and concern, she felt a surge of sorrow, “What is it?”
“I didn’t hear you come in,” she said quietly, trying to hide her tears and failing.
“That doesn’t matter. Tell me, what is it?” he implored her.
“I opened the flash drive,” she said through fresh tears.

Silently, Oliver sat down and took her hands in his, his thumb tracing her knuckles over and over. Felicity looked up at him and saw how his eyes shone with unshed tears. She grasped his hands and used them to pull herself towards him. He immediately welcomed her into his arms. All she wanted was to stay in them, to feel the weight of them around her, to feel the warmth of his body against hers. She wanted him to feel as safe in her arms as she did in his.

He was practically steaming in the cabin air. She looked at him, at his flushed cheeks, the sweat on his brow, and heard, in her mind, the way he had laughed at the doctor trying to erase his identity. Laughing even as drugs entered his bloodstream, laughing as he held the memory of her as a shield to protect him.

“I want to show you one of the recordings,” she said, her voice thick with sorrow, “You didn’t mention it because I don’t think you remember it happening.”

She booted up her tablet, loaded the recording and hit play. Oliver sat in stony silence and watched himself be tortured. He gripped her hands, hard and tight, while his voice filled the cabin, saying her name over and over.

“I don’t remember any of this,” he said quietly, “I don’t remember this session.”
“He pumped you so full of whatever that drug was, it much have created some kind of localized amnesia,” she said in the hopes of providing some kind of explanation.

They watched in silence until the end when Oliver, laughing at the doctor, had been given a second drug that knocked him out. They watched as orderlies loaded him into chair, restrained him, and wheeled him out of the lab. Dr. Parker then picked up a remote and the recoding ended.

Felicity turned the tablet off and put it on the table behind them and together, they sat in quiet stillness. Oliver was staring out the window without seeing the valley below or the mountains that faced them. He was lost to her just then, she knew if she spoke that she would be trespassing on thoughts that needed to remain his alone.

So she waited.

When he reached for her hands, she felt relief flood every part of her body. He was still silent but slowly, purposefully, he was joining her in the present. There was so much she needed to say, wanted him to hear, but resolved to wait for him to begin the conversation.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said, his voice uncertain and shaking.
“What is there to say?” she asked, shifting closer to him, “You somehow managed to resist a madman, a monster, and kept yourself whole.”
“I fought so hard,” he said, aimless, his voice fading at the end of each word.
“You did…,” she stopped and bowed her head, fresh tears falling onto their clasped hands.

Oliver quietly pulled her to him and together they sat on the chaise, watching birds fly across the the valley. There were clouds beginning to pile up and flow around the mountains. They were dark, foreboding, and reflective of the mood swirling around the cabin.

“You are really sweaty,” she murmured.
“I am, aren’t I?”
“Come on, you can’t stay in those clothes. You’ll get sick,” she said getting up. “You go get into the shower and I’ll find you something to wear.”
“Okay,” he said softly. He got up without another word and slowly wandered into the bathroom.

Felicity watched him go and then went in search of his clothes, to see what he had left to wear. The shower was running by the time she found socks, pants and a clean hoodie to take into him. She paused on the threshold and took a deep breath. She wasn’t sure what she was going to find when she stepped into the room or which Oliver she would encounter but she wanted to be ready.

The first thing she saw was his discarded pants, then socks, underwear and sweater. It was like he stripped out of one garment with each step he took into the room. The fireplace had been turned on but too low to make a difference against the chill that has made its way into the bathroom. Steam from the shower was thick in the air and coated every surface with a thin film of moisture as a result.

His back was to her, his head in his hands, and he wasn’t moving. She watched the water as it fell on his head and ran in rivers over the muscles in his back. Without taking her eyes off of him, Felicity put his clothes safely on the wooden bench in front of the fireplace, turned it up a fraction, and slowly got undressed. She could only reach him by touching him.

Carefully, she tapped the glass of the shower stall. She wasn’t sure how far away he was but didn’t want to startle him by simply stepping into the same, confined space with him. She knew his PTSD could manifest in unexpected ways, the small bruise on arm was evidence of that, and she would only enter with permission.

Oliver raised his head and turned around. He looked like a caged animal for just a heartbeat and she almost stepped away from him. But he opened the shower stall door and held out his hand. With a sigh of relief, she slipped her hand into his, stepped into the shower and into his embrace.

“I knew it would be difficult for you to watch all of that but I didn’t realize it would hard for me to watch it as well,” he chuckled without much humour.
“Oliver, I don’t even know what to say,” she said softly, looking up at him.
“My wife speechless?” he teased.
“Only for the next five minutes,” she countered with a smile.

The water was hot and soothing. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back into it. Oliver reached across to the shower caddy and picked up her shampoo. Without having to ask, he poured some into his hand and began to wash her hair. His fingers were so strong and sure when he did this and she let him take care of her because soon, she would repay him in kind.

Not long after, with them both washed and clean, they exited the shower in silence, drying off in front of the fireplace. Felicity slipped on her hoodie and leggings while she watched Oliver almost robotically put his clothes on. He was still detached, operating outside of time, not within it with her.

Tenderly, she reached out and touched his arm, focusing his attention on her and not the memories of Slabside.

“Come on, you must be starving,” she said softly.
“I am,” he admitted with a small laugh, “I’ll have some cereal. I...don’t feel much like cooking at the moment.”
“Ok. Let’s get you some of that,” she smiled, “Did you reach the owners?”
“I did. The road is impassable right now but they will be working on getting it cleared by tomorrow. They have to wait for their machinery to arrive.”
“Then we are still on schedule,” she said in disappointment.
“We are but if the snow starts again and we have to be here longer than a day or two, there is a freezer in the outbuilding we can raid.”
“Provisions for days?”
“Days and days,” he said softly, leaning down to kiss her forehead before leaving the bathroom for the kitchen.

She puttered around, cleaning up after them both, giving him a bit of space to rejoin their world a little more completely. She wanted to make sure he was ok but how could he be? He had purposefully walked into hell to find a way to keep her and William safe. She wasn’t feeling guilt per se, but she felt the weight of his choices as though they had been her own.

Stopping by the large windows, she watched the clouds gather and grow, slowly pushing across the valley towards them. She had wanted to go for a walk earlier, to smell the pine trees in the snow, but no longer had any interest of getting dressed for the weather. All she wanted to do was lay another log on the fire and curl up on the couch or bed.

“Felicity?” he called softly from behind her, “Come and sit with me.”
“Did you make fresh coffee?” she asked as she followed him out to the livingroom.
“I did and I poured you a cup,” he said, holding out a mug of steaming liquid to her.
“You are a dream come true, Mr. Queen,” she sighed.

Oliver chuckled and shook his head as she sat on the couch. He laid a fresh log on the fire, as though reading her mind, and came to sit with her. He grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around them both. It was cold outside and the wind was starting to pick up again. There was another system rolling over them but so far the sun was bright and the sky above them clear.

“What else did you see?” he asked quietly.
“I watched the sessions where he tried to erase you and how hard you found back. I watched you meditate, and then pretend to be convinced you were no longer Oliver Queen,” she said softly, thinking through the things she was about to say with care.
“You are thinking again,” he teased.

Felicity chuckled and put her half empty mug on the coffee table. Taking Oliver’s hand in hers, she shifted so that she could see him. He looked tired, like he had just run a marathon without formal training. He must have gotten up a lot earlier than she suspected, which worried her. He was never stable when he was exhausted.

“Love, I want you feel safe here with me,” she said imploringly, “I have so many things I need to say to you but I need you to be present with me.”
“I’m trying but that recording...I wasn’t ready,” he admitted.

“I am going to tell you what I saw and what I am thinking,” she said, taking both of his hands in her own, “I saw you. Not Mayor Queen, not Oliver the brother or even Oliver the dad, not even the Green Arrow. I saw YOU.”

He looked away from her and she stopped speaking as she watched his face. He was trying to get a handle on the run away emotions inside him. When he was ready, he faced her again and she reached out to stroke his cheek, centering his attention on her.

“You are mentally so powerful. Not just strong. Powerful. Anyone else would have crumbled under the way that man was torturing you, but you laughed at him. You mimicked him. You meditated to clear your thoughts to stay ahead of the drug and mind games. You outmanoeuvred him and stayed sane. It was one of the bravest, strongest things I have ever seen you do. Oliver...I was in awe of you,” she said in a rush, “It was not something I ever want to see again but being able to really see what Level 2 was and did...your survival was against all odds and my God, you are a force of nature.”

“Why do I feel like there is a ‘but’ coming?” he asked.
“Because there is,” she smiled.
“OK, hit me,” he said.

Felicity almost did because it would have been kinder but they had come so far together, he deserved to hear the truth of her thoughts.

“I saw the you that was willing to sacrifice yourself to find even the smallest scrap of information on Diaz. You purposely walked in that prison. You made the decision to be there and to subject yourself to beatings and torture. And for what? I found Diaz,” she said simply, “I worked with our enemies because our friends deserted us after you deserted me. You didn’t have to subject yourself to Level 2 but you did, and yes it provided us with an avenue to get you out, but you also damaged yourself. Purposefully. You once again descended into hell to protect me, to protect William but the cost of it...I will never agree that it was worth it, Oliver.”

Oliver was stroking her knuckles but his eyes stared off past her. He was dissociating right in front of her and she didn’t know what to do to bring him back. There was nowhere for him to hide except in his mind and that is exactly what he did. His face was locked in a neutral expression, it was a mask made of flesh and he only wore it when he was wrestling with something he felt larger than he could handle.

“Don’t leave me,” she whispered, “Please, Oliver. Don’t leave me.”

She saw the physical impact of her asking him to stay with her. His whole body snapped, like an elastic band, and he returned to himself and to her. There was real anguish in his eyes, something she hadn’t seen since the murder of his mother all those years ago.

“Oliver, I know now what you allowed to happen to you,” she said through fresh tears, “I know but you can never, ever do that again, without making me part of the decision.”
“What if I can’t promise you that? Our life doesn’t lend itself to keeping promises,” he said.
“I’m not asking you to promise me, I’m telling you that you can’t do that ever again. You can’t leave me without making me part of that decision. If it’s to keep me and William safe, I have to be part of the plan,” she gripped his hands as tightly as she could as she spoke. Whether to keep him anchored to her or to prevent her from drifting away from him, she didn’t rightfully know.

Oliver took a deep breath, closed his eyes and allowed his head to drop. She knew he was thinking, so she waited.

“Through all the tests, the drugs, the beatings...the doctor used William as a way to break me. Never once did he use you and now I know why,” he said quietly, his eyes still closed, “I don’t remember that session. I don’t remember saying you name over and over. But you kept me safe, just your name kept me safe. Kept me sane.”

Felicity felt a layer of sadness lift from her heart. She let go of his hands and wrapped her arms around her stoic, thoughtful, deeply conflicted husband. The gladness she felt when he responded in kind was immeasurable. This reprieve gave them both a chance to breathe.

“We can get through anything, Oliver, so long as we face it together,” she murmured, “We are more than just a team.”
“I love you, Felicity,” he said, a hitch in his voice, “More than I know what to do with.”

She pulled back so that she could see him. He was looking at her intently, taking in her tear stained cheeks and red rimmed eyes. But she was seeing him clearly. Maybe more clearly than she had ever seen him before.

“This life was never going to be easy, I knew that when I signed up to be part of your mission,” she said softly, cradling his face in her hands, “but you are so much more than that. You have become so much more. You can see the world so much clearer than that boy who got on a yacht with his girlfriend’s sister. You left him behind. You left Lian Yu behind. You left all that behind. Now, leave Slabside behind. Carry the lessons you learned with you, but step by step, piece by piece, leave it behind. But not for me. For you.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head, “For us.”
“Okay,” she smiled, “For us.”

Oliver kissed her then, just a soft press of his lips to hers, but it sparked something in the air around them. She opened her eyes and gazed into his, marveling at the intensity of the blueness of them, and accepted that the man he was now, despite being a product of all his experiences, was the only man she would ever love. Even as their world fell apart around them, he would be the only one she would make room for in her heart and soul.

“We’ve both lived a life so different than anyone else,” he said quietly, “but when I look back at all my choices, good and terrible, I can’t say I’d change a thing because they lead me to you.”
“Just...don’t hide your heart from me,” she implored.

With a small nod, he smoothed her hair from her face, and tenderly ran his fingers through her hair. Reflexively, her fingers tightened their grip on his shirt. When he traced the faded scar on her forehead, she felt tears spill down her cheeks. They had both willingly offered up their bodies to violence all in service of helping the other. The scars that crisscrossed their bodies were a testament to the lengths they were willing to go to in order to be reunited in body if not in mind. And as she gazed into his blue eyes, she could hear the sound of her husband’s voice as he screamed in agony while an experimental drug burned through his veins.

Oliver didn’t wash the tears from her face with his thumbs, but he so easily could have. Instead, he kissed her cheeks until her tears stopped and then he kissed her lips, parting them with his tongue. She wasn’t sure how to describe what happened next but time fell away, like a flower releasing its petals to the wind. Slowly, all she was aware of was him. Not the cold draft from the unseen cracks around the windows, the dying heat from the fire or the darkening of the room as the sun passed behind the clouds of the incoming storm.

They both gave themselves over to the other, to the shared kiss, to the way they both needed each other. It was instinctive, primal and raw. His arms went around her, holding her tight. She could feel the way he trembled in an unrestrained release of the energy he had held onto since his release.

Oliver stood up, picking her up in the process, and purposefully strode to the bedroom. She was barely aware of the journey as all she could see was him, all that mattered was him, all she wanted was him.

It had become a ritual with them. The unreserved expressions of love, the deep dives into the painful disconnects between them, the raw, aching desire that continually flowed between them, all of it leading to the need to seal their new understanding with their bodies.

He removed her clothes before his own and she felt the chill in the cabin air. They had both forgotten about the fire but it didn’t matter. As soon as he laid down next to her, that spark between them ignited, it crackled with energy and life all around them. It blazed with fire as his hands traveled the length of her body.

When his lips found the tender spot on her neck and his hand slipped between her legs, she gasped. “God, Oliver,” she breathed, her hands trying to find purchase in his hair, “Will you ever get tired of me?”

“Never,” he said, his hands cupping her breasts, teasing her nipples until they were hard, “We have so much time to catch up on.”

Slowly, he entered her body, his cock hard and hot. Felicity gripped his shoulders and sighed. The way they were positioned, her leg over his hip, allowed her to move in time with him as they shared control. At first it was slow and easy, they were connected more than just physically, they had locked eyes at the start and nothing could break their gaze. Not the disappearing sun or the rattle of the windows as the wind howled up the mountainside.

She looked into his eyes and saw the plea for forgiveness, the longing to connect fully to her, the fear that Slabside had irrevocably damaged his psyche. She saw their future mapped out and their past understood. She laid a hand on the side of his face and made sure he could see into her and hoped he understood that her fear was only temporary and that now, she was offering her forgiveness freely and without reservations.

He rolled onto his back and pulled her with him. She rose above him in the darkened room, moving her hips against his in a circular pattern, creating friction and a tension that was building towards something explosive and beautiful. She could see him so clearly, he glowed in the dim light. He was reaching for her when she started to tremble and shake.

Ecstasy. That is all she felt. She was floating above her body, only tangentially connected to the moment by her heartbeat. Oliver was looking up at her, his expression so soft and full of love, but when she ground down on him, his face changed. So many emotions merged, that for a moment she was concerned for his mind, but he closed his eyes and peace flowed over him.

His body curled towards hers and he joined her in that world of love and joy. She loved this moment as it was so rare when they could find it together. Oliver wrapped his arms around her and held her. Her heart was beating so hard, she thought for certain he could hear it. They were slowly filling in the gaps as they relaid the foundation that still existed beneath their feet.

“Oliver, I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you,” she said with a soft sigh.
“I am so glad you waited for me,” he whispered.
“You are worth the wait, Oliver, always,” she murmured, laying down beside him, “I scarcely breathed while you were gone. All that mattered was finding a way to free you, even when I was so angry I could have screamed.”
“You never thought...about divorcing me?” he asked, his voice betraying the pain that thought gave him.
“Not once,” she answered with conviction, “And if anyone would have suggested it, I would have ended them.”

Oliver chuckled and shifted his body down so that they were eye to eye. “I am so glad for you.”
“Smart man,” she smiled and kissed him. “Now, are you going to add another log to the fire and then rejoin me here so we can watch the storm?”
“Anything for you,” he said.

She watched him, naked and glowing, as he crossed to the fireplace and gently laid another pine log on the fire. He was so lean now, his muscles appeared sinewy under his skin. She worried that the self discipline he had exercised while in prison was so ingrained in him that even now he was limiting how much he ate, how much he felt. When they made love, he was open to her. He couldn’t hide behind needing to protect her when she held him in her body.

But out in the open, he still moved with a controlled, feline grace. He prowled the room but he didn’t inhabit it, not yet. Somehow, that was what needed to be addressed next. He was in the world, their world, but not fully connected to it. The longer that went on, the harder the distance would be to cross.

For the moment, she was content to lay in bed with him, buried under the goose down duvet, gently talking about how they should renovate the cabin. They storm howled around them but all that mattered, as the afternoon grew long, was the warmth and comfort they were slowly accepting as the way things should be.

Felicity drifted into a fitful sleep as Oliver played gently with her hair. He was telling her about an escapade he and Tommy had gone on when they were nine years old. They had made a sled out of a trashcan lid and went hurtling down a large hill on the Queen estate. He wanted William to live that kind of carefree life but was afraid he had made that impossible.

It was something they needed to think about moving forward. How to give William what he needed and still protect him. She was wondering if they could do that for a child of their own when the world went dark. A few minutes later, the mattress shifted and Oliver left her to sleep alone.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

A Crack In The Wall

He looked deep inside
and found that she had written
her name on his heart.


Oliver had silently left Felicity to nap in peace, feeling a restlessness overcome him. He had slipped his pants and hoodie back on, picked up the blanket from the foot of the bed and retreated to the sitting area. He watched her sleep from a distance and mulled over their earlier conversations, the video she showed him and his continued mystification as to why he had so thoroughly panicked the night before, injuring her in the process.

Felicity was adamant that he had nothing to apologize for in that instance but his shame burned a hole in his mind. He could still see the way she held herself away from him, fearful but hiding it so well, and wondered if should even sleep in the same bed as her until he knew for certain what had caused that reaction to something so innocently created.

He cast a long look at her, smiling at the way her hair fanned out to cover her shoulders. In a world as dark as the one he so stubbornly inhabited, her beauty and love shone like a beacon and would always call him home. What he hadn’t known or been prepared for was how he had stood behind the memory of her in order to remain sane.

It filled him with that familiar sense of awe, to look at her and realize once again what a tower of strength she was for him. But rumbling under that was the disappointment he felt in knowing, and accepting the responsibility of, how he had undermined a significant future for them as a married couple. He wanted to start a family with her more than anything in the world but she was steadfast in her refusal, even when her dreams were betraying her.

He had to hold onto that small glimmer of hope, that somewhere in her was the forgiveness necessary for them to begin that conversation anew. Oliver was certain they could but he was mentally preparing himself for the eventuality of her not changing her mind.

But what had pushed him out of bed now was the same as what had pushed him out of bed earlier that morning. When she started to dream, his anxiety ratcheted up. Her sleep talking had awoken him on more than one occasion but hearing her beg him to stop hurting her had hurt worse than any injury he had ever sustained.

Sitting back, he pulled the blanket over him and watched the sky darken overhead. The wind was still screaming up the mountainside but now fresh snowflakes were falling and being driven up against the side of the cabin. He had hoped that a sauna could happen but at the rate the snow was accumulating, he wasn’t sure he would be able to safely start the fire to heat it.

The pine log cracked and popped as it split in the building heat of the fire. Felicity awoke with a start and sat straight up. Her eyes darted around the room as she searched for him, leaving him with pangs of guilt for deserting her, but the smile that she rewarded him with when she found him put him at ease. Something had shifted for her and now, he just needed to nurture it. Hopefully, they could come to a new conclusion soon so that he could broach the subject of her pulling a gun on Diaz.

“Hey,” she said sleepily, “was I asleep for a long time?”
“No,” he said softly, crossing the space to rejoin her on the bed, “I was just restless.”
“Tell me why?”
“Just thinking about what we’ve been talking about, about the video from Level 2...It’s a lot,” he chuckled.
“It is but you are handling it all brilliantly,” she said encouragingly.

Oliver laid on top of the duvet but pulled the afghan up over him to ward off the late afternoon chill. He was keenly aware that she was still nude but he needed boundaries at the moment. He needed to concentrate on what was causing the unrest in his mind and body. Felicity was perceptive and knew he was wrestling with himself, with the sensory origins of himself.

“Oliver, I can feel the bed vibrating from your thoughts,” she teased gently.
“Something you said really...hit me,” he said quietly, moving closer to her and wrapping one arm around her over the duvet, “It was about how I willingly walked into hell to protect you and William. But in the end, what went unsaid, was that it was you who protected me.”
“Just in that one instance,” she insisted. She had brought her arm out from under the duvet and was now gently tracing her fingertips over his knuckles. It calmed him and helped him think.

He remained silent as he made the decision as to what he wanted to say. She hadn’t just protected him in that one instance. She had been the rock he stood on when he felt himself slipping into despair. She was the hand that reach out to grab him in his dreams when the whirlwind of self hate threatened to submerge him, drowning him in the process.

“Felicity, you saved me every single day in Slabside. Not just in sessions with the doctor, but every single day,” he said with delicate care, “I held that picture of you and William as a reminder of what I had given up and as a reminder of what I was fighting for. But you...the memory of you, the thought of you, that is what kept me alive and fighting. You were wrapped around my heart, nothing could touch me there but now knowing that I used you to protect my mind...Felicity…”

She raised his hand to her lips and gently kissed his palm and then placed their joined hands over her heart. They laid together, so gently connected, in silence and watched the way the snow swirled and blew past the windows. The fire was burning low so they could see the storm that was coming. The clouds had gathered overhead and the fury of a late fall squall was headed their way.

Felicity nestled down into the bed, pushing back against him, and sighed.

“What is it?” he asked quietly.
“I’m...happy,” she said, “I know there are a lot of things we still need to figure out but...I’m happy. I love you. I may not like everything you do, but none of that has or will ever stop me from loving you.”
“I am looking forward to the day when all I can remember is you loving me. No befores or afters,” he sighed.
“When your boundaries dissolve, you let the real you slip out and I love you even more,” she murmured, her eyes slowly closing in the drowsy heat they shared in the bed.

Oliver smiled and kissed the top of her head. When she was in that delicate grey space between being asleep and being awake, she spoke the words that were in her heart. It was a good sign that she was doing that more and more as they figured themselves out.

“Remember, sauna time tonight,” she mumbled.
“Felicity, have you looked outside?”
“Yes. Perfect sauna weather.”
“You are nuts,” he said with a shake of his head.
“What? You go light the fire and get it started and once I see the smoke from the chimney, I’ll come join you. In boots and a towel,” she said with a suggestive bump of her hips against him.
“Come on!” she exclaimed, squirming around so she could face him, “It is our anniversary after all.”
“I thought you forgot,” he said with a warm smile.
“Not a chance, Mr. Queen,” she said so softly he almost didn’t hear.
“I should start dinner soon since we slept through lunch,” he murmured in his deepest voice. He could get lost in the current of energy between them. When it revved into life, it was almost inescapable. It exuded a gravity that held them both in orbit around each other.
“You should or we will miss dinner,” she said, her voice nebulous and fuzzy around the edges.
“Correct you are,” he said brightly and gave her a quick kiss before almost hopping off the bed.

She laughed after him but in truth, one minute more and dinner would have been postponed for hours. He had a simple dinner planned but it was one of her favourites. Luckily, he was able to order a good deal of it all ready to go, he just needed to pop it in the oven and it would be done.

Twenty minutes later, Felicity was dressed and setting the small kitchen table. She had moved it off to the side, closer to the window that overlooked the valley. Most of the windows overlooked it for good reason, the view was spectacular. Oliver had to admit, waking up in spring or summer would be like waking up in paradise. The valley would be verdant, lush and full of life.

Music filled the cabin. This time piano concertos that for her were her favourites. She explained to him once that when she was a teenager, she figured out an algorithm based on a Bach concerto. It was a complicated one that had stumped NASA and the NSA when she entered it into a competition. It had been one of her proudest moments and had been witnessed by no one who cared about her. Her father was long since gone and her mom had been working.

It was a bittersweet moment for her and she was trying to reclaim the happiness she felt before the loneliness of that moment had set in. He was honoured to be the one she sought to feel that sense of joy with again.

“Can you open the wine?” he asked as he pulled the lemon roasted chicken of the oven.
“I absolutely can do that,” she said happily.

As he laid out their dinner, he watched her move through the cabin. Her movements in time with the music. She laid another log on the fire, opened the wine, dug through a drawer and found long stem candles, lit them and went in search of something in the bedroom, disappearing for a moment into the bathroom. If he could describe she reminded him of with only a word, it would have been ‘a symphony’.

When she moved with purpose, she was music in motion.

“So what did you make me?” she asked as she lit the candles on the table.
“Lemon and rosemary roasted chicken, with glazed carrots, and roasted potatoes. Plus a few extras,” he answered as he placed her plate in front of her.
“Oh, you sweet beautiful man…,” she sighed, “I am starving.”

Oliver smiled and poured her a glass of white wine, chilled and ready to go, and sat down opposite her. She was resplendent in the candle light. Her eyes glittered and her skin and hair shone with vitality. They started slowly, talking about their first, chaotic date, the heartache of losing the other in doubt and anxiety that followed.

Before the meal was half eaten, they were holding hands across the table, simply happy to enjoy the tender quiet of the gathering dusk.

“How much of the wine is left?” she asked.
“About half the bottle,” he answered, eyeing it up and down.
“Pour,” she commanded, holding out her glass.
“Whatever you say, my little wino,” he teased.
“When you were away, I drank a lot of this stuff,” she commented sadly.

Oliver topped up her glass and held her other hand. “I’m just glad you didn’t take up anything destructive, like backgammon or bridge.”
“Smart ass,” she muttered and took a big gulp of the very good wine.

“I’ll clean this up and get us our dessert,” he winked.
“I am definitely looking forward to that,” she said emphatically.

One year, he thought as he scraped the scraps of food off their plates and stacked them in the dishwasher, one year of marriage where he had spent almost half in prison. He watched her as she refilled her wine glass with the rest of the wine and turned to watch the snow falling. How he would make that up to her, he didn’t know, but he had to try.

Their dessert was a simple one. Strawberries dipped in chocolate, with coconut whipped cream. She eyed it up as he brought it to the table and smiled knowingly at him. He worked hard to keep a straight face and went to stoke the fire.

“So I might have a surprise for you,” she said teasingly.
“My interest is piqued,” he said.
“But after the strawbernies...strawnberries...strawberries,” she finally managed to say.
“No more wine for you,” he laughed.
“You left me to drink it all. I couldn’t let it go to waste.”

She was over enunciating her words which caused him to laugh even harder. She made a show of ignoring him so that she could focus on the food. She purposefully scooped up a large dollop of coconut whipped cream using her hands and licked it off her fingers. She eyed him closely even as she swayed in her seat.

Oliver shook his head in mock disgust. Felicity smiled and watched as he reached to do the same. She waited until he had his hand halfway to his mouth when she reached out lightning quick and grabbed his wrist. Slowly, she stretched his arm out across the table towards her, and gently licked and sucked the cream from his fingers.

He was mesmerized. Her tongue was warm and felt like velvet on his skin. As he watched her lips wrap themselves around his fingers, one at a time, she watched him. He could feel her eyes on him but was unable to lift his eyes to meet hers. His cock twitched against his thigh and he took a deep breath. He wanted her but decided to wait.

“So...what’s your surprise?” he asked, his voice deep in his throat.
“Give me 5 minutes,” she said and got up and was gone back into the bedroom.

He decided to keep busy and kept cleaning up after them. It was easily done and just as he was about to call to her and see if she was ok, he heard her calling him.

“Where are you?” he called back.
“In the bathroom….bring the candles!”

Needing no further encouragement, he picked up the candles from the table and went to join her. He was curious as to what she had planned. He could hear the bubbling of the jets in the tub and smiled big and wide. He had a feeling, given that it was only a little after six in the evening, that they were going to have a long, intimate night.

“Where are you?” he asked as his eyes adjusted to the light.
“Over here,” she said softly.

He looked towards the tub and saw her. She was sitting on the edge of the tub with only a towel wrapped around her. Her hair was up in a messy bun, with delicate tendrils of fine hair curling down the nape of her neck. The candlelight glimmered off of her body and he realized he was holding his breath.

Exhaling slowly, he put the candles on the window ledge and unhurriedly removed his clothes. She watched him, her eyes sliding over his body, smiling like she had a secret to share. When he was completely nude, he reached out and gently tugged her towel so that it fell away from her body. She was breathtaking. Her high firm breasts, the gentle slope of her abdomen, the flare of her hips, the small thatch of hair between her legs, she was perfect.

“Let’s get in,” she whispered.

Without a word, he stepped into the hot, bubbling water and sank into the tub. Holding out his hands, he helped her in to join him. He wasn’t sure what she had meant as surprise until he smelled it. The familiar scent of Bali drifted up to him and he grinned from ear to ear. They had long ago run out of anything related to that trip. Somehow she found a way to bring it back to them.

“How did you find this?” he asked as she settled against him, her head resting on his chest. The tub was big enough for her to stretch out completely.
“I had to search. I found it by accident on a travel site. I...I was thinking about running away right at the start of all of this. I was so angry with you, Oliver. I wanted to leave for a vacation, anything, but I couldn’t use my credit cards because I was in Witness Protection and of course William didn’t have a passport with any name on it we could use to prove we were family,” she was speedtalking which meant she deep in her anxiety over something. Oliver needed to pay attention to see just what was spinning in her mind.
“What really stopped you?” he asked cautiously.

Felicity fell silent, her body gently bouncing against his in the current created by the jets just under the surface of the water. He let her drift and return, electing to not restrict or impede her movements.

“I couldn’t leave you,” she said simply, “I wasn’t near Slabside, but I couldn’t leave you.”

Oliver felt frozen in place. He caught his expression in the reflection in the windows opposite them and Felicity’s eyes as she watched him. There was no escaping her in the dark room. The fireplace behind them was illuminating enough the space to capture them in the glass.

“No one, least of all me, would have blamed you,” he said quietly, his heart still locked up tight in his chest, “I didn’t give you any reason to stay.”
“But in a way, you did,” she said as she laced their fingers together, “If I didn’t love you the way I do, I think I would have been gone. But I am IN love with you. That is my gift to you and your gift to me.”
“I like it when you get tipsy,” he teased.
“Why?” she laughed.
“You say the most heartfelt and beautiful things to me.”
“I say whatever I am thinking,” she confessed.
“You do and you talk really fast. Even for you.”

Felicity used the current in the water to turn her body around. She loped one arm around he neck and pulled herself close to him. She stared into his eyes for what felt like an eternity. He had no idea what she was looking for but he waited until she did.

“I close my eyes at night and I see you. The you before Slabside. You used to walk with precision, confidence and speed. There was nothing, absolutely nothing sexier than the way you would walk into a room,” she confessed. With her free hand, she running her thumb over his lips, tenderly tracing his bottom lip. “Everyone would stop and stare. There was something about the way you carried yourself. You were the Alpha male no matter how much testosterone was in the room.”

In the space her pause created, Oliver ran his hands down her back, tracing her scars as he did. She was still staring into his eyes, leaving him no room to move or hide. There was a smile lurking deep in the endless gold flecked blue that filled his vision. He hoped he would see the joy she was slowly discovering.

“I always feel safe when you are near. Always. And when I am this close,” she whispered, her lips a fraction of an inch from his, so close that they were sharing one breath, “I feel like the world can’t touch us. That you are a gift and I am so grateful for you.”
“Felicity…,” he breathed, wanting to tell her that his heart, so broken by his own decisions had only begun to mend by remembering her and all the gifts she had given him just by loving him with the deep patience only she possessed, but she stopped him with a kiss that was both passionate and tender.

She hummed into it, sending vibrations through his body, her tongue was warm and soft as it explored his mouth. After an eternity, they parted to catch their breath. Felicity kept her arm around his neck to keep her close to him, her free hand had traveled down his body as she kissed him and was gently stroking his cock.

It was mesmerizing. She kept his eyes locked to hers, her lips hovering just out of reach. The smile that had been swirling in the depths of her eyes finally rose to the surface. It was so beautiful, so radiant, he felt a rush of sorrow at the newness of it when for so long it had been a constant between them.

“Our first year as a married couple hasn’t been easy,” she mused reflectively, continuing to stroke his cock, “but I think that is our normal.”
“I do, too,” he whispered, longing to kiss her again.
“Do you feel that ache? Deep in your pelvis?” she asked.
“Yes,” he managed to say.
“I felt that everyday you were gone. My body felt empty. My heart was full of dust. All I wanted to do was run to you in Slabside and get you out. Free you for me, for you, for William,” she said softly, intimately, “Oliver, when I saw you that first time after so long apart, I know we were both so damaged, battered and bruised, but my heart set sail again, all because of you.”

In one movement, Oliver stopped the jets in the tub, turning they system off, which included draining the water, and stood up. Felicity wrapped her legs around his waist and held on as he stepped out of the tub and walked out of the bathroom, leaving puddles of water behind him. The fire in the bedroom was roaring, helping to keep them warm.

Oliver didn’t pause at the edge of the bed, he knelt on it and laid her across it. She kept her hold on him and pulled him down with her but there was no urgency in how she touched him, or the way she moved her body to get comfortable beneath him. He wanted to explore her but she held him fast and shook her head.

“Show me,” was all she said.

She gently placed her hands on either side of his face and met him halfway with a kiss that broke through all his defenses. She was moving her hips, pulling his erect cock through the silky, hot wet length of her until his mind went blank with desire. He knew she wanted him to show her that ache, that desperate need, to connect to her, to feel how much she needed him.

He’d never felt anything like this with her before. Not before Slabside and not since his release. The lack of urgency didn’t diminish the desire, it didn’t mean he wasn’t on the edge of losing all sense of reason. But he listened to her, to her body, he let go of wanting to control the moment and followed her lead.

She let go of his face and moved them to his hands. It was then that he felt the blanket underneath them.

“Where on earth did you find this?” he asked with a soft laugh.
“Oh, you mean this fake bear skin blanket?” she said suggestively. “I found it in the closet beside the bathroom. I think it’s a rug but I thought it might be nice to lay on.”
“It is,” he murmured and kissed her, softly at first but then with gathering intensity. He sucked her bottom lip and felt, more than heard, her moan into him. It rolled through him, shifting the cells in his body.

He stretched her arms above her head and used the advantage of his greater size to keep her in place, while he kissed her neck, her breasts. She slipped a hand free, reached between them and guided him into her body. She returned her hand to his and kept her legs wrapped around his waist. They had once again locked eyes, even as the pull of their bodies created more and more tension between them.

“When we finalize buying this place, this rug comes with,” he growled lowly. Before she could reply, he kissed her. It was a hard kiss, demanding but not rough. She sucked his tongue in time to the almost languid movement of his hips. He was moving slowly, in long languid thrusts, with no building intensity. They had all night together with no one to interrupt or crisis to solve.

He pulled back to look at her, her cheeks flushed and her eyes shining, and wondered if he could ever stop being the author of their misery. She must have seen something in his eyes because she slipped her hands free and ran them up his arms so that she could cradle his face. Her thumbs traced his lips and she smiled up at him.

“No more boundaries around your heart,” she whispered.
“No more,” he said softly, “Just your name.”

There were no more words shared between them after that for what felt like hours. At one point she rolled them over so that she was on top but she stayed pressed against the length of his body, only pushing her legs up to kneeling so she could slowly grind against him. He gripped her hips and kissed her until that deep ache in his pelvis turned fiery, ferocious and explosive.

He felt pinned beneath her, unable to move or change the position they were in, so he wrapped her in his arms and held her tight, feeling the rapid change in her breathing, the way her body pulsed around him. Felicity kissed him until her body gave in to one long undulating, pounding shudder. Her orgasm was powerful, it burst out of her body, and she held onto him so tightly, he felt the breath being squeezed from his lungs.

Then, in a series of delicate cracks and fissures, his mind shattered, convulsed and blew apart, scattering the pieces across the cosmos. Every beat of his heart pushed and pulled at his consciousness. He felt the primal rawness of her, the sensual wet heat that surrounded him and his body responded. He came in a long, almost painful eruption, deep inside her. The ache in his pelvis, that intense longing for her, would never stop but for the moment, he felt some relief.

There was always a sense that they had touched the Divine in moments like this. She was loathe to move, and he was desperate to keep her where she was, until finally the cool draft on their sweat soaked skin caused her lay down beside him and reach for a blanket.

“You are marvelous,” she sighed.
“You aren’t so bad yourself,” he teased gently and kissed the top of her head.
“Happy anniversary,” she said softly, looking up at him.
“Happy anniversary,” he smiled at her, and marveled at the idea that they were still married.
“You know, Oliver, once you forgive yourself, I will be able to forgive you,” she murmured, reaching to touch his face, “I love you more than enough to wait while you figure out how.”

He loved that she never beat around the bush but this time he, despite the tender way she spoke, he felt pummeled. She was right. This wasn’t so much about him waiting for her forgiveness, he needed to be an active participant in his own forgiveness and redemption so that she could find a way to forgive him. He finally understood that she wasn’t waiting to forgive, she was waiting for him to understand what he was asking forgiveness for. He needed to shake off the numbness around his heart and mind. He needed to stop searching for truths that didn’t exist and instead, with her compassionate guidance, find his way back to life.

“You are so patient with me,” he whispered.
“I like to think of it as I am training you,” she said with a wink.
“If I had any use of my limbs…,” he threatened hollowly.
“If you did, I’d be putting at least one of them to good use.”
“Felicity Smoak!” he said in fake shocked.
“Oliver, I am in my prime. You are just going to have to suck it up.”

He laughed at her boldness but secretly loved the way she desired him. They had been married a year but had six months to audaciously reclaim. He intended to exhaust himself for her pleasure in any way he could.

“So I guess no sauna tonight?” she asked lazily.
“Look outside,” he nudged her with his hip.

Felicity whistled. There was a drift of snow almost halfway up the window. He would have to go out and clear some of it away in the morning when he braved the short trip to the woodpile. They had more than enough firewood to get through the night and morning but would be almost out before noon.

“I think we should stay in bed all night,” she said and nestled closer to him. She wrapped an arm around his waist and rested her head on his chest.
“All night?” he asked, drowsy from the warmth of her body.
“All. Night. It is our anniversary after all.”
“There is no place I’d rather be,” he said. He trailed his fingertips up and down her back, enjoying the way she shivered in anticipation.

They laid in silence, listening to the wind as it howled over top of the music that was still playing so softly in the other room. Oliver played with strands of her hair and thought about the conversations still to come. The most important being that she pointed a loaded weapon into the face of Diaz and came within seconds of pulling the trigger. But as he felt her hand trace the ridge of muscle over his hip, he decided to wait for another time to broach the subject.

“I’m going to get some water, do you want anything?” he asked.
“Yes, please, some water would be good,” she said as she sat up, “And maybe some more strawberries?”
“I think that can be arranged,” he laughed and got up.

The fire was still burning high and hot. He was glad he had laid an extra, smaller log on it earlier. It meant they could retreat to the rustic confines of the bed and not have to worry about keeping warm. He was glad that he had rented the cabin for the week. They needed the time together, just the two of them, and for it to happen over their first anniversary was just the icing on the cake.

He filled a bowl with chocolate covered strawberries but left the whipped cream in the fridge. It needed to last until breakfast and the hot chocolate he had planned to make as an extra treat. If there was one way he wanted to take care of her, it was through nourishing her body with good food.

Before heading back to the bedroom, he peeked out at the Jeep. All he saw was a mountain of snow. Shaking his head, he chuckled as he made his way back to Felicity, who was climbing back onto the bed as he stepped into the room.

“Have I mentioned how much I love that they installed a bidet?” she said with a sigh.
“No, but I am not at all surprised that you like it,” he laughed and handed her a bottle of water.
“It is a total luxury but so helpful. You should try it!”
“You know how I feel about bidets,” he said darkly.
“You are such a drama queen. One misfire and it’s NOPE to all things glorious,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
“That thing was supposed to be on the soft setting! Not firehose setting,” he grumbled. He had used a bidet once in their bathroom in the Ivy Town house and had accidently jostled the setting handle to ‘Full Stream’. He leapt off of it and vowed never to use one again. Felicity still wouldn’t give up though. She was determined to get him to sit on one again.

For the moment, sitting on the fake bear rug in the nude with his equally nude wife was all he wanted. She took the strawberries from him and bit into a big, ripe, chocolate covered one. She closed her eyes in deep satisfaction.

“No whipped cream?” she asked, her eyes still closed.
“Nope. I need it for tomorrow.”
“I like the sounds of that,” she smiled and leaned back against the pillows at the head of the bed.
“The jeep is completely buried. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow just digging it out and making sure the battery isn’t frozen,” he sighed, weary already.
“I’ll help,” she said softly.
“I think there is only one shovel,” he said, watching her closely.
“I’ll watch and cheer you on,” she quipped.
“I knew you’d give in.”

Felicity laughed and lifted one of his hands to her lips and kissed it, watching him just as closely. She was not making it easy on him but he decided to make it just as hard on her. It was still incredibly early and he knew she had plans for him.

“I was thinking about why I had that panic attack,” he said softly. He proper himself up on his elbow, his body angled so he could see her.
“What conclusion did you come to?” she asked, running her hand over his head. She loved the way his short hair felt even though she continued to ask him to grow it longer.

“My cell in Slabside wasn’t big, I could cross it in 2 strides, but I never felt smothered by its dimensions,” he explained, somewhat wistfully, “The only time I felt trapped was at night. Even though I only had a sheet and a blanket, when the lights were out it felt like I was buried under a mountain of blankets. I felt smothered and I would have to clamp down on mind to prevent having an anxiety or panic attack. So I tripped back through all of that panic and I am so sorry you got caught in it.”

Felicity had reached out while he spoke and tenderly stroked his face. She looked concerned but stated silent, allowing him the space to breathe, think and share. He couldn’t help but smile at her as he leaned into her hand. She was his whole world in this moment and he had never felt safer or more protected.

“Oliver, your mental strength is phenomenal,” she said, “I am in awe of you when you tell me of how you survive things that would crush anyone else.”
“I focused on you. On William. On building a family with you,” he said carefully, “I thought about my mother and father and the example they set for me…”
“Love,” she said softly, tilting his chin so that he was looking at her, “we can’t be echo chambers for our parents anger, regret, their pain and trauma. We’ve both lived in and out of the shadows of people who might of loved us, but left of wounded and damaged. Together, we make each other better.”
“I love you,” he said feeling helplessly, hopelessly in love with her.
“I love you, too,” she mumurmed, welcoming him into her arms.

With a simple movement, he was able to come to rest on the pillows next to her. He gathered her in his arms and they laid on the faux fur rug, content just to hold the other. It was something he missed when he was in prison, the feel of her body pressed to his, skin to skin.

“I have an appointment in a couple of weeks with my implant checked out,” she said softly.
“Is everything ok?” he asked quickly, concerned.
“Yes, but I have questions for the specialists I worked with after my initial surgery.”

Oliver fell silent, his heart beating like a jackhammer in his chest. They didn’t talk much about her paralysis. Not out of any sense of shame or denial but more like they were trying to maintain some sort of peace between her continued good health and the functioning of the implant itself. He once commented that they were in an unspoken agreement not to tempt the Science Gods and she had laughed but agreed.

For her to bring it up now, out of the blue, worried him enough to feel a quiet panic. Felicity must have felt the subtle shift in his body because she pushed up to her elbow to look up at him. She searched his face and tapped him in the centre of his chest.

“Hey, it’s ok. I’m ok. I have questions for them about things that we never asked about or considered. If the time comes that I think we should begin thinking about starting a family, and you are still wanting to, I want to be sure...that I can,” she said simply.
“So you’re afraid that…?”
“The implant might interfere with me getting pregnant, staying pregnant or just me walking. What if the added pressure on my lower back stops the implant from working?” she was speaking in hypotheticals but he could feel the genuine fear behind what she was saying.

Oliver slipped down the bed so that they were eye to eye. He smoothed her hair off of her face and tenderly traced her face with his fingertips. A smile floated to the surface of her eyes and the unease he felt alleviated.

“Whatever happens, and I mean whatever, no matter what, we will make it through it, together,” he said softly.
“I know,” she smiled, “And we will get you back in the suit and back in society.”
“Where did that come from?” he laughed.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about it. About how you can be who you are, who you want to be. It won’t be easy but I think, together, we can figure it out. I”ll take my lead from you,” she said softly and ran a hand up his chest.
“But still,” he said softly, leaning in to kiss her gently, “the voice in my ear?”
“Absolutely,” she murmured into his lips.

She pressed into him, her body lithe and warm, and accepted his kiss with graceful desire. He felt her nails on his back and turned his body, so that she was on top of him. She stifled a laugh and pushed up so she could see him.

“We will make it through this,” she said quietly, reaching to trail her fingertips down his face, his neck and across his chest. “Remember your vows? Well, you are the best part of me, too, forever.”

Oliver cupped her face and said, “Come here.”

Felicity smiled and leaned down to kiss him. It was a deep, romantic kiss, one that he could feel was spinning out of their control. With a simple pivot, he was able to turn them over so that he was atop her and able to break the kiss without giving himself away. It was so easy to lose himself in her. She made his mind spin.

“I just want to be worthy of you, Felicity,” he murmured, hovering close to her, his lips a fraction of an inch from hers. “I want to not be such a disappointment.”
“Oliver, you are worthy of me,” she whispered, her eyes wide, “You just need to trust in yourself and trust in me.”
“I love the woman you are, the woman you will be…,” he said softly, his lips closer, “Never forget that.”

He could feel her breath on his skin and the way her hands felt as she ran them over his arms and down the flat slope of his abdomen. There was an intimacy to her touch that grounded him. She could anchor him with a simple touch of her hand to his and he valued it beyond measure.

“Oliver,” she whispered, “I am so glad we are finding each other again.”

They smiled into their kiss, one full of love, understanding and desire. She opened up for him, allowing him to seek her tongue, deepening the kiss into something more intimate than sealing their commitment to one another. It was a covenant, written on their hearts, that they were sharing in that moment. He moved one hand down the curves and planes of her body until he felt her soft, wet heat and slowly moved his fingers around and around her sensitive clit. She gasped and pulled him closer, one arm around his neck, the other one went low around his waist.

“I’m glad we are already naked,” she whispered softly.
“It is my preference,” he replied and kissed her to distract from how he was slowly slipping two fingers inside her.

It was a gentle rocking motion. He kept the heel of his hand against her as he flexed his fingers forward and then back out. Over and over, until her thighs tightened around his hand, he rocked his hand until her body started to shake. Slowly, he stopped and removed his hand from between her legs.

He gathered her in his arms and held her, their bodies entwined. She was breathing hard against him, not moving. Gently, he pulled away from her and waited until she opened her eyes.

“You are a cruel man, Oliver Queen,” she grumbled.
“No, I’m patient and if there is one thing I love, it is you,” he said softly and searched for her lips.

His kiss was tender at first, he wanted to convey the deep love he felt for her which was blinding, searingly bright, and if he let it loose it would fill the universe. He often felt humbled by the way she loved him, how it was a physical force of nature. Now, it was his turn to guide her through the way he loved her.

“Is this my anniversary present?” she asked, her voice husky and low.
“I want to show you,” he started to say, kissing her neck, “how much I love you.”
“How?” she asked.
“Like this,” he whispered, kissing her until she gasped for breath, “And like this.” He kissed her neck while he slipped his leg between hers. “And like this,” he murmured against her lips and returned his hand between her legs.

No more words were necessary after that. She did something that filled his heart with so much love, he thought his chest would burst. With a simple sigh, she surrendered her body to him. It was done with such purpose and trust, that he stopped to gaze into her eyes, searching for the unspoken words he knew their hearts shared.

He found what he was searching for when Felicity smile. She looked serene and alive, more than he’d seen her since he returned from Slabside. He thought about the way she’d changed. How she was capable of using a gun, of how she could kill, the way she pushed herself and everyone around them to their limits like a puppet master until he was released.

They had both changed in the seven months he was away, she had grown harder, defensive with an undercurrent of rage born from trauma he had made possible, that was driving her to create Smoak Tech. She never wanted to feel defenseless again. He needed to find a way to provide her the sense of safety she needed without over protecting her.

But right in that moment, she was offering her entire being to him and he had never felt so honoured. Without even touching him, she could make his body come alive. He felt the stiffening of his cock and the start of that deep, thundering rumbling of tension in his pelvis. He knew what he wanted but he held back. This was about them as much as it was about her.

He traveled her body, using the contours of her breasts and hips as markers on the landscape of her skin. Her lips still tasted like the strawberries they had shared earlier and it contrasted the smoky saltiness of her skin as he moved steadily down, kissing, sucking and licking as he did. His hands found the supple curves of her hips, the smooth skin of her inner thighs, and he could feel the build up of heat across every inch of her.

The way she responded to him was all the encourage he needed. She ran her hands over his head and her hips moved in timing with his hand and fingers. He maintained a languid pace, never rushing from one part of her to another. He wanted her to know and feel how he much he respected, revered and loved her. All of her.

Felicity cradled his face in her hands, gently turning his head so she could see his eyes, and he felt compelled to stop and return her gaze. It pulled him in like gravity and he fell back to her, finding her lips, tasting the faint sweetness of strawberries on her tongue. He wrapped his arms around her, pulled her off the bed, and slowly rubbed his cock through the velvety wet length of her. She was lubricious and silky hot. He felt a primal groan growing in his chest, one that would either be vocalized or experienced.

Drawing his knees up underneath her, he tilted her hips and seamlessly thrust inside her. They both let out a small sigh as their bodies joined. He smoothed her hair back off her face and studied her as she lost herself to the building tension in her pelvis. Her breath was hot against his skin and grew deeper as he unhurriedly moved his hips, trying to keep their bodies flush against the other.

She gripped him tight, both with her hands on his ass and the strong muscles of her pelvic floor, and whispered against his lips, “Please…”

Oliver could feel the need in her, it rumbled through him, matching his own. Yet, even as she tried to change the rhythm their bodies were joined in, he refused to move faster. Not even when she tightened around him in a pulse so strong it took his breath away. He wanted to stop completely and travel down her body, to use his mouth and tongue to push her to her orgasm, to feel and taste her in that precious moment.

But she had locked herself around him and just before she climaxed, he kissed her until she broke free and cried out. The sensual intimacy of how her body pulled his cock deeper and pulsed around him created an excruciating need in him. Oliver wanted to slow them down, but her voice was in his ear and the heat being generated between them overwhelmed him.

Felicity kissed him, a passionate, deep kiss that left no room for doubt in his heart. Her love branded him, it claimed him, it was the tenderness his life had craved since he was a child, it was the fire, the driving force, the light that dissolved the darkness around his heart. Oliver would never feel this kind of love again, he was certain of it. He loved her more than life itself and there were times it terrified him. He’d never felt more vulnerable then when he fell in love with her.

He connected his breathing to the thundering pulse in his pelvis and felt his entire body come alive. The lingering waves of her orgasm carried him along towards his own. With concentration, he was able to remain fully present as his hips moved hard against hers. When he finally released the control he had over his body, he felt his cock swell and he let his breath out as he came in an electric rush inside her.

He looked into her eyes and saw every possible future and made the silent promise to only strive for the best possible ones. He was vibrating, like struck steel, and floating somewhere outside of his body. He held her until his shaking stopped and was grounded in his consciousness once again.

“Oliver,” she murmured softly, “I love you and I will love our children. But you can never abandon me again.”
“I won’t. Not while there is breath in my body,” he said as solemnly as a promise, “I will love you until the universe goes dark.”
“That’s a very long time,” she smiled.
“It’s the best I can do,” he smiled back into the kiss she was offering.

Carefully, he turned them so he could lay down beside her and kept their bodies joined. It was intense to feel the way his cock would slowly soften and slip out of her body. She had once told him that she felt empty and hollow if he pulled out immediately, that feeling him slowly withdraw felt natural and luxurious. When their bodies stayed joined, she wanted him more.

“Soon,” she said seriously, “We can talk about children again soon.”
“I won’t pressure you, Felicity, I love you far too much for that.”
“I know and I love you so much just for thinking that,” she said quietly, stroking the side of his face she did.
“I am getting sleepy,” he said almost bashfully.
“Well, you were just incredibly loving and sexily intense with me, so I think you earned it.”
“You can’t see it, but the storm is raging,” he said drowsily.
“I’ll install skylights in spring,” she said with a yawn.
“And curtains,” he murmured.
“When we wake up, take me in the shower,” she said with a sigh as she fell asleep.

He chuckled softly, kissed her forehead and reached for the wool blanket beside her on the bed. The air was warm as the fire burned low and the air would cool if they napped for very long. He managed to cover them up before sleep claimed him.

“Happy anniversary, love,” she sighed before falling into a fitful sleep.

Oliver smiled and joined her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Tender Reveal

He was graceful
as he vaulted the stars
in search of her heart.


Felicity awoke with a start. She held herself still and waited for her heart to stop pounding in her chest. Something had roared at her in her sleep, something violently alive, but she couldn’t pinpoint what. It could have been Damien Darhk, or Malcolm Merlyn, or Ra’s Al Ghul or Prometheus. So many choices, so many men who had taken aim directly at her with the intent to end her life.

But there was anger surging under the anxiety that was shaking her body. Real, volcanic anger that threatened even now to explode out of her, turning her inside out in its visceral, primal urgency to be made real. There was only one person who could bring that level of hate, fear and violent rage to life and that was Diaz.

Part of her still believed she should have shot him. He had been handcuffed and defenseless but she didn’t care, in that moment pulling the trigger would have been an act of vengeance and one of righteousness. Oliver had no room to judge her. He had done far, far worse in his time away on Lian Yu and in Hong Kong.

His reaction to finding out what she had almost done, and what she had done, in order to get him out of Slabside had been troubling. He still had the habit of wanting to believe she was somewhat purer than she really was, like she was made of pure light and nothing bad could happen if she was at the centre of his world.

She turned her body, carefully so as not to jostle Olive, and watched him as he slept. He had turned over and was on his stomach, his arms under his pillow, and was blissfully, deeply asleep. All his trauma, all the violence that had marked his body, vanished from his face when he let go and really slept. She had to stop herself from reaching out to touch him because she knew it would pull him back to consciousness and right then, she selfishly wanted to be alone with her thoughts.

With her heartbeat returning to normal, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, centring her breathing the way Oliver had taught her and slowly, she got out of bed. It wasn’t late, just a little after nine pm, but night was firmly upon them. The storm had quieted down but the snow was still falling in large gentle flakes, accumulating in powdery drifts against the west facing wall of the cabin. Briefly she wondered if they could still get out of the cabin. It had been hours since they had opened the door.

Carefully, she put another log on the fire, aware of her nakedness as it caught fire, and retreated to the sitting area. Stretching out the kinks in her back, Felicity stopped to wrap herself in a blanket so she could sit in comfort and watch the snow. When there was snow on the ground, the night was never dark. Everything was silvery and reflective. She was dazzled by the arrival of winter in the mountains.

“Hey,” Oliver said, his voice draped in sleep. He was struggling to rejoin her in the present and she debated on whether or not to acknowledge him in the faint hopes that would fall back asleep.

The gentle creak of the bed as he got out of it meant she couldn’t avoid him. She turned in her chair and watched as he wandered over to her. He was struggling with wrapping himself in a blanket and walking over to her. It was comical but she covered her smile by burying her face in her blanket.

“What’s up?” he asked, his voice still slurred and quiet.
“I just got up and needed to stretch,” she replied softly.

He sat on the chair opposite her and studied her face. “You have that little crease between your eyes and you are biting your lower lip. What’s up?” this time the question was pointed and direct.

“I think I had a nightmare,” she said, thinking through her answer carefully, “My heart was pounding and...I was so angry.”
“Angry, not scared.”
“There was fear but under it...I was in a rage, Oliver. I just needed to get up. I didn’t want to wake you,” she said softly, finally reaching out a hand to him.

Oliver surprised her by hesitating. Normally, he would have been beside her instantly but he was reluctant to the point where she almost dropped her hand. At the last possible moment, he reached across and joined his hand to hers. As he moved to join her, he kissed her hand sending a wave of heat over her skin. She felt butterflies in her stomach and was glad the lights were out so he didn’t see the blush that she knew was colouring her cheeks.

“Tell me,” was all he said.
“I don’t know if I can remember anything,” she said as she made room beside her. He was still warm from sleeping on the fake bear rug and he smelled vaguely smoky.
“Why do you think you woke up angry?” he asked.
“I think because it was about Diaz,” she said softly. Oliver tensed but relaxed when she placed her hand on his chest. “I was so angry for months, Oliver. I was angry at you, at our friends, at the situation and I was angry at Diaz…it took root in me, it burned out so much of the goodness I liked to think was in me. I know we haven’t really talked about it but I sometimes regret not pulling the trigger and killing him.”

With a deep breath, Oliver got up from her chair and sat down on the one facing her. She sat up and met his eyes. For the first time since his release, she couldn’t read him. He deliberately masked his reaction and the start of heartbreaking panic was beginning to leak out past her carefully constructed walls.

“I don’t know what to do with that, Felicity,” he said wearily, “I’ve tried to push it out of my mind but I know that isn’t the right approach.”
“I had to function at a different level. I needed to survive and protect William. John was nowhere. He had written you ever being free again off and was treating me like I was a child, the not get me started on them.” She could feel the words taking shape and once they started to flow out of her, there was no stopping them, “All I knew, from the minute Diaz found me to the minute I saw you in Slabside, was that I would do whatever it took for you to be free and back with William and I.”

Oliver gingerly, almost cautiously, rejoined her on the chaise. She had wrapped herself back up in the blanket, her arms holding herself together, so he gathered her in his arms and waited for her to continue. The quiet of the cabin was deceptive. The fire crackled and hissed, the older windows in the kitchen shook in their frames, the wind whistled and and sang as it passed throught the forest and under it all, she could hear his heart beating beneath her ear on his chest.

“I can’t ever be the Felicity Smoak you met seven years ago, or the one who followed you to Lian Yu or even the one who you married, not ever again, Oliver,” she said as gently as she could, “I need you to accept that.”
“If I could go back and change it all…,” he trailed off, unable to finish his thought.
“You wouldn’t because that isn’t who you are and as hard as it was for me to accept, I did, I have,” she said emphatically, quietly, with no accusation or regret, “But it doesn’t change where we are now.”
“I feel like all I can do is apologize. My decisions, my actions, created this.”
“Oliver, no more apologies,” she said, shaking her head. She sat up as best she could and turned so she could see him.

The firelight moved over his skin giving the impression that he was made of molten gold. His eyes glittered like sapphires and she saw the treasure in him, the one that she had sought to find for so long and was terrified of losing. There was escaping that he filled her life with love even if the element of joy was sometimes fleeting.

“When we get back to Star City, we have to move forward, together,” she said, “And that means no more apologies. I need more than that from you, Oliver. I need you to not be the man who would abandon his wife and family without discussion. Even if the answer is for you to leave, you cannot make that choice without me. I love you, Oliver, and if I have to lose you, I need to be part of making that decision.”

Oliver remained silent and then nodded. “I can do that. I hope I never have to, that we never have to, make that decision together but I am not naive to think this like won’t lead to a choice of that sort.”
“We have no options now. You let the world know who you really are, and now who I am,” she said sadly.
“But that doesn’t change that you were willing to put a bullet in Diaz’s head. I know you say you’ve changed, that the woman you were is no longer the woman you are,” he said, “And I know that I am so much part of the reason that all the changes to who you are have happened, and will continue to happen…but you have changed me. You...the drive to get back to you was the only thing that kept me from sliding back into the man I used to be.”
“We have had a profound effect on each other, haven’t we?” she asked with a gentle smile.
“I never want to think of my life without you,” he said simply, “And I want our marriage back.”

Felicity felt the honest longing in his words. He might regret what he had done, and she had no doubt that he did, but the naked honesty in the way he loved her was something she would never, ever doubt. Instinctively, she leaned forward and kissed him. Just a simple soft kiss that acknowledged the vulnerability of the moment shared between them.

“I do, too,” she confirmed. “We just need to work together not only to get it back but to move it forward.”

He smiled but there was a veil of sadness over his eyes.

“What? What is it, Oliver?” she asked, laying her hand on his chest.
“Just thinking about all the time we lost,” he said, his eyes downcast.
“That’s not it or not only it,” she said simply, “Remember, I can read you like a book.”
“You most certainly can do that,” he said with a soft chuckle, “I think a lot of the anger you are saying is because of Diaz, is really because of me.”
“Oliver,” she started but he waved her off, determined to finish his thought.
“I created a situation that put your life in more danger than I anticipated. I had hoped that Diggle and ARGUS could protect you in ways I couldn’t. They didn’t and the price you paid is one I can never, ever erase.”

Felicity felt the burn of anger beginning to build inside her. Not because of how he was right about the imbalance between them but because of the ultimate betrayal of Diggle. He had pushed her so hard to forget Oliver, to forget their lives together and the lives they had chosen to lead, that ultimately, he had made her question their friendship being something she could count on ever again.

“I need some water,” she said getting up, “I’ll be right back.”

The small distance she put between them was meant to give her a chance to calm down, to rein in the surge of anger she was feeling towards Diggle and their former teammates. But it was too late. Tears had formed and were spilling over her cheeks. She had tried to not mourn the loss of the people who should have helped her but they had abandoned her and William just as surely as Oliver had. It was a betrayal of everything she thought they shared, of the friendships she thought they had formed over years of trust and respect. Now, all that was gone and it left her feeling that without Oliver, she would be completely alone in the universe.

Strong arms folded themselves around her and pulled her into a comforting embrace. Oliver rocked her gently, saying nothing, just allowing her to dive into the sadness, betrayal and anger she had lived with from the day he left her. She felt foolish for this sudden surge of helpless grief at a life lived and lost but the tears continued to fall.

“Come on,” he whispered, “Come with me.”

Silently, she let him lead her back to the dark sitting area. It was warm, familiar and she felt safe there with him. Looking at him as he pushed the two chaise lounges together, she accepted that on nights like this, when he held her in his arms, her soul would be lost without him.

“Tell me the rest,” was all he said as they got comfortable on the makeshift bed.
“When did you figure out these could be pushed together to make a bed?” she asked, mentally kicking herself for the wasted opportunity.
“The first day,” he chuckled while he laid the blanket he had originally wrapped around himself across it.

Felicity unwrapped herself from the gigantic blanket she was in and handed it to him. Her breath caught in her throat as she watched him move through the small space they were in. The firelight molded itself to his muscular frame, showing the softness of his muscles and the lithe way he was able to move. There was a sensual suppleness to him when he was relaxed and a heady sexiness when he was feeling vulnerable.

The night could come crashing down around them, the sky could thunder and fall to earth, with stars raining down and galaxies flashing like lightning, but all that mattered was the intimate knowledge they shared of their bodies and minds. Their nudity added to the intimacy but also to the demand that only honesty exist between them.

“I hate Diaz,” she said softly, finding purchase against the solidity of his body and molding hers to his rounded edges, “I hate him enough to kill him. I hate how he has become part of this marriage. He sits between us some days, this invisible presence that casts a shadow on everything we are trying to do.”
“He’s in jail now, out of our lives forever,” Oliver said in attempt to reassure her.
“It doesn’t change the damage he inflicted on us, continues to inflict on us...I know it will lessen over time but the course of our lives has changed,” she said in soft defeat. “We’ve become brittle with each other when our hearts should be soft. Oliver, we are different now.”
“I know I am still...finding my way through the days,” he said, “and the only way I can make it through is with you but I know you don’t trust me.”
“Oliver…,” she started but couldn’t protest against the truth of it. She didn’t trust him. She loved him with every cell in her body but she didn’t trust him. Not yet.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” he asked softly, “The trust is gone.”
“Not gone,” she said quietly, “Just damaged. I’m...I’m hurting, Oliver, and I don’t know what to do or say to you…”

Felicity stopped and just tried to breathe through the chaos that was consuming her one cell at a time.

“When I met you, I thought I had my entire world under control,” he said with a sensitive purpose, “but I sought you out for a reason. I did my homework, sorta, before handing you that laptop. I knew, deep down, that I could trust you with my excuses, with my questions, and ultimately, with my life.”

His hand, firm and constant, was rubbing her back. Up and down, a physical mantra that she could follow without having to expend any energy. This felt different, he was speaking from a part of himself that she hadn’t been able to access for a long time.

“Over time, and piece by piece, you found a way to both hold me together in my darkest moments and take me apart when I was at my strongest. Your strength goes beyond words, beyond me, and I took for granted that your strength would carry us through my incarceration. I made the decision I did because I trusted you to be you.” Oliver paused and then turned so that he could see her face in the silvery, winter light. “But I put too much on you and that wasn’t fair. I do tend to do things in extremes.”

She had to chuckle at that. He struggled with moderation and she loved him for knowing it.

“There was never any moments of silence in Slabside, but when I found them,” he was speaking softly in his gentlest voice, his eyes shining bright, “I would hear your voice. When I closed my eyes, you shone through the darkness. You became the stillness I needed in that place, the healing silence. The memory of you held my world together. But now I am so...ashamed for all of it. At the time, I was so willing to live with the memory of you if it meant capturing Diaz. But it meant leaving you to sacrifice your soul to find him as well.”

“Oliver…,” she said but he shook his head, cutting her words off.
“You did, you know it and I know it. We’ve both changed. You are a new person and that is still a person I love, respect and trust with my life. You…,” he paused, more to collect his thoughts than anything else, “Everyday, you show me infinite possibilities. You show show me that I worthy of this life, of you, even as we continue to grow. I love this journey we are on together and I am so lucky, so honoured that I am with you.”

Felicity looked at him and marveled at how the light from the fireplace seemed to have taken up residence under his skin. He was shining with life and love. But she could see the choice in front of her. It was as large as the mountain they were on and hers alone to make.

“I want to know you, all of you, the infinity of you’s that exist,” he continued, “This life will always present challenges and roadblocks but we can face them, no matter what. You are my universe.”

He had slowly moved so that they were laying face to face, his face was so gentle, so open, she felt that familiar swell and pressure in her chest as her heart sought to feel his in any way it could. How could she not love him, she thought, when he was so clearly offering her his body to protect her and his soul to join to hers?

“My nights and days were shattered without you,” she whispered, “I never want to feel that way again, Oliver, but I love you far too much to not find a way through this.”
“But without trust..,” a shadow of doubt and fear crossed his face.
“We can repair that, we’ve done it before. This time, the savagery of how you broke it, the wound is deep,” she said honestly, “But all wounds heal.”
“And hopefully, I can learn a new trick,” he said with his usual self deprecating humour, “You know how to handle the wildness in my heart.”
“You are a work in progress,” she smiled, running her hands up his chest, “But you are MY work in progress and whatever you become, I will love that man until the universe turns to dust.”
“There is no end to how surprising you are. The way you changed my life, the way you changed me, I can never repay you for giving me back my soul,” he said, his eyes welling with tears.
“Oliver,” she whispered, “You did that all yourself. I just showed you what was possible because I could see you, the real you, the -”

He kissed her mid-sentence and in that press of his lips to hers, the way they parted when her tongue touched them, told her all he wasn’t able to say. Not the promises, broken and kept, but that the depth of his commitment to change was the foundation of how he loved her. It allowed for infinite variations on the theme of forever and it was music her heart and soul had been longing to hear for seven long months.

The rebuilding of trust would come, it was inevitable. For now, she focused on his kiss, so tender and fierce, the kind that was surfacing to remind her that he was the love of her life, her soulmate, the harmony to her heart’s song. He was the quiet between her thoughts, the answer to all the questions she had yet to ask. The common destiny they shared was as vast as the universe and she was ready for it all.

Looping a leg over his, she pulled him closer, needing to feel his skin, his body against hers. He pulled the blanket over them and held her close. He was creating a world of safety just for her and with the lightest of touches, he ran his fingertips from her shoulder, down her back, over the swell of her hips, down her legs and back up her body. Gently cupping her face, Oliver pulled back to look at her.

“We’re gonna be ok, aren’t we?” he asked softly.
“We will be,” she murmured and leaned in to kiss him. He was the breath in her body, the earth under her feet. They were clumsy when they were apart, stumbling through life, grasping at moments instead of creating them. They needed to take hold of this chance and never let go.

“Have I ever told you that you have galaxies in your eyes?” he whispered, his voice low and deep in her ear.
“You may have mentioned it once or twice,” she teased lightly, angling her neck for his lips to find.
“Felicity,” he intoned her name more than said it, “I’ll never be perfect.”
“Neither will I, so how about we just be not perfect for each other? And not worry about all the rest?” she asked breathlessly. Oliver was moving his hips, rocking them in a gentle rhythm and she was beginning to feel that tender ache in her pelvis.
“Like this,” he said, his lips hovering above hers.
“Like this,” she whispered. His body was responding to hers with elegant, unending desire.

It didn’t take long for her to feel the strength of his erection and the slow, persistent way he was able to push into her, past the initial tension between their bodies joining, and then the erupting euphoria as every nerve ending in her body came to life. He took her hand and pressed it to his heart. She opened her eyes and saw his gazing back at her.

“We are connected, Felicity,” he said with a tenderness she had never heard in his voice before, “Heart and soul.”
“More than that, deeper than that,” she whispered, “I love you, Oliver. I fought the world to free you. I would travel to another earth to find you. I would burn the world to ash if anything happened to you.”
“And I would rebuild it. Just for you,” he smiled.

He pulled her closer and held her hips still, while keeping the same rhythm, and everything around them fell away. The building heat in her pelvis, the constant need to feel him moving inside her, was blotting everything out. The storm, the crackling fireplace, all of it disappeared until all that was left was the two of them.

It would never be perfect for them, their choices in life would never present them with a life in the suburbs, but it was their life. It was the product of the people they were now in preparation for the people they would be in the future. Oliver had dark places within him but she loved him as he needed to be loved. She was under no illusion when it came to his heart and how he loved her from between the shadows of his soul.

“I will always know you, Felicity, I will always, always love you. No matter who you are, no matter where we are,” he murmured so gently in her ear, “I will always love you. Trust in that, if not in me.”

She answered him with a kiss full of longing, love and forgiveness. She had to put her trust in his love for her, in his commitment to becoming a better, stronger version of himself for himself. It was the only way they would cross this particular bridge together. Oliver would always be a secretive man. He would privately weight out the pros and cons and once he was satisfied, he would talk to her, trust in her guidance and council. But he needed to know his own thoughts first, he needed the time to settle his heart and mind before talking with her on certain things, not all things.

He broke free from her kiss and pressed his forehead to hers. She could feel his breath on her skin, hot and fast, she could feel him moving so strong and sure inside her, pushing her ever closer to that special place of ecstasy.

“Look at me, Oliver,” she whispered and waited for him to open his eyes, and she fell, defenseless but protected, into their fathomless blue even as their light shined on her. “I never want you to feel anything other than loved. Neither of us are perfect, so let’s just love each other through this.”

His eyes held a question, one she knew he felt he had no right to ask. She traced his lips with her thumb and uttered one word whose meaning in that moment meant forgiveness, “Yes.”

With barely any effort, Oliver pulled her close and increased the tempo of his hips just a fraction but it was enough. The heat in her pelvis finally let go, roared through her veins and she floated free, untethered, as ecstasy flooded every cell in her body. Oliver held her tight to him, pinning her hips with ease as she came, her whole body shaking, vibrating, in surges and swells.

Tenderly, Oliver kissed her and she felt the hum of his desire for her against her lips. The powerful muscles deep inside her pulled firmly and tightly around his cock, and her back arched, pushing her body even closer to his. It was this emotional, deliberate movement of her body around his that sent him sailing free while she welcomed everything he had into her heart and mind.

For so long, they had searched for something ephemeral, tried to grasp at the light that shone out of the cracks of their armoured skin. Now, they had learned to find comfort in the spaces they had made for the other. Finding joy in the mundane, peace in the chaos and love amongst the wreckage and debris of two lives lived in exile.

She was lost in the current created by their joined bodies when she felt his cock begin to throb and swell against the tightness of how she was wrapped around him. He kissed her hard, passionately, causing her to moan against his lips. When his tongue swept against hers, soft as velvet, she felt the spasming of the muscles in his pelvis and the long, hot flood as he climaxed. One day, maybe sooner than later given how often they sought the comfort of each other’s bodies out, the decision as to whether or not to have a child would be taken out of their hands. The tendrils of fear she felt surrounding that were slowly giving way to curiosity and acceptance that it was they both truly wanted.

The moments following his orgasm were when they were both at their most vulnerable. Neither one of them said a word, they just held each other, waiting for the tremors that traveled under the surface of their skin to subside. It wasn’t until she felt the splash of tears on her face that she felt him crying.

“Hey,” she said with delicate kindness, “What is it?”
“Just a release of...something,” he answered with a soft chuckle.
“Relief, I think, relief and thankfulness. I don’t know if I deserve your forgiveness,” he said simply.
“Love is about trust, forgiveness, acceptance and the willingness to find a way to reclaim both when they are lost. We are never lost to one another, Oliver, not so long as we draw breath in this lifetime,” she said tenderly, stroking his face with one hand.
“And the next,” he finished for her with a small smile.
“And the next,” she said in agreement.

They laid together in silence, curled up across the two pushed together chaise lounges. Felicity was scratching the unmarked skin below his belly button, slowly drifting off to sleep when Oliver shifted uncomfortably on his side. He was too tall to stretch out but not getting up because of her.

“Oliver, you are twitching,” she said in mock accusation, “We can move to the couch or sit up or you could go and get the sauna ready…”
“It’s a blizzard outside!” he protested.
“You won’t get lost, oh mighty warrior, it’s only 20 yards away,” she teased.
“I repeat, it’s a blizzard outside.”
“How about I go and get it ready?” she suggested.
“Now you, you would get lost, so no, I’ll go and do it,” he grumbled.
“My hero,” she said softly and and kissed his chest, “but we can do it tomorrow.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” he said in mock exasperation, “I should dump you in the snow.”
“Don’t you dare,” she laughed, “But I really do need to stretch.”
“Your back?” he asked, his voice soft and rounded by concern.
“Yeah, I still get little twinges. Not often,” she said quickly, “But sometimes…”
“Come on,” he said getting up, “I know just what you need.”

He stood next to chaise, gloriously naked and bathed in the rich golden tones of the fire light, and she was convinced that she had never seen a human being as beautiful as Oliver. She sat, frozen in place, and simply stared at him. The broad set of his shoulders and back, the trim line of his hips, the cut V that presented a ridge her hands loved to move over, the groomed thatch of hair that framed his cock and the muscular flex of his thighs.

“ eyes are up here,” he said in a quiet voice.
“Oliver,” she said slowly as she got up, aided by his outstretched hand, “you are so...beautiful.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up at him. He looked strangely shy, but lovingly vulnerable as he looked down at her. He smoothed her hair out of her face and pulled her up for a soft kiss of thanks.

“Now come on,” he said with more insistence, “I know what your back needs.”
“What do you have in mind?” she asked, curious at his sudden burst of energy.

He remained silent, lead her into the bathroom and turned on the shower.

“A shower?” she asked dubiously.
“That’s just the beginning,” he whispered in her ear sending a bolt of electricity through her.
“Aren’t you...tired?” she asked, flustered at the sudden surge of lust.
“Getting there,” he chuckled, “but I’m not there yet.” And then he kissed her gently and pulled her under the rainfall showerhead.

The water was hot but soothing. She sighed as she felt Oliver standing so close behind her, not touching her yet, but she could feel the heat of his body and how it bounced off of her skin. It was an irresistible pull as each cell in her body felt the call of his.

“I am so proud of you,” he murmured, almost too quiet for her to hear.
“Why?” she asked as she turned to face him.
“I know my leaving you and William alone forced you to abandon yourself, to become someone you never thought you’d be, but that strength...that courage, is humbling,” he said plainly, still not touching her, “You are my hero.”
“Oliver…,” she said softly, overwhelmed by the sincerity in his voice.
“It’s true. Your superpower is more than just your mind. It is your resilience, your adaptability, the way you conquer everything life throws at you, even if you have to invent the tech to do it,” he said with a smile.
“I learned from you, Oliver,” she said, moving a tiny bit closer to him, “From the very first day.”
“Turn around,” he encouraged, “I found the special Bali shower oil.”
“You sneak! I was saving that for...well...for a special time!”
“No time like the present,” he said and turned her around.

After a brief pause, she felt his hands on her back. Normally, because of her scars, he was tender and gentle. He would spend what felt like an eternity exploring the ridges and valleys of each one until she was dizzy with longing. This time his hands were firm, strong and moved with purpose. She’d never had a massage standing up before, but somehow he was able to reach the muscles and kinks she would have had to stretch to relieve. Under his knowledgeable hands, they began to loosened and let go.

“Oliver, where did you learn to do that?” she asked, her eyes closed in relief.
“Here and there,” he answered.
“You’ve been holding out on me.”
“I need to keep some secrets.”

It was as Oliver was washing her body that she realized this was the first shower they had taken together since his return from Slabside that he had initiated. It wasn’t a return to their old ritual but it was close and it was beautiful beyond measure.

“What is it? You’ve grown strangely quiet,” he commented.
“I was just thinking that this is the first time we’ve really done this in a long time.”

Oliver was silent. Too silent. She was afraid to turn around, afraid of breaking the moment into shards too tiny to find. The silence between them carried more meaning than any words they could say. His hands on her shoulders, the tender way he pulled her to him, the simple joy of his touch sent her spiralling out across the surface of her consciousness.

She saw the little girl in her, the one abandoned despite the love her parents had for her, fade just a little bit more. Piece by piece she was letting go of the hurt she had carried for so long. They were the roadblocks that were keeping her from fully connecting to him. The fear that Oliver wasn’t capable of meeting her with complete honesty was now no longer the powerful boundary she had created between them. He was capable of being that man but first, he needed to reconcile within himself the drive to retreat and protect the world from himself.

Placing her hands over his, she leaned back into him and waited.

“Showers in Slabside were where I was at my most vulnerable. I was stabbed and attacked more than once while in there so that primal instinct to defend hasn’t left me yet,” he admitted quietly.
“I’m glad you are able to bring me in here with you now,” she said, looking back and up at him.
“I love showering with you, even if it made me late for work when I was Mayor more than once,” he chuckled.
“But at least you went in relaxed, like I am now,” she said, kissing his hand, “Thank you.”
“Tomorrow we will sauna. I promise,” he said as he turned off the water.
“I am so glad we are buying this place. I have the security system we will need all planned out as well,” she said as he lead her out of the shower. Oliver chuckled and shook his head. What she said most likely didn’t surprise him but she was glad he could find humour in it.

She watched the water form into beads and slowly run down Oliver’s back. He hadn’t yet wrapped a towel around his waist which allowed her to follow one small stream flow from his shoulders, down his back, over the swell of his ass and down his legs. She silently intoned a thank you to the universe that the night was still young and they were both healthy adults.

“You think of everything,” he said warmly as he wrapped her in a towel before donning one himself.
“Are you hungry?” she asked as she watched him move with incredible stealth through the small room. For such a large, powerful man, he was able to move without making any sound. It was something he used to his advantage in the field. She had watched him use it for years but it never failed to send shivers down her spine and set fire to her blood.

“I am starving,” he said, “I think there is some chicken leftover from dinner…”
“Go make a snack,” she laughed, “I’ll meet you out there.”
“Naked,” he said as he left the bedroom, “because we won’t be standing for long.”

Felicity laughed as he left. She felt something that had been skirting around the edges of their time together, not just the joy that burst out of them in the quiet moments, or the happiness that flooded their bodies when they were joined. She felt a true peace come over her. The kind of peace that was more than endorphins and hope, it was born out of the knowledge that they would walk through hell to save the other without question. It was a strange way to find it but she couldn’t deny that the ferocity with which they loved one another had lead them both to this place of peace in the mountains.

Hanging her towel up to dry, she wandered back into the bedroom and decided to not search out her husband. The tiny sips of privacy they could have here were a delicacy and ones that deserved to be savoured. Folding the imitation bear skin rug up, it was perfect for lounging on but she wanted to crawl under the blankets on the bed, and she put it on the small bench by the windows. Looking out, she saw that the snow was still falling. The mountain had a hold on them now and it would take work to get free.

“I am going to lay another log on the fire,”Oliver said as she got into bed and pulled the covers up over her, “It will get us through the night and then…”
“Sauna time,” she said with a warm, teasing smile.

Oliver crossed the bedroom quickly and slipped back between the covers with her. His feet were like blocks of ice that he was now deliberately placing against her legs.

“Oliver! You jerk!” she wailed.
“You are so warm,” he sighed, holding her so tightly that she couldn’t move.
“I will make you pay for that,” she grumbled.
“Promise?” he rumbled low in his throat, his lips on her neck.
“Oliver, what makes you think the rest of me is warm?” she asked sweetly.
“You are naked and I can feel how hot you are,” he murmured as he slipped his hand between her legs.
“One day, my love…,” she sighed.
“But not this day,” he finished for her.

She tried to turn around in his arms but he increased his hold on her just enough to keep her firmly in place. He pushed her top leg over his, using his long reach and strength to maintain control of her body. Felicity never felt small in his arms, despite their difference in size, she could take over at any point. There was something incredibly sexy about Oliver’s willingness to hand her control of his body. It was trusting and so deliberate. But she also loved it when he was in firm control of what they were doing and how it was happening.

They both fell silent and let their bodies take over and move in a rhythm that created a language so beautiful, she knew they were meant to be. Never had she thought this kind of connection possible, to be so in tune that no words were needed. It was like they were remaking the world on nights like this, where the need to live in ecstasy outweighed the need to eat or drink.

Hands that had killed, inflicted violence, broken bones and held back the darkness that had threatened to engulf the world, now guided her through a labyrinth of pleasure. His strong fingers stroked her clit, then he moved his arm a fraction of an inch but was able to slip two fingers deep inside her. She slipped one hand down to cover his, feeling the commanding strength of his hand in her most sacred place.

Felicity pressed her hips back against him, her body’s way of saying that she needed more. Oliver pulsed his fingers inside her, flexing them forward, stroking the secret spot only he could reach. With a push of her hand on his hip, Oliver knew he needed to shift his position. The give and take, push and pull, between them was creating friction and heat in the spaces where their bodies weren’t touching.

She needed to feel him inside her but he was holding back, stopping her from gaining that small measure of control she wanted to take from him. Instead, he held her closer, moving with her body in a controlled motion that soothed her even as she slowly gave over to the intimate way he was touching her body.

This was where their healing took place. Not in the confrontational exchanges, the ones that happened after whatever had created the discord, where they would stand their ground before hearing what the other had to say. It was when they stopped talking and let their bodies listen to the other. This is where they would find joy and purpose, where only the love between them mattered.

Finally, he released her just enough that she was able to turn and face him. It was how she ran her hands over his scared and armoured chest that signalled him to lay back, allowing her to straddle his hips and rise above him. Oliver ran his hands along the inside of her thighs, over her hips and up her body. He cupped her breasts as she thrust along the length of his cock, feeling him grow harder with each movement.

With one hand, she reached for him and with the other, she grasped his cock and guided it into her body. With deliberate intent, she welcomed him into her, pulling him in as deeply as she could and moved in a tranquil, circular motion. He let out a small sigh but kept his eyes open and fixed on hers.

Felicity trailed her fingertips down his chest, past his lost tattoo and over the knife scars that ran down his rib cage. They weren’t cracks in his armour, they were lines in the story of his life. Chapters and whole book, written across his textured skin. He rose up from the bed, supporting her body as did, into a seated position. Smiling, she embraced him, moving her hips in a continuous, unhurried pattern.

She loved every piece of him, even the ones he had tried so hard to keep hidden from her. The vulnerability, the seductive innocence of him, when he looked at her as though she was the only person his eyes were able to see, was part of what connected them to something greater than the sum of their hearts.

With a soft sigh, she kissed him and felt restored. The last of her resistance and boundaries fell away as she opened his lips with her tongue. They had been given a gift from the universe, the gift of each other, and she intended for him to know that he was cherished, adored, loved and above all else, forgiven.

Their kiss deepened until they were sharing one breath, completely connected as one living being. When they pulled apart, Felicity looked at him and longed to kiss him under the infinite sky, witnessed only by the stars and galaxies hidden behind the relentless blue. She wanted the entire universe to bear witness to the endless capacity they both had to love the other.

Pressing her forehead to his, Felicity let the urgency to move take over. She ran her hands over his shoulders and up to his neck and held on. Their lives hadn’t been lived without making mistakes, and he had to stop thinking she wouldn’t rise and fight no matter how large the challenge was in front of her, in front of them.

Their world was always courting chaos, she loved the fractal patterns created in the wake of their experiences, violent and otherwise. She had once mapped it out as a challenge to see if she could locate the fractal patterns. She kept the file hidden away on a server no one on the team knew she had. What she had been able to create had taken her breath away and the only other person she would show was the man who had given himself over to her body and soul.

The heat between them exploded. Oliver gripped her hips and murmured something indecipherable to her ears under his breath, but it almost sounded like a hymn. The wave of pleasure that burst out of her flowed to the rhythm of his voice, rippling outward so that every cell in her body was vibrating in response.

They clung to one another, lost in the silence between the seconds. Oliver joined her, quietly this time, no sudden movements, no desperate kisses or grappling for position. His body grew still for an instant before she felt the tsunami of his orgasm. It swept her away, a steadily building, powerful force of nature that only she could control.

She kissed him then, slow and deep, until he broke free and stared at her. His eyes were unfocused but he was able to meet and hold her gaze. A smile found its way out of him and across his face, lighting up his eyes.

“I love you, Oliver,” she said softly, “Even if you have ice blocks for feet.”

His laugh rumbled out of him, low and thunderous, crackling with warmth and love over her skin. It was a sound that she had missed almost as much as she had missed him. It was comforting, bursting with love and affection, and now shared only with her.

In one movement, Oliver lifted her and laid her down beside him on the bed. She smiled her secret smile as he sat up to gather the blankets to cover them. When he did things with effortless grace, it never failed to fill her with awe. Even if all he did was lift her from one place on the bed to the next, she would have to pause to catch her breath.

There were no words in the English language that could fully capture the way she loved him. She thought back to her lessons in Hebrew at the Synagogue, those few times her mom had enough money and would take her to the language classes. There were a few words she remembered that could fit how she felt about Oliver. Hasad, a Hebrew word for love in action, the faithfulness of how she kept track of him as Overwatch. Yada’, the way she loved him now, through the vulnerability of doubt to the passion of lust and desire. Finally, she thought of dawad and how it described how she felt when he would caress her, treating her like something so precious, that even to be in her company was to face the Divine.

Ani ohevet otcha,” she whispered.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“I love you in Hebrew.”
Ya tebya lyublyu,” he whispered.
“Yes. I love you in all languages,” he said, his voice growing soft and drowsy, “Look outside.”

The snow had stopped and the moon was out, full and bright. But what he was wanting her to see was the buck, a huge male who looked as though he had just shed his antlers, was standing perfectly still and framed by the window. The buck looked to be a few years old, tall and broad. Like the king of the forest. She held her breath when he looked inside at them and then, in a blink of an eye, he was gone. It felt like an omen, a good one, like something was returning to them through the wilderness of their hearts.

It was early, but Felicity felt sleep slowly working its way up through her consciousness, getting ready to claim her. Those moments, where she hovered between worlds, ideas and thoughts would burst like fireworks across the landscape of her mind. Laying in his arms, safe, protected and warm, she saw them streaking across the velvety black expanse of the galaxy. Not their physical bodies but the idea of them. It brought her a profound sense of comfort to think that even after their bodies had rejoined the universe as ash and atoms, the love they shared would live on as light against the darkness.

They would be ok, she knew it in every bone in her body. They had a couple of bridges left to cross, but she felt ready to call him home, into her heart with grace and love, once and for all. Her last thought before sleep embraced her was that their life would never be perfect but none of that mattered so long as they trusted each other enough to offer and accept forgiveness.

Chapter Text


The Raven stumbled
tripping amongst the branches
and watched them go.


The next day and a half went by too quickly for Oliver. The cabin had become a refuge, a place of reconnection and healing, a safe zone where they had been able to be angry, defensive, loving and forgiving. That she had impulsively bought it for them, for William, as a place they could retreat to from the world from made him love her more than he thought possible.

Right now, he watched her moving through the cabin, collecting the clothes they had laid out to dry after their one day of frollicking in the snow. She stopped to smell his sweater and it pushed a wave of sadness through him. It was one of the items of his that she had kept with her when she was in Witness Protection. It had brought her comfort on long nights, she had told him, when she needed to feel he was close enough to hold.

“Time for a sauna?” she asked with a terrible wink of an eye that always made him laugh.
“I believe so,” he smiled. It had taken him all afternoon to find a shovel and make a pathway from the door of the cabin to the door of the log building. Then another two hours to make sure the chimney was clear and get a fire going. “But I am exhausted from getting it ready.”
“Then the heat will do your muscles good,” she said with real warmth in her voice, “I’m just glad we had enough food for dinner after you raided the kitchen.”

After he had shoveled the walk and prepped the sauna, he had inhaled more than eaten a huge bowl of oatmeal with cut up bananas, almonds and maple syrup. He had to eat to replenish his energy and had still been able to eat the dinner he’d planned for them. It wasn’t much, eggs Florentine with hashbrowns and braised cauliflower, but it had been lovingly received.

They were nowhere near out of food and part of him was hoping for another snowstorm to block them in for another day or two. But if they had to leave in the morning, a sauna tonight was the perfect way to end their mini-vacation.

They had spent almost an entire day and night in bed or in the shower or tub. The intensity hadn’t abated but they needed to get outside and move around. The former owners had called to tell them they had managed to clear the road almost three quarters of the way but needed to refuel and service their plow before finishing up the road. If all went according to plan, they would be leaving in the morning as soon as the road was clear.

A tremendous amount of snow had fallen and the road had been completely covered over, in some places six feet deep. It was a common occurrence up in this part of the mountain range, making winter excursions challenging and potentially dangerous. Stocking the cupboards and freezers would be extremely important in the colder months. Felicity also made a deal to buy the snowplow by increasing their offer. They were still getting a deal, thanks to the shrewd negotiating tactics employed by her. Felicity knew what she was doing and he was awed by her tenacity and resolve to buy the cabin.

“So should we go in our robes or dressed?” she asked.
“It’s not far and I shoveled out a wide path in case it snows while we are in there,” he said as he searched his bag for a clean shirt.
“Robes it is,” she said.
“You really want a sauna,” he commented.
“Yes, I do, let’s get changed,” she said and went in search of robes and towels. Finding both, she handed him his set and quickly stripped down.

The sauna was not far, but it would still be chilly for a bit once they got into the building. He was looking forward to her reaction to it. There was a section of the log structure that she couldn’t see and when she did, he wanted to see her reaction.

“Ok, let’s go,” he said as he firmly secured the towel around his waist.
“Lead the way!” she said and then they headed out the door and into the brisk early evening air.

Stomping through the heavy, wet snow in boots, borrowed and brought, they made their way out to the smaller log cabin. The wind was picking up and the air was cooling down but at least they would be able to see the stars. Opening the door that faced the main cabin, he waited for Felicity to enter the room before him.

She stopped just inside the door and stared. Behind her, he smiled.

She was looking through a large, plate glass window that overlooked a section of the valley that was invisible to them because of how the windows in their bedroom were positioned. The view was nothing short of majestic. Felicity walked over to it and stared.

Closing the door quietly behind him, Oliver went to the bucket of water and ladled some over the basalt rocks that were heating up on the small kiuas. The temperature rose and the small room smelled of cedar and pine, the main woods used in the slats that lined the walls and floor. Felicity slipped her robe off and hung it beside the door and returned to the wooden ledge by the window.

“Oliver, this is stunning,” was all she said.
“It really is,” he said quietly as he joined her.
“I can hardly wait to come back here whenever we want to,” she smiled, her eyes far away and dreamy.
“We need to build William his own space,” Oliver said with a deep sigh. His back was bugging him, a not so gentle reminder that he was missing his regular workouts.
“For William and others,” she said absentmindedly.

He looked at her to see where her thoughts were leading her, he was afraid she would be downcast, sad, but she looked wistful and content. The sorrow of the last seven months was slowly losing its grip on the way they communicated and loved one another. He felt a flash of hope that lit up the darkest corners of his heart and mind. Having a child with Felicity pushed his consciousness wide open and he secretly prayed he could be the best husband and father no matter what their lives threw at them.

Ladling more water over the rocks, he removed his robe, hung it up and when he turned around, Felicity was laying on the bench that was level with the window. She was entranced by the snowscape beyond the glass. They could see large birds, most likely ravens swooping low and disappearing into the thick spruce and pine forest. High above the valley, they could see eagles coasting on the updrafts, searching for prey far below.

“This is like a fairytale,” she murmured softly.
“Does that make you the Queen of all you survey?” he teased as he found room to sit opposite her.
“Well, I am YOUR Queen,” she teased playfully.
“I cannot deny that,” he laughed and ran a hand up her leg. She always had such smooth skin on her legs, skin he wanted to touch every chance he got.
“Hmmmm,” she hummed, looking at him, her eyes bright and clear, “Put more water on the rocks?”

With a smile, Oliver crossed the small room and ladled more water over the basalt rocks. The water hissed and steam filled the sauna, fragrant and hot. He loved the way the steam felt when it coated his skin. It was a renewal process to be in a sauna, he felt like they were breathing deeply and releasing the anger, regret, guilt and anger that had built up for seven months. He wasn’t naive enough to think one week away would solve everything, but they had made a very, very good start.

He turned around to see Felicity sitting up on the bench. After a moment, she held her hands out to him, beckoning him to join her. He was defenseless when she reached for him. He stepped closer, taking her outstretched hands in his. By sitting up, she was almost eye to eye with him and it was sexy beyond words that he could walk up to her, step between her legs and be basically the same height.

“So we are headed home tomorrow,” she said quietly, staring into his eyes, “and we need to figure out a new way of communicating, of being honest with one another. Like we have been here.”

Running his hands through her hair, it was so soft like satin, and he gently smoothed it back. Her natural waves were springing to life in the hot, humid room. Beads of sweat had formed on her forehead and ran down her face. He could smell her shampoo and the earthy scent of her that only he could detect.

“I love you, Felicity,” he said softly, “With every part of me now, every part of me in the future...I will love you to my last breath. But it, and I, will never be perfect. This will always be complicated but I will work with you to make sure there is only truth between us. No matter how messy or difficult it is, I will love you through it all.”
“Oliver…,” she whispered as she pulled him into a deep, desire filled kiss.

With a simple tug, he pulled her towel free from her body and gently ran the back of his hands down the delicate skin from her shoulders to her nipples. Her kiss had grown greedy, demanding, she bit his bottom lip and sucked his tongue into her mouth. His thoughts grew hazy as his desire for her took over his body. They could stop now and the moment would hold until later but she pulled his towel free from his body and anchored him to her with her legs around his waist.

“Are you sure?” he asked, his voice husky and low, “We’ve been doing this an awful lot the last couple of days.” Her lips were on his neck making him regret asking the question.
“I know how to take care of myself,” she breathed across his damp neck, her breath hot like the air, “and if you remember correctly, the last time we did this was well over twelve hours ago.”
“That’s about to change,” he sighed as she grasped his cock with a firm and practised hand, stroking him until his knees buckled.
“Then hurry,” she whispered in his ear, “but go slow…because we will have to take a break soon.”

Gently, he used his hands to open her legs wider, used the width of his body to angle her body back and lifted her hips to move them forward. He wanted to see all of her in the fading evening light.

“This bench is the perfect height isn’t it?” she said breathlessly as she watched him.
“We’re going to have to put a lock on that door,” he said, his voice rumbling low in his throat. He reached between them and slowly stroked her clit with his thumb, turning her laugh into a gasp.

She grabbed hold of his forearm, her nails digging into his scarred flesh, and let her head fall back as she gave in to him. The were both soaking wet from the steam and heat of the sauna but Felicity was glowing. The light from the moon, which was just visible above the trees outside the sauna, was shining on her, reflecting off of the sweat forming on her body. He was entranced by how the moon covered her, appearing and disappearing in the tiny droplets as she moved against his hand.

It was like reading a love letter from the universe slipping slowly down on her arms, her breasts and belly. He wondered what would happen when the stars came out. Would they appear across her reflecting skin?

“Oliver…,” she gasped, her eyes on his, “what is it?”
“You…,” he murmured, pulling her to him, “Just you…”

He kissed her, a true lover’s kiss, that grew deeper, and more passionate until she broke free to catch her breath. Gently, she guided his cock into her body, sighing as he pushed in as far as he could. She was so delicate to look at but the way she was able to grip him with the powerful muscles in her pelvis never failed to surprise him. In one smooth movement, he lifted her up and turned them around so that he could sit on the bench.

Felicity smiled, shifted to her knees and slowly moved against him. Her hips followed a circular, wave like path. He lifted one hand to her face, running his thumb across her lips. She turned her head and kissed his palm sending a static charge up his arm, effervescent and alive, sparking off of the sweat on his body.

“You are covered in stars,” she gasped and then kissed him, her hips grinding fast and hard against him. The sound of their bodies, as they met with each desperate thrust, was thunderous in the small space. Every small cry, sigh or gasp echoes back to them, an evening song that continued to expand in size and scope.

She pulled him into a kiss just as her orgasm started. He remembered a similar moment, a lifetime ago on a beach in Bali, when every part of them was connected. They had made love under the stars for hours, pausing only to drink water or wine. It had been luxurious, intense, erotic and beautifully real. The nights there would get darker than anything he had ever seen but the sky would explode with shimmering light, casting silver shadows across the jungle.

Then, like now, she was the only person that mattered on the earth to him. He loved his son but this was a different kind of love, one that had pulled him back from the brink of death, one that had reached through time and space to find him. Without her, he would have died on the mountain in Nanda Parbat.

“Look at me,” she whispered, her body still vibrating under his hands, “I want to see you.”
“I love you,” he gasped, the fire in his pelvis surging through his body, “I love you…”

He gripped her hips, encouraging her to move harder against him, knowing he was close but needing to feel how hot her body could grow wrapped around his painfully hard cock. It was rapturous and left him lightheaded, untethered from time. There was no end to how he wanted her, how he needed her. She had altered every last part of his existence and when he was inside her, buried so deep he was in danger of losing himself completely, he felt the power of her energy and spirit.

The knot at the base of his cock dissolved and he was undone. He no longer felt the cool press of the wooden bench beneath him, or the way the hot air made it difficult to breath. None of that mattered. Her skin, the way she smelled, her lips on his, and the reflection of the universe in the rivulets of sweat that dripped off of her body had become the centre of his reality. Oliver focused on his breathing, trying to stop the inevitable by just a few seconds more.

Felicity pulsed and ground down hard against him one last time, her eyes open and staring into his, until at last she pressed her body against his, her mouth finding his and parting them with her skillful tongue. Her orgasm was contained within her and it felt thunderous, like a storm raging inside her, seeking a way to escape the confines of her blood and bones. It was the whirlwind she created that carried him away, and he let go. One hard, deep thrust and he came, pouring himself deep inside of her until all he felt was ecstasy, his mind blank and his body reeling.

The weight he had been carrying on his shoulders since Slabside had eased. He no longer felt the impulse to hide his secret heart. All was hers if she asked for it. She had showed him that the world was just the right size, that he could find a place for himself that fit when he was ready to claim it.

“I think we are going to sleep really well tonight,” she sighed, her head on his shoulder.
“We will...but only if you sleep on the couch,” he commented dryly.
“Me? On the couch? Oh Oliver…,” she shook her head in mock exasperation, “That thing has your name plastered all over it.”

Oliver laughed and wrapped her in his arms, holding her as close to him as he could. He was glad he had brought them out here, that they had taken the time to seclude themselves from the rest of the world and reconnect. No missions, no violence, no tension with team members who acted like strangers. Just them.

“When I go see the surgeon and specialists who are monitoring the implant in my back, I will talk to them about what my...what our options are in terms of pregnancy,” she said in a quiet voice.
“Felicity, there is no rush,” he said, hoping that he had been able to form his words around the joy that was bursting out of him.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about it, Oliver,” she said quietly, her head still on his shoulder, “You are right about our lives never being perfect, and I am concerned about the safety of our home and how we can protect not only ourselves but William as well, but I think we need to be ready.”
“Ready?” he asked, momentarily confused.
“Ready for the eventual future attacks, ready to protect our children, ready...for a child of our own,” she said, pulling back to look at him, her expression serious, “Ready.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes, Oliver, I am. I love you,” her expression softened as she spoke the words, “And this is our life. You are the Green Arrow, I am Overwatch. We are a team, partners, and I know deep in my bones that we would knock it out of the park as parents.”
“The fact that you just used a baseball metaphor makes me love you even more,” he smiled.
“I thought you’d like that,” she smiled back and then leaned in to kiss him, “We should go back inside soon. We have to pack.”
“Mmmhmm,” he hummed softly, mesmerized by the way her lips felt on the tender skin of his neck.

Felicity chuckled and climbed down from the bench, leaving him to sit alone. He watched her, the way her body moved, how the muscles in her legs and back shifted so smoothly under her skin. After Diaz had found and attacked her, she had taken up training with focus on fight skills. The hard work was showing in how she carried herself, the way she was unafraid to be physical. Even though the reason for her newly found strength still caused them both nightmares, he couldn’t help but find it sexy and incredibly erotic.

“You have that look in your eyes,” she said as she ladled more water on the hot rocks. The fire was burning low but still hot enough to produce a room full of steam. “I love the way that smells.”
“They chose well with the wood they used. The cedar is a perfect choice,” he said softly, “And what look are you referring to?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Oliver. You know EXACTLY what look,” she said, pretending to be stern.

Oliver laughed quietly and shrugged, “I can’t help it. I married well.”
“You did. Don’t think I won’t remind you of it every single day,” she grumbled good naturedly.

Taking a deep breath, Oliver said the one thing he hoped wouldn’t kill the good work they had done to this point. It was something that had been nagging him for some time, “When we get back to Star City, I think we need to talk about John.”
“I know,” she said sadly, “Oliver I am so...disappointed.”

In relieved response, he held his arms open her, welcoming her back into his embrace. He was wrestling with how he felt about what happened while he was in prison. He had trusted the people around them to keep her and William safe but they had failed them both on every front. John most especially. He was their closest friend and he left his family vulnerable and alone.

“Let’s end this trip drawing up renovation plans instead of talking about John,” he whispered in her ear, “I have some ideas.”
“Like what?” she asked, her voice so quiet it almost floated past his ear, her words unheard.
“Like a skylight or two over the bed, maybe a deck out the back or a porch, so we can sit outside in the summer and not get eaten alive by bugs…,” he suggested softly.
“I love it,” she said and turned her head to kiss the top of his shoulder.
“And for William, we can build above here, give him a large studio space. It would be warm in the winter and being so close to the forest and all the shade from the trees, it would be cool in summer,” he said, getting into the entire fantasy of it and enjoying the idea of building something for his family.
“And what about when we have a child of our own?” she asked, her lips next to his ear.
“We’ll figure that out when the time comes,” he said, his heart racing at the thought.
“It’s starting to cool off in here. Let’s head back in,” she said, her voice low and soft.
“You don’t want a snow bath first?” he asked with feigned innocence.
“I will end you,” was all she said.

Oliver laughed and kissed her cheek. “I wouldn’t do that but the shower is going to be cold and exactly what we need. I promise.”
“This is cruel,” she grumbled, leaving his embrace to pick up her towel and put on her robe, “Ok, let’s get this over with.”

The next five minutes were filled with some of the most colourful, explicit language she had ever uttered. But they laughed and laughed the longer they stood under the cold water spray, their skin turning bright red as they cooled down. By the end, she was relaxed and calm, even teasing him as he started to shiver.

The fire had cooled to glowing ash, which Oliver was able to scrape into a bucket and douse with what was left of the water. With a final look around, they were about to leave the sauna when they heard a rustling just outside the door. Oliver immediately stepped in front of Felicity and peered out of the small pane of glass at eye level.

The rustling grew closer and then he heard what sounded like large branches brushing against the logs outside. Then a flash of white and a buck hopped over the snowbank Oliver had created by shoveling and he was off, back into the forest and out of sight. It was one of the most graceful things Oliver had ever seen.

“Just a buck,” he murmured quietly.
“Was it a large one? With a large rack?” she asked from behind him.
“Yeah, he was beautiful,” he replied, still searching the treeline for a glimpse of him.
“It might be the same one we saw at the window the other night. He was...glorious.”
“At first I thought it was a dream,” he admitted, “he was there and gone so fast. But he was looking in at us.”
“He was,’ she said dreamily, lost in the memory.
“Come on,” he said taking her hand in his, “He’s gone.”

Quietly, they left the sauna and hurried back to the cabin. The wind was cold from the north, the snow squeaked under foot as they walked, but they paused by the back door to look up at the sky. With no other light around, it was ablaze with light. Stars packed so densely together they appeared to be one solid body and movement, whether real or perceived, the sky pulsed with energy and life.

“This...this is amazing. We need to buy a telescope,” Felicity said in a hushed voice, as though sound might disrupt what they were seeing.
“Definitely,” he agreed just as quietly.
“We should go in,” she said but not moving. The cosmic dance above their heads whas casting a spell and neither was willing to break its hold just yet.

Nature, however, had other things in mind. From the corner of his eye, Oliver saw movement. In one graceful action, he scooped Felicity up, opened the door, stepped inside and quietly closed it behind him. With a finger to his lips, he indicated that she not speak and then pointed out the small glass window.

On tiptoes, Felicity peered through it and saw the reason for the sudden actions. A very large bear was casually walking through the open space between them and the forest that lead down the mountain. He was beautiful even in the dark. Gracefully, he stepped over a fallen tree and vanished into the night.

“Well, I think spotlights might be a thing we need. Just one or two,” she suggested.
“Probably a good idea,” he agreed.
“Let’s pack up. We have to organize the food situation because you...bought a lot,” she chuckled as she made her way back to get dressed.

The next two hours went by as they cleaned, packed and sorted. By the time they were done, their breakfast for the next morning, all the leftover fruit, yogurt and brioche bread for toast, was made and ready to go so they could eat quickly if necessary, and the rest of the food was either in the cupboards or the freezer. Nothing perishable was left out and the garbage would be ready to go into the locked bin to be burned later that week by the outgoing owners.

Oliver was impressed by how easy it was to remain efficient even this far from a town. The need to burn garbage was going to be where they would have to manage what they brought up to the cabin but he was so grateful and happy that they had made the decision to buy it. Someplace that was theirs and theirs alone.

“We should think about going solar and maybe installing a greywater system,” she said as she watched him clear out the ashes from the fireplace. They had time for one last fire but Oliver was specific about how to properly maintain and care for a fireplace.

“How about a hot tub? A cedar one on the soon to be created deck,” he said hopefully.
“We have a hot tub in the bathroom, Oliver,” she said matter-of-factly.
“But not a cedar one under the stars.”
“We could put a skylight above it.”
“Felicity, this is an A-frame cabin. The skylights should go above the bed.”
“You are obsessed,” she muttered as she put the duvet back on the bed.

Oliver had finished relighting the fire and had turned off all the lights. He stood and watched Felicity as she made sure all of their gear was ready to go in the morning. He blinked and saw a flash of her in ten years, looking more radiant and beautiful than she did right now with a crown of wildflowers in her hair. A gift from tiny hands. Oliver’s breath caught in his throat when he looked at her now, as she turned to look at him, her head cocked to the side as she watched him.

“What are you staring at?” she asked, her curiosity growing.
“You,” he said with a smile, “Only, always you.”
“You think that will get me to say yes to a hot tub don’t you?”

Without saying another word, Oliver crossed over to her, gently cupped her face and said, “Yes.”
“You’ll have to do better than that,” she murmured.
“That is a challenge I accept,” he smiled as he kissed her.

The fire was burning hot behind him as he undressed Felicity. He felt like he was paying homage to her body, one inch at a time. She was relaxed and laughed as he nuzzled her neck, his scruff was soft from the sauna but it tickled her sensitive skin nonetheless. He had intended that they watch a movie and go to bed but the promise of her body, of the pleasure and joy she brought and felt, was a lure he couldn’t resist.

They made love long into the night. He would remember looking up her body as her back arched off the bed, her legs tightening around his head, as she told him over and over again that she loved him, only him. How when he entered her with one silky, beautiful thrust, she gasped and clung to him, her arms around his neck and her lips found his, claiming his tongue, his breath for her own.

Midnight slipped past unnoticed when she pushed him onto his back, slid down his body and slowly took him into her mouth. She stroked him gently in time to an undulating, sucking pressure. He saw stars when her tongue swirled around the head and licked down the length of his cock. She had barely enough time to start again when he reached down for her and pulled her back up.

She had sunk down the length of his cock, it was hard enough now to hurt, and had gently began to grind her hips against his, willing him to hold back, to wait. She held his hands, their fingers entwined, and watched him as the control he was trying so hard to rein in slipped away. He tried to sit up, to stop the inevitable, but lost out to the pressure in the base of his pelvis and he came, erupted, a volcanic flood as she leaned down to kiss him.

“I love you, Felicity,” he whispered, feeling that love in every cell in his body.
“We really have to time this kind of thing better,” she said sleepily.
“How so?”
“We’ve had a sauna and a shower and here we are, in need of a sauna and shower again,” she chuckled.
“We can shower in the morning, when we are able to walk,” he said with a quiet laugh.
“Or one day in a hot tub?” she teased.
“Is that a yes?” he asked.
“You earned it,” she said and kissed him goodnight.

Exhausted, they slept until the sun peaked above the distant mountain tops. They awoke to sunlight streaming in the large windows that faced the valley. In silence, she pulled him from the bed and into the shower. It went exactly as he knew it would, with her back against the smooth glass shower wall and her legs around his waist. His legs buckled when he came in an almost endless stream, the muscles in his abdomen taut and hard, but he managed to stay upright long enough to sit down safely on the stone bench under the window.

“Thank God we are in the shower,” she sighed.
“And here I thought we’d save water.”
She chuckled low in her throat and said, “We did because if I had showered alone, you would have found an excuse to join me.”
“Coffee?” he said with a gentle laugh.
“If you can walk out there to make, I can follow you,” she sighed. They sat in the easy silence that comes from profound knowledge of the other, their bodies still intimately joined and enjoyed the space of quiet calm they had laid claimed to. After a few minutes, they finished their shower and went in search of the last of the coffee.

The morning was cut short by the distant rumbling of the snow plow as it made its way up the narrow road. Oliver went out to greet them and then finished digging out the Jeep. Breakfast was done, dishes washed and put away, all Felicity needed to do was put on her shoes and hand him their bags. But she stood in front of the fireplace, it had retained its warmth from the fire they had lit the night before, and watched ravens fly from tree top to tree top. Oliver came in, stomping his boots. She smiled at him, teasing him that his nose was red from the cold.

Later, they stood arm in arm, and looked out over the valley below, out towards the mountains in the distance. If he was ever able to leave the Green Arrow behind, to completely retire and live what was left of his life with Felicity and whatever family they might have, he’d like to call this place home.

When they finally pulled away from the cabin, Felicity reached out, squeezed his leg and thanked him for knowing exactly what to do to return to her, that her life lost so much of its light and life without him. As he listened to her and fought through the instinct to deflect, he wanted to say there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her now or in their next life, but he waited, pushing his anxiety away.

After all, she was the one who knew all his stories, who kept all his secrets and loved him with a ferocity that rivaled the sun. He would tear down the sky and hand her the stars if she asked him to. If this was their happily ever after, if this was as good as they could hope to get, he would take it.

With her hand comfortably on the back of his neck, they talked about the cabin, about William, about the life they were dreaming of sharing for the entire drive back to Star City. There could be no more almosts, no more maybes. Their lives had too many consequences for mistakes made out of love or fear. He would never be perfect, he would never be completely free from the shadows that followed him, the ghosts that screamed in the back of his mind and escaped when he slept. But for her, for the love she so freely offered even in her darkest moments, he was determined not live on the edges of his own life and instead embrace the time she had snatched back for them both.

As the rounded the corner that would lead them back into the city, she teased him that he was smiling at the road. But she took his hand and quickly kissed the inside of his wrist and whispered, “Welcome home.”