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Cold nights

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Oliver has always been somewhat partial to winter. The first half of the season is always crisp and cool, with that excited buzz of Christmas—his favorite holiday—in the air as the days grow shorter. As a child and young man, his family had always put in a huge amount of effort for celebration of the year’s end; the parties, the decorations, the trees in every room. At the start of his vigilante crusade the early darkness had been an excuse to begin his nightly missions even earlier, have more time to punch and shoot, venting the frustration and rage that had always been simmering just beneath the surface in those days.

These days, however, his love for the colder months mostly stems from the sleepy, affectionate speedster that presses in close to him, lets Oliver wrap him up tight in his arms every night.

Barry is, to put it simply, a cuddly space heater in bed, and the winter nights—or late fall, such as now—allow him to fully appreciate that fact. The warmth the younger man practically exudes thanks to his higher-energy cells and pounding heart chases away any hint of a chill, can leave Oliver lethargic and contented within minutes of slipping under the sheets together.

On the nights he doesn’t immediately fall asleep it’s because Oliver can’t seem to get enough of running his hands up and down that warm body; making a flush rise to those cheeks, the tips of the ears, and all down that long neck and chest; feeling the other’s hot gasps of breath washing over his skin; having that heat all around him, suffusing throughout him just as easily as Barry’s always able to with his teasing words, bright smiles, and understanding eyes.

Tonight he’s satisfied merely to hold his lover in his arms, feel the tickling brush of hair under his chin as the other man nuzzles into the space there. One of Oliver’s hands slips under Barry’s shirt to rub over the heated skin of his back and Barry shivers, from the cold or something else he’s not sure.

“Oliver…” the younger man murmurs, removes an arm to pull the blankets up a little further. The cold, then. But Barry next arches his back into the touch and there’s a smile on his lips as he presses a kiss to Oliver’s neck. So maybe it was a bit of both.

There’s no expectation from the other, though. They’ve reached this strange, somehow wonderful state Oliver didn’t know existed in relationships where wandering hands doesn’t have to lead to anything more than a lazy cuddle. The two of them are the sort of tired right now that sets into the bones after a long night of patrol, likely to drop off any moment. Barry’s also got to be up early to make it back to Central for work in the morning, and that’s already factoring in the likelihood he’ll be late.

As the temperature has continued to fall, Barry’s taken to coming up to Starling every night no matter how late he manages to get away from his responsibilities at home. Sometimes Oliver’s pleasantly woken up in the middle of the night by the familiar warm weight of his partner crawling under the blankets and curling around his half-asleep form with a happy sigh. Then he sets about lulling Oliver right back to sleep with soft, slow kisses, draping himself over him like the sweetest comforter he could ask for and using that heat to ease every stiff muscle, soothe every ache. And he never complains, even when Oliver might have cold toes and there’s no way he’s doing as much for Barry as Barry is doing for him. Somehow the younger man still seems to crave that feeling of being wrapped up in each other just the same as he does.

“You know, I think I smiled when Dig said it was going to drop below freezing tonight?” He finds himself admitting quietly. He’s always told Barry things he never would to anyone else, even at the start. “He gave me this look.”

“Dig always gives you that look,” Barry mumbles sleepily, not even bothering to open his eyes.

“I just knew,” he continues on regardless with stubbornness and perhaps too much exhaustion to think up a comeback. “that it meant you’d be coming over, and we’d be like this.” He would gesture, but even his sleep-fogged brain realizes that would mean he’d have to let go of Barry.

His partner still gets it, if the smile on his face stretching wider is any indication. “I like being like this.”

“So do I,” he replies in lieu of suppressing a yawn, tilts his neck somewhat awkwardly just to kiss the top of Barry’s head, then drops his own back onto the pillow with his eyes shut. Lets himself be carried away on a tide of warm feelings, both inside and out.

---

Thea enters the loft and shivers. Honestly, she thinks it’s colder in here than out in the hall. If this is some way for Oliver to subtly make his point about cutting costs, he could find some way of doing it without making her want to throw on another sweater before bed.

Many nights, she ends up getting back later than her older brother, as there’s usually something she needs to take care of with the club even after training. And in that time before she gets back, he’s started setting the thermostat lower. It’s not freezing—after everything she’s gone through this is almost nothing, really—but cold enough that she notices, which is just a little annoying because it’s her place and she’s totally not blowing her savings just by keeping things how she likes and she just kind of wants to know why he’s doing this.

With that thought in mind, she pauses halfway to the thermostat to change it back like she’s gotten used to doing, and instead changes direction. Maybe bugging him about it now will just make him crabby, but at least it’ll drive the point home that she means business.

But upon opening the door to her brother’s room she realizes there’s not likely to be a private sibling conversation happening between them tonight at least, because he’s already got company.

Barry Allen, the Flash, her brother’s first and only boyfriend. Thea hadn’t been the only one to feel surprise when the two vigilantes had admitted to the relationship, but practically everyone else on Team Arrow—as everyone but her brother calls it, naturally—had pretty quickly accepted it, said they should have seen it coming, that of course it’d be Barry.

She doesn’t much get why ‘of course’ Barry Allen would be the one to make her older brother realize he was not, in fact, straight. Or that it was possible to pursue a relationship while being a vigilante at the same time. It’s not that which really bothers her, though, more that she hasn’t really gotten to spend time with the Central City vigilante to determine the why. Like at all. It’s really frustrating, actually, when apparently even Captain Lance of all people has had longer conversations with her brother’s boyfriend than her.

She doubts the Captain will ever be privy to this sort of sight, however. Oliver is flat on his back in a dead sleep, face peaceful, even serene with the slightest upward quirk to his lips as his chest rises and falls with deep, even breaths. The rhythm must be particularly soothing since Barry Allen’s got his head resting there, with one arm flung over his human pillow’s waist and the other hand she thinks, rising on her tiptoes to try and get a better angle, fisting in the material of Oliver’s shirt. Their legs must be tangled up together under the blankets to be that close. And though he certainly looks at ease—more so than Thea can practically ever remember him being—she can tell by the way his arms are tightly wound around the other man that her brother would likely awaken at even the slightest indication that something or someone was trying to remove him from his hold.

That theory is possibly going to be tested, however, as Barry Allen’s face scrunches up in reaction to the hall light hitting it. He turns his face into Oliver’s chest for a moment as if to hide, but she can tell he’s stirring. Before Thea can try to get away, the man is blinking his eyes open, taking her in through the haze of sleep.

“Thea…?” His tone is open, yet also, of all things, concerned. He rubs at his eyes and asks, “Is something wrong?”

She shakes her head quickly, though too late to stop him from bracing a hand to the side of Oliver and starting to push up off the bed. When she mouths a ‘no’ at him he pauses, confused, which is enough time for her brother to act.

With a dissatisfied rumble he grips Barry Allen’s hip with one hand, making his shirt ride up, while the other slides up into the man’s hair, cradling his head as he pulls him back down. He keeps his eyes closed the whole time, and Thea thinks he might still be half-asleep.

“Barry…” he mumbles, and she’ll swear on her life hugs the man closer and nuzzles his cheek into the other’s hair, “m’cold.”

Barry Allen seems torn between fondness and secondhand embarrassment for her brother, but she only gets a glimpse of the blush that’s rising to his face before Oliver rolls the both of them over away from the light. And Thea so does not need to know what might happen after that so she finally manages to uproot her feet from the floor and back away while shutting the door as silently as she can.

She manages to rein in her laughter till she’s safely tucked under the covers of her own bed. So that’s what this is about, is it?

By the time she gets up in the very late morning, Barry Allen’s apparently left for work, which is a shame. She kind of wanted him here for this. Regardless, she’s greeted with breakfast and a somewhat sheepish older brother, which completely makes up for it.

“Was there something you needed to talk about last night?”

She feigns a casual shrug as she starts in on the food he’s so thoughtfully prepared, pretending she doesn’t see his uncomfortable expression as she makes him wait. Oh, she is enjoying this. Thea washes down a mouthful of eggs before replying, “No, not really. Thought I should let you know the gas bill came in for this month, though. Lot lower than I thought it was going to be since we turned the heating on, I might get myself something nice with the money I saved up for it.”

He clearly knows she’s playing around with him and scowls. “Thea, what are you trying to say?”

“That maybe you don’t need an excuse to cuddle with your boyfriend? Sorry, partner?” She exaggerates the alternative word when he makes a face at ‘boyfriend’.

“It’s not an excuse,” he disputes, not quite able to meet her eyes. “I just…like it.”

“Yeah, got that last night,” she says with a smug grin. He rolls his eyes and moves away from the table as she continues to tease. “I had no idea you still knew how to be cute, Ollie, you must really like it.”

“I have errands to run, I’ll see you later at the foundry,” he excuses himself, not rising to her bait.

She pouts, but calls after him, “Seriously, though, I want to actually meet this guy for more than a minute. Can you please make that happen?”

There’s a pause right after the front door opens and then she gets his short, defeated reply of, “Fine.” The door shuts with far more force than necessary and she just smirks with a shake of her head before finishing her breakfast.

Thea does end up using a little of her extra savings from the gas bill. She thinks flannel sheets and slipper socks are going to be a wise investment this winter.