Felicity has often wondered, as an intellectual exercise that all computer science majors go through at least once, whether she could live forever as a machine. Just upload all of her memories into the enduring circuitry of a computer, free from aging and pain and death, and be immortal.
Because isn’t that what we all are, in the end?
Or are we something more? Do the traits we work so hard to develop or to change, the habits and humor and values and intelligence… Do they exist without the moments that created them?
For most of her life, it was just something to think about from time to time, when she was waiting for a program to download or contacting an old professor for a reference or complaining about some aspect of her biology (from cramps to the increasingly frequent head injuries she sustained from her “evening activities”). Would a machine with all of her memories be her? Was “Felicity” just a series of memories that make up a person? And what sort of person did those memories make?
But it is just a passing thought, now and then.
Until it isn’t.
Felicity swims up out of thick, dark water into blinding white light, as her eyelids twitch with waking and the loose, indistinct edges of herself become skin and limbs and solid flesh again. Before opening her eyes, she feels the thin mattress beneath her, the starchy sheets tucking her in, the plastic tube curled beneath her nose and expelling stale oxygen directly into her nostrils.
She also feels the hazy cloudiness of her heavy skull, the constraining bandages wrapped around her forehead, the weight of painkillers trying to press her back down into sleep like a warm blanket. The world around her comes slowly into greater focus, through the sounds of machines beeping and the taste of sour dryness in her mouth, and she shifts a bit restlessly as she wakes.
The voices around her go silent. And then a large, warm, slightly rough hand is engulfing her own, squeezing her fingers tightly, and she hears the rapid click of heels over the tile floor as the heady scent of perfume overwhelms the oxygen in her nose. She’d know that jingle of jewelry and the scrape of those long nails down her arm anywhere.
So maybe the groan she makes as she blinks open her eyes isn’t entirely from the effort of waking.
Yep, that’s her mother’s face hovering over her own, all blonde hair and blue eyes—though the eyes are slightly red and puffy from crying, and her hair’s up in a loose ponytail rather than her signature waves. She’s already starting to cry again, as her hands reach up to cup Felicity’s cheeks.
“Oh, my baby girl,” her mother whimpers, as Felicity tries to gather the dark edges of her mind together enough to respond in some way other than a moan.
“Mom…” she breathes out, not sure if any sound actually makes it out through the creakiness in her throat—but she still manages to fill the puff of air with a familiar exasperation.
Donna lets out a giggle wet with tears, kissing her cheek in a sloppy press of lipstick and cloying perfume before pulling back to run her hands up and down Felicity’s bare arm.
Then Felicity looks over at the other person who stood up to lean over her, still squinting at the brightness of the flourescent lights above her.
And thinks maybe she’s still dreaming, because it’s one of the most handsome men she’s ever seen—though at the moment his face is lined and ragged, pale with weariness yet darkened by an overgrowth of facial hair. But the square jaw, the piercing blue eyes beneath thick, slightly arched eyebrows… Not to mention the unbelievable warmth in those eyes, the curve of his lips in a half smile as he murmurs in a low, nearly broken voice, “Hey there…”
There’s something familiar about him… Is he her doctor? Do they even make doctors that look like this?
Of course, what comes out of her mouth in a rough and slurred mutter is, “Are you… Dr…. Sexy?”
Someone else in the room bursts into a cackle, another gives a low chuckle, a hand falling down to squeeze her foot beneath the sheets with what she imagines might be affection—while the man’s eyebrows draw down slightly in confusion even as he smiles.
“It’s a TV show, Oliver,” a young woman says from the end of her bed, and Felicity tries to make her out through the blurriness of her vision without glasses—all she sees is a short bob of dark hair and a pretty face, no one she recognizes.
But the name… Oliver…
“You’re Oliver Queen!” she says, some clarity beginning to break through the meds like sunlight through the clouds. The beard and the lines of his face are so different…
The man—Oliver Queen—smiles a bit brighter, his hold on her hand tightening. “I’m aware,” he says softly.
“Oh my God, you’re… you’re alive,” she says, and the others still.
“I’m fine, Felicity,” he says with a frown.
“And you’re in my… hospital room. I’m in the hospital.”
He leans in even closer, eyes tightening as a pained look crosses over her face. “There was an accident—Darhk…” Now his jaw clenches, his eyebrows drawing together in a flash of severe anger, before he shakes it off and refocuses the power of his gaze on her. “You’ve been asleep for a few days.”
“A few days,” she repeats, a bit mindlessly, blinking up at him.
When he reaches out a hand to cup the side of her neck, she flinches away. And that’s when the atmosphere of warm, relieved affection in the room turns suddenly cold.
“How are you back from the dead? You drowned,” she says bluntly, not back to herself enough to regret the phrasing, as he jerks back with a dawning look of horror. “Why are you here, in my room?”
“I’ll, um, go get the doctor,” the young woman says in an uncertain voice as she hurries from the room.
“Felicity,” says another man in the room, tall and muscular with black hair shaved close to his head. He grips the frame at the end of the bed, arms bulging beneath the sleeves of his t-shirt. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
She looks over at her mom, the only familiar face in the room, who has her hand over her mouth and stares at her with wide eyes. Something is really wrong—more than just whatever “accident” put her here.
When she tries to remember what happened to her, she encounters nothing but darkness. Like trying to grasp a dream fading quickly from her mind, slipping through her fingers faster than she can hold onto it. She can’t remember what she ate for dinner the last time she was awake, or the last movie she watched, or whether she paid her rent yet this month.
So she starts with what she can remember, closing her eyes and reminding herself of graduating from MIT and hours spent coding and the dark little office lit only by the blue glow of screens. The days all merge together into one, but she remembers it.
“I was working at Queen Consolidated,” she says after a moment. “I just got the job in IT, I think—at least, I remember working there, I remember my supervisor, who’s the worst. The man can’t even read binary code; he doesn’t even get the joke on my mug, which is actually a dirty limerick about Google and Yahoo and how they…”
She trails off, because it isn’t the worst response she’s ever gotten to her ramblings, but the sad and horrified looks on their faces aren’t terribly encouraging.
Steeling herself, she glances over at Oliver Queen—whose face has gone tight and blank, his eyes shuttered, his entire body seeming braced as his arms hang at his sides. Felicity isn’t sure what she’s done to put that look on his face.
“What? Is this some kind of workman’s comp thing? Did I get injured at work and they sent… the zombie heir? That seems extreme.”
And okay, she’s rambling again, and the others are shifting with discomfort that can’t be just her usual awkwardness. Maybe “zombie” was a bit harsh, but she has no idea what’s going on.
“Confusion is normal after a head wound like this, Oliver,” the man at the end of her bed is saying, reaching out to grab Oliver Queen’s shoulder in what looks like comfort.
“This is more than just confusion,” another woman is saying, her arms crossed over her chest as she stares down at Felicity with a disbelieving look.
Her mother leans in over her, grabbing her face again to press a gentle kiss against her cheek; Felicity’s so startled and confused by everything she can’t even find her usual annoyance at her mother’s eager closeness.
“Honey,” her mother says gently. “We are going to get you better, I promise.”
Slightly shaky, Felicity lifts her hand to reach for her mother’s arm, feeling for the first time in a long time that she wants that clinging and overzealous affection wrapped around her.
But it’s when her hand comes closer into view that she sees it, glinting in the flourescent light, distracting her from the tug of the IV on the back of her hand.
An engagement ring.
Her intake of breath is more of a gasp wheezing through her dry throat, her eyes widening as they swing around the room, taking in all the dark expressions staring back at her. Who are all these people? Why are they looking at her like that?
Why is she wearing an engagement ring? (A beautiful, expensive-looking one at that.)
The beeping on the monitor begins to race as her heart pounds, and that stirs the others to action, as her mother grabs her hand from its fluttering in midair to squeeze tightly against her chest. The woman and the man at the end of the bed lean in closer to one another, murmuring as they frown.
And Oliver Queen takes several steps back away from her. His face is a portrait of wretched agony, tightly restrained, as he turns away so she sees him only in profile. As he walks over to join the others, or perhaps to walk right past them out the door, she feels a strange and foreign longing in her chest. She doesn’t know him, any more than any other tabloid reader can claim to know him, but she knows instantly that she does not want to see him in pain.
She knows what that must mean; she’s smart enough to figure it out. The hand holding, the softness in his eyes when she woke, the engagement ring…
What she doesn’t know is how, is what this all means.
“I’m dreaming,” she mutters, so quietly that only her mother seems to hear her, as Donna combs her fingers through Felicity’s hair and scrapes it back from the bandage on her forehead.
“No, sweetheart,” Donna says sadly. “You’re finally awake.”
“I don’t understand what’s happening.” She feels the welling of hot tears in her eyes, hates that she’s about to cry in front of complete strangers. “I hate mysteries.”
“I know,” Donna says, her own tears escaping down her cheeks before she hastily wipes them away.
But that’s all that’s waiting for her as she wakes more fully—a mystery. The machines keep up their crescendo of panic as the doctor rushes into the room, accompanied by nurses who shoo everyone away as Felicity struggles against their cold, firm hands pressing her down into the bed. She hates needles, fights instinctively against the syringe they’re pressing into her IV to sedate her, cringing and twisting her face into the pillow as the doctor urges her to be still.
The last thing she sees before falling back into black water is Oliver Queen pushing towards her, held back by the man beside him, his angry gaze fixed on the nurse’s harsh grip.
The engagement ring cuts into the nurse’s glove as she holds Felicity’s hand—and her IV port—still.
When her hand is dropped back onto the bed, the weight of the ring is an anchor dragging her deeper into sleep.
An anchor holding her to a dream she can’t remember.
The next time she wakes, the room is empty except for her mother sitting in a chair beside her bed, flipping through a magazine. She has dark circles beneath her eyes, her normally flawless makeup smudged, her hair tousled and greasy. But when Felicity stirs and opens her eyes, Donna leaps from the chair to greet her with a soft smile.
“Hi, honey,” she whispers, in an exaggerated tone as though Felicity were a baby again. Normally, Felicity would roll her eyes; but for some reason, the swipe of her mom’s warm thumb across her cheek as Donna cups her jaw is a bone-deep comfort.
The cannula of oxygen is gone from beneath her nose, and Felicity takes the sips of water her mother offers her gratefully. Other than the pinch of bandages above her eyebrows and the slightly loopy emptiness of her mind on painkillers, she’s almost feeling human again.
“How are you feeling?” her mother asks cautiously. They both know what she’s really asking.
“I don’t… know,” Felicity says.
She doesn’t even know what she’s supposed to ask; in her mind, she’s an IT girl at Queen Consolidated, terminally single and profoundly boring (her weekends are Big Belly Burger and pajamas and old episodes of Doctor Who—wait, what season is it? Are there new episodes to watch?).
But she supposes she does know where to start.
“Oliver?” her mother asks, smiling widely. “Do you remember him?”
Felicity feels a sharp pang at the hope in her voice, and wants nothing more than to remember the man who clearly meant so much to both of them. But she still sees nothing more than tabloids and a photo on a desk and the memorial in the lobby when she thinks of him. The only sound of his voice that she can remember is the deep, broken tone of his words the last time she woke; the only touch she knows is the rasp of his callused fingers around her hand.
Why does she feel like the sum of him… of them is so much more than that?
“No,” she finally says in a small voice, shaking her head. “But… I should, right?”
She can’t quite bring herself to look down at the ring on her left hand, but her fingers twitch beneath its weight, and Donna’s eyes are drawn there.
“He loves you—and you love him, so much, baby girl,” her mother says. Her smile is bright but wobbly. “He asked you to marry him, just before…”
Her mother gestures flippantly around the room, clearly unable to summon the words to name this… whatever this is.
But Felicity focuses on the unbelievable truth in what she did say.
“And I said yes.” The words are somewhere between a statement and a question, because the evidence is shining from her hand.
Donna’s eyes glisten as she says, with a desperate earnestness, “You did.”
Now Felicity looks down at the ring, old-fashioned and ornate, something she never expected to see on her hand. The chipped black nail polish and bitten nails? Sure. But an engagement ring? She swore to herself she was never going to be that girl, who defined herself by a man, who let love sweep her away and change all her priorities.
These fingers were meant to change the world one keystroke at a time—not play host to some man’s claim on her.
Who was she in this new universe?
“I suppose I knew him first,” Felicity says, because she can’t quite bring herself to ask the real question… How many years has she lost?
But her mother knows that’s what she’s asking, as her hand skims once again across Felicity’s cheek.
“I’m pretty sure you met him at work, about three years ago,” she says softly.
“Three years,” Felicity repeats, blinking rapidly through the blur of tears. She tries to stay focused on getting more information—she can handle polymorphic algorithms; she can handle this. “After he came back from the dead, obviously.”
“They found him on an island, I guess.” Donna’s eyebrows crease with the little crinkle that Felicity recognizes from her own face. “He’s been through so much, surviving like that. And losing his parents, poor thing.”
Felicity tries to reconcile this new information with what she knows of him—the partying playboy who peed on cops and punched paparazzi, the privileged son of Starling City titans. She also realizes with a jolt that her mother just said Moira Queen was dead, along with Robert which Felicity already knew. Walter Steele had been running the company for a couple years, but does this mean Oliver is her boss?
Once again, she wonders just what sort of person she turned into these last three years.
She’s about to ask more about him, though she isn’t sure what—just more about the man who stared at her like seeing her wake up was the sight of the first strains of sunrise after a long, dark night—when the doctor is entering the room with a couple of nurses, interrupting their conversation to ask about heart rate and side effects of the sedatives. It’s a flurry of practical questions she can latch onto in the staggering confusion of this new world, as Donna nods along to the doctor’s suggestions and Felicity lies still for the removal of bandages to check the wound along her hairline.
The doctor advises going slow in discovering the unfamiliar geography of the new world, but gives her the basics: yes, it’s the very end of 2015, when Felicity thought it was the summer of 2012 (one of her last, clearest memories is getting into a stifling hot car to head home after her new job and burning her fingers on the steering wheel). She was injured in a car accident (well, in a limo accident, which opens a whole other bewildering spiral of questions), but other than the head wound, she’s uninjured. No one else was seriously hurt in the crash, and the doctor knows nothing else about it.
Felicity remembers Oliver’s growled tone as he said the word “dark” like it was to blame; had it been something the driver couldn’t see?
But as for the rest of how her life has changed, they advise her to take it slow, to make sure not to overwhelm her mind as it recovers from such a trauma.
They don’t say what recovery might look like—that it might not ever mean getting those three years back.
So Felicity spends another day in the hospital, with nurses who give her lingering looks of sympathy and doctors flashing penlights in her eyes. With her mother who hovers anxiously and frequently goes out into the hall even though there’s a bathroom in her private room; it only takes a few hours for her to remember how crazy her mother can make her, with her sparkling dresses and complaints about the way she looks as she primps in front of her compact mirror (and suggestions that maybe she could just run a comb through Felicity’s hair, at least until she can take a shower, she’ll be careful around the bandages she promises…).
After the nurses clear her, she even gets to walk around a little, feet in thin cotton socks padding over the cold gray tile. The nurse hovers at her side the whole time, but Felicity only feels the lethargy and shaky weakness of too much sleep.
So she gets up to walk by herself as the windows grow dark outside. Closing the door of her room quietly to avoid waking her mother sleeping in her chair, she sneaks out into the hallway in her floral-patterned gown and light pink robe.
Just as she’s about to turn away to wander down the hall, she sees him.
His head’s tilted back against the wall, his leather jacket bunched up in his lap, his long denim-clad legs stretched out into the tiny waiting area. The lines of his face are etched deeper into his skin, his eyelashes blending into the dark shadows beneath his eyes as he sleeps. She can’t help studying the taut muscles of his forearms, the bunched sleeves of his Henley around his elbows, the curves of his biceps straining the fabric beneath his broad shoulders.
With her glasses back (her clunky back-up glasses, the others shattered in the accident), she can really see him now.
And, of course, he’s incredibly handsome. Even as tired and unkempt as he looks, he’s probably one of the most handsome people she’s ever seen in real life.
That she can remember.
Felicity waits for a moment, watching his chest rise and fall with each breath, wondering if another step towards him might wake him. She’s not sure she even wants to face him right now, to face those eyes again, to face what lies behind them and what that means.
But she also wants to smooth the creases from around his eyes, and maybe kiss his forehead as he sleeps, and snuggle against one of those broad shoulders to feel safe… to feel home.
She turns abruptly back to the door of her room, slipping back inside as quietly as she left and leaning back against the cool metal. Anyone with eyes could see why that man might stir feelings in her, in just about anyone. It scares her, how easy it would be to just pretend like everything was fine, just to see him smile at her again.
She isn’t that person.
With a surge of determination, she reaches for the ring on her hand, eager to reclaim some part of herself that she knows. And yet, as she feels the silver band beneath her fingertips, warmed by her skin, a sudden ghost of what this ring must have meant jolts through her. She can’t bring herself to take it off.
Throwing her hand over her face, feeling the metal against her quivering lips, she inhales through a shaky sob.
She feels like a stranger in her own body.
Just as she’s finished putting on the sweatpants and baggy sweatshirt her mother brought her, the strips of gauze around her head replaced with butterfly bandages just along her hairline, Felicity hears the door open behind her and waits for her mother’s clicking heels to shuffle into the room.
Instead, the single tread is heavy and slow, and she feels a taut shiver run up her spine.
With a deep breath, she turns and sees Oliver standing there in the open doorway, hand still on the doorknob as he lingers. His face is fixed in a hesitant frown, eyebrows tilted up in concern as he takes her in. She can see his shoulders lift with the breath he takes.
“Hi,” she says softly, to break the silence before he has to. Maybe to show that she’s okay with talking.
His lips part slightly a moment before he breathes out, “Hi,” in a quiet return.
For a moment, they just stare at each other. She takes him in, the slightly higher arch of one eyebrow, the sharp lines of his jaw beneath the ragged growth of facial hair, the bright blue of his eyes as they stare back at her, vulnerable. With his height, she has to look up at him; he shifts a bit beneath her scrutiny, though she can see his own eyes linger on the bandages, on the features of her face washed free of make-up.
Part of her squirms in self-consciousness at the idea of a man who looks like this seeing her without make-up.
The other part wonders how often he’s seen her this way before.
And then she’s thinking about how much of the rest of her he’s seen… and what she’s seen of him. That she now can’t remember.
The cruelty of this situation strikes her with a fresh pang of injustice.
“I…” she starts, but she has no idea what to say. All she can think of is, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” he asks, frowning.
“For all of this.” It’s not exactly what she means, but it’s hard to explain.
He shakes his head instantly, stepping towards her a little before he stops himself. “Felicity, this is not your fault.”
“I know,” she says, shaken only slightly by the sound of her name in his voice. “I’m still sorry.” Because they’re both left torn and bloodied, and even if it’s not her fault, she’s at the core of his pain. The longer he looks at her, the more fresh bruises she can see behind his eyes.
He looks like he wants to reach out to her, his hands twitching at his side, and she wants to let him. But to her, it would be comforting a stranger; she doesn’t know what it would be to him.
So he ducks his head to break the connection, expelling a breath as his eyes close, and then he’s back to a tense blankness across his face. “I wanted to talk to you about where… you wanted to go. Once you’re discharged.”
“Oh,” she says, blinking. She had assumed she would be back in her apartment—but of course, they must live together. An image of the Queen mansion floats into her thoughts, and she’s really not sure what she feels about that. “Um, well, I…”
“We can get a hotel room—for you,” he says. “And your mom.”
Felicity instinctively flinches at that. “Oh, right, she’s staying, I guess. Just what I need to recover.”
A small smile breaks through the lines of his face—and oh, wow, that’s… something.
“The doctor said I should try to go about normal life as much as possible,” she says after a moment of taking that in. “The… new normal, I mean. New for me, you know, not… anyone else.”
“Okay,” he says with an uncertain nod. “We do have a spare room.”
“I’m sure you have a dozen,” she says flippantly (blowing right past the “we”), but he looks confused. “You know, at the… mansion.” Was it tacky to call your own house a mansion? And God, was she already thinking of it as her house? Well, she’d always said she learned quickly.
“We don’t live at the mansion,” he says.
He doesn’t offer any more information than that, so she just says quietly, “Oh.”
Then Donna is bustling back into the room, pausing a bit at the sight of the two of them talking before hurrying right into questions of whether Felicity is warm enough for the trip and whether she wants to put on a touch of make-up before going out. When Oliver asks about the media, Donna tells him someone named “Quentin” is handling it, along with “John.”
Felicity realizes then what dating—no, marrying—Oliver Queen must mean. She wonders how many tabloids she’s been in, and what they’ve said about her. A cold twinge of high school memories runs through her, and she does think of running into the bathroom to at least put on some mascara.
But her mother is already guiding her out into the hall, Oliver on her other side. For a flitting second, she feels the warmth of his hand spanning across her lower back, before he yanks it away. She doesn’t know how to tell him to put it back, the awkwardness (for once) keeping her quiet. Then she’s being guided into a wheelchair for hospital protocol and it’s a moot issue anyway.
The car they take her to is not a limo, but an elegant towncar—still the nicest car she can ever remember being in. In the distance, she sees a police barricade holding back shouting reporters and a lightning storm of flashbulbs, far enough away that she hopes they can’t see the way she shakes a bit standing from the wheelchair. Oliver grips her hand tightly to help her stand, and she doesn’t want to let him go once she’s inside the car.
But she does, because she doesn’t know how to ask him to stay.
She doesn’t know who would be asking him.
When she steps into the loft apartment, she hopes it will come with a wave of memories returning.
It doesn’t. She takes in the impossibly large windows overlooking the skyscrapers of Starling—no, Star City, apparently—with wide eyes. The modern, clean lines and wooden pillars bracket surprisingly warm tones and a shiny gray floor, creating a space that is both intimate and unreal all at once. To her, it looks like a magazine spread, like a place someone elegant and wealthy and not her would live.
And yet… she recognizes the socks tossed haphazardly beneath the coffee table, both for their little owl pattern and for the way she always sheds clothing around her apartment when she gets warm. A couple of the glasses and mugs strewn across the kitchen counter have the half-moon crescent of her lipstick stain along the rim. As she passes the entertainment center, she sees her Battlestar Galactica and Firefly DVD box sets resting on the shelf.
She bites her lip as she turns to look back at Oliver and her mother, watching her move through the loft with expectant expressions. The hope dies quicker in Oliver’s eyes than her mom’s, as they must not see the recognition in her face that they wanted. But he recovers, moving to show her upstairs to the bedroom as her mom starts talking about getting something better than hospital food. Oliver suggests Big Belly Burger, and Felicity sucks in a breath as he effortlessly spells out her favorite order along with his own—including the extra pickles on the side, which even her mother always forgets.
Upstairs, the bedroom is just as beautiful but just as foreign to her. The bedspread is a light green graphic pattern of zigzagging lines, the bed pushed against a wall of sleek dark paneling, with more giant windows arching between gaps of exposed brick. The other “wall” is a pair of giant gray curtains, with a railing overlooking the space below.
Here, too, she sees signs of herself like the debris of a ghost life. Her favorite lotion on the nightstand, because her hands get dry from typing all day. The clothes she drapes over the side of the hamper rather than throwing them in all the way, because maybe she can get another use out of them. The contact solution on the bathroom counter, aside the clear plastic organizer for her make-up—beside a small grouping of cologne bottles and body spray that are definitely not hers.
She’s never had her things so intimately mixed in with a man’s before; she doesn’t even remember what it’s like to have a man’s things in the house, even before her lost memories.
“I’ll take the spare room,” Oliver says to break the slightly tense silence.
“You don’t have to-”
“The doctor said familiar things might…” He can’t quite finish that sentence, because they’re both choking on false hope already.
To give him something, she nods. “Okay, sure. I’ll sleep in your bed—I mean, not your bed, I guess, if you’re not in it—not that you can’t be in it if you want to be, with me elsewhere, obviously, because I just… am going to stop talking.”
The smile that flickers across his face is immediately swamped with pain as he looks away, and Felicity bites her bottom lip to keep from saying anything else. She can’t tell exactly what brought that expression to his face, other than her exceeding awkwardness, but he should be used to that if he was going to marry her.
And maybe that’s exactly it… He’s seeing the ghost of the other her standing in front of him.
She sinks onto the edge of the bed as he goes into the closet to gather his things, and she listens to the sounds of hangers scraping along the bar and the sliding of drawers like a melody on the tip of her tongue. The domestic sounds should be familiar, shouldn’t they? Someone getting ready in the morning just as she wakes, or preparing for bed as she brushes her teeth… Her mind grasps desperately at the tendrils of memory—but they are just imaginary moments, coddled together by what she expects a life together might be like, flashes from a movie she might have seen once.
She has no idea if they’re real, if they’re hers, so she can’t claim them. Even if her heart pounds a little at the sound of him gathering his things from the bathroom counter, the whoosh of the shower door as he reaches in for his shampoo. If she closes her eyes, she can almost remember the way the shower sounds when it’s turned on, when she’s lying in bed listening to him in the room beyond—when she gets up on a sleepy Sunday morning to join him before he’s done.
But then he’s walking back out of the bathroom and it’s gone. It’s all gone.
The man standing in front of her is someone she does not know. Certainly not someone she… loves. So she gives him a tight little smile and watches him walk out of the room without feeling anything.
Is numbness a feeling?
No one can quite tell her how she became CEO of Palmer Technologies, which is what Queen Consolidated is called now, in a matter of three years. A man named Ray Palmer appears to give her at least part of the story, as bewildered by what he finds with her as everyone else, but his tendency to babble about gadgetry is endearing. Oliver shifts and frowns a bit when she smiles at him, though.
Something about being moved up to Executive Assistant and then Vice President and then transferred ownership of his company. But when she asks if she was his Executive Assistant, he won’t answer her; and when she asks Oliver if he still works there, he just says no. She looks at him, confused, remembering that her mother said they met at work—he says that they did, when she helped him with his computer, and won’t say much more than that.
She supposes people meet in all sorts of ways, and it can be hard to explain exactly how something like this starts.
Without being there yourself.
As much as part of her wants the return to work so she can find a new footing, there’s so much she apparently learned in these last three years that made being a CEO possible. She stares at payroll spreadsheets and stock reports and board meeting minutes, and can only think of system configuration updates and firewall exemptions, things that feel familiar.
She’s just an IT girl, isn’t she?
Everyone tiptoes around her, all unsure how to handle the elephant in the room—an incredibly ironic phrase, she reflects, given that elephants are known for remembering everything. No one wants to talk about firing her, but they discreetly appoint an “interim CEO,” and give her less and less to do with the few hours she spends there each day. She’s driven enough to care (she’s not going to let this destroy her career); but she looks at some of the outfits in her closet and doesn’t recognize the person who would have bought them.
Curtis Holt is the easiest to talk to, because apparently he didn’t know her very long before the accident. Still, there’s something he’s not telling her, something he dances around sometimes when he speaks, or maybe someone. Any time she tries to find out more, he darts over to some piece of tech and distracts her with jargon—and it’s frustrating, but it also distracts her brain from its gaping wound for a few minutes as it functions like it’s supposed to, fast and fierce, so she finds herself spending more and more time with him.
Learning that Oliver is running for mayor is… surprising, she supposes. Though spending a few minutes with the man is enough to know that he’s no longer the irresponsible playboy that he was. For the most part, he and his sister Thea keep her away from the little campaigning he’s still doing, as the media respects her privacy in this difficult time. She can feel their curiosity waiting with bated breath like a dog behind a gate, preparing to lunge.
Of all the surprises this new world brings, though, the greatest and hardest to fathom is the rise of vigilantes. Her mind boggles at the fast one, at the metahumans in Central City, at the implications of a wormhole and a second dimension.
The ones in Star City, though, seem like ordinary people dressing up in costumes. She scrolls through old articles online, trying to follow the changes in the world but drawn again and again to the stories of the Hood—then the Arrow, now the Green Arrow. And the Black Canary, Arsenal, the other masks who fight crime with him. The others won’t answer her questions about them, other than short and perfunctory replies…
But she sees the glances they share over her head.
There’s something they aren’t telling her, that no one will tell her.
And as the days blend into weeks, where she’s tiptoeing through her own life while dodging sinkholes of the unknown at every turn, Felicity decides she’s going to find out.
“Mom, really, you can go,” Felicity says one night, nudging her mother out of the loft. “I’ll be fine alone.”
Oliver’s gone again, as he has been more and more nights; she doesn’t even hear when he comes home. They’ve fallen into a rhythm almost like roommates, passing in the hall or sitting a few feet apart on the couch while in different worlds. He cooks for all of them (amazingly well, which just makes his chiseled body additionally unfair), and leaves her leftovers in the fridge with her name on them for work. She never has to tell him what she doesn’t like, or about her allergies, or the kinds of snacks and salad dressings to stock in the fridge.
But she doesn’t know what to say to him. Sometimes he’ll ask about her day, and she’ll tell him, and a misplaced ramble of hers will bring a smile to his lips—but it’s still tinged with grief. Every time she brings up an anecdote from her past or mentions a random fact, she wonders if she’s told him already. She sees the fresh cuts she’s leaving behind… so she stops talking.
And she doesn’t see too much they have in common. He likes sports more than sci-fi (though he’s willing to catch up on shows with her, seasons he’s maybe even seen with her once before; when she gasps at a twist she must have already seen, his eyes tighten—but he smiles when she laughs), and he knows next to nothing about computers. What did they even talk about when they met?
“Are you sure?” Donna says, though she’s already groomed to go out. Apparently, she’s been seeing this “Quentin” guy, who always gives Felicity a pitying grimace and even once tried to apologize for something before Oliver discouraged him with a dark frown.
“I think I remember how to spend a night alone,” she says, almost adding that it’s one of the few things she remembers very clearly. It’s spending the nights with someone that’s unfamiliar.
“Okay, okay,” her mother says. She’s almost out of vacation days from the bar in Vegas (on top of sick days and bereavement leave and accrued good will), so she’ll have to leave soon. But Felicity’s been surprised to find a new footing with her mother, a fragile new bond that came from somewhere in those lost three years… That, too, is a memory that aches in the hole it’s left behind.
So once her mother is gone, off with a giggle to meet this Quentin, Felicity curls up on the couch with her tablet. Some of her passwords have changed, but she’s always been able to find backdoors like they were lit up with neon lights, and that’s one thing that stayed the same. She checks her bank accounts, sees the rises in salary just as they said, sees vacations she doesn’t remember. There are new apps, search histories that don’t make sense, signs of hacking that show her she might have slipped into her old ways. She wonders if Oliver knows he might be marrying a criminal.
Could that be the secret that the others know? She’s back to being a hacker, and they don’t want her to know? How could she have started doing that again, when she knew what it cost her—and Cooper?
In the files of the tablet, she finds a person that she might know. Her music tastes seem mostly the same, new albums from the same bands with a few newer names that she likes from the songs she tries. Most of her passwords are still pop culture references to cult sci-fi shows. She still has more takeout menus than recipes bookmarked on her browser.
But it’s in the photos that any sense of the woman who owns this tablet slips away from her. Because when Felicity opens the photo tab, the first thing she sees is her… and Oliver. They’re standing in front of blue water and mountains, his arms wrapped around her shoulders as he leans his cheek against his hair, as her own cheeks crease with dimples around her smile. In every picture, as she swipes to the next, she’s… grinning. Bright smiles that shine from her face, as he kisses her cheek or she clings to his shoulder, fitted beneath the shelter of his arm.
She looks so… happy. Not just content or excited or smiling for the camera. She’s… in love. And happy, so unbelievably happy to be with him.
Swallowing past the sudden thickness in her throat, Felicity traces her fingertips along the faces in the photo. She isn’t looking at Oliver when she whispers, “Why can’t I remember you?”
And Oliver looks happy in a way that she hasn’t seen since she woke, that were in none of the old paparazzi photos she found. His eyes warm her even through the screen, his smile creasing his face with happiness rather than the weariness that’s taken over him since.
Swiping through the photos, she finds others that she’s taken of him, candid and casual—of him lying beside her on this couch, catching him mid-laugh as her tiny feet poke at his side; of him standing in the kitchen, broad back to her as he stirs something on the stove, a hand towel draped over his shoulder; of him napping, shirtless, on their bed, a notebook splayed over his chest as though he fell asleep mid-thought… and the scars she can glimpse against his skin, jolting her with sympathy and confusion in turn. What kind of person has scars like that? What happened to him—has he ever told her? Will he want to tell her again?
Will he have to?
She spends hours looking at this seemingly perfect life as though watching it happen to someone else. There’s the video she accidentally took when she was supposed to be taking a picture of his chicken cordon bleu, as she teases him about stuffing the chicken and the camera shakes with her giggles, his own huff of laughter in the background (she plays it again just to hear it). There are the notes she took on possible Christmas presents for him, including box tickets to a football game and a workout tracking gadget and something called “custom quiver cisco.” There are the records of the strategy games they must have been playing back and forth on their phones, with him actually beating her and a text from him saying “No cheating. Will know if you rewrite the program.”
Is the secret they’re all keeping from her that there’s something dark and flawed beneath this veneer of sheer happiness? Because she can’t stop staring at all of it, holding the weight of it in her hands but feeling nothing but emptiness inside.
The door to the loft opens quietly, and he’s a few steps into the room before he sees her on the couch, the tablet still cradled in her hands.
“Oh, you’re still up,” he says softly, his voice a bit rough with fatigue. It’s several hours after midnight, and he looks worn out and bruised.
“Yeah, I… Come here,” she murmurs.
With a slight look of wary suspicion, he does as she asks, coming to sit on the end of the couch a few feet from her. When she inches closer, he braces himself, for what she isn’t sure.
“Oliver—were we happy?”
He blinks. “What?”
“Before… I mean, I know we were engaged, but were we happy?”
For a second, he just looks at her, eyes searching her face as she waits patiently for the answer she already knows is coming. Then he releases a breath, and says in a deep voice, “Yes. We… Felicity, I’ve never been happier in my life—I didn’t even know it was possible to feel like that. And I think… I think you were, too.”
She nods, unable to meet his eyes, to see the history in his gaze that she doesn’t know how to share.
But she makes a decision.
“I want you to kiss me,” she says, turning abruptly towards him.
The repetition of her name, the flowing syllables in his voice, stirs something in her… but she’s not sure if it’s old or new. Staying the course, she leans toward him, as he watches her, frozen in place. She spots a fleck of dried blood just beneath his ear, and for a moment it’s almost enough to throw her off course—she hadn’t even thought to ask what he was doing all night.
But she’s already within inches of his face, and as she nears him, she realizes… she wants to kiss him. Not the ghost of the lost self trapped inside her—her, now, right here. Maybe it’s just shallow lust, because the man is gorgeous. Maybe it’s seeking comfort, seeking a fragmented sliver of the girl in the tablet’s smile. Maybe it’s for the man who knows to leave the peas out of the chicken pot pie he made because she hates them, the man who picks up the laundry she leaves scattered around her bedroom even though he isn’t sleeping there anymore, the man who she hears talking with her mother and making her laugh.
The man who smiles when she rambles.
“Kiss me,” she whispers as she closes in, and his hand comes up to curl around her neck, fitting into the curve beneath her ear like the space was made for his grasp.
She can see the war behind his eyes, the longing and the grief and the concern, the bracing for the pain. Yet he’s already pulling her in closer, his other hand sliding around her waist. He twists on the couch to meet her halfway.
And pauses, his lips a heartbeat from her own. His warm breath spills across her chin, faintly tinted with whiskey; she knows her own smells like red wine. Their eyes are locked, his soft and dark, hers framed by the glasses across her face. In this moment, her heart pounding in the vein beneath his thumb, she tries, she tries to remember why this should feel familiar. How many times has he kissed her? How many times has he gently held her face between his hands and stared into her soul?
Can he still see her now? She’s not sure it’s the same soul staring back.
His face blurs through the tears in her eyes, and she closes them tightly. “Please…” she says, nearly without sound. “Make me remember.”
He crosses the gap between them, mouth closing around her bottom lip as he kisses her, softly at first. Then he’s turning his head, deepening the kiss, leveraging open her mouth with his own. His stubble scrapes across her chin, but his lips are soft and smooth.
Before she can think, she’s pushing up against him, desperately grasping for more as her tongue slides against his and she soaks in every hitched breath in his throat. Her own whimpers echo in her ears, her hands clutching at his t-shirt as she tries to hold onto this feeling.
Because there’s something, isn’t there, something stirring inside her… Liquid heat pools in her stomach, butterflies twisting and fluttering as her skin alights on fire, as she kisses him with everything she has. She’s chasing after something just beyond her reach, if she could just see what the flames are scorching clean within her, if she could just…
But when her hands tug up the hem of his t-shirt and encounter bare flesh, he jerks back, breath harsh and heaving as he holds her back.
And in the gasp of cool air that rushes in, it slips away. She realizes all she was chasing was her own lust. Nothing deeper, nothing more.
With a choked sob, she turns away to cover her face with shaking hands, gripping the loose curls of her hair between her fingers. It feels nothing like the way his fingers slid through her hair.
“Felicity, I’m sorry-” he starts, his voice gravelly and filled with regret.
It’s the last thing she wants, and she jerks to a stand before the hand he’s reaching towards her can land on her shoulder. “I’m never going to remember,” she says, wiping a few stray tears from beneath her eyes. “I’m never going to be that person again—I don’t even know her.”
She points down at the tablet, at the screensaver of their picture in Positano, and he follows her gesture down to the screen. When he sees it, his lips thin and he looks away, with the faint sheen of his own tears glinting in his eyes.
“It just takes time,” he says, almost to himself, as though reciting something. His hand comes up over his face.
“And if it never happens? If I never come back?”
Now he looks up at her. “You’re back, you’re right here… with me.”
“No, I’m not.” She shakes her head, looks around the loft that might as well be a hotel room for all it feels like home. “Whoever lived here, she’s gone. Forever.”
“Don’t say that,” he says roughly. He stands up, only the coffee table between them, and she’s struck once again with the height and weight of his presence. What had it felt like to have that wrapped around her, to have all of that focused on her? “She… you… I will not give up on you.”
“How long will we do this, then? How long will we tiptoe around each other pretending we aren’t strangers? Because that’s what you are to me, Oliver. A stranger.” She savors the flinch across his face, because in that moment, she wants to hurt him.
She wants to feel something. Something real, something here, something that is entirely her own and not the mirage of this other girl’s life she’s been living in.
“You’re not a stranger to me,” he says. There’s anger in his voice, in the tight lines of his jaw, but she’s not sure if it’s directed at her or himself or someone who isn’t even there. “I know the way you take your coffee, and the sounds you make in your sleep, and the theme song to that show with the aliens because you hum it when you’re washing dishes. I know you, Felicity.”
“You know her.”
Oliver wraps his hands around the back of his neck, clenching them into fists as he pulls them away. “Then let me know you. You think you’re so different, show me how. Show me everything.”
He steps closer to her, eyes intent on her, so that she’s frozen in place. “And I will fall in love with you all over again. Because I will always love you—every you. Every you that you could ever be.”
“You don’t know that,” she says, fighting back the quaver in her voice. “You don’t know me.”
“Then show me.”
“I can’t!” she nearly shouts back. Then she quiets, all the tension sliding out of her. “…I don’t know me.”
And that’s it, isn’t it? All the fight goes out of them both, and they’re just standing there, listening to the truth echo through the room. Because ever since she woke up in that hospital bed, the biggest stranger in the room was the one who stared back at her from the mirror.
“I remember being someone who usually liked computers and math more than people,” she begins, because that was always her starting point—her mind. “I remember being someone who showed up on time and got all her homework done and solved complex algorithms in her head to put herself to sleep. I remember being someone who made people uncomfortable when she blurted things out, who didn’t have many… friends.
“And now…” She stares down at the hands she’s twisting in front of her. “Now, even without my memories, I’m someone who can get along with my mother. I’m someone who has all these people that seem to care about me even when I don’t know them. I’m someone who feels restless as a CEO because for some reason I feel like I should be doing more, when I swore I was just happy to be an IT girl. I’m someone…”
She looks at him. “I’m someone who sees the ring on this finger and the girl in those photos and wants to be her. I’m someone who sees you and… I don’t even know you and I… I already feel like I’m someone else around you. I just don’t know if it’s me or her or… someone else I don’t even know.”
Oliver stands, silent and still, clearly unsure what to say. The yearning in his eyes reaches out for her, but she knows what he’s hoping for—that they can both just blink and be back to where they were. That wanting to be her is the same as being her.
But there’s still an entire world between the Felicity she is now and the before. All she knows of Oliver is the tense, grieving man she’s lived with for a couple weeks—kind and thoughtful, devastatingly good looking, but full of secrets. Or maybe that’s just all of the history they no longer share… Jokes to retell, confessions to be made again, experiences that cannot be reclaimed but that make up a love story. It’s only a secret because the other person who knew is gone.
As for herself… She can feel the changes in herself even if she can’t remember why—and no matter how hard she tries to fit herself into this new life, something still feels missing. But she can’t remember what.
“I just don’t know, Oliver,” she says with a sigh, deciding to reach out to him as… a friend. Not this mixed up and strained black hole of pain and expectation—but just a friend. Because they must have been friends once, right? “I keep trying to put together the story of who I was… who I am, but it seems like everyone is keeping something from me. And I don’t know whether to keep trying to be her the best I can, or should I try to make a new life from who I am now, even though I don’t even know what I want, or I do know but I don’t know why I want it. I just…
“I feel like I’m putting together a puzzle, of a map I’m trying to follow home, but with pieces missing—which I mean, obviously—but I don’t even know where to start looking.” She rubs her temple. “I don’t know if I should be looking.”
She’d closed her eyes somewhere during this speech, and when she opens them, Oliver has crossed the room to stand right in front of her. He moved so quietly she just sort of gapes at him for a moment, as his hand comes up to gently pull her hand away from her head. But he doesn’t let go of it as he brings it down to her side.
His thumb sweeps across the ring, but she’s not sure if it’s an accident.
After a moment of his eyes searching her face, he expels a long breath. “Felicity,” he murmurs, and the sound of her name still manages to twist something inside her. “I think I need to show you something, maybe something I should have showed you earlier—I thought it would be too much, but maybe… Maybe it will at least answer some questions for you.”
He smiles, but it’s at something in his own mind. “I’ve never been good at lying to you, or keeping secrets. I shouldn’t have started now.”
He doesn’t let go of her hand as he leads her out of the loft and down to their car, and she follows him without question. She’s not sure why, but she trusts him, implicitly.
Maybe she doesn’t need a map if she’s not searching alone.
She hasn’t been to his campaign office yet, mostly to avoid the press there, but now in the dead of night the surrounding block is empty and dark. Uncertainly, Felicity follows him inside, wondering what could possibly be here that he couldn’t show her back at the loft. Has he been spending his late nights here? Does he have some secret political scandal to reveal?
As the hidden elevator in the back of the building slides open, she releases a small gasp of surprise—this time, though, for some reason it makes him smile instead of flinch. Even though she must have known it was here, before. But he’s watching her carefully, expectantly, taking in her curiosity with a private amusement she can’t quite decipher.
When the elevator finally slows to a stop, she has no idea what to expect on the other side.
The first things she sees is light—green lights along the floor and walls, with bright white lights above shining across silver columns and metal tables. A raised circular platform in the middle hosts a glowing white floor. Her eyes dance automatically across the screens throughout the space, noting programs running and data scrolling across them, multiple monitors wired together into a workstation that already has her fingers twitching eagerly.
And then she sees them. The… costumes.
“Oh my God.” She freezes mid-step, staring at them, as Oliver hovers anxiously at her side.
It all comes together—the secrets, the late nights, the way she was drawn to the articles about the vigilantes, the twinge of similarity she saw in the blurry pictures of the Green Arrow. The look on everyone’s faces when she asked questions about them…
“You’re the Green Arrow,” she says, spinning to face him, and he nods slowly. “And I knew?”
“You did,” he says simply. “Almost from the beginning.”
He’s watching her so intently, and maybe they’re both waiting for the memories to rush back in. She almost can’t face her own twinge of disappointment when nothing sparks in her mind other than astonishment at all of this.
Though it tells her nothing new about her, it does fill in some of the gaps about him. Not just the late nights and the secrets, but the scars and the solid strength of him, the sense of safety he wrapped her in even with just a glance across the room. She rethinks the mayoral speeches of his she watched online or on the news, full of passion for protecting this city; she thinks of the tension in his frame that he barely held back when she wanted to go out somewhere alone; she remembers the way he stepped abruptly away from her on the sidewalk to pull a woman on a cell phone back from the curb as a taxi whipped past.
She’d been so busy trying to get to know herself these last couple weeks, she didn’t realize she’d been getting to know him as well—and now, with the final piece found to decode the glimpses of him, she can finally start to see him.
And maybe she can start to fall in love with him again.
“This is how we met,” he says, moving further into the lair, and she follows him up the stairs to the central platform—though she’s quickly distracted by staring at the gorgeous set-up he has here. “I came to you for help with… all of this. With everything, eventually.”
“Wait… I helped you?”
Her mind races through the pictures she saw of the vigilantes. There’s no way she’s the blonde in leather; she’s pretty sure her body doesn’t even work that way. Nor is she the little one in red leather, given that she’s been seen around the city in the weeks since Felicity’s woken.
But of course, she thinks when she looks at the computers, thinking of the trails of hacking on her tablet. She helped from right here.
Something twists within her, a stray thought darting through the back of her mind, but she’s too distracted to chase it.
“Felicity, I couldn’t have done this without you,” he says, joining her in front of the computers, hands gripping the back of the desk chair there.
“That… doesn’t make sense. I mean, I’m good with computers, I know that, I know how I could help you, but still… I’m just an IT girl.”
He opens his mouth to reply—but then abruptly turns his head away, towards a dark corner of the lair, towards a sound she cannot hear. When she starts to ask, he holds his hand up, brushing against her arm. Then a hint of a click, a rustle in the dark.
“Get down!” Oliver shouts suddenly, shoving her towards the ground, and he’s leaping forward over the railing as a man in a ski mask emerges from the shadows with a gun.
Bullets ricochet loudly off the metal and glass of the room, breaking a lamp above her with a downpour of sparks. Felicity crouches awkwardly beneath the desk, knees bruised from the fall, listening anxiously for the sounds of Oliver’s grunts as he lunges towards the shooter.
She should be terrified. A part of her is, as a bullet strikes the railing near her head and Oliver stomp kicks one shooter to the ground only for another to pounce on him from behind; a part of her is jolted with electric fear that this is the first time she’s ever been shot at, the first time she’s even been near a gun let alone had one pointed at her.
Her first instinct is not frozen terror or singleminded flight. As a bullet grazes Oliver’s arm with a streak of blood before he rips the gun from the shooter’s hand, something rises from deep within her that she would never have expected.
She wants to help. She wants to do something.
It’s automatic, flooding through her like a muscle memory activated by the adrenaline, like the answer to a question asked the day before suddenly bursting into view—the need not to fight but to do whatever she can. To be a hero.
This is not the boring IT girl she thought she was.
But she realizes, between one heartbeat and the next, that this is her normal.
This is… her.
Felicity uses a break in the shooting to huddle over her computers, using the one shattered monitor to hide her, as she types in the code for some of the automated security measures that can target all non-identified intruders—because she remembers the code now. She remembers that these men are ghosts working for Damien Darhk. She remembers the location of the closest gun to her workstation so she can help fend them off, remembers the burn of a machine gun against her shoulder a couple months before. She remembers the sounds of Oliver fighting because she’s heard them in her ear hundreds of times.
So when the last ghost is left on the floor, felled by an anger in Oliver she hasn’t seen in a long time, she just watches him for a moment. The way his chest heaves with the deep breaths of exertion, the way the muscles of his arms clench at his sides, the stern lines of his face slowly fading as he comes out of his training and his past and the adrenaline and back to himself. All of him starts to waver through the shaky emotion overwhelming her.
“Felicity! Are you okay?” he asks, leaping back towards the platform with long strides. His hands are already coming up to skate over the sides of her arms, his eyes sweeping hastily across her to search for any injuries.
“You’re bleeding,” she says, and she can’t tell if he notices the quiver in her voice. She reaches towards the blood dripping from the shallow graze across his bicep.
“It’s fine, it’s nothing.” He shakes his head, undeterred from his examination of her.
With a smile and a huff of breath that nearly catches on a sob, Felicity looks up at him and says softly, “You always say that.”
She’s never seen him more guarded than when his eyes lift slowly to hers, braced for whatever he’ll find there. But she’s grinning, the first real smile she’s worn on her face since she woke, even as a couple hot tears slip from the corners of her eyes.
“Hi,” she whispers.
“You…” he says in a release of breath, still holding himself back from finishing that sentence. Even his new embrace of hope has limits.
“Me,” she says, nodding, as his face begins to break. “I’m here. I’m right here.”
When he pulls her up into a kiss, she breathes out, “I love you,” against his lips, swallows his broken return of the same with her own. This time, the scratch of his stubble and softness of his lips are familiar, the trembling strength of his body as he holds her against him a return to her favorite place. She knows the sound he’ll make when she kneads the muscles of his back before he makes it; knows that when she pushes up on her tiptoes his hands will drop down her back to lift her even closer.
She knows that when they break apart, breaths mingling in the tiny space between them, he’ll leave his forehead pressed to hers and linger there.
“Felicity,” he says, eyes still squeezed shut.
And in the sound of her name in his voice, an echo of a favorite song she’s heard a thousand times before (over comms and growled in frustration and gasped into her ear)…
She knows she’s found her way home.
They lay in their bed together, every inch of her bare skin pressed up against the rough, scarred warmth of his, as his fingertips drag lazily up and down her spine. He kisses the scar across her hairline absentmindedly, drifting into a hazy, blissful sleep.
Right now, she can’t imagine trading in the flush of her skin beneath his touch, the heat in her blood and the lazy beat of her heart, for data and circuits and gears.
She doesn’t want to live forever like that. She just wants to live… with him. With herself.
The ring pinches her finger as her hands curl between them, as he tugs her closer into the shelter of his arms. Her thumb strokes back and forth across the metal band, traversing the years it’s taken to bring her here, to bring her to this self. She can watch the years flash by in her mind, see the way that loving him has changed her, see the way that she found her true self along the way all on her own.
He makes a small snuffling sound as he shifts in his sleep, breath spilling across her forehead, and she doesn’t want to think any more right now. She follows him quickly into slumber, the warmth of their tangled bodies carrying her away.
She dreams of the future, of the ways she still has to grow, of the ways new moments will change her. She dreams of the new selves she will discover.
Of memories yet to be made.
And if they all slip away from her as she wakes, that’s okay.
She’ll just have to live them.