My Hope is built on Nothing Less

By JTrevizo

 

 

           

            Chapter 1 - Brand

                       

            There were a lot of things that Felicity had wished for since the day Oliver had asked her out, what seemed years ago now: to hear Oliver say he loved her, for him to choose her, for them to have hot monkey sex…

            Those things never included having to rebuild their relationship from the foundations after everything they'd been through the last few months.

            First had been the League's demand to hand over Sara's murderer, and Oliver's choice to shield Thea by dueling Ra's al Guhl. When Malcolm Merlyn had come with the news of his death at Ra's hands, it has been a blow unlike any other, but After Oliver's return, his willingness to trust Malcom over his own team over his own team's objections had been stunning and painful.

            When Ra's outed the Arrow, they'd lost not just the foundry but Roy as well. His choice to save Oliver with his faked death had been his penance. And then they'd been rocked with Thea's 'death', which had forced Oliver's hand and lead them to Nanda Parbat. It had only been there, facing the reality of Oliver's unthinkable 'Sophie's choice' that the two of them had finally been able to express in words and actions what they meant to one another. And in less than 24 hours after that, she'd had to leave Oliver there.

            The weeks following had been hard, but watching him return to Starling City, as Al Sah-him; kidnapping Lyla and fight his friends, look at her like a stranger, had been worse. Finding out that his conversion to the League had all been an elaborate plan to take down Ra's and save Starling City, a plan only shared with Malcolm and that had excluded her and Digg had ripped the team apart, and if she was truthful, hurt her significantly. Thinking that he could walk away while the team died painfully after being exposed to the virus, even though it had been part of the plan, even knowing he'd married Nyssa to keep his cover hadn't hurt as much as the betrayal she felt at him not trusting her with the knowledge of what he was doing.

            And then the final straw… that when he'd explained that he'd sabotaged the plane bringing the deadly virus to Starling City, and he hadn't planned to survive the crash - that he'd planned to die. When he'd admitted that, the thought that he'd agreed that they wouldn't say goodbye when she'd walked away from him in Nanda Parbat, knowing that it was all a plot to save the city and destroy Ra's, the idea that he would sacrifice himself and yet not care how it would affect her just cut her to the bone.

            When she would have railed and screamed at him, exposing her hurt at his ill conceived plan that would have ended his life until he understood, the threat to Starling City had to take priority. So rather than push the subject while the city's population perished due to Ra's insanity, she'd just done what she had being doing for nearly three years – focused on the mission and getting all her team back in one piece.

            As part of that, she'd sent Oliver out to stop Ra's with a simple statement of fact: "Don't fight to die, fight to live". And when he'd done just that, only to be shot by Starling City PD, she'd been the one that was there to rescue him.

            And don't ask her how she didn't vomit when she first realized she was flying over the city to rescue him… that was simply because she didn't have the time to think about what she was doing other than saving him.

            Now though, she has time to address the weeks and months of pain, confusion and hurt. To demand answers on how he could even consider making love to her one time, knowing that in the end he was going to martyr himself, leaving her with nothing but memories and regrets at what should have been.

            The two of them now stood alone in the Palmer Technologies floor that had become the "Arrow Team" lair 2.0, the others having cleared out. They were mere feet apart, eyes locked on one another even as the agreement they'd just entered into reverberated around them – he'd told her that he wanted to be with her and asked her to run away with him; to make his recurring dream a reality. And she agreed without words because she wanted to. She wanted him to want her and was ready to go anywhere with him… even though parts of her head and heart had yet to deal with the consequences of his recent actions.

            Breaking his gaze, she wrapped her arms around herself, holding in all the burgeoning emotions, both good and bad as she questioned, "So, are we going to talk about everything that's happened, or just pretend it didn't?"

            There was a long pause, causing her to look up before he finally spoke.

            "We can talk about whatever you want. But I was hoping that we could get some sleep first? It's been a long few days," Oliver remarked, a bruise on his jaw beginning to form, reminding her that not only had he'd been shot and fallen off a dam less than three hours ago, fought with Ra's to the death, and crashed a cargo plane, he'd also taken that right hook to the jaw from Digg.

            The instincts of years of taking care of an injured Oliver immediately kicked in, and she quickly asked, "Did you want a lift to the loft? I'm sure Thea…"

            Before she could finish he was stepping closer and cupping her elbow in that way she always thought meant much more than just guiding or stopping her - like it was a caress. His voice was soft when he said, "I don't want to leave you. Do you understand?"

            She looked him in the eyes and saw the pain and regret there, but just below it was the love and burning need for her. It was the same need, longing and love that she had for him. Something that one night had only intensified rather than slaking.

            "Okay, then…" she paused, considering what she was about to ask, "come home with me?"

            That brilliant smile lit up his face as he gave her a slight nod, turning her slightly with the pressure of his hand on her arm and leading her to the door. They took the elevator down to the garage in silence, Oliver's hand holding hers the entire way, until they separated at the car. Memories of finding him bleeding out in the back seat hit her for a moment as she climbs in. She lets her gaze slide to the passenger seat to find Oliver sitting patiently as she jolts back to the task at hand and gets the car in gear.

            The drive to her townhouse goes by in the same semi-comfortable silence that had been with them in the elevator, and Felicity didn't want to disturb it by talking about anything that could end up opening any of the emotional cans of worms that needed to wait until they'd had a good night's rest. The emotions of everything tonight, hell, for the last months of nights needed to be addressed with rational, awake brains rather than exhausted bodies and minds. So she focused on getting them to her place in one piece.

            Parking in front of her townhome, Felicity parked her mini and headed for the front door, keys already in hand while Oliver followed behind her, the sound of the keyless locking mechanism cutting through the silence. Stepping inside her home, Felicity dropped her keys along with her phone and wallet on the couch before stripping off her jacket to join them while Oliver threw the dead bolt on the door. Moving to the bedroom, she stripped off her boots before turning to regard Oliver, who had gotten as far as hovering in the doorway of the room.

            "What are you waiting for? You wanted to get some sleep; you aren't going to be able to do that unless you get in bed."

            "I… I just haven't been in your bedroom before," Oliver replied with a low, rumbling tone.

            "Well it might not have a 'sex you up' vibe like your room in Nanda Parbat, but considering we should be thinking about sleep, rather than sex, it's perfectly functional for its purpose," rambled Felicity, as she looked at the crisp white sheets under the purple duvet. It was quirky but definitely not 'romantic sex lair'.

            "It's perfect," was his simple answer, his tone reminding her of the awe in his voice when he'd returned from his self imposed exile to Lian Yu following the Undertaking and he'd seen the custom made bow she'd had designed along with the foundry's upgrades. It made her smile.

            "Okay, so, then clothes off… I mean whatever you feel comfortable sleeping in, not like I'm trying to get you naked, even if that would be great and I'm just gonna stop talking now."

            Oliver smiled again, stepping fully into her bedroom before pulling off his boots and socks, putting them by the closet while Felicity started to strip off her top and pants, already heading to her dresser for something to sleep in.

            At the sight of Felicity walking around her room in her white lace bra and underwear, Oliver lost his focus. His fingers held a fob fastening on his Mandarin style shirt half way down his chest, the top part gaping open already. When she turned around, seeing his partially unclothed chest, she winced. Peeking from behind the open material were three large round bruise marks from the rifle shots, all center mass. She dropped the clothes in her hand as she walked him, her fingers brushing over his stilled hands. Her eyes swept up to his, the request to help him in her eyes and he nodded briefly before closing them, letting his hands drop away as she turned her attention to finishing the task, parting the fabric and displaying his ever impressive chest to her gaze, littered with scars and tattoos that she recalled caressing vividly the last night they'd been together.

            She pressed her hands lightly against his skin, the heat of his body making her draw a deep breath even as his caught in his chest. Skimming her hands across his flesh, she forced herself to not do something that would lead them to do anything other than lie down and rest, even as part of her was screaming at her to rip his clothes off and have her way with him. When her hands reached his shoulders, she slid them under the fabric, causing the shirt to fall to the floor. Then, without a conscious decision her palms slid downward over his shoulder blades and suddenly her left hand froze, her eyes swooping away from where she'd been staring at his chest to catch Oliver's eyes.

            "What…" she began, her fingers brushing along raised skin that hadn't been there during their night in Nanda Parbat.

            Oliver swallowed hard, his eyes burning through her before he turned, her hands lifting off him as he moved, revealing his back to her. Her breath caught and one hand went to cover her mouth, her eyes widening, moisture gathering near her lashes while her other hand tentatively reached out to touch the abused flesh.

            There, cruelly burned into Oliver's flesh was an arrow symbol.

            The mark of Al Sah-him.

            "Oh my God. He…. They… Did you know?" her questions jumbling together, her voice soft while her fingers traced ever so lightly over the edges of the brand on his skin, marking him for eternity.

            "Malcom said there were some rituals to join the league. Ra's pressed the branding iron into my back as part of the purification of my transformation to The Arrow," he said, not willing to speak the Arabic translation again, "but… no, I didn't know that they were going to do this until after you were gone."

            "I won't ask if it hurt, as I know it had too."

            Her fingers kept touching the mark, hate for the man who had done this and so much more to the man she loved threatening to consume her once more. But that man was dead on the top of a dam. And Oliver was alive in front of her.

            "It didn't hurt as much as the knowledge that I'd let you leave without you knowing what I'd done. What I was doing."

            "You could have told me. And Digg. We could have kept the secret…"

            "If you'd had any idea of what I was going to endure to see the plan through, you would have doubled the dose of sleeping drought you put in my drink and dragged me out of there rather than let me stay."

            Her eyebrows raised at that.

            "You know I don't blame you for that. If our roles had been reversed…"

            "I know. I just wish…"

            He never let her finish as his hands rushed up to cup her cheeks, the feeling reminiscent of the kiss in the hospital.

            "You have to know that my every thought, the way I kept sane was knowing that you were out there, that you loved me and that what I was doing would keep you, the others, and the city safe. I had always planned on coming back to you… it wasn't until things went sideways that…"

            Felicity raised a hand to press over his lips, her heart beating faster at the touch. She didn't want to talk about his decision to be a martyr tonight, or anything else. Right now all she wanted was to kiss him and hold him and fall asleep knowing that when the sun came up in the morning that he wouldn't be walking away.

            That they'd talk and work through everything, and then take that dream drive.

            "Let's not talk about that now," she said softly as she smiled up at him, eyes still watery before she drew her hand away and then leaned up to kiss him.

            He instantly dipped his head to meet her, their lips connecting for the first time since she'd left him behind in Nanda Parbat and the emotions were overwhelming. Oliver tipped her head with his hands, slanting their lips and allowing them to deepen the kiss.

            When Felicity started to feel her willpower begin to slip, her hands griping his arms, she eased back, their lips dragging away from one another. Her eyes slowly opened to see Oliver's eyes still closed and the corners of his lips upturned into a faint, happy grin.

            "If you keep kissing me like that I'll forget our very mature plan to just sleep. So finish getting undressed so we can get in bed," she said breathlessly, prompting a chuckle from Oliver.

            Drawing his hands from her face, he left his fingertips slightly caress her cheeks before fully letting go. Once his hands were no longer holding her, she felt her legs wobble a bit as she forced herself to turn around and pick up her forgotten sleepwear – a bright blue cami and shorts set. She laid them on the corner of the bed and quickly shed her bra and slipped on the pajamas. Once she was done, she turned to find Oliver standing on the opposite side of the bed, clad now only in black boxer briefs.

            Felicity swallowed hard as she reminded herself once again that they needed to sleep, then talk, then have more hot sex as they drove off on Oliver's dream trip. To that end, she moved to pull the blankets back, nodding to Oliver to get in on the other side. Crawling in, Felicity felt the bed dip and then Oliver was reaching over to her, hands open in silent request. She pivoted and turned off the light by the bedside, dropping the room into near darkness and then she shifted herself to settle in his embrace, his arms wrapping around her as she laid her head on his chest, her free arm reaching to pull the covers up and over them.

            Her hand pressed against his heart, a place she'd covered earlier in the day, the steady, strong beat of it centering and calming her. Come the morning they'd talk about the things still between them, but she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the foundation of their friendship, of their love would allow them to rebuild what they had and make it all the stronger.

            "I love you," she said gently against his chest, feeling his breath pull in hard as his arms tightened even more around her, reminding them both that they were here, and neither of them were going anywhere without the other.

            "I love you too Felicity," he sighed in reply.

            Her eyes drifted shut, the feel of him around her; the sound of Oliver's heart beneath her ear slowing down as sleep overtook his exhausted body lulled her into slumber.

           

           

            Chapter 2 - Martyr

           

            Oliver woke first, his eyes opening to the morning sunlight. He looked down to find that he hadn't been dreaming - that the woman he loved was curled in his arms, holding him tightly in her sleep as if she was afraid he would vanish if she didn't.

            It was a reaction he couldn't blame her for. When everything with Ra's had started, he'd never expected that things would have turned out this way.

            When he'd faced Ra's on the mountain there had been a part of him that knew he couldn't beat the near immortal demon's head, and when he'd been stabbed and shoved off the cliff he'd thought of his family and Felicity and had let go. It was only when he found himself miraculously alive that he allowed himself to have hope that perhaps he'd survived for a reason. When the nightly dreams of not going to face Ra's started where he and Felicity were able to escape, driving off together, he'd found himself questioning his choices. Began to wonder – what if?

            But when Ra's asked him to succeed him as the demon's head, and he'd found out from Malcolm just what that would cost him and his city, he knew he had to do whatever it required to keep that from happening, including making an alliance with The Magician. Because he knew that without his help he'd never be able to stop Ra's and save Starling City.

            Along the way, he'd allowed himself to accept the losses that kept mounting as he tried to stop Ra's: watching Roy sacrifice his name and future to allow the Arrow to be thought captured and killed, saving him from jail but at the same time stripping him of that identity; watching Felicity be with Ray, knowing that he'd given her up and that the path he'd put himself on would keep him from ever having her.

            But when he'd been forced to accept Ra's offer to save Thea, he'd known it wasn't just to save his sister; it would allow him to dismantle the League from the inside and protect his family, his friends, Felicity and his city. It was only when Felicity had come to him in Nanda Parbat with her admission of love, offering him everything he'd ever wanted that he'd questioned his choices. The hope that maybe he could have this, be together, had caused him to momentarily let himself be selfish and he took what she offered him - one happy story.

            It was only when he'd awoken, her rescue attempt having failed that he knew he had to let her go and face whatever came alone. When he'd kissed her that last time in Nanda Parbat, he'd said it wasn't goodbye because he believed that the plan with Merlyn was going to allow him to escape and return to her. It was something he hadn't ever expected would be waiting for him, but now that he'd been with her, loved her, the desire to return to her drove him more.

            The weeks that followed, pretending to be… Al Sah-him had been rough. When he was with Ra's and the League it was easier. He simply closed off the parts that made him human once again, reverted to the Hood, to the days before coming back to Starling City. Before letting people like Digg and Felicity in his life, who had helped him, regain his humanity.

            But when confronted with returning to Starling City to locate Nyssa, he'd been faced with the prospect of seeing his friends, his brother and his love and have them not recognize him. He'd debated hard with himself about taking Lyla, but his choices were limited and to maintain the charade of his conversion he had to accomplish his required 'mission'. It was only when he'd heard and seen the anger in John's voice and eyes that he'd realized just how much of a betrayal his friend and brother felt at his actions. As he lay there in Felicity's bed, Oliver's eyes closed briefly as he agonized over the fact that he still had another relationship he was going to have to try and repair beyond the one with Felicity.

            Oliver leaned down to press a kiss into her Felicity's hair as she shifted against him, and he marveled once more that he was here with her and that she loved him. He still couldn't believe this was real. After everything he'd put her through, all the times he'd pushed her away... He'd asked her to love him and then he'd married, albeit under false pretenses, another woman. He'd asked her to trust him, and then she'd discovered he'd lied to her over and over – about working with Malcom, about excluding her and the others from the truth of the plan to destroy Ra's, all the way down to her thinking he could let her and the others die in a cell in Nanda Parbat.

            And then there was the devastation in her eyes when she'd learned that he hadn't expected to return to her. He swallowed hard, the memory of feeling overwhelming guilt when she'd stared at him in disbelief and hurt at his silent admission, and then she'd turned her back on him.

            Dying hadn't been his original plan. It was only when he'd learned that Ra's was coming to Starling City with the virus that he'd become desperate. So he'd instructed Malcom on what to have his team do to save the city if he didn't show up, even as he made plans to sabotage the plane, knowing that it would be a death sentence. In that moment he'd made the same kind of unilateral, sacrificial decision as he'd done in the past - he was willing to die with Ra's and the virus to save the city. He regretted the fact that he'd never see Felicity again, but his life, his happiness was less important than the city, than her life.

            It wasn't until after his plan had failed and he'd had to admit his original intentions to Digg and Felicity that he'd seen the true error of his ways. Her simple statement - "Don't fight to die, fight to live" had cut him to the bone. And she'd been right… the man who had let her and her love for him take root in his heart wasn't the same man who had lost to Ra's. So when he'd finally defeated the demon's head and he knew that the city was going to survive, he'd felt relief and hope for the first time in years… before the rifle shots slammed into his chest and sent him falling over the dam.

            His stunned mind had flashed back to the mountain after Ra's had stabbed him in the chest as he fell, and he thought that despite everything he was still going to die. Until the woman he loved, this remarkable woman who now lay in his arms had rescued him. Just like she had been doing so day after day in so many ways over the nearly three years he'd known her.

            And now he had something he'd never thought he'd have or deserve – a chance to be happy.

            He leaned down and kissed her temple, the action startling her, and she jolted awake in his arms. He quickly tightened his embrace, his hands gentling over her bare skin.

            "Hey, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," Oliver said quietly as Felicity blinked several times before shifting so she could raise her head. She felt her heart lurch as she looked at Oliver as he held her in his arms in her bed.

            "It's okay. I mean I'm glad you're here, alive and well…" she began before cutting off, her voice failing her and her head dipped down as she felt overwhelmed with all the feelings she had for this man – both good and bad.

            "And we're together," Oliver replied, easing one hand from her body to raise her head to catch her eyes, worry starting to creep into his heart when she'd broken eye contact with him. But when her eyes caught his again he found them filled with a multitude of things, but above all, love clearly shone from them.

            "We are."

            Oliver let Felicity's two simple words settle in his chest, like a glowing promise. Thoughts of driving off into the unknown with her by his side, his partner in every way filled his mind. But he knew that love was only one of the emotions she was feeling, and they both needed to talk through what had happened over the last few months if they were going to truly be okay. So he took a deep breath and forged ahead with bringing up the potentially volatile subject.

            "And you don't know how glad I am about that. However, I know we agreed that we'd talk today; that we'd start working through everything – how I broke your trust, made you question my decisions as well as my love for you…" he hesitantly started, his hand slipping from under her chin to rest against her shoulder.

            "And how you ended up married," reminded Felicity pointedly, prompting a sigh as well as small, wry grin from him. He wasn't surprised that she wasn't planning on letting that go anytime soon.

            "Yes, and that too. And I want to start that process today. Then, we can leave here and I can start figuring out who I am now."

            "And I am totally on board with talking now that we've slept, but I think maybe we could use some coffee first?"

            "Coffee sounds good," Oliver agreed readily.

            Felicity grinned and leaned up to press a light kiss against Oliver's lips before she extricated herself from his embrace. Climbing out of the bed, she made her way to the bathroom, closing the door as Oliver sat up in the bed, his back pressed up against the headboard. There was the sound of water running briefly before Felicity exited the bathroom, a robe wrapped around her.

            "Oh, and if you want something other than those League clothes, when you left to join the League, I might have… maybe brought home the black duffle bag you kept your spare workout gear in, and there's some other stuff in there too. It's on the floor in the closet," she said simply, the barest of blushes streaking her cheeks as she admitted to taking his things.

            Oliver stretched out a hand, calling her back toward him and once his fingers caught hers, he pulled her hand up to press a kiss to the palm of it before letting her go, his eyes saying everything from 'thank you' to 'I love you' in the wordless gaze.

            As soon as she left, he could hear the sounds of her in the kitchen and he got up, heading to the closet and finding the bag. Unzipping it he found a full set of his workout gear – sweats, socks, running shoes and t-shirt. Wishing he'd included a spare set of underwear in the bag briefly crossed his mind, but he knew that either way he'd have to go back to the loft to pack and he'd get a shower and a real set of clothes when he got there. At the bottom of the bag he also found his cell phone, keys and wallet.

            He dressed quickly, expecting that he had a busy day as he had to say his goodbyes to Thea, and deal with Malcom before he and Felicity could leave. But before he left for the loft he really wanted to start the repairs to his relationship with Felicity…

            "So, I was thinking, you said we were driving, did you have any specific kind of car in mind? We could take the mini but that doesn't sound at all conducive to enjoying the ride and you always complain that its too small," Felicity called out from the kitchen as Oliver walked out into the living room.

            "I was going to talk to Thea about that when I stopped at the loft to put things in order and pack," he answered, walking into the kitchen as Felicity turned and handed him a cup of coffee. He smiled as he took it from her, noting, "this is three."

            "Well, we're still sort of in post city saving, relationship talking mode …"

            "Plus you don't work for me anymore."

            "I don't work for anyone anymore actually," Felicity blurted out, causing Oliver to raise his mug to his lips, taking a sip as his eyebrows shot up, his forehead crinkling as he tried to comprehend her response. She took a long gulp of her own coffee before answering. "Ray kinda asked me if he needed to find a new VP, and I sort of said yes."

            "To come with me," he stated, not even phrasing it as a question.

            She shrugged and then took another sip of her coffee. Sure, she could have asked Ray for a leave of absence but in her mind continuing to work with Ray while really being with Oliver seemed… wrong somehow.

            "It's not like I can't get another job at some point. I mean now my resume has VP for Palmer Technologies on it. A much better situation than former executive assistant to the CEO."

            Oliver had to grudgingly agree to that; it was only after she'd worked for him and Queen Consolidated collapsed under him that she'd had to scrape by with her Tech Village IT job. He had to grudgingly thank Palmer for having the smarts to see her potential and help her rehabilitate her career.

            "Besides, I wanted to be sure that we had all the time we needed to… explore this, find you and all. And now that we've got the chance to be together and you aren't dead or anything…" she remarked, even as she trailed off a bit at the end.

            At her words Oliver sighed and leaned back against the counter in her kitchen. He'd agreed that they needed to talk, and he knew that this issue, the fact that he'd planned to die, had hurt her the most. They'd only begun to talk about it the night before when she'd impressed upon him how much he had to live for, that he needed to want to live, fight to live… but their discussion had been cut short.

            "I never wanted to have to make that choice. You have to believe me when I say I wanted to come home, to you…"

            "But you did make that choice Oliver. You stood there and looked me in the eye and didn't deny that you hadn't expected to survive that plane crash," said Felicity, her voice rising slowly as she got angrier.

            "Felicity," he began, setting his coffee aside as he pushed away from the counter and moved to rest his hands on her shoulders, standing close enough that she had to tilt her head back to look up at him, his eyes pleading for her to see him and understand. "Ra's was never to set foot in Starling City again, let alone with the virus. But when the plan for you and the others to take out the plane with the virus turned out to be a decoy to locate if there was a traitor in the League, I was left with no choice."

            "You could have told us…" she complained, her hands gripping her coffee cup between them tightly in both hands. He could almost feel them shaking against his abdomen where her knuckles barely brushed his body.

            "There was no way I could do that and guarantee everyone's safety. If any member of the League happened to spy on me had overheard me tell you what Malcom and I were planning, we all could have been killed. And I knew that if I had tried to explain to you why I had to do it…"

            "I would have probably tried to drug you again," she responded with the barest of smiles, memories of their night in Nanda Parbat flitting through her mind.

            "Of course I'd have expected that we would have been together again in those same kind of… circumstances, before you did that to me again…" he whispered lowly, making her breath catch. Still, he needed to be honest with her about his decision if they were going to move past this. "But if I could do it over… I would have trusted the team to stop Ra's once we landed, rather than sabotage the plane. I just thought…"

            Felicity slipped her mug from between them and placed it by the sink before she let both her hands slide up and press against Oliver's chest. He watched her intently as she bit her lower lip before she spoke, "that you had to sacrifice yourself for the safety of everyone. That you didn't matter as much as me, Digg, Thea, the team or the city. Even though that's not true and never has been. You matter Oliver - to so many people, and especially to me. DDo you know what it would have done to me if you had died?"

            Oliver closed his eyes, imagining the reverse – Felicity sacrificing herself for him. He knew in an instant that the hole in his heart and soul that her death would cause him would be irreparable. When he looked at her again, it was with honest realization and understanding.

            "I do… and I promise you that I don't have any thoughts to ever martyr myself again. I have too much to live for now."

            Felicity nodded, her eyes suspiciously wet as she leaned into him, pressing herself flush against him as Oliver wrapped his arms around her back and pulled her tighter into his body. He'd almost lost this… but now he had the chance to be with her every day, love her for as long as they had. But before they could really embark on that new journey, he had to wrap up things in Starling City. He slowly eased back from her, taking her hands as they looked at one another. While this one issue talked through, there were still others to address.

            "I need to go to Thea's and start making plans, pack… and get a shower too. Are you going to be okay with me being gone for the rest of the day?" he asked sincerely, knowing how much they'd needed to be together last night, confident that the other was safe by being within arm's reach of the other.

            "Yes. I'll be fine. Besides I should go and clean out my office before Ray chucks everything. And I'll need to see about cleaning out the house so we don't come back in say three months and find moldy cheese in the fridge," she quipped, and then she broke the grip he had on her hands and reached up to lock her hands behind his head and pulled him down to her.

            Oliver didn't need any other prompting, and he met her lips with his. They kissed for a few minutes, long, heated kisses that spoke of love and want and a future. One that Oliver was willing to do whatever he had to do to keep. He broke off the kiss, opening his eyes to see her flushed face and plump lips and grinned widely. He couldn't remember being this happy.

            "Can you call me a cab so I can get to Thea's while I get my things together? The sooner I get there, the sooner I get back, right?"

            "Right. Let me grab my tablet and I'll get a cab for you. Oh, and call me when you're heading back and I'll order us some dinner?" she said as she reached across the counter to grab her tablet, fingers flying as she woke up the machine and then located the closest cab using an taxi app, having it routed to her house and noting the travel time for arrival. "The cab should be here in five minutes, so you best get moving."

            He nodded and stood, heading straight to the bedroom and fished out the phone, keys and his wallet from the bag before stuffing it with his League attire. Looping the handles of the duffle over his shoulder, Oliver headed back to the kitchen to find Felicity finishing her coffee. He smiled at her and reached out to her, catching her cheek in his hand and tipping her face up as he leaned in to kiss her softly.

            After only a few moments he broke the kiss, knowing if he didn't he'd never want to leave. He just needed to take care of things now so they could have unlimited days to be with one another like this… like they'd been in Nanda Parbat…

            "I'll call you when I'm headed back," he said as he released her and moved towards the door, Felicity trailing behind him. He opened it and then turned on the threshold, "I love you."

            She smiled at him with that still surprised, happy look and his heart thudded in his chest. "I love you too. Now go so you can get back quicker."

            He smiled in return and started down the path as Felicity closed the door behind him. As he walked to the curb, seeing the cab Felicity had ordered just pulling up, Oliver pulled out his cell phone, and dialed. The phone rang twice before a voice answered.

            "Malcom, I'll be at Thea's tonight. Come at 7pm and we'll finish our deal."

            He heard Merlyn acknowledge his words before he hung up the phone and then climbed in the back of the cab. After he'd given the driver the address to the loft he sighed, wondering if maybe this one secret was one he should still keep from Felicity. They had so much to deal with still and he worried how she'd react once she found out what he'd promised Malcom for his help. With a small shake of his head, he put that matter aside for the moment as he sat back against the seat and let his mind envision the fact that he was so close to seeing his dream become a reality.

           

            Chapter 3 - Trust

           

            With all his affairs now settled, Oliver started towards the door to the loft, stopping to say his final goodbye to Thea. She hugged him hard, and he smiled as he hugged her back, feeling the happiness that he'd been sorely missing for the last 8 years. When he finally ended the embrace, she gave him a smirk as she pressed a set of car keys into his hand along with a wad of cash. He pulled back, eyes wide and confused.

            "What's this?"

            "Look, I know you could get your own car, but I wanted to make sure that you had a nice ride for that 'drive' with Felicity, since taking your bike is not an option. And while I am sure that both of you have credit cards and all, but, well, there's enough cash there to keep you on the road for a bit before you have to start spending any money. Just… consider it a going away gift, courtesy of Malcolm. Now get out of here and go and figure out who my brother is now," Thea said with a smile, giving him a push to his chest prompting him to shake his head in disbelief, shoving the cash and keys into his pocket before pressing a kiss to her cheek.

            Oliver turned and hoisted the black bag over his shoulder, leaving the loft and closing the door behind him. He walked to the elevator and took it down to the garage beneath the building. Once the doors opened, he walked out into the dimly lit structure, heading towards the parking spot where his bike normally was parked. Instead he found his ride had been shifted parallel with the front of the parking stall and the majority of the space was filled with the vehicle Thea had given him the keys to. As he stared at the sports car gracing the spot, memories of his dream hit him hard, his eyes misting even as his throat burned with overwhelming emotion.

            Reverently he ran his free hand along the sleek body of the pale grey Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet convertible. Since it was inside and it was turning towards summer, Thea had left the black top down, exposing the matching colored cloth and leather interior. He strolled around it, noting that it must have been previously owned as it already had plates, more than likely it was last year's model traded in for a newer vehicle. He remembered the days when that was standard practice for the Queen family to trade up every year.

            He continued around the car, moving to the passenger side and popped open the glove box. Inside was the temporary registration, made out in his name, as well as an insurance card. His sister must have worked fast or she'd had some forewarning about him needing a car, and he wondered if perhaps Malcolm had set some of this into motion.

            He sighed heavily, not wanting to think about Merlyn and his 'deal with the devil'. The important thing was he was alive, and was with Felicity. Two days ago he'd expected he wouldn't be either of those things ever again. With thoughts of Felicity filling his head, he felt a smile cross his face and he shook off the momentary distraction to drop his bag in the passenger seat before he moved to dig out the keys, climbing behind the wheel. He slipped the key in the ignition and turned over the vehicle, the engine producing a low, rumbling purr. Oliver barked out a brief laugh, shaking his head as he let himself visualize driving the car along the highway, Felicity by his side.

            He had no idea how he'd gotten here, on the precipice of really, truly being happy, and he wasn't going to question it lest something come and take it from him.

            Shoving his hand in his pocket, he found his phone and pulled it out, hitting his speed dial 1. Felicity's name and picture appeared and as he waited for the line to connect he thought back on just when Felicity's contact number had become his number 1 speed dial over Digg, over his sister, over Tommy or his mother… and had to admit that perhaps the feelings he had for Felicity that had lead to them finally being together, might have been building for longer than he'd wanted to admit to himself.

            "Hello," answered Felicity, her voice sounding a bit out of breath as if she'd run for the phone, and he couldn't stop the grin that pulled at his lips at the mental image of her racing across her house to get to the phone, having been waiting for his call.

            "Hey, I'm on my way over. I'll see you soon."

            She replied in the affirmative and then Oliver disconnected the line, dropping the phone onto his jacket pocket before he put the Porsche in gear and pulled out of the space, driving through the garage and then out onto the streets of Starling City, making his way back to Felicity's.

            It had been a while since he'd been behind the wheel of a sports car, and he found himself enjoying it a lot. The vibrations of the engine and maneuvering the high end vehicle as he gave it more gas or took it tight on a turn made his blood pump, adrenaline rushing through him. He couldn't wait to get out on the highway with Felicity and really open it up.

            In no time whatsoever he was in front of her townhouse, and he parked the car behind her mini Cooper. He climbed out and walked around to the other side of the vehicle to get his bag when he paused as he saw the front door of her place open. Felicity stepped outside, dressed casually in dark jeans and a flowy, pale colored top that showed her cleavage and her bare arms. Oliver found himself smiling again, appreciating the view while she took a few steps towards the curb before pulling up short at the sight of him with the Porsche.

            "Okay, I know you're a Queen and all, but aren't you still broke?" she asked, waving her hand in the general direction of the sports car parked behind her vehicle.

            "Former billionaire broke is different from regular broke," Oliver reminded her, but it was true that he probably wouldn't have spent his own money on a car like this. "Thea gave it to me, along with some "spending money"."

            "That was… well, considering her money is kinda Malcolm's money, in a roundabout way since he was the reason you were broke, because of the hostile takeover of QC after the Undertaking and all… anyway, I'm more than happy to divest him of some of his money," Felicity rambled while Oliver lifted his bag from the passenger seat and walked towards her. His free hand reached out to grasp her elbow, fingers brushing bare skin, and her eyes flashed with contentment at the simple, loving gesture. "I called for Chinese for dinner. It should be here soon. How about you come in and we open a bottle of wine and talk some more before it gets here?"

            "That sounds like a good idea."

            They go inside, Felicity heading to the kitchen as Oliver goes straight to her bedroom and drops his bag on the floor. Shrugging out of his leather jacket, he finds a hanger in her closet and hangs it up, thoughts of having his own drawers and half of her closet assailing him for a moment at the action, and he finds that he'd really like that when they return.

            With a wide grin at the image Oliver heads back into the living room, looking to see Felicity headed towards him, an open bottle and two glasses in hand as she moves to join him. She hands him a glass and keeps one, pouring out the dark red wine into his glass first, filling it halfway before filling her own just a bit more before she sets the bottle down on the coffee table.

            "So besides your little sister giving you a spectacularly high profile car and some money, did everything else go well?" she asks him as she sits down on the couch, taking a sip of the wine, her eyes closing a bit as she savors the flavor.

            "It did. I'm free for the foreseeable future, and come the morning we can head out."

            "Did you have somewhere in mind? I know before you just said you wanted to be somewhere far from here."

            "Nowhere in particular. I thought maybe we'd just get on the highway and pick a direction?" he commented as he took a sip of the wine she'd poured. He had to admit it was a good vintage. Obviously the pay raise working for Ray had allowed her to buy some quality bottles.

            "That's rather… vague. Just looking at that sportscar out there I am guessing we don't have a lot of trunk space and I really should know where we're going so I can pack appropriately."

            "Just pack a few basics - jeans, shirts, a dress, a pair of shoes and the like and you'll be fine. If you really need something we can buy it along the way. As long as it will fit in the car," Oliver replied with a small smirk.

            "You did not just insinuate that I would buy so much stuff that we couldn't fit it in that shoebox of a vehicle," she asked, fake indignation evident in her voice as she rolled her eyes at him before taking a long swallow of her wine. "I can't count the number of leather jackets you own. Which of course, you didn't pack, because you couldn't fit them…"

            "I packed one," he defended, making Felicity shake her head. Then she decided to change the subject.

            "So, I'm curious, when you dreamed about us escaping from Ra's, you just said that we were driving. Did we ever stop, do anything, see anyone? How did they end?"

            "It never really did. We just kept driving. I'd look over at you from behind the wheel and..."

            "Wait, in all these dreams were you always the one driving?"

            Oliver paused, his mind sifting through the versions of his dream when the doorbell rang. Felicity placed her glass on the table before she jumped up to pay for their dinner. She opened the door to find a bored looking African American girl, barely out of her teens standing there, plastic bag and bill in hand. Felicity took the bill and then rummaged through her purse for cash, handing it over to the girl as she was handed the heavy bag. With a brief smile Felicity closed the door, smelling the food happily before turning back to the living room.

            "Did you want to eat in here?" she asked.

            "Sure. No reason to move really."

            Felicity came back to the couch, sitting down as she opened the bag and started removing the carry out containers, setting them, chopsticks and napkins on the coffee table. Once the bag was empty, she crumpled the plastic bag and dropped it to the floor beside the table. Oliver had already started opening the containers, finding both her favorites as well as his, reminding him that the woman beside him knew him in some ways better than he knew himself.

            He picked up a container of Kung Pao Chicken and dug in with a set of the chopsticks. Felicity had grabbed a box with Ginger Beef inside and was just breaking apart her chopsticks when Oliver picked up the discussion they'd begun before their food had arrived.

            "To answer your earlier question, yes, in my dream I'm always the one driving. I'm not sure if it's because in my dream I'm taking us somewhere of if it's a metaphor for my need to protect you."

            "So you'd be open to letting me drive that snazzy sports car of yours out there for parts of our road trip? I mean it would be exhausting, wouldn't it, if you're the only one driving?" she asked as she stabbed her chopsticks into her carton, fishing out a piece of glazed meat.

            "Of course. You know I trust you," replied Oliver immediately, and then froze as he realized just what he'd said, his eyes whipping up from his food to see her fallen expression, her eyes closed, her food carton on her lap, held limply in her grasp, forgotten. He quickly set his own food aside as he reached over to her, his hand falling on her knee as his voice dropped an octave, "Felicity, I…"

            "You trust me," she said softly, a hint of disbelief in her voice, her eyes opening and locking with his. "Where was that trust this year Oliver? When you made all my decisions for me, when you kept things from me, lied to me and to Digg."

            "It wasn't that I didn't trust you. I didn't tell you what was going on to protect you. The same for Digg. I couldn't risk anyone finding out what Malcolm and I were planning…"

            "Sure, fine, great, you and Malcolm needed to be your own little clubhouse of two to take down Ra's. I've heard that now enough times to get what you were thinking - that he had vital information and you needed to 'keep the circle small', even if I still think it was stupid. I mean, my God, Lyla works for A.R.G.U.S.! If anyone could get you intel on a radical, evil organizations it's them…"

            "I didn't want to put anyone else in danger. If Malcolm or I were discovered, it would only lead back to the two of us…"

            "You think? Really? Do you really think Ra's wouldn't suspect that your team, the people you're closest to, been fighting your battles with for nearly three years wouldn't have been on your little scheme?" she questioned, and then attempted to fight down the animosity she had for Merlyn, but couldn't. "Merlyn is a murderer and a sociopath and you chose to trust him. Do you really think he wouldn't have turned on you if his life depended on it? Turned all of us in, for real and not as part of the plan? That was who you trusted over us?"

            "Malcolm swore on Thea's life that he would stick to the plan to help me take down Ra's and the League; that the only people in danger would be him and me. I was willing to put myself in jeopardy, was willing to trust him to help me finish Ra's. It wasn't…" Oliver attempted to explain, avoiding the other reason for Malcolm's agreement to work with him before Felicity cut him off.

            "Oliver, this thing with you not trusting us didn't just start with your plan to take down the League. You didn't share things with us, questioned our advice after you came back and found things had changed after you'd survived your fight with Ra's."

            "Because I came back and you and Digg and Roy…" Oliver began, and then memories of him thinking Roy was dead, in his stead hit him, and he looked at Felicity, mouth pulled into a tight line. "You and Digg and Roy kept your plan to save me after Captain Lance had me arrested. You didn't tell me…"

            "Because you were being an idiot! You were trying to sacrifice yourself for the team and weren't listening to us when we tried to tell you to give us time to figure something out. See, that's the thing Oliver, this whole not trusting Digg or me that started even before your duel with Ra's. Before Sara was born you decided you knew what was best and you forced Digg out of the field. Then you pulled that stupid "I can't be me and the Arrow and be with you" crap, for like a second time with me," she complained, the bitterness of the last year coming out once more.

            Oliver moved his hand from her knee, picking up the container on her lap and setting the carton on the table next to them. Then he slid closer to her on the couch, taking both her hands in his. Her eyes were still narrowed at him and he let out a sigh.

            "I was trying…"

            "It doesn't matter," she argued and Oliver's face fell at the obvious exasperation in her voice. "We were the two people you were supposed to always trust and then you just… stopped. The decisions, the choices you made destroyed the trust Digg had in you," Felicity said, her expression changing from angry to dejected. "And then there's me. You know, I remember that day at Big Belly, before I knew who you were and I came to you with the notebook Walter had given me, and you sat there, this serious, honest expression on your face and you told me that I could trust you. And I believed that. Now…"

            She trailed off, her eyes looking away from Oliver, the frustration, hurt and anger showing on her face and unmistakable in her words and voice. And seeing it, knowing that what she was saying weren't lies tore Oliver apart from the inside. The one thing he'd never wanted to do - hurt Felicity, was what he'd done.

            Yet she still loves him and he has no idea why, after everything he's put her through. But he knows that he would do anything to assure her that she can trust him, that he trusts her, because he knows they need that trust between them because it is the foundation that their friendship has been built on, and it needs to be repaired if they're to grow their relationship with one another.

            Oliver's hands tug on hers, and Felicity reluctantly looks back to him to see his face etched with misery and regret, his emotions on stark display with none of the filters or masks she's become accustomed to seeing between them. Her mouth gapes ever so slightly as the anger drains from her body, her fingers tightening in his already desperately strong grip as he holds onto her as if she's his lifeline.

            "I never meant to make you think I didn't trust you. I… I thought I knew... better. I thought I needed to be the one to make the hard choices, to sacrifice what I felt and wanted to protect the city and the people I love. I couldn't lose you; I couldn't put Digg in danger. So I did things, made decisions that ended up hurting the both of you. I was making those decisions because I needed Digg to be able to go home to his family at night - a family I felt I could never have; I needed you to be safe, away from me because I thought I'd get you killed, and I wouldn't survive if something happened to you."

            Felicity felt her heart stutter in her chest at Oliver's words. She knew he'd been trying to protect her, it was his one running theme in all his speeches about being with her. He loved her, she knew that… it was just that his way of showing it before now had been... well, dumb. She shifted her hands in his grip and he reluctantly let go of her hands only for her to take them once more, and instead laced her fingers with his.

            "Oliver, you didn't need to protect me, you needed to let me be your partner," she told him simply, the anger gone from her voice, replaced by a more beseeching tone, wanting him to finally understand so they could move past this. "The same goes for Digg. We expected you to trust us; to include us. We were a team."

            "I know. And I'm sorry. If I could do it over, I wouldn't have excluded you or Digg..." he admits, having learned his lesson - from everything from the pain he'd seen in Felicity's eyes to the aching of his jaw from Digg's punch.

            "Really?"

            " for nothing else than you and Digg would have found a better way than I did to stop Ra's. I sometimes forget that you and Digg joined my original crusade because you wanted to make a difference and you both brought skills and insight I didn't have. Because there were the three of us we were able to do more, we were better as a team. I don't think I give you the credit you deserve for what you can do… you've been as much a hero to Starling as I, Digg, Roy or any of the team ever have."

            Felicity swallowed hard, her eyes wide and she bit her lower lip as she felt the honest truth in Oliver's admission. She'd felt at different times like she was just the tech support, that she didn't matter as much as Oliver or the others. That she was replaceable. And now Oliver was sitting there, admitting his mistakes, being open with her and telling her that she was a hero in her own right. She felt her heart constrict in her chest as the hurt and anger dissolved under the overwhelming weight of the love she felt for this flawed man, who, despite his best efforts, had finally allowed himself to truly, fully love her in return.

            Oliver had only a few seconds to register that Felicity had pulled her hands from his before they were grabbing his face and pulling him down to meet her lips. The kiss was intense and loving and he immediately responded, wrapping his arms around her back, pulling her closer to him until she was nearly on his lap. Felicity didn't hesitate before she broke the kiss, eliciting a groan of frustration from Oliver before she looked at him, eyes blazing with love, want and hope as her hands slid to his chest, her right hand pressed over his heart like she'd done nearly twenty four hours earlier.

            "You know, that was probably the most romantic thing I've ever heard."

            He grinned at her, this truly happy smile that he gave only her, reaching a hand up to caress her face, his fingers tunneling through her blonde locks and cradling her head in his hand. "It's true. I wouldn't be here without you. You're more than a hero… you're my hero, and I love you."

            "I love you," she answered back as she rapidly shifted her position, straddling his lap on the couch, causing Oliver to pull in a deep breath as their pelvises collided. He felt her press down on him and he growled low in his throat before he launched himself forward, claiming her lips in a hot, passionate kiss.

            They pulled at one another, trying to erase every millimeter of space between them, Felicity's breasts crushing against Oliver's hard chest. Her hands gripped his shoulders and back, fingers clenched in his clothes. Oliver tilted her head to deepen the kiss while his other arm wrapped across her back, holding her tightly to him, his hand splayed out to touch as much of her body as he could.

            Oliver abandoned her lips to kiss down along her neck, making his way to the spot near her collarbone that he'd discovered during their night together in Nanda Parbat. As he sucked and nipped at it, her eyes fluttered closed as her hips shifted restlessly in his lap, the need for the man beneath her becoming more important than anything. It had been over a month since their one and only night together and that was way too long to have gone without him. Felicity gasped out at the sensation of him thrusting his hips up into her, her eyes opening in surprise, before her gaze strayed to notice their abandoned dinner on the table behind them, making her distractedly remark, "The food…"

            Oliver broke away from his preoccupation with her throat and looked at her, eyes dark and mouth wet, his voice was low and filled with want when he replied, "not really hungry for Chinese any longer."

            Felicity sucked in a deep breath; his hands and mouth on her had ignited her desire for him, and with one sentence from him it had just increased exponentially. She knew rationally that there were still things that the both of them needed to air out between them, but for now, she, they both wanted this. They'd had so little time to explore this new, physical aspect of their changing relationship, and after everything they'd been through over the last days and weeks they deserved to be together, like this, every day from tonight forward.

            "I guess we can always reheat it," she acknowledged softly, licking her lips before Oliver grabbed her around her hips, flooding them both with the memory of the last time he'd held her like that as his eyes asked the question, begged for permission that this was okay, that she wanted this, wanted them as desperately as he did. Felicity smiled as she leaned into him, her breath hot against his ear as she whispered, "Oliver, take me to bed."

           

            Chapter 4 - Desire

           

            At Felicity's words Oliver instantly stands, lifting her up along with him and causing her to let out a small gasp as her legs lock around his waist before he leans forward to capture her mouth in a scorching kiss.

            She feels rather than sees him turn as he keeps kissing her and slowly he takes one step, then another. The analytical part of her brain notes with some surprise that he's carefully carrying her to her bedroom and that he knows how to find it without looking even as she marvels once more on his impressive strength as he carries her the whole way.

            When his knees hit the bed, Oliver stops and sits Felicity down on the mattress instead of turning and sitting down with her on his lap. By the time they'd gotten to the bed in Nanda Parbat they'd already lost a lot of their clothes, this time however they're still fully dressed, which is fine since tonight there's no deadlines or threats and they can take all the time they want.

            Carefully Oliver reaches down and slips her glasses off, setting them on the nightstand as she smiles at him before he takes a step back, eyes locked with hers as he reaches down and pulls off his shirt, tossing it to floor haphazardly. He's toeing off his boots and strips off his socks next, creating a pile of clothes around him. Felicity yanks off her own shoes and socks, throwing them past him and towards the closet, the resulting set of thunks as they hit the closet door making her cringe and Oliver smirk.

            Felicity's eyes have slipped from his to focus on the bare chest before her, causing her hands to pause in her attempt to unbutton her pants. When Oliver's hands reach for his belt buckle, she quickly stops him, her hands flashing out to still his. His eyebrows raise in question before she wets her lips with a quick swipe of her tongue, eyes dark with want and states breathlessly, "I didn't get to take any of your clothes off last time..."

            He fixes her with a wolfish grin, heart beating rapidly in his chest as he looks down at her. The sight of her sitting in front of him, the beginnings of a flush along her cheeks mixed with her simple statement are incredibly sexy, making him harder than he'd been before and he replies in a voice that borders on desperate, "be my guest."

            She bites her lower lip, the low, seductive timber of his voice making her want to skip this slow exploration that they've got going and just rip their clothes off and jump him. Then his hands fall to his sides, the gesture open and trusting and she tempers her desire with the need to revel in the fact that he's standing here before her, and her fingers begin to work his belt buckle open. When the metal and leather part, she pops the button at his waistband before grasping the zipper pull and carefully tugging it down, displaying heather grey cotton distended by this hardness hidden beneath it. Her hands take hold of his waistband, eyes catching his to confirm she can take everything off and he simply rests his hands over hers and slightly pushes downward, guiding her to lower both jeans and boxer briefs off, pooling the material around his ankles and giving her a spectacular view of his arousal with his hips and groin directly in front of her.

            When they'd made love in Nanda Parbat, the emotions between them had been running high with their overwhelming need for one another, knowing that this was their first, and possibly their last time together. Because of that there hadn't been a lot of exploring going on; this will be their first time to truly indulge in one another.

            She gives him a wicked glance up through her lashes as her hands reach forward, pressing on his thighs, fingers tracing scarred and unscarred skin alike. His legs shift a bit under her touch and she glances down to see that he's kicked away his pants and she bites her lower lip, thinking that she wants to make him fight to keep standing; to see if she can break the iron control she knows he holds himself together with.

            "Hold on," Felicity suggests seductively as her hands slide up his thighs to circle his cock, taking it carefully in her hands and fisting it carefully, causing Oliver to let loose a groan, his eyes slamming shut at the feeling of her warm hands surrounding him.

            She strokes him slowly, building sensation on top of sensation, her eyes transfixed by the sight of him standing in front of her, muscles bunching and jumping under his skin as he gets lost in the ecstasy that her touch is bringing him. She licks her lips and then one hand is drifting away from his shaft and he makes a sound of disappointment in his throat before he barks out a swear word she thinks might be in Russian as her mouth joins her hand and surrounds his length. One of his hands falls to her head, his fingers tunneling through her golden hair, his need to touch her overwhelming him as her lips and tongue wrap around him.

            "Felicity," he stutters out, teeth clenched as he feels his control fraying as her tongue swirls around his shaft, mouth hot and wet around him before she flicks her tongue over the head of his cock, making his hips jolt forward.

            Her mouth pulls off of him even as her fist keeps stroking his base as she answers him, "Oliver." Wisps of her breath lick at the wetness from her mouth over his heated cock and he shivers, the hand at his side clenching tightly. Before he can respond her mouth is wrapping around his heated shaft once more, right hand gripping and pumping him from the base as her left hand anchors him at his hip.

            She sucks him deep into her mouth and Oliver can feel the tingling at the base of his spine, his hips thrusting forward in an attempt to increase the friction her hand and mouth are generating around his throbbing erection and he knows he has bare moments to decide if he wants to come like this, or stop her...

            "I… too much, I don't want to come yet…" Oliver grits out even as his hips jerk slightly in time with her mouth bobbing up and down along his length.

            He uses the last reserves of his willpower to reach down and pull Felicity's hand and head away from him. When she acquiesces to him, she leans backwards, hands landing on the bed even as she looks up at him, lipstick smeared and lips tugged up into a sultry smile. Seeing her like that, he finds himself questioning his sanity in making her stop, but reminds himself that they have all the time in the world now and tonight he wants to be inside her when he comes.

            But he wants to do a lot more with her before he finishes...

            "You're overdressed," he quickly remarks with a slight growl in his voice before diving forward to kiss her hard, mouths parting and tongues meeting before he pulls away, needing to pleasure her like she'd been pleasuring him.

            Felicity nods and lets him slip her top off, flashes of deja vu flitting through her head as her arms raise and the fabric whips over her head. But while he'd taken her shirt off the last time, he hadn't taken anything else off…

            Oliver drops to his knees before her and catches her eyes with his, seeing the desire burning inside him reflected in her darkened blue gaze. His hands reach out and wrap around her hips, dragging her to the edge of the bed, her knees to either side of his waist once more. He unhooks her bra from behind her like a pro, and she shoots a suggestive look at him, thoughts swirling in her head that "Playboy" Oliver Queen probably earned a merit badge in taking off girl's bras. He gives her back a sexy smirk even as his eyes reflect the depth of affection he has for her; he's never been with a woman that he loved as much as he loves Felicity.

            He discards the white scrap of satin and lace with a dismissive flick of his wrist, exposing her breasts to his gaze. He swallows hard at the image she presents him, her hands clenched on his shoulders, holding him close before he wraps his hands around her back, pulling her forward as his lips surround one hard peak.

            "Oh!"

            With that simple exclamation, Oliver feels his heart expand in his chest and his fingers press harder into her flesh. That one little exclamation is one he's heard from her in so many different ways but the breathy, surprised tone mixed with pleasure that just burst from her lips has to be one of the best ways he's ever heard it. He grins briefly before going back to suckling at her, his tongue lashing at the stiff peak his mouth surrounds even as he moves one hand to palm and tease the other breast, the other keeping her right where he wants her.

            Felicity moans at the exquisite sensations his hands and mouth are creating in her and her hips start to shift on the mattress, rolling against his hips, causing him to snap his own forward in unconscious response. She could let him do this forever, but the heat coiling in her center is desperate for attention.

            "Oliver, please, I…" she groans as his lips tug at her nipple before he lets it slip loose, eyes flicking up to see her staring at him, lower lip caught in her teeth and flushed with arousal.

            Oliver places a slow, loving kiss to the space over her heart making her catch her breath at the simple devotion the action displayed before his hands drag down her torso to land at her waist. His fingers meet at the fastening of her pants as he looks at her fully, seeing her lust filled eyes catch his, knowing she can see how much he wants her shining through his heated gaze.

            Without a word Felicity props her hands behind her on the bed as she lifts up her hips, and Oliver swiftly undoes her pants and slides them and her bikini underwear down and off her legs, casting them off somewhere behind him. He glides his hands up her legs, urging her to part them once more and she shifts, allowing him to press against the side of the bed, his straining erection rubbing against the duvet as he all but hauls her into him, her knees bracketing his hips. Her hands fly back to his body, rubbing over his shorn hair, a slight frown gracing her lips before he wraps a hand around her neck and pulls her into a heated kiss.

            Their tongues duel for long moments before he breaks the kiss and he looks at her with a stunning smile, making her heart flip in her chest. Then he twists his torso, leaning down and kissing her right knee before he nips and licks up her inner thigh, headed for her core. His hands slide from where he'd been rubbing his thumbs into her hips to push apart her thighs even more. Felicity's breathing becomes more labored just watching him, knowing where he's going and feeling nervous and anticipatory and wanton all at once.

            Oliver kisses his way closer to her damp center, the scent of her arousal drawing him in. The slickness coating her lower lips makes him swallow hard, thoughts of tasting her on his tongue and lips making him surge forward as he makes contact with her, his tongue licking a stripe across her core, the flavor of her bursting on his taste buds making him groan deep in his throat.

            Felicity's back arches as his tongue laps her and then when his mouth covers her center fully, applying a gentle suction a strangled moan surges forth from her lips. Her eyes close at the sensations and she has only a second to catch her breath before his lips and tongue begin their assault on her in earnest, teasing her clit and filling her opening as he eats her out with the skill she had only guessed he possessed. Her hips restlessly shift on the edge of the bed, Oliver's hands holding her and keeping her from falling off.

            Her hands kneed at his strong shoulders, her body taut as a bowstring, waiting for him to push her over the edge. Her eyes flicker open as she looks down at Oliver's head buried between her thighs and she feels a spike of lust course through her veins at the sight even while a tiny part of her brain points out to her that she could have lost this all with one wrong choice, one mistake and she shakes with that knowledge along with the immense pleasure surging through her.

            "Oliver, please…" she gasps, her body on fire, desperate for the release he can give her as her nails dig harder into his biceps.

            "What do you want?" he growls with a lust filled voice as he lifts up from his task, finding himself suddenly overwhelmed at the beautiful sight of her laid out in front of him, her body so close to coming from his ministrations.

            There's a long pause as Felicity gulps in air, trying to put into words just what she wants - not just now but always from this man staring at her, choosing her, loving her...

            "Everything," is her breathy reply, and Oliver's heart freezes in his chest when he realizes that her answer isn't just about the sex they're having right now, but about him and them and their future.

            He surges upward, mouth barely brushing hers as he states darkly, "so do I," before he slides two fingers into her core, causing her to arch under him, a broken cry breaking from her lips at the sudden invasion. His fingers plunge in and out of her in a rapid pace, her core hot, wet and clenching for less than a minute before his thumb brushes her clit as he thrusts his fingers into her and she shouts his name as she comes apart before him.

            Oliver continues pumping his calloused fingers in and out of her, drawing out her orgasm as he watches her mouth drop open, desperately dragging in air as her body shudders in ecstasy. Finally he slows and eases to a stop, slipping his fingers from her still quaking center and moving to brace himself above her, mesmerized by the sight of her.

            How in god's name did he get so lucky as to deserve this?

            Felicity's eyes flutter open and Oliver can see the love and happiness he brings her in them and sucks in a shaky breath before reaching down to kiss her hard. Her hands fly up to his face, her fingers scratching through his scruff along his jawline before pulling him deeper into the kiss, angling his face to pull him closer.

            Oliver's palms slip over the sheets, sliding under her back and shoulders as his legs shift, moving his hips to fall in the cradle of her pelvis. The feeling of flesh on flesh sends a jolt of need through him, the wetness from her center coating his achingly hard cock and reminding him that they haven't come close to being finished yet. With a roll of his hips into hers their mouths break apart, Felicity moaning softly before she nipped his earlobe, prompting Oliver to groan low in his chest.

            "You are remarkable," he breathes into the spot where her neck meets her collarbone, laving it with his tongue.

            A laugh bubbles up in her chest and she responds with a smile in her voice, "thank you for remarking on it."

            He lifts his head to smile back at her as he fights off the chuckle that wants to break free as he realizes what he just said. Felicity grins back at him and rubs her thumbs just beside his ears, sending little sparks along his skin. Oliver raises himself up and kisses her lips, tongue running along her lower lip before she opens to him, heads shifting as their mouths meet over and over again, bodies pressing and shifting restlessly against one another.

            Felicity lifts her hips and rolls them against Oliver's straining erection, making him growl. She breaks the kiss to smirk at him before he thrusts against her hard, making her moan as she slides her hands down his back. Her legs lift up and she wraps her lower legs around his calves, pressing them closer.

            "Oliver," she pleads quietly, the want in her voice acting like gasoline on his already raging fire of need, "I want…"

            He swallows hard, not trusting his voice as he nods slightly slipping a hand from beneath her to grasp his straining cock, giving it a stroke or two, his fingers sliding over his heated skin made wet from her soaking core before he lines himself up with her entrance and pushes forward, the head surrounded by her fiery, slick channel.

            "Oh God," Felicity moans, the slight penetration reminding her just how long it has been since they've done this and how good it felt… and she has a suspicion that this time might be even better.

            Oliver swears again, his eyes slamming shut, and she thinks for a second that she needs to have him teach her Russian so she can know what he's saying when he shifts his hands to brace on either side of her shoulders and thrusts forward, fully seating himself inside her.

            "Frack!" she blurts out as all thoughts of language fall from her head, her whole focus centered on where they're joined.

            Oliver pants heavily as he tries to gain some measure of control, her scorching heat encircling him, little tremors of her interior muscles making him want to start pounding into her until they both scream in completion. Instead he opens his eyes to see Felicity splayed out over the bed, blonde hair fanned out around her, mouth open and eyes slightly unfocused as she gazes back at him, the feelings inside him mirrored in her eyes.

            He shifts his hips and they both shudder. One of her hands comes up and cups his cheek as she stares him straight in the eyes and he feels like she's seeing into his soul. She licks her dry lips and with a shaky breath she says, "I love you."

            "I love you to, so much," Oliver responds passionately before he kisses her hard briefly and then jerks his hips back, nearly pulling out of her before plunging back inside her tight heat, making them both gasp.

            As if a dam has broken in him, Oliver begins thrusting within her in a swift, needy rhythm, driving them both higher, chasing their mutual orgasms. Felicity lifts her hips up into his downward thrusts, her fingers drifting across his back, tripping across scars and gripping him tighter to him as he wraps his hand around her left hip and shifts it upwards a few inches, changing his angle and causing her to shout, "Oliver! Oh, yes!"

            "Felicity, god," he grits out behind clenched teeth as he pounds into her, that tingling in his spine back once more and he knows that he's not going to last much longer.

            He spreads his knees apart a bit more, giving him better balance and slips the hand not on her hip under her head and lifts her head up to meet his lowering face, her heavy lidded eyes opening to take him in before their lips meet in a smoldering kiss. Oliver's hips speed up, and he feels her core clench tight around him, her fingers digging into his shoulders as her mouth falls open, breaking the kiss.

            She's so close, he can feel it, taste it… she just needs a little push and then he can come with her. His mouth falls to that spot at her neck and he bites it before he growls out, "come for me Felicity."

            He thrusts into her hard two, three more times and she shatters in his embrace, shouting, "Oliver, oh god, oh…!"

            Oliver keeps pistoning into her and then he's gone as well, hips stuttering gracelessly as he feels himself fill her, a string of English and Russian swear words along with her name falling from his lips. His hands start to slip and he falls into her panting hard and her arms wrap around him, holding him tightly to her as if she never wants to let him leave her, and he shivers at the thought. They both lay there, heart beats starting to slow, connected once more in body as well as hearts and souls.

            "That was…" she breathes out, eyes blinking back happy, stunned tears at the incredible sex she'd just had with the man she loves.

            "Yeah," Oliver replies, still overwhelmed. He carefully lifts himself up a bit, making her ease her hold around him and just looks at her. The bright smile on her face makes his own smile grow. He's starting to feel the muscles ache at his cheeks with all the smiling he's been doing.

            Carefully he eases back and slips out of her, prompting a groan from both of them, and he shifts on the bed, pulling her with him, lying on his back. Felicity moves to curl into his side as she pulls the covers over them, arms immediately wrapping around one another, her head landing on his chest.

            "I cannot wait to pack tomorrow morning so we can start our trip," Felicity confesses, her hand stroking over his Bratva tattoo, right over his heart, "and just be you and me."

            "Me too. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you resigned so you could come with me."

            "I love you. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. And besides, you did ask me."

            Oliver laughs, his chest bouncing a bit under her hand, making her head bob with the force of it. "I did. So, did you want to drive to Vegas to see your mom? We could go east to Central City, check in on Barry," Oliver asks as his fingers comb through her mussed hair, eyes shining and a satisfied grin gracing his face.

            "No work and no family," comments Felicity, her face filled with happiness as she looks up at Oliver, looking rested and handsome and hers.

            "So… we can't go west," he remarks with a grin, considering they're already on the western seaboard. "North or south?"

            "How about south. We'll have San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel all along the Pacific Coast Highway, then we can keep going towards Los Angeles and San Diego."

            "That works for me."

            Oliver pulls her closer, nearly dragging her on top of him, his hands roaming across her body, touching every available inch of bare skin. He kisses her deeply, and then drags his mouth away to kiss her jaw, moving away briefly to suck along her throat, headed towards one of his favorite places on her body. Felicity starts to melt under his ministrations before she forcefully rolls off him, landing back on her side, making him look at her in disappointment and confusion.

            "If you keep that up we aren't going to get any sleep tonight and we need a full night's sleep if we're going to be driving all day tomorrow," Felicity states quietly and Oliver frowns, sighing in acceptance of her logic before giving her one last brief kiss and then laying back against the pillow with a dejected sigh. Her hand brushes up along his stubble covered jaw and she pushes herself up to breathe hotly in his ear, "of course there's no reason we can't… revisit this in the morning after we've gotten that good night's sleep."

            Oliver couldn't have fought the mischievous grin that spread across his face if he'd tried, "that sounds like an excellent plan."

            Felicity gave him a small smile before he grabbed her cheek, pulling her face to his for a long, promising kiss before he released her. She slid back to curl up against his side, sighing softly as Oliver wrapped his arms around her, the two of them breathing deeply, their heart rates slowing as they let themselves drift off to sleep.

           

            Chapter 5 - Commitment

           

            The sun filtering through the curtains woke Felicity, alerting her to the fact that it was morning already, and that she and Oliver had fallen asleep after they'd made love the night before. She smiled a little bit, her head tipping into Oliver's hard chest beneath her cheek, recalling the last time they did this - when the stress of Oliver staying in Nanda Parbat had kept both of them from sleeping afterwards.

            This was so much better.

            With a tentative brush, she ran her fingers across Oliver's jaw, the pads of her fingers prickling a bit with his stubble. Drifting across his chin, she let her fingertips slip over his lips, memories of his mouth doing obscenely pleasurable things to her last night flitting through her head when the lips under her hand raised up at the corners in a grin before they pursed, kissing her fingers.

            "Morning," he murmured against her skin, making a shiver crawl up her arm at the vibrations from his mouth.

            "Morning to you too. I thought you were still asleep," she answered as his eyes opened to capture her gaze.

            "I woke up a bit ago but didn't want to move. So I've just been kinda napping, waiting on you."

            "You should have woken me. We could have… you know…"

            Oliver smirked at her and she felt her skin flush. She had been the one to suggest they could pick up with 'round two' after they'd gotten some sleep. The fact that he hadn't…

            "I wanted to let you sleep some more. We were both tired and if we leave this morning, I don't know how long we'll be on the road driving before we stop for the night," he remarked, and she gave a soft sigh before she leaned down to press an affectionate kiss to his cheek, which ended up landing on his lips when he quickly turned into her, hand flying up to catch her head and redirect her mouth.

            Lips pressed together, Felicity let out a little moan, her mouth parting slightly before Oliver licked along her lower lip, urging her to open her mouth to him. When she did, his tongue quickly slid inside, caressing her tongue and the inside of her mouth as they kissed deeper, Oliver pulling Felicity partially on top of him, arms wrapping around her back, holding her tightly to him.

            Oliver finally broke the kiss, becoming achingly aware that if they kept going in the direction they were headed, they weren't going to ever leave the bed. And when Felicity shifted her hips against his half-hard member, he knew he needed to end this now.

            "We need to get up if we're going to leave," he remarked, his voice rough from sleep on top of arousal. She sighed and nodded her head.

            "I have to get packed…" she announced as she rolled off him and slipped out from under the sheets, searching for something to wear, settling on her underwear and his shirt, which drew a hungry look from Oliver.

            With a little smile she dressed and then padded out into the dining room, mind thinking about coffee when she was greeted by the sight of their abandoned Chinese dinner, still laid out on the table.

            "I totally forgot about packing that in the fridge for later," she murmured with a small sigh.

            "Totally worth it," Oliver stated with slightly husky voice as he suddenly appeared behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, wearing only his boxers and pants from the night before. "Tell you what, you needed to clean up before we left anyway, I'll clear this and take it out to the trash while you start packing."

            "Okay. Did you want to take a shower before I jump in?"

            Oliver gave her a look that sent a pool of heat to her belly at her words and she found herself envisioning them saving water and sharing. Of course, if they indulged in a shower together they might not leave the house any time soon. So she pressed her palm against his chest, landing over his heart and causing him to take a deep breath as he looked at her, eyes reflecting the love he had for her there.

            "How about we make a rule that once we're on the road we can consider shared showers?"

            He nodded and leaned forward to give her a brief, promising kiss, "take a shower and start packing. I'll grab my clothes from yesterday and clean up out here first, then I can shower and dress and we can get on the road."

            "Oh, and we need coffee!"

            Oliver smiled and cupped her cheek. "Yes Felicity, I know. You without coffee is asking for trouble. We can make a few cups and clean up before we leave, or just get some on the way out of town."

            "Both?" she grinned back at him before he gave a huff of laughter before he swooped down and kissed her briefly but with a touch of passion, and then pulled regretfully away.

            "Start getting ready to go," he said with a smirk, lightly tapping her on her ass as she turned towards the bedroom and she gave a slight yelp of shock, turning her head to glare at him. Their eyes locked in a heated exchange for a moment until Felicity returned to the task at hand and headed to her bedroom to pack.

            Oliver tossed the Chinese food in the trash can sitting at the curb before heading back in to make the two cups of coffee. While the coffee brewed he grabbed some of his own clean clothes, packing his worn items in the bag to be cleaned later and showered. Felicity hurriedly packed one bag and put aside clothes to wear for the day. Slipping his stolen shirt in with his things, she left their bags together in the bedroom and then crossed paths with him coming out of the shower as she climbed in. It wasn't long before they were both showered, dressed and caffeinated, Felicity cleaning out her coffee pot and two mugs so nothing was left behind dirty. Then Oliver was grabbing both of their pieces of luggage and they were out the door.

            As soon as he had packed their luggage in the car, Oliver had climbed in behind the wheel while Felicity locked up. She headed to the Porsche, eyes filled with delight behind her glasses. Swinging the door out she settled her handbag on the floor close to the console wall and climbed in. Oliver flashed her a grin before he turned over the vehicle, the purr of the engine causing her eyes to widen a bit before he nodded to her safety belt, waiting a second before she clipped in and then he was pulling out onto the road.

            The following hours had been filled with a coffee stop just outside of the city as they drove south along the coastline, affording Felicity of the stunning view, with Oliver taking a quick peek every now and then to see both the ocean and Felicity in profile, as well as a lunch stop for food and a necessities break before they'd gotten back on the road.

            Since they'd never settled on anything other than a few places to stop within the state on their road trip, Felicity found her mind turning towards the 'long term' as it were of them being together and travelling. So as the sun was starting to dip towards the horizon, Felicity piped up with more than a bit of humor, "So where are we going? I'm thinking a state that can annul a Nanda Parbat marriage."

            Oliver laughed, his hands gripping the wheel a bit tighter as he thought about his next statement. He and Felicity had still a lot to talk about, had a lot still to learn about one another, but the farther they got from Starling City the more this one feeling had started to settle in his chest, and he wanted to share it.

            "Can I say something strange?"

            Felicity just looked at him with a smile. She had been watching this man for nearly three years, and the way he had started to hold himself after Ra's had been defeated and she'd saved him… he'd started to look like a man that could see a future that wasn't filled with pain or sacrifice.

            "I'm happy."

            He grinned and tilted his head a bit towards hers, eyes briefly catching as he then shifted gears, the Porsche now out of the mountains and on a flat stretch along the coastline.

            "And here you were thinking that you'd never have that," she said simply, her hand hanging off the side of the car, feeling the air slip past it.

            "I have been known to be wrong. I believe there's always been someone in my ear telling me when that's been the case."

            Felicity fought a giggle, and then sighed contentedly. This was all she'd ever wanted for him; for him to see how what he'd done to save Starling City had helped people, changed their lives for the better, made him a hero and someone who deserved to be happy with the woman he loved. She was just glad that he'd finally come to that decision.

            "True. Ooh, I just thought, we're going to San Francisco, they were like one of the first places that allowed same sex marriage. I bet they could take care of the pesky marriage-not-marriage problem."

            "We'll see. I think we're probably about two hours out from there, so if you want to stop there for the night, or a few days if you have the urge to sightsee and shop, we can do that," Oliver suggested.

            "That sound like a great idea. I'm gonna just grab my phone and see what kind of accommodations we can score. I know you're not billionaire rich and far from broke so maybe we can find something that falls in between…"

            With that Felicity dug in her handbag, doubling as a tech storage container, what with her tablet, cell phone, chargers and a few other electronic 'just in case' do-dads and unlocked her phone. As she started a hotel search for San Francisco, she noted her email account and heaved a sigh but gave in, tapping the app icon and seeing the subject lines fill the screen. There's ones from Digg and Lyla, as well as Barry and Cisco, along with one from Ray. That one has San Francisco in the header and she blinks, curiosity tugging at her before she opens it. Her mouth drops open a bit as she reads, and then re-reads. Slowly she turns to Oliver, his eyes focused on the road and face relaxed and she worries that she might just wipe that look off his face if she says anything. But...

            "So Oliver, I know you and Ray kinda made nice before we left…" she started off tentatively, and Oliver's eyebrow raised, prompting her to go on, his hand on the gear shift, slipping the car into third. "How mad would you be if I told you that he pinged my phone and got our GPS location, which then made him estimate our southern route and sent me an invite for us to stay at the penthouse apartment that Palmer Technologies keeps for executives in San Francisco?"

            "I would…" Oliver began and then trailed off, a mix of feelings in his gut and heart and head. He'd loved Felicity for over a year now, and they'd been on a roller coaster of emotions with his push-pull routine, especially when he'd watched her be with Ray, mostly because she couldn't be with him. Now, the man that had taken his company and temporarily taken his girl was a super powered ally who he'd left in Starling City to help protect it while he and Felicity drove off to find themselves.

            Now Ray was making what seemed to be a pretty big gesture… on top of the multiple times he'd loaned out his aviation equipment. And considering everything, he found himself not feeling territorial knowing Ray was keeping tabs on them.

            "Send him back a message and tell him we graciously accept his offer and that we'll probably be in San Francisco a few nights, if that's okay."

            Felicity's mouth dropped open even more at Oliver's statement, and her eyes fixed on his face, the expression there not having changed much. So when his hand reached out to grope for hers, she took it immediately. That simple action told her everything she needed to know. He had what he wanted, what he needed, and the situation with Ray was in the past. She squeezed his hand briefly, then brought it up to place a light his against the back of his hand before she let it go.

            It was another hour and a half before Oliver was pulling up at the St. Regis San Francisco hotel near the heart of the city. He climbed out, the valet coming out to open Felicity's door as a porter opened the hood to take out their luggage and carry it inside. Oliver was around to the passenger side of the Porsche and laid a hand against Felicity's back as he guided them inside. They made their way to the front counter, with Felicity informing the man there that Ray Palmer had called ahead to have the corporate suite opened up for them and the older man nodded, sliding two key cards across the counter at them and pointing the porter to the penthouse elevator. Nodding in thanks, Oliver turned them towards the elevator, walking in with the porter and their luggage and when the elevator reached the 42nd floor it pinged before the doors opened to the modern furnished penthouse.

            The glass walls provided a full view of the city and Felicity's mouth dropped open once more. She had no idea what kind of 'corporate penthouse' Palmer Technologies had…

            "Wow," she said, wandering through the spacious living room, drawn to the night skyline.

            Behind her Oliver gave the porter a tip and waited until the doors closed before he followed her, hands falling to her hips as he pressed up behind her, eyes taking in the view along with her. This kind of extravagance wasn't foreign to him, but seeing it from Felicity's point of view made it seem new and breathtaking once more.

            "I have to admit, Ray's people have good taste," remarked Oliver, making Felicity laugh.

            "So, do you think we can get them to send up room service here? I don't know about you but I'm starving but exhausted and I really don't want to leave…"

            "I can't imagine that it would be an issue. Why don't you sit down while I locate the menu?"

            Felicity nods and collapses into one of the steel grey armchairs and fishes her phone out of her handbag, planning on sending Ray a thank you message when she finds an email with an unknown address and a cryptic subject line - "Dear Ms. Smoak". Immediately she grabs her tablet, connecting to the hotel wi-fi and runs the IP for the message. Her program pings it through several shells, but her tech-fu is too good to be stopped by a few computer tricks and finally finds that it originated out of Nanda Parbat.

            She doesn't hesitate now and opens the message - it simply states that the ruling Ra's al Ghul has annulled the marriage of Al Sah-him and Nyssa al Ghul. She pulls in a deep breath and holds it for a few seconds, feeling a shiver run through her bones. She looks up and sees Oliver carrying what looks to be a bound book, more than likely the room service menu and he catches her eyes and stops in his tracks.

            "Felicity?" he questioned, dropping the menu on the table and moving to kneel next to her chair, hands landing on her knees, the worry in voice evident.

            "Oliver, you killed Ra's on the dam," she states, not asking.

            "Yes."

            "So is Nyssa the new Ra's now?"

            Felicity waited for his answer, and after a long moment Oliver looked away instead, his eyes shutting tightly. She placed her tablet on the coffee table as she moved to place a hand on his forearm, prompting him to turn toward her once more. "Oliver, who is the new Ra's al Ghul?"

            He swallowed heavily and sighed before he looked her straight in the eyes, realizing that he has to tell her the truth. That if he lies to her now, in this moment, all the work they've done to get past their issues will crumble.

            "Malcolm."

            "Malcolm as in Malcolm Merlyn."

            He nodded. Her eyes searched his, and he could see the moment when she put everything together without even asking him. She took a deep breath once more, eyes shuttering briefly before she looked at him once more, focused yet disappointed.

            "That's why he went to all the trouble to help you. It wasn't just about saving himself from Ra's and the League. He only agreed to help you if you handed over control to him."

            "Yes. We had a deal - he helped me save Starling and in return, with Ra's death I handed him over the symbols of Ra's power."

            "What about Nyssa? Did you ever think about what your deal to make Malcom Ra's would do to her? She's been the demon's heir for decades, and we can at least trust her," Felicity blurted out, her tone edging towards angry now.

            "Nyssa was firmly in Ra's camp when I made the deal with Malcolm after I survived the mountain. If I had double crossed Malcolm and helped Nyssa take over the League… I don't doubt that Malcolm would have made sure I paid for it in some way," Oliver explained carefully, his hands having reached out to grip Felicity's in his. Then a thought crossed his mind, and he asked, "how did you know about this?"

            "Malcolm sent me a delightful message. That the new Head of the Demon had annulled your marriage to Nyssa."

            Oliver's eyebrows raised. While he really hadn't considered the forced wedding as a binding marriage, it seemed that Malcolm had taken the matter seriously enough to annul it. Yet Felicity wasn't focused on that over the revelation of Malcolm's new position.

            "So, are you saying you'd rather she'd become the new head and I still be married to her?" he asked, his tone joking.

            "If she had become the new Ra's she would have done the same thing. She was just as unhappy as you, from what I gathered, being forced into a shotgun wedding. And no offense, you aren't exactly her type."

            Oliver fought off a laugh. "No offence taken. Neither of us wanted the wedding, and while she could show her defiance to Ra's, I had to play along."

            "Still…" she complained, and Oliver squeezed her hands, derailing her from her continued argument. She stopped, her lips closing into a tight line as she stared at Oliver, his expression open and honest.

            "Felicity, you know I would have rather allied myself with Nyssa over Merlyn. It wasn't until I'd gotten into bed with Malcolm…"

            "You do mean figuratively, 'cause…" she snarked and Oliver rolled his eyes and smiled, feeling some of the tension the revelation about Malcolm had caused seeping away.

            "Yes, figuratively. I would think that last night would have proven without a shadow of a doubt exactly where my… romantic loyalties lie," he replied and was happily rewarded with a slight flush of her skin as she recalled their lovemaking, and then she gave a long, tired sigh.

            "So our favorite father of the year and psychopathic mass murderer is now in charge of the League. Are we sure we can trust that he won't use your hanging up your bow and leaving town as an opportunity to screw with Starling?"

            "Digg's there, as are Laurel, Thea and Ray. And if, god forbid, Malcolm try anything stupid, last time I checked you and I both have phones and e-mail…" Oliver pointed out as he stood, tugging lightly on Felicity's hands until she was standing with him, and he moved his hands to hold her upper arms, their eyes locked together as he tried to convey everything he was feeling through his eyes and touch.

            "True," she admitted, her hands finding their way to his hips, holding him to her.

            "And I can't be the Arrow now anyway."

            "But you might need to suit up in the future... Which begs the question, can I burn your League of Assassins clothes when we get back?" she questioned, and Oliver found himself nearly laughing.

            "Yes, you can burn it. You can do whatever you need to do."

            Felicity smiled at that. She never wanted to see that costume ever again. When she'd first seen him in Starling City dressed as Al Sah-him it had hurt, but when he'd stood in Ra's meeting room and looked and spoke to them with that flat tone and told them about the betrothal…

            "Did you ever want to get married?" she asked quietly, her voice sounding almost scared as she asked. Oliver gave her an uncomprehending look, and she tried to find the words to explain what she meant. "I kinda know what happened before you left on the Queen's Gambit. You were with Sara because you were having… issues with Laurel."

            "You mean she wanted to move in together, and I wasn't ready for it," Oliver replied, finally understanding what Felicity was asking, and deep in his chest he felt something shift as he continued. "Yes, that's true. Obviously I was selfish and stupid then. I didn't know how to be a man and tell her I didn't want those things."

            "Do you want those things now?" Felicity whispered, her hands moving up so they pressed flat against his chest, her right placed over his heart.

            "Felicity?"

            "You remember the day I told you about Thea's parentage," she began, and Oliver nodded, his heart beating hard in his chest as he felt the conversation take on a sudden weight. "I mentioned my father. How I didn't know him, who or what he was, or is…"

            "I remember," he replied lowly, his hands tightening ever so slightly around her arms as he took a half step closer to her, forcing her head to tip back so her eyes could meet his. Eyes that were now misty.

            "I know from what my mom has said that he wasn't… the best person. He was… anyway, after he left us, I felt like I needed to protect myself from being hurt like that again. But time went on and then Cooper happened, and then I got used to the idea that people, men in my life would disappoint and leave me. By the time I left Boston for Starling City I'd put up a lot of walls to keep me from getting hurt."

            Oliver swallowed hard. For as much as he'd been focused on how his decisions had damaged the trust and love between them, and how he'd wanted to use this time together to focus on building something stronger, he'd been oblivious to the fact that maybe Felicity had her own demons that she needed to face for them to move forward together.

            "You know I've never wanted to hurt you. The things I said… when I felt we couldn't be together…"

            Felicity nodded, knowing that he'd hurt as much as she did when he'd shut them down.

            "I just want to know… where are we headed? Are you… I mean…"

            Oliver stared at her, seeing the discomfort and insecurity in her expression, her eyes slipping away from his face. Before his conscious mind could even prompt him to move his hands were reaching out to gently grasp her head in his hands, putting a light pressure under her jaw line to coax her face and eyes back up to meet his intense gaze.

            "I'm not that man anymore. If the five years before I got back to Starling hadn't changed me, these last few years, with you, have. The man that I've become, that I'm learning about…" Oliver began, his voice low and thick with emotion, "he wants everything with you. If you'll have him."

            Felicity smiles and then laughs lightly, her hands coming up to grip his wrists. "You still cannot refer to yourself in the first person, can you?"

            Oliver shrugs but smiles.

            "I know you said this trip was about discovering who you are now, but I… I think maybe we should spend the time doing that, but… also figuring out how to be together, like this… every day, and if we need more than just that. Is that okay… I mean…" she questioned and before she could finish Oliver had leaned down to kiss her, their lips pressed softly against one another.

            It was a kiss of understanding, of promise and acceptance. And when Oliver finally pulled away after a long minute, he gave her that brilliant smile that made her heart melt, before he replied, his voice filled with love and want, "I think that can be arranged."

           

            Ch 6 – Discovery

           

            Felicity and Oliver had ended up ordering up room service, eating in the small kitchen area with the glass table and four molded plastic chairs. They'd kept the conversation light, chatting about friends and family and sending postcards and the like while they travelled.

            "Shall we take the full tour?"

            Felicity nodded, and they tossed their trash and loaded the dishwasher in their state of the art kitchen. Once they were done Oliver had reached out a hand to Felicity, and they started their lap around the suite.

            The view from their 42nd story penthouse windows was breathtaking. There was nothing in their way and they could see the whole of the city, lit up before them. They'd walked through the whole of the penthouse, finding the formal dining room with seating for 14, home theater, billiards table, bookcase lined corridor, exterior patio, multiple bedrooms and then the master suite on a second level.

            When they'd climbed the stairs and entered the master bedroom with the Cal King bed made up in neutrals and wood tones surrounded by floor to ceiling glass on two sides, Felicity had let out a small distressed sound.

            "What?" Oliver asked, the sudden worry in his tone immediately evident.

            "Uh, that's glass. As in like, see through, look inside and no boundaries kinda glass…" she stammered, waving her hand at the floor to ceiling glass walls on two side of the bedroom. "I mean, I might have thought about having sex outside in the car, but…"

            Oliver smiled at her before he pulled her against him, one hand trailing calloused yet gentle fingers from the side of her face beside her ear, down her cheek and along her neck, stopping just where her shirt began before he added, "I'll make note of your interest in trying out the Porsche's… possibilities, but as for the windows here, they're most likely mirrored on the outside so no one can see in."

            "Oh."

            That information made her breathe easier, especially when they got to the bathroom, finding a huge tub big enough for two situated right at the window.

            When she'd mumbled under her breath about how it was big enough for having sex in and heard a quickly smothered laugh, she suddenly had realized she was speaking aloud and turned her head to find Oliver giving her an amused smirk. But when he wandered over to said tub and ran his fingers along the edge of it, the look in his eyes promising and heated she'd flushed briefly at the implications.

            "Okay, so… um… bed?" she asked, looking to sideline the subject for the moment, as she really wanted to do that, but it was already rather late and she knew they were both exhausted, if not just from the journey but from their emotionally taxing conversation earlier.

            "I'll go get our suitcases and bring them up," Oliver agreed, leaning over to place a light kiss on her forehead before heading back downstairs.

            Felicity grabbed her bag from Oliver once he entered the master bedroom once more and they unpacked, Oliver taking a keen interest in what she was putting in her lingerie drawer even as she waved him away. He quickly finished putting away his things and then wandered into the bathroom with his toiletries kit, brushing his teeth and using the toilet. Felicity had grabbed a bright rose colored cami and short satin sleep set and brought it in with her to the bathroom with her own makeup & toiletries bag. She gave him a look and he smiled, placing his toothbrush on the counter in an empty glass and watched with a spike of warmth in his chest as she set her own in beside it before she started cleaning off her makeup and taking out her earrings, except for her industrial.

            "I'll see you in there in a few minutes?" he asked and she nodded as he went back into the bedroom.

            With a yawn that didn't go unnoticed, Oliver watched her wander back to the bedroom ten or fifteen minutes later. He'd already climbed in the bed, clad in just his black boxer briefs and now held the covers up for her to climb in beside him. She grabbed up the remote beside the bed and clicked off all the lights, leaving the room bathed only in the exterior glow from the city and climbed in next to him.

            Oliver dropped his arm, the covers falling to lay over them. He reached out and wrapped his arm around her waist, urging her closer, and she went willingly. Seconds later they were wrapped up in one another's embrace, mouths coming together in soft, lazy kisses speaking more to love and affection over want and passion.

            "I love you," Felicity said simply, her hand cupping his cheek as he turned to drop a kiss on her palm.

            "I love you too. Let's get some sleep and tomorrow we'll see about seeing the city."

            With a final kiss they settled into their new positions, curled up against one another as they drifted off to sleep.

            When they awoke the next morning, it was soft, streaming light since the bedroom faces West, and Felicity rolled over from where she'd shifted in the night to lay half on top of Oliver's chest, her head burrowing down over his heart. She realized he was awake when felt his hand come up to cradle her head, her lips moving press an open mouthed kiss over his Bratva tattoo.

            "Morning," he said softly, brushing a kiss into the crown of her head, his breath ruffling her blonde bed head.

            "Morning," she answered with a smile, and when his hand moved to her jaw to tip her head up so he could see her eyes, she continued, "so, what's on the agenda today?"

            "I figured we'd see the sights, have some great food… I haven't been here is a while, and when I was…"

            "It was during the pre-island, Ollie manwhore era," she replied with a smirk of her own.

            "Yes," Oliver admitted, giving her a look before leaning down to kiss her briefly, then he was slipping his hands down her sides and began to tickle her, causing her to squeal and twist in his grip, making him laugh. She swatted at his hands and he relented just long enough for her to scamper off the bed and run to the bathroom, Oliver in pursuit, the two of them laughing the whole way.

            Laughter had led to more kissing, which led to taking a shower together that had led to some spectacular shower sex before they finally refocused on the plan for the day. After dressing, they'd ended up in the kitchen area where Felicity had used the suite's stocked fridge and pantry along with the high end Miele coffee maker to brew them two cups of coffee as they sat down together.

            "So what did you want to see today?" Oliver asked, taking a sip of his coffee, eyes shining as he looked at her beside him, eyes closed as she savored her own coffee.

            "I've never been here before. I mean, Los Angeles is like four hours from Vegas so that was something easy, but driving up to San Francisco was a bigger trip. Mom never had the time and we never really had the money. Once I was at MIT I had the whole Eastern seaboard to explore during breaks… not that I had breaks since I took classes over the summer but…" Felicity rambled as she looked up from her cup to see Oliver's intense gaze on her.

            "How about this," he said, reaching a hand over to pull one of hers off her mug, tangling their fingers together. "We'll get the car with a tourist map and just drive? Or if you really want to, you can use that magical tablet of yours to look up some website with the top ten list of places to see in San Francisco..."

            Felicity caught her bottom lip in her teeth as she pondered it. Normally she'd be all over doing the research. She'd pondered doing that the night before until Oliver and she had ended up having their discussion on Malcolm and marriage and everything...

            "We are supposed to just be 'being' right?" she asked Oliver, her eyes catching his. "That was always the dream, right? Just… being us? No plan, no goal…"

            "Yeah," he answered, his tone low and full of emotion.

            "Then let's just go. Find stuff. Be… us," she offered, and he gave her that brilliant smile that she associated with him when he was happy - the blinding, bone melting grin that made her realize he loved her. Then his lips were on hers and the spark that had been fed less than an hour earlier in the huge walk in shower threatened to engulf them once more. With a reluctant sigh he broke their kiss and gentled a hand across her cheek.

            "If we don't go now we'll never leave. And while I'd have no problem holing up in this luxurious penthouse and make love to you on every single surface possible, I want us to have that normal couple sightseeing day… to be us."

            Felicity bit her lower lip and then nodded, eyes filled with so much love for this man. Standing she headed to the entryway where her cell phone and tablet were still with her oversized handbag, and she snatched them up even as Oliver grabbed his wallet and phone before they headed downstairs in the private elevator, Oliver holding Felicity's hand, his thumb rubbing over her knuckles as they waited until they reached the lobby.

            There he gave the valet the tag for the Porsche while Felicity asked for a city map from the concierge's desk. When the young man had the car at the door, Oliver was just turning back to locate Felicity when she appeared, smile in place and map in hand. He directed her to the car and the valet opened the passenger side door for her to get in, closing it once she was situated and Oliver gave her a brief glance, buckling his seatbelt before he put the Porsche in gear and pulled off onto the streets of the city.

            The rest of the day had been about finding places and being together. Not being in Starling City, Oliver was simply considered another tourist, especially in his henley and slacks. For Felicity it was one new experience and sight after another. They hit Union Square where Felicity window shopped to her heart's content, only allowing Oliver to buy one pair of Jimmy Choo heels that she had no question in her mind were going to end up still on her feet the next time they made love. Chinatown followed, where Olver showed off his Mandarin language skills as they ordered lunch.

            It was there that he talked more about Tatsu and Hong Kong, and Felicity had ended up in his lap by the end of their conversation, glad for the small booth with the drawn curtains as she held his head against hers, one hand ghosting over and over his still short hair in a soothing caress.

            It was very obvious to her that this new Oliver Queen in her embrace was a different man that he'd been before Ra's… the night of their first date he'd attempted to tell her some of what he'd willingly volunteered today.

            This was what they'd left Starling for… to let Oliver explore who he was now, let all the walls down and share himself with her. And she found herself just as fascinated and overwhelmed by the man before her as she had been before he'd left to face Ra's all those long months ago.

            Slowly Oliver had come back to himself, giving her a tentative smile before she swooped down to capture his lips with hers in a kiss that spoke of how much she loved him, for who he was now and what he'd survived then.

            "Come on. I want to go out to Ghirardelli Square… They have a historical tour of their old chocolate factory there!" she said with a grin, cutting the slightly heavy atmosphere Oliver's confessions had created. He smiled and tenderly touched her cheek before nodding, and they got up, paying their bill and heading to the door as Felicity consulted their map and noted, "oh, and we can take the cable car there too from here…"

            They left the Porsche in the parking garage and walked over to the Hyde-Powell cable car line. When the bright red and gold cable car came to a stop they climbed on, Oliver pushing Felicity safely on while he hung off the side, holding onto one of the vertical poles along the outsides of the car. Felicity paid their fares to the conductor before they came to their destination and Oliver jumped down to the pavement when they stopped, reaching up to help Felicity down. They crossed the street and made their way into the collection of shops, restaurants and the boutique hotel that filled the space.

            The walked straight to the clocktower and did the walking tour, looking over the machines and historical plaques. When they finished they stopped at the chocolate store's gift shop and creamery. Felicity guided them to the ice cream counter and put in her request for a single scoop of their mint chocolate chip in their waffle cone, leading to Oliver requesting a second one for him. She'd turned to smile at him as the woman behind the counter put together their orders.

            "It's my go-to ice cream flavor when I stress eat," Felicity stated, her bright pink nails flashing as she tapped her fingers on the glass counter.

            "I remember," Oliver remarked, smiling at her. "You mentioned that you used it to process. I didn't mention at the time that it was one of the things I had missed while I was away and probably ate half a carton within, I think five days of coming home."

            "So it's both of our favorite flavors?" she asked, eyebrows arching in surprise.

            Oliver shrugged as the woman behind the counter reached out to hand them their cones. He took them from her and handed one to Felicity with a smirk, "guess we won't have to have more than one flavor in the freezer…"

            Her mouth dropped open into a small 'o' at the implications of his words. He was talking about them… living in the same place… like always. Now she'd be lying if she said she hadn't thought about it, hell, she had, more than a few times after he'd asked her on that date, but the idea that Oliver hadn't just thought about it but was considering it a done deal made her head spin.

            But in reality, it wasn't that strange… they were already doing that now. They were essentially living together… just on the road instead of in Starling City in her place or his, or his and his sister's…

            She didn't want to ask him about what would happen when they finally headed back to Starling… there was enough time to figure that out after they'd figured out 'them'.

            They walked out into the late afternoon sun, eating their ice cream and smiling as they poked their heads in some of the shops. Felicity ended up in Lola's of North Beach and picked up a cute wind up cable car and a children's book titled "Good night San Francisco". The older gentleman behind the counter informed her he could mail them directly to Digg and Lyla for Sara if she would write a note to go in the package while Oliver gave him the address.

            Felicity quickly filled out the note to Digg while Oliver watched the man box up the items in a FedEx package. Once Felicity handed over the note, which Oliver saw was signed from the both of them, the man at the counter slipped it in the box before he sealed it up, Oliver paying for everything, making Felicity narrow her eyes at him. He shrugged and smiled at her, thanking the clerk as they left the shop, watching as the box was placed in the pick up bin by the counter.

            "Thank you for putting my name on the note," Oliver said quietly.

            "It was from us, wasn't it?" she asked simply.

            "Yes, but Digg's still not my biggest fan right now."

            "He needs time and the chance to talk it out when we get back. Just like you and I needed to work out things…"

            He nodded in agreement as he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her into his side as they continued to walk through the square. Her head tilted to lean against his shoulder and they just happily walked together, people flowing around them, without a care.

            "Are you hungry for dinner yet?" Oliver asked, noting the setting sun.

            "I could eat. We should get back to the car…" she replied, watching the sky turn orange and red.

            "Let's take the cable car back and get the Porsche. Then there's a Vietnamese place on the waterfront called The Slanted Door I've heard has a spectacular view and great food."

            Felicity made a noise of agreement and they headed to the spot they'd been dropped off earlier, waiting for a cable car headed in the opposite direction. Once they caught one, it was another series of turns and hill climbs and drops before they jumped off near where they'd left the car in the lot in Chinatown.

            After paying for the parking, Oliver drove them out of the lot and onto the city streets once more, headed to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building. Along the way Felicity used her cell phone to access the restaurant's reservations system, and when she didn't find what she wanted, grabbed up her tablet and did a little hacking until they were on the reservation list with a table for two at the best seat in the house.

            Oliver found a parking lot nearby and paid for their space before escorting Felicity out of the passenger side of the Porsche and walking with her across the street to the restaurant. They were ushered inside and seated against the glass wall, the lights of the Bay Bridge outlining the structure against the velvety blue-black sky.

            They ordered a bottle of 2009 Moric which once it arrived Felicity found to be excellent. They ordered, and Oliver made sure to tell the server twice that Felicity had a nut allergy and to be sure there was no cross contamination of any of her dishes, making the young man waiting on them assure him that he'd be sure to address it with the kitchen staff even as Felicity grabbed Oliver's hand across the table and squeezed it tightly in affection.

            "I know you have your EpiPen with you but I never want to have to use it," Oliver explained, making her give him a watery smile.

            "Thank you."

            They worked their way through a California halibut & scallop ceviché, then a barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs appetizer. Their main courses arrived, which they ended up sharing - a grass-fed estancia shaking beef that Oliver had wanted along with a seared ahi tuna minus the almonds for Felicity with a side of chue farm Japanese eggplant, the latter having coconut milk in it, which Felicity had made a point of showing to Oliver when she'd ordered it, the two chuckling over the memory of her request for water or coconut when she and Digg had come to Lian Yu to haul his sorry ass back home.

            Their conversation had been light as they ate, and when they'd consumed everything they could, Oliver wiped his lips with his napkin before asking, "So, did you want to order dessert?"

            He looked up after he placed the black linen on his lap and found Felicity staring at him, eyes alight and her tongue swept across her lips in what he could tell was a deliberate act that had him thinking about things other than their meal.

            "No… I think we should have dessert… at the suite," she said in a provocative manner that had Oliver swallowing hard and raising his hand to signal the waiter for the check.

           

            Chapter 7 - Together

           

            The drive from the restaurant to the hotel was short, but there were more than a few intersections. Almost immediately after they set off, Felicity reached over and rested her hand high on Oliver's thigh. At her touch his mind immediately thought of what her talented hands could do to him, and he swallowed hard. After driving another few blocks with her lightly rubbing along his pant covered leg, sucked in a deep breath, doing his best to control himself before he picked her hand up, placed a heated kiss across the back and set it on her own lap, prompting a disappointed look to cross her face.

            "I need to concentrate on driving and you doing that is not helping," he remarked, his voice deep and slightly strained.

            "Sorry. I'll keep my hands to myself."

            "Only until we get back to the penthouse. After that…" he quickly added, eyes briefly catching hers so she could see the want within them before he had to look away as the stoplight in front of them turned green.

            Felicity didn't say anything else. She simply smiled and settled back in her seat until they were pulling into the valet station at the St. Regis. Oliver was out of the car, getting his valet ticket and handing the man a tip before she'd even opened her door. Then he was there beside her, escorting her out and into the hotel, through the lobby and to the private elevator.

            When the elevator doors closed, Oliver quickly pulled Felicity to him, hands wrapping around her waist and back, holding her close. Her hands fell to his chest, the palms pressing over his pecs, feeling the heat and thrum of his pounding heart beneath them. He dipped his head and captured her lips, their mouths and tongues moving together in a heated tempo, the product of having spent the day with one another and keeping their hands to themselves for the most part along with Felicity's roaming hand in the Porsche.

            The elevator chimed when they reached their destination, the doors sliding open to the penthouse, lit only by the lights of the city streaming through the windows. Felicity broke the kiss and stepped out of Oliver's arms and into the suite. He made to follow her, eyes scanning for the remote control to the lights when her hand swept up to cup his cheek, her thumb brushing his stubbled jaw as she exerted a bit of pressure to bring his head down to her, his hands moving to her hips automatically.

            "Don't turn on the lights," she said in a soft whisper by his ear, the warm breath making his blood flow south. "There's enough light from outside to make our way upstairs."

            With that Felicity took his hand and led him towards the staircase to the second level and the master suite.

            Pulled along by the woman he loved, Oliver let himself just be… be happy, be unencumbered, be loved. But when they stopped in the master bath instead of going straight to the bed, he pulled up short, and as Felicity stepped to the side, he found himself frozen in place.

            The large white porcelain bathtub that Felicity had been enamored of earlier was filled with bubbles, framed by the night sky through the windows. On the floor around it, dark red rose petals were scattered, and what looked like flameless candles, which he guessed were safer than traditional candles and wouldn't get swamped if the water from the tub sloshed out. His eyes whipped away from the romantic setting to catch Felicity's gaze. He found that same amorous look from the restaurant on her face, along with a glint of satisfaction.

            "How did you do all this?" he asked, his voice deep with arousal, his hands reaching out to pull her back into his embrace.

            "I might have mentioned to the concierge this morning that I'd like to set up something romantic this evening. I gave them the details and said I'd text when we were heading back so they could set up."

            Oliver stared at her for a moment and then recalled her slipping her phone back into her bag after he'd signed the charge slip for dinner, realizing she'd used the time to implement her plan. The smile that stretched his face at the thought that she'd been planning on this all day made his heart expand in his chest with a new wave of love for her.

            "That was very cunning of you Ms. Smoak. So now that you have me here, am I to assume that you'd like to fulfil your bathtub sex desires that you remarked on last night?"

            Her lower lip caught in her teeth and the hopeful look in her eyes told him everything he needed to know. His hands came up to hold her head and he leaned down and kissed her, hard and passionate. Her hands flew to the back of his neck, fingers tunneling into the shorn hair at the back of his head and he had to fight back the instinct to just rip off her clothes and have his way with her. She'd gone to all the trouble to set up this very sensual encounter; who was he to deny her this drawn out fantasy?

            "If we're getting in that bath any time soon, these clothes need to go," he said lowly as he eased back and then slid his hands under the collar of her white lace trench coat and shoved it off her shoulders, the material pooling on the floor. The coat was barely off her arms before his fingers attacked the buttons on her pink blouse, and Felicity's heart sped up, her fingers moving to his jacket.

            Within minutes they'd stripped themselves bare and Oliver had swooped down and hauled Felicity into his arms, carrying her to the bath. He carefully lowered her to the vanilla scented bubbles, letting her toes check the temperature of the water before her delighted sigh confirmed that it was acceptable and he let her stand on her own in the tub. He took hold of the side and stepped in, finding the temperature more than warm but not scalding and slid down, his back pressing against one end of the tub, his legs extending to either side of where Felicity still stood.

            Once he was settled, he raised a hand up to her, and she lowered herself to lay back against his chest, the water and bubbles lapping over her breasts when his arms moved to wrap tightly around her, pulling her flush against him as he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her bare shoulder, right where her small scar lay.

            "This is very nice," he remarked in a tone that sent a wave of heat through her and settled in her belly.

            "Mmmm," she replied, the skin above the water covered with gooseflesh versus the rest of her that was plunged in the warm water and pressed against the even warmer body of Oliver behind her.

            She shifted a bit, pushing further back into him and prompting a groan from him as his half hard erection nestled tighter against the soft flesh of her rear. He slid his hands and arms into the water, catching her hips to still her movements, and she turned her head slightly to question his actions.

            "If you don't stop that, I will not be held responsible for my actions, and you went to all the trouble to make this very romantic setting," he said hotly in her ear, his tongue sneaking out and running along the rim of her ear, flicking against her industrial piercing, making her groan.

            "Well, I kinda of went to all this trouble to set a mood that would lead to us having sex in this tub, so..." she replied breathily, her hips swiveling in his grip, making her intentions clear.

            Oliver groaned deep in his chest and thrust his hips up a little against her ass, making Felicity moan and she squirmed between his spread legs, pressing her warm backside even further into his now aching erection. His his hands shifted from her hips to palm her breasts under the bubbles, squeezing them gently.

            "I guess then I should do something about that," he whispered against her skin, before he latched his mouth onto the spot at the base of her neck that he'd discovered that night in Nanda Parbat that made her writhe under him, and her head fell back against his shoulder, her blonde hair dipping into the water.

            His fingers plucked at her taut nipples under the bubbles, making Felicity arch harder into him. Her hips, now free of his grip restlessly shifted against him, making Oliver growl deep in his throat as the friction against his cock drove him crazy.

            Releasing one breast he slid his right hand lower, slipping between her folds and finding her clit, hard and desperate for attention, and he rubbed two fingers against it in tight, lazy circles, causing Felicity to throw her arms backwards to wrap her hands and fingers into Oliver's shorn hair, finding little purchase as he guided her higher.

            "Oh, that… you," she rambled out, Oliver's mouth sucking at her pulse point before he plunged those same two fingers deep into her molten center, making her gasp.

            "Was this what you imagined?" Oliver asked her huskily as he nipped at her earlobe with his teeth and his fingers set up a swift rhythm as Felicity dug her fingers into the back of his neck, holding onto him for dear life.

            "Yes, oh my God... Oliver... don't stop…" she panted out as he sped up his fingers, his thumb pressing down onto her clit with each thrust even as he rolled the nipple of her breast with his other hand. When his teeth came down and lightly bit that magic spot on her neck she fell apart in his arms with a high, wordless cry and arched in his arms.

            Without giving her more than a few seconds to catch her breath Oliver wrapped his hands around her waist and lifted her up further onto his body. His knees slipped between hers, and he shifted them up and out, forcing her legs to fall over his and opening her up to him. Then he was aligning himself to her opening and guided her down onto his hard shaft in one slow movement.

            The second she was surrounding him, Oliver groaned out roughly, "Shit, Felicity…"

            "Oh God…" Felicity gasped, her nails now cutting into Oliver's skin at the sensation of him buried deep in her with her back splayed against his chest.

            Sucking in a few steadying breaths, Oliver eased out of her core and then thrust back in, the movement making the water slosh around them and over the rim of the tub and they shifted a bit. The slick porcelain was not his friend right now, and he needed something to give him more traction.

            "Hold onto the tub," Oliver gritted out, and she hurried to comply.

            Oliver wrapped his arms around her, holding him tightly to him as he thrusted into her experimentally. With Felicity's hands on the tub edge keeping them anchored, he quickly sped up his movements, thrusting up into her faster, making her cry out at the intensity of his increased tempo.

            As he continued to slam his hips up into her ass as he thrust into her tight channel, he recognized the feeling of suction as the water pressure outside of her heated core caused a slight vacuum and he found himself groaning louder with each drive into her. The warmth of the water versus the heat of her center was dizzying, and as he sped up, feeling his climax growing closer, he was sure her molten heat was addictive.

            "Felicity… I'm…" his voice grated out roughly as he breathed through the tremors hitting his legs and thighs as he fought to bring her with him over the edge, redoubling his efforts and slamming into her relentlessly.

            "Oliver, please, I need…"

            As if they'd been lovers for years instead of this being only their third time together this way, he instinctively knew she needed more stimulation. Still holding her tightly to him, he quickly slipped one hand down to her clit and rubbed his fingers against it, the water making it easy to exert more pressure against the bundle of nerves. Her hips bucked under his and he snapped his own up faster and harder before he felt her internal muscles flutter rapidly around him and then spasm around his shaft.

            "Oliver!" she yelled as her orgasm wrenched through her body, her knuckles going white as she clenched the sides of the tub, her eyes slamming shut hard.

            "Fuck, Felicity," shouted Oliver as her orgasm triggered his own, and he sloppily jerked against her as his release jetted out of him, his fingers gripping her harder as his body shook against hers.

            They both shook and shivered as their pleasure streaked through them, gasping for breath as they started to slowly come down, Felicity falling back into Oliver as he sank further into the tub.

            "That was…" Oliver murmured as his heart rate steadily returned to normal.

            Felicity's still winded response was simply, "wow."

            "Wow indeed," he replied with a light laugh and a half smirk before he kissed her neck briefly, noting the red mark that would be purple come morning and he fought back the primal feeling in his chest at seeing her marked by him.

            His laugh set off one in her, and Oliver hissed as her laugh caused her internal muscles to grip his over sensitized cock. With a grimace and a groan he shifted his hips, slipping from Felicity and prompting a moan of loss from her. Swiftly he bundled her back against him, wrapping his arms around her and she moved her arms to overlay his, their fingers tangling together. They lay in the cooling water, sated and happy and Oliver let his head fall forward, resting against the back of her head as he noted, "I'd never done this before."

            Felicity turned her head slightly, disturbing his resting place. His eyes caught hers peripherally and she gave him a confused look. He shrugged behind her and looked around vaguely at them, the water and the tub, explaining further, "in a bathtub, I mean."

            "How is that possible? I would have thought you would have checked this off your 'places to have sex' list well before… I mean…" she stammered. She'd simply assumed playboy Oliver Queen had done everything sexual way before he'd met her...

            Oliver sighed and answered, "you mean before the Gambit went down. When I was Ollie."

            Felicity nodded as her head swiveled away from him, staring forward, her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. With a resigned exhale, Oliver unclasped their hands and moved to grab her waist, twisting her in the water. She made a brief noise of protest, then relented and helped him turn her in the tub so she faced him. He pulled her closer, her knees raising as he maneuvered her closer to him, hooking her feet over his thighs so she was almost in his lap in the lukewarm water.

            "Look, I know who and what I was back then. Making that kind of assumption… I get it and I understand it. You don't need to try and avoid talking to me about it. Besides, if I had been someone different then, I wouldn't be here, with you now," he said simply, eyes locked with hers so she could see within them the honesty and trust he had in her.

            "So… you don't mind the fact that there's a part of me that hates and has seriously considered hacking these websites that are out there where women have rated your performance in bed?"

            Oliver's mouth dropped open, looking at her in shock. "There are?"

            Felicity rolled her eyes at him before pinning him with a disbelieving stare. "Like you are surprised. But I know that was before… everything, before… me. But I just always… I mean you and Laurel had a thing for so long. And then there was Sara, and McKenna, and Helena, and... I always figured that there wouldn't be anything... new for us…" Felicity rambled before she began to count backwards from three as her eyes slid away from his, making Oliver smile at her nervousness.

            He reached out and caressed her cheek with a thumb. He understood the core jealousy and insecurity driving her feelings and words. And yes, while he'd not had sex in a bathtub before now, he'd certainly done a lot of other things. With a lot of women. But since the day he'd realized that he loved her, everything he had done was the past; his life had been divided into pre and post Felicity Smoak. He gave a little huff and fought down a laugh, making her eyes shoot up to his in confusion.

            "I didn't realize until after I told you I loved you at the mansion why I never liked Barry."

            Felicity's head tilted a bit, her eyes narrowing in confusion as Oliver rubbed his thumb over the hollow at her hip between her leg and her pelvis, making her shudder slightly. Oliver swallowed hard and continued, feeling the need to have them on equal footing.

            "I was jealous out of my mind, even if I couldn't admit it to myself. That night in the foundry, when I apologized about snapping at you and I told you how I realized how much I needed you there…"

            "You meant with you, not with the team or on the comms," she realized suddenly, her throat unexpectedly tight with emotion.

            Oliver nodded and continued, "And while I pretended to be okay with Ray, you know how much that bothered me…"

            Felicity nodded, recalling hearing from Digg about the disaster that the foundry had been in after she'd gone to the investor dinner with Ray and dealing with Cupid.

            "In all honesty, other than Digg and probably Captain Lance, any time a man has shown you even a little more… interest than I felt was necessary I've been jealous, even before I fell in love with you. I mean, couldn't even let Maseo put his hands on you…" Oliver noted, giving her a dark look which she arched a questioning eyebrow at, making him sigh and give her a tight smile. "When I was Al-Sah-him… the warehouse."

            Her eyes widened and she saw the moment when he'd ordered Sarab/Maseo to not search her in a new light. "I had just thought...he… you... didn't see me as a threat. Did you know I had guns on me?"

            Oliver swallowed hard before he answered, "no, but I had a feeling that you had to have a plan and since no one else was armed…" he trailed off before his eyes caught hers, sincerity smoldering within, "but I also didn't want him to touch you either."

            "Wow, jealous much," she remarked with a small laugh, but it died quickly when she saw how his eyes had darkened with lust and want, she felt her mouth drop open ever so slightly. "So, you…"

            "I knew it was just a task for him, but I still didn't want him laying his hands on you like that. It was too much. And when you've been in danger… The Count, Slade… Cooper," Oliver nearly growled at the last and Felicity looked at him, mouth falling open ever so slightly as she realized the depths of his love, his need for her that she hadn't realized before. Her hand came up to press over the spot she now gravitated to in moments like this - over his Bratva tattoo and his heart.

            "What I'm trying to get at is that neither of us need to feel like that ever again. You don't have to be jealous of Laurel or anyone else, just like I can… accept your friendship with Ray and Barry. And the reason for that is because we're together now… you're my partner in every way that's important and nothing, no one's going to come between us."

            "I like the sounds of that Mr. Queen," she offered with a truly radiant smile that lit up that part of Oliver that had been dark for so long, that had felt he didn't deserve to be happy.

            "So do I."

            Oliver smiled back at her before he leaned down to kiss her softly, yet briefly. He pulled back, causing her to frown and then he caught her around the waist and carefully stood, bringing him up with him as the water sloshed around them, a few splashes lapping over the rim. Then he climbed out and reached back to help her over the edge of the tub, guiding her to stand close to him, rose petals forgotten underfoot.

            After a moment Oliver released her and stepped over to the counter where several snow white towels had been stacked. He rubbed himself briefly, only ending up partially dry. Then he wrapped the towel low around his waist before he flashed her a lustful grin and remarked with a deep, suggestive tone, "I think maybe we should continue this… conversation in the other room. On that big bed..."

            Then he turned his back to her and sauntered towards the bedroom, leaving Felicity to stare at his retreating back and cloth covered ass, her mouth gone dry at his sexy display. She only took a second to grab a towel, whipping it around herself before she was swiftly following him, a stab of renewed lust hitting her as she contemplated just how many things they could do in that huge bed and she grinned.

           

            Chapter 8 - Dreams

           

            When Oliver launched himself upright in bed, eyes unfocused, breathing heavily and body covered with sweat his only thought was that he was glad that he'd actually had three full nights of sleep before he'd been slammed with one of his nightmares.

            He slammed his eyes shut, the memory of his nightmare still rattling around in his head as he wiped his hand over his damp face. Before he'd come home to Starling City three years ago he'd had more than his fair share of nightmare fodder. John had been so very right in identifying the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in that first year. Between the island, Hong Kong and Russia, he'd racked up a lifetime's worth of horrors and regrets. Then the last three years home again had added to it - The Undertaking, Tommy, his mom, Slade's revenge, Ra's…

            Oliver glanced over and found Felicity curled up on 'her' side of the bed, still asleep. He let out a tremulous breath at that. In his dream he'd been shouting at the top of his lungs for her, but in reality he must have been silent.

            He shook his head a bit, hand running over his still shorn hair as he grimaced, trying to dislodge the images of blood and pain from his subconscious.

            Sighing he looked at the alarm clock on his side which read 3am. He rolled his shoulders and swiveled his head and neck, trying to rid himself of the clenched muscles that had come along with the nightmare. After a few minutes he grabbed at the covers of the bed and carefully slipped out from under them. He needed to work off the tension and he was going to need to leave the room for that.

            Carefully he went to the drawers of the dresser he'd chosen as his and slipped out the pair of swim trunks he'd brought, thinking there would be an ocean stop somewhere along the route as well as a pair of sweats. Then he grabbed his room key and headed to the stairs, taking one last quick glance at Felicity's sleeping form before he headed down to the main floor and into the elevator.

            The infinity pool was on the 6th floor, so Oliver had to go to the lobby and switch elevators. He didn't look around for anyone in the lobby, but expected that a night staff was probably around. When he got to the 6th floor he stepped out of the elevator and walked past the spa and gym, both quiet at this hour. Then he made it to the door to the pool and swiped his card to get in. The walls again were glass, showing the city lights. He dropped his key card and sweats on one of the white chaise lounge chairs and then turned to the crystal blue pool.

            Climbing in, Oliver took a minute to get used to the water temperature, then let himself slide under the water, eyes closing as he let the water surround him and shut out everything, trying to turn off his mind. Bracing his feet on the bottom of the shallow pool he launched himself up until his head and shoulders broke the surface, and then he brought his right arm up out of the water, slicing through the air and back into the water, propelling him forward as his left swiftly came up, the strokes of his arms and his kicking legs in a well remembered manner. As he hit the end of the pool he flipped underwater and launched himself back in the opposite direction, powering his way through the water the way he'd come.

            He lapped the pool over and over, the rhythmic movements as he cut through the water helping him focus simply on his form, allowing his mind to only focus on this one task and thereby dislodging the memory of the dream and the very real fears that it was rooted in.

            After what seemed like hours he finally eased up, coming back to the end of the pool he had started at and climbed out. Grabbing a waiting towel he wrapped it around his waist and then slid the soaked shorts off his legs, then climbed into the sweats before removing his towel. Placing the soaked trunks in the first towel he grabbed up another along with his key card and headed back to the elevators, one arm holding the rolled up towel and shorts while he rubbed the other towel over the rest of him.

            Minutes later he was back in the penthouse suite and dropped his towel encased shorts in the bathroom, knowing they needed to send their clothes to the in house dry cleaners soon. Then he padded back into the bedroom, hoping that Felicity was still asleep and unaware that he'd been gone. He rubbed his head with the second towel, making sure that he wasn't still wet anywhere and when his eyes swung to the bed he found her sitting up against the pillows, glasses on and tablet in hand.

            Her head whipped up and he could see the mixed emotions in her eyes, hiding slightly behind her lenses. She sighed briefly and placed the tablet on the side table and then leaned forward, knees coming up for her to wrap her arms around. Oliver sighed and moved to sit on the bed in front of her, hand automatically reaching out to lay over her covered knee.

            "Imagine my concern when I woke up half an hour ago to find the man who had been in bed with me when I fell asleep was gone," she said with a tired voice, worry etched into her face.

            "I'm sorry. I woke up and…"

            "Went to the pool to exercise for the last hour," Felicity noted, and Oliver's eyebrows raised in surprise. She rolled her eyes. "Please, I hacked the hotel's camera and card reader system and figured you'd swiped your key at the pool an hour ago. Don't think that just because things have significantly shifted in our relationship that I still can't find you if I have to. At least this time you didn't run off to Lian Yu, making me fly in an antiquated plane to get you..."

            Oliver huffed out a laugh before he pressed his lips into a tight line as his eyes fell away from her face. They'd talked about a lot of things in the last few days, but he hadn't gotten detailed into where his head was at, where he'd been at before he felt like this new man that wasn't the Arrow, Al-Sah-him or Oliver Queen. But he was finding that the deeds of all of these parts of him were most definitely still with him.

            Felicity's hand appeared out of nowhere to lay over his, and his eyes swept back up to see understanding and concern in equal measures in her expression. He sucked in a deep breath before he laid his other hand over hers, running his thumb over the smooth skin.

            "I had a nightmare. When I woke up you were still asleep and I didn't want to disturb you. So…" he began before stopping, trying to decide how much he wanted to tell her at 4am. "When I first got back to Starling City my nightmares were extremely bad. I choked my mom my first night at the mansion. Since then, they've slowly receded, except when something new has added to the list."

            "Like The Undertaking and Ra's?" Felicity guessed and Oliver nodded, his hand now slipping under hers and holding it gently in his.

            "Of course there's a lot more than that. And when the past has come back to haunt me…" Oliver remarked, his eyes slipping to her throat before he caught her eyes once more.

            "Slade."

            Oliver nodded briefly. But that wasn't really the end of it. "Those big moments, big failures and losses… they're only part of what fuels my fears. I still have scars over those I couldn't save but the nightmares now… they're warnings, horrific glimpses into what could be. How I can still fail the people I care about…"

            He didn't have to explicitly say it but Felicity understood what he meant, what kind of fears would drive him now, especially after they'd agreed to be something. Her hands pulled from his as she scooted closer to him on the bed, palms cupping his jaw tenderly.

            "I can't do anything to help you absolve your guilt and hurt over things in the past. You know yourself that you need to let those things go. Anything you did or had to do to survive, to get back home was justified in the moment, no matter how much you might think otherwise," she strongly told him, forcing him to watch her as she said it, so he could see the truth and the trust she had for him in her face. "But now… you have to believe in the people you love being able to take care of themselves. To not let fear overtake love. You've changed so much since that first day I met you… let yourself be the man I could see inside, under the pain and the masks and the anger. Don't let yourself lose him out of fear."

            Oliver swallowed tightly, his heart thudding in his chest as he felt her words wash through him, filling the dark cracks that had appeared with his nightmare with her belief in him, in them. He gave her a tight smile before he placed his hands over hers, twining their fingers together as he simply, honestly stated, "thank you."

            "You're more than welcome. Now, how about we go back to bed for a while?"

            "To sleep?"

            Felicity shook her head a little, surprised at how quickly things had changed between them. Less than a year ago he was asking her out in the most stilted, nervous way possible and now he was behaving like he couldn't get enough of being with her…

            "Yes. To sleep."

            He frowned. She smiled. He smiled back.

            Yes, things had significantly shifted. There wasn't any doubt about that. Especially when just smiling at one another was enough to make them both ridiculously happy. She patted the bed beside her with a wink that made Oliver's pulse race at the suggestiveness of the gesture.

            "When we wake up we can consider doing… other things, without actually leaving the bed," she offered and felt herself shudder as she saw how he was looking at her, desire and need intertwined in his gaze. It almost made her change her mind, strip him of his sweats and have her way with him right this minute.

            Almost.

            "Alright."

            With that Oliver swiftly moved to his side of the bed and climbed in under the covers, sliding up behind Felicity and wrapping his arms around her, pressing her tightly to him. He gave her a soft kiss against the back of her neck as she snuggled further into the cradle of his hips, tucking herself into the curve of his body before she let herself close her eyes and drift off to sleep, Oliver slowly following.

            A few hours later the sun was shining into the room, lighting up the white washed walls and causing Felicity to groan as it shone straight at her closed eyelids. She pried them open to see the room fully engulfed in daylight and she sighed. Carefully she pushed herself up on one arm to look over Oliver's shoulder where he still lay sleeping behind her to check the clock at the bedside, finding it was already past eight.

            Flopping back onto the bed, she turned over, facing Oliver, fingers tracing along his jaw line, rubbing over the fine stubble of his beard before lovingly caressing his lips. She shook her head minutely as she considered once again just how fortunate she was that this amazing, complex and caring man wanted her.

            "Good morning. It's time to wake up," Felicity whispered directly into his ear, her hot breath tickling the shell,, and she felt his body shudder as he suddenly woke at her words and actions.

            "Why?" he mumbled, stubbornly keeping his eyes closed even as he ran his hands along the bare planes of her skin, belaying his uninterested reply.

            "Well, I think I kind of promised that you could have your way with me in this bed once we got some sleep…" she answered, a smile in her voice as she said it.

            Oliver opened his eyes and she couldn't help the giggle that broke from her lips at the blazing look in his gaze as he stared at her. He licked his lips slowly and she could read exactly what he had in mind and felt her own body thrum at the prospect. She was starting to think that he was insatiable.

            "You did," he replied, his voice husky from sleep as well as desire.

            Before she could offer any reply, Felicity swiftly found herself flat on her back on the bed and caged under his larger frame. His hips settled between hers as he rested his upper body on his forearms and elbows, his head dropping down so he could capture her lips with his in a demanding, heated kiss.

            "Oliver," she breathed out, fingers gripping his shoulders tightly as her knees moved up to bracket his sides.

            His hips ground up against her center and she felt his erection through his sweat pants, hard and insistent and she moaned into his mouth. Her reaction to him had Oliver's mind churning, stunned once more at how responsive she was to him, how just like all the facets of their friendship and relationship, this came so naturally to them.

            He continued to kiss her, tongue slipping past her open lips and plundering her mouth before he broke away, kissing, nipping and laving her skin along her jaw and slowly down her neck, taking his time even as one of his hands moved to caress her body, her silky skin bare to his touch under the covers.

            Felicity twisted under his sensual assault under his, arching her body up into his and he grinned into her shoulder as he imagined every morning like this - waking up to her, kissing her awake and making love to her, for years to come. Coming home to her at night, to their home, with her wearing his ring and to their children racing to him at the door…

            Oliver pulled up short, lips stilling on her collarbone as he realized that in all their discussions of the future they'd never talked about children. And then he suddenly registered that they'd been sleeping together… technically for months, even if it had only been four times, and he'd never questioned…

            God, where had his brain been?

            "Oliver?" she murmured, confused as to why he was stopping. She was certain that she hadn't said stop...

            He sat up abruptly and ran a hand over his head, an obvious tell that she recognized and knew that he was concerned or stressed about something. She reached up to catch his other hand, trying to bring his focus back on her. When he did, the look on his face was confused, contrite and rather… nervous.

            "Oliver what's going on? Is there… did I do something? I mean… I thought this, I mean we…" she rambled, sitting up as well, back pressed against the headboard as she pulled the sheets up around her.

            "I feel rather stupid... having never asked this…" he blurted out before clearing his throat a bit before he pressed on awkwardly, "when we were in Nanda Parbat, or in Starling before we… I mean we didn't… I mean I haven't been… I didn't, haven't been… using… anything..."

            Felicity looked at him with a lost and bewildered expression until he sort of embarrassedly waved at the bed and her and him and somehow the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and her mouth dropped open in stunned silence.

            He was… he thought they, that she… "Are you talking about contraception?"

            Oliver was quiet for a long moment before he scratched the back of his neck briefly before responding, "uh… yeah. I mean… we've had sex more than a few times now and I haven't used anything and…"

            "Do you really not know me?" Felicity asked, stunned as she gave Oliver a look of derision. "Besides the fact I didn't say anything about it, you know I'm not stupid or reckless. I did all the calculations and research and everything back when I went to MIT - I got an IUD while I was there; they last for years, and considering I hate needles and patches and pills are prohibitive, especially when you're trying to balance fighting crime and a day job, I kind of needed a more stable solution..."

            "Oh."

            He just sat there, eyes wide as he stared at her and Felicity realized that he'd thought that because he wasn't being safe and she hadn't said anything that they weren't using anything...

            "Oliver, were you worried you'd accidentally knocked me up?" she queried suddenly, her voice rising slightly by the end of her question.

            When he didn't say anything her eyes widened, then she swiftly reached out and smacked him hard on the back of the head making him stare at her in shock, his hand reactively coming up to rub at where she'd hit him while she glared at him.

            "Are you kidding me? That… no, I wouldn't do that, wouldn't let us do that. I mean, sure, you're hot and I love you and the sex that first time was crazy, and actually the sex has been amazing every time but I wouldn't just sleep with you and keep sleeping with you knowing that we were playing baby Russian roulette…" she babbled and Oliver shook off his surprise at her reaction, a smile gracing his lips for a moment before he swooped down to stop her with a kiss.

            After long minutes of kissing her soundly, he broke the kiss and ran a hand along her shoulder and down to her arm. His fingers slipped between hers and he laced them together, holding her hand tightly.

            "I'm glad. I… I know I was short sighted in not asking any of the… four times now, but in my defense the first time was unexpected and I was feeling like being with you was the only ray of light in the dark of having to join the League. Then after you agreed to take this journey with me… that second night since we were both too exhausted and weighed down with so much baggage I couldn't think of anything more than reconnecting with you. Then the shower, and then again last night… I should have thought to address it, but you hadn't said anything the other times, so…"

            "Did you really think I was irresponsible enough for us to be unsafe?"

            "Well, you have said before that you would rather be unsafe with me…" he joked lightly with a grin.

            Felicity rolled her eyes and sighed. Still… "Wrong context. And you know what I mean.:

            "I do, and I'm sorry. I didn't think it through. I should have known better."

            Felicity nodded at him and then stilled. They'd talked a lot about feelings and pasts and needs and wants of the last few days. He'd revealed a lot of things about himself, but she knew there were still things they needed to learn about one another. Things that they had to discover. And now, sitting here with him, staring at his open expression she let her mind contemplate the reality of what he was talking about. Having a baby with him…

            Suddenly she found herself seeing that future with him, and her heart sped up in her chest. She hadn't really spent much time thinking that far into the future. Now though, the idea of having that life, having children with him, it washed over her like a tsunami and she felt it settle in her like a promise, "Oliver…"

            "What?" he questioned, the tone of her voice putting him instantly on alert, his hand tightening around hers.

            She bit her lower lip for a few moments as she gathered up her courage. He'd started this conversation worried that he'd gotten her pregnant, now here she was wanting to tell him that she could see that in their future some day. But she wasn't quite sure how he'd react when she told him that. Still, they needed to be honest with one another, and she didn't just love this man, she trusted him, and she needed to trust him with her truths. "I… I'd like to think about doing… that… one day. I mean…"

            "Having a family," Oliver said quietly, eyes wide and stunned and she nodded. He swallowed a sudden lump in his throat while he felt his heart stutter in his chest at the monumental weight of her acknowledgement.

            He watched as she bit her bottom lip and looked at him nervously and he could tell she was worried that he didn't want that, that she was alone in seeing that future and he quickly swept a hand up to cup her cheek even as the other still crushed her hand in his. The feel of her face against his palm made him give her a shaky, loving smile.

            "The other night when I said I wanted everything with you when we talked about the annulment; how you were the only woman I've ever seen having everything with," he stated, his voice deeper than it had been moments earlier, thick with meaning, "that included children."

            "Oh," she exclaimed in a exhale of breath that left her gaping at him.

            "Just… I never told you, told anyone outside of my mom really, but before I went on the Gambit, when I was still seeing and cheating on Laurel, I screwed up and got a girl pregnant," Oliver explained lightly, not surprised when he saw the shock on her face, wanting to be able to see her every reaction to what he needed to tell her. "She ended up losing the baby, but… at the time, I wasn't ready and it would have been… complicated to say the least. And to be honest, even now I'm not sure I'm at a place where being a dad would be wise."

            "Where are you going with this Oliver?" she asked quietly, her own voice rough with mixed emotions.

            "Felicity, just this morning I woke up with a nightmare," he said knowing they'd already addressed that matter earlier and he gave her a half hearted smile before he dragged in a deep breath. "Digg said once that I wasn't a soldier, but I have gone through things, done things that… changed me, and in a lot of ways not for the better. And while I've started working through them, talking to you about them… I haven't truly gotten past them yet, I don't think I'm at a place yet that I'd feel right in asking you to..."

            "Asking me what?" Felicity asked, now more than a bit confused at what felt like a non-sequitur. He frowned briefly and then took a deep breath and she watched how his eyes filled with love and a steely resolve that made her silently gape at him.

            "This is it for me. You, us. It's why it hurt so damn much to have to let you walk away. To think you weren't safe with me… of course I learned better but still…" he said, pulling his hands from hers before he drug his fingers over his still shorn locks and down to his neck, rubbing it vigorously in his frustration to finally tell her this, "I want half of your closet and a dresser. I want to work with Thea to see if any of the Queen family heirloom jewelry survived the liquidation of the estate and find you an engagement ring. Marry you wherever you want… I'd be willing to elope or do a full out Jewish ceremony if you wanted it. And then decide on when and how many kids you wanted. Because I only want these things with you, if you want them with me."

            Felicity swallowed hard several times, her heart in her throat as her eyes blinked rapidly, keeping back the stunned tears that she could feel itching at her lashes.

            "I want that too."

            "So…" he started, letting his words trail off.

            "We don't have to decide today. Or tomorrow. You and I…" she said, her hands holding is tightly in hers as she pushed on, "we left Starling City for a reason. To let you find yourself and for us to find out how we work as a couple when we're not saving the city or capturing bad guys and not having you sacrifice your happiness for everyone else. There's going to be a day when we head back home. When that happens we'll have to decide if we're going to live separately or together. That will be the next step. And then some day in the future after that we can take another step, which will lead us to the next one..."

            Before Oliver could reply to her logical approach for them taking their future step by step the sound of Felicity's phone ringing echoed through the suite. She swore, recognizing the personalized ringtone and she scrambled from the bed and rushed down the stairs, body wrapped with the white bed sheet which trailed behind her as she hurried for her phone in her handbag in the huge living area.

            "Felicity? What's going on?" Oliver called out as he hurried down the stairs to find her holding the phone in her hand, her lower lip caught in her teeth as she looked nervously from the phone's screen to Oliver and back again.

            "It's Digg."

            Oliver froze. He knew that things between him and Digg had been left… incomplete. But Digg knew that they'd left Starling City to be alone. For him to be calling meant there was something seriously wrong. Sudden flashes of Thea, Laurel, Lyla or Sara hurt or threatened rushed through his head and he inclined his head to the now quiet phone in Felicity's hand. Abruptly it began to ring again and he looked at her seriously, his hand wrapping around her upper arm and gritting out, "Whatever it is, we'll deal with it. Just answer the phone."

            Felicity stared at him, seeing the understanding in his eyes and she swiped her finger over the screen and put the phone to her ear.

            "Hey, Digg…"

           

            Chapter 9 - Home

           

            Digg's voice came across the phone, his tone a bit… apprehensive as he asked, "Hey Felicity. So, how's the trip?"

            "Digg, you aren't calling us to chat about how we're doing. You knew why we were leaving Starling City and you wouldn't be calling us at this hour, well at all really if there wasn't something wrong."

            "Well…"

            "Digg, what's going on?"

            There was a pause and a sigh on the other end of the line and Felicity's eyes flashed to Oliver's with a look of worry. If someone was hurt or dead Digg wouldn't be hesitating like this. Would he?

            "Ray Palmer is missing."

            She paused for moment as his words fought to make sense in her head.

            "Okay, wait. I'm putting you on speakerphone," Felicity said before pulling the phone away from her ear and pressing the icon on the glass panel, holding the phone out flat so Oliver could hear before she continued, "Ray is missing. Missing as kidnapped missing, super hero missing or just disappeared?"

            "Missing as the entire top floor of Palmer Technologies blew up about a day or so after you left."

            "Oh my God," Felicity blurted out, her eyes wide as she looked up and met Oliver's concerned look before she continued, "But, why are you calling us?"

            "So, you know how Oliver and I are your emergency contacts?" Digg reminded her, and she nodded before Oliver forced out a small cough covering a laugh as she realized Digg couldn't see her nod.

            "Oh… yeah, so?"

            "Seems that Ray did something before we left for Nanda Parbat that last time… do you recall signing any papers?"

            Felicity's face clouded over a bit at the reminder of that desperate plan to save Starling City and the events that followed. While she and Oliver had talked through everything, she was sure that the memory of those forty eight hours would be haunting her for a while longer. Oliver's hand moved to grab her free hand and held it tightly, reminding her that he was there and that they'd get through anything together.

            Slowly she placed the papers in her memory, recalling that Ray said they were some sort of VP official business thing and she'd signed them on his back, more concerned about getting to Nanda Parbat than looking at the documents.

            "Um, yeah… I was a bit preoccupied with saving the city to ask what it was for."

            There was a long pause and then Digg cleared his throat loudly before continuing, "Seems that those papers were transfer documents that make you the new CEO of the company."

            "What?!" exclaimed Felicity at the exact moment that Oliver's eyebrows shot up, stunned by Diggle's announcement.

            "But… but I resigned," Felicity stammered, the hand holding her phone starting to shake until Oliver's came up to hold it steady.

            "Yeah, that might be true but with Palmer missing the board looked through his files and found the signed transfer paperwork, so they tried calling you, and when they couldn't reach you or Oliver…"

            "They called you."

            "So, you really need to come back," Digg stated simply.

            "Oliver?" Felicity questioned, her eyes filled with questions and concern. They'd planned to be gone for a lot longer than a few days, and now they needed to go back to deal with his company, or Ray's, or hers… her head was spinning.

            "We'll head out once we're packed. We'll see you soon John," answered Oliver for them, moving to press the button on the screen, hanging up the call.

            Felicity stood there, staring at her phone before Oliver moved a hand to lay on her bare shoulder, causing her to look up at him. She could see the concern in his expression and took a deep breath as she tried to get her jumbled emotions into some semblance of order.

            "You okay?" he asked, his tone thick with mixed emotions.

            "I… yeah… that was just…" she rambled, her own thoughts a tangled mess.

            "A lot to take in?"

            "Yeah. So, I guess we're heading back to Starling?"

            "We weren't going to be able to stay away forever," Oliver remarked casually but Felicity could hear the underlying tension in his voice.

            "Are you okay with that? I know this wasn't quite the getaway you were planning…"

            "No, but… I got a lot more out of all this than I expected, even if it wasn't for that long," he stated, his voice becoming stronger and more confident as he spoke, then he gave her a small grin, "And… this means we can start working on clearing me some closet space sooner rather than later, right?"

            Her mouth dropped open for a moment before she snapped it closed. After a moment she asked, "Are you sure? I mean…"

            "Unless you don't want that…"

            "No! I mean, yes, I… I just worried that maybe it was too fast…"

            Oliver smiled at her and reached out to brush his fingers by her ear, then he dragged them down along her cheek, past her jaw and down her throat, making Felicity's breath catch. If he hadn't been still holding her hand with her phone she'd probably have dropped it by now. Her teeth caught her lower lip as he dipped his head to allow his lips to follow the same line of his fingers and she felt her skin prick with gooseflesh, her fist clenching in the fabric of the sheet she was holding to her chest.

            "Shouldn't… shouldn't we pack," she said breathlessly, one hand still clutching her phone as the other held up the sheet wrapped around her.

            "We told Digg we were heading back. But they, everything can wait a hour or two more," Oliver suggested from where his mouth hovered at the juncture of her shoulder and neck, the feel of his lips curving up into a half smirk setting her body on fire.

            She started to step forward to press herself fully into his chest, her fingers itching to drop the sheet from between them and pick up where they'd left off when Digg called when Oliver's cell phone started ringing. Oliver murmured a few choice swear words that Felicity thought were in Mandarin before he pulled away from her and jammed his hand into his pants pocket to pull out his own phone, frowning as he did.

            "Felicity… its Barry."

            "Oh," she breathed out, somewhat surprised. She hadn't spoken to Barry since Nanda Parbat but knew he had issues in Central City that he had to attend to. And she knew he and Oliver had actually been in contact while Oliver was with the League. For Barry to be calling Oliver now… She nodded at him to take the call and Oliver quickly connected the line.

            "Barry," Oliver answered, and then his eyes widened slightly and he gave Felicity a frown.

            "Go ahead. I'll get us packed," she said quietly before she turned and headed up the stairs to the bedroom.

            In the living room Oliver sank down on one of the arm chairs as he spoke to Barry. Felicity couldn't hear what Oliver was saying, so she quickly showered and dressed, then started throwing their clothes into the suitcases, leaving out a set of clothes for Oliver to change into. After what she figured had been twenty minutes, tops, Oliver climbed up the stairs to the bedroom, his shoulders tense and a look of confusion and resignation warring across his face.

            "Are you okay? Is Barry...?" Felicity asked, moving quickly to place a hand on Oliver's forearm, causing him to look at her intently, his expression softening slightly just at the sight of her there with him, her presence helping calm his own fears.

            "I need to go to Central City."

            "Why do you need to go to Central City?"

            Oliver rubbed his hand over the back of his neck, eyes shutting as he tried to piece together how exactly to explain what Barry had told him. And how much he should share. Then he remembered that not trusting Felicity with everything had been part of what caused the need for them to rebuild their relationship in the first place and how he'd promised not to do that again. They were in this together now.

            "I told you that I helped Barry, while I was still trying to take down the League?" he started, trying to lay the framework for what he needed to explain to her.

            "You brought it up while we were driving out of Starling, yes," she replied, eyes narrowing slightly behind her glasses.

            "And Barry told you about Dr. Wells…"

            "Just that… he needed to have a pointed conversation with him."

            "Wells wasn't… he isn't Dr. Harrison Wells. It seems that there was a time traveling villain by the name of Eobard Thawne, and he got stuck in the past…" Oliver blinked rapidly as he recalled the Reverse Flash's words to him in front of S.T.A.R. Labs that night, "And he took over Dr. Wells' identity to allow himself to set up the circumstances he needed to get back to his own time. One of those things was... he had to create the Flash. He's the reason Barry is like he is now."

            Felicity's mouth dropped open, stunned by the news and swayed in place prompting Oliver to reach out and steady her, holding her close as he continued.

            "Wells, I mean Thawne, he... he hates Barry because of what happened between them in the future, and came to kill him in the past. And when I came to help Barry stop him he spoke to me… he didn't just know about my past… but he knew about my future."

            Her head tilted a little as she regarded him, shock still showing on her face and Oliver couldn't help the small smile it brought to his face. He'd struggled with the realization that he had decades to live according to Thawne and now that he and Felicity were where they were with their relationship, he could see spending the rest of his days with her.

            But while that was important in its own way, the real reason for Barry's call was much more urgent and in a lot of ways… rather disturbing.

            "Anyway, it seems that there's another time traveler that has arrived in Central City, and he needs Barry and my help to… recruit a superhero team."

            "A team?" she questioned, feeling rather dumb which certainly was a first for her.

            "Yes."

            "But not Team Arrow or Team Flash?"

            "I… Barry says there's a list of people. And… Felicity, Ray's on that list," he said carefully, knowing that following the news of Ray's disappearance this news would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.

            Her hand flew to her mouth before she blinked rapidly, trying to get what Oliver was telling her to match with the fact that Digg had just called to say Ray was...

            "But Ray's missing. Digg said…"

            "I know… but… the guy, the time traveler, he says he's not."

            "What does that mean?" she questioned, feeling more than a little confused.

            "I… I don't know," sighed Oliver as he glanced away.

            Felicity took a half step forward, reaching up to cup his cheeks and turn his face back towards her. "Oliver, what aren't you telling me?"

            "Barry… he said Sara's on that list," he said tightly, his throat nearly closing up on him as he swallowed repeatedly.

            Felicity felt like all the breath rushed out of her lungs at his words and without her consent she felt tears start to well at her eyelids. Oliver's face held a similarly pain filled expression. Felicity had dealt with Sara's death and Thea's involvement in it… the whole team had… but Oliver hadn't. Like he'd said in the lair that night when they'd fought - if he grieved, no one else could.

            "They know she's gone. The whole team… Barry, Caitlin… why…" she murmured, her heart hurting for the man before her who was only now letting himself feel the loss, except there was something in his eyes that told her that there was more to his reaction than just pain and loss.

            "The guy… Rip Hunter, the time traveler, he swears Sara… is… will join the team," he stated in a flat, but almost unhappy tone.

            "Oliver… how? She's dead."

            Oliver stared at her pointedly, then stated, "We know that people don't stay dead."

            Her eyes widened and then she asked, "You think… would Malcolm..."

            "Nyssa was returning to the League. She was the rightful heir until Ra's decided on me. When Malcolm and I made the deal to let him take the mantle of Ra's al Ghul, he knew he'd have to deal with Nyssa. And I can't imagine a better way to distract Nyssa than to bring back the woman she loves from the dead."

            "But Malcolm was so adamant about not using the pit on Thea. Why would he use it on Sara?"

            "He said the person that went in might not be the person that came out. If that was the case… Nyssa would be so focused on Sara…" Oliver began before Felicity immediately picked up where Oliver was going with his hypothesis.

            "That she wouldn't pose a threat to Malcolm."

            Oliver nodded briefly, acknowledging her deduction as it was the same one he'd already come to. And if it was really true. That not only was Palmer but Sara both alive, he needed to get to Central City and help Barry and this team of… legends that this time traveler was putting together.

            "So… we go home to Starling and I deal with Palmer Technologies…" Felicity began, trailing off as she realized that they had conflicting duties that meant they'd have to be part for a while.

            "And I go meet Barry in Central City," he answered, and she saw in his expression a mirror of her own disappointment and sadness at what they knew had to come next.

            "I don't like it that I can't come with you."

            Once the words left her mouth Oliver leaned down and kissed her hard on the mouth, his lips devouring hers. His arms wrapped around her tightly as her arms looped around his neck. He pulled her flush against him and they lost themselves in one another for long minutes before he gentled and then broke the kiss, looking at her with so much love that she felt her heart hammer in her chest.

            "I don't either, but I will be back. I have you, we have this… us now. And I'm not losing that for anything."

            "Okay then. I don't know about you but I want to go and get this stuff done so we can get back to being us again," she replied and he smiled at her, letting her go even as he reached back to catch her hand and lead her down the stairs to the door of the suite.

            There he grabbed up their luggage and Felicity gathered her handbag. They headed to the elevator, waiting out the slow ride until they got to the lobby where Felicity dealt with checking them out, which considering her new status as the CEO of Palmer Technologies would be a lot smoother than before while Oliver got the car, loading it up with their luggage before Felicity joined him.

            The valet held open her door as Oliver climbed in the driver's seat. Once he was in and the passenger side door closed, he turned over the ignition and eased the Porsche out onto the streets of San Francisco, heading to the freeway to go North back towards Starling.

            As they drove Felicity pulled out her phone before she gave Oliver a side glance, seeing the determination in his profile. She could see it immediately - the look of responsibility, the fire to protect the people he loved on his face. No matter if he hadn't said the words, with Barry's call she knew that his retirement was over.

            Felicity scrolled through her contacts, locating Cisco's name and then typed in a single sentence text: You're gonna have to get that new Arrow costume design into production sooner than you planned.

            Her phone pinged less than a minute after she sent the text with a string of emojis and exclamations and she sighed.

            The vacation might be over, but the mission, their mission was still very much alive and well. And they were going to see it through - together.

            -end-