A/N: I'm soooooo sorry for all the feels. Trust me, anything you felt while reading, I definitely felt while writing. I hope you can forgive me. And I hope this chapter is an acceptable apology.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think.
Previously in 'Dust to Dust'...
The curtains to the balcony were closed, which caught her attention since she'd been leaving them open.
Without a thought to her safety she crossed to the balcony and pushed the curtains back open. A shaft of moonlight entered and she could see a figure sitting in the corner chair.
She froze. And then gave a slightly hysterical laugh.
The shadow looked like Oliver.
"Great, now I'm hallucinating." she said aloud and turned to leave the room.
When a hand clasped around her wrist she tried to keep walking. She needed food. And maybe some wine. And something to help her sleep without dreaming.
She took another step and the hand on her wrist was still there. The breath caught in her throat as she looked back and stifled a scream. The Oliver shaped shadow was now standing. And it still looked like Oliver.
She pulled but it didn't let go.
With a shaking hand she reached back and turned on a small lamp. She blinked rapidly at the brightness and then because she couldn't believe what she was seeing.
It was Oliver.
She let out another laugh and tried to pull away again. When the hand wouldn't let go she began to panic. She twisted against the hold and tried to use her other hand to break free. With a frantic pull she threw herself backwards sharply and banged into her dresser, her wrist was released and she took stumbling steps away.
She backed up towards the door, her head shaking no the entire time. It couldn't be him. Oliver was dead.
But this looked like him. His stubble was a bit fuller, and his eyes looked drawn with pain and guilt. There was even faint bruising around his temple and jaw, just like there would have been if he had lived.
She choked on a sob and ran into the wall next to the door.
"Felicity," he said carefully. Her knees gave out as she sunk to the floor. This wasn't fair. It shouldn't sound like him. If she was going mad, it shouldn't seem so real. He'd been haunting her dreams and she'd accepted that, but this was going too far.
He crouched in front of her and she buried her head in her arms. "Felicity, I'm so sorry. It's me. I didn't mean for it to happen like this."
She kept shaking her head no, because it wasn't possible. He wasn't there. He wasn't alive. He was gone.
When his hands landed on her wrists she gasped from the jolt that went through her.
"I'm alive." he said, pulling her hand towards him to lay against his chest. She could feel a heartbeat, frantic, but strong and still she couldn't believe it.
"Felicity, look at me." he told her "Look at me. I'm alive." he repeated.
Slowly she raised her head and met his eyes. They were as blue as she remembered, shrouded with regret right then, but still beautiful. She wanted this so badly. This is all she'd wished for.
"It's me." he said raggedly, a hand raised to cup her cheek and she gasped, tears slipping down her cheeks. His thumb brushed them away.
"No," she moaned, "You're dead. I watched you die. This is my mind playing tricks on me because I haven't been sleeping."
"Felicity. I'm alive." he said with more force, "Feel me. Touch me. Hear me. I'm alive."
She reached a hand out and traced along the side of his face, down across his cheek and over his jaw. It felt like him. Her hand fell to his shoulder and she could feel the taut muscles that lay beneath his shirt.
"I'm sorry. I had to protect you. The Bratva knew about you. There was someone challenging me for Captain and they were going to take you out first. I had to make them think you weren't a threat, that you were no longer connected to Bratva. By faking my death I can find out who the new Captain is and eliminate them." he spoke so earnestly she wanted to believe him.
"I'm sorry." he whispered and leaned in until their foreheads touched. She started at the contact, fingers digging into his shoulder.
There was something bubbling in her chest, trying to make its way north. Hope.
She traced over his chest, his heart, over his jaw again and cupped his face. She pulled back far enough to see him.
"Oliver..." she said with trepidation, not knowing what would happen to her if she let herself believe and it turned out to be a dream.
He swallowed heavily and nodded once.
"It's you?" she asked with hesitation, because she needed this to be true. So badly.
"You're not dead." her voice was broken,
"I'm not dead." he confirmed, and something about the way he said it convinced her.
With a ragged cry she launched herself at him. He fell back on his heels as he caught her with a slight grunt of pain.
His arms wrapped tight around her and it was indescribable. She sobbed with relief and happiness now. Her hands were everywhere, ensuring that what he had said was true. She captured his face in her palms and looked at him with a watery smile. "You're really here, you're really alive?" she asked again,
"Yes," he said simply and she threw her arms around his neck, holding him tight as she sobbed happy tears into his shoulder, not caring how wet she was getting him.
"I thought you were dead." she said desperately and he held her tighter. "I thought you were dead." the words resonated within her and suddenly she was angry.
She tore herself away from him and stood on shaky legs as rage and hurt filled her. "I thought you were dead!" she spat out, looking down on him.
Oliver climbed to his feet and took a step towards her but she held a hand out to keep him away. "No. Don't." she backed up more and stared at him in disbelief.
"You let me think you were dead. I've been through hell! I haven't eaten. I've barely slept. I can't even breathe! When I try to take a deep breath it hurts, it physically hurts! I haven't touched anything with an internal hard drive since it happened because it all just reminds me of you."
She crossed to her closet and ripped the door open, emerging with his hood jacket. The one thing that had kept her sane, that had been an anchor was now a lie. She gripped it tight and held it up to him. "I wore your damn hood, like a fool! It smelled like you, and when I wore it I didn't feel like half my heart had been ripped out." she threw the jacket at him where he caught it on reflex. Guilt washed across his face, but she didn't care. She hoped he felt just a bit of the pain and torment he caused her. He opened his mouth to speak but she gave him a glare that made him stop.
"Do you see me?" she exclaimed, "I almost collapsed at your funeral today! If it hadn't been for Digg and Bruce I would have." his head jerked at Bruce's name but she ignored it.
"Your funeral, Oliver! I had to go to your damn funeral. I had to pretend like I wasn't about to fall apart. I had to pretend like you were just my boss, and nothing more. Like I hadn't just lost the man I loved! Do you have any idea what that's like?"
His eyes flew to hers at her words and it took her a beat to realize what she'd said. Her mouth dropped open in an 'O' of shock.
"Felicity-" he tried but she wouldn't let him finish. She could see the emotions flashing through him and she could not deal with it. It had all gone too far.
"Get out." she whispered, she needed him gone. She needed him out of her place right then.
He looked to his feet, and then back to her. "I can't leave."
"What do you mean you can't leave? Leave! You're good at it! You've had a lot of practice." she saw the hurt cut across his face at her words.
"Felicity, everyone thinks I'm dead, and the Bratva need to keep thinking I'm dead. They know where you live. I need to keep you safe, and I need to hide out here a few more days until we can gather enough intel on the new Captain."
She looked at him like he'd grown another head. This couldn't be happening. He was dead, and then he was alive, and he'd lied to her. He'd allowed her to go through hell and now he wanted to stay with her.
Her hands were numb from all the blood rushing to her head. She shakily pointed to her bedroom door, "Then you need to get out of this room, because I think I'm about to fly apart!"
"Felicity...I'm sorry." he tried again, a desperate edge to his voice and she leveled him with a glare.
"Don't. I don't know what's worse, that you did this in the first place, or that you didn't think it would hurt me so much." the tears were falling faster than she could wipe them away, and she turned from him before she even saw him walk out the door.
She climbed under the covers and fell asleep immediately. Her brain had reached the point where it was safer to be unconscious than to even attempt to process what had happened.
She woke up around two, crying from her dream. With slow, heavy steps she made her way from her room. She had to make sure he was still there. Regardless of what he'd done to her, she had to make sure he was actually alive.
Her breath caught when she walked into her living room and saw him stretched out on the couch.
He was there. He was alive.
Her feet took her forward until she was right next to him looking down, watching his chest rise and fall.
She was still angry. God knows she was still hurt, but he was alive, and on her couch, and right then she couldn't feel anything other than gratefulness that it was even possible.
She sank to her knees and watched him. Her fingers twitched, a need to feel him, warm and alive beneath her. Ever so softly she laid them along his wrist, finding his pulse immediately. Her eyes shut tight as she felt the blood thrum strongly.
Her eyes raked over him, drinking him in greedily. She never imagined this could be possible. It wasn't even a dream because this dream wasn't something that could happen.
His face was still bruised, a cut heeling near his temple. Her gaze traveled south and she remembered the stab wound she'd tried to stop. There was a dark stain on his t-shirt and without thought she pulled the fabric up.
He had a bandage over the area. So that had actually happened. She didn't know how he'd faked his death, but it was clear he'd been in a fight. Dark, mottled bruises covered his ribs.
The gauze square needed to be changed, she could see where blood had seeped through.
He was still asleep when she got back with the first aid kit. She purposely focused on her task and not his face as she worked.
She peeled back the tape and saw the line of stitches; Digg's handiwork. It seemed to be healing well, but it had been deep. With a shiver she wondered how close he had come to death.
She had almost finished cleaning off the dried blood when he shifted beneath her hands. She stilled for a moment and continued, resolutely not looking at him.
"You don't have to do that." he told her, his voice low.
Slowly she slid her eyes to his. "Yes, I do." she told him, and she didn't hide. She let him see everything. She let him see how, even though he'd broken her trust and destroyed her, she still loved him. She let him see the damage he'd wrought and that despite that she was still by his side.
Her hands were shaking as she taped a new bandage in place and pulled his shirt down, trying to ignore how his muscles rippled as her knuckles brushed over his abdomen.
"How'd you do it?" she asked dully
"Digg injected me with a drug that drops heart rate and respiration to the point where they won't register. If you're brought out of it in a set amount of time there aren't any side effects." he told her immediately. She had the feeling he'd tell her anything right then.
"Where have you been?"
"Digg's, until he told me that the Bratva had been here. I wasn't going to leave you alone."
The tears hit her unexpectedly and she gave him a choking laugh, "Weren't going to leave me alone?" she repeated bitterly, "You already had."
His head was tipped back, hands clenched at his side. "I don't deserve you."
She gathered up the first aid kit and stood, "No, you don't." she replied and headed out of the room, her hand brushing across his hair as she did.
She fell back into a fitful sleep and woke up gasping his name once again. Heavy hands were on her arms as she tried to shake the dream. It was oppressive loneliness that plagued her.
"You're okay. You're awake." he said, and she turned her head away from hearing his voice so soon after the nightmare of him being dead again.
She shrugged out of his grasp and pushed herself backwards until she hit the headboard. Her hands buried themselves in her hair as she tried to get a handle on her emotions.
"I'm sorry." he said again, and her head whipped up
"Does that mean anything to you? How did you think I was going to react? Did you think I'd just be a little bit upset and then go about my life? Do I mean that little to you? Am I just another tool in your arsenal?" she was incredulous, the ache in her chest reappeared and she pushed her fist in to stop it.
He was suddenly too close. She felt trapped and claustrophobic.
She threw the covers back and scrambled out of bed, pacing on the other side, away from him.
"I need to know. I need to know how you thought this was a good idea. I need to know at what point you decided that faking your death was a viable option. I need to know when keeping that from me also made it on the list, because NONE of this makes any sense!"
He'd been silent, allowing her to rage at him. Until now.
In three strides he'd eliminated the distance between them. Now she was only inches from him as he looked down at her. "I had no choice!" he growled.
"I find that impossible to believe." she countered, trying not to show how affected she was by his nearness.
"Your life was in jeopardy. The Bratva were targeting you! They were targeting you because of me. So this plan was the only way to keep you safe. I don't regret that choice for a second." she'd never seen him so fierce before. His voice was hard, his face stony and she knew he believed what he said.
"No, you wouldn't regret it. Collateral damage has never been your first priority." she scoffed.
His hand flashed up and caught her wrist, pulling her in even closer. "Did you even hear me? I did this to save your life."
"What life?" she asked breathlessly, "What life do I have without you?" she said with a watery shrug. "I know you heard me last night. Cat's out of the bag and all of that, might as well own it. I truly know I have nothing left to lose because I've already lost it all. I don't know how we come back from this." she gestured weakly between them, and a sob caught in her throat. Somehow it hurt worse now, knowing she was going to lose it all again.
She tried to pull away but he wouldn't let her.
"I was not going to lose you." his words flowed over her ear and she froze. There was a tone there she'd never heard before. Every stuttered breath he took she could feel, and the air seemed to crackle between them.
Ever so slowly she raised her eyes to his. She could see the fear he'd had for her, and the determination, all covered in the regret he now had for hurting her so badly.
"I can't lose you. You're the best thing that's happened to me. And I don't know why you stay because I am a mean, broken, damaged shell of a person, but you make me better. When you started working with me I thought that maybe I could do some real good. I saw a different side of the hood. That's because of you. The thought of losing you...I just reacted. I see now that it was maybe not the best choice, but it kept you safe, and that's all I will ever care about."
She was speechless. Never, would she have expected him to feel that way.
"Oliver..." she began breathlessly. The hand on her wrist trailed upwards until it pushed a fall of hair behind her ear and threaded through to cup the back of her head.
"I'm sorry I hurt you though, I never wanted that." he said sincerely, and she finally believed him.
With a great gasp of air she threw her arms around his neck and clung to him. She sobbed raggedly into his neck and he just held her.
She hung on tighter until he gave a grunt of pain. She tried to pull back but he wouldn't let her. He walked them back until he felt the bed behind his knees and sat, pulling her into his lap as he did.
Felicity curled herself as small as possible, his heart directly beneath her ear as she grabbed a fistful of his shirt and held on. She had no intention of letting go.
His hands stroked over her head and across her back. He'd never been this demonstrative before and a part of her had to wonder if guilt was driving him more than anything else at this point.
But she'd seen a guilt ridden Oliver Queen before. That Oliver closed himself up, shut down, became cold. The man before he was doing none of those.
She let out a sigh and the knot that had resided inside her for days finally lessened some. He must have felt the change. He gathered her to him and pushed backwards until they were against the pillows. He rolled her slightly and wrapped himself around her from behind.
She heard two thunks as he toed off his boots and drew the covers up.
"Sleep." he whispered in her ear and she settled back against him.