A/N: Thanks, y'all, for the very generous and affectionate welcome to the Arrow fandom! You're amazing. As is anthfan. And The Abs, of course. They are incredibly amazing. I hope you enjoy.
Oliver: "If you ever need to tell someone about your day, you can tell me." (Salvation – 1.18)
She's doing it again. Watching me. I'm inverted, doing crunches, concentrating on breath and form and the satisfying burn in my muscles. But I see her out of the corner of my eye. She's always watched, but it's different since she and Digg brought me back.
Sometimes I miss her blushes and stammers and surreptitious glances while she pretended to work on the computer. I miss her rambling explanations that always managed to make whatever awkward thing she'd said sound even worse. She's still Felicity, but she's changed. Of course, how could she not after all we've been through. All we've lost. All the lies we have to tell and secrets we have to keep.
Now, she doesn't hide the fact that she's looking. She sits at her computers and leans back in the chair. She kicks up her feet and rests her chin in her hand and watches me. Not that I mind. I like knowing she's here. After being alone on the island again, her silent vigil is a comfort I don't deserve. Her eyes on my body keep me out of my head. Too often in the past, without her watching, workouts opened the floodgates to memories.
"Rain check, Felicity," Digg says as he walks out of the newly remodeled bathroom. He's changed out of his workout gear and showered, straightening his tie while he moves towards the stairs. "Carly called. Emergency."
I immediately flip down to the floor. "Emergency?"
Digg smiles and shakes his head. "A plumbing emergency."
"Aren't you over-dressed?" I ask.
"I told her I'd take her and A.J. to church afterward."
"Digg," Felicity protests. "I'm all warmed up. I put in contacts." She turns to me. "He broke two pairs of glasses while you were gone. Two." She raises two taped fingers in my direction. "Digg," she says again as she looks at her hand. "I'm already taped."
"I'll be back in a few hours. Oliver, you don't have anything until you and Thea audition that band this afternoon."
"You don't need to be here for that," I say. "Enjoy your Sunday."
"I'll be here."
"What are the chances they're assassins?" I watch as he and Felicity exchange a look.
"I couldn't find anything suspicious when I checked them out," she says with a shrug. "But that doesn't mean anything. Look at your track record."
"Fine," I snap. "Be here then."
"Oliver can spar with you, Felicity. Give 'em hell." Digg winks at her before taking the steps two at a time. The door closes with a metallic finality behind him, and Felicity turns to face me.
"I'm ready when you are."
"This isn't a good idea," I tell her.
She's wearing yoga pants and a tank top, covered in a fine sheen of sweat, and I watch her throat while she swallows the last of the water from her bottle. I've seen her with the punching bag, dancing lithely in bare feet, her fists surprisingly fast and accurate. She and Digg kept busy with more than remodeling while I was away.
"Because it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye?" she asks. "Wait. Are we allowed to joke about that when people have actually lost eyes?Because he was a bad guy, so I don't think we should stop using a perfectly acceptable expression..."
"Felicity," I interrupt.
"Never been beaten by a girl?" she teases. "Afraid I'll hurt you?"
I clench my fists and feel the adrenaline, the surge of power I always experience after a good workout that makes it too easy to lose control. I remind myself of all the training sessions with Shado that ended with a very different kind of workout, one of us against a tree or on the ground, tearing off clothes and hungry and desperate for each other.
This is dangerous. I'm dangerous. I could forget myself. I could forget where I am, who I'm with.
I could really hurt her.
"It's just math, Oliver," Felicity quietly says, all teasing gone from her voice. "It's angles and trajectories and..."
"No," I say again.
"Oliver." She presses a hand to my wrist, her skin hot against mine. Her eyes demand that I not look away from her. Without glasses to hide behind, they're too big and intense and they know too much.
Despite my new vow, I would kill anyone to keep whatever innocence those eyes might have left.
"Felicity," I whisper, shutting my eyes so I don't have to look at her anymore. "I can't."
"Sure you can. Hey." She flicks my chest to get my attention. I open my eyes in shock at the little sting. "This is me. This is you and me, so you can. Just try. If it doesn't work out, we'll stop. Okay."
I swallow and take a deep breath.
"Please. I took out my earrings and everything. I'm ready."
She turns her head so I can see her bare ears. Before I can stop myself, I trace a single finger around the delicate curve that usually has silver spikes through it. She closes her eyes and shivers.
"Okay," I agree.
"You are so going down, mister."
The light tone is back in her voice, as if this is all just a game. She practically skips to the mats, her ponytail bouncing as she shifts her weight between her legs while I tape my hands.
"Tell me what you and Digg have been working on." I stand in front of her, and she gives me her best blond-look, all wide-eyed and flaky.
"Math. And he may have mentioned something about balance?"
"Felicity," I begin. But before I can say anything else, she lunges at me.
Her movement is swift and well-executed. It catches me off guard, and she lands a jab to my chin before I can react. She dances back and smiles at me while I shake my head and flex my jaw. That's probably going to bruise.
"I told you you're going down," she says. "When will you stop doubting me?"
Instead of answering, we spar. I try to start off slowly, but she won't let me, punching and kicking if I hold back or don't attack her aggressively enough. Every time I offer her a hand up from the mat, she accepts with a smile and springs to her feet, ready to go again.
Digg's trained her well. No matter how fast or strong, head to head against a man, she'll lose every time. So she fights smartly. She's doesn't let me corner her. I can't lure her into over-extending herself. She only attacks when she has a clear shot, landing her punches quickly and accurately. She uses my momentum against me, deflecting my advances. There have been plenty of opportunities, if I'd been an assailant intent on harming her, she easily could've gotten away.
We're circling each other again when she suddenly grins and sticks out her tongue at me. I use her momentary distraction to take her legs out beneath her and pin her to the mat. But as I shift my hips away from her, she wiggles and gains the upper hand. She escapes my grip and scrambles to her feet. She's obviously tired, though, and before she can attack again, I have her trapped against the salmon ladder bar, her wrists locked in one hand, my legs wrapped around hers to prevent her from kicking her way free.
I press her against my chest and feel her gasping for breath and the pounding of her heart as I pin her against me with my free arm. I nose her hair out my way and whisper into her ear, "I never doubt you, Felicity."