Just Once

Just Once

Setting: 3.09 The Climb

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

His warmth and scent had faded. Her hands at a loss as to what to cling to in his absence. One moment he was there, pulling her close, his lips pressed against her forehead, and she was leaning in, trying to burrow herself into him, into his heart. Then he’s pulling back and walking away. And it’s too soon. Please, not yet.

“And the second thing?”
His smile: the tiny one, almost hidden, but peaking through.
“I love you.”

She stood there, startled into stillness.
He finally said it. And then he was gone.

She couldn’t say anything, the words lodged in her throat with her heart and the choking sobs she refused to release. She stood stoic.

How could she say I love you without the words tumbling into pleading, into please don’t leave. The silent unspoken me. She would not allow herself that luxury. He needed her to be strong. She would not be his divided focus, his weakness against one of the deadliest men alive.

He didn’t only belong to her; he belonged to Thea, and Digg, and Roy. And to Laurel and Lyla and Little Sara. More than that, he belonged to Starling City.

He knows she loves him. Right? She’d never said it, but he had to know. But hadn’t she needed the unvarnished truth?

Worry washes over her. What if? She truly believes he can defeat Ra’s Al Ghul, but what if…No. She will not finish that sentence.

But there is this terrifying feeling in her gut.

She doesn’t how long she’s been standing there stunned immobile, but suddenly she is running. She kicks off her heels and snatches the sneakers she keeps in the Lair for when she trains with Digg. She just needs to tell him. She’s running and she’s taking the stairs two at a time, and pushing out the back door to the club. She needs him to hear it. Her feet slip on gravel but she doesn’t stop running until she hits the end of the alley, her head slashing from side to side, scanning for direction. Just once. She’s too late, he’s gone.

She freezes, unsure of her next step. She always knows the next step. She stands there grasping for focus. It isn’t until her body begins to crumple that she turns, and heads back down the alley, each step a hesitation.

He knew. He has to have known. She stops when she reaches the back door, one hand on the handle, and turns back, scanning down the alley one last time.

Turning her face up to the moonless sky, eyes rimmed with tears that she will not allow to fall, she says to the silence, “I love you Oliver. Promise me you’ll come back.”

She listens to the stillness. There is nothing but the night. She tries to blink back the tears, but they fall anyway.

Felicity pulls open the door and heads back downstairs.
There’s work to be done.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Oliver watches from the shadows of the rooftop. He can only allow himself a moment or two more. He reminds himself that every one will be okay. Safe. They will take care of each other. Of Felicity…

He doesn’t know how long he’s been standing there, fighting the urge to return. He knows he needs to leave. But he can’t…not yet. He doesn’t know what he’s waiting for.

He is just about to turn and go when the back door slams open and Felicity comes rushing out. He goes on immediate alert; ready to defend her. But when she stops at the end of the alley, head whipping around, searching: he knows she’s looking for him.

He can see the tense line of her shoulders, it’s how she stands when she’s being brave. But then he sees how she folds in on herself and he wants to wrap his arms around her, but he can’t. There’s not enough time. So he watches from the shadows as her footsteps fall heavy on the pavement. He watches as she stops and scans the alley one last time, hope etched on her face.

She looks up and if he were to step one foot to the left she could see him. Instead, he stands motionless as she admits that words he can barely hear: she loves him. A smile crawls across his face, he shouldn’t be smiling, but he is. She loves him and she believes in him.

He watches as she closes the door behind her, heading back where she’s safe.

“I promise.”

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