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“It’s perfectly fine, Noah,” Oliver hears his mother say to their trusted butler, as he walks down the hallway and passes by the door of her study.  What stops him dead in his tracks is what Moira Queen says next.  “We’d be delighted to have your daughter come and stay with us during the holidays.  Felicity is always welcome at Queen Manor.  You know that.”


The mention of her name causes his feet to refuse to keep moving forward.  He turns and backtracks a few steps, stopping just outside the door, hidden from sight.  He listens in to the conversation his mother seems to be having with their trusted and ever-loyal butler, Noah Kuttler, but he is disappointed that his eavesdropping can’t yield more information, as Noah is already thanking his mother for her hospitality and generosity.

The butler passes him by as he steps out of the study, and greets him, “Good morning, Mr. Oliver.”  He nods to acknowledge the older man’s greeting, and immediately he enters the room where he finds Moira seated behind her desk, smiling.

“Good morning, Oliver!” she greets her son fondly.  “I have some wonderful news.”

Oliver comes around her desk and stops to stand by his mother’s left side, leaning against the side of the antique, solid oak desk.  “Yes, I overheard a little bit of your conversation with Noah as I was passing by.”  He frowns and purses his lips, which Moira takes to mean that her son is trying to figure out if he had heard her and their butler correctly just moments ago.

“You remember his daughter Felicity, right?” Moira asks.

“How could I forget?” Oliver replies with a hint of sarcasm.

Moira shakes her head once.  “Oliver… That girl may have been… different… and quite a handful, I admit.  But she’d always been… nice.”

“Yeah, right.  Nice.  Among other things,” he murmurs in annoyance.

“Oh, come on, son.  You only say that because you could never outsmart that young lady.  Your father and I have always been impressed by her wit.  You know, I’ve always thought that beneath that… that…”

Oliver is quick to supply the rest of the apt description for his mother.  “…that awful Goth exterior, you mean.”

“Yes, yes.  I truly think that behind that façade is a charming young lady.  Thea adores her.  Your sister will be thrilled to see Felicity again!  Maybe that can convince her to come home for Christmas a little bit earlier this year,” Moira says excitedly.

Oliver has never shared his younger sister’s fascination for Felicity Smoak, nor has he joined the bandwagon that the entire household, beginning with his parents, shared about how brilliant and impressive the girl was.  He had always regarded her as his midsummer’s nightmare. 

From middle school to high school, their butler’s only child had spent the summer every year in Queen Manor.  Oliver and Felicity had rarely gotten along.  They always bickered (although his best friend Tommy Merlyn had much rather referred to it as “bantered in a cute kind of way”).  For some reason, the black-haired-with-purple-streaks girl wearing silver chains around her neck, industrial piercings, and an exclusively black leather and fish nets get-up every single day, had always known how to push the right buttons and irritate him to death.  She’d correct his grammar mid-sentence and use highfalutin vocabulary that was much too advanced for her age (and probably his, as well, even if he's two years older than her) – something that he had always considered hypocritical when she herself had constantly spoken in sentence fragments. 

But since his parents had always reminded him about his manners and good breeding, he had tried his best not to cross the line and retaliate – not physically, even though on several occasions he had wanted to.  Whenever his temper had gotten the better of him, he had returned her smart alec remarks with his own snarky ones, and quite a few times he had succeeded in making the girl cry, making him feel guilty that he had stooped down to that level.

Felicity was undeniably brilliant.  He had never doubted that.  But he’d always thought that the girl was too smart for her own good.  Truth be told, he had always felt that she was way too smart for his liking.  Felicity was kryptonite to him.  She somehow had a way of making him take a good look at himself, underneath the cool, popular guy and girl-magnet image he’d always sported in high school.  He hated that that image had never impressed her.  In sheer frustration and irritation, he had once told Tommy that when Felicity finally gets over her man-hating phase, she would be hard-pressed to find a guy that would be the least bit interested in her if she keeps up with her stubbornness and headstrong attitude.  She had overheard that conversation, and he knew he had hurt her deeply, but he’d been much too proud to apologize then. 

The next summer, Felicity did not come.  And the summer after that.  A year later, Noah told the Queen family that his daughter had gotten a scholarship and had gone off to college in Boston. 

That was the last he’d heard of Felicity Smoak until now.  Needless to say, the thought of having the girl over for a few weeks for the holidays isn’t something that he is particularly excited about or pleased with.  What Oliver fails to realize at the moment is that, after six years, the girl in question is no longer a girl.

“Oliver,” Moira begins to speak more calmly, “I know that you and Felicity hadn’t gotten along that well in the past.  But, people change.  You, of all people, should know that.”  She pauses, gazing lovingly at her beautiful boy who has grown into a handsome man.  “I’m so proud of how much you’ve changed.  I’m sure your father would be, too, if he were still with us.  Please, try your hardest to be nice to Noah’s daughter.  I’m sure she’s also grown into a wonderful young woman.  I hear she graduated at the top of her class and completed double master’s degrees in computer science and cyber-security in record time.  Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Guess so,” Oliver answers with a shrug.  “We always knew she was smart.”  In all honesty, although he’d always known that Felicity would succeed in her studies, he really did not expect such awesome news of her impressive accomplishments.  Oliver is intrigued.

Moira goes on to say, “Noah tells me that she is much sought after by the biggest tech companies in the country… which reminds me… perhaps you should look into that.  Maybe Walter and HR ought to see if they’ve considered Felicity Smoak on the shortlist of new hires.  As the new CEO, you should have a say, son.  Felicity would surely be an asset to Queen Consolidated.  Your father would agree.”

Oliver still does not like it every time his mother tells him what to do, especially when it comes to the company.  He knows that barely finishing his business degree with a passing mark because of his vices and party-going days had weighed heavily on his parents.  Yet after two years of being Walter Steele’s understudy after Robert Queen passed away due to a heart attack, he had proven his knack for business, which he must have inherited from his dad.  He thinks that his mother sometimes does not give him enough credit for all the effort he has put into their family’s company.

Moira senses his son’s unease at her assertiveness, so she tells him, “Oliver, it’s a suggestion.”  She smiles.  “But the request that you treat Felicity like a decent human being when she arrives after Thanksgiving is not,” she adds with a wink.  And Moira Queen hardly ever winks. 

Oliver wonders what is up with his mother, so he decides to go the way of acquiescence this time around.  “Yes, mother,” he replies.  “And I will think about looking into the HR matter as well.  I will let you know what I decide.”

Moira smiles at her son, and Oliver knows that his mother is indeed proud of the man he has become.

Speaking with Noah, Oliver learns the reason why Felicity is spending the holiday season with them.  Apparently, she hasn’t decided which job offer to accept yet, and she needed some time away to carefully consider her future.  And since her mother Donna, with whom Noah had shared custody after their divorce when Felicity was seven, had passed away recently towards the end of summer, Noah thought that coming to the Manor would help his daughter find comfort from the grief and consider her career options now that she no longer has a very sick mother to take care of.  Oliver is dumbfounded; he finds himself admiring her for the inner strength that brought her through her graduating year in MIT, knowing that her mom was terminally ill.

The admiration, however, is nothing compared to his reaction when he finds Felicity speaking with Moira in the living room of the mansion in the first week of December. 

She is not only blonde.  She is a beautiful blonde woman with an elegance that almost matches his mother’s.  In place of black suede boots and black leather attire, she wears strappy high heels and a flowing, sleeveless pink dress that ended just above her knees.  Her blonde hair is swept up to a ponytail, and she wears dark-rimmed glasses that accentuate her sparkling blue eyes.  He didn’t even realize that she is naturally blue-eyed because she’d always worn dark contact lenses to go with her Goth get-up years ago. 

“Hello, Oliver,” she greets him with an uncharacteristically winsome smile that he doesn’t recall seeing on her face before.

“Hi,” Oliver responds.  He is lost for words.  He doesn’t even realize that he is smiling back at her, with a faint blush on his cheeks.

Felicity is breathtakingly gorgeous, Oliver admits to himself. 

Later that night, after he and his mother catch up with Felicity over dinner, he finds it almost impossible to sleep.  All he can think about is how much she has changed, and how much trouble he is in for the holidays.

Chapter Text

Awkward.  It’s how Felicity is feeling at the moment.

She sits beside Oliver inside the Queen family’s leather-upholstered Bentley.  They are on their way to the airport to pick up Thea, who is coming home from college for the holidays a few days earlier than she did the previous year.  The silence between them is deafening.  She can feel him fidgeting every now and then.  She can practically hear him thinking – what about specifically, she does not know.  In a general sense, though, she does have a hunch what might be bothering him because, after what happened at Queen Consolidated’s holiday party, it’s probably the same thing that’s been bothering her all day.  From the corner of her eye, she sees him stealing furtive glances at her when he thinks she’s too engrossed, looking out the window and seemingly enjoying the view, to notice.

“If he doesn’t say something soon, I promise I’ll have Mr. Diggle stop the car, hail a cab, and go back to the mansion,” she tells herself.  It’s a contingent plan, seeing she can no longer stand the awkward tension in the air.  It’s not just what happened last night that bothers her like an ingrown toe nail.  She finds it extremely annoying how Oliver has been acting strangely whenever she’s around.  It’s been almost two weeks since she arrived in Starling, and she’s had enough of it. 

In the first few days since she’d been back, they’ve been skirting and dancing around each other, much too careful so as not to say anything inappropriate or do anything that might cause an argument or a misunderstanding.  They didn’t want to regress to the way there were before when they were teenagers.  Somehow they both felt that they ought to have matured after all these years.  The problem was that neither of them has verbalized that the feeling was mutual. 

Felicity thought that their interactions would get better as the days passed.  Yet, her tendency to babble and speak in sentence fragments has only increased in frequency whenever they tried to strike up a conversation.  Oliver hasn’t been faring any better, and she thought it incredulous how she’d rubbed off on him in so short a time.  She also noticed that, while he has obviously been trying his best to be winsome and nice to her since she arrived, he’s also been very careful about keeping his distance.  They’ve already had several encounters in the past days, with others or just by themselves, and every time he’s managed to stay at least a few feet away from her while they spoke.  Once, he passed her a glass of wine at dinner, and their fingers brushed; she swore she felt him cringe and retract his hand faster than he could swat a fly. 

Last night at the holiday party had been a breakthrough. 

Felicity had passed him by, drinking champagne beside a pillar at the corner of the mansion’s ballroom.  “You still don’t dance?” she had teased him. 

He’d been quick to reply, “It’s not because I can’t.” 

The banter had begun without them even noticing it. 

“Oh, so it’s because you won’t.  I wonder why,” she had said before biting her pink lips.  The crinkle in her forehead had been a subtle signal for him to provide an explanation.

Oliver had picked it up, but had merely given her a side-eye.  Then he had said, “Felicity, I can dance, but I only dance when I’m in the mood.” 

“Which only happens once in a blue moon,” she had remarked with a chuckle.

“I’d have you know that in the past few years, I have had my fair share of dancing.  It just takes the right kind of partner to get me in the right mood.”

“Oh, really?  I’d like to see that for myself,” she had responded with a laugh that she’d failed to keep in. 

Oliver had looked her straight in the eye and dared her.  “Would you?”

His question was more like a dare, a dare that had taken Felicity by surprise.  She hadn’t thought he’d ever ask her to dance.  Not in a million years.  She hadn’t been one to retreat from his challenges, and she had no reason to since he and she were barely even friends, but she second-guessed herself for a moment. 

When Noah invited her to come for a visit and stay with him at the Queen Manor for the holidays, Felicity had initially declined, adamantly so.  Even though she missed her father so much, she had stayed away for the last six years for a reason.  And that reason was him

Oliver had been her thorn in the flesh.  She had hated how he would flash a smug grin whenever he got away with a prank or got under her skin when he teased her about her hair or her outfit or her quirks.  She had hated how he called her names like Goth Geek, Black Widow, and a few others that she had intentionally deleted from memory.  She had hated how he’d shade her on purpose in front of his friends and how he’d downplayed her brilliant ideas in front of his parents.

She had also hated that he’d never given up even if it was obvious and clear, time and time again, that she’d been the indisputable winner in their perennial battle of wits.  Not that he was stupid or intellectually wanting, no.  Felicity had recognized very early on that Oliver possessed a different kind of smarts.  He was practically intelligent.  He worked wonders with his hands at innovating things.  He could navigate real life with ease despite his lackadaisical approach to human existence.  He could effortlessly come up with strategic solutions to everyday problems in ways that a genius like her never could have thought of using the scientific method. 

He was also “people smart.”  He was especially gifted when it came to dealing with people – a personality trait that she had secretly envied, what with her embarrassing rambles and inappropriate yet unintentional innuendos.  She had recognized this intelligence in him by the way he related with the people whom he considered precious, such as his younger sister Thea, who has always been the apple of his eye.  She’d seen it in how he interacted with his best friend Tommy Merlyn and even with Manor staff like Raisa the housekeeper, John Diggle the driver and bodyguard, and even her father Noah, whom he used to call fondly, “Kuttler the butler.”

Felicity had hated many things about him, but she never really hated him

If she were truly honest, she would have admitted – even to herself – that she’d admired him in an ironic kind of way.  His spontaneous smile and candid laughter that brought out his dimples – not the smug grin that accompanied his arrogant stubbornness – had actually been adorable quite a few times.  The compliments he’d given her, though rare and often masked by a feigned sarcasm, had been oddly sincere.  Their bickering had actually been welcome banter, a daily challenge that had made her get up in the morning every summer that she stayed with the Queens.  In hindsight, she considered that his constant teasing and mockery of her outward appearance were actually proof that he’d been paying her more attention than he’d care to admit. 

Truth be known, it had taken every ounce of will power on her part not to give in to his sophisticated charm.  She thought that for the most part, she had succeeded every summer in not letting her hard-shell façade crumble at his feet.  Oliver was a gorgeous guy, and thoughtful (in an obnoxious kind of way), but she had never ever paid him the compliment for it, for fear that doing so might backfire on her, or that he might use it against her one day.  Looking back, she had to concede that her avid tormentor did have a few redeeming qualities that made up for his many glaring flaws. 

Too bad it was only after she had stopped visiting the Manor that she realized these things. 

Every once in a while she had actually missed him in the last six years.  She had wondered how he was doing, and if he’d ever finished his business degree in a reputable school that his parents at least approved of.  However, every time she would remember that nasty, judgmental comment she’d overheard him tell Tommy about her, she would just scold herself for regretting not visiting her father and the Queens.  She would berate herself for thinking that she and Oliver could have been friends.

Her studies at MIT, and eventually having to take care of her sick mother back in Vegas, had conveniently taken her mind off the what-ifs and what-could-have-beens that involved one Oliver Queen.  Nevertheless, after her mom passed away, and now that she is taking a break to consider her future, there is just way too much time to reflect and reconsider.  When her dad invited her to come and visit after all these years, she knew that seeing Oliver would only add to the things she is already reflecting on and reconsidering in her life.  But Felicity thought that she had grown through the years, so she decided that it was about time she faced this issue once and for all.  That she faced him once and for all.  That she tried to at least win him over as a friend.

The problem was, in the first few days of her stay in Starling, she already sensed that winning him over as a friend was going to be complicated.  Just like her, Oliver had changed for the better.  Based on her observation, he seemed to have become more responsible, more mature, and more caring.  He had grown, and she wasn’t ready for that.  It didn’t help either that he had also become even more handsome and well-built.  The serial killer hairstyle of his adolescent years was gone, and he now sported a well-trimmed scruff that was nicely matched by neatly cropped hair.  He now cleaned up pretty well, and she thought that he rocked the CEO-in-a-suit look just as attractively as the most-eligible-bachelor-in-a-tuxedo look.

All of these thoughts were rushing to and fro in her mind, which was why it had taken her some time before she could respond to Oliver’s dare for her to dance with him at QC’s holiday party held at the Manor last night.  It was as if time had stool still in order for her to process everything.

After a while, Oliver had asked a second time, “Well, would you?”  This time, the question had sounded more like an honest and sincere invitation.

Felicity had blinked up at him, and taking a deep breath, had simply nodded.  It hadn’t helped to loosen her tongue-tiedness when she felt his warm hand land on the bare skin at the small of her back, as he guided her to the dance floor.

Something had shifted between them as they danced.  She could feel it, and she had seen in the way he looked at her the whole time that he could feel it too.  The air had been charged with an electrifying energy that had swept her off her feet.

But then Tommy Merlyn had to ruin everything by cutting in when the next song had begun to play. 

Felicity hadn’t wanted for Oliver to let go just yet, but he had graciously given way to his best friend – who hadn’t left her side all evening.  Tommy was a very interesting guy, and they had a lot of things in common to talk about.  He was funny and charming as well, but he can be quite insensitive when a girl has had enough small talk.  Every now and then, Felicity would catch a glimpse of Oliver on the opposite side of the ballroom, looking stoic with an unreadable expression on his face while observing the two of them converse.  By the time she’d been able to politely excuse herself from Tommy’s company, Oliver was nowhere to be found.  She had learned from John Diggle that he had taken leave from the party early and retired to his room.

That was the last Felicity had seen Oliver until this afternoon, when Moira Queen asked her to accompany him to the airport to pick up Thea, supposedly at Thea’s request.  Moira was going to do it, but she was feeling a bit under the weather all day.  “I must have worn myself out in last night’s festivities,” was Moira’s excuse for asking her for this huge favor.  “I’m sure Thea will be thrilled to see you at the airport.”

Felicity, of course, courteously obliged.  Moira, after all, has been a hospitable and kind hostess.  She also thought it would be the perfect opportunity for her and Oliver to talk about what happened last night, since the airport is about forty-five minutes away from the mansion.

But there is no such talk happening in the car ride at the moment.  Just a lot of deep breaths, glances here and there, and an awful lot of silence.  If another minute of this awkwardness passes by, she knows she’s going to scream.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, she feels a light tapping on her hand.  She turns to face him, ready to ask what is on his mind, when Oliver beats her to it.  “Felicity, would you like to go to dinner with me?” Oliver asks.  She studies his face and finds a calm and sincere expression on it.

She sighs and then smiles.  “Yes.  Yes, I would like that very much.”

He smiles back at her, and then his hand is on hers.  She turns her hand to fit into his grip, and then they’re holding hands the rest of the way to the airport. 

If Mr. Diggle notices the change in the atmosphere inside the Bentley, he doesn’t say a word.  The man simply smirks.

Chapter Text

Why is he so nervous?  It’s not like he has never been on a formal date with a beautiful woman before.  In fact, since he took his position in the company, going on business dates with a few female executives has been part of his numerous professional obligations that he usually dragged his feet to show up for.  Add to that the handful of blind dates that his matchmaking mother or his sister had arranged and compelled him to go on. 

But this isn’t a business date, nor is it a blind date wherein he is being coerced to go on.  This is his first romantic date with Felicity, and she certainly isn’t comparable to all the other dates he’s been with – “first,” because he prefers to think of it as the beginning of many others he is looking forward to taking her to, and “romantic,” because he definitely isn’t interested in maintaining a mere platonic relationship with her anymore.

Felicity is no longer that annoying, quirky, and dorky girl that drove him crazy.  She is no longer that girl who made his summers complicated.  She has blossomed into a beautiful, brilliant, and amazing woman that simply takes his breath away just by existing and being in the same space as he is.  The last two weeks of having her in his family’s mansion have been among the most delightful ones in his life in recent years.  She lights up the room (and his life) any time of the day, be it when she joins his family for meals, when she joins him and Thea in the entertainment or recreation rooms, or when she joins him in the library or his study in the evenings whenever he comes home earlier than usual from work. 

He has especially enjoyed the few times she has offered to join him in his morning walks through the gardens or the estate.  While upon her arrival in Starling he had predicted that speaking with her would be awkward or short of a disaster, the conversations during their quiet walks have proven to be quite engaging and satisfying.  It seems that it's only after six years that they’ve discovered how they actually have a lot of things in common, even if they also confirmed that there are still things that they stubbornly disagreed on.  Friendly banter has also been a staple between them, such that by time they danced at the holiday party before Thea’s arrival, they had significantly grown comfortable with each other – a far cry from the state of their complicated “relationship” when they were adolescents.

Just yesterday, Oliver was thrilled that she accepted his invitation to ride with him.  The estate was so huge that the family now owned a stable with a few horses, one for each of the Queens.  He had given her his horse Archer to ride while he rode his father’s steed.  He did not think that Felicity knew how to ride, since they had bought the horses that summer when she had first stopped visiting, but she soon proved that she was capable of riding, much to his pleasant surprise.  It turned out Felicity used to have a roommate in college that had invited her over to spend two summer vacations in their ranch in Vermont, and there she had learned to ride horses.  Oliver and Felicity rode leisurely and even raced to and from the perimeter of the property from west to east and back.  By the time they returned to the stable, she told him that she had had a wonderful time.  Of course, he felt like he was riding on cloud nine.  He just wasn’t sure if she’d noticed.

So why is he still so nervous, when this isn’t the first time he will be alone with Felicity?

“I can tell how nervous you are, Ollie,” Thea remarks with a snort.  Oliver hasn’t noticed her coming down the grand stairway that led to the mansion’s foyer.  He is too busy pacing to and fro, wearing out the carpet beneath his feet.

Her voice startles him, and he realizes that his younger sister is teasing him.  “Thea!  How much longer is she going to be?” he asks the official stylist for the evening. 

His sister designated herself as such upon learning that he had managed to ask Felicity out on a dinner date.  Thea had checked on him earlier, making sure that he is suitably dressed for a romantic evening, and not for a business date.  She made him change his tie twice, and then she eventually decided that he should forego wearing one.  She instead loosened his collar and unbuttoned the topmost of his expensive dress shirt.  She also picked out which cologne to wear and personally put just the right amount on him.  “With you looking and smelling like this,” she said to him, “Felicity isn’t going to last the evening without kissing you senseless.”  Thea winked at him, and he swatted her hand away before she could pinch his scruffy cheek.

“Not much longer,” Thea answers his impatient question.  “She’s just putting on her shoes and checking her purse, and then she’s coming down.  You sure you’re ready for her?  Coz with you already that nervous just waiting for her, I don’t think you’re gonna make it out the foyer without fainting once you see how gorgeous she is.”

“Hmm…”  It’s all Oliver can say, even if it isn’t actually a word.  He is much too nervous and anxious (and excited) to think of a more appropriate response.  He thinks Felicity is already gorgeous on regular days, even without make-up on.  How could she be even more gorgeous?  His imagination is starting to fail him.

“Hey, Oliver, I’m ready,” Felicity calls to him from the top of the stairs.

When he turns to look up in the direction of her familiar voice, he is completely blown away by the sight of her that it renders him speechless.  His breathing stops.  He doesn’t blink.  His jaw is the only one with a mind of its own that manages to move.  Downward.

Thea reaches up to cradle his chin on her palm and push it back up a bit.  “She’s all yours, brother dear.  Please don’t mess things up,” she mutters between her teeth in a sing-song manner, and then she walks away in the direction of the kitchen.

Wordlessly, he manages to move from his spot.  He walks to meet Felicity halfway up the stairs.  He takes her hand and places it on the crook of his arm, and then he guides her the rest of the way down.  She chose to wear an almost floor-length, holter-type, red dress that clung to her shapely petite form, and her appreciative smile shows that she likes him assisting her down the steps lest she trip on the material of her soft, satin skirt.

At last, Oliver finds his words when they reach the bottom step.  He clears his throat, turns to his date, and tells her, “You look beautiful tonight.” 

Felicity tilts her head and flashes him a mischievous smile.  He knows that look.  It’s that look she has when she’s about to say something clever in response in order to tease or challenge something he just said. 

“I mean it,” he adds instantly, “and… and it’s not because you’re not as beautiful on any other night.  Or day.  Because you are.  Beautiful.  Every day.  And night.  It’s just that tonight, you look… extra special.”

Felicity laughs shyly.  “Usually I’m the one talking in sentence fragments, Oliver.  But, thank you for the compliment,” replied Felicity.  After he nods in acknowledgement, she adds, “It really means a lot.”

It doesn’t escape his attention that she had to add those last few words, with a special emphasis on the word really.  It does not stop him from walking her out the door and towards the car that John Diggle, his driver and bodyguard, has waiting for them in the driveway, but it is enough to make him uneasy as he helps her into the back seat of the Bentley.  Her words remind him of the unfortunate incident seven years ago – the day she overheard him tell Tommy his prediction that nobody would ever be interested in dating someone as stubborn and eccentric as Felicity Smoak.  He so regretted having said that, and regretted even more not making it right before that summer ended, before Felicity stopped coming to the manor since. 

During the car ride to the restaurant, Oliver resolved that a sincere apology about that incident specifically, and about how he had treated her in the past in general, just has to be one of the things he will have to accomplish (among other things) before the evening ends.  Because he is falling fast for this wonderful woman.  Because he is truly bent on pursuing her.  And because he is willing to do anything to be in a serious relationship with her.  If she’ll have him.

“I didn’t know Table Salt now has live music,” Felicity comments, after taking a sip of her red wine.  She isn’t really a fan of the classics and standards.  She mostly listens to pop and alternative music, but the live piano and cello duet that’s been playing the moment they arrived is really doing a fantastic job of setting the mood for a romantic evening.

“They don’t,” Oliver replies with a shy smile.  He looks down at the silverware in front of him, and when he looks up at her again, he notices Felicity’s forehead creasing, as she is momentarily puzzled by his words. 

However, the adoration on his face is undeniable even to the strangers dining around them, such that Felicity immediately figures out what he really means.  The confused expression on her face fades and is slowly replaced by the sweetest smile as understanding dawns on her.  The next song the musicians play only confirms her hunch.

“You hired them, didn’t you?” she asks fondly, appreciative that he would do such a special thing just for her on their first date. 

“Just for tonight.  The manager didn’t mind,” he answers, almost giddy that she has figured out his thoughtful gesture and is obviously overwhelmed by it.  Oh, it was not really a big deal.  He simply tried to recall her favorite songs from eight to ten years ago and requested the pianist and cellist he hired to arrange and play them, even if it cost him a little more.  Okay, a lot more.  He is thrilled that, apparently, he has exceeded her expectations.

Dinner goes by without incident, and their conversation remains pleasant.  They talk about her career options, and she tells him she isn’t so keen on accepting the offer of Palmer Tech or Kord Industries.  He asks her why she hasn’t considered Queen Consolidated, to which she answers, “Well, that’s only because they haven’t given me an offer yet after my graduation from masters, not like Robert Queen did a few years ago when he learned I was finishing up on my bachelor’s degree two years early.”  That surprises Oliver, because unknown to her, he has directed HR to draft a pretty enticing package for her more than a week ago.  He makes a mental note to write a memo first thing Monday morning and expedite the release of that very important piece of correspondence that is supposed to be addressed to her.

While they wait for dessert to be served, Oliver takes this as the perfect opportunity to bring up his apology.  “Back at the manor,” he said with a little trepidation, “when I complimented you for being beautiful, you thanked me.  You also said that it meant a lot to you.”

“It did,” replied Felicity.  She takes a deep breath and catches her lower lip between her teeth.  It’s her turn to stare at the only teaspoon left of her silverware, attempting to hide the soft blush that’s spreading on her cheeks.  When she looks up at him, she adds, “It does.”

“Well, I’m glad,” Oliver says, smiling earnestly.  “After the way I treated you years ago, I’m relieved that I’ve finally said something that means a lot to you… in a positive way.  I meant it, you know.  Just to be clear.”

“I know.”  Felicity swallows hard.  He can see that she has become a bit nervous, but he thinks that it is a nervousness of the good kind.  She then continues to say, “I mean, I know that you meant what you said earlier.  I never thought Oliver Queen would ever… ever use the word beautiful in reference to me.”

“About that… uh… Felicity…”


“Felicity, please… Give me a chance to apologize,” he pleads, laying a hand on hers in the gentlest way possible.  “You deserve it.”  She nods, giving him the opportunity to continue.  “I truly am sorry for the way I’ve treated you before.  We were very different--”

“Poles apart,” she interrupts, and they both chuckle at the thought.  When they recover from that breather, she tells him, “Please, go on.”

Oliver gladly continues.  “As I was saying, we were two very different people, but that wasn’t a good enough reason to be nasty or rude to you.  I realized that later on, when you…”

“When I stopped coming?”

He nods in affirmation.  “I regretted every mean comment and every cruel joke I’ve ever said to you.”

“Including calling me Goth Geek?”

“That, and Black Widow,” he adds, laughing a bit.  On a more serious note, he says, “I apologize for everything, including my unbecoming behavior.  But I apologize most for what I said to Tommy that day.  I know how much I hurt you, and I’m sorry.”

Oliver waits for her response as if an eternity has passed.  When Felicity finally speaks, he notices that her eyes are glassy with unshed tears.  “Apology accepted,” she says, and he lets out a breath he hasn’t realized he’s been holding in.

“Thank you.  That means a lot,” he acknowledges.  “That terrible misdeed… It must have been the reason you stayed away like you did… for so long.”

“For the most part, and in the beginning, yes,” Felicity responds.  “But life got so complicated with mom getting sick when I was finishing up with my studies.  So, yeah, that kept me away too.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  She turns her hand over, so now it’s her hand covering his.  She gives his hand a squeeze.

Oliver takes that as his cue.  He takes her hand in his grip, inviting her to intertwine her fingers with his.  He is beyond thrilled when she does.  “Felicity, I want to make it up to you.”

“Make it up to me, how?”

“I was wrong to treat you that way before.  But it’s not just because it was an unkind thing to do to any human being.  It’s also because I didn’t mean any word of what I said to Tommy.”  Oliver pauses, making sure the rest of what he says to her is exactly what he means.  He looks her straight in the eyes and continues with his planned monologue.

“I only said those things because I didn’t think I deserved someone like you, someone special, someone who could change the world by how brilliant she is, someone who didn’t easily fall for my charm and façade.  I didn’t think I would ever be good enough for you.  It was the other way around.  You are an amazing woman.  Any man who gets to know you up close and personal would be a fool not to want to be with you.”

Felicity pulls her hand back from his grasp and places it on her chest.  Her eyes widen in disbelief, and she looks like she’d be needing some air any moment.  “Oliver, what are you saying?” she asks, her voice wavering a bit.

“I have feelings for you, Felicity.  I might have even had them for a long while.  I realize that now.  In fact, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss you all these six years.  I didn’t think I’d get one more chance with you, but here we are.  Would you… would you be willing to keep dating?  I would love to get to know you even more, and maybe… see if we could be more than just the friends we have now become?”

“Uhm…”  Felicity is unsure of how to respond to this unexpected revelation.  She struggles to find the words, unable to look him in the eye.  “Oliver, I… I felt something shift between us at the party… when we danced.  But I didn’t know you felt so strongly about… I really don’t know what to say.”

Oliver pushes on, steadfast in his resolve to clarify his intentions, but he tenderly says, “You don’t have to answer me now.  Sleep on it.  Think about it.  You can tell me when you’re ready.  I’m not going anywhere.”

Felicity heaves a sigh, which is followed by a soft smile forming on her lips.  Her eyes brighten once more as she whispers, “Okay.” 

Oliver smiles, relieved that she seems to be fine with his suggestion.  Still he says, “But remember, if you decide on dating, you’ll only be here until after Christmas.  So, maybe give me some time to sweep you off your feet and change your mind about leaving so soon?” he tells her with a gleam in his eye, to which she simply nods and smiles.  He then adds, “But if you decide you’d rather not…”  He pauses and purses his lips for a second, and then continues, “I just hope that this time, you won’t just disappear without saying goodbye.  We can, at least, be friends.”

“I like the sound of that,” Felicity tells him, just as the server arrives with their dessert.

Chapter Text

“I have feelings for you, Felicity.  I might have even had them for a long while… I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss you all these six years…  Would you be willing to keep dating?  I would love to get to know you even more… see if we could be more than just the friends we have now become?” 

That’s what Felicity remembers Oliver telling her.  It’s been almost a week since their dinner date, but his words still wash over her as if he had just said them to her minutes ago.  Oliver hadn’t just apologized for what happened years ago and for how he’d treated her so poorly all those summers ago; he had confessed that he has feelings for her, feelings that he has recently realized he’s had for quite a long time. 

No matter how many times she’s replayed the scene of him referring to her as an amazing, brilliant woman that any guy who isn’t a fool would want to be with, of him admitting that he used to feel like he didn’t deserve someone like her, and of him asking for her to give him the chance and the time to woo her before the holidays are over and she has to leave Starling, she still can’t believe that it really happened.  She really can’t take her mind off the fact that Oliver has opened up to her about his feelings and his intentions. 

Felicity had come back for a visit after all these years, thinking that it was about time she grew up and put everything that placed her at odds with Oliver passed her once and for all, and that maybe they could even become good friends despite their complicated history.  As in the previous summers she had visited the Queens, she did wonder whether or not she and Oliver could be something more, but she had easily dismissed it as a stray thought, a mild delusion rather than a harmless daydream.  She was so sure that a handsome, wealthy, most-sought-after bachelor like Oliver could never want someone like her, no matter how much she has changed or how accomplished she’d become.  It was just impossible.

Except, now it is, apparently.

Oliver wants to be with her, if she’ll have him.  He said so himself.  Her ears are still ringing with his words, like a sweet symphony that starts to play every time her mind isn’t occupied with career considerations and life choices – moments that have come in increasing frequency and duration in the past few days.  She finds herself distracted by visions of his charming and sincere smile, warmed by his gentlemanly reassurance that she can take her time in deciding what her response to his revelations is going to be.  She doesn’t even notice that she’s been blushing and grinning like a love-struck teenager every now and then, whenever her mind replays their romantic date. 

Recalling that Oliver had even hired a pianist and cellist to serenade them throughout dinner makes her giggle unknowingly, as she sits all by her lonesome at a table in a plush café in the city’s business district, waiting for her business date to arrive.  It makes a few heads turn, but of course, she doesn’t notice that either.

It happens again a few minutes later.  This time, Felicity even feels all tingly all over, as she reminisces how their romantic evening had ended.  When they got home from their dinner date, Oliver had walked her to her room in the mansion.  At her door, he had greeted her good night, but she hadn’t wanted for the night to end just yet because she wanted to tell him something.

She had said, “Oliver, I believe I owe you an apology, too.”

“For what?” he had asked, a puzzled look forming on his handsome face.  “You don’t owe me anything, Felicity.”

“But I do.  I made your summers a living hell, too, didn’t I?” she had replied.  “You weren’t the only one who was nasty.”

Oliver had smiled at her then.  He had reached out and touched her shoulder with his warm hand, running his palm down her arm.  “Perhaps you’re right.  There had been times when I knew for sure that you were trying to irritate me to death on purpose, especially in front of my parents.  You were kind of… naughty, Ms. Smoak.”

Her nose had scrunched up as she winced at his honest, but almost flirtatious remark.  “I’m sorry,” she had said, finally letting the guilt out of her chest.

“Forgiven,” he had said, gripping her hand in all earnestness.  “So now we’re even?”

“No, we’re good,” replied Felicity, beaming at him with a twinkle in her eye.

“Good,” Oliver had said, the playfulness in his eyes and his voice giving way to a growing heat of passion.

Felicity hadn’t missed it at all.  In fact, his gaze had told her everything she needed to know.  This wonderful man wanted her.  So much more than just as a good friend.  The thought of him kissing her then had been highly probable, given their proximity and the way he’d looked at her with ardent desire.  She had not known how she would react if he had kissed her, though, and the fluttering in her chest had been replaced by the thundering of her beating heart.

Swallowing hard, she had closed her eyes for a second and composed herself.  She had, by some miracle, managed to rein in her emotions and steady herself.  When she had opened her eyes, she leaned in on her tiptoes and kissed Oliver on his cheek.

“Good night, Oliver.  Thank you for a lovely evening.”

“You’re welcome.  Good night, Felicity.”

Felicity was floating on cloud nine.  She closed the door behind her and leaned her back against it as she took deep breaths.  There was something going on between them.  Something certifiably and undeniably electrifying and magical at the same time.  She was sure of it.  She just wasn’t sure what she should do about it yet.

“Someone’s definitely happy,” Thea remarks with a smirk as she approaches Felicity in the café.  The young lady takes the seat in front of Felicity and folds her arms on the table.

“Huh?” Felicity responds, looking up at the person who is suddenly sitting in front of her.  “Oh, hello, Thea!  What are you doing here?  Sorry, I didn’t notice you come in.  I was--”

“—too busy thinking about my brother?” Thea interrupts in a teasing manner.

Felicity’s cheeks redden.  She really can’t hide anything from the girl who’s been matchmaking her with her brother ever since they picked her up at the airport when she came home for the holiday break.  “Thea…”

“What?  It’s true, isn’t it?”  At Felicity’s silence, Thea adds, “There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you have feelings for Ollie, too.  I just don’t get why you still don’t want to.”

Felicity sighs and shakes her head.  “I guess my heart doesn’t rush into things as fast as my mouth often does.  And I think that’s a good thing,” she says, smiling earnestly at her friend.

“Well, I guess it is,” replies Thea.  “Just make sure you don’t let the holidays pass without, you know, saying something.  It’s been more than six years, Lis.  I was just a kid back then, but it was pretty obvious to me that you and Ollie had an unspoken thing going on beneath all the bickering and banter that you both were too oblivious to notice.  Don’t you think it’s time you give it a chance?”

Felicity thinks that Thea has a point, but she doesn’t verbalize it yet.  She is relieved that her brain-to-mouth filter is working this time around, which only means she is neither nervous nor excited.  She is soberly considering her options.  That scares her a little bit, because it only means that Oliver matters more to her than she cares to admit.

When Thea doesn’t get a desired response from her dream sister-in-law, she continues, “You know, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for Ollie to get to the point of admitting he has feelings for you.  He’s really come a long, long way from the idiot he used to be and the brooding boss he later became.  He’s changed, and I’m sure that like Mom and me, you are proud of who he’s become.  Maybe you ought to… reciprocate.  Tell him how you feel about him, and see where it takes you both.  If you do decide to go for a job offer that takes you somewhere far from here, then at least you can tell yourself that you gave it a shot and it didn’t work out.  No regrets.”

It’s good advice, and Felicity knows it.  Thea surely has grown up to be a wise young woman.

“Okay.”  Her answer is short but sincere, and it gives them both a reason to smile.  “Thank you, Thea.”

“My pleasure,” the younger woman answers.  “Don’t forget to tell me all the juicy details later,” she adds with a wink.


Felicity’s faux protest falls on deaf ears as Thea stands and walks away with a mischievous and victorious gait, waving goodbye at her as she does.

As soon as Thea walks out of the café, Malcolm Merlyn walks in, his son Tommy in tow.  Felicity sighs.  She was expecting to be speaking with only Mr. Merlyn senior, and she already dreads it.  But with Tommy tagging along?  She groans internally beneath a forced smile as they approach her table.  It’s going to be a very long, annoying talk.

A few days later, on the day before Christmas, Felicity tells Oliver that she has decided to take Merlyn Global’s lucrative job offer of heading its IT Department at their newly opened subsidiary in Florida.  Tearfully, she thanks him for being honest and patient with her, but she tells him that it would be better if they just remain friends.

Oliver does not take it well.  Neither does she.

Chapter Text

"Will you require anything else, sir?"

"No, thank you, Noah. That will be all for tonight," Oliver says as the butler sets the tray down on his desk.

Oliver senses that the butler wants to say something more, but the older man relents.  Noah simply nods and then turns and leaves him alone in his study. Oliver would have greeted him a "Merry Christmas," but he really did not feel the merriment of the holiday since his brief, disappointing talk with Felicity the day before.

Oliver stares at the bottle of vodka sitting beside a wine glass on the silver serving tray.  It has been a long time since he's needed to drink. Really drink. And when he does, Russian vodka is his go-to drink. He knows that if he gives in this time, he might slide back to his old, pathetic habits - the very things he'd given up since he resolved to shape up after his father died and he had to be the man of the house. Yet, yesterday and today have been the longest two days of his life thus far.  He really needs a drink. 

Something tells him, however, that it will take him more than one glass of vodka to numb the pain from being turned down by the woman he loves. He regrets having felt so positive that Felicity would be willingly and happily inclined to date, and he most certainly had sensed on the night of their first date that she would be. He blames himself for making false assumptions and giving himself false hopes.

Oliver tried to get Felicity to open up about the reasons behind her decision to take the job offered by Malcolm Merlyn, to no avail. When he asked her if Queen Consolidated's offer isn't competitive or lucrative enough, she had said, "It's not that, Oliver. QC's offer is just as good. In fact, it is so much better in terms of the benefits. It's just that... I just... I want to try my hand at heading an entire department in an all-new venture. You know, start from scratch and build from there. It's a rare opportunity for someone like me, a career move with multiple possibilities."

Maybe he should have spoken to Walter Steele and the Board about opening a new department in QC for her to run, maybe even give her free rein as to what she would name it. If only he had known that it's the type of career opportunity that she's interested in. He should have known better. Yet, something inside him also knew that it wasn't how Felicity would have wanted it to be.

When she had stated her reason, Oliver couldn't help but remark with utter disappointment. "Yes, but it's an opportunity that will bring you all the way to the other side of the country." He would have even asked, "Is that what you really want?" But he had held his tongue.

"I know," Felicity had replied, "which is why we can't... we can't keep seeing each other as more than friends, Oliver."

"Florida isn't that far for someone who owns a private jet, you know," Oliver had said, holding out hope that she would acknowledge his last ditch effort to make things work between them.

He really is going to miss her. He can't believe she's going to be the one that got away, the second time around. But if she said she still wanted to keep dating and be in a committed relationship with him, he'd move heaven and earth just to be with her. He'd fly out to Florida each weekend; all she had to do was tell him that she feels the same way. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

"I don't... I really don't think long distance will work, Oliver. Especially for very busy people like us. I am so, so sorry," Felicity had said sadly.  He could see that she was just as affected by the repercussions of her choice, but she had seemed bent on seeing it through. 

He didn't understand why. He still doesn't.

Once again, Felicity had kissed him on the cheek, thanking him for everything -- his honesty, thoughtfulness, kindness, sincere apologies, and most of all, his friendship that she says she will continue to cherish. Only, this time, the kiss was not sweet. Her lips burned that spot on his face. He hadn't felt his heart ache this way since his father passed away.

It had been doubly painful because their goodbye had happened on the eve of Christmas. The traditional family dinner had been uncharacteristically quiet and tense, and so had the traditional gift-giving and gift-opening the morning after. He knew that his mom and sister could sense that something was wrong. Thankfully, neither of them had pressed him for answers all day.

It seems that Oliver had spoken too soon.

"I thought I might find you here," says Moira. His mother is at the door of his study, leaning against the door frame. He easily recognizes that it's her, but he doesn't look up from his brooding to acknowledge her.

"It's that bad, huh?" she asks, half-amused by his familiar frowning.

"Mom..." he mutters in a low voice.

Moira isn't the least bit deterred by his irksome attitude. She barrels on and approaches his desk, taking an empty seat in front of her son. "I gather she's still bent on leaving?"

"Tomorrow, actually," he replies sadly.

"Oh, so soon?" she asks again.

"She wants to get her stuff in order in Vegas before she flies to Florida day after New Year's."

"Florida? I wasn't aware that taking a job out there was on the table for Felicity."

"Neither was I," Oliver answers. He really can't hide the frustration in his voice from his mother. "I thought things would work out with QC for her, so that she'd stay. I never thought she'd be willing to sign up with Merlyn Global. I totally didn't see that coming."

"Malcolm offered her the job in Florida?" Moira inquires, a sudden interest heightening her voice.

"Apparently so. Malcolm is giving her an entire department to run," replies Oliver. The irritation in his voice is pretty obvious.

A moment of silence passes when neither of them speak. Oliver is sulking in heartbreak while Moira is seriously pondering on this new piece of information. The only sound that can be heard is the crackling from the fireplace that's keeping them both warm on a chilly winter night.

After a couple of minutes, Moira speaks up. "You have to warn her, Oliver. You know what kind of person Malcolm is, what he is capable of."

"I know," he answers, "but it's not my place to do so. Felicity has already made her choice. I can't get in her way."

"Can't or won't?" Moira is quick to retort. "Are you really so stubborn as to let the only woman you've truly loved slip through your fingers and fall into the hands of a monster like Malcolm Merlyn?

Oliver refuses to look at his mother. "I never said I loved her," he says, as if he can deny how he truly feels in front of his mother.

"Yes, but you do, don't you?" Moira says more than asks, softly this time.

Oliver can sense his mom's efforts in reaching out to help him through this. "I do," he admits. 

"Oh, my beautiful boy," Moira all but exclaims, "if you love her, you have to fight for her with all you've got. And I don't just mean that you have to fight for her to stay in your life. You have to fight for her not to become another pawn in Malcolm's dirty games. It's the right thing to do - that is, if you really do care about her."

Oliver sighs heavily. He's already admitted to his mother that he loves Felicity; admitting the rest of his fears isn't too hard to do now.

"I love her, Mom. I really thought she's the one. But she's chosen to leave and make a life for herself somewhere else."

"Then make her change her mind. Tell her how you feel about her."

"I already did. She still decided to leave."

Moira stills. Concern is written all over her face, and Oliver finds it intriguing.

"You told her you love her, but she still turned you down and decided to take the job in Florida, of all places..."

Oliver simply nods in affirmation.

Moira stands and rounds his desk. She looks him straight in the eye and tells him, "Oliver, I've said it earlier, but I will say it again. You have to warn her about working for Malcolm."

"Mom, I care about Felicity, but I also care about our family. How can I warn her about Malcolm without giving her a reason not to trust him? It would mean telling her about our family's best-kept secret. What about Thea? What about you?"

"Oliver..." Moira says, sighing, "Nothing that Malcolm or anyone might do can hurt us anymore, because your father and I came clean to you and your sister before he passed away. Don't worry about us. We'll be fine. It's about time you thought about yourself and found happiness."

"What about Malcolm?"

"I am not afraid of Malcolm Merlyn anymore, and you shouldn't be. We can't allow ourselves to cower in fear because of his empty threats. Besides, I think I know how to take care of that scoundrel." The confident smile on his mother's face shows him that she knows exactly what she is talking about.

"And Felicity? What if she thinks differently of me... of us... when... when she finds out?" Oliver stammers slightly as he speaks.

"If I am reading this situation right - and you know my track record very well - I think Felicity already knows the truth about the family secret," Moira tells him, as she pats his forearm gently.

"What do you mean?"

"I think Malcolm told her exactly what he thinks she needs to know about us, and then when he still could not convince her to take his offer, he blackmailed her into taking that job in Florida, even though she really does not want it, by threatening to make our secret a public scandal. It's the kind of game he plays. He's done it once; he's doing it again."

She pauses, and after taking a deep breath, she continues. "How much do you know about QC's east coast holdings?" she asks Oliver.

"Not much," he replies. "Walter wanted me to focus on operations and investments here in Starling in my first few years as CEO. Why is that relevant?"

"Well, you might as well know, Malcolm once twisted your father's arm into buying out our shares of stocks in one of the investments in the east coast, at a less than profitable price."

"Let me guess. It's the one in Florida, huh?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Now he's using the same thing to blackmail Felicity into coming on board. If he has to resort to blackmail, he must be desperate."

"Which only means one thing," Moira interjects. "That job offer isn't in Felicity's best interests. Malcolm is the only one that will really benefit from her working for him. Whatever he's promised her, it's not half as good as the package that Palmer, Kord, or even QC have offered her."

Oliver's eyes narrow as his hands ball into fists. Malcolm cannot get away with this scheme, he thinks. He can't let him take advantage of Felicity. She deserves so much more than this.

He pours himself a glass of vodka and takes a couple of swigs before setting the glass down. He badly needs help in containing his anger.

"Oliver, you have to do something. This is not just about our family. This is about Felicity, too. Don't you see? She is already making a difficult, selfless choice. She's trying to protect us. She's trying to protect you. If you ask me, that is reason enough to believe that that smart, sweet young woman, whom you care so much about, cares a lot about you, too."

Never has his mother's monologues been more persuasive than this. How come he hasn't been able to put it all together all day like she has in mere minutes?

Oliver understands what he must do, and he has to do it before Felicity leaves tomorrow. He is not letting her slip away from him this time around.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Ollie, my man!”

Oliver hears the familiar voice of his childhood friend, and he becomes tense.  He gives himself a second or two to breathe because if he doesn’t, he just might forget that Tommy is not his father Malcolm, and he might not be able to keep himself from punching the person who is taking advantage of the woman he holds most precious.

Oliver came down earlier than usual and waited in the living room, sitting in a chair where he had a clear view of the foyer, so that he can make sure he doesn’t miss Felicity before she leaves the manor for the airport.  He isn’t expecting any other company, especially not one of the Merlyns, so he isn’t really prepared for an encounter or a confrontation.

He stands from his seat and meets his friend halfway.  “Hey, Tommy.  What are you doing here?”

Tommy does not comment on his lack-luster greeting.  They normally give each other a manly hug, but neither of them initiate this time.  With an awkward smile, Tommy answers, “I’m here for Felicity?  She didn’t tell you?”

“Oh?” Oliver is taken aback.  He isn’t aware that Felicity is expecting Tommy.  He also notes the teasing tone in his voice.  On second thought, he senses that it is more of a scorning tone, which came with a loaded smirk.

“I’ve been tasked to accompany her to the airport, so here I am, at her service,” he adds cockily.  “Is she ready?  We don’t want her to miss her flight.”

Oliver ignores his question entirely.  Instead, he asks, “Tasked by whom exactly?”


Tommy’s quick and confident response confirms Oliver’s suspicion.  He doesn’t feel good about this at all.  He braces himself for what might happen next.

“You know how Dad gets when he sets his eyes on something.  He makes sure he sees it through,” Tommy elaborates.  “He doesn’t let anything stand in his way.”

Tommy’s voice sounds harmlessly playful on the surface, but Oliver knows his friend too well.  Beneath the seemingly innocuous statement is an implied threat.  Tommy gets it from his father.

A mixture of sadness, hurt, disgust, and anger courses through Oliver’s veins.  His friend isn’t just another innocent pawn being used by Malcolm Merlyn for his deceitful schemes.  Tommy is in on this.  He is a willing accomplice, and Oliver takes it as a form of betrayal, especially since he knows that Tommy is well aware of his feelings for Felicity, albeit not in detail, thankfully. 

Oliver has suspected since the holiday gala that Tommy might have been hitting on Felicity, and she might have turned him down.  Tommy isn’t used to being rejected – that Oliver knows quite well.  But he never thought that his friend is also capable of retaliation.  On hindsight, Oliver thinks that he should have seen this coming, since this is the second time Tommy has been spurned by a girl he likes because the girl likes him better.  It happened with Laurel Lance when they were in high school, and it must have happened with Felicity recently.  He didn’t expect Tommy would just throw away their years of friendship due to jealousy and vindictiveness.  He didn’t see it coming.

Oliver takes a deep breath and staunchly responds, “Neither do I.”

The silence that accompanies the stare down is deafening.  Neither of them moves until Oliver speaks again.  “Tommy, whatever your reasons are, they aren’t good enough to drag Felicity into your father’s schemes.  She doesn’t deserve this.  It’s cruel and unkind.  You are so much better than this.”

Tommy scoffs.  “You think you know me, but you don’t, Oliver.  You have a family that loves you, a woman who adores you.  And what do I have?  A father who only cares about himself and how much he’s lost when my mother died.  He doesn’t even care that I’ve lost as much.  The only way he will take notice of me is if I try hard enough to do what he expects me to do.”

“Not like this.  Felicity has her whole life ahead of her,” Oliver reasons with him.

“Yeah, a life with you in it.  Ha!  Since when did you care?” Tommy mocks him.

“Since always.”

Tommy doesn’t respond immediately.  He appears to be processing everything.  But then he speaks again, with the same sarcasm and negativity as before.  “Look, Oliver.  Felicity has made her choice, and she chose Florida.  Get used to it, and move on.”

Oliver’s hands ball into fists, and he is fighting the urge to retaliate in a more physical way.  He knows that Tommy is provoking him on purpose; it’s written all over his former friend’s face.  Former, yes, because he doesn’t know how he could ever recover from the fallout of this conflict and still be friends with this Merlyn afterwards.

“I won’t let you or your father take advantage of her, Tommy,” Oliver declares.  It’s a promise, and he intends to see it through, come hell or high water.

“What are you going to do, Ollie?  Convince her to change her mind?  It’s not going to work.  Felicity knows what is at stake if she backs out,” Tommy threatens.

“She’s only doing this because she wants to protect me… and my family,” Oliver counters.  “She doesn’t have to, because you and Malcolm have no hold over her, just like you have no hold over me or my family.  I know about the lies.  Thea does, too.  My dad had always known that Thea wasn’t his because my mom told him so and he forgave her long ago.  Our parents told us everything before Dad died.  You can’t force her to work for your company by threatening to tell us what we already know.”

“Oh, it seems you underestimate my father.  Malcolm didn’t just blackmail Felicity into working for Merlyn Global in Florida by threatening to tell you and Thea about his affair with your mother years ago; he will not hesitate to give the tabloids and the press that juicy piece of information that will destroy your family’s reputation and bring down the empire that your father built through the years,” Tommy finishes with a disdainful smirk.

As soon as those words left Tommy’s lips, Oliver sees red, realizing that what he and his mother suspected had happened between the Merlyns and Felicity was true.  Livid with rage, he takes Tommy by his collar and shoves him against the wall that separates the living room from the foyer.

“You will not threaten or take advantage of Felicity any longer, you hear me!  My family and I don’t care what you do.  You can go to the press and start a scandal.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that she does not get hurt.  I won’t let you or your father use her.  Do you understand?!”  He all but growls at Tommy like a gladiator waiting to deliver the fatal blow.

Tommy has never seen Oliver this furious and frightening.  His previously cocky demeanor and overconfident contempt fade instantly under Oliver’s steel gaze.  “Get your hands off me, Oliver,” he stammers nervously.

“Not until you promise me that you will do everything in your power to convince your father to let her go.”

“I can’t.  You know Malcolm.”

“And you know me,” Oliver says in a low, gravely, and significantly stern tone of voice.

Tommy nods repeatedly until Oliver releases his hold on him.

Oliver takes a step back and adds, “Tell Malcolm that if he goes through with this, my mother, Thea, and I are prepared to buy out the shares of stocks of the rest of the investors of your subsidiary in Florida – who are, by the way, willing and ready to sell at a very lucrative price.  That will make my family the majority stockholders, and we are going to make sure that the Board of Merlyn Global releases Felicity from her contract as soon as possible.”

“Alright,” Tommy responds in a defeated tone.  “Ollie, I--”

Oliver raises his hands and interrupts him, saying, “I don’t want to hear it, Tommy.  Just… get out of our house and leave Felicity alone.”

Tommy purses his lips and looks down.  He retreats to the foyer and walks out of the manor.

Felicity hasn’t come down yet, and she was supposed to leave for the airport ten minutes ago.  Noah has come down twice from upstairs with no luggage.  So, Oliver decides to head up to Felicity’s room to check on her.

He knows the decision whether or not to push through with the job in Florida is still up to her, but he isn’t going to let her go without a reasonable fight, without him letting her know exactly what she is getting into and why it would be a grave mistake to let herself be used by someone like Malcolm Merlyn.  He cares about her too much not to try one last time to dissuade her from going, but he also respects her enough to let her make the choice.  He takes his time climbing the stairs, one step at a time, rehearsing how he is going to explain everything to her in a calm manner, considering the heated argument he’d just had with Tommy.

When he reaches her door, he is surprised to see that it is ajar.  He knocks nonetheless, and he hears Felicity say, “Come in.”  By the way she speaks, he thinks she knows it’s him.

He steps into her room and greets her, “Hi.  Still packing?”  He asks because he is surprised that she’s running late, and Felicity Smoak is hardly ever tardy.  Both her suitcases and her carry-on are still open.  What puzzles him even more is that she seems to be unpacking her clothes and things instead.

“Nope,” Felicity replies.  She stops what she’s doing and looks up at him from the far side of the bed.  “Actually, I’m thinking of staying.  Indefinitely.”  She flashes him a shy smile.  “Of course, it really depends on whether or not the offer of Queen Consolidated is still on the table.”

Oliver takes a deep breath and releases a sigh of relief.  He smiles back at her and says, “It is.”

“Then I guess that settles it,” she tells him.  Her restrained cheerfulness does not escape his notice.  “I better start looking for a place to stay then.  When do I sign the contract, Mr. Queen?”

Oliver’s smile widens to a grin.  “As soon as possible.”

She crosses her arms in front of her chest and tells him, “Well, if there’s nothing else you’d like to take up with me, I better get back to unpacking my stuff.  I need to start apartment-hunting.”

Oliver holds her gaze.  “What made you change your mind?” he asks, walking towards her.

“You,” she answers, with a glint in her eye.  “I was ready to go and I came down looking for my dad for help with my luggage.  I… uh… I might have overheard your very… intense conversation with Tommy.”

“How much did you hear?”

“Enough,” she uncrosses her arms and reaches out to take his hands as he stops right in front of her.  “Enough for me to know that you’ve got my back, and that there is really no reason for me to give in to Merlyn’s threats anymore.”  She looks at him straight in the eyes and gives his hands a gentle squeeze.  “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me, Felicity.”

“Of course I do.  I almost got trapped into working for someone who is so not worth my time and talent.  I would have had to work for Merlyn for a locked period of ten years without promotion for less than what Palmer or Kord or QC offered to pay me.  That, and the fear of your family’s secret getting out and destroying you, wonderful folks, hanging over my head all the time?  I do have a lot to thank you for, Oliver.”

She adds, “But, are you sure you and your family are going to be okay?”

He answers definitively, “Yeah.  Mom and Thea assured me as much.  If the truth has to come out eventually, let it come out.  We’ll deal with it together.  Truth has a way of setting people free, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, yes it does,” she affirms, and he knows from the tone of her voice that she is not just referring to Malcolm’s threats and his family’s secrets.

Oliver takes that as a perfect segue to talk about their relationship.  He gazes at her affectionately and asks, “And what about us?”

“What about us?” she teases, throwing the same question back at him.

“Well, I figured, since you’re staying in Starling, and we are going to be seeing each other at work on a day to day basis… Perhaps you’d also be willing to reconsider…?”

“What?  Dating?”

“Yes, dating.”

“As much as I appreciate the invitation to date you, I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline.”  Her answer is supposed to surprise him, but he isn’t the least bit surprised.  He can see it in her mischievous eyes.  She’s kidding, perhaps even flirting, with him.

“Oh, really…”  Oliver responds, taking a step forward to close the gap between them.  He takes her hands in his instead and slides his palms up her arms.  He feels her shiver at his touch, but she does not back down from her teasing.

“Really.  You see, Oliver, I think that we’ve skirted and dance around each other’s feelings for far too long.  Dating just won’t cut it anymore.  Is there anything else you have to offer?” she asks, biting her lower lip as she tilts her head, waiting for his reply.

Oliver holds her shoulders tenderly and tells her, “Felicity Smoak, I love you.  And after all these years, I want us to be together.  What do you say?”

Felicity grins from ear to ear.  “I say, I love you too, Oliver.  And yes, together sounds just perfect.”

He cradles her cheeks with his warm hands as she envelops him in an embrace.  They kiss, with all the passion and desire that have built up over the span of a decade.  They’ve found themselves in each other at last, and they aren’t going to let go.